May 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

May 7, 2014

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionTonight I have the traveling jitters.

Do you ever get those? Trying to fit everything into a carry-on is a challenge for me.

But of course, I write prose. Poets can pack entire lifetimes in a single suitcase. Maybe that’s why I like to practice brevity; I need to learn to pack tighter.

What I would give for a universal power cord. I’m packing at least four: one for my Kindle, another for my i-pod, yet another for my phone and of course, one for my computer.

I’m trying to limit shoes, but I’m definitely wearing my cowboy boots with the copper studs. I might regret this as I’m pulling off my boots, unpacking my computer and displaying my mini-toiletries at the security gate.

I hope my cute new jeans jacket from the thrift store is warm enough. Minnesota is entering an ice age and denim might not keep me warm, but I’m a mountain girl as well as a buckaroo so I can tough it out.

Because I’m traveling from Missoula to Denver to Minneapolis tomorrow (all to get to Menomonie, Wisconsin where my son receives his Bachelors Degree on Saturday), I’m posting the prompt early. If by chance you respond tomorrow and have no response from  me in return, give me a day to catch up! I’ll be plugged in by tomorrow night.

It seems natural to offer a prompt about travel. Since I feel jittery, I’m thinking travel horror stories. I know, counter intuitive. You’d think I’d want peaceful travel stories, but when I’m feeling angst I like to crank up the music and rock the house. Come on, scare me, make me laugh, include a grizzly bear or zombie or tropical spider. Maybe the food was horrible; maybe it was the service.

May 7, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a travel horror story. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, May 13 to be included in the compilation. My contribution is a tightly packed suitcase version of a longer story (true) from my Elmira Pond blog: “The Big Bad Bears of Trout Creek Road.” Happy trails to you in writing this week!

Bear Bait by Charli Mills

We missed the turn-off to the dump again, taking garbage into the Cabinet Mountains. Fishing in grizzly bear country means taking precautions, not baiting bears with the stench of week-old onion peels, empty beer bottles and plastic yogurt containers.

Huckleberries distracted us from fishing. Tiny berries on puny plants; and a glob of bear hair.

As unease greased my gut, both my dogs careened downhill, screaming like banshees. This is it, I thought. Formulating a eulogy in my head for my dogs, I stumbled over berries racing to the truck only to realize:

It still held the bear bait.


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

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  1. Annecdotist

    Love the clever way you introduce these prompts, Charli, a great scary story from you to kick us off – think we’ve had bits of this on Twitter?
    Will share a virtual cup of tea where you’re next plugged in

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, I’ve shared on twitter–my travel jitters and bear story! I was amazed that I could take a rambling blog post and pare it down to 99 words. We’ll share that cup of tea!

  2. Norah

    I’m so glad we don’t have bears in Australia! I don’t know how you deal with recreation In areas that these large terrifying creatures inhabit. Our cute little koalas, which are often mis-named bears, would not create such terror if encountered in the wild. But then we do have snakes, spiders, crocodiles, dingoes and in the water, sharks! I hope your travels go well. Congratulations to your son. I look forward to the next instalment – I hope there won’t be a new terrifying travel tale to tell in the next week!

    • Charli Mills

      With that line-up, Norah, you don’t need grizzlies in Australia! It is an odd thing, though, grizzlies in “recreational” country. Koalas are definitely cute!

  3. Paula Moyer

    Night Passage – Overland

    By Paula Moyer

    The move to Minnesota started at night, rather than morning. Jean’s dad always loved to travel; once the car was packed, he was too excited to sleep. So Jean, her mom and dad squished into the front seat as they left Oklahoma City. Her earthly goods filled the backseat, trunk, and luggage container strapped atop the car.

    The plan was to stay in Wichita.

    No vacancies? The Shriners convention filled the town.

    “Oh, well, there are more hotels in Kansas,” Dad said cheerfully.


    Still nothing.

    Mom drove; Jean and Dad slept.

    Finally, Kansas City. A room.

    At dawn.

    • Charli Mills

      Moms always seem to step in when the going, well, keeps going! Great flash writing, Paula!

  4. Paula Moyer

    Great story, Charli! You definitely scared me!

    • Charli Mills

      Todd had a laugh (at me) when the bear turned out to be a bunny!

  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Great prompt and flash so far. Looking forward to writing this one. Congrats to your son!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks on all accounts, Sarah! I’m excited for Kyle, but he’s not through, yet. Staying to get his masters.

  6. Sarah Brentyn

    One More Night

    By Sarah Brentyn

    She woke.

    Noise crept into her sleep-deprived brain. The ice machine outside her room, probably. Or late check-ins dragging duffle bags. I hate traveling. She reached out to the lamp beside her bed. Something moved.

    She froze.

    Shaking, she clicked the light on. The walls crawled. Damn cockroaches. Anger overtook fear as she whipped the covers back, grabbed a shoe and started swatting. One more night. That’s it. As she dropped the shoe, she saw it was large, brown, a man’s. She spun around, scanning the room.

    She gasped.

    A foot stuck out from under the bed.

    She screamed.

    Horror Travel Story

    • Charli Mills

      That was quick, Sarah! That gave me chills upon chills! As if cockroaches weren’t horrible enough! Great thriller in 99 words!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Thanks! I thought there was no way with this one but then…

        Fun prompt, great challenge.

    • KC

      Yeah, roaches are creepy — but realizing you are holding a dead man’s shoe? Horrifying. Nice job!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Bwa-ha-ha… Is he dead? Not telling. 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no…even more horror!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome AJprince! That’s a horrific Alaskan vacation…reads like the opening to a thriller! Hope to see more of your flash writing. It’s a great way to practice craft with taking too much time from our primary projects.

  7. Lisa Reiter

    I’m trying – I’m literally squeezing my frontal lobes together to see if there’s an imagination in there – I think it’s my perfectionism that jumps on every spark but I like this prompt A LOT so I might just have to be brave..

    • Charli Mills

      Give it a go, Lisa! I swore I’d never write memoir, especially childhood, but I was surprised at what came out on the page–and it didn’t hurt my brain at all! We have another memoirist who writes great flash every week (Paula Moyer) and she’s created an alter-ego from her middle name. You could try that or just embellish one fact (or this is a plausible theme to “kill” off an annoying “character” in your life). 🙂

  8. TanGental

    Evening Charli. England is green and verdant as the rain tips down so what better way to keep warm than a piece of flash (well that and a dance class in an hour).

    Unfolding drama

    ‘if you care, be there.’
    She held out the note.
    ‘Check-in’s two hours before the flight.’
    He glanced at down. City Airport. BA desk. Friday.
    He knew it was pointless, calling, discussing it. Too much water had been passed, as Sam Goldwyn said.
    Friday. He smoothed the note and smiled. Two hours before; his timing was perfect. He approached the desk. ‘Flight 265?’
    The attendant pointed at the plane taking off. The note said 4.20. He was on time. He narrowed his eyes. In the crease, a faint vertical line, like a middle finger, stared back at him. 14.20.

    • Charli Mills

      Excellent flash, Geoff! Warming indeed, to see you writing another. You got this! Love your take on the prompt and the horror of missed perfect timing. Also the analogy, “like a middle finger” is terrific. I’m traveling and find that English weather is in Minnesota. I’ll check out more of your blog posts when I get back out west! You wrote some interesting posts this week.

      • TanGental

        It’s based on my honeymoon; but with a happier outcome; 30 years married this May 19th (whizz, pop, let’s have a party… oh we are!)

      • Charli Mills

        30 years! That is a happy outcome deserving of bubbly! Happy anniversary and have a wonderful party, Geoff!

    • Sarah Brentyn

      That’s awful and hilarious at the same time. (The story, not the writing.) 😉 Love the close call, the “middle finger”. Good stuff.

      • TanGental

        Thank you, Sarah. Yours creeped me out, but then I think it was meant to! Keep sending me behind the sofa!

    • Charli Mills

      I had to take a deep breath after reading! Wow…powerful glimpse at a horrific journey. Amazing how brevity can say so much. I’m so glad you tried your hand at fiction–you did great!

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Nice flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, boy–did I ever create memories! Busted my phone, had an in-flight emergency coming back and had to take a bus! Glad to see you all have been writing even though my life took a strange turn of events. That’ll teach me to encourage travel horror stories before traveling! So proud of my son and both my daughters. All I can say is that it’s a good day to be alive!

    • Charli Mills

      Great scene setting, Ruchira!

  9. rllafg

    Baggage Claims by Larry LaForge

    “Easy now.” The upright softcase pleads, but knows it’s futile. The owner slings him on the scale to be tagged. The agent throws him on the conveyor. The worst is yet to come.

    “Bring it on.” The cocky new hardcase boasts, feeling indestructible. He doesn’t realize the hard shell is an invitation for harsher treatment. He will learn the hard way, so to speak.

    “Bye y’all!” The sassy carry-on gloats, smiling and waving to the others as she heads directly to the gate.

    The softcase and hardcase grin from wheel to wheel.

    They know the overhead bin awaits her.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! That’s brilliant. I saw that luggage dialog happening just yesterday and it is so true. Great delivery and creative take on the prompt!

    • TanGental

      Terrific stuff.

  10. Norah

    Hi Charli, Here is a link to my response to your challenge this week: I really appreciate the stretch!

    • Charli Mills

      And I appreciate you making the stretch!


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