October 2014 Issue- Week 1

October 4, 2014

“Better late than never!” our managing editor Ms. Stelling says. It’s been busy around the pub office since we began 1 year to the date publishing authors poetry and flash fiction books. And we look forward to more manuscript submission for next fall! We would love to see some western genre manuscripts come out way, since there are so many of you submitting to this ezine.

See our submission guidelines at www.reddashboard.com for more information, dates are Oct 1st – Feb 28th.

Enjoy this months issues!

 

EPSON MFP image

(Click to enlarge)
Watercolor ‘Steeds’ by Anj Marth

Ocean steeds was inspired by a story my great-grandmother told me when I first started riding horseback. Selkies are beautiful horses that live in the sea, and come to shore to tempt people to try to catch them. If you bridle one, or get on its back (it will let you) it will drag you into the deeps with it, and there’s no escape.

Anj Marth was born in the early 70s, and grew up on the east coast of the US, near Philadelphia. She has since moved and traveled all over the country, by road. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and
considers it home. She works in a variety of mediums and has been a professional,licensed tattoo artist since the late 90s.

Her condensed portfolio can be seen here- Anj Marth Portfolio

 

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KODACHROME BOOTS

This here’s a tale bout widow Beall and me,
a very close call as far as I can see.
Nearly hung myself from a stout oak tree,
when she proclaimed she’s “a gonna marry thee”!

Now, widow Beall was a comely lass,
much appeal and a cute little…….well.
Dumb as a sheep and not much class,
spit fire temper and a whole lot of sass.

Not fix’n to marry, ner give’n a dang hoot,
rather ride me a bronc, raise hell and shoot.
Single I’ll stay, til I be a grizzled old coot,
and all this started o’er a Kodachrome boot.

A life riding single with a little spare loot,
I’d spent honest big money on Kodachrome boots.
With huge eagle wings, patterns fanciful stitched,
never reckoned on them boots a get’n me hitched.

Them knee high boots just glowed by day,
bright yellar and red with horned lizard inlay.
Strong ride’n heels built up real high,
with side seam piping, blue as the sky.

Chartreuse pull straps above scalloped top,
a rainbow of colors that seemed never to stop.
Big ole eagles, blueish green and dark taupe,
tawdry beauty from some boot makers shop.

Kodachrome boots made from the best of cowhide,
brash as a peacock cowboy on an afternoon ride.
Clean shirt, fresh hat, pants stuffed inside,
One of a kind boots, whispered ego and pride.

When corralled by the widow, I couldn’t break free,
She’d always look down and then I could see,
her eyes come alive, twinkling romance and glee,
It was them boots she truly loved and not really me!

I hatched an idea to get me outta her plan,
and git back on the trail as fast as I can.
Just need to convince my first cousin Stan,
widow Beall needs some lov’n and he is her man.

Got Stan a new Stetson, wild rag and new suit,
a bath, and some tonic, why he looked darn right cute.
And to sweet’n the deal, first time in the chute,
I gave him my pair of those kodachrome boots.

Marc Bradshaw– Though raised in the hills and hollows of central Kentucky, the southwest U.S. beckoned immediately after high school graduation. Over the next 50 years California’s San Joaquin valley and parts south of Bakersfield, in Santa Fe New Mexico, and currently Mesquite Nevada were home to life and
work.

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COME HAVEN OR LOW WATER

by Rodney Nelson

when we hear the recorded whoop of
a cowboy cello we’re not truant
only away from our home butte
on the Niobrara

we are the men of earth we have been
and when we reinvent the odor
of horse and hay we ride and forget
what larrupt us to town

there won’t ever be a flareout of
the world or a man-roping event
in the oil range we hold the dream to
on the Niobrara

************

COWBOY OF THE SEA

His name is Keealani,
a cowboy of the sea.
Needs the wind upon his back,
that bucking ride to set him free.

He wrestles surf and ocean
gripping tight and holding strong,
waiting for horns blowing
counting seconds short and long.

Got his lasso round his ankle
his bolo tie, a string of shells,
biggest difference in this cowboy
is his fishy stinky smell.

No manure or dirt upon him,
just the residue of sand,
cause this cowboy’s ride is over
when he steps upon the land.

Heather M. Browne is a faith-based psychotherapist and recently emerged poet, published in the Orange Room, Boston Literary Review, Page & Spine, Eunoia Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Poetry Bus, Red Fez, The Muse, An International Journal of Poetry, Deep Water Literary Journal, Electric Windmill, Maelstrom, mad swirl, and Dual Coast.  Her first chapbook, We Look for Magic and Feed the Hungry has been published by MCI. She just won the Nantucket Poetry Competition, a semi-finalist in Casey Shay chapbook competition, and has her first collection coming out this winter with Red Dashboard Publishing.  Recently widowed from her love of 21 years, she lives with her 2 amazing teens, and can be found frolicking in the waves.  Follow her: www.thehealedheart.net

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Tumbleweed

Photo taken by Mindy Wilson, Kentucky, USA

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TUMBLING WEED

by Shelby Stephenson, North Carolina, USA

				I

So this little tumble was taken . . . 
So was I.
	Weed,
wiry hair in the scuds,
reflecting
in the sun.

A thimble roll of gather
licks and bucks the shells
and white caps
pointing out
plovers.
		
				II

I am a flower of awe, 
an awesome blossom of reflections

like a pledge to sand
the ocean’s goodness.

My father’s hands fumble
when he leaves my mother

nestled in the sea:
I am planted.

				III

I’m a rider
writing all night long
my parents’ enchanting whirl.

Daylight sports 
horizon clearly connecting to the sea

in different colors, tresses,
light blue, a sail of whitish wisps,
then the dark exhaust-tinged mirage

and more sludge now in the shallows:
still no birds in sight,
just the tumbleweeds,
disengaged from their parent-roots,

to move with the wind,
breathing in and out,
the tumbleweed,
as its umbilical is free from the old
and must take on 

a god or goddess 
drifting along.  The day is done.

************

TUMBLEWEED JUSTICE

By Michael Jerry Tupa

It was the summer of ‘83,
when L’il Slow Joe, last name Dundee,
appeared on the far horizon,
with the shimmering sun just risin’
smell of pancakes and sizzling bacon
lingering in the glowing dawn.

Sheriff Green and deputy were gone,
only real law left was Doc Myron Braun
asleepin’ on his small office cot,
dreamin’ colorful dreams of naught,
while into town Dundee jockeyed,
rollin’ in like a lonely tumbleweed.

Only 5-foot-4 and red peach fuzz
no one knew, or cared, who he was,
just a boy ridin’ on a high horse,
following a lonely, uncharted course,
horse stumbling down main street,
both lookin’ for somethin’ solid to eat.

Hot breakfast cost most of a quarter,
sleepy horse was stabled by a porter,
Dundee asked about a hotel room,
crawled into the white-sheet womb
snuggling in for a daylong’s rest,
sleepin’ ‘til sun was deep in the west.

Risin’ in the sunset’s grayish gloom,
Dundee emerged from his warm tomb,
strolling to the nearby noisy saloon,
seeking dinner and a pretty tune,
a perhaps a fast game of cards,
he saw the bar; he gave his regards.

Slow Joe’s money pile mushroomed tall,
while other angry players cast a pall,
one in particular, Cheyenne Pete,
a loud gentleman, most indiscreet
fingered his trigger and questioned why,
suggesting Dundee’s time might be nigh.

It’s a bitter tale to recall, dear friend.
for Slow Joe Dundee it was the end,
Doc Braun didn’t know who to notify
no one around to bid a fond good-bye —
Pete never knew he shot his brother.
(Dundee’s sad horse went to another.)

************

WE ROAMED THE SANDS

by Robert L. Penven, Vineland, New Jersey, USA

During my daily walk
by the ocean,
I encounter a curiosity.
a tumbleweed had become
mired in the sand,
close by the tide line.
I asked this strange wonder
how it got there, well knowing
it wouldn’t sacrifice
its secrets.
So, I left it behind
though not out of mind,
for others to contemplate.

Tomorrow will bring
a day of new life for me.
as for the tumbleweed,
the wind must embrace
the burden for journeys to come.
it will surely succeed
through the living world
but stop to share tribute
to those of late.
though it no longer plays
with the gulls and terns,
I will recall this curiosity
with warm thoughts.

************

BLUE ON BLUE

by Miss Cathryn Evans

Rivulets chased after the ebbing tide, sighing softly against the sand, lovers parting just as they had done that distant day.
The sea rushed forward once more to clasp the shores sandy face in a sweet embrace and kiss away the briny tears, only to leave again however fleetingly.
The never ending bitter-sweet love story of the shore.
She wondered if he would return, if he would rush to hold her close once again.
The gentle breeze seasoned her lips and inspired a tumbleweed to skip along the waters edge, a knot of mermaids hair.
The softly foaming manes of white horses lapped playfully at her feet. These gentle colts would grow to fiery stallions with the spring tides, stampeding along the coast, leaping and taking flight, their breath to fall like rain.
The shore had its seasons just like the prairie. Both were ever changing yet never changing.
The sky was a beautiful blue. Blue on blue on blue above the graphite shaded sea. It reminded her of his eyes. They showed his moods just as clearly. Were they still bright and alive or were they dead and turning milky as his body lay torn in a bloody, muddy battlefield?
She shook herself. She knew he’d return just as surely as she knew she’d still love him no matter how broken this war left him. Civil war. There was nothing civil about it. A sour taste crept into her mouth.
Turning, she walked slowly toward the path that would eventually wind its way to their small house with its few acres. Her skirts felt heavy, the bottoms darkened by the water. Heavier still was the rifle she carried. It dwarfed her small frame but she clasped it against herself with her small, pale hands. She was glad of the weight. It kept her anchored in the here and now. She’d promised him she’d always carry it. He’d worried the fighting would spread this way but so far the only action it had seen was taking a rabbit or deer by the creek.
She prayed he’d be home soon.

************

CATCHIN

by Leroy Trussell

See’in yearlin rump,tail a wavin’.             
    Horse in a lather.
Tryin’ my patience,this misbehavin’.
   Hand full of rope to gather.

Caught up in the slack.
   Uh’ chasen yearlin bones.
Just a comin’ off Cedar Back.
   Sure’nuf a flyin’and kickin’ up stones.

My ol’ horse,breakin’ brush.
   In a weed eatin’ style.
A airy downhill thrush,
   Over a Cedar Back rock pile.

Stickin’ low in the saddle.
   On the heels of this-here critter.
Thorn’brush,cactus,and mesquite ta’ battle.
   But ain’t no fancy greenhorn quitter,

Ol’ bronc still between my knees.
   Throws my loop.
Catchin’ them bawl’lin horns with ease.
   Then tryin’ ta’ recoup.

Now the catchin’ get’in tougher.
   An the Sun,is get’in low.
Somehow a little rougher.
   Than this old Cowpoke us’ta know.

************

 

A TUMBLEWEED ON THE SHORE

by Smokey Culver

Did it drift in from the sea, or roll in from the plain?
	that tumbleweed knows only where it's been 
It travels on its journey where it stops along its way 
	for just awhile, then rolls away again 

It wanders down the sandy shore as salty breezes blow
	for miles  and miles not caring where it's bound
Like some old driftin' cowboy never staying in one place
	no roots to keep it anchored to the ground 

A tumbleweed's a symbol of the freedom of a time
	before the barbed wire fences came along
An image of the roving lifestyle, sleeping 'neath the stars
	a life we hear about in cowboy songs 

It rolls along to music that's created by the sound
	of waves as they come splashing in the sand
Of dry winds 'cross the desert or the thunder of a storm
	that soaks the ground in fields and pasture lands 

If that ol' tumbleweed could talk about where it has been
	the places that it's passed along its way
I'd sit and listen closely to its stories one by one
	about its travels every night and day 

That spirit of an old time cowboy in a brushy heap
	that moves along, takes little time to rest
It never settles down, and I know that it never will
	that tumbleweed, an icon  of the west...

************


SALT OR SAND

by Andy Kerr-Wilson

Comes a time
when we all
are tried and tested.
Comes a time
when we all
are measured up for bigger things.

Past paths and footsteps
bring us to it.
Decisions, avoided or postponed,
made in haste or agony.
And now,
all distractions and delays exhausted,
we stand on the edge of things,
confronted.

Comes a time
when we all
are alone with our own hearts.
Comes a time
when we all
are faced down by ourselves.

A journey’s end or its first acts.
A leap of faith or a final chapter.
Fresh starts or the last loose ends.
And now,
whether the dark unknown or the too familiar,
we are asked to find the courage,
within.

Comes a time
when we all
are up against it.
Comes a time
when we all
taste salt or find sand.

Time’s currents swirl,
and we choose.

************

TUMBLEWEED

by Arthur Davenport, The Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Red sun was born this morning,
I rose to watch through the peachy haze.
As the wind blew, I heard her calling,
For today, we are one,
You and me, summer is our name.

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

Don’t mistake me for somebody,
somewhere, somehow, that you once knew.
I’m not your daddy, or your old boyfriend,
or anyone who put you through,
the lover’s grindstone, fighting dust storms,
chasing ghosts that you once knew.
Didn’t you? Tumbleweed?

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

Woke up feeling lonely this morning,
Thinking about roots and a room with a view.
A hometown boy, with the simple joy
of settling down with a girl like you,
Yea you, you tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

More than I can express to you
lies sleeping, dreaming, drowned.
The well is deep, eternal spring,
drink deep this life you found, tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed, rumbling, tumbling,
knows the wind, she’s a friend.
Wild and free, just like me, tumbleweed, tumbleweed.

December Issue- Week 3

December 16, 2013

There will be no Week 4 this go round. It’s the holidays and frankly we need a few weeks to recover from all the reading we are doing for the launching of our Red Dashboard LLC Publishing company and its new books. If you are interested in sending us your manuscript to consider for a Summer/Fall 2014 publication, email us at editor@reddashboard.com with a query letter and 5 pieces of poetry, or 10 pages of your short story/desert dime novel material/work.

MarkTwainSelection3

Yuma Arizona foot hills, taken by our Managing Editor EAS while on a quest for water…

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Boots Crunching on Gravel

“You-all been washing gold along the creek,” I said, “but you never stopped to think where those grains of gold started from. Well, I found and staked the mother lode, staked her from Hell to breakfast, and one day’s take will be more than you’ve taken out since you started work. I figure now I’ll dig me out a goodly amount of money, then I’ll sell my claims and find me some friends that aren’t looking at me just to see what I got.” ~From “The Courting of Griselda” – Louis L’Amour

We started at daybreak with two rifles and plenty of ammunition. We rode out of there with the stars still in the sky. We rode across country with no dust in the sky. All of a sudden two men rode up. Nobody had anything to say but by the looks of it – the pans, the picks, the sacks, they were hunting gold. I looked over at my buddy his name of Jeb and I gave a slight nod. He stared straight ahead eying the men his fingers crawling slowly to his holster. If we had time for words, I’d know what he’d say: “Colt, there’s no such thing as a gunman’s crouch. Might make you less of a target but you need to hold a gun so’s it’s comfortable to you.” The men held their heads high and nodded towards the creek. I softened the grip on my rifle. The odor of stale whiskey lingered in the air. Finally the older of the two lifts his hat up off his head and nods. The younger follows suit. Then Jeb. Then me. And we pass along the trail, everything unguarded.

LB Sedlacek’s poems have been published in publications such as “The Broad River Review,” “Third Wednesday,” “Heritage Writer,” “Circle Magazine,” “Scribe and Quill,” “The Hurricane Review,” and others.

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clowning 2

Behind The Grease Paint

Another performance over and his work is done
Most of the grease paint was gone from his face
His life as a rodeo clown has just begun
It’s this new role he must now embrace
Many years ago he was in the cowboy protection
Making himself a target for fallen bull-riders
Each outin addin bumps,and bruises, to his collection
He’d shuck, and jive as if his feet were on gliders
His movements have been slowed by injury and age
He now walks at a much slower pace
It’s different as a clown takin centre stage
His new life is all about props, pranks, and fillin in space
No more will he be dodgin bulls, and makin saves
Instead he tells stories trades jabs with the announcer
He can no longer do what he craves
Dancing around the arena as if attached to a bouncer
The life of a rodeo clown in the sport that he loves
Is about making people happy with antics and a story.
He plays with audience and a barrel he shoves
It’s not the same as bullfighting you don’t get the glory
Without the grease paint he’s just like me or you
Not the one making them laugh
He’s turned the page on the life he once knew
and found new meaning in his rodeo path.
Behind the grease paint he lives as a clown
And the chance to make people laugh he’ll never turn down.

Geoff “Poppa Mac” Mackay is a storyteller, entertainer, and rodeo clown (as seen in photo above). His poetry and music has been seen and heard- June 2013 Performed Pincher Creek Gathering; June 2013 Performed Manitoba Stampede July 2013; Performed at a CD Release party Palomino Club August 2013; Chosen to Clown Heartland Rodeo Finals September 2013; Performed Souris River Bend Trail ride September 2013; Performed Maple Creek Gathering September 2013; MC’d and Performed Quinton Blair CD Release Party October 2013, and Competing Columbia River gathering, Cowboy Idol- April 2014.

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Ambling With My Companion

Trails intersect,
the criss-crossroads
made us bury
pictures of youth—

hooves of plain-spoke
language, stomped our
dead fallen tracks.

We’re ripping a
part of the land—
are no longer
frequently lost,

free-questrian,
elegant—we
always arrive
somewhere near our

forsaken home.
My ground and yours,
what we lived for—
poems in crowns,

adorned four-fold,
each season’s form
maintained between
forlorn borders.

Summer Is A Hot Kiss Of Death

I felt the crisp wind
take hold of my lips
transforming them into
the desert surface.

It also turned my face
a chronic cold of blue,
like poisoned horse lay
flat under oil-waved sky.

I only cried once.
I stared the two times
you held my grazing body
under white-washed sun.

Courtney Leigh Jameson recently graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with an MFA in Poetry. Her work has appeared in *Similar:Peaks*<http://similarpeakspoetry.com/2013/06/05/two-poems-by-courtney-jameson/>and is forthcoming in *Clockwise Cat, FLARE, *and *Danse Macabre*. She currently resides in Arizona and is the The Bowhunter of *White Stag Journal*.

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December 2013- Week 2

December 10, 2013

MikeHudson

Michael Hudson is a poet/preacher in Arizona, and is our resident ranch hand and roper sends us these great photos from time to time! He is the rider, but not sure who is down on the ground, but they do this from sun-up to sun-down, every day.

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MY CHARISMATIC COWBOY

Observe brash
imminent intimidation
every part of.
Like pauses in the flow,
we listen.
Inclusionists

crouched over this.
Our knowledge acts withered
slow to resist.
Faint lips
subjective in the telling.
Now willing to present

the kiss.

Thank you for traveling through time.

Passive histrionics
levitating beneath a rock.
Servitude’s meandering cracks,
where did I put that’s.
Forever and ever or
a horizon of stoics.
Impractically industrious.
I witnessed a fellow spirit
materialize without a comma

within the here is.

Colin James has a chapbook of poems available from Atlantean Publishing, and has been published via other journals and on-line lit magazines.

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Stage Coaches

Cowboy songs command the throng.
One falls off his hobbyhorse.
Some miss marks.

The sheriff stage-whispers cues
from a casting couch,
Hands up. Drop your drawers.

Unstellar heroine in the dark
— cut to black,
nothing but crickets.

Gerard Sarnat is the author of two critically acclaimed poetry collections, 2010’s “HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man” and 2012’s “Disputes.” His pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in over seventy journals and anthologies. Harvard and Stanford educated, Gerry’s been a physician who’s set up and staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, a CEO of health care organizations, and a Stanford professor. For “The Huffington Post” review of his work and more; visit GerardSarnat.com.

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Horse, pony, colt, filly waiting for a cowboy

Horse on the trail
waiting for a cow
waiting for a cowboy
traveling a trail
pony at a fair
waiting on a kid
waiting for a rider
traveling a circuit
colt born wild
colt waiting to run wild
colt waiting for a mustang wild run
colt traveling a wildness trail
filly born wild
filly in the wildness running wild
filly waiting for a drink of water
filly running in a wildness trail
cowboy tell me this
cowboy tell me that
cowboy tell me a horse tale
cowboy waiting on a cow trail
Working with a cow
working for along time on the cow trail
fencing the wild trail
gone wild are the horses
gone are the ponies
gone are the colts
gone wild are the fillies
how sad are the cowboys with fences

Clinton Seagle as a kid grew up on Cracker Box Route Fallon, Montana area. Worked a bit in Ekalaka Montana where one can see the end of the world is just a step away. Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Bolivia an other end of the world stepping stone. This is his first attempt at publishing his work.

TwainRedSized

Cacti photo property of Red Dashboard LLC

MARK TWAIN IN OUTER SPACE

i. I arrive on the planet surface—am immediately disappointed—my battle against gravity—a digression concerning the naming of constellations

By the look of things, I had arrived too late for the planet’s funeral. The soil had already been cremated, and set back on the geological shelf. I was disconsolate. I had hoped for a better vacation spot, nothing fancy mind you, just a garden to stroll around in, with a swimming pool, and some interesting animals to name. And—if it wasn’t too much to ask—maybe a lonely siren, and a reasonably priced saloon.

Now I realized, sadly, that I had been done in by my own greed. For, gentle reader, the planet had hung for me like an apple for me in its distant, tantalizing orbit. And I had coveted it—coveted it over a span most humans can only dream of sinning across.

My coming had created quite a stir of things. For the longest time, I could see nothing but the dust clouds that had heralded my arrival. As for myself, I soon discovered I would have no more trouble with gravity on this planet, than I did on Earth. This was disheartening also. Because even if I couldn’t have my garden, I might have been able to comfort myself by turning the planet into my wild gymnasium and soaring about it in fifty- and hundred-foot leaps. For fun, I could have lifted my ship over my head, tossed it hand to hand, or bounced it up and down like a child’s ball—I could. Or perhaps I might have played the evil alien from outer space and stomped out a few Lilliputian villages for my own amusement. I choked to think how I had been cheated out of doing all the wonderful things my imagination conjured up for me.

In vain, I tried to stride across the planet’s surface like a colossus, succeeding only in wrenching my legs. In vain, I leapt around, flapped my hopeful arms, and thought lofty thoughts, but did not find myself elevated in any way.

I blush to think of the spectacle I must have made of myself, performing all of these actions in ridiculous slow-motion. I can only find consolation in speculating that any intelligent being watching might not have possessed arms or legs, to know how better acquainted with mine I ought to have been. Or if he had, perhaps he would have taken some pity on me and offered his assistance—as I was apparently in considerable distress, having forgotten my limitations as a featherless biped.

It was a bad poet’s sun: the color of a five-ball. So little out of the ordinary, that I set it down here for the scientific rather than the literary record. To compose a panegyric upon it would be like sticking a peruke on the town drunk and declaring him a district judge.

I observed, after all the destruction and turmoil that I could modestly attribute to my landing had subsided, that a steady sirocco was blowing. It might become significant to note here that I was struck by the impression that this was just the sort of breeze to have blowing on your side if you were carrying on an argument with your neighbor across the street.

I also thought I might have caught sight in the distance of a small shape rolling and bouncing by. But at the time, I dismissed this evidence of my eyes. I was feeling tired and somewhat dizzy from my recent attempts at levitation, which had re-taught me the old lesson that my humanity was a burden I must carry.

I looked again, but all I could see for miles around was the ashen sand—well, and a couple of cacti. But there was no sign of life that I could see.

I considered an immediate return to the ship, where I could read all about hacking through tropical jungles or trudging across desolate plains without having to experience such pleasures firsthand: for such is the wonder of the novel. But in my heart, I knew that once back in space, I would only fidget and toss my books aside, then pace up and down in front of the viewer screen, upon which each star would take on different personalities as my cabin fever set in—appearing, at first, as a novelty—then as a breathtaking firework—then as a beautiful woman—then a terrifying eclipse—then a member of the family.

My imagination would run wild, seeing individual stars as part of yet-to-be charted constellations. It was a childish habit of mine to sketch such constellations, connecting the dots on paper, then standing back to determine whether the tracery resembled anything to me.

During the past week, however, there had been a growing dearth of stars on the screen, and my opportunity to make connections became more infrequent. It had gotten to the point where I had begun to just doodle, drawing lines from the dots to nowhere in particular. I apologize for any harm I may have caused future explorers who may attempt to navigate by my charts—but as the universe is endless (so far as I can tell, anyway), these patterns could eventually turn up somewhere; in which case, my ready-made constellations might be put to good use.

I hate to digress any further—especially from myself—but as any writer worth his salt must have as his goal the universal edification of mankind, perhaps a further observation may be tendered here.

The fact is, my scribbles are really no less outlandish than the everyday constellations with which the indulgent reader is already familiar. It is impossible to guess what could have possessed the minds of the poets who went about naming the stars—excepting, of course, that simple genius who christened “Crux” and “Triangulum.” All one need do is to look at other star configurations, to see that through no stretch of the imagination can most of these be reconciled with their names. “Ursa Major” and “Ursa Minor,” for example, look more like a cuttlefish and a pig, respectively, than a matching set of bears.

In the course of a diligent study, I have examined this problem further. I am convinced that the proper names of the following constellations should be as follows: “Bootes”—the Kite; “Acquila”—the Teepee; “Perseus”—the Peacepipe; “Pegasus”—the Courthouse; “Leo”—the Golf Course; and “Draco”—the Deathmask of Ramses II.

Before taking issue with any of my replacement names, the astronomer and general reader alike must bear in mind that I have seen all these constellations recently, up close.

ii. I spot another movement on the horizon—make camp for the night—an introduction to the Free People—some personal reflections

Instead of moping about, I decided to head for town. I was monarch of all I surveyed, but the time seemed ripe for abdication. The poetaster sun had risen to its most sublime zenith and was waning melodramatically; the cacti refused to do anything but stand at attention; I had seen more activity in empty museum cases. Out of the goodness of my heart, I kept giving the ashen sand its freedom, rubbing it from my eyes and releasing it from my mouth’s clamped Bastille.

Imagine my surprise when, about a mile from the ship, I saw several shadowy shapes racing across the horizon. My eyes blinked open—my jaw dropped—I drew in a lot of sand. Then the shapes were gone!

My first inclination was to duck back into the ship immediately. Then I heard an inner voice that was either science or foolhardiness calling me, and I found my courage.

Thereafter, I put my courage away, wiped my lips, and did the only thing a rational creature could do in such a situation: I drew my gun.

A mile or so onwards, and I had just about convinced myself that the long confinement in the ship, combined with the afternoon in a torrid climate, had sautéed my brains.

My exhaustive struggle with the elements was about over, as far as I was concerned—on the one hand, my sojourn on this planet had borne no relationship whatsoever to a romantic adventure tale. On the other hand, I had easily gathered enough material to return to the ship and make one up.

Ahead of me, I saw what appeared to be a few scattered tumbleweeds. One of them rolled in my direction a little. With a start, it occurred to me that these must have been the rolling shapes I had seen before on the horizon—the objects of my long chase.

Well, I’ll bet I was disappointed then. To relieve my fury, I pulled out my gun and fired off several shots at one of the tumbleweeds, which burst into flames and vaporized.

I thought it only my imagination when I heard a noise like the one a table makes when dragged across the floor—a wooden screeching.

I decided to take a nap before heading back to the ship. There was a brackish pool of chemicals off to one side, but I did not trust the water qua water. I took a few gulps from my canteen instead. Then I curled up next to a tumbleweed that didn’t look like a snorer, and promptly fell asleep.

I must have dozed for hours. My sleep was enhanced by a gentle crackling noise that seemed to emanate from a congenial distance away from me, like a campfire.

My translator was in my breast pocket, and at one time or another during the course of my nap it must have switched on, because gradually the campfire noise began to sound like several whispering voices.

Is it sleeping?

It is restless.

Will it burrrn us?

It is sleeping.

We must kill it!

I looked around me but could see nothing my canteen and the tumbleweed, and since mistrusting my senses had become almost second nature to me on this planet—sort of a way of keeping myself company, you might say—I fell back asleep.

A little later, I had a dream that I was hiking through a forest and the vines were whipping against my arms. Shortly afterwards, the impression of pain seemed to take upon a distinct vivacity, though I still believed the forest was only an idea in my head. Gradually, however, the distinctness of the agony I ventured to say I was feeling, grew acute enough so that I believed I had support for a tenable hypothesis—namely, that the source of my torture was in the external environment! I yelled aloud in my excitement over this important metaphysical discovery.

“Stop! No more!”

I was surrounded—oh yes, I opened my eyes now. Around me my ring of tumbleweed attackers rolled and bounced away.

I relaxed, considerable. The tallest of them was only knee-high to me, and besides, I still had my gun, which could end the game quickly if I ever got tired of punting them across the terrain.

I pulled it out, now, and began to woo the bushmen with a little advanced technology, firing at a nearby cactus, which sizzled and vaporized.

I now held the floor, and began to address the frightened sagebrush assembly.

“My friends,” I said, “fear not. I come in peace, from a planet up space quite a ways. Now, I don’t intend to hurt you boys, but I do recall having more pleasant awakenings in the past, and a man can only stand so much. So if you are rational creatures, like myself, I beg you to kindly forbear from such physicality in the future.”

Well, I’ll bet the bushmen were sorely penitent then, asking me over and over if they had hurt me. They had a peculiar way of talking, always inviting a yes-or-no answer to their questions, but never answering my own, instead rolling away from the subject, true to their contour, and to my great exasperation.

It was only by exercising a good deal of patience (and such exercise does not come naturally to me) that I learned that the tumbleweeds would come around to my question if I plied them with general statements first, such as “You are dry”—to which they might reply, “We have roots”; or, “You seem happy and free”—to which they might bemoan the fact they had no politicians.

Upon learning this trick, I was subsequently able to find out a good deal about their way of life. Their name for themselves is the “Free” (in the sense of “free-moving”) people, or the “Rollers.” Their lifestyle is a peculiar nomadic one. The Rollers do not eat or photosynthesize; their only nourishment is obtained through groundwater. About once a month or so, for a stretch of six or seven days, they must “put down roots” to refuel. During this interim they cannot readily extricate themselves, for the water table is extraordinarily low, and the taproots sunk into the ashen sand run deep.

Despite their name, the Free people exercise little actual control over their own trajectory. They tire easily of turning more than a few somersaults during a single sally, preferring to blow with the wind when making trips of any substantial distance. Though by the same token, the greatest fear of any Roller is being seized by a mighty sirocco and “blown away” forever.

The Rollers—if the reader considers their spare lifestyle, and the limited say they have in steering themselves toward a destination of their own choosing—are surprisingly selective of company. They often jockey for the same refueling spots and play a spirited game of “poison” trying to bump undesirables off a claim. It is not at all uncommon for a Roller to starve to death by eradication rather than spend an entire week refueling next to one of his unloved brethren.

In fact, I learned that I was somewhat of a hero to the tribe I had just encountered, as the tumbleweed I had shot earlier turned out to be an irrepressible old gaffer who was keen on the filibuster. This proverbial long talker kept all the boys (they numbered twelve or thirteen, if memory serves me correct) writhing and straining at their roots for five solid days with a few tomes of autobiography, plus a travelogue revealing how that part of the country had looked in his younger days, back when a tumbleweed was a tumbleweed.

All major altercations among the Rollers develop out of unfortunate circumstances such as these. I held it as a high mark of their sage ingenuity, that the Rollers have actually invented methods of killing one another other despite their ridiculous shape. Crude is their technology in comparison with ours—and wholly lacking in any advanced weaponry with which to mercifully speed up wars—but I shall refrain here from glorious ethnocentrism.

Roller wars take a great deal of patience, and choreography. I was lucky enough to be witness at one of these contests. It had arisen when five Rollers camped at a prime watering spot held by five members of the opposing party. The two sides lined up, as if for a square dance.

Next, one at a time, a member of each contingent rolled out into the middle of the desert floor, colliding as zestily as possible with the enemy. He would return to the line after that. The governing rule was that whoever sparked first, lost. I do not think it likely that the Rollers were evolved from asbestos.

The Roller war was not designed for the spectator, if I may editorialize for just this once. I began to drowse off as the combatants took turns at each other for hours, trying to get the sparks flying. I did not complain, though. Even if my fingers were aching from having to rewind my wristwatch—and I am not one prone to exaggeration.

Finally, my patience was rewarded—doubly, in fact—when two of the combatants began to spark and smoke at the same time. Then I watched, in great surprise, as they both returned to their sides and set the whole convention on fire!

At this time, I was informed by a companion of mine, who had noticed my astonishment, that such an outcome was not uncommon in a Roller battle. The casual tone in which he disclosed this fact to me alarmed me a little, and diminished my opinion of his species’ shrewdness somewhat. Because what good could a war accomplish, if both sides were annihilated? I thought to myself. Who would be left holding the real estate?—to claim righteousness?

I shook my head—it was all beyond the understanding of a miserable creature such as myself. To me, the square dances appeared to be nothing but turkeys, and straw.

Stay tuned next week for iii, and iv…

M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University in Atlanta. He is the author, most recently, of the short story collection Beyond the Pale (2013). This and ‘My Fair Zombie’ which appears on the Flash Fiction page are part of his new collection ‘Night-Crawl’, forthcoming via Red Dashboard LLC, Oct 2013. He is also regular submitter to Red Dashboard LLC Publishing companies selection of journals- Cowboy Poetry Press, Z-composition, and Annapurna Magazine.

October Issue- Week 4

October 22, 2013

chuckwagondinner

‘Chuck Wagon Eats’– “In my many journeys as a chef: Boy Scouts, trail drives, camp outs etc., I’ve made Hatch Chili Stew, and most recently for a crowd of twenty in the Pine Barrens while hunting down the Jersey Devil.” Managing Editor CPP, Elizabeth Akin Stelling

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JAYHAWKED

Send Kansas to me in a sun shower.
You said you’d come home with a rainbow.
Don’t want fraidy hole siren hook echoes—
or thunder god flashes of ego. I want scissor-
tails clipped to a windshear, to clear me a path
through your switchgrass. No rope-jumping
Jayhawk squawk-tongues in a squall, or campfire
myths hawking ghost rain. I’m that torn-stalk
sunflower you stuck like a pig in a hog wallow
next to a cornfield. I want flag-side-up roses
round a two-story soddie near an artesian spring
in the tallgrass, with a fresh holstein heifer rich
on alfalfa hay staked-out next to a new butter
churn. Or I’ll muster a posse to lasso your ass
to the dilated tail of a wall cloud, and hog-tie
your spurs to a rodeo bull—spinning pirouettes
through a herd of wild mustangs.

Kevin Heaton is originally from Kansas and Oklahoma. He now lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Raleigh Review, Foundling Review, Beecher’s Magazine, The Monarch Review, and Mixed Fruit. His fourth chapbook of poetry, ‘Chronicles,’ was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 . He is a Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets 2013 nominee.

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MEETING UP AT EARL’S

The goldstone glitter of Gallup doesn’t
Begin here, but native vendors
Shine walking through Earl’s Café,
Route 66, offering art with pride:
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise and Kingman,
Zuni Petit-Point, Red Coral, Spiny Oyster Shell,
Lapis, Horse-Hair Pottery, Heishi Beads.
“Silver’s shot,” the Navajo artist says,
“Can’t touch the price so we work
With copper, sell it cheap.”
Spirit-lined woven rugs: as the weaver finishes
The rug, she leaves a white wool thread in the corner
Welcoming dreams of the next rug’s design.
Sumac baskets fetch gas money to travel home.
Animal fetishes and mud pots grace tabletops.
Red and green chili, corn tortillas in
Buffalo pottery and blue water plates.
Warm bread pudding for dessert. Greenthread tea.
We amble outside – vendors sitting at card tables,
Laughing, selling Concho Belts, Dream Catchers,
Cell Phone Charms. “So, where are ya from?”

Elaine Dugas Shea has lived in Montana for several decades, but still misses the ocean. She enjoyed a career in social justice working with American Indian Tribes and civil rights. Her writing is featured in Third Wednesday*, South Dakota Review, *the anthology *The Light in Ordinary Things, *the anthology *Hope Whispers, *Front Range Review, CAMAS, Spillway*, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, the anthology When Last on the
Mountain: The View from Writers over Fifty, Montana Voices Anthology and elsewhere.

October Issue- Week 3

October 14, 2013

monsoonrainsSanPedroValley

Monsoon rains of San Pedro Valley, “The territory comes alive after the rains, everything turns as green as you can see.”M. C. (Mike) Hudson was born in Tombstone, Arizona and has lived and loved the life of a cowboy for most of his life. He is an ex-bull rider, who has lived to tell about his experiences, and has helped train youth to ride bulls. As a pastor of a rural church and setting in SE. AZ Mike has worked many of the larger ranches in Arizona and New Mexico, gathering cows, doctoring, sorting, branding (cutting-seems to be the job for a pastor) and roping. He is also embarking on a journey into writing poetry and prose, and was chosen for the October 2012- week 3. You can spot his photos all about CPP if you just explore…

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THE COUNTRY MILE

Mixed with tobacco juice
And red summer clay
It came from the edge
Of the cornfield
The clout that soared
Past the unplowed field
Smashed into the red barn
Scattering the cawing crows.

Clinton Van Inman (TBA) 

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APACHE

“When I was young, I walked all over this country;
east and west. I saw no other people than the Apache.
After many summers, I walked again, and found another
race of people had come to take it—how is it?” -Cochise

We wished only to speak sunlight into our hearts.
To follow mountain spirits toward ‘The Giver of Life.’
To own nothing, and everything—bow to no man.

Now, our mesquite and cactus are barren. We carry
life on our fingernails and wait to die.

Kevin Heaton  is originally from Kansas and Oklahoma. He now lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Raleigh Review, Foundling Review, Beecher’s Magazine, The Monarch Review, and Mixed Fruit. His fourth chapbook of poetry, ‘Chronicles,’ was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 . He is a Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets 2013 nominee.

************

The Alien Invasion Tapes, #87

It was back in ’63 they set down in my wheat field, and I was too damn angry to be scared. I knew that crop was gone and it wasn’t a thing anyone could do about it. When they come out of their spaceship—no, no it wasn’t a door that swung down like on a castle,
but a giant car door, like on my Buick?—they come out, three of ‘em no taller than my knee,
and just stared at me, no expression in those big glassy eyes, no sorrow for what they done to my field.

“We come in peace,” they said without sayin’ it out loud but I heard it in my head, and I looked at my flattened, withered wheat and said, “The hell you do.”

Have you ever seen mangled wheat, the stalks cracked, the feathers singed? A whole season: It’s enough to make you cry. And I did, standin’ in the middle of my broken field with those three aliens, wellin’ up, the door to their giant ship propped open, a sickening light pourin’ from inside and slicin’ across my barren field like a knife. They do somethin’ like rock, paper, scissors and one come over and tells me I’m supposed to be some kind of alien ambassador. 100 acres, gone, the exhaust from their craft fellin’ my crop like a tornado, the shoots fallin’ like dominoes, like ambushed soldiers, the stink pourin’ into my nostrils.

“You fellas best be on your way,” I said as patiently as any man who just lost his livelihood can, and for the first time they look around. Sure I think they’re doin’ damage assessment, conjurin’ a way to bring the wheat back, and I picture those fuzzy stalks risin’ like an army of mini Lazaruses across the dead plain, work hard to send that image to them with my mind. But they’re fixed on somethin’ else now, and it’s Tessie, comin’ toward us, haunch-slow, jaws workin’, wheat cracklin’ beneath her bovine hooves. I point to her, my prize heifer, shake my head and give them a firm “NO!” But Tessie and the aliens, they’re starin’ at one another, stock still, as if hypnotized. And even today I wonder what they said that made her walk right past me, through the blade of sharp light and into that shiny crop killin’ machine: You’ll be happier with us, He don’t appreciate you, YOU are the true alien ambassador. So that’s how I lost my wheat and my cow in the same hour.

The man from the insurance company, he don’t believe me, but I know you do. You see this stuff all the time, so I was hopin’ you could talk to ‘im, tell ‘im about the giant car door, the two-foot Martians, a prized cow that trundled, hooves clickin’, into another dimension.

Dorene O’Brien has appeared in the Connecticut Review, Carve Magazine, Connecticut Review, New Millennium Writings, The Cimarron Review, the Chicago Tribune, Detroit Noir and others. She has won the Red Rock Review’s Mark Twain Award for Short Fiction, the New Millennium Fiction Award, and the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award. Her stories have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and she has won the international Bridport Prize and has received a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Dorene’s short story collection, Voices of the Lost and Found, won the USA Best Books Award.

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