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February 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

White stretches all the way to nowhere. The apex kisses the horizon in secret and white cannot be separated from white like marble lips locked in eternity. Lady Lake is Michelangelo and sculpts her Superior domain into classical form. This is Keweenaw Bay.

Highway 2 curves around the bay and if I turn and look northeast I can glimpse this endless white where it’s impossible for me to discern the frozen lake from the cloudy sky.

Once beyond the bay, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan emerges a wintery forested wilderness. Lodgepole pines and slender, leafless birch cluster across rolling hills and open up to lakes and streams. The snowpack doesn’t measure up to a third of what the Keweenaw has and yet there’s plenty for snowmobilers.

Small towns come in and out of view as we drive through. We are headed to one of the largest rural VA hospitals in the nation — Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center. Everyone we’ve encountered in the medical system has been top-notch, but chasing down resolutions is like chasing unicorns.

Do the answers really exist?

Today, we had breakthroughs and more tests scheduled. Today, we gained a glimmer of hope.

Look, there she goes — the last unicorn. The maiden’s quest and protector, the unicorn has hidden since the rise of western civilization. Perhaps as women claim their bodies and voices, their lives and livelihoods, the unicorns will return.

But we have our own Carrot Ranch mythology when it comes to unicorns. When the literary community first began to solidify, we discovered that with safe space to explore we turned to dark writing. In retrospect, it signaled that we were willing to risk writing deeper into our truths and imagination. We trusted each other enough to present writing we wouldn’t typically pen or share.

It was a validating moment.

To lighten the mood I joked that we’d take on writing “unicorns and rainbows” next. The official prompt was “mythical creatures,” and it gave way to more dark writing and yet became one of the most profound collections we’ve assembled at Carrot Ranch. It is now Chapter 12 in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. And why we have a unicorn in our book trailer:

Work has begun on Vol. 2. In September, I put out a call for Rough Writers, and we added to the fold. From this group, 30 writers are participating in building a unique anthology that begins with 99 words first crafted here. It’s a process that will see fruition by the end of 2018.

Everyone who writes here has an essential identity from Welcomed Lurker to Constant Ranch-Hands to Ranch Ambassadors to Rough Writers to Friends to Patrons to Readers. We are all part of Buckaroo Nation — a status the community has bestowed upon those who write at Carrot Ranch. Our community is vibrant with creativity and diversity; our mission is simple — make literary art accessible.

To that goal, the Ranch is what you make of it. Bloggers can find their way through Carrot Ranch to a hub of important and exciting blogs. Fictioneers can participate in a prompt and discover other prompts within the greater community. Memoirists can find other like-minded writers. Same goes for most genres. Authors can find a platform that extends their own and newbies can learn from those with more experience.

Flash fiction is both a fun and worthy literary form, as well as a writing tool. You can learn more about my thoughts on the power of flash fiction here. You can also extend your writing reach as a guest essayist or taking on an advanced fiction challenge here. Raw Literature is a series that allows us all to discuss what we write, how, and why. You can join in every Tuesday.

Because the mission of Carrot Ranch Literary Community is accessibility, I want to make sure everyone here has a chance to participate in Vol. 2. I’m opening a section for “Friends” that will include responses to a new prompt. Because this is a published book, I will work with each writer to polish their submissions. You will get a bio along with our Rough Writers. It’s an excellent opportunity to build your writing portfolio.

If you are interested, please respond by March 14, 2018:

February 22, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a unicorn. It can be realistic or fantastical. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 27, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 28). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

NOTE: The following is from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.

The Secret Stall by Charli Mills

“I don’t wanna pick blackberries. They got too many thorns.” Libby stuck her throbbing thumb in her mouth.

“Look, Libby’s a baby.” Her brother Joe pointed, and their cousins laughed. Libby headed to the barn. The cat was nicer than these five boys.

“Here kitty…” She could hear boy-chatter across the yard. It was dark inside. A shuffle sounded from behind the farm tractor. Careful not to trip over tools, Libby made her way to the back where a glow in the stall revealed a shining horn.

It was attached to a unicorn sleeping on a pile of quilts.

###

On Ice

Ice freezes in many forms from outside to in a glass. The idea of what could be on ice changes with the setting of where it is found.

Writers went looking for the freeze to follow the prompt where it led, no matter how cold the surroundings. Characters, stories and even memories emerged.

The following are based on the February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice.

***

Ice Bells by Ann Edall-Robson

The Chinook winds roll in. Yesterday, -37 today +12. The pond that has been covered with a thick insulating shield of ice now finds itself with tiny puddles forming. Around the edge, last summers’ cattails are mesmerized by the winds. Swaying in their browned coats, watching the wind spraying the melted ice up its stock to dribble back towards the frigid base. A few days of the mid-winter water maker ends as abruptly as it came. In its wake, the ice bells have formed at the base of the cattails in mindless circles below the cold blue sky.

###

Ice to See You by Floridaborne

“Where are you from again?’ The red cheeked man in a flappy checkered hat asked.

“Florida.”

“What’cha doing in Minnesota?”

“Hubby just got a job here.”

“Ever seen snow before?”

“I asked mom what it looked like. She showed me the ice caked on the sides of an old freezer.”

He chuckled at my fur lined hood, ski mask, thick snow suit and moon boots. “Where ya off to?”

“Hubby, who was born in Canada, wants to go ice fishing. He dared me to walk with him onto the lake. I’m going to be well padded when I fall.”

###

Lady on Ice by Paula Moyer

Jean had lived in Minnesota long enough to distrust two occurrences in the winter.

One was a sunny, cold day. The newspaper weather report called it “bright, ineffective sunshine” – the kind of day when the humidity is low and the barometric pressure is high. A subzero-high kind of day.

The other suspicious event: the first days above freezing. Those days involved lots of melting snow and ice during the day. But it refroze overnight.

Jean registered the mirrored pavement as she carried her trash to the alley. Careful, careful – woops! Careful wasn’t enough. Lucky. She landed on her butt.

###

On Ice by Michael

In February in Australia, it’s hard to find ice lying around. So in order to complete this prompt, I’ve taken myself to the freezer, and I’m sitting in it, on ice as they say. I do have to extricate myself every ten minutes as my delicate bottom isn’t all that excited about being the butt on ice.

Added to that I don’t think my male bits are all that keen either, though you’d think with so much cold shoulder they’ve received over the years they’d be more receptive.

I’m pleased this week to go where the prompt leads me.

###

Spring on Ice by njoyslife.wordpress.com

In fickle spring I decide to launch my canoe on a frigid Adirondack lake. The seductive sun is full of false promises. Soon loons will return to nest, mayflies will entice rainbow trout to dance for food, and vacationers will arrive in noisy droves. For now, I journey alone on this peaceful water. I rest awhile in the center of the lake, sipping warm tea from my thermos. It’s an idyllic day until clouds roll in and the temperature takes an ominous dive. Floating chunks of ice menace the canoe, pushing together, refreezing, as I frantically paddle toward shore.

###

Mosaics by D. Avery

She had followed him then took the lead. Montreal was her idea. Now the river was breaking up, mosaics of ice shifting, jostling, eager for spring.

Was she going west with him?

She loved the idea of him but did not love him.

“No. I’m staying here.”

“Be careful.” He kissed her then walked away with no more possessions than when she had first met him.

There goes a beggar, naked
Except for his robes
Of Heaven and Earth

His oft quoted Kikaku. What kind of a father might he have been, she wondered, unconsciously touching her swelling belly.

###

A Frosty Farewell by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The fog and sleet haven’t let up since we departed Per’s Point. This far north, the sun is never more than a few inches off the horizon, for a few hours at a time. Had we chosen Midsummer, we’d have had near 24-hour sun.

But transport would’ve been problematic.

One mid-sized Dwarf Diamond would’ve set us up for life. Greedy, we stole a bagful while the dwarves hibernated, and thought to escape by sea.

Lilianne’s fallen asleep as I write this letter, here on our ice floe. I’ll join her soon.

The diamonds weren’t cursed, but we surely are.

###

On Ice by Steve Lodge

I’d been deported from Belzonia “for exhibiting dandruff.” I felt they were scratching around for an excuse. Across the border, I headed for No Mules Creek. Iced over for the duration, I couldn’t wash my hair in the pristine rock pools of my youth. I drank from the early morning dew, my exhaled breath like mini clouds. I took to shaving with stalactites or whatever was available. I presented as an empty canvas on which no shadow had fallen. I survived on wild marmalade tacos and essential oil and shared a shelter with the brittle bones of the dead.

###

Ice by joem18b

“Why do I have to drive all the way over to Bryceton for ice? I can buy all we need at Hinton’s.”

“The ice here isn’t cold enough. We’ll be up in the mountains for a while.”

“Not cold enough? Ice is ice.”

“Nah. The ice for sale at Hinton’s melts easy. The plant over in Bryceton makes ice that lasts. It’s much colder and you can get it in bigger blocks.”

“What about dry ice?”

“That would freeze grandpa solid. We want to preserve him but we don’t want to have to thaw him out for the funeral.”

###

Reflections by Deb Whittam

Lazing on the banana lounge Chloe contemplated her day.  It had been idyllic – sitting beside the billabong, under the shade of the tall eucalyptus, the skies above an endlessly blue, the weather temperate.  She sighed her satisfaction, it was time well spent.

As she reached over for her glass a bird call broke the silence and she turned to watch spellbound as a cormorant dived in to pluck a fish from the water.

With a smile she turned towards her partner, “Just perfect.”

They nodded, raising a glass in silent agreement.

“Shame there’s no ice though,” She added absently.

###

Thaw Time by Pete Fanning

Giles shuffled in carrying a block of ice the size of a bun cake. He found his usual stool, slid the ice down the bar, and inquired about the score.

“1-0 Penguins are up,” said Billy the bartender.

Giles smiled. Billy took the ice block, studied it, then chucked it into the sink.

“Looks like you got about two hours tonight”

Giles nodded. Roughly two hours and eight beers later the Penguins won in overtime. Billy fished a dripping credit card out from the sink and shook his head.

“Tell Rhonda the thicker the ice, the more you drink.”

###

Love on the Rocks by Pensitivity

Ready to make his entrance, he selected the site where he could make the best and most dramatic impression.

Oh yes, with the other guys otherwise engaged either strutting their stuff or making pests of themselves, that little cutie over there was his for the picking.

Homing in and calculating the perfect distance, he circled first to judge wind and angle of descent.

Gliding handsomely on the wing, he stretched out his feet to embrace the water, and slid flat on his face for about fifty yards, completely missing his target and damaging his pride on the frozen pond.

###

Tequila on Ice by jackschuyler

She stirs her margarita slowly, dubiously; beckoning to wandering eyes with pink tipped café fingers. She reapplies her lipstick. At the end of the bar, a steady gaze burns from behind a glass of tequila on the ice.

“Becky, look at that guy. I think he wants to buy you a drink.”

Becky sloshes her margarita mush with a twirl of the wrist. At the end of the bar, he slurps his drink, pats down his black comb over, and wipes sweaty hands on khaki shorts.

“Same old same old.” Becky says. Tequila on ice slides off his bar-stool.

###

On Ice by Sarah Whiley

She awoke with a start, drawing a sharp breath and blinking her eyes. Retinas searched for light; searched for form, in the darkness.

Where am I? she thought, confused. How did I get here?

A sense of panic welled within her. Trying to sit up, the panic deepened when she couldn’t move her arms or legs, or anything neck down.

Racking her brain, she checked her last memory. At the club. Drinking. Then black…‘til now. Twisting her head, she felt flat, slimy, coldness beneath her cheek. The door opened, and she realised with horror, she was on ice…

###

I Will Rise by Raymond Roy

I will rise….

Distant sunrise, cool morning breeze,

above the clouds, I rise with ease.

Like Ironman flying, I rise above,

Seeing those that have passed, my heart fills with love.

Gone is the weight of daily drama,

Which one is better, Bush, Reagan or Obama?

I will rise, here souls have no gender, doctrine , origin, or race,

no conflict, hatred, color of face.

Time as we know it, does not exist, social media likes, or media twists.

I will rise, becoming stardust, from whence I came, free of life’s burdens, only love, no shame.

I will rise.

###

Ice Magic by Norah Colvin

Mrs Tomkins was sorting the mail when she noticed two big tear-filled eyes peering up at her–Liam.

“Can I have some ice, please?”

“Where does it hurt?”

“All over.”

She pointed to the chair and got him some ice.

“Now tell me what happened.”

“No one will play with me,” he said, holding the ice to his temple.

“Have you…”

Mrs Tomkins looked up as Jasmine and Georgie burst in.

“Liam. Come on. We’ve been looking for you.”

Liam thrust the ice at Mrs Tomkins.

“Thanks,” he said, smiling. “The ice worked.”

Mrs Tomkins smiled too. Ice magic.

###

Ice Dream by Sherri Matthews

The time had come. Everything she had worked for, years of slog, sacrifice, pain and sweat, all for this single moment. The roar of the crowd ushered her onto the ice and she glided, smooth as silk into position.

A tiny lull and then the music, its rhythm pulsating through her every move as she swirled and spun and leapt ever closer to her Olympic dream. Nothing less than gold would do.

‘Dinner!’ her mother called.

The ice on the pond melted overnight, but Claire never forgot her moment of glory in her back garden, alone with the ducks.

###

Ice by Jeremy Zagerella

We skate along fast and falling –

cut and bruised, parents calling

“slow down; coats on; just be cautious –

speed and ice make me nauseous.”

No pads on but sticks are flying

chasing pucks and always trying

focused now – eyes on the net

glance – “is she watching yet?”

Dads and moms wonder why

we freeze and laugh when we try –

ice air burns and sores our throats

we sweat buckets with no coats

throwing our arms side to side

numbing cold – our skin is fried.

All our wounds will not stop us now

all we do is laugh out loud.

###

Icy Adventures by Rugby843

Joey traced his finger over designs Jack Frost made on his bedroom window. Wanting to be an artist when he “grew up”, Joey was fascinated by these always fresh, unusual designs. He actually looked forward to wintertime, admiring snowflake intricacies and ice and snow sculptures Mother Nature made.

Walking through snowy fields, twas still cold enough for the melt/freeze cycle to fashion a heavy crust to teeter on. If it was very thick, a nice piece of cardboard was made into a sleigh. A tiring venture to the highest meadow made a thrilling slide back to the valley.

###

Pizza and French Fry by Ruchira Khanna

French Fry!
Pizza!

French Fry!
Pizza!

“Yeah! I am getting the hang of it!” Sasha shouted with glee while raising her two hands to get the attention of her instructor who was quite a stretch away.

“Continue!” shouted the elated instructor from a distance, “but make sure your poles are on the ground when you make a wedge or move forward.

“Teaching always makes me crave for fast food!” murmured the instructor just as her beginner students were focussing on building their ski technique repertoire to become a more advanced skier courtesy the food that is favorite for all.

###

Pups on Ice (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Garan blew past Danni, kicking up clumps of powder from the recent snowstorm. When he hit the ice, all four paws skittered, and he crashed to his chest, sliding across the smooth expanse.

Danni let out a hoot, and the herd of German Short-haired puppies slowed their bumbling approach to the ice. They pestered their mother, Det and yipped at their father who scrambled to gain traction on the pond. The runt took a bold step, then slipped on the glazed surface.

One bumped another, and then the chase-slipping began. Danni laughed, the only audience to Pups on Ice.

###

On Thin Ice by Michael Fishman

“Wait here,” I said skating backwards away from her.

“Bobby, what are—”

I smiled and skated until I reached the bench where we’d stashed our jackets. I turned, stepped over the snow berm and reached into the pocket of my jacket pulling out the box with the ring.

Yes, THE ring.

Hotdogging back to her; bent at the waist, left leg extended out behind me, right arm extended in front. I didn’t see the tight crack and tripped.

The ring dropped and we both slid across the ice, stopping at her feet.

Red-faced, I looked up. “Will you?”

###

OTZI by Bill Engleson

I think of the night,
The cutting eyes of night
And sometimes in my fright
When nothing seems quite right,
When the topsy turvy globe
Is spinning like a strobe,
I fall down on the earth,
Recall my accidental birth,
nothing really planned,
for I was not much more
Than a prehistoric man,
Lost in a primeval land,
Trekking deep in snow,
Wind, ripping through my skin,
Ice crystals dangling,
The chill, damp grave cold,
Slipping deeper still,
Clawing my way back,
The night, deadly black,
that need to sleep,
The need to weep
To fall into ice
Forever.

###

Hoarfrost by Colleen Chesebro

Icy
glacial diamonds
cooling, freezing, frosting
intense biting frosty water
hoarfrost

I gazed at the lacy hoarfrost wrought in outlines of filigree angels permeating the inside of the cabin’s window panes. If the cold hadn’t been so deadly the rime might be considered picturesque. But not today. The freeze had descended quickly, and we were unprepared for the penetrating chill. Our fire had burned down to a gray ash. A layer of frost concealed the blanket covering our bodies. Deep sleep hovered. My eyes closed knowing the end was near. My last thoughts conceded that climate change was real.

###

Ice by Sonia

Two leviathans square up in the mid Atlantic. One, warmed by the sun, snakes her way North moving fluidly to a samba beat. The other, solid, cold, has yielded a little further each year, letting his opponent further and further in.

All seems lost, as warmth stretches inquisitive fingers into icy crevasses.

Fingers overextend their reach, the trap is sprung; Samba is caught.

Feathered crystals of ice grasp fingers, turning them blue, dragging them into the abyss.

Creaks and groans of pack ice herald the victor who turns a cruel gaze south as a new Ice Age begins.

###

Awakenings by Jan Malique

We feel the arrival of life and welcome the time of awakening.
Our existence has been poised between neither here nor there, but in a place of abeyance.
Ice bound have we been so far but the warmth of the Life Giver now embraces us.
Who are we? We are holders of the Earth’s memories, recorders of ages, and matrix of life.
Our essence runs through your veins, feeds your inner landscape, and upholds your purity.
Hear our song as we unfold from our binding, flow with the breath of regeneration.
Listen well humans, we bring you hidden messages.

###

New Beginnings? by JulesPaige

Geegee waited at the bus stop. Not really needing to go
anywhere. It had been a long cold winter and this spring
day it just felt good to get out of her apartment. She was
staring so intently at the crocus sprouting from the side-
walk that she almost missed his ‘ice-breaker’…

“Mighty fine day we’re having after all isn’t it Ma’am,”
Leroy gently rested his old body with respectable space
between them. “Glory be, that’s one bulb caught between
a rock n’ a hard place ain’t it?”

“Well sure enough it is!” Geegee looked toward Leroy
and smiled.

###

Evolution on Ice by Molly Stevens

There was skepticism in the beginning – accusations of exaggeration and ‘fake news.’ But the facts were indisputable when experts examined the newborn. They confirmed a dramatic evolutionary adaptation for humans living in cold climates.

Was it a natural genetic anomaly, or did scientists monkey with DNA? No one can say for sure since no volunteers were willing to go to Siberia to scrutinize their ethics.

Whatever the circumstances, a worldwide celebratory cheer resounded at the prospect of eliminating injuries from falls on ice. A baby was born brandishing the first biological cleats on the soles of his feet.

###

Ice by Rebecca Glaessner

“It’s ready. Transferring now,” says the VR technician.

“Thanks,” I say, studying the new data floating in my vision.

I equip a well-worn headset.

Ripples of code give way to a silent darkness, only a lone light shines from behind onto icy ground. I’m pulled along by a gradual acceleration, subtle but present.

A chunk of ice breaks and passes by amongst shimmering dust.

I watch it disappear.

Behind, I see the ship, my body somewhere inside, on the bridge, watching this drone study this icy world.

“Now we can walk on comets,” I say, taking a step.

###

Ice Hotel by Anne Goodwin

Grandmother promised we’d visit the ice hotel. When I was old enough to drink vodka from a glass made of ice. But at eighteen I hung out with friends, so Grandmother went alone. And never returned.

Twenty years on, the ice is melting. The sleigh ride to the hotel holds no romance for a lone divorcee. Will I manage to sleep on a block of ice draped with reindeer hides? Will I discover what happened to Gran?

The huskies stop, barking furiously. No sign of the hotel. What’s that? A body, they say, floating beneath the ice.

###

A Cold Encounter by Lisa Listwa

Such strange warmth for this time of year.

Ice is still thick on the lake, a dull mirror for the fog that hovers inches above the surface. Dense and disconcerting, it blurs the distinction between earth and sky. The shroud makes dusk of midday. What am I not supposed to see?

The silhouette of a vulture materializes across the field. Perched on the fencepost at the edge of the neighboring property, he sits far too close to the house.

Fear is illogical – death eaters consume only what is already gone.

Still, I shiver.

His stare is an icy blade.

###

Too Many Secrets, Rachael by Eric Pone

Ducky stood at end of the frozen lake watching the young lady in front of him skate. He noticed his target right away as the man approached. Ducky noticed the knife as well. Ducky smiled as he locked the suppressor. “So stupid.” Depressing the trigger, the man hardly noticed the round enter his head and spraying brain matter over the ice. As the skater turned to look at Ducky the happy yet relieved face of Piper Hunter smiled at him. “Rachael needs to stop with the secrets.” He said to himself and the two walked back to the car.

###

Church Social by Denise Aileen DeVries

Bitty Johnson, the pastor’s wife, pulled Myra Jean and Lucinda aside as they were leaving church. They exchanged worried glances. She had already “volunteered” them to teach Sunday school. “I hope you can both come to the ice cream social next week.”

“Do you need someone to chip ice?” Myra Jean asked.

“Or to turn the crank?” asked Lucinda. “… help serve?”

“No, no,” laughed Bitty. “Burt from the ice house takes care of that. The Ladies’ Guild brings the flavorings and serves. We’ve been doing this for years. But you know what? Every year, we make too much!”

###

Piereced by Pete Fanning

The ice water dribbled down Amelia’s palm, over her wrist and snaked down the inside of her forearm. She wiped her arm on her side, eyeing the point of the safety pin in Karissa’s hand.

“Amelia, relax,” said Julie. “You’re going to faint.”

“I’m fine,” Amelia said. She blinked, smiled, she swallowed dry. She reached for another ice cube in the bowl. Dripping as she set it to her ear. Another glance at the safety pin, looking not so safe but eager to stab, puncture, wound. And her ear, it was not numb.

She was supposed to be numb.

###

Scotch on the Rocks by Kay Kingsley

He sat at the rear of the bar, near the backdoor propped open by a chair, the perfect exit into the alley if it came to that.

The air was humid, smoke hanging as thick as the blues playing in the background. He was restless, the woman at the bar breaking his concentration. He wove the idea of her dress crumpled on his bedroom floor into the plan he was forming to rob the bar.

He approaches, close enough to smell her perfume, and orders a scotch on the rocks, hoping the ice would cool the heat between them.

###

Ice by Susan Sleggs

“My goodness, I’ve never seen such ice sculptures at a wedding. The liquor bottles are nestled in a huge block and the swans look like they could just up and fly away.”

“Ostentatious waste! If the bride turns into her mother the ice will be flowing in her veins.”

“For crying out loud, give them a chance before you predict their doom.”

“The groom’s already done that. I saw him last night kissing one of the bride’s maids.”

“A congratulatory kiss I’ll wager.”

“No, a long kiss with hands roving that would melt all the ice in this room.”

###

Ice Ice Baby by Anurag Bakhshi

“Ice tea?” I asked, attempting to break the ice in our once warm relationship.

“Just sign the damn papers,” she replied in an ice-cold voice.

“I beg you to reconsider…” I put aside all pretense of dignity now, but her countenance froze my blood like ice.

I signed wordlessly, and satisfied that she had full ownership of my jewelry shop, she got up imperiously, like a Ice Queen…and stabbed me right through the heart.

I should have known I was skating on thin ice when I sold ice instead of real diamonds to my oldest client, Beatrix Lestrange.

###

Colder Than Ice by Tasheenga

Romantic notions in a young maidens head,

Seeking out her kindred spirit, gullible and blithe.

She watched the man across the room, eyes met,

Her’s green like precious emeralds, his were icy blue.

 

So began his obsession, his something new,

A faithful damsel to fuel his insolence.

He stole her soul and beat it down,

She became a prisoner in his petulant world.

 

Two thousand days of torment and suffering

In the heavy hands of a furious man.

Void of compassion, frost in his veins,

His heart was colder than ice.

Freedom for the maiden came with a price!

###

Ice by Kim Blade

“I don’t care what you want, you are not getting anything.
The only reason I married you in the first place was to have a pretty mother for my children and a housekeeper.
But what a let down you have been in both these roles.
Unfortunately the children seem to have inherited much of your useless personality and your housekeeping accomplishments leave a lot to be desired.”

At these familiar words, delivered in a voice filled with comtempt; Tracy’s chest constricted and her vision blurred

The cold dislike in his voice was reinforced by the ice in his eyes.

###

Blues by Reea Saxena

It was the first time she had seen ice and experienced freezing temperatures. The excitement gradually turned to fear, as her skin turned bluish and a strange numbness overtook her body. The snow was bad enough, and she was not aware that her coffee was spiked with lethal stuff.

She was the heiress to a fortune. Some pictures floated in her mind, as she lost consciousness – her husband’s insistence on honeymooning in Switzerland, asking about her financial assets, and his expression on seeing her fall in the snow.

The distance between them had been growing, and was now – UNBRIDGEABLE.

###

The Final Show by Juliet Nubel

Her makeup was all wrong. How could his father have let someone smear on that gawdy lipstick and pink blusher? This woman looked like an aging Russian doll, not his dear, dead mother.

As more visitors entered the darkened room the humming continued. How many of them realised she was lying on a freezer, its dull whirring working hard to keep away the onset of decomposure.

She would have hated this final viewing. All these people, all this sad music.

This was his father’s doing. A final attempt to make things right. This was his show – Guilt on Ice.

###

Small Victory? by JulesPaige

The icy stare was one Joyce would not soon forget. One of
those “how dare you even think of talking to someone ‘I’
might have been interested in”.

Joyce and Reggie were downstairs snuggling up on the
couch on the north wall, when Emma, halfway down the
stairs vocalized a hello that could have frozen Lake Superior
in the middle of the summer.

The sisters were never close, now there was a new
unspoken wall that registered as a minor triumph for
Joyce. As Emma stomped back up stairs, Joyce
was warmed by victory as well as Reggie’s hugs.

###

Iced by CalmKate

As a new graduate I had asked for the basic jobs but as I was mature aged they expected more. When I saw the policeman on alert outside his door I knew this wouldn’t be an easy one.

A tough tattooed nineteen year old was bragging that he hadn’t killed anyone. Off his face he had crashed into a car carrying a family of four. His second serious motor vehicle accident and he was cocky.

I let rip about endangering others lives and that he needed to take responsibility … he had been on ice since he was eleven!

###

Dreams on Ice by Heather Gonzalez

As the bourbon disappeared from the glass, the ice began to clink as Samuel rhythmically swayed his hand to the national anthem on tv. No one around here would know it, but Samuel was once on his way to Olympics himself.

Decades ago when he first started letting his drinking get out of control, he had one or five too many before a qualifying match. His actions on the ice that day ruined his hockey career forever. Now the best he can do is sit in his usual spot at the bar and watch other people achieve his dream.

###

Breakthrough by Kathryn Evans

Rinkside, several onlookers have gathered. Must make it, must, must! Her platinum blonde hair is gathered into a messy bun, athletic build revealed by a lime green skating dress. She accelerates as she skims through on narrow blades. Focusing her gaze at a spot on the ice, she bends her right leg and shoots upwards, propelled by powerful thigh muscles. A pirouette high above comfort zone, safely landed: her first complete jump. Hearing spontaneous applause, she breaks into a beaming smile revealing teeth as white as the Dover cliffs. Today, a single loop – in four years, the winter Olympics.

###

Iced by Geoff Le Pard

‘Hey Logan, you got any ice?’

‘Sure. Bottom drawer of the freezer. What you want it for?’

‘A bath. This guy said it’s good.’

‘I think ice is the devil’s work, Morgan.’

‘You been puffing the wacky-backy, dude?’

‘No. Maybe. A couple. Anyhoo, how come it floats on its liquid self…’

‘That’s because…’

‘And it’s like totally cold and can burn you?’

‘Sure but…’

‘And you can stick you face onto an ice box like mega-glue and still slip over on the stuff like frozen oil?’

‘Paradoxical.’

‘An enigma.’

‘Like a politician’s promise.’

‘That’s a shit analogy, Logan.’

‘Sure.

###

February 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

Props whomp-whomp-whomp a steady rhythm like the heartbeat of the plane. Cold air seeps through my window, and I can’t help but stare beyond the plane’s beating blades. It’s the only hint of sun I’ve seen over Svalbard since arriving in January. Sherbert hues of lemon and raspberry will be the single spoonful of sunlight for one hour and 54 minutes. And then it sets.

You might be wondering if my snow enclave with Lady Lake Superior has morphed with the Norwegian Arctic, but I assure you I’m still trapped by her snowy tendrils and merely dreaming of staring out the window at the only bit of sun my middlest daughter sees these days.

Mine is a voyage of the imagination. My daughter is the one who experiences the moment in person.

Rock Climber (or perhaps her arctic name should be Ice Cave Empress) lives in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. She recently posted this photo on her way to a remote job (as if Longyearbyen isn’t remote enough) in Svea. I’m along for an imaginary ride, hearing the endless whomp of the blades, feeling it connecting me to my daughter whose ice caverns are far away from my icy lakeshores.

As inhospitable as ice might be, my daughter writes that the movie, Frozen, has nothing on the ice caverns above Sveagruva (which means Swedish Mine, Svea to the locals). Sculpted frozen flows open like crystal orchids. My daughter explored inside with the small mining town lit up in the valley of snow below. She watched the Northern Lights pool and spray over a glacier, not bothering to take pictures because she said a camera could never catch the dance.

For now, her greatest danger comes from avalanches. A third of housing in Longyearbyen is under avalanche watch, so Rock Climber and her partner, Chef, are working in Svea where they can find rooms. Workers are only allowed 10 days rotation. They don’t seem to mind the dislocation, flying over partial sunrises and endless glaciers. They relish their life on ice.

I’ve come to welcome mine, too.

Last week, Winter Carnival unfolded across Michigan Tech University. Engineering students from nations around the world pulled the traditional over-nighter to finish building ice castles and sculptures. This year, Camelot rose just a few blocks from where I write. Frozen in ice, King Arthur kneels at the sword. Ah, I knew Superior was the Lady of the Lake! Here are the winning sculptures:

Ice ages. I don’t refer to “the” ice ages — I mean, ice grows old. It gets heavy and lined, pocked and dirty. It melts and turns crystalline until grabbing on to more layers of snow. It reminds me of aged cheese. But don’t worry, I’m not going to spread it on a cracker and eat it. I know what the critters do on ice!

Outside my front window, I watch five squirrels run the same tree branch trail around and around. As they bounce from bough to bough, snow plops to the aged ice below. I watch as my daughter flies over glaciers. If the snow extends from here through Canada, across to Greenland and over to Svalbard, are we standing on the same continent of ice?

Where does a mother go when the birds have fledged? I’ve watched male mergansers inflate their heads during their mating season, then shrivel up and fly away. The female mergansers remain, hiding nests from sky-prowlers like eagles and owls. Tufts of feathers emerge as baby mergansers. They grow bold and take to deeper waters and diving. I’ve seen the pond full of mergansers on the verge of flight and within days find only the emptiness.

A few mothers linger about. Neatening up the nest? Taking up grass knitting or reading the stars at night like books, no longer worried about death raining down as eagle claws? The babes made it. The mothers are on their own.

Rock Climber lands in Svea and already morning has turned to dark of night. The whomping blades shudder to stop, and she walks away from the window to new sights and adventures. I tidy up my ice and think of her laugh. My daughter is only an ice flow away. The polar bears slumber and the sun is making a return. She’s the Ice Cavern Empress, and I’m a writing merganser dreaming of sherbert on ice.

February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by February 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Pups on Ice (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Garan blew past Danni, kicking up clumps of powder from the recent snowstorm. When he hit the ice, all four paws skittered, and he crashed to his chest, sliding across the smooth expanse.

Danni let out a hoot, and the herd of German Short-haired puppies slowed their bumbling approach to the ice. They pestered their mother, Det and yipped at their father who scrambled to gain traction on the pond. The runt took a bold step, then slipped on the glazed surface.

One bumped another, and then the chase-slipping began. Danni laughed, the only audience to Pups on Ice.

###

Fireweed

Known throughout the northern hemisphere as Chamerion angustifolium and Epilobium angustifolium, fireweed gets its common name from the plant’s ability to take over blackened earth after a forest fire. Fireweed is also the common name for other plants found in Australia, Mexico and Hawaii.

With a name like fireweed, writers had lots of wiggle-room to play with the ideas it brought to stories. It’s tenacity to overcome hardship lends it a strong plant or name to use in imagery. Writers even found unexpected uses for fireweed to carry a tale.

The following are based on the February 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed.

***

One Spring Morning by Michael Fishman

“It’s a beautiful day,” he said to her. “Yesterday I . . .”

At 98-years-old, Arthur’s memory was iffy. Recent memories flickered on and off like an old neon, but he was blessed with a gift of nonchalance, and when yesterday’s memory flickered off, he remembered the long ago past instead.

“Do you remember our wedding? 1937. We were so young. Eighteen. Midst of the depression and we didn’t have a penny. Remember the bouquet of flowers I gave you for our first anniversary?”

He smiled as he laid a sprig of fireweed on the headstone.

“Happy anniversary, Sarah.”

###

Lady Fireweed by Kerry E. B. Black

My SpukWu’say cast herself like the seed of the willow herb on an Alaskan breeze, blowing where fate might have her alight. I don’t think she cared if she ever landed. She wanted to experience freedom and, since she’d been nurtured and knew her worth, she felt no fear. She drifted until she found a prairie and a community she admired. There she set down roots. She stretched her abilities like tender greens, practiced healing and aided all. When at last she bloomed, her talents lit her world like translucent fairy dances until all tried to imitate Lady Fireweed.

###

Fireweed by Kay Kingsley

The corners of myself amass cobwebs in spaces I no longer occupy, my younger self gone, consumed by webs of growing doubt and fatigue.

Perhaps letting these corners go I let my self go, cherry-picking parts of me to display while obscuring my true self that once existed.
At ground zero, my fallout has erased me. My shelter and cobwebs exposed and incinerated in the following fire.

The rain has stopped and crouching in the smoldering field of black, I lower my face towards the puddle beside me, exhausted. Imagine my surprise, I died and returned as a Fireweed.

###

Fireweed by FloridaBorne

“Dr. Bernard Fireweed?”  I asked, a bit put-off by a door too many greasy hands had touched.

A man with scruffy white hair replied an amused, “Yes.”

“You’re late!”

“As my mother, Rosebay, used to say I live on Indian time.”

He took out a large key, unlocking a door leading to an empty room. Aghast, I asked, “This is a psychiatrist’s office?”

“I’m a hypnotherapist.  Your mind creates what surrounds you.”

A small corner desk held a nameplate, “Bern Fireweed.” Two chairs faced each other.

“When do we start?”

“The moment I opened the door to your imagination.”

###

Not A Bad Deal by Neel Anil Panicker

By the time Chacko realized it was too late. Esther had taken over his life — lock, stock and barrel.

First, it began with a harmless, “Uncle, it’s just for two months. I need it for my exams. Your place is nearest to my college.”

He did mind the intrusion but eventually gave in. No harm getting some extra income, he surmised.

Before long, she was cooking him his favourite Goan chicken curry, reading him the morning newspapers, even running sundry errands for him.

Over time, she became his fireweed.

When he died a year later, the bungalow was hers.

###

Fireweed by Ritu Bhathal

“It’s hard to believe the carnage that happened here a short while ago.” Olivia looked around at the bombsite where once her home had stood.

Across the whole area, pretty purple flowers grew, giving the destroyed street a hazy filter.

“That rosebay willowherb has just taken over. It’ll take an age to clear it up too, before we can even think of rebuilding…” Janet sighed.

“Fireweed… that’s what they call that, across the Atlantic, where I’m from.” Chuck, the GI who had befriended them at the dance the night previously, said. “It sure loves a bit of burned ground!”

###

From Fire to Fireweed by Susan Sleggs

No fire had ever come close to our valley before. We could see the leaping yellow and red flames over the crest of the hill. We tied wet cloths over our faces to hand out water to firefighters in the dense smoke.

They said we were safe. We weren’t, but we had lots of warning compared to others and left with full cars.

Months later we returned with a builder who agreed to work around the original stone fireplace. Vibrant purple fireweed greeted us. The irony of the plants name made us laugh aloud. There had been enough tears.

###

Foraged from Ashes by Kate Spencer

“Here’s something. Remember the big wildfire that was in the news last year?” asked Jim rustling his newspaper.

“Yup,” said Gladys rolling the pastry dough.

“Well apparently this young couple spent their winter months felling and milling lifeless tree trunks from their barren woodlot.”

“What for? That charred looking grove will be filled with beautiful pink fireweed this summer.” Gladys placed the dough over the pie plate.

“They’re using all that lumber to make keepsakes and furniture for their friends and neighbours who lost more than they did.”

“My they got gumption. I like that!”

“I knew you would.”

###

Burning Love by Raymond Roy

The Blackfoot enemy took from me

My soulmate warrior

I am a Cree.

As a young Cree maiden

I fear no man

Blackfoot, Sioux or Shoshoni clan.

With cougar stealth I drew near

Within enemy earshot

No time for fear.

Through elk skin teepee catching wind of

Agonizing torture

Of my hearts own true love.

Setting forest aflame

The cowards fled

And there he was

Left for dead.

Lifting him up

With my strong Cree back

Weighted footprints

Soil burnt black.

Today the creator

Rewards my deed

For in my footsteps grows sacred fireweed.

###

Cora’s Fireweed by Liz Husebye Hartmann

September’s last rays paled as velvet breezes whispered of long nights to come. Cora nestled deeper into a warm hollow at cliff’s edge, ignoring the salt sway of the fjord below. Gripping her tail between front claws, she nibbled at fiery dreams.

Smallest in the clutch, she’d not found the final element to ensure her next passage. Jonah’d found lavender, Pete pine, and Minna bright marigold. Soon they, with their mother would migrate to the Northland to winter.

But what was her element?

Night sighed a hot pink scent.

Corazon’s triangular head lifted. Bugling once, her wings opened, joyful.

###

Fireweed by Ann Edall-Robson

For miles in every direction, there is nothing but death. Tall sentinels become charred, decrepit reminders of the devastation. Piles of ebony shin tangle across the expanse of bleak nothingness. The seasons change. Slight bits of green push through the blackened earth. Long wispy leaves on fibrous stocks. Tight pink buds open with a flourish. A brilliant contrast to the carnage, life after death. And when it is their turn to become the colours of their end, the Fireweed fluffs up against the odds. Sending offspring in search of a new home to brighten the landscape after a wildfire.

###

Ground Cover by D. Avery

Though she didn’t know him, she climbed the granite boulder underneath the craggy maple and sat with him looking over the hayfield.

A beautiful quilt he said, the red and orange paintbrush, the blue chicory. She loved how he spoke, but bluntly informed him those were weeds that covered poor soil. Then she blushed; the weeds exposed her family’s poverty, her father’s laziness and ineptitude. This field should be green, not the color of scars and bruises.

She noted his backpack and tightly rolled sleeping bag. “Don’t go yet”, she instructed him. “I need to get a few things.”

###

Peripheral by Abby Rowe

The lawn party is in full swing. From the margins, I watch the beautiful people, mingling perfumes, coloured frocks, laughter. I’m bored yet intrigued. Idly wondering if they were born belonging.

Over on the other side a woman meets my eye. Spiky-haired and trousered, nothing flows about her. She grins, wryly.

Beyond the hedge are rippling fields of wheat, prolific and homogenous. But skirting the borders, distinct and wild, rosebay willowherb stands noble in the breeze. Why is the truly lovely called a weed?

I smile back and raise my glass. Start to wend my way around the edge.

###

Counterfeit Coffee by Denise Aileen DeVries

Myra Jean examined the cup placed before her on the slightly chipped saucer. It was the boardinghouse best, Confederate-era china, hand-painted with blossoms resembling fireweed. “I’ve saved this chicory from my last visit home,” Lucinda Ryan explained. As Myra Jean stirred in honey and milk, always plentiful here, the color changed to a murky gray. The first sip was better than expected, especially compared to the usual Postum and acorn concoctions. “My folks always drank this, even before the Great War.” The two women cradled their cups in both hands, warming their fingers.
“I remember coffee,” Myra Jean said.

###

Follow the Fireweed by Pete Fanning

I have dreams about stabbing my personal trainer in the back. Yep, it’s true, just plunging a knife right between one of her many thick, grooved back muscles.

I also have dreams about Twinkies. Pie. Chocolate donuts with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. But mostly I dream about stabbing my trainer in the back.

A fireweed. That’s what they called her when I signed up. And it should have been enough to make me turn and haul my jiggly self out the door. But for years I’ve wanted this—dreamed about it.

So I run. I follow the fireweed.

###

It’s All There, On A Plate by Geoff Le Pard

‘Hey Morgan, what you got?’

‘Caterpillar.’

‘Geez, that’s huge. Hey, it’s got a trunk.’

‘Yeah, it’s an elephant hawk moth.’

‘Must be really rare.’

‘Yeah, but you know it lives on a really common plant.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Fire weed.’

‘Funny. The Queen likes cornflakes.’

‘Is that so, Logan?’

‘And Jeremy Corbyn’s into quinoa.’

‘You just can’t tell from what they eat.’

‘We’re all the same under the skin.’

‘Troo dat.’

‘They say Trump only eats Mac burgers and fries.’

‘There has to be the exception that proves the rule.’

‘Never did understand that expression.’

‘Any more than I understand Trump.’

###

New Boy by Anne Goodwin

After lunch, I followed the other kids to the wasteground behind the … parking lot (not car park). I could still taste the new words I’d learnt at the table – eggplant; zucchini; rutabaga – as I loaded my arms with logs. My classmates smirked as they glanced my way, but I imagined Mum (Mom) reminding me I wouldn’t be new for ever.

“So what’s this?” said Miss Mills.

“Firewood. Like you asked for.”

She smiled as she stuck a bunch of rosebay willow herb in a jar.

“I asked for fireweed. But don’t worry, you’ll learn English soon.”

###

Australian Fireweed by Michael

It’s everywhere round here, it grows prolifically in the back paddock though at present it’s very dry and the plants and pastures are struggling.

In good times it grows in fields of yellow but it’s a nuisance as the cattle bypass it. The Pastures Protection Board consider it a pest.

Sometimes the farmer comes by, hoe in hand and chips them out. He’ll nod to me across the fence make derogatory remarks about spending his time chipping when there is so much more to do.

But next year the fireweed will reappear, and we’ll nod to each other again.

###

Dot by Bill Engleson

“Dot, you have your assignment.”

“Louis, I know she’s your favourite but, really, she’s not listening.”

“I know, Freddy. But I like to think my tone of love, of respect, somehow has an impact…”

“Sure. You’re one sensitive zoologist. A credit to scientists everywhere. But it’s not Dot’s assignment, it’s ours.”

“Lighten up. You’re not the one eating this stuff.”

“Stuff? Fireweed is not stuff! Its chamerion augustifolium, as you well know.”

“Holy herbivore, Freddy. We’re in the field with two hundred sheep chowing down on acres of vegetation. Research, yes, but tedious.”

“Fine, but please stop cuddling her.”

###

Fireweed by Pensitivity

Mum loved flowers and I’d gather daisies, buttercups and snowdrops from hedgerows and fields for her when I saw them.

She would gush about the banks of roadside daffodils on our outings, though we never stopped to pick them as there were notices up that they were to be enjoyed, not taken.

One particular day I came across a mass of long stemmed flowers. I had no idea what they were but thought Mum would like them, so carefully pulled a couple up by the roots and took them home. They spread like wildfire and took over the garden!

###

Angusto Animi by JulesPaige

They were the new colonists. Escaping from overcrowding,
indecisive politics, and diminished resources. They were
branded the Fireweeds. On a set course to wake into a
distant future, to hopefully send back anything that might
help.

One thing good about the mind is that most thoughts were
unreadable. The crew of the Fireweed had been selected
partly on their ability to communicate through telepathy.

This crew however was smarter than the average bear –
they also knew how to protect their thoughts from
unwanted probing. Which was for the mutinous crew a
good thing. Since they were only for themselves.

###

Fireweed by Jeremy Zagarella

Some boys love girls and others love money, but John loved one pure thing – fire.

At six years old he stole a match from the kitchen drawer and lit it in the backyard.
Matches lead to lighters, and, as a 19-year-old American Indian boy, he had set dozens of wildfires without being detected.

After it started, the fire crews would show up. The news media, smoke, purging – it all gave him such a thrill. It needed a fresh start.

Months after all the commotion, he would return to the site to see his favorite part – fireweed popping like candy.

###

In the Wake of Fire by D. Avery

I’ll never forget seeing acres and acres of burned forest. Some charred trunks still standing, silent memorials amidst a resounding choir of color, the purples and reds of riotous fireweed echoing brightly. The tree trunks intoned their past trauma as the fireweed sang the refrain of resilience. It was beautiful and it was ugly. It was awesome and it was eerie. It was quiet and loud. Back in the truck I stared out the window at this powerfully incongruous scene for miles. Later the memory would appear unbidden, and whisper reminders of the immeasurable capacities of the human spirit.

###

The Fireweed Fairies by Juliet Nubel

It took almost a year for the fireweed to cover the large circle of blackened grass.

On the first of May, for over thirty years, they had lit the huge pile of sticks, watching the flames lick the sky as their guests cheered in time to the blaring music.

But this year there would be no fire, no music, no feasting friends.

This year the fireweed fairies could continue their march.

They could stray outside the circle, across the field, down to the cemetery.

And there they could dance forever more on the gravel path leading to her grave.

###

Sanctuary by Sue Vincent

The glade is smaller than she remembers. Screened from view by the gnarled oak and a bank of fireweed, it had been her sanctuary, a place to which she could run and hide. A place to dream of a future she herself could shape.

A child ‘should be seen but not heard’… but now she is a woman.

The roots of the oak have grown around the marker stone. The manicured nails tear as she digs. It is still here, where she had left it all those years ago… waiting for this day. She will be silent no longer…

###

Castles and Carpeting by Wallie & Friend

The castle was different. The hanging weapons were taken from the walls and replaced with classical paintings. The dungeon was carpeted and clean. But ghosts are like fireweed, and I could see them in the eyes of my companion.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“No—wait.”

He stopped me. He looked into the prison cell, cheerless even in 100 watt lighting, his hand resting on the grate. I wondered what he was remembering but was afraid to ask, to test him. His hand quivered on the iron bars.

“They don’t know,” he said. “They don’t know what it was like.”

###

The Midnight Raid by Anurag Bakhshi

The midnight raid had been swift and brutal, totally catching us unawares. They had sucked us out of our secret hiding places using weapons we had never encountered before.

I watched helplessly as they captured my friends, my family, while I hid and waited for my turn.

I knew that I would not be able to hold out for too long, but I also knew that at least some of us would survive. We were not that easy to keep down, we were like fireweed, we would grow again, stronger than ever before, and then….the Ghostbusters would pay.

###

Fireweed by Rebecca Glaessner

My private aug showed ages beside every face in the room, but maintained each digitally overlaid, customisable appearance.

“Miss-“ the one hundred and forty-three earth-year old who didn’t look a day over twenty.

“Doctor,” I corrected.

Doubt flashed across all faces.

“Project Fireweed will be swift and precise,” I announced to the group, “replacing current programming with our new system. Individuals deserve privacy once more.”

Everyone sat up in outrage.

“A complete overhaul is insane-”

“Do you even know if it’ll work-”

I raised a hand for silence.

“Can anyone see my age?” I asked.

None could.

###

A New Identity by Molly Stevens

He can’t explain why his mother chose his name. She said it was because he had a tuft of blond hair on the top of his head when he was born – like a dandelion. Was she suffering from postpartum depression when she inked the name, ‘Weed’ on his birth certificate?

He didn’t realize his name was odd until he ventured beyond Mother’s apron strings. That’s when the teasing began and taunting became a daily torture.

One day he looked in the mirror, tamed his blond plumage, and said, “You’re fired, Weed.” And he changed his name to Dan.

###

Plantae uel Animalia by Chelsea Ownes

If you were to assign a flower to my childhood personality, you might search among the less-desirable weeds. I wouldn’t have minded; I’d have stuck my prickly, unwanted self even further into your business.

My grandmother, however, was a soft-spoken, kind-thinking sort. I never heard her raise her voice nor speak insult. She was more like the gently-swaying field flowers of springtime, shyly smiling to a beckoning sun.

While people greeted my coming akin to a dandelion outbreak, we all recall my grandmother’s mischievous blue eyes with forget-me-nots.

At least dandelions are my son’s favorite.

###

Fireweed by Pete Fanning

Miles blamed his friends. What on Earth did they have in common? It was chilly outside, and he was sitting on the hood of a Toyota, watching a girl with dreadlocks roll a joint.

“This is good shit,” Ava said with a lick and a flourish. “It’s called fireweed.”

Miles coughed. He got very high. He went on about a Neil deGrass Tyson book.

Ava yawned. She lay back against the windshield, pointed to Jupiter, some five-hundred million miles above their heads. Miles sat next to her, found Mars. Ava giggled.

“See, the sky is better than the book.”

###

Fireweed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“Well, at least you got out of it. You corrected your mistake.”

“That marriage wasn’t a mistake,” Jane says.

The counselor raises her eyebrows.” Oppression, abuse…how was it not a mistake to marry a man like that? Not that I’m blaming you. You couldn’t have known.”

“Our daughter,” Jane says. “Only he and I together could have made that wonderful human being. Without him, I wouldn’t have her. She’s the fireweed that redeems it all.”

“Your daughter? Didn’t know you had a daughter. Where is she?”

Jane looks at the floor, silent. That’s a volcano all its own.

###

Life Comes Back (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Spears of purple lined the narrow two-track. Tall dead trees stood like charred sentinels, remaining witnesses to the last forest fire.

“Life comes back,” Danni spoke to no one in particular. Her only companions were three dogs on leash, each tugging a different direction.

At the site of the dig from two years ago, Danni hiked the ridge to her former perch. Any moment she expected Ike to rumble up the road in his truck. Yet there she was with his dogs. She opened the can and spread the ashes, hoping fireweed would find its way into her heart.

###

Regeneration by Paula Moyer

For two years after Charley left her, Jean’s heart couldn’t grow fireweed. Even when she tried to love – nothing. Only ruined pulp remained.

Then she moved to Minnesota, started graduate school. And met Michael. She loved all of him – East Coast, Italian-American, laughed at her jokes, her Southern accent.

“We’re the only early risers!” he greeted Jean one morning in the dorm’s cafeteria.

Not the best choice. He was gay. Couldn’t even admit it – the seventies.

At first, Jean didn’t need to be loved back. To know love could sprout, flourish, from her burnt, scarred core – was enough.

###

Greener Pastures by Sarah Whiley

She was my fireweed*. Able to grow in any soil, in all aspects. Persistent if not controlled, and rapidly taking over neglected pastures. She competed strongly with those around her, and was extremely toxic.

I could feel her tendrils taking hold. Coiling themselves around my brain; trying to find an ‘in’ to feed her tap root. But I was not the only one and it was time for us to take control.

It turns out a dense cover can help reduce fireweed. So we took a stand together, covering the bare, exposed patches of ourselves, to become greener pastures.

*(Author’s Note: The fireweed I have used for the purpose of this challenge is the Australian variety. It is highly invasive and toxic as outlined here.)

###

Fireweed by Robbie Cheadle

The girl slumped on the floor outside the grocery store. Busy shoppers rushed in and out, barely affording her so much as a sideways glance. She was quite beautiful despite her unkempt hair which was wild and matted. Her eyes rolled wildly in her head showing their whites, like a horse before it bolts.

Her hands shook violently as she reached out to take the coffee and cake I held out to her. The coffee slopped over the sides of the cup as the aftermath of last nights fireweed manifested in her body as it tore her mind apart.

###

Fireweed by Old Jules

“Lord, just let me get through this. I’ll never do that crap again.” I changed positions and savored the hand of my only source of comfort. Suzanne, my patient, devoted wife.

“What was it? What went wrong?” She was a tower of strength. She’d had an enduringly bad trip the only time she smoked jade.

“Fireweed, babe.” I tried to imagine my head chained to the floor. “Paraquat. They sprayed it on the crop in Mexico.”

Forever came and went but she stayed. “Are you coming down at all yet?” Her tension spoke through her fingers over my forehead.

###

Fireweed By ngrant41

Fireweed prefers disturbed ground
after fire and fury tear through the land
scorching the earth’s tired soil on the banks
of polluted waters where roses and willows
have failed to thrive in the chaos where trees
turned to ash blow away in the violent winds
of unsolicited change the heat and dry hunger
starving every life form the only color willing
to risk a comeback the pink and lavender
resistance pushing roots into rubble insistent
that life and beauty will persist creating
the next blooming revolution along the road into
the rose garden and all around the white house.

###

Fireweed by Reena Saxena

The patriarch of the family suffered from Alzheimer’s, and his wife had just passed away. He overheard that certain valuables were missing, when her cupboard was opened, and it generated wild guesses and allegations of robbery.

“Why do you think should they get all the benefits? They have grabbed enough in the mother’s lifetime.”

“I did not think about it so far. But why should I not benefit? We are all entitled to an equal share in the assets.”

Greed was spreading like a fireweed. In his fading memory, they were not the children he had known all along.

###

Euphoric Wish? by JulesPaige

Was it Wabi Sabi, that ancient process of birth and renewal in
the guise of twisting fireweed, to take over the valley? Norma,
just a visitor, stood transfixed. Urged by some profane tug this
spring Wednesday – to see what the updraft of fire had
left. The professional naturalist, did a quick assessment.

The news headlines had shown two boys who had come from
the local school that, was octagonally shaped. They skipped
out of their lunch, smirking with the joy of freedom, that fall
afternoon. Yet their black and white faces showed compunction
for the destruction they had caused.

###

Burning with Hope by Norah Colvin

Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.

“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“

She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.

“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”

She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.

###

Land Reclaimed! By Ruchira Khanna

“Hurry!!” hollered Mother Earth to Wind

The Wind huffed and puffed, and silenced the fire.

Mother Earth rolled her eyes,”I wish mankind could get a little responsible since this is their only home!”

It left a sooty smell, and the soil was charred. The air was grim that even she had to gasp for air.

“It’s ruined!” he said in a dejected tone.

“Not when I am around!” Mother Earth winked, and she was quick to wave a hand over it. Vibrant colored fireweed started colonizing the disturbed site with the hope that it will reestablish vegetation.

###

Sea of Purple by Heather Gonzalez

As a child, I used to lie amongst the fireweeds and stare up at the sky. I would float away in the sea of purple, pretending to be just another flower petal in the wind. Even though time may have changed many things, the fireweeds still remained.

As an adult, I built my home amongst the purple waves. Generations came after me. When I was gone, my children made sure that I had one last ride on the sea of purple as they spread my ashes in the wind outside of my home. I floated away with the breeze.

###

Fireweed by jackschuyler

By midday, we had reached the burnt patch. The earth was soft, and fireweed had already sprung up around charred stumps. I kicked a clump and it dislodged from the loose soil, sending grey eddies spiraling into the air. I stopped.

“What is it, chief?”

Dark clouds spilled over the mountain, crawling down the pass like black salamanders.

I lifted an arm to the ominous skies, “That rainstorm’ll push this ash right off the mountain side. Our wagons won’t make the climb.”

“Should I tell the train to unpack, chief?”

I nodded, “We’ll have to camp here and wait.”

###

The Fireweed by Lisa Listwa

Burned trees and scorched earth tell the story of what happened here.

I can barely recall details of people, names, and places once so intimately familiar, nor the life that was, for a time, lush and green as the woods. A flash – a single moment – and everything changed. This once-thriving forest is now unrecognizable.

Fire consumes all.

I can see smoke rise from the embers of the life I once lived.

And where there is smoke, there will be fireweed thriving in places touched by flame.

I used to be someone else. Now I am the fireweed.

###

Any Other Name by D. Avery

“How long you been here on the ranch Pal?”
“My whole life.”
“Ever leave?”
“Well,
*I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain*.”
“That was kinda weird Pal, and stealing song lyrics too.”
“Yep, but that’s where I went, Kid. It was a lonesome place an’ I was all alone an’ never felt lonely.”
“Gotta point, Pal?”
“Not sure, Kid. ‘Cept ta say there’s flowers in the desert.”

###

The Work of Memoir

By Irene Waters

As you read this I will be sitting on the high seas, nearing the equator, out of range of the internet so I will start by apologising for what will seem my tardy response to any comments. Don’t worry I will get there and look forward to coming back to a conversation in full swing.

Initially, I was planning for this post to discuss what memoir is but decided that I have already written a post on the difference between memoir and fiction so instead I will direct you to that and write instead on the work of Memoir.

Have you ever thought about why you read memoir? Have you ever noticed that you read memoir differently to the way you read fiction? I know I do. I am supercritical with memoir if I find what is written to be unbelievable. If I discover after I have read a memoir that it is not true – I feel angry, duped, used. I never feel that way about reading a fictional work. We feel this way because we read believing the story to be true.

For the reader, a memoir can be a guide through the human experience. It may be an experience that the reader themselves is undergoing and they are looking for an insight into another person’s experience on which they can draw strength for what they are undergoing or give us an understanding of a different kind of life. We can learn from another’s true life experience as we know these real-life characters lived, and we can get guidelines from them as to how we can live our own lives. For the inarticulate, a memoir may offer expression of what they are feeling but which they find impossible to express. It lets the reader know they are not alone with what they are experiencing. Predominantly in reading memoir, we are looking for how the narrated “I” deals with situations to become the “I” of now. We are looking at identity creation. We are honing in on the reflection of memoir.

This brings us to what I find fascinating with memoir – all those different “I” characters. Have you ever thought about how the author – the narrating “I” is telling his/her story and yet is a different person to the person they are narrating – the “I” then or narrated “I” who is a constructed “I”. There is also a past or historical “I” who is the person who can be verified as having lived but this “I” cannot be reproduced exactly as they were in the past.  Finally, there is an ideological “I” who knows the cultural rules of the time. Identity is embodied in all these “I”s that we meet with memoir. P. Eakin said: “We learn as children what it means to say ‘I’ in the culture we inhabit, and this training proves to be crucial to the success of our lives as adults, for our recognition by others as normal individuals depends on our ability to perform the work of self-narration.”

If you are writing memoir are you aware of your “I” characters? I believe this is why people read memoir and why memoir is written. It is the biggest difference between fiction and memoir – the narrating ‘I’ as the present day person who does the remembering and offers reflections and interpretations of the past events allows us to see how the author’s “I” character has changed. If the memoir is a ‘coming of age’ story we will read how one ‘I’ changes to another. In a conversion narrative the ‘I’s will be separated by a chasm. It is not unusual for there to be circumstances where the “I”s don’t like each other or understand each other. This is one circumstance where third person can be used in the writing of a memoir (past tense first person is normal) as it shows the disconnect between the ‘I”s.

The modern way of writing memoir using fictional techniques I believe (and remember this is my opinion) detracts from the reason people read memoir. If you use all show, not tell you are allowing the reader to construct their own thoughts on how you got there, how your identity changed and they lose that important part of memoir – the reflection by the narrating ‘I’. This loss leads to the loss to the reader of the author’s gaining of self- awareness and the impact this has on their identity creation. This is one of the fictional techniques that I am loathe to encourage to the exclusion of telling. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Next month I will look at dialogue in memoir.

Please feel free to join in Times Past. This month thanks to a suggestion from Charli, we are going to stay at school and examine learning to write. Write a post of your own and link up to my Times Past Page, leave a comment in my comment section or in the comment section when Charli posts her memories of learning to write. Don’t forget to put where you lived at the time of the memoir, your generation and whether it was a rural or city area. Look forward to reading them on my return.

All Things Black and White

Nuns drive dressed in black and white. Soccer balls, chocolate fondant, police cars and even ways of thinking and relating can be polar opposites on the color spectrum.

This week, writers turned to colorful ideas to express stories of black and white. As you’ve come to expect, you will be surprised by how many Crayons are in the black and white box of this collection.

The following are based on February 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white.

***

Fondue for Alexis by Kerry E.B. Black

They craft it with care, a perfect balance of dark and white chocolate fondue formed into a yin yang. Black swirls into white in an eternal dance, captivating as the changing seasons or the passage from night to day. She dips fruit, disrupting the balance with impunity. For this the chocolatier created it, a pot of melted goodness for the birthday girl. But I am not ready. I fumble with my camera and miss the photo, didn’t capture the precarious moment when she dangled between youth and adulthood. She chomps her chocolate-coated berry, and the fleeting moment is gone.

###

Mission by Denise Aileen DeVries

At age ten, Myra Jean had puzzled her family by saying she wanted to be a nun. “There are no Baptist nuns,” her father said. In other words, the matter was closed. To him, everything was black and white, fact or fiction. Teaching had been her compromise. Retired at 65, she could no longer become a missionary to China like Henrietta Hall Shuck. Today, she would begin proofreading at the local newspaper, dressed in her former teaching uniform, a dark skirt and white blouse. Correcting spelling and grammar was a minor but worthy mission, and it suited her talents.

###

Black and White by pranabaxom

There once was a movie named
The Manchurian Candidate
Why Manchurian
I scratch my head
Little up north
The cold frigid waste
Siberia
The Siberian Candidate
That would have been
More realistic
Wouldn’t it
Oh my my
What did I do
Realistic
May be a reality TV show
But not real life
Siberian Candidate
Everything in life can’t be
Black and white
Must use our imagination
Little shades of gray
Not just left and right
Not conservative and liberals
A little compromise
Maybe thinking about
Siberian cold
I am mixing my
Black and white
My imaginations
Taking a flight

###

Test Pattern by Bill Engleson

On this bright morning, impaired by a knee that obstinately refuses to function with ease, I succumb, momentarily to the angst of the vast American divide.

Its pettiness, as expected, depresses me, almost bores me, and I change channels.

There, the small child, three, face blackened by the ravages of frostbite, a journey of death in the mountains, a loss of two generations of her loved ones, all in the search for a freedom I have always been swaddled in, recovers from surgery.

And what do I do with this, with this contrast?

Not much.

Change the channel again?

###

Bad Signs by Paula Moyer

When Jean was little, she always felt safe. After watching a Western TV show, she came to her mother in the kitchen and said, “Aren’t you glad there aren’t bad guys anymore?”

“Oh.” Mother stopped and pushed her glasses up her nose. “There are still bad guys.”

Hairs on Jean’s back stood up. Mother kept the bad guys out.

One day they were at the train station, picking Daddy up. Signs above drinking fountains gave rules: “Whites only” and “Colored.”

“Why two fountains?”

“It’s the law.” A pause. “It’s wrong.”

“Are the people that made the law bad guys?”

###

Black and White

“Rise in adulthood aggression and medieval pre-twenty-third century Earthen ideals.”

“Thought we coded them out?”

My research partner and I watched the latest group of toddlers through the window.

A parent entered, giving their child a new battalion spacecraft toy in place of its baby doll.

“You’ll be stronger than the last,” the parent said, leaving the room, “I’ll make sure your toys won’t hold you back.”

I looked at my research partner.

“It’s not really that black and white, is it?”

“We’re innately drawn to gentle things, until-”

Parent and child passed us in the hall.

Black and White by Rebecca Glaessner

“Rise in adulthood aggression and medieval pre-twenty-third century Earthen ideals.”

“Thought we coded them out?”

My research partner and I watched the latest group of toddlers through the window.

A parent entered, giving their child a new battalion spacecraft toy in place of its baby doll.

“You’ll be stronger than the last,” the parent said, leaving the room, “I’ll make sure your toys won’t hold you back.”

I looked at my research partner.

“It’s not really that black and white, is it?”

“We’re innately drawn to gentle things, until-”

Parent and child passed us in the hall.

###

The Nun’s Prayer by Norah Colvin

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

I have no need for counting sheep,

I count the girls that I made weep.

 

Lord, I ask Thee, help me please

To do my job with greater ease–

Bless them even when they sneeze,

And keep their skirts below their knees.

 

I know the task should be not hard

And I should never drop my guard

But if they’re ever marred or scarred,

It puts a mark upon my card.

 

And while she dreamed her cunning schemes,

Her girls were strangling silent screams.

###

Sparkly Pink by Juliet Nubel

What did they care about colour? All they wanted to do was play.

Diamond sat behind Emma, pulling a long-toothed sparkly comb through her golden curls. She had never touched hair this silky and soft.

Then it was Emma’s turn to undo, one at a time, her friend’s tightly pleated braids.

She stuck out her tongue as she concentrated on putting them back together again, with a tiny pink bead on the end of each one. She loved the noise they made when Diamond shook her head.

Black and white meant nothing to them. Their friendship was sparkly pink.

###

Jeweled by Chelsea Owens

Jewel often asked what her name meant; why Mother also carried it.

“You’ll see,” Mother demurred.

Their crumbling dictionary said Jewel was a stone that refracted light into color; but what was refracted? What was color?

Other things, odd things -things Jewel couldn’t quite define- also set them apart.

“Cheer up; tomorrow’s another day,” Mother reassured a stranger, in passing. How did she know he was sad? Jewel wondered, looking back at the black and white face.

One day, at school, Jewel finally knew. Amidst the monochrome playchildren; her friend, Tom, smiled.

In that glittering instant, he glowed yellow.

###

Black and White by Jack Schuyler

Sleek bodies, small splashes, in and out, in and out. When she finally pulled away from the glass, a tiny print of Ruth’s nose was left behind.

“Come on honey, let’s go.”

A large hand took hers.

“Don’t you want to see the lions?”

But Ruth poked at the smudged glass in front of her, gazing through with big eyes. On the other side, a black and white form slid from the water and peer curiously at her finger. It shook its wet feathers and tapped the glass with a stubby beak. For a second, they were almost touching.

###

Most Holy Experience by Annette Rochelle Aben

They floated, like ghosts, through the hallways of St. Benedict, school. Feet never made a sound. I’d never seen a nun before and over the next two years, I became fascinated with them.

Faces squeezing through their wimples of white, and covered head to toe in black, to a third grader, they looked like penguins. And when they were upset with you, magically, a wooden ruler shot out from under their sleeves. Ouch!

Years later, as I prepared to play the role of Sr. Hubert in Nunsense, I said a grateful prayer for carefully studying the habits of nuns.

###

The Penguins by Brutus Richmond

Rowing away from the island he looked back and saw the disorganised black and white line marching towards the water’s edge. As the penguins plunged into the icy waters and suddenly achieved grace he was reminded of nuns and, in particular, the confused old women of his youth who, he imagined, may have achieved a surprising grace as they stepped from life and into the abyss.

And he wondered too, if they might be waiting there to judge him.

But the penguins and his memories were out of sight as he eased his wife’s body silently over the side.

###

Black and White by Old Jules

“You were speeding. It’s here in black and white.” He waved his
radar gun. Beads of sweat around the bulged veins across his
crimson forehead. His sour breath overwhelmed the exhaust street odor.

“You’ve got it wrong officer.” Soft, reasonable. Respectful. “I saw your
black and white. I was behind a car just like this one.” I nodded at the
radar gadget. “It was him you clocked.”

“That’s a black lie. You were in front. A white guy. Car behind had a black driver.”

“But I’m black, officer. I just didn’t want to get shot.” Pulling off my mask.

###

Black & White by D. Avery

He was a good bicyclist, skillful and considerate, always riding to the right of the white line. He used lights and wore a white helmet, making himself visible to drivers. They say he was a good man, teaching children to ride, fixing their bikes.

His road bike was the green of a sent text message. The truck was black, they think. They found his bike tangled on the yellow line. His white helmet had somehow come off, somehow whole and spinning, spinning, on the silent black tar of the highway. They marked the spot with a white ghost bike.

###

Black and White by Eric Pone

“Eowyn, I have good news and bad news,” Sue said with a smile. “Bad only the bad.” He replied. “Ducky went missing this morning.” Eowyn rolled over and looked at her. “I know where he went and it’s ok. He needs Jennifer.” As Eowyn thumbed his phone the message from Ducky stumped even him.”I found her bro. I’m in Brazil and we’re in trouble. Come quick!” Eowyn looked at Sue and replied. “Cancel my plans. The Good news Sue?” “Your mothers pregnant.” She replied “Oh joy.” Eowyn replied two biracial royals would be hard to explain to the press.

###

Black and White by FloridaBorne

“Is this black or is this white?” The lawyer asked, holding up a green scarf.

“Is this a joke? That particular scarf is lime.” ” I looked up at a judge as puzzled as I.

“Is this the scarf you killed your husband with?”

“No.  Someone stabbed him.  What kind of lawyer are you?”

“One with achromatopsia,” He replied.

“Is that a kind of seizure?” I asked.

“No,” He chuckled.  “It’s total color blindness.”

“What does that have to do with my husband’s death?”

“Nothing.  Do you think my wife would like this scarf?”

“Only if you want to die.”

###

Cat Calls by Liz Huseby Hartmann

Black.
Black.
Black.

Thick, dark, heaviness. There’s some comfort in that. My body aches, too weak to move. Why would I want to? I’ll just lie here, in this fever hollow. I roll my head to one side. A channel opens and a whisper of cool air flows.

Liquid pools in the hollow of my neck, then spills. I sleep.

Black.
White.

Must be daylight. I cough and groan. My chest bubbles and aches.

Light.
Then dark, punctured by two glowing green eyes. A nip on the chin.
The Dread Mistress must be fed.

Shoulda got the flu shot.

###

Chaos in Black & White by Sarah Brebtyn

We talk, words spinning around each other like flurries caught in a gust of wind.

Eventually, our thoughts drift down and settle on the ground in a blanket of confusion.

With an incredible vocal range, we sing a song of misunderstanding. High notes, encapsulated in love, float through the air. Low notes, heavy with meaning, cling to our faces and hair. They are a jumble of uncertainty.

His world, in black and white, frustrates me.

My world, in greens, yellows, and blues, frustrates him.

We never tried to understand.

Now we do.

Only to discover we are mutually colorblind.

###

Black & White by Ritu Bhathal

I just had to ask. It was eating me up inside. The lies… the excuses…

“I saw you. With her.”

“Who? Janine? My father’s carer? And?”

“You weren’t at work the other day. Yet you told me you would be late back.”

“So? I had an appointment with Dad’s doctor. I went in late. Had to make up time.”

“Your eyes have been constantly on your phone recently.”

“I’m answering messages. From the carer. Dad’s going downhill…”

“Oh…”

“Yeah… Oh… What did you think? I’d been cheating?”

Pete rolled his eyes.

“Life’s not always black and white, you know.”

###

In Black and White by Michael Fishman

I’m apprehensive. Eyes down, I massage the oak table with my thumb, just like I . . .

Stop it.

The door opens, I look up. A man in a grey pinstripe suit enters and sits to my left. I look down again.

“Everyone ready?” he says.

No! There’s another way, I want to scream. But I know there’s nothing left to say.

I look up and meet Sue’s eyes as the lawyer slides copies of the Judgment for Marriage Dissolution toward us both.

Finally real, seeing it in black and white.

No tears, dammit, not until I’m alone.

###

Tripped Up? by JulesPaige

Bert, the father of two daughters was working three jobs
to support them. Working full-time for the Township gave
the gregarious man a small advantage as he was able to
meet other officials and police officers. He was able to
acquire one of those get out of jail free cards from one
of his Detective buddies. Judiciously Bert passed onto
his eldest.

Bert knew his daughter had used his gift as soon as the
black and white parked in front of his house. Jody was
being guided out of the backseat. At least the lights and
sirens were off.

###

Black and White by Robbie Cheadle

Sarah was completely enchanted by the altar boys. They wore long white smocks and helped Father O’Malley to light the candles. They all sat together at the front of the Church on the black steps. She could see them clandestinely whispering together. It looked like such fun. The next week when her Aunt took her to Church she insisted on being dressed up as an altar boy. Her Aunt fashioned a long, loose outfit for her out of a white sheet. Sarah was happy. Now she could be an altar boy too. No-one mentioned that she was a girl.

###

Black and White by Susan Sleggs

“I failed an honesty test.”

“You? How?”

“The questions were grey and they wanted black and white answers.”

“Explain.”

“One was; have you ever taken anything home from work?”

“And you said yes.”

“I have, baking pans from the pastry kitchen.”

“But you had permission to borrow them. You didn’t steal them.”

“But I took them home.”

“They were asking if you stole things.”

“I know that, but that’s not how the question was worded.”

“You should have told them what they wanted to hear and not told the truth.”

“Then it shouldn’t have been called an honesty test.”

###

Stargazing by Kay Kingsley

The black blanket of night hung above them, diamonds blinking over head long after sunset, her pale white skin illuminated in their glow.

Stargazing in the desert was the perfect way for them to enjoy one another, their last summer together before their own universes forever expanded.

A mattress of blankets, tailgate down, holding hands, watching heavens show.

Soon the world would slowly uncouple them, drawing them away from the magic of the truck but tonight the universe was theirs, stitched into the fabric of time, only the stars to witness their magic, jealous as they watched from above.

###

Eternal Love by Anurag Bakhshi

I looked at my wife lovingly and said, “You look as radiant in that white nightgown as you did on the night we first met. As soon as I saw you, I knew we were meant to be together…forever.”

She smiled shyly and replied, “And that black suit still makes you appear as regal and handsome as you did on that magical moonlit night when I invited you in.”

“Good night my love,” I whispered softly.

“Good night my Count,” I heard her say as we both shut the lids of our coffins and called it a day.

###

The Score by Sascha Darlington

Until I was eighteen, I was Dad’s favorite. By focusing on my music, becoming the best mandolinist in the three states, I pursued Dad’s ambition, which had been squelched by pragmatic parents.

Music poured through my veins, so it was natural I discover John, the most talented guitarist in three states, who had music pouring through his veins. His fingers caressed strings with innate acuity. His long fingers on long strings stoked desire.

Young, passion and music devoured, guiding us through the moment.

Dad’s world stormed black. His anger smoked white. “Dead to me,” he said, discarding us all.

###

Black and White Choice? by Anne Goodwin

My father’s gaze swept the ranks of spines. “You’ll have to give these up when you marry.”

I searched his face for signs of jocularity. Finding none, sweat gathered in my palms. “I cannot live without my books.”

“I’ve done you a disservice, daughter. Men don’t want an educated wife.”

“Then I shall not marry.”

“If only that were possible. But, when I die, you’ll lose both my protection and my wealth. You have no choice.”

I plucked a book from the shelf. Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica. “There’s another option.”

“Caged in a convent?”

“Where female minds run free.”

###

The Order by Matt Wall of Telling Stories Together

In the sacred grove, the nuns of the Order of Pure Reason gathered around the basket, set on a tree stump.

“It is decided,” said the Archmatron. “We will take the infant to the monastery, there to be raised by the Brotherhood of Iron. Who will go?”

Sister Constance raised her quivering hand.

“If the boy cannot stay here,” she said, “I will take him.”

“You know as well as I do,” said the Archmatron, “the Codex is clear on this point.”

“Yes,” agreed Constance, picking up the basket that held her infant son, “the Codex is clear, Archmatron.”

###

Black and White by Kim Blades

Sadie had made her mind up. Finally. Today was the day.
She could not stand her life the way it was anymore. It had no colour, not even black and white.
There was only a debilitating, miserable, empty greyness.
So she deliberately stepped onto the very edge of the cliff.
Immediately loose stones and sand began to crumble away. Sadie began to slide down with the rubble.
Suddenly a white hot fear of death that she had thought was her only salvation, suffused her mind and body. She grabbed wildly for something that would stop her falling into blackness

###

No Winners by Kay Kingsley

Trying to explain to her that addiction and depression were not a choice, it wasn’t black or white the way her painfully constructed world was, fell on deaf ears.

Her argument… “Choose to be happy, choose to not drink. You’re in control. By continuing to use, to be depressed, means you don’t want to change.”

For years, we dug further into our stances, further away from each other.

The rift fractured our family, a cracked foundation no “I’m sorry” could fix .

Our fight was to the death although it wouldn’t be ours, it was hers.

War has no winner.

###

Population Control by Heather Gonzalez

I knew the time had come when I began to see the black crows landing in the snow outside of my house. No one knows how they know but they always do. Death was coming for one of us.

People turn on each other and the mystery of who will die is solved very quickly. Then the body would be wrapped in a white cloth while the rest of the family adorns the traditional black garb.

I decided to close the curtains before anyone else saw crows, letting what was inevitable happen naturally. But death never came for us.

###

Let it Fade Away by Reena Saxena

“Watch the scene that troubles you on that television set, beyond the glass screen in that long corridor. The image is shrinking, the colors are fading to black, white, grey and sepia, lashing raindrops through the window destroy the TV, it is covered with muck ….. it is disappearing, it is gone ……”

The therapist’s voice boomed in my subconscious mind.

“I feel so much better now,” I mumbled incoherently while taking a deep breath.

“The incident is in the deep, dark past which is dead and gone. It is only the colors of your imagination that trouble you.”

###

Winter Fatigue by Molly Stevens

Beverly pulled open the curtain, peering at a dismal winter day.

Why can’t there be color? I need to see something besides black, white and gray, she thought.

She smiled in spite of her foul mood when she realized she couldn’t look away.

Like a car wreck.

She spied something red in a tree branch. Abandoning her coffee, she donned her heavy, wool coat, and lumbered out to investigate. Her mind churned with possibilities.

Was it a cardinal? Or a wayward, satin ribbon?

The sale flyer mocked her as she stared at an advertisement for a red snow blower.

###

Die Hard by Sherri Matthews

Bill checked the time. Almost midnight. He took another beer from the fridge.

‘That’s when I heard it,’ he later told the cops. ‘My wife was still out when I heard the scream from next door.’

The cops left and Bill cracked open another beer. His wife, dead. Should have known it was that asshole neighbour, luring her in with his black and white movie collection.

‘Why do’ya watch that mindless shit?’ she had screeched at him when he put on Die Hard.

Well screw them both. Black or white down the line baby. It’s Die Hard or nothin’.

###

Black and White by Robert Kirkendall

“Trust me, son, you’ll like this film,” father said as he inserted the DVD. “It’s a classic!”

“Oh no, not another black and white movie.”

“Still a quality film.”

“But old movies are so dated,” the son insisted. “And they talk so fast you can’t understand them.”

“That’s because they were all high on Benzedrine, but you’ll like this one,” father assured. “A timeless story.” He pressed play on the remote, the movie started, and they watched the opening scene.

“So if this is a black and white movie,” the son wondered, “how come it only has white actors?”

###

Black and White by Hugh Roberts

“Well, we’ll never see the blood properly if the movie is in black and white. It’ll be like watching Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ with all that chocolate sauce used in the shower scene,” nagged Margaret.

Not only did Colin, her husband, wish he’d never downloaded the movie illegally, but he wished his wife would just stop nagging him all the bloody time.

Twenty minutes later, as the figure with the knife jumped back into their television set, Margaret’s last sight was that of the real colour of blood from the stab wound to her stomach.

“You wanted colour?” smirked Colin.

###

 

The Onyx Stone by Wallie the Imp & Friend

The pendant reflected her face like the smooth surface of a midnight lake. She placed it in the snow, at the center of the forest clearing.

“You found it.”

She raised her eyes to see the man watching her. His appearance was mist-like, vaporous.

“Yes,” she said. “Here. It’s yours.”

He pressed the pendant to his lips. His eyes, as black as the ornament stone, shone with a wild and breathtaking emotion. That look burned in the woman’s mind long after he vanished. It was all the thanks she needed.

She left, her footprints gentle in the fallen snow.

###

Chickadee Song by Ann Edall-Robson

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee. The unmistakable song of the small bird in the black and white habit speaks its piece nearby. Following the sound until the eyes focus on its safe perch within the shrubs, under the feeder. Flitting from branch to branch, pecking at tasty morsels as it goes. Feeding on bits of this and that left behind on the limbs. Always watching through the bare, leafless bush and then it’s gone. Darting across open ground to safe refuge in the trees nearby. Once again its identifying sound announces it has landed. Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.

###

Mother Church by D. Avery

Outside the Ryman, hoping for coffee, I watch an agitated couple; seeing me, they hand me a ticket, say ‘enjoy the tour’, disappear up the street.

I’m happy to go inside, warm, with clean bathrooms. Not how I dreamed it, but I’m going to the Mother Church.

For hours I sit in the pews, awestruck. Memories and magic spirit the altar of the Grand Ole Opry stage. Tourists come and go but I remain, unmoving. I am moved. I am restored.

I leave, hopeful again. Looking up I see, high above this haunted town, a bald eagle, searching, soaring.

###

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, Nun? by rugby843

Why nuns wear black and white? Maybe it’s the notion most of us have about nuns, no middle ground–everything is white or black, good or bad, even white or black hats? I’m just speculating, for I’ve only known one nun in my life.

I met Carol as a lawyer when needing advice with paperwork after my husband died. She also tutored my grandchildren in math, sewing, quilting and knitting.

When we met, an instant friendship blossomed with whirlwinds of conversation where I learned she was kind, intelligent, funny, generous, and been a nun! Then we moved. I miss her.

###

Soccer with a Stranger by Lisa Luciano

My son arrived home last September– a brief visit from the Air Force.
Franco is a fan of the newly birthed Minnesota United soccer team – the Loons.
He brought home a fan scarf for me to wear in Section F, seat 18.

I didn’t know he had season tickets.

I stared at him sideways while he cheered for his favorite footballers.
When did he become a stranger?

We ate smuggled snacks and snapped selfies. I swung my scarf around at the proper moments.
In two days, he was gone– leaving us empty, but transformed as Minnesota United soccer fans.

###

Black and White By Raymond Roy

Tun Tavern 1775

Espirit de Corps they call it , a willingness to die. Not a jury’s verdict, but boot camp on P.I.

Devil dogs before them, earned title that they seek,

Transformation from fatherless, phony tough, crazy and meek.

Stand on yellow footprints , wee hours of the morn, step between polished doors through which an oath is sworn.

Recruits white, black, brown,many color of a hand,

Dreads, bushy and straight hair, on barbers floor will land.

Drill instructors don’t discriminate, by race, color or creed, all are equally worthless until becoming the Marine Corps breed.

###

The Arrest by Colleen Chesebro

I stared at the pea-green walls of the interrogation room feeling the pinch of the handcuffs behind my back. The door opened, and a tall man wearing an ill-fitting suit strode toward me. He threw a bunch of black and white photos on the metal table.

I peered at the images noticing the age of the photos. My countenance had been captured at different points in history, yet I still looked the same today.

“How can you be in each of these photos? Who are you?”

I crossed my legs and licked my lips. “I’m your great-great-grandmother.”

###

Black and White by Deb Wittam

Forgive me Father for I have sinned

I thought I was so clever with my petty deceit, that I was so adept at identifying black, white and all the shades of grey that they would never suspect.  I was correct, no one ever realized.

When I took the job I didn’t tell them, for it all seemed so simple – in an emergency press the green button, not the red button.  I didn’t ask which button was green.

He looked into the priest’s eyes – his confession was pointless.  Apologizing for being colour blind would change nothing.

They were still dead.

###

New in Angels Camp by Charli Mills

Sister Maria D’Abreau soaked the hide, tamping it down with a wooden pole. Her black dress felt softer than her habit packed away.

Henry watched, leaning against the corral. “You got laundry skills, I’ll say that much.”

Maria kept silent. What Mother Superior failed to teach her, living rough in mining camps had. She wouldn’t provoke a prickly miner down on his gold dust.

She stopped to test the hide, smiling when the hair slicked beneath her fingers. It would make the chore easier.

Father Kincaid approached. “The lass knows rawhide as well as mules.”

Henry spat. “We’ll see.”

###

Black and White by Pete Fanning

I’m at the piano when the door swings open. Sheriff Bailey enters, clicking across the black and white tiles to the table where the game stops mid-deal.

Bailey’s rasp fills the room. Pit stains and glistening, he’s the wettest dry county sheriff I ever saw. Sure enough, he finds the bottle of Jake Leg, admires it.

“Drinking AND Gambling. Very nice, boys.”

A chair falls. And Earnest, full of giggle juice, staggers. “No boys in here, Sheriff.”

Moans all around. We’re going to jail.

The Sheriff only smiles, then knocks back a hefty swig.

“That’s good. Deal me in.”

###

A Couple of Jokers by Geoff Le Pard

‘An old joke, Logan. What’s black and white and red all over?’

‘No idea, Morgan.’

‘Go on, try.’

‘A liquidized nun.’

‘Geez, you’re one sick numpty. Come on.’

‘A Native American zebra.’

‘You can’t say that.’

‘A First People American Zebra.’

‘You’re not trying.’

‘Unlike you who’s very trying. I’m trying… to read the paper.’

‘Exactly. What’s black and white and red all over?’

‘There are days when I wonder if you are completely evolved. This gag passed me by.’

‘A newspaper.’

‘That’s it? Since when is a newspaper red… oh, geez. Red as in Read. Ha bloody ha!’

###

The Tao of -Tivity by Dan C. Julian

I’m considering objectivity and subjectivity.

Here is my basic understanding of these terms: ‘objectivity’ refers to the impartial, the neutral, unbiased point of view; ‘subjectivity’ is essentially the opposite – the egocentric, biased point of view.

Consider the moon there. No, don’t look at my finger! Look at that at which my finger is pointing: the moon. Ha.

So, an objective point of view might be that the moon is a chunk of rock orbiting the Earth.

A more subjective point of view… the moon is a light to help me see at night.

I see the tai-chi symbol.

###

Magpie by Sarah Whiley

The warbling started outside my window.

I pulled the pillow over my head, but the musical gargle intensified until I roused. Bleary eyed, I poured the seed, taking the tray outside.

The black and white bird was clever; already waiting for me. I stepped back as he gobbled the offering. His beak ‘click clicking’, eyeing me all the while. I thought, “Magpies really get a bad rap. They’re not so bad.”

As I stepped out the door, I heard a whooshing sound as snapping mandibles narrowly missed my ears.

I guess it wasn’t so black and white after all…

###

Perspective by Calm Kate

Nothing is ever totally black or white, most things are on a sliding scale of grey. Every situation or idea has complications so we need to maintain a neutral or more objective stance

Fundamentalists tend to be black and white and this rigidity is where they lose the essence of their arguments … and our attention!

Personally I cannot wait for the day that our perception stretches into full technie colour. Meaning that we ditch those bland colours and just see the sheer joy, the playfulness and curiosity of every little thing. That’s a much healthier perspective to embrace!

###

Bene Fiction by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, what’s black and white and read all over?”
“Jeez… what, Kid?”
“Flash fiction by the ranch hands!”
“Har, har Kid, but I don’t think all this flashin’ is so funny. It’s gittin’ outta hand. D’ya see what they’re about this week? It ain’t right.”
“Pal, what kinda humor does an ornery ole ranch hand have?”
“Kid….”
“Nun! Black and white, yer favorite colors, Pal.”
“Kid, I’m serious, they shouldn’t be puttin’ nuns in monster trucks.”
“It was un-convent-tional, Pal, but good fun.”
“It’s outta hand.”
Why’re ya worried?”
“Because flash fiction is habit forming.”
“Oh brother.”
“Sister.”

###

Dividends by D. Avery

“What’re you doin’?”
“Gonna check the books, make sure the ranch’s in the black.”
“Y’ain’t qualified nor authorized, Pal!”
“It’s gotta take some green ta maintain all these green pastures, Kid. I worry.”
“Reckon Shorty figgers it’ll kinda pay for itself.”
“Been all aroun’ this ranch an’ I ain’t seen a money tree yet Kid.”
“There’s a bookstore. An’ Amazon sales. Jeez, Pal.”
“Yeah, yer right. An’ let’s tell folks about the “slot machine” up in the left hand corner, gives great returns on investments.”
“Don’t lie, or you’ll pay, Pal.”
“White lie, Kid. It does give great returns.”

February 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

My winter habit is not flattering. The drab-green wool coat is oversized to fit layers of bulky clothes over a bulky body. Dry air makes static of my hair which I braid and stuff into a fur-lined mad-bomber found at the thrift store. My face beams pale as a winter full moon. Dressed against Lady Lake’s constant onslaught, I feel captive to my winter clothes.

I’m going to a dance class once a week and I disrobe before entering — unwrap the scarf, unbutton the coat, kick off each boot and pull my thick socks back up. Next, I remove the hat and my hair has enough electricity to form a halo I haven’t earned yet.

Every fiber cries out to flee but my body disobeys instinct and lumbers into the room with the black floor. My daughter teaches here. She’s spent a year coping with deep injuries and adjusting to an autoimmune disorder. And yet still she dances. The class she has convinced me to try is Feldenkrais. I know it has helped her through her injuries and pain, but I’m no dancer.

In fact, I tend to be a walking head. Body awareness is something I gave up incrementally as pain drove me from the body into the greater and less painful expanse of the mind. I used to ride horses, leaping over irrigation ditches and riding the heights of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve skied Black Diamond trails in the Tahoe Basin; I’ve rodeoed and ranched; hauled hay and worked road construction. I didn’t dance but my body was strong.

Now I write strong. I live in my head and ride the currents of Lake Superior and race my characters over trails on horses from the Pony Express. I era-hop and gender-morph. There’s nothing I can’t write and I choose the stories I want to bring to light. I’m in control.

Of my legs, I’m not in control. There I was lying reluctantly on the floor scuffed by jazz shoes. Yes, yes, I was supposed to be on the provided yoga mat but I couldn’t even control that matter. During the last class I agonized over the tight band of rocks that had solidified my hips, and yet by the end of class, I felt soft, shaky and strangely not pained. This class I’m crushing my rib cage, flopping like a trout when the command was “gently flex your ankle…back…and…forth.”

When we switched to the right leg after a series of neck contortions and a “rest” on our backs as my left leg twitched, I prepared for more flopping. But my left side obeyed. I could connect to the movement. Okay, I thought, I’ll use my imagination and pretend to do it on my right because that’s what the instructor had advised us. Everyone else was using their bodies and while we worked both legs, I flopped and seized and pretended like nobody’s business.

After surviving dance class — and mind you, I will insist it’s a dance class. The dancers all think it’s a rest for their bodies, although my daughter has attributed much of her healing to Feldenkrais and is close to achieving her goal of dancing ballet again. My goal is to survive class, pretend my way through it and get to a point where I don’t look like the dying trout on the floor.

After class, I remain shy and don’t speak up about my experience. But I tell my daughter. The instructor politely turns her head to hear and I realize she needs the feedback. So I explain how my leg muscles on one side refused to obey. The first day of physical therapy after a back surgery went wrong, I was dismayed to learn my muscles were not “firing.” They still were not firing seven years later.

However, I could feel it so strongly on my right side that I pretend I felt it on my left. I acknowledged that I didn’t look like I was doing it but in my mind, I was a dancer working her legs. I felt foolish. To my surprise, the instructor smiled and said, “You have good Feldenkrais instinct; that’s exactly what you are to do.” Feldenkrais uses the mind to heal the neuropathy in the body.

Walking up the hill to Milly’s to write while my daughter subs for a jazz class, I feel as if someone just told me I can ride a horse again.

Do nuns feel this way?

Maybe that’s an odd thought but I’ve had nuns on the mind since they came up with a story that Norah Colvin wrote for wet ink. She expressed a story familiar to those with a Catholic education during an era when even public schools used corporal punishment. Her story sparked a discussion about nuns, and I’ve had them on my mind ever since.

The first nun I can recall has no name. It was kindergarten and my mother dropped me off at a baby-sitter’s house before school. She had a town job off the family ranch. I walked five blocks to Sacred Heart Parish School. My family was Catholic; I was not. That’s what happens when teenagers procreate. To say I was an outsider despite my plaid skirt and red sweater was an understatement. Yet, I recall no cruelty from nuns; only family members.

My teacher was not the knuckle-wrapper my father told me he had in school. Instead, she was concerned. I think they were all concerned — unbaptized, rebellious and imaginative. My mind got me busted at age 5. The pet frog was the first to go. My grandfather took care of that one, sharing the imagined moment, asking to hold my frog which I gave him. He then threw it on the ground, squashed it with the heel of his cowboy boot and declared that pet gone.

I tried to explain that the girl I drew on the tree branch was not another imaginary friend, but it caused an emergency parent-teacher conference. I still recall the nun explaining the lesson to my parents — I was to circle the greater amount of birds either below or above the tree branch. Duh. I knew it was the flock of birds above. That’s why I drew the girl flying with them. She wasn’t imaginary. She was me. And I flew with the greater birds.

If my early experiences with nuns disappointed my imagination, my later experiences fed it. After a wonderful, restorative and mind-opening experience at a liberal arts Catholic college in Montana where I learned of the contributions of nuns and anchoresses throughout history (Hildegarde of Bingham, Heloise, Julian of Norwich) I met two former nuns in Minneapolis. That’s where I learned an intriguing concept — nuns who drive.

My friends openly spoke of their convent days and why they joined and why they left. One had been the only nun in her convent with the ability to drive. It was not often a skill a nun needed. She spoke philosophically about nuns who drive in that they are often the ones more apt to try new skills or ideas. They often led. And they often left. Nuns who drive drove away.

I’ve thought of this throughout my creative writing and even wrote a short story about a nun from the 1850s who knew how to drive a wagon. She flees a convent in Hawaii and becomes a mule-skinner in the California gold fields. Her imagined story intrigues me and maybe one day. I’ll rework it and dig deeper into that tale. I’m also inspired by this nun who drives:

After my walk up the snowy streets of Hancock, I wondered if nuns also lived on the Keweenaw. Turns out a parish only 17 miles away in Lake Linden had a large Canadian-French population, cutting timbers for the copper mines. Nuns from Quebec were dispatched to teach parish school in 1886 and continued until the school closed in 1971.

With the tunic-lifting winds and biting snow, I wondered what nuns wore beneath. According to anecdotes and an interesting book about what nuns wear, they would have worn pantaloons or even long-underwear. And thick socks.

I also questioned whether or not nuns would be an appropriate prompt.

My hesitation is that nuns are people, too. I know what it is to be pointed out as “other” and that’s not my intent. On the first day of Black History Month in the US, I think we all need to be mindful of how history has developed in this country. The blunt way to say it is that America was founded on the backs of slaves and indentured female servants, taking lands from indigenous tribes. It’s a history of dehumanization that will nip at our heels until we find a way to reconcile our shared humanity.

And a part of that harsh history is the religious persecution of “other” faiths. Catholics were often despised and persecuted in American history. My ancestors were Catholic Scots deposed from their homeland in the mid-1700s because of their faith. They relocated to the colonies, fought in the Revolutionary War, settled in Missouri and pushed a herd of cattle to California during the gold rush. They built the parish church where I was born and kept their faith throughout all those generations.

I have no nuns — that I know of — in my family, but I do have a priest for a great-great-grandfather. Nothing in life is simple, but our stories are rich, complex and varied. I’m going to expand the prompt to include anything that is black and white from a nun’s habit to a B-stripe juggling ball and chickadee to rigid black and white thinking. To get you creatively motivated, here’s a wonderful video from the KC Bonkers tribe in Hancock. And yes — for those of you with astute eyes who know about my wandering days, that’s my RV stored at the Bonkers family homestead.

I believe art (and the imagination to expres it) is similar to Feldenkrais. We might feel a bit like a flopping trout trying to create it, but if we keep pretending we will build a bridge from what we imagine to the page we write upon.

February 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white. It could be a nun in a zebra monster truck, a rigid way of thinking, a bird in a tuxedo — be imaginative and go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 6 , 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

New in Angels Camp by Charli Mills

Sister Maria D’Abreau soaked the hide, tamping it down with a wooden pole. Her black dress felt softer than her habit packed away.

Henry watched, leaning against the corral. “You got laundry skills, I’ll say that much.”

Maria kept silent. What Mother Superior failed to teach her, living rough in mining camps had. She wouldn’t provoke a prickly miner down on his gold dust.

She stopped to test the hide, smiling when the hair slicked beneath her fingers. It would make the chore easier.

Father Kincaid approached. “The lass knows rawhide as well as mules.”

Henry spat. “We’ll see.”

###