Extreme Maneuvers Deb Kapke

And for our final Photo Flare story, please enjoy Extreme Maneuvers by Deb Kapke:


Wilbur stomped his feet at nobody in particular, his hooves clacking, as he let out a sharp snort. He had heard rumors and was worried. Preparation was important, but he tended to envision the tasks before him with untold horrors.

Billy was Wilbur’s most loyal friend. He nickered as he walked to his anxious, chestnut buddy. Sometimes Billy liked Wilbur because of his flaws, but mostly he liked when they played.

Wilbur and Billy knew they’d soon have to cross the “water of no returns.” In Wilbur’s mind this was whitewater spilling into rapids over rocky boulders and cliffs. He was certain that the ensuing doom was the reason so many of their friends never returned from their journey the previous year. He thought they were washed away. Crushed on rocks. It was always the young. The small. Not acknowledging to himself that he was older and taller now, Wilbur was sure he would meet the same fate. It could probably happen to anybody. One slip and they’d be done for.

Billy kept a watchful eye on Wilbur. That colt would get them into trouble if he wasn’t careful. He ate in silence, periodically glancing at Wilbur, then at the sky and back to his meal.

Wilbur was getting more and more agitated. Normally one flick of his tail was all it took to evict a fly, but today Wilbur continued twitching long after the flies had departed their shaky perch.

Billy leaned in, nudging Wilbur. The reassuring touch calmed his friend for a moment. They continued to graze. Billy wished they could just run and play.

Billy liked to be prepared as much as Wilbur. Earlier in the day he’d spotted some especially delectable grasses with tasseled tops. They were sweet and chewy and some of the very best he’d ever had. When Wilbur had reached what Billy considered to be the peak of agitation — not even a nudge from his nose could soothe his buddy — he used his whole body to push Wilbur to the spot where the grass with the tassels grew.

Wilbur, I know what you’re thinking – rocks and rapids. But it will be fine. I promise.”

Wilbur said, “I know no such thing. I know bad things happen. Many never return. They’re very likely crushed on jagged boulders or drowned after being knocked unconscious. My hoof hit a stone one time, and there was splashy water. I almost went down. I’m sure that’s what happened to the ones we never saw again. It’s dangerous. I’ve decided that we should stay.” He flicked his tail at a nonexistent fly.

Billy shook his head. Wilbur was in a bad place. This would take drastic measures.

Wilbur, I’ll tell you a secret. I wasn’t going to share, but you’re my friend. I don’t want to see you like this.

Wilbur eyed Billy with skepticism. Wilbur thought that Billy worried about him too much, but he indulged him.

Billy gestured and said, “right over here on this little mound—this grass is magic. See how it waves and sparkles. The other grasses don’t do that. This stuff is special.”

Wilbur gave Billy a questioning eye and thought, “here we go.”

Billy went on. “If we eat some of this grass and then hold a piece of it in our teeth above the water as we cross, it will keep us safe.”



Wilbur thought Billy must have very little horse sense to have such convoluted ideas about magical grasses. But the grass smelled appealing, so he nibbled. The flavor was indeed magical. Fresh and moist with nutty nuances as if it had been lightly roasted in the warm summer sun. He relaxed his ears and took a larger bite.

Wilber and Billy chewed in unison. They’d almost forgotten their impending departure when they heard clicking and, “hyah!” It was time.

Billy grabbed a piece of tasseled grass to hold in his mouth and urged Wilbur to do the same. Wilbur flattened his ears in defiance as the Saltwater Cowboys came to guide all the ponies across the waters of the Assateague Channel—what the ponies called the “water of no returns.”

With the tassel of grass sticking half out of Billy’s mouth, Wilbur thought he looked ridiculous. He nickered. Billy hammed it up to make Wilbur laugh even more—raising the tassel high and prancing around him.

“Give it a try,” Billy urged through clenched teeth.

The cowboys were getting impatient with stragglers. Wilbur wouldn’t get another chance. He relented, grabbing a tassel in his teeth. Together Wilbur and Billy trotted to blend into the herd that was now ahead.

When they got to the water, Wilbur’s nostrils flared. He stopped short, forcing a filly named Buttercup Alice to bump into him.

Billy, two pinto legs in the water and two out, looked back at Wilbur and said, “I promise. You will not get hurt. The foals that we never see again just moved to new homes. You know that. You’ll be fine. I don’t want us to get separated.”

Wilbur looked out at the water. It was slack tide so it barely moved. He shifted his grip on the grass and closed his eyes before moving forward.

The water was cool and refreshing. They were neck deep when Wilbur’s hoof snagged something deep in the water. He flailed but remembered the tassel. He lifted his head. That’s when it worked its magic.

Holding the grass high above the water, Wilbur felt a tingling other than water on his back. Small growths started near his shoulders. He gripped the grass tighter. Wings sprouted from both sides. It gave Billy a bit of a fright. Then he stretched his own wings wide and flapped, splashing the water around them. Wilbur lifted away first, and they flew out together. Looking back at the water, Wilbur said, “It doesn’t look so bad from here.” When he realized they were 30 feet high, he let out a squeal.

Deb Kapke writes speculative fiction and blogs on a variety of topics including writing and juggling a busy schedule. She lives near the nation’s capital in a temporarily windowless home with her super guy, amazing daughter, and two hungry cats.

Her website is:





The Sunset Tree by Savannah Hendricks

The second story of three for our final Photo Flare. Please enjoy:

The Sunset Tree

by Savannah Hendricks

Olivia lay under the mossy branches, watching as the sun set its final rays against the leaves. Her husband thought she went there to contemplate divorce. Her friends thought she went there to mourn her recent miscarriage. She went there to contemplate the meaning of what it all meant, and why she could not live a happy, simple life.

Olivia’s favorite story as a child was “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, which is why she felt the answer she needed could be found here. Her childhood was filled with more joy than most of her childhood friends had. Olivia was raised as a princess, nothing bad ever happened, and the word “no” was never uttered by her parents. Due to such a privileged upbringing the reality of life was something she had no idea how to handle.

The sun continued to mark its rays on the branches as it filtered light above her. Olivia’s sigh was deep, her chest rising and caving back down.

Something on your mind?” an elderly voice said.

Olivia’s eyes widened as she sat up. “Oh,” she said. Olivia stood up, draping moss brushing her hair. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was here.”

The area was rather remote. The tree grew within a moat of sorts, rising high above the thin line of stale water. Its roots of life kept it upright.

Child what is troubling you?” a lady with a hunched over back, slow gait and quad cane asked.

Again I’m sorry, I will go,” Olivia said embarrassed.

Be still child,” the lady said. “I used to do a lot of thinking under this tree myself. There was a swing that hung off to the left.”

Olivia looked up and over, noticing the remainder of a rope knot she had never seen before.

I hope you are not looking for answers in a tree,” the lady said. “It’s just a tree.”

Olivia’s eyes met the lady’s gaze. She could see so much of life lived through this lady, yet she looked at peace.

I guess I was hoping that the branches would allow me to hang my problems from them so I can sort them out,” Olivia said, looking up.

Child, there are no answers to your problems. You are the answer to your problems.”

My childhood was perfect, happy, and peaceful. I became an adult, and everything went south.” Olivia sat down in the grass.

It did not go south, it became real,” the lady said, tapping her cane on Olivia’s knee. “Life is not to be perfect, it is to be lived.”

Living is heartbreaking,” Olivia said with a chuckle.

The sunlight was now on the trunk of the tree as it lowered more in the sky.

Have any advice for me?” Olivia asked the lady.

Yes,” the lady said, turning and starting to walk away. “Don’t fall into the water below, it is muddy and smells foul.”

Olivia smiled and laid back down. The memory of the miscarriage floated into her mind. The tears welled in her eyes, before they dripped on her shoulders, soaking into the ground. Olivia thought maybe others had come here and cried. She moved onto her faulty marriage, the fights, the hate, the distrust. Tears ran into the outlines of her ears as she lay looking up at the mossy outstretched branches. Olivia considered what she saw above her. The branches were not perfect; they were broken or bare at the bottom. For the first time Olivia noticed the trunk looked near death, the middle had some green life, but the top was abundant with green leaves.

Is my life starting at the top and growing down into death?” she thought aloud. “Or is it that my childhood was not really living and therefore death…but growing into an unseen abundance of real life?” Olivia closed her eyes, the last of her tears stuck to her lashes.

When Olivia opened her eyes the moon’s light filled the area around her as though it was a light hanging from the tree. She came to the tree for answers, and this time she received an answer she strangely understood. Olivia passed a house on her way home and noticed the lady from earlier on a rocking chair on a patch of worn grass.

Find your answer?” the lady asked.

Olivia smiled, “Actually, I did.”

And what is that child?”

Life’s struggles and pains are ugly, but it’s what makes beauty so astonishing in the end. Without facing reality we don’t learn how important it is to be strong.”

And you didn’t fall into the muck below.” The lady laughed. “It was not always that way of course.”

What wasn’t?” Olivia asked.

The land around the tree,” the lady said. She stopped rocking. “It was solid, but over the years the ground eroded, and water filled in around it.”

That must have been some years,” Olivia mentioned.

Childhood years. My childhood,” the lady said, looking up at Olivia. “You, my child, are not the only one that has added to the mucky water.”

Savannah is the co-author of Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development (Vol 1, 2 & 3), with her first picture book Nonnie and I releasing this fall. She holds degrees in early childhood education and criminal justice, and is a member of the SCBWI. You can learn more by visiting her blog athttp://theseashellsoflife.wordpress.com/

The Tree by Shari L. Klase

I’m currently experiencing technichal issues on the Photo Flare page. Please enjoy the story here:

The Tree

by Shari L. Klase

Doug flew to the tree. The feeling when he was in the midst of the branches was almost an epiphany; a realization that he truly belonged somewhere to something. That discovery wasn’t in the least bit constraining. Instead, it freed him. “Come on, Ash. Let’s head for our tree fort,” Doug called out, almost out of breath as he made a beeline for his most favorite place in the entire world.

Me first,” Ash yelled out as he pushed Doug out of the way and raced ahead. Ash grabbed hold of the trunk roughly and pulled himself up into the canopy.

You better get out of that tree. You know I’m President. That means I’m first.” It was Doug’s tree. That naturally meant he was president.

I don’t care,” Ash said. “I’ll climb the stupid tree first if I want to.” Just like that Ash crashed to the ground. He lay there crumpled, the tree hovering arrogantly above him.

There was no reason for it. Ash was a great tree climber. In fact, he’d climbed this tree many times before. Just a freak accident. Accidents happen every day. Ash broke his leg, and they didn’t play together as much after that and, of course, never in the tree fort. It was the end of an era. Still, it didn’t change Doug’s affinity for the tree.

Now here he was years later at his special hideaway with Aspen. Doug pulled Aspen closer to him. He folded his arms around her and pressed his lips against hers. She shivered. But it wasn’t a reaction to the kiss. It was the creepy feeling that had come over her as they stood underneath the tree. The tree shook and its leaves and branches rustled malevolently, or so it seemed to her.

Why did you bring me here, Doug? I don’t like this place.”

Doug frowned. “It’s my favorite spot. It always has been. I built tree forts here when I was a kid. This tree has seen me through some of the best times of my life and the worst, too.”

Oh, so you’re a tree hugger.” Aspen laughed. “I knew you were one of those wackos that think that trees are like people.”

This coming from someone that talks to a cat named Willykims.”

Well, a cat is alive.”

And my tree isn’t?”

Oh, so now it’s your tree.” She punched him playfully. But at that instant something slashed violently at her face. Her hand flew up and she felt a nasty cut. “Oww, why did you do that, Doug? I was only kidding.”

Do what? I didn’t do anything.”

C’mon, that’s not funny. You smacked me on the face because I was teasing you about the tree.”

Doug was irritated. “That’s stupid.”

Oh, so now I’m stupid.” Aspen whirled around and pushed herself against the tree. It seemed to vibrate unsteadily. She stumbled a bit.

Not you. You’re not stupid. But you think I’d hit you because you insulted my tree?”

Insulted? This is crazy. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. It doesn’t like me.”

Doug rolled his eyes while at the same time he turned her body to face his. “Now who’s crazy? You think my tree doesn’t like you.”

Will you quit saying ‘my tree’? You’re giving me the spooks.” Aspen backed up and tripped over a tree root. She fell backwards and tumbled to the ground. “Ouch.”

Doug bent down and grabbed her arm. “Here. Let me help you up.”

See? Look what it did to me.” She showed him her skinned elbow.

Really, Aspen? You’re actually going to blame the tree, because you’re clumsy?”

Aspen stumbled to her feet, glaring at him. “Okay, I’m done here. I hope you and your tree friend have a great day together.”

Aspen!” Doug called, exasperated. But she had stormed off. He didn’t feel like running after her. What was wrong with her anyway? Getting all uptight about a tree. He looked up at it. It was magnificent. Shining leaves fanned out protectively over his head. He always felt a certain kinship with this tree, like it was his safety net.

Doug turned around. Aspen was just being petty. Girls were always trying to assert their dominance. He slid down against the tree and sat resting his back against it. A feeling of peace and tranquility enveloped him. He often nodded off just like this.

I’m in love with you.” Doug startled and stood. Had he heard somebody say that or was it a dream?

Aspen?” he called out. The leaves swooshed savagely but there was no wind. Aspen was nowhere to be seen.

Do you love me?” The words lingered, whisper-like in the air. Doug took a few steps away from the tree. “Don’t go,” the voice pleaded. Branches, fat with leaves, closed around him, encircling him gently but tightly. “You don’t need her. You need me.”

Who are you?” Doug asked.

You know who I am. You’ve always known.” A leaf blade played around his forehead, soothingly.“I can offer you what you’ve always wanted.”

I’m not sure what that is.”

Perfect amalgamation.”

He knew it was true. Leafy vines intertwined with his arms. There was no escape. A perfumed aroma from the tree’s blossoms overwhelmed him. Constricting and contracting, the tree clasped Doug to its bosom until at last they were at one.

Shari L Klase lives in a beautiful Susquehanna River town which is a tree city. She loves trees. She has one of her own and almost considers it as a member of her family. She has written many stories with trees playing a crucial part in the story, including “Tree of Life” that she wrote previously for the Photo Flare Contest.

Spark Tally Friday

My apologies for missing the Monday Blog. I was a nanny this week, and I remember now why I never blogged when I was always a nanny.

I also owe you an update about the last Photo Flare contest. Instead of declaring a winner, I bought three stories. I’ll be publishing those over the course of next week. Thanks to those of you who entered!

Although I fell short of my 20,000 word goal, I did manage to get 15,000 words written. Tomorrow I have a huge chunk of writing time, so maybe I have a chance to make up the 5000 and start on next week’s goal. I did do a fair amount of revising as well, which I think ate up that time for the last 5000 words.

I feel a bit like I’m doing a major school project the night before it’s due. I often did my best work then, but some projects are too big for the night before.

How did everyone else do? I hope it was a productive week for all!

Final Photo Writing Contest

July’s contest is strictly a flash fiction contest for a $10 prize. Pick one of these gorgeous pictures and write a story using it in under 1000 words. Everyone can enter whether you’ve won previous contests or not.

This is the last photo writing contest on Enchanted Spark. We’ve really enjoyed picking winners and publishing previously unread authors and a few authors with quite a long list of publications already. I’m really proud of the winning stories and also the stories that didn’t win here but went on to be published at other venues. Unfortunately, the contests never caught on like I hoped. Opening the inbox to find very few entries each month has been a source of depression for me, especially with newer blogs on the market who seem to be pulling in lots of submissions every week for their publications.

Many thanks to those of you who have entered during the past year and a half. I hope you found the pictures inspiring and a spark to your imagination. I’ll keep the winning stories up until December, and then I’ll remove them in my redesign of the site.

Tomorrow I’ll publish the winner of last month’s Photo Flash. In the meantime, please read Nolan Archer’s winning Photo Flare story The Performance.

Here are the pictures for July. We’ll give you until midnight on July 31st MST to get your stories in.