If it Rains by Angela L. Lindseth

Thank you PP&P!

AngelaLindseth-IfitRains-fiction Background photo: USDA/Flickr, CC0.
Manipulation and design layout: Elizabeth Stark

Poppa snaps off a wheat stalk, brittle and broken. He digs the toe of his boot through the octagon clumps of topsoil looking for life below the surface, a shred of moisture, a supple root. The plant upends, clinging to the soil in a fruitless effort to stay alive.

“If it rains, we’ll be able to save this crop.”

My lips are always chapped, and the area around my eyes not covered by cloth are blistered and cracked by the relentless blast of grit. The cloth over my mouth cakes up faster than I can shake it out, but Momma says I have to wear it. More than anything I hate the crunch in my mouth. No amount of water seems to rinse it out.

Poppa squats and scoops up a handful of soil. It filters through his fingers as…

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The Tree Trimmer

tree trimmer

It happens every year. Thirteenth of December. Thank god he don’t bring eleven more gifts. Twelve days of Christmas and all. Our little community just couldn’t handle much more tragedy. Whoever’s pulling this prank got a fucked up sense of the Christmas spirit. Some think it’s a curse, but I always figured it would be a blessing to know when you were going to die.

No one’s ever seen the Tree Trimmer. That’s what folks call him cause every year he hangs the ornaments out on Hatsix Road, and every year folks try and catch him in the act. But it never been done. Something always happens. One year the road got flooded. One year storm knocked down a bunch of trees. Tragedy always strikes. Yes, sir.

The ornaments dangle from the branches like drops from a fresh cut throat. Too many to count. It must take hours to put them all up. I mean, some of them are way up there. They’re all pretty much identical. Except for one. They all seen better days. Some of them got more scratches than they got red, but the name is always plain as day.

How the Tree Trimmer determines what name decorates the ornament is up for debate. The deaths don’t have much in common, in fact, nothing except for the Tree Trimmer. The poor fool who gets named starts counting out the days. Happy New Year, mother fucker. You got 364 more, maybe. There’s no reason or rhyme to it. Took quite a few years before they even figured out what was going on.

Some folks only had to wait a few weeks. Old man Jennings got hit by a car right after St. Paddy’s Day. Course he was drunker than a skunk and shouldn’t have been crossing the highway in the middle of the night. It’s almost like the Tree Trimmer knows the dumb ones and puts them out of their misery, but that ain’t always true. Last spring Julie Nichols  got hit by lightning. Year before that Sam Perkins spun out on the ice going over Bull River Pass. They didn’t find his car for two weeks cause of the blizzard. Poor bastard. Just saying there ain’t no pattern.

This year me and my buddies volunteered to collect all them bulbs. I’ve climbed a dozen trees so far, but no name. My best friend shimmies up the tree next to mine trying to reach the ones at the top. He grabs an ornament and inspects it for a name before dropping it like he was snake bit. It shattered into tiny slivers that disappear into the rotted layer of leaves below us.

“Way to go. Did you see a name on it?”

Billy’s eyes locked on mine wider than a mustang’s.

“There weren’t no name on that one.”


For more flash fiction check these out.

Melting

Kids Come First

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Two Fingers

 

I’ve been a bartender all my life. Alcohol tends to loosen tongues, and I listen because I’m good at my job. I’ve grown fond of some of my regulars over the years. One in particular, who calls herself Big Momma, is my favorite. The nickname is hilarious because she is a pipsqueak of a woman with arms the size of toothpicks and a narrow face just perfect for looking through the slats in a fence. One might think the cigarettes or whiskey would kill her, but from the bruises, I think her old man might finish the job first.

“What’ll it be, Big Momma?” I already know the answer.

“Two fingers, Bobby, give me two.”

Most folks are headed to work, but I open the doors for Momma and a few others. You’d be surprised how much business I do while I’m restocking the coolers and wiping down the tables. They need a drink, and I need the cash. I keep the Jameson’s handy when Big Momma’s in the house. Her hand shakes as she shoots the first one then slides the tumbler toward me for a refill. With a sigh, she takes a sip ready to savor her habit after breaking her fast.

“Rough morning?”

Big Momma has a whole set of problems and alcoholism is the least of them. “Same shit, different day.” She takes a long drag from her Camel no filter.

“Ralph come home last night?”

“Unfortunately.”

I polish a bar glass waiting for the rest of the story.

“God damned if he could ever be in a good mood.”

“What set him off this time?”

Big Momma drained her glass before answering. “What doesn’t set him off?”

I pour her another. “On the house.”

She raises her glass to me. “You’re my hero.”

***

“What’ll it be, Big Momma?”

“I think I need three fingers this morning, Bobby, give me three.” She doesn’t take off her sunglasses even though the lighting is dim for a reason. There’s an edge to her, shiny and dark like the circle under her eye. Five black ovals mark both biceps. I imagine her bouncing like a ragdoll in his grip.

I pour the whiskey over the ice knowing it won’t have time to get cold. “You want me to call anybody? Family?”

“You know there’s nobody to call.”

I pour another without her asking. “There’s places you can go.”

“Not for me.” Her palsy creates an earthquake in her glass.

Houses for abuse victims don’t allow drinking. Big Momma’s a realist. It’s her bed, and she’s going to lie in it.

***

“What’ll it be, Big Momma?”

She reaches into her purse and sets the revolver on the bar. Her hand is steady as a rock as she caresses the trigger. “I only needed one finger this morning, Bobby.”

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More of my flash fiction? Check these out.

Voodoo Baby

Last Glimpse

The Sky is on Fire

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Training Day

 

 

Rex is a good teacher. He gives Willow a chance to flex her little kitten muscles, gentle but firm. They chase each other around the house, they go on hunts together, and they cuddle at night. It’s pure kitten katten love

Daily Post: Mentor

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The Lines on Daddy

 

old cowboy

When I was little, I thought the lines on Daddy made him look old and worn like one of his saddle blankets full of stains and rips. Both had seen better days. Now I understand each line helped him earn the spurs to be a farmer and cowboy.

A river delta of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes cut deep from hours of squinting against the sun’s ruthless pounding as he guided the plow down one row and back up the next, sun up until sundown, just trying to put food in our bellies. The lines worked their way across his brow to a canyon between his eyes. Which bills were stamped red? Which ones could be put off?

A crisscross of scars marked the backs of his hands and drew a roadmap of his life against the ripple of sinew and weathered skin. The bite of barb wire. The burn of the branding iron. Too many scars to remember their origin, too many years to fade the memories.

The creases on his palms captured the dirt from the day and smeared across his forehead as he swiped at the sweat. Every drop a payment on life. Tears not wept from his eyes.

As my own body fills with its own lines, I see it’s not about being rode hard and put away wet. It’s about wisdom and experience. It’s the story of your life. It’s about doing your best and hoping it will be good enough.

Daily Post Challenge: Lines

 

 

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Girl in the Bottle – by M. Frank Darbe

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

Mother sips tea in her garden. A consummate puppet master, she waves her checkbook, the knot on the apron strings binding her children. “Bring me some pretties.”
And we’re off, like geriatric six-year-olds seeking treasures for mommy in the family competition. The prize being the size of our annuity checks from the family foundation.
I cut around the rose hedge, thorns gouge divots from my arm, a man of sixty-three playing a child’s game he never won once.
Today’s game will be different.
I slip through the east gate into the old fields, a rule violation, but children cheat, because returning empty-handed and losing are the only sins.
Today, I will loot my childhood secrets and win.
The foundation stones of an old house rose above the grass in the field. My childhood sanctum where I hid the treasures of my youth. In the past, I had resisted the temptation to plunder them. I tire of aching poverty, skimping for dimes when my siblings thrive in graceful servitude.
Forgetting my age, I jump the wall. My calcified Achilles tendon collapses. Sprawling in decades-old leaves, windblown branches, and whiskey bottles, I ignore my pain, and scramble under the detritus with beetles, centipedes, and spiders, finding by touch the cake tin where I hid my treasures.
Three fingernails ripped free before the lid surrendered exposing a dozen toy soldiers, a yellowed Hardy Boys mystery, and an antique glass medicine bottle with a girl trapped inside.
I had found it on my eighth birthday, while playing archeologist with my only friend, Julie. We dug fierce holes in the dirt, finding in our imaginations the secrets of the Nile. Julie found the antique medicine bottle with a glass stopper in her test pit. A tiny old man stood inside the bottle and pounded its sides. “Let me out.”
I tried to stop her. Fearless, Julie pulled out the stopper. The old man vanished, the bottle sucked her inside, with a snake’s hiss.
“You promised to let me out, William.” She said through the glass.
“That’s why I came back.”
“God punishes children who lie.”
A half-truth is not a lie.
I limp to mother. My brother and sister huddled with their treasures, waiting. I ignore them and hand Mother the bottle.
For the first and only time, she says “William” without the bitter twist of disappointment.
“Where did you get this?”
“Childhood secret, Mother. It’s yours for the win.”
Her brows knit a frown, “I know her.”
“Will you let me out of the bottle?”
“You’re Julie Meacham.”
“Please, Mrs. Granville. It’s been so long.”
Mother twists open the bottle. I hear, again, the remembered hiss.
I sip tea in my garden. A consummate puppet master, and wave my checkbook, the knot on the apron strings binding my siblings.
Mother pounds her fists on the inside of the medicine bottle. “Let me out!”
“Bring Mother some pretties.”
And they run.

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Historic South Dakota

 

 

When people hear “South Dakota” they often jump to an image of an endless prairie. Believe me, there’s plenty of that, but it does have a rich history and great beauty.

I live in the Black Hills. This is my town, Sturgis, around 1890. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look that much different today, just replace the oxen with motorcycles.

This is the Corn Palace in Mitchell. I’ve never been there probably because it is a ‘palace’ made of corn, but don’t miss out on this live feed. Or do, because there is literally nothing happening on it. It is famous for being the ONLY corn palace in the whole wide world. I wonder why.

Here’s a picture was taken during branding season a couple weeks ago, oh wait, it says 1891. It’s hard to tell cause some things never change.

This is Calamity Jane in front of Wild Bill Hickock’s grave in what is now called the Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. Jane, Potato Creek Johnny, and Seth Bullock are buried beside Will Bill.

Check this link for a few more old South Dakota pictures.

Daily Post: Notable

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Free-range grapes

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I don’t garden. I find it a sweaty, dirty endeavor with little reward, at least the way I do it.

Why did I think I needed a yard? The grass just keeps growing. I keep mowing. It’s a vicious cycle. Maybe I need a goat, but then there would be poop.

Anyway, these guys grow without my love, carefree, just soaking up the sun, living their lives, totally oblivious to my neglect.

If anything, I have abused them. I’ve only watered them once in four years. I have whacked them like a mobster on the pier, and yet last summer they produced more grapes than a rabbit hides eggs on Easter. (Okay, that wasn’t the best metaphor, but I couldn’t think of a better one.)

I’ve heard they make a good jelly, but if I don’t garden, you’re a fool to think I make jelly. Maybe next fall? Ha!

WordPress Photo Challenge: Prolific

 

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The Crank

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I walked these woods every day, and I usually kept to the path because the undergrowth grows thicker than an Italian’s beard, but that day I decided to explore the gully. I heard the rumors. They say a little girl got lost in these woods a couple decades ago. They never found her body even though they covered the hills with a fine tooth comb.

At least they thought they did.

When I found the metal monument of her grave, the moss coating the housing made it look like the trunk of a tree. If I hadn’t rammed my shin against the rusty crank, I would have walked right by. As I cursed and rubbed the rising bruise, I noticed the rotten corpse of an old doll. Not much of it was left, after all, it had been years, but it’s plastic eyes stared at me as lost and lonely as that little girl must have felt in her final hours.

 

 

 

Daily Post: Crank

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New growth

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Grandma wore a floppy hat and garden gloves. I would carry the watering can, following her down the row as she scattered the seeds.

She would kiss the seeds before she planted them in the ground.

“Grandma, why do you do that? Why do you kiss the seeds?”

“To help them grow big and strong.”

“Does it work?”

She kissed my forehead. “It works on you.”

Daily Post: Awakening

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