The Usual; SixSentenceStory

Through the diner window Deborah watched the truck pull up, watched the familiar dismount, the tail end of an unfiltered Camel hitting the ground just prior to the vibram soles of greasy steel-toed work boots. She watched the bold long-legged approach across the parking lot, liking all 200 brawny pounds of what she saw. Already she had in the usual order, had it pinned on the line even before the purple-cabbed Peterbuilt had ceased squealing and hissing to a stop. Every two weeks, the same, though every two weeks the banter became increasingly serious, became conversation, and questions, increasingly potent.

This time Deborah was nervous like never before and glanced around, glad to see there were only two customers in the place, both distracted with their phones, not even looking up when the third driver strode in, beaming at the sight of Deborah.

“Ellen, my bag is in the back; this time I will go with you.”

The prompt word is “filter“, the rules are to write a story in six sentences. The link up is HERE, thanks to our host Denise of GirlieOntheEdge. Author Anne Goodwin reminds us in a recent article that February is  LGBT+ History Month and can be acknowledged and celebrated through literature. Maybe that’s why this story went where it did. I just had the first line, then decided to reassign those boots.

Page Turnin’

Belatedly, a nod to the new year. Kid and Pal want you to know their new page is up, their third, cleverly titled “Ranch Yarns 2021” which follows “Ranch Yarns 2020” and “Ranch Yarns ’17-’19” before that. These pages are where you can catch up on the antics of these fictional Carrot Ranchers who of their own volition respond to the Carrot Ranch Literary Community prompts every week. You may have caught Kid’s recent interview HERE. This past year Kid and Pal wandered off the Ranch for the first time and rode roughshod through some other blog hops. They settled down when the Saddle Up Saloon opened at Carrot Ranch, as Charli Mills left it to them to run the place. What could go wrong? Some things did go wrong, but through the miracles of fiction, were righted by the end. Whether it’s to take the stage and perform, or to just sit at the bar and comment, all are welcome at the Saddle Up Saloon, located in the wildly mild west of Carrot Ranch.


Lookin’ Back an’ Goin’ Forward

“It’s a new year Pal. Tell ya what, I ain’t inta all this visionin’ stuff.”

“Any hindsight on 2020 then, Kid?”

“Ain’t gonna put on rose colored glasses. We all know what went on, an’ is goin’ on, but there’s other places fer that conversation. I’ll ‘centuate the positive lookin’ back.”

“Thet’s why Shorty built the Saloon last March. Givin’ folks a pos’tive place ta come ever week fer a break an’ mebbe a laugh.”

“Thinkin’ Shorty’s jist keepin’ us corralled.”

“Thet too.”

“It worked.”

“The corrallin’? Or the morale-in’?”

“Both! I look for’ard ta more a the Saloon.”

*******************

“So yer lookin’ for’ard, Kid. Thet’s visionin’.”

“Is it? How d’ya see the Saddle Up down the road Pal?”

“Jist want the Saloon ta be a frien’ly hangout where folks drop by an’ say howdy, mebbe git up on the stage an’ showcase themselves an’ their work.”

“Yeah… Pal, in ‘ddition ta the Saloon, we was in dang near a hunnerd fifteen 99-word yarns last year.”

“Think fame’s changed us Kid?”

“Naw. ‘Sides we’re jist legen’s in our own minds— or someone’s mind.”

“S’pose. But thet someone’s corralled our “Ranch Yarns” here.”

“An’ we’re ridin’ for’ard at Carrot Ranch!”

Wanted: Real or Fictional Folks ta take the stage.

Saddle Up Saloon; All the Critters Is Stirrin’, ‘Specially Mause

Kid drops the ball, but there’s a puppy to point to it and a puglet to fetch it. Come by the Saddle Up Saloon to say howdy and congratulations to Charli Mills and (expanded) family.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

“Dang it, Kid! What’s goin’ on? We got a Saloon ta run.”

“What’s the problem Pal?”

“Yer the problem. First those goats and now thet pig of yers— thet pig should not be in this ‘stablishment.”

“This is not ‘a pig’, not any pig; this is Curly. My pig. Lookit ‘er. Ain’t she the cutest?”

“Git ‘er out afore the Board a Health comes by.”

“Oh, she’s plenny healthy, ‘an asides, she’s a service hog. See the vest she’s wearin’?”

“Says ‘Servus’.”

“Oops. Serves us right fer d’pendin’ on spell chick. But the point is, that vest means she’s got ta ‘comp’ny me wherever I go. ‘Cause a PTS.”

“PTS? You?”

“No, you. Pal Totally Stresses. Pet Curly, Pal, scratch her b’hine the ears. It’ll make ya feel good ta make Curly feel good.”

“Enough a yer nonsense, Kid. What if Shorty come in here, saw this piglet a yers…

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CRLC Challenge; Butterfly & Stone

I’ll tell you the January 7 prompt from Charli at Carrot Ranch, but as always it’s a real fine post that goes with it, worth clicking on over there. Okay, the prompt is, “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones. The two can be used in any way in your story. Go where the prompt leads!” Though butterflies are the more obvious symbol of reflective change, both butterflies and stones go through transformations. In my first response I revisited the Dillard essay entitled “Teaching a Stone To Talk”. In my second, I took advantage of the setting offered by this prompt and used it to visit with Marge and Ernest. You may recall that the gang built a Zen garden and a pagoda style she-shed for this couple to encourage their nuptials. (If you go to their page to catch up, you might want to scroll all the way down to “Archway”.) Either way, there’s more to this scene.

Learning

In “Teaching A Stone To Talk” Annie Dillard states that we’ve desecrated the groves and sacred places, “have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism”, and so “Nature’s silence is its one remark”; “The silence is all there is” and this silence is our own doing.

I wonder; who are we then, to presume to teach a stone to talk? We need to learn to listen!

It isn’t easy work; it requires great attention and practice. But the stone has much to say about patience, endurance, and transformation.

Look. A butterfly lands whisper-winged on a lichen-cloaked stone. Watch and learn. Listen.


Emergence

“I’m glad it’s Nard in there, Ilene.”

“Really?”

“I’m glad you’re here with me. See Marge’s plants with all those butterflies on them? That’s my stomach.”

“Oh, Ernest. It’s all good. She’ll be out soon.”

From the stoop of the singlewide, Ernest looked across the river of stones of the Zen garden to the closed pocket door of the she-shed, while Ilene studied the butterflies adorning the buddleia and echinacea.

“Blue! Limenitis…? Ernest, have you ever seen anything so beautiful?”

Ernest was looking at Marge, finally emerging from the pagoda styled shed in a blue dress.

“No, not ever.”   

Limenitis arthemis astyanax

Zip; SixSentenceStory

Zippery Slope

“Bill, do you know where our daughter is?”

“Of course, she’s in the backyard working on her mathematics project— she set up a zipline. Oh, relax, Liz, it’s for her Destiny Doll; all morning she’s been sending poor Destiny zipping down from the tree fort and collecting data and then is going to graph the results. What?”

“Bill, Marlie is climbing to the top of the tree with a coil of rope.”

“Oh no— that’s why she asked if it was okay for her to do higher level math!”

I wasn’t thrilled with Denise’s Six Sentence Story prompt word, “zip”, but Marlie returned with her Destiny Doll to give me six sentences, so I was able to zip a story out. Then I got to thinking more about the word zip, and have to admit it has enough applications that there’s no excuse to have zip for a Six. The word had its beginnings in the mid 19th century and was “imitative”, which is easier to spell than onomatopoeia. Did you know that zip is code for zone improvement plan? Did you know that, (according to Wikipedia anyway), Whitcomb L. Judson invented the clasp-lock fastener in 1893 and the zipper began being used for clothing in 1925? And if you have ever wondered how Denise does come up with the prompt word, zip over to this interview from 2019 to find out about word selection and more from our venerable host.

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy, Kerry E. B. Black

Heard of the Saddle Up Saloon? This week it’s where you can visit with authorbloggermothermartialartistmetalworkerandmore Kerry E. B. Black. Come by and say howdy!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

“Ya know Kid, this here saloon thet Shorty set up fer us has been a lotta fun.”

“Sure has, Pal. I’ve injoyed the other fictional characters that come through.”

“Yep. An’ I’ve injoyed the real folks have come through an’ taken the stage, those thet read fer Five at the Mic, an’ the writers an’ other artists thet come by ta tell us ‘bout their work.”

“Well then yer gonna be happy ‘bout our first guest a the new year, Pal.”

“Who is it?”

“Guess.”

“Writer?”

“Yep.”

“Someone I’ve heard of?”

“Yep.”

“Gimme more hints.”

Herd of Nightmares.”

“Course I’ve heard of nightmares, Kid. Heck, I bunk with one.”

“Ha, ha Pal. Okay… Fairy Herds and Mythscapes.”

“Herds a fairies? Are you misspeakin’ Kid? Jist tell me all ready who this week’s guest is.”

“This week’s guest is none other than long time Rancher an’ Rough Writer…

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Kid Interviewed; facts on the fictional ranch hand

So, I went by tnkerr’s place and was hipped to a prompt by LRose, who brings us The Blog Propellant. The prompt this week is to: “Interview someone! Real or imagined. Come up with five questions and three follow-up questions to your interviewee’s answers. The Interviewer can be in first person, or a third person character.” I am featuring an interview of fictional character A. Kid, known as Kid. If you want to know more of Kid’s story go HERE. Go to The Blog Propellant for more. Who will you interview?

Interview of  A. Kid, aka Kid:

There are disclaimers that you are in fact fiction. Are you for real?

I am fer real, that is I’m pro-reality, well, mebbe not all realities, there’s some realities I’m def’nitely aginst. But yep, I’m really a real fictional character.

            What book are you in?

I ain’t in no book; I got me a real job, two jobs now. I’m a reg’lar hand at Carrot Ranch, not a Rancher or Rough Writer, but a fictional hand that takes care a chores. That shift don’t shovel itself, if ya know what I mean. An’ me an’ Pal also run the Saddle Up Saloon, a virtual waterin’ hole at the ranch, jist over the line.

If you could be in a book, any book, what book would it be?

Bet yer thinkin’ some sorta Western, ain’tcha? But funny thing is, since endin’ up as the residint greenhorn at Carrot Ranch I been rethinkin’ genre an’ tropes an’ sech. Yep, I’m willin’ ta talk like this, but we gotta ‘member a literary community knows no one time, place, or perspective. Anythin’s possible. I’m also thinkin’ my writer don’t read ‘nough fiction, an’ thinkin’ I’d ruther jist stay on the ranch than be in a book, but mebbe I’d be in somethin’ like Herman Hesse meets wild west, meets Cuckoo’s Nest. Yep, I’d git along jist fine in Howard Frank Mosher’s True Account, a novel tells ‘bout his fictional characters beatin’ Lewis an’ Clark ta the Pacific.

What’s the best thing about being a fictional character?

If my writer is payin’ attenshun she kin git me outta jist ‘bout any situation. ‘Course, if she were payin’ attenshun, she woulda kep me outta trouble in the first place, but I kin git inta trouble an’ count on gittin’ safely outta it. The worst case scenario’s been my writer cheats an’ takes an extra 99 words ta resolve my problem. Bet you real folks wish ya had it so good.

As a fictional character living and working on a virtual ranch, do you ever feel stuck?

Golly, no! First of all Carrot Ranch is boundless, a world wide literary community, so there’s lots of safe space and fascinating folks from all over. Every week there’s a new prompt so it’s never borin’. An’ ev’ry fall, in October, there’s the Rodeo, a fun flash fiction writin’ contest that’s open ta one an’ all, that’s always real excitin’. Ev’ry Tuesday there’s innerestin’ columns from dif’rent Ranchers. An’ a course there’s the Saddle Up Saloon that I’ve been runnin’ with my pal Pal since last March. We git ta meet great folks, artists of all sorts from all over, an’ we even git some other fictional characters in. ‘Cause even yer fictional characters need ta take a break now an’ agin, jist relax with those of us that git it, git away from their writers an’ the narrative. An’ there’s karaoke, which ain’t quite karaoke, an’ Five at the Mic, which is live readin’s, ‘cept they’re recorded. Tell ya what, if I was ta be stuck somewhere, couldn’t pick a better place than Carrot Ranch an’ the Saddle Up. Actually, I did pick it.

            So you never get off the Ranch or away from the Saddle Up Saloon?

Well, ever’thin’ we’ve done, me an’ Pal, is archived on the Ranch Yarn pages at our writer’s blog, ShiftnShake. An’ one time we did git away an’ blog hopped through some other prompts but it was prob’ly weird fer ever’one involved. I was glad ta git back ta the Ranch after that. But who knows, mebbe I’ll git out there agin.

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Like I said, I’m in a real good place. The real folks are real good, the other characters are lotsa fun. I been busy takin’ care a my puglet—

Puglet?

Well, it’s a piglet, but at first I thought it was one a them pug puppy dogs, but as the song goes, love the hog ya got, so yeah, I have ta walk the hog, an’ take care a all my kids—

You have kids?

Yep, goats, an’ they’s a lot a work, always gittin’ inta stuff, chewin’ on the poets’ tree an’ they et some a the weekly challenge submissions, but I resolve ta take better care a them an’ ta take good care a my puglet an’ ta jist keep havin’ fun with ever’one at the Ranch. I jist wanna write the occasional buckaroo-ku an’ I want folks ta come by the Saddle Up Saloon an’ jist have a good time, mebbe take the stage even. ‘Cause me an’ Pal do innerviews too ya know. Bet ya’d recognize some a the folks has been by. So yeh, I jist wanna keep on with all I got goin’ on. An’ I sure hope an’ pray fer yer real folks’ situation out there ta git better an fer y’all ta have a happy healthy 2021.

Distance; SixSentenceStory

The Six Sentence Story prompt word from Denise this week is “distance”. The task is to use that word in exactly six sentences (or stanzas, or lines) The link is open through tomorrow (the second day of 2021!) so head over to read more and to leave six sentences of your own.

Shepherding

The townspeople might have found it funny, but did not, that the one man who did not attend church services was the man with the least distance to travel, for Mr. Wolff’s farm was just next door to the church.

When they desired to build a newer larger church, Mr. Wolff gave them a generous amount for the old structure.

The townspeople might have found it funny, but did not, that Mr. Wolff then used the old church to shelter his flock of sheep. 

They were not amused when he used the signboard in front of the old church:

When you find your humor, God will find you.

The townspeople, realizing that it was not easy for him to be good, prayed for Mr. Wolff.

Mr. Wolff whistled a merry tune and went about his work.

Saddle Up Saloon; Story Time!

Good Night Moon at the Saddle Up Saloon? Yep! Come meet Jennie Fitzkee from A Teacher’s Reflections.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

“A preschool teacher walks into a saloon—”

“Oh, I think I know this one Pal. Eats shoots and leaves?”

“What? No, Kid! Look, here comesJennie Fitzkee, a preschool teacher. Howdy Jennie!”

“Hello Pal, hello Kid.”

“Preschool? School prior to school? What age are your students?”

“My students are three and four years old Kid.”

“How’d ya git inta the pre-school teacher gig?”

“Back in the day, most women had three career choices— teacher, secretary, or nurse. I always enjoyed babysitting and playing with my younger sisters, so teaching was a natural choice for me. I have been teaching for thirty-seven years!”

“Must be ya love what ya do, Jennie.”

“I sure do, Pal. I have always taught preschool, no other grade. Lucky me! The best thing about being a preschool teacher is making a real difference. And that happens in small and unexpected moments. The little things are…

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Horizon; SixSentenceStory

It’s Wednesday, Denise‘s day to open the linkup for another Six Sentence Story gathering. This week’s word is “horizon”. These six sentences are being used to continue two 99 word stories of a young man who lives and works on his father’s ranch.

At the Table

“You know, Tom,” his dad said, catching him in a yawn across the dinner table, “You sure have been pushing yourself the last couple weeks.”

Tom looked at the hired hand, a young man called Prince, as he told his dad that he worked so hard because he wanted to wear himself out, wanted to be too tired to think or feel at the end of the day. Then he faced his father. “And if I do give in to what I’m thinking and feeling, least you’ll know I can work, that I ain’t soft.”

Liza drawled, “There’s trouble on the horizon,” her eyes darting around the table looking to see it, but her father and brother were both looking down, both suddenly busy with the food on their plates.

“My father hasn’t spoken to me in over five years,” Prince said.

Tom’s father paused, coughed, looked at Tom when he said, “That’s too bad, Prince; he should want to know that his son puts in a day’s work would make any man proud.”