#99Word Stories; The One Who Left the Dress

The August 8, 2022 story challenge from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch is to: Write a story about “the one who left the dress.” A 1940s-era dress still hangs in an abandoned house. Who left it and why? You can take any perspective and write in any genre. It can be a ghost story. Or not. Go where the prompt leads! Submit at Carrot Ranch by August 13, 2022.

After a bit of a drought I was pleased to get a story right away from this prompt. Done. Initially this was 99 words about a woman who didn’t want to give up work she’d done well and enjoyed doing. But what happened to that dress that was left behind? Might it become a family’s story cloth? Not done; I added two more and finally a fourth was written.

The One Who Left the Dress by D. Avery

1945

“The factory is giving our jobs to the men. Some thanks.”

“What are you complaining about, Maeve? Your husband made it home, intact. He wants to start a family.” She giggled and slapped her friend playfully. “Time to get back to the real business of being a woman.”

“I liked working.”

“So be a secretary.”

“Rick agreed to secretarial work. He even bought me this dress.”

“It’s perfect! Oh, gotta run. Dinner!”

“I built airplanes,” Maeve whispered as her friend let herself out.

Then she packed her suitcase. She included some of Rick’s clothes. She left the dress behind.

1975

“This looks like it’s from the forties.”

“It is. I think it’s perfect for my first day. At Ms. Magazine!”

“I thought they wore pants. Where’d you get it anyway?”

“Family heirloom. See, my mother had a friend who left this dress along with her husband soon after the war because she didn’t want to be a housewife or secretary. After my mother divorced her crazy first husband, she married the friend’s husband and got the dress too.”

“That’s not family.”

“Sure it is. That sister left this dress behind. Her choice helped get us where we are today.”

2015

“Uh-oh. The dress. What’s wrong?”

“I think my mom never gave her mom enough credit.”

“Oh?”

“Grammy got herself out of an abusive relationship and into a good loving one. She chose to be a housewife and mother and was damn good at it.”

“Is it the promotion?”

“Same old story. A guy I trained got it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We can’t afford to do what my grandparents did.”

“Have kids?”

“It should be a choice. An affordable choice.”

“Maybe your mom will lace up her marching shoes again. Really? Kids?”

“No. Maybe. Who will I leave this dress to?”

2045

This fourth episode has been written but will debut in the collection of The One Who Left the Dress stories at Carrot Ranch next Wednesday. I hope you come by to read it along with all the other responses to the prompt.

How would you tell the tale of a 100 year old dress (and its owners) in 99 words?

Be sure to go to Carrot Ranch to read the complete “Someplace Remote” collection from last week. And there’s always the Ranch Yarns with Kid and Pal’s responses HERE.

#SixSentenceStories; Space

So many excuses for not writing, so many conditions I insist on, like needing time and space.

My time has been taken by many things this summer; I no sooner got back from a long strange trip than my father was hospitalized which meant a lot of coming and going, duties and distractions, but he is now home and resettled into his own space, albeit with new conditions and expectations, the new normal.

My dad got so he was in a good enough place that I dared travel again, enjoying the restorative space of open water and woods, a camping/kayaking week with a dear friend. Two and a half days of travel each way and worth it, sharing the ride with my husband who camped out at the Oshkosh air and space show. While out and about we mostly masked and mostly maintained the space of a cow’s length between us and strangers but mostly wasn’t enough.

Somehow, somewhere, my husband got Covid and now I seem to have it and with it, time and space, so this week I managed these six sentences and a double Six below.

Holding Space by D. Avery

Dear Jamie,

You said you’ll want to hear all about my visit with my grandparents, well I’ll get started now, plus letter writing is a means of escape (haha, it’s not so bad, well maybe Grandmother is).

Grandmother is one of those people who has to fill any silence with a swarm of words, sharp words that whine and threaten like hovering mosquitoes. And she’s filled all the space in their house with stuff, all kinds of just stuff, and lots of it, any flat surface is taken up, leaving very little room for me, so I usually hang out with Gramps in his shed workshop.

Gramps says the house is taking on a precarious topography, tells me she wasn’t always like this, then he went on about (are you ready for this?) my mother’s older brother dying in a swimming accident at the age of eight, I never knew that my mother had a brother but she would have been four then and I was five when she died of an aneurysm, so yeah. And my dad, well you know how talkative he is, haha, but Gramps was full of information and insights, like how Grandmother decided to resent my dad for taking my mother away and how she has trouble having me around because I look like their son, my uncle. He said she doesn’t want to love anyone anymore because it hurts too much, but then he looked right at me and said, ‘We have to, August, we have to keep loving, even through loss and pain, don’t ever forget that.”

*

Dear Jamie,

Well, it’s another day, and since I never got your letter into the mailbox, I’ll just add on to it.

I was out with Gramps again in his workshop today and out of the blue, or maybe he was continuing yesterday’s conversation, he said how sorry he was for me losing my good friend Jimmy on top of already losing my mother. He said my dad was a good man but was himself still hurting, said that he’d hoped Grandmother could be a better grandmother to me, since I didn’t have a mother for these tough times.

That’s when I told him I was doing okay because I have a new friend (you) and that you have two mothers and his eyebrows went up and he kept filing his mower blade and I told him how Mimi and Momo can even get Dad laughing and talking, told him how it feels like a family since that Thanksgiving dinner. Then Gramps smiled and wondered if maybe Mimi and Momo could make space at their table for him and Grandmother too.

I know I didn’t make her sound very nice, but, what do you think?

Augie


Augie you may remember from long ago Sixes (and 99 word stories). I thought I was finished with him and his friend Jamie but, to my surprise, they reappeared and insisted on getting some air time. This is how it turned out.

This week’s SixSentenceStory prompt word is “space“. Thank you to Denise of GirlieOntheEdge for hosting. Entrust her and her merry band of Sixers with your own Six Sentence Story through the linkup and be sure to read and comment on the other Sixers’ Sixes.

#99Word Stories; Some Place Remote

The August 1, 2022 story challenge from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch is to: Write a story that features someplace remote in 99 words (no more, no less). It can be a wild sort of terrain or the distance between people. What is the impact of a remote place? Go where the prompt leads! Submit at Carrot Ranch by August 6, 2022.

Alone Time by D. Avery

The bottle was old and weathered, but still. He’d just go even farther off-trail to find the unlittered, unpeopled remoteness he sought.
Time passed quickly but drinking the last of his water he realized he’d walked for miles. So he was surprised to see the discarded bottle again. Hadn’t he been walking straight away from it and the trail? Now he’d just have to walk straight back toward the trail.
When he saw the old bottle a third time his stomach lurched. This time he saw the skeleton with its grinning skull.
No one heard him laughing at himself.

Be sure to go to Carrot Ranch to read the complete “Sweet As Cherries” collection from last week. And there’s always the Ranch Yarns with Kid and Pal’s responses HERE.

Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash fiction is short fiction, generally anywhere from fifty to fifteen hundred words, but if you come by ShiftnShake regularly you know that I most always write flash fiction of 99 words no more no less, or of six sentences that run between 99 and 500 words, more or less. I am grateful for the Carrot Ranch and Six Sentence Stories prompts and communities, for dragging stories out of me and encouraging my efforts. Occasionally a story that began as a response to these prompts gets another look from me, and even more occasionally, gets looked at for publication. A piece that is now titled “Remembrances” was first written to be a 99-word story, though I do remember having to pare the first draft down quite a bit to get it to 99 words. Minutes before the deadline of a  Flash Fiction Magazine contest, I built that story up again and submitted it.

Though shortlisted, it didn’t win, didn’t even place. And here’s why I like Flash Fiction Magazine : the feedback on the version I submitted to them was thorough, specific, professional, and spot on. They did say that, contest aside, should I be willing to revise what I’d submitted, they’d like to publish the story, so I did, guided by their feedback.

Today is the day that that revised story is published at their site. Yes, I’m hoping you go to Flash Fiction Magazine to read “Remembrances” and leave a comment there, and when you do, look around. They have a Free Book, newsletter, and Free Course  for those interested in learning more about flash fiction. They welcome more readers and writers!     

#PicoftheWeek; Yesteryear

no cadillac ranch
just a farm truck parked
green energy; trunk in junk

I seem to be semi-weekly in responding to Maria Antonia‘s weekly photo challenge, but here it is. My photo represents “Yesteryear”. I love both old trucks and trees so this scene gave me two reasons to stop and take a picture. Check out Maria’s  #2022picoftheweek to see how you can participate in this fun prompt.

#PicoftheWeek; Flower Power

feast for eyes
before beans I dine
with the bees

I’ve missed a couple weeks, but will try to resume posting a weekly snapshot in response to Maria Antonia‘s photo challenge. Maria has again updated her bingo sheet with 25 new categories for July, August, and September. Check out Maria’s  #2022picoftheweek to see how you can participate in this fun prompt. My photo represents “Flower Power”

#99Word Stories; For a day

The July 11, 2022 story challenge from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch is to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by the idea, “for a day.” What is so special about the action, person, or object experienced for a day? Go where the prompt leads! Submit at Carrot Ranch by July 16, 2022.

In addition to the flash below, I have another response in 99 words and Six Sentences HERE, which borrows a setting and character from previous prompts.

At Day’s End by D. Avery    

“Did you see this?”

She hadn’t. She sighed, looked at him over her book.

“I know what I would spend a day with.”

“What?”

“Who, really. You.”

“You are spending a day with me.” Another one, she thought. Another endless, aimless day. She tried to find her place but was interrupted again.

“I’d cherish a day with the old you.”

“Don’t you mean the young me?”

“Sure, you when you were younger.”

“So you want a younger woman?”

He looked at her uncertainly. “Just you. When you still loved me.”

She bent her head to the tear blurred page.

Be sure to go to Carrot Ranch to read the complete “Freedom” collection from last week. And there’s always the Ranch Yarns with Kid and Pal’s responses HERE.

#SixSentenceStories; Exchange

This week two prompts led me back to a mystical shop that first appeared HERE as a Six Sentence Story. A month later the What-You-Seek Boutique was again featured as a setting for a Carrot Ranch prompt. The current Carrot Ranch prompt is to, in  99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by the idea, “for a day.” So here is one take in 99 words and six sentences.

Denise, of GirlieontheEdge, will open the link Wednesday at six for Six Sentence Stories that feature the word “exchange“.

The Exchange by D. Avery

“What you’re looking for is certainly here, but is it what you need?” The twinkle in the old man’s eyes turned sharp as he cautioned, “Consider the cost.”

“Someone or something from my past to spend a day with? — that’s a priceless gift.”

“To revisit what was for what might be,” he said, handing her an old mirror, “Giving up a present day, still charged with possibility— it’s a costly exchange.”

The mirror was identical to one she’d had as a little girl, the one that had once belonged to her grandmother. “The past is for reflection, not reliving.”