Pees-ta

one cheese pizza

“What is this?” asked Papaw. He squinted his glaucoma-weakened eyes, inspecting the food.

“Pizza,” Mama responded. “It’s just bread, cheese, and sauce.”

Mamaw harrumphed then told someone invisible, “This woman’s crazy. I’ll die – it’s poison. Look at how fat she is; I won’t eat her food.”

“Pees-ta,” Papaw said. “Sounds foreign. I was in the war, and I don’t like foreign food-”

“Just eat it,” Daddy commanded. “You’ll get used to it.”

Papaw took a bite, grimaced, and pushed away his plate. “This is for damn Garlic Eaters. I’m not eating this foreign trash.”

Mamaw just cackled. “Poison!”

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I wrote this for the April 2nd Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: Pizza.

This was based on a real-life event that happened in the late 90’s. My parents were silly and agreed to take my grandparents to Kentucky for a family reunion with my great-great-grand uncle’s branch of the family (they moved to Kentucky from North Carolina in the early 1900’s). At one stop along the way, my parents pulled us all over to a Pizza Hut, and my mom was surprised to find out my dad’s parents had never eaten Italian food before. I might have been, but I was still pretty young.

But think of it this way: IT WAS LIKE 1998 AND THESE TWO RED-BLOODED AMERICANS HAD NEVER TASTED PIZZA.

I still remember that event. “Pees-ta,” they called it. “Pees-ta,” they’d complain again, later in their lives when faced with the villainy of spaghetti with meatballs.

My Mamaw died this past December, but Papaw is still kickin’ around out there, driving despite being 97, nearly blind from glaucoma, and severely disliking Pizza.

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The Aberrant Storage Site

green-shed-in-trees

“No,” Major Jennings ordered, “Don’t go near that.”

I stopped, not being one to question, but I ached to know why. The box was covered in vines, surrounded by trees, as if it hadn’t been touched in a long time. If I were going to work at this Aberrant Storage Site (or ASS, as military personnel were inevitably going to dub it), shouldn’t I know what was going on?

I swallowed a bit of fear. “Who’s in charge of this, then?”

“No one,” Jennings answered. “There are reports from 1962 that say some men captured a thing – creature, artifact, it’s not clear – and started doing it’s bidding. Soldiers disappeared, guns were found in strange places, and inscrutable symbols were carved into the sides of the barracks.”

“So?” I asked.

“Eventually, the group of men in charge of the object started bleeding themselves and collecting it in a barrack bathtub. The Base Commander at the time was appalled and put them in prison, but they kept bleeding then used the blood to write strange words all over their cell walls. Orders meant nothing to them, food or friends didn’t either. He ended up having them executed out by the hangar, then burned the corpses off site. They sealed whatever it was in this lead-lined box, and standing orders have been to shoot anyone who gets too close.”

I hadn’t expected something like this. “So, how close do you think the brainwashed soldiers came to fulfilling the thing’s goal?”

Jennings shrugged. “Unclear. It’s even possible they succeeded.” He pulled something out of his pocket. “Werther’s Original?”

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This was written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #73. I saw this picture and just couldn’t resist.

 

Embrace Engineering

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“Then using the continuity equation, we…”

The ceiling closed in to a circular point around the visitor’s mysterious symbols. We did not understand but jotted them in notebooks and promised to use them on pipes…

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This Lovecraftian flash was inspired by Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #150, continuity. The continuity equation is used in fluid dynamics to describe continuous flow and conserve mass/energy. Since Lovecraft was traumatized with geometry, I thought I’d use that equation to cause even MORE trauma.

Caravan Security

desert caravan dune ride

“Now, which of you men have been filching from our caravan?” He put the tip of his scimitar beneath my chin. “I’m not having it.”

I grimaced. Someone had to take charge, fight this maniac if we wanted to live. Al-Rashid approached quietly with a heavy stick, so I distracted with, “Can you prove it wasn’t you?”

“Yes. I’ve got the sword.”

Al-Rashid knocked the man on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. I picked up his sword and finished the job.

I revealed a bag of coins. “I’ll share what I stole, since he’s dead now.”

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This was written for the March 26 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, take charge. This prompt wasn’t hard for me to come up with an idea for, but boy was it hard to come up with something that would fit in the word count! Hope you’ve enjoyed the flash.

Also – stay tuned to the Carrot Ranch on Tuesdays. You may be (pleasantly, I hope) surprised by what’s coming up this next Tuesday.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mojito

cold cool drink field

“Is that mint you’re muddling for my mojito?”

“Yes,” I lied as I crushed poison ivy.

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Hello, everyone! It’s been a while since I got around to a Weekend Writing Prompt, but here we are! #149 is muddle, and what a better use of muddle than in the mixed drink sense*? So sit back, relax, and enjoy the pandemic!

*I don’t drink, so I can’t be sure.

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

The Roofing Rabbit

close up of rabbit on field

Velour wiped her brow and sat back, hammer in paw. The roof of the cabin had been difficult so far, as they only had honey locust thorns as nails and bark for shingles.

“How goes it?” Velour’s mate, Timber, asked. His ears drooped from exhaustion, as he’d built the catted chimney.

She smiled. “We’ll have this finished by winter.” She pointed to a clay bottle sitting on a stump. “Take a break and have some ginger beer.”

“Only if you come down from the roof and drink with me.”

Velour clambered down, and the pioneer rabbits rested a minute.

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This was written for the March 19th Carrot Ranch prompt, Rabbit on the Roof. My mom just started reading Redwall again, and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve anthropomorphic rabbits. These pioneer rabbits are building a cabin much like the one recently built on one of my favorite YouTube channels, Townsends.

Nevermore

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Suddenly there came a tapping at my chamber door. I shivered, knowing it’s Lenore knocking in the hall, wanting inside my door. She’s come in form of raven and ghost before, but her footsteps patting are heavy, plodding on the hallway floor.

Dare I open it? No – I can hear her moaning, pleading for entry, but as I sit profusely sweating, I fear the integrity of my door.

Now her arms are heavily banging, splint’ring down my chamber door. “BRAINS!” she cries, consumption eating at her zombie form. I scream, but no use waiting – she’s in, and I’m nevermore.

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The prompt for the March 12th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge was tapping, and like a good, “well-read*” American, I instantly thought of Poe’s “The Raven”.

*I’m really not well-read, not at all well-read considering that I’m trying to be a writer, so this is in quotes because I’m being sarcastic.

Sharecroppers

sugarcane

The amount of sugar I got was pitiful. “What’s this shit?” I asked the sharecropper who rented my land.

He looked to his feet, embarrassed. “Didn’t rain much, so nothin’ grew. This all we got to give ‘less we starve.”

“Then why aren’t you starving?” I ripped the sales report from his hands. “What did you do with this money you got?”

“Spent it on food for the winter.”

I shook the report at him. “That was my money. You’ll give double the percentage next year.”

“Ain’t gonna be no next year. We’re moving west, and you’ll get nothin’.”

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This was written for the February 13th Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: sugar report. While the definition of sugar report is something entirely different from what I wrote about, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while this month.

February is Black History Month, and sharecropping is a part of black history that’s often been glanced over. Sharecropping is where tenants pay rent to work the land, wherein payment is usually in the form of a portion of the crops. Landlords (usually the people who used to own the plantations) would be harsh in their demands, and sharecroppers would often be trapped since they had to work harder to pay their rent. It doesn’t sound like slavery really ended after the Civil War, does it?

But we also forget that America’s history is shaped by the frontier (aaaand different atrocities associated with that, but that’s for another day). African American settlers helped define the west as part of a way to find new adventures and burst out of the sharecropping/oppression/abuse cycle. That’s why I chose to give that glimmer of hope at the end of the story: the west, the frontier, the ever-shifting upward momentum was a chance many grasped at. Black settlers are getting a well-deserved historical re-examination nowadays, and I’m excited to see what things historians find next.

Sharecropping was also a thing poor whites participated in; I had a white middle-school teacher who grew up as a sharecropper in Georgia, and man did she have it rough as a kid. When I think about her, about the continued wage-slavery imparted by sharecropping and other worker-abusive practices, I think about how people of all races and colors can be helped by the same policies, laws, regulations, and, most of all,

Kindness. 

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

I Must Protest!

beans and sliced lemon near glass bottle

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

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This was written for the January 16th Carrot Ranch prompt, protest.

Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com

The Truth About Santa’s Elves

Santa Elf

Peppermint Jolly finished soldering the knockoff iPad’s connections. He put the iron down so as to rest his bleeding and blistered hands, then placed his creation into the “finished” basket. He took a moment to breathe, to let his hands shake while the popped blisters seeped liquid.

But the overseer – a burly elf who’d earned the nickname Bad Figgy – caught Peppermint Jolly on this unapproved break. He strode over, broadening his shoulders and filling out his lederhosen. “What you doing, boy? Did Santa say you could stop?”

Peppermint Jolly shut his eyes tightly, expecting a punch or a slap. “Sir, my hands are bleeding, sir. I don’t want to ruin the product by dripping in them-”

“These products aren’t real iPads. They’re going to China, where everything is ripped off and broken anyway. We only buy the real ones for the kids who’ll know better. Now get back to work or I’ll put you on chemical weapons duty next year.” Bad Figgy boxed Peppermint Jolly’s ears, causing him to wince, then went off to whip up on the next electronics worker who slacked off.

Peppermint Jolly picked up the soldering iron despite the agonizing boils and wounds. He didn’t want to go on chemical weapons duty ever again – his lungs still hadn’t recovered from last time, and the sales of black market goods only made money that went toward the purchase of gifts like the real iPads or DRM intact materials.

But it was Christmas Eve. Praise God – the next day was Christmas, the one day of the year that the elves could rest. The one day of the year none of the females would be forced into reproducing, the one day of the year the forced labor would stop, the one day the overseers wouldn’t beat a slave for eating too much or slacking off.

But Peppermint Jolly knew the cycle would just start up again. While the next Christmas season was still a ways off, he’d be put on drone duty, soldering and building the electronic pieces used in military drones to sell to terrorists. He was also smart, so Santa could choose anytime now to force him into a living arrangement with a fertile female. He could whip them both if results didn’t happen.

And there was no escape. The magic barrier was impenetrable, and none of the humans besides Master Kringle could see inside.

Could he handle another year? Could Peppermint Jolly make it through more of this madness?

“Fuck you, Santa,” he said. He turned the iron to his neck and pierced the jugular as quick as he could.

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This Christmas, think of the people and elves who make the presents you purchase. There are real kids in the Congo who are forced to dig cobalt for batteries, real people in Bangladesh and India who work harrowing hours in hazardous conditions for your soft goods. Many of us can’t afford gifts otherwise, but if you have the option, consider looking into what you purchase and try to incorporate the least slave labor you can.

Also, boycott Santa. Don’t let that asshole come down your chimney. Don’t pay that slave-owning piece of shit with milk and cookies. We’re better than this.

Image by SilviaP_Design from Pixabay