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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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CharliMills

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!

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!

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