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October 8, 2014

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionTraveling is challenging enough without having to deal with ineptness and apathy. Let me introduce you to United Airlines, the un-friendliest airlines in the sky.

The Hub has worked in the airline industry long enough for me to witness its slow, painful demise. Airlines that do not take care of their employees are staffed with employees who don’t give a dirty boot to take care of their customers. That’s my opinion. Not sure if that’s United’s trouble, but they suck.

Weather is out of my control, the pilot’s control, the ticket agent’s control…so on and so forth. I get that. But yesterday was the kind of blue-sky day that airlines use for posters and advertisements. Yesterday, there was no weather.

Yet our plane out of Denver into Spokane arrived late. Thus my flight boarded late. No reason was offered, no apologies issued. We loaded like cattle and the plane pulled away from the gate. And there we sat.

After a delay, the first engine shut down and out pilot announced that she was shutting down the engine for safety. Safety because she needed to complete paperwork for us to leave and a United employee was walking out to give the flight crew the paperwork. What?!

Smart phones do exist with all kinds of apps including the management of paperwork. If paper paperwork was indeed necessary, why wasn’t it dealt with BEFORE we left the gate? So there we sat, waiting for pens and paper to be exchanged. The engine started back up and into our flight the pilot announced our late arrival time.

Like every other person seated in this can with wings soaring across blue skies, I looked at my connecting flight. The pilot said we’d arrive at 4:51; my connection started boarding at 4:50. Denver is a huge airport and my boarding pass failed to list a gate.

I asked a flight attendant for assistance finding my gate. She was elusive as a drug dealer stopped on a street corner and asked for directions. She gave me non-information, nothing helpful and suggested I try I had signed up for “alerts” which by the way never alerted me to anything including the delays I experienced. What a waste of digital space on my phone.

The pilot informed us that we were making tight connections and asked for a show of hands from passengers who had connections 40 minutes or less (I was already at -1 minute). EVERY hand rose. The pilot, who couldn’t see this, advised us to give courtesy to fellow passengers who raised their hand. We all laughed like people who know they are screwed.

Not a single flight attendant helped anyone. We had passengers helping get bags. I sat next to a nice young man who retrieved my heavy computer bag (heavy, loaded with all my Hickok research) and coat for me. Others passed up a diaper bag for the mother traveling with her baby. The flight attendants thank us for flying with United–the friendliest airline in the sky.

The gate agents ignored me as I asked for help. Please, my plane is already boarding. She looked it up and agreed. Yes it was. Where? Gate B77. I landed at B20-something. I had to run. And I don’t run well.

Let’s pause and make a suggestion: United, you have a delayed flight, delayed by whatever stupidity led to paperwork on the tarmac, and you KNOW you have passengers with tight connections as a result. HELP THEM! Is it that difficult? Seriously–call their gates, let their connections know they’ve arrived. Have transport ready. Be FRIENDLY. Look that word up and know it, don’t just regurgitate it over your intercom system.

By gate B48 I was winded, had blisters forming because my shoes were for ease of getting through security not for sprinting and my name was called for final boarding. Couldn’t they see on their screens that my plane arrived on the opposite end? So I stopped and asked the gate agents for help.

Winded, I could have been having a heart attack. They ignored me. All three. How do you ignore a person who says, three times, Help me! Talk about dehumanizing. Kind of the opposite of friendly. I begged them to call my gate, let them know I was struggling to get there. One woman reluctantly did and told me, “You better get going.”

The one angel of the day was a beautiful black man, driving a cart. He noticed I was winded. He saw my limping gait, my heavy bag, and stopped to give me a ride. I guarantee you, this kind and friendly man who then put me at ease, said we’d make it, chatted like he was my best friend does not work for United.

Once at gate B77 I was treated as if I were holding up their damn plane! I was hustled along, told to “Go, go go!” And had to be escorted to my plane. The flight attendant ignored me as I boarded and another passenger tried to help me with my bag. It wouldn’t fit. We shoved it between my seat and the one in front of me with my legs painfully pinned. Despite being out of FAA regulation, neither flight attendant cared, nor offered to store it elsewhere.

I arrived. I found my family in a chorus of hugs and laughter. Told them my ridiculous story of traveling to which my niece and sister, said, “Oh no. We never fly United.” In fact my sister says she’ll pay extra to avoid the airline. Wise. We waited for my bag that then never arrived.

Today, I’m grumpy. I’m in day two of my sweaty travel clothes. My “delayed” luggage claim was suppose to update me every six hours on my bag until found. Other than the text advising me of the update policy, I was never once updated. The toll-free number on my claim goes to some “you won…” scam and when I try to by pass my prize I get disconnected. So I started calling Houston. I got information, but only be calling. No one ever called me.

Lack of customer service. Apathetic at best. Fly United–the Most Apathetic and Inept Airline is the Skies…if we don’t crash. And yes, that was my last travel horror story. I was kind that time and did not call out the airline. Nor was I ever compensated for my trouble. They offered me “reward miles.” Not interested. And yes, I flew United.

Time to lighten up! I’m on my first research trip which I get to share with family. They know me all too well, and when I visit they’ve shown me area cemeteries and museums. They get to go to Rock Creek with me and stand where it all went down on July 3, 1861. I’m very excited, and so happy to be among loved ones.

My three-year old grand-nephew we will call the Gymnast has a prompt for us: a yellow boat on a river. You can add dinosaurs and fire trucks if you are so inclined. I may be sporadic in my responses but I will respond to all your comments and submissions. I travel home (on United) and have low expectations. Thus I don’t think I’ll be posting on #MondayBlogs. And thank you for your patience with the delayed compilation posting. What a great collection of stories and fears.

October 8, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a yellow boat on a river. Be creative with the phrase. It can be about a yellow boat or it could be the name of a band or brand of toothpaste. It can be included in the setting or be the adventure.

As a bonus challenge, anyone willing to write a story for three year-olds will be included in a separate children’s compilation. It’s an option, and not the main prompt. I owe my nephew a story.

Home Sickness by Charli Mills

Sarah closed her eyes while the wagon trundled down dusty ruts. Sunset over the prairie hung hazy and pink on the horizon. Leroy said it’d take another hour to reach his ranch. After that he didn’t speak.

Like on a rocking boat, Sarah swayed. “I’ll buy you a yellow boat, Rosebud and sail you away from here.”

To Sarah, it was a promise Cob made to her years ago in the daisy-strewn meadow of the hollow where they met. Carolina meadows. Carolina mountains. Like swells of sea-sickness, she longed for home. She wanted off this boat. Cob had lied.


For the Gymnast by Aunt Nanners

“Turn the yellow boat around,” the captained commanded.

We were on the river behind Grammi’s house and the dinosaurs were lumbering after us. We found this yellow boat with a captain who wore a hat with an eagle feather. I gave him a piece of bubble gum and he agreed to take us across the river in his yellow boat.

The boat spun around leaving a crest of water in its wake that sprayed the biggest dinosaur. It melted. Now we knew their weakness. I popped my bubble gum and smiled at the captain. The yellow boat sped away.


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. Amber Prince says:

    What a nightmare of an experience. It’s so sad how common curtesy in customer service has become dehumanized. At least it was followed up with family and fun. Here’s hoping the trip home won’t be as excruciating.

    Love your flash! The gymnast picked a great prompt!!!

    • Charli Mills says:

      United sucks, but family is great. Internet connectivity has been a saga that just got resolved 5 minutes ago–in time for me to leave tomorrow. Yes, the Gymnast picked a good one and I was able to read stories to him from my phone (but unable to make comments on my own blog from my phone). I used to travel so effortlessly. I think I’ve lost my touch. 🙂

  2. Pete says:

    Yikes! The last few times I’ve flown it’s been Southwestern, and now I’m thankful! So glad you made it safe and sound, and I’ll keep this story in mind the next time I’m looking to book a flight.

    Here’s my story, off the top of my head. Probably not going to make the cut for your nephew…

    Thank God I’m Fifteen…

    We sat in a darkened corner of the Travelodge TGIF, sipping Sprites and huddling like detectives. We were nearly 200 miles from home, almost having fun even, at least until Mom’s face crumbled before my eyes. I glanced towards the bar.

    There he was, in a crisp gray suit and giggling with a woman who certainly had not taken two jobs to pay the bills when he went back to college.

    “I think we’ll have two of those Yellow Boats on the River,” Dad said. I looked back towards Mom—she was gone.

    Then I heard the glass break.

  3. Your trip sounded awful, Charli. I’m just glad you arrived safely – if late. And you’ll have plenty of lovely memories to mull over on the way back – where you know now what to expect!
    (I know I don’t participate in your prompts, but I do love the yellow boat one.)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Always appreciate it when you stop by and read, Teagan! Yes, I’ll have good memories to mull over on the flight home–hopefully it will be a smoother experience now that I’ve lowered my expectations of United.

  4. 😀 Charli…I’m sorry but your “angry” voice makes for spectacular reading. I’m so sorry. I do feel for you (bad, bad airlines). I could share many horrible travel experiences but please do try some more “angry writing”. It’s very funny. The story, not so much. Glad you are safe with your family. (hugs)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! I used a similar sassy tone for my character Dr. Danni Gordon in “Miracle of Ducks” so that makes me happy (hopeful) that you like the tone! I’m with toddlers right now (my new nickname is Charli James, dubbed by the Gymnast). Thanks!

  5. Norah says:

    Oh Charli, that’s a horror story if ever I heard one! I’d be changing airlines for the flight home, whatever the cost. Are you able to cancel and get refunded? I hope you are well rewarded with research material. I love the prompt and your two stories. I’m sure the gymnast loves the story for him. Maybe he’d like to listen to ‘Yellow Submarine’. I’d love to join in with a story but not sure I can do it for this one. I do love the prompt though and have been contemplating a story about a dinosaur man who went out in a can, maybe it could be a yellow boat instead. Glad you were able to solve the problem in your story, hope you can with the airline! Take care of you. We need you in one piece. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      If only I made more money writing! Yes, I tried to cancel my return flight, using the travel insurance I purchased but they are worse to deal with than the airline. Ugh, stuck with United until that first big breakthrough. 🙂

      I’ve not been able to configure my laptop to the Internet since traveling (finally figured it out today and I leave tomorrow). My phone let me read the great responses that were Gymnast-appropriate and he has loved them so far. I just couldn’t respond!

      I like your take and hope to hear a dinosaur story from you if you have time this week. I’ll return in one piece! Thanks!

      • Norah says:

        Blow the insurance. Why can’t they do what they are meant to do?!
        I’m disappointed to hear that you have experienced technology problems similar to ones I have experienced while away. Not having access to the internet in the way we have become accustomed is a real nuisance, particularly when it is our lifeline.
        May your return flight be smooth and uneventful and get you back home to the internet safely. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Honestly I think the travel insurance fine print reads that I’d have to get bit on the left small toe by a water moccasin in a thunderstorm.

        Yes, the inability to “log-in” was a nuisance, but I was able to collect lots of data. I’ll just have to wait to download and upload back home. Are you home? I’m traveling tomorrow. Hope your travels home have been (or will be) smooth too!

      • Norah says:

        Yes. Insurance! Can’t live with it, can’t live without it! I’ll have to google water moccasin. I thought a moccasin was a type of footwear.
        My journey home begins tomorrow. It’s difficult to work it out with all the time changes, but I think it will be about 36 hours all up.
        I wish you a safe and unremarkable journey.
        Best wishes,
        Norah xo

      • Charli Mills says:

        That’s a long journey, Norah! Beware of biting snakes and footwear. 🙂 Safe travels!

      • Norah says:

        Thanks Charli. I arrived home safely. I hope you did too. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, good news, Norah! Yes, I’m home safe and sound, too!

      • Norah says:

        Pleased to hear it! 🙂

  6. The Little Crocodile

    The little crocodile moved toward the water and the yellow boat. “I’m going to get there first!” he yelled to his brothers and sisters who had also just hatched. No one answered. The little crocodile stopped and looked back. “What’s the matter? Can’t catch me?” he turned and moved closer to the river.

    “Collin! You get back here!” Uh-oh. It was Mama crocodile. “What do you think you are? A Plesiosaurus?”


    Mama crocodile sighed. “It’s a swimming dinosaur.” She looked up. “Or a big reptile. At least, I think it could swim. Actually, is that a real dino…?”

    (A 99 word flash for Charli’s 3-yr-old nephew) 🙂

  7. TanGental says:

    Grim. Hilarious but grim.
    Here’s one for the little tumblekin
    The Gymnast saves the day
    The Gymnast took three yellow cushions to the pond. Nanners stood alone on the island, her eyes covered by weeds, her glasses floating on the water.
    ‘You need to trust me Nanners, if I’m going to save you.’
    ‘What’s your plan my love?’
    ‘I have the yellow cushions.’
    ‘But they’ll sink…’
    ‘It’s alright Nanners. I know what I’m doing. You trust me, don’t you?’
    ‘Of course my love. What do I do?’
    The Gymnast pushed the cushions into the water. He said the magic word as he did. A yellow boat appeared and Nanners stepped forward. She was safe.
    And one for you. I have posted this before but it might resonate today after your experience.

  8. Charli, reading every word of this made me so angry, disgruntled. Paying so much for such absurdities. You handled yourself with the best (it may have been winded) grace any person could have imagined. May the trip be enjoyable, may your bags find you, and may they upgrade you to first class because that is the least they can do. Safe travels.

    • Charli Mills says:

      My bag caught up with me eventually, the toiletries in the front pocket were smashed, absolutely smashed. Thanks, I hoping for grace tomorrow for certain!

  9. The Spiders and Mean Purple People

    “The quartet sails in a yellow boat to save the inhabitants of a foreign underwater land from their frozen states.”

    “This is your idea?”

    “Yeah. It’ll be brilliant.”

    “A yellow boat that goes underwater? You mean like a submarine?”

    “Yeah, yeah! That’s right.”

    “And this…quartet is going to save frozen people?”

    “Right. By singing to them.”


    “Yup. The band is called The Spiders. Or maybe they’ll be The Beatles. Anyway, they sing people awake from the Purple Meanies. Or they could be blue. Whatever. The Meanies hate music and freeze people. So…the quartet, get it?”

    “It’ll never work.”

  10. Sherri says:

    Oh Charli, what a horrendous travel experience. Dare I ask that our luggage has finally been returned to you? Remind me never to fly United and I hope you will be able to fly with someone else next time. Thank goodness you arrived safely and now you get to do the things you set out to do. Your excitement about going to Rock Creek with your family is palpable, hopefully that will erase all the horrible travel memories. Great prompt for letting the imagination go wild. Would love to try and write something for the Gymnast…will see what I can do. Meanwhile, have a wonderful time and see you soon…after a much better flight home, here’s hoping 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Eventually…with smashed toiletries. I’ve lowered my expectations which will help for the flight back. 🙂

      Rock Creek was amazing, like stepping back in time. It didn’t help with understanding the shooting because they didn’t build the replica as described, but I found out that another McCandless cousin is writing a play based on Monroe (Cob’s son). I got to talk to him on the phone and it was almost eerie how similar our theories and character ideas are! We’ll be talking more! I’d love to get him to write a flash with us sometime.

      Hope this gets your imagination revved! Catch up with you when I get back!

      • Sherri says:

        Grrrr….well, at least you got your clothes but what a major hassle for you…
        Wow, this has got my imagination revved right up, absolutely fascinating all this! To talk to your cousin like that too, that is incredible, and of course your time at Rock Creek, can’t wait to hear more with your perspective on it all. Exciting! Happy, safe travels Charli (and a much better experience, I do hope) and catch up with you soon 😀

  11. Sherri says:

    Sorry…of course that should read ‘your’ and not ‘our’ luggage…fingers working harder then my brain this morning o_O

  12. Annecdotist says:

    Oh, Charli, flying is so grim at the best of times. I totally agree with you that a service industry needs to look after its staff if it expects them to be decent to its customers. It’s one of my bugbears in relation to health and social care – I really don’t understand how governments can assume that anxious, demoralised and resentful staff makes good business sense. Yet even within your story of maltreatment by the airline we see fine examples of the generosity of the human spirit in the camaraderie and mutual support among the passengers and the ordinary kindness of the man from the other airline who simply saw someone in need of help and gave it. Anyway, I’m hoping by now you’ve recovered from this nightmare and are enjoying your research trip.
    I love the idea of this week’s prompt coming from a three-year-old. You’ve done a great job with poor Sarah and that crazy take on alligators and dinosaurs – I hope your grandnephew liked it as much as I did.
    As it’s unlikely that I’ll find a space for a yellow boat on my blog this week, I’m pasting my contribution below. Although it features a young boy, this is definitely not one for the children:
    They called it the yellow boat although technically, as Hazel had reminded everyone, it was a ferry.
    Dillon wriggled in his father’s arms: “I want to go with Mummy!”
    Jack screened the boy’s view with his coat as men in buttercup boiler-suits carried the stretcher up the gangplank. “You can’t, Soldier. They’re taking her to hospital.”
    Dillon made a sour face. He knew all about hospitals. “Will she come back with another baby?”
    If only!
    It had been her job to register the sick crossing the river. No need to take on staff to count the few who returned.
    Rather busy this week and trying to find time to write tomorrow’s blog post, but hope to call back to have a proper read of the excellent contributions so far.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Investing in happy employees makes for loyal customers. And the camaraderie of the passengers was refreshing. I have recovered, made great progress in the research, including new ideas and leads.

      A great flash, Anne. Has a futuristic feel to it, like the return of the plague. I’ll be catching up with your posts when I get back. Thanks!

  13. rllafg says:

    Here is my contribution to the children’s compilation. Adult version is in the works.

    Learning for Real by Larry LaForge

    Mrs. Pendergast knew her nursery school class would love the Little Tyke River Boats.

    The colorful miniature boats were only twelve inches long. “Pick out your favorite and take it to the launching point,” she told the kids. It wasn’t supposed to be a race, but it always seemed that way.

    Jacob and Ritchie grabbed the same boat. They pulled it back and forth trying to wrestle control. Frustrations mounted. Tears were shed.

    Mrs. Pendergast watched but didn’t say anything. Soon she was smiling with pride.

    Jacob remembered the lesson on sharing.

    He let Ritchie have the yellow one.

  14. Sarah says:

    I’m glad you made it safely, if in 2 pieces. It sounds like an awful trip!

  15. After your ghastly experience with United which you described so well I was convinced that the prompt would be bad travel experiences. The yellow boat came out of the mist. Happy researching and enjoy that family time.

  16. rllafg says:

    Yellow Boat to Freedom by Larry LaForge

    Twice daily Ronald Crampton drove the crowded Ravenel Bridge, crossing the Cooper River between his home in Mount Pleasant and his job in downtown Charleston. He loved the water and envied the boaters below.

    “Why not?” he said one morning.

    He quit his job, mortgaged his house, and bought a boat. He painted it bright, converting it into a water taxi. His customers gladly paid for the scenic commute across the Cooper River.

    Ronald made a fraction of what he earned as a stockbroker, but he was finally happy.

    All he wanted to do was drive that yellow boat.

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

  17. ruchira says:

    attaching my 99 word fiction associated with your nephew’s prompt 🙂

    Also, I had the pleasure to write a story keeping in mind a dog, dino and a boat..

  18. […] This post was written for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt for October 8, 2014. […]

  19. Sarah says:

    The yellow boat led me to a river, a father and his son.

  20. […] never know where I’m going with Charli’s prompt.  which for October 8th: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a yellow boat on a river. Be […]

  21. […] Mills has suffered at the hands of United Airlines this last week, prompting us to write about a yellow boat (I know, that sounds like me, going off at a tangent) so transport is at the […]

  22. TanGental says:

    The dark arts that are the airline industry. What’s the cliché? ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you want to rip their throats out’ or something like that. Here’s my little belated piece.

  23. […] of writing a novel paralyses me.  Hopefully that will change one day, but meanwhile, here is Charli’s prompt for this […]

  24. […] October 8, 2014 challenge from over at the Carrot Ranch Communications (presented to us by her three year old grand-nephew) prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) […]

  25. Is it lunchtime yet? Gosh, I hope you’re not preparing afternoon tea yet, Charli, as I’ve only just got through all the fiddle faddle of the day to the bit I like the most, writing! Anyway, here it is, too late or not! Didn’t think I was going to be able to think of one for this week at all until I read Sherri’s post, which reminded me to stop doing the boring stuff and get on with the fun of creating that her words sparked, and pooooooffff, there it was … and here it is:

    Merlin in the Holyland

    Another night under the stars. This time I’m in hot and very dusty Roman Judaea. Realising no limits to my magic as yet, I find myself enjoying its fruits some five centuries before my own time, having flipped myself there without any serious effort on my part beyond thought. I congratulate myself under a lazy crescent moon lounging on its back in a map of the heavens so altered by time and distance as to be strangely intriguing in its difference. It puts me in mind of a yellow boat chasing slippery fish in a river sparkling with spume.

    Needless to say, I haven’t written the blog post around it yet, but I’ll get onto it and post the link later 🙂

    Much love and bright blessings,
    Tally 🙂

    • Amber Prince says:

      Great Flash! Very Visual and enchanting.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I brought back a head cold from Kansas so I’ve not been swift today. Nothing major, just a stuffy nose. I don’t get sick often so I tend to fuss when I do. 🙂 Probably from flying United.

      Oh, yes…get to the fun stuff!

      Great image in this story–the altered heavens, crescent moon and yellow boat chasing slippery fish. Wherever Merlin appears, the stars do shine!

  26. Aaaaawww, fanx … it was quite a sudden burst of inspiration, couldn’t think of anything last night and thought I was going to have to pass the yellow boat by. Then I remembered your awful journey and dug deep!? … well, no, I read Sherri’s blog post, wrote this, then remembered that I had indeed been able to lay my own tribute at your feet in recompense for your bad experience 🙂

  27. Sherri says:

    HI Charli…well, my yellow boat flash ended up as a continuation of Bill’s story from last week. Who knew? Here it is:
    I tried the story for your nephew but nothing came, just nothing. Wish it did. Oh I will keep thinking though! Hope all is well… 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Interesting that this led to a continuation! Follow the prompt where it leads you! Got home late yesterday. Nursing a cold with vitamin C and lots of Kleenex. But the trip was worth it!

      • Sherri says:

        So glad you are back safe and sound and had such a great time, but sorry for the rotten cold. Get well soon and good to hear you are dosing up 🙂

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