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Graffiti

If art is about expression what does graffiti have to say? Sometimes it is territorial marking, gangs claiming streets. And sometimes the artists of a community take to the streets with paint on buildings to tell the stories of heritage. Graffiti can be an outcry, art at its most basic level, one person with something to say.

Writers took to the medium of graffiti in this week’s collection of stories.

The following are based on the December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti.

PART I (10-minute read)

Paint by Numbers by Bill Engleson

“So, you start with a title?”

“Often do.”

“And this time the flash is about…graffiti?”

“Yup.”

“Know much about the subject?”

“Can’t say that I do?”

“So, what follows the title? I mean, how does your brain work?”

“Well, I’ve got an arty sounding title. It suggests…that paints involved.”

“Good. What comes next?”

“Fine-tuned google research. Learn the language. Like…tagger.”

“Tagger?”

“Artist. Then…a twist. Picture this, a tag team of jungle artists. A Tiger tagger and a Giraffe graffiti artist…a Girafffiti Tiger, so to speak. Political animals, eh! Exposing trophy hunters…”

“Sounds good. You better start writing.”

“Okey dokey.”

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Graffiti by Floridaborne

“So much graffiti!” My mother complained.

As we drove toward the thrift shop, our old car sputtered. She fought to guide it next to the curb.

I asked, incensed, “Why don’t you buy a new car?”

“For the same reason I go to thrift shops,” she grumbled. “Your dad said he fixed this thing!”

I opened the car door, wanting to get a closer look at a good portrait, but mom’s hand grabbed my arm. I pulled away, and said, “This car is graffiti! That’s art!”

“It’s vandalism!”

What would she think if she knew my graffiti was better?

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Pure Art by Ritu Bhathal

Stepping back, he looked up to admire his work.

He inhaled the spray paint, fresh on the wall.

A huge mural filled with colour.

It had taken him the best part of six hours, what with dodging
oncoming traffic.

His tag proudly displayed at the bottom.

Sure, the wall wasn’t his property, and there was a slight chance that
if he got caught, he’d end up at the police station again…

He pulled his hat down firmly and wrapped his scarf over his mouth,
rendering himself unrecognisable.

Some might call it graffiti, but to him, it was pure art.

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Exterior Decorator by Di @ pensitivity 101

It was an eyesore, and Harold didn’t know what he could do about it.

He was too old and unsteady on his legs to sort something out himself but his neighbour George came up with an idea and agreed to split the cost as it affected him too.

Jim and Chris were identical twins and had a gift with paint and colour. The two boys were happy to help, and at the end of the day, with £50 in their pocket, Harold had a piece of modern art at the bottom of his garden instead of a dirty concrete wall.

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Writing on the Wall by H.R.R. Gorman

I washed the filthy language from the overpass. I swear, the internet is ruining today’s youth and ruining hearts and minds.

A driver crossing the overpass rolled down his window. A man pointed at my pressure washer then asked, “Ain’t leaning over the side there dangerous?”

“State don’t like swastikas on the overpass. Obvious reasons.”

“Looks mighty dangerous to me. Wouldn’t want to fall, would you?”

I caught the threat in his voice, and turned down the pressure washer. As he drove off, I took down his tag number.

Adults these days … rotting the minds of the youth.

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The Masterpiece by Anurag Bakhshi

“Dave, stop painting graffiti on the hotel wall. Mom will be furious when she sees it,” Brad cautioned his brother.

“No, she won’t,” replied Dave insouciantly, as his paintbrush destroyed everything in its path.

Brad tried once again, “Mom hates it when you do such things.”

Dave confidently responded, “Not any more.”

Savouring Brad’s confusion, Dave continued, “Don’t you remember her expression when she saw that graffiti on that ceiling yesterday? In that church? Sister…No…. Sistine Chapel. If that Michael guy can paint on the walls of a church, I can certainly do it on these hotel walls!”

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Not in Tablets of Stone by Anne Goodwin

He had all the signs of seasonal affective disorder. “But I should be above all that.”

Gabriel was sympathetic. “God Almighty, no-one’s immune.”

“Avarice, gluttony, debauchery. That was never in my plan.”

“Then tell them!”

“How? No-one listens to me anymore.”

“You need to forge a stronger connection.”

“Christ, I can’t send my boy again. He still suffers flashbacks two millennia on.”

“Remember Moses, and the ten commandments?”

“Stone tablets? Everything’s electronic now.”

“Not entirely.” Gabriel handed Him a can of spray paint. “Jesus’ll love this.”

And so we awoke to graffiti on Christmas morning: NOT IN MY NAME!

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Looking For a Sign by Tracey Robinson

3:00 a.m. She knew she was done sleeping for the night. It was barely snowing; she decided to walk to the river. She thought about how she was so not having a wonderful life. She got to the bridge and whispered, “Where are you Clarence?” She looked at the frothing water below and then glanced at the bridge trusses. There was new graffiti and she walked closer to read it. In white and blue script were the words “ U R Not Alone”. Next to that in green was “Philippians 4:13”. And off to the left in red: “Clarence.”

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Clued by Reena Saxena

He looks at the graffiti on the ground carefully.

The nose and lips are slightly deformed with coins thrown on it. It is perhaps an appreciation of the art by pedestrians. He bends down to remove the outer layer of thick coloured chalk used to draw the picture.

His companion is amazed to see that a different picture emerges in white, and the face is familiar. They now know who is the culprit, and that he has gone this way.

Someone has been kind enough to leave this clue. He wonders what could be the motive of helping them.

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Engaging Students by kate @ aroused

Barney was really struggling at school, homework seldom done, wagging class, coming late, fighting in the playground. His teachers despaired of how to engage him.

When walking home one night Mr Burnett spied another kid spraying the walls. These graffiti artists were costing council a lot of money to blank out their undecipherable scrawls.

But as this one finished and turned to leave his face was surely Barney. Then Burnett saw the artwork that Barney had left … This was no scrawl this kid had talent!

Next day Burnett convinced the Head to supply Barney’s cans and work began.

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Graphic Artists by Nancy Brady

Angela was going to the museum to see the new collection of graphic artists. That is, until she got stopped by the train. It was a good thing she wasn’t in a hurry because the train was barely moving.

As Angela sat there, she noticed all of the graffiti-covered boxcars and car carriers. Someone certainly had talent with spray paint; how did anyone find the time to paint them, she wondered. Intricate and detailed designs graced the sides of nearly every car. Although they may have been gang symbols, Angela realized she was enjoying an art collection on wheels.

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The Petroglyphs at Three Rivers by TN Kerr

Istaqa was a sentry. The night threatened to be as cold as it would be long. He was not vigilant. He spent the night carving pictures of goats on the rocks surrounding his post. Come morning he would show the goats to Chosovi’s father. Chosovi would be his wife if Istaqa could present her father with sufficient goats, and a rifle.

The goats were a symbolic transference of wealth. The rifle was a true symbol of peace between their families. No warrior would arm his enemies.

Istaqa already had the rifle and by morning he would have enough goats.

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The Cultural World of a Forgotten People by Irene Waters

“Look Pops. Someone’s painted on the wall. Mum sure would be mad.”

“It’s graffiti Donald.”

“What’s that.”

“Writing or drawing on a wall. We all want to leave a mark. You know. The oldest graffiti, a hand, is in Indonesia. Thousands of years old.”

“Do’ya reckon this’ll be here in thousands of years.”

“Not a hope and if it was done by Banksey he’s probably organised for it to self-destruct. You know though Donald, stuff going back even a few years gives a snapshot of ordinary people’s lives and what they care about.”

“So Pops, graffiti is pop culture.”

🥕🥕🥕

Body Graffiti by Susan Sleggs

The ballet dancer lay motionless on the stage allowing the music to draw me in. After a few bars he raised into a standing position with undulations I couldn’t imagine a body being able to accomplish. The music quickened and he leaped along with the beat then twisted and rolled across the stage as it slowed. His torso and legs were waxed bare, and his leggings matched the color of his skin. His perfected physique was a delight to view in so many different positions. Alas, he cheated himself because the dark blue body graffiti distracted my mind’s eye.

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Out with the Class by Papershots

“This is obviously not art.” “Because they changed Best of Luck with Best of F…?” “Please!” He was making another point. The giggles died down, outside the station, writings everywhere; they thought those fonts were not available in Microsoft Word. It was also the, well, artistic process: at night, on the sly, “how can they see the colors if it’s dark?”, “it’s not legal, you know.” Surely writing that This City is Anti-fascist & Always Will Be was a cliché, but the unassuming flower next to it, thin black stem, red petals starting to wither, welled up an inexplicable tear.

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Finding Liberty? by JulesPaige

Over water to the separated land, visitors came to see the expressed art in the form of graffiti, which stood for about twenty eight years. Only when the wall was finally taken down could families connect again to some normalcy.

Some artwork of the west side of the Berlin wall has been preserved. Most of it was by anonymous artists. If given the opportunity to express hope to a divided people what could be expressed. One piece of wall projected a series of an American viewpoint. Lady Liberty who once welcomed strangers seeking freedom. Many hope She still does.

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The Rat Ass Nutcracker by Sascha Darlington

Look at that graffiti, adding whimsy, art even, to this otherwise festering blight of a urine-soaked street dotted with discarded used syringes, shattered malt liquor bottles, and hamburger wrappers.

One of the sanitation workers shouted “rat-ass” upon viewing my latest creation, but it’s not like they’re going to remove it, or me—they’d have to catch me first and no one ever suspects a blonde teenaged girl in this area.

One remarked, “You be careful. Lousy neighborhood.”

I begin my next creation for Christmas, I decide; a rat pirouetting in a pink tutu to be named: The Rat-Ass Nutcracker.

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Scribbling About by Neel Anil Panicker

“Son, what’s it you want to become?”

‘A graffer’.

“A what, son? I mean I’ve heard of photographer, videographer, even choreographer. Pray, what’s a graffer?”

‘Relax, dad. He’s a graffiti artist__one who writes, scribbles, scratches, or sprays on a wall or other surface in a public place for a living.’

“What? Who in his right mind pays for such mindless vandalism? Plus, isn’t all this illegal?

“Dear Dad, world over everyone’s in a hurry. We graffer force them to stop, albeit temporarily, and drive home some homely truths. As for legality, when it comes to art, who requires permission.”

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Classic Graffiti by Ann Edall-Robson

“99 words,” she says. “Graffiti,” she says. My mind goes to rail cars painted with obscure words and hieroglyphics. Nothing surfaces to write about. But wait, there is graffiti with an old school twist! Sidetracked for a few hours, the memories prevailed throughout one of the best movies of all time. A classic to be watched over and over – American Graffiti. Drive-in theatres were still the rage. It’s where I saw it for the first time. A must-have addition to the VCR collection with Wolfman Jack spinning the vinyls for an amazing soundtrack. Now this is graffiti!

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PART II (10-minute read)

Starship Mira by Saifun Hassam

A fine red Martian dust drifted over the derelict Starship Mira. In the Martian sunlight, one wing was aglow with neon pink and green and blue graffiti, sketches of stargates, starships and constellations deep in space, and of the Solar System.

A fragment from the “journal”

“One line I write every day
on this starship
the last of the crew
how many days before I die
travelers deep into space
to countless Sols beyond our own
return to Sol
to mystery, a vast emptiness
no trace of the past
no voices from home

tired perhaps last day
artist mira”

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Noteworthy Collaboration by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Stepping back, Nora tipped her head, listening to the bright voices within the subterranean waterfall. They wove in and out, considering the words and images she’d already painted on the cave’s rock wall, and stopped on a questioning note, awaiting further input.

Corwin lowered his head and lightly brushed the bow across his fiddle, nodding as the voices rose again. Entranced, Nora smiled and lifted her brush and palette, painting what she heard in both fiddler and faerie notes.

Human effort had begun the healing after the brutal Republic Purge, but a thriving world required Nora’s magical collaborative vision.

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Flash Fiction: Discovery by The Dark Netizen

This is a discovery that could get us featured on big networks.

Are you recording this, Ryan? Okay good. So here we are, having completed our journey into the caves. We see some clear indications that human life once existed here. These paintings on the wall, seem to depict some kind of script. These are some well drawn lines and some good colour choice. I think we may have discovered a stone-age Picasso. Let’s back up a bit and illuminate the whole wall. There you see folks, a cave painting that seems to read P-S-Y-C-H-E!

Fuck!! Stop recording, Ryan!!!

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Graffiti by Joanne Fisher

“If you want to be included in things maybe you shouldn’t be so obviously lesbian!” taunted Bill.

Teri tried to pay him no attention as she spray painted the wall in front of her. She felt angry and hurt and disappointed. She was always left out of things. Maybe it was because she was gay, but she wasn’t going to change so she could fit in. If she had do face things alone then so be it. She would continue to be herself.

She surveyed her finished graffiti: a big red hand flipping off the rest of the world.

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Graffiti by Bladud Fleas

I remember one assembly, the headmaster kept us back for admonishment over the proliferation of graffiti. We knew why. It was ZP.

Around the school, singularly or amongst others, the initials “ZP” could be found. Originally, the perpetrator must have fashioned them with a blade into the soft brickwork. Latterly, he had employed more expedient methods.

Who was ZP? I spied a boy once in the act, but was it he? By then, years had passed. I heard the originator had gone to study archaeology. I hoped so: in time, he may be required to account for his folly.

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Livelihood by Chelsea Owens

No passersby knew why he sat, in the sun, staring at nothing. A few threw coins or insults. One threw lunch, which he ate, staring as he chewed.

Night fell to all but the wall before him; the whiteness of antique, virgin brick burned into his mind. He paused to start a silent soundtrack. Nodding along to *beat-beat-beat* he opened equally invisible paints.

Pain sprayed black in a wild arc, then red for beating love, then blue for days without the red; then green, grey, purple, orange –

Till, breathless, he stood staring at his soul upon the wall; satisfied.

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The Meliorist by Norah Colvin

He opened his bag and glanced about — nobody in sight. A faint glow emanated from single street light further down. A cat meowed somewhere close but the hum of traffic was too far away to deter. The can warmed in his hand as he shook it. He hesitated, then removed the cap. Pressing his lips together, he began spraying, high first, then low. Only when a car horn sounded did he pause. When his cans were spent, he melded into the night and slipped away. In daylight, commuters paused to admire his work and contemplate its message of peace.

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The Artist (Part I) by D. Avery

“Ms. Higginbottom, you do recall that I’m the principal?”

“Bob, I’m not calling.”

“Graffiti can’t be tolerated. And you know this boy has problems.”

“And suspension’s a solution, Bob?”

“What can be done, Ms. Higginbottom?”

“Pull him from Health and Geography. Put him in Art, Theatre Workshop.”

“Health and Geography are required courses!”

“I see more of him than those teachers do they send him to the office so often. He’s going to have to repeat them anyway, so let him learn to like school first. Channel his artistic ability.”

“You’ve already made the schedule changes, haven’t you?”

“Yes.”

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The Artist (Part II) by D. Avery

“Administrative Assistants should not be making these sorts of decisions. I’ll remind you again that you work for me.”

“When you hired me you said everyone here worked for the students. Everyone. I figured I’d assist you in assisting this kid to stay in school where he belongs.”

“Ms. Higginbottom… You are neither an educator nor a guidance counselor.”

“You said that everyone in your school is a teacher and a learner.”

“Yes, but…”

“We can put a brush in his hand and a canvas in front of him or send him away with his spray can.”

“Oy. Okay.”

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Voice of the Streets by Kay Kingsley

Under cover of darkness they run along rooftops, scaling walls and dangling from ropes to scrawl messages of political plight and advocate for change.

They are urban activists and urban artists and the city’s streets and walls are their canvases.

The size of the message doesn’t indicate importance, it’s all equal social commentary except perhaps the occasional professions of love which are grand on their own scale.

Graffiti has always been the voice of rebellion, forbidden by law yet still the artists and poets speak and if you listen well enough you can hear the voices of the streets.

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Gingerbread Art by Kate Spencer

“Ger, you’re the best artist I know,” said Janet dropping the gingerbread showcase pamphlet on the kitchen table. She picked up a photo of the graffiti-laden Kelburn Castle in Scotland and handed it to her brother. “You can do this.”

“Sis, I only paint with oils, not icing.”

“And I don’t see the difference; both are messy. Look, all you need to do is duplicate their Picasso-like mural onto my gingerbread.”

“Not interested,” he said opening the fridge door.

“I’m baking the castle and Julie’s helping create the garden paths, yurts and–”

“Julie?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Count me in.”

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Painted Faces by Jo Hawk The Writer

I work at night, heading home as office workers rise. Later it reverses. They sleep as I gather my tools and lock my door.

Deep into the night, I tread, cans clanking in my bag. The world is silence. A cat slinks through the alley and the wind whispers secrets.

Arriving at my chosen wall, I don my respirator and shake my aerosol can. The can’s clinking echoing the sound of the approaching freight train. Ever vigilant, I spray the wall according to plan.

The morning light reveals my newest creation, and they smile at yesterday’s plain brick wall.

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The Cultural World of Forgotten People by Irene Waters

“Look Pops. Someone’s painted on the wall. Mum sure would be mad.”

“It’s graffiti Donald.”

“What’s that.”

“Writing or drawing on a wall. We all want to leave a mark. You know. The oldest graffiti, a hand, is in Indonesia. Thousands of years old.”

“Do’ya reckon this’ll be here in thousands of years.”

“Not a hope and if it was done by Banksey he’s probably organised for it to self-destruct. You know though Donald, stuff going back even a few years gives a snapshot of ordinary people’s lives and what they care about.”

“So Pops, graffiti is pop culture.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Graffiti Artists by Robie Cheadle

“Someone has covered the props for our Christmas play with chocolate graffiti,” Miss Christmas Cracker sobbed.

“What are we going to do?”

“The people of Chocolate Land will be so disappointed if there is no play,” said Mr Christmas Pudding.

“Calm down,” Said Sir Chocolate, “I am sure that if all the folk of the town work together we can clean this mess up quickly. The play must go on. It is a tradition.”

Mr Christmas Pudding smiled.

“You are right. I will give Constable Licorice a call and see if he can find any clues to our artists.”

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Unintended Art by Kerry E.B. Black

Paint splashed the walls, speckled the carpet, and dripped on the windows.

Shock froze Benjamin’s features.

He’d tripped over an errant toy Mom had repeatedly asked him to put away. He still grasped his plastic palette, but its contents splattered the room.

Panic rose as he toweled the mess. Instead of cleaning, the paint’s presence grew in smeared rainbows.

A strangled sound escaped Mom as she rushed toward the graffitti. She tripped over the toy. The tray of cookies she’d brought arced through the air and rained upon Benjamin and his unintended art.

It added texture to the design.

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A Sign (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni traced graffiti on the grain-car. What did it mean? A message? A name? Traffic stalled on both sides of the tracks where it crossed the highway. She didn’t want to think about Ike who had been ahead of them. Better to study the graffiti and let Ronnie find out what happened. She wasn’t in a hurry to know.

“Danni?”

She stiffened and asked, “Who got hit?”

“An elk.”

Danni blew out the air she’d been holding in. “Ah, damn elk.” Ike had made it across then. Maybe the graffiti was a symbol of gratitude to live another day.

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Scratches – One Man’s Art Is Another Man’s Crime by Geoff Le Pard

‘Bloody vandalism.’

‘It’s street art.’

‘Give me a break, Logan. These yobbos don’t care about art.’

‘Some of it’s really clever and they’re not breaking anything…’

‘So it’s ok to cover someone’s house in paint?’

‘Often the owner wants it…’

‘What if they don’t?’

‘Ok, that’s wrong. But if the building’s grotty and they bring a smile…’

‘Who gets to judge? What if they upset everyone else? They’re just thoughtless.’

‘So when you go out and get absolutely blotto and ruin everyone else’s night, that’s ok, is it?’

‘It’s different.’

‘Why? You always call it “painting the town red”…’

🥕🥕🥕

Paint the Town Spaghetti Western by D. Avery

“Shorty’s repeatin’ herself.”

“What?”

“We was prompted with pasta a while back, found out they’s at least 39 dif’rent kinds.”

“What are ya talkin’ about, Kid?”

“Graffiti, ain’t that some kinda pasta?”

“Here’s a dictionary Kid. Read it.”

“Graffiti: ‘writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place’. Illicitly? Shorty wants folks ta write dirty?”

“Read some more Kid.”

“Illicit: ‘Forbidden by law, rules, or custom’. Oh. Shorty jist wants folks ta break the law.”

“Kid, Shorty jist wants folks ta write-wildly, freely, openly. “

“Put it out there?”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Dark

We find the dark unsettling because it’s unknown. We don’t like to be “kept in the dark;” we want to know. We want to see where are, where we are going. Darnkess snuffs the light and we quiver, afraid. And yet we face the darkness and the unexpected.

That’s where writers took their stories this week, into the dark. Like a ship coursing across the Great Lakes in the black of night, writers plowed onward.

The following are based on the November 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Into the Dark by Michael

The old man struggled with every breath. In the past week the darkness he sensed was coming closer. He’d been a man in charge of his destiny throughout his life and now he was approaching what for him was uncertainty.

He realised he was no longer in control, “I don’t think I can get out of this,” he told his son as he gripped his hand tighter. Dependence was foreign to them both, but together they resolved to be together until the end.

Eventually, the old man’s breathing slowed and the son gave his father up to the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

His Final Descent by Anne Goodwin

When wood meets soil, only Barry’s left holding the rope. Even the undertaker scowls, throws him that look reserved for outsiders and lily-livered pansies with clean hands.
As a boy, Barry feared the cage that delivered working men into the dark. When they arose, skin stained with sweat and coal dust, it seemed a temporary reprieve.
Of course he’s glad his mother pushed him away, to a safer job on the surface of things. But it severed the tie to his dad, to the community that raised him. Now, his father crated forever in his coffin, it’s too late.

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Darkest Destiny by Di @ pensitivity101

I cannot go into the dark alone,
Hold my hand, make me strong,
Help me face this cruel Unknown,
Stay with me, prove me wrong.
Emerge with me on the other side,
From darkness into the light,
Tell me that I haven’t died,
That everything will be alright.
You are the one that I embrace,
My rock, the one that I adore,
My heart and mind memorize your face,
Lead me through this unfamiliar door.
Into the dark, I am not afraid,
Knowing you are there beside me,
Senses enhance whilst others fade,
With you, I face my destiny.

🥕🥕🥕

Itinerary by Bill Engleson

Even my best-case scenario involved no light.
Oh, you bet your booties I gave it a lot of thought. Research, Man, that’s the ticket. Every trip I ever took, I planned to the minute, down to the second.

I wasn’t one of those guys, you’ve seen them, they can’t even plan far enough ahead to tie their shoelaces.

That was never me.

I hate surprises.

The not knowing.

Gives me the willies.

But this little adventure.

It had me going.

I started a blog.

Into the Dark.

I’ll pay well, I said.

Tell me, I begged.

What’s death like?

🥕🥕🥕

The Christmas Tree by Hugh W. Roberts

“Are you sure this is what you want to see?” sobbed Moriah.

Her daughter nodded her head.

‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it? You know how much I love Christmas,” Mummy.

Choked, Moriah could not answer her young daughter’s question. The tears in her eyes made the lights on the Christmas tree blur into each other.

As they stood together, holding hands, Moriah made a Christmas wish. A wish that would prove the doctor’s predicament of her daughter’s upcoming journey into the dark, because of blindness, untrue.

High up, in the skies above Trafalgar Square, a shooting star ferried the wish.

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How Do You Choose to Look at It? by Reena Saxena

“There is an incredibly beautiful universe out there – the kind you have only dreamt about. And it will be yours soon enough …..”

“How much do we have to pay?” yelled an enthusiastic young lad from the back rows.

“It is free.”

“Then there is a catch somewhere. What is the hidden cost?” said another over-cautious person.

“Is it a game to be played?” a techie looked up from his device for a moment.

“It depends how you choose to look at it. One has to get into the dark tunnel first, to come out at the other end.”

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Darkness Enfolds by kate @ aroused

The headaches are oppressive,

medication only dulls the pain.

Kids due home from school soon

and I haven’t moved from my room

Eight long years with this tumour

laser treatment stopped it growing

My wish to embrace death

gets stronger by the day

oh for relief from this constant pain

feels like my life is down the drain

The boys have their father

Mitch couldn’t cope

Government says I’m not disabled

I’m so tempted to give up hope

Have no training to get a job

car has died, I can’t cope!

Please give me strength to find the light

🥕🥕🥕

The Crate by H.R.R. Gorman

The smoke makes it difficult to breathe. Where is my human? Why is she screaming outside instead of helping me?

Blaring noises and blinking lights scare me. I crawl away into the dark, to my crate, to safety. I curl up on my pillow and whimper as the smoke in the air thickens.

A monster bursts through the door. I bite at its thick hide, but it doesn’t care – it just grabs me and drags me outside where I see her.

“Human!” I bark. “Human!”

I break free of the monster’s grasp and leap into my human’s protective arms.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness Comes by Roberta Eaton

She gazed into the dark depths of the water.

Why had he done it?

Christmas could be a time of great loneliness for people living alone. The good cheer and smiles of families around them resulting in deep despair.

She had received a call from a friend informing her of the death the previous evening. The body had been in the water for a few days making identification difficult.

Water was destructive.

She signed, recalling the message she had received from him a short while before.
Was it a cry for help? Maybe, but it was too late now.

🥕🥕🥕

The Black Hole Beyond by Chelsea Owens

Ethereal stardust touched her; tickling, licking, tempting her forward. A thousand thousand glittering steps pulsed the way.

She stepped. And stepped.

One hesitant footfall at a time led her past an eternal tunnel of cosmic shimmering, but also to the edge of inevitable, gaping nothing. Here, there was no stardust, no glitter, no shimmer. Not even a chill, poetic wind whipped against her hesitant spirit, paused on the edge of infinity.

With no eyes to close, no throat to swallow, no resolve to strengthen; she stepped over the edge…

Looking back only once, at the discarded Earth-body far behind.

🥕🥕🥕

At This Hour of Eve by Papershots

The world doesn’t have time for this street dancer, his white undershirt and black pants, his slowed-down watery Black Swan, his crystal ball rolling over arms, shoulders, hands, fingers – it never falls! There’s so much else, after all. Like people who turn into fashionable streets or buildings as if they lived there, striving to give that casual impression to those looking. And there are many. Being surprised, deceived possibly, but always to be kept in the dark about the person they glimpsed at rushing by being or not somebody important. Or, some day, a star. Étoiles, they call them.

🥕🥕🥕

Another One Through Ellis Island by JulesPaige

Into that dark of Adam’s ale, to hold onto
The waxed brass ships rail, and just look.
T’was a gentle rain that night when
She’d gone above, to walk the deck.
Feel the ocean rocking, breath clean air.

Into that dark of transformation
From old to brand new.
Every fiber of her being was
Excited to see and explore those
Gold paved streets.

Into that dark of all unknown things
To be enlightened, to see Lady Liberty.
The story was told that she had won
A writing contest… her trip to freedom?
No one could confirm her Grandmother’s story.

🥕🥕🥕

One Good Turn by D. Avery

He leaned on the doorjamb looking in on his sleeping daughter. His wife slipped under his arm. “She is so beautiful,” she whispered.

“She’s my light.” They walked back to the living room.

“You’re nervous as a cat tonight. What’s wrong? You’ve missed those awful ‘meetings’ before.” She twisted her blonde bangs, showing her own anxiety. “I wish you never went. No job is worth it.”

“I took Angela and that girl Celia to the vet’s. Celia’s cat got hit… Her parents met us there. Buzz saw us.”

Pulling the curtain aside again, he peered into the dark night.

🥕🥕🥕

Dark and Light, Black and White by Geoff Le Pard

‘Amanda’s a dark one.’

‘As in?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Do you mean she’s mysterious, or you’re being politically incorrect about her racial characteristics or she’s the primordial, sapient, cosmic force of evil.’

‘Probably, though the last one’s a stretch; it’s more she can be a bit of a pain if I forget she likes her coffee black.’

‘Or dark?’

‘You wouldn’t say that.’

‘Why not? If you want a room dark you get blackout curtains.’

‘Are thin curtains whiteout then?’

‘No, that’s a bad snow-storm.’

‘I’m lost.’

‘That’s because going inside your head is always like going into the dark, Morgan.’

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Pete Fanning

I sleep with fear and cuddle with failure. My restless bed-mates jostle me awake, thrashing in the dark—in my head—as I pore over my words. Oh the mistakes, the holes, the terrible grammar. My own personal monsters in the closet.

My bed is where doubt and desire dual. Ten paces into the dark. My quickening heartbeats produce sweat on my brow, dread in my chest, an avalanche of worry.

Why bother?

But morning arrives, and the sunlight finds my window, squeezing through the sliver of curtains. New words are knocking around.

And so I must meet them.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Dark by @DaveMMAdden

Coach’s voice, as if falling into the dark, could still be heard, yet he was nowhere in sight.

“For all the practices coach berated me for being a little late, where was he for the biggest fight of my life?” The thought illuminated the hopeful champion’s mind, de the intersection where hopes and dreams are put on hold.

“Travis.”

Coach’s voice was crystal clear now, but Travis couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coaching?

At that moment, Travis’ eyes popped open. There was coach kneeling next to him, haloed by the lights above.

“What happened?”

“Ya got caught, champ.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lights by Anita Dawes

I watched as my soul sailed into the dark,
the thinking animated part of me disappearing.
A black cloud held me in a bubble,
my mind washed clean, my muse shut out.
There was no way for me to know
how long the darkness would last.
Would my muse be able to find her way back to me?
Would I pick a pen, touch my keyboard;
find those words to place inside a new cover?
It wasn’t too long before the scales dropped from my mind,
soon I could see beautiful lights
sailing across the blue black dark horizon…

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Voyage by The Dark Netizen

Into the darkness, I lead my ship.

It seemed like the best idea before it became reality: Escape the mundanities of  regular life, and set sail on a voyage to explore the world. I wanted to experience the various adventures this world had to offer. A bunch of young ones who were influenced by my words, joined me on my escape from reality. This scares me now. What if I made a mistake? Will these young ones suffer because of me?

Not on my watch…

The darkness does not look so bad, with the moon and stars guiding me…

🥕🥕🥕

Trust by Jo Hawk The Writer

“Are you sure?” Lenore asked leaning over Artel’s shoulder to peer at the map.

“Damn it. Don’t you believe me?” Artel said shoving the map at her before stepping away.

“Of course, I do. But I didn’t expect this.” Lenore waved her hand indicating the opening in front of them. She wrinkled her nose at the dank smell.

“He said ‘expect the unexpected’. So, I guess the real question is…” Artel paused and looked hard at Lenore, “do you trust the oracle?”

Lenore glanced at the map, then nodded.

Together they lit their torches and stepped into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Stepping into the Unfamiliar by Norah Colvin

The car lights dimmed as she reached the door – timed perfectly. But, when the porch light didn’t activate, immersing her in total darkness, she cursed the storm. As she pushed the door of the still unfamiliar house, she rummaged for her phone. Dang! No charge. She inched along the wall, fingers seeking the corner and toes the step she knew was close. Stepping down, she dumped her bag and tossed her saturated scarf. She edged towards the sideboard and a battery-powered candelabra. As she fumbled for the switch, the room was flooded with light and cheers of ‘Happy housewarming!’

🥕🥕🥕

Snowy Vacation by Nancy Brady

On that first weekend in December, our family decided to spend a few days at our mountain cabin. We were excited to spend a last weekend away before winter.

Flakes fell, becoming a blizzard, and we were plunged into the dark, the power knocked out. Our old oil lamp became our only light, but we made the best of it.

The following morning, with impassible roads, we hunkered down, knowing we weren’t going anywhere soon. Still, we had plenty of food, but not much lamp oil. One night followed another, but our lamp continued to shine, lasting eight days.

🥕🥕🥕

Further Into The Dark by Kay Kingsley

We walked arms lengths apart scanning the forest floor, our heads sweeping back and forth methodically, praying to recognize anything out of place other than ourselves. It was getting cold as the night crept up behind us. Our hearts were racing as sticks and branches snapped below our feet from our weight. Flashlights turned on, we were nowhere near stopping. She’d already been missing for three days and was out here, somewhere. There was still a chance. The tension was broken as I yelled, “Cara, can you hear me?” Only silence responded as we walked further into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Gordian Knot by Kerry E.B. Black

Bonnie squeezed Michelle’s hand and begged, “Don’t go. It’s scary.”

Michelle’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, but whether formed of fear, sadness, or excitement, Bonnie couldn’t tell. She tugged on her sister’s arm. “Michelle, please. Don’t leave. Who’ll take care of me?”

Without a sideways look, Michelle tousled Bonnie’s curls. “You don’t need me,”
She pointed with her chin into the unknown, “but I need this.”

Bonnie clung to her sister, but Michelle loosened her fingers with ease, as though the Gordian Knot of reliance bore no challenge. She ignored Bonnie’s cries and stepped away and into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Into The Dark by Ritu Bhathal

Swaying slightly, she stumbled out into the dark.
It took Penny a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dim light.
The door had slammed shut behind her.
Why had she decided to have that last drink?
She knew alcohol and her didn’t mix, yet all it took was the encouragement of a few mates, and she was knocking them back.
And with each drink, came confidence.
She danced, and smiled, and flirted.
But he took it too far.
The pushing to the toilets.
The clawing hands.
She shoved him and ran, fleeing via the fire exit.

🥕🥕🥕

The First Night by Juliet Nubel

The key turned stickily in the lock. She would get the knack of it soon, the twist and pull necessary to open the flimsy front door.

Reaching for the light switch she heard nothing. Silence was a bad sign. Where was the damn mains box to shed electricity on her new abode?

Her phone was so old that its unhelpful face was a small grey square and the one number she would have called in the past had been erased forever.

She stumbled blindly into the lumpy sofa and sat there, letting her tears fall quickly into the dark.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Closet by Regina Davis-Sowers (The Humble Word Nerd)

Today, a new horror entered her life. Johnny Campbell had spitefully called her “Little Monster,” and the other kids had shouted the name at her in all of her classes. Caroline nearly tripped and fell as she raced for home, needing more than ever the solitude found only in the closet. It had been her refuge from her mother’s verbal abuse. Being in the closet was like moving in the dark of night, safely hidden from the light where people can see you to hurt you. She hated to return to school tomorrow, but the closet always awaited her.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost Compass by Sascha Darlington

The rainy days are the easiest. I turn over, pretend the sun hasn’t risen, the day hasn’t begun, except for the hum of traffic, mocking in its ocean-like rhythm.

At work, I cajole, pretend. At home, I sink, obsess over regrets that lure me into the dark, driving me to ask how did I get here?

When I was little, my granny would open a can of tuna. I’d eat the flakes from the can while she mentored. “You can be and do anything you want.”

Molten desire. Wrong road. Answered naïve prayer.

Gran, I let us both down.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Frank Hubeny

We knew but didn’t know. Walking into the dark without a good flashlight on this road from our cabin wasn’t the smartest thing we did. Street lights at home were everywhere, but there were no lights here and then there were stars, bright and unbelievably everywhere, but not bright enough.

Our phones helped give some light and our feet felt for the edge of the road. We rushed back. We hoped it wasn’t too far. The Moon would rise soon. We saw it through the trees on the horizon. Would it help us see?

And then there it was.

🥕🥕🥕

Darkness by Floridaborne

“You can’t keep writing and rewriting,” my husband says. “You’re not learning anything and getting nowhere.”

“I’m searching in the darkness with my characters,” I explain. “As they learn, I learn.”

He continues to admonish me. “When you give an explanation, you must be concise!”

“What do you want me to explain?” I ask.

“Whether it’s right or wrong, you must present it well!”

“I know that during the holidays it’s best to steer clear of you,” I sigh. “Learn to take your own advice.”

He grunts and says, “Then you’ve learned nothing,” as he heads toward the door.

🥕🥕🥕

The Meaning of Life by TNKerr

Abelard Stiles turns his profile and strong jawline to the audience as he clasps both hands of Marissa Herring, his costar, playing Angelique. He looks longingly into her cerulean eyes, pellucid as gems of northwestern azure.

“Angelique, my love, I must go. I leave you now for the glory of Canada. My comrades await. ” He drops her hands and pivots melodramatically, walking out of the spotlight, into the dark at the back of the set.

Marissa pushes her hair back, clasps her breast, and collapses like a husk to the stage. “Oh, Neville; don’t go, come back, please.”

🥕🥕🥕

Upon reading Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Saifun Hassam

Camilla sat on an oaken bench in the twilight of a fall evening. An owl hooted as the evening sky deepened into night. She rose quietly, drawn irresistibly into the dark of a crumbling arbor among whispering willow trees.

Once the mysterious and beautiful Esmeralda lived in a cottage there, among gardens of fragrant flowers. Exotic and poisonous flowers from her father’s botanical gardens. Esmeralda breathed in the wondrous and magical scents, and was drawn into the darkness and mysteries of the Dream.

The cottage was no longer there, the gardens had vanished. And yet a haunting fragrance lingered.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Darkness by Irene Waters

“It’s good to have you here.” Her mother nodded agreement, squeezing Rebekkah’s arm.

“See you in the restaurant sixish for breakfast love.” The elderly couple turned and walked away, heading to the burré they had been allocated in their daughter’s hotel. The dim lights from the house disappeared plunging them into the dark.

“I didn’t know blackness like this existed.”

“No stars. No moon. No electricity.”

“Wish Beccy’d given us a torch.” They stumbled into trees, down ditches unable to find their way.

“We know the light always comes. Let’s just sit and wait. We’ll sing.”

“What?”

“Two blind mice.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Night Before by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What have you got there?”

“Special order for Daniel, in Minnesota!”

“Minnesota is too general, see? The original says Minnetrista.”

“Where?”

“Check the database. Where’s your tablet, Kringle?”

“Dammit, I’m a driver and a toymaker, Rudolph, not a techie,” He pulled his beard, frustrated.

Apologetic, Rudolph bumped his belly with an antler. “You’re also an innovator, Santa…the guy who saw promise in a young buck’s red nose.”

“I’m good with elves, but those consultants in the brown uniforms creep me out.”

“You’re fine. Just do your Ho-ho-ho routine, and go bravely into the dark.”

“Still guiding my sleigh, Rudolph…Thanks!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sunrise is Expected by Ann Edall-Robson

Sunrise is expected
Over the ridge
Of towering pines
Shades of melon and lemon
Touch blackened sky
Clear blue whiteness
Scattered by the wind
Lofty darkened clouds
Destined to where
Colour turns to flattened gray
Scurrying with speed
Driven by turbine winds
Time evolves in minutes
Welcoming day colours gone
Pushed from sight by gusts
Distant thunder rumbles
Mountain peaks push
Up into the dark
The subtle warning spoke
Of what is yet to come
Relentless prairie winds howl
On into the stormy night
Until their quiet song settles
The towering pines
On the ridge
Where sunrise is expected

🥕🥕🥕

Light in the Lode by D. Avery

“Is Shorty a spelunker, Pal?”

“More like a miner. Why?”

“Jist wunderin’. She’s often talkin’ ‘bout caves an’ dark places. What’s she do, dig in the ground, mine fer copper?”

“Nah, but she does gather rocks, right in the light a day at the shore.”

“Shorty selects stones in the sunshine by Superior’s shore?”

“Sure as shift, Kid.”

“Then what’s she a miner of, Pal?”

“Yer thicker an’ a Superior snow squall, Kid. Shorty works words. She mines stories. Heard she hit a mother lode that starts right here at the ranch an’ reaches all ‘roun the world.”

“Priceless!”

🥕🥕🥕

All Write in the End by D.Avery

“We’re here.”

“Course we’re ‘here’, Pal, we’re always where we’re at. Uh, where we at?”

“That spot I was tellin’ ya ‘bout.”

“This’s more ’n a spot. This’s a big ol’ hole in the hill.”

“Yep.”

“Mineshaft?”

“Dunno.”

“Cave?”

“Dunno.”

“Gateway ta Hell?”

“Go.”

“Why? It’s darker ‘n dark’s night.”

“Shorty says, that’s why. Anyway, what’s the worst thing could be in there?”

“Bats, bears, spiders, snakes, catamounts. Mebbe a pack a writers, think nuthin’ ‘bout killin’ off characters.”

“I’m thinkin’ on it. Let’s go. We’ll catch a story.”

“Ta bring back ta the campfire?”

“Yep. Write light.”

“Elixir!”

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps

Often we think of scraps as what remains. Sometimes they can be what rebuilds. Fragments can be anything from torn photos to memories. Fabric and recall can fade, yet we piece together what we can and hang on to our stories.

Writers naturally grasp at scraps to build stories. This week they took to the prompt with surprisingly powerful responses.

The following are based on the November 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses scraps.

Part I (10-minute read)

Darkest Before Dawn by Sascha Darlington

Harrowing words split midnight, my parents dissolving.

The next morning, bleary-eyed, I arrived at the breakfast table to witness their ultimatum. Shredded pictures of not only them as a couple, but us as a family strewn across the oak table, on the vinyl, like crumbs of discarded bread.

I was sixteen. By then I’d witnessed relationship suicide for fourteen years, but I strived to separate it from my younger siblings.

Mom sauntered into the kitchen, smiling. “Pancakes, honey?”

My gaze moved from the fragments before me to her. She noticed my gaze, shrugged.

“No worries. We’re fine. Just fine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seashore Days (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Chattering and giggling, the village children trekked along with Diamante, Jenvieve, and Francine to the seashore. There was work to be done first. Along the sand dunes, they gathered scraps of broken wood, twine, and sea algae from the broken fence, for a low fence around the brown thistle and yellow coreopsis.

After devouring a picnic of fish and potato pancakes, they created sand castles and fantastic sea monsters. Their excited cries carried in the breeze when they found sea urchins and starfish in the tidal pools.

The tide flowed in, the children turned towards home, reluctant, tired, happy.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s the Dog’s Fault by Susan Sleggs

“Damn it! I knew your dog didn’t like my moving in. My clothes from vacation are now scraps on the laundry room floor.”

“I warned you to keep that door closed.”

“Well I forgot.”

He handed her the bills from his wallet. “Go shopping. I don’t want to lose you or the dog.”

She gave half the money back then kissed him. “Partly my fault.”

He stuffed the pieces into a garbage bag.

At Christmas he gave her a quilt his mother had made from the scraps. Its origin was told to family members with much adoration and laughter.

🥕🥕🥕

The Circle of Our Love by Colleen M. Chesebro

Sally watched Nana roll the scraps of dough into a ball on the floured cutting board. This was her first time baking, and she couldn’t wait to mimic every move her grandmother made.

“Why do you roll it into a circle?”

Nana smiled as she maneuvered the rolling pin. “Because it’s easier to fit inside the pan.”

“But you could use a square pan, right?”

“Yes. I could, but the circle reminds me of our family. I gave birth to your mommy, and she gave birth to you. If we all hold hands, it’s a circle of our love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Russian Eggs by TNKerr

When the new Pastor showed up at the parish potluck bearing Russian eggs; the Elders all objected.

“This is a church event,” they insisted, “deviled eggs are inappropriate.”

Pastor Huberd chuckled until Elder Belknap blocked his path and an argument ensued. The Elders all were adamant, they stood united. Soon chests puffed up. There was pushing and shoving.

No one knows, for sure, who threw the first punch; I believe it might have been the Widow Montes.

In the course of the ensuing scrap, the fancy plate broke and the eggs were trampled underfoot. It was a total loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Untitled by Dave Madden

From the moment baby Drew could swing his tiny arms and legs of his own volition, he’d connect hands or feet to anything moving with an uncanny level of precision.

Everyone would coo in unison, “How cute!”

As Drew aged, his aggression intensified and its adorable nature quickly vanished.

Before shipping Drew off to military school, his parents tried enrolling him in martial arts. One martial art snowballed into others, which caged his rage and directed him on a path toward MMA.

Undefeated and well on track to becoming a champion prizefighter, his career was pieced together from scraps.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sibling E – A Fighting Vowel by Geoff Le Pard

‘What now, Morgan?’

‘My brother. He said we used to scrap all the time while all I remember is being told we got into scrapes.’

‘It’s possible you did both.’

‘You’re sitting on the fence again.’

‘No, look. You scrap with each other but together you get into scrape.’

‘I suppose. We did both sometimes.’

‘Wadya mean?’

‘When mum made a cake she’d let us fight for the bit of cake-mix in the bottom of the bowl.’

‘Ah, you’d scrape the scraps.’

‘Yep and then we’d scrap for the scrapes.’

‘I preferred cake-mix to cake.’

‘Me too. Weird huh?’

🥕🥕🥕

Memory Quilt by Norah Colvin

She was old but definitely not out. Because they were the sons, they had responsibility for her affairs. But they knew her not and cared little for her comfort or her dignity. They signed her away without consultation, denied their sisters access to her home, sold what they could and disposed of what was left. Their one compensation for their sisters was her sewing box. What they considered worthless, the sisters stitched together. With tears of joy as well as pain, mother and daughters shared the stories embedded in each tiny piece of fabric and woven into their hearts.

🥕🥕🥕

Puss by Kerry E.B. Black

Oma taught me everything has value, even discards.

That’s good, because I’m a cast-off. My parents left me in a basket on Oma’s doorstep one winter night after Oma had gone to bed. Two of her cats curled their warmth about me. That’s how she found me, with cats guarding my makeshift crib.

That’s why she calls me Puss.

Oma saves bits of fabric and sews colorful quilts.

With her lessons I weave a tapestry of experiences. I talk to outcasts, befriend the friendless, and gravitate toward the lonely. I hope to thereby create something beautiful of this life.

🥕🥕🥕

Fight by the Dark Netizen

I ducked and rolled, dodging the roundhouse kick thrown at me.

The crowd cheered on as my opponent backed up and assumed his ready stance. I got back to my feet and brushed the dust off my body. This was one tough bugger. He was still standing after three of my punches had made acquaintance with his face. Underground fighting is a dirty, tough world. I have been bruised and battered in the many scraps I have been a part of. But none were as tough or as important as this one.

This one is to save my family…

🥕🥕🥕

Scraps From the Past by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She picks up a marble, rolling and squeezing it in her palm at a searing memory of betrayal.

She lifts another object to her nose, breathes deep the unidentifiable organic aroma. This tiny scrap, nap nearly bald with love, is all that remains of her early childhood.

That other, wedged into the corner of the wooden box she’d pulled from the top closet shelf, is handled with care. Its barbs, rusted with neglect, are still dangerous. She remembers the doctor, his kind blue eyes as he snipped and extracted. She touches her cheek.

All alive, only in her memories.

🥕🥕🥕

Scrapbooking by kate @ aroused

Andrea loved to scrapbook, so much that her house was overcrowded with all the paraphernalia. Fancy borders, stick ons, clothe pieces, anything that would make her scrapbooks more beautiful, more exceptional.

Each Saturday she met with two like-minded friends and they’d create and chat, a habit of many years. Sad part was nobody really wanted to view their exotic creations … so full of meaning to them but lost on others.

Andrea knew her ‘collecting’ had got out of hand, no room for visitors. Barely a path to get to bed, her scraps had accumulated to become a hazard.

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Let Go by Kay Kingsley

Sifting through boxes stacked to the ceiling, I relived my old life one memory at a time.

Boxes I packed to one day take with me, instead I sifted through and weaned, taking only the memories I couldn’t part with.

Flashes of childhood, high school, memories of first crushes, of family before the divide.

I discarded some items with ease wondering why I kept such silly things so long, other items required time to mourn.

Life has changed.

I realized these scraps make up me and yet none of these are who I am.

It’s time to let go.

🥕🥕🥕

Memories by tracey robinson

The cemetery was gray this February morning. I sat on my mother’s grave and looked at the flat marker.

I remembered her sitting on the kitchen floor playing jacks with me. Bounce, scoop. The smell of sugar cookies cooling on the counter. The radio playing “Summer Nights” and her pretending to be Olivia Newton-John. I heard her voice: “You’ve got this, you are strong”.

Scraps of memories were all I had left of her. A gust of wind blew crunchy brown leaves and brittle pages of yellowed newspaper past me. I hoped my memories didn’t blow away as easily.

🥕🥕🥕

C.E. by D. Avery

They approached warily. The car had been gutted, no longer habitable. She spied a scrap of paper stuck to the floor. The glove box yielded another and a stub of pencil.

“That’ll make good tinder.”

“No. It’s mine.”

He shrugged. They trudged on until dusk.
He coaxed a fire from his bow drill while she sharpened the pencil against a rock. The scrap of paper was a fragile promise in her shaking hands.

“Write already.”

She wanted to. It’d been so long. She’d start with the date.

It felt like fall. Was it November? The year she knew- 2023.

🥕🥕🥕

Neglect by Anita Dawes

The great castle on Forest Hill
Long deserted, the dining hall left in a hurry
The plates mouldy with the remains of a feast
The church in the private grounds
Broken by long years of neglect
Stained glass windows smashed by time
Lay like tiny shards of coloured lights
Stolen from a kaleidoscope
Would that I could put it all back together again
Make it whole, no more scraps of things
That once were made with love and care
Tourists come and go, visiting the great sites
Never knowing the people who lived there
When time was whole, loved…

🥕🥕🥕

When Old Is Made New by JulesPaige

The old building was being torn down to make new class rooms. The artist wanted to use some of the clay from the bricks of the building to make a Mezuzah that resembled the structure. A Mezuzah holds a Hebrew prayer of blessing. Some of the script could be seen through the windows of the sculpted clay piece.

On the door frame of the new building is a reminder of the old. A simplistic copy that older generations could see and say; ‘Ah, ha.’ And newer members entering part of the new social hall could also see what was.

🥕🥕🥕

Life Scraps by Ritu Bhathal

Brenda hobbled backwards and admired her handiwork.

It had taken a long time. A lifetime.

Gazing at the large quilt, pieced together lovingly, she wiped a tear that had settled on her cheek.

Each and every scrap of material used showed another step taken in their life.

She gently fingered the white satin patch at the top, sewn next to a rough, black patch.

Their wedding outfits.

Scraps from old curtains, sheets, special clothes, even a tartan square from Reg the dog’s old blanket.

Wrapping it around her, she knew he was still close by, always in her heart.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bone and Rag Man’s Goose Dinner by H.R.R. Gorman

The rag and bone man picked through the pile of refuse with his hooked walking stick.  A bit of metal glinted, so he bent to pick it up.  He grunted and bent his arthritic knees, then sifted through the greasy pile of scraps.  Fingers that jutted out of hole-ridden gloves chilled in the frozen goose fat.

He turned the goose carcass over and brushed some of the blackened grease off the  shimmering metal inside, only to find a golden egg.

His good mood turned foul: who was rich enough to kill and eat a goose that laid golden eggs?

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

SCRAPS by Papershots

Cher is in Vegas and you can fly out to see her. And talk to her backstage. The revolving billboard slides in some nasal spray, get rid of congestion and back to your day; no day seems worth it unless you fly out and see her – Cher, again – light-blue, young, divine. She slides back. Then there are other events in this town and those preferred flyers or paper of cheaper quality, too light not to swirl around in the chilly wind. It’ll be daybreak before Personnel will clean up the crumpled mass of fantastic evenings not to be missed.

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Same for Me by Juliet Nubel

“And I’ll have scraps with mine, please”.

My definition of the word obviously wasn’t hers. What was this big strapping Yorkshire lass, queuing in front of me, actually asking for?

I watched as the young man behind the counter drove the huge serving spoon to the bottom of the bubbling oil. What he brought back to the surface looked other-wordly. Burnt, brown, greasy little pieces of batter, piled high in a mound of calories. He poured the lot on top of her fish and chips.

“Same for me, please.”

He smiled at my out-of-place accent.

“Comin’ right up, love”.

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No Longer Alone by Di @ Pensitivity101

He was there again, sitting quietly, waiting.

The old man took his seat outside and placed his usual order.

The bacon, sausage and eggs arrived, the smell making his nose twitch, but he stayed where he was.

‘Come here Boy,’ the old man said, and the dog wandered over to sit at his feet.

No collar, no lead, but obviously not starving as he was not the only one feeding him scraps.

The plate now clean, the dog looked directly at him, head tilted.

‘Want to come home with me Boy?’ he asked.

The tail wagged.

‘Come on then.’

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Scraps to Treasured Heirlooms by JulesPaige

Yarn leftovers. Some from Grandmother’s blanket that was knitted. And more from a two headed sweater that Ma was gifted as a joke. But most were from yard sales or charity shops. Crocheted two or three ply into squares. The blankets have our initials in them. Carefully crafted into those stitches that hold a single square together.

They weigh a ton! Staying overnight at the firehouse in winter, Ma wanted us to be warm. We can only guess at the places where some of the skeins came from. But we do know that love is bound in every stitch.

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A Patchwork of Love by Teresa Grabs

The kids laughed and pointed, but I never cared. When we were supposed to be playing Red Rover, Red Rover, they’d call Patchy, Patchy whenever it was my turn to come over. I would smile and run over as if Patchy was my name. I loved it.

Mama made my clothes from scraps that friends and family gave her. My shirt was part Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Lucy, and even Baby Joseph. My pants were part Dad, a little Grace, and a whole lot of Uncle Hal.

The more they called me Patchy, the more I felt my family’s love.

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Untitled by Frank Hubeny

Words are like scraps found in a drawer of former times. We saved them, whoever we were back then, some stranger we would not want to talk to today.

Now we re-read those words and remember what we didn’t think existed to remember. Were there any truth in those words, ever?

That’s how Peter read a letter from Janice explaining that she didn’t mean to hurt him arguing how one and one meant two and did not involve three and because of that, and because Phil had someone else as well, he should take her back.

Peter never did.

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Scraps of Memory by Bill Engleson

I press my fingers tightly against my temple. That helps sometimes. The pressing in. Perhaps it touches some point of recall, some lobe of a button.

Sometimes I know my entire life is stored inside me.

I know that like I know my…

My?

Oh my!

She will call me a name from time to time. Hold my face with her weathered hand, smile, whisper…words…”I miss you. You’re here…but I miss you.”

Words?

I knew so many.

Do I really remember that?

I release my fingers from the brow of my history.

The fog rolls in.

It rarely lifts.

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Scraps of Imagination (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Cleaning out Ramona’s dresser felt wrong, but Danni could no longer sulk over coffee at the kitchen table. She heard Ike tell his Uncle Logan, “At least she wasn’t a hoarder.”

True, Danni thought. Ramona was frugal but wrapped in her sock-drawer were rolls of dollar bills. She thought about showing the men and making a Grandma-was-a-stripper joke. Ramona would have chuckled. Danni spied a scrapbook beneath. Curious, she opened up pages to fairy drawings and cursive writing. Scraps of dried flowers mingled with Ramona’s fertile imagination before dementia robbed them all of who she was.

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Crafting Scraps by Nancy Brady

Scraps of paper with just the right word; a snippet of a line; a phrase or two…she crafted poems like she crafted collages.

She chooses her words like she chooses the bits and pieces of paper and string to make up her vision for her art piece. Rearranging the lines to fit the rhythm, to fit the idea of the poem is as complex as arranging and rearranging the papers into the completed collage.

Does the poem express her inner thoughts? Has she put the words together to craft the poem that she originally envisioned? Does the poem succeed?

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Scraps by Quiall

“It sits on a counter, waiting . . .”

“Can it be alive?”

“He knows he is about to die when . . .”

The scraps of an idea swirl around her head. Is it a poem? A short story? Should she tell the truth or concoct a believable lie from the scraps he left behind. But these are his words in her head, his lies. The only way to escape the torment he inflicted for so many years, through so many stories, is to act now.

She did. She placed the knife on the countertop and smiled.

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Scraps of Ideas by Susan Sleggs

A writing class after retirement seemed like a good idea, but the first assignment, write a short story about anything, left me paralyzed. I went to my husband for help and he reminded me of the scraps of paper in my bedside table that I had written bits of dreams down on. We read them aloud and found a few that I could combine into one story. I had my outline. My first assignment garnered an A and whenever I needed another subject I went back to my scraps for inspiration. They turned out to be unexpected treasure trove.

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Snippets of Treasure by Patrick O’Connor

For years I would write notes on napkins and scraps of paper.They would be folded and stuck into my pocket.

Oftentimes, I would throw them in a drawer and promptly forget about them.

Recently, I went to a garage sale and bought an old trunk.

There were no keys so, at home, I broke the lock open.

Inside were 50 scraps of paper.

Each had short snippets of stories written long ago.

Transcribing the notes and scanning the originals has now set me up for an exciting time of trying the write a story using all these thoughts.

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Too Glossy for Him by Anne Goodwin

“We’ll make a memory book. A scrapbook of his life.”

I imagined rough grey pages, flour-and-water paste. But the occupational therapist grew up in the digital age.

She pointed out his name on the cover. He turned away. She turned to me: “Let’s discuss care homes.”

Not yet, surely? I wiped dribble from his chin. Of course he didn’t recognise the fellow in the photographs. He never thought he’d find himself in a glossy hardback book.
Old newspapers, a tattered notepad, a stick of glue.

Like the gentleman I married, he took my hand. Raised it to his lips.

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Scraps by Floridaborne

A sign said, “Welcome to the 1969 Dance of Elegance.”

An orchestra began to play “The Blue Danube” Waltz.

My date asked, “Care to dance?”

He loved my irreverence, my sense of adventure. I loved how he made me feel so accepted.

Dresses of the finest satin swirled around while we spoke of universal concepts. But it was my tight empire dress, with velvet top and satin brocade, my favorite, turning heads!

“Such a lovely dress,” my date said.

“My mom created this dress with 25 cents worth of remnants.”

“And that is why I love you,” he chuckled.

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Interactive Themes by Reena Saxena

It is an excellent workshop. We choose fabric scraps we like from the heap, and fashion it into outfit ideas. Then, we move to the circular rack with hanging garments, and make our choices a second time. Some of us make different choices the second time.

The facilitator helps us interpret our choices to show our personality types. If the choices vary the second time around, it is due to the cut, structure or style of the garment, and our self-image.

It is the interaction of human stories that makes us connect, or disconnect from each other. Presentation matters.

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Untitled by Michael

When I met Mary she was scrounging throwing items into an old shopping trolley.
The trolley contained everything that was important to her. When I asked her about her life she pulled an old photo album from the bottom of the trolley and laid it out on the ground. “My life,” she said pointing to photos of a young girl, a woman in uniform and finally a woman with child.

“I’m not a scrap of good anymore,” she said shutting it up and burying it again. She shuffled off, the scraps of her life moving in front of her.

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Patchwork by Chelsea Owens

They called it trash, and it was. Humanity’s selfishness was strewn about the world; molding, stinking, soaking in.

“Don’t bother,” they said.

“Save yourself.”

“Self…”

Amongst the walls of yelling filth she closed her ears, strained her eyes.

There! A flutter of love beneath that greed.

There! Some tattered trust nearly blown away.

And there! Hardly a scrap of deepest hope, wedged between bigotry and vice.

Tiptoeing past an open pit of malice and an oozing patch of some sort of thoughtlessness, she made it home. Inside the stained and leaning walls, against the howling narcissistic winds-

She sewed.

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Swept Up by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin’, Pal?”

“Ever week they was writin’ fer the Rodeo, now ever week they’s celebratin’ ever’one’s accomplishment, an’ here I am, sweepin’. Ya’d think the dang Beatles had been through.”

“Well, it was the Fab Five, but Pal, ya might wanna update yer pop culture references.”

“Hmmf. “

“Sir Paul’s got a new album out though.”

“Do they still call ‘em albums?”

“I dunno. I’ll help ya sweep up, Pal. Is this confetti? Or scrap paper from the draftin’?”

“Is there any other way ta write?”

“Computers?”

“I feel ir-elephant, Kid.”

“More like a woolly mammoth, Pal.”

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Dishing Up Pasta

It’s a mac-and-cheese kind of read — comfort food for the literary soul. From beyond the myths of Marco Polo, pasta has traveled the globe in many forms from different cultures. Which came first, the Chinese noodle or the Italian spaghetti? Who knows for certain, but we do know that Thomas Jefferson introduced the colonies to macaroni and cheese, solidifying a future for America’s top pasta.

Writers took to pasta like worker bees, buzzing around the idea of how to dish it up in a story. Like fine dining or a casual dish to pass, these stories will leave you wanting seconds.

The following is based on the September 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes pasta.

PART I (10-minute read)

Tradition by Reena Saxena

We love Grandma, and yet are never on the same page where food is concerned. She cannot appreciate the subtle flavors in a pasta or pizza, or the convenience of having carbs, proteins and fats all in a single meal. She is so stuck up in her concept of a traditional Indian thali meal. Who has the time for that kind of luxury eating?

Yet, today, as I celebrate a festival away from home, I miss the unique, delicate flavors of different dishes. I try to put a meal together. I am more Indian at heart than I realized.

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Pasta Bee by Floridaborne

She waited for her word, looking down from the stage of her elementary school auditorium.   She’d loved sitting at the kitchen table learning to spell while pasta cooked and tomato sauce simmered on her mother’s stove.  She didn’t like standing under lights, stared at by 200 people.

“Antonia Giordano, spell…”

Starched ruffles itched at her neck, compliments of the dress her mother sewed from remnants for this occasion.  But that didn’t stop her from spelling out a word she’d known since the age of two.

“S-p-a-g-h-e-t-t-i,” she replied.

Maybe next year they’d give her a harder word; like Vermicelli.

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Too Bad It’s True by Susan Sleggs

Dear Diary, They say pasta is a comfort food. I’m choosing to believe that and plan to make a serving every Saturday from here to forever because it seems I end up at one hospital or another on Sunday. A few months ago I sat with my sister while she and her husband decided whether kidney dialysis was worth the extra time on earth for him. Two weeks ago it was my daughter fighting sepsis (she won) and this Sunday it was my son with a smashed shoulder. The wine is gone tonight, the yummy red sauce pasta awaits.

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Remember that Old Elvis Song, In the Ghetti? by Bill Engleson

“So many noodles in the world. Whatdaya think…? You gotta choose, eh!”

Right, buddy. It’s been a long day, All I want is a quiet bus ride home. But that ain’t happening, is it?

There I am, going all silently rhetorical on the fellow sitting next to me. And all he wants to do is chit-chat about pasta.

I try and remember what Emily Post had to say about Public Transportation Etiquette.

Nothing immediately jumps out.

So, I say, noncommittally, “Noodles?”

“Yeah man,” he says, “My mom’s Mac and Cheese. It was the best.”

Yeah, I think…mine was too.

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara by Bladud Fleas

The rule for pasta requires the water to be as salty as the Mediterranean. Paolo gives thanks it’s not Jordan and the Dead Sea. Nonna scrutinises him as he puts the chopped guanciale in the pan, heating slowly, extracting its flavoursome fat.
She’s a fine mentor; he’s a teaser.

He gets the cream jug from the fridge; she cries out, “ai-ai-ai!” and tries to snatch it but he keeps it out of reach. He laughs then, returns the jug and chooses an egg for beating. She pinches his cheek, within reach. So he knows Carbonara; she’s taught him well.

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Pasta – Preschool Style by Ritu Bhathal

“Okay, today we are making Mother’s Day gifts for your mummies, grandmas, or aunties.

What I want you to do is take the string in one hand, and pick up a piece of pasta.
Remember, the other day, we painted it?

It’s like a tube, and you can thread the string through it, and make a lovely necklace.

No, David, you can’t eat it.

Penny! Stop strangling Julia with the string!

Peter! Don’t tip the tray upside d-…

Don’t worry Mary, we can pick it all up, stop crying, please…”

The life of a pre-school teacher.

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Elbow Macaroni by TN Kerr

Margarite grinned wildly, stepped off the bus and hurried toward me.

When she got close she dropped her backpack and leapt into my arms.

“Holy smokes, Kiddo,” I pushed her hair back and kissed her, “what are you so excited about today.”

“Art class, Daddy. I made a picture of you.”

“With paints?”

“No.”

“With crayons?”

“No, Daddy. Mixed media,”

“Mixed media? What’s that?”

I put her down. She pulled a paper plate from her backpack and showed me.

Macaroni was glued to the plate. There were pencil lines and hints of orange marker. It looked just like me.

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Pasta Pray Tells: What Are We Eating, Exactly? by Peregrine Arc

The little girl grimaced in her seat, staring at her plate of pasta. The garlic bread basket sat in the middle of table, steamy and pleasant. Her parents urged her to try her meal.

The little girl sighed resignedly and tried to eat. The fork and spoon soon fell to her plate with a clatter.

“I can’t do it!” she exclaimed. “Please, don’t make me.”

“Why not, dear?”

“It’s angel’s hair!” the little girl sobbed. “Give it back to them, please!”

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Traditions by Heather Gonzalez

Angela stood on her tiptoes to be able to see over the counter top. Her nonna was mixing the pasta dough with her hands, and she was finally tall enough to watch. Each movement seemed like nonna had choreographed an intricate dance. Fingers and dough intertwining to create the magic of pasta.

After each piece of pasta was perfectly shaped, nonna motioned for Angela to come closer. This was it. She was finally getting a chance to be apart of the magic. Gently she lowered the perfectly crafted dough into the water with pride.

“Al dente. Perfecto.” Nonna smiled.

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A Fish Tale from Lake Country by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It couldn’t be un-seen. It was right there in front of me: the giant spaghetti bowl, the splash of Tante Lianna’s special sauce, meatballs rolling off the table and onto the floor, parmesan spread all over the dining room table, like sleet in a Minnesota mid-June storm.

And the noodles! Seemingly caught in mid-flight from the bowl, they lay heavy as nightcrawlers escaping a flooded sidewalk, the aftermath of the aforementioned storm, turned to punishing rain.

And Uncle Wilford, face down in the middle of it all.

He should have heeded the warning twinge in Tante Lianna’s trick knee.

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Love’s Give and Take by Sascha Darlington

“Pasta Puttanesca? Do I have to perform an intervention?”

“I’m at a crossroads.”

“Something you’re not telling me?”

“It’s not about you. It’s Chloe and that jerk.”

“AKA her husband?”

“He got fired. Wants to be a stay-at-home dad. Do consulting work.”

“Don’t see the problem.”

“You wouldn’t. You’re nothing like him. He’s perpetually lazy, doesn’t know how to use a vacuum or a dustpan. Stove’s foreign as well.

“Why’s this your problem?”

“I promised Mom I’d look after Chloe. I’ve failed.”

“He’s failing. Your pasta smells good.”

“Have some.”

“You didn’t use anchovies?”

“Not when you hate them.”

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Peter the Pasta Maker by Michael Grogan

Peter, the Pasta Maker, was a jolly chap.

Peter had a crush on the Lady Macaroni who would swan in each day and buy his freshest pasta. She never passed the time of day with him, she was focused on her pasta.

Always five hundred grams of spaghetti, she could never be tempted by a fettuccine or a Peter’s famous spiral.

One day she surprised him by asking he would cook for her, a pasta party with Peter the Pasta Maker would go well she thought.

Peter was flattered and prepared to make Lady Macaroni his best ever pasta.

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Flash Fiction by The Dark Netizen

“Is the order for table number ten ready?”

I turned the blaze of the cooking flame down and grasped the pan in my left hand. With my right hand, I expertly arranged the lines of spaghetti on the plate. Reuben walked up to me and winked.

“You know, she’s looking quite fine in her black dress today.”

I peeked outside through the kitchen door window. There she was again, sitting in perfect poise, making my heart beat harder. Reuben whispered.

“Tell her, man!”

I put the final touch on the dish with the red sauce.

“A red heart, sweet!”

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A Visit To The ER by Patrick O’Connor

“Pasta! I want pasta!”

“It must be penne pasta, with meatballs, and marinara.”

The doctor stared at me with a quizzical look.

My wife shook her head and said “That sounds about right. He loves his pasta.”

After the x-rays, CT Scan, and EKG, they worked on getting the blood pressure back up.

“I’m sure your wife will take you to get some pasta once you are released.”

“I’ll make sure of it Doctor.”

Seemed like forever before we got out of the ER.

Got to the restaurant and ordered penne pasta with meatballs and marinara.

“I’m not hungry.”

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Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

“Would you like some spaghetti bolognaise, Nan?”

“Absolutely not. I don’t eat that foreign food. Nasty, gloopy stuff. You can’t even pick it up on your spoon properly; it slithers right off.”

“Why don’t you just give it a try, Nan? It really is very tasty with David’s sauce.”

“No, thank you. I would rather eat English mashed potatoes. Such a versatile food. Did I ever tell you how we used it to make pastry during the war when we couldn’t get flour?”

“Yes, Nan,” said Julie with a sigh. “You have told me about potato pastry many times.”

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Lunch by oneletterup

“I think I know who she is.”
“What should we do?”

They whisper, but she hears.
Crouching in the hall shadows. Hidden.
Disappearing. Like before.

“Lunch time!” the nice man calls.
The little girl and little boy are at school.
She perches on the edge of her chair.
Her very own place at their table.

“Honey…” the nice lady begins.
“We’re so sorry…”
Looking down.
“You can’t stay here anymore.”

The girl freezes. Stares. Forkful of spaghetti suspended.
Fingers clench into a fist snapping the fork upright.
Steaming tomato sauce spatters.
Drips down her hand.
Red spreading. Staining.
Everywhere.

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Pasta for Breakfast by Norah Colvin

Papa Bear pushed back his chair. “Not this muck again.”

Mama Bear stopped mid-ladle. “It’s Baby Bear’s favourite. I— I thought it was yours too.”

Baby Bear’s lip quivered.

“Pfft! Sometimes a bear needs real food.” He grabbed his hat. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Papa!” Baby Bear went after him.

Mama Bear dumped the porridge, pot and all, into the bin, grabbed her hat and followed.

“Where are we going?” asked Baby Bear.

“Somewhere nice for breakfast. It is spring after all.”

Papa Bear paused outside BreakFasta Pasta, then went in.

Mama Bear smiled; pasta was her favourite.

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The Legendary Feud by Anurag Bakhshi

The boy’s great-great-great-grandfather was apparently the one to blame

For he called the pasta sauce of the girl’s great-great-great-Nonna tagliatelle, listless and tame

The echo of that insult had now been felt by these two star-crossed lovers

Who, let’s admit it, were just looking for some good old action between the covers

Their dead bodies were a testament to the folly of pride

A lesson that a family pasta recipe is not something to mock or deride

As the Bard put it so succinctly- For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo

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No Pasta Was Harmed in Making This Story by Anne Goodwin

She snipped off the seal and upended the pack. Closed her eyes as fusilli clattered into the bowl. Paused, shook her head, reached for the rigatoni bag.

An hour later, there was barely room for his coffee cup among the bowls of dried pasta on the kitchen worktop. “Tell me, you’re cooking dinner at six in the morning or you’ve invited a kindergarten class for hands-on play?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m researching sound effects for my radio drama next month.”

“You’ve set it in a restaurant? In Italy?”

“A shack in Madagascar. I’m recreating rain on a corrugated-iron roof.”

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My London Marathon by Kelvin M. Knight

I squinted through the rain. The other competitors looked comically savage – the way their dyed hair dripped down their faces. Nonetheless, these fun runners were out my league. Hugging my bin liner coat, I felt under dressed. I felt under trained. I should have done more. These words were my epitaph.

Still, I eat more than anyone else at the pasta party yesterday evening, so the complex carbohydrates would be on my side, along with this pantomime horse, this huge banana, and this Herculean woman with a refrigerator chained to her back.

Groaning, I waved at the BBC cameraman.

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World’s Worst Poem, Plated by Chelsea Owens

Perdonnez, signora, will you taste my
veritable vermicelli which lost a

Tagliatelle or gnocchi -or was
it tortellini or gemelli?- that cost a

Few dozzina homemade noodles: measured,
mixed, rolled, chopped, shaped, and boiled -hasta

Domani, questa mattina -when nappy
And wriggly rigatoni-head rastas

Dangle candid cannelloni for
colazione (o pranzo o cena o altro) sauced, a

Banchetto of bavett, bucatini,
bigoli, e barbina; which fosta

Amore, our home country joy; precious
mem’ries of mamma o zia o ci, who bossed a

Flourishing, famishing family,
practically-plated with a plethora of pasta.

If that doesn’t bake your noodle, you’ve lost-a.

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Pasta by Anita Dawes

What is it good for, not eating.
Throw it at the wall, see if it sticks.
Leave it until it falls off, give it to the kids to play with.
Oh, wait a minute they have already done that.
My granddaughters have used it for school projects
Picture frames you cannot dust…
The Italians love to tell us it has to be Al dente, the bite.
The thought of eating pasta makes me want to run for the hills…
And I know it’s well-loved across the globe
But seriously, why was it ever invented?
Does it grow on trees?

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PART II (5-minute read)

Mangia, Sii Benedetto e Mangia! by JulesPaige

Mama thought a good way to teach us to listen was to keep our mouths full. Mama would serve us bountiful plates of Orecchiette. Sometimes the way Nonna Bella would make It, or she used recipes from Nonna Julia. Northern and Southern Italians cooked a bit differently. But there was always too much food!

Nonna Bella made rich red tangy sauces. While Nonna Julia employed creamy cheeses to dress her pasta.

Today you can get Gluten free pasta. Though Doc’s say a serving is one cup cooked of any shape you choose. And that Isn’t nearly enough, is it?

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Boon or Bane? by Deepa

I was drenched in sweat that soaked the back of my clothes like a scattered map. My fitness tracker blinked up a new record today. It was the best result accomplished for my running record.

Well, don’t I deserve a small treat?

I swiped the pasta mania app in my mobile and selected the double cheese creamy chicken pasta, porcini mushroom, and an orange drink to balance my cheesy treat.

From a fitness tracker to palatable feelings, everything in a swipe at your door service.

Mobile apps, is it a boon or a bane?

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So What’s for Dinner? by Di @ pensitivity101

Tomatoes red,
Tomatoes green,
Hundred of marbles
On vines to be seen.
Pasta is long,
Pasta is thick,
Cheesy or savoury,
It’s simple and quick.
Put them together
A meal in a flash,
Wholesome and nourishing,
Even better than mash.
Add meat and an onion
For spaghetti bolognese,
Or kidney beans and chilli
On somewhat colder days.
Pasta is versatile,
Be it boiled or baked,
One thing I’ve not tried yet
Is a pasta filled cake.
Macaroni is pasta,
Add sugar and UHT
To make a sweet pudding
As afters for tea.
Pasta’s a staple,
For Hubby and me.

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Chester, the Reluctant Dinner Guest by Molly Stevens

“Myra invited us over for pasta tonight,” Ruth said.

“Pasta?” said Chester. “Don’t she mean spaghetti?”

“No, she was clear about it. She said pasta.”

“Well, la-de-da! That’s what she calls it, does she? Was there another fancy name stuck to her highfalutin pasta, like ‘prime-a-veers?’”

“She didn’t say. It’ll be a surprise.”

Harrumph. “I better grab a six-pack of Papst Blue Ribbon. I know she’ll be pourin’ some cheek wine, like chardonnee that will give me heartburn.

“You can always stay at home if you’d like.”

“Nah, I’ll go with along you. Besides, I’m clean out of SpaghettiOs”

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Mother’s Italian Cooking by AbijitRay

“I am going out, shall be back by evening.”

“I am making a new dish Shailaja, don’t go before you try.”

“Mother has become adventurous;” wondered Shailaja, “she is experimenting with non Indian recipes!”

“What’s cooking mother? Am I your only guinea pig?”

“Today I am making Italian noodles.”

“Italian noodles, mother! Its called vermicelli; noodle is Chinese. Spoken in public, this may result in a diplomatic incidence!”

“Stop lecturing, try this out. This is vermicelli cooked Indian way.”

Shailaja found her mother in kitchen juggling a cook book in Hindi along with a host of vegetables and spices.

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Remembering Terra by Saifun Hassam

Down at the SeaQuail Market, by the old Fishermen’s wharf, we feasted on a picnic lunch under blue summer skies.

Jumbo pasta shells overflowing with sautéed shrimp, sun-drenched tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red and green bell peppers, olives, garlic and onions marinated in olive oil and just that delicate touch of rosemary, fennel and basil.

A generous sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheese.

Espresso coffee and cinnamon ginger fudge.

In a week, Adriana, an astronaut and biochemist, would report for training for her first assignment to Mars. She was my sister. Would we ever see each other again?

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

David shut the door, shaking his head. Heather smirked. “Who was that?”

“The Pastafarians,” he said with a flourish.

“Welcome to Austin, right?”

“You’d think they’d respect dinner time.”

“What did he say, about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”

They watched the disciples slink down the driveway, the tallest holding a book with a noodle dangling from the binding. “Do you think they’re serious?”

David shrugged, halfway holding a smile. “No. Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the point. We take this stuff too seriously.”

“Careful. You could get struck down talking like that.”

“Wouldn’t that just prove their point?”

🥕🥕🥕

Fettuccini Afraid-O by Susan Shuman

“This menu is amazing…” Shelley feigned enthusiasm.

“Get whatever you want,” Eddie shrugged. “Looks like you could use a good meal.”

“Oh, I can’t decide…”

Eddie wished she’d leave her hair alone. It looked like she was trying to strangle her fingertips with it. “Why are you doing that?”

“Huh?” Shelley let go of her hair. “Oh, bad habit.” Her throat tightened.

The waitress brought a steaming loaf of bread to their table and began rattling off the pasta specials.

That’s what did it.

Shelley stifled a scream and scrambled for the door—

Phagophobia: a legacy from her mother.

🥕🥕🥕

Pasta by Deborah Lee

Jane ambles through the grocery store, pushing a cart and luxuriating in the experience of grocery shopping. Like people who have a food budget, cupboards to store recipe ingredients, a kitchen for melding them into a home-cooked meal, refrigerator for leftovers.

She hesitates in the pasta aisle, torn between the thought of a steak or her mother’s standby, macaroni with tomatoes and cheese melted through. She used to think of pasta as poor-people food – before she became a poor-people. But it will always be comfort food, Jane thinks, tossing three times as much as she needs into her basket.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace

Slide down the rabbit hole or step behind the curtain. Here you will find the wonders of an epic workplace. From young entrepreneurs going door-to-door to ranch pals riding the range, there’s a world of epic places to work.

Writers set about their own workplaces to draw upon imagination, stories, or memories to write about the place many of us will spend the majority of our adult lives. It best be epic!

The following are based on the September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace.

PART I (10-minute read)

Door-to-door by Bill Engleson

“He’s so young,” I can hear my mother say.

“He’s fourteen,” my father states the obvious.

“That’s what I mean. Delivering papers is one thing. People ask to have the paper delivered. They want kids delivering the news. But this?”

I’ve been delivering the Snuffle River Clarion six days a week for three years. Seventy customers. That’s been my bar. It goes down every so often. People move. A few have died.

But I ain’t a kid any longer.

The future is in door-to-door.

Watkins Products!

Spices!

Vegetable Oil Soap, ‘Pure Enough To Eat!’

Liniment!

I’ll make a fortune.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic by Reena Saxena

“Can I meet one of the seniors before I join?”

“Sure! They are happy to meet prospective employees.”

I find myself opposite the legendary whistle-blower of the topmost bank. I forgot to blink.

“I know, kid! Many people believed that no other firm will offer me employment after that courtroom battle. But this is a company that values integrity. Integrity doesn’t mean just not stealing. It means that your thoughts, words and actions always match.”

Now, this was a tough one. Most of us cannot lay claim to such a lofty value system.

“Actually, I have another offer, Sir…..”

🥕🥕🥕

Retreat by Sarah Whiley

I’d been away for work at a beautiful spot, facilitating a retreat for carers. The aim – respite and pampering, for three days.

I’d worked hard to ensure they’d had everything they needed, and could truly unwind from the demands of looking after the person they cared for.

I opened up a package that had arrived for me in the mail that day.

I held a flat rock with a detailed image of the mountain landscape where we’d been.

“Thank you” the card read, “I’ve found the inspiration to paint again”.

What an epic workplace, I thought, choking back tears.

🥕🥕🥕

Workplace by The Dark Netizen

A new day begins. Can’t wait to get to work!

I love working here. Our work areas are customizable. Today feels like a day for a sky blue theme. Also, I’m thinking a nice ten inch pepperoni pizza for lunch today. Oh! And a nice pitcher of wheat beer to wash it down with. All this on company expense. Sounds like a great day already. The best part about my workplace and job, is my boss. He’s such a fun guy. Speaking of which, need to take his call now.

“Good morning, sir! Righto! On my way, Mr. Santa!”

🥕🥕🥕

My Workplace My Heaven by Deepa

I thought
the kitchen was the best
but aroma disturbed me
then settled to my balcony
but eyes grazed the crowd
I thought
the park would be perfect
but the emotions stirred deep
and saddened me further
finally found a place of peace
uninterrupted and serene
because no one dares me here

when ideas trigger me
I make an excuse
and rush to the hole
I sit on top of it
with my legs dangling
in water cold
I love this place
because ideas don’t just
happen in certain places
they happen at
certain times
in the loo too

🥕🥕🥕

Opportunity by Abhijit Ray

“We are investing big money to set up new research center,” Human Resource manager pointed at the aerial photograph, identifying research center, administrative building, crèche, jogging track, “we are the best paymasters; we arrange relocation and accommodation, we take care of health and welfare of employees and their families. Other routine benefits you can find in your letter.”

The scope of this Epic opportunity impressed him. “This is the right time to move back and contribute,” he reasoned. Afterall, his initial education was the basis of his higher studies and current life. Question was how to convince his family.

🥕🥕🥕

Heaven by Floridaborne

Most people say they want a great view, presidential fringe benefits, or freedom to work anywhere outside an office when asked, “What’s your epic workplace?”

After 40 years of office intrigue, being targeted by the cliques I wouldn’t join, and enduring lighting levels that left me with daily headaches, I’ve finally achieved my idea of heaven.

I’m a sub-contractor working with people I consider family. I have autonomy over a specific job in a corner office with window blinds to control the amount of light inside, a 32” computer screen, and the fluorescent lighting outside my office is off.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

“Where did you say you worked?”

“I didn’t say but I can work any place and any time. My mobile office is comprehensive. I have two laptops, two cell phones and an ipad.”

“Really, that is interesting. Do you work from home then?”

“As I said, I work from anywhere. Sometimes I work from home, but I also work on planes, trains and when I am a passenger in a car. I work from hotel rooms and while I am at swimming lessons with my children. I even work while they attend music lessons and karate. It is epic.”

🥕🥕🥕

First Day at Work by Anurag Bakhshi

Maria could feel the hills come alive with music as the magnificent scenery unfolded before her. Mother Superior had been right, this WAS an epic workplace.

With renewed confidence, she gazed into the eyes of the handsome but stern-looking man who was standing next to to the seven unruly little ones…her future wards…if she could somehow impress the man, and that dazzling beauty standing next to him.

But before she could say anything, the man spoke up, “Miss Maria, let’s start at the very beginning. This is my wife Snow White, and these are the seven dwarfs.”

🥕🥕🥕

Epic by Ritu Bhathal

The door opened into a room where the atmosphere was teeming with enthusiasm.
Everywhere, industrious individuals attempted to solve their own problems in inventive manners.

There were specific areas for everything, from creative, to constructive, collaborative to computing.

A second door led to a huge outside area, filled with opportunities to stretch ideas.
Turning back into the room, I knew this was it. This was the place I wanted to be, the most epic workplace I’d encountered.

A classroom that put the children’s interests first, that stretched their thinking and allowed them to grow as individuals.

This was it.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Work by D. Avery

One woman told about her daughter the pilot; she mentioned three children that were pilots and one that worked for NASA.

A man bragged about his son the writer; she enumerated her journalists, artists and published authors.

She shared her pride for her children that served in the military, fire, rescue, and police forces, beamed about those that had become nurses and doctors, spoke warmly of the children that stayed close to home and were good citizens.

Finally someone cried foul.

“You can’t possibly have so many children!”

“As a teacher I’ve made a difference for hundreds of children.”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by oneletterup

“I’m doing my works!”
The little girl demonstrates.
Carefully pouring water from cup to bowl.

The silent visitor watches in surprise.
She’s never seen such a grand school.

Small wooden tables and chairs. A low matching sink.
Sun pouring in on many bright, happy faces.
The little boy calls out “Me too. Look at my works!”
Red cubes stacked high.

A place for important work. For all.
Pouring. Sorting. Counting. Writing.
Girls and boys. Older helping younger.
Just like her.

The teacher, sitting on the big rug, smiles.
“Please join us for circle time.”

“Welcome to Greenwood Montessori school.”

🥕🥕🥕

It’s EPIC by Norah Colvin

Roll up! Roll up! Come one, come all. This new attraction will have you enthralled. Bring parents, bring partners, siblings and friends. No one’s excluded. It’s Earth’s latest trend. Your eyes won’t believe. Your ears won’t deceive. It’s a sensory explosion, for all to explore. It’s entertaining, electrifying, edifying too. It’s a universe first, and it happened on Earth. It’s empowering, engrossing. There’s so much to see. With no space left empty, it’s elaborate, exciting, extols energy. With exquisite exhibits and enlightening exposures, it’s the most, enticing, enriching, educational environment, established on Earth. It’s EPIC, the Exceptional Pinterest-Inspired Classroom.

🥕🥕🥕

Devil Boat by TN Kerr

I read that she was called “The Devil Boat” in reference to Revelations Chapter 13. We never called her that. The USS HAWKBILL SSN666 was a highly decorated Sturgeon Class Attack Submarine.

What was most grand about her was the crew.

Every crewman on a submarine stakes his survival on the skills and knowledge of the rest. This creates a bond. It builds pride in self and in others as, daily, you do more than you ever thought possible.

It’s a dangerous and cramped workplace. It’s not for everyone. It sometimes stinks. It frustrates. I’d undoubtedly do it again.

🥕🥕🥕

When You Always Get Your Murds Wuddled by Geoff Le Pard

‘God…’

‘What’s up mate? Looks like you’ve just been told you’re the love child of the Donald and Kim Un Kardashian?’

‘My mum. Given me a right bollocking. Apparently I just called my grandma and told her that I’d just “waxed her high and wide” as promised.’

‘Geez, mate, that’s a bit… saucy.’

‘I taxed her Hyundai. I was trying to help but she’s Mrs Malaprop made flesh.’

‘Poor old thing.’

‘I know. She told dad how pleased she was that my new workplace was epic.’

‘You told me it was manky.’

‘I said, quote, “it’s totally septic, grandma”.’

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

“Noah, Noah, Noah…”

I broke off my thoughts, elbow deep in the murk of dishwater and some epic plotting. Rhonda stared at me over a haphazard pile of pots and dishes, used napkins, trash and utensils. ‘I swear kid, sometimes I wonder where you go in that head of yours. Anyway, this is the last of the buffet.”

She stalked off to smoke. I turned to the load. A three-gallon pot of Clam chowder with a day’s worth of insulation around the lip. I picked up my scraper and smiled. I had all night to get this chapter right…

🥕🥕🥕

Games Omniverse – Epic Workplace by Kerry E.B. Black

They’re all so much younger than me, but I find their Millenial energy invigorating. I know they look on me as the Grandma of the bunch. They turn eye-rolls when I’ve fouled another computer task and hide their smiles when I say something about “me me’s” instead of saying “memes.”

Yet somehow, I bring something to the group. I’d never be so vain as call it wisdom, and my experiences aren’t always helpful. However, it works. When they need copy, I pound on the keyboard until some small magic occurs, and the Angel in charge nods.

“This’s good. Thanks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dream Job by D. Avery

“I have had a lot of other jobs, but this is by far the best. I mean, it can be intense, but I enjoy the challenge. In my present work I am able to really use and incorporate all my previous experiences and prior knowledge to advantage. And I have a lot of latitude, a lot of freedom. I often work outside, I can dress how I want, set my own hours… it’s pretty awesome. Dream job. I am really enjoying myself.”

“Uh, Dude, you’re unemployed. You haven’t worked in months.”

“But I have been working at writing! Epic!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Amazing-Magician-From-India-With-Love by papershots

On-the-subway-for-spare-change, “with a white string I can make stand straight and hard, look!” leaps into the intermittent morning waltz of in…and-out, back…and-forth, you…getting-off?. When in the middle of his feat of magic the poor-Bosnian-I-live-in-a-shack with-this-little-girl please-help-me “20 cents to buy milk” gets on and sees the Amazing-Magician-from-India-etc…

The who-drowns-out-who challenge is on! Yeah! No.

“Please,” she starts, “ladies and gent…” then breaks off, gets off, the code of conduct of the beggars who can’t choose which train to ticketless-ly attack. “The white string stands straight and hard, look!” Not much change, though, in the worn-out Kullu cap.

🥕🥕🥕

The Call by Anne Goodwin

Bile stinging her throat, she pressed the green icon.

“Homer here.” His tone gave nothing away.

“Thanks for …” Her whole future in that pause.

“Congratulations!”

Joy of joys! She didn’t need to hear more. But was she up to it? Could she bear to uproot herself and begin again somewhere new? “Sorry, I’ll have to turn it down.”

“Excellent!”

Excellent? They didn’t want her after all? She reran his offer in her head: I’m calling to invite you on the adventure of working with us. Of course: to earn the elixir, an employee must first reject the call.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

My Log Cabin by Kelvin M. Knight

Briefcase in hand, I kiss my wife at the patio door. ‘See you tonight.’

‘Have a great day at work, darling.’

A short stride across our lawn and I am here, where everything’s clean and pine fresh. Varnish shines the floor. An uncluttered desk smiles. There are no pictures, no ornaments. This empty space. This creative space.

Free even from books, those to be read and those to be filled – my precious notebooks.

Relaxing in my chair, I open my briefcase, remove my laptop. Tranquility washes over me. Nodding, I let this blank screen write its story upon me.

🥕🥕🥕

Cloud Covers by Chelsea Owens

“How’s it goin’, Nim?” called a breathy voice. He looked up. And up. And to the side. There was Cirrus, waving and smiling.

“Er… it’s a breeze.” He paused. “How ’bout you?”

“Clear skies here.”

“Cool, cool.” Nimbostratus faced forward again, his harness jangling. With utmost care he applied another layer of white. Now just to add a touch of grey…

“I saw Cumulo yesterday,” Cirrus flurried. She never could stay still.

“Mm-hmm.” Dip. Paint.

Cirrus also disliked inattention. She dropped in altitude. “He said: BOOM!”

“AAAH!” Nimbostratus yelled.

“Looks a bit greyer than initially predicted,” the weatherman noted.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace by Ann Edall-Robson

The room is pristine to start, but soon takes on a look somewhat chaotic. Books spread out across open spaces where once there were thoughts of organization and streamlining the hours to make them as productive as possible. Sounds of thunking, banging, clinking as doors open and close revealing needed tools. There are small marred bits of paper, tattered edged recipes, speckled from age and use. No one interrupts in this epic workplace where the tantalizing smells and mouth watering finales meld as one. To do so would jeopardize the anticipation of savouring the memories coming from the kitchen.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Susan Sleggs

If someone asked where I would like to have an epic quilting space, I would answer, on a bluff overlooking the Oregon coast, or high in a sky scraper with lots of windows to admire the scenery day and night, or perhaps on Flathead Lake in Montana to view the mountains and water. But let’s be logical about this; if I’m sewing I’m not looking at a view. I think I’ll keep the 600 square feet in the basement of my current home. Peace resides there and my cats keep me company. Besides I’m usually working in my pajamas.

🥕🥕🥕

Space…the Final Frontier by Kayuk

Words, like hammers, pound into me …again. “Isn’t there ONE SINGLE SPACE in this house I can put my things?”

Tears beg release. Manly things are piled on sofas, beds, tables, and floors in every room. A year after moving in, I’m still an intruder in a man’s sanctuary.

The tirade continues but, through patio doors, a shady table and chair await me. Abutting the grass is a lovely pond, with a serene view of ducklings following mama.

He storms out and, laptop in hand, I sigh and step through the door to a warm breeze and epic workplace.

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace by Frank Hubeny

Eric was a loner. That’s why he liked people. They were rare like deer or bear in the distance. He took a break from thinning paper company land with brush saw holstered on his back and his head lost in his helmet.

He saw the hikers coming. One of them asked him if they were still on the Appalachian Trail. “Yes! Keep going. It’s right over there.” The trail wasn’t easy to see.

Eric wondered why people walked that trail, but he was glad to see them. He was glad he could give someone good directions on their way.

🥕🥕🥕

Green Crater by Saifun Hassam

Jeff, Valerie and Carmen trekked from the rim of Green Crater to Green Crater Lake, formed millennia ago. Wind and water had weathered the extinct volcano’s steep ravines to valleys with gentle slopes. Every year, the rangers visited the Crater area, one of Special Ecological Habitats.

For Jeff, the Crater was his epic workplace, one he explored in the winter as well. By late spring the snows had melted. The lake and its marshy shores, attracted deer, egrets, migrant ducks and geese. Last summer, Jeff saw a bobcat. Today, a rattlesnake, basking in the sun on smooth rounded stones.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Cards by D. Avery

The guys had circled their beer coolers for poker night in Ernest’s garage, where it was less humid than the trailer.

“Marge, I can’t believe you quit being shop foreman to work in this two-bit two bay garage. Left the largest dealership around — state of the art equipment, only working on newer vehicles–”

“Yeah”, chimed Lloyd. “Epic.”

“The work here’s actually more interesting, our customers bring us all sorts of mechanical mysteries to be solved. It’s more personal. And I got tired of babysitting.”

“Oooh, personal! Marge and Ernest up in a tree…”

“Like I said…”

“Epic”, Lloyd repeated.

🥕🥕🥕

Upward Mobility (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Mist rose from the pond with the morning coolness of a mountain camp at 7,000 feet. Danni stretched in sun salutations on the sagging porch of her Forest Service cabin while coffee percolated. The aroma grew strong, and she padded back inside on bare feet to pour a cup. The rest she saved for her thermos. As she drove her quad toward the archeological dig, Danni spotted elk, a skittering coyote and a Cooper’s hawk. At the worksite, trenches waited for the volunteers who would follow. She contemplated her epic workplace. At last, Danni would be the lead archeologist.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sign of the Times by Di @ pensitivity101

Scott loved his job at the Living Museum. It was inspired, and different.
Admittance was free, but there were warnings about laser lights and flashing images.
Only fifty people were admitted at any one time, the doors closing behind them.
The room was dark, save for a single spot of light on the far wall.
The music started, loud and upbeat. Lights pulsed to the rhythm, and the magic began.
Holographic figures moved amongst them, through them, so real and yet only a projected image. Patrons felt themselves drawn into a time past, present and future all at once.

🥕🥕🥕

Working on The Unsinkable Ship by Peregrine Arc

“They’re wanting sheets in cabin four, Miss Elizabeth.”

“Yes, miss. I’ll get them right away,” the maid said politely with a curtsy to her matron.

“And be sure you’re minding your place. Just because we’re working in first class doesn’t mean—”

But Elizabeth was already down the hallway, gathering clean linens in the laundry room. Her friend Gayle was there, in the corner where they whispered their secrets and dreams.

“Just think of it, Liz! Us—on the Titanic!”

🥕🥕🥕

Epic Workplace by Anita Dawes

The cleaning job I had in my twenties holds one sad memory.

Springfield Hospital, a building held together by sadness. The people inside, old, forgotten.

A woman of about eighty, taken for her daily bath, left alone in this cold room. Her arms reaching over the bath edge, pleading to be taken out.

Matron caught me, told me to get on with my work, which I found hard to do.

Now a block of posh flats stands where the hospital used to be.

I wonder what kinds of sounds echo around those walls now.

Do they drip with sadness?

🥕🥕🥕

Average Day At Work by Heather Gonzalez

Marcus stepped heavy steel-toed boots into his coveralls. Zipping up with a firm grip, it shielded the majority of his body. Then putting on gloves and safety goggles, he was now ready to start his work day. The odor that permeated the scene had become commonplace for him. Even before he reached the body, he noticed that the decomposition process had already begun. Climbing under the caution tape, Marcus surveyed the environment to make sure that all of the evidence was tagged beforehand. Whoever did this, definitely didn’t think about who would have to clean it up this mess.

🥕🥕🥕

New Beginnings by Kelvin M. Knight

Blades of grass lifted the stones like they were grains of sand – stones bigger than me. Walking over this grass, I felt as though I were walking on springs – those metallic contraptions Father used to create timepieces – despite time measuring being forbidden.

‘Forbidden yet fantastical.’ These words flowed from a forest whose leaves rose into the sky, over and over, like rippling water.

Ignoring them, I sat crosslegged and thought, Hullo, I’m your new apprentice.

‘I know.’ A man appeared before me brandishing two crystal balls.

‘For me?’

‘For yours. For mine.’ Laying them at my feet, he disappeared.

🥕🥕🥕

Virtual Reality by D. Avery

“Jeez, Kid, that post was kinda trippy. Had ta wunder ‘bout Shorty fer a bit there…”

“Trippy? Have ta wunder ‘bout you, Pal.”

“It’s a wunder we git anythin’ done aroun’ here what with all the yackin’. Saddle up, Kid, it’s time ta ride.”

“Pal, do we ride or write? This kin be punny place, I git confused.”

“Reckon, you an’ me, we ride, jist do ranch-like chores.”

“Good, writin’s too much work. I’d ruther be herdin’ strays, tendin’ the stock, ridin’ the range… It’s beautiful here.”

“Yep. We really have an epic workplace, Kid.”

“I imagin’ we do.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bottlenecks

Whether you are slammed in a bottleneck of traffic or sitting on the front porch slamming back bottlenecks of beer, the time such moments lend a person is pause to contemplate. Bottlenecks might slow down processes or create unexpected releases.

Stories about bottlenecks vary in design as much as glasswork. You might feel the urge to wedge a lime into a bottleneck of your own as you read.

The following are based on the August 30, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a bottleneck.

Part I (10-minute read)

Commuting by kate @ aroused

My senses were being assaulted by the cacophony of others preferred listening choices. Our windows were wound down to catch any air. Driving home during peak hour was a drag, concentrating on traffic after intense work.

The main thought that was getting me through was of the sushi I’d picked up and the promise of a long hot shower. Then curling under my sheet with a good book … the kind you held and turned the pages. Electronic reading was not for me.

My wandering mind is brought back with a jolt as the traffic bottlenecked around an accident.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by FloridaBorne

We waited behind a semi, unable to see what blocked the road ahead. I sneezed at the diesel exhaust and asked my wife, “Found anything yet?”

The truck moved forward a few feet, and then stopped again, cars merged from the left lane as my wife stared at her tablet. “We’ll be out of this bottleneck in another 50 feet.”

“Was there an accident?”

“No,” she sighed. Traffic moved past an area where the left lane was devoid of anything but a lone boot.

That’s all it takes to stop traffic in LA — a shoe in the road.

🥕🥕🥕

Acrostic Bottleneck by TN Kerr

B eneath the dormant wheels
O f this sharp, sleek, motionless luxury automobile
T he motorway lies still, inert and unmoving despite my serious objections. Roll up the windows then,
T he heat is relentless and the malodourous exhaust fumes of a thousand cars
L ingers and mingles languidly with the
E ther that surrounds us.
N eedless to say, we should take the next available
E xit, we should find a relaxing spot to picnic; or a back road we might use as an alternative – a means to
C ircumnavigate this bottleneck, else we won’t be home before
K wanzaa, and it’s not yet Guy Fawkes Night.

🥕🥕🥕

Idiots on the Road (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Ike passed cars like a Hollywood speed-chase. Danni put her hand on his knee, “Slow down.”

“These idiots on the road are going to cause an accident.”

Danni kept her opinion that Ike was the one driving like an idiot. You’d think he was chasing down Al Qaeda in a Humvee the way he swerved around slower vehicles.

Stands of pines zipped past until traffic ahead came to a bottleneck at Culvers Point. Ike swore smooth as opera. Tourists stopped in the road to snap pictures of a mama moose. Danni reminded Ike, “Remember, we’re in Idaho, not Iraq.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lemons, Limes and Other Mysteries by Norah Colvin

She hit the brakes and thumped the steering wheel.

“Mummy swore.”

“Didn’t.”

“I heard.”

“Why we stopped, Mummy?”

“There’s a traffic jam.”

“Jam? I love stawbrey jam sammich.”

“Not that jam — must be a bottleneck up ahead.” Please be a merge, not an accident.

“We learned ‘bout bottlenecks today.”

“What?”

“Live in the ocean. Maminals, like us. Where’s bottleneck, Mummy?”

“Not bottleneck, Jamie, bottlenose.”

“You said bottleneck.”

“I meant — aargh!”

Finally, they were home.

“You look frazzled, hon.”

She rolled her eyes and took the beer.

“Why lemon is in your bottle neck?” asked Jamie.

“Because it’s not lime.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Lesson in Trust by Susan Sleggs

My grandson’s dentist appointment was after school which meant dealing with rush-hour traffic. While sitting on the overpass waiting for the light so I could turn onto the expressway ramp, I could look down to gauge the usual traffic bottleneck. Bad news. Traffic was completely stopped. I said, “We’re going for a little ride to avoid the expressway.”

“Ok.”

I wound my way around side streets going north and west.

I heard from the backseat, “I have no idea where we are!”

After two more turns he saw familiar buildings. “You weren’t lost after all Grandma? I was worried.”

🥕🥕🥕

Word Jam by Ritu Bhathal

Words.
Snippets.
Stories.
Poems.
Novels.

The ideas were just pouring out of my mind, my heart, my soul, and I didn’t know where to start.

No, that’s not right.

I knew where to start, I just couldn’t work out where to stop, how to organise the thoughts rushing through me.

My fingers danced across the keyboard, letters appearing, filling pages and pages.

Faster and faster they came, until-

They stopped.

I knew there was more to come out, but it was as if the impatience of my ideas had caused a bottleneck in my brain.

Time for the muse…

🥕🥕🥕

Backcountry Bottleneck by Ann Edall-Robson

A body and soul drive along gravel roads riddled with potholes is nothing short of bliss. The gray matter lodged between the ears has no expectations other than to watch for what Mother Nature has to offer. There is no rush in this journey. It is a plethora of whoa, stop, back up moments soaking in the sights on a trek to an unknown destination. Traffic lights do not exist, and the only bottleneck to endure may be a herd of cattle coming at you on the road. There is nothing like the backcountry to rejuvenate the writing mind.

🥕🥕🥕

Empty Bottles All in A Row by Billy Ray Chitwood

Those empty bottles tell a pitiful story of my life, Buckaroos!

Those empty bottles once carried many of those once-held dreams I carried around in my head, all rather noble and fitting for human consumption – for anyone willing to listen to my maudlin cries for do-overs written out on barroom napkins and motel room stationery.

Those empty bottles lit me up like a neon billboard, allowing me to show off my amazing way with the women and with words.

One thing wrong with that pitiful story…

It left me a ‘wimp of a man’!

So, the tombstone says!

🥕🥕🥕

A Grain Of Sand by Patrick O’Connor

A single grain of sand at a time.

One by one, they slip through the bottleneck of the hourglass.

Our lives, measured in time is representative of those grains of sand.

One day at a time, our lives slip through our fingers.

Are we striving to leave a legacy or simply living for the moment?

Meanwhile, another life gasps as the last grain of sand drops.

A sad day for some; a joy for others.

How will people remember us; or will they remember us at all.

Only time will tell – one single grain of sand at a time.

🥕🥕🥕

The Slide by oneletterup

She sees it. Poking out from under the sofa. She reaches down, closing her hand around the smooth green glass.

Just like Gramma’s! When she played the big guitar. Special for her.

“Honey, this is a bottleneck slide. It goes on my finger. Look!”

Then Gramma would smile, wink and whisper…

“This song is just for you.”

Pressing on the strings, she’d slide the glass. And sing. And fill them both up…

”If not for you…I’d be sad and blue if not for you…”

 

The little girl finds her there.

Holding the green slide. Tight.

“You found it!”

🥕🥕🥕

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams by JulesPaige

Tammy wondered if it was always this hard to buy your first home. You had to prove you were, have been and would be employed – able to make mortgage payments.

What started out as a simple bottleneck situation turned into a log jam. The red tape became like a thick hungry boa constrictor wanting to squeeze the very life from her with having to fill out form after form after form.

There would be a celebration eventually. Hopefully soon. One where she’d invite her best friends to uncork a bottle of champagne. When she finally held her home’s key.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bottle Opener by Robert Kirkendall

A party goer grabbed a longneck bottle of ale from an ice chest and searched around. “Anyone know where the bottle opener is?”

“I got this,” another party goer said as he picked up another beer bottle. “Now give me yours.”

The first party goer handed him his bottle, then the second party goer held his bottle upside down and placed the edge of its bottlecap against the other bottlecap. “A little trick I learned in college, using one bottle to open another.”

A cap popped off and beer spilled all over his pants.

“Ooops, wrong cap came off.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck Life by Kayuk

“Ready for the big job interview this afternoon?”

I grin across the table at Sally, “You bet!  I’ve been preparing for weeks.”

“Well, you certainly look stunning. The old ivory of the suit sets the perfect tone.”

“Thanks”, I say, draping a napkin across my lap and picking up the fork.

Startled by a crash and yell behind me, I leap from my chair and turn in time to see the waiter’s foot descend on a plastic catsup bottle sliding across the floor. Pressurized contents spew from the bottleneck splashing the front of my perfect suit with garish red.

🥕🥕🥕

Trust Deficit by Abhijit Ray

“Bottleneck is always at the top,” thundered CEO in the townhall meeting, on productivity, he convened for his employees, after attending a conference.

“Tell me is what problems you face? Is it resource allocation, time management or decision making?” senior managers shifted uncomfortably in their seats, as chief goaded his employees for a response.

There was pin drop silence, till an eager beaver junior shuffled in his seat. “Idiot! Not yet confirmed, you are a sitting duck,” whispered his friend, “this is all sham. CEO knows very well, where the bottleneck is. He is trying to identify trouble makers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Quality Control by Liz Huseby Hartmann

“There’s your bottleneck,” Justin nodded at the bleach-blonde woman at the end of the production line. A stack of TMPuregold Widgets sat to her left. Picking one, she held it up, squinting along its length, and nodded.

“Lorna’s a bottleneck?” His uncle chewed the end of his mustache.

“She’s slow.”

Lorna picked up another widget, ran her hand across its end, and crooked her finger at a young brunette. They bent their heads together. The younger brought the piece back to her station, smiling.

“I have lots of streamlining ideas, Uncle.”

“Tell your mother we’re not hiring just now.”

🥕🥕🥕

You Made Your Bed by Sascha Darlington

First a bottleneck on the road and now a bottleneck at the charity event. I see who is causing it and suddenly wish I had a bottleneck in my hand, preferably high-proof.

I try to avoid her, but she’s holding court, her brittle laughter wince-worthy. When her eyes focus on me, her lips tighten.

“Surprised you came.”

I sigh. “I’m chair.”

She waggles her diamond before darting to my ex-. Robert glances up. Do I see regret? Perhaps the younger, improved model wasn’t as good as the original.

Jake squeezes my hand. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Mine is though.

🥕🥕🥕

Lil’ Ugly by D. Avery

When he drew a bull called Lil’ Ugly the other cowboys laughed.

Bow legged and barrel-chested with a bottle neck and a jug head, he endured a great deal of ribbing. He disappointed his tormentors by walking away. They could tell they angered him but could never get him to throw a punch. In addition to picking on his looks they questioned his manhood.

As he approached the chute the others joked, wondered who was going to be on top.

They didn’t wonder any longer than eight seconds.

They knew now what he did with his bottled up rage.

🥕🥕🥕

Saddleback Sanctuary (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

Where the valley narrowed, the flagstone path disappeared under boulders and jagged rocks. Landslide from early spring. Diamante surveyed the bottleneck. He weaved carefully around the larger rocks, clambering up and down smaller ones. He paused to rest. A lark flew up into the warm sunny skies. A lizard slithered across the boulder, briefly eyed Diamante, and disappeared. No bottlenecks for lizard or lark.

Another half mile and he was on the flagstone trail again. The ancient abandoned monastery came into view. Near an open broken gate, a giant tortoise slept, its neck well hidden within its saddleback shell.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Bottleneck by Anita Dawes

Something we experience when pushing our way into a new life. A tight space, hard to get out of.

Days when the tension holds on to the back of my neck like giant metal claws.

Other times I feel as if I have been snapped back in time, trapped inside the Trojan horse with a bunch of sweaty human beings, waiting to do battle.

The sun will come back and you can move on with your life. The way ahead is clear, or am I trapped inside someone else’s mind?

Is this the bottleneck that will finally break me?

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by katimac

They say humans of many forms lived a long time ago. Then a natural disaster struck which wiped out nearly all of them. It was most likely the progenitor of the Great Flood stories found in nearly every culture. Geologists can point to physical signs of it all at about the same time, nearly seventy thousand years ago. Anthropologists can point to one at the same time, about seventy thousand years ago, when mankind was reduced to a small bottleneck group on the western coast of Africa. We ain’t none of us lily-white if we go back far enough.

🥕🥕🥕

This Time, This Place by Kelvin M. Knight

Standing in his pulpit, he regarded one bottleneck after another: his overworked PCC; the cavalier making of tea during the service; the choir grumbling behind him; the organ whimpering far far away.

He prayed silently, swiftly. Upon opening his eyes, he spied a congregation transformed. Now they all looked resplendent in starched white collars, whereas he was a shadow, bloated and distorted, and pinched in so many places: from his wallet to his timesharing; from his patience to his love.

Realising he was more guilty than them, he pondered the complexities of daring to share this truth with them.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Exactly an Hour-glass Figure by Di @ pensitivity101

‘You need to go on a diet.’

‘Don’t you start! How can I help it if there’s so much to choose from, I want to try it all?’

‘Somehow seeing you stuck like that is doing you no favours as regards your street cred.’

‘I’ll have you know this colour is very fetching! Brings out the natural blue of my eyes.’

‘At the moment they look a bit bloodshot. You’ve probably cut off your circulation, you’ve gotten so fat.’

‘No need to be nasty. I’ll just make a wish!’

‘But that’s cheating!’

‘Ha! I’m a Genie darling! I’m allowed!’

🥕🥕🥕

Bored Panda by Deepa

Honey, does this look good?

I nod quickly thinking my way to escape.

Is this one better? She asked me.

If I nod again, I fear she’ll say, ‘so what is wrong with the first one?’

Which one do you prefer? This was she again.

Oh, darling! You look equally amazing in both.

Oh, honey! Do you mean to say can I have both?

It is a terror for spouses when it comes to shopping.

A pleasure for sales guys and a reason for more congestion in the roads and malls.
Buy 1, get one free!

🥕🥕🥕

Jessie by Kay Kingsley

It had been 3 weeks and 4 days since Mike and Jessie had broken up and each second that passed was agony for him.

He sat in his usual chair at the bar hoping to be as invisible as he felt, a chameleon basked in neon.

The bar was a loud distraction as he mindlessly stroked the bottle neck, lost in the memory of her smile and the smell of her perfume. Full of regret, his heart ached.

When she touched his shoulder from behind, he looked up and thought it was a dream. They smiled at each other.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by Frank Hubeny

Some say your real brains are in your gut. Bill knew his wasn’t in his brain. Sharon doubted he had any in his gut either.

That’s when she got pregnant and started worrying.

That’s when they had to move to a smaller apartment.

That’s when it looked like he would lose his job.

That’s also when he didn’t lose his job, but got an indirect promotion.

That’s also when they realized they loved that new apartment.

That’s when he held her and told her he was glad she was pregnant.

That’s when she changed her mind about his brains.

🥕🥕🥕

One Night, Both Ends of Life by Paula Moyer

One Night, Both Ends of Life

6:30: the call. Finally, that night.

“Today’s the day.” Her nephew Max, about his father, Jean’s brother.

“Did he die?”

“Yes.” The wait/weight – done. Alcoholic organ failure – complete.

7:30 p.m.: the text. “My water broke.” A very pregnant woman’s message to Jean, her doula. “But nothing’s happening.” Jean gassed up anyway.

9:30: the call. The husband. “It’s time.”

Jean battled State Fair traffic, road work, bridge closures.

10:10: Raced into the birth center. “Waaa!” On the floor: Chux pads, blood everywhere. On the bed: parents and one angry baby.

11:30: the drive home, joy and grief wedged in together.

🥕🥕🥕

Hillsborough, April 1989 by Anne Goodwin

The match was a sell-out, but progress through the turnstiles deathly slow. To ease the tension outside, they opened the gates and funnelled the supporters directly into the already swollen stand. As the game kicked off, no-one heard the protests of those at the front, the screams forced from crushed lungs. While grown men cried for their mams, kids hadn’t the air to whimper. The first to scale the fence were met with truncheons. Belatedly, the ambulances pulled onto the pitch.

No goals were scored that day. But records were broken in the numbers killed at a sporting event.

🥕🥕🥕

The Happiest Traffic Jam on Earth by Chelsea Owens

“When will we get dere?”

Sigh.

“It’s …uh, your turn to answer him, Dear.”

“Whe-e-e-e-en will we get de-e-e-e-ere?”

“I told you, Honey. We’ll be there soon.”

“Yeah. ‘Soon.’”

“You said that a long time ago!”

“Alvy. Honey-”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him-”

“No! You said we go in duh car!”

“Yes, Sweetheart. Vroom! Vroom! Remember?”

“Not vrooming…”

“You said LITTLE ride in duh car!”

“Well, I meant-”

“You did tell him just a little ride-“

WAAAAAAAAAH!

“Dear, please. That’s not helping to side with him…”

“Are we picking sides?”

“WHEN WILL WE GET DERE?!”

“Your turn.”

Sigh.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Boy! by Sarah Whiley

I twisted.

I urged.

Yet still, the cap wouldn’t budge.

I felt so frustrated. This liquid was yearning for release for human consumption and to be enjoyed.

It was a perfect summer’s day for a beer.

Not ready to concede defeat, I kept on trying.

The effort began to hurt my hands.

Damn this thing, I thought.

Then suddenly, I felt it.

A helpful force; working with me from the other side.

Oh joy of joys, the cap began to move!

Finally it was released, and cool liquid amber gushed through the bottle neck.

“It’s a boy!” I smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Music pulsed, matching the thump of my heart in my ears as I leaned in and gave the wine bottle a carefully planned spin. Breath held. The circle tightened. Julie Jennings’ knee touched against mine, the bottleneck now a whir of fate.

Thump. Warmth hit my cheeks as the wand settled on Julia. A nervous laugh. What now? But with a giggle Julie nudged it two more places—miles it seemed!—to the metallic smile of Christina Cash. A small terror in my chest. A gust of strawberries. Julia shrugged, winked, then shoved me off towards her best friend.

🥕🥕🥕

Chester Makes Amends by Molly Stevens

Chester knew he had to dig himself out of a crater after he gave the wrong impression to his wife, Ruth.

He settled on his strategy and said, “I remember the exact moment I knew you was the one. And though it was magic, my decision to ask for your hand in marriage had nothin’ to do with a silly eight ball.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I chose you in the fifth grade.”

“Really?”

“Remember the party at Rosie house? We gathered in a circle, and I spun first. When the bottleneck pointed in your direction, I knew you’d be mine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bottlenecking by Bill Engleson

I peer into the darkness.

Stella’s driving.

The fog’s thicker than shower steam.

“There’s the turnoff,” I point, bumping my digit against the windshield.

“I see it,” she snaps. “I’m not blind.”

“Sorry…” I apologize, shaking my bent finger.

“Did you hurt your pinkie?” she asks.

“No. Just nerves.”

The offramp quickly turns into a one-lane cow path.

“I can barely see,” she offers.

“It’s a good thing you’re driving,” I confess. “I can’t see squat.”

Suddenly, a tiny wooden bridge appears.

“THAT,” she says, “looks flimsy. I’m turning back.”

“Can’t. Bosses party.”

“And we’re…?”

“Yup. The only guests.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Real Winner by Anurag Bakhshi

I looked down at the battlefield, and my heart filled with pride.

My fellow countryman Leonidas and his small band of 300 Spartans had been pitted against more than a million of the invading army of Xerxes.

But the wily Leonidas had taken a stand at a bottleneck in the pass at Thermopylae, and stopped the Persians dead in their tracks for three days.

And the mighty Persian Army would still be fighting a futile battle if I, Ephialtes, hadn’t told them about the hidden path that would allow them to flank Leonidas and his men, and slaughter them.

🥕🥕🥕

Bottleneck by Reena Saxena

“I will not give my land. The price you offer is not enough to sustain me, and I don’t have any other means to earn a livelihood.”

“Do you understand that this is for a mega-project, which will change the face of the countryside. History will not forgive you for being a bottleneck in progress.”

“History might forgive and glorify you, but goodness will not.” He signed the sale deed.

Three years later, the land purchased by the parliamentarian’s brother was sold at thirty times the price he bought it for. It helps to know about future developmental plans.

🥕🥕🥕

Slow and Steady Kid by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal. Have a beer with me. Ever wonder why bottles is shaped the way they are, with the long neck?”

“Mebbe it’s so it’s easier ta pour. But we got no glass nor class, drinkin’ right outta the bottle.”

“If ya hang onta the bottle neck yer beer doesn’t git all warm.”

“Jist drink it down fast. Gimme anuther Kid.”

“I like coozies, ‘specially handy with so many switchin’ ta cans.”

“Don’t need a coozie, jist drink ‘em right down. ‘Nuther, Kid.”

“You prefer bottles, or cans, Pal? Pal?”

“Uh…”

“That was fast. Pal’s downed from downin’ beer.”

🥕🥕🥕

Comet

With trails that stretch across the sky, some comets burn so brightly they appear during the light of day. They burn into our imaginations, sparking questions and prophecies. Some people dance (naked), some despair.

Writers flashed comets this week with tales from around the world and both hemispheres. Take a ride on a comet through the literary art of flash fiction.

The following is based on the August 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet.

PART I (10-minute read)

The Comet of 1858 by James McCanles (5th-great-grandfather of Charli Mills)

Hail! beautious stranger to our sky,
How bright thy robes appear,
Noiseless thou trends thy paths on high,
And converse with all our stars.

In radiant flame of glowing light
Thy silent orb rolls on,
Through vast eternities of night,
To mortal man unknown.

Thy magnitude thy fiery glow,
Thy towering wake of flames,
But mock our wisest skill to know,
We’ve barely learned thy name.

Through boundless depths of space unknown,
Beyond the realms of days,
In blazing language of thy own,
Thou speaks thy Maker’s praise.

Words beyond time stretch comet-like from 1858,
Oldest flash of 2018.

***

NOTE: last two lines added by C Mills to make poem 99 words.

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by Anita Dawes

When I look at a comet, having been lucky enough to see one, I see a giant snowman, throwing a ball of ice across our night sky, with its tail of dust.

We look upon it with wonder.

Could this giant hand be playing Rounder’s, or maybe Alleygobs with giant marbles? Is there someone on the other side of our dark sky ready to catch them, to hold onto them for too long before we see them again?

Could it be an invisible jockey riding a sky horse or maybe a knight from some forgotten age, looking for Merlin?

🥕🥕🥕

Sibling Games? by JulesPaige

There would be punishment for stealing his marbles. But only if the thief was caught. Which was why she hid them in the hem of her black velvet skirt…

Being the children of the Gods, they still behaved with human attributes. Or was it just that humans had to have excuses for their own failures?

If he wanted them back, he was going to have to look carefully. She took them into the night and with all her might tossed them into the universe. The marbles were pulled by gravity, while gaining speed and left a lingering light trail.

🥕🥕🥕

The Prophecy by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

The comet streaked across the sky dragging a fiery tail against the inky blackness. Dennitsa shivered in the gathering gloom. Her dreams of late had been infiltrated by the ancestors revealing the prophecy this celestial nomad heralded. Time was running out.

The old ways of healing-magic were in danger. Today, the Byzantine priests had instituted a plan to hunt down and kill the fairy witches, thus performing a cleansing upon the land.

Ripples of magic exploded from the woman’s form silhouetted against the night sky.

Her spirit calls out—

the continuum answers,

benevolence found.

The solution came from above.

🥕🥕🥕

Stardust and a Comet by Carol Keefer

According to the J.R.R. Tolkien’s cosmology of elves, the Eldar who lived with Valar in Aman “were also called Calaquendi (Elves of the Light).” The Eldar developed their faith in magic and became magical elements in the tail of a powerful comet. As long as the Eldar drove the comet, the comet would not die. Because they left Aman, these elves did not live in the world of Arda and were subsequently unknown to the inhabitants of Middle Earth. These comet-dwelling Eldar sailed through the universe, developing new weapons and magic until they attracted the attention of an enemy.

🥕🥕🥕

Ilesol (from “Quantanelle: Stranded in Space”) by Saifun Hassam

The King’s Astronomer Ilesol tracked the arc of the great Comet Cygnet across the starry skies. At midnight, he was alone in the Royal Observatory on the high plateau overlooking Port Estrella.

Comet Cygnet was known since ancient times to return to the Terran skies every seventy years.
This would be the first and only time Ilesol would see the Comet.

In that thought and moment, the Comet seemed to beckon him, to venture beyond Port Estrella, the Isle of Ilbaiyat, to travel the Great Terran Oceans, to explore unknown worlds. A brilliant light filled the observatory. Ilesol vanished!

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by The Dark Netizen

“Whoa! What is that?”

Ethan had taken his little sister for camping. He looked at his little sister pointing up at the astronomical expanse. He could see what she was referring to.

“That is a comet.”

“A comet? What are those?”

Ethan adored his little sister. However, the way she asked so many questions about everything annoyed him to no end. He decided to have some fun.

“A comet is an alien flying so fast, that its ass starts burning, and it leaves a trail.”

“So cool!! We spotted an alien.”

*Many miles above*

“How did the earthling know?”

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by Robbie Cheadle

From the small window of the rocket, it looked like an enormous snowball. Comprised of frozen gases, rock and dust, it was the size of a small town. The astronauts realized with horror that there was no escaping it. The rocket lay directly in its path.

As the frozen ball’s orbit brought it closer to the sun, it obliterated the rocket, ending its urgent mission immediately. The comet heated up, releasing dust and gas which formed a glowing head and long trailing tail. The people of Earth rejoiced in its beauty, not realising the loss they had  just suffered.

🥕🥕🥕

Origins of Comets (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah spread a quilt on the knoll above Rock Creek to watch the night sky.

“The year before I was born, stars landed.” Yellow Feather pulled a pitted gray stone from his medicine pouch. He passed it to Nancy Jane.

“Feels kinda like lumpy metal.”.

“It’s heavy, too. This is a star?” asked Sarah.

Yellow Feather said, “My grandfather found it where many small stars burned the prairie grass.”

“Look – there’s one,” said Nany Jane.

“I saw it! Did you see Comet Donati last year?”

Yellow Feather laughed. “Comet Donati? That was just First Shaman urinating across the sky.”

🥕🥕🥕

How The Stars Aligned by Geoff Le Pard

‘There’s a comet passing tonight, Morgan.’

‘Huh? So?’

‘No, come on. Even you must see how extraordinary these things are.’

‘They’re a bunch of rocks and ice, Logan. You may think watching space grit is fascinating but I’ll stick to the footie.’

‘These are nature’s warnings. They portend the great events of history. The Battle of Hastings, Genghis Khan’s attack on Europe.’

‘Rubbish. Your average Russian isn’t interested in Hastings.’

‘You know what significant event occurred when Halley’s last appeared? It changed the world as we know it.’

‘What’s that?’

‘We started school together and you stole my banana.’

🥕🥕🥕

What do YOU Wish For? by Chelsea Owens

“I wish to be a famous dancer!”

“I wanna be a millionaire!”

“I want to build the world’s first robotic house!”

They all turned to their silent friend.

“What do you wish for, Chelsea?”

“I can’t tell.”

Shrugging, they watched the comet pass, carrying their wishes. It would return in ten years’ time, granting them what they had asked.

Carly would be a dancer.

Tanner would be rich.

Edward would be building robots.

And Chelsea? She didn’t know. How could the comet possibly turn her into a cosmic fairy able to soar through the night sky as it did?

🥕🥕🥕

Comet Hale Bopp by Miriam Hurdle

“What a crispy night to look at the stars.”

“Yes, it is. A good crowd here. I’m Tim.”

“Hi, Tim. I’m Eric, this is my wife Jan. Jan Hale and Eric Bopp.”

“Hale-Bopp, like the comet?”

“You know it? My dad saw it in New Mexico.” Sparks jump out from Jan’s eyes.

“My dad saw it too in Arizona.”

“My dad saw it first.”

“Your dad emailed the astronomical discoveries. My dad sent a telegram. They got the email faster than the telegram.”

“Who sent a telegram in 1995?”

“Your dad was only a hyphen faster than my dad.”

🥕🥕🥕

Once in my Lifetime by TNKerr

I was twenty-four the last time it came, that periodic star that causes ships to ground. She was twenty-six. We drove to the desert’s edge and climbed Blue Mesa in the dark; leaving behind the city lights, the traffic sounds, and the sounds of club music that floated incessantly through the downtown streets. In the stillness we spread our blanket and made love waiting for and watching Edmund Halley’s dirty snowball with it’s retrograde orbit and curved tail. She speculated that lovers had done the same for thousands of years before and will continue to until the comet dies.

🥕🥕🥕

Scope by Floridaborne

“Mira,” Frank said, pointing up at the sky. “A comet!”

She looked through her telescope. “Nope.”

“Why do you always disagree with me?”

She chuckled at him, an act that served only to fuel his umbrage.   “Peer through the scope. What do you see?”

“I don’t need that thing to recognize a comet!”
“Are you afraid I might be right?” Mira asked, cocking her head to the side like a puzzled parrot.

“Women!” Frank cursed. Through the telescope, a 3-fingered, grey being waved at him.  “God almighty!”

“I told you so, Frank,” she said, waving up at the light.

🥕🥕🥕

Bequest by Liz Huseby Hartmann

It started as a tone, growing in volume and pitch as it resolved itself into a bright streak, slicing silver blue through an opaque night sky. The tone grew to harmonies as dark stars broke free and distributed themselves across the horizon.

“By all rights, we shouldn’t be able to see anything.”
“Magic tops meteorology!”
“Ha! You just made a pun.”

The first one rolled its eyes as the other two giggled. The dark star slowed, resolving to a single, sweet contralto. It landed in the clearing with a fragrant whump of meadow grasses, rolling, unfolding, and standing tall.

🥕🥕🥕

Believe Me by Reena Saxena

I don’t know why the Comet chose privacy, when it struck me. The media remained oblivious of change.

I am transformed. I am blessed with supernatural powers. I can see and hear things other mortals cannot. They do not believe that I am going to outlive them. The idiots have locked me up in a cell in the mental asylum.

I do not seek revenge. I seek enlightenment for all. I pray for another comet to strike them, so that they see and believe what I say. We are all made of stardust.

But, I am the chosen one.

🥕🥕🥕

Heaven’s Gate Away Team by Anne Goodwin

I stared and stared, praying for God to reward me. To grant me a glimpse of that celestial spaceship carried in the comet’s tail. But Marshall’s vision was sharper than mine. And his faith.

When the time came, we swallowed the elixir, pocketed the interplanetary toll. We lay on our bunks, veiled in purple cloths. We waited.

The pain was my soul struggling to escape the bonds of my body. The moans were angels serenading us to the sky. Paralysis signalled I was becoming transhuman. And yet.

What if Hale-Bopp were simply a comet? What if Marshall were wrong?

🥕🥕🥕

The Idiot by Anurag Bakhshi

They’re right, I AM an idiot.

Moreover, I had to demonstrate my stupidity to the entire world, with my doomsday predictions of comets, and meteors, and asteroids.

I’d even set a date for the collision, yesterdays.

But they laughed at me, while I hid with my family in the bunker that I’d constructed for us.

I should go out and admit to my failure now. Maybe I can just blame it on my tiny brain.

Their brains are much larger. That’s why the dinosaurs have ruled over us for ages, and we cockroaches will soon die out, I’m sure.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Perseid Meteor Shower 2018 by katimac

I lay in bed, drifting to sleep in a window filled with falling stars.

A cool breeze wafted across my nose, and stardust drifted in my eyes.

A cat shadow crept along the window sill. She sniffed the screen and sneezed stars.
“Gedsunheit,” I whispered. Her eyes glowed disdainfully down at me, starlight reflected in them.

Meteors competed with the moon as they exploded overhead, casting noon-bright shadows on the side of the barn outside my window. Horses stood in the paddock in silent awe, watching the spectacle with equine aplomb.

🥕🥕🥕

Hair! Up in the Sky by Bill Engleson

“There!” I point skyward.

She looks up sharply, asks, “Where?”

“It’s gone.”

I, of course, hang my head and repeat, “gone.”

“That fast?”

“You gotta be quick,” I tease. “Don’t call them comets for nothing.”

“So, smart guy…what else do you know?”

This poses a challenge. I’m never quick to put on my thinking cap.

She knows this. Oh, I’m good for a slick rib poke but actual knowledge…that’s a puzzler.

“You got me,” I confess, adding “Halley’s Comet.”

“What about it?”

“Well, I know I’ll be 114 when it rolls around again.”

“Good luck with that,” she laughs.

🥕🥕🥕

Pamela Comet by Ruchira Khanna

1990
High School Reunion

Pamela, the brunette at the age of 23, was huffing and puffing about her new husband to her friends.

“Then, what do you?” inquired one of them.

“I raise my voice. I argue. I fight until he bows thee!” she said with a wink and triumphant smile.

2015
Pamela meets her old friends who inquire about her life. She blushed at first then pushed the stray grey hair behind her ear, ” I was like a comet, bright at the head, but years changed my perception allowing me to tail away from the headstrong attitude.

🥕🥕🥕

Winning at Charades by Molly Stevens

Rosie was excited about an evening of charades with her women friends.

She glanced at her word and said, “This will be tough.” But having once yearned for a career in the theater she knew she was up to the task.

She pointed to the sky and mimicked staring through a telescope.

“Star! Constellation! Astronomy!”

Rosie shook her head no. Then she stretched her arms in a dramatic upward sweeping motion and assumed an awestruck expression.

With no answer forthcoming, she kneeled on her hands and knees. Pretending to sprinkle something onto the floor, she started scrubbing.

“Comet!”

“Yes!”

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by Jack Schuyler

Janet scrubbed with all her might, but the brown ring remained. As she did every day, leaning over the toilet bowl, she found herself hating her job. The same stains, the same sore arms, and the same cleaning solutions.

She had studied astronomy in school, but apparently there was no more need for people who looked up at the stars. Now she only found herself looking down.

She dumped more Comet into the toilet and scrubbed with irritated vigor. Comet, The irony of the name stung. There was one shooting start that would never make her dreams come true.

🥕🥕🥕

Impeding Doom by Susan Sleggs

“Who cares if I don’t know the difference between a meteor and a comet?”

“I care, as a science professor, you embarrass me.”

“Well la-dee-da Mr. Education. Is it true a comet warns of impending doom?”

“That’s all myth. Science has advanced enough that we know better.”

“Perhaps this one is warning of our doom.”

“It’s not going to hurt us.”

“You give me no credit. I was thinking of how doomed our marriage is.”

“You may have a point.”

“Maybe I could catch a ride on its tail to a happier galaxy.”

“They don’t leave our galaxy. Sorry.”

🥕🥕🥕

Comet’s Tail by Abhijit Ray

Rahul was alone on the terrace in this moonless night. A comet appeared on the night sky with its long tail following luminous body.

“Kind of like our life would you not agree” observed Heena softly, “a promising career, a high profile marriage, followed by a trail of scandals and a messy divorce.”

Internally, Rahul accepted his failed career compounded his drinking and philandering habits, culminating in divorce from Heena. He simply did not want to hear about his weakness from Heena.

He did not want to extend comet’s tail any farther by strangling her.

🥕🥕🥕

Close Call by Patrick O’Connor

“You never know what you’ll see ‘round these parts.”

Stanley spoke to Bert on the carpool drive to work. 4:30am rise time.

Hit the road by 5:15am in order to make it to the factory on time.

“Yup. Sure don’t.” said Bert.

Suddenly, in the sky in front of them, a huge ball of fire, complete with a sonic boom.

“Jiminy Cricket!” shouted Stanley, Startling Bert.

“Woah! That’s big.”

“Look there! It’s gonna hit!”

Across the sky, the ball of flame got closer.

Suddenly, there was a flash and the comet (meteor) burned out.

“Whew! That was close.”

🥕🥕🥕

You Should Have Listened to Me by Robert Kirkendall

“I see a dark omen ahead for you,” the sorceress warned.

“Well that’s a bummer,” the man said nonchalantly.

“Heed my words!” the sorceress reiterated. “When a comet appears that is aligned with one of the planets, it will spell your doom!”

“How does a comet align with a planet?” the man said dismissively. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Doubt me at your own peril!”

“Planets move in orbits, comets go in a straight line,” the man explained condescendingly. “Crazy old bat,” the man chuckled and left.

He crossed the street and was struck by an old Mercury Comet.

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by Deborah Lee

“They say our origins dictate our path in life, our fate,” Henry says. He looks at the homeless tent city around them. “The son of a teacher and a CPA, upright churchgoers, shouldn’t end up without an old-age pot to piss in, wouldn’t you think?”

Jane laughs ruefully. “I was conceived on a hot summer night, in the blaze of forbidden teenage passion, in the backseat of a ‘64 Mercury Comet,” she tells him. “Shouldn’t that make for a charmed life?”

Henry tops her wine cup, his grin brilliant. “Maybe, maybe not. I’d love to have that car, though.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Signifier by Margaret G. Hanna

A hot summer night.

Two friends, friends since high school, different in backgrounds but united by their uniqueness. Friends through husbands, children, divorces.

They sat together on a park bench by the river walkway, watched couples stroll by hand in hand, a canoe slide down the river. Heard a whippoorwill call. Felt a gentle breeze. Contemplated the white slash of the comet against the ink-black sky.

“Medieval people believed a comet signified the end of the world.”

A glance exchanged. A wry smile shared.

“They were wrong. It’s the beginning of a new world.”

They clasped hands. Embraced. Kissed.

🥕🥕🥕

Elgin: Our Cross-County Rival by Nancy Brady

In the early sixties, it became common for smaller schools to consolidate into larger schools. My county was no different with several schools opting to consolidate. Not my school, however; our district chose otherwise!

Elgin became one of those county schools; it was supposedly named by combining the three schools that made up the new school: LaRue, Green Camp, and New Bloomington. Elgin even named their mascot based upon America’s new obsession of space.

Elgin was our biggest football rival, and often, the conference championship hinged on the last game, us against them, with the Comets streaking to victory.

🥕🥕🥕

An Imperfect Proposal by Norah Colvin

“What the…?”

He scrambled through bushes, slipping and sliding on twigs and gravel in haste to his love. When he reached her, she was doubled over holding her belly.

“What happened?”

She shook her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“I thought…” Her body shook.

“What?” he soothed, wiping away tears.

“Snake… I thought…” She pointed.

On the bed lay the strap of his telescope bag coiled neatly.

“You’re laughing?”

She nodded.
——
Camping became their family tradition, but their children’s favourite story was of the “snake” that frightened Mum, not of the comet that graced the sky the night that he proposed.

🥕🥕🥕

Speed Demon by Ann Edall-Robson

Crouched by the fence she watched, reminiscing, smiling at her childhood partner in crime. They had been a formidable team. Each day they had forged rivers, hid in canyons and chased foe. Together, their teamwork had conquered imaginary obstacles. No chore was too tough for them. Sometimes reckless, but always sure-footed, and with mane and tail flying in the wind. She laughed, remembering their nickname, Speed Demon. Those days were gone now. Slowly he came toward her, head high, ears at attention, looking for a treat. Standing, she called her trusted friend, the one she had named Comet.

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by Frank Hubeny

There are stars out, but that doesn’t mean anyone notices. However, the comet was special. People pointed it out proving how smart they were being able to see what others told them about.

Charles didn’t care. He looked at Anne’s eyes.

Sure, they were told about the comet, the rare comet that comes once in a million years. “You better look while you have the chance!” “You may never see something like that again!” “Don’t miss it!”

They looked, but they were not sure they saw anything particularly remarkable out there. They were more interested in each other’s eyes.

🥕🥕🥕

Goodnight by Di @ pensitivity101

Emily was sitting up and looking out of the window, fascinated by the bright star in the night sky.

She turned to her Dad who had just finished reading her a bedtime story.

‘Do you think she can see us Daddy?’

He felt a lump in his throat and tears fill his eyes. It had been only two months since

Nancy had been taken so cruelly from them.

‘I think so Sweetie.’

Emily waved at the comet and snuggled under the sheets, then looked across at the empty bed where her twin used to sleep.

‘Night, sis.’ she said softly.

🥕🥕🥕

Make a Wish! by Deepa

as a child
I always thought
airplanes were stars
that carried
wishes and requests
from
one country
to another

my heart pains
because
every time
I try
catching
the fireflies
I thought
they were
shooting stars

‘Hey! shooting star
make a wish!’
I heard me say
even though
astronomy teaches
not to expect
anything out of
something that occurs
once in 75 years
today
I wish upon
Halley’s Comet
to show my son
who I lost
to terminated pregnancy
several years back
for unknown reasons

🥕🥕🥕

A Thousand Wishes by Kay Kingsley

The sunset fades into dusk. Bright pinks and reds slowly change to burnt shades of orange and purple. The horizon glow dims as the blanket of night covers all.

The rising hum of crickets and frogs fill the summer night and a warm breeze welcomes us to settle in like the flashing of lights before a performance begins.

Time to take your seat. The show is about to begin.

With excitement the event begins as the first comet streaks the sky.

Tonight is a night of a thousand wishes and with all of mine I wish you were here.

🥕🥕🥕

Comet by oneletterup

The screen door slams behind them.
She rushes past the little boy. Runs upstairs.
The little girl stays behind.

“What happened?” he asks.
“I think she’s scared,” the little girl answers, eyes wide.
“Someone was spying on us from the woods!”

They like this new silent mysterious guest.
She stays upstairs. They let her be.

Day becomes night.
She crawls from under the bed.
Peeks out the window, eyes scanning left and right.
Nobody out there.
Transfixed by the starry night, she sees it.
A blazing white streak across the sky.
Like from the book.
A comet!
She remembers.

🥕🥕🥕

Billy & The Comet by Grae:)

“The ‘Comet’ is coming!” hollered little Billy Ollerenshaw, at the top of his voice. “The ‘Comet!’ Billy passed by nos. 17 and 19 Combination Street heading towards the town centre.

“Do you think he’d be so happy if he knew that it was a rogue comet that is going to destroy the Earth, rather than that old steam train that he so loves? He has a picture of it on his wall.”

Mrs. Ekkerslike was a placid lady, the far side of sixty, and resigned to her fate.

“Best to let him think of a steam train.” said Mrs. Wensleydale, sighing.

🥕🥕🥕

Heavenly Calling by Ritu Bhathal

It was 1910. She was ten. She’d often sit on her windowsill, legs dangling, staring out at the stars. That night, she’d seen something different, a ball of light travelling through the sky.

Haley’s Comet.

She never expected to see that in her lifetime again, and yet here she was, in 1986, eyes trained on the stars, with her ten-year-old granddaughter for company.

A ball of light flashed through the sky. Doris smiled and sat back.

“I saw it! Did you see it? Gramma!! Did you see it?” Rosie turned to her grandma.

Gramma sat, eyes closed, at peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Peering From the Woods

Peering from the woods, we feel the watcher. Friendly? Curious? Dangerous? The woods around the world can be jungle, bush, forest, a backyard. It’s a tangle of shadows, a spot to hide.

Writers contemplate the watcher’s next move. They craft the place and people involved. Peering from the woods, stories emerge. (Photo Credit: J. Madland)

August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes an act of “peering from the woods.”

PART I (10-minutes)

Ed in the Woods by Charli Mills

Ed was peering at me again. I could feel his gaze crawl across my shoulders. Let me finish the chapter, Ed. The Legendary Leaphorn is in the arroyo. The tickle continues. I persevere, finish the chapter and set down Tony Hillerman’s latest southwest detective book.

Snagging a sip from my gin, tonic, and blueberries, I grab a fresh-husked corn.

Ed still peers at me from the edge of the woods. His ears twist like radar. Slowly I raise my offering. He hesitates, leans in and nibbles from my hand. The deer dashes off, leaving me to read in peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Into the Forest by Jack Schuyler

I peered into the woods and the woods peered back.

“Enter into my respite.” Said the woods. It spoke in tongues of wind and beckoned me with all the rhythms of the earth. “Walk beneath my shade, swim in my streams, eat of my harvest.”

“But mother told me no.” I replied, “She says beasts of night roam your shadows and sweet poisons wait beneath your trees.”

“All true,” growled the forest, “and you would do well to heed her advice. But if you stay in the shelter of the village, do not expect to share in my treasures.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mountain Lion by Heather Gonzalez

“Aren’t there mountain lions in these woods?” Samantha shivered as she pulled her sleeping back closer to her body.

“Stop worrying so much and just enjoy it.” Jack turned off the lantern and settled in.

Noises kept coming from beyond the clearing. Jack had fallen asleep and no amount of whispering for help would wake him. Samantha slowly unzipped the tent to peer out upon her fate. She saw the eyes peering from the woods and froze in fear. There was nowhere to run.

A soft meow came from behind the bushes.

“Some mountain lion you are.” she laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Luminesce (from “Lynx Valley Biohabitat”) by Saifun Hassam

Valerie and Carmen tracked Luminesce to a tumbled mass of boulders and ledges. The bobcat’s den was hidden by tangled vines and woody shrubs.

Lynx Valley Biohabitat was a mix of woodlands and open scrub land. Tall grass grew along the Lissoire River. From the Rover, Valerie caught the glint of eyes peering from the woods.

Luminesce stole into the tall grass. A panicked rabbit shot out. Near the river, the red deer froze. With powerful strides, the bobcat pounced ferociously on the deer. She dragged it through the tall grass, to her waiting cubs at the woods’ edge.

🥕🥕🥕

Sad Cat Diary: Wildlife Edition by Robert Kirkendall

The mountain lion came up to the forest’s edge drawn by the scent of food. She peered from the woods at a flock of livestock in a nearby pasture.

One of those sheep could feed me and my little ones for a week, the mountain lion thought as she longed for the forbidden sustenance, but if I take one, the humans will come after me and kill me! I only want one, the lion moped, and they have so many, it isn’t fair.

The dejected feline slouched in defeat. Why must the humans be so cruel? she wondered piteously.

🥕🥕🥕

Lone Ranger by Nancy Brady

Going crazy, our cat saw something in the dark that she felt shouldn’t be in her territory. At first, I couldn’t see anything, but her night vision is better. But then I noticed the glint of dark eyes staring at us from the wildflower garden. A tangle of weeds and flowers blossom on the edge of the property, allowing for fauna hiding within, and on this night, the masked bandit was hiding inside.

Why the raccoon was there wasn’t apparent until the next day when we discovered our sweet corn was decimated, a tasty snack for a midnight marauder.

🥕🥕🥕

Watching Out for the Birdwatcher by Anne Goodwin

Birdseed on the fence post again. My heart skips. Who would dare feed animals when people starve? An ornithologist, that’s who. Another forbidden word.
Scrambling over the layers of barbed wire, I pick my way through a soggy carpet of mashed leaves into the shelter of the trees. Birds flit from branch to branch, their sweet song sweeping all worries from my mind. Then I hear it, smell it: someone’s stopped at the fence.

Peering from the woods, I must be dreaming. Whacko has a gentle side? Something to use against him the next time he brandishes his cane.

🥕🥕🥕

Possum by kate @ aroused

Polly swung through the forest
of large macadamia trees
drawn by the scent of ripened fruit

She spied a woolly alpaca herd
grazing contentedly with a horse
Buster watched on from a distance

But Polly was blinded by the sun soaked
fields as she was accustomed to the dark
yet the orchard beckoned heavy with fruit

She would have to wait until dark
to scamper across those open fields
to gorge on a gluttonous banquet

Alpacas and horse would by asleep
but Buster might be on alert
so she would need a sprinting spurt!

Polly’s long peep was fruitful!

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Di @ pensitivity101

Here’s Looking at You.

Did you hear it? That gentle rustling in the leaves.
Did you see it? A quick flash of a white flagged rump.
Did you catch it? Yes, but only on film.
Did it see you? Most definitely, it was looking right at me.

I often wonder what animals think of us humans when they see us intruding on their domain. I am certain there are more creatures looking at us than we realise.
The woods are alive with insects, snakes, animals and birds.
It is their world, and we abuse it. In fact, we’re killing it with our pollution.

🥕🥕🥕

The Heat of the Day by Carol Keefer

The clearing in the forest was so bright, filled to the rim with hot sunlight suddenly free of trees to beam down and touch the earth with its heat. I had had enough of the sun’s heat and wanted only to observe this quiet, serene oasis from a point in the shade of trees so I peered from the woods. Suddenly, a black grizzly and a doe sprang from the trees on the other side. What could be pursuing them? They were running together. It was only a few minutes later when I smelled the smoke wafting towards me.

🥕🥕🥕

Fox Cub by JulesPaige

Seeming to be always at as well as on edge;
creeping closer just to see if it was safe. Like
her namesake, senses on high alert – always.

They had left her to fend for herself. Was there
a lesson to be learned? Distant from community,
yet wanting to be a part – included, but always
to some extent excluded.

They made up excuses for her lack of cooperation. Dim-witted, ignorant, lame; would limping be her way of life.

The forest had felt safer when the sun was out.
But there were predators everywhere. Perhaps
that was the lesson They taught?

🥕🥕🥕

The Fawn by Rosemary Carlson

She watched him when he was a fawn. Come summer, he grew spikes. A young buck. He was unafraid of her. He grew accustomed to her apples. He came to the porch and snatched the food from her hand. She grew to love him that winter. She was alone.

The next summer, he was a four-point buck. He came to the porch. She tried to make him go away, fearful he was too accustomed to people.

It’s been ten years. An old buck comes to the porch. He takes the apples. She knows by his eyes that it’s him.

🥕🥕🥕

Peering Through by Peregrine Arc

Mary stood in her bedroom, staring closely into the antique mirror hung on the peeling wallpaper. Music crackled on the radio from across the hallway.

An oil painting hung behind Mary of a lake and cabin scene at dusk. A man was smoking a glowing pipe patiently, peering from the woods. She could smell the smoke.

But every night, after Mary finally turned away from the mirror, the man vanished. The painting returned to normal, barren of any figures.

But the light was left on in the cabin tonight. And its front door was left open, quiet and inviting.

🥕🥕🥕

The Connection by D. Avery

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“What? The research? The constant camping it requires? Or…us?”

“All of it. I’m just done.”

“Ok. I’m sorry if this crazy venture made our relationship impossible. I’ll hike out with you. I’ve given up on ever finding Sasquatch. I’m done too.”

It wasn’t just his obsession with his work. She’d never felt a strong connection with him. She knew now that she could have more.

While he packed up the equipment, she hid the tufts of hair she’d found under a stone, brushed over a footprint.

Sasquatch peered from the woods, relieved and sad.

🥕🥕🥕

Knowing by D. Avery

They trudged to the logging road together, loaded the equipment into his truck, rode in silence to the general store where her car was parked.

“I guess he doesn’t exist”, he said to her as goodbye.

“I guess not”, she replied, and went into the store as he drove away.

Resupplied, she returned to where she had seen the signs and had felt Sasquatch’s presence. She was learning that finding Sasquatch doesn’t require any electronic equipment, only being fearless and open-hearted.

She smiled to find wildflowers left for her on a log, smiled that he’d known she’d be back.

🥕🥕🥕

Surprise! by Norah Colvin

She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

🥕🥕🥕

Feral Natives by Chelsea Owens

The small natives, unkempt and unruly, peer from a shadowed arch. They stop, keenly watching an inert female creature just ahead.

The first whispers, “What’s she doin’?”

His companion checks. “Nuffin’. Sleepin’, most like.”

Urrrrhaghaaah! She moans. They scamper back to shadow’s safety.

“Did she see ya?” The younger sucks a finger.

A quick peek. “Nah. I think she’s fakin’.”

One second later: “Now what’s she doin’?”

He looks again. “Rolled over.” He scowls. “-Wait! I saw a light. She’s got her phone!”

“She’s awake!” Excited, the younger boy grips his brother’s arm.

Drat, she says.

“Let’s get ‘er!”

🥕🥕🥕

Becoming Wild by Paula Moyer

February, 1966: Jean’s family did a suburbs-to-small-town move. Home was a two-bedroom rental at the edge of town. Behind the house, a woodsy spot. Jean was 13, Sam 11, Donny 9.

When summer came, that spot grew dark with leaves. Sam and Donny disappeared into it every morning after breakfast. They would grab lunch and vanish again. Jean ignored them, practiced the piano.

“Jean, go get the boys,” Mom called from the kitchen. “It’s supper time.”

Sounded easy. Jean stood at the trees’ edge. “Guys, supper!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Taste of Wisdom by Molly Stevens

Mary tapped a forbidden cylinder from the box. She couldn’t believe her good fortune, having found half a pack beside the road. She peered through the woods at her home, struck a match, and took her first drag.

I didn’t even cough. I knew I’d be good at this.

Later she shuffled home, wondering how to conceal her headache and nausea.

At the sound of the screen door, her mother said, “What have you been doing?”

“Does God give you what you want to teach you stuff?”

Her mother smelled cigarette smoke, observed her daughter’s pale countenance, and smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Peering by Floridaborne

“You say you’ve never been camping before?” He asked, with a twinkle in his eye that I didn’t like.

I looked down at two sleeping bags thrown on top of ferns and bristled.  “We don’t belong here.”

“Don’t worry about that rusty, no trespassing sign,” he scoffed.

“She told me we’ll die here tonight,” I replied, pointing at a deer peering out at me from the bush.  “We’ll be thrown into a mass grave.”

He threw his sleeping bags into the back seat and we drove to the paved road in silence.  Yet another relationship ruined by my gift.

🥕🥕🥕

Caught In The Act by Ritu Bhathal

“Well Annie, that was fun! We should make these meetings of ours interesting more often.”

Petey unzipped the front flap of his yellow tent, allowing for a slice of light to cut through the darkness of the forest.

He stepped out and stretched, post-coitally, opening his eyes to the beauty of nature.

And stopped.

What was that?

Peering from the woods, he swore he saw the face of his wife, Susan, eyes open wide in horror.

A rustling sound followed.

“Come back Petey honey, we’ve still got time.” Annie’s voice brought him back.

Petey feared his time was up.

🥕🥕🥕

Ready by The Dark Netizen

Cadet Billy peered from the woods.

Perseus’ bullet had missed. Medusa had spotted them. Things were not going well. This was his first field mission, and he already felt that he was out of place. These were not mere humans. What chance did he have of contributing at all? He could see Medusa approaching, almost gliding towards them. He began to feel numb. Was he turning into stone? No. This was fear. He watched as Perseus drew his heavy pistol drawn. Keynes caught Billy’s eye, and nodded at him. Billy could not let his mentor down.

Billy was ready.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minutes)

Devastation by Diana Nagai

Night fell over the property. A leather lead dangled useless in his hand. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and he looked up. The firefighter shook her head. So, his horse had not been found.

“It’s time to evacuate.” She paused, then added, “Please.”

His heart constricted and he wiped a tear.

As he turned to the flames engulfing the barn and beyond, he could have sworn he saw eyes peering from the woods behind the fire line. God, he hoped so. He screamed a silent prayer. Run! The eyes disappeared. He never saw Diamond again.

🥕🥕🥕

Fawn Within Fawn by Late Night Girl

“Oh deer! No headlights this time; Just eye to eye”, I thought to myself when I encountered this beautiful beast unsuccessfully trying to camouflage as a tree. Its two-leaf ears gave it away! My green coat may have equally looked like food, too, but I actually was looking for some game, yet couldn’t bring myself to break it to the fawn, gun in hand!

What now?! We could both pretend neither is here or just hop on to the next best eatable opportunity down the food chain.

I leave it to the reader to decide what happened next.

🥕🥕🥕

Imagination – Another Strange Meeting by Gordon Le Pard

“Then they looked out of the wood – and saw dinosaurs!”

The novelist put the papers down. “A good way of ending the episode?”

The palaeontologist nodded, “Wonderful, what an imagination you have.”

“You too must have imagination, to create lost worlds out of fragments of bone.”

“But not like you.”

As he left he thought of the bones in his workshop. His imagination had created something very special, the Missing Link, but no one would realise it wasn’t real for many years, if ever.

His friend was just a great writer, however he was the greatest scientific hoaxer ever.

🥕🥕🥕

Dashing by Miriam Hurdle

Peering from the wood, something got its attention. It dashed across the road.

Thump, thump, thud!

“Oh, no. I didn’t see it coming.” Sid and Cindy jumped out of the car.

“The impact was forceful. It crushed the front of the car.”

“Is the deer okay?” Cindy looked at its head.

“Let’s wait. It’s trying to get up…”

“It’s limping across the road.”

“It went across okay… No, it flopped and lied still.”

“Do we want to go camping?”

“The engine suffered the impact. Let’s go home.”

* * *

“Our car took the last breath getting us home.”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Geoff Le Pard

‘You can’t see the woods for the trees, eh?’

‘That’s another stupid expression. All I was saying was I saw something in there.’

‘Ghost? Phantasm?’

‘Seriously, it was alive.’

‘Ent? Tree-sprite?’

‘It could be that weirdo.’

‘Any specific weirdo?’

‘I’m going home.’

‘Don’t be a wuss, Morgan. Probably a deer.’

‘Or a lion.’

‘In Surrey?’

‘You know they say a tree makes no sound if there’s no one to hear it when it falls. Do you think you can see a lion if you’re not there when it appears?’

‘You’re a moron as well as a coward, Morgan.’

🥕🥕🥕

The Deadly Hunt by Anurag Bakhshi

Travis looked at the cute, round-as-buttons eyes peering at him through the woods, and smiled.

He had spent half his life searching for the Ringa-Tinga-Ling, the mythical oldest animal species in the world. Today, he and his cameraman had finally found him.

Still smiling, Travis raised his rifle, and took careful aim. His cameraman saw what he was doing, and shouted, “What the…” But before he could finish, Travis had fired.

And even before the cameraman had hit the ground, Travis took out his handgun, and shot himself.

The Ringa-Tinga-Ling looked on with his cute, round-as-button eyes, and smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

Going on a picnic was a treat for the family. Dad carefully cleared a circular patch in the undergrowth while the children collected rocks. Dad packed the rocks around the cleared patch to ensure that the fire he was building was well contained. Everyone was busy preparing for the fun of cooking their lunch sausages on sticks over the open fire.

“Where’s Hayley,” Mom asked.

She was nowhere to be seen. She must have slipped away while they were all working.

Sheila smiled with relief when she saw her peering from the small copse of trees nearby. Thank goodness.

🥕🥕🥕

Who’s Watching Julie by Oneta Hayes

Four-year-old Julie, intent on filling her basket with flowers, wandered from camp, unaware that eyes were peering from the woods. She walked deeper and deeper into the brush and trees. Julie – as sweet and innocent as Little Red Riding Hood going to her grandmother’s house.

Fortunately Julie’s Grandmother was not sick in bed; she was in the camp. Where’s Julie? She sounded the alarm and campers began the search. Aha! It wasn’t long before Grandmother herself found Julie. Neither was aware of the Wolf who slunk away without a sound except for the hungry growling of his stomach.

🥕🥕🥕

Pee(r)ing Through the Woods by Deborah Lee

Jane hunkers down in the foliage. Her knees already ache from the awkward stance. She checks her pants and shoes; both should be out of the splash zone.

Just as she relaxes her muscles, feels the stream start beneath her, of course that’s when she hears voices.

She’s been here for hours, hoping for someone who might buy a paper. Naturally, it’s not until she can’t hold it anymore, with the nearest public restroom an hour away, that anybody comes along.

Jane narrows her eyes, peering through the bushes. If she can’t see them, they can’t see her…right?

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by a story forms my mind

Startled. Her eyes snap open. The right side of her face and mouth pressed into wet pine needles. Above her the sky, barely visible through the dark canopy of spruce.
Her arm aches and somehow her dress has been torn. She unfurls herself from the forest floor, searches for her phone, her bag, anything that will explain why she is here.

Nothing.

The only sound, the creaking of trees as they move in a wind she cannot feel. She sees eyes peering brightly from the trees and hears the roar of traffic from the highway.

Then nothing but cold.

🥕🥕🥕

Those Two by Reena Saxena

All the persuasion by his friends failed to make him participate in a jungle picnic. He looked petrified, and his wife insisted that he be left alone. The friends decided to take him to a counsellor later.

Nobody realized that he was consumed by guilt. It was a crime committed in the first flush of youth. He finished college, found a job and married a beautiful girl.

But, those two eyes never stopped peering at him from the woods. Those two eyes spewed fire, and swore revenge. He did not know if those two eyes were dead or alive.

🥕🥕🥕

Silhouettes by Bill Engleson

At that time, the lake was more a swamp.

Stumps rose like rogue cannons, wooden effigies of flooded farmland.

We hiked the deer path that edged the water.

Eventually, we found a grassy knoll that afforded a cushion of comfort and privacy.

Our adolescent fumblings did not betray us.

Soft sun bathed my lover’s skin.

Still, something, real, imagined, concerned her.

“Are you sure we’re alone?” she whispered.

I was sure of very little then.

“Why?” I asked, looking into the nearby bush.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It just feels creepy.”

That did it.

We hightailed outta there.

🥕🥕🥕

Cache Only Memory Access by Deepa

I could feel Thomas hands intertwined in mine. I could hear him. He was telling me about the memories of our adventures. I am not sure how long I had been lying in the coma.

Thomas gently caressed my hands and peered into my eyes, “the auburn color of your hair reminded me of the woods, and now it shines like the snow. You ask me why I didn’t seek adventure over the years.”

How could I do it without you? We are partners in crime.

Thomas was an adventure freak. Tears trickled from my eyes.

🥕🥕🥕

Sanctuary by abhiray59

Deer calf was peering through the bush. It was looking curiously at the movement of humans down the trail. Other members of its family and friends were nearby having their daily feed of green grass. This calf was curious.

Sam raised his rifle to aim at the deer. “Don’t shoot. This is a sanctuary. Wild animals are expected to be safe here”, said Sid, a fellow hiker.

A leopard pounced on the calf. Curious calf was enamored with humans. It forgot about other lurking dangers in the sanctuary. After all, it was a sanctuary for the leopard too.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hollow by Kati MacArthur

It was a dim, dark forest. I stood on the edge, looking in at a large green fern, solitary in the darkened clearing, spotlighted by a single dusty beam of filtered verdant light. No crickets here, no birds. Just sunlight and darkness: cool, green, quiet.

I see these things when my serenity is threatened. They are images from the hollow where my friend goes to mourn her horse.

In times of strife, I remember this: melancholy sunshine with cool, green quiet a few steps away. Two separate worlds, one before me, one behind me. Which way do I turn?

🥕🥕🥕

From the Woods by Allison Maruska

I crawl through Darkness, the ever-present being, one I can’t touch but knows me completely.

Darkness wants to keep me here, in these woods, surrounded, lost. If I have no hope of escape, Darkness gets her wish. But if I find the way out, Darkness is powerless to stop me.

So I crawl, unsure of direction. I could be heading farther into her depths. But then, I see it: a light. It’s a pinpoint at first, but it gives me direction. And so I crawl.

Finally, I find Darkness’s edge, and peering out from the woods, I see hope.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Anita Dawes

About an hour into the woods, I thought I heard a sound. Just ahead of me, peering through the trees I could see 12 standing stones with a large stone table in the middle. I had never seen these before so I took dozens of photographs.
The air seemed to whisper with strange sounds, almost words I could not hear.
I reached home and downloaded them. My breath was taken by the sight of King Arthur and his knights. There had been no one there. Had my imagination imprinted these images, or was it my desire to be there?

🥕🥕🥕

Silence by oneletterup

She likes it here. How the breeze blows her hair as she swings. Back and forth.
The soft sweat pants protect the scabs on her legs.

“What’s your name?” the little boy keeps asking.
But she keeps shaking her head. Silent.

The little girl asks “Ya wanna swing with me?”
She smiles and nods.

In mid swing she sees it.
A flash of red. Movement.
In woods across the street.
Foot down scraping grass.
Swing slows. Jumps off. Stares hard.
Fists clench.

Someone is peering at her from under a tree.

Turning around, she runs.
The little girl follows.

🥕🥕🥕

Unwelcome Guests by Susan Sleggs

“My Dad told me the new people in the fenced mansion belong to the Mob,” Rock said.

“I heard it was some rich old guy with a sexy young wife,” Dude answered.

Crazy, always needing excitement, suggested, “Let’s sneak through the woods to see what we can see by their pool.”

Shortly the rowdies peered around dense manicured bushes at scantily clad young beauties.

A body guard turned their direction saying loudly, “I can feel eyes on us.” He reached behind his back bringing a gun forward and fired a shot above their heads. “Next time I won’t miss!”

🥕🥕🥕

Fred’s Confession by Sherri Matthews

Fred peered out from behind the garden shed into the steely-eyed glare of Ethel through the kitchen window. He froze.

‘Hello my sweet, you look lovely today,’ Fred squirmed.

‘Get yer hairy arse back inside, now!’

Fred padded gingerly into the kitchen and gulped. ‘Ethel, me and Mavis…’ He caught his reflection in the mirror, distracting him from his confession. Funny, the dentist hadn’t mentioned how long and sharp his teeth had grown. And his hair, so grey…

‘Shut up yer gormless twit,’ Ethel fumed, ‘Mavis is a slut, but you…you’re a bleedin’ werewolf and it’s full moon tonight.’

🥕🥕🥕

The Lewis and Rebman Expedition by TN Kerr

Lewis increased his pace to catch up and have a word with Rebman, “I expect our way will be blocked when we round the next bend. Have you seen them?”

“Seen whom?” Rebman asked. He glanced about, now noticing flashes of bright crimson and deep indigo between the dense trees. He asked, “Who are they?”

“The locals here are autochthonous,” Lewis advised. “They claim to be descended from Lellages, the purported elder son of Belabub. Who, in turn was a Philistine god. The Hebrews called him Beelzebub, the Christians, called him Satan.”

“Dangerous?”

“I believe so, Rebman? I believe so.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Target by Patrick O’Connor

Breathe in, Breathe out.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

Better focus.

Small adjustment.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

The wind is negligible.

No one would be able to see me from this perch as I peer from the forest.

I am a good mile away anyway.

Looking through the scope again.

Breathe in, Breathe out.

Don’t move at all.

Last check. I’m ready.

Big inhale. Slow exhale.

Squeezing the trigger until…

BAM!

Three, Two, One.

Looking through the scope again.

Right on target.

That guy won’t be a problem anymore.

Lone Wolf to command.

Mission accomplished.

On to the next target.

🥕🥕🥕

Outlast by Kerry E.B. Black

We’ve always lived in the woods. Of course, back in the day, woods stretched for acres. Now they’re confined to a small patch surrounded by manicured lawns and asphalt.

Few venture here. They linger along the outskirts and peer into the cool depths beneath the leafy canopy, as though they fear once they enter, they’ll never return to their civilization.

They’re right.

We wait here, sneering at their brash attempts to confine us. We bide our time.

Soon, they’ll become negligent groundskeepers, and with quiet tenacity, we’ll reclaim land, break through turf, swallow structures.

We will outlast, as always.

🥕🥕🥕

So They Say So by D. Avery

“Hey, Aussie!”

“G’day Pal. Where’s Kid?”

“Hmmph. I ain’t too sure. Still tentin’ I reckon. Complained last week about yeller tents and then takes off fer the woods totin’ one.”

“Look here, Pal, a note. It says, ‘See ya later Pal. Shorty says I am to appear in the woods.’ Seems Kid has misread the prompt again.”

“’Appears so Aussie. Dang!”

“What’s wrong, Pal? Kid does just fine in the woods.”

“Normally, yeah, but who knows what these ranch hands is gonna put inta the woods with this prompt. Why, they even say there’s a Bigfoot out and about.”

**********

“Oh, I hope Kid doesn’t come across Bigfoot!”

“Me too, Aussie, poor Bigfoot doesn’t deserve that. Hey, do you feel like we’re bein’ watched or somethin’?”

“Yes, I do, Pal. Why, who is that peering from the woods there? Kid!”

“Aussie! Pal! I’m back.”

“We kin see that. Where ya bin?”

“I been appearin’ in woods all over. Went west. It was wild. Saw fossils an’ artsy facts an’ muse-icians.”

“You call that campin’?”

“Call it vacationin’. Guess who I spied peerin’ from the woods when I was tentin’?”

“Bigfoot?!”

“Frannie Hooe. Least they say it was her.”

“Phooey!”

🥕🥕🥕

August 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ed peers at me from behind the ferns. He’s caught between the darkness of the deep woods and the sunlight pouring through the opening in the trees. I’d like to think Ed is “Ed McMahon” with a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstake check the size of a refrigerator door and enough zeros to last a lifetime of book-buying. Or Ed, as in the name of a yet-unknown publisher who knocks to say, “Golly-gosh, we love your writing – here’s a contract.”

No, Ed is a deer. A soft-eared doe with big dark, curious eyes peers at me from a glen in Minnesota that I’ve never seen. The photo is a gift, one of several that Keto Man gave me after an interview.

First, Keto Man is the very last member-owner of a co-op I will ever interview. He marks the conclusion of an era for me, the final one after seventeen years of interviews. During that time, I caught the stories of hundreds of co-op members, organic farmers, artisan cheese producers, and entrepreneurs.

Peering back at that time in my life, I see all who I interviewed as part of a colorful tapestry of a vibrant community food system. Food cooperatives in the US rose out of the need for people to have whole food. The movement countered processed meals, added sugar, and expense. In Berkley and Minneapolis, co-ops adopted the symbol of a fisted carrot: Food for people, not for profit!

Sound familiar? Carrot Ranch…Words for people! Sure, I lopped off the “not for profit part” because I emphatically believe literary artists, like all artists, should be valued and paid for their work. The name Carrot Ranch acknowledges community activism centered on fairness, and as a literary arts community, I believe in the power of writers to rise and say something powerful in the world tussle between chaos and order.

Literary art belongs to the people, not the ivory towers or pocketbooks of profit-first publishing. People first. Nothing against publishing dynasties or ivory towers. I love New York and vow to go back as a published author one day. But the industry strangles voices with a profit-driven model. And I’m not against higher education — I’m headed back to the ivory towers of liberal arts next month.

Of course, my position at Finlandia University suits my inner maverick. As an adjunct, I’ll be teaching a CTE Marketing course to high school juniors and seniors who get to enroll in college. Already I get to circumvent some of the pomp of being a full-fledged prof. I’m invited to the week-long orientation for new professors, but I can pick and chose which events to attend. I like that.

But I did have to get fingerprinted and entered into the FBI database. That’s a requirement of the Copper Country School District. I understand and made the most of my jail visit to the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department. I even got to sit in the sheriff’s office and talk to him about teaching (he used to be an adjunct at Finlandia, too). He agreed to talk to my class about how professionalism is part of his department’s brand.

In fact, I’ve been reaching out to many local business owners, companies and entrepreneurs to speak as guests. I hope to have one a week. I want to expose my students to many varied ideas about what they could do with a marketing career. And I want to drive home the only rule my classroom will have: always be professional. If any disciplinary issues arise, as administrators fear given that this is the first time they’ve opened their campus to high school students, I can begin with, “What would a professional do?” One required reading for the course will be “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.

Keto Man didn’t think our interview would last 20 minutes. My former client wanted one more member-owner profile after I completed my last project for them. As is the case with such last-minute stories, they turned over a willing candidate to interview. Keto Man didn’t think he was interesting. He wasn’t. He was fascinating and inspiring.

For starters, he led me to a dark place, as dark as the woods behind a deer. Like me, he has no cable television thus eliminating the 24-hour news media nonsense. While I support journalism and believe in a nation’s free-press, the US saw the information age give way to the misinformation age. Keto Man directed me to Jordan Peterson and The Intellectual Dark Web. I’ve only watched a few clips and not anything I’m compelled to share yet, but I fully understand the allure of intellectualism, of long conversations, of discourse.

As a literary writer, I support what Jordan Peterson says: When you are in college and have those years carved out for you, read every book you can in the library. Yes! Read deep and read broadly. It reminds me of how I often struggled as a writer in my twenties because I felt I didn’t have anything to say. And I was right. The twenties are for reading, for digesting. Sure, writing is a huge part of processing what you think about what you read, but you must input information and experiences, first.

Also, I’d add – go live! Go be a parent and understand that dirty diapers are daily, and you’ll get over yourself in a hurry. Go to college and cram all night, write every day and read every book until your eyes cross. Go work a job, any job, especially a job that doesn’t fulfill you, so you can understand what does bring you satisfaction. Go to the mountains, to the sea, to the desert, to the city, to someplace new. Go travel and talk to people who are different until you understand they are just like you.

And never stop. Never stop learning, experiencing, and using your voice to say something. Observe. Create. Express. Write. Repeat.

I connected with Keto Man. I understood his interest in long conversations and civil debates. I like the idea of the Dark Web for taking hot social topics and debating them on a long forum and following up with audience questions. Yes, I long for more intelligent discourse. However, I also long for more compassion. As with everything, balance.

Further in the interview, Keto Man explained a health crisis he experienced to which he responded by eliminating all sugar and grains. I felt inspired by his action. He’s on a ketogenic diet which has eliminated the culprit of inflammation. He is able to process his health so differently from many veterans like the Hub. Next time a VA doctor says the Hub is normal for his age, I have a comparison.

My adjustment with the Hub correlates to a phrase Anne Godwin gifted me with last week: my veteran’s a reluctant patient with a hard-to-diagnose condition. He’s not normal for his age. Even the 86-year old man who conversed with me at the beach/office today could hold focus better than the Hub.

I’m writing, and occasionally peering at others, as I’m officing from a picnic table at Hancock City Beach. A man with two teeth approaches and tells me a joke in such rapid Finnish-English I laugh, not because I understand but because I don’t. Then I tell him a joke. Evidently, this is a Finnish custom for opening a conversation. He lingers and asks why I’m at a picnic table with a computer on such a beautiful day. Exactly! It’s such a beautiful day, I wanted to go down to Portage Canal and write.

Tomorrow we have the first of several evaluations for the Hub. They will be peering into his service records, his medical records and at his old bones. I’d rather be peering at rocks or at a deer that might be named Ed. That will come later.

August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 14, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Ed in the Woods by Charli Mills

Ed was peering at me again. I could feel his gaze crawl across my shoulders. Let me finish the chapter, Ed. The Legendary Leaphorn is in the arroyo. The tickle continues. I persevere, finish the chapter and set down Tony Hillerman’s latest southwest detective book.

Snagging a sip from my gin, tonic, and blueberries, I grab a fresh-husked corn.

Ed still peers at me from the edge of the woods. His ears twist like radar. Slowly I raise my offering. He hesitates, leans in and nibbles from my hand. The deer dashes off, leaving me to read in peace.

August 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Monty sits on what remains of Cynthia’s deck in Ripley. Much of the rubble from the landslide remains, and yet life boldly rises. The apple tree uprooted and hanging over the fury of water that flooded Ripley Creek after the mountain slid, grows like a tree from a fantasy novel out of the gray and green rocks. Apples hang heavy in its branches.

A clump of roses takes root in a barren patch of dirt and kale spreads like weeds. Milkweed, nectar to butterflies, protrudes in clusters, tall green and promising to flower. A daylily nods its orange head by the deck. Purselane spreads across the rocky ground like nature’s band-aid.

I watch the Hub pet Monty, Cynthia’s charming rescue dog, a Daschund. He’s sitting down, which is good. Typically, the Hub would be gnashing his teeth at the pain in his knee, but he tells me the gel shot he got on Mondy is working. He’s tired, and no shot will take away the instability of both his knees.

The Hub gave us a big scare on Tuesday, ending up in an emergency room. His VA doctor offered to drive him after determining his blood pressure was through the roof. The day before, when he got the shot, the nurse raised the alarm over his dangerously high blood pressure, but he told her she measured it wrong. He can be surly to deal with in such circumstances.

On Tuesday we went to the local clinic for a weekly visit. Afterward, he wanted to see the Marine nurse he likes. I like her, too. She fights for him to get the care I’m fighting for him to get. She and his primary care doctor are the best. But often the referrals they make get denied by the VA. Slogging through the system is never easy.

I returned home to conduct a phone interview for a profile I’m writing, so the Hub drove back. He asked the Marine nurse to take his blood pressure because she does it right. She said it was THAT high. The doc came in, and both told him he needed to go to the emergency room immediately.

When his calls came through to me, I was on another call — the DVIBC had called me back, and it wasn’t a call I could miss, so I ignored his. He only told me he wanted to “talk” to the Marine nurse. I didn’t know he was checking up on his blood pressure. Or that he was in crisis.

I was managing the ongoing crisis — the Hub’s head. We’ve been down a scary path of weakening executive function over the past eight years. When it got bad, I pestered him to get seen for PTSD. I didn’t know what else it could be. His family and friends always talked about how changed he was after service, and I knew his quirks and moments when I’d call him out as “Sgt. Mills” because of his intensity.

But these past few years have been crisis hell. I couldn’t understand why, when we lost our rental two months before we could get into our next one, that he’d insist on going into the wilderness. I’m still traumatized by the experience. That’s when I started fighting hard as I ever have to get him into the VA. Before it was his knees. This time it was his shifts in thinking and behavior.

The VA had no trouble diagnosing him with combat anxiety even 33 years after the event. But he wouldn’t stay put. Next, we were off like a rocket to Mars (southern Utah) because it was a chance for him to get back into his aviation career which he loved. But he couldn’t do it. He was fired for PTSD symptoms.

That’s when I got scared. My husband was not acting like my husband and yet he couldn’t see it. I grieved terribly. I felt like I lost him, and in many ways, I have. A few widows have put it in perspective for me though — I still have him. It’s a bitter pill. But I charged on, getting him up to Michigan with him resisting the entire way.

Even now, it’s a weekly battle for two therapists and one ready-to-give-up wife to keep him here. I love my new community. I love being close to my eldest and youngest. I love Lake Superior and her tempestuous moods and generous rocks. I love new friends like Cynthia and Cranky. I love what the Red Cross discovered when they came to the Keweenaw — we are an intact community.

The Hub wants to leave. He hates mosquitos. He hates snow. He hates feeling bored, and he hates not being able to connect thoughts. He hates that his knees hurt so bad after years of needing a replacement.

You might notice a difference in attitude, and that’s part of the rub. But still, I fight to get him care. His therapists were the ones to catch on that something more was going on with him. That led to suspicion of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It would take sleuthing the pieces to puzzle out what happened.

We all knew about his hard landing into to combat.

The Hub’s mom got a phone call early in the morning of October 25, 1983, that her son was on his way to Grenada. A determined US president confirmed on television that he deployed US special forces – Navy Seals and Army Rangers – to rescue US medical students on an island that Cubans had fortified to build a runway for Soviet planes. So much for a dairy farmer’s wife to comprehend.

How could she know her son was jumping with a concussion? He didn’t even know.

Less than a week earlier, a fellow Ranger spearheaded the Hub in the face during a soccer game and knocked him out cold. He was ticked off to get pulled from the game. Knocked out cold and that’s all that happened. That’s the culture of “Ranger Tough.” Within days, he was flying in a C-130 to combat.

The Hub jumped with a T-10 parachute which Airborne uses for mass combat jumps. His rate of descent increased with his heavy load — a mortar round and all the communications gear for his unit. He hit so hard he bounced. He hit right knee, hip and head…bounced…hit his head again. He wore an M1 helmet which the Army acknowledges was not designed for impact. He essentially wore no head protection for 174 career jumps.

It would take almost five years for the Hub to realize that the pain in his knee after that jump was from bone fragments and a complete internal derangement of his knee. He had continued to jump, play soccer and rugby, all on a broken knee. That’s the culture of “Ranger Tough.” As much as I’d like to smash that tough attitude, I also recognize that it conforms to his identity.

When we go to the VA, I fight him as much as I fight them. I must be “Ranger Wife Tough.” He’ll ignore pain or report it’s low, then go home and rail about the pain. I won’t go into what it’s like to be married to a veteran, really only other veteran spouses get it, and many of them are exes. It’s not a glorious role.

But I know the Hub is a good man. He’s been a good dad, and I always felt safe with him (up until wilderness homelessness and Mars wanderings). Just as I did when I was raising three children, I ask, “Why this behavior?” Each new puzzle piece comes with a “why.” I keep arranging, searching the scientific studies, reading articles from the National Football League, reaching out to experts, asking for more tests.

We now understand that the Hub’s symptoms at the end of his military service and after he came home were likely due to TBI. PTSD certainly factored in — simply surviving Ranger Battalion required the maximum effort and PTSD is proof that one is a survivor. Another piece of the puzzle was linking his combat dive specialty after Grenada, after a TBI. It compounded the lack of healing.

But the brain can and does heal. The problem is what they call second impact syndrome. After a concussion, the brain releases tau, a protein which destroys more of the brain’s neurons. It leaves the brain vulnerable until it heals. If the brain suffers another impact (even a jolt), more tau is released. This is why repetitive concussions are dangerous. They lead to degenerative brain disease.

Chronic Traumatic Encephaly (CTE) can only be diagnosed after death through autopsy. Researchers are studying the brains of retired and living NFL players to look for clues. One marker is the presence of white matter brain lesions which also manifest in dementia. The Hub’s brain MRI reveals white matter brain lesions.

Symptoms include loss of executive functioning which explains why at age 55 the Hub was diagnosed by a VA psychiatrist with ADD. He never had ADD as a child or teen, or even hinted at it with learning or behavioral problems. But loss of executive functioning in adults is often confused as ADD. So it makes sense.

It’s why, when a doctor tells the Hub he needs to take the pills to lower his blood pressure, the Hub argues with him that he doesn’t have high blood pressure.

But today was a victory. In therapy with his Vet Center PTSD counselor, he recognized himself in a younger veteran he recently met. The signature wound of Iraq and Afghanistan is TBI. And most soldiers with TBI have PTSD. The VA, once it began to understand the immensity of the problem through recent TBI research, began screening all post-9/11 veterans.

The Hub is pre-9/11. When he came home, his parents wanted help, but no resources existed.

The fact that the Hub could see his own symptoms in another person was a huge moment of clarity. He understood why we were focusing on the two in-patient treatment options we have. He’s agreed to either one that comes through for him. I’m beyond relieved. He’ll have a team of medical and mental health professionals to work with all his issues.

Like Cynthia, though, we wait. We wait to find out if and when. She will rebuild a new home. We will rebuild a different life.

As I watch the Hub pet Monty while talking roofs and walls and how to live in a house with no running water or floors, I feel we are all going to be okay. I feel like it’s a yellow tent moment. We’ve pitched our tents and wait for the stars to come out. My tent is yellow. The color of sunshine and hope.

August 2, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a yellow tent. Where is it and who does it belong to? Think of how the color adds to the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 7, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Wanting to Hide (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni unzipped her tent. Vapors rose from the creek where it meandered smooth and flat across a meadow dotted with daisies. The sun cast colors across the eastern horizon of sharp mountains. She checked each boot, a habit from growing up in Nevada where scorpions liked to take refuge in a cozy shoe. The feel of laced boots gave her confidence to face the day. The volunteers would soon be arriving to camp. Ike had always teased her about how bright yellow her tent was – “Astronauts in space can spot it.” Today, she wished she had his camo tent.