April 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

April 29, 2015

April 28Dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee. Over and over again. Dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee.

This chunky plover — a killldeer — screams when she eats or  runs on lanky stilts. She’s noisy because she’s nesting and nothing will quiet her.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the screaming of a killdeer: “Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark.” Yes, even after dark. Excited. Common (insert endless). Go to sleep, little killdeer, go to sleep.

Despite my noisy plover with her Groucho Marx uni-brow and a stripe that ties her black beak to her white and walnut face, it is a quiet night. The Hub and dogs are already asleep upstairs. I’m luxuriating in in a new second-hand reading chair.

A thump, as if one of the dogs jumped off my bed upstairs, makes me look up and wonder. I see my ceiling fans start to sway about the same time my rocker feels tossed in an unusual pattern. My tea cups clatter loud enough to drown out the killdeer. Trains cause daily vibrations as they trundle through the valley, but this is no train.

Earthquake in Elmira. I’m sure of it. Abandoning my book, I go upstairs to get on the USGS website and discover that there was indeed an earthquake centered in Sandpoint earlier that evening. I log onto a local news source and everybody between Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry (with Elmira exactly in the middle) is excitedly chattering like social media killdeer about the quakes.

Two of them. It seems that most of us felt the second one more so than the first. Updates would confirm that the 10:45 p.m. was stronger, yet both were weak quakes measuring 4.1 and 4.2. Though not in the exact location, both quakes were centered in the sheer mountains that rise up out of Lake Pend Oreille.

Several days later, the Hub and I drive to Talache Beach, a remote access to the lake that is directly across from where the quakes were centered, and I take pictures of the mountains. I’m looking at the rock rising from water to tell me a story.

Unlike the killdeer, the mountains are mute.

At breakfast in Sandpoint and later at the grocery store, everyone is talking about the quakes. A local resident posts a photo of his lawn chair toppled and writes a caption: “Sandpoint earthquakes 2015; we will rebuild.” We laugh off the danger because nothing bad happened, and it’s exciting to be reminded that the earth beneath our feet is alive and kicking.

Then Nepal.

And the local chatter dies down, sobering. An earthquake the magnitude of 7.8 kills thousands. And we can do little to prepare, although the USGS generously distributes information on preparedness. I wonder if the world is rocking toward Apocalypse faster than climate change, and I subscribe to earthquake and volcano updates in the Pacific Northwest. An ap won’t save humanity, but somehow we think if we can know we can overcome.

And then they riot in Baltimore.

I don’t even want to look at photos of burning police cars or frenzied looters. I don’t even want to know anyone’s opinions because everyone is fighting on Facebook. One cousin states, “I thought this was an adult debate, not kindergarten” after getting called names for expressing her views about the media.

But when quakes hit, both the geological and social kind, people react, some snarl, some hide. Some stand up to be heroes. Some reach out with helping hands. Others standby and watch the news-feeds.

Another cousin laments, “Tired of feeling helpless & hopeless about racism in the United States.” I think of a Paula Cole song, Little Earthquakes, and its raw expression over the disintegration of a relationship. It’s applicable for all relationships divided by the epicenter of these social quakes: racism.

Oh these little earthquakes
Here we go again
These little earthquakes
Doesn’t take much to rip us into pieces

I can’t reach you
I can’t reach you

Give me life
Give me pain
Give me myself again

Like geological earthquakes, social ones rock the ground we stand upon. We feel ripped to pieces. We feel buried alive in the rubble of our riot-fueled angst. We feel the whole damn world is against us, no one understands.

What we need is common ground. To reach across the racial chasms we need to toss aside discomfort over “otherness.” Our first step is to recognize one race: human. We are a colorful kaleidoscope of culture. You might eat different foods, but we all hunger. You might sleep in a different house, but we all seek shelter and safety; we all feel warmed by hearth and home. Your children might have different coloring from mine, but we all seek to nurture the young, the next generations.

Racism is a social earthquake that divides our common ground. We can rebuild. We can be like those mountains rising up from deep waters to stand tall and absorb the quakes. If we ignore the racism, the pressure will build beneath us and we will be ripped apart by a greater magnitude with power to level our cities and relationships.

The prompt this week comes from my cousin. She wants to know what we can do, to directly impact this issue of racism. And it’s not a US problem; it’s global. Nor is it something we pass off to the next generation to figure out. This week, we put literature to use to examine a mountainous issue, a literary version of climbing Mount Everest or quieting a nesting killdeer.

April 29, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that tackles racism. Think about common ground, about the things that rip us apart as humans. How we can recover our identities in a way that honors the identities of all individuals? What breaks the barrier of other-ness? Imagine a better tomorrow that doesn’t need expression in riots or taking sides on social media. As writers, think about genres, characters, tension and twists. We can rebuild.

Respond by May 5, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Declaring War by Charli Mills

Lucy parked behind Ken’s truck along the reservation river. Her Forest Service uniform was sweaty, coated with sawdust.

“Hey Little Sister!”

Lucy accepted a cold Pepsie, nodding to Ken and his companions.

“We’re doing it. Declaring war on those white bastards.” Young brown faces smirked.

“Gotta go,” she said, hearing her radio. Wildfires were closing in.

“Bah! White man’s work.”

Later, bagging bodies of nameless campers consumed by fire, she reflected how ashes concealed skin color. My war is holding back flames. We all live and die. She would live to fight for all skins. Rescue honored her ancestors.


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  1. jeanne229

    Love this post and prompt! And great that you appealed to the sense (that I assume) we all have these days of chaos–in both the natural and social arenas–breaking out in pockets all over the place. Very sobering news from Nepal and Baltimore, but good things too when you hear how people help and stand together for what is right. Thanks Charli, and kudos on another great flash too!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Jeanne, you are so right that people can do good things in hard times. I hope we can think of lasting good actions that tip alleviate the building pressure in our social arena.

  2. Sherri

    Earth-ripping quakes are rattling both below and above the ground increasingly these days. Glad yours wasn’t too big.
    I was terrified of experiencing an earthquake before I moved to California. I remember in LA seeing those skyscrapers swaying as the ground rock and rolled, not unlike those palm trees it seemed to me. I was 7 floors up in one of those skyscrapers where I worked and thought we were all going to die. So much for that, how can we even begin to grasp the terrors and horrors for those suffering so greatly in Nepal right now? And of course the awful riots in Baltimore.
    A great deal to ponder here Charli, not least of all the massive divide caused by racism. And so often, we do feel so utterly helpless. So out come the opinions and everyone is shouting but who is really listening? As with your killdeer, I find the incessant noise emotionally draining and I keep away from all things social media at these times.
    But you are right, there are other ways that we can make a difference, not least of all starting at the beginning with what we teach our children in love and nurture and hopefully by example. Back to nurture again. And compassion. After all, children aren’t born racist.
    Moved by the words to the Paula Cole song. Another powerful flash, I love the last line…’Rescue honoured her ancestors’.
    Beautiful, serene photo too, just what we need to remind us that there are still places left where we can find peace and calm.
    I’ll be disappearing for a few days but will be back with my flash next week and look forward to reading what I know will be other profound and powerful stories.
    Thank you once again for another soul-searching prompt and for the compassion flowing out of your heart into ours <3

    • Sarah Brentyn

      This —> “everyone is shouting but who is really listening? As with your killdeer, I find the incessant noise emotionally draining and I keep away from all things social media at these times.” Yes. I save these talks (and fears) for family and friends. There’s nothing to be gained by hiding behind a screen and threatening or fighting with people.

      Still, this post made me think that maybe, just maybe, there’s something our voices can do.

      • Sherri

        Right on Sarah…

      • Pete

        Great point Sarah, and what a fantastic post, Charlie. Besides, there is far too much good to do in the world rather than sit back and complain.

    • Charli Mills

      I learned from you about the power of palm trees in how they can bend to gale force winds. Now, I’m thinking that palms must have been the model for earthquake-resistant structures in California! But still, that must have been an unsettling feeling.

      Oh, so true! Incessant noise of the social media can be so draining! And yes, children are not born racist, but how do they see their parents or role models in action? Where do we learn to be silent and compliant? It’s hard to speak out on controversial topics, but we have voices and we have minds and imagination behind those voices…better than the disconnected chattering.

      I wanted a photo of the “scene f the shaking” and it is very peaceful looking. Land recovers more quickly in some ways than people do. Thank you for finding this a soul-searching prompt! I know there’s much <3 in the writers here.

  3. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    The earthquake in Nepal is a catastrophe of a magnitude that is hard to imagine. The terrain itself makes getting help to those in need so difficult. My heart goes out to all of them. I can understand your local community excitement at your quake and I’m glad that it was not severe. It is because it is not severe that the chatter happens. A bit of excitement in life. On a larger scale it would have been stunned silence and doing what had to be done.
    Racism is unfortunately world wide and a problem that I hope our creative writings will find ways to overcome.
    A wonderful flash. Powerful image of the burnt bodies not showing the skin colour. We are all the same underneath.

    • Charli Mills

      The excitement comes from surviving an “almost” situation. Silence and diligence would have been the order of the day had it been worse. It is difficult when rescue is out of reach because of terrain. It’s always sad when Search & Rescue has to call off a search because of weather or dangerous conditions. Thank you. We are the same beneath whatever hues we display.

  4. A. E. Robson

    Mother Nature is a power house that spawns conversation around the world. We tend to ignore the thought that she could visit close to home or our hearts. Out of sight out of mind. It will never happen to us. When it does, her wake up call is to let us know we are vulnerable to everything that goes on around us in every day of our lives. Unsuspecting, we travel her path not knowing if we will ever have to deal with the peril, hurt and destruction. Much in the same way we live our lives not thinking about racism until it rears its ugly head. A very thought provoking prompt, Charli. One that will need time to nurture.

    • Charli Mills

      We do tend to ignore that power and sometimes I wonder if climate change denial is rooted in a fear of being powerless against nature. I’m fascinated by geology and I’ve seen “bends” in the mountains where rock warped or slickened granite along the shearing of fault zones. Some process are slow that we don’t notice, but others grab our immediate attention. We think racism isn’t “really a problem” and that is the problem. Thank you for nurturing the idea behind the prompt.

  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Wow, Charli. Powerful flash. And, as always, fantastic intro writing. You have really challenged us this week. I’m not sure I can do it. I’ve been thinking all night. I’m letting my fear win and not wanting to add more fuel to the proverbial fire. Someone, inevitably, will take it the wrong way or challenge me on what right I have to talk about something I haven’t experienced. I’ve seen trolls rip people apart for saying something positive because how could they possibly know what it feels like. I am, after all, an online bartender. That is hard to do sometimes.

    • jeanne229

      I felt like my own lips were moving when I read these words Sarah. I have been procrastinating for weeks on getting into gear with my new blog, hesitant to put myself out there. So yes, cheers to Charli! (Oh I like the alliteration on that!) And cheers to her bravery and drive.

    • Charli Mills

      You can do it! But I understand the reluctance. It’s such a hot issue and hot-heads our the loudest voices. That’s why we need other voices. In fact, this is probably why the organizers of #1000Speak felt compelled to encourage an outflow of different thinking. For us, literature can be a powerful tool to mirror the problems some people fail to see or imagine solutions or see a character take a different approach. No trolls allowed here. We all set the tone for honesty and respect so consider it a safe place to express. I’m an online bouncer. Debates and thoughtful discussions are welcome, but no ripping. Hey! That might be your story. 🙂

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Hahaha! Awesome! You’re an online bouncer. 😀 I need one of those.

        You’re right. It is why we need other voices. And words are powerful. I’m being a wimp. I will try.

      • Charli Mills

        No way you are a wimp…you are a Lemon Shark!

      • Norah

        I too like that you are an online bouncer, Charli. You do a great job on your blog! 🙂

    • Norah

      Sarah, I’m with you completely on this one. It’s definitely out of my league.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s one of those topics that can make a writer vulnerable. I’ll give everyone a peaches & cream kind of break next prompt! 🙂

      • Norah

        Oooh! I look forward to peaches and cream! As long as you’re not talking complexion! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! We’ll avoid skin tone for the next round! 😀

      • Norah

        Dessert now – that could be interesting! 🙂

  6. paulamoyer

    Brilliant and timely idea, Charli! Here’s my contribution!

    A Southern Belle Extends an Olive Branch

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean’s grandparents had traced their genealogy. Southern to the core, they discovered wills in which their ancestors had passed on their slaves, like they were any other property.

    Jean now stared at her copy of the genealogy, at one handwritten will. A “wench named Jane” would go to the ancestor’s wife.

    Who was Jane? Was she the missing link for someone trying to trace his ancestors?

    Jean googled Henry Louis Gates, Jr., creator of the “Finding Your Roots” series on PBS.

    “Dear Mr. Gates: my grandparents’ genealogy work unearthed several wills that mentioned slaves. Could I help your project?”

    • Charli Mills

      This is a fabulous take on the prompt, Paula! To tackle racism, we have to break down walls or explore all the branches in the family tree. Michael Twitty is my favorite food historian and he’s always cracking open the nut that is racism with honesty and respect. You’d like his Open Letter to Ben Affleck in regards to hiding those southern roots: http://afroculinaria.com/2015/04/22/i-cant-hide-mine-please-dont-hide-yours-an-open-letter-to-ben-affleck/

      Love your title and how you end the flesh with writing a letter. That’s a clever techniques that works well in this piece.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli! Yes, I do like the Michael Twitty’isms you post. HIs one on Ben Affleck was the inspiration for this genealogy piece.

      • paulamoyer

        Charli, I found a place that’s taking queries re African American genealogy research: Christine’s Genealogy Website: http://www.ccharity.com — for those interested.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks for sharing the link, Paula!

      • Norah

        Thanks for linking to the letter, Charli. Its message is powerful in its honesty. I can see how Paula’s flash links very well with it. I guess it’s important for us all to stand up and say, “What happened has happened. It was wrong. We go forward from here to make it right.” A few years ago our Prime Minister acknowledged the mistreatment of Australia’s Indigenous peoples by saying “Sorry” on behalf of the nation. It was a good step towards improving things. Much more must be done.

      • Charli Mills

        Michael displays such open honesty around a discomforting topic. He is a food historian and travels to existing historical plantations and teaches people how slaves cooked and its contribution to what we call southern cuisine in the US. Your Prime Minister took an important first step in acknowledging injustice. While an apology doesn’t heal, the validation opens the door for healing.

  7. Charli Mills

    Ratifying Office Policies by Charli Mills

    Mel grabbed Gerry’s coat sleeve as he walked out of the meeting.

    “Can you tell me who’s under consideration?”

    “My office. Ten minutes.”

    In his office, Gerry confided the three candidates for the sales department. “Mel, management is favoring this one.” He slid a resume to her.

    “Where’s the qualifications?”

    “We support affirmative action and this candidate is…you know…like you…”

    “A woman?”

    “Uh, no…”

    “A Navy vet?”


    “A college graduate?”

    “Mel, don’t be difficult. I thought you’d be pleased.”

    “That management is hiring a person of color out of white guilt? That’s the worst kind of racism, Gerry.”


    • paulamoyer

      Right. As if an underqualified candidate is the only choice when hiring a person of color.

    • Pat Cummings

      How telling that Gerry thought Mel would be cool with the new hire because their skin color matched, despite the fact they appear to have nothing else in common. As if Mel’s gender, military service and education had all vanished behind her complexion.

    • Norah

      Unfortunately many practices aiming to be non-discriminatory are discriminatory at their very core. Your flash piece shows this well.

    • jeanne229

      Got caught up is such a situation myself and was forced to hire a very dodgy candidate based on our diversity initiative alone. What a fiasco! Think upper management got the message, though without any real enlightenment sadly…

      • Charli Mills

        It hurts the candidate, too, setting up for failure that then reinforces bias.

  8. Pete

    The rain prattled against the metal roof of the Anderson Humane Society, where inside a very serious matter was at paw.

    “Orange cats cannot be trusted. Why, they’re not even cats really.” Preston, the white Persian bellowed. “Just troublemakers.”

    “They are inferior.” The Siamese hissed.

    “Hey my father was orange,” said Ramona the calico, between licks of her tail.

    “That’s different,” Preston conceded.

    “This sounds familiar,” Ben, the black cat muttered.

    Phil glanced at the jury. A Burmese, three silver tabbies. A Sphynx? He slunk down in his cage.

    He’d sure hopped off the truck at the wrong town.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Gah! This is brilliant! (I wish I’d thought of it.) Excellent.

    • Charli Mills

      What a great way to mirror color conversation through the point of view of cats! I really like how you opened this flash and sucked us int the scene.

    • Larry LaForge

      This one belongs in the Rough Writers Hall of Fame!

    • A. E. Robson

      What a great piece. Well done.

    • Norah

      Excellent. The analogy is clear.

    • jeanne229

      Oh love this Pete. That first hint “at paw” was a brilliant lead! Very clever indeed!

      • Pete

        Thanks everyone, my silly attempt at Animal Farm!

    • Charli Mills

      Yay! And, funny — a blushing emoticon! Your title could be “Write Like Everyone’s Reading.” Thank you for being vulnerable and writing a beautiful flash that will make readers think (or re-think).

  9. Norah

    United by Ruth Irwin

    They came from all corners of the globe to a small Pacific nation. All had a common goal – to help those less fortunate than themselves.

    Male and female; school leavers and middle aged; English speaking and a variety of other tongues. The differences in ages, backgrounds and languages are insignificant. In past ages these people would have been mortal enemies; now they are kindred spirits united as one.

    All are willing and eager to immerse themselves in a new culture; to learn, to share, to accept, to embrace, to enrich the community and take home what cannot be bought.

    • Charli Mills

      Powerful vision in this flash — immersion in a new culture. That last line is moving.

  10. Norah

    This is a beautifully crafted post, Charli. You take us from the call of the bird that rends the peaceful night, to the jangle of the earthquake that unsettles but does no harm, to the magnitude of the Nepalese disaster that rips many lives apart, as do the riots of Baltimore. I’m so with you on the need for us to see our commonness, rather than the small differences whose importance is blown out of all proportion. Why do we try to harm each other so much? The active Earth can do more than enough damage on its own. Maybe the Nepalese succumbed through no “fault” of their choosing, but rioters choose, as did those who lost their lives in floodwaters here overnight, attempting to cross a flooded road (well, the drivers made the choice, maybe not the passengers?)
    Racism is definitely a “social earthquake” and something that must be dealt with before it reaches a point of no-return. Just like the flooded road, once you are halfway across there is no safe way forward or back.
    I’m not sure how “qualified” I am to write on this issue. I know many of us consider ourselves to be non-racist, but when we live in our suburbs of sameness it is easy to feel that way. It is only when we are put in situations out of our comfort zone that we can truly understand just how racist we are or are not.
    I remember writing a sonnet about apartheid when I was at school. I will try to dig it out and see how outdated and innocent the ideas may be. Michener’s “Chesapeake” includes and idea that has very much made me question my thinking. I no longer have a copy of the book, and I read it many years ago so I’m not sure how accurate my memory may be, but my recollection is of slaves being considered no more than animals, unable to think and without rights. I find that concept totally abhorrent and feel very strongly about the rights of those who are unable to speak for themselves or whose voices are silenced.
    We don’t have to look far to find much that is wrong in the world of our making. I hope (the collective) we can unite to right those wrongs.
    Thank you for a thought-provoking and challenging post.
    Oh, and I almost forgot your flash. What a powerful story it tells – a brother and sister with different views, a family torn apart. Her sad realization that ashes conceal skin colour says so much. We just need to listen.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for all your insights, too, Norah! I think even when we feel unqualified we need to start somewhere. It’s in the silence, as much as carelessly spoken taunts, that racism grows. It does challenge us to go beyond our comfort zones. You wrote, “Just like the flooded road, once you are halfway across there is no safe way forward or back.” That’s a chilling account of what it can be like going with the crowd whether looting or not questioning old dogmas. Yes, slaves were considered chattel. My first impulse in drafting Rock Creek was to avoid the issue, but I recognized that by not including slavery would be a racist omission. It’s uncomfortable to write about, but healing begins with validation. Thank you for taking on this particular challenge. And I’m sad to learn of lives lost to flooding in your area.

      • Norah

        Well, Charli I haven’t been able to do it, but I didn’t want my silence to be part of the forest that enables racism to grow, so I have posted a response sans flash. Maybe next time.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for doing that, Norah! And sometimes the prompt doesn’t provide the spark necessary for creation.

    • Pat Cummings

      How sweet the “three amigas” are, and how troubled their grandparents! I loved this one….

    • Charli Mills

      We can learn from the kids on how to be comfortable with one another.

  11. A. E. Robson

    By: Ann Edall-Robson

    “Hi Mom, just wanted to let you know I am on my way and I’m bringing a surprise for you.”

    With a smile on her face Margaret hung up the phone. “A surprise? I like surprises,” she mumbled to herself.

    It was almost midnight when the back door opened to the sound of giggling.

    “Mom, we’re home. Come and meet my fiancee.”

    Looking through to the mud room, Margaret turned white. The welcome never left her mouth. He stood with his arm around her daughter. This was surely a joke. He was a foreigner!

    And then he kissed her.


    • Charli Mills

      Your flash makes me wonder if we get so bricked in by our thinking of “others” that its shattering when the unthinkable occurs. In youth we can adapt before the bricks bind our thinking, and help our elders see a new way.

      • A. E. Robson

        For some it is hard to let go and embrace change even when they know it is for the good of all concerned,including themselves.

      • Charli Mills

        Why is change so hard for us? Is it safety? Control over our lives? It seems universal, though. Often we even stay in bad circumstances fearing the change more than the reality. Thought-provoking flash!

    • Norah

      Great flash. I understand the situation well. The difference does not even need to be foreign to tear a family apart. Religion can divide as well, as shown in “The Jazz Singer”, and experienced in my own Catholic/Protestant liaison.

      • A. E. Robson

        So true, Norah. For some, all it takes is a belief or tradition that has been passed down through the generations. No matter how convoluted it has become over time.

      • Charli Mills

        Religion is another big divider of people. Good point, Norah!

  12. Pat Cummings

    As someone whose spouse was threatened during the Rodney King riots in 1992, I am saddened that we seem to have slipped backward, closer to the Watts mentality of 1965 than I hoped we would be by now.

    I was going to write from that personal experience, but that would only perpetuate the response. Instead, my contribution this week is fiction loosely based on my late father-in-law’s hunting stories: All Cats Are Grey ( http://goo.gl/EG4VF5 ).

    • Charli Mills

      Riots and looting is violence born out of feeling powerless. It seems our nation is no closer to understanding that. To have a loved one directly threatened must be devastating. We see the images on media but don’t feel the heat of the danger. Thank you for contributing!

  13. Ula

    Charli, your prompts are always spot on. I was feeling a need to write about recent events, but also felt a lack of words. Fiction is the answer.
    Although I live far away, I follow current events in the US with great hope. When I left, the political and economic situation was not great and then 2008 happened. It felt as if society was unravelling. What is happening now is an extension of that (as much as events that occurred in the 80s and 90s). This may sound cruel, but I believe what is happening in Baltimore needs to happen for life in the US (and hopefully elsewhere) to improve. We are in the process of restructuring. These are social growing pains.
    Racism and xenophobia are unfortunately prevalent. I think one way to deal with it is to realize we are all different in some way, but these differences are what make us beautiful. Together we can weave the most beautiful image, which would not be possible alone.
    I grew up in Chicago, a child of immigrants. My mother was divorced, raising two children on her own in the inner city. We were not well-off. If any of you know anything about Chicago, it is a diverse, but also very divided city. I’ve seen racism first hand. Not directed at me, of course. I was white, so I was “safe”.
    Black men are looked at in fear, as if all of them were dangerous criminals. The only thing that made them look dangerous was their skin color. Had they been white, no one would give them a second glance. These situations were not dangerous, just weird looks and stares, but now I think of these young men and how they are perceived, how they could potentially be treated, and tears well in my eyes. How are they different from any of my other friends?
    I try to stay away from social media, but I do find the differences in media coverage in the US and in Europe. US coverage seems to be one-sided, presenting one or the other side of the situation depending on the outlet, the coverage I’ve seen in Europe seems to be more balanced. Maybe it takes an outsider to look at the situation with equanimity.
    The events in Nepal are devastating. Each day brings more destruction with the aftershocks. It is heartbreaking, and it is difficult to know how to respond. I’ve always been terrified of earthquakes and could never imagine living in a place like LA where they happen so frequently.
    The interesting thing is that all these serve a purpose. Earthquakes slowly reshape the world. Killdeer are nesting and seemingly want the world to know about it, or at least interested parties. Even riots and chaos have their place. The universe, our solar system, emerged from among chaos.
    Major shifts seem to be taking place socially and physically. We are in midst of it, so we cannot know what will come of it. My hope is always for improvement, beauty, harmony.
    Your flash brought to mind people in NYC after the 9/11 attacks. I remember images of people covered in gray soot. It was moving, because I remember that was a time that people in the US felt united. At least that was how I and others around me felt.
    Thank you for this thought provoking prompt. I’ll now go off and write something and I’ll link back here on Sunday or Monday.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for sharing your experiences in this beautiful response! Chicago has such a history of extreme divisions from WWI onward, as well as a history of powerful corruption. Yet it is one of my favorite cities. I’ll have to write sometime about my experience taking the Mega Bus from Minneapolis to Chicago! Growing up in poverty is an “other” experience. White skin might provide a safety net, but not always. I’m so amazed at your path and how you seem to embrace beauty the world over. You have a true artist’s eye, mind and heart.

      If I read news, I turn to the BBC. Outside reporters do not slant the way our inside ones do. Even the journalist code is biased though journalists would be shocked to hear that. And, sensation sells — fear and desire. The facts might be true but how they are presented is manipulative.

      I have so much sorrow for Nepal. As you point out, though, chaos and riots have their place. Beauty and order must emerge from somewhere. If we did not identify chaos, how could we understand order?

      Like you, I felt the US was united following 9/11. I remember red, white and blue ribbons on my car antennae, and the greater respect we all seem to have foe each other and a sense of nationalism. But the powers that be understand that division makes them more powerful. If we push back — riot — we look like the destructive ones. But in the wisdom of my son who posted on his FB page: “If you ever want to empower your victimizer, stoop to their level.”

      I look forward to what you create in response to this discussion and prompt!

      • Norah

        I love your son’s post – brilliant! 🙂

    • Norah

      I like the hopefulness of your response – of weaving a beautiful world together. We have a long way to go when someone is considered dangerous only for the colour of their skin. The universe, our earth did develop out of chaos. Hopefully humanity is working its way out too.

  14. Annecdotist

    Phew, another big issue, Charli, which you address so well in this post and your flash. I like your term “social earthquake” of racism, and I’ve tied my flash into the situation in Nepal, which saddens me especially as I’ve been there twice and was in extremely sporadic touch with a friend I made there. But of course we should feel for our fellow human beings whether we’ve had personal contact or not.
    I’ve also posted it with a book review from a renowned South African writer – unfortunately his take on the post-apartheid era is not very cheery.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey, look what I found lurking in my spam folder, Anne! It’s your missing comment! I have no idea why it went there.

      I think we can’t help but feel more connected to those we have personal experience with. That’s why literature can connect us to people and places we’ve never been to.

    • Charli Mills

      Ack! That’s frustrating! But thanks for your short and sweet response. I left you a longer one over at your place. Interesting review and flash.

  15. Norah

    What a great assortment of responses to your prompt, Charli. I enjoyed reading them all and their powerful messages. I’m sure there’ll still be more to come.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for doing hat you do best, Norah! You took a difficult topic and taught us something about it, giving a full range of voices. 🙂

      • Norah

        Thanks Charli. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Feel better, Susan! <3 Great take on the prompt!

  16. TanGental

    The way you weave a path to the prompt is both clever and cunning and the flash as powerful as any you have written. In my post you’ll see I have focused to a degree with our current fixation on the language of the debate rather than the underlying issues – the pain relief (because it is easy to prescribe) rather than a proper diagnosis of the actual problems. I suspect as writer’s we are well placed to look at that. http://geofflepard.com/2015/05/04/rainbows-arent-cheap/

    • Charli Mills

      I think you are right — writer can look at the underlying problem. Writers observe and can critically think whereas many are jumping into debates with reactionary statements. You might say, writers come armed with thinking. We can use that to cut through meaningless and inflammatory rhetoric and hopefully encourage others to think, too.

      • TanGental

        I hope so Charli

    • jeanne229

      Loved your flash (and was thankful for the background summary of the story!). Left a longer comment on your website but will congratulate you her on a very thought-provoking essay and a very effective and moving flash.

      • TanGental

        Oh thanks Jeanne that is most kind!

  17. plaguedparents

    Took a crack at this one… challenging but here you go…


    Gil sat in the Home Depot parking lot, drinking his coffee watching the Mexican day laborers collect by the bus stop, their foreign babble drifting through his open window. A group of kids driving by on their way to school flung oranges at the men hollering, “Go home beaners!”

    Gil agreed. “Illegals,” he thought. “No one wants you here.”

    The younger migrants threw oranges back. On Gil’s passenger window a woman pounded frantically, a limp child in her arms, her Spanish non-stop. “Jesus,” he spilled some coffee.

    She shook. “Please,” she repeated. “Please.”

    Without thought, Gil unlocked the door

    • ruchira


    • Charli Mills

      Powerful! Our thoughts are such meandering truants, but our character is revealed in our actions. This flash is set up so that the reader sees this unfold through the windshield. Sharp details down to the thrown orange and spilled coffee.

    • A. E. Robson

      A child in need melts the rough edges and tough talk. Compassion can be found in all of us.

      • Charli Mills

        And doesn’t that give us hope!

  18. ruchira

    What an interesting topic to create upon, Charli.

    Totally loved your blog post on the natural disastors and surprisingly I tried to bring focus on that as well past weekend…when the ground shakes and how we can curb on our wants vs needs and not flirt with nature.

    I loved your line above: What we need is common ground. To reach across the racial chasms we need to toss aside discomfort over “otherness.” Our first step is to recognize one race: human. We are a colorful kaleidoscope of culture. You might eat different foods, but we all hunger. You might sleep in a different house, but we all seek shelter and safety; we all feel warmed by hearth and home. Your children might have different coloring from mine, but we all seek to nurture the young, the next generations.

    Just beautiful!!

    My take on this week’s prompt: http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-bigot.html

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruchira! I saw that the East Bay had a few earthquakes over the weekend. There was even one near Kalamazoo, Michigan! What’s up with the earth shaking? And you are so right — the earth shakes and we quickly prioritize those wants and needs. Thank you for your contribution! It touched me!

  19. jeanne229

    And…drumroll…here’s mine on that new WordPress site I have hinted at for months. Hope this link works. Just went live with it today.

    • Charli Mills

      I am so excited for this! I’m responding before I go look (I like to savor the surprise)!

      • jeanne229

        Thanks for the comments on my site Charli. And don’t know where my mental calculator was when I was doing word count on this!!! Must have willed it to be 99 when in reality it came out to 199! Yikes.

      • Charli Mills

        Having served as editor for 15 years and assigning blurbs and articles that range from 75 words to 1500, I’m pretty good at assessing word count visually. 🙂 But I think it’s funny that it’s actually 199! Because that’s something I would do checking actual word count — miss a digit!

    • Charli Mills

      The link works and your site is fabulous! It’s crisp and clean which works well for a writer; it emphasizes readability and words on the page. Clear, snappy tagline and a fabulous “About Me” page! And, “About Me” is appropriate because your name is the name of the website. You are doing great work on your site! Excited to get to see it!

  20. Sherri

    Hi Charli, I’m madly galloping into the Ranch this week by the skin of my teeth (or should I say hooves?) Here’s my flash. I’ll be back shortly to catch up here properly 🙂

    The Cleaner

    “What’s that man doing, standing there like that?” said Marjory, finger pointing.

    Neil brought their car to a stop on the driveway. “He’s probably just the cleaner. Come on, let’s get checked in.”

    “Well, I’m not staying here with that foreigner, he looks dodgy to me.”

    “Mr & Mrs Phillips?” smiled the man as he greeted the couple. “Welcome to Lavender Cottage. I’m Steve Brown, the owner. We spoke earlier on the telephone?”

    Marjory coughed into her balled fist as the men shook hands.

    “Nice man…” said Neil at dinner, steak perfect.

    Marjory sniffed.

    The man wasn’t mentioned again.

    • Charli Mills

      Yay! And she gallops by, returning home from London’s calling! Enjoyed your travel post! Your flash is sharp…”I’m the owner”! That’s great!

      • Sherri

        Haha…thanks Charli! 🙂
        If I had been able to get to this theme properly I would have loved to explored it more, but when this happens I hear your voice ringing in my ears that the idea of flash is to go with what first comes, in a ‘flash’ and that’s what happened here. So I thank you for saying it’s sharp, that’s encouraging as I wanted to express how much I love it when false assumptions about people are shattered 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        You got the flash!

  21. plaguedparents

    Read post on your site; fantastic! I will definitely be back to explore your site.


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