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Looking Back

We look back to reflect, to see where we came from, to see what lingers in the shadows. Glancing over our shoulders or peering in the wing mirrors of cars, we try to better understand where we are going. And why.

Writers jumped into 2019 with both feet. Looking back produced a strong round of stories to start the forward momentum of a new year.

The following is based on the January 3, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a character who looks back.

Part 1 (10-minute read)

Hobos by Faith A. Colburn

“I thought I’d have a family.” He moved to the other side of the fire. “My mom and pop. They were so . . .” He poked at the fire, adding fuel.

“So . . . what?”

“I don’t know. Agreeable. They never fought or exchanged a cross word. They were just so good together.”

“Lovey dovey?”

“Not at all like that. Sometimes there’d be just a touch or they’d exchange a glance and it was so full of . . .”

“What?”

“I don’t know. Tenderness? Gives me the shivers.” He stared into the flames. “I want that.”

🥕🥕🥕

Looking Back by D. Avery

“I have to settle gran-mere’s estate. Such as it is.”

He watched her zip her duffle bag. She was a light packer. And an impulsive traveler.

“Can’t you handle this over the phone, or email?”

“I’d rather do it in person. It’s not that far. I shouldn’t be gone long.”

He and Hope stood on the porch in silence, watching her go.

She glanced in the rearview, then stopped. She backed up, turned the truck off.

“I bet Luciene would be willing to care for the animals. If you and Hope wanna go with me?”

Hope’s smile said yes.

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Away by Mary Beene

Ellen should never have turned her head. Facing forward hid the single tear that stole down her mother’s cheek. Her skin turned to ice. This was not a happy visit to her uncle’s home where she would spend her time skipping on the lawn with her many cousins. She was never coming back to the tiny house in the city. All her mother’s cheer struck her now for the falsity that it was. The woman had finally accepted the truth; there was no way to feed them both. Ellen would now earn her suppers serving in the big house.

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Looking Back by Deborah Lee

“Only whores pierce their ears and gad themselves up like that,” Daddy had said. Daddy had said lots of things and done worse, which had a bit to do with her running off at sixteen.

And which had a lot to do with why almost the first thing she’d done, alone and free, was pierce her ears.

And which had everything to do with why the first earrings she’d bought were the biggest, brassiest, whoriest pair of hoops she could find.

She feels eyes boring into back, but when she looks behind her in the mirror, she’s alone. Smiling.

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Looking Back by Floridaborne

“You dare ask why?” I chuckled, my voice calm… eyes narrowed.

My friends stormed inside to help me finish off a man who thought nothing of using young girls as commodities.

For my 18th birthday, these same friends had pooled their money for a night of pleasure in the big city. One of the whores standing on a corner was my sister, who’d disappeared the year before!

Rehab couldn’t save the shell that remained. I dedicated my life to ridding the world of pimps, and other parasitic vermin.

“She was only 12!” I said, beating his face to pulp.

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Autumn by Tracey Robinson

Kelsey turned her face to the sun. The warmth felt good in the crisp autumn air, the sun so different from a year ago in the desert heat. She could still taste the sand and hear the distant mortar explosions. She shuddered as she thought of the MRE she would have had for lunch. Her mind drifted to John but she would not go there.

Autumn is what she dreamt of twelve long months ago: life back in a four seasons world. Her heart beat with joy as she hurried to the diner and a tuna melt with fries.

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The Summer of My Life by Stevie Turner

I’m sure it rained in the East End of London in the 1960s when I was a child, but my memories are of sunshine. The heat would shimmer above the roof of our car, as I roller skated in the road with friends or sat on our front doorstep with a pile of comics and a bag of chocolate buttons. Mum would be in the kitchen doing whatever she did, and Dad would be out in the garden dead-heading roses or cutting the grass with one of those old-fashioned mowers.

Life was good back when it was always summer.

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Solace of the Land by Ann Edall-Robson

It calls her name. It always has. The quiet, the solitude, but most of all, the connection to her heart. The echo of the wolves penetrating the valley walls. The lazy hawk floating high overhead in the early morning light. The rustle of the leaves dancing to a summer breeze and the mournful wail of the north wind pushing snow through naked branches. Tiny dots of green and colour carpeting the meadow floor in spring. Where is this place where people are none? Where gravel roads turn into deer trails. It is the one place her soul finds solace.

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Looking Back by Pete Fanning

Up until this summer, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t make the baseball team. After all that time practicing, playing catch in the front yard. Dad with his glove, trying not to roll his eyes whenever I missed a grounder—which was whenever he threw a grounder.

“It’ll come,” he said.

It never came. But as team manager I got a jersey, team picture, even a shiny trophy. All without striking out and causing us to lose.

Then, about a month ago, I said forget it. What’s the point? That was also around the time I met Lia.

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Decision Reimaged by Nancy Brady

Annie looked back on some decisions all the time, but only one continued to haunt her. In retrospect, she wished she had taken a chance; to be someone other than what she was: an insecure, flat-chested, glasses-wearing brace face freshman.

Annie remembers the autumn day in study hall when Dave, a junior, asked her to homecoming. She wanted to go, but worried this was a joke, she turned him down. If only she could have set her fears aside, acted confident, and laughed it off as a joke if otherwise, then she would have a night to remember, always.

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A Different Point of View by Nancy Brady

Annie still shows up in his dreams.

Looking back to his junior year, Dave remembered he wanted to take Annie to homecoming. He’d gotten to know her during the previous summer.

His plan to ask Annie improved once he talked the teacher into assigning them to the same table.

Asking any girl out was always fraught with anxiety and vulnerability, but one sunny autumn day, he asked her. He was hurt when she said “No, my parents won’t let me.”

Dave ended up taking another, but had Annie agreed, it might have been a night to remember, always.

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Safety in Snailmail by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She swore, smacking her forehead with her fist, once, twice, a third time. This couldn’t happen, not when perfect delivery was so critical.

She hung her head and shook out her shoulders. She was a planner, not a pantser–not free and spontaneous. She opened her mouth, hoping the words would tumble out, all passionate sincerity.

“I’m sorry I…” She drew a blank, and looked back at her notes on the table of her solitary apartment. The words were right there, but her memory was shit.

“It’s no use,” she sighed. “Delivery will have to be by US Mail.”

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Something Sensational to Read in the Train by Anne Goodwin

She mentioned a diary; looked pleased when I invited her to bring it in. A slim substitute for a confidante, but somewhere for her feelings at least.

“January – twenty bananas and sixty slices of toast.”

Strange: the referral didn’t mention eating distress.

“February – fifty robins and three jays.”

A metaphor for escape?

“March – seventy sudokus and fourteen crosswords.”

Life was a puzzle? I shifted in my seat.

“April – eighteen library books.”

I couldn’t stay silent. “Did anything else happen that year?”

She closed the book, her face too. I cursed my impatience. Counting saved her. I should respect that.

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Chester Drops His Guard by Molly Stevens

Chester emerged from the bedroom and was surprised to see Ruth sitting on the couch surrounded by photo albums.

“What are you doing up so early?” he said.

“I couldn’t sleep. Guess the end of the year made me sentimental. Look at this wedding picture of us.”

Chester peered at the photo over her shoulder.

“Yup, that’s us. Young and hopeful.”

“We aren’t young any more, but we still have hope!”

Chester looked away, but not before Ruth saw the mist in his eyes.

“Awww, there’s the softie I married.”

“Harrumph. Where’s my coffee?”

Ruth smiled. “Coming right up.”

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The End of One Year Just Might Be My Last by Bill Engleson

Some New Years, I think I’m sinking into a bog, a squalid sinkhole of quicksand.

There I am, what’s left of me, being sucked down into the slurp of time.

Those last few days of whatever year is fizzling out, I always want time to stop, to halt the wear and tear on my future.

Every New Year shortens my possibilities.

So, I mention this to my buddies.

They say, “get a life.”

I say, “I have one. I’d like to keep it.”

Then I go off into a corner, look out a window, knock back some brandy, whimper.

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He Waited by Teresa Grabs

Erik rested on the hard, wooden bench and waited. The sun warmed his weathered face. Buttered popcorn, cotton candy, and the unmistakable aroma of fried batter swirled on the breeze. Children’s laughter made him chuckle. With his eyes closed, he watched as Alan and Harvey rode the ferris wheel while Mary called, “look at me daddy” from the pony ride. His hand remembered holding Sarah’s as they walked in the glow of the midway. Slow, deep breathing brought the memories closer. It was a warm summer afternoon.

“Join me on the ferris wheel?”

“I’ve waited for you.” Erik smiled.

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Old Thoughts by Anita Dawes

The road behind me looks thin, worn out
Too many people have trod this thin strip of memory
Wet tarmac shines back. Old thoughts lay forgotten
Old memories drop like winter leaves
Old friends come to mind
Too many lost to time
The road that lives behind me
Where memories linger, waiting to be revisited
There are many passages in my past
That are worth revisiting
Others I should leave in the dark
Looking back, digging over old ground
Isn’t the best use of your time
If you look back far enough
You’ll meet yourself coming around the bend…

🥕🥕🥕

Part 2 (10-minute read)

Treasure by D. Avery

They traveled at night, leaving the uncertainty and danger of the distillation camps behind. They walked, Ahden’s stories a mantra; stories of green, stories of trees that once cooled and soothed the land. Ahden’s most fantastic stories concerned the forked stick he claimed would point to water lying like buried treasure underground. He said he’d find water or die trying.

The three of them sipped carefully from their flask of water. This girl had joined them and hadn’t looked back. Ahden and Leena would tell her what they remembered, teach her all they knew. They lived for her now.

🥕🥕🥕

The Right Bank byTN Kerr

The night was wet.

Not with raindrops, but a heavy mist hanging in the air without ever seeming to fall on the pavement.

Luc moved up the Rue des Barres, away from the river as gargoyles from Église Saint-Gervais watched from above.

Glancing over his shoulder he caught a shimmer illuminated in the single streetlight below.

Only a flickering, as though the lamplight were refilling a space hastily vacated by whatever he had not seen.

There could be no doubt. They were on to him again.

He quickened his pace and remembered Aubree; her dark hair, and her laughter.

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Look Back by Norah Colvin

Don’t look back. Don’t look back.

She pulled her coat tight, pressed her bag into her side and leaned into the wind, quickening her pace.

The footsteps pounded behind her, closing in. She knew, even over the wind’s roar, they were coming for her. She breathed in shallow quick gasps.

Don’t look back. Don’t look back. If she couldn’t see them, perhaps they didn’t exist?
Her eyes stung. The wind stole her breath. Her side split.

Lights ahead. Please. Please … almost.

A hand on her shoulder. A deep gravelly unintelligible voice. She twisted. “Noooo!”

“Miss, you forgot your umbrella.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ancient Truths by Colleen M. Chesebro

Staring into the river, Dennitsa felt the ancient memories drag her back into the past. As if she had lived long ago, the hazy recollections played out in her mind.

The truth stared her in the face. The Slavic witches were descended from the flying dragons who were the spirits of the fallen angels. They had tumbled out of the skies at the beginning of time. Those spirits copulated with human women, creating offspring who were known as the Vedma. The Vedma became the female witches, and the Leshovik became the dragon men.

Dennitsa had been born a witch!

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When the Stakes Are High by Chelsea Owens

It wasn’t till the hungry flames were nearly at her hem that Briar’s thoughts turned to self-reflection. Before that point she was, quite naturally, declaring innocence whilst returning insults.

Her efforts were of no use. The fire rose higher, the smoke stung her lungs and eyes, the cackling jeers grew louder than the crackling logs. She could see her angry accusers through the wafting smoke lines.

“Witch! Witch! Witch!” they chanted.

These simple townsfolk had no brains. If she were a witch, wouldn’t she be gone? She sighed; coughed. She never should have left her staff under the bed.

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True Love’s Kiss by Anurag Bakhshi

The memory of last night’s kiss, and what happened after, still lingered in the air. Post our 5th glass of wine, one thing had led to another, and…

What a ravishing beauty! Who would have thought that she would go in for an ugly mug like mine. I still couldn’t believe my luck.
Looking back, it had turned out to be a good, no great year. She had been disappointed, of course, when I hadn’t immediately transformed into a handsome prince afterwards, but she would have to learn to live with it, just like the 27 beauties before her.

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Remember Lot’s Wife by H.R.R. Gorman

“Remember Lot’s wife?” Lance asked. He rolled the wire cord out, taking careful steps as he laid it on the ground. “God turned her to salt for lookin’ back.”

“That was Sodom and Gomorra, though, not the bowlin’ alley. You suppose God’d saltify us if we just take a last couple throws?” Despite his reluctance, Drew placed the charge mechanism on the ground and fed in Lance’s wire.

Lance sat down behind the blast shield. “Dunno ’bout that. Place coulda been full of sin.”

Drew nodded. “Boss’ll be mad even if God isn’t. Help me run the final checks.”

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Buried Treasure by Jo Hawk The Writer

Cal dropped to his knees and gently lifted the book from the debris. Somehow it survived. If he wasn’t cradling in his hands feeling its weight, the caress of its leather cover, he would not have believed it possible.

Clutching the book to his chest, the memories coursed through him. Professor Dugan stood before him, telling Cal the odds were stacked against him ever succeeding. Cal felt defiance surge through him once again. They could laugh and sneer, but they were wrong. Sitting in the rubble Cal felt his destiny waiting.

He would show them how wrong they were.

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Earthrise by Saifun Hassam

Julian was dying on the Moon. Somehow, something went wrong as his space shuttle entered the suborbital space of the Moon. The damaged space shuttle turned cartwheels before landing on the Luna Space Station. The medics had rushed to his rescue. He was barely alive.

Julian was a space-farer. An astronaut, geologist and geographer. It seemed eons since he had left Earth, for the Outer planets, and their satellite moons.

He drifted in and out of consciousness. His last thoughts were of flying in a reconnaissance orbiter, high over the Moon’s Compton Crater, and watching the blue Earth rise.

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The Rush by kate @ aroused

I just hope he keeps following me. He’ll never suspect that Rick took the other car.

On reflection I wonder that we didn’t start this earlier but we were too busy conforming to societal standards. It all started when we couldn’t afford the best treatment for little James.

Is he still following me, better slow down a bit?

Now it’s the excitement as the adrenaline rush has really kicked in. We could retire comfortably but what for. Rick and I love these mind games then the chase.

Shame James isn’t here to share the fun of ‘acquiring’ their identities.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction: Wing Mirror by The Dark Netizen

There it is, that blasted black Bentley.

I can see it clearly in my wing mirror. My instincts are telling me to get as far away from it as I can. It’s a wonder that my sedan has been able to keep ahead for so long. In fact, I believe that the Bentley’s driver is toying with me. The black car is close now. I can see the driver’s face. Is that a fucking skull? Wait, where did he go?
Ohhh Lord! He’s in my rear seat!! Carrying a bloody SCYTHE!!

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear…

🥕🥕🥕

Looking Back by Frank Hubeney

Dean and Martha sat at the outdoor table after ordering coffee and croissants. They didn’t say anything to each other but started reading messages and typing into their phones. After the waiter delivered the order and left, Dean picked up a croissant from the plate. So did Martha. Then he turned in his chair and looked back.

That was the signal.

By some assessments the winners are those who are still able to walk away after the bullets fly. Other think it is not so simple. Blood creates a blur not only in space but across memories and lifetimes.

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Now She Could Move On by Susan Sleggs

Dr. Stephanie Davidson, still limping slightly, came out of the courthouse feeling free and relaxed. Her happiness radiated onto the people she passed. Her divorce from the man that had hired a killer to make her disappear was finalized and both men were serving long jail terms. Thankfully there were no news cameras or questions as a divorce hearing was nothing compared to the attempted murder trials the year before. The police officer that had saved her life when the attempt had been made waited for her. He gazed at her with adoration and said, “No looking back sweetheart.”

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Father Time Is Undefeated by @DaveMMAdden

He never should have been there in the first place. Everyone knew it—except him!

“I’m gonna train harder than ever. You’ll see!”

His team, family and coaches alike, bought, though weren’t entirely sold on, the idea of returning to the cage.

The adrenaline, the crowd’s deafening screams, his name printed in bold across the marquee: he needed this fix like a junkie’s blood itches for their drug of choice!

Through a ringing in his ears, he could hear what happened on the forlorn faces surrounding him.

Maybe this time he will hang the gloves up for good? Maybe.

🥕🥕🥕

Death Does Not Come by Robbie Cheadle

When I look back over my life, I note that I am lacking in one experience. Death. This greatest leveler of them all has always passed me by unscathed.

I heard it, like a rabid dog, whining relentlessly outside my door during a home invasion, when the car was hi-jacked and while I was perched precariously on the edge of a cliff as a child.

It barked madly for attention during my children’s lives when one stopped breathing, another had croup and throughout the twenty-eight anaesthetics and operations they collectively undertook.

It always slunk away, tail between its legs.

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Part 3 (10-minute read)

Nothing Stays Perfect Forever (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Looking back, Danni understood that she gained more than Ike in a marriage. She said yes to the man she fell in love with and the ranch-home he offered with garden, barn, history, and horses. She said yes to his family, getting the grandmother she always longed to have. She said yes to North Idaho, a balm to a harsh childhood. She said yes to finally concluding her studies and working her hard-earned degrees. Looking back, Danni saw all she stood to lose. Would she have said yes that spring day had she known Ike would leave for Iraq?

🥕🥕🥕

Salto Quantico by JulesPaige

In retrospect Marietta had a breakthrough year. Though it took up way too much energy,
that long standing grudge that the sisters held for so many silent years. They finally were talking again. Though there were limits that had been set in cement. The two were not friends in their youth and most likely would not be best pals. But at least they were talking, and even laughing.

To be a peacekeeper of the hearth, that too was work. Etta hoped a slight name change helped.

shifting sands cannot
stand still while powerful sea
rearranges all

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Looking Back by Kay Kingsley

And with that, I turned and walked away, heart pounding, I exhaled total relief. We were over and a 1,000 pounds of weight lifted off my shoulders. This was the right thing to do… wasn’t it? It only took me 10 seconds to second guess myself for the 100th time and my pace slowed. Don’t look back! But he would be sobbing, crushed by my announcement and only I could console him. I stopped and turned around ready to play the game again and to my utter surprise, he was gone and I was the one left looking back.

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Looking Back by tearsofbloodinmyheart

“Stacy don’t do it…..” Carls voice trails off into oblivion as I put my foot on the first step.

“I’m telling you Stace…” By now his voice is fading. I’m on the fourth step of many, I wasn’t listening when Mr Bright and Sunny was running through his speil.

Carl is becoming smaller, although if I’m truthful I’m not looking down. By the time I’m at the top, on the small shaky platform, Carl is just a dot.

Ms Happy tightens the harness. I look back just before I step off the edge and smile. It’s time to go Carl.

🥕🥕🥕

Remembrance by Joanne Fisher

Jenny accidentally knocked the cup off the bench. She helplessly watched as it fell in slow-motion to the floor and broke into two pieces. She picked up the fragments crying. This had been the cup that Kirsten always used.

Jenny remembered the day Kirsten broke up with her and moved out, leaving the cup behind as a painful reminder. She never thought she would get over this loss or be able to love anyone ever again, but now looking back some months later she realised she had already come a long way. She would survive this and love again.

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Then and Now by Di @ pensitivity101

I am not who I was,
Nor would I want to be
That empty crushed shell,
Used, misused,
Verbally abused.
I am not where I used to be,
Nor would I want to go back,
I have found my way,
Am loved, truly blessed,
My life is refreshed.
I know not where I’m going,
But I am not alone,
I have found my soul mate,
My saviour, my guide,
Always at my side.
It doesn’t matter what we were,
Together we simply Are,
Two drifting halves, forever joined,
Not perfect, but meant to be,
Us, exactly what you see.

🥕🥕🥕

Blackened Mirror by Reena Saxena

A penny drops. But he does not bend to pick it up. He moves ahead to grab the gold watch on the mantelpiece.

“He controls time now. He can choose to focus on certain parts, not necessarily in sequential order. Doctors call it selective amnesia or partial memory loss.”

The seer’s words are ignored as the family focuses on medical treatment.

Five years later, he is featured on a magazine cover, as the Most Successful Businessman of the Year. The world hears his bytes.

“I suffer from a handicap. I cannot look back, so I don’t remember any failure.”

🥕🥕🥕

Departing Alice by Susi J. Smith

Alice sat on the bench, staring at the rows of unlit buses. Wind rattled the glass panes. She pulled the tattered blanket around her shoulders and lay back, watching the blue and red sign flicker. Tomorrow. She’d leave tomorrow.

Jovial laughter woke her. Light peeked in through the dirty windows.

“Morning Alice.” Ted handed her a steaming coffee. She cupped it, breathing in the aroma.

Coffee downed, Alice crept towards the bus. She placed one foot on the metal step and stopped. “Not today. Tomorrow, I’ll leave tomorrow.” Head bowed, she hurried back to the comfort of her bench.

🥕🥕🥕

Happy New Year by Ruchira Khanna

As I ring in the New Year lots of memories flood before me: the good, the bad, the ugly while ‘am so involved with that flashback that ‘am unaware of the various expressions on my face.

When reminded ‘am filled with apprehension yet gratitude to be able to enjoy the coming year of whatever it may bring, as I continue to leave my carbon imprint.

I may be an ordinary person, but my consciousness allows me to breathe with appreciation as I ponder back and realize that I have been able to touch atleast a handful of souls each year.

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Back Up by D. Avery

“Look where yer goin’, Kid!”

“I’m enterin’ the new year reflectin’ on where I been. Like Janus.”

“Yer an anus all right, walkin’ bass ackwards like thet. Turn aroun’ an’ look forward, Kid.”

“Looks good, Pal, lookin’ back. They’s a long trail a yarns, fer sure.”

“Yer gonna git tangled in thet yarn an’ trip.”

“Dang, I sure shoveled a lotta shit last year. Shorty even give me a badge. Ow! I’ve hit a wall.”

“Carrot Ranch don’t do walls. Jist backed inta the broad side a the barn with yer behind. Git up, look ta the trail ahead.”

🥕🥕🥕

Best Face Forward by D. Avery

“Hey Kid. See yer walkin’ facin’ the right way now. Have a seat.”

“Uh, no thanks, Pal… still hurtin’. Darn barn.”

“Ya looks as if yer hurtin’.”

“This’s ma thinkin’ face.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Thinkin’ back ta when I tried ma hand at writin’.”

“Yeah?”

“Thinkin’ ta do more a it. Send D. Avery packin’. Do ma own writin’.”

“Kid, it don’t work thet way. Asides, it’s a heckuva lot easier bein’ written than doin’ the writin’. An’ what if ya git D. Avery’s voice in yer head, huh?”

“She does claim we write ourselves…”

“Let’s keep our present arrangemint, Kid.”

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Buckaroo’s Journey by A. Kidd

“Been writin’, Kid?”

“Yep. Easy-peasy.”

“Gotta 99 word flash then?”

“Better! Jist started writin’, next thing I know, they’s hunnerds an’ hunnerds a words.”

“Yer a known shoveler. Which 99 ya gonna present? “

“Jist 99?”

“No more, no less.”

“Huh. Gotta cut to the chase then.”

“To the quick.”

“Down ta the bone. What’s it about?”

“A buckaroo who looks back.”

“Where’s the plot, the conflict?”

“Looks back while descending.”

“Descending inta a cave? An abyss?”

“Nope, jist cellar stairs.”

“What’s the lesson?”

“Look where yer goin’.”

“Where was she goin’?”

“Think they was some elixir down there.”

🥕🥕🥕

Cora Kingston

Cora Kingston left behind an enigmatic memorial in a miner’s graveyard along the coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Carved in marble, the stone proclaims: “Erected by Cora Kingston In Loving remembrance of her dearest friend John Yendow Born May 31, 1867, Died October 5, 1892.”

Writers from around the globe wrote stories about Cora, John and the mystery of this marker. Filled with tragedy, humor and unexpected parallels to other places, history inspires fiction.

The following is based on the December 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Cora Kingston.

PART I (10-minute read)

Sandcastle Souls by Bill Engleson

Every day, Cara Kingston walked down from her cabin, passed mine, waved if I was in view, which was often that first year.

I was still struggling with heartbreak back then.

She’d walk out on the tiny peninsula that slunk into the Salish Sea, stand on its slippery shore, and wait for her lover, Walter.

“It’s so sad,” my neighbour Molly had intoned when first I moved to Sandcastle Point. “They’d been together such a short time when he was lost.”

“Lost?”

“A storm surfaced. Another lost fisher.”

“When?” I asked.

“Oh! Eons!”

“Eons?”

“Yes. The pain never leaves.”

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Cora’s Scrapbook (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni stood up, stretching stiff muscles after hours of sitting on the hardwood floor of Ramona’s bedroom. It was one thing to scour historical records for work, another to snoop through a box stashed under her husband’s grandmother’s bed. But Danni couldn’t pull herself away from the scrapbooks she found. One belonged to Ramona, another to Ramona’s mother, and a third to Cora Kinston Holman. Each documented events, recipes, photos and newspaper clippings. Was Cora Ramona’s maternal grandmother? The name was unfamiliar to Danni. Yet Cora’s scrapbook brimmed with poetry and sketches similar to Ramona’s stories and fairy drawings.

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Core Values Part 1 by JulesPaige

Cora Holman King was named for her great grandmother. Entering into the King family which was splendid in its richness of history sometimes made young Cora pine for more knowledge of her Kingston relatives.

There was a story that in the a cemetery near Eagle River her great grandmother had erected a grave marker for a friend named John Yendow. There was no one to ask the how or why this was done.

In an old jewelry chest that belonged to the elder Cora, the great granddaughter found a false bottom with a letter. Maybe that held a clue?

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Core Values Part 2 by JulesPaige

Yellow and brittle with a fine slant of fading India ink script, Cora Kingston was writing to John Yendow. It was not a love letter.

Dearest John,

Your family was so kind to help ours when illness struck. We who had been neighbors and had survived so many cold winters. Without your families aide that bitter winter when my whole household was laid with high fevers, you and yours came morning, noon and night to check upon us.

I have set aside private funds of my own earnings. I hope to use it someday to remember you.

Love, Cora

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Core Values Part 3 by JulesPaige

Cora King wasn’t really any closer to finding answers as to how Cora Kingston knew of John Yendow’s death and how much was spent on the marker that was erected in his memory. What had her great grandmother done to earn that money. Why was the memorial just dedicated to John?

One could only guess that perhaps as children during that feverish winter, they had made promises that time wouldn’t let them keep. What Cora King could do was visit the white stone monument. Take its photograph and make sure it was kept clean. What more could she do?

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Forbidden by Kate Spencer

Cora grabbed the net, hoisted her skirt hem and stepped into the rushing waters of Jacob’s Creek.

“I got it,” she said, securing the floundering trout John was reeling in. “This will fry up nicely.”

“It sure will.”

Like nesting turtle doves, they fussed over their meal and then sat on some rocks to talk about life before cleaning up their mess.

“Wanna see some mayflowers?” asked John after hiding the dishes in their usual spot.

“Show me!” laughed Cora grabbing John’s hand.

The underbrush crackled. Startled, Cora turned. Pointed at them was the barrel of her father’s rifle.

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Out to Dry (Cora) by Papershots

Warm and cold weather she recognized by the time it took her laundry to dry, although she could never tell exactly when each item of clothing was dry; it had been pointed out to her that something can be humid but not necessarily wet – (“Never trust linen!”) – so she needed another hand to check what her touch told her, which was the light-hearted excuse for the forthcoming marriage, which is how neighbors and passers-by found out her friend had passed, clothes out in the wind for days on end, at the stretch of new balances, just to be sure.

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Until Death by Jo Hawk The Writer

Cora read Papa’s letter again, hoping the words would change, knowing they would not. Her beloved John had succumbed. Typhoid. She pressed the letter to her heart and closed her eyes, remembering the last time they had been together, the day they said goodbye.

She was excited. Papa arranged for her to accompany cousin Olivia on her Grand Tour.

They would be gone a year and when she returned, she and John would marry.

The thought grabbed her heart, squeezing, constricting, making her wish for death.
She sat, immobile, cold, her life disintegrating. Papa’s letter fluttered to the floor.

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Dearest John by Tina Stewart Brakebill

May 30, 1893

Dearest John.

It finally arrived. I was scared that it wouldn’t get here in time for your birthday but it came on the train yesterday. Daddy will be angry but there’s nothing he can do about it now. When I saw our names together I fell to my knees. I love you so much. We talked so much about leaving this place. Being together. Going someplace where daddy couldn’t stop us. Then you left me. Alone. But daddy can’t stop us now. In death, we can be connected forever.

Till tomorrow my love.

Always Your Cora

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The Family Secret by Susan Sleggs

From the time Cora Kingston attended the one room school house she had eyes for no other than John Yendow, a boy four years older. At home Cora’s mother would rail the girl that he was unacceptable. As Cora grew older her mother tried to pair her with unknowns from out of town but Cora refused. After typhoid took both her mother and John, Cora finally accepted another and moved far away. Years later she returned to erect a tombstone for her true love. If only he had been Jewish like her mother. The best kept secret in town.

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Best Friends by Nancy Brady

Suddenly, Cora Kingston moved away. Brokenhearted, she married the first man she met. The truth was that she would always love John, her best friend.

They became fast friends from the time they met. John and Cora played together from building tree forts to playing checkers to talking.

During their teens they were encouraged to go to school dances with other students. Despite this, they remained best friends, pledging their love to each other.

When John asked for Cora’s hand in marriage, her father said, “No. It was a secret I hoped never to reveal, but you’re my son.

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Forever Yours by Kay Kingsley

A folded note at the base of the headstone read, “My dearest John, I’ve wept for you more tears than water in the ocean or sand in the desert or stars in the sky. Cat Harbor is no longer our safe harbor so I must keep going like we promised we would if something bad should happen. This headstone marks your time here and as long as people can read our names together, we’ve carved our place in history for as long as it stands. Until fate joins us, I’ll be seeing you in my dreams. Forever Yours, Cora”

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The Offering by Ethan Edmunds

She was supposed to meet him on the wandering rocks that night. Of the innumerable promises she’d made to John that summer, it was the only one she ever broke.

Cora knew he’d kept their secret, because in all the years since he’d disappeared, no one had ever come asking after him.

She knelt down as far as her hobbled knees would allow and placed the small bundle in the grass, trying desperately not to think about what was inside. Cora rested her weathered hand on the stone, closed her eyes, and waited patiently for the vibration to start.

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Sacrifice by Joanne Fisher

Cora Kingston and John Yendow were demon hunters, though they hid this from everybody else. For a time they managed to keep Keweenaw Peninsula free of them.

One time they visited Cat Harbor and found a portal. They began a ritual to close it. Once it began to close some tentacles shot out. Something was trying to come through. Without thinking John ran straight into the portal. The last thing Cora saw was John being wrapped in tentacles. Then he was gone.

Cora had a marker made for John. It was the least she could do considering his sacrifice.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Boy’s Club by Goldie

When I was a kid, whenever I would stay with him over the summer, grandpa used to take me out for breakfast Saturday morning. While grandma and my sister – Nicole stayed at home and tended to the house chores, we would go out to have “manly” talks. No girls were allowed. The truth was we would drive to Kingston to eat what grandpa normally wasn’t allowed, like crepes loaded with fruits, whipped cream and creamy chocolate hazelnut filling, and drizzled with honey-butter. Cora’s Breakfast & Lunch was our little secret.

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Cora Kingston, Artist, and Author by Saifun Hassam

The Yeandeau Lighthouse was on a rocky promontory, west of the rugged cliffs overlooking Yeandeau Harbor. The deep indigo and turquoise Pacific Ocean waters morphed into the blue summer skies.

Cora Timmons was a journalist, and loved to sail along these Pacific waters. The Lighthouse, originally built in the 19th century, was named after Jack Yeandeau, an avid naturalist and explorer of the bays and inlets. Her great-great-aunt, Cora Kingston was grief stricken when Jack disappeared in a ferocious sea squall. She was a talented artist, and later published Jack’s notes, journals, and sketches, including her own seashore paintings.

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Cora Kingston by Robbie Cheadle

Cora Kingston stood on the wooden deck of the ship gazing in wonder at the white sand and scrubby greenery of Algoa Bay.

The knowledge that the terrible four-month long journey by sea was nearly over filled her with relief.

The strong sun shone down on her as she cuddled her three-week-old infant in her arms. She was thankful that the government’s promise of a warm climate was true. Hopefully, the promise of 100 acres of land would also materialise. She offered a silent prayer of thanks that this baby would have a better opportunity in this new land.

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True Love by H.R.R. Gorman

He was a friend of mine. I bought his headstone and put him in the earth.

His parents were poor, but I was sure he wouldn’t have had even a wooden marker tied with twine.

He’d been kind to me at the stamp mill, seen me as an equal, a confidant. We were to be married, a convenience to him and freedom to me, if God hadn’t chosen to take him home. His parents were ever grateful that I was willing to hide their ‘mistake.’

But how could John’s life be a mistake when I loved him so deeply?

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Cora Kingston by Irene Waters

Cora looked into his eyes. Her belly warmed and tingled, her heart felt full while her head was clear. She floated on a cloud of love as soft as marshmallow but strong as steel.

“There is nothing left. I’m out!” John was adamant.

The base of her skull contracted, her jaw tightened, Nausea replaced the warmth. She followed him when he left. He was always in her sights. A phone call , a knock on his new door when he had a guest. A shotgun when it looked serious. Her name on his grave.  He’d never be rid of her.

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Name Recognition: You Just Need The Correct Association by Geoff Le Pard

‘Cora Kingston? Who’s she?’

‘Taught us English and Ethics.’

‘Ethics? I didn’t do Ethics.’

‘Why doesn’t that surprise me. Boring Cora. You must remember.’

‘A clue?’

‘Had a voice like dead gerbil.’

‘Nope. Distinguishing features?’

‘She liked tweed skirts.’

‘Geez, Logan that’s narrowed it down to about fifty. Anyway does it matter?’

‘I saw her in town. She wanted to be remembered to you.’

‘Me? Why?’

‘Ha! You sound terrified.’

‘Any teacher who remembers me worries me. My profile was so low it was concave.’

‘She said she borrowed a tenner from you…’

‘HER? Where did you see her?’

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The Wedding That Never Was by TNKerr

Seems that Cora was laid to rest that day at Mountain View Cemetery next to her husband, John Blackwell Holman.

She was buried with a photograph and a tattered wedding invitation. The photo showed a smiling young miner. Penned on the back of the photo in a woman’s hand the name John Y and a date – September 1892. The invitation was hand printed:

Cora Kingston
and
John Yendow

REQUEST THE HONOR OF YOUR PRESENCE
AT THEIR MARRIAGE

ON SATURDAY, 9TH OF JUNE, 1892
AT 2 O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON

OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE CONSUMPTION CHURCH
CAT HARBOR, MICHIGAN

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Taboo by Di @ pensitivity101

The marker miraculously appeared overnight on the unmarked grave of a poor man.
No-one in the family, now or then, knew who Cora Kingston was, or what her relationship was with John Yendow, a man with many friends, but no money.
He had made his way through life working the land as and where he could.
The Kingston Farm was one of the most profitable in the country, but there was no mention of a Cora. Unless it was a subterfuge to hide a relationship between races, beliefs and religion which would have resulted in death for both parties.

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Safe Harbor by D. Avery

A shooting star streaked across the night sky. Tears welled as Cora thought of John.

At his death she heard the sympathetic whispering. “Now they’ll never marry.”

Before his death they whispered, “When will they marry?” Maybe John was waiting until he had more to offer; maybe Cora’s parents were against the union. There was much speculation. But John and Cora clearly enjoyed each other’s company. The whispers sometimes became unkind.

Cora and John had loved one another. Now she alone knew why they would never have married.

“Rest in peace, dearest friend,” Cora whispered to the starlit night.

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Cora’s Love by Ritu Bhathal

Cora wept as she carefully reread the card in one of her hands.
Tears blurred her vision but the words were etched on her eyeballs.
“You are cordially invited to the union John Yendow and Cora Kingston…”
The proofs of their wedding invitations had arrived earlier that week,
but so caught up was she in her grief, she hadn’t looked at the mail.
Instead of stepping into the church as a blushing bride-to-be,
she had entered it to bid farewell to her one true love.
In the other had she held today’s order of service.
“In loving memory of…”

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Identity Found by Ann Edall-Robson

She loathed the old law obliterating a woman’s maiden name when she married. Erasing her true identity, leaving only her first name intact, sometimes. She had been searching for years to fill in the blanks of where she was from, who she was from. The obituary took up half the column. An invitation to a family reunion/memorial, and in the middle of the list was her full name, her town. Someone else had been searching too and found her, and her kin. They were all descendants of Cora Kingston. A perfect stranger had unlocked her life’s history pages.

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Jane Eyre meets Cora Kingston by Anne Goodwin

After fleeing Thornfield with only the shabby apparel I arrived in, the coachman set me down at a crossroads in a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland. Skirts snagged by the heather, I sought a place to rest my bones.

By God’s grace, I encountered another lonely female, whose kindness in sharing her meagre repast of bread and cheese brought forth my sorry story.

“Why, pray, did you not go with him?”

“He was married to another – although he came to regret it.”

“Perhaps you did not love him enough.” Cora took my hand. “Have you ever kissed a girl?”

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A Century Later by Reena Saxena

It was a painful moment of my life to erect this memorial. I lost the person who mattered most to me. The loneliness in the island often makes me think how John would have taken it, if I had died earlier…

A century later, I laugh amidst the waves crashing against the shore. John is immortalized, only because of what I did. The curiosity of researchers is about my story.

I wish they would go around a little more, and find the other tombstones I built – in memory of my dearest victims. They made me happy in their lifetime.

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Flash Fiction: Apology by the Dark Netizen

Cora slumped in the chair, her face buried in her palms.

John’s body lay at her feet, his lifeless eyes looking at her. A stream of tears began running down Cora’s face. John did not deserve to die as he did. He was a good man. No, he was the best man and an even better friend. She had taken advantage of him.

She should never have let her hunger get the better of her. If only she had controlled a bit more, John would still have had his soul inside him.

The tombstone would remain as her apology…

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Cora Beliefs by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal, what d’ya say?”

“‘Bout what, Kid? Cain’t waste words ‘roun here.”

“‘Bout Cora Kingston then. Know anything on that matter?”

“Yep.”

“Well?”

“They say she’s from up north, Eagle River way. Cat Harbor.”

“That I know.”

“Say she went west with a near John, but not her dear John.”

“‘S’what I heard.”

“Thing is, Cora weren’t her real name; it was assumed.”

“I never assumed that.”

“No, Kid, she assumed it.

“Who?”

“Hooe.”

“Who?! Hooe?”

“Yep. Fannie Hooe come back incognito, claimin’ ta be Cora Kingston.”

“In neat clogs? Oh. Keens?”

“True story, Kid. Plausibly.”

“Hoo-wee Pal.”

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Into the Dark

We find the dark unsettling because it’s unknown. We don’t like to be “kept in the dark;” we want to know. We want to see where are, where we are going. Darnkess snuffs the light and we quiver, afraid. And yet we face the darkness and the unexpected.

That’s where writers took their stories this week, into the dark. Like a ship coursing across the Great Lakes in the black of night, writers plowed onward.

The following are based on the November 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Into the Dark by Michael

The old man struggled with every breath. In the past week the darkness he sensed was coming closer. He’d been a man in charge of his destiny throughout his life and now he was approaching what for him was uncertainty.

He realised he was no longer in control, “I don’t think I can get out of this,” he told his son as he gripped his hand tighter. Dependence was foreign to them both, but together they resolved to be together until the end.

Eventually, the old man’s breathing slowed and the son gave his father up to the dark.

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His Final Descent by Anne Goodwin

When wood meets soil, only Barry’s left holding the rope. Even the undertaker scowls, throws him that look reserved for outsiders and lily-livered pansies with clean hands.
As a boy, Barry feared the cage that delivered working men into the dark. When they arose, skin stained with sweat and coal dust, it seemed a temporary reprieve.
Of course he’s glad his mother pushed him away, to a safer job on the surface of things. But it severed the tie to his dad, to the community that raised him. Now, his father crated forever in his coffin, it’s too late.

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Darkest Destiny by Di @ pensitivity101

I cannot go into the dark alone,
Hold my hand, make me strong,
Help me face this cruel Unknown,
Stay with me, prove me wrong.
Emerge with me on the other side,
From darkness into the light,
Tell me that I haven’t died,
That everything will be alright.
You are the one that I embrace,
My rock, the one that I adore,
My heart and mind memorize your face,
Lead me through this unfamiliar door.
Into the dark, I am not afraid,
Knowing you are there beside me,
Senses enhance whilst others fade,
With you, I face my destiny.

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Itinerary by Bill Engleson

Even my best-case scenario involved no light.
Oh, you bet your booties I gave it a lot of thought. Research, Man, that’s the ticket. Every trip I ever took, I planned to the minute, down to the second.

I wasn’t one of those guys, you’ve seen them, they can’t even plan far enough ahead to tie their shoelaces.

That was never me.

I hate surprises.

The not knowing.

Gives me the willies.

But this little adventure.

It had me going.

I started a blog.

Into the Dark.

I’ll pay well, I said.

Tell me, I begged.

What’s death like?

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The Christmas Tree by Hugh W. Roberts

“Are you sure this is what you want to see?” sobbed Moriah.

Her daughter nodded her head.

‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it? You know how much I love Christmas,” Mummy.

Choked, Moriah could not answer her young daughter’s question. The tears in her eyes made the lights on the Christmas tree blur into each other.

As they stood together, holding hands, Moriah made a Christmas wish. A wish that would prove the doctor’s predicament of her daughter’s upcoming journey into the dark, because of blindness, untrue.

High up, in the skies above Trafalgar Square, a shooting star ferried the wish.

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How Do You Choose to Look at It? by Reena Saxena

“There is an incredibly beautiful universe out there – the kind you have only dreamt about. And it will be yours soon enough …..”

“How much do we have to pay?” yelled an enthusiastic young lad from the back rows.

“It is free.”

“Then there is a catch somewhere. What is the hidden cost?” said another over-cautious person.

“Is it a game to be played?” a techie looked up from his device for a moment.

“It depends how you choose to look at it. One has to get into the dark tunnel first, to come out at the other end.”

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Darkness Enfolds by kate @ aroused

The headaches are oppressive,

medication only dulls the pain.

Kids due home from school soon

and I haven’t moved from my room

Eight long years with this tumour

laser treatment stopped it growing

My wish to embrace death

gets stronger by the day

oh for relief from this constant pain

feels like my life is down the drain

The boys have their father

Mitch couldn’t cope

Government says I’m not disabled

I’m so tempted to give up hope

Have no training to get a job

car has died, I can’t cope!

Please give me strength to find the light

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The Crate by H.R.R. Gorman

The smoke makes it difficult to breathe. Where is my human? Why is she screaming outside instead of helping me?

Blaring noises and blinking lights scare me. I crawl away into the dark, to my crate, to safety. I curl up on my pillow and whimper as the smoke in the air thickens.

A monster bursts through the door. I bite at its thick hide, but it doesn’t care – it just grabs me and drags me outside where I see her.

“Human!” I bark. “Human!”

I break free of the monster’s grasp and leap into my human’s protective arms.

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Darkness Comes by Roberta Eaton

She gazed into the dark depths of the water.

Why had he done it?

Christmas could be a time of great loneliness for people living alone. The good cheer and smiles of families around them resulting in deep despair.

She had received a call from a friend informing her of the death the previous evening. The body had been in the water for a few days making identification difficult.

Water was destructive.

She signed, recalling the message she had received from him a short while before.
Was it a cry for help? Maybe, but it was too late now.

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The Black Hole Beyond by Chelsea Owens

Ethereal stardust touched her; tickling, licking, tempting her forward. A thousand thousand glittering steps pulsed the way.

She stepped. And stepped.

One hesitant footfall at a time led her past an eternal tunnel of cosmic shimmering, but also to the edge of inevitable, gaping nothing. Here, there was no stardust, no glitter, no shimmer. Not even a chill, poetic wind whipped against her hesitant spirit, paused on the edge of infinity.

With no eyes to close, no throat to swallow, no resolve to strengthen; she stepped over the edge…

Looking back only once, at the discarded Earth-body far behind.

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At This Hour of Eve by Papershots

The world doesn’t have time for this street dancer, his white undershirt and black pants, his slowed-down watery Black Swan, his crystal ball rolling over arms, shoulders, hands, fingers – it never falls! There’s so much else, after all. Like people who turn into fashionable streets or buildings as if they lived there, striving to give that casual impression to those looking. And there are many. Being surprised, deceived possibly, but always to be kept in the dark about the person they glimpsed at rushing by being or not somebody important. Or, some day, a star. Étoiles, they call them.

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Another One Through Ellis Island by JulesPaige

Into that dark of Adam’s ale, to hold onto
The waxed brass ships rail, and just look.
T’was a gentle rain that night when
She’d gone above, to walk the deck.
Feel the ocean rocking, breath clean air.

Into that dark of transformation
From old to brand new.
Every fiber of her being was
Excited to see and explore those
Gold paved streets.

Into that dark of all unknown things
To be enlightened, to see Lady Liberty.
The story was told that she had won
A writing contest… her trip to freedom?
No one could confirm her Grandmother’s story.

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One Good Turn by D. Avery

He leaned on the doorjamb looking in on his sleeping daughter. His wife slipped under his arm. “She is so beautiful,” she whispered.

“She’s my light.” They walked back to the living room.

“You’re nervous as a cat tonight. What’s wrong? You’ve missed those awful ‘meetings’ before.” She twisted her blonde bangs, showing her own anxiety. “I wish you never went. No job is worth it.”

“I took Angela and that girl Celia to the vet’s. Celia’s cat got hit… Her parents met us there. Buzz saw us.”

Pulling the curtain aside again, he peered into the dark night.

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Dark and Light, Black and White by Geoff Le Pard

‘Amanda’s a dark one.’

‘As in?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Do you mean she’s mysterious, or you’re being politically incorrect about her racial characteristics or she’s the primordial, sapient, cosmic force of evil.’

‘Probably, though the last one’s a stretch; it’s more she can be a bit of a pain if I forget she likes her coffee black.’

‘Or dark?’

‘You wouldn’t say that.’

‘Why not? If you want a room dark you get blackout curtains.’

‘Are thin curtains whiteout then?’

‘No, that’s a bad snow-storm.’

‘I’m lost.’

‘That’s because going inside your head is always like going into the dark, Morgan.’

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Darkness by Pete Fanning

I sleep with fear and cuddle with failure. My restless bed-mates jostle me awake, thrashing in the dark—in my head—as I pore over my words. Oh the mistakes, the holes, the terrible grammar. My own personal monsters in the closet.

My bed is where doubt and desire dual. Ten paces into the dark. My quickening heartbeats produce sweat on my brow, dread in my chest, an avalanche of worry.

Why bother?

But morning arrives, and the sunlight finds my window, squeezing through the sliver of curtains. New words are knocking around.

And so I must meet them.

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Into the Dark by @DaveMMAdden

Coach’s voice, as if falling into the dark, could still be heard, yet he was nowhere in sight.

“For all the practices coach berated me for being a little late, where was he for the biggest fight of my life?” The thought illuminated the hopeful champion’s mind, de the intersection where hopes and dreams are put on hold.

“Travis.”

Coach’s voice was crystal clear now, but Travis couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coaching?

At that moment, Travis’ eyes popped open. There was coach kneeling next to him, haloed by the lights above.

“What happened?”

“Ya got caught, champ.”

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Lights by Anita Dawes

I watched as my soul sailed into the dark,
the thinking animated part of me disappearing.
A black cloud held me in a bubble,
my mind washed clean, my muse shut out.
There was no way for me to know
how long the darkness would last.
Would my muse be able to find her way back to me?
Would I pick a pen, touch my keyboard;
find those words to place inside a new cover?
It wasn’t too long before the scales dropped from my mind,
soon I could see beautiful lights
sailing across the blue black dark horizon…

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PART II (10-minute read)

Voyage by The Dark Netizen

Into the darkness, I lead my ship.

It seemed like the best idea before it became reality: Escape the mundanities of  regular life, and set sail on a voyage to explore the world. I wanted to experience the various adventures this world had to offer. A bunch of young ones who were influenced by my words, joined me on my escape from reality. This scares me now. What if I made a mistake? Will these young ones suffer because of me?

Not on my watch…

The darkness does not look so bad, with the moon and stars guiding me…

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Trust by Jo Hawk The Writer

“Are you sure?” Lenore asked leaning over Artel’s shoulder to peer at the map.

“Damn it. Don’t you believe me?” Artel said shoving the map at her before stepping away.

“Of course, I do. But I didn’t expect this.” Lenore waved her hand indicating the opening in front of them. She wrinkled her nose at the dank smell.

“He said ‘expect the unexpected’. So, I guess the real question is…” Artel paused and looked hard at Lenore, “do you trust the oracle?”

Lenore glanced at the map, then nodded.

Together they lit their torches and stepped into the dark.

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Stepping into the Unfamiliar by Norah Colvin

The car lights dimmed as she reached the door – timed perfectly. But, when the porch light didn’t activate, immersing her in total darkness, she cursed the storm. As she pushed the door of the still unfamiliar house, she rummaged for her phone. Dang! No charge. She inched along the wall, fingers seeking the corner and toes the step she knew was close. Stepping down, she dumped her bag and tossed her saturated scarf. She edged towards the sideboard and a battery-powered candelabra. As she fumbled for the switch, the room was flooded with light and cheers of ‘Happy housewarming!’

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Snowy Vacation by Nancy Brady

On that first weekend in December, our family decided to spend a few days at our mountain cabin. We were excited to spend a last weekend away before winter.

Flakes fell, becoming a blizzard, and we were plunged into the dark, the power knocked out. Our old oil lamp became our only light, but we made the best of it.

The following morning, with impassible roads, we hunkered down, knowing we weren’t going anywhere soon. Still, we had plenty of food, but not much lamp oil. One night followed another, but our lamp continued to shine, lasting eight days.

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Further Into The Dark by Kay Kingsley

We walked arms lengths apart scanning the forest floor, our heads sweeping back and forth methodically, praying to recognize anything out of place other than ourselves. It was getting cold as the night crept up behind us. Our hearts were racing as sticks and branches snapped below our feet from our weight. Flashlights turned on, we were nowhere near stopping. She’d already been missing for three days and was out here, somewhere. There was still a chance. The tension was broken as I yelled, “Cara, can you hear me?” Only silence responded as we walked further into the dark.

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Gordian Knot by Kerry E.B. Black

Bonnie squeezed Michelle’s hand and begged, “Don’t go. It’s scary.”

Michelle’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, but whether formed of fear, sadness, or excitement, Bonnie couldn’t tell. She tugged on her sister’s arm. “Michelle, please. Don’t leave. Who’ll take care of me?”

Without a sideways look, Michelle tousled Bonnie’s curls. “You don’t need me,”
She pointed with her chin into the unknown, “but I need this.”

Bonnie clung to her sister, but Michelle loosened her fingers with ease, as though the Gordian Knot of reliance bore no challenge. She ignored Bonnie’s cries and stepped away and into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Into The Dark by Ritu Bhathal

Swaying slightly, she stumbled out into the dark.
It took Penny a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dim light.
The door had slammed shut behind her.
Why had she decided to have that last drink?
She knew alcohol and her didn’t mix, yet all it took was the encouragement of a few mates, and she was knocking them back.
And with each drink, came confidence.
She danced, and smiled, and flirted.
But he took it too far.
The pushing to the toilets.
The clawing hands.
She shoved him and ran, fleeing via the fire exit.

🥕🥕🥕

The First Night by Juliet Nubel

The key turned stickily in the lock. She would get the knack of it soon, the twist and pull necessary to open the flimsy front door.

Reaching for the light switch she heard nothing. Silence was a bad sign. Where was the damn mains box to shed electricity on her new abode?

Her phone was so old that its unhelpful face was a small grey square and the one number she would have called in the past had been erased forever.

She stumbled blindly into the lumpy sofa and sat there, letting her tears fall quickly into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Closet by Regina Davis-Sowers (The Humble Word Nerd)

Today, a new horror entered her life. Johnny Campbell had spitefully called her “Little Monster,” and the other kids had shouted the name at her in all of her classes. Caroline nearly tripped and fell as she raced for home, needing more than ever the solitude found only in the closet. It had been her refuge from her mother’s verbal abuse. Being in the closet was like moving in the dark of night, safely hidden from the light where people can see you to hurt you. She hated to return to school tomorrow, but the closet always awaited her.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost Compass by Sascha Darlington

The rainy days are the easiest. I turn over, pretend the sun hasn’t risen, the day hasn’t begun, except for the hum of traffic, mocking in its ocean-like rhythm.

At work, I cajole, pretend. At home, I sink, obsess over regrets that lure me into the dark, driving me to ask how did I get here?

When I was little, my granny would open a can of tuna. I’d eat the flakes from the can while she mentored. “You can be and do anything you want.”

Molten desire. Wrong road. Answered naïve prayer.

Gran, I let us both down.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Frank Hubeny

We knew but didn’t know. Walking into the dark without a good flashlight on this road from our cabin wasn’t the smartest thing we did. Street lights at home were everywhere, but there were no lights here and then there were stars, bright and unbelievably everywhere, but not bright enough.

Our phones helped give some light and our feet felt for the edge of the road. We rushed back. We hoped it wasn’t too far. The Moon would rise soon. We saw it through the trees on the horizon. Would it help us see?

And then there it was.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Floridaborne

“You can’t keep writing and rewriting,” my husband says. “You’re not learning anything and getting nowhere.”

“I’m searching in the darkness with my characters,” I explain. “As they learn, I learn.”

He continues to admonish me. “When you give an explanation, you must be concise!”

“What do you want me to explain?” I ask.

“Whether it’s right or wrong, you must present it well!”

“I know that during the holidays it’s best to steer clear of you,” I sigh. “Learn to take your own advice.”

He grunts and says, “Then you’ve learned nothing,” as he heads toward the door.

🥕🥕🥕

The Meaning of Life by TNKerr

Abelard Stiles turns his profile and strong jawline to the audience as he clasps both hands of Marissa Herring, his costar, playing Angelique. He looks longingly into her cerulean eyes, pellucid as gems of northwestern azure.

“Angelique, my love, I must go. I leave you now for the glory of Canada. My comrades await. ” He drops her hands and pivots melodramatically, walking out of the spotlight, into the dark at the back of the set.

Marissa pushes her hair back, clasps her breast, and collapses like a husk to the stage. “Oh, Neville; don’t go, come back, please.”

🥕🥕🥕

Upon reading Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Saifun Hassam

Camilla sat on an oaken bench in the twilight of a fall evening. An owl hooted as the evening sky deepened into night. She rose quietly, drawn irresistibly into the dark of a crumbling arbor among whispering willow trees.

Once the mysterious and beautiful Esmeralda lived in a cottage there, among gardens of fragrant flowers. Exotic and poisonous flowers from her father’s botanical gardens. Esmeralda breathed in the wondrous and magical scents, and was drawn into the darkness and mysteries of the Dream.

The cottage was no longer there, the gardens had vanished. And yet a haunting fragrance lingered.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Darkness by Irene Waters

“It’s good to have you here.” Her mother nodded agreement, squeezing Rebekkah’s arm.

“See you in the restaurant sixish for breakfast love.” The elderly couple turned and walked away, heading to the burré they had been allocated in their daughter’s hotel. The dim lights from the house disappeared plunging them into the dark.

“I didn’t know blackness like this existed.”

“No stars. No moon. No electricity.”

“Wish Beccy’d given us a torch.” They stumbled into trees, down ditches unable to find their way.

“We know the light always comes. Let’s just sit and wait. We’ll sing.”

“What?”

“Two blind mice.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Night Before by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What have you got there?”

“Special order for Daniel, in Minnesota!”

“Minnesota is too general, see? The original says Minnetrista.”

“Where?”

“Check the database. Where’s your tablet, Kringle?”

“Dammit, I’m a driver and a toymaker, Rudolph, not a techie,” He pulled his beard, frustrated.

Apologetic, Rudolph bumped his belly with an antler. “You’re also an innovator, Santa…the guy who saw promise in a young buck’s red nose.”

“I’m good with elves, but those consultants in the brown uniforms creep me out.”

“You’re fine. Just do your Ho-ho-ho routine, and go bravely into the dark.”

“Still guiding my sleigh, Rudolph…Thanks!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sunrise is Expected by Ann Edall-Robson

Sunrise is expected
Over the ridge
Of towering pines
Shades of melon and lemon
Touch blackened sky
Clear blue whiteness
Scattered by the wind
Lofty darkened clouds
Destined to where
Colour turns to flattened gray
Scurrying with speed
Driven by turbine winds
Time evolves in minutes
Welcoming day colours gone
Pushed from sight by gusts
Distant thunder rumbles
Mountain peaks push
Up into the dark
The subtle warning spoke
Of what is yet to come
Relentless prairie winds howl
On into the stormy night
Until their quiet song settles
The towering pines
On the ridge
Where sunrise is expected

🥕🥕🥕

Light in the Lode by D. Avery

“Is Shorty a spelunker, Pal?”

“More like a miner. Why?”

“Jist wunderin’. She’s often talkin’ ‘bout caves an’ dark places. What’s she do, dig in the ground, mine fer copper?”

“Nah, but she does gather rocks, right in the light a day at the shore.”

“Shorty selects stones in the sunshine by Superior’s shore?”

“Sure as shift, Kid.”

“Then what’s she a miner of, Pal?”

“Yer thicker an’ a Superior snow squall, Kid. Shorty works words. She mines stories. Heard she hit a mother lode that starts right here at the ranch an’ reaches all ‘roun the world.”

“Priceless!”

🥕🥕🥕

All Write in the End by D.Avery

“We’re here.”

“Course we’re ‘here’, Pal, we’re always where we’re at. Uh, where we at?”

“That spot I was tellin’ ya ‘bout.”

“This’s more ’n a spot. This’s a big ol’ hole in the hill.”

“Yep.”

“Mineshaft?”

“Dunno.”

“Cave?”

“Dunno.”

“Gateway ta Hell?”

“Go.”

“Why? It’s darker ‘n dark’s night.”

“Shorty says, that’s why. Anyway, what’s the worst thing could be in there?”

“Bats, bears, spiders, snakes, catamounts. Mebbe a pack a writers, think nuthin’ ‘bout killin’ off characters.”

“I’m thinkin’ on it. Let’s go. We’ll catch a story.”

“Ta bring back ta the campfire?”

“Yep. Write light.”

“Elixir!”

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps

Often we think of scraps as what remains. Sometimes they can be what rebuilds. Fragments can be anything from torn photos to memories. Fabric and recall can fade, yet we piece together what we can and hang on to our stories.

Writers naturally grasp at scraps to build stories. This week they took to the prompt with surprisingly powerful responses.

The following are based on the November 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses scraps.

Part I (10-minute read)

Darkest Before Dawn by Sascha Darlington

Harrowing words split midnight, my parents dissolving.

The next morning, bleary-eyed, I arrived at the breakfast table to witness their ultimatum. Shredded pictures of not only them as a couple, but us as a family strewn across the oak table, on the vinyl, like crumbs of discarded bread.

I was sixteen. By then I’d witnessed relationship suicide for fourteen years, but I strived to separate it from my younger siblings.

Mom sauntered into the kitchen, smiling. “Pancakes, honey?”

My gaze moved from the fragments before me to her. She noticed my gaze, shrugged.

“No worries. We’re fine. Just fine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seashore Days (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Chattering and giggling, the village children trekked along with Diamante, Jenvieve, and Francine to the seashore. There was work to be done first. Along the sand dunes, they gathered scraps of broken wood, twine, and sea algae from the broken fence, for a low fence around the brown thistle and yellow coreopsis.

After devouring a picnic of fish and potato pancakes, they created sand castles and fantastic sea monsters. Their excited cries carried in the breeze when they found sea urchins and starfish in the tidal pools.

The tide flowed in, the children turned towards home, reluctant, tired, happy.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s the Dog’s Fault by Susan Sleggs

“Damn it! I knew your dog didn’t like my moving in. My clothes from vacation are now scraps on the laundry room floor.”

“I warned you to keep that door closed.”

“Well I forgot.”

He handed her the bills from his wallet. “Go shopping. I don’t want to lose you or the dog.”

She gave half the money back then kissed him. “Partly my fault.”

He stuffed the pieces into a garbage bag.

At Christmas he gave her a quilt his mother had made from the scraps. Its origin was told to family members with much adoration and laughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Circle of Our Love by Colleen M. Chesebro

Sally watched Nana roll the scraps of dough into a ball on the floured cutting board. This was her first time baking, and she couldn’t wait to mimic every move her grandmother made.

“Why do you roll it into a circle?”

Nana smiled as she maneuvered the rolling pin. “Because it’s easier to fit inside the pan.”

“But you could use a square pan, right?”

“Yes. I could, but the circle reminds me of our family. I gave birth to your mommy, and she gave birth to you. If we all hold hands, it’s a circle of our love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Russian Eggs by TNKerr

When the new Pastor showed up at the parish potluck bearing Russian eggs; the Elders all objected.

“This is a church event,” they insisted, “deviled eggs are inappropriate.”

Pastor Huberd chuckled until Elder Belknap blocked his path and an argument ensued. The Elders all were adamant, they stood united. Soon chests puffed up. There was pushing and shoving.

No one knows, for sure, who threw the first punch; I believe it might have been the Widow Montes.

In the course of the ensuing scrap, the fancy plate broke and the eggs were trampled underfoot. It was a total loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Dave Madden

From the moment baby Drew could swing his tiny arms and legs of his own volition, he’d connect hands or feet to anything moving with an uncanny level of precision.

Everyone would coo in unison, “How cute!”

As Drew aged, his aggression intensified and its adorable nature quickly vanished.

Before shipping Drew off to military school, his parents tried enrolling him in martial arts. One martial art snowballed into others, which caged his rage and directed him on a path toward MMA.

Undefeated and well on track to becoming a champion prizefighter, his career was pieced together from scraps.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sibling E – A Fighting Vowel by Geoff Le Pard

‘What now, Morgan?’

‘My brother. He said we used to scrap all the time while all I remember is being told we got into scrapes.’

‘It’s possible you did both.’

‘You’re sitting on the fence again.’

‘No, look. You scrap with each other but together you get into scrape.’

‘I suppose. We did both sometimes.’

‘Wadya mean?’

‘When mum made a cake she’d let us fight for the bit of cake-mix in the bottom of the bowl.’

‘Ah, you’d scrape the scraps.’

‘Yep and then we’d scrap for the scrapes.’

‘I preferred cake-mix to cake.’

‘Me too. Weird huh?’

🥕🥕🥕

Memory Quilt by Norah Colvin

She was old but definitely not out. Because they were the sons, they had responsibility for her affairs. But they knew her not and cared little for her comfort or her dignity. They signed her away without consultation, denied their sisters access to her home, sold what they could and disposed of what was left. Their one compensation for their sisters was her sewing box. What they considered worthless, the sisters stitched together. With tears of joy as well as pain, mother and daughters shared the stories embedded in each tiny piece of fabric and woven into their hearts.

🥕🥕🥕

Puss by Kerry E.B. Black

Oma taught me everything has value, even discards.

That’s good, because I’m a cast-off. My parents left me in a basket on Oma’s doorstep one winter night after Oma had gone to bed. Two of her cats curled their warmth about me. That’s how she found me, with cats guarding my makeshift crib.

That’s why she calls me Puss.

Oma saves bits of fabric and sews colorful quilts.

With her lessons I weave a tapestry of experiences. I talk to outcasts, befriend the friendless, and gravitate toward the lonely. I hope to thereby create something beautiful of this life.

🥕🥕🥕

Fight by the Dark Netizen

I ducked and rolled, dodging the roundhouse kick thrown at me.

The crowd cheered on as my opponent backed up and assumed his ready stance. I got back to my feet and brushed the dust off my body. This was one tough bugger. He was still standing after three of my punches had made acquaintance with his face. Underground fighting is a dirty, tough world. I have been bruised and battered in the many scraps I have been a part of. But none were as tough or as important as this one.

This one is to save my family…

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps From the Past by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She picks up a marble, rolling and squeezing it in her palm at a searing memory of betrayal.

She lifts another object to her nose, breathes deep the unidentifiable organic aroma. This tiny scrap, nap nearly bald with love, is all that remains of her early childhood.

That other, wedged into the corner of the wooden box she’d pulled from the top closet shelf, is handled with care. Its barbs, rusted with neglect, are still dangerous. She remembers the doctor, his kind blue eyes as he snipped and extracted. She touches her cheek.

All alive, only in her memories.

🥕🥕🥕

Scrapbooking by kate @ aroused

Andrea loved to scrapbook, so much that her house was overcrowded with all the paraphernalia. Fancy borders, stick ons, clothe pieces, anything that would make her scrapbooks more beautiful, more exceptional.

Each Saturday she met with two like-minded friends and they’d create and chat, a habit of many years. Sad part was nobody really wanted to view their exotic creations … so full of meaning to them but lost on others.

Andrea knew her ‘collecting’ had got out of hand, no room for visitors. Barely a path to get to bed, her scraps had accumulated to become a hazard.

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Let Go by Kay Kingsley

Sifting through boxes stacked to the ceiling, I relived my old life one memory at a time.

Boxes I packed to one day take with me, instead I sifted through and weaned, taking only the memories I couldn’t part with.

Flashes of childhood, high school, memories of first crushes, of family before the divide.

I discarded some items with ease wondering why I kept such silly things so long, other items required time to mourn.

Life has changed.

I realized these scraps make up me and yet none of these are who I am.

It’s time to let go.

🥕🥕🥕

Memories by tracey robinson

The cemetery was gray this February morning. I sat on my mother’s grave and looked at the flat marker.

I remembered her sitting on the kitchen floor playing jacks with me. Bounce, scoop. The smell of sugar cookies cooling on the counter. The radio playing “Summer Nights” and her pretending to be Olivia Newton-John. I heard her voice: “You’ve got this, you are strong”.

Scraps of memories were all I had left of her. A gust of wind blew crunchy brown leaves and brittle pages of yellowed newspaper past me. I hoped my memories didn’t blow away as easily.

🥕🥕🥕

C.E. by D. Avery

They approached warily. The car had been gutted, no longer habitable. She spied a scrap of paper stuck to the floor. The glove box yielded another and a stub of pencil.

“That’ll make good tinder.”

“No. It’s mine.”

He shrugged. They trudged on until dusk.
He coaxed a fire from his bow drill while she sharpened the pencil against a rock. The scrap of paper was a fragile promise in her shaking hands.

“Write already.”

She wanted to. It’d been so long. She’d start with the date.

It felt like fall. Was it November? The year she knew- 2023.

🥕🥕🥕

Neglect by Anita Dawes

The great castle on Forest Hill
Long deserted, the dining hall left in a hurry
The plates mouldy with the remains of a feast
The church in the private grounds
Broken by long years of neglect
Stained glass windows smashed by time
Lay like tiny shards of coloured lights
Stolen from a kaleidoscope
Would that I could put it all back together again
Make it whole, no more scraps of things
That once were made with love and care
Tourists come and go, visiting the great sites
Never knowing the people who lived there
When time was whole, loved…

🥕🥕🥕

When Old Is Made New by JulesPaige

The old building was being torn down to make new class rooms. The artist wanted to use some of the clay from the bricks of the building to make a Mezuzah that resembled the structure. A Mezuzah holds a Hebrew prayer of blessing. Some of the script could be seen through the windows of the sculpted clay piece.

On the door frame of the new building is a reminder of the old. A simplistic copy that older generations could see and say; ‘Ah, ha.’ And newer members entering part of the new social hall could also see what was.

🥕🥕🥕

Life Scraps by Ritu Bhathal

Brenda hobbled backwards and admired her handiwork.

It had taken a long time. A lifetime.

Gazing at the large quilt, pieced together lovingly, she wiped a tear that had settled on her cheek.

Each and every scrap of material used showed another step taken in their life.

She gently fingered the white satin patch at the top, sewn next to a rough, black patch.

Their wedding outfits.

Scraps from old curtains, sheets, special clothes, even a tartan square from Reg the dog’s old blanket.

Wrapping it around her, she knew he was still close by, always in her heart.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bone and Rag Man’s Goose Dinner by H.R.R. Gorman

The rag and bone man picked through the pile of refuse with his hooked walking stick.  A bit of metal glinted, so he bent to pick it up.  He grunted and bent his arthritic knees, then sifted through the greasy pile of scraps.  Fingers that jutted out of hole-ridden gloves chilled in the frozen goose fat.

He turned the goose carcass over and brushed some of the blackened grease off the  shimmering metal inside, only to find a golden egg.

His good mood turned foul: who was rich enough to kill and eat a goose that laid golden eggs?

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

SCRAPS by Papershots

Cher is in Vegas and you can fly out to see her. And talk to her backstage. The revolving billboard slides in some nasal spray, get rid of congestion and back to your day; no day seems worth it unless you fly out and see her – Cher, again – light-blue, young, divine. She slides back. Then there are other events in this town and those preferred flyers or paper of cheaper quality, too light not to swirl around in the chilly wind. It’ll be daybreak before Personnel will clean up the crumpled mass of fantastic evenings not to be missed.

🥕🥕🥕

Same for Me by Juliet Nubel

“And I’ll have scraps with mine, please”.

My definition of the word obviously wasn’t hers. What was this big strapping Yorkshire lass, queuing in front of me, actually asking for?

I watched as the young man behind the counter drove the huge serving spoon to the bottom of the bubbling oil. What he brought back to the surface looked other-wordly. Burnt, brown, greasy little pieces of batter, piled high in a mound of calories. He poured the lot on top of her fish and chips.

“Same for me, please.”

He smiled at my out-of-place accent.

“Comin’ right up, love”.

🥕🥕🥕

No Longer Alone by Di @ Pensitivity101

He was there again, sitting quietly, waiting.

The old man took his seat outside and placed his usual order.

The bacon, sausage and eggs arrived, the smell making his nose twitch, but he stayed where he was.

‘Come here Boy,’ the old man said, and the dog wandered over to sit at his feet.

No collar, no lead, but obviously not starving as he was not the only one feeding him scraps.

The plate now clean, the dog looked directly at him, head tilted.

‘Want to come home with me Boy?’ he asked.

The tail wagged.

‘Come on then.’

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps to Treasured Heirlooms by JulesPaige

Yarn leftovers. Some from Grandmother’s blanket that was knitted. And more from a two headed sweater that Ma was gifted as a joke. But most were from yard sales or charity shops. Crocheted two or three ply into squares. The blankets have our initials in them. Carefully crafted into those stitches that hold a single square together.

They weigh a ton! Staying overnight at the firehouse in winter, Ma wanted us to be warm. We can only guess at the places where some of the skeins came from. But we do know that love is bound in every stitch.

🥕🥕🥕

A Patchwork of Love by Teresa Grabs

The kids laughed and pointed, but I never cared. When we were supposed to be playing Red Rover, Red Rover, they’d call Patchy, Patchy whenever it was my turn to come over. I would smile and run over as if Patchy was my name. I loved it.

Mama made my clothes from scraps that friends and family gave her. My shirt was part Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Lucy, and even Baby Joseph. My pants were part Dad, a little Grace, and a whole lot of Uncle Hal.

The more they called me Patchy, the more I felt my family’s love.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Frank Hubeny

Words are like scraps found in a drawer of former times. We saved them, whoever we were back then, some stranger we would not want to talk to today.

Now we re-read those words and remember what we didn’t think existed to remember. Were there any truth in those words, ever?

That’s how Peter read a letter from Janice explaining that she didn’t mean to hurt him arguing how one and one meant two and did not involve three and because of that, and because Phil had someone else as well, he should take her back.

Peter never did.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps of Memory by Bill Engleson

I press my fingers tightly against my temple. That helps sometimes. The pressing in. Perhaps it touches some point of recall, some lobe of a button.

Sometimes I know my entire life is stored inside me.

I know that like I know my…

My?

Oh my!

She will call me a name from time to time. Hold my face with her weathered hand, smile, whisper…words…”I miss you. You’re here…but I miss you.”

Words?

I knew so many.

Do I really remember that?

I release my fingers from the brow of my history.

The fog rolls in.

It rarely lifts.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps of Imagination (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Cleaning out Ramona’s dresser felt wrong, but Danni could no longer sulk over coffee at the kitchen table. She heard Ike tell his Uncle Logan, “At least she wasn’t a hoarder.”

True, Danni thought. Ramona was frugal but wrapped in her sock-drawer were rolls of dollar bills. She thought about showing the men and making a Grandma-was-a-stripper joke. Ramona would have chuckled. Danni spied a scrapbook beneath. Curious, she opened up pages to fairy drawings and cursive writing. Scraps of dried flowers mingled with Ramona’s fertile imagination before dementia robbed them all of who she was.

🥕🥕🥕

Crafting Scraps by Nancy Brady

Scraps of paper with just the right word; a snippet of a line; a phrase or two…she crafted poems like she crafted collages.

She chooses her words like she chooses the bits and pieces of paper and string to make up her vision for her art piece. Rearranging the lines to fit the rhythm, to fit the idea of the poem is as complex as arranging and rearranging the papers into the completed collage.

Does the poem express her inner thoughts? Has she put the words together to craft the poem that she originally envisioned? Does the poem succeed?

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps by Quiall

“It sits on a counter, waiting . . .”

“Can it be alive?”

“He knows he is about to die when . . .”

The scraps of an idea swirl around her head. Is it a poem? A short story? Should she tell the truth or concoct a believable lie from the scraps he left behind. But these are his words in her head, his lies. The only way to escape the torment he inflicted for so many years, through so many stories, is to act now.

She did. She placed the knife on the countertop and smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps of Ideas by Susan Sleggs

A writing class after retirement seemed like a good idea, but the first assignment, write a short story about anything, left me paralyzed. I went to my husband for help and he reminded me of the scraps of paper in my bedside table that I had written bits of dreams down on. We read them aloud and found a few that I could combine into one story. I had my outline. My first assignment garnered an A and whenever I needed another subject I went back to my scraps for inspiration. They turned out to be unexpected treasure trove.

🥕🥕🥕

Snippets of Treasure by Patrick O’Connor

For years I would write notes on napkins and scraps of paper.They would be folded and stuck into my pocket.

Oftentimes, I would throw them in a drawer and promptly forget about them.

Recently, I went to a garage sale and bought an old trunk.

There were no keys so, at home, I broke the lock open.

Inside were 50 scraps of paper.

Each had short snippets of stories written long ago.

Transcribing the notes and scanning the originals has now set me up for an exciting time of trying the write a story using all these thoughts.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Glossy for Him by Anne Goodwin

“We’ll make a memory book. A scrapbook of his life.”

I imagined rough grey pages, flour-and-water paste. But the occupational therapist grew up in the digital age.

She pointed out his name on the cover. He turned away. She turned to me: “Let’s discuss care homes.”

Not yet, surely? I wiped dribble from his chin. Of course he didn’t recognise the fellow in the photographs. He never thought he’d find himself in a glossy hardback book.
Old newspapers, a tattered notepad, a stick of glue.

Like the gentleman I married, he took my hand. Raised it to his lips.

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps by Floridaborne

A sign said, “Welcome to the 1969 Dance of Elegance.”

An orchestra began to play “The Blue Danube” Waltz.

My date asked, “Care to dance?”

He loved my irreverence, my sense of adventure. I loved how he made me feel so accepted.

Dresses of the finest satin swirled around while we spoke of universal concepts. But it was my tight empire dress, with velvet top and satin brocade, my favorite, turning heads!

“Such a lovely dress,” my date said.

“My mom created this dress with 25 cents worth of remnants.”

“And that is why I love you,” he chuckled.

🥕🥕🥕

Interactive Themes by Reena Saxena

It is an excellent workshop. We choose fabric scraps we like from the heap, and fashion it into outfit ideas. Then, we move to the circular rack with hanging garments, and make our choices a second time. Some of us make different choices the second time.

The facilitator helps us interpret our choices to show our personality types. If the choices vary the second time around, it is due to the cut, structure or style of the garment, and our self-image.

It is the interaction of human stories that makes us connect, or disconnect from each other. Presentation matters.

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Untitled by Michael

When I met Mary she was scrounging throwing items into an old shopping trolley.
The trolley contained everything that was important to her. When I asked her about her life she pulled an old photo album from the bottom of the trolley and laid it out on the ground. “My life,” she said pointing to photos of a young girl, a woman in uniform and finally a woman with child.

“I’m not a scrap of good anymore,” she said shutting it up and burying it again. She shuffled off, the scraps of her life moving in front of her.

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Patchwork by Chelsea Owens

They called it trash, and it was. Humanity’s selfishness was strewn about the world; molding, stinking, soaking in.

“Don’t bother,” they said.

“Save yourself.”

“Self…”

Amongst the walls of yelling filth she closed her ears, strained her eyes.

There! A flutter of love beneath that greed.

There! Some tattered trust nearly blown away.

And there! Hardly a scrap of deepest hope, wedged between bigotry and vice.

Tiptoeing past an open pit of malice and an oozing patch of some sort of thoughtlessness, she made it home. Inside the stained and leaning walls, against the howling narcissistic winds-

She sewed.

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Swept Up by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin’, Pal?”

“Ever week they was writin’ fer the Rodeo, now ever week they’s celebratin’ ever’one’s accomplishment, an’ here I am, sweepin’. Ya’d think the dang Beatles had been through.”

“Well, it was the Fab Five, but Pal, ya might wanna update yer pop culture references.”

“Hmmf. “

“Sir Paul’s got a new album out though.”

“Do they still call ‘em albums?”

“I dunno. I’ll help ya sweep up, Pal. Is this confetti? Or scrap paper from the draftin’?”

“Is there any other way ta write?”

“Computers?”

“I feel ir-elephant, Kid.”

“More like a woolly mammoth, Pal.”

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November 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

The urge to craft a story surpasses available material. Sometimes I forget my sketchbook and resort to what I have at hand — the blank side of the insurance card in the car, a discarded grocery list at the bottom of my purse, a recycled envelop.

When I was nineteen, I waited tables at a casino dinner house.  Between serving meals and refilling ketchup bottles I wrote bits of stories on napkins. More often than not, I tossed the words in the garbage along with food scraps at the end of my shift. Back then, I was practicing stories. I had no desire to share them.

It’s not until the story develops into an emotional being that takes on a life of its own that the need grows into one of sharing. But what if all you have are scraps?

I’m sitting at an oak library table, casting my eyes between the bank of windows overlooking Portage Canal and the magazine I’ve opened to read. Outside, snow falls like drifting down feathers. Seagulls still circle low over the water that has yet to freeze but looks dark gray as if it were slowly morphing into steel.

This space that envelops me in books and snow-scape is called the Michigan Room. It’s where I lead a small writing activity called Wrangling Words once a month. It’s just like our weekly flash fiction challenges but in person. The snow has returned without ceasing, and likely everybody has stayed home to hunker down. But I love this space I’m in, outside my desk, filling my mind and imagination. Wood grain, pages, snowflakes — scraps of the moment.

The book review I’m reading of Retablos by Octavio Solis has introduced me to a folk art that I’ve seen in the southwest but did not know by name. It’s as old as the Spanish Conquest, based on the religious decorative panels found in Catholic Churches. As a storytelling medium, a retablo often uses scraps of metal to commemorate a near-disaster by those who survived.

The book reviewer, Deborah Mason, writes:

“By commemorating the event, the retablo can transform that story of salvation into myth. But memory is slippery, and retelling a story, even on a buckled sheet of metal, results in embellishments and refinements.”

I’m staring at snow, realizing no one is coming today, and I’m relieved for the moment to grab a scrap of paper from by box and start scrawling ideas. It’s an old woman’s story. It’s a story about me embellishing the natural wonders of a humble bog pond. It’s a story I’m trying not to kill beneath the hammer blows of revision. I feel surreal, writing in this strange and yet wonderous space.

None of it makes sense to read. I’ve been writing every day on Miracle of Ducks, pushing aside my inner critic who has rolled eyes so much I think I’ve blinded the annoyer. What I’m writing feels like a train wreck. I was almost ready to give up, to concede that one’s first novel is indeed practice. It’s not saying what I want it to say. I keep TUFFing my drafts and overhauling chunks to fit a new scene.

But it is this idea of myth of slippery memory that brings me back to a character who once emerged in my flash fiction. She actually fits into Danni’s story like a missing puzzle piece. Ramona is now Ike’s grandma who helps carry the story and solidify my decision to relocate it in Idaho.

It took 30,0294 words, a scrap of paper, and a book review about Retablos to figure out my blueprint, the underlying motivations of my protagonist.

I never stop writing. I write every day. But that doesn’t make me productive. Often, it’s exploration and communicating the stories of now. It’s about creating and connecting. I’m hardly accurate in my goals, but my vision, my north star shine brightly, and so I write my way through it all.

Deborah Mason continues in her review:

“Yet despite its imprecision, the retablo expreses a profound  truth not only about its maker but also in the world he or she lives in. The retablo itself becomes part of the myth as well.”

Fiction or non-fiction, we write into the truth. We feel the story and layer the details onto the page. We rework the scraps until they bloom — the quilter, the painter, the metal worker, the writer — we all work in scraps until we have captured the story that speaks our truth.

And speaking of table scraps, I hope to be enjoying left-overs next week. It is Thanksgiving. I’ve decided to take that week off, something I don’t often do at the Ranch. After posting this collection, I’ll be on turkey duty and savoring leftovers until the next challenge on November 29.

November 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses scraps. It can be scraps of dried flowers, paper, metal, fabric, food — any kind of scraps you can think of. Then write a story about those scraps and why they matter or what they make. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by November 20, 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.

Scraps of Imagination (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Cleaning out Ramona’s dresser felt wrong, but Danni could no longer sulk over coffee at the kitchen table. She heard Ike tell his Uncle Logan, “At least she wasn’t a hoarder.”

True, Danni thought. Ramona was frugal but wrapped in her sock-drawer were rolls of dollar bills. She thought about showing the men and making a Grandma-was-a-stripper joke. Ramona would have chuckled. Danni spied a scrapbook beneath. Curious, she opened up pages to fairy drawings and cursive writing. Scraps of dried flowers mingled with Ramona’s fertile imagination before dementia robbed them all of who she was.

Creative Mash-Up

Who knew mashed potatoes possessed such superpowers? Sure, the buttery mashed tubers sway our senses, paired with bangers or served alongside turkey and gravy. But they can do much more, unexpected feats.

This week, writers played dangerously, pairing mashed potatoes with superpowers. The imaginative responses are out of the ordinary kitchen and into realms you never thought potatoes would take you.

The following stories are based on the November 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower.

PART I (10-minute read)

Gravy Witch by H.R.R. Gorman

I put my plate on the table pulled the napkin from atop my crystal ball centerpiece.  A tap of my spoon on the orb’s surface initiated my process to scry for criminals.

A man shoveling jewels into a bag appeared in the cloud at the center of my ball.  I curled my finger toward myself, pulling his spirit from the ball and dropping it on my plate.  It settled in the mashed potatoes.

I tipped my gravy tureen over the potatoes and watched the orb with glee as his body suffered from a heart attack.  His soul tasted delicious.

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Super Mash by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the table, awaiting my meal.

It was bangers and mash tonight. My absolute favourite.

I don’t know why, but somehow mum managed to make the best mashed potato ever.
Creamy, fluffy, light, with no lumps: something I had still not mastered, despite copying her technique.

And no matter how I was feeling, it made me feel better. If I was ill, the buttery mash would make me feel better. If I was upset, I’d leave the table smiling.
I don’t know why, but it was that mash. Maybe mum had some sort of mystical mash superpower…

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Wielding Power (Part I) by D. Avery

It was Ilene’s idea to include Marge’s senile mother for Thanksgiving.

“Everyone just be whoever she thinks you are. It’ll be fine.”

Fortunately she thought Marge and Ernest were her parents. Marge would wield some power.

“Betty, I think you know everyone.”

“I see Ida brought George.”

Marge smirked. Lloyd was to be her mother’s best friend’s brother; Ilene would have to keep her hands off him.

“Look who’s here.”

Nard spilled his beer when Betty Small embraced him. “Billy! You got leave!”

Marge grinned. “Yes, your fiancé.”

She could have asked Betty to mash the potatoes but didn’t.

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Wielding Power (Part II) by D. Avery

“Make room on the couch for Betty and Billy,” Marge commanded. “Let them get caught up.” She laughed at Nard’s desperation as he helped her mother to the couch.

“I’m your father?”

“No. Billy didn’t make it back.”

“Oh.”

“She never loved my father as much.”

“Oh.”

When everyone in the crowded singlewide had a full plate Nard spoke, holding Mrs. Small’s hand.

“Thanks Lord for these friends and all this food. Lord, I’m grateful for Betty, love of my life… I’ll come home,” he promised.

After a moment of astounded silence Ernest coughed ‘amen’ and everyone dug in.

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Wielding Power (Part III) by D. Avery

“Marge, Ernest- epic. Good food.”

“Thank you Lloyd. I sure do miss my mother’s mashed potatoes though. These are just ok. She did something that made hers….”

“Epic?”

“Yeah, Lloyd, epic. I wish I knew what it was.”

“Marge, these are fine. A little garlic and rosemary wouldn’t of hurt either.”

“Mom?!”

But Marge’s mom was already Betty again, mooning over Nard. Nard’s uniform was just his cleanest Dickies from the dealership, but he was soldiering on in his role.

Leaning against Ernest, Marge smiled gratefully. “My mother hasn’t called me by name in two years.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Marge.”

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Mashed Potato Surprise by Rosemary Carlson

The family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. She had cooked quite a dinner and he had helped. Everyone was at the table and they were both carrying the dishes of food to the table when she heard a crash. She turned around and he had dropped a large bowl of mashed potatoes on the floor, splattering them everywhere. They were everyone’s favorite dish.

He smiled, walked to the table, and pointed his finger. A lightning bolt appeared and at the end, a large bowl of mashed potatoes.

She said, “Hmm, so why have I bothered cooking all these years?”

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The Eye of a Potato Superhero Hurricane by Bill Engleson

There we were, jawing over a cuppa Joe at Ernie’s Eats. Ernie was in a small businessman funk.

He gets that way.

“Spud, its always the little guy that gets the short end of the superhero stick.”

“I don’t getcha,” I said.

“Well,” said Ernie, stroking his chin like it was a cat, “Take dine and dashers. You don’t see guys like the Spy Smasher showing up, givin’ them what for, do ya? Nope. Too darn busy smashin’ spies. What I need is…well, you. Spud Smasher! Yeah! Spud Smasher! Mashin’ those dine and dashers.”

“Dream on, Ernie. Dream on.”

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Captain Amazing vs Mashed Potatoes by Teresa Grabs

Captain Amazing was known throughout the universe as the one person you wanted in your corner. He had faced the mighty Balthazar and squashed the Fidget uprising in ’22. After a remarkable career as a galactic superhero, he retired. He had a soft spot for kids, so when Amy cried for help, he had to answer. He misjudged his landing and smashed through the window. Airborne mashed potatoes landed on his head.

“Not mashed potatoes! My only weakness!”

Amy’s mother looked at the puddle on the floor, then at the broken window, and shrugged. She had a turkey to prepare.

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Educated Boars? by JulesPaige

As one of three brothers, finally living free from our adversary, I can be grateful to look out of our window and see rainbows after a rain. But we are not so foolish to be lax in our preparedness. Our larder is full of potatoes that we can broil, boil or mash. Our stash is secure.

Our superpower is knowledge. At any time our walls could crumble. We need to prepare for the slyest of villains, keep the hounds at bay and be wary of all wolfs. Especially those in overalls, driving tractors bent on destruction. We are prepared!

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Untitled by Michael Grogan

Super Mashed Potato Boy looked out his kitchen window and saw the world was in trouble. There were weevils in the potato patch, and it needed his urgent attention.

There was one way to deal with such a world-wide crisis. A huge plate of mashed potato, eaten hurriedly and washed down with an icy ginger tea.

Having done so, he flew out his window and dealt a deadly blow to the weevils. Around him, grateful farmers sang his praises and the world was once again saved from potential disaster.

He went home and took up his trusty potato peeler.

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Hannah by Saifun Hassam

With determination and extraordinary willpower, Hannah transformed the farmer’s cottage into a popular restaurant. Over her faded blue jeans and bright yellow T-shirt, her apron proclaimed “Spuds Forever!” Her magical touch turned mashed potatoes into super delicious meals.

Lunch or Dinner: beef and potato dumplings; mashed potato and leek soup; garlic fried chicken in mashed potatoes; golden fried mashed potato cakes; jalapeno veggie mashed potato quiche; and the intriguing “spiderweb” mashed potato salad bowl.

Cathy and Trish were caught in the early downpours of September rain as they drove through the farmlands. Hannah’s cottage was a warm welcoming shelter.

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Mashed Potatoes by Anita Dawes

When I read these words this morning, I was taken back to my childhood, reading the Dandy comic. Desperate Dan with his huge plate of mashed potato with two large sausages sticking out, looking like a bull had landed there.

I have to tell you that no one does mash like Jaye does! The minute she begins peeling the spuds, I swear my kids pick up some strange signal. They come knocking from all over Hampshire, just popping in, big smiles on their faces. They know there’s mash on the go and they say it is just a coincidence…

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The Apple Pie from the Same Tree by Chelsea Owens

Ann’s mother was special when it came to food. She could scan a printed page, retrieve a container from the cupboard, and *poof* add to the mixing bowl. Later, the family would eat freshly-baked casserole or chocolate-crusted cake.

And that is why Ann thought she might be magic, too. Surely, by the same means, Ann could create with a pinch of this or dash of that.

After Ann’s first attempt, only her father would taste it.

“Ah. Mashed potatoes?” he asked.

Ann nodded, trying not to feel sick as he stirred her mix of potato, milk, and runny eggs.

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Super Foods by Di @ pensitivity101

‘It’s a special dinner, made to make you strong. That’s why it’s blue, just like Superman.’

‘OK Mom.’

Celia looked at her nine year old son as he ate. Mashed potatoes were the only thing he could manage just now, but it was a start.

Tomorrow she would add red dye as well as the blue, and it would be Spiderman to encourage him.

He snuggled down under the covers, exhausted, but he’d eaten most of what was on his plate.

‘Mom?’ he asked sleepily.

‘Yes love?’

‘Batman hasn’t got any superpowers, so please don’t give me black potatoes.’

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Super Carl by TNKerr

Carl knew he was different from his classmates. Yes, he had superpowers like all the other kids, but his gifts were more eccentric. He couldn’t see any practical applications for them.

Carl had the ability to manipulate plants. He could also transform himself into a gelatinous substance, like potatoes mashed with an electric mixer.

School was torture and constant teasing until he slathered up the opponent’s lanes at the track meet against Eastwood High. Their star runner, Flash, never left the starting blocks, he couldn’t gain any traction.

All the trees and shrubs in the schoolyard fell over laughing.

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The Time-Traveler’s Thanksgiving by Haley Booker-Lauridson

Paul watched the last glob of mashed potato splat onto hardwood floor. His eyes moved to the baseball, to his wife, to two mortified faces.

“What did I tell you about playing ball in the house?”

“Not to,” his sons answered in unison.

Paul sighed. “Honey?”

Alice obligingly closed her eyes.

Alice started awake. Darting to the kitchen, she saw her husband fussing over the turkey, mashed potatoes safely on the counter.

She turned. A ball speeding to the bowl of mash instead smacked into her raised hand.

“What did your father tell you about playing ball in the house?”

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Mo’s Superpower Mash Disaster  by M J Mallon

Mo had always wanted to know what people really thought about her so she developed a special mash infused with a truth serum. What a disaster! Mo’s cafe was now closed until further notice. No one wanted Mo’s magic mash infused with such a bizarre superpower. Who would want to be on the receiving end of that kind of damaging ability? Finding out what people really think about you isn’t great – unfiltered thoughts and comments hurt. Mo’s Mash cafe reopens tomorrow with a new menu topped by:

Tell a bunch of lies mash to keep the regular punter’s happy.

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The Super Food by The Dark Netizen:

One whiff of it, and I knew it was ready.

It was almost time for the meeting. I had promised my peers that I would cook something pep their moods up. And boy, did we all need a boost. We had lost for the tenth time in a row. Few of us had already decided to call it quits. However, as the team leader, I decided to take matters into my own hands. With my experiment turning out to be a success, one spoonful of my mashed potatoes, and we would remain villains no more.

We will become super-villains!!

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PART II (10-minute read)

Blown Cover by Allison Maruska

Anyone who thinks having superpowers is so cool doesn’t have a sister.

McKenzie hasn’t stopped sucking up to Mom today. She set the table, cooked side dishes, and collected coats at the door.

Phony.

Time to prove she isn’t so nice. I just have to make her randomly lose her temper.

I turn invisible and creep to the Thanksgiving table, planting myself behind her seat. When she lifts her full glass to her mouth, I shake her arm, soaking her.

“Matthew!”

I dart away, but something warm and gloppy hits my invisible shoulder.

Mashed potatoes.

My cover is blown.

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Taterman To The Rescue by Patrick O’Connor

Look, out the left window. It’s a squirrel. It’s a train. It’s Taterman!

Taterman. A superhero who gets his strength from mashed potatoes.

His favorite mashed potatoes are from Popeye’s Chicken. It’s all about the cajun gravy.

Whenever there’s a call for help, Alvin Wyatt becomes – Taterman.

His secret lair is in his mother’s basement.

In his regular life, he’s a struggling comedian.

Alvin doesn’t pay attention very well and forgets punchlines. He’s frequently unemployed.

The next time you need help, cook some mashed potatoes and Taterman will be there shortly.

Don’t forget the cajun gravy. He’ll respond faster.

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Mash Master by oneletterup

“More garlic!” He shouts. “I’ll do it.”
Masher in one hand. Stick of butter in the other.
“And cream.” “Garlic and cream.”

Twenty years old. Slouching. Half awake.
Scruffy beard. Stained sweatshirt.
Waving them aside.

He scoops up twelve cloves. Minced and done.
Their eyes water from the steam. Whirr of the beaters.
Minutes pass.
“Taste!” he commands.
They obey.
The garlic bite smoothed out by the creamy russets.
“Salt!”

The pot of potatoes transformed.
They watch awestruck.
His eyes brighten. He stands up straighter. Grinning.
It’s magical.
“You’ve done it again,” they cheer.

The Almighty Master of Mashed.

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Where Farmers Get Their Strength by Molly Stevens

“Grandma, what it was like when you lived on a farm growing up?”

“It wasn’t an easy life, Nick. Everyone worked hard – my parents, brothers, sisters, and hired hands. We got up before the sun, and worked in all kinds of weather – from blistering heat to frosty mornings.”

“What did you do?”

“I milked the cows, shoveled manure, drove a tractor, and picked potatoes. But that was nothing compared to the hours my parents put in to keep things going. It was like they had superpowers.”

“Where did they get their strength?”

“Mashed potato – it was their kryptonite.”

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Count Spudula by Susi J Smith

“That’s your superpower?”

Count Spudula grinned, posing with hands on hips as he awaited applause from the studio audience.

The presenter cleared her throat. ”You un-mash mashed potato?”

“I call it…re-formation.”

“So no laser vision, or invisibility?”

His smile faltered.

“No curing the common cold?”

“No…”

“What about mushy peas, or diced carrots?”

The count lowered his arms and sighed.

“Just spuds?”

“Just spuds.” He dropped down onto the armchair and rubbed his brow. ”I spent a fortune on gamma rays…changed my name legally…My wife left…”

The presenter smiled, rubbing his forearm. “Maybe next time, Gary.”

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But the Greatest of These … by Anne Goodwin

He isn’t the man she married. Not even the man whose passions she failed to comprehend. Ten hours to cook a meal consumed in ten minutes? Ten herbs and spices to flavour the flesh when one would do. Now the gourmet’s reduced to eating pap.

When the diagnosis came she panicked. How would she live with his shell when the man it was built for was gone? Now, feeding him mashed potato like a baby, she draws on the power he gave her long ago. Back when he found her, lost and wounded, and, by loving, taught her love.

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Potato Dead by Deepa

“It was the table’s mistake!” I came crying and hugged mom tightly.

“It hit me!” I murmured slowly with heads down.

“You have got the first potato on your head, Roy!”

Mom laughed and kissed the bump on my head.

When I was four years old, it was a challenging time for mom to handle me. She tells me even now that she never had to detox or diet to lose her post-pregnancy fats. All she had to do was follow me wherever I ran.

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Super Spud by Kay Kingsley

“If Popeye can eat spinach and get super powers, I can eat mashed potatoes and get MY superpowers!”

“Kevin, who wants to eat mashed potatoes to get super powers? That’s lame. Wouldn’t you rather get bit by something and turn into something cool?”

“No. Why should I have to get bitten by something?”

“Um, because that’s what happens. Duh. Mashed potatoes… so lame.”

“It’s my drawing. Stop looking!” I covered my paper with my arm. I was SUPER SPUD! A 50-foot potato with huge mashers for feet, ready to squish my brother, my red cape flapping in the wind.

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Mashed Miracles by kate @ aroused

My love for humans is so divine.
with their hearts mine does entwine
as a universal one I regard them mine

Know they have hardships to work through
by doing so they will become more true
add mashed spuds made like glue

So they can unite through adversity
know they must embrace diversity
wherever they live rural or city

Such power will truly transform their life
if for kindness and insight they do strive
they will blossom and emerge from strife!

They can develop clairvoyance and healing
if they avoid drama and stealing
live ethically dealing with their feeling!

🥕🥕🥕

THAT Thanksgiving by Kerry E.B. Black

I always knew Momma was more than her lithe frame suggested, but THAT Thanksgiving I was sure. Money was tight, and winter’d set in with a merciless, frosty stranglehold. “How’re we gonna feed everyone?” I wondered, but Momma sang as though she hadn’t a care in the world. Baking turkey perfumed the air before guests arrived. Stuffing spilled from its belly when we carved. Golden gravy and ruby cranberries sparkled like treasures beside a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes light enough to be an angel’s cloud. I wept, ravenous. She’d done it. With meager rations, Momma produced a feast.

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If Only by Norah Colvin

Jake pushed the plate away. “Don’t like mash.”

Mum sighed and turned away.

As Jake stared at the potato, out popped a tiny, lumpy, and obviously grumpy, old man. He shook his fists.

Jake leaned forward. “Pardon?”

“I’m leaving.”

“Why?”

“Ya always push me away. Say ya’d rather chips or roasties. Doncha know we’re all the same—inside—only outside’s different.”

“Didn’t think—”

“Your kind—unkindness—never do. Gotta learn ta look beyond the differences, kid.

Learn ta love us all.”

“Wait—”

“What?” said Mum, turning as Jake scooped the last spoonful of mash into his mouth.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Wild by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lizzie stared at the monitor, hands folded in her lap. The cursor blinked.

Sighing, she trotted off to the kitchen for more coffee.

Returning, she sat again and watched the cursor blink.

Blank.

A dearth of inspiration.

Even that third cup didn’t raise Lizzie’s superpower: quirky imagination.

“Wonder what the weather’s doing?’ she clicked to raise the radar map on her screen.

And there: a dense cloud of snow skating toward her town, like a sneeze of mashed potatoes.

“No inspiration inside? Then it’s outside for me!”

Lizzie rose to dress in layers, inspired enough to don a bra!

🥕🥕🥕

Smashed Potatoes by Miriam Hurdle

“What are you doing, Meg?”

“Helping, sis.”

“By doing what?”

“Smashing the potatoes.”

“You do what? For what?”

“Didn’t you read the email from the Community Center. They need additional 50 lbs smashed potatoes with opinion power to serve the Thanksgiving dinner to the veterans.”

“Oh no, let me check the email.”

“I’ll do 10 lbs mixed with fortune cookie opinions.”

“OMG. That’s what it says. Let me call Judy.”

~

“Meg, let’s pick up the smashed potatoes and cook them.”

“What did she say?”

“Judy made some typos. We still can make mashed potatoes with your smashed potatoes.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fast Hands (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane flung the bowl of mashed potatoes at Horace. The bowl bounced off his shoulder and Hickok caught it midair. Horace hadn’t even moved except, Sarah noted, his eyes had widened the way a cow might look when protesting a lead rope to the milking barn. No one spoke as glops of white, buttery mashed potatoes slid down Horace’s shirt. Nancy Jane growled and slammed the heavy oak door when she stomped outside. Sarah understood her friend’s upset with how poorly Horace had handled Cobb’s interference at the station. More than that, she marveled at Hickock’s super speed.

🥕🥕🥕

Super Power Heroes by D. Avery

See how the engineer’s designing a structure to retain the gravy?

The starving artist here, she’d rather sculpt and splatter than put fork to mouth.
Her twin’s a musician. He’ll plop and slop and get every sound he can from this meal. Every fork’s a tuning fork in his hands.
The historian’ll tell you all about pomme de terre, and how the reason it’s associated with the Irish is because the English couldn’t be bothered to steal them from under the ground.

That one’s a magician, mashed potatoes disappear in a flash.
Me? I fed them on the cheap.

🥕🥕🥕

Mash Flash by D. Avery

Pal, you sleepin’?

Not anymore.

Started readin’ that book, Creative Courage. Been thinkin’ on Shorty’s post.

I know Kid, it’s intriguin’ ta think on what Anne Goodwin would think.

It is Pal. An’ I’m inta the epiphany of it ain’t gotta jist be the protagonist that changes. Could be the writer or the reader- any an’/ or all.

It’s a trifecta all right. Makes sense, long as someone gits some elixir.
Pal, have you been inta the elixir?

Yep. Ornery come by, brought some product.

He never comes by.

Came fer the mash.

Ain’t corn mash, it’s potato flash.

🥕🥕🥕

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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?

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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