Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Posts tagged 'writing'

Tag Archives: writing

December 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 7 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsWe crowd into the lobby, snow nipping at our backs each time a new couple or family enters the oak doors. I wiggle my fingers to diminish the giddiness of a night out to the Calumet Theater. I listen to chatter as people explain who they know in the upcoming performance of Alice in Winterland. One mother laughs when she explains how much green paint her daughter wears as the Grinch. Another confesses how nervous her son is the play Charlie Brown.

It’s a winterland mash-up of familiar American Christmas stories all set to the music and narrative arc of Taichoski’s Nutcracker Ballet. It’s a bit like this take on multiple Christmas songs in one minute:

And all of this creativity in bites to produce one performance also reminds me of the weekly compilation of responses to our flash fiction challenges. It struck me, as I took my seat in the historic gilded and velveted Calumet Theater how much of a ballet mom still resides in my heart, rounding up the stories backstage each week. I want to bring roses to all the writers after a performance.

It’s been too long since I connected with my inner stage-mom. For 15 years I lived in awe of The Nutcracker. Five of those years I eagerly watched from backstage as my eldest daughter and youngest son both performed in a professional ballet troupe from Minneapolis.

Every child in dance dreams of shoes and sugar plum ferries. In ballet, it’s point shoes. After spending $100 on a pair of pink satin slippers with ribbons so fair, my darling daughter would pound the toe-boxes, burn the satin off the point and whip-stitch the ribbons. If it sounds horrific, consider what we writers do to a flash fiction.

We pound stories into sentences, slice words to a perfect 99, and strangle characters with twists so fine.

Between the audience seats and the dancers behind the curtain exists a stage upon which we both suspend belief and let art convey the story. I love dance as much as literary art, but I have no skill for it. I can take classes, just as I learned the craft. But writing is the performance I prefer. I’m content to sit in the audience and watch the dancers.

For years, I helped backstage, learning how to double-pin strands of wayward hair and zip sparking costumes during quick changes. A quick change occurs when a dancer must change costumes for back-to-back dance numbers. My son, one of few boys who even studied classical ballet, was guaranteed to be cast as one of Clara’s brothers and rarely had quick changes in the first half. My daughter danced in the corp, meaning she had numerous changes.

And lucky me, one year I was responsible for the Prince.

The Calumet Theater with its opulence and history reminds me of the Red Wing Theater where The Nutcracker performed on tour. I went with the troupe and taxied my kids to classes, performances, and costume fittings. Each December dreams of sugar plums danced on stage. And then the lights went out.

Children grow up, move on and stage-moms are left with no one to buy roses for or help whip-stitch new ribbons. What a comfort it is to be in a theater again, listening to family chatter, watching former students return for the holidays and sneak backstage to say hello. I sink into my seat, wait for the house lights to dim, knowing that these children performing on stage have received classical ballet instruction from my daughter.

A literary community knows such connectedness, too. I’m stage-mom in the back-wings, watching each of you work at your craft, find joy in the steps and brave the spotlight when it’s your turn to perform. And yet we are a whole, each voice lending to a more powerful dynamic than one alone.

Hold on to that feeling a moment. Two points I want you to own: no matter your solo, no matter your dream and your pain to accomplish it, no matter how many hours you write alone — you are not alone here. Second, we are a part of something bigger, something we call art. And we are champions for literary art, giving voice to unheard stories, even giving voice to the invisible.

If you know some of my journey, you are aware of how I feel about the homeless experience and veteran struggles being invisible among society. They are the unsung songs, the canceled performances, the flash fiction in a journal no one reads. Recently I learned of an organization using another art form to give voice to veterans and their families:

Songwriting With Soldiers operates from a simple principle — pair veterans and active-duty service members with professional songwriters to craft songs about their military experiences.

To me, this is a powerful way to use art to heal, to create empathy for another’s experience, to give voice to those who struggle to articulate that experience. Songwriter, Mary Gauthier, wrote The War After the War (below) with the input from six combat veteran spouses, which is the number of women I share my own experiences with each week. It’s empowering when the invisible are seen and heard.

While I don’t have roses to share with all you who perform on the writing stage at Carrot Ranch, I have a digital gift for the holiday season. If you’ll go to my Canva profile, you can pin or download the Carrot Ranch Seasonal Desktop Wallpaper to add a touch of holiday cheer to your computer. I tried to think of different manifestations like the diversity we have here at the ranch (the squirrels are for the nuts among us who don’t like holiday cheer).

Surrounded by velvet the lights finally go low at the theater. The performance has begun. And I’ll let you get to your own.

December 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 12, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published December 13). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Performance Anxiety (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Standing in the darkened wings, Danni stretched her hips. She arched her back, clasping her hands overhead. On the stage, Evelyn prepped the audience.

This was her moment. She couldn’t see faces, just the heavy beam of overhead stage lights. Her professor taught her tricks to overcome performance anxiety when she realized that as an archeologist she’d occasionally have to give public presentations.

The Sandpoint Theater was packed, and Evelyn was already giving introductions. “Without further ado, Dr. Danni Gordon…”

Walking out into the lights, Danni conjured the friendliest face, as if she were performing just for him – Ike.

###

 

Practicing Self-Care

Practicing self-care by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEleanor Roosevelt may have said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” but when taking courage you also need to take care. Not of others. Of your self. It’s a bit like the oxygen mask on a flight — if you can’t breathe how can you help others?

This week writers explored what self-care looks like. With varying perspectives, this collection offers a mélange of ideas. Read and take care!

The following are based on the November 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes self-care.

***

Blue Moon by Juliet Nubel

She never knew which one to choose. She owned dozens, all lined up in neat, colourful rows inside a shiny, purple box.

Their names were so extravagant – Mayfair Lane, Undercover Show, Pussycat was Here.

She settled for Misty Jade, a colour from the depths of the Caribbean sea.

Slowly stroking the brush onto her short, brittle nails, she dreamt of an island, with warmer climes, where she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

A place where she could paint her nails, lie back and idly watch them dry, every single day. Not just once in a pale blue moon.

###

Caring for Himself by Michael

The last time I picked my older brother up out of the gutter he was in the worst condition I’d seen him in. Drunk, unable to stand and as incoherent as always. I bundled him into the car and took him home. The next morning, I told him it was now time for him to start caring for himself.

I wasn’t going to pick him up anymore as my family needed me too.

I dropped him off and watched him reluctantly enter the facility. With fingers crossed I lived in hope. He lasted a week. The rest is history.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

We all cope to the best of our ability, but just one little thing can throw us over the edge into the abyss of depression.

Enter ME TIME, a must for everyone at some time or another, the secret is to recognise When before things spin out of control.
Some write, some walk, some cook, some eat.

Music is my safety valve, and my Dad always knew when something was on my mind.

Each piece I play has a significance, but Dad would listen as it wasn’t what I played, but the way I played it that spoke volumes.

***

Free by FloridaBorne

June stood at the kitchen door, eyeing the knife next to her mother’s cutting board.

“I talked to my social worker. I’m moving out.”

“I’m your legal guardian,” her mother frowned. “I told her, ’absolutely NOT.’”

“I can take care of myself!” June insisted.

“You’re retarded!”

“That’s not a nice word, Leslie.”

“Why can’t you call me mom?”

“You act like a prison guard!”

Mom scoffed, opening the fridge, her ample body covering the door. June grabbed the knife, plunging it into Leslie’s rib cage.

She stared into her mother’s startled eyes and whispered, “Now I can be free.”

###

Guidance by Jordan Corley

“Brogan, what are you doing here? Have you been admitted again? The other nurses told me you were doing well.”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that. I just-”

Suddenly Sarah’s door flung open and she came wobbling out, carefully pulling her IV pole behind her.

“Hi Brogan!,” Sarah squeaked, “I can’t believe it’s been a week already! It feels like you were just here.”

“Well I wrote a new song I’ve just been dying to sing with someone. And look, I brought Elf and popcorn! I thought we could have a movie night this time.”

###

Meditation/Medication (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

“I wish you’d seen the doctor, gotten some Valium or something.”

Torrey edges up the security line, pulling her wheelie, Lesley moving beside her on the other side of the rubber stanchion. “Don’t worry about it, Lesley. I’ll be fine once I get up to the concourse. It’s like a great big mall up there.”

“Oh! That reminds me! I heard there’s a new place you can get a pre-flight massage, aromatherapy…self-care, soothing. Meditate your anxiety away.”

Torrey barks a shaky laugh. “Or there’s booze, because flying sucks. The world’s most sincere drinking is done in airport bars.”

###

Party of One by Chelsea Owens

Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.

“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.

“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.

She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.

“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.

###

The Joy of Giving by Parinitha

I am a 75-year-old beggar who lives by the banks of the Ganges. On days I am too ill to beg alms, my wife and I sleep hungry. I try to make my absence inconspicuous, but one day, she tracks me down. “This is ridiculous”, she yells. Every day, I share my food with a homeless crippled man from across the street. The joy of being on the other side of the plate is priceless. It makes me forget my misery momentarily. Isn’t the ability to Give a luxury? Is my therapy of self-care is so bad after all?

###

Socks for Self-Care (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Dr. Danni Gordon! Good to see you!”

Danni unloaded her ruck sack and hugged Carly. “Thank you for making homeless vets your beneficiary this year.”

“Anything to help our military.”

Danni had sent Carly a list to broadcast: socks, toothbrushes, blankets. Spread out on a long table, women organized the items before packing into backpacks for the homeless in Spokane. Danni added Army surplus socks to the pile.

“What an ugly green,” said one woman.

Danni explained. “It’s a familiar color and texture to these men. Sometimes familiarity is the path to self-care for those who’ve lost their way.”

###

Rest. In. Peace. by Norah Colvin

“You really should take a break,” they suggested.

“I can’t. Too much to do.”

“You need time off,” they said.

“I know. Soon.”

Eventually, “I’m taking a break,” she said.

The afternoon sun warmed as the sand caressed her aching body. Her eyes closed. Only an occasional seagull’s squawk interrupted the repetitive swoo-oosh of the waves that jumbled with the office cacophony looping incessantly.

“What? What happened?” they asked.

He scrolled quickly, searching for details.

“Sleeping. On beach. Seagull – ha!– dropped a baby turtle – landed on her head – died instantly.”

“And we thought work would kill her!”

###

The Accident by Kate Spencer

“So tell me what happened,” asked Granny knitting by the roaring fireplace.

“It was surreal,” whispered Carrie, lying stretched out on the chesterfield with a heating pad around her neck. “One minute I was making a left-hand turn out of the parking lot and the next minute I felt as if I was sitting there watching the accident unfold in a slow-motion movie.”

“Sweetie, you had what is known as a shock induced out-of-body experience. I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of protecting us.”

“Cool. ‘Know what Granny?”

“What?”

“You’re exactly what I need tonight.”

###

Another Lesson in Self-Care by Sarrah J Woods

It’s Sunday morning and I’m overwhelmed. The bright sun outside only aggravates me more; I long to be lounging in it. But I’ve got dishes, laundry, and more to do, and not much longer before the babies wake up.

My husband, tired as I am, sits unbudging in front of the TV while I clean—and grumble—around him.

Finally, exasperated, I stalk outside. The air is warm and quiet.

Then I realize: he’s expecting me to do what I need.

And how can he help if I don’t leave room?

I lie down in the grass and breathe.

###

The Choice by Colleen Chesebro

Painful sobs wracked her body while anguished cries escaped from her throat with an unrecognized resonance. She finally understood that death in its malevolence took what it desired leaving an emptiness in its wake. She knew she needed to survive by moving forward or she’d perish.

Nearby, the crystals beckoned to her emitting an ethereal glow. Meditate, they whispered. Align your chakras and feel your healing life force restored. She sat, quieting her breath, slipping into a meditative state. Her breath inhaled the restorative energy while exhaling the grief and loss.

Revitalized by love, she accepted a new path.

###

Changing Colors by Reena Saxena

I picked up a cheap perfume from the counter, and was floating on a cloud after using it. My conservative husband found it too strong for his staid sensibilities.

“Why do you need to use this? You own better stuff.”

“Sure. But this makes me feel young again. I could afford only this brand at eighteen, with my meagre pocket money, but managed to attract attention,” I grinned.

“Aaahh! What are the other brands which you used then? It makes me see you in a new light.”

Our world was changing from a formal gray to an exuberant yellow.

###

Back Up by Sherri Matthews

The receptionist was as chirpy as Mandy remembered her.

‘I would like to make an appointment for a check-up please…’ Mandy heard the waver in her own voice.

The pain from the last visit had long gone, but the fear-filled memory of it lingered for years. She had stopped going altogether after that, and then everything fell away.

Years later, Mandy began her slow, uphill climb with a visit to the hairdresser. An office party she dreaded but could no longer avoid. It had meant a new outfit too.

Then Mandy called the dentist for a long-overdue check up.

###

Control What You Can by Susan Sleggs

“In the past three weeks, we had to move into our new house before the painters and rug layers were done, there were two deaths in my wife’s family and our daughter was in a car wreck and can’t go back to work.”

“How are you coping with such trials?”

“I’m a patient man, but I want answers. I’m praying a lot.”

“How about your wife?”

“I helped her unpack the quilting room and I cut fabric for her to sew, then sent her to lunch with her friends. She felt better after accomplishing something and receiving healing hugs.”

###

Flash Fiction by Heather Gonzalez

Joe was known for a special brand of self-care which always ended at the bottom of his favorite bottle of whiskey. After the war was over, many soldiers went on to lead healthy productive lives, but Joe was not one of them.

The war had consumed his personality and left him a hollow shell. As much as he wanted to be almost normal, he knew that he was forever changed by what he saw. The small innocent face that appeared in the window as he burned down the village always brings him back to the bottom of the bottle.

###

Self-Care by Sarah Brentyn

She looked in the mirror at the woman she swore she would never become.

A soft, almost-youthful face with fine lines.

A handful of grey hairs hiding beneath dark blonde strands.

A pudgy middle pushing the waistband of her favorite pair of jeans.

The image irritated her. Angered her.

How had she become this…thing? This wife of a man who created her with perfectly weaved words of manipulation and cruelty then cheated on her for becoming his creation.

Time for some self-care.

She grabbed the prescription bottle, smiling for the first time in months, and dumped her husband’s heart medication.

###

The Alien Planet by Anuragbakhshi

My spaceship crashed, and as I struggled to somehow extricate myself from the debris, I thought about the importance of my mission- It was not every day that a new inhabited planet was discovered, and a senior diplomat like me sent there to make contact with the aliens.

The twisted metal and broken wires were impeding any movement, and I had nothing but my own strength and ingenuity to depend upon. Remembering my objective, I used all my resourcefulness and finally managed to free myself. I could now proceed on my mission to conquer this backward planet called Earth.

###

Booth by TellingStoriesTogether
Toshi sat down in the foam chair inside the Med-Fix booth. He’d tried, once, to sleep in a booth, only to have it blare increasingly abrasive warnings. But this time he had a thousand yen in his coat pocket, enough for five minutes of legally disclaimed medical and psychiatric care.
Toshi fed the money in, and the screen before him glowed blue. He explained everything from the nagging chest cold he’d had for two weeks now, to losing his job and living in an internet cafe.
The screen showed his results: “Recommended treatment: euthanasia. Please press ‘Yes’ to proceed.”
###

Inkless Blots by Jules Paige

“Life” used to be captured with a pen in a notebook. The
daily writing routine morphed; using a keyboard, unlocking
keys of alphabet letters and sentencing them to sensible
words scripting daily insights into blog; feeding an electronic
community where static electricity was controlled, by the
bribery of imagination and miscellaneous musings.

Cheaper than paying a therapist or a life coach – getting
encouraged by other writers who walked the same crooked
path. June marched, occasionally dancing when someone
liked or showed the slightest interest in her inkless blots.
Slowly gaining confidence that she actually could call herself…
a writer.

###

There’s No Writer Wrong by Bill Engleson

“He’s been at it for days. I’m getting quite worried.”

“He’s an adult Joanie. It’s his decision.”

“But…he’s a writer, for heaven sakes. He doesn’t live in the real world. He spends most of his time in a messy little nook in his head. He’s always going off on a tangent.”

“And now he’s trying to take care of himself. Look at him. He’s become a scrunched-up pretzel of a man, hunched over in a writing frenzy.”

“That’s what I mean. I don’t think solo Kama Sutra Yoga and a forty-ounce jug of red wine ought to be mixed.”

###

I Made a Mountain by Anne Goodwin

I made a mountain. They could not knock it down. But they did not join me on the zigzag path through meadow, woods and moorland to the craggy top. Instead, they dragged me to molehill, had me admire its contours, the texture of its soil. They bathed it in sunshine, cloaked my hill in mist. The only mountains they’d acknowledge were the Everests that pierced the cloud.

I fought through fog to find my mountain, and walked alone along its trails. Birds sang, flowers bloomed, rock glistened in the damp air. I made a mountain. I made it mine.

###

Self-Care Through Word Salad by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Impression management. Measured words. Think before you write. Intentionality, thought-FULL-ness is all. Be politically correct, especially if that’s not your usual inclination. Diagram your structure, have your measurable outcome in sight.

This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no party. This ain’t no foolin’ around!

Stop making sense. Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Slop a little coffee over that mess, but avoid the hard drive.

Don’t stop. Believin’. Let out all those feelings.

Your job right now is to get your foot off the muse’s tail and let it gallop around the room.

I love a morning write.

###

New Mum SOS by Ritu Bhathal

The crying was relentless, but who else was going to do anything?

He was at work all day, he needed his sleep.

She was exhausted.

“It’s okay,” they all said, “just sleep when the baby does. You’ll be fine!”

What world did they live in? Self-care with a newborn…? Impossible.

When was she meant to do the housework, the laundry, the cooking, if not when the little mite was taking his precious naps?
But after thirteen weeks of sleepless nights and little support from anyone, she was ready to muffle the cries with the pillow currently covering her head…

###

Ladies First by Chesea Owens

“I’ve got to shop for pants today,”
She told the stingy traffic lights.
She told the grocer and the pump;
And then, the quickly-coming night.

“I’d love to try this recipe,”
She said, as they drew near to home;
With only time for Mac ‘N Cheese,
‘Midst whining, falsely-crying tones.

“A bath would be a lovely break
Whilst reading Lover’s Passioned Call.”
Alas, the heated water drained,
Whilst splashing children took it all.

The lights were off; he found her there,
Her loving, all-day-working man.
“I thought you wanted time alone.”
She sniffed; she said, “And, here I am.”

###

Mom’s Me Time by Kerry E. B. Black

Moms don’t usually get “me time,” so when the opportunity presented itself, Kaylee almost did not recognize it. Her husband and her in-laws took the kids to a matinee. Kaylee stripped the beds and threw in a load of laundry before it dawned on her. She had the house to herself. She could operate the television remote control without hearing groans. A bubble bath surrounded by scented candles could be hers. When she set the kettle on, she ignored the dishes in the sink and steeped a cup of tea and enjoyed an uninterrupted date with a long-neglected book

###

Santa Self-Care by Frank Hubeny

Mark loudly rang his own doorbell. “Thank you, Santa!” He heard Julie’s feet pitter-patter as she rushed to the door. “Have a nice day, Santa, in your snowy fairy glen at the North Pole.”

Julie looked outside. “Where’s Santa?”

“Sorry, Julie. Santa’s gone. He left gifts for you.”

Eventually someone would have to tell his daughter about Santa, but Mark couldn’t do it. She’ll have to cure herself even if she breaks her own heart.

Later that day Julie answered the door. “Santa! Back so soon?”

“Who was that?”

“Sorry, Dad. Santa’s gone, but he left you this present.”

###

The Care Bearing Of The Spotlessly Declined by Geoff Le Pard

‘Why so glum?’

‘Mrs Twistelton says I don’t care enough to be in the orchestra.’

Mary stopped writing. ‘Do you?’

‘Muuum!’

‘You hardly practice.’

‘Everyone is in the Orchestra.’

‘Everyone?’

‘Maisie, and the girls.’

‘Ah! Maisie. I hear her name a lot.’

‘She’s cool.’

‘Once I wanted to be a cleaner – I know, me – because Daisy Fullerton had a cleaning job that paid for her cool clothes. Hated it. I learnt.’

‘What?’

‘I needed to care about myself and what I really wanted.’

‘It’s different now.’ Penny wandered off.

‘Really?’ Mary said to the space vacated by her daughter.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

At home, Mom’s been busy. Swabs of cotton on the floor, the kind from a pill bottle. It looks like she shook her purse out all over the kitchen. A pungent smell leads me to a box of hair dye by the sink…scissors…chunks of hair…

I hit the steps with stuttered breaths, my throat closing. What I’d give for just one boring, uneventful day. To come home without holding my breath. Lately I’ve been thinking about taking off, just being done with it all.
But I can’t leave.

Because what if she fell?

Or worse, what if she jumped?

###

Self-Care by Irene Waters

Prue’s mother was proving difficult. “Mum, self-care is the most appropriate place for you.”

“I’ll stay here if I have to self-care. I want help.”

“But Mum in self-care you get help. Meals are provided, cleaning done, bed linen changed and washed plus you can opt for more services.”

“Then why call it self-care. More like aided living.”

“Self -care is because you remain independent. You don’t need nursing. Aided living is a nursing home.”

“Send me to a nursing home. I’ve had looking after myself.”

“I know Mum. How about going to ‘Care… for the Self?”

“Sounds good.”

###

Ranch Yarn by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, you oughtta join my self-heppin’-advocatin’-together group- S.H.A.T.”

“Ain’t bein’ no part a yer SHAT group. What the shat you on about anyway?”

“What Shorty said. Self-hep.”

“Shorty said self-care, so I reckon it’s S.C.A.T., an’ I’m hopin’ ya do.”

“Testy… You need a stage coach.”

“Stagecoach?!”

“Yeah, stage coach. Ta hep ya git through all yer rough stages in life. Talk ya through the prickly patches.”

“I swear, Kid, sometimes I’d like ta put you on a stage, send ya back where ever ya come from.”

“All the world’s a stage, Pal, ya oughtta try’n play nice.”

###

Five A Day

Five a Day by the Rough Writers & Friends @Charli_MillsEat your veggies, eat your fruit. “Five a day,” they tell us. That’s more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away! What else warrants five a day?

That’s what writers had to ponder. And as you expect, the flash fiction collected varies widely and creatively. Settle in and read at least five flash fiction stories a day to keep your mind sharp and open.

The following are based on the November 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Five a Day.

***

Five a Day (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane exits the stall, already anticipating another cup of coffee. This one weekday, she’s got almost unlimited fluid intake.

Part of her vagrant reality is having no decent, or even very private, bathroom. In the morning she heads immediately to the gym, before she’s even had tea. The homeless newspaper office, but often with a long line. McDonald’s requires a receipt within the last 30 minutes. The college. The public library on her way back to Tent City. Five stops a day. She’s learned to coordinate her hydration accordingly.

Who could imagine a college ladies’ room as a luxury?

###

Glory Be by D. Avery

Three is a mystical number, and seven, for sure, but five, the mean of the two, five can be trouble. It doesn’t have to be, but it can be.

Those five fingers, are they clenched into one fist? If so, trouble; something might be struck, nothing can be held. Be mindful of what those five fingers grasp, more mindful of what they let go of. Stretch those five fingers skyward, press against the other hand, doubled power, decadal symmetry, two hands pressed in prayer.

Count on one hand the blessings you have reaped. Use both hands to sow more.

###

S.L.E.E.P. by Juliet Nubel

Heather pulled the pink woollen hat over Emily’s curls.

“What do you need to do at school today?”

“Sleep!”

Emily knew their routine by heart. “Smile. Laugh. Enjoy… I can never say the fourth one.”

“Empathise.”

“Yeah, that. And play.”

“Right.”

Heather prayed hard that her daughter would taste these five ingredients every day of her life, both now and later.

The yellow bus arrived and Emily skipped aboard, grinning at the driver. She turned to wave.

“Sleep well, my petal-face.”

“You too, Mummy. You must try hard too.”

Heather smiled. It was a start. A very good start.

###

A Better Five a Day by Charli Mills

Five a day, Mama says. Doesn’t she know how awful they taste? Crunchy raw spindles and squishy flavorless lumps. Good for you, Dad crows. Honestly, I prefer the mash the neighboring farmer drops by our house. Mama says it’s not organic.

My skinny legs chase after tastier treats. Beyond the place where parents coop my culinary dreams I have a secret spot to dream. Beyond our scratch existence meanders a brook with a magical bush. That’s where I found the round globes sweeter than any clover.

Blueberries! I’m in chicken heaven! Better than five insects or worms any day.

###

Mr Potato Head by Norah Colvin

Jamie’s head shook, and his bottom lip protruded as tears pooled.

Mum sighed.

“But you love Mr Potato Head,” coaxed Dad.

Jamie lowered his eyes and pushed the plate away. This was not Mr Potato – just a stupid face made from yukky stuff.

Dad moved it back. “Just a little try,” he urged. Mum watched.

Jamie refused.

Jamie visited at meal time. Mum was in tears. “He won’t eat anything.”

Jamie considered the unappetising mush. “Who would?” he thought, as he replaced the cover and opened dessert.

“May as well enjoy what you can,” he said. Dad smiled.

###

Five a Day by Ritu Bhathal

“Five?”

“Yes sir, five.”

“So, Doctor, I have to take five of these little beauties a day?”

“That’s right. Five of these golden capsules every day.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier for me to just move to a country full of sunshine?”

“If only it was that easy, Mr. James.”

“Wow! Shake me and I’ll rattle!”

Jack laughed to himself as he left the surgery with his prescription.

Another addition to his daily cocktail of pills. Vitamin D3.
Sat behind a desk all day, earning good money but not seeing daylight, meant losing his health instead…

The price we pay…

###

The Dreadful Five a Day by Parinitha

The wedding invitations on my desk reminded me of my impending situation. With a month to my wedding, the unavailability of ready-made gowns of my size was frightening. November being peak wedding season, placing an order for a gown was ruled out. Tossing the chocolate muffins into the bin, I phoned my therapist, after two months of No Show. “Five a day is the only way!”, she harped. Once again, I began the five-miles-a-day run. As I grumpily ran the fifth day, I chanced upon Gowns for All, a new Plus-Size Wedding Store. This discovery called for a dessert!

###

Who’s Counting? by JulesPaige

Trying to get five fruits and veg in a day, Claire added to her
salad. Dates, avocado, dried apricots, to the already blended
greens of spinach and young spring greens mix. Cucumber,
tomato, onion, celery and colorful peppers got chopped up
too. Add some tuna and peanuts and you got a whole meal.

Or did one portion of that mix equal just one serving? There
had to be a way to lose the extra five pounds from Thanks-
giving. Half of a large grapefruit was waiting to be a mid-day
snack – as well as those cute little peelable oranges.

###

A Writers Creed by Bill Engleson

“You’ve got a stick up your butt about this, right?”

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“It’s quite easy once you get the hang of it.”

“I’m sure it’s easy. But I’m more interested in why you bother?”

“Wilde once said, ‘Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art.’ So, I lie at least five times a day.”

“For art?”

“For my art, yes. Fiction’s about assembling a selection of lies. Most writing has elements of falsehood.”

“I’ll never be able to trust a word you say.”

“Then my work here is done.”

###

Five a Day by Graeme Sandford

Listen

Think

Write

Add picture

Edit

Post

Relax.

Look around

Consider

Think

Write

Consider

Put to one side for later.

Relax.

Listen

Think

Write

Edit

Add funny picture

Resize picture

Post

Rela-

Resize picture from first post

Relax.

Copy link to YouTube video

Paste

Post

Relax.

Read

Reblog quirky post

Relax.

Just one more…

Five should be about write

Or right

It’s a rite of passage

Or alleyway

Which is just me being silly

Anyway, I should stop at five

I should

But, will I?

Then I can go and wash up the breakfast things…

…and go to bed.

###

Five a Day by Robbie Cheadle

I need to read something interesting at least five times a day.

When I was a girl, my Mom used to invite our friends to our house for the afternoon. On these days, I used to disappear into my bedroom at intervals throughout the afternoon to read a page of my book. It wasn’t that I didn’t like spending time with friends, it was merely that I needed a distraction from the conversation

As a grown up, I haven’t changed. I need to read a blog post or two during the day. It helps relax my body and mind.

###

Morning Blessings by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Wake up. Open your eyes. Or not.

Stretch from the tip of your chilly nose, through the arms and shoulders, down your back, deep into the gluteus max, into the length of your calves and out through the end of each toe.

Snuggle deeper under the covers and melt into the mattress. Breathe. Through your nose.

Deeply inhale morning blessings, those present just before the day’s demands flood in, the ones just an eyeblink away, if only we remember. Exhale all bad dreams, all anxieties.

Repeat this breath four times more. Rise, and refresh as needed throughout the day.

###

Five a Day by Irene Waters

Essie stared at the doctor telling her what to eat. “No I won’t eat from the five food groups. I know my body. Dairy gives me phlegm, fruit – gout, carbohydrates bloat me. I’ll eat protein, fat and veggies. I’ve five things I do insist having each day to keep me healthy.”

The doctor now stared at Essie. “Mmm?”

“Yes. A cuddle in the morning before I get out of bed is a must, and my hand held when we walk, a kiss goodbye, a kiss hello and a cuddle before sleep – these five keep my heart and mind healthy.”

###

Hugs by Kerry E.B. Black

The compassion of enfolding another within loving arm can heal wounds unseen. Thus our days begin with a hug, and God willing they end the same way. After a hard day at school, I greet my children with a cup of warmed cider and open arms. As they traverse the pitfalls of homework, I use cuddles as encouragement. After dinner, when they clean their plates and complete their chores, I give them a big embrace of gratitude. Soon they’ll be too grown to understand their value, so while I have them within arm’s reaching, I’ll share with them hugs.

###

Five a Day by Michael

The old sage looked up at me: “Five a day?” he asked as if the thought had never occurred to him before.

“Well let’s start with life. See what’s around you, then live a life, don’t take anything for granted.

Love the people around you, you can never do enough of that.

Be creative, people won’t think you boring.

And lastly, reflect on all you have done. Reflect so that the next time you can improve on your five a day.”

He looked away signalling our time was over. I left invigorated. Stepping outside, I took in the view.

###

5 a Day by FloridaBorne

Sherry looked around the musty home. Beige curtains. Grey carpet. Cheap 1980’s couch. Her fiancé didn’t mind his mother’s boring décor. Sherry, as an interior decorator, believed calling this place dreadful was kind.

“Are you going on a diet?” her future MIL asked.

“I have an average build,” Sherry replied. “You’re skinny”

“Nonsense,” his mother said dismissively. “Try eating 5 small meals a day.”

Sherry chuckled. “I know how to cook 5 meals.”

“Can you give me the recipes?”

“I’ll have to look on the box,” Sherry said. “Jack does the cooking.”

“Don’t say it, mom,” her fiancé frowned.

###

Five a Day by Pensitivity

Love is the Diet of my life.
Without it, I would be empty and hunger would be paramount.
My first portion of every day is a kiss when I awake.
The second part is a hug for no reason.
Sometime during the day my third is a passing touch.
The fourth is a helping hand to steady me, and the fifth knowing he’s there.
They can come in any order of course, but Number One will always be number one.
Kisses are abundant all day, but as the experts say, it has to be five different portions a day.

###

Flash Fiction by Rugby843

Five times a day, yep, no matter if there are tornado winds, an earthquake or flood, she gets a call from me. Five times a day, every day, all year, for the past five years.

Everyone loves their momma, right? But when daddy died, she turned into the neediest person you could imagine. If the world dissolved around us both, she would still expect me to call her at least five times a day. I think my daddy was a patient man.

It just occurred to me, he was a traveling sales man…

No wonder daddy lost his job!

###

Keep Counting by Reena Saxena

“Have ten?”

“Yeah, maybe … kind of twenty. Depends on how you count.”

“I don’t need to count. I need only five.”

“I might need ten plus two. And yours are not needed.”

“Why two more?”

“Larger and stronger ones, for support.”

“And what will you achieve with those?”

“A dead body.” Karen’s voice was stern, and the expression menacing.

“Whaaatt?”

“Yes. Your dead body, after I asphyxiate you.”

Mom turned around with a jerk.

“What are you two talking about?”

“Fingers and toes and two strong wrists. Allen is my twin brother, but he irritates me no end.”

###

Five a Day by Pete Fanning

It was a manic compulsion that drove Barry Bingham to lick the five fingers of his right hand every morning. The urge struck first at dawn, when he gripped the worn door handle at the gas station where he got his morning coffee. Turning the sports page in the breakroom, Barry’s fingers were just begging for a dip. And again at lunch, when Barry finished off the cheese puffs and eyed his furry fingers. By afternoon Barry was slurping away again, flushing the toilet, checking his hair, and hustling back to work.

Barry took a lot of sick days.

###

Five a Day by Judy Martin

“Eat your vegetables you two. Connie, you’ve hardly touched those sprouts.”

“But Mum, you know I hate them, anyway, they make you blow off!”

To reiterate her point, Mark her brother let out a loud PARP, and both children giggled.

“MARK!” That is enough of that, leave the table at once!”

“Pooh, that stinks, Mum I can’t eat any more now, Mark has put me off.”

Jenny sighed, the pungent aroma wafted over her; some Christmas dinner this was turning out to be.

Pouring herself a fifth glass of wine, she braced herself for the rest of the day.

###

Food Inflation: When Five is the New Two by Geoff Le Pard

Penny eyed the menu with a frown. ‘Can’t I have some peas?’
Mary leant across. ‘Come on love. There are some lovely sides.’
Paul laughed. ‘When I was Penny’s age I’d have been the same. Spinach with cream and nutmeg. Stuffed savoy leaves with ricotta and walnuts. Grated sprouts with bacon. Puréed parsnips Madras. Braised celery in a pistachio jus. That’s just tarted up rubbish veg, masquerading as five a day.’

Mary nodded. ‘Just meat and two veg, eh.’

Penny looked from one parent to the other, bemused. ‘I’ll have the fish and chips.’

###

Five Chores a Day by Susan Sleggs

“Mom, I found these in the picture drawer. What are they?”

A tear formed when I saw some of my mother’s hand written lists. “Grandma didn’t feel like she accomplished anything unless she could cross five chores a day off a list.”

“But this just says; wash dishes, do laundry, clean cat box, write notes, get hair cut. Aren’t those normal things?”

“That’s when she got older. Read another one.”

“Finish quilt, write blog, edit flash fiction, write some poetry, get necessary fabric.”

“Was she always so busy?”

“That’s not busy, those were the hobbies she did every day.”

###

Smiling App by Frank Hubeny

Bernard set an alarm on his phone to ring five times a day with the message “Smile”. This annoyed some around him which helped him smile.

When Bernard’s lips froze into a crescent moon pointing up that was when he annoyed the maximum number of people and puzzled the rest.

Eventually his brain got the memo. His heart relaxed. Even people he annoyed stopped being annoyed. Bernard’s pleasure in annoying them waned like that moon on his mouth since what’s the point? When they heard the beep, they’d smile and say, “Smile, Bernard, you idiot!” He no longer minded.

###

Five a Day by D. Avery

“Why ya grimacin’ Kid?”

“I’m smilin’. They say smilin’ can change yer mindset. But I tell ya, Pal, I’m strugglin’ with Shorty’s 5 a day prompt.”

“So keep smilin’. Five times a day.”

“Hmm. Five laughs a day would be good an’ good for ya.”

“Seriously! Contagious giggles, love those, almost as much as a real good belly laugh.”

“Gotta be in the right company fer those. How ‘bout laughin’ aloud at yerself fer doin’ somethin’ stupid, or even fer doin’ somethin’ right?”

“Yeah. I also like the ‘Ha!’ of revelation and recognition.”

“Five laughs a day then. Ha!”

###

The Boxer by Jack Schuyler

“Five a day, that’s how I keep these.” The boxer flexed his bulging forearms and then resumed twisting his mustache.

“Five steaks a day, am I hearing you right?” I furiously scribbled the information on my notepad. Back at the Times, the boss told me to get more on Little Toni’s sudden success. This article could be my breakout piece, but who would believe Toni could eat five steaks a day?

“First I punch em’ (makes em’ tender), then I grill em,’ then I eat em.’”

Oh well, it’s just news. Put it on paper and they’ll believe anything.

###

Five a Day by Kate Spencer

Marcy took a deep breath. She was about to launch her presentation to the Scrooge of all clients at the ad agency.

“Mr. Wroth, Christmas is about rekindling hope and joy—”

“Nonsense. It’s just a day in the calendar. I’m tired of campaigns where our cookies light up children’s faces with Christmas voodoo. Got something else?”

“I do.”

“Humph. Go on then.”

“I’m suggesting people buy your amazing cookies and when they share five of them a day with others it will take their blues away.”

“Christmas Prozac. I like it!”

Marcy couldn’t help but roll her eyes.

###

Five a Day, No More No Less by Anne Goodwin

Gabe was heading home when he saw the loot. His duty was clear, but he’d already met his quota and he didn’t fancy the extra paperwork. Luckily, Mike happened along.

“That yours?”

“What mine?”

“That heap of glorious booty. Wanna split it?”

Hell’s teeth! Take half to the poor? Leave it all for Mike to distribute? Either way, it would be his sixth good deed. Unless.

Gabe spread his wings, spun around, knocked out Mike with the force. Stepped over his body, confident that, when he came round, Mike would find the treasure and forget he’d ever been there.

###

Five a Day by anuragbakhshi

“These are only four, I can’t give you any money today. You know you’re supposed to deliver five a day, or return empty-handed,” said the officer rudely while checking the sack I had handed over to him. “My kids will go hungry today, please have mercy, ” I begged, but he just wouldn’t relent.

Seeing no other way, I took out my sword… and swung hard. And as the officer’s head rolled to a stop near my feet, I picked it up and told his assistant, “That completes five rat’s heads for today. Can I have the bounty now please?”

###

Five a Day by Hugh Roberts

It was getting harder and harder to get my five a day.

Why had I even come here? It was the worst place I’d ever visited, yet they kept me here because I couldn’t find them anywhere else.

However, time was now running out and I’d soon have to find another place for my fix.

Maybe I should leave now? Yes, that was probably a good idea.

Then, just as I was about to leave and head for the stars, I heard the cry of the human baby. One last meal, and then I’d leave this almost inhospitable planet.

###

November 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

In the US, November 23 is a day of feasting. Not the date, but the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving we call it, and it centers on a roast turkey.

Legend has it, Benjamin Franklin favored the turkey as America’s symbol. Some people find the thought silly because they find turkeys silly. I spent my formative years between three ranches — two cattle ranches and a turkey ranch. That might sound silly, too: A turkey ranch. When you realize turkeys once roamed before “free-range” became a designer label at the grocery store, then ranch fits.

Paullus Turkey Ranch in California

Instead, the US chose a bully of regal raptors, the American bald eagle. As a national bird, would the turkey have led us to be more thoughtful in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Perhaps. But it would have been weird to eat the national bird once a year for a decidedly American holiday.

Feasting might not be unique, but the foodstuff set upon a Thanksgiving table originated in the “New World.” Potatoes, yams, cranberries, pumpkins and turkey. To this we add the flavors of our immigrant roots. Does my love of butter and bacon reveal Irish DNA? Does the essence of tarragon waft all the way back to 1840s France? Does smoked Spanish paprika reflect the influence of my native California?

This year we revived several vegan recipes. Runner, Rock Climber, and Radio Geek are all gathering  in the Keweenaw. Radio Geek’s husband, Solar Man, is taking the other two back to Wisconsin and Minneapolis (to fly back to Montana before returning to Svalbard, Norway) so he’ll get a second feast with his family in the Twin Cities. With so much food on the menu, we’ve focused on health as much as feast — less white, more greens. We’ve been talking about eating more fruits and vegetables.

The World Health Organization promotes healthier eating with a 5 a Day (fruits and veggies) campaign in many nations across the globe. It sounds simple, but one aspect of food injustice (at least in the US) is that junk food and filling carbs cost significantly less than fresh fruits and vegetables. Expense is a secondary concern to health, and often it prevents consistent choices.

Returning to grow-our-own is an answer. Urban gardening, community gardens, container gardening, gleaning (of fruit trees in neighbors and on city streets), Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), food cooperatives, cheese artisans, family ranches and farmers markets all serve a sector called community food systems. The people involved in these systems seek to overcome the barriers  to 5 a Day through improved access at a local level.

At one time, community food was my beat.

The Keweenaw Co-op is within a few blocks of my daughter and son-in-law’s house. It’s tiny compared to the large cooperative grocer I once worked for as marketing manager. It’s even smaller than the ones I used to audit or assist in developing marketing plans. Size doesn’t matter. It’s the impact. It’s about bringing fresh regional food to people at a fair price. From farmer to diner, it’s meant to be a sustainable system.

Ten years ago, my co-op hired a meat manager who was an old-time butcher with skills nearly forgotten. It might seem as silly as a brass turkey on a flagpole, but butchering skills are disappearing in the US. With the spread of big-box retail like Wal-Mart, meat processing in the US is completed at the factory. “Butchers” in grocery stores receive shipments of boxed product machine cut (or ground), packaged and frozen.

My friend, the Butcher, knew all about carving whole hanging beef. I did too (remember, ranches?). Our store wanted to work with small family producers to grow beef, pork and poultry according to our clean standards (no fed or injections of antibiotics or hormones, and animals must have access to sunshine, fresh air and be grass-fed). We had the market, and the Butcher had the connections.

One of the small family farms we worked with was Ferndale. They knew turkeys and had raised them for three generations with open access (free-range). They worked with our standards, and for many years they became the signature turkey of my co-op. They were one of six stories a year my marketing team produced in video, magazine, photography and social media. My strategy was to express the brand with the stories about the faces and places behind the food we sold

You can go to Ferndale’s website and see remnants of this work. The top right photo is one I took years ago while sitting in a pasture surrounded by white and red turkeys all giving me the curious one-eyed look. That moment feels like yesterday. You can see the soft glow of a setting sun that cast a glow on red glottals. For me, it’s a bit of a legacy. Not the stories left behind in video, print and photography. But the knowing that I was part of the stories.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered the Keweenaw Co-op planned to special order Ferndale turkeys for Thanksgiving! I’ve moved on from writing about food and sadly, my friend the Butcher died several years ago. The Peterson’s operation looks strong for the fourth generation. And I am serving my family something more than the 5 a Day. Yes, healthy veggies, but also the continuing experience of our Thanksgiving stories.

And for a special treat — if you like recipes — I’m sharing a few recipes from our feasting table. These are ones that include fruits and vegetables, and can be enjoyed across the globe, not just at Thanksgiving time.

Savory Apple Cider

1 gallon local cider
½ C. frozen blueberries
Peel from 1 lemon
10 whole allspice
20 whole peppercorns
5 whole cloves
¼ tsp. cardamom seeds
½ vanilla bean, halved
½ tsp. cinnamon

Pour cider into a stockpot. Add lemon peel as long strips (not zest). Add frozen blueberries and spices. Heat on stovetop, but do not bring to a boil. Simmer and allow the aroma to infuse the kitchen. Serve after 30 minutes. Keep warm in a crockpot, or store in fridge and reheat later.

Roasted Root Veggies

3 large red beets, peeled and chunked into bites
3 large golden beets, peeled and chunked into bites
2 medium turnips, peeled and chunked into bites
2 large parsnips, peeled and chunked into bites
1 large rutabaga, peeled and chunked into bites
8 large shallots, peeled and halved
12 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
¼ C. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tarragon
Applewood smoked salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste

Combine vegetables, herbs and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Turn out vegetables onto two cooking sheets. Roast vegetables 30 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 375°F. Reverse baking sheets (top rack to bottom rack) and continue to roast until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes longer. Transfer to platter and serve.

Boozy Cranberry Sauce

1-12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
1 C. sugar
2 1⁄4 tsp. zest of a blood orange
1⁄4 tsp. cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1 vanilla bean

½ C. Scotch (adjust to taste; booze does not boil off, so add to turkey sandwiches responsibly)

Combine cranberries, sugar and zest in an over casserole. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape into cranberry mixture and add bean. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove to stir, return to oven and bake another 30 minutes. Pull from over and stir in the Scotch. Transfer sauce to a medium bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate. Can be made one week ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, near or far. We need a day to break bread, gather around the table and tell stories.

November 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Five a Day. It does not have to be five servings of fruits and vegetables. What is needed five times a day? Have fun with what pops to mind for the prompt.

Respond by November 28, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published November 29). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

A Better Five a Day by Charli Mills

Five a day, Mama says. Doesn’t she know how awful they taste? Crunchy raw spindles and squishy flavorless lumps. Good for you, Dad crows. Honestly, I prefer the mash the neighboring farmer drops by our house. Mama says it’s not organic.

My skinny legs chase after tastier treats. Beyond the place where parents coop my culinary dreams I have a secret spot to dream. Beyond our scratch existence meanders a brook with a magical bush. That’s where I found the round globes sweeter than any clover.

Blueberries! I’m in chicken heaven! Better than five insects or worms any day.

Through the Mesh

The mesh forms a barrier, although not completely. Screens block some particles, but not those small enough to get through. Looking through the mesh of a window, the screen remains unseen unless it becomes the focus.

Writers explored this permeable obstruction. The word itself holds different meanings. All was open to interpretation.

The following stories are based on the November 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story.

***

Awaited by Allison Maruska

Today has been long awaited.

I move slowly down the long hall towards my destiny, the place where my past and present mesh into a single moment. I swallow, as if that will quell my nerves.

Spectators are waiting. For some, today is a long promise finally fulfilled. It’s strange to think that, as the reason they’re here has nothing to do with them. The real reason isn’t among these faces. She’s vibrant in my mind’s eye, though. She’s eternally beautiful there.

A moment before my time, the official’s voice breaks through.

“May God have mercy on your soul.”

###

No Deterrent by Kim Blades

It was a ten foot high, heavily barbed, wire mesh fence. Supposedly a barrier to disincline would be intruders.

It worked for a while. Forty four nights in total.

Forty five nights after the formidable fence was constructed, a couple of local thieves with wire cutters worked for twenty minutes to cut out a doorway in the barbed mesh.

They laid the mesh ‘door’ on the grass and proceeded to enter the property that backed onto the river.

They stole a lawnmower and the light fittings on the back verandah.

The thieves didn’t bother to replace the mesh door.

###

Blaggards and Traitors by Jack Schuyler

Big Richie blew a stream of smoke across the desk and Carlson coughed through his gag.

“My network’s a fabric, Carlson, a mesh of thieves and blaggards.”

Carlson’s eyes watered and a tear dripped from his ruddy cheek.

“But for traitors, I’ve no tolerance. What use does a snag have but to unravel the whole garment?” Richie slammed a handgun on the desktop.

Carlson struggled desperately against his constraints.

“I’ve no choice Carlson, a snag’s got to be cut from the mesh.”

He raised his gun and Carlson let out a final whimper before being severed from the mesh.

###

Why Flies Hate Blair Toilets by Anne Goodwin

Why do you hate us, humans? Because we visit your kitchens with dung on our feet? That’s our culture, dammit. We mean no harm.

We were as excited as you were: brand new latrines! No more long commutes from heap to heap under the scorching sun. We followed the smell around the corner, dipped down the pit for a feast. Stated, we soared towards the light. Bam! Blocked by wire mesh.

We cannot retrace our flight path to the entrance. Evolution taught us to trust in light. Why do you hate us, humans? Why shorten our already short lives?

###

Mesh Fly Screen by Michael

When we first went to visit the town, we were to spend the next eight years in the hotel we stayed in during the height of the summer had no mesh fly screens. The Manager showed us to our room and then proceeded to catch the flies finding our open door too good to resist.

With her fingers, she hunted them down, squeezed them and threw them out the door as more happily invaded us.

It was one of the few down sides to living in the country, mesh screens were a rare sight, but myriads of flies were common.

###

Mish-Mesh

“Don’t we form an extraordinary mish-mesh?” Her fingers twisted into the smooth dark curls at the back of his neck.

“Don’t you mean mish–mash, my love?”

“No, we don’t mash. That’s what steel forks do to potoatoes, violently pummelling them into submission. That’s not us at all. We mesh.”

To prove her point she threw her free arm over his chest and wrapped her leg around his bare calf.

“Our mish-mesh will keep everything bad out.”

“And everything good in” he added, slipping his hand into hers.

They clutched at this dream as they clung to each other.

###

Mesh by FloridaBorne

“She don’t mesh with nobody!” Audra’s father complained. “Must be yer side o’ the family.”

“Horace, you moron! She’s just like yer Aunt Clara with gettin’ scholarships!”

“She ain’t int’rested in boys!”

“My sister was pregnant at 14,” Audra said. “I’m going to college!”

“Yer 16. Yer ma birthed you at 13, her ma birthed at 14. What’s wrong with you, girl?”

“Wrong is having 4 daughters with 2 children each, and living off welfare,” Audra said. “Try forcing me to be with a man and I’ll call child abuse!”

“Best ta let the renegades go,” her mother sighed.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

The kid hoisted the bag of slop in the dumpster. It hit with a splat and he toweled his hands with his apron.

“Hey Mesh.”

Mesh popped up. “Oh. Hey Brooke, I didn’t see, um, you okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just…” She blew a cloud of smoke to the sky, wiped her face into the shining smile that raked in the tips. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“I swear to god if Paul touches my ass again…”

“You should say something. He owns the restaurant, he doesn’t own you.”

“Is that like some Hindu Indian wisdom?”

“No, it’s common sense.”

###

The Call to Adventure by Colleen Cheseboro

Abby sat up in bed. There it was again. A strange buzzing sound echoed through the room. The ability to understand the languages of all creatures had also given her excellent hearing. She could hear a pin drop a mile away. Today, this sound shouted for her attention.

Abby shivered. The sound continued. Curious, she crept toward the window. Drawing the blinds, she gasped in surprise. It was a bee, crawling on the mesh screen stuck between the glass window.

“Save us,” it hummed.

That would prove to be a tall order for a girl with a bee allergy.

###

Solit’s Web by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d climbed down the drainage tunnel, crawling due east, then straight down. That ladder better not end before the tunnel did. Beau had promised, and he was getting 60% of the take for having the only map to Solit. She had the muscle and the stealth, so it fell to her to do the actual theft.

She snapped on her headlamp. The steel mesh of the spider’s web gleamed below her, easy enough to drop down to, but how was she going to get back up?

Oh well. She’d figure that out, once she’d snatched the queen’s ruby eggs.

###

Seeing the Elephant by D. Avery

Robert was practically running now.

He would have missed sugar season, but his father would appreciate his help with spring planting. His father wouldn’t ask him, as the man on the train had, about the Battle of the Wilderness.

Soon he’d be eating Ma’s cooking, would tousle the hair of his baby brother, six now, teach him everything there was to know, would have him driving the team, set him up with his own team of oxen. Robert ached to again work the farm, to mesh with the seasons.

Almost home; soon he would set this damn musket down.

###

Flash Fiction by Irene Waters

The kick in the stomach woke her. “Stop spinning you bastard,” her husband yelled as his arms flailed and his leg moved into position for another punch to the gut. Cassandra moved quickly, shaking him from sleep. Travis awoke with a start; pale, sweating and obviously frightened. “Cassie, thank god you were there.” His eyes were wide with fear as though he could still see the demon of his dream. “The web the spider wove is supposed to catch dreams and filter out the bad ones but she was enmeshing me, making me part of the world wide web.

###

The Spoiler by Rosemary Carlson

”Why do some people have to spoil everything?” I wondered out loud, as I stared through the mesh of the screen door into the jungle of the yard. I was thinking of the old man at the pier. I had thought, last year when visiting here, that he was my friend. This year, it was clear he wasn’t.

I loved to go to the pier at sunset. The Gulf was so peaceful. The sunset so beautiful. A man was there who I used to enjoy talking to. No more. Now he only wanted to argue. I didn’t know why.

###

Like a Friendly Spider by Kerry E.B. Black

When as a child I didn’t get along with someone, my mom would say we didn’t “mesh.” An optimistic humanist, I had a hard time accepting this. I’d re-work my approach toward friendship, hoping to integrate into their lives. I’d learn a sport, watch popular films, read trending books. Still, the “mesh” eluded me.

As I grew, classmates changed to fit into intricate webs of friendship.

So I weaved a new fabric, one accepting others’ diverse contributions. Not everyone would want to be a part of my web, and that was okay. I could mesh with those who did.

###

Pair Unbonding by Frank Hubeney

The puzzle pieces didn’t mesh together. Robert thought something was missing.

One: Robert’s girlfriend, Sylvia, spent the weekend with Paul.

Two: Sylvia discovered Paul already had a girlfriend.

Three: Sylvia’s girlfriends advised her to go back to Robert. “He’ll get over it.” He’s better than nothing.

Robert heard of autistic people who could see the hidden patterns of puzzle pieces. They could fix intractable problems, but Janice wasn’t autistic nor was she motivated to solve such puzzles. Her approach was simpler. She become the missing piece and made a blanket from the others to keep her and Robert warm.

###

Mesh by Judy E Martin

The metallic clanking appeared to be coming from the kitchen. “PETE, what are you doing?”

Silence, then more clanking with additional thudding. Irritated, Sarah got out of bed, went to the bathroom then headed downstairs for some water to moisten her dry mouth.

“I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOOOOOOO.” Dear God, not the singing! Opening the kitchen door Sarah’s stomach growled at the aroma of frying bacon, her eyes then drawn to the discarded egg shells, and crumbs from a semi hacked loaf.

“Fanshy a shnack?” Sensing disapproval Pete apologised. “Shorry, I sheem to have made a bit of a mesh!”

###

Mesh Unit by Bill Engleson

“Mesh me?”

“Not much. Oh, did I mishear you?”

“No, I misspoke.”

“Ah.”

I am silent.

I want to remember.

Montreal.

“She’ll put you up,” Terri had said.

“She’s only met me once.”

“Don’t worry. I noticed the spark. You’ll be like lox and cream cheese.”

It was a bitter winter. The Greyhound was having heating issues.

Her dark hair, unfathomably red lips, welcoming arms, met me at the terminal.

“It’s small,” she said. “We’ll have to share…everything.”

“I have little,” I said, “So that should be easy.”

One winter.

Now, a fuzzy memory.

It’s amazing how moments fly.

###

Mesh in Shadorma by Lady Lee Manila

common mesh
their memories mesh
history
together
caught in a mesh of crosses
and double crosses

like a shoal
herrings trashed in net
play on fears
of unknown
reality of nature
form intricate mesh

interesting
family structure
complex mesh
hierarchy
mesh of power equations
conflicts between them

he and she
her frame mesh with his
flawlessly
fingers mesh
his heart beats with hers, in time
like no tomorrow

harmony
almost feel her warmth
in concord
in rhythm
between them there’s just one soul
synchronize breathing

together
be in harmony
ebony
and ivory
together make sweet music
and forever more

###

Flash Fiction by Susan Sleggs

“Melding two people in marriage is like weaving your personalities into a strong mesh. Today I know your special mesh is as fine as Lilly’s wedding veil. It is my duty to warn you, life will present trials that will stretch the spaces and even create holes. Disputes can be about anything from how to raise your children, to spend money, or deal with your in-laws. I challenge you to never let your mesh get a hole in it. Do you accept my challenge?”

The reverend eyed the bride’s family as the naive couple answered in unison, “We do.”

###

Meshed by Ritu Bhathal

Sitting together in the backseat, our fingers met and slowly entwined. Our eyes met and a smile spread across our faces.

It had been a big day today. Emotional, but worth every tear I had shed.

After vows had been taken, congratulations had been exchanged, music and merriment, feasting and festivities had finished, the final goodbyes had started.

Looking back, I saw my family waving. Looking forward, his family held their arms open, welcoming me.

It was then I realised that there was no them and us, but two families, forever meshed together because of our love and union.

###

Bridging the Gap by Reena Saxena

“I can take you to the doctor, if needed.”

This was his first sentence spoken to her after three months. The marriage was shaky. But, Tisha was not willing to give up so easily. It was an ego battle, more than anything else. She was secretly happy that he had been watching her growing unease with the old spinal problem.

“I don’t think it is that bad. A good back rub might ease the tense nerves.”

“I’ll fix an appointment for you with the physiotherapist.”

Shucks! She had managed to break the glass, but the mesh was still there.

###

Not Today by Sherri Matthews

I knocked once: waited; then again. No sound. I checked my phone. Nothing. I drew a deep breath and knocked again; at last I saw his outline through the mottled glass pane. He hadn’t opened the door yet, but I knew it would be a bad day. Rain fell, steady and cold. He must have heard it, yet he took an age to find his key while I got soaked. I watched him shuffle, shoulders slumped, to the door and I wondered when I would see him sharp and clear again, no longer through shadowed mesh. But not today.

###

Fleecing Lint by JulesPaige

As a teenager, Holly got local job. Certainly not something
that was going to be a career – working at the corner dry-
cleaners and laundromat. The chemical smell was horrid.
And people literally dropped off their dirty laundry by the
pound. Pockets had to be checked, and stains had to be
noted in case they couldn’t be removed.

A ‘perk’ was cleaning the dryers mesh lint traps. Sometimes
loose change could be found. Holly did not feel obliged to
report these treasures to the owners. She felt she deserved
that can of pop or candy bar gotten from chump change.

###

The Mesh by Cheryl Oreglia

I admit these baby blues screen me from the more painful realities of life. They are the mesh I stand behind, like bars of a prison, some days I’m looking in, and others I’m looking out. A sacred veil of sorts, or stained glass window that matches the sky, this is the sanctuary from which I view the world. Unlike contacts, I can’t remove them, especially when they fail to serve me, grooming my ignorance, and blurring my wisdom. My mesh is invisible to me, but not to the outside world, an ideological screen interwoven with human fallibility.

###

Strong Foundations by Nora Colvin

Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.

“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.

Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”

“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.

The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.

“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.

Another load of mix was spread.

“All done,” said Jamie.

Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.

###

The Volcano by Robbie Cheadle

Craig wanted a volcano island play set. Mom said she would show him how to make one. She bought a wooden board and the makings for paper mache. First, Mom made the basic shape of the volcano out of some wire mesh which she bent into a hump-like shape. Then, they made the paper mache out of water, wood glue and newspaper, torn into strips. Mom showed Craig how to pack the soggy, gluey newspaper over the mesh hump and shape it into a volcano. It took a week to dry and then they painted it. It was impressive.

###

Between Here and There (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni trailed a finger across the mesh. The screened box rested empty, all the dry artifacts now collected. Her vision blurred. The mesh veils the place between here and there. The thought startled Danni. No, the mesh is a tool. She shook off her stupor and focused on the Styrofoam trays that contained shards of crockery, broken glass and rusty square nails. After transporting sixty-seven trays to the lab, she flicked off the lights. In the dark, she thought again about space and time. If material items and bones remain, where does the energy of the spirit depart to?

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Dad was the mesh that held us together.

Now he’s gone and the hole he left has grown wider, more ragged, more irregular.

Try as I might to fix it, mend it or patch it, short of replacing the entire thing I was on a hiding to nothing.

But nothing could ever replace Dad.

The fresh and new didn’t fit, so wrapped and warped in their own lives they didn’t know the man who was my father, my rock. Stories had no meaning, no memories.

Now not even the framework remains. It lies broken and discarded, forgotten and empty.

###

The Porch Between by D. Avery

“Kid, why you got them tools and that mesh screenin’?”

“Feelin’ like doin’ somethin’ nice for Shorty, gonna screen in the front porch where ever’one sets ‘n tell stories.”

“Why?”

“Ta keep mosquitos ‘n such from botherin’ us.

“Ya could, an’ this bein’ fiction an’ all you might even do a real fine job.”

“Yep.”

“But Kid, this bein’ fiction an’ all, we can jes’ say we ain’t got skeeters.”

“That a fact?”

“Yep. ‘Cause this’s fiction.”

“Like alternate facts?”

“Yep.”

“So no skeeters.”

“And an unimpeded view from Shorty’s porch.”

“Things look good from here.”

“That’s a fact.”

###

Thanksgiving by D. Avery

“Whatcha got there, Kid?”

“Vittles.”

“Lemme guess. Got yerself a mess a bacon.”

“Nope, I got carrots.”

“An’ yer gonna roast ‘em, wrapped in bacon.”

“Nope. Jes’ carrots.”

“Oh, boy, here we go. Let’s hear it then.”

“What?”

“The whinin’ an’ lamentin’ about the dearth of bacon here at the ranch.”

“Dearth?”

“Dearth, Kid, lack, scarcity.”

“Well, Pal, there is no scarcity. D’ Earth provides. Look at these beautiful carrots I pulled from d’ earth. Here, I’m giving you some.”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Yep, I’m givin’ thanks. I’m thankful fer ever’one at the ranch, an’ fer Shorty’s raw carrots.”

###

November 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

We look through screens all the time and never see the mesh. In the latest spit of snow, Lake Superior warmed enough to drop flakes like meringue. It clings to the screen, and I see the mesh. Small gingham squares of space fill the lines between fine steel wire. No longer do I see out the window; my eyes cast no further than the screen.

He interrupts my study, standing in the doorway. A wide arched entry between the living room and hallway. The oak banister leading upstairs gleams behind him. He has a mug of coffee, steaming in his hand. He looks good in his black sweatshirt. The man in black, not like Johnny Cash. More like tactical black. Army Ranger.

Why do you think he’s stuck in Ranger mode?

It’s just a pointless question that echoes in my head. I’m no brain doc or expert on neural connections. Instead, I recall a presentation I went to years ago about the hard-wiring of boys’ brains. The significant discovery was that boys don’t complete their neural connections until their mid-twenties. The presenter’s point regarded the dangerous influence of violent video games.

What about war, M16 rifles and extreme military training?

Like a small beach gravel stuck in my Keens, the idea rolls around my thinking uncomfortably. If video games are detrimental to the final phase of the developing male brain, then the military training, Ranger training, combat dive training, paratrooper training, live training in covert South American operations, and smash-landing in Grenada by the age of 22 has to be influential. Possibly injurious.

I can’t say when I noticed for certain that PTSD became a problem for the Hub. Wiser and more experienced friends suggested he should go to the VA. For four years I volunteered to help my friend give acupuncture to soldiers who did “not” have PTSD. To say so was to kill a career. So we helped with “stress,” the covert word.

And that’s what angers me. The denial from those who not only know better, but who could have helped. If we know male brains are not hard-wired until mid-twenties, isn’t it insidious to train them up as elite soldiers? If I were writing a conspiracy thriller I’d plot out how the government takes advantage of those qualifying for Navy Seals, Delta Force, or Army Rangers. What if they know, and that’s the point of the extreme training?

Problem is, once hard-wired, the off-switch goes missing. Readjustment counseling seeks to guide combat veterans back to civilian life. The Vet Center is a part of the VA but also a separate department set up in 1979 to acknowledge the difficulty Vietnam-era soldiers experienced adjusting to civilian life. In 1981, the Hub joined the Army, hard-wired for combat. His first combat jump smashed his body. 34 years later and he’s still seeking help.

What if he received readjustment counseling after Grenada?

If he had received it, would I be looking at him, standing in the doorway, wondering where he’s gone? Maybe the hard-wiring is irreparable. Maybe he could have found a way to use it productively. He did, on his own, for many years. Although the signs flagged, especially during times of stress, he always soldiered up. If I was certain of one thing, it was that my husband would protect us.

Now he is magnificently untrustworthy. It’s mind-blowing to me on many levels. He began to see the mesh and only the mesh. This started when we left Minnesota. The holes in the mesh are empty space. Look through the screen outside the window and you see clearly. Begin to focus on the mesh and it distorts your view. Focus too long and all you see is the screen.

Somewhere, the Hub is behind the screen in his mind. It unfolded slowly with moments that left me wondering why he was so unreasonable. That’s when I began to push for him to seek help for his injuries and PTSD. When we experienced crisis last year, he did not react the way a normal person would. He led us a merry chase with me prodding the whole way to get into the VA.

Fast-forward through the quagmire of the past year. Here we are, living with our eldest daughter. And he wants to go. Where? Just go. It’s the deployment response. Here, in the land of Lady Lake snow, he’s finally getting help. He’s finally meeting doctors and therapists who see the red flags. But is it too late?

Staring out through the window I look past the screen. I’ve returned from a healing retreat where I sat among women who’ve lost children to car accidents, mothers to cancer, husbands to heart attacks. Yet I was not the only veteran spouse there. I’m finding solidarity among for this specific pain. Ultimately, what matters is that we sit with each other, share and find our joy among the ashes.

We all bared our vulnerabilities, our pain and grief. We let go. I took off my earrings which I’ve worn every day since June 16, 2016. They had become my symbol of suffering at his side. Instead of taking the house on Sunnyside and continuing my writing retreats, I stayed with him, hoping for help, seeking help, not leaving him to wander alone.

I’m letting go of my position behind the mesh. It’s not what I choose to see. I know it’s where he’s stuck, but I can still support him from a different view. It may seem a little thing to let go of, but it’s profoundly shifted my perspective. As another friend recently told me, this is my new normal. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m feeling freer. I sigh, and hope he can feel that way again, too.

I turn back to the doorway, and he’s gone upstairs.

November 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

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

***

Between Here and There (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni trailed a finger across the mesh. The screened box rested empty, all the dry artifacts now collected. Her vision blurred. The mesh veils the place between here and there. The thought startled Danni. No, the mesh is a tool. She shook off her stupor and focused on the Styrofoam trays that contained shards of crockery, broken glass and rusty square nails. After transporting sixty-seven trays to the lab, she flicked off the lights. In the dark, she thought again about space and time. If material items and bones remain, where does the energy of the spirit depart to?

###

The Real Nanjo Castille

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…You killed my father, Nanjo Castille…Prepare to die!”

When writer Liz Husebye Hartmann left that opening line in her comments to the November 9 writing prompt, it promised more creative fun to follow from the Rough Writers & Friends at Carrot Ranch.

During the Flash Fiction Rodeo #2 : Little & Laugh, we discovered a literary side to one of the spammers at Carrot Ranch (the often strange keyword bait calls that end up in our Askimet or other spam folders). It gave us a chuckle, which was the point of the contest. However, Mr. Castille blew the word count.

Not to mention he doesn’t pass the spam test (read more at the SPAM PSA post). Yet you won’t want to miss these robust responses from clever, witty, thoughtful and brilliant writers searching for Nanjo’s identity in the literary world.

The following stories are based on the November 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille.

***

Aegean Dream by Sherri Matthews

Sunset diamonds scattered bright the Aegean Sea.

Summer warmed my bare shoulders there, high above the glassy plain beneath the ancient Pepper Tree.

Sea Nymph’s breeze whispered tales of gods and glory and the Minotaur while I clutched his words to my chest: scrawled on yellowed paper he declared his ageless love while I dreamt.

I listened for his voice through the rustle of the small, crisp leaves; for the step to his music as I followed my pan piper.

‘I am Nanjo Castille’, he breathed into my hair.

I reached to touch him.

But he was never there.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Thanks for coming in, Mr. Castille. Have a seat.

Thank you.

What are you doing?

I’m taking the chair.

No, I meant to sit in.

What is good for Gestapo is good for gander, right?

I don’t think that’s it.

Nice for you having me at your bored meeting. Very FAQ. Very yawn introducing.

Right. About the bags.

The bags, yes. $10 apiece.

Are they knock-offs?

Fine, I can do $20. Would you like the Ralphie Doppelganger or Tommy Realfinger? Also have her fumes.

Perfumes?

Top merch. At my house. Very aware. Aware house indeed.

I’ll be in touch.

###

The Anagrammer by Juliet Nubel

She looked at her screen and let out a huge, belly-filled hoot.

She had done it. Fooled them all. She laughed harder as she pictured them imagining her as Nanjo Castille. Could they see a wide sombrero hat and thick stripy poncho?

Where was mousey Ms Stelliac now? Never one to joke around at school she was making up for it now. On their blogs and in these contests. She was the Queen of Pranks.

They had even missed the last clue in the text – a second anagram, Najno.

Joann grinned from ear to ear. Spamming was such fun!

###

A Day in the Life of Nanjo Castille by Irene Waters

Nanjo stretches in the one room he shares with his mother and ten siblings. Rarely does he get to lie in past 5am.

“Nanjo. You get your good for nuttin’ butt in here NOW.” His mother’s voice is angry but weak from hunger. “We gotta clear out Choco Caramel, Coochi, Ralphiger and Verskatche today. You get your arse on the street and start sellin’.’”

“Ma I think Duparts will come through today.”

“Out!”

Nanjo stepped outside with his goods. He hated begging on the street corners. Preferred the internet.” Cameras whirred. Questions buzzed. Fame from form. “You give’em me bitchcoin.”

###

A Job for Nanjo? by Nora Colvin

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

###

Can dei;ver by D. Avery

The ‘student of concern’ meeting was heated.

“Well”, said the ELA teacher, “His spelling and grammar are low even for a second language student. He doesn’t even try.”

“Sure he does. He tries to jerk your chain. This kid is smarter than you think. Just looking for attention.”

“Yes, I agree. The kid does ok in math. Great flexible thinking and problem solving.”

“That may be, but this kid’s behavior alarms me. He has no empathy and no boundaries. I worry he’s going to grow up to be a sociopath.”

“Right. And Nanjo Castille could become president.”

###

Nanjo’s New Pitch by Michael

In a small darkened room in the basement of his parent’s home Nanjo sits at his computer wishing more than anything to be a writer. He has learning issues, he knows that, but with the aid of his spell checker, he is making every post a winner. He was told, the purpose of a good writer is to make your reader believe you are who you say you are.

Today he has an idea: “Its Chewsday, I wan tell yous all about a grate deel, sex for the price of one.” Nanjo sits back pleased with his opening statement.

###

Nanjo Castille by Telling Stories Together

“Several consumer surveys have shown,” said Nanjo Castille, “that having a human name helps customers identify with our brand.”

“Okay,” said Detective Merrick, “but I’m gonna call you by your model number, NAN-50.”

“As you wish, officer,” said Nanjo, “perhaps a handbag for the missus?”

Merrick produced a hologram photo from his trench coat. “Have you seen this girl? Name’s Cheryl Wei.”

“No,” said Nanjo, and held up one of the handbags, “but this is a very popular purchase among our sixteen to twenty-one demographic.

Merrick inspected the tag, and in that instant drew his sidearm. It read “Cheryl”.

###

The Real Nanjo Castille by Rita Bhathal

Her dad had always been terrible at writing.

Downfall of being a doctor.

When he went to register her birth, instead of stating Margot, he handed them a scrap of paper to read, seeing as he’d wet the baby’s head a little too much the night before.

And so, Nanjo Castille came into existence.

It was obviously an omen.

She was diagnosed with dyslexia as a secondary school student, but help came too late. Reading and writing were never her strong point.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining…

She’s now the most popular human spam bot in existence!

###

The Clone by Robbie Cheadle

It had sounded like such a good idea when her friend’s husband, an expert on human genetics, had suggested that she clone herself. A clone would be useful and could do all the social media and other marketing paraphernalia that was expected of her, as a writer, and which she currently didn’t have time for.

Little did she know that Nanjo Castille would soon become unsatisfied with playing a supporting role in her life. The clone’s ambitions soon became apparent when she entered her own short story into a flash fiction competition and was identified as a potential spammer.

###

Mysterious by Reena Saxena

The Real Nanjo Castille had enticed kids for more than a decade. It was the mystery surrounding his existence that built up his charm. He would appear as a gymnast in the circus, a clown or be seen entertaining kids in local schools and events.

Walt Disney wanted to buy the rights, seeing the popularity of the character.The meeting did not happen. Folklore goes that it was not one person, but several appearing with identical masks and outfits. The creator of the myth chose to remain in anonymity.

What could be the reason for turning down a profitable deal?

###

Fatal Error by Ann Edall-Robson

“What have you done?”

“I’ve been watching you. It didn’t look hard. I created a name and took a run at it. ”

“But why, when I promised I’d help you set everything up to sell your bags?”

“I’m old, impatient, and I don’t see what the big deal is. It still turns on and off.”

“It’s not a light switch, it’s my computer. The one I’m writing my next book on.”

“If you were going to show me how to use it, you should be able to fix it!”

“Oooohhhh, Nana Jo Castle, if only it were that easy.”

###

The Story of Nanjo by Joe Owens

Nanjo drummed his fingers on the desk as his to slow laptop churned away at the internet address. He knew the latest rodeo deadline quickly approached and he wanted in.

“Five minutes!” he exclaimed when his screen finally held the needed information.

Nanjo typed so fast, too fast, relying on his newly installed bargain auto-correct to save him. In the bottom right corner his screen continue to tick away the time, adding to his panic. He checked the word count, but there was no room to explain his situation. His entry would look like this.

“Oh well!”

###

The Different Sides of Me by Susan Sleggs

I Nanjo Castille sit in my office staring at funeral home handouts. When with the public, I am calm, reassuring, kind and almost stoic. The mourning around me is not my own. When time permits, I write nonsensical flash fiction that looks like spam and submit it to Carrot Ranch. It eases the pain I see on a daily basis. I absolutely hate good-byes, those of others or my own. At day’s end, I loose my tied back hair, hang the suit up, and ride the long way home on my Harley enjoying the smells and sights of life.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

Nanjo Castille was a member of a street band.

He wasn’t very good, but what he lacked in talent he more than made up for in personality and enthusiasm.

Nanjo had got his name due to a typing error on a Music Hall billboard which his mother had thought ‘cute’. It didn’t help that his father was the banjo player originally given top billing and had legged it as soon as it was discovered Nanjo was on the way.

His Mom had died three years ago and his busking friends had offered him a home.

He played the tambourine.

###

The Real Nanjo Castille by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Blat of mule’s bray, and Nanjo rattled into the village square. People grumbled, crowding the buckboard wagon. They’d been waiting since dawn. The stench of unwashed clothes hung heavy in the morning heat.

“Sorry, sorry!” Nanjo called. “My last stop had dire need of my services, but I’ve saved my best for you!”

He reached behind him and flipped a tarp back. The crowd gasped at the rows of golden bars gleaming in the sun.

“Accept no substitutes! The Real Nanjo Castille soap, a heavenly marriage of Greek olive oil and Viking lye, will cure all your laundry ills!”

###

The Funeral by Frank Hubney

Senor Nanjo Castille sat alone in the church except for his bodyguards. No one else dared attend. They crossed the line this time.

As the Mass for the Dead progressed his business adversary’s money laundering restaurant was destroyed. Twelve dead. The warehouse was next. Fourteen dead. Then the offices. One hundred dead.

In his adversary’s desperation the expected fight around the church began. It lasted ten minutes.

When the service ended Senor Castille walked behind the caskets outside the church and viewed the mess in the street. Then he went to the cemetery to bury his wife and daughter.

###

What’s a Body to Do? by Bill Engleson

Hank looked down at the latest donation.

“Bit grizzled, Phil. None of his organs will be top quality…”

“Check his pockets. See if he’s go a name.”

“Huh, waddayaknow? A bloody diary. Here’s the name. Nanjo Castille!”

“Not from around here, I guess.”

“Small mercies. What’s it say?”

“Okay… ‘My name is Nanjo Tyrone Castille. At the orphanage, they said I’d been left outside the Rialto Theater in South Pasadena on December 25, 1947. The Captain from Castile was playing. Two nuns, Sisters Nancy and Josephine found me…’

“That’s it?”

“The rest is blank?”

“Yup!”

“Odd.”

“Great movie, though.”

“Agreed.”

###

“To Tell The Truth” by JulesPaige

There they were, three people on the panel. All claimed to be Nanjo Castille. Each of the four Judges got to ask questions. Charli, Geoff, Sherri and Norah.

Norah started with; “Where did you go to school? Your Grammar and spelling are atrocious.

“Hard Knocks,” said One.

Geoff quipped through tears of laughter; “Where’d you come up with ‘Bitchcoin’?

“My dog had puppies,” said Two.

Sherri wondered out loud; “What bridge do you troll under?”

“Took over from the Billies…” said Three

Charli queried; “Did you know you remind me of Lake Michigan?”

“We know!” The ‘Three’ said in Unison.

###

Musing on a Spammer by FloridaBorne

Not everyone has his dream fulfilled, but for one man this represented the culmination of a life well-lived.

The panelists on “To Tell The Truth,” singers and a politician, were easily fooled. An impeccable liar, he was delighted they’d chosen another.

“Will The Real Nanjo Castille please stand up.”

The man at the other end knew a lot about spamming, that was certain, but he wasn’t a billionaire who had built an empire.

Nanjo stood, so proud and confident, until the man at the end laughed and whispered, “I’m a hacker. You’ve just donated your entire fortune to charity.”

###

Nanjo Castille: All the Places by Anne Goodwin

You didn’t see me, as you set off for the fells from your tents and your smart hotels. You didn’t see me, from your government palaces, as you closed the steelworks and pits. You didn’t hear me when you moved the call centres to India where graduates paid a pittance had better English accents than mine. You didn’t smell, from your barn conversions by the lakeside, the stench of slime and shit and sorrow.

See me now, friends, brothers, strangers! See the blood, the bone, the bullet holes. Hear the sirens. Smell the fear. Remember my name: Nanjo Castille.

###

Unknown Soldier by Geoff Le Pard

Mary shivered, regretting her choice of coat. Remembrance Day parades brought back memories of the cold like no other.

As the last note of The Last Post drifted away, Mary read the names on the War Memorial. She’d never studied them before. Two Thompsons, three Greys and Nanjo Castille. Now that was an odd name for a Surrey village in 1918.

Who was he? Spanish immigrant? South American dissident? Did anyone else see his name and wonder? Maybe a writer would take it to embed it in a story, giving him a life beyond his current chiselled anonymity.

###

Historical Fiction View 1 by Gordon Le Pard

The French General read the letter and smiled, the English were on the run.

“This Nanjo Castille is certainly our best agent, he seems to know exactly what they are doing. We march at dawn.”

“But the reinforcements and supplies haven’t arrived.”

“Read the message, they are demoralised, they have lost supplies, it will be the victory we need if we can catch them soon.”

Two weeks later, as he looked across the ruins of the army at the impregnable defences, the Lines of Torres Vedras, he cursed Nanjo Castille.

“Find him, kill him, he has cost us Spain.”

###

Historical Fiction View 2 by Gordon Le Pard

Wellington looked across the battlefield at the retreating French, they had fallen into his trap and been decisively defeated.

“I never thought they would believe it.”

“Ever since we broke their codes we have been able to deceive them. But I must admit that the success of Nanjo Castille was unexpected.”

“Who is Nanjo Castille?” Wellington asked.

The spymaster pointed to two clerks.

“NAthaNiel Chalk and JOhn Castle. They made that name up out of their own names, and the French swallowed everything.”

He laughed, “We march at dawn, if all goes well, Nanjo Castille will have freed Spain.”

###

Interviewing the Real Nanjo Castille by Charli Mills

Danni pressed record, fluffing the sound muffler Ike called “The Muppet.” Today, she had access to living history. An elderly man called “The Real Nanjo Castille.”

Wrinkled and shrunken, he hunched beneath a blanket in a wheelchair. “I was born the year they assassinated my father, Pancho Castille.”

“1923. What were you told about your father?”

“He was a great revolutionary. He captured Buffalo Soldiers after Americans attacked our border towns.”

“Wasn’t it the other way around? Castille’s forces attacked US towns, stealing gold coins and burning a purse factory.”

“Why interview me if you already know the story?”

###

Freedom by Colleen Chesebro

The sun slipped behind the mesa. Nanjo Castille dropped to the ground, thankful for the shade. His travels from Mexico to Arizona had kept him on the run from U.S. Border Agents and the Federales. Yet, real freedom was worth the risks. Selling knock-off designer purses on the streets of Tijuana had been his downfall. If he could make it to California, he was home free.

In the coolness, Nanjo slept; never hearing the agent creep up on him. When he awoke, he was handcuffed. From the window of the truck, he watched his chance at freedom evaporate.

###

An Order for Nanjo Castille by Judy E Martin

Dear Mr Castle, or can I call you Nando?

I heard you have some classy bags and perfumes for sale for a tenner. I am after a Christmas prezzie for my mum and she can’t stand that Coco Caramel, but is rather partial to Optimum. I think John Paul Goatier’s perfume in that bottle-shaped like a girdle would suit her better. Oh, and I need a handbag for my sisters. Have you got any of them Blueberry or Herman’s ones in stock? I’m prepared to pay you twenty quid for the lot! Let me know, please.

Jef Leppard

###

And…from…The Real Nanjo Castille…

The Sales Pitch (spam edited to 99 words) by The Real Nanjo Castille

Dear Mr Chalres and Mrs Gerar Depardue, hi Nanjo.
Iget new email as lAst email say bammed as span.
I nanjo. Not Spanbomb. Spanbomb say “Hello. Is there anything you need any editional assistants wtih?” ectrestera. >>>>no wrories forgive I forgie.
>>>>but perfemes/ is nwo at premeim. for you.nO?
You dont >>>>>>>>>>want Perseus?and Bags? sUperier than orgininal? Not that ether.
Wait.
I no wat you want, you 2 wthi dongle tehchnoelgoy:
Hi-edn forch lift truc; parts?. Letme say how thirs owrks for toughguy lyk u,Mr Xharles Mils:

Run now before boss sees me sales pitch.
By bni. Najnno/Project Shipping

Editor’s Note: Nanjo struggled with the 99-word constraint, which continues to be his Achilles Heel. This had to be cut down from 206 words. And yes, he really did respond! If Nanjo wants a second career as a humorist, he needs to get a legitimate email, website and a more transparent purpose.