Tag Archives: Carrot Ranch flash fiction

Hit the Road Jack #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads!

I’ve written a nonsense story loosely based on young children as much as on characters from nursery rhymes. Anyone who has tried to get to the truth of a ‘situation’ with young children will recognise the complexities and difficulties involved and realise how quickly it can all be resolved with a distraction. I’ve used an interpretation of the phrase rather than the phrase itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Nursery Rhyme Nursery School

“What’s upsetting you, Jack?”

“Mary won’t let me play.”

“Why are you contrary, Mary? Didn’t Jack build this house?”

“He broke it too!”

“Don’t blame me,” said Jack. “The alligator smashed it.”

“What alligator?”

“The doctor’s. He trampled everything.”

“Don’t blame me,” said the doctor. “Polly said come quick.”

“Because … ?”

“My dolly got burnt from the kettle.”

“Who put the kettle on?”

“I did. But don’t blame me. Jack bumped me.”

“You were hogging pies.”

“You were sticking your fingers in them.”

“Look, everyone! Humpty’s cracked!”

“Who pushed him?”

“Jack?!”

Jack was gone. He’d fled the scene.

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For Earth Day #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about earthing. Put a character’s hands, feet or body and soul into the earth. Who needs recharging? What happens between the interaction? Go where the prompt leads!

The prompt coincided with Earth Day which, celebrated on 22nd April each year, is the anniversary of the beginning of the environmental movement in 1970.

In her post, Charli says, ‘Earth Day is a good time to talk about earthing. Also known as grounding, earthing describes interacting with the earth barefoot and bare handed.

It made me think of childhood days of playing in the dirt and making mud pies. As long as we were having fun, we never minded how dirty we got. I think now that maybe Mum may not have been so thrilled.

There’s nothing like children for being totally absorbed by something they enjoy and for making the most of opportunities that arise.

This is my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

For Earth Day

“They’re very quiet,” said Dad.

“For a change,” said Mum.

“Suspiciously quiet,” said Dad. Mum didn’t stir — no way she’d abandon her match-3 game mid-level to investigate.

“Hmpf,” said Dad, marking his page. He slid into his slippers and shuffled to the door.

“What’re you doin’?” he yelled.

Two small mud-spattered bodies frolicking under the sprinkler in his freshly-prepared garden bed froze.

“Nuthin’,” said one.

The other gaped.

“Sure don’t look like nuthin’,” said Dad. “Git yerselfs outta there.”

He killed the sprinkler and fun in one.

“We thought you made it for us—”

“—for Earth Day.”

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Seeds of Generosity #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that seeds generosity. Who is generous and why? Think of generosity as planting a future outcome. Go where the prompt leads!

As for many other qualities and values, I think the seeds of generosity are sown in early childhood. The rewards are reaped throughout life, both for the giver and the recipients of the generosity.

I expected it to be easy to write a story about generosity. However, as with every other prompt, it was a battle to find an idea that wanted to work. When I finally found one and wrote it down, it was over 300 words!

I don’t think I’ve ever written that many words when composing flash before. It’s usually only about 150 words I have to whittle down.

Writing flash fiction is like writing a picture book manuscript. You tell just the bare bones and leave the rest up to the illustrator. However, with flash fiction, there is no illustrator.

Slowly, through six revisions, I condensed the story to 99 words. I hope it still makes sense and that you can paint in the gaps.

The Racing Car

Jamie was spending his birthday money—a rose for Mum, gum for Dad, balloons for Baby and a racing car for himself.

Mr Green counted Jamie’s coins. “You’ve only enough for three.”

Jamie pushed the car aside. “These three, please.”

As Jamie left, Mr Green called, “Wait!” He held out the racing car. Jamie beamed.

Nearly home, Jamie saw a little boy crouched beside a drain. A car, just like Jamie’s, lay far below.

“Foolish boy,” said the mother. “I warned you.” She dragged the howling boy away.

“Wait,” called Jamie, holding out his racing car. The boy beamed.

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The Hero of Your Own Journey

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that “rethinks the hero.” Define the hero, comparing or contrasting to the classic definition. Break the mold. What happens to the hero in the cave? Is it epic or everyday? Is there resistance or acceptance? Go where the prompt leads!

If there’s one thing that writers can do is write their characters out of any situation. What many of them wish they could do is write themselves into a publishing contract. Whatever we choose, we all must be the hero of our own journey.

Nearly every class has a clown who becomes the hero for students by adding a humorous diversion that reduces the stresses of the day. The same student may frustrate the teacher by disrupting the class and not taking the lesson seriously.

While I was never the class clown—I wouldn’t have enjoyed the attention and would never have been considered funny—I always liked to consider alternative possibilities and was sometimes accused of not taking things seriously enough while fending off accusations of the opposite by others. You’ve probably noticed similar in my writing. What can I say? I’m a Gemini.

Both writers and class clowns think creatively, which is perfect for World Creativity and Innovation Week which begins this Thursday.

Not so much in the younger grades in which I mainly taught, but in the older grades, students are often provided with hypothetical situations for which they are required to provide survival strategies. I’ve gone for the opposite of the literal cave, as Charli suggested, but still the literary cave.

I hope you think my class clown/writer has used their creativity to solve the teacher’s survival puzzle. If only it were that easy.

Survival Hero

“Consider this,” said the teacher. “You’re stranded alone in the desert. Your vehicle has broken down about 15 kilometres from your destination. Your visit’s a surprise so you’re not expected. There’s no internet service and your phone is dead. You’ve packed water and a little food in a backpack. What else should you take to be the hero of your own journey?”

The students huddled, discussing options.

“Compass,” suggested one.

“Pocket knife,” said another.

“Flashlight.”

“Mirror.”

“A pencil.”

“Why?”

“I’d just add an ‘s’ — change that desert to dessert and she’s sweet.”

“You’re our hero,” the others agreed, laughing.

Note: ‘she’s sweet’ is an Australian saying for everything’s okay.

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Time flies …

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads!

I think life itself is a quick passage. Time flies, as “they” say, quoting Virgil.

It is often also said, quoting George Bernard Shaw, that time is wasted on the young.

It’s only wasted because they have so much of it, they don’t know what to do with it. I wish they could save it up and use it when they get older and don’t have enough. I know I never have enough and wish I’d been able to save more of it for these rainy days.

Why is it that a day in a child’s life can be so looooong, and a year in an (older) adult’s life can be so short?

That’s where Charli’s prompt took me. I hope you enjoy it.

Regardless

“How long does it take to get old, Grandma?”

“Not long enough, Mickey. Never long enough.”

She’d once thought anyone over fifty was old, that it’d take infinity to get there. Now she well exceeded that number. She didn’t feel older, just creaked louder.

“My birthday takes too long. I want it now.”

“It’ll come soon enough, Mickey. Then another, and another. Soon you’ll be counting as many years as me.”

“That’s too long, Grandma.”

“When you get to my age, Mickey, you’ll see how short life is. Time doesn’t only fly when you’re having fun, it flies regardless.”

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Take Flight #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write an escape. It can be daring or subtle. Who is escaping from what and why? Go where the prompt leads!

One of my favourite times of year as a teacher was springtime when we had a butterfly house in the classroom and watched the tiny caterpillars strip the plants of their leaves as they grew bigger and bigger on their journey to becoming butterflies. It was an almost magical experience to watch the caterpillars pupate and then, days later, emerge from their chrysalises as butterflies. I never tired of watching it and I was lucky to see it year after year while the children only got to see it when they were with me. (Though many came back to visit in following years, still mesmerised by the process.)

I am fascinated by metamorphosis. I view it as a hopeful process and consider it an analogy for our own ability to make change in our lives. It is also often used as an analogy for a transition that may occur, according to one’s belief, after death.

I often wonder what life must be like for the caterpillar, what occurs during metamorphosis, and the delight that must be felt when emerging as a butterfly. I have written many previous posts and flash fictions featuring butterflies but, as I said, I never tire of it. I hope you don’t either. Here’s my response to Charli’s prompt.

Take Flight

One day followed another — everyone in uniform, head down, following unwritten rules known by heart. Only Olive questioned, “Why?” She longed for adventure. Blue skies whispered promises on gentle breezes that rustled leaves and tantalised with sweet exotic perfumes. Her tastebuds rebelled. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, take another bite. She crawled into a shell and hoped to sleep for ever. Kaleidoscopic dreams flitted in a mash of memories and futuristic movie scenes. What was real and what imagined? She awoke renewed, seeing the world as if from other eyes. She unfurled her wings and flew to kiss the welcoming skies.

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Winning Story — Seeking Peace #flashfiction

I recently entered the Sue Vincent Classic Rodeo at the Carrot Ranch and was both surprised and delighted for my entry to be awarded first prize. You can read about other place getters here and all entries here.

The competition asked for 99-words stories with a beginning, middle and end to be written in response to this photo of Sue’s.

Here is my winning entry. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Peace

They stopped on a verge overlooking the valley.

“It’s beautiful, Dad. And so big. You said it was small.”

“Not small in size, son. Small in mind.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Folks round here didn’t want your mum and me getting married. They threatened to keep us apart. Cruel words were spoken. We left and never returned.”

“Why’re we coming back?”

“Your mother asked us — to make peace. Before it’s too late.”

“Like it is for her?” His voice trembled.

“Yeah.” He rubbed the boy’s head.

“Will we?”

“We’ll know soon enough.”

He inched the car towards the village.

***

Here is what the judges said about it.

“This author nailed a response to a photo challenge with the opening line, taking the reader from photo to story with an economy of words. This is a smart strategy when you only have 99 words or 99 syllables. We step out of the image into the lives of a father and son. The dialog is clear, sharp, and tells the story of loss and hopeful redemption. The judges appreciated a place not small in size but small in mind. That single concept conveys much. A well-crafted story with emotion and purpose takes ownership of the photo.”

What do you think? Do you agree?

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A Year that Was flash fiction

A Year that Was #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that takes place a year later. It can be any year. Explore the past year or another significant passing of time to a character. Go where the prompt leads!

As usual, my thoughts turn to children and education. The one year later prompt made me think of the déjà vu situation that must occur when children are required to repeat a year at school.

This is my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it. Below are the thoughts about repeating that led me here if you are interested.

Bird School

Dear Mr Emu,

As Eddie performed below expectations on some tests, he must repeat next year.

Dear Mrs Grimbald,

Which tests did Eddie fail? I’ll bring him up to speed over the holidays.

Dear Mr Emu,

Eddie’s ground speed is unmatched. He failed lift-off.

Mrs Grimbald,

Inability to lift-off is inherited. No one in Eddie’s family ever lifted-off. Advance him.

Dear Mr Emu,

Parents shouldn’t discuss limitations lest they become self-fulfilling.

Grimbald,

Inability to lift-off does not limit Eddie any more than your inability to run limits you. Adjust your curriculum. Progress our Eddie.

Principal Grimbald huffed. How impertinent.

Thoughts about year level retention

I have never been one to suggest that a child repeat a grade at school and always reluctant to agree if suggested to me. If schools really espoused what they profess about children being at the centre of a process that recognises individual development and personalises education, there’d be no such thing as repetition of a grade level. In fact, there’d be no grades and children would learn what they were interested in at their own pace.

I saw a great poster recently (sadly, I didn’t keep it and can’t remember where) that said something like,

We teach children at their own pace and then use standardised tests to assess their progress.

It not only sounds crazy, it is crazy.

With our current system of graded classrooms, there will always be children who don’t achieve what’s expected by the end of the year. Repeating them may seem like we are recognising they haven’t achieved it ‘yet’ and are giving them extra time to do so. However, in most cases I have seen, it does little to enhance academic achievement and causes more damage to self-esteem than it is worth. Often it results in reduced expectations for the child. Centring education on the child rather than other-imposed content is long overdue.

As part of my studies of literacy acquisition and development, I worked with adults who had not yet learned to read — such a debilitating and often humiliating situation for them. These adults had low self-esteem, lacked confidence and little sense of self-worth. All claimed that they weren’t clever and apologised for not having done well in school. Each one admitted to having repeated a grade in school even though I hadn’t requested that information. I was saddened, not only that they were unable to read, but that they were still so weighed down by their repetition at school. I thought if school had failed anyone, it had failed them.

I saw the same thing in my role as a literacy support teacher for those not making the expected progress in primary school. Most of those requiring support in the upper year levels had already repeated a year of school. When asked what year they were in they would say something like, “I’m in year five. I should be in year six, but I got kept down in year two.” How sad that they had been crushed so early in life. I tried to reassure them that there was no need to explain or apologise. I felt if anyone should be apologising, it should be the system.

While these are my perceptions formed from my own experiences, research supports my thinking. I read only one paper, that by Brenda S. Tweed of East Tennessee State University, that appeared to show positive results of repeating. However, even in that paper, the importance of maintaining a repeating student’s self-esteem is recognised.

This paper, published by Frontiers in Psyschology, recognises grade retention as a more contentious issue and concludes, as do I, that it has a more lasting negative impact.

Similarly, an article published on Healthy Children.org responds to the question ‘Should my Child Repeat a Grade?’ with ‘Ideally, no. Repeating a grade―also known as “grade retention” ―has not been shown to help children learn. Children won’t outgrow learning and attention issues by repeating a grade. In fact, repeating a grade may contribute to long-term issues with low self-esteem, as well as emotional or social difficulties.’

In the paper To Repeat or Not to Repeat?, Dr Helen McGrath of Deakin University in Melbourne summarises the conclusions from research into repeating this way:

• Repeating does not improve academic outcomes

• Repeating contributes to poor mental health outcomes

• Repeating leads to poor long term social outcomes

• Repeating contributes to a negative attitude to school and learning

• Repeating results in students dropping out of school

• Repeating decreases the likelihood that a student will participate in post-secondary schooling

• Repeated students demonstrate higher rates of behavioural problems

• There is no advantage to students in delaying school entry for a year in order to increase ‘school readiness’

• There are huge costs associated with students repeating a year of schooling.

• Some students are more likely to be recommended to repeat than others

Similar findings are also reported by the Victorian Department of Education, Australia.

It seems that most of the research supports conclusions I drew from my observations. I’m sure you will all have your own opinions. Some of you may have repeated a class at school or have a child who has repeated or was recommended to repeat. I’d love to know what you think. As an educator, I couldn’t help sharing these thoughts and ideas that led to my flash fiction response to Charli’s prompt. I hope it now makes sense.

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Announcing the WINNERS of the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

The results of the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic are out. You’ll never guess who won. You’ll have to pop over to see.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When the Rodeo came to town, Rough Writers from around the world answered the call. You came, you sat in the saddle, you rode the bull, and you joined the parade.

Most important, you were inspired by our wonderful friend, Sue Vincent. Sue has been battling terminal cancer, and we’re thrilled that she is around to see the winners (though I admit I cheated and let her know the top winner a little early). Participants were allowed and encouraged to donate to help Sue and her family, but we believe the photo she provided as the prompt was worthy of any prize. Her photo prompted 63 wonderful 99 word stories and 99 syllable poems; if the average picture is worth 1,000 words, then we can be certain her prompt is way above average!

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Challenge Prompt

When speaking with Sue following the contest, we learned that…

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Deep Wishes - the marshmallow test

Deep Wishes #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about deep wishes. Where is the deep — in the sky, the ground, or outer space? What kind of wishes reside there for whom and why? Go where the prompt leads!

I don’t quite know how deep wishes got me to the marshmallow test which I previously wrote about here, but that’s where I landed. Maybe I was yearning for something sweet.

In the marshmallow test, children were left alone in a room with one enticing marshmallow on a plate in front of them. They were promised a second marshmallow if they didn’t eat the first before the examiner returned. The ways in which different children responded to the task were interesting and used for research into emotional intelligence and later success in life.

I had more altruistic goals in mind for the boy in my story, but in the end, he was more concerned with the present moment than life’s bigger issues. Children (and stories) don’t always turn out as you expect. I hope you enjoy it.

Something Else

His eyes were as round as the cookie. He shuffled on his seat. His fingers twitched. They slow-walked to the plate and he quickly drew them back. His head bent low over the cookie. He inhaled. Deep. Long. No rule against that. He checked for dislodged crumbs. None. He sighed. The door handle rattled. He sat upright, shoved his hands beneath his buttocks and looked at the ceiling.

“You resisted,” said the examiner.

He nodded.

“Not even a crumb?’

He shook his head.

“Then you may have two cookies.”

“May I have something else, please? I don’t like chocolate.”

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