CRLC Challenge; Mud

The Carrot Ranch October 14, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that embraces the mud. What is the mud, real or metaphor? How does it transform a character or place? What happens? Go where the prompt leads! EXTENDED DEADLINE Respond by October 26, 2021. Charli’s post this week is an invitation to embrace the suck (and support) that is NaNoWriMo. I don’t know about that, but these four flashes came pretty quickly, once I allowed Nick out of the pen. Still just playing though, with no plot or premise. Nick is a lesser character but one who has worked with Marge for years at the dealership and has had bit parts in this sorta series. Ilene we first met in “Stumped”.

Slip Sliding

“Marge, Nick’s here! Does he have to stay?”

“I was here first Ilene.”

“How can that be? You just got here.”

“I mean I was here, you know, in this town, working and hanging out with Marge and Nard and Lloyd, well before you showed up.”

“I know why I don’t like you Nick, but I can’t figure out why you don’t like me.”

“Forget about it. Tell me how you lost your leg.”

“Who said it’s lost?”

“Come on, what happened?”

“Mud wrestling gone bad.”

“What? Really? How’s that happen?”

“Alligator.”

“Really?”

“No, I’m just pulling your leg.”

XXX

“You two stop your bickering or you’re both going home.”

“Yes Marge. Ok, Ilene, what are you drinking? I’m getting a round.”

“Mudslide, please and thank you.”

“Whoo! Mudslides? Those can be a slippery slope.”

“Naw, they’re nutritious and delicious.”

Nick put aside his beer as well as his animosity and drank mudslides along with Ilene.

“Ilene, you do lean you know,” he slurred. “Tell me again how you lost your leg.”

“Mudslide.”

“What?!” Nick slammed his drink down on the bar, looked down at his legs.

“Torrential rains, slippery slope— wipeout.”

“Really?”

“No, I’m just pulling your leg.”

XXX

“Seriously, Ilene. What happened to your leg?”

“Enjoying these mudslides Nick? It’s a change from your usual beer diet.”

“They’re definitely delicious and nutritious. And I ain’t feeling any pain. But you’re avoiding the question. What happened to your leg?”

“I’m answering the question. See, you will feel pain. Tomorrow. No, stay the course, Nick, it’s too late now. You’re on that slippery slope. See, I once had such a headache from drinking mudslides I wished for anything to make it go away. The Devil appeared, traded my leg for the headache.”

“Really?”

“No, I’m just pulling your leg.”

XXX

Marge and Ernest helped Nick and Ilene out of the bar and into Ernest’s truck with Nick arguing that he could walk home. 

“It’s raining Dumb-ass. The way you’re flopping all over the place you’d end up face down in a mud puddle. Get in.”

“Yes Marge.” 

“Jeez. You’re never like this on beer. Whatever prompted you to drink mudslides?”

“He saw that’s what the cool kids drink,” said Ilene. “Thought it might give him a leg up.”

“Hey! What happened—”

“No more.”

“— to Lloyd tonight?”

“Oh. Lloyd’s looking for my leg.”

“Really?”

“Just pulling your leg.”

#SixSentenceStory; “grip”

At long last I am back with Six Sentences. I will save the excuses. The prompt word from our gracious hostess Denise at GirlieOntheEdge is “grip”. While I have also been slack at Carrot Ranch, and this is way beyond the 99 words required there, this story is a nod to the August 5th prompt which is now closed and to the current prompt which is to “write a story, using cacophony. I thank my prompters and also Marge who led me back to the page.

Kayaking was Marge’s doorway to more fishing spots; just a little launch area and a lake was all hers, no matter how many private camps and docks.

Maybe Marge shouldn’t have used her egress to be fishing off of a private dock, but she needed to stretch and it looked like a good spot and though she wasn’t a believer in all that unicorn crap, she took the presence of a child’s unicorn floatie on the end of the dock as a good sign. 

A week day, the lake and its camps were quiet, the only sound the birds, squirrels and now the whir of Marge’s cast line and quick snap of the bail then her startled grunt of approval when right away she got a hard hit, the drag zzzzzzzzing as the line unspooled, the squelch of her soles on wet dock, the splash of bass bursting through sun-sparkled water and more grunts of pleasure as Marge determined she would bring in this fish, no matter what.

Her eyes on the line, Marge didn’t notice that she’d put one foot into the middle of the unicorn floatie there on that wet dock, then the other, all the while keeping the tension on the line and that bass going every which way, then a sudden jerk as it pulled against her and it was then that Marge slipped right off the dock, her feet ringed by the unicorn, and, when she plunged ringed-feet first into the water, she became firmly ringed around her ample middle, stuck in the floatie but still gripping her fishing rod, barely managing to set the drag tighter before losing her footing on the muddy bottom, the unicorn now getting towed across the small lake splishing and squeaking with it’s rider wrapped around it’s neck, still clutching the pole that connected them to the relentless bass. 

Fortunately, when the bass finally tired Marge could plant her feet to stand and reel it in. She walked ashore with full shoes gurgling, an inflatable unicorn rubbering at her waist, trophy fish now in hand, and with a smile brighter than rainbow skittles.

CRLC Challenge; Feathers

July 8, 2021, Carrot Ranch prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

This prompt made me think of past prompts where I featured feathers in those responses. So first there’s this:

Rhymes in 99

A first feather from a first flash
A poet’s page fluttering from ash

Once upon another time, a magic feather quill
A heroine true to her path, one she travels still

Another tale of transformation, turtle becoming crane
No longer pining, shedding shell for feathered wings

Many birds have tracked across these pages
Blue herons, common loons, sashaying chickens, noisy ravens

Here at Carrot Ranch I first began to write
Here took up quill and with that quill took flight

Now it’s a matter of when and not whether
I’ll come up with a flash again featuring a feather.

At the last minute, there’s this, a fresh response after all, another blast from the past, with Marge and her pals Lloyd and Ilene and there’s more allusions to former prompts and I get bonus carrots at Carrot Ranch for getting a unicorn in:

Goodwill Hatching

“Okay, I’m here. With truck. Goodwill? What’s up?”
“It’s epic, Marge.”
Brightly colored clothing spilled and tumbled out of boxes and bags that lined Ilene’s walkway.
“What’s epic, Lloyd?”
“Ilene’s molting!”
“Yes! I’m divesting myself of my plumage! It’s simple earth tone tunics and leggings for me from here on out.”
“Don’t you mean legging? Really, Ilene? No more Toucan Sam outfits? Bet Fruit Loops here put you up to this. You going to cut your big hair too?”
“No! That’s my crowning glory!”
“At least keep this pink feather boa, Ilene. And what’s this?”
“My unicorn headband.”
“Epic.”

#SixSentenceStory; Filter

It’s Six Sentence Story time again, in which we are given a prompt word and the challenge to write a story in six sentences, no more, no less. Sometimes, while the end marks may only number six, the sentences get stretched, the syntax strained, semi-colons and conjunctions pushed to their limits, as in the following. Regardless, here’s Ernest and Marge, actually working in Ernest’s two bay garage. Thank you Denise for the prompt and the link up.

Unfiltered

“Mrs. Blanchard, what a surprise, that is, well, I thought, since that last time, that is, well, I thought you only went to Henry’s now for your auto repair needs.”

Sensing Ernest’s discomfort, Marge shut the hood of the car she’d been working on, stepped forward, and extended her oil stained hand to the infamous Hildegard Blanchard.

“Hello, I’m Marge Small; I can have a look at your car for you Mrs. Blanchard,” but the infamous Hildegard Blanchard just stared at the extended oil stained hand, then looked Marge up and down, and snorted “Small?” before turning back to Ernest.

“Henry has become simply impossible, like all the others, Mr. Biggs, but tell me,” she said, hitching her chin towards Marge, “are you really this desperate now, or is this some sort of equal opportunity employment scheme?” which caused Ernest’s eyes to grow even wider as he watched Marge over the infamous Hildegard Blanchard’s shoulder but to his surprise Marge just shrugged and said again that she’d be happy to let Mrs. Blanchard know what was wrong with her car, so Ernest assured Mrs. Blanchard that Marge Small, in addition to being his fiancée, was a top notch mechanic and diagnostician.  

The infamous Hildegard Blanchard snorted again but led Marge to the parked vehicle that blocked the open garage bay door, and after wondering aloud how someone like Marge could land a man when she clearly had never even heard of a manicure, she explained that while she couldn’t say what was wrong with her car, she was certain it wasn’t running properly but that none of the auto shops could be bothered to look at it, let alone fix it for her.

Even wide-eyed hand-wringing Ernest seemed surprised by Marge’s immediate and incisive diagnosis, when she said, “I can tell you right now, without even lifting the hood, Mrs. Blanchard, if you had a filter this car would be running smooth as silk,” so he asked Marge what kind of filter she thought the car needed, but she clarified; “I’m talking about Mrs. Blanchard, Ernest, the car’s needing a tune up is just a symptom of her problem.”

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

Change; SixSentenceStory

The Pickup

“Jeezus, Ernest, are we sure about this?”

“Well, we’ve been taking Vinny to school, and to the diner, and fishing; we get involved with him and his mother at holidays; we’ve met with Social Services and been approved to be foster parents— yeah, we’re sure. Aren’t we?”

“Yes, of course we are, Ernest, because Vinny needs us; it’s just I never dreamed that with all the interventions and scrutiny, his mother wouldn’t get her shit together for that boy.”

“Guess she couldn’t manage that, Marge, so we’re up, and yeah, I’m scared. A live-in teenager— huge change for us.”

***

“When Ilene was barking orders for both of us to come get Vinny, did she happen to mention how the three of us were going to fit into your truck, Ernest?”

“We’ll fit, won’t we Vinny, like three peas in a pod. Let me just lift the console up and we’ll give peas a chance.”

Marge and Ernest couldn’t see Vinny’s slight smile in the dim dashboard glow of the truck cab and were startled from their own musings when he said he had a peas full feeling now that they had come for him.

“My mother is not capable of changing, you know,” he continued, “but this time I didn’t do anything, didn’t leave, didn’t defend myself, just stood there and let her whale on me with whatever came to hand, and this time they couldn’t help her make excuses. No pain, no gain,” he sighed, and awkwardly but firmly Marge took his hand in hers as Ernest drove them home.


While our Six Sentence Story host, Denise, claims the rule is six sentences exactly, I have two sets of six here. The first is also 99 words exactly and uses the now expired December 10 challenge prompt from Carrot Ranch, “never dreamed”. I wrote two 99 word scenes that precede these but never posted them, though I did leave them in the comments at the Ranch. The second of those is also six sentences and includes “change“. Six Sentence readers will recognize Vinny as a student that Ilene Higginbottom looks out for at the school she works at as administrative assistant.

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.”

CRLC Challenge; Lemon Queens

square-templateThe August 27, 2020, Carrot Ranch prompt is still to, in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens. This is a second response and it continues a Six Sentence Story which continued a 99 word story which I seem to have only posted in the comments at Carrot Ranch. Anyway Marge et al. now kayak and so she has fishing companions.

Hooks, Lines, and Sinkers            D. Avery

“Marge, look at the brown Ilene’s got on. Huge!”

“Another one?! I’m getting fed up with her beginner’s luck.”

“Well you’re not going to get fed up on your own fish today.”

“Shut up, Nard. Hey! Ilene, what’s that in that trout’s mouth?”

“My lure?”

“Your lure? But—”

“Marge, you assumed I was new to fishing.”

“But you insist fishing is just luck.”

“It is. And lucky me, I’ve got this lure I made myself. Two yellow spinners and a feathered hook. Lemon Queens I call this one.”

“But—”

“Here’s a purple version. Sour Grapes. Try it.”

Bending to Reason; #SixSentenceStory

six sentence story copyMore of a scene than a story this week, but in six sentences, per the rules of Six Sentence Stories, presented by Denise at GirlieOntheEdge. The prompt word is “bend” and you have through Saturday to participate.

Bending to Reason   by D. Avery

When Ilene and Lloyd got Marge and Ernest and the others into kayaking, it was a boon to everyone concerned; all agreed that while sitting in a kayak drinking beer wasn’t so different than sitting in a camp chair drinking beer, the view and the air was a refreshing change from Ernest’s two bay garage. With the interest in kayaking, Marge found it easier to get Ernest and her friends to go fishing with her and she enjoyed getting to new spots that had previously been inaccessible. Ernest, who had never taken to fishing, was content to paddle the Marge-Barge, a long double sit-on-top that accommodated his large frame, a cooler of beer, a cooler of snacks, and sometimes even a grill, but Lloyd sometimes brought a rod, as did Kristof, though both of them usually ended up just drifting and daydreaming. Marge could always count on Nard to fish seriously, and to both their surprise, increasingly, Ilene, though her insistence that fishing was largely a matter of luck rankled Marge who consistently out-fished them all, proof of her greater experience and superior skills.

This evening however, Marge’s skills were not in evidence and she snarled when Ilene again chirped in delighted surprise at her singing drag as yet another fish hooked on, putting an enviable bend in her new rod.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just beginner’s luck is all it is, Ilene, just beginner’s luck.”

Ploughshares; #SixSentenceStory

six sentence story copy

The word from Denise at GirlieOntheEdge this week is “station”. The rules? Write a six sentence story with that word. The story? A slice of Ilene Higginbottom’s work life as a school administrative assistant. You may know Ilene as the friend of Marge and Ernest

Ploughshares,   D. Avery

This morning, when Mrs. Richards finally heaved herself away from the counter that stood between Ilene’s office space and the bustling hallway, sighing her usual ‘Time to man the battle stations’, Ilene called her back; she called her back and called her out.

“As a writing teacher, Mrs. Richards, you’ll understand me when I say you need to rethink your metaphors; just who is it that you are battling? These kids coming in the door are not our enemies, yet every day I deal with the casualties from your classroom. I suggest to you, if you are feeling so beleaguered and besieged, perhaps it’s time you retreat— surrender even.”

Mrs. Richards stormed off so didn’t see that Mr. Penny had overheard the exchange, didn’t hear Mr. Penny’s comment to his aide-de-camp that she might have just started a war. Though he hadn’t spoken of his discomfort in being the principal and having to pick a side, Ilene reminded him he was on the side of the children.