Contest #193 shortlist ⭐️

58 comments

Fantasy Romance Funny

The Curmudgeon. The Sunflower. Feeling, Yet Saying Nothing.


Between here and there - somewhere over yonder but more than a stone’s throw, and nowhere Man cared to be - in a quiet hamlet called Hollowgarde, lived an old halfling named Harlan Springbrook.

Harlan lived in a cozy burrow set into a grassy hillside, surrounded by untrimmed boxwood bushes. His weathered, round wooden door was painted purple and adorned with a brass doorknob fixed directly in its center. Next to it was a large front-facing window, also circular in shape, bordered by a wooden frame, harboring small panes of colored glass that allowed natural light to flood his home. Tenacious runs of green ivy climbed its sides to blanket an unapologetically-underused garden shed. And although a winding, welcoming path of slate paving stones meandered from Harlan’s front door, a half-height wooden fence circled his property to politely keep the more intrusive rabble off of his lawn.

A stout, Harlan was taller than most, shaped more like a barrel than a pear, and his lightfoot neighbors would say he was thicker-boned if not denser-skulled. Amongst halflings, it was believed stouts shared dwarven stock, yet nobody bothered to ask a dwarf, for most feared doing so would invite war. Thus polite company squelched controversial opinions if nothing else but to spare all from disaster.

Harlan’s manner was brusque. This isn’t to say he was intentionally rude or cruel, and he certainly wasn’t threatening, but unlike most halflings in the Aevalorn Parishes, Harlan proudly kept his own company and avoided the likes of others. Inasmuch, many considered Harlan’s nature so peculiar that they, too, gave him a wide berth, opting to take the longer path home than cross the front of his. And as time slowly crawled on as it does in the Parishes, these behaviors reinforced rote, misunderstood habits. 

Yet, where Harlan Springbrook personified the spirit of a cranky curmudgeon, his neighbor, Eldewine Kettlebloom, was the parade to his rain.

She was an aged lightfoot with hair of golden barley whose smile - most in Hollowgarde agreed - was like love the first day you kissed it. Widowed, Eldewine spent her days tending gardens of tall yellow sunflowers that were as apt to follow her as much as they tracked the sun. At this time of year, Eldewine tended her gardens, aerating the soil, trimming and pruning her flowers, and would keep the memory of her husband by taking fresh cuttings to his grave to remind him of her.

And there, smack dab between their adjacent properties, grew a plum tree. It was an old tree - Harlan’s tree - and if it were to be compared to Eldewine’s sunflowers, its crooked, knotted trunk said as much about Harlan as it needed to say.

“Mister Springbrook? Mister Springbrook! Oh, goodness,” Eldewine beamed, emerging from her sunflowers wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat. She waved at him cheerfully as he approached. “Sir, your tree’s roots are invading my flowerbeds.”

“Hmm,” grunted Harlan, squinting at the clusters of ripe fruit. As he reached overhead to pluck a juicy violet plum from the stem to then sample it with a bite, Harlan circled his tree to inspect Eldewine’s garden on the opposing side of his fence. Chewing the fruit, he grimaced and cocked his eyebrow at her, signaling he’d be right back.

“Thank you,” she said gratefully and carried on her business of pruning.

Harlan went to his toolshed to return with a spade full of fresh soil, and, bringing it over his fence, Harlan dumped the dirt into her flowerbed to cover the exposed roots.

“Mister Springbrook!” Eldewine gasped, shocked.

Harlan chortled, taking another slurpy chunk out of his plum. Looking at it, he nodded, and said, “Tart. ‘Nother few days.” He tossed its half-eaten carcass to the base of his tree and left Eldewine alone in her garden.

Confused, Eldewine called after him. “But that’s not at all what I meant. Mister Springbrook?”

Later, Eldewine retreated to the comforts of her home. They’d never really met, given Harlan’s reclusiveness, and although her deceased husband may have carried on well with him, she’d never been properly introduced. Perhaps, she thought, the plum tree’s rambling roots presented a unique opportunity.

That evening, carrying a freshly-made, warm loaf of barley bread, Eldewine exited her home to wander up the road, passed through Harlan’s gate, walked the unkempt path of paving stones, and rapped intrusively on the large window.

“Mister Springbook? Harlan? Hullo?” Eldewine called, squinting into his window while holding up her wicker breadbasket. Seeing him rise from his supper table, she went to the door to join him.

When Harlan begrudgingly opened his front door, his fingertips were stained with yellow paint.

“Mister Springbook!” Eldewine smiled, holding out the basket; the bread was wrapped in a hand-made tea towel. “Good evening! As it seems we’ve never taken the time, I brought you a token of-”

“Thanks,” Harlan grunted, quickly accepting her basket and closing his front door.

Empty-handed and disspirited, Eldewine’s face fell, and turning to leave, Harlan drew drapes across his window. Mumbling disquietly, she followed the slate footpath back to the gate.

Inside, Harlan indeed thought Eldewine’s bread smelled delicious, except he had an acute gluten sensitivity, and as the thought of simply throwing it away pained him, Harlan set the warm wicker basket on his table, folded his arms, and stared at it in grumpy consternation.

The very next day, outside in the hot, mid-day sun, Eldewine was busily working on her sunflowers before she swiped at the air around her head.

A swift knock came from Harlan’s door.

“Mister, er, Harlan,” she said sharply. Partially undressed, Harlan modestly kept the door between himself and Eldewine. “I’m sorry, but your plums are attracting wasps.”

Harlan gave her a crotchety frown.

Undeterred, she continued, “I spend a lot of time in my garden, and I’m afraid the wasps will swarm when I come near the tree.”

“It’s that time of year. They’re attracted to the sweetness of the plums,” Harlan grumbled.

“Harlan!” she insisted, literally putting her foot down.

Nodding, Harlan withdrew and growled, “I’ll take care of it.”

“Thank you,” Eldewine called after him as he shut his door once again in her face.

Later, Harlan exited his home to hang a wasp trap from a limb of his plum tree. It was a wood block, a foot long and six inches wide, with a one-inch diameter hole drilled through its center. An eye hook was screwed into the top of the block from which to hang it from a wire. A mixture of honey, vinegar, fruit juice, and bacon grease was poured a third of the way into it. Attracted to the juice and grease, the honey and vinegar would cause a wasp to sink and would, conceivably, trap the insects.

“Thank you so much, Harlan,” Eldewine waved from her tiny forest of sunflowers. “I feel much better now.”

“Hmm,” Harlan grunted before returning to his home.

Finally feeling as if they had bridged the more tumultuous waters of neighborly communication, Eldewine finished her afternoon work unbothered by the wasps and wandered back indoors for a refreshing tea. Hours later, as the afternoon gave way to dusk, she returned to water her flowers to find the trap - and half of its supportive tree branch - crawling with wriggling and writhing wasps. Gasping, Eldewine dropped her water pail and rushed back inside to stave away the night.

Meanwhile, in the early morning, an hour before dawn, a raucous clamor kept Harlan from slumber. Stumbling through his home, he wandered past his easel and peeked through his drapes to see a banditry of madly twittering black-capped chickadees roosting in his plum tree, feasting on the wasps. Their chatter was absurdly nerve-racking, and putting his hands up to his ears, he returned to bed.

Hours later, in mid-morning, Eldewine exited her home to greet her precious sunflowers and shrieked in abject horror.

Insistent, heavy pounding erupted against Harlan’s door.

Groggy and weary-eyed, an exhausted Harlan greeted Eldewine on his doorstep.

“Mister Springbrook!” she breathed, pointing to the plum tree. Its limbs were inundated by the mass of chittering chickadees who’d shat all over her sunflowers, creating a ring halfway around the tree of thick, copious gray and white splatter.

Shaking his head and grumbling, Harlan turned around to fetch an extraordinarily large and exceedingly old, grumpy-looking cat. He set the bewildered cat at Eldewine’s feet and swiftly shut the door.

“Mister Springbrook!” she breathed, and infuriated, she stomped away, taking the slate-covered walking path to the road. All the while, the cat, glaring despondently at the plum tree, kneaded the foot mat, nestled into a comfortable loaf, narrowed her eyes, and trilled.

Early that afternoon, the fat cat had turned on its side to lazily watch the bevy of black-capped chickadees fester on the plum tree’s branches. They scattered just as Harlan, exiting his home, marched purposefully out to the tree to place a wooden Cooper’s Hawk decoy up in the branches, all in an effort to spook the creatures and deter their loitering. Wandering around back, he went to his well and retrieved a bucket of water.

An hour later, Eldewine was taken aback, finding Harlan amongst her sunflowers with a bucket of water and a paintbrush, patiently wiping away the droppings from each and every one of their petals.

Why, that’s so kindly, she thought, smiling and pushing back her hair behind her ear, and leaning into her doorframe. She wanted to express her appreciation, so she went inside to prepare for him a refreshing respite. And as Eldewine approached with a wood tray carrying a glass pitcher of cold water and a bowl of plump raspberries, Harlan wearily yawned - fatigued by his disrupted sleep schedule - and inhaled a passing wasp.

“Mister Springbrook!” Eldewine cried, kneeling to set her tray down.

Gagging, Harlan was stung in his mouth and dropped his water bucket and paintbrush. She ran up to him and placed a comforting, caring hand on his shoulder. “Vinegar!” he gasped, grasping his throat, for he knew applying vinegar to the sting might reduce the swelling and neutralize the venom.

“Vinegar!” Eldewine repeated, and she ran into her home to find a bottle of the only vinegar she had. Bringing it to Harlan, he uncorked it and took a fast swig only to realize, all too late, that it was malt vinegar.

Wide-eyed, Harlan’s face turned beet red, and he passed out, his body slumping between the sunflowers in the yard.

Harlan awoke later in his own bedroom and rested atop his bed. The swelling had yet to subside, but he breathed normally, and he was thankful to still be counted among the living. On his dresser was the tray, the bowl of raspberries, and the glass water pitcher beside a sturdy vase filled with clipped sunflowers.

Alarmed - afraid - Harlan bolted upright and forced himself to his feet. Bracing himself against walls and door frames as he went, Harlan wobbled unsteadily into his living room to find Eldewine sitting calmly on the floor, and looking through his stacks of canvases.

Dozens of his paintings surrounded her, some finished, others not entirely, many of them depicting rows of bright yellow sunflowers as they were seen from his window, and more than a handful capturing Eldewine’s beautiful, radiant face in the sunlight. Various pieces showed the flowers as small, having only been planted, just an ankle-high and curling out of the soil, while others showed the flowers rising up to her hips, and others still soaring to their current height and blooming about her head. In every one where she was painted, the center of gravity was drawn to her smile, as if the world itself never existed until it was there.

Looking up at him, shaking, soft tears rolled down her cheeks, and, demuring, she brought herself up from the floor to stand.

“Wait, I-” Harlan rasped, extending his hand as she rushed by him, making headlong for the door. “It-it’s not what you, wait-”

Bursting outside and slamming the door behind her, and unable to give chase because of his condition, Harlan was left alone, encircled by paintings of grassy gardens and blooming sunflowers, portraits of joy and love he didn’t know how to express otherwise.

A day later, when the morning had transitioned into the afternoon, a warm breeze wafted across Hollowgarde’s cozy halfling burrows, and Harlan left his home to pull a clump of plump, juicy plums from his tree. The wasps and chickadees were gone, but Harlan noted sadly the sunflower garden next door was strangely absent of its minder. Biting his lip, Harlan looked to the ground and, glancing only once at her doorstep, returned indoors.

Later, Harlan Springbrook, dressed in an unfashionable jacket replete with a jaunty purple pocket square, a white collarless shirt, clean trousers, and carrying Eldewine’s wicker breadbasket, left his home. He walked down the stone path, opened the gate to his fence, and took to the road. Turning sharply to wade through a sea of waving sunflower gardens, Harlan approached Eldewine’s door and rapped precisely three times.

He waited patiently there, rocking back and forth on his heels, and taking in heavy breaths. He patted his chest with the side of his fist, feeling his old heart thumping wildly.

Hesitantly, Eldewine cracked open the door to find Harlan presenting her wicker basket in both hands, and within the basket, cradled in her own tea towel, were two purple and golden pastries.

“They’re, er, muffins,” he explained, his old eyes wincing. “Plum muffins, made from sunflower seed. It’s the only breadstuffs I can eat.”

“What do you want?” she asked, tipping her chin defiantly up at him, and keeping the door squarely between them.

Harlan looked shamefully at his feet and said, “Er, um, as it seems we’ve, never, um, taken the time, I’ve come to, er, ask … ask you to tea.”

Eldewine stared deeply into his soul. “Why?”

Stammering, Harlan lowered the basket and smoothed his jacket against his body, and glanced intermittently into her eyes. “There’s never a good time, nothin’ that can be said, I think, when we lose someone so close, an’ so dear to us. An’ as the, er - humph - as the years’ve passed, an’ I’ve seen you from my window, lookin’ after your garden-”

“They’re for him, Harlan,” she interjected, sniffing, and rubbing a tear away from her eye. “I miss him every day.”

Nodding, Harlan meshed his lips together, and said, “Yes, of course, I know. It’s just, well, those, er, all of them paintings you saw in my house, those … they’re for you. I-”

Opening the door just a little wider, Eldewine watched Harlan intensely.

Rolling his eyes, Harlan straightened his back, held the basket up higher, and said, “Well, I-I miss you.”

Watching Harlan from behind her door, Eldewine traced the handsome creases along his old face and smiled.

Harlan, barely capable of glancing at her, whispered, “I always miss you.”

Glancing at him, Eldewine rasped, “Tea?”

“Tea,” he confirmed, and she slowly opened her door and stepped aside to invite him in.

And, as the folks of Hollowgarde tell his story, it was on that day, that one perfect day where the summer breeze rolled across Eldewine’s garden of sunflowers, that old Harlan’s life had changed forever, having finally found the words he needed to say if only by swallowing a wasp. 



April 08, 2023 17:20

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58 comments

Susan Catucci
12:39 Apr 15, 2023

Sweet stuff. Your writing is like a painting, vibrant and alive - plums, wasps, chickadees, a cat and a couple of sweet opposites finding their way to each other. But, most of all, the sunflowers and the plum tree - a winning combination, along with all the elements of this love story. Nice work, Russell. I could taste it - all but the sting and the malt vinegar; that I left to imagination an arms-length away.

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Russell Mickler
15:17 Apr 15, 2023

Hey there, Susan! So glad you liked it - thank you :) I've been told all too frequently in my life that my style is distracting. Cut back on the "-ing" words, they say; chop the fluffy descriptions; get to the meat of the story; stop writing in 3rd person omniscient, nobody gets it; there are too many 'ands!'; write raw dialog, make it like a screenplay - grin ... all that stuff just ain't me. :) I'm truly glad I'm connecting and resonating with folks like you. Thank you so much for seeing my pictures, and reading my stories :) and hec...

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Marty B
18:49 Apr 17, 2023

I was going to suggest some gerund and adverb edits, along with a more catchy intro- however, I realized that is for a different story. This story is a ramble down a garden path, stopping to smell the flowers, admire the wild life and get to the end, only to want to start again! I liked the slow pace, it for the topic and the ending. And of course I appreciated a story about my people, a ‘stout’ hafling myself, with a denser- skull!

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Russell Mickler
01:28 Apr 18, 2023

Hehe Hi Marty! I, too, identify more 'stout' than 'lightfoot' :) One of my other characters, Bartram Humblefoot, is a "stout" Halfling! But beside Harlan, that's the only Stout I've got in my portfolio ... :) Thank you for reading and for commenting! R

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Philippa Hibberd
16:48 Apr 15, 2023

Awww cute! Grumpy/sunshine is one of my favourite fictional couple dynamics. Your characters are so utterly different and have some hilarious misunderstandings, but at the same time they balance each other out. Harlan teaches Edelwine it's ok not to be ok, and she brings out his warmer, more compassionate side. The imagery is beautifully immersive, I felt like I was there, in the little rural village. You manage to convey so much despite the word count. And uuuugh wasps, those things are evil, I winced at the bit where Harlan swallowed one,...

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Rebecca Miles
17:43 Apr 14, 2023

I was struck a few weeks back by the lilting fluidity of your prose. You really have a beautiful cadence; the syntax just flows. I admired how you built a great comparison here with the imagery: Yet, where Harlan Springbrook personified the spirit of a cranky curmudgeon, his neighbor, Eldewine Kettlebloom, was the parade to his rain. Wonderful names by the way; pure whimsical fantasy; if this scene were a film it would be shot with soft focus, charming. The other thing I really commend is your command of the natural world: this tale is full ...

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Russell Mickler
18:21 Apr 14, 2023

Hey there, Rebecca! Aww - so nice of you to say - thank you so much! I truly enjoy that part of writing a short story where you have to come up with names. :) We've only got 3,000 words around here so I need shortcuts, a name that speaks to the character's personality so I don't have to write about it :) The reader already "gets it" just through an introduction! Last week, I really wanted to write something simple and from the heart - I'm really glad you liked it! And thanks for the follow, by the way :) R

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Mary Bendickson
18:13 Apr 11, 2023

Charming, just charming! I echo all the others have already said. Loved the helpful cat nestled into a comfortable loaf, and that all this time he really was enamored by her.

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Russell Mickler
19:33 Apr 11, 2023

Hi there, Mary - Wonderful :) I'm glad you enjoyed it ... yeah I struggled with how to describe the cat sitting, and the best I could come up with is "loaf." Glad it worked! :) R

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12:16 Apr 11, 2023

Russell, this was a pure joy to read! I was immediately intrigued by the words at the start, and then your character of Harlan drew me in! You gave such a whimsical and magical setting when describing Harlan's home, I could picture it so easily. One of my favorite lines -- "She was an aged lightfoot with hair of golden barley whose smile - most in Hollowgarde agreed - was like love the first day you kissed it." THAT is beautiful! You captured the balance of awkward but necessary conversation so well, even though this is a fantasy settin...

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Michelle Oliver
01:03 Apr 10, 2023

This is a delightful budding romance between two unlikely and opposite characters. Your stories always have that lovely element of whimsy but this one amps it up so beautifully. I love the way you describe her smile -“was like love the first day you kissed it.” This paragraph just beautifully highlights the contrast in their natures. I love it! -“Yet, where Harlan Springbrook personified the spirit of a cranky curmudgeon, his neighbor, Eldewine Kettlebloom, was the parade to his rain.” I like the switch at the end. We see in the beginn...

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Russell Mickler
01:15 Apr 10, 2023

Yay! (Huge smile, throwing colorful confetti into the air!) Thank you so much for noticing everything, all of this, Michelle … so tremendously kind. And to “hear” you say that you enjoy your time in the Parishes - (hand to heart) … sincerely, too kind. Thank you :) R

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Martin Ross
18:50 Apr 09, 2023

I love that within the same series/saga, you intersperse both epic tales of battle and victory with warm, sweet, beautiful stories like this. Sue and I have a similar apposite/complementary relationship, with some reversal and varying ratios of curmudgeonliness (?) and sunny optimism. The wasp was a lovely device to propel their union, though your wasp attractant formula also sounds like a kickass rib marinade🤣. The other thing I enjoy about your universe is the inclusion of such earthbound elements as pocket squares and gluten sensitivitie...

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Russell Mickler
19:28 Apr 09, 2023

Hey Martin! You know, that's kinda what I want to build - a fantasy universe that isn't just all about dragons and princes, magical talking swords, patriarchal bloodlines, or world-obliterating villainy... and it should absolutely contain jaunty pocket squares. :) Stylistically, personally, I _hate_ when fantasy authors agonize over describing something decidedly modern like a gluten allergy in a medieval world. I mean, my reader knows what it means, so I'll just write it ... Jesus! Stop trying to weakly describe the condition in eighty w...

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Aeris Walker
18:31 Apr 21, 2023

If Springtime was a story, it would "look" like this! What a lovely world to become immersed in. I enjoyed the characters, the lush setting, the irritating garden pests, and ultimately the sweet ending. Well done :) Favorite sentence: "Inside, Harlan indeed thought Eldewine’s bread smelled delicious, except he had an acute gluten sensitivity, and as the thought of simply throwing it away pained him, Harlan set the warm wicker basket on his table, folded his arms, and stared at it in grumpy consternation."--this just made me laugh. Such a gr...

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Russell Mickler
18:42 Apr 21, 2023

Giggle - hey there, Aeris - Oh I was in such a quandary about that scene! I didn't know if Harlan would just toss it, or try to eat it because of his feelings for Eldewine, or, like, put it in a creepy shrine (I thought about it), maybe feed it to the birds later ... so I just had him stare at it. Grin - I swear, I didn't know what I would do with it once he got it ... haha! Springtime in a story. That's awesome ... I'm so glad you liked it, and thank you! :) R

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Viga Boland
18:03 Apr 21, 2023

Congratulations on yet another shortlist 👏👏

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Mary Bendickson
16:33 Apr 21, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist. Just knew it was a cutie when I read it.

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Russell Mickler
16:43 Apr 21, 2023

Thank you, Mary - I couldn't have done it without your good karma! R

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15:38 Apr 21, 2023

Well done Russell! Congratulations on the shortlist :) Woo hoo!

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Russell Mickler
15:41 Apr 21, 2023

Laugh - thank you so much, Deidra - :) R

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Susan Catucci
15:22 Apr 21, 2023

FANTASTIC, Russell - congratulations! And no surprise. but gratifying to see recognition for something special. Well done. :)

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Russell Mickler
15:41 Apr 21, 2023

Ha! Hey Susan - I'm furiously typing away in Discord at the moment - thank you so much :) for all of your support! R

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20:43 Apr 20, 2023

What and engaging and fun read! I love your visuals - the yellow paint, the plums. I'm a cat person, so enjoyed that bit too. the only thing I might change is the long intro that might not grab the viewer enough to continue. Start with a bit of description and throw in a bit of the characters earlier - show don't tell.

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Russell Mickler
01:20 Apr 21, 2023

Hey there, Patricia - Right on - thanks for the helpful comments! I often shortcut the showing by telling to save time. Maybe I do it a little differently in the re-write :) And thank you for reading, as always :) R

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02:42 Apr 21, 2023

I usually notice things that I have a problem with. Have you read "Writing Down the Bones?" Natalie Goldberg (I think) = I read ityears ago and now I'm listening to it on audible. I write the story all out - no fixing or whatever - just get it down - then I rewrite it and try to make each sentence 'work' for me. Your is a good story, lovely.

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Laurel Hanson
10:03 Apr 17, 2023

Lovely story, rich and beautifully textured. The characterizations are really gently crafted into this pastoral setting inviting the reader to open that round door and join the village company. The essence of fantasy here where there is a comfort in being there. There is a lot to be said for their social convention: "Thus polite company squelched controversial opinions if nothing else but to spare all from disaster." I am a fan of controversial opinions myself, but still...when disaster looms... Love how you set up her opposing qualities ...

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Russell Mickler
14:19 Apr 17, 2023

Hey there, Laurel! Thank you! This was one of those stories where I just wanted to get back to my roots as a fantasy author, and feel the soil between my toes, so to speak. I had a lot of fun writing it! Again, my thanks for your time, both in reading and taking the time to comment. :) R

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Laurel Hanson
21:04 Apr 17, 2023

Oh, I also wanted to say, great title. Love that the plum tree is the central figure there!

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Russell Mickler
01:25 Apr 18, 2023

Giggle - thank you - but I have to say it still kinda irritates me? :) I wanted it to be just that, the story of the plum tree's neighbors, like you said, with the plum trees at the center, but I couldn't come up with a better title :) Thanks for noticing! R

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Benja Catton
03:43 Apr 17, 2023

Well done, Russell. This story casts a childhood nostalgia over me as it reminds me of a Beatrix Potter tale, a Frog and Toad friendship dynamic, or a Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit episode. You created a wonderful series of complications and reasons for these two neighbors to interact. As I'm currently contemplating building a privacy fence in my backyard, this story was food for thought with regard to what might be lost by walling up that shared space.

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Russell Mickler
14:21 Apr 17, 2023

Hey Benja! Great to see you! Loved your blobfish story, BTW - Gosh, to have a fantasy story strike chords with you in the real world ... there's no higher compliment! I truly appreciate your saying so, and I'm so glad it resonated :) All the best - R

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Maliha Naveed
19:04 Apr 16, 2023

What a lovely read! I really liked the old fairytale feel in your story- quiet Hamlet and sunflowers. The imagery is on point, especially- chickadees, wasps, and sweet plums. I could actually feel the taste of barley bread and the sweet plums. Good work, Russell!

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Akhlys Ivy
05:17 Apr 15, 2023

Wow - I’m in such awe at this story! The beautiful detail in every crevice, every bit of this reality just dripping into understanding! It’s truly a tale to behold. Such talent!

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Russell Mickler
15:11 Apr 15, 2023

Hey there, Akhlys - Thank you so much ... It was a lot of fun to write! It had a lot of intention behind it :) Thanks for your reading my work and taking the time to review :) R

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Lily Finch
21:58 Apr 10, 2023

Great imagery throughout with a lyrical aspect to this story in places, specifically at the beginning. It is said there's a thin line between love and hate; meets appearance is what something looks like or how someone looks to others. While the reality is the state of things as they exist. Highlighting a key difference that exists between the two words. That ends with opposites attract. The appearance of Eldewine was she wanted to be friends with Harlan to get the roots of the plum tree out of her garden. The appearance of Harlan being...

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Russell Mickler
00:33 Apr 11, 2023

Holy cow - Lily, amazeballs critique - thank you so much for your time and comments, astounding! And thank you for noticing these details; it warms my heart :) R

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Russell Mickler
23:35 Apr 09, 2023

The landing page for this work: https://www.black-anvil-books.com/a-plum-trees-neighbors R

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Kevin V
00:06 Apr 09, 2023

Yet another halfling story to be enjoyed, Russell. I thought the romance progressed nicely, and the backfiring favors they both tried, especially Harlan, to be nicely done. I particularly liked how diametrically opposing Harlan and Ealdewine came across, she of almost pure sweetness and sunshine, and he perfectly curmudgeonly. Yet, they meshed so well. And Harlan's being stung by the wasp was a nice touch to move the story toward a satisfying ending. If I may, there is one spot where Harlan is spelled Halan if you want to fix it quick. Ha...

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Russell Mickler
00:29 Apr 09, 2023

Hey Kevin! Thanks for the heads up! Just fixed it on my mobile - and thanks for reading! I’ll respond a little bit more later! R

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Russell Mickler
13:15 Apr 09, 2023

Hullo again, Kevin! > Yet, they meshed so well. Thank you! A classic odd-couple story, I suppose. With 3,000 words, tropes work well to convey ideas quickly without having to describe them. As I mentioned with RJ, I wanted to write a good "Hobbit" story, something central to the everyday lives in the Parishes. It felt really good to me, too, at the end, and the "swallowing the wasp" thing felt like a folksy-way of saying Harlan "found his words." Grin - Glad you liked it! And again, thanks for reading :) R

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