Toilet Triple; CRLC & SixSentenceStory

The November 19, 2020, prompt from Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch is to “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!

If you only read the above prompt and not Charli’s posts, you miss out on context, on what prompts her prompts. When she posted this latest 99-word challenge it was World Toilet Day . Should you click on this link you will see that:

World Toilet Day is a United Nations Observance that celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.

That’s serious stuff.  In her post Charli asks, “Would humanity solve toileting issues if we mentioned it more in literature? How often does a novelist mention toilets in a book? Do you? Well, now is your chance to practice writing about toilets.” (You have until Tuesday, December 1 on this one)

I am certainly capable of potty humor, but, well, you know… should I? I do try to behave in mixed company. And this is serious. I was somewhat stopped up by this prompt. And then I wondered if potty humor is universal, or a sign of privilege.

The prompt certainly had me remembering innovative solutions and desperate measures seen and done while camping or traveling, but those were limited runs, so to speak, and again, camping and travel speak of an advantaged life overall.

I did finally get things moving and one flash followed another but then realized that each features a flush toilet within a special private room in a house— luxury and opulence!  This is not a universal experience by a long shot. Do check out World Toilet Day to learn more.

So, without further ado-do, here are three toilet tales that may or may not amuse, and that also reveal luxuries taken for granted. The third one I have also linked to Six Sentence Stories as “oasis” influenced this particular bathroom story.

Rumblings

Wally’s favorite room—his inner sanctum; throne room; library; oasis.

“Peace and quiet in return for my daily offering— priceless.”

After installing the colored motion lights in the bowl Wally became even more reverent. The ‘rumble seat’ became the porcelain oracle became his muse; a pad and pen were kept near the other scrolls.

I come to you more than time to pass

Show you the moon, my mirrored ass

Your waters soothe, shimmering votive candle

My sins absolved when I push the handle.

My poetry, people don’t care for it

To that matter, I don’t give a shit


Last Room Standing

“Really? I’m going to the bathroom!”

(A euphemism. She’d already gone to the bathroom, was now in the bathroom and sitting on the toilet using it for its intended purpose.)

Though originally she’d gone just to be away from him. Victor was getting carried away again. (Another euphemism; he was out of control yelling and screaming.) Not at her. Something on TV. Still. And now he wanted her to unlock the door?

“No!”

Victor yelled a lot but had difficulties communicating clearly. He never stated why she should let him in…

The tornado carried him away. (Not a euphemism.) 


Oasis Stasis

It was not a mirage, it was marriage, marriage all-inclusive, with children, pets, dishes, laundry, and working from home. It was enough to blur her vision and make her misty at times but there was an oasis, a peaceful place to recover, to take respite from the whirlwinds that swept through the house.

Gathering up clothes and other debris, flotsam wake of the twins, she paused and smiled at the picture book, Everybody Poops.  It had been a hit with her older children too.

She shuddered with a sudden realization. Potty-trained twins would mean increased competition for her oasis!


CRLC Challenge; Avocado Toast

That’s right, avocado toast. That’s the November 12 2020, prompt from Carrot Ranch this week, to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes avocado toast. How can this be a story or a prop to a story? Use your senses and imagination. Go where the prompt leads! Here’s my 99 words of fiction. Click over to the Ranch to leave a story of your own, to read others, or to read the post that led to this prompt.


Stuck by D. Avery

In the beginning we both adored avocado toast for breakfast. Together we peeled and pitted. We ate avocado toast out of each other’s hands.

In the end of the beginning I suggested other breakfast foods, reminisced about eggs. Oatmeal even, with raisins. Surely an avocado aficionado would also appreciate raisins and oats. But you insisted on only, always, avocado on toast.

In the beginning of the end I slumped at the counter slurping oatmeal while you crunched overdone toast smeared with over-ripe avocado.

In the end I let you rush to that meeting with avocado stuck in your mustache.

CRLC Challenge; Lost Time

This week, November 5, 2020, the prompt from Carrot Ranch is to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or something speculative. How does lost time impact the character of your story? Bonus points if you include a 1982 brown rubber watch. Go where the prompt leads! My first take is just playing with the ennead syllabic form that Colleen Chesebro concocted for the 2nd Rodeo event at Carrot Ranch, except I went beyond 99 syllables until I also got to 99 words. The second take is a 99 word story that uses a setting and a character first seen in a Six Sentence Story not too long ago.

Lost Time

Give my watch back to me

Lost since ‘83

Relic of time— brown rubber band, hands that wind,

Never thought I would see

its face again; Sea

scratched, sand-blasted; etched, lined

not so unlike mine

Time-keeper losing faith; time come back to me

Covering sands march blind

measuring marked time

Not for the watch these tears

Thirty-seven years!

It’s the time that went (foolishly spent) I want   

In a flash, disappeared!

Suddenly I’m Here.

Another flash, lost time

No reason, low rhyme

Give me my watch, give me back the time it’s seen   

Worn trails, tracked storied lines

—99!


The Present

“Welcome to the What-You-Seek Boutique.”

She said she was just browsing, not really seeking anything.

“No?” The shopkeeper proffered a brown rubber banded watch.

“I had a watch like that once, but haven’t missed it. I don’t need it.”

“It’s still ticking. Look.”

She looked. The path around the watch face showed all she’d ever done, places she had been. The watch’s one hand pointed to Home, not a written word but a feeling of what Home meant to her and her alone.

“Home… but— what next?”

The shopkeeper smiled.  “There’s time. Take it. A present for you.”

CRLC Challenge; Lifesavers

The “CRLC” in the headings for my responses to the Carrot Ranch prompts stands for Carrot Ranch Literary Community. The Carrot Ranch Literary Community is a place where people freely and safely practice literary art 99 words at a time, a place to learn and grow as a writer. This week we are challenged by the community’s leader, Charli Mills, to write about lifesavers, and though the Coast Guard and their predecessors were implicated, as ever, we go where the prompt leads.


Into the Storm

Through rain pelted windows Marlie’s tree fort hove into view. Marlie read, curled up with Daisy on the couch.

“Remember when she used to sail in weather like this, captaining a mighty ship?”

“Remember when she made Tommy walk the plank?”

“Do you miss Tommy, Liz?”

“For better or worse, I do. I miss our opportunity to give Tommy a respite from his family. The great unmasked… What’s Marlie researching now, Bill?”

“Lifesavers.”

“The candy? Or health care workers?”

“Life savers— nascent Coast Guard.”

Putting her book aside Marlie donned her foul weather gear. She had to go out.

###

“Who will rescue us, Bill?”

“What? Are we a wreck?” He crowded into the window seat. Beyond the steamy window, Marlie braved the high seas to pluck Destiny from the surf.

“Not us. Us. /U/ /S/. Of A?”

“Oh. Ship of fools. Headed for the rocks.”

“We’ve been commandeered by pirates, with a fool spinning the helm. I’m scared Bill.”

“Me too.”

“Oh! Marlie! You’ve returned.”

“Mom? Dad?”

“We’re huddled in our lifeboat, Marlie. Get in.”

Marli climbed in with her parents and assessed their circumstances. “It’s going to be rough. But we’ll make it. All storms peter out.”

CRLC Challenge: Spooky Tale

It’s another week another post another prompt from Carrot Ranch. The charge this time? In 99 words (no more, no less), write a spooky tale told around a campfire. It doesn’t have to include the campfire; it can be the tale. Go where the prompt leads!



Coming Full by D. Avery

“No! He didn’t go on the mountain!”

“Don’t think I didn’t try to stop him.”  The old man squinted through the plume of pipe smoke enshrouding his face. Fog engulfed the mountaintop.

“Not today! The moon is coming full.”

He pulled hard on his pipe. “I warned him.” Coals glowed round and red in the bowl. “Just laughed… always wanting to prove us wrong.”

“At least tell me he’s not planning on hunting it. Not today.”

“He wouldn’t listen.”

They heard one shot, far up the mountain. Then shrieking wind. He sighed, tamped cold gray ash from his pipe.

CRLC Challenge; Chores

square-template24Over at Carrot Ranch the weekly challenges continue, even though Charli Mills is up to her earlobes in MFA work and related happenings. The annual Rodeo, the Ranch writing contest, is also going on, until the end of the month supplanting the Tuesday columns and Monday’s Saddle Up Saloon feature. It sure is worth a visit to Carrot Ranch to read, write, and appreciate literary art.

This week the prompt is to, “in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!” I treaded word water for three 99 word essays before being led to a flash featuring that farm family and another unrelated totally fictitious take apropos of nothing.  

Chores

I, and my brothers, always had chores. Aside from some gender discrepancies, typical for the times, I don’t resent having had chores; in fact appreciate the experiences and learning that came from them. When I was a teacher I often asked students and parents about chores at home. Repetitive tasks, such as setting the table, support number sense. As parental scaffolds fall away a child learns independence and problem solving skills in the endeavor to complete a chore. Balanced with play, meaningful chores provide a child a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of being a contributing family member.

How chores are perceived by a child, and by adults, depends on how they are presented; attitude and mindset matter. The first definition of chore is a routine task; routine, necessary tasks are not necessarily unpleasant. Shouldn’t there be joy and satisfaction in completing a necessary task? And can’t one bring joy to that task? That’d be a fine thing to model for a child. Chores can be a shared time of skill teaching, of story telling, of instilling habits of stewardship and responsibility. Let a child grow into what they are capable of and don’t forget to play.

Do what you love, love what you do. Because I am able to pretty much do things when I want to not when I have to, I have no chores. I get done what needs to get done without stress. In fact routine tasks reduce stress; so-called chores can be a relaxing time of contemplation and mindful mindlessness, often serving to unblock some other stoppage. Unforced, tasks go more smoothly and successfully; what seems a chore one day eventually becomes another day’s pleasant project, the delay often necessary subconscious problem solving. To master your tasks, don’t be a taskmaster.

###

Lost in Translation  

“I learned a new word at school today.”

Hope’s dad continued scooping beans with his bread. “In the classroom or on the playground?”

“Playground.”

He held his bread and looked up. “What word?”

“It started with a /c/ I think. Melinda made it seem like a bad word.” Hope continued while her parents exchanged glances. “It has to do with doing things you don’t want to do, and not getting to do fun things. Chores! That’s the word.”

“But Hope, you tend the chickens, and the garden; help us both out around the farm.”

“That’s fun! Mommy, what’s allowance?”

###

Tales Out of School

She loved the pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children, of engaging all learners. When she taught she learned, delving deeply into the topic when developing units of study. She led her students by following their lead. She relished helping her students make connections and demonstrate their learning creatively.

Then came the canned curriculum, the boxed units.

“This will be easier for all teachers.”

Easier isn’t better. Let me do it my way, she said.

“Curriculum delivery should all be the same. You can do your thing as long as you follow the program.”

Teaching became a chore.

rwr-1

CRLC Challenge; Kid Gloves

Unquenched     by D. Avery

More than thirst might make his voice crack. He left them in the dugout without speaking. Carrying the shovel, work gloves feathering out of his back pocket, he hoped he appeared confident to his family.
He arrived at the spring, the once muddy surface now flaked, dried and split like old leather. He methodically pulled his gloves on, grasped the shovel and bent to his work, one scoop at a time. Each thrust of the blade was a prayer, each going unanswered until finally he stopped.
Under a blistering blue sky he held his head in his gloved hands.

square-template21The October 8, 2020, Carrot Ranch prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves. A prop in the hands of a character should further the story. Why the gloves? Who is that in the photo, and did he steal Kids’ gloves (of the Kid and Pal duo)? Consider different uses of the phrase, too. Go where the prompt leads!                                                                    

CRLC Challenge; Dusty Trails

square-template18There’s so much going on at Carrot Ranch! Despite Rodeo contests running all month, the regular weekly challenges continue as well. This week the Carrot Ranch prompt is to: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that happens on the dusty trail. It can take place anywhere. Who is your character, where are they going, and why? Bonus points if they meet up with Kid and Pal from D. Avery’s Ranch Yarns and Saddle Up Saloon (they hit the trail so TUFF could take over the saloon). Go where the prompt leads!” Despite the western leanings of the prompt I was led back to The Fold. But if you look carefully you might see Pal and Kid!

Star Dust    by D. Avery

“It’s my magical palace, Mommy!”

Taking her mother’s hand Hope twirled and danced in the hayloft until they both fell back into a pile of loose hay, laughing. Dusty trails of chaff sparkled in the shafts of sunlight.

“Stars!” her mother exclaimed.

“Make a wish, Mommy.”

“Does wishing work with this kind of star?”

“Yup. Mine came true.”

“What did you wish for?”

But Hope only grew quiet and snuggled closer to her mother, who stared up into the glittering dust. “I’m so sorry, kid,” she whispered. “But I’m here now, I promise.” Then she wished upon a star.

TUFF Schooling

prompt-chompWe have all heard that teaching is tough. That’s not why this teacher got going and got out, but were I still teaching I would want to teach TUFF and use it with students and colleagues.

TUFF, The Ultimate Flash Fiction, developed by Charli Mills, is a tool of reduction, revision, and refining one’s writing. She explains it further in a recent interview at The Saddle Up Saloon, or see Charli’s explanation HERE. I have discussed and shown the TUFF process at ShiftnShake with some of my fiction writing, for example in Tuff Love, and in Styling. And to clarify, though I may use the term flash fiction out of habit, the applications (and the Carrot Ranch challenges) are certainly not restricted to fiction writing.

At the heart of TUFF is the 99 word piece of writing, at least that’s the word count arrived at by Charli and her Carrot Ranchers for the weekly writing challenges. The main idea is a word restriction, no more, no less, but I believe a number near to a hundred is good for both writer and reader. As schools are full of writers and readers, let’s examine these flash fiction tools, the 99 word constraint and TUFF, with students and teachers in mind, for these tools are advantageous to both groups.

In many ways teaching is like blogging. Even before Covid and remote learning, much of the communication is digital and many teachers maintain a website and social media accounts related to their classrooms. For those communications and word snapshots teachers should want to become effective at a ‘less is more’ style of writing. Specific emails or messages, especially those difficult ones that teachers sometimes must write to parents, principals, or colleagues, also benefit from the steps proscribed for TUFF. Write the one you will not send first; pour it out on the page, uncensored. That’s the free-write. Then pare that down (or build it up) to 99 words, words that might be more suitable for your audience yet still maintains the point that has to be made. To be sure of that point and your word choice, go the next steps; reduce those 99 to 59 then 9 words. You will see your word choice improve, your point made stronger and more clear with these reductions. You will also be much calmer and clearer than when you spilled the free-write. Now pick and choose from these versions to build another 99-word version. In this application, the difficult email, 99 words is plenty, and is about the most people are going to want to read. You may even want to revise the 59- or 9-word version and keep the message even briefer.

A teacher would also benefit from using TUFF for vision statements and goal setting, whether it’s at the beginning of a new school year, term, or unit of study. Bloggers were encouraged to do something similar at Carrot Ranch’s Saddle Up Saloon; you can see my take on that HERE. For teachers this could be a powerful exercise personally and professionally and again, could be helpful on social media and communication sites.

What teachers really need is time; having students practice word restrictions and TUFF practices can help with that. Writing teachers, English teachers, want their students writing. Some students want to write. Many don’t. The 99-word (or something like) challenge meets the needs of students of different abilities and ambitions. 99 words is doable, and the restriction, the rule of no more, no less, makes it a challenge, a puzzle, and as such is inherently engaging. Those students that write easily and prolifically will be more mindful of quality as they focus more on the story they want to tell and pare it down to its essence. Those students that find writing laborious will have an achievable task and with a specific, set word goal for their writing they will not feel overwhelmed and adrift. The 99-word constraint serves as both modification and challenge, and all students will be practicing craft and narrative structures. The advantage to the teacher, beyond having students who are actively writing, is that they only have to read 99 words per student and can more easily evaluate those pieces for whatever element they are focusing on. And of course TUFF comes into play when a piece of writing wants to be furthered; revised and expanded, but first getting distilled through reductions and revisions— 99, 59, 9, then some larger set number. This is where student choice could be elicited, which also fosters engagement. And again, though I use terms like ‘story’ and ‘fiction’, these practices apply to any form and genre, which means any subject can benefit, not just English classes, but math and science, social studies and health class.

If students were used to TUFF writing— free-write, focus, contract, expand— they could apply it to any subject in school, and teachers could assign a specific word count for written responses. A 9-word response to a geography question is not an easier task than a paragraph or essay, not if it answers the question. The go-getters will write that essay or at least the free-write version to get at that 9-word essence. The slacker in the back row who usually doesn’t write anything will write 9 words or even 59 because now it is an achievable set amount and it’s fair, everyone is writing that amount. Teachers might even be surprised to see that that slacker did take something in when the showing of it has specific limits as opposed to the vague and demeaning “just write some” or “write what you can”. Students nowadays are expected to write in all subjects, even math, and practicing TUFF can make any student more adept and effective in their responses. The teacher has less verbiage to wade through and can more readily read responses for content knowledge and synthesis. In any subject students will also have a tool to self-assess as they become meta-cognitive through this writing process. Teachers and students will see what questions need to be asked and addressed for deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

TUFF can be used in any subject area, and a STEM class does not need to mean just expository writing. TUFF should also be used playfully and creatively; why not have math students writing stories or fables? Why not learn what a student knows about the rock cycle by writing from a rock’s point of view? Using TUFF in classrooms regardless of subject provides a means of tapping into multiple intelligences and is a means of providing academic choice and creativity. A teaching staff that uses TUFF for themselves and in their classrooms could have productive conversations about teaching and assessing and would be set for cross curricular collaboration. Tuff could see teachers as well as students more engaged and more effective. With remote learning still happening in many schools, TUFF assignments could garner more student interest and completion and make assessment more streamlined for the teacher.

I have used TUFF in the ways mentioned, in my own writing, and with students. I enjoy it for the insights it engenders. The Carrot Ranch Rodeo, a month long series of writing contests, begins with the TUFF contest on Monday and different 99-word contests every Tuesday throughout October. Try it out. It is an excellent way to stretch your writing muscles and to examine your own writing through the revisions. The practice will provide a tool for your kit to help you decide, “More? Or Less?” as you develop and grow stories— or students.

CRLC Challenge; Mice

square-template12Yikes, I almost didn’t make it for the latest Carrot Ranch Literary Community’s weekly flash fiction challenge, but Ilene Higginbottom insisted (finally) on the following. The prompt was to write a story of mice, in 99 words, no more no  less.

Caught Out  by D. Avery

“I’ve always been handy at catching them, but I end up feeling bad for them. They can be so cute.”

“Hi girls.” Though late in joining Ilene and Kristof, Marge jumped right into the conversation. “You can’t feel bad for them Ilene. They’re dirty, they get all through your stuff… there’s no living with them.”

Ilene’s brows went up, but she agreed with Marge. “Yes, I have definitely found that it is easier to live without them than learning to live with them.”

“Don’t be soft, Ilene. You have to kill them.”

“Marge, we’re talking about men, not mice.”