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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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family

Michael’s Wedding Vows to Tessa

When you went off to college without me, I wished you hadn’t. Then you married and had children. I wished it were with me.

I traveled the world, serving with the United States Army, continuing to wish for you.

Our lives unexpectedly turned upside down. Within that year, we found ourselves back home. Wounded, frightened, mature.

I changed my wishes to prayers. I needed His help to heal, trust and feel useful.

Finally, here we are, standing with family, in front of friends, believing we are where we belong. I pledge to love you always, my beautiful, accepting friend.

Note: Michael is a fictional Army veteran who lost both legs in an IED explosion in Iraq. He wears two prosthetic legs, different types, for different occasions. Tessa is his high school sweetheart. The characters have been my focus for two years at the Ranch and the prompt, “I made a wish,” led me to believe I should continue writing their story.

A Letter of Regret

To my son and granddaughter I will never get to know. It pains me to admit I have not aged well, so the travel time between our two countries is prohibitive. Though my heart desires to get reacquainted with my long-ago friend and meet my descendants, I fear the current trend of many flight cancelations has made me realize my hope to visit is unrealistic. Instead, may I ask you to send recent photos and letters about yourselves. I have included pictures of the familiar places in my life where I have imagined you sitting or walking with me.

Note: Thad’s biological mother lives in Vietnam. She hasn’t seen Thad since he was about six months old and has never met her granddaughter, Katie.

Written in response to Charli Mills November 25, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads!

Trouble Adjusting

During a Homefront Warriors gathering Tessa had been unusually quiet. Someone asked if she wanted to share what was troubling her.

“I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m having trouble adjusting to Michael not using his wheelchair. I know I should be thrilled he’s more mobile, but it seems with him walking everything happens faster. He’s busier now than before.”

Sally answered, “I’m hearing you say you wish he would make more time for you.”

“Perhaps that’s true.”

“I suggest you offer to join him in his activities or carry on keeping yourself busy like you had to in the past.”

Written in rsponse to Charli Mills November 11, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads!

Candy Making Day

Tessa’s mother had made homemade holiday treats for as long as Michael could remember. His mouth watered thinking about them. Recently his clunky wheelchair and inability to reach things kept him from helping during production. Not this year.

When Michael walked into the candy kitchen, Jenny did a double-take but didn’t comment as she smiled up at him. At the end of the day, they had made chocolate and maple-walnut fudge, peppermint patties, and peanut brittle.

Michael was beaming. “Guess I’ve been missing a lot by not standing.”

Jenny hugged his solid torso. “‘Bout time you figured that out.”

Written in response to Charli Mills October 28, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the phrase creatively or stick to the traditional. Is it sweet? Ironic? Any genre will do. Go where the prompt leads!

Seeking Peace

The two men sat on a strategically placed bench shaded by a majestic maple. Each leaned forward with their elbows on their knees, looking down or gazing up at a pink marble headstone, remembering. The older one wore a Vietnam Veteran ball cap. The younger one, an Afghanistan. His prosthetic legs shouted disabled veteran. They took turns talking, just above whispers. They could hear each other, but certainly, no one else would have been able to. Ending the conversation, the older touched the younger’s arm, “My daughter died doing what she wanted.” Michael cried, releasing unfounded but real guilt.

Written in response to Charli Mills October 7, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes whispers. It can be beautiful or creepy and any genre. Where are the whispers, who are they from, and what do they say if they say anything at all. Go where the prompt leads!

Across the Water

Who is it

            Looking across the water

The fisherman searches for a set of concentric circles

            Showing him the fish

The boater gauges the choppiness

            Whether he’s in for a rough ride or not

The new skier enjoys smooth glass      

            It’s easier to maneuver behind the boat

The child jumps in delighted and unafraid

            Not caring about the temperature

The skin diver goes below the surface

            Enjoying the beauty and quiet

The bird takes advantage of the bugs 

            Hovering at dawn and dusk

The Vietnam veteran stares at the surface

            Remembering bamboo straws that allowed submerged enemies to breath

Written in response to Charli Mills September 30, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story uses the phrase, “across the water.” It can be any body of water distant or close. Who (or what) is crossing the water and why? Go where the prompt leads!

A Hare-brained Idea

Normally Michael had other band members along when he drove the Veterans Music Van to the VA. Today he needed silence to brainstorm. The Irish Dancers needed money so they could attend a competition. How could he get enough people involved so it wouldn’t be a hardship on any wallet? His mind wandered to his stomach. He hadn’t eaten breakfast. Food! What if they had a cook-off? Each group he belonged to could make the same meal using their own recipes. Voting for favorite dishes could be done with dollars. Cooks would get ribbons, and the dancers the money.

Written in response to Charli Mills September 9, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the cooking show. It can be any cooking show, real or imagined. Who is there? What happens? Make it fun or follow a disaster. Go where the prompt leads!

Something Old, Something New

Becca asked Tessa, “Is there any chance you still have your sparkly white prom dress from high school?”

“It’s probably in a closet at my parents. Why?”

“Michael frequently mentions how you looked in that dress, and he’s carried the picture all these years.”

“Really? You must realize there’s no way it’ll fit.”

“But I’ll bet we could use the skirt fabric layers to make a new bodice, even with sleeves if you want, and add a different skirt. Michael would be thrilled.”

“Won’t it be too formal?”

“Not if I design it right,” she said, sketching her visualization.

Written in response to Charli Mills September 2, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

Note: Becca is Michael’s sister.

Family Shenanigans

Who said a forty-something shouldn’t feel like an excited young bride? The ladies in Tessa’s family invited her friends for a personal wedding shower. Michael’s and her sister oohed and aahed as she opened each special gift, but they held one box in reserve to be the last presented. Finally, the most elaborate paper and bow lay on the floor. Tessa held up a life-size felted pink piglet with curly tail and sparkly silver wings for all to see. She didn’t understand the present.

The sisters exclaimed, “Michael swore he wouldn’t get married till pigs could fly!”

Everyone laughed. 

Written in response to Charli Mills August 26, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

Michael’s Motivational Speech at Walter Reed

Had I not been in a bomb blast, I would probably still be on active duty, stationed who knows where. Instead, I’m directing the teen choir in my hometown church, I’m singing lead in a veterans only band, I’m taking the healing power of music to multiple veterans’ facilities in a gifted van , I’m marrying for the first time, and I’ve immersed myself in family life. It took me a while to realize losing most of my legs had opened doors for me. The secret is to believe there is a specific, exciting purpose for the new you.

Written in response to Charli Mills August 5, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads!

Same Place, Different People

Tessa and her father talked about memorable family events while planting geraniums by his parents’ headstone.

Walking back to the car, Tessa said, “I thought I would know everyone in town when I moved back, but I don’t. Sadly I see many familiar names here.”

“You were gone over twenty-five years. Folks passed on, and lots of your generation moved away.”

“Funny, my life was always changing, and yet I expected my hometown not to. Sort’a naive.”

Her father nodded. “What’s that saying, children don’t age if you don’t witness it happening.”

“I guess that applies to hometowns too.”

Written in response to Charli Mills July 22, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a hometown. It can be your hometown or a fictional one. Who is there? When is it set? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

A Family Meltdown

Katie didn’t try to hide her anger or tears. “Does she think she can swoop in here and be welcomed? I don’t care if she is my blood grandmother. She’s never sent me so much as a hello.”

Thad empathized with his daughter. “I’m not any more comfortable with meeting her than you are, but your grandfather and Nan say it will benefit us to reconnect.”

“How can Grandma be so positive?”

“She says you’ll understand better after you’ve had children.”

“I’m also worried about this woman’s reappearance upsetting Grandpa?”

“I’m sure his loyalty to Nan will prevent problems.”

Written in response to Charli Mills July 15, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!

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