March 25: 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.

March 26, 2015

March 25As we drive to Spokane at 4 in the morning, all is dark. My job as side-seat driver is to scan the narrow shoulders between forest and pavement for eyes — often the only warning before a deer, elk or moose dashes onto the road. As the black sky turns purple, I can distinguish tall pines from the darkness. They look like construction paper cut-outs against the illuminating horizon. I’m no longer searching for eyes, caught up in this wonder of early morning twilight.

We arrive ahead of schedule to the VA clinic in Spokane. It’s one of many buildings on a large medical campus for veterans of US military. The Hub had test results that require more tests. While grateful that he’s finally getting the benefits he earned in service to his country, I grumble mentally over modern medicine in general. In my estimation, it relies too much on technology and disregards common sense and simple solutions. Regardless, his job won’t let him drive until he is fully diagnosed and under the care of a physician.

But like many doors we’ve encountered since seeking this medical care, the VA clinic door is locked. The interior is as dark as a 4 a.m. forest. “Coffee?” I ask.

What else can we do at this early hour in the city.

Starbucks is a familiar sight. Having spread from Seattle across the globe like an infectious disease, one can always find early morning coffee. Inside the smell of pungent brew dominates. Pastries line a lit counter case, promising of sweet tastes. Hip music and smiling baristas add to the vibe. I can almost drink coffee without thinking of birds.

Birds and coffee are my usual mornings now that rainy spring has arrived. I have at least three sets of binoculars set in key places. Upstairs I keep the best ones at the window by my desk. It overlooks Elmira Pond where March Madness has taken hold. Birding has taught me much about observation. For the past three weeks I’ve crafted a March Madness series, sharing in writing what I’ve learned about the birds.

At Starbucks I stare across the rim of my cup at a strip-mall parking lot. It looks empty, yet often I look at Elmira Pond and it looks empty, too. Parking lots and ponds can speak to us about emptiness. Why is that? Or is it simply a mark of a writer, someone who observes and derives meaning from the mundane?

Goodness, give a writer something meatier than an empty parking lot like a movement of other writers and the world comes alive as if it were a tent-revival. It’s a special dynamic when writers collide in the universe — I’m convinced it makes creative particles jump and jive like unseen dark matter that makes up everything we do see. No wonder the weekly compilations take on greater depth once knitted together, or that #1000Speak would become a force like wind.

Thus connecting a compilation to a monthly movement can move literary creativity through a conduit of meaning. Once a month we will take part in this greater experience with a prompt that supports bloggers on a mission to speak compassion. If you are a blogger interested in upcoming prompt ideas for #1000Speak’s April theme of nurturing, see the list here. If you are a writer without a blog, but want to participate, email the organizers with your story before April 20, 2015:

Next month, you can expect Carrot Ranch writing prompts that will also support the nurturing of nature as we approach Earth Day (April 22). Which brings me back to parking lots and ponds. It’s like a juxtaposition, to compare concrete to organic matter, and deduce meaning from the intersection. So that is where we will go.

March 25, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a juxtaposition between the ordinary and natural worlds. It can be civilization and nature; an edifice and a nest or cave; a human act and a natural occurrence; acculturation and adaptation. Compare or contrast as the prompt leads you to write.

Respond by March 31, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

I’ll be heading to LABinderCon on Friday, coming home on Monday. I think my internet will be better in California — with the recent problems I’ve had with my satellite provider, smoke signals would be better. Just in case, know that I’m traveling if I’m not responsive over the weekend. I expect to return with a head full of learning to sort and share, and perhaps know what my next Rodeo Ride will be like.


Making Friends by Charli Mills

Jenny’s back ached after a night of boiling moose meat, potatoes and rutabagas. She used lard to make rich gravy and flaky crust like her mam did for the copper miners back in Michigan.

Mona Gigliotti stopped by her cabin, pointing at linen-wrapped stacks. “Cosa!”

Her parents’ native Cornish faded in memory, but Jenny now recognized Italian. “Pasties.”

She stepped outside and watched an agile king bird fetch an insect midair and share it with others perched on budding dogwood. Like this bird, she would feed new friends in the Idaho wilderness where her Italian husband planted steel rails.


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    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! And thank you, Norah! What a fabulous first post, too! Thank you!

  1. Sacha Black

    I am still giggling about Spokane Charli! I find it fascinating how writers are able to find insights inspiration and wonderment in everything from the mundane to the spectacular. I frequently sit in meetings at work, and observe people and instead of writing notes about the meeting I write notes about the oddities of the people!! This week was a real challenge, I was a bit nervous about the juxtaposition to start with, but as so often happens I laid in bed late at night and it popped into my head, so off I squirreled at 1am as usual! quick edit this morning and voila! As usual will pop you the link on Tuesday.

    Life Cycle by Sacha Black

    We knew it was coming, dad had been sick for a long time. He sat in the corner, breathing laboured as I cramped and cried through my own labour.

    I pushed again, and again.

    “One last heave.”

    With a final groan my baby was born.

    “It’s a girl,” the midwife said.

    I looked at my parents. Mum had tears rolling down her cheeks.

    Dads breathing was shallow and intermittent. His eyes glossed, and mouth fell slack.

    “You have a granddaughter poppa.”

    Dad died with a soft smile painted on his lips.

    Mums sobs were interspersed with new born screams.

    • Charli Mills

      Hee, hee…you know you live in a remote area when the rest of the world is like, Spokane? What’s a Spokane?! 😀

      That’s a heck of a story to wake up with at 1 am! It’s a great tease of time, as if pushing to meet the deadline of life. You build good tension, great details and sharply bring into focus the pain and joy of life full-circle. I’ll look for your link on Tuesday!

      • Sacha Black

        I was like, is that a star trek reference, or is she speaking Scottish?! clearly both were wrong. Ahh, I am a night owl through and through. best ideas are either in the car or at night. Hope you have a fab conference 😀

    • Norah

      What impeccable timing. One new generation replaces an older one. What mixed emotion there would be, and always be with such a juxtaposition of events. A great response to the prompt and definitely a combination I would not have thought of. I think you display the emotions of all participants rather well.

      • Sacha Black

        Thanks Norah – sorry for the delay in responding been a busy few days. I hadn’t realised I had put a juxtaposition in the last sentence… but shhh, pretend I didn’t say that! :p

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Powerful flash which certainly showed a juxtaposition. Life and death. Glad he knew of his grand-daughter and died with a smile on his face. The final sentence really worked for another juxtapostion grief/happiness.

      • Sacha Black

        Thanks so much for the lovely comment 🙂 and critique, thank you so much for taking the time to read it 😀

  2. susanzutautas

    I agree with you on Dr.’s relying way too much on technology. I had a physical a couple of weeks ago and my dr. ordered a pregnancy test. I know I’ve gain weight but I’ve been postmenopausal for years now. I plan to ask her why she ordered the test when I see her next time. Probably a cash grab for her if you ask me. Hope that all went well with Todds testing.
    Can’t wait to get started on this weeks flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Seriously? Argh! That’s how I often feel. With Todd, it turns out that after all this ridiculous fussing we had to do to get him into the VA system, get him the follow up tests and get the original doctor to re-test that there was nothing amiss. We knew there was nothing amiss, but no one would admit to performing the original test incorrectly although every doc we spoke to since said it was administered wrong. It’s like the doctors can’t even overrule their own technology when they know it is incorrect. The worst part is that he couldn’t get a renewal of his commercial license so he has not worked for a month while this was happening. He goes back to work next week. Hope you pass your pregnancy test! 😀 I’m surprised they didn’t order one for Todd!

      • Norah

        I’m pleased to hear there is nothing amiss with hub. But how frustrating to have to go through all this nonsense; and miss out on work for a month. The doctor who misread the technology should have to pay compensation. A month’s pay may not make a difference to his lifestyle, but it can make a big difference to that of others.

  3. Sherri

    I always thought everybody saw meaning in the world around them, even in empty car parks, but now I understand, living in this writer’s world, that we do indeed observe a very different view and it’s so great to get that isn’t it!
    I love how your thought processes read out here Charli, as you take us through your early morning car journey to the VA hospital and then to your observations of Starbucks spreading world wide like ‘an infectious disease’. I feel like that about Costa here. Your juxtaposition prompt is sure to get the creative juices flowing in a myriad of directions; your wonderfully descriptive flash captures that flow of adaptation and acculturation that I know so well 😉 Hungry now!
    And I have to ask, are Cornish Pasties well known in Michigan? I’m thinking of course of Cornwall here in the West Country of the UK and not so very far from us…so I am intrigued!
    Hope the Hub is getting the treatment he needs and is okay. Thank goodness he has those VA benefits and I hope his doctor listens…really listens…
    And of course, wishing you the very best for your trip and can’t wait to hear all your news…happy, safe travels Charli and see back here you very soon 🙂 Oh, and one more thing – great photo 😀

    • Charli Mills

      It seems to be in an awkward moment when we writers realize no one else is looking at the thing that has us memorized! I once got caught off-guard at a meeting because I was watching a little chickadee take a dirt bath opposite the glass door from where I sat. My boss had to call my name three times before I realized I had drifted off watching the bird. When I explained, no one in that room understood. In fact several people asked later if I was “okay” as if I might be catching the flu or something!

      Silly question, but are Cornish Pasties really from Cornwall? I’ve assumed so, but in Michigan the descendants of Cornish miners argue with the descendants of Finnish loggers as to where pasties originated. I’ve sided with Cornwall. 🙂 One more place to add to “when I visit.”

      And Todd is fine. The final doctor in the line of docs told him he was better than fine. It was a test administered incorrectly that nullified his drivers license and was confounded by our lack of insurance and a “regular” doc to correct the situation. But now he’s got his VA benefits so that’s good. Me, I’ll continue to be an uninsured writer who self-medicates with nettle tea and supplements. 🙂

      • Sherri

        Oh I would have been there watching that little chickadee right with you!
        Well now that’s so interesting, I’ll have to look into that about the pasties, I always assumed they originated from Cornwall! All I know is they are delicious and when you visit, I know just the place to take you for the best ever 😀
        So glad for Todd, phew! Medical insurance is a major issue isn’t it over there. Mind you, the way things are going here with the NHS…but don’t get me started on that! Haha…yes, definitely self-medication is the way to go…but only the good stuff, of course 😉 Happy Trails Charli 🙂

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Sherri…writers have a very different view of this world. It’s how we’re wired. Explaining the shocks and short-outs. 😉

      • Sherri

        Yep…for sure 🙂

    • Norah

      I had to go back and look at the photo, Sherri! I’m a reader of word and often miss the pics. It is a good one indeed. What a wonderful moment to capture!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a photo of a king bird capturing a caddisfly. They are so stately, grey and white and are summer residents on Elmira Pond.

      • Norah

        It is a gorgeous bird, a gorgeous photograph, and a gorgeous photographer! 🙂

  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Glad to read that Tod is fine. Always a worry even when you know it isn’t a worry.
    Starbucks tried to come to Australia and have retreated defeated. I think they have a couple of stores left in a couple of cities and that is all. They had counted on Australia’s already well defined coffee culture and just couldn’t compete.
    Connecting to the monthly movement is a great idea.
    I have a car park story so I have to agree writer’s can find things of interest in boring and unusual places. I’ll see where I go for that juxtaposition as I mull over it in my sleep. I expect to awake inspired.
    Have a great weekend at the LA binder con. Look forward to what you may return with.

    • Annecdotist

      Wow, the Australians have seen off Starbucks! Do you have other chains or are your coffee shops all home-grown?

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        We’ve had a huge coffee culture for many years Anne with most coffee shops being individually owned and operated. Our coffee making is possibly the best in the world (I know that I will get many arguments on this). Starbucks just didn’t measure up. The only other chain coffee shop is Jamaica Blue. Its coffee is better than Starbucks which is why it survives. It is an Australian company which franchises its stores and has been successful enough to spread to NZ, Singapore, China and UAE. It started 20 years ago and knew what Australians expected as far as a coffee went. I still would choose a small cafe in preference myself.

    • Marigold

      Don’t forget Coffee Club! Although that seems to be a strictly Queensland chain – I haven’t seen it in Sydney or Melbourne or Tassie. To be honest, it’s not brilliant coffee, but it’s reliable and it’s always an easy option. Whether we’re doing brunch/lunch/afternoon tea, Coffee Club’s there.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I have to admit I don’t know coffee club. Now you mention it I might have seen it attached to the picture theatre but I have never had a coffee there and probably didn’t realise it’s a chain.

    • Charli Mills

      Impressed that Australia resisted the Starbucks regime! And now I’m intrigued by your coffee culture. One day I’ll have to taste test it. 🙂 After LA, I feel like I need a good cup!

  5. Pete

    Hope everything is well, Charli. Great post and flash per usual. Parking lots and ponds, it reminded me of the blue football field at Boise State, and how supposedly the birds mistook it for a pond. Ouch.

    • Charli Mills

      I missed seeing the blue Boise football field when I was there, but given how brown it is in the southern part of the state, I can understand the birds’ enthusiasm for it! The MN Vikings are building a new stadium that will be glass and Audubon has raised concerns about bird strikes. Who knew football so so bird-unfriendly?

  6. Pete

    Another Nature

    The cityscape glistened under a pulsing blue horizon. Telly shuffled forward, closer to learning of his new job at his new planet.

    “At Earth 2.0, the unknown is known. Global Tech, in part with corporate sponsorship, has created a planet devoid of hatred or crime. Hunger is obsolete…”

    Telly arrived from the Apple sync station reeling, having left his ravaged planet just as another continent was mutilated.

    “… To ensure such safety, Facebook has developed a chip that…”

    An undercurrent of authority lurked just beneath the pleasant instructions. Telly stepped into the chamber.

    “…thoughts must undergo a sterilization process…”

    • Ula

      Scary stuff, Pete. You just wrote out my worst nightmares.

      • Charli Mills

        Your flash gave me chills! This is great example of how powerful a tight piece can be. The brevity of words that gives us an image of leaving a ravaged world for the safety of a new one is undermined by the digital dialog. Great writing! It’s a frightening futuristic version of the suburbs!

  7. Annecdotist

    Glad your husband got a clean bill of health before you set off on your travels. Hope you have a marvellous time at the conference.
    Despite your transforming it into some elegant writing, that early-morning trip to the hospital sounds frustrating. Generally, however, while I agree that there can be an overreliance on technology in health care, on the whole, I’m grateful for it. Yes, mistakes can be made, and of course I bemoan the under recognition of psychological factors in the system, but I think nowadays perhaps that over cautiousness is driven by the insurance companies as much as anything, and the fear of litigation if things go wrong.
    My flash stems partly from this, partly from the reference to mining in your own lovely piece (what a thrill to see the bird catches food on the wing when she’s just finished her own batch of cooking – BTW, I think what you call rutabaga its turnip or swede in England, but we do like Cornish pasties) and a review of a novel that also features lots of cooking:
    I’ll pop back after the weekend to check on the rest.

    • Charli Mills

      Technology can be a useful tool, but what I see happening in the US is a domination by insurance companies and big pharma. Doctors are in bondage to both. Sounds like the plot to a conspiracy theory thriller! 🙂

      Very interesting to learn different names for roots. Pasties are popular in northern Michigan and Wisconsin. Anyplace where tin or copper was mined. Then secondary migrations occurred and the different heritages argue over who introduced pasties!

      The use of white in your flash fiction is compelling — I can see the location, the pollutant and the inevitable tragedy. White is such a symbolic color that is deepens the meaning of your piece. Well done!

    • Pat Cummings

      For a brief moment (first two sentences) I flashed on the movie “Don;t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” – then the chipmunks brought a different perspctive!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I’ve never seen it…should I? I’ll look it up now for sure.

    • Pat Cummings

      There is a scene between two characters in the movie (Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead) where the receptionist (Jayne Brook) does everything she can think of to prevent the main character (Christina Applegate) from applying for a job.

      It’s a great, if frothy, movie from the early 90s. David Duchovny has a role against type, playing a sneaky slob allied with the viscious receptionist, and Joanna Cassidy plays the executive who hires Applegate as her assistant (the job the receptionist wanted).

      Hmmm… I think I’d better write a review of the movie on my blog! I do recommend it. It’s one of the few I don’t own, but watch whenever it shows up on cable!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Sounds intriguing… You should write a review. Also, David Duchovny. In that role? I have to see that. 😀

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve been amazed at how seamlessly Geoff, Tally and Norah have used the prompt to continue their stories. Although, when I was doing so with Rock Creek, the prompt would pen up an aspect I hadn’t thought of for the characters or plot. Interesting how our minds work! And very interesting where the prompt led you!

      I have lots to share from the conference!

  8. Pat Cummings

    The hardest thing each week is to avoid reading all the other great flash fiction before I write mine, so I won’t be “infected” by the other writers. This week, I flash back to 1979 to incorporate Day-Sky Moon with my flash:

    • Sarah Brentyn

      It is difficult! I do the same thing. I never read any of the other flash before I write my own.

      • Pat Cummings

        Sometimes I do read Charli’s flash, but it’s only because I find it so hard to just STOP reading…

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Edited to add: I always read Charli’s flash. It’s the only one, though, until I’ve written mine.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m at a great advantage — I get to write the first one! 🙂 I know other writers have mentioned this too, but I hadn’t thought about it influencing ideas. At the conference we did a group exercise at each table and I felt bad for the woman who went first because none of us were certain what to do. After she went then we all caught on to do it differently. Okay! Back to 1979!

  9. Norah

    Charli, I am always impressed by the depth of your posts. You make what to some would be mundane sound magnificent. I love the way you describe the sky turning from black to purple and the silhouettes of trees as paper cut outs – that is so true, but wonderful imagery.
    I’m so pleased that Todd is okay and is back to work soon (We all love to work don’t we? Or we don’t like someone else to take our choice away.)
    I’m very excited to hear what happens at the LABinderCon. What a great initiative and I’m so pleased that you are part of it.
    I’m also pleased that you will be facilitating a link up with your prompts for we Rough Writers with the #1000 Speak project. It will be easier to fulfill two goals with one piece, and I’m sure I am not the only one to appreciate that.
    Your flash if great, as always. Linking Jenny’s cooking for feeding her friends to the bird’s feeding its family is a wonderful juxtaposition, a way of looking at our activities and linking them to nature. We are (part of) nature. I think we need to remember that. I think it is when we think of ourselves as apart from or above nature that we get into trouble. The connection needs to be real.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, my life would be so mundane if I didn’t put on my magnificence glasses! 🙂 One of my life heroes is Aldo Leopold. Considered the father of modern forestry, he understood the importance of being connected to nature and even wrote about how we as people are obligated to have a responsible relationship with the land we inhabit. When I lived in Minnesota, took a workshop to be a Leopold Educator. From that, I developed and taught several community classes about nature writing, using his principle of observation. That observation has become innate and is what I hope to share through offering a nature writing workshop in this region. As you say and Leopold would agree, the connection needs to be real. Good! I’m glad you like the idea of connecting with the #1000Speak project, too. 🙂

      • Norah

        You use your skills of observation and writing about nature well. The detail of the descriptions in “A River Runs Through It”, of both man and nature and the interaction of same, were just amazing. While description in an action novel can detract from the progress of the story, it was the story in MacLean’s book. The reading by Doig that you recommended was magnificent too. A perfect match. He seemed to breathe the words as if a part of him. I could almost hold the beauty in my hands. I haven’t read a book like that for a long time.
        Which brings me back to your magnificence glasses. I want a pair! I would love to do one of your nature writing courses! But it would take a lot of learning for me. I always have said that I am not very observant, but I am of things that matter to me. I’ll have to think how to incorporate that. Or maybe I am, with Marnie. 🙂

      • Norah

        Oops. I was supposed to be saying that I could see why MacLean’s book would appeal to you, for your writing is just as beautiful and evocative. You conjure up those same images of and feelings for nature, of being one with it. You encourage the reader to see with your eyes, and feel the beauty and magnificence that surrounds us. Thank you for that.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you saying all that, Norah. It really encourages me. One thing my editor called me out on was that I talk about the weather…a lot. She didn’t say it was a deal breaker, but that not all publisher like that kind of story-telling. So I’m aware that it has its drawbacks. I’m hoping that I also write strong enough narrative with tension to balance the pause for nature (or weather as my editor call it)! Aldo Leopold believed that anyone could become an observer with simple hands-on experiences. The workshop itself will be an experience, and there will be many field trips included. I’m so glad you got to listen to the Doig audio! His books are more western historical central to Montana, but he’s a lyrical writer, too. Sadly, MacLean only wrote two books. The second is not as beautiful but is powerful and a non-fiction account, “Young Men and Fire.” I’ve seen those graves up Mann Gulch and having read the book, I get chills thinking of that story and their lost lives. This song captures the tragedy: [youtube MacLean does the story justice and one day I want to write a novel about a fire in northern Idaho fought by all female Native American hot shots. But I have to keep that idea down until others stories have their legs! 🙂

  10. Norah

    I’m very excited to introduce my sister Ruth to the group. She first became aware of the flash fiction challenge when I told her about it on Friday evening. On Saturday evening she wrote this piece, her first ever attempt at flash fiction:

    Skin darkened, dry and cracked; fingers calloused and crooked; hand trembled as it reached slowly and hesitantly towards its prize.

    The first bloom of the season, delicate pure white, glistened with the lustre of a pearl, still touched with dew in the early morning soft rays.

    The gnarled hand gently and lovingly brushed aside the small beetle that threatened to damage the perfectly formed petals. The slight touch to perfection released a burst of sweet perfume.

    The rays warmed the air; the bloom reached maturity; accepting of the hum within which would ensure a new generation of precious delight.

    • Pat Cummings

      Beautiful, Ruth! Our response to beauty and our desire to protect it from harm is what makes us human. (And the slight bruise from protective fingers that brings the bloom to greater perfection… Wonderful!)

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Ruth! What a sensual piece of writing that invites the reader to look, touch and smell. Great juxtaposition of the gnarled hand of age and the bloom of youth. Thanks for getting roped in by your lovely sister, Norah!

      • Norah

        I think Ruth is looking forward to the next prompt! 🙂

    • Annecdotist

      That’s lovely – thanks Norah for bringing Ruth to the ranch

  11. rllafg

    Spring Break by Larry LaForge

    Thomas and his college pal Brian had similar objectives for spring break. They both wanted a memorable time in a warm climate with plenty of girls around.

    They parted ways Saturday, vowing to touch base midweek to compare notes.

    On Wednesday Brian called. “Dude, it’s rocking here in South Beach. Chicks are everywhere.” Loud music blared in the background.

    “Same here!” Thomas shouted, making himself heard over the loud banging noise from his end.

    Thomas hung up and received more shingles from his cute coed team member as they continued repairing roofs damaged by a severe tornado in Galveston.

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

    • Charli Mills

      Aha! I’d say one had a more meaningful time than the other. My college used to send students to help out on Habitat for Humanity projects during spring break. At first, though, I thought maybe Thomas was building a chicken coop for his grandma! 🙂

  12. Ula

    I was having a hard time with this prompt. Then, I decided to take a different approach, and this is what I came up with:
    Definitely something different for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written a short story in the second person.

    • Charli Mills

      Good for you to take a different approach! Sometimes that unlocks the creativity. And leads to an experimental technique. Thanks for pushing through!

  13. lorilschafer

    Not really on topic, but I am so excited to hear about your experience at the conference. Hope it’s going great for you! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It was such a useful experience. I had several gaps in my knowledge filled, which made the “aha” lights blink on! I’ll be downloading my brain to share. 🙂

      • lorilschafer

        Sweet! 🙂

  14. Georgia Bell

    Hurray. I made it this week! Great prompt, as always, Charli.
    My head hurts. The pressure has been building for two days in advance of the storm that’s moving our way. I want to lie down. I want to get in the car and drive away. I want to forget the way he left this morning. What he said. What I didn’t.

    Instead, as the dark rumbles grow louder, I move out to the porch to feel the wind. To watch it whip up leaves and the dirt in ever expanding dervishes. To watch the chaos of rain and light that’s working its way through me and into the sky.

    • Charli Mills

      Yay! Always good to see your name as you gallop onto the ranch! Wonderful mirroring of weather and emotion. Not only does it build tension, it also feels cathartic.

    • Charli Mills

      Larry, thank you so much for the Roundups! I greatly appreciate the ease of finding each quarter of compilations.

  15. rogershipp

    For the Love of Fish

    “Dad!” I yelled as he was removing the last rope anchoring The Serenity II.

    “Sweetie, I had no idea you were home.”

    “For two weeks and then back out.”

    “Where to?”

    “Off to the southern Pacific Rim. Whaling ships.”

    “Hop on. They say the marlins are a-jumpin’ just off the key.”

    We climb aboard.

    “Who’s this?”

    “Oh, Sorry. Dad, Jack. Jack, this is my father. Dad’s the one that first spurred on my interest in oceanographer. Professor Keller, then got me interested in Save the Whales.

    “Nice to meet ya, Jack. Bait up, guys. Can’t keep Mother’s supper waiting.”

    • Charli Mills

      Dad got her interested, but now she’s expanding her horizons. There’s something bittersweet in that natural progression of children becoming adults. But I like that she catches him for a fishing jaunt. The story has tension, too…will dad like Jack? He seems to be accepting the way the last line reads.

  16. Rebecca Patajac

    Not sure if the ‘pingback’ to this article registered, so I’ll leave the link to my post here.

    Back to spending time with the little ones!

    I’m sorry I haven’t been communicating much, but I do hope that my attempts in sharing the weekly challenges and contributions around the online world has helped others’ exposure.

    I hope you learnt loads from the LA experience 🙂

    • Rebecca Patajac

      learnt? learned? oops…

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! I’m chuckling because of late I’ve picked up the variant of learnt which is British. My American spell-check tells me it’s learned. I’d like to think I’m becoming more global in my English expressions.

      • Rebecca Patajac

        Ooh, I’m a stickler for using British variations over American. I’m glad I used the right one in that sense 😀 I think I’m biased because we Australians (no offence intended) are essentially a British nation and we are brought up learning British spelling through school. I think I’ve developed more respect for it through the old bonds I’ve had with English teachers and it’s created a deep-seated respect for the English language, so the British versions just seem (no offence once again) classier/proper. It’s incredible how upbringings affect one’s perceptions in life.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, Rebecca, that’s funny! It’s well known we Americans have butchered English and now that I’m growing accustom to British variants, I’m “properly” confused! 😀

    • georgiabellbooks

      This made me smile. So very sweet.

      • Rebecca Patajac

        🙂 thank you for your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed it

    • Charli Mills

      It did, I just wasn’t able to get to my dashboard until today (Tuesday). Thank you so much for sharing the weekly challenges and compilations. It does increase readership numbers. 🙂 I learnt loads and will soon share! Enjoy those little ones!

      • Rebecca Patajac

        Do you need to approve the pingbacks? I’m not sure how it works. I’m glad I’ve helped to increase readership 🙂
        Can’t wait to read all about your LA trip! And I have been enjoying the little ones, got them to bed a little later than usual last night because I just wanted some cuddles 😀 Cuddles that the 18 month old normally refuses but was surprisingly happy to supply.
        Take care of yourself

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, that’s the thing about pingbacks — they require approval. If I’m at home, it’s no problem. I haven’t yet figured out how to access my dashboard from my mobile phone when traveling and given the phone’s quirks, I’m not sure I want to!

      • Rebecca Patajac

        Ah, no problems! I have issues with the WordPress app on most occasions too. It seems like something is always bugging out with it. They’ve fixed it up really well only a few months ago, but it now has a small issue with the stats page. I don’t blame you for avoiding it! Haha

  17. Norah

    Hi Charli, I have posted mine: I’m now not sure that it meets your requirements so don’t include it in the compilation if you don’t think it fits. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes the prompt leads to an interpretation and other times it leads to something unexpected. I say go wherever the prompt leads! It fits fine. Thank you!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli! 🙂

  18. lucciagray

    Hi Charli! I’m away from home, with a lot on my plate, and limited Internet access, so sorry I can’t comment for the momento, will do so asap. I wrote this little piece on the plane. It made me think of birds and planes…


    The giant bird pierced the profuse clouds with its pewter beak. Long, steel wings spread stiffly across the soft air, while probing passengers looked through the proportioned glass eyes. In the cockpit, commanding hands swerve the airborne intruder back down to earth. Leonardo knew it would happen. Wells imagined it too.
    The eaglets chirped in search of food, while the eagle watched warily as the mechanical invader swept past. For now there was room for both species, but in the future, her offspring would fight a tough battle for subsistence.
    One predator will be wiped out, but which one?

    Just tried out a bit of alliteration, too! Now it sounds a bit stiff, but that’s what I felt on the plane! so I’ll leave it as it is.

    • Charli Mills

      I was going to say that we are in the same boat (traveling, intermittent access) but perhaps more appropriate to say we are on the same plane! Mine landed last night and I hope yours does soon. Thank you for taking time on the plane! 🙂 Love the alliteration of the opening line. A profound battle of the species. Let’s hope we can find better ways to co-exist.

      • lucciagray

        Thanks. My plane did land safely. Will be back pn board again in a few days. Glad your back safely too:)

  19. Charli Mills

    Howdy Rough Writers! You are all awesome! Other authors, tv writers and even publishers were very interested in what we are doing at Carrot Ranch! I wish I could simply download my brain to you right now. So much to digest and explain. THANK YOU for keeping the ranch going in my absence! I’ll be late (tonight) in getting caught up with your stories and posting the compilation. I got home around midnight last night. And I had an email to send to a literary agent who is going to read the first 50 pages of my manuscript. So I’ve been working on that query today and just sent it! In LA they are all vegetarians. This buckaroo is dying! The Hub has no food in the house and we need to get to town and get a juicy burger or a savory steak or else I’m going to rope a neighbor’s horse and chew on a leg. I’ll catch up with you all this week and have the next prompt out tomorrow. Thank you for being a part of this literary community! According to the experts I met in LA, community is vital! 😀

    • Annecdotist

      Hurrah, Charli, it sounds like the trip went well (despite the absence of meat). Looking forward to hearing more about the conference. Do take care and don’t overload yourself and take time to catch up on the wildlife around your pond.

      • Charli Mills

        When I got back from town, the male merganser was battling another. The pond definitely got my attention! It was a good trip in many ways.

    • Sherri

      This is fantastic news Charli, and I’m thrilled that you got your pages off to a literary agent! Wishing you nothing but the very best with it. And what great news for the Rough Writers too…woo hoo, will read your post now and catch up. You must be exhausted though, I do hope you get some time to unwind and get your teeth into some proper food at last…what happened to all those great steak houses in LA? Sure has changed since my day… 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no! That was my fear last night as I was cranking through them all! I’ll get it updated and back on track, Irene!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        No problems Charli. You have been so busy. Next year when I am finished if you want a hand we could probably work out some way I can assist.

      • Charli Mills

        I will keep that in mind, Irene! Thanks! 🙂

  20. Paula Reed Nancarrow

    No flash from me, but as someone who was married to a Cornishman from the UP for 20+ years, a man who made pasties for our rehearsal dinner, I can tell you that they are definitely Cornish, although in the U.P. they refer to the addition of rutabaga as “the Finnish corruption.”

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you here at the Ranch, Paula! Oh, that is priceless — the Finnish corruption! Now I better understand the U.P. I bet those pasties were good.


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