Over at Carrot Ranch the January 21, 2021, prompt is: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that rephrases ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ Think of how the cliche replacement communicates a hopeful ending and aligns with your character or story. Go where the prompt leads!” Mine is a double.
Skipper. Always a corncob pipe stuck in his mouth, puffing away like that’s what powered the boat. Remember one time we got caught out in a bad nor’easter. That corncob grew cold but he kept it clenched in his teeth as he steered through the troughs and waves, me shivering scared in the cuddy cabin. I didn’t believe we’d weather that one. Then somehow Skipper had a free hand to relight his pipe under the brim of his oilskin hat. The storm was still pounding wild, but that round glow chipping at the dark told me we’d come through.
His hands at his chest clutching the blanket edge reminds me of him at the helm that night, our lives depending on his firm and determined grip. Now his breath wheezes like the gurgling stem of that corncob pipe. The electronic machines cast steady waves of green light, sounding ebb and flow. If it were a depth finder I could read it. I want to believe he’ll weather this one. That tube in his throat, does he think that’s his pipe? Aren’t his lips moving, champing at the familiar bit? I watch his hands. Light your damn pipe, Skipper.
Sue Vincent has returned with her Thursday photo prompt! While I have been an infrequent participant, I have missed this weekly prompt and the wonderful writing it generated among so many bloggers. I also used Ronavan’s decima challenge to meet the prompt. In his decima challenge #41 we are to use “shimmer” in the c line. Go to his site for more on the form and to see other responses.
“Yes! When an author’s story is accepted, they get free editing and then their story appears on Always Write with their byline and bio. Then readers from a wide audience comment and speculate. The author joins in the discussion with the readers.”
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 her.
“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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
“I’m glad it’s Nard in there, Ilene.”
“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.
“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 promptword, “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.