Less Traveled CRLC Challenge

No point in arguing. Who needs open road adventures?  

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Here’s my 99 word fiction for the Carrot Ranch February 27 challenge. Entries don’t have to be fiction, they just have to be 99 words, no more, no less, and this week the prompt is to write about an open road. Take a ride to the ranch to see more road tales or to leave one of your own.

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“What?”

“Nothing.”

It was something, the same old something, but no point in arguing now. She’d be lucky if he wasn’t snoring in the car before they got home. No, he’d make it, because he was still complaining about the evening.

“Boring old fools, going on and on about their RV trip. Who cares? Open road adventures my ass. Who needs it?”

Almost there. She noted he’d filled the tank earlier.

“I’ll just have a nightcap with the news lady.”

His snores were louder than the click of the door. With only one light bag she hit the road.

Over Coat #SSS #SFFiction

People ask such inane questions. Even in court.

“How could you kill someone for a coat?”

Not that she cared, but that seemed a silly question, especially from the prosecution. Sighing, she told them again how it’d been cold getting colder. How it was a very nice coat.

#SFFICTION

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Denise’s prompt word for Six Sentence Stories this week is “coat“. The link is open Wednesday to share your story in six sentences, no more, no less. If you can tell a story in 269 characters, like the above, you can submit it to the SeriousFlashFiction contest via twitter. 

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Open Road

square-template6.pngThe February 27, 2020, Carrot Ranch prompt from Charli Mills: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the open road. Where will the trip lead? Who is going, and why? Follow the open road wherever it may lead!

I really delighted in the work of some local artist road warrior this morning. I can’t help but share a true story of a real road. In 99 words plus pictures.

 

IMG_2846.JPGNantucket names an island, but also a county as well as a town. While useless for travel to another town or county, the island contains many roads; tar roads, cobblestone roads, and sand roads of varying conditions. There is one tar road, a five-mile stretch of state highway, whose condition and maintenance is the responsibility of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

IMG_2838.JPGRecently, the state decided to clutter this formerly open road with a ridiculous number of signs. The Town is protesting the ugliness IMG_2841.JPGand uselessness of these signs.

 

 

I suggest these signs stay. Public safety should never be taken lightly.

 

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There be dragons…

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and mermaids…

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Mermaids beware!

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Yes!

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Take them to the leaders.

 

Going Under CCC#68 #SFFiction

It’s that time of year again. From February 29 through April 4, Ben Warden of SeriousFlashFiction is challenging writers to submit 269 character stories via twitter. Selected entries are featured in a print anthology.

This will be my third year taking part in this fun contest. In case you’re wondering, 269 characters is about fifty words. Last year I mostly just tried to boil any flash fictions that I was writing for my regular weekly responses down to 269 characters, an interesting exercise in getting a story down to the bone. I will likely attempt that again, paring 99 word or six sentence stories down; but I will also take advantage of prompts where I have been an infrequent respondent. I have often remarked that photo prompts do not “speak to me”, that I find it hard to put words to them, though I sometimes do. For this #SFFiction season I am going to make more of an effort to use some of these fine photo prompts to jumpstart a 269 character story. I would not have the following first entry if not for Crispina Kemp’s photo from her Crimson’s Creative Challenge #68.

I encourage you to check out Crispina’s blog and to take part in the Creative Challenge. Anywhere that you play with words, consider putting 269 characters’ worth into a twitter story for fun and a chance at publication.

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Here’s mine:

She awakened, alarmed. Took stock. A loud splash. She only pulled her sleeping bag tighter in the cold night air.

What did she care? Another bum under the bridge. Just further out.

She exhaled. Far enough out she wouldn’t have to worry about being bothered by that one.

 

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Roads that Lead #flashbackfriday

This morning, before heading over to Annecdotal to check out the featured books reviewed by Anne Goodwin, I had noticed “Fandango’s Flashback Friday” around the blogosphere. After reading Anne’s reaction to Piero Boitani’s A New Sublime: Ten Timeless Lessons on the Classics (translated by Ann Goldstein), I was led to dig into the way-back machine and use Flashback Friday as an excuse to create this post and present an ancient poem that was written as a reflection on ancient times.

Anne faults gaps in her own literary and cultural education for not having much to say in reaction to A New Sublime. She did find “flashes of connection” but “struggled to conceptualise that alongside cultures where slave-owning goes unquestioned, ditto an empire with a founding myth based on rape.”

Though I too have holes in my knowledge of ancient history and literature, I know the story Anne refers to. I know there are truths in myths. I know enough of the founding of Rome and the fall of Rome to be highly alarmed at current events, at the history we are presently living.

The flashback that I feature is from much further back than my blog; it was written in a time before, by a young woman just out of high school who could not have imagined that a country that had for over two hundred years claimed to incorporate the highest ideals from classical Greece and Rome, would so rapidly succumb to the basest aspects of a people.

In these times a flashback seems less discomfiting than a fast-forward; the future is uncertain, or worse. But maybe we can yet learn from history and redraft the present. Perhaps we the people can write a more united and democratic story for future tellers.

 

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Classical History  (circa 1983)

They say all roads lead to Rome

but that it was not built in a day

unless you consider that day at Romulus’ camp

 

A festival, the neighboring tribe unsuspecting

the deceit, disclosed as swords unsheathed

pointed the way

as sisters wives and daughters were dragged

from the bloodied site screaming

 

The Sabine women obscured by the road dust

of history’s memory

a couple of encyclopedia sentences, bleary

talk of cultural assimilation, dim recollection of

The Rape of the Sabine Women

subject heading for the legendary founding

of great western civilization.

 

But what of the captive women?

Did they dream of the Amazons?

In self defense one-breasted

in bold archer’s stance diminished

by brandished weapons

spears and arrows

in their calloused hands discovered

 

Cake

Our Great Aunt arrived carrying a cake she’d made special, a cake she’d carried all that long way on the Greyhound, a cake that was carefully sliced and served that first evening for dessert. We weren’t sure about our Great Aunt, but that cake was amazing, delicious like none other.

Now, lifting the lid on the cake carrier, she found just a sliver, a sliver so thin it leaned, barely standing on its own, and exclaimed, “Well, now, doesn’t that take the cake?”

We thought she might be mad but then saw that she was smiling, smiling with tears in her eyes, saying, “The sister sliver, exactly what your grandmother and I used to do, neither of us ever daring to eat the very last of the cake.”

Her eyes shone brightly as she shoved that last thin slice of cake into her mouth.

 

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The word I heard at Denise’s GirlieOntheEdge’s blog this week is “slice“. The link is open. Limit six sentences per story; write responsibly.

About That Date (Part II)

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If I had more time, I’d have more fun. (from Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way)


If you read I Have a Date!, (Part I), you’ll recall that I promised a chili lasagna recipe; that I even claimed it would be from a fictional character I’ve come to know. I keep promises, so I do have that recipe. But this really isn’t about my character, Ernest Biggs, or his lasagna— it’s about the fun I had with that idea, and with creating in the kitchen even as I refilled my “creative well”. I made an artist date, as defined and described in Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way (discussed in Part I). Cameron’s artist dates are a commitment to one’s self, to “assigned play”. Making lasagna qualified as an artist date because it was preplanned as ‘me-time’; was purposely playful, a time to keep my inner artist close even as I let her run amuck; was experimenting with an art form outside my wheelhouse, going where inspiration led; was being open to failing, which is the best way to learn new things.

I will tell you, the date was a success in many ways. I did keep Ernest (and Marge, she showed up too) in mind while getting reacquainted with the art of cooking, and know them better for it, but there was no pressure for a story. Just fun. We agreed that chopping vegetables with a knife at a cutting board is preferable to gadgetry and is a calming mindful activity. In her book, Cameron reminds us that any regular, repetitive action “primes the well”, and I was already well pleased with my date at the first onion cut for the chili. I had allowed myself this time, so could become absorbed in the simple rhythm of cutting onions and peppers. The assembly of the chili is where some creative turns were taken. This one had not my usual half a can of beer, but a bottle of chocolate stout and a bottle of coconut chocolate porter, and even a splash of leftover coffee. I used red, white and black beans and refried beans as well, to thicken the chili. For the lasagna I mixed cottage cheese and sour cream with lots of chopped fresh cilantro; that and shredded pepper jack cheese were alternating layers. Ernest thought of using the cheese like spackle to hold the pasta together. I did dishes as the lasagna baked, enjoying that task almost as much as chopping onions. I had declared this my time, and was enjoying all of it. Doing dishes is relaxing! Cameron says, “Think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty.” Even when I am more pressured I will remember this lesson from my date; enjoy the task at hand for what it has to offer.

I was so wrapped up in the process that the product came almost as a surprise. I have stores of home-made lasagna and chili put by in the freezer! Had I set that task for myself, telling myself I should cook ahead, it would have felt more like a mundane chore. As it was I enjoyed the gift of time I had given myself, and the fun and relaxed approach that resulted in a pretty tasty chili and lasagna. And I’ve bought myself more time in the future because I have food prepared for later when I might be busy.

Not having enough time is a common complaint. It is hard to make time for all there is to do, especially for yourself; it may feel selfish or self-indulgent to take time just for you. Do it. It can be stolen moments, but let them be your moments, claim them as yours. For it is this acknowledgment and nurturing of your inner artist, this intent, that opens you up to replenishment and inspiration. Love what you do, do what you love, and take care of your self. Make a date!

 

Ernest’s Chili:

Sautee: onions, meat, peppers

Add:     chocolate stout, porter

            cumin, cayenne, chili powder (lots)

            tomates; diced, whole, whatever

            beans (any, including refried)

Lasagna layers: lasagna

                        thicken some chili with more refried beans

                        mix together sour cream, cottage cheese and lots of cilantro

                        shredded cheese; pepper jack, cheddar

 

Ilene Higginbottoms Beer Margaritas

In a large pitcher combine a bottle of light beer, like Corona, a bottle of Mike’s Hard cherry lemonade, and a bottle of a fruity light beer or shandy. Or at least three bottles of something like that. Combine those three bottles with a half a can or so of frozen limeade concentrate and a half pint or so of tequila. Stir, add ice if you have it, and enjoy.

It’s a Date! (Part 1)

th-1.jpegI have a date! With Ernest Biggs!

I know, there’s a lot wrong with that, on the surface. I’m married, for one; Ernest is taken by Marge Small, for two; and for three, Ernest, along with Marge, is a fictional, made up character. And if I told you that it’s an artist date, you could find more flaw, because an artist date is supposed to be a solo affair— but don’t forget, Ernest is a made up character, so…

If you have read Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way you know that she defines an artist date as “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.” She is clear that this is time for your self, alone time. Just as Cameron’s ‘morning pages’ is ‘a sending’, a means of “notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfaction, hopes”, the artist date is a “receiving— opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a., your creative child.

When I first read Artist’s Way this idea did not seem at all radical, for I have always been one to indulge in alone time, enjoying solo activities outdoors. I’ve always known that this time is necessary for me to cope with people and life’s demands, though I never articulated that connection. I just went; refresh, repeat. The radical change for me was in admitting that I am an artist; after that I realized that what makes any activity an artist date is the articulation; it is the intent.

By designating your activity as an artist date you are opening a door to possibility and are empowering your inner artist; you are sustaining your Self. Try reframing your activity as artist date; but don’t be disappointed if it feels like any other walk or paddle or bike ride. Take a notebook and don’t be at all surprised that you don’t pull it out even once. Your date may not feel productive, but it is. For this is sowing time, or even just cultivating the soil time— the reaping comes later, in its own time. Just enjoy romping outdoors with your ‘creative child’, your Self. You deserve time to play and relax.

Since realizing my obligation to nurture and sustain my inner artist, I have been better about making time for— art! At art shows, museums, plays, or concerts I am a more appreciative audience, enjoying others’ art and creativity, recognizing it and considering not just the performance but the inspiration and work behind the presentation. Events like these are often locally available and are not costly, but one has to make the time. Make it an artist date by simply declaring it so and by being reflective; in return you will receive insight and inspiration.

You can create art on your artist date as well, but should try new things. If you are a literary artist, try visual art for a change. Try woodworking or sculpting. You will make connections to your usual art form and will broaden and revitalize your creative base. Whatever your art is, go outside the lines!

For example, I don’t consider myself a culinary artist. I can cook, and do if I’m hungry and if nobody else does it for me. So my sourdough has been the source of many artist dates; it is like clay to a potter, wood to a carver. Feeding it requires little time but reminds me to be mindful and nurturing. When I am inspired I make time to consult with the dough and mix it with what is at hand, never using a recipe, but always trusting my inner artist.

th.jpegBut back to the date I have planned with Ernest Biggs. You see, some time ago it was revealed that the first meal Ernest made for Marge was his legendary chili lasagna. Chili lasagna seemed weird to me but in keeping with Ernest’s character, so I went with it. But lately I have been wondering about that dish and the creativity behind it; my inner artist is curious. So I am going to make it, with the guidance of one of my favorite characters, Ernest Biggs.

The ingredients have been purchased. It’s supposed to rain Tuesday. Which means the date is imminent. Later this week look for part two in which I report on the date and share a recipe, as yet unknown to this artist, for Ernest Bigg’s chili lasagna. I think I’ll also share his friend Ilene Higginbottom’s recipe for beer margaritas in that post. Yikes. Could become a party. Well, if there’s not enough room in the trailer, we can bring our camp chairs into the two bay garage and hang out with the gang there. Which is not an artist date, but food and drink with friends can also be just what the inner artist needs.

See you there.

Rainbow’s End

square-template3.pngThe cat escaped winter’s cold and never looked back.

The Carrot Ranch February 20 challengeIn 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. Use this situation to write what happens next. Where does this situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads! This week’s Six Sentence Stories prompt word? Claim. Here’s one story answering two prompts. Thanks Charli! Thanks Denise!

Rainbow’s End

Following close on snowy heels of library patrons, the cat escaped winter’s cold and never looked back. Nobody claimed the stray; the cat with the bold stripes and bolder personality was allowed to keep its claim on the stuffed chair in Fiction.

When children read picture books aloud to him, the cat they called Rainbow purred blissfully. Rainbow gained a reputation among adult browsers, pawing titles they might otherwise have passed by.

Finally returned from vacation, the cat’s owners followed the stories to the library. Along with an endowment for books and for his care, they left Rainbow there.

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With Acclaim, Cap Off to Crispina (in Six Sentences)

whitewashed-mill-in-mist-cpOne of the wonderful people I’ve met here in the Blogosphere is Crispina Kemp, a writer and photographer who also hosts a weekly bloghop, Crimson’s Creative Challenge, a very open invitation to respond to a photo prompt in a variety of ways.

This week’s photo from Crispina is of the Tunstall Smock Mill, built in 1900 and restored in 1944, its purpose to run pumps to drain marshlands, and while the purpose of my local smock mill (1746) was to grind corn (maize), you can see the architectural similarities.

1e318767ec951f1728a2eb8c718e6618The cap rotates so that the sails can be put into the wind, which brings up a local debate- the sailors claim the saying “three sheets to the wind” is nautical in origin (though the sheets actually refer to the ropes attached to the sail and not the actual sails); landlubbers claim that the expression refers to the sheets on a windmill, for to have any but two or four sheets in the wind would cause an imbalance.

HS-Old-Mill-FeaturedEither way, I think the point is, two is better than one, and certainly better than none, which is why instead of claiming to be too busy, or that the photo doesn’t always spark a response, or the timing is simply off, this post is in response to two prompts, Six Sentence Stories, (“claim”) and Crimson’s Creative Challenge, for if Crispina claims that just about anything goes, and if Denise only requires six sentences, well, maybe this suffices.

six sentence story copyBoth Crispina and Denise are generous bloggers who host a bloghop every week with fun prompts, and who reliably visit and comment on the efforts of others. I encourage you to go by their blogs and see what they’re up to and to sail with their fun weekly challenges.