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July 9: Flash Fiction Challenge


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Carrot Ranch Flash FictionA river slants across Boise in southern Idaho. To the northeast are mountains; to the southwest are high desert plains. Both areas were contorted by geologic forces–one region rose to the occasion as the other flattened. Water did the rest of the carving.

Water. Out west it is a precious commodity that spurs modern range wars. Special interest groups solicit favor for wild mustangs, endangered cui-ui fish, cattle grazing rights, farm irrigation, salmon spawns and big city hydration and sewage.

Precipitation is crazy sporadic out west, much like the crazy terrain. Within the borders of Idaho, Sandpoint in the north averages 34 inches of rainfall a year whereas Boise in the south averages 11 inches. North, the grass is tall, choked with daisies and looks soft as a horse’s muzzle. South, it’s as crisp as crackers.

Water makes a difference, yet the lack of rainfall or snow pack in one region doesn’t mean there’s a lack of water; just water distribution. One of the largest rivers, the Snake, winds in a curve like that of a Lazy C cattle brand, cupping the south region in a vast high desert. Smaller rivers up north cascade through conifers that tower over 70 feet tall.

Both areas are equal in distance from the Pacific Ocean, but weather patterns funnel differently. There are days that the sky in Boise is like a blue parched bone. And there are days in Elmira (north of Sandpoint) that the Pacific Ocean seems to crash over the peaks of the Selkirks like a sky-turned-heaving-ocean.

Driving home from Boise to Elmira, the Hub fondly gazes at brilliant patches of green growing atop desert ground. He grew up in Nevada, the great high desert basin and range country of the US. He knows that deserts grow the best alfalfa, onions and cantaloupes. He’d love to farm a flat swath of desert. All it takes is water.

We follow the Lower Salmon River as it flows north. In some draws, meadows and forests hug the slopes and in other draws, brown grass barely covers exposed rock. Yet we follow the same river. And it’s hot. We pull over at a cement block toilet encircled by cement picnic tables. Cottonwood trees and a few pines offer shade.

I’m looking for water. Following a paved trail I come to the edge of the Salmon River where deep blue water eddies  into  swirling patterns. I roll up my pants, keep my Keens on my feet (after all, they’re water shoes) and wade into the cool river, feeling the tug of its current.

Water. Sweet water from the well quenches my thirst. Hot water from the tap washes away the stress of a long day. Streams, creeks and lakes with sandy bottoms beckon for my feet or even a swim. The soft swish of a fly-line is zen-like, fishing for salmon or trout. Hooded mergansers glide upon the waters of Elmira Pond. Is there any greater daily luxury in my life than that of water?

From the depths of the Salmon River I’ve found the weekly prompt.


July 9, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write story about water.  What significance does water have to the story, the setting or character (s)? How is water evocative or manipulated? What river flows through your imagination? Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, July 15 to be included in the compilation.

Tolo Lake Graveyard by Charli Mills

One Saturday morning local volunteers gathered around the small mud flat littered with dead branches. The local Chamber had donated coffee.

“Listen up,” called out the state biologist. “We’ve drained water from Tolo and with your help we’ll begin mucking out the bottom to improve fishing.”

“Damn snags,” said a Grangeville farmer, swishing the last of his coffee. “I’m gonna find those Castmasters.” He walked over to the largest branch, wiping away black mud, recognizing a bone. All the branches were bone.

Tolo Lake, a small water artesian in the middle of farmland, was a mass graveyard of mammoths.


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.


  1. Paula Moyer says:

    Greatest of the Great Lakes

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean never took the “Express Highway” up the North Shore of Lake Superior. It was always the scenic route. Even then, “scenic” really took off north of Two Harbors.

    She hungered to memorize the twists and turns of Highway 61. Turn, turn, turn. Glimpse, glimpse, glimpse through trees. Then: big hilltop vista, carpet laced with glittering blue diamonds. She could hear a kettle drum with each viewing.

    Somewhere north of Gooseberry Falls, she would enact her ritual. Walk to shore, place towel on rock. Remove shoes. Wade in up to the knees. Cherished, cold shock. Liquid ice, beloved lake.


  2. MrBinks says:

    Stumbled upon you via Twitter. First time here, I hope you enjoy.

    Water Wants Water
    By Mr Binks

    Walter smiled. His previously clenched eyelids had loosened but not opened, and his eyes twitched beneath them…


    • Charli Mills says:

      Howdy MrBinks! Glad you stumbled in! That’s a mighty fine flash and an iconic western scene–the delirious man parched in the desert dreaming of water. Great use of juxtaposing gritty details with the character’s imagined ones. Ride with us anytime–new prompt posted on Wednesdays and a compilation of all the flash responses posted the following Tuesday.


    • Norah says:

      Great imagery!


  3. Sarah Brentyn says:

    Lady of the Lake

    At the end of the dock, Phoebe dipped her toe in the lake. Her grip on the post so tight, it left indentations in her palms. She watched the still water. No girls floated by in bikinis, sunning themselves. No guys ran down the dock and jumped high in the air shouting “cannonball!” No children sat in the sand, slathered with sunscreen, digging with plastic shovels.

    Not today.

    Everyone was out walking, searching, calling. Looking for Phoebe’s sister, Kaia. They wouldn’t find her. She was gone. Drowned. Of this, Phoebe was certain. She hadn’t let go until Kaia sank.


  4. Pete says:

    I guess mine is kind of sad, but it’s just what came forth….so here you go…

    Cruel Summer

    Phillip squinted at the sparkling pool, rippling with playful screams and splashes and colorful pool toys from one end to the other. He sat down next to his mom on a lounge chair, already drenched in sweat as the sun burned through his shirt.

    “Hey Phillip, you getting in?” Owen asked from the edge. Phillip watched the water dripping off his skinny arms.

    “Maybe later.”

    He’d been so fearless before, and felt the stares clinging to him like his shirt on his hips. Today he would wait until dark, when he’d plunge into the still water shirtless and alone.


    • Charli Mills says:

      It is sad, how someone (especially a child) can feel so isolated when the pool is full of kids and toys. Whether it’s from past experiences or bullying or just being more timid than the boisterous kids. And the adults don’t seem to notice, “Go play…Get in the pool…Why are you sitting in the sun..” is all they say instead of questioning why the boy lingers. It’s interesting too, how a prompt can illicit something that we didn’t know was there. Ah, but the beauty of a prompt is discovering what wants to surface. Even if it is sad.


      • Annecdotist says:

        Especially if it’s sad, but I’m all for misery. I wondered if he were especially self-conscious this year about taking his clothes off?


      • Charli Mills says:

        That thought struck me too, as I was rereading the story. It makes the “skinny arms” reference more telling, as does wearing the tee-shirt in the hot sun. Breaks my heart, the last line about waiting until dark. Good observation, Anne.


    • TanGental says:

      so sad…. reminds me of me aged ten or so.


    • This is sad. I think that his friends know something is wrong but don’t know what it is. They have noticed his behaviour is different but don’t realise how desperate it is.


      • Pete says:

        Thanks for commenting guys, I had the idea of a heavier kid who wanted so desperately to swim and enjoy the water with his friends but couldn’t shake his self conciousness.


      • I think Geoff was spot on with his comment then. I know I thought he was planning a suicide at night. What is sadder is that my brain immediately jumped to this conclusion possibly as Australia has a huge youth suicide rate and it is an often discussed issue. It was still a good flash though.


      • Charli Mills says:

        That’s sad to hear. I was studying the suicide phenomenon on Baffin Island for my second novel project. One thing they have done is to introduce hip-hop. As to why it has been effective, they claim it gives voice to youth who feel disconnected and powerless. Evidently hip-hop rose out of American ghettos for that very reason.


      • Yes Charli I think the pressures on teenagers and younger is huge and their hopes not so hopeful leading to dire consequences. I don’t know whether hip hop is something that has been tried here or not. Certainly I would advocate dancing of any type to lift your spirits and delay dementias so I can well believe that it would be effective.


      • Charli Mills says:

        You might be interested in this program from Baffin Island and how they use hiphop: Fascinating and hopeful.


      • Sarah Brentyn says:

        Irene – I thought the same thing about suicide. Especially after Pete’s comment on my flash. That is awful about the high rates in Australia. I had no idea it was any different (higher or lower) than other countries. What is going on?

        I’m going to look at that Baffin Island study, Charli. Thanks.


      • Thanks Charli for the link. Finally watched it and think it is a great initiative. Sarah suicide is in the three leading causes of death in the 15-44 age group and the 2nd in the 10 – 24 age group. Worldwide it is set to become one of if not the leading cause of death by I think (don’t quote me as this is from memory which we know can be unreliable) by 2030. At the moment worldwide there is one death from suicide every 40 seconds. The Australian Institute for Suicide research and prevention is working hard on creating a multi-agency including health, education, media, industry +++ to try and do something to stem the flow. It is a very sad state of affairs.


      • Charli Mills says:

        That is staggering.


    • Sarah Brentyn says:

      Aww, Pete. Yah, I pictured a really heavy child being too humiliated to take his shirt off. I could feel his pain when you wrote about the days of staring and him watching the “skinny” arms on another kid. 😦


    • Norah says:

      It is kind of sad. It leaves me quite flat, wondering why Phillip feels like that. You have created the mood well.


    • georgiabellbooks says:

      Oh, that is sad. But it feels very genuine.


  5. zsasushi says:

    My dunderhead-brother insisted his facts were impeccable; insisted I span the river alone; and refused to listen to my concerns about the rattlesnake den just beyond the bank. I could see a papery skin caught on a rock. I knew the nest was full of diamondbacks.

    Axel expected me to swim over to the north side of Obion River, rig up a U-hook in the rock, tie a rope to it, then swim back. He had plans for a whack-job fishing outfit only he couldn’t swim.

    “You’ll be safe. Snakes can’t swim.”

    Famous last words. Why did I listen?


  6. What a terrific flow of flash already! Keep it pouring in! I’m having a FB issue–Carrot Ranch Communications won’t load. Thus I can’t post these glorious responses yet. Hopefully it’s just a glitch that will go away if I come back to it later.


    • Charli Mills says:

      UPDATE: Rebooted my computer and all is well on Facebook as well as that place can be. In addition to the compilation, I post each story at Carrot Ranch Communications FB page. I’m not a big fan of FB,but it is one of the platforms American writers are expected to have. My biggest beef with FB is that they formulate how page posts feed so I really have no idea about the reach. Of course, they offer to “boost” the reach for $.


      • Lisa Reiter says:

        I notice differences with my personal page that are bizarre, so it must be really frustrating for anyone with the slightest ‘commercial’ need. Simon and I have many of the same friends and sometimes see entirely different stories. It’s almost as if you would have to not participate to get a time based feed – otherwise it’s heavily filtered by heaven knows what.
        I hope there’s a revolt soon!


      • Charli Mills says:

        FB is notorious for changing its formulas and rules. One would “think” that if you had a page offering “free reads” of quality material that FB would like that. I’m ready for that revolt!


  7. Lisa Reiter says:

    Oh no! I’m peeking! Some great flash already. Love your piece Charli! Made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

    This prompt instantly gave me some ‘negative’ ideas but I’ve set myself the challenge of writing something positive this week!! – Don’t hold your breath – in at the last minute as usual I expect 🙂


    • Charli Mills says:

      You never know what’s lurking below the surface of calm waters! Mammoths…bullies…sisters… Hold to the positive then, unless writing something negative would clear the mind to be more positive!


  8. susanzutautas says:

    I had a few ideas for water but ended up going with this one.


  9. Annecdotist says:

    I thought I’d got to the pool early this time, but there are already some great flashes making a splash. Mine laps around oceans, rivers and rain … and comes up with


  10. TanGental says:

    Cripes Charli, you’ve released the flood this week. Hardly a day into the challenge and look at the list so far. Mine’s under construction. Good to see some new faces too.


  11. […] Charli Mills has challenged us this week as follows July 9, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a […]


  12. WATER is hope.Thanks for the lovely photo prompt.Here is my submission


  13. rllafg says:

    Hi. This is my 99-word story about water. (Hopefully, there are no chemists in the Rough Writer group.)


    Hydrogen Bonding by Larry LaForge

    “Hold on Izzie!”

    “Don’t let go Ozzie.”

    These two water molecules, best pals forever, are in peril again. This time it’s not pollution. It’s the dreaded refrigerator icemaker.

    The incoming line was like a water slide, but now the freeze is on.
    Izzie hears the dispenser crank up and knows immediately it’s set on cubed, not crushed, ice. That’s good, he thinks.

    “We can make it, Iz,” Ozzie shouts as he clings to Izzie so tightly they appear to be one 2H4O molecule.

    As the freeze sets in Ozzie realizes they did it.

    They’re in the same ice cube!

    The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine:


  14. ruchira says:

    Phew! made it just in time for the Flash Fiction challenge 🙂

    Will come back in a bit to read all about my readers contributions.
    Charli loved your take on this and having a theme is always a challenge that helps me scratch my gray matter 😉


  15. […] week’s Charli’s flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch […]


  16. Lisa Reiter says:

    A bit of a damp squib this week but thanks for the stretch, as ever. Interesting that this was hard especially as I decided to abandon drowning, death and destruction for one! Lisa x


    • Charli Mills says:

      There’s such alliteration in “drowning, death and destruction” but I’m glad you opted for resiliency. Great use of details to set the dry scene. And I like the use of the young boy and his mother as character. His perspective shows the changes he might be seeing for the first time, but his mother has the wisdom to move on and find a water source.


  17. […] thought when reading this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about water, was of the street on which I had hoped to open an alternative to school twenty years ago. I […]


  18. Norah says:

    Hi Charli,
    I love your flash! How exciting it would be to excavate mammoth bones!! I was a bit disappointed that Will and Sarah didn’t feature at first, but the mammoths made up for it! I struggled with this one – didn’t flow for me quite the way I had hoped. Never mind. They don’t always go the way you want. Thanks for the challenge. Here’s my contribution, in verse this time:


    • Charli Mills says:

      That was my own career that never eventuated (had to use the word as I just learned it from your post). I studied quaternary science which melds 4 disciplines: biology, paleontology, archaeology and geology. In a nutshell, its the study of that geologic time when mammoths and early man roamed. I though I needed to challenge myself to something new. I’ll return to the wild west with Sarah Shull. Great post Norah! I usual, I have something to learn form you, which I enjoy. A new word, pondering flow and the realization that your politics are as shady as those in the US! Especially around the subjects of water and money.


      • Norah says:

        That science sounds fascinating. I haven’t heard of that before – an interesting combination. I know what you mean about needing a new challenge, but I have been enjoying the McCandless tales just the same.


  19. Sneaking in at the eleventh hour (as usual). Thanks to Sarah Brentyn for giving me the idea.

    The glass felt heavy in her hands; a welcome weight in contrast to her racing thoughts. Inhaling, she felt her heartbeat slow. Amber and toffee and a dash of pepper invaded her senses with nostalgia. Every breath reminding her of his warm, rich voice, his large hands showing her how to tie her shoes and catch tadpoles. Hands that had tucked her in each night, with a kiss and prayer to a god he didn’t believe in. “No water,” he’d said. “If you want to experience something, don’t dilute it, dive in.” She drank the scotch in his memory.


    • Charli Mills says:

      I often need that eleventh hour to force the creativity out of the write now or else moment! Like wringing water from a rock somedays (it feels like for me). 🙂

      Really powerful piece, involving sense of smell with memory. It’s also an interesting contrast to Sarah’s earlier flash. Here we see the driving force behind the act, making it all a complex bundle.


  20. […] when Charli posted her challenge prompt and I not having a creative bone in my body decided that I would write […]


  21. Sherri says:

    Hi again Charli! Look what the tide brought in, ha! Sorry I’m late again but at least I made it this week… just 😉 I’m posting my entry here instead of doing a post on my blog this week, due to award’s posts over there. I hope my flash isn’t too predictable and boring. Had the idea and my original was 300 words!!! I’m not sure fiction is my thing but I’m trying 🙂

    A Village No More

    Dark, orange sky urged Mary to quicken her step as she walked by the side of the lake. At last, she found the clearing.

    Stopping to check her watch, nothing but the sound of the water gently lapping against the lakeshore broke the silence.

    Then it happened: the lake turned still as a millpond. Mary heard the first chime of the bells before she high-tailed it out of there. The old village had been purposely flooded to make the reservoir and locals spoke of hearing church bells on certain summer nights.

    She hadn’t believed them but she did now.


    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sherri! That’s okay…looks who’s late to her own web page! It’s a “wash.” 🙂 Don’t ever worry about it being up to par because we have no par in practice. 😉 This allows us to get creative, but to also create future possibilities for longer stories or submissions to contests/magazines/grants. Here, we play, support, write and read! And, of course, discuss our ideas!

      Oh, your flash washed over me with chills! That’s a haunting story and more than ghostly bells. Something so eerie about flooded towns.

      Congratulations an all your twinkling rewards! Thanks you for the inclusion, too! Can you send me a quick email?


      • Sherri says:

        Thanks so much Charli! Yes, I can definitely see how ideas formed here for the flashes can lead to longer stories for submission. I will remember that! Fiction is definitely something I want to explore after I’ve written my book but it’s great having this weekly challenge to keep me on my toes in the meantime! Haha, glad you had a chill or two…I have a strong idea for a story about the flooded town and need to research it more…
        You are very welcome for the awards, my pleasure, and yes will ping an email over to you now…


  22. Charli Mills says:

    Just have to say this out loud–it’s taken me two bloody years to figure out how to get my gravatar to show up!!! Don’t even know what I did but I pushed a lot of buttons on my profile. Ha, ha! Technology will not yet defeat me! 🙂


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