Category Archives: Carrot Ranch Fiction

Blow My Candles Out! Carrot Ranch Fiction.

“Happy Birthday, Honey. I’ve checked all the ingredients. Even your cardiologist says it’s fine…gluten free, sugar free, fat free.” Sue tried hard to smile. “So, you can have your cake and eat it too.”

“So, what IS in it?” Richard growled, longing for Nigella’s Nutella Cake instead. As much as he loved his wife and family, he wasn’t sure it was worth coming back for this new life with all its restrictions. He couldn’t even breathe without asking for permission first.

“Carrot cake? I am NOT a horse! I’m off to the pub. You can blow my candles out!”

……

Every week, Charli over at Carrot Ranch hosts a flash fiction challenge where you write 99 words to a prompt.

March 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

The Silent Bomb- Carrot Ranch.

It was Henry’s tenth birthday and strangely his big sister, Kate, was only too happy to bake his cake. Indeed, she even suggested Mum took Henry out for a special, birthday milkshake.

Mum was so proud of her thoughtful daughter, that she jumped onto Facebook: “Proudest Mum moment. World’s Best Daughter! Milkshakes with Henry, while Kate’s baking Henry’s Birthday Cake.”

Meanwhile, Kate carefully cut out the middle of the cake. Blew up the balloon, stuck it inside and smothered the lot in chocolate icing. The bulging cake might have looked nine months pregnant, but at least it didn’t tick.

……

March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 13, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 14). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

xx Rowena

Bush Rescue…Flash Fiction Carrot Ranch.

Bob saw the helicopters hovering over the lookout again.

“Blimey, another bloody tourist’s lost,” Bob announced, taking his eyes off the footy. “All our taxpayer dollars going up in smoke. They should pay. This isn’t a free country.”

“Daddy! Daddy!” The kids puffed. “Jet’s stuck in a tree.”

“How on earth did the dog get stuck in a tree? You gone mad?”

“Hamish threw his tennis ball over the edge, and Jet flew straight after it.”

“Bob, told you that dog’s a maniac.”

“So, all those helicopters are out saving our dog????  Thank goodness, he doesn’t have a collar.”

Jonathon at Three Sisters

Surely, this smiley face would never throw his dog’s ball over the edge!!! Of course, this is fiction but…Our son at the Echo Point Lookout, aged 6.

 

June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads.

Kids at Echo Point Katoomba

The Kids at the Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba in 2010. Mr was 6 and Miss was 4. Her hair still didn’t reach her shoulders. 

This story is set at Echo Point in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. There’s a spectacular lookout there which has views across to the famous Three Sisters and the expansive Grose Valley. I’ve had this idea for a story since we were there a few years ago. It’s quite common for bushwalkers to get lost in the region and big searches have been mounted to save them. This incredible story of Jamie Neale who was lost in the Blue Mountains for 11 days factored into my story and is well worth reading: Lost Backpacker Survives Blue Mountains Ordeal

Now, bushwalkers are urged to take EPIRBS with them.

Anyway, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a ball obsessed Border Collie like mine, jumping off a cliff to fetch the ball.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

By the way, I take our dogs down to our local beach for a run and Bilbo goes crazy chasing other dogs’ tennis balls. Most of the walkers down there, expect a crowd of other dogs to hang around when they throw it to their own. Some of them, however, are not quite so understanding when Bilbo starts barking at them for them to throw it for him! He keeps telling me that he’s a highly skilled athlete, and not an addict. However, I tend to disagree…

xx Rowena

Parking Lot Near Bologna, 1992…Flash Fiction.

As part of an inter-agency operation, the Guardia di Finanza was staking out the notorious Bologna car park. It was said to be the change over point, for trucks trafficking young women from Croatia to the UK.

“Ze cargo good. Very good,” said the guy in the green pants, reportedly  Sergei Demodenko. The other man, known as the Kissing Assassin, was Luigi Pepperoni.

“Disgusting!” a female officer spat. “They can roast in hell.”

“But they are just the little fish. Talk is, this goes high up.”

Suddenly, the men peered up, and sped from the scene. Evidently, a tip off.


This afternoon, I intrepidly advanced into my teenage son’s bedroom and took off with his school folder to dig out the art assignment he had due, and evaluate the carnage. As you could perhaps appreciate, I need to be in the right frame of mind to take on his messy folder, but desperation called.

His assignment was on Australian Artist, Jeffery Smart . I’d heard the name, but despite having somewhat studied Australian art in the context of social history at university, I couldn’t place him. So, before I even chased up the questions for the assignment, I did the usual Google search and caught up.

What followed was several hours working through the painting with our son and also for myself. I don’t know whether you’ve seen what homework’s like these days in the post-Google Internet era. However, our son does his homework online and submits it to his teacher via Google classroom. This is very much “Beam me up, Scotty” territory to me. He still has exercise books, yet his learning is so interactive, and light years ahead of what we were doing. I left school in 1987 and I remember studying art history from a black & white text book, which hardly did anything justice. I don’t remember studying Australian art at all and discovering the likes of Australian Women artists like Margaret Preston and Thea Proctor, had to wait until university.

Art appreciation, also meant a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW in the city, not a Google search from your lounge chair.

We really were deprived.

Anyway, as we went through the questions, I found out that he had to write a 100 story about the painting. I was initially a bit baffled about what he should write, but then it suddenly dawned on this bear of little brain, that they were just asking him to write what I write all the time…a 100 word piece of flash fiction.

He hasn’t done something like this before to my knowledge. So, I thought I’d write an example to show him to help him formulate his own ideas.

This was much harder than expected. While Jeffrey Smart is an Australian artist, he lived in Italy most of his life and the painting is set in a car park in Bologna. After spending so much time researching, staring at and pulling this painting apart, I decided there was something like a people smuggling ring involved and these men were dealing in human cargo. So, i found myself needing to pick up a few words of Italian, find out a bit about their Police force and think up some kind of interesting twist for the end.

I do this every week for Friday Fictioneers. However, it’s never easy and there’s a huge part of me, which almost capitulates every week, when seeing the photo prompt produces a nasty case of writer’s block. I really do freeze and the words stop dead in their tracks.

Anyway, there’s a bit of a back story to this. I hope you enjoyed it and might I also encourage you to write something about this intriguing painting prompt and put a link to your effort in the comments below. I’d love to read it.

xx Rowena

PS I just put 1 + 1 together and realized that 1992 was the year I was in Europe and that I actually went to Florence the year this was painted. That wasn’t long after The Wall had come down and Germany had been reunified. The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the government of Croatia—which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I remember that you couldn’t send mail to Croatia at the time…just the tip of a dreadful iceberg.

Heartbreak in Paris…Flash Fiction.

Nobody warned Chloe that the City of Love, was the City of Heartbreak. Or, that the River Seine flowed with lovers’ tears.

Yet, what could she expect from a holiday romance? A wedding ring?

Instead, he’d returned her letters and wasn’t returning her calls.

The lights of Paris had gone out and as Chloe leaned over Pont Neuf, she felt herself being pulled in.

“Nobody’s worth dying for,” a firm arm grabbed her, pulling her back from the edge.

What was she thinking? He wasn’t worth this.

An infinitesimal flicker of light broke through the darkness.

She was free.

This has been a Flash Fiction Challenge from Charli over at Carrot Ranch

August 31, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodbye inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

writing in Paris

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

After graduating from university, my friends and I went backpacking overseas and met up in Paris for about six weeks of what turned out to be fairly intense soul searching. I don’t think I actually met anyone who actually found love and lived happily ever after. Indeed, I met a American from the Bronx at the Shakespeare Bookshop, whose lover had thrown his guitar into the River Seine in a rage. Isn’t that just a perfect Paris scene?

My tales of love gone wrong in Paris are hard to explain. More a case of meeting an attainable soul mate I met through my time staying in Heidelberg. So this was someone I knew really well and never crossed the line romantically but when he cut me off and sent me packing, even if it was for my own good, it hurt like hell. Soul mates aren’t easy to come by.

Fortunately, I was traveling with good friends who looked out for me and I guess I also wanted to reinforce the role that we all have as by-standers in saving someone’s life. This has been in the Australian news recently as an Australian woman who was critically injured in the terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day, and was saved by a stranger who stayed with her.

We never know quite how a touch of human kindness can touch somebody’s life.

xx Rowena

Returning To Chernobyl- Flash Fiction.

Elena knew the streets of Pripyat by heart.

In her dreams, she’d run along these streets until she reached the Ferris Wheel, climbing back into Papa’s lap. Afraid of heights, his strong arms held her tight.

Yet, nothing could save Papa.

Thirty years on, she’d returned, carrying the same small suitcase and clutching their front door key, as though it could unlock the past and bring it back.

Yet, no key unlocks thirty years of neglect.

Reclaimed by the forest, the Ferris Wheel loomed over the abandoned fun park like a ghostly giant.

Silent, all the children were gone.

Rowena Curtin

This has been a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from Charli Mills  over at Carrot Ranch Communications

August 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an empty playground. Is it abandoned or are the children in school? What is it about the emptiness that might hint of deeper social issues. It can be a modern story, apocalyptic or historical. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 31, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

To read more about former residents returning to Pripyat, click here.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup.

 

A Rainbow In the Sky…Flash Fiction.

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

Vincent Van Gogh

 

A Rainbow In The Sky

Cast into a stormy sea, raging waves tower imperiously overhead. I’m nothing but a speck in the vast, unending ocean. Lightening shoots through the darkness like laser beams. I’m absolutely petrified.

The storm has brutally ripped me away from my very being…my kids, my very flesh and blood…my husband. It shows no mercy. Will gobble me up like a shark, without spitting out the pips.

I do not understand. Please explain!

Yet, the storm rages on without end. This is it.

Suddenly, a rainbow appears…an upside down smile spreading right across the sky, strangely making some kind of sense.

Rowena

…..

May 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that changes with a smile. It can be a character, tone, setting or any creative use of smile. You can go deep and consider motive and influence, or you can light up the world with a brilliant flash (of teeth as well as fiction). And smile, because your writing matters and is not hostage to your level, experience or circumstances.

Respond by May 31, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

The Greatest Roller Coaster Ride-Flash Fiction.

Obviously, catching the roller coaster, was her boyfriend’s idea. She couldn’t wait to get off!

Terrified and tortured, the young woman tried maneuvering into foetal position. Yet, constrained by the seat belt, was a contorted knot, her tiny hands shielding her face. Squirming with every twist and turn, she embodied The Scream. Yet, she didn’t make a sound.

Why couldn’t she tell him she was scared of heights?

Why didn’t he respond? Try to help?

Too late! Her stomach betrayed her. The Dagwood Dog chasing her milkshake spun out of control. A cyclonic catastrophe struck.

That woke him up!

March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous!

Respond by March 29, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

….

Today, our family had the most incredible fun at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. This was quite an adventure for us because tackling such huge crowds and walking long distances is difficult for me what with my “small engine”. So even though I had grown up going to the Show every year well into my thirties, we’ve never taken the kids before. From my perspective, this was a very serious breach because that’s what families do in Sydney abnd we couldn’t do it.

Anyway, we had such a great day and you’ve never seen such cheeky grins as the lot of us tearing round on the dodgem cars trying to wipe each other out. Don’t know why the sign says “No Bumping” because we all know it’s inevitable and a huge part of the fun!

After the dodgems, there was a big discussion about which ride they’d go on next. Both kids were looking at a fishing game, which was pretty elementary but then our son decided to go on this rollercoasters of rollercoasters, “The Spinning Coaster”, which promoted itself as the Greatest Rollercoaster in Australia. This ride was pure torture with sharp 90 degree turns and sense you were about to shoot over the very edge. Our son mentioned something to my husband about how he should’ve gone fishing instead.

Meanwhile, my husband noticed the couple who were sharing their compartment on the ride. He mentioned something to me afterwards about whether she’d be talking to him afterwards. It clearly wasn’t her idea to have a go. As I teased out what happened, this picture emerged of this absolutely terrified young woman who had tried curling herself into a ball but was tied into her seat by the seat belt and instead had covered her face with her hands and was trying to bury her self in the seat. Our daughter is pretty scared of heights and spent the first half of our ride on the Ferris Wheel with her eyes very tightly shut. Although I know it’s better for her to face her fears, particularly as a child, that doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to her pain. I feel it. I know it. Not that I’m afraid of heights but I was absolutely phobic of dogs as a child or more precisely, the sound of barking dogs and I know that crippling level of fear. For those of you who know how much I love dogs now, that’s a real encouragement.

Why did I write about this couple? I guess because I remember going on dates to the Royal Easter Show when I was in High School and that awkwardness of first dates where you might not have the courage to admit to your weaknesses. You want to impress and it can be a huge thing for someone to admit and share their very personal fears. Much easier to simply avoid them but then you can’t.

Of course, being fiction, I just had to make this poor woman’s misery even worse and make her sick.

By the way, I asked my husband how her boyfriend responded. After all, I would’ve been trying to help her. However, Geoff said he didn’t really seem to notice. That while he wasn’t quite as terrified as her, he was barely getting by himself. I asked Geoff how he noticed all this detail and he said that with our 12 year old son sitting next to the woman, he needed to make sure he was alright. Geoff was being a good Dad.

The other point of this story is that it’s better to admit your fears rather than covering them up or you could end up confronting them in a way that only makes them worse, fueling your anxiety.

Mind you, falling in love doesn’t always help our logic, does it?!!

xx Rowena

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The Itis…Monster Flash Fiction.

Neither awake nor asleep, she could hear his gravelly voice huffing in her ear: “I’m going to get you!”

She knew that voice too well and flinched. His grotesque form leaning over her bed, she could almost feel his fingertips touching her skin. With the stench of rotting flesh, this monstrous beast came from the very pits of hell.

Trembling, she shrank into a very tight ball.

No! She was still determined to get the bastard. Wring his neck. Finally, destroy the beast.

But there was nothing there.

No monster to slay with her almighty sword.

Yet, there was!

Rowena Newton March 13, 2016.

March 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story. You can pick any perspective, even that of the monster. It can be literal or symbolic; it can be heroic or realistic. Think about the shifting roles of what is a monster and who is a monster-slayer. Consider how easily we give the label to others or to fears we can’t name.

 ……

itis: Suffix meaning inflammation.

On the 22nd August, 2007, I was diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis. You can just imagine being diagnosed with something like that. The word itself is bad enough and it took me at least a month to pronounce it let alone spell it. However, the disease itself was far worse. It took 18 months to correctly diagnose after boarding a horrifically intense, medical merry-go-round.

It is hard to believe that someone who is still walking around and indeed still breathing, could have been so debilitated. Most of my muscles had wasted away and I needed help getting dressed and even pulling my blankets over me at night. Yet, I was also mother full time to a toddler and a baby not to mention the crazy afore mentioned Old English Sheepdog, who morphed into an energetic Border Collie pup somewhere along the way.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007. This was 3 months before my diagnosis and despite how I appear in the photo, I was already very ill.

Six weeks before my diagnosis, I tripped over at home and much to my horror couldn’t get up at all. This wasn’t due to injury. Rather, I didn’t have the muscles left to get myself up. The disease had gobbled them up. I rang my husband at work, over two hour’s away. We didn’t even discuss getting an ambulance. He suggested using a chair to lever myself up and when that worked, I simply got on with it. That said, we gave a friend our front door key and tried to spend us much time as we could with my Mum. Our home became the most terrifying place in the world for me.

Dermatomyositis can be difficult to diagnose and yet I had these distinctive tell tale red stripes across my knuckles, which are known as “rainbow hands”. Early on, I received a false negative on a blood test and once you eliminate what you’ve got, you’re in considerable strife. My uncle who is a dermatologist, ended up diagnosing it at my cousin’s wedding. I was obviously severely ill and while I was sort of thrilled at the instant weight loss, I suspected something sinister. Just getting in and out of chairs was murder. Even in that dark, ambient lighting my uncle recognised those rainbow stripes on my hands and was on the phone the next day. Three days later he had results and an urgent appointment with the Professor of Rheumatology at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. He told me to take my toothbrush as I wouldn’t be coming home. Two and a half weeks later, I left hospital in an ambulance bound for rehab for 6 weeks.

The kids went to stay with my parents. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was only 18 months and still breastfeeding.

This wasn’t the case of the kids having a holiday with their grandparents. It was incredibly traumatic and even though I knew I was very ill at the time, I was later told that I didn’t appreciate just how sick I was and that they’ve lost patients at that point before. The long delay in my diagnosis had almost been catastrophic.

I still remember Mister asking me: “Mummy better?” with his big brown eyes and blond curls and saying nothing. We didn’t know. Our son’s development froze for a good six months after that. He stopped doing a lot of things he’d been able to do and regressed. He also got very angry with me. He wanted his old Mum back and how was he supposed to understand and accept what we couldn’t?!!

Before this all came about, when I used to think of monsters, I used to think of baddies lurking in dark alleyways or public toilets grabbing me by the throat. I never thought that the greatest, most terrifying monster I would ever face, would be inside myself. Indeed, the very problem with any auto-immune disease is that it’s your body attacking itself.

The monster is inside you.

Now, that does make things tricky, doesn’t it?!!

You are not your disease and yet it lives inside your body and your cells start attacking each other, themselves. Yet, it’s not you…whatever!!

That’s starting to sound like one of those brain busting conundrums.

My brain hurts. How about yours?

Time for a good old-fashioned cup of tea!

xx Rowena

 

Diversity…Flash Fiction.

Mirror! Mirror!

Rosie looked into the mirror, trying to understand her complex features. Blond, blue-eyed yet coffee-toned …there was some hushed story about Grandmother or Great Grandmother coming from India. Mum always insisted that they stay out of the sun. Why? Rosie couldn’t understand. If only she’d been allowed out in the sun, she would’ve had the best tan. Gone black. Even though she was only little, Rosie knew there was some unspoken story.

Now, middle-aged, married with three of her own, she knew. Had no shame. She stood out in that sun until her skin turned black…a proud Arrernte woman.

Rowena Newton

February 17, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story of a character who is diverse. Who is this person? Does this character know, accept or reject being perceived as different? As writers, consider how we break stereotypes. Tell you own story of “otherness” if you feel compelled. Or, select a story of diversity, such as rainbows revealing gold. How is diversity needed? How is your character needed?

Respond by February 23, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!