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A Time to Perform

A Time to Perform by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsStep on up to the stage, you won’t believe the show we have gathered for you this week! Performances from all quarters to shock and delight your senses!

Writers took their performances to the page to give imaginative response to the different kinds of spectacles and every day acts that can drive a story.

The following are based on the December 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

***

Change the World by Reena Saxena

“Change the world”, she said.

He did not have the heart to confess that he was an ordinary mortal. He conjured pink smoke and gave her a different lens to see the world. She believed every vision that he generated for her.

There had been many who were teaching her to survive – the killer disease and life thereafter. She had eagerly awaited the arrival of a healer and transformation agent, till he arrived.

It was the performance of a lifetime for the young medical intern appointed in the cancer ward of the hospital. He had seen her medical reports.

###

Holiday Storytelling by Frank Hubeny

Each year Peter told the grandkids how he killed the monster. They believed him, but children grow up.

Sylvie was nearly grown-up. She quietly went to Grandma Alice to get the truth, “Did Grandpa really kill a monster?”

Alice told her, “Your Grandpa’s getting old. He wants you to be happy and so he tells stories. He’s feeling better now but he has protected me from his nightmares for many years. I only know this. What he fought was not exactly what I would call a ‘monster’.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“It was the meanest dragon that ever lived.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Everyone had had so much fun, and it was nice for the family to be together.

After her guests had left, she put the borrowed tea things to one side, they would be collected later.

The leftovers could be put in the fridge, even though she’d turn it off along with everything else. They’d see her over a few days as would the edible family contributions to the table.

Her bedroom would stay warm the longest. It was where she spent most of her time anyway huddled in a blanket. Damn government cutbacks.

She hoped her performance was convincing.

###

Command Performance (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane wipes her palms down her jeans, picks up the blue marker. Since when do grownups have to do class exercises on the board? The professor smiles encouragingly but she can feel all the eyes boring into her back, her sentences wandering uphill and downhill while every nuance of Spanish sentence structure goes out of her head. What is the word for “T-shirt?” She settles for “blouse.”

Back in her seat, her hands are still shaking as the man next to her…Rico?…leans in. “Grand performance. I’ve been noticing you. May I buy you a coffee after class?”

###

Take Five by Pete Fanning

Jan set the cake on the table. She lit candles, grabbed her phone, and pressed record.

“Happy Birthday, to Logan…Happy birthday, to Lo—”

Jan popped up. “Tyler, why aren’t you singing?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. Logan leaned forward, ready for cake, but Jan held out a hand. “No sweetie, not yet. Hang on. Tyler, sing. Avery, smile. Okay, ready? Smile!”

She pressed record. “Happy Birthday, to you…Happy—”

Jan cocked her head. “Tyler, try to look happy, so I can post this.”

“Mom.”

“Shh. Okay, let’s try again. Smile. Baby, not yet. Okay, ready?” She pressed record.

“Haaappy….”

###

Performance by FloridaBorne

“Mom,” Noelle said, her voice lilting. “He looks just like Joel!”

Ralphina scampered over to her 13 year old twins.

Try not to scream … breathe, she repeated inside a mind that wanted to run from the handsome face staring back at her with Joel’s green eyes, remembering snippets: Backstage. Drugged. Hand over her mouth. Searing pain. So much blood. LifeFlight.

“He served 13 years for raping a minor,” Ralphina said. “She almost died from it!”

“He’s a big Rock Star!” Joel said. “Is that our father?”

“No,” Ralphina replied, relieved she’d not listed the bastard on their birth certificates.

###

Escape Artist by Chris Mills

My husband insists on a dress rehearsal of his escape routine. He was a failure as an illusionist, so he’ll try Houdini’s gig.

I snap the padlocks. Believe me, it’s an honor. He sinks onto his back in the coffin. As his assistant, I kneel and kiss him, passing a key into his mouth from mine. I lower the lid.

From the coat closet, I retrieve a suitcase and pause at the front door. The real key lies on the locked lid. I hate to miss the performance, but it will be a long scene before the curtain drops.

###

Drama Performance by Michael

My senior drama students faced a final performance exam presided over by visiting examiners.

Scott and I rehearsed for months, refining his character and his performance. He worried over every detail, and there was nothing we hadn’t rehearsed.

Exam day arrived, and the performances were under the control of the examiners, I could only sit and watch.

A nervous Scott went into his performance. Half way through he forgot his lines. The look on his face was devastating. He looked at me, but I was powerless to help him. He stumbled defeated to the end and left in tears.

###

A Five Star Performance by Joe Owens

When you are so well known you cannot go anywhere without turning heads it can sometimes be a drag. So Erwin chose to sneak into the Belikin Community Theater in disguise so he could be in the Christmas play he loved as a youth. Only his dear childhood friend Elyse, the director had any idea a Hollywood star graced the stage.

“Well?” she asked after the play was finished.

“I miss this,” Erwin said.

“We could make it a regular thing. I am happy to have you.”

“If my agent finds out she will go berserk!”

“So, don’t tell.”

###

First Performance by Bill Engleson

“NO! I WON’T! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”

I still see him, still hear his awful silence. Eyes darting. Like the condemned. Tears desert-dry. The pain is too much for waterworks.

Nine he was that Christmas. He shot up by thirteen but that year when he was nine, he was a waterless shoot.

Arrested.

Pale, as if exposure to the sun would shrivel him.

He had two lines. “He is a beautiful baby.” And “The donkey is sad.”

The moment overcame him. He scampered off the stage into his mother’s arms.

The play, as plays do, went on without him.

###

Nativity by Ritu Bhathal

“Come on children, nice and loud now! Please no shouting – it’s singing we want to hear.”

Mrs Keeble started the intro on the school piano, and nodded to the class in front of her.

As usual, there were the performers: the children who thought they were born for the stage. There were the skulkers: the ones who stood at the back, heads down, hoping no one would notice them. And then there were the stunned: the ones who stood there, gawping, no sound leaving their mouths, eyes scanning the audience for family.

Wonderful!

Welcome to another infant Christmas performance!

###

Nativity Play by Kerry E.B. Black

In the church nativity play, Matthew portrayed Shepherd Two, though preferred staying close to his best friend, Buddy, who was cast as Joseph.

The boys fidgeted.

Matthew chewed his headrail. “Who’s Baby Jesus?” Their Sunday School teacher remained sketchy on casting details.

Buddy shrugged. He stepped into the lead of the procession with the girl cast as Mary.

Matthew took his position behind shepherd one and three sheep. As the choir sung, curiosity overtook him, and he ignored the stage blocking. He edged closer to Buddy. “Who’s Jesus?”

They leaned over the manger and giggled. “Jesus is a doll?”

###

The Stage by Allison Maruska

I take my seat in the front row. As Corina’s biggest fan, I wouldn’t miss this concert for anything.

Bouncing my leg, I wait for her to appear. She’s late. Is something wrong? There – she’s just offstage. Her deep breath lifts the long beads she wears.

Finally, she takes the stage, and I cheer as she poses. The music starts, and Corina performs a song I’ve heard a thousand times. When it ends, I offer a well-deserved standing ovation.

Corina smiles and twists, biting her nail. Then, still in her place on our coffee-table stage, my little girl bows.

###

Ol’ Red Eyes by Juliet Nubel

‘Your daughter danced beautifully.’ The other mum stared at my red-rimmed eyes but didn’t mention them.

‘Yours too’, I lied.

I hadn’t noticed her daughter or any of the other girls. I never do. They are all just a blur of pale legs and lacquered hair, moving around the edges of my own beautiful child.

The tears spring forth whenever she flies onstage. I smile from the heart, but my eyes weep freely from a well, deep within my soul.

Where that well originates will be a lifelong mystery. Her beauty, her grace?

Or just pure, undiluted, crystal-clear pride?

###

The After Party by Geoff Le Pard

As the lights went up, Mary gathered her things. A woman she didn’t know stopped by her seat.

‘Are you Penny’s Mum? She was excellent.’

‘Thanks. Sorry, have…?’

‘Millie’s Mum. Amelia. We lose identity with kids don’t we?’

Mary smiled at this nervy woman. ‘Mary. Penny mentioned a sleepover?’

‘Oh she did? Thank heavens. I wondered. You have an airbed?’

‘Of course. How many…?’

‘Thirteen. Gray thinks me mad.’

Me too, thought Mary.

‘It’s our first since we moved here. I want it to go well.’

‘Being a parent is just another performance, isn’t it? Only without a script.’

###

Performance by Rugby843

“Which one should I wear”, holding the multicolored bow tie in one hand and the shimmering blue in the other. Joe was getting dressed for the Christmas concert and wearing the proper tuxedo coat and pants, but couldn’t make up his mind about the tie.

Usually not nervous about the orchestra’s performance–he always practiced well; tonight was a bit different. His new girlfriend would be in the front row observing him.

Joe fumbled with the bow tie and glanced in the mirror, luckily no zits this night. Rushing out, he forgot to change from his sneakers to dress shoes.

###

Christmas Lights by Norah Colvin

A two-day city visit is never enough, but they were determined – trekking the city, visiting in-store Santas, viewing Christmas-dressed windows, watching street performers, even attending a pantomime, with just a brief playground stop for lunch. The light show was the day’s finale. The tired parents and niggly children collapsed onto the lawn in anticipation. Suddenly the littlest began to perform – crying, screaming, stamping, flailing. Nothing would soothe. The eldest observed, zombie-like. Soon the light-show distracted, occasionally interrupting the performance. Only when the fireworks began, drowning out his cries, did he give in to sleep, sprawled indecorously on the grass.

###

Performance Anxiety (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Standing in the darkened wings, Danni stretched her hips. She arched her back, clasping her hands overhead. On the stage, Evelyn prepped the audience.

This was her moment. She couldn’t see faces, just the heavy beam of overhead stage lights. Her professor taught her tricks to overcome performance anxiety when she realized that as an archeologist she’d occasionally have to give public presentations.

The Sandpoint Theater was packed, and Evelyn was already giving introductions. “Without further ado, Dr. Danni Gordon…”

Walking out into the lights, Danni conjured the friendliest face, as if she were performing just for him – Ike.

###

The Red Devil by Robbie Cheadle

The red devil danced with abandon, and the little girl watched, her attention riveted on the stage. The dancer wore red tights and a red leotard. She had a pointed tail and horns on her head. She even had red ballet shoes. The little girl stood there in her own costume; she was dressed up as a ladybird; and dreamed of being a red devil. She dreamed of dancing like that, all alone on the stage, a wild and uninhibited dance. This memory remained with her as she traveled her chosen path. She never got her own devil outfit.

###

The Audition by Anurag Bakhshi

Helen went on to the stage, bowed towards the judges, and started dancing.

She danced as if no one was watching.

She danced as if her feet were on fire.

She danced as she’d never danced before.

She danced as if she would never dance again.

She kept dancing till her feet bled, and she collapsed on the stage.

Getting up, she bowed towards the judges again, and said, “I wish you’d agreed to give me a chance.”

And then, with a withering look at the corpses of the judges on their seats, Helen left.

Her performance was over.

###

Curtain Call by Lisa Listwa

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Visualize. See yourself in front of the room, comfortable, confident, smiling as you go through the motions…

“Rubbish,” she muttered.

It never works. You can’t deliver a convincing portrayal when your heart isn’t in it. Not really. The words you say are just a script to fool the world into thinking that you actually want to be here.

It’s time for a curtain call and an exit, stage left. But first…one last show.

The first period bell rang and the hallway filled with students heading to classrooms.

This would be the performance of a lifetime.

###

Oh What a Night When She Performed by Lady Lee Manilla

Oh what a night when she performed
Standing room only
From a place that’s always so warm
Crossing the seven seas
Proud of herself, she cried in joy
From the Philippines she’s the envoy
Proud of herself
Proud of herself
As “Miss Saigon” we all enjoyed
Oh what a night when she performed
She was only sixteen
Theatre was full and people swarmed
Marvellous in her scene
Through her journey we felt her pain
Celebrated with her with champagne
Through her journey
And through her journey
We don’t mind watching her again
Oh what a night when she performed

###

The Gales of November (a haibun) by Colleen Chesebro

I watched from my perch upon the beach as the November gales arrived early this year. North winds filled with an anxious rage howled across Lake Superior. Frothy white-capped waves erupted in a crescendo of deafening sounds, pounding for attention against the agate strewn sands. The spray splashed against my face like tears falling in a sorrowful refrain. Amidst the roiling of the storm, a quiet and gentle acceptance surfaced within me. I acknowledged my loneliness knowing that this too shall change. The show must go on.

Primeval gems–
Storm born, birthed on barren shores,
Remind me of home.

###

LIGHT; messaging (reverse haibun + two words) by JulesPaige

the cursor blinking
waits to advance – the curse,
blessing; advances –

As the cusser and controller of the keys, the writer walks
that odd line through. I stand watching the squirrels out the
window like acrobats unafraid of tree limb heights. Spying
on the line up of birds taking turns at the feeder. Woodpeckers,
Junko, Mourning dove, mockingbird… pecker, junk, mourning,
mocking… is there a secret message from nature? That present
darkness, swooning like a lost love. As dawn breaks and the
sky turns a faint blue, who else is looking for the light of the
bright sun to shine?

###

The Show Goes On by D. Avery

A long running show, somewhat predictable, though performed live; it could go off script, could still surprise the players as well as the audience, something she used to enjoy.

She was well respected for her roles, yet, despite her experience, her pre-show jitters were getting worse instead of better. Onstage, if the tempo slowed at all, she was aware of a persistent anxiety, always ready to prompt her from behind the curtain, whispering to her of her inadequacies.

“Good morning, how are you?”

She smiled. “Fine.”

8:01 A.M.

She had gotten through her first act, had given a convincing performance.

###

The Performance by Irene Waters

Fatigued, Jessica lent on the counter yet still she smiled as though they were the centre of her world. She had the same conversations with different people all day, every day; their families, their hopes and dreams, the weather. The weather loomed large but it was so boring. Everything was boring. They didn’t suspect. They talked at her, thinking she cared. Her genuine, eye crinkling smiles made them think they’d made her day.

She’d had an authentic smile this morning when she overheard, “When we drop into the shop it brightens Jessica up.” Yes her performance was very good.

###

Training, It’s Draining by Neel Anil Panicker

Two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes and still counting. There’s no signs of the torture ever coming to an end. From his secluded perch in the far right hand corner, I watch with eyes as dead as of a dodo’s at the ‘actors’ and their ‘performances’.

The powers that be had even thought out a name for this form of extreme sadism, grandly christening it as ‘ANNUAL SKILL UPLIFTMENT SESSION’.

My foot! The only skill upliftment was that the hapless trainees had by now learnt how to fall into deep slumber with their eyes split wide open.

###

Sideshow by TellingStoriesTogether

“Observe,” said the showman, pointing with his cane. “This bizarre creature is so fragile, even the slightest variance of temperature causes it distress.”

He turned the valve with one of his myriad tentacles, and the glass tank lit up red. The creature within balled up its pathetic appendages and howled in anguish.

“Hear how it passes air over flaps of flesh within its throat to make sound?” said the showman. “A primitive, but effective form of communication.”

He bowed and doffed the top hat from atop one of his several eye stalks. “Ladies, gentlemen, larvae… I give you, man!”

###

Yoko’s Performance Deconstructs the Male Gaze by Anne Goodwin

Come, you know you want to! Haven’t you done this a thousand times in your mind? Forget it’s me up here, under the lights, with the power of my reputation. My name. Imagine a moonless night, a drunken stagger in a too-short skirt; she can’t remember where she left her friends, her bank card, her phone. She’s asking for it, can’t you see? As I am, now. Look how easy I’ve made it for you with the scissors. No need for savage clawing with your hands. I won’t struggle. I won’t protest. Won’t speak. Come, cut away my clothes!

###

My Mouth-Watering Performance by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“All I remember,” I pause, heaving a shuddering sigh, “Was walking into the downstairs parlor. It was dark, but I smelled swampland. I stepped in a patch of something wet and my feet flew out from under me.

“And then I came to and saw your dear face hovering above me,” I grasp his brawny bicep, offering up a shaky smile. “But your fiancée, Melanie, has been…eviscerated.”

“Murdered by the Swamp Thing!” Lawrence clenches his fists. “I swear I won’t rest until it’s destroyed!”

“Of course, Dear,” I murmur, picking a strand of swamp grass from my teeth.

###

Performance by Lisa Rey

Shane was at the murder scene. A young man lay there dead. Twenty at most. He surveyed the scene with emotionless eyes and gathered the details from witnesses, fellow officers and the forensic team. He was known in this macho world as a guy who got the job done. No sentimentality.

But when he got home, he wheeled himself into his flat. He sat down with his husband Alan and admitted he was rattled by today’s events. He secretly couldn’t get used to the destruction people caused. But acting unsentimental was the way he felt got results. And justice.

###

Viva la Diva by D. Avery

“Told ya Pal.”

“Told me what?”

“All the world’s a stage.”

“Yep, s’pose so. Hey, do you dance, Kid?”

“Jist the can’t-can’t. Why? Hope Shorty’s ain’t plannin’ some sorta ballet here at Carrot Ranch.”

“Naw, her dancin’ lessons are of the 99 word variety.”

“Gotta tell ya, Shorty’s a tough act ta follow. Such strong performances every week.”

“Yep, Shorty’s writin’s a gift.”

“Pal, ta say that diminishes the fact that Shorty’s sharpened her skills an’ honed her craft through perseverance an’ hard work.”

“Kid, I meant Shorty’s writin’s a gift ta all us.”

“Oh. Now I’m readin’ ya.”

###

 

 

Practicing Self-Care

Practicing self-care by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEleanor Roosevelt may have said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” but when taking courage you also need to take care. Not of others. Of your self. It’s a bit like the oxygen mask on a flight — if you can’t breathe how can you help others?

This week writers explored what self-care looks like. With varying perspectives, this collection offers a mélange of ideas. Read and take care!

The following are based on the November 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes self-care.

***

Blue Moon by Juliet Nubel

She never knew which one to choose. She owned dozens, all lined up in neat, colourful rows inside a shiny, purple box.

Their names were so extravagant – Mayfair Lane, Undercover Show, Pussycat was Here.

She settled for Misty Jade, a colour from the depths of the Caribbean sea.

Slowly stroking the brush onto her short, brittle nails, she dreamt of an island, with warmer climes, where she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

A place where she could paint her nails, lie back and idly watch them dry, every single day. Not just once in a pale blue moon.

###

Caring for Himself by Michael

The last time I picked my older brother up out of the gutter he was in the worst condition I’d seen him in. Drunk, unable to stand and as incoherent as always. I bundled him into the car and took him home. The next morning, I told him it was now time for him to start caring for himself.

I wasn’t going to pick him up anymore as my family needed me too.

I dropped him off and watched him reluctantly enter the facility. With fingers crossed I lived in hope. He lasted a week. The rest is history.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

We all cope to the best of our ability, but just one little thing can throw us over the edge into the abyss of depression.

Enter ME TIME, a must for everyone at some time or another, the secret is to recognise When before things spin out of control.
Some write, some walk, some cook, some eat.

Music is my safety valve, and my Dad always knew when something was on my mind.

Each piece I play has a significance, but Dad would listen as it wasn’t what I played, but the way I played it that spoke volumes.

***

Free by FloridaBorne

June stood at the kitchen door, eyeing the knife next to her mother’s cutting board.

“I talked to my social worker. I’m moving out.”

“I’m your legal guardian,” her mother frowned. “I told her, ’absolutely NOT.’”

“I can take care of myself!” June insisted.

“You’re retarded!”

“That’s not a nice word, Leslie.”

“Why can’t you call me mom?”

“You act like a prison guard!”

Mom scoffed, opening the fridge, her ample body covering the door. June grabbed the knife, plunging it into Leslie’s rib cage.

She stared into her mother’s startled eyes and whispered, “Now I can be free.”

###

Guidance by Jordan Corley

“Brogan, what are you doing here? Have you been admitted again? The other nurses told me you were doing well.”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that. I just-”

Suddenly Sarah’s door flung open and she came wobbling out, carefully pulling her IV pole behind her.

“Hi Brogan!,” Sarah squeaked, “I can’t believe it’s been a week already! It feels like you were just here.”

“Well I wrote a new song I’ve just been dying to sing with someone. And look, I brought Elf and popcorn! I thought we could have a movie night this time.”

###

Meditation/Medication (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“I wish you’d seen the doctor, gotten some Valium or something.”

Torrey edges up the security line, pulling her wheelie, Lesley moving beside her on the other side of the rubber stanchion. “Don’t worry about it, Lesley. I’ll be fine once I get up to the concourse. It’s like a great big mall up there.”

“Oh! That reminds me! I heard there’s a new place you can get a pre-flight massage, aromatherapy…self-care, soothing. Meditate your anxiety away.”

Torrey barks a shaky laugh. “Or there’s booze, because flying sucks. The world’s most sincere drinking is done in airport bars.”

###

Party of One by Chelsea Owens

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

###

The Joy of Giving by Parinitha

I am a 75-year-old beggar who lives by the banks of the Ganges. On days I am too ill to beg alms, my wife and I sleep hungry. I try to make my absence inconspicuous, but one day, she tracks me down. “This is ridiculous”, she yells. Every day, I share my food with a homeless crippled man from across the street. The joy of being on the other side of the plate is priceless. It makes me forget my misery momentarily. Isn’t the ability to Give a luxury? Is my therapy of self-care is so bad after all?

###

Socks for Self-Care (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Dr. Danni Gordon! Good to see you!”

Danni unloaded her ruck sack and hugged Carly. “Thank you for making homeless vets your beneficiary this year.”

“Anything to help our military.”

Danni had sent Carly a list to broadcast: socks, toothbrushes, blankets. Spread out on a long table, women organized the items before packing into backpacks for the homeless in Spokane. Danni added Army surplus socks to the pile.

“What an ugly green,” said one woman.

Danni explained. “It’s a familiar color and texture to these men. Sometimes familiarity is the path to self-care for those who’ve lost their way.”

###

Rest. In. Peace. by Norah Colvin

“You really should take a break,” they suggested.

“I can’t. Too much to do.”

“You need time off,” they said.

“I know. Soon.”

Eventually, “I’m taking a break,” she said.

The afternoon sun warmed as the sand caressed her aching body. Her eyes closed. Only an occasional seagull’s squawk interrupted the repetitive swoo-oosh of the waves that jumbled with the office cacophony looping incessantly.

“What? What happened?” they asked.

He scrolled quickly, searching for details.

“Sleeping. On beach. Seagull – ha!– dropped a baby turtle – landed on her head – died instantly.”

“And we thought work would kill her!”

###

The Accident by Kate Spencer

“So tell me what happened,” asked Granny knitting by the roaring fireplace.

“It was surreal,” whispered Carrie, lying stretched out on the chesterfield with a heating pad around her neck. “One minute I was making a left-hand turn out of the parking lot and the next minute I felt as if I was sitting there watching the accident unfold in a slow-motion movie.”

“Sweetie, you had what is known as a shock induced out-of-body experience. I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of protecting us.”

“Cool. ‘Know what Granny?”

“What?”

“You’re exactly what I need tonight.”

###

Another Lesson in Self-Care by Sarrah J Woods

It’s Sunday morning and I’m overwhelmed. The bright sun outside only aggravates me more; I long to be lounging in it. But I’ve got dishes, laundry, and more to do, and not much longer before the babies wake up.

My husband, tired as I am, sits unbudging in front of the TV while I clean—and grumble—around him.

Finally, exasperated, I stalk outside. The air is warm and quiet.

Then I realize: he’s expecting me to do what I need.

And how can he help if I don’t leave room?

I lie down in the grass and breathe.

###

The Choice by Colleen Chesebro

Painful sobs wracked her body while anguished cries escaped from her throat with an unrecognized resonance. She finally understood that death in its malevolence took what it desired leaving an emptiness in its wake. She knew she needed to survive by moving forward or she’d perish.

Nearby, the crystals beckoned to her emitting an ethereal glow. Meditate, they whispered. Align your chakras and feel your healing life force restored. She sat, quieting her breath, slipping into a meditative state. Her breath inhaled the restorative energy while exhaling the grief and loss.

Revitalized by love, she accepted a new path.

###

Changing Colors by Reena Saxena

I picked up a cheap perfume from the counter, and was floating on a cloud after using it. My conservative husband found it too strong for his staid sensibilities.

“Why do you need to use this? You own better stuff.”

“Sure. But this makes me feel young again. I could afford only this brand at eighteen, with my meagre pocket money, but managed to attract attention,” I grinned.

“Aaahh! What are the other brands which you used then? It makes me see you in a new light.”

Our world was changing from a formal gray to an exuberant yellow.

###

Back Up by Sherri Matthews

The receptionist was as chirpy as Mandy remembered her.

‘I would like to make an appointment for a check-up please…’ Mandy heard the waver in her own voice.

The pain from the last visit had long gone, but the fear-filled memory of it lingered for years. She had stopped going altogether after that, and then everything fell away.

Years later, Mandy began her slow, uphill climb with a visit to the hairdresser. An office party she dreaded but could no longer avoid. It had meant a new outfit too.

Then Mandy called the dentist for a long-overdue check up.

###

Control What You Can by Susan Sleggs

“In the past three weeks, we had to move into our new house before the painters and rug layers were done, there were two deaths in my wife’s family and our daughter was in a car wreck and can’t go back to work.”

“How are you coping with such trials?”

“I’m a patient man, but I want answers. I’m praying a lot.”

“How about your wife?”

“I helped her unpack the quilting room and I cut fabric for her to sew, then sent her to lunch with her friends. She felt better after accomplishing something and receiving healing hugs.”

###

Flash Fiction by Heather Gonzalez

Joe was known for a special brand of self-care which always ended at the bottom of his favorite bottle of whiskey. After the war was over, many soldiers went on to lead healthy productive lives, but Joe was not one of them.

The war had consumed his personality and left him a hollow shell. As much as he wanted to be almost normal, he knew that he was forever changed by what he saw. The small innocent face that appeared in the window as he burned down the village always brings him back to the bottom of the bottle.

###

Self-Care by Sarah Brentyn

She looked in the mirror at the woman she swore she would never become.

A soft, almost-youthful face with fine lines.

A handful of grey hairs hiding beneath dark blonde strands.

A pudgy middle pushing the waistband of her favorite pair of jeans.

The image irritated her. Angered her.

How had she become this…thing? This wife of a man who created her with perfectly weaved words of manipulation and cruelty then cheated on her for becoming his creation.

Time for some self-care.

She grabbed the prescription bottle, smiling for the first time in months, and dumped her husband’s heart medication.

###

The Alien Planet by Anuragbakhshi

My spaceship crashed, and as I struggled to somehow extricate myself from the debris, I thought about the importance of my mission- It was not every day that a new inhabited planet was discovered, and a senior diplomat like me sent there to make contact with the aliens.

The twisted metal and broken wires were impeding any movement, and I had nothing but my own strength and ingenuity to depend upon. Remembering my objective, I used all my resourcefulness and finally managed to free myself. I could now proceed on my mission to conquer this backward planet called Earth.

###

Booth by TellingStoriesTogether
Toshi sat down in the foam chair inside the Med-Fix booth. He’d tried, once, to sleep in a booth, only to have it blare increasingly abrasive warnings. But this time he had a thousand yen in his coat pocket, enough for five minutes of legally disclaimed medical and psychiatric care.
Toshi fed the money in, and the screen before him glowed blue. He explained everything from the nagging chest cold he’d had for two weeks now, to losing his job and living in an internet cafe.
The screen showed his results: “Recommended treatment: euthanasia. Please press ‘Yes’ to proceed.”
###

Inkless Blots by Jules Paige

“Life” used to be captured with a pen in a notebook. The
daily writing routine morphed; using a keyboard, unlocking
keys of alphabet letters and sentencing them to sensible
words scripting daily insights into blog; feeding an electronic
community where static electricity was controlled, by the
bribery of imagination and miscellaneous musings.

Cheaper than paying a therapist or a life coach – getting
encouraged by other writers who walked the same crooked
path. June marched, occasionally dancing when someone
liked or showed the slightest interest in her inkless blots.
Slowly gaining confidence that she actually could call herself…
a writer.

###

There’s No Writer Wrong by Bill Engleson

“He’s been at it for days. I’m getting quite worried.”

“He’s an adult Joanie. It’s his decision.”

“But…he’s a writer, for heaven sakes. He doesn’t live in the real world. He spends most of his time in a messy little nook in his head. He’s always going off on a tangent.”

“And now he’s trying to take care of himself. Look at him. He’s become a scrunched-up pretzel of a man, hunched over in a writing frenzy.”

“That’s what I mean. I don’t think solo Kama Sutra Yoga and a forty-ounce jug of red wine ought to be mixed.”

###

I Made a Mountain by Anne Goodwin

I made a mountain. They could not knock it down. But they did not join me on the zigzag path through meadow, woods and moorland to the craggy top. Instead, they dragged me to molehill, had me admire its contours, the texture of its soil. They bathed it in sunshine, cloaked my hill in mist. The only mountains they’d acknowledge were the Everests that pierced the cloud.

I fought through fog to find my mountain, and walked alone along its trails. Birds sang, flowers bloomed, rock glistened in the damp air. I made a mountain. I made it mine.

###

Self-Care Through Word Salad by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Impression management. Measured words. Think before you write. Intentionality, thought-FULL-ness is all. Be politically correct, especially if that’s not your usual inclination. Diagram your structure, have your measurable outcome in sight.

This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no party. This ain’t no foolin’ around!

Stop making sense. Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Slop a little coffee over that mess, but avoid the hard drive.

Don’t stop. Believin’. Let out all those feelings.

Your job right now is to get your foot off the muse’s tail and let it gallop around the room.

I love a morning write.

###

New Mum SOS by Ritu Bhathal

The crying was relentless, but who else was going to do anything?

He was at work all day, he needed his sleep.

She was exhausted.

“It’s okay,” they all said, “just sleep when the baby does. You’ll be fine!”

What world did they live in? Self-care with a newborn…? Impossible.

When was she meant to do the housework, the laundry, the cooking, if not when the little mite was taking his precious naps?
But after thirteen weeks of sleepless nights and little support from anyone, she was ready to muffle the cries with the pillow currently covering her head…

###

Ladies First by Chesea Owens

“I’ve got to shop for pants today,”
She told the stingy traffic lights.
She told the grocer and the pump;
And then, the quickly-coming night.

“I’d love to try this recipe,”
She said, as they drew near to home;
With only time for Mac ‘N Cheese,
‘Midst whining, falsely-crying tones.

“A bath would be a lovely break
Whilst reading Lover’s Passioned Call.”
Alas, the heated water drained,
Whilst splashing children took it all.

The lights were off; he found her there,
Her loving, all-day-working man.
“I thought you wanted time alone.”
She sniffed; she said, “And, here I am.”

###

Mom’s Me Time by Kerry E. B. Black

Moms don’t usually get “me time,” so when the opportunity presented itself, Kaylee almost did not recognize it. Her husband and her in-laws took the kids to a matinee. Kaylee stripped the beds and threw in a load of laundry before it dawned on her. She had the house to herself. She could operate the television remote control without hearing groans. A bubble bath surrounded by scented candles could be hers. When she set the kettle on, she ignored the dishes in the sink and steeped a cup of tea and enjoyed an uninterrupted date with a long-neglected book

###

Santa Self-Care by Frank Hubeny

Mark loudly rang his own doorbell. “Thank you, Santa!” He heard Julie’s feet pitter-patter as she rushed to the door. “Have a nice day, Santa, in your snowy fairy glen at the North Pole.”

Julie looked outside. “Where’s Santa?”

“Sorry, Julie. Santa’s gone. He left gifts for you.”

Eventually someone would have to tell his daughter about Santa, but Mark couldn’t do it. She’ll have to cure herself even if she breaks her own heart.

Later that day Julie answered the door. “Santa! Back so soon?”

“Who was that?”

“Sorry, Dad. Santa’s gone, but he left you this present.”

###

The Care Bearing Of The Spotlessly Declined by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why so glum?’

‘Mrs Twistelton says I don’t care enough to be in the orchestra.’

Mary stopped writing. ‘Do you?’

‘Muuum!’

‘You hardly practice.’

‘Everyone is in the Orchestra.’

‘Everyone?’

‘Maisie, and the girls.’

‘Ah! Maisie. I hear her name a lot.’

‘She’s cool.’

‘Once I wanted to be a cleaner – I know, me – because Daisy Fullerton had a cleaning job that paid for her cool clothes. Hated it. I learnt.’

‘What?’

‘I needed to care about myself and what I really wanted.’

‘It’s different now.’ Penny wandered off.

‘Really?’ Mary said to the space vacated by her daughter.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

At home, Mom’s been busy. Swabs of cotton on the floor, the kind from a pill bottle. It looks like she shook her purse out all over the kitchen. A pungent smell leads me to a box of hair dye by the sink…scissors…chunks of hair…

I hit the steps with stuttered breaths, my throat closing. What I’d give for just one boring, uneventful day. To come home without holding my breath. Lately I’ve been thinking about taking off, just being done with it all.
But I can’t leave.

Because what if she fell?

Or worse, what if she jumped?

###

Self-Care by Irene Waters

Prue’s mother was proving difficult. “Mum, self-care is the most appropriate place for you.”

“I’ll stay here if I have to self-care. I want help.”

“But Mum in self-care you get help. Meals are provided, cleaning done, bed linen changed and washed plus you can opt for more services.”

“Then why call it self-care. More like aided living.”

“Self -care is because you remain independent. You don’t need nursing. Aided living is a nursing home.”

“Send me to a nursing home. I’ve had looking after myself.”

“I know Mum. How about going to ‘Care… for the Self?”

“Sounds good.”

###

Ranch Yarn by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, you oughtta join my self-heppin’-advocatin’-together group- S.H.A.T.”

“Ain’t bein’ no part a yer SHAT group. What the shat you on about anyway?”

“What Shorty said. Self-hep.”

“Shorty said self-care, so I reckon it’s S.C.A.T., an’ I’m hopin’ ya do.”

“Testy… You need a stage coach.”

“Stagecoach?!”

“Yeah, stage coach. Ta hep ya git through all yer rough stages in life. Talk ya through the prickly patches.”

“I swear, Kid, sometimes I’d like ta put you on a stage, send ya back where ever ya come from.”

“All the world’s a stage, Pal, ya oughtta try’n play nice.”

###

November 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

In the US, November 23 is a day of feasting. Not the date, but the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving we call it, and it centers on a roast turkey.

Legend has it, Benjamin Franklin favored the turkey as America’s symbol. Some people find the thought silly because they find turkeys silly. I spent my formative years between three ranches — two cattle ranches and a turkey ranch. That might sound silly, too: A turkey ranch. When you realize turkeys once roamed before “free-range” became a designer label at the grocery store, then ranch fits.

Paullus Turkey Ranch in California

Instead, the US chose a bully of regal raptors, the American bald eagle. As a national bird, would the turkey have led us to be more thoughtful in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Perhaps. But it would have been weird to eat the national bird once a year for a decidedly American holiday.

Feasting might not be unique, but the foodstuff set upon a Thanksgiving table originated in the “New World.” Potatoes, yams, cranberries, pumpkins and turkey. To this we add the flavors of our immigrant roots. Does my love of butter and bacon reveal Irish DNA? Does the essence of tarragon waft all the way back to 1840s France? Does smoked Spanish paprika reflect the influence of my native California?

This year we revived several vegan recipes. Runner, Rock Climber, and Radio Geek are all gathering  in the Keweenaw. Radio Geek’s husband, Solar Man, is taking the other two back to Wisconsin and Minneapolis (to fly back to Montana before returning to Svalbard, Norway) so he’ll get a second feast with his family in the Twin Cities. With so much food on the menu, we’ve focused on health as much as feast — less white, more greens. We’ve been talking about eating more fruits and vegetables.

The World Health Organization promotes healthier eating with a 5 a Day (fruits and veggies) campaign in many nations across the globe. It sounds simple, but one aspect of food injustice (at least in the US) is that junk food and filling carbs cost significantly less than fresh fruits and vegetables. Expense is a secondary concern to health, and often it prevents consistent choices.

Returning to grow-our-own is an answer. Urban gardening, community gardens, container gardening, gleaning (of fruit trees in neighbors and on city streets), Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), food cooperatives, cheese artisans, family ranches and farmers markets all serve a sector called community food systems. The people involved in these systems seek to overcome the barriers  to 5 a Day through improved access at a local level.

At one time, community food was my beat.

The Keweenaw Co-op is within a few blocks of my daughter and son-in-law’s house. It’s tiny compared to the large cooperative grocer I once worked for as marketing manager. It’s even smaller than the ones I used to audit or assist in developing marketing plans. Size doesn’t matter. It’s the impact. It’s about bringing fresh regional food to people at a fair price. From farmer to diner, it’s meant to be a sustainable system.

Ten years ago, my co-op hired a meat manager who was an old-time butcher with skills nearly forgotten. It might seem as silly as a brass turkey on a flagpole, but butchering skills are disappearing in the US. With the spread of big-box retail like Wal-Mart, meat processing in the US is completed at the factory. “Butchers” in grocery stores receive shipments of boxed product machine cut (or ground), packaged and frozen.

My friend, the Butcher, knew all about carving whole hanging beef. I did too (remember, ranches?). Our store wanted to work with small family producers to grow beef, pork and poultry according to our clean standards (no fed or injections of antibiotics or hormones, and animals must have access to sunshine, fresh air and be grass-fed). We had the market, and the Butcher had the connections.

One of the small family farms we worked with was Ferndale. They knew turkeys and had raised them for three generations with open access (free-range). They worked with our standards, and for many years they became the signature turkey of my co-op. They were one of six stories a year my marketing team produced in video, magazine, photography and social media. My strategy was to express the brand with the stories about the faces and places behind the food we sold

You can go to Ferndale’s website and see remnants of this work. The top right photo is one I took years ago while sitting in a pasture surrounded by white and red turkeys all giving me the curious one-eyed look. That moment feels like yesterday. You can see the soft glow of a setting sun that cast a glow on red glottals. For me, it’s a bit of a legacy. Not the stories left behind in video, print and photography. But the knowing that I was part of the stories.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered the Keweenaw Co-op planned to special order Ferndale turkeys for Thanksgiving! I’ve moved on from writing about food and sadly, my friend the Butcher died several years ago. The Peterson’s operation looks strong for the fourth generation. And I am serving my family something more than the 5 a Day. Yes, healthy veggies, but also the continuing experience of our Thanksgiving stories.

And for a special treat — if you like recipes — I’m sharing a few recipes from our feasting table. These are ones that include fruits and vegetables, and can be enjoyed across the globe, not just at Thanksgiving time.

Savory Apple Cider

1 gallon local cider
½ C. frozen blueberries
Peel from 1 lemon
10 whole allspice
20 whole peppercorns
5 whole cloves
¼ tsp. cardamom seeds
½ vanilla bean, halved
½ tsp. cinnamon

Pour cider into a stockpot. Add lemon peel as long strips (not zest). Add frozen blueberries and spices. Heat on stovetop, but do not bring to a boil. Simmer and allow the aroma to infuse the kitchen. Serve after 30 minutes. Keep warm in a crockpot, or store in fridge and reheat later.

Roasted Root Veggies

3 large red beets, peeled and chunked into bites
3 large golden beets, peeled and chunked into bites
2 medium turnips, peeled and chunked into bites
2 large parsnips, peeled and chunked into bites
1 large rutabaga, peeled and chunked into bites
8 large shallots, peeled and halved
12 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
¼ C. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tarragon
Applewood smoked salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste

Combine vegetables, herbs and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Turn out vegetables onto two cooking sheets. Roast vegetables 30 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 375°F. Reverse baking sheets (top rack to bottom rack) and continue to roast until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes longer. Transfer to platter and serve.

Boozy Cranberry Sauce

1-12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
1 C. sugar
2 1⁄4 tsp. zest of a blood orange
1⁄4 tsp. cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1 vanilla bean

½ C. Scotch (adjust to taste; booze does not boil off, so add to turkey sandwiches responsibly)

Combine cranberries, sugar and zest in an over casserole. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape into cranberry mixture and add bean. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove to stir, return to oven and bake another 30 minutes. Pull from over and stir in the Scotch. Transfer sauce to a medium bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate. Can be made one week ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, near or far. We need a day to break bread, gather around the table and tell stories.

November 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Five a Day. It does not have to be five servings of fruits and vegetables. What is needed five times a day? Have fun with what pops to mind for the prompt.

Respond by November 28, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published November 29). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

A Better Five a Day by Charli Mills

Five a day, Mama says. Doesn’t she know how awful they taste? Crunchy raw spindles and squishy flavorless lumps. Good for you, Dad crows. Honestly, I prefer the mash the neighboring farmer drops by our house. Mama says it’s not organic.

My skinny legs chase after tastier treats. Beyond the place where parents coop my culinary dreams I have a secret spot to dream. Beyond our scratch existence meanders a brook with a magical bush. That’s where I found the round globes sweeter than any clover.

Blueberries! I’m in chicken heaven! Better than five insects or worms any day.

Of Porches & Chairs

Like another dimension, the porch invites us across the threshold. We can obverse the world from here. Or be observed. Every porch needs a chair to complete this transportation from the world.

Writers explored the world of a porch with a chair this week. As you might suspect, the responding stories include many different porches. Cross over and read awhile.

The following stories are based on the November 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story a chair on a porch.

***

The Red Chair by Lisa Listwa

Rob’s heart beat faster as he parked his pickup and climbed the steps to the porch. The little red chair sitting in the corner couldn’t be the same one he lost years ago, but he had to ask.

It had been his dad’s chair first, then his. Rob couldn’t remember if it was lost by accident or thrown away on purpose, but he wished he still had it. The same could be said of his dad, if truth be told.

He knocked.

“Ma’am?” he said to the woman behind the screen door, “I was wondering about the red chair…”

###

Just Her Size by Kerry E.B. Black

The sight nearly made Kai cry. A child-sized wooden rocking chair for which she’d searched.

“Just what the doctor ordered.”

Literally.

Kai didn’t haggle, simply handed over the asked for amount and hugged the chair with possessive eagerness. It fit between the pediatric wheelchair and the unused walker in her van’s trunk.

She set it beside their fireplace, certain the view included access to the television and allowed for easy conversation. When her daughter arrived home from school, Kai ushered her inside.

The child squealed with delight. A chair just her size which could help improve her muscle control.

###

Chair on the Porch by Deborah Lee

Lora steps out of the SUV and inhales deeply, the scent of dead leaves and humus and apples, oddly enough. She doesn’t remember apple trees around here.

She picks through brambles to the overgrown cabin. How many years since anyone has been here, this jewel in the woods, where they used to hide from civilization?

She eases into the cobwebbed chair on the tiny porch. She has just settled her gaze on the autumn-brilliant tree line when a splintering crash lands her on the plank boards.

Maybe you can go home again, but you have to fix it first.

###

A Chair on the Porch by Ruchira Khanna

“Maggi!”

No response.

“Can’t find the girl anywhere in the house. Aha! Must be on the porch on her old ragged chair.” Mom muttered as she stepped towards the patio.

“Cathedra, Alison did not invite me to her b’day party and instead poked fun at my dress.”

Maggi whimpered as she caressed the arm of the chair.

“She is not my friend anymore!”

Wiping her tears, “But you will always be my pal since you are here to listen to my pain and joys.”

Mom overheard and changed her opinion. She was now in awe of the chair!

###

Rock On by Sherri Matthews

Rain pelted the window like small stones.

“Will Jax find his way home in this?” Andy ran his face across his sleeve in a failed attempt to stem his tears.

“Oh Honey, he’s a cat, no amount of rain will keep him away.”

“But mama…” Andy wailed.

A tap came at the door. Then another; and again. Rhythmic. It took a few more before mother realised it was the tap of the rocking chair on the porch.
She edged open the door and found a soggy ball of Jax fur curled up on the rocker like he’d never left.

###

Empty Rocker by Diana Ngai

John sank into the porch rocker, pulling a blanket over his lap; the cat looked to John expectantly. “I miss her, too,” he whispered as he reached to scratch its furry chin. John closed his eyes and recalled they way she snuggled in his lap as they read stories and rocked together. Later, at ten-years-old, she had sat and read on her own.

The rocker had been empty for almost a year now; no one had dared to disturb the dust. But, today’s news reported another bullet, another daughter taken. John came back to the chair and wept.

###

Flash Fiction by Ritu Bhathal

Nanna would always be sat there in her chair on the porch.

I would spend hours with her, sat at her feet as a child, playing with my dolls, or reading a book. Sometimes she’d read me a story.

As I got older, she was still there, my sounding board, always giving me sage, simple advice for any problems I was facing.

Today I really need her. It’s a big step I’m about to take. I only wish she was still here…

Looking over, the empty rocking chair slowly creaks, as if encouraging me.

See, she is still here.

###

Flash Fiction by FloridaBorne

Growing up in the south, porches extended around the house and windows were so large that breezes flew freely through each room. Shotgun doors meant you could run from the front yard to the back in a straight line and race through trees surrounding the house with shade.

Grandma sat in her rocker watching a golden sun pour across the earth from the front door. We awoke to her rocker creaking near our back porch window.
Nowadays, people cut all the trees down, have a few small windows, use air-conditioning, and complain about the heat. I miss common sense.

###

Porch by Judy E. Martin

Amelia sank into the overstuffed chair which enveloped her body with warmth.

“The, ahem, Doctor will be with you shortly, Miss.”

Nervously, twisting her rings, Amelia’s stomach lurched contemplating what she was about to do.

Distracting herself from the pounding in her head, she glanced around the porch. Comfortable and homely, like any other house in a pleasant neighbourhood. Only it wasn’t. The odorous smell of bleach pervaded the room; Amelia shuddered.

“How many desperate women had sat on this chair awaiting their fate?”

“Good morning Ms Johnson.”

“It’s Sergeant actually. I am arresting you on suspicion of murder…”

###

Where Stories Begin by Charli Mills

Between Danni and the front door sagged a small front porch. Inside the cabin lived a former log-skidder. Rumor had it Old Man Moe was blind, but his stories of the Great Fires of 1910 remained vivid.

“Take a chair,” spoke a voice behind her.

Danni startled, not hearing the man with foggy eyes ride up on a mule. “Moe, I’m the Forest Service archeologist.”

Moe slid from the saddle as if sighted, and walked confidently up the decrepit stairs to one of two rickety wooden chairs. He patted the one next to him. “Stories begin here Doc Gordon.”

###

The Chair on the Porch by Crystal Cook

When the autumn winds blew, the old rocking chair came to life and creaked a ghostly sound, familiar and comforting.

Through the window she watched the weathered wooden armrest gently come into view and disappear again, like the ebb and flow of her memories.

When she closed her eyes, she’d imagine him sitting there with the Sunday paper on his lap, rocking to the rhythm of her beating heart.

She tolerated the still, summer days knowing the season would soon enough change and the winds would come, bringing with them, her fading memory of him.

###

The Notice by Colleen Chesebro

Zane leaned back in his chair. He popped a handful of sunflower seeds into one side of his mouth while spitting out the shells with the other. Zane had much to mull over, and the porch offered no judgments.

The government warning said using Neonicotinoids in the seed treatments for the wheat crop was the reason the bees were dying. It was nonsense, and it rankled against his understanding of how insecticides worked.

He was a farmer, and the Feds didn’t know how to grow wheat. He ripped up the notice and let the scraps blow in the wind.

###

Porch Settin by Elliott Lyngreen

The porch swing was made of logs. There, Elsie passed fyre to the aromatic Heather Glastonbury like a powerful message.

Patrick Hamilton and Bowen traded cards for beer sips on a capstone.

Garrison Grantley discussed various lyrics stemmed from radio speakers perfectly screened through, surrounding Chuck Koehler’s deep reflections.

“Wanna hit, Lynk?” Laurian softened me as the flame recourse around the ledges and wide opening at the stairs from one to the next within arms reaches.

The metronome swinging, sneaked the crumbling indifference exchanging Elsie’s dreams for Heather’s observation of the traffic and streetlights forming a smiley face.

###

The Chair by Hugh Roberts

As the sun set, Agatha Brunell sat in her favourite chair knowing that her life was about to end.

Her sixty-nine years of life had been amazing. She’d never allowed anyone to get the better of her. Now, however, she knew it was time to leave her favourite lumpy chair for the very last time.

“Goodbye, chair,” she said, as she placed the gun to her head. “You were my saviour and the perfect place to hide the hair of my victims.”

As the police closed in, the sound of the gun told them they were too late.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Emotional blackmail, cheating spouses, bootleg liquor, illicit meetings, pregnant minors whisked away in the middle of the night, moonlight flits to avoid debt collectors, whispered secrets, drunken brawls, child and animal abuse. The list was endless.

There was only one witness.

The creaking rocking chair gave him away and he was found murdered in it on his porch, his throat slit from ear to ear.

The owner of number 12 thought he’d got away with it as there was no evidence.

As he beat his wife for burning his supper, the chair on the porch creaked and started to rock.

###

The Porch by Annette Rochelle Aben

Don walked his faithful companion of 18 years across the street. He and Duke were just going to sit on the white, wicker rocker until Nancy got home from work.

Making himself comfortable, Don looked back at the unfamiliar house he had just come out of and wondered who lived there. The warm, late summer sun was going behind Nancy’s house and it was chilly. He knew she’d be home soon.

Lori turned onto her street and noticed Don and Duke on her porch. They appeared to be napping, just like they did most days since her mom’s funeral.

###

Montressor House by Stephanie Ascough

Penelope found the chair on the old house’s back porch. Strange, for an armchair to sit outside a historical museum. She looked over her shoulder. The tour guide’s muffled voice faded behind the porch door.

“I feel like Goldilocks,” Penelope said. The armchair enveloped her in the deep, cushioned seat. Over the railing, sunlight sparkled on the lake and the skyscrapers of downtown. A splash caught her attention. Was it the famed lake monster of Montressor House? Penelope squinted, scanning the water eagerly when the voice spoke. Downtown disappeared in sudden mist.

“Well, you know what happened to Goldilocks.”

###

Serenity Steeple Chase by Ruth Cox

In the dark of night while sitting alone on the front porch in an old rocking lawn chair I find I feel serenity. I need only look to the sky; chase the steeple with mine eyes.

Mesmerized by the sight of the light, I am mindful of the moment.

At the steeple of peace I stare as I rock to and fro in my chair. Back and forth, and once again.

I pause, listen to the nothingness in the still of the night.

Silence steals my serenity.

Come Sunday morning this girl’s going to church!

###

The Old Chair by Michael

When his dad died, and he inherited the house, there were so many reminders of his dad. The one that impacted on him the most was the old wicker chair on the front porch. It was here that his dad sat most afternoons watching the neighbourhood go by. The two of them had sat there in his dad’s declining years talking over world issues and reminiscing about the good old days of his childhood. The old chair was plenty worn, but he left it there. He found he needed it there, if made him feel close to his dad.

###

Just in Time by Jack Schuyler

I was told I could find you here, that you never left this shack. And I drove for hours across this God-forsaken plain, to find you sitting there in that chair on the porch. Because you never do leave this shack, and now you never will. The chair is slumped, and your body sprawls uncomfortably limp over its broken frame. Fresh blood seeps from those fatal wounds, fresh bullet holes decorate the wall, and a fresh trail of dust points opposite the way I came.

I came just in time.

Just in time to miss you and your killer.

###

Reclining Line by Line by JulesPaige

On the train heading south, at least when there’s daylight,
one can see a variety of porches. Front and back. As we
rock to the rhythm of the rails we wonder about how they
manage with hearing all the lonesome whistles and rickety
rack noise – however briefly passing at seventy or close to
eighty miles an hour.

How about that old Victorian. White with green trim? Who
sits back and stargazes, or sips their morning brew
wrapped in dew’s shawl?

Part of traveling by train is imagining whose setting a spell,
where. And what they’re thinking as we pass…

###

Three Clinics by Bill Engleson

The first clinic didn’t have a porch. Nestled in the woods, you stepped right in from the trail to a parlour with a small electric heater.

It was very inviting.

The second clinic had a fine porch with three cushioned chairs and looked southwest over the highway. The porch was draped with sweet grapes in the summer and by the sagging limbs of a giant monkey tree year-round.

The third clinic was the second clinic, moved years later to a permanent acre of land a kilometre away. The front porch became the rear porch and sat in permanent shade.

###

Jaded Shade by JulesPaige

This was suppose to be the summer that the porch got
cleaned out. Two or was it three years now that the
space had become a storage unit for her things. Stuff
that had to be removed from her studio apartment. Add
that to leftover toys from children and even boxes from
when the living room was repainted.

In the porch still; birdseed, tools, bikes, and wood stacked
for fireplace use. Along with her chair, now only holding her
memories. Embroidered threads fading, scarred from use,
not worth reupholstering. Was it going to be a winter home
for mice?

###

The Untold by D. Avery

The open porch was curtained by the rain that sheeted off the roof, drilling a trough underneath the eaves. Behind this curtain Hope rocked slightly, pushing against the floorboards with her toes, her father beside her in his chair. A third cane rocker sat empty.

“It’s a good porch”, he said, “Best part of this two-story house.”

“Yup”, agreed Hope. Recognizing the prelude, she looked forward to hearing his stories. Rain drummed the porch roof overhead.

A sudden gust of wind rent the curtain, whipped them with cold rain, rocked the empty chair.

“Daddy, tell a story about Mommy.”

###

Second Story by D. Avery

“I don’t really know that story Hope. That’s for her to tell. When she comes back.”

“She doesn’t tell stories like you do. She’s quiet.”

“Yup.”

“How’d you meet her, Daddy?”

“You know that story Hope. Comin’ back from my fishing trip up in Quebec I picked up a hitchhiker. At the border she had me pretend we were together so she wouldn’t get questioned too much.”

“And after, she said she wanted to keep pretending.”

“Yup.”

“And she came back with you to the farm and you thought she was never gonna leave.”

“Yup. That’s what I thought.”

###

Life Changes by Ann Edall-Robson

You came to me for quiet moments to write your thoughts. We had interludes in our time together when you introduced me to your family as it grew. Boisterous and fun-loving, they clambered over my seat and jumped from my back. Even as the seasons changed, you made time for me. Dusting the leaves away in the fall and clearing the snow in winter. Life changes for all of us. I see you watching me from within your confines, no longer able to make your way down the path to be with me. I miss our time together.

###

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

She sat in her large wicker chair on the porch. The chair was so large it seemed to envelop her small frame. Her fragile look and small stature belied her strength of spirit. She was the matriarch. The woman who held the threads of the entire family firmly in her delicate hands. It was from her that her girls had learned to cook, sew and clean. It was also from her that they had each developed a love of books and reading and had gained the ambition to become educated. She sat quietly, basking in their admiration and love.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Amy’s friends laughed when she bought the splintered wicker chair at a yard sale. Hideous, they said, much too bulky for her tiny outdoor space. They reminded her how she couldn’t sit still.

But Amy bought the chair, and a flowery cushion to go with it.

And sitting still? Sure, her foot bounced along whenever she read a thriller in the chair. She squirmed and shimmied when a decent song hit Pandora. But her heart did most of the heavy lifting, in that chair, as Amy thought back to those many lazy afternoons on the porch with her grandfather.

###

Supernatural Hair by Anne Goodwin

The chair creaks like old knees, as it rock-a-bye-babys me back and forth, the gentle rhythm drowning my so-much-to-do. Pushed back and farther back, beyond the patio, the rose garden, the vegetable plot. Responsibility retreats beyond the fence, the neighbours’ house, the town. Over fields onto moors and farther, to where the land meets the sea. I could sit and rock and watch the spinach grow.

A clock chimes the work hour. Reluctantly, I rise. And stall. My head jerked back, chairbound by ropes of tangled hair. My supernatural hair knows my needs better than my brain.

###

Porch Lore by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where were you just now?’

‘Hmm?’

‘You were miles away.’

‘I feel I’ve been gone ages.’

‘You had that thousand-mile stare.’

‘Dad was like that. He’d sit on his rocker and disappear somewhere. I used to think how important it must be.’

‘Life, the Universe…’

Mary laughed. ‘And everything. Something like that. I thought if he was that far away it had to be really big.’

‘And you? What were your big thoughts?’

‘Me? I wasn’t thinking about anything, not really. Just an empty head.’

‘I guess sometimes they’re the most profound moments.’

‘I miss him, Paul.’

‘I know.’

###

Chatting on the Porch by Irene Waters

Mormor sat on the porch. The seat Morfar had occupied was vacant. Lillian didn’t remember her grandfather but in her imagination Mormor’s hands intertwined with his, her eyes fluttering and hearts racing. As time past, their hands still held, the glances were loving and hearts beat in happy unison. “Can I join you Mormor?” Her grandmother patted the seat and Lilian sat. She told her about her day at school and the stick insect she’d found on the way home.

“Who you talking to Lilian?” Her mother broke the easy rapport.

“Mormor.”

“Lillian love, she died twelve years ago.”

###

Porch Sittin’ by Norah Colvin

“There you are. What’re you doing out here?”

“Just sitting. Enjoying’ the cool.”

“Everyone’s been looking for you. Will you be coming back inside?”

“Soon.”

“Mind if I sit too?”

“Sure.”

“You thinking about Jim?”

“Mmm.”

“He was a good man.”

“Mmm.”

“It’s near three years now.”

“Today’s his birthday. Would’ve been thirty-six.”

“I know.”

“I still don’t understand –”

“There’s no reason. Wrong place at the wrong time is all.”

“But it’s not fair.”

“Life’s never fair. Will you ever love me like you loved Jim?”

“Oh honey, I do. It’s just hard on his birthday.”

“I know.”

###

A Porch, A Chair, A Dog by Joe Owens

Clara stood in the kitchen sipping her coffee as she studied her husband’s favorite rocker. It remained in its normal place on the porch with his old dog Scout also in his regular place.

Clara could sense Casey, her adult daughter approach on her right. Casey was in to visit, worried about her widowed mother and how she was adjusting.

“He believes Henry will return at any time,” Clara said.

“Poor Scout, he has no idea what ha happened to his master.”

“Nope.”

“How long do you think he’ll wait?”

“Until he is out of days too!”

###

No Goodbye by Juliet Nubel

It was the most beautiful armchair in the whole house. Carefully crafted from a thick coppery leather, it had softened and smoothed since it had left the shop all those years ago. A faded, red, feather-filled cushion sat far back into its spine, rubbed shiny where her back had pressed hard against it every day, for as long as they could all remember.
They would have loved to drop wearily into its comforting warmth, but it had sat empty for months, ever since she had slipped slowly from its embrace onto the cool porch floor, without even saying goodbye.

###

Get It Write by D. Avery

“Kid, what are you doin’?”

“Settin’ up croquet wickets.”

“Croquet? Why?”

“Well, we got lots a folks comin’ by the ranch these days, an I reckon they’ll be lookin’ fer somethin’ ta do, what with the rodeo packin’ up.”

“Croquet?”

“Yeah, croquet. A good, relaxin’ activity. Fer the folks comin’ by the ranch.

“Did ya git bucked, Kid, bump yer head?

“Shorty mentioned somethin’ ‘bout croquet on the ranch.”

“She mentioned crochet, but-”

“Oh yeah, yer right Pal. Crochet and crafting. Well, that’s fine. We can all set on the porch and stitch.”

“Think you dropped a stitch, Kid.”

###

Not Now, I’m Busy

How can a storyteller get by in a busy, busy world? Busyness can distract us from sunsets and tales exchanged over pints or tea. Some feel compelled to find worth in activity, and some stay active as a distraction. The storytellers want you to slow down a minute. Listen. Read.

Writers tackled busyness on the page, taking  time out from busy schedules to craft responses.

The following stories are based on the September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character.

###

Getting Busy on My First Date by Sarah Brentyn

His tie was blue. A nice enough color. The geometric design wasn’t all that unpleasant. A bit modern for my taste, but not obnoxious.

I suppose it could have been his shirt, with its burgundy basketweave pattern. But, if I’m honest, the whole thing blew up because of his pink paisley jacket.

I couldn’t tell if he was nice enough for me to look past his fashion faux pas.

When my sister asked how the date with her co-worker went, I shrugged, “I have no idea. His clothes were so loud, I couldn’t hear a word he said.”

###

Sometimes I Feel Like I Am Going Crazy by Robbie Cheadle

In this modern world, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At work, deadlines, unexpected issues; needing time, needing urgent attention.

An endless cycle.

It sometimes seems relentless, a knot of anxiety in my stomach, as I work through the list of tasks, carefully and exactingly, there is no room for error.

In my dual purpose life, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At home, husband and children, all needing help, needing time, needing advice.

An endless cycle.

I feel like a monster, driving them on, helping them meet the demands of their high-speed, high-tech lives.

###

The Real Job by Allison Maruska

The fryer beeps its obnoxious repetition. No one addresses it.

“Keri! Get that!” Phil yells from the back.

“I’m busy,” I mutter while shoving burgers into the warming drawer. At the fryer, hot oil hops out with the cooked fries, hitting my arm. “Ow.” I wipe it on my shirt.

“See, honey? That’s why you have to study hard in school, so you can get a real job. One that won’t burn you.”

It’s a woman in line, talking to a child and pointing at me.

I turn away, hiding my eye roll. Yeah, this isn’t a real job.

###

Super Secretary by Anne Goodwin

“Mr Johnson called. Frantic he can’t make his appointment. He wondered if you’d see him at six.” Elaine wrinkled her nose. “I said you finished at five but he said you’d seen him after hours before.”

“Tell him okay.” The guy was too vulnerable to wait another week.

“And that rescheduled team meeting. I can’t find a slot that suits everyone until next month. Apart from Friday.”

Friday: her day off for writing. But writing wasn’t her real work. “We’ll do it Friday. If you can book a room.”

Elaine smiled. Perhaps the meeting rooms would be fully booked.

###

Busy by Robert Kirkendall

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

###

Never Too Busy for Fun by Norah Colvin

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

###

Tommy’s Nap by Chris Mills

Mary tucked the blanket around six month old Tommy, and his sleepy eyes fluttered like butterfly wings. She needed several hours to catch up on chores.

Laundry was an avalanching mountain peak. Dust bunnies taunted from corners and fled. Dirty dishes called her name, as did toilets, tubs, floors and sills. She flipped mattresses, turned mattresses, chased dust bunnies from under mattresses. Spotted mirrors reflected her weary gaze.

Tommy slept. Mary swept. To-do lists became all-done lists, and the house was just the way she wanted it.

Tommy the teenager walked out of his room and asked about dinner.

###

Jumping Around by FloridaBorne

Plane Crash? I told my doctor not to get married on the 25th of this year, or take flight 25 to Hawaii.

When I’m around, people hurry up and die.

I lived 25 miles north of Barneveld, Wisconsin when a massive tornado jumped past my house and annihilated the center of their town.  I lived 25 miles away from San Francisco in the 1979 Earthquake.  Then, I was in Florida when Hurricane Irma took a giant leap to the left and we missed the hurricane force winds by 25 miles.

That’s it!  I’m done with psychiatrists. They never listen!

###

No Time to Stand and Stare? by Anne Goodwin

A shorter walk today, and no dawdling. Busy busy, lots to do back home.

The squiggle on the path broke her rhythm. Even here, in its natural habitat, an adder was a rare sight. She’d disturbed one once, only a mile away, but it slithered into the bracken before she could distinguish the diamonds on its back. This one seemed to be posing. How close could she get before it reared its head and spat?

A gift. A blessing. She’d stay as long as the snake did. A poor life, if she lacked the leisure to stand and stare.

###

Busy (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The sun is warm on her face in the cooler air, light penetrating her closed eyelids, turning them incandescent orange. The smells of autumn: decaying leaves, rich earth. Her books make a surprisingly comfortable pillow, lying on the grass on the small quad. Bit of heaven.

A shadow falls across her. She cracks one eye open.

“Brittany,” she says flatly.

“Jane, that calculus is killing me. I need help.”

Jane closes her eye again and points behind her, somewhere. “Math lab’s that way.”

“You’re not doing anything.”

The eye again, a bullet. “Looks may deceive. I am very busy.”

###

Busy by Irene Waters

Dahlia and Rhonda sipped their coffee as they chatted not glancing in Bee’s direction. Yawning, Dahlia swung her legs onto the table. “I’m tired.”

“Why? What have you been doing?”

“Nothing. You almost finished Bee?”

“No. I’ve got tables to set, flowers to arrange and the speaker wants the projector stuff. I’ll have to organise that. Would you set the tables for me? The sooner I get home the better. I’ve got the dogs to walk, dinner to make, the kids to pick up before I come back .”

“Sorry Bee. Too busy. Gotta go. See you tonight. Coming Rhonda?”

###

Houseproud by Pensitivity

The last of the shopping had been put away, and the house was as neat as a pin.

She’d done all the washing and ironing, and prepared dinner in the kitchen.

No time to relax though, just a shower and then off to visit.

She got to the hospital and her mother’s bed was enclosed in a curtain.

The family emerged from behind it.

They looked tired.

‘Where were you? She was asking for you.’

‘I was busy. How is she?’

‘It doesn’t matter now. She died half an hour ago.’

Being houseproud is a heavy burden to bear.

###

Busy-Bee by Kalpana Solsi

Aunt Charlotte being a very fastidious person, I am on tenterhooks about a slip.

The brownies and cookies are baked to perfection. Darjeeling tea is ready to be brewed. The expensive crockery is laid on the table. The curtains match with sofa upholstery.

How did I miss this? I station the wooden-stool and hitch my dress high to climb despite feeling giddy. I am busy cleaning the ceiling-fan. The landline-phone springs to life.

I lower myself huffing, losing my balance to fall on the phone. I just pick the receiver.

“Okay Aunt”, I mumble.

She has cancelled her visit.

###

Busy With a Purpose by Reena Saxena

I returned home one evening to find newspapers torn into neat little vertical strips, and piled into a heap. Somebody had perfected the technique to get pieces of a similar shape and size, and taught others how to do it. The effort was laudable, as there was no lofty purpose behind doing it. The doers were just learning.

They were three cute kittens, whose mother had chosen us to look after them. They did not own any tools, other than their teeth and nails. I saw them expand the efforts to other needed skills.

Hats off to the spirit!

###

Flash Fiction by Kerry E. B. Black

“What’re you talking about?” The woman’s cheeks darkened and her voice raised. “The white buffalo. What have you done with her?”

Maurya wiped the spray from her cheek and ignored the taunts from the towns folk. She walked into the mushroom cave. A circle of fungi had formed, but hoof prints smashed the closest mushrooms into the compost. Maurya moved her hands in a warding symbol.

“I think I know where she’s gone.”

The town elder tottered to loom over Maurya. “Since it’s your place that lost her and your mind that knows where she’d be, you’d better find her.”

###

Busy Bee by Etol Bagam

Thursday morning. Wake up.

Migraine.

Get up. Wake up the kids. Have breakfast. Get kids ready to school. Walk them to school.

Work from home. Automation won’t work, do it manually.

Stop to go to the doctor.

Come back to a meeting. Work non-stop until 3:25.

Bring suitcase down for hubby.

Pick up kids at 3:30.

Have lunch!

Drive kids to sports practice.

Stop at dry cleaner.

Back home, iron hubby’s shirts.

Shower.

Fix dinner. Do the dishes.

Help hubby pack for his trip.

Read a bit. Go to bed.

And that migraine is still there until end of day Friday….

###

On the Go by Michael

She was too busy for idle chit chat. It was go, go all day. Those around her found her exhausting as she never stopped, preferring to get the job done as she’d say to them.

Her head down bum up attitude gave no room for getting to know her. She nodded in acquaintance to her co-workers, she ate alone and never took her full dinnertime.

She found it hard at Christmas when they did stop to celebrate as she had no connections to anyone.

It came as no surprise to anyone that she had no one at home either.

###

The Energizer Corey by Joe Owens

Corey took a deep breath as he pushed out the last words for this seventy two minute stop. Now it was off to the Explorer’s Lounge for the Newlyweds Match game where couples would try to see how much they knew each other. He had hosted the Voice of the Ocean, a Sled Dog Puppies petting session and a bingo game, but his day was not nearly half over.

“How do you do it?” Junior Cruise Director Caitlin asked.

“Never stop. Get your plan in mind, pick the fastest route between and don’t stop when you’re tired!”

###

Busy as a Beaver by Susan Zutautas

Mr. Moose saw a busy beaver working on his den
He walked up to him and offered a hand to lend

They cut and moved logs and stopped for a break
Thank you Mr. Moose I wouldn’t have been able to get all these in the lake

Munching on some berries
Talking away was merry

Until Mr. Moose explained the fire on his land
And how everything was now just a pile of sand

This made Mr. Beaver shed a tear for him
And offered for Mr. Moose to move to his land

Thank you my new found friend

###

Buckeye Blane, Beaver Bureaucrat by Bill Engleson

“So, kid, open wide, flash me them orange sharpies.”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Kid, they’re beauties. Credit to beaverdom…”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Just about done. Hole punch bought the farm. Okay. Crunch! Great. Once more…We’re done. Take a break.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“Know the feeling. Know it well. Anyways. You got the job. Land Manager Apprentice.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“I can see you’re thrilled. Okay, your basic job will be to clear deadwood.”

“Oooooyawooo!”

“Specialized beaver work, kid. We leave the healthy trees…take out only the dry rot.”

“Ooooowooooyaaa!”

“Goes against beaver lore, I know. Compromise. Humans give a little: we give a little.”

“Yaaaawooowooooie!”

“That’s the spirit.”

###

A Team of Busy Bees by Liz Husebye Hartman

She bends over unkempt juniper shrubs and a beetle-laced Japanese plum, scissoring with vigor with long-bladed hand shears. Down the boulevard, a few trees show tawdry highlights of orange and gold.

“I’d best get busy,” she grumbles, “While the leaves are still up, and not all over my lawn.” She snips here, shapes a curve there, and gradually uncovers dahlias, planted in the gap between shrub and front stoop. They straighten and smile, proud of their cache of hidden pollen.

Later, she rests, sipping iced tea, as grateful bumblebees, buzz and fill their leg sacks with summer’s final bounty.

###

Monastic Preserves by idylloftheking

“You could say I’m a connoisseur. Have you ever tried Trappist beer?”

“No, sir. I don’t drink.”

“Of course, of course. Where do you get your berries?”

“That’s not something we like to share, sir.”

“Of course, of course. I suppose I can’t have just one more jar?”

“They won’t cooperate, sir.”

###

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

Cerebral Buzz  (Janice vs Richard 19) by JulesPaige

Richard looked as if he were sitting still. In truth, his mind
was busy calculating what to do next while his body recovered.
After visiting Janice’s home – and eating the berries from her
garden – He must have also ingested something else. While
he was blind consuming berries he must have not looked
carefully enough at the weeds that bore similar fruit that was
really just for the birds.

Richard doubted that Janice had planted those weeds just
to poison him. And he had gotten ill, leaving a mess in her
home – the home he had wanted to make his…

###

Busy by Rugby 843

When my kids were little they were well behaved. A visit to the doctor’s office wasn’t a problem. We usually brought something along to keep them busy–books, paper and pens, etc. Nowadays I see tables and chairs, video screens and coloring books to entertain children waiting for appointments.

At home we had a “busy box” toy that served us well, but I’ve seen much more elaborate styles such as the ones pictured above, at crowded offices. Some parents might think this is a prime place for germs, but washing their hands before and after use should solve that problem.

###

Parent/Teacher by Pete Fanning

Liam’s father sat hunched over the desk. “Why ain’t you giving out homework?”

“Well, eight hours is a long day for a seven-year-old. In fact, studies—”

“Studies. Here we go.” His arms flailed. He brimmed with aggression. Mrs. Tan pressed on, a little less sure now. No wonder Liam was lashing out.

“Well, concerning Liam’s classroom behavior.”

The chair squeaked. “What? I’ll set whup his ass if he’s acting up.”

Mrs. Tan managed to cover her gasp. She pulled close Liam’s folder, smoothing the edges of if only to keep her hands busy.

“No, he’s really working hard.”

###

Father by Jack Schuyler

I never thought of my Father as a busy man, or as absent in any way. Mother would praise him for giving us food, shelter, and luxury, but such adoration fell silent against stony determination. I remember every day straining to hear the opening and closing of our front door, anticipating his arrival because I loved him. But the sound rang mostly in departure, and love was only a word I pretended to know the meaning of. And when he died, it was not love that pulled at my heart, but an emptiness that had been there all along.

###

The Mom by Ruchira Khanna

“Sam hurry up! it’s time to leave for school.”

“Yeah” came a response amidst the wide yawn.

“Did you put your lunch box, water bottle in your bag?”

“Yeeees!” he muttered.

“Sam eat your breakfast! Why are you daydreaming? The school bus will be here any minute!” she stressed.

Sam rolled his eyes, and he could not contain himself, “MOM! Let it go!” he shrilled.

Mom paused.

Took a deep sigh as she placed her hands on her hips, she responded, “I am aware dear. But someone has to delegate it, and that ugly task falls upon me!”

###

The Unsung Juggler by Eugene Uttley

Well, here we are in the middle of it all, the whole symphony of sweeping, spinning spheres.
And we have no telescope powerful enough to see him down there at the bottom of it all.
What’s he doing down there? Why, he’s juggling of course – juggling all the planets and stars.
He’s not God – or a god – I rush to say, though you might think him so to see him doing what he does.
He’s just a guy, you know. A very, very, very busy guy.
He’s the unsung juggler at the bottom of the universe.

###

Dang Busy by D. Avery

“Shorty?”

“Huh? Oh, hey. Wasn’t expecting to see you. What with the Kid gone.”

“That’s nuthin’ ta me. I jist narrate.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So, whatcha up to, Shorty? Looks like you ain’t doin’ nothin’. ”

“Correct. I am not doing nothing, I’m doing something.”

“Oh. Watcha doin’? ‘Cause it looks like daydreamin’.”

“Yep.”

“Shorty, ain’t that nothin’?”

“Nope. I’m writin’. And I’m plannin’ for the rodeo that’s comin’ through the ranch.”

“A rodeo? At Carrot Ranch?”

“Yep. Eight events. Eight prizes.”

“Yeehaw, Shorty! For real?!”

“Yep. You can’t make this stuff up.”

“Well you sure dreamed it up.”

“Yep.”

###

Gone East by D. Avery

“Shorty, is it true?”

“Yep. Gonna be quieter ‘round here. The Kid headed back East after all.”

“What? The Kid seemed happy here.”

“The Kid was happy here. Believe you me, the Kid didn’t wanna go. Even mentioned not wantin’ to leave you.”

“Aw, shucks. So why’n tarnation? Saddle sore? Too much wranglin’?”

“Naw, the Kid was willin’ ta ride the range all day, you know that.”

“Was it the food, Shorty?”

“Heck no. The Kid thrives on what’s dished out here. Did say somethin’ ‘bout bein’ busy, havin’ ta bring home the bacon.”

“Oh. That takes time.”

“Yep.”

###

Save

September 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Collected beach rocks spray across the dining room table. The most promising specimens I submerge in a bowl of water to illuminate agate banding or pink pools of prehnite.  My rock-hounding days are numbered because Lady Lake Superior grows cold. Instead of an evening of exercise beneath a lingering summer sunset, I take a mad dash mid-day to the beach when I can. My last trip I hitched a ride and combed the beach rocks until my daughter and her husband fetched me.

I don’t really have time to hunt agates; I’m far too busy.

Busy is an affliction. I’d say it’s modern, yet I suspect it’s as old as any form of distraction. When we think of a busy person we think of the executive or young parent. We could say both have important duties. One chases after meetings and deals; the other after toddlers and laundry. We could also say one is a workaholic. Perhaps both. What is the difference? When business becomes a form of mindlessness, it’s a distraction.

“Look busy,” is a phrase I’ve heard often from childhood on up. It’s hard for a day-dreamer to engage in mind wandering when you’re supposed to look busy. I struggle with tasks I call busy-work. When I didn’t look busy at home as a child, often I was given a broom and told if I had nothing better to do I could go sweep. I learned to daydream while doing chores. To this day, if I have a problem to solve in my mind, I clean. When I was in college, I discovered if I rewrote my notes after class and then dusted, mopped or did dishes, I wouldn’t have to cram for tests.

I had the cleanest house ever when I graduated college.

Some people believe the image, though; they believe they are supposed to “look busy.” They don’t problem solve or engage in mind-work at all. Instead they become human flurries of activity. These people, I’ve noticed, are praised for “keeping busy.” It’s an ingrained message and I’m not saying I missed it –it’s just that I developed a way to think while busy. My busy tends to come from the mind rather than activity.

The other day my SIL caught me staring out the porch window. He smiled, catching me un-busy, staring beyond the glass pane. He even glanced to see what I was looking at and upon seeing nothing of interest to warrant such staring he found my behavior amusing. I spared him a moment’s glance and explained, “I’m writing.” He laughed and walked off. Seriously, I was writing. I’ve had a huge breakthrough in my WIP, Miracle of Ducks, and the story was flowing so fast I had to watch it unfold, like an observer.

Stephen King is another writer who stares out windows. In an essay, he writes:

“Sitting down at the typewriter or picking up a pencil is a physical act; the spiritual analogue is looking out of an almost forgotten window, a window which offers a common view from an entirely different angle . . . an angle which renders the common extraordinary. The writer’s job is to gaze through that window and report on what he sees.”

Writers gaze out different windows. Sometimes the view is a different perspective as Stephen writes, and sometimes it’s to see with the inner eye. Of course, being the master of fantasy and thriller, Stephen’s mind wanders to the curious idea of the window breaking. In other words, he posed the question, “…what happens to the wide-eyed observer when the window between reality and unreality breaks and the glass begins to fly?” If you want to know his answer, read his novella, Four Past Midnight.

Stephen understands the busy writer — reality might be typing, staring or scrubbing dinner plates, but unreality is a rich inner world of exploration and discovery. It’s endless with archives of stories, some greater gems than others. When a writer gets busy that mental space thunders like Superior waves, scraping story over story until the writer spots the agates tumbled in the mind. Is it a danger or a joy to become so busy?

I think that’s a valid question for any of us. Does the busyness serve a purpose? Does it provide joy or distraction?

Traveling to VA appointments recently, we stopped at Keweenaw Bay, a small roadside resort on Lake Superior. No matter where we travel in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we are surrounded by this grand shoreline. Keweenaw Bay is on the northeast side of the Great Lake, and directly south of Copper Harbor. The VA hospital in Iron Mountain is considered one of the most rural VAs in the nation and yet we live two more hours north in even more remote terrain. If wilderness seems a pattern in my life, I won’t deny it.

So here we are near the ends of our nation and a cartoon at the roadside cafe shows a waitress refusing to take a table’s order until they all turn off their cell phones. The line drawing shows no one looking at the menu and everyone instead staring at their screens. It occurred to me that cell phones fulfill a need to be distracted by busyness. How does that differ from escaping into a good book? It seems a book engages the mind, creates meaningful busyness, whereas screen time does not require the mind to actively think.

A hallmark of anxiety is that too many choices make us unhappy. Thus most people will choose to be mindlessly busy because it doesn’t require making choices, or thinking about choices. It makes me wonder if writers are some bizarre creatures who thrive on possibility. Or maybe some writers simply like making the choices for their characters’ lives. I can say my mind winds up and whirs before it settles into the resolution. For me, I think I see what can be and get excited when I find a path that appears to go there. That’s true for me in life and fiction. It’s the a-ha moment.

When I say I’m busy, I don’t mean I have lots of tasks, though actually I do. The busyness right now is the solar flare of my brain excited for the scenes I’m writing, the launch of our first Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch, the open call for new Rough Writers and the upcoming release of the current Rough Writer’s first anthology. Without the worry of homelessness thanks to our daughter and her husband, and with the Hub in a better VA system I’ve let go of much worry and stress.

So pardon my distraction, but I have rocks scattered across my brain and I’m sifting through them all. I feel more than relieved; I feel released. I’ll corner this energy and direct it better, but it feels good to have it back. It feels good to be making breakthroughs and seeing that paths are aligning. It’s a good busy.

If you missed last week’s announcement, I have an open call for The Congress of Rough Writers. This is a literary community for all writers. Everyone is welcome to come and go, to get what they want or need from participation. That participation includes writing, reading and joining discussions. If you want to go a step further and take part in events or anthologies, that’s the work of Rough Writers. It doesn’t mean you get roped in. Even as a Rough Writer, how you participate is up to you. It’s about willingness. If you are willing, shoot me an email: wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

And stay tuned for upcoming announcements about the Flash Fiction Rodeo. It’s more than a contest — it’s eight different contests! The weekly flash fiction challenges will go on break during October. Between Oct. 5-31, a new contest launches every Tuesday and Thursday. Each one has a $25 purse and there are no entry fees. Winners will be announced consecutively during the pre-sale and launch of The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 every Tuesday in November and December. That gives our event leaders and their co-judges time to decide and collect the Best in Show for each category. And it invites the greater community to participate.

September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character. It could be a busy beaver, gnawing birch trees endlessly or an executive on the go. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 12, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 13). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

Spelling

Words can cast a spell, invite us to read stories and sit for a spell away from it all, or pose problems with spelling. Even among those writing the same language, spelling rules vary to the degree one must be a magician to sort it all out.

Nonetheless, who better to spell it all out than writers?

The following are cast from the August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller.

***

Note Pinned to a Copper Mine by Charli Mills

“Con…con…”

“…tract. The word is contract, Father.”

John followed the word with his finger, stating, “Contract.”

“Good! Not to be confused with contact. That means to get in touch with.”

John tousled his son’s dark hair. “When did you get so smart?”

Lawrence beamed a smile, one of his front primary teeth missing. “Since you bought me this Speller!” He held up the brown cloth covered book.

John nodded. “ I need you to help me read more.”

Lawrence nodded and continued, “…contract required for trammers or we strike.”

John folded the note. “Don’t tell Mother. Keep learning, son.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I got sick and tired of people spelling our name wrong, so Hubby taught me the phonetic alphabet.
He would test me at every opportunity until it became second nature, and I still use it today over the phone.
A double glazing company lost our potential contract for getting our surname wrong.
There was no excuse really as my type written enquiry letter had shown it IN CAPITAL LETTERS below my signature.
There are times though when the Spelling Challenge is a riot of hilarity.
Imagine getting a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Sierra Mike India Tango Hotel.

###

Comnopanis by Cheryl Oreglia

Bread. A human staple, made of flour and water. It’s one of the oldest prepared foods, evidence of bakeries 30,000 years back. Imagine. Bread plays an essential role in religious rituals and sliced bread is the bedrock of modern culture. Well that and Spanx.

The most interesting aspect of bread is the etymology. Consider the word “companion,” from Latin, com “with” and panis “bread.” Meaning a true companion is one you break bread with, hopefully on a daily basis. Sadly my companion is temporarily “comnopanis” or “without bread.” His doctor, clearly a sadist, has removed bread from his diet.

###

Copier by FloridaBorne

“I’m a bad smeller…uh…speller.”

Thinking the first word to be more appropriate, I sneezed into my silk handkerchief. “You applied for a calligraphy job.  What are your qualifications?”

His smile revealed a set of strong teeth ringed with scum as he removed a metal container from his bag.   Out of its bowels came parchment, a quill and red ink. He printed my first name, “John” in perfect form…but my last name!

“Look! You wrote John Johns, not John Jones!” I protested. He turned my gold name plate toward me, and I flushed at the obvious.

“I’m a good copier.”

###

If You Can Spell It, You Can Date Me by Joe Owens

Not to mention if we were a couple how much fun we could have rubbing everyone’s nose in it!” Gabe finished his impassioned appeal. Zoe was the one he wanted to be with more than any other and he felt like this was his best chance to convince her.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said turning to the shelf with reference books on it in the school library, “I’ll pop open this dictionary and put my finger on a word with my eyes closed. Spell it and I say yes!”

“Okay,” Gabe smiled.

“Here,” she said. “Antidisestablishmentarianism!”

###

Power Player (Janice vs Richard #18) by JulesPaige

Detective Longhorn was working to try and find Richard.
The creep who once had Janice under his spell. Richard
admitted to killing the vagrant who was in the alley behind
Janice’s residence. Richard had been in her home; disabled
her fake barking dog tapes, placed a red dress in her old
wardrobe, and sent her a new cell phone with a frightening
message.

Whose spell was Richard under? Whatever glue was
holding Richard together, had slipped. Richard got sick
in Janice’s kitchen after eating berries from her garden and
left some clues. Yet this criminal was still being elusive!

###

Speller by Michael

My mother was a witch, and as a witch, she knew about spells. She wanted me to be an ordinary kid so sent me to school where nuns taught me all I needed to know. Trouble was I would be kept in after class because my spelling was so bad. My mother fearing, I would be ostracised concocted a potion to clear my brain and allow me to spell. It worked, and my class teacher happily took the credit for my change of fortune. She then worked on my grammar and mum, and I thought she done real good.

###

An Incompetent Speller by Chris Mills

An open jar on Tony’s coffee table filled the room with the bitter aroma of vinegar in which a photo and written spell basted. The Speller chanted, Revenge, revenge, may Martin’s brakes fail going round the bend. Tony’s ex-boss, who had fired him, had to navigate a mountain curve on his way home. Tony called to see if his conjuration had been successful. Martin answered and Tony hung up. He pulled the fading, vinegar-soaked spell from the jar, but he could already see the cause of his botched magic. Break failure would not get him the revenge he sought.

###

Time to Decode by Roweena Saxena

“What do these symbols mean?”

“There are three basic principles of communicating information that I know –letters and words exert a pull on the other, choices are gradually narrowed down to end speculation, and the final elimination of other alternatives.”

“What is your final message?”

“Words have become redundant. It is possible to communicate through symbols. Language is dead.”

“What are you trying to say? We work in a research lab, and write several papers and reports.”

“Unfortunately, not in the same era.”

“Elaborate.”

“There are some numbers on the last page to denote a date. It says 3050.”

###

House of Words by Bill Engleson

Lenny liked to dance around logic. “The way I figure it,” he would say “language is a building block for any world we want.”

Lenny knew I was a concrete thinker. He might be palsy walsy with nonsense but I needed facts, reason.

“Okay, my friend,” I said, “We have no money. Winters coming on. We need a dry shelter.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, “We surely do. It ain’t gonna happen, Donnie. We’re disposable. We aren’t even refundable.”

“So, any ideas?”

“Language. We build a spellter.”

“Sorry. What the heck is a…?”

“Spellter! Why, it’s a house built of words.”

###

Nina’s Spell by Kerry E.B. Black

Lillian wiped her hands on a towel. “You’re magical, you know?”

Nina crinkled her nose. “Whatever do you mean?”

“Everything you touch, everything you do, is permeated with love, even when people receiving your help doesn’t deserve it.”

Nina tapped her finger on the tabletop. “Everyone deserves love.”

“I don’t think so. If I were treated as badly as you are, I don’t think I’d be as gracious. Certainly, I wouldn’t help them.”

Nina sighed. “People fear difference, worry they’ll catch it or something. I mean to show the palsy’s not contagious, but kindness is.”

“That’s your spell, then.”

###

MISSPELLING SPELLING DISASTER AVERTED: NEW SPELL RELEASES OLD FOR A SPELL by Norah Colvin

Chatter erupted as assessment commenced. A pass would grant membership to the Spellnovators, but the best would replace Imara, who, for her final duty, mixed their potions and tested their spells. She praised ingenuity as stars exploded, flowers blossomed, and extinct animals reappeared. Choosing her replacement would be difficult. Suddenly her glare in Ruby’s direction spelled trouble. The chatter ceased. “What’s this?” she demanded. “Mix in happy witches!?” Ruby’s lip quivered. “Wishes. I meant to spell wishes.” Voices united in wishes. Instantaneously, everywhere, hearts opened with love.  Goodwill rained down, filling all with hope. Imara would spell in peace.

###

Speller Flash Fiction by Rachel Hanson

“͞Mama,Mama!” Maggie yelled, running over to Genevieve, “I found a speller!”

Genevieve was surprised, who would be spelling at a Halloween party?

“Can you show me?” She asked her daughter. “YES!” Maggie shouted.

They ran across the room, Maggie too excited to slow down, even for her pregnant mama. Then there,
in the corner of the room Genevieve saw her. Tall, with a pointed hat and a fake wart, was a witch
waving her wand.

“Listen well to my spell! This maiden will only awaken to true loves kiss!” The witch said.

“See Mama, a speller,” Maggie explained.

###

Whose Ignorance? by Anne Goodwin

“You know this, Tully,” said Hester.

“If in doubt,” said Fred, “spell it out.”

The chalked letters danced across his slate, white upon black. Always white upon black. “The black man is …” The right word would make the sentence wrong.

“Your hesitation proves the point,” said Hugh. The younger ones giggled.

“Never mind,” said Hester. “An education will raise you above the rest.”

Addie stroked his arm. “Don’t cry, Tully. It’s just a joke.”

He wouldn’t cry, but he’d take their learning. Soak it up and spit it back at them. When the time was right.

###

Spellbound by D. Avery

Until words or actions revealed their affliction, the spellbound weren’t always easy to detect. The dark power of hatred grew daily, spreading to more and more people. It gathered strength, consuming even as it was consumed. The counter-spell must be found before it was too late. To fail was unthinkable.
Desperately they searched, unsure of what the solution could even be. Magical potions? Arcane rituals? Mystical incantations? Finally the realization dawned; the spell of hatred can only be overcome by loving words and actions.

The whole earth is my birthplace and all humans are my siblings.*

This they believed.

*Kahlil Gibran

###

A Literate Populace by idylloftheking

“They aren’t meant to read! They’re good for only cleaning up after us!”

“We extend these rights to all humans, regardless of their qualities as individuals. I may not respect them, but I recognize them for what they are.”

“Why does the reality of ‘what they are’ matter? They’re not better than animals, even if they are more like us than the rest.”

“I want to be on the right side of history.”

“I see. Vanity over progress.”

“Progress requires improving upon he past .”

“Progress needs something to build on.”

“Excuse me,” interrupted the speller.

“Shush,” they said simultaneously.

###

Weather Cast by D. Avery

The spell of summer was broken, its blue skies faded and grayed, awash on cloud-strewn winds. Trees champed and tossed their manes as the winds reared and galloped. Leaves and small branches came unberthed, wildly skittering and wheeling about, finally ending in twisted, dreary piles, pelted by unrepentant rain.
With nightfall, diminishing winds mustered petulant gusts to usher the last of the clouds away, until, weary, the wind murmured quietly in the silver cast treetops. In the crisp light of a full moon, the night sky sparked and shivered.
Somehow fall had come; somehow another spell had been cast.

###

What’s Wrong? by Enkin Anthem

Unbridled, righteous rage throbbed visibly in the bulging vein on Mr. Edison’s temple. One hand clenched the paper as he read it aloud.

“The Romans where a people who lived around the Mediterranean. There the ancestors of most European-based cultures.” The tip of his red pencil threatened to stab Ben’s chest. “Seriously?” he hissed. “That’s inadequate. Abysmal. Fail. 1000 words on the use of pronouns. 1000 words on the declination of to be. And 1000 words on the use and significance of homophones in the English language.”

Ben shuffled out of the room, devastated. He should of known better.

###

Just Keep Writing by Elliott Lyngreen

“Can we start over,” she asked, thinking all undone with thoughts on creating papers.

“If we only we could record thoughts, images, and compile ideas straight into a complete work. But we have to write it,” I said back in a way that, like an idea, only comes to us as it was intended or began or set out to be.

Again she asked, “can we start over? I don’t want to be the odd one out. … No more that’s terrible, read that.”

Story was in her. Wanting her to spell out, I said, “just keep going.”

###

The “oo” Poem by Robbie Cheadle

After a heavy rain

the sky is bright blue,

Everything washed clean

looking shiny and new.

It is quite thrilling to me

and to you, too,

I want to go out

but where’s my other shoe?

I can’t find it

and get into a stew.

Has it been taken?

If so, by who?

Of this question’s answer

I have no clue.

When I find the culprit

the theft they will rue.

I find it at last

Now I have two.

Outside, I pick flowers

one for me, one for you.

My, what a muddle

the flowerbeds have

gotten into.

I must be honest, I really found writing this poem to be a lot of fun. I must fly more often.

###

Names by Jack Schuyler

The pit in Jonah’s stomach started when she introduced herself. The other girls snickered as the counselor said “isn’t Jonah a boy’s name?” and that was just the start. The day was a whirlwind of more introductions in four hours than in four lifetimes, and the names swam in Jonah’s mind as she lay on the unfamiliar mattress, unable to keep the team chant from spelling itself out over and over in her head. What was life like without it? She wanted to remember. It stuck to her brain, keeping her up as endless names echoed in her thoughts.

###

The Best Speller (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane clicks on the save icon. She grimaces at the red squiggles, then smiles at the memory of the phone ringing. Dad instead of Mom, unusual in itself.

“How do you spell conscientious?” he asks.

She tells him. “What’s up?”

“Just writing a letter back home.”

“Mom has a dictionary there. She can spell.”

“Nah. You’re the best speller.”

She laughs. “I must be, if I’m worth long distance rates. Not that anyone can tell with your handwriting anyway.” She lowers her voice. “You don’t need an excuse to call. It’s okay to miss me. I miss you, too.”

###

Spell by Irene Waters

Aarifa’s daughter curled in a ball on her bed, sobbing quietly. “Orenda honey,  what’s wrong?” From her own experience she knew a new school is daunting without adding race and country differences.

“Mum. Mr Alkamil taught me all wrong. I flunked spelling today but I got them right. Colour – C  O..L.O..U..R.” Ararifa listened to her daughter spelling  word after word perfectly,  except now they lived in America.

“Darling. Words are like people. Different the world over. You can get upset. Go to war over them or embrace the difference. See they’re the same no matter what clothes they wear.

###

Countdown (First Release) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Boxes lay along the curved perimeter of the silvery dock. A slender figure darted around them, stacking smaller boxes on medium, turning some toward the shoreline. The healer and her intern had placed three large boxes on the further, forested side, long before the observers had arrived. The dock rocked, slapping the water; the beasts were restless.

Twelve boxes total, counting the one in her belly pocket.

The crowd quieted as dawn softened, red to apricot.

She raised her arms. “Z!” The intern unlatched the largest box and stepped back as a silky black panther padded toward the trees…

###

A “Lucy Stoner” by Diana Nagai

For as long as she could remember, Alice Sandhu spelled her last name for others, “S as in ‘Sam’ – A – N as in ‘Nancy’ – D as in ‘David’ – H – U.” She could have welcomed her husband’s surname, one she’d never have to spell. Instead, she kept her own name, a last connection to her heritage. Lucy Stone, an advocate for women’s rights in the 1800s, paved the way for her, but Alice’s decision still raised a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, choosing birthright over simplicity changed something within her; burden became pride.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Mr. Melvin slipped a shiny record from a flaking cover with the face of a dark-skinned woman. He gently set the needle down and the speakers crackled.

I put a spell on you…

I looked up. The music was eerie but enchanting, and the voice within its tangled melody sent an electric wiggle over my scalp to my neck and down my back.

“Who is that?”

“Nita Simmons, meet Nina Simone.”

Her voice grabbed a hold of my insides and wringed me out, filling the room and making acquaintances. When I finally remembered to breathe, it was a gasp.

###

Opine Range by D. Avery

“Whatcha thinkin’, Kid?”
“Nothin’. It’s a pretty open ranch, though, ain’t it?”
“Yep. Fairly free range. Why ya askin’?”
“Shorty left a note. She’s gone to town agin, says here she’s gone to pick up some broads.
“Huh. You uncomfortable with that, Kid?”
“Well, no… yeah, but… What?”
“Kid, put it in context. Shorty ain’t likely pickin’ up broads, not that there’s anything wrong with that. She ain’t the greatest speller, ya know. She’s most likely gittin’ boards at the lumberyard.”
“Not a ferry?”
“Jist same ol’ Shorty. Gatherin’ materials to build up the ranch.”
“Nothin’ wrong with that.”

###

Yeehaw! by D. Avery

“Kid, thought you was s’posed ta be off makin’ bacon or some such thing. “
“Cain’t I set a spell?”
“Course. Anyone’s welcome ta set a spell at Carrot Ranch. Well, Kid, if ya ain’t wanderin’, ya must be wonderin’.”
“Yep. Kinda excited ‘bout Shorty’s rodeo. Gonna be fun, Pal.”
“Sure is. I can see it too, Kid. Riders bringin’ their wild, buckin’ prompts to a lathered walkin’ gait.”
“Ropin’ competitions, gittin’ words all wrapped up into a story in record time.”
“Maybe barrel races…steer wrestlin’. Might be rodeo clowns.”
“For the bull ridin’!”
“Hang onta yer hats folks.”

###