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Cora Kingston

Cora Kingston left behind an enigmatic memorial in a miner’s graveyard along the coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Carved in marble, the stone proclaims: “Erected by Cora Kingston In Loving remembrance of her dearest friend John Yendow Born May 31, 1867, Died October 5, 1892.”

Writers from around the globe wrote stories about Cora, John and the mystery of this marker. Filled with tragedy, humor and unexpected parallels to other places, history inspires fiction.

The following is based on the December 13, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Cora Kingston.

PART I (10-minute read)

Sandcastle Souls by Bill Engleson

Every day, Cara Kingston walked down from her cabin, passed mine, waved if I was in view, which was often that first year.

I was still struggling with heartbreak back then.

She’d walk out on the tiny peninsula that slunk into the Salish Sea, stand on its slippery shore, and wait for her lover, Walter.

“It’s so sad,” my neighbour Molly had intoned when first I moved to Sandcastle Point. “They’d been together such a short time when he was lost.”

“Lost?”

“A storm surfaced. Another lost fisher.”

“When?” I asked.

“Oh! Eons!”

“Eons?”

“Yes. The pain never leaves.”

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Cora’s Scrapbook (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni stood up, stretching stiff muscles after hours of sitting on the hardwood floor of Ramona’s bedroom. It was one thing to scour historical records for work, another to snoop through a box stashed under her husband’s grandmother’s bed. But Danni couldn’t pull herself away from the scrapbooks she found. One belonged to Ramona, another to Ramona’s mother, and a third to Cora Kinston Holman. Each documented events, recipes, photos and newspaper clippings. Was Cora Ramona’s maternal grandmother? The name was unfamiliar to Danni. Yet Cora’s scrapbook brimmed with poetry and sketches similar to Ramona’s stories and fairy drawings.

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Memory in the Backyard by Trailblazer

Eighteen-year-old Andrew was familiar with the upright stone concealed in their bushy backyard, which read “Erected by Cora Kingston in memory of John Yendow.“

Everyone in the family was apathetic to his questions on Cora and John.

After many interrogations with the elderly people of the family and the locality, Andrew understood John was one of his forefathers, a spice merchant.

Traces of yellowish parchments in the underground garage, during his thirteen-day investigation, presented Andrew insights.

His forefather was a spy in disguise, who fell in love with a fellow spy Cora, a poetess for the public.

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Core Values Part 1 by JulesPaige

Cora Holman King was named for her great grandmother. Entering into the King family which was splendid in its richness of history sometimes made young Cora pine for more knowledge of her Kingston relatives.

There was a story that in the a cemetery near Eagle River her great grandmother had erected a grave marker for a friend named John Yendow. There was no one to ask the how or why this was done.

In an old jewelry chest that belonged to the elder Cora, the great granddaughter found a false bottom with a letter. Maybe that held a clue?

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Core Values Part 2 by JulesPaige

Yellow and brittle with a fine slant of fading India ink script, Cora Kingston was writing to John Yendow. It was not a love letter.

Dearest John,

Your family was so kind to help ours when illness struck. We who had been neighbors and had survived so many cold winters. Without your families aide that bitter winter when my whole household was laid with high fevers, you and yours came morning, noon and night to check upon us.

I have set aside private funds of my own earnings. I hope to use it someday to remember you.

Love, Cora

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Core Values Part 3 by JulesPaige

Cora King wasn’t really any closer to finding answers as to how Cora Kingston knew of John Yendow’s death and how much was spent on the marker that was erected in his memory. What had her great grandmother done to earn that money. Why was the memorial just dedicated to John?

One could only guess that perhaps as children during that feverish winter, they had made promises that time wouldn’t let them keep. What Cora King could do was visit the white stone monument. Take its photograph and make sure it was kept clean. What more could she do?

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Forbidden by Kate Spencer

Cora grabbed the net, hoisted her skirt hem and stepped into the rushing waters of Jacob’s Creek.

“I got it,” she said, securing the floundering trout John was reeling in. “This will fry up nicely.”

“It sure will.”

Like nesting turtle doves, they fussed over their meal and then sat on some rocks to talk about life before cleaning up their mess.

“Wanna see some mayflowers?” asked John after hiding the dishes in their usual spot.

“Show me!” laughed Cora grabbing John’s hand.

The underbrush crackled. Startled, Cora turned. Pointed at them was the barrel of her father’s rifle.

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Out to Dry (Cora) by Papershots

Warm and cold weather she recognized by the time it took her laundry to dry, although she could never tell exactly when each item of clothing was dry; it had been pointed out to her that something can be humid but not necessarily wet – (“Never trust linen!”) – so she needed another hand to check what her touch told her, which was the light-hearted excuse for the forthcoming marriage, which is how neighbors and passers-by found out her friend had passed, clothes out in the wind for days on end, at the stretch of new balances, just to be sure.

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Until Death by Jo Hawk The Writer

Cora read Papa’s letter again, hoping the words would change, knowing they would not. Her beloved John had succumbed. Typhoid. She pressed the letter to her heart and closed her eyes, remembering the last time they had been together, the day they said goodbye.

She was excited. Papa arranged for her to accompany cousin Olivia on her Grand Tour.

They would be gone a year and when she returned, she and John would marry.

The thought grabbed her heart, squeezing, constricting, making her wish for death.
She sat, immobile, cold, her life disintegrating. Papa’s letter fluttered to the floor.

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Dearest John by Tina Stewart Brakebill

May 30, 1893

Dearest John.

It finally arrived. I was scared that it wouldn’t get here in time for your birthday but it came on the train yesterday. Daddy will be angry but there’s nothing he can do about it now. When I saw our names together I fell to my knees. I love you so much. We talked so much about leaving this place. Being together. Going someplace where daddy couldn’t stop us. Then you left me. Alone. But daddy can’t stop us now. In death, we can be connected forever.

Till tomorrow my love.

Always Your Cora

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The Family Secret by Susan Sleggs

From the time Cora Kingston attended the one room school house she had eyes for no other than John Yendow, a boy four years older. At home Cora’s mother would rail the girl that he was unacceptable. As Cora grew older her mother tried to pair her with unknowns from out of town but Cora refused. After typhoid took both her mother and John, Cora finally accepted another and moved far away. Years later she returned to erect a tombstone for her true love. If only he had been Jewish like her mother. The best kept secret in town.

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Best Friends by Nancy Brady

Suddenly, Cora Kingston moved away. Brokenhearted, she married the first man she met. The truth was that she would always love John, her best friend.

They became fast friends from the time they met. John and Cora played together from building tree forts to playing checkers to talking.

During their teens they were encouraged to go to school dances with other students. Despite this, they remained best friends, pledging their love to each other.

When John asked for Cora’s hand in marriage, her father said, “No. It was a secret I hoped never to reveal, but you’re my son.

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Forever Yours by Kay Kingsley

A folded note at the base of the headstone read, “My dearest John, I’ve wept for you more tears than water in the ocean or sand in the desert or stars in the sky. Cat Harbor is no longer our safe harbor so I must keep going like we promised we would if something bad should happen. This headstone marks your time here and as long as people can read our names together, we’ve carved our place in history for as long as it stands. Until fate joins us, I’ll be seeing you in my dreams. Forever Yours, Cora”

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The Offering by Ethan Edmunds

She was supposed to meet him on the wandering rocks that night. Of the innumerable promises she’d made to John that summer, it was the only one she ever broke.

Cora knew he’d kept their secret, because in all the years since he’d disappeared, no one had ever come asking after him.

She knelt down as far as her hobbled knees would allow and placed the small bundle in the grass, trying desperately not to think about what was inside. Cora rested her weathered hand on the stone, closed her eyes, and waited patiently for the vibration to start.

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Sacrifice by Joanne Fisher

Cora Kingston and John Yendow were demon hunters, though they hid this from everybody else. For a time they managed to keep Keweenaw Peninsula free of them.

One time they visited Cat Harbor and found a portal. They began a ritual to close it. Once it began to close some tentacles shot out. Something was trying to come through. Without thinking John ran straight into the portal. The last thing Cora saw was John being wrapped in tentacles. Then he was gone.

Cora had a marker made for John. It was the least she could do considering his sacrifice.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Boy’s Club by Goldie

When I was a kid, whenever I would stay with him over the summer, grandpa used to take me out for breakfast Saturday morning. While grandma and my sister – Nicole stayed at home and tended to the house chores, we would go out to have “manly” talks. No girls were allowed. The truth was we would drive to Kingston to eat what grandpa normally wasn’t allowed, like crepes loaded with fruits, whipped cream and creamy chocolate hazelnut filling, and drizzled with honey-butter. Cora’s Breakfast & Lunch was our little secret.

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Cora Kingston, Artist, and Author by Saifun Hassam

The Yeandeau Lighthouse was on a rocky promontory, west of the rugged cliffs overlooking Yeandeau Harbor. The deep indigo and turquoise Pacific Ocean waters morphed into the blue summer skies.

Cora Timmons was a journalist, and loved to sail along these Pacific waters. The Lighthouse, originally built in the 19th century, was named after Jack Yeandeau, an avid naturalist and explorer of the bays and inlets. Her great-great-aunt, Cora Kingston was grief stricken when Jack disappeared in a ferocious sea squall. She was a talented artist, and later published Jack’s notes, journals, and sketches, including her own seashore paintings.

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Cora Kingston by Robbie Cheadle

Cora Kingston stood on the wooden deck of the ship gazing in wonder at the white sand and scrubby greenery of Algoa Bay.

The knowledge that the terrible four-month long journey by sea was nearly over filled her with relief.

The strong sun shone down on her as she cuddled her three-week-old infant in her arms. She was thankful that the government’s promise of a warm climate was true. Hopefully, the promise of 100 acres of land would also materialise. She offered a silent prayer of thanks that this baby would have a better opportunity in this new land.

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True Love by H.R.R. Gorman

He was a friend of mine. I bought his headstone and put him in the earth.

His parents were poor, but I was sure he wouldn’t have had even a wooden marker tied with twine.

He’d been kind to me at the stamp mill, seen me as an equal, a confidant. We were to be married, a convenience to him and freedom to me, if God hadn’t chosen to take him home. His parents were ever grateful that I was willing to hide their ‘mistake.’

But how could John’s life be a mistake when I loved him so deeply?

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Cora Kingston by Irene Waters

Cora looked into his eyes. Her belly warmed and tingled, her heart felt full while her head was clear. She floated on a cloud of love as soft as marshmallow but strong as steel.

“There is nothing left. I’m out!” John was adamant.

The base of her skull contracted, her jaw tightened, Nausea replaced the warmth. She followed him when he left. He was always in her sights. A phone call , a knock on his new door when he had a guest. A shotgun when it looked serious. Her name on his grave.  He’d never be rid of her.

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Name Recognition: You Just Need The Correct Association by Geoff Le Pard

‘Cora Kingston? Who’s she?’

‘Taught us English and Ethics.’

‘Ethics? I didn’t do Ethics.’

‘Why doesn’t that surprise me. Boring Cora. You must remember.’

‘A clue?’

‘Had a voice like dead gerbil.’

‘Nope. Distinguishing features?’

‘She liked tweed skirts.’

‘Geez, Logan that’s narrowed it down to about fifty. Anyway does it matter?’

‘I saw her in town. She wanted to be remembered to you.’

‘Me? Why?’

‘Ha! You sound terrified.’

‘Any teacher who remembers me worries me. My profile was so low it was concave.’

‘She said she borrowed a tenner from you…’

‘HER? Where did you see her?’

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The Wedding That Never Was by TNKerr

Seems that Cora was laid to rest that day at Mountain View Cemetery next to her husband, John Blackwell Holman.

She was buried with a photograph and a tattered wedding invitation. The photo showed a smiling young miner. Penned on the back of the photo in a woman’s hand the name John Y and a date – September 1892. The invitation was hand printed:

Cora Kingston
and
John Yendow

REQUEST THE HONOR OF YOUR PRESENCE
AT THEIR MARRIAGE

ON SATURDAY, 9TH OF JUNE, 1892
AT 2 O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON

OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE CONSUMPTION CHURCH
CAT HARBOR, MICHIGAN

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Taboo by Di @ pensitivity101

The marker miraculously appeared overnight on the unmarked grave of a poor man.
No-one in the family, now or then, knew who Cora Kingston was, or what her relationship was with John Yendow, a man with many friends, but no money.
He had made his way through life working the land as and where he could.
The Kingston Farm was one of the most profitable in the country, but there was no mention of a Cora. Unless it was a subterfuge to hide a relationship between races, beliefs and religion which would have resulted in death for both parties.

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Safe Harbor by D. Avery

A shooting star streaked across the night sky. Tears welled as Cora thought of John.

At his death she heard the sympathetic whispering. “Now they’ll never marry.”

Before his death they whispered, “When will they marry?” Maybe John was waiting until he had more to offer; maybe Cora’s parents were against the union. There was much speculation. But John and Cora clearly enjoyed each other’s company. The whispers sometimes became unkind.

Cora and John had loved one another. Now she alone knew why they would never have married.

“Rest in peace, dearest friend,” Cora whispered to the starlit night.

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Cora’s Love by Ritu Bhathal

Cora wept as she carefully reread the card in one of her hands.
Tears blurred her vision but the words were etched on her eyeballs.
“You are cordially invited to the union John Yendow and Cora Kingston…”
The proofs of their wedding invitations had arrived earlier that week,
but so caught up was she in her grief, she hadn’t looked at the mail.
Instead of stepping into the church as a blushing bride-to-be,
she had entered it to bid farewell to her one true love.
In the other had she held today’s order of service.
“In loving memory of…”

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Identity Found by Ann Edall-Robson

She loathed the old law obliterating a woman’s maiden name when she married. Erasing her true identity, leaving only her first name intact, sometimes. She had been searching for years to fill in the blanks of where she was from, who she was from. The obituary took up half the column. An invitation to a family reunion/memorial, and in the middle of the list was her full name, her town. Someone else had been searching too and found her, and her kin. They were all descendants of Cora Kingston. A perfect stranger had unlocked her life’s history pages.

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Jane Eyre meets Cora Kingston by Anne Goodwin

After fleeing Thornfield with only the shabby apparel I arrived in, the coachman set me down at a crossroads in a north-midland shire, dusk with moorland. Skirts snagged by the heather, I sought a place to rest my bones.

By God’s grace, I encountered another lonely female, whose kindness in sharing her meagre repast of bread and cheese brought forth my sorry story.

“Why, pray, did you not go with him?”

“He was married to another – although he came to regret it.”

“Perhaps you did not love him enough.” Cora took my hand. “Have you ever kissed a girl?”

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A Century Later by Reena Saxena

It was a painful moment of my life to erect this memorial. I lost the person who mattered most to me. The loneliness in the island often makes me think how John would have taken it, if I had died earlier…

A century later, I laugh amidst the waves crashing against the shore. John is immortalized, only because of what I did. The curiosity of researchers is about my story.

I wish they would go around a little more, and find the other tombstones I built – in memory of my dearest victims. They made me happy in their lifetime.

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Flash Fiction: Apology by the Dark Netizen

Cora slumped in the chair, her face buried in her palms.

John’s body lay at her feet, his lifeless eyes looking at her. A stream of tears began running down Cora’s face. John did not deserve to die as he did. He was a good man. No, he was the best man and an even better friend. She had taken advantage of him.

She should never have let her hunger get the better of her. If only she had controlled a bit more, John would still have had his soul inside him.

The tombstone would remain as her apology…

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Cora Beliefs by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal, what d’ya say?”

“‘Bout what, Kid? Cain’t waste words ‘roun here.”

“‘Bout Cora Kingston then. Know anything on that matter?”

“Yep.”

“Well?”

“They say she’s from up north, Eagle River way. Cat Harbor.”

“That I know.”

“Say she went west with a near John, but not her dear John.”

“‘S’what I heard.”

“Thing is, Cora weren’t her real name; it was assumed.”

“I never assumed that.”

“No, Kid, she assumed it.

“Who?”

“Hooe.”

“Who?! Hooe?”

“Yep. Fannie Hooe come back incognito, claimin’ ta be Cora Kingston.”

“In neat clogs? Oh. Keens?”

“True story, Kid. Plausibly.”

“Hoo-wee Pal.”

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August 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Ed peers at me from behind the ferns. He’s caught between the darkness of the deep woods and the sunlight pouring through the opening in the trees. I’d like to think Ed is “Ed McMahon” with a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstake check the size of a refrigerator door and enough zeros to last a lifetime of book-buying. Or Ed, as in the name of a yet-unknown publisher who knocks to say, “Golly-gosh, we love your writing – here’s a contract.”

No, Ed is a deer. A soft-eared doe with big dark, curious eyes peers at me from a glen in Minnesota that I’ve never seen. The photo is a gift, one of several that Keto Man gave me after an interview.

First, Keto Man is the very last member-owner of a co-op I will ever interview. He marks the conclusion of an era for me, the final one after seventeen years of interviews. During that time, I caught the stories of hundreds of co-op members, organic farmers, artisan cheese producers, and entrepreneurs.

Peering back at that time in my life, I see all who I interviewed as part of a colorful tapestry of a vibrant community food system. Food cooperatives in the US rose out of the need for people to have whole food. The movement countered processed meals, added sugar, and expense. In Berkley and Minneapolis, co-ops adopted the symbol of a fisted carrot: Food for people, not for profit!

Sound familiar? Carrot Ranch…Words for people! Sure, I lopped off the “not for profit part” because I emphatically believe literary artists, like all artists, should be valued and paid for their work. The name Carrot Ranch acknowledges community activism centered on fairness, and as a literary arts community, I believe in the power of writers to rise and say something powerful in the world tussle between chaos and order.

Literary art belongs to the people, not the ivory towers or pocketbooks of profit-first publishing. People first. Nothing against publishing dynasties or ivory towers. I love New York and vow to go back as a published author one day. But the industry strangles voices with a profit-driven model. And I’m not against higher education — I’m headed back to the ivory towers of liberal arts next month.

Of course, my position at Finlandia University suits my inner maverick. As an adjunct, I’ll be teaching a CTE Marketing course to high school juniors and seniors who get to enroll in college. Already I get to circumvent some of the pomp of being a full-fledged prof. I’m invited to the week-long orientation for new professors, but I can pick and chose which events to attend. I like that.

But I did have to get fingerprinted and entered into the FBI database. That’s a requirement of the Copper Country School District. I understand and made the most of my jail visit to the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department. I even got to sit in the sheriff’s office and talk to him about teaching (he used to be an adjunct at Finlandia, too). He agreed to talk to my class about how professionalism is part of his department’s brand.

In fact, I’ve been reaching out to many local business owners, companies and entrepreneurs to speak as guests. I hope to have one a week. I want to expose my students to many varied ideas about what they could do with a marketing career. And I want to drive home the only rule my classroom will have: always be professional. If any disciplinary issues arise, as administrators fear given that this is the first time they’ve opened their campus to high school students, I can begin with, “What would a professional do?” One required reading for the course will be “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.

Keto Man didn’t think our interview would last 20 minutes. My former client wanted one more member-owner profile after I completed my last project for them. As is the case with such last-minute stories, they turned over a willing candidate to interview. Keto Man didn’t think he was interesting. He wasn’t. He was fascinating and inspiring.

For starters, he led me to a dark place, as dark as the woods behind a deer. Like me, he has no cable television thus eliminating the 24-hour news media nonsense. While I support journalism and believe in a nation’s free-press, the US saw the information age give way to the misinformation age. Keto Man directed me to Jordan Peterson and The Intellectual Dark Web. I’ve only watched a few clips and not anything I’m compelled to share yet, but I fully understand the allure of intellectualism, of long conversations, of discourse.

As a literary writer, I support what Jordan Peterson says: When you are in college and have those years carved out for you, read every book you can in the library. Yes! Read deep and read broadly. It reminds me of how I often struggled as a writer in my twenties because I felt I didn’t have anything to say. And I was right. The twenties are for reading, for digesting. Sure, writing is a huge part of processing what you think about what you read, but you must input information and experiences, first.

Also, I’d add – go live! Go be a parent and understand that dirty diapers are daily, and you’ll get over yourself in a hurry. Go to college and cram all night, write every day and read every book until your eyes cross. Go work a job, any job, especially a job that doesn’t fulfill you, so you can understand what does bring you satisfaction. Go to the mountains, to the sea, to the desert, to the city, to someplace new. Go travel and talk to people who are different until you understand they are just like you.

And never stop. Never stop learning, experiencing, and using your voice to say something. Observe. Create. Express. Write. Repeat.

I connected with Keto Man. I understood his interest in long conversations and civil debates. I like the idea of the Dark Web for taking hot social topics and debating them on a long forum and following up with audience questions. Yes, I long for more intelligent discourse. However, I also long for more compassion. As with everything, balance.

Further in the interview, Keto Man explained a health crisis he experienced to which he responded by eliminating all sugar and grains. I felt inspired by his action. He’s on a ketogenic diet which has eliminated the culprit of inflammation. He is able to process his health so differently from many veterans like the Hub. Next time a VA doctor says the Hub is normal for his age, I have a comparison.

My adjustment with the Hub correlates to a phrase Anne Godwin gifted me with last week: my veteran’s a reluctant patient with a hard-to-diagnose condition. He’s not normal for his age. Even the 86-year old man who conversed with me at the beach/office today could hold focus better than the Hub.

I’m writing, and occasionally peering at others, as I’m officing from a picnic table at Hancock City Beach. A man with two teeth approaches and tells me a joke in such rapid Finnish-English I laugh, not because I understand but because I don’t. Then I tell him a joke. Evidently, this is a Finnish custom for opening a conversation. He lingers and asks why I’m at a picnic table with a computer on such a beautiful day. Exactly! It’s such a beautiful day, I wanted to go down to Portage Canal and write.

Tomorrow we have the first of several evaluations for the Hub. They will be peering into his service records, his medical records and at his old bones. I’d rather be peering at rocks or at a deer that might be named Ed. That will come later.

August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 14, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Ed in the Woods by Charli Mills

Ed was peering at me again. I could feel his gaze crawl across my shoulders. Let me finish the chapter, Ed. The Legendary Leaphorn is in the arroyo. The tickle continues. I persevere, finish the chapter and set down Tony Hillerman’s latest southwest detective book.

Snagging a sip from my gin, tonic, and blueberries, I grab a fresh-husked corn.

Ed still peers at me from the edge of the woods. His ears twist like radar. Slowly I raise my offering. He hesitates, leans in and nibbles from my hand. The deer dashes off, leaving me to read in peace.

Fish Tales

Did you hear about the one that got away? Perhaps the big fish tale is among the oldest ever told. But there’s plenty of fish tales swimming in the sea, rippling the waters of ponds and creeks around the world.

Writers hauled in the catch this week, hooking tales to keep your interest. You don’t have to fish for the best flash fiction to read — this collection is fully stocked.

The following are based on the April 26, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fish tale.

PART I (10-minute read)

Impossible Homework Assignment by Molly Stevens

“Mom, the worst thing happened today!” said Charli, flinging her backpack onto the counter.

“Oh, what?” asked her long-suffering mother, immune to teen melodrama with daily exposure.

“Mrs. Mills is making us write an essay about fishing. The thought of slimy worms and stinky fish make me sick, and I don’t want to write about it.”

“Perhaps she wants you to stretch your writing muscles,” her mother said.

“She’ll be sorry when she sees puke stains on my paper.”

“I’m sure you can do it.”

“No, I can’t! What’s for dinner? I’m starving.”

“Fish sticks and French fries.”

“Yum!”

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Hooked by D. Avery

“Earnest, I’ll teach you all you need to know about fishing.”
Unable and unwilling to bait his own hooks, Marge had Earnest use a lure. Earnest practiced casting, the lure flying about in all directions.
“Earnest, I’m gonna try my luck further down.”
Marge did not get far. The treble hook of Earnest’s lure pierced Marge’s pants and was firmly set in her ample cheek.
After the ER, eating take-out fish dinner, Marge admitted fishing could be a pain in the ass. The next time she went, Earnest stayed home. He had all he needed to know about fishing.

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The Fishing Trip by Lisa A. Listwa

“Been forever since I fished these waters. Or any. Won’t be much good.”

Joe watched as his grandfather stood in the shallows, silent and motionless. He hadn’t been himself since Gran died.

“Ya know, Gramps,” said Joe quietly, “you always said it didn’t matter if we caught anything, just that we get our toes wet and try. Gran would want you to get your toes wet.”

Gramps looked down at the water splashing over the toes of his boots.

“Well, I’m halfway there already…”

Gramps straightened his hat, stepped out of his boots, and splashed into the cool water.

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Passing On The Spear by Luccia Gray

Manolin pounded his fists on the weathered door. “Santiago, I’ve brought you coffee!”

The old man had spent the last weeks chasing a giant marlin and fighting off sharks with a simple knife on his way back home. The boy admired him as the best fisherman.

“Get dressed, Santiago! We need to go out to sea again. There are plenty more marlins to catch!”
Santiago looked up, his eyes shining and beads of sweat dripping down his brow. “You go. Here, I give you my spear.”

“But you must teach me!”

“Not anymore. Now I must join the lions.”

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Fishing Reflections by Christina Costner

It was the one thing he had in common with his father, their love of fishing. The amicable silence they shared once their rods were cast, waiting for a bite or better still, catch. The only noise came from the stream trickle as water bubbled over mossy rubble and rocks.

A year after his burial, he packed his most prized tackled, loaded his truck and set off for their spot. He was comforted by the familiar stream bubble and poured whiskey from his flask. Casting his rod he whispered goodbye to his boy, remembering the amicable silence once shared.

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The Pacific by Kay Kingsley

If I close my eyes, I’m a kid again, standing in the bait shop with my dad and sister, filled with excitement, in awe of the shining lures that look like toys on the walls.

They beg a closer look, even tricking little humans to their innocence, but behind the glitter hides a hook of death.

I hold the Styrofoam bowl of night crawlers in the dirt, thousands of legs attempting a fruitless dance of escape.

We head to the coast.

On the pier, we underhand cast lines into the morning fog of the Pacific and wait for a bite.

🥕🥕🥕

Big Catch by Heather Gonzalez

My uncle always took the older kids on the boat to go deep sea fishing at the annual family reunion, and I was finally going.

My older brother was the first to feel a tug on his line and caught a baby shark. Everyone patted him on the back with pride. I finally felt a tug on the line of my Barbie fishing pole. I dramatically reeled in my big catch so everyone would notice.

“What did I catch?” I yelled.

I looked down at the end of my fishing line to see a seashell stuck to my hook.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Ladyleemanila

There were two fishermen from South China Sea
They were fishing, and sea was choppy
They have not caught any fish
And they are getting anguish
The wives were there waiting and getting angry

There was a fisherman whose name is Kurdapyo
A henpecked husband of Rosario
They have six kids at home
Their names in palindrome
If they don’t eat, you will soon hear their bellow

His friend’s name is Antonio Santos
Whose wife Rosita is also crossed
He thought it would be fun
To go out with such a pun
Engine spews out black cloud of exhaust

🥕🥕🥕

Farmers at Sea-A Fishy Tale by Bill Engleson

“You’ve talked about this before?”

“From time to time. I was a baby. I have no clear recollection.”

“Your parents were fishers?”

“Yes. Landlubbers who set to sea for the adventure. Then I came along.”

“That must have added to the thrill of the undertaking.”

“So, they told me. It must have been very hard for them.”

“Living on a fish-boat with a baby?”

“I think it leaked some.”

“Really?”

“Well, maybe not a whole lot. Enough for me to kiss the earth and thank my lucky stars I survived.”

“You’re exaggerating, right?”

“Only enough to make it interesting.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Michael Grogan

The angel looked down on the row of men, each with a pole, each with a line extending into the water.

One man pulled in his line and on the end was a wriggling beast the man removed and dropped into a bucket at his feet.

Inquiring he was told they were fishing. It was an earthly pastime, and people found it relaxing.

The angel thought it looked easy and taking the pole from a sleeping man cast the line in. From the water came a rush of swine fish reminding him of his ability to cast out swine.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by Irene Waters

The road stretched out long and straight through the desert.  Signs of civilisation appeared. Bait 1 km. Fishing tackle Menindee General Store. “It’s hard to believe…” I stopped for now in front of me I saw a huge lake. An oasis that replaced the red sand.

“Yep, it’s hard to believe.” The water shimmered in the sunlight. We stopped and bought gear and headed to the water’s edge. We fished all afternoon without a bite, but our friendship was becoming as solid as cement.

On returning to our friend’s place, he said, “Well they caught you hook, line and sinker.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reeling in the Fishermen by Norah Colvin

She sat by the window watching as the invisible painter colored the morning sky. These moments lost in waking dreams, with the youngest of her brood suckling quietly, were precious. Slamming car doors and laughter interrupted the silence but not her thoughts. An occasional word invaded her consciousness…haul, fishing, catch. Wait—her man, a fisherman, was home. The night was not conducive to fishing. She leaned forward. Two dark figures unloaded a ute. They had neither lines nor nets, and it sure wasn’t fish in those boxes. “Fisherman, eh?” she thought as she dialed the local police. “You’re hooked.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Fisherman Becomes The Fish by Teresa Grabs

For close to thirty years Jeff fished on the Grand Banks. Dismissing tales of the magic haddock, he would reel in anything that had the misfortune of swimming near his boat.

“Last summer, we pulled in a baby orca,” he bragged to the new baiter.

“The orca isn’t a fish,” the baiter noted. “It’s a mammal.”

“If it comes from the sea, it’s a fish! Get back to work!”

That night Jeff dreamed of being caught in a giant net dropping silently from the sky.

“If it comes from the sea, it’s a fish,” the alien told his son.

🥕🥕🥕

First Bite by Papershots

This hierarchy nature has set: the seagull will get first bite, whoever fished, whatever was fished. Its menacing mew distances two black crows, left with a minor, resigned twang. They do stay, though. In the sand near the shore, something glistens and sparkles. Seagull swoops down, crows stand back; seagull grabs half of it – a crackling, snapping sound – and flies back up; crows can approach now, get whatever’s left. The sky responds by being blue; lapping waves give rhythm to a natural occurrence. It was plastic. It was plastic. It was nothing more than a piece of unadulterated plastic.

🥕🥕🥕

The One That Got Away by Sarah

I was looking forward to the fishing trip. I always loved the thrill of the catch… well, most of the time! Sometimes I came away hungry!

Arriving at my favourite spot, I saw a couple of men were already there. “Ah, some healthy competition,” I thought. I set myself up and waited.

A few fish were congregating but were disappointingly undersized. They wouldn’t sate my appetite!

Suddenly, I spied a good-sized, juicy-looking trout. I swooped in; snapped up the wriggling fish in my beak, and flew away.

“Hey, Bob! That bird just stole your fish!” a man onshore yelled.

🥕🥕🥕

Bet on the Lady by Paula Moyer

Jean and Steve had always wondered about the “launches” – big flat boats steered by a fishing guide.

That Saturday night on Mille Lacs, Wayne steered them to “his” spot. He baited Jean’s hook, cast out. Steve did his own. They waited. In the dusk, they spied a rowboat, two men. Waiting.

A bobble. “I’ve got something.”

Wayne reeled in the walleye on Jean’s rod, big and flopping.

In the fish house, Wayne gutted, chatted. The rowboat guys gutted theirs. “We had a bet going,” one said. “I bet on the lady.” He grinned.

Jean laughed. “I’d bet on Wayne.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Smallest Fish Story by Chelsea Owens

I caught it -I did; my first fish! I’ll tell you how I did it:

First, all dressed, I ran to the pond. I found a pole, just laying there, and hooks and bait and such. I picked it up and swished it ’round, and -before it even hit the water- something wriggled at its end.

I brought it close and THERE! A flapping, fidgeting fish was hooked. He was a ‘beaut: all sparkly rainbows and twisting, flailing life.

I watched him gape-mouthed struggling, when I heard a shout, “Hey, kid! That’s mine!” and had to come back home.

🥕🥕🥕

Gone Fishin’ by Deborah Lee

“I’m completely renewed, you know how revitalizing a whole makeover is — new cut, new clothes, new toilette, new everything,” Torrey chirps. She raises one wrist, takes a deep sniff, smiles at Lesley, smiles even more brilliantly at Alan’s attorney across the conference table. Alan couldn’t make this settlement negotiation; business. That suits Torrey. She flips her hair and sniffs her wrist again, simpers at the attorney.

“Ah, yes,” the man says drily. “Deep Woods Off No. 5.”

Torrey’s mouth snaps shut audibly.

“You were angling for a compliment, Mrs. Graff,” the attorney says. “Be careful what you fish for.”

🥕🥕🥕

Heavenly Timing by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“How about him?”

Gabby considered, lazily twirling her lariat. “If he finds what he needs on Earth, I’ll hold off collecting.”

“Timing is everything?” Petra peered over the cloud’s edge, wings stilled.

That’s when Gabby spied her. “Now that’s potential!”

A young woman perched on the metro bench, just three feet behind the young man. She adjusted her sandal strap, while he stared into his smartphone.

“Just fish that phone out of his hand. Send it her way!” Petra pointed. Gabby launched her lariat.

The young woman was an excellent catch.

At least, that’s what Grandpa always told us.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

How Mel got Her Own Back by Aweni

Smacking his broad gold lips, Donald did not see the malevolent look Mel gave him.

She made those babies. They should be hers for the eating, not Donald’s.

Dolefully, she plotted with the others. They shared her sentiments.

When a golden-haired girl, not more than six walked in with her mother screaming excitedly, “Goldfish! Goldfish!”, the plotters knew their chance had come.

When the net descended, Donald was pushed and shoved. Next, he knew, the girl was staring at him with glee through the walls of a clear bag. While Mel mourned the eggs, she should have had.

🥕🥕🥕

Inside the Goldfish Bowl by Anne Goodwin

After her injection, Matty enters the lounge, eschewing the armchairs lining the room. Not because of the dull ache where the needle pierced her derriere. Not because the wipe-clean upholstery sticks to her skin. But because she feels too energised for idleness.

From behind the glass partition, a student observes Matty’s elegance in circling the room. Passing their tank, the goldfish pause their back and forth to watch too. Until a maid scattering crumbs across the water makes them swim to the surface, mouths agape. Magic dust to keep them merry. Without it, this place would send them mad.

🥕🥕🥕

First Impressions by Susan Sleggs

I was late picking up my new out-door enthusiast girlfriend to take to dinner at my parents and never noticed something on the front of her wool jacket, but my mother did. On the way home I asked what the small opaque disks were.

“Oh dear, they’re fish scales. I helped Dad clean the fish we had for breakfast.”

“I want my parents to welcome you back if you’ll go with me again, please be more careful.”

“I’ll do that but you should know welcoming a red-neck like me and accepting me is two different things in my book.”

🥕🥕🥕

Intersections? by JulesPaige

The anglers are out again. On the other side of the creek. I mow to disturb their silence. I want them far away. I want my own golden silence reflected by the day’s spring sun.

stay in the shadow
you old trout, leave the lures be;
let me see your stripes

So what’s my angle? In my secluded shaded sanctuary. A good friend sent me a sticker “She believed she could so she did” – I peek through curtained windows in awe of a new day, beginning again.

staying in shadow
I am encouraged to show
my own moxey stripe

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing for Dinner by Di

I’d never been fishing before and was afraid to make an ass of myself as I didn’t know how to bait my hook, cast a line, or reel one in if I caught one. Everyone else were dab hands until we were aboard the privately hired boat and I discovered they were dangler anglers.

I felt better, relaxed and began to have fun.

I caught the first fish, an ugly brute with scissor teeth I was informed was a snapper.

How apt.

I caught some others too, and they all went in the bucket.

Boy, did they taste good!

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing by the moon is rising

They were fishing for hours without a bite when a gentleman came and cut a willow switch and upon its narrow end tied some twine. Dipping the cord into the lake, he seemed then to utter a prayer and finished by removing his hat and casting a low, slow bow towards the water.

Within minutes, he landed a fish, and every five minutes another until he had six. Then he left.

After an hour, the first man rose and bowed to the water, then the second, then the third. The gentleman, hidden away, chuckled as he watched the scene.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing…by Debra Kiyono

Confused about my feelings, I thought that talking to a friend would help.

“Let’s go fishing, now! It`s going to make you feel better!” – Marcus guaranteed.

Couple of hours later, trapped in a boat, I wanted to scream.

Marcus was clearly displeased when I stood up. Before he could say anything, I dove into the water, taking my time to come to surface again.

“You are scaring the fishes away!” – He shouted angrily.

Having fun, I didn`t bother and swam calmly and smoothly to the shore.

“Definitely, I feel better!” – I realized while letting myself lie on the sand.

🥕🥕🥕

A Fish Tale by Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer

For one day each year, she could swim in the sea. The rest of the time, Aria found herself choked with fear knowing she couldn’t swim.

At dawn, Aria closed her eyes and dove beneath the waves. With firm strokes, she slipped between the green ribbons of seaweed undulating below. Golden sunlight streaks pierced the darkness reflecting off the jeweled scales of a massive fish maneuvering in the deep.

Aria headed toward the reef. She had to make the most of the day. She flipped her tail in joyous abandon. It was a good day to be a mermaid.

🥕🥕🥕

Holiday Resorts by Reena Saxena

The lantern fish was holding a seminar for other species.

“The bottom of the ocean has a temperature of minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and you need to learn to survive it. We teach you another sport – use your lower pectoral fins as legs to walk on the bottom of the ocean, and explore it well. There are plenty of succulent plants to feed on….”

“Is it a kind of holiday resort for us, with leisure activities thrown in?”

“Call it survival… if you wish to protect yourself from the human picnickers wielding fishing rods and have a good time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Territory by thedarknetizen

As I move around, I see the little ones scurrying about. One look at me, and they start running helter skelter. And they should.

This is my territory. Every rock, every plant, is owned by me. If they choose to make their way here, they choose to give up their freedom and submit to my sovereignty. I am the king. Wait, I see a shadow looming over me. It is humongous, covering my entire territory. I guess it is time for me to exit these waters and head elsewhere.

After all, there is always a bigger fish out there.

🥕🥕🥕

Fish Tale by Frank Hubeny

He wondered if a mermaid was a fish or if he’d catch anything today or if the soldiers would spot him.

Once he was robbed. They almost killed him with the beating. He didn’t mind dying, but he had to bring fish home to Martha and Peter.

He was too delirious from the bombings and hiding to catch food. He slept till she woke him handing him more fish than he’d ever expected to see. “For Martha and Peter. And you.”

As she turned to dive into the water, he thought he heard her say, “I’m not a fish.”

🥕🥕🥕

“The Origin of Goldie” by Goldie

Nearly a year ago I found myself in the woods at the crack of dawn. The dew was still gently coating the fallen leaves as if protecting them from my destructive footprints. Feeling lost, I considered my options: I could turn around and follow the beaten path that got me here or keep moving forward into the uncharted territory of the forest.

As soon as I stepped forward, I noticed a fish floating ahead of me.

“Golden fish, please grant me a wish.”

“What you need is to write. Go forth and create a WordPress blog.”

A new beginning.

🥕🥕🥕

Blood Sport by Nicole

Joanna hated witnessing the doe-eyed trophies suspended inverted from a scaffold at the end of the harbor, their purple tongues pointing toward the bloodied ground. She hated watching fish with gaping gills flop to death on the bottom of her family’s boat. She loathed the mounted antlered head above the fireplace and the bearskin rug in front of the hearth. Harpooned whales may have sustained her ancestors, but they haunted her dreams. Joanna understood the hunted heart. She didn’t see the point in hurting innocents and ached for the day when she’d no longer be her papa’s favored prey.

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She Fought So Hard by Kyrosmagica

For a wee woman, you certainly pull in the big boys,’ joked keen fisherman Robin.

Melinda smiled; it had been a memorable day, she’d caught the biggest fish going. For a moment she’d forgotten her punishing chemotherapy struggle.

She never complained even when her hair fell out and grew back curly. Instead, she laughed; but it sounded hollow. I doubt she recognised herself.

Soft-hearted Melinda died within days of her fiftieth birthday. At the funeral I picked up her old school photo; I wept, I never knew she’d been a gymnast. Cancer the guilt bringer, I should have known.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ghost Fish! by Anita Dawes

I always feel like a picture in a colouring book, snow white, waiting for paint to fill in between the lines. Bright orange and white stripes. Blue and red, something to give me life.

I am a ghost swimming in an ocean of colour, shunned by my fellow beings, happy in their part of the universe while I swim alone, unwanted by the brightness around me.

I have seen how easily a child colours in while her father is fishing. I should throw myself on the hook and hope the child can colour in one lonely white clown fish…

🥕🥕🥕

Fish’N’Chips by Ritu Bhathal

“Oh, he’s going to be so excited!”

“Fish will finally have his Chips with him!”

Voices filtered through the water, reaching Fish as he swam around in his little tank.

What on earth were they going on about? Why was he going to get excited? Who Chips?

Just then, the water rippled, and he came face to face with Chips for the first time.

Great.

“Let me just get this straight,” he said, “this is MY tank, and-“

Chips opened her mouth into a coy O shape and let loose a flirtatious bubble stream…

“-I think I love you!”

🥕🥕🥕

Mermaid Therapy by Peregrine Arc

“Mermaid therapy, this way, please. Swim, lightly. Come now.”

“Excuse me, my good merman–is this the meeting spot?”

“Depends, what meeting are you looking for?”

“The symposium for mermaid therapy…?”

“Why, yes–I’m the therapist. Now tell me, what ails you? Come now, no one’s around.”

“It’s my son, Crustacean. He keeps having nightmares about hooks floating above his head. Ever since the incident with the trawler last summer, he hasn’t been the same. Can you help us? We’re desperate for relief.”

“Yes, I can. I have one word: magnets.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fishy Story by floridaborne

“So you won’t take your daughter fishing?” The old man in a captain’s hat asked.

“I don’t dare,” I replied.

“Why?” he chuckled.

Good. He took the bait. “She had a field trip to a chicken processing plant. They go in squawking and come out in packages. Now, she runs screaming every time I serve it at home.”

“That’s terrible!”

“Sometimes she hears the ghosts of chickens haunt her.”

The sound of squawking seemed to come from everywhere. The old man paled and backed away.

Did I mention I’m a ventriloquist? Five annoying tour guides down, one to go.

🥕🥕🥕

PART III

Osprey by Ann Edall-Robson

She’d pined for the creek where she’d fished. Riding to the old bridge on her horse, her fishing rod fitting nicely in an old gun scabbard her dad had given her.

She had heard there was a new bridge and fish were no longer running in the creek. Sad, she thought as she drove on the gravel road towards the memories.

She could see she was being watched from the top of the steel girders. If the osprey were nesting here, it was a sure sign there were fish in the creek. Good thing she’d brought her fishing rod.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing Opener by Charli Mills

Harriette wrapped her arms around Ralph’s girth. He slowed down when the trail dipped and skirted puddles of brown snowmelt. A month ago, they had enjoyed the last snowmobile trek of the season. Now it was time to ride the four-wheeler. The couple had strapped their fishing rods, gear and a picnic lunch to the back. At last, mud-splattered, the rough trail broke out of the trees and opened to an inlet along the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Ralph quickly grabbed gear and headed up the small stream to catch trout. Harriette left her pole and fished for agates.

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

Later that afternoon, Beth set a fishing line which she left overnight. Beth was very good at this and often caught an eel or two. She would dig for worms in the kitchen garden to bait the line.

The eels were a greenish-brown and looked like snakes, which was a bit creepy, but they were very good, cooked in milk and water in a frying pan, and flavoured with pepper.

Elsie really hoped that Beth would catch some eels for them to eat. In the morning, Beth would run down to the river to see what she had caught.

🥕🥕🥕

When A Friend Angles For A Companion, Beware You Might Get Hooked by geoffle

‘Do you like fishing, Logan?’

‘Never tried it. Too much sitting and staring.’

‘Don’t you think we could do with more sitting and staring?’

‘I get enough of that in the loo, Morgan.’

‘I’m talking about contemplative sitting, not your comprehensive shitting.’

‘It’s still too boring. There’s so much more to life.’

‘But we need peace and quiet if we’re going to appreciate what life has to offer.’

‘I’d be no good at it. You’d hate it with me fidgeting all the time.’

‘You’d be great, the perfect companion.’

🥕🥕🥕

Koi Fish in the Pond by Miriam Hurdle

“Mabel, I want to have a pond in our garden.”

“Humm, a great idea, but what for, dear?”

“For having ‘yu’ and lotus in the pond.”

“The lotus flowers are elegant and symbolize purity. Why having ‘yu’ in the pond?”

“Well, ‘yu’ means fish, but ‘yu’ of a different word means wishes come true.”

“Now you got my head spinning.”

“Have many colors of koi, especially gold color.”

“Like the ones in Chinese or Japanese Garden?”

“Yes, I’ll order the koi from Caspian or Black Sea. They are the fast-growing koi.”

“Our ten-thousand wishes will fast come true also.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fish Tale by CalmKate

Just like Brokeback Mountain I take my fishing rod to escape family and life, down to my favourite river spot and set up camp.

Always buy the live bait on my trip here then release them later in my veggie patch. Talk about torture threading them onto a hook, don’t they know that what goes down comes round.

Never used that fancy rod … those poor unsuspecting fish swimming about minding their own business. After all every man needs time out and holding that pole is just a substitute for something else similar that we blokes like to do.

🥕🥕🥕

Thar Blows by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin’, Kid?”

“What’s it look like?”

“Goin’ fishin’. But with that outfit? Ocean rod? Trollin’ reel?”

“Go big or go home, Pal.”

“I think yer flounderin’ Kid. Yer way overrigged fer the stock pond or the stream. Ya know thar ain’t a bass hole on the ranch.”

“I’m thinkin’ big, Pal. Gonna bait up right here in the paddock.”

“Hmmph. Yer hookin’ yer leader to a kite?”

“Yep. Let the line out… look at ‘er go… higher…. I’ve caught the wind, Pal! Look at that kite soarin’ over the ranch!”

“Kid, this is relaxin’.”

“Yep. Catch. An’ release.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

###

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.

###

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?”

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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.

###

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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