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Broken Fences

What do you do with a broken fence? You could mend it, tear it down, or let it be. It seems that broken fences have much to say about the human condition and relationships.

Writers wrote along the fence line this week, seeking repairs or reasons to fill their stories.

The following are based on the July 12, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a broken fence.

PART I (10-minute read)

Write On Buckaroo Nation by D. Avery

“Aussie!”

“Kid, why’re you sketchin’? That was last week.”

“Thought I’d sketch the Ranch. For perspective. Look, not a fence in sight.”

“I see it that way too Kid. Free range.”

“That’s right, free range! Where ever the prompts lead! No boundaries!”

“While I appreciate your unbridled enthusiasm Kid, there’re always boundaries.”

“What d’ya mean, Aussie?”

“You’re free to range about, explore and express yourself, but within the bounds of societal norms.”

“Oh. Maybe we oughtta fence out the new normal.”

“No Kid, let’s see what comes and goes as we all range freely.”

“Good ideas Aussie! Good ideas.”

🥕🥕🥕

I Threw a Shoe by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She sits on the highway’s gravel shoulder, rubbing her sore, unshod feet. The sun presses hard on her head and shoulders.

She roots through her backpack, amazed at all the crap picked up on her journey, and pushes it away, disgusted; had she truly traveled so far without a sip of water on hand?

She waves to her children, galloping down the same road she’d traveled all her life. Colleagues also pass, clomping by in their own heavy shoes.

She rises, scenting sustenance in free-flowing water and her real tribe, just through that busted gate and across the meadow.

🥕🥕🥕

The Wood’s Wet and Rough by Papershots

A wooden fence. The end of the path? The wood’s rough and wet. The fence’s small, no, hold on, it’s broken. There’s a plaque – cold, steel – then the hand drops. Go back. It says something. Not in your language, though. And friends have always been teasing for trying. For what? “It’s not like you can read “our” books!” Did they shake their heads? Skeptics do that.

E… n..t.. r…a.nce – s.. i.. gn… – f..or.. – e..qu.. i..n.e… – f.. a ..c..ili.ti. es..

There’s more. Will it explain why it’s broken?

S..t..a..bles – f…a..rms –

The mind gets there before the hand.

T..r..a.i..ning.

🥕🥕🥕

Frayed by Sherri Matthews

Exhaustion seeps through me like melting lead. I feel older than my years, stretched too thin like frayed rope. Tie another knot. Maybe it will hold a little longer. Or maybe it will slip and come undone. There is no more space to fill with let-me-help-you. I wander, aimlessly, from one broken fence to another, and my helplessness mocks me in the scrape of splintered wood against my skin. Bleed, then. Stick me again, and again I will bleed. Then I will cuss and rage and come to life, and I will wield my hammer and nails and rebuild.

🥕🥕🥕

Resilience by Anurag Bakhshi

Charli fell on her knees with her head held in her hands and let out a loud, piercing wail.

The fence was broken, and so were all her dreams, hopes, and aspirations. All the horses bolted….not a single one left.

All her hard work…all that waiting…it had all been for nothing. Her life was over…for good.

But then, she took a deep breath and shook her head violently.

No, she would not allow despair to overpower her spirit. She would find another ranch, and prove to everyone that there was no rustler better than her.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by David Wesley Woolverton

He should have been a writer or a con artist. He should never have been both. Being both meant spending too much time in fantasy, losing ground in reality. Now the consequences were beginning to show.

“I don’t have a sister. Wait, I do.”

The fence that should separate lies from the truth was breaking down.

“Or maybe she was a cousin. How many of those did I say I had?”

He mentally flipped through the reference book of his characters, then realized that was the wrong place and tried a family album, then realized the album was forged.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by M J Mallon @ Kyrosmagica

The stony-faced agents sat together in neat chairs, tables locked, faces fixed with false smiles.

As I approached, I imagined an insurmountable stone fence, groaning under the weight of their nervousness and my self-doubt.

My eyes locked on my chosen agent. She gestured to me to come over. I feared nothing could save me but as I spoke the stones tumbled down leaving me with an open gateway, an opportunity to shine.

I grabbed my pitch and went for it, galloping over my doubts. The fence of agents lay in tatters, but my idea was met with cheers.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Neighbor by Sarah Whiley

What miscreant has been here? I wondered, inspecting the damage to the fence.

I was not at all, properly attired, and looked about, seeing if there was anyone who could assist.

Nope. It was just me.

I considered my freshly polished shoes, crisply starched white pants, and my lace detailed silk shirt, and huffed.

I did not need this today, not one bit, I cursed.

Part of me was tempted, to just walk by; pretend I had never seen it. But I couldn’t abandon my responsibilities.

As they say, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

So I got to work.

🥕🥕🥕

Broken with Intent by Norah Colvin

The fence was too high to jump or even see over, no footholds to climb, and palings too close to squeeze or even peer through. It hugged the soil too compacted to dig. It seemed impenetrable, and so intrigued. He stacked boxes for makeshift steps—not high enough. Finally, he hatched a plan—balloons! He blew them big and tied them tight, attached some string, and waited. And waited. Then a gust of wind lifted him high, over the fence, where another, just like him, smiled and said, “Should’ve used the gate; latch is broken—always open to friends.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reckon You’re My Neighbor by Chelsea Owens

Windstorms were frequent visitors to the valley; at least, they had been as long as Beck’s and Kirk’s families remembered. The only thing more frequent than wind, in fact, was their petty neighbor disputes:

Kirk called the police on Beck for some fireworks.

Beck’s wife blamed Kirk’s kids for broken gate slats.

And everyone said Kirk’s dog was just plain yappy.

But the day after the panel blew down between their yards, Beck showed up, right at Kirk’s door. “Reckon you could use a hand with that there rotten post,” was all he said.

And they got to work.

🥕🥕🥕

We Survived by Patrick O’Connor

The wind howled.

Rain came down almost sideways.

Shutters rattled.

Lightning came closer by the minute.

Day became night.

We left to find shelter in our storm cellar. Tornado sirens had been going off for several minutes.

Suddenly, the sirens stopped; but we could hear the wind whipping all around. The pressure change made our ears pop.

Finally, the winds subsided. We waited a few more minutes and then cautiously came out of our hideaway.

Looking around at the devastation, we were happy to be alive.

But – all that was left of our house was a sad, broken fence.

🥕🥕🥕

After the Storm by Saifun Hassam

Diamante and the villagers were stunned at the destruction along the beach. Logs from miles of broken fence were strewn along the sandy cliffs and dunes. The wood piers and fences, strong and sturdy in years past, were no match for the stormy winds of last night.

Inland, the terraced fields of barley and wheat had been flattened. Somehow, the living fences of hedgerows and cedar and pine groves had weathered the storm and sheltered the olive and peach trees.

Diamante prayed at the ancient temple, amid the broken pillars and urns and uprooted plants, for courage to rebuild.

🥕🥕🥕

“Perfection” by katimac

She sits cross-legged on the tumbledown wall in the overgrown lot waiting for the sunrise. The lot is surrounded by a picket fence, grown gray with age. She’s watched the sun beam through the one missing picket to the east as it’s crept across the lot, closer and closer to where she’s currently perched, like an elf on a shelf.

Today’s the day sunlight reaches it. No time until it shows in her missing slat. She adjusts her butt on the wall and raises her camera to her eye. The blaze ignites in her lens and her eye. Perfection.

🥕🥕🥕

Hidden Garden by Kerry E.B. Black

Erin swung the two loose boards of the fencing and scampered beneath, heedless of the dirt grinding into her knees and palms. She shouldn’t enter this yard any more than an errant Peter Rabbit should raid Mr. MacGregor’s garden, but something about the forbidden draws the adventurous spirit. Once she discovered the accessibility of the fence and that it was just her size, she couldn’t resist.

She hunkered beneath a hydrangea to take in the scene. The old lady’s yard outdid any park Erin had ever seen, with fragrant swaths of flowers surrounding bizarre statues. Why did she hide it away?

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Fence by Frank Hubney

The Fredericks bought Adkins Estate with farmhouse, barn, and sheds. The farm maintained itself from land rentals to local farmers. There was also a notorious fence separating it from ancient Indian burial grounds.

That’s why they bought it. They planned to rent rooms to people wanting to spend the night in a haunted house.

They repaired the buildings but broke the fence to make it look spookier. They called their website “Visit Fredericks’ Freaky Ghost House.”

Many rented rooms and left five-star reviews until it became known that after changes to the fence, the ghosts no longer felt welcome.

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Fence: by The Dark Netizen

The fence to her house lay broken. The petulant old woman looked out from the window.

The townsfolk always thought that the house was haunted. They absolutely believed that the old woman was a witch who knew all kinds of sorcery. She welcomed their superstition. She loved her peace and knew that fear kept all the annoying people away from her property. At least, it had managed to until today. Today, some teenagers had broken her fence, trying to show-off.

She removed her pen and wrote their names in her black book. Stupid teenagers.
Her fearful legend would expand, tonight…

🥕🥕🥕

In-Between by Wallie and Friend

The fence had stood between them since they were children. When she was little, Emmy peeked between the slats. She made up stories about the secretive boy-next-door. She decided he was magic.

In her teens, Emmy was still making up stories. Joey wasn’t a fairy or an elf anymore. He was an idiot. The nights they spent fighting over the telephone only to make up the next day, leaning over the fence.

When she came home from college, the fence was broken. Mom told her it was the storm. Seeing Joey waiting for her, Emmy couldn’t have agreed more.

🥕🥕🥕

The Yellow Flower by Susan Sleggs

I was a reservist in Iraq, where everything inside and out of our barbed wire compound was sand colored, including the hazy air. One morning there was an unfamiliar excited buzz in the conversations. The words flower and yellow were prevalent. I listened for details. During the day I made it to the south side of the compound, where outside the fence, sprouting out of a pile of leftover razor sharp wire was a sorry excuse for vegetation. The weed wasn’t even green, but it had the most beautiful yellow flower on top. Hope growing out of the dust.

🥕🥕🥕

The Short Way by Eric Pone

Suzie and Sue made their way along the fence perimeter owned by the Jamison Cartel in Columbia. Suzie was intent in her search.

“What are you looking for?” Sue in a whispered voice.

“There is always a broken section in a fence. And its always out of the way. Be patient love.”

Around the bend, they found the break. A broken section of fence with paint long since withered. Suzie thumb her comm.

“Found a break target acquisition in one hour.” She said.

“Roger That! Standing By” came the reply from Ginger playing sniper and their cover 2200 meters away.

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

Broken Fence by Anita Dawes

Late one night after having a skin full, dad drove through Mrs Mack’s front garden.

Breaking the fence was bad enough, but he took out her favourite roses too.

Dad said he was sorry, that he would fix the fence first thing.

Mum brought roses, but there was no answer when she knocked on the door. She left the roses on the step but watched to see if her friend would take them in.

They died where mum left them.

After a week, mum told us that some fences cannot be mended. That she had lost her best friend…

🥕🥕🥕

Matter of Time by oneletterup

Damn her.

His hand hurt like hell. She’d broken the skin.

Blood smeared onto the bed as he pulled himself up.

Damn her.

He stumbled out the open back door into the yard.

He lit a cigarette and growled…”I know you’re out here. It’s just a matter of time.”

Moonlight reflected off the chicken wire on the old split rail fence. The entire yard surrounded. And overgrown.

He smiled and spoke…”You Know There’s No Way Out.”

Then he noticed it. Mangled wire. Rotted wood in pieces. An opening.

A broken fence had ruined everything.

She was gone.

🥕🥕🥕

The Broken Fence by Rosemary Carlson

Every morning when she took her walk, she passed beside an old, weathered board fence. It didn’t seem to hold anything. No horses, no other livestock, not even a house. Every third or fourth board was missing.

She didn’t know why she came this way. She thought of her family each time she saw that old fence. The family that didn’t want her anymore. The family that was gone that had left her alone. The family that didn’t care now.

Her feelings for them were gone. They’d slipped away like the wind slipped through the gaps in the fence.

🥕🥕🥕

Horses Have Greater Value (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Blast it you duck-billed buffalo!” Cobb lunged at the stock handler.

Despite his injuries, Hickok dodged the charging man better than the bear that tore him up. “It weren’t me,” he said, confronting his angry boss.

“That busted fence didn’t happen on its own accord,” Cobb growled, pointing to the corral empty of horses.

“No Sir, pert sure it didn’t. Found it that way before you showed up. Recon’ Dock rode out after ‘em.”

“Then quit idling and get after that herd!”

Hickok sighed and set out on foot, his left arm hanging as useless at the fence post.

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Fences: Realised Dreams by Ritu Bhathal

Many an afternoon, I’d sit there, peering through the gap in our broken fence.

It was like a portal to another world.

I’d see them all laughing, playing together, running around freely.

Oh, to be able to laugh openly with friends.

Laughter was in short supply here since my Daddy died, and that new Father had arrived.

He didn’t want no brats running around the place. It was bad enough I existed.

To escape the prison that our home had become, I’d come and sit here.

For the first time in years, my Mummy seemed happy.

I didn’t complain.

🥕🥕🥕

Old Hickson by Bill Engleson

I would’ve come home anyways that summer. There was the job at the mill. This was in the days when a few months work could pay for a full year of edumacation.

So, when mom called and said old Hickson had up and died, I knew there’d be a new layer of remembering.

He was always the old guy next door. On the other side of our fence.

His fence, really.

As a kid, I avoided looking over.

But one year, I was fourteen, I saw the way he looked at me.

The lonely old bugger.

And I knew.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fence by Nandini Jain (Dexterous Writer)

Mocked by the people of the village, those stereotypes scoffed her determination by saying,”what can a girl do?”

To express their rage, they break the fence of their house.

Years later, Sitting beside the banyan tree the proud mother used to stare at the broken fence surrounding the house. When asked, “why don’t you mend it?” She replies,” It reminds me of the force and energy my daughter applied to fly above high, accomplish the goals, chase her dreams and these broken wooden planks remind these stereotypical evil minds that a mighty heart and liberal mind can do wonders!

🥕🥕🥕

The Seagulls’ Fence by magnoliajem

The falling slat startled the roosting seagulls.

“Whadaya doin’, Tommy? Supposed to be mendin’ fence, not breakin’.”

“Damn gulls don’t belong this far inland.”

“They’s travellers. Sea in the morning. Eat. Home here at night.”

“Yeah? They need-a keep goin’ ‘stead-a shittin’ all over granpaw’s fence.”

“Breakin’ the fence ain’t gonna stop ’em from comin’ here, long as that compost sits there.”

“Why? Y’jus’ said they eat at sea.”

“Oh, they’s always lookin’ for food. Don’t always have a taste for fish.”

“We’ll see ’bout that. They need-a leave.”

With compost moved and covered, gulls left. Fence got mended.

🥕🥕🥕

A Gift by Susan Sleggs

“Grandpa, there’s a round green thing growing out back by the broken fence.”

“There is? We better take a look.”

After a slow painful walk, Grandpa said, “I’d say that’s going to be a pumpkin.”

“Can we keep it?”

“Rightly it belongs to the neighbors. It’s their vine coming through the hole.”

“Let’s not tell them.”

“Would that be right?”

“No, but can we wait till it gets big so I can watch it grow?”

“No harm in that.”

A few weeks later they found a note near the big, almost orange pumpkin, “It’s yours. Carve it for Halloween.”

🥕🥕🥕

[trade] by Deb Whittam

The call came in at 2am, waking him from a dream featuring babes dousing their bodies with sunscreen.

For five minutes he had listened to the caller, to their heartbreak and woe … then once he had appeased them, he had booked it in.

It was going to cost him more in time and money than it was worth but there wasn’t any alternative.

When you’re a fencing contractor, and a loose paling comes off at Grandma’s house, you answer the call.

He sighed, then rolled over, perhaps he would catch the babes as they jumped into the pool.

🥕🥕🥕

Emotional Barricades by JulesPaige

Clark could only imagine how his daughter felt. Mainly because he never asked. Then her thick letter arrived. He’d never had the opportunity to answer her questions before. It was about time he mended those fences with truth, even if it was just from his vantage point. Then he died.

While cleaning out Clark’s paperwork, his third wife found the letters relating memories that she selfishly couldn’t cope with. So, she trashed them.

Years later the wife, in a conversation filled with anger, told the daughter what she did. Thus, creating a new unmendable fence cementing their shaky relationship.

🥕🥕🥕

Mend that Fence! by floridaborne

A finger pointed at my middle-aged sister, I yelled out, “I hate you!”

“Why?”  She asked.

“All I ever heard from mom was, ‘Jane is so smart.  Jane is in the honors society.’  She never loved me!”

“All I ever heard was, ‘Susan is so creative!  Why can’t you be creative, too?’  I was never good enough for her!”

We stared at mirrored eyes reflecting the same story.  Mom didn’t believe in praise, only correction.  I was the first to say, “Let’s mend this fence!”

We became sisters that day, choosing our mother’s nursing home a few months later.

🥕🥕🥕

Grandpa’s Fence by Teresa Grabs

It was just an old wooden fence out back on my Grandpa’s property. Nothing to look at, nothing special. Every summer we took a bucket of whitewash out there and painted the fence. Time passed, and when I was thirteen, I refused to go visit. Hadn’t spoken to him in fifteen years. Not until the day Grandma died. I wasn’t invited to the funeral. It hurt, but I knew why. I left the family. I drove all night to get there on time. When he came home, I had the bucket of whitewash ready to mend our broken fence.

🥕🥕🥕

Family Rift by Di @ pensitivity101

The Gap was like a hole in a fence, patched but forever failing.

‘The strength is in the surrounding support,’ the experts said.

Support indeed, carrying, lifting, holding, protecting, but still, The Gap remained.

In desperation, the family closed ranks, thinking erroneously they were helping by providing shelter and respite.

Their unity failed too as the recipient felt trapped, claustrophobic, judged, restricted and stifled, rebelling in anger, spite and bitterness.

So it was agreed to leave The Gap alone, maintain the remainder and leave the open wound to heal or fester. Time would tell and they would be waiting.

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Fence by Lady Lee Manila

This used to be our garden
We ran, spun and had fun
The old oak tree by the fence
Now the fence is broken and shun

We were brash and made lots of pretense
Quite rambunctious, please no offense
Running till we were all breathless
Between all of us, we had sixpence

The gate used to creak, no fuss
Playing hide and seek with us
Outside until we were tanned
The world was vast, was bonus

This used to be our dreamland
Played everywhere and the sand
We grew up fast, world expand
This was our fence, always grand

🥕🥕🥕

Crossover by Reena Saxena

Jamie Patel had just recovered from a stroke, but was asking for all forbidden foods since morning.

“Let’s celebrate, kids! I guess I survived to only see this day.”

His daughter-in-law faced redundancy in the office, and did not take kindly to his remark. He continued at a high pitch, sensing her mood,

“Check your portfolio. You can bid goodbye to that job of yours. Nifty has crossed the psychological barrier of 10000 today. The only way goes up.”

Jamie was the oldest broker of Dalal Street, and had seen humble beginnings. He had reached the summer of 2017.

🥕🥕🥕

Balancing the Butts by Geoff Le Pard

‘What are you doing, Morgan?’

‘Mending a fence.’

‘Who have you annoyed now?’

‘That’s a stupid expression, Logan. How does ‘mending a fence’ resolve a dispute? If you mend a fence, aren’t you just re-erecting some barrier?’

‘What if the fence is keeping something important in or dangerous out? Mending it would restore the balance.’

‘You know, the only reason you’d ever mend the bloody fence is to sit on it.’

‘There are times when you’re like a fence, Morgan.’

‘How so?’

‘If I spend much time with either of you, you both become a pain in the butt.’

🥕🥕🥕

Strong and Stable by Anne Goodwin

Some party! Guests hurled abuse across a bifurcating fence. But Theresa would get them dancing and use the wooden panels to erect a different fence. Strong and stable to keep the rabble out.

Sipping champagne, she waited for the guest of honour at the porticoed door. Behind her, the factions hollered, whacking each other with bits of broken fence. Theresa’s smile was equally wooden. Just high spirits, she’d tell the POTUS, when he finally arrived. Where was he?

She turned, flinching at the wreckage as Boris shook Donald’s hand. He’d certainly made an entrance, bulldozed through her precious fence.

🥕🥕🥕

A Fence by kate @ aroused

Many build fences to keep others out … boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.
Others build fences to keep loved ones and livestock in, wandering off considered a sin

Fences are constructed of various materials, some attractive others more practical but their purpose is clear to all. Demarcation their vocational call.

Gates can be kept tightly locked, under guard or opened to those of like mind.
But don’t be fooled by those gates coz some are real unkind!

Some mend fences while others are keen to tear them down.
What are your fences for … solicit smiles or a frown?

🥕🥕🥕

Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall by D. Avery

“En guarde, Pal!”

“Put that dang thing away Kid.”

“Foiled again. But Shorty says we’re to fence.”

“We’re ta mend fences Kid.”

“Oh. Didn’t know we had a problem Pal.”

“We’re fixin’ fences ‘round the Ranch.”

“What’s that fence there do, keep the garden from strayin’?”

“Keeps critters out.”

“What about that fence? That keep critters out?”

“No, that one keeps the cattle in, keeps ‘em from strayin’.”

“Oh. Like if they reckon they’s greener pastures on the other side a the fence.”

“Yep.”

“Seems like they’s two sides, in and out.”

“Yep.”

“Seems like that could give offense.”

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons

Buttons hold memories of mothers and grandmothers. They hold space for the unexpected links between life and death. They call for silence, to button up, or to relax and loosen a button.

Writers followed where the buttons led.

The following is based on the July 5, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes buttons.

PART I (10-minute read)

Idiomatic, No? by Chesea Owens

Who’s got the clasp; did they ask for the
Touch of a buckle? My knuckles are
Right on the hook, yet they look so
Bright as a catch and they’re snatched since becoming that
Cute as a zipper, so chipper.
Push my Velcro; I don’t know who’d
Press the panic fastener. The last nerd?
Well, bust my stud, ’twas a dud and
Belly lacing was encasing them all.

Yet

Knob pusher was shusher; he’d
Hasp up, the yup. I say:
Pin it, don’t win it; and
Snap your lip for the trip.

It’s a

Hot clip issue, you see.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic by Kay Kingsley

Her mother’s button box was beautiful and long with a brown paisley silk cover. The clasp was small and silver, perfect for her young fingers, the interior a soft satin pink, a suitable home for magic buttons.

And they were to her, at least. For hours she crouched on the floor beneath her mother’s sewing machine ordering them from big to small, shiny to matte, translucent to black.

It wasn’t until she was older that she realized maybe it wasn’t the buttons that were magic but the uninterrupted time she spent in her mother’s presence.

How she missed her.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by Anita Dawes

When I was five years old, I loved my rag doll with her blue pearly buttons for her eyes. I took her everywhere with me.

One day the eyes went missing. My brother Tommy had taken them for his shirt and I went mad trying to get them back.

Mum said she would buy new buttons for Tommy’s shirt and sew my ragdolls eyes back on again, but somehow she never got around to it.

On my 90th birthday, my granddaughter put two blue pearl buttons inside my card and had written. “Now your ragdoll can see you again…”

🥕🥕🥕

Pushing Buttons by Jack Schuyler

Tommy loved to push his sister’s buttons. The more he did it, the easier it became. Before, it took gum in her hair or garlic in her milk. Now, even the slightest sideways look could send her into a funk.

Tommy bulged his eyes and sucked in his cheeks. She glanced his way with a frown, but failed to catch his fishy face before it disappeared.

Tommy pulled back his lips and stuck out his tongue. This time she caught him.

“Tommy!” she wailed. Then she made her own face. It was red and tight and wrought with temper.

🥕🥕🥕

Precious as Gold by Norah Colvin

Two lads, reviewing the previous evening’s campfire conversation, dug stones from the bank, inspected each and competed to land one further in the creek.

“D’ya reckon there’s still gold here?”

“Dad says. Reckons someone found one this big.”

“But that’s ages ago.”

“So. Might be more.”

“What’d you do if you found some?”

“Easy. Buy a car, a yacht and a jet. How ‘bout you?”

He contemplated silently—a house of their own first, then for other homeless people too.

“Whoa. Look!”

“Gold!”

They sprinted back to camp.

“You struck gold all right—a gold button,” the adults laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Sadie’s Rescue by JulesPaige

The catalog provided a masterful display in the brevity of its pages. Satin edged sheets and pillow cases in a rainbow of colors, that one only needed money to buy.

She created her illusions and dreams with empathy and finesse. Knowing that any Cri De Coeur would never be heard by a real lover.

The central heat had been disconnected. The nostrum she had made to ease her chills would shatter like every other frozen pipe – Cold fingers rested on the gold tone buttons of her wool coat… Thankfully, the new neighbors weren’t afraid to check on old neighbors.

🥕🥕🥕

Button(s) by Deepika

Granny Ruth made the best cookies in the world. They were sweet, crunchy and filled with chocolate chips. Alice was staying at her grand-mother’s place for the holidays, and though she already had her share of cookies for the day, she wanted more. She had seen a cookie box on a table in Granny Ruth’s room, so she tiptoed in and tried to reach the box, pushing from the sides, for the box was too far from the edge of the table. The box fell and all she found were buttons, small, big, patterned and flower-shaped instead of cookies.

🥕🥕🥕

Full by Sarah Whiley

I placed my knife and fork together gently on the plate, and wiped my mouth with the fine linen napkin. I leant back in the chair and sighed a deep, contented breath.

As I exhaled, I felt uncomfortable pressure – my pants, digging into my rotund belly. I furtively glanced around the restaurant, sure that no one was watching, reached down and popped open the top button.

Out of nowhere, I heard a voice.

“Everything ok ma’am?” a waitress asked, as she cleared my empty plate. She looked pointedly at my stomach.

“Oh, yes,” I laughed, embarrassed, “Just full!”

🥕🥕🥕

“Winged Tiger” by Saifun Hassam

Outside the log cabin, Joey gazed at the groves of tall conifers in the early morning sunlight. A pair of great yellow eyes, like enormous buttons, studied him from the dense thick branches of a towering pine tree. The next moment a great horned owl rose into the clear skies like a winged tiger.

With trembling hands, Joey focused his camera. His right eye blurred with grateful tears. His left eye was damaged by a tumor. In his mind’s eye he saw the tiger owl. In his heart he was certain he would create wood carvings and engravings again.

🥕🥕🥕

Reluctant Hero by kate @ aroused

Fastening that top button on my shirt was a struggle in more ways than one. This was never planned or wanted. Yet Gladys looked so radiant in her outfit, I hadn’t seen that glow since she had the kids.

Knowing how much this meant to her was the boost I needed to continue. The kids couldn’t be here but they would see the video. Expected when they all live in different countries.

Seemed wrong to get an AO just because I did my job. Besides two of our unit didn’t make it home, so the mission wasn’t really successful.

🥕🥕🥕

The Doting Grandma by Anurag Bhakshi

Sitting alone in her ramshackle cottage, the old lady grumbled as she sewed torn buttons back onto a shirt.

“Boys these days,” she mumbled in frustration, “they fight like raccoons, and it is we who have to suffer.”

Her rickety fingers were not as nimble as they used to be, and the needle was looking blurred through her cataract-ridden eyes, but she’d promised this very shirt to her grandson, so she soldiered on.

If only,” she sighed, “that boy Ivan had allowed me to eat him peacefully, I would’ve gotten his shirt ready for my Baby Yaga ages ago.”

🥕🥕🥕

Selfishness: A Room of Her Own by magnoliajem

She softly closed her bedroom door, easing the doorknob lock into place. Silently, she slid open the top drawer. Gently pushing aside the pile of socks and undies, she carefully reached under the little shelf holding a jumble of wayward buttons, Girl Scout pins, and badges waiting to be sewn onto her sash. Pulling out the little pink book, she inserted the tiny gold key and sighed. “Dear Diary: Why do I feel so guilty, sneaking to be alone in my own room? I just want to write … ”

Behind her, Mother burst in. “So that’s where you hide it!”

🥕🥕🥕

Big and Shiny by Robert Kirkendall

“Now listen here, swine!” Claude bellowed with inflated self importance. “Now that I’ve put in charge of this department things are going to be different! There will be order!”

The employees looked at him blankly.

“First rule, my cubicle is off limits! Nobody enters my territory! Nobody messes with my stuff! You will respect my authority!”

The employees rushed Claude, tackled him, knocked down all his cubicle walls, overturned his desk, scattered his paperwork, and threw his laptop out the window.

“If you don’t anyone to push your buttons,” an employee reminded, “don’t make them so big and shiny.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which Morgan Questions The Basic Requirements Of A President by Geoff La Pard

‘It’s not stupid, Morgan. It’s very real. It has a name. Koumpounophobia.’

‘Cool. Why? They’re just buttons.’

‘Mum’s button box. All clicking and cascading as she looked for a match. One time…’

‘Is that why they say you’re buttoned up?’

‘Who says?’

‘No one. Well, those guys from the gym. You can be a bit, you know…’

‘What?’

‘Up yourself.’

‘Thanks.’

‘No, really, if you just…’

‘Button it, Morgan. You’re not helping.’

‘I bet they test Presidential candidates for koumpounophobia.’

‘Why?’

‘You wouldn’t want someone in charge of nuclear Armageddon whose terrified of buttons.’

‘You’re a moron, Morgan.’

‘Thanks.’

🥕🥕🥕

Closure by Reena Saxena

An auditor’s job has never been easy. One has to raise the right objections, make the right recommendations and not leave any point untouched. There could be pressure to keep the warts concealed from public view.

I believe in professional ethics, and writing each word of the audit report was a challenge in that organization.

I stitched and patched up all I could. The final cover was a professional shirt with special buttons – which acted as a closure, yet revealed enough to arouse curiosity and suspicion.

It was the job of the fraud investigators to take up from there.

🥕🥕🥕

Monkey’s Tummy by Miriamm Hurdle

Being self-employed is a luxury. Sam doesn’t set the alarm clock. He goes to the gym at 9:00 a.m. when people honk their way to the exit lane.

Looking at 16,000 columns and 895 rows of data make his eyesight fuzzy. The query narrowed it down to 90 columns and 75 rows.

Oh, no! He pressed a wrong button, missed one zip code. Doing it all over again. No one shares his stress. It’s time going to his laughing buddy.

A button on the monkey’s tummy he pushed. His hilarious is contagious. Sam can’t help but laugh with him.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by Susan Sleggs

The fabric artist examined her crazy quilt creation that had an outdoor theme. It needed some bling that would make it more interesting, but she couldn’t visualize anything working.

Her daughter Carrie came to her. “Mommy, will help me with my buttons?”

That was it! Buttons.

They had lunch then went shopping for buttons, not the button-your-blouse type, but the fun ones at the craft store. Carrie picked out trees, a bear, a moose and some birds.

Back home they had a sewing lesson; a child was never too young to learn how to correctly sew on a button.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Cheryl Oreglia

Boy, can she can push my buttons?

I walk into the family room, lean down to fold an abandoned blanket, and start collecting the empty glasses. The room is in shambles.

“Jesus Mom, can you relax, trying to watch a movie in-between your glass retrieval. It’s annoying”

“Pause the movie and help me tidy up? It’ll only take a minute.”

“Here. This might help. You leave and I’ll clean up later.”

“Deal,” I leave the room quickly, step out onto the deck, and close my eyes. Breath, just breath. Someday you’ll wish she was here, making messes, pushing buttons.

🥕🥕🥕

Different Buttons by Susan Sleggs

My cell rang. “Hi Mom.”

“Oh good, you’re home?”

“It’s the babies nap time. You knew I would be.”

“I just finished trimming the hedge and I’m exhausted. One of those Easy Buttons would help with that job. I won’t be able to lift my arms again today.”

“Mom, your hedge consists of five bushes.”

“I know, but I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“You’re starting to push my buttons, what do you want?”

“A dinner invite.”

“But aren’t your arms are too tired to hold the baby.”

“Maybe not that tired. I’ll bring ice cream.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dehumanizing by Peregrine Arc

“Press one to access your account…”

I pressed “1” dutifully on the telephone keypad. I bounced my knee in rhythm, watching the walkers pass by my window. My fingernails were chewed stubs.

“Please enter the last four numbers of your Social Security number…”

Poke, poke. I pressed the buttons, referencing a notepad. Silence while the computers talked to each other.

“We’re sorry, but we can’t access your records right now. Goodbye.”

I threw the phone down, cursing.

“What am I–a series of numbered buttons?!”

🥕🥕🥕

Disconnecting to Connect by Heather Gonzalez

I had nothing left to live for now that people no longer connect offline. I was basically a dinosaur. A generation before the need to connect digitally. So, when I saw the commercial for a way out, I knew I had to buy it.

I was surprised it came in such a tiny box. All that was inside was a red button. I took a deep breathe and then pushed it.

Everything shut down. I sat in the dark realizing how much technology I had relied on, but now I was finally free to connect to my life again.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Button It by oneletterup

“Button it,” the voice behind her said.

All she had done was tell him.

“No, I won’t…” she tried again.

“BUTTON IT.”

She strained to turn around, but he held her too tight. His breath stank. She smelled beer and cigarettes as he whispered in her ear “Button Your Damn Mouth Do You Hear Me?”

She tried to twist away, but his shaky hand now covered her mouth.

She spoke once more. “I will never go back to that…”

He ignored her. “I said Button It…”

She bit down hard. He howled and let go.

And then she ran.

🥕🥕🥕

Unbuttoned by D. Avery

“You’ve lost one of your buttons, and off that beautiful blouse.”

“Oh, I guess I have.” She glanced down at her rumpled shirt then at her younger sister, whose eyes were big, round tortoiseshell buttons. “At least Sissy has all hers.”

Her grandmother frowned. “Well, I should hope so. Anyway off to bed with you both.”

In the room they shared at the summer cottage Sissy now became the hero, gently helping her unmoving sister get ready for bed, speaking soothingly, her little fingers carefully unfastening each button, bravely ignoring the bruising. Silent tears rolled down both girls’ cheeks.

🥕🥕🥕

Unbuttoned Part 2 by D. Avery

“Girls! Breakfast!”

Sissy slipped silently into her seat, her lip quivering as she watched her sister ease carefully into her chair.

“What’s wrong with you?” her grandmother asked the older sister. “You’re lame this morning.”

The girls’ eyes met. “It’s nothing, Granma.”

“Sure looks like something. Are you two going to do more than poke your breakfasts?”
Sissy hiccupped. The older girl hissed at her younger sister. “Button it.”

But the little girl burst. “She wouldn’t let those boys at me Granma, she let me get away.”

Their grandmother made a phone-call before gathering them close, rocking and humming.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by Robbie Cheadle

Elsie and her sisters watched their mother prepare for the evening out. Mother took off her worn work overall. Elsie felt happy to see her mother without her old overall which had odd buttons. Buttons were hard to come by during the war, and her mother kept old and used buttons. When she broke or lost a button off her overall, she would even take a grey button off an old pair of men’s trousers which Elsie hated as it reminded her of the war and its horrors.

She imagined Hitler as an old witch all dressed in black.

🥕🥕🥕

Humility by Susan Sleggs

The humble soldier returned to his hotel room after being awarded the Medal of Honor. The President called him a hero because he had saved a few lives and his group had stopped the enemy from using their supply route for days.

As he unbuttoned his uniform he relived the scene as he did night and day; smelly dead bodies strewn around him, cries of pain from his own men and burned shells. Some hero; in the mirror he saw a murderer and a failure. He had killed theirs and not been able to save all of his own.

🥕🥕🥕

And We Dropped to Our Knees…by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It arrived by nighthawk, the final ingredient to heal our planet, corrupted to near-extinction.

Maeve gripped the tiny blue button, chanting:
“First drop of rain, seed in the shell,
Night incantations will do us quite well.
Magical potion, dream-seeming mad,
I swear on this drear day, we shall be made glad.
Drop the blue button, Cauldron’s bright spell,
Blood of Medici, Machiavellian tell.
Goddess Compassion, hear my plea,
As we do pray it, so mote it be.”

A shock wave rolled over the barren plain, unrolling a carpet of bluebells carrying the trill of pond life and buzzing bees.

🥕🥕🥕

Walking Home by Faith Colburn

When my grandma Mae was a young wife, living in Akron, elastic had not yet been invented. She said she was walking home from buying groceries, past the local tavern, both arms loaded with groceries, when the buttons on her underwear popped. She said she hesitated for only a brief moment, glancing at the men lounging against the light poles and stumbling on the street. She never knew if her buttons came unbuttoned or if they popped off—because she simply stepped out of her underpants and walked the rest of the way home, leaving them on the sidewalk.

🥕🥕🥕

Button Stories by Deborah Lee

She’s dreaming, but she can hear them rattling inside the powder box. Grandma’s button box. She feels them between her fingers, sees them with her dream-eyes. Bone ones, feather-light carved wood ones, painted china ones, cloth-covered ones. Stamped brass and pearly shell.

They used them as coins for betting, learning arithmetic playing “21.” They played a bastardization of marbles and tiddlywinks with them. But she loved it most when

“This one came off your Great-Aunt Alice’s wedding suit. She married a rake, let me tell you, we all thought he’d never be more than a fancyman…”

🥕🥕🥕

Dorset Buttons – Saving a Lost Craft by Gordon Le Pard

Lady Lees couldn’t stop looking at it, a large, button, unlike any she had ever seen before, it seemed to have been created by sewing. The farmer’s wife, saw where she was looking.

“Funny old button isn’t it. They used to make them Shaftesbury way, but no one knows how to make them anymore. Have it.” She bent, and cut it from her apron.

She sought out more buttons, and at last a frail old lady, who said.

“Buttony, of course my dear.” And picked up a needle and a tiny brass ring. The lost craft was saved.

The true tale of how the craft of Buttony, making Dorset Buttons, was saved.

🥕🥕🥕

Bonanza Use for Recycling Buttons by JulesPaige

Yard sale buys are bargains true, but not all the pieces came with the multi-layered game. Missing checkers, no problem – got a box from another sale somewhere.Same with chess pieces – no black to whites counterpart.

Snakes and Ladders, Chinese Checkers, Checkers, and Chess along with a modified Parcheesi board too. Old Maid and Go Fish decks also double six dominoes are all good to go. There is Solitaire and Mancala too.

Dice are also an easy replacement, but what to do for Backgammon – fifteen dark, fifteen light discs needed. Dark and light round buttons! Yes, they will do.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttoned by FloridaBorne

With a half-smile, the hallmark of her uncertainty, she reached into an old jewelry box for a series of shell buttons attached by plastic fishing line. He recognized it as a necklace by clasps that screwed together at the end.

“I made this for my mother when I was 10,” she said proudly.

“Looks like it, too,” he snickered.

“You have the face of an angel,” she said.
He bent down to kiss her, she pulled away. Opening her front door she said, “This isn’t going to work.”

“Why?”

No use explaining how badly he’d failed the button test.

🥕🥕🥕

Drowning by Kayuk

The door slams as I drown under the weight of another misunderstanding.

How did this happen? Why? Five minutes ago we were smiling then…the storm blew out and the empty house surrounded me….

I sighed and moved to the bedroom. A pile of mending waited next to the rocker and my hands were as empty as my heart so I sat down, picked up a pair of his shorts, and began to sew the button back on.

Now, here I sit, looking down at the mended shorts in my hands, wondering why relationships can’t be as easy to heal.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by The Dark Netizen

He loved collecting buttons. He called himself a collector, and he was right in doing so.

His collection was quite vast, and quite varied. It boasted of buttons of different colours, shapes, and sizes. It contained buttons from all the parts of the world – Europe, Asia, The Americas, and of course his very own India. However, he was finicky about the condition of the buttons after he procured them. He made sure to give them a wash right before framing them in his private collection.

Afterall, buttons stolen from the clothing of murdered tourists, tend to be unclean.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero’s Nightmare by Miriam Hurdle

“Kevin, you look handsome in your uniform.”

“Thank you.”

“I like to have a copy of your photo with your autograph.”

“No, that’s okay.”

“You gave one to your mum, but you don’t hang it in your home.”

“She asked for one, I respected her wishes.”

“Did Sarah want to hang up your uniform photo?”

“She didn’t ask.”

“Look at all the large and small buttons across your chest to your shoulder. They are gorgeous. You’re a hero.”

“It’s not what you think.”

“What do you mean?”

“Each one tells a nightmare and I don’t want to be reminded.”

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by Eric Pone

Ono played with the buttons on her husband’s shirt. He sat on the patio staring off into the wilderness. She had served as his planning lead when they were in the military. He had been all of 14 then. Who appoints a child as a military officer? He had performed brilliantly though but it was all catching up to him now. She smelled the shirt. The night sweats were still there. And the hole in the wall there. She thumbed her phone. He needed help she could not provide. He deserved help, she deserved peace.

🥕🥕🥕

[angst] by Dawn Whittam

As far as it went he was great, he could tap dance, he could sing.  He played the guitar with flare, he could quote Shakespeare, walk dogs while drinking coffee and express himself in five different languages simultaneously.

Woman sighed when he walked past, men glared at him with envy in their hearts, children hung on his every word … all adored him but one.

She knew his secret, he knew what he feared, she was him Mother and to her he was far from perfect.

She had tried everything to change him … but he still feared buttons.

🥕🥕🥕

Raising a Man by April Waldron

Mommy wants to offer snaps but to become a man, he has to learn to use buttons. His hands are small and the process is difficult. How it hurts a mother’s heart to watch him struggle. But the point of learning to use buttons is to overcome the struggle he will face as a child and as a man. She knows that throughout the years, she can’t step in and fasten all of his buttons in life. So, she watches his tiny hands fumble in hopes that the hands of the man won’t have to. A Mother’s boundless love.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by Ritu Bhathal

“Sally, love, can you come over ‘ere and give us a hand? These blasted buttons are giving me gyp again today.”

“It’s alright dad.” Nimble fingers made light work of the buttons on the old uniform jacket Frank Beaumont wore every year on Remembrance Sunday. A job her mother used to do. “There!”

Sally flashed a smile at her father, before turning away, tears welling up.

It had been over sixty years since he was last able to do his own buttons up, having lost the digits of both hands whilst serving his country.

Her dad, a true hero.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttons by Frank Husebye

Ryan held the hand-carved applewood buttons. They each had four tiny holes like real buttons.

“Your Uncle Thomas made them for me.” Ryan returned the buttons to his great aunt. He couldn’t see why anyone would have made them.

“He made my wedding dress as well.” Ryan thought that was as odd as those buttons.

“We bought a cake and two rings. I had flowers for my hair.” He heard the story before.

“I forgave him.” Ryan listened. He hadn’t heard that part.

“For dying so young.” He had heard that part.

“I feel him visit me every day.”

🥕🥕🥕

In the Silent Places We Hide (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni didn’t want the buttons. They sat in a jar on her shelf by a faded photo. The night Michael accused her of hoarding artifacts, he didn’t mention old buttons. Today, he asked.

“Mom’s,” she answered, looking away, sitting on the floor.

Michael opened the jar and poured them into his hand. “Sacred.”

After he left, the house echoed ghosts – the mother she never knew, Ike’s booming voice, the dogs barking. She smashed that jar, buttons and glass scattering like those she had loved.

Picking up the pieces, button by button, she resolved to quit hiding in the house.

🥕🥕🥕

PART III (5-minute read)

Tilly’s Parting Gift by Anne Goodwin

Finding the button in the drawer, Henry was six again. He licked the grooves, but he couldn’t taste her. He sniffed the Bakelite, but couldn’t smell her. He smoothed the underside across his cheek, but couldn’t touch her. Still he remembered her folding his fingers around it moments before she left.

Henry’s shoulders sagged. Even in those austere times, a button was a shabby gift for a small boy.

Yet his memory insisted. Tilly crouching in the hallway, her brown suitcase alongside. Entreating him to keep the button safe until her return.

Fifty years on, he was still waiting.

🥕🥕🥕

Stoic Silence by JulesPaige

Claire never really got to know Antoinette, who never used American phraseology when a foreign or sophisticated word would do. When Antoinette wanted quite she wouldn’t use the term ‘Button it’ or put a pretend key to her mouth, or run two fingers across her lips for quiet.

“Écouter” is what Antoinette would say. If Claire was sitting at a table the pinkie and pointer fingers of both her hands had to rest by the first joints on its edge. It was too bad though, that Antoinette never listened herself. Maybe the
Step-mother and Step-daughter could have been friendlier?

🥕🥕🥕

Mum and Dad on Buttons by Di @ pensitivity101

Buttons of every colour,
Size and shape, and holes
Twos and fours or mushrooms,
Lay hidden in the folds.
Mum had always loved them,
Would save them from an old shirt,
Put them on baby matinee coats,
Or extra to hold up her skirt.
Dad would often hug her
And cheekily give her a kiss
Then handing over a button
Say ‘Sew a shirt on this.’
If ever we were naughty,
She’d tell us to button our lip
Amidst threats of the alternative
Of putting in a zip!

God, how I miss them both and their sense of humour.

🥕🥕🥕

Passing on the Love by Teresa Grabs

When Elizabeth was a little girl and her family lived in the one-room sod house, her father made all her play things. Her favorite was one of Mother’s buttons in the middle of a string. She would flip the string over and over then watch the button spin as she moved the string closer together and farther apart.

She lived with her granddaughter, Katie, and her family for seven years until she passed. Every so often Katie or one of her daughters will find a button laying on the floor or attached to a string. Grandma Liz saying hello.

🥕🥕🥕

Spotlight by Wallie and Friend

This was it. The moment she had been waiting for.

Grace stood looking into the mirror. Her hair was brushed. Her lips were painted. It was a picture-perfect reflection. In the next room she could hear the other band members laughing, teasing. It seemed like an impossible dream that they had gotten this far.

Her face was so solemn, like the face of a Victorian schoolteacher. Her eyes were like wide dark pools. Grace studied that serious, tense face. She was buttoned to the throat. She undid the top button at her collar, just so, and managed a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Panic Button by Patrick O’Connor

Working with technology can be stressful, especially when you are the one tasked with fixing it when it isn’t working correctly.

Some people handle the stress easily while others become anxious. After all, everyone from co-workers to management wants to know when it’s going to be fixed.

Having people stand over your shoulder just aggravates the situation more.

That’s when I had the great idea to create something that would help with the stress.

I created a portable “Panic Button” to share with anyone who was stressed.

It’s amazing what a little laughter can do to help exasperating situations.

🥕🥕🥕

The Little Drummer Boy by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

The boy hid near a copse of trees. All around him, the sound of gunfire sputtered and pinged. Tears stinging, he pulled the drum closer, waiting for a new command from the general so he could muster the troops.

Scared, he slipped his hand into his pocket and fingered the buttons he had cut from the coats of the enemy. Each button represented a win. He had survived the battles and lived to beat the drums to victory.

Until today. When the men found him the little drummer boy gripped a sting of dirty buttons—his legacy of death.

🥕🥕🥕

Peace by Jan Malique

Buttons. They pressed his regularly without fail. This had been occurring for years. His soul had been worn down to almost nothing.

Some of the buttons were stuck, the wording on others had worn away and some had disappeared, vanished without a sound.

Yet, he still functioned but at a cost. The angel watching him laid a gentle hand on his arm. It was time to heal and receive new buttons. Ones no one would be able to touch.

Light flowed from the angel to the man. He sighed deeply as the healing transformed him on all levels. Peace.

🥕🥕🥕

Buttonholed by D. Avery

“Buttons ain’t nuthin, without the buttonhole, Kid. Even less without needle an’ thread. Without those, buttons are useless discs, mere baubles. Their usefulness and purpose are dependent on the passage and tension provided by the buttonhole.”

“What’s wrong with baubles? Some folks use buttons as decoration, jewelry even.”

“Same folks keep their pants up with the yin and yang of button and buttonhole.”

“Huh. Ya know, Pal, some a yer yang is startin’ ta hang. So much yin ya cain’t keep it in. Thinkin’ yer buttons are strainin’ in their role.”

“Yeah, these buttons have become heroic, never buckling.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sketches

Captured quickly at the moment, a sketch can linger. It teases the mind with what has been included, as well as left out by the artist. But who is the artist? The one who creates a visual on the page or writes the vision imagined in the mind?

Writers took to their sketchbooks this week to draw stories of those who draw. Enjoy the resulting sketches.

June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch.

PART I (10-minute read)

Rainy Day Sketches of a Very Small Village by Bill Engleson

There are two tables and five chairs on the General Store porch.

The location affords a front row seat on not much.

I relish looking at not much.

A delivery truck departs.

Chips.

Our community eats a ton of chips.

I certainly do my bit.

Bite?

There’s no late June morning sun.

Sprinkles nip the air.

“It’s like autumn,” she moans.

“So, you want to leave?”

“Too cold to people watch. Let’s go home. Check on Trump.”

I grimace, say, “Can’t beat cold weather people gawking. You go. Besides, Trump aggravates my hemorrhoids.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Maybe. Tell them that.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sketches by Anita Dawes

Looking for something to inspire me, I took a walk through our local flea market and fell in love with a half-finished sketch of a young woman lying on a grave.
I was about to ask how much, when a man standing beside me, said ‘It’s sad but lovely, isn’t it?’

My heart jumped so hard I thought I would join the woman at the graveside.
I turned to see who had spoken, but there was no one standing beside me.
The price was just £40 because it was unfinished work.
Holding it, I could see my grandmother’s signature…

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Jan Malique

The artist’s model sat on the chair, her face reflecting a series of emotions. The sketch was infused with pathos and great delicacy. He had captured her sense of sadness, the yearning to be her true self. His hand had traced the lines of her face with such artistry and, love.

Love, what a loaded word. They always seemed to fall in love with her. She was Galatea to their Pygmalion. A dream glimpsed in marble and paint. Forever out of reach. Alas, unlike Pygmalion, Aphrodite hadn’t answered his prayers. This Muse was strictly off-limits, for everyone.

🥕🥕🥕

Muse Mother by H.R.R. Gorman

My mom taught me she had a superpower: any picture, from a grand work of art to a doodle on the fridge – could transport her.  A wave of her hand and she could travel back in time, speak with the artist, and return instantly to entertain me with the tale.

As I got older, I realized she couldn’t do magic.  Her power was a wealth of art history knowledge and a sensitivity to visual media.  I confronted her about the lie.

She gave me a half-smile and filled up my lemonade.   “Leonardo will be disappointed to find that out.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sketchy Perceptions by Norah Colvin

He sketched the outline with chalk then filled in the details, outside-in. Curious passers-by gathered as the image emerged. Was the artist a paid entertainer or busker earning a buck? Some pushed coins into children’s hands to add to the chalk-drawn cap. When satisfied with his work, the artist stood in its centre and tossed the cap and contents high. As they fell, he spread his arms and disappeared into the painting. Perplexed on-lookers reported different perceptions. Many said he plummeted into darkness. Some said he flew on gold-tipped wings. Others described him simply as absorbed by his art.

🥕🥕🥕

Topsy Turvy by Juliet Nubel

The audience watched in silence as the artist swept huge strokes of white paint onto the black canvas.

They were intrigued to see this man on stage. His act was far removed from the befrocked dancing poodles and gangly prancing singers.

The sketch was taking shape, gradually becoming a beautifully abstract snowy landscape, accomplished in three minutes flat.

As the clapping began, he turned the canvas on its head, revealing the unmistakable face of Albert Einstein.

A loud gasp filled the air.

The artist smiled as his message rang loud: look at things differently and all will become clear.

🥕🥕🥕

The Flower by Sarah Whiley

It was the same sketch every time.
A stem.
Two leaves.
Scribbly petals.
All culminating to form a rudimentary flower.

For as long as I could remember, this was the “bored” doodle that I defaulted to.

I briefly wondered why.

I sighed a barely contained, deep exhalation, attempting to communicate the need for a break.

Why was it, that teacher professional development, all about the importance of engagement and best practice, used the exact opposite to inform its audience?

I looked up, hopeful, as the presenter paused.

Disappointingly, she promptly launched into the next diatribe.

Time for another flower…

🥕🥕🥕

An Urban Truth by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He shambles out of the park, swaying side-to-side, shyly dominating the Midtown sidewalk. Sun glints in his blonde-bronze pelt, furry toes squashing—or shall we say “squatching”?—his platform flip-flops.

Not that he needs the extra height. At 6’ 10’’, he towers over everyone he passes, including the tiny Russian grandma and her yappy little dog.
He hears a snatch of French Zydeco from a hipster coffee shop, and hops a quick shuffle and turn. He smiles, tipping his head to the babushka. Hot sun glints off his blinding canines.

She nods. They’re old friends, Sasquatch and Baba Yaga.

🥕🥕🥕

Beware the Man in Gray Teresa Grabs

The man in gray traveled alone. Always alone. He never stayed long in one town and never carried more than his sketch book and pencil that never seemed to whittle down to nothing no matter how many sketches he made. News traveled fast in these parts. Stories about the man in gray in the dead he leaves in his wake. Women in Empty Gulch saw him coming first and hollered for their children. Shutters slammed shut as he made his way through town. The miners quaked watching him sit down under the oak tree and open his sketch book.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s the Eyes by Wallie and Friend

There was no mistaking her pursed lips. It was always dangerous when she frowned at her own work. But for the last week, Annie hadn’t looked at her sketchbook any other way.

He asked what was the matter. It was an innocent question. He didn’t expect to be confronted with his own body.

“Technically, it’s perfect,” she said.

He didn’t know anything about art, and as embarrassing it was to see himself in graphite, he wasn’t about to argue.

His wife’s lips pursed again. She looked hard at his face.

“It’s the eyes. I just can’t capture your eyes.”

🥕🥕🥕

Assault in the Forest by Anurag Bakhshi

The sketch artist looked at me skeptically.

“You are saying the assault occurred without provocation?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” I replied unhesitatingly, “I was just walking home, minding my own business, when…”

The sketch artist shook his head and continued, “And you’re sure you didn’t see a face? I need something so that we can send out a BOLO.”

I screwed up my eyes in consternation, trying to grasp at that fleeting memory….the forest…the axe….

And as I finally remembered everything, I shouted,”It was a human female. She was riding a bicycle, and was wearing a red hood.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sketchy b FloridaBorne

A hospital bed elevated her upper body. One son took Lorna’s hand. Too weak to pull away, she tried ignoring the unwanted touch.

Strange the things a writer remembers. One of them was her mother’s plea to save “her children,” framed sketches of family life and childhood home, now tucked away in Lorna’s storage shed.

“Now I understand, mom,” Lorna whispered.

“What did you say?” Her son asked.

“Make sure my editor gets my books published.”

Her sons snickered, the same way she had when she’d said the same words to her mom, “We’ll take good care of them.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Sketch of Jessamine by Lady Lee Manilla

A sketch from a brother who loves her so
She who left us so early in her life
Siblings she left and grew long time ago

Let her soul be in peace in afterlife
Remember her poems, paintings, and art
Singing and dancing, seeing the wildlife

Her memories lingered on in our hearts
Her brother and sister are doing well
Sang like angel, played piano like Mozart

Jessamine was her name, our belle
Legacy of faith, love, and fun
She moved like she was a gazelle

She brought the light to us like sun
Treasured every moment with her

🥕🥕🥕

Picturing Us by Sascha Darlington

I have sketched us in charcoal on stark white. I have obliterated lines, assuaged others. The charcoal coats my fingertips, chin, and cheeks. Lines become blurred as I adjust, change, smooth angles. Your eyes, your smile are not right. I sketch you again, and somehow, my own image becomes fragmented, disjointed, a smear of darkness. Frustrated, I draw myself. Yet, when I peer into the mirror, my eyes haunt me, but I cannot convey this on paper despite my attempts. Ignoring the mirror, I start again. You and me, side-by-side, but somehow, despite numerous iterations, we never come together.

🥕🥕🥕

Raw Romance by kate @ aroused

Felt the need to retreat from every day life,
Check in with myself to see what caused strife

Emotional up and downs yet silence was profound
Words flowed unstoppable, expression without sound

Found my true love residing deep within
Not voicing those words would be a real sin

Our loving connection is like most romances
We have moments but then draw even closer

Soul mates forever, passion can’t be denied
Weaving words to share what’s deep inside

Blogging an outlet for those who wish to spy
On our raw relationship bared for all without lie

Words ignite emotions and unite!

🥕🥕🥕

A Delicate Erasure? by JulesPaige

Stan wasn’t sure what to make of this woman. A Pen-pal who was sketchy at best. He knew she was married. Why did her husband disappear for weeks at a time. Was the gent in the service? Must be hard when there wasn’t any
family around and young children to raise.

While he knew it was a copy – the drawing of her hand, her wedding band clearly displayed, was placed in an envelope for him to open. Had he wanted more?

Then as Stan got involved with local woman. Written exchanges became less frequent. And eventually, correspondence stopped completely.

🥕🥕🥕

Woman Reading by Anne Goodwin

Her province’s a palace, a kitchen, a farm,
the White House, a rocket, a sty.
She’s a thousand years old, she’s black, and she’s white,
she’s a phantom long dead or unborn.
She’s shackled and swayed in the bowels of a boat;
she’s blessed with the freedom to roam.
She’s a boxer, a banker, a beggar, a boy;
a cleric, a cleaner, a crow.
Her lip curls or curves, she wrinkles her brow,
she laughs, wipes a tear from her eye.
Her vista refreshed with each turn of the page;
she’s a citizen of everywhere, a reader, she’s me.

🥕🥕🥕

Memory Scars by Patrick O’Connor

The call came in after 9pm and interrupted movie night with my daughters.
My doctor called to tell me I had a brain tumor. I’ve never been so shocked in my life.
The emotions associated with that phone call are etched forever in my memory.
There was a flurry of activity that took place to find the right doctor for the surgery. Six months later, I landed in Los Angeles to get the best care I could find around the country.

Four years after that, I created a sketch of my head scar. I titled it “Scarred Not Broken.”

🥕🥕🥕

Part II (10-minute read)

A Neighbor by D. Avery

We’ve met before on this lake. She’s a big one. Today she’s lazing just underneath the surface, her mossy plated shell a hub for four bumpy, clawed legs that dangle beneath her, for the spiny leathery tail ruddered behind, for her massive craggy beady-eyed beak-tipped head. She dives then comes back to the surface, sticking her snout out of the water, taking air in through flared nostrils. Seeing me, she swims silently away. I feel she’s ancient, wonder at her long life, but cannot begin to say what she thinks or feels. Out of respect, I don’t even try.

********

The Sketch Artist by D. Avery

“Okay, let’s begin,” Officer Mills said, sketch pad in hand.

“He had a round face, with brown eyes.”

“No, describe him. Did he harbor a storm in his eyes? Did his past linger at the edges of his unspoken thoughts?”

“Umm, he was tall… about six foot four.”

“Six foot four?! How tall was he? We need a sketch. Was he simply tall like a tree, or did he walk in that head hunched way that tall people do, ducking through doorways, folding into cars?”

“I don’t know! You’re just writing words! Where’s the sketch artist?”

“Right here, literally.”

***************

Heaven Knows by D. Avery

“Didn’t think it’d be like this. I always heard it was more like a movie, you know, your life replayed for you.”

“I was surprised too. A pile of sketches they hand you. Your own sketches.”

“So, you have to go back too?”

“Ha, you bet I do. Any of us with these skinny little sketchbooks have to retrain and go back for another lifetime. Next time, I’m going to make more time for sketching. For etching deeds and memories.”

“Yeah, they say if you get here with good stories to tell you’re all set.”

“Heaven knows, that’s life.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Sketch of Rock Creek by Charli MIlls

From the barn, you can see across the draw that is Rock Creek. Wagon ruts remain visible on both sides. David Colbert “Cobb” McCanless built a toll bridge across the deep cut. He arrived at this road station along the Oregon Trail in March of 1859. Family denies that a woman, not his wife came with him, but records show her signature as his bookkeeper. His wife and children arrived from North Carolina in September 1859. The women know what happened when two years later a young Wild Bill Hickok shot Cobb. But no one thought to ask them.

🥕🥕🥕

Escape Cave by Paula Moyer

Sixth grade, spring of 1964. Another homework assignment, staring Jean in the face. She couldn’t make herself do it. It would never be good enough for Mrs. O’Neal.

The box of crayons – “64 colors.” The pad of sketch paper, a hobby store gift. Both sang to her, and soon Jean was drawing. The thing almost drew itself.

The cavern appeared in sketch after sketch. An inverted “V” opened to a secret place with pastel walls, alternating blues, and pinks. Oh, secret, soft cave. Safe cave.

If only this place were real, Jean thought. Mrs. O’Neal would never find me.

🥕🥕🥕

Eulogy for Aunt Tillie by Nancy Brady

I remember Aunt Tillie affectionately although she preferred my sisters Sally and Connie more. I think she liked me more once I began wearing glasses. Aunt Tillie was a bit silly, even odd. She always wore dresses and slippers. She loved food, especially collard greens, and haddock, but food had to be served on a platter. She loved puppies and kittens, too, but her favorite pet was her guppy, Freddie. She would watch him swimming around all afternoon long. She was an accountant. Bookkeeping was her life, but she was happiest when reading books, her favorite being Atlas Shrugged.

🥕🥕🥕

Traveling the Hayfields with Pop by Roger Shipp

Humping down the stairs and around the backyard, Pop, his cane waggling in front being used to scatter the beagle and the three strays more than for maintaining any semblance of balance, was headed toward the chariot… a ‘62 Valiant… and into the hayfields.

I raced beside him knowing there was no waiting.

Opening the door, I swung from the roof into the backseat.

“Wait!” I bellowed. My fingers had not released from the roof before Pop had slammed the door.

Exasperated, Pop opened and shut the door. Hard.

“Next time, get’ya whole self in.”

And off we went.

🥕🥕🥕

Sad Regrets by Susan Sleggs

The devastating, but expected call came just before six-o-clock, her father was dead.
The Uber could only get within two blocks of the extravagant condo high rise because downtown streets were blocked for a jazz festival.

She entered the building with feelings in check and said her goodbyes. The music drew her to the balcony where a large sketch book lay on a table. She sat and opened it.
Sketch after sketch of the street below from each year of the festival. She was in each one but had never been there. Regrets swept her; she should have been.

🥕🥕🥕

The Sketch by Eric Pone

Ducky stared at the paper and slowly drew out the neighborhood as he remembered it. He included the storefront the gang used for cover. He drew the small storefront church that was next to it. And he included the trees and other details that struck him. He also drew the little girl who had died in his friend’s arms from a drive-by shooting. “They actually targeted a child…”He got up and lit his first cigarette and thought through what he was considering. He looked out at the harbor and considered the thousand who would die with that nuke.

🥕🥕🥕

“The Psychologist” by Goldie

Another patient.

“I’m Sergeant Phillips. This is Ivy.” – he announced walking in and led the blind girl to the sofa.

Ivy was a witness to a homicide when she was 5 years old. She hid, while her family got brutally murdered.

“Do you want her to sketch the assailant?”

I looked at him wondering how a blind girl could describe, much less draw a suspect.

As she drew, the sketch became apparent.

I slowly looked up at the sergeant, but his gaze was already fixed on me.

“She lost her sight in an accident a couple of years ago.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sketching Uncertainty by David Wesley Woolverton

Isabelle studied her sketch of her newly found mother. It’d felt almost unearthly to finally draw the woman who’d been a mystery for so long. The eyebrows still weren’t quite right, though. There was also too much white space beside her, demanding a sketch of the still-unknown father. She lowered the pencil to sketch how she imagined he looked, but fantasy would look wrong next to reality. She forced herself to start the circle for the face but stopped half way. In the end, she turned the semi-circle into a question mark and put down the pencil.

🥕🥕🥕

Raw Draw by JulesPaige

Emma had enjoyed art classes in High School. So taking one in college seemed the right thing to do. It was after all the easels were set up and the charcoal sticks were distributed that the professor called in the model they were to sketch. This was a preliminary exercise that was not going to be graded. Any style would be accepted.

In waltzed Randy. Emma knew him from watching him practice soccer on campus. She, however, was not expecting him to disrobe… while all the students were adults. Young Emma wondered if she was the only one blushing.

🥕🥕🥕

Sketches of Love by Kay Kingsley

Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain played in the background as I poured us another glass of Barolo. With a charismatic smile, he turned dinner into an art form.

All the burners were going, the fan on full blast, steam from the pots flushed his cheeks, his stripped apron danced along with him.

As he danced the moment slowed softening its edges along with the lighting and I was aware that this was an ordinary moment I would cherish forever. The next time someone would ask when was it that I knew I loved him, this moment would be it.

🥕🥕🥕

Beautiful Portrait by Kerry E.B. Black

Young, beautiful, filled with a blend of self-belief and doubt, your expectations of the world dazzle you, terrify me.

I remember staring into the future at your age. I, too pictured flashing lights and red carpets, a mansion of admirers and contented philanthropy.

I suppose I’m in the future, and the artist did not sketch the lines as I imagined. Frayed edges and smudges mar success, but I see the beauty in the simple design.

From its frayed brushstrokes came you.

🥕🥕🥕

A Hospital Sketch by Gordon Le Pard

‘I will bring a sketch’, he said.

The train left Bristol, maximum speed, the genius on board could command anything. But now he would be tested to the limit.

‘A hospital, prefabricated, weatherproof, well ventilated, easily heated’, designed by the time he reached London. By Bath he had the idea, by Swindon he was drawing, in London he rushed to her house, papers in hand.

“Mr Brunel”, Miss Nightingale.”

“Perfect, this is more than a sketch. When can you have them ready? The ship sails in six weeks.”

“They will be ready in five.”

They saved hundreds of lives.

🥕🥕🥕

Forensic Sketch by Chelsea Owens

“You say the perpetrator was female?

“That’s right.”

“And had dark eyes?”

“Yes, and dark hair. No bangs. Not very thick. Or curly.”

“Mmm-hmmm.” *scrrritchh* “Tell me about her face shape. Would you say she had a long face, fat, skinny…?”

“Oh, not fat. Long, pale, serious.”

*shhhushh* *scrrrratch* “How about the eyes? Dark, yes -but were they large?”

“No. She had small eyes. Close together.”

“Mmmm. And, mouth? Nose? Ears?”

“Umm, very small mouth and long, thin nose. Ears -medium?”

*scrrrrtch* *scrrratch* *shhhhsh* “Hm. Ma’am?”

“Yes?”

“This looks like you.”

“Yes, well. I am my own worst enemy.”

🥕🥕🥕

Who Gets In by Susan Sleggs

“I’ve never laughed so much at a sketch in my life. The make-up on St. Peter made him look 1000 years old.”

“Can you imagine some woman with big boobs actually telling him they were her reason to be invited into heaven because they were God’s gift and he would enjoy seeing them regularly? I wonder if they were real?”

“And a toilet at the gates of heaven. It didn’t even look odd sitting there or for the Queen to flush it.”

“And a royal flush beats a pair, so the Queen was granted admittance. Ya gotta love it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Odd Rancher Out by D. Avery

“Why’re ya askin’ me what the ranch looks like, Kid?”

“I wanna sketch the ranch. Ain’tcha been here yer whole life? Who else should I ask?”

“Ya could ask anyone includin’ yerself, Kid. We all see it. How ya see it is how it is.”

“Huh. Reckon we all see it kinda the same. On account of it bein’ so ironic.”

“I think ya mean iconic.”

“Yeah. It’s a hoot though, ain’t it Pal? Folks from aroun’ the world can come here an’ be a buckaroo, git their old west on. Be literary oddests.”

“Artists, Kid.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”

***
Don’t Take Yer Guns Ta Town by A. Kidd

The scene an old west town, façaded building, lined dusty street, wooden sidewalks, horses tied up outside the saloon where cider flows like whiskey which flows like water. Trouble simmering like the shimmering high noon sun.

An over-eager wannabe steps out of the saloon to face the notorious Nemmy Cyss. Who would draw fastest? Whose aim would be true?

“No! Kid, what are you doin’? Yer not s’posed ta be drawin’ sixguns!”

“Well, Pal, I know it seems sketchy, but Shorty said ta draw an’ so I figgered…”

“No, read agin, Kid, yer ta sketch. With words.”

“Oh. Shoot.”

***
In Line, Outta Tune by D. Avery

“This ranch is yer ranch, this ranch is my ranch, from the cookhouse griddle, ta the windswept prairie!”

“Jeez Pal, yer outta tune.”

“Wrong again, Kid, I’m in tune, in tune with this here ranch. Don’t it jist produce an’ provide! Yep, Shorty sure works fer us.”

“Works fer us? Ain’t Shorty boss?”

“Hardest workin’ boss a ranch hand could ever work for, Kid.”

“Yer right, Pal.”

“All we have ta do is play with words, an’ we don’t even Have ta do that.

“I shovel shit.”

“An’ yer full of it. Now git ta work an’ go play.”

🥕🥕🥕

June 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

My hand races across the page and I sketch the scene unfolding — Suomi dancers in blue aprons and kerchiefs over white-blond hair circle around, stepping in time to violins. To my left I’m vaguely aware of the large brick structure that once served as a high school and now classrooms to Finlandia University. Its bricks offer a backdrop of ghostly students, sons, and daughters of copper miners.

A shadow crosses my sketch, and a person asks, “Are you an artist?”

“Yes,” I answer glancing from dancers to page. I scribble a bit more, shade less, and turn the page to capture another scene.

“Can I see?”

I pause. The spell has broken, I’m now firmly aware of the rush of sights and sounds beyond the dancers. I’m at the Hancock Tori. The local farmers and craft market. A jewelry maker hawks carved stone beside me and a Calumet couple cut fresh microgreens for $3 a bag. My neighbor Cranky displays her collection of antique hand-crank sewing machines. Across the green from us, painters set up tents with scenes of Lady Lake Superior.

“Sure,” I say, handing over my sketchbook.

The man holds my raw art committed hastily to blank pages recycled from a dump on the East Coast. His eyebrows scrunch, and he shakes his head. “It’s just words,” he says.

I’m a literary artist. A writer. A novel-drafter. A publisher of weekly collections and annual anthologies. I flash, and I write for the long-haul of longer trains of words. I’m a story-teller, a story-catcher, a story-forger. I am an artist, and I sketch with words.

Years ago, in high school, I had a mentor who told me to carry sketchbooks. I had no trouble catching the wingspan of a hawk or the gurgle of a spring. Deer didn’t give me odd looks if I stared too long at their rumps or horns, figuring out how either end could feature in a tale.

But when I was among people, I felt self-conscious of observation. I didn’t enjoy thinking about the length of someone’s hair in relation to the tone of their voice. I became more adept at capturing emotions and motives than looks. I was too shy to sketch in front of other.

Now, I roll my eyes at the man’s comment and offer to read my scribblings. I really do look at people and write without looking at the page so it can be a mess of ink, jumping outside of lines, slanting and scratching out words, interjecting new ones. I clear my throat and read:

Suomi Dancing

A blonde quartet draw bows across time and strings of old-world violins. They remake the songs of midsummer in Finland. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA.  Voices rise, the blue cross on white flag rises, the Juhannus pole rise. It’s summer solstice and young girls in blue dresses with matching kerchiefs circle around the adults from out of town and suomi-dance with joy. Around and around they skip and step. Holding hands, they dance inward and back out again. Just like celebrations back home, a thread of culture unbroken dances lively beneath a copper country sun. Hey!

He smiles. Nods. “Cool,” he says.

We’ve discussed names and what we call ourselves as writers many times before at the Ranch. Artist is the latest evolution for me because it captures the spirit of all I write and arrange, as well as my vision for Carrot Ranch as a literary art community. Artist might feel weird for some writers, but we are — words are the medium we use, it’s what we paint and sketch.

A few days ago, collecting updates from Cynthia at ground zero at Ripley village, she realized with delight that her three friends were all writers. She said earlier that day her artist-artists were with her. The poet among us frowned and said, “Wait, artist-artists? Like, we aren’t real artists?” We all laughed, knowing we weren’t being excluded.

I’m happiest sketching freely. I carry a waterproof sketchbook for trips to hunt agates. I carry several in my purse, one in my car and have a stash in my desk next to the chocolate. Sometimes I meditate, give three cleansing breaths, then sit in my own stillness and catch what is around me. I listen for stories. I stare awkwardly at people’s clothes and gestures, but if I remain quiet and calm people don’t notice the way a nuthatch ignores a birdwatcher.

Sometimes, I know someone has a good story, and after coaxing them into telling me, I boldly whip out my sketchbook and say, “I’m writing this down, and make a few notes.” I captured the story of one of the Ripley firemen that way:

From Kitten to Fish

Bill wades into the muck to grab the flopping silver steelhead. Disaster all around and he can’t bear to see this fish die, gasping in the muck. The flash flood has wiped out the spawn. Had Bill been fishing in his boat, he’d have a great catch. Today he’s in waders and his volunteer fire department t-shirt. He thinks about keeping the fish for dinner later but sees the state patrol and thinks he better wade out to the flooded creek instead. A flash of a camera and the newspaper headline cheers the firemen for rescuing kittens and fish.

He really did save a steelhead trout, and the story is sad, although I chose to give it a lighthearted tone. In reality, Bill (whose name is not Bill, but I told him he’d recognize his tale by that name) saved a large steelhead stuck in the Ripley mud. All these floods in our local creeks washed out the spawning salmon, and the smelt are done for, which may take years to recover.

Not to mention most of our beaches are closed due to sewage and e-coli. I’ve vowed to stop licking rocks when I hunt! Already I’ve developed a different way of wetting Lake Superior rocks to see their best colors and definition. I take a small bowl to the Tori with me and keep a pool of water for dipping.

Visitors to the Tori enjoy the #CarrotRanchRocks stories, and I have a set of educational rocks to teach people a bit of geology. Then I read some 99-word literary art. Two of my tent-mates are rockhounds. One is going to take me out in his Jeep, the other gifted me with his art so I could assign stories about his etchings. This community doesn’t grip me — it holds me up.

In addition to sketching, teaching rocks, reading stories and selling books at the Tori, I’ve set up several activities in literary art. Once we get dates settled, I’ll be renewing Wrangling Words at the Portage Lake District Library. I offered this literary program at other libraries, and I thoroughly enjoy working with libraries. Susan Sleggs, one of our Rough Writers, is also giving a Wrangling Words presentation to her writer’s group.

My writers retreat at the Ripley Home of Healing is on hold. My nature writing workshops might be, too because McLain is cut off. But my presentation at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor is still a go July 16:

Copper Country History in 99 Words, No More, No Less
Join local author Charli Mills in a presentation of her flash fiction with a focus on local history. Participants will also learn the literary art of flash fiction and get to craft one of their own, using prompts from Fort Wilkins.
If the signs align, and they seem to be heading east from west, I have a special presentation to give around a Vermont campfire. I think cider and yarns might be involved.
We write, we sketch, we evolve.
When I started Carrot Ranch, I intended to have a landing page for marketing clients. I was still freelancing for major outlets on topics of business and marketing, traveling to give workshops to community food systems to set up marketing communications and branding. Looking back, I see that as fast as the Hub was unraveling, my desire to go all literary was rising.
I freelanced until May of 2016, writing my last magazine feature: Sandpoint Magazine Summer Issue: “Dog Town.” By the close of this month, my employer of 17 years will no longer contract with me as their publications editor and writer. It seems momentous, but I’m ready for that break. My GM left last year, and only one of my former staff remain of the department I built. My closest friend from the remaining management team is also moving on, and it seems a chapter has closed.
So how do I sketch my life from this point?
My latest evolution is to return to leading workshops, which I love to do. I’ve pondered the whole “marketing and editing” issue as I don’t want clients like I’ve had in the past. I’m done with that phase of my life. When authors contact me to market their books, I politely decline. Marketing is a huge task, and it’s part of the professional development of an author. Even if you get picked up by the so-called “Big 5” you will still have to develop your own marketing strategies.
To that end, I started developing an e-zine last year, called Marketing Mavericks. If you’ve ever heard of guerilla marketing (for small budgets and time allotments), then my take is similar. It’s specifically for authors with the ambition to market and sell. I’ve narrowed my niche to strategies and branding for authorpreneurs and entrepreneurs. The e-zine will be by subscription. I’ve also started writing for my book marketing hero, Rachel Thompson. You can catch my #NaNoProMo article or read thru the #BookMarketingChat she invited me two a few weeks ago: Author Marketing Strategies.
After my pitch to 1 Million Cups last month, a local incubator for entrepreneurs from Michigan Tech University contracted with me to teach entrepreneurs how to pitch for an upcoming event. I had my first coaching session with the small group on Monday and taught them the power and shape of stories, including the hero’s journey. It’s evolving, turning over yet another new leaf.
But it doesn’t change what Carrot Ranch is all about — a safe space to play with words, to craft stories, to interact with other writers. The weekly flash fiction challenge is the base of what I do to make literary art accessible. From there, any willing writer can join the Rough Writers in an anthology project. Vol. 2 is massive and magnificent! I’m in the throes of editing all I’ve arranged. You writers continue to amaze me.
We’ll Rodeo again in October. I’ve been uncertain what to do with all our entries. When I thought it would be “no big deal” to put them into an e-book, I had no idea how many words it would turn out to be. I know writers from last year’s contest want to read the volume, and I want to use it to raise the prize purse for this year. I’m contemplating a sale on a PDF through the Ranch. I’ll keep participants and leaders posted.
I’m doing some limited developmental editing and brand work. I’ve edited some scientific papers and content for a local web developer. I’m best at the developmental stage, I’m not a copy editor, but I can recommend some. You’ll be seeing some pages and ads going up. These are directed toward clients I’m interested in securing, so don’t think there’s any expectation on you — you are who I fondly call “my writers.” You are the story-tellers, the story-catchers, the novelists, the flash fictioneers, the memoirists, the sketchers. You are who the Ranch benefits. I want to make that clear.
I want to share my vision work with you, too. Part of my work with the entrepreneurs is to craft their visions and concepts into stories and pitches. So you might recognize part of TUFF! They are crafting their visions according to a process I shared. My writing partner in the UK has also completed this process. She did it brilliantly! In two weeks, the entrepreneurs will return with their vision in 99 words, which becomes a 59-word mission statement and a 9-word tagline. You are welcome to try this, too:

A Vision of Success (99)

Writers high-fived across the string of comments, appreciating craft and creativity in their sandbox, 99 words at a time. Carrot Ranch, an imaginary place made of real people from around the globe. A tribe. Buckaroo Nation. Authors and entrepreneurs arrived too, looking to forge brands and learn how to tell stories around investor campfires. Readers found literary art in small bites palpable to a modern diet of busyness. A buckaroo wrangled the words and published collections, hosted rodeos for writers, and flashed her way to write novels about veterans, history and earth science. The vision for the future rocked.

Carrot Ranch and A Lead Buckaroo’s North Star (59)

Carrot Ranch understands that writers and entrepreneurs need safe space to explore the craft of literary art and harness the power of storytelling. Lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, gave up riding horses to write brand stories. Now she wrangles 99-word flash about history, veterans, and rocks. Flash by flash, she crafts award-winning novels, leads authors on retreat and coaches entrepreneurs.

Tagline: Making literary art accessible 99 words at a time. (9)

June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble.

Respond by July 3, 2018. 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 your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

 

A Sketch of Rock Creek by Charli MIlls

From the barn, you can see across the draw that is Rock Creek. Wagon ruts remain visible on both sides. David Colbert “Cobb” McCanless built a toll bridge across the deep cut. He arrived at this road station along the Oregon Trail in March of 1859. Family denies that a woman, not his wife came with him, but records show her signature as his bookkeeper. His wife and children arrived from North Carolina in September 1859. The women know what happened when two years later a young Wild Bill Hickok shot Cobb. But no one thought to ask them.

Not All Is Lost

When disaster slams into neighborhoods and crisis encroaches in the middle of the night, when the waters sweep away all the photo albums and fire burns the family home to ashes when nothing seems to fit including us — not all is lost.

Writers turned to what remains when all seems lost. Differeing perspectives will surprise you.

The following is based on the June 21, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Not All Is Lost… by JulesPaige

Less light after the solstice here
Only marginally though as
Summer starts with the passing of the
Solstice – here in the northern hemisphere

Loosened land added by torrential rains
Over churned mud and debris land-
Sliding, slipping and seeping while
Some were sleeping…

Love is given selflessly
Over and over – helping those
Survivors of the unexpected – to them
Salutations – living saints or angels?

Lend a hand if you can –
Over and over, anywhere, then
Somewhere far or nearer to your heart
Stop a moment – and say a prayer…

tears flood, as eyes see;
welcoming community
and all strangers too

🥕🥕🥕

Look for the Helpers by Kerry E.B. Black

Rain drenched everything, as it will during a hurricane. It flooded the storm drains and backed sewage into basements. It bubbled through foundations and drowned landscapes. People two towns over clambered onto roofs and prayed for rescue. I lent my entreaties.

In our home, sewage swept through plumbing until the basement stank of rising refuse. First the bottom stair, then the next, the landing, and still, it climbed. I didn’t know what to do. Busy emergency lines. Sirens. Panic.

Yet after the waters receded, it wasn’t FEMA that helped. It was family and friends who hauled, cleaned and sanitized.

🥕🥕🥕

Starting Over by Sascha Darlington

At 11, her daddy died, taking away the sunshine.

At 15, she destroyed her knee and her chances for a sports scholarship.

At 37, she watched her husband, who didn’t want children, leave for his pregnant, much younger assistant.

Eight years later, as muddy waters careen around the sides of her house and her bedraggled pup is tethered to her, she yells at the sky: “What the fuck do you want from me?”

“To save you to start with,” the Coastie says.

The sun peeks out. Harbinger of hope. Maybe all’s not lost.

She’s very good at starting over.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost And Found: An Argument For Caring by Geoff Le Pard

‘You’ve lost me, Morgan.’

‘I’m just saying it’s easy to be liberal if you don’t have to deal with all the crap.’

‘So helping people, caring for others you don’t know, that only counts if, what, you suffer equally?’

‘I’m saying you can’t really understand if you don’t experience something. Otherwise it’s make believe.’

‘When you broke your leg, my sympathy didn’t count?’

‘I…’

‘Helping your sister after her husband left didn’t count because I’ve never been abandoned…’

‘The schmuck… no, that’s different. I think. Give me a minute… I might have got this wrong…’

‘Not all is lost.’

🥕🥕🥕

Lost and Found by Chelsea Owens

Becky always heard housefires described poetically. Tendrils of curling smoke, for example; or, flakes of softly drifting ash. Looking around; she could only think: burned, smoky, ruined.

Clearly, most poets didn’t stand in the charred remains of their own homes.

“That’s about it, ma’am,” the fire marshal said. Becky turned to him. His eyes were red beneath a sweaty, sooty hairline. Becky managed to nod, to dismiss him and his crew. Sighing, she shuffled behind them through the detritus.

“Ouch!”

A box. Squatting amongst flakes of softly drifting ash, she uncovered her fire safe. She smiled, through her tears.

🥕🥕🥕

Down Under by Carol Keefer

The earth quaked for several minutes of hard shaking. Immediately, the floor fell from under my feet, and then something hard hit my head followed by instant unconsciousness. When I awoke, I was pinned under a file cabinet under concrete. I was hurt and gasping for air. I prayed and expected to die, but how long would death take? Then, I heard an animal sniffing nearby. The rescue dog barked, and I cried out, “Help me. Please help me.” I heard voices outside. They began to move away debris. Someone said, “Hold on. We’re going to get you out.”

🥕🥕🥕

Not All is Lost by kate @ aroused

The company hadn’t ensured that safety was paramount. So sixteen men were trapped underground. Poisonous gas was leaking so nobody could go in or out as the fresh air might trigger an explosion.

Distraught families and first response teams were anxiously waiting above ground. Children were confused not really comprehending the threat. CWA ladies were handing out cups of tea. People were trying to stay positive but the underlying tension caused tears to fall and fears to surface.

They heard a resounding crack followed by a loud heartfelt cheer … the engineers had found a way through, miners saved!

🥕🥕🥕

Not All is Lost by Charli Mills

Annabel retreated from the mourners. Thirty miners, four boys, and her beloved mine captain dead. Fire erupted at level 27 and none evacuated. Men continued to drill, eager to chase the new copper load, believing the updraft would smoother the flames. Greed overcomes common sense, Annabel thought. Ripley was ambitious, a hard-worker and a smart man. He cared about the land and community, but even good men succumb to copper fever. They dug their own deaths. She left the mass funeral and wandered to the falls. Ripley was gone, but his babe grew in the swell of her belly.

🥕🥕🥕

Rock Bottom by Sherri Matthews

He hit rock bottom and I thought it was the end.

“If you keep drinking, you’ll be dead in six months,” warned the doctor.

I was wrong; he stopped, for a few months at least. Then he started again and I feared his next fall could be his last.

I wondered if spending nights hunched up in a doorway might change things, or late night rants down the telephone cursing his dear, beloved father, who he hoped would rot in hell.

It was the years in prison writing letters to his daughter that told me all was not lost.

🥕🥕🥕

Not All is Lost by Anita Dawes

A burning rose lay on the hot desert sand, if not found, I would be next.

I lay there beneath the hot sun, waiting to burst into flame, the voices of the Bedouin tribe close by.

Hope still beat in my chest that someone would come looking for their daily water. Would they walk this way?

Buzzards circle overhead, waiting for a feast.

As I reach for the rose, my eyes beheld a child’s feet. All was not yet lost, she would go back to her people for help.

Much later, I would discover the child’s name was Rose…

🥕🥕🥕

A Fresh Start by Anurag Bhakhshi

As his beautiful wife opens the door, I stare longingly at the ornate interiors of his palatial mansion.

All this could have been mine, if the boy whom I’d raised as my own son had not betrayed me.

Unable to bear the loss of everything I’d held dear, I was on the verge of ending my life, when I recalled his words “Not all is lost, till you lose hope.”

And so, here I am, looking for a fresh start.

Hoping against hope that Aladdin’s wife will exchange that ‘useless old piece of junk’ for a brand new lamp.

🥕🥕🥕

A Tribute to Military Pilots (BOTS) by Susan Sleggs

An Air Force pilot friend shared: My crew and I were walking to our plane for a training run and stopped in our tracks when the base fire siren went off. We looked around and then up. Our hearts jumped into our throats when we saw a plane rushing the runway on fire. It hit with a huge explosion. We didn’t believe anyone could survive, but not all was lost, within minutes six airmen walked from the smoke. We learned the meaning of “any landing you walk away from is a good landing; some are just better than others.”

🥕🥕🥕

I’ve Got You Now by Jan Malique

I’ve got you now, hold on tight. The fall hurt, you’re bleeding. I’m so sorry you decided to take this course of action. I didn’t realise you heard, damn me for being so selfish! I didn’t need help, just acting out like a spoilt child.

I can’t hear what you’re saying. Does your throat hurt? What you must think of me. Your eyes are so sad, I can’t bear to look at them. Hold still, I’ll wipe the blood off you. Sorry, so sorry! Your beautiful wings, torn and charred. Can you ever forgive me, my dear guardian angel?

🥕🥕🥕

The Remedy by Wallie and Friend

He hadn’t wanted her to see. It was inevitable that she should. In his mind he had pictured her reaction, imagining a thousand teasing quips—“I always said you were the handsome one”—but when she came in his humor failed. He saw her shock and it brought the walls down around him.

She went straight to the bed. His heart monitor was racing, but she wrapped him in her arms, her hand soothing his broken face. He felt her kiss as he cried. Her touch was gentle, as steady as her voice.

“My angel,” she said. “My angel.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Crows Secret by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

She was losing control of her powers. Zaria woke up, hovering above the bed staring down at the rumpled sheets twisted below. She fell, landing hard on the floor. Without her magic, she was nothing. She would be banned from the witch’s council.

Zaria arose from the floor. From his perch on the windowsill, crow flapped his wings and landed on her shoulder. He whispered in her ear, “Not all is lost. I’m here to give you the gift of clairvoyance.”

The young witch grinned. She felt the veil lift. Thank you crow, I see what you are saying.”

🥕🥕🥕

That Kind Of Day by Heather Gonzalez

Today has been the worst. It started off like an ordinary Monday, but it definitely didn’t end that way.

My car wouldn’t start right away. I got to work late, but just in time for my boss to notice. If that wasn’t bad enough, they announced that we would be working this weekend.

I made it home later than usual due to the rain. I poured myself a glass of wine, put my feet up, and turned on Netflix. A large cracking sound came from outside. Everything went dark. Not all was lost. At least I still had wine.

🥕🥕🥕

Let It Go by Susan Sleggs

The cocky author had gone to the writing conference feeling he would come away with an agent; the pamphlet said he could pitch them. He listened, open minded, to the various panel discussions and realized he would have to rewrite his whole manuscript so it started and ended with a bang. He decided it wasn’t worth his time, and appreciated the writing he had done had gotten him through a rough patch in his life. All was not lost: the next time he read a book, he read for pleasure instead of learning the craft. He felt oddly free.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Creative Cul-de-sac? by Anne Goodwin

Some days I led the way and, obediently, they followed. On better days, they raced ahead and I trailed after. On bad days, I bribed and begged for their company.
Sometimes, the path unwound for miles ahead. Sometimes, each step seemed virgin territory. Sometimes, we backtracked to try from a different angle. But always moving, discovering, until they abandoned me in darkness, sour and dank, patting the walls but no sign of an exit. Stuck. Despairing. All that effort wasted.
A chink of light that, as I watch, grows. Bigger. Brighter. Braver than before, we leave the cave together.

🥕🥕🥕

Not All is Lost by Robbie Cheadle

She gazed at the results of the board examinations in shock. This was her final academic hurdle to qualify as a lawyer and she had failed one of the three papers. She didn’t know how she would face her family, especially her Mother who had such high hopes for her. Her Mother would say that she would never pass. She knew her Mother’s negative cast of mind.

The conversation didn’t go as she expected at all. “You can re-write the examination next year,” her Mother said with surprising positiveness. “You will definitely pass next time, all is not lost.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Different Way of Being Faithful by Paula Moyer

Jean and Bill had been divorced for 12 years when she got the call. “Your father died this morning.” Her mother’s voice, baffled.

Later that morning, she and her husband Steve flew to Oklahoma. Later that night, Bill arrived, along with the girls, Lydia and Nola. The next day, as Jean and her mother put together the funeral, they needed one more pallbearer. A quick call to Bill’s hotel room settled it: “I would be honored.”

At the cemetery, Jean watched the coffin trundling past, Steve and Bill shouldering opposite sides. After everything, she could still count on Bill.

🥕🥕🥕

Losses and Gains by D. Avery

Ilene was first to the lawn chairs, Marge huffing behind.

“I gotta sit down. Phew. Do your feet hurt?”

“Not even one of them. Marge, stop walking in your work boots. I happen to have extra left footed sneakers if you want to start there.”

“Ilene, you’re something, always joking about your leg.”

“I lost a leg, Marge, not my humor. I’m lucky I didn’t lose my life.”

“Well, let’s have a beer to celebrate. I think I lost another five pounds on that walk.”
Ilene watched her friend bend to open the cooler. “All is not lost, Marge.”

🥕🥕🥕

Believing by Allison Maruska

Infernal wailing resonates. I gulp my drink, wishing it would drown the torture.

A regular beat permeates the mood. One by one, my compatriots take their place. Some surprise me with their poise. Others…well, I need another drink.

But not all is lost. When I think my nerves and head can’t take any more, my name is called. I trudge to the center. Now, others are swigging their drinks, wondering what I’ll bring.

The beat starts, followed by a that famous piano riff. My onlookers groan as I grab the mic.

Screw those guys. I haven’t stopped believing.

🥕🥕🥕

A Tumble in Time by Bill Engleson

“Barefoot?”

“Yes, sockless. Shoeless too.”

“On a damp grassy incline?”

“That too.”

“So, quite slippery, I assume?”

“As slick as a grifter’s tongue.”

“Thanks for that. So?”

“So, why did I do it?”

“Yeah, good guess. Don’t you keep sandals by the back door?”

“Yup.”

“For stepping outside?”

“Exactly.”

“Too much trouble?”

“To slip them on? No. But they’ve seen better days.”

“So have you, it appears.”

“Never fallen like that before. Scared the bejesus out of me.”

“Nothing broke, though.”

“Dumb luck. Still, it took me two hours to crawl up.”

“Learn anything?”

“Yup. Never ever go outside.”

🥕🥕🥕

You Can’t Get There From Here by Robert Kirkendall

A city person pulled into a rural service station. “Excuse me, sir, do you know the way to Davenport?”

“Davenport?” the rustic attendant answered. “Don’t reckon I do.”

“How about Greenfield?”

The attendant pondered. “Nope, don’t know the way there either.”

“Well can you tell me the way to the nearest Interstate?”

“I suppose if you keep driving down this highway you’ll run into one, but I don’t rightly know exactly where.”

The driver became frustrated. “I must say, you don’t seem to know your way around here.”

The attendant chuckled. “Yeah, but I’m not the one who’s lost.”

🥕🥕🥕

And All Shall Be Equal Before the Law by PaperShots

So we walked on, our hands on our friends’ shoulders. We could barely see ahead. From the crowd, some shouted at us, “Where are you going?” – the kids cried. The echo below the vaults was terrifying. It rippled the filthy water! (raises his voice) “Where are you going?” The stench in the sewers was unbelievable. (a thought strikes him) And at the same time on the other side of town the defense lines had been broken through. Those neighborhoods were free. We didn’t know. Communication was so bad. We ended up in a field miles to the north. (laughter)

🥕🥕🥕

It’s a Matter of Getting Up by Miriam Hurdle

It was early December 2017, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California devoured 307,900 acres and 1,300 structures. 230,000 residents described the wildfires in the neighborhood as a war zone. Smoke stretched 1,000 miles across the Pacific.

By Christmas, residents came back to their burned home, found pieces of displaced family photos. They pinned them on a bulletin to find owners. Some put up Christmas trees, decorations to bring cheer to the neighborhood. Strangers hugged each other and shed some tears. Homes and belongings were gone. Yet not all is lost. They wanted to rebuild and be neighbors again.

🥕🥕🥕

Not All is Lost by Jack Schuyler

Heat wafts over the night breeze and the somber smell of wood smoke settles in the neighborhood. Two stories are no more and the once sturdy foundation is now a bed of coals. Amid the destruction, I am struck by an overwhelming wave of gratitude. Not all is lost.

With our arms around each other, we watch firemen scurry like ants over the burning wreckage. The fire dwindles and the light goes out. Sirens cease and the stars return. At the edge of the smoldering ruins, we embrace in the bittersweet spirit of, “at least I didn’t lose you.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Flower Called Hope by Di @ penitivity101

The land lies barren and dry,
Drought is a killer.
Crop fields harvest dust,
Bairns cry in hunger.
The heat shows no mercy,
Hands blistered and sore
Toil endlessly
Until the blood flows.
Animals have deserted
This once bountiful place,
The bones of the unfortunate
Bleach in the relentless sun.
Bowls and vats lie hollow,
Their meagre contents
Rationed rather than shared.
Their days are numbered,
Maybe only single figures.
A tear falls from the sky,
One becomes many
And a lone flower dares
To raise its head.
All is not lost:
Clouds are gathering,
And with them,
Rain.

🥕🥕🥕

Hope by Kay Kingsley

“Not all is lost” he says in a protective, loving voice.

She shakes her head, trapped in an internal conversation between good and bad, like refereeing a match between reality and remaining positive. She chuckles at the absurdity.

What he means to say is ‘All hope is not lost’. You can lose everything but it’s only hope that rescues the lost, only hope brings you back, only hope paves the way through the darkness ahead.

The irony of her name is not lost on her. You have to lose it to find it but she’s been Hope all along.

🥕🥕🥕

Not the End of the World by Norah Colvin

Ever have one of those days? You know—it seems the world is against you, and everything you do goes wrong. Maybe you oversleep and in your rush, you fumble, make mistakes and get even later. You hurry to the stop as your bus pulls away. You flop down reviewing life’s punishments, and some jackass walks by telling you to “Smile, it’s not the end of the world.” What would he know? You open your phone and scroll: trivial drivel. Then this one story blows your insignificancies away. You phone your appointment, apologise and reschedule. All is not lost.

🥕🥕🥕

Stand and Deliver! by Juliet Nubel

‘Gimme your bag!’

She almost laughed at her friend’s attempt at the local thick accent until she felt the hard pull on her shoulder.

He wore a strange trilby hat pulled low onto his forehead and had tied a bandana scarf around his face. All she could see was the shining whites of his eyes and the gun pointing in her direction. Real or a toy? She didn’t want to know.

She handed over the bag. Keys, credit cards, telephone would now belong to this stranger.

But she held onto the gold locket around her neck. And her life.

🥕🥕🥕

Not All is Lost by Sarah Whiley

The strangers with her on the rooftop paused in unison.

Too scared to move, she realised she was holding her breath.

A single shot echoed off the bricks, shattering clay at her feet.

The shooter had found them.

She couldn’t believe this was happening. This was her high school, not the six o’clock news!

She felt something wet and realised she had peed her pants. She watched the yellow trickle out until two black boots stopped it short.

She squeezed her eyes shut and waited.

The click of an empty chamber told her, not all was lost after all.

🥕🥕🥕

Comic Relief by FloridaBorne

My mind in fog, the car wandered through a mall parking lot the day after New Year’s. A few empty spaces waited near an expensive store and I walked past a perfume counter with one goal.

I needed a black dress.

Passing the cosmetics counter, I hear wailing. No one scrambling to call 911, no sirens, just 2 high school girls consoling their friend over a broken nail.

I laughed at the irony. Should I tell the 3 Stooges, “Not all is lost?”

No. It was the first time I’d felt like smiling since my husband had passed away.

🥕🥕🥕

Signposts by Saifun Hassam

In the garden, Lisa grieved for Aunt Veronica, an artist and illustrator of all things botanical. Lisa’s own interest in archaeology was sparked on a family vacation with Veronica, to see prehistoric rock and cave paintings in Brazil. Not all is lost.

Veronica swiftly sketched the cave artwork, and the prehistoric villages. Lisa caught her aunt’s excitement. She learned how to glean the stories of people, to look for ancient and prehistoric signposts, when there are no written records.

Lisa inherited Veronica’s Library. Not all is lost. Veronica’s generous gift filled her with a deep abiding sense of gratitude.

🥕🥕🥕

Disaster Strikes by Teresa Grabs

Even when times looked their darkest, everyone could count of the sun to rise, and drive away the night and its memories. No one would ever believe that the sun would not rise, but that is exactly what happened on June 28, 3258. Reports indicated a massive black hole developed behind the sun and devoured it, just like one had to Jupiter three years earlier. We had less than twenty-four hours to get off this planet before we all perished. Thankfully though, our global distress signal was intercepted by the Third Intergalactic Fleet. I wonder if they eat humans.

🥕🥕🥕

Grant Gain by JulesPaige

Gather together, permit others
As they offer their aide
In your heart of hearts, fear not – forbid
Nightmares their tight grasp upon reality

Golden opportunities await
Angels in plain clothes to host
Individuals, families – some will
Need less others more…

Grant those who come as a visitor
An opportunity to become family
Include them as repairs begin –
Not all is lost…

healing can take years –
fears ebb and flow like water
mud can cloud good hope

let those in who filter out
dark diteris and debris

focus on mending
both that which is solid as
well as what’s unseen

🥕🥕🥕

Reality Check by D. Avery

“Pal, buy me a beer.”

“Cain’t Kid, spent ma beer money on the Go Fund Me fer Cynthia Riley.”

“Same here, Pal.”

“That’s good, Kid, ‘cause them folks up there really need ta dry out.”

“Whyn’t they jist come shelter here at the Ranch?”

“Ah, Kid, the Ranch is a wonnerful shelterin’ place, but yer always fergittin’ ‘bout the virtual elements of it.”

“Here ya go agin, Pal, havin’ ta remind me we’s fictional characters. But I really wanna help.”

“I’m sure the Rileys ‘preciate you givin’ up yer beer money, Kid.”

“I’m thirsty.”

“Could be worse.”

“Dang right.”

🥕🥕🥕

Ripley House of Healing (For Cynthia) by Charli MIlls

After the river subsided and rubble settled, Cynthia found a photo of her daughter at age nine lying face-down in red mud. Memories flood like the main floor of her 112-year-old home. She came to Copper Country to help the elderly. As a young intern, she worked out of a house below now buried in a debris field. She stayed, married, raised a family, and raised her voice to protect the vulnerable. She looks up at the house still standing, gutted of walls and floors. She stands up for her Ripley House of Healing. Her story is not lost.

🥕🥕🥕

You can help Cynthia Drake who had a Copper Country mountain slide into her house and force a river to reroute through her Ripley Home of Healing where Carrot Ranch was to host writing retreats. GoFundMe: Help the Drakes.

Bouquets

Bouquets capture a moment of bloom — flowers, emotions, smells — and become the focal point. A spring bouquet celebrates renewal, and flowers gathered at a grave mourn a passing.

Writers explored the moments and sensory relationships we have with bouquets. Gather here, we offer a bouquet of stories.

Based on the June 14, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a bouquet.

This collection is dedicated to the loving memory of Mark, a brother to Sherri Matthews.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Bouquet of Tears by Sherri Matthews

If forget-me-nots would bring you back, I would grow nothing else.

If an English Country Garden cooled your fire, I would gather every living plant and flower and bulb growing there, tie them together with a bright, red ribbon and send them by whatever means possible across the Shining Sea.

If lilies, white and pure, touched your brow and returned your smile, I would place them carefully in your hand and cry with joy.

But it cannot be.

So I bring my love in a single rose and lay it on your grave and I weep for wasted years.

***

For Mark, dear brother. ❤

🥕🥕🥕

Hope Beneath the Loss by Ruchira Khanna

“Hi, Pink Carnations!”

“Hi, Chrysanthemums!”

“Oh wait there come the Lilies,” said the chrysanthemum.

“I also see Yellow Roses in that lady’s hand.”

The Daffodils, Tulips, and the Gladioli with the yellow and the white carnations come along.

****

All these flowers are placed on the coffin while humans stand in a circle with folded hands.

At first, these flowers greet each other. Excited to form a concoction.

These blossoms together emit a fragrance that makes the Homosapien realize as they cry softly upon the loss that there is hope and promise even when pain and heartbreak surround them.

🥕🥕🥕

A Precious Spring by Saifun Hassam

Eagle Point Ridge was devastated first by a firestorm, then deep winter snows and spring thaw mud slides. Carmen drove up a steep valley road towards the timberline. She gazed at the scorched forlorn firs, spruce and pines among jagged rocks and boulders in the muddy valleys.

Near the road’s edge, a clump of bright green ferns caught her eye. Among the ferns was a bouquet of bear grass, tall green stalks crowned with tightly packed white flowers. The faint fragrance of the vibrant precious bouquet drifted in the slight breeze, a sign of hope for the days ahead.

🥕🥕🥕

Bundled Batch by JulesPaige

It was a cardboard bouquet – with sweet aroma of warm food. The people in the back of truck though they were in the middle of a fairy tale.

They were aliens… unknowns. Some were whisked away by princes who worked in the medical fields. But most were left with just some cool air and water. The stranger on the white horse galloped, after work and hearing their plight on the news – to the local pizzeria and just bought them a meal. Just because he didn’t know when they had eaten last. Could this temporary happy ending continue to last?

🥕🥕🥕

Wild Blooms by D. Avery

A bouquet is more than a bunch of flowers stuffed in a jar. The bouquet pictured is comprised largely of what many see as weeds, plucked from neglected margins. Others see wildflowers, beautiful with varied colors and textures.                 A bouquet is a purposeful arrangement of individual and diverse flowers picked and placed mindfully and with intent. A bouquet is vibrant and beautiful because of the structures and elements combined in the whole. It is a composition, not a single utterance.                                                                                                                A bouquet is a Gift to be given.

 

wild blooms, household jarred

bear witness at the table

everyone belongs

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Tale for a Winter’s Night by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She leaned over the big black cauldron, face partially occluded in the shifting steam. Chopping and shredding, she added a pinch of this, a breath of that. Winter winds buffeted her door, seeking shelter. She cackled, stirring with a long wooden spoon.

Bringing the spoon’s edge to her lips, she took a tiny sip. “Something’s missing…”

Grabbing the glass jar from the furthest reaches of the shelf, she passed her hand over the pot, once…twice. She stirred and sniffed the rising bouquet, and smiled.

She switched the burner to simmer, and took up her Jane Austen.

She loved chili.

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New Bouquets at Cheever’s by Paula Moyer

Sitting in the upscale-but-casual restaurant, Jean could not tell it had been a florist – Cheever’s. Now the restaurant was part of a different bouquet, the renaissance of downtown Oklahoma City.

One by one, flower by flower, new businesses sprouted in old buildings – an art gallery where Fred Jones Ford had been. A restaurant inside Cheever’s. As a salute to the history, each new business took on the name of the old one. Thanks to a city-wide sales tax, new life pulsed through the old part of town.

Jean and Lynn took their seats. Their salads were fresh as carnations.

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Sundown Stroll by Chelsea Owens

Humidity cushioned their sunset movements. Emiline sensed it, always, in the dense Jamaican air.

“I feel like something’s pressing on my arms and legs,” Mark said, though with a smile.

Emiline answered with her own, with a light hand pulling wisps of beach-blown blonde from her eyes. Their aimless ambling soon led them within the resort gardens.

Each breathed deeply in. Clusters of pinkish blossoms blushed boldly against darker green. Snow-white Oleander winked from wall bushes. Their gaze drew skyward to admire a riot of orange.

“Nature’s bouquet,” she whispered. Speechless, he followed her through a tropic twilight.

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Bouquet by the darknetizen

The bouquet of fresh flowers lying in my trashcan looked so pretty, a many-hued mélange.

The red rose from the ice cream vendor, daffodil from the police officer, pink daisy from the little kid who lived down the street. Males have always loved me with such fervor. I cannot even recall most of them. In all candour, I would rather not. My beauty has always been a curse. Immortality even more so.

Centuries ago, my face launched a thousand ships and claimed even more lives. I am glad that nowadays men offer only flowers. I cannot claim more lives.

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Bouquet by Robbie Cheadle

In the deep shadows under the stairs you may catch a glimpse of him. The form of Rex Bacon, dangling from the end of the rope he used to hang himself. An upended stool and a bouquet of wild flowers lie at his feet.

The flowers were for this beloved wife. On his last day of life, he had left work early and gathered the flowers for her during his walk home. When he got home, he found them together. In his rage he had killed her lover and escaped to the local pub where he had hung himself.

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Complexity by Reena Saxena

Harvey is a best-selling author who never reads his own books. The interviewer looks perplexed in this episode of his show “Straight Talk with Genius Minds”.

“Sir, do you never feel the need to review what you wrote?”

“No, I simplify things as much as possible for the new age readers. But that is not my cup of tea.”

“And what would interest you?”

“A good, mature wine has a complex bouquet. But nobody has the time or patience to wait till it develops. So, I write micro-pieces for easy assimilation,” smiled the octogenarian legend, having busted popularity charts.

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Finally Blooming by Frank Hubeny

That was the spring Alice turned the lawn into a big bouquet of flowers. It surprised Joe but looking at her face looking at the former lawn with a gentle smile she rarely showed him anymore made him grateful.

The neighborhood wives thought her odd for years. Her newfound gardening energy did not impress them. Alice’s view of them wasn’t pretty either.

That winter Alice died.

Joe kept her bouquet of former lawn going for the next decade as long as his life allowed. He received help especially towards the end and gifts of plants from the neighborhood wives.

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Summer Posies by Colleen Chesebro, The Fairy Whisperer

The Litha preparations had been underway for days. Yesterday, the children had gathered bouquets of yellow daisies for us to carry on our journey to the bonfire which would honor the magnificence of Father Sun. The people were assembled, ready to pay homage to the One.

Excitement coursed through my veins, and I quivered. Tonight, my secret would be revealed. The mother had blessed me with the greatest gift of all. Inside, I felt the first fluttering of my tiny son.

My summer posies—

awash with an early dew

standing sentinel.

A gift of fertility,

honoring the summer sun.

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Flower Power by kate @ aroused

Vibrant colours, sweet fragrance, singular flowers or bunched bouquets thrill with heartfelt joy! Those purchased or plucked make delightful offerings to one we wish to thank or cheer.

Brightening another’s day, claiming they are loved and dear. Garden blooms emit radiance to those passing through our neighbourhoods.

But best of all are those innocently picked by children … to thread a daisy chain; puff at the dandelion; discard petals to the chant ‘he love me, he loves me not’; or gigglingly gifted to a much adored mother. Our inner child beams playful smiles as flowers flourish irresistible profound power.

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Simple, Humble Things by Kerry E.B. Black

The little girl ran to her mother, smile brighter than the dandelions wilting in her grip. She stood on tiptoe to present her gift, and her mother thanked her with a kiss.

Years later, she approached her mother with another fistful of yellow blooms. She sat, heedless of her business suit, and presented her gift. “When I was little, you taught me to appreciate the beauty and importance of simple, humble things.”

Her tears splashed the granite upon which her mother’s name was carved. The dandelions shone like miniature suns in contrast.

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A Mother’s Bouquet (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Mama, flowers!” Lizzie stumbled through the cabin door, dropping her bouquet of Black-eyed Susans.

Sarah cringed as Lizzie wailed, wanting to escape the chores Mary gave her.  Lizzie’s brothers rushed in to help gather their sister’s spilled flowers.

Monroe calmed Lizzie while Jules and Cling gathered her bouquet, handing it back. Lizzie sniffled. Mary knelt with Baby Charles on her hip, and Lizzie thrust the flowers to her mother. “They are beautiful, Lizzie.”

Sarah’s heart ached for a little girl to gather a bouquet for her.  But she left her daughter in the grave in back in North Carolina.

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A Posey Mosey by Bill Engleson

He thinks, “I could do better.”

She thinks, “I don’t require much. Just a sense that I am thought of, some gesture.”

And he thinks, “I’ve missed so many opportunities. I really am a slouch.”

And she muses, “Yes, you are, but that comes as no surprize.”

And he wonders, “Do I offer no surprises, anymore? Was it always so?”

She doesn’t hold back. “You’ve always been fairly predictable. Like I said, I don’t require much, and I expect less.”

And he finally realizes, “I’ve had a free ride, haven’t I? Should’ve gotten her a posey. At least one.”

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Red Roses by Wallie and Friend

Clair had never liked red roses. They seemed to her too garish. Anyway there wasn’t much to be lost our gained in philosophizing over flowers, so Clair never really thought twice about whether she liked red roses or not until that roadside walk.

There he had stood with that rose between his fingers, breathing it in. The look in his eyes was so soft and charmed that for the first time, Clair loved roses. And for the first time she was trimming a bouquet, hoping it would be the first thing he saw when he came through the door.

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Farewell Flowers by Anne Goodwin

Tulips blooming in buckets outside the florist’s. Should I? Or would it look cheap? The entire stock can’t repay what he’s given me; besides, women don’t buy men flowers.
I walk on. Walk back. Something exotic, like an orchid? Something simple, like a single white rose?

He’d like a bouquet, he’s a sharp-suited metrosexual. He’d be embarrassed, faffing about for a vase. Or worse, he’d interpret it, force it to mean something more.
Squirming like a kid, I hold out the foxgloves, scabious and daisies scavenged from the waste ground. Rather like myself. “Thank you,” he says. And smiles.

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Bouquet Business by Miriam Hurdle

“My husband buys me bouquet every week,” Sandy blushed. She forgot who bought up the subject.

“It will get old in no time. Guys buy a bouquet every now and then,” Mr. Cole’s deep voice came from the other side of the room.

“They are still on honeymoon,” Mrs. Cole was embarrassed by her husband.

“Kyle is a devoted customer. He came to my floral shop for a special bouquet five months ago. I praised his affection for Sandy. He has been coming every week.”

“Sorry, I’m not trying to ruin your business,” Mr. Cole whispered to Ms. Laura.

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Smart Home by H.R.R. Gorman

Master Ellen left me in my own devices every morning, heading off to work while I – her Smart Home – tended to her domestic needs. She returned every evening with a smile and a ‘thank you.’

A man, I’ll call him ‘Asshole,’ showed up at me with a bouquet. She let him in with his dirty shoes every time he arrived with flowers.

My gardening protocols kicked into overdrive. I grew flowers and made arrangements, leaving them at my door. She cared for my creations.

Eventually, Asshole returned. “Thank you for all the bouquets!”

He stepped back. “It wasn’t me.”

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Bouquets by Susan Sleggs

When I got home from work the aroma of dinner, a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine waited. I exclaimed to my teenagers, “Wow. What’s the occasion?”

“Your birthday.”

“That’s next week.”

“We know. Surprise!”

“I’m going to cry.”

“Not allowed. Open the wine instead.”

“How did you get wine?”

“Dad took us. He said this Merlot has a great bouquet.”

“So Dad was involved in this?” I hesitated, took a deep breath and added, “You might as well call him to join us.”

“Really?”

“We told you, we’re just taking a break, not getting a divorce.”

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The Wedding Bouquet by Hugh W. Roberts

She’d told all her friends where to stand so that when she threw her wedding bouquet, Tracey would catch it and be the next to marry. She’d told them to get the men to stand in line as well.

As the bouquet flew through the air, the atmosphere in the barracks hall of R.A.F Stanmore was one of happiness, laughter and joy. Not for the bride, though, as flashes of the war-torn country she’d come from went through her mind.

Pressing a small button concealed under her wedding dress, the flowers scatted and mixed with blood, flames and bone.

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Part II (10-minute read)

With Love by Di @ Pensitivity101

Her hands were bloody and dirty, nails broken and uneven.

But the smile was a full one thousand watts as she handed the bouquet to me.

‘From the garden’ she announced proudly.

‘I picked them myself, just for you. Sorry they’re a bit untidy and not tied with a fancy ribbon, but I wanted you to have them.’

Mr Robbins looked over at me and smiled sadly.

They were actually his roses, from his garden, but Gran didn’t realise that.

Gone were the days when she tended her own flower beds, but no doubt the memories were still there.

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Love’s Bouquet by Kay Kingsley

She sat on the hot green grass watching him run circles around her with the boundless energy only a two year old possessed.

As an adult we age by the decade but children grow by the day, each blink like the slide from life’s projector, a snapshot of growth. From coo’ing to smiling, from standing and walking to talking, it’s endless discovery ignited.

Her warm daydream is interrupted by a loud “Here momma!” and his small fingers extend a bunch of tiny, squished, grass flowers. Her heart nearly explodes with pure happiness. Love never picked a more beautiful bouquet.

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A Special Bouquet by Norah Colvin

As expected, they found her in her garden with a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers: daisies, forget-me-nots, peonies, zinnias, sprays of bleeding hearts and honeysuckle, a bottlebrush or two, a bunch of gumnuts and some greenery—to make each colour shine.

Her garden was her sanctuary, her confidante, her joy. She said families were like gardens, with beauty in variety. Every special day—birth, birthday, wedding, or funeral—she arranged a meaningful bouquet. In ninety-five years, she’d seen lives come and go. The last of nine, no doubt now who’d be next. How could she know this was her day?

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Death By Roses by Sarah Whiley

“Death by Roses. What kind of a perfume name was that?!”

She selected it from the rows of delicate bottles standing behind glass doors; hoping her sister would like the present.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Ooooooh! Death by Roses!!! How did you know?”

“Just a hunch! Glad you like it.”

Her sister squirted and sprayed herself liberally, before spraying the bouquet over everyone.

Feeling pleased, she didn’t notice at first.

Then her mother screamed, “I thought you’d grown out of your anaphylaxis!”

She faded to black, thinking, “Death by Roses”…

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Love & Betrayal by Anurag Bakhshi

I stared at him incredulously, my eyes and my heart filled with tears of hurt and betrayal.

“You leave me hanging at the airport on the day that we are supposed to elope, then disappear for weeks, don’t answer my calls or texts, and now you suddenly pop up and offer me these pathetic flowers?” I hollered like a madwoman as I stomped on the bouquet of dead poppies lying on my doorstep.

He looked at me with vacant eyes, and then replied in a disjointed voice, “Sorry, but these were the only flowers kept on my unmarked grave.”

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Bitter Bouquet by Mardra Sikora

Dried petals and stems standing in clouded water greeted him.

Never before had these rewards of his affection appeared less than perfectly tended.

She provided tending. Provided status, security. She cultivated his reputation and ambition.

In the beginning, he signified his passion with red roses. Then the bouquets arrived bigger, more elaborate, and overflowed with color, camouflaging the guilt. Each blossom signified devotion, but not fidelity. Well-tended consolation prizes.

Until she realized that a living rose bush, even with all its thorns, better reciprocated the life and beauty she craved, more than any short-lived bouquet he presented without redemption.

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Broken Bouquet by Jack Schuyler

Dry stems and wilted petals blow gently in the wind. Jammed into sidewalk cracks and kicked into the street by passersby, the broken bouquet lies strewn beneath the hot sun. I cannot take the brown from the mashed petals and I cannot restore the green to the stems which lay bent like rotting asparagus in the gutter. The decorative plastic has long since blown down the highway, so I gather the carcass into a dirt stained grocery bag. And what was the occasion? A wedding? A peace offering? I gather the last petal into the bag. It’s over now.

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Bouquet by Deborah Lee

“You got a job offer! But this is thrilling!”

Jane laughs. She pulls a bottle from her backpack with a flourish. “It’s not much, but we can celebrate.”

“I’m honored to help you celebrate, dear girl,” the old man says. “I wish I had proper glasses, to appropriately savor the bouquet of this lovely drop.” His eyes dance.

“Bouquet,” Jane snorts, uncapping the wine. “Two-Buck Chuck doesn’t have a bouquet. More like a…twang.”

“A pungency.”

“A stench!” Jane squeals, giddy.

Henry drinks, wipes the the bottle, passes it. “I could not be happier for you,” he says quietly.

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There’s Nothing More Annoying Than A Smart-Arse by Geoff Le Pard

‘You know, those guys are so annoying, hee-hawing about the wine.’

‘Morgan, they’re young, they…’

‘What is it about wine that brings out pretensions? “Lovely bouquet” and “it has notes of peach and cobblers”. Why don’t they just drink it?’

‘You’re the same, with your car. All horse-power and litres and torque and…’

‘That’s different. They’re technical terms.’

‘You use them to contrafabulate the listener.’

‘You made that up.’

‘You don’t know though. You’re just trying to confuse people.’

‘A bouquet is a bunch of flowers, not a wine scent.’

‘Actually it’s the tertiary aroma, caused…’

‘Shut up, Logan.’

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Catch Me If You Can by Juliet Nubel

Julia had hovered behind her sister all day, following her like a faithful young puppy. A puppy in teetering heels and an atrociously tight scarlet dress.

She was the older one, surely she should have had a say in what she wore today?

As she lingered she kept a careful eye on the bouquet. The scent from its red and white roses had tickled her nostrils all day.

When was her sister ever going to throw the damned thing?

Julia prayed that her months of training as the goalie of the local female football team would finally pay off.

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[misled] by Deb Whittam

The exchange always happened at the end of the day, that was when most looked the other way.

Her old gnarled hands would clasp the product close, until he arrived and then no words were spoke.

He would take the offering and turn away quick, she would smile not batting an eyelid.

Most thought it a tradition, one of those old family ways.

No one seemed to realise that the weeds he received, were more than they perceived.

Weeds and such is what they said, he just nodded … they chose not to see, let them be misled.

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Offering To The Land by Jan Malique

She stood looking at the expanse of wild meadow with wonder. It was a rolling carpet of vibrant colour and scent, touched with the kiss of golden sunlight. Truly heaven!

The elders of the tribe had chosen her to carry the offering of garden flowers. A gift to the land as thanks for retreat of the great ice sheets, and continual good harvests.

She waited for a sign from the land that the gift had been accepted. Silence fell, then a sweet wind moved over the meadow. The Guardian came slowly forward and kissed her gently on the forehead.

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Flash Fiction by FloridaBorne

She stared at the bouquet of long-stemmed yellow roses, tears streaming.

The best florist in town, the baby breath arranged perfectly in a cut crystal vase, his intentions unmistakable, she opened the embossed envelope and read the gold lettering on an elegant card, “You were right.”

Yesterday, they’d argued about his late nights at work, and excessive spending. She’d accused him of having an affair.

She’d once quipped, “If you want a divorce, just send me a dozen yellow roses.”

He knew she hated that color. He didn’t know she was pregnant.

He’d learn to hate child support more.

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Hi Noon at the Bouquet Corral by D. Avery

“Pal! Where’s Shorty at?”

“Whoa, Kid, what’s wrong?”

“The ranch hands! They’s all off in the upper meadows an’ in the woods sniffin’ flowers an’ makin’ daisy chains.”

“So?”

“So?! They should be makin’ hay, not pickin’ flowers! We gotta be makin’ hay; sowin’ an’ reapin’. Git ready fer winter. Where’s Shorty?”

“Kid, whyn’t you relax, go sniff some flowers yerself?”

“Cain’t, no time, gotta replenish the carrot bin, git hay inta the barn. Winter’s comin’. Where’s Shorty?”

“Kid, go back ta the meadow. Shorty’s there gatherin’ flowers.”

“What?”

“Fuel fer the soul, Kid. Important work, time well spent.”

Man Glisten

A softer, gentler beard — a man who dares to glitter and reveal his man glisten. This sort of man breaks ties with traditions and expectations. It’s vulnerability. And perhaps more.

Writers explored the unusual side of what society expects of men and what men choose to do independently.

The following is based on the June 7, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about man glisten.

PART I (10-minute read)

It’s What’s Inside that Counts – Believe That If You Want by Geoff Le Pard

‘You know, Logan, I thought I’d get a tatt.’

‘Berk. That’s for teens and Maoris.’

‘Just want to be different.’

‘Don’t bother with such fripperies. Just be your weirdy self.’

‘Yeah but that doesn’t make me stand out. What if I dyed my beard?’

‘Call that a beard?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You know, the other day when that guy collapsed at work?’

‘Yeah?’

‘They shouted ‘Man down!’?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I thought someone was trying to describe your beard to someone who’d not met you.’

‘That’s not fair.’

‘It’s bum-fluff, mate. Rub hard with a flannel, and you’d lose it.’

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Glitz Man by kate @ aroused

Mick streaked his hair, wore classy clothes, saw himself as a leader of the Men’s Liberation Movement. Had applied for paternity leave before his wife gave birth, a public service entitlement. Bragged about the number of nappies he’d changed In a radio interview, he had counted every one.

Being a migrant, he took his wife’s name for she was from the landed gentry. Once his kids were at school, he ran for local council with never a qualm that his wife earned more.

Kid sprinkled him with glitter as he left for a meeting, laughing, comfortable with his choices!

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Glistening by Jack Schuyler

Glistening, he took the stage.

I sipped my drink and pushed the pink cherry back into the glass with my tongue.

He was strong and graceful. With all the force of a tribal chieftain, he exercised his charm with the delicacy of butterfly wings.

It was mesmerizing.

Using every corner of the stage, he came face to face with the pulsing audience one second and flew high into the air the next.

When the dance finished, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. In a daze, I rose from my barstool and burst into embarrassing applause.

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Man Glisten by Kay Kingsley

“What makes you feel good?” she asked him. “I don’t know. Sports? Or maybe working on my car.” He paused, thinking harder about this question than he anticipated.

She smiled a soft, playful smile. He was the kindest person she ever met.

“You know I love you, right?”

Now he was the one smiling, a smile colored with a bit of blush.

Embarrassed, he stroked his chin exposing hidden beard glitter that sparkled in the sun.

Only the strongest men play dress up with their 6 year old daughter and his man glisten is an endearing badge of honor.

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Metallic Man by Juliet Nubel

The tiny drops of water clung to his broad shoulders like sequins, sparkling in the hot summer sun. Some fell to the ground, others were blown dry as he sprinted from the beach to the bike park.

His eyes scanned the dozens of lanes, searching for his space-age contraption, the one he would crouch over for the next five hours, pedalling for his life.

Then would come the marathon, where more pearls of sweat would bejewel his pounding body – this body he had transformed from a large white lump of lard to a lean, tanned, glistening piece of Iron.

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Choosing by D. Avery

Both were tall, strong, good looking. Both had good prospects. Both were getting frustrated over her reluctance to choose.

Wade finally confronted Emerson, demanding they fight each other like men. He demanded this despite her protests for him to stop.

“It’s the only way!” he insisted. “Best man wins!” A crowd gathered around what was sure to be a close and brutal match.

But Emerson refused to fight, said he wouldn’t treat her like a prize purse. He turned and walked away. She caught up. When his eyes glistened with happiness, she knew she had chosen the right man.

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Man Glisten by Frank Hubeney

Peter’s daughter laughed. She could see the glitter in his hair. Not much, but enough to sparkle.

“You still got it!” She said.

“You gave it to me,” Peter responded.

“You’re glis…glistening?”

“Yeah. I’m glad you let me glisten for a while.”

Peter really was glad. It was not easy for her to throw that glitter on him last week. She showed unexpected initiative. In case showering removed too much of it, he retouched his hair to make sure she would see some before he guided her wheelchair to the kitchen table for breakfast.

What a sparkling day!

Secret Love by Heather Gonzalez

At ripe old age of 99, all Sarah could remember of her true love was the way his skin glistened in the sun every time he got out of the water that summer.

No one ever knew about their secret love affair. They had been so careful. Most of their encounters were at an abandoned part of the river. That summer, they let their bodies intertwine beneath the surface.

To this day, no one knew that her daughter’s father wasn’t her husband.

She could only remember the way his skin glistened in the sun, but that was enough.

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Silver Sparkles by Kerry E.B. Black

They celebrated their silver anniversary on a cruise.

Haley donned a new gown, but nothing disguised the ravages of a hard life on delicate skin. She thought she’d packed her cares, but they manifested in dark bags beneath her eyes. Worries snaked from her temples, dye-defying silver streaks. Translucent powder sunk into laugh lines and danced along crow’s feet.

Larry took his wife’s hand, enamored of her beauty. When she nestled in for a hug, she left some of her makeup glistening in his beard. It caught the light so that when they toasted, not only their smiles sparkled.

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All-Inclusive by Bill Engleson

“Move over,” she directs. I have no objection, so we shift our baking bodies inches deeper into the shade of the giant parasol. Temporarily reprieved from the ferocity of the Varadero sun, she points to the apparition.

“Italian, maybe?”

“Not American, that’s for sure,” I opine, adding, “stupid embargo…”

“He’s not alone.”

A sleek cinder-burnt woman in a leopard bikini joins him.

His leopard briefs are band-aid thin. His body, muscular, with just a hint of paunch, is a Vaseline vision.

“Envious?” she prods.

“If I was an oil spill, maybe. Do you want another Havana Loco?”

“Hmm, yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Shower by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Her bus was late.

Benny stood under the awning, doing his best to shield his dog with the umbrella. Nevertheless, the pooch was soaked.

“Sorry, Roger,” he murmured, kneeling to stroke the dog’s ears, “We’ve gotta give up.”

Roger whined, licking a runnel of rain off his master’s forearm.

Benny stood, closing and shaking the umbrella. He leaned it against a wall. “Don’t need this, eh boy?”

Together, they strolled into the twilight as the streetlights lit up.

Minutes later, she marveled at her good fortune in finding the umbrella. It would be a long, wet walk home, otherwise.

🥕🥕🥕

After the Adventure by Wallie & Friend

She found him sleeping. The sun through the leaves warmed his skin in green and gold light, his long lashes casting shadows across his cheek.

Ami sat beside him. When she had gone looking for him, she hadn’t expected to find him here like this, but it seemed somehow right that in the aftermath of their adventure he and she should find a moment like this, a moment of apart from the others—a moment of rest.

Ami didn’t wake him. Instead, she settled beside him, her cheek on her arm, and watched the sunlight glisten on his face.

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Magic In The Air by Sherri Matthews

Rumours of the old man living in the woods ran rife through the village, but nobody had ever seen him. Tim, determined to prove his existence, donned binoculars and strode out towards the abandoned house in the woods. Hours later, Tim’s flagging excitement surged when he saw a man walking towards him. The man wore a black cloak with a hood over his black hair, but his white beard glistened in the sunlight. Tim gasped, and the man smiled. “I’m not who you think I am son, but if it’s magic you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.”

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Man Glisten in the Madhouse by Anne Goodwin

In some ways, Henry found it reassuring. This was a madhouse after all. But the poor man, boogying to a solitary rhythm, would attract derision outside. Someone should restrain him. Was it light reflected from the Christmas tree, or was that glitter in his hair? Was there alcohol in the punch?

At least Henry’s role would be minimal: passing the patients’ gifts to the Mayor. Then home to sanity. Yet his face froze as glitter-man sashayed over, grinning as he offered his hand. “Thanks for coming, Santa, Santa’s Elf. I’m Clive Musgrove, charge nurse. We spoke on the phone.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Last Story? by Di @ pensitivity101

She sat on his knee as she’d always done, waiting for him to begin telling a story.

He faltered, looking into those big hazel flecked saucers, feeling lost, overwhelmed, inadequate, and extremely blessed.

How many more evenings would they share? He was old and tired, time was precious.

She looked at him quizzically, touched a finger to the jewel glistening on his leathery cheek.

‘Granpa?’ she said, ‘Why are you crying?’

He smiled, taking her tiny hand in his liver-spotted and gnarled one, slowly raising it to his lips.

‘They’re not tears, sweetheart. They are the Diamonds of Love.’

🥕🥕🥕

Glitter Smiles Glisten by Norah Colvin

Relentless rain meant no beach for the country cousins. They spent eternity on the verandah, making artworks, playing games, and bickering.

On the last day, when Mum said to clear space for their mattresses, they fought over who’d do what. Toys and games ended up in a haphazard tower with the glitter bucket balanced on top.

When Dad bent for goodnight kisses, he stumbled and demolished the tower. Glitter went everywhere—including all over Dad. The children gasped.

“Your hair glistens, Dad,” smiled the littlest.

Dad smiled too, then everybody laughed.

Dad wore a hat to work that week.

🥕🥕🥕

Prideful Glisten by H.R.R. Gorman

The little girl surveyed her dress and scratched at the crinoline lining. “Why am I dressed up?” she asked.

Dr. Roberts crouched and poked his daughter on the shoulder. “Today is graduation day. It means you’re growing up. You want to dress up nice for graduation, yes?”

“I sure do – thank you, Daddy, for this fancy dress!” She twirled in her sequined skirt, the gems catching the light.

Dr. Roberts reached out a hand and led the kindergarten graduate to the station for the ride to school. He smiled, the glisten of his teeth outshining the sequins’ prideful sparkle.

🥕🥕🥕

Educational Enigma? by JulesPaige

“Mommy why doesn’t Papa man glisten?” Adrianna asked her mother.

At the cliff’s edge, Stan had wanted to clear the debris by their home by the lake. He’d at least asked Junior with him. Though Joan wasn’t sure
that father and son had enough engineering genes between them both to change a light bulb. Joan was curious as to what Adrianna was getting at. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Well,” the five year old daughter proclaimed as if she knew all the secrets of the world,“Teacher said most animals, the boys are show-offs,
like the peacock bird.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pride by D. Avery

William, reaching for his tuxedo, wondered why, of all the birds in the world, men emulate penguins when they dress up. His eyes hungrily took in the myriad colors, and his hands explored the many textures of his wife’s clothes. The teal feathered boa from the masquerade ball complemented her sequin shawl that he had draped over his shoulders. He marveled at how both sparkled, the colors shimmering. Emerging proud as a peacock from the walk-in closet, William joined his wife, still pruning and preening at her vanity mirror. Her eyes glistened as he reached for her eyeliner.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The ogre woke to fairies jumping on his bed. Pink tutus and wings flapping, giggles, pixie dust dancing in the morning sunlight.

“Get up. We made tea.”

With a grunt, the ogre shuffled to the kitchen.

“One or two sugars, Daddy?”

“Make it a double.”

Two pinches of glitter. The ogre slogged down his tea, wiped his mouth, a rare smile cracking the cast of worry on his face.

Knock. Knock.

The fairies flitted. “Mom’s here.”

The ogre started for the fairies’ bags. The smaller fairy took his hand. “Do you want my wings?”

The ogre nodded. “Of course.”

🥕🥕🥕

Forget-Me-Not by Sarah Whiley

I lit the candle, marking five years since our loss.

A single tear rolled down my cheek, which I indulged with just a little self-pity. Thinking again, of what might have been.

It never got any easier. And to make it worse, this year, my husband had totally forgotten.

I was hurt. He knew how hard this day was.

I heard the key turn in the lock and quickly wiped my eyes. I turned and was greeted by a beautiful bouquet of forget-me-nots.

More beautiful, was the glisten in my husband’s eyes, as he pulled me into his arms.

🥕🥕🥕

Daddy Can Dance (BOTS) by Susan Sleggs

Two years after a bad motorcycle accident, Carl was the only father at the Kindergarten Father/Daughter dance in a wheelchair. He had trouble keeping track of Katie in the crowd, but he came home with a feeling of exhilaration.

His wife smiled at the glitter on his suit. “How did you get covered?”

“Lots of Katie’s friends wanted a ride on my lap, and they had on sparkly dresses.”

“Pretty, but I’ll never get it all out.”

“That’s fine, every time it glistens, I’ll celebrate being alive, and remember twirling with Katie and her friends.”

“Well said, my love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hair, Skin, Sun by Paula Moyer

Jean and Steve did summer weekends at Mille Lacs – that gigantic, shallow inland lake, smack in the middle of Minnesota. Swimming off the pier was a near-sunset event for Steve. Jean often looked at him and marveled. We’re both “white,” she thought, but Steve? Seriously white.

That evening he lathered up in sunscreen, slid off the pier and floated, belly up.
His chest hair was so thick that sunlight glistened jewel-like on the strands and then refracted when bouncing against his wet, shiny skin. Sunrays danced against Steve’s chest, a giant iridescent opal, resting displayed on satin Mille Lacs.

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten – Progress! by M J Mallon

‘What’s that?’ asked the little girl in the department store.

‘It’s the new Father Christmas. He’s called man glisten because he listens to all the little girls and boys while he glistens.’

‘But I liked the old Father Christmas with the long white beard, fat tummy and the red suit,’ said his daughter with a tear in her eyes.

‘It’s progress, honey. Old Father Christmas wasn’t bringing money into the department store anymore.’

‘Do you want to meet him?’

‘No!’

‘Look! His long beard, psychedelic suit and his reindeer glisten.’

‘I don’t care! I want old, fat, red suit!’

🥕🥕🥕

Man Glisten by MRMacrum

Joyce looked up at her husband John and said, “Oh great. Look what you’ve done now?”

Oblivious to verbal cues, John just looked at Joyce and grunted.

“Hey, snap out of it. I think we’re done here. ………….. Would you please move. Your sweat is dripping on me.”

“Huh?” John’s eyes said, “Nobody home.” He composed himself. “My Sweat? What about those sweaty handprints you left on me?

Joyce smiled at John. “Women don’t sweat, they glow.”

“I see. ………… men don’t sweat either. We glisten. …. Now let’s move on. These fence posts aren’t going to plant themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

The Roughneck by Teresa Grabs

For twelve weeks at a time, Buck was a roughneck on an off-shore drilling rig. The men were men, and that’s the way they liked it. Leathered skin, often covered in dirt and sweat, only amplified his ruggedness and no one could take a punch like Buck. His beard made him look like he just walked out of a Jack London story of the North.

Daisy squealed as Missy opened the playroom door. “Daddy funny!”

Missy couldn’t help but laugh at Buck sitting on his knees, at a tea party, wearing pink fairy wings, with glitter in his beard.

🥕🥕🥕

Glitterbeard by Allison Maruska

Darkness settles on me, around me, through me. It’s impenetrable. Undeniable.

I shake the bottle. Ten seconds is all I need. Ten seconds to escape.

One last glance outside. I used to feel joy on a spring day. I remember it as a cold fact.

Zach sits on his porch with his preschooler. His chin is lifted, and she’s sprinkling something into his thick, black beard.

Glitter?

I set the bottle down and head across the street.

Glitterbeard looks up as I approach. “Hey, man! You like it?”

I smile.

It’s enough to poke a hole in the darkness.

🥕🥕🥕

The Humble Man by Michael Grogan

The humble man knew he was up against it. The shelter for the homeless was a pie in the sky venture argued so many who coveted everything they thought they had a right to.

Greed and lust prevailed, and it was every man for himself. The homeless suffered the cold, the heat but more so the derision of a society who didn’t care.

He built a rough shelter, it was warm and clean and appreciated by those in need. When he stood back to reflect on his efforts, those who watched were amazed by the glow from within him.

🥕🥕🥕

Lightning Bugs by Papershots

For a long time there had been no reason to do it up. Now it was essential. Who would come to such a secluded spot but with modern conveniences? Inherited deadweight would now sparkle again. The actors checked in a few hours before the opening, to reenact historical deeds. Their makeup glistened in the stage- and moon- light. Somebody’s eyes met and bodies twinkled after the memorized lines and the welcoming of guests. Much later one was still welcoming; the other crying made-up tears in the glare of 19th century lamps. But scintillating coincidences had definitely worked their charm.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Saifun Hassam

The Explorer rafts came swiftly around the bend of the roaring and thunderous Kemper River. Jeff was in the leading solo raft. The old broken bridge had finally collapsed into the torrential waters. Before he could react, an unexpected surge threw Jeff into the churning foaming river. Valerie and Jody rafted furiously towards the right bank, staying close to the man glisten and perilous in the relentless rush of waters. The other Explorer rafts plunged up and down, fighting the downstream surge to form a barrier across the river. Strong hands pulled the man glisten from the raging waters.

🥕🥕🥕

For Our Bearded Buckaroo Bards by D. Avery

“Men listen? They ain’t great listeners Pal.”

“Not like you.”

“Huh?”

“Shorty said ‘man glisten’ Kid.”

“What’s that?”

“Could be glitter in a beard or jist bein’ okay with glitter in a beard.”

“Huh. Well, is it okay? Ain’t ranchin’ cowboy types s’posed ta be rough an’ tough? Buckaroo Nation women are all warriors. Are all the men here good looking?”

“That’s Lake Woebegone. Here men look good if they know when ta hold ‘em an’ know when ta fold ‘em, know that it ain’t weak ta turn the other cheek.”

“An’ if their cheeks are glittered, they’re golden.”

Warrior Women

Strong women run with the wolves, engaging their Wild selves. Feminine mythology extends beyond limiting stereotypes of women. It’s fertile ground for writers to explore.

What might a female warrior look like, act like, sound like? Writers place these women as characters in different predicaments or examine the influences of those they have loved in real life.

The following is based on the May 31, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about warrior women.

PART I (10-minute read)

Rancha Mythica by D. Avery

Drumbeats and dancing feet reverberate like thunder across the lands of Buckaroo Nation.

The usual low, homey campfire is now a blazing bonfire. Flames leap wildly, lashing the night sky. Wild women are illuminated in flashes, scars revealed in the dancing light.
Old stories are told in new ways. Sad stories are told. Yet laughter rings out strong and true. Songs of life rise up like sparks from their fire, sung to old tunes that resonate like a smooth round rock.

The women warriors rise. The women warriors raise one another up. The women warriors of Buckaroo Nation write.

🥕🥕🥕

Valkyries by Charli Mills
Step forth onto the battlefield, Daughters. Brace your feet, remember your training. Adjust your shield and sword. Death is but a trip to Valhalla. Ready your bodies for passage. When you fall, the Valkyries are coming. Skol!

Lift up, lift up, lift up — Choosers of the Slain! Warrior-women wielding runes, marks of the chosen. Let not the weight of the world, the heaviness of battle, the blood your body sheds destroy you. Glory nears.

Lift up, lift up, lift up and carry those battle-born souls to Odin. Warriors of the warriors. Valkyries. Women who rise. The run is over.

🥕🥕🥕

War Zone by Mirium Hurdle

“Good morning, Lieutenant? You’ve slept for three days.”

“Where am I? My legs? I can’t feel anything.”

“They found you after the bombing. You’re alive.”

“Sheila, we need you. The Captain is hurt.”

“Right over, Ursula.”

“The blood is gushing out from his chest.”

“Roll up the sheet to put pressure on it. Give him porphin.”

“Sheila, more stretches are in. We have no beds.”

“Clear up all the tables.”

“Sheila, here. Private got shot through the elbow.”

“I’ll prepare to cut his forearm. Bring me the equipment.”

“Sheila, over there.”

“Captain needs a blood transfusion.”

“I’ll be there.”

🥕🥕🥕

Black ‘n’ White by Neel Anil Panicker

‘It’s plain nepotism. The winner’s the Jury Chairman’s nephew. You can contest the decision if you want to’.

For Abraham Lincoln, the Principal’s words were a sledgehammer.

He had outscored every single opponent and was lustily cheered after his passionate seven minute espousal of a woman’s undeniable right to abortion yet lost the prestigious annual Inter-Collegiate Debate Competition by a mere vote.

His mother’s words ringed her ears.

‘Remember, son, a Black man’s got to be a hundred times better than others if he wants to succeed in this land’.

“No Sir, I’ll try to do better next time”.

🥕🥕🥕

Urban Encounter by Bill Engleson

I generally don’t walk down Carlyle Avenue after dark. The town has quite a few streets I avoid at night. Truth is, there was still a hint of daylight slanting through, courtesy of a stretched moon shadow.

Before I see her, she screams from the alley, “Get the blazes outta here.”

That grabs my attention. Then she sashays into the light. Five-foot tops, wearing a black shawl, an ankle length red dress, and a gray military great coat.

“What’s ya lookin’ at, Creepo?”

Later, I’m thinking I should’ve said something clever.

Sadly, my tongue was tied.

I just skedaddled.

🥕🥕🥕

Mama Bear Unleashed by Eric Pone

Ono looked at the robber in the store. As he smacked the owner, she looked down at her daughter and took a deep breath. Piper shouldn’t see mama this way but shit happens. Reaching behind she slowly removed the Tanto Emerson knife and quietly rolled Piper into a quiet aisle. She walked purposely toward him her pace quickening as old habits opened their doors for their horrible duty. The man turned toward her and tried to point his Magnum 357. Too late. The knife quickly sliced his jugular. She smiled as he gurgled and fought for life. Mama did well.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadow People by Charli Mills
Undergrowth of legends cling to consciousness and shadows vape through the veil between who we must be and who we indeed are. Quaking, we repeat fairy tales to let fear conform our captured souls.

The veil slips, and we glimpse Mythica where strange and weird entities tap and twirl to original wingbeats of self-expression. Fear blinds our hearts and knots the rope around throats of mythical women who are different.

Mythica is the shadowlands populated by shadow people. Dare you cross the veil? Grandmother won’t save you, but she beckons you to enter and run hard with the wolves.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Michael Grogan

She’s old now. Her life draws to an end, but the warrior lives within her. Once a victim of rape and incest, she dedicated her life as an advocate for others.

Hours as a parent rescuing a wayward daughter, suffering estrangement but death reunited mother and daughter. She never gave up, she was a rock her child could always lean on, never dreaming she might one day bury her.

True warriors are a source of inspiration to so many, her voice in a wilderness of indifference.

She sits and holds the image of a beautiful child she couldn’t save.

🥕🥕🥕

Warriors of the Dark by Reena Saxeena

dark fears of
being overpowered
light up corners of my psyche.

childhood memories of voices
saying I was no good
unacceptable in original form

they dressed me in clothes
of subservience
to comply with social norms.

I couldn’t see how
inner demons would be caged
floating out in the cold

the jury out there
delivered verdicts
to encase me in moulds

dark, interfering shadows
swooped to enslave,
control my life

it awakened armies inside me
with the power to wage war
and destroy to end strife.

isolation for protection
and … it has always been
a lone warrior’s life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Warrior Women of Ireland by Anne Goodwin

They fought in lipstick and five-inch heels; they fought in turf-stained jeans and wellies. They battled home via Stena Sealink and Ryanair for the desperate travelling in the opposite direction. They fought so no more Savitas would have to die because no surgeon would defy the law to save them. They fought with the ballot won a century before when women starved for basic freedoms. The warrior women of Ireland reclaimed the choice misogyny and church denied them. But the job’s not done until their sisters in the north can also decline to harbour an alien in their bodies.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Robbie Cheadle!

“How are you enjoying being back at work, Lisa?”

“Not at all, Sarah. I feel guilty about leaving Tom with a caregiver. I feel I should be looking after him myself. When I collect him in the afternoon he won’t come to me. I am sure he isn’t happy.”

“Well, my view, for what it’s worth, is that we are helping to provide for our children. Our salaries facilitate better educational and other opportunities for them. It also ensures that our children have an independent, strong and self-sufficient woman as their role model. Working mothers are the modern warriors.”

🥕🥕🥕

Silent Warrior by Teresa Grabs

Protests erupted nationwide as women took to the streets. They protested for parental pay, self-ownership, and some just to protest. Newscasts were filled lawsuits over whether a man looked at a woman or complimented her outfit. Some men were too afraid to be in a room with a woman.

Lillian adjusted her gloves and checked her hat in the mirror one last time before going shopping. The streets were filled with protests again. Words hurling everywhere and no one listening.

“Thank you,” Lillian said, to the man opening the store’s door for her, smiling. Today’s silent warrior, she thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Revising by D. Avery

She reined hard to a dusty stop. “Whoaaa.”

“Nice bike”, her granpa remarked. She reproved him with a withering glare. “It’s a horse.”

“You’re a cowgirl?”

“No, I’m an Indian.”

“A lovely maiden out for a ride!”

“No, Granpa! I’m a warrior!”

“A warrior princess.”

He got an eye-roll. “Granpa, I’m not a princess! I am a war-ri-or.”

“Okay, okay. You are a warrior, doing battle, fighting.”

“Actually, I just try and save boys ‘cause they’re under a spell that makes them do dumb things all the time.”

She galloped off.

Maybe he should call next door, warn Tommy.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Sarah Whiley

I gripped my hands tightly around the wooden blade, sucking in deep breaths, to fill my lungs with the oxygen I knew would be required for the battle ahead.

“We’ve trained hard for this! We have this,” I told myself.

Adrenalin began pumping as I waited for the signal. I glanced at the girl next to me who was also breathing heavily. She gave me a quick wink.

Suddenly, I heard the calls we’d been waiting for…

“Down and ready.”

“Are you ready?”

“Attention.”

Paddles entered the water as the siren blared.

We were warrior women, in our dragonboat.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Nicole Grant

The grandfathers were whalers, and according to historians, they were yeoman farmers. I wonder, what were the grandmothers doing?  And how were the grandfathers, out at sea harpooning whales, managing their farms?  Rebecca Corson, one of the grandmothers, is said to have fired a cannon scaring off the British as they approached shore during the revolutionary war.  My guess would be that the women were spending less time on widow walks wringing their hands watching for the whalers to return than they spent in the fields tilling, in the woods hunting, and behind the cannon doing what they must.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Time: by The Dark Netizen

I ride into the army of red coats, swarming my home like ants. They will not capture my home so easily.

My noble steed needs no directions from me. He rides straight through their ranks, letting me tear them down with my swords – flashes of silver lightning.

Even after hours of fighting, my conquest seems hopeless. Most of my men are dead or wounded. I feel my eyes closing.

NO!

For the sake of my little baby and my kingdom, I cannot give in. Death will have to wait to claim the queen.

My time has not come!

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Woman by Deborah Lee

Jane’s eyes open to the phone alarm. She pokes her nose out of the sleeping bag: Cold.

Just today off? Just one day? To lie around, to not strain her eyes at job listings, to not duck the judging eyes of the homed and employed. One day to pretend her life is good enough to relax into.

No.

One day of not trying leads to one missed opportunity leads to another damned lifetime of this life she’s lived too long already.

Growling, she flings back the top of the sleeping bag and jerks her legs out of the warmth.

🥕🥕🥕

Gertrude the Invincible by Norah Colvin

With flaming hair streaming and eyes blazing, Gertrude stood at the apex surveying the land, her land. With one hand on a hip and the other raised high, she hurled her words into the wind.

“I did it. I am the conqueror. You,” she pointed expansively with her spear, “are now my subjects. You do my bidding.”
The minions bowed before her.

“I am in-vinc-i-ble!”

“Gertie! Pick up your toys and come inside now. It’s dinner-time,” called Dad from the door.

Gertie complied. Even warriors need to eat. There’d be more conquests and enemies for Gertrude to vanquish tomorrow.

🥕🥕🥕

Taking a Stand by Wallie and Friend

True, Aunt Cecily was older, but that didn’t necessarily make her wise. Emmy knew she was dead wrong. The hard part was saying so.

“Auntie,” she said, “I’m going. I know what the risks are and it’s true I might not come back. But I have to do this. For us. For all of us. I can’t just stay behind while Eddie and the others go. I can’t.”

Aunt Cecily didn’t answer at once. She looked at her niece, seeing the young woman’s level chin, hearing her controlled voice.

“You’re right,” she said. “And I will go with you.”

🥕🥕🥕

Line by galaxygirl_89

She spent every summer vacation at her great aunt’s place in the countryside, a respite from the city and it’s loneliness, among the mango trees and the paddy fields, cousins and neighbours to play with. That was the first time ever they had done anything wayward. They stole away at night after the grown ups were asleep, and walked to the stream at the end of the property. The strips dividing the fields were so narrow that they had to walk in a single file, like ants treading a line, while the moonlight streamed over in a silvery cascade.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Present by Papershots

In bed that night, she suddenly extended her right arm and hand. She squinted her eyes and aimed at the wall opposite – wedding photo, big table lamp, wooden-framed mirror. A powerful beam of light, she imagined, would open the wall and let her see behind it. She laughed. Surely if she was Super Mom she could have greater powers than that! “Never be mad for any reason, always understanding, strict and lenient at every right dose.” Better make do with these. Or have to. Or really do, because she had them. The kids asleep, she dreamed of Wonder Woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Mom by Faith A. Colburn

She thought she could adapt to anything. After all, to save her family, she’d got a job when she was only fifteen—singing in a nightclub. She’d navigated groping, propositions, and men who said she did when she didn’t; she’d joined the Army and learned to build radios and install them into B-24s; she’d married the man she loved, a shell-shocked veteran, and moved with him to a farm in Nebraska, where the nights were silent and the stars near; she’d learned to be a farm wife. But in the end, she learned she couldn’t just be missus somebody.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior Women by Chelsea Owens

Youth, untried, stands blinking into the equatorial sun. It shuffles awkward spears; tilts dented shields.

Two thousand feet nervously stamp the earth.

Their leader looks upon his neophyte army. “What say ye, my sons; will ye go against them to battle?”

Two thousand of them have never fought. Two thousand just left home. Two thousand eager voices cry, “Our God is with us! Let us go!”

Thus they march, thus they go, thus they draw their spears. The enemy, surprised, falls beneath their untrained arms.

The leader, awed, counts two thousand. “How came ye by your courage?”

“Our mothers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Wounded Warrior by D. Avery

Not best friends, but reliable friends; neighbors, they had been playmates since forever, from sandbox to bikes, many shared adventures. Together they had explored the haunted house, both emerging as warriors, both with bragging rights.

Together they’d built a secret fort.

That’s where they started exploring each other. The fort was theirs, this exploring was theirs, fun and friendly, another rite of passage shared.

He bragged. Somehow he knew he could. Somehow she knew she couldn’t admit that she’d even done it, let alone liked it.

Somehow the game had changed.

She wondered if he also missed their friendship.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Floridaborne

Work study in a musty university library back room, 1968.

Three students were tasked with binding tortured book spines. June, a slender woman well aware of her own beauty, liked to talk politics. Plain, “heavy set,” Linda was mortified.

Jack, once part of an inner-city gang, didn’t try staring his umbrage into someone with an opposing point of view. He took a blade used for binding and held it at June’s throat.

“I just bought this blouse,” June said. “Try not to get blood all over it.”

Jack lowered the weapon, and chuckled. “That takes guts.”

Linda, however, fainted.

🥕🥕🥕

Escaping Leap by Jo

The unexpected jolt to the chin was her warning. The blinding pain, the sign she sought after. She was more wounded by the fact he punched her than by the soreness setting in.

‘I’m sorry!’ He said walking toward her.

She made the decision to step back watching his eyes that went pitch black the moment she stepped away holding her face. No sword, no shield, just her wits and will, she leaped for her keys and dashed to her car. She couldn’t watch him in the rearview mirror. Later, filing a report, she learned she escaped a murderer.

🥕🥕🥕

Warrior, Warrior by Peregrine Arc

“You’re too fat.”

“You’re too skinny.”

“You should stay at home.”

“You should volunteer again.”

“That’s not organic?”

“Why are you breastfeeding in public?”

“That skirt is too short.”

“That blouse is too modest.”

“Boys will be boys.”

“Men will be men.”

“Be quiet.”

“Speak up.”

The conversations streamed past me as I sat in the mall, quietly observing.

Men may carry clubs, but women carry poison.

🥕🥕🥕

Worth the Frostbite by Kerry E.B. Black

Dyan wielded a pitchfork like a peasant soldier, lips pulled into a snarl. “Back off! You’re not hurting these kittens again.”

The farmer whistled through his teeth. “Girl, are you daft? We’ve too many felines. Don’t need no more. ‘Sides, you’ll be needing some attention. Thrusting your hands into a frozen trough for a few useless kits was just plain dumb. You’ll be nursing frostbite.”

She no longer felt her fingers, but she didn’t care. “You’re a cruel man.” She scooped the sack squirming with mewing kittens, sheltered them beneath her winter coat, and ran to the tack-room’s protection.

🥕🥕🥕

Avid Reader by kate @ aroused

Learning Italian at seventy-six years was a challenge Aunty gladly accepted. The least she could do when she expected her neighbours to learn English.

An avid reader with a vast vocabulary ensured easy completion of the cryptic crosswords daily. An astute historian, adept pianist, reared in the wilds a full sixteen mile hike from the train.

Abused by her educators she cared for her parents before a brief but happy marriage. Her genuine interest in absolutely everybody ensured that she had a constant stream of visitors.

Never uttered a bad word or complaint. She graced us for a century.

🥕🥕🥕

Fighting The Invisible Enemy by Geoff Le Pard

‘How are you, Morgan?’

‘At a loss, Logan.’

‘She’s fighting, though, knowing your ma.’

‘I’m not… you know, I don’t get that whole ‘fighting cancer’ thing’

‘She’s not giving up, is she?’

‘But she ain’t exactly waving her sword either. I mean you can’t will the effing thing away.’

‘What they saying?’

‘Not much. Just more tests. You know what’s hard? She’s always argued. She’d diss a lamppost if it got in her way, but she just lies there, doing nothing. No swearing, not even a hairy eyeball.’

‘Come here. You need to stop fighting yourself.’

‘It sucks, mate.’

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Champion Challenge by JulesPaige

Was Mercy a warrior? The woman had given Regina birth. Perhaps Mercy’s own mother knew, maybe even the man who she called her husband? But when you die young and don’t get to tell your tale — you can only hope others will. Both Gran and Dad had broken hearts that they kept as silent as a moss covered stone.

Regina latched onto the few memories that had been shared and would spin them thousands of ways. After all Mercy’s blood ran in her veins. Perhaps the words that Regina spilled on paper would be enough. They’d have to be.

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The Brotherhood of Iron by Telling Stories Together

“Again,” said the monk.

Constance drew back the bow, squeezing her shoulders together. She let string go and the arrow sang through the air, thudding into the rotten stump. The ground around the stump was littered with shafts from previous attempts.

“You’ve improved. You actually hit your target this time.”

Constance returned the old monk’s smile in spite of herself. Then, remembering her task, the parcel she’d dutifully delivered, the smile faded.

“You’ve been very kind, Atheus, but I must return to my own Order.”

Atheus placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

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Easy Pickings by Di @ pensitivity101

Swordsmanship wasn’t restricted to just the menfolk in their quiet village.

Situated in the middle of nowhere, they would be open to invasion from all sides, and when food was scarce, the men would go off to hunt, leaving the women to care for the children, elderly and infirm.

Such was a time when Outsiders decided to plunder the village whilst the men were away.

It was a bloodbath, and they didn’t stand a chance.

Only one was allowed to live and serve as a warning to others that the women there could kill as well as any man.

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United, They Win by Aweni

Melville looked fearfully at the Amazon he’d trained. She was meant to be his weapon against her kind. But, she knew his intentions now and her rage was sublime.

He won’t give up. He’ll throw discord in their midst. Her army will turn on her, he thought gleefully.

He knew he had lost when she shouted, “I come from a line of warriors! We create a furore, when we line in thick rows. Breaking the air with arrows, cleaving through the enemy with our swords. One sister for all, all sisters for one. Bend the knee to our king!”

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Who’s Gettin’ Schooled? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She swings again, the blunt-edged sword whistling past his ear by a hair’s breadth. He slices upward with his own wooden blade. She arches her back like a wildcat, leather armor squeaking protest at the quick move, and follows with a roundhouse twist that lands her at his open left side.

A quick jab; she stops just short of his heart line.

He freezes, chest heaving, and peers at her shrewdly. “You’re slow today. Are you trying to fail?”

She laughs, troll’s tail flicking gleefully. “Maybe you’re getting old, Father.”

“Time to teach you about Statecraft,” he threatens playfully.

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[fight] by Deb Whittam
Times had changed and changed rapidly … no longer was there a sense of comradery or fulfilment in this game – now it was a fight … to the death.

She had held herself distant from it but now that her opportunity had come to enter the fray she felt a sense of unease and her hand shook as she finalised her preparations – applied her makeup, checked her hair and ensured that her sword’s blade was honed to a razor-sharp point.

One didn’t go to a disco unarmed – not if one was looking for a man anyway.

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But Still Single? by Roger Shipp

She was wildly pursued on OkCupid as well as Happen, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Bumble. Hundreds of hits a day was the norm. This she enjoyed.

Tender and Down even offered incentives if she would allow her picture to appear on their advertising after her photo shoot in Maui. Financially, a plus!

LuLu, Match, and Zoosk had called her attorney wanting exclusive rights to her personality profile. Don’t throw at stick at that!

Being so sought after from all the dating app corporations could really swell a girl’s head…

Maybe actually being too-good-to-be-true was too good to be true.

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Mystery Solved by Molly Stevens

At first, Chester treasured his time alone when Ruth disappeared into the spare bedroom. He sat in tightie whities slurping coffee, scratching a butt cheek, and passing gas, thankful for the absence of her heavy sighs.

Then it seemed creepy. What the hell was she doing in there?

“I know it’s that crazy neighbor, Myra, put her up to somethin’,” he said.

He turned the knob inching the door open. Ruth stood with hands on hips, feet shoulder-width apart, chest puffed out, and chin up.

“Sweet Jesus, it’s dad-blamed Wonder Woman,” said Chester.

Ruth flashed him a wide grin.

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Wanda by Frank Hubeny

Silvia walked into Benny’s Diner. Sharon told Benny to deal with her or she’d quit. Benny shuffled to the bar.

“Morning, Silvia.”

“I want a real waitress serving me.”

Benny glanced at Sharon. “She’s busy.”

“She’s just standing there.”

“How about some pancakes?”

“Are they gluten-free?”

“You know they’re not.”

Silvia ordered pancakes as usual. While she dripped corn syrup over margarine the dreaded alien invasion began. Silvia looked at Benny and Sharon. She ripped off her street clothes revealing her secret identity as Warrior Wanda. It was time to show these wretched Earthlings how high maintenance kicks butt.

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Start of a Wild Ride (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah startled at the hand pressing against her mouth in the dark. A woman’s voice shushed her struggles. She sat up in bed to see Nancy Jane’s face inches from hers. “What are you doing,” Sarah whispered.

“Ever run with wolves?”

“What?”

“Come, on, Sarah, Yellow Feather gathered some ponies. Let’s be braves under the moon!”

Sarah clung to her quilt drawn up to her chin. Camp was silent, emigration season nearly at an end. Cobb would be asleep next to Mary, and their baby. He was the same age –

She threw down the quilt and rose from bed.

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Independence Day by Anne Goodwin

Whose is this voice that thunders in her head? Who will she become if she listens? Yet someone must lead, so why not Joan? What she lacks in years, she brings in passion.
Standing in the stirrups to adjust her seat in the saddle, she channels the spirit of her namesake. Her armour might be card, but her lance is real, and Joan knows how to use it. Not that she thinks she’ll need to today as she steers the procession through cheering crowds. Skirmish is rare on Independence Day, but a woman warrior is always primed for action.

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A Wonder Of A Woman by D. K. Cantabile

She used to be a woman of pale feelings. Her days were painted with washed watercolors, without glitter, nor shades. Blurred figures blended composing the most senseless scenes.

She couldn’t detect where the skyline divided city and stars, never noticing where the sun was setting in the horizon. She hadn’t seen a deep dark blue mood, neither glanced at a sparkling red sensual desire. She didn’t spread the orange scent of joy, or witnessed the serenity of green peace.

One day, she was touched by the cozy light yellow sunshine and the rainbow became the pathway of her life.

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It Takes a Warrior by Susan Sleggs

The nurse woke Maggie the morning after her right breast was removed. “Your husband wanted me to make sure you saw this.” She held up a framed picture of them holding compound bows. The inscription on the glass read, “To my warrior. Now you have an advantage. Your chief loves you.”

Even though it hurt, Maggie laughed. “We are professional archers. I have complained my boob gets in the way, now it won’t. That’s why we decided I shouldn’t have reconstruction. He tells me it will take a warrior to beat cancer and get strong enough to compete again.”

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Warrior by The Memory Cellar

The grief that wrapped itself tightly around her life had fingers of depression that choked her into an inescapable feeling of slow, inevitable suffocation.

She can’t let go of the shame she carries but knows it may kill her if she doesn’t.

She stares at herself momentarily in the mirror, only seeing the painful sadness only an aging woman knows.

But somewhere inside the fire rises and from her eyes fall tears of surrender and with her finger she wipes them across her face like war paint. She was a warrior once and to her surprise, she still is.

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Property Values

Many factors influence property values, including unexpected changes and situations.

Who is impacted and what responses do owners emply? Writers explored the possibilities.

The following are based on the May 17, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about property values.

PART I (10-minute read)

Value in the Balance (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Property values go up the more improvements we make.” Cobb replaced his years of responsibility as a sheriff with a drive to improve every inch of Rock Creek Station.

Sarah unpacked the latest freight of sundries from St. Louis While Cobb sawed planks for the new schoolhouse. The wood gleamed gold like the barn, toll booth, toll bridge, post office, eastside station and horse stables. The store Sarah operated had gray wood, showing its age. Sarah calculated Cobbs improvements and noted that it added up to more debt that income.

“Those values had better go up soon,” she muttered.

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Property Value by Deborah Lee

“But I don’t want to sell my house,” Michelle says.

“Property values are up,” Caroline presses. “Now’s your chance to make a killing.”

“Just move for no reason? I like my house.”

“Roll it into a bigger house, with land.” Duh, says Caroline’s tone.

“Uh-huh,” says Michelle, “with an even bigger mortgage, double the payment.”

“Not if you buy farther out, get ahead of the next gentrification rush.”

“Yeah, so then my commute is two hours one way instead of one. No thanks.”

“But property values–”

Michelle holds her hand up: stop. “There’s a big difference between value and worth.”

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Rise and Fall by Sherri Matthews

“Can you believe it, she took the broiler pan from the oven?”

Joy smiled sweetly at her new neighbour. “I’m sure it was by accident, if she did.”

“Well, I’m not happy about it.” Phyllis Mather huffed.

That night, Joy emailed her best friend Shirley and told her everything Phyllis had said. “Accused you of taking the drapes too, of all the nerve.”

Shirley had bigger fish to fry with her divorce and didn’t care much, but she smiled when she read Joy’s further news that property values in her old neighbourhood had since slumped. Broiler pan my ass.

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Property Values by Susan Sleggs

The elderly nosy sisters returned home to see a sold sign on the house next door.

“Damn, we missed seeing who bought it,” Ethel said.
To their dismay two noisy Harley’s arrived a few weeks later just before a moving van.

“Bikers! There goes the neighborhood. I wonder if they know their back yard connects to a cops. This could get interesting,” Maude said peeking out.
The next day the sisters watched the cop and his family walk in next door with a six-pack and a heavy picnic basket.

“Well there goes our fun. They already know each other.”

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New Decking by Jacob Powell

We found a body in our back garden. Right where we wanted our new decking. What are the chances?

The estate agents obviously never said anything about it.

Of course the local media soon caught wind and documented the whole thing: forensic tents, police detectives, us.

Months later and they’re still camped outside our door every day.

We’re sick of the attention and want to move; start again somewhere else. But we can’t because the property is now worth pennies, and no one wants to live in a suspected “murder house.”

And we still haven’t got our new decking.

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Moving Day by Teresa Grabs

Moving day is almost always noisy, but this time was exceptionally loud; even Taft heard the commotion three subdivisions over. The new neighbor is young and that always makes a difference.

“Son, we’re a quiet neighborhood,” Pershing told him, patting the young man on the shoulder.

“We have the best property values in town,” I added. “Quiet, peaceful, and away from the Blue Line.”

“Oh, lord knows, I feel for those by the Blue Line,” Pershing agreed, nodding. “Welcome to Arlington.”

“I could get used to it here,” the young man said, looking around. “Just thought I’d be older.”

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Property Values by Frank Hubeny

Tim’s intuition played tricks on him. What he thought would turn a profit didn’t. What he gave up on suddenly succeeded.

He didn’t want the Langford place, but Jennifer loved its enchanted forest. So they bought it. They also bought the Stevens property. Its value rose, as did their taxes, but this year they sold it for a loss.

Jennifer walked with him through the Langford woods. She pointed out, “We could build a home near the fairies if we keep it small.”

Tim felt his intuition smile at Jennifer’s innocence. They built that home and kept it small.

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Hen Pecked by Molly Stevens

Chester slammed his fist on the counter. “I need to talk to the town manager now.”

“What’s going on, Chester?”

“I’ve put up with that birdwatchin’, forest bathin’ woman next door and didn’t even complain when she was arrested for indecent exposure. But I’ve reached my limit.”

“What’s wrong?”

She’s set up a chicken coup, and I don’t like what this does to the valuation of my property. Plus I’ve got her free-range idiots chasin’ me around my yard, peckin’ at my legs.”

“Have you cleaned the tires and trash out from behind your shed?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

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There Goes the Neighborhood by Jan Malique

You wouldn’t associate the words cheerful and vampires as bedfellows, in this case rather apt though. They were new to the neighbourhood, incomers from the Old Country. Things had moved on in the vampire world, the main covens had decided to rebrand themselves, present a positive image of the undead.

Their fellow vampire neighbours were rabidly snobbish and intolerant, considering these incomers as undesirables and blamed for the property values going down. It was a war of attrition alas. Despite this the incomers aimed to be the epitome of everything their neighbours considered “beyond the pale”. Vive la differénce!

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Turrets by thedarknetizen

The castle stood tall, covered in thin layers of white snow. Lush green forests surrounded the secluded dwelling. It was perfect for my friends and me. The four of us could now live our dream. It was the right decision to buy this isolated castle, got it for cheap as well. The surroundings will need a lot of work, but we are up for it. We are willing to go to any lengths in order to achieve our dream.

Now, all we need to do is to find young witches and wizards who are eager to learn about magic.

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Witches Next Door by Kerry E.B. Black

Poppa scowled at the moving van, inventorying items deposited next door. Movers left garden items – astrolabes, statuary, tools, and potted plants – along the fenceline. Poppa stomped out a cigarette. “Darnnit, there goes the neighborhood.”

Josey crinkled her forehead. “Why, Poppa?”

He pointed. “Spell books. Magic chests. At least four cats. Witches’re moving in.”

Two plump, frizzy-haired ladies smiled and waved.

Josey waved.

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Window View by Deborah Kiyono

Through the large window of her bedroom, she can see all the constructions of the city ending in a line of hills far enough to touch the sky. The sun comes by to greet her every morning with his gentle rays waking her up for another day of adventures.

Looking at the view, sitting at her desk, she flies away and explores many kingdoms, travels to unknown galaxies and meets other beings of different realms.

Grateful, she returns, blessing this most valuable item of her apartment for preventing her from feeling trapped in a cage, away from the world.

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Property Values by Lady Lee Manila

The three little pigs were busy building their brick house.

Their neighbour, Little Bo Peep arrived and said angrily: “I’ve had enough of you! I don’t think you have building permission constructing your house.”

“You started attracting vermin (she meant the wolf) and my sheep started disappearing!”

“That’s why we’re building this house, because of the big bad wolf, who kept on huffing and puffing.”

“This is not the end of this. You pigs started moving to this area, and look what’s happening to our property prices- I bet they have gone down a lot.” And off she went.

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Priced to Sell by Heather Gonzalez

“How did we manage to get such a good price for the house?” Mandy asked putting down a heavy box of dishes on their new kitchen counter.

“The realtor said the owners were motivated to sell.” Jackie replied opening a box.

Once the sisters had moved everything inside, they decided to call it a night. Mandy found that the silence made it hard to fall asleep. She tossed and turned until she heard the door open. When she felt the bed move, she rolled over to talk to her sister only to find an empty side of the bed.

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Property Value by Jack Schuyler

The realtor walked them through the last room, and the couple looked shyly about with suppressed enthusiasm. The man smiled at his wife, exhaled and then turned to the realtor.

“It seems like a nice house—and we’d love to buy it—but why is it so cheap?”

“Well…the thing is—there’s really no other way to put it… The previous owner never left.”

“Cold feet about saying goodbye to the old residence, eh?”

“Well yes, but not in the way you might think.”

“In what way then? Belligerence? Legal trouble? An apartment above the garage?”

“He’s a ghost.”

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Infinity by Deepa

I lay awake thinking about the crystal bell I had broken when I was eight.

At 78 you broke a porcelain plate and felt a burden of yourself.

I have replaced everything in the house except for the bell. I did not throw the broken pieces, but drilled holes and tied them from strings that hang like a tinkle now.

Mom, you made me promise not to cry when you go and I kept it. I leave the door open so that the tinkle can ring and make me feel you‘ve come back home.

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Property Value by Robbie Cheadle

“But it’s a symbol of love,” he pleaded with her. “The roundness of the ring indicates infinity. It is endless and eternal, just like my love for you.”

“I am not wearing a ring,” she told him firmly. “That is a lovely romantic notion, but it makes me feel like a possession. I will not be someone’s property.”

He never managed to dissuade her from this determined view about rings. He bought her both and she kept them in the safe. Beautiful and expensive, their value could only increase. she would sell them if he ever cheated.

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Plummeting Values by D. Avery

They sat together in their one bedroom apartment with their laptops, looking at real estate listings.

“There’s lots of listings that have everything we want, but are out of our price range.”

“Yeah… wait, look at this. It has a porch… big backyard…. family room… plenty of bedrooms and storage… and it’s less than our maximum.”

“Oh, it sure looks nice. That is the exact place I’ve imagined raising a family. Where is it?”

“Let’s see… located close to schools…”

“Stop. We can’t raise a family close to schools.”

“What, why not?”

“Why not?! Guns. Schools are dangerous places.”

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Property Values by Sarah Whiley

Amy pressed the “Sold” banner across the For Sale sign. She thought about the commission she was making and smiled. She had really upsold this one, completely overstating the value. ‘Suckers’, she thought.

She put her hands on her hips, stood back and surveyed the property one more time. As she turned to leave, she noticed smoke billowing from the back of the house. An orange glow flickered.

‘Shoot!’ Amy cursed, frantically grabbing for her phone.

Although the fire department responded quickly, by the time they’d arrived, the house had gone up in smoke…and Amy’s commission along with it!

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Always Up by Neel Anil Panicker

“And what’s the guarantee it’s going to go up?”

‘Damnt it!!! Rajesh always wondered whether his wife was a born fool or turned one after marriage.

Employing his best milk and honey voice he volleyed, “My dear wife, life you know comes with no guarantees. At least, that’s what I thought until you came into my life. You’ve managed to change all that. Look at you. You’ve been a revelation. Haven’t you been delivering on your promise of giving me everlasting bliss day in and day out. Likewise, take it from me, this property will give us the same.’

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Part II (10-minute read)

Home Owner by R S Sambrooks

Suzanne types a letter ‘Dear Mr and Mrs Ross’; each word tapped bullets, then printed onto headed paper, signed by the boss and folded into a creamy thick envelope.

Mr Ross waited to open it that night when his wife came in from her shift at Belushi’s. No amount of tips could cover the mortgage, her tears flow whilst his don’t work anymore, the colostomy bag took those along with his job.

They take to the road without ringing the bank, tent carried on an old pram. Mrs Ross drops him at a hospital, makes the road her home.

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Forty-Three into One Will Go by Di @ pensitivity101

It stood alone, neglected and run down for at least six years that I remember.
In order to avoid local taxes, the family had the roof removed then sold it for just under £1m.

Properties round it were a mix of apartments, terraces and semis, most privately owned before the Buy to Let craziness started. Nothing was valued at more than seventy grand.

They knocked it down and developed the site with a mix similar to that already in existence. The company made a killing, as forty three homes were erected on the plot previously occupied by one bungalow.

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Flash Fiction by Penny Mason

In 1968 we purchased a cute, craftsman style cottage. We paid twenty thousand.

Two children celebrated birthdays and graduation parties under the softly sloping roof.

When they left us with an empty nest, a realtor said we could sell for $200,000, enough to finance a Florida retirement.

By the time we retired, the real estate bubble had burst, and the Crabtree family with their ten children and collection of motionless autos has moved in next door. Our property value plummeted to less than $100,000.

Perhaps one day the Crabtree residence will be condemned, condos constructed, our southern dream restored.

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Baby Doll by kate@aroused

Melanie’s china doll had a hallmark on her neck. Which is how the antique dealer traced her manufacture to a Polish toy maker in Germany. The doll was well over a century old and in pristine condition.

People love dolls and this one was exceptional. Her baby sized paper mache body had dimples and details to delight. Yet her value was priceless as such a doll was exceedingly rare and the sentimental value to Melody and her family knew no comparison. Their attachment to and pride in this unique family heirloom tore at their hearts but funds were needed.

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The Highest Bidder by Lisa Reynolds

Tina stood before the bidders. It was an auction for her hand in marriage. She wished she could run. Run anywhere and be free from this madness where twenty men were treating her like an object.

Soon her price was rising and she was sold to a man twice her age. He licked his lips like the pervert he was and Tina, head down, made her way towards him. Purchased. Violated. Another business deal for the auctioneer. A woman filled with greed.

No allies, Tina got into the man’s car knowing her future would be bleak.

Property, property, property.

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The Lament of Kowloon by H.R.R. Gorman

I was born when they put rocks around me, shy and still despite my welcoming gates. More humans came with houses and wells, and I ensconced them in my earthen folds. Invaders stole my stone walls, but I supported the burdens of my precious humans. Thousands moved in, and my houses became towers and dark alleys.

With more bodies came squalor and chaos, and the outsiders failed to help my precious charges. I tried to support them, but my veins ran out of water and my body became overcrowded. Humans demolished my structures then abandoned me through forlorn gates.

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Home is Where– by Wallie & Friend

The house behind them looked small. As they rounded the hill it vanished entirely from view as if it had never even been there.

“Will you miss it?”

Annie glanced at her companion sideways. “Why do robots always ask questions that are kind of obvious?”

The synthetic man met her glance without flinching. “I miss it,” he said. “Do you ever stop missing things that go away?”

Her face tightened. This time, she had no snarky reply. “No. I don’t suppose you do.”

“I’m glad you’re with me, Mabel.”

She tried to smile. “I’m glad you’re with me, too.”

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Flash Fiction by Eric Pone

Eowyn stared at Windsor Castle and sighed. “Ono I need to dump this place. It is a huge drag on finances.”

Ono responded. “Let’s get a realtor!”

Betty Whitehurst sat across the desk from Eowyn in sheer shock. “You want to sell Windsor?”

Without a beat, Eowyn smiled. “I do. This place is too large, I can’t the income I need out of it. It has to go.”

Betty had the property appraised and the art and tapestries…the history. Sitting down again with Eowyn.

“It’s priceless. Don’t be a dumbass and sell!”

Ono, replied. “How much?”

“Billions Love.”

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Land Reform by Anne Goodwin

Kare kare the land owned the people, rooted to the soil by their ancestors’ bones.
Until the white men’s rifles commandeered the territory for their queen.

Even after independence, red-brick buildings squatted where thatched rondavels belonged. Even when war veterans forced the whites to flee, a fence barred the people from ancestral lands. Unless to labour for the government minister who now owns the property: a fat fellow with ebony skin in a white man’s clothes. Or so they say: those who sweat to feed his greed have never seen him. But neither had they seen the English queen.

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Values of Stuff by Peregrine Arc

“And here is a Parisian armchair, part of our priceless Sun King collection,” the museum guide announced. “Louis the XIV, you know…”

I tapped one of my dozing students and gestured for our guide to continue.

“And over here are more…No cell phones, please!”

A student fumbled to silent her phone, paling as she read a text message.

“There’s another school shooting…” she explained breathlessly.

“I think,” another student spoke,“armchairs have more value than us nowadays…”

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Not in My Backyard by Anne Goodwin

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against them myself. I’m thinking of the old folk, and the kiddies walking past to school. With that lot shambling and gurning, shouting obscenities or proclaiming themselves the second coming of Jesus Christ. It wouldn’t be nice, like Halloween without the dressing up, the apples and sweets.
Am I concerned about house prices? Not really, I wasn’t thinking of myself. But now you mention it, it does seem unfair. Of course, the poor souls have to go somewhere. But this is such a pleasant neighbourhood. Why do the authorities want to spoil it?

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La Casa’s Lament by Aweni

They attribute my worth to irrelevancies.
Does it not suffice that I give shelter?
That I shield from harsh winds?
That my hearth warms?

They come in, asking, ‘how big is the garden?’
‘Are the kitchen tops marble?’ ‘How many rooms are there?’

I don’t mind that last question though. You see, humans are weird, they do need their space.

They ask, ‘what about the neighbours?’

What about them?! Not that I’m a fan.
So loud, abusive and those graffiti! Eeewwh!

I see, you cringe too. Yes, my neighbours do drag me down.

But that’s not the issue.

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Investment by Hayley Hardman

It was unreal to think the manor house I was standing before was now our’s. Sadly, the place was a memory of it’s former self. Lucky, the walls and roof were all sound but there were broken windows and doors to replace then the rooms to strip and redecorate. There was no running water, working electricity or gas and it was uninhabitable.

We were going to change all that, make it into a fine home then perhaps a hotel and open gardens. It was a life’s investment but once done up the property value would soar into the millions.

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[standoff] by Deb Whittam

“I’m not having it, it’s an affront to all that we hold dear.”

Looking up at the belligerent tone she noted the nods of agreement and with difficulty repressed a sigh. No one had said being a property developer would be easy.

“I’m sorry but I’m not sure I comprehend your objections,” She replied, as she considered the development they had tabled, “Properties like yours would become gold mines – house valuations would skyrocket.”

Looking up she caught the sly twinkle in his eye and her stomach contracted, she had swallowed his bait.

“Exactly.”

The troll stated with a smile.

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Property Values by Norah Colvin

The letter lay unopened for weeks. She had no more interest in its contents than she had in the house. She’d finished with all that when she told them to sell. Why were they contacting her now?

When a second envelope arrived bearing the same logo she thought to bin them both, but hesitated, and opened the first.

A cheque? She squinted at the numbers, then held it to the light. She counted the zeros, again. Really? How could a property that held so little value for her hold so much for someone else?

The second letter explained — developers.

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Property Value by Irene Waters

“Turn round. Go back. If we bought this place I’d never leave it. This road is terrifying.”

“No! We said we’re going and we’re going.”

Jemma, white with fright, surveyed the tree-dotted property complete with a platypus populated cooling creek. They shook hands with the owner who said, ” We’ve had so many calls from people saying they’re coming but you’re the first to show up.”

“We wouldn’t have shown up if I’d had my way,” Jemma said. After a cuppa they left. The property held no value for them yet a week later it sold to National Geographic Photographers.

🥕🥕🥕

Value of People or Property by Miriam Hurdle

“We got a good deal on our 10 acres, honey.”

“First time hearing of Sequim in Washington Peninsula.”

“Many retirees here.”

“See the logging. The previous owner made a fortune.”

“We need to dig a well and have electricity connected.”

“What was the noise last night?”

“Humm… a bear visitor.”

“Wait, we park next to a beehive.”

“Get in, I’ll move the camper… Isn’t this a peaceful place for retirement?”

“What? No way. Making new friends after retirement and the neighbor is 10 acres away?”

“What do you want to do?”

“Divide the land into 4 pieces and sell.”

🥕🥕🥕

My Mother’s Cottage by Luccia Gray

I wished I hadn’t inherited the beautiful, but run down cottage from my eccentric yet inspirational mother. I’d have preferred to hear her reading extracts from her bestselling novels, but she finally succumbed to a long illness and donated everything else to Cancer Relief.

It didn’t feel right to sell her home, but I couldn’t afford the maintenance, until I met Jason, who contacted me on Facebook. He was the first to offer to pay for spending a few hours in my mother’s study.

Now we’re married, the cottage is fully booked for years and the value has tripled.

🥕🥕🥕

This Old House by Chelsea Owens

Their school year had already begun when he looked around their 10-year-old house and said, “How about we move?”

His wife glanced up from grading homework, glasses perched down her nose. Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, she said, “Okay.”

And that was how they ended up in front of the 1917 farmhouse in a town of 257 people. Only the wind spoke, with an occasional canine interjection.

“It’s about half our current mortgage,” she noted, as they surveyed almost an acre of yard.

“It may need some work,” he observed, peeking around a musty, boarded-up section.

“It’s perfect,” they said, completely smitten.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Bladud Fleas

Smart Alec, so-called because his sleeper once cost a hundred bucks, his mattress an unfolded packing case from Bergdorf Goodman, his rain shelter another from Saks. He never panhandled below Fifth, and never slept east of 49th; if he could help it. If the cops moved him on, he’d keep walking the block, until the cops moved on, or got a call.

He said he knew Trump, knew the price of any building in NYC, but they say you’re just one step away from the streets and, once there, you’re a million miles away from where you were.

🥕🥕🥕

Rebrand the Swamp by Bill Engleson

“Let’s go for a spin,” he said. So, as a good and gullible friend, we headed up the valley in behind the old Mission. Three dirt roads later, he pulled off into the scrub.

“It’s over that hill.”

And it was.

Whatever he saw, I didn’t. “It’s a swamp, Charlie. A mosquito-invested puddle of muck and muskrats.”

“Infested, Henry. Infested. Smell that. It stinks of opportunity.”

“Oh, it stinks all right. Look, if I need to take a bath, I’ll jump in my tub.”

“Ground floor, Henry.”

“My loss, Charlie.”

It was.

Who could have predicted International Swamp Tours?

🥕🥕🥕

Part III

Up The River by Juliet Nubel

They had taken refuge upstairs when the river had come crashing angrily out of its bed and swept into their home.

It had ignored their screams, settling itself comfortably throughout the ground floor, drowning their precious belongings without a hint of regret. The watermark high on the walls still showed today in spite of their scrubbing.

The prospective buyers always noticed it, their eyes growing wide when they realised what it was. They then left, never to be heard from again.

They had been imprisoned that fateful day. They would now be prisoners forever in a beautiful, worthless home.

🥕🥕🥕

Property by Floridaborne

“Mrs. Miller,” the tax collector said, staring into the barrel of a .45.  “You have ten days to pay your taxes or you will have to vacate.”

“My father owned this farm, his father and his grandfather.  You have no right to extort money from our meager earnings or take our home if we don’t pay an income tax!”

“The 16th amendment…”

“My husband died in the great war!  While he fought for our freedom you bottom feeding scum found ways to steal our property!”  Fifty miles from town, she pulled the trigger.

His body fertilized her vegetable garden.

🥕🥕🥕

Back to the Country (Ownership) by Papershots

I’ve become the gardener at my own home (my family’s. I’ve left.) Kindly contributing to the communal sharing of hardships, I was mowing the lawns when more and more grass was being left behind. Rake it away, naturally. So I went out back where… I didn’t know where a rake could be. I vaguely remembered the rake; but that wasn’t enough. And one I found leaning against a wall in the toolshed, its keyless door shut by a big tree fork, the previous owner – great-grandfather! – must have had a story about this “bifurcation in the trunk of a tree.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Day in the Life of a Banker by Reena Saxena

My boss: How good is your best salesperson if he cannot add value to the book at the end of the financial year? Think about replacing him.

A loan applicant: My property offered as collateral is being undervalued. The adjoining plot has been sold at double the rate.

Me: The adjoining plot has been purchased by a businessman, who will multiply his investment 10X in two years. We will not always find a buyer like him. It is only the distress sale value of an asset that really matters. It’s about being as good as the last deal clinched.

🥕🥕🥕

The Original Black Marketeers by Anne Goodwin

Black lead didn’t burn like peat or coal, and their wives complained it marked their clothes. So the shepherds who discovered it didn’t protest when a wealthy lawyer acquired the title deeds for the mine. A century on, their descendants cursed them, now graphite cost more than gold. These men scavenged for scraps by moonlight, sold on to Flemish smugglers to carry by packhorse to the coast. If they believed they were only claiming their birthright, it was no defence in court. The original black marketeers, betrayed by the stains on their hands, flogged and transported for their crimes.

🥕🥕🥕

Plowed Progress Offering Refulgent Reward via Burnished Boxes? by JulesPaige

The light through the whole in the roof, due to the fire – was distressing. A few of the bushes were cordoned off so that when repairs were made that maybe the workers wouldn’t trample them. What are the property values along a busy
road?

Just perhaps when the building gets fixed, or torn down and rebuilt all of those other little aged homes on the street will also do some sprucing up? After all, the farmland right
across the road has almost vanished, replaced by mini-mcmansions, and several storied Condos… and a nice park for all the neighborhood children.

🥕🥕🥕

Cultural Value by kate @ aroused

Traditional landowners clearly had a strong spiritual connection to the land, waterways, animals, plants, seasons and dreamtime. Nomadic they survived by respect and understanding for their environment and folklore. White invaders, colonisers, committed mass genocide while raping their land and women, with blatant disregard for seasons or songlines. They mowed down forests and the people, polluted everything obsessed with their own wealth! What value could you put on plundered life and land? Stolen generations continue to this day, overseen by those who use and abuse what chance to sustain their language, culture and pride. Denigrated in every way …

🥕🥕🥕

Them Foreigners! by Ritu Bhathal

“This neighbourhood is just going to pot!” Sue looked out of her front room window, staring at the new arrivals on the street. “Seriously, I mean, that is the fourth family of foreigners to move in here in the last few months!”

She turned towards her husband. “Jake, I do think we need to seriously consider our options, you know darling. Property prices are plummeting because of them. Have you seen the litter? And the cooking smells?”

Jake looked up from his accounts. “Really, Surinder? Have you looked in the mirror recently? And stop calling me Jake, it’s Jagjit!”

🥕🥕🥕

Flourishing by D. Avery

“Carrot Ranch, Pal, it’s pretty big.”

“Yep, gits bigger ever day, seems.”

“It’s set up good fer cattle an’ hosses, plenty a range.”

“Yep. Shorty knows how ta take care a such.”

“But they’s also wilderness fer forest bathing; big skies fer dreamin’; plenty a space and cover fer unicorns, longhorns, an’ all manner a birds. They’s even fishin’ holes an’ bat caves.”

“Yep. Shorty’s got quite a spread.”

“An’ she welcomes ever’one.”

“Ever’one what kin behave.”

“Big di-verse spread like this, must be pretty valuable.”

“Kid, this place is priceless.”

“I sure value it, Pal.”

“Me too, Kid.”

*****

“Yep, I sure admire what Shorty’s done here. Got herself a fine spread.”

“Thing is Kid, land don’t really ever belong ta anyone.”

“You sayin’ this ain’t Shorty’s ranch?”

“I ain’t sayin’ that. But Shorty belongs ta the ranch as much as the ranch belongs ta Shorty. If ya live on a place ya got a responsibility to it, gotta take care of it if’n ya ‘xpect it ta take care a you.”

“Well, Shorty sure ‘nough takes care a the ranch an’ all the critters an’ folks that come through.”

“Yep. Shorty an’ the ranch are gonna flourish.”

🥕🥕🥕

Charisma of Cranes

Fossil records suggest cranes have existed for over 35 million years. Today, 15 species of cranes still grace the world, and the near-extinction of Whooping Cranes inspired action to protect these large, beautiful birds capable of dance.

Writers explored the charisma of cranes — their ability to capture our imaginations through art and preservation. As usual, the phrase remained open to writer interpretation.

The following are based on the May 10, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story defining “the charisma of cranes.”

PART I (10-minute read)

Sarus Crane by Irene Waters

Hearing the engines of the American F-4 jets we scattered but there was nowhere to go. The bombs fell, followed by huge explosions. A fireball engulfed everything for miles. The burning tar clung to the skin of those in the open. Those undercover coughed from the deadly carbon monoxide cloud that robbed the atmosphere of oxygen. Who were the Americans fighting? The Vietcong or the Environment? The tallest flighted bird in the world took off taking hope with it.

The Americans destroyed and then rebuilt in collaboration.

“Look. There! See that large bird!”

“Hope has returned. See the red head.”

🥕🥕🥕

Homecoming by Anne Goodwin

Henry watched from the attic window as the yellow crane dipped its neck towards the earth. Strange! Hadn’t they finished the foundations last week?

A bird crossed the sky above the building site; it seemed much larger than the usual pigeons and gulls. Quieter too. And beautifully balanced. A heron would fly with its neck tucked into its shoulders, but this was cruciform. Symmetrical. Could it be a crane?

Hadn’t those charismatic birds died out in this part of the world? If they were returning, perhaps his sister would too. The new houses, hitherto unwelcome, would summon her home.

🥕🥕🥕

In the World of Cranes by Roger Shipp

“Chichi.” There was no response. “Papa, if I wouldn’t have designed it, someone else would have.”

“This was built on the park where I courted your mother. The park where we picnicked with you as a child. The cranes that we treasured for our family’s good fortune… It was their home.”

“It still is, Chichi.” Taking his father’s hand, Tsuru continued turning the pages of the photo album.

“I remember my namesake’s stories. Look, Chichi. The Sasaki Medical Complex is in her honor. We reclaimed the fouled marshlands. Reestablished walkways and shelters. Chichi, the cranes, are safe once again.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Charisma of Cranes by Kay Kingsley

I leaned against the pole overlooking the boardwalk and chuckled to myself as I took another drag from my cigarette. In a way, it was like watching poetry in motion, a dance of jest, an innocent flirtation (if you could call it that) as he paced passing couples, children, and women. He didn’t say anything and instead impressed them with juggling, twisting balloons into animal shapes, and spontaneously extending paper flowers to the single ladies walking by. He blocked paths long enough to be playful, leaving passersby smiling. He had the charisma of cranes, and I couldn’t look away.

🥕🥕🥕

New Cranes, Old Memories by Paula Moyer

After the Wall came down, Berlin was a flurry of new construction. Huge cranes punctuated the landscape everywhere. The noise was its own buzz. Everywhere were fences around the sites. Boards with sketches of the respective projects.

After jetlag had settled, Jean and Steve couldn’t take their eyes off them, the sheer modernity, buildings popping up everywhere.

Away from the big tourist draws: the New Synagogue, rebuilt in 1995, 57 years after Kristallnight. Jean first saw it in 1980. Fenced off, a sign telling the story, ending with the words: “Never forget this.” Glass still tinkled as it fell.

🥕🥕🥕

Cranescape by Juliet Nubel

They were changing the face of the city. Dozens of them standing high over the wastelands, their spines tall and straight, their long necks stretching out over the green plains. They were of all different colours, colliding and merging in the brand new skyscape. How many could the eye take in at once?

Some found them charismatic, bringing life to the town. Others detested their metallic structures, so out of touch with the ever-receding beauty of the surrounding fields.

Daily, men climbed the ladders to reach tiny cabins, then looked down upon the concrete boxes growing beneath their feet.

🥕🥕🥕

Crane by Floridaborne

“I love cranes,” Emma said, looking up at the sky.

“They are magnificent,” Lester smiled.

Her hair glistened midnight at him, eyes so dark a universe lived inside. He loved their first date, her eyes closed to enjoy Debussy’s La Mer. Her impeccable manners at the city’s best restaurant, an ability to hold intelligent conversations about politics…he’d hoped she’d be the one.

“There’s a fund-raiser for Whooping Cranes next week…”

“I’m a structural engineer,” Emma said, pointing to the skyscraper under construction. “That’s the only kind of crane I like.”

“Goodbye, Emma.”

🥕🥕🥕

Plymouth by Jack Schuyler

As we walked through the yard, daylight shone harshly from the multifaceted car wrecks piled around us. The smell of diesel and sunshine drifted over an unbearably dry breeze.

“You’re looking for a 1955 Plymouth?”

I nodded affirmatively to my grease covered guide.

“Lars! Crane to lot 44!”

A long shadow flashed over us, and the grind of metal on rusty metal filled the already acrid air. A large magnetic hoof dropped obediently from the sky, landing atop a mountain of metal husks. Rising slowly, it pulled my dented Plymouth from the heap.

“There she is! Beauty ain’t she?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Naming Of Parts by Geoff Le Pard

‘Do you believe that stuff about boys instinctively wanting guns and girls dolls, Logan?’

‘Nope.’

‘Yesterday, my nephew used his Lego to build a gun.’

‘It’ll blow up in your brother’s face if he doesn’t avoid gender-specificity.’

‘Is that even a word?’

‘It’s two, Morgan. Look at you, anyway. Your parents gave you boys’ toys I bet.’

‘So?’

‘What was your favourite toy?’

‘A lorry and trailer. Called Derrick.’

‘Derrick? You named your truck Derrick?’

‘It had a crane on the back; when Dad saw it, he said ‘Derrick the Crane’ and it sort of stuck.’

‘Explains a lot.’

🥕🥕🥕

His Secret, and Hers by Liz Husebye Hartmann

His long spatulate fingers, joints knobby as cherry pits, cup a bouquet of fresh dwarf roses. He shifts from foot to foot within the grove of birch trees, anxious over his late arrival at the graveyard.

For twenty years he’s delivered a secret miracle to a grieving woman. For her part, she’d never remarried. He honored her devotion.

His pale blue gaze darts, beady under heavy brows. He swallows and decides, Adam’s apple pitching up, then down. He swoops, scooping up dead roses, replacing them with fresh, breathing a prayer.

“I thought it was you,” she whispers. “I hoped.”

🥕🥕🥕

Be Mine! by Di @ pensitivity101

I am gorgeous, am I not?
We are two of a kind, you and I.
My blue eyes can see what you’re thinking, and I understand.
Do not be fooled by appearances.
My legs may be spindly, but they are surprisingly sturdy and strong.
I can keep up with the flock.
My crowning glory shimmers in the autumn sun.
I am smitten by your beauty, as you are stunned by my prowess.
We will make such beautiful chicks together.
We cranes mate for life.
Be mine forever, and I will follow you to the edge of eternity and beyond.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

The stern countenance of the old warrior looked peaceful despite the wails and lamentations of the women of the village. The feathers of the blue crane, or indwe, stuck out of his hair; a startling contrast to his lined and worn features.

During his life, he had been proud of this illustrious decoration. The feathers had been bestowed on him by the Chief of his Xhosa tribe at the ceremony called ukundzabela. The great battle at which he had distinguished himself would always be remembered by his descendants. He had been one of the men of ugaba or trouble.

🥕🥕🥕

A Little Neck Stretching by JulesPaige

Summer – she stretched her neck to see the Great Blue standing, poised and posing on the rock near the south bend. There was once a pair, thrived here peaceably dining on what the fisherfolk who did catch and release, left them.

Somewhere she has a memory of that scene in digital form – she also has a small copy of the photo on the bird wall in her home.

One of fisherfolk she spoke to this spring saw a pair within the last few years. Might just be a new pair – since the bird’s life expectancy is only fifteen years.

🥕🥕🥕

The Boldness of Cranes by Peregrine Arc

Cranes tell us the delight of crisp pickles, bring us babies at prearranged appointments and adorn rice paper bordered with poetry. The birds fly and swoop, skirt ponds and stand in water effortlessly still. Their reflections add milk to still waters, twirling in eddies like bizarre espressos of Lake Michigan.

They march in single lines, chanting, strutting their wings in constrained fury. The air is theirs, they declare; the seas and lakes, too. Their feathers brush against the winds, bouncing up and down rhythmically. A black eye fixates on you. They are aware of your presence. Are you, too?

🥕🥕🥕

The Crane by Ritu Bhathal

Meena watched, hypnotised by the sight of Jin Su’s hands, deftly working that piece of paper.

It seemed like mere seconds before that flat sheet of paper, took the form of a magnificent bird, a crane.

“Wow! How did you do that, Jin? Teach me!”

“Sure, grab a piece of paper and we’ll go through it step by step.” Jin Su waved his hand towards a pile of origami paper.

A little while later she stood back, surveying her handiwork.

Not so much charisma of cranes as crane catastrophy!

“I think I’ll leave this folding magic to you, Jin.”

🥕🥕🥕

Cranes by Kate @aroused

Sally embarked on her school project with more enthusiasm than usual because she had a passion for cranes. Her mother watched on in interest as she applied herself diligently.

“Cranes are majestic creatures who deliver babies and symbolise good fortune and longevity. Over time they have become the symbol of hope and healing so many fold paper cranes.

I love to see them strutting about, and it is my prayer that Aunty Charli has a complete recovery and stays with us for a long time as she is our very best friend.”

🥕🥕🥕

Miss Martinelli’s Present by Luccia Gray

‘We’ve come to see Miss Martinelli,’ said Sally.

‘I’m afraid, my daughter isn’t receiving visitors,’ Mrs Martinelli said, wiping her eyes.

Sally pointed to a group of children holding a chain made of coloured paper. ‘We’ve brought her a present.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Miss Martinelli is our art teacher. She taught us origami, so we’ve made a thousand paper cranes to decorate her room.’

‘How beautiful, but why?’

‘She told us about an ancient Japanese legend which says if you make a thousand paper cranes, the Gods will grant you a wish. We all wish her to come back.’

🥕🥕🥕

Paper Crane by Heather Gonzalez

George folded the edges of the paper. He had already finished his test, so he decided to make a paper crane. His grandma taught him how to fold different kinds of animals, but her favorite had always been the crane. When he visited her in the hospital a few days earlier, she told him that one day when she is gone, she will come back to see him as a crane.

Just at that moment, a breeze came through the open window, and George’s crane lifted from his desk and took flight out the window.

“Goodbye, grandma,” he whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

The Charisma of Cranes by Debora Kiyono

“What do I do?” – she asked, frozen by fear.

After a moment of silence, she heard the duet call of cranes above her head.

Attracted by the sound, she watched the birds’ flight mesmerized by the beauty and elegance of their dance. A smile made her body feel peace.

Following their direction, she went back to the cliff with steady and decisive steps.

Feeling the earth beneath her feet and the breeze caressing her skin, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Allowing the body to fall, she dove, surrendering to her flight, into the refreshing river.

🥕🥕🥕

“Be the Crane” by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

Osha’s essence soared in the celestial expanses of his spiritual quest. His soul maneuvered through the ebony cosmos littered with sparkling pulsars guiding him toward his goal.

A crane, outlined in stars floated before him in the macrocosm. This bird was his spirit animal associated with royalty, balance, grace, and longevity.

The crane spoke, “Do not express your opinions, protect your family, and keep balance in life. This is the charisma of the cranes.”

Osha felt the oneness opening, and he became the crane. In the Menominee tradition, Osha claimed his new name, Atokngyam, belonging to the Crane Clan.

🥕🥕🥕

Crane Song by Jan Malique

Crane sings his song of becoming,
Of passage of time.
Shapeshifts,
Answers to the call,
Of the Three who are One.

Sacred Moon bird,
What can you see?

Your vision sees the true face of all.
Seer of the Three who are One,
Your words are hidden in mystery,
Meant for ears that hear true,
And hearts that are pure.

You weave Magic,
Usher in times of change.
Speak with the voices of those beyond the Veil.

Crane sings his song of becoming,
Of the passage of time.
Shapeshifts,
Answers to the call,
Of the Three who are One.

🥕🥕🥕

Charisma of Cranes by Michael Grogan

The “Charisma of Cranes” stood in the foyer of the gallery as a greeting to all who wandered by. It never failed to stop visitors who’d stop to gaze mesmerised by the work. Three aristocratic cranes offset against each other with the third one, with captivating eyes, drawing you in and thus being the thrust of conversation.

The cranes, painted by the legendary artist, C Mills, were featured staring out at those of us looking on. It was agreed, through an extensive survey, that the third crane was the most prominent in looking directly at you. Because it was!

🥕🥕🥕

From the Left Hand of Wallace Williams by Elliott Lyngreen

Wallace Williams drew on pulp one crane, grandiloquent among thousands of ashen pulps.

Charcoal shades soft forestry. Edges of naked males swimming. Stain glass lines. Heavier horse-drawn carriages amongst ferns. Darker gables and fascia, corners, planks perfectly prominent, poles, wire sags crest rock formations. Gray layers terrain, structure fine staples, pencil-like effects. A portfolio capturing rural American 40s and 50s.

The charisma that blends the crane, however, scales this vanishing point at minute discomfort. Art Wallace Williams prepared for my grandmother. She elucidates, “..oh how he drew this. . . using his left hand due to a recent stroke.

🥕🥕🥕

The Instructor by Bill Engleson

“Fold the paper in half,” she says. “Like this.”

I do.

“Then this way.”

I follow her lead.

I get momentarily lost.

She is patient. “It’s easy. You’ll get the hang of it.”

I give my clunky fingers a little crane dance.

“Origami isn’t my strong suit,” I confess.

“Doesn’t have to be,” she replies.

She continues.

I take a break.

“Art can be exhausting,” she cracks.

I nod agreement.

Minutes fly by.

Fold after fold.

At last, “Voila.”

“Beautiful,” I say.

“Not as majestic as the real thing, though.”

“No. But it’ll do.”

“In a pinch,” she quips.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fetch Game by Ruchira Khanna

“Attagirl!” he shouted as he threw a stick.

She narrowed her eyes and walked gracefully while eyeing it at times. Just then she saw berries hanging from a tree. She chose the latter, allowing the stick to land on the ground.

Jack bawled.

She was unperturbed as she continued to pick the fruit with her long neck.

He had no choice, but to wait until she was content.

Threw the stick again, and this time she caught it in her beak effortlessly.

Jack was quick to clap in jubilance, and she moved her feet and body to the tune.

🥕🥕🥕

The Majesty of Cranes by Reena Saxena

Molly looked crestfallen.

“What happens when a leader you worship, displays negative behavior.”

“Stop worshipping.”

“But… “ Unconditioning was clearly not easy for her.

“The majesty of a crane lies in its ability to rise up to the challenge. Stooping down or swooping down on anybody other than aggressors earns him no respect.”

“I have been hit…. And injured.”

“He is no more a leader and no more majestic. Worship is uncalled for.”

Two weeks later, the top honcho was asked to resign. One of his female team members had accused him of inappropriate conduct in the #MeToo movement. Molly?

🥕🥕🥕

A Mother for Aimi by Teresa Grabs

“Why do you look so sad, Grandpa?” Aimi asked, holding his hand.

“Because cranes should not be kept in tiny cages at the fair,” Taiki replied, wiping a tear from his eye.

Walking out of the children’s petting zoo, Taiki told her the story of Tsuru no Ongaeshi.

“What!” Aimi screamed and began wailing, looking at the zoo.

Taiki hugged her and tried to calm her down, but it was no use. The man from the petting zoo walked past.

“You let her go!” Aimi screamed at him. “I will keep her secret, and she can be my mom!”

🥕🥕🥕

Cranes by Susan Sleggs

The business man’s suit was very expensive. When you work in a fabric shop, you can tell things like that. He was in search of cotton fabric that had cranes on it, not the machine, but the majestic white bird with a red crown. He explained the crane signified good luck and longevity in Japan where the new owner of his company would be visiting from. The fabric would be tied in a specific manner around a gift. The style of folding and knots more important than the present and the cranes a bonus. We enjoyed the cultural lesson.

🥕🥕🥕

Country of Cranes by H.R.R. Gorman

I poured some tea into Mr. Suzuki’s cup, but the old man gazed elsewhere out the window, then forlornly pointed. “There she is again.”

I lifted the curtains made from yellowed lace to see a large bird soaring. “Are you sure it’s the same one?”

“She is the only red-capped crane in your country.”

“It’s your country, too.”

He sipped his tea at last. “My country lies on the other side. She flies by my window to call me there.”

***

When I arrived the next morning, Mr. Suzuki’s body remained behind, but two cranes flew west outside his window.

🥕🥕🥕

Flight of the Birds by Wallie and Friend

“Some say that cranes are the spirits of the dead,” said Allie. “When you see one, it could be the spirit of a loved one watching over you.”

“That’s silly.”

Allie glanced down at her son. Three years after his father’s death, Mick was stronger, but she knew the child hurt.

“Maybe it is silly,” she said. “Your daddy doesn’t need a bird to see you. He’s so proud of you, Mickey. I know it.”

“Does he miss me?” said Mick.

Allie’s throat tightened. “How could he miss you?” she asked, hugging him. “Somehow, he’s with you right now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pining Crane by D. Avery

Turtle dreamt of journeying. With certain steps, Turtle began trudging along an uncertain path. Borne of Earth, yet bearing thirteen moons full upon her back, Turtle bore her journey with patience and faith.
After many cycles of many moons, Turtle was far from where her journey had begun. In the shelter of wise Pine, Turtle curled up to rest. Then Turtle awakened, transformed as if again emerging from a shell.
As Crane, Turtle stretched feathered wings, stood tall upon two long legs, danced a dance of timelessness; as Crane, flew high over Pine, lucidly, all past illusions clearly visible.

🥕🥕🥕

Living the Nightmare by Norah Colvin

The shaft of light reflecting from the mirror jolted her awake.

“What time is it?” She fumbled for her phone. “Hell!” All night she’d craved sleep, then slept through. She pulled on yesterday’s clothes, ruffled her hair and charged out.

People packed the square so tight she couldn’t squeeze through. She craned her neck but, even on tiptoes, couldn’t see. She pushed into the tiniest gap on a ledge, only to be elbowed off. But she’d spotted a cherry picker. She climbed in, pushed a button and up she went; just as the crowd dispersed. She’d missed out again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cranes in Maine by Molly Stevens

“What’s that screwball woman doin’ now?” asked Chester, stretching his neck to watch his neighbor, Myra.

“Looks like she’s geared up to go bird watching,” said Ruth. “She’s a member of the Audubon Society, you know.”

“I’d sooner walk on broken glass than tramp around lookin’ for birds. And don’t she know she’s not gettin’ any younger? What she needs to do is go on the hunt for a man.”

“She told me she’s looking for sandhill cranes.”

“Sandhill canes in Maine? She won’t find them north of Belgrade.”

“How do you know that?”

“I watch the Nature Show.”

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Brolga’s Dance by Sarah Whiley

Monogamous. Bonded for life. Couples are known by synchronous, trumpeting calls. The female initiates, standing with wings folded and beak pointed skyward. The male mirrors, but with wings flared. The performance begins.

One bird picks up some grass, tosses it into the air, and catches it in its bill. The bird then jumps into the air with outstretched wings, bows, struts, and bobs its head up and down.

First, the brolgas dance for their mate; then dance in pairs. Finally, they dance together as a whole group.

I observe them through my binoculars, amazed; thinking, “The charisma of cranes.”

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What Do You Know of Cranes? by Aweni

Smaerd turns to me, “tell me about Cranes.”

I jumped right in, “ah, ‘Story of the Cranes,’ do you know scholars deny it?”

Smaerd looked at me, “no not that.”

I didn’t ask, just jumped right in, again.

“Oh, you mean, a thousand origami Cranes and how they make a wish come true!”

Smaerd now exasperated, said, “no, tell me of Cranes, their role, describe them, anything but the sentiments humans attach to them.”

I looked aghast, for I knew nothing of Cranes.” I hear they dance with charisma, ………” silence….. Do they fly? Do they chirp?……

Don’t you judge!😃

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Dream by Tiffany Blair

There once was a dancer younger and brash, her dream to be on stage, she was determined to let nothing stand in her way, she practiced from sun up to sun down until her feet were sore and blistered until finally, her chance came.

She pirouetted, twirled and leaped, always on the move, across the stage and when bright flashes met the end of her performance she bowed, happy, for she’d finally accomplished her dream, the stage was where she was meant to be, from then on, she was determined nothing would get in her way again.

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Raising Crane by D. Avery

“So many egrets.”

“Regrets? What do you have ta regret, Pal?”

“No, Kid, egrets, they’s a bunch a cattle egrets roamin’ the ranch.”

“Oh. Thought they was cranes.”

“No, egrets is more like herons.”

“Yeah, they’s here on the ranch. Cranes.”

“We do git sandhill cranes here, Kid, but cranes an’ herons an’ egrets is diff’rent.”

“Well, what’s the diff’rence then, Pal?”

“Fer one, cranes fly with their necks straight out not tucked in.”

“Seems a bold move, Pal, stickin’ their necks out an’ all.”

“Yep. Bold an’ beautiful.”

“Let’s raise cranes! At Carrot Ranch!”

“Shorty sure won’t mind.”

🥕🥕🥕