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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

What’s Hidden in Your Hutch – flash fiction

After exercising on stationary rings and showering, Michael sat staring at the hutch his sister had insisted he needed. The upper shelves displayed happy memories: pictures of him with Army buddies at reunions, his parents, and his sister’s family. The lower cupboards held a good stock of liquor. The center big drawer was like a safe deposit box, hiding tangible PTSD triggers: two purple hearts, medical records, dog tags, pictures of lost buddies and of himself with legs. He thought of baby teeth and hoped Tessa would have a grandchild to help him understand why such things were keepsakes.

Written in response to Charli Mills January 2, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something found in a hutch. It can be any kind of hutch — a box for critters or a chest for dishes. Go where the prompt leads!

Note: PTSD triggers refers to things that can cause a veteran to remember traumatic experiences, often during combat, or can refer to anyone who has suffered any kind of trauma in their life. PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Unpacking – flash fiction

Michael took another oblong bundle of paper out of a box labeled Hutch and unrolled the mound until the prize inside laid in his hand. He held a wood box with a hinged lid that had been tied securely with string. He handed it to Tessa.

With a look of wonderment, she undid the string, opened it and lifted out an Altoid box labeled with her son’s name. She shook it to hear the familiar rattle before opening it to show Michael the contents. “Brent’s baby teeth.”

“Parents save those?”

“Of course. I’ll bet your Mom has yours.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills January 2, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something found in a hutch. It can be any kind of hutch — a box for critters or a chest for dishes. Go where the prompt leads!

Note: when the US military reassigns a member, his/her belongings are packed by a professional packing company and moved by that company. To minimize breakage items are often wrapped in 5 or 6 sheets of packing paper.

Many Reasons – flash fiction

At breakfast, Tessa said to Michael, “Last night’s Home-front Warriors discussion was about how few “lifers” return to their home towns. What brought you back?”

“That was by design. I knew my mother had chronicled my injuries and recuperation on Facebook so hometown friends wouldn’t need to ask me for the details. I wanted to feel useful and our church music program beckoned. Being involved with it helps keep the self-pity at bay.” He paused. “And if I were to get news about you, it would be here.”

Her eyes and smile proved his answer was a pleasant surprise.

 

Definition – lifers – those who make a career of serving in the military, at least 20 years. It’s true they often don’t return home perhaps because their life experiences and viewpoints have changed them enough they don’t feel they fit in among old friends anymore.

 

Written in response to Charli Mills December 26, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the phrase by design. It can be used in any manner — a label, a mantra, a story. Go where the prompt leads!

 

He’ll Sing Anytime

Tessa’s father handed Michael a beer. “The Vets and family members December open mic is tomorrow night. How about joining us?”

“With a bunch of poets and storytellers. No thanks.”

“There’s no formal way to share. Tessa just talks. The younger women look up to her.”

“We don’t need to show off we’re together. People know.”

“Well then, would you please bring your guitar and lead some carols after the speakers finish?”

“That I’d be glad to do if there’s no discussion about me using my chair.”

“That’s your habit to change, but remember, some don’t have the option.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills December 19, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features an open mic night. Take a character backstage, on stage or into the deep woods. Go where the prompt leads!

Note: Michael is a 100 % disabled Iraq vet, never married, who can walk with prosthetic legs, but chooses to use a wheelchair. Some criticize him for the choice. He has recently resumed a relationship with Tessa, his high school sweetheart, who was married to an Army career officer for 23 years. You’ll get to know them better in 2020.

The Neighbor Boy Noticed

Mrs. Borden looked at the clock. Nine-thirty. She used to get out to her garden at seven-thirty. She opened the back door and held the jam and knob to steady her way down the two steps then tottered to her small garden that she couldn’t convince herself to give up just yet. A very large ceramic gnome with a mischievous grin waited. The sign hanging around his neck said, “Weeding done.” Her mouth fell open and one tear slid down her cheek. Who would do such a thing?

The local scout troop made a game of not getting caught.

 

Written in response to Charli Mills December 12, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a gnome. It can be a garden gnome, a Christmas Joulutonttu, or a sauna protector. You can write magical realism, or feature contemporary gnome-like product.  Go where the prompt leads!

Do We Take Her for Granted

“Doesn’t your sister-in-law usually bring you a key-lime pie on your birthday?”

“Yes. She must’ve forgotten.”

“After doing it for more than ten years, probably not. Should we call and ask if everything is all right?”

“Don’t interfere.”

“She’s always doing something for us and your family. I hate to admit, I don’t even remember her kids’ names. That’s awful.”

“Then you call her.”

***

“She did forget because her kids have been having medical problems. She was so happy I inquired and said she was sorry. Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong for not paying more attention.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills December 5, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a key lime pie. How can you use it in a story? Is it about the pie? Or about characters making, eating, or otherwise engaging with one? Go where the prompt leads!

Bringing Out the Best

Newly divorced Tessa, visiting her sister, sat in their childhood church. When the choir started singing from the loft her face registered recognition. She whispered, “I can hear Michael’s voice. I’ve never stopped hearing it.”

Aggie rolled her eyes.

“Is he home for good?”

“Medical discharge. In a wheelchair, he can do without. Very different.”

“Same beautiful bass.”

Later in the day, Michael approached Aggie’s door. She watched. “I’ll be dipped, he’s walking. You always could bring out the best in him. You sure about this?”

“It’s just dinner.”

“Yeah, right.”

“It’ll be good to be wanted and needed.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills November 21, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a romance. Focus on the relationship between two people. Build tension and end on a happy(ish) note. Go where the prompt leads!

I’ll take the View

The couple stood staring at the upper floor southeast corner of their unfinished house.

Lizzy’s face turned red. “Isn’t that where my sewing studio is going? Why the hell are there such large windows? I asked for small ones.”

Her husband answered. “We’re building here for the view. I changed the plans as a surprise.”

The builder hearing the commotion came to intervene. “We will be using Indow Museum grade indoor storm windows that block 98% UV rays. I promise anything inside will not be harmed.”

“Will you put that in writing?” she challenged.

“I will, with a guarantee.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills November 14, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using storm windows. It can be literal on a house, but also consider other portals, even spaceships or submarines. Can you make it into something new or build a story around something historical? Go where the prompt leads!

Happy to Serve

I am an American. I raised my right hand and affirmed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against any who oppose it. I agreed to follow the orders of the President and all others ranked above me. I have been to war and done things I believe are morally wrong, but would do them again to protect my country. Like my friend’s grandmother, a Water Walker who fights to protect water because it is life, I will fight whenever and wherever I am told because Freedom isn’t free and I’m willing to pay the price.

Written in response to Charli Mills November 7, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have to be in the Anishinaabe tradition; in fact, it would be more interesting to see interpretations from across all nations and walks. It can be a title or used as a phrase. Go where the prompt leads!

In memory of my friend Kurt Feuerherm, WWII Veteran

Decent Substitutes

On a recent summer trip through the southwest United States, Annie admired the many brightly painted ceramic skulls she saw in gift shops. They seemed to be happy, not scary. She wondered why so many people collected them, skulls weren’t her thing. After getting home she read for the first time the definition of the Mexican Holiday, Day of the Dead. Now it all made sense and she wished she had bought some for her parents and brother-in-law’s gravesites. She decided to paint flowers on three flat stones and leave them for her loved ones next time she visited

Written in response to Charli Mills October 31, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads!

Bob’s Rt 66 Beer List

My husband is a beer man. When we set out on our Rt. 66 trip he decided to support the local breweries when possible. Sometimes when he would ask the bartender or server for a local beer, he would have to explain what he meant. It was obvious some of the people we encountered had not done much traveling.

We picked up Rt. 66 in Joliet, IL and headed south. The first couple of nights Bob drank his normal Miller Lite so the first true local beer he had was at the Cheeky Monkey Bar in Branson, MO. Yes the place was as fun as the name. We were met at the door with a shot of their signature drink by a friendly gal who asked us our names. What he drank is pictured below.

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The next evening we were in Tulsa, OK, and there isn’t a picture for that night. Now that it is a few weeks later, we don’t remember why. The following evening we were in Elk City, OK, and he had OK Pils.

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On into Texas we went. The Big Texan restaurant brew its own beer and they don’t sell it anyplace but there. People were buying “growlers” of their favorites. Bob drank the Texas Red Amber Ale and got to compliment the brew-master on its quality. Sometimes he took a picture of the menu too so he could remember what the names were later on. If you have a touch screen and can enlarge the menu, some of the names are a hoot. For instance: Whoop Your Donkey IPA. He isn’t an IPA guy, but the name is fun.

Don’t let the next glass fool you. It held Pepe Loco and he drank it in Albuquerque, NM. That evening we had the pleasure of chatting with and sharing the dance floor with some fun-loving Irish folk that were doing the Rt 66 trip on a huge bus.

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The following evening we were in Holbrook, AZ, where we found the Corral Bar and Kilt Lifter Amber Ale. The band was four guys who looked almost as old as we are, and played our kind of music. We do an old-fashioned swing and their beat got our toes moving. It was the night we will remember as the most fun because of the people we talked to: Lou from England and Alvin, a full blood Navajo.

One of the  most famous spots on Rt. 66 is “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. The corner name is insignificant, getting there is supreme. We had lunch, after the obligatory pictures were taken, at the Relic Road eatery where Bob had a Grand Canyon American Pilsner. Again, the menu is so we could remember the name. He also drank this beer at the Grand Canyon Pizza Pub.

The next afternoon found us on a train riding from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon south rim. The young lady that served the beer shown below attended the same high school I did in Wayland, NY, and graduated from a high school which was Bob’s high school football team arch rival. And at the beginning of the conversation she didn’t think we would recognize the name of the town she called home. It is indeed a small world when you get out there and explore it.

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The night we spent on the South Rim we enjoyed the best prepared meal of the trip. We shared our table with a couple from California that we had been talking to throughout the day as the El Tovar Hotel frowned on just two people at a table that could seat four. Bob had a single malt scotch instead of beer as we helped Gail and Gene celebrate their anniversary and it was a couple of days before Bob’s birthday.

Back in Williams, AZ, via train, we had a light dinner in the hotel lounge while I wrote that day’s blog and Bob enjoyed the Railhead Amber Ale. Don’t think I let him drink alone. My drink of choice is Jack and Coke for those of you who want to know.

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Our next stop was Las Vegas, Nevada, Sin City as it is casually called. In one of the restaurants of the Mirage Hotel we were disappointed with the quality of our meal, the service and the lack of any other local beer other than Sierra Nevada pictured below in the ultra thin, tall glass. We made up for it in the “free” drinks I drank while at the Craps table. Overall in my total craps play I am still $35.00 to the good, though I did leave $100.00 in Vegas. It might be good that I lost, I won’t want to play again so soon.

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From Vegas we drove on to Barstow, CA., our least favorite city overall because of the number of street people. We would go back to have dinner at the Idle Spurs where we met Suzanne and Wayne. It was Bob’s birthday and Rachel, the bartender, brought him an ice cream sundae with a candle in it. Bob drank Red Trolley Ale while we ate our dinner at the bar.

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In Palm Springs, having dinner at Shanghai Reds and then dancing to the blues band, Bob found his favorite beer on the whole trip. The 805 had the right taste and temperature to be refreshing as it was still 88 degrees when we walked back to our hotel room.

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Staying another night in Palm Springs, we drove north to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace, way up in the mountains, on recommendation from Jack and Bonnie Garner back in Rochester, NY. We were seated at a table with another couple, Mike and Jennifer, from Atlanta, GA. They pointed out the Budweiser they were served had a notation on the label that it had been totally produced by wind energy so I had to have one to promote the cause. Bob drank the Saint Archer. It was another 100 degree day in the Palm Springs area, so the ice cold beer was good no matter the name.img_0585.jpg

The next night found us in San Diego. We jay-walked across the street from our hotel to Mitch’s, a fresh seafood place. Bob said his swordfish was great, I was not satisfied with my poke (fresh raw tuna) because it came by itself in a small cup, and we both left unsatisfied. He said the Chronic Amber wasn’t bad.

 

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We walked further west on the boardwalk and found Eppig Brewing where Rob, on the left, and Mike, on the right, poured Bob a Festbier and me a Prekend Kolsch. Now that was some good beer. Too bad Eppig doesn’t sell nationally. One could buy six-packs of their flavors from their cooler but alas we were about to leave the beautiful bay on an airplane. We expect to see Rob back in Rochester as he was raised in our fair city and will be here for a wedding in a couple of weeks.

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Above, Festbier on the left and Kolsch on the right. They explained the different glass use, but we wouldn’t have minded if it had been in a Red Solo Cup. (Thanks Toby Keith)

Below is the final beer of the trip. Bob enjoyed it at the Fish Market restaurant on San Diego Bay where Jeff and J.V., the bartenders, made sure we had full drinks and liked our dinner. 

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We arrived home on Thursday evening, the 26th. On the 27th we went to one of our favorite live music haunts just a few miles from home. Bob had a Rohrbach Highland Lager, brewed in Rochester, to celebrate a safe, fun, educational trip.

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This is not an advertisement for any of the beers listed. It is just what was available and wasn’t an IPA. We hope if you are a beer person, you have the opportunity to try some locally made beverages when you travel. Enjoy.

The Day After – Rt 66 trip

Sometimes an unpleasant little surprise turns out to be a blessing. Bob went down to the “office” in our hotel on Wednesday to print our boarding passes and found our flight had been moved to an hour earlier. That meant we had to set an alarm for 3:45 am Thursday morning. One thing this trip has been for me is a month without alarms, except for a couple of days that is. So, of course the night we want to get to sleep early, a noisy group of people decided it was the time to hang out on the front steps to smoke cigarettes and tell stories. The way the hotel was designed, all the noise carried right up to all the front windows. We put up with it for half an hour then tried to call the front desk to ask them to quiet down. The phone in our room didn’t work! Bob called the main desk on his cell, then after being on hold for four minutes, he got dressed and went down in person. The lady working wasn’t helping anyone check in, she was just looking at the computer. I wasn’t with him, but I know he was angry by this time. I did hear her yell out the front door for the people to quiet down and I also heard someone ask, what floor complained. Bob came back into the room and nothing changed. He’s usually a patient man. Usually. He went out on our balcony and hollered down, in not a nice tone, but using the word please. They dispersed. I think it was because of his age that they listened.

I only share this because it was part of our experience. We actually laughed about the fact our very first night in Cleveland had a bunch of unwanted noise, and so did our last night on the other side of the country. Sort of ironic. The blessing comes in to play when we had a short one hour lay-over turn into a two hour in Charlotte, NC, so we had time for lunch, time to make the 15 minute walk to our connecting flight and time for me to put together yesterdays blog. Only one problem, because of the internet connection I wasn’t able to publish the post.

Now we are on our way to Rochester where Bob’s son will pick us up at the airport and we’ll go to dinner together. There won’t be a lack of things to talk about. We left all the fabric I bought, gifts, extra clothes, and my pillow in the car so we won’t see those items for a few days. That was the plan.

We had a nice dinner in our home town, and got back to our house after dark. Unpacking was bitter-sweet, there are piles of things all over the flat surfaces, like mementos, a months worth of mail, things I didn’t take care of before we left, etc.  We got to sleep in our own bed, use the toilet paper we like, and take a shower under a sprayer of our choosing with the water temperature not fluctuating. I had MY coffee this morning and am happy to be home to the little things that make home, home. Traveling is an experience to be cherished and learned from. It is a luxury, but sometimes a luxury is just that if it only lasts a short time. Now if I could just have someone keep cleaning my bathtub and cooking my meals.

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Our house, above, and back yard, below, were fine without us. Notice all the green. After a couple of weeks of seeing only brown, sand, scrub, and no trees, this green was a welcome sight. If you don’t have the chance to travel, you don’t know not everyplace in the country looks like your neighborhood. We also left hot temperatures out west and came home and turned the heat on. It got down to 46 degrees last night. I turn my heat on according to the temperature in the house, not according to the calendar. This time Bob didn’t mind. In the hotel rooms we had trouble getting it cool enough to sleep. And see, my flowers are still blooming for me.

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Below: the local diner where the owner and staff know our names and what coffee we drink. We would take any out of town guests here for a great breakfast or lunch.

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Above is Rhonda, our trip mentor. Talking with her this morning we discovered she did many different things on Rt 66 than we did. Now she wants to go again. Me, not so much.

Below is a baby we don’t know, but I had to show you the size of the pancakes Steve’s serves. Bob orders one on occasion and I eat the left overs at home the next morning.

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Below is just one of the many sewing projects I left in process. I bought the background fabric for this neck-tie quilt on the trip. I always have more than one quilting project going. Maybe I will start posting about those projects until we take another trip.

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I was concerned before we left that I would miss being creative sitting in a car for so many days in a row. Writing the blog satisfied that need. It also got me back into the habit of writing daily. It feels more than pretty good.

We know we didn’t see even half of what there was to see on Rt 66, but that’s all right. You can’t do it all. We did learn where we would like to spend more time and where we don’t care to return to. On to some tips and thoughts.

I didn’t drink near the coffee I do at home. I’m thinking that’s a good thing.

Packing daily got old, but it was worth it. We took bathing suits that never got used. We also took a night light for those dark bathrooms (at night) but left it in Missouri. It would have come in handy on the rest of the trip.

We used a very large amount of extra data on our phones that of course we have to pay for. Just consider it one of the expenses. (We decided not to figure out how much we spent. Some things we paid for when booked and other things as they happened. We are afraid we won’t go again if we figure out the total.)

Siri and the front desk folks were excellent sources for good restaurants and things to do if you needed to find out. As to the front desk folk, some are better than others, like any job, but most were top notch. They are willing to try to make your stay better by meeting requests like a quiet spot for a room. Don’t be afraid to ask. We always tip the housekeeper when we leave a room.

Internet connections, especially free ones, are not created equal. Sometimes the closer to the front desk you are, the better the connection. And if traveling to the Grand Canyon, don’t expect it to work at all. I think I told you that when we were there. Bears repeating.

One thing that got to me was having privacy curtains closed on a regular basis. At home I have no curtains to my fenced back yard, and only sheers on the front windows. I like day light even in the bedroom and I don’t like feeling hemmed in. One more reason it’s nice to be home.

I sent postcards to my grand kids, but the parents liked them more. Next trip I will take my address book, or put addresses in my phone, as I know a few people that would have loved to get a card and I wasn’t prepared.

Oh, if you plan to use a laundry room in a chain that advertises them, I recommend calling and verifying it at the location you need it. One of our stops didn’t have it and it goofed up the laundry schedule. Yes, we bought more underwear because we needed it.

A last parting thought. Talk to the people you pass along the way when you travel. The best part of the trip was the acquaintances we made. They made the trip more fun and memorable, and less exclusive. I learned that the people in one corner of the US don’t look like the people in the other corner yet they are under the same government, have the same gripes and challenges and laugh and love the same. People are people and it was a privilege to meet them.

I will be posting Bob’s beer list when he gets it compiled as some of you requested.

It’s a wrap my friends. If you enjoyed the trip, please press the like button either here or on my Facebook page so I know who went with us. Thanks.

 

 

 

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