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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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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!”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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!”

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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?

🥕🥕🥕

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?

🥕🥕🥕

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?

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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”.’

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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…

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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.”

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!’

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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.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ravens

The Raven came to us through the gripping poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…” That raven might have cawed “Nevermore,” but that indeed was not the last word from ravens, or about them.

Writers chased black wings for stories this week. Ravens feature in the tales they inspired.

The following are based on the March 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven.

***

Everlore by Chelsea Owens

Once within a forest clearing, whilst I sought my heart some cheering,
With num’rous sorts of very unhealthy choc’late treats I most adore –
While I wandered, knapsack-snacking, dropping errant candy-wrapping,
I thought I heard a quiet flapping, flapping from the forest floor.
“‘Tis no predator,” I whispered, “wrapping from the forest floor –
Only garbage; an eyesore.”

Then came hum’rous Fate permitting; sending to me, most unwitting,
The view of who had made the flapping, from the littered forest floor:
Eager girl scout sitting, beaming, as I jumped up, scared and screaming –
I’m out of words; there is no more.

###

Raven by Colleen Chesebro

stealer of souls
when seen in groups of three
Goddess Morrigan’s familiar
trickster
Augurs interpret messages
by which way the bird flies
divine omens
rebirth

The crone found it hard to dispute the wisdom of the Runes. Her predictions usually rang true. If so, the harbinger of death was on his way.

The corvid flew in from the east landing in an oak tree, chanting, “I’m not here to claim your soul, I’m here to set you free.”

The trappings of age fell away. She rose from the Chrysalis shedding her sheltered state. Then, she began to write…

###

The Beast from the East by Anne Goodwin

Twirling snowflakes clot the air, a ballet best appreciated from behind a double glazed window. Those who can, remain indoors, muting traffic to a whisper, but some must brave the blizzard. “It’s suicidal,” I said. “I’ve no choice,” he countered.

A raven perches on a bare branch, harbinger of doom. He was due back hours ago. His phone goes to voicemail. No juice, no signal or worse?

Tyres crunch on frozen snow. Did I see a raven, or a smaller cousin? He’s home. He knows: a raven here’s as improbable as this Siberian weather.

###

Raven by Robbie Cheadle

The raven visited her in a dream again last night. She felt sure it was some sort of prophecy. First came the raven, silently slipping into her mind. Then she found herself in the water maze. She was in a flat bottomed boat, rowing frantically through the dark water. The overgrown foliage was so dense it completely blocked out the light. She tried to follow the shouts. The shouts were her Father’s. She had to find him quickly, she knew time was short. Every night she searched for him. She could never find her way through the sinister maze.

###

Mine Eyes by Bill Engleson

From my window, I can see the web of wires, stepping stone rooftops of innumerable lives, a distant mountain, a sky, dancing with darkness.

When I say, ‘my window,’ I mean Room 602 of County General.

I’m here temporarily.

Not by choice.

Strapped in.

Unvisited.

Tube fed.

My eyes, worn, tearless, face the window.

I notice them.

They arrive in twos and threes.

They land deftly on the wires.

They land in rows on the rooftops.

They occupy the darkening sky.

Crows. Ravens. Seagulls. Birds of many feathers.

A collusion of ravenous fowl.

A Hitchcockian horror come full circle.

###

Raven by Nicole

A shadow crosses the windshield.  I look up – a raven looks back over its shoulder. “Follow me” it says. I think I want to go back to my tent, forget the world for a few more days. But something makes me follow the raven.

Out of the dark woods men emerge, blood on their hands. Swastikas on their rifles, a Klu they are not shooting for food.

Down the mountain the raven leads, through New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, around the Beltway. It lands atop a white dome.

Below, the streets are full of righteous children chanting “never more.”

###

Raven by joem18b

A raven adopted me at my cabin in the north woods. I named him Edgar. We had a casual relationship, based on food and togetherness.

Edgar roamed the woods at will. One day, he brought home a crow, whom I named Allan.

Allan generally gave me a wide berth, unlike Edgar, who would perch on my shoulder. Allan and I competed for Edgar’s affections. I sensed that Allan was gradually winning.

When the two birds built a nest together and Allan laid eggs in it, I changed her name to Ellen.

The hybrid babies took me for their godfather.

###

Raven the Midwife by Paula Moyer

When Jean was pregnant with Lydia, she binge-read the previous decade’s literature on the childbirth reform pioneers Those women raised their fists for things the things that were standard for the next generation.

Jean loved reading about the rebel midwives, daring to help women have their babies at home. Her favorite was Raven, a lay midwife in California. Her hair was as black as the feathers of her bird namesake. At one chapter’s end, Raven, surrounded by sister-midwives, gave birth to her youngest child.

Jean was planning a hospital birth. But when Lydia came, Jean hoped to channel Raven.

###

Raven by Pensitivity

The pain was excruciating, and she was alone and afraid.
Breathe. Short pants.
With a final push, she delivered her child into the world.
Spent, she looked into her newborn’s face, then wrapped it to her.
The bird was the last thing she saw.

The poacher believed both to be dead until the babe started to cry.
The girl couldn’t have been more than fifteen. Undernourished, she didn’t stand a chance.
A bird circled overhead, dark against the blue sky.
The child had jet black hair and blue eyes.
‘I’ll call you Raven,’ he whispered and took her home.

###

A Raven’s View by calmkkate

Got a circuit I do most days
farmhouse near the river
pensioner’s balcony in town
park at lunch time is a sure bet!
Basically I cruise where I can get
the juiciest morsels, easier than
hunting for myself if these daft
humans want to provide but
road kill is still my favourite
fresh eyes you can never regret
they beat the packaged meat
These kind folk who feed me
have no real idea of the tasty
joy a fresh kill provides us
No idea why they need such
big nests and it must be awful
not to fly free!

###

Seeker by Michael Fishman

The fortune-teller extended a bony hand toward me. Thin translucent fingers pressed against my chest sending a chill into me.

She pulled back and raised her hand and was holding an amorphous black glob in her palm. “This,” she said. “Is what lives inside you.”

I frowned.

“This means you need to clean your spirit; your soul.” She explained. The fortune-teller closed her hand and the bubbling image evaporated.

“How?”

A thin smile spread across her wizened face. “Find your guide.”

Outside, squinting against the sun, I saw the raven, perched on the light pole, looking down at me.

###

Bran’s Blessings by Jan Malique

He sits on the branch, looking at me with one eye and then the other, looks between two worlds, that of the living and the dead.

A Messenger with preternatural sight and deep wisdom. What news do you bring from the Otherworld Blessed Raven?

The Cauldron of Rebirth appears, invites exploration. Again I ask, what news do you bring from the Otherworld Blessed Raven?

“Their Rebirth” he mutters.

I look in your eyes and only see the unknown and secrets buried within secrets. You give me sight of things only dreamed of and utter legends half forgotten.

###

A Raven Speaks by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What did you see at the North Falls, Silas?” Sylvi looked into his dark eye.

He searched for words. His head teemed with questions and sensations. Few people gave him his due, mistaking him for his smaller-brained, raucous cousins. No mind. He and Sylvi understood each other, having traveled many miles together. He shook his feathery black beard.

“Who kidnapped Maeve?” she stroked a finger down his hooked beak, to calm and center him.

Ruffling his wings, he stretched his neck and croaked, “Wyatt!”

Sylvi straightened, laughing in relief. No harm done, then. Wyatt and Maeve were already betrothed.

###

Raven by EluminoraCreations

Enveloped in disguise, Nathaniel listened. Though he could transform well for an apprentice his age, he was less skilled at ravenspeak. Besides that, the ravens were talking over each other as usual. He had to concentrate hard in order to understand anything. His heart, deep under a thick layer of black feathers, pounded so hard he feared they would notice. But his master had ordered him to get the facts of their conspiracy and to come back alive.

Assasination. War. Three days. He launched himself into the air. He had heard the words that no one wanted to hear.

###

All’s Well that Ends Well by Anurag Bakhshi

The raven-haired beauty has stolen my heart
And made a hopeless romantic out of a crusty old fart

Too late have I realized this, I squarely blame my ego

If I had even an iota of sense, I wouldn’t have let her go

She came by last night, and fondly bid me adieu
I poured my heart out to her then, hoping she’d say I Do
But just like the inhabitants of Spanish mountains would find a downpour surprising
I was thunderstruck when I found out that my Eliza was now the Fair Lady of my friend Colonel Pickering

###

Messanger of Doom by Deborah A. Bowman

Tell Me, What Lies You Bring, Raven?

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night

A golden sun was shining

But the color wasn’t right

Too bright, too orange, too blinding

The coarseness of the beast

Not fit to be a craven fowl

His beak open, demanding a feast

Nothing to quench his howl

Not a bird of prey

A large animal, depraved

He does not fly or soar

His voice, a primal roar

He stalks my garden walk

On torn barren legs

No feathers, just tangled dregs

Like a monstrous wild cat

Screaming too loud!

I fall as my heart shivered

My breath stops … message delivered

###

The Ravens by Michael Grogan

The Raven family lived two doors up from me. They were an unhappy lot dealing with not only history but mythology as well. Raven’s were a known symbol of bad luck, foretellers of death and had been written about in Shakespeare’s plays in the most disparaging way.

They once took a holiday to the Tower of London where they attempted to release the captive ravens much to the horror of the guards.

Life was a never-ending series of trials for the Ravens, no one liked to rub shoulders with them and you never stood near them at a funeral.

###

The Raven by Stephen Lodge

We lived in London, close to the Tower. They told us all about it at school. Our parents told us.

If the ravens fly off,
The Tower Of London will crumble and fall,
There will be nothing left,
The Crown Jewels will be gone and all.

We peered over the wall and saw the ravens in the Tower grounds still there. To this day, remain they do, though no carrion keeps them there. Not since the Last Executioner was himself beheaded by Madaxe the Saxon around 1115, although some say it was as late as two in the afternoon.

###

Raven by Ritu Bhathal

“It is a worry indeed, Your Majesty, yes. We’ve had to sack three of them this year, and getting decent replacements, well that is an increasingly tough task.”

Beefeater Chambers looked out of the window, whilst speaking to the Queen on the Royal telephone.

The requirement was six ravens to be guarding the Tower of London at any one time, or the Tower and Kingdom would fall, and this new generation, well they were useless.

They didn’t have the spunk of their ancestors, calling in sick all the time, too busy posing for the tourists and Instagram selfies.

Really!

###

Giving Him the Bird by Geoff Le Pard

‘Bloody parakeets, Logan. Pushing out our native birds.’

‘They’re pretty, Morgan.’

‘They’re foreign. They’re frightening the sparrows and robins. It ain’t natural.’

‘So what’s the solution?’

‘Stop these foreigners coming in, taking our seeds and nests. Keep the proper British birds. They’ll not fly away once we get rid of the immigrants.’

‘Like the ravens?’

‘What?’

‘The ravens. At the Tower of London. They clip their wings to make sure they stay.’

‘That’s barbaric. Why?’

‘If the ravens leave the Tower, England falls.’

‘Whose idea was that?’

‘The Normans, I think.’

‘Bloody French, coming over here, taking our crown…’

###

Marry Me, Jane! by Luccia Gray

‘Soon I shall be a bridegroom,’ said Mr. Rochester.

Jane looked down at her plain, governess dress and remembered Blanche Ingram’s extravagant clothes, noble features and glossy, raven hair.

‘I’ll leave at once. Miss Ingram will have plans for Adele.’

Jane refused to witness the man she loved marry a beautiful, yet unworthy gold-digger.

‘You would have me marry that frivolous woman?’ Rochester shook his head. ‘You think so little of me, Jane? I ask you to pass through life at my side as my best earthly companion.’

Rochester kissed her hand. ‘Jane, say Edward I will marry you.’

###

A Thousand Times…by Anita Dawes & Jay Marie

Blue eyes look back at me from the puddle I drink from, my feathers shimmer as the water moves. I know myself and remember that I have died a thousand times.

If I could speak, I would tell you the tale of my many lives. I come back from the Summerlands, I am the white feather of legend and my coming was foretold. I shall bring back the old magic.

Scavenger they call me. My wings clipped, I guard the Tower lest it should fall.

I am the white RAVEN.

###

The Dream by Pete Fanning

Dinner was lively with song and laughter. In the spirit, I allowed myself to smile.

“Oney?” Mrs. Wilks’ voice like a lash.

“Ma’am?”

“What has gotten into you?”

I set my eyes down. “A dream, Ma’am.”

Mrs. Wilks’ eyes flared, her mouth tightened. “Of what did you dream, Oney?”

It wasn’t enough for her to own me. She wanted my dreams, too.

“Oney?”

I told her I’d dreamed of ravens. Or crows. Anything but the Queen Mother and son—the future ruler of the kingdom.

Mrs. Wilks waved me off, talking birds and primitive culture.

###

American Royalty by Charli Mills

Cory grabbed bags of Doritos, kissing his wife before she retreated to the mall with their daughter “Drive safe with the princess.”

He grinned, now king of his castle with a tv remote scepter. A few buddies arrived with prerequisite beer to gain entry. Cory illuminated the big-screen. Unfettered cheers rose — no work, no church, no wives. At least for four quarters.

Breaking News.

Another shooting. Cory dropped his beer. Obvious as a black raven against white snow, he recognized his wife’s purse and sprawled hair. Pools of ruby and brass surrounded her head like an American crown.

###

Why? by D. Avery

Cronk! Raven’s call. “Diet is varied and opportunistic”. Cronk!, announcing carrion. Big black bird of varied reputations, mythical, dark. Cronk! Associated with death.

Why? Raven, not hawk nor dove, just a witness, an opportunistic feeder. Raven hears the gunshots, raven flies in, watches, waits.

With each bullet fired

Obliterated childhood

His own soul fading

To himself brings brutal death

Innocence is carrion.

Cronk! Raven calls in her family, teaches them to thrive. They, opportunistic feeders, learn to listen for the gunshots. Carrion eaters do not wonder at the source, do not wonder why there are so many fallen children.

###

Act of Congress by Molly Stevens

Dorothy abandoned her dishwashing to view the spectacle outside her kitchen window. A bald eagle circled overhead, closing in on a raven’s nest in the crotch of the big pine tree.

There must be babies in that nest.

She shuddered at the vulnerability of the chicks, on the menu for an overwhelming predator. Returning to a stack of pots and pans, she sighed and looked away from the brutal drama.

The clamor of angry birds reclaimed her attention. They waged a riotous protest, and the ravenous eagle retreated.

No mass murder today. Babies saved by an act of congress.

###

Mr Craven by Juliet Nubel

The whole school knew him as Raven. It was the way his black cloak flew behind him as he stormed along the corridors, screeching as he passed.

“Be quiet!” Don’t run!” Stop laughing!”

Never a smile or a nod. Just those piercing eyes staring down his crooked beak of a nose.

In class he hit us with his ruler, slapping hard on the backs of hands or legs. He brought it down so hard on my head one day that it drew blood. He looked pleased, not ashamed.

His real name was Craven. The extra C stood for Cruel.

###

Freedom by Kay Kingsley

Paralyzed, I laid in bed, unable to move even to scratch my nose. If I tried hard not to think about it I kept that imminent feeling of insanity at bay. I didn’t look at the calendar to know the date. I didn’t care anymore. Every day was the same. The godawful same. Gazing out the window tugged at my heart. I couldn’t see trees, houses, or even people. Only gray and freedom flying. Black ravens. Carrying the invisible strings to my heart, like dark dreams, my weighted freedom. I was jealous of birds… so I set them free.

###

Sign From God by Heather Gonzalez

“God, please show me a sign.”

Sam prayed as Katherine attempted to make a fire. They had been lost in the woods for days and hunger was really beginning to set in. Being a former girl scout meant that Katherine felt much more confident of their survival than he did.

“It is summer. Why do we need a fire?” Sam gripped.

Out of nowhere, a raven hit the ground hard in front of Sam. He knew it was a sign from God but was it good or bad? Before we could decide, Katherine picked it up.

“Oh good. Dinner.”

###

Black-Winged Messenger by Sarah Whiley

“They are the black-winged messengers from beyond,” my friend Bridget decreed, mystically.

I rolled my eyes. “You know they’re a real problem on farms?” I countered.

I remembered my farming mate telling me how the ravens particularly liked his grapes and soft fruits; and even how some of the larger ravens attacked the lambs! I’d seen them frequent Australian roadsides, feasting on the carcasses of the dead. Personally, I thought them altogether, quite opportunistic and horrid.

But I kept my mouth shut, as she continued, “When magic is near, the Raven will appear”.

Each to their own, I thought.

###

Raven by FloridaBorne

Why had I allowed her behind the wheel of my beloved Isuzu Trooper?

Teeth gritted…I knew it was coming.

“Bird!” My sister yelled out, slamming on the brakes. “Would you look at that raven!”

“Do I have to?” I grumbled.

Driven, she travelled another hundred feet along the lonely dirt road.

“Bird!”

While she stared through binoculars at another flock of feathered vermin, I opened the passenger’s door and jumped out.

“What’s wrong?”

“As if you didn’t know!” I replied, glaring at her.

“Normal people love birds!”

“I’m tired of flying into the windshield.  I’m not a passenger pigeon.”

###

Feeding the Ravens by Susan Sleggs

When visiting Grandma, I asked, “May I feed your friendly ravens?”

“Boy, you stay away from those evil birds. They’ll peck your eyes out!” my father snapped.

My mother disagreed. “I’ve fed those birds all my life. Only mythology and superstition say they are evil.”

Grandma settled the argument when she handed Dad her I-pad open to a fact page about ravens; they mate for life, use tools, can learn human speech, play in the snow, fly upside down, recognize human faces, voices and kindness.

Dad stomped up the stairs.

Grandma, Mom and I went out the back door.

###

Quoth the Raven (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane bends to scatter crumbs from her morning muffin. Will Edgar come today?

Ravens. Birds of Apollo and Odin, messengers from these gods of prophecy. Harbingers of death and loss. She can’t lose much more. She’ll feed her raven instead; give him a name.

Flapping heralds Edgar’s arrival. He pecks his breakfast, fixes his unnerving gaze on her. He hops aside and she sees it.

She edges forward but Edgar has already retreated, perching on the fence. She stoops closer, in awe. A ring, gold in color only, plated finish well-scraped.

“Yes, Edgar,” she laughs. “I love you, too.”

###

Raven Mum by Lisa Rey

The raven knew how she was perceived. As a bird full of venom and darkness, ready to peck your eyes out. She blamed these horror novels that were distributed around. In reality she was just like the other bird Mums out on her travels looking for food for her young: three sons and two daughters. Their father had being a loser but she diplomatically called him a ‘free spirit’. He had left when the babies were young and could literally be anywhere right now. She swooped down in battle with a crow Mum to get the piece of bread.

###

Winged Memory by PTSD Gal

They sang on the porch, but only for my father. He found them after a summer night’s thunderstorm. One of the few memories I have of him was when he was more of a father to them than me. Or so I thought.

As the Ravens grew stronger they would take their wings out for a test drive. ‘You see my love when they are strong they will leave and not return. It’s easy to let a creature go. You, I truly love and I’m afraid one day your wings will take you away and I can’t let go.’

###

An Uncommon Raven by JulesPaige

Raven watched her brother sweep the Nintendo villains in the
futuristic shimmering grove. Her father, on the balcony
drinking his Kingfisher beer and kicking off debris with his foot
into the void of the space below, not seeing his wife sighing
into her glass of Burgundy. When had the virtue of her family
turned into a single tonal resonance, lacking real life?

Raven hurried, she’d reach the bridge that spanned the
connection of this bored little town into the city. There the
library awaited. Her sanctuary. There she could read and
perhaps create a plan to save them all.

###

Naming a Superhero by Joe Owens

The discarded suggestions still hung in the air as the room fell silent. After all, it wasn’t every day you had the opportunity to hang a name on a super hero. This could be the stuff of legends.

“We must dig deeper folks,” Chairman Jim said pounding the table with his fist.

Well, Hawkman is taken!” Louie announced.

“That’s a stupid, bird-brain name anyway,” Linus replied. Linus never needed encouragement to continue, so he laughed as his own joke.

“I know,” Fred began as his face slowly bore a solid grin before he nodded his head in confirmation. “Raven!”

###

Arrival by John See

We watched from the kitchen window. The creature had wings, arms, and dark, iridescent feathers. Tufts of feathers grew in unlikely places. Ugly and beautiful, awkward and graceful–a misbegotten, overgrown raven.

Standing a few feet from the sycamore tree that dwarfs our backyard, it opened its mouth. Its thunderous caw was so loud it chased sparrows from the sycamore and sent two small boys scurrying away. A shoelace hung from its beak, as though it had just devoured a teenage boy.

All that was when there were just three of us and we still enjoyed each other’s company.

###

Served by TinTins

Her hair was as opaque as a raven’s jacket. Perched at the bar, her eyes searched, pursuing prey.  Her slinky red dress left nothing to the imagination; intentional.

She’d taken payment earlier that morning. Flaxen haired with emerald eyes; not your typical ladies’ man.   Still, there was something captivating about him; easy to place.

“What are you drinking?” the smooth operator probed.

“Your wedding band?” she countered.

Bemused, he removed the ring from his finger.

Seemingly satisfied she proffered her cheek and whispered, “I’ve a message for you.”

Intrigued he advanced.

“Your wife will see you in court sir.”

###

The Conspiracy by Reena Saxena

Her mother believes that ravens bring bad news, and gets rid of them quickly, if they land on the balcony.

Rowena is born with a special ability – to see beyond words. It has been more of a curse than a gift, as she fails to gain acceptance in social and professional circles. Her presence terrifies people, and they find reasons to get rid of her. She may not speak a word, but her overall demeanor gives those scary, all-knowing signals.

The raven has been shot down, and her mother looks relieved. She sees the dark conspiracy finally getting her.

###

The Grave Watcher by Gloria

Nancy sobbed as her father’s coffin was lowered into the six-foot hole. Her mother wasn’t crying or watching her husband being laid to rest; instead, her eyes were firmly fixed on the raven that perched on a nearby gravestone. Her mother left the cemetery but she never returned home.

Thirty years later, Nancy watched from a distance as a small crowd gathered in the cemetery for the burial of her estranged mother. She didn’t cry, nor did she watch as the coffin was being lowered into the ground. She was distracted by a raven landing on her father’s gravestone.

###

A Summer Reckoning by JulesPaige

Amber thought the butterfly was born under the sign of Cancer.
Once fairy like, the sun bleached, layogenic colors had turned
into a sideways transparency. Would that be enough to suppress
the hovering raven’s appetite? Warning colors gone.

Amber, while drinking her chamomile tea, watched the insect
rest in the empty granite birdbath. Farfetched to think that by
not filling it, she had given the bug sanctuary. There were no
assurances in regards to her own nature. One moment
gregarious and the next autophobic.

Amber went into the back garden. She’d save the butterfly
from being eaten, at least.

###

Dear Virginia Clay, by Denise Aileen DeVries

You were hard, unwelcoming,
allowing only the familiar
or the most intrusive to flourish,
then clinging, hanging onto everything.

In the right light, your forest
full of hanging vines, brambles
and poison ivy resembled the banyan
where I played one magical year.

But you were nothing like the rich, red
island soil that nurtured sweet fruit.
And while the sunlit vaults of your pines
recalled my fine old Colorado school,

benevolent ravens roosting above,
attic trusses serving as branches,
your woods offered no haven,
tripping me, ripping flesh at every turn.

Now, Virginia Clay, in a new landscape,
I remember you as a Lothario, full
of broken promises, my inability to mold
or conform to you shaping who I am today.

###

Mrs. Bird’s Children by JulesPaige

Brân was one of those boys at birth that you wonder how they
fit within the confines of their mother… He was born with a
full head of black hair. Like his father, yet he grew to be a
gentle giant. Very much unlike his father. Who once the lad
grew tall enough to keep the husband from dissing his wife –
left.

Mother and son, lived well enough without him. And grew
their family by a foundling on their doorstep. A girl with
raven hair, loving them both without ever questioning her
origins. No need for any DNA testing.

###

Ravenous by Kalpana Solsi

It slithered around the rough bark climbing up. Twenty pair of black claws impeded its
progress. However, the scaly creature defied the cacophony of cawing and clawing to
reach the eggs cocooned in the nest on the highest branch. It was a war, a war of one
species versus the other. Nikhil held the pink slip between his fingers and un-spooled in
his mind, the war fought in the boardroom with his own species. The Law of the Jungle
was very much evident in the urban concrete. He had to fight his own battles. The ravens
were still cawing.

###

Ravens in Reflection by Wallie & Friend

“But it’s just a bird!”

The man shook his finger at the children around him. “You’ll hurt her feelings if you talk like that. Ravens are the soul of wisdom. They are harbingers.”

The girl who had spoken wrinkled her nose and folded her arms. “Don’t look wise to me!”

“And that tells you how useful looks are.” The man took the raven on his wrist. “This bird is very wise. A century or so in Heaven, and this is what we say to critics. When do we let them trouble us, friend?”

The raven stretched her wings. “Nevermore!”

###

The Raven by Rugby843

I see you there, eyeing me, wondering how long it would take to raise your bow and pierce me with that arrow. I see you, contemplating, but think of this: For my species, I have an unusual memory and you will rue this day for eternity.

My eyes are keen, my feathers swift, and a twitch of your finger and I’ll be off, out of sight.

Then in the night when you think you are safe in your bed, I’ll come calling. Keep your windows locked, for I am a very strong and clever bird. This my final warning.

###

Raven by Kim Blades

Mark’s gnarled hands tried desperately to dig deeper. But as fast as his crooked fingers dragged the dry grains up and over the rim, so the sides collapsed and the sand slid back downwards.
He stopped digging for water and sat back, exhausted.

The sun was too close in these lonely desert lands
Lands that shimmered like an endless sea in the heat haze.

He knew he was not alone.

It watched him from the sandstone cliffs.
Watched and waited.

It would not be long now.

Mark knew that soon his open, staring eyes would be the raven’s prize.

###

Raven’s Eyes by Miriam Hurdle

“Do you have any water left, Dave?”

“I still have some. Take a sip. Your lips are badly chapped, Ben.”

“We have been lost in unpaved hiking trail for five days.”

“We only have water enough for two more days! I hope we could locate water soon!”

“Look, Dave! A raven is circling in the air and ready to dive down.”

“It spotted a dead deer and wanted its share. I think.”

“And the deer was drinking water!?”

“That may be our hope for water, Ben.”

“We could reach down by nightfall.”

“I hope this raven saves our lives.”

###

Raven Haired Women by Eric Pone

Maryann’s raven sat on her windowsill cawing happily. Maryann was so excited as it was the first time in weeks that the girls were going out. The chirp of her phone stopped that excitement. “Go for Maryann.” Ducky cheerfully answered back. “Hey, girl Ginger around?” Maryann nudged Ginger awake. “What Duck?” Ducky sent them the pics of the kings’ mother and his former girlfriend. “Holy shit.” Ginger breathed. “Your guess was right. Eowyn is redirecting the operation you two are to meet me in Lagos.” Maryann and Ginger looked at each other. “Ono?” Ducky replied with a laugh. “Busy.”

###

Raven Down by Frank Hubeny

There are plenty of explanations for the same data but what Randy wanted was to understand it at all.

He watched a bunch of crows tussling in the air and got out his phone. When he realized that one of the crows was being picked on lethally he switched the app to record video.

Aren’t birds supposed to be peaceful at least toward members of their own kind?

A select handful pecked the target repeatedly making sure its body could no longer move. Others flew about apparently guarding and watching.

Then it was over. Those who remained living departed.

###

Nothing to Crow About by Norah Colvin

Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.

“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.

“Shoo!”

It didn’t shoo–more came.

Brucie shouted, waving his arms.

The crows shuffled closer.

Brucie thrashed wildly.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.

The crows flew away.

“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.

Brucie nodded, then let the others play.

The crows never returned.

###

Wearing by D. Avery

Sighing, Miranda looked through her closet, as if something new might have appeared. She finally took down the tired slacks, blouse and sweater that she usually wore on Wednesday. It would serve, though it’d serve better if she hadn’t packed so many pounds around her middle.
So much besides her weight had changed since she began teaching; changes that were demoralizing and depressing.

Sighing again she adjusted the accessory that now completed her outfit. Her Raven brand concealment holster used to tuck more easily into her waistband. Now the gun she carried, like her dispiritedness, was harder to conceal.

###

Never So Simple by Roger Shipp

“Mamma… Mamma… The raven is back!” Mika ran breathlessly onto the back porch of the small trailer where her mother was removing the last fleshy remnants from the hides hanging from the rafters.

“Don’t worry child. It’s grown hungry and is raiding the fields just like the other birds.”

“But Grandmamma said…”

“I know what she said.” Mama clutched me close to her bosom. “Unci believes in great meanings from all the forest animals.”

“Does that mean it’s not true?”

“Grandmamma would never lie to you, Mika.”

“So, it is true.”

“The truth is never so simple, my child.”

###

Dumpster Duck! by odysseyofhappiness

They flew cawing, laughing.

Dumpster Duck!

He followed, behind, avoiding attention.

Move dumpster duck!

Bodies slammed him

He struggled to remain in flight, wings trembling with sadness.

The cloud of feathers moved onward through the azure expanse.

He looked downward at the land of the legged, and flew as a falcon.

Downward.

The boy jumped in his seat by the window.

“Haha what a pussy!” Another boy jeered

“Scared of a birdie, FAGGOT!?” Yelled another, throwing an eraser, hitting the boy.

He turned, tears in his eyes, and looked down upon the lifeless bird.

Downward.

Another Raven.

###

The Craven Raven by Graeme Sandford

That’s what they called him.

It wasn’t his fault, he’d been frightened by a loud bang and a scary scarecrow when just a fledgling. Since then he’d been a nervous type.

But, it was an unkindness that the other ravens kept on about it; and it didn’t help his confidence that there was a constant conspiracy to keep him from leading a normal raven’s life.

The other ravens mimicked ‘bangs’ and dropped straw on him whilst he slept. He woke to the confusion that his dreams, where he was haunted by marauding scarecrows, had become reality.

###

Strange Bedfellows by Lisa Listwa

“Everyone thinks you’re ridiculous,” taunted Raven, circling around his companion.

Unicorn drank from the cool, sparkling stream.

“No one laughs about rainbows when I’m around,” Raven prodded.

Silent, Unicorn continued walking along the shore.

“I strike fear in the hearts of men,” he boasted, puffing out his chest feathers.

Finally, Unicorn stopped.

“And what of you?” she asked. “Many believe you bring light and gracious provision, that you usher in transformation. You do not know yourself.”

Uncomfortable, Raven flapped his wings.

“It is you who needs to transform,” he muttered.

Moonlight cast Raven’s shadow over Unicorn’s pure white form.

###

Raven, Brother Raven…by Raymond Roy

Raven, Brother Raven, Is there a message that you bring? Mysteriously different from other birds, who choose to chirp and sing.

Raven, Brother Raven,

Blue-steeled feathers, ebony-onyx colored eyes,

Curiosity and character,I’m bewildered at your size

Raven, Brother Raven,

Poe did quoeth you “Nevermore”, with his somewhat twisted mind,

Natives legends infer, you created all mankind.

Raven, Brother Raven,

Your caw has my attention, omen of certain revolution, a cleansing kindred spirit,…leading to ascension.

Raven, Brother Raven,

Heed your sacred clan,

Put aside your trickster ways, for the benefit of man.

Raven, Brother Raven…

###

Raven by Rebecca Glaessner

Starship Raven

Departing Earth orbit

Onboard systems reduced

Power rerouted to propulsion system

Maximum acceleration

Destination arrival time: 42,327 Earth years

> 44,564-07-23

Destination reached

Asteroid mining drones dispatched

Planetary entry sequence complete

Metamorphosis protocol activated

Generational fleet arrival: 27,424 EY.

> 57,309-04-14

Sea levels 62%

Atmospheric composition: 12% oxygen, 81% carbon dioxide

Surface vegetation 77%

Habitation modules 4%

Fleet arrival: 14,679 EY

> 71,988-10-17

Ecosystem 100%

Habitation modules 100%

Human fleet population 72%

Starship Raven shutdown

> 73,651-03-07

“Raven, help, activate.”

Systems rebooting

Ecosystem: critical

Human population 2%

Repair protocols activated

###

 

Pal Says by D. Avery

Think his name was Ernie, they called him Ornery. Once had a woman, a whiskey maker. He loves her still. Her name was Wanda and that’s what she did. She wandered away when she found her Will. She and Will got a goat ‘cause she wanted a kid, left ol’ Ornery, but he loves her still.

Wanda and Will, hear they’re livin’ clean. Ol’ Ornery’s up in the hills, livin’ by the rushing still stream. Under the pines he parses corn, he thinks of Wanda, but doesn’t mourn, ‘cause he loves her still. Talks to the ravens, ravin’ drunk.

###