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Raw Literature: Writing with Mother

By Robbie Cheadle

About mid last year, my Mother and I decided we should write the story of her growing up during the Second World War in the small town of Bungay in East Anglia, Britain.

I had listened to my Mother’s childhood stories for my whole life. I thought her tales of chamber pots and an outhouse, food, coal and clothing rationing, icicles inside the scullery windows, washing using a copper tub and a mangle and children being sewn into their vests called stays, were very interesting. The additional overlay of war conditions only added to the excitement as she spoke of buzz bombs that suddenly dropped out of the sky, wreaking devastation on the area below, American soldiers billeted in canvas tents on the common, and the family hiding in bomb shelters during air raids.

I thought my Mother’s story was interesting enough to warrant writing down and I also thought it would be a good way of preserving some of the histories of life in a small English village during WWII and allowing people, especially children, to gain knowledge of the hardships experienced by people living through a war. My rather optimistic reasoning was that if children were made aware of the horrors and hardships of war, they would be more inclined to ensure such a state of affairs never occurs again.

Mother and I embarked on this interesting journey of writing down her history. Initially, I wrote a series of essays based on her different life experiences. These essays were not in any particular order but were written more as she remembered and thought about different events and happenings in her early life. My Mother was only one year old when the war broke out in 1939 and six and a half years old when the war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. The idea was that we would write the basic information and order and edit it afterward. This process of writing essays took from May until November 2017. Once the basic writing was done, I put the various pieces together and ordered them in a way I thought was appropriate.

We went on holiday for four days after Christmas and my Mother, and I spent a couple of hours a day editing the manuscript and adding pieces of information. It was quite amazing to me how my Mother kept remembering new things as we went through the draft book. The manuscript grew by approximately 3,000 words during those few days. Writing with my Mother was not all plain sailing. She had very exacting ideas about how the story had to be written, and she didn’t want anything that wasn’t “entirely” true included. In other words, it had to be written exactly as it happened and no minor poetic license was to be applied.

At that point, we had a fairly good draft, and I turned my attention to creating the illustrations out of fondant. We had discussed illustrations, and we both thought that keeping to my usual style of fondant figures for the new book was a good idea. We also agreed on the inclusion of a few of our family recipes that were appropriate for the time period and style of the book.

By March 2018 the new book was in a sufficiently good form for me to send it to a few proof-readers/editors. I received good feedback from all three, but Charli gave me two great pieces of advice.

The first was to include dialogue in the manuscript. Strangely, I had included very little dialogue. I am used to writing non-fiction publications on investment in Africa which don’t need to include any “warmer” tones. My Mother had said she thought I needed to make it “warmer” but she wasn’t able to explain what she thought I should do so when Charli mentioned including dialogue I understood what she meant immediately.

The other great idea Charli gave me was to include a timeline of the events of WWII as they pertained to Britain and to overlay my Mother’s childhood over this timeline. This was a stroke of genius as far as I was concerned. I created a detailed timeline, and this led to my including all sorts of additional titbits of historical information. As the advice came from an editor, my Mother was then willing to accept a bit of poetic license so long as I didn’t stray too far from the facts. An editor, of course, must know far more about book writing than me. Letting an older sibling do something which she had done when she was older but which fitted nicely in at a certain point in the story became acceptable.

We are now nearly at the end of the re-write and editing which has actually resulted in me revising most of the original ordering of the book, and I am very happy with it. We are hoping to finalize the manuscript for a final proofing by the end of May.

It has been a wonderful journey of discovery with my Mother, and I have enjoyed it so much we are talking about writing another two books to cover the next two phases of her life. The gradual changes that took place in England after the war and her decision to come out to South Africa.

***

Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old, and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl.”

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.

Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle, and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books. Robbie is also the author of the new Silly Willy series the first of which, Silly Willy goes to Cape Town, will be available in early July 2017.

<<♦>>

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

May 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s hard to take silent steps across broken glass. Shards ground into nuggets the size of small peas glitter green, brown, blue and diamond-clear litter the path. In the back of my mind, I acknowledge the oddity of walking on glass, but it’s some Wisconsin recycling measure to pave the trails with glass gravel. Right now. This moment. I’m on the hunt. Shhh…cranes.

Across time many have proposed theories to explain the brain — cranium size and shape, left brain, right brain, synapses firing. These attributes mean something and nothing. Perhaps the final frontier is not the vastness of space, but what is contained in the folds of the mind.

For me, I acknowledge pockets of focus. I put on my thinking cap, or I disappear into my head to read (or write) a good story. Some of my focus might actually be distractions, but I can’t wrap my mind around that quandary at the moment. I know I have Rock Brain and History Brain — oh, look, a squirrel! But most focused/distracting of all is Bird Brain.

I’m in stealth Bird Brain mode.

The gravel crunches beneath my sneakers, and I don’t think I’m sneaking up on any birds. Maybe that’s the actual point of the glass gravel. A sign explained it all, but when one has become a full-fledged member of the International Crane Institute of Baraboo, Wisconsin, one does not stop to read non-bird related signs. I’m hunting the elusive Whooping Crane.

Whoopers remain one of the rarest (and tallest) birds to grace the North American continent. They once nestled on the northern prairies from central Canada as far south as Iowa. In the winter they hung out in Texas and Louisianna. Then settlers, like Cobb McCanles and his family, moved west, and the whoopers disappeared.

By 1941, the Texas wintering flock huddled near extinction with only 15 birds remaining. In 1971, two Cornell University students dreamed of an organization that could protect the world’s 15 species of cranes, including the Whoopers. Serendipity is when you follow your passion, and you find an unexpected gift. It’s a happy chance.

Ornithology students, Ron Sauey and George Archibald, envisioned a place where they could combine research, captive breeding, and reintroduction of cranes to their depopulated habitats. They imagined a place where restoration and education would engage citizens to support a crane-focused organization. The first happy chance came from Wisconsin where a horse rancher offered land to the ornithology students.

The next bit of serendipity came when George accepted an invitation to go on the Johnny Carson Show, a well-viewed late-night program in the 1970s. Part of the appeal to a late-night American audience was the humorous story about how George wooed a Whooper named Tex. She was hatched in captivity and therefore imprinted to humans. To her Bird Brain, George was a potential mate.

Every morning, George walked with Tex, and they danced the crane dance until she readied herself for breeding. While George held her attention, two other biologists artificially inseminated the lovelorn crane. We can all chuckle, but the true heart of the story is that the match yielded a single Whooper from 54 eggs that didn’t make it.

Gee Whiz, George’s crane-son, went on to become the crane that built the Wisconsin flock which now has over 200 of the existing 700 Whooping Cranes today. In a sad twist, the night before George went on the Johnny Carson Show, a marauding raccoon invaded Tex’s pen and killed her.

Everyone laughed about the crane dance between ornithologist and bird, but they put their dollars where their hearts were and that single sad tale on a late-night tv show serendipitously funded the International Crane Foundation. Today, it lives up to its original vision to provide sanctuary for all 15 species of cranes.

I’m hunting the Whoopers in the back pasture by the small pond full of singing spring peepers. But my heart overrides my Bird Brain when a female Gray Crowned Crane begins flirting with my son and husband. With head feathers looking more like thoughts on fire than a crown, I loved the display she puts on like a comedic dancer in a burlesque show.

She shows me what George understood all along — the charisma of cranes.

Whoopers, Black Crowned, Back Necked, Blue, Brolga, Siberian, Wattled, Hooded, Red Crowned, Sarus, White Naped, Gray Crowned, Demoiselle, Eurasian, and Sandhill cranes ignite the imaginations of the world with their compelling attractiveness. We paint them, write poetry of them, and even craft origami after them. Peaceful, graceful, fierce — we fall in love with the charisma of cranes.

A note to the regular Ranch Hands — my trip to the cranes was part of a three-day tour to see our son and visit an orthopedic surgeon at Veteran Affairs to finally get the acknowledgment that the Hub’s knee is as empty as the prairies were of Whoopers in the 1940s. Nothing left to salvage, nothing left to cushion. As the orthopedic explained, “It’s like a bomb went off in your knee.” Finally, a gel shot, and hopefully a replacement.

My technology acted up on the road, and I couldn’t keep up with comments, but the Ranch collection bucket (the form) performed well, and I published the stories when I got back home. I promise to catch up on my comments because that’s an important commitment of mine to give each of you positive feedback on your contributions to the challenge. And I thank the community for commenting, too!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community made the local news. I was not prepared to be recorded and televised, but I was thrilled to share the power of what we do through literary art 99 words at a time. The next morning after our trip, I was invited to present what we do at Carrot Ranch to 1 Million Cups, a national organization with a local chapter in the Keweenaw. I read Pete Fanning’s flash from Vol. 1, “Normandy,” and I read my most recent #CarrotRanchRocks story, “The Girlie Rock.”

The Girlie Rock by Charli Mills

Rex teased Amy about the big pink rock she found on the beach. A gift from Lake Superior days before deployment. He loved her enough that he took that girlie rock with him to Iraq. He placed its cool flat surface against his chest during coughing fits. Smoldering chemical fires seared his lungs. He married Amy and returned her girlie rock. When they drove to the VA for treatment, she rubbed its pink smoothness like some magic genie would emerge and save his life. A pink rock on marble white – in the end, she left it on his grave.

CWW-07-17-24 (Pink feldspar and green epidote)

My head feels a bit like how the crown of a crane looks, all my synapses firing in a bazillion directions, but there is a vision to madness. I hope I can pull off the charisma of cranes and anchor Carrot Ranch and our literary art in the Keweenaw Community which has been so warm and welcoming (despite 304 inches of snow).

Lastly, I’m re-doing my 50th Birthday Party. No offense to the stunning state of New Mexico, but I felt robbed of my milestone birthday celebration stranded and homeless in the Land of Enchantment. You are all invited to Rock the 5.0 with me, snow or sun, at McLain State Park on May 20 with grilled brats, birthday cake, rock picking, WIP-reading, and a Copper Country sunset over Lake Superior. If you are unable to attend, you can send birthday cards to:

Carrot Ranch, PO Box 306, Hancock, MI 49930

Thank you all for your writing and reading patronage! Your individual stories matter, and yet you are also part of a greater, global, artistic calling. A calling to peace like a crane.

May 10, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story defining “the charisma of cranes.” For centuries, cranes have inspired art and philosophy. You can write a crane story or create something new out of the phrase. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 15, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

(I just noticed my bird-brained typo last week; you can still turn in May 3 stories if you thought you had until May 15, but use the May 3 Flash Fiction Challenge Form.)

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

 

The Charisma of Whooping Cranes in 1858 (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Slowly lifting on outstretched angel wings, hundreds of white cranes trumpeted and took flight. Nancy Jane dug her bare heels into the sides of her prairie pony, tail flying as she rode beneath the flock. Sarah clung to the pony’s sides with her legs, catching the rhythm of his galloping paces. Her arms wrapped around Nancy Jane’s waist to grasp handfuls of mane. The cranes landed across the Platte, gracefully perching on long legs. Sarah gawked, mesmerized. Nancy Jane slowed her steady mount, and both women whooped loud as the angels who came to charm them in Nebraska Territory.

May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Between ice and crocus, spring lunges across the Keweenaw Peninsula. No sooner did we hack down the snow bank did the warming sun reveal bursts of snowdrops, scilla, and grape hyacinth. Purples of all hues, creamy whites, and buttery yellows paint the greening grass as tree limbs stretch skyward with fat buds.

Never have I witnessed a spring so eager as not to wait for the passing of snow. I recall the slow gray days and brown transitions elsewhere. Here, I feel transported to a Thomas Kincade scene gone wild throughout my neighborhood.

To exemplify how close spring grazes winter, on Monday we drove the familiar path to Iron Mountain for a VA appointment. As we curved around the Keweenaw Bay in a ying-yang of ice and open water, I watched an ice fisherman walk out to his hole while another man prepared to launch a boat. No changing of the guard, just a strange co-existence as one season fades and the other blazes to life.

Tulip leaves with seductive curves reach out of the grass. How soon before they add to the canvas? I’ve never been as excited to spot flowers as I do birds, but it’s hard to resist the call of the colors. Somehow, it excites me more about the birds. In a mood to drive, to soak in the warmth of days, to spot flowers and winged fowl, the Hub and I meander home the long way from Iron Mountain and end up in the port city of Marquette.

We drive down to the pier where the iron ore dock stands like an abandoned skyscraper above a crackle of broken harbor ice. Lake Superior stretches out winter white and we drive by with windows rolled down. I feel like I’ve run down a rabbit hole where winter is warm, and spring bulbs dot the snow. We lose count of hawk sightings on the drive back to Hancock.

About ten miles from home, the Sturgeon River fills its banks with snowmelt. The week before we couldn’t access the marsh bird tower at this site because snow closed the road. This week, the road is clear, the river full, and the marsh is half ice, half winter grass. Eagerly, I take the wooden steps up to the three-story-tall observation deck of the Sturgeon River bird tower.

Between me and the far reaches of the Keweenaw Peninsula, I can see flat marsh, the river, the Portage Canal, and the ridge that hides Lake Superior. White seagulls circle over the canal when I scope the far horizon in my binoculars. A double-breasted cormorant flies low past the bird tower with slow flaps, dipping its head downward to scan the river.

Mallard drakes leap out of a patch of grass. Two veer left, and I keep binoculars on the one flying toward a frozen ditch in the shadow of a bank. It hovers over the bank, and beneath its webbed feet, I see something black begin to move. It glides out onto the ice, and I recognize the form of a river otter.

Slink, slink, glide…slink, slink, glide…

I squeal and watch Otter on Ice close-up in my binoculars. The Hub can see the movement and lets me look, knowing how excited I am. When the otter disappears into an open hole of water, I finally hand him the binoculars. A river otter sighting is like seeing Elvis at the mall. Everybody knows Elvis lives, but no one ever really sees him.

Later, when walking with Cranky (my neighbor who sells crank sewing machines), we talk about the otter and remark at all the crocuses and spring bulbs quilting the neighborhood. A robin twitters overhead as if to point out the buds. I say I want to be an otter — to glide on my belly across ice seems such a delight.

That’s when the bumblebee buzzes past, and we follow his trail to the cup of a purple crocus. Like a  dog rolling in the grass, the bee tumbles about the flower, and I decide I want to be a bee, too. I feel childlike with all senses open — the smells of the earth, the tweets of birds, the feel of the setting sun, the blaze of colors. I want to glide and roll in it all.

It reminds me of coloring and the reproof to color within the lines.

But what if the lines are a part of the coloring? Edges define one place to the next. I’m fascinated by edges and where we go past them. Lines separate and organize. Lines are to be crossed. All lined up feels formal and arranged. Perhaps winter and all its lines have me yearning for the scattering of color outside them. It’s not the end of the line. It’s only the beginning.

May 3, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the variation of the word meaning, or you can think of visual references. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 15, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

Lined Up to Go (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Wagons lined up to cross Rock Creek. Early season argonauts set land sails toward Colorado Territory – Pikes Peak or bust. Wagons hauling wares to mining-camps joined throngs of optimistic miners. Sarah counted several women, rare as mules among oxen. The trek suited the bull-headed. Seated next to Cobb on their Conestoga, they waited. He wanted to reckon crossings. The muddy slopes caused slippage and broken axels. Two wagons tipped, one man drowned, and two-hundred and fifty-four wagons crossed.

“That settles it,” Cobb said after Sarah lined up the numbers. “We’re buying Rock Creek Station and building a toll bridge.”

April 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

Nearly the end of April and at last the US Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay has plowed a path through the ice-locked Portage Canal that separates the Keweenaw Peninsula from the mainland of Upper Michigan. One of several Great Lakes ice-breakers, engineers, designed these ships to heave down upon the ice to crack open a path. Ice like panes of flat glass float, bob, and eventually melt, exposing the deep clear water below.

Seagulls claim floating ice slabs, and their raucous cries signal the return of water birds to a place dominated by Lake Superior, greatest of the Great Lakes. On black-tipped white wings, they wheel over my home, announcing spring ice-out in Hancock.

In appreciation of our Coast Guard who brought us spring, at last, take a moment to watch the Cutter Mackinaw plow the shipping channel on Lake Superior last month:

Already, the earliest of those who fish the Keweenaw has returned. I’m eager to discover who they are, having once lived on a bog pond beneath a bird migration super-highway. Will I see old favorites or meet new species? It’s like waiting for the circus to come to town — I know the show will thrill me, but how will it be different from shows I’ve seen before? Even in one place, spring migration plays out fresh and new.

Just as much as I love the migratory waterfowl, the Hub loves raptors. He began to hear and see kestrels during his quiet time on the back deck. He thought he saw a sharp-shinned hawk last week. The big excitement for him resides on the Houghton Bridge which crosses the Portage Canal and connects the mainland (Houghton side) to the Keweenaw Peninsula (Hancock side). The pair of peregrine falcons has returned to their nest box (you can watch a live camera of the nest box action).

After Feldenkrais class at Superior School of Dance, I walked up to Milly’s for a slice of Detroit-style pizza and a fresh mixed-greens salad. The Hub met up with me, and after dinner he suggested we go look for the Falcons on the bridge. The sun didn’t set until almost 9 pm tonight, so we headed across the bridge and parked along the canal.

And that’s when I saw them among the frolicking seagulls — mergansers!

While the Hub scoped the nest box, I scanned the newly opened waterway with it’s floating panes of ice for a close-up of what turned out to be common mergansers. With black heads, white bodies and orange bills, I could readily spot them. I saw one female, too with her auburn head. She had the pick of a gaggle of males. Mating season is soon, but still, the land is covered in banks of snow. For now, they fish.

When we head to the VA hospital in Iron Mountain, we pass through Keweenaw Bay where the snowshoe priest, Father Baraga, is honored in a sculpture depicting his reach to the region’s five tribes. The Ojibwa fish year-round from ice-huts and boats on the bay. When we return, we like to stop for dinner at Carla’s where she serves fresh fish.

Last fall, my daughter Radio Geek (though I now see her author bio has evolved to a “through and through” geek) worked on a scientific look at fishing in our region from the perspective of the Ojibwa community who asks, “When can we eat the fish?” Fishers — recreational, professional, and feathered — can be susceptible to unseen pollutants. Research at Michigan Tech reveals the complexities of answering such a question. You can read Radio Geek’s article from the 2018 Michigan Tech Research Magazine).

I was never one to take to fishing. In fact, I have horrible memories of watching gasping trout cling to life in a creel or on a line. Then I met the Hub. Reluctantly, I went fishing but warned him that I’d sit on a sunny rock and read a book. But he taught me a humane method — catch and release. Eventually, as a writing intern to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, I covered Becoming an Outdoor Woman and learned to fly-fish, which is a zen-like activity that involves not actually catching fish. Well, the way I do it.

If you read my article from the olden days of my writing career, you’ll learn my first name is not really Charli. But Charli is short for it, and the name I’ve had since I was a baby buckaroo.

And yes, we’ll be going fishing this week.

I want to remind you to use the form if you’d like to publish in our weekly collection. It helps me tremendously to have the stories in one bucket instead of having to hunt high and low for them! But also share in the comments to take part in the community interaction. A “byline” names the writer — use a pen name, full name, or blog if that’s your preference. Include a title with your 99-word story (the title is not counted). If no title is given, I’ll dub it, “Flash Fiction.”

Also, we have one more month to go before you can request Rancher Badges. These support you as a writer in any goals or achievements you want to track. #CarrotRanchRocks is now live and if you want to participate, ask me for a rock prompt — I’ll connect you with a rock (or more). It’s the literary version of art rocks and also seeks to educate those interested in Lake Superior rocks. Not everyone comes up here to fish!

April 26, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fish tale. It can be about fishing from any angle, about those who fish, or what might be caught. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 1, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

Fishing Opener by Charli Mills

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

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

###

April 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m riding high in the dentist’s chair. This is not where I expected to be after fighting a cold-turned-sinus-infection since January. Two weeks ago, facial nerve pain drove me to find something stronger than my arsenal of herbs. That’s how I met Dr. Bob, local dentist.

Now, I’m sucking down nitrous oxide, preparing for the crack and pull of a tooth the dentist can’t save. If the sequence of age for a woman is maiden, mother, crone, I must be working on my crone’s smile now. Yet, I don’t want to be thinking about what Dr. Bob is setting up to do. As beautiful as the falling snow can be, neither do I want to be thinking about what’s falling outside the office window.

Instead, I turn my thoughts to the characters of Rock Creek. I wonder which one of them I’m going to torture with a toothache. Cobb came to mind first, maybe because I wanted to sit in this chair with my toughest character. I imagine that his wife, Mary, would try folk remedies first to ease the agony of tooth pain. But once such remedies fail, people seek the torture of extraction in desperation.

George Washington felt such desperation. History records that he had one tooth a year pulled from the time he was 22 until he had none left to pull. As children in the US, we learn early on in school that our first president wore wooden teeth. And yet this is false. Washington wore dentures of human teeth. I suppose those who extracted teeth had a side gig for creating dental wear.

Cobb would likely liquor up before letting someone yank his troublesome tooth. I’m lucky to be sitting in a near trance, daydreaming about my characters as my own procedure progresses. I wonder how much corn whiskey it would take to equal novocaine shots and laughing gas. I’m not going to test any theories. I also wonder who would pull the tooth? Likely a blacksmith who had pliers.

My thoughts drift to gentler musings, and I realize how ready I am to return to my forest trail at McLain State Park. I’m not even craving the rock-hunting, just the healing vibes of the forest. I can picture the trail as it winds through the pine trees on a ridge overlooking Lake Superior. Its scent hangs sharply in the air I imagine as warmed by afternoon sun.

Arms outstretched, feet rooted above roots, ground solid, air clean and the roar of waves crash in the distance. Now, stepping forward not in a sprint but a relaxed walk. This is Shinrin Yoku — forest bathing. First developed in Japan during the 1980s, JulesPaige introduced it to Carrot Ranch in a flash fiction. It’s healing, restorative and rejuvenating. No wonder I recline and bathe in my imagined forest.

An interesting purpose of Shinrin Yoku is

“To transform our cultural relationship to forests through fostering deeper relationships and positive experiences with forested areas.”

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the push to create a wilderness area out of a mountain range in North Idaho. The idea is that we need wild spaces, even those that might be difficult to access. The leader of the project told me that it’s enough to know wild spaces still exist.

This also makes me think of Aldo Leopold, and his essay from A Sand County Almanac called, “Land Ethic.” He argues for humans to see the land as something more than a commodity; to see it as a community to which we all belong.  He sees that we are not separate from the environment. Along with the idea of transforming our relationships to forests, or preserving wild spaces, so they exist, he acknowledges that we won’t succeed. But it remains important that we try. Leopold writes:

“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

From this single dentist’s chair, I’m connected to the past and future, to the Lake Superior pines not yet free of snow, to the wilderness I’ve seen and not seen, to forests on distant shores. For a time of healing, I’m going to imagine forest bathing.

April 19, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing. You can use the Japanese term, Shinrin Yoku, or you can make up your own ideas about the phrase. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 24, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

***

Free Among the Trees by Charli Mills

Gabriella tapped the last spigot. She caught the trickle of clear sap in a wooden bucket. Daughter of a French trader and an Ottawan mother, she belonged to no one. She kept to the forests outside the ports and mining towns, trading maple syrup with the Black Robes at L’Anse. The forest kept her company, bathed her in its healing embrace. The Black Robes enticed she could become a neophyte, and claimed gospels in her native tongue. They didn’t know she could read her father’s books and already chose her classic path – she was happy as a forest nymph.

April 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

Sloppy snow pools like white slush and I realize this so-called return to winter barks but doesn’t bite. It can’t hide the push of life from the exposed patches of earth. In fact, the heavy moisture feeds the burgeoning life. Yellow-green shoots of new grass blades poke up like stubble from the grit the city snowplows left behind on curbside lawns. Most yards still house sagging snow drifts, pocked and dirty. At least the spring snow adds a dash of freshness.

This week, I have two new friends — one a neighbor and the other a long-lost cousin.

I’ll call my neighbor Cranky as long as you realize that’s not her disposition. Cranky is delightful. She’s an antique Singer Sewing Machine shop owner and seamstress who specializes in the same era for which I write historical fiction. How is that for neighborhood serendipity? We met right before winter when a stray cat turned up at her house. She stopped by to see if the cat belonged to us. Then, last week she stopped by to see if I’d go walking with her.

It’s thrilling to get asked to walk with a neighbor. Except for the walking part! Since winter closed off the rock beaches to me, I’ve not walked much or far. My glutes and calves are feeling the burn from the hilly roads we live on, but it feels good to get outside and observe spring. We spotted two red robins on our walk last night and located the neighborhood murder of crows. We even saw two nuthatches and heard a few unidentified birds.

Along one house where the southern exposure to sun melted the snow, we marveled over the spears of daffodils. We plan to walk three days a week and even talked about field trips. Cranky is a real birder, meaning she has expertise in identifying birds whereas I have lots of curiosity. As you can imagine, we have much to discuss about 1860 as we walk.

My second friend found me through Ancestry. We connected when he sent a message regarding errors in my tree. It’s a working tree, thus I appreciate any corrections from others. Then he asked about a lost cousin who had red hair and disappeared when she was seven. I realized he was asking about me. It’s stunning that we have found each other all these decades later. I feel more like I’ve found a long-lost brother. Already, he knows me too well which has made me laugh. He’s got a great sense of humor and a big heart. He’s creative and witty and I’m so pleased to get to know him again.

With ongoing VA appointments, I’m feeling batty this week. How we can be back to square one with the Hub’s knee is mind-boggling, but here we are asking for yet another orthopedic referral. His primary care doctor is lighting fires, but the system is practiced at snuffing them out. While we don’t have complete answers to the memory tests, we did conclude the Hub has an extraordinary memory. It’s his focus and attention that is suffering. With the onset, we are not ruling out traumatic brain injury. At least we have some validation that there is indeed something screwy with his brain.

Considering the ignorance of the military 30 years back, the way Rangers train is similar to American football players. Tough blows made the young man. We are learning more about TBI as these men age.  The Hub’s unit never had medical physicals after combat. Instead, they deployed to another hot spot. Today, or at least beginning with the Iraq War, soldiers are examined, and they deploy with psychiatric units. Let me tell you, that makes a difference. Hopefully, the Hub will get what he needs for a better quality of life.

With all these scattered thoughts beneath sloppy white stuff, I have one more to add — white-nose syndrome. This deadly disease impacts bats and often they become unseasonably active and die in winter instead of hibernating. In Iron Mountain, where we frequently travel to go to the VA hospital, scientists study the bats at Bat Mine, which is considered one of the most significant hibernating and breeding concentrations in the world. They begin to emerge in late April.

Last fall, 47 North Belly Dance Troupe, dedicated a dance to the bats. Before the dance began, they played this creative video as a public service announcement. It includes several of the dancers, and my SIL lends his voice to the narration. The second video shows part of the bat dance.

As we move through life, we become aware of those around us — neighbors, environment, family. Awareness opens us up to curiosity and possibility. The more we learn, the more we grow. We are all part of the web of life, a fitting idea as we connect through the playful activity of literary art in constrained form. Each week, I appreciate how diverse the individual stories are, and how they express a deeper meaning in a collection.

Yes, we are going to get batty this week.

April 12, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a bat. You can use an association to the winged, cave-dwelling critter, or you can explore the word for other meanings. Bonus points for including a bat cave. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 17, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

Lullaby of Bats (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Logs of cottonwood crackled and threw flames toward the night-sky. Most of the travelers had left the bonfire to bed down beneath their wagons. The baby Sarah heard crying earlier had stopped. Night insects chirped, and somewhere near the wagons a horse stomped. Night sounds of camp. Sarah relaxed on a log stool while Cobb played a slow fiddle tune. Back and forth he rubbed the bow. Bats darted in and out of the visible light, bobbing to the gentle lullaby with wings spread. Sarah sighed, looked toward the stars and watched the last of the evening’s dancers fly.

Sun Sillies

INTRO

Have you ever thought about how silly our planet is? When it’s spring in one hemisphere, it’s fall in another. And yet, we can share stories of sun sillies across the world. We all experience the elation of sunshine and how we can respond.

Some writers found serious topics, such as melanoma. Some simply discovered seriously silly stories or crafted sheer wordplay.

The following are based on the April 5, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a silly sun story.

PART I (5-minute read)

Sun of a Gun by Bill Engleson

“Sun.”

“Beach.”

“Blanket.”

“Bingo.”

“Smoke.”

“Cigarette.”

“Bogart.”

“Bacall.”

“Bogart.”

“NO.”

“OH! Robards.”

“Shakespeare.”

“Huh?”

“Bard?”

“Oh! Jason.”

“Friday.”

“Huh?”

“The Thirteenth.”

“Huh?”

“Voorhees. The Killer.”

“Spoiler Alert!”

“You’ve never seen it?”

“Saturday.”

“Sunday.”

“Monday.”

“Tuesday.”

“Grace.”

“Slick.”

“Oil.”

“Water.”

“Beach.”

“Ball.”

“Fornicate.”

“Sex.”

“Male.”

“Postal.”
“Duh! M.A.L.E.”

“Mail.”

“Postal.”

“Going.”

“Crazy.”

“Nuts.”

“Squirrels.”

“Stew.”

“Wart.”

“Frog.”

“Hollow.”

“Empty.”

“Pool.”

“Swimming.”

“Sharks.”

“Jaws.”

“Dentist.”

“Teeth.”

“Sharp.”

“Pencil.”

“Lead.”

“Follow.”

“Gimme a break. LED.”

“FOLLOW!”

“Fine. FOLLOW. Fanatic.”

“Believer.”

“True.”

“False.”

“Teeth.”

“Choppers.”

“Bikers.”

“Gangs.”

“Mafia.”

“Italian.”

“Pasta.”

“Fettucine.”

“Parmesan.”

“Cheese.”

“Whiz.”

“Urinate.”

“Water.”

“Thirsty.”

“Desert.”

“Sand.”

“Beach.”

“Sun.”

“Swim.”

“YES…”

🥕🥕🥕

Sponge Cake Petit Fours by Kerry E.B. Black

Cali hummed as she spread a thick layer of buttercream icing over the pink sponge, creating perfect petit fours. She dotted each with stripes of dark chocolate and the first initial of each of her four children’s names. Proud of the accomplishment, she set the completed deserts on a paper doily. She washed the bowl and spatula, put away scissors and discarded tell-tale plastic wrappers.

When each kid came home from school, starting with the eldest, they eagerly grabbed their treats. When they bit into them, though, the cake rejected their bites. “Hey, these aren’t sponge cake! They’re sponges!”

🥕🥕🥕

Family Portrait by Heather Gonzalez

The Parkers were already posed and ready to go. As the photographer was about to take the shot, the sun hid behind a cloud.The Parkers tried hard to hold their perfect smiles as they waited.

The longer they waited, the more their smiles faded. Little Bobby started poking Suzie. Grandpa began to yawn and scratch himself. Grandma even began to fall asleep. Mr. Parker kept his smile as if he noticed nothing. Mrs. Parker visibly showed her disappointment.

After seeing the photos, Mrs. Parker chose a photo of a dog in a Santa’s hat for their Christmas card.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing Winter by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Outside my window is a dour study in black and gray and soggy white. No wind, no blue sky, even the evergreens are evergray. Twenty degrees below what we’re supposed to have in April, looking at another tiresome visit from the Abominable Snowman next weekend. So many reasons to whinge.

Yet months ago…

Deep snow, lovingly scratching the long bellies of my skis.

Thighs burning from herring-bone stomps uphill.

Butt-ache from sitzmarks and sliding sideways.

Boots clomping down grocery aisles, grabbing salad and oranges,

Feeling strong as Skadi.

Driving with windows wide open.

Mouth howling wide, joyful Classic Rock.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunny Spring Weather? by Patrick M. O’Connor

Yay! It’s Spring!

I’ve been waiting for the trees to start budding, flowers to bloom, and all the sensory feelings of spring.

I wake up and get dressed. Shorts, Flip-Flops and a T-shirt. It’s going to be a great day.

Moving to the kitchen, I eat a hasty breakfast.

A game of soccer to kick off the day. Kick off the day. Ha! I crack myself up.

Grabbing the keys, I open the door. Brr! A frigid cold chills me right to the bone.

I check my phone. 30 degrees. Ugh!

So much for spring in Upstate New York.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Sillies by Deborah Lee

Torrey steps out the front door and into full spring. Azure sky tops the budding trees, home to birds gone mad with singing, still-ragged yard blooming. Happy to be out of bulky sweaters and boots, Torrey knows she is a vision in cream slacks and shell, draped cardigan in petal pink, neutral pumps, her favorite pink-and-gold-chain envelope bag barely still fashionable. Sunshine. Spring, finally!

Thirty minutes later she emerges from the parking garage on Pike Street into a downpour. Of course, she left her umbrella at home. Of course, she’s wearing cashmere and suede.

Spring? April Fool’s, silly girl.

🥕🥕🥕

Unconvinced by D. Avery

We don’t believe you, they cried. That is a preposterous story!

It’s true, you insist. It has an incredible mass, which keeps our spinning planet orbiting around it. As our planet rotates, you explain, it appears to ‘rise,’ bringing light and warmth- day.
Prove it, they demand.

Again you pull out the globe, the flashlight, begin to demonstrate. That’s not proof they groan, and disperse to the gym, the greenhouses, to the light therapy reading rooms.

You sigh. How silly, you muse, that there are still windows. Outside the gray is sprinkled with snow. You struggle to remember otherwise.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Silly Preschoolers! by Ritu Bhathal

Billy hung precariously from the climbing frame.

Jane was running round and round the playground like a crazed lunatic.

Another group was taking great pleasure in pulling the flowers off the line of shrubs in the planter.

And there was more…

Mrs Jackson sighed.

She’d heard of the full moon doing something to the children’s behavior in school. Not just heard, but experienced many times over the years.

But after a long winter and delayed spring, this was the first time she had seen the effect of the long awaited sun on her charges – truly sun silly, they were!

🥕🥕🥕

The Exam by Luccia Gray

“Come outside and watch our dance!” Beth called waving her arms in the air.

Sister Mary looked out of her open, classroom window, squinting at the blaring midday sun. “Play in the shade, the sun will make you frisky.”

“We’ve been rehearsing a dance!” They shouted in unison, twisting and turning rhythmically.

“You’d better study for this afternoon’s biology exam.”

“Please, sister, just five minutes!”

She sighed. “Very well, but then you’ll sit in the shade and revise.” They nodded.

As their teacher walked out, Susan crept inside, opened her drawer, snapped a photo of the exam and grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Running in the Sunshine, Dancing in Shadows y Norah Colvin

Dad was working and didn’t look up.

“Can we play outside?” the children asked.

“It’s very hot,” said Dad. “Wait until it cools down.”

“We’ll stay in the shade.”

“We’ve got sunscreen on.”

“I’ve got my hat.”

“And sunglasses.”

“There won’t be much shade,” said Dad.

“There is a little bit.”

“Can we?”

The deadline loomed.

“Well, stay in the shade,” he conceded.

When finished, Dad sought the children.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Dancing in each other’s shadows,” they laughed.

“But you’re in the sun.”

“We have to be. We don’t have shadows without the sun, silly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Overturning David Harum by Irene Waters

“Jazzy ain’t spring grand.” The dog scratched. “Yep. Blue sky, melted snow, blooming daffodils and tonight romance. Just fantastic. A glorious day my boy.”

If only you’d develop a different philosophy and treat the fleas, I’d be happy. Bugger the sky, the melting snow, and romance.

xxxxxxx

“A nightcap?” Winston invited the girl. “Come meet Jazzy.”

Jazzy scratched. “He’s got fleas.”

“David Harum says its essential for a dog to have fleas. Keeps ’em from brooding over the fact they’re a dog.”

“Treat that dog, or you’re getting no romance.” Winston produced a can of insecticide.

Thank you lust.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Silly by Frank Hubney

“Wake up, kid! It’s that time of year when spring fever makes them run. They’ll soon all be sun silly. We don’t want to miss it.”

“Why do they run, Pa? There must be some scientific explanation for it. Don’t they have brains in their heads?”

“I don’t know why they run. They run. They’re stupid.”

“Yeah, but if we knew why they ran maybe we could encourage them to run more often?”

“Why would we want to do that?”

“So we don’t have to get up so early? So we can harvest them more than once a year?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Hat by Sherri Matthews

Bob couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

‘Pick up the milk on your way home and don’t forget to put out the rubbish before you go,’ screeched Vera.

‘Yes, dear.’

At the allotment, Bob hoped the only screech might come from an owl in the woods.

Sunlight escaped through the grey clouds, despite the weather forecast predicting rain.

Darn, left my hat at home. Never mind.

Bob set out his tea flask and sandwiches for later and turned on his radio. He started digging as he whistled along…the sun has got his hat on…coming out to play…

🥕🥕🥕

The Silly Sun by Michael Grogan

It was such a silly event. We all laughed, oh how we laughed. Winter had arrived with its long dark days. But we awoke to a sunny morning, and it was simply ridiculous because we realised it was the sun playing its silly tricks once again.

Sure enough within a half hour of being fooled into thinking it was a sunny day it disappeared behind dark wet clouds, and the cold descended, as it is want to.

We giggled to one another as we packed away our shorts and t-shirts, thinking that silly old sun was giggling with us.

🥕🥕🥕

No Laughing in Church (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Reverend Smith’ voice rose to heaven and plunged to hell, persuading his brethren to choose the higher path. It was the first sermon before wagon trains broke winter camp.

Nancy Jane had promised to make “holy garbage” for supper. She and Sarah stood behind the crowd. The venison stew required horseradish and a priest’s blessing, but a circuit preacher would do. Sarah remained skeptical of both the sermon and her friend’s recipe. Breathing deep, she fought back the giggles.

When Sarah saw Cobb switch out Reverend’s water for what was probably moonshine, she succumbed to full out sun sillies.

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Sillies by Susan Sleggs

The new pastor was determined to bring some energy into the rural church. The week after Easter, with snow flurries still happening on a daily basis, he announced, “Next week, services will be in our barn at 3pm. I’ve heard a lot of you worked on parade floats there in years past so you know what a fine space it is. We’ll have a potluck after and music to do a little dancing like we have the sun sillies.”

The following week attendance doubled, everyone forgot their winter blues and baby goats antics were the hit of the event.

🥕🥕🥕

Man Down by Eric Pone

I was down wondering how the hell I got here. “Sorry LT you are going home.” I had prepared for Ranger qualifying school or Q School for months. I had sacrificed everything girlfriend, friends, my family thought I was at church camp. But here I was flushing my dream down the toilet.

As I laid on the cool Earth having collapsed on a company run, I looked up at the sky. The Sun — like a coy little bitch breathed above the tree line at me. “I guess it’s time for plan b,” I said to it, and everything went black.

🥕🥕🥕

The Awakening of the Fey by Colleen Chesebro

The hibernating Rusalki fey dangled from cocoons attached to the rafters. They stirred when the rays of father sun streamed in through the window. One by one, they hatched. The tiny creatures floated on newly formed wings.

Lada was not amused. “Not in my tea,” she sputtered placing her hand over her cup. “Sister Serafima, are they like this every year? How do you put up with it?”

A chuckle escaped Serafima’s lips. “They’ve hibernated with me for years. Do you know what this means, sisters?” Lada and Vasilisa shook their heads. “The silly sun of Ostara has arrived.

🥕🥕🥕

Call Me Madame by Juliet Nubel

She was out early in the long-awaited rays of sunshine. The others would arrive soon, but she longed to be the first to feel the gentle warmth waken the bright colours she wore.

She moved between the new blossom and the virgin daisies, drinking in their springtime scents.

The sun made her feel silly and daring, so she tried an aerial cartwheel then backward flip, landing effortlessly on the wooden garden table where a man sat watching her in admiration.

“The first Red Admiral of the season. He’s a beauty!”

He? Could he not see? She was Madame Butterfly.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ringmaster by Robbie Cheadle

The sun is the ringmaster. He introduces the clandestine night circus with a great show of fiery splendor and then disappears. The stars sparkle and shine in their flashy tutus as they dance and twirl, walking the tightrope and riding bareback across the night sky is all part of their show. The pale moon enchants the crowd with her fantastic control of the oceans. The tides rise and fall at her beckoning. An array of thrilling creatures and heroes make guest appearances before the ringmaster reappears and closes the show with a splash of yellow, pink and orange light.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (5-minute read)

Boys of Summer by Christina Coster

We were heading down the Pacific Coast Highway cruising with the top down; hair dancing in the breeze. Tank top and shades on; Mr. Sunshine had his hat on and was out to play. Not a cloud in the sky.

We didn’t have a care in the world on those blissful summer afternoons. Just me and my four girls: young, beautiful, free. The radio blared the tunes of the day. We laughed turning it up as the voice of Don Henley came through the speaker. We sang until our voices were hoarse, ‘after the boys of summer have gone’…

🥕🥕🥕

Sun Citation by Molly Stevens

“I can explain, officer,” said Myra.

“I doubt that,” he said.

“I’ve endured harsh Maine winters my whole life. For decades I’ve seen this atrocity dangling in the sun on the first warm spring day. It traumatizes me more than finding a spider hulking in the bathroom sink.”

“I’m listening.”

“Every fifty-degree day this disgusting visual stains the beauty of budding trees and melting snow.

“Get to the point.”

“I knew mine was more splendid, more befitting the season.”

“So you’re saying I should give you a pass because your bosom is better looking than your neighbor, Chester’s?

“Exactly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Blame the Sun by Miriam Hurdle

“It’s the sun’s fault when people get melanoma, the visible kind, Erica.”
“Why do people choose to sunbathe long hours just to get tan? Don’t they know that they ask for cancer?”
“Are you saying people don’t get skin cancer if the sun hides behind the clouds?”
“I didn’t say that, Joyce. The ray is powerful that it penetrates through thick clouds.”
“I get it. You’re saying the sun is at fault to impose cancer on people even when the clouds try to protect them, right?”
Hey, look, don’t blame me, just wear suntan lotion wherever you are, okay!

🥕🥕🥕

Seasoned by FloridaBorne

This is Florida,” The ancient man with a white beard and grimy baseball cap chuckled. “We have three seasons.”

“Three?” The Midwestern tourist asked.

The way she said her “a” sounded like fingernails down a chalkboard to him. His southern drawl made her skin crawl.

Idiot, he thought; while she was thinking, moron.

“Wanna know what they are?” He asked.

“Sure,” she sighed.

“Pollen season, flea season, and tourist season,” He grinned.

“That is ridiculous!”

“Y’all have two. Silly season and winter.”

“We also have a lovely fall,” She said, with umbrage.

“So that’s what y’all call ski season?”

🥕🥕🥕

A Straw Cap for Spring? by JulesPaige

Winds whipping the lake waters at twenty one miles an hour
made them look like ocean waves. And I was fool enough
to try and walk into town. Only because the sun still shone.
I’ll not attempt a nature walk on Lake William’s trail this day –
with a high of twenty seven Fahrenheit even without wind.
Since snow is supposed to fall mixing with freezing rain.

(Alice was fooled by a bump on her head. I wonder if I’m in
a snow globe …that the March Hare is shaking.)

New England in spring
as unpredictable as
Wonderlands Heart Queen

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Fever by Chelsea Owens

Nature whispers warming tones

“No,” the pessimistic minds reply.

Determined of a White Witch winter, they grumble in groundhog shadows.

Meanwhile –

Shaking snowflake buds unfurl

To chirping, flitting birdsong

Pushing, pulsing, happy faces open;

Drinking deeply from dew-warmed sundrops

Sparkling

Stretching

– Springing –

“Six more weeks,” the cynics warn,

Waking in the pre-dawn cold;

Shivering over cold, black cups of darkness.

Nature laughs and paints the sky

In God’s finest pastel shades:

Pink, yellow, grey, but

blue Blue BLUE

Blossoms turn to watch;

Dancing

And we, caught in Springtime’s lively song,

Can’t help but laugh,

Smile heavenward

And sing along

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The sun was on the backswing when Lia led me to the parquet dance floor. The bridesmaids oohed and awed as she set her arms around my neck.

I stumbled along, breathing in the sweet smell of flowers, a hint of sweat. My best friend had lived in a cocoon of long sleeves and coats, but now, in a haze of pollen…poof!

“Hey,” she said. A tiny speck of icing on her lips. I swallowed, trying to figure out where in the heck to put my hands. Lia rolled her eyes, giggled, and moved them to her waist. “There.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Laughing Matter by Anne Goodwin

“The sun’s out,” says Flora. “Let’s away!”

A threadbare shawl cloaks my shoulders. I’d been saving my coin for a new one, but this will suffice until November’s snow.

The queue snakes around the close, jigging and joshing as if at the Highland Games. Sobering as our turn approaches, as if for Kirk.

Mr Hill seats each individual, helps us adopt the most appealing pose. On checking the light, Mr Adamson dips beneath the camera hood. “Hold!”

I avert my gaze from Flora’s gurning. But when the calotype is printed, you can see the laughter leaching from my eyes.

🥕🥕🥕

Shorty’s Sun Sized Heart by D. Avery

“Pal, what ever happened ta Shorty’s big heart?”

“Still big, near as I know, Kid.”

“No, I mean a certain someone was offrin’ prizes fer similes in the March 15th roundup.”

“Oh. Yeah, the undisclosed amount fer that one was a picture book fer Shorty, on behalf of Aussie, Jules, Still Waters, Susan an’ Liz.”

“Ya jist disclosed it.”

“Oh well. Don’tcha agree a book amounts ta more’n money? Money cain’t bring happiness, books do.”

“Some do fer sure. Like the Anthology.”

“Yep, that book rocks. But this ‘uns about rocks.”

“Perfect. Ever’body needs a rock book.”

“Even Shorty.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 5: Flash Fiction

Spring in the Keweenaw, I’m discovering, is like having a mood disorder. Blizzards, squalls, and gray skies make me feel lethargic. My fingers plod to tap keys. My shoulders hunker, and my eyelids droop. I realize it’s not me; it’s the cloud cover.

By afternoon, Lady Lake parts the snow clouds like she’s our local Moses, and I can see blue so deep it must be heaven’s direct gaze. A choir of angels hums in my ears. My shoulders straighten. My fingers quicken their pace, and I feel wide awake. I take another swig of water and feel energized enough to think of rocks on the beach. So close!

We’re headed to the VA hospital in Iron Mountain, a five-hour roundtrip in good weather. It’s the first no-snow day since spring equinox. On Easter Sunday I sat clustered with families in a small dark chapel on the tip of the Keweenaw while a full-blown blizzard raged outside the windows. The Son may have risen, but the sun did not. Today, the cerulean sky over white snow stirs spring in my blood.

We turn a corner following the curves of the Portage Canal to Keweenaw Bay and instead of an expanse of white sea ice through the stands of naked white birch, azure beams back at us. Open water! Back in Hancock, the canal remains froze over, but local gossips spread rumors of the Coast Guard ice-breakers opening the shipping channels. Nothing says spring in a northern climate more than blue.

Blue beckons robins and hastens snowmelt. Open water calls to migrators braving a journey north to mate and nest. Just around another corner, a mass of iridescent green heads catches sunlight where mallard males sleep on a snow bank above another opening in the bay. The white surrounds the blue like crown jewels of diamonds and sapphires. The duck heads glimmer like little emeralds.

VA visits increase, yet they all hedge around what to do with the knee. At the hospital, the Hub hustles down a corridor outpacing me as if we’re on a road march. His gait rolls and dips like a pirate with a peg-leg. The last orthopedic we saw two weeks ago claimed the Hub had no limp after asking him to take three steps around the tiny examination room. I’ve followed this limping gait for years and know the effort it takes to muster through it.

Limp or no limp, the last ortho didn’t even have the MRI that took us three years to get. They sent the left knee image instead. The last ortho before last saw it and said it was pointless to view because the Hub has no meniscus left to examine and she said she’ll monitor the degradation of the knee as bone wears down bone.

Other appointments don’t require my advocacy because they are the actual care the Hub needs. After years of asking, doctors referring, Iron Mountain has approved much — acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Next up, the Hub has several medical tests and memory tests to get a better idea of what is happening above the orthopedic system within the matter between the ears. Whatever the results, we will make a plan, continue to push for a knee replacement 30 years overdue, and take moments to appreciate the blue.

It’s now evening, and the sun still sits above the wooded hills of Hancock. As the solar orb sinks toward the western horizon, the abandoned Quincy Mine reflects a copper light as if to say, “Here they dug copper.” Sky ablaze, I walk into the local co-op to grab pecans and dried cranberries for my morning cottage cheese, feeling energized by a full day of sunlight. It’s nearly 8 p.m. and still light.

The cashier laughs with me as we joke and dream about it nearly being grilling season. She then tells me, “You have the sun sillies!”

Turns out, sun sillies is what she calls the energetic high people up north experience after the return of light following a long dark winter. I laugh. I do feel silly and full of spring fever. I feel hopeful. I feel like I’m on extended holiday full of Nowruz, Easter and Solstice celebrations. Is it no wonder we play April Fool’s jokes on April 1? We’re full of sun sillies!

Speaking of April Fool’s Day, my favorite toilet paper company, Who Gives a Crap, pulled a fast one and I fell for it. They sent me an email announcing the release of Crappy Coffee. I thought it brilliant. I wanted eco-friendly, small-batch roasted Crappy Coffee, so I signed up to receive it. Instead, they emailed me, “Aprils Fools!”

Time to get silly.

April 5, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a silly sun story. Up north, “sun silly” is the energetic and playful response to returning sunlight. It could also be an April Fool’s jest, a silly story, or a reaction to spring fever. Be silly and write playfully! Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 10, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

***

No Laughing in Church (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Reverend Smith’ voice rose to heaven and plunged to hell, persuading his brethren to choose the higher path. It was the first sermon before wagon trains broke winter camp.

Nancy Jane had promised to make “holy garbage” for supper. She and Sarah stood behind the crowd. The venison stew required horseradish and a priest’s blessing, but a circuit preacher would do. Sarah remained skeptical of both the sermon and her friend’s recipe. Breathing deep, she fought back the giggles.

When Sarah saw Cobb switch out Reverend’s water for what was probably moonshine, she succumbed to full out sun sillies.

###

Flying Fingers

INTRO

Fingers fly fast in activity. Speed hints of passion and ability. Pianists trip fingers over keys, authors type to the speed of imagination, and tricksters ply nimble fingers.

Writers followed the lead of fast fingers and contemplated the characters attached to such digits. Each story flies with creativity.

The following are based on the March 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly.

PART I (10-minute read)

Lifetime Savings by Ritu Bhathal

Nervously, Frank handed the package over to the girl.

“Now, be careful with that—” He paused to look at her name tag “—Jennifer. I worked hard for those dollars. Now they tell me I gotta keep it in a bank, and not under my mattress. Safety, they say. It was plenty safe with me – until they got that new cleaner in. I don’t like her. Always tidying. I know she knows where I keep my money…”

Frank watched as Jennifer’s fingers flew, deftly lifting and counting the bills, like a seasoned pro.

“You will keep it safe, won’t you?”

🥕🥕🥕

Showdown: Nickel Man vs. the Ballerina by njoyslife

It wasn’t a fair fight, that Halloween night. He was a towering fifty-something; she was five, standing below him in her tutu. He offered nickels, not candy, for correct answers to three questions:
“Who was the first president?”

“George Washington.”

She took her nickel.

“Who’s president now?”

“Bill Clinton.”

She took another.

“Who discovered America?”

“Native Americans.”

“Wrong!”

“No!” She stomped her foot.

“Christopher Columbus!” he said, withholding her reward.

“He was a murderer and a thief!” Her tiny fingers flew between them as punctuation, “they were already here!”

She left him red-faced, three nickels clutched in her fist.

🥕🥕🥕

I Love Garlic by Anony Mole

“Drop your spoon!”

My grandma’s favorite spoon clacked to the floor, batter spraying her shoes.”

“What in God’s name are you making?”

I popped the tupperware lid and showed her.

“And what are you going to do with those?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Well, I expect the best.”

Arrayed like a fan I delivered them to the table.

Grandma took one bite and spit it out. “These are awful.” Picking up a handful she threw them toward my face.

I ducked and grinned mischievously as the squadron of Lady Fingers flew across the room and exploded against the wall.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Irene Waters

The girl giggled. The babysitter’s fingers acted the songs he sang, flying before landing suddenly on the bed beside the child. They tweaked her nose before flying upwards. Rosalind laughed, clapping her hands. Down came the fingers landing on the rabbit adorning her nightdress. They lingered, tracing the bunny’s outline on Rosalind’s chest before flying into the air to dance. Down they came touching her arms lightly before flying up to the sky again. Rosalind shrieked gleefully. Quickly the fingers pounced, on her tummy, walking lower and lower.

“John. We’re home.”

“Next time sweetie.” John promised Rosalind before leaving.

🥕🥕🥕

Innocence of a Child by Heather Gonzalez

“Am I a princess, mommy?” Emma looked up at her mother with big innocent eyes.

“Of course you are.”

Emma twirled with glee in her new glittery dress. Her hands soared through the air as if she could fly away. She imagined she was a magical princess who could fly.

As she felt the air move through her fingers, her father entered the room. Emma was so excited that she didn’t notice the smell on daddy’s breathe or the scary look in his eyes. She never noticed the way he touched mommy. Instead, she was a princess flying away.

🥕🥕🥕

A Memory Truer Than Not by Bill Engleson

I don’t think I really noticed my father’s hands until I was eight or nine.

They were always big.

I knew that for sure.

When he wielded the straps, one rubber, one canvas, his nose would flare, motley red, drizzling sweat.

Strapping was a rare occurrence.

But always a possibility.

At some point, I saw the space where he should have had a whole finger.

One day I worked up the gumption to ask.

“Haying,” he said. “Stupid.”

I wanted to ask if it had hurt.

I wanted it to have hurt.

Sometimes, I was a selfish angry kid.

🥕🥕🥕

pound the pavement (haibun with renga series) by JulesPaige

At the end of my hands my fingers are flying. I get…
my holiday meal started, belonging to an interfaith
family presents its challenges. We will prevail!

morning – time to pound
the pavement; work before play –
before all arrive

prep work done to ease days’ load;
always last minute details

dueling crock pots up,
eggs to boil, soup to brew,
table welcomes you…

smaller compliment around
town as holidays collide

the present hearts will
expand to fill the places
keeping traditions

may each day bring abundant
joy-filled memories to share

let differences
be set aside, so we can
accommodate – love

🥕🥕🥕

Just Close Your Eyes by floatinggold

A woman with long, gold hair, wearing a white, floor-length dress enters the stage and sits by the majestic, wooden harp. She starts pulling on the strings, and the room goes quiet. Everyone is enchanted by the sound that is now surrounding us.

I close my eyes, and I turn into a cloud, carelessly floating in the sky. Light and free.
Peace and serenity all around.

***

My Mom always wanted to play the harp. I am sure that now she sits in Heaven, overlooking my apartment, and letting her fingers gently fly over the strings, humming a lullaby.

🥕🥕🥕

Detached by papershots

Key turns into keyhole, door opens, door closes, keys end up in a bowl on the sill on top of the radiator. The heat goes on. The light goes on. Laces untied, shoes in their compartment. Slippers are found, put on, as well as music, wine poured, glass taken, on a tray beside the couch. “Sorry about…” Like, like, ha ha, like, sad, sad, ha ha, wow. Hold on, interesting, go back up a bit. “… the loss of…” Freezer, bag, content, pan, oven, program 3. “… your friend.” Ha ha, wow. “Can’t make it tonight.” “Congrats on your new job.”

🥕🥕🥕

Reluctant Reader? by Anne Goodwin

Ma made me read ten pages. Every. Single. Night. At first I tried. Really. But with shape shifting letters, disappearing words and baffling sentences, I preferred to watch cartoons. Still, she made me. I learnt to screen a soccer game in my head while staring at the text until it blurred. Flying fingers flicked through pages one to ten. Done!

Books, magazines, how I hated them. Until Miss asked me to show her a football programme. Explain how my team won the match. Print still jumped about and disguised itself. But now I want to discover what it says.

🥕🥕🥕

Cart Before the Horse by Reena Saxena

“I need to enroll for that class. Finger speed matters in whatever we do.” My son was taken in the by the fancy ad placed on the front page of newspapers.

“Sure, you must join. I just want you to develop other faculties alongside.”

“And which ones are those?”

“Feet fly either to achieve something, or in response to danger. The first is planned, while the other is a reflex. Fingers will fly to write, type, dance or paint but what needs to fly first is the mind.”

“Hmmm…. I guess I was putting the cart before the horse.”

🥕🥕🥕

Piano by Sarah Whiley

I lifted the lid of the piano, running my fingers over the keys, tinkling a jumble of notes.

It had been ages since I’d practiced and I was filled with trepidation as I sat down to play.
 I leafed through sheet music, and found Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’.

Resting my gaze upon the familiar notes, I poised my hands and began, cringing as I stumbled over the notes. My fingers clumsy; getting it all wrong.

I stopped, took a deep breath and tried again.
 Giving over to muscle memory, I smiled as my fingers started to fly over the keys.

🥕🥕🥕

Lady Luck by Matt Copping

“Action is to you.”

The words cut through the constant slosh-slosh of the paddle wheels and several sets of eyes turn to you. A waft of smoke burns your lungs as the wind shifts across the open-aired deck of the S.S Katrina.

You turn your head, burying a fit of coughs into your fist; wiping the spittle from your palm against your chest when the fire subsides. You suppress a smirk as good fortune finds your hand dramatically improved.

A click by your ear precedes the metallic pressure against skull.

“Those fingers really do fly, don’t they?”

🥕🥕🥕

Twenty-one by Christina Coster

I watched the croupier manipulate the deck; the overhand, hindu and riffle shuffle demonstrated with ease as her fingers flew.

I heard Twenty-one was a game of probability. The way she mixed them cards had me unconvinced. All players were transfixed.

Hand dealt: Four of Clubs, Nine of Diamonds. House: Queen of Hearts on display.

“Player has thirteen, your move?” she encouraged.

“Hit me.”

“Six of Hearts. Player has nineteen.”

“Hold.”

Confidently she turned over the Hole Card: Ace of Spades.

“Blackjack.”

Should have listened to Papa, “ain’t no way of winning Snapper, House always comes out on top.”

🥕🥕🥕

Perched by D. Avery

Plumes of paper rooster-tailed from the adding machine, the cocky accountant’s fingers like frenzied birds swooping and diving at the keys.

She held her pencil thoughtfully, carefully examining the numbers, pecked and scratched at the paper. She didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, but something didn’t add up. Her fingers tapped out a message on her computer keyboard.

The investigation had barely begun when he flew the coop, though he was unable to line his nest as planned.

She got a feather in her cap. The promotion would help her grow her nest egg, which she tended prudently.

🥕🥕🥕

The People You Meet by FloridaBorne

I noticed the “look” first, pity followed by disgust, and chuckled at a T-shirt that said, “Hillary won.”

“Do you need medication?” She asked, with feigned concern.

“I have Tourette’s,” I replied. “My fingers fly across a piano, and my intelligence is above average. Unfortunately, intolerant people don’t understand when my arm flies outward. I grimace and I sniff, too.”

“That must be embarrassing.”

Just what I needed, fake tolerance. “My husband doesn’t mind.”

“You’re married?”

I sighed. “Did you know that Mozart, Samuel Johnson, and Howard Hughes had Tourette’s?”

“Who?” She asked.

“That explains a lot,” I snickered.

🥕🥕🥕

 

Blink And You’ll Miss It by Geoff Le Pard

‘Blimey Logan, where’d you learn to type so fast?’

‘Self-taught, Morgan. Back in the day.’

‘That’s a stupid expression.’

‘Like your fingers.’

‘Fingers aren’t stupid.’

‘Yours are slow and clumsy. Isn’t that the definition of stupid?’

‘But you really mean me. You can’t anthropomorphise fingers.’

‘So learn how to speed up your fingers.’

‘Why? They do what I need, when I need them. I don’t see the point of speed for speed’s sake.’

‘Get with the programme.’

‘That’s stupid too. And my digits are quick enough.’

‘Really.’

‘Yeah. There.’

‘Ouch! That was my bloody eye.’

‘Blink faster then.’

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Jan Malique

The dancer’s hands unfurled like the wings of a bird, speaking in a tongue so easily understood by the true sight of the heart.

The music beat out a rhythm that enveloped the onlookers like a lover’s embrace, full of gentleness and grace.

They gazed entranced at the dancer’s figure, watched her hands weave a hypnotic spell, watched them perform a feat of extraordinary flight.

They spoke so eloquently, more than the voice could ever, ever express.

Her body overflowed with passion sublime, crowned by the delicacy of her hands, reminiscent of the dance of the Bird of Paradise.

🥕🥕🥕

Her Fingers Flew by sarahsouthwest

Nobody was coming.

Her fingers flew over the keyboard. She’d accepted that there was no escape, but she wanted to tell their story, so that if anyone came here, they would know not to go into the lava tunnels, not to disturb what was down there.

She wondered if there was anyone else left, now. There had been screams from the infirmary, but they had quietened now. She might be the only person alive on this world.

Not for long, though. The creatures would find her eventually, might be outside the door even now. She typed on, frantically.

🥕🥕🥕

Scarlet Strings by Juliet Nubel

She wondered if anyone ever noticed the scarlet drops running down the strings onto her long black skirt.

Perhaps if she wore the white of angels they would see the abstract red splashes of blood and scream at her to stop.

And if she wiped off her painted smile they may see the pain beneath.

But every night she forced her lips wide as she hugged her harp, fingers flying deftly over the nylon, plucking sweet notes from its lengths and scattering them over the hushed auditorium.

They would applaud loudly when the lights dimmed.

She would cry silently.

🥕🥕🥕

 

PART II (10-minute read)

All Fingers by Lady Lee Manilla

Him Indoors plays the piano well
Be it a Chopin or a Beethoven
Like he’s always serenading me
He also has a green finger
He plants seeds, mostly chilli and impatiens
Our garden full of dahlias, lavender, sweet peas
He doesn’t mind getting his fingers muddy

As for me, I like typing my blog
I may not use all my fingers, just the two
But I can type fast and hope the words come
That all’s well that ends well
I hold my mother’s hands
old and wrinkled, years of experience
they used to caress me when I’m upset

🥕🥕🥕

Hands of Age by Ann Edall-Robson

Hands resting gently against the frail body. Every so often fingers come to life. Flitting in the air mimicking thoughts of birds, butterflies and making a point. Settling once more in the aged lap until the story needs their tiny bit of exuberance. No more are they raw and ripped from the daily chores of scrubbing floors, wringing out the laundry and pulling weeds. These hands of time have experienced many lives and now they spend their days reminiscing and playing out the memories. They have become props for the mind of one who remembers but does not see.

🥕🥕🥕

Watch Your Words by D. Avery

It was hard for him to catch everything she said, she talked so fast. When angry she talked even faster, emphatically, replete with innovative swear words. Just now she was on a creative streak. She was swearing mad. At him.

“Slow down”, he pleaded. “I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

That got him an eye roll. He didn’t need to catch every word. He knew what he had said was wrong and was hurtful. They’d been talking about having a baby. He had signed that he hoped their baby wouldn’t be born deaf.

That’s when her fingers flew.

🥕🥕🥕

Contention by Deb Whittam

The exchange was growing heated, tempers growing frayed, the point in contention – whose duty it was to organize the vehicles to transport the bride to the chapel. She assured him that he had insisted on completing the task for he could get the best deal, he argued that it was outside his jurisdiction – he was the best man, she was the matron of honor. In silence the bride watched on, frowning as she watched the fingers fly before turning perplexed to her deaf brother seeking enlightenment. The insincere smile pinned to his lips did little to inspire confidence.

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Bride by Kerry E.B. Black

Opal frowned. “Do I dress first, or you do my hair and makeup before I dress?”

Her granddaughter Heather took the simple ivory wedding gown from its hanger and helped Opal into it. “I’ll drape a towel over it while I fix your hair and makeup. Sound good?”

Opal patted Heather’s hand. “You’re a dear girl.”

Heather kissed her Grandmother. “I love you! Now let’s get you ready.” Her fingers felt like a massage as they twisted Opal’s pearly hair into an elegant up-do.

Opal took Heather’s elbow. Harps announced her march as joined her husband at the altar.

🥕🥕🥕

Fading Squares by Allison Maruska

When I was a little girl, I watched Grandma crochet. The hook and yarn moved through her flying fingers with such ease she could hold a conversation as she worked. She connected the squares into blankets or placemats, or single ones became coasters. As I grew up and she grew older, her squares took more effort, until one day, they weren’t squares at all. Her mind wouldn’t let her fingers fly any longer. So I sit with her now, her hook and yarn in my hands, creating the squares she once made. Her smile tells me I’m doing well.

🥕🥕🥕

Floaters Not Sinkers by Susan Sleggs

As the only non-Jew in the house, I cringed when my new husband’s father demanded to know at the dinner table, “Who made these matzoh balls? They aren’t round.”

A female cousin said, “I tried to show her, but she said I was taking all the air out of them by rolling them in my palms. She barely touched them with her fast fingers and dropped them into the boiling pot of broth. They floated.”

“Well that’s it then. When it comes to matzoh balls, floaters are much better than sinkers. She is to make them from now on.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Praise of Flighty Logic by Molly Stevens

The server waited with pen poised to take the order. “I want turkey hands pwease,” Kyle said.

“He means chicken fingers,” his weary mother explained while swabbing the baby’s drool.

“What a remarkable mind he has!” said his grandmother.

“Is a chicken a birdie?” he asked.

“Yes,” grandma said, “it is a birdie.”

When the food arrived, Kyle grabbed a strip of chicken, hurled it high into the air, and watched it plop into grandma’s water glass.

“Kyle, why did you do that?” Asked his mother, exasperated.

“I wanted to see if chicken fingers could fwy.”

“Brilliant!” said grandma.

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Seeker by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Where is it?” she lifted her face, seeking a clue in the morning breeze. So many possibilities; the winter had been too long. She clawed at the ground furiously, dirt embedding itself under her nails.

A dog barked in the near distance. Annoyed, she abandoned her spot for another nearer the oak. Sun ribboned through naked branches, leaving the false light of morning frost in shadow.

Again she plunged her paws into the earth, seeking treasure.

Her pups stirred in her belly as she scampered and scrabbled. Finally, fluffy gray tail flagged in victory, she withdrew a shiny acorn.

🥕🥕🥕

Swings in Spring by Chelsea Owens

Bright, springtime rays smiled upon the two children as they ran down the Tonaquint Park path. Nature wrapped them in a warm blanket, exulting in her final release from winter’s grip.

“Can’t catch me!” Jack teased. He giggled -downright, giddy giggling– as his sister tore after him through the desert foliage.

She was laughing as well; couldn’t help laughing, beneath a cobalt sky and chirping birds.

They discovered the just-emptied swings. Jack scooted right on and Jill followed suit. Their toes found sendoff grips, their legs pumped them heavenward, and their outstretched fingers flew aerodynamic arcs through blue.

🥕🥕🥕

Fingering Automacity by Miriam Hurdle

“Shirley, why didn’t you take the exam for Piano Performance Certificate from Royal School of Music?”

“I’m not good enough.”

“You’re perfect.”

“Thanks, Sara. My friend started piano lessons before 5. See, the brain neurons connected to finger movements must be tapped on before 5 years old. With learning, practice, and repetition, the fingering becomes automaticity.”

“When did you start?”

“I started piano lesson from my mom at 8 years old. I had other piano teachers when my skills were advanced.”

“You’re my best accompanist.”

“Thanks. I’m happy to teach piano and accompany singers like you and my husband.”

🥕🥕🥕

Once He Moved the World with Flying Fingers by Anne Goodwin

The fingers of his left hand dance across the piano keys. The fingers of his right just dance. And jerk. Spasm. Fly. A dance without pattern to the movement. Or not one his brain can predict or control. If he weren’t consumed with self-pity, he’d laugh. The day will come when he’ll remember this as freedom. Nostalgic for his flying fingers whether making music or senseless noise. As one by one his motor neurones cease firing, leaving him a drooling mannequin in a wheelchair. The man whose virtuoso playing moved the world, unable to move himself beyond a blink.

🥕🥕🥕

My Friend Majda by Faith Colburn

I type at 100+ wpm—until I broke my hand.That’s not my story. Let me tell you about Majda. Majda had barely escaped Bosnia with what she could carry. From the plane, she rushed to the hospital with an angina. I was supposed train her in American journalism. English was her fifth language. In Bosnia, she’d been arts and entertainment editor for Oslobodenje, a major newspaper in Sarajevo. Her fingers flew over keys as her mind flew over paintings and sculpture she’d seen; music she’d heard. Now, like me with my broken finger, she speaks and writes more slowly.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Kim Blades

Rachel had had writer’s block for days. Why now, just six days before her completed, edited, polished manuscript was due at the publisher? She went for a long walk. This time deeper into the forest. It was very quiet. But then she heard whisperings coming from behind a large pile of fallen branches. Rachel crept closer, her eyes widening in wonder at what she overheard. She tiptoed away and then ran home. A short while later her fingers were flying over the keyboard of her laptop; as she hurried to translate the pictures in her mind into written words.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Robbie Cheadle

It was incredible to watch the story taking shape on the pages as the ideas leapt from her mind and chased her fingers across the keyboard. It was like watching puppies play as the words and phrases tumbled across the screen, chasing each other and sometimes almost rolling over each other in their eagerness. He had never experienced energy like this before, never seen fingers flying, eyes sparkling, and cheeks flushed with enthusiasm. He looked at his own long, thin fingers and his brow furrowed as he tried to comprehend and understand this strange and moody female-child of his.

🥕🥕🥕

Donning by D.Avery

Once upon a time there was a time that all wished there never was; for this was not a forwarding time, but a time when the world went backwards. In that time there was an Emperor, which there was not supposed to be in that time. His hands, never having known good work, were known to be small and soft. He was fast with his fingers, his trigger finger itchy, always pointing at someone else, never at himself. Sociopath, he poked the keys to provoke through social media, stirred unrest with his jabbing digits. The world was thoroughly shaken.

🥕🥕🥕

Camaflouge Crazy Quilt by Susan Sleggs

The famous quilt designer greeted me, “Good morning. I’ll let you know if I need help.”

She perused the solid section then moved to the Batiks and inspected the color options. She pulled out bolt after bolt visualizing the array, then brought the pile of multiple shades of very drab greens, browns, and greys to the counter. She ran her fingers up and down the stack. “A half yard each please.”

I wasn’t surprised when I saw an award-winning quilt entitled “Camouflage Crazy Quilt” in a magazine the following year that had multiple kinds of black floss embroidery stitches.

🥕🥕🥕

The Burden of Brilliance by Anurag Bakhshi

“I had heard that your fingers fly when you chop, cut, or carve, but this…You truly are a genius,” my latest apprentice Jonathan exclaimed wide-eyed as he saw me in action on the slab.

“Awww, it’s nothing,” I replied with exaggerated humility, “anyone can learn to do it with sufficient experience, even you.”

“I don’t think so,” said Jonathan weakly, and then, he threw up royally as a finger came flying and hit him on the nose.

What a pity! I’ll now have to look for another apprentice to help me dispose of the bodies of my victims.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ring by Michael B. Fishman

One final look in the mirror on his way downstairs and the waiting limousine. Hair combed: check. Tie straight: check. Looking like a man about to get married: check. Gary picks up his keys and reaches for the ring.

“Where the hell’s the ring?”

Nothing behind the dresser.

The limousine honks.

Drawers open, fingers flying, he rifles through underwear, socks and shirts.

Nothing.

Another honk.

The flicker under the bed catches his eye and when he bends down to pick up the ring from where it had rolled is when his pants tear.

“Jeanine is going to kill me.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART III (10-minute read)

Rumors of Quick Draws (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Grab the mochila, boy!” Dock wasn’t any older than the new crippled stock handler, but he oversaw the mail exchange.

Sarah watched from the barn. The new handler grabbed the leather cover from the panting horse and draped it over the saddle of the waiting mount. The rider clambered up and sat on the mochila containing US mail.

“Haw!” The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company rider departed Rock Creek.

Hickok’s fingers flew, grabbling leather straps, unsaddling the weary mount. His injured arm did nothing to hamper his agility. Rumors had it, the boy was a gunman.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers by Frank Hubney

Faster than drawing a gun his fingers peppered the keyboard and hit “Enter”. Later he will wish he thought more, but now, oh, the rush! It was the perfect point, typos and grammar and all, and he wanted to make it before someone else did.

Later, second thoughts like snail mail arrived. Then third-thought packages containing arguments he should have considered punched him It occurred to him maybe someone else should have made that idiotic point.

Then it happened. Just when he thought it wouldn’t ever be over, it was over. No one cared anymore and neither did he.

🥕🥕🥕

Dancing Fingers by Michael Grogan

As he aged he found the only part of him that resembled flight were his fingers and the advent of arthritis was threatening that.

It was the pleasure he derived from his morning sojourn into his blog and the generous fellow bloggers commenting on his humble writing and who allowed him to venture into their respective blog worlds.

He loved it when his fingers danced across the keyboard composing a response to the latest prompt that came his way.

His fingers were what kept him alive and wanting to be part of the wide and wonderful world of words.

🥕🥕🥕

Idling by D. Avery

Fingers cracking the pod and rolling the peas out into the pot in one deft move. Had that favorite paring knife, remember, always got the thinnest peel off a potato, all in one piece. She taught us all to knit, though none of us have ever gotten our needles clacking as fast as hers. She even tickled trout, would go down to the brook and get all she wanted and not a line or a net. Now she just lies in bed, her papery hands fluttering to her face over and over, like she can’t believe she’s still here.

🥕🥕🥕

Counting on Fingers by Norah Colvin

Everyone said she had a way with numbers. Even when still in nappies she was counting effortlessly to large numbers in multiples of twos, fives and tens as well as ones. The parents didn’t dare think they’d bred a genius, an outlier. They wished for an ordinary child who fitted in, unnoticed, like them. They strove to inhibit her talent and discourage her enthusiasm. She tried to hide her ability by delaying responses with finger actions resembling calculation aids. But they slowed her none and flew too fast, earning her the nickname “Flying fingers” and ridicule instead of appreciation.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fingers On Keys by Lisa Rey

Maria sat down to type the next part of her book. For a few moments she looked at the blank computer screen deep in thought, characters having conversations in her head. Then she began to type. Her fingers flew along the keys as her heart kept telling her head what to say. Writing wasn’t just her job. It was a joy, a passion. It never felt like a chore. Before she knew it, her third chapter was in the bag barring that demon editing. Spellcheck, Grammarly and the gang. Her fingers wouldn’t fly when it came to those enemies!

🥕🥕🥕

Money is Sweet Honey by Neel Anil Panicker

Professor Amritanand had done his job — he had prepared the years’ Matriculation Mathematics paper.

Now, all he had to do was seal it in an envelope and lock it in the strong room.

He was about to do so when his mind sprang alive with the conversation of the previous evening.

The man over the telephone had said “Please hand over a duplicate question paper”.

‘That’s cheating’, he had retorted, adding, ‘I won’t do it.’

“For Rs 30 lakhs you definitely would, Sir.”

Professor Anand let his fingers fly.

He never was one to say no to money.

🥕🥕🥕

 

The Piano by Luccia Gray

Ada’s hands flew wildly over the table as her head swayed rhythmically. Alistair stepped closer, curious to see what she was doing. She had drawn black and white symmetrical rectangles along the edge of the table. His wife had been unfortunate enough to have become mute at an early age, and now after their forced relocation she had obviously lost her mind, too. ‘Mummy can’t live without her piano, daddy,’ said Flora. Alistair shook his head. ‘We had to sell it. We all had to make sacrifices when we lost everything.’ ‘But daddy, we can speak about our feelings.’

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Study Hall by Krisgo

His fingers were lightly tapping on the table as he sat close. The pads making a noise that sounded like distant rain drops, yet they were right there next to my arm. I wondered if he was leaving fingerprints on the slick surface of the table. I wanted him to lift up his hand so I could check for the lingering prints. No, what I really wanted was to feel him lightly tapping on my skin. The hair on my arm rose, as I thought of how feeling his fingers flying up and down on my arm would feel.

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The Drum and the Harp by Wallie & Friend

The whole city was in the city hall, I swear, to hear Bob and Kevin face off. Those two had been at each other’s throats since they were first neighbors, and it was time something was done. Bob brought his drum and Kevin brought his harp. “That’s a girl’s toy,” said Bob. “Alright then,” said Kevin. “Any old baby can beat a drum.” How we were going to settle who was the best I don’t know. But there never was such fun and by the end of it, Kevin and Bob were exhausted, sore-fingered, breathless and the fastest friends.

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Piano by Paula Moyer

Jean watched her mother play the piano, watched Liberace slide his fingers in an upward glissando. When she got to be seven years old, Jean got to play the high C of her mother’s cross-hands piece. Finally she asked her mother. “Can you teach me how to play?” Her mother called around and ordered beginner’s piano music. While she waited, Jean could just see herself playing requests, improvising wildly. Her fingers would fly. Then the music came, lessons began. Oh, so hard. This stuff on paper, the piano keys. It was three months before Jean graduated to “hands together.”

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Island Escape by Kay Kingsley

He was born on the island. Trapped as it were by the beauty that surrounded him. So many people came here to vacation, break free from the outside world, unwind in paradise. Yet here he sits on the sprawling beach, sand occupies his entire vision, 180 degrees. The water is breathtaking. An almost dreamlike mix of Turquoise, Sea Spray and tan. Above the horizon the planes fly in the distance. Lifting his hand eye level, he stretches out his arm and extends his finger pacing the plane. Flying fingers is the closest he is to an escape, for now.

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Equal Knocks by D. Avery

“Where ya been, Kid?”

“Jest made the perfect vegie-tarian Easter dinner.”

“Eggplant?”

“Nope. Bacon and brussel sprouts.”

“Kid, bacon ain’t vegie-tarian.”

“Whoa, Pal, thought we’d all agreed this was a culturally inclusive place. Don’t tell me how ta be a vegie-tarian. My people like ta include bacon.”

“Hmmph.”

“Well, what’ve you been up to? Got yer fingers in ever’one’s pot I s’pose.”

“Na. I been stayin’ outta the way. Ridin’ fence mostly, lookin’ out fer signs a spring.”

“Lookin’ fer greener pastures, Pal?”

“Don’t go pointin’ any fingers, Kid. No, there’s plenty a range here at the ranch.”

“Alleluia.”

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March 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

At first sniff, the clear liquid smells sour. The menu reads: grape leaf vinegar, mint and rose water. The concoction does not evoke the subtleties of pink petals or the promise of a fresh taste. Above the richly dressed crowd, lights beam geometric shapes across the ceiling in red, green, pink and blue. Digital flat screens display a New Year countdown that moves to the beat of electronic dance music. The pulse dares me to sip.

And I do.

To my surprise, the liquid glides sweetly across my tongue. Never judge a drink by its smell? Perhaps. But the aromas emanating from the buffet tables raise my expectations — grilled meats, heavy-handed spices, and frittered vegetables. Last, I grab a cup of dessert pudding with more rose water. Food infused with romance settles on my plate, and I weave my way back to the reserved table. I’m a guest tonight.

It is March 25, and we are celebrating the New Year. Tables packed with guests, many with families, form a horseshoe around a central stage. Even if you can’t see the stage directly, the digital flatscreens are mounted for clear viewing from any angle. Men are dressed in suits and women in evening dresses. I don’t mind that my outfit is simple. No one here is judging a book by its cover. Everyone smiles, welcoming.

Accouterments scatter across a table on the stage. Goldfish swim in a glass bowl surrounded by apples, garlic, sweetgrass and a bowl of painted eggs. Each item symbolizes health, prosperity, and happiness. Traditionally, all the guests wear new clothes. It’s spring, if not the exact equinox, then merely a few days later. The days are lengthening in the northern hemisphere, and no one can deny the renewal of life the season heralds.

Outside, snowbanks sag like swayed-back horses. Their geological record of snowfalls dips around the objects hidden beneath — boulders, park benches, small sheds. Spring can be dirty business. The south-facing bank of Quincy hill exposes bare ground as plain as the skin on a potato. Everywhere grit covers streets and sidewalks. Dog pellets slowly emerge day by day as the sun erodes their icy receptacle. We can only dream of freshness in the Keweenaw as dirty snow gives way to dirt.

We hold on for blades of grass.

Inside, the countdown ends, and we cheer in the New Year. A pianist flies his fingers across the keys and dinner tastes all the more succulent. It feels like renewal in this banquet hall at Michigan Tech University. Photos flash on the screen of places I’ve never before seen — moss on rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, cities, and deserts. Thes images connect many in the room to home. The celebration will suffice while they are away in a foreign land, studying engineering and technological sciences.

I’m an American celebrating an Iranian holiday among people my nation’s president would call enemies. How can I possibly view a culture whose writing reminds me of teacups and black olives as hostile? Laughter, rose water, and artistic performances tell me another story. People are not the enemy. Our fears and hatred cling to cultures like cancer. When we fight cancer, we don’t malign the person. To stand up for humanity, we must call out injustices, not cultures.

Tonight, I’m in love with Iranians.

Midway through the performances, a trio of musicians takes the stage. One plays the sitar, another a violin, and the third drums. I recognize the doumbek because my SIL, Solar Man, plays one as a drummer for my daughter’s belly-dance troupe. When the drummer plays his large frame drum, his fingers fly. I’m mesmerized. And so is he — eyes closed, frame tipped back, fingers dancing across tightened skin.

Next, my daughter and her fellow dancers take the stage in tribal influenced garb and dance to a Persian song. Radio Geek has recently cut her hair — it’s part classic bob, part shaved-head punk. By day in the office, the bob covers the undershaved sections. Tonight, she flaunts her inner punk. The troupe dances with energy to an appreciative crowd, and a delighted mum. This is the Persian New Year — Nowruz.

No-Rooz Mobarak! Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Chag Sameach! May peace and joy be with us all.

Before we get to the prompt, a bit of Ranch spring cleaning. Following last week’s deluge of information, you can now find the newly erected Rancher Badge page beneath the tab, Support Literary Art. You’ll find all the badges (plus a few new ones from your suggestions) in a clear and concise format. Now is the time to set goals. June 1 will be the first quarter to claim badges.

You will erase from memory, any mention of Facebook as a way to collect flash fiction. A great idea went downhill. It didn’t work as intended. Interact in the comments as usual — share your links, stories or pingbacks. If you want to be included in the published collection, submit your story via the form. Forget about short links, too! Write, and let your fingers fly across the keys.

March 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly. Think about the different ways we use our fingers and what happens when we add speed. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 3, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

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Rumors of Quick Draws (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Grab the mochila, boy!” Dock wasn’t any older than the new crippled stock handler, but he oversaw the mail exchange.

Sarah watched from the barn. The new handler grabbed the leather cover from the panting horse and draped it over the saddle of the waiting mount. The rider clambered up and sat on the mochila containing US mail.

“Haw!” The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company rider departed Rock Creek.

Hickok’s fingers flew, grabbling leather straps, unsaddling the weary mount. His injured arm did nothing to hamper his agility. Rumors had it, the boy was a gunman.

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Author’s Note: The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company is a mouthful. No wonder we took to calling it the “Pony Express.”

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