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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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military

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!

Stories from the Author’s Chair

I went out of curiosity, to hear what the veterans wrote about their experiences.

Each author sat in the special chair to read a piece of his writing. An Army officer recounted delivering coffee in the dead of night to frightened young rookies in look-out towers. An Air Force pilot related seeing a plane crash, then having to walk around the wreckage to go fly his own mission. The Marine lowered his gaze, described the sounds, smells, and angst of the front line, and carrying his wounded buddy to the medical tent.

I wondered who had the worst nightmares.

Written in response to Charli Mills September 23, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

The Magic of a Silly Brown Pup

When Michael started whistling the tune to “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” Jester went into action. He raced from his master to the door and back several times while Michael donned his prosthetic legs. Once outside, Michael sang his own words to the catchy tune. “You’re a too tall mutt with floppy long ears. You walk in the trees with me. Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo. My chair stays home, where many think it should be. Woo-hoo. You’re as much to me as any big black horse could be. Woo-hoo. My silly brown pup runs along with me. Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo.”

Written in response to Charli Mills September 16, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a Big Black Horse. It can be a horse, a metaphor or an interpretation of KT Tunstall’s “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” 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!

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!

Stars in the Sand

Sand and rocks, all the same color. Windy. The sand didn’t care whose clothing it sifted into; US troops in full battle gear, residents they were training, or the enemy they had trouble identifying.

Then came the explosion. Michael’s legs in a million pieces, splattered in every direction. His driver’s body torn apart. The identifiable parts gathered reverently to return home in a flag-covered casket.

The General visited the compound. His soldiers knew he would come. He had their respect. He cared about their well-being. His stars shone in the sun, the same color as the unforgiving relentless sand.

Written in response to Charli Mills August 19, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “stars in the sand.” Your story can be any genre (or poem) and can use realism or fantasy. It’s a dreamy prompt. Go where the it leads!

Laying in a Hospital Bed

An inward sucking noise

An outward swooshing

Over and Over

The ventilator keeps perfect time

The incessant beeping

When the IV bag is empty

“Someone” please turn it off

Where is everyone

Now a fall-alarm is blaring

My adrenalin rushes but

I hear no one running in response

Don’t they care

Too busy to answer call buttons

But I can hear them talking

How many people are working

Where is my friendly nurse

The meal-cart wheels squeak

Compartment doors slam

The tube prevents eating

My mind says I’m hungry

My God, it’s finally quiet

It’s peaceful

Am I dead

Written in response to Charli Mills August 13, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can use the word or show discordant sound inaction. How can you create literary cacophony with your words? This one might be of interest to poets as a literary device. 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!

Ruffled Feathers

Tessa stomped into the house and slammed the door behind her. “Mom makes me so mad.”

“I guess she ruffled your feathers again. About what now?” Michael asked.

“I explained to her that the base and medical benefits I lost when I got divorced, I would get back when we get married. Instead of looking at it as a positive, she reminded me I wouldn’t be able to take her to the Officer’s Club for dinner.”

“Her and her status hang up. I’ll tell her that the NCO Club food is better because there are more NCOs than Officers.”

Written in response to Charli Mills July 8, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

Summer Dream

Michael was telling Dr. John about a recurring nightmare. “The important ladies in my life are dancing around a fire like you’d see on the summer solstice, but my wheelchair’s in the fire.”

“Are they celebrating its destruction? Perhaps suggesting you give it up?”

“I hate the prosthetic legs.”

“Why?”

“When I’m in the chair, people look me in the eye and notice my upper body physic. When I wear the prosthetics, that’s all they see. I’m more than a pair of metal legs; and, I’m band mascot.

“So it’s not about comfort. It’s about recognition?”

“I don’t know.”

Written in response to Charli Mills June 18, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a solstice. What is the era and setting? Use the solstice as a celebration, metaphor, or talking point. Go where the prompt leads!

The Respected Counselor

Michael rolled into the No Thanks, went straight to Mac, and said, “I heard Dr. John is going to open an antique shop next door. That true?”

“Tis.”

“I didn’t know he was an antique guy.”

“When he asked to rent the building he said he wasn’t, but his wife is. He’s retiring from the VA but wants to stay available. They plan to turn the big back room into a kitchen so folks can drop in for a cup of coffee and a chat. A new way to office, he called it.”

Michael nodded approval. “Sounds like him.”

Written in response to Charli Mills June 10, 2021, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads!

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