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April 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

April 15She points to the ceiling of the porch. “Look at that lath!”

I do, and see tiny strips of wood forming the ceiling. That must have taken a craftsman long hours to arrange and nail each individual piece. More impressive than sheet-rock that’s slapped up in a hurry to get a house up fast. My gaze lingers now that I know what to admire.

We open the door that’s propped shut by a heavy stick of carpentry wood. Old carpet is peeled back to expose polished hardwood. No one has to tell me to admire that detail. Our steps echo in the large room that once was Elmira School. Chalk boards line both the front and back wall, and for the first time, I realize that the wood had once been painted school-bus gold and trimmed in dark red.

“Those globes are original.” Now she’s pointing to three huge lights that suspend from the ceiling. Original? That would make them over 100 years old. No, it had to be later. Sandpoint didn’t build its first Powerhouse until 1910 and it would not have electrified Elmira, 17 miles north by the time this school was built. But she knows her architecture and continues to point out to me why this schoolhouse is worth preserving.

I think the schoolhouse is worth preserving to honor its service to education and the community that once learned how to spell and add on those chalkboards. The history needs preserving, too and the swell of an idea is pressing at my mind. Yet she is the one to voice it.

“You’re a writer. Have you collected stories from living students?”

That’s how I preserve history. I nod and agree that it’s a good idea, and I even imagine placing an add in local papers. She suggests a reunion and I tell her that I think the school-grounds are a perfect setting for Elmira community residents to gather for BBQs and horse-shoes. She agrees, enthusiastically, and now I’m certain I want her to be my neighbor.

Outside she points to a cement pad now covered in peat. “I bet that was to play four-square.” We laugh about how children today play with the red rubber ball but have no idea of the original game. “They just kick it around,” she says.

“And hopscotch,” I add, remembering the fun of that game when our second-grade teacher taught us to draw the squares and numbers. I can imagine this place returning to life. I’m so compelled by this stranger’s visit (she’s returned a second time so now we are friends) that I spend an entire morning at the Elmira Schoolhouse noticing details I had missed. My photos and story are at Elmira Pond Spotter.

I hope she buys the place. She will nurture this old building, and along with another neighbor, we can nurture this scattered community.

Nurturing is the April topic for the #1000Speak project, and writers at Carrot Ranch have been exploring the topic in various ways. We considered the consequences of harming our environment in “The Day the World Turned Brown,” and explored how we can recover from devastating moments by inserting a semi-colon to continue the story in “The Story Doesn’t End.” Officially, April 20th is the day for any participating #1000Speak writers to post in unity with one another.

This week we are going to consider what it means to nurture neighbors or neighborhood. Is it important to gather with neighbors for coffee or BBQ? What does it mean to save a neighborhood relic like the Elmira Schoolhouse?

April 15, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about nurturing a neighborly relationship. It can be a next-door neighbor, a neighborhood critter or a neighborly place like a schoolhouse or community garden. Show what nurturing looks like for characters or places involved.

Respond by April 21, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Welcome to the West by Charli Mills

Viola graduated from normal school in Wisconsin, class of 1909. She assisted a teacher her father knew back home. Most of her students were children of neighbors she grew up with. Viola craved something more wild. Her father winked, though her mother fussed when she announced her appointment out west.

A strong wind battered the train as it pulled up to a remote rough-hewn platform. Whistles blew and Viola stepped off to face strangers. A man approached her, doffed his hat and introduced her to the small crowd gathered.

“Howdy, Neighbors! Welcome our new schoolteacher!”

They smiled and cheered.