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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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military

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!

Not an Ordinary Day

Katie got bad vibes, but she carded and served the group. One female pointed to the picture of Mac’s friend wearing his Medal of Honor and said, “Look, the highest grade dog collar a person can earn in this stupid country.”

Katie stammered. “Wha…t?”

“I see military folks as dogs on leashes, totally controlled.”

Mac appeared from nowhere. “I see you as ignorant, immature, and lacking common sense considering all the dogs in here, except me, served by choice and are off-leash. I suggest you drink up and get out!”

Experiencing palpable raised hackles, they gulped drinks and skedaddled.

Written in response to Charli Mills June 3, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story being leashed. Is it literal or metaphorical? Who or what is leashed. How does it set the tone? Go where the prompt leads!

A Day For Remembering

The annual Memorial Day pig roast at the No Thanks was an event Michael looked forward to and dreaded. It was no live band day, so he couldn’t hide behind his instrument, singing words not his own. Often, family members remained outside, and the veterans retreated to the purposely darkened indoors to reminisce about those they had fought with and lost.

Thankfully he knew the secret to defuse a too-heavy conversation; swat his arm and say, “Damn mosquitoes.” The discussion would quickly become animated about the size of flying insects in specific war zones before returning to painful memories.  

Written in response to Charli Mills May 27, 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tiny flying insects. Think about how the insects shape the scene or add to the action. Go where the prompt leads!

Music For All Occasions

When Katie arrived at the No Thanks to stock before opening, she was surprised to see all the band member’s cars except Mac’s. When she stepped onto the macadam she could feel the thump of a bass and hear muffled sounds of a heavy metal band. Strange! She went inside, and recognized Tyrell’s cousins playing the extra guitars. Michael was pounding on the piano like it was an enemy. When the song ended she looked their way. “What gives?”

Her father grinned. “Just an escape. Playing out our anger at how the VA can screw things up so easily.”

Written in response to Charli Mills March 25 2021, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less), write an escape. It can be daring or subtle. Who is escaping from what and why? Go where the prompt leads! 

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!

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!

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!

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!

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