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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

Saddle Up Saloon; Art Showin’

Meet some of the ladies I write with each week. We do more than writing.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Saddle Up Saloon

“Wow, Lit Kit Libation Slingin’ Librarian and new bartender at the Saddle Up Saloon, this art show is happening!”

“Really Kid? I can tell there’s no word limit here. Just call me Lit Kit already. But yes, the bar is busy.”

“Yep, Lit Kit, there’s sure  a mess a folks here ta show an’ see visual art work.”

“Heehee. Some a them make Shorty look tall. Look, there’s Ann Edall Robson. An’ who’s that sippin’ a tall glass a Sauvignon Blanc?”

“You two don’t get out much, do you? That’s author-illustrator Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. And she’s been the lead buccaneer captaining Friday Fictioneers for the past eight years. Look, I have to tend the bar. Go talk to Rochelle, she’s interesting.”

“Howdy ma’am. Welcome ta the Saddle Up. I’m Pal, this here’s Kid.”

“Yer a author-illustrator? Soun’s like a chicken-egg conundrum. Which comes first?”

“Kid!”

“It’s okay, Pal, it’s a…

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Famous Classmates – BOTS

Michael and Tessa gazed at the Wall of Fame in their high school. Tessa asked, “Did you see Phillip Sheppard when he was on the TV show Survivor?”

“I did, and his pink underpants didn’t surprise my Aunt Sue a bit. She said he was thee character in her class. I wonder how much ribbing his brother James took as the Rochester Police Chief at the time. He probably felt like he was wading in deep water.”

“And Bill T. Jones was her student instructor in choir. Who knew at the time these three African-American students would become famous.”

 

Bill T. Kennedy

Bill T. Jones the night he received Kennedy Center Honor  –   2010

CheifJ.Sheppard

Cheif James Sheppard when in office

Note: I ate lunch with Bill T. Jones and other friends every day when I was in eighth grade at Wayland-Cohocton Central School. He is now a world-renowned modern dance choreographer and Kennedy Center Honors recipient. James and Phillip Sheppard were younger than me. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Phillip after his second appearance on Survivor. What a fun guy to hang out with.  And no, we had no clue while in high school these classmates would become household names.

Written in response to Charli Mills June 11, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters. It can be literal or metaphorical. Think of a place and person and situation. Explore. Bathe. Renew. Go where the prompt leads!

Will There Ever Be Justice For All – flash

Michael sat with his fellow bandmates discussing the Pledge of Allegiance. He asked, “Have you ever thought about that last line, ‘Justice for All’?

Colm McCarthy, first-generation Irish -American who served in Vietnam, said, “Only when I get mad about how hard it is to get an appointment at the VA.”

Colm’s son, Thad, a Vietnamese-American who served in Granada, gave a disgusted grunt. “Try being a 50-50 and see how you are treated by others.”

Tyrell, the band’s African-American drummer, and Iraq veteran asked, “Are we talking about justice or equality.”

Michael responded, “I don’t believe they’re separable.”

 

Note: A 50/50 was the term used to describe a Vietnamese child that was half American.

 

Written in response to Charli Mills June 4, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about justice for all. It does not have to take place in America. Injustice exists anywhere. What is the story behind justice for all? Go where the prompt leads!

 

 

 

Caskets Verses Baby Blanket

Tessa caught the look on Michael’s face when he opened the package. She commented, “My son thought you would like a U.S. flag flying out front. Was he wrong?”

“I’m sorry. The flag reminds me of the number of draped caskets I’ve escorted and the families who paid the price.” Tears formed. He let her see them. “Now that pink baby blanket you are knitting gives me hope and helps me focus on the future.”

“I’ll explain to Brent and we’ll pass the flag to my parents. Theirs is quite faded.”

“Thank you, for understanding and backing me up.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills May 28, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using two words that contradict. Examples include champagne and hard-rock; rosemary and sewage; duck down and firecrackers; sleep and square-dancing. Use one of these or make up your own. Go where the prompt leads!

By Candle Light – flash fiction

Michael sat on his back porch enjoying the created shadows and smell of citronella candles. He wore his number 10 football jersey from high school. It was a happy remembrance that still fit over his muscle-bound upper body. His favorite number had switched from 10 to 100; 100 days until the docs told him he was out of the woods after the bomb and 100 days to build the nerve to ask Tessa to come to his home. He would have 100 various sized candles burning to welcome her. He hoped the romantic scene would bring him his desire.

Written in response to Charli Mills May 21, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about 100 candles. What do they light, and why? Think about contrast or symbolism. Are the candles large, small, or stars in the night? Go where the prompt leads!

Absolute Danger – flash fiction

Tessa said, “At our Home-front Warriors meeting we discussed what flashes through our mind when we meet with danger. Do you remember what you thought?”

Michael looked away. “I’ve never admitted this. I can’t answer, because I blackout. Remember in high school when I wedged my car against a tree after hitting black ice?”

“Yeah.”

“I recall the car starting to skid, and getting out of it, no impact, no details.”

“And in Iraq.”

“We were talking about our mission, and then it was three weeks later. Coming to was terrifying.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I can talk about it now.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills May 14, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that answers the question, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you are in absolute danger?” Go where the prompt leads!

Standing Up to Mother – flash fiction

Tessa’s mother paced. “I’m fearful Michael will suck the life out of you if you move in together.”

“I thought you approved.”

“Not of you living with him.”

“He nourishes the youth choir, the Vet’s music programs, and he goes to D.C. when asked. You don’t think he’ll enhance my life too?”

“Behind closed doors is where the nightmares and anger dwell. You’ll have no escape.”

“Don’t you remember my ex had nightmares. It isn’t new to me.”

“He was an officer.”

“So that’s what this is about, status, not my well being. Good thing it isn’t your choice.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills May 7, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to nourish. The characters can nourish or be nourished. What else can be nourished? A tree? A setting? Does the sunset nourish the soul? Go where the prompt leads!

First Kiss – flash fiction

Tessa stomped snow off her boots before going into her parents’ house. “Is our toboggan still around? The choir kids want to go sledding.”

Her father answered. “I’ll get it out if you promise not to allow co-ed rides.”

“Why would you say that?”

“I seem to remember my teenage daughter coming home all flushed because she had been kissed while in a jumbled pile after a toboggan mishap.”

Tessa’s eyes widened and she laughed aloud. “I haven’t thought about that in years. Wait till I tell Michael you remember that.”

“Your feet didn’t touch ground for a month.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills April 30, 2020, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features longboards. They can be used in any way you imagine, including a name for sporting equipment. How are they used and who is using them? Go where the prompt leads!

Service–Military or Otherwise

When you hear the word SERVICE, what flashes through your mind? Currently, it may be a picture of doctors and nurses. It could be your favorite restaurant server, your mechanic, or someone in the military. I was an Air Force wife from 1972–1979 and I waited tables in the closest restaurant to the main gate of both an Air Force Base and an Army Post in Tacoma, Washington from 1978­­—1991 where most of the customers were active duty or retired members of the armed services. I moved back to the Finger Lakes area of New York State in 1991 and lost my connection to a military-based way of life. When I hear the word service my mind thinks military first, then may drift to other definitions.

I am a five-year member of the Rochester, NY Veterans Writing Group. We meet each month and I have only missed a few meetings since joining in 2015 because being with “my” vets has brought me home to a feeling I didn’t know I was missing until I experienced it again. When I started attending I found my “tribe” of brothers and sisters that “get it.” The group gathers around a table and writes personal experience memories brought forth from thought-provoking prompts. Once the allotted writing time ends, we read our musings aloud, sharing the highs and lows, and sometimes comical, points of military life. It’s a healing process and only safe to do with other vets who understand: the front lines come with exhaustion, bad food, blood, and death; the military comes with pride, service, boredom, and chaos; the home front can be supportive or fall away in a flash, and it takes 22 to 25 other members in the background to support the ones brandishing weapons no matter the circumstances.

I am proud to share, the groups’ anthology titled, United in Service, United in Sacrifice will be released in May 2020. The authors are veterans and family members ranging in age from 27 years to 95 years old. The stories start at WWII and move forward to Afghanistan. The authors’ goal is to help anyone understand the meaning and feeling of “tribe” or “brotherhood”  of the military and the sacrifice it takes to “sign on the dotted line,” hence the book title.

According to the National Conference for State Legislators, only 7.6% (in 2019) of all Americans have ever served in the United States military. I beg to differ because I was a dependent wife and had two children. No, I didn’t serve to the extent of following orders and being asked to brandish a weapon, but I carried a military dependent ID and served by being the back-up, the home front, who gave up my childhood roots, never gave them to my kids, then willingly packed and moved each time the Air Force ordered my ex-husband to do so. I made immediate friends with new neighbors and relied on other members of my husband’s unit as a family because I had no other choice. Becoming a military dependent changed my life by expanding the puddle in which I live.

Today I continue to serve by being the “Mom” of our writing group. I take the coffee pot to each gathering, check-in privately with a member when I can sense they need it, and present each new member a patriotic quilt on their sixth month attendance anniversary. I learned to sew when I was in high school and I’ve been making quilts ever since. I am very fortunate to have a large sewing studio in my home that has multiple cupboards full of many different colors of fabric, lots of it red, white, or blue.  My husband is often with me when I’m shopping for fabric. He carries the bolts I pick, chats with the person who cuts what I want, and pays for it knowing I am going to give most of it away. He’s a veteran too and his generosity keeps me occupied doing something I love, and gives both of us a way to acknowledge our fellow veterans.

The quilt pictured below was made for my WWII Veteran friend, Bob Whelan. It is a replica of the 13th Armored Cavalry (1944-’45) patch of which he was a member and is now the President of that unit’s reunion group. The quilt hangs in his study at home. The pattern for the recurring block is called Kaleidoscope. Fun fact; my husband was in the 50th Armored Division (1970-’76.)

WWII quilt

patqlt

The above quilt was a gift to Steve McAlpin

Vets

We had to say a final farewell to one of our own this past January. Some of “my” vets from left to right; Me, Gary Redlinski (Vietnam), Steve McAlpin (Afghanistan), his girl Carol, Holly Katie (family member), Vaughn Stelzenmuller (Vietnam), Bob Whelan (WWII)

There are so many different types of service whether it is in the military, to your family or community, at work, in your children’s schools, at the Carrot Ranch, etc. Service can be as simple as a smile in the check-out line at a retail store or brandishing a weapon not knowing if you’ll make it to the next day and all points and locations in between.

Charli Mills serves us by giving us a fun, safe, positive place to share the written word. I am thankful to be a part of Carrot Ranch and proudly talk of my international friends who keep my life puddle ever-expanding.

In the comments section please share your service story–military or otherwise.

 

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