This Isn’t About Football

Kicking Off (© 1973 United Feature Syndicate)

The current writing prompt is Kicking off. My response is below. I hope you’ll take a look at the others over at Writers Co-op. They range from thoughtfully instructive to historically fictional to tragically comical and just plain fanciful. What would you have written? The next prompt is:


What would you do with that? I hope you’ll give it a try. Your entry is due by Monday, March 7, 2022. Submission guidelines are easy: any genre, approximately 6-1,000 words. Send as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf attached to an email addressed to me at Please do join us. We are planning on publishing an anthology for which each author chooses two or three of their own favorite submissions.

And please share our posts with your family and friends.

All You Have to Do

by S.T. Ranscht

It began as a joke, a harmless prank. Isn’t that what big brothers are for?

“It’s true, I promise you,” I told her, “but only special people can do it.” She was six and I was eleven — she had to believe me.

She took one of the rocks from her left hand and threw it at a sapling ten feet away. It bounced off the center of the skinny trunk.

I didn’t let on I was impressed. “Honest,” I said. “Do you want to learn how?”

She pulled back one corner of her mouth and looked at me sideways. “I asked Mommy, and she said no one can fly except in an airplane or a rocket.”

“She said that because she never even flew in her dreams. Sorry, kid, but our mom just isn’t quite special enough to soar like a Condor. Of course, you can spend your life on the ground if you want, and never even try, but then you won’t be any more special than Mom.”

As soon as I said it, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. She launched another rock and it hit exactly where the first one did. Then she turned on me.

“Mommy is too special. She’s the most special mommy in the whole world.”

I knelt in front of her. “You’re right, Sadie. She is. She probably just wants to keep you safe. Flying can be dangerous. It’s tricky to master and easy to get hurt doing it.”

“How? How can you get hurt?”

“You might get caught in an updraft and not be able to escape until it drops you someplace like the North Pole. Or China.”

She looked at me from beneath her scrunched eyebrows. “What’s an updraft?”

“It’s like riptide at the beach,” I said, knowing how much Dad’s warnings about that had scared her, “but it’s in the air and it sucks you up instead of down.”

Shrugging, she threw her last rock at the same spot. Bullseye. “And besides, if I went to China, I could call Mommy and Daddy and they would come and get me. I know their phone numbers, dummy.”

“Well, peabrain, you wouldn’t be able to call if you got caught in the top of a Giant Sequoia or sucked into a jet engine, would you?”

Her shoulders slumped. “No.”

“Okay.” I held her shoulders so we were face to face. “If you want to learn how to fly, I can teach you.”


“There’s lots of ways,” I said, ticking them off on my fingers. “Some people just wiggle their toes and they rise up off the ground,” I could see her toes wiggling inside her sneakers. “Or maybe you’ll need to run downhill, spread your arms, and catch the wind.”

Sadie looked around. “We don’t have many hills around here.”

“My friend Doug says if you stand at the edge of something tall like a cliff or a skyscraper and throw yourself at the ground, all you have to do is miss.” I figured what was the harm? Sadie wouldn’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide for at least five more years.

Wrinkling her nose and shaking her head, Sadie said, “I don’t think that would work for me. I’m really good at throwing. I never miss.”

She got quiet. I could tell she was thinking. I stood up.

She looked up at me and narrowed her eyes. “Show me how you fly.”

I was ready for this. “I can’t show you yet because only flyers are allowed to see other people fly. If they let non-flyers see them, they can never fly again.”

“Then how am I s’posta—“

I held up one finger. “I can tell you, and once you learn how, we can fly anywhere, anytime you want.”

She made an exasperated little noise and said, “Okay. Tell me how you fly.”

“It’s easy. I stand with my knees bent just a little, and my arms ready to reach for the sky. Like this.” I posed like I was gonna take a free throw in basketball. “Then I pick up one foot — not too high — and KICK it down, hard, to the ground. Then I take off.”

Sadie stood like I was standing, except her little butt was sticking out. I had to work really hard not to laugh. “Okay, lift one foot…”

“Which one?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter. Whichever one you want.”

She did.

“Now, KICK it down. Hard!”

She did.

She looked at me. “It didn’t work.”

“It’s okay. Nobody gets it the first time. Show me how you stand again.” Real serious like, I walked around her, looking her up and down. “I think I see your problem. Straighten you back a little, your butt is sticking out too far.”

She did just what I told her to do.

“Now lift your foot…”

She used the same foot as before.

“Now KICK down!”

She did, and of course, she was still standing on the ground. She immediately went into her pose again. Gotta give the kid points for determination.

“I’m gonna try the other foot this time.” She picked it up before I could say to.

“Good idea. Now KICK!”

She closed her eyes and KICKED.

“Gosh, Sadie, I’m really sorry. I thought this would work. I thought you were ready. Tough luck, kid.” I started back for the house.

“Wait! I almost had it, I know I did, but I think I wasn’t standing straight enough. Watch me, okay? One more time. Just one more. Pleeeease?”

How could I say no?

She took her stance. “How do I look? Is my butt sticking out?”

“No,” I said, “you look good. Go ahead, lift a foot.” She chose her second choice again. “Now…”

She kicked down. Hard.

And she shot into the air like she had springs on her feet and wings on her arms!

“Sadie!” I shrieked, “You’re flying!” This was impossible, but there she was, wheeling and tumbling like one of those crazy pigeons.

She bounced a little when she came down way over by a bunch of oak trees, but she landed on her feet. Then it looked like she was picking something up.

When she kicked off again, she rose as high as the tops of the trees before she turned and flew straight toward me.

Flying in a circle above me she yelled, “Now show me how you take off.”

I took my stance, lifted a foot, kicked down hard, and took off — running!

Sadie was right behind me, pelting me with acorns, and calling, “You liar. You can’t fly!”

I shouted back over my shoulder, “Nobody can fly, Sadie. Not even you.”

What can I say? I was eleven, she was six. She had to believe me.

She dropped out of the air, right on top of me. Lying on the ground, we were both all right, but she jumped up, angry.

“You tricked me,” she said. “You’re a non-flyer and you made me fly in front of you and now I’ll never be able to fly again.” And she ran off to the house, crying, “Mommyyyyy!”

It began as a joke. A harmless prank. But as far as I know, Sadie never flew again.

Even I was beginning to believe me.

Take a Breath

Glad you could join us for the next restful episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 279
Photo credit: Geoff Gallice

Beneath the churning web, agony’s wail rode the final unbreaking wave as it crossed the field to leave behind the silent, still shallows of death. The enemy Flyers who dared to attack its surface learned too late that the struggle to destroy it only drew the attacker further under. Those who witnessed it from above soon retreated toward The Arids.

Vernon and Ambassador Arturo waited at the web’s edge where an escaping whisper of breath hinted at the Wildlands ants’ approach. Commandant Marabunta was the first to emerge.

Continue reading “Take a Breath”

Above and Below

Glad you could join us for the next tangled episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 278
Image credit: mirmiran-architecture / fogdenphotos / S.T. Ranscht

The gluey silken lattices fell like a curling wave, spreading across the battlefield as the Alliance Flyers approached the Hive. Enemy land troops ran, but the smothering webs overtook them and trapped them where they stood. Arids Flyers, circling low after the retreat sounded, tangled in the ropey strands and fell, unable to escape. Webs continued to rain across the clearing, blunting the impotent struggles of the doomed, advancing toward the Hive.

Continue reading “Above and Below”

Flights of Death and Glory

Glad you could join us for the next flighty episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 277
Image credit: Tomás Saraceno / Guido Limardo

The Alliance’s call to retreat rang out beneath the approaching shadow. All land and air forces, except the Freelands bees, pulled back to the Hive tree, beating away the closest attackers to defend and hold the royal residence to their deaths if necessary.

Ripping away from its parent darkness and speeding toward them, a smaller shadow became Sam and Clifton leading their company in a desperate race to reach Central Fen ahead of the growing darkness. Sweeping past the swarm still tormenting the enemy vulture, Sam yelled, “Retreat! Run! Get back to the Hive!”

“Captain,” Clifton called, “those are Freelands bees—”

Continue reading “Flights of Death and Glory”

Joining the Battle

Glad you could join us for the next enlisted episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 276
Photo credit: Rosa Shieh

Scant hours before dawn, as the storm passed, the Freelands bees gathered in the Hiverarchy’s Assembly Chamber. Arturo, the Freelands wasp who served the Alliance, had returned to speak with Queen Madalena. Rumors claimed she would send them to fight with the Alliance, but they had no heart to die for someone else’s hive.

The Queen emerged from the Inner Chamber with Arturo at her side. “Our neighbors — our kin — in Fen request our help in the war they fight against The Arids tyrant. I believe this is not our war, but the Alliance Ambassador argues that our freedom depends on its outcome. I refuse to order anyone to fight for a cause they do not believe in, but I cannot deny the family bond many of us have with Queen Lilian’s people. I invite any who wish to speak for or against this request to speak now.”

Continue reading “Joining the Battle”


Glad you could join us for the next buzzed episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 275
Image credit: S.T. Ranscht

In those few moments, things changed. The sun broke through, and the birds Barry and Trevor sought had moved on. The Knights stopped short when a golden glop fell out of the sky and splopped on Trevor’s foot. They looked up. A shredded strip of honeycomb dangled from a jagged gouge in the Hive.

Birds of prey had moved in.

The leader, a vulture with a sweet tooth and a sour disposition, clung to the Hive as it swayed beneath his bulk, his scythe-like beak carving a chunk that dripped honey and larvae as he carried it to a nearby stump to ravage it unmolested.

“Crap,” Barry whispered into Trevor’s ear. “We’re gonna need a better plan.”

“Listen!” Trevor hissed, cocking his head toward an approaching hum and squinting his eyes into the glaring sun. As the drone grew louder, an undulating cloud of gold and brown, and a devouring shadow flowing ahead of it, spread across the sky to block the sun for an ominous moment before splitting apart to release a shaft of blinding light that seemed to freeze time. Blinking, Trevor snatched Barry in a jubilant hug as one half swarmed to the Hive and the other attacked the offending destroyer.

“It’s the Freelands bees!” he screamed.

To be continued. . .

Previously, on Elliot’s Adventures ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Next time . . .

Party of Two

Glad you could join us for the next excited episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 274
Photo credit: Chris Hornaman

“Run!” Trevor yelled. Eyes sparkling, he grabbed Barry by one wrist and dragged him into a tangle of undergrowth, turning to thrust his fang into the twitchy eye of the first bird to ram into the brush behind them. More Flyers crunched into the Knights’ refuge, jamming those in front of them further into the twiggy scratchiness, where they screeched and clawed to extricate themselves. The frogs hacked a path to the other side, escaping in a cloud of laughter, every muscle thrumming with life.

They emerged at the base of the Hive tree, out of sight of their pursuers. Breathing fast and hard, Trevor danced from foot to foot, until his joy couldn’t stand it any longer, and exploded in a whoop of glory.

Grinning, Barry shook his head. “Youse’re gonna bring ’em down on us.”

Continue reading “Party of Two”

They’re Here

Glad you could join us for the next present episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 273a
Photo credit: Mark Hamblin

Dawn’s tender light bled across a sky of beating wings streaking, diving, charging crimson, brown, and gray toward the Hive, glinting off the snapping, stabbing beaks, battling members of both Aero Squadrons and the Hive Elite, ripping at the Queen’s home, skewering the drones who shielded its narrow entrance and swarmed to fight them off.

Trevor vanished into the melee yelling something Barry couldn’t make out beneath the buzzing-squawking din tumbling overhead that muffled but didn’t mask the tearing, shredding rasps that screamed the inexorable destruction of Fen’s soul.

Continue reading “They’re Here”

Guarding the Future

Glad you could join us for the next protective episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 272
Photo credit: rockrose

“Knights!” Cyrus called as he flew into the Bower, raining a trail of herbs. “Creepers and Flyers are attacking the Hive!”

The Knights sprang into action. Trevor ripped off his sling, and retrieved his weapons while Barry drew the sleeping infants from their carrier to lay them beside their mother.

Wide-eyed, Cyrus asked, “Twins? You had two?”

The Princess nodded. “A girl and a boy,” she said, love and hope shining through her exhaustion.

Surveying the chamber, Cyrus hovered over Arturo as he scummed a dusty pool of the beast’s blood from the floor.

“What happened here?” the young Guard inquired as the midwife left her plastering to retrieve the Assassin’s stinger from a high shelf and hand it to Barry. “What’s wrong with the Prince?”

Continue reading “Guarding the Future”

They’re Coming!

Glad you could join us for the next anxious episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 271
Photo credit:

At the Hive, Captain Avery’s screeching alarm yanked Vernon from his troubled dreams of nameless shadows creeping in from all sides, and threw him into a harsh reality of impending doom and death. How Lilian had remained asleep he couldn’t fathom, but leaving her to enjoy a few more moments of peace, he flew outside to find out what the hell was happening.

The Captain of the Dark of Night Aero Squadron flapped through the dwindling spatter, stark against the lumpy sky, lit in a final blast of lightning. Spying the Queen’s Liaison, he landed on a branch above the Hive.

“Sir,” his breath burst hot on Vernon’s face, “a patrol of grounded Flyers has discovered five slain Guards right here in Central Fen.”

“The General’s henchmen?”

“It looks that way, Sir. They’re too far apart and too recently dead to believe there was only one killer.”

Vernon closed his eyes. “And Cyrus? The Guard outside the Bower?”

“I’m not certain. If he’s one of the victims, he’s been dragged away and hidden. But we found another body — an enemy’s — close to the Bower.”

Continue reading “They’re Coming!”