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Her Crowning Glory

Hairstyles might be low on the priority list mid-2020, the Year of COVID Hair but her crowning glory is still at the forefront of many minds (and heads). Traditionally, we might think of a regal character with long locks braided, curled, or teased like the heroine on the cover of a romance novel. But it could be unicorn mane. In the hands of creative writers, what might her crowning glory look like?

Those who chased the prompt this week found unique expressions and ideas to describe different possibilities. You’ll read about hair and so much more in this collection.

The following stories are based the July 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that uses the phrase “her crowning glory.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Gifts by Reena Saxena

“The Gift of the Magi” by O.Henry was a lesson in gifting. The writer’s intention may have been completely different.

It is difficult for a girl to give up her crowning glory to buy a gift, more so than it is for a man to give up his inheritance. I think about the story more now, when people are losing their steady source of income. Gifting may soon acquire new forms, as modes of celebration change.

Ria spent hours designing an online gift for her beau. Digital art is not easy, but one piece suffices for three boyfriends.

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Crowning Glory by FloridaBorne

Queen Catherine loved her silver crown inset with sapphires and diamonds. She sat quietly on a smaller throne, a trait expected of the window dressing sitting next to her husband, and sank into mental soliloquy.

Her only sister had a washerwoman’s build and face. Catherine, graceful and filled with a legendary beauty, was traded into loveless marriage at 15 for a substantial fee. Women envied Catherine, but her sister chose to read, chose to be tutored by scholars, and still lived with her brothers.

Catherine had chosen the design of her crown.

Why did it seem a hollow victory?

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Mrs. Brouillette’s Auspicious Adventure by Deborah Dansante

On Ellen Brouillette’s 99th birthday, unable to find anyone to climb Mt. Monodnack with, she decided to go alone.

Later, from her hospital bed, during an interview with Channel 2 News, Mrs. Brouilette insisted that her failed attempt had only to do with those awful black flies, which were particularly troublesome that year.

When Missy Jan, Channel 2 news anchor, suggested to Mrs. Brouilette a less dangerous activity for her 100th, Ellen Brouillette looked into the camera and asked the audience if they thought knitting cozies would’ve been her crowning glory or have gotten her on the evening news.

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Stacking Stones by Frank Hubeny

Nature does a grander job. What we made was mindful. Besides that wasn’t why we piled stones on top of one another. We were testing each other’s patience.

I failed the test and let her set the last stone, her crowning glory, on top. They didn’t fall and so per agreement she left.

I would have told you about the arguments, but I’ve forgotten them. I only remember where we set those stones. It was out of the way. A decade later I came back. I looked everywhere.

Nature let us take our turn then washed it all away.

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Glory by Pete Fanning

I was raised to think I was special. My mom liked to call me her crowning glory. She’d smile proudly whenever she said it, blind to my blemishes, immune to my mistakes. She’d look at me, eyes glazed, seeing what no mirror could ever produce.

The last time she said it was the day I went clean for good. We held hands, my tears spilling to my arm, washing over the scabs and needle marks.

“My crowning glory,” she rasped, sinking away, leaving me alone with my demons.

I knew there was a will.

But I wanted her glory.

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Her Crowning Glory by Anita Dawes

She stands on the edge of decision
Beneath the pale silver crescent
Her earthly form chosen
Dark mane flowing
Magic cannot be contained
Her crowning glory, the spiral horn
Long sought after by man
One such as hers
Said to be held by Merlin
The magician, to raise Camelot
She must risk going back in time
When magic held no mystery, it just was
To find a mate, to keep magic
Between the worlds
As it had been from the beginning
Will she risk losing her magic
At the hands of some eager
Wannabe wizard
Or find her mate?

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Unexpected Escort by Charli Mills

In the end, a unicorn fetched Sarah from her deathbed. She’d been hearing Cobb’s steed galloping five nights in a row, expecting he’d finally come to take her to hell. She’d lived with the guilt of his death for 76 years. Cobb’s soul would have vengeance soon. But it wasn’t the specter of the man she once loved. It wasn’t his horse pounding past her door. The unicorn’s crowning glory wasn’t flowing mane or golden horn. It was Sarah’s lovely daughter grown past the infanthood she’d never survived. Resplendent on the beast’s back, she said, “Let’s go home, Mama.”

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Crowning Glory by R. V. Mitchell

Dora was the plainest maiden in all the kingdom. Some even said that she was ugly. It was precisely that fact that led to her retaining her virtue far beyond the time in which it was relinquished by her peers.

This purity, however, was also her crowning glory, for she could see and converse with unicorns.

“Oh, I wish I was as beautiful as you,” she said to Daisy, one day.

“And I wish I had your lovely voice,” the unicorn replied.

They were suddenly transformed, but Dora could tell no one – for she had become a little horse.

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Crowning Glory by Jenn Linning

One evening, the national animals of England, Scotland, and Wales met to settle a friendly argument: who, if it came to it, would overthrow all the others in a fight to the death?

England’s lion went first, flashing his claws, gnashing his teeth, and roaring as menacingly as he could. Wales’ scarlet dragon laughed quietly at his non-magical cousin’s display, orange flames escaping carelessly from his nostrils as he did so. Scotland’s white unicorn simply rolled her eyes and bowed to display her crowning glory: her twisted opal horn, sharp as a dagger and a hundred times as deadly.

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15 Years Later by Norah Colvin

A reunion wouldn’t normally appeal but the timing seemed right and, anyway, Miss R. would be there and, hopefully, Jasmine so she wouldn’t be alone.

Marnie inspected her reflection, predicting their scrutiny and subsequent reaction. What was once a nest of tangles was now her crowning glory, sparkling like gold. A final touch of the lightest spray smoothed every strand to perfection. Brucie, who’d once poured an entire pot of glue over her head, declaring it an accident, could — well, it didn’t matter. He couldn’t touch her now.

As she was announced, the room hushed. “Marnie? Really?” Brucie spluttered.

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Coda? by JulesPaige

The instrumental of her voice, soft whispers, forced grunts, maybe even a scream or two. When she’d thought of all she’d ever done it was her crowning glory to ‘gift’ a safe arrival to her children. Everything else paled. Departing from graduation ceremonies, even the wedding ceremony – while still high on the list of accomplishments – the light of her life that brought her out of the darkest of thoughts were the successes of her children.

lullabies she’d sung
created solely from love
easing them to sleep

Still, she remained an individual. And perhaps that counted the most.

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He’ll Walk for Emma by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa leaned close to Lexi to ask, “How did you get Michael to wear his legs for the baptism?”

“Reality, Mom. I simply told him I was afraid Emma wasn’t safe being perched in his lap while he was using his arms to wheel his chair and I wanted her grandfather to carry her forward when it was time for the ceremony.”

“That will be your crown of glory for years to come my daughter. Next time I think he should walk instead of ride, I’ll get you to convince him.”

“Not my doing, Mom. Give Emma the credit.”

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Nandini by Saifun Hassam

Nandini, a graduate in the marine sciences, was a daughter of the Samari Archipelago. Her ebony curls and lithe bronze body reflected her ancient ancestry of Black slaves and Pacific traders.

Nandini loved exploring the abundant lagoons. Coral reefs ringed lagoons and extended into deeper waters. Her studies focused on reef growth and fragility, the impact of human activities and nature’s forces, of weather, of deep ocean volcanos.

When she won the coveted student award, “The Sea Urchin” in marine and oceanographic research, it became both her crowning glory and gave her a sense of direction in her career.

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Knees Up by Geoff Le Pard

‘Aunty Madge mailed.’

‘How is the old loon?’

‘Fed up with lockdown, though she’s ridiculously excited she’s got a hair appointment.’

‘What is that all about? A hair cut? Sheesh!’

‘You’ve got none to cut. Mum always said her hair was her crowning glory.’

‘What’s yours, Logan?’

‘I’ve not given it any thought.’

‘Mine’s my knees. I’ve always thought they were rather finely sculptured.’

‘Seriously? Knees have to be man’s ugliest feature.’

‘No, that has to be elbows. Awful things. Come on, what’s yours?’

‘If I have to pick, then my intellect.’

‘More like your crowing glory, then.’

‘?’

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Her Crowning Glory by Irene Waters

“I need a bathroom quick. “Ahhhhhhh.” Cramp.”

He guided his wife to the toilet block worrying about food poisoning. As he looked beads of perspiration dotted her brow and her crowning glory became wet and lank.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” His strong grip prevented her collapsing. He guided her into the first stall.

“Gosh it’s big. There’s a loo for everyone………..”

His wife moaned. “Feels like a ring of fire.”

“You’re Not pregnant?”

“No.”

He pushed her back and looked. “You’ve crowned. ” He caught the baby. “Who knew the family loos would be where we became a family. Let’s call her Glory.”

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Leaving by Joanne Fisher

Though her work for the company was quite pivotal, Lily found herself largely ignored there. She had worked for a number of years in accounting, but often felt she was passed over, forgotten, even taken for granted.

One day Lily decided to leave, as she wanted to work somewhere where she would be more valued and appreciated. She baked a cake for her last day of work there, to let everyone know what she thought of them. Lily believed it was her crowning glory: the cake was the shape of a large hand, with the middle finger fully extended.

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Part II (10-minute read)

Tip of the Hat by Ann Edall-Robson

The quiet rumble reminds her of far off thunder as the truck tires roll over the cattle guard. She knows her way out of the blackened ranch yard by heart, not turning on the headlights until she reaches the end of the lane. Her hand drops automatically to flick on the turn signal. She laughs at herself knowing the courtesy is only necessary when headlights or dust tails are coming toward you. In twenty minutes she’ll be in the hills waiting for the sun to rise. The morning’s tip of the hat, her crowning glory, to start the day.

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Clover Crowns and Dancing Rings by Kerry E.B. Black

The cousins braided daisies into crowns and rested them atop each other’s heads. “What a perfect May Day!” The girls spun, hands clasped, until they fell laughing to the ground. The world spun on without them, and their stomachs fluttered.

“Let’s find 4-leafed-clovers!” Heather found one. Then another, and another. She discovered so many she braided them into her daisy crown.

Kay scowled at the field, determined to find at least one. Instead, she discovered a circle of white mushrooms.

Heather gasped. “Fairies dance inside those.”

They left their daisy chains within.

Heather sighed, “Fairy rings are cooler than 4-leafed-clovers.”

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Never Mind by D. Avery

Never mind what exactly the boys said, the gestures they made. It was rude. It was disrespectful. And how they waited for her response, grinning, still taunting. Who would treat an elder this way?

She calmly unpinned her gray bun, shook loose her long hair. She stood tall, her hair now a high wind whipping and lashing the cowering boys. She watched, impassive, her hair now a frenzied torrential rain that pelted the whimpering boys.

Then she brushed her hair, now a golden sun, a dazzling halo. And she wound it back into a gray bun, her crowning glory.

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The Queen of Winter by Colleen M. Chesebro

The wind howled like a banshee as the first storm of the season battered the cottage. Niall settled into his chair for the night.

Wild dreams tortured his thoughts. The image of the Cailleach Béara bloomed in his mind. Each year the old crone brought winter’s fury. When she appeared, stones flew from her apron and landed upon the ground. These stones, her crowning glory, grew into rock formations or mountains.

The next morning Niall’s home perched on the cliffs above the sea. Nearby, a large rock resembled the ancient Cailleach’s face. There she remains to the present day.

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The Wheel Turns by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Chad scrunched his brow, tapping the turntable with a desultory forefinger. The sculpture rotated slowly, displaying all its sides, seeming to delight in its own ineffable shimmer and elegance. It almost winked at him, whispering “You don’t get me, do you?”

He shook his head and turned away to pour another dram of Scotch into the ceramic mug, one of the first pieces Susan’d submitted to apprentice with him. He threw back the Scotch and grimaced at its bite.

This was her crowning glory?

Yet there was something…artistic genius he couldn’t grasp.
The student had bypassed the teacher.

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Crown of Snakes by Kerry E.B. Black

Medi scrubbed marble columns, hands raw but heart swollen with adoration for her goddess, Athena.

Poseidon, smelling of brine and lust, pushed Medi to the floor and stole what she’d sworn as sacred.

Athena found Medi clutching her torn chiton to her ravaged body.

Fury seized this goddess of wisdom. Dare Poseidon violate her temple with carnal acts? Debase Her by soiling Her maiden?

Athena couldn’t punish Poseidon, but by Zeus, she’d be avenged. She seized Medi’s silken locks and cursed. “Let none desire you.”

Hair transformed into hissing snakes. Eyes steeled into weapons. From then, all feared Medusa.

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Mis-steps by Eliza Mimski

Genovese’s goal had always been to snatch away a married man. She was competitive by nature. The married man offered a certain kind of drama other relationships lacked. The clandestine atmosphere, the sneaking around, the mis-steps. So far she hadn’t reached her goal, but that in no way meant she wouldn’t, and that it wouldn’t happen soon.

She had her sights on the CEO, married for forty years to the same woman, and with three grown children. Just think of the accomplishment, hearts broken, tears falling, anger raging, and all because of her.

It would be her crowning glory.

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Stand on Your Feet by Sanjuna.SR

A curly haired girl with honey-eyes well-groomed in blue gown is serving the most delightful delicious desserts in a small shop which was famous for its taste and People were praising her cooking skills stating “health to her hands”

To find the curiosity of why this pretty doll is working here? We asked her name.

For my surprise, her surname belongs to a  respectful posh society yet she acts like a normal person and does not tout her background.

She is trying hard to stand on her own feet in spite of all the inheritance is her crowning glory.

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Elevated Upcycle by kathy70

As we stepped off the elevator I felt a bit anxious.  I was visiting my friends family lake front condo on the 32nd floor of this building and I had heard stories about the fabulous decor.  The huge entrance hallway was a deep dark brown with floor to ceiling world renown famous artists works on display.

To me her crowning glory in this unit was the 3rd bathroom we saw. Bath mat, seat cover, tissue box and wastepaper basket all covered with mink.  Upcycled old coats rescued and remade by her mom.  So unexpected it took my breath away.

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He Was Right by Paula Puolakka

The shift of the north magnetic pole has increased the leakage of space radiation. People are worried about its effect on The Global Positioning System, but nobody’s interested in health issues. The radiation is, for example, corrupting our brains and memory and increasing eye and heart problems.

In her crowning glory, as she’s trying to figure out things by using intuition and keeping her crystal skull (Sahasrara) clean, she understands even more clearly how Mr. Kaczynski was right all the time. The violent acts of today have been caused by radiation, together with the falsity spread through technological devices.

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It Grows Back by Annette Rochelle Aben

They went to visit her mother. Both were in need of a haircut. Her mother was enrolled in beauty school and needed to practice on real heads as opposed to mannequins.
He went first. Drape in place, the scissors could be heard merrily snipping away. Renegade hairs were whisked off his shoulders and they pronounced him perfect.
When it came to her crowning glory, her mother was not so attentive. As her husband walked by to get a drink of water, he shrieked in horror. Her mother had replicated HIS cut on the left side of his wife’s head!

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Shaggy Inktop by Anne Goodwin

Feathered frame for her face, her surprise lockdown hair was a triumph, visually. That couldn’t be said of the inglorious thicket that sprang from her crown. Sweat lathered her nape as the sun reported for duty. Fatigue in her arms as the queue formed outside the shower. Should she chop it to the bone, don a hat with her mask for the supermarket? No-one saw the back of her head on Zoom. Should she make it a feature, a topknot, a śikhā, a Hindu thread to heaven? Inspiration dawned with a fungus: inky black dye topping her shopping list!

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Scat by Bill Engleson

She’d sneak into the rooms of others, paw their possessions, hold the ones that appealed, and then, rather than scurry away, hide in a closet, and listen for the sounds of other people living their lives.

We suspected she’d use whatever hairbrushes she could find and stroke her hair, leave some of the hairball bramble that always seemed to tangle her up.

More often than not, she would be discovered.

Occasionally though, her crowning glory was a sly entry, a sensuous caress of some personal items of another, secreting away, being pleasured by their sounds, and a clever exit.

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Hiding Her Crown by Charli Mills

When Thomas fell down the main shaft and died, the mining company told his widow to send one of the boys or leave the company house. Jack was ten and frail from illness. Robbie was eight, and Brad six. Lizzie was fourteen and fit. She sheared her crowning glory of long red curls. No one likes a ginger, Mrs. Lewis next door would say, her mouth pinched perpetually. Wearing her father’s clothes tied and tucked into her brother’s boots Lizzie settled the miner’s helmet on her bald head. No one ever paid the poor Irish kids much mind, anyhow.

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Colorful Souls by Donna Matthews

I hurried up the steps of the little clapboard house. Entering, I couldn’t help but notice the signs of neglect. But no time. I made my way down the hall and gently pushed open my mother’s bedroom door. Seeing her tiny frame under the covers, I swallowed my grief whole and picked up her white hand with my brown one.

Oh, mama

Tears falling, I consider the painting above her bed, from her college days. Colorful Souls, she called it. It was her crowning glory as an artist and how she met my dad. Two beautiful artists together again.

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Acceptance As Kid’s Crowning Achievement (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, whyn’t ya ever take thet hat off yer head?”

“Whyn’t you? Ain’t we s’posed ta wear these hats, bein’ ranch han’s an’ all?”

“Ya mean fer UV ray pertection out here on the range?”

“No, I mean fer our iconic stock character status. Ya know, brandin’, like… a look.”

“Yeah, well, now I’m curious. Let’s have a look unnerneath thet hat a yers.”

“You first.”

“Oh fer shifts sake, Kid, jist take it off!”

“All right. There, ya happy, Pal. Pal?”

“Oh I never ‘magined thet!”

“Lemme guess, a dirty sweaty hat ring?”

“Ya’ve got a uni-corn horn!”

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(Part II) by D. Avery

“Impossible!”

“Why? Jist ‘cause I an’ you ain’t never ‘magined it? Someone must’ve ‘magined it, ‘cause there it is, a nubby little horn jist unner yer forelock.”

“Someone! Indeed! D. Avery! Dang her! Why in heck’s she doin’ this? Thought she di’n’t even like uni-corns.”

“Heard she’s got a couple neighbors up in them woods a hers is workin’ on her uni-corn issue. Mebbe she’s jist ‘sperimentin’.”

“Hey, stop puttin’ a hole in ma hat!”

“Jist givin’ ya room ta grow Kid.”

“Hmmph!”

“Mebbe, Kid, it’s like Pinnochio, mebbe ever time ya whine an’ complain thet nub grows longer.”

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(Part III) by D. Avery

“Hey Pal. Thanks fer doin’ ma chores. Don’t feel like goin’ anywhere’s like this. Uni-corn horn’s gittin’ bigger.”

“Huh. ‘Cause I know ya been workin’ real hard at not whining an’ complainin’. Mebbe thet ain’t the cause a it.”

“I been real calm, Pal, been mindful an’ grateful, an’ even practicin’ self-compassion. But when I git all like that, the uni-corn horn grows! This is some situation. Wunner what Shorty’s gonna say?”

“Shorty’ll be fine with it. Reckon she might even snort laugh.”

“That’d make this all worthwhile. Ya know, I’ve come ta accept this thing!”

“Kid! It’s gone!”

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Protect Nature Around Us

Aldo Leopold once proposed a land ethic — that we treat the environment as we would humanity. It’s not a new concept. The Native Tribes of North America have co-existed with the plant, animal, and fish nations. A land ethic calls us to protect resources and maintain wild spaces for the future. There is a balance between what we domesticate and use and what we leave untouched.

Writers resolved to tell stories to protect nature, which is not an easy task. Some turned to the past, others to the future. Most presented moments to pause and understand why we need to heed this call.

The following stories are based on the July 23, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to show what it is to protect nature around us. It can be set in any era or told in any genre.

Bug Killer by Sascha Darlington

Words never suffice for non-believers. They need to see. They all think they’re suddenly from Missouri saying: show me.

I’d tried to tell them:

“Pesticides kill baby birds.”

“We have no ladybugs since you’ve started spraying.”

“Don’t you care about the environment for your kids?”

Well, sure. They buy organic. They spray their yard, so their kids won’t get all kinds of mosquito-induced diseases because they are very good parents. They are hands-on.

Bugs? Insects?

A raised hand, a shake of the head. “Our guy said the spray only kills mosquitoes.”

I offered a nest of dead baby catbirds.

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Steward by Frank Hubeny

Jim spent decades getting sick without realizing it. When finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease he didn’t believe it. Sure he had a belly, but he felt fine. Reality smacked him and he rejected all prescribed medications. He would rewind his life’s bad habits starting with his diet.

That took time, but he lost weight. His biomarkers improved. The diet became habitual. Jim forgot he was even on it.

He stopped thinking about himself. He realized he was consuming less. Perhaps even he, old Jim, could steward the earth rather than want to eat more and more of it.

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Prayer to the Nature Spirits by Colleen Chesebro

Tara heaved the last rock into place. Twelve stones twisted in a spiral around the ancient Rowan tree.

“What does the tree mean, Nanna?”

“The tree symbolizes the nature spirits, Maeve. It’s roots sink into the earth, past the Ancestors to the water below while its branches touch the sky, to reach the Shining Ones. We live in the middle realm between the Ancestors below and the realm of the Shining One’s above. It’s up to us to give offerings and thanks, and to protect the land.”

The two knelt down in the earth and said a silent prayer.

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Grandpere’s Farm by Saifun Hassam

When Grandpere died, Pierre gifted the family farm to the University. He and Grandpere had discussed the matter some months ago. Pierre was the sole surviving family member. He was a marine scientist and he knew it would be difficult to manage the farm.

The farm’s apple and peach orchards were well known for their distinct delicious varieties, including two heirloom apple varieties.

Grandpere had leaped at the idea of protecting the orchards. He was very open-minded and excited to learn that new varieties of fruits could be developed. The farm would “live on” long after he was gone.

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Spirits Within by Jessica E. Larsen

When I was a little girl, my grandfather told me, “Jen, remember there’s a spirit within everything,” he stretched his wrinkled fingers toward the mountains. “Even the grass and the trees got spirits, so be kind toward them. They will never fail you.”

Because grandpa was my favorite, I listened and treated everything with care.

It was during my teens when I got lost in the forest with my sister. I heard a soft voice “this way.”

When we were out, I said “thank you” and smiled to my sister. “Good thing the voice guided us huh?”

“What voice?”

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Take Me Back by Ann Edall-Robson

Windrows thick
Sweet smell of fresh-cut hay
Brown Eyed Susan nods approval
From beyond the fields
Calves hide in back-high grass
Mothers lay nearby
Content, chewing cuds
Silence shattered, momentarily
The crunch of gravel under tires fades
Reflections ripple across the water
Slough grass supporting life
Cattails sway in the breeze
Rustling grasses serenades
Golden dragonfly rests nearby
A blowfly buzzes past, circles back
No hurry to go anywhere
Mauve Harebells dance
Bobbing their heads
Fingers caress sage
Savouring earthy aromas
Interlude soothes
Cherished moments, gifts
Focus, click, captured
Take me back
When I am far away

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Mother Nature’s Fingerprints by Kerry E.B. Black

Biological systems are dynamic and interconnected, she realized. Each aspect leans into the next to build an overall structure. Mother Nature’s fingerprints.

She boosted social consciousness using her amassed science. Mankind, she asserted, needs to question “who speaks, and why?” Sometimes, the loudest voices preserve the wrong things. After all, people can not eat money or gold.

She became a Mother of the Modern Environmental Movement and gave voice to a Silent Spring. Her words acted as harbinger of the dangers of treating plants with pesticides.

Rachel Carson was not only my neighbor. She was a good steward to the world.

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Privileged by D. Avery

They swept through like a squall, igniting the canopy, alighting on branches that swayed and bent under their weight, climbed tree trunks like woodpeckers. The actual woodpeckers stopped their work and watched, astounded at this swarm of grackles. The surprised robin watched their feeding frenzy from an uppermost perch of a slender maple before flying off. I bore witness. What appears as pillage must surely be feeding on insects invisible to my eye.

Some people say grackles are useless. Others tell me these trees block the view.

I don’t listen. I know a good thing when I see it.

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Leave No Trace by Deborah Dansante

Niela spent two years secretly planning her thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. Neila’s journey began and ended in Georgia on Springer Mountain. There she met a man who spends his days clearing paths, blazing trees and leaving ‘trail magic’ for eager hikers. Neila now spends her days writing notes of encouragement to tie around protein bars. Charlie, Neila’s husband, spends his days mulling over which cable channel to add to the “line up”. He wonders sometimes as he is shouting out consonants if his wife will ever come to her senses. He wonders if Neila is ever coming home.

Deborah Dansante resides in south Louisiana with Ponder, her golden retriever. In their twilight years they are more often found paddling wild rivers or sleeping in a tent on distant mountaintops.

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To Protect and to Serve by Charli Mills

Reba pointed her kayak east and sprinkled a pinch of asemaa into the breeze when the sun’s first light touched the water. Her grandson had grown the tobacco last summer that she dried over winter to fill her pouch. It became an offering to the spirits, a promise. She paddled to shore, singing to Nibi her gratitude and respect. Driving to work at the tribe’s fish hatchery, Reba passed the community gardens and the inlet where rice grew on the water – manoomin. Everywhere she looked, she saw the First Treaty upheld – to protect and to serve the precious gifts.

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Bosco Verticale by Jo Hawk

Stefano lifted the heavy portfolio in his hand and swiped his forearm across his sweaty brow. A city bus whooshing past, momentarily offering a welcome breeze followed by the acid aftertaste of hot exhaust. Concrete, glass, and steel, absorbed, intensified, and reflected the summer heat.

As a child, Nonna told tales of long-ago country summers. Tree leaves danced in gentle breezes, birds sang, and the earth cradled soft blue skies.

He featured urban forestation and nature in his architectural designs. Trees, shrubs, and perennials festooned every design, and he proudly wore the title of The Baron in the Trees.

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Come into the Garden, Maud! by Anne Goodwin

He showed her his outdoor Jacuzzi. She showed him her wildlife pond. She gave him a tour of her birdfeeders. He commended the pellets that kept his hostas slug free. He presented his PVC decking. She volleyed with her woodpile, a haven for hedgehogs, she hoped. The advantage of lockdown dating: exploring his habitat safely online.

She made a tisane from her herb garden. He poured wine from his well-stocked cellar. Where was his commitment to conservation? Was his profile a lie? “I never buy wine with a plastic stopper. Preserve the cork forests to save eagles and linx.”

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Small Steps by E.A. Colquitt

Hoarding began when he researched, on a whim, his favourite childhood holidays. The pair of four-hour flights alone drained nearly all his annual carbon footprint allowance. Each trip itself had lasted a mere fortnight, maximum.

He’d shuddered, then investigated more. The eating would be hardest, meat and dairy being his favourite groups in the food pyramid…

He tried his best. Hopefully, the netting from chocolate coins would twist together, one day, into bird feeders. In good weather, he tended a new vegetable patch. On rainy days, he spent hours with search engines that used ad revenue to plant trees.

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And I’m Still Alive To Tell About It by FloridaBorne

The first day I met her, I knew she had my sense of humor.

She’d been a military MP. After retirement, she chose a receptionist job that lacked the stress of policing soldiers.

“It’s hot in here, and you’re wearing a sweater?” she asked me.

“People move here from up north, complain about the environment, and add to the problem by turning on the air conditioning.”

“It’s essential,” she insisted.

“If everyone who couldn’t live without air conditioning fled, true Floridians would be so happy.” Her frown became a scowl. I added with a smirk, “All ten of us.”

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If We’d Known by Donna Matthews

“Do you ever wish you could see the future dad?” the small girl asked her father.

“Hmmm, I don’t know, Hunny. What’s on your mind?”

“Well…if we’d known the forest fire was coming, we could have told mom. And we could have told everyone else to watch out.”

Her dad, his hands shaking, knelt in front of his now motherless daughter and answered quietly, “Sweetheart, just because we know something’s coming, and we tell everyone, doesn’t mean they’ll listen.”

Her sad eyes met his sad eyes.

“What do we do, Daddy?”

“I don’t know, baby. I really don’t.”

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An Addition to the Family by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A morning breeze tripped through the back garden. Tall cornstalks shivered and shushed one another, delighting in the sleeping baby that had fallen from the sky overnight.

The woman here would find her, not knowing of the fiery, silent dragon battle of the night before. The mother’d died, but not before dropping her egg through suburban power lines to what she sensed was a place of protection.

The children, in a pancake coma, were installed in front of Public TV. Caroline headed to the back garden, to sit with a quiet coffee.

Peace abandoned, she scooped up the egg…

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The Vision by Joanne Fisher

The crystal had shown terrible things. The Elder came out her dwelling. She clapped her hands and the entire village looked up at her.

“Humans are coming with axes to destroy our forest. We must protect it! All remaining archers need to go to our northern border. Falnek, take the children to the sacred Bloodwood.” There was sudden activity in the village. “Aalen, when the humans are defeated come back to us.” Aalen nodded and left with her wolf bounding in front of her.

The Elder looked over the village and her people. The crystal had shown terrible things.

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That’s It by Simon

Ocean is dying, nature died animals died, it’s only few of us at 2060, how it all started?

It all started with the discovery of plastic, and our pathetic ancestors acted like they cared for environment and none of them truly stopped using plastic. Greedy entrepreneurs in plastic industry never let plastic disappear, now all our natural foods have micro plastics and here we are at the last moment of the world.

That’s it?

That’s it! Earth was destroyed by nature many times, this time it’s us, and we caused this to ourselves.

This is the end?

Yes indeed!

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Plastic by Reena Saxeena

Julie holds my hand, as I’m about to fling the empty water bottle away.

“Let’s walk a little more. There must be a recycling bin somewhere.”

“Bottles are picked up to be refilled and sold again.”

“Crush it as much as you can. Do you remember how my sister could not receive medical help during the floods, and …..” Her voice was choked.

“What does it have to do with this bottle?” My left arm was around her, as I held the empty bottle in the right.

“It is this plastic at the bottom of the sea which causes floods.

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Teamwork Rewards by Sue Spitulnik

The youth choir’s annual adopt-a-highway clean-up day dawned sunny and warm. Michael whistled while he inventoried coolers of iced water and boxes of sweet-smelling homemade cookies. He loved escorting the teens. There was a freedom of expression while they were outside working together that didn’t happen at choir practice. Last year they discussed the ills of littering and not showing respect for the natural beauty of their area. Gaylan had written a serious but comical essay about it that ended up in the school newspaper. Today Tessa planned to point out wildflowers and weeds that could be used medicinally.

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Freedom by Padmini Krishnan

“Caesar doesn’t belong with us, Sal,” Clare said firmly.

“Don’t do this. He’d never survive the predators.”

“Don’t deer co-exist with lions?”

“Caesar is domesticated.”

“We are forcing him into domestication.”

“But we treat him as an equal…like a human”

“Humans are not chained. We should let him go.”

They had come to the dense part of the jungle. Clare let Caesar down. He licked her hands and wagged his tail.

“Nobody owns you now, Caesar,” Clare said, softly, “You are free.”

Caesar heard a howl from afar. He took a few tentative steps, then ran into the wild.

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Human Nature Being What It Is by Bill Engleson

Gilpen was an odd duck.

No two ways about it.

As a child he was gone for hours.

The woods back of his family farm were delightfully wild.

Undeveloped.

His playground.

The Terrific Rewards and Unparalleled Motivation for Profit Corporation eventually bought the land.

It was never a question of would they build a swack of monstrous multi-million-dollar mansions: just a matter of when.

Until Gilpen took them to court.

“Not on my watch,” he argued.

“A Nature Preserve?” critics scoffed. “Fool! The wealthy need their palaces.”

“And Mother Earth needs her lungs,” he countered.

It was some battle.

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Common Land by R. V. Mitchell

This wasn’t some Seuss Lorax or a Horton saving a clover. No, this was the real deal, the council was trying to sell off the water meadow for development. Had they considered the added run-off and flood risk? Of course not, they were trying to make a quick buck to balance the books.

Many were up in arms over it, as it was one of the few unspoiled places in the entire town, but it looked a done deal, especially when the words “affordable housing” were uttered.

That was until Mary Denning found the Medieval deed to the property.

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I Love You and You Are Part of My Life by Eliza Mimski

I am seven years old. There is a large shade tree in front of the roominghouse where we live in St. Louis. It sends down its circle of shade. I sit there to get out of the sun. I name the tree Stella and I talk to it, asking it how it is.

There is a deep lawn. And the hot summer sidewalk. Overhead, the blue sky. At night, the lightning bugs.

Now, I am 73. I live in San Francisco. I water my many plants. I tell them they are beautiful. I tell them, You are my babies.

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Commonalities? by JulesPaige

We had weekly meetings to contemplate more than just our navels. Each of us on screen at our own table with our own china cups. It wasn’t safe to meet together. The diversity of our ages, professions and passions we hoped would bring forth some solutions.

We all so wanted to hug a tree; besides each other. Hoping that the youth of the world would know what a tree was… in 2030 or 2040.

the future tea leaves
is anyone’s guess; action, though
speaks louder than words

We would be leaving no footprints. Just possibly a remedy or two.

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Pal Speaks by D. Avery

It’s like this Kid: we got jist this one planet thet sustains us. Shush, I ain’t listenin’ ‘bout no Mars. We got jist one. So ever’one’s got ta do their part. Got ta do their part ‘cause we’s all part a the whole. D’ya see, Kid? We’re each a us a part; a piece a it, a component. Not apart. Don’t matter where in the world ya’s at, yer a part a this one world. It’s yer home. It’s yer food an’ shelter. It’s yer Mother.

green and blue Her robes
Love’s elemental colors
we’re threads in Her cloth

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July 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

There’s a soul-quenching silence that greets me in the forest at the edge of Lake Superior. Once I adjust, I start to hear the chirps of birds flitting from birch to pine, the roll of the surf from the pebble beach below the ridge, the muffled padding of my footsteps. At that moment — I realize the silence is not a lack of sound but rather a wealth of calm. Walking the trail, I feel at peace. I find a path that veers off the main walking trail and climb to the top of the ridge of eon’s worth of blown and packed sand. Surveying Lady Lake Superior below, I see her waves are fully agitated and yet the sky stretches cloudless. It’s a hot summer day for the Keweenaw and I’ve come to ride its rollercoaster.

Life of late has provided its own thrill ride. The news cycle has become as nauseating as the spinning teacups I remember from the carnivals that often followed the rodeo circuit. Even trying to keep up on important topics leaves me up and down, around and around. Somebody get me off this carousel. I feel like the grumpy old-timer who wants to find a sturdy bench in the shade and eat cotton candy in peace. Pandemic times might be a wild ride from the norm, but I’m seeking a different escape from it all. Without a kayak, I’m here to ride the waves.

From the ridge, I consider my descent. I can plunge down the thick steps of sand, leaving my own bowls of footprints, or I can follow the ridge to a lower slope. Each year, the lake gnaws away her shoreline in fits and furries like a teething monster, devouring birch and scattering their bones. Previous trees get sucked out into the lake to bob until washed ashore in pieces as driftwood. This cycle changes the landscape, buries or removes trails, and dares me to find a new path. I feel like I’m sneaking off to a hidden amusement park, seeking secret passage. Not far away, the waves roar.

I choose the bold sandy route, the direct path. Sand gives way to encroaching pebbles that range in size from stepping stones to corn kernels. Some are flat and worn but most are rounded or oval-shaped, smooth, and dull unless wet. Water enlivens the mineral make-up, a dragon’s hoard of variety — basalts with gas bubbles, basalt with veins of quartz, basalt omars, quartzite, calcite, granite, plagioclase (pink and white), hornblende, copper, pyrite, mica, chalcedony, chert, prehnite, sandstone, and the always sought-after agates. You can find a variety of mixes like creativity without end.

It’s been a hot summer, unusual for the Keweenaw and I want the relief of Superior’s cold water. She has a secret, though. Her waters are pleasant on a wave-crashing day because sun-warmed surface water rolls to shore. I step into the first wave I reach and feel a luxuriant warmth. Rarely do I get to say that the lake is perfect in temperature. It is a rare day and no one is here to share the wonder of this natural phenomenon. I scan the horizon and see the big thrill-seekers are further down the shore, tucked safely near the entrance to the canal. One is kite surfing and others riding sail-boards.

And it wasn’t just the people who showed up. I watch as loons follow the cresting waves northeast only to fly past again to catch the rollers and ride.

Those who know how to ride the Keweenaw rollercoaster go as far as they can out against the waves and then turn around and ride them in. How amazing that must be! I’m less daring, willing to wade out waist-deep and let the water crash into me. Overheard a seagull casts a shadow, but I can’t hear its raucous cry, so loud is the surf.

Another shadow arrives, and I turn to see my friend Cynthia coming down the beach, lit up with a smile to be in nature’s playground. We were starting to do things together as “double bubbles” until Covid-19 officially arrived at Copper Country where an influx of escaping tourists met with mask aversion of locals. Now we keep our distance. Even though we’re outside, recent exposure makes it too risky to get close enough to hear one another over the waves.

We kept physically distant but shared the ride without ever talking. We are present.

Watching for riptides (which can be strong about 30 to 40 yards out), I find a good place to stand against the waves. Is it my imagination, or are they growing? One massive wave strikes me and I go down like the Edmonds Fitzgerald. Well, not exactly. I don’t break in two. Instead, I land firmly on my behind, then the next wave hits me in the chest and drives me back and at an angle to the shore. I catch sight of Cynthia and she’s in the water, too. Lady Lake has us both, dragging us across the pebbles to about three-feet off the shore. We are positioned to ride.

For the next two hours, we ride the Keweenaw Rollercoaster. Waves pull out into the next one and if they meet at the right spot, the water empties all around us. We watch as incoming walls of water rise eight to ten feet high, looking to swallow us whole but then cresting and diminishing, smacking us playfully in the belly, chest, or face. When the water rises the sun shines through like light inside a priceless jewel. Each facet reveals a mirror to the bottom of the lake, explaining why the loons repeatedly hunt the coast like fishing surfers. Each loon sighting makes me think there’s a portal to waters in Vermont. Each wave that hits causes us to laugh. We roll and reset, howl and squeal.

I understand why people want to escape Covid woes at amusement parks. We all could use a break and two hours of deep tummy laughing. Sure, there’s laughing yoga, but sometimes we need a ride to sweep us away. In Japan, you can ride the rollercoaster with a mask, but you have to “scream inside your heart.” What restraint! To me, the point of the ride, waves or coasters, is to let go. I don’t think I can sit in these waves, roll with the water or watch the loons nearby without expressing delight. Without giving up my tension to the experience. Without screaming out loud.

Yet, it is an intriguing idea, one we will explore. For now, I’ll squeal a little while longer, riding the Keweenaw rollercoaster.

July 16, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that expresses the phrase, “scream inside your heart.” Who is involved and why is the scream contained? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 21, 2020. 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 are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Nap Time by Charli Mills

Two nurses checked Esther’s vitals when the twitching began. Every nap, the 99-year-old woman slept fitfully in her lift-chair.

Esther leaned back, listening to the clicks before she felt her body plummeted then jerked left and then right, up again, down again, rattling over a series of swells before coming to a jolting stop.

“Esther must be having puppy dreams is all.” The other nurse nodded.

Locked inside her head and sleep, Esther screamed in her heart, a carefree teenager once again at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in 1924. When the Big Dipper ended, she woke up and grinned.

Monreal Dorb

Spam can be annoying. It clogs up filters and requires extra labor to make sure legit comments and submissions don’t get lost in the Word Press wasteland. But sometimes it can be amusing. A rather prolific spammer has been submitting links to Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenges under the dubious pen name of Monreal Dorb. We decided to have some fun with our shady spammer and write about this character.

As usual, writers were encouraged to go where the prompt led, to track down the imagined life of a spammer named Monreal Dorb. To date, MD has submitted over a thousand times and a few compilations of MD’s 3- to 9-word entries were cobbled together to make several 99-word stories. Credit given to the mysterious author spam.

The following are based on the July 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes that answers the question, who is Monreal Dorb.

I Can’t Read Your Derp Anymore, Monreal Dorb by Charli Mills

You had my attention for a week. Over a thousand times I saw your Full or Pen Name listed for the July 9 FFC Submission Form. Never were your submissions more than 9-words long. I entered a few for you, cobbling together short entries to meet the requirements. No more will I wonder at intrigues like, “sports throughout shape shorts,” or “more assets committed to control cats.” I won’t worry that you are “so tired you might do something you never tried before.”

Try this: stop spamming and write poetry. Get sunshine and bliss out on bird song. Relent.

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Incapable by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

He sat in a dark, basement room with only the tiniest of windows, revealing people’s feet and the wheels of cars that drove by. It wasn’t his fault that his stories were “uninspired.” The mere thought of this word made his lungs fill with rage. He could kill Charli, who didn’t appreciate his flash, but that might lead him to lose the last of his freedom. So he submitted 574 stories in hopes that she would like at least one. “Really monotonous derp,” Charli called his last piece. “Monreal Dorb,” he signed, hoping that was how it is spelled.

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Who is Monreal Dorb? by Y. Prior

Will you read aloud?

Sure.

“Something in his walk, his look – the way he stopped when he saw us.”

Three more people listened in.

Louis L’Amour words filled the air like cognitive candy: land, skies, suspense, character quirks…

”Orrin was cocky, with a tone of authority. Beneath it, he was still the same man – only better – from livin’, learnin’, and all that growin'”

Reaching the last page, we sat up attentively.

“Mountain air is clear. Sound carries. When Dru called out – we knew who was Monreal Dorb. It was Tom Sunday!”

We sat silent.

Moved from our western escape.

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Firewall by Ann Edall-Robson

It’s everywhere. The fine mist-like clouds swirling, settling on everything in its path. Closing in like a blanket, obliterating objects a touch away. Everything important sacrificed in the blink of an eye. Those who are inexperienced, panic, and point fingers. When the smoke lifts, what will remain? That’s when the trauma of the carnage becomes real. Like a black screen appearing on a computer. The disbelief when the silent scars and skuz is all that stares back. Memories wiped out. All because people didn’t bother to protect themselves with a firewall. There had been time…There always is.

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—–$CLUE FOUND$—– by Sanjuna.SR

Christy feels something wrong with Robert’s Action who is recently behaving strange .So she decided to follow him along with her friend Harry.

Robert was speaking with someone on telephone about the recent “fire-accident “and drove his car at high-speed.

Harry questioned Christy whom he must be speaking with and they decide to follow him.

Mr. Monreal Dorb handed his suitcase to Robert.

Now, it’s the time to reveal the mystery. So, Harry hurried towards Robert and grabbed his hand and opened it –For his shock, he found the clue.

They suspected them but they are the helpers now!

—–$CASE CLOSED$—–

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Angry, Frustrated, Sizzle Spam Hot?! by JulesPaige

who is Monreal Dorb?
hot jammer spammer dude?
dead end cul de sac?

just the way things are sometimes?
does he lack true courtesy?

does the attention
that he seeks warrant us all
to say; “Let me go?”

Is perhaps Monreal a dudette? Does she lack true confidence demanding to repeatedly be seen on our computer screens? How does she get to play spam-a-lot? How does she change her addresses on the spot? Is she a bot?

Is his name Rob D. Learnom? Or maybe her name is Dorra B. Lemon? How can we collectively quench this hot bot?

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Monreal Dorb by Anita Dawes

Sparrow, a twelve-year-old urchin
living under an abandoned railway arch.
The one thing you remember about Sparrow
Is his midnight blue eyes
They look right through you.
You feel him searching for your inner most thoughts
Living on his wits, finding odd jobs to get by
He’ll clean your shoes, run errands.
One errand to the library almost cost him his life
When he ran into the street,
white as the ghost he just met
narrowly missing a hansom cab, horses flaring.
Clutching the book, he read the title
“Have you met Monreal Dorb, the library ghost?”

Ile de Monreal by Saifun Hassam

Andre anchored his skimmer in a secret cove of Ile de Monreal. His blue and silver eyes shimmered, reflecting stars in the cold wintry skies.

Unerringly he climbed a steep twisting forested path and then down to Lac du Soleil. He knew this island; he knew Chateau Toussaint across the still lake.

Stealthily, keeping close to the shores, he followed a hidden trail, and a few hours before dawn he was at the Chateau. Somewhere in there was his twin sister. An android, like him. Andrea Monreal Dorb. He would do his utmost to release her from her prison.

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Who Told You? by T. Marie Bertineau

She stood trembling, knees weak, blue veins bulging in her alabaster neck. “It’s not true,” she muttered. “It can’t be.”

He didn’t speak. She needed time, needed space to absorb the shock.

She raised her fiery eyes to his, her glare bored through him. “Someone is lying,” she accused. “Someone has lied to you. And now you’re lying to me.” Her anger bloomed, her face so red he could almost smell it.

He reached out, touched her arm in support—this woman scorned.

She shook him off, backed away. “Who told you?”

“The private investigator,” he confessed. “Monreal Dorb.”

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The Arrangement by R. V. Mitchell

Monreal plopped down on the straw-filled mattress raising a cloud of dust that made his eyes water. Fighting back a sneeze, he fished the stub of a pencil and some scraps of paper from inside an old boot which served as his pillow. Monreal Dorb, one time lawyer and now convict, began to scribble blank verse onto a scrap. The arrangement was simple, Monreal would write a poem and the guard would claim the verse as his own, and the accompanying profits. In exchange Dorb received more paper. Little did the guard know that these verses contained coded messages.

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What’s In A Name? by Geoff Le Pard

‘You okay, Morgan? You’re white and sweaty, like yesterday’s tripe.’
‘You remember that protest?’
‘Where you made me wear a Mini Mouse mask?’
‘Yeah, well… I was chatting to the organiser…’
‘… with little regard for social distancing…’
‘She was very compelling…’
‘Oh yes, she forced you that close…’
‘Anyway, she said we’d be followed…’
‘…you’re paranoid…’
‘…and gave me this flyer. See…’
‘He was in the diner.’
‘And he’s just signed in.’
‘Probably coincidence.’
‘Guess his name…’
‘?’
‘Ron Earlobe MD.’
‘Oh come on, that’s ridiculous…’
‘Yeah, but if you reorder the letters…’
‘Monreal Dorb!’
‘Now do you see?’

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Grand-mere’ by Deborah Dansante

Our grandfather spent his twilight years drinking cognac and reliving the War. Initially, Papa Jules had been assigned submarine duty. He was transferred to a desk job in Brussels after his commander realized Papa spoke a peculiar French. When Papa died we found in the drawer of his armoire ninety-nine photos of naked Belgium women in various poses. When our New Orleans-born Creole grandmother saw the photos she noted each woman’s posture accordingly. The mirrors in our grandmother’s home were turned to the wall for one full year. Our grand-mere’, Monreal Dorb, spent her twilight years writing about love.

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What’s in a Name? by FloridaBorne

I remembered Monreal Dorb long before he changed his name to Monty Dorn, though 40 years had passed. Skinny, pale, cursed with an arrowhead nose, he’d spent hours in a gym and changed his face, but there was one thing he couldn’t change.

I shuddered at Monty’s dark brown eyes staring into me as Mr. Smith screamed… and his wicked smile! I’d witnessed Monty doing something to our teacher’s chair pad, and dared not tell the principal about it.

So many people were shocked that debonair Dr. Dorn was arrested for child sex trafficking and murder.

Everyone but me.

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(*_*)Cindrella(*_*) by Simon Prathap D

Julie’s step mother Martha, ‘Who would have married a woman like her, must be a beggar, look at him, I would have chosen a man like him for her’. The man in tuxedo smiled.

Julie’s sister, ‘Mom, I know you won’t do that, Stop lying.’

Julie announced proudly, ‘I’ll let my husband introduce about him.’

The man in tuxedo stood up. ‘I’m Monreal Dorb.’

A reporter from crowd asked, ‘Why a rich man like you choose this poor woman?’

Martha’s Jaw dropped.

He smiled. ‘She is my cindrella, I’m her prince, but without fairy godmother’s help.’

Julie Kissed him.

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Monreal Dorb = Ronald Brome by Sue Spitulnik

When The Band of Brothers finished a set at the No Thanks, Michael wheeled to a booth to chat with Ronald Brome who sat with his laptop open. “What ‘cha workin’ on? Your fingers and head were keeping beat to the music.”

“Been spammin’ a website called Carrot Ranch.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Why? Because I can. I got in 574 hits during your set. They’ll think I’m a bot, but haha, I’m not.

“You should use your skills for something productive.”

“Government taught me how, then turned me loose. They’re lucky I’m not messin’ with their files.”

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A Senior Citizen Will Survive by Charli Mills

Monreal Dorb teased her hair into a beehive, saturating her silver locks with hairspray. She dabbed her lips hot pink and stepped out into the blazing Arizona sunshine in wide-width flip-flops. Her neighbors sweltered in the shade, waving. Monreal – Rea to her friends, and she had many – mounted her scooter and set off for the office at the head of the gated mobile home park. There, she’d wipe down her desk after Russian Peggy’s shift of credit card hacking, don a glam mask, and start spamming. She’d survive covid-economics on spam just like her mother did during the Depression.

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Scum by Eliza Mimski

There are some people, like Monreal Dorb, who are the scum of the earth. No one knows how they got that way. Sometimes, oftentimes, they come from good families, are highly educated with a multitude of breaks in life due to their economic background. Still, they are sleaze.

Monreal Dorb is sleaze of the highest order, a record keeper of how many families she has ruined through infidelity, a number keeper of how many men she’s sent to prison through false accusations. She steals. She swindles. She bribes. She deceives. And she does it all with an inner smile.

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Therapy by Joanne Fisher

“It’s as though no one believes I’m a real person.” the man said as he lay back on the couch.

“Go on.” said the woman sitting on a chair writing notes.

“They seem to think I’m some fictitious entity intent on scamming all the time. I don’t know why.”

“I see. So how does that make you feel Mr Dorb?” asked the therapist.

“Please, call me Monreal. I guess I feel uncertain about how to change that perception.”

“Interesting, Monreal. I have another question for you.”

“Yes?”

“When you were making an appointment, why did you send me 574 emails?

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Monreal Dorb by Jenn Linning

When computers came along, my late grandfather – director of a local newspaper – became determined to conquer the art of touch typing. He would battle our clunky PC for hours, turning the air positively blue with curse words as the desired keys on the qwerty keyboard invariably evaded him. “Bloody… qwerty!” he would shout. “Asimov was right: there are ghosts in the bloody machines.” Given the choice of haunting grounds after death, I have an inkling what he may have chosen. His name? Darren Bloom (though it may be spelt differently if he still taps the keys out of order).

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Monreal Dorb by Pete Fanning

Montreal Dorb was the brainchild of Dorb Enterprises. Programmed to generate text in fiction form, the machine’s initial works were clunky, incoherent, mere lines of code submitted in bulk to online contests.

With each rejection, the algorithm shifted. Datasets and patterns tweaked. The machine plugged away, its vocabulary expanded, and the scientists noted the machine’s style became less predetermined. No longer sci-fi but more tragic, heartfelt, more about love.

Baffled, the scientists continued to monitor the broken-hearted machine. And they split evenly the $500 prize money, when Montreal Dorb took first place in the Southwest Texas Romance Writers Contest.

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The Pamphlets Are Being Printed by Monreal Dorb.

Next year I think it will go further if you use people changing their names. Last year was a record high. Black Friday. Oval and pear cut glass created cela fut voqu and the ever graceful dolphins. Whereas in Japan, it remains unclear. I spent 20 years in industry as an executive and consultant and had a big voice. These facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, but it gets a mention in Bible Exodus 30. You know what’s strange? Disney and the Pentagon, soft core porn as much as possible, and another new hypersonic missile.

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A Body’s Got to Do What a Body’s Got to Do by Bill Engleson

“I don’t want to get involved, Mr. Learnom.”

“Call me, Brod.”

“Fine. Brod. It’s just, Nanny…Nanjo…was my friend. When I read that the police discovered his body in the clutches of those repulsive organ smugglers, well, I wanted to do right by him.”

“Right being?”

“A decent burial. Money’s no object.”

Money’s always my object, I thought, but kept my witty trap shut.

“So, you want me to arrange a funeral for Nanjo Castille and keep you out of it?”

“Yes. The whole unseemly process. And the coffin.”

“You’re funny,” I said. And thought, ‘and ripe to be plucked.’

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Monreal Dorb Regrets (sort of) by Anne Goodwin

I regret the inconvenience, but I acted in good faith. Times are tough and, if the boffins can’t create a vaccine, we must apply ourselves by fair means or foul. When a president advocates bleach and hydroxychloroquine, what’s wrong with tinkering with spam? When spiced ham couldn’t cut the mustard, I went digital. Viral. If you thought my behaviour brutal, be thankful you’re no virgin, raped as a fantasy cure for AIDS. So carrots, why not carrots? Avoiding the stick, they help us see in the dark. In the current leadership vacuum, don’t you yearn for some of that?

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Sexy Beast Like Me by Monreal Dorb

There’s no better choice than a Honda Odyssey to seem completely bulletproof. Peter Parker already spent seven years as Spidey, but I was under too much pressure and couldn’t concentrate on training (yes, I, Monreal Dorb, will be the next Honda sponsored Spiderman). Like all of our horses, I gave my other cars to charity years ago, to the Medical Academy of Valuable Geldings and Hot Pies for Homeless Russian Social Disruptors. With this modern twist on a classic comedy, a sexy beast like me will put myself in their mindset. No Spidey suit. Naked in the driver’s seat.

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Spam Spam Spam by Joanne Fisher

Monreal Dorb, or was he Brad Romonel, or maybe Moral Broden, or even Ander Mordob? Infamous spammer and International Man of Mystery! Today he would spam a writing site with 574 posts. Not 575, but 574. The number had to be exact: the first three numbers he saw after waking up. The reason for his spamming? Monetary gain? No, he was a spamming purist. You couldn’t cheapen spamming with money. For him it was an art form, his mode of expression, as he gleefully clogged up internet sites with his posts. Why does he do it? Because he likes being a dick.

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Spam Is Not Just For Eating by Kathy70

Had she missed the opportunity to go jump in the lake?  Would they ever invite her again?  Living in this hamlet in Germany I knew or was related to all of these people but  removed emotionally.

Could the village you are named for turn on you when you try so hard to compete. The water may have refreshed but I have only submitted 324 versions of our stories. They must understand I only create spam to help. Pandemics may come and go but  our “art” will survive.  Monreal Dorf will revitalize this village when her dreadful spam is known worldwide.

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The Shiftin A Nanjo Castille by D. Avery

A bunch a ranchers was havin’ a time at The Saddle Up Saloon

Kid was in the Poet-tree, jist a-howlin at the moon

When out a the void a the virtual, inta this site bright and vetted

Come a sketchy pair with bot-spring hair, appearin ta be two-headed

Steppin up ta the bar was Nanjo Castille! His presence cause fer alarm

Strollin’ with ‘im, eyes circling aroun, Monreal Dorb upon his arm

The bar went chilly quiet, afeared a these two spammers joined

But Shorty said “You kin stay, but here it’s jist play, so don’t be flashin bitcoin.”

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Blossom

A blossom drops from a summer courgette, and the fruit continues to grow on the vine. Maybe a girl or a cow named Blossom comes along and nibbles what has dropped. From that a story blossoms. You see how it goes.

That’s the path writers were asked to follow — to chase after blossoms in any kind of iteration. And so they did.

The following stories are based on the July 2, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the word blossom.

Blossom by Ann Edall-Robson

Quiet and unassuming, but don’t get her riled. Dedicated to everything she does from raising her children to providing for others. Not many are as capable of mastering their lives the way she does. She is happy with her life, her surroundings, and doesn’t ask much in return. She enjoys a wander across the field when the urge takes her and is glad for the options of shelter and a roof over her head when the weather turns ugly. She’s always been part of the extended family living at the ranch. There isn’t a better milk cow than Blossom.

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Blossoming by D. Avery

As if moved by a gentle breeze, the purple blossoms nodded and swayed under working honeybees.

“They buzz like sunshine, Mommy.”

“We’ll follow when they take off with their pollen.”

Mother and daughter set across the meadow towards the hardwoods. Though they used no compass or bee box he wouldn’t be surprised if they found the hive. He saw his wife and daughter crouched at what must be another patch of clover. Well out of hearing range, he felt their laughter, a buzzing hum like sunshine. Even if they didn’t locate the hive, none of them would be disappointed.

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Before Antibiotics by H.R.R. Gorman

You were so young, so tiny. You’d not even had dreams, not sought to see your goals blossom and bloom.

And here you are – in a hole, next to other families’ headstones all marked “INFANT” with a single date underneath. Could I get you one of those stones? A final blanket that might comfort you as you look down from Heaven and remember that your mother always loves you, no matter how young you were taken?

And here I am – moving on to the next grave, an unmarked patch of earth where sweet Ona, six, was buried last year.

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Doing Right by Charli Mills

“What’s wrong?” Cate snapped open the canvas covering the freight-wagon. Three pale faces from within stared back in wide-eyed silence.

“Zeb broke my blossom.” Abigail, the youngest, wailed.

“Not-uh. Just made a pile of petals, teachin’ Joseph numbers like Ma did.” Zeb, the eldest, scowled. Joseph hid his face on his older brother’s shoulder.

Cate bit the stem of her pipe. She was a muleskinner not a childminder. With their parents buried three days back, none of the other families stepped up in charity. So, Cate found another blossom, wiped the tears, soothed the fear, and resumed her mules.

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A Posey Piece of Reflection by JulesPaige

Many different things cross my mind. The distractions of the first summer monarch butterfly. Yet strawberry fields, or heather, blossoms are just temporary. Images that you might love to watch over and over like the way a sun sets on an ocean beach after you’ve picked your skin in the waves. But the clock ticks and time plays weirdly with your memory, making an off kilter kind of scene. One that you greedily wish you could repeat whenever you needed the calm balm of recovering from a mistake…

Heather
Help me
Sleep to dream
Of pleasant and lovely
Things

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In the Dust by Bill Engleson

I get there early. I’m always early. I sit in my Van, full of recyclables, cans, cardboard, plastic, lots of plastic.

Listening to a little blues, reading my book. The Plaque. Camus. Cheery stuff.

Traffic goes by. COVID carrying caravans of holiday makers. Each their own blossoming bubblehead.

I’m not feeling charitable.

I’ll switch to the news.

Three tykes crushed by tractor wheels back east.

A Canada Day country bucket ride.

I spot the ant.

Big sucker.

Crossing the road.

At an angle.

Foolish ant.

Go straight.

It’ll be shorter.

Doesn’t listen.

Ants never do.

Might make it.

Didn’t!

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Far From Home by Jenn Linning

The first time I glimpsed cherry blossom in London, anguish twisted up within me. I longed to bundle the little tree into my arms like a babe, wrap her in blankets, remove her from her tiny traffic island, deliver her to my distant land where Mother Nature was monarch.

Instead I watched, horror coursing through me, as one pure pink petal dared to float towards Earth. A shriek rose and died in my throat as brave pink became mushy pulp under heavy urban rubber.

Bowing my head, I shuffled on, wrestling with what I must become to thrive here.

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Tendrils by Cara Stefano

Bloom where you are planted, dear
A weed is only a flower growing in an unexpected (oft times unwanted) place or time
Stop and smell the fragile roses
Admire hardy dandelions for feeding sleepy bees
Some plants wither in the harshest desert sun
Surprising, the color and variety of desert flowers I have seen
Others flourish in cool, wet marshes
I covet the tenacity of a bramble growing up through city sidewalk cracks
Winter’s dormancy is a time of rest
And every spring tendrils of hope and growth emerge – slowly, surely
Everywhere I look: blossoms.

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The Baby’s Nickname by  Susan Sleggs

A month after Lexi and Adam, Tessa’s daughter and son-in-law, were settled in their new house, Emma got baptized with families present. Michael’s youth choir sang two children’s dedication songs and Adam’s parents were thrilled to see how he was accepted into the close-knit group. At the luncheon, Lexi tolerated her grandmother’s proprietorship over the baby just so long then retrieved her so Adam’s family could cuddle her too. Adam’s grandfather beamed at her and said, “So this is the new blossom that made our family grow.” And that’s how the pink-cheeked infant came to be called Emma Blossom.

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Blossomed  by Simon

I heard her first time over the phone, after days of work at same office, I met her first time in the cafeteria. She was having her cup of coffee, I heard her voice, realised who she is. I introduced myself to her, something between us connected immediately. Days passed, years passed, our bond grew stronger everyday. Then one day I opened up to her, she dropped her coffee cup in shock, with my good reflex I caught the cup and gave her back a ring, she said ‘Yes’. This is how our friendship blossomed into a relationship. 🥰

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Blossoming by Joanne Fisher

Jennifer and Kelly first met at a marketplace. They had both wanted the same necklace, but decided to go for a drink together instead. Both considered themselves as loners believing they were better off on their own, but after they met only once, they perceived they were kindred spirits that made each other feel more whole. There was resistance from both of them at first as they began to question themselves, but they could feel themselves be drawn irresistibly to the other, like they were planetary bodies coming into one another’s orbit. Their feelings of love began to blossom.

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After Midnight by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Ella arrived back home just before midnight. The golden carriage’d been delayed—unexpected maintenance—so she’d had to find her own way. Skirts rain-soaked, glass slippers…well, slippery…she shucked the gown and ran home in her chemise, dropping one slipper in the mud.

The prince was sure. The prince was an excellent tracker. He followed her prints to the kitchen door of the small estate, arriving almost before she did. Her figure was outlined in the firelight from the flickering stove. He stepped closer, slipper in hand.

She turned, muddy, skin-soaked, and utterly herself.

An eager flush blossomed his cheeks.

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The Recital by R. V. Mitchell

It had been four years since Dave and Reena had visited Reena’s sister, Tracy. With things being slow in the shop, they thought that the invitation to their niece Carrie’s recital would be the perfect opportunity to catch up.

They arranged to meet at the concert venue, and Carrie was already backstage when they arrived.

Carrie made a spectacular solo performance.

As she stepped from behind her cello to take a bow, Reena said, “She has really blossomed.”

Dave’s whose gaze was firmly locked on the sixteen year old said, “She certainly has,” gaining him a well deserved slap.

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Blossoms fo My Lady by Irene Waters

She lay looking skywards on the blanket of grass populated with daisies. The blue was obliterated by the huge cherry blossom in full bloom. Strange she’d never noticed it this time last year. Happiness washed over her for the first time since he’d left and she felt the coldness finally leaving her. Sometimes he brought her flowers and other times he meant to but didn’t. Either way had made her happy but that now seemed so long ago. “You kept your promise,” she whispered. “You’ve brought me flowers.” Her hand stretched out to caress the cold granite beside her.

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Blossoming by kathy70

The way watercolors blossom on the paper is magical, an extra drop of water changes everything.  Staring at the blank page like a writer seeing magic in the water drops  I’m watching.

Soon I will leave this place and find my true home. This planet is scheduled to reverse it’s course so I can jump off.

Where I land will be like that water drop in the watercolors.  My landing will change the climate and structure in this new place but will it change me?  Without a parachute to guide the spot will be a surprise.  Here goes nothing.

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“PPG” by SGK

“The Powerpuff Girls,” my college roommates and I were labeled. The girl who opened the door for me on move-in day was Bubbles – sweet, but capable of extreme rage. I was Buttercup – spontaneous, always ready to fight. Blossom completed our dynamic trio by being the most level-headed one.

It seemed like college was going to be exactly what I expected it to be after watching enough movies. Friends for life were going to be made.

Unfortunately, Blossom and I got tired of Bubbles’ split personality quickly. Then, Blossom got tired of me.

We could have ruled the world together…

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Essential by Kerry E.B. Black

Everyone feared the symptoms outlined on the news. The WHO recommended self-isolationism. Governments mandated quarantines. As beds filled, hospitals set up exterior triage units.

However, essential workers donned safety suits and reported for duty.

“How come I don’t feel essential,” Michaleigh griped as she squinted at wish lists for delivery. “Just expendable.” She packed groceries destined for 354 Victory Lane.

Break time. Finally.

She removed her mask to splash cool water on her face, then froze.

“No.” she breathed, leaning closer.

The mirror revealed what the mask obscured. Red blossomed her cheeks, the first “tell” of the deadly virus.

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Light by Eliza Mimski

She grew up inside the dark alcoholic walls of her childhood. Drapes pulled. Bottles littering the table. Voices screaming.
She looked for a place of light but she couldn’t find any. Nowhere to escape.
At school, she never talked about herself or her family, then returned home to the shroud of people she belonged to.
She buried herself inside of books. She was transported to other lands far away from her home. Otherwise, she withered.
Years passed, and she received a scholarship to college. She left the house that she never wished to return to. Finally, light. She blossomed.

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Every Man Is a Flower by Paula Puolakka

The boys I have met have said that girls are like foreign flowers to them. I have heard so many tales about a certain begonia or a cherry blossom that the narrations have made my mind feel like it was chewing a tasteless piece of gum.

What has driven the guys crazy is the fact that they have been unable to identify what flower I am. The reason is that I am a tree. To me, every man is a flower, and the idea has made the boys act like crybabies. Where is my carnation? I do not know.

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Grandma’s Gifts by Saifun Hassam

By late June ivory and lemony magnolia blossoms were opening up, glowing in the sunshine. When Aunt May became Grandma’s caregiver, she also became the gardener.

On her walks, she photographed trees, shrubs, and gardens in bloom. She transformed the photographs into digital art. Somewhere along the line, designs emerged for fabrics, pottery, and book covers.

If you asked Aunt May what sparked her artistic journey, her eyes would light up. She pointed to the framed prints of magnolia, tiger lilies, purple iris, and tall columbine. And the many stories Grandma shared, as they enjoyed lunch on the patio.

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Mature Blossoming by Yvette Prior

Sitting poolside in the moonlight, my feet dangled in tepid water
Decompressing from the flight
Ready to enjoy a few days away
life is at another crossroads
Another hot season of change to deal with
But for now…
A pause
palm trees reflected light from the garden and I remembered how God always makes a way.
Always.
In this still moment….
Contentment swelled.
worth more than rubies
or diamonds
worth more than an easy life
Because mature blossoming is a gift from challenging experiences
Lightly splashing my feet, I feel hope in my belly.
I smile
Life’s a gift

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The Order of Things by John Lane

When the flowers of drupes are in full bloom, we notice them as blossoms. Vibrant peach, cherry and orange colors emerge, marking its annual rite of spring. Our thoughts never once entertain this complex process.

The plant manager of genes, Apetala1, calls the shots. The proteins within the gene, in turn, notify the one-thousand other supervisory genes to send a “stop” signal to the plant’s meristems, the laborers assigned to the leaf production. This allows the blossoms to do their work because each member of the organic chain-of-command knows its job.

Nature proves that order is better than chaos.

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Rising by D. Avery

“Sunrise coffee? Yer outta yer bedroll early Pal.”

“Yep. Set an’ injoy it. Tell ya, sure is good ta be out ridin’ the range. Don’t git me wrong, Kid. I’m right proud an’ pleased Shorty’s got us runnin’ thet saloon. But it’s a lotta time indoors. Umm. Lookit dawn, jist beginnin’ down in thet east runnin’ valley.”

“I’m lookin’, Pal. Now shush, so’s I kin see it better.”

“I hear ya.”
“Look…
Swollen budded dawn
Sun’s gold-rayed petals unfold
This new day blossoms.

“Promises ta be a bloomin’ beautiful day, Kid. Time ta ride out.”

“Write on Pal.”

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I Got Life

Nina Simone understood what it was to lack, but she crooned about having life. What we have lost can often define what we yet have — life. The world spins, seasons change, and generations pass on the baton.

Writers explored life and what it means to have it. Some stories offered insight, others humor, or unexpected twists. This collection has life!

The following stories are based on the June 25, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story with the phrase, “I got life.”

(10-minute read)

I Got Life by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Pre-COVID, we met, early Saturdays, in the Midtown Market. Few stirred: lady mall cop, staff from the attached hospital, lone coffee shop doing brisk business, shops from around the world setting up. We were inspired by Heaven’s scents.

One restaurant owner allowed us space for a free-will donation; he’s a poet and painter himself. In another, possible future, we’ll enjoy his hospitality again. For now, we Zoom.

“Time?”

“Three minutes!”

“OK…prompt is ‘I got life.’”

Puzzled looks.

Anguish.

Biting pens, we gaze to a corner in our separate boxes. Pens touch paper. We begin to scribble.

We got this.

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Result by Joanne Fisher

The scout ship jumped into a new system. Almost immediately the pilots launched probes to the nearest planetary body.

“Results should be coming up now.” said one of the pilots looking at the display in front of them.

“So far nothing.” the other pilot commented as she examined the results. As always, nothing promising… Suddenly there was an alarm and the screen went red. “Hey, I got life!”

They both looked through the window. There in the distance, just coming into view, was a small blue green moon orbiting the larger planet.

They now had somewhere to go to.

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Planet Earth Is Blue by D. Avery

At first, before they sedated and intubated me, my eyes were open. They looked like spacemen.

Can you hear me Major Tom? They don’t know I can hear them. I can.

Though I’m past/100,000 miles/I’m feeling very still. I can’t move. I can’t speak. But I can hear them. They are worried about me. They are worried about themselves. They are scared.

Tell my wife I love her very much/ She knows.

They talk about how pointless it is, say I’m going down. I hear them. Can you hear me Major Tom?

‘Yes,’ I silently scream, ‘I got life.’

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No Lazarus Me by Anne Goodwin

Nine weeks, they told me. Could’ve been nine years. Suspended in a solitary space capsule. Crashing violently to earth.

Resurrection bewildered me. Scarred throat sore from the breathing tube. Limbs learning gravity anew. Homegoing a second culture shock. Staff in scrubs a guard of honour down the exit corridor. Wheelchair-bound, I cringed at their applause.

I couldn’t scale the cliffs to seize the media moniker. I didn’t want to be a heroine. Lazarus. I wanted to be me.

Then sobbing in his arms, I got it. Comeback wasn’t me alone, it was everyone. I got life. We all did.

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Now I’m Living by Susan Sleggs

I was a single military man
A lady here and there
Living the life
I thought of you
Even on the day I met the bomb
I lost my driver
I lost my legs
What’s the point in living
You wouldn’t want me
I met a fierce lady
She taught me to walk
I called her Clarice
She wasn’t you
I went back home
And by God, you did too
Twenty five years later
We’re together again
Today we held baby Emma
Her parents are moving to be near
Now I know why I have life
Four generations’ll do

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Life Sentence by Jeff Gard

Closing his eyes, Marcel imagines there ain’t cinder blocks squeezing the bunk bed, creating a corridor so narrow he can’t walk in his cell without turning sideways first. He dreams of sky, sun, fresh air.

He can’t pretend the bed don’t shake when his roommate coughs and wheezes. He can’t ignore the face mask. When he inhales, it flutters against whiskered cheeks, contaminated air fogging his glasses.

“I got four more months,” his roommate repeats. “What you got?”

Marcel wants to disappear into the threadbare blanket around his shoulders. He’s sweating, but he can’t get warm.

“I got life.”

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Private Percussion by Kerry E.B. Black

I’m a dancer hobbled by regulation. Still, I hum along to the private percussion my heart.

Momma secured an advantageous match for me, one with all the trappings of “making it.” So I try to live up to bejeweled expectations. However, I tumble from atop my stilettos, disused to the thinner, refined air.

I pull within a designer veneer until I’ve buried my old, rebellious self, but it’s like hiding muck-covered boots beneath my mother-in-law’s tea table. I notice guests wrinkle their perfect noses and feign ignorance.

And in private, I still tap out the percussion of my heart.

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Full Sentences by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan! Morgan! Are you alright?

‘Wha…? Bloody hell, that was weird.’

‘You were screaming something.’

‘I think it was eating those cheese straws last thing. We had a huge fight.’

‘What about?’

‘What we should wear when we get to the Ranch.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Oh yes. I said jeans. You said a pin-striped suit and spats.’

‘Jeans?’

‘We fought. You died.’

‘Blimey.’

‘I was found guilty of murder, you of a crime of fashion.’

‘What was the sentence?.’

‘Since you’d got death, I got life.’

‘They threw away the key?’

‘They said I’d suffered enough and let me go.’

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He Who Hesitates... by joem18b

I was on vacation in Virginia City when I stopped into an antique store to browse. In the back I found a stack of New Yorker magazines from the Thirties. I opened one at random and found a movie review of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Huh. Interesting. Put the magazine down.

Thought about it that evening. Returned the next day and headed for the back of the store. The stack of New Yorkers was gone.

Up front, I asked a handsome young fellow where the New Yorkers were kept.

“Sold the lot yesterday,” he said, “but I got Life.”

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Hairy Thoughts by Bill Engleson

Simone!

Singing that song!

Hippie joy gone deep.

Soulful!

Hadn’t thought about this in years.

I took a bus to Seattle, late spring, 1970. June, maybe! I’d been bunking in with a friend, providing a shred of male influence to her house guests, first nations borders, teens, from isolated communities up the coast, on the island.

Its pretty much a blur. I was in such an in-between world, a lonely space, sleepwalking, trying to readapt.

So, off I went south to Hair, a local production playing at the Moore theater.

On my return to Vancouver, I got life back.

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I Got Life by FloridaBorne

Once an eager student, the gangly girl finished her paper far later than the rest, eyes downcast.

“Your title is, I got life?” Mrs. Jones asked. “You have an IQ of 134.”

“My brother hits me if I talk like you.”

“We have two languages in the same country! The first is for people who want to have a good job, the second is for those who want to blame others for their failed lives.”

“I don’t know what to do?”

“What if I tutored you after school and called it detention?”

Sheena brightened, “I’d like that a lot!”

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I Got Life! by Eliza Mimski

Miriam had grown up during the time when shaming fat girls was okay. She was heavyset in the middle and by the time she reached fifth grade she wore a C cup bra. Even though she loved to dance, loved sports, she quit because of the comments on the sidelines. But now, in her twenties, times had changed. Fat girls flaunted their bodies in yoga pants and form fitting tops. Miriam’s breasts, her large stomach jiggled up and down when she danced in nightclubs. “I got it! I got life!” she yelled as she kept time to the music.

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Private Percussion by Kerry E.B. Black

I’m a dancer hobbled by regulation. Still, I hum along to the private percussion my heart.

Momma secured an advantageous match for me, one with all the trappings of “making it.” So I try to live up to bejeweled expectations. However, I tumble from atop my stilettos, disused to the thinner, refined air.

I pull within a designer veneer until I’ve buried my old, rebellious self, but it’s like hiding muck-covered boots beneath my mother-in-law’s tea table. I notice guests wrinkle their perfect noses and feign ignorance.

And in private, I still tap out the percussion of my heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Parting Gift by Simon Prathap D

Hey! Mr.Clown, Why you look sad?

I got this bag from a kid, that cried on my whole show, she lost her bag, it has cancer reports. she is just 17.

She will live.

No she won’t, My mom didn’t .

Let’s pray for her.

No, I got this life, with purpose, she never smiled today. I’ll never let her die without smiling.

That is not going to save her.

I am not going to save her, I will give her most happiest days of her life. No one deserves to die in pain. It’s my parting gift for her.

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“I’ll Chase My Dreams! Find New Dreams!” by Saifun Hassam

Crystal clear mountain streams raced down ravines and clefts into the valley creeks. Water wheels turned furiously channeling water onto farms as they always did in springtime.

But this spring there were no farmers. Earthquakes had ripped through the coastal lands. The shores tumbled into the pounding thunderous seas. People fled. People died.

One lone figure stood near the broken ancient temple on the crest of a hill. His mind’s eye saw blue butterfly kites. He remembered children singing.

“I got life, got dreams! I’ll fly into the skies!
I got life! I’ll chase my dreams! Find new dreams!”

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Let’s Do It by Donna Matthews

The little boy lying on his side pushed the car back and forth, whining, “I’m bored!” Rain on the windows and a virus lurking outside, the indoor day spread out before us like a neverending road to nowhere.

Play a game? No
Build a fort? No
Paint a picture? No

In defense, we’ve done these things. Life before the pandemic, a day stuck at home a delicious treat. Now, it’s more of the same with no end in sight.

He looks up at me, eyes pleading, “I got life to live!”

“Outside? Play in puddles?”

“Really?!”

“Let’s do it!”

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I Got Life by Robert Kirkendall

Father ran out of the closet holding a board game. “Hey, look what I got. Life!”

“Another old people’s game?” son moped.

“Yeah, those those things are so passé,” daughter dismissed.

“It’s a classic!” father insisted.

“The kids these days just aren’t into board games,” mother said.

“But they’re so much fun!” father pleaded.

“We’ve already played a ton of board games because of this sucky quarantine!” son complained.

“We’re bored of board games,” daughter said.

“Then how about more stories of my high school glory days,” father said dreamily, “back when I…”

“Please! No more! We’ll play Life.”

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I Got Life by Irene Waters

At sixty
the doctor said,
“Prepare to die.”
Not ready for death
she followed orders
special diet,
multiple pills ingested.

At seventy
the doctor said,
” Carry on.
Increase these pills
breathlessness will be gone.”

All good,
she thought
I got pills.
I got life.

At eighty
the doctor said,
“Things are worse.
Let’s experiment
for a longer life.”

Medication
replaced religion
giving life.

At ninety
“I don’t want to live.
Please Help me die.”
Stopping tablets
Not easily done
when the habit of living
is so strong,
pills taken.

No good,
she thought
I still got life.

🥕🥕🥕

Thank you, I Get It by Annette Rochelle Aben

When I think of all I’ve been through in sixty-three years on this little blue planet, I am in awe. The sad experiences that seemed they would tear my heart out. The happy times I enjoyed so much, they drained me of my energy. But I am not about to complain!

It has all made me the person I am today. Even though when you take a look at me, I may appear to be a bit worse for the wear, I am still here. No worries. And though there’s so much more to learn, halleluiah, I got life!

🥕🥕🥕

gone green and rainbow by JulesPaige

Used to up and left the building. Used to get a box full of mail, mostly junk. Nowadays days go by and nuthin’ honey. No cereal samples, no magazine subscriptions. Less stuff to toss. And because I don’t answer junk calls – I get less of them too.

I got life! My raised garden is growing, I completed a project, and I’m going out to eat tonight!

a tumble in time
chores, favors, fill the gas tank
sun shifts the shadows

six digit number on cell
out of country, hit delete

two hours til dinner
actually inside an
eatery…with friends

🥕🥕🥕

I Got Life by Pete Fanning

For weeks the crowds had swelled in numbers, a collective resistance simmering into rage as they marched the town. They were loud, boisterous, lighting fires and smashing windows, drunk on pilfered spirits as they arrived at officials’ quarters.

These final acts had pushed them too far. Treated as second class citizens, the wealthy had the nerve to say they lived too well. And now, led by Samuel Adams, the mob ransacked the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, destroyed his possessions and looted the house of furnishings.

In the flames, a resistance was born. And soon, a new country would have life.

🥕🥕🥕

They Can’t Take It All by John Lane

The company can fire me because I argued to the supervisor that I felt running the bandsaw was unsafe. The mortgage company can claim a default on my mortgage because I don’t have a job to pay my bills. The bankruptcy court can take my home because I don’t qualify to have a plan. The bank can take my car for repossession because I don’t have the money to pay my loan. Landlords can refuse to rent to me. All these people can take everything from me, but one thing they can’t take. My spirit. Because I got life.

🥕🥕🥕

After the Boomtown by Charli Mills

Saxophone notes squeaked across the empty hard-packed street. Sophie swung her hips to the tempo, stirring a pot of slow-elk stew over a campfire. “What I’d give for carrots,” she told Hal.

He paused his playing. “You got seeds Miss Sophie. Plant a garden.”

“A garden means I have to stay in this god-forsaken ghost town.” She missed Italy. She missed rain.

Hal played lower, softer until Sophie dished them up bowls. “Won’t always be deserted,” he said when she handed him dinner.

“Got no customers. Got no gold. Got no carrots. Got no husband. But I got life.”

🥕🥕🥕

Got My Fingers, Got My Pal, Got My Hunger, Ain’t Got No Bacon…by D. Avery

“I’m hungry Pal. What’ve we got fer breakfast?”

“Outta bacon. Hens ain’t been layin’.”

“Dang, sure coulda gone fer some eggs an’ bacon. Mebbe you’d make me a smoothie?”

“Couldn’t even if we had the fixin’s. Yer fergittin’ yer blender blunder.”

“They was jist twigs.”

“Yeah, well, now ya know where birch beer don’t come from. S’prised ya still got yer fingers after thet. Shut thet fridge already, Kid. Starin’ an’ wishin’ ain’t gonna put food in it.”

“They’s a jug a milk. We got any cereal?”

“Thinkin’ we are a serial.”

“Aha! Here’s some cereal! I got Life!”

🥕🥕🥕

June 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

My son tells me its 55 days until his wedding. Then he asks, “Dad got his suit, yet?” Trying to get a 56-year-old brain-altered former US Army Ranger into a tailored suit for his son’s wedding is no minor feat. Never mind it was this same man who taught his son to dress up for flying back when the Hub worked for the airlines and we flew standby, dressed to take seats in first class. Now he tells his son he’s going to wear navy-colored sweatpants. Last year, the joking was funny. 55 days out, not so much.

So, my son is harassing me. (Not that I mind, if this is how I get my son to call me every day, I’ll happily be harassed.)

I thought I was on top of the game. I found a mother of the groom dress I liked and contacted a tailor I know through one of my good Keweenaw friends. Her sister designs and sews all her clothes, and they are stylish and vibrant. The tailor looked at the dress and said she could put various patterns together and make me a one-of-a-kind. My friend and I planned to drive to Chicago where her sister lived for a measuring session. Then COVID hit in March.

That’s when I decided to order the original dress. Except, the online bridal shop gets their dresses from China and they could not confirm delivery. At the same time, I ordered something small from China for the Unicorn Room and it still hasn’t arrived. So, I think it was a good call that I did not plunk down hundreds of dollars for an uncertain delivery of a dress. Still, I haven’t had such a fuss over a dress since my own wedding when a friend re-created a western chantilly lace wedding dress from a 1980s Este Lauder ad.

Finally, I found a dress online, in the states, and on the low end of my budget. When it arrived, I tried it on only to find it was too big. I mailed it back and re-ordered a different size, and now I’m worrying that it’s too plain. I’m the kind of person whose fashion sense vacillates between favorite threadbare flannel and blaze orange capris with flowy butterfly top. My gears are too plain and too garish, and I know my son would be horrified if I showed up with his dad in sweats and me in some sequined purple chiffon.

And if that’s not worrisome enough, when the Hub settled on the suit jacket he hastily bought while we were homeless, our son said that would be appropriate for the rehearsal dinner. I had forgotten about attire for the pre-event. In another tailspin, I began searching for a summer cocktail dress on Amazon (how’s that for desperation?). Don’t knock the soul-sucking warehouse of everything — they literally sell everything. I found three dresses and three pairs of sandals. Only one of the dresses would arrive on time so that’s the one I ordered. The shoes, British-made Clarks which I love for comfort and fit, will mysteriously arrive next week.

Then, today I received a package from another dress shop. Somehow, I had forgotten that I panicked over the rehearsal dress sometime shortly after the COVID lockdown began and it arrived today! Where my memory goes, I do not know sometimes. And I say the Hub is brain-altered. Well, aren’t we all. When I pulled the item out of the package, it was a slinky black dress. I’m flannel or eccentric, definitely not slinky black dress. I looked at the size and barked a laugh. I’m also definitely not a size Extra Small. Evidently, some extra-small gal is scratching her head over my extra-large flowy floral cocktail dress. Having taken months to arrive, I dreaded calling the company, but they were helpful and promised to expedite my order.

So when my son calls to check in on his dad’s progress, I hold back on the full naked truth of our wedding clothes snafus. And we did make progress thanks to a wedding shop in town that just re-opened. As of now, the Hub has rented a tux and ordered a suit online after talking to a specialist. Who would have thought it would be the boy to fuss over what to wear for his wedding? The eldest girl got married on an organic farm and butchered her own pig prior to the ceremony. No, that wasn’t part of the ceremony, just the commitment to harvest her own food for the reception. That, the Hub and I could handle. The other girl? She’s brewing beer on Svalbard with her partner and they have no plans to marry. If they do, we’ll need passports and parkas. Easier than finding me a dress or getting the Hub to agree to a suit, I assure you.

At the end of the day, I can take stock and declare, “I got life.”

It’s not the things. It’s not the clothes. As much as I appreciate the home and its fixings, being homeless taught me the value of life. There’s something empowering about declaring ownership over yourself. I got my toes. I got my arms, my hands, my thumbs. I got fingers. I got my head, my brain, my liver. I take in breath. I got life. Let Nina sing it to you, let her words crawl into your soul, watch her face, her body as she gives her life over to her song and piano. Write like you got life.

Things are looking mighty crazy out there in the big wide world, but if we got life, we got hope. This is a time to keep writing. I know the distractions are huge, but so is our capacity for art. Be oppositional — if you want to write a story one way, write it the opposite and see what pops up. You might be surprised. Let characters talk in your head. Don’t interfere, take notes. Imagine the world upsidedown. What would it be like to walk on the sky? Shake it up, shake your booty, dance on the page. And if you have any tips on how to dress up for a special wedding, I’ll try to pay attention.

June 25, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story with the phrase, “I got life.” It can be told from any point of view. What meaning does it lend to your story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 30, 2020. 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 closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

After the Boomtown by Charli Mills

Saxophone notes squeaked across the empty hard-packed street. Sophie swung her hips to the tempo, stirring a pot of slow-elk stew over a campfire. “What I’d give for carrots,” she told Hal.

He paused his playing. “You got seeds Miss Sophie. Plant a garden.”

“A garden means I have to stay in this god-forsaken ghost town.” She missed Italy. She missed rain.

Hal played lower, softer until Sophie dished them up bowls. “Won’t always be deserted,” he said when she handed him dinner.

“Got no customers. Got no gold. Got no carrots. Got no husband. But I got life.”

Good Vibrations

Feel the crackle of excitement, the hum of expectation, the warmth of good vibrations. It might be the dentures or it could be the mob to welcome refugees with life-affirming signs. No matter the reason or sensations, we can readily embrace the promise of good vibes.

This week, writers chased the source. They explored people feeling or distributing the good vibes, and came up with surprising stories.

The following are based on the June 18, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations.

Music as a Painkiller by John Lane

A cut-rate dentist pulled out the final piece of Jim’s molar using as little Novocain as possible. The dentist refused to sign a prescription for pain, insisting that he could go right back to work. Jim made it as far as the next town before he barely pulled into the convenience store parking lot with his mouth throbbing from the pain. Aware that Jim placed his hand on his jaw, a quick-thinking store clerk grabbed his CD player, walked to Jim’s car and played the song, Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”. The pain slowly went away and Jim fell asleep.

🥕🥕🥕

The Devil Is In The Dentures by Geoff Le Pard

‘Can’t you sit still, Morgan?’

‘I am.’

‘You’re not. Your foot’s twitching like you’re wired to the mains and everything is vibrating. I can hear my own teeth.’

‘My gran was convinced the devil was in her dentures.’

‘I don’t want to know.’

‘You do.’
…….

‘Go on.’

‘She’d a new plate made and the first evening heard voices.’

‘She was a loony?’

‘The neighbour’s radio. Something to do with a harmonica…’

‘Do you mean harmonics?’

‘Do I?’

‘Yes.’

‘Caused vibrations, apparently.’

‘Fascinating. Will you stop vibrating?’

‘They’re good vibrations…’

‘Morgan, please don’t start singing….’

‘I’m picking up good vibrations…’

🥕🥕🥕

Novice Sensations by R. V. Mitchell

Patrick filed into the choir and waited for the signal to sit. As the abbot made his way into the chapel, Brother Isaac played a low simple piece on the organ. Vespers had begun.

Soon the gathered brothers were fully engaged in the chants, and Patrick, only in his first full day in the house, felt a deep vibration shivering, no shimmering through his entire being.

Was it the physical effect of Isaac’s base notes? Was it the numinous of the collective praise? Or was it the true realisation that he was being touched by the finger of God?

🥕🥕🥕

Good Vibrations by kathy70

How long since I felt vibrations about something, it was just a little over a week ago.  A friend put a picture of a quilt block up and it drew me in totally.  I created 4 similar blocks in just over a week using scraps. Unheard of.  New fabric’s quarantined.

I am now in the final stage of quilting the entire quilt inspired by that picture.

It is 4 faces made from random fabric pieces and things like a purple nose seemed to work for me. Today a friend reminded me about a quilt show looking for covid-19 projects to display.

🥕🥕🥕

Liberation by Charli Mills

Gran’ma’s mama was an Okie from Muskogee, a fruit-picker in Tres Pinos, California, where Steinbeck Country ended in hayfields, orchards, and coastal mountains. She died young – 36 – cancer from unbridled use of pesticides in the 1930s. Gran’ma married a bull rider, a real bull shitter, too. They chased the tails of rodeos and ranch work across Nevada and back to Tres Pinos too many circuits to count. When he finally died of liver cirrhosis, Gran’ma shocked us all and married a Moscogo. White hand in black, they held the good vibes of Juneteenth, understanding the long wait for liberation.

🥕🥕🥕

Sixties Vibe by Sherri Matthews

She got up early, made tea and thumbed through Gardner’s Weekly. The Beach Boys played on the radio while she waited for her husband to get dressed. Hmmm…Good Vibrations…he loved that one! His other favourite song ran through her head and he appeared, fresh and bright, at last. Ready? Ready! Their arrival at the allotment was greeted by a patch of once empty scrub ground now awash with giant sunflowers in full yellow bloom. ‘You grew all these?’ ‘Yes’, she said, beaming. ‘Sixty-Four, for you’. She kissed his head. I still need you and I’ll still feed you. Always.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Vibrations by Anita Dawes

The sight of spring flowers
Rushing me back to the sixties
Where we believed in liquid bliss
Not the bottle kind
It’s something in the air
It washes over you.
Dark days drop away
Days when we wore flowers in our hair
Music, smiles on people’s faces
Especially on the faces of my grandchildren
When I speak about the old days, strange clothes,
like the bell bottom jeans, the mini skirt.
Nowadays, I walk home washed over
With good vibrations
From the smile of a stranger
Young man who offers to carry my shopping bags
I look for tomorrow…

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow by Reena Saxena

What was so pathetic about her, that most people turned apathetic?

She silently suffered the punishment for being different. Her skin color and facial features all resembled that of the family, but the mind was different. Her mother often made these remarks, that her brain on a petri-dish, would look green or black or some atrocious color, not pink.

She grew up to be a writer, and discovered to her delight that readers loved her flow of thoughts. The atrocious green had metamorphosed into a lovely rainbow.

The good vibrations she waited for all her life were finally there.

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Pains by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Janina sat on the stone wall of the spring-fed pool. Behind her, her father’s castle clashed with loud music, shattering glass, and women’s high-pitched giggles. Her fourteenth birthday; she was sick of it all.

Slipping out a door, she’d dashed to the ocean-side pond, losing her shoes and muddying her hem in the marshy grass.

“Boo!” the frog interrupted her thoughts, nodding at the golden ball balanced in her palm. “All that glitters isn’t gold. Choose and transform!”

The ball became translucent; it vibrated, glowing. Popping it in her mouth, she swallowed.

Flipping her new tail, she dove deep.

🥕🥕🥕

Minority by Eliza Mimski

People always tell me I have a 100-watt smile, that I give off good vibrations. I light up a room. I’m a breath of fresh air. The sun has nothing over me.
I use that smile to hide my rage. Inside, I simmer. I boil. I seethe. The years have worn me down. All the crap I’ve put up with. But there’s something called self-preservation. Yeah. You do what you have to do. That smile has protected me. It’s been my friend. It’s a force I hide behind. My smile is white and bright and it will eat you.

🥕🥕🥕

Fight’s A Beach by Dave Madden

The cage on the sand with a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean made the first installment of Shark Tank the, as advertised, “most scenic violence in MMA.”
James sold over a hundred tickets for his pro debut, but all the nerves that served as a disruption throughout his time as an amateur drifted away in the salty breeze.

To coincide with Shark Tank’s theme, James walked out to “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys. Win or lose, he intended on having some fun in the sun when the cage door locked and the referee ordered the bout to begin.

🥕🥕🥕

Butterfly Kites by Saifun Hassam

Early morning sunlight and flitting shadows weaved between open spaces around broken sandstone pillars of the temple.

A sea breeze sent elusive vibrations rising and falling in the air. Wind chimes and miniature bells caught the good vibrations from the sea.

Sandalwood smoke wafted through the temple. Diamante prayed for the coastal villages. Tears fell as he prayed for rain, for a plentiful harvest on the farms, for the sea to share its abundance of fish.

The excited laughter of children came up the path, tugging at blue butterfly kites, winged kites vibrating with celestial music of their own.

🥕🥕🥕

Perfect by Ritu Bhathal

Pete took a few steps onto the pathway leading up to the house.
After seeing numerous houses, he was hoping that this would be The One.
Positive energy radiated off the property.
He glanced over at his wife, Nina, noticing a glimmer of a smile curling her full lips upwards.
She could feel it too.
Taking her hand in his, they stepped up to the door, lifting the brass knocker.
Nina winced, suddenly, and pulled his hand to her swollen belly.
A kick reverberated against the palm of his hand.
Looks like Junior was feeling the good vibrations, too.

🥕🥕🥕

Good News by Joanne Fisher

Cindy spent the afternoon planting saplings. Hidnoot, her gnome helper, dug the holes while she brought them over. During a break Hidnoot surveyed the land.

“You’ve done a great job with the farm,” he said.

“Thanks, I appreciate your help.”

“My pleasure Miss Cindy. I think good news is coming. I can feel it in my bones.” He suddenly hid behind a bush. Cindy saw Jess was walking over with a letter in her hand.

“Hey sweetheart, we’ve been accepted for IVF treatment! We’re going to have a baby!” Jess told her excitedly. They hugged for a long time.

🥕🥕🥕

Meeting the Granddaughter by Susan Sleggs

Michael said, “I’m sorry. I need to stop at the next rest stop.”

Tessa reached for his hand, gave him a sideways glance, and asked, “Are you all right? I can feel you shaking. Besides, we just stopped.”

“Believe me, I know. I don’t know if I’m excited to meet your granddaughter, or scared, but I need to go again.”

Tessa laughed aloud. “I thought only women had nervous bladders.”

“Don’t pick on me,” he laughed. “I haven’t held a baby since I was in high school and I want this to go well.”

“You’ll be a fine Grandpa.”

🥕🥕🥕

Summer, 1966 by Bill Engleson

The sweet river water flows. The small G.E. transistor catches bits and pieces of the local station’s airwaves…”the way the sunlight plays on her hair…” and it does, glancing off the light blond strands that dangle just above her left breast.

“Is that where…?” I ask.

“The tick? Yes,” she says.

“We should have come back here earlier,” I lament.

“You’re the one who left.”

“I did. And I shouldn’t have.”

“It might not have mattered. It was destiny.”

“You were destined for me,” I say.

“That’s sweet…but…”

“Don’t say it….” I dream…as “the sunlight plays on her hair…”

🥕🥕🥕

A Dream of Airliners by Gordon Le Pard

Men dream, these men dreamt of airliners.

The wings vibrated as the tiny steam engine spun.
“Good to go.” Called Henson.
Stringfellow released the tail and the Aerial ran along the line gathering speed, as it came free at the end the wings lifted it and the machine flew across the room, dropping into the catch net at the far end.
For a moment the engineers looked stunned, then grinned and shook each other’s hands.
The world’s first powered flying machine, the first aeroplane (albeit a model), had flown.

The first step to realising their dream had been made.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Vibrations by Marjorie Mallon

Good vibrations can come in the most unusual ways! A friend of mine asked me to beta read for her. She mentioned that her story wasn’t her usual style of writing and she was using a pseudonym. With various writing projects on the go, I didn’t give it much thought. I knew I’d help her, as she’s always supported me.

When I started reading the manuscript, I soon realised what she meant. This was a sensual read. I ploughed on; completing the beta edits of the romantic erotica in record time!

🥕🥕🥕

We Are Here For U by Simon

Sam: Please take a seat Mr. Berlin, I have a surprise

Berlin: Well, Thanks. What kind of surprise?

Sam: It’s about the secret to good vibration

Berlin: Really? Can’t wait to learn that.

Sam: Repeat my words slowly “I will never do this again”

Berlin: What? Why should I say that? Berlin face changed.

Sam: repeat after me, you got no choice (Sternly said)

Berlin repeated, after seconds a cop showed up and gave boxes of foods, We know what you go through Berlin. If you need something, ask, don’t steal, we are here to help! Berlin hugs both!

🥕🥕🥕

Migrants Welcome by Anne Goodwin

Turn around! Turn around! There are people on the beach.
White people.
Waving.
Weapons?
Books!
Mein Kampf? Atlas Shrugged?
Who knows?
I’m weary, let’s chance it!
I’m hungry.
I’m so thirsty I could drink seawater.
Turn around! I won’t birth my baby in a detention centre.
They’re waving placards!
To beat us?
To warn us?
To greet us!
Don’t rock the boat, I’ll vomit!
Can’t you feel the good vibrations? Row nearer so we can read the words.
Wow: MIGRANTS’ LIVES MATTER!
What makes you think we can trust them?
Isn’t it obvious? The apostrophe’s in the right place.

🥕🥕🥕

A Walk by joem18b

Walking through this young forest on a game trail, I breathe deeply. The path beneath my feet is soft. Light from a friendly sun, filtered through green canopy, dapples my face. The variety of trees here is amazing. Beech, tulip, oaks and hickories, other hardwoods. An understory of hornbeam, flowering dogwood, strawberry bush. Animals of all kinds thrive in this forest. That’s the word. Thrive. An environment in balance but evolving through vigorous growth. I count my breaths as I walk, to clear my mind. To let in the positive vibrations that envelope me. Life is good in Antartica.

🥕🥕🥕

Resonance by JulesPaige

opportunity
in that empty train car waits
imagine what fills
that vibrating space like birds
taking flight – here’s my ticket

Wynn Woo had never traveled by train before. While he was no longer a younger man, there were still many surprises left for him to encounter. All he had to do was open the door step inside his train compartment. The Steward said he would return in the evening to set the Pullman Bed down. While meditation usually calmed him, it was difficult to keep his eyes from the window and the rolling landscapes filled with free flying birds.

🥕🥕🥕

Shaken, Not Stirred by D. Avery

“Really, Kid? Ya come limpin’ in here, all bruised, an’ yer blamin’ our writer?”

“She decided ta write that ma hoss threw me.”

“Thet’s outta character fer a Carrot Ranch hoss. Why’d it toss ya?”

“They was a rattlesnake.”

“She brought a rattler ta the Ranch?! Not cool. Folks gotta feel safe here.”

“Desperation, Pal. Realized time’d run out on the prompt, thought ‘bout the vibration of a rattler’s tail. I’m jist collateral damage.”

“This ain’t even well writ. An’ she give up her day job? She’ll go hungry at this rate.”

“Mebbe not. Claims rattler tastes like chicken.”

🥕🥕🥕

June 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

When my eldest was a toddler, she’d express her excitement by clenching her fists close to her head and vibrating her entire body. Ever get that feeling? I want to clench, squeal, and vibrate every evening as the Roberts Street “Littles” emerge — a menagerie of baby critters. Somehow, the word’s gone out that my fairy gardens and below deck are safe places to leave off little ones, including two baby chipmunks, two fledged robins, a baby gray squirrel, a baby bunny, and a juvenile frog. They are so cute, my body hums.

Pre-summer evenings linger at the 47th parallel on the tail-end of the eastern time zone. Throughout June and most of July, last light remains past 10:30 p.m. It’s deceptive when we BBQ in the “evening” and realize it’s 9 pm. Of course, my personal time clock is wonky — I come to life in the evening and write or study most productively until 3 am. It’s a joy to watch young life unfold in my yard before sunset the way I imagine some people enjoy sunrises.

My former boss was a sunriser. She’d get that vibration about her every new place we went for conferences or work-related travel. It was bad enough that she was parsimonious (her favorite word), cramming her senior managers into as few hotel rooms as possible. I’ve even slept with my boss. Slept. I joked that I was going to turn her into HR, and from across the room, HR laughed with me. We were a close-knit management team, and I wouldn’t trade the lessons of that period of my life. My boss was a true servant-leader and taught me the value of building platforms that benefited communities. And sometimes, that meant sharing a room, bed, and sunrises.

One particular sunrise I remember was on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota (that Lady Lake of mine gets around). We were on a work retreat, and it was close enough to autumn to be cold in the pre-dawn morning. No one else would go with our boss to the lake to catch the sunrise. She had figured out the precise point to see dawn slip over the lake’s eastern horizon. By the time she laid a hand on my shoulder, I could smell coffee brewing. We filled a thermos and grabbed two mugs. Everyone else slept. We walked along a narrow and craggy trail to a place where we could sit on the bedrock and wait for the sun to appear. We shivered, huddled around our coffee, and were not disappointed.

When I watch the sunset over the western horizon of Lake Superior, I feel like that sunrise over a decade ago reflects back to me. I’m on the opposite side now, in tune with what harmonizes in me.

Earlier today, I met with a representative at the Michigan Small Business Development Center. It’s a resource of the US Small Business Administration, a government organization that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a professional writer (meaning, this is my source of income), I’ve contracted a patchwork of services. Every author grapples with the reality that books alone will likely not make a living. I say likely because there are exceptions, superstars, and specific strategies to that truth of authorhood. Some exceptions include moderate success within a lucrative commercial genre (this requires multiple books). Superstars are the likes of J. K. Rowling and Stephen King. Specific strategies include shrewd studies of market trends and writing books to fill readership gaps (rather than writing the books you want to pen).

Mostly, professional authors find secondary sources of income. One professor told me he publishes books and “assets” (and, obviously, he teaches). Assets are value-added products that enhance your book — e-book, audio recording, a graphic novel based on your book, a series of podcasts, figurines or jewelry based on characters or props, music based on your book, character drawings. In addition to products (books and assets), professional authors teach — universities, online courses, webinars, workshops, retreats — or speak at conferences for a fee. Some work the book club angle and sell packages of their books and access to Q&A with the author. Some sell international book rights, others option their books for movies or Netflix series. Some offer services — agencies, PR, editing, coaching, marketing. Some supplement income, working odd jobs or temporary gigs in between writing and publishing books.

Whether you make it to superstar status or you work the secondary sources of income, authors do more than pound away at the keyboard and publish books.

This is what I’m working with the SBA to develop — a way to recognize the hard work of any path a writer takes and define what steps next for personal growth and professional development (if that is your path; it doesn’t have to be). Imagine being a writer who writes every single day — that’s commitment! But this dedicated writer has no interest in creating products or offering services, which leads to others not counting them as a “real” writer. I’ll be creating something that honors such a writer in addition to recognition for annual growth. It’s based on a program I used to apply for as a marketing communications manager.

Earlier in my MFA, I got excited (not quite full-body vibrations) about the possibility of coaching. However, after creating plans in my course, I realized it’s hard for me to offer individual services. I’m a high-energy person, and I put a lot into anything I do. Coaching would wipe me out. I realized it’s why I was struggling to work as a writing contractor. What I’m going to build will be more like mass coaching with a platform where I can invite other writers to coach and teach, too. I can get focused, manage my time, grow the literary outreach to expand beyond libraries and veterans to include more diversity and greater involvement from the community. The SBA is helping me build a business plan that is both sustainable and supportive of the writing community. I can incorporate the lessons of my sunriser boss to lift up others to make the writing world a better place. And I get to define my role in that ecosystem as a professional author.

Often, when you follow your North Star, the excitement can be palpable. Yet the possibilities of how to get there can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it shines down on us, and we are in the worst place to manifest its promise. But circumstances are always shifting, like it or not, life is in a daily flux between sunrises and sunsets. What’s important is that we set our North Star and follow its guidance. Right now, mine is starting to hum. And I’m ready.

June 18, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations. What is unfolding? Is someone giving off or receiving the feeling? Where is the story situated? Gather some good vibes and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 23, 2020. 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 closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Liberation by Charli Mills

Gran’ma’s mama was an Okie from Muskogee, a fruit-picker in Tres Pinos, California, where Steinbeck Country ended in hayfields, orchards, and coastal mountains. She died young – 36 – cancer from unbridled use of pesticides in the 1930s. Gran’ma married a bull rider, a real bull shitter, too. They chased the tails of rodeos and ranch work across Nevada and back to Tres Pinos too many circuits to count. When he finally died of liver cirrhosis, Gran’ma shocked us all and married a Moscogo. White hand in black, they held the good vibes of Juneteenth, understanding the long wait for liberation.

Deep Water

Before you take the plunge, take a deep breath. The calming presence of water runs deep — cooling, stilling emotions. There’s an element of exploration, too, a confrontation with the depths.

Writers sought deep waters for stories this week. Take the plunge with them.

The following is based on the June 11, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lofty Undertaking by Jo Hawk

Skyscrapers defined the canyon walls of Anders’ world. Imposing shadows modulated light and dark and framed his existence. He marched predictable paths that left him stuck in mechanized monotony.

Searching for more, his friends convinced him to kayak a Norwegian fjord. Landmasses dwarfed anything he had ever seen. The guides told stories of massive sperm whales, sixty feet long and weighing eighty tons, they ate giant squid who swam four thousand feet below his kayak’s thin fiberglass shell.

Anders imagined he was the whale, diving deep, he hunted dark waters. He breached the surface, reborn, and ready to soar.

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Still Waters by R. V. Mitchell

“Still waters run deep.” What an amazing metaphor. But out on the big pond, still waters are a godsend. “The Deep,” has her moments of calm, but Magellan got it wrong when he named the Pacific. This expanse of deep shows her temper far too often.

Well, that is what the still waters of Petty Officer Mike Sanchez’s mind were pondering as he checked the lifeline on his harness, and made his way from the gun deck of his destroyer. As he did, the vessel pitched headlong into a trough, and the bow disappeared into a next rising peak.

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Fishing by Allison Maruska

My destination lies ahead; its glassy surface reflects the morning sky. I beat my massive wings, and in a minute, I’m there. Tucking them against my sides, I dive. Water envelopes my scales. I can’t feel it through my tough hide.

Beneath me, several trout dart away. My keen eyesight zeroes in, and I push into the deep waters. I capture two fish and lurch around, facing the surface. With a waving motion, I propel upward, launching from the lake. When I extend my wings, spray reaches the opposing shores.

This is so much better than a fishing rod.

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Emerging by D. Avery

He and Hope followed the brook through the softwoods to his favorite fishing spot. But when Hope saw the clear deep pool she was no longer interested in catching trout. She became a trout, flashing sleek and slippery through the water.

Hope stood briefly, a little girl again. Then she knelt beneath the surface, remained curled up on the gravel bottom. He held his own breath until finally Hope unfolded, emerging at last from the cold water. Solemnly she disclosed that she’d been a rock for ten million years.

“There’s magic here, Daddy.”

“Yes, Hope. I see it too.”

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Deep Waters by Anca Pandrea
I have a pocketful of dreams. Heavy, they forgot how to breathe. I drag my feet through the afternoon light, dancing over the surface. Shadows reach out from the abyss, and ghosts are all shadow. I don’t look back, the shore I can’t call home anymore. I stumble. It’s hope that tugs at my feet, tiny and fleeting. The river runs slow and cold and blue. Do dark, almost black. Quiet and gentle and infinite. Not enough to drown the tears. I let go of my breath one last time. Between myself and I, only the deep waters.

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Deep Waters by Anita Dawes

Forgotten by the people they had made
They came from a timeless place
Cold, hollow, brittle
I hoped they would not speak
For fear my bones would break
Already I am fading from this world
I heard a soft voice take my hand
You have fallen into a pit of despair
Let me pull you out…
I felt myself reaching for something
For something I could not see
The sea had swallowed me
Dashing my body against sharp rocks
Reaching my hand above the waves
Mind and body pulled together as one
I was no longer treading deep water…

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Overlapping by D. Avery

She was eighty years my senior, I the youngest child of her youngest child’s oldest child. From the 20 years our lives overlapped I have only a handful of memories, recalled like sepia snapshots. But if I examine any one of those snapshot memories of us together, somewhere in the frame, in distinct shiny color, is her queen conch shell. Me trying to fathom the spindrift shell, she saying put it to your ear, smiling as ageless ocean washes over me in a rushing tide; us, swimming easily, floating in timeless deep waters that muffle all but that moment.

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Still Waters Run Deep by Ritu Bhathal

We sat there, together, staring down into the water. Pops had allowed the boat to come to rest in the middle of the lake. Once the water settled, there was a stillness – just the gentle bobbing motion of our boat causing minuscule ripples along the surface.

“It’s deep, son. You gotta be careful. Going overboard here, goodness knows what you’d see, down below.”

Quiet contemplation from the both of us.

I looked at him. A serenity emanated from his form. He seemed at peace, but I knew what he’d been through in the past. Still waters run deep.

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Deep Waters by Kathy70

I think I was 4 when it happened.  I was sitting in the metal tub that we used for our baths and the water was cold, more was heating on the kitchen stove.  An older brother came in, kettle in one hand, book in the other.  The water began pouring and I began screaming, it went right on my leg.  Mom came to my rescue, only time in my entire life as I recall.  She was a lost person with all us kids, never had a chance to be herself. Then the real abuse started as best I can recall.

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Podunk by Paula Puolakka

Y’all so crazy like you just escaped from an insane asylum!
That’s what I thought when I read about the NASCAR Confederate flag ban.
I’m listening to “Backyard” by Kevin Costner & Modern West and flipping through the pictures from the trip to Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Whose life is this? Whose heritage are we treasuring? There should be room for everyone, they say, but that’s a lie.

I put on Kid Rock’s “Po-Dunk” and think about the stereotypes associated with us. I’m gonna move to Finland and start a colony somewhere deep in the eastern swamplands. Hell!

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Cargo by Anne Goodwin

The body to my right had stopped breathing but the left one still groaned. I tried to comfort him but my words were babble to his ears. Too late, the white man taught me skin speaks stronger than tribe.

When they unshackled us, I expected new neighbours, but they hauled me to my feet, strapped a carcass to my back and whipped me up the ladder to the deck. My head span, the boat swayed, sea spray slashed my wounds. Parched, skeletal, unmuscled, I summoned strength to save myself and toss my brothers to deep water. Complicit? Plotting revenge.

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Still Waters by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Okay, you can uncover your eyes now.”

“Wow! That’s beautiful…and heartbreaking. Who made this mural?”

“Trevor made this one. And take a few steps around this corner. This is one by Teresa. Yeah…it makes me tremble, too.”

“Wait! Those quiet kids who never join in on anything?”

“Apparently they just don’t join in on the things we’ve been offering.”

“I had no idea.”

“Neither did I. It seems those still waters run deep.”

“So what do we do now?”

“We go back to school. Donate groceries. Attend drum circles and honor Juneteenth.”

“And never go back to normal?”

“Exactly.”

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A New Tradition by John Lane

Many centuries ago, when the seventeen-feet deep Jordan River was clean and thriving, a man that wore camel’s hair was called by a higher authority.

After consumption of his diet of locusts and honey, John the Baptist waded in waist-deep to baptize in the name of his higher authority.

One day, his higher authority, also known as the Messiah, the straps of whose sandals he was not worthy to untie, showed up to be baptized. The Spirit of God descended like a dove.

And many centuries later, believers still carry out the tradition of baptism from John the Baptist.

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Deep Waters by Hugh McGovern

“You can’t keep me here,” I said clutching the pillow in defiance.

“You are not ready to go home, yet,” she said. “Give it more time.”

“There is nothing wrong with me. You lot are insane not me.”

“No one said you are insane,” she said, coming to sit by the bed. “These things take time. What difference does a few weeks make?” She sat on the bed. “Do you still believe in global harmony?”

“I did. Now I don’t know.”

“Why not grow a beard?”

Drowning would be better!

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Deep Waters by FloridaBorne

“The human race reminds me of a fool walking along a precipice,” my father said. “He falls and lands on the only tree growing out of the cliff.”

I once asked mom, “Why does he have to be so negative all the time?”

“He’s dying,” she said. “Agent orange is taking him away from us.”

I’d remembered his words as we stood on the deck of our family’s boat to throw his ashes into the sea. Sunny days, a soft breeze, calm waters, and whiskey were his solace.

Fifty years after his death, I’d never visited the ocean again.

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There’s Always the Eye of a Needle by JulesPaige

Sun under wood, shaded yard
Scavenger loop, just to see the ‘mettle’ of the earth
My endurance lacking in the humidity for the time and being

And never said a word (not boo), let the crow catch a few seeds…
Those blackbirds they are skittish ~
Like me shopping with a mask this morning, just wanting home…

But before that, I paused at the first yard sale of the season –
Reaching into the depths of my wallet for two dollars.
More buttons and spools ~

if the bobbin would
stop cutting its own thread I’d
sew me together

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Deep Waters by Joanne Fisher

“It’s surprising we never became lovers. You know I’ve always had feelings for you Emma?” Michelle asked me in the cafe.

“Yeah I guessed. I have feelings for you too,” I admitted.

We looked at one another in awkward silence. We both knew it could never be. We had our own lives that seldom intersected with each other. This was the first chance meeting in a long while.

“Well I had better go,” she said. I wistfully smiled at her, not wanting to explore this any further. These were deep waters neither of us wanted to get lost in.

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Famous Classmates by Susan Sleggs

Michael and Tessa gazed at the Wall of Fame in their high school. Tessa asked, “Did you see Phillip Sheppard when he was on the TV show Survivor?”

“I did, and his pink underpants didn’t surprise my Aunt Sue a bit. She said he was the character in her class. I wonder how much ribbing his brother James took as the Rochester Police Chief at the time. He probably felt like he was wading in deep water.”

“And Bill T. Jones was her student instructor in choir. Who knew at the time these three African-American students would become famous.”

Author’s Note: I ate lunch with Bill T. Jones and other friends every day when I was in eighth grade at Wayland-Cohocton Central School. He is now a world-renowned modern dance teacher and Kennedy Center Honors recipient. James and Phillip Sheppard were a few years younger than me. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Phillip after his second appearance on Survivor. What a fun guy to hang out with. And no, we had no clue while in high school these classmates would become household names. (photos on my blog)

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Still Waters Run Deep by Eliza Mimski

My mother always told me that still waters run deep, that an ordinary man with ordinary looks could smolder with passion. He could take you to places you’d never been before, hidden places wild with excitement.

Oh, how I used to watch these ordinary men. The grocery clerk behind the counter. The man waiting for the bus, reading his newspaper, his glasses down his nose. The humble old man collecting plastic bottles from the recycling bins.

Inside of these men were hidden talents. They ran deep. Once you’d been with one of them you’d never settle for anything less.

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Electric Skin by Janet Guy

Hot bubbles swirled around Dominic. Strong jets of water targeted sore muscles above his shoulder blades, along his spine, the backs of his calves. Dom shifted against them, letting new muscles get pounded back to health. Wrinkled fingertips skimmed the top of the water. A bell rang. Dom heaved himself out of the jacuzzi. He trudged over to a small circle in the floor. Bright light illuminated its still waters. Dom braced himself. He plunged into the icy depths. Every nerve sparked with life. Rainbows danced across his eyelids. Dom pulled himself out of the chilly water and grinned.

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Deep Waters by Dave Madden

Terry was cognizant of the deep waters, though he hadn’t yet been there.

Ten-minutes disappeared from the clock, and he labored to leave his stool for the final round. Across the cage, a maniacal grin appeared across the opponent’s face as he observed Terry’s struggle.

Coach urged Terry to circle the cage. Easy advice when you’re not wearing weights around your ankles.

The opponent flashed some combinations before diving in on Terry’s legs, hoisting him into the heavens, and smashing him to the canvas. Too tired to escape the pressure, Terry drowned in the center of the cage.

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Under the Waves by Joanne Fisher

“What’s down there mummy?”

“That’s the deep. We never go down there child.”

“How come?”

“There are dangers in those deep waters. Not even the light from above can penetrate that darkness and the nameless horrors dwelling there. We swim nearer to the surface.”

“What’s up there?”

“That is the place where the water ends. We can survive for a while there, but it is here where we belong. Not like humans.”

“What are humans?”

“They have legs instead of tails. They cannot breathe down here, which is why it’s amusing to drag them under and watch them drown.”

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Deep Waters by Reena Saxena

The widow did not shed a tear, and the world was aghast.
They were such a happy-go-lucky couple.

She was labelled as stoic, determined not to display emotion in public, cold, manipulative and whatever they could think of.

Nobody knew she was breathing free for the first time.

Nobody knew the mental torture she had suffered for decades. Nobody knew that her parents did not stand by her when she needed help, and she had shut off the emotional tap.

You may be a coach, therapist or expert swimmer, but wading in deep waters of relationships is never easy.

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Never So Free by Donna Matthews

They planned this excursion for the past year, pouring over brochures, scouring the internet, and reading the reviews of each tour guide. But now, here at the edge of the tiny boat, she wasn’t sure she could go through with it. Her new husband winked and fell backward into the sea. Finally, she surrendered and fell in too. Her first few labored breaths threatened to overwhelm her, but as she settled in, she saw a school of fish off to the right. Kicking her fin, she cruised right into the middle, scattering class. Giggling, she never felt so free.

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Into Deep Waters by Charli Mills

What to place in my memory box? That last night out at the Fitz when the sun slanted across the western horizon dazzling like a copper-clad ruby while five-foot waves chomped the last of winter’s ice. March 13. We reached across the table, five friends sharing poutine and smoked brisket. We sang happy birthday. Later we dodged deer crossing the road back to Calumet, we stopped for a Bota Box of red wine. We found toilet paper, joking that Yoopers wouldn’t panic buy TP. Into deep waters, memories plunge. Most vivid — the last time I felt normal.

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A Memory of Long Lake by Bill Engleson

It was my toughest bike ride ever.

Up to then, anyways.

Ernie and I usually rode up to the Dam to swim.

Or walked two blocks to the Millstream.

Not this time.

“We can’t do it,” I whined. “Gotta be a hundred miles.”

“Nah. Ten.”

“Fifty.”

“Come on.”

Early July.

Hot.

Pumping away.

Dripping sweat.

Train tracks snuggling the old highway.

Wishing we were crows.

Got there by noon.

Dog-tired.

A dozen local kids swimming away.

“There’s really no bottom to it, Ernie?”

“Goes all the way to China, I hear.”

I believed every word then.

Kinda still do.

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Displacement by Jeff Gard

Nobody knows which raindrop transmuted our reservoir into a frothing bull that breached the levee, stampeding downriver, chased by debris. One moment, we marveled at the storm; the next, our recreational area transgressed its cage and reclaimed its territory: roads that scarred the landscape healed by a fresh, muddy skin, cloned McMansions gutted of their trophies, converted to bird houses.

On higher ground, we found sanctuary in the high school, now a bed and breakfast for a thousand refugees. While we waited on our cots, calmer voices gathered to assign blame with flashes of insight, booming words of consolation.

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Profoundly Shallow by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where are we?’

‘The Great Lakes, Morgan. Lake Erie.’

‘It sure is eerie. Too bloody quiet.’

‘Can’t we just enjoy its magnificence?’

‘It scares the willies out of me. It’s… so deep.’

‘Yes mysterious. Profound.’

‘It’s just a lot of the wet stuff that given half a chance will swallow me whole.’

‘It’s majestic. Unknowable. Imagine what memories it holds…. You know what they say about Still Waters?’

‘He’s the best Pokemon Go hunter ever?’

‘What?’

‘Stile Warters, German Guy. He caught more Pokemon last year. Shall we see if any are here?’

‘Sure. Why not try out there?’

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Terrified by Susan Zutautas

The waves that day were perfect for bodysurfing.

I headed into deeper water where the waves were forming so I could ride one back into shore. What I didn’t realize was that the undertow was quite strong and just as the wave was breaking, down under the water I went. The undertow literally dragged me across the bottom of the sea, my body feeling the gritty sand scratching and stinging my skin. I could feel the weight of the sand filling my suit. Finally surfacing disoriented, opening my eyes I saw I was at the shoreline, and stood up.

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Crossroads: Journeys by Saifun Hassam

Over millennia, the chasm became a long narrow lake, its deep waters aquamarine, and emerald under the sun. The lake glowed, a burnished golden sheen as the sun set. Craggy volcanic cliffs stood sharply, sentinels guarding the lake.

The stranger gazed reflectively at the lake. He was from an oasis that shriveled as snowpacks on distant mountains shrank. He left when his father died in calm and peace. His heart broke as he buried his father under a giant palm tree. What sustained those groves, he wondered.

The shimmering lake beckoned, lifting his deep grief, healing, renewing his spirit.

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Kiddhartha by D. Avery

“Feels like a long while since we jist ranched.”

“Yep, it’s good ta be out ridin’ the range, herdin’ hosses, gittin’ ‘em ta greener pastures. Whoa. There’s a river. Think we kin ford it?”

“We ain’t gotta buy it Kid, jist gtta git acrost it. Carefully.”

“Water looks still.”

“Still waters run deep. We’ll git the hosses down ta the river, let ‘em quench their thirst an’ rest up. ***
Dang, Kid. I led ‘em ta water but cain’t git these hosses ta drink. Kid?”

“Shush, Pal. I’m a settin’ here watchin’ the river flow. Havin’ me a think.”

🥕🥕🥕