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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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CharliMills

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!

Remembering Alone

I wake way too early

Age defies long sleeps

Morning light glows over the small frozen pond

Trees and weeds glistening

I see from my room

Memories of thick ice

I long for my youth

When healthy muscles gladly shoveled away

Creating smooth patches

Enticing skate blades

Swishing among others

Speed, spills and laughter

Hearing happy sounds that no longer exist

Alone to remember

Silent tears falling

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!

Feeding the Soul – flash fiction

The night before Thanksgiving the No Thanks Needed welcomed military members only. The Band of Brothers served turkey and fixin’s, prepared by their families, to any service person who came through the door. After the meal, Mac announced, “Being thankful for family and friends goes without saying, but if you ever fought in a warzone, hot running water, and a flushable toilet are right up there on the list.” The crowd cheered with understanding and others shouted; food, clean clothes, life, the brotherhood. Service-related stories were shared openly until the wee hours of the morning in the comfortable safe-haven.

Note: The No Thanks Needed is a fictional Vietnam Veteran owned bar. The Band of Brothers is the house band, all veterans, one of which is Michael, main character of my serial flash fiction pieces.

Written in response to Charli Mills November 19, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!

Breakfasting Alone – flash fiction

Tessa palmed the purplish avocado to slice through the leathery covering. When the sharp blade hit the pit, she turned the fruit in a circle to pair the complete skin. After putting down the knife she used both hands to twist the avocado into two pieces. Then she slid the tines of a fork between the protruding pit and green meat and flicked the pit into the sink. Using a spoon she scooped the green meat out of both halves, mashed it, then slathered it onto pieces of buttery hot toast. This was her secret indulgence when Michael traveled.

Written in response to Charli Mills November 12 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story includes avocado toast. How can this be a story or a prop to a story? Use your senses and imagination. Go where the prompt leads!

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