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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

New Life – flash fiction

Trying to focus on paperwork in the Iraqi heat had Michael agitated. The only positive, he was inside. Then he heard the words, “The babies are out.” He grabbed his binoculars and joined the parade leaving the building. They raced passed a lone guy loading a truck, went to the far fence and raised their glasses. Michael enjoyed the moment then returned to the loader. “I’ll do this, you go have a look.”

“Thanks, Sarge.”

The newbie joined the group and after guidance, saw the hares playing on the burned remains of a jeep roof half-buried in the sand.

 

Written in response to  Charli Mills March 19, 2020, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a rabbit on the roof. Or many rabbits. Why are they there? Explain the unexpected, go into any genre. Go where the prompt leads!

Tapping Fingers – flash fiction

“Tap, tap, tap, tap. Michael’s fingers do it all day, sometimes in rhythm and sometimes not. It can get on my nerves.”

Michael’s mother nodded in understanding. “Have you ever seen the Dear Abbey response to the woman complaining about her snoring husband? It was something like, be happy he’s alive, be happy he’s home where you want him to be, and thankful he’s not out with another woman. And in Michaels’ case, it keeps him hearing music, not the sounds of war.”

Tessa thought. “Next time it gets to me I’ll ask him to sing what he’s hearing.”

The Physical Therapist – flash fiction

Michael’s mother and Tessa both held wadded wet tissues. They were looking at a photo album that chronicled Michael’s recuperation after his IED blast injuries.

Tessa blew her nose. “No wonder he doesn’t talk about that year. Who’s the cute, young nurse?”

Mom laughed. “She’s a physical therapy specialist, Clare Stelzenmuller. They nick-named her Clarice Alphabet. Michael said she wouldn’t take ‘no or I can’t’ from anyone, and Clare was too sweet a name for her bulldog ways. Expect to see the occasional card from her asking if he’s walking or riding. She’d be happy to know about you.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills March 5, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about Clarice. She can be any Clarice real, historical, or imagined. What story does she have for you to tell? Go where she may lead!

Travel Times – flash fiction

Michael told his buddy, “Tessa’s daughter invited us to visit. It’s a seven hour drive, but Tessa wants to plan on nine, for meal and bathroom stops. I’m not used to making a long road trip with a woman. Is that normal?”

Tony rolled out a belly laugh, “Welcome to the land of traveling with a happy companion. Be glad she isn’t adding stops at quilt shops too. Your days of driving from home to destination without stopping are done. I call it a fair price.”

“Man, I’m having to learn a whole new way of thinking.”

Written in response to Charli Mills February 27, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: 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!

 

Rainbow’s Adventure

In high spirits, the veterans loaded the van after finishing their inaugural concert at the library. No one noticed Rainbow, the resident library cat, scoot out the door, jump into the van and hide under equipment.

After stopping for a leisurely meal, when opening the van door, Rainbow leaped into a surprised Tessa’s arms. “You little sneak! We’ll have to take you home.”

Rainbow sat like a queen on Michael’s lap looking out the window on the return drive.

The staff was relieved to see her. “Odd, she’s never done that before. She must have liked your patriotic music.”

Written in response to Charli Mills February 20, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 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 e=situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads!

 

Send ‘Em a Letter – flash fiction

At the Home-front Warriors meeting, Tessa’s father asked, “How do you communicate with your service member?” He was surprised all the answers involved electronics. “Doesn’t anyone write letters anymore? In my father’s era, they were called sugar reports. Do you realize if your loved one pulls out a phone in a war zone, the enemy can track the GPS coordinates.”

There were murmurs of surprise and dismay.

“I challenge you all to write a happy, newsy letter. One that can be carried in a pocket and reread in silence reminding him/her he/she has a reason to get back home.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills February 13, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a sugar report. Use its original meaning of a letter from a sweetheart to a soldier, or invent a new use for it. Go where the prompt leads!

Note: Technology today is a two-edged sword for the service person. Yes, they can communicate more regularly, more personally and face to face with loved ones at home, but revealing where they are is a real problem and they get lambasted with all the realities at home; broken down cars, fights with family, etc, and it can distract the mind from focussing on the job at hand on the front. It may be the letters sent during WWI were generally full of love and good news, and not the family problems, thus the name, sugar report.

A Dog’s Power – flash fiction

Tessa suggested to Michael they get a puppy. He argued at first, not wanting people to think he needed a therapy dog but in the spring they got a floppy eared, goofy acting big mutt.

Weeks later Tessa, looking out an upstairs window, called her sister Alley. “You should see the two of them. Michael’s wearing his legs whenever he takes Jester out. Right now I’m watching them search for a ball in the field out back. The daisies are in bloom and it’s a marvelous sight. Michael’s even laughing more and that’s a bonus. Thanks for the idea.”

 

Written in response to  Charli Mills February 6, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme “a dog in the daisies.” It can be any dog, real or imagined. Push into the setting and as always, go where the prompt leads!

Note: A veteran who has trouble being in public, or in crowds, or other trauma problems can be a person who benefits greatly from having a personal therapy dog that goes with them everywhere. Michael doesn’t see himself as needing that kind of help thus he balks at a service dog.

Changing Vocations – flash fiction

In the PTSD group, a young war vet hung his head. “I quit nursing school because I had a panic attack every time I got near patients.”

Michael nodded with understanding, “Nothing to be ashamed of. What drew you to nursing?”

“I wanted to feel useful and help other people plus I’m good with details.”

“Admirable strengths. Well suited to a mailman. Delivering in all sorts of weather would be like serving.”

Six months later. “I dig my mail route and I met a gal that asked where and when I served, not what I did in the Army.”

Written in response to Charli Mills January 30, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a postal carrier in an extreme situation. Even if you base your story on a true one, focus on the core trait of this postal carrier. Go where the prompt leads!

Note: Asking a veteran where and when they served is a safe question for the vet. It shows you are interested in them, and if during wartime, frontline action, they don’t have to admit what atrocities they experienced.

Kobe Didn’t Die Alone

The world is reeling from the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, me along with them. I’ve had to examine why I have shed tears over this loss. It’s because I know the pain and want to share a few thoughts, for my own healing, and to help you understand.

We know there were a father and daughter, a set of parents and a daughter, a mother, and another mother and a daughter, plus the pilot on the helicopter. None survived. That leaves a mother with three children, a father with three children, two siblings, and another father and twin boys left in their homes wondering what the hell just happened. I couldn’t find any information on the pilots surviving next of kin. 

I think it’s safe to surmise, someone at the gym called the Bryant home to find out why Kobe was late. Or someone called one of the other adults’ homes to find out. That would have set off a panic within the friends, each calling the other to find out why the group was late, and no one would have an answer. Who knows how the information that the copter went down finally got to the survivors, and how soon they realized they were survivors. From experience, I know that the amount of time will have felt like a lifetime. Think of the other teenage teammates having to deal with death head-on, not of just one friend, but of three of their coaches and three of their friends, and the parents too. I guarantee you, those young ladies are forever changed, some will suffer emotional damage that will never heal.

My husband was in a motorcycle accident 16 years ago. His daughter, who was riding with him, didn’t survive. I know, as a survivor, getting the phone call telling me there had been an accident was the worst phone call I ever got. Until I could get to the hospital over an hour away, I had no idea what the rest of my life would be like. Even after getting there and finding out Alicia had been killed, there were no answers for a few mind-numbing days. And for months after, the ringing of the telephone (before there were cell phones) was frightening when I didn’t know where my husband was.

Believe me, there is panic, denial, anger and a total lack of understanding. In California, there are five families, and countless friends and first responders, dealing with these feelings first hand. The numbness takes control because the human mind can’t deal with the sudden pain. It takes time for the circumstances to become real, then a whole other set of emotions settle in and have to be dealt with. The surviving spouses have to figure out how to get through each hour, then each day, then each month. They have to deal with legal “crap,” funerals, adjusting schedules, and their children’s’ and their own questions and grief, which never affects two people the same way.

The youngest children will probably cry and demand that Daddy or Mommy come home. The older children will think the accident is their fault for something they did wrong the day before or they might think they could have prevented the tragedy if they had acted differently but they have no idea in what way. Some will take on the responsibility of trying to “fix” their surviving parent’s pain. They could become a “parent” to their surviving siblings, or they will find themselves living with a relative that is as devastated as they are.

When you lose someone unexpectedly it is normal to ask why. At first, the question applies to today, but let me tell you, the question remains, forever. For the siblings who are students, the question gets louder, when they see other classmates with two parents when they take part in any activity and there isn’t a parent to attend, and on it goes. The same question affects the surviving parent and the first few bars of a song can send them into a crying fit of utter despair because it was their child’s favorite song. I’ve lived it. It isn’t fair and it’s hard to deal with and “recover” from.

Everyone who is related to those that died, and their friends, will now keep track of time in their life as “before” and “after” the accident. That’s how it is with an unexplainable tragedy. 

I know some are saying the weather was such they shouldn’t have been flying. Please do your homework, the pilot was instrument certified, which means he was flying by instrument readings, not sight. It’s an aviation thing and pilots do it all the time. The wind is much more dangerous than fog. Yes, I do know what I’m talking about. No, I’m not a pilot. Placing blame won’t bring anyone back, but I realize it is the human thing to do. 

The fact remains, the world has lost a sports icon, an overachiever of a good example as a basketball player, husband, father, friend, businessman and human being, but he didn’t die alone. 

Five families, a community, a city, and the sports world have been forever changed and everyone on board deserves to be recognized. Their families deserve to have their hearts held with love, be expected to change, and given the opportunity to grieve in their own way.  These families are broken. If you know them personally, just be there, you don’t even have to say anything. Your presence will be enough. For all you others who care and are genuinely interested, give them space and time to heal, mind your own business and send up a prayer. It can’t hurt and might help more than you know.

 

Celebrating Commitment – midnight – flash fiction

Kera straddled Brent on the park bench. “I love you and getting engaged has made me very happy, but doing this without protection is a bit scary.”

“We’ve been talking about kids and when I told Mom about the ring she said Michael was looking forward to her having grandchildren. They just might get one sooner than any of us thought.”

“My Mom would only be upset about not getting to plan the perfect wedding.”

“A perfect wedding would be our families and friends in this park.”

“I’d prefer a church but this would be fine if we must.”

 

Written in response to Charlie Mills January 23, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a park bench. Use this gif to choose a timeframe and write the story behind that particular scene. Use the time as your title. Go where the prompt leads!

The Gift of Music

     The wheelchair-bound veterans weren’t surprised when asked to join Gil Brandt near his bus. The musician learned names then turned to Michael, “I’ve heard of your talent and that you live near multiple VA medical centers so I’m giving you this to share.”

     A vehicle whose sides were painted with music murals and the words “Veterans’ Music Van” pulled up. Doors were opened to reveal many instruments and other band equipment.  

     “I can’t accept such a gift,” Michael said.

     “No protesting. I hope you’ll develop or add to a music program at each center because music has healing power.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills January 16, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story. It can be about a protest, or you can investigate the word and expand the idea. Who is protesting, where, and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Note: There is a young country music star named Brantley Gilbert that is pro veterans and recognizes them whenever he can. I don’t know if he has given a gift of this magnitude, but he was the inspiration.

Why Tessa is Divorced – flash fiction

Tessa loaded the last of her personal items into the car then went back inside the house they had shared at Ft. Riley, Kansas, for the last six years. She did a walk-through remembering the good times with her children and how lonely she had been with her husband gone so much. When she locked the front door for the last time she could hear his words, “I’m done carrying you.” She felt she had carried the family without his help and knew she couldn’t stay after finding out his last three deployments had been at his own request.

 

Written in response to Charli Mills January 9, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!

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