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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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Hidden Guilt

The battered senior prom picture Michael sequesters in his wallet comes to light when he suffers alone. Staring at it, he remembers; standing tall on legs, twirling Tessa in her sparkly white dress, donning the crown of the elected high school king in love with the queen. He burrows it back into its cave and looks to the sky; his faith is his strength. He prays to be free from the guilt for the wheelchair he uses, the job he can no longer do, and not being thankful enough. He is driven to hide the pain while helping others.

Written in response to Charli Mills March 11, 2021, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: 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!

Tessa’s Lament

My ex didn’t need me

He made that perfectly clear

Home I came to help the folks

But in reality, they help me

My children are grown

The oldest chose to move here

Closeness she desires

And a grandmother for Emma

But they would be fine without me

I thought Michael needed a helpmate

But he’s so damn self-sufficient

He helps others in need

The Homefront Warriors welcomed me

But I’m just another voice

And set of understanding ears

PTSD? for a military wife

Nah. Someone please help me

Rejoice in being wanted

Compared to being needed

Written in response to Charli Mills March 11, 2021, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: 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!

A Filipino Treat

Tessa looked at the shopping list with skepticism. She asked Michael, “What are you going to make?”

“A dessert that I was introduced to while in the Philippines. It’s a thin tapioca pudding made with coconut milk. Then rice balls, sliced plantains, boiled sweet potato nuggets, and chopped figs are added.”

“Sounds labor-intensive.”

“It is. You have to prepare all the add-ins first.”

“You’ll sure dirty a lot of pans.”

“Correct. That’s why I’m making it when Lexi and Adam will be here to help with eating and clean up. I promise everyone will love it, especially Emma Blossom.”

Written in response to Charli Mills March 4, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes sweet potatoes. It can be part of a recipe, meal, or used as a nickname. Where do sweet potatoes take you? The grocery store? The garden? Mars? Go where the prompt leads!

Frozen Emotions

When Mac recognized the handwriting on the package, he froze. His body motionless, his mind raced back almost 50 years to visualize the young Vietnamese woman who had given him a son. “Colm McCarthy and descendants;” why was it addressed such?

Later, with the family assembled, Mac’s wife, Nan, opened the package. She handed envelopes to the three generations, Mac, Thad, and Katie, then read a note aloud. “My husband has died. I would like permission to visit.”

No one reacted.

Finally, Nancy said, “Thad, her situation was forced. I think it’s a good idea.”

Thad wasn’t so sure.

Written in response to Charli Mills February 25 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word frozen. It can be descriptive, character focused, action driven. Go out onto the ice and find a frozen story. Go where the prompt leads!

The Harsh Truth

Over coffee, Lexi said, “Mom, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad you left Dad. You’re happy now. Would you mind sharing what gave you the guts to make the move?”

Tessa looked away, remembering, then smiled at her oldest daughter. “I overheard a conversation between the wives of your father’s higher-ups. One wondered to the other if I knew your father’s continual unaccompanied tours were by request. I was shocked at first then soon decided I had been at the right place at the right time to learn the truth.”

“That’s harsh.”

“It was, but beneficial.”

Written in response to D. Avery’s February 18, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story where a character is in the right place at the right time. It may be cause for celebration! Go where the prompt leads!

Out of the Mouths of Babes

At a church dinner, a precocious girl about three appeared at Michael’s side. She looked over the wheelchair then patted his longest leg stump. With total innocence, she asked, “Why don’t you grow new legs like Pinocchio grew a new nose?”

Michael laughed, “Pinocchio didn’t lose his nose like I lost my legs. The nose he had grew longer. A man can’t grow new legs.”

“Why don’t you wear those fake ones I’ve seen you walk on?”

“Because they aren’t good substitutions for my real ones. They make sores on my stumps.”

“Oh. Will you give me a ride?”

Written in response to D. Avery’s February 4, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a substitution. How might a character or situation be impacted by a stand-in? Bonus points for fairy tale elements. Go where the prompt leads.

A Breakthrough

Clare, Michael’s physical therapist, nicknamed Clarice, was relentless. “Sergeant, there is absolutely no reason you can’t learn to walk on prosthetic legs other than your own stubbornness! Put them on and get out of that wheelchair.”

To her surprise, he said, “Yes, ma’am. Hand them here.”

She stared at him a few seconds. “You’ve been making excuses for weeks. What’s changed?”

Michael grinned. “My prayers have been answered. Heard from home that my high school sweetheart’s leaving her husband. Now I have a reason to want to walk out of here, the sooner the better.”

“That’s a new one.”

Written in response to Charli Mills January 21, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that rephrases “light at the end of the tunnel.” Think of how the cliche replacement communicates a hopeful ending and aligns with your character or story. Go where the prompt leads!

Setting the Wedding Date

On a hot summer day at Tessa’s parents when the combined family Thanksgiving was mentioned, Michael and Tessa gave each other a knowing look as if they were blushing but weren’t.  Michael cleared his throat to garner attention. “Would there be any objections if we invited friends also and asked everyone to get dressed up?”

He got a lot of ‘what do you mean’ stares.

“Tessa and I were thinking the occasion would be ideal for our wedding.”

The answer came in a cacophony of positive sounds and exclamations. Satisfied, they left to recreate the scene at Michael’s parents.

Written in response to Charli Mills January 14, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about dressing up. It can be a child or another character. Be playful or go where the prompt leads!

Butterfly Rock Garden

In the springtime, the Homefront Warrior’s group worked quickly under the threat of rain to arrange rocks and then plant seedlings and bulbs for a memorial garden.

Now it was a sunny, blue-sky August day and they gathered for a picnic near their handiwork. One woman who had little knowledge of plants stood admiring the various colored blossoms with a puzzled look on her face.

Tessa noticed. “What has you perplexed?”

“Why did we plant weeds in with the flowers?”

“If you mean the milkweed, it’s the only thing a monarch butterfly will eat. Look, here comes one now.”

Written in response to Charli Mills January 7, 2021 prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones. The two can be used in any way in your story. Go where the prompt leads!

Military Pranksters

Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”

“And?”

“Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”

“Why?”

“The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”

“Why?”

“It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”

Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

Written in response to Charli Mills December 17, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Some Dreams Fulfilled

Becca, Michael’s sister, knocked and let herself in. She saw him sitting on the floor by Emma’s toys but there was no baby and his wheelchair wasn’t in sight. “I have baptism pictures.”

“Thankfully it’s you!”

“Why, have you been monkey scooting around the house again?”

“Yeah, it makes Emma laugh. Whoever dreamed my long arms would be used for such a thing. “

“Maybe the same dreamer that pictured you holding a grandchild in Tessa’s family pictures. Can you believe her ex didn’t show up?”

His eyes twinkled. “Two out of three parts of that dream ain’t bad.”

Written in response to Charli Mills December 10, 2020, prompt at Carrot Rach Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something a character never dreamed would happen. The situation can be fortuitous, funny, or disappointing. Go where the prompt leads!

New Family Traditions

The Monday after Thanksgiving Michael and Tessa received a beautiful Christmas arrangement from Tessa’s mother. They each raised their eyebrows, skeptical of Jenny’s intentions.  

Inside the thank you card she had written, “I had no idea cooking for two days for other people could be gratifying. I hated eating leftovers on Thanksgiving, but gathering our family together with Michael’s on Saturday was the best celebration of thanks I have ever attended. Let this be our new tradition. Love, Mom.”

A tear ran down Tessa’s cheek. “She’s coming around isn’t she?”

Michael eyes watered. “Wait till I show my parents.”

Note: “cooking for two days for other people” refers to last week’s flash that mentioned the band members families preparing the dinner served at the No Thanks.

Written in response to Charli Mills December 3, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes family traditions. It can be related to any holiday or situation. How does the tradition impact the story or change the character? Go where the prompt leads!

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