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Signs

Signs are all around us. They guide our roads, mark our territories, and give us direction. Some signs are as blunt as a red octagon declaring stop, and others urge us forward as signs we interpret.

Without a map, writers followed where the signs led them. Signs — and stories about them — are as diverse as the paths to get there. Where? Well, read on and find out.

The following are based on the February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign.

PART I (10-minute read)

Mourning by Sascha Darlington

So much pain.

I became mean, tired, despondent. I pushed. I shoved. Told everyone to leave.

They did.

Through day and night, I existed, feet scuffling as I sleepwalked through life, uncomprehending light or dark or winter or spring until I blinked awake, teary, pillow sodden, a scratching on the back-door reverberating through the house.

I willed the sound away. I had power: I willed people away. I could will this away. Yet, it continued.

Opening the door, I saw your brown eyes gazing from a dog’s face, a dog with your joie de vivre, who invited himself in.

🥕🥕🥕

Part I: For Sale (True Love) by Tracey

‘For Sale’. The sign had been in front of the colonial with the lovely porch for months. This cold February morning there was a second sign: ‘Open House’.

She walked slowly through the entire house: gleaming woodwork, an eat-in kitchen with a bay window looking over the backyard, a claw foot tub. It was too perfect. Her heart shouted she was home.

She felt herself start to tremble as she took the flyer from the real estate agent and glanced at the price. “I’ll take it” she heard herself say as her head chimed in to match her heart.

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Part II: Stop Sign (Also True Love) by Tracey

One balmy evening I sat on my front porch watching the fireflies appear in the gloaming. A woman ran the stop sign at the corner and hit another car. A low impact crash: crumpled metal and shattered plastic bits but no one hurt.

She must have lived nearby, her husband arrived quickly. The first thing he did was ask if she was hurt. She started to cry and said, “I am so stupid.” Her husband replied, “I know you are but I need to know you are okay first.” I laughed softly in the growing darkness. Well, wouldn’t you?

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Ominous Signs by Norah Colvin

Every day, the farmers scanned the skies for a sign, any sign, that a reprieve from the relentless drought was on its way. The dusty red soil yielded not a single blade of feed for the suffering stock. Bales of hay, donated by city folk, helped but soon it too would be gone. When the rains finally came, the farmers rejoiced. For four days it rained; beautiful, drenching, life-giving rains, soaked up by the thirsty soil. But it wouldn’t stop. It transformed their world into an enormous, red, muddy sea. Hopes drowned alongside precious stock leaving heartbreak and devastation.

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Paper Boats in the Monsoon by Trailblazer

A delayed child, who never spoke, giggles to herself.
Everyone except me thinks she is defective. None in that big, rich family cared.
Somehow she knew I appreciated her. She hugs my gifts and giggles.

I visited her last monsoon. She was playing with paper boats in puddles of water. She appeared angelic.

A fallen coconut, her port. Boats named in an unknown script. Suddenly she spoke a peculiar language fluently.
The signs were good enough, she was an angel.
She hugged the pink sweater gift and giggled.

A month later saw her lifeless body wearing that pink sweater.

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The Universe Isn’t Interested by Anne Goodwin

A white P against a blue background: Janice was almost level with the sign when she swung the wheel and shunted into the layby. A horn blared as a truck sped past.

Silencing the engine, she clambered out onto the verge. Shaking both fists, she dropped her jaw and screamed.

Traffic roared by, indifferent. The slate fellside frowned as it had done for millennia. A small copper danced from daisy to dandelion, oblivious.

Her throat remained raw from their argument. Was love as ephemeral as that butterfly or would theirs emerge resplendent from this ice age, like the land?

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Sign in the Wilderness by Deborah Lee

“What’s wrong?” Henry asks.

Jane feels herself, ridiculously, wobbling a bit, and forces equilibrium back. “Nothing, really, just about the strongest déjà vu I’ve ever had.”

“I read somewhere,” Henry says comfortably, “some guru somebody, that déjà vu is a spiritual sign that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, right where you’re supposed to be.”

“So, me being unable to find a job or have a roof over my head is a milestone? If the powers that be are going to send a big ‘YOU ARE HERE’ sign, it’d be nice if they’d also tell me where HERE is!”

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The Dream by Colleen M. Chesebro

It began with a dream so real that I woke up on the hard floor beside my bed. My first thought was that the ancestors were trying to tell me something. They often spoke with signs, like the day I found a feather on the ground where no birds tarried or how the wind caressed my face a certain way.

Sometimes, they spoke by invoking a change in the weather, such as when the clouds blocked out the sun leaving a coldness behind. Then, the ancestors spoke to me through the shadows. And, when the ancestors spoke, I listened.

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The Unreasonable Age of Reasoning by JulesPaige

The young man was an excellent manipulator. He wanted to do things his way, when he wanted to. Normal inquisitiveness was rewarded. He liked that. When he had to do things he didn’t want to, there was trouble. The Elementary School inadvertently gave him a sign that allowed him to get the upper hand. The ‘sign’ he was labeled with was ‘anger management issues’. And he was going to use it to get his way, when ever he could.

There were some adults who still possessed common sense. And he would have to learn to behave when around them.

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The Recycling Centre by Sally Cronin

Having followed the signs to the centre, she stood in line. It was almost time to relinquish the baggage she dragged behind her. It contained items representing her life, the good, bad and ugly. Admittedly there had been much love and laughter mixed with the heartache. However, the invitation to recycle unwanted items offered a new start.

Holding out the suitcase to the man she hesitated. ‘Can I remove some things?’

‘Sorry ’, he smiled kindly. ‘It’s all or nothing.’

Loading the bag into the car, it seemed lighter than when she arrived, despite choosing to keep it all.

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Signs, A Dyslexic’s Guide by Geoff Le Pard

‘It must be a sign, Logan.’

‘It’s a cloud, Morgan.’

‘No, but it’s like an Arrow and that means love, so she…’

‘Love?’

‘Love’s Winged Arrow. Eros.’

‘More like a straw and you’re clutching it.’

‘Ha bloody ha. My mum saw a cloud like a face once and next day she found she was pregnant.’

‘She had to be pregnant already.’

‘True. And she said it looked like a frog.’

‘Are all your family into signs?’

‘Gran’s not. She thought she was going to a book singing. Very disappointed when she just got a scrawl and Cliff Richard’s autobiography.’

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Sign by Chesea Owens

A simple man, though good and kind
Went walking down the sidewalk line
And saw a simple womankind.
He thought, She looks, to me, quite fine.
Meanwhilst, she glanced in mirrored shrine;
Of café window, ‘neath a sign
And told herself she was quite pline;
Till, seeing, side and just behind
Our simple man, in quite the bind.
Then, from his cellphone, played a chime:
‘Twas evening of Day Valentine.
She smiled, asked, “You have the time?”
He smiled, too; said, “Not yet nine.
Would you,” he paused, “Want to be mine
For supper, now it’s time to dine?”

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Sign in a Dream by Susan Zutautas

Valentine’s Day was almost here. Meg was excited as Ian was planning a romantic dinner for two at his place. She loved a man that would cook for her.

The night before the big day Meg had a dream of her mother playing a church organ. When she awoke, she thought it was strange. Seldom did she dream of her. Meg put it out of her mind.

When she got to Ian’s he asked her to sit while he played the piano. The song he played and sang was Marry Me. Meg cried, “Yes, yes, of course, I will!”

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Final Answer by Jo Hawk

It’s the question I’ve been asking since we met. I can’t tell if you care or if you tease. With you the day is light or else it’s black. Your words can bring me to my knees. Give me a sign to let me know.

My friends say I should live my life, stop this endless strife, and find myself another wife. I want a single word from you, the reason to endure to the end of time. Please give me a sign and let me know.

Tonight, I found you gone, and at last, I read your sign.

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Ocean City by Kay Kingsley

Her life was boring and she knew it. Several times she tried engaging but felt it was like trying to merge onto a freeway from a stopped position so she eventually gave up and gave in. This would be her life.

That was until she noticed the interstate sign that read, “Ocean City, MD 3,073 miles”.

Passing it on her daily commute, she looked forward to it, had to see it. It called to her.

So with her suitcase in tow, she called in sick, driving east towards the rising sun in Ocean City where her destiny awaited her.

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Not a Brag – A Reality by Susan Sleggs

On the Riverside Hotel lobby wall there was a big, bold sign; Our bartender Carlton is the best in the US. We took our luggage to the room, freshened up and went to the lounge; curious. With our first order Carlton asked our names and hometown and didn’t forget. He asked other guests the same then introduced everyone to everyone else. We had a fun evening with what felt like old friends. We left an exorbitant tip, sad we couldn’t stay another night. We still talk about Carlton, wonder how much money he makes, and if he’s still there.

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Chester Needs a Woman to Tell Him Where to Go by Molly Stevens

“You want me to help navigate? I’ve got google maps open on my phone,” said Ruth.

“Nope. I’ve driven to Worcester so many times, I know how to get there better than one of them apps,” said Chester.

“But it’s been a long time since you’ve driven this route.”

“Don’t worry. I can get us there without a woman tellin’ me where to go.”

“Suit yourself,” said Ruth. “I guess I’ll take a nap.”

“Woman, how’d you let me miss the exit sign for Worcester!”

Startled awake, Ruth sputtered, “I’d be happy to tell you where to go now.”

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The Sign by Allison Maruska

I dash up the street, my young son’s hand in mine. We weave through the crowd, bumping into a lumbering old man and a child picking something sticky off the pavement.

“Mommy! Slow down!”

I don’t. I know what slowing down means, even if my boy of three doesn’t.

There’s an open store on the corner. A tourist shop selling postcards, plastic jewelry, and native blankets from Mexico. As I yank on the handle, I see the depressing sign: Restroom is for customers only.

“Mommy, I gotta go!”

Guess I’ll be adding a pack of gum to my supply.

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Have a Great Fall by D. Avery

“Mom, I’m going to Tommy’s.”

“Destiny looks uncomfortable driving that Tonka bulldozer. And what’s that sign she’s holding? What are you two up to now?”

“We’re gonna protest. Tommy and his GI Joe built a humpty-trumpty wall out of snow.”

“Marlie, I’m sure GI Joe is just following Executive orders.”

“That’s what Tommy said. But I don’t like walls like that.”

“It’s cold out. Wear this hat.”

“Tommy’s dad does not like this hat. At all.”

“I know. Here. I made a little one just like it for Destiny. And here’s one for GI Joe too.”

“Awesome! Thanks mom!”

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PART II (10-minute read)

Sign by Ann Edall-Robson

I need to keep moving. Safety is somewhere on the other side of the creek. The sound of running water tells me the ice is failing in the spring-like weather.

Animal sign is everywhere along the creek bank. Elk, wolf, deer, bear, and coyote, their calling cards at my feet. Tracks disappear like ghosts into the willows. A constant reminder I am not alone here. I must be vigilant of my surroundings and the sounds unfitted by the wind.

I hear them. Their voices put me on full alert. Will the ice hold? I have to chance it.

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The Archeri by The Dark Netizen

The two boys stared wide eyed at the holstered silver gun.

It was huge. Even though they had no experience with guns other than video games, this weapon looked like no ordinary person could wield it. Not that Perseus looked like an ordinary person, either. Gary turned towards Billy.

“What is an Acheri?”

“Well, its a monster that preys on those who show fear. That’s why it tries to strike terror into its victims’ hearts, before attacking and capturing them.”

Perseus suddenly got up.

“The fog is thickening. A sure sign that the Acheri is there. Time to hunt.”

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The Black Arrow by Joanne Fisher

Aalen found herself in a thicket. Coming into a clearing she found two dead bodies before her. Both human soldiers dressed in similar garb to the ones she killed on the borders of her land. Probably scouts of some kind. One had an arrow through his throat, while the other had one through the right eye. Pinpoint accuracy. Both arrows were painted black. She was unaware of anyone who did this. The fact that someone else was also hunting the soldiers Aalen took as a sign she was doing the right thing. Somewhere out there she had an ally.

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Signs by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

They had missed the signs completely. By the time the cause of Aron’s increasingly hyperactive, excitable and erratic behaviour had become clear, it was too late to save him.

Mary berated herself. She had been so foolish. When the squirrel bit Aron, he had come straight to her for help. His eyes were shiny with panic as his numerous fears for his health overwhelmed him. His hysterical ravings had irritated her so much that she had not considered the possibility of rabies.  Now he was dead and he had taken some of their friends with him to the grave.

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A Sincere Sign by calmkate

I saw a sign that said it all

my heart and soul it did call

a reasonable warning far and wide

to meet our needs and not imbibe

in every desire as it arises

accumulation compromises

turning life into real fear

as others try to draw near

seeking a share of perceived wealth

it haunts endangering our health

much easier to live within our means

brings content, avoids unholy scenes

greed breeds envy and that eats away

as on our sanity and calm it will play

for restful sleep and peace of mind

be wary greed and envy blind!

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Megan by Nobbinmaug

Megan lost interest in the things she used to love. Simple pleasures eluded her. She started sleeping more and found she couldn’t concentrate. She avoided her reflection. She became more reserved and withdrawn.

She asked for help in subtle ways. She made multiple attempts to talk to friends, but nobody understood. They thought she was being dramatic. Friends started avoiding her. So, she buried her feelings deep down inside and tried to play it off like everything was fine.

One day, her sister found Megan in a bathtub full of blood. Nobody took the time to read the signs.

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Seized by Kerry E.B. Black

The sisters joined hands and confronted a red word on bone-white metal. Seized.

Freya trembled. Although she didn’t understand the word, she dreaded. “What’s it mean, Miriam?”

Miriam peered around the police tape. Inside the simple building, officers snapped photos, placed belongings into boxes, and recorded the contents on paper taped to the outside.

Like ants, officers conveyed family art into the back of trucks. Books crackled from a side yard bonfire.

Tears slid beneath Miriam’s glasses. “It means we’ve lost everything.”

Freya pulled Miriam into the shadows. “No, not everything.” She squeezed Miriam’s hand. “We have each other.”

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The Sign by Michele Jones

Again. Another beating, more destruction. Allie dropped to the corner and covered her face with her arms. “Please don’t hit me. I’ll do better. I promise.”

“You better have this place clean before I get back.” He left, slamming the door behind him sign falling to the floor. Worst sign ever.

Tears flowed down her cheeks. It was time. Allie ran out with only what she could shove in her backpack, and her cell. She couldn’t risk getting caught by him. The rain pelted her face as she ran through the streets, but she was free. Away from him.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words (A Sign) by Andes Cruz

When he stopped replying to my messages… it was a sign. When he left without a trace, it was a sign. When he didn’t skulk back and wish me a happy Holiday, new years, or birthday – it was a sign. When he didn’t get upset I ignored his birthday, also a sign. And when he didn’t show up to our long ago planned Valentines Day private party for one, it was a sign.

I refused to listen, I willed it not to be true.
But it was.
He was gone.
And there was nothing I could do about it.

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Quite the Sign by Teresa Grabs

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but Jasmine never bought into that. Linda continued blabbering about her latest opportunity. She sipped her coffee and nodded at the right times but wasn’t listening at all.

“Lin, you know I love ya, but it’s a scam. I hope you didn’t pay anything.”

Linda was taken aback. “If you were a real friend.”

Jasmine sighed as Linda stormed out of the shop.

Moments later, Linda returned silently to the table. She handed Jasmine her buy-in check. “If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.”

“What?”

“The police just arrested the owner.”

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Sign by Pete Fanning

The biggest news in Maycomb that summer was the giant STORE CLOSING banner out front at Sweeney’s. Mom nearly cried. She and Dad had gone to high school with the butcher and two of the cashiers. Dad shrugged it off, WalMart was cheaper anyhow.

I didn’t get why Mom was so worked up. It was just a tiny grocery store. A few years back, the first S had gone out in the SWEENEY’S sign out front and I’d thought it was the funniest thing ever. It had been fixed, but the S still shined brighter than the other letters.

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A Sign: Off the Times by Bill Engleson

“Did you hear that?” she asked.

“What?”

“What he just said?”

“Who?”

“Trump. In that news clip from the Prayer breakfast.”

“Seriously? No. I’ve stopped listening to him. I told you before, I’ve reached my gibberish quotient.”

“This was new. Like it was there…flitting about in his brain…and then, whoosh, it came out. Like a popped pimple. Like it’s a sign of what’s coming.

“Okay. I’ll bite. What was it?”

“He said ‘one of our greatest strides…the abolition of civil rights.’”

“Nah! Even he…”

“Even he…what?”

“Wouldn’t…”

“It’s Trump, remember.”

“Well, when you put it that way. Holy moly!”

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Sign by Floridaborne

Let’s play a game.

Assign each letter a number from 1 to 9.

My name is Joelle LeGendre.

My #’s are   165335 35755495

I’ll make up what this means

1  lucky in love

2  total failure

3  your artistic work will be a success

4  keep your family together

5  Change jobs

6  Take the plunge

7  You need a vacation

8  Future entrepreneur

9  Pursue the 3rd goal on your list

Added together, my single digit total is 3.

Yay!  My book is going to be a success!

Um…which one?  I asked for a sign, not a puzzle!

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Boundary by Abhijit Ray

Like every weekend, Radhika and Yatin were out with their cycling club members this saturday. That is when they noticed the board “Private Property, Keep Out.”

“What are they are hiding?” asked Yatin, “why they want everyone out?”

“They are protecting their personal space,” said Radhika, “what’s your problem?”

“Problem is homophobia; obviously, they can’t keep out air, light, birds and animals,” retorted Yatin, “they are against humans.”

“Now you are being facetious!”

“Sure, you would know,” said Yatin sarcastically,” you own one such board!”

“What do you mean?”

“How many men you dated, since your last break up?”

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Sign, Sign Everywhere a Sign by Nancy Brady

Julie was frequently seen walking around town, which was one perk to living where she did. It could be hazardous because drivers didn’t pay much attention to pedestrians despite the recently changed street layout.

Suddenly, there were three red octagonal markers where there had been none, demanding each car to stop before proceeding. Most drivers, however, just slid around the corner unless there was another car at the three-sided intersection.

Julie experienced many close calls in that crosswalk as cars zipped by. Fed up, she made and put up three strategically placed signs: “IT’S NOT A SUGGESTION: STOP AHEAD.”

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Is This Clear Enough for You? by Di @ pensitivity101

All that was left were his boots and a bloodied foot.

His family were up in arms and blamed the owner for their kin’s demise.

‘There are signs!’ he shouted. ‘They’re not there for show. They’re warnings. It’s not my fault if you lot don’t take any notice!’

‘They don’t explain the dangers when perhaps they should.’

‘You’re trespassing! I don’t have to give you the willy nilly and whys and wherefores why you’ve got to keep out!’

‘They’re inadequate!’

He sighed.

‘OK. I’ll change them.’

The following day, newly erected signs read

“Warning: Bears. Trespassers will be eaten.”

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Why Did I Get Up by Ritu Bhathal

Nina dragged herself to sitting position. Why did the alarm have to go off?

She swung her feet out of bed and one landed on a squidgy mess.

Great.

The cat had been eating silly things, and deposited his sick at her bedside.

The shower was no better. Her flatmate had used up all the hot water.

Even her morning coffee was blighted with the fact there was no milk left.

After three hours of sitting on a bus, trying to reach her workplace, Nina gave up.

All signs that she should just have stayed in bed this morning.

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Cure for Cabin Fever by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Crystal bottles stood before her, hip shot in relaxed groups. Scented soldiers, they had no expectation they’d be called to order; Treena preferred sweatpants to skinny jeans, books to bodies grinding on a dance floor.

She glanced out at last night’s blizzard draped like predatory animals on nude tree branches, the streets below slick and frozen. Lifting bottles to the setting sun, Treena discarded each in a straight line until a sea-green bottle caught the light.

She sniffed. “That’s it!”

Spritzing the air, she stepped into the fragrant mist, “Enough cabin fever.”

Treena headed out into her personal Spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Sightseeing – Kyoto, Japan by Miriam Hurdle

“We arrived at Mount Arashiyama. Let’s get off the bus here.”

“Where do we go, Carl?”

“Follow the sign to the Iwatayama Monkey Park.”

“The sign points to the top of the mountain.”

“We’re at the right place, Gail.”

“Oh, the climb is steep, I’m out of breath.”

“There must be a reason to have so many benches on the way.”

“I can see the monkeys and many Park keepers now.”

“The view of Kyoto is spectacular from here.”

“What are the monkeys doing? Do they have lice?”

“No, they’re grooming each other as part of the social interaction.”

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Reflected Glory by Anurag Bakhshi

“Do you see this certificate?” I asked.

“Of course,” pat came the reply, “I can see everything.”

I was positively gloating as I posed my follow-up question, “Can you read the sign at the end?”

There was just a hint of trepidation, and hesitation, in the response, “Yes, but…”

“You can’t get away with your ifs and buts this time, my dear,” I exclaimed, going in for the kill, “This certificate by the Guinness Book of World Records clearly states that I am the fairest of them all. They should know better than a stupid old mirror, shouldn’t they?”

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PART III (5-minute read)

Squanto by D. Avery

Massasoit keeps me close; he does not trust me who has been carried back and forth by the giant birds, which have been preying along the coast.

I learned the words of the English in their country. The giant birds are ships. After five springs I followed the sun back to my country in ships, finally returning to Pawtuxet where chill winds rattled through empty fields littered with the untended bones of my people.

Another ship has come. English families are building in Pawtuxet. Massasoit gathered the shamans in the swamp, looking for a sign.

These are uncertain times.

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Alabama Highway by H.R.R. Gorman

Trees, killed and cut, lined both sides of the road. The road, as far as Stomping Beaver knew, hadn’t been there a week ago. The white army might as well have posted a sign mentioning their intent.

“They move fast.” His teenage son tossed a few twigs.

“Faster now they’ve built this road.” Stomping Beaver removed his shoulder bag and tucked it beneath one of the felled logs. “Stay here. Have my food – this bag will only slow me down.”

He’d be too late. The road was several days old, and the fort was only two days march away.

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A Drive Back in Time (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Ramona looked for the sign, the one that read Elmira. Snow pelted her windshield with a mesmerizing kaleidoscope that Vic called whiteout fever. She ignored it the way her husband said to, and instead followed the tracks in the snow. Ramona startled when her headlights caught the township sign. Why were the mill lights out? So dark! She slowed and pulled into her driveway where someone was plowing the easement. Vic, her husband. The power must be out. She waved and blew him a kiss. Silly man. What was he up to, calling a young thing like her, “Grandma”?

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Country Music by TN Kerr

The sign on the door read, “The Unwritten Halibut”. She stood just inside waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. This was her kind of place. It was a drinker’s bar. Dark paneling lined the walls; a couple of neon beer signs glowed in the back. A ghost of smoke held up the ceiling in defiance of a local ban. Rainbow colored bottles sat on glass shelves and four or five patrons rested at the bar; staring into their drinks, not talking. The volume was low as Hank Williams sang a hard luck song on the box.

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The Thing by John Rieber

He noticed the sign for the first time just a few miles from “The Thing.” The billboard was gaudy; it showed a diminutive character with a large top hat and a shocked expression and asked “can you handle the shocking surprise of “The Thing?” He was hooked. When he saw the roadside attraction, he pulled over and fished in his pocket for the $1 entrance fee. As he entered the musty building, his final destination was the last thing on his mind. Perhaps the money would be there, perhaps not. It was only $1-million, so it almost didn’t matter.

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Signs – A Remarkable Conversation by Gordon Le Pard

He knew how it would be, it wasn’t that people were unkind but for someone profoundly deaf there was little he could enjoy in a party like this.

The guests were introduced, he smiled, was about to sit down and read, when the last woman smiled back and flicked her fingers.

“Good afternoon?” She signed, “what is the book?”

For the first time in years he sat and enjoyed a conversation. She certainly knew her books, and suggested many things he could read. As she rose to leave he asked.

“Have you ever written anything?”

“Perhaps.” Signed Jane Austen

Author’s Note: This tale is absolutely true, the meeting took place in Southampton on December 27th 1808.

🥕🥕🥕

The Forest by Saifun Hassam

For the umpteenth time, Carmen questioned her wisdom in exploring the ancient Petrified Forest. Its fallen trees were part of a living forest some 200 million years ago. The sediments also contained fossils of ferns and ginkgo, reptiles and dinosaurs.

As a botanist, Carmen was curious about the origins and evolution of all plant life. Still, this forest unnerved her with its eroded cliffs and vast sandy tracts. What signs of past geologic and climactic changes lay hidden deep beneath the colorful sediments? To learn any of that would require the utmost care: the forest was unique, beyond replacement.

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California Stop by TedBook

“Ethel!”, screams Cheryl.

“What?”

“You didn’t stop!”

“Didn’t stop?”

“At the corner, no stop.”

“Yes I did, I always stop at stop signs.”

“No, you were rolling, that doesn’t count as a stop. And the sign says stop.”

“Oh for God’s sake, Cheryl, don’t be so picky. That was enough of a stop. You never yell at Betty when she drives.”

“That’s because Betty always stops at signs. You made a California stop.”

“What are you talking about, we’re in Chicago?”

“That’s what they call a rolling stop. You rolled.”

Ethel sighs as she rolls thru the next stop.

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Beware! by Anita Dawes

Yesterday I visited our Farmer’s Market

where I noticed an old man wearing a sign

Beware! God is around every corner!

So from now on, I am going to walk a straight line

I have no wish to bump into God.

I’m sure he’s looking for me.

Probably has a tin full of sins with my name on.

The worst one I can think of is using His name in vain

“Oh God.” comes out of my mouth at least a dozen times a day.

I’m not saying it’s easy to keep on a straight path.

Corners are everywhere…

🥕🥕🥕

Signed On by D. Avery

“Ow! Look where yer goin’.”

“Sorry Pal.”

“Kid, this prompt is perfect fer you.”

“Thinkin’ more fer Aussie. A cautionary tale about playin’ with matches.”

“Whut?”

“Better singed than burnt.”

“Kid, the word is sign, not singe, which is why it’s a good one fer you. Yer always misreadin’ an’ misspeakin’.”

“I ain’t got no trouble readin’ signs, Pal. Shift, look where I ended up! Right where I’m meant ta be, here with ya’ll at this here Ranch.”

“Hmmmph.”

“Fact, I’m a sinecurist!”

“I git the little or no work part, but financial benefit?”

“Yep. The Ranch enriches me.”

🥕🥕🥕

February 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

My front window buzzes with thousands of white bees dropping from the heavy skies in search of clover in the grass. Except, there is no grass. There’s no clover. And the swarm outside is yet another snow storm. All signs point to winter in the Northern Hemisphere even if we did celebrate Imbolc last week, noting that the days are getting longer.

The Hub just popped in to grab his workout shoes. His red and black checkered flannel jacket is dusted white. He’s off to the local Crossfit Gym where he works out with one of his counselors and another veteran. It’s a pilot program to see if the Crossfit program can adapt to veterans with disabilities. The idea is to get these former soldiers to reconnect to their warrior mentality in healthy ways.

So far, all signs indicate Crossfit is working. It’s part of the bigger plan to integrate the Hub’s care so that every day he has something that helps with pain management (chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy), cognitive strategies (CBT, speech therapy, group), and health (medical care, fitness, and nutrition). Basically, with the guidance of our Vet Center therapist, we’ve built our own Poly Trauma program that addresses the Hub’s needs holistically.

Personally, I’ve been looking for signs, too. Not necessarily the tealeaf reading kind, but some sort of sign from the universe as to which direction to take. What next? I knew I had come to a fork in the road. At times like this, I thank my North Star for its guiding light. I know where I want to go, but the path has led to unfamiliar terrain, and I have choices.

Some decisions I’ve made and stand solid — I landed in the Keweenaw, and I intend to stay in the Keweenaw. Here, I have my Warrior Sisters, the Hub’s home-spun Poly Trauma program, a beautiful and remote outdoor setting, and proximity to two of my three children. Runner and his lovely bride-to-be, Runner2 live near Madison, five hours away. We live with Radio Geek and her Solar Man, and if our world-traveler, Climber and her Chef visit the States (they live on Svalbard in Norway), they’ll come here.

Place is settled.

Last June, I decided to end my 16 years of writing for Valley Natural Foods. I penned my final member profiles. After I left as marketing communications manager in 2012,  I stayed on as managing editor and writer for two of their key publications. Before I left Idaho in 2016, I decided to wind down all my freelancing. Last year I decided to pursue the workshops and retreats I wanted to do. My first one got canceled because the Father’s Day flood wiped out the retreat center and turned my new community upside down.

In July, Finlandia University hired me as an adjunct instructor to teach a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Marketing course. I read it as the strongest sign to let go all my freelancing and business consulting. I knew it would be tight between July and September, but I had a couple of local gigs. Then my class got canceled the first week of school and caught me off guard. I was gutted. It was at the same time that we were still trying to get help for the Hub and understand what he was facing.

Timing-wise, you can see that all this upheaval aligned with the Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. I can’t say enough good about Norah Colvin, Irene Waters, D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Geoff Le Pard, and all our judges who led superbly. We carried on and had a good run and a few recording hiccups when I had to go to Minneapolis to accompany the Hubb into the VA Poly Trauma program. It was terrifying for me. I grieved for the husband I no longer had.

But as you know, through my writing and sharing, I pulled through that dark place and came to an understanding — I still have my husband. My family recommitted ourselves to loving-kindness, no matter what the future was going to bring. We have now. We have him. When I saw Welby Altidor, he connected the pursuit of creativity to caring, and to carving out safe space to take risks. Carrot Ranch always has been “safe space” for literary artists to explore their craft, stories, and characters. I just needed to adapt that model to my life and how to live with a veteran who has an altered brain.

Are any of you familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? It’s because of her that I identify as a literary “artist.” Her book influenced me during my 20s when I dreamed of being a writer and wrote in lined journals. She dared me to be bold, to go to college at age 27 when I had three young children. I got my undergrad degree in creative writing. I wanted my MFA but chose to follow the Hub to the Midwest where I built a freelancing and marketing communications career. Julia Cameron (through her book) helped me when I dreamed up Carrot Ranch.

If you are familiar with The Artist’s Way, then you know she advises daily morning pages and weekly artist dates. The idea to write 99 words a week was a reduction of the morning pages. If we write every day, I figured we needed to share something of our writing, too. Alone, we are writers. Together, we experience the dynamic that is literary art — writing meant to be read. Collectively, writers and readers give meaning to literary art. When I arrange the writings of participants into a collection, well, that’s my weekly artist’s date.

So, no matter what I decided to do next, I knew that Carrot Ranch, with its torch to keep literary art alive and available, would be a part. An important part.

Finlandia University has employed me to develop the CTE course and help recruit for next fall. They intend for me to be the instructor. But next fall is a lot of meals away. I’m not paid to be an instructor-in-waiting. Back in October, when my world was all about flash fiction Rodeos and stressing over a husband in the hospital, a once-in-a-great-while kind of job came up at Michigan Technological University. It was a public relations position, responsible for curating and distilling the stories of the research university as it prepares to lead the world into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I was intrigued. I took the bait. I applied.

No job can ever replace my North Star with its glowing dreams to encourage world-wide literary art, publish historical novels, and build community. I had to think long and hard how a fulltime job would fit into my plans. What excited me beyond the work, was the opportunity to invest in Carrot Ranch monetarily. Oh, the thought of buying those turquoise cowgirl boots and a new wardrobe to replace the one I left behind in Idaho.

After I sprained my ankle, I sat on the couch and came up with a plan. I was at a crossroads and would have important decisions to make. One path was MTU, the second was FU; the third was to revitalize my freelancing, workshops, and retreat; and the fourth was if the world imploded, I’d leave and go find an MFA program to start anew. In January, I went on retreat to polish my vision and plan the first three paths. The fourth was like a Hail Mary football pass.

The reason I’m telling you all this now is to process and understand which path the Universe finally set a go-sign to. MTU selected one other candidate and me to go through final interviews (mind you, this was a three-month process, including writing assignments). After an all-day interview on campus, I felt proud I made it that far. I also felt awed and scared that my world was once again about to change drastically. The result? MTU rescinded the job. It no longer exists. There is no public relations position.

If that wasn’t one helluva sign…

Disappointed, I wasted no time in setting up a freelancing platform and will wait and see what happens with recruitment after the CTE open house last week. I also realized I felt hugely relieved. My writing time is sacred and I almost gave to an organization in exchange for shiny new clothes.

Then my world shifted yet again when a letter arrived yesterday from the VA. For once, a good shift. And the sign that appeared blew me away. The Hub’s benefits finally, finally, finally came through. Blessedly he can stop pulling his own teeth with pliers and get dental care. He will get his knee replaced. We can even get into a place of our own. But the unexpected — my name in the official document with the words, “education benefit.”

I still feel all atwitter. My stomach is still somersaulting. Education benefits. For me! Suddenly, the fourth path isn’t far-fetched. I can get my MFA! You betcha, I wasted no time in contacting an advisor, finding out what the benefit was and when I could use it and — it’s no longer 1998. Ha! It’s no longer 1998. There is an INTERNET. And I looked up online MFAs and found one! I applied, yes, I already applied. There’s more to the application (writing). Get this — my master’s thesis could be Miracle of Ducks. AND, I can earn an additional teaching certificate.

Do I need an MFA? No, I don’t. I still believe that writers live in a time of incredible publishing opportunity. But the question that I answered immediately before my brain could ask it was do I want an MFA. And yes, I still do.

Sometimes, we have to wait for our Sign to come in. I’ve waited 20 years for that one!

My daughter took me out last night. We both cried and laughed. She remembers me giving up my chance to get an MFA. She remembers me writing away to programs at different points in my life. She knew I never gave up the ghost of that dream. And it fits Carrot Ranch like a custom glove! I’ll get to learn how to teach craft, not just encouragement and marketing. I’ll also get to use Carrot Ranch as my platform for coursework.

For now, I’ll continue the application process, open up some freelancing gigs, and plan to start coursework August 12. I’m setting up some local workshops, and of course, we have the first Carrot Ranch Nature Retreat this July. I’ll continue working on MOD, and I’ll set a deadline to finish Vol. 2 before school starts. At last, a path.

And, be sure to check back on Monday because I finally met with the folks at The Continental to close out our Bonus Rodeo contest. We have three winners to announce (and pay). The radio spot won’t be developed until later. Some issues came up but had nothing to do with us or the contest. Thank you all for your patience, especially those who entered.

Thank you, also, for being my weekly artist’s date! Your writing of 99-word stories inspires the blazes within my writer’s soul. Must be a sign.

February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 12, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

A Drive Back in Time (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Ramona looked for the sign, the one that read Elmira. Snow pelted her windshield with a mesmerizing kaleidoscope that Vic called whiteout fever. She ignored it the way her husband said to, and instead followed the tracks in the snow. Ramona startled when her headlights caught the township sign. Why were the mill lights out? So dark! She slowed and pulled into her driveway where someone was plowing the easement. Vic, her husband. The power must be out. She waved and blew him a kiss. Silly man. What was he up to, calling a young thing like her, “Grandma”?