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Wise Words

Wise Words Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsHalf a century seems to carry the weight of wisdom. Yet, wise words can come from any age or background, and growing older doesn’t guarantee growing wiser.

This week, writers were asked to contribute wise words through the literary vehicle of flash fiction. As expected, the unexpected also made its way into the collection. Perhaps wisdom is less in the stories and more in the act of storytelling. Perhaps wisdom comes nt with age but with reflection.

The following are based on the May 18, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story.

***

On Wisdom by Lisa Listwa

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sky.

Can you balance dark and light? Hold within you the vast potential of the future?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sea.

Can you wash away just enough of the past to refresh yet leave a lasting impression?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Earth.

Can you take root and cling to what gives strength?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Wind.

Can you take flight when your time comes? Touch all else around you?

“Am I wise?” I asked my Self. “I have much yet to learn….”

Knowing this is wisdom.

###

The Light in the Empty Room by Elliott Lyngreen

In an empty room save for a fixture absent a bulb, yet with its string; doors exactly cater-cornered of parallel walls; after opening one, walking through only led him into another room perfectly mimicking the previous.

So he tried the opposite door, diagonally, again entered yet another inversion.

After exhausting attempts to leave, he only re-entered flipped patterns – one after another; lone empty lamp holder.

He decided to pull the string; over, around his arm, down himself like pulling open a sleeping bag or circumventing a body bag, unzipped the room, and became the light, illuminating ideas within vision. . . .

###

Wisdom by FloridaBorne

I glared at my sister, Myra, her brown eyes shining with youthful expectation. Her shapely body filling out a tight t-shirt and slinky jeans, she still looked 35.

“Where are you going?” I asked, leaning on my cane for support.

“Dancing.”

“You’re 50. It means you’re old!” I said, shaking a finger at her. “When will you understand that truth!”

“Never,” she said, running a brush through naturally thick, brown hair.

“I’m 57 and have the wisdom to admit I’m past my prime. Why can’t you?”

“Because old will always be travelling 7 years ahead of me,” Myra giggled.

###

Happy Birthday! by Ruchira Khanna

“Happy Birthday Angie” shouted Tiffany as she shut her car door and walked towards her friend who was seated on the patio.

The birthday gal squealed with delight upon seeing the bouquet and after a quick embrace dashed in to put them in the water.

Angie was chattering nonstop.

When the birthday girl came out with two cups of hot beverage, she found Tiffany’s head on her hands, “What’s wrong?” she inquired.

“Oh, Angie! start behaving your age!” Tiffany was quick to comment.

“Age is just a number!” she responded as she exhibited her bright white dentures.

###

Grey Wisdom by Kalpana Solsi

Combing my long silky tresses, I admired my reflection in

the mirror.Tessie grimaced.

I turned to face her.

Her celluloid image had painted nails, each hair in place

and a made-up face hiding all its flaws while my oils were

a connoisseur’s prized possessions.

“Silver streaks in your hair”, almost gasping.

“I know”, a calm and confident me.

“Let me fix an appointment with Yasmine’s Colour

Parlour”, Tessie panicking, “You have hit fifty”.

“I have accumulated streaks of wisdom in half a century

and will unabashedly flaunt it”.

Thud…… Tessie’s cell -phone lay on the floor, broken,

bruised.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I was brought up to respect my elders.

In fact, I have always got on better with those some twenty or thirty years older than me, and my first little job at 12 was working with then pensioners who I probably drove mad with my jokes and pop music!

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was from the supervisor I worked with 1980 – 1981. As he was breaking into her car having locked her keys inside, she nudged me, grinned and said ‘Keep him. He’s useful.’

So I did. That was 28 years ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

###

That Thing That’s Before Godliness by Geoff Le Pard

Paul looked at his wife’s face. ‘Looks like you need more than tea.’

‘That woman is impossible.’ Mary accepted the wineglass. ‘Mrs Wise. Talk about misnamed.’

Paul settled back into his seat. ‘Go on. What now?’

‘Milk in the washing machine. She thought it was the fabric conditioner.’

‘Aren’t the bottles different?’

‘She cracked the conditioner so decanted it into an old water bottle last time. I labelled it carefully. Calling her a cleaner is such a misnomer.’

‘We could look for a new one?’

‘Like Miss Peaberry? Remember what she di wit your toothbrush?’

‘So more wine?’

‘Please.’

###

Growing into Wisdom by Norah Colvin

“My Dad knows everything!” bragged six-year-old Billy.

“Parents,” grumbled Will E., at surly sixteen, “They know nothing.”

For thirty-year-old William, at the top of his game, conversations were strained. One more “In our day…” he’d surely explode.

By forty-five, with kids of his own, “But kids are different these days,” Will would state.

Dad would wink and suggest, “Not that different.”

Throughout the fifties, his recalcitrant teens mirrored those years of his own.

Into his sixties, with kids gone and more time for chatting with Dad, he discovered, almost too late, they shared more than he had ever appreciated.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreasons

Today, I let my tired body slide down the school yard fence and I took a moment to reflect.

At what point, on my journey through life, did I decide the road less travelled might be the best?

Recently, my post, “Is 50 Too Old To Start Again?”, saw me tentatively enter the blogging world.

I did not envisage myself feeling beaten so soon. I sat, now, sweltering in the Pilbara heat, looking upon my punctured bicycle tyre, thinking, “What next?”

How the Universe might respond to my innocent query, left me feeling sombre and unsettled.

What next indeed?

###

Insurance by Reena Saxena

“Turning 40 heralds middle age, and 60 is retirement. What is it about 50?”

“Well… Life spans are lengthening, and work spans are shortening. So, you never know, where will you be?”

“Oh, Uncertainty!” I exclaimed dramatically, “Do you sell insurance or retirement plans?”

“The pathos lies somewhere in between – the inability to plan in the fast-changing scenario, and the millennial epidemic – ageism. People above 50 are treated as they don’t exist. There is no insurance against changing mind-sets.”

“Hmmm … Can you insure my ability to reason, to fathom the deeper meanings, rather than just reading status updates?”

###

Wisdom by Michael

Oh, to be wise he thought as he read through the student’s exam papers.

He turned over the effort from Betrice Walker, the smartest girl in his class. In amazement, he read her literary genius. He felt humbled that someone so young could evaluate the question so clearly.

For goodness sake he thought, she’s a child still, what will she be like in twenty years?

So much wisdom in one so young.

He wrote an A on her paper.

Tomorrow he’d watch the glow on her face knowing she’d be pleased.

Sipping coffee, he picked up the next paper.

###

A Valuable Piece by KittyVerses

Little Myna got into a lot of trouble that day. This wasn’t something new, and it bothered her parents much.She was always carrying tales of one person to the next, people were apprehensive of her.

Punishments were meted out, she was reprimanded and isolated but to no avail. One fine day she was asked to collect the water that was emptied from the bottle by her mother.

Well, did she succeed? Words once lashed out can’t be taken back as much as the water which was poured.

Never to forget,the things we learn as kids shapes our identity of tomorrow.

###

Crab Apple Crisis by Anthony Amore

She thought it ridiculous their son had been stuck for hours in that tree.

“Help him now,” she told her husband.

Through the slider he saw the boy caught in high crooked branches, “He”ll figure it out.”

“Two hours,” she folded into a harsh angle pointing. “Go.”

With a nod the ladder was gotten, but his son had fallen shirtless to the ground. He sprinted to him.

“My back’s scraped,” he said. “Apples are safe; tied in my shirt.” Four crabapples the size of chestnuts rolled free, “Mom can make pie.”

He kept quiet, saying, “Very wise move, son.”

###

Mother’s Support by Diana Nagai

“My daughter won’t talk to me,” I vented.

I saw my mother’s expression which showed amusement and compassion. Shame filled me as I remembered myself as a teen. Once, I gave her the finger when I thought she wasn’t looking. I don’t remember why I was angry, but I carry the guilt that she witnessed my outburst. My shoulders slumped. “I’m so sorry for what I put you through.”

She pulled me into an embrace of comfort and wisdom from “the other side”. Right then, I knew we’d survive these teenage years together.

###

Flash Fiction by Mike Kempster

I have no way of winning any battle with my 14 year old daughter. She’s right, I’m wrong and there’s no way that’s going to change even in the face of all reason. We’ve had some blazing rows. At the end of a row there has to be some reconciliation and one person ends up reaching out to the other. Mostly that’s my job; however, yesterday morning, after a huge row the night before, she sent me a text saying, ‘any breakfast service running this morning XXX.’ For a change she’d reached out and showed she has some feelings.

###

Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom

I watched as she moved ever so slowly, as she always did, living as if time had no meaning. I bit my tongue to swallow my reprimand. “Charlotte, I am going to tell you something that my Mother told me when I was 7, like you are now.”

Her yellow hair glowed in the sun creating a halo around her face as she looked at me, waiting for my words of wisdom.

“What?”

“Your husband is going to have to be a very patient man.”

She only paused for a heartbeat and replied. “I don’t know any patient man’s.”

###

Seeking to Understand (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Does your creative outlet help you, Jen?” asked Danni.

“Does interviewing war widows help you?”

“Feels like I’m doing something,” Danni answered.

“Me, too. Same with the brothers. They want to feel useful. Do something good. Let me ask you, why did you stay?”

“You mean when Ike left for Iraq?”

“Yes. This was new to you. You must have felt deserted. Why did you stay?”

Danni  paused, reflecting on all her earlier turmoil. She could have left the day she took Ike to the airport.  Had she gained any wisdom?  “I stayed to take care of his dogs.”

###

The Getting of Wisdom by Anne Goodwin

It’s easy, they said, as easy as breathing, just follow this five-point plan. It’s hard, camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle difficult, but, if you give us the money, we’ll show you how it’s done. No-one can tell you the answer, you’ve got to seek it inside yourself. There’s a pattern, proofed against any fool prepared to apply herself to the task. There’s so much to learn, you can’t waste a minute. There’s so much, you might as well not try. What’s wisdom, the nub of ice that melts in your fingers or the mountain of knowledge the ocean obscures?

###

Intuition by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They circled the pit, noted the downward spiral that curled into thick darkness. Dropped a stone and waited for a splash, a thud, the clatter of a change in angle.

“Hell bent?” she quipped.

He sniffed. “No smell of sulphur.”

“Literal much?”

He tipped his head, brow knit.

“Never mind,” she scanned the landscape for dust devils, signs of life or breath. Nope. Only them: isolate, arid, no stars nor moon above.

“Ladies first,” he nodded towards the pit.

Always leaping, never moving.

She senses a curl of light, a sweet new scent, opens her hands and steps down.

###

Alien Anthropology by D. Avery

“Strange. They develop automation, even as they suffer obesity, depression and anxiety. They have many devices for communicating, but they aren’t saying anything. They desire access to information but don’t seem to value knowledge, with no apparent interest or ability in interpreting or analyzing information.”

“They are poisoning, mining, and bombing what’s left of their natural environment… They are ruining this planet. We should just take over.”

“No, our orders are to just observe and to seek wisdom. We shall consult their older people.”

“And artists?”

“Yes, and we’ll visit the ancient sites and natural wonders.”

“We’d better hurry.”

###

The Battle by Allison Maruska

The apprentice watches as I light the incense. “How can you stay so calm?”

“Trouble will always find us, so why worry?” Wafting the smoke, I channel the spirits to help. “This battle is not a new one.”

“I think it is,” he says. “We’ve never fought anything like this.”

“Of course we have.” Picking up the lantern, I head outside. “And we will do what we always do. Pray. Fast. And fight if needed.”

An echoing roar reaches us. Our gaze follows the beast sailing through the sky.

“I don’t think fasting will help this time,” he says.

The battle was Monks vs. Dragons.

Told you it was kickass.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreason

An old friend

Unseen for years

Messages now

Through unshed tears

She said, School was hard

Not how she’d planned

The loneliness daunting

The taunts out of hand

Yet through all of her pain

What stays with her best

Was my warmth and my kindness

I was not like the rest

Little did I realise

What small gestures might mean

To my quiet young classmate,

Broken spirit, unseen
I read her messages of thanks, 35 years later, and looked upon my punctured tyre.

My wise words from a 50 year old?

Do unto others…….

AND CARRY A REPAIR KIT!!

###

Withdrawn? by Jules Paige

Richard picked up the thirteenth pottery shard never expecting
to be found hidden – engulfed in the weeds. The colors reminding
him of Janice’s eyes…

A short elusive keta with the magnitude of a heavy chair being
thrown across the room, and hitting his head allowed the elusive
emotion of disgrace to flash across his mind. Janice wasn’t the
traitor. Was he?

How had Janice been so wise, to know how broken he was.
That she could not fix him, she had to leave him… Richard,
behind the shed in her yard…wanted her – she wasn’t home…
Where was she?

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Kylie handed over the bow. “They were late, right? Doesn’t seem wise to me.”

“Here we go,” Nat grumbled, steadying the arrow. “It’s the three WISE MEN.”

Kylie arched her brow, fixed her ponytail. “If you say so.”

Nat’s eyes pulled to Kylie instead of the can. His shot sailed wide. Again. He was down 3-0.

Kylie scoffed, snatched the bow and yanked back the arrow. “Now, Margaret WISE Brown…”

“Who?”

“Goodnight Moon.” The arrow was gone in a wink. Nat heard the clink of the can without looking. Kylie stood, her smile spreading like wildfire. “4-zip.”

“Show off.”

###

Old Skills by Kerry E.B. Black

Aunt Amaryllis gripped the table. Veins rose from translucent skin, yet her voice remained sure. “Remember, control the material.”

Kirsten fed silk into the machine, but it snagged.

Aunt Amaryllis’ perfume accompanied her nearness. “Slow and steady. Even pressure on the foot. Gentle guidance here.” The cloth flowed with her direction, stitches marching along the seam. She handed Kirsten a seam ripper. “This tool’s your friend.”

Kirsten groaned but removed the snag. She pressed and sewed.
Aunt Amaryllis smiled at the complete the garment. “What a fine wedding gown!”

“I wish you’d be there.”

Aunt Amaryllis dabbed Kirsten’s tears. “I will, in spirit.”

###

The Wizard of the North by Gordon Le Pard

“Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.”

“But Jane, nobody knows who wrote it. How can you be so sure?”

“Because it is just like him, but it’s not fair. He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet, and shouldn’t be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.”

Cassandra smiled as her sister picked up the book again.

“I do not like him.” Jane continued, “And do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must.” Silently she thought, “I wonder if he will like Emma?”

He did.

###

Seeing the Other Side by D. Avery

I’ve got a lot of stories, none have been told

I’m not very wise for someone born old.

I’ve long been a miner, never seen the lode

I’m the chicken just starin’ ’cross the road.

I’ve got lots of where I’ve been, got lots of what’s behind me

But I still don’t know where I am, and don’t know where to find me.

I’m not exactly fleeing, ’though I’d like a place to hide

Crossing isn’t just about seeing the other side.

I’m walkin’ and I’m walkin’, some might say I’m lost

I’m that chicken that finally went across.

###

April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

“My car broke down, too. Used to have a Nissan, ran it until it quit. Now I come to town on these tires.” The Navajo woman who’s about my age, just as tall but slender from being her own car points to her gray tennies. “Yeah, gonna need new Goodyears soon!”

The Hub and I laugh with her. She’s carrying two black velvet lined boxes filled with turquoise and stone silver rings. We’re eating breakfast, the cheapest we can find on the menu — $5 for an egg, bacon and roasted green chili pepper sandwich served with dark coffee. It fascinates me that we’re the only white people — Anglos — in Earl’s Restaurant. No one one pays us any mind except the artists who wander through the tables with their wares.

“My daughter is a Marine, and my sons are both Airborne,” she tells us, after learning the Hub is a veteran. He’s Airborne, too. In fact, he’s an Airborne Ranger so I tell her to coin him. Anyone claiming to be a Ranger has to coin up. If caught without one’s Ranger coin, he has to buy beer. She asks him to see his coin and he digs it out of his pocket. She holds it in her hand, flipping it to see both sides. “A Ranger,” she says, handing it back.

I thank her for her service, saying mothers deserve to be thanked, too. “That’s right,” she says, her face showing the love and pride she holds for her children’s military service. 100 percent. Her entire brood serves. I ask if that’s why Gallup, New Mexico has signs claiming to be the most patriotic town in America. She laughs and says it’s about the Code Talkers, too. And Hiroshi H. Miyamura, a Japanese-American Medal of Honor recipient. He’s known locally as “Hershey,” and is still alive, having served in WWII and the Korean War.

Hershey is known as Nisei. With close to a quarter million people living in New Mexico from pueblos and reservations who are Zuni, Toas, Tewa, Ute, Hopi, Apache and Navajo, Nisei sounds like another tribe. But it isn’t. To say Hershey is Nisei is to adopt the term to describe him as a second generation Japanese-American. During WWII the 100th Infantry Battalion of the US Army was 100 percent Nisei. Most had family held in Japanese-American internment camps. Many lost their homes and businesses. It was a cruel response to wartime, and robbed many of dignity.

However, Hershey’s family was never interned. They had their cameras, firearms and radios confiscated, but the citizens of Gallup signed a petition as character witnesses for the two dozen Japanese-American families living here. Hershey was born October 6, 1925 in Gallup, New Mexico just 13 years after it became a state, but his parents arrived earlier in 1906. Gallup was then a railroad and mining town with a nearby cavalry fort. According to the 1940 US Census record, Hershey’s father was widowed and operating a cafe and raising six children. Hershey says in a newspaper interview how grateful he was they lived in Gallup and escaped internment.

Not only is Gallup patriotic, it’s also called the Indian Capitol of the World because of its proximity to the diverse reservations and pueblos, including the largest — the Navajo Nation. From these southwestern tribes come the world’s most stunning art. Among the artists who walk past my breakfast table is a man selling his wife’s miniature Kachina dolls. Kachinas are spirit beings in the Pueblo traditions who assist with controlling the weather for crops. The Hopi, in particular, believe that it requires the supernatural to grow corn in the semi-arid high desert of the southwest.

The Hub is drawn to the dolls and despite being down to the last of our cash, he buys one for me — Morning Singer. The Kachinas represent harmony with the land, not dominance. Hopi men carve Kachina dolls from the root of cottonwood trees and dance as Kachinas to become supernatural. I find it curious that my little Morning Singer was carved by a woman, but collection of dolls has evolved into a large tourist trade and is not the same purpose. I’m dreaming of adding Native Art to Carrot Ranch, but reality is that artists are grossly taken advantage of and I could not stomach being a part of that system.

If I had the money I’d buy directly from the artists. One tall and lean young man in dark sunglasses and a hip-hop baseball cap walks up to us selling a silver squash blossom necklace with chunks of turquoise each the size of a walnut. I’m stunned. The silver-smithing alone is spectacular, and yet it is the high-grade turquoise that captures my attention. I know that a piece of jewelry like this will sell for $3,000 or more in a gallery. He’s selling it for $600 and offers it to us for $200. The temptation is to buy it and resell it at its value in the greater market outside Gallup. No way can I do this. I can’t devalue another artist.

It’s a familiar scenario for writers. Buy my book for .99 cents. Get published and you’re lucky to see 6 percent of each sale with the majority going to the publisher and distributor. And writers can’t bypass publishing and distribution. Gallup artists can’t compete with the online sales of knockoffs because they don’t have a way to get their art to the high-paying markets except through the trading posts and wholesalers. With great empathy, I show my appreciation for each piece as it parades by like an open mic night giving away words for cheap. My lame excuse for not paying the bargain price is, “We’re broke down.” They get it. We’re broke.

Most artists tell us their own broke stories, like the military mother who jokes that her shoes are her tires. “At least you only need to replace two worn tires, not four,” I jest in return. What is it with artists and poverty? We lead rich lives and create rich stories, rich horse-hair pottery, rich Kachina dolls, rich jewelry, but find no monetary wealth in the pursuit. We later stop at one of the trading posts and I notice the small Kachina dolls are marked off 20 percent. I ask how much and the “sale” price is $15. I bought mine directly from the artist for $5. Is it fair the trading post makes $10? If economics were my strength, I suppose I wouldn’t be a writer. Like one of our Rough Writers, Pete Fanning, wrote last week, “It makes my head hurt.”

I decline to buy one, explaining we’re broke down. I joke that if we can’t get a transmission we might live in Gallup. “Then you can get a job,” she replies. Ouch. Yes, there’s that, too. Despite my long hours, despite the material I’ve created and amassed for future publication, despite the articles and client content I write for pay, I don’t “really work.” The artists this proprietor takes advantage of to profit according to the religion of capitalism where, by God, where those who “work hard” deserve to make more than those slackers who merely create. How to even explain to her that my husband would gladly work, given a fair chance, but no one in his industry wants to hire a 50-something veteran with workplace adaptation issues due to PTSD.

That’s right; we’re a couple of homeless bums broke down in Gallup. But we are rich in other ways profits can never be. I’ll be a story-teller long after her shop closes down because the artists figure out how to work together for mutual benefit, cutting out those who take advantage of them. For now, I’m going to write from Gallup, collect stories as I catch them and explore the history of this region which is so unknown to me. I’m going to support other writers, and promote the value of literary arts from its rawest form to the possibilities of life-long mastery. That’s my job.

April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of jewelry. Whose ring is it and what’s its significance? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 18, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published April 19). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Only the Ring Remained (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Don’t you tire of sifting dirt?” Michael leaned back on the porch chair, drinking a Rocket Dog.

Danni knew Ike had stocked his workshop fridge with his Ranger buddy’s favorite beer. A token of appreciation. Or a bribe. “I thought we buried the hatchet, Michael.”

“Just curious. Seems boring.”

“It’s amazing how much evidence past garbage holds.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Garbage? No. The most disturbing find was considered a site contamination.”

“Contaminated garbage?”

“It was run-off from the 1956 Grand Canyon plane crash. A wedding band among Anasazi pottery. Identified as the pilot’s whose body was never recovered.”

###

EXTENDED! October 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

october-19Carrot Ranch is in the middle of a move. Same online home but new office on wheels. Thinking it would go smoothly was optimistic. The new RV Coach is a 2004 Alfa with real oak woodwork, office slide, master bedroom and a beautiful kitchen. It’s wonderful, yet overwhelming. So far, I locked myself out the first night, couldn’t get outlets to work and thought I had no propane. It’s a big learning curve going from a 19 foot camper to a 36 foot home and office on wheels. Thank you for your patience during this transition!

See you from this new space:

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Bobo is having a rough adjustment. We had to go back to the vet because she’s not eating and drinking too much water. After numerous tests, she’s not experiencing kidney disease, which is good news. The vet thinks it’s behavioral — she’s grieving Grenny. The move only added stress. She’s on rescue remedy and a natural mood and joint enhancer. I might need to share it with her! She does like her new spot on the couch, though. She has a real couch! Keep her in your thoughts.

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As of October 27, I’d say the Hub and I are no longer homeless. I cooked the first breakfast in four months this morning in a working kitchen. When I did the dishes and stuck my hands in hot, soapy water for the first time since leaving Elmira Pond, I cried. This move is proving emotional to me because I’m realizing how much we lost and went without. I feel like someone who held strong during a disaster, and once everything was over and good, my legs started shaking.

What we lived in for four months was not even the size of a studio flat. I now have a bedroom, and no longer have claustrophobic attacks. I have a full bathroom, walk-in closet, dressers, a recliner, a sofa sleeper (for guests!) and even a ridiculously large flat screen television. Once through the transition, I’ll be back in full swing. I have missed so much, and appreciate the support of this community. It’s my turn to come back and serve all you wonderful writers once again. If I could, I’d fix you all breakfast:

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Extended Flash Fiction Challenge:

If you didn’t get to write a raptor flash, the deadline is now extended to November 1.

Raptors wheel on currents of air high above the La Verkin Overlook. Wings outstretched overhead, a visual blip on the terrain so vast that raptors seem hummingbirds lost in the vastness. The plateau beneath my feet is but a step to the mesas stretching to the south and the tallest sandstone cliffs and pillars in the world rising to the east. This mid-terrain is known as the Zion Canyon Corridor, part of the Grand Staircase of three national parks, Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  Below, what the overlook is meant to view, is the Hurricane Valley. To the northwest are the Pine Mountains standing over 10,000 feet in elevation and to the southwest is the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The mantra here is, “Take pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”

Looking up, the raptors soon dive and I find I’m looking down on feathered backs when they swoop past the cliffs and hang in the air over the valley below. It’s surreal and I want to add, “Let your imagination take wing.”

This land is a candy store to me. I want to nibble each chocolate for a taste, not sure which one I really want to devour first. When it comes to westerns, this is iconic and historic country. When it comes to geology, it’s a transition zone geologists call a conundrum. When it comes to raptors, songbirds, migrators, reptiles and more it’s a super highway for many and a unique home for some rare environments. I look up, I look out, I look down and the candy shop is endless. It’s still Mars to me but becoming home more and more. Familiarity is already unfolding.

Because so many western movies were filmed in this area, we all think of the Wild West as being further west than it really was. Granted, the west coast destination of California, Oregon and Washington Territory were west, but much of the activities of heroes like Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickok took place in the “far west” of the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska or the mesa country of Colorado and New Mexico. Despite the implications that Hickok knew this land I stand upon, his far west was Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s almost 600 miles east.

Before the US Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, depending upon which side of the divide one stood) Hickok was still known by his given name, James Butler Hickok. He left his native Illinois for the Kansas Territory as a young man, about 1856 (according to biographer, Joseph Rosa). He would have been 19-years old. That same year, 28-year old David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles was elected a third term as sheriff of Watauga County, North Carolina. In five years, these two men would clash in what is known as the Rock Creek Affair (among other more fiendish titles).

It’s one of the earliest wild west tales, yet far removed from the iconic wild west where I watch raptors soar.

This makes me wonder — does it matter, the sweeping landscape? Does it make a difference if the gunfight occurred atop a mesa or in a lone road station in the Midwestern prairie? Of course, storytellers know the power of a setting to stage a scene or backdrop action. And yet, I once watched a Shakespearean performance of King Leer on a stark stage of gray monoliths. When the story takes flight like the majesty of the raptors, does it matter that they soar and dip among startling terrain or would they hold their own in nothing but blue sky?

I find myself fixated on the wings of the raptors.

Another day, and I’m drinking coffee at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin far below the overlook above. Two raptors are engaging in what looks like a dance over the gorge below where the Virgin River has cut a path. The land truly is a series of staircases. And the raptors own the air in between. I find it is the expression of flight that enthralls me most. It could be flat as a prairie and the raptors would still be the focal point. I’m lucky to get to see them, like celebrity visitors to the candy store where I live.

I believe in writing stories as compelling as raptors in flight. What you add or subtract are details that contain the story. Of course, there are many abstract ways to write, too and not all pieces of literature are story-forward. In fact, much of literature is character-driven and some of it is experimental. I’m a proponent of stories because I’m a story-teller. As a marketer I learned that people respond to stories. There’s even science that examines how the brain is hardwired for stories. Naturally I look to the raptors and see stories among pillars of sandstone and gorges of basalt.

October 19, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor. Let your imagination take wing, or dive into natural science. Tell a story about flight, talons or tail-feathers. Create a myth or share a BOTS (based on a true story). Set the raptor in a spectacular place or focus on bird itself. And for clarification, raptors are eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.

EXTENDED! Respond by November 1, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Side-seat Driver (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Ike, look out!” Danni steadied her travel mug so she wouldn’t spill it. Habit. The mug was empty, but there was a small mass on the faded paved two-lane. Morning sun illuminated feathers Danni didn’t want her husband to hit after fixing the alignment on their truck.

Ike barely swerved, smiled broadly beneath his mousy-brown handlebar mustache and began singing, “There’s a dead…chicken…in the road…a dead…chicken…in—”

“Ike, that’s a hawk.” She leaned back into his chest, his right arm never once moved from her shoulders despite her jostling.

“There’s my side-seat driver. Awake now?”’

“Watch the road, Ike.”

###

Dreaming of Flight (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Beyond the whispering voices Sarah could hear the pounding of horse hooves. Like a falcon pushing off a fence post, Sarah took flight and could see the prairie stretch below. She was the raptor and Cobb the rider. He ran a blood-red bay with black mane and tail that whipped in the wind like a woman’s unbound tresses. The horse put his entire body into the run. Sarah pushed hers into flight. Together they covered endless buffalo grass until her coughing broke the spell. She was in bed.

Some feared to die. At 98, Sarah feared she never would.

###

Thieves!

ThievesAs a victim of theft, one feels violated. Yet, often the thief is vulnerable. Nonetheless, thievery has proven to be a rich topic for writers who have explored motives and related subjects. We discover time is a thief and so are adorable dogs.

Steal a few moments to read this arrangement of flash fictions based on the October 7, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a thief or a theft.

***

All in the Name of Hunger! by Ruchira Khanna

A rattled and guilty Samira was sitting under a bridge while nibbling at the crust with eyes wandering 360 degrees.

He was chewing ruthlessly to swallow the crushed contents in his mouth. Hunger made him steal a loaf from a bakery. Now he feared the consequences, but with no pennies to spare he did not think twice over again.
While dusting off the crumbs from his bare chest, and adjusting his hair, “Life is not fair, but I have to own up” he mumbled as he walked towards the pastry shop to own up his crime and face the ramifications.

###

Werewolf’s Clothing by Sherri Matthews

Fred peeped out from behind the hedge as soon as the upstairs light went out.

Starkers and desperate, he ran for it, grabbing the first thing he felt hanging on the washing line.

A dog barked and the bedroom light snapped back on.

“Oy…’oose there?” Old Mr Cooper called out.

“Look, there it goes!” screamed Old Mrs Cooper.

“Bleedin’ peepin’ Tom, I’ll ‘ave ‘im!”

A shot rang out.

Rumours abounded of a creepy man wearing Old Mrs Cooper’s white nighty terrorising the neighbourhood.

Ethel cackled, relieved that the next full moon was still a full month away.

###

Thieving Words by Pat Cummings

Wanting love, I steal your heart.
Loving life, I steal your time.
Tiptoe-quiet, I steal inside:
Silent movement is no crime.

I take the spotlight on the stage.
Gesturing, I steal the show.
Time is a thief and so am I:
I steal away, and thus I go.

I take the cake, and eat it too.
Needing some help, I take advice.
Shopping, I do a double-take:
Daylight robbery, that price!

Passing a window, I steal a peek,
And stolen kisses meet my eyes.
I take a risk, I take a shot:
My photo’d kiss, it took first prize!

###

Thief! He’s Lucky He’s Cute…by Christina Rose

A nightly battle. At the end of a long day, I collapse in a pile of fleece and synthetics, my ever chilled body warming instantly in my heavenly cocoon of carefully purchased coverings.

I get up, for a glass of wine, a trip to the loo. 2 minutes, that’s all it takes.

He stares at me, his dark chocolate eyes glistening in the soft glow of the lamplight. He knows…

Curled up in the blanket, my blanket. As I lower myself next to him, glaring at his thieving cuddly cuteness, I try not to smile.

I cave. Every time.

###

The Benefit of the Doubt by Geoff LePard

‘Hey, what are you doing?’

Mary turned at her daughter’s voice. Immediately her maternal instincts rose alongside her hackles. ‘Let her go!’

A shop assistant pulled Penny away from the fruit section.

‘Are you her mother?’

‘I most certainly am. What…?’

‘She was stealing the grapes.’

‘Penny?’

‘I was just trying one, Mum. It…’

‘Penny! How could you? I’m terribly sorry.’

‘This time, madam….’

‘Yes of course.’

*

In the car, ‘Penny you know that was wrong…’

‘Grandpa always tasted the grapes to make sure they were sweet. No one stopped him. It’s not fair.’

‘No, Penny, it isn’t.’

###

Theft by Udosdottir

“I came into your shop every Thursday, looking at the magazines, casting hidden glances at you, purchasing nothing. And on the way out, I took a lollipop, sat down on this very bench and licked it. I dreamed of you coming out one day, sitting down beside me, and saying that, as you loved me, I could take as many as I wanted.” She laughed, the way you do when you just told a heartfelt secret.

“Huh,” he answered, distractedly, “I used to offer the lollies to small kids that came in with their mothers, I never even noticed.”

###

Motives by Norah Colvin

The morning started badly; nothing unusual in that. He’d been woken in the night by shouting, slamming doors, and screeching car tyres. Nothing unusual there either.

There was no milk to moisten his cereal, only a slap to the head for daring to ask. He grabbed his bag and disappeared before she used him as an ashtray, again.

Looking for a fight, he couldn’t believe she was just sitting there clutching her stupid unicorn. He snatched it; danced a jig to her wails, then threw it onto the roof.

“I’m telling,” said a witness.

“Who cares?” was his response.

###

The Dress Thief by Luccia Gray

Cristina held her father’s wasted hand as he limped along, head bent and soul shattered.

He glimpsed at a woman across the street, squeezed his eyelids to hold back the tears, and pulled his daughter’s hand firmly.

‘Don’t look,’ he pleaded, but the child hurled his hand, jumped on the woman, scratched her face and spit, ‘Thief!’

Cristina tore the buttons of her dress like a wild cat. ‘It was my mother’s!’

‘She doesn’t need it in the graveyard!’

‘Take it off!’

‘Your family left when the soldiers came!’

‘We’re back now and it’s mine!’

‘Nothing is yours anymore!’

###

Highway Robbery by Larry La Forge

Ed and Edna made their way into the cavernous stadium for the big game. As they passed a condiment stand near the hot dog concession window, Edna innocently reached over to the stack of napkins.

“Stop, thief!” the vendor screamed from behind the window. “Those napkins are for customers. That is stealing!”

Edna froze, not knowing what to say.

Ed stepped in, looking at Edna holding two skimpy napkins. He turned to the irate vendor and then read the menu board updated in chalk: Regular Hot Dog $9.75.

Ed glared at the vendor. “The only thief here is YOU.”

###

No Replacement by Ann Edall-Robson

There is no replacement. Machinery and technology could not make it better.

Fourteen steps is all it took for a life altering experience. Steps used often. Had complacency set in? Perhaps destiny was making a statement to see how much strength was left in the soul.

That moment, the time when a simple step downwards changed everything forever. Normalcy shattered in a heartbeat. The hearing loss, balance marred, memories tainted all in the split second it took to fall from the highest spot on the stairs.

So much was stolen on that day. The gift of life was not.

###

Lost Trust by Jules Paige

It wasn’t enough that he stole memories by not sharing what
he knew. Pop said he forged the checks due Mae, (because
of her mother’s death,) to bring his baby back home. Mae was
expecting to use that money for college tuition. She’d left
home but forgot about forwarding mail. Mae thought he’d be
honest about that.

But he wasn’t honest with the charity money Mae had collected
that one autumn either. Took that for bills, so she thought, but
never did know what happened to it. Ill gotten gains…parents
aren’t supposed to cheat and lie.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

She recognised the hole by the rough edges that scraped against her soul when the sky was overcast. They mocked her at the clinic, said it was impossible for a nothing to make her sick. Refusing her an x-ray, they accused her of malingering, but the hole grew bigger so she went to the mall.

Miles of shiny new things to plug a heart-shaped hole: she stuffed them in her pockets, in her handbag, up her jumper, but the hole remained.

Prison gave her solace. If she couldn’t close the gap within her, she could fill a cell-shaped hole.

###

Prairie Justice by Charli Mills

Joe’s body crumpled to the ground. Sarah held back Nancy Jane who trembled while they watched Cobb punish Nancy Jane’s father.

“Thieves get the third degree, Joe Holmes. You were caught with stolen goods.” Cobb hauled the old man to the thorny locust tree.

“No!” Nancy Jane screamed and Sarah lost her grip on the woman. She flung herself between her father and Cobb. Sarah flinched.

“This is interesting.” Hickok walked up to Sarah from the barn, arms folded, revolvers resting on both hips.

“Do something,” Sarah pleaded.

“A thief deserves a noose,” he drawled. “Joe’s getting off easy.”

###

Stolen Moments by Pete Fanning

A generous thief, it steals by giving. Answers. Phone numbers. Directions.
It’s slick. Shiny and without strings attached. It steals imagination. It steals anticipation. It promises connection yet divides our attention.

The minutes add up. Five hundred. Seven hundred. Unlimited. Bundled. Rolled over. Stolen. One glance at a time. It dings and rings. It steals sleep in the night.

It snaps pictures. It is the keeper of data. Of memories. It steals whole languages, shortening words and correcting mistakes. Each thief is sleeker. Upgraded. Capable of stealing our breaths with its flawless design.

Look down, a thief is calling.

###

Self-entitled: A 99-word Story by Sarrah J. Woods

Whenever Kaitlin volunteered at the local poverty relief charity, she had to tolerate Bernelle, the full-time secretary, who barked commands and wore heavy perfume, as if to mask the smelliness of everyone around her.

Once, after Kaitlin had finished assembling nutrition baskets, she saw Bernelle open a basket, take out a package of almonds, and slip it in her pocket.

When Bernelle began loudly crunching the almonds later, Kaitlin couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Aren’t those for the baskets?” she asked.

“I’ve worked here for twenty years,” Bernelle replied, rolling her eyes. “I think I’ve at least earned some almonds.”

###

Retail Theft by Paula Moyer

Annie couldn’t believe her eyes. Until now, employee theft was a vignette on a training video. But Jessica – what was she doing?

Hunched over the register with no customer in sight. Punching in numbers, scanning a gift card. Then going to the customer side and signing. What was up?

“Whatcha doin?” Annie demanded.

“Oh …” Jessica stalled. “Nothin’.”

Jessica had bought stuff with a gift card, processed her own return – but kept the stuff. Plugged the UPC’s in from the receipt.

Annie stepped around the corner, called security. “Check the video on register 35,” she whispered. “Something’s wrong.”

###

Dinner for Two by Sarah Brentyn

“I dare you.”

“Whatever.”

“It’s just lipgloss, not a car. Anyway, you won’t get caught.”

“How do you know?” Cindy glared.

“It’ll be hidden in that oversized backpack you always carry.” She patted Cindy’s bag.

“I don’t need it,” Cindy slapped her friend’s hand away.

“You know you want it,” she taunted. “C’mon. It’s pretty and you don’t have any money.”

Two buses later, Cindy stood at the end of her street. She kicked rocks along her path, ran up the dirt drive, and pushed the door open. “Mama? I’m home!” Unzipping her backpack, she shouted, “I brought dinner!”

###

And if thieves ever had an epic musical score, it would be the “Ecstasy of Gold” that accompanied one of the most intense shoot-outs between thieves of the old west in The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. The amazing orchestra version by composer, Ennio Morricone:

Flash Fiction: September 30

September 29The Wolf Ranch is getting a pig delivered tonight.

While it might not seem like a significant event, dinner hinges upon it. Through a series of fortunate circumstances, the Hub and I drove 16 hours from northern Idaho to northern Nevada to pick up a truck and attend our niece’s wedding. This is the first family celebration we have attended since a Mills reunion in 2004, and the first time I’ve been back since 2008 when I had to cut short our vacation for an emergency surgery. I’ve waited for a dinner like this for years. A family dinner.

In 1988 I fled Nevada and my own family of origin. It’s taken years to feel settled enough to visit where my estranged family also resides. Generations of abuse, and I broke the cycle. Now that my children are grown, I no longer feel panicked over their security and welfare. What was most precious to me to protect also required my husband to sacrifice his own roots, healthy roots. It’s a bit of a wonder to return here and not feel anxious. And I’m enjoying the company of Todd’s family.

I feel unburdened and grateful that his family is my family.

Tomorrow the Hub’s mama, M-1, turns 76. I’m writing from her sunny sitting room with its pitched roof, white walls and sheer drapes of sea foam green. Five picture windows open up to the vast desert view of Lahontan Valley, cradled within the towering purple mountains of the Stillwater and Camel Back ranges. The Hub, his father and our oldest daughter were all born in the same hospital. Seven generations of Mills are buried in the sand beneath cottonwood trees in the county cemetery. From where I write, I can see the dairy farm that the Hub’s father built, the irrigation ditches his family helped institute for agriculture, hear the cows lowing and smell the sharp tang of silage and dusty desert air.

It’s different from my own roots, but familiar. Gardens tended to supply meals, cattle raised for meat in the freezer, the joy over getting a pig (bacon!), fruit watered for pies and jams, grains grown to mill and bake into bread. This is why I still grow things in the dirt and insist on knowing where my meat comes from in Idaho. A born buckaroo, after all, has country roots.

Today we picked raspberries at the Wolf Ranch. Wolf Mom, the Hub’s youngest sister, is a feisty Nevada rancher with a soft-spoken buckaroo husband and two vivacious daughters who grew up raising cattle in the most difficult buckaroo regions to ranch. Ranching in northern Nevada is not for the faint at heart. Basin and Range country is high mountain desert where the valleys are at the elevation of our mountains in northern Idaho. The Nevada mountain ranges have more 10,000 and 12,000 foot peaks than any other state in the union. The weather is hot by day, frigid by night and dominated by dryness. Cattle range hundreds of miles.

They’re industrious, these buckaroos, and they love their horses and cattle, calling them “the girls” or “my boy.”

Wolf Mom often gets asked if the Wolf Ranch raises wolves — it’s their last name, but she’s witty enough to point to her daughters and say, “Yup! And there’s my two cubs.” She serves on numerous agriculture boards and fights politics that have little concern for American agriculture, let alone the unique growing conditions of a place most people think of as Las Vegas. Buckaroos are the last of the “real” cowboys, pushing cattle across vast frontiers and living off the land. Wolf Mom’s home sits in a beautiful old grove of cottonwood trees on a bend of the Carson River as it winds its way through sand dunes and sage to dump in the Carson Sink. It’s a landlocked river that is the heart of agriculture in northern Nevada.

Raspberries grow in three thick rows that dwarf my humble canes back home in Idaho. M-1, Wolf Mom and I chatter over the hum of bees, careful not to disturb great orbs of spiders. We wear picking buckets Wolf-Mom makes out of large yogurt containers and baling twine. The Hub and Sis, his oldest sister who I claim as my own, are the only two Mills of their generation to leave Nevada and live elsewhere. Sis made the apron I wear as I gently tug ripe raspberries from the prickly canes. I feel connect to her and the plucky females in the family. You don’t sustain yourself in a region like this without being hearty and having heart.

In the time I’ve reflected on this incredible moment, this presence in a place I didn’t think I’d be both physically and intellectually today, I’ve learned that the pig is not on his way to the Wolf Ranch. Dinner is at the Mills homestead. M-1 rolls her eyes, laughs and returns to bustle in the kitchen, jamming berries, baking bread and preparing spaghetti for the 14 of us that will gather here tonight in this very sitting room, filled with tables for playing pinochle, sharing meals and allowing a corner for the return of the prodigal son and his wife.

Or maybe I’m the prodigal daughter returning to the family that has nurtured me well beyond my own.

In a week filled with unexpected blessings, several more relate to my writing journey. M-1 has a twin sister, M-2 and she has been my dedicated patron, encouraging, reading and getting me off to LA, believing I will publish my manuscripts. She arrives tomorrow from Arizona to celebrate her shared birthday. I get to see her! Today, after picking berries, M-1 took me to where she volunteers as a book binder — the county library. I got the full tour and serendipitously met the director. I asked for her insight on book distribution (a huge concern of mine if I don’t go the traditional route), and turns out she used to be a book buyer and knows the industry. Her advice was in perfect timing and I will use it to make decisions after I go home. She also encouraged me to work with my own local library.

This week, our prompt takes on returning to a place of origin. Sometimes, it’s not our own, just like this is not my own roots, but is my husband’s. Still, it is a return. Think of immigrants or pioneers of old. They may never return, but often their descendants return to search for homeland roots, for connection. Sometimes, we visit a new place and feel at home, grateful for what it has to offer — a better life. No matter the circumstance, think of a return.

September 30, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a return to home. What does it mean to return? Is it to reconnect, discover or let go? It can be a town, house, farm, castle or ruins. It can be a country or family, one of origin or one adopted. What does the return impart?

Respond by October 6, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

I’ve often wondered at how Sarah Shull felt when she returned home to North Carolina in her later age. She escaped shunning only to return to a family that still harbored ill-feelings toward her. Many believed she had Cobb’s gold — a myth that still surrounds both of them. Logically, if she had had wealth, Sarah would have never returned “home.” She died in misery, nearly a century old. She is buried next to her and Cobb’s daughter who died at 16 months. It’s her homecoming that I’m exploring in flash this week.

***

Sarah Visits the Cemetery by Charli Mills

The family cemetery remained on the hill. Father’s grave next to Mother’s. White stone spoke their ages. The place itself spoke of Father’s ambition to prosper. Shulls Mill. At one time the name affixed firmly to Father’s store and grain mill with its wooden paddles dipping into Watauga River. Surrounded by tree stumps, a scattering of clapboard houses and a paper mill belching smoke below the hill spoke of the town’s ambition.

The other grave. White, weedy and alone from the rest, it belonged to her baby. An old woman now and she still felt like an erring daughter.

###

Love is Everywhere

Love Is EverywhereIf you look closely at the cupped cosmo blossom, you’ll see winged-cupid in the form of a bee, caressing the heart of the flower. If you look around, you’ll see that love is everywhere.

Writers pierced the heart of this topic like knights of old on a quest, and returned with stories worthy of court. Gather round and prepare to move through each flash that promises to move you. Love never sits still or remains with only a few. Love expands the more we recognize it and share it.

This week, the following stories are based on the September 16, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a love story.

***

Honk’tar: A Love Story by Kate Spencer

Honk’tar flails his massive wings and thrusts himself toward the dog, hissing at it with his powerful beak wide open. The dog lunges forward and they struggle and thrash until Honk’tar hears a whimper. He’s drawn blood. The fight is over.

He waits for the dog to scamper away and then swims toward his injured mate, extending his long neck, waving it gently back and forth. She gracefully extends hers in welcome and their necks intertwine.

A gunshot ricochets among the reeds.

Honk’tar immediately begins to push his mate, urgently steering her toward the dense thickets of the marsh.

###

Finding Your Own Way by Roger Shipp

“I never wanted this to happen.”

“I know.” We lay, relaxed, under the old oak back of our dorm. “We both knew what could happen… each seeking separate ways for one year of service. We could have visited. We purposefully chose not to do so.”

“I still love you.”

“I love you. But Garth is where your heart is now. I see it when you talk about him. Your eyes used to glow like that when you spoke of me.”

“We promised each other.”

“We kept that promise. Let’s just rest here, collecting our memories, before we say goodbye.”

###

More Than All the Stars in the Sky by Norah Colvin

Child waited on the step, counting stars.

Soon the clatter of dishes ceased. Feet padded out.

Child snuggled into warm enveloping arms. The ritual began.

They picked out stars and constellations.

“And Venus,” said Child. “Tell me about the love planet!”

“Well,” began Parent. “Long ago there were two people who loved each other …”

“More than all the stars in the sky,” interjected Child.

“That they wanted a child to love too …”

“So you got me!” said Child.

“Yes.” Parent scooped up the child. “And just as there’ll always be stars …”

”We’ll always love each other!”

###

The Game by Larry La Forge

Ed was in heaven. The game of the year blasted on the big screen, sound system blaring. The frenzy seemed to leap through the TV into Ed’s living room. It doesn’t get any better than this, he thought.

Above the TV noise, a familiar sound was heard. The garage door movement meant Edna was returning from the grocery store loaded with the week’s supplies.

“This is going to be real interesting,” the TV announcer said, as though aware of Ed’s potential predicament.

Ed laughed, then immediately went out to unload the groceries for Edna — because that’s what you do.

###

faithful by Jules Paige
(haibun poem/ flash BOTS fiction)

there was no theft
nor any gentle persuasion
just the meeting and melding
of two soul mates

partners honoring
family traditions; then
tied the marriage knot

compromise, honor, respect
grows love every single day
***
How unusual is it to meet your future spouse at someone
else’s wedding? We did. Four homes, two children, two
grandchildren later… wasn’t that just yesterday?
We think so – though our silver locks say otherwise.

We celebrate everyday we are together with humor. So it
is a very nice surprise when I get flowers on our anniversary.
Because I don’t get ‘em every year.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Edwin was careful and patient, steering Dorothy clear of the debris. Broken beams and rusted nails littered the grounds. Shingles from the church house roof that had been removed, splintered boards and shims from the bullet shaped holes where stain glass windows once captured the rising sun. Yet the couple trudged on, as though headed for a Sunday sermon.

Traffic rushed past the future Rent-to-Own center, past the steeple laying in the grass. Past Edwin and Dorothy, lifelong lovers determined to renew the vows they’d made in that very same church on that very same day fifty years ago.

###

Years Later by Charli Mills

Sarah lost her nerve at the molasses pull. David Colbert McCanles flashed like a brook trout in his military school uniform, taller and more vibrant than any in the Greene barn. Mary Greene had nerve. She dominated dances, her laugh rich as summer honey.

That they married so soon took none by surprise. Sarah hid her love for Cobb until years later, when he’d stop by her father’s store at night. “Keeping books?” A simple question that kept her at the ledgers late, hoping he’d see her light burning.

She gained nerve when she should have told him no.

###

Love Grows by Irene WatersJake and I did everything together and told each other all our secrets. We knew the other as though we were one. We discussed our boyfriends and girlfriends, often going on double dates together. We solved the world’s problems and many of our own. Having similar interests it made sense to go to the theatre, opera, hikes, everything together. Above all else, we made each other laugh. Life was fun, enhanced by each other’s company. We were best friends.

Bosom buddies until he planned a trip to the Philippines to find a bride. Then I knew I loved him.

###

Love and Passion by Ruchira Khanna

Sarah aimed her glass at him, but instead it hit the table crashing to the floor into multiple pieces. She could see her heart in each of those broken fragments as she wept uncontrollably.

He looked from a distance but dared not come near.

Minutes ticked by, which seemed endless to both the individuals.

“Go, live your way!” she announced

“Thank you” he squealed and exited the room with a flying kiss to her.

Sarah took a deep breath and got up to clean the mess while her beau made a journey across continents to live off his passion.

###

Puppy Love by Geoff Le Pard

‘I hate you!’

Mary watched her daughter run indoors in tears. In an instant she was back thirty plus years to a similar argument with her mother over being dressed ‘inappropriately’.

She petted the dog who offered her two devoted brown eyes. ‘Are you the only one whose love is unconditioned?’ The dog nodded; she laughed.

‘What’s funny?’ Paul put the tea down.

‘Why are dumb animals the only ones who don’t make you work for their love?’

Paul eased himself onto the floor next to the dog and looked up at his wife. ‘Who are you calling dumb?’

###

The Beginning by Ann Edall-Robson

Weathered hands, brown from working outside, lay resting on her lap. She rocked slowly back and forth enjoying the sounds and the view. The voice from the creaking chair soothed her as it moved to her body rhythm. She could see everything from this spot on the wooden porch.

She remembered the beginning of their life together. A life that started during hard times and required hard work to survive. The foundation of what was now before her.

The initial introduction had been love at first sight. She had known from the beginning she belonged here. On this land.

###

Love by udosdottir

The box opened, a first glance and his heart beat faster.  There was this delicate smell, and when he reached out to touch, he knew he was in love. His fingers ran along the delicious spine, his eyes examining the headband and tail. The skin on the front seemed to be tattooed. He never had seen anything like it before. All the details fit together so perfectly. His eyes met the vendor’s: “How much?”
The door closed behind the visitor, and he sighed a sigh of joy. He marvelled at his acquisition once more, and then started to read.

###

Marital Bliss by Ula Humienik

“Something’s been off with you. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel like you’re slipping away. Remember how happy you were when Stephen was born?”

“I remember,” Lou smiled, “but what would really make me happy, Tom, is getting out of the house, doing what I love.”

“What’s that?” He seemed genuinely surprised, as if it hadn’t occurred to him that his wife could have other interests besides the family and their home.

Lou looked in pain, shocked by his reaction. “I want. I want more time to write.”

“Oh, that silly nonsense.” Tom seemed relieved.

###

Love Truly Is A Battlefield by Dave Madden

How does one define the intangible? Recently, glued to my monitor, I defined love: MMA.

MMA feeds my soul everything it needs, and I came to terms with this realization during a Titan Fighting Championships event, Titan FC 35.

Round after round, I now define love as:

Sheer excitement in the presence of another,

Great night of fights!

Even a cage can’t contain our devotion,

Distance growing the heart’s fondness,

Kindness,

A deep-rooted understanding of one another,

Care for what I think,

Periodically connecting with one another,

Bringing closure to matters with no judgments.

###

Nursing Love by Cindy Scott

“Remember when you were sick that weekend?” Sasha said at the table. “And I had to make you chicken bouillon in your microwave?” while watching tiny sparrows fight at the plastic feeder hanging on the porch.

“Well, no actually,” said Myron.

“Oh come on,” she said, “You mumbled in your sleep that night, ‘Gotta catch the viruses,’” she giggled in the early morning sunshine streaming into the kitchen.

“Oh, right. Well, I remember the time you hallucinated in your sleep,” he said.

“Dreaming?”

“Okay, dreaming. You said, ‘Get the frogs after them’.”

“Okay, touché,” she said smiling at him.

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Neighborly Romance by Paula Moyer

Frances met Bill in third grade. Classmates ever since. First semester of college, both were music majors. She was his assigned accompanist. He played trombone.

Pearl Harbor.

Bill enlisted, Asked Frances to write to him. She did. They drifted apart.

Five years after the war, Frances walked home from the bus, right past Bill’s. His mother looked out the window.

“Bill, Bill,” she called. “There’s Frances! Better go get her.”

Bill called out the door, “Need a ride?”

The ride became dinner. Two weeks later: “Will you be my girl?”

They married six months later: 55 years, three kids.

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Love in 99 Words by Shane Kroetsch

I watch as she takes a seat at her usual table, her hands wrapped around a large coffee cup.

I think about my dream last night.

We sat alone on a park bench, under a sky like amethyst.

“I think I’m ready,” I said.

“I’ve told you how it will end.”

“I know. It will be worth it.”

She smiled then, gave me a lingering kiss on the cheek, and the dream faded.

I stand and walk to her table. I focus on her warm, hazel eyes.

“Hi,” I say, “My name is Brandon. Mind if I join you?”

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The Smile by Sarrah J. Woods

Lisa came from a world of cigarettes and food stamps—a world where you aimed to get by, not get ahead—a world where you aimed to be sexy, not beautiful.

But then the window cleaning company she worked for hired Ricky. He was younger than her and had crooked teeth, but he treated her so sweetly and respectfully that she felt like lace. He told her about his childhood and asked about her three-year-old’s favorite movies.

When he said, “You’re beautiful,” she knew he meant it. And the smile that bloomed across her face proved his words true.

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A Country Love Story by C. Jai Ferry

I held up his ice cream. The pup sniffed it before sticking out his tongue for a lick. His tail wagged. He eyed me while his tongue darted out again.

When his head started shaking, I pulled the cup away, almost expecting his teeth to be chattering. He sat, adopting his polite “I’m waiting for you” pose. He didn’t seem to mind the brain freeze.

I held the cup out again. This time, he skipped the licking, instead gulping down the soft-serve in three bites.

He licked the cup clean, then noticed my dessert. His eyes were my Kryptonite.

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Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

You saved me a seat in the lecture hall, knowing my bus was always late. You cheered louder than anyone when I got the prize for the highest marks in our year. You persuaded the corner shop to stock gluten-free croissants, so you could serve me breakfast in bed. You held me tight when the memories overwhelmed me, despite knowing no amount of holding could undo the past. You wore top hat and tails at our wedding, though more at home in jumpers and jeans. You did it all with perfect grace. You did it gladly, unthinkingly, for me.

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Delivery by Pat Cummings

An intense cramp shot through Carrie’s back. Just a little more, just one more push, and she’d be free of the burden she carried. She turned her head to see Jacob watching with concern. They had begun the loving task together, but this pain was hers to endure.

A bead of sweat trickled; damp hair clung to her brow, but she had no energy left to shake it from her eyes.

Reaching the edge of the field, Carrie dropped her rock. Across the new field of the farm they both loved, she saw Jacob’s plow turn up another stone.

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August 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

August 5Dusk dims visibility along the three-mile stretch between Samuel’s and home. I’m watching a rising blue moon over the Cabinets to the east, feeling satisfied from a Friday night fish, chips and clams dinner at the gas station. Best food and fuel around.

The Hub slows down. “Do you see the buck?”

He’s got the gaze of a sniper and the eyes of a 20-year old with perfect vision. He could have been a pilot. Instead he jumped from airplanes, an Army Ranger, then learned to turn wrenches on powerplants that drive aviation. 30 years later and he still has quick reflexes. Without over-braking, he slows down and we both watch the white-tailed buck trot into the obscurity of tall dry grass in low light.

We missed the other buck.

Well, not exactly missed him because we hit him with our red Ford Fusion, our James Bond car if you’ve seen Casino Royale. Neither one of us is licensed to kill anything. True, we have fishing licenses, but we fly-fish with barbless hooks, catch and release. Hitting a deer on the road is deadly for all involved.

As with most accidents, it happened like a flash of lightning. You wonder, was there really just a bolt of white electricity that reached from heaven to earth? Did we really just hit a deer? Did it fly into the air and scramble away? Oh, dear. The car, the insurance rates, the poor animal…is he okay?

Suddenly, dinner isn’t settled in my tummy. I’m sick with grief for the buck. I feel as though I reached out with my own fist and punched it senseless. I feel guilty. Responsible. And I wasn’t even driving. Riding shotgun, I’m often the early warning system, navigating my husband through a series of safety questions. Did you see that turn signal? There’s a curve up ahead, what’s your speed? Are you watching for deer? Moose? Elk? Do really think you can drive like Mr. Bond?

It’s human, this rush of emotion. In fact, it’s even common to want to rescue an injured deer along the road, according to an editor at the Tahoma Literary Review:

“One particularly surprising theme I’ve noticed gaining in popularity is ‘I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.’ The idea here (and it’s not a bad one) is to create a metaphor for the protagonist’s desire to rescue his/her life by rescuing another’s. Unfortunately the premise of the story is common enough that an editor may turn it down just on that basis.”

What felt like an exceptional experience, smashing our hood and fender on the rump of a buck, turns out to be nothing more than a commonplace theme that fatigues literary journal editors. Oh…the editor sighs…another struck deer story

But wait, Mr. Bored Editor. I have a gun.

Shock value? Does that get attention? It must. Last week writers ripped stories from the headlines and even common stories were led with shocking titles. It’s become so prevalent, these headlines, that even innocuous stories are using them to get attention. Consider the headline for the woman who makes dinner: “She went to the grocery store, bought food and you won’t believe what happened next!” The reason news headlines stand out is because they rely upon shock factor.

Does that mean our stories, books or novels need to shock? Put the fear of somebody’s god into another? Show gallbladders and guts on the first page? Guilt parents into sleepless nights? Spank a character silly? And all because editors are tired of common themes?

Here’s a thought. Apply imagination. Ultimately writers know how to retreat into both head and heart space, taking with them the everyday occurrences of life, and mixing it into a concoction that includes what-if scenarios, what-should-be-but-isn’t, characters with ability, characters with disability, ideas, emotion, places we’ve been to, and places we’ve never seen except within our own minds and dreams.

It’s not that we need to shock readers; we merely need to surprise them and for a purpose. Offer meaning. Get readers to understand the implications of themes that touch our lives. Really, those common themes are why classics have universal capacity. But authors of such classics have applied imagination. Go deep beneath the surface when you write and find your voice. It will be the one thing you have over a sea of writers all writing about the same things.

Voice will serve you better than shock value.

This week’s challenge is two-fold:

  1. August 5, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write the common premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.”
  2. But before you write, daydream. Do something out of your normal routine for 10 minutes. Go outside, sit and stare into space. Rest in a meditative yoga pose. Lock yourself in the bathroom. Mow the lawn, or do the dishes. Let your mind wander to the story and daydream before you write it.

In the comments, state if this exercise had a profound effect or not. I look forward to your imagined commonplace stories. And as to our buck, we did go back and found no blood or deer. We hope he is merely sore and has an uncommon story to tell his herd. Our car, well, it may get totaled. We find out tomorrow.

Respond by August 11, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Be sure to check out the updates to the Bunkhouse Bookstore. We have three Rough Writers in the midst of launching novels: Anne Goodwin (Sugar and Snails), Geoff Le Pard (My Father and Other Liars), and Luccia Gray (Twelth Night at Eyre Hall). All three books are worth a read and a resounding yee-haw!

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Good With Animals by Charli Mills

“Sylvia, darling, off to the store.” Mae pumped the gas pedal with her worn slipper until the truck engine rumbled. Lights on, she drove the backroads, carefully.

The store was closed. She had no money, anyhow. Mae drove back, watchful for deer. One smashed the front grill and lay panting on the pavement.

“Hush, now. I’m good with animals.” With a winch, Mae loaded the deer and returned home, dragging it to a barn stall of soft hay. She flicked on the light, illuminating hundreds of eyes.

Returning to the house, Sylvia asked Mae, “Did you get cat food?”

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