Category Archives: Flash fiction

News Splash

News Splash

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge Splash

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that makes a big splash. It can be fluid, or you can play with the idiom (to make a big splash is to do or say something that becomes unforgettable). Go where the prompt leads!

This is where it finally led me. I hope you enjoy it.

News Splash

It was splashed all over the front page. There was no hiding it now. Mum and Dad wouldn’t be pleased. They’d cautioned her to be careful. Time. After. Time. And she was. She thought she could handle it. She didn’t need them watching over her every move. She had to be independent sometime. But this front-page catastrophe would be a setback. How could she minimise the damage?

When they came in, Jess faced them bravely.

They looked from her to the paper and back. Jess’s lip quivered. “Sorry.”

“Those headlines look somewhat juicy,” smirked Dad. “More juice?”

Jess nodded.

Spilled juice

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Would you like strawberries with that

Would you like strawberries with that?

Tomorrow, 5 June is World Environment Day. The theme for this year is Air Pollution. According to the World Environment Day website, nine out of ten people breathe polluted air — a frightening statistic. While the most polluted cities may be far from where we live and the effect of our individual actions may seem negligible, the site recommends ways in which we can help reduce air pollution. I’m sure you already do many of these:

  • Use public transport or car sharing, cycle or walk
  • Switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle and request electric taxis
  • Turn off the car engine when stationary
  • Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy to help cut methane emissions
  • Compost organic food items and recycle non-organic trash
  • Switch to high-efficiency home heating systems and equipment
  • Save energy: turn off lights and electronics when not in use
  • Choose non-toxic paints and furnishings

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge strawberries and mint

While not specific to this year’s theme, I thought the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week was a perfect match for World Environment Day. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint. The combination evokes color contrast, scents, and taste. Where will the combination take you? Go where the prompt leads!

Growing plants, particularly those that produce edible delicacies, including strawberries and mint, is a great way of introducing children to the importance of caring for the environment. Both strawberries and mint are easy to grow and require little space.

The rewards are not only in the eating. Children can learn where their food comes from and understand that it doesn’t just appear in plastic packaging on supermarket shelves or in the fridge at home. In caring for a garden, they learn about what plants need and the importance of caring for the soil. They learn to be patient, waiting for the plants to grow and to be ready to harvest. Understandings learned from small-scale gardening, even in a pot, can be applied to caring for the environment on a larger scale. It is never too soon, or too late, to learn.

In my response to Charli’s prompt, I have considered gardening as nourishment for the mind and spirit as well as the body. Because strawberries are a favourite with both my grandchildren who would probably eat strawberries anywhere and anytime, I settled on a story featuring a grandmother and grandchild. Any similarity to this grandmother is non-existent. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

(I included some favourite family strawberry desserts in this post.)

Grandma’s Garden

Jess blew kisses to Mum, then raced Grandma into the garden. She pulled on her boots and gloves and readied her digging fork. Emulating Grandma, she soaked up explanations of magic combinations that helped plants grow. At the strawberry patch, they filled baskets with ripe red berries. On the way inside, Grandma clipped sprigs of mint.

They dipped strawberries in chocolate and garnished them with mint.

“For Jess?”

“For Mum.

“Birfday?”

“Just —”

Jess inspected the chocolate bowl. “All gone.”

“Stawbwee?” said Jess, pointing to the remaining few.

“For Jess,” smiled Grandma.

Jess munched strawberries and Grandma chewed mint.

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Ice on the rocks flash fiction

Ice on the rocks

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills discusses her daughter’s existence in the treeless landscape in the northernmost town in the world, Longyearbyen on Svalbard, Norway.

This video provides an introduction to Longyearbyen.

In her post, Charli warns that “The reality of climate change impacted the polar regions of our world first. Think of the Arctic as our canary in the coal mine … To say the Arctic is the canary means that our planet is changing so rapidly that species are dying.”

Evidence of those changes is discussed in this recent National Geographic article

and, while this video shows the changes to the Arctic sea ice from 1979 – 2018,

(Read information accompanying this video here.)

this article shows the situation updated to April 2019.

With the effects so evident, it is hard to fathom that there are still some who deny the climate is changing. To what end?

The phrase ‘on the rocks’ often refers to a beverage, usually alcoholic, served undiluted on ice. It can also refer to something in difficulty or failing. It was a combination of these meanings, minus the alcohol, I used in the title.

Charli Mills' flash fiction challenge Ice

Charli’s discussion introduced her flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story without ice. It can be a world without ice or a summer camp that runs out of cubes for lemonade. What does the lack mean to the story? Go where the prompt leads!

I took it a little differently.

Let’s Hear it for Ice

A world without ice —

That made me think tw—

Two times.

 

A world without ice

Would not be so n—

Pleasant.

 

We couldn’t play games

With a six-sided d—

Numbered cube.

 

We couldn’t have fries

With a side-serve of r—

Food grain.

 

Our food would be bland

Without pinches of sp—

Flavour.

 

A world without ice

Where rule is by v—

Badness.

 

A world without ice

We’d all pay the pr—

Cost.

 

A world without ice

I’d say in a tr—

Moment.

 

A world without ice

I’d even say thr—

Three times

 

Would never

Could never

Be anything nice!

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What lives in trees?

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - trees

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees. It can be one particular tree, a grove, woods, or forest. What makes the tree worth seeking? Go where the prompt leads!

This week, we’re observing a science lesson with a group of 5 – 6-year-olds in search of knowledge about life in trees.

What lives in trees?

The teacher displayed photographs of trees.

“We’ve been learning about where animals live. Today, we’ll list animals that live in trees.”

Hands shot up, bursting to contribute.

The teacher wrote:

possums, koalas, beetles, snakes, birds …

Amir’s English was developing but his classmates were puzzled when he said what sounded like ‘goat’.

“Repeat,” encouraged the teacher.

“Goat.”

When asked, Amir drew a tree with a recognisable goat standing in it.

“Not story,” smiled the teacher. “Real.”

Amir nodded and pointed to the laptop. “Google.”

A quick search confirmed it.

Everyone cheered. Amir added to their knowledge tree that day.

……….

Many of you who have travelled may have seen the tree goats of Morocco. However, I wasn’t aware of them until, a couple of weeks ago, a photo popped up on my desktop. Intrigued, I had to find out more. A search for the goated tree began.

I discovered that the photo wasn’t fake, as I had first thought. The tree is the Argania tree from which we get Argan oil, and the goats like to eat its fruit.

Although more hygienic methods are now often employed, the oil used to be pressed from the seeds which were passed in the goats’ poop after the fruit had been eaten. I’m certain that 5 and 6-year-old children would love this titbit of information.

If you are interested, here are some links to help you learn more about the tree goats:

The Tree Goats of Morocco

The Story Behind Bizarre Tree-Climbing Goats of Morocco

Moroccan argan oil: the ‘gold’ that grows on trees

However, it seems, as with so many things, some people thought they could make extra money from tourists wanting to photograph goats in trees. Sadly, it is not only the goats that suffer from these unkind practices. The trees suffer too and, according to one article I read, “are in danger and the forest is listed by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve.”

Iconic ‘tree-climbing’ goats of Morocco revealed to be a scam

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School Days Reminiscences of Christy Birmingham

School Days, Reminiscences of Christy Birmingham

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Christy Birmingham, prolific blogger, author and poet. I’m not sure how or where I first met Christy but I do know that we have been regular visitors of each other’s blogs since the beginning of 2015, not long before the launch of her book of poetry Versions of the Self.

I would have thought I read her book not long after that, but Amazon tells me I didn’t purchase it until 2017, so I guess Amazon knows? It also doesn’t display a review from me, though I thought I had added one. However, I do remember enjoying Christy’s insightful poetry and being touched by the exploration and depth of emotion portrayed in many of the pieces which delve into ways in which the self may change over time and in response to circumstances.

Christy Birmingham 'When Women Inspire'

On her blog When Women Inspire, Christy shares information on a wide range of helpful topics especially those aimed at helping women live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives. No topic is too big or too small for Christy. She covers anything which she expects women, however young or old, will find interesting or beneficial. But her blog isn’t just for women. Numerous men regularly read and comment too. If you don’t already follow Christy’s blog, please pop over and say hello.

Before we begin the interview, I invite Christy to tell you a little of herself:

Christy Birmingham is a blogger, author, and poet who lives in Victoria, BC, Canada. She uses her writing to show others that they too can get through difficult times as she has, personally with anxiety and depression, as well as professionally with starting her own business. Find her blogging at When Women Inspire, at the gym, reading, or out with her family and friends.

The interview

Welcome, Christy.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

All of my schooling has been on Canada’s west coast. Specifically, I went to schools in Victoria, British Columbia until after high school graduation, when I then did a mix of college and university in Victoria and Vancouver, BC.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I’m a public-school kid!

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I am proud to have a BA in Criminology and Psychology from Simon Fraser University.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I recall my elementary school teacher telling us she had published a book. I was wowed by it and never forgot that inspiration!

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was taken out of class regularly to see a speech therapist for problems I was having with pronunciation. It made me self-conscious reading aloud and talking in general.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Learning cursive was so much fun! Learning how to spell out my full name and create different styles of writing for it provided hours of delight for me. I’ve always loved language.

What do you remember about math classes?

Not liking them very much, unfortunately. It often took me a while to catch onto concepts, and once math homework was done, I wanted to read books or write short stories.

What was your favourite subject?

Christy Birmingham poetry quote

English, by far. Poetry and short stories were ways for me to describe what was going through my head. Releasing thoughts onto the page brought my mind calmness and then seeing the positive feedback from teachers for what I wrote in English class was amazing to me. I’ve never forgotten the encouragement of certain teachers for my writing in elementary and high school.

What did you like least about school?

Trying to find where I fit in. Books brought me happiness, as did the writing. Thankfully I found friends throughout my years of school who supported me in my artistic projects. Once I realized that it was about the quality of friendships rather than the number of friends I had, I was happy.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Christy Birmingham on the importance of libraries

By listening to students, no matter their age. Hear what students want to see change about your school and determine if it’s feasible. Also, make libraries a priority as they are where students go to do research and can encourage a love of literacy.

Lastly, engage with the local community rather than being independent of it as a school. By schools partnering with the communities they’re nestled within, students can enjoy a fuller educational experience. Also, schools can get ideas and support from the general community that can take the institutions further than they might otherwise go.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about schools in general, Christy. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I’m not surprised you enjoyed expressing yourself in writing from a young age.

Find out more about Christy Birmingham

on her website When Women Inspire

Connect with her on social media

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Purchase your own copy of Christy’s books of poetry:

Pathways to Illumination

Versions of the Self

Previous reminiscences

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

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Can you fool the tooth fairy

Can you fool the tooth fairy?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills discussed important things in life including attitudes to aging. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older. It can be humorous, dark or poignant. It can be true or total fiction. It can be fine wine or an old fossil. Go where the prompt leads!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - ageing

Most of my work as a teacher has been with children who are experiencing one of the earliest physical signs of growing older — losing their baby teeth and growing adult teeth. The loss of these teeth is usually accompanied by great excitement, especially with the expectation that the tooth may be replaced with a coin by the tooth fairy.

lost tooth - Artie Feb 13 16

I previously wrote about the world’s diversity of traditions dealing with the loss of children’s baby teeth in A tooth for a tooth. That post also contains a flash story involving some gappy children’s smiles that help to cross barriers.

When I was growing up, many of my grandparents’ generation had false teeth or dentures that they left in a glass of water by their bedside when they were sleeping. With improved dental hygiene over the years, those numbers are now decreasing. This aspect of growing older — losing teeth whether at six or sixty-six — made me wonder if the tooth fairy might be fooled by false teeth and whether a creative child may have once tried to raise money that way.

Great-Grandmama’s Teeth

The sound like freight trains roaring through a tunnel assured Billy Great-Grandmama was asleep. He turned the doorknob ever so slowly, pushed the door gently and slipped into the darkened room. A chink of light bounced off the glass at the bedside. He daren’t breathe as he tiptoed over. Three quick whistles and he froze. The cavern with wibbly wobbly edges stretched wide. Would she wake? No, but better be quick. He lowered his fingers into the glass and withdrew his prize. All that was left was to fool the fairies and he’d buy his Mum that birthday cake.

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Create the possibilities

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - exhaustion

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes exhaustion. Who is exhausted and why? Can you make art of exhaustion? Go where the prompt leads!

Feeling a little overwhelmed with extra demands on my time over the past few of months, coupled with a recent battle with the flu, I didn’t know if I could muster enough energy to respond this time. But when this blog’s tagline includes the words ‘Create the possibilities’, I thought I should give it a go. I hope you like my response.

Exhausted possibilities

Jolted awake when the bus reached the terminal, they grabbed their belongings and stumbled out. The driver shrugged when asked about accommodation.

‘NO VACANCY’ signs flashed along narrow streets. ‘NOT WELCOME’ lists accompanied the few with vacancies.

Trudging back to the terminal, hoping for seclusion, a ‘VACANCY’ appeared where none before. An old man bade them enter, waved away their money and installed them comfortably.

“Thank you. Thank you,” they bowed, and collapsed into sleep.

In the morning, they were alone. A note lay on the table:

When you think you have exhausted all possibilities, there is always more.”

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