Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 27

Oh, my dear fellow dragons, am I GIDDY over what’s in the works for you this next quarter!!! We’ve a fabulous new panel of judges stepping up to the plate in July (their names will be announced next week). AND AND AND there’s going to be something else crazy happening in July, because July feels like the perfect sort of month to do crazy things in. But will I tell you about it now? No, I will not. I love you too much to $poil your $urpri$e.

In the meantime, today I am delighted to visit again the compelling work of photographer Lewis Hine (1874 – 1940). His powerful work documenting child labor in particular (see here) was pivotal in bringing about important reforms in US law. What story do you have for our precious Rose, I wonder??    

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Today it’s time to say thank you and adieu to judge Alissa Leonard. She is a skilled worldbuilder with a keen eye for good writing, and she is a dear friend. Though I’ll miss her judgery, it’ll be fun seeing her stories back in the trenches. If you’d like your work to grab her attention today, be sure to check out her judge’s page for tips regarding what she’s looking for in a winning entry. Hint: no cliffhangers! 

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Our resurrected feature #FlashPoints (a non-scary critique of an excellent story from the current round) will post MondayNoteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays “just for fun.”   

Now let’s get to it!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word(s) unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the word “bog'”):

friendship

***Today’s Prompt:

Rose Biodo, Philadelphia, 10 years old. Working 3 summers, minds baby and carries berries, two pecks at a time." Photo by Lewis Hine, public domain.

Rose Biodo, Philadelphia, 10 years old. Working 3 summers, minds baby and carries berries, two pecks at a time.” Photo by Lewis Hine, National Archives public domain.

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311 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 27

  1. My shadow

    They tell us not to eat the berries, some lie about them being poisonous, but Rose and I are always sneaking a few here and there while no-one is watching. How else are we supposed to survive, we can barely afford to eat.

    I don’t remember when exactly Rose took such a shine to me, but she’s never more than five feet away, my little private shadow. She’s as quiet as a shadow too, never says a word when the others are around. Get her alone though and I can’t shut her up. Always going on about her Father, a real tough cookie. She must have inherited his vigour, I’ve never seen her tire or waver, even in the hottest midday sun. She just stands there smiling.

    I’m just glad to have a friend, the others had taken to avoiding me. They call me names, say I’m crazy. Something about talking to myself. Such nonsense, isn’t it Rose! Rose?

    160 words
    @todayschapter
    Facebook Authors page: https://www.facebook.com/CraigAndersonAuthor

  2. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    157 Words

    Stained

    The steady plunk of berry juice dripped crimson onto white sand around her bare feet, the red divots trailing a path of hard work behind her.

    Her stained fingers gripped the splintered handles of the baskets she carried, the weight in her hands echoing in the tight strain across her shoulders and back.

    Every day, day in, day out, her footprints marked the sand, her berries crushed their juice through the slatted floors of the baskets. Each evening, when she arrived, she entered the leaning door, ducking her head beneath the crossbeam.

    “Evenin’, Pearl.” She rested her baskets on the scratched table and leaned over her friend on the bed, the back of her weathered hand resting against the woman’s forehead. “I brought your favorite again. Think you can eat somethin’ tonight?”

    A bowl rested in her fingers, a spoon traveled to crooked lips. Purple stains twisted down a wrinkled chin.

    A smile stained their lips.

  3. Remembering Wolf
    Brian J. Hunt
    @BBI_GUMBALL
    http://www.gumballfiction.com

    I look at the ancient picture in my hand, remembering what really happened. They call their version allegory. I call it no memory for details.

    Even my name. Little Red Riding Hood. Bah!

    As if any of us growing up could afford an outfit of red cloth. For god’s sake, I didn’t even have shoes! The only thing red I owned was the ribbon from momma’s funeral I wore around my neck.

    Even today I miss Wolf. He was my best friend.

    I remember his arms around my young bony shoulders. Nothing dirty, just the comfort in the closeness of another person, but who was granny’s neighbor going to believe? The young infatuated girl, or one of the elders of our village?

    Slipping the photo back into my clutch purse, I return my mind to today and I wait for the announcer to finish.

    “And now, to accept the award for her research into senior dementia… Dr. Juliet Hood!”

  4. Matt L.
    @MattLashley_
    159 words

    “My arms hurt, Joe.”
    Opening your mouth ain’t gonna make ’em feel any better.
    “I know sis. Mine too. Be there soon.”

    “The sand is burning my feet.”
    Blisters cause callouses. Won’t feel the burning after that.
    “Walk faster and try not to think about it.”

    “I’m hot Joe.”
    Everybody’s hot. Not everybody’s complainin’.
    “It’s July, sis. Gotta pick the crop when the crop’s ready be to be picked.”

    “I got a sticker in my finger.”
    Life’s full of stickers, sis.

    “Joe, it’s bleeding.”
    Life’s full of blood and stickers. Just how it is. How’s it’s always gonna be.
    “Camps close. Soon as Mr. Johnson weighs our haul, we’ll wash your finger over by the well pump.”

    “Joe, when’s momma comin’?”
    Ain’t sure she’s ever comin’.
    “Just a few more days sis. She went to find daddy. Keep walkin’. Almost there.”

    “Daddy’s gonna buy us back real soon, ain’t he Joe?”
    Been six weeks already.
    “Yeah sis. Real soon.”

  5. Tommy
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    158 words

    ‘Where you goin’ Rose? Where you goin’, where you goin’?’

    ‘You know where I’m going, Tommy. I’m taking these berries back to mother.’

    Tommy danced and jumped, spinning round and round ahead of Rose. Then he stopped, tongue sticking out. ‘Ah, come on Rose, you and me, let’s run, run, run. We can chase rabbits, you and me.’

    Rose nearly tripped over him. ‘Tommy! If I spill these I’m trouble, then you’ll be in trouble. Maybe later, OK.’

    ‘When, when, when.’

    ‘When I’ve delivered these and looked after the baby. It’s alright for you, I’ve chores to do.’

    ‘No. Now Rose, now, now.’ Tommy jumped up and down with excitement.

    Rose put the boxes down and rubbed her arms where the rope chaffed. She wished she could, just run with Tommy . Run and forget. She picked up a stick and threw it. The last thing she saw was Tommy’s bushy brown tail disappearing into the tall grass.

  6. Secrets Shared

    Every bruise aches like it’s freshly planted. ‘If bruises were kisses,’ Rose and I sometimes say, half-smiling, eyes sad.

    The sun’s high today. I’m thirstier than hell. Yet still I go, heavily laden.

    He beats us for lateness. For spilling. If the berries aren’t best quality. ‘I cain’t use this slop!’ he roars. The boss. Mr Arbuthnot. Got to work up to saying his name, like climbing a rocky hill.

    I’m in the dirt before I know it.

    ‘Lucy!’ Her little voice, her tiny hands. ‘C’mon. Get up!’

    ‘Rose, leave me.’ My tears burn. My throat’s full of ants. My breath tastes like blood.

    Then I feel my berry-full peck, cumbersome, lifted. Rose’s hands around my back.

    ‘I got you,’ she whispers. ‘Girl, come on. I can’t do this alone.’

    Slowly, head swimming, I stand. Rose, carrying my burden, takes my arm. Together we walk, looking for all the world like two true friends, heads together, secrets shared.

    @SJOHart
    158 words

  7. Unbroken

    Soft, taut skin covers their sweet flesh. You can’t tell, though; it’s encased in dirt and sweat and dreams.

    Take Rose, for example. Looks like she’d snap at the nudge of a summer’s breeze, but she’s a diamond, that one. Strong, with a sparkle in her eyes that’ll knock you out at ten yards. It’s fading, but hasn’t gone yet; there’s still hope in her eyes. That one day…

    Rose chats as she walks. She talks to the berries and tells them about their adventure. ‘You, Mister Blueberry, might end up in a grand banquet. There’ll be folks dressed up and you’ll hear all sorts of stories as you sit amongst the silver and the fine china. Gosh, just imagine! And you, Madam Strawberry, will be lazing at a summer picnic in the Hamptons. Folks will smile when they see you as they sit and chat and laugh.’

    They say that dreams keep you alive. Keep dreaming, Rose. Keep dreaming.

    Sarah Miles
    @_sarahmiles_
    160 words

  8. Watching the males eat food from Arian soil made Brenna’s stomach clench and turn upon itself. She turned her head away from the scene. The sounds of clinking utensils and clanking cups had her dizzy. She couldn’t escape the memories.

    “You eat and drink while the people who gave you that food starve. It’s paid for in our toil, our blood, and our lives.”

    She picked up a handful of berries from a bowl. The sweet aroma caused tears to sting her eyes. The berries cascaded from her hand back into the bowl.

    “At least two children probably died to bring you this bowl of fruit. Hope you enjoy the feast. I won’t eat it. The price is too high.”

    “Cost? What price does this food have?” asked one of men at the table as juice dripped down his chin from the meat he devoured.

    “I’ve already paid it. It cost me every friend I may have had.” Brenna stated.

    160 words
    @winterbayne

  9. Rose and the Wind

    A voice drifted on the wind, stirring leaves and berries. Children’s dirt-crusted faces lifted, red-stained hands frozen. Younger ones turned to watch the swaying shrubs. Older ones didn’t bother. Time taught that there was no place for imaginings in the life of a berry picker.

    Rose stood rooted to the well-trodden path and watched the wind whip dust into a dance. The song continued, the dust showing a phantom arm here, a face there, a dress billowing. A longing filled her to follow the wind woman. Rose sang a few of the song’s strange words before the wind left. Other children watched from afar.

    She came in the night, dancing, singing, calling through clusters of hovels. Rose woke at the sound and slipped through the door. Small bodies crept closer, clutching hands. The wind woman opened a door to a new world of shimmering castles and bright lands. Rose took their hands and stepped through.

    Words: 155
    @CarinMarais
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  10. A Gentlewoman’s Agreement
    (160 words)

    Pa sent me to meet my late husband in the May. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I was sent on the Thursday, and my dear, younger sister, Lil, was sent on the Friday.
    I guess he was told he could choose- the berries an excuse.
    ‘Yir big fir twelve,’ he said at the door. ‘Put the boxes in the kitchen.’

    I had seen him before in town. He dressed fancy, and Pa, when he talked to him, looked like a dog brought to heel.

    That day in the kitchen, his eyes took all of me in. He checked my teeth and measured me for a dress. But it was I who’d sized him up.

    Word came on the Saturday: I was stronger, Lil was prettier and either of us would do.
    I volunteered. I was his bride in June and his widow by July.

    Smart for twelve, I took his life rather than he take Lil’s.

  11. Rose and I

    It was incredibly hot. Rose carried her baskets along the sandy path. Her feet ached, the sand was incredibly hot. Her great-aunt insisted on her picking berries and carrying them home for inspection. If her great-aunt was not pleased, she caned Rose. I was always nearby, disgusted by what I had to see.
    Still a mile from home, Rose heard a cry: “My hat!” She turned and saw a hat, tumbling toward the sea. Without thinking, Rose put down her baskets, ran across the beach and caught the hat. She returned the hat to its owner. The lady thanked her and exclaimed: “Your poor feet! Where are your shoes?”
    “Great-aunt Theresa says, I am not to wear shoes when picking berries.”
    The lady laid her hand on Rose’s back. Rose winced at the touch. “Let me see your back!”
    Rose didn’t need to go back. Her new family loved her.
    Thanks to this case I earned my wings.

    158 words
    @okiewashere

  12. Grateful

    The girl placed a blueberry to her lips when she knew no one was looking. Her bare feet were already sore from the rocky ground and if she ate too many she had to pick longer to fill her baskets, but she knew how to fool her stomach. She rolled the berry slowly between her lips, sucking away the pesky dust that caked it and unearthing the beautiful berry beneath. Once clean, she pressed it to the roof of her mouth, feeling the tiny crown rough on her tongue. The juice squirted from it in a stream as the berry deflated. She slowly chewed the meat of it, letting bits rest on her molars. She didn’t swallow it until she knew she had garnered all possible flavor from it. She didn’t have friends or family. She didn’t have relaxation and warmth and nice clothes. But she had these blueberries. Each and every one.

    twitter @kraysaulis
    Katrina Ray-Saulis

  13. Erin McCabe

    @disturbiakiss

    160 words

    Colony

    Rose watched in horror as tiny saturated bodies streamed by, floating in cool liquid death, momentarily parching her aching feet.

    Even in their death throws he continued to taunt her friends, stomping around like a crazed animal. Before she could restrain herself, her hand had found his face and marked it scarlet, the impact enough to send her Brother scarpering, along with his bucket of water.
    Hurriedly she dropped to her knees, grabbing desperate handfuls of mud in the hope they contained more than mere corpses. Sadly, it was just too late; all that had been caught in the fray had perished.

    Rose kicked over her wooden berry boxes and whimpered, her sadness two-fold; the ants provided company during her arduous daily journeys between berry fields and served as a reminder that hard work and dedication were fundamental to building a strong family. Through their simple decimation all they now seemed to represent was the utter futility of it all.

  14. Strawberry Fields Forever
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    159 words

    “Better than Benjamin Button!” the ad said. Anything had sounded better than this: lying in bed day after day, forgotten by family, waiting to die. All my friends were dead, anyway.

    “Mutter these magic words while eating strawberries,” the instructions read, “and you’ll be back in the prime of life!” They never mentioned you actually travelled back in time.

    I’d hated strawberries ever since my youth. I’d eaten them anyway. Guess I ate too many, because instead of being back with Ada and Herb, dancing the night away in that speakeasy, I’m here. In the strawberry fields.

    I never wanted to be here again.

    The only good thing is, I know what’s coming. I know better times are coming. And I’m going to march in 1920. I’m going to build in 1940. I’m going to root those young women on in 1970. I’m going to celebrate every second of my age.

    And I’m never eating a damn strawberry again.

  15. Small Hands
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    158 words

    Sixteen hours a day they work us. Hour after hour in a cramped warehouse, moving as fast as our small hands can fly. We cut. We sew. We assemble. The air is thick with sweat and tears. And sometimes blood.

    We use machines made for adults. We are beaten if we make mistakes. The dollar we bring home every day barely feeds us and keeps us in the same situation, year after year. We cannot rise above. The system has been created to keep us down. Someone needs to do the dirty work. And it falls to us.

    They tell us it is for the greater good. That somewhere across the world we are making a child happy when his mother can afford a cheaper game system or better sneakers.

    They forget about us. We have no childhood. We have no time for friendship. We have never played. We have not laughed. Our small hands only know work.

  16. Working the Fields
    by A J Walker

    It was a baking dust dry day and getting hotter when Ant saw his mate, ‘Wotcha!’

    ‘Hey, how you doing friend? Busy morning?’

    ‘Same old, same old, you know how it is,’ Ant said scratching his head with his foot. ‘You seen her ladyship today?’

    ‘First thing, before setting out. Boy she’s put on some serious weight recently.’

    Ant nodded, ‘I know couldn’t believe it was her when I last saw her.’

    ‘This sun’s killing me, I could do with shade and a drop of water before soldiering on.’

    ‘Yeah,’ said Ant. ‘There’s some just around that rock there, though this sun may bake it away.’

    ‘Cheers, I’ll give it a go. Can’t come I assume?’

    ‘You know how it is. Gotta carry this food back for the fat cow.’

    ‘Woah!’ Ant screamed clinging on for dear life as his berry was scooped up.

    ‘Ant!!’ exclaimed the other ant as a young girl dropped the dusty berry into her basket.

    (160 words)
    @zevonesque

  17. Tethered

    When I was a child I used to stare out my window at the laborers working the land. More often than not, my eyes would find the girl whose face was neither sad nor happy. Her name was Myra and she picked berries alongside the other workers that my father referred to as dirt people.

    We could never be friends because of her inferior blood but I thought of her frequently back then. I always wondered if she ever prayed for rain. I always wondered if she ever craved a glass of iced lemonade. Part of me yearned to speak to her, play games with her but baskets didn’t fill themselves. Her toys were the soil and a low wage.

    “Miss Lawton, is there anything else you need?”

    “I’m fine, dear. Just clear the dishes and you can get some sleep, Myra.”

    “Yes, ma’am”

    After all these decades I wonder if she stayed with me out of friendship or ownership.

    Chris Milam @Blukris
    160 words

  18. “Enough”
    John Mark Miller – 150 Words
    @JohnMark_Miller

    The Jamaican sun baked my face as I raced to the beach, blinded by tears. My bare feet stung against the hot sand. I hardly noticed. Distant waves thundered, but all I could hear were the drunken screams of my parents as they fought…again.

    “We’re very lucky,” my mother would say. “He’s a wealthy man.” Her bruised face didn’t seem so lucky, though.

    My tears evaporated the instant I met Rose. Small and hungry, with dirt-smudged cheeks and feet calloused from working without shoes, she watched me sympathetically. She couldn’t speak my language, but she offered me all she had – a handful of berries.

    My life found purpose as I began stealing food to deliver to Rose. When my father found out, he beat me half to death – but I had never felt so proud.

    Rose only had a handful of berries, but it was enough to save my life.

  19. The Camera Man – @caroljforrester

    She had no sense of who he was. The man with the camera and the smile, ushering her to stand in place, to hold still as he disappeared beneath the blanket and fiddled with things she couldn’t see from where she stood with string cutting into her forearms.
    Just a little longer, she breathes, no words passing her lips. He’d be finished soon, she reassured herself and then she could carry on, put the boxes down and pick up the next two. Two more boxes, two more boxes, two more boxes until there were no more left.
    “Keep still,” he told her and so she did, on the outside at least.
    He’d asked her question, about her age, what she did, how long she worked. What was her name?
    She answered carefully, unsure if she was supposed to.
    “Did her friends do the same sort of work?” he’d asked.
    “Friends?” she’d said. “What were they?”

  20. Rose and Ivy, Ivy and Rose
    @voimaoy
    159 words

    What was I doing here? The beach, the waves, the seagrass waving. There was a girl coming along the sand, barefoot, carrying baskets of berries.

    “Rose! What are you doing here?”

    She smiled. Blue eyes, light on water. “Sorry I’m late, Ivy. I’m here to meet you.”

    “What is this place, where are we?”

    “Best friends forever, remember? Rose and Ivy, Ivy and Rose. We picked berries. You got a case of poison ivy.”

    “But Rose, you died with your baby! I’m an old woman, now. Look at me!”

    “Look at yourself, Ivy. Time doesn’t matter here.”

    I was a girl, again. Braids and barefoot, too.

    “Rose, is this heaven?”

    She shrugged. “It’s like that. There are others coming. Look over the hill.”

    I could see Peter, my husband, when he was 20 years old. He was holding Jamie, our oldest son, killed in the war.

    “We are the best times,” Rose explained. “We go on and on, like love.”

  21. The Baskets
    (Word Count – 160)

    Barefoot feeling the warmth of the earth, Sophie collects materials to be made into gifts. She carries baskets from Father finding each item with innocent wisdom.

    She collects in two baskets. Her stained fingers separate the human and the divine; her tongue is stained by both.

    Sophie falls and the baskets spill, mixing the fruits of creation and exposing each ones gratuitous offerings. Blowing on stinging knees, Sophie sees in chaos an intrinsic greatness of friendship.

    The confusion of the spill is gathered with a little soil of mortal life and placed back into the baskets. Bringing the two baskets to Father, she smiles at the promise of gifts with multitudinous interpretations.

    He makes many gifts, some tart, with the texture of conflict. Others are sweet and smooth. Sophie is not to feed the babies too much; uncontrolled sweets can be bad for them. Sophie admires Father’s ultimate gift, the friendship of the human and divine breathed upon the Rose.

  22. Bruised Cherries

    I huddled in the near dark cellar, watching the spilled scarlet juice blacken the dusty floor, listening to Amma’s screams.

    They trailed off eventually, leaving just the soldiers’ laughter and the fruit boxes crashing when someone fell against them. I thought the door was going to open, that they’d find me, and I pulled myself deeper into the shadows, but Amma was enough for them this time. She’s my age but already looks like a woman, thinks like one too, which is why she hid me in here when we spotted them in the orchards. They wear our flag but she knew that they meant trouble. Momma says it’s the price of being kept safe, but it doesn’t feel very safe to me.

    When they’d gone, Amma cried out for me, and while she gathered her clothes and tried to clean herself, I collected her spilled fruit and carried the basket for her.

    It’s all I can do to help. ​

    160 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  23. Saying Goodbye
    @SVBookman – 159 Words

    I remember it as if it were yesterday. The beautiful ten-year-old girl, Rose (Rosalina to me), marching her berries (always two pecks at a time) up for payment. This being done on the hot sand (barefooted, of course), in a dress and kerchief, all the while making sure the little one, Saliette, was well.

    We grew together, my immigrant background and book-hungry thirst for knowledge always at odds with each other during picking season, and fell madly in love. This love surviving the bone-breaking stress of never knowing at the end of a field when we would see each other again. But, a soul kiss, given at eight, kept our hearts and minds pure. I do wish my body had done the same.

    Now, two marriages and five children later, I have traveled six states, in a car of my own at last, to see my Rosalina.

    I put my withering hand on hers, at least it was an open casket, and cry.

  24. A Life of Servitude – 158 words

    Rose cradled her brother, jamming her thumb in his mouth to soothe him.

    “Come, come, Petey. Less of that, please?”

    The mewling bundle in her arms quietened, his teeth both sharp and persistent.

    “We’ll be no fuss. I promise you.” She grinned endearingly up at the overseer. “He’s got a new tooth coming through now but he’s usually very quiet.”

    The grizzled man nodded once, sealing the deal. “I’m making no concessions for the child. It’s hard enough to get you down-and-outs to work a full day without folk griping about losing sleep.” He cupped his chin, continuing, “You’ll have to keep him with you too. We don’t run no nursery here, you understand?”

    The orphaned girl nodded back. “We’ll be your top berry-pickers soon, Petey and me. I swear it, Sir.”

    “Hmmph. We’ll see.” The overseer walked away, grumbling under his breath.

    “Come on, Petey,” Rose cooed. “Let’s go make some new friends.”

  25. Wind blew at my dirt caked shirt as I listened to the sound of the blueberry rakes.
    Shuffle shush.
    Shuffle shush.
    Shuffle shush.
    “You don’t work, than you don’t eat!” the slaver bellowed.
    My brother, Thunder snapped his head up, nostrils flared.
    His friend suddenly ran past shouting, “Someone set the field a’fire!”
    “Run, Turtle!” Thunder bit his teeth together at the end of my name, turning it into a growl. We raced downhill and into the river.
    Exhausted, I heard, “Hey! Your turtle doesn’t swim!” as I went under.
    Thunder’s arm wrapped around my chest and pulled me to the surface. We clung to the riverbank’s edge.
    “Hold your breath.”
    My lungs spasmed for air and we resurfaced. Back down we went, scraping our legs against unforgiving rocks. We reached the other side, hid in hollows under tree roots, and watched as our tribal members were recaptured.
    Thunder and I were never slaves again.
    Our friend wasn’t so lucky.

    160 words
    @mrhawks2 or @sagatiaej

    • Title: Freeing Thunder and Turtle
      Working on Libre Office doesn’t always save changes. Just a heads up for anyone else having trouble out there. It may be best to actually hand type your story into the reply box instead of copy and pasting. If you have a MacBook Pro, I’m finding it’s prudent to save the work more than once and rename the file each time or just stick to Microsoft Word. Also, the format here doesn’t allow the use of italics; another heads up in case you use italics as a writing tool. Great stories and thanks so much for the comments! I appreciate the feedback.

      • Just FYI, Rebekah taught me you CAN actually put words in italics or bold – you just have to type an or at the start of what you want to italicize or bold, and then remember to put an or at the end. Omit the space between the brackets and the I or B – I put them in here in hopes it will come across and not be translated into code.

        This is italicized . This is BOLD!

      • That clearly didn’t work either. Sorry, I know this probably doesn’t even interest you – but you type a less than sign, then either an I or a B, then a greater than sign. Then to close off the part you’re italicizing or highlighting, you type a less than sign, a / plus the I or the B again, then a greater than sign. Whatever. Nobody cares anymore! 😉

      • Thank you so much Margaret. Are you on a MacBook? Everything I could find on Google says you can’t do it on a Mac. <i I think I figured it out, however. Let me try this.

      • Okay, that’s BOSS! 🙂 Thank you everyone for your help! I figured it out. For anyone else struggling with this this is the code for italics and bold. Just take out the spaces I added between them. Say what you want here. Then close with: Hope it helps.

  26. Rose

    Of course I wasn’t her baby. I wasn’t her sister either. Rose would look after me for me mam, that’s all.
    Mam was cherry picking, in more ways than one. She succeeded too, after a fashion, attracting the attentions of the geezer with the biggest billfold. But that was the way it was for Mam. One summer was never much different from the last. We’d come back each year cherry picking, hoping that maybe for once summer would last.
    I guess that’s where it started. Rose would take two baskets of berries off to the counter for weighing, while Mam would feed me or continue picking. When she returned with the baskets empty she’d give me a cuddle and a kiss on each cheek, and Mam would say “That’s another two pecks.”
    I always loved Rose.
    I can’t remember when it became three pecks, but I did instigate that third kiss, and it was long and hot like summer.

    @CliveNewnham – 159 words

  27. That Which is Precious is Never a Burden
    (160)

    Rose put down the boxes and dropped onto the blanket beneath the tree. “Ha!” Delighted gurgles brought a smile to her face, “You being a good girl, Lily?”

    “Rosie!” Lily leaned forward precariously to bestow a sloppy kiss. “Wuv you!”

    “I love you, too, kiddo.”

    A thin hand sneaked a few berries. “Feeling better, Mary?”

    Mary shyly nodded, eyes bright in a pale face. “Being outside was just what I needed.” She coughed harshly into a ragged handkerchief. “Thank you. I know this isn’t easy. You’re so young.”

    Rose shifted, taking Mary’s hands in her own. “Not much younger than you. I’ll do my best by Lily. You know that.”

    Mary nodded, tears welling. “It’s just so much to ask of you.”

    “No, it’s not. I’m here for both of you. Just rest. Everything will be fine.”

    Rose stifled a sob as Mary kissed her forehead and lay down on the blanket with a sad smile. “Liar.”

  28. BAREFOOT

    Her bare feet ached but it mattered not.
    Revan had walked for three days from her home over the mountains. Tired, hungry, alone but determined.

    Her shoulders ached but it mattered not.
    Two cases of Veneret berries hung from Revan’s tiny arms. The succulent berries were a delicacy and very hard to come by. Yet Revan had found them.

    Her heart ached but it mattered not.
    Her friend would soon be avenged. Revan would kill the man who had raped and murdered little Bacia. She would end his life and balance the scales.

    When Revan had finally arrived at the castle the guards didn’t let her past the gates. They did, however, take the cases of berries without hesitation.
    Just as Revan hoped they would.

    By this time tomorrow the news of the Emperors death would spread throughout the land; mysteriously poisoned at his wedding.

    Revan would be long gone.

    150 words
    @BrianSCreek

  29. The Berry Picker (158 Words)

    When summer comes, I help my family by picking berries. It’s outside work, so I make a game of it. I scramble through the rows of ripe strawberries and pluck the fat red fruit quick as I can. Mr. Bigalowe says I’m the fastest worker he’s got. Sometimes Mrs. Bigalowe watches from the porch. She always smiles at me and asks how I’m doing, and I say, “Quite well, thank you, Ma’am,” just like Mama taught me. She offers me lemonade, and it’s cool and tart and sweet all at the same time. I don’t gulp it though. I always thank her. She smiles, and says we’re friends.

    On the last day of berry season, Mrs. Bigalowe calls me over. She says she hopes I’ll come visit and gives me a heart-shaped strawberry tart with a golden crust.

    “Don’t forget to visit,” she says.

    I nod. On the way home I sell the tart for five whole cents.

  30. Maybe the red stains on our fingers would be blood, from murdering some twisted, cruel sinner and avenging the lives of her kin.

    Or maybe we’d pretend that these are the orchards of Fairyland, where rubies grow on trees, and we’d been sent to pick only the ripest ones for the Fairy Queen’s golden new crown.

    And then, once my tummy starts its growling, maybe she’d open out a folded cloth, and show me a whole enormous pie. And when my basket’s so heavy that it nudges bruises onto my thighs, she’d grab hold of the handle, and we’d swing it between us like it was nothing but a bucket of feathers!

    Later, when the day’s nearly over and I’m too tired to speak, she’d just work along beside me, and we’d hum happy tunes.

    And because I’d have a friend, it would never feel like this.

    Like picking moments off the bushes, one by one. By one. By one.

    @Donnellanjacki
    160 words

    • I LOVE this! Fabulous imagery. LOVE the image of the basket nudging bruises on her thighs, and the contrast between reality and her fantasy is well executed. And I love the last line(s). My favorite line(s) so far.

      • Margaret, thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to say such lovely things about my story. I had misgivings about it and went to bed regretting I’d even posted it, so waking up to your kind words has really brightened my day!! Your kind encouragement is always appreciated, but this time, especially so 🙂

    • Very nice use of the law of three to create mood and give depth to the protagonist’s monotony and isolation.

  31. Step By Step

    Sweat coats Rose’s brow as the sun beats upon it, whilst she labours, weighed down. She bears the berry filled boxes at the crook of either arm; balance and counterbalance. She has gathered all she can find. She sinks further into the sand beneath her bare feet today, making it harder to gain purchase; to keep herself moving further and forwards, on towards home. Her toes curl under; slip, slide and stumble, whilst her eyes watch their distant goal. Soon, she tells herself. Soon! She will –must – get there; fairy steps or not. She is – will be – waiting when she gets there. Rose sets herself to counting, though she is countless after what would have been first, second or third. She thinks she reaches several thousand.

    “I have them,” Rose says, into the contrasting cool of the homestead, as she crosses the threshold. They are gathered, mute, by the bedside. “But I fetched them!” Rose protests. “So we could eat.”

    (160 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

  32. Sweet Rose Berry

    Trailing along on worn, rough burlap.
    Fastened to the ratty blue fabric at Rose’s trim waist.
    Bouncing and jarring over rocky soil, I watch Rose in wonder.
    Momma works three rows to our left, Papa to our right. I hum off key to the jingle Rose sings when the day gets long. She peeks at Momma through a dark curtain of stringy, sweat matted hair and drops an overripe berry behind her. It rolls along my magic burlap carpet to land against my dust covered toes.
    I stifle a delighted squeal and sink my teeth into the juicy morsel.
    Rose whips around at my giddy intake of breath, holding a blistered finger to her dimpled face, a twinkle in her tired eyes. The foreman can’t know she’s sharing berries again.
    I want to help, but Momma says I’m too small. Rose says my company is the best help. Harvest days are my favorite; they are my days with Rose.

    (159 words)

  33. Summer in the Elysian Blackberry Fields
    [157 words]

    “I declare, ain’t you a pitiful sight!” Mrs. Sessom licked her thumb and scrubbed grime from the cheek of her barefoot visitor. “Does your mama know you’re wandering around town dressed in those filthy rags?!”

    “Ain’t got no mama,” said the girl. “Daddy’s overworked. I’m selling berries door-to-door to help.”

    Mrs. Sessom examined the crates of blackberries oozing dark purple juice onto her stoop.

    “No one bought any, ma’am. Most of the townsfolk just yelled at me.”

    “Oh, sweet child. Ignore the hateful ones. With the recession, and record drought… Tell you what: I’ll buy all two peck o’ blackberries!”

    The girl beamed. “Honest?”

    “Yep. And remember, you always got a friend in ol’ Mrs. Sessom.”

    Relieved of her burden, the girl rushed home. “Father! Someone helped us out!”

    Father smiled and embraced her. “So there still is one good soul.” With a wave of His hand, He canceled the rain of brimstone scheduled for the city.

  34. Hi! I’m Warren C. Bennett. First time poster. @warrencbennett for Twitter.

    The Road Home
    159 words

    Her legs and feet ached as she trudged down the road. She didn’t know if she could get home in time. The town was so sick when she left and she could only go so fast. She knew she was slowing down, the harsh travel of the last days wearing her body out.

    She stumbled forward as she glimpsed her mother beckoning her. Her heart ached because her mom was one of the first to die. That didn’t keep the girl from hearing her mother’s voice.

    “Come forward my little duckie. I love you.”

    Her friend Sara stood next to her mother, smiling without any sign of the disease. They were so inviting and so calming. She no longer hurt at all.

    The girl opened her eyes. It was night and she had fallen in a ditch. She frantically inspected her boxes before grabbing them and continuing on. She couldn’t give up now, too many people depended on her.

  35. STRAWBERRIES
    Evan Montegarde
    155 Words

    “A hard life well-lived is worth a thousand squandered.”

    The wisdom of her Father still resonated within.

    Rose had lived a myriad of lives from abject poverty in Philadelphia picking berries to
    glorious riches in Newport. Her story spanned the Gilded Age of excess when a still young nation exploded with possibility and poverty, hate and hope. Her many husbands a testimony to adventure, friendship, lust and at times, love; but always MONEY.

    The sun was at its zenith as Father’s ashes were scattered to the winds. Rose smiled as she watched her brother Jacob solemnly send handfuls of “Pop” into the azure sky; the sea breeze whisking them upward toward puffy sun-drenched clouds flying above. White yachts off Rough Point were tacking into a stiff east wind. Rose was sure some of Father had caught a ride and she laughed as she popped a strawberry in her mouth and turned toward the waiting limo.

  36. My apologies on the spacing, having a bad storm here and losing power in drips and drabs so I posted quick.

  37. Toiling (160)
    @brett_milam

    “I’m okay,” Talya said.

    Every day when Thomas, her half-witted friend in the field, asked her if she was okay, she replied in this manner. Whether her feet were ripped apart, bleeding, scabbing, burning or her back ached. She was always okay.

    “Let me git that for ya, Miss Tally,” he would ask, but she refused. And carried the strawberries herself.

    When Ryker, the field overseer, admonished her for meager pickings and called her a little worthless runt, she didn’t cry. Thomas would.

    That’s what we do; we say we’re okay, even when chaos rages behind our eyes and lying tongues.

    Talya told no lie today. After she discovered the three-foot deep creek bed a mile downwind from the field, she knew what she would do.

    A wood box meant for ripe strawberries would be well-suited to rocks. She had tested her head through the handle. Should hold her down long enough.

    Talya worried what Thomas would think. But proceeded.

  38. “Hard Day”

    Nana hated the color red like she hated traffic or hangnails or Nazis. Although she swore she never killed nobody, Nana used to come home as a little girl, hands dripping with red goo. Like blood splatter, the raspberry juice clung her palms and refused to wash off no matter how hard she scrubbed.

    When I got home from work the other day, smelling like french fries and shame, I ripped off my Mickey D’s visor and got to bitching about the frycook that gave me a grease burn. Nana sat in Dad’s old Lazy Boy, the one with yellow foam bursting from its cracked seams. She chuckled at me, clouded eyes looking up from her needle point.

    “What’s so funny? I had a hard day.”

    “I always thought a ‘hard day’ was haulin’ fourteen pounds raspberries in Texas heat. But I suppose standin’ for six hours in that air conditioned room is hard on body too.”

    Word Count: 157
    @iRkat525
    http://irkatstories.tumblr.com

    • Diggin’ the voice in this story, Kat. “When I got home from work the other day, smelling like french fries and shame,” is a standout line for me. I enjoy different than the norm takes on the prompt and this fit it nicely. Good way to juxtapose modern work with Nana’s toils in the old days.

  39. PECKING ORDER

    Smashing of armor rent the late summer air. The Sanguine Wars were on again. Brother against brother for sacred ground.

    Limbs shook with the fury of the fray. Crimson spattered shields dripping sweet revenge in a never-ending battle.

    We pressed on. We heaved our shields clumsily up the trunk of preferred offense, watching, peering, vigilant as the enemies disappeared and reappeared among the leaves: viewing our flanks, spying our canopies for volleys of flaming orbs with pits like barbed shot.

    “E-e-e-e-e-e-a-a-a-a!” wailed my brother in the pain of surprise attack to his head and face. Thick pieces of flesh oozed downward in his hair. Yet he bravely fought on.

    The enemy, the warrior siblings so vicious in their overhead spray of shot, raucously laughed. Camaraderie evident in their prideful reaction, they ran toward us to claim our territory.

    “Stop this minute!” A word from the Gods. “You guys gotta bring in two pecks each of these crab apples before noon!”

    WC = 159 excluding title

    • Love it! The title is awesome, and it took me until nearly the end to figure out this wasn’t a truly blood-thirsty battle raging. My favorite line is, “Thick pieces of flesh oozed downward in his hair.” Oh so gross if literal, oh so fantastic since it’s not. Well, not human flesh, at least.

  40. IF ONLY

    Ellie’s feet sink in the wet sand. The rocks in her pockets pull down on her dress. She fixes her eyes on the horizon and steps toward the ocean.

    “Present, for you.”

    Ellie turns, startled. “Go away.”

    “She said, give you these berries. Your favorite. She said to tell you, please, don’t do it. She said she is your friend.”

    “Really,” Ellie says. “Who said that?”

    The little girl frowns.

    “You are a figment,” Ellie declares, and turns back to the sea.

    “She said you wouldn’t listen to her, but you love children. So she sent me.”

    “Who is this friend?” Ellie asks.

    “Ellie in the future,” the girl answers.

    Ellie looks at the girl. Sandy hair, familiar features. She turns away from the ocean.

    She pulls a rock from her pocket and hands it to the girl.

    “Give this to her – to me,” she says. “Tell her, thank you. And happy birthday.”

    153 words w/o title
    @betsystreeter

  41. There’s A Room (Where The Light Won’t Find You)
    160 words

    The picture was heart-breaking in its simplicity.

    The boy had caught his eye first…or more specifically the anger on the child’s face as he carried his own load while helping the girl with hers.

    Lewis remembered many things of that day but the detail that was seared into his mind was the hatred in the boy’s eyes when he caught sight of him.

    The heat of the land faded as the boy stepped forward, lips pulled into a snarl that had Lewis stumbling backwards.

    The child’s face collapsed as he moved, jaws sinking into concaves as his skin withered. What faced Lewis wasn’t a child; it was something else…something dangerous.

    “Matthias, no!”

    The little girl’s voice made the boy still but Lewis instinctively knew that not even the bonds of their friendship would hold him for long so he took the picture and retreated.

    Lewis wasn’t surprised when the film developed and only the girl’s face stared out at him.

  42. Re-grow, Together
    (160 words)

    There was a time, mama says, when people feared that nothing would ever grow again. A decade of winter. Soil burned and poisoned. The inescapable mantle of ash strangling even the hardiest of green life. Most of the people died with them. Starvation, disease, or maybe just heartbreak. They did not realize it til it was gone, but this planet is the first and truest friend we’ll ever have.

    It started slow, mama says, around the time I was born. As I fought for life, brave little chutes were fighting too. They battled toxins and faced down darkness til at last they pierced the surface. Blades of grass, then wildflowers, even berries. Tiny, shrunken things at first, more grit than fruit. But miracles nonetheless.

    Now the berry patches are vast, the fruit tart but meaty. There’s so many I dare to harvest two whole crates full. But we’ll make sure to plant the seeds, this time nothing goes to waste.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

  43. Rose’s Berries

    The rebels standing watch look down on me. “Who are you and what do you want?”

    I swallow hard. “I’m Rose. I want to trade these berries for my friend.”

    He winks at the other rebel. “We have the berries now. The girls when we return from tonight’s raid.” He leads me to a small brick building and through a door. I see my friend, Mary.

    “Put the berries down and get inside.”

    “Please,” said Mary. “Can we have a few berries? I haven’t eaten in days.”

    He takes the baskets, picks out two small berries and throws them on the dirt floor. The door closes and he leaves laughing.

    Mary reaches for the berries, but I crush them with my foot.

    She cries. “Why?”

    I hold her. “Hang on till morning and your mother will cook your favorite.”

    She wipes the tears from her eyes.

    I smile. “The berries are poisoned.”

    Tony Dingwell
    @tonydingwell
    152 Words

  44. A Berry Long Journey

    Melissa smirked as she saw her best friend coming down the path. She knew that her journey was finally over.

    Two days ago she had travelled deep into the heart of the jungle to pick the rare Jigglepuff berries. She had spent the whole next day scavenging among the underbrush and climbing tall trees searching for them. After long last, her two large baskets were full. Today, she had traversed dusty paths and murky swamps, trying to ignore her aching muscles and many blisters.

    Just moments before, she’d glanced at the setting sun and worried that she wouldn’t reach the market in time to sell the berries while they were still fresh. Melissa’s friend grinned as she approached and took one of the heavy baskets. “Your mother will be pleased,” her friend said as they entered the town and successfully sold the fruits of Melissa’s labor.

    150 words
    By Ian Phillips (age 13)

  45. Flowers
    word count 159

    Cranberries. I hate ‘um. Wish we was in the peach pickin’ ‘stead. Always found a way a sneak a peach when no one was lookin’. Cranberries are just sharp like a lemon in my mouth. Makes my stomach hurt.

    But the sand road’s soft, sugar sand they calls it. Good thing, too, cause we don’t have money for more shoes. Pa says if I work hard, we might have ‘nough for shoes afore winter. But I don’t mind. I pretend I’m makin’ tracks at the beach and not workin’. Just wishin’ I had a friend to pretend with.

    Four weeks of school I’m missin’. Four weeks of makin’ no friends, cause no one ever friends the late ones, us field workers. “Can’t make friends with them cause they’s always movin’ away.”

    That hurts most.

    But wait! Who’s that? She looks same years as me.

    “Hi!” I says. “I’m Rose.”

    She’s starin’, then says, “Me? Daisy.”

    I love them flowers.

  46. Tonight
    By Laura Carroll Butler
    152 words

    Rose wanted to run, but she carefully walked, balancing the full baskets. Any other day, the sweet aroma of strawberries would make her mouth water, but today they were only her last delivery. When she finished, she would take the penny she’d found that morning to Logan’s Store to buy a bag of candy. She thought of her choices: tart lemon drops that puckered your mouth; tangy-sweet horehound; peppermints so cool they made your nose tingle; a jawbreaker she could suck on for hours. She could get two pieces of licorice, one for her and one for her best friend, Alice. Alice had found a penny last month and shared her good fortune with Rose, a package of gum they chewed on for a week. Tomorrow, Rose would be back in the fields, her fingers stained with strawberry juice; but tonight, oh tonight, she would glory in the sweetness of her treat.

    • Evocative of the period – I liked hearing about the various candies available, and the good reminder that, as children, sometimes the smallest things were the sweetest. I guess that’s still true as adults, too.

  47. “Deadly Delicious”
    Word Count: 160
    @2020hines_sight

    Rose licked the berry juice from her hands.

    They were especially plump and juicy. The reddish purple juice would flood from some of them so quickly she barely had time to catch it before it streamed down her arm and stained her white shirt sleeve.

    Rose wondered if the stories were true. If you eat the berries you would die. She quickly popped one in her mouth and discovered it was the most sinfully delicious thing she had ever eaten.

    She heard a boom in the distance and suddenly her white tunic and pants were covered in crimson red. Her bare feet began to feel warm. Looking at her feet she discovered she was standing in a reddish purple puddle.

    Where was this coming from? No one else was around. She felt a warm steam down her leg. At that moment she realized the puddle was her own blood. She fell to the ground and smiled.

    “Deadly delicious,” she said.

  48. Beware the Rosie Thorn
    @mishmhem
    160 words

    Rosie strode serenely to the gallows. Today she would die, but the final joke would be hers. For years she had brought treats to the princess, every day of spring, while berries were in season, she would come bearing fruit.

    When the bastard king of White’s Bog had taken over– she continued to deliver the berries, returning with messages to the princess’ supporters. Throughout the winter, Rosie plotted her friend’s escape. It was when the usurper’s wife had delivered him a son, that Rosie had taken the princess’ place.

    The ‘king’, so used to seeing Rosie, thought nothing of her arrival and didn’t notice when she left, that her feet were a little softer; her skin a little paler.

    Rosie’s hands shook slightly when she saw the king himself waited for her, blade in hand.

    She drew herself up, praying for the strength she needed and smiled. Muscles, honed with years of carrying berries, powered her blade between his ribs.

  49. Berry pie
    (160 words sans title)
    By Adrienne Myshel

    A gnarled fist hard as a tortoise’s shell blindsided Annabelle, careening her into the wall. Usually, she saw Ladyold coming, and ducked. But this time, Annabelle had been watching Loren, her friend, in the doorway, waiting for his sign. He nodded, eyes wide, face swollen by Ladyold’s beatings. Ready. Loren, 13, had labored inside the house, lifting, scraping and moving. Annabelle held back tears and scrambled to her feet, leading the girls outside.

    “Two hours,” Ladyold screamed, “family’s coming to dinner. Buckets full for pie!”

    The girls ran to the woods, per plan, to the vat hidden near the river’s mouth. After months of squeezing traces of poisonous nightshade and witchmahr-bulb juices, they had finally filled the tub. “Pick!” Annabelle yelled. An hour later, the girls’ baskets overflowed with plump, red berries. “Soak!” They dumped their labor into the vat, faces dirty, hands bloodied. “Now fill!”

    Six girls returned to Ladyold’s doorstep in time, baskets dripping with death.

  50. Generational Views

    I can still hear it. Still feel it. My unsteady breathes befriending the pulse of my heart as I labored harder than any young one should. The thumping in my ears as it drifted through my deprived stomach. Oh, how I will never forget the feeling, or lack thereof, in my feet day in and day out. The rawness—no–it was the heat. Yes, the boiling sand between my toes; that was the worst. Then again, even after a while the burning faded, but the hunger always remained. That’s why I worked instead of playing hopscotch. Father couldn’t feed all twelve of us.
    “Here, honey.” I pass the photo back to my granddaughter. Her new thirst of my upbringing has made us closer. A tearful memory threatens my wrinkled eyes. I blink it away. Somethings are better off forgotten.
    “So dear, how is your job?”
    “It’s sooo boring. The worst job ever!”
    I sigh and rub my worn heels.

    160 words
    @meganbesing

  51. Peter’s Promiscuous Pucker
    @LadyHazmat
    149 words

    Peter said he’d picked a peck for me. He passed me a box of peppers and planted a quick, dry kiss on my cheek. I smiled, till I saw him peck Mary and each of her pretty maids, too. My pal, Simon, said we should punish Peter for his pecking.

    The next day, Simon and I proceeded the fair to peddle Peter’s peppers. On the way, we passed a face familiar to us both.

    The Pieman smiled down at Simon, trading a penny and a piping hot pastry for a pound of pilfered peppers. Pleased with the produce, the Pieman was primed for another purchase. He turned to me and asked, “Little Lucy Locket, what’s that in your pocket?”

    The Pieman paled as I pulled a package from my apron and said, “Only the very best from Piper’s Pepper Pastures. Can I interest you a pint of pickled Peter?”

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