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April 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

April 22This post begins with a disclaimer: I’m not a pothead.

Yet, this morning, over buttermilk pancakes, conversation drifted to marijuana and I found myself defending pot. The Hub loves to argue; it’s his form of conversation. He listens to mainstream radio when he drives for FedEx, and what he hears fuels his arguments. He practices rebuttals, as if he were preparing for a Lincoln-Douglas debate.

I’m minding my sausages and am clearly not as excited as he is about Willie Nelson’s newly branded weed cigarettes. I recognize a strategic marketing move by the country singer and long-time supporter of cannabis. Very clever. While Washington and Colorado states — the only two in the US to legalize pot — have been hashing out how to regulate hashish, Willie Nelson has developed a line of product and paraphernalia.

The Hub fails to see this as strategy.

He’s offended, he tells me, in between bites of pancakes. Offended? I smile and ask why and he tells me of going to parties with the free-love sorts who’d smoke pot and get unsuspecting girls high. Free-love doesn’t sound so menacing, and I’m sure the girls had a clue when passed the pipe. It’s not like being slipped a date-rape drug unnoticed.

When I ask where in the world is he attending such parties — we’ve been married 28 years and I’ve been unaware — he gives me that look like I should know better. Before we were married, he says. Yes, my husband has been offended by pot-smokers for over 30 years.

He works in the transportation industry and can be random drug-tested any given day. He’s as pure as his puritan roots when it comes to illicit drugs. Maybe it’s in his genes. I can trace his father’s line back to 100% puritan English roots. The Mills are so puritan their heartbeats sound like bible-thumping. If the puritans left England of their own accord, I’m sure their neighbors cheered their going with raised pints in the pubs.

In the colonies, the Mills men served as church deacons and married women named Prudence, Patience and Mehitable. When the churches weren’t stern enough, they founded new sterner ones. The Hub’s 3rd-great grandfather wrote produce columns in an 1850s newspaper. Little was said beyond fluctuating prices and availability, but much was said against the vice of drink. And they continued to build churches and colleges until they came to Nevada.

In Nevada, they built a church and school that the Hub attended as a boy. Yet he smokes a pipe and drinks enough alcohol to have all his ancestors writhing in heaven. Talk about the kettle calling pot black.

I’m all for hemp. Hemp seeds are high in omega-3s and taste fine on a salad. Industrial hemp is environmentally-friendly and has many uses. I don’t care if an individual chooses to smoke pot or eat hemp-brownies. In fact, I have friends and family who use marijuana for medicinal purposes. It helps relieve neuropathic pain and curbs pain and nausea associated with harsher cancer treatments. Some studies even suggest that cannabis can reverse some cancers.

So why all the pot media this week? With Washington state as our stones-throw-away neighbor, 4/20 is a counterculture day that celebrates marijuana and with legalization leading to new innovations, it was deemed mainstream newsworthy. Of course, the puritan Hub had no idea that two days prior to Earth Day is Mary Jane’s birthday. I sniggered because I already knew this (please note earlier disclaimer).

What do Earth Day and Mary Jane have in common? Each rose out of counter culture movements, and both can lead to controversies. Marijuana stands on the precipice of becoming as common as a wine. And Earth Day has taken on urgency to counter the impact modern society has on the environment. Yet there are deniers of both.

In the midst of life we attempt to control, we all long to let go. Exotic trips to escape the city; a shared bottle of wine to unwind; passing around the bong after a long hike up the mountain trail; a runner’s high to counter anxiety at work; a creamy cake to quell life’s troubles; a marathon of sit-coms to hide from the unpleasantness of the world; a drag of smoke to cope; beer with friends to connect with others when home feels lonely; books to keep our imaginations focused elsewhere.

We all have vices. I drink mineral water and smoke marshmallows, to name a few.

Taking a puritan stand helps no one. I’m a Christian and I stand on my faith like a rock; I don’t turn my faith into a rock and thump others over the head with it. Where is the love in that? I know grace because I was saved by it, not because I eliminated vices. I still have them. Nor do I buy the puritan myth; no one is pure no matter how stern they look.

As writers, we can make our characters real by giving them vices that they struggle with or deny. Vices can create tension or become the basis of a twisting plot. If vices lead to excited arguments over pancakes, imagine how they can hook a reader.

April 22, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vice. It can be part of a character or a part of the story. The vice can be the focus or it can be subtle. Think of ways to use a vice (or multiples, if you are so daring) to create a compelling flash fiction.

Respond by April 28, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Spring Camping by Charli Mills

Ramona drove through muddy ruts to reach the campground. Too early for tourists, but free of snow. A car with Washington plates was already parked. Two full-bearded young men helped her with the tent and camp kitchen.

“You boys like veggies?”

They eagerly nodded and brought over a mixed-greens salad to share.

Boys who eat veggies. She should introduce them to the twins.

“Are you Amish?”

“Vegan,” one replied. He pulled out hand-rolled cigarettes. Ramona was never one for smoking but not wanting to be rude she accepted one after dinner, and slept the best she had in years.

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