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Wise Words

Wise Words Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsHalf a century seems to carry the weight of wisdom. Yet, wise words can come from any age or background, and growing older doesn’t guarantee growing wiser.

This week, writers were asked to contribute wise words through the literary vehicle of flash fiction. As expected, the unexpected also made its way into the collection. Perhaps wisdom is less in the stories and more in the act of storytelling. Perhaps wisdom comes nt with age but with reflection.

The following are based on the May 18, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story.

***

On Wisdom by Lisa Listwa

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sky.

Can you balance dark and light? Hold within you the vast potential of the future?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sea.

Can you wash away just enough of the past to refresh yet leave a lasting impression?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Earth.

Can you take root and cling to what gives strength?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Wind.

Can you take flight when your time comes? Touch all else around you?

“Am I wise?” I asked my Self. “I have much yet to learn….”

Knowing this is wisdom.

###

The Light in the Empty Room by Elliott Lyngreen

In an empty room save for a fixture absent a bulb, yet with its string; doors exactly cater-cornered of parallel walls; after opening one, walking through only led him into another room perfectly mimicking the previous.

So he tried the opposite door, diagonally, again entered yet another inversion.

After exhausting attempts to leave, he only re-entered flipped patterns – one after another; lone empty lamp holder.

He decided to pull the string; over, around his arm, down himself like pulling open a sleeping bag or circumventing a body bag, unzipped the room, and became the light, illuminating ideas within vision. . . .

###

Wisdom by FloridaBorne

I glared at my sister, Myra, her brown eyes shining with youthful expectation. Her shapely body filling out a tight t-shirt and slinky jeans, she still looked 35.

“Where are you going?” I asked, leaning on my cane for support.

“Dancing.”

“You’re 50. It means you’re old!” I said, shaking a finger at her. “When will you understand that truth!”

“Never,” she said, running a brush through naturally thick, brown hair.

“I’m 57 and have the wisdom to admit I’m past my prime. Why can’t you?”

“Because old will always be travelling 7 years ahead of me,” Myra giggled.

###

Happy Birthday! by Ruchira Khanna

“Happy Birthday Angie” shouted Tiffany as she shut her car door and walked towards her friend who was seated on the patio.

The birthday gal squealed with delight upon seeing the bouquet and after a quick embrace dashed in to put them in the water.

Angie was chattering nonstop.

When the birthday girl came out with two cups of hot beverage, she found Tiffany’s head on her hands, “What’s wrong?” she inquired.

“Oh, Angie! start behaving your age!” Tiffany was quick to comment.

“Age is just a number!” she responded as she exhibited her bright white dentures.

###

Grey Wisdom by Kalpana Solsi

Combing my long silky tresses, I admired my reflection in

the mirror.Tessie grimaced.

I turned to face her.

Her celluloid image had painted nails, each hair in place

and a made-up face hiding all its flaws while my oils were

a connoisseur’s prized possessions.

“Silver streaks in your hair”, almost gasping.

“I know”, a calm and confident me.

“Let me fix an appointment with Yasmine’s Colour

Parlour”, Tessie panicking, “You have hit fifty”.

“I have accumulated streaks of wisdom in half a century

and will unabashedly flaunt it”.

Thud…… Tessie’s cell -phone lay on the floor, broken,

bruised.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I was brought up to respect my elders.

In fact, I have always got on better with those some twenty or thirty years older than me, and my first little job at 12 was working with then pensioners who I probably drove mad with my jokes and pop music!

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was from the supervisor I worked with 1980 – 1981. As he was breaking into her car having locked her keys inside, she nudged me, grinned and said ‘Keep him. He’s useful.’

So I did. That was 28 years ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

###

That Thing That’s Before Godliness by Geoff Le Pard

Paul looked at his wife’s face. ‘Looks like you need more than tea.’

‘That woman is impossible.’ Mary accepted the wineglass. ‘Mrs Wise. Talk about misnamed.’

Paul settled back into his seat. ‘Go on. What now?’

‘Milk in the washing machine. She thought it was the fabric conditioner.’

‘Aren’t the bottles different?’

‘She cracked the conditioner so decanted it into an old water bottle last time. I labelled it carefully. Calling her a cleaner is such a misnomer.’

‘We could look for a new one?’

‘Like Miss Peaberry? Remember what she di wit your toothbrush?’

‘So more wine?’

‘Please.’

###

Growing into Wisdom by Norah Colvin

“My Dad knows everything!” bragged six-year-old Billy.

“Parents,” grumbled Will E., at surly sixteen, “They know nothing.”

For thirty-year-old William, at the top of his game, conversations were strained. One more “In our day…” he’d surely explode.

By forty-five, with kids of his own, “But kids are different these days,” Will would state.

Dad would wink and suggest, “Not that different.”

Throughout the fifties, his recalcitrant teens mirrored those years of his own.

Into his sixties, with kids gone and more time for chatting with Dad, he discovered, almost too late, they shared more than he had ever appreciated.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreasons

Today, I let my tired body slide down the school yard fence and I took a moment to reflect.

At what point, on my journey through life, did I decide the road less travelled might be the best?

Recently, my post, “Is 50 Too Old To Start Again?”, saw me tentatively enter the blogging world.

I did not envisage myself feeling beaten so soon. I sat, now, sweltering in the Pilbara heat, looking upon my punctured bicycle tyre, thinking, “What next?”

How the Universe might respond to my innocent query, left me feeling sombre and unsettled.

What next indeed?

###

Insurance by Reena Saxena

“Turning 40 heralds middle age, and 60 is retirement. What is it about 50?”

“Well… Life spans are lengthening, and work spans are shortening. So, you never know, where will you be?”

“Oh, Uncertainty!” I exclaimed dramatically, “Do you sell insurance or retirement plans?”

“The pathos lies somewhere in between – the inability to plan in the fast-changing scenario, and the millennial epidemic – ageism. People above 50 are treated as they don’t exist. There is no insurance against changing mind-sets.”

“Hmmm … Can you insure my ability to reason, to fathom the deeper meanings, rather than just reading status updates?”

###

Wisdom by Michael

Oh, to be wise he thought as he read through the student’s exam papers.

He turned over the effort from Betrice Walker, the smartest girl in his class. In amazement, he read her literary genius. He felt humbled that someone so young could evaluate the question so clearly.

For goodness sake he thought, she’s a child still, what will she be like in twenty years?

So much wisdom in one so young.

He wrote an A on her paper.

Tomorrow he’d watch the glow on her face knowing she’d be pleased.

Sipping coffee, he picked up the next paper.

###

A Valuable Piece by KittyVerses

Little Myna got into a lot of trouble that day. This wasn’t something new, and it bothered her parents much.She was always carrying tales of one person to the next, people were apprehensive of her.

Punishments were meted out, she was reprimanded and isolated but to no avail. One fine day she was asked to collect the water that was emptied from the bottle by her mother.

Well, did she succeed? Words once lashed out can’t be taken back as much as the water which was poured.

Never to forget,the things we learn as kids shapes our identity of tomorrow.

###

Crab Apple Crisis by Anthony Amore

She thought it ridiculous their son had been stuck for hours in that tree.

“Help him now,” she told her husband.

Through the slider he saw the boy caught in high crooked branches, “He”ll figure it out.”

“Two hours,” she folded into a harsh angle pointing. “Go.”

With a nod the ladder was gotten, but his son had fallen shirtless to the ground. He sprinted to him.

“My back’s scraped,” he said. “Apples are safe; tied in my shirt.” Four crabapples the size of chestnuts rolled free, “Mom can make pie.”

He kept quiet, saying, “Very wise move, son.”

###

Mother’s Support by Diana Nagai

“My daughter won’t talk to me,” I vented.

I saw my mother’s expression which showed amusement and compassion. Shame filled me as I remembered myself as a teen. Once, I gave her the finger when I thought she wasn’t looking. I don’t remember why I was angry, but I carry the guilt that she witnessed my outburst. My shoulders slumped. “I’m so sorry for what I put you through.”

She pulled me into an embrace of comfort and wisdom from “the other side”. Right then, I knew we’d survive these teenage years together.

###

Flash Fiction by Mike Kempster

I have no way of winning any battle with my 14 year old daughter. She’s right, I’m wrong and there’s no way that’s going to change even in the face of all reason. We’ve had some blazing rows. At the end of a row there has to be some reconciliation and one person ends up reaching out to the other. Mostly that’s my job; however, yesterday morning, after a huge row the night before, she sent me a text saying, ‘any breakfast service running this morning XXX.’ For a change she’d reached out and showed she has some feelings.

###

Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom

I watched as she moved ever so slowly, as she always did, living as if time had no meaning. I bit my tongue to swallow my reprimand. “Charlotte, I am going to tell you something that my Mother told me when I was 7, like you are now.”

Her yellow hair glowed in the sun creating a halo around her face as she looked at me, waiting for my words of wisdom.

“What?”

“Your husband is going to have to be a very patient man.”

She only paused for a heartbeat and replied. “I don’t know any patient man’s.”

###

Seeking to Understand (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Does your creative outlet help you, Jen?” asked Danni.

“Does interviewing war widows help you?”

“Feels like I’m doing something,” Danni answered.

“Me, too. Same with the brothers. They want to feel useful. Do something good. Let me ask you, why did you stay?”

“You mean when Ike left for Iraq?”

“Yes. This was new to you. You must have felt deserted. Why did you stay?”

Danni  paused, reflecting on all her earlier turmoil. She could have left the day she took Ike to the airport.  Had she gained any wisdom?  “I stayed to take care of his dogs.”

###

The Getting of Wisdom by Anne Goodwin

It’s easy, they said, as easy as breathing, just follow this five-point plan. It’s hard, camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle difficult, but, if you give us the money, we’ll show you how it’s done. No-one can tell you the answer, you’ve got to seek it inside yourself. There’s a pattern, proofed against any fool prepared to apply herself to the task. There’s so much to learn, you can’t waste a minute. There’s so much, you might as well not try. What’s wisdom, the nub of ice that melts in your fingers or the mountain of knowledge the ocean obscures?

###

Intuition by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They circled the pit, noted the downward spiral that curled into thick darkness. Dropped a stone and waited for a splash, a thud, the clatter of a change in angle.

“Hell bent?” she quipped.

He sniffed. “No smell of sulphur.”

“Literal much?”

He tipped his head, brow knit.

“Never mind,” she scanned the landscape for dust devils, signs of life or breath. Nope. Only them: isolate, arid, no stars nor moon above.

“Ladies first,” he nodded towards the pit.

Always leaping, never moving.

She senses a curl of light, a sweet new scent, opens her hands and steps down.

###

Alien Anthropology by D. Avery

“Strange. They develop automation, even as they suffer obesity, depression and anxiety. They have many devices for communicating, but they aren’t saying anything. They desire access to information but don’t seem to value knowledge, with no apparent interest or ability in interpreting or analyzing information.”

“They are poisoning, mining, and bombing what’s left of their natural environment… They are ruining this planet. We should just take over.”

“No, our orders are to just observe and to seek wisdom. We shall consult their older people.”

“And artists?”

“Yes, and we’ll visit the ancient sites and natural wonders.”

“We’d better hurry.”

###

The Battle by Allison Maruska

The apprentice watches as I light the incense. “How can you stay so calm?”

“Trouble will always find us, so why worry?” Wafting the smoke, I channel the spirits to help. “This battle is not a new one.”

“I think it is,” he says. “We’ve never fought anything like this.”

“Of course we have.” Picking up the lantern, I head outside. “And we will do what we always do. Pray. Fast. And fight if needed.”

An echoing roar reaches us. Our gaze follows the beast sailing through the sky.

“I don’t think fasting will help this time,” he says.

The battle was Monks vs. Dragons.

Told you it was kickass.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreason

An old friend

Unseen for years

Messages now

Through unshed tears

She said, School was hard

Not how she’d planned

The loneliness daunting

The taunts out of hand

Yet through all of her pain

What stays with her best

Was my warmth and my kindness

I was not like the rest

Little did I realise

What small gestures might mean

To my quiet young classmate,

Broken spirit, unseen
I read her messages of thanks, 35 years later, and looked upon my punctured tyre.

My wise words from a 50 year old?

Do unto others…….

AND CARRY A REPAIR KIT!!

###

Withdrawn? by Jules Paige

Richard picked up the thirteenth pottery shard never expecting
to be found hidden – engulfed in the weeds. The colors reminding
him of Janice’s eyes…

A short elusive keta with the magnitude of a heavy chair being
thrown across the room, and hitting his head allowed the elusive
emotion of disgrace to flash across his mind. Janice wasn’t the
traitor. Was he?

How had Janice been so wise, to know how broken he was.
That she could not fix him, she had to leave him… Richard,
behind the shed in her yard…wanted her – she wasn’t home…
Where was she?

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Kylie handed over the bow. “They were late, right? Doesn’t seem wise to me.”

“Here we go,” Nat grumbled, steadying the arrow. “It’s the three WISE MEN.”

Kylie arched her brow, fixed her ponytail. “If you say so.”

Nat’s eyes pulled to Kylie instead of the can. His shot sailed wide. Again. He was down 3-0.

Kylie scoffed, snatched the bow and yanked back the arrow. “Now, Margaret WISE Brown…”

“Who?”

“Goodnight Moon.” The arrow was gone in a wink. Nat heard the clink of the can without looking. Kylie stood, her smile spreading like wildfire. “4-zip.”

“Show off.”

###

Old Skills by Kerry E.B. Black

Aunt Amaryllis gripped the table. Veins rose from translucent skin, yet her voice remained sure. “Remember, control the material.”

Kirsten fed silk into the machine, but it snagged.

Aunt Amaryllis’ perfume accompanied her nearness. “Slow and steady. Even pressure on the foot. Gentle guidance here.” The cloth flowed with her direction, stitches marching along the seam. She handed Kirsten a seam ripper. “This tool’s your friend.”

Kirsten groaned but removed the snag. She pressed and sewed.
Aunt Amaryllis smiled at the complete the garment. “What a fine wedding gown!”

“I wish you’d be there.”

Aunt Amaryllis dabbed Kirsten’s tears. “I will, in spirit.”

###

The Wizard of the North by Gordon Le Pard

“Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.”

“But Jane, nobody knows who wrote it. How can you be so sure?”

“Because it is just like him, but it’s not fair. He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet, and shouldn’t be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.”

Cassandra smiled as her sister picked up the book again.

“I do not like him.” Jane continued, “And do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must.” Silently she thought, “I wonder if he will like Emma?”

He did.

###

Seeing the Other Side by D. Avery

I’ve got a lot of stories, none have been told

I’m not very wise for someone born old.

I’ve long been a miner, never seen the lode

I’m the chicken just starin’ ’cross the road.

I’ve got lots of where I’ve been, got lots of what’s behind me

But I still don’t know where I am, and don’t know where to find me.

I’m not exactly fleeing, ’though I’d like a place to hide

Crossing isn’t just about seeing the other side.

I’m walkin’ and I’m walkin’, some might say I’m lost

I’m that chicken that finally went across.

###

Trading Stories

Trading Stories Carrot Ranch @Charli_MIllsWhat would you trade for, or trade away? It’s an act as old as humans with possessions. Trading can be the foundation of many stories from dragons with an inclination for shoes to school children anticipating what fresh bread can net. Even vows and leadership can be traded.

Writers have explored what can be traded and with whom. Trading creates interesting motives and twists in stories.

The following are based on the May 11, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about trading.

***

A Trader All His Life by Irene Waters

“I’ll trade your undefeated conker for my cats eye marble.” Winking at his mates Farman turned to Edwin. Reluctantly Edwin agreed and handed over the well hardened horse chestnut.

********

“I’ll trade your signed copy of Sgt Peppers for my King of the Road. Farman held out his record knowing that Edwin would pass over his. All his life he’d traded with him, now would be no different.

*********

“I’ll trade your place for those tatty photo albums of mine.” Edwin hesitated then nodded his head.

As the dust settled, Edwin smiled. “I knew one day the trader wouldn’t diddle me.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

“Does it hurt?” Kylie asked, wide-eyed, admiring the fresh blood on her neighbor’s elbow.

They were hip to hip on the limb of the cherry tree. Nat shook his head, wincing. Kylie, still gloating after winning the footrace, stopped swinging her legs. “Look at this one.”

Nat admired Kylie’s knees. Both riddled with scabs and scrapes. Suddenly she nudged him, her troublesome hazel’s stoked and brimming. “Hey let’s trade blood.”

“Kylie, I think it’s blood BROTHERS.”

“Wuss.”

A press of flesh.

A union made.

Later, chuckling through a toast, Nat’s brother would publicly question the legality of their marriage.

###

Sweet Reasons by 40levenreasons

My son snuggled in as we watched a little sneaky television, his siblings, already tucked up in bed.

He turned his large brown doe eyes to me.

“Mum. I love you and I love the treats you make for our lunchboxes. You make nice sandwiches too, but sometimes….”

He looked down, unsure if he should continue.

“Sometimes…?” I prompted.

He continued. “Sometimes, I get jealous of the other kids’ lunchboxes. They have chips and lollies and stuff…..just sometimes”, he finished with uncertainty.

I smiled and kissed his forehead.

“That’s where the schoolyard trading tradition comes into play Mate.”

###

The Fresh Bread Sandwich by MichaelSchool lunches were made for trading. As I was from a poor family we had fresh bread only of a Friday when the baker delivered before we went to school.

Our staple diet was vegemite* sandwiches. Mum always had an ample supply in the cupboard. The richer kids at my school had ham and cheese sandwiches and after a week of vegemite, as good as it was, Friday was open season on lunch trades.

It was the fresh bread that was the important currency. You could name your price, ham and cheese for example, with a fresh bread sanger.

###

The Perfect Thing by Lisa Listwa

“I would give just about anything for a cheeseburger right now,” I said, thinking of that perfect state of meltiness achieved by marrying hot, juicy beef to cool, creamy cheese. I drove on, debating whether pulling into the drive-thru was wise.

After a moment, a small voice chirped from the back seat of the car. “Would you give me?”

Shocked, a slight gasp escaped my lips. “Of course not!”

“What about Dad? Would you trade Dad for a cheeseburger?”

“Nope, not Dad either. But I might think about it for a minute,” I laughed, “because cheeseburgers are mighty delicious.”

###

Trade Fair by Norah Colvin

Cards, were coveted like gold. To belong, one was enough; more better. Each lunchtime the boys showed off new acquisitions, compared intelligence and strength points, and traded duplicates. Fair and friendly battles pitted minds, the winner claiming card supremacy. Then bully Boris won, and none dared challenge. Until Justin, tired of Boris’s tactics, dared. The group gasped. It seemed Justin would be crushed. But clever cardless Frank slipped in and showed the winning move. Boris growled, “Inadmissible” and threatened repercussions. Defiant, Justin handed Frank a card, bestowing membership. Empowered, each boy followed, declaring Frank the Master, and trading opened.

###

Sick Day Sacrifice by Kerry E.B. Black

Matthew protested when his mom said, “No school. You’re sick.”

“But Nate’s bringing his cards today so we can trade.”

“You’ll trade when you’re better. Rest.”

Later, Mom brought the phone. “Are you feeling up to talking with Nate?”

Matthew grabbed the phone. “’sup, Nate?”

A strange silence, then, “They took ‘em.”

“Who took what?”

“My cards. Kids took all ‘sept 8.”

“Didja tell teacher?”

“What good’d that do?”

Matthew ignored his shaky legs and burning throat. He’d never had 800 cards like Nate, but he could sure share what he had with his best friend. No trades needed.

###

Trading Places by Susan Zutautas

“I wouldn’t want to trade places with you for all the money in the world.”

“And why is that?” she asked.

“I am married to my best friend, my soulmate, and I couldn’t possibly be happier.”

“But I get to travel the world and live in a much nicer house than you have, not to mention all the expensive things I have.”

“Things, travel, a house not a home, could ever replace what I share with my husband. We have something so special that you will never understand. It’s sad that you think your life is so much better!”

###

Duped! by Ruchira Khanna

“I will trade it for your five marbles.” said young Boyd with disheveled brown hair and two missing incisors while one hand scratched his bum and the other grasped the ball.

After a brief pause.

He heard giggles, chuckles, and chortles; but Boyd was determined he stood there tapping his foot.

“Time is running out! If no marbles. I walk!” he said with a stern voice.

Silence and that was followed by marbles rolling in Boyd’s direction.
A crooked expression and the nimble boy picked the marbles. Teased them with the ball and was swift like a hyena.

###

All Trades are Not Created Equal by Joe Owens

“For sure it is a tired cliché,” Donaldson heard his doppelganger say. “Trading places would be easy though. You take over my business and I yours.”

“You know nothing about building hydro dams and I nothing about building cruise ships,” Donaldson answered.

“We both sit in offices the whole day. How often do we actually do the work?”

“True,” Donaldson said. “Why not. For thirty days then we switch back.” The men shook and parted, ready to live a different life.

The doppelganger phoned his boss minutes later.

“We’re good. I will tank the stock at first light sir!”

###

Trading Rats: The Rat Catcher by Luccia Gray

The seller stood with his back to the door holding a swinging cage of squealing rats.

‘How much?’ asked the buyer.

‘A guinea.’

The buyer stroked his beard. ‘Two shillings.’

‘What? I went down the gutters for days risking my life to catch them!’

The buyer looked at the bite marks and blood on the seller’s hands. ‘You need to sell and find a doctor or you’re a dead man.’
The seller leaned back into the door which closed with a loud bang. ‘Two guineas, or I drop this cage, it smashes and we’ll both be devoured for dinner.’

###

The Last Trade by Reena Saxena

She traded her freedom for the social security her husband provided. She accepted subjugation for the wealth that her children would inherit.

She had mastered the art of silent manipulation. She would not eat till her husband came home, just to draw him homewards. She pampered her own spoilt brats, so they would look after her in her old age.

She wanted to write, paint and find channels of expression for her creativity. The family saw it as an insane whim, beyond her perceived capability.

She walked out, giving up everything. It was the last trade to pamper herself.

###

Miss Universe by Kalpana Solsi

“World peace is the need of the hour”, she mouthed and a thunderous applause deafened the stadium.

She adorned the sparkling tiara, as the curve of her lips widened.

Uneasiness lies in the head that wears the crown, Mrs. Ruth’s words buzzed in her head.

Her new itinerary made her travel through various time zones.

********************

The little fingers generously dug into the sinful chocolate.

The anorexic frame balancing the crown bent down to kiss the orphaned cheeks while television screens beamed her actions.

“Will you trade places for a day?” begged the Miss Universe.

The innocent eyes stared disinterestedly.

###

Devil’s Devotee by Jules Paige

His world had been comprised of hastily constructed philosophies,
which upon close examination, had failed him and promptly
collapsed. Richard had not thought he was gullible – and yet
he fell hard and fast for a cruel master. Hate, pain, distrust
those were the breaths he had taken and consumed. Janice
had been a distraction. He had traded some moments of his
life for her compassion. But then she had drugged him, not
knowing of his immunities the ones he had built up to counter
act anyone who would destroy him.

Richard had traded too much to find her…again.

###

Dearly by D. Avery

Some have had to trade so dearly for it. They lost their hair. Their skin got burned. Oh, they paid, gave the proverbial pound of flesh, or more, first in general terms, a lump, a mass, then specifically, a breast or two, some glands. They lost their balance. They lost their mobility and independence in the deal, negotiated the terms of their dignity in exchange for more. Throughout these transactions they realized true value, learned and taught lessons of living and of loving. They traded so dearly for something we sometimes waste, often claim to have none of. Time.

###

Blue Ribbon by Kerry E.B. Black

Carla felt honored to judge the annual Riding for the Handicapped competition. She marked the scores on her clip board. The announcer began with the honorable mentions and proceeded to the overall winner, David. Volunteers pinned the blue ribbon to his riding habit. He clapped along with the audience.

Jenny, the rider to David’s left, pulled her yellow second-place from her chest and sobbed.

David reached over. “What’s wrong?”

“I wanted the blue.”

David patted her arm. “We’ll trade.”

Carla interceded. “No, David, you won. That’s yours.”

“I know, but it is making her sad. Besides, I like yellow.”

###

From a Trader (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Well, the bear fetish is invaluable during times of change. Turquoise is the stone of protection,” Danni explained.

Michael held it in his palm. “Bear is the Guardian of the West.”

Danni didn’t want to spoil their newly agreed truce. For Ike’s sake. Yet, it was also for Ike’s sake she’d placed the Zuni fetish by his photo. Keep him safe, Danni thought.

“Powerful medicine. Good totem for Ike in Iraq.”

Danni waited for the question she knew he’d ask.

“Where did you come by this?”

“A trader in Gallup.”

Michael’s grasp tensed. “Stolen. Danni, your bear needs cleansing.”

###

Fair Trade by Anne Goodwin

Don’t take the price quoted at face value, said the guidebook. Bargaining is taken for granted here. When she kicked off at five hundred, I offered two. She replied with four, I raised it to three; we danced around and shook hands at three-fifty. How could she smile when I’d purchased ten hours of her time for the price of a coffee back home? Maybe I should’ve stuck at three hundred. Maybe I should’ve bought a sackful to sell on at a profit. Maybe I should’ve bought a different guidebook: a guide to building a fairer world.

###

Something’s Afoot by Sarah Brentyn

“I don’t accept money,” his eyes traveled over me.

“But,” I took a deep breath, “I need it.”

He leaned against the moss-covered stone. “Obviously. Since you’re trading with the likes of me under a bridge…”

“Tell me what you want. Anything.” I shifted from one foot to the other under his gaze.

“Your shoes.”

“My…wait, what?” I looked at my strappy sandals. “These?”

“Yes.”

I slid them off and held them out.

“Over there,” the dragon extended his wing to a mound of what I now realized was shoes. “We don’t just hoard gold, you know. Carl fancies teacups.”

###

A Bargain’s a Bargain, Whoever You Negotiate With by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, can I get a job?’

Mary peered over her glasses. ‘Have you something in mind’

‘The village clothes shop.’

‘In principle yes.’

‘Great. What do you mean? In principle?’

‘Well, what are the hours, the pay. Is it legal at your age? What about your school work, music practice..’

‘Ok. I get it. I can’t, can I?’

‘If you’re giving up so easily you don’t want it then.’

‘That’s not fair.’ Penny looked furious.

‘If you’re going to work in retail you need to know how to sell your product…’

‘Forget it. I should have asked dad.’

‘Probably.’

###

Levels of the Trade by Elliott Lyngreen

“I detest drawing blanks.”

“I insist you’re demanding too considerably.”

An entire vacant cinema. An afternoon matinee remarkably unoccupied.

“Just permit your mind clearance. Stop imposing the write. Creation may come throughout this movie.”

The two hardly exchanged noises throughout the film.

Upon leaving, the one struggling exclaimed,
“I still didn’t think of anything.”
—“that was so fantastic!…!” the other countered. Then, some eager deliberation, “what if your story – filled that empty place!?

-Characters?! People. Events that brought them into the theater?!”

“I want a story to pass on, not something invented. Besides, I barely paid it any attention.”

###

Beer Parlour Tricks by Bill Engleson

“You can have my soul.”

“Seriously? How will I know when I have it?”

“That’s your problem. I’m done with it. It has no meaning for me.”

“So, you offer me something for which you have no more use. What do you expect in trade?”

“What would you offer?”

“How about a 1914 Baltimore News # 7 Babe Ruth?”

“You have one?”

“No. In the same way that you don’t have a soul. I would like one but so far, nope.”

“You’re saying I don’t have a soul.”

“Body and Soul. No difference.”

“Fine. The next rounds on me.”

###

Traded by FloridaBorne

“I traded one problem in for another,” I muttered at my new 1976 Plymouth Volaré, a car destined to become the Edsel of its time.

“Problem?” the dealership mechanic asked.

“If the speedometer works, the hot/cold indicator doesn’t. Now I’m hearing a rattle in back.”

After 4 years, the electrical problem continued to plague us, but we found the rattle when my dad and husband took out the back seat…an empty tape roll on which a bored factory worker had scribbled, “Haha, find this.”

“I should’ve kept the Plymouth Fury III,” I sighed

Dad replied, “I told you so.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

It was a good harvest, looking set to continue for a few more weeks.

The freezer was full, as were those of friends and family. Roadside signs brought in some trade, but there was still much more surplus to requirements.

Such a shame to waste it, even fallers from the apple tree were snapped up when left in bags on the dogwalk.

Inspiration struck, and loading up the car we headed to a local tearooms.

Homemade jams and chutneys were for sale, so we offered a trade.

Our surplus fruit and veg for a cream tea once a week.

###

Wishes by D. Avery

Once upon a time, there lived an old man and an old woman. They had little in the way of possessions, and wanted for nothing. Nothing very unusual ever happened and they noticed small miracles everyday. They gardened and gathered and occasionally fished in the stream that coursed through the meadow.

One day something unusual did happen. A talking fish offered them three wishes if they’d let it live.
This amazing trout ended up in the same pan that more ordinary trout had, and they smiled at each other, not wishing to trade one of their days for anything.

###

Oil Slicks

Oil makes for a slippery slope. Something that is so integral to modern living has become a threat because of dependency and pollution. Yet, writers found slick inspiration and greatly expanded the idea of oil in stories.

From the harsh realities to sweet moments, oil created a rich collection this week.

The following are based on the April 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil.

***

Crudely Oil by FloridaBorne

Three decades ago, at the slender age of 41, unemployment loomed in my future. My sister tried to help me find a job, so she asked a friend in the oil industry about hiring me.

Pre Hurricane Ike, amidst the oil refineries of coastal Texas and Louisiana, my sister arranged a lunch meeting to discuss the terms of my employment.

Startled, like he’d just witnessed the first case of a tyrannous walking into a bar with a greyhound, he said, “She’s so delicate, not sturdy like you. I was expecting someone built like a man.”

I think he lived.

###

Oil and Water by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, I want to volunteer to help the environment.’

‘What prompted this? Not that I’m against it.’

‘We watched Deep Water Horizon in Geography. The oil industry is awful. We need to have renewables and non-pollutive power.’

‘Are you going to protest?’

“Protest? Like online?’

‘No. A march, a sit-in? That’s what we did. To make people sit up.’

Penny picked up her sandwich. ‘What did you protest about?’

‘Stopping Cruise missiles. The miners. You grandpa hated it.’

‘What happened?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Did it make a difference?’

‘Not really.’

‘I think I want to do something useful.’

###

Extractions by D. Avery

After straining the rust, he combined their gleanings. His children had become experts at extraction, at syphoning gas and oil from the abandoned and decaying automobiles. Their specialty was in finding smaller machines that others overlooked, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers. Today they found almost five gallons of gas, three of oil. It was good, but what was the current rate?

“I’ll be back.” His voice was husky and raw. Trading was dangerous. And necessary. His children watched him go.

He hoped for a good rate. The last time they were only giving a quart of water for each gallon of fuel.

###

Green Enough (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Ma, look!” Monroe lofted a green pumpkin.

Mary nodded, wishing away the queasiness. Even standing she could feel the sway of the wagon. “Leave ‘em on the vine, son until they ripen.”

“Will you make pies?”

She managed a nod although the thought made her ill.

Her brother-in-law joined her on the porch, excited. “Mary, we need to convince Cobb to take a stake along the San Juan. Running rivers. Mountains, even! And sand you can burn in a lamp. Black oil.”

Mary inhaled deeply. “Leroy, if it requires a wagon ride from here, no! This Territory will do.”

###

VR Won’t Put Money in Your Pocket by Joe Owens

“What the heck is Ramsey doing out there Clem?” Abe questioned.

His seventy-two year old neighbor was blasting away at the ground, kneeling to watch the newly created hole, moving another ten feet and repeating the process.

“Ever hear of them Virtual Reality things?”

“Yep.”

“Apparently Ramsey strapped on Aaron’s new set last night and watched the Beverly Hillbillies. Now he’s convinced he can repeat Jed’s luck,” Clem said

“Stupid redneck. Don’t he know he is using the wrong ammo?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In Jed’s book ‘Finding Oil For Dummies’ he said to use real lead shot!”

###

Depot Antipsychotics by Anne Goodwin

As the medicine penetrated her muscle, it felt as if her posterior was swallowing castor oil. Sliding out the needle, the nurse rubbed the spot with cotton wool. “That’s it for another fortnight.”

Matty pulled up her panties. “No more babies.”

The nurse looked perplexed. “You do realise what your injection’s for?”

Was she old enough to know what men did to ladies in the dark? “For protection, of course.”

“That’s one way of putting it. Protection against disturbing thoughts.”

Matty nodded. So she did know about those shenanigans. She hoped it was not through personal experience.

###

When That Oil Well Erupts by 40levenreasons

Her naked body trembled, yet it wasn’t cold. Her heart raced, yet she lay motionless. Darkness engulfed her and her breathing became rapid; urgent gulps at the air surrounding her. She felt the hairs on her body rise and she strained to listen; for the black silence, was deafening. Her back arched in anticipation, as she waited…..

and waited……..

She didn’t ‘hear’ him enter, rather, felt him. His presence, captivating, rendered her breathless.

She heard the familiar ‘click’ of the oil being opened and she knew what to expect.

Then, she felt it.

So familiar, yet so tantalisingly foreign…….

###

Oil Stains by Sarah Brentyn

He was oily. His hair, his smile.

“Sit,” he licked his lips. “It’s not often I get a visit from such an elegant lady.”

“I’ll stand.”

“As you wish, beautiful.” His eyes scanned me head to toe then met mine. “Better view for me.”

I slid the envelope across to him.

He took his time looking through the contents, enjoying what was inside. “Here’s your money,” he leered.

I reached for the cash too quickly, brushing his knuckles with my fingertips. I cringed.

He laughed.

I would wear the stain of this day for the rest of my life.

###

Protected by Reena Saxena

The court verdict proclaimed him ‘Not Guilty’, against public expectations.

His opponents had teamed up to support him. The secret lay in the few files in his cupboard, which threatened to expose their lesser misdeeds.

He was sent to learn wrestling in childhood. He never really mastered the sport. But he clearly remembered applying baby oil to avoid cuts and bruises, and then spraying water on it, to create a glistening skin finish. Vaseline was a substitute, at times, but it was the oil that helped him slip from the opponent’s grip.

It was a lesson he never forgot.

###

Oil by Hugh W. Roberts

There I was minding my own business, checking out the cool animals going round and round, when I heard this conversation.

“Yes, madam, that’s the one made with coconut oil. It’s made from the finest coconuts.”

“And this one?”

“That one is made from our finest lavender oil, which we grow ourselves. It’s guaranteed to help you sleep.”

“And what about something for my itchy legs?”

“Try this baby oil, madam.”

“What’s it made from?”

That’s all a 7-month old baby could take. I screamed the place down and my mother ended up with just the coconut shampoo. Phew!

###

Massage by Michael

It was the best and worst of massage. The girl with pudgy fingers slapped on the massage oil which I could feel running under my stomach.

Her fingers generated the nervousness you associate with a first-time massage.

She had used far too much oil, her fingers slipped every so often and dug into my neck creating a pain and anxiety such that with my brain asked the pertinent question: “Does this woman know what she is doing?”

She forged ahead, with muscles manipulated, I felt the beginnings of relief, before she slapped me on the rump announcing job done.

###

Midnight Vanity by Pete Fanning

Wilma broke the vitalization capsule, and took caution to rub the oil in around the eyes, per Doctor Prott’s instructions. She hummed a tune. Her evening dress hung from the bathroom door.

“Stunning,” they’d said. “Radiant.”

The capsules—78% human sebum secretions as they were—smelled awful, and took some getting accustomed. But the results had shimmered in the gaze of every man in the room.

Another smear of oil. The door swung open and Harold stood, in his boxers, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. A blink, and he leaped back with a scream.

Every man but one.

###

The Hope Chest by Kate Spencer

Martha side-steps her way past the busy work tables toward the back of the wood-shop. “Tom, where are you? Tom!”

“Mom, you’re early.”

“I know, but we gotta go. Pew, it smells in here,” says Martha brushing sawdust from her sleeves.

“That’s the tung oil wood finish reacting with maple. It’ll dissipate. Wanna see what I made?”

“Maybe next time,” and Martha suddenly gasps when she sees the exquisite hope chest with birds, hearts and the word ‘MOM’ engraved on the lid.

“Tom?”

“It’s something for you to store your hopes in Mom, so you won’t ever lose them.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The smell of the oil took him back fifty years.

She was young and beautiful, a true stunner.

Standing a little taller than he, her chestnut mane glowed in the sunlight.

Love at first sight, their relationship lasted over twenty years.

They were inseparable, he had eyes only for her. Totally loyal to each other, theirs was a match made in heaven.

He was inconsolable when she died, her ashes scattered in the meadow behind the property where they had spent so many private hours.

As a child, she was his life. To others, she was just a horse.

###

Child Citizen to Scientist by Norah Colvin

Familiar sounds heralded his arrival: feet scraped stairs, bag thudded deck, screen door crashed.

Shouts of “Mum! Mum!” preceded him as he charged down the hallway, arms flailing, holding something aloft.

His words exploded in a jumble. She deciphered few. Baby stopped suckling, curious.

“Slow down,” she said, patting the sofa with her free hand.

He thrust the brochure at her.

“I wanna adopt a penguin. Please, Mum. Can I?”

“Penguins can’t live here. It’s too hot,” Mum teased.

“Mu-um!” The words tumbled again. “Scientist… school… oil… penguins dying… ‘dangered… We have to save them from going extinct! Please!”

###

Black Gold Indeed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane flips from one screen to another, trying to find what it would be worth.

She still remembers the “gas shortage,” finally her turn to fill her VW Bug’s tiny tank, outraged at paying a dollar a gallon and waiting in line for over an hour for the privilege. There was no “Come back later;” stations closed at dusk. 1979, that was.

Dammit, this should be readily available information. Well, suffice it to say, if she’d bought oil shares instead of beer back then, she probably wouldn’t be homeless right now. Of course, she’d also be a hypocrite.

###

Raw Materials by Elliott Lyngreen

Shopping for something to eat, he realized boxes hold more substances. Foods invented them. There was a time he never consumed enough – food. So he thought.

In his dreams were elixirs. As if there is some magic oily substance yet discovered; like a pure clear milk, that will thickly coat and satiate rather than seem tingly, clear, and empty his circulation.

Immediately sinking awareness, something that filled absolute, made him wholly distraught within seconds. All the sections of the aisles and gondolas reconstituted this; each item constructed that catalyst of thought.

Unresolved shelves upon shelves as he continued through.

###

Motives and Motivation? by Jules Paige

Three hours into the desert their engine choked and buckled,
rolling dark smoke into the pale blue sky….Janice remembered
that Richard appeared a kinder person then. They had flown
into the Prescott airport – Richard was penny pinching again
and took cheapest car the they could rent. The car was a
beater, but they were told it was in working order. The desert
had been all Richard’s Idea. The car leaked oil from the start…
Janice didn’t want to think of what nasty thing might have
would have happened if the Trucker hadn’t come along to save
their rears.

###

The Road Home by Lisa Listwa

“What did he say?” she asked.

“The engine is leaking oil, but the mechanic is gone for the night. We can come back tomorrow. Or, he said if we get a case of oil from the auto parts store next door and keep dumping it in, we’ll make it home.”

They drove in silence for a long while; tears burned the back of her eyes.

“It’s an omen,” she said. “This happening on the way back from our honeymoon? It means our entire marriage is going to be filled with trouble.”

“Let’s keep going,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

###

Heal Me by Kerry E.B. Black

Lily rubbed her hands together, warming the oil before smoothing it across her husband’s shoulders. With clever circles, her fingers eased stored tensions. He sighed. She kissed his ear and continued her ministrations. Spearmint and eucalyptus opened her sinuses. With closed eyes, she felt along taut muscles to the source of his discomfort. The feel of him imprinted upon her fingertips.

He twisted in the chair and folded her in an embrace. “How’d you do that?”

She blinked as though awakening from a trance. “Do what?”

His warmth radiated from him, and he breathed into her lips. “Heal me.”

###

Memory by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She sat in the dayroom, warmed by morning sun through the picture window. Her pink sweater mounded over her shriveled form and stick-thin arms, pooled around her bony thighs. Mostly unresponsive, she seemed content in her isolation. But perhaps her mind swooped, hawk’s wings over her long and verdant life, or trembled, a butterfly over nectar-sweet memories with family and friends.

We couldn’t tell. We wanted reassurance.

We researched and assembled our tools: tiny jars of oil infused with essences of everything.

“Smell, bring memories!” we prayed, gathered around her chair.

She smiled, silent and vague, appreciating the attention.

###

Gazing at the Navel

What is it we hope to find, gazing at the navel? Maybe we seek our own beginning or that of time. Perhaps we feel a severing of bonds to establish who we are. We can stare at our navels, self-obsessed, or dare to reveal it to others. Somewhere between holding on to our beginnings and letting go with freedom to be we find stories of the humble belly-button.

Writers were tasked with navel gazing this week and many dared to return with a story.

The following are based on the April 20, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a navel story.

***

Ghawazee by Kerry E.B. Black

Dumbeks drummed a summons, and dancers stepped from hidden corners, bells tinkling with each movement. Tentative as deer approaching a clearing, the graceful women searched for authorities who declared dancing a crime. They hopped in time, their footfalls punctuating the rhythm. The beat quickened. Their skirts and veils eddied around lithe forms. They reached heaven-ward, exposing glimpses of navels whittled with exertion. Colorful tassels bounced from tribal belts, and tinny bells added to the magic of the dance.

A whistle warns, and they scatter, but for the length of a song, they re-created their heritage and defied the regime.

###

The End by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Vast ocean pounded a heavy drumbeat, intense wind carrying bright droplets up to the woman poised on cliff’s edge. A sheer of brine slowly covered her naked form.

Her thin fingers brushed a whirl of ashy salt and skin from wasting limbs. With each sweep and release of her fingers, she became less and less, her curves releasing to the granite and scrubby wasteland that led to this spot.

“Oh Angus,” she breathed. “You were my only god!”

Weuigwefq cwnjqoie.

The tomcat bumped her chin, and lay across the keyboard. “Too much drama, Navel Gazer…feed me NOW!” he growled.

###

Science is Coming by Elliott Lyngreen

Nate’s been expecting there will be a grand movement i step aside myself. Or lose myself. Exist around, outside myself.

Instead of inside this womb prosing on about and ever contemplating.

Charges coins now to share. The game is its more instant – but is, not speaking.

There’ve always been rules.

For speaking?

“Cant stand my echoes.”

Frees sound even my exhaling bellies; executes me further en passant. . . .

Pressing into the navel of a fuzzy peach. Nate cannot eat them.

Tainted on this bird repetitively clunking its reflection; for once, i want to remove the windows.

“Check, Nate.”

###

The Need to Know (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni sat on her haunches, studying the bone fragment. The school bus had left, but this piece found by a third-grader intrigued her.

“Is that one of my ancestors?” Michael had returned with Bubbie.

“Mmm, probably not, unless your ancestors ate each other.”

Michael snorted. “You bone-diggers. Navel-gazing at everything.”

Danni stood up and stretched, surprised to hear the pain in Michael’s tone. “I’m sorry. No offense intended. It’s a deer bone, likely, but has pot-polish from being boiled. It says something about what occurred here.”

“Let the place be sacred, Danni. You don’t have to know every detail.”

###

Omphalos by FloridaBorne

“Your name means Earth’s navel?” I asked.

“Mama said Omphalos was sacred,” a 12-year-old with medium beige skin replied. “She said we came out of Earth’s navel a hundred years after mushrooms destroyed all life.”

Amused, I asked, “Were the mushrooms edible?”

“You can see the mushrooms grow when you’re in Las Vegas.”

“Thank you for your presentation,” I said. “You may be seated.”

“Miss Phillips?”

“Yes, Omphalos.”

“Did you know your people are building underground cities?”

Keeping a straight face, I replied. “No.”

“You’ll need them in 2020.”

“That’s 60 years away,” I said, chuckling at his superstition.

###

Homage by D. Avery

That immobile travel trailer under the trees is a sanctuary. It stands on columns of humble cinder blocks, the destination of a pilgrim. Inside it is luxurious. There’s an abundance of books, one comfortable bed, and small altars enshrined with shells and pebbles. Yet this trailer overlooks the actual temple.

While the red-capped stewards drum rhythms on riddled trees, juncos sanctify the space with their spring rituals, alighting on a rounded glacial erratic before continuing their northern pilgrimage.

This omphalos stone holds all the answers for the pilgrim, but there at the center, the questions have now drifted away.

###

Gazing into Her Navel by Anne Goodwin

“Where should I start?”

“Wherever you like.”

She blushes, gazes down at herself pointedly. Was it sex? (It’s always sex.)

“There’s no rush. You’ve already taken the most important step by coming here.”

She hesitates. Opens her mouth and closes it again. I’d like to make it easier for her, but she has to find her own way.

She strokes her abdomen. Pregnancy ambivalence? But she isn’t showing. Yet.

Through her thin T-shirt she dips her middle finger into her belly button. “It might sound stupid,” she says, “but I’ve felt all wrong since the day I was born.”

###

Fluff by Hugh Roberts

“Oh, my goodness, what are you doing?”

“Well, you did say you wanted me to help get the fluff out.”

“Yes, but not with a screwdriver. Is there anything else you can use?”

“No. Nothing to hand. Now, do you want me to remove the fluff from your bellybutton?”

“Yes, but I’m sure I can hear something creaking.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Right, here we go. Ready? A slight twist and it should be out.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I never expected that to happen. Allow me to pick up your bum and screw it back on.”

***

Moral of the story – never insert a screwdriver into your bellybutton and twist, because your bum will fall off!

###

Navel Contemplation by Norah Colvin

Billy watched Mother bathe Baby.

“What’s that?”

“The last bit of his umbilical cord. Soon it will fall off, and he’ll have a belly button, just like you.”

Billy lifted his shirt to inspect.

“What’s billy cor?”

“Umbilical cord – it’s where Baby was joined to me before he was born. Everyone has one.”

“Everyone?”

“Everyone with a mother.”

“So, Silas don’t have belly button.”

“Silas would have a belly button. Everyone has.”

“But Silas don’t have a mum.”

“Oh. But he would have had a mum. When he was born.”

“Nope. Not born. I made him up.”

###

Origin by KittyVerses

Suddenly there was brightness all around.The darkness that I was accustomed to, was gone in a matter of minutes.

A buzz of excited chatter all around, disturbing my serenity. Unknown images were excited about something but I was clueless and at a loss.

The yummy supply of food through the umbilical cord, will it cease now, I let out a cry.The images rose in unison to console and welcome me. But one touch said it all, up she lifted, holding close to her, I could feel her warmth.A gentle kiss on my forehead, I knew her, my origin, Mumma.

###

Fruitful Blessings by Lisa A. Listwa

He watched his wife dress, her navel peeking from beneath a camisole and between stretch marks as she reached above her head to fix her hair.

That small, intimate part of her reminded him how he worked to know her, to break through the rough, vibrant skin and bitter layers of pith surrounding the most delightful, refreshing burst of fruit inside.

He remembered her beautifully life-worn body when it swelled to carry and nourish the children who shouted at one another just down the hall. And he – he was lucky enough to taste of this bliss every single day.

###

Where Do They Hide the Navels by Joe Owens

Jerome never had seen belly dancers, at least not in person. When he imagined it he chose to rely on the one image burned into his mind, that of a beautiful Barbara Eden in her genie outfit. So one could imagine his excitement when he saw their would be belly dancing in this three hour dance recital.

When the music began Jerome sat up in anticipation, but ten seconds later he sank back dejected. There was no Barbara Eden to bee seen anywhere near the stage. Instead it resembled a cruel joke. There was plenty of belly on display.

###

Aloof by Reena Saxena

Apsara was totally taken by the intellect of this man, and the peace that he radiated.

Ten years later, she wondered if Vishwa had ever loved her. He was so wrapped up in himself – his books, meditation and his international talks. There was no space in his life for anyone else.

“Will you ever stop being a navel gazer, Vishwa?”

“Apsara, the navel is what connects you to your mother, your origin. Do not use that expression in a derogatory manner. One needs to decipher all mysteries of existence.”

It was not her existence that he was talking about.

###

Life Gets Complicated by Geoff Le Pard

‘Penny come here.’

Penny looked at her form teacher’s stern face, mystified at her tone.

‘Did you call Melanie a freak?’

‘I…’ Penny’s face flushed. ‘I just said her belly button was weird.’ Everyone had laughed, even Melanie. She’d showed them after all. ‘Is she upset?’

‘Melanie doesn’t know we’re talking. Someone else told me.’

Penny felt anger swell inside her chest. Sophie.

Miss Johnstone sighed. ‘She has an umbilical hernia. Just be a little careful what you say. You don’t know who might be upset.’

Penny held her gaze. ‘If Mel doesn’t care, why should anyone else?’

‘Indeed.’

###

Navel (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories) by Deborah Lee

“Is that a bra strap? That better not be a bra strap,” Michelle says. “We don’t do the Madonna look around here.”

Jane cocks her head to her shoulder, displays the wide strap of the tank-camisole layered under her blouse. “Not a bra strap.”

“And tattoos. Caroline hates tattoos. Keep your tattoos covered.”

“For the…third?… time. I don’t even have tattoos.”

“Or piercings. She doesn’t hire people with piercings.”

Jane surreptitiously pats the soreness at her belly-button, her brand-new glittering dragonfly. Good thing she doesn’t wear Madonna crop tops. She turns back to her desk, rolling her eyes.

###

Emily’s Navel by Michael

The class had been going for some time before Dash woke up to gazing at Emily’s navel. Navel’s fascinated him and Emily had the most alluring navel he had seen.

It was an innie, outies he found somewhat gross, though he knew it was no fault of the navel owner.

But Emily was caught up in her pose, oblivious of Dash’s attention.

He wanted to reach out and stroke it with his finger, feel the soft smooth folds of skin. The instructor’s strident voice woke him to reality. He stored away the memory and took up his required pose.

###

The Cadaver’s Surprise by Allison Maruska

The cadaver rests naked on the table. Her skin is ashen, her face covered with a white towel. My mind tricks me into thinking she’s breathing.

This was someone’s mother, someone’s grandmother. Now she lies here, pre-dissected for us, the potential medical students of tomorrow.

“Know what I wondered before I studied anatomy?” the teacher asks.

We stand in respectful silence.

“I wondered what the back of a belly button looks like.” With that, she lifts the skin covering the abdomen, revealing the dark side of the navel.

I bet the dead woman never thought anyone would look there.

###

Holy Holes and Adoration of Ashes? by Jules Paige

Navels
More than
Just an orange
For energy or even
Contemplation

Once
I read
A model had
Hers surgically removed…for
Vanity?

Links
Navels from
Mother to babe
Centers of life blood
Flows

I’ve
Been to
Maui – I saw
Different kinds of hard
Lava

Pahoehoe
Is sharp
A’a is smooth
We did not see
‘Lava’

Not
All ash
Is the same…
‘Wildcat Scattering’…she did
That…

To
My father
At his request –
In the Gulf he
Went…

An
Uncle left
His body to
Science – his ashes were
Returned

(…what tradition will I follow?)

###

Save

With This Ring

With This Ring by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsAn array of rings are offerings from a single artist. And yet, many singles dream of one ring to bind them to another. What is it about rings that are are deep in our culture and psyche? They adorn and they tell a story.

Writers explored the stories of rings to craft this collection of flash as rich as the rings an artist displays against black velvet.

The following are based on the April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring.

***

One Perfect Rose (After Dorothy Parker) by Luccia Gray

‘I found a perfect gift,’ he said.
He gave me a pretty card, which read,
‘This gift is almost as lovely as you.’
I still didn’t have a clue.
I wondered what he had in mind,
Although I knew my love was blind,
I was hoping for a ring at last,
My happiness, it was so vast!
I’d wear it on my finger proudly.
I extended my hand slowly,
And he showed me one perfect rose.
I sighed and looked down to my toes.
‘Don’t you like the rose?’ he asked.
‘It’s not what I had in mind,’ I barked.

###

A Bacon Bit (Sizzlin’ in the Old West) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Leadbelly sidled up to the bar, tossing a small leather bag on the counter. His boot hooked over the bar rail, spurs jangling, as he leaned toward the buxom barkeep.

“What’ll ya have?” Lula eyed the bag of gold dust.

“Whiskey, neat,” he twirled his greasy mustaches, “And you, disheveled.”

She rolled her eyes and turned her back. The piano player threw him out. Polishing a glass, she waited.

Josiah approached, sliding the fragrant waxed package across the counter. He laid a gold ring on top. His lips trembled. “Will you have me?”

“You and your bacon? Forever, Love.”

###

Heirloom by Bill Engleson

“Look at ‘em, Sybil. Sausages. Big fat sausages.”

I spread my mitts in grand emphasis.

“Yes, sweetie. You have big hands.”

“Not exactly Presidential.”

“No. But too big for your Mom’s ring. Maybe we can get it enlarged?”

“You think?”

“I don’t know. It’s pretty thin…probably hard to stretch…”

“Dad made it from an old copper cup. True story.”

“I’ve heard it often.”

“Well, it’s a good story. He was a handy guy.”

“A frugal, artistic man.”

“Depression days, eh.”

“Yes, it was. If we can’t expand it, maybe I should wear it.”

“Would you?”

“It’d be my pleasure.”

###

Not All Chicks are Created Equal by Joe Owens

The young man stood quietly, eyes glued to the arrangement of rings. All that moved was his eyes. They buzzed back and forth across the collection like a caffeine-addled bee.

“Don’t you have anything unique?” he finally asked.

“Unique? Son all of this is unique and handmade.”

“Yeah, I know, but this chick is one in a million!”

“Chick? Are you calling some lovely young woman a chick? What’s wrong with you? You need to learn some manners young man. Women are not chicks!”

Both turned when a girl in a bird suit opened the door.

###

New Ring by Diana Nagai

Conflicted, her thumb bent inward, seeking out the newly placed jewelry. She was a feminist, damn it. When looking at other women’s rings, she always saw society’s symbol of ownership, a male’s claim to his property. Yet, she wanted the ring. The band gave her a sense of calm and, admittedly, a feeling of pride.

The flashing camera brought her back to the moment. Worried that she had sold out to the very institution she ridiculed, she looked up, locking eyes with her partner. Warmth enveloped her and, in that instant, she knew what all newlyweds knew; love transcends.

###

The Ring by Pensitivity

Embedded in the root of the hydrangea bush was a ring.
The flower which flourished every year from that part of the root was bigger, brighter and more glorious than any of its counterparts.

‘It’s your grandmother’s engagement ring,’ he said with a tear in his eye.

‘She lost it years ago and although we searched, we never found it. She told me it would eventually turn up. Come to think of it, that bush never flowered so much before she died.

Her last words to me were that she’d always be with me. Bless her, she never lied.’

###

Only the Ring Remained (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Don’t you tire of sifting dirt?” Michael leaned back on the porch chair, drinking a Rocket Dog.

Danni knew Ike had stocked his workshop fridge with his Ranger buddy’s favorite beer. A token of appreciation. Or a bribe. “I thought we buried the hatchet, Michael.”

“Just curious. Seems boring.”

“It’s amazing how much evidence past garbage holds.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Garbage? No. The most disturbing find was considered a site contamination.”

“Contaminated garbage?”

“It was run-off from the 1956 Grand Canyon plane crash. A wedding band among Anasazi pottery. Identified as the pilot’s whose body was never recovered.”

###

Consider the Odds by Elliott Lyngreen

This concrete pier doglegs like a long driveway into the lake.

The horizon rises behind as I fish into the calm side; the inlet back into the marina and boat launches.

This morning, he snuck away from the wife. As I tie a lead weight to my T-dropper rig he sets up his folding chair near the steel edges crashing waters whale.

But, I am too excited to ask how he managed to get away. So I offer, “more weights in my box if needed.” He responds, “nah, just going to use my wedding bands.”

Perch season begins perfectly.

###

Ring For Mother by Geoff Le Pard

Mary stared at the box, momentarily lost.

‘Mum? Can you find it?’ Penny peered over her mother’s shoulder. ‘There they are.’

Mary fished out the string. ‘Yes. Your Grandma’s pearls; she gave them to me when I was 21. I…’ She sobbed.

‘Mum? What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing.’ She looked at Penny. ‘Your grandma wanted you to have her wedding and engagement rings, after she died, only..?”

‘What happened?’

‘They disappeared. Somewhere been her collapsing and her… dying. I didn’t notice until it was too late to follow it up.’

‘Don’t worry, mum.’

If only it was that easy, Mary thought.

###

Finders Keepers by Jules Paige

I found the gold ring with a chipped amber type square
stone with four diamond-like gems, while walking the
dogs one day. The band had a kink in it. But the sun
made it sparkle in the gutter where it lay, lost or
tossed.

Now it was mine. And I wore it when ‘he’ came to visit –
‘He’ didn’t have to know that my new Beau hadn’t given
it to me. It made breaking up with ‘him’ so much easier.

I got the band fixed. Though I hardly ever wear that
ring. Now wear my white gold wedding band.

###

Eternity Ring by Anne Goodwin

I emptied the contents onto the table-top. Plastic decked like playing cards, coins rolled on their edges, a foil-wrapped migraine tablet squat among the notes. He held my fingertips so gently, I almost anticipated congratulations. “Take it off!”

I babbled about its sentimental value, worthless to him. He grabbed me roughly by the wrist. “Fucking take it off! I won’t ask again.”

I tugged at the gold band. Bonded with my body, it wouldn’t budge.

Spreading my hand across the table-top, he brought down the knife.

I stared at the stump. I’d lost my finger, but kept my promise.

###

The Rescue by Kate Spencer

The hawk screeched and dived toward its prey. Jen held her breath and screamed when one of the talons clipped the pigeon’s wing, leaving it powerless, plummeting to the ground.

She ran across the field toward the fallen dove, flailing her arms and shrieking at the hawk.

Jen kneeled down beside the motionless bird. “You’re a beauty,” she cooed and delicately slid her fingers under its shaking belly. Her beaded ring brushed against a tiny metal leg band.

In that moment, Jen felt it in her heart. This feathered friend was special. It was a survivor. So was she.

###

Child Bride by Kerry E.B. Black

It blurred in her vision, yellow gold devouring a too-thin finger. It weighted Shakti’s hand, tethered her to a place, a family, and an older man who didn’t regard her as more than property. She shook her hand, but the wedding ring clung like an infant to its mother’s breast.

Wild-eyed, she searched the room hung with wedding silks, praying for an escape that didn’t come.

Instead, her groom came to consummate the marriage. He lumbered atop her until she cried out in pain.

After, she scrubbed the sheets, marring the gold band denoting her new status as wife.

###

Junk by Allison Maruska

“Daddy!” Reese tugs at my sleeve. “Toy!” She points to the dispenser full of opaque plastic eggs.

“Honey…” I crouch. “You can’t see what’s in those. You might get junk.”

“Please?” She bats her brown eyes.

I laugh. What the hell. Standing, I dig a coin from my pocket. She snatches it.

After three cranks, an egg plops out. She pops it open, removing a plastic ring with a square rhinestone. “Like Mommy’s!”

Her words choke me. It does look like my late wife’s ring. “You’re right. It is.”

“It’s not junk.” She skips ahead.

No, it sure isn’t.

###

The Onyx Ring by Susan Zutautas

Grandma would sit and tell Molly stories about her life in the old country. Scotland sounded amazing to Molly but what she most wanted to know about was the ring grandma wore.

Well dear this ring wasn’t always a ring. Your grandpa gave me this as a necklace that I wore for years. One day I decided I wanted to make it into a ring and took it to a jeweler.

It was a black onyx stone with a diamond in the middle and Molly just loved it.

Years later when grandma passed away, Molly was given the ring.

###

A Father’s Blessing by Roger Shipp

“Pap-pa, Esmeralda. She’s the one I’ve been telling you about.”

Freddie lost his father. Lost? No… He just left.

And Freddie appeared. Assisting with weeding the mowing… shooting hoops in the driveway… caring for the Dane when I’m away.

The two are aglow.

For a bride, so many traditions. Something old… new… borrowed… blue.

Nothing for the groom. Marriage license. Money. Rehearsal dinner. More money. Honeymoon. Even more money.

If a groom has no roots of his own… it’s hard to grow.

I wonder… my fingers encircle the ring I’ve worn faithfully since Sara’s passing.

“Freddie… if you’d like it.”

###

The Wife’s Ring by Michael

It was the start of our adventure and it meant packing up house and moving to a new town.

Everything was going well. We had a place to move to, we both had jobs and our new place was way out in the bush.

It came undone when my wife lost her engagement ring. It had vanished in the clean-up. Did it go in the rubbish? Was it thrown in the incinerator?

We searched high and low, blamed each other, but it was never found. I liked that ring, it was special and unique. It would never be replaced.

###

The Ring by D.Avery

He acted like he had found gold, though it was just an old skidder wheel-rim.

“Whatever for?” she asked.

“For you”, he said. “I got you a ring.”

He set it in the clearing behind the house. He gathered wood. He brought seats.

And they along with friends and family often ended up there, speaking easily around a crackling fire, into the night, gazing into the flames in communion, staring in their own silent reveries.

In the daytime, empty and cold, it looked like what it was, an old rusty rim. But it was gold. She loved this ring.

###

Commitment by Reena Saxena

Stella looked beautiful in the red dress, as she glanced at the mirror, one last time before leaving. Her father’s eyes fell on her be-jewelled hand.

“Don’t you think you need more space, if David proposes?”

“No, Dad! These are gifted by people with different talents, and are all important to me. David needs to create a unique slot for himself, if he proposes today.”

Her father’s thoughts moved back to his deceased wife, whose ring could not be removed by the coroner. Either it was rigor mortis, or her undying love for him.

The world had clearly changed.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Maybe if she’d been wearing it things would’ve been different. But my skin was burning off my bones. I pulled for breath. Bugs skittered down my neck.

Jada wasn’t home. The ring sat there. Shining.

They gave me eight hundred bucks for it. Two days later I was broke again. Jada cried. Moved to her mother’s. I sat in a ball, for two days, shivering.

The ring sat on the shelf. Shining. My skin burned. Nausea like shame in my gut. There was nothing to sell. Just the brick in my hand.

I went to get Jada’s ring back.

###

The Solitaire by kittysverses

She looked at her solitaire ring, with amusement. She had always dreamt of it since she was a kid.

The numerous fairy tales she read affirmed the fact that her prince charming would come, galloping on a horse and gift her a solitaire.

Years later, he did come and gifted this on a trip they took together.

Today she looks at her fate in amusement, it indeed gave her a solitaire but took away her prince charming to a place from where he could never come back. And now I’m a solitaire in my own solitude, mourned she.

###

My Silver Ring by Lady Lee Manila

It was a silver ring with heart

Crafted by my own hands

One of my evening courses

Silver jewellery making

It wasn’t easy to make

I just wanted a simple ring

Something dainty for my finger

It was a silver ring with heart

I never had an engagement ring

We were still students then

I thought I’d make one myself

Crafted by my own hands

I love taking courses

Yoga, academic writing and Zumba

One of them is jewellery making

One of my evening courses

Sawing, soldering and annealing

Sanding and polishing

These things I learned

Silver jewellery making

###

Origin Stories

In the beginning, we have stories. Stories to describe who we are and where we came from. Science and mythology decode origins, but to believers it might not matter what scholars have to say. Often who we are culturally is defined by our creation mythology. The symbolism, faith and explanation reaches for a deeper truth that not even science can definitely say.

Exploring the mystery of life on the Navajo Nation, where geology defines the land and tradition its people, the Dine, writers were tasked with exploring creation myths.

The following are based on the April 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a creation myth.

***

A Transfer of Power by Bill Engleson

God-Like-Critter: It’s on your head now, writer. Go for it.

Flash: ME! Why me?

GLC: Because I SEE inside that fomenting cranium of yours. You writers are constantly reinventing the world. Demented, pretentious beings the lot of you. Never satisfied with what is. Always fabricating some fanciful imagining.

Flash: I admit we are stringers of words. But we don’t want to be all-powerful. That’s your job.

GLC: Not any more. You’ve worn me down. Hell, some of you even DENY me.

Flash: Evolution does make sense, doncha think?

GLC: No comment.

Flash: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

###

Egg-actly: The Beginning by Roger Shipp

“540 billion years ago.”

“You’re quite sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. The computers confirm it.”

“But wasn’t The Big Bang 14 billion years ago?”

“Yes! Isn’t this exciting?”

“But how are you going to explain it?”

“Scientifically, of course. Everyone knows- even in the beginning- you can’t make something out of nothing. The Law of Conservation. We just never knew what was here pre-Big Bang.”

“And now you know?”

“Indubitably. For a bang like that, there had to be a massive built-up of pressure. Probably gases. And then something causes an igniting.”

‘So you’ve found it?”

“The primordial eggshell.”

###

Ranae Immane Mittam by Jules Paige

Kaeru swam in the velvet darkness. Then she leapfrogged
across the sky. Leaving small illuminated globes to hatch.
The eggs bore different reflections, attitudes, altitudes and
aspects of their mother. Some within the various universes
became quasars. Within these systems further divisions
created some spheres that bore other living things.

Kaeru was happy. The velvet darkness brightened. Her
children became too numerous to count. Her work was
compete, now she could return to the beginning and wait.
Watch flora and fauna in vast variety.

To be worshiped was never Kaeru’s goal. Only the creation
of something from her power.

###

The Creation of Secular Music by Anne Goodwin

God could understand why Adam envied the birds. Their vantage point above the earth, the way they’d glide from tree to tree.

“It’s not that,” said Adam. “It’s how they sing your praise.”

So when God created Adam’s wife he gifted her with melody. And all was harmony until she met the Serpent. “Not all music belongs to God,” he hissed. “There are other words. Other tunes.”

Eve shrugged. “God’s music is the best.”

“You cannot know, until you’ve tried some other.”

So Eve sang of birds and bees and apple trees, and God banished her from his garden.

###

How Ellie’s Life Began by Kerry E.B. Black

Doreen’s life bled away on the gurney, seeping into sanitized linens. The doctor nestled a bundle of blankets against the cold. Doreen buried her face within, savoring the warmth, relishing the smell. Too young to die, yet passing with skill, Doreen’s tear-slicked vision blurred. Iron coated her palate, and dust clogged her throat. With trembling fingers, she peeled back a layer of blankets to reveal skin soft as a tulip. Here Doreen found immortality, here, in this tiny person whose eyes squeezed shut against the garish hospital and her mother’s death, this person whose birth brought about her death.

###

The Mandala by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Nora reached two fingers towards the mound of shaving cream on the tiny table. Sliding her fingers across and down, she palmed the foam, squishing it flat and rotating her hand slowly.

Her other hand peeked over the table’s edge and joined in. Before long, her eyes shifted dreamily to a shaft of sunlight on the opposite wall of the noisy preschool, her body rocking with her hand’s movements.

“Shall I make a print for her parents?” Her teacher detected faint, happy humming from the child, and shook her head. “Why interrupt her creative process? It’s her dream time.”

###

Where it Starts by Deborah Lee

“…bring creationism back to the school curriculum,” Jane reads. She rolls her eyes and continues scrolling through headlines, looking for something that’s a step forward instead of back.

Her mind casts back to her little girl, the one she had to leave behind. Tucking her in, sweet dream wishes. “Mommy, I wonder if I’m really real or if someone’s dreaming me.”

Conscious creation. Supreme being. Big Bang. One theory makes as much sense as another, Jane supposes.

Sometimes Jane thinks she must have dreamed her into life, that perfection. Then the nightmare took over. Where’s the myth for that?

###

Reciprocation by D. Avery

Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths.

Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.

Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.

Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.

###

Eve’s Husband by Luccia Gray

God created Adam, first,
‘Twas Eve’s fault that they were cursed.
Her search for knowledge paid the price
Of ousting them from paradise.
Adam did as he was told,
While Eve, she was very bold.
The husband obedient and good,
The wife complained as ever she could.
Man acted like a demigod,
Made in likeness to his only God.
While his wife was the family builder,
Her husband became the tribal leader,
Pillaging the earth and devastating
What God took six days in creating.
In spite of this some still believe
It’s women’s fault that man doth grieve.

###

Myth by Pensitivity

It was a myth that the grass was always greener.
She was sick of hearing it, fed up with packing up and moving every time things didn’t work out.
As far as she was concerned, grass was grass, green or dead.
Forty years they had been together, never more than two in the same place.
It was a miracle their relationship had survived.
This time though it was the last straw.
As they drove off to their next destination, she knew there would be no grass, green or otherwise.
The idiot didn’t realise they were heading for the desert.

###

Rain Ruinates, and Still Remembering by Elliott Lyngreen

Underneath the screaming sirens uselessly parting traffic; where I lost my fingernails turning your letters into a digital poem; my stomach winces.

Thoughts spiderweb the windshield and drip rose petals scattered along the dash.

Stuck: fenders, fire crashes, belts, and pulleys – through the sidewall. Bent abysmal in the worst extending.

Summer’s crawling from across black sky. Thunder holds itself upon darkness. I slump in frozen, lucid wonder, as rain spins above me.

And rolling (now dizzying) path reflects straight down the rearviewmirror as if remembering the carved or parted way rain on a dust particle started this whole infinity.

###

Pumpkin Seeds by Michael

“See that pumpkin vine down there?” my brother pointed out, “well that’s where we found you.”

In my mind, I was horrified that I had been laying there in the dirt before mum picked me up.

“Dad thought you were another Queensland Blue*. You’re lucky he didn’t slice you up and put you in the pot,” he said as nonchalant as ever.

When I asked mum, she said I was such a little one she had to hand feed me till I was big enough to go it alone.

“Pumpkin seeds,” she’d say, “giving me a wink, amazing things.”

###

Unanswered Questions by Norah Colvin

“What are you doing?”

“Pulling out weeds.”

“Why?”

“So the carrots have more room.”

“Why?”

“So they can grow big and juicy.”

“Why?”

“So they are good to eat for our dinner.”

“Why?”

“To keep us healthy?”

“I want to be healthy.”

“It’s good to be healthy.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“You won’t die. Not for a long time.”

“How do you know?”

Silence. How does anyone know?

“Silas died.”

“Who?”

“Silas.”

“Who is Silas?”

“Was. Silas was my friend.”

“I don’t remember Silas.”

“He was my imaginary friend.”

“Oh. How did he die?”

“I killed him.”

“Why?”

###

Where Fact Meets Fiction (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

With Bubbie at her side, Danni addressed the children. “The Kootenai tribe left evidence of living in this watershed for …”

Hands shot up. “What’s a watershed?” one boy asked.

“Well, that’s the area…”

“Our history is sacred.” Michael spoke from behind the children, walking up the fort path.

“It’s in the dirt, Michael.” Danni was nervous enough without Michael interfering.

“Nupika created animals and spirits. Man Spirit followed the river to be transformed.”

Danni noticed the children were more transfixed by Michael’s tale of transformation than her facts. She began to think of a way to blend them.

###

The One and Only Truth by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, do people really believe the Genesis story? Mrs Ryder says they’re Creationists but that’s stupid.’

‘Why?’

Penny looked surprised. ‘You’re an Atheist. You don’t believe…’

‘But that doesn’t make me right.’ Mary smiled. ‘No, I don’t believe in God and Adam and 7 days of creation. But unlike homework I can’t prove or disprove it.’

‘Homework?’

‘You can rely on there always being homework. It’s existence is never in doubt. What’s yours?’

‘Write a creation story.’

‘Ok so if it’s not Genesis, what is it?’

‘Big Bang.’

‘And what’s that?’

‘I… dunno.’

‘Exactly, love. Different folks, different strokes.’

###

In the Beginning by Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time there was nothing, and the nothing began to pulsate, and in time to the pulsating, time began to tick. In time, boredom set in and the nothingness changed rhythm and it began to swing. As it swung back and forth, sparks of interest flickered in the nothingness and they swung too. More and more sparks joined in the dance, swinging and swirling clouds and veils of coloured gas, until the ticking became a riot of noise and gaiety mounting to a monumental crescendo and BOOM, out of anarchy, settled the ordered brilliance of the universe.

###

The Conversation by Reena Saxena

“I have invented a synthetic molecule”.

“Have you replicated nature, or invented something that did not exist before?”

“I draw inspiration from existing patterns, and then, improvise on them.”

“Great! But has Nature run out of stock to cater to the needs of the planet?”

“The population has ballooned by quantum leaps. Competition between human beings, plants and animals has increased. My genius can help me in building a comfort capsule for myself.”

“Is that creativity, or an unwise survival strategy?”

“I do not really know. “

“This God fellow has never educated anyone, just created platforms to learn.”

###

Letter to the Weather Network by Kate Spencer

Dear Mr. Weatherman,

I’m writing you ‘cause I really really want spring to get here. Do you know where it is? Mommy said you might know. I’ve been waiting for it forever sooo long. I ask Mother Nature every day. I ask nicely. Do you know why she is not answering me? I want to go outside and play with Daphnie. Only I can see her. She lives in the daffodils but it’s too cold and she won’t come out. Does Mother Nature have elves like Santa? I’m trying to be extra good. Does that help?

Respectfully yours,

Tammy

###

Dwarfed by Pete Fanning

Zach stared at the sky. Mr. Meyers said they saw stars how they were not how they are. Light years. It hurt his head just thinking about it.

Next door came a big bang. The neighbors fighting again. Zach stared in awe at the clusters. The Milky Way was 100,000 light years across. To be this tiny! With such monumental problems. Could Mr. Meyers be right? That there may be more…another Earth.

There wasn’t another Nana. She didn’t tolerate such thoughts. He’d asked her about it and she’d thunked him good.

It hurt his head just thinking about it.

###

Stargazing by Enkin Anthem

She looks at the stars and wonders.

She knows they’re planets or suns or galaxies, points of radiation and light in the endlessness of the universe. Boundless, inconceivable power, and still only specks of matter in infinity.

She knows everything there is to know about electromagnetism and dark matter, about string cosmology and astroparticle physics. She also knows all the questions that aren’t answered yet, and she’s scared and excited all at once.

But somewhere out there, someone looks at the sky and see the same stars that she sees. And that’s the real miracle – something she can believe.

###

Myth by FloridaBorne

“Hey, Bill,” the burly man said, removing his minor’s hat. “Remember that story about a star falling from the sky, taking 3 men and 8 women back in time…?”

“This is a geology field trip, Joe,” the irate professor replied. “You’re here as our guide, not a mythologist.”

“Tell that to the space ship.”

“What?” Bill yelped.

“You’d know, if you’d read the ancient texts!”

Bill ran through a cave entrance, followed a faint glow, and found 9 mesmerized students staring into a cavern that hadn’t been there a year ago.

Light surrounded them, Joe gulped. “3 men…8 women…”

###

Hello, Goodbye

There seems to be a life cycle to when we say hello to when we say goodbye. Before you can bid farewell, you must greet. How much happens in between? Those were the stories writers sought this week.

From clever to poignant, life is full of hellos and goodbyes. These are such stories

The following are based on the March 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a hello or a goodbye.

***

Adios Mom! by Ruchira Khanna

A stretcher heads towards the door.

My eyes are on the body that lies on it.

As it passes by me, I see a familiar face and memories flash before me.

A warm lap, a protective sheath, a gentle smile, a look of disapproval when being naughty, and a whisper of my name in her most fond of voice.

Today she lay there on the stretcher with a content smile and a body that breathed for 66 years.

I gently stroke her forehead.

Adios Mom!

I shall keep you alive as I walk the path with your principles in life.

###

After by Diana Nagai

“Two tickets,” I requested, reaching for my wallet. A hand gently took my arm, I looked up into the eyes of my good friend, his face solemn. Grief slumped my shoulders as I remembered. “Sorry, one ticket.”

It had been four months since my wife passed. I found it difficult being alone. Something I had been a part of, for more than three quarters of my life, was gone. I only needed one ticket wherever I went now.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I paid.

It seems I was constantly saying goodbye to “before” and hello to “after”.

###

Ameliorating Media by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s up mum?’

Mary forced a smile. ‘My old school friend Jean is going abroad. I’ll miss her.’

‘You’re friends on Facebook aren’t you?’

‘Oh yes. I’m old school.’

‘Ha! So you’ll see her posts.’

‘It’s not the same.’

‘You Skype when dad’s away?’

‘It doesn’t always work so well…’

‘DM? Hangouts? Whatsapp?’

‘Are they nightclubs?’

‘Ha ha. You’re really funny today.’

Mary looked back at the email that had caused her gloom. ‘That’s me. A bundle of lols.’

Penny sat next to Mary. ‘Seriously, there are tonnes of ways to keep in touch.’

‘But do they serve coffee?’

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The saying goes that as one door closes, another opens. In my case, it’s a single door that hits me in the butt on the way out and any alternatives of windows are shuttered.
I find ‘Goodbye’ so final, and in many cases through my life, painful. Cheerio is much more acceptable, friendly and optimistic because it suggests the possibility of meeting again.
However, sometimes Goodbye is the only word than can possibly apply for things that cannot be undone or replaced.
I wrote a post on saying goodbye early in my blogging days. I still haven’t done it.

###

Never Goodbye (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“Impound, $45. Kenneling, $20. No license, $125. No rabies tag, $54. Vet and vaccinations, $50. License, $100 for an unaltered dog. That’s only $35 with proof of surgery,” the animal control worker adds, smiling. As if she’s doing Jane a favor.

“I got him as a stray,” Jane says.

“Then $100. Total $394.”

Jane looks back down the corridor of pens. Troubles looks back through the mesh, that tongue-lolling smile, waiting calmly. Utterly sure of her.

“That’s most of my paycheck.”

“It’s still $394.”

Thirty minutes later, she’s hugging him, face wet with tears and dog kisses. “Hello, boy.”

###

Hello, Goodbye by Scarelett Sauvage

“Hello.” The woman knelt down in front of Amelia and brushed her hand gently over the four-year-old’s long blonde hair.

Amelia looked up into the woman’s bright blue eyes and flashed her best smile. The young girl was old enough to understand that first impressions mattered in a place like this. She wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest or even the youngest child in the building, and if she wanted to find a new family, she had to catch their eye.

For one brief moment, she almost had the blue-eyed woman’s attention. Almost.

“Goodbye.” Amelia whispered to no-one but herself.

###

Round and Round by Norah Colvin

He felt tall, grown up, sitting in the saddle, holding the reins, feet in the stirrups.

Mum was watching.

“Hold tight,” she whispered. “Love you.”

He smiled. Then they were off. He turned, letting go quickly to wave one hand.

“Goodbye,” he called. His lip quivered. How soon before he’d see her again? He turned, but she’d disappeared.

Suddenly she was in front of him.

“Hello,” she called.

“Hello,” he smiled.

Again, she was gone. “Goodbye,” he heard; then “Hello again!” He giggled.

“Going around in circles,” she thought. “Life’s like a carousel. You’ve got to enjoy the ride.”

###

Half Caste by Luccia Gray

She was doing her homework.
They were playing around.
‘She’s not like us,’ they whispered.
‘She’s different,’ he complained.
‘Odd clothes, funny accent,’ she smirked.
‘Let’s say hi to the new girl.’
‘You’re not English,’ they said.
‘I was born here,’ she protested.
‘You’re only half English,’ they replied.
‘Right or left?’ she challenged.
‘You’re colouring’s wrong,’ they complained.
‘My tanned colouring’s fine,’ she replied.
‘You’re half caste,’ they said.
‘Look at me, I’m quite whole,’ she insisted.
‘You’re half caste,’ they chanted.
‘At least I’m not half stupid,’ she sighed,
Said goodbye and turned back to her books.

###

First Day at a New School by Kerry E.B. Black

When they collided, their books flew to litter the hallway. “Great!” she shouted, bending to retrieve her armful of texts.

He handed her a paper-wrapped volume, smiling shyly. “Sorry. First day rushing.”

She snatched it. “Thanks to you, I’ll be late.”

He nursed his reddening cheek as she flounced ahead. Her skirt and ponytail swayed, an admonishment of his clumsiness.

“Please don’t go into my room,” he thought. But she did, haughty attitude in a seat at the room’s front.

“Great way to start.” He indulged in a deep breath before taking his place. “Hello, class. I’m your teacher.”

###

Hello… Good-Bye by Roger Shipp

“Good morning.”

Standing at my door, I greet every one of them.

Most years, by now, they greet me back.

Not this year.

“I glad to see you today. I missed you yesterday.”

Agnes had been absent… again.

Her parents- between homes.

I wish I could do more.

Was that a small smile?

Here comes Aaron, the perpetual fist-bumper.

He always pulls his fist away before contact.

Small moments of coolness are important.

I grin… Then I step forward and bump fists before he can retreat.

He grins and sprints down the stairs.

“You cheated!” he yells in flight.

###

Hello is the Hardest Word by Joe Owens

Mitch felt his throat tighten, belly flop and the beads of sweat from on his forehead. The raven haired brown eyes beauty stepped into the coffee shop at her regular time 7:33. He knew it was a bit like a stalker to already have her coffee ready, but she always ordered the same kind.

She looked at the name on the cup and flashed the million-dollar smile.

“You are the only one to get my name right!”

“Krystyn is unusual!” he said.

“I think it is time we meet, what is your name?”

“Kevin. It is Kevin.”

“Hello Kevin!”

“Hello!”

###

Keys, by D. Avery

“Hello again.”

The artist had stopped his work when Marlie approached. He was shirtless, little droplets of blood magnifying the added details of his phoenix, the blood tipped shard of stone in his hand.

“What are you doing?”

“I think you know. What are you doing down here again?”

“The lieutenant feels the animals are too dangerous, so he let me guard the artists and writers instead.”

The artist smiled. “But we are a danger to society. Aren’t you afraid? Of me?”

“You’re to be in the arena tonight.”

“I know.”

Marlie unlocked the cell.

“Good-bye.”

“Come with me.”

###

A Midsummer’s Dear John by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Dearest Oberon,

Although I swore to renew our vows this Midsummer’s Night, I cannot in good conscience re-marry you. Your cruel joke on Nick Bottom backfired, and I’m still pissed that you snatched my changeling to make him one of your warriors.

Bottom may not be much to look upon, and burns the bulb yet dimly, but his voice is sweet and his nature pure. Amply endowed with primitive gifts, his unschooled rendering of the tragic Pyramus has captured my fairy heart. I take him as my consort, and leave you to your boy.

Thank Puck for me,
Titania

###

You Snooze…You…by Bill Engleson

The moment squeaks by me like a baby mouse skirting the baseboards.

My emotional cat is asleep on the veranda.

You, you are packed and loaded for unbearable loss.

Me. I am the loss leader.

“Bye.” I look up.

You are shaking your head just a noddle.

A nod.

A noddle. I can’t even think coherently.

I’m not saying a word.

I’m not feeling a thing.

“This is all I’m taking.”

This seems wrong.

“For now,” you add.

Dead on, I think. You were never one to pass on what was yours.

And me, I never quite measured up.

###

Mesmerizing Melody by Jules Paige

The music box sat on the shelf for years until he walked in.
The replica played Josette’s Theme. I had pretended that any man
who walked in and looked at it was a vampire. Mostly thought it was
just my imagination. That is until he walked in.

I had watched a good many of the Dark Shadow episodes growing
up. But I was really too young to understand much of what was going
on. All the hello’s and goodbyes as scenes flashed back and through
the years at Collinsport. Now this young man who looked eerily like
Jonathan Frid…

###

Telephone Call by Bill Bennett

“Hello?”

“It’s me.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“I want the money.”

“Tuff shit.”

“If the money isn’t in my account by the time volleyball practice is over, mom –“

“Mom what?”

“Mom gets the poison.”

“You would kill your mother over a hundred dollar purse?”

“No. It’ll only make her sick. Throw up and stuff.”

“You’re a real bitch, you know?”

“Yeah, I know, but she’ll forgive me like always, right?”

“I can’t believe the monster you’ve become.”

“Well, you raised me to be like you. Oh, and pick me up some cigs on your way home.”

“Goodbye.”

###

Farewell by Lady Lee Manila

on the horizon I see the sunset
a classic golden flame along the shore
where harmony and tranquillity rest
blinded by the beauty of the landscape
walking along with my bare feet
consoling myself for letting you go
the tumult of your name and memories
exhausting me in my mind and sleep
tired with the steady beating of my heart
what was done was done and so we accept
echoes of the past and half of my life
of broken trust and misunderstanding
of betrayal and inconsideration
with a heavy heart, farewell and goodbye
that’s all we could say

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Judith looked up at the figure in the window.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“I need Doctor Sherman.”

“He’s…sir, do you have an appointment?”

The man sighed. His dark eyes cast tired contempt. He shook his head, as though Judith were incapable of understanding. Or maybe she hadn’t heard him correctly.

“Sir. We have—”

The man touched the glass, reminding Judith that it was only a delicate partition defining their roles. “He told me Linda would be fine. He said not to worry.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. But Dr. Sherman—”

“I never even got to say goodbye.”

###

A Good “Bye” by FloridaBorne

“Never trust your Aunt June,” Mom used to say. “She took what Mother willed to me and never could say a good thing about our family.”

Shortly after my 19th birthday, I travelled through 2 states to meet my estranged aunt. She jabbered on about her son’s successful career as a fast food manager, then asked, “What do you plan to be?”

“Aunt June. Did you steal…”

“Another genius,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

“…with a full scholarship in physics.”

“Ph…physics?”

“Mom was correct,” I said, frowning deeply. “You’re self-righteous and not very bright.”

Some goodbyes are so satisfying.

###

Closure by Reena Saxena

I do not remember the first Hello, or if there was any excitement behind it. Nor did I say Goodbye. The wounds inflicted by you were too deep, to enable a civil conversation. I just walked away, with my head held high, not wanting any emotional outburst, to bring my hurt out in the open.

I will survive. I will succeed, and without associating with multiple-faced people like you. Yet, the lack of a closure rankles at times. Do you even realize the impact of your actions on my life? You will, when you go through a similar situation.

###

The New Era by Allison Maruska

I hold my hand up to my face, shielding it from the pelting rain. Shouts of protest meet me—I pretend not to hear them. They’ve solely had their voices heard long enough. Now, it’s my turn.

Brushing the moisture from my overcoat, I step into the building. A long table awaits me and thousands of other women who will greet the new era.

The rain’s chill reaches my bones and my hand shakes as I mark my choice. With a lump in my throat, I drop my ballot into the box.

Starting today, we will always be heard.

###

Pedalled by Michael

She had that look on her face that made you stop and think: There’s bad news coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And I was right.

“It’s over,” she said, “time for us to move on. It’s been fun but I don’t love you.”

“Oh,” I said somewhat flummoxed by the announcement.

“We’ve run our course, I want other things than what you offer.”

“It’s my lack of a car isn’t it. You never liked riding on the cross bar.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just you’ve driven me to drink.”

“Pedalled.”

“What could be worse?”

###

Ike’s First Hello (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Them Wranglers, cowgirl?”

She’d been focused on brushing the next layer, irritated someone would enter her grid to comment on her jeans. Without pausing, she said, “Want a broken nose, farm boy?”

“Farm boy? I’m hurt. I’m a fisherman. Can’t you smell me?”

Danni stopped and stood in the square pit. The corners of Ike’s eyes crinkled and he stood with a fly-rod like a staff. His pants were wet like he’d been swimming with the trout. He wheeled around, bent forward and pointed to the leather brand on the butt of his jeans. “You’re right—I got Wranglers, too!”

###

Hello by Irene Waters

“Well hello.” He undressed her with his eyes so there could be no confusing the deliberate emphasis he had placed on his words.

“Hiya.” She stared back at him, her eyes wide and innocent, a friendly smile on her face. “I’m Hecate.”

“I’m Alastor. I think we’re going to get to know each other veeeery well.”

They talked, they walked. He sidled closer and groped. She twisted and escaped. He grabbed and held fast. She muttered under her breath. “Eye of newt, farewell to cads but welcome toads.”

“Well hello toad. Now, I quite like your type of slime.”

###

First Hello (from New in Town) by Susan Zutautas

“No, go right ahead, please have a seat,” Morag said as she gazed into his sea blue eyes, thinking what a gorgeous looking guy.

“Can I buy you a beer?”

“Well I was just about to leave. My cousin was supposed to meet me here but she just cancelled. So sure, thanks, I’ll stay for one more.”

“Good then, nice to meet you, my name’s Ian”, extending his hand out to her.

“I’m Morag” she nods.

“What are the odds of me meeting a Scottish lass, and such a pretty one at that … must be my lucky night.”

 ###

At the School Reunion by Anne Goodwin

We’ve tangled time by merging now with then
Our wrinkles cannot hide the girls we were
Now screened again on weathered visages
So in your face I meet my younger self
In nylon shirt, white socks and hitched up skirt
With curtained hair that veiled our flawless skin
So much we did not could not know of life
And yet we thought ourselves full formed, complete
And so it seems from infancy to death
Each decade pastes another coat on me
The school reunion peels the layers away.
Hello that girl. Goodbye that girl. Hello.

###

Signs of Life by Sherri MatthewsI always believed there was life on Mars and then I saw the mesas and the monkeys for myself. Found arrow heads and footprints too – Dinosaur prints! You know Charli Mills, that bestselling author of Rock Creek everyone’s raving about? Well, I know her! We met through blogging. Yeah, I know, it was big back then. Crazy! She lived on Mars for a while and years later, we met up and she took me there. Ahh…great times. I always knew she would make it big. In fact, she’s coming to London soon. Can’t wait to say hello again.

###