May 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

May 14, 2015

May 13On a warm May evening, we sat around a glass-top patio table, and looked at rocks. Two budding geologists had reduced Wyoming’s cache of minerals by several buckets. They displayed the best of their month-long field study, and I was as eager as a child watching a parade.

My eyes flitted from a large quartz crystal face to a pile of fossilized dinosaur bones to three geodes that looked like caveman golf balls of sandy stone. It was my birthday and the following day one geology student was to marry the other  — my daughter and the son of Rough Writer, Paula Moyer.

Below the deck on a trampoline, my other daughter bounced a series of unending back handsprings. My future son-in-law explained to my son the forces that created the slickened granite that he held; a chunk of rock that had a polished edge of mottled black and green like petrified snakeskin. My daughter pointed out garnet crystals to me in a chunk of granite with large pink feldspar crystals.

I’m rock crazy, and that evening, nearly six years ago was transcendent.

How was I to know that the three young children who followed me through Montana creek beds and mountainsides would all grow up connected to that experience? My eldest is a trained geologist and environmental journalist; my middlest is a rock climber and white-water rafter; and my youngest is a cross-country runner. All are outdoors enthusiasts.

Hunting rocks outdoors still thrills me, and you can follow my latest rock adventure at “What’s This?” on Elmira Pond Spotter.

Rocks are grounding. After all, they form the foundation of the world upon which we live. We use rock to build, crystals to communicate and metals as currency. The Bible even has 59 verses about God, the Rock — And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer (Psalm 78:35).

When we are in hard places, we often seek to find connection. I find mine outdoors, sitting upon a rock in the middle of a creek beneath the sun. Some might focus on the water; others meditate; and like me, many find peace in knowing God.

My best friend, my sister of the heart, my muddy buddy is in a hard place.

Let me tell you about Kate. We met our first day of classes at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. We were both “older than average” students with the same flaky adviser who didn’t even show up that day, which put us both in a pickle. We connected immediately, muddy buddies crafted from the same layer of clay. And so did our kids. Her two teens became role models to my three grammar-school aged children. We shared holidays, frustrations and life’s joys.

Kate and I were both writing majors and we set the English Department on its ear with our combined curiosity and enthusiasm. Some professors joked that they would have to split us up in class. Could we help that we actually loved to write and found medieval literature fascinating? We were the only two students from our department to each write an honors thesis.

Like slickened granite, we were a force of nature.

Our paths parted physically after graduation. Kate stayed in Montana and I moved to the Midwest. Hard times. I dreamed of the day I could move back and I relished each visit we had. Finally, I did move back, though I overshot Helena by six hours.

Kate has had hard times that would rock most people to their core. In the midst of living as full-time caretaker to both aging parents with dementia and working as an English teacher for a Catholic school, she developed cancer. Life spiraled. Hard times took her through losing first her father, then her mother. After kicking cancer it came back. She kicked it again.

Six weeks ago Kate was hospitalized. This time the cancer is aggressive and prevents her from eating. While I’m out here in Elmira lighting up the barbeque, my my muddy buddy is subsisting on ice chips, Popsicles and IV fluid. You’d think my friend would be crushed in the hardest place of all — facing death.

Yet Kate has a great gift. Faith. Her faith is unshakeable built on the Rock, and she leads her loved ones down this path. She wrote to us last night, and she was the comforter. She’s unafraid and beautiful in her faith. My son responded that she was brave and that he loved her. She wrote in return, “Love you too. How brave is it to let God be in charge? The ultimate prayer is ‘Jesus I trust in you.'”

Her hard place; her rock.

I stare at my granites and crystals and ponder what this all means. My connection to my friend feels stronger than ever. To be connected is to be certain that things happen for a reason. We were certain to become heart-friends. Connection is the May theme for #1000 Voices Speak. While bloggers around the world will write out its meaning, my friend is living her final days in the ultimate connection to a higher power, a higher purpose.

Hard places shape what is next. In the grotto at Grouse Creek, my geologists showed me a flow of quartz that pushed up through basalt. I witness where basalt once bent to liquified quartz and created an s-curve. Forces more powerful than the trivial control we have in life.

Perhaps we are not meant to live in control, but in connection.

May 13, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection. It could be a prisoner who discovers friendship; a cedar that grows from a crack in a cliff; an abandoned dog rescued by a homeless teen. Maybe it is a reconciliation or connecting with students during a turbulent time. Is the hard place part of something larger in the scope of a character’s development? Or is it a plot twist?

Respond by May 19, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


The Rock by Charli Mills

A contact rock. Yin and yang. Feldspar and…?

Ramona frowned, retrieving the smooth river rock from beneath a wild rosebush in the west pasture. It felt heavy, familiar. She closed her eyes, willing recollection. Running water. Yes! She and Vic riding to the grotto, up the creek, metallic horse-shoes clanging on rocks this size. Vic, off his horse, reaching elbow deep into the water.

“Look, Ro, a contact rock.”

Her eyes fluttered open. Why did her memories have holes? She cradled the rock to her chest, willing herself to remember the twins. This rock was connected to them somehow.


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  1. Sherri

    Oh Charli, I am deeply sorry to hear this news of your best friend Kate. Your moving words, I know, barely scratch the surface of your deep connection with her and all you have shared over these many years. Two gems, polished and gleaming for the turbulence and forces ever rushing by, ever forming and smoothing though, at times, trapped in a cold, hard place. Side by side, always close, love strong and true, despite the miles in between, your bond is unbreakable. And what an incredible testimony to her amazing faith. Please know I send prayers for Kate, and for you too also much love and hugs across the shining sea <3
    How wonderful to read of the paths each of your children have taken, of all you gave them and taught them through your quest for knowledge of our wonderful world, the world we understand so little of when we stop to think about it. God's creation, in all its glory.
    I am so glad you are continuing Ramona's story…shhh…there, I think I hear the Twins whispering with unbridled excitement as they watch their mother discover the rock, which perhaps they placed there? And Vic? Loving this story.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for that beautiful image of two polished gems! Life is a rock tumbler, isn’t it? Don’t take today for granted because “one day” may never come. I’m more determined to stay the course with writing. If not now, when? I think Ramona may offer me a chance to work through loss and grief. We’ll see what the twins are up to!

  2. paulamoyer

    Such a lovely beginning, Charli — such a neat story about the night before Drew and Allison’s wedding. So sorry about Kate’s illness. And a beautiful Ramona story. Will follow up soon.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Paula!

  3. paulamoyer


    By Paula Moyer

    “Thou art Peter … upon this rock I will build my church.” When Jean heard these words – like most Baptists – she remembered what Simon did that caused Jesus to rename him: he declared his faith.

    The rock was more than Peter.

    Now Jean sat in her house with her little kids, five days after her husband had moved out.

    The phone rang. “Jean, it’s Lynn.” Her cousin, a rock in her own right. “I’m here for you.”

    Thirty minutes on the phone.

    Lynn showed her faith by enacting a passage from a letter of Paul’s: Bear one another’s burdens.

    • paulamoyer

      Woops — “on” in the last sentence should be “enacting.”

      • Charli Mills

        Easy enough fix (if I did it correctly). 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Well-blended scripture with real-life dilemmas. In fact, I think it makes a powerful shift following “The rock was more than Peter.” Words emerge into a scene and we can feel the import of that rock.

  4. susanzutautas

    Oh Charli I had to step away from the computer after reading about your friend Kate …. my heart goes out to her. I’m at a loss for words to describe how I feel right now. I’ll be back.

    • Charli Mills

      Cancer has an ugly way of forcing us to face mortality. When my Uncle died last year I was so tongue tied about how to talk about it. Yet, I watched his family surround him and one couldn’t have asked for a more loving passing. Again, with Kate I found myself avoiding the topic until she finally reached out and said point blank, “it’s not a good ending this time.” But what followed was so beautiful and so true to who she is. I feel a strange measure of peace because of her comforting words. I know this must be difficult for you to read because you have faced this battlefield like a seasoned soldier, just as Kate has. My apologies. It’s so distant to some and so real for others and still I struggle for words. I’m blundering through my own truth (ha! that ought to be my tagline as a writer).

    • Norah

      Your poem is very sad, touching, connecting.

    • jeanne229

      Love the poem Susan. A rock as a sort of talisman, keeping the departed near.

  5. TanGental

    Powerful, poignant and perceptive: the three Ps of Charli Mills that lead to Prompt. While I can’t connect with the faith you and your friend express I am sure your memories will stand you in good stead as the focus necessarily narrows. Your flash, too, grasps at a universal truth, how we root ourselves in many ways and hold those connections dear. And the film, and a real C Mills commentary – that is a special treat. Mary will be back soon….

    • Charli Mills

      Love it — “Powerful, poignant and perceptive: the three Ps of Charli Mills that lead to Prompt.” Much better than “blundering through my own truth.” Faith or no, we do share a need for rooting ourselves in connections. I think that’s what I find unnerving about dementia, is how it unravels connections. Ramona is struggling to fill those holes but in doing so is recreating a life that didn’t exactly happen that way. She holds a solid rock and a solid memory, but can’t figure out that the twins never did exist beyond pregnancy. Glad you liked the documentary, though as I was panning the grotto I realized I was going to pan right across Radio Geek! I best stick to writing…Looking forward to Mary’s story.

  6. Pete

    Great post as always Charlie, it leaves so much to contemplate. Wonderful flash, as usual I’m taken by the beauty in your descriptions of scene and place.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pete!

  7. Pete

    Bugle Boy

    They found his bugle amongst the bodies. A few of the survivors recounted of how fourteen-year-old Eli had charged right into the line of fire and dragged three soldiers to safety, only to return and man the cannon as confederates advanced on his position.

    When Eli awoke his chest ached. Nearby, a soldier screamed out in agony. He watched through blurry eyes as a bandaged Colonel limped over and laid his mangled bugle beside what was left of his family’s songbook. Eli grimaced, studying the musket ball embedded in its pages.

    Those rebels were going to pay for that.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m a huge Civil War buff to begin with, but this flash gave me multiple chills! I could see the battlefield unfold, feel the maturity and resignation of the Colonel as well as the Bugle Boy’s youth, bravery and determination. Great use of details.

    • A. E. Robson

      Your words easily take me to the place and time.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Love this one. Eli’s role here is brilliantly done.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I love this in the description of place, the portayl of battle, the heroism, the fear that must have surrounded being in hospital with all the injured and an aching chest. You certainly took me there and I could smell the canon fire. What I didn’t see coming was that wonderful last line that if we didn’t already know showed us the kind of person Eli was. “Those revels were going to pay for that.”

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you are doing that! Writing flash fiction can be useful in many ways. It can generate ideas, sort though dilemmas, explore characters and much more. To use it as a teaser from a WIP or even an existing novel is a clever way to get readers interested in what you are working on!

    • TanGental

      Great story; attaboy (er, girl)

    • Norah

      That’s a fishy story if ever I heard one! 🙂
      Well done!

    • jeanne229

      Great idea to include something from a ghostwritten work. Maybe I’ll try that (have written a book for client as well.) And love your flash piece here, the POV of the salmon. Great!

  8. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    My heart goes out to you Charli. It is a hard time losing a friend that you have been ultra-connected to. I have lost a friend that I felt joined to despite living in different countries most of our lives. We went to high school together and our lives, though distant followed the same path at the same time and we remained connected. Her fight was long and hard fought and despite not having faith herself she had accepted her fate and gave others assistance in also accepting. What I have found strange is that she hasn’t left me. She is still in my heart just as I feel Kate will be in yours. I hope her journey remains peaceful and her strong faith be a real comfort to her.
    I will return with my flash.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s comforting to know, Irene. I wonder at that peaceful acceptance that some are able to muster, faith or not. Thank you for sharing your story about your friend!

      • Charli Mills

        There’s a part of me that wants her to fight, but I think we each probably know what’s best for where we are at.

    • ruthelizabethirwin

      Irene, I believe that our loved ones live on in our hearts and memories. We can see and hear them even if they are far away or physically gone from this Earth.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I agree totally Ruth. They have just stepped out of the room for an instant but they are still with you.

  9. Norah

    Charli, the opening of your post was so warm with the joy of a double family celebration. How I envied the rocks that had been gathered – and dinosaur bones! There is not a member of my family who wouldn’t love to find some of those!
    And then you were moved to share Kate’s story, a story of your friendship and her pain, your pain. I feel for you both, and your families. It is a difficult time for all and I wish you all the strength to accept what each day brings and the ability to find the joys that are there in your friendship and connections.
    It is twenty years ago this month since my sister passed away from cancer. Her journey was difficult. Acceptance doesn’t come easy. She was a young woman with young children. No words ease the pain. I know that. But you are right that it is the connections that help find the strength that enable each to let go when the time for that has come. I wish Kate a safe and peaceful journey, and the same for you, though your paths may differ in trajectory for a while. Hugs and warm wishes fly from me to you.
    And another lovely episode for Ramona and her twins. Although the connection may not have had the strength of a physical one, maybe the spiritual connection was stronger yet. I am looking forward to seeing where this takes you/us. It may indeed be an interesting way of coming to an understanding of, and working through, grief.

    • Charli Mills

      Losing a sister so young must be hard on your family. It makes me so sad to think of young children who do not get to grow up with a mother. It really changes the family dynamic. Thank you for your understanding and for sharing your own loss. Writing, especially fiction, allows the unprocessed thinking and feeling bits to be processed. Interesting that Ramona showed up at such a time. I’ll follow her lead.

      • Norah

        Thanks for your words of support, Charli. Ramona did show up at an interesting time. Maybe it was that that drew her out. 🙂

    • Sarah Brentyn

      I didn’t know about your sister. I am so sorry. Sometimes, there really are no words. It just seems so harsh and unfair.

      • Norah

        Very. Thank you. I appreciate your support.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I’m sorry you lost your sister so early in life. I have a girlfriend who was in her teens when she lost her mother to cancer. The big issue with her is that most of her life she has been older than her mother was when she died and feels that she doesn’t have a concept of what to expect as she ages. I still have my Mum and I can see where I am going and I understand what she is missing. I don’t think I have expressed that too well but I hope you know what I mean.

      • Norah

        I do know what you mean. Thank you. And I feel for your friend. My Mum was 90 when she passed last year so I have a clear picture of what may be ahead as well. I feel for what my sister lost, and for her children who never got to know her. They were too young when she passed to have many memories. Thanks for your support.

    • jeanne229

      Losing a sister is unimaginable. That she was so young such a tragedy. I don’t know how one could arrive at acceptance when leaving young children behind. Thanks for sharing Norah and provoking reflection on the strength required to survive such loss.

      • Norah

        Thank you for the kindness of your supportive words. 🙂

  10. Sarah

    Thanks for this prompt, and for the video as well. You live in a beautiful grotto! My area is built up and I rarely see beauty like this.

    I am sorry to hear about your friend. I’m glad she has a faith strong enough to sustain both of you.

    Coincidentally to your prompt, Cecilia and Kate are in a hard place right now. Here is my take on the prompt:

    • Charli Mills

      This particular grotto is deep and feels almost other-worldly. It’s an easy hike, too! It’s important to have wild spaces in our country. You’ll have to visit sometime.

      I can see how this post and prompt fits with Celia’s unfolding story. She’s had a breakthrough.

      • Sarah

        I would love to visit. I miss having open spaces. I’m not usually one for self-promotion, but the flash I just posted speaks to the need for wild spaces:

        I hope Cecilia has had a breakthrough. Her armor is tougher than a car’s.

      • Charli Mills

        I have a guest room that’s perfect for a writer’s retreat! Link up to other writing any time! It’s not self-promotion — it’s sharing. 🙂

      • jeanne229

        Oh yes, I just went back today to see the video. How I would love to visit that gorgeous wild place. A retreat sounds in order!

      • Charli Mills

        Everyday retreats available in my humble home. I’m also working on a nature writing retreat (April 2016) and a western writing retreat (October 2016). 🙂

    • TanGental

      Vey interesting exploration of grief as a shield and a weapon here.

    • jeanne229

      Bravo Sarah. “My pain is stale.” Such a great line. And the response to that was perfect. No pain goes stale. We are indeed lucky that it fades enough to allow us to embrace life after loss.

      • Sarah

        Thank you, Jeanne.

    • Charli Mills

      Dreaded is a good word for it. I’m sorry about your friend. I hope you have good memories.

    • TanGental

      Such a good piece of flash! Love the horror on his face as his wife returns.

  11. Annecdotist

    Wow, Charli, there’s so much emotion in this post. I skimmed it yesterday (was it only yesterday?) intending to come back when I could give it more time, but I’m still not sure I’ve taken it all in. How lovely about your daughter’s (and Paula’s son’s wedding) – united by rocks ought to be a very firm footing for a marriage – and hope you all had a wonderful time. Your pride in all three of your children (justifiably) come through so beautifully.
    It must be extra hard then that alongside the joyful time you’re also facing the loss of your friend. I don’t share your and her religious faith, but it is good that you have this to sustain you through this difficult time. I think control is often illusory and agree that connection can count for more.
    It was lovely to visit Grouse Creek with you and to hear your voice for the first time. It’s a beautiful place and so peaceful. And what tall trees!
    And then your Flash – good to see Ramona again. Her memories might have holes (lovely line) but she’s visiting some great places.
    After chickening out last week, I’m getting mine in early, inspired by both your post and a novel about a very hard place:

    • Charli Mills

      United by rocks, firm footing indeed! That”s a great thought and about how rock-solid those two are. Yes, I’m proud of those three. Each so different, yet so spectacular. 😀 Thanks for hanging in there to read. I’m processing joys and sorrows all at once, but isn’t that what life is? We seek ourselves in the midst; we seek meaning; we hold on and we let go. I felt the grotto would be a soothing share. The trees are actually “short” because of the 1910 fires that swept through this region. They can reach twice that height and tomorrow we are going to go see an old grove that was spared by the fire. Glad to have a flash from you this week!

    • TanGental

      Stunning flash; Charli’s prompt is bringing out the quality this week.

    • Norah

      Agreed! Brilliant piece!

    • jeanne229

      Wow, Anne, from bitter revenge to a communion wrought of grief. Your flash speaks of the transformation possible when we open ourselves to others’ pain.

  12. A. E. Robson

    The Portal
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    A welcome familiarity reached out as she stood in the doorway.

    The aroma of coffee brewing and bacon frying coming from the old wood stove. The quiet murmur of voices around the kitchen table, interrupted by intermittent laughter.

    Through the curtain-free window, the hand hewn log barn stands silhouetted against the early morning sky. A stoic soldier offering shelter and sanctuary while scrutinizing the activity beneath its massive structure.

    There was no doubt within her soul. These old abandoned buildings were the portal to the inception of life. The premonitions would be answered. Finally, she had arrived home.

    • Charli Mills

      I can close my eyes and sense this portal just as your character did. My father once told me as we rode past the dilapidated and long abandoned log buildings of an old ranch, “This was once someone’s dream.” And those dreams linger. Well done!

      • A. E. Robson

        I am drawn to old buildings as if they were magnets. I feel privileged when I get the opportunity to spend time with them – taking pictures, writing notes, imagining their life. They have so much to tell and teach us.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m with you! Yesterday we took a drive up into the mountains and past an old house that had fallen in a heap to one side. I could have wandered about it all day, but my husband was all, “take a picture, let’s go!” Not everyone appreciates the memories that linger. 🙂

      • A. E. Robson

        You make me laugh, Charli. It sounds like a road trip into the mountains you might have to re-take on your own. Or better yet, with a like minded person in tow.

      • Charli Mills

        I might have to post a classified ad: history buff seeks lingering history nut for slow road trips. 😀

    • TanGental

      the portal to the inception of life: What a great image that conjures. Well done with the flash Ann

  13. Sarah Brentyn

    Aw, crap, Charli. No. This sucks. I am so sorry. Sending positive energy your way. <3

    I was going to be all "Oh my gosh! You know I love rocks! How awesome is this post?!" but, so now, I will just say that I think the beginning of this post is wonderful. Will hop over to Elmira Pond to check out "What's This?" And I'll get on with writing the prompt for this week — a tough one. Har. Be well.

    • Charli Mills

      The more we live, the more we experience life fully and that includes the sucky parts. I’m glad I wrote about Kate as it have been heavy and seeing her words reflected back through other perspectives has only been more comforting in that it is possible to come to acceptance and face hard times, even the end, with dignity.

      And rocks. You have know idea how giddy it makes me feel to know another rock appreciator. 🙂 Hop on over to the Pond because there are pictures of big rocks! Thanks!

      • TanGental

        I’m a sort of closet geophile too, in that rocks and rock formations are part of my WTF dna, by which I mean they can stop me in my tracks just be appearing round a corner or over a horizon and leave me breathless and stunned at both their majesty and beauty. Like Ozymandias ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
        look at my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Rocks can do that. Make you feel inadequate

      • Charli Mills

        A geophile! Well, if that’s what I am, I’m overt, long come out of the closet with rocks strewn across my window sills, bookshelves and garden! Yesterday the Hub was watching an eagle’s nest and I was snapping shots of a huge exposure of basalt. I must have that same WTF dna! Rocks are that grand and something to behold in one’s hand, as if clutching a piece of creation.

    • Charli Mills


    • TanGental

      yes, top marks

    • Norah

      I agree you were brave with Anne around. But no need to be otherwise, you did a brilliant job! 🙂

    • Pete

      Wow Sarah, that was a good one!

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Thanks, all. 🙂 Much appreciated.

  14. mj6969

    Although I’m “new to you” – you have my thoughts during this difficult time. Often, it is the ones leaving who offer and provide us with the lessons and comfort we need – since no words can truly “save” us – it their grace and dignity that sees us through, during the roughest moments.

    thank you for the new prompt – the beautiful back stories, sharing your feelings and story about Kate – and of course, your latest response to the prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m experiencing the wisdom in what you are saying. Thank you. I’m glad to have you here!

  15. Norah

    New Friends by Ruth Irwin

    First day at this school. She had been to many schools before, but not long enough to settle in and make friends. Small for her age, very thin, unkempt hair, stained ill-fitting clothes and battered shoes revealed that this six year old had been doing it tough. She remained aloof at recess, watching the other children as they played in already formed friendships. She wondered how long she might be at this school and if she would have friends. Then she saw an out-stretched hand and a smiling face saying “come and play with me”. How could she resist?

    • susanzutautas

      I can feel how that little girl did. I was always taller than everyone in my class and felt so out of place. We moved a lot and I always wondered how long I’d be at each school and how long it would take me to make friends.

      • Norah

        That sounds sad, Susan. I hope it didn’t take too long for you to settle in each time and make new friends. It can be very difficult to find acceptance in already established groups. Getting to know others takes time.

    • TanGental

      neat, touching and happily a true today as it ever was – say thanks and well done to Ruth

    • Charli Mills

      “Doing it tough.” That phrase really grabs at me, especially connected to a six-year-old. She knows hard times yet gives in to the offer of friendship. I think that’s such a human response at any age. Always hopeful someone will extend it to us.

    • TanGental

      utterly delightful and pretty near to me and the Textiliste meeting, October 1976

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so glad you inner Ed told you to charge on! That’s the appeal of Ed & Edna. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Norah

      I’m still trying to figure out what science it is. Was it chemistry between them? 🙂

      • Larry LaForge

        Chemistry was happening on the wall, but the professor was teaching physics!

      • Norah


    • Sarah Brentyn

      Loved this little flashback to their meeting. 🙂

    • Norah

      And we don’t always need the light to see!
      Sometimes we don’t even want to see!

      • TanGental

        sad but true

  16. Deborah


    It feels subterranean inside the ruined cabin. Dust motes eddy in the beam of light fingering through the glassless window. This gold-panner’s squat has long been picked clean of souvenirs. Fine dirt like powder covers the floor. Smell of decay and old scat.

    Outside again, he is brought up short. Growing hard against the cracked and weathered wood under the window is a vibrant green rosebush, blooms at once shy and defiant in this wilderness. Not wild; deliberate.

    Who planted it? A woman, in a mining camp? A cultured forty-niner? That is the story he would like to hear.

    • Deborah

      I, too, love rocks. My grandpa was a rock hound who took me rambling through ghost towns and gullies, looking for stones or broken pieces of dinner china to polish and make into jewelry. I was with him when we found the old miner’s cabin in this flash, in the desert ghost town of Kennedy, complete with rosebush.

      • Charli Mills

        I never thought to polish the china like that and make jewelry! I just have heaps in jars or vases, along with rocks, of course. What a terrific grandpa! And what a terrific discovery! Thanks for sharing it as a flash!

    • Charli Mills

      Those glimpses can startle the explorer — what was left behind. Roses! You wonder if the person brought them all the way across the plains and over the mountains, through the deserts to lay claim to a cabin with a planting. Or won in a card game? So many fun ideas, yet you leave us with the taste of the lingering mystery, to be like the one who discovers and wonders.

  17. Norah

    I almost forgot to pop back with my link, Charli. One day I will forget. Here it is

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place. Wonderful.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for popping back, Norah! 😀

  18. rogershipp

    Mentoring the Gaps

    “Mr. Raycomb, you are needed in the office.”

    Having just left the office, I wondered why I was needed to return.

    “Come on in. Push the door shut.”

    I do so. With stomach and thoughts intermingling… I’m wondering why the sudden closed door conference with our new principal.

    “Steven’s mother is on the phone. She has asked, what I feel is a very unusual request.”

    I gasp. I immediately know what has happened.

    He presses speaker-phone.

    “Hello, Ms. Jackson.” My faltering voice answers.

    “I can’t tell him it’s returned. I won’t win this one. Will you tell him? Please!”

    • Charli Mills

      The writing is sharp, I can see the scene unfolding and feel the apprehension.

  19. Mary Rowen

    Charli, I’m so sorry about your friend, Kate. Your post is really beautiful and a wonderful tribute to her. And yes, I agree with you about the grounding nature of rocks. My family recently spent a vacation in New Mexico and Arizona, where the rock formations are truly humbling.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for that, Mary. Oh, New Mexico and Arizona! The geology is so exposed and bigger than life there. One of my favorite authors wrote many novels set in that region (Louis L’Amour). Hope you returned from vacation feeling grounded!

    • Charli Mills

      What a striking photo and flash!

  20. Sherri

    Back again Charli, with plenty of time to spare for a change 😉 It never fails to amaze me what stories grab us and won’t leave us alone. I wasn’t at all sure at first what I would write for this prompt, even while rumminating in all you share here. This is a flash that I had to write in the end, because it wouldn’t leave me alone. Rather, the little boy won’t leave me alone. Hugs <3

    Little Boy Lost

    I saw him, that little boy. His back turned to me, holding the hand of a man leading him further into the crowd.

    I recognised his saggy blue jeans and the curl of his boy-short, soft brown hair.

    Don’t go, oh God, please don’t go.

    Then the boy, hearing my silent cries and knowing my love turned back, and his brown eyes locked into mine.

    He tugged at the man’s hand, but the man held too tight and kept walking.


    Gone. Just like that.

    Now my boy is a man and I hug him with everything I have.

    • Charli Mills

      You need to add a Kleenex warning to this one! Oh, that is such a brilliant way to show the pain a mother has watching the man walk off with the boy he once was. I can understand why this story needed the page. Thank you for adding it here!

      • Sherri

        Thank you so much Charli <3

  21. plaguedparents

    This feels more like a prose poem, but here you go…

    Nesting in the back are a pair of cardinals. They’ve chosen the most evil of shrubs, a dark red demon laced with poisoned oblong pellet sized berries and black tipped briars. The bold male roots in empty planters on the deck for building materials while the duller female scuttles in and out of the shrub seemingly unscathed, her beak filled with a gathering of grass or twig or twine. Like any couple, they visited and revisited, no doubt debating merits and drawbacks. Flitting in and out, despite the risk of harm, they nestle hopeful in their house of thorns.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes flash can have that lyrical flow. I think such stories are like beautiful crafts of word art. But this goes deeper than the scene created, becoming an analogy for all parents doing their best to build a safe home in an unsafe world. It reminds me that the adults can easily navigate the dangers, understanding them; but the fledglings often don’t know or even believe in the bite of the thorns.

    • Charli Mills

      Usually the pingbacks come through but sometimes they disappear! It’s a grounding experience for me to put together the compilation and satisfies a need I have to connect with others on a literary level. It inspires my own silent work and give rhythm to my week! And we all benefit from getting our stories out in a collective, I think! Thanks!

  22. ruchira

    Jeez! am I so glad to be part of this inspiring community, Charli.

    First of all your friend is a rock and she feeling connected to her faith at this stage of life, gives me moist eyes and yet the comfort that humanity shall thrive amongst all the bloodshed happening around.

    Loved your analogy 🙂

    The video with your daughter was beautiful, and the scenery that you captured with the soothing movement of water was making me believe that life oughta go on…

    will be posting mine soon 🙂

      • ruchira

        Will be praying for your friend, and I wish her the best!

      • Charli Mills

        What a hard place to be, yet you conveyed it with such clarity. And thank you for your prayers!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruchira! I’m so glad you are a part of this inspiring community, too! It’s an odd comfort when those who are dying help us to accept death. It is a continuation, a gift we pass on perhaps in our own hour. The water is soothing, meditative. Although as I was panning around I realized I’d pan right across my daughter! Now you know I had good company along the creek!

  23. jeanne229

    Still working my way through these beautiful entries but for now mulling over your poignant reflection on rocks and family and illness. So much to say about all of it. I have lost many to cancer, perhaps the hardest my cousin who was taken at 50, his brother at 41. A dear friend is now going through a recurrence of her cancer, originally breast and now in her bones and spine. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. But rocks! Seems many of us are enchanted by them. I think it was Jung who reminded us that they are the stuff of cathedrals. Tom and have our own rock sculptures in the back yard, fashioned from quartz picked up over the years from an outcropping in the mountains nearby.

    Great prompt this week. Here is my bit. For the longer version visit
    Maybe I will get my follow button figured out by the time you visit :-/

    A Dawn Concert

    Four a.m. The pain a staccato knock. No going back to sleep. She pushed up on gnarled hands, scooted, let the sharp ache push her into the wheelchair.

    She followed the grooves in the carpet, pushed past the girls’ rooms, imagined their young bodies. They looked like her, thirty years ago, before the arthritis made a crippled birch of her.

    She parked at the kitchen table. No coffee until Dan rose to percolate it. She waited.

    At last a pale lemony light washed through the window. The familiar room emerged. And the concert began.

    The robins never forsook her.

    • Charli Mills

      Cancer touches so many, and alters lives. It’s the young deaths that seem hardest to understand. Thinking that my friend is only 57, this wasn’t the phase of life I expected. We hadn’t even crafted our bucket list yet. And now we face the bucket. Not empty, though, she is surrounded by family — nine grandchildren and the last one born just a few days ago. Ah, rocks are the stuff of cathedrals and how often natural geological structure are called thus! We do have a great number of geophiles, as Geoff put it. Rockin’ writer at the Ranch! 🙂 I’d love to see photos of your statuary. Quartz is the mother rock. I bet you have great rock hunting in your area!

      Your flash is beautiful and reminds us that growing old is not for sissies, or the hard of heart. We need both strength and a capacity for beauty.

    • Sherri

      Ahh Jeanne, as Charli said, your flash is so beautiful. As one with my own Sweet Robin (as I have named him), my garden muse who never fails to bring comfort and joy with his appearances when I most need to see him, with his flit of red breast and bright, black eyes looking right back at me (as he did on the morning that I struggled to find the right words as a tribute for a dear family friend who died of cancer last November), your robins in your story bring a chorus of beauty and relief in the long days and nights for your lady. And I am reminded of that very comfort once again. Thank you so much for that <3

  24. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch with a story in your saddlebag this time! Thanks, Kate! Good to have your contribution!


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