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May 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s hard to take silent steps across broken glass. Shards ground into nuggets the size of small peas glitter green, brown, blue and diamond-clear litter the path. In the back of my mind, I acknowledge the oddity of walking on glass, but it’s some Wisconsin recycling measure to pave the trails with glass gravel. Right now. This moment. I’m on the hunt. Shhh…cranes.

Across time many have proposed theories to explain the brain — cranium size and shape, left brain, right brain, synapses firing. These attributes mean something and nothing. Perhaps the final frontier is not the vastness of space, but what is contained in the folds of the mind.

For me, I acknowledge pockets of focus. I put on my thinking cap, or I disappear into my head to read (or write) a good story. Some of my focus might actually be distractions, but I can’t wrap my mind around that quandary at the moment. I know I have Rock Brain and History Brain — oh, look, a squirrel! But most focused/distracting of all is Bird Brain.

I’m in stealth Bird Brain mode.

The gravel crunches beneath my sneakers, and I don’t think I’m sneaking up on any birds. Maybe that’s the actual point of the glass gravel. A sign explained it all, but when one has become a full-fledged member of the International Crane Institute of Baraboo, Wisconsin, one does not stop to read non-bird related signs. I’m hunting the elusive Whooping Crane.

Whoopers remain one of the rarest (and tallest) birds to grace the North American continent. They once nestled on the northern prairies from central Canada as far south as Iowa. In the winter they hung out in Texas and Louisianna. Then settlers, like Cobb McCanles and his family, moved west, and the whoopers disappeared.

By 1941, the Texas wintering flock huddled near extinction with only 15 birds remaining. In 1971, two Cornell University students dreamed of an organization that could protect the world’s 15 species of cranes, including the Whoopers. Serendipity is when you follow your passion, and you find an unexpected gift. It’s a happy chance.

Ornithology students, Ron Sauey and George Archibald, envisioned a place where they could combine research, captive breeding, and reintroduction of cranes to their depopulated habitats. They imagined a place where restoration and education would engage citizens to support a crane-focused organization. The first happy chance came from Wisconsin where a horse rancher offered land to the ornithology students.

The next bit of serendipity came when George accepted an invitation to go on the Johnny Carson Show, a well-viewed late-night program in the 1970s. Part of the appeal to a late-night American audience was the humorous story about how George wooed a Whooper named Tex. She was hatched in captivity and therefore imprinted to humans. To her Bird Brain, George was a potential mate.

Every morning, George walked with Tex, and they danced the crane dance until she readied herself for breeding. While George held her attention, two other biologists artificially inseminated the lovelorn crane. We can all chuckle, but the true heart of the story is that the match yielded a single Whooper from 54 eggs that didn’t make it.

Gee Whiz, George’s crane-son, went on to become the crane that built the Wisconsin flock which now has over 200 of the existing 700 Whooping Cranes today. In a sad twist, the night before George went on the Johnny Carson Show, a marauding raccoon invaded Tex’s pen and killed her.

Everyone laughed about the crane dance between ornithologist and bird, but they put their dollars where their hearts were and that single sad tale on a late-night tv show serendipitously funded the International Crane Foundation. Today, it lives up to its original vision to provide sanctuary for all 15 species of cranes.

I’m hunting the Whoopers in the back pasture by the small pond full of singing spring peepers. But my heart overrides my Bird Brain when a female Gray Crowned Crane begins flirting with my son and husband. With head feathers looking more like thoughts on fire than a crown, I loved the display she puts on like a comedic dancer in a burlesque show.

She shows me what George understood all along — the charisma of cranes.

Whoopers, Black Crowned, Back Necked, Blue, Brolga, Siberian, Wattled, Hooded, Red Crowned, Sarus, White Naped, Gray Crowned, Demoiselle, Eurasian, and Sandhill cranes ignite the imaginations of the world with their compelling attractiveness. We paint them, write poetry of them, and even craft origami after them. Peaceful, graceful, fierce — we fall in love with the charisma of cranes.

A note to the regular Ranch Hands — my trip to the cranes was part of a three-day tour to see our son and visit an orthopedic surgeon at Veteran Affairs to finally get the acknowledgment that the Hub’s knee is as empty as the prairies were of Whoopers in the 1940s. Nothing left to salvage, nothing left to cushion. As the orthopedic explained, “It’s like a bomb went off in your knee.” Finally, a gel shot, and hopefully a replacement.

My technology acted up on the road, and I couldn’t keep up with comments, but the Ranch collection bucket (the form) performed well, and I published the stories when I got back home. I promise to catch up on my comments because that’s an important commitment of mine to give each of you positive feedback on your contributions to the challenge. And I thank the community for commenting, too!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community made the local news. I was not prepared to be recorded and televised, but I was thrilled to share the power of what we do through literary art 99 words at a time. The next morning after our trip, I was invited to present what we do at Carrot Ranch to 1 Million Cups, a national organization with a local chapter in the Keweenaw. I read Pete Fanning’s flash from Vol. 1, “Normandy,” and I read my most recent #CarrotRanchRocks story, “The Girlie Rock.”

The Girlie Rock by Charli Mills

Rex teased Amy about the big pink rock she found on the beach. A gift from Lake Superior days before deployment. He loved her enough that he took that girlie rock with him to Iraq. He placed its cool flat surface against his chest during coughing fits. Smoldering chemical fires seared his lungs. He married Amy and returned her girlie rock. When they drove to the VA for treatment, she rubbed its pink smoothness like some magic genie would emerge and save his life. A pink rock on marble white – in the end, she left it on his grave.

CWW-07-17-24 (Pink feldspar and green epidote)

My head feels a bit like how the crown of a crane looks, all my synapses firing in a bazillion directions, but there is a vision to madness. I hope I can pull off the charisma of cranes and anchor Carrot Ranch and our literary art in the Keweenaw Community which has been so warm and welcoming (despite 304 inches of snow).

Lastly, I’m re-doing my 50th Birthday Party. No offense to the stunning state of New Mexico, but I felt robbed of my milestone birthday celebration stranded and homeless in the Land of Enchantment. You are all invited to Rock the 5.0 with me, snow or sun, at McLain State Park on May 20 with grilled brats, birthday cake, rock picking, WIP-reading, and a Copper Country sunset over Lake Superior. If you are unable to attend, you can send birthday cards to:

Carrot Ranch, PO Box 306, Hancock, MI 49930

Thank you all for your writing and reading patronage! Your individual stories matter, and yet you are also part of a greater, global, artistic calling. A calling to peace like a crane.

May 10, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story defining “the charisma of cranes.” For centuries, cranes have inspired art and philosophy. You can write a crane story or create something new out of the phrase. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 15, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

(I just noticed my bird-brained typo last week; you can still turn in May 3 stories if you thought you had until May 15, but use the May 3 Flash Fiction Challenge Form.)

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

 

The Charisma of Whooping Cranes in 1858 (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Slowly lifting on outstretched angel wings, hundreds of white cranes trumpeted and took flight. Nancy Jane dug her bare heels into the sides of her prairie pony, tail flying as she rode beneath the flock. Sarah clung to the pony’s sides with her legs, catching the rhythm of his galloping paces. Her arms wrapped around Nancy Jane’s waist to grasp handfuls of mane. The cranes landed across the Platte, gracefully perching on long legs. Sarah gawked, mesmerized. Nancy Jane slowed her steady mount, and both women whooped loud as the angels who came to charm them in Nebraska Territory.

Lines

Lines from the Rough Writers & Friends at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsFollow them, get hung up in them, or forget them — lines can guide or entangle. North, south, east, west. You can follow lines any direction. Writers grabbed lines and followed the stories.

You never know what to expect when writers gather from around the world and come from different genres. But you do know that the lines are set high at Carrot Ranch and what follows will evoke and entertain.

The following are based on the May 3, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story.

Part I (10-minute read)

Speed Dating Lines by Luccia Gray

“You’re a writer?”

She nodded, expecting him to make an excuse and move away; instead he asked, “Could you write me an original pick up line?”

“I’m not helping you lie.”

“Are you kidding?” He said waving his arm around the crowded venue. “Everyone’s expecting me to pretend.”

“You’re right. It’s so sad.” She stood, “I shouldn’t have come.”

“Wait, could I borrow your pen and notebook?”

She hesitated then pushed them towards him.

“I’m tired of pretending,” he wrote.

“Just be yourself,” she wrote back.

“Could we both be ourselves somewhere quieter?” he wrote.

She drew a smiley.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Line Prompt by Chelsea Owens

“Oh, Gustavo! I love you so. Tell me you love me in return.” She batted her long, dark eyelashes.

“Felicia,” he passionately answered, “How can I not? You are heaven to my Earth!”

Sighing, she succumbed to his embrace. He kissed her deeply, tasting a forbidden passion. They pulled apart, then… turn to the author.

Gustavo clears his throat. “Line?”

“What?” The author asks, startled. She looks down at her fingers, poised over the keyboard. “Oh. Sorry, guys. I got caught up in the moment.”

“How about:” Gustavo and Felicia became lost, for a moment, in each other’s eyes…

🥕🥕🥕

Thirty-Three Minutes by Debora Kiyono

In thirty-three minutes, she must be ready. It`s her only chance.

“C’mon! You can do this! It has to be a memorable combination of words, to align with his mind and allow him to decipher the code. A key for the map, within the story, that will take him out of the imprisonment and trigger his remembrance of everything.” – She thinks, pacing the floor.

Taking a deep breath, she sits and writes in hallucinated rhythm, smiling when she finds it.

When the window opens, she throws in the piece of paper with nine words written in one line.

🥕🥕🥕

On the Cards by Di @ pensitivity101

One of the designs I attempted when I first started making cards some years ago was curves with straight lines, using silvered thread in various fluorescent colours. It was quite straightforward and similar to the demonstration where we used threads on a serrated circle to get the desired effect. By adding a little diamante in the centre, the cards were simple but effective.

The only drawback I found on mine was that although they looked very nice on the front, the backs were always untidy, so I had to put a secondary card in place to cover my workings!

🥕🥕🥕

Lines by Kay Kingsley

Lines are for drawing, lines are for crossing, for waiting, towing or fishing.

We read lines, write lines, and use pick-up lines to meet others.

We drop a line of communication and build lines of defense.

We are in the line of sight or the line of fire.

Lines make boundaries, create hard lines between us, lines you don‘t want to cross.

We streamline, get our ducks in a line, hang clothes on the clothesline.

Lines show us where we have been and also where we dare to go beyond.

And that my friend, is no line at all.

🥕🥕🥕

Crossing the Line by Wallie and Friend

“You, young lady, have crossed a line.” Mrs. Perkins stood with her arms folded, her heart beating rapidly in her neck.

“Can’t we keep it, pleeease–”

“No. Go and put that thing back.”

Mabel stuck out her lip. “Pleeeeaaaase?”

With her husband in town, seeing the smile on Grandma Perkins’s face, Mrs. Perkins felt her resolve weaken.

“Oh come on,” said Grandma, standing next to Mabel. “Isn’t it the littlest thing you ever saw? What’s the harm?”

Mrs. Perkins pinched her nose. She looked through one eye at the ungainly creature in Mabel’s arms.

“Dragons,” she said, “get big.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lining Up Their Excuses by Geoff Le Pard

‘Did you ever get given lines, Logan?’

‘To read?’

‘No, as a punishment.’

‘Odd idea. I liked writing.’

‘Not if it’s the same thing over and over.’

‘Sounds like a Pinter play we did. That was punishment.’

‘What did you get then? As punishment.’

‘The ruler. That gave me lines. Barbaric.’

‘Not boring though. Wouldn’t happen today. A line you can’t cross eh?’

‘What’s this fixation with lines?’

‘My sis was wittering on about some line or other, causing her all sorts of trouble apparently.’

‘Yeah?’

‘A something party line. She used initials… VPL.’

‘Morris, you’re an utter tit.’

🥕🥕🥕

Guilty as Charged by Molly Stevens

The judge asked, “What do you have to say in your defense?”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” she replied.

“Well, you did, and now the damage is done. How did you sink to this level?”

“It started with a greeting in the hallway. Then we sat next to each other at lunch, which led to discussions over coffee.”

“That seems innocent enough.”

“It was. I’m as surprised as you that I was capable of seeing issues from her point of view.”

“You realize I have no choice but to punish you, right? You crossed the party line.”

🥕🥕🥕

Police Escort by Susan Sleggs

When my parents arrived for my son’s birthday party, my father was red-faced and sputtering. “We couldn’t turn off the side road because a cop blocked it for almost five minutes while a line of motorcycles flew by.”

“Did a lot of the bikes have American flags attached and were the riders wearing vests with lots of patches?”

“So what. They made us late.”

“I think you missed seeing the front of the line. That was the Patriot Guard escorting our neighbor’s cousin to her funeral. She was killed in Afghanistan.”

“Oh. I guess she deserved a cop escort.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Dropped Line by Roger Shipp

“Wish you the best.” Tears flowed from my eyes as I hugged my best friend since grammar school.

“Don’t worry,” whispered the beaming groom. “It’s only a week. I’ll even drop a line from Dubai. When I’m back, it’ll be like old times. Crystal understands us.
______________________

Giving one firm push to close the trunk I stepped alongside my wife. “See ya, son. Drive safe. Call us when you get there.”

David waved as he backed away.

“Don’t worry, Hon,” my wife said as she placed her head on my shoulder. “He said he’d drop us a line every week.’

🥕🥕🥕

Throwing a Line by Irene Waters

“Don’t you love being a pensioner?”

” Why? For the cheap public transport?”

“Absolutely. Where are we going today?”

“Let’s go on the Sunshine Coast Line.”

“That’s a long time in the train. What about something closer to home. We could get bored sitting for so long.”

“No problems for me. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“What have you done that’s so sensational?”

“Nothing silly. It’s a line from The Importance of being Earnest.”

“Why is it important to be earnest?”

🥕🥕🥕

Unparalleled by JulesPaige

The thin lines of her orange bikini stood out amid the waves and surf of Hawaii. Some of the men, tourists on the beach had to clutch their chests as their heart rates escalated. They all wondered if the woman had any propinquity or sempiternal relationships with the younger men who sat on beaches’ driftwood.

When she exited the water, the woman had a swagger like the local Nene. But that was the only thing the woman had in common with the gray-brown goose.

Imagination was like a hot air balloon – it would rise, eventually returning to Terra Ferma.

🥕🥕🥕

Reading Between the Lines by Norah Colvin

Four lines of footprints stretched along the shore. A line, mostly unbroken, edged one side; the other, a sequence of dots. The smaller prints danced lightly. The larger dragged heavily with one foot sideways. Criss-crosses of triple-pronged seagulls’ prints failed to obscure, unlike the smudge of ocean’s wet kisses. Tiny crabs scuttled their own story tracks through weeds, shells and stones coughed up by the sea. Beyond a collapsed castle, the footprints continued. In the distance—rocks. So far? He accelerated. Didn’t they know the tide had turned? Caught in the moment, they’d missed the signs. Lucky he didn’t.

🥕🥕🥕

The Line by  The Dark Netizen

Gupta was thoroughly bored now. He had been waiting in queue for a long time and the line had only increased rapidly.

Gupta looked around. Most of the people in the line were teens and young adults. Making conversation seemed difficult. The teenage girl standing behind Gupta sensed his uneasiness and broke the ice.

“The line is too slow. However, it is surprising to see you in this line.”

“Isn’t this the entry line for people who died while clicking photographs?”

“Not exactly! This line is for selfie deaths. The regular camera photo line is over there!”

Gupta sighed.

🥕🥕🥕

Dividing Equally by Heather Gonzalez

“You two better figure out how to get along.” Mom said closing their bedroom door.

“That is impossible!” yelled Molly crossing her arms in disgust.

“There is just no way to share this room. We should just draw a line to divide it equally and stay away from each other.” Polly said and pulled out a marker.

“Now stay on your side and don’t you dare cross the line,” Polly said feeling satisfied.

She wouldn’t realize how unequal the line was until a couple hours later when she needed to use the bathroom. Her side didn’t have a door.

🥕🥕🥕

Waiting in Line by Teresa Grabs

The worn-down woman’s bones creaked and ached as she woke her children before dawn.

“Quietly,” she whispers. “Don’t wake the others.”

Dutifully, the children rise and smooth the linen that served as last night’s blanket.

“Mama, I’m cold,” the youngest one says as the cool morning air punctures his skinny body.

“Why do we have to do this every morning?” her oldest daughter asks.

“Shush,” their mother tells them as they reach the end of the line.

“Maybe one day we’ll be able to have food again without waiting in line,” she tells her children.

“Yes, Mama,” they concede.

🥕🥕🥕

Lifetime Passion by Ann Edall-Robson

Speaking volumes of risqué thoughts and borderline worships with an avant-garde, flamboyant collection of pinks, greens and purple shades thrown into the mix. Who would have thought that one day of playing could turn into a lifetime passion? From afar, or near, it’s not easy to see what prompted the glorious, devil may care conglomeration of flowers surrounded by the oddest looking wavy lines of wood. The hooker red and devil black colours of the short picket fence melded with the ambiance of the flora. A subtle shock factor as one board flanked the next in dramatic contrast.

🥕🥕🥕

“Beltane’s Song” by Colleen Chesebro

I plunged my hands into the soil feeling the remains of winter’s damp. I smiled as the sun’s abundant rays covered me in a blanket of warmth and opulence. Today brings the first indication that a line has been crossed from winter into spring.

Consecrating life –

Goddess fertility thrives,

Beltane’s assurance.

Birds cantillate, flowers bloom,

crops sprout neath the flower moon.

Spring has always been my favorite time of year. Beltane is halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Beltane honors new life. It represents that Spring is underway, and Summer is just around the corner.

🥕🥕🥕

Car Wash by Sarah Whiley

“This rain is really coming down hard!” she thought, “I can barely see the lines!”

She craned her neck, and gripped the steering wheel tightly, trying to stay in her lane. Suddenly, bright red lights flared in front of her. She slammed her foot on the brake pedal, but it was too late.

The car slid on the wet black coming to rest, in the back of the car in front of her. She pulled over and got out of the car to talk to the other driver. Relief washed over her as she realised it was her husband!

🥕🥕🥕

Lined Up to Go (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Wagons lined up to cross Rock Creek. Early season argonauts set land sails toward Colorado Territory – Pikes Peak or Bust. Wagons hauling wares to mining-camps joined throngs of optimistic miners. Sarah counted several women, rare as mules among oxen. The trek suited the bull-headed. Seated next to Cobb on their Conestoga, they waited. He wanted to reckon crossings. The muddy slopes caused slippage and broken axels. Two wagons tipped, one man drowned, and two-hundred and fifty-four wagons crossed.

“That settles it,” Cobb said after Sarah lined up the numbers. “We’re buying Rock Creek Station and building a toll bridge.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Part II (10-minute read)

Squall Line by D. Avery

She could weather this one out, batten the hatches; these storms never lasted more than three days.

Somehow they always managed to arrive within moments of each other.

Three cars’ worth of doors flung open at once, spilling grandchildren who swirled behind their parents, the mass of them a single squall line bearing down, gusting through the front door without so much as a knock, her daughters’ smiles flashing like lightning.

The men and children retreated to the beach while her daughters assaulted her home, dusting, scrubbing; organizing her cupboards.

The aftermath was always erosion. She was losing ground.

🥕🥕🥕

Wise Woman’s Warning by Paula Moyer

Her junior year, Jean’s marriage collapsed.

So her mother warned her about “the line”: “My wife doesn’t understand me.”

“They’ll say that,” Mom cautioned. “Watch out.”

Jean blew Mom off. It sounded like an old, not-so-good movie. Until.

She was studying at an all-night coffee shop. Stan was in the next booth. Her best friend’s husband. “What are you doing here?”

“Charlie left.” Jean cried. Stan came over, gave her tissues. Put his arm around her shoulder.

“We should talk,” he said. “Sarah doesn’t understand me.”

Thanks to Mom, Jean was ready.

“Sarah understands you,” Jean answered. “Too well.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lines by Ritu Bhathal

“Here’s ten pence.”

“Sorry, do I know you?”

“Call your mum. Tell her you’re not coming home.”

“What?”

“You must be so tired.”

“Huh?”

“Because you’ve been running through my dreams all night.”

“Just stop.”

“I seem to have lost my phone number. Can I have yours?”

“Seriously?”

“Kiss me if I’m wrong, but dinosaurs still exist, right?”

“Oh, God!”

“Can I follow you home? Cause my parents always told me to follow my dreams.”

“You know, if you’d just asked me out, I’d have probably said yes. But after those cheesy pick-up lines, I really don’t think so!”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by kate@aroused

Just as trains travel on lines society also has lines of acceptable behaviour and anyone who crossed those lines were punished accordingly.

But over the years those boundaries have eroded, and too many elected or paid have stepped over the line. Society ignores these blatant breaches as they investigate their own … #metoo; officers murdering innocent people; corrupt pollies siphoning off all that they can!

The lines are blurred, the moral compass whirling uncontrollably. Finally, women are taking action now society needs to step up and make the lawmakers and enforcers responsible for their dire actions. Enough Deaths!

🥕🥕🥕

Lines in the Sand by Robbie Cheadle

It is not easy

to draw lines in the sand

Preventing the development

of unreasonable and unrealistic

expectations by others

those who are not motivated

to learn from you

expanding their own horizons

It is not easy

to draw lines in the sand

It is less challenging

to simply capitulate

and possibly to bask

in the knowledge

that others admire you

relying on your judgment

It is not easy

to draw lines in the sand

Until one day you discover

it is a usury relationship

that pushes you to your limits

while spectators watch on

witnessing your eventual

destruction.

🥕🥕🥕

Cheesy Lines in Apocalyptic Times by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Air quality alerts had been on “Severe” for the past two months. The pub was filled with exhausted workers.

“Stock in Enviro-domes hit an unprecedented high today,” a googly-eyed hack chirped from the TV above the bar. “So much winning in our war against the Climate Accord!”

Molly drooped over her pint, breath labored and bubbling. “I’m sick of being sick.”

“I know a sure remedy for that!” a skeletal man waggled his eyebrows, his leer thick as the city smog.

“I’d say blow it out your ass, Jack, but it stinks worse than your cheesy lines,” Molly snapped.

🥕🥕🥕

Imaginary Lion by Anne Goodwin

She used to think it was a lion circling the earth. But, older now, she saw how dumb that was: not even an imaginary lion could walk on water. No, it was a line, as she wrote in her essay, anticipating a shiny gold star. And everyone standing on that line – Brazilians, Kenyans, Congolese – would be equal. That’s what equator meant. No billionaires guzzling caviar while others starved. When she grew up she’d join them. Or maybe not. Maybe she’d find a way to thicken the line to a band and stretch it from the Arctic to Cape Horn.

🥕🥕🥕

Lines by Papershots

“And all these coinciding factors caused a state of utter poverty…” He was struggling the get the girls’ attention. Their highlighters drew colorful lines through the paragraphs of the book. That was more interesting than his words. “There’s a striking resemblance with today. Think about the current crisis.” One girl looked up, but the professor’s gaze was on the clear-cut horizon of the fields outside, above the straight line of the window. He wished history could be like that. Surely he couldn’t cross that line? “Personally I like them blonde but brunettes are fine as well, when they’re young…”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by floridaborne

A classroom, 1956, parent-teacher day. Helen struggles to understand why her mother hates the newly married Princess Grace. Where is the line between good and bad? Are movie stars always bad, too?

Better not interrupt their conversation… too dangerous. She sits quietly, hoping her mother’s time will run out so she can go home and hide in her room.

“Look at this!” Her teacher says, holding up a picture Helen had colored. “She made the sky black!”

“They’re rain clouds,” Helen explains.

“Hateful child,” her mother hisses at her.

No one cares to ask why Helen’s sky is black.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Lisa A. Listwa

Echoes of laughter-laced music from last night’s party crept out from behind the tree line and moved across the field. The piney air carried the suggestion of alcohol-doused firewood and nearly frozen vomit, followed by something not quite appropriate to the occasion – the unmistakable scent of fresh blood.

“What do you think it is, Pa,” Robby asked, “a wolf kill?”

“More’n likely a human kill, son. Folks get mighty worked up when booze is involved, find it easy to let themselves go. But there’s lines you just don’t cross, and once you’ve gone over, there’s no getting yourself back.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Lines Cut by D. Avery

I said I’d drop her a line and left; for adventure, for independence, for life.

I traveled, knew the hypnotic spell of the white line binding the highway’s edge, don’t cross it. I pulsed to the marcato beat of white lines cut on a sad square of mirror, don’t look. Learned to cook with a crucible spoon, quick and easy recipe scratched in welted purple lines on my skin, don’t ask.

My life is a tangled, broken web, doesn’t hold fast. She tossed a lifeline, but I cut it into pieces to knot around my arm, no going back.

🥕🥕🥕

White Line by Lisa Rey

He sat looking at the line of drugs in front of him. It had been a difficult time since his Mum died last year. He had fallen into depths he never thought he would.

But today he heard the news of his buddy Lukas’ death from drugs. It shook him to his core. He looked at the white line once more before pushing it to the floor with an angry swipe. Then he cried bitter tears partly because he was free and partly because for the first time he had to face grief and the horrible reality of it.

🥕🥕🥕

Because You’re Mine…I Walk the Line by Peregrine Arc

I jumbled another quarter into the jukebox, willing the old machine to pick up a record and come back to life.

“Cash for Cash,” I mumbled, my nose pressed eagerly against the dusty glass casing.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine…” meandered out, scratchy but strong. I sighed and finally sat down to my breakfast.

“Johnny, it’s not going too good here,” I mumbled
between my yolks. “How did you get through life without losing hope and faith?”

“...I walk the line…

🥕🥕🥕

 

 

Fish Tale by Jack Schuyler

The line went taut.

“I got somethin’ on.” My pole bent, and the spool hissed. “somethin’ big.”

“Let it run, or you’ll lose it.”

I braced myself against the boat and put the handle between my legs. Pink brine rolled across the deck, and my boots squeaked as I planted my feet. The line went out faster and faster.

“Don’t fall in.”

The spool was screaming now, and I leaned precariously over deep green water.

The pole jumped. Fifty yards out something cleared the surface and arched over the grey horizon.

“Is that a girl?”

“Can’t be…”

“A mermaid.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Other Side of the Line by Reena Saxena

A crowd gathered near the shore in the old port town.

“Women have always been punished for crossing the line. Eve took a bite of the apple. Sita crossed the line drawn by one man, to be kidnapped by another. The crimes against women have increased since, and the victim blamed.

I tried to escape on a boat, and had my legs cut off. But I have learnt how to swim. There is no helplessness on the other side of the line.”

So saying, the mermaid spat on the perpetrator…. it was the venom she had carried for ages.

🥕🥕🥕

Served by D. Avery

“Dang, look it thet long line at Shorty’s chuck wagon.”

“Yep, she’s in a bloomin’ good mood Kid. Spring’s got ‘er cookin’ outdoors again an’ she’s fried up a mess a bacon fer ever’one.”

“Yeehaw! ‘Bout time! Let’s go. Oh, yeah, Pal, ya kin smell the bacon even back here at the end a the line. I cain’t wait.”

“Ya’ll have ta wait Kid, wait yer turn.”

“I know Pal.”

“Otherwise ya’d be outta line.”

“I ain’t gittin’ outta this line… almost there, Pal… Shorty! Shorty? Why’d ya serve me a carrot?”

“Sorry, Kid, outta bacon, but carrots aplenty.”

🥓🥓🥓

 

Fish Tales

Did you hear about the one that got away? Perhaps the big fish tale is among the oldest ever told. But there’s plenty of fish tales swimming in the sea, rippling the waters of ponds and creeks around the world.

Writers hauled in the catch this week, hooking tales to keep your interest. You don’t have to fish for the best flash fiction to read — this collection is fully stocked.

The following are based on the April 26, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fish tale.

PART I (10-minute read)

Impossible Homework Assignment by Molly Stevens

“Mom, the worst thing happened today!” said Charli, flinging her backpack onto the counter.

“Oh, what?” asked her long-suffering mother, immune to teen melodrama with daily exposure.

“Mrs. Mills is making us write an essay about fishing. The thought of slimy worms and stinky fish make me sick, and I don’t want to write about it.”

“Perhaps she wants you to stretch your writing muscles,” her mother said.

“She’ll be sorry when she sees puke stains on my paper.”

“I’m sure you can do it.”

“No, I can’t! What’s for dinner? I’m starving.”

“Fish sticks and French fries.”

“Yum!”

🥕🥕🥕

Hooked by D. Avery

“Earnest, I’ll teach you all you need to know about fishing.”
Unable and unwilling to bait his own hooks, Marge had Earnest use a lure. Earnest practiced casting, the lure flying about in all directions.
“Earnest, I’m gonna try my luck further down.”
Marge did not get far. The treble hook of Earnest’s lure pierced Marge’s pants and was firmly set in her ample cheek.
After the ER, eating take-out fish dinner, Marge admitted fishing could be a pain in the ass. The next time she went, Earnest stayed home. He had all he needed to know about fishing.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fishing Trip by Lisa A. Listwa

“Been forever since I fished these waters. Or any. Won’t be much good.”

Joe watched as his grandfather stood in the shallows, silent and motionless. He hadn’t been himself since Gran died.

“Ya know, Gramps,” said Joe quietly, “you always said it didn’t matter if we caught anything, just that we get our toes wet and try. Gran would want you to get your toes wet.”

Gramps looked down at the water splashing over the toes of his boots.

“Well, I’m halfway there already…”

Gramps straightened his hat, stepped out of his boots, and splashed into the cool water.

🥕🥕🥕

Passing On The Spear by Luccia Gray

Manolin pounded his fists on the weathered door. “Santiago, I’ve brought you coffee!”

The old man had spent the last weeks chasing a giant marlin and fighting off sharks with a simple knife on his way back home. The boy admired him as the best fisherman.

“Get dressed, Santiago! We need to go out to sea again. There are plenty more marlins to catch!”
Santiago looked up, his eyes shining and beads of sweat dripping down his brow. “You go. Here, I give you my spear.”

“But you must teach me!”

“Not anymore. Now I must join the lions.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing Reflections by Christina Costner

It was the one thing he had in common with his father, their love of fishing. The amicable silence they shared once their rods were cast, waiting for a bite or better still, catch. The only noise came from the stream trickle as water bubbled over mossy rubble and rocks.

A year after his burial, he packed his most prized tackled, loaded his truck and set off for their spot. He was comforted by the familiar stream bubble and poured whiskey from his flask. Casting his rod he whispered goodbye to his boy, remembering the amicable silence once shared.

🥕🥕🥕

The Pacific by Kay Kingsley

If I close my eyes, I’m a kid again, standing in the bait shop with my dad and sister, filled with excitement, in awe of the shining lures that look like toys on the walls.

They beg a closer look, even tricking little humans to their innocence, but behind the glitter hides a hook of death.

I hold the Styrofoam bowl of night crawlers in the dirt, thousands of legs attempting a fruitless dance of escape.

We head to the coast.

On the pier, we underhand cast lines into the morning fog of the Pacific and wait for a bite.

🥕🥕🥕

Big Catch by Heather Gonzalez

My uncle always took the older kids on the boat to go deep sea fishing at the annual family reunion, and I was finally going.

My older brother was the first to feel a tug on his line and caught a baby shark. Everyone patted him on the back with pride. I finally felt a tug on the line of my Barbie fishing pole. I dramatically reeled in my big catch so everyone would notice.

“What did I catch?” I yelled.

I looked down at the end of my fishing line to see a seashell stuck to my hook.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Ladyleemanila

There were two fishermen from South China Sea
They were fishing, and sea was choppy
They have not caught any fish
And they are getting anguish
The wives were there waiting and getting angry

There was a fisherman whose name is Kurdapyo
A henpecked husband of Rosario
They have six kids at home
Their names in palindrome
If they don’t eat, you will soon hear their bellow

His friend’s name is Antonio Santos
Whose wife Rosita is also crossed
He thought it would be fun
To go out with such a pun
Engine spews out black cloud of exhaust

🥕🥕🥕

Farmers at Sea-A Fishy Tale by Bill Engleson

“You’ve talked about this before?”

“From time to time. I was a baby. I have no clear recollection.”

“Your parents were fishers?”

“Yes. Landlubbers who set to sea for the adventure. Then I came along.”

“That must have added to the thrill of the undertaking.”

“So, they told me. It must have been very hard for them.”

“Living on a fish-boat with a baby?”

“I think it leaked some.”

“Really?”

“Well, maybe not a whole lot. Enough for me to kiss the earth and thank my lucky stars I survived.”

“You’re exaggerating, right?”

“Only enough to make it interesting.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Michael Grogan

The angel looked down on the row of men, each with a pole, each with a line extending into the water.

One man pulled in his line and on the end was a wriggling beast the man removed and dropped into a bucket at his feet.

Inquiring he was told they were fishing. It was an earthly pastime, and people found it relaxing.

The angel thought it looked easy and taking the pole from a sleeping man cast the line in. From the water came a rush of swine fish reminding him of his ability to cast out swine.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Irene Waters

The road stretched out long and straight through the desert.  Signs of civilisation appeared. Bait 1 km. Fishing tackle Menindee General Store. “It’s hard to believe…” I stopped for now in front of me I saw a huge lake. An oasis that replaced the red sand.

“Yep, it’s hard to believe.” The water shimmered in the sunlight. We stopped and bought gear and headed to the water’s edge. We fished all afternoon without a bite, but our friendship was becoming as solid as cement.

On returning to our friend’s place, he said, “Well they caught you hook, line and sinker.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reeling in the Fishermen by Norah Colvin

She sat by the window watching as the invisible painter colored the morning sky. These moments lost in waking dreams, with the youngest of her brood suckling quietly, were precious. Slamming car doors and laughter interrupted the silence but not her thoughts. An occasional word invaded her consciousness…haul, fishing, catch. Wait—her man, a fisherman, was home. The night was not conducive to fishing. She leaned forward. Two dark figures unloaded a ute. They had neither lines nor nets, and it sure wasn’t fish in those boxes. “Fisherman, eh?” she thought as she dialed the local police. “You’re hooked.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Fisherman Becomes The Fish by Teresa Grabs

For close to thirty years Jeff fished on the Grand Banks. Dismissing tales of the magic haddock, he would reel in anything that had the misfortune of swimming near his boat.

“Last summer, we pulled in a baby orca,” he bragged to the new baiter.

“The orca isn’t a fish,” the baiter noted. “It’s a mammal.”

“If it comes from the sea, it’s a fish! Get back to work!”

That night Jeff dreamed of being caught in a giant net dropping silently from the sky.

“If it comes from the sea, it’s a fish,” the alien told his son.

🥕🥕🥕

First Bite by Papershots

This hierarchy nature has set: the seagull will get first bite, whoever fished, whatever was fished. Its menacing mew distances two black crows, left with a minor, resigned twang. They do stay, though. In the sand near the shore, something glistens and sparkles. Seagull swoops down, crows stand back; seagull grabs half of it – a crackling, snapping sound – and flies back up; crows can approach now, get whatever’s left. The sky responds by being blue; lapping waves give rhythm to a natural occurrence. It was plastic. It was plastic. It was nothing more than a piece of unadulterated plastic.

🥕🥕🥕

The One That Got Away by Sarah

I was looking forward to the fishing trip. I always loved the thrill of the catch… well, most of the time! Sometimes I came away hungry!

Arriving at my favourite spot, I saw a couple of men were already there. “Ah, some healthy competition,” I thought. I set myself up and waited.

A few fish were congregating but were disappointingly undersized. They wouldn’t sate my appetite!

Suddenly, I spied a good-sized, juicy-looking trout. I swooped in; snapped up the wriggling fish in my beak, and flew away.

“Hey, Bob! That bird just stole your fish!” a man onshore yelled.

🥕🥕🥕

Bet on the Lady by Paula Moyer

Jean and Steve had always wondered about the “launches” – big flat boats steered by a fishing guide.

That Saturday night on Mille Lacs, Wayne steered them to “his” spot. He baited Jean’s hook, cast out. Steve did his own. They waited. In the dusk, they spied a rowboat, two men. Waiting.

A bobble. “I’ve got something.”

Wayne reeled in the walleye on Jean’s rod, big and flopping.

In the fish house, Wayne gutted, chatted. The rowboat guys gutted theirs. “We had a bet going,” one said. “I bet on the lady.” He grinned.

Jean laughed. “I’d bet on Wayne.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Smallest Fish Story by Chelsea Owens

I caught it -I did; my first fish! I’ll tell you how I did it:

First, all dressed, I ran to the pond. I found a pole, just laying there, and hooks and bait and such. I picked it up and swished it ’round, and -before it even hit the water- something wriggled at its end.

I brought it close and THERE! A flapping, fidgeting fish was hooked. He was a ‘beaut: all sparkly rainbows and twisting, flailing life.

I watched him gape-mouthed struggling, when I heard a shout, “Hey, kid! That’s mine!” and had to come back home.

🥕🥕🥕

Gone Fishin’ by Deborah Lee

“I’m completely renewed, you know how revitalizing a whole makeover is — new cut, new clothes, new toilette, new everything,” Torrey chirps. She raises one wrist, takes a deep sniff, smiles at Lesley, smiles even more brilliantly at Alan’s attorney across the conference table. Alan couldn’t make this settlement negotiation; business. That suits Torrey. She flips her hair and sniffs her wrist again, simpers at the attorney.

“Ah, yes,” the man says drily. “Deep Woods Off No. 5.”

Torrey’s mouth snaps shut audibly.

“You were angling for a compliment, Mrs. Graff,” the attorney says. “Be careful what you fish for.”

🥕🥕🥕

Heavenly Timing by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“How about him?”

Gabby considered, lazily twirling her lariat. “If he finds what he needs on Earth, I’ll hold off collecting.”

“Timing is everything?” Petra peered over the cloud’s edge, wings stilled.

That’s when Gabby spied her. “Now that’s potential!”

A young woman perched on the metro bench, just three feet behind the young man. She adjusted her sandal strap, while he stared into his smartphone.

“Just fish that phone out of his hand. Send it her way!” Petra pointed. Gabby launched her lariat.

The young woman was an excellent catch.

At least, that’s what Grandpa always told us.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

How Mel got Her Own Back by Aweni

Smacking his broad gold lips, Donald did not see the malevolent look Mel gave him.

She made those babies. They should be hers for the eating, not Donald’s.

Dolefully, she plotted with the others. They shared her sentiments.

When a golden-haired girl, not more than six walked in with her mother screaming excitedly, “Goldfish! Goldfish!”, the plotters knew their chance had come.

When the net descended, Donald was pushed and shoved. Next, he knew, the girl was staring at him with glee through the walls of a clear bag. While Mel mourned the eggs, she should have had.

🥕🥕🥕

Inside the Goldfish Bowl by Anne Goodwin

After her injection, Matty enters the lounge, eschewing the armchairs lining the room. Not because of the dull ache where the needle pierced her derriere. Not because the wipe-clean upholstery sticks to her skin. But because she feels too energised for idleness.

From behind the glass partition, a student observes Matty’s elegance in circling the room. Passing their tank, the goldfish pause their back and forth to watch too. Until a maid scattering crumbs across the water makes them swim to the surface, mouths agape. Magic dust to keep them merry. Without it, this place would send them mad.

🥕🥕🥕

First Impressions by Susan Sleggs

I was late picking up my new out-door enthusiast girlfriend to take to dinner at my parents and never noticed something on the front of her wool jacket, but my mother did. On the way home I asked what the small opaque disks were.

“Oh dear, they’re fish scales. I helped Dad clean the fish we had for breakfast.”

“I want my parents to welcome you back if you’ll go with me again, please be more careful.”

“I’ll do that but you should know welcoming a red-neck like me and accepting me is two different things in my book.”

🥕🥕🥕

Intersections? by JulesPaige

The anglers are out again. On the other side of the creek. I mow to disturb their silence. I want them far away. I want my own golden silence reflected by the day’s spring sun.

stay in the shadow
you old trout, leave the lures be;
let me see your stripes

So what’s my angle? In my secluded shaded sanctuary. A good friend sent me a sticker “She believed she could so she did” – I peek through curtained windows in awe of a new day, beginning again.

staying in shadow
I am encouraged to show
my own moxey stripe

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing for Dinner by Di

I’d never been fishing before and was afraid to make an ass of myself as I didn’t know how to bait my hook, cast a line, or reel one in if I caught one. Everyone else were dab hands until we were aboard the privately hired boat and I discovered they were dangler anglers.

I felt better, relaxed and began to have fun.

I caught the first fish, an ugly brute with scissor teeth I was informed was a snapper.

How apt.

I caught some others too, and they all went in the bucket.

Boy, did they taste good!

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by the moon is rising

They were fishing for hours without a bite when a gentleman came and cut a willow switch and upon its narrow end tied some twine. Dipping the cord into the lake, he seemed then to utter a prayer and finished by removing his hat and casting a low, slow bow towards the water.

Within minutes, he landed a fish, and every five minutes another until he had six. Then he left.

After an hour, the first man rose and bowed to the water, then the second, then the third. The gentleman, hidden away, chuckled as he watched the scene.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing…by Debra Kiyono

Confused about my feelings, I thought that talking to a friend would help.

“Let’s go fishing, now! It`s going to make you feel better!” – Marcus guaranteed.

Couple of hours later, trapped in a boat, I wanted to scream.

Marcus was clearly displeased when I stood up. Before he could say anything, I dove into the water, taking my time to come to surface again.

“You are scaring the fishes away!” – He shouted angrily.

Having fun, I didn`t bother and swam calmly and smoothly to the shore.

“Definitely, I feel better!” – I realized while letting myself lie on the sand.

🥕🥕🥕

A Fish Tale by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

For one day each year, she could swim in the sea. The rest of the time, Aria found herself choked with fear knowing she couldn’t swim.

At dawn, Aria closed her eyes and dove beneath the waves. With firm strokes, she slipped between the green ribbons of seaweed undulating below. Golden sunlight streaks pierced the darkness reflecting off the jeweled scales of a massive fish maneuvering in the deep.

Aria headed toward the reef. She had to make the most of the day. She flipped her tail in joyous abandon. It was a good day to be a mermaid.

🥕🥕🥕

Holiday Resorts by Reena Saxena

The lantern fish was holding a seminar for other species.

“The bottom of the ocean has a temperature of minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and you need to learn to survive it. We teach you another sport – use your lower pectoral fins as legs to walk on the bottom of the ocean, and explore it well. There are plenty of succulent plants to feed on….”

“Is it a kind of holiday resort for us, with leisure activities thrown in?”

“Call it survival… if you wish to protect yourself from the human picnickers wielding fishing rods and have a good time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Territory by thedarknetizen

As I move around, I see the little ones scurrying about. One look at me, and they start running helter skelter. And they should.

This is my territory. Every rock, every plant, is owned by me. If they choose to make their way here, they choose to give up their freedom and submit to my sovereignty. I am the king. Wait, I see a shadow looming over me. It is humongous, covering my entire territory. I guess it is time for me to exit these waters and head elsewhere.

After all, there is always a bigger fish out there.

🥕🥕🥕

Fish Tale by Frank Hubeny

He wondered if a mermaid was a fish or if he’d catch anything today or if the soldiers would spot him.

Once he was robbed. They almost killed him with the beating. He didn’t mind dying, but he had to bring fish home to Martha and Peter.

He was too delirious from the bombings and hiding to catch food. He slept till she woke him handing him more fish than he’d ever expected to see. “For Martha and Peter. And you.”

As she turned to dive into the water, he thought he heard her say, “I’m not a fish.”

🥕🥕🥕

“The Origin of Goldie” by Goldie

Nearly a year ago I found myself in the woods at the crack of dawn. The dew was still gently coating the fallen leaves as if protecting them from my destructive footprints. Feeling lost, I considered my options: I could turn around and follow the beaten path that got me here or keep moving forward into the uncharted territory of the forest.

As soon as I stepped forward, I noticed a fish floating ahead of me.

“Golden fish, please grant me a wish.”

“What you need is to write. Go forth and create a WordPress blog.”

A new beginning.

🥕🥕🥕

Blood Sport by Nicole

Joanna hated witnessing the doe-eyed trophies suspended inverted from a scaffold at the end of the harbor, their purple tongues pointing toward the bloodied ground. She hated watching fish with gaping gills flop to death on the bottom of her family’s boat. She loathed the mounted antlered head above the fireplace and the bearskin rug in front of the hearth. Harpooned whales may have sustained her ancestors, but they haunted her dreams. Joanna understood the hunted heart. She didn’t see the point in hurting innocents and ached for the day when she’d no longer be her papa’s favored prey.

🥕🥕🥕

She Fought So Hard by Kyrosmagica

For a wee woman, you certainly pull in the big boys,’ joked keen fisherman Robin.

Melinda smiled; it had been a memorable day, she’d caught the biggest fish going. For a moment she’d forgotten her punishing chemotherapy struggle.

She never complained even when her hair fell out and grew back curly. Instead, she laughed; but it sounded hollow. I doubt she recognised herself.

Soft-hearted Melinda died within days of her fiftieth birthday. At the funeral I picked up her old school photo; I wept, I never knew she’d been a gymnast. Cancer the guilt bringer, I should have known.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ghost Fish! by Anita Dawes

I always feel like a picture in a colouring book, snow white, waiting for paint to fill in between the lines. Bright orange and white stripes. Blue and red, something to give me life.

I am a ghost swimming in an ocean of colour, shunned by my fellow beings, happy in their part of the universe while I swim alone, unwanted by the brightness around me.

I have seen how easily a child colours in while her father is fishing. I should throw myself on the hook and hope the child can colour in one lonely white clown fish…

🥕🥕🥕

Fish’N’Chips by Ritu Bhathal

“Oh, he’s going to be so excited!”

“Fish will finally have his Chips with him!”

Voices filtered through the water, reaching Fish as he swam around in his little tank.

What on earth were they going on about? Why was he going to get excited? Who Chips?

Just then, the water rippled, and he came face to face with Chips for the first time.

Great.

“Let me just get this straight,” he said, “this is MY tank, and-“

Chips opened her mouth into a coy O shape and let loose a flirtatious bubble stream…

“-I think I love you!”

🥕🥕🥕

Mermaid Therapy by Peregrine Arc

“Mermaid therapy, this way, please. Swim, lightly. Come now.”

“Excuse me, my good merman–is this the meeting spot?”

“Depends, what meeting are you looking for?”

“The symposium for mermaid therapy…?”

“Why, yes–I’m the therapist. Now tell me, what ails you? Come now, no one’s around.”

“It’s my son, Crustacean. He keeps having nightmares about hooks floating above his head. Ever since the incident with the trawler last summer, he hasn’t been the same. Can you help us? We’re desperate for relief.”

“Yes, I can. I have one word: magnets.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fishy Story by floridaborne

“So you won’t take your daughter fishing?” The old man in a captain’s hat asked.

“I don’t dare,” I replied.

“Why?” he chuckled.

Good. He took the bait. “She had a field trip to a chicken processing plant. They go in squawking and come out in packages. Now, she runs screaming every time I serve it at home.”

“That’s terrible!”

“Sometimes she hears the ghosts of chickens haunt her.”

The sound of squawking seemed to come from everywhere. The old man paled and backed away.

Did I mention I’m a ventriloquist? Five annoying tour guides down, one to go.

🥕🥕🥕

PART III

Osprey by Ann Edall-Robson

She’d pined for the creek where she’d fished. Riding to the old bridge on her horse, her fishing rod fitting nicely in an old gun scabbard her dad had given her.

She had heard there was a new bridge and fish were no longer running in the creek. Sad, she thought as she drove on the gravel road towards the memories.

She could see she was being watched from the top of the steel girders. If the osprey were nesting here, it was a sure sign there were fish in the creek. Good thing she’d brought her fishing rod.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing Opener by Charli Mills

Harriette wrapped her arms around Ralph’s girth. He slowed down when the trail dipped and skirted puddles of brown snowmelt. A month ago, they had enjoyed the last snowmobile trek of the season. Now it was time to ride the four-wheeler. The couple had strapped their fishing rods, gear and a picnic lunch to the back. At last, mud-splattered, the rough trail broke out of the trees and opened to an inlet along the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Ralph quickly grabbed gear and headed up the small stream to catch trout. Harriette left her pole and fished for agates.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

Later that afternoon, Beth set a fishing line which she left overnight. Beth was very good at this and often caught an eel or two. She would dig for worms in the kitchen garden to bait the line.

The eels were a greenish-brown and looked like snakes, which was a bit creepy, but they were very good, cooked in milk and water in a frying pan, and flavoured with pepper.

Elsie really hoped that Beth would catch some eels for them to eat. In the morning, Beth would run down to the river to see what she had caught.

🥕🥕🥕

When A Friend Angles For A Companion, Beware You Might Get Hooked by geoffle

‘Do you like fishing, Logan?’

‘Never tried it. Too much sitting and staring.’

‘Don’t you think we could do with more sitting and staring?’

‘I get enough of that in the loo, Morgan.’

‘I’m talking about contemplative sitting, not your comprehensive shitting.’

‘It’s still too boring. There’s so much more to life.’

‘But we need peace and quiet if we’re going to appreciate what life has to offer.’

‘I’d be no good at it. You’d hate it with me fidgeting all the time.’

‘You’d be great, the perfect companion.’

🥕🥕🥕

Koi Fish in the Pond by Miriam Hurdle

“Mabel, I want to have a pond in our garden.”

“Humm, a great idea, but what for, dear?”

“For having ‘yu’ and lotus in the pond.”

“The lotus flowers are elegant and symbolize purity. Why having ‘yu’ in the pond?”

“Well, ‘yu’ means fish, but ‘yu’ of a different word means wishes come true.”

“Now you got my head spinning.”

“Have many colors of koi, especially gold color.”

“Like the ones in Chinese or Japanese Garden?”

“Yes, I’ll order the koi from Caspian or Black Sea. They are the fast-growing koi.”

“Our ten-thousand wishes will fast come true also.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fish Tale by CalmKate

Just like Brokeback Mountain I take my fishing rod to escape family and life, down to my favourite river spot and set up camp.

Always buy the live bait on my trip here then release them later in my veggie patch. Talk about torture threading them onto a hook, don’t they know that what goes down comes round.

Never used that fancy rod … those poor unsuspecting fish swimming about minding their own business. After all every man needs time out and holding that pole is just a substitute for something else similar that we blokes like to do.

🥕🥕🥕

Thar Blows by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin’, Kid?”

“What’s it look like?”

“Goin’ fishin’. But with that outfit? Ocean rod? Trollin’ reel?”

“Go big or go home, Pal.”

“I think yer flounderin’ Kid. Yer way overrigged fer the stock pond or the stream. Ya know thar ain’t a bass hole on the ranch.”

“I’m thinkin’ big, Pal. Gonna bait up right here in the paddock.”

“Hmmph. Yer hookin’ yer leader to a kite?”

“Yep. Let the line out… look at ‘er go… higher…. I’ve caught the wind, Pal! Look at that kite soarin’ over the ranch!”

“Kid, this is relaxin’.”

“Yep. Catch. An’ release.”

🥕🥕🥕

Forest Bathing

INTRO

We go into the forest to find quiet, solitude, and healing. It’s something we long to do, and can be healing. Researchers in Japan and Korea have established evidence of restorative benefits from Shinrin Yoku — forest bathing.

That doesn’t mean this collection of stories basks under the canopy of therapy. Writers found many different paths into the forest.

The following is based on the April 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing.

PART I (10-minute read)

Grandmother’s Gift by Jo/The Creative PTSD Gal

‘I’m going to share something with you, little one. Come,’ my grandmother said reaching for my hand leading me into the woods behind our house.

‘Take your shoes off love,’ that’s when I realized she was already barefoot.

She sat me under an old silver oak and positioned my feet on the earth in front of me. I felt calm and sleepy when she said, ‘Do you feel that? That’s mother Earth replenishing you. If you listen deep enough, she is also taking and healing your heart and soul. Whenever you feel like giving up, come back to her.

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Cleansing Chaos by njoyslife

Life is placid outside Joy’s woodland cabin as she takes her morning walk. Nuthatches seem unthreatened by nuclear missiles. Chickadees show no interest in crime or collusion. Blue jays apparently don’t know the job market is shrinking. Woodpeckers aren’t worried that stocks plummet and robins aren’t fretting about local or national scandals.  This verdant world teems with new life. Leaf buds swell on the tips of tree branches. A spotted fawn appears in a bed of wildflowers. Joy bathes in the misty forest, cleansing her heart of clutter, strengthening herself to resist for one more day humanly created chaos.

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Landis Woods by JulesPaige

If the earth were to have a birthday party, what season would it be held in? Without question, my belief would be spring. Every day a new gift is unwrapped. A new birdsong composed. Just bathe in the forest, perhaps healing through Shinrin Yoku.

This season, this spring so late in arriving in the north,this year – I plan on walking through a preserved wood. One that leads from one highway to another – preserving a unique hidden space for local wildlife.

Just to pass through observing. And to count blessings.

celebrating life
seemingly ageless, Mother
blessed by Father Time

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Forest Nymphs by Pensitivity

The path leads inwards,
Secrets calling,
Tread softly, gently,
Do not disturb
The fallen leaves of the dying.
Autumn descends,
Come closer, whispers,
Listen carefully,
You may hear a distant crying.
Russets, golds and reds,
Greens now yielding,
Look above you,
Dew drops glisten,
Nature’s tears on sunrays drying.
Creatures rustle,
Peep through heathers,
Witness magic,
Marvel at the Wood Nymphs lying
Soaking energy,
Secluded, private,
They are Forest Bathing,
Free from unwanted eyes prying.
Regenerating, providing,
Nothing wasted,
Laughter tinkles,
Bounce off tree trunks,
Smiling faces,
Bodies dancing,
Having fun, others frolic,
Chasing dreams, or at least trying.

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Unspecified, Unseen, Undocumented by Paper Shots

A wrinkle on the surface of the water, while the breeze also stirs the top of what looks like wheat but it’s not – there was a book in a village shop, Companion to the Flora of the Lakes: one would know now, had the book been bought. Photos; Underexposed, overexposed. There’s a majestic tree, its trunk half in water, its branches shading a corner of this little bay, green berries, red berries, white tiny flowers, and two wild ducks (approximation necessary) swimming by, their little heads back and forth, the water parted in triangles whose sides will always vary.

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Flutter by Akindu Perera

“It’s not real”, Lucy whispered as she completed the last fold of the paper butterfly. Her fingers rode over the edge of the butterfly, admiring how a piece of paper can be woven into a work of art. Ignoring its inanimateness, she threw the masterpiece across the room, hoping it would come to life.

The two perfectly creased wings sliced through the air, fighting for existence. The glorious vision of the butterfly fluttering across the room drew a fragile smile on Lucy’s face. Her smile was so delicate, that it shattered when the paper butterfly kissed the cold floor.

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The Final Forest Bathing by Miriam Hurdle

Mr. Taniguchi hooked one end of the rope to his waist belt, attached the other to the entrance post of Aokigahara Forest located along the edge of Mount Fuji. He released the rolling rope as he proceeded, passing the sign of “No Entry.”

He saw many strings but found them ended in bushes. Hours into the patrol, he discovered a pair of weathered shoes. Brushing the leaves aside, a skeleton was revealed.

He took photos, got out several signs and nailed them on the trees. They read, “Don’t Commit Suicide. Your Life Is Precious.” He traced his way back.

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Oh, My Love, My Darling by Juliet Nubel

He stood behind her and wrapped his weightless arms around her shoulders.

She didn’t react so he placed his cheek against hers and felt the dampness of her tears on his greying stubble.

When would she ever stop crying?

She was reading an article about forest bathing, something she had often advised him to do with her. She said it could help his coronary problems but stupidly he had never wanted to go.

He would stay entwined with her all night for he feared it would be impossible come tomorrow, the day they put his body in the coffin.

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Is the Forest Enchanted, or the Company? by Anne Goodwin

We ambled through ash and spindly silver birch, its bark like alligator skin. A squirrel scampered across the path and up a tree. We heard the tap tap tap of a woodpecker but, despite straining our eyes and necks to scan the treetops, it remained elusive. Somehow, it didn’t matter; the shared not-seeing was enough.

I pressed further into the woods to inspect some bracken fungus clinging to the trunk of a dead tree like shelves made of scallops. I kicked at the sludge of fallen leaves with my wellies. At last I understood what magic brought my father here.

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Missing the Point by Molly Stevens

“What’s sitting under that tree?” Chester said, peering through the front window at his neighbor’s yard. “Is it one of them weird ceramic gnomes? What’s that dad-blamed woman up to now?”

His wife, Ruth, said, “Myra is practicing a new kind of meditation called, ‘forest bathing.’ She says it relieves stress.”

“That sounds like one of them cockamamie things a tree hugger like her would do.”

“She said taking in the forest atmosphere is preventive medicine in Japan.”

“Don’t she know she lives in Maine? And I can’t see no forest. All I see is a bunch of trees.”

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Recharge by Lisa Rey

Tom wasn’t sure if he believed in all this thing they called Shinrin Yoku. But he had been very stressed lately with work in the office and his girlfriend running off with a priest who left the priesthood to be with her. So he walked into the nearby forest, gave it a go. As he sat by the stream listening to its gentle rush, to the soft sounds of the birds conducting their daily conversations and felt the smooth fresh grass beside him, he suddenly understood. Sometimes you needed to just get away from it all to return anew.

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First Answer by Debora Kiyono

Sitting at the porch, he takes off his muddy hiking boots wondering why it didn’t work. Often, he comes back from his Shinrin Yoku full of ideas and many solutions.

“It was just a dream! Let it go!” – said his girlfriend when he told her about it.

It was impossible. It had a non-stop replay in his mind, bringing enormous curiosity about a mysterious notebook.

When he comes in, a package on the table calls his attention. Immediately, he opens it.

A smile lights up on his face, while reading the cover of the book: “The Interpretation of Dreams.”

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Finally Convinced by Reena Saxena

“Why forest-bathing?” My botanist beau loved the idea of this impromptu trip, but was not convinced of the nomenclature- Shinrin Yoku.

“Because we do not have clean air to breathe in, in our citadels of development….”

“The trees have purified the world for years, wherever they were allowed to take roots. We left them to grow in isolated patches called forests, and are now forced to take refuge there.”

“Every tree has its day.”

“And so do we. I’ll show you the cottage I plan to set up our home in, after we are married.”

Life was sheer bliss.

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Visuonquest by Raymond Roy

So distant, is a stand of trees, a secret place, my mind at ease.

Forest’s edge, winter apples grow, increase my pace, zephyrs show impending snow.

Curled up ferns, visual pleasure, pine needle carpet, walk of leisure.

I’m not alone, chipmunk squawks, takeoff my shoes and itchy socks.

Frosty air, hot springs steam, ease in my feet and begin to dream.

Native boy on vision-quest, by the pool to have a rest.

Sacred forest clean and pure, my quest is it’s protection , I must secure.

Leaving my refuge keenly aware, it’s not only I but, trees need care.

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Visitors by Hugh Roberts

“We’re safe here in the forest until Marlon gets back. All of you, continue to rest and gain energy from bathing in the dappled light of the forest. Hopefully, we have found our new home.”

For 27 days and nights, they waited for Marlon to return. There was an anticipation of excitement in the air when he came back.

“Marlon, what have you found out? Can we live here?”

“I’m afraid not, your majesty.”

“What? Why not?”

“It’s some of the lifeforms of this world, Sir. They cut down the trees. Soon, nothing of this world will be left.”

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Forest Feast by Norah Colvin

Unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells assailed his senses. He dived into a pile of leaves.

“Would you mind!” squealed Skink.

“Sorry,” said Mouse, backing into Frog.

“Hey! This is my cockroach,” said Frog.

“Ewww!” said mouse. “Who eats cockroaches?”

Mouse’s belly rumbled.

Skink was eating a slug. Frog had a cockroach. Nothing for Mouse anywhere.

“Try mushroom,” suggested Frog.

Mouse hesitated, then began nibbling.

Flapping overhead sent Skink and Frog for cover. Mouse, oblivious, had been spotted.

Crow alighted and placed a gift of bread at Mouse’s feet.

“Thank you,” said Mouse. “I like bread, but I love mushroom!”

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Spring’s Assurance by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Spring is late, delayed by a blizzard that left two feet of soggy snow, making my front stair’s existence a Schrödinger’s cat. When late April sun emerged, so did we.

The regional park’s informal trails are muddy, steep hollows deceptive in snowpack. The opening lake teems below:
An eagle’s nest, with eagles nesting;
A beaver swimming, teeth sharpened on trees newly felled;
Ducks ducking, splashing and diving;
One blue heron stretching his neck, hopeful of tasty minnows.

Gimlet-eyed geese glare at our noisy progress, while two muskrats make little muskrats at water’s edge, another few solitaires nibbling new growth.

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Forest Bathing by Susan Sleggs

Where do you go to find peace
I go to the woods
The city sounds are far away
There are no other voices
The rays of sun filter through the branches
Birds flit from tree to tree
Squirrels chase each other
And pussy willows are soft grey
The stream babbles slowly by
And if I sit still long enough
A deer stops by to drink
The rabbit outruns the fox
And the trillium bloom pure white
Leeks and fiddleheads can be had for lunch
If you know where to look
Spring in the forest
My favorite time of year

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Stark by D. Avery

Serena stopped often to breathe deeply, filling her lungs, her heart, her soul with the spruce incensed air. She loved walking this familiar path among the trees, but quickened her pace as she approached the high mountain meadow, delighting as always in the waving grass, the colorful wildflowers nodding the way to the small glacial lake cupped by the snowcapped mountain peaks. Serena drank it in. The guide suggested other experiences, but Serena always chose to return here.

“Serena, time’s up. Remove the apparatus and step out of the capsule.”

Sighing, Serena left the virtual wilderness, returned to reality.

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Turn Back by Peregrine Arc

I bathe in the forest, hidden under a canopy. Jaguars, grizzlies and reindeer approach, bringing the jungle, the forest and the tundra with each step. I eat a banana for breakfast; some nuts and berries for lunch. For dinner, a polar bear offers me fish.

A crane approaches and pecks the air above my head deliberately.

“This is not yours, human. You have not taken care of any of it. Take your punishment and go.”

I stir and exit the forest, my clothes pinching tightly around me. It appears we’re still banned and setting fires.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

A book in the dirt. The words in the Earth. Composting cultures. Love and life. Sentiments and sentences. Fragments and fiction. Maps. Guides. Directions. Been there, done that. Tales of wars waged. Quill-stained pages written feverishly under a dancing flicker. A self-portrait. An autobiography. Selfie in longhand.

A book in the dirt. The wounds of battle spilling back into the soil. A broken heart crying out from a broken bind. A random thought: How her eyes were the green of a forest after a good rain.

Digital media. Littered literature. The many careless sins of man. Well-written. Rarely heeded.

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Be Aware by Patrick M. O’Connor

They were told walking through the woods would bring them closer to nature. They said to be aware of their surroundings. It would be good for the soul, they said.

Stan and Jessica felt much more in touch with their own feelings about nature and each other.
They took their shoes off and strolled through the shallow stream holding hands.

As the afternoon began to succumb to dusk, they headed back to the lodge to rejoin their group.
By midnight they were itching terribly. Not only did their arms itch, but their legs too.

Poison Ivy and chiggers. Ugh!

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The Wet Woods by Bill Engleson

“Yes!” I announce. “This will do the trick.”

“Be careful, sweetie. You’re parking too close. I won’t be able to open the door.”

“They make these stupid Park parking stalls way too small,” I mutter.

My stress is ratcheting up a notch.

“Think twigs,” she suggests. “Little bits of scattered stems. Resting on the forest floor. The quiet forest floor.”

“You’ll have to get out my side. Sorry.”

“No problem. Oh, look. Is that our group?”

“Two bus loads. Nope. Three! They look…quite international.”

“It’s the peak season, I guess. Well, lets get this over with. Visualize, sweetie. Visualize.”

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Forest Bathing by Teresa Grabs

Jason awoke still smiling. The trees, the fresh air, the cool breeze faded. Contentment and peace lingered until defeated by reality. His morning routine is nothing more than a routine. His day is state planned for maximum efficiency. Nothing more, nothing less. Slipping into his black pants and gray shirt issued by the state, he longed to see the trees. Leaving his state provided compartment, putting on his face mask and stepping into the never-ending heat, he longed for fresh air and the cool breeze. Looking around at the bleak city, he longed to bathe in the forest again.

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Flash Fiction by Sarah Whiley

Gravel crunched under my feet, as I began the hike through one of the youngest eco-systems in the world – the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Geothermal areas were marked on my map, as well as native plants and bird-life, to look for.

Feeling grounded, I breathed in the fresh mountain air, imagining the breeze was really the forest exhaling along with me.

I rounded the corner and saw steam rising from the aptly named baths in front of me. Glaring sun broke through the canopy.

Out of the fire and into the “Frying Pan Lake”? Shinrin-Yoku at its best, I thought.

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Peace of Mind by Ritu Bhathal

The twigs crackled underfoot.

Leaves rustled in the gentle breeze that blew through the forest.

This was true peace.

Heaven.

Karen had heard about forest bathing, and she was determined to experience a piece of this natural healing.

Strolling along, she could hear the feint trickle of water.

Getting closer to the sound, it appeared to be accompanied by splashes and voices.
As she rounded the corner, Karen came face to face with a group of drunk men, submerged in a pool of water, having a jolly of their own.

Not quite the forest bathing she had been expecting!

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Chasing Fads by Heather Gonzalez

Johnny heard of this new fad and, of course, he just had to be apart of it. Last week he had us doing Goat Yoga. Now we would be Forest Bathing, whatever that means.

We drove out to the woods and began to walk around. He seemed to be feeling something that I just wasn’t.

“When do we begin forest bathing?” I asked, smacking the bug on my arm.

“We already are.”

The day was already cloudy and threatening rain. When the water touched my skin, all I could think was, “At least now it feels like forest bathing.”

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Trekking Travails by Anurag Bakhshi

“I’ll go first,” Tracy said, “but don’t peep, OK?”

I kept looking the other way as she stripped, and jumped into the lake in the forest.

But I had been dreaming of this moment for so long, that I just couldn’t resist taking a peek.

My Gawd! The glistening curvaceous body….the lustrous hair….the giant crocodile…

WHAT!

I almost panicked, but years of training and instinct immediately took over.

I hunted around desperately in my bag, time was of the essence here. This photo needed to be perfect if I had to have any shot at a Pulitzer.

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Forest Bathing by Michael Grogan

The Carrot Street Naturist Society on their monthly outing was looking forward to engaging in some forest bathing.

Being naked in the woods was so much better than their weekly meetings in Marv and Marj’s back yard.

Preparations had been made, warnings issued to be wary of, rough bark, nettles, stinging insects, sticks, twigs, and anything pointy.

It was an enjoyable day the only disappointment was Dulcie Smith’s encounter with some poison ivy. She bent over at one point, and her left breast suffered the consequences. On the trip home, her husband promised to rub in some soothing balm.

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Flash Fiction by Paula Moyer

At Girl Scout camp, Jean’s Girl Scout leader showed the girls how to shower in the woods. It looked – well, unreliable.

“This tin can has nail holes,” she explained and pointed. It hung by a string on a tree branch. “When you take your shower, fill this pitcher with water at the pump, and pour it in.”

The girls watched the demonstration, how water spit out in arcs from the can. “Stand under the can. Use the soap.” Beside the can, also on a string. “The trees are your shower curtain.”

Jean shivered under the can. Cold. Naked. Glorious.

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Maid Marian’s #Metoo Moment by Anne Goodwin

After a grey and soggy winter, the sun makes everyone smile. But there’s a downside: the stink of sweat.

So when the merry men go off to fleece the rich, Marian fills a barrel with spring water and peels off her clothes. Looking up as a jay calls to its mate, she spots Friar Tuck in the hollow of an oak, leering, his hand in his robe.

Do others suffer such intrusions? Robin says she should be flattered. Bids her laugh it off.

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Guide to Peace by Kerry E.B. Black

He fled, blinded by tears. Taunts and cruelty etching into his psyche. Heedless of direction, he dodged tree trunks, leapt tangles, and ducked beneath low-hanging vines until he panted into the silence of ankle-deep humus and the observation of hidden animals. He bent to relieve stitches and cramps.

Gentle breezes cooled tears on burning cheeks. Like teasing fingers, they brushed hair aside as if to reassure of his worth.

His nostrils flared to capture earthy perfumes so lush he could taste their rich decay and rebirth.

A delicate white flower bloomed in the shade, an incongruous guide to peace.

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A Sunday Bath by Caitlin Gramley

Vanessa cringed when she heard the splash and giggles from behind. The short walk had turned into a two-hour trek. She turned, only to be greeted by the sight of two boys, now drenched from neck to toes. She mentally searched her van. Do I have anything to cover the seats?

“I told you boys to stay out of the creek. It’s too cold!”

“No it’s not!” The younger replied between chattering teeth.

“Look mom!” The oldest, now rolling on a bed of dry sand.

Breathe. Just Breathe.

“Boys will be boys, Dear.” Husband grinning ear to ear.

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Picnic in the Forest by Calm Kate

We were warned not to stray from the path because this was the forest where the bears often picnicked and they preferred a human to stale sandwiches. Blood and organs it was claimed would feed their brain and enhance their health.

They had read that in the Daily Mirror and we all know that newspapers tell the truth. And the picnic hampers were doubtful diets anyway.

You could hear them bellow from their caves waking from their winter siestas. And a bear with a sore head would be difficult to handle even for a party of fit bush walkers.

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Forest Bathing by Irene Waters

With difficulty Aaron place rollers under the cast iron tub then heaved  it from behind.  Imperceptibly it moved. For three days he pushed until eventually it sat in a small dell surrounded by the green forest which towered above him. He sank to his knees. Collecting wood for the fire he’d burn underneath the bath was the next chore. Then water. A big sigh showed his exhaustion. He stripped and stood arms stretched to the sky, legs akimbo, his body bathed in sunlight. His head tipped back, tall trees looming above him he said  “Bath for barbeque. Shinrin Yoku.”

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Free Among the Trees by Charli Mills

Gabriella tapped the last spigot. She caught the trickle of clear sap in a wooden bucket. Daughter of a French trader and an Ottawan mother, she belonged to no one. She kept to the forests outside the ports and mining towns, trading maple syrup with the Black Robes at L’Anse. The forest kept her company, bathed her in its healing embrace. The Black Robes enticed she could become a neophyte and claimed gospels in her native tongue. They didn’t know she could read her father’s books and already chose her classic path – she was happy as a forest nymph.

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Shinrin Yoku by Frank Hubeny

While forest bathing Michael saw her. He would say she wasn’t there except she was and then his breath grew deeper. He didn’t understand why he walked for almost a mile angry on this beautiful trail, in this mysterious quiet. The traffic had long ago turned to a hum and then it turned completely off. Why was he angry?

She said her name was Diana. She knew he didn’t understand what she meant. He was one of the smart ones caught in his head where robots were more real than people. And so she spoke more slowly, “Goddess Diana.”

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Inspirational Walks by Luccia Gray

The Verger at Rochester Cathedral heard the author’s cane tapping the cobbled streets below his window. He must be on his way back from his daily, inspirational walk from Gad’s Hill.

Mr. Miles stepped out to greet his old friend. Turk trotted by his master’s side biting a dry branch collected in the woods.

‘A cup of tea, Mr. Dickens?’

‘Not today, Mr. Miles. The seventh instalment of Edwin Drood awaits.’

Miles sighed, watching him trudge up the hill, stopping to peer at the little graveyard under the castle wall where he had expressed his desire to be buried.

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Into the Woods by Chelsea Owens

Silent sunlight dances down,
Caressing leaves and pine bough dreams;
Shaking, shading, singing, sighing –
Can you hear the moss-bent trees?

Fae or fauna tickle trailing, talking tendrils;
Tree-trunk tales.
Minstrels swear to sensing magic
As they tiptoe mossy trails.

Blundering, we mention silence;
Eagerly, we rush the woods.
Picking flora, chasing fauna,
Errantly, like child-hoods.

Hush! The tree Ent spirits moan,
Their dormant tree-guard watch awaked.
See and feel and breathe the spirit
Of the stretching woods remaked.

Will you walk with careful footfalls
Down along the forest floor?
Will you whisper wistful wond’rings,
Questioning their strange folklore?

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Turned Around by D. Avery

“Ever go off inta the woods, Pal?”

“Course.”

“Ever git lost?”

“Jist turned around.”

“Were ya scared?”

“Naw. It don’t matter not knowin’ ‘zactly where ya are, long as ya know where ya ain’t. Ain’t no place I’d ruther be ‘an in the woods.”

“‘Parently the Japanese developed goin’ inta the woods in the eighties.”

“De-veloped woods walkin’?”

“It’s called forest bathing. We oughta lead a group inta the woods, Pal.”

“I bathe alone.”

“S’posed ta make ya happier.”

“Hmmph.”

“More connected. Hey, where ya goin’?”

“Cain’t hear ya Kid, bad connection.”

“Where ya headed?!”

“Inta the woods. Alone.”

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Hero’s Journey on Earth Day by D. Avery

“Pal, yer back.”

“Yep. Why’s it so quiet roun’ here?”

“Guess ever one’s still off huggin’ trees.”

“Even Shorty?”

“Heard like, if she kin git her forest shoveled out.”

“Jeez. If any one kin shovel out a forest it’s Shorty. She’s a Titan.”

“I’ll say. Did ya happen ta catch her interview at Literary Titan? She done the Ranch real proud.”

“Yep, sure did.”

“Whatdya think Shorty’s inner hero is?”

“I reckon Shorty’s a buckaroo through and through. True ta herself and ta the Carrot Ranch Community. Boldly going where her inner prompts lead.”

“Heroic leader of Buckaroo Nation!”

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Interview with Charli Mills at Literary Titans.Learn about our latest Vol. 2 project.

Congratulations Rough Writers for winning a Silver Literary Titan Book AwardThe Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 was recently reviewed through Literary Titan’s Book Review Service, earning a 4-star review.

Literary Titans Editor-in-Chief, Thomas Anderson, says, “Your book deserves extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge your hard work, dedication, and writing talent.”

(Thanks, Kid!)

 

Flying Fingers

INTRO

Fingers fly fast in activity. Speed hints of passion and ability. Pianists trip fingers over keys, authors type to the speed of imagination, and tricksters ply nimble fingers.

Writers followed the lead of fast fingers and contemplated the characters attached to such digits. Each story flies with creativity.

The following are based on the March 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lifetime Savings by Ritu Bhathal

Nervously, Frank handed the package over to the girl.

“Now, be careful with that—” He paused to look at her name tag “—Jennifer. I worked hard for those dollars. Now they tell me I gotta keep it in a bank, and not under my mattress. Safety, they say. It was plenty safe with me – until they got that new cleaner in. I don’t like her. Always tidying. I know she knows where I keep my money…”

Frank watched as Jennifer’s fingers flew, deftly lifting and counting the bills, like a seasoned pro.

“You will keep it safe, won’t you?”

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Showdown: Nickel Man vs. the Ballerina by njoyslife

It wasn’t a fair fight, that Halloween night. He was a towering fifty-something; she was five, standing below him in her tutu. He offered nickels, not candy, for correct answers to three questions:
“Who was the first president?”

“George Washington.”

She took her nickel.

“Who’s president now?”

“Bill Clinton.”

She took another.

“Who discovered America?”

“Native Americans.”

“Wrong!”

“No!” She stomped her foot.

“Christopher Columbus!” he said, withholding her reward.

“He was a murderer and a thief!” Her tiny fingers flew between them as punctuation, “they were already here!”

She left him red-faced, three nickels clutched in her fist.

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I Love Garlic by Anony Mole

“Drop your spoon!”

My grandma’s favorite spoon clacked to the floor, batter spraying her shoes.”

“What in God’s name are you making?”

I popped the tupperware lid and showed her.

“And what are you going to do with those?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Well, I expect the best.”

Arrayed like a fan I delivered them to the table.

Grandma took one bite and spit it out. “These are awful.” Picking up a handful she threw them toward my face.

I ducked and grinned mischievously as the squadron of Lady Fingers flew across the room and exploded against the wall.

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Flying Fingers by Irene Waters

The girl giggled. The babysitter’s fingers acted the songs he sang, flying before landing suddenly on the bed beside the child. They tweaked her nose before flying upwards. Rosalind laughed, clapping her hands. Down came the fingers landing on the rabbit adorning her nightdress. They lingered, tracing the bunny’s outline on Rosalind’s chest before flying into the air to dance. Down they came touching her arms lightly before flying up to the sky again. Rosalind shrieked gleefully. Quickly the fingers pounced, on her tummy, walking lower and lower.

“John. We’re home.”

“Next time sweetie.” John promised Rosalind before leaving.

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Innocence of a Child by Heather Gonzalez

“Am I a princess, mommy?” Emma looked up at her mother with big innocent eyes.

“Of course you are.”

Emma twirled with glee in her new glittery dress. Her hands soared through the air as if she could fly away. She imagined she was a magical princess who could fly.

As she felt the air move through her fingers, her father entered the room. Emma was so excited that she didn’t notice the smell on daddy’s breathe or the scary look in his eyes. She never noticed the way he touched mommy. Instead, she was a princess flying away.

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A Memory Truer Than Not by Bill Engleson

I don’t think I really noticed my father’s hands until I was eight or nine.

They were always big.

I knew that for sure.

When he wielded the straps, one rubber, one canvas, his nose would flare, motley red, drizzling sweat.

Strapping was a rare occurrence.

But always a possibility.

At some point, I saw the space where he should have had a whole finger.

One day I worked up the gumption to ask.

“Haying,” he said. “Stupid.”

I wanted to ask if it had hurt.

I wanted it to have hurt.

Sometimes, I was a selfish angry kid.

🥕🥕🥕

pound the pavement (haibun with renga series) by JulesPaige

At the end of my hands my fingers are flying. I get…
my holiday meal started, belonging to an interfaith
family presents its challenges. We will prevail!

morning – time to pound
the pavement; work before play –
before all arrive

prep work done to ease days’ load;
always last minute details

dueling crock pots up,
eggs to boil, soup to brew,
table welcomes you…

smaller compliment around
town as holidays collide

the present hearts will
expand to fill the places
keeping traditions

may each day bring abundant
joy-filled memories to share

let differences
be set aside, so we can
accommodate – love

🥕🥕🥕

Just Close Your Eyes by floatinggold

A woman with long, gold hair, wearing a white, floor-length dress enters the stage and sits by the majestic, wooden harp. She starts pulling on the strings, and the room goes quiet. Everyone is enchanted by the sound that is now surrounding us.

I close my eyes, and I turn into a cloud, carelessly floating in the sky. Light and free.
Peace and serenity all around.

***

My Mom always wanted to play the harp. I am sure that now she sits in Heaven, overlooking my apartment, and letting her fingers gently fly over the strings, humming a lullaby.

🥕🥕🥕

Detached by papershots

Key turns into keyhole, door opens, door closes, keys end up in a bowl on the sill on top of the radiator. The heat goes on. The light goes on. Laces untied, shoes in their compartment. Slippers are found, put on, as well as music, wine poured, glass taken, on a tray beside the couch. “Sorry about…” Like, like, ha ha, like, sad, sad, ha ha, wow. Hold on, interesting, go back up a bit. “… the loss of…” Freezer, bag, content, pan, oven, program 3. “… your friend.” Ha ha, wow. “Can’t make it tonight.” “Congrats on your new job.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reluctant Reader? by Anne Goodwin

Ma made me read ten pages. Every. Single. Night. At first I tried. Really. But with shape shifting letters, disappearing words and baffling sentences, I preferred to watch cartoons. Still, she made me. I learnt to screen a soccer game in my head while staring at the text until it blurred. Flying fingers flicked through pages one to ten. Done!

Books, magazines, how I hated them. Until Miss asked me to show her a football programme. Explain how my team won the match. Print still jumped about and disguised itself. But now I want to discover what it says.

🥕🥕🥕

Cart Before the Horse by Reena Saxena

“I need to enroll for that class. Finger speed matters in whatever we do.” My son was taken in the by the fancy ad placed on the front page of newspapers.

“Sure, you must join. I just want you to develop other faculties alongside.”

“And which ones are those?”

“Feet fly either to achieve something, or in response to danger. The first is planned, while the other is a reflex. Fingers will fly to write, type, dance or paint but what needs to fly first is the mind.”

“Hmmm…. I guess I was putting the cart before the horse.”

🥕🥕🥕

Piano by Sarah Whiley

I lifted the lid of the piano, running my fingers over the keys, tinkling a jumble of notes.

It had been ages since I’d practiced and I was filled with trepidation as I sat down to play.
 I leafed through sheet music, and found Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’.

Resting my gaze upon the familiar notes, I poised my hands and began, cringing as I stumbled over the notes. My fingers clumsy; getting it all wrong.

I stopped, took a deep breath and tried again.
 Giving over to muscle memory, I smiled as my fingers started to fly over the keys.

🥕🥕🥕

Lady Luck by Matt Copping

“Action is to you.”

The words cut through the constant slosh-slosh of the paddle wheels and several sets of eyes turn to you. A waft of smoke burns your lungs as the wind shifts across the open-aired deck of the S.S Katrina.

You turn your head, burying a fit of coughs into your fist; wiping the spittle from your palm against your chest when the fire subsides. You suppress a smirk as good fortune finds your hand dramatically improved.

A click by your ear precedes the metallic pressure against skull.

“Those fingers really do fly, don’t they?”

🥕🥕🥕

Twenty-one by Christina Coster

I watched the croupier manipulate the deck; the overhand, hindu and riffle shuffle demonstrated with ease as her fingers flew.

I heard Twenty-one was a game of probability. The way she mixed them cards had me unconvinced. All players were transfixed.

Hand dealt: Four of Clubs, Nine of Diamonds. House: Queen of Hearts on display.

“Player has thirteen, your move?” she encouraged.

“Hit me.”

“Six of Hearts. Player has nineteen.”

“Hold.”

Confidently she turned over the Hole Card: Ace of Spades.

“Blackjack.”

Should have listened to Papa, “ain’t no way of winning Snapper, House always comes out on top.”

🥕🥕🥕

Perched by D. Avery

Plumes of paper rooster-tailed from the adding machine, the cocky accountant’s fingers like frenzied birds swooping and diving at the keys.

She held her pencil thoughtfully, carefully examining the numbers, pecked and scratched at the paper. She didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, but something didn’t add up. Her fingers tapped out a message on her computer keyboard.

The investigation had barely begun when he flew the coop, though he was unable to line his nest as planned.

She got a feather in her cap. The promotion would help her grow her nest egg, which she tended prudently.

🥕🥕🥕

The People You Meet by FloridaBorne

I noticed the “look” first, pity followed by disgust, and chuckled at a T-shirt that said, “Hillary won.”

“Do you need medication?” She asked, with feigned concern.

“I have Tourette’s,” I replied. “My fingers fly across a piano, and my intelligence is above average. Unfortunately, intolerant people don’t understand when my arm flies outward. I grimace and I sniff, too.”

“That must be embarrassing.”

Just what I needed, fake tolerance. “My husband doesn’t mind.”

“You’re married?”

I sighed. “Did you know that Mozart, Samuel Johnson, and Howard Hughes had Tourette’s?”

“Who?” She asked.

“That explains a lot,” I snickered.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Blink And You’ll Miss It by Geoff Le Pard

‘Blimey Logan, where’d you learn to type so fast?’

‘Self-taught, Morgan. Back in the day.’

‘That’s a stupid expression.’

‘Like your fingers.’

‘Fingers aren’t stupid.’

‘Yours are slow and clumsy. Isn’t that the definition of stupid?’

‘But you really mean me. You can’t anthropomorphise fingers.’

‘So learn how to speed up your fingers.’

‘Why? They do what I need, when I need them. I don’t see the point of speed for speed’s sake.’

‘Get with the programme.’

‘That’s stupid too. And my digits are quick enough.’

‘Really.’

‘Yeah. There.’

‘Ouch! That was my bloody eye.’

‘Blink faster then.’

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Jan Malique

The dancer’s hands unfurled like the wings of a bird, speaking in a tongue so easily understood by the true sight of the heart.

The music beat out a rhythm that enveloped the onlookers like a lover’s embrace, full of gentleness and grace.

They gazed entranced at the dancer’s figure, watched her hands weave a hypnotic spell, watched them perform a feat of extraordinary flight.

They spoke so eloquently, more than the voice could ever, ever express.

Her body overflowed with passion sublime, crowned by the delicacy of her hands, reminiscent of the dance of the Bird of Paradise.

🥕🥕🥕

Her Fingers Flew by sarahsouthwest

Nobody was coming.

Her fingers flew over the keyboard. She’d accepted that there was no escape, but she wanted to tell their story, so that if anyone came here, they would know not to go into the lava tunnels, not to disturb what was down there.

She wondered if there was anyone else left, now. There had been screams from the infirmary, but they had quietened now. She might be the only person alive on this world.

Not for long, though. The creatures would find her eventually, might be outside the door even now. She typed on, frantically.

🥕🥕🥕

Scarlet Strings by Juliet Nubel

She wondered if anyone ever noticed the scarlet drops running down the strings onto her long black skirt.

Perhaps if she wore the white of angels they would see the abstract red splashes of blood and scream at her to stop.

And if she wiped off her painted smile they may see the pain beneath.

But every night she forced her lips wide as she hugged her harp, fingers flying deftly over the nylon, plucking sweet notes from its lengths and scattering them over the hushed auditorium.

They would applaud loudly when the lights dimmed.

She would cry silently.

🥕🥕🥕

 

PART II (10-minute read)

All Fingers by Lady Lee Manilla

Him Indoors plays the piano well
Be it a Chopin or a Beethoven
Like he’s always serenading me
He also has a green finger
He plants seeds, mostly chilli and impatiens
Our garden full of dahlias, lavender, sweet peas
He doesn’t mind getting his fingers muddy

As for me, I like typing my blog
I may not use all my fingers, just the two
But I can type fast and hope the words come
That all’s well that ends well
I hold my mother’s hands
old and wrinkled, years of experience
they used to caress me when I’m upset

🥕🥕🥕

Hands of Age by Ann Edall-Robson

Hands resting gently against the frail body. Every so often fingers come to life. Flitting in the air mimicking thoughts of birds, butterflies and making a point. Settling once more in the aged lap until the story needs their tiny bit of exuberance. No more are they raw and ripped from the daily chores of scrubbing floors, wringing out the laundry and pulling weeds. These hands of time have experienced many lives and now they spend their days reminiscing and playing out the memories. They have become props for the mind of one who remembers but does not see.

🥕🥕🥕

Watch Your Words by D. Avery

It was hard for him to catch everything she said, she talked so fast. When angry she talked even faster, emphatically, replete with innovative swear words. Just now she was on a creative streak. She was swearing mad. At him.

“Slow down”, he pleaded. “I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

That got him an eye roll. He didn’t need to catch every word. He knew what he had said was wrong and was hurtful. They’d been talking about having a baby. He had signed that he hoped their baby wouldn’t be born deaf.

That’s when her fingers flew.

🥕🥕🥕

Contention by Deb Whittam

The exchange was growing heated, tempers growing frayed, the point in contention – whose duty it was to organize the vehicles to transport the bride to the chapel. She assured him that he had insisted on completing the task for he could get the best deal, he argued that it was outside his jurisdiction – he was the best man, she was the matron of honor. In silence the bride watched on, frowning as she watched the fingers fly before turning perplexed to her deaf brother seeking enlightenment. The insincere smile pinned to his lips did little to inspire confidence.

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Bride by Kerry E.B. Black

Opal frowned. “Do I dress first, or you do my hair and makeup before I dress?”

Her granddaughter Heather took the simple ivory wedding gown from its hanger and helped Opal into it. “I’ll drape a towel over it while I fix your hair and makeup. Sound good?”

Opal patted Heather’s hand. “You’re a dear girl.”

Heather kissed her Grandmother. “I love you! Now let’s get you ready.” Her fingers felt like a massage as they twisted Opal’s pearly hair into an elegant up-do.

Opal took Heather’s elbow. Harps announced her march as joined her husband at the altar.

🥕🥕🥕

Fading Squares by Allison Maruska

When I was a little girl, I watched Grandma crochet. The hook and yarn moved through her flying fingers with such ease she could hold a conversation as she worked. She connected the squares into blankets or placemats, or single ones became coasters. As I grew up and she grew older, her squares took more effort, until one day, they weren’t squares at all. Her mind wouldn’t let her fingers fly any longer. So I sit with her now, her hook and yarn in my hands, creating the squares she once made. Her smile tells me I’m doing well.

🥕🥕🥕

Floaters Not Sinkers by Susan Sleggs

As the only non-Jew in the house, I cringed when my new husband’s father demanded to know at the dinner table, “Who made these matzoh balls? They aren’t round.”

A female cousin said, “I tried to show her, but she said I was taking all the air out of them by rolling them in my palms. She barely touched them with her fast fingers and dropped them into the boiling pot of broth. They floated.”

“Well that’s it then. When it comes to matzoh balls, floaters are much better than sinkers. She is to make them from now on.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Praise of Flighty Logic by Molly Stevens

The server waited with pen poised to take the order. “I want turkey hands pwease,” Kyle said.

“He means chicken fingers,” his weary mother explained while swabbing the baby’s drool.

“What a remarkable mind he has!” said his grandmother.

“Is a chicken a birdie?” he asked.

“Yes,” grandma said, “it is a birdie.”

When the food arrived, Kyle grabbed a strip of chicken, hurled it high into the air, and watched it plop into grandma’s water glass.

“Kyle, why did you do that?” Asked his mother, exasperated.

“I wanted to see if chicken fingers could fwy.”

“Brilliant!” said grandma.

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Seeker by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Where is it?” she lifted her face, seeking a clue in the morning breeze. So many possibilities; the winter had been too long. She clawed at the ground furiously, dirt embedding itself under her nails.

A dog barked in the near distance. Annoyed, she abandoned her spot for another nearer the oak. Sun ribboned through naked branches, leaving the false light of morning frost in shadow.

Again she plunged her paws into the earth, seeking treasure.

Her pups stirred in her belly as she scampered and scrabbled. Finally, fluffy gray tail flagged in victory, she withdrew a shiny acorn.

🥕🥕🥕

Swings in Spring by Chelsea Owens

Bright, springtime rays smiled upon the two children as they ran down the Tonaquint Park path. Nature wrapped them in a warm blanket, exulting in her final release from winter’s grip.

“Can’t catch me!” Jack teased. He giggled -downright, giddy giggling– as his sister tore after him through the desert foliage.

She was laughing as well; couldn’t help laughing, beneath a cobalt sky and chirping birds.

They discovered the just-emptied swings. Jack scooted right on and Jill followed suit. Their toes found sendoff grips, their legs pumped them heavenward, and their outstretched fingers flew aerodynamic arcs through blue.

🥕🥕🥕

Fingering Automacity by Miriam Hurdle

“Shirley, why didn’t you take the exam for Piano Performance Certificate from Royal School of Music?”

“I’m not good enough.”

“You’re perfect.”

“Thanks, Sara. My friend started piano lessons before 5. See, the brain neurons connected to finger movements must be tapped on before 5 years old. With learning, practice, and repetition, the fingering becomes automaticity.”

“When did you start?”

“I started piano lesson from my mom at 8 years old. I had other piano teachers when my skills were advanced.”

“You’re my best accompanist.”

“Thanks. I’m happy to teach piano and accompany singers like you and my husband.”

🥕🥕🥕

Once He Moved the World with Flying Fingers by Anne Goodwin

The fingers of his left hand dance across the piano keys. The fingers of his right just dance. And jerk. Spasm. Fly. A dance without pattern to the movement. Or not one his brain can predict or control. If he weren’t consumed with self-pity, he’d laugh. The day will come when he’ll remember this as freedom. Nostalgic for his flying fingers whether making music or senseless noise. As one by one his motor neurones cease firing, leaving him a drooling mannequin in a wheelchair. The man whose virtuoso playing moved the world, unable to move himself beyond a blink.

🥕🥕🥕

My Friend Majda by Faith Colburn

I type at 100+ wpm—until I broke my hand.That’s not my story. Let me tell you about Majda. Majda had barely escaped Bosnia with what she could carry. From the plane, she rushed to the hospital with an angina. I was supposed train her in American journalism. English was her fifth language. In Bosnia, she’d been arts and entertainment editor for Oslobodenje, a major newspaper in Sarajevo. Her fingers flew over keys as her mind flew over paintings and sculpture she’d seen; music she’d heard. Now, like me with my broken finger, she speaks and writes more slowly.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Kim Blades

Rachel had had writer’s block for days. Why now, just six days before her completed, edited, polished manuscript was due at the publisher? She went for a long walk. This time deeper into the forest. It was very quiet. But then she heard whisperings coming from behind a large pile of fallen branches. Rachel crept closer, her eyes widening in wonder at what she overheard. She tiptoed away and then ran home. A short while later her fingers were flying over the keyboard of her laptop; as she hurried to translate the pictures in her mind into written words.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Robbie Cheadle

It was incredible to watch the story taking shape on the pages as the ideas leapt from her mind and chased her fingers across the keyboard. It was like watching puppies play as the words and phrases tumbled across the screen, chasing each other and sometimes almost rolling over each other in their eagerness. He had never experienced energy like this before, never seen fingers flying, eyes sparkling, and cheeks flushed with enthusiasm. He looked at his own long, thin fingers and his brow furrowed as he tried to comprehend and understand this strange and moody female-child of his.

🥕🥕🥕

Donning by D.Avery

Once upon a time there was a time that all wished there never was; for this was not a forwarding time, but a time when the world went backwards. In that time there was an Emperor, which there was not supposed to be in that time. His hands, never having known good work, were known to be small and soft. He was fast with his fingers, his trigger finger itchy, always pointing at someone else, never at himself. Sociopath, he poked the keys to provoke through social media, stirred unrest with his jabbing digits. The world was thoroughly shaken.

🥕🥕🥕

Camaflouge Crazy Quilt by Susan Sleggs

The famous quilt designer greeted me, “Good morning. I’ll let you know if I need help.”

She perused the solid section then moved to the Batiks and inspected the color options. She pulled out bolt after bolt visualizing the array, then brought the pile of multiple shades of very drab greens, browns, and greys to the counter. She ran her fingers up and down the stack. “A half yard each please.”

I wasn’t surprised when I saw an award-winning quilt entitled “Camouflage Crazy Quilt” in a magazine the following year that had multiple kinds of black floss embroidery stitches.

🥕🥕🥕

The Burden of Brilliance by Anurag Bakhshi

“I had heard that your fingers fly when you chop, cut, or carve, but this…You truly are a genius,” my latest apprentice Jonathan exclaimed wide-eyed as he saw me in action on the slab.

“Awww, it’s nothing,” I replied with exaggerated humility, “anyone can learn to do it with sufficient experience, even you.”

“I don’t think so,” said Jonathan weakly, and then, he threw up royally as a finger came flying and hit him on the nose.

What a pity! I’ll now have to look for another apprentice to help me dispose of the bodies of my victims.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ring by Michael B. Fishman

One final look in the mirror on his way downstairs and the waiting limousine. Hair combed: check. Tie straight: check. Looking like a man about to get married: check. Gary picks up his keys and reaches for the ring.

“Where the hell’s the ring?”

Nothing behind the dresser.

The limousine honks.

Drawers open, fingers flying, he rifles through underwear, socks and shirts.

Nothing.

Another honk.

The flicker under the bed catches his eye and when he bends down to pick up the ring from where it had rolled is when his pants tear.

“Jeanine is going to kill me.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART III (10-minute read)

Rumors of Quick Draws (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Grab the mochila, boy!” Dock wasn’t any older than the new crippled stock handler, but he oversaw the mail exchange.

Sarah watched from the barn. The new handler grabbed the leather cover from the panting horse and draped it over the saddle of the waiting mount. The rider clambered up and sat on the mochila containing US mail.

“Haw!” The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company rider departed Rock Creek.

Hickok’s fingers flew, grabbling leather straps, unsaddling the weary mount. His injured arm did nothing to hamper his agility. Rumors had it, the boy was a gunman.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Frank Hubney

Faster than drawing a gun his fingers peppered the keyboard and hit “Enter”. Later he will wish he thought more, but now, oh, the rush! It was the perfect point, typos and grammar and all, and he wanted to make it before someone else did.

Later, second thoughts like snail mail arrived. Then third-thought packages containing arguments he should have considered punched him It occurred to him maybe someone else should have made that idiotic point.

Then it happened. Just when he thought it wouldn’t ever be over, it was over. No one cared anymore and neither did he.

🥕🥕🥕

Dancing Fingers by Michael Grogan

As he aged he found the only part of him that resembled flight were his fingers and the advent of arthritis was threatening that.

It was the pleasure he derived from his morning sojourn into his blog and the generous fellow bloggers commenting on his humble writing and who allowed him to venture into their respective blog worlds.

He loved it when his fingers danced across the keyboard composing a response to the latest prompt that came his way.

His fingers were what kept him alive and wanting to be part of the wide and wonderful world of words.

🥕🥕🥕

Idling by D. Avery

Fingers cracking the pod and rolling the peas out into the pot in one deft move. Had that favorite paring knife, remember, always got the thinnest peel off a potato, all in one piece. She taught us all to knit, though none of us have ever gotten our needles clacking as fast as hers. She even tickled trout, would go down to the brook and get all she wanted and not a line or a net. Now she just lies in bed, her papery hands fluttering to her face over and over, like she can’t believe she’s still here.

🥕🥕🥕

Counting on Fingers by Norah Colvin

Everyone said she had a way with numbers. Even when still in nappies she was counting effortlessly to large numbers in multiples of twos, fives and tens as well as ones. The parents didn’t dare think they’d bred a genius, an outlier. They wished for an ordinary child who fitted in, unnoticed, like them. They strove to inhibit her talent and discourage her enthusiasm. She tried to hide her ability by delaying responses with finger actions resembling calculation aids. But they slowed her none and flew too fast, earning her the nickname “Flying fingers” and ridicule instead of appreciation.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers On Keys by Lisa Rey

Maria sat down to type the next part of her book. For a few moments she looked at the blank computer screen deep in thought, characters having conversations in her head. Then she began to type. Her fingers flew along the keys as her heart kept telling her head what to say. Writing wasn’t just her job. It was a joy, a passion. It never felt like a chore. Before she knew it, her third chapter was in the bag barring that demon editing. Spellcheck, Grammarly and the gang. Her fingers wouldn’t fly when it came to those enemies!

🥕🥕🥕

Money is Sweet Honey by Neel Anil Panicker

Professor Amritanand had done his job — he had prepared the years’ Matriculation Mathematics paper.

Now, all he had to do was seal it in an envelope and lock it in the strong room.

He was about to do so when his mind sprang alive with the conversation of the previous evening.

The man over the telephone had said “Please hand over a duplicate question paper”.

‘That’s cheating’, he had retorted, adding, ‘I won’t do it.’

“For Rs 30 lakhs you definitely would, Sir.”

Professor Anand let his fingers fly.

He never was one to say no to money.

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Piano by Luccia Gray

Ada’s hands flew wildly over the table as her head swayed rhythmically. Alistair stepped closer, curious to see what she was doing. She had drawn black and white symmetrical rectangles along the edge of the table. His wife had been unfortunate enough to have become mute at an early age, and now after their forced relocation she had obviously lost her mind, too. ‘Mummy can’t live without her piano, daddy,’ said Flora. Alistair shook his head. ‘We had to sell it. We all had to make sacrifices when we lost everything.’ ‘But daddy, we can speak about our feelings.’

🥕🥕🥕

 

Study Hall by Krisgo

His fingers were lightly tapping on the table as he sat close. The pads making a noise that sounded like distant rain drops, yet they were right there next to my arm. I wondered if he was leaving fingerprints on the slick surface of the table. I wanted him to lift up his hand so I could check for the lingering prints. No, what I really wanted was to feel him lightly tapping on my skin. The hair on my arm rose, as I thought of how feeling his fingers flying up and down on my arm would feel.

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Drum and the Harp by Wallie & Friend

The whole city was in the city hall, I swear, to hear Bob and Kevin face off. Those two had been at each other’s throats since they were first neighbors, and it was time something was done. Bob brought his drum and Kevin brought his harp. “That’s a girl’s toy,” said Bob. “Alright then,” said Kevin. “Any old baby can beat a drum.” How we were going to settle who was the best I don’t know. But there never was such fun and by the end of it, Kevin and Bob were exhausted, sore-fingered, breathless and the fastest friends.

🥕🥕🥕

Piano by Paula Moyer

Jean watched her mother play the piano, watched Liberace slide his fingers in an upward glissando. When she got to be seven years old, Jean got to play the high C of her mother’s cross-hands piece. Finally she asked her mother. “Can you teach me how to play?” Her mother called around and ordered beginner’s piano music. While she waited, Jean could just see herself playing requests, improvising wildly. Her fingers would fly. Then the music came, lessons began. Oh, so hard. This stuff on paper, the piano keys. It was three months before Jean graduated to “hands together.”

🥕🥕🥕

Island Escape by Kay Kingsley

He was born on the island. Trapped as it were by the beauty that surrounded him. So many people came here to vacation, break free from the outside world, unwind in paradise. Yet here he sits on the sprawling beach, sand occupies his entire vision, 180 degrees. The water is breathtaking. An almost dreamlike mix of Turquoise, Sea Spray and tan. Above the horizon the planes fly in the distance. Lifting his hand eye level, he stretches out his arm and extends his finger pacing the plane. Flying fingers is the closest he is to an escape, for now.

🥕🥕🥕

Equal Knocks by D. Avery

“Where ya been, Kid?”

“Jest made the perfect vegie-tarian Easter dinner.”

“Eggplant?”

“Nope. Bacon and brussel sprouts.”

“Kid, bacon ain’t vegie-tarian.”

“Whoa, Pal, thought we’d all agreed this was a culturally inclusive place. Don’t tell me how ta be a vegie-tarian. My people like ta include bacon.”

“Hmmph.”

“Well, what’ve you been up to? Got yer fingers in ever’one’s pot I s’pose.”

“Na. I been stayin’ outta the way. Ridin’ fence mostly, lookin’ out fer signs a spring.”

“Lookin’ fer greener pastures, Pal?”

“Don’t go pointin’ any fingers, Kid. No, there’s plenty a range here at the ranch.”

“Alleluia.”

🥕🥕🥕

March 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

At first sniff, the clear liquid smells sour. The menu reads: grape leaf vinegar, mint and rose water. The concoction does not evoke the subtleties of pink petals or the promise of a fresh taste. Above the richly dressed crowd, lights beam geometric shapes across the ceiling in red, green, pink and blue. Digital flat screens display a New Year countdown that moves to the beat of electronic dance music. The pulse dares me to sip.

And I do.

To my surprise, the liquid glides sweetly across my tongue. Never judge a drink by its smell? Perhaps. But the aromas emanating from the buffet tables raise my expectations — grilled meats, heavy-handed spices, and frittered vegetables. Last, I grab a cup of dessert pudding with more rose water. Food infused with romance settles on my plate, and I weave my way back to the reserved table. I’m a guest tonight.

It is March 25, and we are celebrating the New Year. Tables packed with guests, many with families, form a horseshoe around a central stage. Even if you can’t see the stage directly, the digital flatscreens are mounted for clear viewing from any angle. Men are dressed in suits and women in evening dresses. I don’t mind that my outfit is simple. No one here is judging a book by its cover. Everyone smiles, welcoming.

Accouterments scatter across a table on the stage. Goldfish swim in a glass bowl surrounded by apples, garlic, sweetgrass and a bowl of painted eggs. Each item symbolizes health, prosperity, and happiness. Traditionally, all the guests wear new clothes. It’s spring, if not the exact equinox, then merely a few days later. The days are lengthening in the northern hemisphere, and no one can deny the renewal of life the season heralds.

Outside, snowbanks sag like swayed-back horses. Their geological record of snowfalls dips around the objects hidden beneath — boulders, park benches, small sheds. Spring can be dirty business. The south-facing bank of Quincy hill exposes bare ground as plain as the skin on a potato. Everywhere grit covers streets and sidewalks. Dog pellets slowly emerge day by day as the sun erodes their icy receptacle. We can only dream of freshness in the Keweenaw as dirty snow gives way to dirt.

We hold on for blades of grass.

Inside, the countdown ends, and we cheer in the New Year. A pianist flies his fingers across the keys and dinner tastes all the more succulent. It feels like renewal in this banquet hall at Michigan Tech University. Photos flash on the screen of places I’ve never before seen — moss on rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, cities, and deserts. Thes images connect many in the room to home. The celebration will suffice while they are away in a foreign land, studying engineering and technological sciences.

I’m an American celebrating an Iranian holiday among people my nation’s president would call enemies. How can I possibly view a culture whose writing reminds me of teacups and black olives as hostile? Laughter, rose water, and artistic performances tell me another story. People are not the enemy. Our fears and hatred cling to cultures like cancer. When we fight cancer, we don’t malign the person. To stand up for humanity, we must call out injustices, not cultures.

Tonight, I’m in love with Iranians.

Midway through the performances, a trio of musicians takes the stage. One plays the sitar, another a violin, and the third drums. I recognize the doumbek because my SIL, Solar Man, plays one as a drummer for my daughter’s belly-dance troupe. When the drummer plays his large frame drum, his fingers fly. I’m mesmerized. And so is he — eyes closed, frame tipped back, fingers dancing across tightened skin.

Next, my daughter and her fellow dancers take the stage in tribal influenced garb and dance to a Persian song. Radio Geek has recently cut her hair — it’s part classic bob, part shaved-head punk. By day in the office, the bob covers the undershaved sections. Tonight, she flaunts her inner punk. The troupe dances with energy to an appreciative crowd, and a delighted mum. This is the Persian New Year — Nowruz.

No-Rooz Mobarak! Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Chag Sameach! May peace and joy be with us all.

Before we get to the prompt, a bit of Ranch spring cleaning. Following last week’s deluge of information, you can now find the newly erected Rancher Badge page beneath the tab, Support Literary Art. You’ll find all the badges (plus a few new ones from your suggestions) in a clear and concise format. Now is the time to set goals. June 1 will be the first quarter to claim badges.

You will erase from memory, any mention of Facebook as a way to collect flash fiction. A great idea went downhill. It didn’t work as intended. Interact in the comments as usual — share your links, stories or pingbacks. If you want to be included in the published collection, submit your story via the form. Forget about short links, too! Write, and let your fingers fly across the keys.

March 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly. Think about the different ways we use our fingers and what happens when we add speed. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 3, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

***

Rumors of Quick Draws (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Grab the mochila, boy!” Dock wasn’t any older than the new crippled stock handler, but he oversaw the mail exchange.

Sarah watched from the barn. The new handler grabbed the leather cover from the panting horse and draped it over the saddle of the waiting mount. The rider clambered up and sat on the mochila containing US mail.

“Haw!” The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company rider departed Rock Creek.

Hickok’s fingers flew, grabbling leather straps, unsaddling the weary mount. His injured arm did nothing to hamper his agility. Rumors had it, the boy was a gunman.

***

Author’s Note: The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company is a mouthful. No wonder we took to calling it the “Pony Express.”

###

 

Follow Your Dreams

Many have followed their dreams to Carrot Ranch. It’s an imaginary place for real people who bring with them a thousand different writing dreams. Each person has their own sack of stories sprinkled with star dust.

Readers will notice a new format, including carrots. As our Ranch grows, so does the collection of weekly flash fiction. The stories will be divided into parts of 20 (or less for the final part). It takes 10 minutes to read 20 flash fiction, according to the average reading time of 200 words per minute.  Each collection is artfully arranged, so look for connections or contrasts that might surprise you.

The following is based on the March 22, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme “follow your dreams.” Bonus points for throwing a badge into the tale.

PART I (10-minute read)

Badge of Courage by Ann Edall-Robson

 It takes courage to share your words with the world. Nothing is written in stone saying you have to go any further than letting family and friends read your work. But, let’s say you decide to throw caution to the wind. Climbing that hill to see what’s on the other side. Wouldn’t it be fun knowing there are places waiting for you that don’t judge your words? Places that welcome you, encouraging you in your journey to follow your dreams. Where you can wear your badge of courage with pride. Such a place exists. Welcome to the Carrot Ranch.

 🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Lady Lee Manilla

sleep tight my poet
for in your dream world you go
colouring your sphere
whose fleeting tenure not break
with wild realm of reality
the kiss of the muse
and so inspiration comes
a slumbering thought
curdles long life in short time
pleasure, pain, faith, hope and love
I never believe in dreams
they were just for kids, they seem
like one of their childish games
but you came and I’m in flames
I’m still smiling with that beam
now I believe in daydreams
hoping you are my mainstream
my heart you have inflamed
dreams to be with you

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Daydreamer by Nicole Grant

At three Joy dreamed awake, sitting on her grandmother’s lap, listening to stories about brave little girls. She spent hours on Alpine cliffs with Heidi; in Mary’s secret garden; in Jo’s cozy New England cottage. When she grew older she learned to read, escaping home often. Some said she daydreamed too much. Her mother sometimes startled her home yelling, “Snap out of it!” She came back, but never stayed long. Joy would not relive the hopelessly fettered life that made her mother mad. She promised herself: to read, to forever follow her dreams, and to write her own story.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dream by Irene Waters

 “Granny what’d you do when you were younger?”

“Same as I do now Clive. I Follow my dreams. Like when I was a girl guide. I did all these badges. Cooking…”

“But Granny you can’t cook.”

“I know but I was following my dream. I did other badges too – hiking and astronomy, and first aid and sewing…”

“But Granny you don’t hike and I knows you don’t sew.”

“Oh but I was following my dream. Once I got my Queen’s Guide, the biggest badge of all, I could go after the next dream. Clive, you gotta follow your dream.”

 🥕🥕🥕

 

Deferment by D. Avery

All schoolmates, they were drinking, again. Billy was talking again about how he was going to go out west, see the sights, settle down in California and grow grapes, run a vineyard.

“Jeezus, Billy, you still on that? You and Stevie- ‘We’re gonna have a vineyard, get rich farmin’ wine’-”

“Whatever happened to Stevie?”

The bartender, their former coach, laughed, showed them a bottle. “Look at the label.”

“I’ll be damned.”

“Shit.” Billy guzzled the rest of his beer, grunting as he stiffly got to his feet. “Gotta get back to the wife and kids.”

“See ya tomorrow, Billy.”

 🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Kim Blades

Violet’s heart had turned to rubble and her thoughts dwelt on fear and loss. She had grown up

and stayed in streets filled with doubts and litter and had thus always been angry and bitter. Her son was different. He chose diligence and knowledge over greed and ignorance. He faced down the bullies and the corrupt and moved out of the sewers.

Now Violet’s two grandchildren have seen orchards and apple blossom. Skies unfurled blue every morning of their youth.

Like their grandmother, what they saw moulded them into what they are.

But they can now follow their dreams.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Moongazer by Juliet Nubel

Its silver beams had lit up his room in Wapakoneta for as long as he could remember.

First crossing his small wooden crib, they now wandered over the checkered quilt made especially for his new Big Boy bed.

He was intrigued by the sphere, struck by its capacity to change shape every single night.

He wouldn’t close his eyes until he had gazed at it long enough for the shadowy patterns to imprint themselves on his young, bright brain.

“Come on, honey. It’s time for bed. Stop looking at the moon now. You know you’ll never go there, Neil.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Personal Pronouns by Anne Goodwin

The girls talked shoes and shopping, so I ran with the boys. Till they obsessed on cricket and football, and I walked alone. Why did girls paint their faces and fuss with their hair? Why did boys get drunk on swagger, beer and playful punches? Neither camp suited me.

“I’m changing my name to Alex, Chris or Charlie.”

Sis clocks my breasts, my knee-high boots, my beard. “Looks like that’s not all you’re changing.”

“I’m following my dream to shake off the shackles of gender.” Gonna get me a badge: I’m Sam and my pronouns are they and their.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Josefina ran home after school, her thoughts bouncing with her bookbag against her back. The whole class was abuzz. They were planning a field trip to go see the monuments in Washington.

Josefina knocked. She admired her new honor roll badge. Her mother opened the door.

“Mom, we’re going on—”

“Silencio! Your sisters are napping.”

Josefina whispered, but the excitement roared back as she broke the news. “I just need my social security number, and—”

Her mother took a sharp breath. He shoulders slumped. “No. I’m sorry.”

“Mom, what do you mean?”

Josefina’s sisters began to cry.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Dreams by Ritu Bhathal

I did it mum. I took your advice.

“Follow your dreams, love,” you’d say to me. “Don’t let anyone stop you. I’d hate for your life to mirror mine.”

Born at a time where a good Indian wife and mother was nothing but that, my mum had dreams of being a doctor. Instead she was married off early, and, well, no one was going to encourage their daughter in law to study more, or, God forbid, work.

As I stand here, with my degree in my hand, my only wish is that you were here to see it too…

🥕🥕🥕

 

Gotta’ Follow My Own Dreams by Susan Sleggs

Angry white caps filled the Puget Sound waterway I could see. The wind howled and rain was going sideways. The fury matched what I expected from my father when I told him I had decided to follow my own dream of becoming a pilot in the Air Force. Especially since he expected me to become a doctor like family tradition deemed. The storm also matched my own emotions how my decision would affect my mother. In no way did I want to hurt her but I felt she would understand and accept what was best for me. Sorry Mom.

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Pretend Sheriff of Butternut Island by Bill Engleson

That summer, gosh, it must have been ’81 or ’82, we were tossing back some brew on the deck of the Sparkling Water Tavern, looking out on the sea.

The sun was sizzling, slapping off the ocean like bright stones spinning.

Darius wandered in, gold Roy Rogers deputy sheriffs badge pinned to his red plaid shirt.

I suppose there was always a chance that crime would break out on Butternut.

“Streets quiet, Deputy?” some wise-ass weekender asked.

Darius held it together. “Long as folks respect the law,” he answered.

Wise-ass wanted to say more.

Thing was, he’d been bested.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Frank Hubeny

Scorn them with your thoughts. It’s safe. No one knows.

No one believes thoughts can kill. No one believes empaths exist. No one thinks they can know another’s hate. If their hearts break, it’s their own hearts’ failure. If they can no longer forgive, that’s better.

Janet’s dream guardians told her to follow them, “Smile. Sit tall. Take deep, slow breaths. Play your dream songs.”

Janet put on her headphones. She set the player to keep repeating the sacred love songs.

When the hate came, the empath and her dreams were ready. Until they fell, they mirrored love back.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow your Dreams by Judy Martin

The applause carried her right through the week. She recalled the cheeks flushed with pleasure, and eyes although bright with tears in some faces, shone with delight. Tears appeared in her own eyes now, bittersweet. She had followed her dreams and studied hard to become the dedicated nurse she aspired to be. Yet, she ached to fulfil another need. Playing with words had always been a favourite pastime, and the poem she had written to cheer up her cancer patients brought the house down. Laughter certainly is the best medicine!

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Pensitivity

He heard them calling.

They invaded his waking thoughts, tormented him as he slept.

Follow us, follow us.

He didn’t understand, couldn’t fathom what he was supposed to do, where he was supposed to go.

Come to us, come to us.

He tried to question them, ask them how, when and why.

You will know, you will know.

Then he met her.

She too had heard the calling to follow.

He had been in her dreams, was her dream.

Their ideas intertwined and enhanced each individual thought.

They recognised their destiny as each other, and together became their dream.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Man of My Dreams by Susan Zutautas

Looking across the bar that night, I saw him. The man of my dreams. He was tall, gorgeous, and he was looking at me. I just had to find a way to meet him, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.

He was with a bunch of people and left the group to go to the washroom. It hit me, I’d go talk to one of his friends.

I introduced myself and asked, hey is your friend single and can you introduce him to me?

That was 32 years ago, and we’re still happily married today.

 🥕🥕🥕

 

Dreams by CalmKate

Terry had met his match, Louise was everything he wanted in a partner but she had never been sailing. Would she support his dream to build a boat and sail the high seas.

She was wobbly on the hired catamaran but could see his passion so agreed to spending their savings and spare time building the boat of his dreams. Frankly she thought he would tire of the task and they could soon settle to an ordinary life.

Two children later they’d sailed to Barbados and had lived on board for a year collecting a badge in every port.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Conception by Sarah Whiley

It had been the perfect honeymoon. We enjoyed endless days swimming, relaxing and drinking cocktails. Barry announced that on our last morning, my dream of diving the reef, would finally be actualised. We were going scuba diving!

***

I plunged into the water, closely following the directions from our devastatingly gorgeous instructor. I became lost in the magic of the world underwater when I suddenly found myself alone and my tank empty.

Barry and the instructor were gone!

As I succumbed to the lack of oxygen, my puce coloured face realised the fiction on which our marriage was truly conceived.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Blind Love by Anurag Bhakhshi

She’d fallen for him, hook, line and sinker.

She faintly remembered her mother’s warning about mixing with the wrong sort, but she’d been dreaming of his alluring, bewitching beauty ever since she’d set eyes on him, and if you don’t follow your dreams, are you even alive?

Unable to resist his magnetic pull any longer, she rushed to become one with him.

And as soon as her lips touched his, she felt a fierce tug….as the hook sank into her mouth, and the fisherman quickly reeled her in, along with the crayfish that he was using as bait.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Eleanor by Matthew Copping

I lowered the binoculars. A sip of coffee did nothing to wash down the taste of my failed past, nor did it dissolve the knuckle-like mass growing in my stomach.

Eleanor Strand. . .

The name had meant nothing, uttered from the brown suede chair in my Brooklyn office; just another unfaithful spouse of the rich and famous. The customary exchange of yellow envelope and stale cigarette smoke on hand had followed.

Married name. It seemed obvious now as the thought whirled through my head. Follow your dreams, I thought bitterly and settled in to spy on my ex-fiance.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Follow Your Dreams (Cat Edition) by FloridaBorne

Once upon a time there was a rather bright cat with a rather dull brother.

One day, Mr. Bright announced, “I hate city living!”

Vowing to follow his dreams, he began an epic journey, until he detected the pitter-patter of cat feet behind him.

“Go home!” he meowed at Mr. Dull.

“Where’s home?”

Mr. Bright shuddered at a wind growing colder as night drew near.  “I don’t know.”

“MeeeeRrrrAAARRRRRRR,” Mr. Dull shouted.

A kind human heard his cries. Now they live in a mansion, have a cat door, and wear badges on their collars.

Sometimes loud triumphs over brilliance.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Following the Dream by Molly Stevens

Ron’s head pounded and his hands trembled recalling last night’s combative email exchange. He knew the client and manufacturer would need someone to blame and he was a convenient target.

He crept out of the house without disturbing his wife and boys, leaving two hours before morning chaos erupted.

He tailgated the gray Kia, distracted by attempts to read the vanity license plate.

Brake lights. The crunch of metal. And a close-up view.

‘Playmor.’

The badge was at eye level when he opened his window.

“Where are you going in such a hurry, mister?”

“Just following the dream, officer.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Inconceivable Dream by Miriam Hurdle

“I had the same dream twice, Eric.”

“What dream was that?”

“I was flapping my arms flying higher and higher.”

“Some people fly in their dreams.”

“Well, Gorge, last night IN my dream I woke up, talking about my first dream with my sis.”

“That was your second level of inconceivable, deepest desire in your subconsciousness. What do you want to do when you grow up?”

“I don’t know.”

“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and breathe out slowly. What do you feel you want to do?”

“A pilot.”

“Follow your dream. You’ll see breadcrumbs along the road.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

One Day, Many Days by Lisa Rey

Michael stood in the middle of the grounds of Dublin Castle. Around him there was a sea of rainbow flags, gay couples kissing and allies smiling. The date was May 22nd 2015 and though Michael had never been in a relationship, today ensured that he could follow his dream of marrying in his country and having his marriage recognised someday. As a young gay man, he never thought it was possible. He just imagined the closest he’d come to marriages and all that jam was as his straight brother’s Best Man. But today, that changed and it was wonderful.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Honourable Discharge by Christina Coster

She observed the monarchy presenting her boy the Victoria Cross.  Corporal Trigg-Ashworth had served 12 years: 3 months: 4 tours. He had seen things only dreamed up in the darkest of nightmares; regrettably had done worse.  He stood to attention as the bronze emblem was pinned to the right of his uniform.

He’d trailed in his father’s footprints; he would have been proud. Honourably discharged, it was time for her son to now follow his own dreams. Keeping head held high, walking stick in hand, he’d earned his badge of honour; for valour, for country, for both of them.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Lotta at 22 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lotta Du Charms relished the feel of canvas around her legs, leather and horseflesh between her thighs.

She’d spent her orphaned youth working in Lula’s saloon. When she’d traded her downstairs housekeeping badge for a “bed-making” badge upstairs, it was under Lula’s protection and loving ear. Her choices were respected, any door opened never permanently closed.

Lula was wise that way.

Lotta’d left after midnight, Goddess Moon hanging full-bellied in the Oklahoma sky. Her purse was heavy, her shotgun loaded, knife glinting in her boot.

“Onward, Artemis,” Lotta whispered to her horse. They set off to the next horizon.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Her Dream’s Edge by Kay Kingsley

She followed this dream to the edge, one she never thought existed and couldn’t comprehend, like the vastness of the cosmos, and yet after such a long journey of total transformation, she stands at its precipice.

Every end is a beginning and the sadness of perpetual change walks silently beside her, nudging her towards the cliffs edge. Comforted by its inevitability yet frustrated at her lack of choice, she approaches with fatigued enthusiasm.

Is this the beginning of greatness or the end of the best of her, a moment she will forever chase like a dream fading at dawn?

🥕🥕🥕

 

Following Dreams by Chelsea Owens

I wake after little sleep. Only hours ago, I walked the lonely aisles populated by night dwellers. “You look how I feel,” the cashier had said, voicing my thoughts before I’d worked out how to speak.

Today’s my child’s birthday. Mentally, I list what needs completion: cleaning, baking, decorating, dinner, church, children.

Husband stretches and wraps an arm around me. “I’ve got to go,” he coos. “Choir rehearsal this morning.” Surprised, I check my calendar.

Someone has posted a quote about making life what you will. Follow your dreams.

I rise groggily from the bed. A busy day awaits.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Living the Dream by Paula Moyer

Sam was baffled. With his scientific brain, it made no sense that doulas didn’t do cervical exams. The code phrase: “We don’t go downtown.”

“But why not?” he pressed on. “How do you know it’s time?”

Jean was stumped. Finally, her words came.

“My whole being is locked in with the mom,” Jean said. “That room is the world. I know in my bones when to head to the hospital, the birth center, when to call the midwife. It’s time to push because I’m pushing.”

So Jean professed her calling, her dream.

“This is what I was made for.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

To Be Proud of Yourself by Heather Gonzalez

“Follow your dreams…”

The voice on tv seemed to be talking directly to Tim. He really needed a reason to keep going.

“Even you can be whatever you want. You just have to believe in yourself. Stop wasting your time waiting. Get up and seize the day.”

This woke up something inside of him. He ran to the closet that still held some of his ex-wife’s clothes. He put on a dress and high heels. Then he put on his grandmother’s brooch and wore it like a badge of honor. For the first time, he felt whole and complete.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Deborah Lee

Jane jerks awake, the dream still strong. She’s scraped her fingertips against the rough concrete floor before she remembers there is no lamp. No bed, no matching nightstand, no electricity at all. Just her sleeping bag on the cold floor of the abandoned house she squats in.

The dream had felt so real. Safe in her bed. Her roses outside the window. Her house.

Follow your dreams, they said; it makes life rich. Except when you end up losing it all. She’d moved here with such high hopes. Now she knows that sometimes what’s over the horizon should stay there.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Of Dreams and Nightmares by Norah Colvin

Marnie snuck into the back row. The ceremony was underway. “Follow your dream” and “What is your dream?” were displayed on the large screen above the stage. As each graduating student took the microphone to share their dreams for the future, images of past achievements were projected onto the screen. Marnie should have been there too: but what could she share? Who would listen or even care? Only Miss R. Marnie craned her neck for a farewell glimpse, then left as quietly as she had entered. Once she had escaped her nightmare, perhaps then she could begin to dream.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Render by D. Avery

“It’s too tight”, Marlie complained as her mother hurriedly strapped her into her car seat. Today she’d made her mother late because she’d been absorbed watching a moth ensnared in a spider web, hopelessly struggling, its wings rendered useless.

Craft time was underway when Marlie arrived. Though unsure what the others were making she quickly got herself some sticks and yarn too. Her thoughts swam in the colorful weave of her careful work.

“Nice Dream Catcher, Marlie. It looks just like a colorful spider web.”

Marlie paused, then loosened the yarn, undid each wrap and weave, dismantling her creation.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Royal Bengal Tigress by Neel Anil Panicker

At a time when kids her age where scratching their heads and biting their nails trying to solve simple additions and subtractions, Sheena Bora had moved onto asking probing questions on higher order trigonometry and suggesting ‘out of the box’ answers to complex albegriac equations that stumped her teachers including her father, an acclaimed Professor of Mathematics, no less.

It was another matter that with the onset of puberty, her interests spilled over and soon, aided by an increased hormonal overdrive, she found herself spending equal time nourishing both her mind and body.

It came as no surprise when her top cat status helped her in bagging a prized seat at Cambridge and by the time she moved onto to greener pastures she had a panting bunch of heaving, panting, salivating Lotharios.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Valuable Vagary by JulesPaige

Do writers lean towards mendacity? Lunging with vocabulary, imagining everyone will fill in the gaps, while they blush in the shadows at their cleverness? Do writers call the unattainable goals they follow dreams? And yet some dreams do come true. Words end up in print. Others spy through internet glasses and peak at the peacock preening. It really isn’t that way is it? Fiction isn’t fact, though there might be some threads of truth. And even a peacock needs to eat, and showing off does get some attention. Writers are people too. Please show em some love, won’t you?

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Michael Grogan

From an early age, he started drawing things. He showed a liking for patterns.

As he grew, he played more and more with line and form.

When his schooling was over, he had decided to become an artist.

He worked on his craft, he was invited to exhibit his work. He found a market, a worldwide one.

He discovered his choice of colour, his blue and white.

Today he follows his dream, lives off his art when he doesn’t need to borrow from his dad.

Soon he will travel the world, firstly to Singapore to display his beautiful work.

It’s not exactly a badge but a sample of his work.

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Dream Rock by Colleen Chesebro

Abby followed her dream to the edge of a field filled with thorny weeds that twisted like ivy. Dead animals lay scattered, their bloated carcasses rotting beneath the blistering sun. An apocalyptic scent of death hung in the air. A boulder filled with glittery quartz striations moved closer.

“This is our world without the bees,” said the rock. “The effects of climate change ravage the earth, disrupting the growth patterns. Animals die because their forage can’t mature without pollination.”

Abby swallowed the hard knot of truth. “What can I do?”

“You must save the bees.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

 Dream Stalker by odysseyofhappiness

“Follow your dreamsss……that’s what he doesss” it rasped.

“…Who?” I queried, a chill running down my spine.

“The Dreamstalker…..he hunts in dreamsss…”

“Never heard of him……. anyway… I must be onward” I said, trying to sound determined but instead letting more than a small quiver into my voice.

“YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM THE DREAMSTALKER!” The thing roared in anger and warning.

I swallowed dryly. “What happens if he gets in your dreams?”

A frighteningly cruel smile curled across its repulsive face. “thisss….. is my favorite part”.

Terrified, I asked “what is?”

“The part where I wake you”…

🥕🥕🥕

 

Why You Should Always Just Follow Your Dreams by Hugh Roberts

“Follow your dreams,” they told me. “Follow your dreams, and you’ll always experience something amazing.”

“But where do dreams go?” I asked. “Nobody ever finds a dream, do they?”

“Follow your dreams and experience something amazing,” came the reply.

Try as I might, I was unable to catch or stop following my dreams. A few weeks ago, I almost caught one, but it slipped through my fingers and got away from me. Then, last night, I caught a lovely dream I’d been having about badges, marshmallows and Easter bunnies.

“Got you!” were my final words.

I never woke up.

🥕🥕🥕

 

[netherworld] by Deb Whittam

As the cat strutted along the rooftop he followed close in its wake for while the other was quick and sure footed, gliding across the rooftop with an expertise which bespoke of years of experience, he was not.

He had followed this rooftop acrobat out of curiosity, but the high wire was not his home; he craved the warmth of his cot and his teddy bear.

As if sensing his thoughts the cat sat down, considered him in silence before it said, “Time to wake up sleepy head … I have mice to chase.”

His eyelids fluttered then opened.

🥕🥕🥕

 

PART III (5-minute read)

Deep Thinking by Patrick M. O’Connor

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” she said.

He shrugged and continued eating his cereal without looking up.

“You can’t just sit around complaining about what you don’t have.”

He stopped mid shovel and looked up at her. Then, shrugging again, he went back to his feeding frenzy.

He knew she was right. He needed to follow his dreams if he was going to make something of himself.

“I can’t do this anymore! Get work that you’re passionate about or I’m leaving. Damn it! Your 40 years old.”

He stopped again and said, “You’re right.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Breakfast in America by Sherri Matthews

Paula shuffled over to the counter. ‘How d’ya want yer eggs honey, easy over, sunny side up?’

‘Scrambled and a side of pancakes, and make it snappy, will ya?’

Paula sniffed as she poured his coffee. ‘Kinda grumpy today ain’t yer?’

Detective Johnny Johnson lit a Marlboro and sighed. ‘Sorry Paula, some broad got me on the run, that’s all…’

‘Aww…and I there thought I was yer broad…you know, the one of yer dreams.’

Johnny smiled, the first time in days. ‘Yeah, you’re my broad…’

I closed my book and dreamed of waking up to pancakes and maple syrup.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Following My Dreams by Michael Fishman

Follow your dreams she tells me.

That Nadine, she always knows what someone else should be doing: I should mow the lawn; the Bishop’s shouldn’t stay up so late; the Porter’s should get a new car; the Schulte’s should put their daughter on a diet; I should get a haircut.

Yes, she has a way, Nadine.

I finally took her advice and filed for divorce. Now I live quietly by myself in a small apartment and right now I’m going to roll over and pull the covers up and take some of her oft-offered advice and follow my dreams.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Tea, Biscuits, and Trolls by Wallie & Friend

“Why are we doing this?”

Pommie ignored her husband, pinning cobwebs across the door of their cave.

Griddur sneezed. “But Pommie,” he pleaded, “you know I’m allergic to dust.”

She paused and gave him a sympathetic pat. “It’s only for today,” she said. “Will you help me scatter the bones?”

Her husband groaned. “Do we have to?”

“That young knight is coming tomorrow and he’s expecting a haunted cave, not two elderly trolls. I’d like to help him. He looked so excited.”

“But what if he hurts us?”

“That,” said Pommie, “is what the tea and biscuits are for.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Key Holder’s Quest by Jan Malique

She dreamed worlds into being, each word unlocking door after door, and offering new vistas to her bedazzled eyes.

Her heart unfolded its wings, stirring the breath of the Eastern Wind, petitioning it to carry her heartfelt desires to the outermost regions of the world.

The Key Holder’s hands gently touched the covers of this most special book. She infused it with love and magic of the deepest kind. It was to be a manual for all aspiring dream weavers.

For to truly live is to follow your dreams. Such a simple truth but so hard to live by.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Reach  for a Dream by Robbie Cheadle

Karen looked at her daughter sitting on the deck of the large passenger liner.  She looked so sweet in her lacy dress and matching sun bonnet.  The sudden death of her husband from a massive coronary had been a terrible shock. She had been left to raise this tiny dependent on her own. Her sister, Sandra, who lived in faraway South Africa, had offered to have them live with her.  Sandra would look after her daughter during the day while she worked. It was an opportunity. She could reach for her dream of a better life for them both.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Art of Following Dreams by PTSD Gal

‘She’ll NEVER make money as an artist! It’s a hobby, not a career that can sustain her! Plus I’m not wasting the money for her to just lose interest!’ My mother yelled at my father after I asked to join an art class. ‘You can be anything you want in this life. If you want to draw and paint then I’ll go and get what you need. You have real talent Jo. I believe in you,’ my dad gave me a hug and walked away. Years later I’m now a graphic artist, painter, writer because my father supported me.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Rugby 843

Follow your dreams they said. Go west young man they said. Step out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid, you’re young and strong!

All good advice I thought. I was excited and anxious to begin my journey, fulfill my expectations. I left school, my boring job, the comfort of living at home with my parents.

I sold my car to buy a bus ticket to California. I packed my duffle bag with the bare necessities. I kept my headphones and cell phone, sold the rest. I boarded the bus with hopeful thoughts, and fell asleep listening to “California Dreamin”.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Follow Your Dreams by Geoff Le Pard

‘Do you dream, Logan?’

‘Everyone dreams, Morgan. It’s the brain processing stuff.’

‘Clearing out the crap?’

‘If you like.’

‘Like the bowels?’

‘Not exactly.’

‘I only ask because I was asked today if I wanted to follow my dreams.’

‘Ok.’

‘I’m not sure I want to.’

‘Why?’

‘Take my cousin Killick. His dream involved a dwarf and fourteen bananas.’

‘Why fourteen?’

‘He had a Snow White fixation.’

‘Moving on, following you dreams is meant to be a positive.’

‘So’s having a good crap.’

‘There you go. No one said every pot of gold was full of chocolate.’

‘Very deep.’

🥕🥕🥕

 

Badgered by D. Avery

“Kid, I kin hear yer dang harrumphin’ halfway ta the corral.”

“I ain’t goin’ ta the corral, not via no dang Face Book.”

“Well, don’t then, use the contact form. Look, Kid, I bunk with ya, so I kin smell ya don’t like change, but this here’s good. The Ranch is growin’, Kid, Shorty’s dreams are growin’. Ain’t that some change ya kin pocket?”

“Well, if’n it helps Shorty. T’ain’t much of a chore, really.”

“Many ranch hands make light work. Maybe ya kin even git a badge.”

“Git deputized? I ain’t inta badges.”

“Ya sure do badger me.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

 

Carrot Cake

No matter how you slice it, cake has much to say. At Carrot Ranch, of course, it would be carrot cake. As some have pondered, when did we start putting vegetables in cake? Perhaps the addition fortified a treat with additional nutrients; perhaps kitchen cooks long ago used carrots to add moisture and texture.

Writers chased the trail of carrots in cake and returned with a tasty batch of stories. Just as each baker adds a signature touch, you can expect each writer to add their own flair to flash.

The following are based on the March 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake.

***

Cake for Tomorrow by Denise Aileen DeVries

When Bitty Johnson invited Myra Jean to spend the day making carrot cake, she envisioned some kind of mass production. To her surprise, Mrs. Johnson picked her up in an old Ford and drove outside the town limits. “Nuts from Mr. Whittaker first,” she explained, “then eggs from the Browns.” Each ingredient involved a visit to a different home, a glass of sweet tea, a homemade treat, some conversation, and then Bitty’s anecdotes in between. It was nearly sunset when the baking began.
Although it was only one cake, it was delicious because of all that went into it.

###

Strawberry Moon by D. Avery

Marge sat at the table poring over a seed catalog, one of the balloons a strawberry moon overhead.

“I want carrot cake, Earnest, that’s what.”

“There’s some at the store.”

“I want to make it.”

“We can buy carrots.”

“No, I wanna grow the carrots.”

“Well gee Marge, it’s gonna take a long while to get that cake.”

“Yes, well into summer.”

“Why wait so long? Why work so hard?”

“It’s to celebrate. Us. You like balloons, I like cake.”

Earnest grinned. Marge would be baking, here, come summer.

“I’ll dig the garden patch, Marge.”

“That’s what I figured.”

###

My Roots by Bill Engleson

“Really…we’ve got the ingredients. Mostly its flour and carrots. Quite easy.”

“Hmm, okay, but…” and here I dig deep, “if it was me, I’d go with chocolate.”

I can see I’ve touched a culinary nerve. She also digs deep. With tongue and feet. “Plain and simple, I don’t like chocolate, or pie, or cake…any of the chocolate spinoffs.”

“But its my birthday,” I go for the jugular. “That should count for something.”

She hesitates.

Have I won this round?

“Okay,” she says, touching my lips. “A compromise. How about chocolate carrot turnip cake?”

I’m snookered.

Inevitably, love is compromise.

###

Cake-Off! by Ritu Bhathal

Lifting the last box from her bag, Ritu sighed with satisfaction.

The pastries, bites and cakes had all reached the venue intact: Nutella puff pastry twists, Rocky Road bites, and her favourite, carrot cake cupcakes.

Nothing else was laid on the table… until he turned up.

Armed with gluten-free, sugar-free fare, His Geoffleship laid his plates across the other table half.

The competition had arrived.

Soon the room began to fill with the attendees of the Bloggers Bash, ready for the Blog Awards…

But for these two bakers, the real winner would be who won the Great Bash Bake-off!

###

Shifting Preferences by Reena Saxena

We are proud of your accomplishments, dear son! Good to know that you have bought a house in UK, with that well-paying job! What pains us is that you do not respond to your wife’s calls or mails. It is high time, that you took her with you. We would like to see a grandchild, before we die. Sending some Indian sweets for you….

And so on, continued my mother’s rants on email.

How do I tell her that my preferences have shifted from carrot halwa to carrot cake? The family will soon see a divorce petition from me.

###

Carat Cake by Kay Kingsley

From the moment he met her his heart was hers. He devours her details, locking them in his memory to surprise her when she least expects it, showing he cares.

She loves horses, the beach, and the color purple. She wants to be a doctor, travel to Egypt and swim with dolphins.

He adores her and she him and on their anniversary he will bake her a version of her favorite cake only this version will contain a different kind of carat. And trying to steady his voice and his knee, he will ask her to be his forever.

###

Carrot Cake by Frank Hubney

He reminded her of the strudel she used to make. He wanted to make it himself, but he didn’t know how. Could she teach him?

She asked him about that girl he liked. He said her name was Shirley. “What happened to her?”

“There she is.”

“Ah! She’s grown!”

“And we have children. Look.” He pointed to two girls too old for innocence, too young to be on their own in the doorway.

“How beautiful! I don’t know if I remember how to make that carrot cake.”

“That’s alright.”

“What was that girl’s name again?”

“It’s Shirley.”

“How beautiful!”

###

Grandma’s Carrot Cake by Faith A. Colburn

For Grandma’s 100th birthday, we ordered a cake, a carrot cake, her favorite. It was a big sheet cake decorated with a replica of my cousin’s painting of the farm in frosting. Grandma had lived on that farm for 70 years and her eyes filled with tears for just a moment. We invited everybody—cousins from California and Alaska and neighbors from next door. It was the last time all the grandkids and greats got together in one place.

With an evil gleam in her eye, Grandma looked around and said, “You didn’t think I’d make it, did you?”

###

Carrot Cake? by Sarah Whiley

Jake’s eyes sparkled as he slid the plate towards me.

The sliver of cake was moist; loaded with carrots. Ground walnuts, covered the rich cream cheese icing. I picked up my fork, mouth watering in anticipation.

“Where’s yours? I don’t want to consume all these calories on my own!” I teased.

“This one’s especially for you,” he replied.

Shrugging, I dug the fork into the cake, feeling metal hit metal.

Breaking it apart, I gasped. In the middle lay a cushion-cut, diamond ring.

“It’s a carat cake,” Jake joked, locking his eyes on mine. “Will you marry me Isabel?”

###

She Said Yes by Joe Owens

Sydney marveled at the flawless carrot cake on the picnic table. For the first time in her seventeen years she had one to be proud of. She cocked her head at the odd droning sound above, but the bright sun made it difficult to see. There was a myriad of colors and then a sickening thud as something dropped into the center of her cake.

“What’s that?” triplet Macey asked pointing at the pyramid shaped photo block.

Sydney’s heart leapt at the photo of Marcus on one knee holding a sign that said only “PROM?”

“Finally!” she said. “Finally!”

###

Let Them Eat Cake! by Juliet Nubel

“You can’t give them carrot cake, ma chérie. This is France, remember?

How could she forget? Born with a supercilious culinary chauvinism, the French believed that everything they cooked was good, better, the best.

“They’ll love it.” The look in Joanna’s eyes warned him to drop the subject.

His father had looked intrigued. His mother had looked appalled. But neither had dared refuse the dark, moist, glistening slice.

Later, as the Gallic goodbyes finally ended, Joanna leaned against the door. A small, satisfied smile landed on her lips.

“Your mother just asked me for something, Jean-Paul.”

“What?”

“The recipe!”

###

Carrot Cake is the Way to a Man’s Heart by Sarah Southwest

Look at him. He’s gorgeous. And now, look at her – slim, blonde, elegant – and he’s all over her, begging eyes,  like a dog that wants a biscuit. Makes me sick.

Cappuccino and carrot cake for him? Black coffee for her? Worried about her figure, obviously. It’s all right – I’ll serve them, I say.

“Two coffees, and one cake”.

I set it down in front of him. He doesn’t even look at me. Not until the first mouthful, and then he looks around, and meets my eyes.

She doesn’t stand a chance.

###

A Mother Always Knows by Colleen Chesebro

The train clickety-clacked across the rails while rolling hills flashed outside the windows with the speed of an old movie reel. I swayed my way into a mindful moment, breathing in peace.

A loud sniff interrupted my reverie. Across from me, the woman’s red eyes blared out her secrets. Tears streamed down her face and sobs wracked her body. Our eyes met, and she shook her head, silence her shield.

Mothers recognize pain. When the throbbing ache subsides, hunger sets in. I opened the box and drew out the carrot cake, a gift for a friend. Sweets always heal.

###

Carrot Cake by Lisa Rey

Michael set about making his carrot cake for the pending agricultural show. He had lost five years running. He was determined that this would be his year. He knew why he had lost each year and he was fuming. In this small town, they were all friends and he was the only man who entered. And there was a worldwide vendetta.
The world seems to hate white, cisgender, conservative, heterosexual males.

Across town, head judge Loreen looked at the list of competitors. She smiled at Michael’s name and thought,
That poor man can’t cook and he’s into so himself.

###

Carrot Cake (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The mindless chatter of two dozen people washes over Jane’s head, normally a wall of sound to hide behind but today, something to navigate. She balances her paper plate of cake – carrot, with cream cheese frosting, a favorite – careful not to jostle as she makes her way to where Barbara sits, queenlike, amid bona fide paralegals.

“I’m so sorry to hear Marianne is leaving,” Jane plunges in as Barbara glances up. “Are you accepting applications for her position?” She smiles brightly even as Becca’s eyes shoot daggers from across the room.

One woman’s going-away cake is another woman’s chance.

###

Over Indulging by Heather Gonzalez

“Cut me another slice of cake. One with a frosting carrot on top.” Jerry said, shoveling the last bite of cake.

“Are you sure?” Ariana hesitated.

“It is my right as an American.”

She sighed and enabled her husband’s habit of drowning himself in food. This was not what she imagined would happen when she agreed to marry him.

“I should have stayed in my country.” Ariana spoke under her breathe as she handed him the cake.

“What?”

“I am glad you brought me to this country.”

“Best money I ever spent. You are even better than your ad.”

###

American Tastes by Sherri Matthews

Sponge pudding and custard. Definitely. But cheesecake? No way.

‘Go on Helen, try it, it’s really nice,’ coaxed her brother.

No way. Cheese and cake…together? Whoever heard of that?

When she told her school friends the next morning about the latest awful thing her stepfather had brought home, they all agreed it sounded revolting.

Years later for her birthday, Helen’s American friends made her a carrot cake.

The laughed together as she recounted her cheesecake moment. Was she more daring now, they teased?

‘Go on Helen…’ they chorused.

Helen took a forkful and smiled. Life had never tasted better.

###

Gram’s Peculiar Taste by Kerry E.B. Black

Constance frowned and poked her piece of cake, leaving four tine-marks as evidence of her displeasure.

Carrot cake? What kind of trick was this? Her mother didn’t disguise the vegetable’s presence. She proclaimed it in orange and green icing atop the sea of ivory.

Not like the time she served squash and pretended it was spaghetti.

Who knew what other things she slipped into meals?

“Mo-om, why can’t we have chocolate?”

Mom bustled about, polishing the silver. “Because carrot is your Gram’s favorite.”

Gram sure had peculiar taste.

At least Mom made chocolate chip scones.

Or were they current?

###

Health Nut by njoyslife

Traffic is frustrating. I’ve had a bad day at work. It’s been a miserable day according to the news, social injustice and senseless violence everywhere. Stress tightens my brow, back, shoulders, my clenched jaw. I push the button to turn the car radio off, inanely telling it to ‘shut up!’ I want to get home, make myself a healthy meal. Self-care, I remind myself, is so important when you’re stressed. I pull into a bakery parking lot. “I’ll take the carrot cake” I tell the surly clerk. In no mood to cook, I take my sweet vegetarian meal home.

###

Blow My Candles Out by Rowena Newton

“Happy Birthday, Honey. I’ve checked all the ingredients. Even your cardiologist says it’s fine…gluten free, sugar free, fat free.” Sue tried hard to smile. “So, you can have your cake and eat it too.”

“So, what IS in it?” Richard growled, longing for Nigella’s Nutella Cake instead. As much as he loved his wife and family, he wasn’t sure it was worth coming back for this new life with all its restrictions. He couldn’t even breathe without asking for permission first.

“Carrot cake? I am NOT a horse! I’m off to the pub. You can blow my candles out!”

###

Easter Bunny Carrot Cake by Hugh Roberts

It was carrot pudding in 1591. Then, in 1783, the Easter Bunny, while on its way to do some early Christmas shopping, watched George Washington eat the first Carrot cake at the Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan. As George ate the carrot cake, the Easter Bunny drooled over the thought of carrots in a cake.

These humans were clever. Why had nobody in the bunny world invented carrot cake? However, on Easter Day 2019, carrot cake became so sixteenth century when the first human cake was served in the bunny world. Now, the Easter Bunny had a naughty list.

###

Liberated by Unconditional Love by Molly Stevens

When she was a child, she tested her mother by asking, “If I killed someone, would you still love me?” Her mother reassured her, “I’d hate what you did, but I would always love you.”

She clung to this conversation, replaying it a thousand times a day while languishing in her cell. Eroding her faith was an echoing rebuttal: You are not worthy of love.

When she received notice of a visitor, she lifted her shackled spirit and trudged to the visiting area. There stood her mother, holding a homemade carrot cake. Smiling she said, “Happy Birthday, baby girl.”

###

Just Desserts by Patrick M. O’Conner

“Eh – What’s Up Doc?”

You could just hear the sarcasm dripping in his voice.

I had just lost a job I had been doing for over twenty years and was in no mood, but it made me laugh anyway.

I needed some humor to relieve the stress I was under. It’s tough getting downsized.

I smiled and said, “How about a piece of that carrot cake you got there?”

“No problem sir. I’ll get that right away. Need a drink with that?” he said.

“How about some ice cold milk?”

Somehow, I knew things were going to be ok.

###

Carrot Cake Debate by Ann Edall-Robson

“It’s carrot cake.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is. I can’t for the life of me see why you can’t accept that IT IS CARROT CAKE!”

“BECAUSE IT’S NOT! You don’t make it like my Gran did, so it can’t be carrot cake.”

“Just because I don’t spend hours grating carrots and I ice mine with cream cheese icing, doesn’t mean it’s not carrot cake.”

“Well, it’s not. She didn’t spend hours and hours making her cake.”

“Just taste mine. I think you’ll see what I mean.”

“I won’t like it.”

“You might.”

“Maybe it’s not bad, I guess.”

###

A Reluctant Upgrade by Paula Moyer

Jean never made carrot cake. It sounded too – next generation. No, Jean was proudly retro.

Her go-to was the Duchess Spice Cake from the Betty Crocker cookbook, the first edition of 1950. For her cake, made with buttermilk, Jean doubled the spices in the recipe. The result: dark, aromatic batter that sweetened the air as it baked.

The icing was pretty retro, too: buttercream frosting. Lots of butter.

She really couldn’t see how carrots would improve it. Why pretend it was health food?

Then: the neighbor’s party. The cute orange squiggles on top. The carrots, walnuts, raisins.

Jean surrendered.

###

Dangling the Carrot by Geoff Le Pard

‘One more step, Logan.’

‘This had better be worth it.’

‘Open your eyes.’

‘Morgan, it’s a cave.’

‘No, it’s what you wanted.’

‘Come again?’

‘You said, “Give me something never before see in the history of rock”… Tada!’

‘I meant bringing Lynyrd Skynyrd back to life.’

‘It’s also a cake. Carrot cake. Your favourite.’

‘You made a carrot cake the size of Snowdon? How do you expect me to eat that?’

‘That’s the other surprise. See, Logan, all you classmates from Pratt’s Bottom Primary, including Angela Clummbits.’

‘I will kill you, Morgan.’

‘Just bow out your candles first, Logan.’

###

Carrot Cake? by FloridaBorne

Do you want the lusciously smooth dark chocolate cake with the melty buttercream and dark chocolate icing, or would you rather have stubbly carrots and nuts with the possibility of (shudder) pineapple thrown into it?

The last time I tried carrot cake, the first bite ended up inside a napkin.  It took a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate pie to get rid of the taste.

I’ve had good carrot cakes made with quality ingredients, but nothing screams “comfort food” like chocolate.

###

Soggy Cake by Jack Schuyler

A cake. What a sight to see on a rainy day. Sitting there, a soggy wet cake. The raindrops hit my rain slicker and roll off, but when they hit the cake, they pool, ripping cracks in the cream frosting and turning the khaki sponge a sadder brown. A soggy wet carrot cake sitting there, on the picnic table, in the rain.

Perhaps it was left by a forgetful baker, sent for shelter by the sudden deluge. Or maybe it’s the sole remnant of a child’s party, cut short by the sudden storm. Whatever the story, it’s no use now.

###

Carrot Cake by Rebecca Glaessner

“Scanning; water, sand. Beach?”

“This one?”

“Turbine engines, winged structures. Aircraft?”

“This?”

“Two humans. Arms around eachother. Content. Hugging?”

“What else?” The human watched the Android ponder.

“Unable to ascertain without further details.”

“Guess.”

“Scenarios with highest probabilities are a need for warmth, or pressure to ease physical discomfort.”

“Anything else?”

“Physical exhaustion; a need for postural support.”

The human glanced up at a surveillance camera.

“Emotional comfort?”

The human paused.

“Physical contact creates a bond, a feeling of worth. Like ingredients in the carrot cake we made. Individual ingredients gained deeper worth through bonding.”

The human grinned, “exactly.”

###

An Unexpected Exchange (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Mary McCanles set the carrot cake in the window sill to cool. Several Otoe boys hunkered beneath the window, and Sarah watched them from the shade of the horse-barn. One boy reached toward the cake. From inside the house, a man’s large hand grasped the boy’s wrist. Instead of squeals of terror, they all laughed at the one who got caught. A flour sack of carrots passed from the man’s hands to the boy’s and the Otoe ran off toward their family holdings. Sarah shook her head. Leave it to Cobb to be generous to those others feared.

###

Truth in Cake by PTSD Girl

Call it sibling rivalry but I hated having a sister. They start out taking toys, then clothes and even dare I say, boyfriends. Birthdays were always special for the youngest of us girls and I despised carrot cake just because it was her favorite. Each year without fail the sickly sweet aroma of her favorite treat wafted through the house.

Over time we became friends but I still hated that cake and I refused to eat it. Ever since my sister passed away we haven’t had carrot cake. I miss the smell and vibrant sweet taste of the carrot.

###

A Carrot Cake for Easter by Norah Colvin

“What will we cook today?” asked Mum.

“Carrot cake!” chimed the twins.

“But you don’t like carrot cake.”

“Carrot cake. Carrot cake.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s going to be—”

“—Easter soon, and we want—”

“—to give the Easter Bunny—”

“—a surprise—”

“—present.”

The twins smiled at each other.

“Okay,” smiled Mum. “Carrot cake it is.”

“Yay!”

“First, we need the carrots.”

The children raced ahead to the veggie patch.

“What—”

“—happened?”

Their eyes opened wide. The carrot patch was devastated; not one carrot left.

“Carrot cake’s off,” said Mum. “That old rabbit can’t have carrot cake and eat them too.”

###

Icing on the Cake by Jan Malique

White Rabbit, White Rabbit, where is my cake? I can taste it now, senses inflaming and mouth salivating.

The Red and White Queens meet on the next Full Moon. Will dine off porcelain ethereal, even savour cakes galore, but yours will be missing. Robust Darjeeling and subtle Lapsang will flow,  what a tea-totaller’s dream. But not one for me.

You’ve reneged on our deal, the Mad Hatter isn’t happy, his reputation’s on the line. You know what this means? The contract states no room for error, no room for escape. So watch your foot. You know what I mean.

###

Occupational Therapy at St Luke’s by Anne Goodwin

Flaying the first carrot, Matty recites to help the work along:

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen!

No, that will not do! This soup will be the colour of sand. But hopefully not the texture. Chuckling, a more appropriate rhyme comes through to her:

Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run

Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun

Nearby, the chimp-woman creams butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Far too much of either for soup. And now the artist adds flour! Carrots in a cake? Has she landed in the funny farm?

###

To Catch a Thief? by JulesPaige

The horde of rabbits whored the garden and hoarded all the
carrots. It was odd that Madame Coniglio told me that all she
could see in her crystal ball was the auricle of bunny ears as
they scurried deep into their warrens.

I thought it was peculiar that she saw a bakery in my future.
Madame C didn’t charge for the first oracle session. She
handed me a double sided business card. Her side said
“I am always hare for you”… I thought it was a misspelling.

The reverse advertised Coniglio’s Confectioners.
With a photo of a carrot cake…

###

Carrot Cake by Irene Waters

“We have to have cake.  Bailey’s four today. We have to celebrate.”  Candy stared defiantly at her mother.

Marion sighed.  “Okay. You choose. Grain or carrot cake?”

“Grain. It’s got carrots in it anyway.”

Candy quickly gathered the ingredients. Grain, molasses, sugar cubes, crushed peppermint, cinnamon and sugar and two diced carrots which she combined in the huge mixing bowl. With difficulty she stirred the sticky mass until well mixed then she poured the  gloop onto a paper plate.

Taking a slice Candy ran to the stable. Bailey’s pricked ears heard,  Happy Birthday to you before receiving his treat.

###

Your Pet Rules by Ruchira Khanna

“It’s Leo’s b’day, and he would like to invite your Boston terrier, Ginni.”

Similar texts were sent for Pomeranian Coco, the Beagle Yogi.

“Let’s get a cake.” The mom declared with joy as she went shopping with her Labrador.

Soon Leo’s woofs were beyond control since his mates joined for his celebration.

The canines wore party caps and had a slice of carrot cake in front of them. They waited patiently for the command, ‘eat.’

However, as soon as the birthday song ended.
Leo gobbled the slices from all the plates leaving his friends puzzled.

###

Carrot Cake by Rugby 843

These are good!

Yes, the carrots are especially fine this year. Sweet, long, slim and hardly a bump in the lot!

Well they are our favorite delicacy. We are so lucky to have an abundance of them in this year’s crop.

Yes, Mother Nature has been good to us.

Crunching on the whole carrots, they tossed aside the tops for a later treat. After shredding was done they spit the contents into a mound in the middle of the dirt. The little ones gathered round and mom and dad needed no candles.

Happy Birthday dear kittens, Happy Birthday to….

###

Carrot Cake by Gordon Le Pard

“People lost so much money with those Tulips, no one is going to want to invest in a plant again.”

“But this is different.”

“Forget it, you can’t have your cake and eat it, as the English say.”

“But you can eat it, it’s delicious.”

The banker looked up, the gardener continued.

“What’s the full name of our king?”

“William of Orange.” The banker replied, puzzled.

He pulled a cloth off his basket, inside were carrots, not white or purple, but orange.

“A patriotic vegetable – we will certainly have our cake and eat it, we will make a fortune!”

###

Space by JulesPaige
(a poetic haibun)

Is there space in cake for carrots
Or any vegetable like zucchini?

Is it just the shape makes a cake…
Round, Square… A loaf?

Is there a reason to hide roots,
Or that which grows in rows?

To save fingers from the sharp teeth
Of a grater… I’ve used carrots in a jar

Specifically junior baby food
That’s got some texture

No added sugar – sweetness –
Comes from the applesauce

That’s in place of water that a box mix calls
For…to add flavor along with my love

fresh baked anything
there’s always space for good food,
family and friends

###

Carrot Cake by Robbie Cheadle

My nephews came for a “sleep over” this weekend and, after I saw Charli’s flash fiction prompt words of carrot cake, I decided to make this treat with them. The cakes didn’t come out quite as expected but they still tasted delicious.

“Why is my cake sunken in the middle, Auntie Robbie?”

“Well, Ben, did you follow the recipe properly? Tell me what you put into the cake.”

“I put all the things on the list in, and I measured them carefully just like you said I should. Oh, and I put an extra teaspoon of baking powder in so that it would be sure to rise nicely.”

“You have answered your own question, Ben. An extra spoon of a raising agent will make your cake sink in the middle. Baking is a science. You have to follow the recipe exactly.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The challenge was which was better, oil, margarine or butter, and which measures, imperial, metric or ‘cups’.

The American team used oil and cups.

The Home team used margarine and metric.

The Boss used imperial and butter.

I made two, one oil and imperial, the other margarine and cups.

The judges were work colleagues and the final tasting was on the Friday.

At 50p a taste, the proceeds went to charity, all efforts identified by a number.

It was unanimous that whilst the cakes were all OK, it was the cream cheese frosting that walked away with the ‘prize’.

###

Carrot  Cake by Michael Grogan

At one point Gran became obsessed with making carrot cake. She’d read that at it might be ‘healthy’ and so took to making them to improve everyone’s health.

She loved to quote the reasons from people she thought knew the ins and outs of these cakes. But the one thing she found hard to justify was the thick layer of icing she’d see on the store bought cakes.

“All that sugar,” she’d say, “ be better saving it for my tea.”

Once Gran started to make anything she became an expert.

Gran’s carrot cakes came icing free.

###

Carrot CAKE by Miriam Hurdle

“What do you want for dessert, Mimi? Do you like carrot cake?”

“Noop! When I want to have dessert, I have dessert.”

“When do you mean? Carrot cake is dessert!”

“See, Nancy. My mom grows carrots. When she makes carrot cake, she is very generous to put triple portions of grated carrots into the cake mix. The cake tastes just like carrots, you know! When I eat cake, I eat cake. When I eat carrots, I eat carrots. I just don’t eat carrot cake.”

“Oh, no wonder, Mimi! Here, try my carrot CAKE that doesn’t have the carrot taste!”

###

Carrot Mistake by Chelsea Owens

There it sits, upon a plate:
It may be cake, but it’s cake I hate.

Who was first to see a root
And put it where one should mix a fruit?

Raisins do not count this time
Since they’ve barely made my list of “likes.”

If your cake needs added sweets,
Try not adding dirty veggie treats.

“I see your point,” you might say,
“But my recipe makes doubters sway.”

“I especi’lly aim to please,
“By whipping a frosting of cream cheese.”

Citing that was a mistake;
Carrots, raisins, cream cheese: baked
Are the ingredients that take my cake.

###

Carrot Heads by CalmKate

The cupboard was bare yet again … two busy ladies who regularly forgot to shop! And in the outback the grocery stores shut early.

So Rita was creating a delicious cake from a few old carrots and a bit of flour for desert tonight. No eggs so the last of our honey went in, she was a whizz at making something out of so little.

A local from a large station and an art teacher she was practical and creative. Dan our handsome gay mate would propose that night and two kids later we realised we had misjudged him!

###

Carrot Cake by Kim Blades

Jan dashed onto the main road.

Bullets whined through the drowsy sunshine like furious hornets.

Then silence.

He glanced back as his pursuer threw down the empty gun.

Jan raced on, instinctively turning into a side street.

He saw a bakery and stumbled into the shop, hoping for a back entrance through which he might escape.

He leant against the counter, his heart pumping furiously.

Through eyes misted with perspiration, he saw the best looking cake ever.

White, creamy icing covered a huge round cake, bedecked with small, orange fondant carrots.

His mouth watered for a taste of carrot cake.

###

The Break-In by Anurag Bakhshi

We returned home to find the door ajar.

Fearing the worse, I asked my family to stay behind me, and cautiously opened the door.

The living room looked like a disaster zone.

And then, I noticed the trail of blood, going inside.

We dashed into the bedroom…

….only to find a little girl there, bleeding from her mouth.

And as soon as she saw us, her eyes became red…as she shouted, “That carrot cake was so hard, it broke all my teeth, you brutes. If I don’t put you in prison for this, my name is not Goldilocks!”

###

Decaff to Follow by Liz Husebye Hartmann

In the sepulchral half-light, behind a fortress of tall paper stacks, the crackling tapping endures: Fast, slow, shuffle, sudden dry slap.

“Found it!” A light clicks on, illumines a circle above. A rectangular shadow appears and shifts amid crisp rustling.

“What the hell is code 2 for box 10b on IRS form 6666?” a heinous curse word erupts, with a paper blizzard as Princess Kittycat launches from the tallest stack. She knows what’s coming–right after the wracking sobs.

A friendly hand offers a plated slice of carrot cake over the wall of the tax-time fortress.

Decaf to follow.

###

Carrot Cake by TinTins

‘Oooh ye ‘ear aboyt our Mary? Only gone got ‘erself a toyboy ‘asn’t she!’

‘Aye an’ she started dyin’ ‘er ‘air. Oi didn’t recognise ‘er at de bingo. Lookin’ loike de cat got de cream; showin’ ‘imself aff she were. His called Rodrigo.’

‘Rodrigo? Pure continental. ‘Oy auld?’

‘69 oi ‘eard.’

Becki smiled, wondering who they were gossiping about today. With notepad and pen poised, she walked over to the two biddies as they sat at their usual table.

‘What’ll it be the-day ladies?’

‘Tea an’ carrot cake.’

‘Lovely, ye celebratin’ anythin’ speshal?’

‘Mary’s 70th. She’ll be ‘ere soon.’

###

And Eat it Too by D. Avery

“Shorty sure takes the cake.”

“Yep. Carrot cake.”

“Shorty’s a first responder! She kin really take the reins. Heck, she kin braid her own reins. That wrangler built a ranch, ran a rodeo, an’ published a book all while workin’ on her own books. An’, she sure kin cook. Is there nuthin’ Shorty cain’t do?”

“Jeez, that’s a tough one, but I already know the answer. She cain’t be anything but kind.”

“Got that right Kid, she ain’t never.”

“Yep. That gal’s got broad shoulders and a big heart.”

“Got that right Kid. Why, Shorty’s heart’s as big as….”

***

“Pal, ya left another sentence unfinished.”

“Yep. Readers kin submit the end of that sentence here as a reply. If they do, an undisclosed amount of money will be donated to Carrot Ranch through that fancy patron button up there in the upper left hand corner.”

“Like last week.”

“Yep. Aussie got an A fer effort fer her subtle submarine subtext.”

“It’s hard for Aussie ta be anything but decent. Don’t unnerstan’ her hangin’ out with you.”

“It’s a wonder.

“From down under. So you want folks ta finish that sentence?”

“Yep. Shorty’s heart is as big as_____________ .”

###

Balloons

Balloons beckon us to childhood and celebrations. Red, white and blue they also remind us of the students who staged a mass protest in response to the mass school shootings in America. We release balloons to acknowledge our own fleeting victories and tragedies.

Writers took to the skies, latex and color with balloons this week. You can expect to read the unexpected.

The following are based on the March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon.

***

Hope by Kay Kingsley

They knelt at the ocean’s edge determined, pants wet with saltwater, fingers cold and dirty, their hearts mixed fear with excitement. The rock weighted the cord in the sand as small fingers knotted it around a plastic baggie, carefully protecting a written message so clearly hand-printed any teacher would be proud to grade if given the chance. But these words held secrets only the children knew and standing at the edge of their world, they released their hope, a bright red balloon against the blinding blue. Someone would be coming to save them. It’s just a matter of time.

###

Balloon by Pensitivity

‘It has to be blue Nanny,’ she said. ‘Grampy likes blue, and I promised.’

‘OK love, blue it is.’

‘And it has to be a shiny one, with a long ribbon so that he can see it.’

‘Of course. Do you want anything on it?’

‘Hearts and kisses.’

‘Would you like a heart-shaped one then?’

‘No thank you. Just a big shiny ba-loo bal-loon.’

Just how he always said.

On the day of the funeral, Penny held her balloon tight throughout the service, then afterwards let it drift skyward with its hearts and kisses to her Grampy in Heaven.

###

Escape by Chelsea Owens

If I had a hundred mathematically-large-enough

balloons

I’d cram the strings together

in a woven vest and rise higher

higher

through rain-gilded cloudscape.

I’d subsist on vapors, or maybe on sunrise ambrosia –

till atmospheric pressure (or somesuch scientific phenomenon)

popped just one

balloon.

Then I’d drop more rapidly than I rose:

the most obsequious, impotent adherent to Gravity and his unalterable law.

But really, I have to admit

-as I revisit clouds and ambrosia rays and treetops drawing nearer-

I was never free

and soon

I am right back where I started,

amidst 99 deflated spheres of red.

###

Boon! by Michael Fishman

“Boon! Boon!”

Head thrown back, arms raised to the ceiling, fingers extended and wiggling like worms on the hook, Jess reached for the orange balloon bouncing across the dining room ceiling.

I’m not sure how memories are categorized; how they’re filed away in the brain or what hand determines which memories stay and which ones fade, but sitting here now, as old as I am, I still remember Jess’ face on that birthday morning and those eyes, big as the chocolate chip pancakes she just finished eating when I pulled the balloon down and held it out to her.

###

Uplifted by Lisa Listwa

Winter came again last night.

The wind takes icy bites of my neck. I turn my collar against the chill, seeking help from glittering sunshine that offers no warmth.

The landscape has dressed in delicate white furs for the occasion of what is – hopefully – winter’s final farewell.

Across the snow-laced field sits a generous puddle, used by geese to swim on warmer days. Empty now, ripples of sunlight dance across its surface, reminiscent of morning light skimming across gentle waves by the seashore.

Two robins rise, defiant red balloons above the snowy fields.

I watch. My lightened spirit soars.

###

Girl in Yellow by Lady Lee Manilla

party was fun, full of tricks
lots of balloons and good news
they were going to increase their wages
thanked them for all their support
hurray, shouted everyone
they threw the balloons down
to the court yard where children are waiting
I saw your face among the crowd
such a small frame but looks brave
you wanted that balloon but can’t join in
other children are having such fun
but you still have to sell the wares
in your mind it’s better to be safe
just watch them than fail to sell
siblings are hungry so better get going

###

Flash Fiction by Anita Dawes

I am your ghost, your past. I walk before you on thorny pathways so you shall not walk the path of sorrow.  You shall not see the things I have.

You are ten years old now, so blow out your candles and let loose those balloons with all their wishes attached.

I have received them now; your wishes made from your past come true, they have come to pass. Soon I shall re-join you when adult paths you reach, until then, I collect every balloon and every wish you make.

I wait in shadows until we are one again …

###

Balloon by Kim Blades

Judy didn’t believe the moon was made of cheese like nursery rhymes described. She was sure it was a balloon.

Judy liked balloons, especially white ones.
Their movement through the air seemed effortless. She knew this was because they weighed nothing.

She so envied balloons. They were light and agile.

Every Friday night she sat outside in the tiny garden in front of her house and released a round, white balloon.

Watching as it danced skywards, Judy wished that one day she would be able to get up from her wheelchair and walk as effortlessly as the balloon floated.

###

Project Mogul by Irene Waters

Vernon poked at the colourful wreckage that covered a large area of their paddock in New Mexico. “Dad, whadya reckon this is?”

“Dunno. Gather it up. We’ll take it to the Sheriff.”  They bundled the bright rubber strips, tinfoil, sticks and paper and drove them to Roswell.

Sherriff Wilcox scratched his head before passing it to Colonel Blanchard who passed it on to his superior in Texas. Marcel, sent to examine the paddock knew it was their high altitude spy balloon that would warn of Russian nuclear testing.

1947 –  a time of paranoia – he said  “We have found a UFO.”

###

A Blot on the Landscape? by Anne Goodwin

My fingers fumble to extricate plastic from heather. Litter louts! I came to walk the moors, not to pick up other people’s mess.

In swoops my long-dead ex-headmistress, academic gown flapping like a raven’s wings. “I’m sending you back in time. We can nip this problem in the bud.”

On Tillotson’s production line, I meet staff grateful for work in lean times. Happy faces at children’s party ensure the failure of my mission. Unless I travel back another century to Faraday. “I know you didn’t mean to, Michael, but you started this. Can’t you invent a fully biodegradable balloon?”

###

When the Party’s Over by D. Avery

“Hmmph. Shorty an’ her dang celebratin’. With balloons? Ain’t seen this much latex since-

“Come on, Pal. It was a party.”

“Sure, an’ look who’s aroun’ ta clean up. You an’ me Kid, that’s who. Latex skeeves me out. An’ it’s litter, bad fer the critters.”

“Pal, yer fergittin’ we’re fictional. Wanna happy ending? Ok, these balloons are made from corn. They’ll bio degrade, feed the soil.”

“Corn, ay?”

“Yep.”

“Could be a problem.”

“Jeez, Pal. How now?”

“Remember Ernie? At Wanda’s still?”

“Oh. Well, reuse, recycle, repurpose. Distill ends well.”

“It’s kinda corny, but I’ll drink to it.”

###

A Trojan Effort by Bill Engleson

The search party had been looking for hours.

Two kids.

Lost in the bush.

We’d found their beater.

Two flat tires.

Young love should be luckier. And smarter.

But they hadn’t been.

They didn’t stay on the old logging road like you’d expect. Course, we saw the tracks, knew why they ‘d made a beeline into the woods.

“Big cat,” Harley said.

“Hunting them?”

“Likely!”

“Maybe the copter will spot ‘em?”

“Dense in there.”

“Yup.”

Then we heard good news from above.

“Is that a balloon?” And then, “There they are.”

Turns out, safe sex can be a lifesaver.

###

End of the Honeymoon by Anne Goodwin

When I found the texts on Brian’s phone I assumed our marriage over. Yet, following the tears, slings and arrows, we booked the second honeymoon we couldn’t afford first time. Confirming our vows in a hot-air balloon above the rift valley, a champagne breakfast laid out for us below. Our Massai guide was somewhat clumsy with the camera, but we raised our glasses and beamed.

Brian had been dead a year before I could face the photos. Our joyful innocence made me weep. Distant, but crystal clear, our marriage end was looming: it was breakfast time for lions too.

###

Ringside by D. Avery

All eyes were on that ring. There was always something, the wrestlers always putting on a show, even whalloping the announcer and referee. But I happened to look just when a wrestler crossed the forgotten dim past the ring, making his way to the locker room; there was just enough light to see that his tights were shabby and dirty, that he was tired, even sad maybe. Seeing that wrestler leaving the lit up ring was like seeing forgotten balloons days after the party, faded and losing air.
Now I knew. Wrestling was fake, but the wrestlers were real.

###

Surprises for Marnie by Norah Colvin

Brucie loved surprising Marnie on her way to school each day.

Marnie expected that Brucie would meet her, but she never knew where.

On Monday, he jumped from behind a bush screaming at her.

On Tuesday, he stuck out his foot and tripped her.

On Wednesday, he snuck up behind and pulled her hair.

On Thursday, he popped a balloon in her ear.

On Friday, he surprised Marnie by not surprising her at all.

But, after she’d put her bag away, he pulled it out and emptied its contents on the floor.

“Whose mess is this?” demanded Mrs Brown.

###

The Moon’s a Balloon by Anurag Bakhshi

“My Momma says that the moon’s a balloon.”

“Your Momma is a balloon, full of gas.”

“You take it back right now, or else…”

“Or else what? You will hit us with these tiny hands?”

That night, when a whimpering Timmy narrated the entire incident to his Momma, she calmly gave him a glass of warm milk and said, “Remember,  it’s your 3rd birthday tomorrow.”

Timmy’s face lit up and he shouted, “Yes, God will fill the balloon to the full tomorrow, and then…I too will get claws and fangs like you Momma. Then I’ll show those bullies…”

###

Balloons and Bubbles by calmkate

Billie was a favoured kid who had a plethora of toys, anything money could buy. But his favourite play things were bubbles and balloons … easy cheap and fun. Bubbles he would chase and burst or catch them tenderly on a wand. Balloons he’d blow and let them fart all over the room. Or blow a bunch and pretend they were cars to race about the room or a horse to ride and buck until he collapsed with laughter. Then he liked to burst them all close to his friends’ ear, with the loud bang she would jump [grin]

###

No Recess for Robby by Roger Shipp

“… and one more word, No Recess. Am I understood?”

That was Ms. Fletcher. “Am I understood? this and Am I understood? that.”

Robby had learned quickly learned the proper answer that followed… “Yes, ma’am.”

Third grade was the worst.

Now there was homework. Snack time was for babies. Recess was earned. (In our class’s case, NEVER EARNED.)

Robby’s mother was sympathetic. “Hang in there. It’ll get better.”

Robby’s brother was the problem-solver. “You’ll never win them all, Robby. But winning one can be worth it”.

Robby walked to school today ‘A Winner’.

Inside his backpack… a whoopee cushion.

###

Message in Mylar by Kerry E.B. Black

A gold mylar balloon’s string knotted around branch high in a beech tree, secured by a Cub Scout named Stan. It bobbed, a cheerful beacon, a coded message. “Be well,” it said. “You’re not forgotten.”
His pack-mate friend, Bob, got into huge trouble which resulted in suspension from school and a marathon grounding. Nobody under the age of ten had seen Bob since the prank which flooded the the school, and Stan worried about his mischievous friend.
Since he couldn’t visit or phone, Stan sent a message as only he could, a cheerful balloon floating outside his bedroom window.

###

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

She had a lovely wide smile and brown eyes that lit up as if fed by a bubbling spring of happiness within her. Her curly brown hair was tied in two bunches on the side of her head with bright yellow ribbons that matched her yellow and white checked dress. Shiny black shoes and delicate white stockings completed her outfit. The most noticeable thing about her though, was the bunch of brightly coloured balloons she held in her left hand. Everything about her was a reminder of parties and good times. She was the prettiest doll in the nursery.

###

Deflated by tintins

“Cake?”

“Check.”

“Candles?”

“Check.”

“Bouncy castle?”

“Check.”

“Decorations?”

“Check.”

“Gift Bags?”

“Check.”

“Balloons?”

“No check.”

“Muuuuuuum! That’s it! My party is ruined!”

“Sweetie don’t be silly.”

“Ruined I tell you! Ruined!” Patricia yelled stomping upstairs.

Rolling her eyes, Vivian sighed; another temper tantrum. Patricia had always been such a sweet child. Who knew adulthood would be so challenging. She’d hoped this birthday would pass without incident. She blamed her husband; always giving in to their daughter’s every whim. Twenty-five years her daughter had been pulling this stunt.

“Patricia? Come here.”

“Yes Mummy?”

“Calm down sweetie. We’ll send out Manuel!”

###

Balloon by Ritu Bhathal

Jenny tied the last of the balloons up. There. The room looked amazing.

Decorations adorned the walls and banners saying Happy 16th Birthday were hung up around the room.

“There you are, Amelia. A party you’d have been proud to host.”

Pop!

A lone balloon burst.

And with that, Jenny burst into tears.

Was that another sign? That she wasn’t coming back?

It had been 9 years since Amelia went missing, disappeared from the local park whilst playing with her friends.

Yet Jenny had never been able to accept she wasn’t coming back.

Was it time to accept reality?

###

Balloons by Luccia Gray

We love you.

We miss you.

At sunrise, all the children gathered in the playground to release their helium-filled balloons. Each carried a personalized message begging their classmate to come home.

‘How long will it take for Silvia to get the messages?’ Her best friend asked the teacher.

‘That’s hard to say,’ she replied, ‘but I’m sure she will receive them.’

‘When will she come back?’ Asked another worried child.

‘She may not come back, but she’ll know how much we all love and miss her,’ said the teacher, hoping one of the balloons would soften the kidnapper’s heart.

###

Mylar by Allison Maruska

Panting, I finally reach the cliffs my brother loved. A cold drizzle pelts my face. Wasn’t the coast supposed to be warm?

I step to the edge overlooking the Pacific. My brain can’t comprehend its enormity. No wonder Andrew wanted to live here.

Gently, I pull the bottle from my coat pocket. As I prepare to scatter Andrew’s ashes, something shiny catches my eye – a deflated Mylar balloon, tangled in a shrub on the side of the cliff. I can see only one word: Grandma.

Someone, somewhere, likely released that in her memory.

At least Andrew won’t be alone.

###

Wishes by Sue Vincent

The red balloon danced in the apple tree, caught by a ribbon that fluttered in the breeze. She had loved balloons, when she and the world had been much younger. Every balloon had carried a wish… a wish of the heart sent soaring into the sky on bright wings.

She wondered about the child who had released this one. Had they let go by accident, or did this one too carry a wish?

Her old bones protested as she climbed the ladder, carefully untangling the ribbon, setting it free to fly. She was still smiling when they found her.

###

Lightening the Load by Molly Stevens

“I brought you a balloon. Grandma loved balloons!”

He went through the motions, batting it back and forth with his granddaughter. Then he kissed her giggles goodbye.

Against his will, he played hide and seek with the single balloon. One morning it blocked the dishwasher door, the next day it was under the table. When he found it perched in his wife’s chair, he said, “No one sits in that chair.”

He slapped it up and away. Then he tapped it to keep it afloat. Again and again. Feeling lighter, he abandoned his grief for a moment and laughed.

###

Deflated by Anna Eplin

A deflated balloon from her twin daughters’ first birthday party languishes on the floor amid the mess of toys she was too tired to pick up last night. Her gaze drifts to the window and the grayness outside. The sky’s been gray for a month.

She must get up and shower before the babies wake up, but her will feels like that deflated balloon.

A groan gathers somewhere deep inside her. She needs a reason to keep going.

She closes her eyes, and a word whispers through her mind. Depression.

But with it comes fresh purpose: to get help.

###

Moonlit Balloons by Liz Husebye Hartmann

High on the hill, strands of moon drift, catching on the branch-ends of the Prairie Honey Tree. Barren of leaves, she bows under the fullness of her particular progeny, tight dark nuggets slowly rotating, gathering moonlight.

After a brutal summer endured and a lean winter to come, we are mindful of abundance promised, Nature’s sacred bond. What effort remains must come from us; She suffers, as well.

Together we offer a song in the old language, stored in our hearts and beyond our consciousness.

Moonlit silver nuggets bell, balloon, break free and float. Joyful first frost swirls them away.

###

My Last Memory of Her by Heather Gonzalez

I remember that day clearly, although I wasn’t old enough to know what was really happening. We went for a walk in the park with dad pushing mom in the wheelchair. Passing a tourist stand, mom bought me a balloon in the shape of a heart. I climbed into her lap, holding tight to my new prized possession, but it slipped through my fingers.

As I began to cry, she whispered, “Just because you can’t see it anymore, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.”

I didn’t know it, but she was trying to prepare me for her own departure.

###

Amethyst by Jan Malique

He looked at the stone of higher wisdom and wondered at its marvel.

It was veiled in purple hued eloquence and imbued with knowledge impenetrable.

Beloved Amethyst, resplendent in beauty and power.

How your sonorous heartbeat flows outwards into infinity, transforming all held in abeyance, waiting release from shadows of ignorance.

How could its marvels be gifted upon a world starving for self-insight, thirsting for the waters of life?

Joy. Let it ring out in laughter, sheer wonder, let it pour healing balm upon soul and purpose.

Let it reflect a child’s curiosity. Let it fly like a balloon.

###

Balloon Children by Shari Marshall

We didn’t object to being sent to her house.

Her front door had a silhouette of a woman holding balloon strings and floating. Her house was pristine, not a child’s environment. She ushered us toward a door that had a silhouette of children holding balloons and floating.

“Off we go,” she said as she opened the door to reveal a hallway with no floor and a ceiling layered with balloons! Beyond the hallway was blue sky and wispy clouds. Startled, we watched her step into the air holding the balloon string. She was floating out to the open sky.

###

The Silent Bomb by Rowena Newton

It was Henry’s tenth birthday and strangely his big sister, Kate, was only too happy to bake his cake. Indeed, she even suggested Mum took Henry out for a special, birthday milkshake.

Mum was so proud of her thoughtful daughter, that she jumped onto Facebook: “Proudest Mum moment. World’s Best Daughter! Milkshakes with Henry, while Kate’s baking Henry’s Birthday Cake.”

Meanwhile, Kate carefully cut out the middle of the cake. Blew up the balloon, stuck it inside and smothered the lot in chocolate icing. The bulging cake might have looked nine months pregnant, but at least it didn’t tick.

###

Balloon by Rebecca Glaessner

“Parcels, games, entertainment. Done. Got the coding for decorations? I still couldn’t find it in the system.”

“Found something better. But I’ll need help.”

We finished everything just as guests arrived, entry pad scanning in each individual.

The VIP was en-route, guided by my partner.

We all hid.

When they arrived, the room scanned my partner in first.

VIP in second, “why is it night-time?”

“Surprise!” we said, jumping out.

Atmospheric party lighting activated as our VIP squealed in excitement.

“I’m three now?” our VIP stared, stunned, “are they real balloons?”

“Sure are!” I said.

Everyone laughed.

###

Prom by Balloon by Joe Owens

Marcus noisily drummed his fingers while waiting. Theo was thorough, so thorough. But trying to get a helium balloon to drop a prom invite at a precise time and location was quite an engineering feat.

Finally, Theo’s scowl eased into a confident grin.

“You have it?” Marcus asked hopefully.

“Well, as close as can be with all we know. You sure she is there?”

“I incorporated her mom, to make sure she had to watch the triplets.”

“Oh yeah, she’s there,” Theo nodded.

Marcus fixed his eyes on his cell phone as he watched the balloon slowly lift away.

###

99 Wort Ballons by D. Avery

“Pal, we oughtta have speech balloons.”

“Yer jist sayin’ that ‘cause you an’ you know who are so het up about quotation marks.”

“Says you. Jist sayin’ speech balloons’d be pretty cool.”

“That could lead ta thought balloons. Ya want people readin’ yer thoughts?”

“Wouldn’t be too much of an imposition.”

“Kid, if we spoke an’ thought with those devices, well, we’d be cartoons!”

“What are we now?”

“Characters.”

“Not caricatures?”

“Well, mebbe… but that’s where I draw the line!”

“Keep drawin’, Pal, mebbe ya can make a cartoon.”

“Druther speak a thousand words.”

“99 at a time Pal.”

###

Balloons by Robert Kirkendall

Timmy brought the balloon animal to his family. “Look at what I got.”

“Why look at that balloon dog!” his mother said. “How cute!”

“No,” father disagreed, “it’s a horse.”

“You’re both wrong,” grandma interrupted. “It’s a obviously a rhinoceros.”

“Let me look at that,” Uncle Wally requested as he took the balloon animal and inspected it. “Just as I thought, a pelican.”

Aunt Sue grabbed the balloon animal and looked it over. “It’s a lobster.”

“You’re all wrong,” Timmy said as he took it back. “It’s just a bunch of balloons randomly tied together. You people are weird.”

###

When the Balloon Goes Up by Geof Le Pard

‘You know, Logan, I used to hate balloons.’

‘Why Morgan?’

‘Tacky to the touch, horrible bang if they popped…’

‘Nervy child were you?’

‘Maybe.’

‘I had one once. Floated.’

‘Helium?’

‘I was entranced. My dad sucked in the gas and his voice went squeaky. Loved my dad for that.’

‘You know, Logan, that perfectly describes the difference between us. I had flaccid exploding latex and you an other-worldly wonder. It’s a miracle we have anything in common, don’t you think?’

‘We’d be the same today, if we had a balloon.’

‘Why?’

‘Both would be full of hot air.’

###

Balloonatix by Stephen Lodge

“What you doing, Uncle Slim?” I asked as I crossed the backyard.

“Hiding from nephews what ask dumb questions,” was his first reply. “What does it look like I’m doing, you buffoon? I’m blowing up this here balloon. I’m intending to head off in it across vast, undiscovered plains to destinations never before heard of.” With that he coughed.

I guess he didn’t want any company, but I did just say to him as I walked off, “I’m sure they got a machine to blow up those balloons, Uncle Slim. Why, you’ll be there forever just using your mouth.”

###

Car-Tunes by D. Avery

“Pal?”

“What now?”

“She’s got nuthin’, ya know that right? That’s the only reason we’re out an’ about. She has no idea how ta respond ta balloons.”

“So?”

“Jist sayin’”

“Shush Kid.”

“Nuthin’”

“Mebbe if you’d shut yer pie-hole…”

“Pal?”

“Dang it Kid, what?”

“Know what ya call it when yer driving’ an’ listenin’ ta music? Car-tunes.”

“Know what I’m thinking’, Kid?”

“Yep, yer bubblin’ over. G’night Pal.”

###

A Balloon Tragedy – The First Air Accident by Gordon Le Pard

“I’m frightened.” She looked up at the strange shaped balloon, rising over Calais.

“Don’t worry, he is the most experienced balloonist in the world.”

“But to risk everything, especially now.” Her hands moved automatically to her swelling belly.

Then above, in terrible silence, the balloon seemed to break apart.

She cried out and collapsed, by the time they found his body she, and her unborn child, had died.

The death of the first man to fly, in the first fatal air accident, had destroyed his entire family.

From now on the pioneers could not dismiss the dangers they faced.

###

Balloon by NeelAnil Panicker

“You don’t look like you could cook.”

This was their second date and Raj had invited Anjali to his pad.

He smiled at her from across the kitchen table, the same impish curve she had noticed the first time they had ‘bumped’ at the coffee shop.

She noticed it — first, the hands, the hands, the way it disappeared under the drawer and it’s reappearance, in a jiffy. It was then that she saw it — the compact cake — a heart shaped balloon and inscribed on it, in red, “Happy Birthday, Esther.’

How could he…her mouth formed but no sound came forth. She was speechless!

###

Love Is In The Air by Juliet Nubel

The postcard arrived six weeks later.

“Dear Lucy,
Your balloon came to rest at the top of my apple tree. I needed a ladder to take it down and find out who had sent it soaring into the sky, covering many miles before reaching my little village. What a lovely surprise. Please write back.”

Fifty letters later, the Apple Tree Man rang at their doorbell. Lucy ran to answer, her mother hurrying behind her, as excited as a child too.

They now knew love could appear in many different ways. Even on the string of a flying helium balloon.

###

Hot Air Balloon Ride by Susan Sleggs

My boyfriend glumly watched it storm. Why was he so upset we had to reschedule our hot air balloon ride over Letchworth. We had the whole summer. Even our parents called to commiserate.

Finally, two months later the brilliant sun made spray from the water falls sparkle and bend with rainbow colors visible. The reflection from the gorge rocks glinted so bright we had to shade our eyes. Suddenly others in the basket turned their backs. My boyfriend presented a dazzling diamond ring brighter than the sunshine. Oh my. Yes!

Our parents treated us to dinner after we landed.

Author’s Note: Letchworth State Park in western New York state is known as the Grand Canyon of the east.

###

Charmed by Jimmy Webb by Paula Moyer

“Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon …” Jean learned the alto part of “Up, Up, and Away,” dutifully in chorus, but with a different edge. The composer, Jimmy Webb, was from Oklahoma.

“He’s one of us,” the girls whispered in awe. Other hits came later. He seemed golden.

But “Up, Up, and Away” went into Jean’s soul. The idea of a guy offering her not just a ride in a car, even a nice one. But … in a balloon?

“Suspended under a twilight canopy…”

Jean hummed alto as if she could will him into life.

###

Spring & Everything by D. Avery

“Why were you at the department store, anyway?”

Earnest handed Marge a large box.

“It’s so light.”

Marge lifted the lid off the box. Three red balloons floated out.

“Three months together, a whole season. Winter to spring.”

“Honestly, Earnest, how sweet.”

“Box ain’t empty yet, Marge.”

“Well! This ain’t yer mother’s overalls!”

Turning as red as the tethered helium balloons that squeaked against each other on the ceiling, Earnest explained that the large slinky garment was called a teddy.

Earnest bumped after Marge, balloons bumping behind him, and yes, he had some other latex. He’d thought of everything.

###

Invisible Balloons by Hugh Roberts

You can’t see me, but I’m watching you. You people interest me. Why are some of you unfaithful to the ones you say you love? Why do some of you murder those of the same kind? Why do some of you allow ‘hate’ to rule your minds?

You don’t know it, but each of you has a balloon. Like me, they are invisible to you but surround each of you. When your balloon bursts, you die.

It won’t be long, now, before my balloon bursts and you will all die. This planet, you all so un-love, will be mine.

###

Balloon by Frank Hubeny

He held his breath. What he thought would happen did not. The enemy came instead from the rear.

If he were alone he wouldn’t mind so much, but he mispositioned the others.

Were they the good guys he wouldn’t mind so much either, but he doubted if there were any good guys in this battle. This was alien home territory. They weren’t supposed to be there.

The others understood all this, too, as the fighting started.

His world was like a balloon. He wished it were yellow or blue. He wished he had steered it better.

Then it popped.

###

99 Red Balloons by Sherri Matthews

Jim screeched his truck out of the driveway, sending his trash cans flying.

Mandy winced but said nothing. All she could think about was the red cloud heading their way that news reports said was harmless. But Jim didn’t believe it. ‘Pack up, we’re leaving,’ he said as she begged him not to.

‘But honey, surely the government would know…?’ she had reasoned.

‘Fuck the government, you know we can’t trust a damn thing they say!’

Deserted neighbourhoods zoomed by as they hit the open road. ’99 Red Balloons’ came on the radio, but Mandy didn’t dare sing along.

###

Hidden Memory by Patrick M. O’Connor

It’s been 74 years since that fateful day.

The day my ship I was on was shot out from under me.

So much death.

Most of my friends disappeared when that beauty of a ship fell beneath the waves. It’s hard being the last survivor.

Today, I saw on the news, some guy found the ship and wants to bring it back to the surface. “It’s a 9200-ton ship!” I thought. It’s been underwater so long it would probably rip apart if they tried to lift it.

Then they said how they were going to bring it up.

Balloons.

###

The Reiki Session by Deborah A. Bowman

“Hi, Liz, how are you?” I asked.

“Good, Deborah. So happy to do an online session.”

“Thanks, it’s been a tough winter.”

“Okay,” the microphoned voice replied. “Let’s get you feeling better.”

She etched the sacred symbols in the air. We both closed our eyes.

I was floating, flying, with pink globes all around us. For thirty minutes, my pain went away.

When we ended, I said, “I was flying! Liz, you were with me!”

“Yes, I know,” she replied. “Did you see the rainbows?”

“I did, but the globes?”

“Deborah,” she laughed. “Those were balloons keeping us afloat!”

###

Balloon by Hayley R. Hardman

I walked out to the abandoned train track and blew up the party balloons one by one. I tried string to them when I was done and found a rock to hold them down with. Then as my therapist had suggested; I choice a blue balloon, said one of my worries aloud and let it go. I watched the balloon floating away, my worry with it. Then I selected another one, yellow this time, I said my worry and let the balloon go. I carried on until all the balloons and my worries had gone.

###

At the Edge of a Long Winter by Charli Mills

Searching the newspaper before I fire up the woodstove, a classified diverts my attention. For Sale: Party Balloon, Never Celebrated. There’s a number, and I recognize the area code for Montana. I’m across the border in North Dakota, trying to keep warm with seven other oil rig guys in a tin-roof modular on some farmer’s north forty. After my housemates rise to the heat of corncobs and newspaper, I finish my coffee and call.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice.

“Um, yeah, calling about your balloon.”

“Cabin fever. I needed to hear another voice.”

“Oil rigger. I’m lonely, too.”

“Let’s talk!”

###

Launch by Denise Aileen DeVries

As Myra Jean sat proofreading, she suddenly noticed Bert Bascombe eyeing her speculatively. “I wonder,” he mused. “Could you write a monthly book column? …favorites at the lending library?”

“Of course,” she answered. Myra Jean visited Hull Crossing’s library in the Episcopal Church annex once a week, but she didn’t really know any of the volunteers who operated it. “Wouldn’t the librarian want to do that?”

“Walter Cates? He’s busy writing his memoirs.  Can I count on you?”

“I could start with children’s classics… the Secret Garden, the Wizard of Oz…”

“Perfect,” said Bert. “Sort of a trial balloon.”

###

Ballooning Career by FloridaBorne

“I ordered yellow roses and a balloon as exposure treatment for her phobia!”  The intern said, hands inside his lab coat.

Frowning, Dr. Ellis replied, “Did you read her chart?”

“No need,” The intern said, looking down at a trembling young woman in a fetal position.

“On the first page it says, in bold letters, never to use exposure therapy. On the second page, it details how her husband gave her the same thing and then attempted to stab her to death. Have you considered a specialty that requires less empathy?”

Grumbling, he replied, “I like proctology better anyway.”

###

Coulrophobia by odysseyofhappiness

I admired the big red balloon tied to my wrist with a sense of love and wonder, as my father led me by the hand through the magic of the circus. It was beautiful!

We passed through a group of clowns. My eyes, filled with awe, darted from clown to clown.

Those eyes!

My attention was grabbed by Him.

The painted smile couldn’t mask what lied beneath.

No one noticed but me.

He walked slowly, never breaking his stare. Not blinking.

He pulled a comically oversized needle from his sleeve, leaned over me, not breaking his fierce gaze.

POP!

###

Social Distance by njoyslife

Ballooning over NOLA: the Mississippi, sprawling mansions, Lake Ponchartrain, parades, street fairs, festive crowds, Superdome, sculptured gardens and grand architecture form the picture from aloft. Sounds of jazz float upward as I sail above. Difficult to see below is who sleeps unconscious on Jackson Square, who lies under frayed blankets on filthy city streets, who begs or threatens for a dollar’s worth of trouble, and whose lost child rocks forward and back on a broken corner with a sign that reads ‘hungry homeless please help’. A flood of social neglect rises and does not recede with this political tide.

###

Full of Hot Air by Michael

He was so full of hot air he could have easily floated off and never be seen again.

For him, it was all about the gusto of being who he was or who he thought he was.

“BS baffles brains,” he would say, as he’d go into another tale where he humiliated some hapless soul unaware of his egotistical motives.

It came as no surprise to anyone when his balloon did bust. It was spectacular, sudden and left him a shadow of his former self. Exposed and vulnerable, his descent and flatulent self becoming a source of embarrassing ridicule.

###

The Dragon’s Balloon by Wallie & Friend

“But how can it fly without any wings?”

The young dragon looked up into Dhira’s face. Dhira knew the little dragon would never fly, not with its wings. She had found it in the woods, its weak wings fragile and undersized. Since then the old woman had cared for it.

Dhira held the balloon string between her fingers.

“It flies because of what it has inside,” she said. “Maybe you won’t fly like a balloon, little dragon, but you’ll fly in ways you never thought you could. Because you’ve got something inside you, too. You’ve got heart—and fire.”

###

Second March On by D. Avery

“Kid, guess what happened on the ranch one year ago today?”

“Ya stepped in somethin’?”

“Nope. D. Avery submitted her first ever flash fiction response.”

“Oh. So she stepped in somethin’.”

“Kid…”

“Then we showed up couple months later, right Pal?”

“Actually we were here ahead a her.”

“How kin that be? I mean I git that Shorty, Aussie, Still Waters an’ the rest of ‘em were here, but us?”

“Yep, we were here all along. Jest didn’t know it yet.”

“Huh. Guess I don’t git this writin’ thing.”

“Neither does D. Avery, but she ain’t tucked tail yet.”

***

“Speakin’ a tales, there’s a bunch a new folks writin’ ‘round the ranch.”

“Do tell.”

“Yep, reckon they come fer the prompt an’ stay for the chomp.”

“S’pose so.”

“Yep. They read, write, an’ repeat.”

“Kid, yer readin’ off the posters.”

“Yep.”

“Folks likely come by fer the same reasons we’re here.”

“Ya mean they don’t wanna real job either?”

“No! They jest wanna exchange stories by the campfire.”

“Hang out by the chuck wagon, eat up Shorty’s vittles.”

“All the raw carrots a buckaroo could want.”

“It’s all good, all right. All we want for is bacon.”

“Shush, Kid.”

###

Time to Let Go by Sarah Whiley

“Take this balloon,” Nanna began. “Its life begins much like ours. All shrivelled, until it’s filled with air and starts to grow.”

Bringing it to her lips, it slowly inflated. “Sometimes, we push too far and…”

“BANG!” I interrupted.

“Exactly,” she smiled. “Sometimes, we tie a knot, when there’s still room to grow.”

She made a pinching motion with her fingers. “But sometimes, we can hold it just right. Get a balance between the two.”

“And then what?” I asked.

She laughed, “It’s time to let go!”

Together, we watched the balloon empty and fizzle, before coming to rest.

Author’s note: Written for my beautiful nanna, Edie, who finally let go last night. May you Rest In Peace with Bill.

###

This Carrot Ranch Collection “Balloons” is dedicated to Sarah Whiley’s Nanna. May her lesson remain in all our hearts.

Raw Literature: The Power of Words

By Hugh Roberts

November 2017 found me in a panic. A popular feature on my blog was coming to an end, and I had to replace it with something not only I would enjoy writing, but what my readers would enjoy reading.

Walking past the door of the guest bedroom, one afternoon, something stopped me in my tracks. I noticed the door of the wardrobe slightly ajar. Something was urging me to go and investigate. The moment my hand reached to close the door, something stopped me from pushing it, and I found, instead, myself pulling open the door.

Nothing unusual met my eyes. Empty clothes hangers hang neatly in a row but, when my eyes were drawn to the bottom of the wardrobe, my heart sunk when I realised that the last remaining box from our house move of April 2016 still needed unpacking. I could have sworn everything had been unpacked, yet this box seemed to have escaped.

Of course, I could have left unpacking the final box until another day but that feeling I’d had when about to close the wardrobe door suddenly came back to me, and I pulled the box out and pulled off its lid.

Nothing interesting seemed to be inside the box. In fact, I wondered why all the stuff in it had not been taken to the charity shop before we had moved. It wasn’t until I came to the last few items that the power of a word came rushing towards me. It was nothing special, just my name ‘HUGH’ handwritten across the cover of a burgundy coloured book. However, as soon as I picked the book up, I knew instantly that the panic I was having earlier about finding a new feature for my blog had come to an end.

As soon as I open the book, I realised that what I had come across was my diary from the year 1988. I read the first few entries before taking the diary to my study and started to scribble down a few ideas. By the time I sat down to dinner that evening, a new feature for my blog had been born.

The following day, I emailed over 40 authors, writers, and bloggers asking if they would like to participate in a brand-new feature I had planned for 2018. All they had to do, for now, was to choose a random date and a favourite song from the 1980s. As the replies came in, I continued to read the diary.

On January 10th, 2018, the first post of my brand-new feature was published on my blog. It included the diary entry from a date, chosen by one of my guests, details of their favourite song from the 1980s, and an introduction to my guest, their blog, books, and links to their social media accounts and author pages. However, as the series moved on, strange things started to happen.

As I prepared the following week’s post, memories came flooding back to me as I read the next entry in the diary. Not unusual, you may think, but what did become unusual was that I started having dreams about some of the memories and, sometimes, could actually ‘feel’ and experience the same feelings I had once gone through over 40 years ago. I’d wake up and, for a few moments, think I was actually back in 1988. Faces of people I had not seen for over 40 years became vivid in my mind. I could even remember some of their smiles and what they sounded like when talking. In one case, where I’d gone through a particular spell of jealousy, I woke up feeling exactly the same as I did during some of those days in 1988. It was a dreadful feeling that I struggled to shake off.

I’ve never really considered the power words can have on us but reading my diary from 40 years ago has completely changed my mind on how powerful they can be. Yes, we can read or hear a news headline that will have some effect on us, but I’ve never experienced the intensity of the power that words can have until I started reading the diary I found that November day.

I may only be a few months into reading my diary and sharing snippets from it on my blog, but I’ve gone through many strong emotions in a short space of time and, unusually, even while being asleep. It never occurred to me, when I sat each evening writing about my day’s events, that 30 years into my future those very words I was writing would not only enable me to travel back in time and experience events and emotions again but that they would solve a problem I would be panicking about 29 years later. Even the comments left on some of the posts from the feature tell me that some of my readers are also experiencing the power that words can have.

Even though many of the entries in the diary are short, they can certainly pack a punch. It’s the same with the 99-word flash fiction challenge Charli challenges us to every week. You may only be allowed to use no more or no less than 99 words, but some of the stories I have read that have been created out of those challenges have been powerful and have remained with me for weeks after reading them.

You can read the first entry from my diary by clicking here. I also had the fantastic pleasure of having Charli Mills as my one of my guests in week four of the series. The feature, which I have called ‘49 Days in 1988’ will be running until the end of the year. Click here to read the post that Charli featured in.

Have you ever experienced the power of words? I’d love to hear how ‘words’ and/or your writing help you.

***

Hugh W. Roberts lives in the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom. He shares his life with his civil-partner, John, and their Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Toby, and Austin.

He has always enjoyed writing even though he suffers from a mild form of dyslexia. However, he’s never allowed being dyslexic stop him from having a positive outlook on life. Shortly after retiring, Hugh thought it about time he let his writing become public. Becoming a blogger seemed to be the perfect way for him to do this.

He started writing short stories at school but was never encouraged to continue writing them. In February 2014, when he discovered blogging, he wrote and published several short stories on my blog. They soon became hits, and Hugh was encouraged by some of his readers to publish some of the stories in a book. Now, finally, his dream of becoming a published author has come true with the publication of ‘Glimpses’ the first volume of 28 of his short stories. If, like Hugh, you enjoy shows such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and Tales Of The Unexpected,’ then his short stories will hopefully take you on plenty of twists and turns to unexpected endings.

‘Glimpses’ is available to buy on Amazon and has already received excellent reviews. Hugh is now in the process of writing a second volume of short stories which he hopes to publish by the end of 2018. If you decide to buy and read Glimpses, then he’d be delighted if you would consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews help all authors and feedback is vital to improving writing.

Hugh’s blog covers a number of subjects, the most popular of which are his blogging tips and social media tips posts. He is a keen photographer and enjoys helping to promote other authors and writers on his blog. Despite considering himself to be an introvert, he also considers himself as a ‘peoples’ person. Please do feel free to contact him via his blog.

Blog: Hugh’s Views and News

Twitter: @HughRoberts05

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Raw Literature posts as 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.