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Gazing at the Navel

What is it we hope to find, gazing at the navel? Maybe we seek our own beginning or that of time. Perhaps we feel a severing of bonds to establish who we are. We can stare at our navels, self-obsessed, or dare to reveal it to others. Somewhere between holding on to our beginnings and letting go with freedom to be we find stories of the humble belly-button.

Writers were tasked with navel gazing this week and many dared to return with a story.

The following are based on the April 20, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a navel story.

***

Ghawazee by Kerry E.B. Black

Dumbeks drummed a summons, and dancers stepped from hidden corners, bells tinkling with each movement. Tentative as deer approaching a clearing, the graceful women searched for authorities who declared dancing a crime. They hopped in time, their footfalls punctuating the rhythm. The beat quickened. Their skirts and veils eddied around lithe forms. They reached heaven-ward, exposing glimpses of navels whittled with exertion. Colorful tassels bounced from tribal belts, and tinny bells added to the magic of the dance.

A whistle warns, and they scatter, but for the length of a song, they re-created their heritage and defied the regime.

###

The End by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Vast ocean pounded a heavy drumbeat, intense wind carrying bright droplets up to the woman poised on cliff’s edge. A sheer of brine slowly covered her naked form.

Her thin fingers brushed a whirl of ashy salt and skin from wasting limbs. With each sweep and release of her fingers, she became less and less, her curves releasing to the granite and scrubby wasteland that led to this spot.

“Oh Angus,” she breathed. “You were my only god!”

Weuigwefq cwnjqoie.

The tomcat bumped her chin, and lay across the keyboard. “Too much drama, Navel Gazer…feed me NOW!” he growled.

###

Science is Coming by Elliott Lyngreen

Nate’s been expecting there will be a grand movement i step aside myself. Or lose myself. Exist around, outside myself.

Instead of inside this womb prosing on about and ever contemplating.

Charges coins now to share. The game is its more instant – but is, not speaking.

There’ve always been rules.

For speaking?

“Cant stand my echoes.”

Frees sound even my exhaling bellies; executes me further en passant. . . .

Pressing into the navel of a fuzzy peach. Nate cannot eat them.

Tainted on this bird repetitively clunking its reflection; for once, i want to remove the windows.

“Check, Nate.”

###

The Need to Know (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni sat on her haunches, studying the bone fragment. The school bus had left, but this piece found by a third-grader intrigued her.

“Is that one of my ancestors?” Michael had returned with Bubbie.

“Mmm, probably not, unless your ancestors ate each other.”

Michael snorted. “You bone-diggers. Navel-gazing at everything.”

Danni stood up and stretched, surprised to hear the pain in Michael’s tone. “I’m sorry. No offense intended. It’s a deer bone, likely, but has pot-polish from being boiled. It says something about what occurred here.”

“Let the place be sacred, Danni. You don’t have to know every detail.”

###

Omphalos by FloridaBorne

“Your name means Earth’s navel?” I asked.

“Mama said Omphalos was sacred,” a 12-year-old with medium beige skin replied. “She said we came out of Earth’s navel a hundred years after mushrooms destroyed all life.”

Amused, I asked, “Were the mushrooms edible?”

“You can see the mushrooms grow when you’re in Las Vegas.”

“Thank you for your presentation,” I said. “You may be seated.”

“Miss Phillips?”

“Yes, Omphalos.”

“Did you know your people are building underground cities?”

Keeping a straight face, I replied. “No.”

“You’ll need them in 2020.”

“That’s 60 years away,” I said, chuckling at his superstition.

###

Homage by D. Avery

That immobile travel trailer under the trees is a sanctuary. It stands on columns of humble cinder blocks, the destination of a pilgrim. Inside it is luxurious. There’s an abundance of books, one comfortable bed, and small altars enshrined with shells and pebbles. Yet this trailer overlooks the actual temple.

While the red-capped stewards drum rhythms on riddled trees, juncos sanctify the space with their spring rituals, alighting on a rounded glacial erratic before continuing their northern pilgrimage.

This omphalos stone holds all the answers for the pilgrim, but there at the center, the questions have now drifted away.

###

Gazing into Her Navel by Anne Goodwin

“Where should I start?”

“Wherever you like.”

She blushes, gazes down at herself pointedly. Was it sex? (It’s always sex.)

“There’s no rush. You’ve already taken the most important step by coming here.”

She hesitates. Opens her mouth and closes it again. I’d like to make it easier for her, but she has to find her own way.

She strokes her abdomen. Pregnancy ambivalence? But she isn’t showing. Yet.

Through her thin T-shirt she dips her middle finger into her belly button. “It might sound stupid,” she says, “but I’ve felt all wrong since the day I was born.”

###

Fluff by Hugh Roberts

“Oh, my goodness, what are you doing?”

“Well, you did say you wanted me to help get the fluff out.”

“Yes, but not with a screwdriver. Is there anything else you can use?”

“No. Nothing to hand. Now, do you want me to remove the fluff from your bellybutton?”

“Yes, but I’m sure I can hear something creaking.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Right, here we go. Ready? A slight twist and it should be out.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I never expected that to happen. Allow me to pick up your bum and screw it back on.”

***

Moral of the story – never insert a screwdriver into your bellybutton and twist, because your bum will fall off!

###

Navel Contemplation by Norah Colvin

Billy watched Mother bathe Baby.

“What’s that?”

“The last bit of his umbilical cord. Soon it will fall off, and he’ll have a belly button, just like you.”

Billy lifted his shirt to inspect.

“What’s billy cor?”

“Umbilical cord – it’s where Baby was joined to me before he was born. Everyone has one.”

“Everyone?”

“Everyone with a mother.”

“So, Silas don’t have belly button.”

“Silas would have a belly button. Everyone has.”

“But Silas don’t have a mum.”

“Oh. But he would have had a mum. When he was born.”

“Nope. Not born. I made him up.”

###

Origin by KittyVerses

Suddenly there was brightness all around.The darkness that I was accustomed to, was gone in a matter of minutes.

A buzz of excited chatter all around, disturbing my serenity. Unknown images were excited about something but I was clueless and at a loss.

The yummy supply of food through the umbilical cord, will it cease now, I let out a cry.The images rose in unison to console and welcome me. But one touch said it all, up she lifted, holding close to her, I could feel her warmth.A gentle kiss on my forehead, I knew her, my origin, Mumma.

###

Fruitful Blessings by Lisa A. Listwa

He watched his wife dress, her navel peeking from beneath a camisole and between stretch marks as she reached above her head to fix her hair.

That small, intimate part of her reminded him how he worked to know her, to break through the rough, vibrant skin and bitter layers of pith surrounding the most delightful, refreshing burst of fruit inside.

He remembered her beautifully life-worn body when it swelled to carry and nourish the children who shouted at one another just down the hall. And he – he was lucky enough to taste of this bliss every single day.

###

Where Do They Hide the Navels by Joe Owens

Jerome never had seen belly dancers, at least not in person. When he imagined it he chose to rely on the one image burned into his mind, that of a beautiful Barbara Eden in her genie outfit. So one could imagine his excitement when he saw their would be belly dancing in this three hour dance recital.

When the music began Jerome sat up in anticipation, but ten seconds later he sank back dejected. There was no Barbara Eden to bee seen anywhere near the stage. Instead it resembled a cruel joke. There was plenty of belly on display.

###

Aloof by Reena Saxena

Apsara was totally taken by the intellect of this man, and the peace that he radiated.

Ten years later, she wondered if Vishwa had ever loved her. He was so wrapped up in himself – his books, meditation and his international talks. There was no space in his life for anyone else.

“Will you ever stop being a navel gazer, Vishwa?”

“Apsara, the navel is what connects you to your mother, your origin. Do not use that expression in a derogatory manner. One needs to decipher all mysteries of existence.”

It was not her existence that he was talking about.

###

Life Gets Complicated by Geoff Le Pard

‘Penny come here.’

Penny looked at her form teacher’s stern face, mystified at her tone.

‘Did you call Melanie a freak?’

‘I…’ Penny’s face flushed. ‘I just said her belly button was weird.’ Everyone had laughed, even Melanie. She’d showed them after all. ‘Is she upset?’

‘Melanie doesn’t know we’re talking. Someone else told me.’

Penny felt anger swell inside her chest. Sophie.

Miss Johnstone sighed. ‘She has an umbilical hernia. Just be a little careful what you say. You don’t know who might be upset.’

Penny held her gaze. ‘If Mel doesn’t care, why should anyone else?’

‘Indeed.’

###

Navel (Jane Doe Six Sentence Stories) by Deborah Lee

“Is that a bra strap? That better not be a bra strap,” Michelle says. “We don’t do the Madonna look around here.”

Jane cocks her head to her shoulder, displays the wide strap of the tank-camisole layered under her blouse. “Not a bra strap.”

“And tattoos. Caroline hates tattoos. Keep your tattoos covered.”

“For the…third?… time. I don’t even have tattoos.”

“Or piercings. She doesn’t hire people with piercings.”

Jane surreptitiously pats the soreness at her belly-button, her brand-new glittering dragonfly. Good thing she doesn’t wear Madonna crop tops. She turns back to her desk, rolling her eyes.

###

Emily’s Navel by Michael

The class had been going for some time before Dash woke up to gazing at Emily’s navel. Navel’s fascinated him and Emily had the most alluring navel he had seen.

It was an innie, outies he found somewhat gross, though he knew it was no fault of the navel owner.

But Emily was caught up in her pose, oblivious of Dash’s attention.

He wanted to reach out and stroke it with his finger, feel the soft smooth folds of skin. The instructor’s strident voice woke him to reality. He stored away the memory and took up his required pose.

###

The Cadaver’s Surprise by Allison Maruska

The cadaver rests naked on the table. Her skin is ashen, her face covered with a white towel. My mind tricks me into thinking she’s breathing.

This was someone’s mother, someone’s grandmother. Now she lies here, pre-dissected for us, the potential medical students of tomorrow.

“Know what I wondered before I studied anatomy?” the teacher asks.

We stand in respectful silence.

“I wondered what the back of a belly button looks like.” With that, she lifts the skin covering the abdomen, revealing the dark side of the navel.

I bet the dead woman never thought anyone would look there.

###

Holy Holes and Adoration of Ashes? by Jules Paige

Navels
More than
Just an orange
For energy or even
Contemplation

Once
I read
A model had
Hers surgically removed…for
Vanity?

Links
Navels from
Mother to babe
Centers of life blood
Flows

I’ve
Been to
Maui – I saw
Different kinds of hard
Lava

Pahoehoe
Is sharp
A’a is smooth
We did not see
‘Lava’

Not
All ash
Is the same…
‘Wildcat Scattering’…she did
That…

To
My father
At his request –
In the Gulf he
Went…

An
Uncle left
His body to
Science – his ashes were
Returned

(…what tradition will I follow?)

###

Save

Art and Literature in the Raw

Essay by Urszula Humienik, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers.

<< ♦ >>

Kurt Vonnegut once told The Paris Review, “I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.” Which is something I must have thought or heard or read somewhere sometime in high school, because instead of writing and literature, I decided to pursue a degree in my other passion.

I didn’t decide to go into some useful and prestigious field like law or medicine, like many other writers such as Harper Lee, John Grisham, Anton Chekhov, Khaled Hosseini, or even Gertrude Stein. No. I decided to go into art, a field even more useless than being an English major. Of course, I don’t believe that. I believe both art and literature to be essential. These two fields make us truly human while simultaneously showing us the human condition in the raw.

As a smart English teacher once said, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” (John Keating, Dead Poets Society)

There seems to be an interwoven connection in my mind between art and literature, and it’s possible I’m not the only one. Lots of writers and poets made art, including: Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Carroll, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, Herman Hesse, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, William Blake, e.e. cummings, and many others. Some artists also wrote. The surrealist painter Leonora Carrington wrote stories. Salvador Dali wrote screenplays. Even such brand names as Warhol and Picasso wrote. Gertrude Stein straddled the fence between these two worlds as a writer, art collector and muse. Her home was filled with artists of all types, including writers – so many of whom we know and love (or love to hate).

Then there are people like Patti Smith and Audrey Niffenegger, most known for The Time Traveler’s Wife, who make a living working in several artistic fields. I admire them both, and hate them just a little out of jealousy for being able to do what they love without staying within the boundaries of a neat label. We so love to label and put things in their place. I remember a friend once yelling at me in the stairway in high school, “Are you an artist or a writer? You can’t be both.” My answer throughout my life has always been why not.

There are several things I believe to be unarguable truths. One, our passions make us more interesting. Two, writers without passion for writing and the subject cannot write well. Three, any activity done without passion cannot be sustained for very long.

Somehow, in my life, I was fortunate to develop several passions. Two of them – art and writing – developed almost simultaneously, interwoven, interconnected to the point of being inseparable, one needing the other. I do not know if one can exist in this mind without the other. The way I see it, writing and visual art are just modes of expression, of connecting to another human being, of creating a space for an idea.

Visual art and literature begin in the same place in the psyche of their creator. I’m not sure if the spark to create them are the same, but maybe it is. Sometimes I feel that something that has come to me must be in the written and sometimes in the visual form, but I cannot explain the why or how I know that. The most interesting is when these two intersect. I have characters in my stories that are artists, for example, and I am drawn to create their art.

My art background also provides material for stories. An example is the following flash I came up with in response to one of Charli’s prompts, where I imagined what it would be like growing up in a house with a stolen painting hidden in plain sight.

Father’s Poppy Painting

A painting hanging in my father’s study figured large in my childhood. I remember its exotic golden yellow and crimson poppies on a background of burnt sienna and ochre. I remember days spent studying and copying it. I remember my mother constantly practicing Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in D minor. I remember father always gone on business. I remember the scent of Arfaj flowers wafting through the windows. Father’s poppy painting was the reason I decided to study art history at university.

One day when taking a class on famous stolen paintings, I discovered father’s poppy painting in my book.

There are several similarities between art making and writing. For starters, they often begin with a concept. Sometimes it’s just a word or a color or a vague idea. Once you have a concept, art and writing both have different phases of creation and exploration before achieving the final product:

  • play and experimentation – I’d argue that this may be one of the most important stages for both;
  • sketching, what would be akin to raw writing;
  • planning or outlining – depending on how a writer/artist works, this may happen earlier or later in the process;
  • and application of several layers.

This last phase may be thought of in different ways, but over time it has become how I think of the formation of a piece (of artwork or story). In a painting, this phase is obvious. The painter begins with a sketch or several, then the canvas is prepared with a base paint, next several background layers are applied, details are added, and added, and added, and added until the painting has achieved the painter’s intentions.

This is an oversimplification, of course, but a similar process occurs when writing. We begin with an outline or maybe just a rough story idea, which is then written and refined over layers. Some parts of the original raw writing become hidden under the layers of “improved” writing, but they are still there. And in my experience, the raw writing is necessary and enriches the final piece in ways others may not fully comprehend.

I spend much of my time thinking how I would describe a piece of art. It’s an exercise that’s more difficult than it seems (try it). There are many ways to talk about color and qualities of a line. It’s possible I could write essays on just those two characteristics alone. I also spend a great deal of time visualizing things I am writing, and I hope that improves my writing, deepens it, making it more tactile. I hope this means my writing is refreshing in the way Vonnegut said.

***

Urszula Humienik is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, currently living in Bialystok, Poland. When she’s not working on her first novel, she’s doing yoga, meditating, or making delicious vegan food. You can find her on her blog or her latest obsession, Instagram.

<<♦>>

Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

With This Ring

With This Ring by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsAn array of rings are offerings from a single artist. And yet, many singles dream of one ring to bind them to another. What is it about rings that are are deep in our culture and psyche? They adorn and they tell a story.

Writers explored the stories of rings to craft this collection of flash as rich as the rings an artist displays against black velvet.

The following are based on the April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring.

***

One Perfect Rose (After Dorothy Parker) by Luccia Gray

‘I found a perfect gift,’ he said.
He gave me a pretty card, which read,
‘This gift is almost as lovely as you.’
I still didn’t have a clue.
I wondered what he had in mind,
Although I knew my love was blind,
I was hoping for a ring at last,
My happiness, it was so vast!
I’d wear it on my finger proudly.
I extended my hand slowly,
And he showed me one perfect rose.
I sighed and looked down to my toes.
‘Don’t you like the rose?’ he asked.
‘It’s not what I had in mind,’ I barked.

###

A Bacon Bit (Sizzlin’ in the Old West) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Leadbelly sidled up to the bar, tossing a small leather bag on the counter. His boot hooked over the bar rail, spurs jangling, as he leaned toward the buxom barkeep.

“What’ll ya have?” Lula eyed the bag of gold dust.

“Whiskey, neat,” he twirled his greasy mustaches, “And you, disheveled.”

She rolled her eyes and turned her back. The piano player threw him out. Polishing a glass, she waited.

Josiah approached, sliding the fragrant waxed package across the counter. He laid a gold ring on top. His lips trembled. “Will you have me?”

“You and your bacon? Forever, Love.”

###

Heirloom by Bill Engleson

“Look at ‘em, Sybil. Sausages. Big fat sausages.”

I spread my mitts in grand emphasis.

“Yes, sweetie. You have big hands.”

“Not exactly Presidential.”

“No. But too big for your Mom’s ring. Maybe we can get it enlarged?”

“You think?”

“I don’t know. It’s pretty thin…probably hard to stretch…”

“Dad made it from an old copper cup. True story.”

“I’ve heard it often.”

“Well, it’s a good story. He was a handy guy.”

“A frugal, artistic man.”

“Depression days, eh.”

“Yes, it was. If we can’t expand it, maybe I should wear it.”

“Would you?”

“It’d be my pleasure.”

###

Not All Chicks are Created Equal by Joe Owens

The young man stood quietly, eyes glued to the arrangement of rings. All that moved was his eyes. They buzzed back and forth across the collection like a caffeine-addled bee.

“Don’t you have anything unique?” he finally asked.

“Unique? Son all of this is unique and handmade.”

“Yeah, I know, but this chick is one in a million!”

“Chick? Are you calling some lovely young woman a chick? What’s wrong with you? You need to learn some manners young man. Women are not chicks!”

Both turned when a girl in a bird suit opened the door.

###

New Ring by Diana Nagai

Conflicted, her thumb bent inward, seeking out the newly placed jewelry. She was a feminist, damn it. When looking at other women’s rings, she always saw society’s symbol of ownership, a male’s claim to his property. Yet, she wanted the ring. The band gave her a sense of calm and, admittedly, a feeling of pride.

The flashing camera brought her back to the moment. Worried that she had sold out to the very institution she ridiculed, she looked up, locking eyes with her partner. Warmth enveloped her and, in that instant, she knew what all newlyweds knew; love transcends.

###

The Ring by Pensitivity

Embedded in the root of the hydrangea bush was a ring.
The flower which flourished every year from that part of the root was bigger, brighter and more glorious than any of its counterparts.

‘It’s your grandmother’s engagement ring,’ he said with a tear in his eye.

‘She lost it years ago and although we searched, we never found it. She told me it would eventually turn up. Come to think of it, that bush never flowered so much before she died.

Her last words to me were that she’d always be with me. Bless her, she never lied.’

###

Only the Ring Remained (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Don’t you tire of sifting dirt?” Michael leaned back on the porch chair, drinking a Rocket Dog.

Danni knew Ike had stocked his workshop fridge with his Ranger buddy’s favorite beer. A token of appreciation. Or a bribe. “I thought we buried the hatchet, Michael.”

“Just curious. Seems boring.”

“It’s amazing how much evidence past garbage holds.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Garbage? No. The most disturbing find was considered a site contamination.”

“Contaminated garbage?”

“It was run-off from the 1956 Grand Canyon plane crash. A wedding band among Anasazi pottery. Identified as the pilot’s whose body was never recovered.”

###

Consider the Odds by Elliott Lyngreen

This concrete pier doglegs like a long driveway into the lake.

The horizon rises behind as I fish into the calm side; the inlet back into the marina and boat launches.

This morning, he snuck away from the wife. As I tie a lead weight to my T-dropper rig he sets up his folding chair near the steel edges crashing waters whale.

But, I am too excited to ask how he managed to get away. So I offer, “more weights in my box if needed.” He responds, “nah, just going to use my wedding bands.”

Perch season begins perfectly.

###

Ring For Mother by Geoff Le Pard

Mary stared at the box, momentarily lost.

‘Mum? Can you find it?’ Penny peered over her mother’s shoulder. ‘There they are.’

Mary fished out the string. ‘Yes. Your Grandma’s pearls; she gave them to me when I was 21. I…’ She sobbed.

‘Mum? What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing.’ She looked at Penny. ‘Your grandma wanted you to have her wedding and engagement rings, after she died, only..?”

‘What happened?’

‘They disappeared. Somewhere been her collapsing and her… dying. I didn’t notice until it was too late to follow it up.’

‘Don’t worry, mum.’

If only it was that easy, Mary thought.

###

Finders Keepers by Jules Paige

I found the gold ring with a chipped amber type square
stone with four diamond-like gems, while walking the
dogs one day. The band had a kink in it. But the sun
made it sparkle in the gutter where it lay, lost or
tossed.

Now it was mine. And I wore it when ‘he’ came to visit –
‘He’ didn’t have to know that my new Beau hadn’t given
it to me. It made breaking up with ‘him’ so much easier.

I got the band fixed. Though I hardly ever wear that
ring. Now wear my white gold wedding band.

###

Eternity Ring by Anne Goodwin

I emptied the contents onto the table-top. Plastic decked like playing cards, coins rolled on their edges, a foil-wrapped migraine tablet squat among the notes. He held my fingertips so gently, I almost anticipated congratulations. “Take it off!”

I babbled about its sentimental value, worthless to him. He grabbed me roughly by the wrist. “Fucking take it off! I won’t ask again.”

I tugged at the gold band. Bonded with my body, it wouldn’t budge.

Spreading my hand across the table-top, he brought down the knife.

I stared at the stump. I’d lost my finger, but kept my promise.

###

The Rescue by Kate Spencer

The hawk screeched and dived toward its prey. Jen held her breath and screamed when one of the talons clipped the pigeon’s wing, leaving it powerless, plummeting to the ground.

She ran across the field toward the fallen dove, flailing her arms and shrieking at the hawk.

Jen kneeled down beside the motionless bird. “You’re a beauty,” she cooed and delicately slid her fingers under its shaking belly. Her beaded ring brushed against a tiny metal leg band.

In that moment, Jen felt it in her heart. This feathered friend was special. It was a survivor. So was she.

###

Child Bride by Kerry E.B. Black

It blurred in her vision, yellow gold devouring a too-thin finger. It weighted Shakti’s hand, tethered her to a place, a family, and an older man who didn’t regard her as more than property. She shook her hand, but the wedding ring clung like an infant to its mother’s breast.

Wild-eyed, she searched the room hung with wedding silks, praying for an escape that didn’t come.

Instead, her groom came to consummate the marriage. He lumbered atop her until she cried out in pain.

After, she scrubbed the sheets, marring the gold band denoting her new status as wife.

###

Junk by Allison Maruska

“Daddy!” Reese tugs at my sleeve. “Toy!” She points to the dispenser full of opaque plastic eggs.

“Honey…” I crouch. “You can’t see what’s in those. You might get junk.”

“Please?” She bats her brown eyes.

I laugh. What the hell. Standing, I dig a coin from my pocket. She snatches it.

After three cranks, an egg plops out. She pops it open, removing a plastic ring with a square rhinestone. “Like Mommy’s!”

Her words choke me. It does look like my late wife’s ring. “You’re right. It is.”

“It’s not junk.” She skips ahead.

No, it sure isn’t.

###

The Onyx Ring by Susan Zutautas

Grandma would sit and tell Molly stories about her life in the old country. Scotland sounded amazing to Molly but what she most wanted to know about was the ring grandma wore.

Well dear this ring wasn’t always a ring. Your grandpa gave me this as a necklace that I wore for years. One day I decided I wanted to make it into a ring and took it to a jeweler.

It was a black onyx stone with a diamond in the middle and Molly just loved it.

Years later when grandma passed away, Molly was given the ring.

###

A Father’s Blessing by Roger Shipp

“Pap-pa, Esmeralda. She’s the one I’ve been telling you about.”

Freddie lost his father. Lost? No… He just left.

And Freddie appeared. Assisting with weeding the mowing… shooting hoops in the driveway… caring for the Dane when I’m away.

The two are aglow.

For a bride, so many traditions. Something old… new… borrowed… blue.

Nothing for the groom. Marriage license. Money. Rehearsal dinner. More money. Honeymoon. Even more money.

If a groom has no roots of his own… it’s hard to grow.

I wonder… my fingers encircle the ring I’ve worn faithfully since Sara’s passing.

“Freddie… if you’d like it.”

###

The Wife’s Ring by Michael

It was the start of our adventure and it meant packing up house and moving to a new town.

Everything was going well. We had a place to move to, we both had jobs and our new place was way out in the bush.

It came undone when my wife lost her engagement ring. It had vanished in the clean-up. Did it go in the rubbish? Was it thrown in the incinerator?

We searched high and low, blamed each other, but it was never found. I liked that ring, it was special and unique. It would never be replaced.

###

The Ring by D.Avery

He acted like he had found gold, though it was just an old skidder wheel-rim.

“Whatever for?” she asked.

“For you”, he said. “I got you a ring.”

He set it in the clearing behind the house. He gathered wood. He brought seats.

And they along with friends and family often ended up there, speaking easily around a crackling fire, into the night, gazing into the flames in communion, staring in their own silent reveries.

In the daytime, empty and cold, it looked like what it was, an old rusty rim. But it was gold. She loved this ring.

###

Commitment by Reena Saxena

Stella looked beautiful in the red dress, as she glanced at the mirror, one last time before leaving. Her father’s eyes fell on her be-jewelled hand.

“Don’t you think you need more space, if David proposes?”

“No, Dad! These are gifted by people with different talents, and are all important to me. David needs to create a unique slot for himself, if he proposes today.”

Her father’s thoughts moved back to his deceased wife, whose ring could not be removed by the coroner. Either it was rigor mortis, or her undying love for him.

The world had clearly changed.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Maybe if she’d been wearing it things would’ve been different. But my skin was burning off my bones. I pulled for breath. Bugs skittered down my neck.

Jada wasn’t home. The ring sat there. Shining.

They gave me eight hundred bucks for it. Two days later I was broke again. Jada cried. Moved to her mother’s. I sat in a ball, for two days, shivering.

The ring sat on the shelf. Shining. My skin burned. Nausea like shame in my gut. There was nothing to sell. Just the brick in my hand.

I went to get Jada’s ring back.

###

The Solitaire by kittysverses

She looked at her solitaire ring, with amusement. She had always dreamt of it since she was a kid.

The numerous fairy tales she read affirmed the fact that her prince charming would come, galloping on a horse and gift her a solitaire.

Years later, he did come and gifted this on a trip they took together.

Today she looks at her fate in amusement, it indeed gave her a solitaire but took away her prince charming to a place from where he could never come back. And now I’m a solitaire in my own solitude, mourned she.

###

My Silver Ring by Lady Lee Manila

It was a silver ring with heart

Crafted by my own hands

One of my evening courses

Silver jewellery making

It wasn’t easy to make

I just wanted a simple ring

Something dainty for my finger

It was a silver ring with heart

I never had an engagement ring

We were still students then

I thought I’d make one myself

Crafted by my own hands

I love taking courses

Yoga, academic writing and Zumba

One of them is jewellery making

One of my evening courses

Sawing, soldering and annealing

Sanding and polishing

These things I learned

Silver jewellery making

###

April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

“My car broke down, too. Used to have a Nissan, ran it until it quit. Now I come to town on these tires.” The Navajo woman who’s about my age, just as tall but slender from being her own car points to her gray tennies. “Yeah, gonna need new Goodyears soon!”

The Hub and I laugh with her. She’s carrying two black velvet lined boxes filled with turquoise and stone silver rings. We’re eating breakfast, the cheapest we can find on the menu — $5 for an egg, bacon and roasted green chili pepper sandwich served with dark coffee. It fascinates me that we’re the only white people — Anglos — in Earl’s Restaurant. No one one pays us any mind except the artists who wander through the tables with their wares.

“My daughter is a Marine, and my sons are both Airborne,” she tells us, after learning the Hub is a veteran. He’s Airborne, too. In fact, he’s an Airborne Ranger so I tell her to coin him. Anyone claiming to be a Ranger has to coin up. If caught without one’s Ranger coin, he has to buy beer. She asks him to see his coin and he digs it out of his pocket. She holds it in her hand, flipping it to see both sides. “A Ranger,” she says, handing it back.

I thank her for her service, saying mothers deserve to be thanked, too. “That’s right,” she says, her face showing the love and pride she holds for her children’s military service. 100 percent. Her entire brood serves. I ask if that’s why Gallup, New Mexico has signs claiming to be the most patriotic town in America. She laughs and says it’s about the Code Talkers, too. And Hiroshi H. Miyamura, a Japanese-American Medal of Honor recipient. He’s known locally as “Hershey,” and is still alive, having served in WWII and the Korean War.

Hershey is known as Nisei. With close to a quarter million people living in New Mexico from pueblos and reservations who are Zuni, Toas, Tewa, Ute, Hopi, Apache and Navajo, Nisei sounds like another tribe. But it isn’t. To say Hershey is Nisei is to adopt the term to describe him as a second generation Japanese-American. During WWII the 100th Infantry Battalion of the US Army was 100 percent Nisei. Most had family held in Japanese-American internment camps. Many lost their homes and businesses. It was a cruel response to wartime, and robbed many of dignity.

However, Hershey’s family was never interned. They had their cameras, firearms and radios confiscated, but the citizens of Gallup signed a petition as character witnesses for the two dozen Japanese-American families living here. Hershey was born October 6, 1925 in Gallup, New Mexico just 13 years after it became a state, but his parents arrived earlier in 1906. Gallup was then a railroad and mining town with a nearby cavalry fort. According to the 1940 US Census record, Hershey’s father was widowed and operating a cafe and raising six children. Hershey says in a newspaper interview how grateful he was they lived in Gallup and escaped internment.

Not only is Gallup patriotic, it’s also called the Indian Capitol of the World because of its proximity to the diverse reservations and pueblos, including the largest — the Navajo Nation. From these southwestern tribes come the world’s most stunning art. Among the artists who walk past my breakfast table is a man selling his wife’s miniature Kachina dolls. Kachinas are spirit beings in the Pueblo traditions who assist with controlling the weather for crops. The Hopi, in particular, believe that it requires the supernatural to grow corn in the semi-arid high desert of the southwest.

The Hub is drawn to the dolls and despite being down to the last of our cash, he buys one for me — Morning Singer. The Kachinas represent harmony with the land, not dominance. Hopi men carve Kachina dolls from the root of cottonwood trees and dance as Kachinas to become supernatural. I find it curious that my little Morning Singer was carved by a woman, but collection of dolls has evolved into a large tourist trade and is not the same purpose. I’m dreaming of adding Native Art to Carrot Ranch, but reality is that artists are grossly taken advantage of and I could not stomach being a part of that system.

If I had the money I’d buy directly from the artists. One tall and lean young man in dark sunglasses and a hip-hop baseball cap walks up to us selling a silver squash blossom necklace with chunks of turquoise each the size of a walnut. I’m stunned. The silver-smithing alone is spectacular, and yet it is the high-grade turquoise that captures my attention. I know that a piece of jewelry like this will sell for $3,000 or more in a gallery. He’s selling it for $600 and offers it to us for $200. The temptation is to buy it and resell it at its value in the greater market outside Gallup. No way can I do this. I can’t devalue another artist.

It’s a familiar scenario for writers. Buy my book for .99 cents. Get published and you’re lucky to see 6 percent of each sale with the majority going to the publisher and distributor. And writers can’t bypass publishing and distribution. Gallup artists can’t compete with the online sales of knockoffs because they don’t have a way to get their art to the high-paying markets except through the trading posts and wholesalers. With great empathy, I show my appreciation for each piece as it parades by like an open mic night giving away words for cheap. My lame excuse for not paying the bargain price is, “We’re broke down.” They get it. We’re broke.

Most artists tell us their own broke stories, like the military mother who jokes that her shoes are her tires. “At least you only need to replace two worn tires, not four,” I jest in return. What is it with artists and poverty? We lead rich lives and create rich stories, rich horse-hair pottery, rich Kachina dolls, rich jewelry, but find no monetary wealth in the pursuit. We later stop at one of the trading posts and I notice the small Kachina dolls are marked off 20 percent. I ask how much and the “sale” price is $15. I bought mine directly from the artist for $5. Is it fair the trading post makes $10? If economics were my strength, I suppose I wouldn’t be a writer. Like one of our Rough Writers, Pete Fanning, wrote last week, “It makes my head hurt.”

I decline to buy one, explaining we’re broke down. I joke that if we can’t get a transmission we might live in Gallup. “Then you can get a job,” she replies. Ouch. Yes, there’s that, too. Despite my long hours, despite the material I’ve created and amassed for future publication, despite the articles and client content I write for pay, I don’t “really work.” The artists this proprietor takes advantage of to profit according to the religion of capitalism where, by God, where those who “work hard” deserve to make more than those slackers who merely create. How to even explain to her that my husband would gladly work, given a fair chance, but no one in his industry wants to hire a 50-something veteran with workplace adaptation issues due to PTSD.

That’s right; we’re a couple of homeless bums broke down in Gallup. But we are rich in other ways profits can never be. I’ll be a story-teller long after her shop closes down because the artists figure out how to work together for mutual benefit, cutting out those who take advantage of them. For now, I’m going to write from Gallup, collect stories as I catch them and explore the history of this region which is so unknown to me. I’m going to support other writers, and promote the value of literary arts from its rawest form to the possibilities of life-long mastery. That’s my job.

April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of jewelry. Whose ring is it and what’s its significance? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 18, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published April 19). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Only the Ring Remained (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Don’t you tire of sifting dirt?” Michael leaned back on the porch chair, drinking a Rocket Dog.

Danni knew Ike had stocked his workshop fridge with his Ranger buddy’s favorite beer. A token of appreciation. Or a bribe. “I thought we buried the hatchet, Michael.”

“Just curious. Seems boring.”

“It’s amazing how much evidence past garbage holds.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Garbage? No. The most disturbing find was considered a site contamination.”

“Contaminated garbage?”

“It was run-off from the 1956 Grand Canyon plane crash. A wedding band among Anasazi pottery. Identified as the pilot’s whose body was never recovered.”

###

Origin Stories

In the beginning, we have stories. Stories to describe who we are and where we came from. Science and mythology decode origins, but to believers it might not matter what scholars have to say. Often who we are culturally is defined by our creation mythology. The symbolism, faith and explanation reaches for a deeper truth that not even science can definitely say.

Exploring the mystery of life on the Navajo Nation, where geology defines the land and tradition its people, the Dine, writers were tasked with exploring creation myths.

The following are based on the April 6, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a creation myth.

***

A Transfer of Power by Bill Engleson

God-Like-Critter: It’s on your head now, writer. Go for it.

Flash: ME! Why me?

GLC: Because I SEE inside that fomenting cranium of yours. You writers are constantly reinventing the world. Demented, pretentious beings the lot of you. Never satisfied with what is. Always fabricating some fanciful imagining.

Flash: I admit we are stringers of words. But we don’t want to be all-powerful. That’s your job.

GLC: Not any more. You’ve worn me down. Hell, some of you even DENY me.

Flash: Evolution does make sense, doncha think?

GLC: No comment.

Flash: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

###

Egg-actly: The Beginning by Roger Shipp

“540 billion years ago.”

“You’re quite sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. The computers confirm it.”

“But wasn’t The Big Bang 14 billion years ago?”

“Yes! Isn’t this exciting?”

“But how are you going to explain it?”

“Scientifically, of course. Everyone knows- even in the beginning- you can’t make something out of nothing. The Law of Conservation. We just never knew what was here pre-Big Bang.”

“And now you know?”

“Indubitably. For a bang like that, there had to be a massive built-up of pressure. Probably gases. And then something causes an igniting.”

‘So you’ve found it?”

“The primordial eggshell.”

###

Ranae Immane Mittam by Jules Paige

Kaeru swam in the velvet darkness. Then she leapfrogged
across the sky. Leaving small illuminated globes to hatch.
The eggs bore different reflections, attitudes, altitudes and
aspects of their mother. Some within the various universes
became quasars. Within these systems further divisions
created some spheres that bore other living things.

Kaeru was happy. The velvet darkness brightened. Her
children became too numerous to count. Her work was
compete, now she could return to the beginning and wait.
Watch flora and fauna in vast variety.

To be worshiped was never Kaeru’s goal. Only the creation
of something from her power.

###

The Creation of Secular Music by Anne Goodwin

God could understand why Adam envied the birds. Their vantage point above the earth, the way they’d glide from tree to tree.

“It’s not that,” said Adam. “It’s how they sing your praise.”

So when God created Adam’s wife he gifted her with melody. And all was harmony until she met the Serpent. “Not all music belongs to God,” he hissed. “There are other words. Other tunes.”

Eve shrugged. “God’s music is the best.”

“You cannot know, until you’ve tried some other.”

So Eve sang of birds and bees and apple trees, and God banished her from his garden.

###

How Ellie’s Life Began by Kerry E.B. Black

Doreen’s life bled away on the gurney, seeping into sanitized linens. The doctor nestled a bundle of blankets against the cold. Doreen buried her face within, savoring the warmth, relishing the smell. Too young to die, yet passing with skill, Doreen’s tear-slicked vision blurred. Iron coated her palate, and dust clogged her throat. With trembling fingers, she peeled back a layer of blankets to reveal skin soft as a tulip. Here Doreen found immortality, here, in this tiny person whose eyes squeezed shut against the garish hospital and her mother’s death, this person whose birth brought about her death.

###

The Mandala by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Nora reached two fingers towards the mound of shaving cream on the tiny table. Sliding her fingers across and down, she palmed the foam, squishing it flat and rotating her hand slowly.

Her other hand peeked over the table’s edge and joined in. Before long, her eyes shifted dreamily to a shaft of sunlight on the opposite wall of the noisy preschool, her body rocking with her hand’s movements.

“Shall I make a print for her parents?” Her teacher detected faint, happy humming from the child, and shook her head. “Why interrupt her creative process? It’s her dream time.”

###

Where it Starts by Deborah Lee

“…bring creationism back to the school curriculum,” Jane reads. She rolls her eyes and continues scrolling through headlines, looking for something that’s a step forward instead of back.

Her mind casts back to her little girl, the one she had to leave behind. Tucking her in, sweet dream wishes. “Mommy, I wonder if I’m really real or if someone’s dreaming me.”

Conscious creation. Supreme being. Big Bang. One theory makes as much sense as another, Jane supposes.

Sometimes Jane thinks she must have dreamed her into life, that perfection. Then the nightmare took over. Where’s the myth for that?

###

Reciprocation by D. Avery

Do not forget Turtle who brought the earth up from the watery depths.

Do not forget Tree, whose roots hold and cradle the earth, whose branches hold up Sky. These ones, Turtle, Water, Tree, Sky, are sacred.

Long ago these ones spoke together, and together thought to provide and to sustain; they thought us into existence that we might use their gifts.

Be humble. Our creations are mere imitations, expressing gratitude, expressing wonder. Be mindful. Give thanks to Turtle, to Water, to Sky, to Tree. We are their thoughts that receive their gifts, and they think us most sacred.

###

Eve’s Husband by Luccia Gray

God created Adam, first,
‘Twas Eve’s fault that they were cursed.
Her search for knowledge paid the price
Of ousting them from paradise.
Adam did as he was told,
While Eve, she was very bold.
The husband obedient and good,
The wife complained as ever she could.
Man acted like a demigod,
Made in likeness to his only God.
While his wife was the family builder,
Her husband became the tribal leader,
Pillaging the earth and devastating
What God took six days in creating.
In spite of this some still believe
It’s women’s fault that man doth grieve.

###

Myth by Pensitivity

It was a myth that the grass was always greener.
She was sick of hearing it, fed up with packing up and moving every time things didn’t work out.
As far as she was concerned, grass was grass, green or dead.
Forty years they had been together, never more than two in the same place.
It was a miracle their relationship had survived.
This time though it was the last straw.
As they drove off to their next destination, she knew there would be no grass, green or otherwise.
The idiot didn’t realise they were heading for the desert.

###

Rain Ruinates, and Still Remembering by Elliott Lyngreen

Underneath the screaming sirens uselessly parting traffic; where I lost my fingernails turning your letters into a digital poem; my stomach winces.

Thoughts spiderweb the windshield and drip rose petals scattered along the dash.

Stuck: fenders, fire crashes, belts, and pulleys – through the sidewall. Bent abysmal in the worst extending.

Summer’s crawling from across black sky. Thunder holds itself upon darkness. I slump in frozen, lucid wonder, as rain spins above me.

And rolling (now dizzying) path reflects straight down the rearviewmirror as if remembering the carved or parted way rain on a dust particle started this whole infinity.

###

Pumpkin Seeds by Michael

“See that pumpkin vine down there?” my brother pointed out, “well that’s where we found you.”

In my mind, I was horrified that I had been laying there in the dirt before mum picked me up.

“Dad thought you were another Queensland Blue*. You’re lucky he didn’t slice you up and put you in the pot,” he said as nonchalant as ever.

When I asked mum, she said I was such a little one she had to hand feed me till I was big enough to go it alone.

“Pumpkin seeds,” she’d say, “giving me a wink, amazing things.”

###

Unanswered Questions by Norah Colvin

“What are you doing?”

“Pulling out weeds.”

“Why?”

“So the carrots have more room.”

“Why?”

“So they can grow big and juicy.”

“Why?”

“So they are good to eat for our dinner.”

“Why?”

“To keep us healthy?”

“I want to be healthy.”

“It’s good to be healthy.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“You won’t die. Not for a long time.”

“How do you know?”

Silence. How does anyone know?

“Silas died.”

“Who?”

“Silas.”

“Who is Silas?”

“Was. Silas was my friend.”

“I don’t remember Silas.”

“He was my imaginary friend.”

“Oh. How did he die?”

“I killed him.”

“Why?”

###

Where Fact Meets Fiction (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

With Bubbie at her side, Danni addressed the children. “The Kootenai tribe left evidence of living in this watershed for …”

Hands shot up. “What’s a watershed?” one boy asked.

“Well, that’s the area…”

“Our history is sacred.” Michael spoke from behind the children, walking up the fort path.

“It’s in the dirt, Michael.” Danni was nervous enough without Michael interfering.

“Nupika created animals and spirits. Man Spirit followed the river to be transformed.”

Danni noticed the children were more transfixed by Michael’s tale of transformation than her facts. She began to think of a way to blend them.

###

The One and Only Truth by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum, do people really believe the Genesis story? Mrs Ryder says they’re Creationists but that’s stupid.’

‘Why?’

Penny looked surprised. ‘You’re an Atheist. You don’t believe…’

‘But that doesn’t make me right.’ Mary smiled. ‘No, I don’t believe in God and Adam and 7 days of creation. But unlike homework I can’t prove or disprove it.’

‘Homework?’

‘You can rely on there always being homework. It’s existence is never in doubt. What’s yours?’

‘Write a creation story.’

‘Ok so if it’s not Genesis, what is it?’

‘Big Bang.’

‘And what’s that?’

‘I… dunno.’

‘Exactly, love. Different folks, different strokes.’

###

In the Beginning by Jane Dougherty

Once upon a time there was nothing, and the nothing began to pulsate, and in time to the pulsating, time began to tick. In time, boredom set in and the nothingness changed rhythm and it began to swing. As it swung back and forth, sparks of interest flickered in the nothingness and they swung too. More and more sparks joined in the dance, swinging and swirling clouds and veils of coloured gas, until the ticking became a riot of noise and gaiety mounting to a monumental crescendo and BOOM, out of anarchy, settled the ordered brilliance of the universe.

###

The Conversation by Reena Saxena

“I have invented a synthetic molecule”.

“Have you replicated nature, or invented something that did not exist before?”

“I draw inspiration from existing patterns, and then, improvise on them.”

“Great! But has Nature run out of stock to cater to the needs of the planet?”

“The population has ballooned by quantum leaps. Competition between human beings, plants and animals has increased. My genius can help me in building a comfort capsule for myself.”

“Is that creativity, or an unwise survival strategy?”

“I do not really know. “

“This God fellow has never educated anyone, just created platforms to learn.”

###

Letter to the Weather Network by Kate Spencer

Dear Mr. Weatherman,

I’m writing you ‘cause I really really want spring to get here. Do you know where it is? Mommy said you might know. I’ve been waiting for it forever sooo long. I ask Mother Nature every day. I ask nicely. Do you know why she is not answering me? I want to go outside and play with Daphnie. Only I can see her. She lives in the daffodils but it’s too cold and she won’t come out. Does Mother Nature have elves like Santa? I’m trying to be extra good. Does that help?

Respectfully yours,

Tammy

###

Dwarfed by Pete Fanning

Zach stared at the sky. Mr. Meyers said they saw stars how they were not how they are. Light years. It hurt his head just thinking about it.

Next door came a big bang. The neighbors fighting again. Zach stared in awe at the clusters. The Milky Way was 100,000 light years across. To be this tiny! With such monumental problems. Could Mr. Meyers be right? That there may be more…another Earth.

There wasn’t another Nana. She didn’t tolerate such thoughts. He’d asked her about it and she’d thunked him good.

It hurt his head just thinking about it.

###

Stargazing by Enkin Anthem

She looks at the stars and wonders.

She knows they’re planets or suns or galaxies, points of radiation and light in the endlessness of the universe. Boundless, inconceivable power, and still only specks of matter in infinity.

She knows everything there is to know about electromagnetism and dark matter, about string cosmology and astroparticle physics. She also knows all the questions that aren’t answered yet, and she’s scared and excited all at once.

But somewhere out there, someone looks at the sky and see the same stars that she sees. And that’s the real miracle – something she can believe.

###

Myth by FloridaBorne

“Hey, Bill,” the burly man said, removing his minor’s hat. “Remember that story about a star falling from the sky, taking 3 men and 8 women back in time…?”

“This is a geology field trip, Joe,” the irate professor replied. “You’re here as our guide, not a mythologist.”

“Tell that to the space ship.”

“What?” Bill yelped.

“You’d know, if you’d read the ancient texts!”

Bill ran through a cave entrance, followed a faint glow, and found 9 mesmerized students staring into a cavern that hadn’t been there a year ago.

Light surrounded them, Joe gulped. “3 men…8 women…”

###

Hello, Goodbye

There seems to be a life cycle to when we say hello to when we say goodbye. Before you can bid farewell, you must greet. How much happens in between? Those were the stories writers sought this week.

From clever to poignant, life is full of hellos and goodbyes. These are such stories

The following are based on the March 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a hello or a goodbye.

***

Adios Mom! by Ruchira Khanna

A stretcher heads towards the door.

My eyes are on the body that lies on it.

As it passes by me, I see a familiar face and memories flash before me.

A warm lap, a protective sheath, a gentle smile, a look of disapproval when being naughty, and a whisper of my name in her most fond of voice.

Today she lay there on the stretcher with a content smile and a body that breathed for 66 years.

I gently stroke her forehead.

Adios Mom!

I shall keep you alive as I walk the path with your principles in life.

###

After by Diana Nagai

“Two tickets,” I requested, reaching for my wallet. A hand gently took my arm, I looked up into the eyes of my good friend, his face solemn. Grief slumped my shoulders as I remembered. “Sorry, one ticket.”

It had been four months since my wife passed. I found it difficult being alone. Something I had been a part of, for more than three quarters of my life, was gone. I only needed one ticket wherever I went now.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I paid.

It seems I was constantly saying goodbye to “before” and hello to “after”.

###

Ameliorating Media by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s up mum?’

Mary forced a smile. ‘My old school friend Jean is going abroad. I’ll miss her.’

‘You’re friends on Facebook aren’t you?’

‘Oh yes. I’m old school.’

‘Ha! So you’ll see her posts.’

‘It’s not the same.’

‘You Skype when dad’s away?’

‘It doesn’t always work so well…’

‘DM? Hangouts? Whatsapp?’

‘Are they nightclubs?’

‘Ha ha. You’re really funny today.’

Mary looked back at the email that had caused her gloom. ‘That’s me. A bundle of lols.’

Penny sat next to Mary. ‘Seriously, there are tonnes of ways to keep in touch.’

‘But do they serve coffee?’

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The saying goes that as one door closes, another opens. In my case, it’s a single door that hits me in the butt on the way out and any alternatives of windows are shuttered.
I find ‘Goodbye’ so final, and in many cases through my life, painful. Cheerio is much more acceptable, friendly and optimistic because it suggests the possibility of meeting again.
However, sometimes Goodbye is the only word than can possibly apply for things that cannot be undone or replaced.
I wrote a post on saying goodbye early in my blogging days. I still haven’t done it.

###

Never Goodbye (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“Impound, $45. Kenneling, $20. No license, $125. No rabies tag, $54. Vet and vaccinations, $50. License, $100 for an unaltered dog. That’s only $35 with proof of surgery,” the animal control worker adds, smiling. As if she’s doing Jane a favor.

“I got him as a stray,” Jane says.

“Then $100. Total $394.”

Jane looks back down the corridor of pens. Troubles looks back through the mesh, that tongue-lolling smile, waiting calmly. Utterly sure of her.

“That’s most of my paycheck.”

“It’s still $394.”

Thirty minutes later, she’s hugging him, face wet with tears and dog kisses. “Hello, boy.”

###

Hello, Goodbye by Scarelett Sauvage

“Hello.” The woman knelt down in front of Amelia and brushed her hand gently over the four-year-old’s long blonde hair.

Amelia looked up into the woman’s bright blue eyes and flashed her best smile. The young girl was old enough to understand that first impressions mattered in a place like this. She wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest or even the youngest child in the building, and if she wanted to find a new family, she had to catch their eye.

For one brief moment, she almost had the blue-eyed woman’s attention. Almost.

“Goodbye.” Amelia whispered to no-one but herself.

###

Round and Round by Norah Colvin

He felt tall, grown up, sitting in the saddle, holding the reins, feet in the stirrups.

Mum was watching.

“Hold tight,” she whispered. “Love you.”

He smiled. Then they were off. He turned, letting go quickly to wave one hand.

“Goodbye,” he called. His lip quivered. How soon before he’d see her again? He turned, but she’d disappeared.

Suddenly she was in front of him.

“Hello,” she called.

“Hello,” he smiled.

Again, she was gone. “Goodbye,” he heard; then “Hello again!” He giggled.

“Going around in circles,” she thought. “Life’s like a carousel. You’ve got to enjoy the ride.”

###

Half Caste by Luccia Gray

She was doing her homework.
They were playing around.
‘She’s not like us,’ they whispered.
‘She’s different,’ he complained.
‘Odd clothes, funny accent,’ she smirked.
‘Let’s say hi to the new girl.’
‘You’re not English,’ they said.
‘I was born here,’ she protested.
‘You’re only half English,’ they replied.
‘Right or left?’ she challenged.
‘You’re colouring’s wrong,’ they complained.
‘My tanned colouring’s fine,’ she replied.
‘You’re half caste,’ they said.
‘Look at me, I’m quite whole,’ she insisted.
‘You’re half caste,’ they chanted.
‘At least I’m not half stupid,’ she sighed,
Said goodbye and turned back to her books.

###

First Day at a New School by Kerry E.B. Black

When they collided, their books flew to litter the hallway. “Great!” she shouted, bending to retrieve her armful of texts.

He handed her a paper-wrapped volume, smiling shyly. “Sorry. First day rushing.”

She snatched it. “Thanks to you, I’ll be late.”

He nursed his reddening cheek as she flounced ahead. Her skirt and ponytail swayed, an admonishment of his clumsiness.

“Please don’t go into my room,” he thought. But she did, haughty attitude in a seat at the room’s front.

“Great way to start.” He indulged in a deep breath before taking his place. “Hello, class. I’m your teacher.”

###

Hello… Good-Bye by Roger Shipp

“Good morning.”

Standing at my door, I greet every one of them.

Most years, by now, they greet me back.

Not this year.

“I glad to see you today. I missed you yesterday.”

Agnes had been absent… again.

Her parents- between homes.

I wish I could do more.

Was that a small smile?

Here comes Aaron, the perpetual fist-bumper.

He always pulls his fist away before contact.

Small moments of coolness are important.

I grin… Then I step forward and bump fists before he can retreat.

He grins and sprints down the stairs.

“You cheated!” he yells in flight.

###

Hello is the Hardest Word by Joe Owens

Mitch felt his throat tighten, belly flop and the beads of sweat from on his forehead. The raven haired brown eyes beauty stepped into the coffee shop at her regular time 7:33. He knew it was a bit like a stalker to already have her coffee ready, but she always ordered the same kind.

She looked at the name on the cup and flashed the million-dollar smile.

“You are the only one to get my name right!”

“Krystyn is unusual!” he said.

“I think it is time we meet, what is your name?”

“Kevin. It is Kevin.”

“Hello Kevin!”

“Hello!”

###

Keys, by D. Avery

“Hello again.”

The artist had stopped his work when Marlie approached. He was shirtless, little droplets of blood magnifying the added details of his phoenix, the blood tipped shard of stone in his hand.

“What are you doing?”

“I think you know. What are you doing down here again?”

“The lieutenant feels the animals are too dangerous, so he let me guard the artists and writers instead.”

The artist smiled. “But we are a danger to society. Aren’t you afraid? Of me?”

“You’re to be in the arena tonight.”

“I know.”

Marlie unlocked the cell.

“Good-bye.”

“Come with me.”

###

A Midsummer’s Dear John by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Dearest Oberon,

Although I swore to renew our vows this Midsummer’s Night, I cannot in good conscience re-marry you. Your cruel joke on Nick Bottom backfired, and I’m still pissed that you snatched my changeling to make him one of your warriors.

Bottom may not be much to look upon, and burns the bulb yet dimly, but his voice is sweet and his nature pure. Amply endowed with primitive gifts, his unschooled rendering of the tragic Pyramus has captured my fairy heart. I take him as my consort, and leave you to your boy.

Thank Puck for me,
Titania

###

You Snooze…You…by Bill Engleson

The moment squeaks by me like a baby mouse skirting the baseboards.

My emotional cat is asleep on the veranda.

You, you are packed and loaded for unbearable loss.

Me. I am the loss leader.

“Bye.” I look up.

You are shaking your head just a noddle.

A nod.

A noddle. I can’t even think coherently.

I’m not saying a word.

I’m not feeling a thing.

“This is all I’m taking.”

This seems wrong.

“For now,” you add.

Dead on, I think. You were never one to pass on what was yours.

And me, I never quite measured up.

###

Mesmerizing Melody by Jules Paige

The music box sat on the shelf for years until he walked in.
The replica played Josette’s Theme. I had pretended that any man
who walked in and looked at it was a vampire. Mostly thought it was
just my imagination. That is until he walked in.

I had watched a good many of the Dark Shadow episodes growing
up. But I was really too young to understand much of what was going
on. All the hello’s and goodbyes as scenes flashed back and through
the years at Collinsport. Now this young man who looked eerily like
Jonathan Frid…

###

Telephone Call by Bill Bennett

“Hello?”

“It’s me.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“I want the money.”

“Tuff shit.”

“If the money isn’t in my account by the time volleyball practice is over, mom –“

“Mom what?”

“Mom gets the poison.”

“You would kill your mother over a hundred dollar purse?”

“No. It’ll only make her sick. Throw up and stuff.”

“You’re a real bitch, you know?”

“Yeah, I know, but she’ll forgive me like always, right?”

“I can’t believe the monster you’ve become.”

“Well, you raised me to be like you. Oh, and pick me up some cigs on your way home.”

“Goodbye.”

###

Farewell by Lady Lee Manila

on the horizon I see the sunset
a classic golden flame along the shore
where harmony and tranquillity rest
blinded by the beauty of the landscape
walking along with my bare feet
consoling myself for letting you go
the tumult of your name and memories
exhausting me in my mind and sleep
tired with the steady beating of my heart
what was done was done and so we accept
echoes of the past and half of my life
of broken trust and misunderstanding
of betrayal and inconsideration
with a heavy heart, farewell and goodbye
that’s all we could say

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Judith looked up at the figure in the window.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“I need Doctor Sherman.”

“He’s…sir, do you have an appointment?”

The man sighed. His dark eyes cast tired contempt. He shook his head, as though Judith were incapable of understanding. Or maybe she hadn’t heard him correctly.

“Sir. We have—”

The man touched the glass, reminding Judith that it was only a delicate partition defining their roles. “He told me Linda would be fine. He said not to worry.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. But Dr. Sherman—”

“I never even got to say goodbye.”

###

A Good “Bye” by FloridaBorne

“Never trust your Aunt June,” Mom used to say. “She took what Mother willed to me and never could say a good thing about our family.”

Shortly after my 19th birthday, I travelled through 2 states to meet my estranged aunt. She jabbered on about her son’s successful career as a fast food manager, then asked, “What do you plan to be?”

“Aunt June. Did you steal…”

“Another genius,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

“…with a full scholarship in physics.”

“Ph…physics?”

“Mom was correct,” I said, frowning deeply. “You’re self-righteous and not very bright.”

Some goodbyes are so satisfying.

###

Closure by Reena Saxena

I do not remember the first Hello, or if there was any excitement behind it. Nor did I say Goodbye. The wounds inflicted by you were too deep, to enable a civil conversation. I just walked away, with my head held high, not wanting any emotional outburst, to bring my hurt out in the open.

I will survive. I will succeed, and without associating with multiple-faced people like you. Yet, the lack of a closure rankles at times. Do you even realize the impact of your actions on my life? You will, when you go through a similar situation.

###

The New Era by Allison Maruska

I hold my hand up to my face, shielding it from the pelting rain. Shouts of protest meet me—I pretend not to hear them. They’ve solely had their voices heard long enough. Now, it’s my turn.

Brushing the moisture from my overcoat, I step into the building. A long table awaits me and thousands of other women who will greet the new era.

The rain’s chill reaches my bones and my hand shakes as I mark my choice. With a lump in my throat, I drop my ballot into the box.

Starting today, we will always be heard.

###

Pedalled by Michael

She had that look on her face that made you stop and think: There’s bad news coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And I was right.

“It’s over,” she said, “time for us to move on. It’s been fun but I don’t love you.”

“Oh,” I said somewhat flummoxed by the announcement.

“We’ve run our course, I want other things than what you offer.”

“It’s my lack of a car isn’t it. You never liked riding on the cross bar.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just you’ve driven me to drink.”

“Pedalled.”

“What could be worse?”

###

Ike’s First Hello (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Them Wranglers, cowgirl?”

She’d been focused on brushing the next layer, irritated someone would enter her grid to comment on her jeans. Without pausing, she said, “Want a broken nose, farm boy?”

“Farm boy? I’m hurt. I’m a fisherman. Can’t you smell me?”

Danni stopped and stood in the square pit. The corners of Ike’s eyes crinkled and he stood with a fly-rod like a staff. His pants were wet like he’d been swimming with the trout. He wheeled around, bent forward and pointed to the leather brand on the butt of his jeans. “You’re right—I got Wranglers, too!”

###

Hello by Irene Waters

“Well hello.” He undressed her with his eyes so there could be no confusing the deliberate emphasis he had placed on his words.

“Hiya.” She stared back at him, her eyes wide and innocent, a friendly smile on her face. “I’m Hecate.”

“I’m Alastor. I think we’re going to get to know each other veeeery well.”

They talked, they walked. He sidled closer and groped. She twisted and escaped. He grabbed and held fast. She muttered under her breath. “Eye of newt, farewell to cads but welcome toads.”

“Well hello toad. Now, I quite like your type of slime.”

###

First Hello (from New in Town) by Susan Zutautas

“No, go right ahead, please have a seat,” Morag said as she gazed into his sea blue eyes, thinking what a gorgeous looking guy.

“Can I buy you a beer?”

“Well I was just about to leave. My cousin was supposed to meet me here but she just cancelled. So sure, thanks, I’ll stay for one more.”

“Good then, nice to meet you, my name’s Ian”, extending his hand out to her.

“I’m Morag” she nods.

“What are the odds of me meeting a Scottish lass, and such a pretty one at that … must be my lucky night.”

 ###

At the School Reunion by Anne Goodwin

We’ve tangled time by merging now with then
Our wrinkles cannot hide the girls we were
Now screened again on weathered visages
So in your face I meet my younger self
In nylon shirt, white socks and hitched up skirt
With curtained hair that veiled our flawless skin
So much we did not could not know of life
And yet we thought ourselves full formed, complete
And so it seems from infancy to death
Each decade pastes another coat on me
The school reunion peels the layers away.
Hello that girl. Goodbye that girl. Hello.

###

Signs of Life by Sherri MatthewsI always believed there was life on Mars and then I saw the mesas and the monkeys for myself. Found arrow heads and footprints too – Dinosaur prints! You know Charli Mills, that bestselling author of Rock Creek everyone’s raving about? Well, I know her! We met through blogging. Yeah, I know, it was big back then. Crazy! She lived on Mars for a while and years later, we met up and she took me there. Ahh…great times. I always knew she would make it big. In fact, she’s coming to London soon. Can’t wait to say hello again.

###

March 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ahead, partial sunlight illuminates sand that has seeped from a massive geological structure aptly named, Sand Mountain. From the north, it rises like a slope out of the shores of a deep blue body of water, Sand Hollow. On its south-side the underpinnings of metamorphic rock expose ridges of red cliff. Those curious blotches of sand seeps are orange and remind me of powdered koolaid. In fact, the scene on the backside of Sand Mountain translates easily to a candy shop given the unnaturally sweet colors. Grape gumdrops push up against the strawberry taffy base not far from the powdered orange koolaid.

Among the sweet treats of this lower staircase of land, beneath the Navajo Sandstones of Zion white as cookie dough and the gnarly basalt of the Virgin Plain black as licorice, is a level that holds something more of child-like interest: Jurassic dinosaurs.

All of Zion, its surrounding mesas and transitional zone, are all Jurassic in age, spanning back 145 to 200 million years. The candy around here is stale and crumbly. Once it was an area with swaths of mudflats, an early flood plane. Conifers, ferns and cycads lined the shores, sand dunes swept to the northeast and fish populated the seasonal lakes and streams. Dinosaurs tip-toed through soft sediments to leave behind impressions in what looks like petrified chocolate.

If there’s anything better than going to a sweet shop, it’s going with a friend. Today, I have Norah Colvin in my pocket.

Norah is not only one of the first generation Rough Writers at Carrot Ranch, she’s also the One. She’s the one who discovered a brand new flash fiction challenge three years ago. She’s the one who introduced other blogging friends, and the ranch gathering has become like writing at the local soda fountain where we have learned what malts or sodas each prefers. Through our sweet shop talk, I’ve come to learn that Norah’s grandchildren are dino-crazed. And what a good interest to have! Science, mystery and Jurassic monsters all rolled up in one. What else I’ve come to know about Norah is her dedication to early childhood education. Her newly launched website readilearn is an accumulation of her experience, creativity and passion for teaching.

Our truck kicks up fine red dust as we travel across the hard-packed land. After our last outing, the next destination is my choice, and I want to find dinosaur tracks for Norah. I learned about these tracks when we first landed on Mars (also known on maps as southwestern Utah). Because of anticipating her excitement for such a discovery, I’ve been on a mission to step where Jurassic lizards have trod. We’ll be leaving Mars soon and still, I hadn’t found the tracks. So we are searching among the purple gumdrops and oozing orange koolaid.

Tiny mesquite leaves unfurl among spindly brush and newborn cactus needles blur the outline of the plants with fuzz. Garnet red buds line the tops of prickly pear cactus and tiny yellow bells trumpet from thorny shrubs. White flowers on a single stalk rise up like spears from the dark brown clay. This is Warner Valley in spring. Somewhere out here, the toes of Dilophosaurus and Megapnosaurus trailed across a mudflat millions of springs ago before this was a desert. in 1982, a man from Cedar City, Utah was walking down a wash and found an exposed fossil of over 400 tracks.

Locating the site is like finding a lost cactus spine in the sand. Unless you directly step on it, it remains hidden. The Hub and I traverse several BLM (Bureau of Land Management, public lands) roads. The reason we had found the Honeymoon Trail earlier is because I was looking for this site. I understood the old pioneer trail was nearby. But, as often is the trouble in this steep terrain, the Honeymoon Trail plummets over the Hurricane Cliffs in what is now regarded as an extreme Jeep trail. Thwarted in our search, we’ve come to the Warner Valley a different way — this is below the Hurricane Cliffs and behind Sand Mountain (which was the first place I search for the tracks).

Our BLM map shows the valley as deceptively flat. We trundle over hillocks, and dip down and up through dry washes. We stop to chat with a motorcyclist, and he confirms the dinosaur tracks are out here, “somewhere.” Another cyclist comes along and encourages us to continue down a road we decided wasn’t going anywhere. Turns out, that road led us to the grape gumdrops and we are on a two-track that feels similar to a carnival roller-coaster. The purple landscape might be a clue: according to geology books this level gains its color and treacherous stickiness when wet from ancient volcanic ash. That sounds Jurassic to me.

We come to a fence, turn up the road and a BLM sign marks the spot — to park, that is. From here, the search continues on foot. The rolling trail continues and I walk past smooth sandstone clusters that look like ruins of Bedrock from the 1970s cartoon, The Flintstones. The closer I get to the cliffs and scree of Sand Mountain, the more obvious the carving of the land by water. The trail dips into a flat wash that continues to travel down as if servile to water when it marches this way. Finally, a broad flat of chocolate malt rock spreads out before me. I have found the Holy Grail of sweets in this gumdrop desert. Norah, this treat is for you!

It might sound silly to take along a friend in a pocket, but truly, as writers we do that. When we go on these journeys of discovery, and writing is both, we think of audience. Many talk about turning off the “inner critic.” Critics are for editing. Creative flow needs friendly encouragement. That’s why I like to write to a friendly audience. And you don’t have to actually know your reader. Norah doesn’t always have to ride in my pocket! Many times, I make up the audience. And the reason is sane and important to writing. You might write first for yourself, but if you want to connect with others, you write next for an audience.

It’s easy for me to match up an adventure involving dinosaurs to a friend who appreciates the Jurassic lizards (or ancestors of birds). So how do I do this with an unknown audience?

My beat used to be organic and local food systems, such as cranberry farms, artisan cheese-makers, grass-fed cattle ranches, urban community gardens, Hmong collective farms, CSAs, farmers markets and cooperatives (farm, producer and retailer). For 15 years, I interviewed people where they tilled black soil, bogged cranberries or fought for food justice. I wrote for publications like Edible Twin Cities, Stress-free Living and This is Living Naturally. I’ve been featured on NPR, interviewed for local news and contributed to regional cookbooks.

Each time, I was aware that I was writing for an audience. If I was alone, prone on the soft earth in a French vineyard that endured Minnesota weather for three decades, poised to capture the sunrise over grapes that suffered, I talked to my readers as if they were blind. I took notes and photographs as if I were their eyes. I included other senses, too and built relationships with the land and those who tended it as if I were match-making with readers. I was the experience, and that’s how I learned to write sensory. It became engaging to the point that I had real readers who wanted to go with me.

And many did. I’d put out a call and take others along. They asked questions I hadn’t thought of which taught me to anticipate what a reader wants to know. One memorable experience was with an accountant who didn’t agree that local food should “cost” a premium until I invited him to go with me on assignment to an organic cranberry bog. We toured the entire day, the farmer introducing us to neighbors so we could see the multiple ways farmers harvest cranberries. We left, but the accountant never fully left the bogs; it was in his system and he became a local food advocate.

What about fiction? I start with the story, and think as a story-teller — what would an audience want to know and what will surprise them? But first, I write my novels for me. Now, I’m writing them for readers. I carry along readers in my pocket to remind me to look at the journey for them. This is one way to write for readers. I’m sure more than a few of you, especially bloggers, have experienced processing a post mentally as if you were in conversation with those you know read. And for those we don’t know, we think of them as friendly. We, the writer, return from the desert with a gift we can share.

And thank you to everyone here at Carrot Ranch — Rough Writers & Friends, Readers and Lurkers — last week resulted in a profound collection of writing that supports the idea that art is free and within us, no matter political climates and cuts. I know many of you read as responses are posted, but if you get the chance, take a read of the Without Art collection as a whole. Thank you. That is the gift writers share, and reading is the gift in return to writers.

March 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience. It can be broad or small, and gathered for any reason. How does your character react to an audience? Is the audience itself a character. Go where the prompt leads.

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

***

Surprise Audience (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni met Peter at the archeological site when a bus pulled up.

“Guess what? We have a school field trip. I told the teachers we’d have Q & A with an archaeologist.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Danni.

“This way, I knew you’d show up. It gives us a chance to tweak your Little Ranger Program. It’s sound, but not kid friendly. Time for you to learn your audience. What age, are you thinking?”

“Is this a cruel test?”

“Kind of. How old?” Peter folded his arms, grinning at the kids.

“Can I look at their teeth?” asked Danni.

 ###