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July 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Troubled times have come to my hometown.

The prompt photo shows an undated modern main street of Markleeville, California where I lived from 1974 to 1985. In 1988, I returned to marry my Ranger in cowboy boots in a meadow where I rode my horse and pushed cattle during the summers of my teen years. Markleeville has been described as picturesque, tiny, historic, and beautiful.

The town sits in a bowl, flanked by irrigated ranch pastures, surrounded by forest and beneath the peaks I know so well I can trace their outlines with my finger pointed to the sky. Raymond looms tallest over 10,000 feet in elevation. Markleeville is nearly 5,500 feet. It’s a mountain town.

Like most boom and bust towns out West, white settlers built where they could take resources. Lumber, grazing, minerals. Jacob Marklee built a toll-bridge in 1861, anticipating a mining boom. Already, the Comstock Lode of 1859 at Virginia City, Nevada sparked interest in the eastern side of the Sierra. Jacob filed his property claim in Douglas County, Nevada. Having grown up in Markleeville, it’s logical to think of it as Nevada. But it isn’t. Jacob filed in the wrong state. He ran cattle where I gathered cattle for the Ted Bacon Ranch. He built a house next to the one where I grew up. Jacob lost a gunfight in 1864 and the county courthouse and sheriff’s department now reside on his mis-filed ranch along Markleeville Creek.

Makes me wonder what Jacob called the creek. Or what the Washoe place names are? Funny thing about “discovery” in America is that the land came with its Indigenous. In 1970, a newspaper report quoted ol’ Weesie (you might spot her here in the Ranch Yarns as “Frankie”). It was one of many articles California cities over the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains wrote about the quaint town with its famous trout fishing and fresh air. Notably, the Washoe are left out of that article and many others. They weren’t even roadside attractions. Invisible.

I write stories to make visible those who live unseen. Weesie/Frankie is one of my childhood heroes. I saw and heard my elders and my Native neighbors. To me they weren’t invisible. They gave me a deep appreciation for my home, rooting me in its history and culture. Alpine County is an ancient place older than the 1864 house I grew up in next to the Markleeville General Store. I knew all its nooks and crannies. I was the weird kid who rollerskated to get her horse from his pasture. I rode and knew the secrets of the land.

Isn’t that the way of hometowns? As Bruce Springsteen sings in his classic My Hometown, an elder — an uncle, parent, neighbor, mentor — takes us for a ride and says, “Take a good look around. This is your hometown.”

This song has always cradled my heart. Time stops and I’m transported to my hometown. I used to run “with a dime in my hand” to the school bus stop across from that brown building in the prompt photo. It’s the infamous biker bar called the Cutthroat Saloon. It once graced Silver Mountain City until the English money ran out and Lord Chalmers deserted his wife Nettie. My first foray into historical fiction was about Silver Chalmers, the daughter who disappeared. The Cutthroat (named after a species of trout native to Alpine County, not pirates or bikers) was the Alpine Hotel and after 3,000 miners, merchants, loggers and families left the mining town, residents of Markleeville moved the structure. No a small feat.

Why did I have dimes in my hand? Because the bartender would toss the coins from his tip jar into the road every night after 2 am. Eight years old, and I ran to the stop in the morning to pick up dimes and sometimes a quarter or two. I think he only lasted that school year and no other bar tender shared his tips (or lured children into the highway, not that there was any traffic).

Memories go up in flames. Markleeville and every stop along the bus route is evacuated. The Tamarack Fire rages zero percent contained. Fire has confronted the town since 1866 when the first Markleeville General Store burned to the ground. I counted over a dozen fires in my newspaper research from 1885, 1939, 1947, 1948, 1954, 1955, 1984, 1887, 2008, 2015 and many smaller burns in between. What struck me as I read is that the fires used to be much smaller, even ones that blazed through second growth timber (meaning what forest grew back after the heavy logging for all the area mines during the Comstock days).

I smell trees. Jeffrery pines. The trees of my childhood. They might look similar to the Ponderosa pines, but they smell distinctly sweet. Like vanilla. I’ve never lived anywhere else out west that carried the scent of Jeffreys. It’s arid on the eastern slopes of the Sierras thus thick with sagebrush. I can smell sage, too. I can’t find any evidence that the seeds of the Jeffreys are edible, but likely I learned on the school playground from my Washoe friends that they taste as sweet as the trees smell. I can remember squatting on the ground beneath a particularly large pine, cracking open pine seeds and eating them at recess.

It all smolders now.

The Tamarack fire has burned so hot that the teams can’t fight it with air retardant. In my memory, air power was vital to fighting forest fires in Alpine County. It’s unfathomable to me that these latter fires out West are so much hotter that they create their own storm systems and blacken the sky. My dad was a firefighter. Like many, he was a volunteer, and at one time a crew chief for the local engine. I remember him telling about the firestorm that overtook him and his crew. They were on the line, protecting structures on Mesa Vista, when the storm blew up. He said it sounded like a freight train. The air crisped so hot his contact lenses shriveled and fell out like grit. They sought shelter under the fire engine and a borate bomber dumped its load on the truck, saving their lives.

The following year, in July of 1987, another firestorm blew up and burned Woodfords, Alpine Village and Mesa Vista where my parents lived. When I couldn’t reach them, Todd and I drove from Fallon, Nevada, and took dirt roads I knew so well to get around the road blocks. We got as far as the Walker Camp (a Washoe village) and Jeffrey pines blazed like torches. We watched flames shoot impossibly high into the sky and churning smoke. We could go no farther. A July 30, 1987 newspaper reported eye witnesses, one saying:

“It looks like a nuclear war,” says Lt. Stan Pope of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.

30 Jul 1987, Page 3, Reno Gazette, “Alpine County Fire”

I remember the bombed out look. I remember the grief and determination to rebuild. I remember the relief that my parents’ home had survived a second fire in two years. Another home they lived in, the one where the bear got into their kitchen garbage can one night, sitting on the floor like an overgrown toddler, that house sits at the edge of the burn. The horse pasture on fire. I wish I had my favorite photo of them dressed up in their finest turquoise western outfits ready for a wedding. The photo below is in the background of that shot. This is where they lived. Markleeville is just down the road.

Noah Berger, AP SF Gate 2021

As I’ve been following the #TamarackFire, memories burn. I can’t help but recall what it felt like to ride Captain up this trail or that. I remember where the old barbed wire wrapped around a stand of trees, surrounding the sunken graves of unnamed Washoe. It’s not how they buried their dead. They built platforms. I know where that sacred burial place is, too. I can tell you all the places I used to swim, along creeks, streams, and ditches. I search for names among residents and those commenting on the social media channels to find the familiar people from my hometown. It’s a different generation. A turnover of names.

The woman in this video talks about the stress her parents are going through. They lost everything in the Acorn Fire (the one in 1987). She wasn’t born yet. Her parents were at my wedding that year, months after losing everything. I used to babysit her older brother.

I haven’t mustered the courage to call my parents. I don’t want to stress my dad. He remains a staunch conservationist, an old school mountain man semi hermit who has old ways to maintain the health of the forests. He fought for years to get officials to listen to him. He always said this would happen. Our hometown is forever changed. All his hard work to log in a conservative way, up in smoke so thick satellites can’t register the hot spots.

Here’s a comparison of where I got married.

Todd and I rode in the surry pulled by Jet from Markleeville to Turtle Rock Park where we had our reception.

Hometowns change. As Bruce Springsteen sings, jobs leave, people leave. Natural disasters, wars, sickness. Every generation confronts changes from aging to obliteration. I’m reminded that it’s not the hometown that matters as much as it is the community. This is no longer my community, I haven’t been back since the late 1980s. I feel confident that the existing community will rebuild and hold each other up. I wish them the best. I’m grateful that the Hung A Lel Ti residents can go back, although they may have to evacuate again. I hope they can be part of the greater rebuilding, no longer invisible to the community but part of its healing.

I’ve been fascinated and horrified by the power of forest fires all my life. I’ve been as close as one can get to witnessing fire’s destructive beauty. It is burning and yet it is renewal. There are pine trees that only open their cones to propagate seeds through fire. Indigenous people lived for thousands of years in Alpine County. They lived with fire. Our century of fire suppression was misguided. We need better, wiser solutions to live in harmony with the awe-inspiring environments that surround our hometowns. I wrote a forest fire in my novel Miracle of Ducks and how it brought out the best in the community. How it forced Danni to confront death and life.

This next week, I’m taking a vacation with my good friend. You might know her. She hangs out with Kid and Pal. Some say she writes them. Maybe they write her. Know that I’ll be in good company, sitting along the lake shore, camping and savoring campfire stories. She’ll get an earful of all the stories this fire has brought to light for me. I even have an Alpine County Bigfoot story for her. I will not post a collection or challenge next week, so you have two weeks to ponder your own hometowns. Or hometown for the characters who have a story to give you.

July 22, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a hometown. It can be your hometown or a fictional one. Who is there? When is it set? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

**NOTE: TWO WEEK DEADLINE** Respond by August 3, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Markleeville by Charli Mills

I’m eight years old running after the bus, crying. A car stops. “Don’t cry honey. We’ll catch the bus.” I don’t know who she is, but I get in her car. She speeds, making good on her promise. She’s the mom of a girl in my class. I don’t make friends easily. I prefer adults, especially the old-timers no one visits. They tell me stories, like what Monitor looked like when it wasn’t a vacant flat of sagebrush. Hometown will always be the people who saw me. I carry stories of Markleevile in my heart long after they’ve gone.

🥕🥕🥕

July 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m having a serious meltdown.

Mause ate my turquoise Keens. She chewed through the straps by the start of warm weather. Keens are my power center. Keens have seen me through adventures, interviews of farmers, and recovery from back surgeries. Keens give me stable footing. They are my travel companions, my outdoor gear. This particular pair went to LA when I won a scholarship to a writers conference. The color symbolized my dream to teach writing and welcome writers to retreat space.

It’s not the first time I’ve lost a pair of Keens to a wild animal (puppies are feral beasts). You can read my 2012 lament to Keens lost and then found destroyed along the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior in A Tale of Two Keens. But something has changed.

They don’t make Keens like they used to. It’s more than fashion travesty when a brand you love changes. It feels like betrayal. I was loyal, why couldn’t you be loyal too, Keen? It’s not just me. Other jilted shoe-lovers mourn the loss of a dependable brand. So far, since the beginning of May, I’ve ordered and returned four pairs of Keens. None of them fit. I tried different sizes, styles and genders. The fit was the whole reason for our foot affair. The shape is gone, the love with it.

I tried Merrels and kept a pair. But they are not Keens. If I walk to long in them, the front straps rub my pinky toes.

Today, a pair of coral Chacos arrived in a box. The river rafters and hiking enthusiasts out West swear by this brand. I’ve snubbed my nose, content with Keens. Now, I rip my package in desperation for a new shoe mate. Immediately, I swing a foot sideways to place a sandal. I can’t get my toe under the right strap. Why are there so many straps? A folded card has a series of instructions numbered at each strap and shoe placement. Easy as 1-2-3.

Uh, no. I have to sit down because I’m not understanding the entanglement. It’s a sandal. My foot should slide in place. This is when dyslexia pops up to help my brain with a problem. I can’t figure out anything left/right oriented. Like the one way streets in Minneapolis because they use the circle with a line to say don’t turn the direction of the lined arrow except my brain can’t interpret which direction I’m not supposed to go and every time, I’d turn down the wrong way. In Zoom meetings I point the wrong direction to things behind me. I struggle with math, maps, phonemes, pronunciation, and time.

Cue the meltdown because I don’t have time for this strap nonsense.

There I was, sitting on the couch, attempting to put my foot through a puzzle of straps when I pulled the toe straps wide open. You see, if the directions had been written out instead of a numbered visual, I could have comprehended how the Chaco straps pull through the bed of the sandal. I managed to get one on my foot. Then the next foot. Mause ate the instructions while I fussed.

I stood up and one foot said, “Okay,” and the other said, “wtf…” I started to spin. I didn’t intend to spin but that directional disorientation couldn’t figure out which way my foot was supposed to go. I rotated in a circle and still couldn’t get my foot straight on the sandal bed. The straps held. At times like these, I usually laugh. Because, what else can I do? Well, I did the other thing. I burst into tears.

It’s been a week in two days, and not just because I can’t find a pair of sporting sandals. I’m overwrought by unscheduled time and competing tasks and wondering who in my house is crazier? (I’m pointing at Mause, who’s looking at me.) Am I too busy to call the numbers I researched to search for answers to where does the mind of an aging veteran go? Or am I really as tired as my bones feel? Despite it all, good news rises in the midst of chaos.

Finlandia University offered me the Adjunct Instructor position. I have two classes to teach this fall semester! Adjunct means contract. They’ll hire me as long as there are classes available. It’s great because I’ll have a base income to cover me while I build my education platform here. It gives me flexibility without having to force my feral writing brain back into a 9-to-5. It’s also a foot in the door to the Academic World. It’s beyond what my turquoise Keens had hoped for!

The transition is only a season. I hope for days that fit better into my weeks. I hope for less confusing straps and triggering moments. Truly, I am grateful to have such trivial complaints as, “My dog ate my shoes.” But sometimes, we need to embrace the time of the dark moon and have a proper meltdown. Now, I can stop actively searching for work, which is a huge weight off my shoulders. Time to prepare for teaching!

As long as I don’t have to distinguish my left from my right.

July 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 20, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills

His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.

Max refused to stroke the cat rubbing its head against her folded arms. She leaned against one of two posts holding up the front porch. The exterior needed sanding. Through the open door to the three-room cabin – kitchen, sitting room, bedroom – Max noted cooling cherry pies, lace curtains, jelly jars of garden flowers. What some would call “a woman’s touch.” Her dad lived alone.

She’d been seven when the church elders drove him from their South Range home, beating him with fists and folded newspapers. Mascara and tears streaking his face.

🥕🥕🥕

July 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

Mause proves me slow. She bounces and flies, covering ten times the territory of my pace. For each one foot in front of the other I step, she is rompy-bompy to the end of her leash and back asking, “Are you there yet?” I’m a slow-plodding T-Rex, so slow my bones are fossilizing.

The clear evidence of our different speeds of life emerged like a cliched smoking gun. I observed Mause watching me water flowers from the top of the deck. When I turned off the water, and closed the mudroom, I opened the basement door and screamed. The creature that leapt at me was not a massive Wolfrick spider or racoon. It was Mause.

The only explanation for her traveling the greater distance to beat me to the back door is that I’m slow. She is quicksilver.

Do you ever feel that way as a writer?

We seem to fall into two categories. The rompy-bompy book authors and the dinosaurs that follow. I’ve had other writers confess to me their concern. They worry that they are too slow when they learn their peers have published yet again and they are still hand-painting illuminations on a manuscript. To this I say, know and appreciate who you are as a writer. We can share paths as peers but we can not compare our strides. Long or short, our pace belongs to each of us.

We are free to change. Frankly, I have no desire to bounce like Mause. When I considered what took me so long, I realized I had paused. I noticed how the mudroom smelled like cedar because it’s where the sauna is. I scanned the garden shelves for any overlooked items that might want to go outside. I noted with satisfaction that I had enough tomato cages if my plants grow. A misplaced frying pan from our wandering days reminded me to add it to my camping gear. I felt the tickle of a cobweb and brushed it away from my face. I wondered, where did my jawline go and will I get it back or am I destined to become a fabulous crone? The idea scared and intrigued me. Only then did I reach for the basement door.

Surprise! Eight-month-old puppy paws reached up to punch my belly.

At first I wanted to believe in Mause’s magic (because she is). But I rationalized that she was smart enough to have seen me disappear into the mudroom from the deck and she flew through the porch door, across the sun room, through the kitchen, to the upstairs basement door, pushed it open, flew down the stairs across the painted cement floor to greet me. She was probably wiggling in anticipation as I meandered in my head.

I’m a processor who lives a rich life in my imagination. You can’t believe the universe inside. No wonder I slow down. I’m time traveling. While Mause zips from a leaf to a June bug, I’ve visited stars and written manifestos and Russian epics. I can be still in my body the way she can spring from paw to paw, spinning to catch her bobbed tail. In the end, we are all protons, energy that can’t be created or destroyed. Yet we can arrange ourselves infinitely. Believe what we want about what it all means.

Some of us write and publish quickly. Some of us compose in our heads and drag the suitcases around the world until we decide to drop a manuscript. It’s okay. Be you. I’m being me. Mause is Mause. “Unabashedly,” as a friend said to me earlier this week during a three-way conversation about societal pressures. I belong to a small group of Women Doing It Their Way. Each of us is on a different career path or entrepreneurialism. We were talking about how the fast pace of modern culture pressures us to be something we aren’t.

Who pressures us as writers? The quick answer might be ourselves. But where and when and from whom did we internalize the voices that tell us we are not enough? Not fast enough. Not smart enough. It warps our expectations. Soon we believe there is something wrong because even a dog moves quicker. But I reject that because I know the Writer that I am. I know that this…this moment…this right here, right now is my Writing Life.

I am the writer who spots a downy white feather against a blue sky and can watch it float on unseen drafts of air and by the time it lands on the head of a budding milkweed, I’ve constructed a thousand lives for the winged unicorn who dropped it. I am the writer with blood memory in a foreign land who sings to the bones of my ancestors mineralized on the shore of an inland sea none of them ever experienced. But there they are. I remember stones. I can’t remember home. I am the writer who believes in unicorns and have witnessed my dog become one. More on that in a bit because I’m a writer who likes to weave unlikely silken thought threads into a story that looks like a Bohemian sundress on a lumberjack. I’m a writer who sits a lot and needs a dog to take her for walks only to get lost in the green of summer trees, forgetting that time exists.

You don’t need to understand me. I don’t. I am many things I haven’t even begun to explore. But I am a writer and that’s what I do. I go deep. And I’m slow, observing the senses, emotions and mysteries beyond the single note of a robin happy for the sunset and smorgasbord of dusk-flying insects. Where was I? Oh, yes, Mause the Unicorn.

If you have children (grandchildren, or were a child) of a certain age of videos, you might be familiar with the classic, The Last Unicorn. An evil old man used a flaming bull to round up all the unicorns and drive them into the sea. If you look into the crest of white foaming waves, you can see them.

When the heat of what will probably be our hottest summer day drove me away from my desk, including the outside office, I sought relief at Lake Superior. Mause is young and still uncertain about water. But she’s determined to chase down waves. Lake Superior had little rollers on that hot day. I was waist deep, standing on tumbles stones, coaxing Mause to swim to me. A wave would rise and distract her. She crashed to shore in a cresting wave, and momentarily, white foam blended with white fur and the brown speckling morphed into rocks.

Mause disappeared in the spray like a unicorn. It was a moment of magic. She crested with several more waves and I laughed with delight at my captured puppy unicorn. Some of you might be afraid I’m going to make you write about unicorns…again. Do not fear. I have feathers on the brain. And communism.

I’m editing a fascinating historical novella about how easy it was for communists to dupe Americans during the Great Depression. I’ve been immersed in researching 1930s newspaper accounts regarding a spectacular international incident that links the Michigan Upper Peninsula to a spy trial in Finland. It has made me rethink how people reacted to the loss of jobs and lack of food. I tried my hand at exploring that time in my 99-word story.

Go be you and write to find who you are, knowing you can revise at any time. And remember, it doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow as long as you are living your Writer’s Life.

“To me success and fulfillment lead in two different directions: one outwardly to the hope of glory, the other inwardly to the guarantee of peace.”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

July 8, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 13, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Red Feathers of 1932 by Charli Mills

She plucked the chicken, swiping a feather from her forehead. Now what, thought Nella. Dumplings tonight wouldn’t stop the hunger pains to come. No more eggs. No more breakfasts for loggers. Loggers turned to the rails. Hoboes for hire. She brushed off her mother’s borrowed apron. When she left the northern peninsula to teach in Detroit, she never imagined she’d return broke. But the economy crashed, no one could pay taxes and schools closed. Capitalism. She growled the word. It had robbed all workers down to the last chicken. Tonight, she’d join Frank at the meeting with the communists.

🥕🥕🥕

July 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

I was not the local celebrity riding the circuit on a tour bus. The twenty Vietnam vets and four of their wives were. Of course, we all thought the big star of the day’s road trip was the 90-year-old Korean veteran with his son along for escort. Our trip leader and bus driver represented the post 9/11 era and I was odd duck in between the Gulf War and Vietnam. A wife, not a soldier.

If ever I think I can’t do this, I look at the women before me. I call the Vietnam-era wives the long-haulers. They’ve been through stuff that would make Rambo quake in his combat boots. Every last one of them deserves a medal of honor. Even the ones who tap out.

But I’m not writing woes today.

Our trip to White Pine was about healing and respect with dignity. We all boarded the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center tour bus in Houghton and drove to White Pine 90 minutes away. The Vet Center in Houghton is across the lift bridge from where I live in Hancock. A ten minute drive from my home on Roberts Street.

White Pine, like most towns on the map in “copper country,” is a former company town built around a mine, one of the last to operate in our area. The place looks like something out of a dystopian novel after post-industrial decline, and yet, it is where we went. In a former mine administrative building or warehouse or large equipment depot, is an unlikely operation. Three men create and maintain replicas of the Vietnam Memorial known as The Wall. In an obscure corner of Upper Michigan, a region often left off of contemporary maps or mislabeled as Canada, a small organization houses The Moving Wall and its collected memorabilia.

Considering that the half-sized replica has toured all fifty states since before I graduated high school, I was surprised to find out how close such a solemn piece of history and healing is to my home. When our Vet Center arranged the tour, I signed on to go. When I lost Vet Center services, I asked to be included nonetheless. Then my services were reinstated. Point is, bears couldn’t keep me away.

And we did see a huge black bear but that was at lunch after our tour.

Most of my favorite Vietnam vets came for the ride. They came to seek what only each of them sought privately. They came out of curiosity. They came to support one another. The wives came to understand. They have carried a massive burden for forty-something years or more and they wanted to glimpse who they were in all of this. Dignity. Yes, we could agree that no matter the pain and folly, we all wanted to feel a sense of human dignity faced with participation in a great indignity that still reverberates throughout the world.

Vietnam vets rebelled. Vilified, gaslighted, and discarded, these soldiers started motorcycle gangs, turned to addictions, and demanded recognition for PTSD and moral injury. It’s hard to reconcile the men with canes, limps, and walkers disembarking our bus to the bad boys of their younger years. Yet, inside the warehouse of The Moving Wall, posters, photos, and bumper stickers on the wall capture the essence of their experiences. I watched as our group sucked breath at the enlarged photos that took them back to the place they try to forget.

Home changed while you were away.

The industry of the place didn’t keep them in dark thoughts, though. They expressed curiosity for the home-grown process to recreate plates of names through screen-printing and endless rubbing with a wet chemical compound. I hung out with one of my Ojibwe writers, and our most recent widower. I listened. We swapped jokes. I chose to ignore the sexist pin-ups. They pointed to familiar objects, told me childhood stories, but none spoke of Vietnam. All watched as the process enfolded.

That’s when I spotted an old photo that looked familiar.

A group of soldiers in uniform posed for a photo. When you know combat soldiers, you understand the body language. This is not a before ‘Nam photo. It oozes attitude and hides pain. You can tell it’s post-service. Behind the men, peeking over a shoulder and resting her hand as if to comfort and protect, is a woman who could have been my best friend. Kate wore her hair like that in the mid-seventies. Not only was she support for her Vietnam veteran, but she supported his friends, too. It wasn’t her, but it could have been any of my Vietnam-era Warrior Sisters.

It’s a rare photo that catches an invisible role. I’m captivated. It could be me. It is every veteran spouse.

We are a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I move on and catch one of my Warrior Sisters drawn to the photo. She stands before it a long time. I watch the screen-printing and glance back to my friend. Finally, she raises her phone. She snaps a shot of the same photo I saved, too. I catch up with her in the “saloon” to sign the guest book. It’s set up like an in-country bar with posters, jukebox, and memorabilia. She startles and says, “This is back in time. I wonder if the jukebox works.”

Next, my writer friend walks in and startles. “They got the lights right,” he says. I look up and notice the lights are covered with a fabric I don’t recognize.

Another Warrior Sister walks in and says, “Oh, my.”

I sit with them. Then I startle. I spot a poster for a rodeo where four generations of my family rode, including me. Although I didn’t ride bulls like my father, grandfather and great-grandfather did in Salinas. I also see a burlap sack with a bull head and the message, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” No kidding, that is the first piece of writing advice anyone ever gave me when I was but a teen, writing for the local newspaper. We left the time capsule, comforted to find the sun shining, the year 2021.

Goats might have been licked here.

We lingered only because it’s slow, boarding a bus with bad knees, back surgeries, and bullet holes. Our rucksacks shared. We share the pain. We share the jokes. We share touches and hugs from behind. We head to lunch and break bread while the biggest black bear we’ve ever seen munches outside (they feed bears at the Konteka). We ask the waitress if the bowling alley is open. She explains the difficulties of COVID rules, like having to wipe down the balls afterward. <Insert Warrior Sister dirty joke here.> We howl with laughter, making the men blush (that’s how we get back at ’em for the pin-ups).

The bus ride home feels too short. Our spirits are high, our bellies full, and we are all connected, everyone of us in this small group on a VA bus. I share my search for a Finnish Tree Wizard. I get ideas where to find one. The 90-year-old roles his eyes. He’s a Finn. We hug and laugh at the Vet Center parking lot. One of the vets shares eggs with us “gals.” They’re from his pet chickens. He won’t accept money for them. I make a mental note to send him some books I think he’d like to read.

We slip into obscurity, no longer on the celeb VA bus. Until we share the next bear sighting.

Not a place to eat outside. You’d lose a hamburger.

July 1, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “the old photograph.” What is captivating about it? Where did it come from? How does it incite a story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 6, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

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The Old Photograph by Charli Mills

She found him in the 1979 yearbook. The bottom row. The old photo wasn’t vintage. Some would argue it was modern. He played football. Four years. He sat shirtless, his blonde hair long, wavy. The football team had fathers who’d served in Korea, grandfathers in WWII. A few had older brothers, younger uncles, or cousins who’d served in ‘Nam. The ones no one spoke of, or to. The dispersed ones. She thought the photograph ancient because he looked so young. So guiltless. So pre-Grenada. Head hits, concussive blasts, and one knee-shattering jump. He never wore his hair long again.

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Stilettos

Stilettos attract attention, no doubt. This week writers took to the heels (an occasional points) like balanced pros to deliver a variety of stories that sparkle like glitter.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

New Age by Rebecca Glaessner

Several eons passed since they last visited Earth, they discovered humans viewed other-world strangers warily now, without the awe of old.

Their job – gathering insights into human minds – meant molding their DNA to conform while on-planet. They looked human, though in this new age, reed undergarments, intricate piercings and feathered crowns weren’t widely desired.

Human views on appearances had changed.

The aliens adapted, yet one didn’t account for their stilettos’ height.

Travelling the city, the aliens-as-humans towered over passers-by, attracting attention.

Glorious feathered crowns were no longer worshiped, but height had them feeling once more like gods amongst men.

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Wing-Woman by Ritu Bhathal

“I have to wear those?”

Melissa nodded.

“No, really. Me? Wearing those death traps?”

Eliza gingerly picked up one of the sparkly high heeled stilettos and dangled it in front of her eyes. A pointed toe that was sure to pinch at her feet. And the heel. Dear God, the heel. Six inches of danger.

She cleared her throat. “Mel, do you want to walk into the club with style, or be shoved into Dan’s arms unceremoniously, as your hapless wing-woman ends up tripping, and taking you with her?”

“Well, at least he’ll notice me, that way,” Melissa smirked.

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First Dance by Marsha Ingrao

“West Coast Swing?” Roger asked, sweat popping from every pore.

“Learning.”

He glanced at her gold stilettos. “Brush your soles.”

“Why?”

Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”

He announced each step as they danced in their tight corner. “You’re doing well.” He spun her onto the main floor.

With each back step and pull on her arm, Tanni felt laughter bubbling inside. Her ankle turned. Roger never missed a step as he flung her off the floor around him. When she landed, glistening as brightly as her stilettos, she picked up the beat with a back step.

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Learning to Walk by Joanne Fisher

Briana selected the pair of red stilettos and began putting them on in store.

“Excuse me, um, miss, are you sure want to try those on?” the store assistant asked frowning at her.

“Yes I have to learn how to walk in heels at some point.” Briana replied.

She stood up and tried to take a step. She swayed, and eventually began to topple over, the store assistant managing to break her fall.

“Again, are you really sure you wouldn’t prefer some flats?”

“A girl’s gotta try.” Briana responded as she stood up again and took one more step.

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Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.

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Sizing Up by D. Avery

Poised proud on the dashboard, they shone through the windshield.

“Shouldn’t you return those shoes to whoever left them in your truck?” Liza was chastising but also hopeful to get the sparkly gold stilettos as a consolation prize. Tom’s dad, still oblivious, also chastised the young man.

“It’s a might unseemly, keeping trophies out in plain view like that.”

“Yessir,” and he gathered the stilettos in one hand, pulled his scruffy duffle bag from the front seat with the other. “But they’re no trophy. They’re mine.”

Tom studied his own dusty work boots, as if for the first time.

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A Mile in Her Shoes by D.L. Armistead

Mitch crammed his feet into the improbably spiky heels, six inches high with marabou pompoms, and hobbled to the starting line with all the other guys. His work buddies had laughed. But it was his idea to join and honor all the people, male and female and – what was that new word? Non-binary? – who had been subjects of sexualized violence. From the snide remarks at Susan’s office to the death of that poor kid Troy, beaten senseless for daring to say he was really a girl. Mitch’s sign read, “Good Man Crossing.” He picked it up and started walking.

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(64) Damned Family (Doe Eyed Maeve) by JulesPaiges

doe eyed, full
of innocence, grandiose plans to
save the world

Mae remembered when she had embraced the full character of herself as Maeve, as she read the text from the Faithful Stag, and reminisced about the first time they had met. It was at a New Year’s Party in Washington, DC. My, those were the days. Women wore sparkling stilettos to gain some height, along with gold or silver sequined cocktail dresses or dramatic gowns with slits up to their armpits.

Now Mae thought, if only she could ‘save’ those closest to her. Like her nephew Norman.

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The Writer Knows Her Limits by Anne Goodwin

“I can’t. Just like I can’t put a cigarette in someone’s hand.”

My muse rolls her eyes.

“It’s a step away from Chinese foot binding.”

“Doorstep or dance step? You don’t trip over those.”

“It’s a moral issue.”

“Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa? Nobody cares.”

“I care.”

“Some writer, only mentioning things you approve of!”

“Anyway, it’s impractical. She’s a murderer. She needs to run.”

“You nailed the weapon yet?”

“Nails can’t kill without a hammer. She won’t find either at a masked ball.”

“She could wear it.”

“The hammer?”

“The stiletto, idiot! On her feet.”

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Stilettos by Reena Saxena

Spending a fortune on a pair of high heels did not help much. The discomfort remained as with the lesser pairs, and I had it to pad it with cushions and toe covers, and practise walking on preciousness.

I did think renting would have been a better option. But what if Prince Charming came looking for me with one shoe? He would land on Rent-O-Mojo.

Little did I think a fall would take me to the police. Diamonds concealed in the shoe spilt out, and now I don’t know whether to call it a bane or boon.

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Miranda by R. V. Mitchell

Miranda’s profile on the escort site was constructed in every detail to get the attention of Big Hank McCloud the head of the local syndicate. Weeks of research, and a knowledge of his “tastes” assured that the call would come.

Miranda arrived at the hotel attired in a revealing black dress and some stilettos that were to die for. When she was frisked by the bodyguard, she let out a little moan just to play up the persona.

Once alone in the room with the boss, the assassin struck. Did I mention that the stilettos were to die for?

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No Shoes by Kate Spencer

“So what’ya gonna give me for them?” Marco asked, leaning into the counter.

George knew better than to ask Marco how he got a hold of the goods he brought into the pawnshop. 

“These are shoes. You know we don’t take shoes,” George said.

“They’re red stilettos George. You gotta lady don’t you? Imagine her wearing them Christmas morning.”

George examined the long dagger-like heels one more time. His fiery Roxy sure would be sexy in them.  But those heels. They can kill.

Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.  

“Like I said, we don’t take shoes.” 

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A Matter of Self Defence or, Miss Fluart’s ‘Admirer’ by Gordon Le Pard

“So Miss, do you know who I am?”

Miss Fluart looked down at his twisted fingers.

“I think you are the man who liked assaulting women.”

“Harmless, until you took a hand. Now for some fun. No one will hear you scream.”

She looked round the empty Park, stepped back and took a grip on her parasol. He laughed and moved closer to her.

There was a click as she twisted the handle, and withdrew a twelve-inch blade.

He looked into her unblinking eyes, as she held the stiletto to his throat.

“Will anybody hear you scream?” She replied.

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Turning the Tables by Saifun Hassam

Alice clambered down the rabbit hole. Her teenage sister’s stilettos swung from her sash around her waist. She’d worn those stilettos surreptitiously when sis was away at her job.

Alice stood eight inches taller in the stilettos. None of that awful “drink me” or “eat me” stuff.

The Red Queen coveted those shoes as soon as she saw Alice.

“Give me those shoes! Or off with your head!”

“Give me your crown!” Alice posed, tall, one leg forward, hand on her waist.

The Red Queen glared. She spat: “Here!”

Queen Alice smirked. Stilettos and crown. “Off with her head!”

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Don’t Call Me Buffy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Shit!” Her ankle wobbled as she made her way across Old Towne Cobblestone Bridge. The rain had been brief, but drenching. Temperatures were dropping precipitously.

She’d made sure he was following.

Her stilettos clicked, thin against the moonless night. She crossed to rough pavement, surer in her steps as she led him into the graveyard, to the family crypt. She felt, rather than heard his respirations quicken.

She turned, mouth red and ready, as he caught up to her on the steps. He bent to her, his mouth cold.

Stiletto in hand, she plunged it deep into his heart.

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In the Still of the Et Toe by Bill Engleson

A contortionist of some renown,
he dreamt of times departed.
The twists, the turns, the ups and downs,
His life, how it was charted.

He‘d not fully stayed the course,
his mind and body wandered.
Pleasure’d been his driving force:
his other duties squandered.

Late in life, an epiphany,
a desire to mend his ways,
and so, he travelled to Sicily
to pass his remaining days.

Then one dark Italian night,
in a mutilating blow,
he swung a blade with guillotine might
and severed every toe…

But one, and with much practiced torsion,
he chewed off the remaining portion.

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Red-headed Jenny by kathy70

Jenny was tall for a woman, 5’6″, when we were friends she was always the tallest one around yet she loved the highest stilettos she could find. Days she worked as a clerk in a small shop and she danced her nights away at a club with live music.

How did she manage to head this billion dollar company. From the time she was 15, shortly after her mother died, she had one kind of business or another. Each business taught her some valuable lessons and one was to appear to be head and shoulders above everyone. Shoes gave her strength.

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Winter Sun by Ian McNaughton

A child was kicking the back of my seat.
His mother loudly whispered for him to stop.
The plane was filling with winter sun-seekers.
A large woman got on carrying two screaming babies
My heart popped up into my mouth to have a look.
I whiplashed my head around. No empty seats
Squeezing in beside me, she smiled. I smiled back; I was dying inside.
After we took off, she asked me what time we would arrive in Minnesota. I laughed and told her It’s a flight to Orlando.
She showed me her ticket.
I kicked and screamed.

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Snake Killers by Ann Edall-Robson

Sitting on the bed, she watched the four-year-old tapping the heel of the stiletto on the palm of his hand. Did the upturn of his lips mean happy or sadistic? Tap. Tap. His piercing eyes bore into her groggy mind. Why had she agreed to go to the party wearing those shoes?

“You know what these are good for?”

“Not dancing,” she muttered.

Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.

“Killing snakes!” He giggled.

She laughed as she slid her foot into her favourite heels.

This morning her feet thanked her for bringing her cowboy boots.

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Faded Steps by AJ Prince

In the far back of the closet shelf, I pulled out that faded shoe box. Lifting one heel out, it felt heavy in my hand. The shininess long faded into a dull black as the years passed. A few stitching’s had come undone, but the leather was still buttery soft. I slipped the other out of the box and held them side by side, inhaling deeply as if to remember the clicking sounds of my steps. I removed my fuzzy slippers and squealed as my toes slid into those old stilettos, as if I had never taken them off.

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Cupid by Gloria McBreen

My sister Ann insisted a night out would stop me lamenting over my recent break-up with my boyfriend Joe.

‘Wear your red suede stilettos.’
‘Are they not a bit fancy?’
‘Not for where we’re going,’ she smiled.

I followed Ann to our table in the restaurant—that was already occupied by someone else.

‘What are you doing here?’ I blurted.
‘Meeting my sister,’ he replied.
‘Eh…no you’re not,’ said Ann.
She scarpered. I sat opposite him.
‘You’re wearing my favourite shirt.’
‘And you’re wearing those shoes.’
He grinned and I blushed.
‘I’m sorry Joe.’
‘So am I.’

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Stilettos by Anita Dawes

The office Christmas party
Something I didn’t look forward to
Mark would be there
In dreams, he does not see the scar on my cheek
Walking home,
a beautiful pair of stilettos caught my eye
I bought them, hoping he would
see only the sparkles on my feet
At school I could never hide
from the harsh words of others
These days I can wear my hair long,
it helps, like closing a curtain
I walked around the house
wearing these shoes
Feeling like a fairy princess
the office party would be fine
Because in dreams he loves me…

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The Young Cook by Ruchira Khanna

“Daddy, your lunch is ready,” ten-year-old Mel shouted from the kitchen while trying to balance herself and the plate in her hand.

Dad was quick to rush into the kitchen, “Impressive, Mel.” he said with arched eyebrows as he was quick to get the plate from her hands and then help her stay still.

“Yummy! PB&J Sandwich, my favorite!”

“I can understand the apron, but what’s up with the stilettos, doll?”

“Mom used to wear her heels everywhere. I’m just trying to mimic her, so we don’t feel her absence,” she said while trying to wear a brave smile.

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Mom’s Shoes by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Lizzie, are you ready for school? You better not be in my closet again, young lady. Besides, the bulb burned out, you can’t see anything.”

The eleven-year-old sighed. How did her mother always know what she was up to? All she wanted was to borrow her mom’s shoes to match her dress for picture day.

Lizzie stumbled in the darkness and stuffed the shoes in her book bag.

“See you tonight, Mom.”

At school, all eyes were on Lizzie wearing her mom’s black stilettos as she wobbled across the floor to take her place for the sixth-grade class picture.

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The Princess Wore Stilettos by Norah Colvin

The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.

“Do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No!”

“Now!”

“Not now!”

Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”

They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.

As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.

When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.

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Stilettos by FloridaBorne

“Mrs. Jones, you’ve worn stilettos for… 56 years?” Dr. Harris asked the 59 year old woman.

“Yes.”

“You report pain in your knees and hip. The amount of force the front of your foot has endured over the years created metatarsal problems and made your bunions worse. Abnormal growth of nerve tissues in the toes, shortened calf muscles…”

“I can’t lower my heel to the ground, or walk in normal shoes” she said.

“I can help you, if you’ll agree to follow our physical therapist’s guidance for a year.”

Tears falling, Mrs. Jones replied, “I don’t have a choice.”

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Military Pranksters by Sue Spitulnik

Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”

“And?”

“Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”

“Why?”

“The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”

“Why?”

“It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”

Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

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Kid’s Christmas Present by D. Avery

“Yer up late Kid.”

“Writin’.”

“A flash ‘bout stilettos?”

“Hmmph. How kin ya write ‘bout somethin’ ya cain’t walk in? I’m writin’ a letter. Ta Santy Claus.”

“Ya know he ain’t fer real.”

“Course.”

“Then why?”

“Miss him.”

“How kin ya miss Santy if ya know he ain’t real?”

“Reckon I miss believin, an’ all the other things I use ta know. Miss when Christmas weren’t so much ‘bout missin’ folks an’ what’s past an’ fears fer what’s future.”

“So what’re ya askin’ fer?”

“Nothin’ Pal! Jist listin’ ever’thin’ an’ ever’body I’m grateful fer. Right now.”

“Write on Kid.”

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Party Like It’s Only 99 by D. Avery

“Kid! Thought you said thet piglet was potty trained.”

“She is. She’s right here with me Pal.”

“Then what’s thet smell?”

“’Elloooo!”

“LeGume.”

“Oui, it ees me.”

“Thet’s right, fergot yer bunkin’ with us. Seems someone cain’t keep all her stories straight.”

“Hey, Pepe! Look’t you. What’s all this! Bells? Bows?”

“Oui, Keed, an’ geefts for you and Pal and thees leetle evergreen tree. Eets got roots, we can plant it later.”

“Shut the front door! Why it’s Tip and Top Lemmon.”

“Dey want to perform for us.”

“The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”

“No. Dey weel prance! In stilettos!”

🥕🥕🥕

For the Love of Toilets

World Toilet Day happens every November 19th to remind us of the vital role toilets play in our health and happiness. In this collection, we celebrate the toilet in its many forms and influences.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Toi Let or not to Toi Let by Bill Engleson

Sometimes the prompt is rather iffy,
I rarely dwell on it;
I jot down thoughts…in a jiffy,
A flash, a song, a sonnet.

Yes, I have raw writer’s remorse,
A dose of white porcelain regret,
You write your bit, stay the course,
complete your work, your sweet vignette.

And then one day, a newer tone,
A wondrous prompt, a flash quite spiffy.
An account of the basement zone,
The tailback john, the backup biffy.

We had but one in my long ago,
It opened to the kitchenette,
We would watch the traffic flow,
From table et to loud toilet.

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Ode de (bleep) by Dog Jacquier

In the fifties in the USA
on TV this was a word you couldn’t say.
‘Powder your nose’ if you were a ma’am
or ‘see a man about a dog’ if you were Sam.

‘Bathrooms’ were allowed but never an inkle
that this was where you went for a tinkle.
I suppose it was for our moral improvement;
that ‘To Let’ was born from creative vowel movement.

Here in Australia we were proud of our dunny*
where we deposited our stools, either firm or runny.
Amongst the redbacks* and the daily news,
be it Number Ones or Number Twos.

Dunny – Australian slang for (bleep)
Redback – Venomous Australian spider, inspiration for the song ‘Red Back On The (bleep) Seat

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Oasis Stasis by D. Avery

It was not a mirage, it was marriage, marriage all-inclusive, with children, pets, dishes, laundry, and working from home. It was enough to blur her vision and make her misty at times but there was an oasis, a peaceful place to recover, to take respite from the whirlwinds that swept through the house.

Gathering up clothes and other debris, flotsam wake of the twins, she paused and smiled at the picture book, Everybody Poops. It had been a hit with her older children too.

She shuddered with a sudden realization. Potty-trained twins would mean increased competition for her oasis!

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The End by Norah Colvin (with apologies to Alan Alexander Milne)

When I was one and had just begun
Nappies were where my business was done.
When I was two, not nearly so new
A training potty was home for my poo.
When I was three, I was learning to pee
In a toilet that flushed away to the sea.
When I was four or not much more
I learned to be private behind a closed door.
When I was five, school days had arrived
And toilets were places to play and hide.
When I get old, or so I am told,
A clean handy toilet is precious as gold.

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Time Out by Joanne Fisher

Tess sat on the toilet. She usually avoided loud parties, but had been dragged to this one by a close friend. It didn’t take long for her to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the house, and so she ran off to the bathroom where she could be alone. She could leave, but that would involve trying to find her friend again. Tess sat there listening to the music thudding through the walls. All she wanted was to have just a few minutes of peace and quiet to gather her thoughts. Someone knocked on the door.

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Last Room Standing by D. Avery

“Really? I’m going to the bathroom!”

(A euphemism. She’d already gone to the bathroom, was now in the bathroom and sitting on the toilet using it for its intended purpose.)

Though originally she’d gone just to be away from him. Victor was getting carried away again. (Another euphemism; he was out of control yelling and screaming.) Not at her. Something on TV. Still. And now he wanted her to unlock the door?

“No!”

Victor yelled a lot but had difficulties communicating clearly. He never stated why she should let him in…
The tornado carried him away. (Not a euphemism.)

🥕🥕🥕

Hole In One by Ritu Bhathal

“But I need to go, right now!” Serena squirmed in the backseat of the car.

“Hold on. It’s not like England, here.” Her mother leaned forward. “Will we be able to stop soon?” She asked her husband, sitting in the passenger seat, as the driver weaved between the traffic.

“Not long.”

They pulled up at a small roadside restaurant, with a few tables set, haphazardly, outside.

“There.” The driver pointed to a tatty door.

Serena ran in, and straight out.

“That was quick!”

“I can’t go in there. It’s just a hole!”

“Welcome to India Memsahib!” The driver grinned.

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The Little House by R. V. Mitchell

Some called it “the little house on the prairie,” and others the latrine or head. But that little corrugated steel shack was the prime real estate in camp. Yes, the “head-shed” or battalion headquarters might’ve been more prestigious, and the CP tent that served as the chapel might have been more revered. Many would tell you that the chow hall was the most important structure in camp, or the dugouts and bunkers if there was a mortar attack going down. But, truth be told, when several days of backed up C-rations called, no place else was going to compare.

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Sanitary Arrangements at the World’s End by Anne Goodwin

How dare he? My hand trembles as I slide the bolt across the bathroom door. We are not savages. Yet!

A weekly wash in a bucket of water. Cooking on a fire built from antique furniture. Feasting on food I would formerly have thrown away. But nothing will induce me to shit outdoors.

Grime coats the basin. The stench goes beyond my unwashed clothes. But I have three packs of quilted toilet roll with aloe vera. I refuse to straddle a trench.

Unzipping my fly, I raise the lid. Recoil in horror as a rat leaps from the pan.

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Waiting by D. Avery

“Don’t make me laugh, Angela. I have to pee. Bad.”

“Me too. Let’s go.”

“I can’t go in there.”

“It’s the ladies’ room. Come on.”

Celia pulled back when Angela took her hand, leading her toward the entrance. “Angela, no!”

The old towel woman stood, picked up a broom. Head ducked, she watched the girls carefully. The other women paused in their gossiping to turn tight-lipped stares on the girls. Celia broke away and ran off to the further toilets.

One woman swept. The other women resumed their gossip. All paused again when Angela started running.
“Celia! Wait up!”

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Love and Porcelain by Kerry E.B. Black

“You’re my best friend. That’s why I’m hugging you. I hug what I love..” Starr leaned against her smaller – and less drunk – friend, Autumn.

Autumn shifted her weight to support her friend. “Love you, too. Keep walking, though. You said you didn’t feel well.”

Starr froze, concern broadcasting across her features.

Terror gripped Autumn. “Hold on, honey! Just a few more steps.”

They plod-hurried like ungainly sack-race contestants into the bar’s women’s room. Autumn held Starr’s hair. “Better out than in,” she reassured.

Emptied, Starr clasped the cool porcelain. “I love this toilet bowl!”

“Well, you are hugging it.”

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For the Love of a Toilet by Peniel Gifted

Jim! Mama shouted as the door flung open. Like a purging soul, Jim hurried to the toilet. “M….a…” he answered in a sickly voice. “Where are you, didn’t I ask you to take this clothe to my tailor?” His mother echoed furiously. “I’m running stool” he replied. “Oh sorry, I’ll take it there myself. Take good care of yourself.” Mama said and left for her tailor. Jim was so glad. He had pretended to be ill so he won’t go to the tailor and would have time, chatting with his girlfriend. Taking out his phone, he pressed and blushed.

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Like a Toilet by FloridaBorne

In 1950, Alexander whined, “But, Mom…”

“Not until we find a toilet!” she said, marching toward her target location.

“No!” he yelled, running to the toy section.

An 8 year old was so predictable.

She rushed to a stall, cursing the day she was forced to marry at 44, relieved when Alexander couldn’t be found, happy to lose the husband who had a heart attack over his son’s loss.

She hadn’t expected the couple who’d bought him to die in a car accident, or to be reunited with her son, now 20.

Like a toilet, he could be useful.

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(35) Damned Family (Jesse’s Uncomfortable on the Golden Throne) by JulesPaige

tormented visions she sees
all flushed
her cheeks reflected in mirrors

Jesse tried to use the fancy Presidential suites commode. There were just too many mirrors. Looking at her reflection – her thoughts were far from down to earth flopping between “She just gets it” or “She lies”.

Norman’s journal wasn’t really revealing much. Even the pages with invisible words that she brought to life with ultraviolet light. It’s just smoke and mirrors – what was Norman up to. She found a name though that didn’t fit. She’d known him as Norman North… she’d found an invisible acrostic with ‘Mae Norwich’.

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The Throne by Ruchira Khanna

“Sure, I can babysit my seven-year-old niece.”

“Thanks, Sis.” Pedro grinned, “I’ll pick her up by 9 p.m.”

The evening was going well until Sarah needed to use the potty.

I took her to the bathroom. She stood there with a dazed look. I beckoned her to sit on the potty; she squealed and placed her fingers on her parted lips, then moved back n forth.

Perplexed, I left her alone and stood outside. Time ticked away.

I peeped in to find that she was seated on the floor and playing peek-a-boo with her reflection on the gold-plated toilet.

🥕🥕🥕

Two Worlds by Saifun Hassam

The cottage toilet was ordinary enough, with a faux wood seat, and cover. For Caitlin, it was her own private place. The cottage, with its fragrant shrubs, was a refuge from her caregiving duties. When her stomach roiled from overwhelming worries and arguments, the toilet eased the tension.

Caitlin was a caregiver for her Aunt Shelby, whose three daughters had neither the willingness nor the patience to care for her. How could the family drift away from each other?

Caitlin was an orphan and a student at the community college. The cottage with its own toilet was sheer luxury.

🥕🥕🥕

Hideaway by Eliza Mimski

It was her safe place, her special place where she went to hide, the bathroom lock punched in, her husband given no other choice but to pick up the screaming baby because here she was on the toilet, the glorious toilet, her hideaway where she could make her escape and no one, not one person could expect anything from her – nothing! -for the next two minutes or even thirty seconds, giving her time to lay her head down on her lap and almost relax for a blessed amount of time that came in second only to her broken sleep.

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Toilet Training Gone Awry by Marsha Ingrao

When her kids started toddling, Sarah Clay guarded minutes of alone time like a jeweled crown. With few places to hide, Sarah treasured the toilet time. She clicked the lock.

Pounding started.

“One sec!”

The two year old twins wailed.

“Lance hit.”

“Quiet, morons.”

“Lance!” she said, pulling him inside. The twins tumbled in waving books.

No more locks.

As her ducklings aged, they invited friends in too.

“Sorry,” George said.

George wasn’t sorry.

“We can’t reach the milk,” Lance followed George in.

Sarah peered over the paper on her lap.

“OUT!”

How did toilet training go so wrong?

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The Toilet to Hell by Joanne Fisher

“Ashley honey, you okay?’ Steffi asked as she knocked on the door. Ashley had been in the toilet for quite some time now. Cautiously Steffi opened the door to find she was gone. “Son of a bitch!” Steffi shouted as she closed the toilet lid.

Everyone had wondered how Steffi could afford her luxury apartment that was in an ideal location. She told everyone it was because the toilet was demonically possessed, but nobody believed her. Regardless of that, she loved her new apartment even if her toilet did occasionally eat people. She was going to miss Ashley though.

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Alone with the Throne by Cara Stefano

Ever since she could remember, Mary, often considered an odd duck, had loved to clean – especially bathrooms. It gave her such pleasure to see the sparkling mirrors, the fresh waters of a newly cleaned toilet bowl, to know she was seeing a job well done. When she bought a little miner’s house in upper Michigan she was disappointed to realize it only had one bathroom! Her first day home she descended into the gloomy basement, only to stop, amazed – in a halo of light, standing alone in the corner, another toilet!

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The Privy by Jaye Marie

I am old enough to remember sitting on an outdoor toilet, or privy as some people call them.

How dark it was in Winter, with spiders lurking, patiently waiting to drop on your head while you spent a penny.

If you go back far enough in time, hardly anyone had indoor plumbing. The age of an outdoor water pump and a tin bath in front of the fire. Just one bath full of warm water for everyone on the family to use.

I often used to wonder if the last person came out dirtier than when they went in!

🥕🥕🥕

Feeding the Soul by Sue Spitulnik

The night before Thanksgiving the No Thanks Needed welcomed military members only. The Band of Brothers served turkey and fixin’s, prepared by their families, to any service person who came through the door. After the meal, Mac announced, “Being thankful for family and friends goes without saying, but if you ever fought in a warzone, hot running water, and a flushable toilet are right up there on the list.” The crowd cheered with understanding and others shouted; food, clean clothes, life, the brotherhood. Service-related stories were shared openly until the wee hours of the morning in the comfortable safe-haven.

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Aged Timbers by Ann Edall-Robson

His hat tipped back on his head, a visitor of years rests on a creaky wooden seat smoking his pipe. Wispy tendrils of smoke drift through the doorless entry. From behind relaxed eyelids, the memories sidle across the meadow.

He appreciates the slightly askew structure. The only building still standing in these parts. A welcome respite after hours in the saddle. More comfortable than the log his bare behind would have sat on had he trailed the heifers across the creek.

He wondered how long the aged timbers would stand. He’d miss this old friend and their quiet conversations.

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Revenge Awaits by Donna Matthews

“Let me tell you something,” I whisper gently.

His body, interested, shifts toward me.

My lips brushing against his ear, and with as much volume as I can muster, I scream,

“YOU LEFT THE TOILET SEAT UP AGAIN LAST NIGHT, AND MY ASS FELL IN THE WATER! NOT ONLY DID I GET WET, I JERKED UP AND SLIPPED ON THE SPLASHED WATER!!! I SLIPPED AND HIT MY HEAD ON THE CORNER ON THE TRASH CAN!”

Startled, he rears back, trying not to laugh, apologizing all the while untangling himself from the bedsheets, wholly unaware of the revenge awaiting him.

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Tanks Anyway by D Avery

“Pal, where ya headed? We need ta confer on the Saloon schedule.”

“Stand jist outside the door if’n it cain’t wait, Kid.”

“Ah, shift, yer headed ta the outhouse!”

“Nope. Shorty’s brought plumbin’ ta the bunkhouse, got us a flush toil-it. Now shut the door or it’ll be a blush toil-it.”

“Well don’t toil too long in there. What was wrong with the outhouse anyway?”

“Don’t be anti-septic Kid. My home’s my castle, I reckon I’ll set on the throne once in a while.”

“Jist hurry.”

“Won’t be rushed. An’ no job is finished till the paperwork is done.”

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How an’ Zen by D. Avery

“Sorry, Kid, didn’t see ya in there.”

“Well I am. Kin shut the door anytime Pal.”

“Yep. Ya remin’ me a thet statue, The Thinker.”

“Settin’ an’ thinkin’, Pal.”

“Yep. ‘Cept might be more acc’rate ta call ya The Stinker.”

“Funny. The door?”

“What’re ya thinkin’ ‘bout?”

“Was readin’ here ‘bout a Zen master asked a monk, ‘Where will ya go after death?’ Monk says, ‘’Scuse me fer a minute, I gotta go to the toil-it.’”

“Deep shit, Kid.”

“Yep. After, might go set in the Poet-tree, write an ode ta the commode.”

“Cool.”

“Pal. The door’s still ajar…”

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Life Savers

Barb Koski researched and wrote over 300 biographies of maritime life savers of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Writers responded with fictional tales of life savers, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

We dedicate this collection to Barb’s memory and to the real stories she saved from oblivion.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Seamen’s Sacrifice by Chel Owens

Ship askew ‘gainst pounding waves
We crew all stand, aghast
Our hearts aren’t nearly in their place
A-beating in our boots.

What foul-steamed beast have we released
By testing ice-tipped lake
What curse by hist-ry’s seamen have we
Raised by braving boats?

A-tempted by the calmer shores
We think to stay a-moored
When cry comes over radio:
A hapless vessel sinks.

“Remember Barb!” reminds the crew
A-bolstered, we set out
Our matron of the sea now scares
Away our shallow fears.

“Remember her!” beat hearts, returned
Whilst sea spray hisses by;
Remember seamen’s sacrifice
To rescue all in need.

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Surfaces by Bill Engleson

The eyes, if they’re eyes, stare along the cresting water.

The head, if it is a head, bobs.

“See?” she says. “There!”

“Kelp bulb,” I state. “That’s all.”

“Let’s get closer.”

I hesitate.

The sea is enraged.

The wind is rising up.

Rocks!

Slippery!

Deadly!

Ones balance, hard to maintain.

“Are you coming?”

“Don’t be foolhardy,” I howl, whilst the furious wind works overtime to drown me out.

“Fine! Stay put. But I’m going closer.”

She moves out of my reach.

Towards the waters edge.

I am transfixed.

She strips to the essentials.

“NO!” I scream.

She dives in.

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Life Saver by Doug Jacques

Around midnight, he would walk down to the bridge and wait, with one foot resting on the bottom rail, staring into the tidal shift below. He would wait for a stranger to appear at the other end of the bridge, mirroring his stance. ‘Time to go’ he would announce and hoist himself onto the second rail. The stranger would come running, yelling ’What are you doing?’ ‘Ending the pain’ he would say. And the stranger would pull him down and take him to the all-night coffee stand just off the bridge. He’d lost count of the lives he’d saved.

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Slippery Rocks by Simon

As he laid down on the beach, he stared at the beauty of cloudy day. Stared at the sun that hides behind the clouds he witnessed the beauty of birds flying in group towards the north, he started walking, little did he noticed he was about to fall in a hole beside a rock, and the next moment he was drowning, he tried his best to keep the head out but the waves pushed him down, he witnessed a push and in seconds he was up beside the rock, an old man shivering said slippery rocks son, be careful!

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The Blessings of Ziva by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Hurry or we’ll be late, Bisera. We have to be there before sunrise,” called Emika.

Bisera balanced the jug on her hip without spilling a drop. “I’m right behind you, Emika. Did you remember to bring the apple?”

“I found the last red apple in the bin. The apple and the water are our offerings to Ziva, the ancient goddess of water.”

Bisera reached the river and tumbled toward the icy depths. “Help me.”

Emika grabbed the girl’s scarf and saved her from harm.

“Thank you, Emika. The goddess put you in the right place at the right time.”

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Grace Darling to the Rescue by Anne Goodwin

Father lowered the telescope. “Ship’s hit the rock a’reet. No survivors but.”
Grace pulled the shawl around her shoulders. “There’s movement!”
“We can’t risk it. Storm’ll make matchsticks of the boat.”
“We can’t let them die.”
Grace bailed while her father rowed. Gusts slapped hair across their faces and buffeted the boat. A symphony of huffing, splashing and a wailing, carried on the wind. Biceps straining, Grace took the oars as her father leapt onto the rock.
He chose the weakest and the strongest, returning later for the rest. He chose the mother, left the bodies of her bairns.

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Coastal Tales: Diamante by Saifun Hassam

Stormy seas abated. Diamante knew storms could turn deadly for those at sea. Three fishermen were missing.

Diamante watched from atop cliffs near the ancient temple. This morning he saw a fishing boat desperately turn past the promontory. He struck the temple bell thrice. The villagers raced to the boathouses. Diamante and the rescuers rowed rapidly, fighting the restless seas.

A rogue wave lifted the fishing boat, smashing it on rocks close to the cove barely ten miles from their village! The rescuers did not hesitate.

Three figures struggled in the churning waters. Dominic and Yusef survived. Carlos disappeared.

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Life Saver by Anita Dawes

Jack and I decided to hire a small speedboat
Try to find the mysterious island
Said to appear at odd hours
Best time would be before dawn
Begging Jack to keep his speed down
Too late, he hit a wave
Throwing us over the side
The cold water caught my breath
Struggling to reach the surface
I couldn’t see Jack, I was drowning
No boat above me, no sign of help
There came a great moment
A feeling of peace
I felt a hand drag me above the water
Breaking the surface
I was alone close to the shore…

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Muddy Water Memories ( Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

The band was packing their instruments when a young man approached Mac. He stuck an old photo of two men, one supporting the other, in a muddy rice paddy apparently in Vietnam in front of him. “I’m wondering if that’s you on the left?”
Mac stared at the photo…”Billy Metott.”
“My grandfather. He says you saved his life that day. I wanted to tell you he’s doin’ well and say thank you.”
“How did you find me?”
“I’m attending college near here. He saw the bar’s name when he passed by and thought it must be you.”
“I’ll be.”

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Muddy Water Memories ( Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

Mac handed the picture back, wiped the tears from his eyes, and finally looked at the young man. “The truth about that day is nobody lived without the help of a buddy. Why didn’t Billy stop in?”
“Fear he was wrong. Memories.”
“That I understand. Your name?”
“Colm, after my father.”
When the band members heard the name, their curiosity peaked. They heard Mac say, “Sorry about the name. I’d like to get together with your grandfather. Maybe we can save each other from some future bad dreams.”
“He’ll agree to that. I’ll let him know.”
“Thank you, Colm.”

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Life Saver by FloridaBorne

I don’t regret making the choice that fateful day.

Lester sat next to me on the dock when that horrid politician yelled out, “He doesn’t belong here!”

Yes, the same politician who raised our taxes so that she could afford a fancy yacht.

When she ran toward me, Lester lunged at her. Both fell into the water. Who know a politician that fat couldn’t swim?

I jumped into the water and helped Lester onto the dock, ignoring the woman’s screams for help. Thank God she’s dead. Police found evidence she was taking bribes.

I petted Lester and asked, “Would the best doggie in the world like a treat?”

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Damned Family #5 by JulesPaige

I decided to stay an extra day at the motel. I hadn’t gotten much sleep, and in my quest to do something, anything I unpacked and repacked my luggage. Odd that I never used the outside pockets – but there was a journal in one of my suitcases. Ships at Sea! The writing was in my ex husband’s hand. My eyes blurred, filled with tears. How was I going to read this – especially now? After I claimed I didn’t know who the dead body was that I found yesterday.

coasting on cold waves
an anchor of memories
a hidden journal

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Mr Dunk Saves The Day by Geoff Le Pard

‘Logan, there’s a pool. Let’s go swim.’
‘No thanks. I’ll catch forty winks.’
‘Come on!’
‘I’ll go for a walk later.’
‘This is America. No one walks.’
‘I’m not swimming.’
‘I’ve a spare cozzie.’
‘I’m not wearing your clothes.’
‘Come on. It….’
‘No!’
‘What’s got into you?’
‘I can’t swim.’
‘You can’t?’
‘I’m phobic.’
‘What? The superheroic Logan is scared of water?’
‘I nearly drowned. Mr Dunk saved me.’
‘Great name.’
‘I’d given up. I was going down for the third time.’
‘Mate, I didn’t know. Anyway, time you got back on the horse.’
‘I’m not doing that either…’

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Into the Storm (Part I) by D. Avery

Through rain pelted windows Marlie’s tree fort hove into view. Marlie read, curled up with Daisy on the couch.

“Remember when she used to sail in weather like this, captaining a mighty ship?”

“Remember when she made Tommy walk the plank?”

“Do you miss Tommy, Liz?”

“For better or worse, I do. I miss our opportunity to give Tommy a respite from his family. The great unmasked… What’s Marlie researching now, Bill?”

“Lifesavers.”

“The candy? Or health care workers?”

“Life savers— nascent Coast Guard.”

Putting her book aside Marlie donned her foul weather gear. She had to go out.

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Into the Storm (Part II) by D. Avery

“Who will rescue us, Bill?”

“What? Are we a wreck?” He crowded into the window seat. Beyond the steamy window, Marlie braved the high seas to pluck Destiny from the surf.

“Not us. Us. /U/ /S/. Of A?”

“Oh. Ship of fools. Headed for the rocks.”

“We’ve been commandeered by pirates, with a fool spinning the helm. I’m scared Bill.”

“Me too.”

“Oh! Marlie! You’ve returned.”

“Mom? Dad?”

“We’re huddled in our lifeboat, Marlie. Get in.”

Marli climbed in with her parents and assessed their circumstances. “It’s going to be rough. But we’ll make it. All storms peter out.”

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Outstretched Arm by Goldie

Veronica’s been struggling with the large waves for too long. They have smacked her around mercilessly, making her crash against rocks a few times.

She tried to grab onto some of them, but the waves pulled her right back into the ocean. The cuts on her hands burned in the salty waters.

So close to solid ground, yet so far. Veronica had to fight. If not for herself, then definitely for her toddler.

But she couldn’t. Not anymore… She was too spent. Closing her eyes, she gave up the fight.

“Veronica!” the monster pulled her out of the tub.

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Water and Rescue by Frank Hubeny

When Lydia was playing in a shallow pool about four inches deep she stumbled and fell face down into the water. The problem is she did not stand up. She kept her face submerged in the water. She was very young.

Her father was watching her and saw what happened. He got up out of his chair, stepped into the water and lifted her. He and his wife wiped off the water. Lydia smiled. That was enough water play for today.

It wasn’t a dangerous rescue. Some rescues are routine, but imagine the consequences if they had not happened.

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Lifesavers by Hugh W. Roberts

Is it only humans that save lives?


Cindy-Rose already knew that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and save lives at sea.

“I’ve just saved Teddy and Giraffe from going underwater, Daddy.”

“I know, I saw you save them from falling into that big, strange puddle left by last night’s, weird storm,” responded her father.

“Thank you for saving our lives,” whispered Teddy into the ear of its owner. “Giraffe and I will always save you.”

Smiling, Cindy hugged her toys and counted down from her age of four before jumping into the puddle.

Only her yellow wellington boots and rainhat resurfaced.

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Oreos and Milk Save the Day! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The boat tosses and turns, water crashing over its bow, threatening to tip the tiny crew into the roiling waters.

“I can’t hold our course, Captain!”

“Look alive, Fishlegs! The deadly virus cure’s gotta get to Littleton before sunrise.”

“Aye, but the Great Kraken of the deep haunts these waters. I have a bad feeling about this!”

“Courage, Fishlegs. We’ll save the day, or my name isn’t Cap Moira Janesway!”

Suddenly the deep rumbles: heels hammering from beneath. The boat capsizes as two brown knees break the froth.

“Bath time’s over, Moira. Time for jammies, snack and something calmer.”

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Rescue 116 by Gloria McBreen

Irish Coast Guard helicopter
Called into the night
Black ocean swells
Rocky terrain in sight

Find Blacksod Bay
Refuel at the lighthouse
Where the keeper awaits
No mayday distress

Black box tells
Of that early misty morn
Winchman yelled ‘come right’
Duffy said ‘we’re gone’

Didn’t make it to the lighthouse
Hit Blackrock instead
Two were lost at sea
Two were found…now dead

Ciarán Smith
Father of three
Paul Ormsby
Lived for family

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Mother sister friend
Captain Mark Duffy
All heroes till the end

The nation mourned
We’ll never forget
Rescue 116
Saviours we never met

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In Remembrance by Charli Mills

Beatrice Hayes served Coast Guard Station Portage for three years, respecting the deadly furies of Lake Superior. Cruising the canal on a clear day, she could spot old shipwrecks below the water’s surface. To the west, she assisted in setting up the buoy system. When she heard kayakers were gathering to honor a local historian who researched her historical predecessors, Beatrice mustered the fleet from cruisers to icebreaker to Kodiaks and posted an honor guard. Women in kayaks tossed daisies, reciting the names of life savers who had served these waters, ending with the woman who wrote their biographies.

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Whiskey in a Storm by D. Avery

“Ah, Ernie, you’re a lifesaver!”
“It’s jist whiskey, Pal.”
“Yer a port in the storm, Ernie, a safe haven as I go a-sailin’ back ta the Ranch.”
“Thinkin’ ya might already be three sheets, there, Pal. An’, ya look like ya seen a ghost.”
“I did, last week. It was spooky. Afore thet I worked my fingers ta the bone doin’ chores at my cuzzins’ turnip farm, an thet dispite wearin’ kid gloves.”
“Speakin’ a which, where’s Kid at?”
“Dunno. Took separate trails fer our vacation. Mighta saved Kid’s life, thet break.”
“Missin’ Kid, ain’tcha?”
“Been a long month.”

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Bacon in a Storm by D. Avery

Though spooked, Kid made it back to Carrot Ranch. Kid had never been so long and far away from the barns and bunkhouse without Pal; the whole month had seemed like one long dark and stormy night. Now the sun rising over Shorty’s cookhouse was like a lightbulb overhead. Idea!
By the time Shorty came on the scene, Kid had stacked large rocks in a circle.
“Buildin’ a fire ring?”
“Foundation fer a lighthouse. Thinkin’ we need a beacon.”
“The Ranch is a beacon, an’ a safe harbor. Come on, Kid, I’ll fix ya some bacon.”
Kid lightened up.

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Dusty Trail

Dusty trails lead in and out of the arid lands of the American West. Iconic to cattle drives, pioneers, and the Pony Express, there’s more to the west than frontier, dry land, rugged mountains, and big sky. It was a wild place — still is — but it was known long before settlers and ranchers, loggers and miners hit the trails. Where did they come from? What dusty trails lead people to wander and settle? Are we ever really settled, or is our large human family restless to kick up dust?

Writers had a challenge before them, and like the argonauts before them, they set out with just 99 words in their knapsacks to catch a story on the trail. Read where the prompt led them.

The following is based on the October 1, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that happens on the dusty trail.

My Life’s Dusty Roads by Sue Spitulnik

Growing up dusty dirt roads connected friends farms. We drove them to hunt and parked on them to explore life.

In my thirties I drove dusty roads alone into the mountains, looking for me.

Now in retirement, Charli Mills introduced me to Stegnar and Abbey, lovers of open and natural places.

Then Sean Prentiss took me along to Find Abbey and I rode on some of the same roads while driving Rt66.

Now I’m riding the same roads again with the Ghost Rider, who is sharing his knowledge of ghosts, wishing life didn’t have them.

Coincidence. I think not.

🥕🥕🥕

Dusty Trail by kathy70

Sally walked along the trail covered with dust, no rain in almost two months along her beloved ridge of mountain.  This was where she came to clear her head from all the noise of her family of 11 siblings, all talking at the same time.  She knew that she could only have a few minutes before someone was looking for her.  What would she find here today? Would he still be here, was he feeling well enough to leave?

As she searched the trees and bushes there was no sign of him.  The eagle free from his trap was gone.

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Star Dust by D. Avery

“It’s my magical palace, Mommy!”

Taking her mother’s hand Hope twirled and danced in the hayloft until they both fell back into a pile of loose hay, laughing. Dusty trails of chaff sparkled in the shafts of sunlight.

“Stars!” her mother exclaimed.

“Make a wish, Mommy.”

“Does wishing work with this kind of star?”

“Yup. Mine came true.”

“What did you wish for?”

But Hope only grew quiet and snuggled closer to her mother, who stared up into the glittering dust. “I’m so sorry, kid,” she whispered. “But I’m here now, I promise.” Then she wished upon a star.

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Grand Canyon Cowboys by Deborah Dasante

Confusion. That’s their game. Starched jeans. Stetsons. So you to think that’s who they are. It’s a disguise. I paid good money to ride a mule in a line with a group of others too lazy or too afraid to hike the South Rim. Paid a store-bought cowboy to ‘Howdy’ and to not look like a fool going in circles unable to move forward. Not a dimes worth of difference between a forty dollar mule and a store-bought cowboy. Cost money to find that out. I should of known better when I read the flyer –

“Grand Canyon, My Ass”.

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The Mares of Mars by Anonymole: Apocryphal Abecedarian

Haus spurred his robotic steed. By ‘spurred’ we mean he spoke code into his suit’s helmet that translated to ‘giddy-up’. Within seconds his six legged rover, a cross between a horse, a spider and a stainless-steel nightmare from a 20th Century film, began a sinuous saunter, one that allowed Haus to barely feel the trail.

The pair arrived at a crevasse, one that plunged deep into the dusty crust of Mars.

“The span exceeds safe leaping distance,” said Bray-burry, the mount’s name.

“Bah! This oughta be easy. Back up a bit.” The robot complied. “Now git!”

And over they…

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Gold Dust by Hugh W. Roberts

Heading up the dusty trail of the desert city, nine-gallon, cowboy hat adorned and wobbling around on the spurred boots that were one size too big, Barry remembered the words of his now-deceased, bachelor uncle.

“The trail leads to gold.”

But where was the gold? There was no gold here, just dust, some of which was dirtying his new boots and making him sneeze.

Opening the doors of the venue at the end of the trail, Dusty’s, his heart leapt while butterflies flew around his stomach. A brightly-lit room full of cowboys, all line dancing together.

He’d struck gold.

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A Barf Story by Simon

He entered the bar, covered with brown sand as he came from a dusty trail. Young boy stared at a guy in whites. He bravely went close to him and asked if you are not eating this, can I take this? he was hungry.

The man nodded. He quickly grabbed the spoon and ate it fast as soon he reached the bottom of the Cup he found a dead rat, he barfs up back in the bowl and stared at the man

The man replied calmly, Gross, I did the same when I reached that bottom.
He barfs again.

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Slave by FloridaBorne

Martha Smythe refused her father’s choice, eloping with the man she loved instead.

She remembered little about the siege; her new husband dying from a pirate’s bullet… their ship sinking… being thrown into a hold with other women, faces blank from shock… sails blowing as strong winds propelled them toward the Barbary Coast… huddling in a Morocco slave market.

Her hands bound, she walked a dusty trail to the home of a man with dark face. Instead of a new life in Connecticut, a stranger beat her, used her body, and threw her into a room with barred windows.

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Looking for the Comfort of Autumn… (a dream scene?)
(two verses of a Vers Beaucoup) by JulesPaige

There’s a strain on the prairie plane – no hill or dale, putting a strain
On this traveler’s brain – dry ground, no trained hound
On a lead bound to find any water for this daughter
Who oughter have stayed close to home, but did roam

Running from the season, with no rhyme or reason, spirit to be pleasin’
Yet the nose is just sneezin’ – no thirst quenched, arid dry air first
In spiral clouds burst from the not so shy, dust filled sky
The trail far from the shade of the leaves of willow for my pillow…

🥕🥕🥕

Scorcher by R. V. Mitchell

It was a scorcher for sure, easily ninety degrees in the shade. Too bad there weren’t no shade. George Mason, took off his hat and wiped his forehead with a sleeve. The dust clogged his throat despite the scarf he wrapped around his face.

He had been doing scouting ahead of the train for about two hours or so, and the water holes were still an hour or so ahead of him. The terrain looked tolerable enough, but he was concerned that the dust raised by the wagons behind him might call some unwanted attention to Captain Little’s train.

🥕🥕🥕

The Darnedest Cowboy by M J Mallon

The darnedest cowboy walked towards me. His cowboy boots churned up the dusty road. My heartbeat so loudly I swore it was going to giddy up, catch a ride on a wild horse and land on his Western shirt. His eyes twinkled as he dawdled a few feet away. He kicked a stone, spat some cheeky grits into the ground and walked right past, lassoing my heart with his.

I stayed still until I heard the deafening gunshot. Damn. Wild West gals sure don’t remember no dead cowboy long.

Love ain’t for dead buckaroos!

🥕🥕🥕

Histories Hidden Below Layers of Dust by Anne Goodwin

They trod lightly on the earth, but their footprints were visible for those who cared to see. The White Man did not care: fearing their prowess, he stripped them of their language, their culture, their land. Made them a commodity. Robbed them of their worth.

Centuries later, their descendants plough through the dusty trail to dig up the bones of their accomplishments: the hidden histories of science, literature, music and architecture. Scour museums for stolen artefacts, ornaments appropriated when the White Man rewrote their stories, swapped heroes for victim or villain. Let’s be brave now and face the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrot Ranch by Anita Dawes

We cannot see the wind
Only the lifting of leaves
The swaying or grass
As it passes
We cannot hear the wind
Only the echo
It leaves behind
The dark curtain of dust
It sweeps from the ground
All but swallows
The four horsemen
Riding from the Starbuck Ranch
Out to recover a few stray cattle
Before the savannah winds
Cover the small town of Starbuck
With a dark blanket from hell
Ask my mother
When she tries clearing it up
The air around her turns dusty blue
The four riders return
Spitting blue dust…
Cattle safe and sound.

🥕🥕🥕

Divergin’ Trails (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Divergin’ Trails (Part 2) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Asides it’s cold there. Think I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time.

Crimson foliage
Crackling conflagrant hues
Ignite morning frost

Burning campfire memories
Smoke’s dusty trails dream west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

Outlaws on the Dusty Trail by Charli Mills

Frankie wiped her glass eye with the scarf she used to cover her face.

“Gotta mask up, Bert,” she told her horse (who wasn’t listening). “Dang dust.”

The dry storm blew like a devil whirling across the flats. Ahead, Frankie made out the outline of riders that looked to her one eye like two outlaws. They were wearin’ masks, too! She tightened the rains and thought about lunging old Bert to keep the mail safe (Bert had no run left in him).

“Hey, it’s Frankie.”

Blowing dust and relief, she realized it were jist her friends, Kid and Pal.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Far From Home by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d worn new Oboz hikers and thin wool socks, afraid of snakes on the trail since there’d been none on the plane. She’d strapped on a hip belt with double water holsters, and a chin-strapped billed cap with cape to for sun protection.

She gleamed like a beached whale, from all the sunscreen applied, and wore layers, like multiple skins, to transform from wallowing walrus to near naked nymphette, as the weather deemed. She’d traveled far, with no plans to stay out after dark.

But then she lost the trail, and found two Carrot cowpokes singing by a fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Jess and Cindy Stumble Across the Ranch by Joanne Fisher

“If only our car hadn’t broken down. I hope this trail will lead somewhere.” Jess said. Cindy coughed.

“It’s rather dusty!”

The two women came to a ridge. Below them they saw a ranch.

“We’ve been here before! This is Carrot Ranch where Kid and Pal work. I wonder if they’re around.” Jess wondered. They walked to the fence.

“Look at all those carrots they have to wrangle.”

“Maybe we should take some so we can compare them to our ones.” Jess suggested.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Cindy responded. “It may be regarded as carrot rustling.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail Down Under by Norah Colvin
The hooves thundered along the trail kicking up a storm of dust. Mary watched the cloud clear the trees and turn towards her across the home paddock.

How often had the boys been told to not push their horses so hard?

“Might as well talk to a dead cow,” her dad always said.

Before they’d reined in their mounts, Mary was outside, ready to give them a serve.

“Mum! Mum! It’s Kid and Pal. They’re here,” they shouted.

Mary sighed. Hadn’t they outgrown imaginary friends?

Her jaw dropped when, out of the dust, two figures materialised. “G’day,” they said.

🥕🥕🥕

Saguaro ‘N Seek by Chel Owens

Pal spat into the wind, instantly regretting he’d done so. “Ware be Kid?” he growled as he wiped his face.

“Ware be you?” the wind answered.

Pal whipped around. He slid off the rocky outcropping he’d carefully climbed and scooted across just a few minutes before. His gun flew after him, landing stock first into a Saguaro and shooting its contents sky-high.

“Hey!” yelped the cactus, falling over.

Pal squinted. “Kid?”

“Nah, yer gramma.”

Pal laughed. “Welp,” he said, standing and walking over to his dusty, cactus-clad friend. “I guess you won this here round o’ hide ‘n seek.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail: Crater Lakes by Saifun Hassam

Lorena trekked along a dusty trail to Coyote Ridge in the Crater Lakes Habitat. Green Lake shimmered blue in the fall sunshine. To the south were the mudflats of Lizard Lake.

Lorena was a writer and artist. Crater Lakes, with its rich American West history and extraordinary natural beauty, captivated her.

Lorena hiked past cottonwoods, aspens, and majestic lodgepole pines. On the trail, Ranger Carmen greeted her warmly. Lorena grinned at the other two familiar faces.

“Hey, Kid! Hi Pal! You’re a long dusty ways from home!”

Pal was exploring rancher history.

Kid? He was in Poet Tree heaven!

🥕🥕🥕

The Morning After by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where did you get to, Morgan?’

‘Those two reprobates, Kid and Pal…’

‘You went drinking with them? Give me you wallet.’

‘I didn’t spend much.’

‘It’s not the money; I’m tearing up your donor card. You can’t expect anyone to want your organs now.’

‘I think I must have dropped my brain and bruised it. Did I disturb you?’

‘How kind of you to worry. As it happens, no, though you did leave a sad trail of shed clothes, keys, burger wrappers…’

‘Sorry, I was feeling a little dusty…’

‘Yeah, I get it. They’re hard to refuse, aren’t they?’

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Control by Sue Spitulnik

Katie’s eyes went wide when she saw Kid and Pal standing at the No Thanks bar. “Howdy guys. What brings you here, and, how’d you get so dusty?”

“We’re on hiatus from our Saloon and gettin’ pulled every which way. One writer’s got us drinkin’, one ridin’ the range and another sittin’ at a campfire, so we rode over for a busman’s holiday. Sorry ’bout the dust.”

“Don’t care ’bout the dirt. Couldn’t be better timing! If you’ll tend bar, I’ll go see my students dance at the Irish Festival.”

“We’d love to.”

“Can’t thank you enough.”

“Have fun.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time. I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Asides it’s cold there.

Crimson foliage
Conflagrant hues crackling
Ignites morning frost

Campfire memories burning
Dusty trails of smoke drift west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking

Grab the popcorn or carrot sticks, and cozy up a collection of stories you can munch to. Snacking can happen on horseback, in the car, or hunkered in the old bomb bunker. What is deemed a snack is as important as when to snack. And you know there is going to be wide variances.

Writers took to snacks with snack (perhaps). Some went dark and some aimed for humor. Many snacked on the seemingly unsnackable. No matter the snacking, it became a story.

The following are based on September 24, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking.

Road Snacks Are Special by kathy70

Snacks are serious. No idea when they developed this attitude but they wear the crown well. Road trip snacks are in special categories while still having the requirement of being bad junk food. Healthy snacks don’t live in this world. Trip snacks require a salty brand of chips, chocolate that does not melt, caffeine drink and something with peanut butter.

In my vehicle this is a well proven larder that can sustain me for days.  In the past, my excuse was mid-west winters that could be brutal.  Now this is just one of those grandfathered laws of my car.

🥕🥕🥕

Cheese and Crackers by Allison Maruska

Taking my plate to my desk, I grab the last bit of cheese and pop it into my mouth, lamenting the end of my snack but ready to get busy. My plot points and character maps have been purposeless long enough. Time to start the first paragraph.

I open the document and place my fingers over the keys.

I stare at the blinking cursor, the only disruption on the blank page.

I tap my nails on the letters. The cursor blinks three more times.

Standing, I pick up the plate. That cheese really needed crackers to go with it.

🥕🥕🥕

Mushroom Monday by Tyler M Deal

Archibald Portobello, acting CEO of DeCOM Enterprises, popped another cashew into his mouth as the turtle taxi lumbered slowly beneath him. He reached into his coat pocket to retrieve a buzzing cell and shouted to the cabbie before answering it.

“Can you pick up the pace! I have a board meeting at the Log in twenty minutes.”

He flipped open the phone.

“Talk. What? No! Sell! Now!” He slapped the phone shut. “Pfft, analysts.” Then to the turtle, “Can’t this thing go any faster?”

Archibald Portobello, acting CEO of DeCOM Enterprises, sighed and popped another cashew into his mouth.

🥕🥕🥕

The Jabberwocky Revisited by Doug Jacquier

’Twas rump-numbing, and the metal seats
Did gyre and gimble in the McClains:
All mimsy were ranch-style kettle chips,
And curds and pears from out the plains.

Beware-ing the unwash-ed ones!
The jaws that blight, the masks dispatched!
She forsook the jujube bird, and shunned
The frumious butterscotch!”

And, as in meringue-ish thought she stood,
The Bar-of-choc, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the nougat wood,
And coated as it came!

But she did slay that Bar-of-Choc
And shouldered arms, her foe now so brittle.
O frabjous day! Get off my block!
She said and scoffed her Skittles.

🥕🥕🥕

Crunch Time by Norah Colvin

“I really need this today,” she said.

“Bad day?” asked the waiter, placing the coffee on the table.

“Yeah,” she sighed.

“Coffee’ll fix it,” he said. “I made it myself.”

She smiled, thinking of all the I-made-it-myself gifts received over the years.

With eyes closed, she scooped the delicious chocolatey froth into her mouth.

Then her eyes popped. There shouldn’t be anything crunchy in a cappuccino. She pushed the crunchy bit out on her tongue.

A fly! She spurted the remaining contents of her mouth over the table as a student and parent passed.

“Are you okay?” they asked.

🥕🥕🥕

Haunt by Dan Julian

Back at the abandoned lighthouse, using the grudging, jerky, taxing telekinesis which had taken him so many years to learn, the specter of Miles Phillips banged open the heavy, creaky door to let himself in, and with a final herculean effort, whooshed up the decrepit spiral of stairs to the top platform where the beacon used to be. The real and actual sheet and bulging bag he’d been concentrating so hard on ‘holding’ dropped to the dusty plank floor, myriad cheerfully-colored candies and snacks spilling out. Time to feast! Oh, how the specter of Miles Phillips did love Halloween.

🥕🥕🥕

Digesting the Situation by JulesPaige

I needed to divorce myself from my fears. The dark dismal city street appeared to be a place where zombies might jump out of doorways to snack on the likes of me. I had to convince myself that all I had to do was use Fifth Avenue as an entrance and Sixth as an exit. Just because I was no longer married and didn’t have a man to hang onto didn’t mean that I couldn’t do this on my own. I’d done it hundreds of times during the daylight hours.

working late, again
paying for independence
fears dominate sense

🥕🥕🥕

Cheat-ohs by D. Avery

“One after the other, I couldn’t help myself, even when I knew they weren’t good for me.”

“I know what you mean, Ilene,” Kristof said.

“In the end none satisfied. Too sweet. Too salty. Too full of air!”

“But we’ve made healthy choices now, both of us.”

“Hi girls.” Though late in joining Ilene and Kristof, Marge jumped right into the conversation. “What’s wrong with some greasy finger-licking cheese that goes crunch? With enough beer it’s all good.”

Ilene’s brows went up, but she agreed with Marge. “Yes, beer helps. But Marge, we were talking about men, not snacks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snack Food by Eliza Mimski

From the time she entered middle school, Patty Lay, the heiress of Lay’s potato chips, was teased about her name – classmates, boys of course – saying she was a good lay. Jeannie M&Ms, the heiress of the M&M fortune, had received the same kind of treatment. How many times did she have to hear that she would melt in your mouth, and not in your hands? The same had rung true for Bobby Cheetos. Did he really have to hear one more time that he would be a player, a cheat? And Donna Krispy Kreme. Don’t even ask.

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking by Reena Saxena

“#MeToo movement is not over yet, and here comes the drug-peddling scandal…”

“Why does it bother you?”

“Some of us are being victimised…..”

“Are you sure you’ve never done it to others?”

The big time film director looked flustered. He is not used to this kind of a response.

“Well, it affects the manner in which I earn my bread and butter.” He softened his belligerent stance.

“It is high time you think about it. Stop snacking on drugs and girls, and plan a wholesome meal plan, where you need to work for the final taste and output.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking Curbside by Yvette Prior

“Um, you didn’t tell me club members would be here.”

SORRY BABE

“There’s so many of them. And look! Look who is at our table.”

They paused as they reached their assigned table.

“Honey, I can’t sit with them for two hours – especially when I’m famished.”

“I just can’t….”

silence

HEY, I HAVE AN IDEA – COME WITH ME.

Jim grabbed snacks from his truck and sat with Maria, talking on the curb, which provided succor.

The ground was hard beneath them

The sky had soft clouds above

Conversation nourished

READY TO GO IN?

“Yes, Yes I am.”

both smiled

🥕🥕🥕

Nuclear Snacking by Bill Engleson

Jimbo was my neighbour back in the city. Had a bomb shelter. Didn’t build it. It was there when he bought the house. Early 50’s vintage.

“Only one in the neighbourhood,” he’d whispered to me.

“That you know of,” I said. “Read where the first rule of good Bomb Shelter management is…Mum’s the word.”

“I trust you, Buddy. Let me show ya.”

It was cozy.

Outfitted well.

“Besides water, bandages, stuff like that” he noted, “We’ve got a year’s supply of chocolate bars and potato chips. And Pru’s dried apricots, of course. Trick, Marty, is to rotate. Takes commitment.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Culinary Faux Pas by M J Mallon

Vanessa cut the homemade apple pie into dainty, perfect slices.

Rich smiled as he popped one in his mouth. “Did you make the pastry yourself?”

“Yes.”

“It’s crumbly. And different. What’s in it?”

“Cinnamon and lemon rind.”

“Oh, from unwaxed lemons?”

Vanessa swallowed. “I… Oh dear!”

Rich picked up the melted candle on the table. “So, we’re eating cordon bleu Apple Pie snacks flavoured with cinnamon and hot wax?”

“It seems so… Aren’t they delicious!”

🥕🥕🥕

Autumnal Trip by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They’d packed coffee and sandwiches, heading out, bike trails edging around lakes green with duckweed, geese and duck leaving their own paths as they nibbled, non-stop snacking to prepare them for the winter. The two biked on, through leaf-changing suburbs, under sharp-echoing freeways, until they finally arrived at Jack’s place.

The orchard spread before them, multiple rows of red and green globes of goodness, a cool welcome after their long ride.

“Took you long enough to get here!” called out Uncle Jack from the picnic table. “I was just about to grab a snack from one of these trees!”

🥕🥕🥕

Apples by E.A. Colquitt

When he saw them, he knew he had to take them home. One, two, three, four, five: they were small and round, skin gleaming with golden polka dots. The largest even had a leaf pinned, flag-like, to the stalk, just like in fairy tales. He’d never seen that in real life before.

Part of him didn’t want to eat them. It was the smell that won him over in the end: fresh, healthy, reviving. He cut up all five fruits into a bowl.

Afterwards, he fell asleep there, on the sofa, and didn’t wake up for a hundred days.

🥕🥕🥕

Food Thrown in by Anne Goodwin

“You’re working for peanuts!”

“They don’t farm peanuts. Besides, peanuts aren’t nuts.”

“But you are, breaking your back for the price of a few rounds of drinks.”

“How much would you pay for an all-you-can-eat buffet?”

“You’re changing the subject.”

“How much? Cos that’s what you’d save, snacking all day in the fields.”

“Do they grow pizza? Do they grow chicken vindaloo?”

“They don’t. But there’s always a premium for the healthy option. Think what it costs to starve at a spa.”

“Are there strawberries?”

“Whopping great strawberries. Blueberries. Apples. Tomatoes. Cucumber. Peas, beans, big juicy pears.”

“I’m in!”

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley 2020 by Saifun Hassam

Jenny and Marie ended their online discussion of upcoming news stories about Lynn Valley and the pandemic. Jenny was a photojournalist. Marie’s knowledge of farming and rural communities was extensive. Their online stories for Lynn Valley News gave people a strong sense of connection.

Their coverage of Hannah’s website “Spuds Restaurant” and her podcast of the Farmers Four musicians struck a deep chord. The Farmers Market was closed but Lynn Valley was a vibrant community and would rebuild.

Jenny relaxed. She dug into her favorite snack: spicy black beans, fresh farm tomatoes, blue corn tortilla chips. Cinnamon rolls. Coffee.

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking by Anita Dawes

When I caught my mother snacking
She told me in her sweet mum voice
The one she uses
when she wants to be believed
“It’s rude not to eat the beautiful snacks
When so many people have gone
To so much trouble to get them made.
They must earn their living
It’s our duty to try them out
I love the Homestead Ranch chips best
They’re always fresh
They have the best crunch
With every bite.”
How could I argue with that?
I didn’t want to be the one
Putting folk out of work
So I joined mum snacking…

🥕🥕🥕

Busted at Midnight by Charli mills

The crumple of a candy-bar wrapper woke the house. The cat stretched and hopped over to the couch. The dog laid her head on the armrest, silently begging. Martha heard Steve plod down the hall. She quickly shoved the wrapper with the rest down the side of the couch cushions, picking up her geology textbook and hot pink highlighter.

“Still up?” he asked, stifling a yawn.

“Mmm,” she replied, reading tectonics.

The twins and their older sister ran past Steve. Clara, hands on her hips, asked, “Mama, did you get into our Halloween buckets again?”

Martha sighed and swallowed.

Of Mice

Woe to the house with a plague of mice! Black pellets line the pantry shelves as if the rodent version of Hansel and Gretel left crumbs to mark their trail. Insulation, an old romance novel, or your latest homework become shredded nests, all cozy and comfy until the shriek of discovery echoes throughout the region. These are stories of mice.

Some writers imagined the furry pest’s point of view, and others wove tales of invasion. To the credit of characters involved, most showed courage or humor. Some even found compassion.

The following stories are based on the September 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story of mice.

Musophobia by Hugh W. Roberts

They weren’t alive, but how had they got here?

Suffering from musophobia, Barbara made a quick exit from the beach that was full of mice.

Turning on the radio when she got home, she waited patiently for the early morning news.

“Reports are coming in of a ship having hit rocks off the coast of North Cornwall during last nights storms. Hundreds of freight boxes containing computer mice have broken up and ended up on the beaches along the coastline…”

Just the sight, thought, or the mere mention of the word ‘mice’ was as much as Barbara could take.

🥕🥕🥕

She Likes Critters by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa asked, “Why did Gaylan’s Mom tell us to wear pants to the party?”

Michael hid a grin. “You’ll see.”

“Didn’t she raise mice in high school?”

“Yup. And she still likes critters.”

**

The huge patio at Gaylan’s was decorated like it belonged outside a bar-b-q joint. Oddly at one corner on the ground sat a pie-pan filled with peanuts, elsewhere there were pans of seeds and nearest the barn, there was an in-ground fake shallow “stream.” Tessa discovered when the humans partied, the chipmunks did too and weren’t beyond climbing a pant leg looking for a handout.

🥕🥕🥕

My Mouse by Eliza Mimski

Since the pandemic, I’ve been sleeping with stuffed animals. Some are leftovers from my grandchildren, and one is a toy mouse that my now passed-away cat used to play with. They comfort me when I sleep and I am like a small child holding onto them because… well, just because.

I don’t like mice generally, but this one looks so cute and friendly. It’s missing its tail and its right leg is chewed on. One ear flops forward, the other straight up. I even kiss it and tell it goodbye before I leave my house.

Please don’t tell anyone.

🥕🥕🥕

Three Fine Mice by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Hickory, Dickory, and Doc have lived with Auntie Dora for near-100 years. A special breed of mouse, they’d been tasked by the besotted wizard Harold to turn back the hands of time. They had done so faithfully since he’d abandoned Dora at age eighteen, astride his interstellar dragon, to restitch the ends of the universe, which goes frazzled every couple millennia.

Dora had understood the need.

And, as the nursery rhyme goes, with a gentle forward nudge of its hands, the clock struck one, and down they ran.

They’d not miss this reunion for a million pounds of Stilton.

🥕🥕🥕

I Mouse the Old Days by Bill Engleson

“Go on, ask him.”

“You ask him. You’re the curious one. ‘Sides, he’s always so grouchy.”

“Okay. I’ll do it. You got that crumb of cheese?”

“I ate it.”

“WHAT? That was for him.”

“It was so good.”

” Okay, no cheese. There he is, next to that old cobweb. Hey, grandfather.”

“Welllll, if it isn’t my favorite grand-pests.”

“Grandfather, tell us about…the old days?”

“I’m busy.”

“Doing what grandfather?”

“Getting old.”

“Please tell us.”

“Fine. We had them by the TV knobs back then, Mighty Mouse. Our own club. The great Mickey.”

“What happened?”

“It’s a micetery to me .”

🥕🥕🥕

Caught Out by D. Avery

“I’ve always been handy at catching them, but I end up feeling bad for them. They can be so cute.”

“Hi girls.” Though late in joining Ilene and Kristof, Marge jumped right into the conversation. “You can’t feel bad for them Ilene. They’re dirty, they get all through your stuff… there’s no living with them.”

Ilene’s brows went up, but she agreed with Marge. “Yes, I have definitely found that it is easier to live without them than learning to live with them.”

“Don’t be soft, Ilene. You have to kill them.”

“Marge, we’re talking about men, not mice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mouse Rescue by Kerry E.B. Black

Nadia peered into the cage at the panting white mouse. “When did you get her?”

“Not quite a month ago. The other mice were picking on her. I had to get her out of that pet store.” Jenny frowned. “I don’t think they were letting the poor thing eat, either.”

“Why?”

Jenny baby-talked, “Because now she’s plump as a teensy-weensy golf ball.”

Nadia licked her lips. “Hon, I don’t think the other mice were picking on her.”

“You didn’t see them, jumping on her.” She leaned close.“Wait! What’s that? Is Luna hurt?”

Nadia laughed. “Nope. Those are babies.”

🥕🥕🥕

Milo by Anita Dawes

Milo, a little grey mouse
With the heart of a giant
He could stare down the largest cat
And get away unscathed
He would be sent out
For the most timid of his clan
His days were long and slow
He wanted more.
Dressed in his best suit
Knapsack on his back
He was off to the cries of “Don’t go
Who will hunt for us, we’ll starve!”
“I will teach Jacko before I go
I must seek my fortune.
If Mickey can make it big
In Hollywood, Then so can I
I will take Hollywood by storm someday…”

🥕🥕🥕

Rodent by FloridaBorne

“Isn’t he cute?” my friend Rena asked.

She petted the docile rat inside a large cage, as if it were a cute puppy!

“I hate rats.”

“Why?” Rena asked as if I were insulting her and not that pest in a cage.

Rats got into my dresser, peed on my expensive scarves, used my lingerie for bedding, and destroyed $2000 worth of clothing. They left pellets on the floor everywhere.

“But my Buddy isn’t like that.”

“Let him out of his cage, go on vacation for a week, and find out.”

Sometimes, people have to learn the hard way.

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The Mice Ate My Homework by Norah Colvin

“What happened to your homework this time?”

“It was mice, Miss.”

“I thought you got rid of the mice.”

“We did. In the house. But I left my bag in the car last night.”

“Hmm?”

“The car was in the shed.”

“Should’ve been safe there.”

“It would, except —”

“Except?”

“Tommy forgot to let Rusty out.”

“So?”

“Rusty usually chases the mice away.”

“And?”

“Dad accidentally left the window down. The mice got in and —”

“They ate your homework?”

“They thought it was tasty, Miss.”

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Bombay Mix and Chai by Anne Goodwin

I felt honoured, in the rural areas, to be invited into people’s homes, conversing through smiles and gesture. But I needed to keep my wits about me: the poorer people were, the more generous their hospitality, and I didn’t want them going hungry because a white woman had come to visit. A simple shack, the bathroom a field, the kitchen a pot on an outdoor fire, yet their few possessions gleamed. I didn’t worry about hygiene until, hearing a xylophone tinkling, I saw mice scurrying along the shelf stacked with aluminium plates and tumblers, and my hosts just laughed.

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Two Mothers, Two Mice, a Similar Story (BOTS) by Nancy Brady

In a newly constructed house, a mother sat up late feeding her newborn daughter. Into the quiet crept a mouse. With eyes bright, the mouse watched the mother and daughter. The pattern repeated itself night after night until the mouse disappeared.

Thirty years later, in a newly constructed condominium, a mother sat up late breastfeeding her newborn son. It was quiet, and a mouse ran across the floor. The motion caught the mother’s eye, but she dismissed it as tiredness. The following night she saw the mouse running away. Eventually, the mouse ventured out, was caught, and released outside.

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Of Mice, No Men by Charli Mills

In the end, the packrat was her only companion. Clara rode into Vaquero Camp after her diagnosis. What do big city bone-setters know of a woman’s breasts, anyhow? She was born with ‘em and would die with ‘em. Jake said she was foolish. After all, girl babies aren’t actually born with breasts. He’d heard that Flatfoot Bob’s wife had hers reconstructed into perky 20-year-old versions. Clara wanted no men with her. Not the son who left for Portland. Not the dead-beat cowboy who fathered him. Not even Jake, her best friend. Solitude with a packrat set her soul free.

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Matteo the Mouse by Tyler M Deal

On a little island in a big ocean, there lived a family of brown mice. There was a papa mouse, a mama mouse, six little mice, and… Matteo. Matteo always felt a little out of place. For one thing, he didn’t look like other mice. He had dark spots around his eyes, his hair was blondish brown, his toes were too grabby, his tail was too wrappy, his snout was too big, and his nose was too pink. Well, there’s a good reason for that. Matteo wasn’t a mouse. He was a mouse opossum. But he didn’t know that.

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Mice Artists, Inc. by Saifun Hassam

Mice discovered the fun of jumping in and out of small wells of paint in Jenny’s forgotten palette of watercolors on the patio. Weirdly artistic patterns on the whiteboards wandered down the steps into the grass.

Jenny did not have the heart to root out the mice living near the giant oak. Ultrasonic repellers in the cottage seemed to have kept them out.

Curious, she left a palette of red and orange paints on the posters.
Cerise and Tangerine created another glorious work of art: Scattered among colored footprints were mouse droppings! A budding artists’ colony around the oak.

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Suddubsome by JulesPaige

Suddubsome was one of the batch to hatch in the roof thatch.
The seasons were changing but the little grey mouse was careful of following her nest mates.
She stayed clear of cats, hawks, and never entered a human home.
The out building of the farm and the hollow walls where the pipes ran was good enough.
When the barn was struck by lightning, she feared she lost her grain supply.
Suddubsome was clever to not match, (her pace) her patch with (the trap) the catch

one sanctuary
and quick wits is all that is
one needs to survive

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Some Cat by Joanne Fisher

Cindy took a few slices of bread out of the bag and noticed something had been gnawing on it. She showed the bag to Jess who was sitting down at the table drinking some coffee.

“I think we’ve got mice.” Cindy told her. She then looked in the pantry, and sure enough there were mouse droppings everywhere.

“So why isn’t Rainbow catching them? Isn’t that her job?” Jess asked.

“I’m not sure she’s much of a mouser.” Cindy admitted, as she looked out the window and watched Rainbow lying in the sun seemingly oblivious to everything.

“Some cat huh?”

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Two Friends by Ruchira Khanna

“Where’s your other slipper?” Mom inquired as Naina came out from her bedroom, wearing just one.

“Maggie is nibbling on it,” she said with a yawn as she placed herself next to her and brushed her labrador fondly.

Just then, a mouse bolted by, and Maggie woofed along with joy instead of running after her.
The duo was quick to pull up their feet and gave out a shriek.

“I adopted her so that she could keep our house free of critters, but instead, she rejoices on their company and is busy with human objects.” said the enraged mom.

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Mouse over Mice by Prior

Are you talking to Romano?

Tell him his agent called. His photo sold for $10,000!

He wants to know if it is was the Golf Swing photo?

No.

Was it the Boxing Ring Power Punch shot?

Nope.

He wants to know if it was the blurry Runner Catching the Baton or the smooth Wind Glider?

Um, no.

He said he’s stumped. Those are the only photos he had for sale.

Tell him his agent added more to his store. He sold Mouse over Mice.

Silence over the phone.

Then Romano laughingly said, “People today are loco. They bought that one?? Loco!”

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Mouse in the House by Hajar / Douryeh

It has always amazed me: Critters around the house

A childhood fav, was this little mammal: The mouse

Every Spring and Fall, we heard just one shuffle

On the attic, where it cleanly slept, without scuffle

There were no others than this one tidy mouse

Later, I encountered more than one mice filled house

It didn’t make me loose sympathy for the mouse

It’s a gentle spirit; at home, it’s relatively harmless

In a domestic environment, it may cause minor stress

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Mice Musing by Simon Prathap D

I’m small I’m cute
Yet I’m hated by the most
I can run, I can bite
they call me mischievous
I am hairy, am I scary?
Is that why you hate me?
I am hated by the cat’s
I am chased by the cat’s
But scientists wants me to test
I am brilliant I am smart
You are an evolution of me
Before you give me test medicine
Before you give me food poison
Remember I have a family too
All I wanted is, evolve like you
Remember we all are family
because you were once a mice!

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Mice, or Rather the Mouse by Frank Hubeny

“There isn’t much we mice can do.”

“Let alone one mouse”.

“What has a lion ever done for us? He’s probably trapped for a good reason.”

And so they tried to discourage Tamar from helping the lion escape from the ropes binding him.

“If you’re going to help him, don’t lecture him about his diet.”

“He might eat you.”

“Or smash you.”

Tamar recognized him. He’s the one who let her go. A quiet voice told her to gnaw the rope and then get out of the way.

So she did and when she did the other mice helped.

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What A Time To Be Alive by Donna Matthews

“Dude, time’s up.”

“No! You had it ALL DAY yesterday!”

“So? I’m working on a project, and you’re just playing solitaire.”

“It’s practice. Mike said it helps with coordination.”

“Ahhheeeemmmm.”

Darren slams his hand on the desk and pushes up slow, glaring. Me? Not bothered. This project is a ticket to promotion. I sit down at our communal Windows machine and marvel once again at the nascent technology. The little gadget, called a mouse of all things, fits snug in my hand. No more c:/ prompt. Just a small arrow, leading the way. What a time to be alive.

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Of Mice an’ Shorty, a Contradictin’ Pair (count the previous pompts!) by D. Avery

“Pal, that a high wind a’screechin’?”

“Reckon thet’s Shorty. She ain’t so inclusive, seems like, when it comes ta mice. Screams inside her heart an’ outside too. Dealin’ with them little critters ain’t her crownin’ glory.”

“Huh. What happened ta protectin’ nature, ta justice fer all? This is crazy.”

“Well, she don’t like mice sharin’ quarters thet’s fer sure. I’s wunnerin’ whyn’t she jist go back ta the library cat fer hep? Rainbow’d show ‘em the open road all right.”

“Reckon she’s took charge a her mouse situation. Still… them resourceful little critter’s is jist sayin’, I got life.”

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