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May 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Two days after my middlest child turned 29 years old, I’m seeking trees. My daughter, Rock Climber, lives on a craggy glacier island in the Arctic, surrounded by massive mountains, polar bear prints, and eternal snow beneath skies as wide as any final frontier. She travels by Zodiac in seas so tumultuous she has to wear a full life-suit with a beacon. When she flies between islands, she lands on airstrips made of permafrost. For fun, she rides snowmobiles in the midnight sun and sends me goofy snapshots. When her dad was in the hospital, she taught her Norwegian friends to sing a raunchy rugby song she learned when watching him play in a Montana league.

This is my Bug Child. My wild girl crafted in her Ranger/Rugby father’s image.

She tells me she misses trees.

Have you ever lived someplace where there were no trees? Even in the North American deserts, juniper, pinion, and Joshua trees grow. I was born beneath a canopy of California oaks and raised in the Sierras where the Jeffry pines and cedars grow. Eyes wide open, I can still smell their scent — Jeffrey pines smell like vanilla when the sunshine warms their broom-like clusters of needles. I’m not a tree-hugger as much as I’m a tree-cuddler.

I used to ride my horse Captain Omega (don’t judge, I named him when I was 12, reading Greek Mythology) to the cedar groves. There, I’d sit with my back to a cedar with its auburn bark that I could peel like fiber. I used to compare the color of my long braids to the tree and pretend we were distantly related. I’d read, devouring books and traveling in my mind to places as remote as where Rock Climber now lives.

Trees are in my DNA. Bumpa, my nonagenarian great-grandfather who used to tell me stories when my mother dropped me off to visit him in the nursing home beneath the oaks. I only knew him in his nineties. He died when I was ten, and he was 99. But those stories live on within me, roots of his life touching mine. His parents were farmers from Denmark, immigrating to America. They came west to California and planted apricot orchards. He grew up, tending those trees. My grandmother continued to harvest their fruit even after her father sold the orchards. My mother and her sisters would eat green apricots until their bellies ached. I grew up eating dried apricots every Christmas. When my Bug Child was two, my mother taught her to filch fruit from low-hanging branches, declaring these were the one’s Bumpa’s father planted.

I once wrote a story about the sweetness of stolen sunshine, keeping in mind the female tradition of San Benito apricots. Those trees produced fruit I thought must taste like the ambrosia of the sun. Throughout life, I continued to nibble from trees. First apricots, and then the nuts from Sierra pines. Jeffry pinenuts are flat and acrid but carry that luscious scent. Pinion pinenuts are fat, greasy, and sweet. Yet they don’t produce every year. When pinenuts come into season, the Washo and Ute would flock to high desert groves and harvest from pitchy stunted trees. I can taste American history with each nibble, I can experience Johnny Appleseed with the plucking of wild apples. I dream of Rock Creek and Little House on the Prairie when I slurp the tart fruit of a wild Nebraska plum.

Family legend holds that my other great-grandfather could create trees. He knew how to splice and get a crab apple to grow on a Macintosh. What scientist do in labs with genes, my ancestors did with trees. They brought their own hybrids with them from the Basque lands, the Azores, and beyond. Not from Ireland though. I once had a family member tell me that the English cut down all the trees in Ireland, and perhaps my Irish blood still misses those trees. I’ve watched shows on how the modern English take care of ancient oaks, and Monty Don is welcome to teach me anything about trees. My British roots are all mixed up in the different eras of history, place, and culture but undoubtedly go back to the Celtic worshippers of trees.

Deciduous trees of the Keweenaw have root systems that communicate throughout the woods. When  I’m alone on a trail, I can hear them talking. White pines once grew in abundance on this peninsula, but like most other places, trees of today displaced the trees of yesterday. Climate change is displacing us all. Weather patterns and extreme weather events change what trees grow where.

At times I feel like a wind-whipped pine holding onto the cliffside. Then the sun comes out, or a gentle rain washes away the dust. Maybe I’ll find a home in a tree, a nest to call my own.

So I ask again, have you ever lived someplace without trees? Can you imagine having to hunt for them, to grow up not knowing what it is to smell bark or rake leaves or taste fruit?

My daughter misses trees. So I am seeking trees to give her stories to remind her.

May 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees. It can be one particular tree, a grove, woods, or forest. What makes the tree worth seeking? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 21, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Laid to Rest (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni asked Ike to fall the tree, an ancient Ponderosa with thick plates of bark assembled like puzzle pieces. She estimated it had stood over the abandoned cemetery at least three centuries before burials. Mostly sawyers and log-camp followers found final rest beneath its branches. A hundred years ago, this Ponderosa would have netted the logging company enough money to cover wages. Yet they had spared the tree. Danni didn’t guess why, but she asked her husband to fall it because he understood the code of the forest. He’d remove the diseased old-timer with respect to those it guarded.

May 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Soon, I’ll be another year older. I don’t really think of birthdays in terms of age; I’m more excited about cake and the possibility of a champagne sunset on Calumet Waterworks Beach. The 1.2 billion-year-old rocks interest me more than contemplating my meager years. I’m a mayfly in comparison to a Lake Superior agate. Why waste life worrying about growing older?

On Wednesday, I attended One Million Cups and listened to an eighty-something gerontologist talk about her experiences of growing older. Before she reached a high number of decades, she studied the aging process. According to definition, gerontology is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. This woman educates readers on what to expect during the natural aging process. And I’ll give you a hint — aging is not a sickness.

Writer, Jolayne Farrell, answers questions at her popular blog, On Growing Older just as she did for decades in her newspaper column. When she told her story, I picked out many instances of her willingness to take risks. She talked about discomfort and uncertainty, but she also lit up at the idea of pursuing passions. In fact, she passed out her business card attached to a colorful blank card with a red circle she called a life-saver. She invited us to write down our dreams and keep that card with us at all times.

We might not be spared growing older, but our life-saver will keep us alive.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Gabriel García Márquez:

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Jolayne shared with us her travels, work as a hospice nurse, and pursuit of what drives her own passions. She mentioned visiting other octogenarians in their mining homes (on the Keweenaw) surrounded by their memories. This made me realize how static we often try to make life. Do we think we can slow down the slippage of sand through the hourglass? I’m certain I don’t want my end-goal to be safe-guarding memorabilia.

My first year on the Keweenaw, I had a transformative experience at an estate sale. After the final owner of a home dies, a company comes in, working with the family, to clean out and sell the household items. I overheard a conversation at a sale — an elderly woman pined over a vintage set of glassware, commenting that they were “just like hers.” The woman’s daughter responded that they had downsized her belongings and she certainly was not going to get more “stuff.”

My heart ached. In part, I understood the daughter’s frustration. Likely, mom was living in assisted living or with family. She didn’t have the comfort of her old home surrounded by her memories. I felt the pining in contrast to the burden stuff can also bring.

When my best friend’s father died, and her mother went into a memory care facility, I helped my friend pack up her parents’ house. It was a painful experience, although we had plenty to laugh about (like all the teeth and hoard of toiletries we found in the bathroom). Sadly my friend died untimely of cancer. Is death ever timely?

Her children then had to sort through their mom’s and grandparents’ stuff. They were grieved and overwhelmed.

Yet, I felt for the elderly woman longing for her glassware. Sense of home stems from stuff surrounding us. I collect stories — books, rocks, and even broken glass. Other people gather family mementos or tools. One generation passes down glassware to the next. But not everyone wants great-grandma’s china. I have my great-grandmother’s recipes which I fashion into stories and serve along with the sopas or enchiladas. Yet both find connection to the past.

My imagination surges out west where the pining pictures pioneers unloading treasured household stuff to abandon glassware, dishes, and hutches along the Forty Mile Desert Trail across northern Nevada. The woman I briefly encountered at the state sale becomes one I imagine standing beside the wagon, gripping her apron as her husband deposits everything of hers deemed unessential on the blowing sand. The oxen stagger, needing water and hay. The children must walk in the sun, and they continue on, hoping the beasts don’t die to add their bleached bones to others. Once this woman makes it to Ragtown, did she dream of going back? In California, was she never satisfied, longing for her desert glassware?

Often, pioneers only had what they could take to remember home. Many would not see family again, and losing stuff adds to the sense of isolation. If you only had room for a few things, would you save a glass? Could you deposit your belongings in the desert if it meant your safe passage? Would you miss it years later?

I once saw a t-shirt that read, “Growing older is not for sissies.” It takes courage to balance what to take and what to leave behind; what to remember and what yet to experience. All the while we lose or sprout hair, find our posture slacking or our feet tapping out of sync. Did you know that a woman can experience hot flashes in her teeth? Yeah, no one told me that one, either. Digestions change and senses diminish. It’s the kind of transformation that signals the reality of change. Children grow up, waists expand, stuff matters more or less.

But Jolayne’s message was about embracing life. Not life at 20 or life at 50. But life. Life as it presents itself at the moment. Each day we ask, how will I live my best today?

The creative life is every day. It’s not when it’s now. On May 14, my middlest child turns 29, and a week later I’ll turn 52. It’s a middle of the spectrum age — it sounds young to some and old to others. It’s a number I can’t feel. I’m me, no matter what shifts. I have a robust imagination that sees beyond the day-to-day. Waly Disney said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

So dream.

May 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older. It can be humorous, dark or poignant. It can be true or total fiction. It can be fine wine or an old fossil. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 14, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Old Bones (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“That bone is heavy as iron,” Ramona said, picking up a fossil from Danni’s workbench. Ramona no longer recognized the bone or knew its story. Nothing seemed familiar these days.

Ike put his arm around Ramona, grinning. “It’s old as you, Gran’ma.”

Danni was brushing glass shards, musing over what they might tell her about 19th century occupancy near her garden. She paused. “Ike, you know that’s a dinosaur bone.”

Ramona winked. “Well, if bones get heavier with age then that explains the numbers on the bathroom scale.”

Danni laughed. At least Ramona hadn’t forgotten her sense of humor.

May 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Spring demands a pickaxe.

My neighbors chop their remaining snow piles dirty with stamp sand the road commission uses to grit streets throughout a Keweenaw winter. Remnants line the gutters. Other neighbors sweep away the byproduct of 150 years of copper mining. I scour the driveway and sidewalk to the back of the house on Roberts Street with my daughter’s corn-broom, swinging at grit as if I were fighting a battalion of field mice. Maple leaves move along at a groggy pace, damp and matted.

At the edge of the concrete, I discover brick pavers long buried beneath turf, dirt, and moss. In a frenzy of cleaning fueled by spring vibes and the need to move, I focus on excavation. The saturated earth easily tears away in clumps of grass, rooted maple saplings, and webs of weeds. An extended old sidewalk emerges as my reward, ending beneath one of three grand maples where one day I will set up a tea table. I sweep away more leaves to expose a flower bed, bare grape vines, and more visions of a place to call home.

Beneath the maple, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) rises like spring’s pickaxe from beneath the carpet of winter’s leavings. Grass-like stems spear so fiercely, they impale mats of maple leaves. Glory-of-the-snow unfold into purple and white star-flowers in the shadows of dwindling snow banks. The cosmos have momentarily dipped to earth. Miners who once drilled beneath the Keweenaw had wives who planted these resilient spring flowers, a baton of strength from the past.

The Finns have a word — sisu. It means something like determination and inner strength. It’s not courage, but rather something elemental in a person’s core. Finnish decendents of the Keweenaw turn to sisu to survive the long winters. It’s not a one-time deal, but a consistent ability to overcome adversity. I’m not a Finn, but I know sisu.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy watching neighbors pickaxe the remaining snow. I feel their determination with each stroke. I swipe away grit and watch flowers emerge, marveling that snow, stamp sand, and floral glory can exist simultaneously. A Keweenaw friend once described local nissu bread to me — “it’s gritty, but sweet; kinda like the Finns who eat it.” Nissu bread is not for sissies, but it takes to thimbleberry jam without complaint.

What is my thimbleberry jam, I wonder? I know my grit, my ability to rise like dough from the pounding. I also know beauty, the sweet spread of life lived in the moment. While worrying about a burgeoning infection surrounding the Hub’s new titanium, we both couldn’t help but gasp in joy as a merlin blew past the front window like a sky-racer down Roberts Street. That’s thimbleberry jam.

The worry passes. Merlins soar eternally. Someone once stood on this hill overlooking the waterway 3,000 years ago, poking around for the metal to make spear points to feed children half-starved from a harsh winter and a merlin blew past. Hope lifts up. Sisu gains root. And the hunter knows winters will come again. So will the merlins. So will the trout lillies and fiddlehead ferns. Sisu makes sure we don’t hang our heads and miss the flying.

As for the Hub’s knee, Doc says it’s “lookin’good.” The increased pain and redness is frostbite. Let’s say, I might have sisu. I’m a terrific advocate, a great encourager, but I suck at being a carer. In my heightened sense of duty, I overachieved on the icing and frosted the Hub’s new knee. Doc chuckled and said, “They didn’t educate you, did they?”

I have no idea who “they” are other than they say lots of stuff about history and politics, too. No, “they” never taught me how to use an ice bucket. I observed that it was used around the clock in the hospital, and when the nurse gave me Doc’s orders, I took them to the word — “ice.” So I iced. Good news is that x-rays confirmed no infection, the skin will heal, and halejuliah, I no longer have to haul ice up the stairs every four hours. I also advocated for a med change and it has made a huge difference, too. Brownie point for speaking up.

And then I threw away the Hub’s wallet. Cleanliness — to prevent infection — and lack of sleep led to a missing wallet. He panicked. I didn’t. After all, it’s not like he’s been gadding about any further than the bathroom. We pulled back the mattress, flashed the light in corners, moved dressers, search every weird place we could think of and no wallet. The Hub said it had fallen into the bedside trash once and he pulled it out. With everything condensed within his reach, it likely got knocked again and I didn’t think to look in the trash before depositing it outside in the can. The can that got hauled away before we realized what happened.

He’s sad. But I remember that the merlins are back. And the snow that hit us this week quickly melted. And that my Brussel sprouts are growing in the eggshells where I planted their seeds. And I have hopes for black gladiolas at the back of the Roberts Street house. We make the necessary calls. I believe sisu can exist because beauty exists.

In July, I’ll be offering my first Carrot Ranch Writing Refuge in Vermont. We will entwine ourselves in nature and writing. One of the lessons I’ve prepared is based on the Navajo “beauty way” as expressed in novels by Tony Hillerman. Another examines the writing of Craig Childs to explore a sense of place and beauty despite natural disaster. And we’ll learn to observe like Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Terry Tempest Williams. Beauty balances sisu in writing.

No matter what grit you might have to brush away from your own writing, and no matter how many times you must rise again against doubt, rise. Look for a merlin of your own, or catch the once a year smattering of flowers named for glories.

And tune into #NaNoProMo over on Twitter and at BadRedhead Media. It’s a month-long gathering of marketing expertise for authors. If you comment on the official post each day, you are registered to win prizes from each of the book marketing experts who offer a giveaway with each post. I’ll be talking about credibilty as part of author branding and offering a free Author Action Plan to the day’s winner. It’s a tool I developed for my book cultivation workshops and I’m pleased with it because it helps me meet each author where they are at to illuminate a path to where they want to be.

During NaNoProMo, I will offer a special consultation for an Author Action Plan (scroll to the bottom of the page).

We are each individual. There is no one plan that fits all.

But what writers do have in common is that determination to get it done on our own terms. Despite the obstacles. Despite circumstances. Despite age and regret, or youth and inexperience. We write with sisu.

May 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept of enduring strength, the ability to consistently overcome. Think long-term. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Something Evil in the Night (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Successive gun shots startled Danni from sleep. 2:04 a.m. She reached for Ike’s AR-15 resting between the dresser and wall. Years of Ike drilling her lent a strange familiarity to her husband’s weapon. But he was halfway around the world in Iraq. She dialed 9-1-1. The nearest deputy was 25 minutes away. Stepping outside, rifle cradled in the crook of her arm, Danni watched a silent pack of wolves run like liquid silver across the frozen pond in moonlight. Danni understood: Wolves run with sisu in their blood, outpacing the malevolence that follows – men with no regard for life.

April 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

Today, I’m dressed for success. My hair is cut to shoulder-length with a buzzed undercut that I will keep until I die. At least that’s what I told my new hair-dresser, NC (she’s from North Carolina). How freeing to have that mass of heavy hair lifted from the back of my head. I rub the fuzzy stubble that feels like velvet. Head velvet. The rest of my hair covers it, so unless I clip my hair up, you’d not know I shave part of my head. It pairs with my favorite worm flannel shirt of blue and gray buffalo plaid. No strappy undergarments hem me in today, and I’m wearing a cheap flowy and floral yoga pants I found on Amazon for nine dollars.

A board room executive might feel confident in a tailored suit and expensive shoes, but I’m writing away, barefoot and comfortable. This is my definition of success — pursuing a creative life without dressing and primping to codes that don’t fit me.

NC shaves the left side of her head. She has pretty blond curls and a shaved patch which was impulsive — her hair was hanging in her face one day, and she buzzed it off. She laughed, admitting she picked up the razor impulsively but justified that as a hair-dresser, she knew the look would be in fashion. My daughter asked her dad to shave her head into a high-and-tight and women are exploring razor cuts. NC said, “It’s freeing.”

And yes it is. Freeing physically — it feels great — and from social expectations of how women are supposed to wear their hair. I like the undercut because I can have both buzzed and longer locks.

I know women who had to wear dresses growing up. I loathed dresses. I felt most like me in Wrangler jeans, flannel shirts, and boots. Certain activities, however, dictated I had to have a dress or two in my closet. At age 15, I had three jobs and money to hire a local seamstress who made me two dresses according to patterns I pieced together. Both were checked gingham and looked pioneer-meets-80s-pop. The fad never caught on with anyone else, but if I were going to be forced to wear dresses to compete in forensics, it would be on my terms and in my white, gold-tipped cowboy boots.

When I had three children — two girls and one boy, I let their own tastes dictate their choices. Mostly they wore hand-me-downs or clothes we bartered for at yard sales, but they got to pick what to wear. My son’s favorite color to this day is hot pink. My girls both disdain pink because it’s girly (yet they don’t think of their brother as girly). Colors are colors. Why do we assign gender association?

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter. The photo had two cards side by side. The card with a pink envelop read, “I’d buy you flowers.” The card with the blue envelop read, “I’d make you a sandwich.” The person posting made a comment about capitalism and cooking, or something like that. I didn’t really pay too much attention because I got lost on the tangent that the line of cards targeted kids. I was like, wait, kids are buying each other greeting cards? I thought kids still made cards for others.

But the image stayed with me because I later became confused. Yes, the messages were gender tropes, or were they? Nothing on the cards said which gender had to buy which card and for whom. I thought of my son and his favorite color. Why would my son buy such a card, and I imagined him as an eight-year-old boy. He studied ballet, loved receiving flowers at recitals, and the color pink. If he were to buy a card for his best buddy, he would have selected the pink one about flowers.

Where is the pressure to be binary come from? Obviously family of origin, secondary would be the culture we grew up in and participate in. My family called me Charli from the time I came home from the hospital. I rode horses, pushed cattle, worked on logging sites, and cleaned houses after school. I wore dresses when necessary, and find joy in wearing a broad range of colors. Some days I’m a lumberjack, and other days I’m a colorful diva. I like feeling a mixture of appropriate and rebellious.

Sometimes I’ve had to be strong. Resilient. Other days I’ve cried over the beauty of a sunset.

What does this say about my gender? Honestly, I don’t know. The more I think about it, the more confused I become. I can fall back on social norms and say that I’m a married mom of three. Duh. Female. But one of my daughters, married and choosing not to be a mother, says she is gender fluid. Her husband, a self-proclaimed feminist, accepts this. They are less confused about the fluidity of gender. They don’t experience the rigidity of binarism.

Gender binary by definition is “the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine, whether by social system or cultural belief.”

And I feel free to not choose sides. I accept that others freak out at the thought of not having the boxes. If they want the boxes, they can have the boxes. But why can’t we also accept boxlessness?

Today, an extraordinary thing took place — I officially became a resident of Michigan. I have a new enhanced driver’s license (meaning I can cross borders into Canada and Mexico, which I will need when D. Avery and I go road tripping between the Kingdom and the Keweenaw after the Writing Refuge where JulesPaige, Susan Sleggs, and Ann Edall Robson will be meeting up). I’m also registered to vote. But all the applications and paperwork made me choose: (box) male or (box) female. I was fine ticking F, but I worried for those who are not.

<And here is where I insert, you really need to read Anne Goodwin’s Sugar and Snails.>

I’ve been toying with gender as a prompt but didn’t know how to prompt it without complication. Literary art expresses our deepest authentic selves if we are brave enough to dive below the surface. Last Saturday, I met with local writers for Wrangling Words at the library. They are a terrific bunch of authors and poets. I told them I was experimenting and wanted to know is “gender” could elicit a response as a prompt. The variety ranged from a confused ivy-like intergalactic being misunderstanding human genders to my own exploration of a boy buying a friend a card. So I’m going to go with it!

<And here is where I insert, if you have any recent books you wish to promote, I’ll be updating ads next week. They are free for all our Ranchers who play here with 99-words and more.>

April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender. It can be fixed or fluid. Explore the topic on your own terms and open your mind to possibilities and understanding. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 23, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Why Choose? by Charli Mills

The conference held at the UCLA campus thought of everything to address gender identity. The bathrooms were resigned, and attendees could declare their preferred pronouns.

“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”

“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”

“Yes.”

“Which?”

“I am he or she.”

A line piled at the registration table. The woman seated, and we’ll call her a woman because a petunia pink ribbon beneath her conference Volunteer badge declared such, tapped her finger. “Look, organizers are sensitive to your identity. But you gotta tell me – do you want a blue ribbon or pink.”

“Both.”

🥕🥕🥕

Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills

Simon’s best friend Frank had crashed his bike, breaking his ankle. Simon’s mom suggested he make his friend a card. But Simon couldn’t draw the lines right and this made him sad.

“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”

Simon brightened. Standing before rows of cards, he finally found the perfect one. The words described what he tried so hard to draw and couldn’t afford to purchase.

“But it’s pink.”

Simon smiled. “I like the words.”

That day, Frank grinned from ear to ear when his best buddy delivered a card that read, “I’d buy you all the flowers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

When you have nothing but the sack slung over your back, beggars can’t be choosers. But does lack or a downturn in circumstances really negate choice? Who says, “Beggars can’t be choosers”?

Writers explored the proverb and its potential for stories. Pack a little sack, fling it over your shoulder, and come with us on a literary adventure.

The following is based on the April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Beggars Can’t be Choosers? by Sally Cronin

The memo announced the chairman would be evaluating managers for a senior position. Everyone set out to impress

Outside, tucked into a doorway, an old man huddled, a dog by his side. Most staff ignored him. But every day one particular individual would place several coins into his hand, smile and pat the dog before entering the building.

On Friday an elegant man stood in front of the eager staff and announced the manager who would be promoted. Delighted a young woman stepped forward and looked into his familiar face…

He smiled warmly ‘Who says beggars can’t be choosers’.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggar That by calmkate

The lady in the welfare office is banging on again,
why do you move so often you need to get a life plan!
The recipient once more belittled tries to explain
it’s difficult to live more than 40% below the poverty line
in a supposed developed country.
But the highly paid worker has heard this song far too long,
got several pay rises due to the hardship of listening to the whiners.

Dole has not changed for 25 years
and how much has daily cost of life risen?
Landlords prefer those with jobs and income
Beggars can’t be choosers!

🥕🥕🥕

That’s the Way It Is by Susan Zutautas

What’s for dinner Mom?

You won’t like my answer, but we are having roasted chicken, broccoli, rice, and a Caesar salad.

Oh great, chicken again. I hate chicken and you know that.

Chicken is what’s on sale this week, and you know that we don’t have a lot of money right now. It’s funny how you will eat Popeye’s chicken and Wild Wing but you give me a hard time every time I make it.

I don’t know why; I just don’t like homemade chicken. Never have.

You know what I always tell you, dear, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

Discerning by Abijit

“Tock, tock, tock, tock,” repeated knocks on my window pane brought my focus back from the e-mails I was checking on my phone, as I waited at the long traffic signal under an overpass. “Give me some money,” a young girl with a baby  pleaded, “I have not eaten all day.” Her face forced me to look for some change money. Not finding anything lower than a ten rupee, I handed over an one rupee coin from the dashboard. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” went the adage till the girl disproved it saying, “what do you get for a rupee?”

🥕🥕🥕

Brother Francis By Violet Lentz

“Alms for the poor!” Brother Francis cried out from the corner of High Street on which he’d become a fixture. Scarcely noticed, his pleas mingled with the street sounds. His robes became part of the scenery.

He often returned to the monastery penniless, and was reprimanded by the Abbot, as the tenants of the order stated they must subsist on the kindness of strangers alone.

But Brother Francis was not chided by the Abbots rebuke. He knew, it wasn’t the pennies, but the feeling of comfortable acceptance he experienced every day on his corner, that gave his vows meaning.

🥕🥕🥕

Boundaries by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Holly sighed, dropping her sweaty forehead into her palm. It was the same words, the same argument that wasn’t an argument. She tugged her bangs and tried one more time.

“You can’t keep doing this.”

“Why’s it such a big deal to you?” Rita crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned back.

“I see the future,” Holly whispered. “It’s not sustainable the way things are.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Dear,” Rita hissed.

“I’m not begging,” Holly picked up her baby. “We’re leaving.”

“I’m calling Toby!”

Toby was the Ex-boyfriend, not the father.

So Rita wasn’t Gramma.

Problem solved.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Anita Dawes

Years ago when I wore second- hand clothes
Worn out shoes
Sleeping in a room with no heat
Blankets as thin as rice paper
I made my way long ago,
I am happy
Some I know are still searching
Most days, he sits at the corner of Waitrose
Playing his clarinet
I hear the coins drop into his open case
At his feet as I pass
Today, I would give him a choice
Between a sandwich and coffee or a two- pound scratch card
I walked home eating the sandwich
Without waiting. I hoped he made the right choice.

🥕🥕🥕

Evie’s Choice by Margaret G. Hanna

“Evie, why don’t you leave? He’s no good for you!”

“I have to stay, Mom. I don’t have any choice.”

“Yes, you do. You can leave.”

“Leave? Him? No way. He’ll find me, just like all the other times.”

“Evie, there are safe houses. They’ll protect you.”

“There’s no such thing as a safe house, not from him.”

Mona clasped her daughter’s hand. “Leave him. Now! I beg you!”

Evie yanked her hand away, stood up. “No, I can’t. Good-bye.”

She stormed out the door, slamming it behind her.

That was the last time Mona saw her daughter — alive.

🥕🥕🥕

No Choice by Michele Jones

Dane stared at the tracks. Ahead could be anything, but he couldn’t go back, Zell had made that very clear. He had no choice if he wanted the money. And he did. He had to move forward.

The path looked clear, but noise echoed from the tunnel ahead. Inside, the key to his freedom. If only he didn’t need the money. Sweat rolled down his brow and his heart pounded. He sucked in a deep breath and moved on.

If only he’d listened to Amy. He’d have a choice.

A loud growl echoed from the cave.

God help me.

🥕🥕🥕

Juma by Saifun Hassam

Juma was sixty years old when the small railroad station closed. He had earned a living transporting goods for the farmers and businesses in nearby hill townships. Now he was reduced to working odd jobs, begging for food and money. In a nearby forest, he made his home in a small cave among banana and mahogany trees. Beggars can’t be choosers. One day, as he puttered around a junkyard, he found planks of wood, even a hammer. He scrounged for nails and wire from the local hardware store. He would build himself a splendid hut among the banana trees.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Floridaborne

Sharing a hotel room with four high school girls on a trip to NYC, I’d never been anyplace quite as opulent.

I still felt the pain of an unsatisfying breakfast, when a waitress yelled out, “This is New York! We don’t serve grits!”

I was the tiny one, the poor outcast wanting to be accepted, always put down. Girls were swapping clothes, but I was told, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

That day, I learned from a waitress that I might be poor, but not defenseless. I honed a mighty verbal sword, wielding it toward anyone who dared cross me.

🥕🥕🥕

Choice Metaphorical Beggary by Bill Engleson

Doubt

I began writing this elegy rather niggardly,
And by that I mean I was gracelessly leaning
To thoughts quite obscure, wrought somewhat haggardly,
Thoughts gaunt, sickly, words with barely a meaning.

Confirmation

What ho, scripting peasant, why are you so buggered,
With slapdash terms, such sloppy old bruisers,
Ungainly lexes that daub you a sluggard,
A slouched writing beggar snubbed by the choosers?

Doubt

He had me there by the byzantine tail.
I’d wended my way to the edge of the page.
Ninety-nine words with no wind in their sail,
Fresh bottled wine with no time to age.

🥕🥕🥕

Flaking Off the Walls by Papershots

A gust of warm wind rushed in with the man from the foyer. The chandeliers rattled; dust whirled down onto the carpeted floors.

“Lily and Becky?” he asked.

“My sister couldn’t…”

“Yes, it’s you and your sister. The gig’s outside the castle. 6am to 8pm.”

Lily nodded.

In the abandoned megaphone-shaped auditorium, ghosts of opera-goers gazed at their own paint flaking off the walls. Mr. Reynolds excused himself with his best beggars-can’t-be-choosers look; rushed backstage echoing orders. Now a car horn reached Lily’s ears from outside. Becky, of course, double-parked! By the entrée des artistes – the Irony of it.

🥕🥕🥕

Aftermath by Joanne Fisher

“Beggars can’t be choosers!” Ashalla said as she tried on a pair of boots she had taken from the soldier’s camp. They almost fit.

With their leader dead, the army had become fragmented and disorganised. It wasn’t hard to pick them off in smaller groups.

“Now all we need is to find the person who sent them. The one they call The Baron.” said Aalen as she washed herself in the river and Vilja hungrily crunched on a joint he had found.

“Not an easy man to get to, but I’m sure we can find a way.” Ashalla replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Roberta Eaton

“I’m not eating it,” he said. I could have cried. My entire day had been spend foraging for fruit and now he was rejecting it.

“Why won’t you eat it?” I asked. He pointed towards a large, brownish bump on the skin of the apple, “It’s damaged and it might make me sick.”

All the fruit looks like this. Since the war, nothing is perfect. Thomas may be right about the dangers of eating the food but there is nothing else and beggars can’t be choosers. Next time, I’m going to peel the apple before offering it to him.

🥕🥕🥕

A Choice by Ruchira Khana

“Come on! you can do it, Nate!” Mom urged her teen as he sat all heartbroken with a droopy head.

“Beggars can’t be choosers. I shall take what’s offered,” he shouted back at her.

There was silence.

With moist eyes, but a stern voice she said, “That’s untrue! Cause even beggars get an opportunity

to choose. But they choose to take the easy route!” The son looked at her with a frown as she

continued, “What do you choose to do about your low grades? Accept defeat or get your concepts

right and take the retest?”

“Choice is yours!”

🥕🥕🥕

Chosen People by D. Avery

When John Williams comes to Kahnawake I feel an old fear of being taken by force from people I love. My family, and even Governor Vaudreuil, agree; it is my choice. I am no longer a child, I am a Catholic woman of the Bear Clan, Marguerite Kanenstenhawi, no longer John Williams’ daughter Eunice. I no longer understand the English words he speaks, but I remember his contempt for the Jesuits and the Kanienkehaka people. Should I return to New England I would truly be captive. He pleads but I choose to remain with the family who chose me.

🥕🥕🥕

Equally Nice by The Dark Netizen

I walked around the shop.

With every step I took, I was met with a pair of adorable eyes. There were more beauties in the pet-shop than I could buy. I walked up to an Alsatian. It looked majestic just like its price tag. I shook my head and turned to the shop attendant. I told him my budget. He nodded understandingly. He showed me a white Pomeranian, not as good-looking as the Alsatian, but it would have to do. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.

Besides, I bet both of them would taste equally nice in a stew…

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Friendly by Sascha Darlington

After Daddy died, my mom, who was fifty-two at the time and out of the workforce for six children and thirty years, tried to make ends meet. It was a different time when kid friendly meals comprised: “You sit at the table until you’ve finished every pea on your plate.” Tough love, but we were a healthy bunch.

When you’re a kid, you don’t comprehend adults nor why your four brothers, so much older than you, rarely visit or why visits end in bitterness.

You just hear your mother say, “Beggars can’t be choosers” and choke down every mushroom.

🥕🥕🥕

Grape Juuuice by Kelley Farrell

“Uggghh.” Janey’s fingers left long claw marks in the hot sand around her.

As the sun beat down on her bare legs the scent of burning flesh tickled her nose.

“Ugghh … grape … juice …” In all of her five years she had never been so thirsty.

“Janey!” A mirage of her older sister appeared; just like the movies. “Mom said to sit up. You’re taking up too much room in the sandbox.”

Hana dropped a bottle of water into the sand beside her younger sister. Janey flopped onto her back, “Grape juuuice.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Janey.”

🥕🥕🥕

Santa’s Surprise by Kerry E.B. Black

We were poor. We didn’t indulge much. Basics filled bellies. Hand-me-down clothes drew derisive attention from their classmates. I scrimped and did without while trying to shield them.

Holidays stressed me most of all. I supplement their experience with hand-crafted traditions, but I couldn’t fulfill their wish lists. Failure pressed and drained maternal enthusiasm.

One afternoon, I answered a knock. Nobody greeted me. A package on the stoop read “from Santa.” Inside, gifts for the kids burst with cheer. I spirited the box into my bedroom and dissolved into tears. Gratefulness battled embarrassment, yet for my kids, I’d swallow pride.

🥕🥕🥕

Cheerful Choices by calmkate

those trying to survive well below the poverty line

do have basic choices

public housing seldom available some return home

or share with strangers and all the unknown

many choose a life of crime

to cover their bills

people who would never consider such risks

or sell their body then their soul, become homeless

but we can choose our attitude

embrace our inner wealth

serve others by volunteering

spread cheer and good will to all we meet

don’t let long term poverty poison your soul or defeat

sure it severely inhibits life choices

Reflect wisely and turn that around!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

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Maggie’s Sulking by Di @ pensitivity101

I always get treats. Always, always, always!

Now I get some pongy stuff they call ‘breakfast’ and they’ve pinched my food bowl!

My big brown eyes usually work to get some titbits off plates, but I never pinch. No sir. Don’t want my nose tapped thank you.

Got to keep the sniffer in tip top condition.

It’s not fair. No biscuits either, not even in my dinner!

And they’ve told the postman I’m not to have any!

I’m hungry. My heart is set on chicken.

Guess I’ll have to eat the pongy stuff.

Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

No Beggin’ Dogs at the Table by tracey

I couldn’t catch the rabbit no matter how fast I ran. Darn, I was hungry. My twitching paws woke me up and I looked at the clock but I had never learned to tell people time. My stomach gurgled. I yawned and stretched and then trotted through the house sniffing for small child. Ah, he was at the kitchen table. He smelt of peanut butter and yogurt. I licked his foot but found nothing tasty there. I was impatient but settled on the floor under his feet where food was sure to be dropped. I hoped it was bacon.

🥕🥕🥕

The Chosen by Allison Maruska

I skulk on the edge of the wasteland, my movements quick to avoid detection. Once a bounty, this place is now barren. My stomach remembers, just as my heart remembers the once-constant presence of The Chosen.

The Other is near. I don’t want to approach, but beggars can’t be choosers. Securing sustenance is worth a little indignation.

Softly, I creep up. With expert dexterity, I jump.

The Other has me. She squeezes, barraging me with unholy shrieks. “Aw! Does Mr. Snooglepoof want some din din?”

I purr a little to appease her.

The things I do for a meal.

🥕🥕🥕

Choosey Little Beggar by Ann Edall-Robson

Hanna had drawn the short straw, meaning the night shift. The calf needed to be fed every three hours using a big plastic bottle. If she couldn’t get the orphan heifer to suck, she would have to call for help. She didn’t want to give Tal the satisfaction.

Squatting next to the animal, she lifted the calf’s head, hoping she’d take the bottle.

“C’mon you little beggar, quit being so choosey.”

“What’s the matter, can’t get her to ear?” Tal’s smirky voice sliced through the darkness.

Sounds of sucking made Hanna smile.

“Us girls gotta stick together.” She whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Safer To Eat At Home by Susan Sleggs

Eight year old Becky came home from school to see her mother had liver and onions ready to prepare for supper. She sought permission to go play with best friend Arlene and bolted out the door. Together the two girls hatched a plan then went to Arlene’s mother to ask if Becky could eat dinner with them. They were triumphant until they sat down to lima beans and fried Spam. Arlene’s mother, seeing Becky’s face said, “Beggars can’t be choosers. Eat up.”

Later, outside, Becky said, “Lima beans are yuckier than liver. Do you think they called each other?”

🥕🥕🥕

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers by Frank Hubeny

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Ryan pontificated.

“We’re all beggars. We all depend on a handout, on something going right once in a great while.”

“Not all of us. Some of us can choose.”

“You know you’re a beggar just like I am.”

“Nope. I can choose.”

“What can you choose?”

“I can choose to sit right here.”

That’s when they saw Hawkins, a policeman, approach.

“I wonder what he wants?”

“You know what he wants.”

Hawkins stopped. “OK, guys, it’s 10 o’clock. Time for both of you to go to the shelter.”

“I get top bunk.”

“No, you don’t.”

🥕🥕🥕

If Wishes Were Horses...by Nancy Brady

Julie was one of the smallest kids in her class, and she was always picked last for every team. Despite that, she loved playing volleyball.

The school started an intramural league for the students; the team members would be picked for each volleyball team. First, however, Coach Coffman would decide who would be the captains of the teams. The captains then selected their players.

Julie asked the coach if she could be a captain. Wringing her hands, she implored him, saying, “Please, please, can I be a captain?”

To which, Coach Coffman said, “Absolutely not. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

🥕🥕🥕

In The Beginning, There Was Distraction by Chelsea Owens

Phan clutched her halo, rubbing already-tarnished finish. And sighed. If only she hadn’t been so diverted this morning, with the clouds. Then there’d been flowers. Then path swirls -which led right to the end of the lengthy queue…

“Next!” the angel matriarch called.

Phan floated forward. At a scowl, she hastily replaced her halo and hoped it aligned itself. It didn’t.

“Late again, Phanuelle.”

*Gulp*

“There’s only one assignment left; a newer one.”

Phan peered beyond the matriarch at the mostly harmless-looking blue and green sphere to which she must go. Oh, well. Perhaps it would have flowers, too.

🥕🥕🥕

A Man with a Golden Voice by Miriam Hurdle

A man saw a homeless person begging. The beggar’s voice sounded familiar, but he had to move on with the traffic.

The next day he saw the beggar again.

“Are you Ted Williams, the man with a golden voice?”

“Yes.”

“Hop in… Why are you on the street?”

“I was fired in 1994 for drugs and booze.”

“You’ll clean up and come to the radio station to see my boss.”
~
For the first time after 20 years, the beggar had numerous job offers. He worked in the radio show again.

“Beggars can’t be choosers” didn’t apply to him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Missing Car by Anurag Bakhshi

He gulped, and said, “Well, you see, I was getting really late for a date….”

I stared piercingly at him, and asked, “So?”

He stammered, “So, I drove at breakneck speed to meet her at the Theater, but…”

“But?” I growled menacingly.

“But,” he wiped his brow, “she was already inside. I hunted desperately for a parking space, but…beggars can’t be choosers….and so…”

I sagged even further into the chair as I completed his sentence for him, “And so, you left my Batmobile on the road, doors open, and engine running! Thanks Alfred, that will be all!”

🥕🥕🥕

Reena and Jay Do Beans On Toast by Ritu Bhathal

It had been a long trek.

Those last three mile had really dragged but finally Reena and Jay arrived back at the campsite.

Kicking off her trainers, she sighed. What she wouldn’t give for a pedicure, long soak in a tub and a chilled glass of Prosecco…

“Reens, can you remember how this works?” Jay was fiddling with camping stove, so they could prepare the feast that was Beans on Toast.

He rummaged around in the food bags, found some cans of lager and tossed one over to her.

Not even chilled. Reena sighed again. Beggars can’t be choosers.

🥕🥕🥕

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

🥕🥕🥕

Who Says by Reena Saxena

He asked for help.

His father was a renowned doctor, so a drugstore was set up for him. He could not garner any new customers other than his father’s patients. The money was not enough to raise his children, so his father supported them as long as he lived.

His real face was exposed after the parents passed away. His brothers found to their dismay, that every valuable from a silver coin to diamond jewellery had been stolen. The parents’ bank account had been drained out to pay for the grandson’s foreign education.

Who says beggars can’t be choosers?

🥕🥕🥕

Imaginary Characters by M J Mallon

Brick fitted in the space well. It was narrow, like a cupboard to slot in, a place to be noticed. Brooke Trout sauntered past him. When she saw Brick her eyes opened wide. He smirked at her bemused expression. She didn’t notice but he followed her up the escalator. When she exited out of the toilet he was there angling for her.

‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ she wasn’t much of a catch but she had a sense of humour. He valued that.

Brick smiled, ‘Babe join me? We can disappear together…

🥕🥕🥕

Tables Turned by Anne Goodwin

She hammers on the door, pleading, begging. It’s too late. She’s made her choice.
I’m not without pity, but her desperation soothes me, cancels the pain from when I was the one in need. From when I begged and Liesel chose.

She gave me two options, both impossible. If she left, I’d lose everything; if she stayed on her terms, how could our love stand the strain?

When she’s calm, I’ll go down to the cellar, take her some food and some clean underwear. I’m no cook, but she’ll relish whatever I give her. Beggars don’t get to choose.

🥕🥕🥕

Harsh Reality by Rupali Banerjee

One morning, as I was taking my car out of the Garage, I heard a pleasant sound of flute been played. I could find no one in close vicinity. Mesmerized at the sound, I drove down the valley. The music of the flute was like a beautifully cascaded flowing river. After driving some distance, I found an old man playing the flute and begging alms. A crowd had gathered around. When suddenly he started coughing, the crowd dispersed. Panicked, he again picked up the flute and somehow managed to play. “Beggars cant be choosers“, I thought sympathetically.

🥕🥕🥕

Restoration of Hope by TN Kerr

He didn’t hold a sign or jingle a cup with a few coins.

He wasn’t selling apples or matches, or singing street music.

He sat with his eyes closed in the chill evening air; had his blanket pulled tight.

So, he didn’t see her approaching from across the road.

“Hey,” she said to catch his attention.

When he looked up at her he was startled.

She was well dressed, but looked stern, the way his teachers had done.

He took the white paper bag that she proffered.

“It’s warm,” he said.

She simply nodded, turned around and walked away.

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking Old Stereotypical Molds by JulesPaige

Being the younger in a hard working family means hand me downs.
Maybe there’d be one new outfit a year, shoes when needed, things like that.
Cheap proteins; buckets of peanut butter, making due with leftovers.

there are choices, yes;
some allow us to reach stars
others for handouts

life throws all curve balls; cannot
beggars be choosers for love

To remember to give when we are comfortable can be key
To stretch outside of that comfort zone to help another, would, could you?
Without expecting some reward, remembering to give of the self.

Who says beggars can’t choose?

🥕🥕🥕

Hat Trick by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ain’t noticin’ my new hat.”

“It’s a beautiful day, Kid. Good day ta ride.”

“Yep. An’ ya still ain’t said nuthin’ ‘bout my hat.”

“I see ya’ve got a new hat settin’ on yer head.”

“Cain’tcha tell me what ya think of it?”

“Why? You went an’ bought it. You must like it.”

“Come on, Pal. Do ya like my hat?”

“No, Kid, no. I do not like yer hat.”

“Jeez, Pal, ya gotta like this hat.”

“No, Kid, I don’t. Ya begged me ta respond, ya don’t git ta choose my response. Now go Kid, go.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s one of those days that my calendar has an extended period of time and so I choose to fill it with writing. Every morning, I rise, answer the Hub’s question — “Watchya doin’ Tarli?” — go downstairs, take my probiotics, set the timer for 30minutes, and write. It  doesn’t matterwhat I  write. I give myself permission to write junk. Words help me to process, to think and  express my emotions. I can brainstorm any project, work out resolutions, let my characters talk, or describe a scene I’ve having difficulty extracting from my head. I complain, celebrate, but never censor. I write.

With entended time and ticked boxes on my list, I enjoy a good run. This morning, I wrote past and started to hunger for lunch. But I chose to keep writing. The UPS man delivered a box and that broke my thoughts. My tummy rumbled. I hadn’t yet had black tea. Soon it would be time to go help at the yoga studio my SIL is opening May 1. I almost felt finished. I wrote on.

Satisfied, I thought maybe I could  use what I wrote as a post. When I copied it over to edit and revise, I realised it was over 5,000 words. Ugh. Easier to write  a 1,000 than edit five times as much. While writing, an interesting phrase popped up that caused me to wonder — beggars can’t be choosers.

By definition, it’s a proverb, meaning that those with no other options must be content with what is offered.

But is it true that we have no other options? Who tells us we must be content? Those who took away the options? The phrases felt jarring and I recognized it as old programing from the  environment in which I was raised. I see it’s essence in the lack of compassion people have today for the hardships of others. I better understand how cleverly crafted the phrase is to let injustice stand because the victims have no other choice than to accept what is. I can imagine greedy capitalists hiding behind the proverb as if their meager handouts bring satisfaction, making them righteous and right. Take what’s left from the raping of the land — be content with your lot — beggars can’t be chosers.

While I’m not going to share my 5k mind explorations, I can say why it came up.

We are preparing for the Hub’s knee replacement surgery on April 22. He destroyed his knee on a bad jump into Grenada in 1983. It pained him and locked up after  that  but he soldiered on and the  military took no interest in his gait, altered mood, and trouble with cognition. The jump that bashed his knee also smacked his head, twice. This less than  a week after he was knocked out cold in a base game of soccer. I was processing all we’ve been through since a doctor proclaimed in 1987 that he needed a total knee replacement. Only, no insurance would cover it and the VA denied it. What they denied then, we got them to finally service connect in 2016 after we filed in 2014. I also wanted them to check his head. Something was wrong.

Almost 36 years after the injury, one that has caused a multitude of problems, the Hub is getting his knee replacement. Beggars can’t be choosers. In other words, he’s had to be content with “no other options.” And I’m not going to write another 5,000 words on what I think about that.

Because I come back to the same conclusion and three empowering words:

We have choices.

Always. We always have choices. Suspect those who say you don’t. What are they trying to rob you of? In 1862 when the Dakota tribe of Minnesota was starving, three teens chose to go looking for food. A Norwegien family who did not speak English feared the natives when they rode up to their farm, asking for eggs. Begging. But asking nonetheless. The teens didn’t set out to start a war that day. They chose to ask their nbeighbors for food. But beggars can’t be choosers, so the frightened farmer grabbed a rifle and shot over their heads to run them off. Historians can debate who robbed whom first — some will say the treaties for land favored the Dakota; others will bring up the shady dealings of the traders who intercepted the treaty money with claims that the tribe owed them money for goods. The boys that day never robbed the farmer. They asked. But in the heat of the moment, the rising anger, the sense of being born to land their ancestors once owned but now failed to feed their hungry bellies — the beggers rebelled, retatiated and killed the farmer and his family.

We always have choice. It doesn’t mean we choose well or smart. It doesn’t mean the world must be just first. It doesn’t mean we will act with justice. Accountability is acknowledging our capacity of choice and taking responsibility for our actions. Accountability can also mean deciding to make better choices next time.

Little Crow, as leader of the Dakota, had a choice to make. He deliberated over whether or not to hand over the teens to US authority. He had made multiple trips to Washington DC on behalf of his people, explaining their predicament, asking that the treaties be honored. He was told money would come “soon.” It never did. Aid never came, either. But more  immigrants from Europe crowded the  land where his people tried to adapt to farming, but cut worms killed their 1861 crops. They even adapted to the language and religion. Little Crow was Christian but politicians in power regarded them as savages. He was  leader of his starving tribe and the center of unacknowledged injustice. His ribs were emaciated. Beggars can’t be choosers.

When the anuities for the tribe never came, and the stores refused to let Little Crow take food on credit, he reportedly said, “Starving men will help themselves.” Sometimes choices are  forced, which is why the proverb tries to teach those at their lowest to be content. But it is human to rise after getting knocked down. Little Crow did not turn over the teens to authorities. Neither did he agree that war was the answer. He deliberated and chose to go to war with the US instead of hunting buffalo. During the Civil War, the Dakota attacked Minnesota and won several of their battles. They also killed many settlers, graves I have visited, battefields, I’ve seen, wondering about the fool choices of an expanding nation that pressured a tribe to draw first blood.

Little Crow survived the battles. The Dakota were rounded up — every woman, child, elder and warrior — and imprisoned. President Lincoln commuted the death sentence  for hundreds of warriors but on Christmas Eve (remember, this was a cultural group who had  adopted Christianity so they understood the holiday) 36 men were hung in front of their families and  tribe. Years later, while picking raspberries with his grandson, Little Crow was aprehended by men from a nearby town, hung, shot and drug behind a wagon with firecrackers in his nostrils for the cheers of the town who felt he was a monster for not knowing his place as a beggar.

And how did  I come upon these cheerful thoughts? It was the dilema of a bed that got me thinking of the phrase. You see, the Hub will have surgery and require weeks of home care during recovery. We are guests inour daughter’s home, and not to belittle all they have provided for us, but we don’t even have our own bed. The one we use is an antique and so tall that I have to  use a box to get on top. It will be impossible for the Hub post-surgery. When we received the list of alterations we needed make, I felt like we had no choice and that phrase popped into mind.

I corrected my thinking. I have choices. I don’t have to go without or settle for what is offered or be content with what won’t work. I looked through the local classified and did not find what we needed or wanted. I turned to Amazon and found a beautiful bedframe with sturdy steel slats and a low (but not too low) height. It was in our price range, too. It meant we would have to choose not to do something else, but that’s for later. Choices are empowering.

Our task might be less so, but I think this topic is worthy to explore.

April 11, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.” You can play with the words, alter them or interpret them without using the phrase. Give it any slant you want — show what it means or add to its  meaning. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 16, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Smart Beggars (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Danni overheard the receptionist say. She had stopped by the division office to resupply the fire-camp. Her grimy skin felt foul as her temper. Danni would set that uppity woman straight.

When Mavis hung up, Danni asked, “Who’s that?”

“Oh, hi, Danni. You look a fright.”

“I’m taking back the new supplies.”

“The ones that didn’t arrive?”

Danni slumped. “What will we do,” she mumbled.

Mavis answered brightly, “Beggars can’t be choosers, but Daddy raised no fool. I just sweet-talked old Jeb at DNR to find a roundabout way for us. Beggars can be smart.”

On Fire

Burning bright, fire gives us power — to create, to destroy. Flames follow us through time and life, giving us memories of camping trips and ancient moments witnessed by the moon. We dance to fire and we let it burn within us from our sickbed.

Writers wrote flames that readers will seek like moths. Stories that will linger.

The following are based on the April 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire.

PART I (10-minute read)

Condemned by H.R.R. Gorman

I feel like a traitor.

There had been a military tribunal, and the officer acting as judge declared guilty. Death by firing squad.

I take a deep breath while the soldiers line up. What a way to die. Every soldier was given a gun with a bullet, some blank while others are deadly. But someone has the gun which will kill.

“Aim!” an officer shouts.

I struggle to keep my eyes open.

“Fire!”

I pull my trigger, and the man drops.

Was it my gun that held the bullet that killed him?

Did the judge know he’d condemned me?

🥕🥕🥕

Flame by Anita Dawes

Prometheus stole fire to give to mankind.
For this the great Titan was punished by Zeus
tied to a rock so an eagle would eat his liver
which would heal overnight
to be eaten again the next day.
Until a hero comes. Hercules to the rescue.
I have thought of Prometheus as my hero
his punishment did not fit the crime.
Now he is mostly forgotten,
we sit on the beach, toast our marshmallows
the fire taken for granted.
Fire can take a forest, leaving burnt ash
yet it will grow again like Prometheus liver,
magic in the flame…

🥕🥕🥕

The Haunted Seas by Saifun Hassam

Tormented turbulent seas flung “Aurora” onto the promontory’s rocky shores. Lightning split the skies like a needle-thin tree with myriad fine and delicate branches. The clouds shifted into terrifying monstrous shapes as they raced across the sky driven by gale force winds.

At dawn the sky and seas were gray, and fog shrouded the shores. Beacons of fire were lit along the promontory where the lighthouse had sunk into an underground cave. A deep sense of loss and mourning filled the hearts of the seafaring community. The “Aurora” was listing over the rocks. There seemed to be no survivors.

🥕🥕🥕

Testimony and Sacrifice by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A moment, all I remember:

Her face, cupped by the flickering glow of a night fire shared against a greater darkness.

Her hands, rolling thin-shaved bark around crumbles of tobacco, mushroom, moss, bone-white shards… something I couldn’t identify, even as she tossed it into the edge of the roiling embers.

Her voice, raised only slightly “And thus we vanquish you, Darkness” as she stepped, barefoot, into the circle of stones.

An exploding funk of flesh and forest as I’m thrown back, onto the ground.

Moon’s cold eye staring down on me.

She is gone, but the darkness? Defeated.

You’re finished.

🥕🥕🥕

Prodigy by Sherri Matthews

What kind of Firestarter? A crazy, twisted one, that’s right. Hair horns and piercings mother would not approve – get them and you’re out, got it? My house, my rules. Yeah…one day… YouTube takes me down that tunnel night after night. Never too loud, thank God for earphones. Mother’s not here but the nurses are, so I crank up the music and it blasts my eardrums and I wonder what it was like to be a teenager in the 90’s. My generation now, sick but I’ll mend. Keith Flint’s gone but his flame still burns, that brilliant unleashed Firestarter.

🥕🥕🥕

Soul Dance by Di @ pensitivity101

She watched the flames dance within the stone circle.
Sparkles shot skywards, like prayers to the gods in times past.
She closed her eyes, and let the memories wash over her.
Hugging herself, she thought of another night like this.
Here, dreams were realised, emotions explored, passions spent.
Innocence surrendered, lives changed forever and a new life begun.
She wouldn’t change any of it. She called for him.
Footsteps approached, a hand reached down to caress her neck.
Eager lips nuzzled and nibbled.
They were young, together again, as one.
The fire died, leaving just embers of a memory.

🥕🥕🥕

Internal Inferno? by JulesPaige

When playing with matches one can get burnt or burn things to powder ash.
Sometimes a child is lucky, they only burn down a kitchen curtain.
What though would make a child want to get attention by flamboyant flame?

Is it a crime to want to be in the limelight, to have some, any attention?
Elder sibling gathering no dust; displays intelligent conversation.
Baby in nappies still, needs and wants blend; screams at fevered pitches

a burning desire
pulses in a shadowed soul
can laughter be found?

phoenix can rise up from flame
but they must be consumed first

🥕🥕🥕

As the Flames Fling High by Papershots

In the smoky gray courtyard, the firing squad is lined up, awaiting those to be shot. The former smoke while the latter lit candles in the night on their windowsills. But a section of the confiscated buildings is on fire and firefighters are trying to tame the ever-spreading flames – those who live in the area are out firing questions at officers ill-equipped at this fired-up injustice. The morning sun rises firing the tops of burned-out trees. “Fire! Fire!” a second of hesitation too many, “Fire, fire!” And all, at present, is gone up in tiny little bits of smoke.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire Mage by The Dark Netizen

We were never promised a glorious battle nor death worthy of remembrance.

All we understood was that if we did not fight our hardest, the dark king would slay our loved ones, and ravage our lands.

The Dark King’s minions were summoned from the blackest depths of earth, where no men wander.

Vicious and vile to the core, their only weakness was the blaze of holy fire.

As a senior mage of our kingdom, the responsibility of supporting our troops had been shifted to my shoulders.

I wasn’t the type to shun responsibility, besides I loved playing with fire…

🥕🥕🥕

Attack! by Joanne Fisher

The sentries were taken out silently. Aalen and Ashalla moved quickly into the camp. In the center was a fire-pit still burning. While Ashalla took care of the drunken stragglers Aalen spied the largest tent and silently went inside.

She roused their leader awake. He look confused.

“I thought we had killed you all.” he said.

“Why destroy my village?”

“I was only acting under orders. We wanted your forest for timber but we knew your people wouldn’t like that. So we decided to get rid of you. The Baron sent us.”

Aalen stuck her knife in his throat.

🥕🥕🥕

Blazing Pen by Reena Saxena

He has experienced gut-wrenching hunger in his early years.

Later, he found that fighting hunger is easier than fighting evil which suppresses independent thought.

He is a writer who dares to present things in a different manner, and superimposes his vision on existing or non-existent objects. The vision may contradict known logic.

The fire in his belly refuses to die, as does his metaphoric pen blitzing across a literary canvas. The hunger for his share of the pie continues to drive him. He changes the code of subservient minds. He unleashes control of a different kind – hypnotism with words.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire on the Moorland, Fire in the Writer’s Head by Anne Goodwin

Beneath the surface calm, she smoulders. Quiet now, change is on its way. The fuel’s deep, it only takes a spark to ignite it and, when it does, it sets her whole world alight.

There, a glowing flicker! There, another, crackling the bracken. The fire jumps from one hummock to the next. Connect, connect to horseshoe around her. Should she stay inside the circle or race to safety through the gap?

Peat burns and engulfs the moor, like ideas in a writer’s head. Should we douse the flames to save the landscape, or fan them into a new story?

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Sally Cronin

The firelight flickered across the walls of the cave and the healer stared into the flames.

Fire was a precious gift that had been passed down by their ancestors, but for some it brought a great burden. Those with healing skills saw visions within the heart of the burning mass.

It would not happen in her lifetime, but as the healer sat transfixed by the prophetic images, tears rolled down her wrinkled face. Her time was nearly over, but she hoped, that in the future, one of her descendants would be strong enough to put out the coming conflagration.

🥕🥕🥕

Olympic Achievement by Chelsea Owens

Panting, moving; legs dance; running? Slow he moves, yet forward goes.

Yelling, waving; crowds smile; cheering! Quick their hands and banners flow.

Road goes under, step by stepping; even’ning sunshine asphalt raised.

Signs flash by, their message flapping; glinting sun and wind-blown praise.

Turn now, hero, enter warmly; enter ‘neath the crowds and flares.

Swift and surely, climb the mountain; climb your metal, switchback stairs.

Raise your head now, torch-lit runner

Lift your eyes from up and under

Hear now, see now raised-face crowd sight

Bring your arm: the dimmer torch light–

To zenith goal; now, flame -IGNITE!

🥕🥕🥕

The Torch Relay by Miriam Hurdle

“Did you see the torch?”

“The flashlight?”

“No, the torch carried by the runner yesterday.”

“The tick with fire burning at the end?”

“Yes, the runners were on their way to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”

“There’re 337 competitors from my country Britain.”

“Yes, 522 from the United States. The Torch Relay began in New York City and ended in Los Angeles, traversing 33 states. There were 3,636 runners passing on, carried the torch on foot for over 9,320 miles. Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2028, 44 years from now.”

“I’ll be here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why the long face, Morgan?’

‘It’s Mum.’

‘Really? Is she ill?’

‘She’s planning her funeral.’

‘Some people do. Was she miserable?’

‘Not at all. Quite energised.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Is it?’

‘What did she say?’

‘She wants to choose her music. Three songs. Two were easy, cabaret stuff, but the third caused the difficulty.’

‘How?’

‘She couldn’t decide if she wanted to be cremated or buried. If cremated she wanted Arthur Brown’s Fire…’

‘And buried?’

‘Going Underground by the Jam.’

‘What’s bad about that?’

‘I can’t have a mother who’s a punk fan. That’s just wrong on so many levels.’

🥕🥕🥕

Sebastian’s Bird by Nancy Brady

Sebastian didn’t know where it came from, nor where it disappeared to every so often, but he loved that bird. It appeared most often when he was upset, angry, or needed help, or at least, that was the way it seemed. That is, until his bird became lethargic and his red-gold feathers began to droop. He fed his bird a special diet to bring him back to health, but nothing he did for his bird seemed to work. In fact, the bird burst into flames, and died. From the ashes of the fire, the phoenix arose to new life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bonfire – Haiku-Style Poem by Susan Zutautas

Firewood is gathered

Firepit is made, wood is placed

Kindling set throughout

A match is stricken

Holding the flame to the twigs

Smoldering begins

Seconds pass quickly

Twigs caught, setting wood a fire

Bonfire has begun

Aroma intense

Flickering flames hypnotize

Heat is powerful

People gather round

Rubbing their hands together

Over the fire’s glow

Someone starts a song

Everyone joins in singing

Party has started

Guitars are brought out

Strumming and picking is heard

Hands clap out a beat

Cheerful happiness

Cold lagers are abundant

People having fun

The moon is shining

Fire is blazing overhead

Submersing begins

🥕🥕🥕

Autumn Camping Joys by tracey

Crisp air
Achingly blue skies
Trees full of red and yellow leaves
Crunching leaves underfoot
Legs pleasantly aching after a long hike
Sizzling hot dogs over the fire
Laughter as yet another marshmallow bursts into flame
Smoke scented air drifting up
Hands stretched toward the warmth
Darkness falling
Stars emerging
Ghosts stories making you glance over your shoulder
Crackling logs
Steaming mugs of tea and cocoa
Sparks snapping
That drying leaves smell
Bursts of flames from pinecones
Snuggles under a fleece throw
The hooting of an owl
Moonlight shadows
Feeling the joy of togetherness under a vast sky
Contentment

🥕🥕🥕

Hard to Take a Break (from Miracle  of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Fire spun a halo in the night sky. Danni’s stomach churned. Nothing more she could do tonight. She leaned against her Forest Service truck, away from the camp chatter. Some recruits buzzed from the adrenaline, fighting wildland fires for the first time. Nearby, the Canadian Bombardier pilot regaled his earlier flight to the crew of Australians newly arrived. Danni scanned the distant flames, feeling impatient. In 1910 they didn’t luxuriate in rest and strategy in shifts. Is this what Ike felt before he left –restless while others fought a war he had to watch burn from the sidelines?

🥕🥕🥕

Making Notification by Susan Sleggs

The Army officer stopped the fleet car in front of the brick house at 217 Maple Avenue. As they looked at the house, he said to the Chaplain sitting with him, “I hate doing these notifications. All the family has to do is see us walking up the sidewalk and they know what they’re going to hear.”

“True, but these days they can hold on to the fact their child volunteered and had wanted to serve their country.”

“Doesn’t make losing one any easier, especially when I have to admit friendly fire was the cause. And they always ask.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Nope! by Nobbinmaug

I thought she was cute the first time I saw her.

Nope!

That smile.

Nope.

The more I talked to her, the more I thought about her.

Nope?

The more I saw her, the more she smiled at me, the more I realized she wasn’t just cute, she was beautiful.

Maybe?

The more I got to know her, the more I saw how sweet and kind she was.

Maybe.

It wasn’t until it was too late that I realized, she lit a fire in my soul. The likes of which I’ve never known. It might just burn me alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Love Spell by Kelley Farrell

“Dear Ana,
My love for you burns brighter than a thousand suns. I would walk through fire for you. You would never wonder where my heart lies. Please Ana, be mine.
Yours eternal,
Marco”

Ana rolled her eyes. This was the third one this week.

All she wanted was a trip to the mall. Her ever pious mother refused and took her to antiques roadshow instead. She bought her an old rusty teapot.

It was better than expected, but when she told the genie she wanted love spell to wear she meant the perfume.

“Marco,
No.
Don’t write again.”

🥕🥕🥕

Streetlights in Winter By Erica Schaef

There was something I wanted. The glow of home, or the bittersweet ache of fulfillment. Something not tangible.
Looking at street lights in winter gave me a sort of peace. Here you belong, they said. Here, you may rest. I sipped my coffee, having long since abandoned my attempt to join in the conversation at the table. The restaurant was crowded, too loud, too bright. I sat by the window, watching flurries dance around white glowing orbs outside.

A man appeared under one, lit a cigarette. Its flame intrigued me, illuminating broad shoulders and full lips. I wanted him.

🥕🥕🥕

Machine Man by calmkate

machines were his passion, they really lit his fire

collected one of each kind, had a burning desire

had the skills to maintain them all

loved the variety, it was his call

but they don’t come cheap

long hard work just to keep

yet his infatuation ran deep

they haunted his dream sleep

when using any he would visibly ignite

his eyes lit up, the flame burnt bright

his well trained wife accepted his flame

she enjoyed his childlike delight as it came

his kind heart helped those he met

if using a machine it was a sure bet!

🥕🥕🥕

The Heart of a Teacher by Norah Colvin

“It’s storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, transfixed.
Jane read, instructed and encouraged. They never tired.
Later, all snuggled up in bed, Mum asked, “What will you be when you grow up?”
“A teacher.”

“Storytime, children.”
They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, hearts open, minds buzzing.
Miss Jane read. They hung on every word, contemplating obstacles and possible resolutions, following the heroes’ journey into the cave and out.

“Ple-ease!”
“No time for stories. It’s test time.”
They slumped at desks, eyes glazed, minds dulled, hearts heavy.
The cave was cold and dark. Were they ever coming out?

🥕🥕🥕

Friendship by Joanne Fisher

“Who’s there?” The Anointed One called out frightened. She had woken to see a shadow in the doorway. She was barely twenty summers old but had been chosen to be the Keeper of the Sacred Flame and brought to this temple against her will then burnt by the Fire.

“It’s me Kali!” A familiar voice replied. It was her best friend Ananya.

“How did you get here?” Kali asked.

“I followed the soldiers and priestesses after they took you. Then I sneaked in.” Ananya replied jumping onto her bed. They hugged. “I’m going to get you out of here.”

🥕🥕🥕

Where There’s Smoke… by John Rieber

The restaurant was packed as usual. The busboy was frantic, maneuvering through the crowd with a large round platter on his shoulder, filled to the brim with half-full water glasses, dirty dishes, old napkins and candles. His head was turned so he hadn’t noticed that one of the napkins had caught on fire. If he saw flames, that platter was going airborne – what a disaster! Just then, a Waiter sauntered up and said: “hey man, you know you’re on fire?” He reached up, grabbed a water glass and put him out. The Busboy’s eyes widened. Dinner service was underway.

🥕🥕🥕

Scared as Hell by Susan Zutautas

Sitting by the pool I looked up to see smoke coming out from our apartment window.

Panic-struck, I yelled, “Oh my God”, I’d left candles burning in my bedroom unintentionally.

Panic turned to terror then into shock thinking my step-mother would kill me for setting fire to our home.

A neighbour saw how stressed I was, grabbed me and took me into her apartment where she made me get into a cold shower and drink a straight shot of whiskey hoping that this would calm me down.

Everything turned out okay. My step-mother was happy that I was alright.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Roberta Eaton

Jack woke up, coughing. Thick, choking smoke filled his room. Within moments he realised the house was on fire. Pulling his blanket over his head, he slipped out of his bedroom door and up the stairs.

“Fire! Wake up!” Turning back, Jack could see tongues of flame licking at the first wooden step. Tendrils of bright fire ran up along the banister.

Mr Farriner appeared with his daughter and the maid. “There’s no way down. We’ll have to climb out of the window and crawl along the guttering. We can climb in the window of the house next door.”

🥕🥕🥕

Tyranny Tango by Macy Brown

My eyes shot open.

What was it that had awoken me?

Then I heard it again… that ear shattering scream. I jumped out of bed and raced out into the hallway, but as soon as I opened my bedroom door my heart dropped. Bright orange and yellow flames danced in front of my face, engulfing the west side of my apartment.

I got down on the ground and crawled on my belly under the flames to my front door.
How could this happen to me? I asked myself. This was the kind of thing that only happened in movies.

🥕🥕🥕

Campfire by Kerry E.B. Black

While the other Girl Scouts gathered close to the campfire to sing traditional songs and roast marshmallows for s’mores, Lottie kept to the shadows. She studied the ground and regretted the trip.

Her friends regarded the fire as an exotic beauty shooting fairy sparks to dance with the starry sky, but Lottie could only recall its destructive power. Fire consumed without mercy, devoured with no discrimination.

She shrunk from its warmth. She hated the smoky stench. When the wood popped like gunshots, she squeezed her eyes tight. Flames flickered like an antique film, replaying her family house consumed.

🥕🥕🥕

Smouldering Fire by Ann Edall-Robson

After a month of loading hay bales and mucking out stalls, Hanna had become one of the depended upon employees at the ranch. She didn’t flaunt her ability to work shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the crew, and she volunteered when opportunity arose. She ignored the grumbling remarks when she was singled out to show a newcomer around. So when the request came to help Mrs. Johnson in the cookhouse, she automatically stepped forward.

“Not you, Hanna. Tal can go.”

The smouldering look of disgust directed towards Hanna could have started a fire anywhere Tal’s gaze lingered.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Deborah Lee

Again. AGAIN. She can’t do anything right. It’s the 50-50-90 rule: If she has a 50-50 chance of choosing the right thing, there’s a 90% chance she’ll choose wrong.

Anxiety rushes through her veins, ice water for blood. She sidles up to Greg’s desk, opens her mouth, knowing she’s hanging her desperation out for all to see.

On second thought, the whole floor heard the shouting anyway.

Fight or flight.

Barely keeping her voice steady, she asks, “Does Lesley ever fire anyone?”

Greg’s glance is sympathetic. “Sometimes,” he says. “But usually they get fed up and walk out first.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Floridaborne

“Go away,” June said, slamming down the receiver. “Men!”

Her Persian cat, Fifi, purred at June, nuzzling against her leg.

She found men at an on-line dating service, and then used the “cat test.” They’d meet at a park, and if Fifi hissed at him, there were no second chances!

At 35, and still single, she wanted a child. Though she wasn’t showing yet, her last paramour had served his purpose.

“Men want to burn with desire instead of giving comfort and understanding.”

Fifi sniffed June’s stomach and hissed.

“Thanks, Fifi. Looks like I’ll be aborting this one, too.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Threat in His Eyes by M J Mallon

The fire raged, and a ring of flames circled the card, avoiding it as if it contained the deadly plague. The sand timer ran out. The fire burnt down leaving its mark on the card with black singed edges.

I felt a chill creep up my spine. When I searched Dad’s face for some clue to his strange behaviour, I reeled back, struck by the sight of a dull emptiness in his eyes. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face. I thought I spotted a weird reflection in his eyes, maybe a bug…

🥕🥕🥕

You’re Fired by Bill Engleson

I wake up in the middle of the night and hear the Donald.

He has a discordant voice, scratchy, like a nicked LP, a voice muffled from reason, as if someone, perhaps his late father, is still holding his head in a bulky, slightly used prophylactic.

Young Donald, six-year-old Donnie, is frightened, terrorized, but I get confused. I see the squeaking child that he was, that he is, for I also see the Presidential poser, invested in his hollow trajectory.

His belly is not on fire.

Rather, it smoulders away, a residue of burnt bunkum it’s final, futile fuel.

🥕🥕🥕

Fired! by Anurag Bakhshi

Clyde had come to the city all fired-up, but the harsh reality of life had set fire to his dreams, till they had all burnt down to a cinder.

But now, the time had finally come for him to take-off.

Clyde straightened up as he heard footsteps approaching. He could not afford to get fired.

Breathless with anticipation, he willed all the noise from outside to disappear.

As the countdown clock in his head said ONE, Clyde shut his eyes…..and the last word that he heard before he went flying through the roof of the circus was- FIRE!

🥕🥕🥕

Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire by Ritu Bhathal

I sat at the bar, nursing my whiskey. Needed to be sensible. I couldn’t afford to be reckless with my drink again.
I hadn’t meant to leave the barbeque unattended, but after a few drinks with my guests, I forgot it, and turned to see the flames licking the sky.

Gina wasn’t planning on letting me back in the house. I had to keep my cool, give her a few hours, then I’d go back, and she’d forgive me.

But would she?

I threw the fiery liquid down my throat in a single gulp.

“Bartender, another one please.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Pete Fanning

Mrs. Cobb screamed for us to get away from the fire. A ball of wrinkles and gums, she charged after us with a cane, demanding we stay out of her yard. Tab grabbed my wrist, gripping me with terror, her fascinated smirk leaking a squeal as we raced down to Grandma’s room.

Mom snapped her fingers harshly, pointed to a chair. “Hush.”

We hushed, trying not to giggle, keeping watch on the door as the nurses sped past. Mom tended to the lump in the bed. We swung our legs, still flushed, waiting for Mrs. Cobb and her fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Fire by Frank Hubeny

Despair defeats hope with fire.

Pete wondered what that was supposed to mean while reading the fortune to his wife. He felt enough despair for it to feel like the fires of hell.

“What does yours say?”

“It’s blank.”

“Remember when I got ‘A fool at forty is a fool indeed’?”

She remembered, but her blank fortune worried her.

“Maybe I should ask for another one?”

“Let’s switch.”

“Does that count?”

They switched. She read these words, “The fire of hope defeats despair”, and gave it back.

“This one belongs to you.”

She asked for a new fortune cookie.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fire by D. Avery

“Shorty! Quick!”

“Whoa Kid. Where’s the fire?”

“All across the Ranch, Shorty! We better put ‘em out!”

“No, Kid, don’t. They’s flash fires. All the hands’ve been sparked ta write an’ now the Ranch is ablaze with inspired imagination. Jist enjoy all the warmth an’ light, Kid.”

“You started all this, didn’t ya, Shorty? What are ya, an arsonist?”

“Don’t you be an arse, Kid. D’ya think these fires should be contained? Lights kept under a barrel?”

“Shorty, this cain’t be safe, havin’ all these ranch hands playin’ with fire.”

“Yep, writin’s risky. But we’re safe at the Ranch.”

***

Net more information about Ranch safety at https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/how-dya-do-buckaroo/

🥕🥕🥕

 

Eminence

From high above, a distinct vantage point is set. A view from an eminence of land, a hillock, the hump of an anthill, a sand dune. People can also place themselves above others and claim a position of eminence. Those who bow and scrape, acknowledge, “Your Eminence.” And some confuse the word for a white rapper.

Playful or serious, writers set out for the hills to wrangle stories from eminent advantages. A few even found spiders and webs along the trail.

The following is based on the March 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence.

PART I (10-minute read)

Eminence by Michael Groban

His Eminence the Good and Virtuous Cardinal read the morning paper and cringed as he read of another abuse claim.

He felt a twinge of guilt as he read the charges against one of his priests. It wouldn’t be long before they’d come knocking on his door. But he was a cardinal, and they’d believe his story over any kid who claimed he knew or did anything.

He’d taken years to reach this pinnacle within the Church. Hiding and denying, who’d a thought he be so good at it. He took up his pen and started on the crossword.

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What You Don’t Talk About Doesn’t Exist by Papershots

He took a milk carton from a kitchen cabinet, then put it back there even though it was now open – it should have gone into the refrigerator. He took a sip of water. The smell of oranges about to go bad wafted from the fruit bowl on the table (made of wood ever so slightly darker than that of the fruit bowl.) The party at His Eminence swirled in his hangover – its theme: “What You Don’t Talk About Doesn’t Exist” – they called him His Eminence after his ascetic countenance by day, and his “torrent of bizarre gaieties” by night.

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Mongolian Pie by H.R.R. Gorman

The jester bowed before the king and queen. His coat, a tattered, borrowed thing, seemed unfit in the presence of royalty’s eminence. “I will sing you a traditional overtone song of my people.”

The jester pulled the bow across his khuuchir, and the two-stringed instrument wailed. The voices of the people came from his throat, some deep and worrisome while others were clear, melodic.

After the song finished, the king stood from his seat and clapped. “Excellent show!” He bent to look down on the jester.

The jester reached up and snatched the king’s gloried crown, then dashed away.

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Oh to Be in England on Non-Brexit Day! by Anne Goodwin

We voted to abolish experts. Let the people have their say! Don’t bore us with details, wave your magic wand and make it happen. Would a surgeon go through such a back-and-forth to amputate a limb?

Yes, the Leave campaign deceived us. Yes, the rich will win whichever way we go. We’ll wave our flags as pigs fly in eminence above us. We’ll plug our ears when boffins threaten to explain.

We are the mother of parliaments. We are the brave who take back control. We are the laughing stock of Europe. We are the fools of the world.

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Long Live The King by Nobbinmaug

His rise to eminence was halted by my hand. He wasn’t hard to find. Everybody in town knew where he hung out.

I pulled out the gun I took from dad’s nightstand and pointed it at him.

“Whoa! What are gonna do with that, little man?”

“I’m gonna be 10 next month.”

“All right, big man. Put it down before you hurt somebody.”

He reached for it, and I pulled the trigger. The kick knocked me down. The bullet knocked him down.

He was the only person I ever killed. My sister was the last his drugs would kill.

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Portrait of Marion Gray by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Marion stared at herself, staring at herself, daring the other to step over the line.

“What d’you want me to do about it?”

“Can’t you absorb one more?”

“I’ve run out of room to absorb your blemishes.”

“Just one more. I’ll never ask again…Promise!”

“You said that last time.”

She stared at herself, daring herself to step over that line.

“Fine, but come closer. Touch your nose to the glass.”

A moment’s touch, the eminence was grabbed, pulled in.

Marion stepped free, no longer the face in the mirror.

She waved farewell and turned the mirror to the wall.

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Your Eminence by Sally Cronin

As I pass him on my way to the village, I remember to say ‘Good morning your eminence’. To ignore him is to invite untold misfortune. Wise ones tell of signs of impending death if he is seen close to your window. And should that be open to the spring air, thefts of gold and silver. I laugh at the warnings, for I am young and carefree, but ancient beliefs stir in my blood, for lone magpies bring sorrow. So I pay him respect, wishing him a mate for life, to bring joy to those who see them together.

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Prelude by Joanne Fisher

Aalen and Ashalla were hiding on an eminence looking down on the soldiers in the distance. Aalen’s wolf Vilja lay between them.

“Last year there was a drought and game was scarce. These soldiers came to our village demanding food. When we refused because we needed our food stocks for the winter they began killing all the hunters until we acquiesced. I came back to find my brothers had been killed. I painted my arrows black and started hunting them down.” Ashalla said.

Aalen looked down at the army. Once they set up camp, that’s when they would attack.

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My Scar by The Dark Netizen

It is rightly said that behind every scar there is a story of survival.

My story took place many years ago, during the invasion of the dark king.

Led by our Prince, we were fighting for our survival in a battle that defined ages.

Our Prince’s eminence in warfare was unquestionable on the battlefield, as he skewered numerous dark minions in front of my eyes.

In the heat of battle I saw one minion slip behind the Prince, ready to end his life, when I jumped in between.

My sacrifice won my kingdom’s freedom and won me this scar…

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Shattering Illusions by Jo Hawk

Jules was his father’s second son. He was deemed the spare heir to the kingdom. Always second best, he fought to win favor, to stand free from his brother’s shadow. Each passing year, the competition between them grew.

Their rivalry forced his vision higher, to the eminence of Mont Aiguille. He imagined looking down onto his brother’s domain. Determined, he focused on his goal, fought through doubts and fear until his kingdom became a reality.

He grew stronger than the mountain, hardening his heart he stood alone, freed from the shadows, he realized there had been nothing to prove.

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Cross Roads (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Near the ancient cypress and olive trees, silky spider’s webs interlaced thorny yellow thistle. Early morning dew drops on the silvery threads glittered like tiny jewels. Fleeting and fragile, the jewels would disappear into the warming air.

From an eminence of boulders on the cliff, Diamante gazed out at the seashore. He would miss the coastal villagers deeply. He was a village teacher and became a temple guardian after Father Martinez died a year ago. The Abbott was sending another priest and he had plans for Diamante to enter the Dove’s Ministry, to become a scholar. And a priest.

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Glad Tidings of Nymble by Chelsea Owens

Nymble didn’t stand so much as gently flit above the waving grass, the first of the season’s signs of change. Leaning back as much as her grass and sunlight mote companions; she drank the deep, fresh air.

“Spring,” she whispered. She breathed.

A smile tickled her dimples. It pushed at her mouth-corners. As she looked out and over the gathered folk and fae, the smile spread to every feature of her pointed face. She grinned and opened her arms to hold the warm sun from toe to wing tip.

Atop the eminent rise, she addressed the expectant crowd. “SPRING!”

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Owls and Auks by TN Kerr

He chose to stand atop a grand eminence, banked by steep outcroppings; a sentry, ever vigilant who watches over the Pacific. He has stood this post for more than fifteen hundred years. He is a giant towering over 300 feet high. He is massive, with a base of more than 30 feet in diameter. A Giant Coastal Redwood, a landmark with owls and auks living amongst his branches.

I come here to admire him from time to time. I always come alone. I am humbled.

Majestuoso y eminente, por derecho propio, es bien conocido a lo largo de esta costa.

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The Judge by Roberta Eaton

The judge sat on a chair high raised high above the platform to ensure the accused understood his eminence. My son was forced to tip his head back at an unnatural angle to meet the judge’s eyes while stating his case. The comments made by the defendant were meaningless. Any defaulters who ended up on trial in the arena knew they were guilty in the eyes of the law. The punishment for wasting limited water resources was a swift death. The bodies of the guilty were buried in the surrounding forest to fertilise the trees that provided vital oxygen.

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Eminence by Tracey

I dragged myself into the kitchen and apathetically checked the fridge. Spouse and small child would be home soon and looking for dinner. That was part of my “job”, cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping. I could feel the surge of pre-menopause hormones coloring my brain. I wasn’t even hungry, why should I cook dinner? I checked the freezer. The emergency frozen pizza had already been eaten this week. I started to cry and told myself, “enough”. The eminences would have to fend for themselves this once. I retreated to the couch and a movie. “Double Indemnity” suited me perfectly.

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Age of Imminence by D. Avery

“What? Her Eminence drinking alone? Where’s Ernest?”

“Can’t I be somewhere where Ernest isn’t, Nard? Like you should talk. Where’s Kris?

“Visiting his mother. I just couldn’t.

“Yeah.”

“Hey, Lloyd tells me Ernest gave you a ring.”

“Yeah.”

“Thought you gals were supposed to be all giddy at a time like this.”

“Ernest’s giddy enough for the both of us. Driving me nuts.”

“Am I a peckerhead for being glad Kris is gone for a couple days?”

“Not if you’re looking forward to him coming back.”

“I am.”

“We’ll have to get used to being happy, huh, Nard?”

“Yep.”

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Two Meanings by Susan Sleggs

“Look at all those eminences in the back yard.”

“What are you talking about? Speak English.”

“If you did crossword puzzles like I do, you would know I was referring to all the little mounds of dirt.”

“Oh, yes. We have a mole problem.”

“And if your furry, four legged friend lounging in the sun over there knew she was a cat instead acting like a feline eminence, she might go outside and kill the moles.”

“She’s an indoor cat and I don’t think it’s funny that you used the same word with its opposite meaning.”

“Glad you noticed.”

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Lost In Translation by Geoff Le Pard

‘You look smart, Morgan. In court?’

‘Ha. I’m meeting a rather special person. Very influential. I hope he can help me.’

‘How?’

‘He understands how the system works, you know, all those back passages.’

‘Corridors of power?’

‘Exactly.’

‘A sort of eminence grise.’

‘You what? Immense Grease? That sounds like what you get before an outbreak of spots.’

‘Eminence Grise. Someone who works in the shadows.’

‘He had the lights on when I saw him.’

‘It’s just a figure of speech.’

‘Like Imminent Cheese?’

‘Eminence Grise.’

‘Is it French?’

‘Yes.’

‘Thought so. They’re greasy and like cheese.’

‘God, Morgan…’

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PART II (10-minute read)

Your Eminence by Norah Colvin

She glided in, regal robes flowing, loyal subjects lining the path.

“Your eminence,” they bowed as she passed.

She occasionally extended her gloved hand to receive their kisses of adoration or stopped to bestow a gift of royal chatter.

Though her crown and responsibilities weighed heavily, she held her head high as she proceeded towards the throne.

Decorum dictated every move. She dared not breathe out of sync. Her subjects depended upon her.

When seated, she motioned for all to sit. They obeyed, listening respectfully.

“I decree– “

“Lunch is served, Your Majesty.”

“Aw, Mu-um!”

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Blessing by Anita Dawes

My school was buzzing today, the nuns were all running around like deranged penguins. We were to receive a special throat blessing from the Bishop and were to address him as Your Eminence if spoken to.

The blessing involved two large candles joined in the shape of a V.
Sister Margaret held my hair away from the flame as the candles were placed around my throat and I have never suffered from a sore throat since.
Not bad going for 72 years.

I have wondered whether it was the blessing or just good luck
It still puzzles me today…

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A Special Guest by calmkate

“It’s highly eminent that His Eminence will join us for tea in the forecourt this morning. So please ensure that our sandwiches have more than an eminence of cucumber!”

“But in high society the bread and filling must be thin to tempt. A sliver to tease”

“Please indulge my preference for something a bit more substantial”

“Will His Eminence be requiring a particular blend of tea or the usual earl grey?”

“I would prefer that you serve a selection of three or four for this highly honoured guest.”

“Your every wish is my command sir!”

“Thanks so much Jeeves”

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Eminence by Deborah Lee

The house is a lovely lakeside pile on a low eminence above its neighbors, cocooned among trees. Jane lugs her few belongings up the slope easily, eagerly. Hangs her few clothes, arranges her few toiletries.

Hers, hers, for six whole weeks, in exchange for being present and tending to the animals while Audrey is in Europe.

The kitchen gleams, the den lulls, the shady deck beckons. But, she decides, luxuriating, paradise is a bathtub. And it hits her, making her sit up so abruptly she sloshes wine and bubbles. Is housesitting something she could do as an actual career?

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Celebrity Chef by Macy Brown

As I locked my office door and headed down the stairs to leave the building I heard all kinds of commotion coming from outside. What could be going on?! I thought to myself. When I stepped outside I saw a crowd of people surrounding a town car that was parked in front of the building next door. A thin blonde in a perfectly pressed skirt stepped out of the car and the crowd went wild. I did not know who she was, but based on the people around her, her eminence was clear. Maybe she was a celebrity chef?

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The Leader of The Pack by Susan Zutautas

From the day we brought Bruce home Maggie let him know that she was the leader of the pack.

It was sad to see how she showed her eminence over him. Bruce was such a laid-back kind of guy that we were never sure if this bothered him.

I’m sure they had this telepathic thing going on between them. Bruce would go to eat his food and Maggie would look over at him as if to say, “Leave it”. He’d not eat until she had left the room or until she started eating.

I suppose dogs have pecking orders.

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Power by Janice Golay

“So I hear you are your husband’s eminence grise. “

“His imminent grease?”

“No, my dear. His gray eminence. The power behind the throne. That shadowy figure, peering from behind a velvet curtain, who holds and wields the real power.

“Well, we don’t have any velvet curtains in our house, just over-laundered hangings from Bed, Bath and whatever.”

But if you really wanted some velvet curtains in your house, they would appear. Right? You could manage that, couldn’t you?

Of course! But if I had the power and wished for velvet curtains, I tell you they wouldn’t be GRAY!

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On the Couch by Michael B. Fishman

“Did you see ‘his eminence’ on the news today telling us how good everything is?” she said.

“You’ve got M&Ms?”

“No, ‘eminence’.”

“I don’t watch the news anymore. You really got candy?”

“I’ve got M&M’s.”

“It’s all a front, you know.”

“What is?”

“Politics.”

“Let’s both have some candy.”

“The M&M’s?”

“Plain or peanut, I’ve got both.”

“Then let’s have both!”

She went to the kitchen and returned with two bags. “Guess what?”

“What?”

“Dead Reckoning is on.”

“Ooh, Lizbeth Scott.”

“You like her.”

“Not as much as I like you.”

“You’re sweet.”

“Not as sweet as those M&M’s.”

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Feeling Like A Fraud by Ritu Bhathal

“Jill, could you just glance over this, please?”

Nancy thrust a piece of paper in Jill’s hand.

“I’d really appreciate your opinion. Would you mind?”

“Sure, why not.”

Jill smiled and turned around, surreptitiously rolling her eyes.

Ever since her book had been released and had shot to the top ten in the charts, she’d been inundated with ‘friends’ who wanted her advice on their writing. It’s like her eminence in word craft meant she was now a fully-fledged expert.

But that was furthest from the truth.

All she’d done was write from the heart.

And readers had appreciated.

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Teaching by Reena Saxena

“It took twenty-eight long years of struggle to reach eminence.”

My father’s story was interrupted,

“Granpa, are you Eminem?”

“No, darling, the word is eminence. It means reaching a certain height where you tower over others – metaphorically.”

“Two difficult words – what is metaphorically?”

“Like, you are the magic which transformed my life, when I was about to give up. You are not magic, but I describe you as such.”

“Me? Okay, show me which Eminem…”

“I received the Best Writer’s Prize for 2018,” he pointed towards the trophy.

“Can this Eminem sing and rap?”

Teaching is a tough job.

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Eminence  by Floridaborne

Their Jaguar stopped, rolling down the tinted windows to sneer at me.  I knew the look, people of eminence…northerners!

He frowned at my ramshackle house and asked, “Is this Azalea Avenue?”

“Yep,” I replied, stroking my beard.  “Why?”

“We might buy the property across from you.”

“It’s full of rattlers. “

“Rattlers?” A teenager with a Gucci bag asked.

“If you don’t kill the 8 inch daddy long legs, they eat 3 inch roaches like this one,” I said, pulling one out of my pocket.

And another irritant flees the trees, never to know my doctorate is in entomology.

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Eminent Domain (Or, Why I’m Moving Out Of My House) by John Rieber

I was just stepping on the front porch when Jill screamed: “SPIDER!”

The Tarantula was a BIG one. I instinctively jumped backwards as it raised itself up on eight powerful legs and announced its eminence. Jill raced to the back of the house and grabbed a bottle of bleach. I poured it on our guest. It got angrier.

In a panic I called Animal Control. “We have a Tarantula on our porch!”

“No you don’t”, the voice calmly replied.

“Yes, we have one!”

“No,” they said again, “you have many. They never travel alone.”

I still miss that house.

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Queen Wolfric Returns by Joanne Fisher

Her Royal Eminence Queen Wolfric III returned to her Court in the cellar after inspecting her Royal Domain. She addressed her assembled subjects:

“It’s great to be back. While it is true I got caught Upstairs, one of the giant denizens that live there managed to free me, but not before another one of them performed a rather energetic dance before me in my honour. I was most impressed.

All this said I think it should a while before I tour those regions again. Those giant denizens seem friendly, but if the truth be told, they really terrify me.”

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The Weight of Time by JulesPaige

From the edge of the field, five deer emerged from the wood line, a brief view.
The car on this long highway emerges from fits and starts of traffic.
Heading south from seven hours north I see emerging signs of late spring.

While away yellow daffodils emerged in the side and front gardens.
A soft smile emerges from my lips, the front of my home looks happy.
On the road home an emerging issue from a distance; Hubby’s work

his eminence to
solve issues drains our time
rising ground slip slides

Heavy sighs emerge, shoulders sag… as day ends

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Eminence by Frank Hubeny

After moving to the beach town whose eminence attracted him he no longer got up early to join the seagulls as the sun rose above the ocean. He no longer paid attention to the tiny lizards running on the sidewalks. He stopped celebrating the tropical climate and started complaining about the heat.

It shocked him to realize that he no longer wanted to go to the Cuban-run bakery for a cortadito. He made his own coffee.

His relatives from northern lands were still awed by palm trees and lizards, but by moving to paradise he had become a local.

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Find What Glints  (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Eminence of sand rolled across flats, forming dunes. Danni recalled following an old pioneer trail across the Forty Mile Desert of Nevada in her dad’s Jeep, top down, spring sun beating warmly. What was that he said? Turn around and look for the glints among the dunes. Every time he pulled over, Danni scrambled among the hollows of sand, sun to her back. She trotted toward the glints – a purple glass nob from a dresser, a marble, an obsidian arrowhead. Even today, trained as an archeologist, she heard her dad’s voice coaxing her to find the discards of history.

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A Legendary Demise by Anurag Bakhshi

The old man rasped sharply,”How many times did they shoot me?”

The younger man asked tentatively, “Twice?”

The old man immediately corrected him authoritatively, “Make that three times…and… just add that I was poisoned too.”

The younger man nodded, and had just shut his notebook when the old man said, “And just for kicks, also say that I almost managed to claw out of my grave in the frozen river.”

As his PR Head left, Rasputin smiled in contentment.

Nothing went further in helping one attain a position of eminence in history, than a death that was legendary.

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Typo by Sarah Whiley

The neon glow enveloped the city built by and for corporations.

It was late and Sandra was alone in the cavernous office. Pounding the keyboard furiously she tried to finish the never-ending paperwork her boss delighted in giving her.

Bastard, she thought. He actually enjoyed the power, dictating when she could leave and knowing it was her weekend with her daughter.

Her email pinged.

She despaired as she saw yet another assignment.

Gazing out at the city lights, Sandra contemplated her reply. His eminence wouldn’t like it, but life was too short.

Smiling, she typed two words.

“I quit”.

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His Eminence by Ann Edall-Robson

On Hanna’s first day of the job she figured she would meet a few people, be shown some of the ropes, and get her bearings.

There was no surprise when the foreman drove in the direction of the outbuildings.

Along the way, he showed her where she would stow her gear, pointing to the living quarters and the cookhouse. Both, he explained vehemently, were Mrs. Johnson’s domains.

The barnyard came into view, and so did a large grey cat wandering out to meet them.

“That,” muttered the foreman, “is His Eminence. He thinks he runs the show around here.”

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Crowned Eminence by D. Avery

“Kid, yer emanating fear.”

“I ain’t afeared a nuthin’.”

“Ever one’s afeared a somethin’ Kid. It’s okay ta admit it. Then ya kin face yer fears. So jist admit what yer afeared of.”

“Well, what are you afraid of, Pal?”

“Me? I ain’t afeared a nuthin’.”

“Huh. Was afraid you’d say that. But you gotta admit yer fears Pal. You said.”

“Well. I don’t like spiders Kid. Jist don’t.”

“Right? All scrunchy and hairy and sudden moves. But do ya fear ‘em, Pal?”

“Mebbe… Why ya pushin’ this Kid?”

“I’m afraid one’s bein’ an eminence on yer hat, Pal.”

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Mouse Tales

A mouse in a house, a wardrobe, a Victor trap, rescued and orbited to outer space. Mice are everywhere, including our technology. Somehow the vehicle that takes us into the depths of the world wide web got dubbed a humble mouse.

This week, writers chased the tails of mice to produce mouse tales. They will take readers on a merry chase of imagination, tenderness and hard lines. Use your mouse to navigate through a collection arranged into 10-minute nibbles.

The following are based on the March 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a mouse.

PART I (10-minute read)

Meanings Change by Susan Sleggs

“My mouse isn’t here,” my son lamented

“He better not be running loose.”

“I’m talking about my computer mouse, not Whiskers.”

“That’s a relief. Where could it be?”

“Probably at school. I used my laptop to work on an assignment about archaic words. I had a lot of windows open looking for examples.”

“Windows used to let air in, not information. Come to think of it, RAM, byte, virus, web, boot, spam, and cookies have all taken on new meanings in this techie age.”

“You’re a genius. I’ll write my report on those words and easily get an A.”

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My Mouse by Sally Cronin

I am extremely attached to my mouse, small and demanding at times, but I need a muse that is easy to maintain, and doesn’t demand three walks a day and half my dinner. It sits quietly by my side, observing my every move, and eager to be handled at every opportunity. I have owned several mice in my lifetime, but this one has a special place in my heart, as it has supported me thorough my latest book and editing process. But it is showing signs of burn out. Perhaps it will perk up if I change its battery.

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Other Worldly by Frank Hubeny

I move my black mouse and click. I know I should be doing other things.

“Like what?” That silent voice inside me asks.

Well, like watching this orange sunset or bothering that white bird sitting for no good reason on the railing or contemplating the other worldly mysteries of this grand universe.

Knowing I have no clue, I hear. “Really, like what?”

So I let my inner squeaky wheel, my imaginary “friend”, guide me downward into the depths of another suspicious, weedy, mosquito-loving rabbit hole I have no business exploring. But what else, really, do I have to do?

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Due Credit by Reena Saxena

You won’t be able to use all those fancy products, if they are not tested on me. I put my life and limb to out to help you. I’m an extension of your hand, when you navigate that space you can’t live without. I think you call it the internet. I don’t find it very useful though….

You give me food and sometimes – space to live, but I don’t think the equation is balanced.

You need to do a lot more to give me my due credit. Killer cats and dogs have been honoured for too long now.

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Chaircat Mao and Cheeser the Mouse by H.R.R. Gorman

“Chaircat Mao,” asked Cheeser the mouse, “Why don’t you ever chase me?”

Chaircat Mao rolled his rotund body over and readjusted his luxurious gray coat. “Well, have you ever chased me?”

“No, Chaircat Mao! That would be silly!”

Chaircat Mao closed his eyes as if the question were answered.

Distraught, Cheeser scurried onto Mao’s flesh. Without response, she balanced down to his nose and pulled on his whiskers. “It’s not right, Chaircat Mao! God made cats to chase mice!”

“Don’t be silly. God made cats to be worshipped. Now stop disturbing my nap.” So, at last, Chaircat Mao slept.

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Wrong Mouse by Anita Dawes

Our cat Merlin loves to bring us gifts
I wish he would leave the mice outside
I told him the other day, it was the wrong kind
Jaye needs a new mouse for the computer
Of course, he didn’t take any notice of me
He loves to catch butterflies in his mouth
He lets them go unharmed
Maybe he likes the flavour of them
I have no clue, as I don’t speak cat too well.
After buying a new mouse, Merlin stopped
bringing his gifts for a while
was he trying to tell Jaye that
her mouse needed replacing?

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The Mouse That Came in from the Cold by Di @ pensitivity101

I heard scratching and told partner we had a mouse in the bedroom.

He flicked on the light, looked around, then switched it off.

The scratching resumed. Another nudge, he got up to look.

‘Nothing!’

I saw a shadow and turning on the light saw a little mouse disappear behind the wardrobe.

Partner threw himself out of bed and whacked everything in close proximity.

With the bedding wrapped around me, I was in hysterics.

Not that I was afraid, but the ridiculousness of the situation as he’d been charging round the bedroom stark naked, in all his dangly glory.

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A Mouse Backfires by Norah Colvin

“Eek!“ shrieked Granny, toppling back on the chair, arms and legs flailing.

“Thwunk!” Her head struck the wall, silencing the children’s sniggers.

Granny slumped motionless, eyes closed, tongue lolling from her slack jaw.

Barney gaped. “D’ya, d’ya think she’s dead?”

“Don’t be silly,” admonished Eliza, older and wiser. “She couldn’t be. Could she?”

The children tiptoed closer.

“What if she wakes up?”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“I’ll check her pulse,” mouthed Eliza.

Suddenly, Granny jolted upright, eyes staring blankly.

The children gasped.

“Gotcha!” laughed Granny. “But that is a clever mouse.”

“How did you —?”

Granny winked. “Granny knows.”

🥕🥕🥕

What Happened to the Mouse? by Miriam Hurdle

“What is that box?”

“That’s my infrared camera.”

“What’s that for?”

“Did you see the oranges fell from the tree? Something ate up the cores. I wanted to see what happened.”

“What did the camera catch?”

“Look for yourself.”

“OMG! A mouse! I thought all the mice were dead.”

“I guess not. This one escaped.”

“Did the camera take the pictures last night?”

“No, these were taken two nights ago.”

“Was the camera on last night?”

“It was.”

“Did the mouse come back?”

“No, something else did?

“What?”

“Look again.”

“Oh no, I know what happened to the mouse.”

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My Life As a Mouse by Macy Brown

Quickly I scurry across the dilapidated, plywood floor, covered in dust, careful not to step on the wooden contraptions my brothers and sisters have succumbed to. Last week dad went in search of food, but he did not return. Now it’s up to me to find food to keep the last of my siblings alive. I come around the corner of an old, water damaged box, and that is when I smell it – salty peanut butter; but before I have time to react I hear that ear shattering CLAP as a metal hinge comes crashing down upon me.

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That’s Mice — A Conversation for Musicologists by Bill Engleson

“Ah, Mick, do you ever ask yourself where we belong in the grand scheme?”

“Gee, Squeak. Not a lot. Why?”

“Well, I was thinking. Take music. Sometimes we just pop up in a song…its neat.”

“What songs?”

“Glad you asked. I’m thinking of that great Johnny Cash ditty, I Still Mice Someone. Sure brings a tear to my eye.”

“I do like Johnny Cash…but…”

“Or, Little Richard’s, Good Golly Mice Molly. That sure shakes the floorboards.”

“Squeak, don’t take this the wrong way but I think you oughta get your hearing checked.”

“I hear ya, Mick. I hear ya.”

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Little Miss Mouse by Susan Zutautas

She was a tiny little woman with whiskery gray hair. At times she’d be talking to you and her little pink nose would rapidly twitch. Much like that of a rodent smelling something good to eat. Speaking of eating, sunflower seeds were always nearby but never an empty shell to be seen. Listening to her talk was quite annoying with her squeaky pitchy little voice. There were some days you would feel a swish of wind go briskly past you, only to find out it was Little Mouse. Yes, that’s what we had nicknamed her. It characterized her perfectly.

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Mousetrap by Ritu Bhathal

The pain.

It sears through my body.

I know no one will find me.

They were all much more sensible, listening to Mummy. I had to be the one who had to go and look.

Curiosity killed the cat. That’s the saying. Not the mouse, the cat.

But it was just so tempting.

I could smell it.

That whiff of cheesiness.

I knew it was out there somewhere.

And I found it too.

Sat there, right in front of me, was a huge chunk of the best cheddar.

How was I to know it was on a state-of-the-art mousetrap?

🥕🥕🥕

The Night of Forgotten Chores (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Snow crunched beneath Ike’s boots. Danni hastily stepped into them with her slippers, throwing a jacket over flannel pajamas. She grimaced against the blast of cold air. How did she forget her chores? The animals relied on her, especially when the weather turned. She pushed open the barn door, flicking on lights. Three mournful dogs glanced up from the cocoon of their cedar houses. Blackjack nickered his discontent, and the chukar fluttered in their cage. Sluggish with guilt Danni slid her hand into the grain bag to find the scoop. She yelped when instead she grabbed a live mouse.

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The Little Ones by Ann Edall-Robson

The tiny flecks of dust shimmered like specks of gold in the early morning sunlight streaming through the six-pane window. The building was old, but it was obvious someone was keeping it weatherproof, save for the tiny knothole in the corner, near the back door garden entrance.

The wooden bung had shrunk over time, slipping to one side, going unnoticed in the overgrown flower beds, and allowing those who knew of its whereabouts to come and go as they pleased through its odd shape.

Thanks to the friendly garden mouse, the Little Ones now had a new home.

🥕🥕🥕

Laurie’s Journal by Saifun Hassam

On a sunny cold February morning, Laurie walked gingerly over the snow and ice-covered grass and stone steps, to the rose and blackberry bushes, pine and oak trees. Fallen branches, twigs, pine needles and acorns poked through the snow.

In a tiny space among the maze of roots, some snow had melted. A bright-eyed mouse sat quietly on a root. Laurie sat quietly on the old scarred log. Last autumn, she had found tiny tunnels running along the blackberry bushes. In her mind’s nature journal, she was already drawing and making observations of these tiny settlers in the garden.

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Mouse in House by Ruchira Khanna

“Oh God! We have a mouse in the house!” I shrieked as I announced to my family. My son sitting on the couch was quick to pull his legs and cross them over. “Where! Where!” he inquired in an equally high-pitched scream.

“It’s in the bedroom!”

I was now waiting restlessly for my husband to take some action. Instead, he continued to work on his laptop unperturbed of what I just announced!

I repeated it this time in a higher decibel.

He looked up with a sense of calm, “Relax! It’s the door. It needs oiling at the hinges!”

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Peace Offering by D. Avery

It had to be done. *I won’t have them on my countertops.*

In the hardware section she reached for the wooden Victors. *Can’t improve on those.* Very effective, though she didn’t like setting them, flinched if they snapped, worried about her fingers. *At least it’s just my fingers*.

She moved on to the toy section. *There, little doll dishes, perfect.* She took her purchase home to do what had to be done.

She cleaned her counters. The doll dishes, filled with tasty morsels, she set on the floor. *We can share the food. But please stay off the counters*.

🥕🥕🥕

Mouse by Janice Golay

I am a mouse. I say this without pride or apology. It’s just “I am.” Perhaps in a previous life I was someone or something else, someone bigger, stronger, who could roar or soar. But here I am with this life, making the best of what I am. For example, this morning I checked my winter stash of corn, seeds and old apples. Looks OK. It’s sunny today, so I poked my head out of the barn, saw a flying creature’s slow shadow — wide wingspan — soaring, searching…..for me! Pulled my head back in fast. Next life, please.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Minnie and Me by Goldie

There it was again – an unexplained pit in her stomach. As if someone was watching her.

Following her.

There was no one in sight, but she couldn’t shake off the uneasiness.

She tried to run, but tripped and fell to her knees.

A tall shadow appeared in the puddle in front of her.

She raised her head hesitantly to assess the situation.

“There you are, sweetheart” – he said, and extended his hand, but Emma remained on the ground.

“I said I would take care of you. I’d never let you fall” – he said, pulling her up by the hair.

🥕🥕🥕

Visitor by Abhijit Ray

Six months before, one night I woke up from my intermittent sleep. Something ran over my body. There he was eating my leftover meal. We have gotten used to each other.

He stares at me curiously. Sitting on his hind quarter he wipes his face and his moustache. I think he prepares himself for the dinner.

I wait for his arrival. He visits me everyday without fail. He does not need any permission or any pass. He is the only friend I have, as I count my days in death row for murdering my business partner and my wife.

🥕🥕🥕

Cosmopolitan Collapse by JulesPaige

The Fashionista thought she’d replace her dogs toy.
The only place she could find Mookies favorite
mouse squeaky toy was through the internet.

The Fashionista attempted to order the toy herself.
But there was a Troll waiting to capture
and sell her personal information.

The Fashionista used insecure protocols
allowing the nasty Troll to unleash a virus
that crashed and burned The Fashionista’s
personal site, the Pet Place and
several major operating systems.

The Troll thought it was hilarious
that his virus was called the Black Plague.
All because The Fashionista wanted
a squeaky rodent toy for her dog.

🥕🥕🥕

My Life As A Mouse by Joanne Fisher

Ever since a company began briefly downloading consciousness’s into other species the holiday industry has been transformed. Last year I spent two weeks swimming around the Pacific Ocean as a fish. When I returned to my usual body it felt strange for a while to have arms and legs again. This year I decided to be a mouse. I got some strange looks, but they’re quite cute. Though I did spend most of my time trying to find food. One time I saw some peanuts on the floor, as I scurried to them I didn’t even see the cat…

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Experiments by The Dark Netizen

Mark my words, this novel research is going to put us right into all the books out there: journals, encyclopaedias, history books; maybe even novels and comics.

We are going to become celebrities not only in the science community, but even in the outside world.

Now, we only need to hope that this experiment works during the trials.

The serum should have the same effect as it had on mice.

If it gives the mice intelligence in comparison to humans, imagine what it would do for human subjects.

Aren’t you in agreement about starting human trials early, Dr. Mouse?

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I’d Like to Mouse Wheel a Motion by Chelsea Owens

“Now, now, Mrs. Snigglewhiff; that’s hardly mouseylike. Would you please consider using the shavings over-

“MISTER Cheesebiter, if you wouldn’t mind-

“I say; what are you doing at that drink station? Refreshments are for after our-

“What is it, now, Whiskershins? …The Society for Capybara Welfare wishes to be heard? They’ll just have to submit their request in shavings like the rest of us!-

“My word! Will the ringtailed children kindly refrain from using the wheel till after our meeting has adjourned?-”

*SQUEAKHEM*

“I now call to order The Semi-Regular Meeting of Tame Rodentia. First item of business: queuing.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mouse by Robbie Cheadle

Yesterday morning I saw a mouse dash across the kitchen floor and slip under the dishwasher. We live near a bird sanctuary so we do get the odd furry visitor. My husband catches mice using a method involving rat glue smeared on a piece of cardboard. I hate it but we cannot have mice taking up permanent residence in our home.

The gluey cardboard worked and this morning I found the mouse stuck to the cardboard. It was still alive and had to be drowned in water. That is the down side of rat glue – it doesn’t kill quickly.

🥕🥕🥕

I Hate Those Meeces to Peeces by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why the long face, Morgan?’

‘Aunt Annette is coming.’

‘Is she a tyrant?’

‘No. We have mice; she hates mice. She’ll flip if I say or if she sees one.’

‘Get a trap.’

‘Can’t. She’ll see it and know.’

‘You’re screwed then.’

‘Could she stay with you? She’s as quiet as a mouse.’

‘What if I’m phobic, too?’

‘Of mice?’

‘I’m not murophobic…’

‘… get you with the long words…’

‘… but I am syngenesophobic.’

‘Fear of aunts?’

‘Yep.’

‘Great, I’ll bring her round then.’

‘But I just said I’m sygenes…’

‘Sure, but she’s not your aunt, is she?’

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Friends by Kay Kingsley

“Charles, help!” A shrill voice shouted from the living room.

Fearing the worst, he dropped the plate he was washing in the sink and came running. “What is it Ida?!” he said, panicked.

Standing on a chair Ida swore it was the biggest mouse she had ever seen. HUGE. GIGANTIC even.

“Sweetie. Come down off the chair. It’s not that big.” he chuckled.

“What? You knew it was in the house and didn’t get rid of it?!”

What he hadn’t told her yet was that since the accident, the mouse was the only friend he had to talk to.

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Silent as a Mouse by Kerry E.B. Black

Make-a-Wish interviewed my daughter, Bear, and she wanted to be a princess. Her consultant clapped. “No better place to be a princess than WDW!”

However, costumed characters terrified Bear. I read the promotional materials and discovered what I hoped would calm her. “They don’t talk.”

Consoled, she reluctantly approached her favorite cartoon, Minnie Mouse.

Minnie moved.

Bear screamed.

We turned to leave when the dear costumed actress forgot her training and reassured, “It’s okay, honey!” She covered her perpetually smiling mouth with white-mittens, but the damage was done.

I wondered if little Bear would ever trust me again.

🥕🥕🥕

Little One by Sarah Whiley

The shadow of the moon danced on the lake. A light breeze whispered gently through the tress and the air was filled with a symphony of insects, clamoring to be heard.

Lucy trod carefully in the filtered light, glancing behind her guiltily. Her mum and dad would be furious but since the trap hadn’t killed it, Lucy figured it was a sign.

Kneeling at the fence line of their property, she reached into her pocket and tenderly scooped out the mouse.

With a grateful “chit” of thanks, it promptly ran into the darkness.

“Take care little one,” she whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Of Mice and Girls by Nancy Brady

Mighty Mouse was Julie’s favorite cartoon; she sat enthralled on the living room floor every Saturday morning. When the mice got into trouble, he would fly to their rescue, saving them from the mean old cat. She thought him handsome in his tights and cape as he sang, “Here I come to save the day, Mighty Mouse is on the way!”

He was Julie’s hero, and she had a crush on him.

Julie had a little doll with a brown ponytail, just like her. When Julie played with her doll, she pretended she was Mighty Mouse’s girlfriend, his love.

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Tasha’s Gift by Nobbinmaug

“Aaaahaaha! A mouse!”

“You’re such a woman.”

“Sexist.”

“Women can’t be sexist.”

“I think that’s also sexist.”

“Men don’t get to decide what’s sexist.”

“That is definitely sexist.”

“Will you just get the mouse, please?”

“Why? Because I’m the man?”

“Because your cat brought it in, and it’s your apartment.”

“You wanna move in?”

“Hell no! You have mice.”

“Tasha and her gifts. They’re usually dead.”

“Gross.”

“Yeah, it’s gross, but they’re easier to catch when they’re dead.”

“I am not staying here tonight if that mouse is here.”

“I’ll get it. I’ll get it. I will find it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bed Fellows by Annette Aben

A little girl needed a room of her own, especially when her siblings closest in age, were all boys. She was given the space off the bathroom. A space normally used for storage. Besides, she could lock the door. She could find privacy there.
She didn’t mind sleeping on an old mattress, covered in quilts. There was a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, so she could read. She gladly traded the feel of the mice that ran across her legs at night over her father’s demands. She chose sleeping in mouse turds rather than her own blood.

🥕🥕🥕

Lionhearted by Nan MykelI

I smell a cat in the house. That means my time on earth is limited.Hmmn. What can I contribute to the world during my shortened lifespan? I know! The stepfather who sneaks into his stepson’s room at night silently, on tiptoes to molest him!There he is, stealthily approaching the sleeping boy. Now on his knees, pulling back the covers. Strike now! Nails extended, I rush up his feet, up his legs and high on his head. I dive triumphantly onto the boy, whose screams are echoed by the perpetrator. Lights throughout the house. Goodbye mouselife, hello glory.

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Mighty Mouse by Jo Hawk

I stumble to my desk. The coffee sloshing in my cup slips over the edge trickles down the side and drips onto my freshly printed manuscript.

I blot the drop, but the damage is done. Adding insult to injury I mark the draft with a giant coffee ring. I have no fear. Mighty Mouse will save the day. The laptop purrs, Mighty Mouse chases clicks across the laptop’s screen while I sip my coffee.

The printer springs to life, spitting out pages as the Mouse commands.

The pristine draft restored, it awaits the torture session of the red pen.

🥕🥕🥕

Moondarby the Mouse and the Mischievous Macaroni Penguin by K. J. Watson

My pet mouse, Ellroy, is by my keyboard, twitching his nose at the computer screen.

“You dislike the title of my latest children’s story, don’t you?” I ask him.

He twitches more vigorously.

“Is it the alliteration? Or the name of the mouse? Or is it the macaroni penguin?”

In response, Ellroy darts across the keyboard: ]’pl[;ijokyguhrdtfwaesq.

“I assume that means you’re averse to it all?”

Ellroy stares at me.

“Okay. How about ‘Ellroy the Magnificent and the Naughty Cat’?”

Ellroy curls up on my notebook.

I begin typing and wonder: Who else has a mouse as a muse?

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Focus by Tracey

“Guys listen up. This is the pre-mission briefing for flight 7044.”

She went quickly but thoroughly over the slides. Tanker crews liked fast and funny. No jokes today though, this was a new mission and she needed to keep their focus.

To the great surprise of the pilots she suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and jumped onto a chair. The entire room silently watched a mouse scamper across the floor and under the canvas wall.

The Lieutenant climbed down and resumed briefing the astonished pilots, picking right back up in the middle of her sentence. She had their full attention.

🥕🥕🥕

Mus Musings by D. Avery

“Rats, this is a tough prompt Pal.”

“You also complained when Shorty said cats. No pleasin’ some folk.”

“Jist sayin’, Pal. Ya know, Pal, there’s all kinds a mice.”

“So? The Ranch is a diverse place.”

“Reckon Aussie’ll write ‘bout kangaroo mice.”

“Sure, an’ D. Avery’ll write about deer mice.”

“Moose mus?”

“Punny, Kid. *Mus musculus* is the house mouse. Deer mice and kangaroo mice are actually a different family. But yer not outta order, rodent’cha know.”

“Now who’s punny? Pal, how come it’s mice and not mouses?”

“Jist is thet way.”

“Hmmph.”

“Mebbe all your grouses are grice.”

🥕🥕🥕

January 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

Technically speaking, enriched foods are those that manufacturers have fortified like adding calcium to orange juice. In the US, government programs support healthier foods for school children through programs that started during our Great Depression. Food enrichment progressed during WWII, finding ways to get nutritious C-rations and K-rations to soldiers. If you grew up fascinated by the developing space programs, you might recall “ice cream for astronauts” or used “dehydrated eggs” on a backpacking trip. All food enrichment.

But I like to think of enriching my lunch a different way. Instead of buying food from a laboratory, I prefer it as close to the farm as possible, or from artisan producers who source locally.

Artisan food producers might sound like a made-up word so grocery stores can charge more. A fad, a novelty, not real value. However, after sixteen years of writing profiles about farmers and producers, I understand the value of calling someone an artisan. At the invitation of the Wisconson Cheese Makers, I once toured the state for three days, meeting artisan cheese makers and masters.

So, yes, cheese features regularly on my lunch plate. Today, it was an aged cheddar (serve at room temperature, and you can crunch the tiny crystals that form). To further enrich my plate, I added artisan rosemary crackers made from whole ingredients (in other words, crackers from a bakery, not a factory). For health and taste, I included a crisp local apple, a sprinkling of raw pumpkin seeds, and a Greek gift to food artistry — dolmades.

It comes as no surprise that many of us seek to add value to what we do beyond eating — we go to school to learn more about a topic or trade, we gain experience to enrich our careers, and we blog to enhance our writing goals. Many authors resist blogging because they think it detracts from what they write (books), and other bloggers treat their blog like a business. Which writers are right? The ones who know why they do what they do.

Last month, I offered you the opportunity to work out a vision for your writing journey by ultimately setting your North Star. This gives you a clear picture of success and becomes the reason for why you do what you do.  Vision work can make you a more productive writer, and save you angst when you are trying to figure out what tasks to take on to further your writing goals.

So let’s compare some right/wrong ways to blog.

Authors who don’t blog because it detracts from their writing could be right or wrong. Authors who are resistant without a compelling reason beyond finding blogging a distraction, are likely to be behind on platform building once they publish their books. Blogging is not the platform, but it can build audience, community, brand awareness and credibility. So can many other tactics. If the authors know why they write, what success looks like and have set goals these authors can better decide if blogging is the right tactic. They can set goals for platform building and blog if it meets their needs, or not. Many successful authors do not blog, but they likely have a website, are active contributors to mainstream media, and have a brand presence.

Many bloggers treat their blogs like a business, which is smart. First of all, a blog is “owned” territory. That means it is a digitally accessible area that individuals own as opposed to corporate ownership (like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter). However, a good marketing plan includes a mix of these outlets. But some bloggers think a blog is going to make them rich and they use AdSense or spam techniques to boost traffic for pay.

Are any of these bloggers clearly right or wrong? Only the ones who don’t know why they do what they do. In other words, even the slinky scammer with a spam campaign is right if that person has a plan. Morally, and sometimes legally, they are wrong (these blog spammers), but they have a plan of enrichment.

Many of us probably have opinions about those who enrich themselves on the backs of others — in 1914, copper miners on the Keweenaw went on strike because they saw the mine owners getting richer, while miners struggled on their wages, faced deadly work situations, and had little respite from hard labor. Wal-Mart has a reputation for being a low-price retailer not because its stockholders suffer the cut in price but because their workers and manufacturers do. Recently, my stomach turned when I read an article about a certain wealthy leader who has enriched himself while in office.

Enrichment, in and of itself, is not bad. To find value, or add value to something is worthy. Dragons who burn villages to hoard gold are the villains of legend, while the heroes are myths like Robin Hood, the prince of thieves, who sought to take from the rich to enrich the poor. Like all things, perspective is a fractured lens.

Why do I blog? That’s a legitimate question to answer for those of you who regularly visit Carrot Ranch. My reason is summed up in my North Star — to make literary art accessible. Here, it’s to make it accessible 99-words at a time, meaning it is meant to be playful and inspirational.

You might find it puzzling, but I do not consider myself a blogger. It’s probably just semantics, and, of course, perspective. Obviously, I’m writing a blog post right now…but I consider myself a writer in every sense possible. I have aspirations, career, successes, and failures as a writer. More to the point, I’ve used my writing skills to make a living for more than 20 years. My portfolio of tear sheets fill two large plastic tubs, I’ve been published in seven books and more than 300 hundred magazines. I have no problem saying I’m a writer.

Blogging is part of my platform building and directly connects all my writing to my greatest aspiration of all — to write and publish successful historical novels. I’m in it for the long haul, the big journey. My North Star that guides me is a vision I have for why writing matters to me — because I want to be immersed in creative writing. I have craved this since I first realized I got as much joy from writing as I did reading.

The first book I ever wanted to write was about a girl named Silver Chalmers whose father was a mining investor who left California for his native England and never returned. It was based on a true incident. Local legend held that Mrs. Chalmers returned to the stage every day for word of her husband’s return. When he didn’t, she was sent away to the insane asylum in Carson City. Her mansion in Silver City (a ghost town where my father once logged when I was a kid) sat full of all her furnishings until someone broke in during the 1970s. My pinprick as a kid was, “what if they had a daughter.”

Ever since I was 12 years old, I’ve wanted to write historical novels. I’ve devoured them as a reader, studied them as a student, and crafted my first real attempted as an independent project in college under the tutelage of a professor I still hold in high esteem. I learned to research, find stories in cemeteries, and where to look for the women who tend to be invisible in the American wild west.

I’ve also encountered barriers to success — things like, not everyone who dreams of writing a novel gets to make a living as a novelist. The closest I got to overcome that hurdle was achieving an undergraduate degree in creative writing. My bitter pill in 1998 was a choice — pursue an MFA to continue my novel and publish, or take my writing skills to the workplace. I had three kids and a husband, so I became a writer instead of a novelist.

What I missed during my career writing years was that connectivity to literary art. I felt shut out from it. Over the years, I enjoyed pockets of connectivity and began to realize that literary art was not just an academic experience. But other than going on retreats or back to school, how did I access it? In small ways, I included literary art in my workplace. I used to make my staff write cinquains before weekly meetings, and I taught nature writing classes locally.

Carrot Ranch was selfish — I wanted to feel connected to that spark I defined internally as my inner literary artists. I wanted kindred spirits who felt it too. And I no longer believed I had to get an MFA to publish (than you, pioneering independent authors). Carrot Ranch makes literary art accessible 99 words at a time. That is my North Star for achieving my dream of writing historical novels.

So, I don’t consider myself a blogger. And that’s okay if we differ on perspective. What’s important to me is that we have this safe space to create as we all go about our long-haul goals. My first novel isn’t even going to be in the genre I dream of writing. Why? Because I don’t know how to write a successful novel — yet. Oh, I know what goes into one, and I know tons about craft, process and even editing. I know more than I did six years ago about the book industry. I’m an expert in story-telling and branding.

But that first novel, ah, the agony of writing it right. And I’m not saying that as a perfectionist. I’m saying that as an artisan — from the maker we become the master. Many authors publish their first or second drafts, some take time to edit. You can do it many ways and anyway you want! (Remember, your dream and your goals belong to you, just be aware of them and what it takes). And other authors don’t publish their first three books. No way is wrong or right — as long as you know why you choose one way over the others — but in the end, most authors will tell you that it’s by the ninth manuscript they feel they have it right.

I’ve learned so much working on Miracle of Ducks. I had really believed it would be easier because I wasn’t adding that extra burden of historical research. But I’m pleased with what the experience is teaching me. And I’m pleased knowing that working it is working my dream.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey! We are like Chaucer’s pilgrims. Each of us has wild stories and varied reasons for taking the writing path, but what compels us inside is a shared joy in the creative endeavor we call literary art. No matter where you are, keep your North Star sharp, set goals that fit you like good hiking boots and keep on the trail.

January 10, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the idea of enrichment. Use many of its different manifestations or explore reasons why it matters to the character. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 15, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Life Experience (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Sitting with Ramona, Danni sniffled. The older woman said, “We all look to enrich our lives, Dear. You might say each experience is like putting dimes in a slot machine. We hope one gives us the jackpot, but before you know it, we’re out of dimes.”

“That’s not hopeful,” Danni said, wiping her nose with a paper towel. She hated crying. Saline didn’t solve anything.

Ramona continued to smile. “Enjoy the gamble, Danni! In the end, we all lose our dimes. You’ll be disappointed if you wait for one jackpot experience and miss the fun in all the others.”