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Modern Tall Tale Challengers

Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Make America Skate Again by D. Avery

“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”

“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”

“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige

Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.

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Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn

No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”

On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.

I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.

🥕🥕🥕

Say Mozzarella by Sharon C

Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.

Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.

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Untitled by Pete Fanning

Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

“First day?”

Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills

Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.

***

It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.

***

Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.

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Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery

“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”

“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”

“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”

“What do you think?”

“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”

“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”

“In 99 words?”

“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”

“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Unremembered

Who have we forgotten and why? The historical record stretches so long it seems there remains no room for all the remembrances. Family history fades or ends abruptly. Memory brings its own struggles. Yet truths of who we are as humans emerge to remind us that we are like those we have forgotten.

Writers were challenged to recall to the page the unremembered. A daunting task, full of unexpected interpretations, discoveries, and forgotten stories.

The following are based on the September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered.

PART I (10-minute read)

Noted by Liz Husebye Hartmann

I dreamt last night of snow.
It lay,
A thin blanket over vibrant late summer.
Silent white, still as death,
Satisfying in its containment.

And I,
Not part of the scene,
Hovered just above and north,
Invisible and unremembered in this moment’s lapse,
Accepting that all is as it should be.

It lingered, this stillness, this moment

Before the alarm pierces the darkness and eyes shutter open to snap the shot before the rushing flow of sunlight and voices, the river of everyday that roars and twists and pulls me along,

A red leaf-spin noted in everyone else’s emergency.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Donna Armistead

She appears only in the occasional census record and once, fleetingly, on an 1862 list as wife of a Southern soldier, entitled to low-cost salt for preservation of her family’s meager stores: my great-grandmother Mary. If she wrote letters to her absent husband, chasing Yankees across ravaged northern Virginia, they do not survive. More likely, the rigors of keeping a farm and feeding her children consumed all her time.

She lies somewhere in a Georgia Baptist cemetery, her grave unmarked, her daily toil unremembered. Money – and the attendant spirit of commemoration – were scarce commodities in the wake of Sherman’s devastation.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Norah Colvin

A recluse, unremarkable and forgotten in life and unremembered in death, she’d lived in her own world hidden behind overhanging branches and overgrown gardens. Unseen for so long, newcomers didn’t know she existed, thinking it was simply undeveloped land.

One day, developers came and pushed down the trees and cleared the undergrowth. They paused at the sight of the tiny wooden structure their work revealed. Unsure how to proceed, they investigated. Though not art enthusiasts, they knew that what they discovered was something special. When the work was curated and exhibited in galleries worldwide, she was never unremembered again.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Anita Dawes

I cannot think of anyone forgotten to me
I am sure if I walk around my local graveyard
There would be so many forgotten souls
With no living relatives to lay flowers
I will lay a flower on a few bare graves
as I pass through to show they’re remembered
I asked a Jewish neighbour years ago
Why no flowers on their graves?
They don’t like to kill anything
They leave a stone to say someone has visited
I thought I might like to do that
Find a bare headstone, take a small pebble
Place it there with love…

🥕🥕🥕

A Lost Love by Sadje

The light was playing tricks. She was sure that it wasn’t him. How could it be him, after all those years. And she was sure that if she did see him today, after fifteen years, she wouldn’t be able to recognize him. He would have changed just as much as she had. They weren’t thirteen anymore.

As the man drew near, he gave a crooked smile just like Sam and looked at her quizzically. “Are you Sally Hepworth by any chance?” She was unable to say anything, so great was her amazement. She just nodded her head in affirmative.

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Hello! How Are You? by Di @ pensitivity101

There were warm smiles and hugs all round, general chit chat and catching up over a period of about fifteen minutes.

It was so lovely to see them, they said so.

It had been such a long time, and how were the family, the dog, the new house?

How was their health, were they enjoying retirement?

Parting company, any familiarity faded and frowns replaced their polite smiles. They knew so much, yet they couldn’t be placed.

It’s the old story. Minds are searched, family faces summoned from the deepest depths. Who were they exactly? Damned if I could remember.

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Yearbook Photo by Denise DeVries

Bitty sat on her faded sofa next to Grace in her tailored suit and silk stockings. “Here’s our high school yearbook.” She flipped through the pages and pointed. “There you are.”

Grace leaned in, her sprayed hair brushing Bitty’s cheek. “Who’s that boy? I don’t remember him.” She touched the photo with a manicured nail and laughed. “That hair! So out of style!”

Bitty read, “Pierce Langley Davis. The name doesn’t ring a bell. Look at his angry eyebrows.”

Grace leaned even closer. “Wait a minute… Hmm. Isn’t that Fierce Pierce?… I think I went to Homecoming with him.”

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Sad To Be Forgotten by Susan Zutautas

Talking to her aunt about Sunday dinner Meg was a little concerned about her grandmother because Aunt Jenny told her she wasn’t herself lately.

Sunday arrived and Meg was a few minutes late.

Grandma was there and seated at the dinner table. Meg thought she looked perfectly fine and maybe her aunt had been mistaken. Meg greeted her with a hug and then sat down at the table.

Cousin Sandy sat next to Meg and during dinner, grandma spoke up asking, “Sandy, is this your new boyfriend?”

“No, it’s Meg, your granddaughter, you remember.”

Grandma sat there looking confused.

🥕🥕🥕

Ruby by Lisa Williams

Geoff always woke promptly without an alarm clock and immediately mourned for the one he married. He rose and she stared up at him. Smiling. Not a care in the world. From their wedding photo, taken exactly forty years ago to the day. He washed, dressed. Thinking that they could be celebrating today. A big family party in a balloon filled hall. Happiness. After a lifetime of shared bliss. He sighed and took her up a cup of tea in bed. Hoping today would be a reasonable day for her. And that she’d at least recognise who he was.

🥕🥕🥕

A Mere Image by Bill Engleson

She lifts the arm.

“There, Mr. Sam, that’s right, draw it down your right cheek. Through the foam.”

The razor in the right hand slides along the stranger’s face.

There is a scent. Peppermint?

“That’s right. Careful not to nick.”

The hand jerks. A gash. Blood mingles with the foam.

She grabs a tissue, dabs the face. “That’s not so bad. You have to be more careful. Perhaps I should finish it for you.”

Her hand embraces the razor, shaves slowly, bypasses the pinkish tissue, finishes, wipes the face with a warm cloth.

“Done.”

Her hand caresses the face.

🥕🥕🥕

Widow’s Weeds by Kerry E.B. Black

Beatrice shifted framed photos on her entry table, the only remaining piece of her prized furniture. Rooms in the senior care facility didn’t accommodate much. Her deceased husband smiled from a silver frame, dashing as the day they married. From others grinned their children, three strapping boys and a diminutive girl with a shy smile. They all lived afar, scattered like shrapnel after the explosion of her husband’s death. Purposeful misunderstandings fueled fevered departures. None looked back to notice Beatrice, alone, grieving, and with little to support her ailing heart.

Yet she proudly displayed her family in sparkling frames.

🥕🥕🥕

Nelson Finds His Namesake (from Snowflake) by Anne Goodwin

What a racket! Unpatriotic to cry while the rest of the nursery slept. Nelson grabbed the traitor from its cot, ready to shake it and scream at it to stop.

The name stamped on the baby’s bib almost made him drop it. The infant was a Nelson too. The revelation brought a yearning that threatened to swallow the pair of them, a hollowness from before memory began.

He wanted to run. He wanted to crush the tiny skull. But he made a cradle of his arms and rocked his namesake. Soothing his unremembered anguish as he lulled the child.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Pete Fanning

I barreled into the school parking lot, tires screeching, thumping across the speed bump. Amelia sat slumped on a bench, one sock up, one sagging to her shoe. A teacher stood by her.

I left the car running. “I’m sorry baby, I—”

“You forgot me. I can’t believe you forgot me!”

Three kids, one me. But now, seeing my youngest, face glazed with tears, how even her sock had given up on her. I was a terrible parent.

“Amelia.”

She flung herself into me, part hug, part tackle. Like her socks, my daughter was let down, yet resilient.

🥕🥕🥕

Father Figured by JulesPaige

Each with their own thoughts, maybe they remembered? But they chose not to share. That created blank spaces in Harper’s young mind. He couldn’t even remember what story they might have told as to why his father wasn’t coming home. Did they even try to say that the man had gone with angels to heaven?

Harper only had a hole in his heart. Questions weren’t asked because no one else brought up his father’s name or even showed old photographs. He would remember whatever he could.

a life ends early
grave hours pass without telling;
their stories are lost

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered  by clfalcone*

The nine-year old stood beneath the light post, the State Fair was stifling hot with no shade. He thought about food as insects buzzed around his crewcut. Lord, how he had to pee.

He only bent down to tie his shoe and then they were gone.

Five hours, still no one came for him.

It was getting dark next to the Haunted House, pictures of people being gored as shish kebabs, sliced like juicy steaks scared him, his stomach growled.

He sat in the dirt, whimpering. He was getting a real solid beating tonight, for sure.

So he cried.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by tracey

I was nine when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, eleven when she died. My memories of being ten are ragged, filled with holes.

I remember crying. Hospital visits. Coming home to an empty house, devoid of the smells of baking and lemon Pledge. The panicky feeling as I opened the door, what if this was the day she died and I just didn’t know it yet?

Surely people were kind to me during this difficult time?
But no acts of kindness remain in my memory. I can’t remember anyone but my mother and myself during that horrific year.

🥕🥕🥕

The Close Match by Sally Cronin

Isobel held her mother’s hand tightly as the door to the café opened, and a man walked in and looked around. It had been an emotional few weeks since the DNA close match had been found on the genealogy database. Her mother, abandoned as a toddler on the doorstep of an orphanage, had no memories of her family, long giving up hope of finding them. The man looked over to their table and her mother gasped as she saw his shock of red hair and green eyes. His face lit up and smiling he hurried towards them, twins reunited.

🥕🥕🥕

Trissente by Saifun Hassam

As a marine archeologist, Pierre loved to explore Trissente Sea and its unusual shores. The coastline was relatively recent. Some millennia ago catastrophic ecological deluges had washed away the previous shorelines and limestone and sandy cliffs that must have extended a mile or so inland.

There were legends of an ancient coastal people and their immense temple, and ruins of a hidden monastery in the Diamante Mountains. Stories lingered of a long ago learned scholar, his name forgotten. Pierre planned to explore the mountain. He was intrigued: who was this scholar, these ancient coastal people, long vanished, the unremembered.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Robbie Eaton Cheadle

The unexpected sight of the frozen tableau inside the shrine caused the team of archaeologists to gasp in shock. The faces of the three Incan children, who had been sacrificed five hundred years earlier, were peaceful. The oldest, a girl they nicknamed the Maiden, had a half smile playing around the corners of her mouth.

Analysis of hair samples from the frozen mummies found entombed in a subterranean chamber, revealed that the children had all been drugged with coca leaves and alcoholic beverages.

This historical discovery ensured that the Maiden, Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl, would not be forgotten.

🥕🥕🥕

A Dead Dark God Grumbles by Joanne Fisher

I was once powerful. More powerful than anything seen before. I had many followers and was feared by everyone. Impregnable was my black fortress, unscalable were my defences, unassailable were my lands, undefeatable were my armies. Yet one day I was overthrown. My body was destroyed and my spirit was hurled into the darkness. And now no one remembers me. Nameless I have now become. A disembodied voice crying out in the void.

One day I’ll find a way to return and everyone will again quake with fear when they hear my name, and the world will be mine.

🥕🥕🥕

Visit by Joshua G. J. Insole

Gusts of wind moaned through the skeletal trees, scattering the burnt-orange leaves across the graves.

“That time of year again, Frank?”

“Yep.”

“Same as last year?”

“Same as every year, Harry.”

“Hmm.”

The wind wailed between the headstones, shrieking like a ghoul.

Harry cleared his throat. “Well… maybe they forgot?”

“Twenty-seven years in a row?”

“I—well, maybe not…”

“Yeah, maybe not.”

The gale was picking up speed now. The town’s citizens would be battening down the hatches.

Frank was changing, too. Becoming. Tattered skin and rotten flesh were stitching themselves together again.

“This year,” he said, “they’ll remember.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Unremembered by Susan Budig

Esther’s eyes opened into blackness. No morning light yet broke through the small window. Her body, clad in a thread-bare shift, pressed into the splintered board. A wool blanket, shared with three other women rested on top of her. Rainwater dripped through the ceiling, splashing droplets onto her shaved head.

“Claude,” she murmured, “my beloved.” May your memory be a blessing involuntarily flitted through her thoughts. She scolded herself for thinking them. A dead sleep overtook her until the blockführer’s screams roused them.

Over in the men’s barracks, no one remained to give Claude even a passing thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by Padre of Padre’s Ramblings

It was late summer and a refreshing summer breeze gently blew. The Roma family sat near a clearing at the roadside, their piebald pony munching grass as they themselves ate breakfast. They did not hear the approach of the SS patrol from the forest, nor expect the burst of automatic fire. They could not know of the burning of their wagon home, or that their precious pony would become the property of a Ukrainian peasant after the beast had bolted. No more laughter or music would flow from their campfires, nor would any ever again lovingly call their names.

🥕🥕🥕

Did I Dream It by Susan Sleggs

We hoped for more soldiers to arrive, not so we could go on R&R, but so there would be enough men to fight back when the next firefight happened. The night was quiet. I got about four hours sleep. When I woke, there was a replacement guy sitting three feet from me. I was about to introduce myself when bullets started flying. We both went flat to the ground. When the shooting stopped, he was dead and I wasn’t. I never learned his name so can only remember that he was there. I don’t think it was a dream.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Forgotten by Sascha Darlington

A ragged man, he panhandled holding a cardboard sign between gnarled fingers. He got pneumonia once during a bitterly cold, snowy winter. That’s how I found him then he disappeared again.

“I’m nothing to you,” he’d said to me, his only son.

Mom’s only comment: “Damn war took him away twice.”

He lived in a cardboard box in woods behind the grocery until they tore it down and made him leave. I left food with him, gave him money and warm clothes.

Strangers tried to help. One told me, “He’s always got a joke.”

He died there, not forgotten.

🥕🥕🥕

The Coffee Cup by Donna Matthews

The first order of business when arriving at the office is a hot cup of coffee — the fresh, earthy smell of roasted grounds greet my sleepy brain. Years past, often being the first one in, I’d pull out the filters, dump the Folgers, and brew an entire pot. Now, I stand in front of the Keurig, waiting for my single brew to finish. Decades before me, women were not only expected to make the coffee but to fix and hand-deliver to the men of the office. This morning, I stand here, coffee cup in hand, on their shoulders.

🥕🥕🥕

Getting the Point by Chris Hewitt

“You forget yourself, sir!” she said, slapping him hard.

He rubbed his cheek, an evil smirk played across his lips. “That’ll cost you.”

“Maybe, but it’ll cost you more,” she taunted.

“You should have said,” he grinned, reaching into his pocket.

She stopped his hand, smiled at him sweetly and pushed him into the chair.

“See, that wasn’t so hard was it.”

“Not at all,” she said, removing the long pin from her hair, long locks cascaded.

Leaning in, she breathed gently on his neck and skilfully jammed the pin precisely into his amygdala.

“You’ll forget yourself,” she whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

unremembered by joem18b

I was prospecting in the asteroid belt when I attached to an iron-and-nickle specimen tumbling slowly through space in a throng of its brothers and sisters. When I climbed out to inspect its surface, clomping around in my magnetized boots, I came upon an individual in a spacesuit sitting in a chair bolted down next to a hatch leading into the asteroid’s interior.

“Who are are you?” I asked, using my communicator.

The person looked away from the sparkling void of space, at me.

“I … I don’t remember.”

“Who knows you’re here?” I said.

“Nobody,” he or she said.

🥕🥕🥕

Patient Zero by Nobbinmaug

“I’m ready. Who am I killing?”

“Your great-grandfather.”

“What?”

“He was patient zero.”

“My great-grandfather is responsible for Extraterrestrial Xenotropic Disease? How can you know that?”

“It was his breakthrough that made intergalactic space travel possible. He was on that first mission that brought back E.X.D., causing the Great Plague.”

“If I kill him before his breakthrough, I can stop the plague and the deformities that followed.”

“And the collapse of civilization. You can make humanity Earth’s dominant species again.”

“Will I cease to exist?”

“We may all cease to exist. The world of 1989 could look completely different.”

🥕🥕🥕

Freedom by Ruchira

Sammy was standing in the cool breeze with her eyes shut.

Her hair blew across the eyes that she tucked back now and then.

The grass and the leaves were also celebrating this special day by rustling, “Celebrations!” into her ear.

She had a dreamy smile as she took a deep inhalation and smelled the flowers that opened and released their floral scents.

She got the goosebumps as she murmured, “Thanks to my unremembered ancestors who fought for our freedom that I can enjoy this warmth seeping into my skin or else I would be caved somewhere in fear.”

🥕🥕🥕

In the Shadows of Time by Bill Engleson

Who do we remember?
What comes to mind
when we think of the lost ones?
Not the main actors on the stage of life.
Perhaps the stagehands?
The lighting technicians?
The audience members far up in the gallery?

Was this the message Ford was getting at?
Tom Doniphon?
The Man Who Shot…?
The Confederate General on his marble steed?
Sir John A.?
Drunkard?
Racist?
Our George Washington.
We remember who we see.
We remember the stars.
The lights.

There are those we forget:
a lost love among many,
a slight fancy,
a memory somewhat out of sync
with now.

🥕🥕🥕

The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills

“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.

Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.

“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”

🥕🥕🥕

Scorned by D. Avery

I just stopped. Our arguing raged like the gale winds that pummeled us broadside. How could he? How could he have a fiancé waiting in port? I refused to move unless he forswore that woman. For hadn’t he already chosen a life on the waters? Wasn’t he wed to me?

He had his engineers doing all they could but I refused to respond, for his desperation was to make it to land- to her. No. Let her be unremembered.

High rolling waves consummated our vows. Now every September we celebrate our anniversary. He and I will never be forgotten.

🥕🥕🥕

A Life Through A Lens by Keith Burdon

I know that he sees me, but he doesn’t know me, not now, not ever again. His eyes see, his beautiful blue eyes, with that “thing” as he used to call it.

Before I met him, I never knew what coloboma was. He was embarrassed by it. I told him it was the most beautiful thing in the world. That he was the most beautiful thing in the world. In my eyes.

His eyes see but they do not know. I am the person that he sees but now is unremembered. I almost wish my eyes could not see.

🥕🥕🥕

Unremembered by FloridaBorne

Somewhere in an unremembered past, lying in a grave without a tombstone, my grandfather’s grandmother becomes part of the soil, her bones all that remain.

I am one percent Native American, one percent Cameroon, and imagine her to be the daughter of an escaped slave that joined a tribe. Did a French trapper in Canada need a wife, choosing a suitable one to wander the forests with him, bear his children, and die alone?

Your grandson spoke not of his mother, and married a wealthy man’s daughter. Your children may not know who you were, but your genes remember.

🥕🥕🥕

I Don’t Want an Epitaph by Reena Saxena

“I don’t want an epitaph on my grave.”

“Why?”

“All my life, I’ve felt misunderstood or not understood by family and friends. I prefer being unremembered rather than being mis-remembered.”

“Do you feel your life has been wasted?” My coach instincts are sharpened. There is something in here, which will give a clue to other stated issues.

“Not really. My readers understand me. My work is likely to remain online for some time, and that is my authentic self. An epitaph will not do justice.”

I struggle to frame the next question, as I see the enormity of loneliness.

🥕🥕🥕

A Rose Like No Other by Sherri Matthews

‘Look at this…’ Barbara handed the photograph to her son. ‘Remember Rose, our neighbour with the lemon tree, when you were little?

‘I do…nice lady,’ smiled Nick. ‘Still in touch?’

Barbara shook her head and sighed. ‘She was ill, years ago. I wrote but never heard back. I’m not sure she’d remember us now…’

A letter arrived one morning from America. Rose’s daughter, who had tracked Barbara down, to tell her of Rose’s passing.

‘Mom talked of you often, how much she loved your letters even when she couldn’t reply.’

Barbara, like Rose, would remember their friendship forever.

🥕🥕🥕

Remembering My Forgotten Man by Jo Hawk

The best pieces were auctioned first. The hammer fell, the winning bidders paid, and scurried home clutching their new, old treasures. I stayed to the bitter end, bidding on lots no one else wanted. My prizes cost me a dollar, and the auctioneer tossed in other unsold items.

At home, I uncovered an antique trove. Pictures of a long-forgotten gentleman. My finger outlined his sepia-toned face, and I wondered about his life. Was he a good man? A brute? A devoted son? A cruel father? Whatever happened, the photos chronicled his lost legacy, unremembered, in my bargain auction finds.

🥕🥕🥕

Who, Exactly was Yvette Bouchard by TN Kerr

Yvette accepted the post-coital Cohiba offered by the bearded writer from La Plaza Vieja. He was writing his memoir. She tucked the bed linens around her waist, leaned back against the worn headboard, and told him about France, her life before la Habana. Before coming to Cuba.

He listened carefully as she smoked and wove her tale, “… But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Case of Big Amy by Annette Rochelle Aben

Magic was in the air, as the blushing bride was dressed for her big day. As Amy’s fingers traced the intricate bead work creating hearts on the bodice of her gown, she closed her eyes as if to make time stand still.

The guests seated in the sanctuary chattered excitedly; soon they would witness the event many thought would never happen. After all, the bride had waited so long to find the right mate!

The man with sad eyes fought tears. He knew he had to speak or forever hold his peace. Legally, she was still married to him.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Forget the Soap by Chelsea Owens

“It happened again.”

“What?”

“The door.”

….?

“The door of the laundry room.”

….

*Sigh* “It hit me on the way out again.”

“Oh…” “Well…” “It’s just a door.”

“It doesn’t hit me every time.”

“Huh.”

“I’m serious!”

“I know! -Look, maybe you’re just jumping to conclusions.”

….

“Like, you know, that… say, air currents from a different door or whatever sometimes close that one.”

“On me.”

“…Yeah.”

“Never on you.”

“…Yeah.”

“Never on anyone else.”

“Yeah!”

“And only when I start a load at midnight.”

“Yeah! -wait; why are you starting laundry at -”

“And only when I can also hear whispering…”

🥕🥕🥕

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo Shift by D. Avery

“What’sa matter, Kid?”

“Dang it all, Pal, I jist wanted the rodeo ta be somethin’ ‘memberable. But Pepe’s smellavision never caught air. An’ now Ernie an’ Pepe’s laid up so there won’t be any food concessions. Feelin’ bad, Pal. Wish some a these wild ideas could be unremembered. That bean cloud jeopardized the Ranch’s safety.”

“Calm yersef Kid. The Ranch was never in danger. Carrot Ranch’s always a safe place.”

“Even durin’ the rodeo?”

“Yep. Gotta play ta win, but yer a winner fer playin’.”

“I still wanna hep out.”

“See thet shovel?”

“Yep.”

“Jist do yer shift, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

September 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

From his post in the Eagle River Lighthouse, a young surfman spied a double-stack steamer through his binoculars. It was dead in the water, listing sideways and he couldn’t see the ship’s name. The maple and birch leaves must have started to turn because it was September 16, 1901. Autumn colors and gales hold hands in September. It can be warm and muggy one day, blustering with cold rain the next. In between, mist hovers and chlorophyll dissolves to expose brilliant oranges and yellows. Concern might have wrinkled the surfman’s brow. A gale with steady eight-foot waves will even stop the modern US Ranger from going out to Isle Royale. Today’s lake freighters will plow through autumn gales but change their course, wary of the Keweenaw. The western edge is unfriendly when Lake Superior orchestrates a gale.

That day, 118 years ago, communication systems fainted at the mere mention of winds, so fragile were the lines to weather. The surfman had no communication with the ship. It was not flying any distress flags, but it was no time or place to have cut the engines. Did they fail? Did something precipitate the quiet listing, such as the ship’s load shifting or another below decks emergency? The winds whipped, the waves roared with a pushing surf, and colored leaves blew from the shoreline trees. The American flags along the Keweenaw were flying half-mast on September 16, 1901, while President McKinley laid in state, assassinated two days earlier. No other signals indicated distress. The surfman watched from his post as the ship rolled over whole and disappeared.

For days, uncertainty cast doubt upon the sole witness. Boats launched to rescue survivors and found nothing and no one. No other ships experienced difficulties with the September 16th gale; it had not been particularly forceful or noted for rogue waves. With communications down, and trips taking days or weeks to complete, it was hard to determine if a ship was yet missing. Newspapers and the nation were focused on the tragic death of the president, not on speculation over what one young surfman at a remote Lake Superior post might have seen.

Then debris began to emerge, most of it wood, including the black and yellow masts that caused alarm — could it be the famous steamer known by those colors? A few bodies emerged, wearing lifevests clearly marking the ship’s identity. As feared, it was the Hudson. 288 feet long, her steel hull never appeared. It took mere days for Lake Superior to bash her wood parts and release the debris to surface and shore. A lake not known for giving up her dead, the surfmen must have felt surprised that a few escaped. None survived. Lake Superior held tight to the crew of 25, including the ship’s master, Angus J. McDonald.

But that is not the end.

There is a maritime legend to consider. In the 1940s, a tug coming around Keweenaw Point encountered a rusty, mud-slimed ship. It plowed toward them, and the tug had to veer to avoid a collision. Thinking the ship in distress, the tug captain boarded it. While it was solid beneath his boots, the apparitions that appeared were not. The ghosts warned him to get off as they were the crew of the Hudson and doomed to relive their sinking every year for eternity. The date was September 16.

That’s not the end, either.

Two Great Lakes shipwreck hunters located the Hudson, using sonar equipment they built. They had narrowed their search to 32 square miles, which in regards to the size of Lake Superior, was a relatively small area. In July of 2019, they found the Hudson in deep water, its bow plowed into the bottom of the lake. Eerily, the Hudson remains intact as if she could rise and float the way the tug captain described of his ghostly encounter. On September 16 of this year, the explorers who found the wreck attempted to see if she remained on her historic day of sinking. They were unable to determine.

It’s not the ghost stories or the maritime history that captivates me. I’m drawn to the Keweenaw shipwrecks because of those unremembered. Immediately, my imagination flashes to the surfman who witnessed the ship capsize. What a sight! And to have no one believe you for days, how would that feel? Who were the people who waited for those 25 men to return to Detroit? One account claimed that the ship’s master was “wedded” to the Hudson. What did that mean? And if the ship were doomed to relive its sinking every year, why? And who was that tug captain anyhow?

The best way for me to answer these questions is a combination of research and writing. You all know my favorite format for writing — 99 words, no more, no less. I start my research with Wreck Reports and other records my maritime historian friend collects. Her interest is in the surfmen who risked their lives to save those in peril on Lake Superior. Over 30,000 lives have been lost on the Great Lakes. That’s a lot of unremembered sailors and such. Alas, I must wait for the initial documents and can do nothing more but imagine the whipping winds and the shock of the sight, a ship rolling over.

This past week, my coursework prepares me to begin training in the infamous MFA workshop process. As writers, we can feel intimidated to receive feedback. Receiving criticism on our writing is not easy but is necessary for improvement. It’s not the writer who is critiqued, but the work. Authors make common mistakes, and we are learning what to look for when critiquing our peers. An amusing but informative primer from the Science Fiction Writer’s Association blog pinpoints such problem areas with humor specific to sci-fi. However, all writers can learn from it’s evolving list. The same site also offers guidelines for critiquing work for publication.

This training will inform the bedrock of workshops we’ll one day have online at Carrot Ranch. In addition to my MFA, I’m also studying for a certificate to teach creative writing online. While that fruition is a ways off yet, another endeavor at the Ranch is right around the corner — next week, the Flash Fiction Rodeo begins.

Leaders and judges from last year might feel unremembered, but that was not the intent. So much has happened between last Rodeo and this, I simply did not plan as I had in the past. D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, Geoff Le Pard, and Irene Waters and their judges did a fine job last year. Their creativity and critique are much appreciated. This year, a group of local judges will manage their duties at a Roberts Street Writery event. Judges will converge over a shared meal and relaxed environment to pair up on four different contests to pick a top-prize winner and two runners up. I’ll be the tie-breaker judge in all events.

The purpose of the Rodeo is to provide writers with an opportunity to showcase your best skills. It’s also a chance for those who have not entered contests to get their feet wet in a safe environment. This year, I intend to provide a brief critique to the top ten contestants. It’s a way for me to practice, and an opportunity for writers to gain an insight into the effectiveness of flash fiction writing. 40 critiques, even brief, is as much as I can manage. As I did last year, I’ll publish all the contest entries in collections.

Another difference: This year, writers can only submit one entry. Why? Because it is a contest. I want us all to learn how to first critique our own work. I want you to take enough time to let your first draft sit. Sit, don’t submit. Then read it over after a day or two. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll read it differently. Read it out loud. How does the language flow? Is it complete? Is it correct? Polish it up. A contest is different from a challenge. Focus on your best draft. If the prompt leads you to multiple drafts, you will have the opportunity to submit extras as challenge responses. Or, if you don’t like the idea of a contest, submit as usual, but indicate Challenger in the box that will ask you Contest or Challenge. Challengers will be published weekly through the submission form as usual.

Top prize offered is $25 in the form of US dollars or an Amazon gift card or as a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. The Rodeo is meant to be fun, and also a step up from a weekly challenge. I hope you all enjoy the next four weeks. The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins October 3 and ends Oct. 29. We’ll run on the same schedule — contests announced on Thursdays, ending the following Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. The only difference is that I’ll be more punctual! After all, I have to step up, too.

Now, let’s play one more week before the Rodeo commences.

September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered. Is it a momentary lapse or a loss in time? Play with the tone — make it funny, moving, or eerie. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by October 1, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills

“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.

Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.

“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”

September 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

Last night my hands shook as I checked my iPhone battery obsessively, focused my camera, and touched the American flag on a stick in my back pocket. I didn’t want to gouge somebody with the flag, but I couldn’t hold my sign, banner, and phone all at once. My sign read, Welcome home, Rich. His wife made a batch of them for us who gathered with her. I did not want to miss the loving moment 49 years in the making. B had waited that long to welcome home her soldier.

On July 4, 1969, R left for Vietnam, giving his fiance a rhinestone American flag pin. He married her, perhaps with reluctance as most returning Vietnam soldiers felt like damaged goods, unworthy for loved ones they had left behind. Many broke off engagements. Many lashed out at wives, initiating cycles of generational trauma. Some rode out the storms, finding help, finding balance, finding peace.

B waited for R, and they exchanged vows. Their marriage has been both loving and fraught with the specters of Vietnam. Every veteran adjusts — or not — differently. The spouses do, too. Those who are strong, like B, hold onto their identities, advocate for healthcare, and shake up their veterans when necessary. At lunch a few weeks ago, R told me his wife is a pit bull. He means she fights for him as committedly as he fought for his nation. He then said I was a pit bull, too. I take it as a term of honor, coming from a combat veteran who fought an unpopular war.

Standing next to B at the Delta County Airport in Escanaba, Michigan which is 200 miles from their home on the Keweenaw, I asked her what it felt like to welcome home her hero 50 years after he had left for Vietnam. She confided that she never thought she’d see the day. R never spoke of what he experienced in-country, but he finally opened up after seeking help for PTSD ten years ago. Like me, B was surprised to meet other combat veteran spouses. We are so invisible that we don’t even know about each other until we end up in groups like ours. The Vet Centers of America are the only organizations that actively include veteran spouses in readjustment counseling.

Three of us BABs (veteran spouses) stood next to B on the tarmac, watching the sunset turn the scattering of horizontal clouds copper. We waited with B to welcome home R from the Mission 17 UP Honor Flight to Washington DC. It’s a project that helps combat veterans find closure. They visit war memorials, meet their state representatives, read mail call on the flight, and return to a patriotic reception. Koppers, a local plant, charted a bus and catered our dinner, all free of charge, so we could travel the 400 miles to be part of the crowd that welcomes home our veterans. R. was on Mission 17 yesterday.

B with her new blue hoodie that reads on the back, “It’s never too late to say thanks,” printed off greeting signs for us. One of our other BABs bought us all small flags to wave. B wore a huge smile and her 50-year-old pin. Beneath it was a new one to commemorate the Honor Flight. She said she never believed she’d see the day R would be welcomed home. A youngster waiting in the crowd told a bystander, “My friend thought it was disgusting that my grandpa got spit on, but we are not going to spit at him this time.” No, we were going to cheer and hug.

And I was going to capture that reunion. A welcome home born of war, cancer, and interludes.

Just like when we write a novel, life holds key kernels, those events that shape us and our relationships. All else are satellite details in terms of narratology. But the interludes add up too and quantify who we become. Despite war on one end of marriage and cancer on this end, B and R have had sweet interludes with family, friends, and living on the Keweenaw. B was there to welcome him home like they were young and in love all over again. She was going to welcome him home with the expectation of the young woman who waited 50 years ago, not knowing if she’d ever see the young man who gave her a pin. B was going to welcome him home with every ounce of energy she had left in her bones and soul.

Interludes are not the transitions, but the sweet music that fills in the gaps of life. After we graduate school, often we take an interlude of traveling or working. When the kids leave home, we fill the space with distractions until we find purpose again. Writers complete a novel and paint until words come again, and a new novel takes seed. Veteran spouses know many interludes and are adept at filling the space. I find that my own life has entered an interlude of sorts. Not a transition, not a beginning or an ending, but a song until the orchestra returns; coursework until I’m ready to tackle the manuscript with new vigor.

Soon, I’ll be starting the workshop process. I want to learn both sides — as a writer and as a teacher. One gap I see for indie writers is the lack of access to creative writing critique. It’s crucial to development, and yet it can be crushing if not executed with respect and expertise. Kind of like squashing the spirit of a veteran who is trying to find healing and closure. For now, I’m learning with an eye to offering critique groups in the future. It can help develop a book to prepare it for an editor. My instructor has advised us that how we learn to critique is like developing our own editorial style. I hadn’t thought of editing being a style like writing.

And so it progresses. Life with its big moments and small interludes in between. How can we use those to tell stories?

September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude. It can be a pause between two key moments, the pause between acts in a play, an intermission, or a temporary amusement Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 24, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?

September 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

Lightning flashes as quickly as minnows in the shallows. It’s fall, cool, and a storm rumbles over the Keweenaw in the black of night. A few seconds after sharp silver pulses, thunder rattles the window panes. The radiators that sat silent throughout summer now diffuse a cozy heat that keeps the cold outside with the rain. Hot tea sits on my desk, and I ponder, what is the greatest gift?

Life. Liberty. Family. Art. Love. Home. A laundry list of answers comes to mind. It’s not my question but the suggestion of a prompt from my husband’s cousin. She and her mom sit on our couch in Hancock, the one they bought for us when we started to rebuild our household. It’s midnight, stormy, and conversation rolls around the room. The Hub is happy, sharing stories of the past. I wonder what my cousin means about the greatest gift when she says her story is dark.

I call J my cousin because she and the Hub’s sister, Silly the Kid (his nickname for her), were part of the greatest gift I got when I married him. Early on, I knew J was going to be one of my greatest friends. I loved her humor and intelligence and free-spirit. As a young couple, the Hub and I went weekly to her house to play board games with her and her husband, who was serving in the Navy. I marveled at their young three-year-old boy whose bedtime story was The Hobbit.

At the time, so long ago, J had a baby girl, a precious baby that made me anticipate the one I was expecting. Then a sheriff’s deputy showed up to our house one day with their son. We were the trusted people to watch over him the day tragedy struck. A few days later, we were burying that sweet baby girl over her great-grandfather’s grave. J’s husband was restationed out week, and J left.

I sit here now, 32 years later, thinking how heavy such an incident remains. J’s greatest gift, I suspect, was the second daughter she had years later. But as all mothers learn, daughters and sons are not our gifts to keep. They are their own people. We might give them life, but they make of it what they will. But it’s a pleasure to see J and Aunt M, her mom, travel the world together, staying in New Zealand January through March, visiting family across the US, visiting places like Poland or Alaska and taking world cruises.

Aunt M and Uncle R are my patron saints. Many, many years ago, Uncle R read something I wrote, and he told Aunt M that I was going to make something of my writing. She explained to me that he had vision and believed in my ability and dreams. He was subtle about it. He never complimented me directly but always showed interest, asked questions, and read my published work. When he lay dying, Aunt M read him my very first, and very raw draft of Miracle of Ducks. Whatever the book will be one day, it will be dedicated to them.

Perhaps the greatest gift one can give another is the support and encouragement to achieve potential. It’s a gift Aunt M, and Uncle R gave to me. I miss him. As any of us do when loved ones pass.

We are calling this trip, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. J and Aunt M flew from Phoenix to Chicago, boarded a train to the Wisconsin Dells, and hopped in my car last night. We stayed over in a motel after dark, so we weren’t on the road late. It was a five and a half-hour trip. The greatest gift can be the conversations on a road trip — the connections and deep sharing, the confessions and insights. Deep communication.

We arrived in time to meet up with the Hub, our daughter, her husband, and his dad and step-mom. We shared a meal at a new restaurant in Houghton called The Den. Family meals create some of the best moments, especially when the food and fellowship rank high. The gave me a bite of his scallop, and it was as near perfect as seeing my daughter so happy. I wish I could see all my three children framed in such happiness and enjoyed the moment, memorized its texture like the edges of a comforting quilt.

Tomorrow night is another dance performance where I get to perform four new flash fiction pieces. Having family in town for the show is a treat. Sharing art is another gift and a great one. The greatest gift this year came in Vermont, sharing scams and words, kayak trips and waterfalls, loons and laughs. Art is best shared. Art must be shared. For all the critics have to say or teach about art and define what it is, those who create it and experience understand art at such a deep level as to escape definition.

This week, both of my courses are focusing on the writing community and what it means to be a literary citizen. Well, my oh, my. I might have something to say on those topics! The greatest gift to my writing life is the ranchers of Carrot Ranch, their literary art, aspirations, and community. We might need solitude to write, the courage to go to lonely corners, and the solitary act of dragging words from the brain to the page to shape stories, but we also need companionship. If you are interested, one of the articles I’m reading is Do Writers Need to Be Alone to Thrive?

I want to take time to explain participation at Carrot Ranch. Ranchers can come and go as they please. The idea is that we play, remembering why we love the ride. You bring your own goals to the Ranch where it is safe for you to share, grow, and discover. The literary critics do not reside here. Personally, I feel that literary art involves three actions — reading, writing, and discourse. We discuss what strengths we see in writing and how a story moves us or leads us to recall or realize.  I believe in the 99-word art form as one that can open up creativity and be useful as a tool. I believe writers who regularly practice the constraint experience magic or breakthroughs in creativity.

But what does this means to the mechanics of participation in our literary community?

You can write to the prompt and share in different ways. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, submit your response in the form. One, it streamlines collecting. Two, it signals permission to publish your writing in the collection. You don’t have to do anything more if your goal is to publish at Carrot Ranch. If you submitted a response, but do not see it in the collection, shoot me an email at words for people(at)gmail(dot)com. Some weeks I get a storm of spam, WP can be glitchy, and I’m at risk for human error.

If you want to build up your blog traffic, you can share a link or your story (or both) in the comments. However, passive sharing might not garner more traffic. Community requires interaction. Think of it this way — if you went to a social event to network, you would introduce yourself, hand out business cards, and respond to the cards you collect, as well. In the comments, be social at the level you hope to cultivate. If you want blog traffic, visit the blogs of others, and make supportive and meaningful comments.

If you want kinship among writers, get to know people through the comments, stories, and blogs you encounter. You’ll find that many writers who come here are also on other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Many host or participate in other prompts. Some also have blog opportunities such as indie book reviews or posting thematic blog archives. Get to know what is happening in the greater writing community.

As a rule of thumb, comment “high and low.” In other words, read the story before yours, and the story after. You are not obligated to read them all in the comments, although I highly recommend taking time to read each 10-minute part in the weekly collection. If you were moved by a particular 99-words, let that author know.

Next month, we will have a Rodeo of Flash Fiction Contests. I’ve been remiss all year in following up with my terrific leaders from the past two years. But the show will go on — instead of challenges, Carrot Ranch will host four weekly contests next month instead of challenges. Each contest will be juried and a top prize of $25 awarded. Each contest is meant to test the skills of a writer, and your best work is anticipated.

September 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift. Answer it as if it were a question, or show what it could be. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 17, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

A Better Way to Serve (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Freya returned from Iraq, friendless. Mark Bastia didn’t survive the IED blast. His dog tags hung with hers. Despite combat, she was never counted as their brother. She pulled a long drag from her last cigarette, eyed the perfect branch from which to hang herself, and decided the greatest gift to the world would be to remove herself from its spinning. She touched the branch and recoiled. 22 a day, and she would not become another nameless statistic. Instead, she enrolled in college to battle veteran suicide and opened the first satellite Vet Center in North Idaho. She survived.

Safebreaker’s Daughter

A safebreaker is one who cracks open safes. Usually, the purpose is theft of the treasure protected within the vaults. Possibly an insurance company or wealthy individual might hire a safebreaker to test anti-theft systems. Who knows? This is the realm of fiction. The idea is based on a song by Mean Mary called The Safebreaker’s Daughter with the tantalizing chorus that warns not to underestimate her.

So, writers went on a mission to tell the story. They cracked their own codes to follow where the prompt led.

The following is based on the August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter.

PART I (10-minute read)

She Learned What Not To Do by Sue Sleggs

The business man built the mansions, the banker financed them, and when the safebreaker was notified, he robbed them. The three men didn’t care about laws, nor who they hurt. Years went by. The builder’s and banker’s sons took over for their fathers. Having not been taught a work ethic, nor adequate skills, the sons faltered. They were at constant odds with the safebreaker’s daughter who had decided it was up to her to break the ill-gotten chain of control. The young men never recognized their own foibles and blamed their troubles on THAT woman. She hadn’t underestimated herself.

🥕🥕🥕

I Double Dog Dare You by Faith A. Colburn

I was thirteen when Mom went to prison for cracking a safe. I’m actually pretty proud of her because she never took anything. It was just a dare.

She’d been raggin’ on my dad for not giving her jewelry—like her friends got.

“I ain’t got that kind of dough,” Pop said, “so when you rob a bank, I’ll get your diamonds.”

We knew she had the skills and what she didn’t know, she’d learn. But it was just idle conversation.

“Maybe I will.”

“I double dog dare you,” Dad said. “You ain’t got the nerve.”

But she did.

🥕🥕🥕

Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills

The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Joanne Fisher

There was a loud insistent knocking on the door. She opened it to find there was a policeman standing there.

“We’re looking for your father!”

“Why? What has he done now?” She asked.

“A safe has been broken into. It looks like his handiwork.”

“I haven’t seen him in a long time.” She replied.

“If you do see him, let us know.” The policeman ordered.

“Okay.”

The policeman left and she closed the door. She picked up the bags full of money she had just left in the hallway, and hid them away. Her father had taught her everything.

🥕🥕🥕

Cutting Loose by D. Avery

I liked the rush, I liked the crunch. Never did look back at the fallout.

My whole life I’ve lived and dreamed bikes. But my brother was to run the family shop. I was to go to college, fulfill their dream.

And here I am, strolling another campus, bike tools in my bag. I’ve always been a better mechanic than my damn brother. Nowadays I favor the bolt cutters and the hack saw.

My father’s practical advice to his customers? “Invest in a good lock when you invest in a good bike.”

No lock is too good for me.

🥕🥕🥕

To Crack a Nut by Chris Hewitt

“Put your damn phone away,” he growled.

“I’m bored,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes.

He’d been at it 40 minutes now and she had long lost interest.

“If you can crack a Mk50,” he started.

“You can crack anything, yeah, yeah,” she snapped.

With well-practised moves, his fingers manipulated the combination.

She stood up and walked around the safe.

“Gotcha,” he finally said thrusting the handle up with a satisfying clunk.

He swung the door open to reveal her beaming face staring at him through a large hole.

“Amazing what you can do with the right tools, old man!”

🥕🥕🥕

Like Mother, Like Daughter by Anne Goodwin

From the age of three my mother took me with her. Silenced by a lollipop, she bade me look and learn. And, fingers wiped of stickiness, feel the vibrations in my heart. It wasn’t about codes or numbers, it was bonding with the barricade, to coax the treasures from within. The way a musician melds with her instrument, creating the music between them.

In my teens I rebelled, forged my own furrow as a cat burglar, a pickpocket. But lower risk brought lesser rewards. Like mother, like daughter: a safebreaker’s daughter can’t escape tradition, so I’m a safebreaker too.

🥕🥕🥕

There Was A Caper in Washington by TN Kerr

Marni left school about 4:00 and headed for the teacher’s parking when out of nowhere she was flanked by two burly men with sunglasses and dark suits.

“You guys Special Agents?” she looked back and forth.

The left guy flashed a badge case, she caught a glimpse of tin. The right tendered a card, they were indeed Feds.

“We need to speak with your father, Miss Gilroy.”

“Last I heard he was still in jail,” she answered.

First agent, “We think he might’ve been in Seattle last night.”

“You haven’t seen him, then?” the second agent asked.

“Nope, sorry.”

🥕🥕🥕

Decoding by Reena Saxena

A career path that started with ethical hacking has taken a different turn. There’s money, there’s fame (some call it notoriety), and there’s the excitement of doing something which makes people drop their jaws.

“Is there a way to turn back?” implores Mom, “It is the path to disaster.”

She travels on high roads and the journey is exciting. New companions …

Nope… these are people from the Fraud Detection Cell.

“Young lady, I must say that you did too much, too fast.”

She only had this to say during interrogation, “I’m a safekeeper’s daughter, know how to decode.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by FloridaBorne

The perfect wife and mother…a consummate actress holding a gun on him.  “Why did you poison my entire family?”

“A promise to my father, John O’Malley.”

“The safebreaker?”

“My oldest brother burned the Smith’s in their yacht and forged papers showing I was their daughter. Another brother heads the security agency your father used to research prospective brides. What better place to dispose of parasites than a remote country hide-away? All that you once owned now belongs to us.”

Their guard, dying from heroine overdose, didn’t hear the shot, or feel the gloved hand position the gun into his.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safe-Breaker’s Daughter by Shweta Suresh
The room was as silent as a grave.
The owner was fast asleep in the room next door.
The sleeping pills she had put into his night drink were working.
She had managed to gather as much jewelry as she could.
Effortlessly, she slipped into the locker room.
She did not expect to get caught.
Alas! Luck was not in her favour.
She had not anticipated that his wife would be home.
She hadn’t done anything wrong either.
She was just returning what her father had stolen.
But the cops thought otherwise.
She was a safe-breaker’s daughter after all.

🥕🥕🥕

What Does Your Daddy Do? by Norah Colvin

The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:

“My Dad

My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.

The end.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Deborah Lee

“…so then, they couldn’t figure how to break into the safe, so they got some dynamite and blew it up!”

Laughter.

“All that money, blown to shreds. My dad’s friend the cop said when they got there it was still fluttering around like snow. All that cash, just confetti.”

“Order now, kids,” the teacher snapped.

Jane had turned her head, feigning a deep interest in the bare trees outside the homeroom window. Thirty years later, her face still burned like fire at the memory.

Her father had gone to prison, and she hadn’t seen him since. The safecracker’s legacy.

🥕🥕🥕

Can’t Take It with You by Jo Hawk

His body lay dead and buried in the ground before Nydia met the man she had lived with for thirty-two years. He arranged his funeral, she signed the papers, and the undertaker handed her a yellow envelope bearing her carefully printed name.

An address and a key revealed a storage locker lined with shelves stuffed with labeled boxes. Thousands of them greeted her.

She opened the note with trembling hands:

Dearest Nydia,

I lied. My late nights were never at bars. I was a safecracker. The contents are here, chronicled, logged and stored. Consider them your inheritance.

Love,
Dad

🥕🥕🥕

Type Cast? by JulesPaige

Astrid knew he did it for her, not to get dollar bills for the topless dancer, the one who might have been her mother. Who he spoke of in his sleep – when dressed wore bell bottoms and gypsy blouses. Astrid, his little chick, didn’t get the woman’s outer beauty. However, her father saw in his daughter, her inner beauty and he never wanted her to take the blame for his own faults.

Don’t become a thief he begged on his deathbed. Take my money, educate yourself. So Astrid without fear of debt, started her career as a professional student.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Call Dad by Donna Matthews

He whispers the sweetest words. Murmuring sounds about beauty, smarts, perfection. He tells me I’m not like the other girls — my cheeks flame. I am valuable! I am loved! After weeks of timid touches, I finally surrender. We are one now.

Tiptoeing out of his room, I see a photo of him. As I tenderly trace his face, the portrait shifts. Realizing I have discovered his treasure, I can’t help but glance inside. To my astonishment and dismay, the vault is crammed with pictures of girls before me. I believed his false promises. Devastated, I call my dad.

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter by Shane Kroetsch

Her daddy worked with the Overton crew. Best safecracker on the west coast is what they said. It was like a magic trick. He did it all by feel. Never left a mark.

She worked the same way, except it wasn’t money she was after. When she’d touch you, it would last just long enough. She’d look at you, and you’d forget about anything else. Before you realised what happened, it’d be too late.

Her daddy always told her that if you’re gonna do something, do it right. What she knew how to do, was break a man’s heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Safebreaker’s Daughter by Doug Jacquier

Her Dad was a legend amongst the other surfers at Bell’s Beach, which was in itself a legend in world surfing. His legendary status was nothing to do with his reckless but skillful derring-do but was based on the exact opposite; his unwillingness to take a risk. He was always looking for the safe breaker.

So when his daughter came along, grew up and had kids of her own, his words would ring in her ears as she swam towards the reef, beating down the desire to catch the biggest wave she could. She was indeed the safebreaker’s daughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Things They Do To Me by H.R.R. Gorman

She tossed some of the powder onto the safe’s handle and brushed off excess, but the results came back as she expected. “Perp wore gloves,” she told the officer.

The uniformed man snorted. “Good lord. Sendin’ me a lady fingerprintist… the things they do to me.”

She pursed her lips, then ran out of the room. The cop laughed, thinking he’d sent her crying, but time ran short.

If she couldn’t solve the case from the perp’s traces, she could follow the money trail. Her dad had been a safebreaker – and she knew where he’d sell jewels and jade.

🥕🥕🥕

Your Sins Will Catch You Out by Di @pensitivity101

The letter arrived along with the usual bills and flyers.
Type written, she opened it and sat down quickly.
She wanted to know how they found out. She was the vicar’s wife, right?
A pillar of society and liked by most, she thought she had escaped her tarnished past.
Now she’d received this open threat to expose her to her husband as a fraud due to her father’s criminal activities unless she paid £1,000 for the writer’s silence.
She took the letter into her husband’s office and anxiously showed him.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said calmly, as he knew everything anyway.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s All in the Clicks by Susan Zutautas

“I know how to do this, just be quiet”, Mary said to Pete as she listened intently with her stethoscope up against the safe’s dial.

Stopping briefly, Mary said to Pete, “It should only take a few more tries to break this baby.

Frightened as a rabbit Pete replied, “I sure hope so, we’ve been here almost an hour. I need to see my fathers will”.

Hearing the clicks, carefully turning the dial clockwise and counterclockwise, then back again, she knew she had it.

“Voila, Pete. I’ve never met a safe that I couldn’t crack. Dad would be proud”.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by The Dark Netizen

She rode on, the bags of coin and jewels jingling behind her.

This was her biggest haul yet. It was larger than her father’s greatest score. He would be happy had he still been with her. This life of thievery was full of perils, and she recognised that it could lead her to a quick end. However, it was all she knew, all that was taught to her by her father – The Safebreaker. She liked the name. It announced her skill. Her other skills helped her get into the houses of rich spoilt sons.

They were considerably poorer now…

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter by Anita Dawes

Could it be called a skill
Getting into places
That are locked against you
Something Annie learned at her father’s knee
Now it’s time to branch out on her own
Will nerves get the better of her
She’s hoping to perfect all she has learned
There’s one big job she looks forward to
Snatching the crown jewels
from under the queen’s nose.
She has studied every part of the great tower
The yeoman, the black ravens
that guard this wonderful tower in London.
A man once sat on the queen’s bed while she slept
How hard can it be?

🥕🥕🥕

Jailbreaker Ritu Bhathal

It’s about time I carved a name out for myself. I’m fed up of everyone thinking of him whenever they see me. Mary. That’s my name. Not the Safebreaker’s Daughter. It wasn’t so bad, when things were good. No one could touch him. And we never did without. Then he went and got himself caught. Hand still in the jewellers safe. He’s sitting in jail now, rotting away. I need to do something. Something that will change the way they all talk about me. No more Safebreaker’s Daughter. No, soon, I’ll be known as the Jailbreaker. Dad, I’m coming.

🥕🥕🥕

The Safebreaker’s Daughter, Her Twin, & the Fen by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Hananah’d never before been to this part of the fen, but wasn’t worried. Eavan had promised to meet her at moonrise, to raid the castle’s treasury. The villagers on the mountain were in sore need of funds.

He was a safebreaker’s son, she his twin. Raised in a convent of sorts, they’d been trained as thieves to do good.

She shivered, then tensed when the wind stopped, but the leaves continued to rustle.

“Eavan?” She turned to the fen. Leaves heaved in a belch of blue, revealing a pair of glowing green eyes within a mound of rotting bracken.

🥕🥕🥕

Deep Space Archeologist by Saifun Hassam

Captain Lacey was a space engineer and an archeologist. Her space capsule was in orbit around a derelict Terran ship, probing for airlocks or hidden entrances or exits. The data was automatically transmitted to her own spaceship high above the Terran ship. Certain anomalies had already sparked her curiosity about the abandoned ship.

Lacey’s love for space engineering had come from her dad. He was a test engineer for space technologies back on Terra. Nicknamed “Safebreaker” he was a genius at testing and cracking AI codes to spaceship areas controlling life support systems or space drives or ship’s instruments.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Change by Bill Engleson

“His torch dimmed?”

“It did. Comes to us all. Even him.”

“It’s good you could be there. How was it for you?”

“Comforting. Oddly comforting.”

“Did you talk?”

“It was hard for him. I held his hand. Then I remembered something he told me as a child. He always had that wall safe. One day, I was, maybe seven, I asked, ‘what do you keep in there?’

He said. ‘Nothing but time!’

I didn’t understand.

He could see that.

There, as he lay dying, I joked, ‘what’s in your safe, now?’

He smiled, and said, ‘It’s your time, now.’

🥕🥕🥕

Poet-Tree Place by D. Avery

“Ever’thin’ ok up there, Kid?”

“Jist thinkin’, Pal. Thinkin’ on how ya said ya ain’t from anywheres but right here at the Ranch. Thinkin’ I cain’t figger if yer a part a this place, or if this place is a part a you.”

“I reckon places beget the folks thet live in ‘em. Mold’em. Shape ‘em.”

“Do places tell stories or is it the people?”

“Reckon it’s both, Kid. But folks has ta work harder at listenin’. Git thet figgered out, places jist hum with stories.”

“And buckaroo-ku:

Earth hums Her stories
immeasurable songlines
pulse through time and space

🥕🥕🥕

Breakin’ and Reckonin’ by D. Avery

“Eh; don’t give up yer day job Kid. Come down outta thet tree and git ta yer chores.”

“Okay, Pal.”

“Careful now, be safe. Break ‘er branches on thet tree an’ Shorty’ll be upset. Yer climbin’s gittin’ better. Who taught ya?”

“Jist practice. Who taught you ‘bout ranchin’ Pal?”

“Reckon if a character gits made up fer a ranch thet character knows ranchin’. Who taught ya ta buckaroo-ku?”

“Learnin’ as I go. Jist tryin’ to find my way, mappin’ the wide open spaces of the ranch with words.”

“Reckon words make space a place.”

“Yep. 99 at a time.”

🥕🥕🥕

August 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Grab your notebook and walking stick, a light coat, and maybe a hat. It’s cold enough to turn a few maple leaves into fire paintings. We’re going for a walk.

Feel the brisk air? Inhale deeply and watch your breath frost on the exhale. I wasn’t kidding about the cold. I know, it’s dark so let your eyes adjust a moment. See my tomato plants in the shadows of night? It won’t frost yet. They’ll be okay. If you can strain your eyes, that’s a potted eggplant. No flower, no fruit. Ah, well. It was worth a try. See over there to the right of the tomatoes? Yes, I know it’s dark, but see how the light-colored leaves illuminate? Those are all Brussel sprouts. Six of them and they will continue to grow until frost. After that, they will sweeten on the stalk.

Carefully take the stairs, and we’ll gather beneath the street lamp. Look back at my home (MY HOME!) and see how the light in the back windows glows. It makes me sigh in satisfaction. A heavy sigh frosts my breath again! Notice the color of the lamplight is pinker than the warm yellow tones emanating from inside my house. Just an observation. Smell that? Crisp fall air smells sharp and clean. It clears the sinuses the way champagne cleanses the palate. Did you catch the whiff of smoke? Someone has lit a fire against the chill.

This narrow street we are standing in is named Jensen. It’s a one-way alley. See Mrs. H’s house over my shoulder? She’s on the corner of Roberts and Ethel. Next door on the corner of Ethel and Jensen is her granddaughter’s house. Their back yard is a run-on sentence to ours. We really don’t know the property lines. That bank of lilacs might be mine, or they might belong to Mrs. H. Their snow gets shoved into our yard each winter. But I’m jumping ahead.

If you count those two houses and the ones across the alleyway down to where Jensen curves back up to intersect Roberts, we total six houses. There’s only one other house on the other side of my next-door neighbor. That makes eight, ours makes nine. Let’s walk to the corner. The alleyway slopes downhill slightly then rises again to meet Roberts Street. That open space fills with snow removal in winter.

If you go past the last house, there’s a hillside where we all dump our maple leaves after they drop. That house on the corner is for sale. Bet the new owners will be surprised to see the neighborhood crossing their yard with a parade of leaves this fall. Okay. We are at the corner. If we turn left, we’d have to cross the snowmobile trail. It’s great for walking the dogs in summer. If you walk up the long hill, you’ll pass the county fairgrounds where the city of Hancock stores all its removed snow. It’s like glacial melt in the spring.

Further, are the Maasto Hiihto Trails. I know, it looks like a misspelling, but double vowels are typical in the Finnish language, and you’ll find that our area is imbued with Finn culture. The Laurn Grove Park is only a block up the snowmobile trail. It has an ice hockey rink and play area for kids. If I had young children, they’d play there, making sport of cutting paths through the small copse of woods on the other side of the trail.

The park is named for two boys who grew up in the scattering of neighborhoods like ours on this hillside. Both died in WWII on different ships in the Pacific. Past the park is the house where the Koski boys grew up a generation later. They both served in Vietnam, and their wives are good friends of mine.

The opposite way down the snowmobile trail is the Finlandia football field. I heard them practicing well after dark tonight. The Hancock high school squad practices there, too, and I know the parents of one of the boys. His dad served in Iraq, and his mom works fulltime at Michigan Tech. She takes care of him. He has back injuries, TBI and PTSD almost to the point of agoraphobia. But he watches his son play.

War has left its mark on my small neighborhood. My husband is a veteran of Grenada and deployments to Central America. My next-door neighbor was in the Army. Not sure if he’s a combat veteran, but he can seem intimidating. I talk garden matters with him, and that softens him.

Let’s walk back to the house from Roberts Street and add to our count the neighbors on the opposite side. Fourteen. That’s our block. A good baker’s dozen of us. A friendly bunch. Dog walkers and bird watchers. A few general landscapers, just two of us gardening, but everyone mows their lawns or hires Mrs. H’s great-grandson.

Come on inside. I don’t know about you, but my hands are cold! The tip of my nose, too. It was quiet tonight. Last week, when the fair was in town, traffic got loud up and down Ethel. Sometimes we can hear noisy bikes or trucks blasting down Quincy Hill. Otherwise, it’s a quiet place for town-living. I’m going to link a map for you, and you can zoom in to see 1112 Roberts Street or zoom out to where I live in proximity to Lake Superior.

What a glorious tool, Google Maps! You can also click on places like Maasto Hiihto Trail or Franklin Mine or McLain State Park and look at streets and satellite views and click on photos. You can measure distances and see the terrain. Maps used to show space on a grid. Now they can be more interactive. The purpose of our walk tonight was to introduce you to something I just learned and feel excited about — deep mapping.

Consider the difference between space and place. Space spreads out on a map and can be measured in longitude, latitude, and altitude. Place is what we make of space, the meaning we attribute to it. To deep map a place, we start with observation. We took a walk. According to Linda Lappin, author of a book I’m reading for my MFA called The Soul of a Place, “A deep map, then, is a sample swatch of the multiple manifestations of the genius loci [the spirit of a place].” The term comes from PrairyErth: A Deep Map by William Least Heat-Moon and shows the stratification of a geographical spot.

Walking the spot is the first step to deep mapping. This is exploration. Next is a gathering of details — how does the light of day, the cold of winter change the place. Lappin advises authors to learn the names of plants and birds and streets. This act transforms a writer into a camera, a recorder, a scientist before artist. As artist, deep mapping then calls the writer to respond to all discoveries, to learn and observe. Push deeper and research the place names and local history. Think about how your personal story intersects with all this information about a single place. Finally, a deep mapper must organize all this material into blocks, miles, and themes.

Lappin writes that she gathers superstitions, plant lore and recipes to add local color. All this true-to-life background informs the details upon which she traces out the plot of the story. She shows that deep mapping crosses all genres and can include interiors as well as exteriors. I find it fascinating because I’ve intuitively deep mapped places I write about not realizing there’s an entire process to this kind of work. Film-makers, visual, and performing artists also use the tool.

And as a writer of 99-word stories, I often use that literary artform to catch my mapping impressions, which makes me even more excited about the process. If you give deep mapping a try or find, like me, you already do some of it, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

While reading The Soul of Place, Lappin shared a list of street names she collected in Italy. One translated to Girl Thief Road. This jogged my memory of a Mean Mary song:

The banker’s boy, the boss’s son
They’re hoarding all the treasures their daddy’s won
And they think the vault is safe but she’s smarter than they thought her
They always underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter

You can listen to the full song here: The Safebreaker’s Daughter. One of the techniques for deep mapping can be music. I like songs that hint at a story, ones I can apply to a place. Mean Mary never reveals “the story” in her song, and that’s why it always niggles at me. How did they underestimate the safebreaker’s daughter? And, who was the safebreaker? Did he have a legitimate job, or was he a thief? What if I plopped these characters from a song onto my street? Deep mapping can be fun, and there are endless ways you can use it to spark your own writing.

August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 3, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Thelma on Roberts Street by Charli Mills

The light overlooking Roberts Street flickered and faded. Thelma smiled and accepted the omen – all that glows holds no permanence. Probably the gales blew out a transformer nearby. Wind gusted through the maple trees, scattering small flocks of leaves to the ground. Summer was over. The tourists went home; the college students returned. The latest batch of football players for Finlandia made a good excuse for her to walk this path. Just another smitten female sauntering home late. Who would think she was casing the football coach’s house? She had ten minutes to prove she was the safebreaker’s daughter.

Old World Charm

Perhaps the phrase is a colloquialism, a new world nostalgia. Maybe we use old world charm to describe architecture, homey restaurants, or ethnic festivities. Whatever its use, the phrase holds space for reminiscing about what we left behind.

Not the easiest of prompts to play with, but writers followed its lead nonetheless. Some took us beyond old world traditions to new, and others reimagined places. We encounter different perspectives and some unexpected treatments of the prompt.

The following stories are based on the August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mettle of Life by Donna Matthews

Shutting off the television after another Stranger Things binge-watching session, she couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Not for the terrifying, family destroying monsters portrayed. And indeed not the fashion. Bright geometric patterns and splatter paint? Good heavens, what were we thinking in the 80s?

No.

It is the mettle of life she misses. The 14-year-old girl she once was. Long afternoons with friends, secrets shared, dreams whispered. It was her age of becoming. She could be anything. Anything at all.

Silence falls heavy without the television. Unsure of what to do next, she ends up doing nothing at all.

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded (Part I) by D. Avery

Hope felt pride and belonging here, enjoyed seeing her last name on the neatly arranged stones, many flagged, indicating service as far back as the Revolution.

“Mom?”

Hope’s mom stood at the edge of the woods, still and silent. Hope went down the slope and joined her.

“Mom?”

Her eyes glistened. She placed one of her earrings on the tiny stone before walking with Hope toward the road.

“Who was she?”

“I don’t know Hope. Just a gypsy baby, abandoned they say, over a hundred years ago.”

Winding back through the family plots, Hope’s pride clouded over with questions.

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded (Part II) by D. Avery

“A gypsy baby? I didn’t know we had gypsies in Vermont. I thought gypsies were from long ago and far away, like Italy, or Romania, somewhere like that. Why is there a gypsy baby in our cemetery?”

Her mom stopped and turned, silently stared back down the slope at the isolated marker. Her long black hair veiled her face.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Hope, ‘gypsy’ does sound Old World; European; maybe sounds more charming than other words they might have used for impoverished dark skinned people wandering homeless in their own homelands.” She sniffed. “Christianity’s an Old World idea too.”

🥕🥕🥕

Clouded (Part III) by D. Avery

Hope stood with her mother, looked down the slope at the little grave by itself just beyond the boundary of the old cemetery.

“It’s like she’s on the outside looking in.”

“Yes, it’s like that.” She spoke softly. “The story is, she was found around here and one man wanted to give her a decent burial but the others wouldn’t allow a heathen, a gypsy, amongst their own.”

“I still can’t imagine gypsies around here.”

“Can you imagine Abenaki families? Selling handcrafts, baskets and brooms?”

“Indians? That seems long ago and far away too, Mom.”

“Not so far, Hope.”

🥕🥕🥕

Saving Babies by Faith A. Colburn

We often think of culture as arts, but some cultural practices are so basic as to be essential to life. I haven’t used the prompt words “old world” from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community blog prompt in my text, but the meaning is there.

“It’s because we were midwives—from Scotland,” Grandma said.

“What’s that got to do with a family that doesn’t touch each other?”

“They didn’t want anybody slobbering over their babies.”

“Slobbering!”

“Germs.”

“They didn’t know about germs back then.”

“The experts didn’t know.” She gave me one of her now-think-about-this looks. “Women who took care of mommas and babies didn’t have microscopes, but they knew that boiling water and washing everything within an inch of its life resulted in more live babies. The fewer people handling babies, the more they lived.” She gave me another look. “Generations of observation.”

🥕🥕🥕

Days Gone By by Reena Saxeena

It was a busy day in office, as the Managing Director was visiting. The premises needed to be spotlessly clean, all reports ready and the housekeeping/secretarial staff on call.

I bumped against someone, speeding through the corridor in my new suit and high heels. The gentleman stopped, held my elbow till I regained balance, and spoke calmly.

“I should’ve been careful. Hope you are fine, young lady!”

That was the venerable MD himself.

Years later, I thought of him when the new MD walked in before 9 am, and cribbed that nobody bothered to wish him a good morning.

🥕🥕🥕

Gesture by Bill Engleson

Hopped the Number 3 bus one lonely summer Sunday recently.

At loose ends.

Feeling sorry for myself.

I get that way.

So, I’m sitting there when this young girl boards.

Pregnant, but oh so young.

The bus is full.

Loads of Sunday shoppers: a mob of middle-aged lavender matrons, crinkly codgers, me!

She looked like she was about to pop.

Christ, I thought, I’ll never get to where I’m going.

Wherever that is.

Then this ancient dude, foreign looking, old school-like, smiles at her, gets up, offers her his seat.

You just don’t see classy moves like that anymore!

🥕🥕🥕

Date Night at Hungarian Village by Annette Rochelle Aben

We loved the non-descript store front, because the fewer people who knew about this place, the easier it was to get a seat. Authentic Hungarian food was all they served and when what had been cooked every morning was gone, they locked the doors.

On the patched vinyl cushioned chairs, we sat patiently, at a faded, red Formica table. Soon, a woman, whose age could be determined by counting the wrinkles on her face, delivered our plates. She wiped gnarled fingers on a food stained, white apron and smiled. Then, she handed us each a fork and said: Eat!

🥕🥕🥕

Polka Pantomine by priorhouse

I saw her dancing, again, this Sunday

polka played from the radio

cabbage and meat aroma filled the air

the low heels of her shoes

clicked with certain moves

the dress, that covered most of her body, barely moved

while her shoulders sometimes grooved

soft face wrinkles

with eyes that twinkled

as her feet stepped side to side

doing some sorta polka slide –

and I, barely 13, stayed back

watching from the shadow

curious about this old grandmother of mine

as she traveled back in time

every Sunday

doing the Polka pantomime

🥕🥕🥕

High Tea by Di @pensitivity101

The room was lit with yellow light from tired bulbs, heavy brocade curtains hung at the windows and doors.
A fire burned merrily in the hearth, the smell of fresh bread and home made jam wafting across the room to tease my nostrils and make my mouth water.

Tea and scones sat on a table with a heavy cloth topped with a circlet of hand woven lace.
Cakes on a three tier stand stood centre stage, thick cream in a jug alongside.
Tea was always a nostalgic trip going back 50 years when my great aunt and uncle were newlyweds.

🥕🥕🥕

Old World Charms by Anita Dawes

Here in England
We used to have afternoon tea dances
In ballrooms across the country.
Those were the days when a gentleman
Enjoyed dancing with his lady
Holding open the door to let her through first
Pulling her chair out to help her sit
There are so many old-world charms we have lost
Writing love letters, eagerly waiting for the postman
To deliver those words you long to read
Taking pen and paper to reciprocate
A gentleman would also lift his hat when passing a church
I still I cross myself whenever a funeral goes by.
Those golden days…

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Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills

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

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

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

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Recipes Passed Down by Susan Zutautas

Every year at Christmastime Meg’s grandmother who was from Paisley Scotland would make shortbread.

Shortbread was an expensive luxury at one time and was usually only made for special occasions.

It is said that these rich delicious biscuits date back to the 12th century.

Meg would watch intently as her grandmother carefully measured out flour, icing sugar, and of course the butter. Into a big bowl, the ingredients would go, and the hand beating with force would begin.

Ever since her grandmothers passing Meg has carried on with her traditional recipe and bakes many batches of them at Christmas.

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Melanie by Padmini

He squinted at the braided girl in brown hair with his half-blind eyes. The first time he saw her, she was dancing to the same tune. Has it been 60 years? They were married the next year and she had passed away a year after their marriage. She was back now, wearing the same dress. “Melanie’, he whispered weakly. Melanie, for the first time in her traditional attire, danced exuberantly. She looked at him and sensed that something was wrong. She hurried over to him. ‘Grandpa’, she shook him. His limp body fell to the ground with a thud.

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Olde World, New Light by Ritu Bhatal

Jackie picked up the lantern and held it up against the shop light.

It was exquisite, the intricacy of the cast iron frame, twisted into patterns.

“That would look amazing, hanging outside our front door, wouldn’t it, Dave?” She turned to her husband, who stood impatiently, tapping foot, waiting for her to make a decision so they could leave. He had a beer at home with his name on it.

“It has such an olde worlde charm. Yes,” she smiled as she clasped it to her chest. “This is the one. Let’s go and pay.”

“Thank God,” mumbled Dave.

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La Florentine Torrone by JulesPaige

Nonna always has old world treats in her pockets those special nugget candies that have nuts, and come individually wrapped in their own boxes. So when the children visit they all run to her.

Nonna used cook, back in the day when standing in the hot kitchen over her famous red sauces and homemade pastas could be found for supper any day of the week.

The other adults debate on whether she knows too much or doesn’t grasp the modern world enough. I think that my Nona, she’s just fine the way she is. I am her secret supplier.

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Just Up from the Compleat Angler by TN Kerr

In the village of Marlow, Buckinghamshire, the visitor will find an agreeable climate, a magnificent bridge, delightful restaurants, and river walks. At the top of the High Street sits Albion House, where Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived. In this house, Mary Shelley finished her Gothic novel.

It’s a lovely old home; painted white. It features floors of hardwood and terracotta tiles. French doors open to a small garden off the ground floor, and the entire structure glows with the patina brought by old age and meticulous care. A simple, small brass plaque marks its literary significance.

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Host with the Most! by Anurag Bakhshi

Rhonda and Steve were awestruck as they stared unblinking at the magnificent interiors of the Airbnb.

The walls were covered with such grand paintings that it looked like they were in the Louvre.

Add Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing in the background, and they felt as if they’d been transported to another century.

“We simply love it,” Rhonda cried out, ecstatically, “I don’t ever want to leave this place, Doctor.”

“I’m sure that can be arranged, my dear,” replied their host with an indulgent smile, a picture of old world charm, just like his home, “And please call me Hannibal.”

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PART II (10-minute read)

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Old-World Charm by Jim “Quincy” Borden

In 1494, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, wrote one of the first published descriptions of double-entry bookkeeping. He described journals, ledgers, year-end closing entries, and proposed that a trial balance be used to prove a balanced ledger. He warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until the debits equalled the credits. His ledger had accounts for assets, liabilities, capital, income, and expenses — the account categories that are reported on an organization’s balance sheet and income statement, respectively. These terms are still used today. Who knew there was a certain old-world charm to what I teach.

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So Last Century by Norah Colvin

“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”

“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”

“What?”

“We didn’t even have computers.”

“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”
Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”

“Wow! What did you do then?”

“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”

“Can we play a game?”

“Of course, love.”

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Old World by FloridaBorne

“AnnaLisa,” My granddaughter said. “Join us for chocolate cake!”

“Haha u,” She chuckled. “Old.”

“In my day, no child refused this lusciousness!”

“2020?” She chuckled. “Virtual eat. No hydrolos.”

“Can you translate?” I asked my granddaughter.

“Language is now thoughts. Words are a second language to her.”

“Well?”

“Translation: I have a program installed. I can taste the cake as if I’m eating it, but there’s no calories, it’s not 2020, Great Grandma.”

“Whatever happened to tradition?”

“Two words,” My granddaughter said. “Artificial intelligence. She can’t keep up in school without it.”

“Robots by any other name,” I grumbled.

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Lost by Allison Maruska

I settle onto the flat boulder overlooking the valley. The verdant field and trees welcome the rare visitor, promising a breath of nature and a taste of old-world charm. A world that existed before technology ruled. The afternoon sun bathes it in warm light.

“Daddy, what are you looking at?”

Twisting around, I wave my boy over. He wiggles next to me, his legs stopping at my knees.

“This is the land our ancestors saw,” I say.

He tilts his head. “Can we go home now?”

I laugh. “In a little bit.” After I figure out where we are.

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That’s One Old Building by Susan Sleggs

While touring a small British town my aunt pointed to the historical plaque on the outside wall of a pub. It said 1158. We commented we didn’t think there was a building in the US that was 700 years old because we tear everything down and build new. We went in for lunch and a pint. The old-world charm was a respite and matched by the personalities of the young owners who asked where we were from in the states. When we questioned how they knew, the answer was, “You are wearing bright colors. Gives you away every time.”

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So Much for Old World Charm by Margaret G. Hanna

“Bodicote is a dump!”

Mary’s letter from Oxfordshire shocked me. She didn’t like the village where I grew up? How could she not? The cobblestone streets. The village pub (I got drunk there many nights as a lad). The Green where everyone caroused on Fair night.

I read further. And sighed. The pub was gone. The Green was Brown. Banbury was encroaching, razing everything in its path. Dad’s farm, which he had rented from Mrs. Wyatt, was in shambles, about to be bulldozed for houses.

I had never wanted to return to England. Now there was even less reason.

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Trip to the New World by H.R.R. Gorman

The old world had been good, but not perfect.

What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.

Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.

She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.

And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.

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Olde Worlde Charm by LizHusebye Hartmann

“You’re certain this will work?” The charm, clasped in the Anna’s smooth young hand, was redolent of rose hips, cinnamon, and sweet basil…and something exotic from the far southern lands. Eyes shining with hopeful, as yet unshed tears, she clasped the woven bag to her breast.

“Do your part, with an open heart. Your prayer will be answered, anon.”

Molly accepted the girl’s hug; then shooed her away with a smile. It was a gig—keen observation and a little theater kept ‘em coming back. She’d seen the two to-be-lovers together; why did women always doubt their own power?

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The Old World by Chris Hewitt

Disembarking from the ship she was utterly overwhelmed. The old world was more than she had ever imagined, an assault on her senses. The air was thick, pungent, with the promise of culinary adventure. Countless bustling stalls, nestled in the shadows of the old brick buildings that lined the dock. And oh my it was so bright, so vivid, the green of the trees, the blue sky, everything!

She stumbled and fell from the gangplank onto hard cobbles.

“Whoops, are you ok?”, a helping hand reached down, “First time on Earth? Don’t worry we all trip the first time.”

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Just Lousy with Charm by Doug Jacquier

In my old world, nits were removed with kerosene, visits to the spider infested outhouse were completed with newspaper squares, mothers bored into your ears to stop the potatoes growing in there and rubbed at your face with their spit on a handkerchief, fathers twisted your ears as they dragged you to the scene of your latest sin, teachers clipped your ears to instill learning and the local copper handled juvenile delinquency with the toe of his boot. Charming. I tell my grandson but he just scratches his head. Now where did I put that kerosene?

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Celebration by Kerry E.B. Black

With a pomp of woodwinds, the children joined the parade about town, welcoming everyone to join. Ribbons swirled from braids in the little girls’ hair. Embroidered flowers festooned hems and lines of traditional garb. Traditional foods perfumed the air, available for the sampling. The celebration swept everyone up with its joy. The world bloomed, the earth produced, and people created beauty to compliment nature. Peace, not protest. Harmony, not war. For the brief span of an afternoon, the community embraced the simplicity of existence. Unity in expression, inclusion of all. People paused to admire the beauty in one another.

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The Gift of Water by Anne Goodwin

Our forefathers took time and trouble to appease the elements. Didn’t they rely on sun and rain for their daily bread? In summer they’d decorate the springs with gleanings from nature’s pantry, and thank the Lord for that cool clear liquid that enabled the crops to grow. In our pick-and-mix culture, we shed their superstitions but kept their art: village competing with village for the best display. For five long days we’d diligently press petals, seeds and berries into a clay-covered board until the design took shape. Now our great-grandchildren fight wars for water. The village wells are dry.

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Cinnamon Roll by Kelley Farrell

“It has that old world charm.”

“It smells like death.”

Anise inhaled the bitter air. Remains of buildings, and their citizens, dusted the ground in an ashen snow storm. In the distance an alarm still blared, signaling catastrophe. Something sweet and savory mingled with the distinct smell of smoldering wood.

“Do you smell that?”

“Delicious.”

The sweet smell pulled Clove and Anise forward. In the center of the destruction a small bakery’s ovens hummed away. An old woman pointed her cane at the creatures.

“You. Are you responsible for this? Have a cinnamon roll, I fucking hated this place.”

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The Charm Bracelet by Sally Cronin

Keira stood in line with the other teenagers. Dressed in plain cotton overalls, the queue stretched back for miles.

Above them, lining the cliff edges, were their families, held back by a tall fence. She looked down at the silver charm bracelet her mother had placed around her wrist as she had said her tearful goodbyes.

‘This will remind you of the old world my daughter, and our love.’

Keira finally reached the head of the line and was called forward by the guardians.

Placing her hand over the bracelet, she stepped through the portal, into the new world.

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The New World by Joanne Fisher

“What happened to the original inhabitants of this planet?” my daughter asked.

“We left the Old World after it became too polluted and when we arrived at this New World it was a verdant paradise with an indigenous population. They helped us survive the first few years by providing food and shelter. Once we built up our settlements we took their lands, as we needed the resources. We moved their survivors onto reserves where they mostly died out from sickness and disease. They’re gone now.”

We both looked out onto the now crowded skyline of skyscrapers and hazy skies.

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Old Earth: Sketch of a Bygone Dream by Saifun Hassam

In that far away long-ago dream, there was a deep azure lake with tall evergreens along the shores. Towering snowy peaks glowed in the early morning sunlight. Light and shadow drifted with the mist swirling over the lake. From the shores, stone steps led to a garden of goldenrod and delphiniums and a cottage. Smoke rose from the chimney. Old Earth. Swept away millennia ago.

Who was the artist? Who was the astronaut from Earth? Millennia ago someone had left signatures of Old Earth, artwork in the derelict digital libraries of Earth-like planets in the deep reaches of space.

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Holding On by Jo Hawk

The sand flew right out the window. It left me frozen, asleep for a thousand years. The one thing I craved, I never found. Solid ground. I slipped, descending the slope, my fate was sealed.

Sentenced, I watch your world from total darkness. Longing for sweet sun to kiss my face, I promise to try harder, even if it never matters. My once dark doors are open wide, my soul laid bare. Will you be there? Will you reach for my hand? Judge me, forgive me, save me?

Please, answer my prayers for the charms of my old world.

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Old World Customs by Chelsea Owens

Zrolt bent in half; crinkled his tentacles. Although he lacked the same appendages as the assembled dignitaries, he hoped his efforts at imitating formal gestures passed.

A bright figure, resplendent in the same hue that graced Zrolt’s planet’s bog pits, crinkled its breathing orifice in response. Zrolt’s translator told him this meant pleasure. Or amusement. Or, in 14% of cases, djr,osk.

He hoped it did not indicate djr,osk.

The bright figure spoke, moving more of its appendages as it did. Zrolt ingested a gland, a sure sign of boredom. Why did these sort of functions always entail old world customs?

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A Call Fer Art by D. Avery

“Pal, where yer folks hail from?”

“Hail if I know, Kid. I jist got made up right here at this ranch.”

“But the real folks that come through here, they’s from all over the world!”

“Thet’s right, Kid.”

“I been thinkin’ on Pepe Le’Gume’s idea fer a Buckaroo Nation totem pole. It’s a great idea, if’n we had artists ta make it take shape. A carvin’ ta honor all a us.”

“Reckon the first thing would be ta have folks jist tell what symbolizes their home place.”

“Prob’ly a beaver fer our Vermonter.”

“Thet’s one critter. Speak up, ya’ll.”

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August 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Suomi Dancing by Charli Mills

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

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

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

A Sweet Jam

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

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

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

PART I (10-minute reads)

Wine and Dine by Di @ pensitivity101

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

Jenna grinned at them.

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

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

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Sweet Jam by Susan Zutautas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Strawberry Jam by Norah Colvin

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

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As Sweet As Jam by Oneiridescent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Well Preserved by FloridaBorne

“Happy Birthday, Grandma,” Joy said.

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

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

“But Grandma, you’re old!”

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

“But…the party…”

“Go!” Edna ordered.

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

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Sweet Jam by Colleen M Chesebro

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

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

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

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The Fallen Apples…by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jellied Jitters by Donna Matthews

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

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

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

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Strawberry Jam by Sally Cronin

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

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Jammed Up in Time by Bill Engleson

“Well, body’s gone!”

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

“The old guy…he had no family?”

“None we knew of. No visitors. Nada.”

“Sad.”

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

“You talked to him?”

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

“So, where do we start?”

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

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

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

“Really!”

“Like I said, he had his memories.”

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Home Remedy by Tom Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Jam by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweetest Jam by Sherri Matthews

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

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

‘Honey…I’m sorry… I drank too much…’

‘You sonofabitch; I’m outta here.’

‘But honey…she’s nothing to me… ‘

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

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Soured Sugar by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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Everything Tastes Better With Jam by Barb Taub

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

She turned, smiling.

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

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

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Hijacking Euphoria by H.R.R. Gorman

Johnny hopped in. “Gun it, Euphoria!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PART II (10-minute reads)

Train Jam by Ritu Bhathal

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

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

“What’s that?” he grimaced.

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

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

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

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A Special Breakfast (Lynn Valley) by Saiffun Hassam

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

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

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A Brief Respite by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

“Jam?”

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

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It’s a Trust Issue by Susan Sleggs

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

“I already feel like I belong.”

“Let’s hope that lasts.”

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

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

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

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

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Tart Wars by Mused Blog

No one could remember how the war had started.

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

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

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

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In a Sweet Jam by Anita Dawes

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

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In a Jam by Anurag Bakhshi

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

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

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

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Sweet, Sweet Song by priorhouse

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the perfect song for this transition.

“It’ll be our song, honey.”

It sure is a sweet jam.

“Also….

WE WILL

sing again.”

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Sweet Jam by Allison Maruska

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

How could I pass that up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh. Nothing from my Anishinaabe roots.”

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

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Harvest (Part I) by D. Avery

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

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

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

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Harvest (Part II) by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

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

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First Homemade Low Sugar Plum Jam by Miriam Hurdle

“What are we doing with all the plums?”

“We eat them.”

“How many can we eat?”

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

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

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

“Can we sell them?”

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

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

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

“It sounds like a plan.”

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Red Light Rescue by Jo Hawk

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

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

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

“You said six, it’s a quarter to.”

She ignored me and got in the car.

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

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

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Wild Sweet Jam by Faith A. Colburn

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

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

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

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Hello Spring by tracey

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

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

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

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Summer Memory in Winter by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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