Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

Michael’s Wedding Vows to Tessa

When you went off to college without me, I wished you hadn’t. Then you married and had children. I wished it were with me.

I traveled the world, serving with the United States Army, continuing to wish for you.

Our lives unexpectedly turned upside down. Within that year, we found ourselves back home. Wounded, frightened, mature.

I changed my wishes to prayers. I needed His help to heal, trust and feel useful.

Finally, here we are, standing with family, in front of friends, believing we are where we belong. I pledge to love you always, my beautiful, accepting friend.

Note: Michael is a fictional Army veteran who lost both legs in an IED explosion in Iraq. He wears two prosthetic legs, different types, for different occasions. Tessa is his high school sweetheart. The characters have been my focus for two years at the Ranch and the prompt, “I made a wish,” led me to believe I should continue writing their story.

Today’s thank you goes out to Sally S.

I pile things. I don’t mean piles of ten-year-old newspapers in the corners and aisles of my living room like a hoarder. I do mean some sort of pile on most flat surfaces in my home. That means sweatshirts worn once are piled on the chair in my bedroom. It means the catalogs that came at holiday time are still piled on the coffee table waiting for me to look at them. It also means the kitchen island has a few days’ mail, the recipe I might use tomorrow, my cell phone holder, the American Legion Poppy that came off my coat zipper, and this morning’s used coffee cup cluttering it. In the family room, cat toys litter the fireplace hearth, and sewing paraphernalia covers the end of the long table that doesn’t get used when my husband and I eat a meal. Like I said, piles.

This evening we are having Sally over for dinner. That means the piles need to disappear. I should have company once a week so they don’t reappear. I digress.

I’m an organized, pre-planner-type person. Today is Thursday. I started reducing some of my piles on Monday. After attacking another pile, I checked my recipes and made the grocery list on Tuesday. I got the groceries on Wednesday, fussing because the top shelf in the new milk cooler at the store is too high for me to reach. When I got home, I put the groceries away and inspected the common rooms for other things that I needed to put away, hide in the storeroom, or throw out, finally.

This morning I put the pot roast ingredients in the crockpot before going to my dentist appointment and lunch date, knowing I would have time to clean the bathroom, set the table, and even take a quick nap before my husband got home from work and Sally arrived.

I should share; Sally is coming over to bring me some t-shirts that I will work my magic on to turn into a wall hanging. It will be a memorial to her late husband and my dear friend, Dack. Anybody that knows a quilter should understand and accept that quilting is much more important to the “artist” than cleaning the house—or taking care of things instead of piling them on a flat surface.

I sat down to write this summary to give you the opportunity to laugh with me. Today, when I came in the kitchen door from the garage, I did a double-take when I saw the island’s clean surface. For a split second, I wondered where all my “stuff” went. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve had company, and I needed to make my piles disappear.

So, Sally, thank you for asking me to do a sewing project for you and thank you for coming to dinner. I know it will be an enjoyable evening, and for a couple of days, my flat surfaces will remain uncluttered.

An Unexpected Party Guest

Multiple cars arrived at the No Thanks to unload food for The Band of Brother’s holiday party. Tyrell and his cousins made sure the meal had a southern flair by donating pots of greens, pans of cornbread, and his mother’s pecan pies. With all the commotion no one noticed the furry little face poking out from the front of Tyrell’s jacket.

When things quieted down Tyrell took the littlest Christmas goat anyone had ever seen out of its hiding place, gave it some milk, then put him on the floor to explore. His antics kept people chuckling all evening

Written in response to Charli Mills December 2, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the littlest Christmas goat. Who does the goat belong to? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

The Pine

In the spring I sit

Leaning against the pine

To smell the earth come back to life

To watch the chipmunks scamper

In the summer I sit

Leaning against the pine

To admire the trillium that grow beneath

To catch a glimpse of wildlife prancing

In the fall I sit

Leaning against the pine

Wearing a yellow vest, shotgun in hand

To harvest some venison for food on the table

In the winter I sit

Leaning against the pine

Enjoying the snow-covered stillness

Knowing another year has passed

And another is promised

Spending time with

My sturdy towering friend

A Letter of Regret

To my son and granddaughter I will never get to know. It pains me to admit I have not aged well, so the travel time between our two countries is prohibitive. Though my heart desires to get reacquainted with my long-ago friend and meet my descendants, I fear the current trend of many flight cancelations has made me realize my hope to visit is unrealistic. Instead, may I ask you to send recent photos and letters about yourselves. I have included pictures of the familiar places in my life where I have imagined you sitting or walking with me.

Note: Thad’s biological mother lives in Vietnam. She hasn’t seen Thad since he was about six months old and has never met her granddaughter, Katie.

Written in response to Charli Mills November 25, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads!

The Tools of the Band

Instruments, reeds, strings, sticks, picks, sheets of music, and lyrics. Reverb pedals, rugs, amplifiers, microphones, speakers, and drinks. Playlist on my cell. Straight-leg jeans, boots, hats, and jackets. Diamond studs shine from our ears. Big smiles are plastered for the fans. Damn, I forgot the words. The audience doesn’t seem to notice or care. We strum the guitars and cover with the snare. Get the crowd to clap in time. Hallelujah, the many tools of the band. Loudly blend the notes and words. It doesn’t pay a lot but makes me feel alive playing as the man I am.

Note: the band this refers to is The Band of Brothers, an all-veteran band in which Michael is a guitarist and lead singer.

Written in response to Charli Mills November 18, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about tools. Whose tools are they and how do they fit into the story? What kind of tools? Go where the prompt leads!

Trouble Adjusting

During a Homefront Warriors gathering Tessa had been unusually quiet. Someone asked if she wanted to share what was troubling her.

“I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m having trouble adjusting to Michael not using his wheelchair. I know I should be thrilled he’s more mobile, but it seems with him walking everything happens faster. He’s busier now than before.”

Sally answered, “I’m hearing you say you wish he would make more time for you.”

“Perhaps that’s true.”

“I suggest you offer to join him in his activities or carry on keeping yourself busy like you had to in the past.”

Written in rsponse to Charli Mills November 11, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads!

Candy Making Day

Tessa’s mother had made homemade holiday treats for as long as Michael could remember. His mouth watered thinking about them. Recently his clunky wheelchair and inability to reach things kept him from helping during production. Not this year.

When Michael walked into the candy kitchen, Jenny did a double-take but didn’t comment as she smiled up at him. At the end of the day, they had made chocolate and maple-walnut fudge, peppermint patties, and peanut brittle.

Michael was beaming. “Guess I’ve been missing a lot by not standing.”

Jenny hugged his solid torso. “‘Bout time you figured that out.”

Written in response to Charli Mills October 28, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the phrase creatively or stick to the traditional. Is it sweet? Ironic? Any genre will do. Go where the prompt leads!

Mud and Laughter

Any mud puddle was a golden find when I was a boy. Pictures prove it.

I ended my best high school football game, covered in mud, gleefully holding the winning ball.

I ran miles in Army basic training. Good memories flowed while cleaning mud off my boots.

My Army duties took away time for mud and then my legs.

I rebelled against the prosthetics, preferring a wheelchair.

Waterproof metal legs got my attention. I had to admit they would increase my mobility.

When Jester and I purposely run through sloppy mud puddles, my inner child comes alive with laughter.

Written in response to Charli Mills October 14, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: 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!

Seeking Peace

The two men sat on a strategically placed bench shaded by a majestic maple. Each leaned forward with their elbows on their knees, looking down or gazing up at a pink marble headstone, remembering. The older one wore a Vietnam Veteran ball cap. The younger one, an Afghanistan. His prosthetic legs shouted disabled veteran. They took turns talking, just above whispers. They could hear each other, but certainly, no one else would have been able to. Ending the conversation, the older touched the younger’s arm, “My daughter died doing what she wanted.” Michael cried, releasing unfounded but real guilt.

Written in response to Charli Mills October 7, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes whispers. It can be beautiful or creepy and any genre. Where are the whispers, who are they from, and what do they say if they say anything at all. Go where the prompt leads!

Across the Water

Who is it

            Looking across the water

The fisherman searches for a set of concentric circles

            Showing him the fish

The boater gauges the choppiness

            Whether he’s in for a rough ride or not

The new skier enjoys smooth glass      

            It’s easier to maneuver behind the boat

The child jumps in delighted and unafraid

            Not caring about the temperature

The skin diver goes below the surface

            Enjoying the beauty and quiet

The bird takes advantage of the bugs 

            Hovering at dawn and dusk

The Vietnam veteran stares at the surface

            Remembering bamboo straws that allowed submerged enemies to breath

Written in response to Charli Mills September 30, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story uses the phrase, “across the water.” It can be any body of water distant or close. Who (or what) is crossing the water and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Stories from the Author’s Chair

I went out of curiosity, to hear what the veterans wrote about their experiences.

Each author sat in the special chair to read a piece of his writing. An Army officer recounted delivering coffee in the dead of night to frightened young rookies in look-out towers. An Air Force pilot related seeing a plane crash, then having to walk around the wreckage to go fly his own mission. The Marine lowered his gaze, described the sounds, smells, and angst of the front line, and carrying his wounded buddy to the medical tent.

I wondered who had the worst nightmares.

Written in response to Charli Mills September 23, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

Website Powered by

Up ↑