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Bee Inspired

Bee InspiredInsects thrive among us, whether we welcome the buzz or not. Butterflies flutter, bees bumble and ladybirds amass. We can slow down and watch, or shriek in terror. How we react is part of the story.

This week, writers find out what bugs characters (or inspires). The stories that unfold will surprise you. A few might leave you squirming. Hopefully these tales of 99 words will get you observing and curious about things that crawl, fly and sting.

The following stories are based on the May 4, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include insects in a story.

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The Hum of the Sea by Sherri Matthews

Fingers of sea-mist stroked her face as it rolled in across the harbour. She shivered.

A distant fog horn played its mournful warning. How many lives had it saved? Certainly not the one life that had mattered most to her. Her husband, her best friend, her rescuer. But he had rescued others; on wild nights at sea, a lifeboat volunteer, until the sea claimed him also.

A faint humming, all afternoon, still played with her thoughts. What was it? There, up high by the church spire. Mason bees, in and out of their nest.

She smiled. Relentless, life moves.

###

The Sting in the Tail by Geoff LePard

Anyone home?’

Mary sighed. Rupert. This time she needed him. ‘Can you watch Charlotte? I’ll drop Penny at her dance class. Tea after.’

‘Delightful.’

She was delayed and hadn’t brought her phone. In the kitchen she found a scribbled note on the fridge said ‘hospital’ with Rupert’s number. There were 8 missed calls on her phone.

‘It was a bee sting. She began to swell. Mum was allergic so I knew the signs. They’ve given her adrenaline; she’ll be fine.’

Mary sat in traffic her mind a jumble. If she was going to have a guardian angel, why him?

###

The Sting by Jeanne Lombardo

Cleaning day in the new house. The feel of fine grit in the bathtub. She scrubbed, like a woman she’d seen in Oaxaca grinding corn on a stone metate.

Then, Ow! What the hell? A sliver of glass? She turned to the sink and threw her rag down. Inspected the finger. No blood. Only a suffusion under the skin, as if the tip were blushing.

She did other chores. The finger grew numb. Still she didn’t realize. Returning, she picked the rag up. The evil thing lay in the bowl, flat, segmented, pincered, its barbed tail ready to strike.

###

Girl on a Swing (haibun) by Oliana

Emily eats her cookie on the swing in back of the cottage surrounded by rose bushes, plum trees, a cherry tree and several milkweeds. She loves how the grass is tall and she can crawl on her tummy and pretend she’s in the jungle. The grasshoppers often play dead on a blade of grass and she can outstare any bug and make it jump away.

The blossoms sure looked pretty, she thought as she passed a fallen petal gently on her cheek; it felt like Mommy’s silk scarf.

###

No Bad Luck by Anthony Amore

“Dad,” she screams. “Get up here now.”

What now, I thought and flew up the stairs. She stood outside her bedroom dripping in her towel, head wrapped up like some ancient fortune teller. “Problem,” I ask as she points.

“There,” she says fidgeting. “Gross. Eww, so gross.”

In the shadow of the room’s corner a hundred creeping black and orange dots.

“Kill ’em,” she squeals. “Just kill ’em all.”

I grab some Kleenex, her desk chair and stand on the dresser. “I can’t”

“What do you mean can’t,” hands folded, begging.

“Can’t kill ladybugs,” I tell her. “Bad luck.”

###

Lift Off by Ann Edall-Robson

From beside the deck, I watched the Bumble Bee foraging on the thick, creamy blossoms of the Goats Beard plant. Harvesting pollen and leaving their scent on the buds they had already ravaged. Hind legs laden with generous amounts of rich, yellow treasure.

As I stood in the sun, enjoying Mother Nature’s spectacular performance only a few feet away, I wondered if this tiny insect would be capable of taking its booty back to the hive.

With very little effort, and a quiet buzzing, lift off was achieved before my eyes. Hovering only for a second, the bee disappeared.

###

Achoo by Ruchira Khanna

“Achoo!” Patricia gave out a couple of continues sternutations, and it made everyone in the audience silent.

She was embarrassed.

Apologized!

While wiping her nose and fidgeting with her slides she speculated over her decision of taking a spoonful of honey made from the local bees for the last few months or popping in the anti-histamine each day to avoid this moment.

“Jeez! it sure is not an easy decision when one chooses to go the alternate route to fight pollen allergies, huh!” she snickered with a sniff and watery eyes while commenting over her act of sneezing.

###

May the Butterflies Land by Susan Zutautas

Dad how do you make the butterflies land?

You have to be oh so still and quiet. Watch and listen to what I do.

Dad extended his arm out and barely whispered to the Monarchs saying, simmer down, simmer down, simmer down. Patiently we waited and dad repeated simmer down several times.

I began to chant simmer down, and after what seemed like an eternity a butterfly landed on my shoulder. I was ecstatic and tried so hard to be still. I looked over at dad and he was smiling.

That’s how you make a butterfly land sweet girl.

###

Box Elder M-O (Montana) by Elliott Lyngreen

Smothering in unconditioned Long John Silvers, fries aftertaste is flies. Free substance rots, overwhelms, smashing bug squishes airs pavement. Wipers smear mayflies across the windshield. “Never see those flying. Or swarming. It’s like the invasion spontaneously envelope everything.” Treck’s ride has bee carcasses across the area above the back seat. Whenever staying at Treck’s, his basement bedroom, earwigs and bedbugs, silverfish randomly appear in exposed wall portions where the furring and paneling are unfinished. Box Elders cloak bright windows.. Read his walls; covered with writings. Cuz Treck always plays this one song. We cruise. Find reasons, places, the masses…

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Is There Laundry in Heaven? by Kerry E. B. Black

Sun couldn’t warm Serena as she cloud watched. Her hair splattered the grass about her head. Moving hurt, so she allowed the spring-damp earth to hug her back. Momma would have hated how the mud stained her clothes, but Momma didn’t need to worry about washing any more. “Wonder if there’s laundry in Heaven?” Serena thought. Pain stabbed through her. Springtime blurred into opalescence. A tear trickled over her cheek. Something tickled, little feet alighting and scampering to gather her tears. Serena opened her eyes. A butterfly crafted her sadness onto a strand. Serena’s soul followed its lead Heavenward.

###

Buzz by Jane Dougherty

I have always loathed spiders, squished every one that got too close, mercilessly. Not surprising this drifting, restless dream, probably inspired by indigestion, has a big, fat spider in it. Its eyes, red and globular stare into mine, its hairy mandibles fidget. Its awful bulk scuttles closer. Even though it’s a dream I feel sick. I moan and try to wake, struggling against some tough, sticky stuff, binding my arms and legs. I hear the click click of those awful jaws. The eyes hypnotise. I try to scream, and my voice is the faint buzz of a dying fly.

###

Surprise! by Norah Colvin

It took just one, then the word was out. The streets were abuzz with the news – a triumph of social media.

“Kyle’s having a barbecue. Tell everyone. Don’t bring anything. There’s always plenty.”

The excitement was palpable as guests swarmed towards Kyle’s. Some, initially unsure, flapped about nervously. Others, more experienced, felt they were dancing on the ceiling. Eventually all were on their way. The waft of seared flesh left no doubt about the location.

Kyle was ready when they arrived. “Who invited you?” he grinned and waved, as he knocked them out with the can of spray.

###

Surveying Skeeters by Pat Cummings

A spring somewhere uphill feeds a soggy ditch paralleling the road. Every road we’ve surveyed seems to have its own mosquito bog. I squint downhill through the transit to the rod my partner holds, and, jotting the numbers, spot the blood-sucker on my hand.

Whap! My notebook serves a second function as a skeeter-swat. I turn the transit to the back-line and spot the previously-sited stake. Wiping my sweaty forehead, I dislodge a team of gnats. My hand comes away adorned with another mosquito.

That night, doing calculations from my surveyor’s notes, I find more dead mosquitoes than numbers.

###

Leaving by Irene Waters

“You’ve changed. I’m sick of it. I want you to go.” He spat the words at her before storming from the room.

He’s right, Bee thought. I have changed. Once I had butterflies in my stomach, fireflies in my eyes and crickets in my heart. Now I’m a moth, bordering on insanity as I flit around an external light, my heart crawling with worms, maggots eating my brain. The goodwill that once was is no more. He’s right. It is time to go. We’d both be happier. Some wine, a bottle of pills and oblivion will be mine.

###

My Giddy Ant by Anne Goodwin

“Because it works! Look around you! See what following the leader achieves.”

Tony wasn’t sure. Each time the line detoured around an obstacle, he was tempted to break ranks and beetle over to explore. Each time the queue paused, he wanted to wander off, to rush past his brothers and sisters to glimpse that mythical creature at the head. But he never dared. His mother had told him that, if he did his duty, he’d be reincarnated as a human. “Consider this life an apprenticeship for the next. In the glorious worker’s Republic of North Korea.”

###

Flight by Larry La Forge

“It flew. I swear, it flew.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Edna. Roaches don’t fly.”

“Well this one did.”

Ed didn’t believe it. “It probably just leaped.”

Edna shook her head. “It flew.”

“Well where is it now?”

“How should I know? Maybe it flew into another room. Maybe it flew out to get its friends.”

Ed looked around but couldn’t find any sign of a flying roach, or any other kind for that matter.

That’s when Edna began frantically pulling clothes from her closet.

“What are you doing?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Edna screamed without looking up. “We have to move.”

###

Night Sounds by Bill Engelson

Hank and Merle Taylor proved to be considerate hosts. They’d fed Aggie a filling meal of cornbread and frijoles, and then left her to her own company.

A dry evening wind slipped in through the window of her temporary bedroom.

The night was crackling loud.

She prayed for Dobbs, weighed down by his violent and cheerless mission.

Her senses primed, she was sure she could hear scratching in the walls.

Her dancing candle cast a long shadow to the floor.

They were foraging with military precision, venomous, unassailable.

“Damn fire devils,” she cursed quietly, futilely, “Get thee to hell.”

###

Celebrate Celastrina by Jules Paige

I found Periwinkles in Indiana. They like pussywillow. The
bushes lined the walkway from the back end of the garage
all the way to the family room’s sliding doors – twenty or
thirty feet of overgrown bushes.

In that time of spring when the fuzzy bud blooms there were
hundreds then – they must have been catching the last rays
of day, decided in unison that they were finished and fluttered.

I didn’t know what they were at the time. And was never
able to recapture that magic moment. I guess I was in the
right place at the right time…

###

When the Sidewalk Ended by C. Jai Ferry

The calloused skin of my bare soles was no match for the sidewalk’s permeating heat. I jumped from side to side along the concrete stretching through the sandy loess.

And then the sidewalk ended.

I sunk my feet into gritty sand, sighing into the shaded coolness. But as my soles welcomed the relief, the heat latched onto my ankles, its fire crawling along my skin and spiraling up my calves.

Shrieking, I windmilled my arms, brushing at the fire ants swarming my legs. I raced back to the burning concrete’s safety, resigned to follow the well-traveled road.

For now.

###

Hail From Hell by Charli Mills

“Thunderheads, Nancy Jane. They’re so black.” Sarah scanned the sky where clouds spread like spilled ink. No wind, yet the clouds grew.

“Get on your horse, now Sarah. We gotta ride like them Express fellas.” Nancy Jane had already unhobbled the two horses and was handing the reins of one to Sarah.

“But the elk?” Sarah had ridden out with Nancy Jane to hunt the migrating herds near Rock Creek Station. She’d half dressed the one she’d shot.

“No time, Sar. Them ain’t clouds.”

The horizon darkened; the black expanding. “Not clouds?”

“Ride! We gotta outrun them hoppers hell’s released!”

###

May 4: Flash Fiction

May 4Snow-melt seeps from mountain glens spongy with spring moss and early ferns. A multitude of trickles gain momentum and cascade as effervescent waterfalls. Water the color of soft green sea glass slams into black metamorphic outcroppings and tumbles over granite boulders, stones, pebbles and sand. Stand along the roar of the Pack River in early May and you feel the vibration of life.

Sand is what makes the region of north Idaho unique. It filters the water and leaves no muddy residue like other western US rivers flowing in spring torrents. It’s my first excursion up the Pack River since the spring melt began with March rains. The Pack is near to cresting in the flood planes and higher up in the Selkirk Mountains it jumps normal channels to reconnect broken oxbows. The color is stunning, the clarity a polished lens, and the sound a concert of rushing vibration.

I once wrote of this river as my Peace of Idaho. The Pack is close to my home and my heart — it’s where I go to cool down or cool my heels; to read or watch the Hub cast a fly for trout; to let the dogs expend their energy. The Pack River is also where Grendel was attacked by a bear last summer. Maybe that’s when I began to shut down. I let fear and grief and worry shut me out of my favorite place. I refused to go up the Pack after that, after Kate. Instead I pulled weeds for a property I do not own. Now I seek its solace once again.

While it is healthy to reflect and recalculate, it’s equally healthy to take action and confront the issues. Change what can be changed, make new choices and carry on with the original intent. A friend from Minnesota visited, lured by my stories and photos. She reminded me of what I can stake claim to. Thus I made the choice to reclaim my Peace of Idaho. I live in bear country, not in fear. It’s a lesson I take to my current circumstances — risks might exist but they do not rule me. I am a writer and I can resolve, explore, express. I can create.

A rush of water goes straight to my head, and all else is distraction.

Feeling ready for a triumph, I took my friend and her daughter on a Pack River tour in my white farm truck, stopping at key points along way. First was the swimming hole, the place that calls me to strip down to my bare writing soul. I’ve been writing an experimental fiction for The DICTION AERIE ™ a new lit-blog I think many of you will like. The editor, John Hessburg, is a dear friend and a multi-talented American essayist, poet and adventure guide. He’s inspired me to re-purpose pieces of my Pack River essays into a fictional exploration of this one swimming hole through the web of multiple perspectives. For those of you who recall my flash fiction character of Ramona, her story will unfold here, at the swimming hole. My experiment is called, An American Idyll: the Pack River Chronicles — first of “The Rio Trios.”

Thus walking down to the river in full flush, to witness the swimming hole as turbulent water, was a powerful affirmation. Change happens, and I won’t be washed away. I thought about Ramona and Viola and the bear while I stood on the wet sandbar. My friend snapped photos and we laughed over the roar of water. I walked along the edge and stepped into a congregation of sand fairies.  Suddenly I was enveloped by a fluttering cyclone of tiny purple wings. Stunned, I stood and watched dozens of periwinkle butterflies flutter and re-settle upon the sand bar. With wings folded up, they match the sand; open thy exhibit the color of their name. In my Ramona stories, there are twin fairies. Kate’s last name was Ferry. I stood on sacred ground and felt the mysteries of life surround me.

After that, I had no residual fear of the bear that bit Grenny.  I stayed alert, and encountered more periwinkles at the site of Grendel’s attack. I even helped my friend find an Idaho garnet embedded in a stone of grizzled granite. We followed deer tracks in the sand and pondered over the canine tracks. We marveled at the Pack River jumping its normal course and at the flood damage to what used to be a long, flat sand bar for bonfires and camping. Now it had a ragged scar. Like Grenny. Scars mark, but wounds heal. We might not be the same as before, but who ever said we were to remain unchanged? When we left the river’s edge to go back to the truck, I noticed the bear poop, nodded and accepted that bears live here, too.

Poop seemed to dominate the rest of our stops. Moose poop, elk poop, itty-bitty deer poop, and a fairly fresh pile of more bear poop. This amused my friend. As we climbed higher into the mountain canyon we could hear waterfalls. I pointed out the tall dead trees that towered like charcoal ghosts above the forest and explained that those sentinels were what remained of the 1910 forest fires in this area. I told her to look for burned out stumps to get an idea of how much bigger the old growth trees had been. She spotted some and wanted her picture beside the stumps, even getting into one large enough to park a small car within. She said all writers who visit north Idaho should experience standing in the trunk. My friend understands the essence of inspiration!

We crossed a major waterfall and sat along side it for a while. The energy of the water is healing and invigorating. I wanted to sit in the waterfall, but it was fresh snow-melt and cold. We couldn’t get much further, the road was blocked by snow. I had to back up, a tricky feat given the narrow passage and the sheer drop to the Pack River below. I paid close attention to that side, but drove off into the barrel ditch on the other side, dropping into a culvert hole. That wonderful Selkirk Mountain sand spun my tires and I was soon stuck. 4WD to the rescue and my friend who helped pack tree limbs beneath the sand-stuck tire. We soon were free and laughed off our moment of uncertainty.

Isn’t that so in life? Uncertainty, a moment or a season, passes too.

In my own uncertainty, I know this truth — writing is not a fleeting periwinkle. As much as I talk about platform, career and craft, I also understand writing’s creative hold on my psyche. There’s a part of it I can’t describe but have to feed and unleash. When fairies hold me captive for mere seconds, I want a lifetime to explore the experience.

All of you who write, read or comment here, I want to express my gratitude. Some days, I walk the trails of Carrot Ranch marveling at the gifts you each bring in your willingness to share among a literary community. Thank you Prompt Hands: Lisa Reiter, Norah Colvin and Anne Goodwin for stepping in to run the ranch while I renewed my head, heart and attitude. Thank you Sarah Brentyn for carrying on with the process of editing our first anthology. Thank you Ann Edall-Robson for challenging and inspiring me to develop clearer writing retreat opportunities and for sharing event planning expertise. Thank you Sacha Black for inspiring me and your willingness to talk shop about craft and marketing. Thank you Ruchira for not giving up on me when your links didn’t show up and for including me in your writing process. Thank you for the kind emails Irene Waters and Jules Paige. Your care and concern held me up. Thank you Sherri Matthews for keeping me on track with writing, hope and inspiration — thank you for the foxes, dreams and friendship. Thank you Larry LaForge, Pete Fanning, Deborah Lee, Bill Engelson, Geoff Le Pard, Jane Doughtery, Ula Humienik, for carrying on the writing week after week. Welcome Elliott Lyngreen and Gulara Vincent, thank you for sharing in my absence. Thank you to all the Rough Writers & Friends who participate when possible, share among circles and read the words here. To the unknown readers, I might not know your name but your presence is felt and appreciated! Thank you my dearest patrons, Nae, Aunt M and Cuz K. Thank you Paula Moyer for family kinship and friendly cheerleading. Thank you Katherine and Susie for your wisdom and prayers. Thank you to my three amazing offspring (and SIL) for staying calm when Mum freaks out, for the plane tickets to see Runner graduate with his Masters and for your belief in me. Thank you Pat for your uplifting visit. Thank you for all the regional writers who’ve shown up to Wrangling Words or Open Mic Night or shared lunches in Sandpoint. Patty Jo, you are my Clark Fork rock. Thank you Binders, especially my Montana Binders and our dauntless national leader, Leigh.

Community matters to writers. Carrot Ranch is a hub. May you benefit from being here among a vibrant and diverse group held together by the literary arts, no matter how few 99 words might be.

We all thrive in community, not in isolation. Writing can be a solo act at times, but it’s true calling is the connection between writer and reader, a relationship not solitude. Writers thrive in a safe community and that’s what the ranch is. A place to explore; a place to take risks in craft; a place to experiment; a place to connect. Inspire and be inspired. No judgement, no criticism or critique, free range to play and practice. There’s no obligations or expectations. Participate in the way that fulfills your writing needs. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, to appreciate a different perspective and take risks.

Let’s get to fairies and butterflies. Which side do you stand for — supernatural or science? If you walked through a congregation of periwinkles would you write something practical or magical? Do you ever watch bees collect pollen or fear getting stung? While my friend stayed over we sat under the apple tree overlooking Elmira Pond and listened to the steady hum of bees and traffic. Nature is always close to us. This week, take a closer look around you for inspiration.

May 4, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include insects in a story. Periwinkles, bees laden with pollen, ants building hills. What can insects add to a story? Do they foreshadow, set a tone, provide a scientific point of interest or a mystical element? Let you inner periwinkles fly!

Respond by May 10, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Hail From Hell by Charli Mills

“Thunderheads, Nancy Jane. They’re so black.” Sarah scanned the sky where clouds spread like spilled ink. No wind, yet the clouds grew.

“Get on your horse, now Sarah. We gotta ride like them Express fellas.” Nancy Jane had already unhobbled the two horses and was handing the reins of one to Sarah.

“But the elk?” Sarah had ridden out with Nancy Jane to hunt the migrating herds near Rock Creek Station. She’d half dressed the one she’d shot.

“No time, Sar. Them ain’t clouds.”

The horizon darkened; the black expanding. “Not clouds?”

“Ride! We gotta outrun them hoppers hell’s released!”

###

Author’s Note: the Nebraska prairie experienced extreme autumn invasions of locust. Pioneers recorded swarms that filled the sky. Yet, the locust went extinct just a few decades after settlement.