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Through the Mesh

The mesh forms a barrier, although not completely. Screens block some particles, but not those small enough to get through. Looking through the mesh of a window, the screen remains unseen unless it becomes the focus.

Writers explored this permeable obstruction. The word itself holds different meanings. All was open to interpretation.

The following stories are based on the November 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story.

***

Awaited by Allison Maruska

Today has been long awaited.

I move slowly down the long hall towards my destiny, the place where my past and present mesh into a single moment. I swallow, as if that will quell my nerves.

Spectators are waiting. For some, today is a long promise finally fulfilled. It’s strange to think that, as the reason they’re here has nothing to do with them. The real reason isn’t among these faces. She’s vibrant in my mind’s eye, though. She’s eternally beautiful there.

A moment before my time, the official’s voice breaks through.

“May God have mercy on your soul.”

###

No Deterrent by Kim Blades

It was a ten foot high, heavily barbed, wire mesh fence. Supposedly a barrier to disincline would be intruders.

It worked for a while. Forty four nights in total.

Forty five nights after the formidable fence was constructed, a couple of local thieves with wire cutters worked for twenty minutes to cut out a doorway in the barbed mesh.

They laid the mesh ‘door’ on the grass and proceeded to enter the property that backed onto the river.

They stole a lawnmower and the light fittings on the back verandah.

The thieves didn’t bother to replace the mesh door.

###

Blaggards and Traitors by Jack Schuyler

Big Richie blew a stream of smoke across the desk and Carlson coughed through his gag.

“My network’s a fabric, Carlson, a mesh of thieves and blaggards.”

Carlson’s eyes watered and a tear dripped from his ruddy cheek.

“But for traitors, I’ve no tolerance. What use does a snag have but to unravel the whole garment?” Richie slammed a handgun on the desktop.

Carlson struggled desperately against his constraints.

“I’ve no choice Carlson, a snag’s got to be cut from the mesh.”

He raised his gun and Carlson let out a final whimper before being severed from the mesh.

###

Why Flies Hate Blair Toilets by Anne Goodwin

Why do you hate us, humans? Because we visit your kitchens with dung on our feet? That’s our culture, dammit. We mean no harm.

We were as excited as you were: brand new latrines! No more long commutes from heap to heap under the scorching sun. We followed the smell around the corner, dipped down the pit for a feast. Stated, we soared towards the light. Bam! Blocked by wire mesh.

We cannot retrace our flight path to the entrance. Evolution taught us to trust in light. Why do you hate us, humans? Why shorten our already short lives?

###

Mesh Fly Screen by Michael

When we first went to visit the town, we were to spend the next eight years in the hotel we stayed in during the height of the summer had no mesh fly screens. The Manager showed us to our room and then proceeded to catch the flies finding our open door too good to resist.

With her fingers, she hunted them down, squeezed them and threw them out the door as more happily invaded us.

It was one of the few down sides to living in the country, mesh screens were a rare sight, but myriads of flies were common.

###

Mesh by FloridaBorne

“She don’t mesh with nobody!” Audra’s father complained. “Must be yer side o’ the family.”

“Horace, you moron! She’s just like yer Aunt Clara with gettin’ scholarships!”

“She ain’t int’rested in boys!”

“My sister was pregnant at 14,” Audra said. “I’m going to college!”

“Yer 16. Yer ma birthed you at 13, her ma birthed at 14. What’s wrong with you, girl?”

“Wrong is having 4 daughters with 2 children each, and living off welfare,” Audra said. “Try forcing me to be with a man and I’ll call child abuse!”

“Best ta let the renegades go,” her mother sighed.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The kid hoisted the bag of slop in the dumpster. It hit with a splat and he toweled his hands with his apron.

“Hey Mesh.”

Mesh popped up. “Oh. Hey Brooke, I didn’t see, um, you okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just…” She blew a cloud of smoke to the sky, wiped her face into the shining smile that raked in the tips. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“I swear to god if Paul touches my ass again…”

“You should say something. He owns the restaurant, he doesn’t own you.”

“Is that like some Hindu Indian wisdom?”

“No, it’s common sense.”

###

The Call to Adventure by Colleen Cheseboro

Abby sat up in bed. There it was again. A strange buzzing sound echoed through the room. The ability to understand the languages of all creatures had also given her excellent hearing. She could hear a pin drop a mile away. Today, this sound shouted for her attention.

Abby shivered. The sound continued. Curious, she crept toward the window. Drawing the blinds, she gasped in surprise. It was a bee, crawling on the mesh screen stuck between the glass window.

“Save us,” it hummed.

That would prove to be a tall order for a girl with a bee allergy.

###

Solit’s Web by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d climbed down the drainage tunnel, crawling due east, then straight down. That ladder better not end before the tunnel did. Beau had promised, and he was getting 60% of the take for having the only map to Solit. She had the muscle and the stealth, so it fell to her to do the actual theft.

She snapped on her headlamp. The steel mesh of the spider’s web gleamed below her, easy enough to drop down to, but how was she going to get back up?

Oh well. She’d figure that out, once she’d snatched the queen’s ruby eggs.

###

Seeing the Elephant by D. Avery

Robert was practically running now.

He would have missed sugar season, but his father would appreciate his help with spring planting. His father wouldn’t ask him, as the man on the train had, about the Battle of the Wilderness.

Soon he’d be eating Ma’s cooking, would tousle the hair of his baby brother, six now, teach him everything there was to know, would have him driving the team, set him up with his own team of oxen. Robert ached to again work the farm, to mesh with the seasons.

Almost home; soon he would set this damn musket down.

###

Flash Fiction by Irene Waters

The kick in the stomach woke her. “Stop spinning you bastard,” her husband yelled as his arms flailed and his leg moved into position for another punch to the gut. Cassandra moved quickly, shaking him from sleep. Travis awoke with a start; pale, sweating and obviously frightened. “Cassie, thank god you were there.” His eyes were wide with fear as though he could still see the demon of his dream. “The web the spider wove is supposed to catch dreams and filter out the bad ones but she was enmeshing me, making me part of the world wide web.

###

The Spoiler by Rosemary Carlson

”Why do some people have to spoil everything?” I wondered out loud, as I stared through the mesh of the screen door into the jungle of the yard. I was thinking of the old man at the pier. I had thought, last year when visiting here, that he was my friend. This year, it was clear he wasn’t.

I loved to go to the pier at sunset. The Gulf was so peaceful. The sunset so beautiful. A man was there who I used to enjoy talking to. No more. Now he only wanted to argue. I didn’t know why.

###

Like a Friendly Spider by Kerry E.B. Black

When as a child I didn’t get along with someone, my mom would say we didn’t “mesh.” An optimistic humanist, I had a hard time accepting this. I’d re-work my approach toward friendship, hoping to integrate into their lives. I’d learn a sport, watch popular films, read trending books. Still, the “mesh” eluded me.

As I grew, classmates changed to fit into intricate webs of friendship.

So I weaved a new fabric, one accepting others’ diverse contributions. Not everyone would want to be a part of my web, and that was okay. I could mesh with those who did.

###

Pair Unbonding by Frank Hubeney

The puzzle pieces didn’t mesh together. Robert thought something was missing.

One: Robert’s girlfriend, Sylvia, spent the weekend with Paul.

Two: Sylvia discovered Paul already had a girlfriend.

Three: Sylvia’s girlfriends advised her to go back to Robert. “He’ll get over it.” He’s better than nothing.

Robert heard of autistic people who could see the hidden patterns of puzzle pieces. They could fix intractable problems, but Janice wasn’t autistic nor was she motivated to solve such puzzles. Her approach was simpler. She become the missing piece and made a blanket from the others to keep her and Robert warm.

###

Mesh by Judy E Martin

The metallic clanking appeared to be coming from the kitchen. “PETE, what are you doing?”

Silence, then more clanking with additional thudding. Irritated, Sarah got out of bed, went to the bathroom then headed downstairs for some water to moisten her dry mouth.

“I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOOOOOOO.” Dear God, not the singing! Opening the kitchen door Sarah’s stomach growled at the aroma of frying bacon, her eyes then drawn to the discarded egg shells, and crumbs from a semi hacked loaf.

“Fanshy a shnack?” Sensing disapproval Pete apologised. “Shorry, I sheem to have made a bit of a mesh!”

###

Mesh Unit by Bill Engleson

“Mesh me?”

“Not much. Oh, did I mishear you?”

“No, I misspoke.”

“Ah.”

I am silent.

I want to remember.

Montreal.

“She’ll put you up,” Terri had said.

“She’s only met me once.”

“Don’t worry. I noticed the spark. You’ll be like lox and cream cheese.”

It was a bitter winter. The Greyhound was having heating issues.

Her dark hair, unfathomably red lips, welcoming arms, met me at the terminal.

“It’s small,” she said. “We’ll have to share…everything.”

“I have little,” I said, “So that should be easy.”

One winter.

Now, a fuzzy memory.

It’s amazing how moments fly.

###

Mesh in Shadorma by Lady Lee Manila

common mesh
their memories mesh
history
together
caught in a mesh of crosses
and double crosses

like a shoal
herrings trashed in net
play on fears
of unknown
reality of nature
form intricate mesh

interesting
family structure
complex mesh
hierarchy
mesh of power equations
conflicts between them

he and she
her frame mesh with his
flawlessly
fingers mesh
his heart beats with hers, in time
like no tomorrow

harmony
almost feel her warmth
in concord
in rhythm
between them there’s just one soul
synchronize breathing

together
be in harmony
ebony
and ivory
together make sweet music
and forever more

###

Flash Fiction by Susan Sleggs

“Melding two people in marriage is like weaving your personalities into a strong mesh. Today I know your special mesh is as fine as Lilly’s wedding veil. It is my duty to warn you, life will present trials that will stretch the spaces and even create holes. Disputes can be about anything from how to raise your children, to spend money, or deal with your in-laws. I challenge you to never let your mesh get a hole in it. Do you accept my challenge?”

The reverend eyed the bride’s family as the naive couple answered in unison, “We do.”

###

Meshed by Ritu Bhathal

Sitting together in the backseat, our fingers met and slowly entwined. Our eyes met and a smile spread across our faces.

It had been a big day today. Emotional, but worth every tear I had shed.

After vows had been taken, congratulations had been exchanged, music and merriment, feasting and festivities had finished, the final goodbyes had started.

Looking back, I saw my family waving. Looking forward, his family held their arms open, welcoming me.

It was then I realised that there was no them and us, but two families, forever meshed together because of our love and union.

###

Bridging the Gap by Reena Saxena

“I can take you to the doctor, if needed.”

This was his first sentence spoken to her after three months. The marriage was shaky. But, Tisha was not willing to give up so easily. It was an ego battle, more than anything else. She was secretly happy that he had been watching her growing unease with the old spinal problem.

“I don’t think it is that bad. A good back rub might ease the tense nerves.”

“I’ll fix an appointment for you with the physiotherapist.”

Shucks! She had managed to break the glass, but the mesh was still there.

###

Not Today by Sherri Matthews

I knocked once: waited; then again. No sound. I checked my phone. Nothing. I drew a deep breath and knocked again; at last I saw his outline through the mottled glass pane. He hadn’t opened the door yet, but I knew it would be a bad day. Rain fell, steady and cold. He must have heard it, yet he took an age to find his key while I got soaked. I watched him shuffle, shoulders slumped, to the door and I wondered when I would see him sharp and clear again, no longer through shadowed mesh. But not today.

###

Fleecing Lint by JulesPaige

As a teenager, Holly got local job. Certainly not something
that was going to be a career – working at the corner dry-
cleaners and laundromat. The chemical smell was horrid.
And people literally dropped off their dirty laundry by the
pound. Pockets had to be checked, and stains had to be
noted in case they couldn’t be removed.

A ‘perk’ was cleaning the dryers mesh lint traps. Sometimes
loose change could be found. Holly did not feel obliged to
report these treasures to the owners. She felt she deserved
that can of pop or candy bar gotten from chump change.

###

The Mesh by Cheryl Oreglia

I admit these baby blues screen me from the more painful realities of life. They are the mesh I stand behind, like bars of a prison, some days I’m looking in, and others I’m looking out. A sacred veil of sorts, or stained glass window that matches the sky, this is the sanctuary from which I view the world. Unlike contacts, I can’t remove them, especially when they fail to serve me, grooming my ignorance, and blurring my wisdom. My mesh is invisible to me, but not to the outside world, an ideological screen interwoven with human fallibility.

###

Strong Foundations by Nora Colvin

Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.

“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.

Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”

“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.

The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.

“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.

Another load of mix was spread.

“All done,” said Jamie.

Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.

###

The Volcano by Robbie Cheadle

Craig wanted a volcano island play set. Mom said she would show him how to make one. She bought a wooden board and the makings for paper mache. First, Mom made the basic shape of the volcano out of some wire mesh which she bent into a hump-like shape. Then, they made the paper mache out of water, wood glue and newspaper, torn into strips. Mom showed Craig how to pack the soggy, gluey newspaper over the mesh hump and shape it into a volcano. It took a week to dry and then they painted it. It was impressive.

###

Between Here and There (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni trailed a finger across the mesh. The screened box rested empty, all the dry artifacts now collected. Her vision blurred. The mesh veils the place between here and there. The thought startled Danni. No, the mesh is a tool. She shook off her stupor and focused on the Styrofoam trays that contained shards of crockery, broken glass and rusty square nails. After transporting sixty-seven trays to the lab, she flicked off the lights. In the dark, she thought again about space and time. If material items and bones remain, where does the energy of the spirit depart to?

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Dad was the mesh that held us together.

Now he’s gone and the hole he left has grown wider, more ragged, more irregular.

Try as I might to fix it, mend it or patch it, short of replacing the entire thing I was on a hiding to nothing.

But nothing could ever replace Dad.

The fresh and new didn’t fit, so wrapped and warped in their own lives they didn’t know the man who was my father, my rock. Stories had no meaning, no memories.

Now not even the framework remains. It lies broken and discarded, forgotten and empty.

###

The Porch Between by D. Avery

“Kid, why you got them tools and that mesh screenin’?”

“Feelin’ like doin’ somethin’ nice for Shorty, gonna screen in the front porch where ever’one sets ‘n tell stories.”

“Why?”

“Ta keep mosquitos ‘n such from botherin’ us.

“Ya could, an’ this bein’ fiction an’ all you might even do a real fine job.”

“Yep.”

“But Kid, this bein’ fiction an’ all, we can jes’ say we ain’t got skeeters.”

“That a fact?”

“Yep. ‘Cause this’s fiction.”

“Like alternate facts?”

“Yep.”

“So no skeeters.”

“And an unimpeded view from Shorty’s porch.”

“Things look good from here.”

“That’s a fact.”

###

Thanksgiving by D. Avery

“Whatcha got there, Kid?”

“Vittles.”

“Lemme guess. Got yerself a mess a bacon.”

“Nope, I got carrots.”

“An’ yer gonna roast ‘em, wrapped in bacon.”

“Nope. Jes’ carrots.”

“Oh, boy, here we go. Let’s hear it then.”

“What?”

“The whinin’ an’ lamentin’ about the dearth of bacon here at the ranch.”

“Dearth?”

“Dearth, Kid, lack, scarcity.”

“Well, Pal, there is no scarcity. D’ Earth provides. Look at these beautiful carrots I pulled from d’ earth. Here, I’m giving you some.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Yep, I’m givin’ thanks. I’m thankful fer ever’one at the ranch, an’ fer Shorty’s raw carrots.”

###

The Real Nanjo Castille

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…You killed my father, Nanjo Castille…Prepare to die!”

When writer Liz Husebye Hartmann left that opening line in her comments to the November 9 writing prompt, it promised more creative fun to follow from the Rough Writers & Friends at Carrot Ranch.

During the Flash Fiction Rodeo #2 : Little & Laugh, we discovered a literary side to one of the spammers at Carrot Ranch (the often strange keyword bait calls that end up in our Askimet or other spam folders). It gave us a chuckle, which was the point of the contest. However, Mr. Castille blew the word count.

Not to mention he doesn’t pass the spam test (read more at the SPAM PSA post). Yet you won’t want to miss these robust responses from clever, witty, thoughtful and brilliant writers searching for Nanjo’s identity in the literary world.

The following stories are based on the November 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille.

***

Aegean Dream by Sherri Matthews

Sunset diamonds scattered bright the Aegean Sea.

Summer warmed my bare shoulders there, high above the glassy plain beneath the ancient Pepper Tree.

Sea Nymph’s breeze whispered tales of gods and glory and the Minotaur while I clutched his words to my chest: scrawled on yellowed paper he declared his ageless love while I dreamt.

I listened for his voice through the rustle of the small, crisp leaves; for the step to his music as I followed my pan piper.

‘I am Nanjo Castille’, he breathed into my hair.

I reached to touch him.

But he was never there.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Thanks for coming in, Mr. Castille. Have a seat.

Thank you.

What are you doing?

I’m taking the chair.

No, I meant to sit in.

What is good for Gestapo is good for gander, right?

I don’t think that’s it.

Nice for you having me at your bored meeting. Very FAQ. Very yawn introducing.

Right. About the bags.

The bags, yes. $10 apiece.

Are they knock-offs?

Fine, I can do $20. Would you like the Ralphie Doppelganger or Tommy Realfinger? Also have her fumes.

Perfumes?

Top merch. At my house. Very aware. Aware house indeed.

I’ll be in touch.

###

The Anagrammer by Juliet Nubel

She looked at her screen and let out a huge, belly-filled hoot.

She had done it. Fooled them all. She laughed harder as she pictured them imagining her as Nanjo Castille. Could they see a wide sombrero hat and thick stripy poncho?

Where was mousey Ms Stelliac now? Never one to joke around at school she was making up for it now. On their blogs and in these contests. She was the Queen of Pranks.

They had even missed the last clue in the text – a second anagram, Najno.

Joann grinned from ear to ear. Spamming was such fun!

###

A Day in the Life of Nanjo Castille by Irene Waters

Nanjo stretches in the one room he shares with his mother and ten siblings. Rarely does he get to lie in past 5am.

“Nanjo. You get your good for nuttin’ butt in here NOW.” His mother’s voice is angry but weak from hunger. “We gotta clear out Choco Caramel, Coochi, Ralphiger and Verskatche today. You get your arse on the street and start sellin’.’”

“Ma I think Duparts will come through today.”

“Out!”

Nanjo stepped outside with his goods. He hated begging on the street corners. Preferred the internet.” Cameras whirred. Questions buzzed. Fame from form. “You give’em me bitchcoin.”

###

A Job for Nanjo? by Nora Colvin

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

###

Can dei;ver by D. Avery

The ‘student of concern’ meeting was heated.

“Well”, said the ELA teacher, “His spelling and grammar are low even for a second language student. He doesn’t even try.”

“Sure he does. He tries to jerk your chain. This kid is smarter than you think. Just looking for attention.”

“Yes, I agree. The kid does ok in math. Great flexible thinking and problem solving.”

“That may be, but this kid’s behavior alarms me. He has no empathy and no boundaries. I worry he’s going to grow up to be a sociopath.”

“Right. And Nanjo Castille could become president.”

###

Nanjo’s New Pitch by Michael

In a small darkened room in the basement of his parent’s home Nanjo sits at his computer wishing more than anything to be a writer. He has learning issues, he knows that, but with the aid of his spell checker, he is making every post a winner. He was told, the purpose of a good writer is to make your reader believe you are who you say you are.

Today he has an idea: “Its Chewsday, I wan tell yous all about a grate deel, sex for the price of one.” Nanjo sits back pleased with his opening statement.

###

Nanjo Castille by Telling Stories Together

“Several consumer surveys have shown,” said Nanjo Castille, “that having a human name helps customers identify with our brand.”

“Okay,” said Detective Merrick, “but I’m gonna call you by your model number, NAN-50.”

“As you wish, officer,” said Nanjo, “perhaps a handbag for the missus?”

Merrick produced a hologram photo from his trench coat. “Have you seen this girl? Name’s Cheryl Wei.”

“No,” said Nanjo, and held up one of the handbags, “but this is a very popular purchase among our sixteen to twenty-one demographic.

Merrick inspected the tag, and in that instant drew his sidearm. It read “Cheryl”.

###

The Real Nanjo Castille by Rita Bhathal

Her dad had always been terrible at writing.

Downfall of being a doctor.

When he went to register her birth, instead of stating Margot, he handed them a scrap of paper to read, seeing as he’d wet the baby’s head a little too much the night before.

And so, Nanjo Castille came into existence.

It was obviously an omen.

She was diagnosed with dyslexia as a secondary school student, but help came too late. Reading and writing were never her strong point.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining…

She’s now the most popular human spam bot in existence!

###

The Clone by Robbie Cheadle

It had sounded like such a good idea when her friend’s husband, an expert on human genetics, had suggested that she clone herself. A clone would be useful and could do all the social media and other marketing paraphernalia that was expected of her, as a writer, and which she currently didn’t have time for.

Little did she know that Nanjo Castille would soon become unsatisfied with playing a supporting role in her life. The clone’s ambitions soon became apparent when she entered her own short story into a flash fiction competition and was identified as a potential spammer.

###

Mysterious by Reena Saxena

The Real Nanjo Castille had enticed kids for more than a decade. It was the mystery surrounding his existence that built up his charm. He would appear as a gymnast in the circus, a clown or be seen entertaining kids in local schools and events.

Walt Disney wanted to buy the rights, seeing the popularity of the character.The meeting did not happen. Folklore goes that it was not one person, but several appearing with identical masks and outfits. The creator of the myth chose to remain in anonymity.

What could be the reason for turning down a profitable deal?

###

Fatal Error by Ann Edall-Robson

“What have you done?”

“I’ve been watching you. It didn’t look hard. I created a name and took a run at it. ”

“But why, when I promised I’d help you set everything up to sell your bags?”

“I’m old, impatient, and I don’t see what the big deal is. It still turns on and off.”

“It’s not a light switch, it’s my computer. The one I’m writing my next book on.”

“If you were going to show me how to use it, you should be able to fix it!”

“Oooohhhh, Nana Jo Castle, if only it were that easy.”

###

The Story of Nanjo by Joe Owens

Nanjo drummed his fingers on the desk as his to slow laptop churned away at the internet address. He knew the latest rodeo deadline quickly approached and he wanted in.

“Five minutes!” he exclaimed when his screen finally held the needed information.

Nanjo typed so fast, too fast, relying on his newly installed bargain auto-correct to save him. In the bottom right corner his screen continue to tick away the time, adding to his panic. He checked the word count, but there was no room to explain his situation. His entry would look like this.

“Oh well!”

###

The Different Sides of Me by Susan Sleggs

I Nanjo Castille sit in my office staring at funeral home handouts. When with the public, I am calm, reassuring, kind and almost stoic. The mourning around me is not my own. When time permits, I write nonsensical flash fiction that looks like spam and submit it to Carrot Ranch. It eases the pain I see on a daily basis. I absolutely hate good-byes, those of others or my own. At day’s end, I loose my tied back hair, hang the suit up, and ride the long way home on my Harley enjoying the smells and sights of life.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Nanjo Castille was a member of a street band.

He wasn’t very good, but what he lacked in talent he more than made up for in personality and enthusiasm.

Nanjo had got his name due to a typing error on a Music Hall billboard which his mother had thought ‘cute’. It didn’t help that his father was the banjo player originally given top billing and had legged it as soon as it was discovered Nanjo was on the way.

His Mom had died three years ago and his busking friends had offered him a home.

He played the tambourine.

###

The Real Nanjo Castille by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Blat of mule’s bray, and Nanjo rattled into the village square. People grumbled, crowding the buckboard wagon. They’d been waiting since dawn. The stench of unwashed clothes hung heavy in the morning heat.

“Sorry, sorry!” Nanjo called. “My last stop had dire need of my services, but I’ve saved my best for you!”

He reached behind him and flipped a tarp back. The crowd gasped at the rows of golden bars gleaming in the sun.

“Accept no substitutes! The Real Nanjo Castille soap, a heavenly marriage of Greek olive oil and Viking lye, will cure all your laundry ills!”

###

The Funeral by Frank Hubney

Senor Nanjo Castille sat alone in the church except for his bodyguards. No one else dared attend. They crossed the line this time.

As the Mass for the Dead progressed his business adversary’s money laundering restaurant was destroyed. Twelve dead. The warehouse was next. Fourteen dead. Then the offices. One hundred dead.

In his adversary’s desperation the expected fight around the church began. It lasted ten minutes.

When the service ended Senor Castille walked behind the caskets outside the church and viewed the mess in the street. Then he went to the cemetery to bury his wife and daughter.

###

What’s a Body to Do? by Bill Engleson

Hank looked down at the latest donation.

“Bit grizzled, Phil. None of his organs will be top quality…”

“Check his pockets. See if he’s go a name.”

“Huh, waddayaknow? A bloody diary. Here’s the name. Nanjo Castille!”

“Not from around here, I guess.”

“Small mercies. What’s it say?”

“Okay… ‘My name is Nanjo Tyrone Castille. At the orphanage, they said I’d been left outside the Rialto Theater in South Pasadena on December 25, 1947. The Captain from Castile was playing. Two nuns, Sisters Nancy and Josephine found me…’

“That’s it?”

“The rest is blank?”

“Yup!”

“Odd.”

“Great movie, though.”

“Agreed.”

###

“To Tell The Truth” by JulesPaige

There they were, three people on the panel. All claimed to be Nanjo Castille. Each of the four Judges got to ask questions. Charli, Geoff, Sherri and Norah.

Norah started with; “Where did you go to school? Your Grammar and spelling are atrocious.

“Hard Knocks,” said One.

Geoff quipped through tears of laughter; “Where’d you come up with ‘Bitchcoin’?

“My dog had puppies,” said Two.

Sherri wondered out loud; “What bridge do you troll under?”

“Took over from the Billies…” said Three

Charli queried; “Did you know you remind me of Lake Michigan?”

“We know!” The ‘Three’ said in Unison.

###

Musing on a Spammer by FloridaBorne

Not everyone has his dream fulfilled, but for one man this represented the culmination of a life well-lived.

The panelists on “To Tell The Truth,” singers and a politician, were easily fooled. An impeccable liar, he was delighted they’d chosen another.

“Will The Real Nanjo Castille please stand up.”

The man at the other end knew a lot about spamming, that was certain, but he wasn’t a billionaire who had built an empire.

Nanjo stood, so proud and confident, until the man at the end laughed and whispered, “I’m a hacker. You’ve just donated your entire fortune to charity.”

###

Nanjo Castille: All the Places by Anne Goodwin

You didn’t see me, as you set off for the fells from your tents and your smart hotels. You didn’t see me, from your government palaces, as you closed the steelworks and pits. You didn’t hear me when you moved the call centres to India where graduates paid a pittance had better English accents than mine. You didn’t smell, from your barn conversions by the lakeside, the stench of slime and shit and sorrow.

See me now, friends, brothers, strangers! See the blood, the bone, the bullet holes. Hear the sirens. Smell the fear. Remember my name: Nanjo Castille.

###

Unknown Soldier by Geoff Le Pard

Mary shivered, regretting her choice of coat. Remembrance Day parades brought back memories of the cold like no other.

As the last note of The Last Post drifted away, Mary read the names on the War Memorial. She’d never studied them before. Two Thompsons, three Greys and Nanjo Castille. Now that was an odd name for a Surrey village in 1918.

Who was he? Spanish immigrant? South American dissident? Did anyone else see his name and wonder? Maybe a writer would take it to embed it in a story, giving him a life beyond his current chiselled anonymity.

###

Historical Fiction View 1 by Gordon Le Pard

The French General read the letter and smiled, the English were on the run.

“This Nanjo Castille is certainly our best agent, he seems to know exactly what they are doing. We march at dawn.”

“But the reinforcements and supplies haven’t arrived.”

“Read the message, they are demoralised, they have lost supplies, it will be the victory we need if we can catch them soon.”

Two weeks later, as he looked across the ruins of the army at the impregnable defences, the Lines of Torres Vedras, he cursed Nanjo Castille.

“Find him, kill him, he has cost us Spain.”

###

Historical Fiction View 2 by Gordon Le Pard

Wellington looked across the battlefield at the retreating French, they had fallen into his trap and been decisively defeated.

“I never thought they would believe it.”

“Ever since we broke their codes we have been able to deceive them. But I must admit that the success of Nanjo Castille was unexpected.”

“Who is Nanjo Castille?” Wellington asked.

The spymaster pointed to two clerks.

“NAthaNiel Chalk and JOhn Castle. They made that name up out of their own names, and the French swallowed everything.”

He laughed, “We march at dawn, if all goes well, Nanjo Castille will have freed Spain.”

###

Interviewing the Real Nanjo Castille by Charli Mills

Danni pressed record, fluffing the sound muffler Ike called “The Muppet.” Today, she had access to living history. An elderly man called “The Real Nanjo Castille.”

Wrinkled and shrunken, he hunched beneath a blanket in a wheelchair. “I was born the year they assassinated my father, Pancho Castille.”

“1923. What were you told about your father?”

“He was a great revolutionary. He captured Buffalo Soldiers after Americans attacked our border towns.”

“Wasn’t it the other way around? Castille’s forces attacked US towns, stealing gold coins and burning a purse factory.”

“Why interview me if you already know the story?”

###

Freedom by Colleen Chesebro

The sun slipped behind the mesa. Nanjo Castille dropped to the ground, thankful for the shade. His travels from Mexico to Arizona had kept him on the run from U.S. Border Agents and the Federales. Yet, real freedom was worth the risks. Selling knock-off designer purses on the streets of Tijuana had been his downfall. If he could make it to California, he was home free.

In the coolness, Nanjo slept; never hearing the agent creep up on him. When he awoke, he was handcuffed. From the window of the truck, he watched his chance at freedom evaporate.

###

An Order for Nanjo Castille by Judy E Martin

Dear Mr Castle, or can I call you Nando?

I heard you have some classy bags and perfumes for sale for a tenner. I am after a Christmas prezzie for my mum and she can’t stand that Coco Caramel, but is rather partial to Optimum. I think John Paul Goatier’s perfume in that bottle-shaped like a girdle would suit her better. Oh, and I need a handbag for my sisters. Have you got any of them Blueberry or Herman’s ones in stock? I’m prepared to pay you twenty quid for the lot! Let me know, please.

Jef Leppard

###

And…from…The Real Nanjo Castille…

The Sales Pitch (spam edited to 99 words) by The Real Nanjo Castille

Dear Mr Chalres and Mrs Gerar Depardue, hi Nanjo.
Iget new email as lAst email say bammed as span.
I nanjo. Not Spanbomb. Spanbomb say “Hello. Is there anything you need any editional assistants wtih?” ectrestera. >>>>no wrories forgive I forgie.
>>>>but perfemes/ is nwo at premeim. for you.nO?
You dont >>>>>>>>>>want Perseus?and Bags? sUperier than orgininal? Not that ether.
Wait.
I no wat you want, you 2 wthi dongle tehchnoelgoy:
Hi-edn forch lift truc; parts?. Letme say how thirs owrks for toughguy lyk u,Mr Xharles Mils:

Run now before boss sees me sales pitch.
By bni. Najnno/Project Shipping

Editor’s Note: Nanjo struggled with the 99-word constraint, which continues to be his Achilles Heel. This had to be cut down from 206 words. And yes, he really did respond! If Nanjo wants a second career as a humorist, he needs to get a legitimate email, website and a more transparent purpose.

Of Porches & Chairs

Like another dimension, the porch invites us across the threshold. We can obverse the world from here. Or be observed. Every porch needs a chair to complete this transportation from the world.

Writers explored the world of a porch with a chair this week. As you might suspect, the responding stories include many different porches. Cross over and read awhile.

The following stories are based on the November 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story a chair on a porch.

***

The Red Chair by Lisa Listwa

Rob’s heart beat faster as he parked his pickup and climbed the steps to the porch. The little red chair sitting in the corner couldn’t be the same one he lost years ago, but he had to ask.

It had been his dad’s chair first, then his. Rob couldn’t remember if it was lost by accident or thrown away on purpose, but he wished he still had it. The same could be said of his dad, if truth be told.

He knocked.

“Ma’am?” he said to the woman behind the screen door, “I was wondering about the red chair…”

###

Just Her Size by Kerry E.B. Black

The sight nearly made Kai cry. A child-sized wooden rocking chair for which she’d searched.

“Just what the doctor ordered.”

Literally.

Kai didn’t haggle, simply handed over the asked for amount and hugged the chair with possessive eagerness. It fit between the pediatric wheelchair and the unused walker in her van’s trunk.

She set it beside their fireplace, certain the view included access to the television and allowed for easy conversation. When her daughter arrived home from school, Kai ushered her inside.

The child squealed with delight. A chair just her size which could help improve her muscle control.

###

Chair on the Porch by Deborah Lee

Lora steps out of the SUV and inhales deeply, the scent of dead leaves and humus and apples, oddly enough. She doesn’t remember apple trees around here.

She picks through brambles to the overgrown cabin. How many years since anyone has been here, this jewel in the woods, where they used to hide from civilization?

She eases into the cobwebbed chair on the tiny porch. She has just settled her gaze on the autumn-brilliant tree line when a splintering crash lands her on the plank boards.

Maybe you can go home again, but you have to fix it first.

###

A Chair on the Porch by Ruchira Khanna

“Maggi!”

No response.

“Can’t find the girl anywhere in the house. Aha! Must be on the porch on her old ragged chair.” Mom muttered as she stepped towards the patio.

“Cathedra, Alison did not invite me to her b’day party and instead poked fun at my dress.”

Maggi whimpered as she caressed the arm of the chair.

“She is not my friend anymore!”

Wiping her tears, “But you will always be my pal since you are here to listen to my pain and joys.”

Mom overheard and changed her opinion. She was now in awe of the chair!

###

Rock On by Sherri Matthews

Rain pelted the window like small stones.

“Will Jax find his way home in this?” Andy ran his face across his sleeve in a failed attempt to stem his tears.

“Oh Honey, he’s a cat, no amount of rain will keep him away.”

“But mama…” Andy wailed.

A tap came at the door. Then another; and again. Rhythmic. It took a few more before mother realised it was the tap of the rocking chair on the porch.
She edged open the door and found a soggy ball of Jax fur curled up on the rocker like he’d never left.

###

Empty Rocker by Diana Ngai

John sank into the porch rocker, pulling a blanket over his lap; the cat looked to John expectantly. “I miss her, too,” he whispered as he reached to scratch its furry chin. John closed his eyes and recalled they way she snuggled in his lap as they read stories and rocked together. Later, at ten-years-old, she had sat and read on her own.

The rocker had been empty for almost a year now; no one had dared to disturb the dust. But, today’s news reported another bullet, another daughter taken. John came back to the chair and wept.

###

Flash Fiction by Ritu Bhathal

Nanna would always be sat there in her chair on the porch.

I would spend hours with her, sat at her feet as a child, playing with my dolls, or reading a book. Sometimes she’d read me a story.

As I got older, she was still there, my sounding board, always giving me sage, simple advice for any problems I was facing.

Today I really need her. It’s a big step I’m about to take. I only wish she was still here…

Looking over, the empty rocking chair slowly creaks, as if encouraging me.

See, she is still here.

###

Flash Fiction by FloridaBorne

Growing up in the south, porches extended around the house and windows were so large that breezes flew freely through each room. Shotgun doors meant you could run from the front yard to the back in a straight line and race through trees surrounding the house with shade.

Grandma sat in her rocker watching a golden sun pour across the earth from the front door. We awoke to her rocker creaking near our back porch window.
Nowadays, people cut all the trees down, have a few small windows, use air-conditioning, and complain about the heat. I miss common sense.

###

Porch by Judy E. Martin

Amelia sank into the overstuffed chair which enveloped her body with warmth.

“The, ahem, Doctor will be with you shortly, Miss.”

Nervously, twisting her rings, Amelia’s stomach lurched contemplating what she was about to do.

Distracting herself from the pounding in her head, she glanced around the porch. Comfortable and homely, like any other house in a pleasant neighbourhood. Only it wasn’t. The odorous smell of bleach pervaded the room; Amelia shuddered.

“How many desperate women had sat on this chair awaiting their fate?”

“Good morning Ms Johnson.”

“It’s Sergeant actually. I am arresting you on suspicion of murder…”

###

Where Stories Begin by Charli Mills

Between Danni and the front door sagged a small front porch. Inside the cabin lived a former log-skidder. Rumor had it Old Man Moe was blind, but his stories of the Great Fires of 1910 remained vivid.

“Take a chair,” spoke a voice behind her.

Danni startled, not hearing the man with foggy eyes ride up on a mule. “Moe, I’m the Forest Service archeologist.”

Moe slid from the saddle as if sighted, and walked confidently up the decrepit stairs to one of two rickety wooden chairs. He patted the one next to him. “Stories begin here Doc Gordon.”

###

The Chair on the Porch by Crystal Cook

When the autumn winds blew, the old rocking chair came to life and creaked a ghostly sound, familiar and comforting.

Through the window she watched the weathered wooden armrest gently come into view and disappear again, like the ebb and flow of her memories.

When she closed her eyes, she’d imagine him sitting there with the Sunday paper on his lap, rocking to the rhythm of her beating heart.

She tolerated the still, summer days knowing the season would soon enough change and the winds would come, bringing with them, her fading memory of him.

###

The Notice by Colleen Chesebro

Zane leaned back in his chair. He popped a handful of sunflower seeds into one side of his mouth while spitting out the shells with the other. Zane had much to mull over, and the porch offered no judgments.

The government warning said using Neonicotinoids in the seed treatments for the wheat crop was the reason the bees were dying. It was nonsense, and it rankled against his understanding of how insecticides worked.

He was a farmer, and the Feds didn’t know how to grow wheat. He ripped up the notice and let the scraps blow in the wind.

###

Porch Settin by Elliott Lyngreen

The porch swing was made of logs. There, Elsie passed fyre to the aromatic Heather Glastonbury like a powerful message.

Patrick Hamilton and Bowen traded cards for beer sips on a capstone.

Garrison Grantley discussed various lyrics stemmed from radio speakers perfectly screened through, surrounding Chuck Koehler’s deep reflections.

“Wanna hit, Lynk?” Laurian softened me as the flame recourse around the ledges and wide opening at the stairs from one to the next within arms reaches.

The metronome swinging, sneaked the crumbling indifference exchanging Elsie’s dreams for Heather’s observation of the traffic and streetlights forming a smiley face.

###

The Chair by Hugh Roberts

As the sun set, Agatha Brunell sat in her favourite chair knowing that her life was about to end.

Her sixty-nine years of life had been amazing. She’d never allowed anyone to get the better of her. Now, however, she knew it was time to leave her favourite lumpy chair for the very last time.

“Goodbye, chair,” she said, as she placed the gun to her head. “You were my saviour and the perfect place to hide the hair of my victims.”

As the police closed in, the sound of the gun told them they were too late.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Emotional blackmail, cheating spouses, bootleg liquor, illicit meetings, pregnant minors whisked away in the middle of the night, moonlight flits to avoid debt collectors, whispered secrets, drunken brawls, child and animal abuse. The list was endless.

There was only one witness.

The creaking rocking chair gave him away and he was found murdered in it on his porch, his throat slit from ear to ear.

The owner of number 12 thought he’d got away with it as there was no evidence.

As he beat his wife for burning his supper, the chair on the porch creaked and started to rock.

###

The Porch by Annette Rochelle Aben

Don walked his faithful companion of 18 years across the street. He and Duke were just going to sit on the white, wicker rocker until Nancy got home from work.

Making himself comfortable, Don looked back at the unfamiliar house he had just come out of and wondered who lived there. The warm, late summer sun was going behind Nancy’s house and it was chilly. He knew she’d be home soon.

Lori turned onto her street and noticed Don and Duke on her porch. They appeared to be napping, just like they did most days since her mom’s funeral.

###

Montressor House by Stephanie Ascough

Penelope found the chair on the old house’s back porch. Strange, for an armchair to sit outside a historical museum. She looked over her shoulder. The tour guide’s muffled voice faded behind the porch door.

“I feel like Goldilocks,” Penelope said. The armchair enveloped her in the deep, cushioned seat. Over the railing, sunlight sparkled on the lake and the skyscrapers of downtown. A splash caught her attention. Was it the famed lake monster of Montressor House? Penelope squinted, scanning the water eagerly when the voice spoke. Downtown disappeared in sudden mist.

“Well, you know what happened to Goldilocks.”

###

Serenity Steeple Chase by Ruth Cox

In the dark of night while sitting alone on the front porch in an old rocking lawn chair I find I feel serenity. I need only look to the sky; chase the steeple with mine eyes.

Mesmerized by the sight of the light, I am mindful of the moment.

At the steeple of peace I stare as I rock to and fro in my chair. Back and forth, and once again.

I pause, listen to the nothingness in the still of the night.

Silence steals my serenity.

Come Sunday morning this girl’s going to church!

###

The Old Chair by Michael

When his dad died, and he inherited the house, there were so many reminders of his dad. The one that impacted on him the most was the old wicker chair on the front porch. It was here that his dad sat most afternoons watching the neighbourhood go by. The two of them had sat there in his dad’s declining years talking over world issues and reminiscing about the good old days of his childhood. The old chair was plenty worn, but he left it there. He found he needed it there, if made him feel close to his dad.

###

Just in Time by Jack Schuyler

I was told I could find you here, that you never left this shack. And I drove for hours across this God-forsaken plain, to find you sitting there in that chair on the porch. Because you never do leave this shack, and now you never will. The chair is slumped, and your body sprawls uncomfortably limp over its broken frame. Fresh blood seeps from those fatal wounds, fresh bullet holes decorate the wall, and a fresh trail of dust points opposite the way I came.

I came just in time.

Just in time to miss you and your killer.

###

Reclining Line by Line by JulesPaige

On the train heading south, at least when there’s daylight,
one can see a variety of porches. Front and back. As we
rock to the rhythm of the rails we wonder about how they
manage with hearing all the lonesome whistles and rickety
rack noise – however briefly passing at seventy or close to
eighty miles an hour.

How about that old Victorian. White with green trim? Who
sits back and stargazes, or sips their morning brew
wrapped in dew’s shawl?

Part of traveling by train is imagining whose setting a spell,
where. And what they’re thinking as we pass…

###

Three Clinics by Bill Engleson

The first clinic didn’t have a porch. Nestled in the woods, you stepped right in from the trail to a parlour with a small electric heater.

It was very inviting.

The second clinic had a fine porch with three cushioned chairs and looked southwest over the highway. The porch was draped with sweet grapes in the summer and by the sagging limbs of a giant monkey tree year-round.

The third clinic was the second clinic, moved years later to a permanent acre of land a kilometre away. The front porch became the rear porch and sat in permanent shade.

###

Jaded Shade by JulesPaige

This was suppose to be the summer that the porch got
cleaned out. Two or was it three years now that the
space had become a storage unit for her things. Stuff
that had to be removed from her studio apartment. Add
that to leftover toys from children and even boxes from
when the living room was repainted.

In the porch still; birdseed, tools, bikes, and wood stacked
for fireplace use. Along with her chair, now only holding her
memories. Embroidered threads fading, scarred from use,
not worth reupholstering. Was it going to be a winter home
for mice?

###

The Untold by D. Avery

The open porch was curtained by the rain that sheeted off the roof, drilling a trough underneath the eaves. Behind this curtain Hope rocked slightly, pushing against the floorboards with her toes, her father beside her in his chair. A third cane rocker sat empty.

“It’s a good porch”, he said, “Best part of this two-story house.”

“Yup”, agreed Hope. Recognizing the prelude, she looked forward to hearing his stories. Rain drummed the porch roof overhead.

A sudden gust of wind rent the curtain, whipped them with cold rain, rocked the empty chair.

“Daddy, tell a story about Mommy.”

###

Second Story by D. Avery

“I don’t really know that story Hope. That’s for her to tell. When she comes back.”

“She doesn’t tell stories like you do. She’s quiet.”

“Yup.”

“How’d you meet her, Daddy?”

“You know that story Hope. Comin’ back from my fishing trip up in Quebec I picked up a hitchhiker. At the border she had me pretend we were together so she wouldn’t get questioned too much.”

“And after, she said she wanted to keep pretending.”

“Yup.”

“And she came back with you to the farm and you thought she was never gonna leave.”

“Yup. That’s what I thought.”

###

Life Changes by Ann Edall-Robson

You came to me for quiet moments to write your thoughts. We had interludes in our time together when you introduced me to your family as it grew. Boisterous and fun-loving, they clambered over my seat and jumped from my back. Even as the seasons changed, you made time for me. Dusting the leaves away in the fall and clearing the snow in winter. Life changes for all of us. I see you watching me from within your confines, no longer able to make your way down the path to be with me. I miss our time together.

###

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

She sat in her large wicker chair on the porch. The chair was so large it seemed to envelop her small frame. Her fragile look and small stature belied her strength of spirit. She was the matriarch. The woman who held the threads of the entire family firmly in her delicate hands. It was from her that her girls had learned to cook, sew and clean. It was also from her that they had each developed a love of books and reading and had gained the ambition to become educated. She sat quietly, basking in their admiration and love.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Amy’s friends laughed when she bought the splintered wicker chair at a yard sale. Hideous, they said, much too bulky for her tiny outdoor space. They reminded her how she couldn’t sit still.

But Amy bought the chair, and a flowery cushion to go with it.

And sitting still? Sure, her foot bounced along whenever she read a thriller in the chair. She squirmed and shimmied when a decent song hit Pandora. But her heart did most of the heavy lifting, in that chair, as Amy thought back to those many lazy afternoons on the porch with her grandfather.

###

Supernatural Hair by Anne Goodwin

The chair creaks like old knees, as it rock-a-bye-babys me back and forth, the gentle rhythm drowning my so-much-to-do. Pushed back and farther back, beyond the patio, the rose garden, the vegetable plot. Responsibility retreats beyond the fence, the neighbours’ house, the town. Over fields onto moors and farther, to where the land meets the sea. I could sit and rock and watch the spinach grow.

A clock chimes the work hour. Reluctantly, I rise. And stall. My head jerked back, chairbound by ropes of tangled hair. My supernatural hair knows my needs better than my brain.

###

Porch Lore by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where were you just now?’

‘Hmm?’

‘You were miles away.’

‘I feel I’ve been gone ages.’

‘You had that thousand-mile stare.’

‘Dad was like that. He’d sit on his rocker and disappear somewhere. I used to think how important it must be.’

‘Life, the Universe…’

Mary laughed. ‘And everything. Something like that. I thought if he was that far away it had to be really big.’

‘And you? What were your big thoughts?’

‘Me? I wasn’t thinking about anything, not really. Just an empty head.’

‘I guess sometimes they’re the most profound moments.’

‘I miss him, Paul.’

‘I know.’

###

Chatting on the Porch by Irene Waters

Mormor sat on the porch. The seat Morfar had occupied was vacant. Lillian didn’t remember her grandfather but in her imagination Mormor’s hands intertwined with his, her eyes fluttering and hearts racing. As time past, their hands still held, the glances were loving and hearts beat in happy unison. “Can I join you Mormor?” Her grandmother patted the seat and Lilian sat. She told her about her day at school and the stick insect she’d found on the way home.

“Who you talking to Lilian?” Her mother broke the easy rapport.

“Mormor.”

“Lillian love, she died twelve years ago.”

###

Porch Sittin’ by Norah Colvin

“There you are. What’re you doing out here?”

“Just sitting. Enjoying’ the cool.”

“Everyone’s been looking for you. Will you be coming back inside?”

“Soon.”

“Mind if I sit too?”

“Sure.”

“You thinking about Jim?”

“Mmm.”

“He was a good man.”

“Mmm.”

“It’s near three years now.”

“Today’s his birthday. Would’ve been thirty-six.”

“I know.”

“I still don’t understand –”

“There’s no reason. Wrong place at the wrong time is all.”

“But it’s not fair.”

“Life’s never fair. Will you ever love me like you loved Jim?”

“Oh honey, I do. It’s just hard on his birthday.”

“I know.”

###

A Porch, A Chair, A Dog by Joe Owens

Clara stood in the kitchen sipping her coffee as she studied her husband’s favorite rocker. It remained in its normal place on the porch with his old dog Scout also in his regular place.

Clara could sense Casey, her adult daughter approach on her right. Casey was in to visit, worried about her widowed mother and how she was adjusting.

“He believes Henry will return at any time,” Clara said.

“Poor Scout, he has no idea what ha happened to his master.”

“Nope.”

“How long do you think he’ll wait?”

“Until he is out of days too!”

###

No Goodbye by Juliet Nubel

It was the most beautiful armchair in the whole house. Carefully crafted from a thick coppery leather, it had softened and smoothed since it had left the shop all those years ago. A faded, red, feather-filled cushion sat far back into its spine, rubbed shiny where her back had pressed hard against it every day, for as long as they could all remember.
They would have loved to drop wearily into its comforting warmth, but it had sat empty for months, ever since she had slipped slowly from its embrace onto the cool porch floor, without even saying goodbye.

###

Get It Write by D. Avery

“Kid, what are you doin’?”

“Settin’ up croquet wickets.”

“Croquet? Why?”

“Well, we got lots a folks comin’ by the ranch these days, an I reckon they’ll be lookin’ fer somethin’ ta do, what with the rodeo packin’ up.”

“Croquet?”

“Yeah, croquet. A good, relaxin’ activity. Fer the folks comin’ by the ranch.

“Did ya git bucked, Kid, bump yer head?

“Shorty mentioned somethin’ ‘bout croquet on the ranch.”

“She mentioned crochet, but-”

“Oh yeah, yer right Pal. Crochet and crafting. Well, that’s fine. We can all set on the porch and stitch.”

“Think you dropped a stitch, Kid.”

###

Not Now, I’m Busy

How can a storyteller get by in a busy, busy world? Busyness can distract us from sunsets and tales exchanged over pints or tea. Some feel compelled to find worth in activity, and some stay active as a distraction. The storytellers want you to slow down a minute. Listen. Read.

Writers tackled busyness on the page, taking  time out from busy schedules to craft responses.

The following stories are based on the September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character.

###

Getting Busy on My First Date by Sarah Brentyn

His tie was blue. A nice enough color. The geometric design wasn’t all that unpleasant. A bit modern for my taste, but not obnoxious.

I suppose it could have been his shirt, with its burgundy basketweave pattern. But, if I’m honest, the whole thing blew up because of his pink paisley jacket.

I couldn’t tell if he was nice enough for me to look past his fashion faux pas.

When my sister asked how the date with her co-worker went, I shrugged, “I have no idea. His clothes were so loud, I couldn’t hear a word he said.”

###

Sometimes I Feel Like I Am Going Crazy by Robbie Cheadle

In this modern world, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At work, deadlines, unexpected issues; needing time, needing urgent attention.

An endless cycle.

It sometimes seems relentless, a knot of anxiety in my stomach, as I work through the list of tasks, carefully and exactingly, there is no room for error.

In my dual purpose life, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At home, husband and children, all needing help, needing time, needing advice.

An endless cycle.

I feel like a monster, driving them on, helping them meet the demands of their high-speed, high-tech lives.

###

The Real Job by Allison Maruska

The fryer beeps its obnoxious repetition. No one addresses it.

“Keri! Get that!” Phil yells from the back.

“I’m busy,” I mutter while shoving burgers into the warming drawer. At the fryer, hot oil hops out with the cooked fries, hitting my arm. “Ow.” I wipe it on my shirt.

“See, honey? That’s why you have to study hard in school, so you can get a real job. One that won’t burn you.”

It’s a woman in line, talking to a child and pointing at me.

I turn away, hiding my eye roll. Yeah, this isn’t a real job.

###

Super Secretary by Anne Goodwin

“Mr Johnson called. Frantic he can’t make his appointment. He wondered if you’d see him at six.” Elaine wrinkled her nose. “I said you finished at five but he said you’d seen him after hours before.”

“Tell him okay.” The guy was too vulnerable to wait another week.

“And that rescheduled team meeting. I can’t find a slot that suits everyone until next month. Apart from Friday.”

Friday: her day off for writing. But writing wasn’t her real work. “We’ll do it Friday. If you can book a room.”

Elaine smiled. Perhaps the meeting rooms would be fully booked.

###

Busy by Robert Kirkendall

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

###

Never Too Busy for Fun by Norah Colvin

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

###

Tommy’s Nap by Chris Mills

Mary tucked the blanket around six month old Tommy, and his sleepy eyes fluttered like butterfly wings. She needed several hours to catch up on chores.

Laundry was an avalanching mountain peak. Dust bunnies taunted from corners and fled. Dirty dishes called her name, as did toilets, tubs, floors and sills. She flipped mattresses, turned mattresses, chased dust bunnies from under mattresses. Spotted mirrors reflected her weary gaze.

Tommy slept. Mary swept. To-do lists became all-done lists, and the house was just the way she wanted it.

Tommy the teenager walked out of his room and asked about dinner.

###

Jumping Around by FloridaBorne

Plane Crash? I told my doctor not to get married on the 25th of this year, or take flight 25 to Hawaii.

When I’m around, people hurry up and die.

I lived 25 miles north of Barneveld, Wisconsin when a massive tornado jumped past my house and annihilated the center of their town.  I lived 25 miles away from San Francisco in the 1979 Earthquake.  Then, I was in Florida when Hurricane Irma took a giant leap to the left and we missed the hurricane force winds by 25 miles.

That’s it!  I’m done with psychiatrists. They never listen!

###

No Time to Stand and Stare? by Anne Goodwin

A shorter walk today, and no dawdling. Busy busy, lots to do back home.

The squiggle on the path broke her rhythm. Even here, in its natural habitat, an adder was a rare sight. She’d disturbed one once, only a mile away, but it slithered into the bracken before she could distinguish the diamonds on its back. This one seemed to be posing. How close could she get before it reared its head and spat?

A gift. A blessing. She’d stay as long as the snake did. A poor life, if she lacked the leisure to stand and stare.

###

Busy (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The sun is warm on her face in the cooler air, light penetrating her closed eyelids, turning them incandescent orange. The smells of autumn: decaying leaves, rich earth. Her books make a surprisingly comfortable pillow, lying on the grass on the small quad. Bit of heaven.

A shadow falls across her. She cracks one eye open.

“Brittany,” she says flatly.

“Jane, that calculus is killing me. I need help.”

Jane closes her eye again and points behind her, somewhere. “Math lab’s that way.”

“You’re not doing anything.”

The eye again, a bullet. “Looks may deceive. I am very busy.”

###

Busy by Irene Waters

Dahlia and Rhonda sipped their coffee as they chatted not glancing in Bee’s direction. Yawning, Dahlia swung her legs onto the table. “I’m tired.”

“Why? What have you been doing?”

“Nothing. You almost finished Bee?”

“No. I’ve got tables to set, flowers to arrange and the speaker wants the projector stuff. I’ll have to organise that. Would you set the tables for me? The sooner I get home the better. I’ve got the dogs to walk, dinner to make, the kids to pick up before I come back .”

“Sorry Bee. Too busy. Gotta go. See you tonight. Coming Rhonda?”

###

Houseproud by Pensitivity

The last of the shopping had been put away, and the house was as neat as a pin.

She’d done all the washing and ironing, and prepared dinner in the kitchen.

No time to relax though, just a shower and then off to visit.

She got to the hospital and her mother’s bed was enclosed in a curtain.

The family emerged from behind it.

They looked tired.

‘Where were you? She was asking for you.’

‘I was busy. How is she?’

‘It doesn’t matter now. She died half an hour ago.’

Being houseproud is a heavy burden to bear.

###

Busy-Bee by Kalpana Solsi

Aunt Charlotte being a very fastidious person, I am on tenterhooks about a slip.

The brownies and cookies are baked to perfection. Darjeeling tea is ready to be brewed. The expensive crockery is laid on the table. The curtains match with sofa upholstery.

How did I miss this? I station the wooden-stool and hitch my dress high to climb despite feeling giddy. I am busy cleaning the ceiling-fan. The landline-phone springs to life.

I lower myself huffing, losing my balance to fall on the phone. I just pick the receiver.

“Okay Aunt”, I mumble.

She has cancelled her visit.

###

Busy With a Purpose by Reena Saxena

I returned home one evening to find newspapers torn into neat little vertical strips, and piled into a heap. Somebody had perfected the technique to get pieces of a similar shape and size, and taught others how to do it. The effort was laudable, as there was no lofty purpose behind doing it. The doers were just learning.

They were three cute kittens, whose mother had chosen us to look after them. They did not own any tools, other than their teeth and nails. I saw them expand the efforts to other needed skills.

Hats off to the spirit!

###

Flash Fiction by Kerry E. B. Black

“What’re you talking about?” The woman’s cheeks darkened and her voice raised. “The white buffalo. What have you done with her?”

Maurya wiped the spray from her cheek and ignored the taunts from the towns folk. She walked into the mushroom cave. A circle of fungi had formed, but hoof prints smashed the closest mushrooms into the compost. Maurya moved her hands in a warding symbol.

“I think I know where she’s gone.”

The town elder tottered to loom over Maurya. “Since it’s your place that lost her and your mind that knows where she’d be, you’d better find her.”

###

Busy Bee by Etol Bagam

Thursday morning. Wake up.

Migraine.

Get up. Wake up the kids. Have breakfast. Get kids ready to school. Walk them to school.

Work from home. Automation won’t work, do it manually.

Stop to go to the doctor.

Come back to a meeting. Work non-stop until 3:25.

Bring suitcase down for hubby.

Pick up kids at 3:30.

Have lunch!

Drive kids to sports practice.

Stop at dry cleaner.

Back home, iron hubby’s shirts.

Shower.

Fix dinner. Do the dishes.

Help hubby pack for his trip.

Read a bit. Go to bed.

And that migraine is still there until end of day Friday….

###

On the Go by Michael

She was too busy for idle chit chat. It was go, go all day. Those around her found her exhausting as she never stopped, preferring to get the job done as she’d say to them.

Her head down bum up attitude gave no room for getting to know her. She nodded in acquaintance to her co-workers, she ate alone and never took her full dinnertime.

She found it hard at Christmas when they did stop to celebrate as she had no connections to anyone.

It came as no surprise to anyone that she had no one at home either.

###

The Energizer Corey by Joe Owens

Corey took a deep breath as he pushed out the last words for this seventy two minute stop. Now it was off to the Explorer’s Lounge for the Newlyweds Match game where couples would try to see how much they knew each other. He had hosted the Voice of the Ocean, a Sled Dog Puppies petting session and a bingo game, but his day was not nearly half over.

“How do you do it?” Junior Cruise Director Caitlin asked.

“Never stop. Get your plan in mind, pick the fastest route between and don’t stop when you’re tired!”

###

Busy as a Beaver by Susan Zutautas

Mr. Moose saw a busy beaver working on his den
He walked up to him and offered a hand to lend

They cut and moved logs and stopped for a break
Thank you Mr. Moose I wouldn’t have been able to get all these in the lake

Munching on some berries
Talking away was merry

Until Mr. Moose explained the fire on his land
And how everything was now just a pile of sand

This made Mr. Beaver shed a tear for him
And offered for Mr. Moose to move to his land

Thank you my new found friend

###

Buckeye Blane, Beaver Bureaucrat by Bill Engleson

“So, kid, open wide, flash me them orange sharpies.”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Kid, they’re beauties. Credit to beaverdom…”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Just about done. Hole punch bought the farm. Okay. Crunch! Great. Once more…We’re done. Take a break.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“Know the feeling. Know it well. Anyways. You got the job. Land Manager Apprentice.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“I can see you’re thrilled. Okay, your basic job will be to clear deadwood.”

“Oooooyawooo!”

“Specialized beaver work, kid. We leave the healthy trees…take out only the dry rot.”

“Ooooowooooyaaa!”

“Goes against beaver lore, I know. Compromise. Humans give a little: we give a little.”

“Yaaaawooowooooie!”

“That’s the spirit.”

###

A Team of Busy Bees by Liz Husebye Hartman

She bends over unkempt juniper shrubs and a beetle-laced Japanese plum, scissoring with vigor with long-bladed hand shears. Down the boulevard, a few trees show tawdry highlights of orange and gold.

“I’d best get busy,” she grumbles, “While the leaves are still up, and not all over my lawn.” She snips here, shapes a curve there, and gradually uncovers dahlias, planted in the gap between shrub and front stoop. They straighten and smile, proud of their cache of hidden pollen.

Later, she rests, sipping iced tea, as grateful bumblebees, buzz and fill their leg sacks with summer’s final bounty.

###

Monastic Preserves by idylloftheking

“You could say I’m a connoisseur. Have you ever tried Trappist beer?”

“No, sir. I don’t drink.”

“Of course, of course. Where do you get your berries?”

“That’s not something we like to share, sir.”

“Of course, of course. I suppose I can’t have just one more jar?”

“They won’t cooperate, sir.”

###

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

Cerebral Buzz  (Janice vs Richard 19) by JulesPaige

Richard looked as if he were sitting still. In truth, his mind
was busy calculating what to do next while his body recovered.
After visiting Janice’s home – and eating the berries from her
garden – He must have also ingested something else. While
he was blind consuming berries he must have not looked
carefully enough at the weeds that bore similar fruit that was
really just for the birds.

Richard doubted that Janice had planted those weeds just
to poison him. And he had gotten ill, leaving a mess in her
home – the home he had wanted to make his…

###

Busy by Rugby 843

When my kids were little they were well behaved. A visit to the doctor’s office wasn’t a problem. We usually brought something along to keep them busy–books, paper and pens, etc. Nowadays I see tables and chairs, video screens and coloring books to entertain children waiting for appointments.

At home we had a “busy box” toy that served us well, but I’ve seen much more elaborate styles such as the ones pictured above, at crowded offices. Some parents might think this is a prime place for germs, but washing their hands before and after use should solve that problem.

###

Parent/Teacher by Pete Fanning

Liam’s father sat hunched over the desk. “Why ain’t you giving out homework?”

“Well, eight hours is a long day for a seven-year-old. In fact, studies—”

“Studies. Here we go.” His arms flailed. He brimmed with aggression. Mrs. Tan pressed on, a little less sure now. No wonder Liam was lashing out.

“Well, concerning Liam’s classroom behavior.”

The chair squeaked. “What? I’ll set whup his ass if he’s acting up.”

Mrs. Tan managed to cover her gasp. She pulled close Liam’s folder, smoothing the edges of if only to keep her hands busy.

“No, he’s really working hard.”

###

Father by Jack Schuyler

I never thought of my Father as a busy man, or as absent in any way. Mother would praise him for giving us food, shelter, and luxury, but such adoration fell silent against stony determination. I remember every day straining to hear the opening and closing of our front door, anticipating his arrival because I loved him. But the sound rang mostly in departure, and love was only a word I pretended to know the meaning of. And when he died, it was not love that pulled at my heart, but an emptiness that had been there all along.

###

The Mom by Ruchira Khanna

“Sam hurry up! it’s time to leave for school.”

“Yeah” came a response amidst the wide yawn.

“Did you put your lunch box, water bottle in your bag?”

“Yeeees!” he muttered.

“Sam eat your breakfast! Why are you daydreaming? The school bus will be here any minute!” she stressed.

Sam rolled his eyes, and he could not contain himself, “MOM! Let it go!” he shrilled.

Mom paused.

Took a deep sigh as she placed her hands on her hips, she responded, “I am aware dear. But someone has to delegate it, and that ugly task falls upon me!”

###

The Unsung Juggler by Eugene Uttley

Well, here we are in the middle of it all, the whole symphony of sweeping, spinning spheres.
And we have no telescope powerful enough to see him down there at the bottom of it all.
What’s he doing down there? Why, he’s juggling of course – juggling all the planets and stars.
He’s not God – or a god – I rush to say, though you might think him so to see him doing what he does.
He’s just a guy, you know. A very, very, very busy guy.
He’s the unsung juggler at the bottom of the universe.

###

Dang Busy by D. Avery

“Shorty?”

“Huh? Oh, hey. Wasn’t expecting to see you. What with the Kid gone.”

“That’s nuthin’ ta me. I jist narrate.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So, whatcha up to, Shorty? Looks like you ain’t doin’ nothin’. ”

“Correct. I am not doing nothing, I’m doing something.”

“Oh. Watcha doin’? ‘Cause it looks like daydreamin’.”

“Yep.”

“Shorty, ain’t that nothin’?”

“Nope. I’m writin’. And I’m plannin’ for the rodeo that’s comin’ through the ranch.”

“A rodeo? At Carrot Ranch?”

“Yep. Eight events. Eight prizes.”

“Yeehaw, Shorty! For real?!”

“Yep. You can’t make this stuff up.”

“Well you sure dreamed it up.”

“Yep.”

###

Gone East by D. Avery

“Shorty, is it true?”

“Yep. Gonna be quieter ‘round here. The Kid headed back East after all.”

“What? The Kid seemed happy here.”

“The Kid was happy here. Believe you me, the Kid didn’t wanna go. Even mentioned not wantin’ to leave you.”

“Aw, shucks. So why’n tarnation? Saddle sore? Too much wranglin’?”

“Naw, the Kid was willin’ ta ride the range all day, you know that.”

“Was it the food, Shorty?”

“Heck no. The Kid thrives on what’s dished out here. Did say somethin’ ‘bout bein’ busy, havin’ ta bring home the bacon.”

“Oh. That takes time.”

“Yep.”

###

Save

Spelling

Words can cast a spell, invite us to read stories and sit for a spell away from it all, or pose problems with spelling. Even among those writing the same language, spelling rules vary to the degree one must be a magician to sort it all out.

Nonetheless, who better to spell it all out than writers?

The following are cast from the August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller.

***

Note Pinned to a Copper Mine by Charli Mills

“Con…con…”

“…tract. The word is contract, Father.”

John followed the word with his finger, stating, “Contract.”

“Good! Not to be confused with contact. That means to get in touch with.”

John tousled his son’s dark hair. “When did you get so smart?”

Lawrence beamed a smile, one of his front primary teeth missing. “Since you bought me this Speller!” He held up the brown cloth covered book.

John nodded. “ I need you to help me read more.”

Lawrence nodded and continued, “…contract required for trammers or we strike.”

John folded the note. “Don’t tell Mother. Keep learning, son.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I got sick and tired of people spelling our name wrong, so Hubby taught me the phonetic alphabet.
He would test me at every opportunity until it became second nature, and I still use it today over the phone.
A double glazing company lost our potential contract for getting our surname wrong.
There was no excuse really as my type written enquiry letter had shown it IN CAPITAL LETTERS below my signature.
There are times though when the Spelling Challenge is a riot of hilarity.
Imagine getting a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Sierra Mike India Tango Hotel.

###

Comnopanis by Cheryl Oreglia

Bread. A human staple, made of flour and water. It’s one of the oldest prepared foods, evidence of bakeries 30,000 years back. Imagine. Bread plays an essential role in religious rituals and sliced bread is the bedrock of modern culture. Well that and Spanx.

The most interesting aspect of bread is the etymology. Consider the word “companion,” from Latin, com “with” and panis “bread.” Meaning a true companion is one you break bread with, hopefully on a daily basis. Sadly my companion is temporarily “comnopanis” or “without bread.” His doctor, clearly a sadist, has removed bread from his diet.

###

Copier by FloridaBorne

“I’m a bad smeller…uh…speller.”

Thinking the first word to be more appropriate, I sneezed into my silk handkerchief. “You applied for a calligraphy job.  What are your qualifications?”

His smile revealed a set of strong teeth ringed with scum as he removed a metal container from his bag.   Out of its bowels came parchment, a quill and red ink. He printed my first name, “John” in perfect form…but my last name!

“Look! You wrote John Johns, not John Jones!” I protested. He turned my gold name plate toward me, and I flushed at the obvious.

“I’m a good copier.”

###

If You Can Spell It, You Can Date Me by Joe Owens

Not to mention if we were a couple how much fun we could have rubbing everyone’s nose in it!” Gabe finished his impassioned appeal. Zoe was the one he wanted to be with more than any other and he felt like this was his best chance to convince her.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said turning to the shelf with reference books on it in the school library, “I’ll pop open this dictionary and put my finger on a word with my eyes closed. Spell it and I say yes!”

“Okay,” Gabe smiled.

“Here,” she said. “Antidisestablishmentarianism!”

###

Power Player (Janice vs Richard #18) by JulesPaige

Detective Longhorn was working to try and find Richard.
The creep who once had Janice under his spell. Richard
admitted to killing the vagrant who was in the alley behind
Janice’s residence. Richard had been in her home; disabled
her fake barking dog tapes, placed a red dress in her old
wardrobe, and sent her a new cell phone with a frightening
message.

Whose spell was Richard under? Whatever glue was
holding Richard together, had slipped. Richard got sick
in Janice’s kitchen after eating berries from her garden and
left some clues. Yet this criminal was still being elusive!

###

Speller by Michael

My mother was a witch, and as a witch, she knew about spells. She wanted me to be an ordinary kid so sent me to school where nuns taught me all I needed to know. Trouble was I would be kept in after class because my spelling was so bad. My mother fearing, I would be ostracised concocted a potion to clear my brain and allow me to spell. It worked, and my class teacher happily took the credit for my change of fortune. She then worked on my grammar and mum, and I thought she done real good.

###

An Incompetent Speller by Chris Mills

An open jar on Tony’s coffee table filled the room with the bitter aroma of vinegar in which a photo and written spell basted. The Speller chanted, Revenge, revenge, may Martin’s brakes fail going round the bend. Tony’s ex-boss, who had fired him, had to navigate a mountain curve on his way home. Tony called to see if his conjuration had been successful. Martin answered and Tony hung up. He pulled the fading, vinegar-soaked spell from the jar, but he could already see the cause of his botched magic. Break failure would not get him the revenge he sought.

###

Time to Decode by Roweena Saxena

“What do these symbols mean?”

“There are three basic principles of communicating information that I know –letters and words exert a pull on the other, choices are gradually narrowed down to end speculation, and the final elimination of other alternatives.”

“What is your final message?”

“Words have become redundant. It is possible to communicate through symbols. Language is dead.”

“What are you trying to say? We work in a research lab, and write several papers and reports.”

“Unfortunately, not in the same era.”

“Elaborate.”

“There are some numbers on the last page to denote a date. It says 3050.”

###

House of Words by Bill Engleson

Lenny liked to dance around logic. “The way I figure it,” he would say “language is a building block for any world we want.”

Lenny knew I was a concrete thinker. He might be palsy walsy with nonsense but I needed facts, reason.

“Okay, my friend,” I said, “We have no money. Winters coming on. We need a dry shelter.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, “We surely do. It ain’t gonna happen, Donnie. We’re disposable. We aren’t even refundable.”

“So, any ideas?”

“Language. We build a spellter.”

“Sorry. What the heck is a…?”

“Spellter! Why, it’s a house built of words.”

###

Nina’s Spell by Kerry E.B. Black

Lillian wiped her hands on a towel. “You’re magical, you know?”

Nina crinkled her nose. “Whatever do you mean?”

“Everything you touch, everything you do, is permeated with love, even when people receiving your help doesn’t deserve it.”

Nina tapped her finger on the tabletop. “Everyone deserves love.”

“I don’t think so. If I were treated as badly as you are, I don’t think I’d be as gracious. Certainly, I wouldn’t help them.”

Nina sighed. “People fear difference, worry they’ll catch it or something. I mean to show the palsy’s not contagious, but kindness is.”

“That’s your spell, then.”

###

MISSPELLING SPELLING DISASTER AVERTED: NEW SPELL RELEASES OLD FOR A SPELL by Norah Colvin

Chatter erupted as assessment commenced. A pass would grant membership to the Spellnovators, but the best would replace Imara, who, for her final duty, mixed their potions and tested their spells. She praised ingenuity as stars exploded, flowers blossomed, and extinct animals reappeared. Choosing her replacement would be difficult. Suddenly her glare in Ruby’s direction spelled trouble. The chatter ceased. “What’s this?” she demanded. “Mix in happy witches!?” Ruby’s lip quivered. “Wishes. I meant to spell wishes.” Voices united in wishes. Instantaneously, everywhere, hearts opened with love.  Goodwill rained down, filling all with hope. Imara would spell in peace.

###

Speller Flash Fiction by Rachel Hanson

“͞Mama,Mama!” Maggie yelled, running over to Genevieve, “I found a speller!”

Genevieve was surprised, who would be spelling at a Halloween party?

“Can you show me?” She asked her daughter. “YES!” Maggie shouted.

They ran across the room, Maggie too excited to slow down, even for her pregnant mama. Then there,
in the corner of the room Genevieve saw her. Tall, with a pointed hat and a fake wart, was a witch
waving her wand.

“Listen well to my spell! This maiden will only awaken to true loves kiss!” The witch said.

“See Mama, a speller,” Maggie explained.

###

Whose Ignorance? by Anne Goodwin

“You know this, Tully,” said Hester.

“If in doubt,” said Fred, “spell it out.”

The chalked letters danced across his slate, white upon black. Always white upon black. “The black man is …” The right word would make the sentence wrong.

“Your hesitation proves the point,” said Hugh. The younger ones giggled.

“Never mind,” said Hester. “An education will raise you above the rest.”

Addie stroked his arm. “Don’t cry, Tully. It’s just a joke.”

He wouldn’t cry, but he’d take their learning. Soak it up and spit it back at them. When the time was right.

###

Spellbound by D. Avery

Until words or actions revealed their affliction, the spellbound weren’t always easy to detect. The dark power of hatred grew daily, spreading to more and more people. It gathered strength, consuming even as it was consumed. The counter-spell must be found before it was too late. To fail was unthinkable.
Desperately they searched, unsure of what the solution could even be. Magical potions? Arcane rituals? Mystical incantations? Finally the realization dawned; the spell of hatred can only be overcome by loving words and actions.

The whole earth is my birthplace and all humans are my siblings.*

This they believed.

*Kahlil Gibran

###

A Literate Populace by idylloftheking

“They aren’t meant to read! They’re good for only cleaning up after us!”

“We extend these rights to all humans, regardless of their qualities as individuals. I may not respect them, but I recognize them for what they are.”

“Why does the reality of ‘what they are’ matter? They’re not better than animals, even if they are more like us than the rest.”

“I want to be on the right side of history.”

“I see. Vanity over progress.”

“Progress requires improving upon he past .”

“Progress needs something to build on.”

“Excuse me,” interrupted the speller.

“Shush,” they said simultaneously.

###

Weather Cast by D. Avery

The spell of summer was broken, its blue skies faded and grayed, awash on cloud-strewn winds. Trees champed and tossed their manes as the winds reared and galloped. Leaves and small branches came unberthed, wildly skittering and wheeling about, finally ending in twisted, dreary piles, pelted by unrepentant rain.
With nightfall, diminishing winds mustered petulant gusts to usher the last of the clouds away, until, weary, the wind murmured quietly in the silver cast treetops. In the crisp light of a full moon, the night sky sparked and shivered.
Somehow fall had come; somehow another spell had been cast.

###

What’s Wrong? by Enkin Anthem

Unbridled, righteous rage throbbed visibly in the bulging vein on Mr. Edison’s temple. One hand clenched the paper as he read it aloud.

“The Romans where a people who lived around the Mediterranean. There the ancestors of most European-based cultures.” The tip of his red pencil threatened to stab Ben’s chest. “Seriously?” he hissed. “That’s inadequate. Abysmal. Fail. 1000 words on the use of pronouns. 1000 words on the declination of to be. And 1000 words on the use and significance of homophones in the English language.”

Ben shuffled out of the room, devastated. He should of known better.

###

Just Keep Writing by Elliott Lyngreen

“Can we start over,” she asked, thinking all undone with thoughts on creating papers.

“If we only we could record thoughts, images, and compile ideas straight into a complete work. But we have to write it,” I said back in a way that, like an idea, only comes to us as it was intended or began or set out to be.

Again she asked, “can we start over? I don’t want to be the odd one out. … No more that’s terrible, read that.”

Story was in her. Wanting her to spell out, I said, “just keep going.”

###

The “oo” Poem by Robbie Cheadle

After a heavy rain

the sky is bright blue,

Everything washed clean

looking shiny and new.

It is quite thrilling to me

and to you, too,

I want to go out

but where’s my other shoe?

I can’t find it

and get into a stew.

Has it been taken?

If so, by who?

Of this question’s answer

I have no clue.

When I find the culprit

the theft they will rue.

I find it at last

Now I have two.

Outside, I pick flowers

one for me, one for you.

My, what a muddle

the flowerbeds have

gotten into.

I must be honest, I really found writing this poem to be a lot of fun. I must fly more often.

###

Names by Jack Schuyler

The pit in Jonah’s stomach started when she introduced herself. The other girls snickered as the counselor said “isn’t Jonah a boy’s name?” and that was just the start. The day was a whirlwind of more introductions in four hours than in four lifetimes, and the names swam in Jonah’s mind as she lay on the unfamiliar mattress, unable to keep the team chant from spelling itself out over and over in her head. What was life like without it? She wanted to remember. It stuck to her brain, keeping her up as endless names echoed in her thoughts.

###

The Best Speller (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane clicks on the save icon. She grimaces at the red squiggles, then smiles at the memory of the phone ringing. Dad instead of Mom, unusual in itself.

“How do you spell conscientious?” he asks.

She tells him. “What’s up?”

“Just writing a letter back home.”

“Mom has a dictionary there. She can spell.”

“Nah. You’re the best speller.”

She laughs. “I must be, if I’m worth long distance rates. Not that anyone can tell with your handwriting anyway.” She lowers her voice. “You don’t need an excuse to call. It’s okay to miss me. I miss you, too.”

###

Spell by Irene Waters

Aarifa’s daughter curled in a ball on her bed, sobbing quietly. “Orenda honey,  what’s wrong?” From her own experience she knew a new school is daunting without adding race and country differences.

“Mum. Mr Alkamil taught me all wrong. I flunked spelling today but I got them right. Colour – C  O..L.O..U..R.” Ararifa listened to her daughter spelling  word after word perfectly,  except now they lived in America.

“Darling. Words are like people. Different the world over. You can get upset. Go to war over them or embrace the difference. See they’re the same no matter what clothes they wear.

###

Countdown (First Release) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Boxes lay along the curved perimeter of the silvery dock. A slender figure darted around them, stacking smaller boxes on medium, turning some toward the shoreline. The healer and her intern had placed three large boxes on the further, forested side, long before the observers had arrived. The dock rocked, slapping the water; the beasts were restless.

Twelve boxes total, counting the one in her belly pocket.

The crowd quieted as dawn softened, red to apricot.

She raised her arms. “Z!” The intern unlatched the largest box and stepped back as a silky black panther padded toward the trees…

###

A “Lucy Stoner” by Diana Nagai

For as long as she could remember, Alice Sandhu spelled her last name for others, “S as in ‘Sam’ – A – N as in ‘Nancy’ – D as in ‘David’ – H – U.” She could have welcomed her husband’s surname, one she’d never have to spell. Instead, she kept her own name, a last connection to her heritage. Lucy Stone, an advocate for women’s rights in the 1800s, paved the way for her, but Alice’s decision still raised a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, choosing birthright over simplicity changed something within her; burden became pride.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Mr. Melvin slipped a shiny record from a flaking cover with the face of a dark-skinned woman. He gently set the needle down and the speakers crackled.

I put a spell on you…

I looked up. The music was eerie but enchanting, and the voice within its tangled melody sent an electric wiggle over my scalp to my neck and down my back.

“Who is that?”

“Nita Simmons, meet Nina Simone.”

Her voice grabbed a hold of my insides and wringed me out, filling the room and making acquaintances. When I finally remembered to breathe, it was a gasp.

###

Opine Range by D. Avery

“Whatcha thinkin’, Kid?”
“Nothin’. It’s a pretty open ranch, though, ain’t it?”
“Yep. Fairly free range. Why ya askin’?”
“Shorty left a note. She’s gone to town agin, says here she’s gone to pick up some broads.
“Huh. You uncomfortable with that, Kid?”
“Well, no… yeah, but… What?”
“Kid, put it in context. Shorty ain’t likely pickin’ up broads, not that there’s anything wrong with that. She ain’t the greatest speller, ya know. She’s most likely gittin’ boards at the lumberyard.”
“Not a ferry?”
“Jist same ol’ Shorty. Gatherin’ materials to build up the ranch.”
“Nothin’ wrong with that.”

###

Yeehaw! by D. Avery

“Kid, thought you was s’posed ta be off makin’ bacon or some such thing. “
“Cain’t I set a spell?”
“Course. Anyone’s welcome ta set a spell at Carrot Ranch. Well, Kid, if ya ain’t wanderin’, ya must be wonderin’.”
“Yep. Kinda excited ‘bout Shorty’s rodeo. Gonna be fun, Pal.”
“Sure is. I can see it too, Kid. Riders bringin’ their wild, buckin’ prompts to a lathered walkin’ gait.”
“Ropin’ competitions, gittin’ words all wrapped up into a story in record time.”
“Maybe barrel races…steer wrestlin’. Might be rodeo clowns.”
“For the bull ridin’!”
“Hang onta yer hats folks.”

###

Stories to Heal America

How idealistic is it to expect writers to craft stories to heal America? Yet, the role of literary art is to provide value. Sometimes the value of a story provides escape. and other times it provides meaning. At the heart of literary merit is exploration — the attempt to write something that accomplishes a tall order, such as healing a nation struggling with an identity crisis.

To heal America is to accept different perspectives, to listen to different narratives. This collection provides a breadth and depth of variety in its responses.

The following are based on the August 17, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that heals America.

***

The Meeting by D. Avery

Driving to the meeting, he was angry when he spied his daughter with that girl. He had forbidden this friendship. He pulled over, anxious.

“Get in the car! Now! I told you to only play with our own kind!”

“Daddy”, she sobbed, “Celia’s cat got hit.” Both girls clung to him, faces tear streaked, begging him to do something.

He bundled the limp cat in the white sheet that he removed from his car. The cat mewed when he lifted it.
“You girls get in the car. Celia, here’s my phone. Have your parents meet us at the vets’.”

###

Stuck by Jack Schuyler

In my makeshift hospital, two soldiers lay. One young, one old. One grey, one blue.

“Them Yankees liberated me,” said the Union man, “they said I now had the privilege to fight for my freedom.” He chuckled, “I said ‘where you been the last hun’ed years? I done my fightin’ in these cotton fields.’”

“I joined this war for pa,” the boy in grey shed a tear, “now pa’s dead, an’ I don’t know why I’m fightin’ anymore.”

The man sighed, “seems we both stuck fightin’ another man’s war,”

They laughed together as grey and blue uniforms stained red.

###

Solving Hatred After a Few Beers by Bill Engleson

Joe, local know-it-all, is holding court at Solly’s Tavern.

“Terrible…what happened in Charlottesville…”

“Yeah,” someone says, “Terrible. Whattayagonnado, eh?”

“Well…” and I can see Joe’s wheels turning, grinding away. Where he sits, he’s got all the answers. “Well, if I was in charge…”

“Of?” another voice asks from the back.

“Like, the President, eh…I’d…line ‘em all up, Nazis, anti-Nazis, the whole shooting match…”

“What then, Joe?”

“Then…”

Joe’s starting to sputter. He’s overreached.

“Joe,” I decide to give him an assist, “You’d hug ‘em all, man, and then insist they hug each other. Help ‘em find their inner pussycat.”

###

Bird by Elliott Lyngreen

A little birdie once told me
“There’s too much strength
For this earth to evaporate”
But in a strength of
tweet tweet tweet

One the God of gods
could not vanquish

The wind was its soul

He championed
At gazes in tiny species
In instances overwhelming

As if we were merely healed
Watching for in the trees

Greater than
too much strength
in the ways he even
wriggled open hearts

Cuz there he
the same bird
Chirpa chirpa churpa
Warming through a soul
Warming up like that fresh sense
Of a new Spring
Just sang whenever
new windows opened

###

An Open Letter to the Voters of America from The Association of Former First Ladies by Anne Goodwin

Dear Voters of America,

We, The Association of Former First Ladies, feel your pain. We too have forced a smile when all we hold dear is demolished around us. And not, we might add, beneath a hood and shapeless shift, but in a designer dress destined to be picked apart by the tabloids the following day with greater gusto than they devote to our minds. We too have stood aside, abandoned careers to champion those of lesser individuals (in our case, our husbands’). We offered you Hillary; sadly, you declined. Just asking, but would you consider Michelle next time?

###

Give Us a Housewife by Irene Waters

The cat flew across the room at the end of Donald’s boot. Maggie hugged her tightly.

“Mum” she screamed. Her mother appeared wiping floury hands onto her apron.

“What’s going on.” She listened. Both children talked, airing their grievances. As the tirade petered out she indicated they should sit. “We’re different yet the same. Let’s communicate, listen and learn. Let’s aim for a home of peace, love and acceptance. Without sanctions that don’t work. Silently she gave thanks for her ban of guns. Donald acted without thinking. They talked. Even Donald listened and learnt.

“Mum, please stand for President.”

###

Healing America by FloridaBorne

Betsy hugged the cat waiting for food on her mother’s kitchen counter. A great mouser, the light brown feline showed up in their barn seven years before, another animal displaced when half the country died.

She’d read about the week-long war in history books; how God saved the constitution by commanding, “This is civil war. Kill anyone who is trying to kill the US constitution.”

“Tell me the story again, Mommy!”

“We walked out of our homes, killing every communist and every socialist on every block at the same time. That’s how the USA became a peaceful nation again.”

###

What’s the Difference? by Norah Colvin

She dumped the toys on the floor, then proceeded to arrange and rearrange them in groups. The largest group was of bears, a smaller group of cats, a few lizards, two puppies and an assortment of singles. With a finger tapping her cheek, she surveyed them. First, she dismantled the group of bears muttering about bows, hats and vests. She hugged Tiger as she separated all the toys. Then Dad appeared with his briefcase.

“Ready?”

“Not yet.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Thinking.”

“Which one to take?”

“I can’t choose,” she said, scooping them up. “I love them all the same.”

###

Crazy Cat Lady? by JulesPaige

Mim knew that being a ‘Cat Lady’ was her important mission.
She had made sure the strays were healthy and spayed.
Alternating Tuesdays in Mim’s sun room anyone who came,
could sit the large antique wicker chair and wait until the right
cat adopted them.

Mim’s Kits were at home in The Post Office, Library and
Hospital which allowed a large ginger to roam the floor and
bring comfort where death was a frequent visitor. Mim
believed that one of her Calico’s purring had brought luck
and life to back to little Susie when all other remedies had
failed.

###

Peace by Kalpana Solsi

The air reeks of disgust.

The news on the cell-phones beep of minute-by-minute details of macabre killings.

The thumping of the chests of the claims of responsibility of the heinous crime is obvious

and no prize for guessing.

Old Samuel coming out of the wigwam raises his crow-feet gaze at the sky and throws his

hands up.

Doris’s purr echoes helplessness.

“The unseen roots of the Water Hemlock planted in distant lands creep to tangle the

hand that waters it,” sighs the silver-head wisdom.

“Any nation to be great has to plant peace in its back-yard.”

Satyamev Jayate. Amen.

###

Viewing the Eclipse by Kerry E.B. Black

Erin slid dark glasses on her nose. “Lyla, do you think we’ll be blinded?”

Lyla tapped her glasses. ”We’ll be fine.”

The crowd in Unity Park jostled at street vendors. Everyone sported glasses or viewing devices, everyone except a family huddled together on the fringe. They whispered among themselves, heads close together, three young children in odd clothing.

Lyla pointed her chin. “They’re refugees. Let’s go.”

Erin pulled away from Lyla’s grip. “Just a second.” She cleared her throat. “Excuse me. Would you like to share my glasses when the time comes? We can take turns.”

The family smiled.

###

Breaching the Gap by Robbie Cheadle

The children in the car were laughing as they guzzled chicken pops and drank large Cokes.

It was the last day of school and the children were gleefully looking forward to the holiday.

From his position on his mother’s back, a pair of luminous, dark eyes watched through the window. There would be no holiday for him as his Mother continued her daily toil to put food in their bellies.

The children were oblivious of his stare. All except for one boy.

He opened his window and handed his food and drink to the toddler.

Both smiled with pleasure.

###

Meditation with a Purring Cat by Liz Husebye Hartmann

I can’t heal the world, not on my own. Can’t heal America, can’t do much beyond my own limited vision.
And yet…

I’ve seen the wave, the one that comes from:
• People in positions of power. They gather together and crest “No, we won’t.” And then roll away.
• The sheltering night. Removing symbols of hatred, knowing history is not forgotten, but enriched.
• The light of day. Behind the Deli counter, hands folded, back strong, she meet arrogance with dignity.

Their cool balance calls me to speak up.

Her family needs that job.

We need her Family.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

It’s six fifteen on Tuesday and the regulars sit in the courtyard under the shadows of the monuments. They talk politics with removed passion. Some chain smoke and slug down the stale coffee. Others stare at their feet.

They are black and white. Old and young. Male and female because needles care not about such things. Prestige and privilege only go so far when it comes to a fix.

They don’t show up to be cured but to manage. To do…something…to find the strength between meetings. To nod and stare and not be alone.

Because sometimes, that is enough.

###

Modern American Culture by Michael

Modern American Culture, lecture one, and I was seated eager beaver to learn. Professor Trumpet strode arrogantly to the lectern, his cat, Donald, under his arm. “Make America great again,” he announced. “Now, how to do it.”

The next forty minutes he regaled us with stories of American greatness from inventions to statesmen to reasons why America was the greatest country on Earth.

All the while Donald the cat, who had the look of a sad dictator about him, watched dispassionately from the desk beside him.

“We don’t have to make America great again,” he announced,” we already are.”

###

Community Mutterings by Charli Mills

“Move your car!” Stan yells from his porch. Viola ignores him, dropping off kale for her friend.

“It’s a fire lane!”

Viola mutters, “There’s no fire, old codger.”

The young mechanic next door nearly swipes Viola’s Honda, racing his Dodge truck again. “Idiot!”

Finished with her garden deliveries, Viola drives to the vigil. She’s expecting the liberal-minded to light candles for Charlottesville. Solidarity. As the wife of an Iranian grad-student in a small American college town, she misses urban diversity.

Viola’s eyes sting when she sees Stan hobble from his neighbor’s Dodge, both lighting candles. “Glad you both came.”

###

Patriotism by Rugby843

Jesse put up the flag on his porch every morning. He was a WWII veteran and was proud of the flag, his service, and every day he wanted to show that pride by displaying old glory. He also said a short prayer for all of the deployed men and women all over the world still fighting for those ideals.

Two small boys happened to be riding by on their bikes and stopped to watch the old man raise the flag. One boy spoke up, “Glad you’re putting your flag up, mister. My dad thanks you too, all the way from Afghanistan.

###

Do You Hear Me? by Reena Saxena

Every morning, I decide to free myself of the blogging addiction. And here I am, logged in again, carrying my disappointed self into a make-believe world, where voices are heard.

Sane voices, by and large, remain unheard. Can we speak in a language that the insane understand? Write compelling stories, use popular media like videos and games and be the loudest voice. I need to rid myself of polarized thinking – “I failed, because I am not at the top.”

The world needs corrective action, not just America. Ask the right questions every day.

Maybe, I die feeling worthwhile …

###

Unity Park by Kerry E.B. Black

Keinwen shepherded her third-grade students to the site. Garbage littered the ground. Hateful graffiti marred nearby walls. A pedestal displayed no historic statue, the place of protests. She said. “Let’s get to work.”

Like a vindicating tide, they rushed into the square with scrub brushes and potted plants. They bagged trash and painted a new mural featuring smiles and shaking hands. Keinwen and two other teachers mapped out a path and poured sand. The children placed stones decorated with inspirational phrases, the week’s art project, as a border to the path leading to the place’s new name. “Unity Park.”

###

Pursuit of Happiness by Diana Nagai

Summer voyagers, using sandals for paddles, drifted down rapids on spectacular floats. Invariably, a voyager would swirl in a jetty. Not to worry, fellow travelers guided errant navigators back into the flow.

Harmonious sounds of “Sorry!” and “Oops!” followed by “No worries!” were heard. Everyone facing danger and surviving with a splash. Notably missing were sounds of “otherness”. All working together in the pursuit of happiness without a care of color or creed.

They witnessed humanity; people giving and receiving apologies along life’s bumpy path, helping those in need, knowing that someday they might need a gentle push.

###

“Purrfecting” by D. Avery

“Where you headed?”
“Goin’ to round ‘em all up. Get ‘em corralled. Maybe herd ‘em right off the ranch.”
“Oh, Jeez, what are you on about?”
“Cats! Cats are over runnin’ the ranch. I swear there’s more of them than us.”
“Yep, they’s lots, real diverse, all colors and stripes. I like havin’ ‘em around.”
“Well Shorty says to round ‘em up. Let’s go.”
“No, Shorty says we should pick ‘em up. Not round ‘em up. Just pick one up.”
“Which one? Which color?”
“Doesn’t matter. Just pick one up.”
“Ok.”
“Well?”
“Shh. Listen to this beautiful cat purring.”

###

Still Water by D. Avery

“Lose somethin’ Kid?”
“Jest reflectin’ at this reflectin’ pool.”
“Kid, I swear, you are greener than frog spit. This ain’t no reflectin’ pool. It’s just a stock pond.”
“I can see myself, so it’s a reflectin’ pool. Look, you’ll see yerself too.”
“Oh yeah… hey Kid, it’s deep.”
“Yep. Shorty oughta call her place Reflection Ranch. People can come here an’, you know…”
“Reflect?”
“Yeah.”
“I reckon they already do. Been some mighty deep conversations goin’ on.”
“Yep, they ain’t been shallow. I’ve had some a my thoughts provoked ‘round here.”
“In a good way?”
“In the best way.”

###

Music of Berries

Music of Berries by the Rough Writers @charli_millsBerries deserve music. After all, their sweet-tartness plays a tune upon our taste buds. For writers, how might the two pair? Perhaps it’s like wine and cheese. Perhaps not.

With writers, inspiration can go many directions. Something like berries and music can result in an orchestra of flash fiction.

The following are based on the August 10, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include music and berries.

***

Meddling by Kate Spencer

“Dennis tells me Erin is getting married,” said Jim, dropping the grocery bag onto the counter.

“Oh Veronica must be thrilled,” said Gladys. “She’s had her daughter’s grandiose wedding planned for years.”

“Apparently Erin’s all upset about it. She and Jason want a simple ceremony on Blueberry Hill where they met.”

“And so they should,” huffed Gladys grabbing her purse. “SOMEBODY had better get over there and remind Veronica that all she really wants is for her daughter to be happy.”

“I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill,” crooned Jim and headed for the study with an impish grin.

###

Price of Silence by Kerry E.B. Black

I asked her to stop singing, but she wouldn’t. Studying grew impossible while my sweater-stealing dorm-mate belted out pop tunes, hummed arias, or whistled nursery songs. No amount of begging inspired her silence.

As a botany student, I knew what must be done. I gathered berries and made the drink, a fragrant tea. Tea soothes the throat of a singer, and the serendipity of it pleased me. She studied philosophy. I provided a way for her to experience a closeness with her idol, Socrates.

###

Play a Little Tune by Hayley .R. Hardman

Bert’s blueberries were not doing so well this year. The too wet summer was the cause. He had been trying everything to make the blueberries happy as they were his biggest sellers and God knew he needed the money. Finally, he decided to take his violin and play for them though it broke his vow to never play again. As the first notes rang out, tears marked Bert’s cheeks. He played and played till he couldn’t anymore but the magic of the music seemed to work because the blueberries grew and became the best crop he had ever had.

###

Blow a Raspberry! by Anne Goodwin

Another invitation popped through the door. Blow a raspberry! It couldn’t be clearer. Or easier – even babies manage that. Practising before the mirror, he vowed to do his best.

Meandering between the stalls, his mouth watered. Cranachan with oats, whipped cream and whisky. Raspberry sorbet and ice cream. Raspberry-tinged cider and non-alcoholic cordial. The buzz of bees and equally cordial conversation. Summer’s heat tempered by a light breeze.

Checking in beside the stage, the steward looked at him askance. “Where your pipes, laddie?”

The Scottish word for lips? Alas not: every other contestant had bagpipes tucked beneath their arms.

###

Farmer’s Market (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Crowds jostle, fish tossers call, children beg for ice cream, candy, a Starbucks. Pike Place Market bustles and hums, smelling of flowers, fish, peaches, damp. Gulls scream and music threads through it all. Jane wanders the stalls, assimilated.

Two dollars gets her an iced bottle of tea and a basket of blackberries. With no way to store them, she’ll have to eat them all. Back out on the cobblestones she finds a seat on the curb, in the sun, near the busker with the violin, finds another dollar for his case.

In the words of the Bangles – Sunday, Fun Day.

###

Berry Syrup by Ann Edall-Robson

It’s the season of harvesting produce and picking berries to create all kinds of goodness to enjoy over the long winter months.

What you make with your berries is as versatile as the various types of fruit you have available. Every year produces different quantities and selections. Wild berries seem to have the best flavour; but they take the most amount of time when it comes to picking and cleaning. A local farmer’s market is a good source for your choice of berries.

Choose your fruit, turn on your favourite music and make some of our yummy Berry Syrup.

###

Squish by Michael

Squish, squish, squish those grapes

Feel that juice between your toes

Drop your feet in one two three

There’s wine to be made so squish, squish, squish.

And so, the song went as we walked in single file around the barrel, the juice oozing out, our feet turning red from the stain of the juice swirling round our ankles.

It was a job, it kept me in cash for the holiday season. But I have to say I was so sick of that boring song all day every day. The free bottle prize at the end was small compensation.

###

Flames of Memory by Bill Engleson

The air this morning is a smoky hymn, a thin grey hum of haze hanging from the horizon like a tract of flimsy flypaper.

Though she knows this choking vapour has floated in over the straight from the interior of the Province and that it’s the residue of fiery loss, of dislocation, she is mesmerized by its fugue of gloom.

She has always loved fire.

“Many have lost their homes, their livelihood,” I remind her.

“I know that,” she snaps, “but…what would Grandma say if she was here…it’s the berries.”

That crazy old lady also loved a good fire.

###

The Mulberry Tree by Jeanne Lombardo

This is how my little story ends.

A cup of tea in an easy chair. A slide into memory as a corona of flame licks at a burner on the stove.

The mulberry tree in the scruffy yard on East Las Palmaritas Street. A tinny song from the radio wafting through a window. “I want to hold your haaand…”

I balance under the canopy. Lift one foot and reach, reach, reach for the purple bounty. And slip.

The ground rushes up. The last thing I feel is my small chest expelling its wind.

And I go up in smoke.

###

Ripe for the Picking by Irene Waters

“I said bring your bog boots.”

“Should’ve told me I’d need clothes for the Arctic as well. I may have listened to you then.”

“It’s summer. Not that cold. Don’t be a wuss.”

“It’s not the cold that’s getting me. It’s these huge bloody mosquitos.”

“Ah!” Johanna fumbled in her back pack and pulled out an item that looked like a memory stick. She flicked its switch to on. “Music for female mosquitos. They won’t come near us now. See those yellow berries.”

“Where?”

“Low to the ground. Cloudberries. Musky, tart, exotic, and elusive. An enigma.”

“Just like you.”

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

My sister sits with her feet propped up on the dinner table. She tosses blueberries into her mouth, one after another, recklessly, how she does everything. Without rinsing or worrying about E Coli or choking hazards.

It’s a mystery we’re related. Mona flies into each day, bobbing to the music in her head, trusting things will work out. Not me, I wash everything—hands, food, teeth—compulsively.

Mom and Dad return from their walk. Dad steals a blueberry and one of Mona’s ear buds, bobbing along like a goof. Mom settles beside me. She asks how homework is going.

###

Early Berries by Kerry E.B. Black

Erin and Marlin squeezed berries at each other, laughing as the early sun bronzed their noses and cheeks. Erin considered her stained fingers. They stuck together and tugged when she peeled them apart. “Don’t get the juice in your mouth, Marlin. It’ll make you sick.”

Marlin’s laughter rivaled the lazy music of the bees. “Who’d want to drink this mess, anyway?” A berry burst within his grasp, erupting pulp and seeds. “I do wonder what they taste like.”

Erin chewed the inside of her cheek. “Me, too.”

Marlin touched his tongue to his palm. “Sweet.”

Erin ran for help.

###

Squish by Pensitivity

Please join me in a little game reminiscent of our days in Lincolnshire and the local radio station.

How many songs or pieces of music can you name with ‘berry’ or fruit in the title?

Strawberry Fields Forever
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
One Bad Apple
Raspberry Beret
Blueberry Hill
I heard it through the Grapevine
Tutti Frutti
Blackberry Way
Cherry Cherry
The Banana Boat Song
The Lemon Song
Little Green Apples

My favourite cheat is The First of May (Date, get it?)

Then you could always ask for cover versions by the 1950s group

The Rockin’ Berries.

###

Mulberry Stew by Norah Colvin

Branches hung heavy with berries in reach of even the youngest child. They ate more than they bucketed; but there were plenty, including for birds singing in higher branches. Mum had forbidden them. “Mrs Wilson’s poorly. Don’t disturb her.” But they couldn’t resist. They scampered the instant she called.

“Where have you been?” She eyed the purple stains.

“We …” the youngest began to sing.

“Nowhere,” they shushed with hands concealed.

“What were you doing?”

“Nothing.”

Her lips twitched. “Hand them over.”

Later they pondered together how she knew.

When Dad got home, they’d have to face the music.

###

What’s Raspberry Picking Without Music? by Joe Owens

This was the first time Ed had picked berries in so many years. The dream job pulled him to the other side of the country and away from his family and traditions. Still, something seemed strange about this berry patch he remembered so well. Try as he may he couldn’t place what it was.

Two hours later while emptying his smaller container into the larger one he began to sing. His mother, sister and cousin peeked out of the berry bushes to listen as he crooned a song sung by his grandfather years before.

“That’s my boy!”

###

Laying By by D. Avery

“Thank you for the coffee in bed, sorry I’m so lazy, it’s just that morning sounds have become such sweet music to me.”

“That’s okay, Mom, we don’t mind, do we Dad?”

He grunted his assent and lingered with his own coffee after Hope left to tend her chickens. “Everything okay, I mean, you ain’t got your traveling itch again do you?”

“If you must know, I plan on traveling to that spot over the hill where the blackberries are, fill some buckets, and then come back, scratches and all, and make jam… Stop worrying, I love it here.”

(Follow the story…Offerings)

###

From the Obscuring Mist by Kerry E.B. Black

A merry band of trick-or-treaters skipped along the sidewalk, elbows locked, voices raised in wolfish songs and merry laughter. Parents followed, lugging the kids’ sacks of sweet loot.

Fog curled from the valley, obscuring autumn leaves gathered along bone-white fences underplanted with berry bushes. Nearby, an owl hooted.

From the obscuring mist another costumed group emerged. The small ones added their voices to the wild song. Their caregivers’ lips sparkled with adult distractions- drinks and elicit kisses.

The youth embarked on promised adventures with their new companions. As the children sampled other-worldly treats, the others gathered their innocent souls.

###

Can You Hear the Music by Robbie Cheadle

The small blonde boy sat at the piano, his little face white and pinched with determination. He ran his fingers lithely over the keys, the music flowing directly from his heart to his fingers. The audience sat and watched. Their faces agog with astonishment at this tiny child’s huge talent. One plump lady tapped her foot in time to the prolific flow of notes. Only one face showed anxiety and concern. His mother’s face was tightly drawn as she thought about his obsessiveness. Nothing could distract him from his playing this morning, not even his favourite berries with ice-cream.

###

Music and Berries by FloridaBorne

“What’cha doin’?” six-year-old Jennifer asked.

“Picking blackberries.”

“What’er you listenin’ to?”

“Debussy,” I sighed.

“It’s weird,” she said, picking her nose.

My home was small but freshly painted, had a nice flower garden, and…manners. A child that age should know to ask for tissues!

“Where is your mother?” I demanded.

She pointed at a woman slumped over the filthy couch on her front porch. “She was ‘sleep when I woke up.”

“When did you last eat?”

“Yesterday.”

Good. A reason to contact abuse and get more riff-raff out of our neighborhood. While she devoured lunch, I’d make the call.

###

Tart by Jack Schuyler

“I like the ones that aren’t ripe yet,” Max picked a purple and red berry from his bucket and popped it in his mouth. His face puckered into a smile, “It’s so tart!”

“Don’t eat all the blueberries,” Mamma said picking at the bush next to him, “we haven’t payed for them yet.”

Max shifted guilty eyes her way and sat down. Tart turned to sour in his mouth. A jay tittered its song from a post at the end of the row. If I were a bird, he thought, it wouldn’t be naughty to eat too many berries.

###

Grim Harvest by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lilimor slipped out the back gate, trotting to the meadow as fast as her little legs could carry her. She’d wanted to arrive at sunrise, before anyone noticed she was gone.

Rounding the hill, she crowed in delight at the sparkling field of dewy wild strawberries. She plucked one and tasted the sweetness of afternoon sun and magical, cool nights.

Squatting, she strung berries, tiny as her pinky nail, onto a thread-thin stem of meadow grass. Her mother would be so pleased to have these with her morning smørbrød.

‘Twas then she heard the fiddle, beckoning from the waterfall.

###

Forbidden Fruit (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Save the seeds,” Nancy Jane said, berry juice running down her chin and cleavage.

“To plant?”

“Nah. To make Otoe dice. Fun game.”

A canopy of trees dappled the sun where bluffs and a thicket of buffalo berries barricade this hidden spring. Nancy Jane bathed here. Naked. No wonder she laughed when Sarah protested hiking her skirts to ride horseback astride.

Sarah sank her teeth into the small black fruit with a golden center, wanting to laugh. If she did, Cobb might hear. Perhaps a trick of the mind, but she swore she heard strains of his fiddle nearby.

###

Solo Honeymoon by Diana Nagai

Untying her swimsuit top, she reclined in one of the many chaises which lined the white-sanded shore. She felt daring, being half naked in public, but when in Rome, right? Laughter and splashes composed a summer’s cadence, producing an atmosphere of leisure.

A shadow eclipsed her sunlight. Opening her eyes, she took in the Greek god standing above her. With her best attempt at the local language, she accepted the cream and liqueur smothered berries.

The handsome waiter offered a lingering smile making her glad she didn’t refund the honeymoon tickets. Emboldened, she flirted and smiled back.

###

Strawberry Wine by Rugby843

Washing the berries in the old sink, she felt like singing. Thinking of the previous night, she dreamily sang “Strawberry Wine”. It was true, not a fantasy, that he loved her. She could still feel his touch on her lips, the scent of strawberries on his breath. It started as a friendly picnic and ended as a beginning.

She washed them thoroughly but left the stems. It was much easier to feed someone a strawberry with the stem attached. Whipping the cream, she planned it well. The wine would be the appetizer, feeding him berries and cream the dessert.

###

Berry Befuddled (Janice vs Richard #17) by JulesPaige

Carla Scott was visiting Janice when Longhorn called.
Richard had been back to Janice’s home with some nasty
intent. He must have lost some focus on his reality. He had
taken and eaten berries from her bushes, But had a violent
reaction, and vomited in the kitchen sink. Although he had
attempted some clean up – Richard left fingerprints, as well
as shoe prints in the garden… and he left a trail.

This was music to Janice’s ears. Though there might still
be a long row to hoe, at least maybe there was going to
be a soothing Coda soon.

###

Hedgehog and Mole by Michael at Afterwards

“Do you like berries Mole?” Hedgehog asked, emerging from the thicket to the sound of Sparrow’s morning music.

“Oh yes, especially plump and juicy ones!” Mole replied licking his lips.

“Then follow me” said Hedgehog, “I know a place where the juiciest berries grow!”

Hedgehog led Mole to a clearing where the bramble bushes strained under the weight of the dark fruits.

“I can smell them!” said mole excitedly, “Oh Thank you hedgehog!”.

As Mole devoured berries hedgehog crept slowly away, passing Fox at edge of the clearing.

“He’s all yours” Hedgehog snarled “I expect payment in full tomorrow.”

###

Plum Crazy by D. Avery

“Is Shorty plum crazy? What’s she want us gathering buffalo chips for? That what she uses fer charcoal?”

“No, Kid, she wants berries. So let’s go git some buffalo berries.”

“Hmph, buffalo berries. Shorty makin’ pies agin? I reckon with buffalo berries it’ll be like a cow pie.”

“They’re not chips.”

“Hey, while we’re at it, let’s git some horse muffins too.”

“Kid, will you ever stop fiddlin’ around?”

“Heck no. Shorty wants music too, so I’ll jest keep on fiddlin’, thank you berry much.”

“I hope Shorty is plannin’ on fermentin’ some of these berries.”

“Yep, wine not?”

###

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