Everyone asked, “What will you do?” I didn’t know. I truly did not know. Five things happened in June of 2007 that would forever alter the course of my life.
First, my eldest graduated from high school. An empty nest begins with the flight of the first fledgling and its a gradual unwinding of carefully placed twigs and grasses that results in a heap at the base of the family tree. No matter how hopeful, fearful, excited or not, a parent is jarred by this transition. Just as others told me when my eldest was born, “Your life will never be the same.”
Then we were served a lawsuit. Since Easter of 2007, we had battled our county’s new Dangerous Dog Ordinance. Meant to protect citizens from snarling, snapping canines, the law had no due process. We found our dog accused of a crime we were uncertain he committed. Without an investigation, evidence or process, the county demanded we euthanize our dog. We demanded a day in court. In June, we got it. My knees buckled with fear. Were we doing the right thing?
As if to exacerbate our dog situation, I found my forever-dog in the unexpected ten-pup litter we had yapping about our yard in the middle of Suburbia, Minnesota. That was not okay with the neighbors (all the puppies), but the Dangerous Dog Ordinance made it difficult for us to find homes for these exuberant German Short-haired Pointer pups. And I fell in love with Bubbie like no other dog before or since.
Next, we refinanced our home. Those of you who know of the bank debacles might recognize the date. Rates were reducing, and we decided to “take advantage” and get a “better” loan. It was straightforward re-fi. And we were robbed. You expect robbers to wear masks and carry weapons; these crooks wore ties and wielded pens. From the signing, we knew something was off so we rescinded the loan the next day. But they already sold it a third time. Yes, they sold our mortgage three times in two days. Of course, they didn’t tell us and our paperwork ended up in an FBI file for all the good that did us.
While we were signing these fateful papers and giving away all of our equity to a drug dealer so he could launder his money legally, an old childhood friend appeared. She was bad news back in the day and she hadn’t changed. She was ingratiating herself into our lives, knowing my family estrangement, showering us with extravagant gifts. I won’t say anymore, but if you are writing a thriller, I can give you a plot line or two.
Sh** went down in June of 2007 and my life would never be the same. Five years later, all three children were gone; I had survived three court trials because a neighbor had run over another neighbor’s dog and let our dog take the blame; Bubbie was dead and my heart broken; we survived and escaped my scary-friend’s ill-intentions; and I was homeless.
Everyone who knew us, knew how hard we fought against the mortgage fraud and its aftermath. It was a surprise when we lost in court on a messed-up technicality. Even the Attorney General’s office personally called me. Our case had been vital. Now it was certain that the banks were gods; no matter how evil, they could do no wrong. My husband quit school (in that five years he lost his job and was in school for a new trade). He packed up the car and left, unable to face all we had lost in that time-span. I didn’t know where I’d go with two dogs that I refused to give up.
So, when everybody else saw an end, I did something different. To be sure, I placed periods after several sentences — I resigned from my job and several board positions; I sold most of my books and household belongings; and I fired my lawyer. But this was not the end of my story.
I inserted a semicolon; I renewed my life.
When asked what I was going to do, all I knew for certain were three things: tomorrow morning I’d see a new sunrise; my love for my husband and children was strong; and by God, I was going to finish a novel at long-last!
And that’s what I did. I was homeless for six months. Todd lived out of a motel room and I fit what was left of my belongings into a shared apartment bedroom. When I came out to Idaho we “camped” until we found Elmira Pond. Can you believe, that I never would have discovered this extraordinary place, nor this extraordinary capacity within me to write if I had not had that fateful month of June in 2007? Even this morning, I was treated to a three-act opera that was greater than any misery I walked through to get here.
It’s never the end. And that is the impetus behind nurturing your self and Project Semicolon, which exists to encourage, love and inspire. I first heard of this organization through blogger, Stephanie Neighbor, and it fits the #1000Speak April theme of nurturing.
As writers, we can nurture ourselves by writing into our truth and owning our stories. It’s tough, but it’s empowering. And when it feels tough, treat yourself like you would a beloved. My appreciation of beauty, birds and creativity stems from the balm such things are to my sore spots. Before you can help another, help yourself get up. No matter what happens, its not the end of your story; insert a semicolon and write another line. And another. And another.
April 8, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a renewal story that proclaims, “This isn’t the end; I will go on.” Think of the mythical phoenix that rises up from the ashes; of Cinderella after midnight on the night of the ball; of a hero that faces certain death; of love after tragedy; of renewing life’s lemonade transitions. Go where the prompt leads and own your story; the ones you’ve lived and the ones you imagine for fiction. Stand in solidarity with others to find the semicolons in life that chooses to nurture and not succumb.
Respond by April 14, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Betrayed by Charli Mills
Aubrey couldn’t believe this was happening.
“Your honor, the defendant grows nightshade on her property. We have signed affidavits by neighbors.” The lawyer, squat as a toad, handed papers to the bailiff.
All evidence was against her. In the back of the courtroom Rhonda sat, her hand hiding a smile. It was her mother-in-law who died of poisoning. That night Aubrey decided to take the nightshade Rhonda had discovered in her yard. She walked barefoot and weeping under a full moon. Two nighthawks crossed the orb like ballerinas on stage.
No. She’d find a way to overcome Rhonda’s betrayal.
Reading this had me gripped to every word. You are true survivor. As you described the banks, I was immediately taken back to “Grapes of Wrath.” In 2007, not much changed since those depression farming year, and banks forcing people out of their homes. Nurturing yourself is a beautiful way to describe writing, it is nurturing therapy in the purest form. I hated reading through the many trials you faced in only one year, but as a reader and writing friend… I can never say enough how happy reading your comments and your stories make me. I’m grateful for every period and semicolon you place upon your page, and for finding your way through these trials.
The banking treachery and foreclosed homes since then is so Grapes of Wrath. Few people fought back though. Fighting proved futile, but at least I fought. Life is more peaceful in Idaho and I know work with an organization that nurtures the community. When people feel ashamed of their stories I tell them mine. We work on the next chapters. I love reading your posts because you are a survivor and fighter, too. I always want to cheer you on. It really does make a difference with our kids, though they grow up. At least they grow up knowing they are Batmans! 🙂 Thank you!
What a great connection – The Grapes of Wrath (sadly) will never be out of date as long as there are people getting rich on others’ misfortunes.
Wow, sh** really went down in 2007. They say when it rains, it pours and it seemed to be pouring that year. And it proves to show that when life beats us down, we get back up, dust ourselves off and find a different route in life that tends to be the better road! As much as I hate that things were so bad, I’m glad to see where you’re headed. Poor Bubbie.
Looking back, it’s like reading a soap opera script. We lost much, but gained more. Maybe ten years from now I’ll write about it in detail. I’ve saved all our legal documents and all my notes and letters. Ah…Bubbie…he broke my heart dying like that in the midst of our sinking ship, but he inspired “Miracle of Ducks.” Funny thing is, I used some of our court experience in the novel and out of all the other scenarios that I invented, my editor said I needed to research courts because it sounded unbelievable! And that wasn’t even the half of it. Yep, it turns out to be a better road, a better chapter. Thanks!
Oh, Charli, I’ve heard that response so many times: the bits of fiction we base on the facts are the ones that readers always tend to be sceptical about! Is that a case of life stranger than fiction or it takes us longer to work through such a devastating experience than we think?
That’s a good insight, Anne. I think it might be that I tried to “contain” my characters in my experience, in which case, my editor might really have responded to the characters seemed to lose their credibility. Good point!
I can see that happening easily – we need to let our characters roam free and surprise us rather than following a set path
Love this discussion. Stranger than fiction indeed. The flash I just posted is based on an incredible and highly unlikely but true scenario. As for your court scenes, I imagine many readers would find them all too believable!!!
Jeanne, I think anything can happen in court. And more likely the unexpected should be the expected.
What a story! Your honesty is inspiring and liberating Charli! I have often felt ashamed over my problems and mistakes and misfortunes. That shame has led to a bottling up, a slow squeeze on creativity. Your post is a reminder that such is the stuff of great writing. By the way, I have my own 2007 real estate disaster story. We bought in March of that year. The broker’s words still ring bitterly in my head…it ended in a loss of equity, a huge debt, and eventually a short sale just to get out. To think you had all the other stuff going on at the same time…a law suit of all things. Will definitely check out Project Semicolon. Thanks for a great post and prompt.
So agree, Jeanne, our ranch leader is such an inspiration! So sorry you were having similar problems around the same time.
I had well-intentioned colleagues and friends advise me on bottling the shame and doing my best to muster on in my career. It was liberating to own my situation, and decide to go do what I really wanted to do. Creativity bloomed in response. I’m so sorry that you’ve endured your own painful story and bitter disappointments in real estate. I still can’t get over the feeling that there’s a whole lot of brokers and bankers that need to be tarred and feathered. I had tried to write other people’s stories, but shame held people back. Telling my story was the only empowerment I had. I hope more peple come to realize that. Own it! 🙂 And go forth and create!
Woah, I am left utterly speechless. I honestly cannot explain the admiration and respect I have for you. You are one hell of a survivor. What a brave and powerful woman, you are the kind of inspiration we all need when we get down, we need to remember the kind of fight you had, and how if you keep standing up, nothing can beat you down. Thanks for such an emotionally honest piece. I am sure we will all be touched by your words. I felt compelled to tell a little something of my own life, so this one is a true story. It was exceptionally difficult to write in 99 words, so I feel it lost a little of the emotion, but maybe thats because I had so much emotion around this that I am incapable of putting it into 99 words. Nonetheless I gave it a go. Will post you the link later as usual.
Infertile Isn’t Forever by Sacha Black
He shifted in his oversized office chair, neatened his white coat and adjusted his stethoscope.
“The thing is Mrs. Black, if you wait longer than 18 months it’s very unlikely you will be able to have children.”
My vision greyed. Nausea cut at my insides.
“But, we can’t afford treatment,” I whispered barely able to splutter a word.
“Sorry but, I can’t help you.”
I left, weak, broken and desperate. But my wife picked me up, carried me and dried my tears.
We fought together.
We sat, held hands and watched as two pink lines appeared on our stick.
That’s one hell of a semi-colon, Sasha, and belated congratulations!
Thanks so much Anne 😄. What can I say, I love a semi colon 😜
Me too, Sasha, and what a quick response – I think you and I might have similar blog times as I think our comments have overlapped before!
Oh really? Are you UK based? if so that might explain it.
Wow. I knew a little of this from what you’ve said before but I can’t imagine these sorts of guillotines being placed on people and how you untangle the mental knots to be able to come to any sort of coherent conclusions. Powerful flash; you’re one toughie, Sasha
Yeh I was in a dark place for a while there. It was twisted messy and very very dark. But you know, In that darkness I found a semi colon and it made me fight back 😄. Thanks for saying it was powerful I really wasn’t sure if I had got it right. ☺️
That’s right! We find the semicolons and fight back! Carry on!
I never want to share my stories to be in a spotlight, but I feel that if I say, “Oh, I know how you feel,” or “It’ll get better,” it won’t be credible without a story. And as much as I wish they weren’t, these are some of my stories. I could give you a list of undesirable faults, bumps and barnacles, but they won’t inspire anybody! 😀
As to your story, I’m touched beyond words that you shared this. It’s like a namaste moment where my story sees the story in you because you saw the story in me. I feel this is a sacred sharing and I thank you for that!
As to being a fighter, oh yeah! Fight forward, Mrs. Black and get those dual pink lines! I love your semicolon! I think you achieved a good balance of emotion, too. It’s a powerful flash.
Aww thank you so much. I definitely feel like my story saw yours. There wasn’t even a question about what to tell. It came fully formed and it (the story) was telling me it needed to be given to you… Does that sound odd? Well anyways it was definitely a moment of shared semi colons. I just cannot believe what you went through I think you are truly inspirational. I think the collection this week will be spectacular 😄
What a great outcome! Congrats!
http://wp.me/p2tAaK-xb thats the link 😀
Sacha, I followed the link and it sadi ‘that’s an error’, just so you know.
Yep thank you it’s not going to be published till Tuesday! 🙂
How do you get a link when you haven’t posted yet? I meant to ask you last week!
Great story, Sasha!
Thanks so much 😄
Sasha, what a great story. You may not have conveyed the full picture of emotion (can that ever truly be conveyed?) but I still had a few tears when I read the last line. You and your family are survivors!
Ah that’s so lovely thank you for telling me. I am touched that you felt that way. And thank you for your kind words 😄
Thanks for sharing your experience, Charli, and what a great way of expressing how we soldier on, trying to find a path through even the most crushing blows. I assume I speak for all your ranchlings in both commiserating but being grateful for these disasters that have taken you to the great place you are now. There’s just so much in your posts, and then the comments, we could stay here all day! For now, suffice to say that I love the semi-colon and I love the flash – revenge can be so motivating! I’ll be back when I’ve done my bit. (oh, and a gentle plug: I think my novel is about a woman who assumed for years she’d come to a full stop but finally finds that semi-colon.)
Great teaser Anne! And perfectly expressed sentiments towards Charli which I heartily echo.
Having survived incest, I learned that shame lurks in secrecy and denial keeps us in the dark. I had intensive years of therapy and learned to recognize that I had been a fighter all along. I thought I had come to a “normal” life and I’m actually grateful for the mental toughness years of therapy taught me. I think even battling a desire to come to a full stop, or believing that it’s inevitable can be a powerful literary technique to compel a character to find a semicolon. Maybe you could do some semicolon reviews of books! You are always welcome to talk about your book(s) here! Looking forward to its debut.
Well, just so happens that I had a review of a semi-colon novel ready to post and I managed to link it with my neglected winter writing project:
The flash wasn’t quite what I’d been expecting, but then it rarely is.
I started to read your review before realizing it was linked to a flash and I thought the book was perfect. So did you! You really have me thinking about the freedom of letting characters express themselves (even in flash).
Charlie, I’m speechless after reading your post. It’s sounds like the plot for a novel, except reality is often harsher than fiction. I’m so glad that love for your family, inner strength, perserverence, courage, and hope helped you in your literal rebirth. Congratulations. What a great feat to have achieved; not only survival, but also happiness, fulfilment, and satisfaction.
I forgot to mention that the flash is also forceful. How damaging betrayal can be, and how we can either let it go or find the courage to retaliate. Hard choice.
I did use several plot lines from this experience. 🙂 I like that fiction allows me to pursue creative stories, yet allows me to work through areas I need insights to. We don’t know who we are until we are tested. I think that might be why dark times can lead to empowering personal growth. As Sacha says, that where we find the semicolons.
Oh Charli, you had your year of hell in 2007 that’s for sure. Thank God you wrote that semi-colon! I was nervous when I first shared on my blog about some of the losses in my life, but then I realised how important it is to ‘own’ our story, as you do here. It is what made us who we are today, putting us squarely on this very path, here, today.
I am so, so sorry for you lost though (and that’s tragic about poor, innocent, sweet Bubbie 🙁 ). Life is so unfair at times yet here you are, blazing a trail filled with hope and inspiration and empowerment not just for yourself but for us too! I wish I could squeeze you with a great big hug!
Your flash is great…love the ‘sqaut toad’ lawyer and the thought of wondering just what Aubrey will do next 🙂 I wish we could find some deadly nightshade for those crooks…
You amaze me, Sheri, writing a full memoir! I get get sweaty palms sharing my stories in snippets. I’m so much happier making up different stories or researching historical ones. I guess I need distance and I admire your tenacity to stay with a longer length. I think you need your blogging, photography and fiction breaks! 🙂 I can feel your big squeeze across the pond! <3 To bad Muriel didn't know about nightshade! 😉
Well Charli, you’ve had more than your fair share of hard knocks in this life, but as difficult as I know it is to share some of these stories on a public domain, you know somehow, deep inside, when it is right to do so, and then you can stand by the sharing of such story, owning it, as you inspire us to do the very same. That is why I can write my memoir, and yes, it is very hard, I admit, I’m into some heavy memories right about now, but I own this story, it’s mine, and the need to tell it has lived with me for over 30 years. Ultimately, whatever stories we decide to share here, we can see where once we thought a full-stop put an end to the sentence, that actually, we took a deep breath, wrote in its place a semi-colon and put pen to paper to write the next line, and the next, and the next after that. So I thank you again so much for your powerful post and for bringing this home to your community 🙂
But yes, thank God for flash fiction and photography and blogging breaks, yes indeed!!!!! You are so right, boy do I need those 😀
And I’m glad you can feel the big squeeze (wasn’t there a movie called that, ha?!!)
Haha, yes, I expect Muriel tried to find some but it was probably not the right time of year so she went for the next best thing for her water rat 😉
It’s a big undertaking, your memoir, but I think you may find gifts of insight along the way, too. You know it’s the right thing and the right time. And you keep at it when it gets tough! 🙂 Well, as to Muriel, more appropriate to finish off a rat with rat poisoning anyways! 😀
Oh Charli, you two have been through so much. I’ve always known you were a true survivor and had a feeling there was a background story on how you landed at Elmira Pond.
Liked your flash very much and now putting on my thinking cap 🙂
Landing here was like Paradise! In fact, when the geese nestle down in the fresh green grass I feel like I’m living scripture: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters…” If that isn’t Elmira Pond! And you are so brave in sharing your stories even in the middle of battle. I’m not sure the Rough Writers know your story. Please feel free to share a link with your flash because you are a survivor and a fighter I admire — you write through hell and back. <3
[…] In response to Charli’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge […]
Good for you. Your Flash fit the prompt perfectly!
very inspiring 🙂
I love the title! There’s something triumphant about it!
What a terrible, and amazing story. I haven’t had the same experiences as you, but I recognise the need to pack up and start fresh. I’m glad to hear you have no regrets; you made the right decision!
We all need those moments when we snip one chapter and start a new one. No regrets, though at times I grieve. That’s when self-nurturing comes in and a good day outside helps. Thanks!
There’s power in those words. It’s all I could think while reading: strength. “They push me down, but I get up again.” The truth is plain. Against so much adversity, more than enough for many lifetimes to share, you stand tall and say it plainly: this is me, this is who I am, I can! Thank you for showing us your strength and empowering us through it. Together we are stronger! Just as Aubrey in your flash is strong. I hope Rhonda gets her comeuppence. Great story!
When I moved to the suburbs, I think I was like everyone else who dwells there — seeking normalcy, safety in the commonplace. I can look back and see that the adversity would have subsided if I didn’t fight back. I don’t believe in revenge, but I still believe in justice. And we find adversity at many levels. No one can say one turn is worse than another’s. I’ve been blessed with three healthy, grown and capable children. Yet I know people who live in wealth and security but have kids hooked on meth. None of us is immune, but it is important to share our own story to inspire others to lift up in hope. Our strength is in solidarity. We stand together for education, for human dignity, for many things. Lots of semicolons for us to sprinkle!
Sometimes it’s important to fight back, to reclaim the essence of who you are from the “normalcy” of the burbs. Sometimes it’s nice to disappear into the sameness, but mostly we need to express our individuality and stand out from crowd – each of us an individual. The crowd is like the forest, the individual like the tree – from a distance all alike, up close the differences are plain to see.
I love the idea of semicolons sprinkling new beginning into our lives. They can’t be sprinkled often enough! You have already sprinkled one or two my way. Thanks. 🙂
What a wonderful analogy! I feel like a re-planted tree! And thank you, Norah — you’ve sprinkled semi-colons liberally over here at the ranch!
You’ve taken strong roots – not a sign of root-bound in these here plots! 🙂
Boy, you have had one hell of a life, Charli; I really hope it stays boring for a while. There’s a line in the Coldplay song Every Teardrop is a Waterfall that says ‘I’d rather be a comma than a full-stop’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyMhvkC3A84 Transpose semicolon and that’s you!
There’s so much here, so many elements. The flash hurts after what you said. It hurts too, as a lawyer sitting in a glass fronted office, battering out terms of credit default swaps without regard for the underlying ‘assets’. The assets were, at bottom, people but we didn’t think like that from the first mortgage backed securitisations in the mid 80s to the crash of 2007/8. You were numbers, codes on a spreadsheet. Somewhere in your personal disaster, a faint shadow of my fingerprints shows through. Accountancy never comes with a smile or a frown; if you own your story, we disowned many. In the thread of that suit, in the polish on his shoes, I was that squat lawyer. Sorry is all there is; it is inadequate. The damage to Hub too. That must have hurt, seeing a proud man battered by winds he had no reason to expect he would ever have to face. I hope he has his semi-colon.
And the cruellest blow is the dog. Why is that? Do we find it easy to sublimate our emotions onto our canine friends. I suppose it is because we prize that loyalty above so much and when our trust is shattered, we crave it more than ever.
Thank you for forming this community; if it has given you a degree of peace by your pond that is marvellous. Know too that it has also helped me gain a fresh perspective on my own back story.
And finally the prompt; why does it feel like an effort to stop me ending my own soap opera with Mary? The fight back? Bring it on!
The flash is my nod to the toady-lawyer who set us up to be dropped-kicked from court by a well-glossed shoe. No matter what your back-story is, I can not see you as a bottom of the barrel ambulance chaser.
One day, you and I should collaborate. I think you might be the only person I know who could understand the full scope of what we discovered. It’s extraordinarily complex and discovery was not linear. Originally we were defrauded by a drug dealer, money-laundering dirty dollars with stolen equity. We were smart/dumb enough to catch him. Problem is, by that time legitimate banks had purchased our tarnished loan. Drug dealer with an interest in real estate went to prison, the FBI gathered evidence that they never released for a class action suit and the police would not press charges against the other parties (the chain of banks who resold our loan) because we lost “less than $250,000.” We played round-robin with lawyers, banks, the Attorney General, HOPE, and at least three MN organizations that each discovered more fraud that was “out of their scope” to handle. By the time we found our boozing lawyer (yes, he was protected by the Bar because he said he was under the influence of alcohol but it was never disclosed if the big boys bought it for him) he had 20 other cases in court. He laid out our plan. We would “wait out” the foreclosure; counter the sheriff’s sale; wait again until served with eviction; get fast-tracked into district court (because of the eviction hanging over our heads); present the overwhelming evidence of multiple layers of fraud to the judge; and let the judge secure our home until it could be decided who owned the note and who was liable for the fraud. Our toad said this would take 2 years and most likely one of the banks would settle with us to re-write a favorable new loan. Then the handsome lawyer with high-gloss shoes from VA flew in, met with our lawyer without us and our lawyer informed us in court that he “thought” counsel might present something to the judge. Huh? Next thing we know, an angry judge is informing us that his hands are tied; he’s aware of the fraud but has no choice but to honor the filing of opposing counsel. They had filed to remove our case to Federal Court. You see, unbeknownst to us all, the was a statue of limitations on suing for mortgage fraud. And our lawyer had us “wait it out.”
I don’t hate lawyers. I don’t hate banks, too much. I have good friends who are lawyers. I don’t believe in revenge either. I believe in justice and I believe you have to fight for it even when you lose. I know you to be a good and kind person. You are not your job; I am not my failed home-ownership. You have better stories to tell and so do I. You give generously of your encouragement and gifts. You handout semicolons; I’ve watched you do this.
But one day — I think we could collaborate on a killer thriller with plot lines from your experiences and mine! 🙂 Now go give Mary some fight, damn it!
Now that is a date, Charli Mills.
I’m looking forward to reading the results of that collaboration, Charli and Geoff – what a semi-colon that would be!
Wow! There’s fire in them there words! What a great collaboration it would be! I can’t believe the twisted plots that bound you. I’m so pleased you found the way to fly free, like your beautiful birds on Elmira Pond.
Well said, Geoff. The depth of feeling in your words jumped out and slapped me in the face, telling me to take notice. That is a beautiful piece of writing there. It deserves life elsewhere. 🙂
Thanks Norah. She poked at a scab, that’s all. I’m very conscious if a lot of the compromises I made in my legal career and when you read about someone you respect and admire at the other end of the rope it makes you (rightly) squirm.
Ha, ha, Geoff! Now I have you at the end of my word wrangling rope! No, I get that this banking/mortgage business is much bigger than both of us and while interesting that we experienced different ends of it, we both now deal with more important matters like writing and spreading compassion. Like Norah pointed out, it was a tangle of plots I’m so happy to be free of.
I am so happy you chose this for a prompt. <3 It's such an important issue.
Not sure what to say about your year in 2007 that hasn't been said here. A string of life-changing events to put it mildly. Strength, resiliency, perseverance… You've got all these traits in spades.
I thought the flash was going to be a Salem Witch Trial (or something similar) so was surprised at the murder. I hope you get Rhonda for us… 😉
There are so many circumstances that seem to end us, but we have choices. I’m glad you agree the prompt is important! 🙂 Yeah, 2007 +five years sucked but hey — I’m living the life on Elmira Pond and playing with talented writers at Carrot Ranch!
Oh, I like the Salem Witch Trial element. In a way, it’s a modern witch trial. Who grows nightshade any more? An yes, I did. Not intentionally, but I let parts of my suburban yard go wild to attract pollinators. Rhonda will find justice, I think…
[…] week, Charli Mills over at Carrot Ranch Communications has challenged writers to own our battles and use them to inspire a story of renewal in exactly 99 […]
Finally made it back, just in time for the “fun.” This challenge was rough — in a good way, but wow am I tired from working on this one. Renewals can be downright exhausting (totally worth the effort, though, as your story, Charli, proves). The link to my day’s explorations: http://www.cjaiferry.com/blog/redefining-normalcy-flash-fiction/
Welcome back to the Ranch! Yes, renewals are exhausting, often leading to the need to rest. 🙂 I’m glad you took time to make and share your explorations!
Very nice flash!
It was worth the effort. Well done!
I can’t believe I’m sharing this. Non-fiction this week, Charli: Beyond Zilch http://goo.gl/3AKCxU
We could turn this into a true confessions week. 🙂 But is seriousness, owning our stories is truly empowering. When we look back out our pits, it’s not the pit but the climb out that gave us the strength of our true measure. Thank you fr sharing your semicolon!
Wonderful story of determination! WTG!
Making lemonade indeed. Nice one! 🙂
Great story, Pat – inspirational!
Circumstances conspire, throw up walls. Doesn’t mean we can’t muster up our strength and try to scale them again. Very inspiring Pat!
That’s quite a story. An old Woody Guthrie story says that some people “will rob you with a shotgun and some with a fountain pen.” Sounds like you met the fountain pen variety–and they do tend to take larger amounts. I glad you fought your way through.
Thanks for reading, Ellen and for reminding me of the Woody Guthrie story. Yes, those pen-types are complicate their crime with paperwork, too.
Agree, Ellen that’s a great line from good old Woody Guthrie!
Why don’t we have those protest songs anymore? Or is it just me having become so complacent I don’t notice?
They tend to be localized, but I love seeking them out. Wish there were more! Here’s one for you about walking across the coal mine picket lines.
“I’ll never trust a rich man for long as I draw breath/
To keep his marble mansions, he’ll starve a child to death.”
Thanks, Charli, enjoyed it, but have to share my all-time favourite from Paul Robeson
Hi, Ellen! Good to see you! And Anne, thanks for the Paul Robeson/Joe Hill video. I love singing the Joe Hill song in the shower.
Here is my submission for this week.
Okay. Wiping tears. Keep on fighting the good fight and writing your stories (and poems and articles…you are abundant)! Thank you for sharing your story. It inspires others!
Wow! Powerful flash Susan. Every reader will feel what it is to receive such a chilling prognosis. You captured so well, too, the clinical, all-in-a-day’s-work tone of the doctor. You sound like a real survivor. No period at the end of this sentence. I salute you.
Having fought the tax man for over a decade while going through a divorce, etc., I can really identify with what you had to go through. Your story of betrayal is powerful indeed. Good job!
“For over a decade…” I think sometimes they drag it out to wear us down. It must have been an exhausting time, Jan! Thanks!
Wow Charli, I’m so impressed with your perseverance, not too mention your writing. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story (and great flash too!).
Thanks, Pete! I need to quote that on a coffee cup. 😀
Dylan slashed through defenders and blasted the ball into the net. Mark cheered him on, ignoring the whispers in the crowd.
There had always been whispers, since the moment he held the boy in his arms.
Mark’s friends whispered advice during the separation. After their reconciliation, Jen whispered a confession that shattered their lives forever.
He’d driven through the night, only a whisper from death, waking up in the sun with only a whisper to his name. He whispered a prayer as he dragged himself home, where he hugged his crying wife as the neighbors whispered from their windows.
I love this, Pete.
Great flash Pete!
Susan I was inspired by your flash and forgot to comment because then I read your hubpages article. Wow, quite a story you have. Keep up the fight!
So much expressed in the whispers that all the story can be seen surrounding Mark. From the strong physical start to the emotional strength discovered in a semi-colon moment, this is a powerful read!
Wow! That is a wonderful flash. I love the repetition.
Brilliant use of the concept of whispers to convey all emotions and situations
great flash, Pete
Yes, loved the reiteration of “whisper”in all its forms. Made the flash rustle off the screen. Poignant.
[…] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]
This one was nearly impossible. I almost skipped it because, like the bullying flash (which I did skip), I had too many ideas. So, here it is:
I’m glad you pressed into it. I actually felt that way, too after writing the post I was stumped on a flash!
Great flash, Sarah. I’m pleased you chose this one. 🙂
Thank you (both). 🙂
Great flash Sarah. You captured the breezy, chill carelessness that belongs to girls of a certain age…then came through with a very satisfying ‘rebuttal” to it at the end.
The Comeback Kid by Larry LaForge
“Sit,” Ed said to his distraught granddaughter.
Ellen approached the sofa, wiping away tears. Not making the tennis team was by far the biggest disappointment of her nine years.
Ed placed the ragged scrapbook on her lap, and began his story.
“I was fourteen when it happened to me,” he said. Ed described being cut from his junior varsity basketball team. He almost quit playing, but chose instead to practice harder and try again the following year.
“Persistence paid off,“ he said.
Ellen perked up as she carefully leafed through the browned, fragile pages. “Wow, Grandpa, did it ever!”
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine:
I’m liking this new addition to Ed & Edna — Ellen is a sweet and spunky character to keep the other two in line. A great way to show that we all have our comeback stories. If we had nothing to come back from, it wouldn’t be such a triumph. Great flash!
I like it! A grandfather sharing his own inspirational story with a grandchild who chooses to be inspired! 🙂
Nailed it, as usual, Larry
Very touching. Sharing a similar experience of pain with a child provides the lasting lesson a quick sympathetic response never could. “It happened to me.” Instant connection!
[…] This flash fiction piece was written for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]
New Love by Ruth Irwin
“You should be with people who love you” he said.
Inside she was screaming with anguish “I want to stay here with the one I love!”
The torment and torture, hopeless heartache of what might have, should have, been. Shattered dreams and lost love.
Days slowly pass, weeks, then months. “You have control over your feelings” they say. “Get over it” they say. Outward smiles hide secret cries, silent tears, heavy heart. Will this pain ever fade?
Dawn; a new day brings fresh hope. “Breathe, breathe”. More pain and cries bringing new life, a new beginning…
Overwhelming unconditional love!
The way this is written feels like the reader is journeying alongside the narrator. Beautiful crisp lines full of emotion and overcoming. Thanks, Ruth!
I’d say Ruth has perfectly encapsulated the semicolon here. I like the use of crying triggered both by anguish and joy
Hi, I just randomly came across your blog today.
This is my first ever attempt at Flash Fiction.
Gold Nuggets by lacyc
Believe it or not, I once had a job picking up rocks!
One rock, two rocks,
Three rocks, four;
Five rocks, six rocks,
Seven rocks, more.
A little over twenty years ago, under a blazing tropical sun, I picked up rocks on farmer Joe’s sugarcane plantation for three months. Knowing that someday the future would bring a better harvest, I soldiered on.
I’m now happy to say that today I’m the guardian of four gold nuggets – a wife and three lovely daughters.
I now spend my days weeding my time where the rocks have long since disappeared from memory.
Welcome to Carrot Ranch! First attempt? Well, keep writing because this is beautiful. I especially like how you combined a bit of rhyme in the midst of the story. The arduous work, the soldiering on and the rewards of life beyond the rock fields is a fantastic story of renewal. Thanks for sharing!
Lovely! Gold indeed! 🙂
It has a lovely balance, this piece, between the arduous work of the past when the rewards probably went more to the farmer and the present when the benefits are closer to home and appreciated that bit more. Great start to your flash career.
I knew when I joined this beautiful community of writers there was a reason. Charli, there is so much depth and heart in your posts and fiction. Thank you for sharing your story. You are strong and resilient. Stories like this can inspire and instil hope that better things do come. They always do, don’t they? I’m glad you are where you are now (formed by the past) to do what you are doing. It feels like a blessing to be among all of you. I personally find it extremely difficult to share my hardships and past traumas (especially online) and feel much better distilling my experience into my fiction and poetry.
One conclusion I’ve come to is that our darkest moments are blessings in disguise. (I do not say this lightly as I know many people have lived through hell.) We find our inner strength and discover our true selves IF we endure and do not let the darkness take us.
I agree that our darkest moments lead to greater blessings. Ah! That is why the semi-colon project is so important! People in the midst of the darkness don’t realize that something new and better is just beyond. I’m so glad you found Carrot Ranch. It is a special community and I certainly feel blessed to have so many talented, inquisitive and compassionate writers to write with and discuss the craft of literature.
I know exactly what you mean about distilling experience through fiction and poetry. The memorists among the writing community here have inspired me to try undistilled writing. I’m enjoying your beautiful poetry this month, too! You can craft verse that becomes visual or emotional.
‘It’s arrived.’ He said grimly.
My unsteady fingers ripped the envelope. I held the folded letter in my hands and looked up at his furrowed brow, ‘I want to stay with you.’
He nodded and forced a smile, ‘It’s your decision, but your mother wants you to know the truth. He may be your father.’
‘The truth is that you will always be my father, whatever it says.’
‘Aren’t you going to read it, son?’
‘She chose to leave us for him, but I’m staying with you, dad.’
‘We’ll have to move away, another school, new friends…’
Families break up for different reasons, and often this leads to a change of home, school, friends, and the incorporation of new members into the family. This is often a traumatic situation, especially for the children who are innocent bystanders. Children after a certain age can choose which parent they want to live with.
In my flash, the child wants to stay with his father, which will mean starting a new life far away from his mother, biological father, friends and family.
I hope the father and son in my flash do manage to stay together and build a new life 🙂
I’ll be posting on my blog tomorrow.
What really strikes me in your flash is the son’s loyalty to his dad, though the man might not be his biological father. And yes, family break-ups are so hard on the children. I’ll look for your post!
In this instance, it’s the only father he’s ever known. In any case, they will all have to start all over again and re-evaluate their relationships. Sad, especially for the children.
I’ve just posted on my blog: http://lucciagray.com/2015/04/13/carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-challenge-8th-april
You admire his loyalty though wonder whether it will always be as strong, given those blood ties tugging away insidiously.
There’s blood and there are the ties that bind you to someone who has proven love with action. “Fathering” a child is one thing; raising and loving him is another. (Which begs the question, why does “to mother” imply so much more than the purely biological term “to father”? )
[…] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about semicolons; but not the little squiggles on a page, the semicolons that are sprinkled liberally through life […]
Hi Charli, Thanks for the challenge. I am back with my response: http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-r1
I’m glad you were up to the challenge, Norah! 🙂 Grasping at the dragon’s tail is a great analogy for seizing the semi-colon moment and the caterpillar in a pupa is another great one for the semi-colon lived. I appreciate how you added to the understanding of what the Project Semicoln is about. Thanks!
Thank you, Charli. I was hoping that I wasn’t making too light a situation of the project’s purpose.
Not at all. I felt you expanded and explained the scope.
Great flash Norah (and loved visiting your site–was in education myself for 20 years or so) … significant isn’t it that it was the child’s unexpected if seemingly disastrous results on the project that lodged in the teacher’s mind; that even focused her on the child and not just the picture! The others’ artworks had perhaps achieved their “full stop.” They elicited no further curiosity about the minds that had created them. Not so with the girl and her brown splotch!
Thank you, Jeanne. I appreciate the depth of understanding in your comment. I hadn’t ‘consciously’ thought about it that way, but indeed it is so. The difference between the semicolon and fullstop, as you describe, is shown in the ‘butterfly’ video I shared. Thanks for tweaking the thinking a little further. 🙂
Comments later — coming up from air after a grant application, finishing an online course, and hosting a reading. But what a lively idea! Here’s a semi-colon for you:
The Making of a Class Act
By Paula Moyer
Jean sat limply in her car. Her desperate attempt to win Chuck back? A bust.
When she drove back to the house, she wore the skimpiest clothes. Chuck showed his appreciation by bedding her down.
Afterward, they sat in the kitchen, munched on the KFC she had brought.
“Bruce Springsteen’s performing in Tulsa next week,” Chuck said.
Her favorite! “Let’s go!” she crowed.
That’s when he told her.
“I have a date.”
Later, there in the dark, Jean metamorphosed.
She saw a vision of herself: queenly, even haughty.
From now on, she held herself high. Too high for trash.
I love ‘too high for trash’. Great ending – we know where she’s going now and we wish her well…
The writing is sharp, the entire scene is clear. Yet it is the evolution of Jean that takes place and amazing you packed it all in to 99 words. I agree with Geoff. Great last line. Good luck on your grant! That’s all a huge undertaking
Wow Paula, gotta admit this one brought back a memory of my own. “Too high for trash.” Great! Years after a similarly humiliating experience, I was asked, as part of a colleague’s art project, to write down on a snippet of paper a thought engendered by a bad experience. I wrote: “To become a woman he’d never deserve.” I like Jean 🙂
[…] Please read some of the other entries. […]
[…] Charli Mills has shown me this week, in her 99 word flash fiction prompt that there is a better use for the semicolon. A metaphorical one. Taking it as a pause instead of a full stop in your life. If things look bleak, there’s no way out then don’t let it stop you. Erase the period, as our American friends call it. Rub that stop. Split by language again (which links to Norah Colvin’s piece on spelling and the tyranny that is English spelling – check it out and be reminded of those godawful tests both we and our children were put through (should be ‘throo’ or ‘thru’ of course)). […]
So, again belatedly, here it is..
Amazing that there are at least four Rough Writers pulling off A-Z and finding time for flash!
no sleep peeps
I forgot to add a coule of quotes that seem at least a little apposite. When the Queen had a tough time in 1992 (heir to the throne’s divorce, that sort of thing) she described it as her ‘annus horribilis’. The tabloid newspaper, the Sun, the next day had a headline: ‘Annus Horribilis: the Queen’s Bum Year’. That sounds like your 2007. And in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film that has been popular here, there’s a line that seems to fit your philosophy: ‘Things will be alright in the end; and if they are not alright, then it’s not the end’.
Oh, I love both those quotes! Ha, ha! Oh, indeed a bum year. Thanks!
Use them freely Ms Mills
Great to be reminded of these two stories. I love that annus horribilis line and have appropriated it on more than one occassion 🙂
First of all, I commend you on your attitude towards life, Charli. Falling and getting up is not easy, and you have and will always inspire me, Lady xoxo
I loved the theme for today! More so since I went through the struggle when I had my baby. Arthritis took over all my joints, and those rose bushes were my inspiration…
Thank you, Ruchira. I always feel lifted by your mantras and your focus in your fiction writing. <3
That sounds so painful! Especially with a new baby! Your flash is as beautiful as your inspiration in those rose bushes.
Charli, I admire your ability to shine the light of day on the events that happened in 2007 and those that were set in motion at that time that continued to have “and then” lives after that. How great that you could see all that as a semicolon and have such a great life after that horrible time. (Not that the horrible time was justified in any way …)
Thank you, Paula! We all have such times and they do offer us gifts of faith and insight. As Geoff pointed out, even the Queen has bum years!
[…] week’s contribution to the Carrot Ranch’s weekly 99 word challenge is inspired by an event I will experience in a little under 2 weeks’ […]
What a tender story of New Life! And how exciting that your new baby is due in just a few weeks! What a trooper you are to be writing!
Wow Charli. Not only did you survive your childhood but also all that 2007 threw at you. I’m a great believer in experience makes you the person that you are and how you deal with that experience either sees you go on to better things or you let it destroy your life. You took the former path and with the founding of the Rough writers who knows where you will end up. I do know though it is sure to be a place that you want to be. I am running way behind and don’t know what I will come up with this week but will be back with some form of renewal.
I was better equipped to survive 2007 because I had survived my childhood. It taught me to fight even fruitless battles. It taught me that no one can take my dignity. The “after life” so to speak has been incredibly fulfilling, especially the building of an incredible literary community. There are no limits! Semi-colon moments give us that pause to ponder what next. I love what you came up with! It will be the victory that closes our compilation!
Yes you learned your lessons well Charli although it is a pity to have to learn them at all but it has made you and your life what they are today. I for one am glad to be part of your literary community.
This afternoon, I sat under the old apple tree on Elmira Pond. My neighbor came over for a visit. She mentioned the road and trains, and it made me think that nothing will ever be perfect in our lives. I tune out the traffic and actually enjoy the trains. Then I realized it’s not what we tune out but what we tune in. Hard times give a deeper appreciation for the softness of life. She then asked if I ever felt so full to bursting with joy because of the natural beauty we live in here in northern Idaho, and I almost cried. We watched the sinking sun go behind the mountain peaks and light up the pine trees like Christmas lights. Fish began to rise in the pond and blackbirds trilled at its edge. Yes, I feel that joy. All because of lessons learned. 🙂
Charli you just transported me so easily to Northern Idaho and let me share in that joy that you and your neighbour both feel as you soak in your natural surroundings. And yes, it is all because of lessons learned. <3 🙂
[…] up the ever fabulous Charli Mills weekly challenge. This week she gave such an emotive personal intro to the challenge, I was […]
[…] Written in reponse to Charli”s 99 word prompt where she asks: […]
[…] Flash Fiction challenge this week asks us: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a renewal story that proclaims, […]
Hi Charli! Here is my post, a longer one this week. I wrote and rewrote, wanting to say so much and in the end this is what I ended up with. I hope you don’t mind, but I used a FF that I had already written but hadn’t published on my blog. It seeemed the right one, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Here’s the link: http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2015/04/14/the-black-dog-a-palm-tree-and-a-flash-fiction/
I’ll catch up here tomorrow, have a great day 🙂
Carrot Ranch is the flash fiction cabaret where *most* anything goes! There might yet be something that takes us by surprise, but if you have something from your pages that fits, than by all means give it the light of day (or the light of the internet). Sometimes the creative spark is to remember a piece we haven’t yet shared. You have a great day, to! I’m off to the Summerhouse, now!
Love it…Rough Writer Caberet…where *most* anything goes 😀 You’re so right…it had to be this one, couldn’t shake it. So great that you get that!! Thanks again Charil 🙂
Hee, hee! 😀 And yes, it was the right one to go with it. Fabulous post, Sherri!
Having a heyday catching up on all the comments and flashes today; looking forward to going back and clicking on the links. Just finished helping hubby with a grant proposal (seems I am in good company with some of you) and sent off a first draft of a book proposal for my client’s memoir. So feeling free to write a little just for fun! I have decided to use this flash to explore a scene in miniature from a book that exists only in my mind and research folders at present. It is inspired from a lasting love of all things Japanese, not the least the fascinating history.
“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”
She woke, a doll thrown on the grass, a shutter in hand.
The earthquake. The fire! She’d run, wrenched the shutter from a teahouse to ward off the rain of sparks. Outside the park gate, she’d paused, a rock in the surging human stream. Then, an updraft. She’d felt herself plucked, borne away from the flaming whirlwind hurtling down amidst a typhoon of screams.
She buried her face in the earth.
Much later she staggered up a hill. Shitamachi, Edo’s heart, writhed below. Fires yet danced on the black Sumida.
Gambatte, they’d always said. Endure.
The red sun rose.
Note: Edo is the old name for Tokyo. The Sumida is the river that runs through it. Gambatte is the imperative of the verb gambaru–to persevere, endure, not give up. (The Japanese have an endearing way of adding “kudasai–please–to their expressions, and often say “Gambatte kudasai!”–“Please hang in there!” ) The idea of the shutter is from an actual recorded incident in the great fire of 1923.
We share so much between blog posts that often we forget there’s an unseen part of our writer’s platform. Interacting with clients or publishers; writing and submitting grants — these are important pieces of our branding and credibility that might not be noticed by our community or audience. Social media is not our platform. It’s a tool for applying greater visibility of our platform. You have been busy!
Thank you for sharing a story you’ve been carrying in your mind. It may be miniature, but the full expanse of the story is felt here. I can understand why you are captivated by this history (and its language). This flash is so beautifully horrific. It bridges that place from where endurance rises, a mixture of heaven and hell. Your descriptions, word choices turn into art in my mind.
I’ve applied some formatting in the compilation so the reader can get the effect of the quote and note. If I didn’t format it as you might have in mind, let me know. Editing is sometimes guessing for me. 🙂
Thanks for the formatting Charli. Looks good. I wanted to center the title and quote and italicize the Japanese but couldn’t do it. (Because I don’t have a WordPress account? I know I can’t “like” posts for that reason.) And though you are right that social media is NOT our platform, it was clear to me after putting up my rather long post that it is past time for me to create the WordPress site that I have been prevaricating about for months! I wanted to add those notes about Japanese words, etc. but thought afterwards, give people a break! Hard enough to do justice to everyone’s FFs. Anyway, I so appreciate the positive feedback on the flash. Going off now to make the decision about the VEHICLE for the platform…wordpress.com or wordpress.org!
Yay! I’m excited you are going to get the vehicle! WordPress is a good one. You can start with the pieces you have, set up your blog and add pages as your strategy becomes clearer to you. Make it look as beautiful as you write (sorry if that’s a tall order)! The comments do not allow for formatting and while I lose the original formating in my process, I look to blog posts for clues, such as Irene’s poem or Susan’s last line in red. Although some things I keep consistent — title, byline, font size, hashtags for separation. Those I edit for consistency. I also maintain the global English represented here. I don’t Americanize it (except for US writers). English English is slipping into my lexicon, though. 🙂
Yay is right. Went at it today and got a feel for it. Still confused about the .org versus the .com. Went with .org and thought I would be able to “like” here with that but realized belatedly I had to create a .com account too! Huh???? Anyway, now I can “like” comments here. How exciting. As I have said before, you are a huge inspiration Charli. In fact I am trying to figure out how to ping you on my first post 🙂 More to say but it is 8:17 and hubby wants me to make salads. We eat on European time 🙂 Oh! and by all means DO NOT AMERICANIZE. That would take all the fun out of our Bri’ish friends’ usage.
I always knew you were “likeable”! 😀 Time to build, and that’s an exciting time. I think we all join in together and create an inspiring dynamic. Working among co-ops and community gardens taught me that the real magic happens when people share their talents and aspirations collectively. Oh, I understand eating on European, time! Although I’m better about it in the summer because the mosquitoes drive me away from the BBQ by 8 p.m. so I plan earlier dinners. Ha, ha! No worries! I love our our Bri’ish friends’ usage!
[…] Ranch. She weaves a grand story and pulls you along with her. This week she wrote about how she pulled herself out of the ashes to begin her life on Elmira Pond. She encourages our characters to do the […]
That is quite a semicolon! Our lives carry with them the richness of past experiences, and while I am sad you lived through such a black period, I am grateful for the person who has come out of it.
Your story prompted me to write about someone who, until now, had been a minor character in my writings. Meet Gloria as she begins a new life:
Often we don’t separate out these moments as the sentences of our lives grow into paragraphs and more. When we do, we get to see that it wasn’t the bad ending after all but a new beginning. I’m loving all of these semi-colon stories in response and delighted that it prompted growth of this new character. Thank you for sharing her with us!
[…] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]