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February 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-23In my mind, my Aunt Mary McCanles is as stoic as the women painted in pioneer portraits. Grim smile, bun puled taut, knuckles gnarled from the hard work of homesteading folded passively on her lap as she sits in her rocking chair for the camera. The romantic notion that wagons west was the adventure we modern descendants missed, that times were once simpler and more decent is among the big western myths. It’s true, Mary had courage and the wit to survive. She worked hard to raise four sons and an invalid daughter on the vast prairie of Nebraska Territory as a widow.

Maybe it’s because of the romance of the west, or maybe because she was my kin, I find it difficult to access her complexity. She’s human and must have been a woman of dichotomies. Aren’t we all? Life isn’t just about our personalities and the places we live, but it’s the intersection between our worst and best traits on our worst and best days. Add to the mix a harsh land and the reality of migration, and Mary had no chance to be a paper doll from a children’s American West set. She was a flesh and blood, heart and mind, physical and soulful woman.

When I think of stories, I think in terms of what if. To me, that’s where the action unfolds. What if a woman followed her husband and his former mistress out west, migrating to a frontier? What if she left behind a home and family she’d never see again? What if her husband was gunned down one afternoon? What if is the blueprint for the external story.

Internally, motivation becomes a driver. Why would she follow her husband and his former mistress to such a place? How did she cope in a new community? Did his death change her? What about love? Did she love her husband because he was the father of her five children or did she marry out of a sense of duty? The internal story shapes the human triumph or tragedy.

For a work of historical fiction, research collects the facts that detail the story. These details include every day occurrences, such as the life of a pioneer homesteader. They can also give clues to personality through eye-witness accounts or remembrances. Newspaper clippings give tone to decipher attitudes and culture. For example, slavery in the US is unavoidable, reading a southern newspaper from the 1850s. The attitudes of the culture emerge in ads advertising poultry and slave auctions like normal events. They were, for the times.

I’ve talked about the story structure I use to write novels — a W that outlines the hero’s journey. Recently, I heard Matt Damon give an interview about an upcoming movie about the Great Wall in China. He called it a classic hero’s journey. Yet, I think even the tale of a woman on the prairie, sweeping a cracked mud floor and boiling laundry can be a hero’s journey, too. Rock Creek, my historical novel in progress, has five heroes. Two are historically accounted as one hero and one villain. I retell their story through the three perspectives of the women who knew them both and experienced the infamous event at Rock Creek one hot July day in 1861.

Only one character has the full hero’s arc — Sarah Shull. The remaining characters fill in the external or internal stories.

Motives for the two men have been debated over 150 years. I have new ideas on plausible motives to expand the narrow thinking of the men who have written the histories. I also have motives for the women. But Mary’s domestic motive has seemed bland to me — I don’t want to paint her as just another stoic prairie wife. And Sarah Shull, as former mistress, has been given several titillating motives and I didn’t want her to be a mythological soiled dove of the West. Nancy Jane has been vibrant to me because she is what any woman unfettered could have been — capable and feisty.

Writing into Mary’s dark intentions one flash a few weeks ago, I hit on an important plausible motive behind her pursuit of Cobb. It continued to worm its way into my imagination to give more fertile ground to consider motives of Sarah. How might Sarah’s knowledge of Mary’s motives shadow her own? That led to me thinking about Sarah’s friendship with Nancy Jane. After spending a weekend with a McCanles cousin whose research and opinion I respect, I was in a brain churning process. Do you know that feeling? That mind-space where you go over your internal and external stories trying to dig deeper for that coveted surprise you know is there, somewhere between the details?

Then a conversation with a trusted friend who knows the full story (something I protect from historians because it is a bombshell and will rock the Wild Bill World) led to a moment of inspiration. You might say, I had a perfect storm this week. When I sat down to tap out that inspired idea, 5,443 words later I actually had my motives emerge fully and I had my ending. That might sound odd — to find an ending to a historical story where we know how it ends. But of course, who would read it if I told the story from start to finish? That’s why novels are never a straight forward telling of the external story.

My W has been mapped out for Rock Creek. I have worked hard to fill in historical gaps; I scrapped the first half of the book; expanded the Nebraska accounts; and wrote Sarah Shull later in life. However, I’ve been stumped as to how to weave the three women’s perspectives to show the men in action and use Sarah’s reflections in old age. It all came together in this new ending I wrote. What blew me away is that Sarah had one last secret for me — a motive of her own I had never considered. And it would not have come to me if I hadn’t allowed myself to think of Aunt Mary in a darker way.

While breakthroughs seem to abound this month for both my novels in progress, I hoping for a breakthrough in my homeless situation. I have come to enjoy my RV with my little office, couch, kitchen, bedroom, shower and toilet. I don’t feel so “homeless” with such basic needs met, yet we are displaced and have to move on by April because the tourist season at Zion begins in earnest and rates go up beyond my earnings as a writer. The Hub was accepted into a VA vocational program and we continue to battle the stress of his PTSD, he being more stressed than me. Progress is slower than our timeline to move. And we have no way to move our big RV, something we said we’d figure out. Well, we’re still figuring! I’ll hope for some perfect storm of inspiration.

The first anthology is making its way back to our capable and talented Trail Boss & Editor, Sarah Brentyn next week. She and all the Rough Writers have been patient and I appreciate that. The Raw Fiction series is meant to be a platform for our anthologies, expanding the literary community here as one that discusses as well as performs feats of raw literary art. The synergy is evident in what we write individually and collectively among such diverse writers. Once we have Volume 1 under our belts, we’ll invite new Rough Writers to join our core of ranch hands and continue to grow.

With all this movement and wandering (imaginatively) across the plains of Nebraska Territory, I can’t help but think of migration. Immigration dominates world news as refugees seek asylum, countries ponder how to balance humanitarian efforts with safety protocols, and the US slams shut its borders and evicts “illegal” immigrants from our neighbor, Mexico. The announcement of 15,000 new jobs for border control is not one that has many cheering new jobs in America. What would we have done had Trump lived 150 years ago and was chief of the Plains Indians? Would the west have known such a migration as the pioneers? Would we have an Indigenous west, open to Mexico, closed to Americans?  And we just discovered 7 new earth-like planets only 39 light years away! What will future global migrations look like?

February 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a migration story. It can imagine the dusty or arctic trails of the frontiers past or look to the travel across the galaxy. What issue about modern migration bans might influence an artistic expression in a flash? Migrate where the prompt leads you.

Respond by February 28, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published March 1). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Leaving for the West (from Rock Creek) by Charli

“Pa? Are you leaving us?”

Mary glared at her husband. To avoid the new administration’s secession policies, Cobb was leaving his sheriff’s post. Her family and friends no longer visited, political beliefs dividing neighbors and kin. “Answer the boy, Cobb. He’s your son. He deserves your words, not the gossip to come.”

“Monroe, anyone asks, tell them I’m seeking gold with the Georgians.”

“What about our farm, Pa?”

“Sold, son. We’ll have a new farm out west. Uncle Leroy will bring you all out once it’s settled.”

“Out west? Where they sent the Cherokee?”

“Further west, son. The frontier.”

###

Watchers

Watchers at Carrot Ranch by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEver had that feeling of being watched? The hair on your neck prickles, you turn around, or maybe you flee. Who, or what is watching?

This week, writers pushed into the territory of watchers, exploring who and possible motives.

The following is based on the February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher.

***

The Watcher (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Torry aims her phone at rubbish in her newly-acquired back yard and clicks a picture. Turn slightly, aim anew, click. Turn, aim, click. These should let Juan-Jose-Jorge-whatever-his-name-is know what to haul off.

Her back to the empty house, she can feel it, a physical force between her shoulder blades.

Watched.

She whirls toward the house. Upstairs, undraped windows stare like blind eyes. Lower, behind winter-bare rhododendrons tangled with weeds and trash, sun manages to glint off a dirty basement window.

Nobody.

When she’s done, safe in her car, her skin is still crawling. And she’s supposed to live here?

###

Haunted? by Jules Paige

When a person dies before their time…or at least the time is too
early, like a parent before a child reaches the age of recognition
and memory; often the child is told that their parent is angelically
watching over them.

I saw the staged play ‘Our Town’ – where the dead are boldly
told to let go of earth and what they can no longer have. Does it
help to imagine the photographic eyes of our loved ones watch
our decision making?

Perhaps I believe that only genetics are the true watchful eyes of
where I might go next…

###

The Watching Spirits by Ann Edall-Robson

Tall. Silent. Formidable. Welcoming only those true of heart. In search of guidance, not all who make the journey pass the test. Their search not always clear. Their direction muddied.

Yet, they come knowing they are watched over. They’re not alone. They will be given the chance, only once, to reach the desired result of the challenge. They must be focused. Ready for the trial. Ready for the blistering, mind altering vision.

It is here the young men came. Following the path to the towering rocks. To the place of the watching spirits. And so began their vision quest.

###

Falling Shadows (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The Beehive was where granite met duff and towering larch. Hikers said they saw a dog like Bubbie run up the trail. She swore she saw dog-prints by the spring. Nothing. No Bubbie. Just a warm breeze through the pines.

She felt…watched.

Looking up, high on the granite mound considered sacred to the Salish, and called the Beehive for its shape, Danni could see the shadow of a dog. How did Bubbie get up there? She’d need a rope to ascend.

Her breath left her as the shadow fell. Before impact, it spread wings and an eagle flew away.

###

Watched by FloridaBorne

“Dingo,” his master called out, opening the gate to her country home. “Let’s walk.”

A head peeked through the dog door. “YiP-yIp-YIP!” he announced his joy.

Ears up, eyes alert, each bush an adventure, he ran toward an all-you-can-sniff world of possibilities.

Feet fluttered over a carpet of pine needles. Tail up, head outstretched, he sprang forward.

Zagging around a flora of obstacles, he jumped at the squirrel scurrying up an oak tree, missing the back legs by an inch!

“Dingo!” A scolding voice yelled. “I’m watching you!”

Tail tucked between his legs, head down, he lumbered toward home.

###

The Watcher by Irene Waters

He lay watching, hidden by the elderberry. Its clusters of purple fruit succulent like the woman he watched. Visualising his capture his pupils narrowed as he imagined her softness. She would not be able to escape. She would succumb to his attentions. He’d cut her if she didn’t and she’d know that he would. He’d captured her in the garden on another occasion. She didn’t sit on the love seat often, usually protecting herself with the tools she toiled and turned the earth with. But he watched. Today he’d have success. She sat. He pounced.

“Oh! Killmouski good pussy.”

###

The Porcelain Cat by Allison Maruska

Skylar sees it as soon as she wakes—the small figurine on her desk. She picks it up, turns it, strokes its glass ears. I wish she could see how happy her discovery makes me.

I couldn’t give it to my granddaughter before I passed, as my grandmother had done for me. The porcelain cat is old, precious. It deserves to be in kind hands.

So, I broke a silly old rule and moved it. I was careful. No one saw it floating.

And watching her now, I know I’ve done the right thing. They will protect each other.

###

The White Porch by Sarah Brentyn

She was about five when she stopped crying. But she still crawled into bed with me. Me. The broken one, the brave one, the older one.

My identity was older sister.

I’d been alive three years longer than she. That’s all I had to offer.

She snuggled with me, her raggedy stuffed rabbit tucked tightly to her chest.

Sometimes, on summer nights, we’d tiptoe to the porch. I’d point to the trees and tell her they were our watchers. They would protect us.

I remember those evenings the most. When the skies were beautiful watercolor paintings of our bruises.

###

Friends by Norah Colvin

He stood at the periphery, silently observing, calculating their disposition, weighing his chances. Were they friend or foe? Appearances could be deceiving, as could his gut reaction.

They seemed harmless enough; but his sweaty palms, throbbing temples, and churning belly turned his legs to jelly. Even breathing was a struggle.

He became aware of someone tugging his shirt. Though unsure if she was talking or mouthing, he understood, “Would you like to play?”

His head would neither nod nor shake, but she led him by the hand anyway.

“Hey, everyone! This is Amir,” she announced.

“Hi Amir!” they chorused.

###

Mamma’s Here, Leroy by Anne Goodwin

His mother watches. First the cap. Then the wrist and ankle straps.

He always welcomed me and my “box of tricks”. Vocabulary, comprehension, digit symbol. If there were points for effort, he’d have been off the scale.

Mamma’s here, Leroy. She knows her words can’t penetrate the glass. She’s here because she birthed him, the cord around his neck. I’m here because I couldn’t trade his failures for the court’s compassion. He’s there because he’s poor, uneducated and black.

She watches the electricity convulse her baby’s body until it breaks him. I watch his mother witness this country’s shame.

###

Watching the Hanging by Luccia Gray

‘We’re going to Horsemonger Lane, Boys,’ said Fagin.

Dodger pulled away. ‘Ain’t nothing there except Southwark prison.’

‘A public hanging!’ said Fagin.

When they arrived, the street was teaming with watchers, howling, screeching and yelling like animals.

Oliver gasped. The place was crawling with thieves and prostitutes fighting and shouting obscenities.

‘Might as well get some work done. Look, there’s a fancy looking toff over there,’ said Fagin, pointing to Charles Dickens.

‘Bet I can half inch his bread and honey,’ bragged Dodger.

‘Watch the hanging carefully, boys,’ warned Fagin. ‘Remember, if you get caught you’ll be brown bread.’

###

Watchword by Bill Engleson

I can’t take my eyes off me. When I was younger, that observation might have embarrassed me. But there is nothing to be ashamed about.

We, each of us, are unique. We live our lives creatively, every step, every thought, every breath.

I look outward, sometimes to the sea, sometimes to the sky, less than I should to her.

I always see me.

Good citizenship requires us all to have a strong and honest eye looking inward.

This is how we serve our great country.

We know when we deviate.

It is our duty to report every single deviation.

###

Being Watched by Pensitivity

It was a big world out there, one where they did not belong and would never begin to understand.

It was unsafe and unpredictable, a place where no-one could be trusted.

You couldn’t tell a friend from an enemy, and who would know the truth from a lie?

Here inside, no-one could harm them, they could live forever in a safe haven, everything always familiar and unchanged.

Some saw it as boring and dull. They wanted adventure, to explore the unknown.

They were tired of predictable and fed up with being watched.
Tentatively they stepped out of the television.

###

The Watcher by Victoria Bruce

I watch. I wait. I report. I never intervene.

Day or night, I watch.

I watched her laugh with the barisita as she picked up her coffee. I watched her walk down the sidewalk, her bright pink coat a splash of colour in the early morning grey.

I’d watched her all of her life – in silence.

I watched as the black van turned the corner. I watched as it sped up.

I said nothing. I made no sound of warning.

I watched as they collided and as her blood turned the white snow crimson.

And I wept in silence.

###

Being Watched by Michael

When I look down my hallway I catch a glimpse of someone standing there. It happens often enough for me to think it’s real. I am being watched, not like a guardian angel but more like by someone curious about who I am and what I’m doing.

They vanish when I glance up at them, blending into the background, the dark curtains in the back room an ideal hiding spot for them.

I wonder what they make of me, sitting here tapping away. The past trying the fathom the future?

One day they might have the courage to ask.

###

The Watcher by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Joseph leaned against the hardware store’s outside wall, impatiently tapping his fingers. Its surface was cool in the shade of what promised to be another scorcher. He drew on his cigarette, then used the same hand to slide his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose. His fingers trembled and the ash dropped to the dirty sidewalk.

He’d waited here every morning for the past week, sure that she would walk down this neighborhood street again. She’d shown up every couple of months, in her bright yellow dress, ever since they’d split.

He had some words for her. Finally.

###

Flash Fiction by Paul Chiswick

April stares at me, invitingly. What a woman: glowing olive skin, hair the colour of espresso, deep brown eyes, glossy red lips.

Oh, man.

My eager fingers trace the pencil-thin seams from the heels of her impossibly high red stilettos, up along her shapely calves, past the contours of her perfect thighs. Her eyes never leave mine, never blink.

Oh, man, oh, man.

‘Lights out!’ The screw’s barked command echoes on the cell’s bare walls.

I kiss the tip of my finger and place it on the calendar girl’s bare rump.

‘Till tomorrow, babe.’

I smile. Close my eyes.

###

Who is watching who? by Geoff Le Pard

‘Mum please.’

‘It’s just a painting. It can’t watch you.’ Mary smiled at her daughter’s scowl.

Penny turned away. ‘It just does, like it’s possessed or something.’

‘You watch too much TV. Well the wrong sort.’ She followed her daughter into the kitchen. Penny had picked up her father’s laptop bag. ‘What are you doing?’

Penny said nothing until the computer was on the table. ‘There’

‘What’s that?’ Mary studied the piece of tape on the edge.

‘Dad says it’s to stop anyone watching him through the internet.’

Mary picked it off. ‘You’re both as bad as each other.’

###

The Watcher by Kecia Sparlin

Mall shoes still did a fairly brisk business. Browsing the internet wasn’t the same, not for them, not for him. At lunch time, Marty often sat alone on a bench facing into the store.

Her skirt was slit, ankles slim, her shoes…worn and scuffed. He winced. Then she took them off. Marty clenched a fist and gnawed his knuckle. When she wiggled her toes, he swallowed his gasp.

The salesman brought a box and slipped her tired foot in a new, patent leather shoe. Candy apple red. Marty swiped sweat from above his lip. His eyes watered with love.

###

Third Time Lucky by Sherri Matthews

Three times around the park, that’s what she always did. He’d watched her so long that he almost regretted it was coming to an end.

Almost.

He crouched down low behind the hedge, his heart racing at the thought of having her all to himself at last.

She walked by, once, twice and almost upon him, third time a charm.

And she kept walking, oblivious to the danger lurking just a heartbeat away.

‘Business owner found dead of heart attack in park’, the local news reported days later.

The body was found by a woman who walked there regularly.

###

February 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-16There’s a juniper tree on the slope of scree between my view outside the library window and the cliffs of Zion Canyon. The juniper is the size of a person, and each time I glance out I think someone is there, watching me. I’m torn between my inside world of words and my outside world of nature. A person on the periphery of both is startling. As if this Juniper Tree Watcher can see through to me.

I’m not paranoid. I use aluminum foil for BBQing, not blocking nefarious satellite spying. Honestly, I don’t feel watched in that sense. I don’t feel the need to wear hats in public to hide my face from Big Brother cameras or apply duct tape to the video cam on my lap top. Seriously, if anyone is watching me as I write, they have weird clips of me contorting my expression in frustrated pain when internet feeds are slow, deep breathing, arm/shoulders/neck exercising, or drooling when in a daze to flow thoughts from the head to tapping fingers.

The worst Big Brother can nail me for is one-handed keyboarding and scratching my nose (it was just a scratch).

I’ve long known the NSA is watching my email and blogs and bank accounts. The NSA alerts come from Idaho neighbors who’d come over for coffee and the latest conspiracies. I don’t doubt the government is watching, but doing something with that data is beyond their abilities. Try getting VA care. They have tons of data. They lack resources.

Once, when I was 12, a Native American elder warned me about water babies and watchers. He described a place where the Washo knew the watchers to be. It was a spot I avoided because my horse snorted every time I rode past this low bit of land along a creek. My friend said my horse recognized the watchers. I began to think about other places I felt watched, yet another correlation emerged: history.

Feeling watched became a clue for me to look for historic or even pre-historic evidence of habitation. I got so good at it that I recorded 11 archeological sites around the town where I grew up, including the spot I had been warned about. Of course I learned to identify features and clues, but that sense I feel, like a hunch, also feels like being watched.

The top of Dalton Wash felt like a hunch the first time we crested the mesa. It didn’t take long before I found chippings and tools, indicative of an encampment. Subsequent times I’ve been back, I’ve brought loose tobacco to share, a gift to the ancients my Native friends taught me. The first time I brought tobacco, I had the hair on the back of my neck stand up at a certain point. I felt I should not go past and I left my gift there on the wind.

I’ve been asking around, to fill in the gap between knowing this place was once inhabited and wanting discover their story. Some of the rock shops had said the Shoshone and Paiute lived and hunted here. It didn’t feel like my watcher, though. Then I discovered a small warning to hikers on the Zion side of the mesa above Dalton Wash — leave rocks, petrified wood and artifacts behind for others to enjoy; do not climb or disturb the rock dwellings.

Rock dwellings would mean Pueblo or even the mysterious Anasazi. I began asking outfitters and all were reluctant to say anything more than the park doesn’t want people to know in order to protect the ruins. In a round about way they confirmed the existence of ancient ruins in the vicinity where I felt watched and compelled to leave tobacco.

Whatever the feeling is, it taps into my imagination. Of course, a logical explanation would be my mind attempting to fill in the gaps it doesn’t know. I could agree with that. When I was younger I thought an archaeological career would be the greatest ever. I had always wanted to write historical novels and I saw the possibility of being an archaeologist/historical fiction novelist. It was beyond what I could do at the time, and college was not part of my family dynamic. By the time I got to college, I was a mother of three. Practicality dictated a teaching profession, but history and creative writing called my name. Creative writing called the loudest.

When I started writing Miracle of Ducks, Danni came to me as Dr. Danni Gordon, an historical archaeologist. She disdains dogs until her husband Ike abruptly decides to serve a private military company in Iraq. She has to overcome her dislike of dogs and Ike’s best friend to hold her life together in Ike’s absence. She ends up finding a friendship and a pup, and eventually she even finds her community after believing she never needed to be part of one.

The friend, Michael Robineaux, is the perfect foil for Danni’s career — he’s Ojibewe. He frequently challenges both her profession and disbelief in the supernatural. While the plot doesn’t get too “far out there” there is a thread of supernatural regarding the pup, Bubbie. Most of it is easily explained away like my sense of feeling watched by those who’ve gone before, but there’s several incidents that are left to the reader to decide.

The community element was something I originally set up to contrast Ike’s commitment to duty and Danni’s need for solitude. Community is a dynamic force, and complex. Miracle of Ducks drills down through the layers until Danni can finally see her own placement and come to understand why Ike would feel the need to put himself in harm’s way.

Last week I had a huge breakthrough in revising. I’ve mentioned before that I’m changing the setting from northern Wisconsin to north Idaho. One chunk of story that I wasn’t sure how to transfer involves Bubbie getting lost on Madeline Island. There is no such place in north Idaho, although several peninsulas on Lake Pend Oreille might work. Last week, I responded to the prompt and was thinking about Danni’s angst over her missing pup. In my original scene, Danni and Michael spend days searching for Bubbie, following up on sightings including a farmer who finds the pup in his hen-house.

Without thinking, I wrote Bubbie was lost on the Pack River and a group of rednecks shot at him for sport. Suddenly, the transfer was complete in my imagination. I could see Bubbie getting lost on the Pack (many dogs do each year) and the dangers became real and unfolded. I’m biting at the bit to get this scene rewritten now, thanks to the insight from that flash. Sometimes, my own responses to the prompt are like a flash light showing the path in the darkness!

I hope to find that ruin above Dalton Wash before we leave Mars. We don’t know where we are going next, or how we are going to move our RV, but I hope we get a flash of insight before the snowbird season ends, early April. Like a good story, I know something is up on Dalton Wash. It interesting to note, it’s not the only Anasazi ruin in the area.

The other is beyond the slope where the Juniper Tree Watcher stands.

February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher. It can be a sentinel like the Watchman formation that overlooks Zion Canyon, or a Big Brother conspiracy theory. How can you use a watcher to set a tone or present a twist?

Respond by February 21, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 22). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Falling Shadows (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

The Beehive was where granite met duff and towering larch. Hikers said they saw a dog like Bubbie run up the trail. She swore she saw dog-prints by the spring. Nothing. No Bubbie. Just a warm breeze through the pines.

She felt…watched.

Looking up, high on the granite mound considered sacred to the Salish, and called the Beehive for its shape, Danni could see the shadow of a dog. How did Bubbie get up there? She’d need a rope to ascend.

Her breath left her as the shadow fell. Before impact, it spread wings and an eagle flew away.

###

The Murky Side of the Rainbow

The Murky Side of Rainbows by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsMud is murky. It’s certainly dirty. Yet sometimes it can hold surprising reflections. A mud puddle is an unlikely place for a rainbow, but it was the place to look.

This week, writers went where rainbows in puddles led them. The murky side of the rainbows holds some surprises.

The following stories are based on the February 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle.

***

Good Riddance by Diana Nagai

Kelly descended the front steps, leaving her first love in the doorway. Sliding behind the wheel, she ran her hand over the many tears in the leather seat and tugged firmly on the belt. She cranked her window down, using a pair of pliers gifted to her by her father when she left home; a man who truly adored her. Crisp air flowed over her, creating a lightness that gave her the moxie to reach out and wave goodbye.

With mirrors in place and a blinking oil light, she vanished with a smile, leaving rainbow puddles in her wake.

###

Jaguar Baby by Kerry E.B. Black

A dreaded rainbow glistened on the garage floor, the tell-tale oil which portends the death of a beloved machine. Chris kicked a pile of tires heaped in the corner. “Darn it. She never listens.”

Fumes from Aunt Connie’s 1968 E-type Jaguar still lingered after her hasty departure. She’d waved, ignoring Chris. “Thanks for fixing my baby!”

Water eddied through the oil slick. She judged from the size of the slick the car would make it to Aunt Connie’s destination, but coming back would not be happening. She packed oil and mounted her Vespa, rushing to rescue her impatient aunt.

###

Faith (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“A rainbow in a puddle. We’ll have good luck in our search today,” Michael said.

All Danni could see was a biohazard in mud. She climbed into Michael’s truck and they left to follow leads on Bubbie, missing along the Pack River for a week.

“Did you see it?”

Michael was as bad as Ike, Danni thought. Signs, wonders, miracles. “Yes I saw the oil slick.”

“Ever the scientist. Today, have faith.”

Their first encounter with campers reminded Danni why she had none. The rednecks with AR-15s claimed they peppered a dog fitting Bubbie’s description. For fun, they said.

###

Fight Own Battle by Lady Lee Manila

rainbow in a puddle

we’re tiny dots of whole

everything takes its toll

testing if we’re able

gives us hope to scramble

feel of trust in our soul

 

silver lining or not?

up to us to decide

perhaps good if we tried

for us ourselves bethought

and let’s not be distraught

if we make it, it’s pride

 

we trek some dirty mud

not always smooth, the road

got to pay what we owed

if there’s luck, we’re blessed

depends if we acted

carry on as we flowed

 

rainbow in a puddle

tells us that we’re able

fight own battle

###

Rainbow in the Puddle by Reena Saxena

I loved RainBow till I studied Physics. The charm of the rainbow gradually disappeared. The arc transformed into a circle of knowledge, and lost the open element of awe. I was picking up wet laundry from the clothesline, after a shower, rather than look for the rainbow.

I am sure, RainBow was mighty disappointed, and missed my childhood. It was pretty lonely, amidst dense, gray clouds on the gray sky. There it came … down to earth with a thud, in a puddle of water. And the Sun helped the world in noticing its existence. Damn the physics lessons…

###

Coulored Lights by Jane Dougherty

The puddle in the path reflected like a mirror the tracery of the trees and the sky beyond. I stood on the edge captivated by the still beauty. The sun came from behind a cloud and struck the water, covering the surface with rainbow lights. Diesel, a film of leaked fuel turned the timeless pastoral scene into a surreal nightmare. I raised my head, looked beyond the clouds to the scritch-scratched vapour trails across the blue, smelled the traffic on the road ahead and felt the tree roots curling and straining to find the lifeblood of the dying earth.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

The two giants walked side by side, cursing Man’s folly and the weather.
‘This thunderstorm was due today.’
‘Indeed it was and the rain is badly needed.’
‘Water was their most precious resource but they believed the taps would never run dry.
Overpopulation led to reclaiming wetlands for property development.’
‘Man was stupid, filling in lakes, building on floodplains and not dredging the rivers properly’.
‘So here we are, starting again by making puddles with every step.’
‘They’ll know we’ve been here.’
‘Because we’ve left our footprints?’
‘No. Because you dropped your bow in the rain and it’s arched.’

###

Making a Rainbow by Luccia Gray

‘Look a puddle!’ James rushed to the playground.

‘What’s a puddle?’ asked Timmy.

‘Some water on the floor,’ replied Susan.

‘But we mustn’t spill any water,’ said Timmy. ‘Who did it?’

‘The clouds spilled the water,’ said Miss Rushbrooke.

‘Does that mean the drought’s over?’ Asked Jenny.

The teacher sighed watching the toddlers dip their fingers. They hadn’t seen rainfall in their short lives. ‘Look for a rainbow. That’ll bring us good luck.’

They shook their heads; the sky was clear blue again.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Miss Rushbrooke. ‘Bring the watercolours. We can make a rainbow in the puddle.’

###

The Magic Rainbow by Ann Edall-Robson

The mystical, magical colours dance through the willows and along the creek. Shades of a second rainbow reflects in the puddles. Transparent in the sun showers happening in the valley.

Race to the end of the rainbow. To the pot of gold protected by the little people. Closer and closer. Beneath the small, yellow booted feet, the puddles on the trail scatter in a spray of water and mud. Droplets of rain on rosy, apple cheeks turn to into rivulets. The hunt for the elusive rainbow and the leprechauns that play under its arch gone now for another day.

###

Of Puddles and Rainbows by Norah Colvin

For children of the drought who had never seen rain, the gush when the pipe from the bore burst a seam was a rare opportunity for water play and unexpected learning. While Dad and his Station Hand worked to repair the hole, the children danced in puddles under the cooling spray.

“Look at the colours,” a child exclaimed, trying to capture each one. The men paused to smile at the children’s delight, remembering their own childhood glee. Mum watched from the verandah – without their precious resource, there’d be no washing off mud or cooking the dinner that night.

###

Puddles by Sarah Brentyn

Tina’s legs, splattered with droplets of mud, stuck out from under her dress. A white, frilly thing her aunt insisted she wear today.

“What are you doing? Get off the ground!” Her aunt put her lips close to the girl’s ear, “People are staring!” She hissed.

“White is for weddings,” Tina traced patterns in the brown puddle by her hip. She swirled her finger in circles then squinted. “White is for clouds,” she pointed at the puddle. “Look. They bring rainbows to the mucky mud.”

“Get. Up.”

Tina wiped mud on her dress. “White is not for funerals, Auntie.”

###

The Rainbow by Michael

Through the window I could see him standing by the puddle. He would stoop down and scoop his hand in the water, stand up and look to see if something was there.

I went out to investigate and found him still mesmerised by the puddle. He pointed and I saw in the puddle a rainbow’s reflection.

Together we stared at it. Then he bobbed down and scooped another handful.

I said, “Look at that, you’ve got it.”

He grinned at me proud of his catch.

Not wanting to drop it we stepped towards home. His mum loved his imagination.

###

Rainbows and Valentines by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Nora sat on a low rock, head tipped to one side. The meadow’s shallow pond flashed morning’s sun and last night’s shadows. Peter watched the breeze flip her fine blonde hair, seeming to whisper to her. He left the path to the meadow, and dropped down beside her, “Nora, what do you see?”

Since the accident, she’d become more quiet, and a little strange. His catapult had launched the rock and knocked her to the ground.

His responsibility.

She plunged her hand in the rainbow waters and erased the vision of their future together, and smiling, met his gaze.

###

She Gave Me a Rainbow by Drew Sheldon

I always hated the time after a rainstorm. I was just trying to dry off in peace while the schoolkids would run around the park I called home. They’d splash in the puddles and make all the noise they couldn’t make while cooped up inside. One time a little girl couldn’t catch her friends’ attention so she turned to me. “Look!” she yelled at me, pointing at a puddle. Something in the water was making rainbow colors, something she apparently had never seen before. I couldn’t help but smile and realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had.

###

I Cannot Kill a Rainbow by Anne Goodwin

Even our uniforms are mud coloured, the better to blend with the terrain. Where once was meadow, now is quagmire; our every step hefts a sticky stinking shadow, as if our boots have built a platform sole. No grass, no flowers, no sun to lift the spirits; the only bright spot on the battlefield is blood. Mud paints our hearts with fear and hatred. Where massacre is our mission, colour is a crime. Thus I meet my enemy across a muddy puddle, until I recognise the badge on his lapel. I cannot kill a rainbow. I cannot murder love.

###

Mud Slide by Geoff Le Pard

The urge to call them back was almost overwhelming. Mary rocked Charlotte and focused on Penny, following Paul across the cliffside. He was confident, Penny less so, but determined nonetheless.

Mary shut her eyes, travelling back decades: another cliff, another daughter following her father. This daughter, her, slipping on the wet mud, falling, landing hard aware of the likely pain of the impact (there wasn’t) and her own mother’s screams. Her father, all worried face saying ‘not to fuss so.’

‘Mum, look!’ Penny and Paul stood on the top waving.

Did you ever really let go of your children?

###

What Comes First: The Cloud or the Silver Lining? by Geoff Le Pard

Mary focused on changing the baby while Paul pulled out the picnic. ‘You didn’t need to climb up there.’ She couldn’t look at him.

‘It was safe enough.’

‘Is ‘safe enough’ your standard? I had kittens.’

He put his arm round her waist. ‘She was terrified at the start and buzzing at the end. You know, she saw this rainbow, reflected in a puddle, when we finished. It was her pot of gold, challenging herself like that.’

Mary sighed. Was she the only one to worry the next cloud might be the one not to have a silver lining?

###

Seeing the Wood for the Trees by Ellen Best

Sandy, her boots splashed, hat pulled low, frowning with lips pursed, determinedly marched on. “Keep walking the same path Sand; (she heard in her head) you’ll fall down the same hole”. “Okay dad enough!” She roared wiping her face “Avoid the wood; you’ll miss the trees”. ” just leap shall”? She cried. Jumping she landed smack in the puddle, hiccoughed as tears cleaned mud from her cheeks.

Robert on seeing her, threw a leg over the stile and ran. “Don’t tell me … there was a rainbow at the bottom.” He smiled, his strong arms gathered her and Sandy saw the rainbow.

###

Here’s to Mud in Your Eye! by Jules Paige

Why is it that the groomsmen had (or have) such bawdy
traditions? At the bachelor party the groom had wished
he’d had mud splattered in his eyes. He’d have rather
enjoyed the toasts to his upcoming nuptials more. He
wasn’t really a drinker. And when his best friend took
him home. The bride to be, saw her intended’s green face.
She warned; Take him straight to the bathroom. But neither
man listened.

Instead of a simple mess, the resulting chaos resulted in
more slung mud than necessary. Clothes and bed sheets
had to be changed… and the floor mopped.

###

Why Some Poets Are Falsely Viewed as Irritating Husbands on Occasion by Bill Engleson

“Before the melt, the snow pile was higher than my bearded chin.”

Shelley looks at my hyperbole and shakes her head.

“But,” I clarify, “that’s all behind us. Slush now rules the world, mudpuddles are in bloom and the sun is casting a kaleidoscopic arc of multi-colored joy into the mush of mud and snow.”

“All I said, Sweetie,” Shelley continues to show teeth-grinding patience with me, “Is that we should go for a walk. Put on our booties, go for a simple walk. A quiet walk.”

Alas, she sometimes exhibits limited tolerance for my compulsion to wax poetic.

###

The Murkiness of Emotion by Jeanine Lebsack

There are mud puddles all around as I step gingerly around them not wanting to get my new Ugg boots wet. The sheep lining encompasses my feet making me feel such coziness.

As I tip toe across the plethora of puddles I glance at my reflection. I look so sad as the tears start to glisten in my eyes. I think of my sweet Mama and her saying “this too shall pass remember there’s always pain, but the sun shines after the rain.” I smile as I wade through the murkiness of my emotions and see the rainbows reflection.

###

Celebrating Love by C. Jai Ferry

Rainbeau glanced at the chalkboard: hamburger, cheeseburger, and beer. Fish on Fridays, but today was Tuesday. Puddles was a lonely mom-and-pop bar—perfect for her first Valentine’s Day alone.

“A burger, I guess.” She smiled at the blue-coiffed septuagenarian not-so-patiently waiting for her order.

“That it?” The disgust was thick in the woman’s voice.

“And a coke?” Rainbeau added as an olive branch.

The woman shuffled away.

Rainbeau refused to let the woman’s cantankerous attitude steal her smile. She counted out the money for dinner. Tonight was the first of many celebrations. The divorce was final; she was free.

###

Delusional by FloridaBorne

“Rainbows!” I scoffed. “A delusion of colors.”

My son, far too smart for a 5 year old, asked, “Why?”

“My father told me there was a pot of gold at the end of one, and liked to chase them. We found a beauty at the edge of a muddy field. I jumped into a puddle up to my hips trying to find gold.”

“What did you find?”

“Bacteria,” I frowned. “ I was sick for days. It’s called dysentery.”

“Mom tells me to remember the love,” my son smiled sweetly.

“She should’ve thought of that before she divorced me.”

###

February 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

february-9Mud is murky. It gets a bad wrap as dirty — it’s the stuff that clings to soles, tracking across clean surfaces. Dogs are notorious for muddy paws and children are often chided for playing in it. Politicians perfect the art of slinging it. Yet, there’s an allure to mud. It’s become the stuff to haunt me, fearing it’s slickness to slide a full-sized truck geared down into 4-low slowly over the rim of a snaking canyon road. So focused has my mind been on mud, I began to see it had lessons for me.

First, I have to admit I ventured up the mesas too soon. The sun came out after overcast and rainy days, after snow on the mesas and flash floods in the canyons. The sky spread out like a blue tablecloth inviting me to picnic beneath the warm sun. We waited a week. The Hub says, “It’ll be okay.” The dirt road that winds up Dalton Wash certainly looked dry when we turned up it.

“See, it’s dry,” says the Hub.

I watched the brush, the boulders, the small crevice of a creek. “Look! Deer.” Two mulie does with yearlings trot along side the truck like an escort welcoming us back to the mesas.

“See, it’s dry,” says the Hub.

Spindly apple trees stand like dead sticks in fields of mud on the first mesa level. It appears dry…on the surface. “I don’t know,” I say.

The road turns sharply right before climbing several thousand feet through a boulder-strewn canyon — the deeper crevice of Dalton Wash, cutting through layers of time. “It’s fine,” says the Hub.

I suck air hard and grab the steel frame between my lowered window and open wing.The canyon shrouded in shadow, the road cut deep with ruts begins to twist and rise. “Four-wheel drive!” I shout this like making the sign of the cross in reaction to danger. Salvation of trucks, entering unknown terrain. Holy 4WD.

“We don’t need it,” says the Hub. The truck lugs and if it stops we’ll spin tires; if we spin tires we might get stuck of slide off the road. Off the road to the left is gnarly debris, the scree of mesas. Off the road to the right is a rocky shelf, a wall of layered clay.

We need it. The Hub stops when the road flattens before a churning river of mud. Each current carved by a truck before us. That’s hopeful; Other Trucks have made it. He steps out into the road/mud-river and turns the hubs of each front wheel.

NOTE: Hubs engage or disengage the front wheel axles, thus engaging the hubs is to put both axles to work for climbing mountains or navigating spring mud. I have one Hub as in Husband and two manual locking hubs on my truck which requires the Hub to get out and turn. Although I live in Utah, I do not practice polygamy. One Hub is enough.

Hubs engage and Hub settles behind the wheel, we lurch forward and take on the incline the same time a truck above descends. There’s not enough room to pass and the descending truck can’t stop. Can’t. Stop. We call dibs on the wall and the other driver slides between us and the drop off to the canyon bottom below.

“Are we stuck?” I ask when my breath returns. The other truck slides to a stop behind us.

“We’re fine,” says the Hub and indeed we begin to churn mud like brown butter beneath the wheels and bit by bit we edge forward. Until the rock. It stops us and we slide back to where we went off the road.

“You folks stuck?” asks the driver of the other truck. He greets the Hub with a handshake and shovel.

“Just a rock,” says the Hub who proceeds to pick up a rock big enough to stop a truck. Like a shot put he heaves it over the edge. The other driver shovels a patch and we gun it so hard we fish tail out of the rut and up the road. We cant’s stop and the driver understands we aren’t being rude to stop and says thanks. We are entering the steepest grade and the mud actually lessens, but another truck is facing down at us. The driver is slow to understand he needs to hit reverse and hit it fast. We can’t stop or else we’ll slide backwards and off the road, into Dalton Wash.

The nose of our truck is inches from the nose of his and we drive this way the last stretch and then we pass waving, and telling them “Good Luck!” For a while, I’m happy to be in the sun walking through the litter of petrified wood, cherry-picking chunks of jasper. A wet winter has revealed previously buried treasure. By foot I make it to the edge of the Zion Wilderness and I pass through the gate. There’s something I want to find…

…Not today. The Hub catches up with me, the dog dodging between us on shaky legs, howling after rabbits like a banshee. We have to leave before the sun sets.

The sun glows like a distant apocalypse on the far horizon of another mesa. We don’t want to go down in the dark, yet we can’t see with the last rays of sun burning away our sight. We sit at the top of the mesa until the bright orb dips and we go down in dusk.

Sliding in mud.

There’s no stopping the truck. The Hub turns into each skid as the back end of the truck whips around. The back end slides right, he turns left. The back end slides left, he turns right. All I can do is focus on my breath. I think “breathe in” as I breathe out. Halfway down the mesa I realize I’ve focused the wrong words to each inhale and exhale. I calm the rising panic with the thought, it doesn’t matter; just breathe.

We get to the bottom and the Hub says, “See, it was fine.”

What I have learned…

Mud is still. It’s motion that causes the friction. Steady and slow is best

Mud is murky. It teaches me I don’t have to see to get through. It’s okay not to know all the details.

Mud is sticky. Persistence is the lesson here — stick-to-it-ness. Stick like mud to what needs doing.

Mud is mild. As scared as it might make me to drive on it, mud is not a torrent.

Mud has benefits. It has minerals, water and reflections of sky above. It calls me to look for what’s good.

My take away as a writer, is that writing is often messy and murky. It can be like mud. Sometimes, I think I’m flinging mud at the blank page, looking for what sticks. And revising feels like sliding down a mesa, and I feel uncertain how to control the weight of my words upon the flow. No one teaches you how to navigate mud and when it comes to the process no one can teach you to write your stories in your voice. Certainly we can learn to drive, and we can learn the craft of writing, but mud is the original material.

If you haven’t yet read, Carrot Ranch has launched a new guest series that gets muddy, exploring the idea Raw Literature. It’s meant to be an ongoing conversation from different perspectives, and a look at the lives of writers behind the screen. These are the essays so far, and I hope you take time to read, ponder and even submit an essay of your own:

With all that seems to be unfolding in the world, it can feel muddy. The challenge is to find something worthwhile — a piece of land worth preserving; a civic duty worth taking on; a cause you can contribute to; a way to bring art to the artless. Certainly we can create from the clay we are given.

February 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle. Is it a silver lining of sorts or a false reflection? Think about what it might mean or convey. Simple science? Hope? Or the doom of humankind? Create action or character reflection. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by February 14, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 15). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Faith (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“A rainbow in a puddle. We’ll have good luck in our search today,” Michael said.

All Danni could see was a biohazard in mud. She climbed into Michael’s truck and they left to follow leads on Bubbie, missing along the Pack River for a week.

“Did you see it?”

Michael was as bad as Ike, Danni thought. Signs, wonders, miracles. “Yes I saw the oil slick.”

“Ever the scientist. Today, have faith.”

Their first encounter with campers reminded Danni why she had none. The rednecks with AR-15s claimed they peppered a dog fitting Bubbie’s description. For fun, they said.

###

Rock in the Road

rockThe rock is unexpected. But there it is, where it shouldn’t be. It’s in the way.

This week, writers considered the various ways a rock in the road could tell a story. Sometimes it was the story, and other times it was a prop to carry the story. These writers wrote right around that rock in the road.

The following are based on the February 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road.

***

The Rocky Road by C Jai Ferry

Stella stood several feet from the courtroom entrance. You can do this. She fumbled for the small bluish-gray rock in her pocket, one side rubbed smooth by her anxiety-prone thumb. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. Her thumb moved more furiously.

“You ready?” her lawyer asked, guiding her through the double-wide doors.

Stella nodded.

“What’s with the rock? Lucky charm?”

“S-sorta,” Stella said. Dammit, focus! You can do this. “I fell on it. My first visible scar.” She pointed to her hairline.

“Doesn’t sound very lucky.”

Stella exhaled slowly. “It was the day before I filed for divorce.”

###

Steve Goes Underneath by Anne Goodwin

Childhood taught me home was an illusion but, twenty years on, I was living the dream. A regular job, my own house and a fabulous woman to share it with, I could’ve cruised like that for evermore. Until Liesel changes her mind about children, decides she wants a family with or without me. I can’t be a father, but I can’t let her go.

What do you do when a rock blocks the road ahead? Blast it with dynamite, scramble over it or tunnel underneath? Luckily my house has a cellar … with three strong bolts across the door.

###

The Rock by Michael

I couldn’t believe it but the rock suddenly sprouted rocky arms, then legs as it stood towering above us. In its hand was a giant hammer which it swung above its head. Mum was screaming, dad was screaming it was pure chaos. Then I sat up, mum was wanting to know what was wrong. A bad dream I said, sweat pouring off me. Out of the car window I saw dad negotiating his way round the fallen rock. As we passed to one side I noticed a long crack and a hand appeared. That’s when I totally freaked out.

###

Sticks and Stones by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Two boys huddled on the battlement wall, wind-blown and on fire with An Idea.

pony-2Between them the small catapult waited, fragrant with fresh-tanned leather straps. A pile of stones glittered, rubbed free of ocean, with chapped hands and tunics needing a wash.

No girls around to interrupt their weapons test. Ponies wandered the path to the sun-bright meadow.

Thor loaded the bucket, and with a nod, Peter released the catapult’s arm. The small stone flew and smacked a pony’s flank. It whinnied and shied.

“This time? Bigger rock!”

They didn’t notice the girls step out on the path below.

###

Blocked Way by Kerry E.B. Black

Insurmountable as a mountain, a boulder blocked the trail. Cindy’s mount snorted a cloud of displeasure into the winter air as Cindy considered other paths. Ice made the left impassable, and thick, snow-covered branches provided an impenetrable barrier into the woods.

She sighed into her mount’s neck. “My life.” An overbearing ex, condescending family, and unpleasable boss filled her existence with self-doubt. Only riding healed her.

She dismounted and pushed, but the stone remained. She rounded it and began breaking branches. Blood trickled from scrapes from the effort, but she forced a path, determined not to be stymied again.

###

Rock Diplomacy by Joe Owens

“I’m not moving it,” the Virginia highway worker said.

“Nor am I,” his Tennessee counterpart insisted.

The trouble was the large boulder had come to rest on the state line and neither man saw a majority of the rock in their jurisdiction. Had there been a noticeable portion in either the decision would be simple.

“We can split it in two, then take care of our half,” Virginia said.

“Not with my tools,” Tennessee nodded negatively.

“You’re not suggesting I use mine?”

“Well someone must,” Tennessee stated.

“Let’s call the feds. We can claim interstate commerce or something.”

“Alright!”

###

Rock’s in the Road by Nona Morris

“Rock’s in the road.”

“Already?”

“Getting faster.”

“Guess it is.”

It was hot out, the sun high. Moving the rock was hard work.

“You gotta stop this, Darlin.” he drawled at the stone. Laying his hand on it, he felt the vibration, like it was purring without sound.

He wondered if they ought to call somebody. Rocks shouldn’t purr, even silently. Rocks shouldn’t move on their own, no matter how slow.

“Alright then,” he said, putting his tired shoulder against the vibrating mass and shoving. He wished, not for the first time, it had never fallen from the sky.

###

First Day on the Job by Gwen Couture

The call came early in the morning. Stuart, the sheriff of highway patrol, had his feet up on his desk. Reluctantly, he picked up the phone after letting it ring 5 or 6 times.

“Sheriff, you better come down here.”

Stuart arrived to raw chaos. The 1996 Chevy Malibu was crushed beyond anything he could imagine. The Malibu must have been heading down the steep mountain road going at least 80kph. They simply couldn’t see the massive fallen boulder in time. He knew there could be no survivors.

“Well?” Stuart probed, knowing the answer.

The rookie shook his head and cried silently.

###

Rocks in Her Head by Norah Colvin

The newcomer was intrigued. Every morning she’d be there, filling a battered barrow with rocks from the road. You’d think that, after a day or two, she’d have removed them all. But, every morning, even earlier, a quarry truck would rumble by, spilling more.

Longer-term residents shrugged indifferently, “She’s got rocks in her head.”

When he asked her one day, she replied, “Come and see.”

He followed into her back garden, and watched. She stood at the edge of a pit and threw in the rocks. After each she listened, hopeful of a sound, of one day filling it.

###

That Rock That Talked by Lady Lee Manila

I had a dream, a lucid dream
Lying on a beach and I saw a big rock
A pervious rock and somehow gleamed
All of a sudden, facing me, it talked

That rock that talked, it warned me to be wary
Wary of things that might hinder my growth
That it’s not smooth sailing and could be blistery
Things might not come my way, perhaps I might loath

Lying below a cellular blanket
Never felt so cosy by the brooklet
I can tell you everything coherent
In the ancient world, life could be brilliant
Come what may, I’m ready

###

Rock! Checkmate! by Bill Engleson

He could feel it.

It seemed to be shuffling around in his belly, in the pit of his gut, a dark shaft of coiled intestine, wrapping around his innards like a viper, slippery-skulking, hardwired for perseverance, soft, mushy fat tissue, oozing up against it, seeking to dissolve its granite impact.

He could feel it.

He shifted his butt, seeking something approximating comfort. It wasn’t going to happen. His body had failed him, corrupted his future, made a lie of his dreams.

He could feel it.

He would forever be less than he might have been, or would ever be.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

He was late.
They had told him where to meet them so that they could arrive together at the surprise birthday party.
They had picked this spot with care knowing he couldn’t miss it.
If he’d arrived first, he could park up and wait for them. How difficult could it be?
They went inside for coffee.

“Look for the rock in the road,” they said.
There was nothing here dammit, except a rock in the road!
He got out and pulled out his cell.
‘Where the hell are you? he shouted.
‘In the Rocky Road cafe waiting for you!’

###

Timed by Reena Saxena

I have always loved your way of doing things, Tim the Timid! You placed a boulder on my path, but left ample space for me, to bypass it, and drive ahead. And I don’t hold it against you, either! Your wife does not like me, and somebody has paid you to do this.

I have become so adept at ducking bullets and manholes. Life has never been easy. Good things happened, but always at the wrong time. Just like my ill-fated rendezvous with you! You will regret this soon, Tim, the Wrongly Timed! I do not forget or forgive.

###

When Mae and Her Dogs Met Jasper by Jules Paige

Until she uploaded her day’s photos onto the computer,
she never noticed the shadow in each of them.

…From the dawn without telling anybody, she made green
pinecones stop heart disease ~ would grimace, moan, and
pray for homeless ex-wife’s, hawk, grizzly bears, John, Steph,
and Dakota, in the back of the truck…

Jasper had come between a rock and a very hard place –
knew Mae was special right off, the way she treated her
dogs. At dusk was she was thankful when the kind man
offered to change a flat on her truck…and the dogs even
liked him.

###

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Sherri Matthews

Tears streamed down Carrie’s face as she read out loud, her hands shaking:

“While we sympathize, we are unable to comment on civil matters, and therefore, we have no choice but to enforce our thirty day eviction notice and foreclosure.”

“Bastards!” yelled Tom as Carrie threw down the letter and ran to their baby, who screamed for them both from his crib.

Two months later, eating dinner at a homeless shelter, Tom took a call about some possible part-time work. He hoped the fact that his mother was Mexican born and bred wouldn’t be another rock in the road.

###

Cracking Rocks and Other Chores by Luccia Gray

‘You’ll get up at 5, carry hot water and light the hearths in all the bedrooms.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘After breakfast, you’ll empty the latrines and make the beds.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Then you’ll prepare lunch and do the laundry.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Such a pretty girl, but so frail.’ He smiled maliciously. ‘The master may use you for other chores.’

Let him try, I thought.

He wasn’t to know I had worked cracking rocks with a heavy hammer all day, until I splintered the forman’s skull when he put his hand down my breeches and discovered I wasn’t frail at all.

###

A Rock in the Road (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane trudges wearily, wondering what on earth made her think a walk was a good idea. It’s cold but she’s hot.Troubles has clearly never been leash-trained; she’s not sure who’s walking who. It’s a pretty day, but it would be just as beautiful from the backyard.

She realizes what the problem REALLY is as she comes abreast of a boulder jutting dangerously into the travel lane. She perches on it and breathes a sigh as she works her shoe off and shakes out a surprisingly tiny pebble.

“Much better,“she says.Troubles whuffs happily and pulls her onward.

###

Flash Flood by Ann Edall-Robson

Water gushed through the trees and across the rutted trail, to blend into the prairie grass on the other side. It wasn’t the torrent it had been in the previous days, but still it flowed with force. Stone boats, pulled by teams of horses had been moving rocks from the flooded road since before daybreak. Each time it rained, they had the same problem. Flash floods carrying rock and debris down the mountain to rest on the open space of wagon road and meadow. It was time to find a different route to move the freight from the railhead.

###

Rocky Road by Florida Borne

In 1989, my third Geology field trip in 3 years, our instructor took the back roads into Nevada and Utah. Instead of a rental van, we were part of an Isuzu Trooper convoy.

Dust flew from his back wheels, impeding the vision of those behind him. Stinging sand became vultures nesting in our hair. With days between shower facilities, I was happy that I’d chosen a cap and NOIR dark glasses for the trip.

On a rare paved road, hillside striations intrigued the newbie. “What kind of rock is this?”

“I don’t do 60 MPH geology,” the instructor replied.

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The Rock that Changed My World

“I knew it was cheesy. But there was no other way.”

“Throwing my twelve-string in the Chevy, I was there in under ten.”

“But Daddy, it takes almost twenty minutes to get to Grandma’s.”

“Light traffic, sweetie.”

“Mommy’s window was open and the curtains were flapping out the window.”

“Jumping out of the car, I grabbed ole Betsy and I was under the window before I could change my mind.”

“But had to know she was there.”

“Daddy, what did you do?” Vanessa loved this part.

“This, sweetie.” he said, holding a small rock. “This rock changed my world.”

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‘These Rocks Don’t Lose Their Shape..’ by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why are boys so stupid?’

Mary studied her daughter. ‘Stupid?’

‘Jack. I thought he was different. But all he’s interested in is Pokémon cards.’

‘Does that make him stupid?’

Penny frowned. ‘No, but… all boys do is collect stuff. They’re not interested in people.’

‘Maybe that’s generalising…’

‘But they do!’

‘So do I. Tea pots.’

‘They pretty. And useful.’

‘True. At least cards are easy to store. Not like when I first knew your dad. He collected rocks.’

‘Rocks? What for?’

‘Their colour, their rarity…’

‘Like diamonds?’

‘Hardly.’

‘Exactly. They’re never useful.’

‘Rocks or boys?’

Penny laughed. ‘Both!’

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Midnight Rock (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Michael knelt at the bumper, shining his flashlight. “Hell of rock you hit, Danni.”

“It was an easy target, squatting there in the middle of the road like a legless grizzly.”

Michael shined the powerful light up the canyon wall. “Can’t see anything else unstable.”

“A rock just for me.” She slumped her head on the hood. “Ike loved this truck.”

“He still does.”

“Yeah, Ike’s in some hell-hole, pining for his truck!”

“He’s enduring because of what he has back home, Danni. You, the truck, the dogs.”

“Too bad he won’t have a home to come home to.”

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A Rock in the Road by Drew Sheldon

During a stop one day, a kid asked me for my pen. It was nice, and I didn’t want to give it up. So I asked him what he had for me, knowing he’d have nothing. He ran around the corner and came back with a rock that he obviously just picked up from the road. “Magic,” he said. “Bring you luck.” You could tell that pen was like gold to him. Giving it to him brought me a rare smile during that hellish year. I lost a few bucks, but I got the better end of the deal.

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Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

I found him leaning against the rock, peaked and scared.

“You okay, Papa?”

He slapped the rock. A car-sized boulder unearthed from blasting, when they put in the new sewer line along the edge of the creek. The blasting went on for months, cracking the walls and stirring up old memories in Papa’s head.

“Papa.”

He slouched down low, his back against the only place he could trust. I could see the house, but Papa was floating the Mekong Delta, lost but looking for the ambush. With a sigh, I crouched with Papa, hoping he’d find a way out.

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Snow Day by Kate Spencer

“Some boys were out tobogganing at McDonald’s hill today,” said Jim, his mouth full of Glady’s lasagna.

“Really,” said Gladys, reaching for the garlic bread.

“Yup. It looked like Tommy dared the others into it.”

“He would. He takes after his dad. Dave was always getting into scrapes as a lad.”

“One of them broke his sled; ran it into a rock.”

“He okay?

“Just a bruised ego,” said Jim and wiped his mouth. “I heard we’re in for another blizzard tonight.”

“Well it may as well be snowing rocks. We ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

“No, but the boys will.”

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Dancing on Rocks by Allison Maruska

“There.” I tighten the band securing my daughter’s hair. “You excited for your first day?”

“Yeah!” She hops down from the stool. “Mrs. B. said a new school means new friends.”

“Well,” I kiss her nose, “I’m happy you’re happy. Now hurry, or you’ll miss the bus.”

Smiling, she hoists on her backpack and skips out the door.

I watch her head to the corner. She’s twirling.

I laugh. I’d worried how she’d adjust to a new school after hers closed.

I’d worried needlessly. Some people let rocks in the road stop them.

My baby girl dances on hers.

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Raw Literature: Jewels on the Page

jules-paigeEssay by Jules Paige, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers.

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“How complex in its simplicity or how simple in its complexity; is writing. Much to think about that is for certain,” and so she thought…

How do I describe how I write. I put a pen in hand or place fingers on a keyboard. Do I need prompts? When I started writing about fifty years ago; while sitting at a table at a Teen Arts Festival, I asked those who stopped by for a subject – I then wrote a poem. Simple as that.

While some years I wrote less, other years I wrote more than one piece a day. For the last several years, I write a small daily piece, maybe adding a longer verse and or a fiction piece as well. Prompts sites on the web reintroduced me into writing fiction and memoir. Some have a limited word count. But generally I try to limit myself to one ‘typed’ page. Though I also have done/do series. Some evolving into chapters which could possibly make it into booklet form.

I see prompts, quotes, images and the light bulb in my brain goes off. And to challenge myself further I combine prompts as few as two as many as five or six. I make associations to memory, news articles and anything else and everything else that crosses my path.

I write for amusement. Perhaps guided by a muse. Though some may argue that muses do not exist. Maybe my muse is my own intuition, which often unconsciously picks up even the most subtle of cues. I write for myself as well as everyone who believes they can see themselves in something I have written. I can not explain how my brain works. I just like to, I just have to, write. For me writing is like breathing. A necessity of my life.

I write as JulesPaige (or as evolution has occurred; just ‘Jules’) because words are like ‘jewels on a page’. Not all are gems. But a good lot of them strung together are fair enough.

Daughter, sister, friend, poet, wife, mother, and grandmother. More introvert than extrovert, inspired by nature and pretty much anything.

About (me, sort of):

I’m just an old leather boot

not army boots, though I once thought about joining

however early rises and following someone else’s rules –

you know that a rebellious artistic spirit just wouldn’t work there

trying to walk on a catwalk

or eggshells, being the ‘monkey in the middle’

Jane of all trades, master of none, little bits of knowledge

tucked between aging marbles and greying locks – still young at heart

and nobody cares because

Oh maybe there are a few, but I’m not in the spotlight

and frankly that’s OK too – If you are looking for frilly lace

and a made up face – you’ve come to the wrong place – I’m not a rock and…

I’m not a plastic mock animal high heel shoe.

###

I was a teacher for young students and worked in various retail positions full and part-time until I became voluntarily employed to watch my grandchildren for a few years before semi-retiring to travel with my husband (who does so for his job). I’ve also had an active volunteer life when my own children were younger. I also enjoyed singing in choirs, though I only sing now to my favorite oldies station (though I enjoy other music too), because I’m a misfit of the 1960’s.

Always young at heart, humor is a big part of my life. While I’ll celebrate turning sixty this year, I still like to tell the story of how while vacationing with family that not once but twice I was mistaken for my oldest son’s wife. But I can be very serious, and have had bouts with depression after the loss of my maternal mother at a young age, and having to move many times as a young child. Even in my very healthy marriage I’ve had several homes with my loving husband whom I often write about, like in this renga:

Love 1

On’t Truth

(a renga)

she found a book by

an author he liked, and placed

it by his pillow…

he found it and asked her where

she found it… ‘charity shop’

so that night they read

when politics aired instead

of a favored show

©JP/dh

“We love being in love, that’s the truth on’t.”

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

English Novelist

The Book Of Hearts: Visions of Love in Word and Image

Running Press  * Philadelphia / London

© 1994

Through the internet I’ve learned many different short forms of poetry and experiments with combining them, even creating a new form called a Shadorma Summation. Where a haibun is prose that has haiku (within and or) ending the piece, a Shadorma Summation does the same with the six line syllable counted verse like this (first attempt in September of 2015):

Mooning Mayhem

(free verse/ shadorma haibun? Shadorma Summation)

Definitely and defiantly a horse of a different color.

She never did have one of those pink princess ponies.

Now she was getting on to be an old grey mare.

That reflection in the mirror could just have well been

in the smooth reflection in an aged fine wine.

Doppelgangers are not twins.

Are most of us really triplets; me, myself and I?

Grammar notwithstanding or sitting either, I suppose.

It all has to do with one’s id, ego and superego –

Are all horses of the same color, Thoroughbred?

The person I am becoming…ever evolving…

empathetic humane human, valuable, priceless?

Trying consistently constantly to remember the worth of

my being – self awareness, self forgiveness,

self indulgent; enough to give myself some hugs

Looking up what the human body is worth

can be deceiving; dead or alive – pieces and parts –

from about $3.50 to about $9 million

which doesn’t take into account what one

person’s actual artistic or intellectual value might be.

Definitely and defiantly wake up each day

Rule it with passion, exploration, devotion – It’s all better

than being lead astray through some unknown dark alley

where you might not know which way is up,

especially if you forgot to pack your compass rose.

as she was

a fish in a bowl

out of her

natural

element

it was all she could do to

step back, look and breathe

©JP/dh

I would like to be a published author, but I know that poets are hard pressed to get agents. I’d have to hire a secretary, and I’m not terribly fond editors who seem to like to change the tone and value of even short pieces. Having also almost been taken by some vanity publishers, I’m wary of the whole process and don’t feel skilled enough self publish via the web. Though I have put together several booklets and have just given them away.

***

Jules Paige, a Rough Writer  for Carrot Ranch, writes every week for about a year and a half since she found the ranch through another blog friend. You might think so, but she is not a professional writer or at least hasn’t been paid any money…yet. She’s been published in school and college journals, congregational services, a narrowly themed chapbook and a local newspaper. She also entered and got an honorable mention in a haiku book contest. She has been ‘published’ on her friends blogs for haiku and Elfje and for prompts in flash fiction, non fiction and memoir. Jules also has a few pieces published in a book overseas that is raising money for charity. A self proclaimed opinionated rebel, born in the south, but northerner by life, Jules is thankful for all of the friends she has made throughout the world via the net. And is most grateful for the opportunity to write for Carrot Ranch and be one of the Buckaroos.

Jules attempts to stay organized by keeping her short verse here. Her longer verse here, and fiction or non, here.

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Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.