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Flash Fiction Challenge: November 1

Rain clouds the color and weight of lake-tankers hang over the neighborhood. These days, I don’t know if the moisture is pelting rain or sloppy snow — it’s the season of transition all around the world.

No matter the hemisphere, change is happening. The sun slants, the weather patterns shift, and we feel uneasy. We crave the light.

After managing the leads of three dogs, I unbuckle the collars and let the beasts pound across the hardwood floors, nails clicking as they all head for the dog water. My pea-coat harbors husky fur and I pretend it’s trendy wool. Bidding the dogs farewell for the evening, I head back out into a spit of rain and behold a sight —

The setting sun, momentarily free from its captor of steely clouds, diffuses light across the neighborhood of three-story mining house all with the steeply pitched roofs of snow-country. Like a laser beam, the sun illuminates the thinning orange maple across the road, and it glows like amber. One of my hearty, hale, and elderly neighbor’s steps outside across the street from me with an old film camera. He takes a photo.

“Never seen the likes before,” he tells me.

A moment is all it takes to change our world. Light can alter us, uplift us, convince us that “a new dawn, a new day” is all the hope we need to face more gray clouds and uncertainty. I’ll take it as a good omen. After all, I’m on my way to a Diwali feast — a celebration of light over darkness.

I imagine Michigan Tech’s international students feeling far from home. The engineering and technological university prides itself on a diverse global student body. But Houghton (on the south side of the portage canal) and Hancock (on the north side) remain remote. They only exist because of the 125-year-old copper mining industry. The industry’s legacies are two universities and a peninsula full of poor rock ore and ghost towns. What a strange place this must seem.

Yet, they bring their culture with them, sharing it with the community. Like Diwali when the Indian Cultural Club spends three days cooking a meal and weeks preparing a show full of romantic matchmaking, dancing, and music. I head out, aiming for the light.

Last we gathered at the Ranch for a weekly challenge, we watched stories of a Prade of Nations unfold. After month-long Rodeo, we return to a festival of lights. It seems the hopeful side of transformation.

The Hub spent the month in Minneapolis at the Poly Trauma Center. We are learning to focus on what he can do — a light. He’s learning to let go of his worry over cognition and focus on loving-kindness. Think about that a minute. When faced with the changes of an altered brain, when faced with any transition or uncertainty, what a light to focus on — loving kindness.

And isn’t that the essence of all the holidays that are about to descend?

Loving-kindness. Light over darkness. Good over evil. Hope.

Like the elderly neighbor, I want to snap a picture. I want to remember the warmth of food served to me by gracious college students facing exams and loneliness for home. I want to believe in the points of light we can all be when we spread kindness. It doesn’t remove the pain or gloss over the fear; it accepts that we have a choice in what we do next.

Light a candle.

Not giving up hope on my long-suffering novel and the mess I’ve made of it, I’ve backed up to an earlier, crappier version, but one that is complete. I already know I’m going to tank significant portions. I’ve mostly decided on where to locate the wandering characters who must feel as homeless as I do by now. And I’m going to listen — listen to their story instead of trying to force mine upon them. Writing is messy. But I’m going to light a candle every night and show myself that loving-kindness as I kick it into gear and rewrite it.

You know what that means — yes, I’m doing the NaNoWriMo event. And I’m going to TUFF my way through writing every day. I’m also committing daily time to Vol. 2 which is lagging behind the tight schedule I set. In a perfect world, I’d be, well, perfect! But I’m imperfect. I process slowly. I get tied up in knots and angst my way into woeful prose. I bleed across the keyboard and forget to compress the wounds. I’m ready to light my way home.

My storyboard for Miracle of Ducks hangs on the wall, stripped of all its notes. Bare bones. Today, I write those bare bones, I free-draft Danni’s story — 1,800 words. Then 99, 59, 9. Then I start to plot the storyboard, delete or TUFF chapters 1,800, 99, 59, 9 words each day until I hit 50,000 words. I trust the process to get me back on track. I seek my own elixir.

Tune in on Fridays to catch winner announcements for all the October Rodeo contests. With each announcement, I’ll publish the qualifying entries on a page under the Rodeo tab. We still have two live contests, and I encourage you to check them out. Both are free and have prizes:

Sound and Fury by D. Avery asks you to write a story that shows the sound and the fury of an intense and dangerous situation that the main character willingly chose. Closes Nov. 7 at 11:59 p.m. Top prize $25.

Old Time Radio by Charli Mills asks for 99-59-9 words for radio spots to capture the history of the Continental Fire Company. Closes Nov. 7. Three winners get $25 each and a chance to hear their story produced into an actual radio spot.

I want to thank all our leaders, judges, participants and sponsors (please take time to look at the sponsor ads along the right-hand column and click on those that interest you). The community effort and participation makes the Rodeo a fun way to stretch our writing skills. Thank you!

Now to shed some light on the season of transition! Welcome back to the weekly challenges.

November 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by November 6, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

 

Festival of Lights by Charli Mills

Glass shatter during dinner. Papa grabbed the boys and we sheltered beneath the table. Patterns of woodgrain forever etched my memory. Mama stood until Papa hastened her to hunker down with us in frightened silence.

We waited for boot thuds and forced entry. A truck engine revved. Guttural voices hurled invocations hard as the pick-ax that smashed our front window and toppled our Menorah – “Big-nosed Jews!” “Death to Hymies!”

My 10-year old mind probed why Papa’s features fated us to die. Friends at school said, the Holocaust wasn’t real, grow up, get over it, this is 2018 in America.

Rodeo #1: Dialog

By Geoff Le Pard, Rodeo Leader

Writers are notorious people watchers. It’s a small miracle we don’t get done for stalking more often. Part of that idea — thieving we do involves listening to what people say — phrases, the modes of speech, dialect, etc. People convey ideas and feelings with words. [READ MORE…]

So, those pesky rules:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit.
  2. It’s dialogue only. Everything inside speech marks, please. (American and British styles both accepted.)
  3. Any genre, time, place, just let us know via words. If you can world build a fantasy, hats off! (Oh, by the way, I bloody loathe the overuse of the exclamation mark. Be very sparing or my prejudices may show through.
  4. It’s a conversation so you need two characters at least. But can you have a conversation with yourself? With an inanimate object? Go for it. There’s a prompt at the end for you to use, but use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be anyone in the picture who’s speaking, does it?
  5. I don’t mind what English spelling or slang you use, just make it recognisably English.
  6. I want emotion, but I want fiction. Not memoir, not a personal narrative and no non-fiction, though dialogue non-fiction sounds a challenge in its own right.
  7. You must enter your name and email with your entry using the provided form below. If you do not receive an acknowledgement by email, contact us at wordsforpeople@gmail.com
  8. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 10, 2018. Entries are judged blind and winners announced November 9, 2018 at Carrot Ranch. Please do not compromise the blind judging by posting your entry before the winners are announced.
  9. Go where the prompt leads, people.
  10. Have fun.

JUDGES (read full bios at SPONSORS)

Geoff Le Pard

Find Geoff’s books at Amazon US or Amazon UK. Follow his blog at TanGental and on Twitter @geofflepard.


Esther Chilton

Whether it’s an edit you’re after, some advice about a market, writing in general – in fact, anything and everything, you can get in touch, and she’ll try and help you. To find out more, visit her blog: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com. Or contact her: estherchilton@gmail.com.


Chelsea Owens

When not cleaning (an infuriatingly large amount of the time), eating, sleeping, parenting, driving, reading her blog feed, budgeting, and cooking; Chelsea breathes in and sometimes out again. She also writes daily on her blog: chelseaannowens.com.


In judging we will apply the following criteria:

  1. Word count: 99
  2. Pure dialogue.
  3. Use of the prompt.
  4. Emotion: does the piece convey feeling? Do you generate a reaction in the reader?
  5. Ideally we want a story, something that makes us think. Where’s this going? What’s happened? Engage us in your tale.
  6. We love any clever tricks, to make us go ‘ah ha’. Include something to make us wonder and up the slippery pole you go.
  7. Just remember, in real life, we don’t say everything, we finish each other’s sentences, we talk over each other. Use that. Make it feel real. Make us hear it, and you’ll be a winner.

And the picture prompt?

Oh come on, it’s me. Wadyaexpect? The inside of Starbucks?

Thank you for entering! The contest is now closed. Winners announced November 9, 2018, at Carrot Ranch.

September 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

How quietly fall colors sneak up like Jack Frost has an airbrush. The colors subtly tint a leaf or two, then a cluster here and there. The color from the airbrush increases and soon the maple trees catch the brilliance of red and orange. No two trees turn simultaneously.

In our small neighborhood of a dozen old miners’ homes, I watch trees change hue in succession. My daughter tells me that their biggest maple is often the last to take on autumn’s hues. From the back deck where the Hub puffs a pipe, I lean back on the bench and watch the maple behind him.

At first, the giant maple appears vividly green. If I stare long enough I can catch the faint tracings of yellow across the leaves. Oranges burst like flowers. And the flowers are not yet to be outdone. Hibiscus unfolds daily in the front yard, each blossom unfurling like pleated burgundy satin.

A flash of gray flits from the trees and I watch a whiskey jack (Canada jay) flutter above the porch door jamb of our neighbor. He’s shoving a peanut behind a loose piece of trim with his beak, squawking and beating his wings. The whiskey jack has the right idea — winter is coming.

But not to the rest of the world. And that’s what is so fascinating about a global community. Somewhere, winter is not coming. Somewhere the flowers are a different color. Somewhere the trees are not maple. Somewhere the pipe is a different relaxant. Somewhere is a place so exotic to my own Keweenaw, I couldn’t imagine all the differences.

Yet for what variation might exist, we are all the greater tribe of humanity. Linguists know we all have words for mother/father. Humanitarians know we all suffer and yet strive for better lives. Culinary experts record our shared love of food, no matter how we spice it. Every culture has a flatbread. Caves and museums record our need to communicate stories in art. Fashion reveals our propensity for clothing that adorns.

And a single Ranch in Hancock, Michigan witnesses the power and creativity of storytelling around the world. Here we make literary art no matter how we experience this time of year.

With the coloring of the north-woods comes the return of almost 8,000 students to Finlandia University (600) and Michigan Tech (7,200). Over 1,000 of these students are international. Our peninsula shares Lake Superior with Canada and several tribal nations, including the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC). Thus, every September we celebrate a Parade of Nations.

KBIC lead us in the cultural activity, drumming blessings before and at its conclusion. Representatives of various nations line up alphabetically and march from Finlandia University in Hancock across the portage bridge to the Dee Center (aka the hockey rink) at Michigan Tech in Houghton. Beneath national flags, people proudly express their origins, often in colorful clothing. Children march with adults, KBIC members dance, and school mascots toss candy.

The parade tasted bittersweet to me this year. I had planned to wear my Finlandia blues to show my school colors, but the unexpected happened. The course I created for the CTE Marketing Program closed because the roster of students dropped out. This devastated me initially, but I remain in good graces with both Finlandia and the CTE division. They have asked my to come up with some solutions to problems we encountered and it may work out next year. I watched the Finlandia students march and accepted: next year will be different.

Another milestone of bitter-sweetness passed this week — 31 years with the Hub. If you’ve had the chance to listen to the Rodeo Playlist, maybe you caught Garth Brooks’ song, The Dance. The line, “I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to miss the dance” says so much. I would not have missed how right we used to be even knowing how this will go.

But we have some bright news — the Hub has finally received an admission date to the Poly Trauma Center at the Minneapolis VA. They almost denied his referral completely, citing that after review of his case, they believe he can not be rehabilitated. Yeah, we’ve already accepted that painful reality. However, I’ve not only advocated for my husband, I’ve also been driving the point that in order to help younger soldiers, the one’s we know have brain injuries from bomb blasts, we need to better understand “after brain injury.”

Already, I’ve made many aware of the plight. I’ve talked with younger wives who’ve told me their spouse is kind of like mine except…And I tell them that my spouse once had those exceptions, too. Instead of waiting between initial recovery and eventual degeneration, we need to do more than ignore the problem. That is why Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC has a Brain Injury Research Center. Pending paperwork, the Hub will take part in an observational study he can contribute to through surveys (mostly the focus is on emotions). He also plans to sign documents to donate his brain for further study.

It’s been a boon to have insights from this cutting edge research on CTE because they can help us when the Hub goes to Minneapolis. They know what to look for, including biomarkers the VA has already missed. It was so validating to read that the signs I had been trying so hard to get the VA to read are exactly the ones they see in cases of CTE.

And don’t think I’ve missed the irony of my course and my husband’s suspected condition. Yes, they are both CTE. One is career technical education and the other is chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is causing strife but I’m fighting back with another set of letters — EMDR. I’ve recently, thanks to the help of a veteran spouse friend, started to see a therapist who uses EMDR as a tool to access traumatic memory and resolve the impact. It’s not an easy therapy, but it is powerful.

An interesting side-note to EMDR is that I’ve had such vivid visual memories that I realized why I don’t like writing memoir — my visual recall is normally not that sharp. I wonder if I’ll gain a new ability? I have plenty of fiction to attend to, though so I don’t plan on adding to my writing bucket list just yet.

With all that has been going on, the Parade of Nations was the balm I needed. To share some of the vibrancy with you, I have photos:

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As a reminder to regular or occasional Ranch Writers — this will be the last Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge until November 1. The Rodeo begins October 1 when we announce the five writers who will compete every Monday for the TUFFest Ride. Every Wednesday in October, a different Rodeo Leader will launch a flash fiction contest.

Any Minneapolis writers? Give a call out in the comments. I’ll actually be doing the first live read on October 1 from Minnesota! Not what I had planned, but that’s the first week of the Hub’s 4-week evaluation. I’ll return to Michigan October 4.

All contests are FREE to enter and offer a $25 first place prize. All five TUFF contestants will also each win a cash prize. We might have a sixth unadvertised advertising contest for a local sponsor and that will be announced October 5. There’s much to do in October during the Flash Fiction Rodeo! I hope you feel inspired to participate. It’s something different and more challenging.

If you want to sponsor the event, check out the different levels of sponsorship.

For now, let’s go out with a Parade of Nations.

September 20, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a parade of nations. It can be literal, or it can be a phrase that you use to describe a situation. Explore what it could be. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 25, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

Flash Dance by Charli Mills

Jamie clacked his tap-shoes across the pavement. He’d found the kilt at the Keweenaw Consignment and paired it with his mother’s discarded turquoise blouse, the one that matched his sunglasses. He danced every day, preparing for his solo march in the Parade of Nations. Jamie was alone in his nation – an outcast. Many people treated him kindly and he managed to live on his own. Others said cruel things or pointed and laughed. He ignored them. A shout from the bystanders, “Dance, laddie, Dance!” inspired a spontaneous back-flip. Too late, he remembered what was worn beneath a kilt – nothing.

Dishing Up Pasta

It’s a mac-and-cheese kind of read — comfort food for the literary soul. From beyond the myths of Marco Polo, pasta has traveled the globe in many forms from different cultures. Which came first, the Chinese noodle or the Italian spaghetti? Who knows for certain, but we do know that Thomas Jefferson introduced the colonies to macaroni and cheese, solidifying a future for America’s top pasta.

Writers took to pasta like worker bees, buzzing around the idea of how to dish it up in a story. Like fine dining or a casual dish to pass, these stories will leave you wanting seconds.

The following is based on the September 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes pasta.

PART I (10-minute read)

Tradition by Reena Saxena

We love Grandma, and yet are never on the same page where food is concerned. She cannot appreciate the subtle flavors in a pasta or pizza, or the convenience of having carbs, proteins and fats all in a single meal. She is so stuck up in her concept of a traditional Indian thali meal. Who has the time for that kind of luxury eating?

Yet, today, as I celebrate a festival away from home, I miss the unique, delicate flavors of different dishes. I try to put a meal together. I am more Indian at heart than I realized.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta Bee by Floridaborne

She waited for her word, looking down from the stage of her elementary school auditorium.   She’d loved sitting at the kitchen table learning to spell while pasta cooked and tomato sauce simmered on her mother’s stove.  She didn’t like standing under lights, stared at by 200 people.

“Antonia Giordano, spell…”

Starched ruffles itched at her neck, compliments of the dress her mother sewed from remnants for this occasion.  But that didn’t stop her from spelling out a word she’d known since the age of two.

“S-p-a-g-h-e-t-t-i,” she replied.

Maybe next year they’d give her a harder word; like Vermicelli.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Bad It’s True by Susan Sleggs

Dear Diary, They say pasta is a comfort food. I’m choosing to believe that and plan to make a serving every Saturday from here to forever because it seems I end up at one hospital or another on Sunday. A few months ago I sat with my sister while she and her husband decided whether kidney dialysis was worth the extra time on earth for him. Two weeks ago it was my daughter fighting sepsis (she won) and this Sunday it was my son with a smashed shoulder. The wine is gone tonight, the yummy red sauce pasta awaits.

🥕🥕🥕

Remember that Old Elvis Song, In the Ghetti? by Bill Engleson

“So many noodles in the world. Whatdaya think…? You gotta choose, eh!”

Right, buddy. It’s been a long day, All I want is a quiet bus ride home. But that ain’t happening, is it?

There I am, going all silently rhetorical on the fellow sitting next to me. And all he wants to do is chit-chat about pasta.

I try and remember what Emily Post had to say about Public Transportation Etiquette.

Nothing immediately jumps out.

So, I say, noncommittally, “Noodles?”

“Yeah man,” he says, “My mom’s Mac and Cheese. It was the best.”

Yeah, I think…mine was too.

🥕🥕🥕

Spaghetti alla Carbonara by Bladud Fleas

The rule for pasta requires the water to be as salty as the Mediterranean. Paolo gives thanks it’s not Jordan and the Dead Sea. Nonna scrutinises him as he puts the chopped guanciale in the pan, heating slowly, extracting its flavoursome fat.
She’s a fine mentor; he’s a teaser.

He gets the cream jug from the fridge; she cries out, “ai-ai-ai!” and tries to snatch it but he keeps it out of reach. He laughs then, returns the jug and chooses an egg for beating. She pinches his cheek, within reach. So he knows Carbonara; she’s taught him well.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta – Preschool Style by Ritu Bhathal

“Okay, today we are making Mother’s Day gifts for your mummies, grandmas, or aunties.

What I want you to do is take the string in one hand, and pick up a piece of pasta.
Remember, the other day, we painted it?

It’s like a tube, and you can thread the string through it, and make a lovely necklace.

No, David, you can’t eat it.

Penny! Stop strangling Julia with the string!

Peter! Don’t tip the tray upside d-…

Don’t worry Mary, we can pick it all up, stop crying, please…”

The life of a pre-school teacher.

🥕🥕🥕

Elbow Macaroni by TN Kerr

Margarite grinned wildly, stepped off the bus and hurried toward me.

When she got close she dropped her backpack and leapt into my arms.

“Holy smokes, Kiddo,” I pushed her hair back and kissed her, “what are you so excited about today.”

“Art class, Daddy. I made a picture of you.”

“With paints?”

“No.”

“With crayons?”

“No, Daddy. Mixed media,”

“Mixed media? What’s that?”

I put her down. She pulled a paper plate from her backpack and showed me.

Macaroni was glued to the plate. There were pencil lines and hints of orange marker. It looked just like me.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta Pray Tells: What Are We Eating, Exactly? by Peregrine Arc

The little girl grimaced in her seat, staring at her plate of pasta. The garlic bread basket sat in the middle of table, steamy and pleasant. Her parents urged her to try her meal.

The little girl sighed resignedly and tried to eat. The fork and spoon soon fell to her plate with a clatter.

“I can’t do it!” she exclaimed. “Please, don’t make me.”

“Why not, dear?”

“It’s angel’s hair!” the little girl sobbed. “Give it back to them, please!”

🥕🥕🥕

Traditions by Heather Gonzalez

Angela stood on her tiptoes to be able to see over the counter top. Her nonna was mixing the pasta dough with her hands, and she was finally tall enough to watch. Each movement seemed like nonna had choreographed an intricate dance. Fingers and dough intertwining to create the magic of pasta.

After each piece of pasta was perfectly shaped, nonna motioned for Angela to come closer. This was it. She was finally getting a chance to be apart of the magic. Gently she lowered the perfectly crafted dough into the water with pride.

“Al dente. Perfecto.” Nonna smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

A Fish Tale from Lake Country by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It couldn’t be un-seen. It was right there in front of me: the giant spaghetti bowl, the splash of Tante Lianna’s special sauce, meatballs rolling off the table and onto the floor, parmesan spread all over the dining room table, like sleet in a Minnesota mid-June storm.

And the noodles! Seemingly caught in mid-flight from the bowl, they lay heavy as nightcrawlers escaping a flooded sidewalk, the aftermath of the aforementioned storm, turned to punishing rain.

And Uncle Wilford, face down in the middle of it all.

He should have heeded the warning twinge in Tante Lianna’s trick knee.

🥕🥕🥕

Love’s Give and Take by Sascha Darlington

“Pasta Puttanesca? Do I have to perform an intervention?”

“I’m at a crossroads.”

“Something you’re not telling me?”

“It’s not about you. It’s Chloe and that jerk.”

“AKA her husband?”

“He got fired. Wants to be a stay-at-home dad. Do consulting work.”

“Don’t see the problem.”

“You wouldn’t. You’re nothing like him. He’s perpetually lazy, doesn’t know how to use a vacuum or a dustpan. Stove’s foreign as well.

“Why’s this your problem?”

“I promised Mom I’d look after Chloe. I’ve failed.”

“He’s failing. Your pasta smells good.”

“Have some.”

“You didn’t use anchovies?”

“Not when you hate them.”

🥕🥕🥕

Peter the Pasta Maker by Michael Grogan

Peter, the Pasta Maker, was a jolly chap.

Peter had a crush on the Lady Macaroni who would swan in each day and buy his freshest pasta. She never passed the time of day with him, she was focused on her pasta.

Always five hundred grams of spaghetti, she could never be tempted by a fettuccine or a Peter’s famous spiral.

One day she surprised him by asking he would cook for her, a pasta party with Peter the Pasta Maker would go well she thought.

Peter was flattered and prepared to make Lady Macaroni his best ever pasta.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by The Dark Netizen

“Is the order for table number ten ready?”

I turned the blaze of the cooking flame down and grasped the pan in my left hand. With my right hand, I expertly arranged the lines of spaghetti on the plate. Reuben walked up to me and winked.

“You know, she’s looking quite fine in her black dress today.”

I peeked outside through the kitchen door window. There she was again, sitting in perfect poise, making my heart beat harder. Reuben whispered.

“Tell her, man!”

I put the final touch on the dish with the red sauce.

“A red heart, sweet!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Visit To The ER by Patrick O’Connor

“Pasta! I want pasta!”

“It must be penne pasta, with meatballs, and marinara.”

The doctor stared at me with a quizzical look.

My wife shook her head and said “That sounds about right. He loves his pasta.”

After the x-rays, CT Scan, and EKG, they worked on getting the blood pressure back up.

“I’m sure your wife will take you to get some pasta once you are released.”

“I’ll make sure of it Doctor.”

Seemed like forever before we got out of the ER.

Got to the restaurant and ordered penne pasta with meatballs and marinara.

“I’m not hungry.”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

“Would you like some spaghetti bolognaise, Nan?”

“Absolutely not. I don’t eat that foreign food. Nasty, gloopy stuff. You can’t even pick it up on your spoon properly; it slithers right off.”

“Why don’t you just give it a try, Nan? It really is very tasty with David’s sauce.”

“No, thank you. I would rather eat English mashed potatoes. Such a versatile food. Did I ever tell you how we used it to make pastry during the war when we couldn’t get flour?”

“Yes, Nan,” said Julie with a sigh. “You have told me about potato pastry many times.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lunch by oneletterup

“I think I know who she is.”
“What should we do?”

They whisper, but she hears.
Crouching in the hall shadows. Hidden.
Disappearing. Like before.

“Lunch time!” the nice man calls.
The little girl and little boy are at school.
She perches on the edge of her chair.
Her very own place at their table.

“Honey…” the nice lady begins.
“We’re so sorry…”
Looking down.
“You can’t stay here anymore.”

The girl freezes. Stares. Forkful of spaghetti suspended.
Fingers clench into a fist snapping the fork upright.
Steaming tomato sauce spatters.
Drips down her hand.
Red spreading. Staining.
Everywhere.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta for Breakfast by Norah Colvin

Papa Bear pushed back his chair. “Not this muck again.”

Mama Bear stopped mid-ladle. “It’s Baby Bear’s favourite. I— I thought it was yours too.”

Baby Bear’s lip quivered.

“Pfft! Sometimes a bear needs real food.” He grabbed his hat. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Papa!” Baby Bear went after him.

Mama Bear dumped the porridge, pot and all, into the bin, grabbed her hat and followed.

“Where are we going?” asked Baby Bear.

“Somewhere nice for breakfast. It is spring after all.”

Papa Bear paused outside BreakFasta Pasta, then went in.

Mama Bear smiled; pasta was her favourite.

🥕🥕🥕

The Legendary Feud by Anurag Bakhshi

The boy’s great-great-great-grandfather was apparently the one to blame

For he called the pasta sauce of the girl’s great-great-great-Nonna tagliatelle, listless and tame

The echo of that insult had now been felt by these two star-crossed lovers

Who, let’s admit it, were just looking for some good old action between the covers

Their dead bodies were a testament to the folly of pride

A lesson that a family pasta recipe is not something to mock or deride

As the Bard put it so succinctly- For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo

🥕🥕🥕

No Pasta Was Harmed in Making This Story by Anne Goodwin

She snipped off the seal and upended the pack. Closed her eyes as fusilli clattered into the bowl. Paused, shook her head, reached for the rigatoni bag.

An hour later, there was barely room for his coffee cup among the bowls of dried pasta on the kitchen worktop. “Tell me, you’re cooking dinner at six in the morning or you’ve invited a kindergarten class for hands-on play?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m researching sound effects for my radio drama next month.”

“You’ve set it in a restaurant? In Italy?”

“A shack in Madagascar. I’m recreating rain on a corrugated-iron roof.”

🥕🥕🥕

My London Marathon by Kelvin M. Knight

I squinted through the rain. The other competitors looked comically savage – the way their dyed hair dripped down their faces. Nonetheless, these fun runners were out my league. Hugging my bin liner coat, I felt under dressed. I felt under trained. I should have done more. These words were my epitaph.

Still, I eat more than anyone else at the pasta party yesterday evening, so the complex carbohydrates would be on my side, along with this pantomime horse, this huge banana, and this Herculean woman with a refrigerator chained to her back.

Groaning, I waved at the BBC cameraman.

🥕🥕🥕

World’s Worst Poem, Plated by Chelsea Owens

Perdonnez, signora, will you taste my
veritable vermicelli which lost a

Tagliatelle or gnocchi -or was
it tortellini or gemelli?- that cost a

Few dozzina homemade noodles: measured,
mixed, rolled, chopped, shaped, and boiled -hasta

Domani, questa mattina -when nappy
And wriggly rigatoni-head rastas

Dangle candid cannelloni for
colazione (o pranzo o cena o altro) sauced, a

Banchetto of bavett, bucatini,
bigoli, e barbina; which fosta

Amore, our home country joy; precious
mem’ries of mamma o zia o ci, who bossed a

Flourishing, famishing family,
practically-plated with a plethora of pasta.

If that doesn’t bake your noodle, you’ve lost-a.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta by Anita Dawes

What is it good for, not eating.
Throw it at the wall, see if it sticks.
Leave it until it falls off, give it to the kids to play with.
Oh, wait a minute they have already done that.
My granddaughters have used it for school projects
Picture frames you cannot dust…
The Italians love to tell us it has to be Al dente, the bite.
The thought of eating pasta makes me want to run for the hills…
And I know it’s well-loved across the globe
But seriously, why was it ever invented?
Does it grow on trees?

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (5-minute read)

Mangia, Sii Benedetto e Mangia! by JulesPaige

Mama thought a good way to teach us to listen was to keep our mouths full. Mama would serve us bountiful plates of Orecchiette. Sometimes the way Nonna Bella would make It, or she used recipes from Nonna Julia. Northern and Southern Italians cooked a bit differently. But there was always too much food!

Nonna Bella made rich red tangy sauces. While Nonna Julia employed creamy cheeses to dress her pasta.

Today you can get Gluten free pasta. Though Doc’s say a serving is one cup cooked of any shape you choose. And that Isn’t nearly enough, is it?

🥕🥕🥕

Boon or Bane? by Deepa

I was drenched in sweat that soaked the back of my clothes like a scattered map. My fitness tracker blinked up a new record today. It was the best result accomplished for my running record.

Well, don’t I deserve a small treat?

I swiped the pasta mania app in my mobile and selected the double cheese creamy chicken pasta, porcini mushroom, and an orange drink to balance my cheesy treat.

From a fitness tracker to palatable feelings, everything in a swipe at your door service.

Mobile apps, is it a boon or a bane?

🥕🥕🥕

So What’s for Dinner? by Di @ pensitivity101

Tomatoes red,
Tomatoes green,
Hundred of marbles
On vines to be seen.
Pasta is long,
Pasta is thick,
Cheesy or savoury,
It’s simple and quick.
Put them together
A meal in a flash,
Wholesome and nourishing,
Even better than mash.
Add meat and an onion
For spaghetti bolognese,
Or kidney beans and chilli
On somewhat colder days.
Pasta is versatile,
Be it boiled or baked,
One thing I’ve not tried yet
Is a pasta filled cake.
Macaroni is pasta,
Add sugar and UHT
To make a sweet pudding
As afters for tea.
Pasta’s a staple,
For Hubby and me.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester, the Reluctant Dinner Guest by Molly Stevens

“Myra invited us over for pasta tonight,” Ruth said.

“Pasta?” said Chester. “Don’t she mean spaghetti?”

“No, she was clear about it. She said pasta.”

“Well, la-de-da! That’s what she calls it, does she? Was there another fancy name stuck to her highfalutin pasta, like ‘prime-a-veers?’”

“She didn’t say. It’ll be a surprise.”

Harrumph. “I better grab a six-pack of Papst Blue Ribbon. I know she’ll be pourin’ some cheek wine, like chardonnee that will give me heartburn.

“You can always stay at home if you’d like.”

“Nah, I’ll go with along you. Besides, I’m clean out of SpaghettiOs”

🥕🥕🥕

Mother’s Italian Cooking by AbijitRay

“I am going out, shall be back by evening.”

“I am making a new dish Shailaja, don’t go before you try.”

“Mother has become adventurous;” wondered Shailaja, “she is experimenting with non Indian recipes!”

“What’s cooking mother? Am I your only guinea pig?”

“Today I am making Italian noodles.”

“Italian noodles, mother! Its called vermicelli; noodle is Chinese. Spoken in public, this may result in a diplomatic incidence!”

“Stop lecturing, try this out. This is vermicelli cooked Indian way.”

Shailaja found her mother in kitchen juggling a cook book in Hindi along with a host of vegetables and spices.

🥕🥕🥕

Remembering Terra by Saifun Hassam

Down at the SeaQuail Market, by the old Fishermen’s wharf, we feasted on a picnic lunch under blue summer skies.

Jumbo pasta shells overflowing with sautéed shrimp, sun-drenched tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red and green bell peppers, olives, garlic and onions marinated in olive oil and just that delicate touch of rosemary, fennel and basil.

A generous sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheese.

Espresso coffee and cinnamon ginger fudge.

In a week, Adriana, an astronaut and biochemist, would report for training for her first assignment to Mars. She was my sister. Would we ever see each other again?

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

David shut the door, shaking his head. Heather smirked. “Who was that?”

“The Pastafarians,” he said with a flourish.

“Welcome to Austin, right?”

“You’d think they’d respect dinner time.”

“What did he say, about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”

They watched the disciples slink down the driveway, the tallest holding a book with a noodle dangling from the binding. “Do you think they’re serious?”

David shrugged, halfway holding a smile. “No. Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the point. We take this stuff too seriously.”

“Careful. You could get struck down talking like that.”

“Wouldn’t that just prove their point?”

🥕🥕🥕

Fettuccini Afraid-O by Susan Shuman

“This menu is amazing…” Shelley feigned enthusiasm.

“Get whatever you want,” Eddie shrugged. “Looks like you could use a good meal.”

“Oh, I can’t decide…”

Eddie wished she’d leave her hair alone. It looked like she was trying to strangle her fingertips with it. “Why are you doing that?”

“Huh?” Shelley let go of her hair. “Oh, bad habit.” Her throat tightened.

The waitress brought a steaming loaf of bread to their table and began rattling off the pasta specials.

That’s what did it.

Shelley stifled a scream and scrambled for the door—

Phagophobia: a legacy from her mother.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta by Deborah Lee

Jane ambles through the grocery store, pushing a cart and luxuriating in the experience of grocery shopping. Like people who have a food budget, cupboards to store recipe ingredients, a kitchen for melding them into a home-cooked meal, refrigerator for leftovers.

She hesitates in the pasta aisle, torn between the thought of a steak or her mother’s standby, macaroni with tomatoes and cheese melted through. She used to think of pasta as poor-people food – before she became a poor-people. But it will always be comfort food, Jane thinks, tossing three times as much as she needs into her basket.

🥕🥕🥕

September 13 Free-Write

CONTEST CLOSED

(Thank you to all the brave writers who gave this round a go! There are still four more chances to enter so get familiar with the process below. A new 24-hour prompt will be revealed September 19, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. EST. It will close at 11:59 p.m. EST September 19.)

The clock started ticking at 12:00 a.m. (EST). That’s midnight in New York City when September 13, 2018, begins. The contest ends by the close of day September 13, 2018, at 11:59 (EST).

This is a free-write flash fiction contest to qualify five writers to compete in the October TUFFest Ride event during the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. A free-write requires you to draft quickly.

You can revise, edit or polish. But you only have 24 hours which is not enough time to let a first draft set. We know that. We are looking at your free-write skills, your bravery to write freely according to a prompt.

Judges will examine how creative a writer can be within both time and word constraint. Charli Mills, Cynthia Drake and Laura Smyth all of Hancock, Michigan will judge all TUFF contests. Your free-write must follow all five rules to qualify.

RULES

  1. You must use the revealed prompt: “cool water”
  2. You must enter using the provided form below
  3. You must write your story in 297 words (exactly, not including title)
  4. You must enter by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on September 13, 2018 (use the form provided below or email your full name and entry to wordsforpeople@gmail.com)
  5. You must be willing to compete in the 2018 October TUFFest Ride if selected

If you qualify, you will be among five winning writers to further compete for first, second and third place in the TUFFest flash fiction contest you will ever enter. The event equates to bull-riding in a cowboy rodeo. It’s a chance to show your versatility of flash fiction writing skills. Five writers will compete:

  1. October 1: Writers tune into a live video posted at Carrot Ranch Facebook Page for the announcement of who will be selected the Fab Five from the September entries. These five writers will have five days to do a new free-write.
  2. October 8: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 99-word challenge to rewrite their free-write. They will have five days to write.
  3. October 15: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 59-word challenge to rewrite their 99-word story. They will have five days to write.
  4. October 22: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 9-word challenge to rewrite their 59-word story. They will have five days to write.
  5. October 29: The Fab Five tune into a live video to find out which three advances. The remaining three contestants will have 24 hours to write a final 495-word story from their TUFF exhibition.
  6. November 2: First, second and third place announced. All five contestants will win a prize (yet to be determined, based on sponsors).

WINNING TIPS

Go with your gut. At Carrot Ranch Literary Community, we play with 99 words, no more, no less every week. We’ve learned that our first instinct to a prompt might be strange or uncomfortable. The natural tendency of a writer is to water down that reaction — to write safely. Don’t. Be brave and go where the prompt leads you.

Be creative. Along with going with your gut, take a creative approach. If you are literal, you might write too stiffly. But do poke a literal response if that comes to you. Ask yourself how you can turn it upside down and create a surprising twist. Also, you don’t need to use the exact phrase (or the quotation marks unless you are using dialog or showing irony).

Be professional. We are all adults here, and adult content is a part of literary art. However, think like a professional literary artist whose job is to write. If you think shocking readers gives you an edge, think again. We live in a world desensitized by global crassness, violence, and inhumanity. Shock value is cheap. Instead, craft a clever twist, show intelligence and the ability to interpret the global theater. Make your readers think.

Write with emotion. You also want to make your readers feel. Characters give us all the opportunity to experience life beneath the skin of another. Literary art can share imagined experiences from what it is like to attend school at Hogwarts or be a polar bear. Invite your readers to feel these unique perspectives. Avoid stereotypes.

Breathe! When you control your breath, you control your mind. Yes, it’s a competition. Yes, it’s only 24-hours. Yes, you have a lot on your plate. But you have the right to be here. You are a creative writer — so breathe, read the rules, write, count your words, and enter. No matter the outcome, you were brave enough to write!

You can use Microsoft Word or use WordCounter.net to determine 297 words.

There are no entry fees, and five winning writers will each win a cash prize.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Openings Life Coaching
SmythType Design
Solar Up
Bill Engleson
Thread Tales Studio

And our Leaders & Judges:

Geoff Le Pard
Irene Waters
Sherri Matthews
Norah Colvin
D. Avery
Chelsea Owens
Esther Chilton
Angie Oakley
Helen Stromquist
Hugh Roberts
Mike Matthews
Robbie Cheadle
Anne Goodwin
Bonnie Sheila

**There’s still time to sponsor the Rodeo**

ENTRY FORM (email wordsforpeople@gmail.com for support)

NOW CLOSED

If you missed this free-write, you have more chances to enter. You can enter more than once. Next qualifying free-writes will reveal secret prompts:

  • September 19, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 25, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)

Epic Workplace

Slide down the rabbit hole or step behind the curtain. Here you will find the wonders of an epic workplace. From young entrepreneurs going door-to-door to ranch pals riding the range, there’s a world of epic places to work.

Writers set about their own workplaces to draw upon imagination, stories, or memories to write about the place many of us will spend the majority of our adult lives. It best be epic!

The following are based on the September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace.

PART I (10-minute read)

Door-to-door by Bill Engleson

“He’s so young,” I can hear my mother say.

“He’s fourteen,” my father states the obvious.

“That’s what I mean. Delivering papers is one thing. People ask to have the paper delivered. They want kids delivering the news. But this?”

I’ve been delivering the Snuffle River Clarion six days a week for three years. Seventy customers. That’s been my bar. It goes down every so often. People move. A few have died.

But I ain’t a kid any longer.

The future is in door-to-door.

Watkins Products!

Spices!

Vegetable Oil Soap, ‘Pure Enough To Eat!’

Liniment!

I’ll make a fortune.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic by Reena Saxena

“Can I meet one of the seniors before I join?”

“Sure! They are happy to meet prospective employees.”

I find myself opposite the legendary whistle-blower of the topmost bank. I forgot to blink.

“I know, kid! Many people believed that no other firm will offer me employment after that courtroom battle. But this is a company that values integrity. Integrity doesn’t mean just not stealing. It means that your thoughts, words and actions always match.”

Now, this was a tough one. Most of us cannot lay claim to such a lofty value system.

“Actually, I have another offer, Sir…..”

🥕🥕🥕

Retreat by Sarah Whiley

I’d been away for work at a beautiful spot, facilitating a retreat for carers. The aim – respite and pampering, for three days.

I’d worked hard to ensure they’d had everything they needed, and could truly unwind from the demands of looking after the person they cared for.

I opened up a package that had arrived for me in the mail that day.

I held a flat rock with a detailed image of the mountain landscape where we’d been.

“Thank you” the card read, “I’ve found the inspiration to paint again”.

What an epic workplace, I thought, choking back tears.

🥕🥕🥕

Workplace by The Dark Netizen

A new day begins. Can’t wait to get to work!

I love working here. Our work areas are customizable. Today feels like a day for a sky blue theme. Also, I’m thinking a nice ten inch pepperoni pizza for lunch today. Oh! And a nice pitcher of wheat beer to wash it down with. All this on company expense. Sounds like a great day already. The best part about my workplace and job, is my boss. He’s such a fun guy. Speaking of which, need to take his call now.

“Good morning, sir! Righto! On my way, Mr. Santa!”

🥕🥕🥕

My Workplace My Heaven by Deepa

I thought
the kitchen was the best
but aroma disturbed me
then settled to my balcony
but eyes grazed the crowd
I thought
the park would be perfect
but the emotions stirred deep
and saddened me further
finally found a place of peace
uninterrupted and serene
because no one dares me here

when ideas trigger me
I make an excuse
and rush to the hole
I sit on top of it
with my legs dangling
in water cold
I love this place
because ideas don’t just
happen in certain places
they happen at
certain times
in the loo too

🥕🥕🥕

Opportunity by Abhijit Ray

“We are investing big money to set up new research center,” Human Resource manager pointed at the aerial photograph, identifying research center, administrative building, crèche, jogging track, “we are the best paymasters; we arrange relocation and accommodation, we take care of health and welfare of employees and their families. Other routine benefits you can find in your letter.”

The scope of this Epic opportunity impressed him. “This is the right time to move back and contribute,” he reasoned. Afterall, his initial education was the basis of his higher studies and current life. Question was how to convince his family.

🥕🥕🥕

Heaven by Floridaborne

Most people say they want a great view, presidential fringe benefits, or freedom to work anywhere outside an office when asked, “What’s your epic workplace?”

After 40 years of office intrigue, being targeted by the cliques I wouldn’t join, and enduring lighting levels that left me with daily headaches, I’ve finally achieved my idea of heaven.

I’m a sub-contractor working with people I consider family. I have autonomy over a specific job in a corner office with window blinds to control the amount of light inside, a 32” computer screen, and the fluorescent lighting outside my office is off.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

“Where did you say you worked?”

“I didn’t say but I can work any place and any time. My mobile office is comprehensive. I have two laptops, two cell phones and an ipad.”

“Really, that is interesting. Do you work from home then?”

“As I said, I work from anywhere. Sometimes I work from home, but I also work on planes, trains and when I am a passenger in a car. I work from hotel rooms and while I am at swimming lessons with my children. I even work while they attend music lessons and karate. It is epic.”

🥕🥕🥕

First Day at Work by Anurag Bakhshi

Maria could feel the hills come alive with music as the magnificent scenery unfolded before her. Mother Superior had been right, this WAS an epic workplace.

With renewed confidence, she gazed into the eyes of the handsome but stern-looking man who was standing next to to the seven unruly little ones…her future wards…if she could somehow impress the man, and that dazzling beauty standing next to him.

But before she could say anything, the man spoke up, “Miss Maria, let’s start at the very beginning. This is my wife Snow White, and these are the seven dwarfs.”

🥕🥕🥕

Epic by Ritu Bhathal

The door opened into a room where the atmosphere was teeming with enthusiasm.
Everywhere, industrious individuals attempted to solve their own problems in inventive manners.

There were specific areas for everything, from creative, to constructive, collaborative to computing.

A second door led to a huge outside area, filled with opportunities to stretch ideas.
Turning back into the room, I knew this was it. This was the place I wanted to be, the most epic workplace I’d encountered.

A classroom that put the children’s interests first, that stretched their thinking and allowed them to grow as individuals.

This was it.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Work by D. Avery

One woman told about her daughter the pilot; she mentioned three children that were pilots and one that worked for NASA.

A man bragged about his son the writer; she enumerated her journalists, artists and published authors.

She shared her pride for her children that served in the military, fire, rescue, and police forces, beamed about those that had become nurses and doctors, spoke warmly of the children that stayed close to home and were good citizens.

Finally someone cried foul.

“You can’t possibly have so many children!”

“As a teacher I’ve made a difference for hundreds of children.”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by oneletterup

“I’m doing my works!”
The little girl demonstrates.
Carefully pouring water from cup to bowl.

The silent visitor watches in surprise.
She’s never seen such a grand school.

Small wooden tables and chairs. A low matching sink.
Sun pouring in on many bright, happy faces.
The little boy calls out “Me too. Look at my works!”
Red cubes stacked high.

A place for important work. For all.
Pouring. Sorting. Counting. Writing.
Girls and boys. Older helping younger.
Just like her.

The teacher, sitting on the big rug, smiles.
“Please join us for circle time.”

“Welcome to Greenwood Montessori school.”

🥕🥕🥕

It’s EPIC by Norah Colvin

Roll up! Roll up! Come one, come all. This new attraction will have you enthralled. Bring parents, bring partners, siblings and friends. No one’s excluded. It’s Earth’s latest trend. Your eyes won’t believe. Your ears won’t deceive. It’s a sensory explosion, for all to explore. It’s entertaining, electrifying, edifying too. It’s a universe first, and it happened on Earth. It’s empowering, engrossing. There’s so much to see. With no space left empty, it’s elaborate, exciting, extols energy. With exquisite exhibits and enlightening exposures, it’s the most, enticing, enriching, educational environment, established on Earth. It’s EPIC, the Exceptional Pinterest-Inspired Classroom.

🥕🥕🥕

Devil Boat by TN Kerr

I read that she was called “The Devil Boat” in reference to Revelations Chapter 13. We never called her that. The USS HAWKBILL SSN666 was a highly decorated Sturgeon Class Attack Submarine.

What was most grand about her was the crew.

Every crewman on a submarine stakes his survival on the skills and knowledge of the rest. This creates a bond. It builds pride in self and in others as, daily, you do more than you ever thought possible.

It’s a dangerous and cramped workplace. It’s not for everyone. It sometimes stinks. It frustrates. I’d undoubtedly do it again.

🥕🥕🥕

When You Always Get Your Murds Wuddled by Geoff Le Pard

‘God…’

‘What’s up mate? Looks like you’ve just been told you’re the love child of the Donald and Kim Un Kardashian?’

‘My mum. Given me a right bollocking. Apparently I just called my grandma and told her that I’d just “waxed her high and wide” as promised.’

‘Geez, mate, that’s a bit… saucy.’

‘I taxed her Hyundai. I was trying to help but she’s Mrs Malaprop made flesh.’

‘Poor old thing.’

‘I know. She told dad how pleased she was that my new workplace was epic.’

‘You told me it was manky.’

‘I said, quote, “it’s totally septic, grandma”.’

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

“Noah, Noah, Noah…”

I broke off my thoughts, elbow deep in the murk of dishwater and some epic plotting. Rhonda stared at me over a haphazard pile of pots and dishes, used napkins, trash and utensils. ‘I swear kid, sometimes I wonder where you go in that head of yours. Anyway, this is the last of the buffet.”

She stalked off to smoke. I turned to the load. A three-gallon pot of Clam chowder with a day’s worth of insulation around the lip. I picked up my scraper and smiled. I had all night to get this chapter right…

🥕🥕🥕

Games Omniverse – Epic Workplace by Kerry E.B. Black

They’re all so much younger than me, but I find their Millenial energy invigorating. I know they look on me as the Grandma of the bunch. They turn eye-rolls when I’ve fouled another computer task and hide their smiles when I say something about “me me’s” instead of saying “memes.”

Yet somehow, I bring something to the group. I’d never be so vain as call it wisdom, and my experiences aren’t always helpful. However, it works. When they need copy, I pound on the keyboard until some small magic occurs, and the Angel in charge nods.

“This’s good. Thanks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dream Job by D. Avery

“I have had a lot of other jobs, but this is by far the best. I mean, it can be intense, but I enjoy the challenge. In my present work I am able to really use and incorporate all my previous experiences and prior knowledge to advantage. And I have a lot of latitude, a lot of freedom. I often work outside, I can dress how I want, set my own hours… it’s pretty awesome. Dream job. I am really enjoying myself.”

“Uh, Dude, you’re unemployed. You haven’t worked in months.”

“But I have been working at writing! Epic!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Amazing-Magician-From-India-With-Love by papershots

On-the-subway-for-spare-change, “with a white string I can make stand straight and hard, look!” leaps into the intermittent morning waltz of in…and-out, back…and-forth, you…getting-off?. When in the middle of his feat of magic the poor-Bosnian-I-live-in-a-shack with-this-little-girl please-help-me “20 cents to buy milk” gets on and sees the Amazing-Magician-from-India-etc…

The who-drowns-out-who challenge is on! Yeah! No.

“Please,” she starts, “ladies and gent…” then breaks off, gets off, the code of conduct of the beggars who can’t choose which train to ticketless-ly attack. “The white string stands straight and hard, look!” Not much change, though, in the worn-out Kullu cap.

🥕🥕🥕

The Call by Anne Goodwin

Bile stinging her throat, she pressed the green icon.

“Homer here.” His tone gave nothing away.

“Thanks for …” Her whole future in that pause.

“Congratulations!”

Joy of joys! She didn’t need to hear more. But was she up to it? Could she bear to uproot herself and begin again somewhere new? “Sorry, I’ll have to turn it down.”

“Excellent!”

Excellent? They didn’t want her after all? She reran his offer in her head: I’m calling to invite you on the adventure of working with us. Of course: to earn the elixir, an employee must first reject the call.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

My Log Cabin by Kelvin M. Knight

Briefcase in hand, I kiss my wife at the patio door. ‘See you tonight.’

‘Have a great day at work, darling.’

A short stride across our lawn and I am here, where everything’s clean and pine fresh. Varnish shines the floor. An uncluttered desk smiles. There are no pictures, no ornaments. This empty space. This creative space.

Free even from books, those to be read and those to be filled – my precious notebooks.

Relaxing in my chair, I open my briefcase, remove my laptop. Tranquility washes over me. Nodding, I let this blank screen write its story upon me.

🥕🥕🥕

Cloud Covers by Chelsea Owens

“How’s it goin’, Nim?” called a breathy voice. He looked up. And up. And to the side. There was Cirrus, waving and smiling.

“Er… it’s a breeze.” He paused. “How ’bout you?”

“Clear skies here.”

“Cool, cool.” Nimbostratus faced forward again, his harness jangling. With utmost care he applied another layer of white. Now just to add a touch of grey…

“I saw Cumulo yesterday,” Cirrus flurried. She never could stay still.

“Mm-hmm.” Dip. Paint.

Cirrus also disliked inattention. She dropped in altitude. “He said: BOOM!”

“AAAH!” Nimbostratus yelled.

“Looks a bit greyer than initially predicted,” the weatherman noted.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace by Ann Edall-Robson

The room is pristine to start, but soon takes on a look somewhat chaotic. Books spread out across open spaces where once there were thoughts of organization and streamlining the hours to make them as productive as possible. Sounds of thunking, banging, clinking as doors open and close revealing needed tools. There are small marred bits of paper, tattered edged recipes, speckled from age and use. No one interrupts in this epic workplace where the tantalizing smells and mouth watering finales meld as one. To do so would jeopardize the anticipation of savouring the memories coming from the kitchen.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Susan Sleggs

If someone asked where I would like to have an epic quilting space, I would answer, on a bluff overlooking the Oregon coast, or high in a sky scraper with lots of windows to admire the scenery day and night, or perhaps on Flathead Lake in Montana to view the mountains and water. But let’s be logical about this; if I’m sewing I’m not looking at a view. I think I’ll keep the 600 square feet in the basement of my current home. Peace resides there and my cats keep me company. Besides I’m usually working in my pajamas.

🥕🥕🥕

Space…the Final Frontier by Kayuk

Words, like hammers, pound into me …again. “Isn’t there ONE SINGLE SPACE in this house I can put my things?”

Tears beg release. Manly things are piled on sofas, beds, tables, and floors in every room. A year after moving in, I’m still an intruder in a man’s sanctuary.

The tirade continues but, through patio doors, a shady table and chair await me. Abutting the grass is a lovely pond, with a serene view of ducklings following mama.

He storms out and, laptop in hand, I sigh and step through the door to a warm breeze and epic workplace.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace by Frank Hubeny

Eric was a loner. That’s why he liked people. They were rare like deer or bear in the distance. He took a break from thinning paper company land with brush saw holstered on his back and his head lost in his helmet.

He saw the hikers coming. One of them asked him if they were still on the Appalachian Trail. “Yes! Keep going. It’s right over there.” The trail wasn’t easy to see.

Eric wondered why people walked that trail, but he was glad to see them. He was glad he could give someone good directions on their way.

🥕🥕🥕

Green Crater by Saifun Hassam

Jeff, Valerie and Carmen trekked from the rim of Green Crater to Green Crater Lake, formed millennia ago. Wind and water had weathered the extinct volcano’s steep ravines to valleys with gentle slopes. Every year, the rangers visited the Crater area, one of Special Ecological Habitats.

For Jeff, the Crater was his epic workplace, one he explored in the winter as well. By late spring the snows had melted. The lake and its marshy shores, attracted deer, egrets, migrant ducks and geese. Last summer, Jeff saw a bobcat. Today, a rattlesnake, basking in the sun on smooth rounded stones.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Cards by D. Avery

The guys had circled their beer coolers for poker night in Ernest’s garage, where it was less humid than the trailer.

“Marge, I can’t believe you quit being shop foreman to work in this two-bit two bay garage. Left the largest dealership around — state of the art equipment, only working on newer vehicles–”

“Yeah”, chimed Lloyd. “Epic.”

“The work here’s actually more interesting, our customers bring us all sorts of mechanical mysteries to be solved. It’s more personal. And I got tired of babysitting.”

“Oooh, personal! Marge and Ernest up in a tree…”

“Like I said…”

“Epic”, Lloyd repeated.

🥕🥕🥕

Upward Mobility (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Mist rose from the pond with the morning coolness of a mountain camp at 7,000 feet. Danni stretched in sun salutations on the sagging porch of her Forest Service cabin while coffee percolated. The aroma grew strong, and she padded back inside on bare feet to pour a cup. The rest she saved for her thermos. As she drove her quad toward the archeological dig, Danni spotted elk, a skittering coyote and a Cooper’s hawk. At the worksite, trenches waited for the volunteers who would follow. She contemplated her epic workplace. At last, Danni would be the lead archeologist.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sign of the Times by Di @ pensitivity101

Scott loved his job at the Living Museum. It was inspired, and different.
Admittance was free, but there were warnings about laser lights and flashing images.
Only fifty people were admitted at any one time, the doors closing behind them.
The room was dark, save for a single spot of light on the far wall.
The music started, loud and upbeat. Lights pulsed to the rhythm, and the magic began.
Holographic figures moved amongst them, through them, so real and yet only a projected image. Patrons felt themselves drawn into a time past, present and future all at once.

🥕🥕🥕

Working on The Unsinkable Ship by Peregrine Arc

“They’re wanting sheets in cabin four, Miss Elizabeth.”

“Yes, miss. I’ll get them right away,” the maid said politely with a curtsy to her matron.

“And be sure you’re minding your place. Just because we’re working in first class doesn’t mean—”

But Elizabeth was already down the hallway, gathering clean linens in the laundry room. Her friend Gayle was there, in the corner where they whispered their secrets and dreams.

“Just think of it, Liz! Us—on the Titanic!”

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace by Anita Dawes

The cleaning job I had in my twenties holds one sad memory.

Springfield Hospital, a building held together by sadness. The people inside, old, forgotten.

A woman of about eighty, taken for her daily bath, left alone in this cold room. Her arms reaching over the bath edge, pleading to be taken out.

Matron caught me, told me to get on with my work, which I found hard to do.

Now a block of posh flats stands where the hospital used to be.

I wonder what kinds of sounds echo around those walls now.

Do they drip with sadness?

🥕🥕🥕

Average Day At Work by Heather Gonzalez

Marcus stepped heavy steel-toed boots into his coveralls. Zipping up with a firm grip, it shielded the majority of his body. Then putting on gloves and safety goggles, he was now ready to start his work day. The odor that permeated the scene had become commonplace for him. Even before he reached the body, he noticed that the decomposition process had already begun. Climbing under the caution tape, Marcus surveyed the environment to make sure that all of the evidence was tagged beforehand. Whoever did this, definitely didn’t think about who would have to clean it up this mess.

🥕🥕🥕

New Beginnings by Kelvin M. Knight

Blades of grass lifted the stones like they were grains of sand – stones bigger than me. Walking over this grass, I felt as though I were walking on springs – those metallic contraptions Father used to create timepieces – despite time measuring being forbidden.

‘Forbidden yet fantastical.’ These words flowed from a forest whose leaves rose into the sky, over and over, like rippling water.

Ignoring them, I sat crosslegged and thought, Hullo, I’m your new apprentice.

‘I know.’ A man appeared before me brandishing two crystal balls.

‘For me?’

‘For yours. For mine.’ Laying them at my feet, he disappeared.

🥕🥕🥕

Virtual Reality by D. Avery

“Jeez, Kid, that post was kinda trippy. Had ta wunder ‘bout Shorty fer a bit there…”

“Trippy? Have ta wunder ‘bout you, Pal.”

“It’s a wunder we git anythin’ done aroun’ here what with all the yackin’. Saddle up, Kid, it’s time ta ride.”

“Pal, do we ride or write? This kin be punny place, I git confused.”

“Reckon, you an’ me, we ride, jist do ranch-like chores.”

“Good, writin’s too much work. I’d ruther be herdin’ strays, tendin’ the stock, ridin’ the range… It’s beautiful here.”

“Yep. We really have an epic workplace, Kid.”

“I imagin’ we do.”

🥕🥕🥕

September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s not a stairway, but it is a path to Heaven. I’m walking cream-colored pavers, delighting in a profusion of white flowers from sweet alyssum that hugs the path to grand clusters of panicle hydrangea the color of vintage cotton. White daisies with dark centers nod to bumbles and spindly green stalks as tall as my hips explode with blazing white stars. I’m stunned by all the beauty as if the Milky Way took to seed here on earth.

The stairway is lined with books, writing quills, and instruments of science. The stairs themselves are crafted of wrought iron, spelling out the alphabet and hidden words. A fireplace with settee and chairs beckon the reader in us all with promises of tales to unfold. Downstairs more books line the walls, and two antique cubbies form nooks in green velvet. This is not the stairs to Heaven, but to a book-lover, it might as well be.

Appropriately, the stairs to book sub-heaven grace a cluster of buildings called The Fortress, Great Hall, Classroom and Library. In the middle of a square courtyard between castle and brick walls, an iron wizard stabs his staff into the ground and reaches heavenward (actually, Heaven is on a hill behind him).

Yet there be dragons! On the castle turret of the Fortress ringed in lightning rods, a flame-skinned dragon bares teeth and strikes a paw toward Heaven below. Another dragon snarls from a dungeon three stories below. Deep Space lies between, but first one must access a wizard’s alley, Kings Cross, a slide down the Rabbit Hole into Wonderland, a trek across a desert and more dragons, including one that protects a hoard of computer hardware.

You might be surprised to learn that my son, Runner, works near Heaven. His workplace is epic — a 950-acre campus of strange, fantastical and out-of-this-world offices, classrooms, and employee space comprising the Epic Systems Corporation Intergalactic Headquarters. It’s a software company to support the healthcare industry and is privately owned by the most successful female IT company founder in the world.

When Runner got the job five months ago, we celebrated his success. Friends in  healthcare gushed, “He must be so smart.” Epic has a reputation for hiring the most brilliant, and we always knew Runner was as bright as his sisters. He is a Project Manager, and it’s interesting to hear of his company’s value-based operations. I read them on a bathroom wall (and yes, the bathroom was epic).

Our running joke as Runner gave the family a tour was that everything lives up to the company name, including the wind turbines to power the campus, organic farms to feed the near-10,000 employees, underground parking garages, and an 11,000-seat stadium built five stories underground in a complex called Deep Space. I straddled a rattlesnake, battled dragons, and chased Alice down a slide to Wonderland. I walked down Diagon Alley, but by another name thus not to infringe upon HP copyrights. However, J.K. Rowling is quoted on several walls.

Here’s a drone-eye view of Epic:

You can also learn more about the company through stories and snapshots at Epic’s website.

We took a few photos of our own, although it was hard to break away from simply experiencing the place with Runner as our tour guide. Over the weekend, I saw other proud families grinning and gawking as sons and daughters led the way. My daughter joked that her brother joined a cult. My SIL wanted to join if only to play D&D on campus. He fell for the dragons.

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We finished our tour just beyond Heaven at The Farm where cows and sheep lurk in the hallways. After an epic walk across campus, we grabbed Cow Bikes and pedaled back to The Fortress where Runner had parked his brand new Mini Cooper in the Great Abyss. We later enjoyed his mixology talents (he supported himself through college as a bartender), including a rum daiquiri Hemingway used to drink. Because we were in Wisconsin, I ate cheese every day I was there. Heaven!

One final word — as we continue to prepare for the Rodeo in October, 24-Hour Free-write contests to qualify as one of five writers to compete in The TUFFest Ride will post. I’m also looking for some more sponsors if you have a book or blog you might want to advertise. Use the contact form if you are interested.

Carrot Ranch is a literary community to engage and support all writers. If you want to claim Rancher Badges to support your own goals, you can contact me with your request as it is September already. And if you want to read how 99-words can help you get to 50,0000, I recently was asked to write for NaNoWriMo. You can also catch my latest marketing article at BadRedhead Media for Rachel Thompson.

Now, to write!

September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 11, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

 

Upward Mobility (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Mist rose from the pond with the morning coolness of a mountain camp at 7,000 feet. Danni stretched in sun salutations on the sagging porch of her Forest Service cabin while coffee percolated. The aroma grew strong, and she padded back inside on bare feet to pour a cup. The rest she saved for her thermos. As she drove her quad toward the archeological dig, Danni spotted elk, a skittering coyote and a Cooper’s hawk. At the worksite, trenches waited for the volunteers who would follow. She contemplated her epic workplace. At last, Danni would be the lead archeologist.

Bottlenecks

Whether you are slammed in a bottleneck of traffic or sitting on the front porch slamming back bottlenecks of beer, the time such moments lend a person is pause to contemplate. Bottlenecks might slow down processes or create unexpected releases.

Stories about bottlenecks vary in design as much as glasswork. You might feel the urge to wedge a lime into a bottleneck of your own as you read.

The following are based on the August 30, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a bottleneck.

Part I (10-minute read)

Commuting by kate @ aroused

My senses were being assaulted by the cacophony of others preferred listening choices. Our windows were wound down to catch any air. Driving home during peak hour was a drag, concentrating on traffic after intense work.

The main thought that was getting me through was of the sushi I’d picked up and the promise of a long hot shower. Then curling under my sheet with a good book … the kind you held and turned the pages. Electronic reading was not for me.

My wandering mind is brought back with a jolt as the traffic bottlenecked around an accident.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by FloridaBorne

We waited behind a semi, unable to see what blocked the road ahead. I sneezed at the diesel exhaust and asked my wife, “Found anything yet?”

The truck moved forward a few feet, and then stopped again, cars merged from the left lane as my wife stared at her tablet. “We’ll be out of this bottleneck in another 50 feet.”

“Was there an accident?”

“No,” she sighed. Traffic moved past an area where the left lane was devoid of anything but a lone boot.

That’s all it takes to stop traffic in LA — a shoe in the road.

🥕🥕🥕

Acrostic Bottleneck by TN Kerr

B eneath the dormant wheels
O f this sharp, sleek, motionless luxury automobile
T he motorway lies still, inert and unmoving despite my serious objections. Roll up the windows then,
T he heat is relentless and the malodourous exhaust fumes of a thousand cars
L ingers and mingles languidly with the
E ther that surrounds us.
N eedless to say, we should take the next available
E xit, we should find a relaxing spot to picnic; or a back road we might use as an alternative – a means to
C ircumnavigate this bottleneck, else we won’t be home before
K wanzaa, and it’s not yet Guy Fawkes Night.

🥕🥕🥕

Idiots on the Road (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Ike passed cars like a Hollywood speed-chase. Danni put her hand on his knee, “Slow down.”

“These idiots on the road are going to cause an accident.”

Danni kept her opinion that Ike was the one driving like an idiot. You’d think he was chasing down Al Qaeda in a Humvee the way he swerved around slower vehicles.

Stands of pines zipped past until traffic ahead came to a bottleneck at Culvers Point. Ike swore smooth as opera. Tourists stopped in the road to snap pictures of a mama moose. Danni reminded Ike, “Remember, we’re in Idaho, not Iraq.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lemons, Limes and Other Mysteries by Norah Colvin

She hit the brakes and thumped the steering wheel.

“Mummy swore.”

“Didn’t.”

“I heard.”

“Why we stopped, Mummy?”

“There’s a traffic jam.”

“Jam? I love stawbrey jam sammich.”

“Not that jam — must be a bottleneck up ahead.” Please be a merge, not an accident.

“We learned ‘bout bottlenecks today.”

“What?”

“Live in the ocean. Maminals, like us. Where’s bottleneck, Mummy?”

“Not bottleneck, Jamie, bottlenose.”

“You said bottleneck.”

“I meant — aargh!”

Finally, they were home.

“You look frazzled, hon.”

She rolled her eyes and took the beer.

“Why lemon is in your bottle neck?” asked Jamie.

“Because it’s not lime.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Lesson in Trust by Susan Sleggs

My grandson’s dentist appointment was after school which meant dealing with rush-hour traffic. While sitting on the overpass waiting for the light so I could turn onto the expressway ramp, I could look down to gauge the usual traffic bottleneck. Bad news. Traffic was completely stopped. I said, “We’re going for a little ride to avoid the expressway.”

“Ok.”

I wound my way around side streets going north and west.

I heard from the backseat, “I have no idea where we are!”

After two more turns he saw familiar buildings. “You weren’t lost after all Grandma? I was worried.”

🥕🥕🥕

Word Jam by Ritu Bhathal

Words.
Snippets.
Stories.
Poems.
Novels.

The ideas were just pouring out of my mind, my heart, my soul, and I didn’t know where to start.

No, that’s not right.

I knew where to start, I just couldn’t work out where to stop, how to organise the thoughts rushing through me.

My fingers danced across the keyboard, letters appearing, filling pages and pages.

Faster and faster they came, until-

They stopped.

I knew there was more to come out, but it was as if the impatience of my ideas had caused a bottleneck in my brain.

Time for the muse…

🥕🥕🥕

Backcountry Bottleneck by Ann Edall-Robson

A body and soul drive along gravel roads riddled with potholes is nothing short of bliss. The gray matter lodged between the ears has no expectations other than to watch for what Mother Nature has to offer. There is no rush in this journey. It is a plethora of whoa, stop, back up moments soaking in the sights on a trek to an unknown destination. Traffic lights do not exist, and the only bottleneck to endure may be a herd of cattle coming at you on the road. There is nothing like the backcountry to rejuvenate the writing mind.

🥕🥕🥕

Empty Bottles All in A Row by Billy Ray Chitwood

Those empty bottles tell a pitiful story of my life, Buckaroos!

Those empty bottles once carried many of those once-held dreams I carried around in my head, all rather noble and fitting for human consumption – for anyone willing to listen to my maudlin cries for do-overs written out on barroom napkins and motel room stationery.

Those empty bottles lit me up like a neon billboard, allowing me to show off my amazing way with the women and with words.

One thing wrong with that pitiful story…

It left me a ‘wimp of a man’!

So, the tombstone says!

🥕🥕🥕

A Grain Of Sand by Patrick O’Connor

A single grain of sand at a time.

One by one, they slip through the bottleneck of the hourglass.

Our lives, measured in time is representative of those grains of sand.

One day at a time, our lives slip through our fingers.

Are we striving to leave a legacy or simply living for the moment?

Meanwhile, another life gasps as the last grain of sand drops.

A sad day for some; a joy for others.

How will people remember us; or will they remember us at all.

Only time will tell – one single grain of sand at a time.

🥕🥕🥕

The Slide by oneletterup

She sees it. Poking out from under the sofa. She reaches down, closing her hand around the smooth green glass.

Just like Gramma’s! When she played the big guitar. Special for her.

“Honey, this is a bottleneck slide. It goes on my finger. Look!”

Then Gramma would smile, wink and whisper…

“This song is just for you.”

Pressing on the strings, she’d slide the glass. And sing. And fill them both up…

”If not for you…I’d be sad and blue if not for you…”

 

The little girl finds her there.

Holding the green slide. Tight.

“You found it!”

🥕🥕🥕

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams by JulesPaige

Tammy wondered if it was always this hard to buy your first home. You had to prove you were, have been and would be employed – able to make mortgage payments.

What started out as a simple bottleneck situation turned into a log jam. The red tape became like a thick hungry boa constrictor wanting to squeeze the very life from her with having to fill out form after form after form.

There would be a celebration eventually. Hopefully soon. One where she’d invite her best friends to uncork a bottle of champagne. When she finally held her home’s key.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bottle Opener by Robert Kirkendall

A party goer grabbed a longneck bottle of ale from an ice chest and searched around. “Anyone know where the bottle opener is?”

“I got this,” another party goer said as he picked up another beer bottle. “Now give me yours.”

The first party goer handed him his bottle, then the second party goer held his bottle upside down and placed the edge of its bottlecap against the other bottlecap. “A little trick I learned in college, using one bottle to open another.”

A cap popped off and beer spilled all over his pants.

“Ooops, wrong cap came off.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck Life by Kayuk

“Ready for the big job interview this afternoon?”

I grin across the table at Sally, “You bet!  I’ve been preparing for weeks.”

“Well, you certainly look stunning. The old ivory of the suit sets the perfect tone.”

“Thanks”, I say, draping a napkin across my lap and picking up the fork.

Startled by a crash and yell behind me, I leap from my chair and turn in time to see the waiter’s foot descend on a plastic catsup bottle sliding across the floor. Pressurized contents spew from the bottleneck splashing the front of my perfect suit with garish red.

🥕🥕🥕

Trust Deficit by Abhijit Ray

“Bottleneck is always at the top,” thundered CEO in the townhall meeting, on productivity, he convened for his employees, after attending a conference.

“Tell me is what problems you face? Is it resource allocation, time management or decision making?” senior managers shifted uncomfortably in their seats, as chief goaded his employees for a response.

There was pin drop silence, till an eager beaver junior shuffled in his seat. “Idiot! Not yet confirmed, you are a sitting duck,” whispered his friend, “this is all sham. CEO knows very well, where the bottleneck is. He is trying to identify trouble makers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Quality Control by Liz Huseby Hartmann

“There’s your bottleneck,” Justin nodded at the bleach-blonde woman at the end of the production line. A stack of TMPuregold Widgets sat to her left. Picking one, she held it up, squinting along its length, and nodded.

“Lorna’s a bottleneck?” His uncle chewed the end of his mustache.

“She’s slow.”

Lorna picked up another widget, ran her hand across its end, and crooked her finger at a young brunette. They bent their heads together. The younger brought the piece back to her station, smiling.

“I have lots of streamlining ideas, Uncle.”

“Tell your mother we’re not hiring just now.”

🥕🥕🥕

You Made Your Bed by Sascha Darlington

First a bottleneck on the road and now a bottleneck at the charity event. I see who is causing it and suddenly wish I had a bottleneck in my hand, preferably high-proof.

I try to avoid her, but she’s holding court, her brittle laughter wince-worthy. When her eyes focus on me, her lips tighten.

“Surprised you came.”

I sigh. “I’m chair.”

She waggles her diamond before darting to my ex-. Robert glances up. Do I see regret? Perhaps the younger, improved model wasn’t as good as the original.

Jake squeezes my hand. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Mine is though.

🥕🥕🥕

Lil’ Ugly by D. Avery

When he drew a bull called Lil’ Ugly the other cowboys laughed.

Bow legged and barrel-chested with a bottle neck and a jug head, he endured a great deal of ribbing. He disappointed his tormentors by walking away. They could tell they angered him but could never get him to throw a punch. In addition to picking on his looks they questioned his manhood.

As he approached the chute the others joked, wondered who was going to be on top.

They didn’t wonder any longer than eight seconds.

They knew now what he did with his bottled up rage.

🥕🥕🥕

Saddleback Sanctuary (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Where the valley narrowed, the flagstone path disappeared under boulders and jagged rocks. Landslide from early spring. Diamante surveyed the bottleneck. He weaved carefully around the larger rocks, clambering up and down smaller ones. He paused to rest. A lark flew up into the warm sunny skies. A lizard slithered across the boulder, briefly eyed Diamante, and disappeared. No bottlenecks for lizard or lark.

Another half mile and he was on the flagstone trail again. The ancient abandoned monastery came into view. Near an open broken gate, a giant tortoise slept, its neck well hidden within its saddleback shell.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Bottleneck by Anita Dawes

Something we experience when pushing our way into a new life. A tight space, hard to get out of.

Days when the tension holds on to the back of my neck like giant metal claws.

Other times I feel as if I have been snapped back in time, trapped inside the Trojan horse with a bunch of sweaty human beings, waiting to do battle.

The sun will come back and you can move on with your life. The way ahead is clear, or am I trapped inside someone else’s mind?

Is this the bottleneck that will finally break me?

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by katimac

They say humans of many forms lived a long time ago. Then a natural disaster struck which wiped out nearly all of them. It was most likely the progenitor of the Great Flood stories found in nearly every culture. Geologists can point to physical signs of it all at about the same time, nearly seventy thousand years ago. Anthropologists can point to one at the same time, about seventy thousand years ago, when mankind was reduced to a small bottleneck group on the western coast of Africa. We ain’t none of us lily-white if we go back far enough.

🥕🥕🥕

This Time, This Place by Kelvin M. Knight

Standing in his pulpit, he regarded one bottleneck after another: his overworked PCC; the cavalier making of tea during the service; the choir grumbling behind him; the organ whimpering far far away.

He prayed silently, swiftly. Upon opening his eyes, he spied a congregation transformed. Now they all looked resplendent in starched white collars, whereas he was a shadow, bloated and distorted, and pinched in so many places: from his wallet to his timesharing; from his patience to his love.

Realising he was more guilty than them, he pondered the complexities of daring to share this truth with them.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Exactly an Hour-glass Figure by Di @ pensitivity101

‘You need to go on a diet.’

‘Don’t you start! How can I help it if there’s so much to choose from, I want to try it all?’

‘Somehow seeing you stuck like that is doing you no favours as regards your street cred.’

‘I’ll have you know this colour is very fetching! Brings out the natural blue of my eyes.’

‘At the moment they look a bit bloodshot. You’ve probably cut off your circulation, you’ve gotten so fat.’

‘No need to be nasty. I’ll just make a wish!’

‘But that’s cheating!’

‘Ha! I’m a Genie darling! I’m allowed!’

🥕🥕🥕

Bored Panda by Deepa

Honey, does this look good?

I nod quickly thinking my way to escape.

Is this one better? She asked me.

If I nod again, I fear she’ll say, ‘so what is wrong with the first one?’

Which one do you prefer? This was she again.

Oh, darling! You look equally amazing in both.

Oh, honey! Do you mean to say can I have both?

It is a terror for spouses when it comes to shopping.

A pleasure for sales guys and a reason for more congestion in the roads and malls.
Buy 1, get one free!

🥕🥕🥕

Jessie by Kay Kingsley

It had been 3 weeks and 4 days since Mike and Jessie had broken up and each second that passed was agony for him.

He sat in his usual chair at the bar hoping to be as invisible as he felt, a chameleon basked in neon.

The bar was a loud distraction as he mindlessly stroked the bottle neck, lost in the memory of her smile and the smell of her perfume. Full of regret, his heart ached.

When she touched his shoulder from behind, he looked up and thought it was a dream. They smiled at each other.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by Frank Hubeny

Some say your real brains are in your gut. Bill knew his wasn’t in his brain. Sharon doubted he had any in his gut either.

That’s when she got pregnant and started worrying.

That’s when they had to move to a smaller apartment.

That’s when it looked like he would lose his job.

That’s also when he didn’t lose his job, but got an indirect promotion.

That’s also when they realized they loved that new apartment.

That’s when he held her and told her he was glad she was pregnant.

That’s when she changed her mind about his brains.

🥕🥕🥕

One Night, Both Ends of Life by Paula Moyer

One Night, Both Ends of Life

6:30: the call. Finally, that night.

“Today’s the day.” Her nephew Max, about his father, Jean’s brother.

“Did he die?”

“Yes.” The wait/weight – done. Alcoholic organ failure – complete.

7:30 p.m.: the text. “My water broke.” A very pregnant woman’s message to Jean, her doula. “But nothing’s happening.” Jean gassed up anyway.

9:30: the call. The husband. “It’s time.”

Jean battled State Fair traffic, road work, bridge closures.

10:10: Raced into the birth center. “Waaa!” On the floor: Chux pads, blood everywhere. On the bed: parents and one angry baby.

11:30: the drive home, joy and grief wedged in together.

🥕🥕🥕

Hillsborough, April 1989 by Anne Goodwin

The match was a sell-out, but progress through the turnstiles deathly slow. To ease the tension outside, they opened the gates and funnelled the supporters directly into the already swollen stand. As the game kicked off, no-one heard the protests of those at the front, the screams forced from crushed lungs. While grown men cried for their mams, kids hadn’t the air to whimper. The first to scale the fence were met with truncheons. Belatedly, the ambulances pulled onto the pitch.

No goals were scored that day. But records were broken in the numbers killed at a sporting event.

🥕🥕🥕

The Happiest Traffic Jam on Earth by Chelsea Owens

“When will we get dere?”

Sigh.

“It’s …uh, your turn to answer him, Dear.”

“Whe-e-e-e-en will we get de-e-e-e-ere?”

“I told you, Honey. We’ll be there soon.”

“Yeah. ‘Soon.’”

“You said that a long time ago!”

“Alvy. Honey-”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him-”

“No! You said we go in duh car!”

“Yes, Sweetheart. Vroom! Vroom! Remember?”

“Not vrooming…”

“You said LITTLE ride in duh car!”

“Well, I meant-”

“You did tell him just a little ride-“

WAAAAAAAAAH!

“Dear, please. That’s not helping to side with him…”

“Are we picking sides?”

“WHEN WILL WE GET DERE?!”

“Your turn.”

Sigh.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Boy! by Sarah Whiley

I twisted.

I urged.

Yet still, the cap wouldn’t budge.

I felt so frustrated. This liquid was yearning for release for human consumption and to be enjoyed.

It was a perfect summer’s day for a beer.

Not ready to concede defeat, I kept on trying.

The effort began to hurt my hands.

Damn this thing, I thought.

Then suddenly, I felt it.

A helpful force; working with me from the other side.

Oh joy of joys, the cap began to move!

Finally it was released, and cool liquid amber gushed through the bottle neck.

“It’s a boy!” I smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Music pulsed, matching the thump of my heart in my ears as I leaned in and gave the wine bottle a carefully planned spin. Breath held. The circle tightened. Julie Jennings’ knee touched against mine, the bottleneck now a whir of fate.

Thump. Warmth hit my cheeks as the wand settled on Julia. A nervous laugh. What now? But with a giggle Julie nudged it two more places—miles it seemed!—to the metallic smile of Christina Cash. A small terror in my chest. A gust of strawberries. Julia shrugged, winked, then shoved me off towards her best friend.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester Makes Amends by Molly Stevens

Chester knew he had to dig himself out of a crater after he gave the wrong impression to his wife, Ruth.

He settled on his strategy and said, “I remember the exact moment I knew you was the one. And though it was magic, my decision to ask for your hand in marriage had nothin’ to do with a silly eight ball.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I chose you in the fifth grade.”

“Really?”

“Remember the party at Rosie house? We gathered in a circle, and I spun first. When the bottleneck pointed in your direction, I knew you’d be mine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bottlenecking by Bill Engleson

I peer into the darkness.

Stella’s driving.

The fog’s thicker than shower steam.

“There’s the turnoff,” I point, bumping my digit against the windshield.

“I see it,” she snaps. “I’m not blind.”

“Sorry…” I apologize, shaking my bent finger.

“Did you hurt your pinkie?” she asks.

“No. Just nerves.”

The offramp quickly turns into a one-lane cow path.

“I can barely see,” she offers.

“It’s a good thing you’re driving,” I confess. “I can’t see squat.”

Suddenly, a tiny wooden bridge appears.

“THAT,” she says, “looks flimsy. I’m turning back.”

“Can’t. Bosses party.”

“And we’re…?”

“Yup. The only guests.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Real Winner by Anurag Bakhshi

I looked down at the battlefield, and my heart filled with pride.

My fellow countryman Leonidas and his small band of 300 Spartans had been pitted against more than a million of the invading army of Xerxes.

But the wily Leonidas had taken a stand at a bottleneck in the pass at Thermopylae, and stopped the Persians dead in their tracks for three days.

And the mighty Persian Army would still be fighting a futile battle if I, Ephialtes, hadn’t told them about the hidden path that would allow them to flank Leonidas and his men, and slaughter them.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by Reena Saxena

“I will not give my land. The price you offer is not enough to sustain me, and I don’t have any other means to earn a livelihood.”

“Do you understand that this is for a mega-project, which will change the face of the countryside. History will not forgive you for being a bottleneck in progress.”

“History might forgive and glorify you, but goodness will not.” He signed the sale deed.

Three years later, the land purchased by the parliamentarian’s brother was sold at thirty times the price he bought it for. It helps to know about future developmental plans.

🥕🥕🥕

Slow and Steady Kid by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal. Have a beer with me. Ever wonder why bottles is shaped the way they are, with the long neck?”

“Mebbe it’s so it’s easier ta pour. But we got no glass nor class, drinkin’ right outta the bottle.”

“If ya hang onta the bottle neck yer beer doesn’t git all warm.”

“Jist drink it down fast. Gimme anuther Kid.”

“I like coozies, ‘specially handy with so many switchin’ ta cans.”

“Don’t need a coozie, jist drink ‘em right down. ‘Nuther, Kid.”

“You prefer bottles, or cans, Pal? Pal?”

“Uh…”

“That was fast. Pal’s downed from downin’ beer.”

🥕🥕🥕

Magic

What we call magic can be inexplicable — the fantastic, supernatural, universality of experiences beyond the realm of the five senses. Magic can be dark or ethereal. It can be a moment, or, as Elizabeth Gilbert explains, Big Magic is the courage to hunt for the creative life.

Enchanted, or not, writers set out to story-craft tales of magic this week. Like a rabbit pulled from a hat, you’ll be surprised at what emerged.

The following is based on the August 23, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes magic.

PART I (10-minute read)

On the Occasion of the Poet’s Being Challenged (or TGIF) by JulesPaige

Magic for me, starts at dusk
after the sun has retired.
One must wait an entire cycle
for the moonflower to bloom.
Defenceless against the weather,
the desire to grow at night
in shadow is strong.

I find a quality in dusk turning to night
that makes it seem as if the silver river
flows slower over the stones.

The heat of a summer day
makes me tired.
I discover strength in darkness.
Uncover the burdens of night dreaming
and cover myself in moon glow.

Repeat over and over a mantra of freedom.
“It is Friday, it is Friday!”

🥕🥕🥕

Magic Exists by Pamela

Magic exists
In the space between the words
In the ideas left unthought
And in the needs now left unspoken

Magic exists
In the dreams as yet undreamt
In the strangers still unmet
And in the future paths untrod

Magic exists
In your mind and in your soul
And in your heart so cautiously
It exists in you

Look for the magic
Be open to its charms
Bask in the wonders
Of the magic that exists

Look for the magic
Before it is gone
I cannot imagine a world so bereft
That magic was not a part
Of me

🥕🥕🥕

Magic by The Dark Netizen

The old man observed the couple in his crystal ball.

They were standing at the sea face, hand in hand, looking at the setting red orb in the sky.

“You know baby, when we are together, it feels magical.”

She looked into his eyes and smiled in agreement.

The old wizard however had a grim face. He spotted two shadows approaching the oblivious couple. There was no way they could sense the darkness approaching. The old man turned to his assistant.

“Merlyn, we need to move fast. We cannot lose our source of magic. We must protect true love…”

🥕🥕🥕

Adamant Acceptance by JulesPaige

Young Kendra willed magic. Ever since the first time death visited her family. Maybe Azrael possessed some healing powers? The girl wanted to communicate with those who had crossed over. Since the ones who were still
around didn’t really communicate very well.

Didn’t the adults read any of the books that contained rituals for magic? If they had maybe they wouldn’t shout so much or rub salt in old wounds. How could they live with themselves?

Kendra would read all the books, even if they
believed she could not read. She would whisper,
repeat and most of all believe.

🥕🥕🥕

Janice by Saifun Hassam

With eyes closed, Janice traced the delicate raised patterns on her favorite porcelain vase. Dogwood flowers, swallows, leaves on curving branches. The subtle magic of that touch flowed into her mind.

Her left eye was still blind. Her right eye filled with vision, tears. Fear and hope. The tumor had crushed the left optic nerve, destroyed the pituitary gland and sent tendrils into the gray matter.

She savored the taste of cherry chocolate cake Tom had prepared for her. She breathed in the aroma of the coffee. He had gone to work, but he had left her with magic.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic Moment by Sherri Matthews

‘Happy Birthday, hope you like it!’

Colin tore off the wrapping paper revealing a child’s magic set to roars of laughter from his friends.

‘Thanks guys…nice one…you bastards.’

Colin laughed along, but the memory of his family’s teasing when he had put on his first magic show as a kid still stung. Not that his friends knew. It didn’t matter. They only knew that Colin was a media sensation after his win on Britain’s Got Talent.

‘Drinks on me.’

Everybody turned as Simon Cowell arrived holding a magnum of champagne.

Nothing beat the magic of that night for Colin.

🥕🥕🥕

Footloose by D. Avery

Ilene Higginbottom pulled a folding chair from the bed of the El Camino and joined Marge and Ernest where they sat in their camp chairs outside the shop.

“That’s a pretty fancy camp chair, Ilene, dual cup-holders, and look at you, it reclines too!”

“Yeah, I like to put my foot up. This’s the last thing I bought with my ex-boyfriend’s money before letting him go; only thing about him appealed to me was his magic mailbox.”

Ernest squeezed Marge’s hand before going for more beer, told her he’d start dinner.

“Marge,” said Ilene, “What you’ve got is real magic.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reckoning by Kerry E.B. Black

“Where is your wife, Ward?” The magistrate’s robes flapped like a gaping hole.

“She took our son to visit her family.” Thank God she fled.

But what of Nina? Legs twisted like gnarled, unsupportive vines. Defenseless. Her only crime saving his infant’s life.

The magistrate rested a heavy hand upon Ward’s shoulder. It pressed like a stone. “Your wife will be tried. She consorted with a witch to save your son.”

Fire erupted within Ward, but he struggled to keep calm. “She didn’t. I fetched the woman who nursed our son. My wife had nothing to do with it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Magic by Frank Hubeny

On a blue planet people believed in nothing that they couldn’t see. No ghosts. No gods. No angels.

There were natural laws. That magic was powerful. The more it worked, the more they believed. Those who doubted were educated until they believed or in extreme cases there were prisons. In really extreme cases there were nuclear options.

The people on the blue planet made a lot of money except for those who didn’t and so everyone who counted was happy.

Things went very well until the “fay-rees”, as they became known after The Event, had their fill of it.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Geoff Le Pard

‘Do you believe in magic, Logan?’

‘In what context?’

‘What’s wrong with a yes or no?’

‘If you mean prestidigitation…’

‘Huh?’

‘Slight of hand, deceit, then that’s not magic. If you mean the magic of nature or of birth or first love…’

‘You soppy romantic…’

‘… then yes. There are some things that are truly magical, truly miraculous. They constantly amaze me.’

‘Like my wit and brilliance?’

‘Like the fact that despite you driving me nuts, talking rot, playing the fool, we are still friends.’

‘And my wit and brilliance?’

‘That too.’

‘Give me a hug.’

‘Don’t push it…’

🥕🥕🥕

The Magic of Decision-making by Molly Stevens

Ruth was on a mission to purge. She examined a round, black object she retrieved from the bottom of the trunk.

“Chester, this yours?”

“Yup.”

“Why have you held onto it?

“It means a lot to me. It helped me make some major decisions through the years.”

“Like what?”

“Remember when I was thinkin’ about quittin’ school? Magic eight ball said, ‘My reply is no.’”

What else?”

Chester remained silent.

“Magic eight ball, did Chester consult with you before he proposed to me?

“‘Signs point to yes.”

Chester snatched the prophetic orb and pitched it into the dumpster.

“Traitor!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sleight Fright by Ritu Bhathal

“Think of a name.”

Deanna held her chosen name tightly in her mind and nodded.

“Think of an object related to that name.”

She self-consciously touched her wrist, where her watch was.

Except it wasn’t there.

Where was it? It was the only thing she had left of him.

“I believe you were thinking of Peter, and his black diver’s watch, am I right?”

The magician held out a watch.

Slight of hand or magic, she didn’t know, but Deanna didn’t wait to find out. She rushed to the front, snatched the watch and rushed out of the building.

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

I finished my gardening chores and wrapped the hose into a coil. There on the ground was a tiny grey feather. I picked it up and placed it under my gloves on the table for safe keeping.

I walked toward the front garden where my daylilies drooped. I held the spray over the plants, and there on the ground was another gray feather!

I hurried to retrieve the first feather, but it was gone. It was then, the magic of the moment struck me. Without a doubt, this feather had wanted me to find it. What could it mean?

🥕🥕🥕

The Return Home by Jan Malique

Soft, soft are their feet upon the forest floor
Hear their whispers lift on perfumed breeze
The Crystal Sentinels wait
Offer messages only once
Offer wisdom never seen
Hark, the Fey do come

The Light of Ever Becoming approaches
Issues through sky and earth
Infuses Crystal Sentinels
Weaves magic most powerful
Weaves magic neither light nor dark
Hark, the do Fey come

See the Faerie Queen step forth
Peer at human worlds
Command Otherworld gates be open
See her warriors step forth
Speak words of release
The Crystal Sentinels rise
Step through gates of welcome
Step through worlds incandescent

🥕🥕🥕

A Warning and a Plea by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lucy’s footsteps echoed pale blue, up and over the far reaches of Karlssen’s Glacier.

She took her time, minding her breath; these tower steps had been built by others taller than her six foot frame. Per her nature, she’d planned for extra effort to reach the peak.

The half-troll girl was on her way. Magnhildr would need another Season to convince her fellows to foster yet another non-jotun, even Sylvi’s child.

She wrapped the message-crow in her hands, whispering a plea, “The child is no longer safe.”

The bird erupted into the northern sky, its cry splitting the night.

🥕🥕🥕

Protected by abhijit ray

“This is magestic,” Sam looked admiringly at the luminous diamond sitting at the feet of deity in dilapidated temple.

“I want it Sid,” said Sam greedily, “it will fetch a fortune.”

“Don’t invite god’s wrath Sam. This stone is under protection of reigning deity of this fort.”

“I don’t believe in power of magic. I did not walk all the way to just have a peek. What good is it here anyway? At least, we shall have good time.”

The leopard was following them for some distance now. As Sam bent down to unseat the stone, the predator pounced.

🥕🥕🥕

Acronym by FloridaBorne

“Dr. Michael Arden?” The young woman with a recorder asked, “Why did you become a scientist?”

Should I remind the world? Why not? “You do realize this is a funeral and we’re standing in front of my mother’s casket?”

“You’re a hard man to corner for an interview.”

“My mother believed in magic, used a cauldron and thought she could talk to fairies.”

Wide eyed, she gasped, “Your mother was a witch?”

“If you could read, you would know why,” I scoffed at her. “Mother was schizophrenic! MAGIC is nothing but an acronym for mentally addled gullible insecure citizen.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shakespeare’s Cheat Sheet by Katimac

Shakespeare scribbled halfway down the page and froze. It was the same rubbish he had written an hour earlier, reworded. He cursed and crumpled the page, tossing it across the room to add to the growing stack of crumpled pages in the corner of the room. He threw himself back in his chair and thought furiously. After a moment, he called for the maid.

“What’s her name again?”

The maid glanced around nervously. “Are you certain, sir?”

Shakespeare swore again. “What was her name, the magic hag?”

The maid whispered the name in fear.

“Bring her here. It’s time.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

First Morning in the New Place by Anne Goodwin

Despite her diligence in tidying away her thoughts on retiring to bed, Matty awakes to a muddle. It is as if a kitten has whiskered its way into a sewing box and woven a cat’s cradle with the thread.

Opening her eyes, it is obvious something larger than a baby cat has caused the chaos. Has a magic carpet whooshed her to China? Or, like Alice, she’s fallen down a rabbit hole to a world where walls move and rooms shrink?

A maid beams at her from the bedpost. “Welcome to Tuke House, Matty! Are you ready for breakfast?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Source of Magic by Anurag Bakhshi

Sue woke up to see Charli staring unblinkingly at a tall tree near their campsite.

“Look at that light emanating from that tree, it’s magical,” Charli said softly.

Sue looked towards the tree, and said dismissively, “It’s just sunlight reflected from a mirror on the tree. You really shouldn’t have had those magic mushrooms last night.”

Charli shrugged her head and looked again. Her friend was right, it was nothing at all.

As Charli left to wash her face to clear her head, Sue looked towards the tree angrily. That magic tree had got to control its yawns better.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic by Kay Kingsley

I don’t believe in magic tricks but I love being sucked into them. The slight of hand, the show, the impossible result… it’s mesmerizing and entertaining and I have zero desire for someone to explain it to me. What fun is that? I want to be entertained and tricked into awe.

And although I don’t believe in magic tricks I do believe in magic. The magic of timing, of bonding, the pure magic of love. Magic felt, magic seen, magic experienced.

The only magician I ever knew was time and the only magic he ever showed me was life.

🥕🥕🥕

Transformed by Reena Saxena

“I have stopped writing,” he appears cold and distant in the darkness.

“Really? Will you survive without it?”

“I spent a lifetime, staining white pages and interlocking fingers with keyboards. It was heaven, it was hell, and I knew of nothing else”, he rambles on, unaware of my presence in the room.

“What do you plan to do now?” I am genuinely concerned about his mental health.

“Whatever I am ordained to do….. I experienced magic today. I saw my thoughts in a physical form.”

I walk out with heavy footsteps, knowing that he does not need me anymore.

🥕🥕🥕

The Magic Pill by Ruchira Khanna

“Dr. Ali, I come to you with hope since I’ve heard that you have cured, many!” Sheela said in an earnest tone as she held her rumbling stomach.

“Yes! I treat all,” he said with confidence as he handed her a box of pills with a blank label.

“Fill out your symptoms!”

She followed his instructions with a puzzled look.

“Take 1 pill twice a day. Visit me after a month.”

A month later, ” I am cured!” she shouted with glee, “You have magic pills.”

“Nah! it’s just the placebo effect, and I’m not even a medical doctor.”

🥕🥕🥕

A 1966 Really Groovy Incident by Bill Engleson

I wasn’t supposed to be home the day that Alan dropped by with Lita and Louise, two Oregonian hitchhikers.

“Picked them up on the freeway,” he said. “They need a place to crash and I…” and he explained…two rooms, one wife and a huge red setter with bladder problems.

“I can see it’d be awkward,” I commiserated, adding, “In any case, we’re a commune. We can always make extra beds magically appear.”

The Oregonians were exceptionally close.

Still, Lita and I quickly found…mutual ground.

Only Louise needed her own bed.

Everyone was good with that.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic Mushrooms by Robbie Cheadle

What happened to her?” Rose asked, horrified at the red spots and broken capillaries that covered her pretty daughter’s face.

“We had to rush her to the hospital and have her stomach pumped,” said her sister.

“She was playing with Sean in the garden and they found a patch of toadstools hidden in the corner under a bush. Sean said she ate one. She wanted to grow big like Alice. She thought they were magic mushrooms.”

“Oh, my goodness, I thought I was doing a good thing when I read Alice in Wonderland to her. More context next time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Childhood – A Magical Time by Susan Sleggs

Now that I’m an old lady I can say my favorite sound is a symphony of night time bug noises. I remember the music lulling me to sleep when I was a little girl and I kept the window by my bed wide open. During the day we built forts in the woods, raided the garden for snacks, and enjoyed getting dirty and tired. I didn’t know enough to worry about being hungry, having money problems, alcoholism, or cancer. Today the bug music takes me back to that magical time so I can clear my mind to fall asleep.

🥕🥕🥕

Seeing Is Believing by D. Avery

“Pal, watcha doin’ way out here all by yersef?”

“Felt like bein’ alone, Kid.”

“The ranch hands is all busy corrallin’ stories ’bout magic Pal.”

“Jist wanted ta git away, lay out here unner the stars. ’Sides, I don’t believe in magic. Since yer here, set still, listen ta the popple leaves whisperin’.”

“The Ranch is out west Pal, call ’em Aspen or cottonwoods.”

“They whisper the same songs, Kid. Now look’t that big orange moon through the silhouetted treetops. Eh? Look ‘t that star strewn night sky. I tell ya Kid, it’s… it’s…”

“Magic?”

“I believe it is.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Magic Sound by Susan Sleggs

“Child, open the window by my bed.”

“Nurse told me not to. Too humid tonight.”

“Don’t have nothin’ to do with hot or cold; has to do with bugs.”

“How’s that?”

“If you open that window like I asked, I can hear them bugs singin’. That sound is magic.”

“Why’s that?”

“Cause that’s the first sound I remember. Lulled me to sleep before I knowed what meanness, goin’ without, prejudice, and drinkin’ was. Can still do the same if I can just hear that singin’.”

“Can I leave if I open the window so’s I don’t get blamed?”

“Course.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Sprinkle of This and a Pinch of That by Norah Colvin

“Whatcha doin?”

“Makin’ a spell.”

“What sorta spell?”

“A magic spell.”

“Can I help?”

“Sure.”

“Whadda I do?”

“Put stuff in the pot.”

“What sorta stuff?”

“Gotta read the recipe.”

“What’s it say?”

“Ya gotta read it.”

“I can’t.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll help. Look, it says …”

Mum stopped at the door to the kitchen. “Wha— What are you doing?”

“Nothin’,” mumbled the older.

“Makin’ magic spells,” grinned the younger, covered in flour from head to toe.

“What sort of magic spell?” asked Mum, wishing for her own magic spell.

“Take us to outa space.”

“Can I come too?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Magic of Imagination by TNKerr

Waves of assassins, ninjas, and marauders had already been turned away by the intrepid Timmy McNab. Dead and wounded were piled, like cordwood, against the back fence while weapons of all types lay scattered throughout the garden. When the whistle sounded, our hero held up one finger stopping an attacking pirate who waited; cutlass in his left hand, dagger in the right, pistol tucked into the black sash around his waist.

“Sorry, Cap’n,” That’s Mom. I gotta go, dinner time.”

“No fair, Timmy it’s my turn.” The pirate groused.

“We’ll play again tomorrow, after breakfast. You can go first.”

🥕🥕🥕

Do You Believe in Magic? by Chelsea Owens

Here, he sits. The screen reflects his fat fingers, his glasses, his balding head.
Between lines of numbered reports, his memory sees small hands, perfect sight, full hair. Laughter.

There, she rests. Against the mopped floor rest her orthopedic shoes, her sore cankles, her ample midsection.
Mundane mind-wanderings recall barefoot summers, skinny legs, an inverted belly button. Happiness.

Where, do we stand? Honest bathroom mirrors capture our eye lines, our neck bulges, our long wrinkly faces.
Fleeting cognizance remembers smooth skin, thin necks, unblemished features. Smiles.

Fairy dust? Hardly. Evaporating imagination pulls us ever farther from Never-Neverland.

🥕🥕🥕

Magician by Miriam Hurdle

“Danny, you’re my helper. Get me a chopstick and a cloth napkin.”
Uncle Pat shaped his left hand like a funnel, pushed the center of the napkin into it with the four corners flapping like petals. He poked the thin end of the chopstick into the napkin fiercely to the bottom, then pulled it through and shook the napkin in the air.

“Uncle, you didn’t poke a hole!”

“It’s magic.”

“Do it again.”

“Next time.”

Three days later.

“Hello, sis, how are you doing?”

“Danny poked a hole through three cloth napkins.”

“He’ll be a great magician one day.”

🥕🥕🥕

Up to His Tricks (from Rock Creek) by Charli MIlls

“Wanna see a magic trick?” Hickok splayed a deck of cards to Monroe.

“Pa doesn’t like hands playing cards.” The boy glanced at the barn door expecting Cobb to materialize.

“We’re not gaming. Just magic. Pick a card, any—”

“Monroe, your Ma is asking for you. Said to bring her the hen eggs.” Sarah stood in the door, arms crossed.

Monroe shuffled and then ran out the door. Sarah had to address the new hand before he got on Cobb’s wrong side.

Ready for her scolding, Hickok winked and smiled a boyish grin. “Wanna see a magic trick?”

🥕🥕🥕

Breakfast by oneletterup

Nobody even mentions the comet.
But she saw it! Last night. Out the window.
Would they even believe her?
Nobody believes her. Ever.

The little boy squints at her over his oatmeal.
“Come on…what’s your name?”

She shakes her head. Chews.
The little girl smiles at her.

If only she could stay here forever.
She wishes hard for a magic wand.
Poof! She would belong in this blue house with the swings.
This nice man. This nice lady. This little girl and little boy. And her. Safe.

She would stop remembering.
And she’d never have to go back.

🥕🥕🥕

Crystal Clear by Di @ pensitivity101

The ranks were gathered, thousands staring at the wondrous sight.

Whispers of ‘where did it come from’ and ‘what was it’ filtered through the regimental columns, no-one making any effort to climb the mossy mound to investigate.

Their Leader came to the front and once he had their full attention, announced that it was indeed magic, a Gift from the Gods.

Their prayers had been answered and their diligence rewarded.

This crystal globe contained a never ending source of the water they so badly needed.
He thus called upon his ant armies to carry it and its precious cargo.

🥕🥕🥕

Falling by Patrick O’Connor

There was only one explanation for what happened to me.

No one would have survived such a thing.

I was hanging over the edge of a cliff, clinging to a branch.

My strength gave out and I started falling.

Falling to the rocks below.

Just as I reached the rocks, everything went black.

I awoke on a beach, witnessing a beautiful sunrise.

The only explanation – magic.

I was in the same clothes.

I had all my memories.

But there was something even more extraordinary.

There were two moons in the sky instead of one.

I awoke in the hospital.

🥕🥕🥕

Pal Pays PayPal by D. Avery

“Hey, Kid.”

“What’s up, Pal?”

“I been thinkin’ on all thet Shorty’s doin’; second anthology, the rodeo…”

“Yep. Shore is a worker. Gives so much a hersef ta the Ranch.”

“Well, Kid, I found a magic button thet’ll hep us give ta the Ranch too.”

“Thought ya didn’t believe in magic.”

“Well, I’m beginnin’ ta. Ya jist go up ta the upper left hand corner an’ push some buttons and Kazam! Magically the Ranch is gifted.”

“You ain’t so gifted though. It ain’t magic; ya gotta pay, Pal.”

“So? I’m happy ta pay fer some Ranch magic. It’s priceless.”

🥕🥕🥕

Comet

With trails that stretch across the sky, some comets burn so brightly they appear during the light of day. They burn into our imaginations, sparking questions and prophecies. Some people dance (naked), some despair.

Writers flashed comets this week with tales from around the world and both hemispheres. Take a ride on a comet through the literary art of flash fiction.

The following is based on the August 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet.

PART I (10-minute read)

The Comet of 1858 by James McCanles (5th-great-grandfather of Charli Mills)

Hail! beautious stranger to our sky,
How bright thy robes appear,
Noiseless thou trends thy paths on high,
And converse with all our stars.

In radiant flame of glowing light
Thy silent orb rolls on,
Through vast eternities of night,
To mortal man unknown.

Thy magnitude thy fiery glow,
Thy towering wake of flames,
But mock our wisest skill to know,
We’ve barely learned thy name.

Through boundless depths of space unknown,
Beyond the realms of days,
In blazing language of thy own,
Thou speaks thy Maker’s praise.

Words beyond time stretch comet-like from 1858,
Oldest flash of 2018.

***

NOTE: last two lines added by C Mills to make poem 99 words.

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Comet by Anita Dawes

When I look at a comet, having been lucky enough to see one, I see a giant snowman, throwing a ball of ice across our night sky, with its tail of dust.

We look upon it with wonder.

Could this giant hand be playing Rounder’s, or maybe Alleygobs with giant marbles? Is there someone on the other side of our dark sky ready to catch them, to hold onto them for too long before we see them again?

Could it be an invisible jockey riding a sky horse or maybe a knight from some forgotten age, looking for Merlin?

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Sibling Games? by JulesPaige

There would be punishment for stealing his marbles. But only if the thief was caught. Which was why she hid them in the hem of her black velvet skirt…

Being the children of the Gods, they still behaved with human attributes. Or was it just that humans had to have excuses for their own failures?

If he wanted them back, he was going to have to look carefully. She took them into the night and with all her might tossed them into the universe. The marbles were pulled by gravity, while gaining speed and left a lingering light trail.

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The Prophecy by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

The comet streaked across the sky dragging a fiery tail against the inky blackness. Dennitsa shivered in the gathering gloom. Her dreams of late had been infiltrated by the ancestors revealing the prophecy this celestial nomad heralded. Time was running out.

The old ways of healing-magic were in danger. Today, the Byzantine priests had instituted a plan to hunt down and kill the fairy witches, thus performing a cleansing upon the land.

Ripples of magic exploded from the woman’s form silhouetted against the night sky.

Her spirit calls out—

the continuum answers,

benevolence found.

The solution came from above.

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Stardust and a Comet by Carol Keefer

According to the J.R.R. Tolkien’s cosmology of elves, the Eldar who lived with Valar in Aman “were also called Calaquendi (Elves of the Light).” The Eldar developed their faith in magic and became magical elements in the tail of a powerful comet. As long as the Eldar drove the comet, the comet would not die. Because they left Aman, these elves did not live in the world of Arda and were subsequently unknown to the inhabitants of Middle Earth. These comet-dwelling Eldar sailed through the universe, developing new weapons and magic until they attracted the attention of an enemy.

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Ilesol (from “Quantanelle: Stranded in Space”) by Saifun Hassam

The King’s Astronomer Ilesol tracked the arc of the great Comet Cygnet across the starry skies. At midnight, he was alone in the Royal Observatory on the high plateau overlooking Port Estrella.

Comet Cygnet was known since ancient times to return to the Terran skies every seventy years.
This would be the first and only time Ilesol would see the Comet.

In that thought and moment, the Comet seemed to beckon him, to venture beyond Port Estrella, the Isle of Ilbaiyat, to travel the Great Terran Oceans, to explore unknown worlds. A brilliant light filled the observatory. Ilesol vanished!

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Comet by The Dark Netizen

“Whoa! What is that?”

Ethan had taken his little sister for camping. He looked at his little sister pointing up at the astronomical expanse. He could see what she was referring to.

“That is a comet.”

“A comet? What are those?”

Ethan adored his little sister. However, the way she asked so many questions about everything annoyed him to no end. He decided to have some fun.

“A comet is an alien flying so fast, that its ass starts burning, and it leaves a trail.”

“So cool!! We spotted an alien.”

*Many miles above*

“How did the earthling know?”

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Comet by Robbie Cheadle

From the small window of the rocket, it looked like an enormous snowball. Comprised of frozen gases, rock and dust, it was the size of a small town. The astronauts realized with horror that there was no escaping it. The rocket lay directly in its path.

As the frozen ball’s orbit brought it closer to the sun, it obliterated the rocket, ending its urgent mission immediately. The comet heated up, releasing dust and gas which formed a glowing head and long trailing tail. The people of Earth rejoiced in its beauty, not realising the loss they had  just suffered.

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Origins of Comets (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah spread a quilt on the knoll above Rock Creek to watch the night sky.

“The year before I was born, stars landed.” Yellow Feather pulled a pitted gray stone from his medicine pouch. He passed it to Nancy Jane.

“Feels kinda like lumpy metal.”.

“It’s heavy, too. This is a star?” asked Sarah.

Yellow Feather said, “My grandfather found it where many small stars burned the prairie grass.”

“Look – there’s one,” said Nany Jane.

“I saw it! Did you see Comet Donati last year?”

Yellow Feather laughed. “Comet Donati? That was just First Shaman urinating across the sky.”

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How The Stars Aligned by Geoff Le Pard

‘There’s a comet passing tonight, Morgan.’

‘Huh? So?’

‘No, come on. Even you must see how extraordinary these things are.’

‘They’re a bunch of rocks and ice, Logan. You may think watching space grit is fascinating but I’ll stick to the footie.’

‘These are nature’s warnings. They portend the great events of history. The Battle of Hastings, Genghis Khan’s attack on Europe.’

‘Rubbish. Your average Russian isn’t interested in Hastings.’

‘You know what significant event occurred when Halley’s last appeared? It changed the world as we know it.’

‘What’s that?’

‘We started school together and you stole my banana.’

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What do YOU Wish For? by Chelsea Owens

“I wish to be a famous dancer!”

“I wanna be a millionaire!”

“I want to build the world’s first robotic house!”

They all turned to their silent friend.

“What do you wish for, Chelsea?”

“I can’t tell.”

Shrugging, they watched the comet pass, carrying their wishes. It would return in ten years’ time, granting them what they had asked.

Carly would be a dancer.

Tanner would be rich.

Edward would be building robots.

And Chelsea? She didn’t know. How could the comet possibly turn her into a cosmic fairy able to soar through the night sky as it did?

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Comet Hale Bopp by Miriam Hurdle

“What a crispy night to look at the stars.”

“Yes, it is. A good crowd here. I’m Tim.”

“Hi, Tim. I’m Eric, this is my wife Jan. Jan Hale and Eric Bopp.”

“Hale-Bopp, like the comet?”

“You know it? My dad saw it in New Mexico.” Sparks jump out from Jan’s eyes.

“My dad saw it too in Arizona.”

“My dad saw it first.”

“Your dad emailed the astronomical discoveries. My dad sent a telegram. They got the email faster than the telegram.”

“Who sent a telegram in 1995?”

“Your dad was only a hyphen faster than my dad.”

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Once in my Lifetime by TNKerr

I was twenty-four the last time it came, that periodic star that causes ships to ground. She was twenty-six. We drove to the desert’s edge and climbed Blue Mesa in the dark; leaving behind the city lights, the traffic sounds, and the sounds of club music that floated incessantly through the downtown streets. In the stillness we spread our blanket and made love waiting for and watching Edmund Halley’s dirty snowball with it’s retrograde orbit and curved tail. She speculated that lovers had done the same for thousands of years before and will continue to until the comet dies.

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Scope by Floridaborne

“Mira,” Frank said, pointing up at the sky. “A comet!”

She looked through her telescope. “Nope.”

“Why do you always disagree with me?”

She chuckled at him, an act that served only to fuel his umbrage.   “Peer through the scope. What do you see?”

“I don’t need that thing to recognize a comet!”
“Are you afraid I might be right?” Mira asked, cocking her head to the side like a puzzled parrot.

“Women!” Frank cursed. Through the telescope, a 3-fingered, grey being waved at him.  “God almighty!”

“I told you so, Frank,” she said, waving up at the light.

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Bequest by Liz Huseby Hartmann

It started as a tone, growing in volume and pitch as it resolved itself into a bright streak, slicing silver blue through an opaque night sky. The tone grew to harmonies as dark stars broke free and distributed themselves across the horizon.

“By all rights, we shouldn’t be able to see anything.”
“Magic tops meteorology!”
“Ha! You just made a pun.”

The first one rolled its eyes as the other two giggled. The dark star slowed, resolving to a single, sweet contralto. It landed in the clearing with a fragrant whump of meadow grasses, rolling, unfolding, and standing tall.

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Believe Me by Reena Saxena

I don’t know why the Comet chose privacy, when it struck me. The media remained oblivious of change.

I am transformed. I am blessed with supernatural powers. I can see and hear things other mortals cannot. They do not believe that I am going to outlive them. The idiots have locked me up in a cell in the mental asylum.

I do not seek revenge. I seek enlightenment for all. I pray for another comet to strike them, so that they see and believe what I say. We are all made of stardust.

But, I am the chosen one.

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Heaven’s Gate Away Team by Anne Goodwin

I stared and stared, praying for God to reward me. To grant me a glimpse of that celestial spaceship carried in the comet’s tail. But Marshall’s vision was sharper than mine. And his faith.

When the time came, we swallowed the elixir, pocketed the interplanetary toll. We lay on our bunks, veiled in purple cloths. We waited.

The pain was my soul struggling to escape the bonds of my body. The moans were angels serenading us to the sky. Paralysis signalled I was becoming transhuman. And yet.

What if Hale-Bopp were simply a comet? What if Marshall were wrong?

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The Idiot by Anurag Bakhshi

They’re right, I AM an idiot.

Moreover, I had to demonstrate my stupidity to the entire world, with my doomsday predictions of comets, and meteors, and asteroids.

I’d even set a date for the collision, yesterdays.

But they laughed at me, while I hid with my family in the bunker that I’d constructed for us.

I should go out and admit to my failure now. Maybe I can just blame it on my tiny brain.

Their brains are much larger. That’s why the dinosaurs have ruled over us for ages, and we cockroaches will soon die out, I’m sure.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Perseid Meteor Shower 2018 by katimac

I lay in bed, drifting to sleep in a window filled with falling stars.

A cool breeze wafted across my nose, and stardust drifted in my eyes.

A cat shadow crept along the window sill. She sniffed the screen and sneezed stars.
“Gedsunheit,” I whispered. Her eyes glowed disdainfully down at me, starlight reflected in them.

Meteors competed with the moon as they exploded overhead, casting noon-bright shadows on the side of the barn outside my window. Horses stood in the paddock in silent awe, watching the spectacle with equine aplomb.

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Hair! Up in the Sky by Bill Engleson

“There!” I point skyward.

She looks up sharply, asks, “Where?”

“It’s gone.”

I, of course, hang my head and repeat, “gone.”

“That fast?”

“You gotta be quick,” I tease. “Don’t call them comets for nothing.”

“So, smart guy…what else do you know?”

This poses a challenge. I’m never quick to put on my thinking cap.

She knows this. Oh, I’m good for a slick rib poke but actual knowledge…that’s a puzzler.

“You got me,” I confess, adding “Halley’s Comet.”

“What about it?”

“Well, I know I’ll be 114 when it rolls around again.”

“Good luck with that,” she laughs.

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Pamela Comet by Ruchira Khanna

1990
High School Reunion

Pamela, the brunette at the age of 23, was huffing and puffing about her new husband to her friends.

“Then, what do you?” inquired one of them.

“I raise my voice. I argue. I fight until he bows thee!” she said with a wink and triumphant smile.

2015
Pamela meets her old friends who inquire about her life. She blushed at first then pushed the stray grey hair behind her ear, ” I was like a comet, bright at the head, but years changed my perception allowing me to tail away from the headstrong attitude.

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Winning at Charades by Molly Stevens

Rosie was excited about an evening of charades with her women friends.

She glanced at her word and said, “This will be tough.” But having once yearned for a career in the theater she knew she was up to the task.

She pointed to the sky and mimicked staring through a telescope.

“Star! Constellation! Astronomy!”

Rosie shook her head no. Then she stretched her arms in a dramatic upward sweeping motion and assumed an awestruck expression.

With no answer forthcoming, she kneeled on her hands and knees. Pretending to sprinkle something onto the floor, she started scrubbing.

“Comet!”

“Yes!”

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Comet by Jack Schuyler

Janet scrubbed with all her might, but the brown ring remained. As she did every day, leaning over the toilet bowl, she found herself hating her job. The same stains, the same sore arms, and the same cleaning solutions.

She had studied astronomy in school, but apparently there was no more need for people who looked up at the stars. Now she only found herself looking down.

She dumped more Comet into the toilet and scrubbed with irritated vigor. Comet, The irony of the name stung. There was one shooting start that would never make her dreams come true.

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Impeding Doom by Susan Sleggs

“Who cares if I don’t know the difference between a meteor and a comet?”

“I care, as a science professor, you embarrass me.”

“Well la-dee-da Mr. Education. Is it true a comet warns of impending doom?”

“That’s all myth. Science has advanced enough that we know better.”

“Perhaps this one is warning of our doom.”

“It’s not going to hurt us.”

“You give me no credit. I was thinking of how doomed our marriage is.”

“You may have a point.”

“Maybe I could catch a ride on its tail to a happier galaxy.”

“They don’t leave our galaxy. Sorry.”

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Comet’s Tail by Abhijit Ray

Rahul was alone on the terrace in this moonless night. A comet appeared on the night sky with its long tail following luminous body.

“Kind of like our life would you not agree” observed Heena softly, “a promising career, a high profile marriage, followed by a trail of scandals and a messy divorce.”

Internally, Rahul accepted his failed career compounded his drinking and philandering habits, culminating in divorce from Heena. He simply did not want to hear about his weakness from Heena.

He did not want to extend comet’s tail any farther by strangling her.

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Close Call by Patrick O’Connor

“You never know what you’ll see ‘round these parts.”

Stanley spoke to Bert on the carpool drive to work. 4:30am rise time.

Hit the road by 5:15am in order to make it to the factory on time.

“Yup. Sure don’t.” said Bert.

Suddenly, in the sky in front of them, a huge ball of fire, complete with a sonic boom.

“Jiminy Cricket!” shouted Stanley, Startling Bert.

“Woah! That’s big.”

“Look there! It’s gonna hit!”

Across the sky, the ball of flame got closer.

Suddenly, there was a flash and the comet (meteor) burned out.

“Whew! That was close.”

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You Should Have Listened to Me by Robert Kirkendall

“I see a dark omen ahead for you,” the sorceress warned.

“Well that’s a bummer,” the man said nonchalantly.

“Heed my words!” the sorceress reiterated. “When a comet appears that is aligned with one of the planets, it will spell your doom!”

“How does a comet align with a planet?” the man said dismissively. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Doubt me at your own peril!”

“Planets move in orbits, comets go in a straight line,” the man explained condescendingly. “Crazy old bat,” the man chuckled and left.

He crossed the street and was struck by an old Mercury Comet.

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Comet by Deborah Lee

“They say our origins dictate our path in life, our fate,” Henry says. He looks at the homeless tent city around them. “The son of a teacher and a CPA, upright churchgoers, shouldn’t end up without an old-age pot to piss in, wouldn’t you think?”

Jane laughs ruefully. “I was conceived on a hot summer night, in the blaze of forbidden teenage passion, in the backseat of a ‘64 Mercury Comet,” she tells him. “Shouldn’t that make for a charmed life?”

Henry tops her wine cup, his grin brilliant. “Maybe, maybe not. I’d love to have that car, though.”

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The Signifier by Margaret G. Hanna

A hot summer night.

Two friends, friends since high school, different in backgrounds but united by their uniqueness. Friends through husbands, children, divorces.

They sat together on a park bench by the river walkway, watched couples stroll by hand in hand, a canoe slide down the river. Heard a whippoorwill call. Felt a gentle breeze. Contemplated the white slash of the comet against the ink-black sky.

“Medieval people believed a comet signified the end of the world.”

A glance exchanged. A wry smile shared.

“They were wrong. It’s the beginning of a new world.”

They clasped hands. Embraced. Kissed.

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Elgin: Our Cross-County Rival by Nancy Brady

In the early sixties, it became common for smaller schools to consolidate into larger schools. My county was no different with several schools opting to consolidate. Not my school, however; our district chose otherwise!

Elgin became one of those county schools; it was supposedly named by combining the three schools that made up the new school: LaRue, Green Camp, and New Bloomington. Elgin even named their mascot based upon America’s new obsession of space.

Elgin was our biggest football rival, and often, the conference championship hinged on the last game, us against them, with the Comets streaking to victory.

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An Imperfect Proposal by Norah Colvin

“What the…?”

He scrambled through bushes, slipping and sliding on twigs and gravel in haste to his love. When he reached her, she was doubled over holding her belly.

“What happened?”

She shook her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“I thought…” Her body shook.

“What?” he soothed, wiping away tears.

“Snake… I thought…” She pointed.

On the bed lay the strap of his telescope bag coiled neatly.

“You’re laughing?”

She nodded.
——
Camping became their family tradition, but their children’s favourite story was of the “snake” that frightened Mum, not of the comet that graced the sky the night that he proposed.

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Speed Demon by Ann Edall-Robson

Crouched by the fence she watched, reminiscing, smiling at her childhood partner in crime. They had been a formidable team. Each day they had forged rivers, hid in canyons and chased foe. Together, their teamwork had conquered imaginary obstacles. No chore was too tough for them. Sometimes reckless, but always sure-footed, and with mane and tail flying in the wind. She laughed, remembering their nickname, Speed Demon. Those days were gone now. Slowly he came toward her, head high, ears at attention, looking for a treat. Standing, she called her trusted friend, the one she had named Comet.

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Comet by Frank Hubeny

There are stars out, but that doesn’t mean anyone notices. However, the comet was special. People pointed it out proving how smart they were being able to see what others told them about.

Charles didn’t care. He looked at Anne’s eyes.

Sure, they were told about the comet, the rare comet that comes once in a million years. “You better look while you have the chance!” “You may never see something like that again!” “Don’t miss it!”

They looked, but they were not sure they saw anything particularly remarkable out there. They were more interested in each other’s eyes.

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Goodnight by Di @ pensitivity101

Emily was sitting up and looking out of the window, fascinated by the bright star in the night sky.

She turned to her Dad who had just finished reading her a bedtime story.

‘Do you think she can see us Daddy?’

He felt a lump in his throat and tears fill his eyes. It had been only two months since

Nancy had been taken so cruelly from them.

‘I think so Sweetie.’

Emily waved at the comet and snuggled under the sheets, then looked across at the empty bed where her twin used to sleep.

‘Night, sis.’ she said softly.

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Make a Wish! by Deepa

as a child
I always thought
airplanes were stars
that carried
wishes and requests
from
one country
to another

my heart pains
because
every time
I try
catching
the fireflies
I thought
they were
shooting stars

‘Hey! shooting star
make a wish!’
I heard me say
even though
astronomy teaches
not to expect
anything out of
something that occurs
once in 75 years
today
I wish upon
Halley’s Comet
to show my son
who I lost
to terminated pregnancy
several years back
for unknown reasons

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A Thousand Wishes by Kay Kingsley

The sunset fades into dusk. Bright pinks and reds slowly change to burnt shades of orange and purple. The horizon glow dims as the blanket of night covers all.

The rising hum of crickets and frogs fill the summer night and a warm breeze welcomes us to settle in like the flashing of lights before a performance begins.

Time to take your seat. The show is about to begin.

With excitement the event begins as the first comet streaks the sky.

Tonight is a night of a thousand wishes and with all of mine I wish you were here.

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Comet by oneletterup

The screen door slams behind them.
She rushes past the little boy. Runs upstairs.
The little girl stays behind.

“What happened?” he asks.
“I think she’s scared,” the little girl answers, eyes wide.
“Someone was spying on us from the woods!”

They like this new silent mysterious guest.
She stays upstairs. They let her be.

Day becomes night.
She crawls from under the bed.
Peeks out the window, eyes scanning left and right.
Nobody out there.
Transfixed by the starry night, she sees it.
A blazing white streak across the sky.
Like from the book.
A comet!
She remembers.

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Billy & The Comet by Grae:)

“The ‘Comet’ is coming!” hollered little Billy Ollerenshaw, at the top of his voice. “The ‘Comet!’ Billy passed by nos. 17 and 19 Combination Street heading towards the town centre.

“Do you think he’d be so happy if he knew that it was a rogue comet that is going to destroy the Earth, rather than that old steam train that he so loves? He has a picture of it on his wall.”

Mrs. Ekkerslike was a placid lady, the far side of sixty, and resigned to her fate.

“Best to let him think of a steam train.” said Mrs. Wensleydale, sighing.

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Heavenly Calling by Ritu Bhathal

It was 1910. She was ten. She’d often sit on her windowsill, legs dangling, staring out at the stars. That night, she’d seen something different, a ball of light travelling through the sky.

Haley’s Comet.

She never expected to see that in her lifetime again, and yet here she was, in 1986, eyes trained on the stars, with her ten-year-old granddaughter for company.

A ball of light flashed through the sky. Doris smiled and sat back.

“I saw it! Did you see it? Gramma!! Did you see it?” Rosie turned to her grandma.

Gramma sat, eyes closed, at peace.

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