January 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

January 22, 2015

January 21It’s 2 a.m. and already this line sounds cliche. But it is. 2 a.m. And the female German Short-haired Pointer (GSP) has to pee.

Her cold wet nose, shivering in my face is her communication. The male GSP bounds  across the dark room the moment I sit up. I can’t see him, but I hear his footfalls like giddy blows to the carpet. I groan.

The Hub and I have a rule. First one to hear the dogs is to take the dogs outside. It’s an unfair rule, really. They are, after all, his proclaimed fur-babies. But the Hub has to get up in two hours to drive the Fed Ex van to Spokane to pick up the overnight packages that are to be delivered out and about Sandpoint. Never mind that I also get up at 4 a.m. to cook him eggs and bacon.

It’s 2 a.m. and I’m sloshing across deep snow to find the perfect spot for the female GSP to pee. Not any spot will do. I’m barely dressed–no socks, bare feet in the Hub’s boots, pj bottoms and a fleece jacket. Not something I’d want to be seen in, but who’s going to see me at this hour in Elmira, Idaho? All I want to do is go back to bed so the fewer layers to disrobe, the quicker I can slumber.

The male yanks his leash hard and I go down like a shot elk. The snow gives way beneath me and I discover how deep it is and what it is like to flounder in shaved ice. Don’t panic. Not yet. You know, the deluded phrases we repeat like prayers to climb a steep hill or exit a tight fix. I’m drowning in snow and somehow, I still have hold of the leashes that are poor lifelines.

First, I stop thrashing. Panic has only buried me deeper in the pile. Second, I try to roll to my side. Once I’m successful, I try to press up, but my hand punches deeper into the snow. What is this bottomless frozen pit?  Like a side-winding Arctic crab, I punch, pull and crawl until at last I press down on a harder frozen patch.

Amazingly, the two GSPs so determined to pull me down, are uncooperative in pulling me back up. They dutifully stand by, not sure what their human companion is doing exactly. Maybe they are trying not to laugh. Maybe they are afraid they’ll go down in the snow soup, too.

Upright and missing a boot I return to the porch and enter my house with the relief of having survived something catastrophic. Ice is inside my scant clothes and chunks of snow trail behind me as I stagger upstairs to the bedroom. Dogs lie down on their beds in tight circles and the hub asks, “Did she pee?”

I’m tempted to throw the snowball that has somehow gathered in the crotch of my pjs, but I refrain and say, “I fell.” His response? A slight intake of air followed by the snore of a peacefully sleeping man.

So, 2 a.m. adventures it is for everybody.

January 21, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a 2 a.m. story. Crazy things can happen after the bars close down, even if you never go to the bar! You might, drown in a pile of snow or wake up to find a black bear in your kitchen. Well, those are northern Idaho 2 a.m. stories. What’s yours?

Respond by January 27, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


The Night Guard by Charli Mills

Slim’s body slackened in the saddle. He jerked awake, hearing a voice in the darkness.

“Don’t fall asleep during the Dead Time, Slim. The Devil might scatter the herd.”

Slim stiffened. Not at the superstitious nonsense, but the fact Father McAdie caught him dozing on night guard.

“It’s a quiet night, Father. Cattle are bedded down easy as lambs beneath twinkling stars.”

“Tis for you to watch the cattle. For me to tend to Kincaid’s flock.”

Slim grimaced at the flash of flint. It was 2 a.m. and Father McAdie was launching into one of his long pipe-puffing sermons.


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Thank you for your support in making this a dynamic literary community! Keep writing, reading and expanding your imaginations! Please feel free to identify your status as a Rough Writer on your own bog. You can link back to the Congress page, your individual bio, the blog or Bunkhouse Bookstore. Proud to ride with such fine writers!

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  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Where’s the “love” button? This whole post is awesome. The story (sorry about your unfortunate snowballs–har), your flash, the prompt, this ever-expanding and generous site. Love it.

    • Charli Mills

      Hee, hee…had to share my snowballs with somebody! That’s the nature of 2 a.m. stories–there are often no witnesses! Thanks, Sarah!

  2. Amber

    Omgosh! I tried not laughing, I truly did, bit then you went where no sno-ball should gather, and now I can’t stop!!!

    This week I am going to jump back into the flash-I hope. 🙂 I’ve missed getting to write to your prompts.

    • Charli Mills

      I will look upon snow cones with distress from this point on in my life! 🙂 So happy to have you back! You’ve been doing some reading, I read…

  3. C. Jai Ferry

    Just a quick note to say that I was nodding the whole time I was reading this post. It was like you were describing more than a few nights at my little parcel in Nebraska. I will be back to write the 99 words this week for sure, but for now I am going to snuggle in and try to get some sleep before the dog wakes up for his late-night promenade around the acreage. <3

    • Charli Mills

      I think Idaho and Nebraska are kindred spirits! <3 Be careful out there–sometimes the snow wins. 🙂

      • Norah

        I’m pleased you won this time! 🙂

  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I’m sorry I laughed at your sinking into the snowy sludge when not suitably attired for a quick roll on the flakes. It could have been nasty. You could have lost two shoes and I would definitely have taken that snow ball in your crotch and hurled it. I have already come up with oodles of memoir 2ams but it may take a little longer to develop a fictional late night story. I will be back as always. 💡

  5. Annecdotist

    So agree with the others here, a terrible experience but I couldn’t help smiling and hope you’ve warmed up now. I’m waiting for the fog to lift so I can go for a stroll in what passes for snow in my part of the world. Great flash also, I’ll be back sometime later with mine.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anne. I’m ready for some fog instead of snow soup! The flash surprised me as it connected to a few ideas I had for a story. We’ll see…

  6. Pete

    I hope your husband is okay, sounds like you were kind of loud coming back to sleep. ONLY KIDDING! Sorry for your misfortune, but the story is priceless. Got to love the dogs…and their bladders!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Yeah, I disturbed the poor slumbering man! 😀 I refused to hear their need last night!

      • Norah

        Yes! S/he who hears first????? I think I’d be a bit hard of hearing. But then you were being the thoughtful one. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I’m becoming more deaf. 🙂

  7. Pete


    The dancing lights filled his rearview mirror. Kent dragged his mustang to a stop, snatching his registration from the dashboard. A large figure emerged.

    “Hey Carl, what was it, one or two miles an hour over?”

    “License and registration please.”

    Kent handed it over. “Look Carl, I really need to—“

    “Sit tight.”

    Late again. The third time since his demotion to nightshift by his ex-father-in-law. Kent lit a smoke and spat.

    Officer Gibbons returned. “Slow it down.”

    “Gee, thanks Carl.”

    The cop tipped his hat. Kent sped away, still cursing the day he ever met the cop’s sister.

    • Charli Mills

      My cousin is a cop, and former Army Airborne. He’s also a direct McCandles descendant and is every bit as big as I imagine that Cob McCandles was. No one wants to date his daughters! 🙂 Great twist at to a sharp scene!

    • Norah

      Sounds like Kent needs to do a Superman and make his way out of that family!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      That family really is making him pay. I’m with Norah, even if he has to leave town he has to get out of it.

  8. TanGental

    Charli you are a star; all the effort you’ve gone into building this is wonderful. As for your mishap, well I too laughed – the snowball in the pyjama crotch is priceless. And your flash is as ever crisp and deep (a bit like your snow). Happily when I turf out Dog he leaves me by the back door while he wanders down the garden. Hope this pic of him comes out ok

    I’ll be back in a flash…

    • Charli Mills

      Dog seems shy to be seen! I dream of having a fenced yard. Truth is, I’m terrified to turn them loose into the dark because I know they would bring a moose or a bear back!

      • TanGental

        Dog is far too much the coward, thank heaven; he gives the foxes a wide bearth

  9. TanGental

    doesn’t look like I have the piccy thing sorted yet…

    • Charli Mills

      no piccy…

      • TanGental

        I know; can’t understand why.

  10. TanGental

    hmm not sure it worked…

    • Charli Mills

      This was my experience trying to figure out the bio pages! 🙂

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Don’t know what you are doing but put your photo into your gallery. Then get the url it is given and paste the URL into the comment box and hey presto the little dog should be visible.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Listen to Irene. She knows her stuff. 😉 I can post photos now because of her (and Lisa). And I want to see the little dog.

      • TanGental

        I thought so too but it wouldn’t work the bugger. I’ll keep trying.

  11. Norah

    Oh Charli, It’s just not fair is it? Falling into the snow like that. I have no idea what it must be like. I’m so glad you got out and are okay. It sounds like it could have been a lot worse. Not a bad scene for a ‘write your own ending’ activity (or a funniest home video spot!). If I hadn’t known you were writing it as an actual experience I would have been thinking of a much different conclusion. I don’t know if I could have been self-contained enough to not throw the snowballs; but then I’m sure I wouldn’t have been so kind to be the first to hear either! 🙂 You are very kindhearted. Your enormous generosity of spirit shows through in this blog. 🙂 I see there are many more bios added now. You have been busy! And thank you for the Rough Writers badge which have I added to my blog and linked back to the Congress.
    You flash is brilliant as usual. I hope Slim is going to be safe out there with Father McAdie. A sermon may not be the most unpleasant of possibilities.

    • Charli Mills

      Not fair. But I have conveniently developed a hearing problem ever since! 🙂 Aw, thanks, Norah. More bios to go! So fun to read and post about each Rough Writer. Ya’ll amazing!

      As to Slim and Father McAdie…new characters to walk onto the mind stage. If Slim is afraid of nodding off again, I hope it’s not a boring sermon!

      • Norah

        I support your hearing problem! 🙂
        I look forward to more adventures of Slim and Father McAdie. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hopefully it’s not because you were overly-eager to do something dreadful to Mary…:-)

      • TanGental

        How can you say that! I’ve nurtured her….!!!

      • Charli Mills

        nurture/torture…Mary’s struggles are a fine line…send the woman out for a pedicure and chocolate!

  12. rllafg

    Early Bird by Larry LaForge

    Edna gets up, puts on her bathrobe, and heads to the kitchen. Not again, she thinks.

    “Hey sleepyhead,” Ed says. “You almost slept through lunch.”

    “Ed, it’s 7 AM.”

    “That’s what I’m sayin’. You almost slept through lunch.”

    Ed the insomniac rises daily at 2 AM, fixes himself breakfast, and hangs out in the garage with his various woodworking projects. He’s usually snoring away when the “late” news starts at 6 PM.

    “You’re killing me, Ed.”

    “That’s why we’re gonna have a nice romantic candlelight dinner.”

    “Really, dear?”

    “Yup! Got us dinner reservations at Soby’s for 1 PM today.”

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

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Luckily the Hub is a snoozer like me. More likely we share breakfast at 1pm! This would definitely kill me. 🙂

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I’m having breakfast with Charli. A 1pm breakfast sounds lovely. Heavenly.

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you got a chuckle! Makes me feel in good company at 2am! Off to read…

    • Charli Mills

      I think I’d ask for it if the prompt were warm milk and kittens! Off to read…

      • Sarah Brentyn

        😀 Fair enough.

      • Charli Mills

        Actually, your story could take an even weirder twist with kittens and warm milk…

      • Charli Mills

        It would shock Ed and Edna! 😀

  13. Pat Cummings

    Oh, Charli! I’m with you – 10 am is a good time for breakfast; 1 pm is even better. As for 2 a.m., one would have to be insane to be up-and-at-’em so early in the morning. At least according to my flash this week, On the Ceiling ( http://goo.gl/Ldnr12 ).

    • Charli Mills

      Sleeping in is delicious! Especially when one is a night-owl. I love long, slow, late breakfasts! Curious to find what is on the ceiling at 2am…

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! Glad you decided to write with us this week. An exciting flash you posted, a Daymare. Thanks!

  14. lorilschafer

    Cute snow story, but I’ll admit it scared me… or should I say, gave me the shivers? 🙁

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! It ended warmly…:-)

  15. tallypendragon.com

    I absolutely loved this post, Charli … yes, for all the reasons you’re hoping, but also for another much more silly one! I think I know you well enough by now to know that my wacky, and sometimes very base, British humour will NOT offend you …

    The best typo of all time: “Please feel free to identify your status as a Rough Writer on your own bog” … I laugh uncontrollably from the bottom of my belly every time I see this sentence, and I HAVE come back to it a few times just because it’s sooooo LEGEND!! the dogs think I’m mad and can’t figure out what’s going on as suddenly out of the darkness come my throaty guffaws (honestly, I sound like Mutley from Wacky Races), whilst all I can think of is how much more perfectly I can identify my status as most things I choose on my own bog. I love you, Charli Mills!

    And to prove it, here’s my flash for this week:

    Francesco Speaks

    “What if the crucifixion and the resurrection were kidnapped and badly reworked fictions put about to control the world order?”

    2am, and Mother Moon is perilously close to full point! But Francesco’s words make me look at him with eyes that burn; it’s as if the scales fall from them, and I’m seeing him for the first time.

    “What if the crucifixion and resurrection were indeed events in a much greater plan, the details of which have long been lost to all but a select few … a Plan that’s in need of Someone able to reject the false creeds?”

    And here’s the bog post to accompany it:


    Don’t ask me how an academic, ex-Cambridge University Lecturer, gets to be soooooo bloomin’ childish … one of those things only the UNiverse will ever know 🙂

    Lots of the Brightest Blessings to ALL, as always,
    Tally 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Oh, splendid! That makes me giggle! I like it when my typos are worth a belly laugh. I can picture you now, writing away on your own bog! Very old school, don’t you think, writing bog-style? Thanks for making my laugh and I think I’m going to leave it and expect bog posts from you! Please, don’t grow up! I love you all bloomin’ childish! Love your flash too…headed to your bog, hope I don’t get stuck! Many blessings!

  16. Norah

    Hi Charli, And here’s my go at 2am wakefulness: http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-od (I didn’t notice the missing ‘l’!) 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      The missing “l” and tally’s reaction gave me a giggle fit! I’m off to share in your 2am wakefulness…

      • Norah

        I agree. It is funny – the things that amuse us; particularly in an overtired 2 am session!

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve been enjoying your book reviews, by the way! Powerful flash that supports the cutting process you are living at the moment with your debut novel. Although, I’m excited by the collaborative editing process I often feel like the distraught writer in your flash when I have to cut alone in the dark of night. Not literally! But it can seem as if revision is so painful.

  17. guidaman

    Moon Walk by Phil Guida
    It was late when we decided to walk the tree lined path between the corn and soy bean fields. What was once Tall Grass Prairie and Lakota legend, was now just southwestern Minnesota farm country.
    The farm lay on the outer boundary of a wildlife refuge. As we reached the end of the path, the moon began rising from the flat earth, larger than I have ever witnessed. An enormous orange globe rising late in the July heat. There were stories told and songs enough to fill our small forest. Times of the past still alive at 2 a.m.

    • Charli Mills

      Love this one, Phil! There is something so captivating about the prairies-turned farms in Minnesota and this flash captures that continuity in the power of story-telling across time and cultures. Thanks for writing! I’m so glad you are doing this at Carrot Ranch!

  18. paulamoyer

    Halloween Blizzard

    By Paula Moyer

    Really? Yes!

    Jean was a volunteer labor companion. The mom went into labor during the 1991 Halloween blizzard. Already at the hospital.

    After taking her kids trick-or-treating in snowsuits, Jean picked up Grandma in the fishtailing rear-wheel-drive pickup.

    Baby born right before midnight. Mom OK; grandmother babbling and OK, baby’s dad long gone.

    The trip home commenced at bar time. Truck skidded through thick falling snow. Jean gripped the wheel to avoid drunk pedestrians.

    2 a.m.: Grandma deposited back home in bad neighborhood. Pickup failed to start, then did. Slide, slide home.

    3 a.m.: home.

    8 a.m.: Snow Day.

    • Charli Mills

      Great story, but also the pacing is well-matched to it. There is a sense of slip-sliding through the big events with 2 a.m. announcing, all is well.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli — it was a night to remember!

    • Charli Mills

      Amber! Welcome back to the Ranch! Good to see your by-line! Off to read…


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