July 15: 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.

July 15, 2015

July 15Life has a way of teaching us, well, about life. About living.

Along this death journey with my friend, Kate, I’ve come to realize that I’m selfish, easily frightened and a seeker of comfort. It disappoints me to think of my failings, but death has a way of showing us our short-comings in living.

I was in awe of the gentle souls I met in Kate’s last week. The nurse with teary eyes who personally requested Kate for her two shifts, then tended to her as if Kate were her beloved. Monsignor O’Neil who cheered the room with his presence, offered tangible comfort and bid her farewell because it is never goodbye. The long-time family friend who sat with me for five nights in a row and spoke lovingly to a comatose Kate and listened to my stories when I needed to talk. The best-friend of Kate’s daughter, M, who called her parents who fed me every night because that’s what they do — feed people.

In comparison, I felt fraudulent. I was so freaked out when I learned Kate had terminal cancer, I really didn’t want to see her. I had been mourning our friendship earlier because she never responded to my emails, texts, letters or phone calls. It never occurred to me that she was suffering and that communication was hard — how does one tell people, “I’m dying. I’m trying my hardest, but I’m dying.” But I forced my self to drive over to Helena to see for myself.

We had good days — chatting like friends, laughing and sharing advice for the deep things best friends share. We had bad days — Kate spiking fevers, hallucinating, unable to reason, pain, nausea, a buffet of drugs, chemo and constant stomach pumping. On the bad days I felt I had my lungs in a corset, and I’d flee to a local coffee shop and write, be among the living not the dying.

When I left, Kate had stabilized, we knew it was inevitable, but she was going home to take care of photos and her parents’ estate. Yes, she lost both parents, one after the other just a year ago. Her brother was flying in from California for a week and her daughters were helping sort all the “stuff” we accumulate. Death seemed to have plateaued.

Not for long. A successful minor surgery led to more fever which eventually led to her liver failing. Now I feared I wouldn’t make it back to Helena in time. I did. She’s stronger than giving up in a single day. I arrived in time for her to recognize me, say my name, “Charli!” with eyes wide and loving. Agitation set in hours later, followed by a gradual shutting down. A few days at the most we were told. Her eldest daughter, E, spent a fitful night with Kate and I was up for the next night.

An the next. And the next. And the next. And the next.

If it weren’t for M by day, the nurses, the clergy, the evening friend, I would have hitch-hiked back to Idaho. I’m not the compassionate person I thought I was. This was hard and I didn’t want to do this with every fiber of my being. But I did. It was the right thing to do. It was total self-sacrifice.

While disappointed with my short-comings, I did hang in there and better learned about self-sacrifice. The act of giving when it is easy is not sacrificial. The harder the act, the greater the sacrifice. I was there until the very last breath. Okay, the last two. Kate faked us out on the last breath then sucked in air noisily enough to startle M and I who were at her shoulders, our heads on Kate, crying. I later told M that her mother probably was leaving with the angels then said, “Wait a minute…” One last laugh.

I don’t recall much of the day beyond the kindness of others and the realization that I could help with her daughters and nine grandchildren. She gave them to me and I’m not sure what I think of that. I’m not the grand-motherly type. Maybe this is Kate’s last joke, I think as I bounce the baby and try to figure out how the toddler dimmed the light on my phone and tell the 10-year old to get the leaf off the dog’s butt, and I hope to God that’s just a leaf. My nose sniffles because all the little ones have the sniffles, too. I have three angsty teens I’ve told that  “I’m there for you.”

Life. We fail. We try again. And again. And again. Failing is inevitable; awareness helps us make the choice to do better than we want to. Serve others. Live.

At the funeral home a sign reads, “It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.”

The Moyie River is so beautiful, I’m breathless. I’m so uncertain of my ability to physically comfort others in the act of dying, I can’t breathe. I garden until I pant. I write until I feel I’ve run a marathon. I hold babies and toddlers and comfort motherless daughters until I think I’ll have nothing left to give, yet I find that others give in return and I breathe again. So many moments leave us breathless. It’s not all about the joyful ones or the easy breaths; the hard breathing matters, too.

July 15, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a breathless moment. Write about life.

Respond by July 21, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

I needed to come here and breathe words on the page. Thank you so much for the uplifting words left on my break post. I will comment and comment here next Monday and thereafter. You can read the obituary I wrote my friend with help and insight from her daughters: http://retzmemorials.com/obituaries/kathryn-kate-m-ferrie-age-63-of-helena/. I’ll be home after saying fare thee well.

What Had to Be Done by Charli Mills

Gus steadied his rifle to shoot the stud.

Once a well-muscled bay, now just hide and bones. For a moment, Gus saw not a dying horse, but the majestic creature that once ran swiftly among sage brush and pinion pine, father of many local ranch mustangs.

Out west, this was the worst drought in anyone’s memory. The stud outlasted most, but couldn’t rise from the crackled mud of a dry holding pond.

Gus exhaled his breath slowly, the way Pa had taught him when hunting mule deer or grouse. That had been for food. This shot was for mercy.


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  1. Ruth Cox

    This, as well as the obituary you wrote, bring your “sister” to life for your readers, Charli. Your words share how very much you live and love, even when it hurts, which seems to be the way of Kate, too. Travel safely, dear one.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruth. I’m home now, and reviving my neglected flowers and garden, finding that life continues to hold on no matter how dry or sorrowful the season. It feels good to nurture life.

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry seems inadequate. This is so much, I really don’t know what to say. Except that I don’t agree with this: “I’m not the compassionate person I thought I was.” I think you’re in a tough spot to see it right now but I think you have proved (over and over) that you are that and much more. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Kind of like I don’t know what to do next. But writing helps. I’d answer your question earlier (one you posed on your blog) about sharing too much. To truly write deep, to write into to one’s truth, you have to bear all. It’s like cleaning a wound partially; it won’t heal unless you open it up all the way. And it is true, I’m not compassionate by nature but I am by choice. Thank you!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Even more of a reason to respect this compassionate part of you. If it doesn’t come naturally, it is remarkable instead of just an aspect of your personality. Things that come easily for people are no less wonderful but when you have to work at it, there is a new depth… Respect for your choice and ability to sustain it.

  3. Christina Rose

    This was a heartbreaking and beautiful post. I’m right there with Sarah, saying “I’m sorry” seems so grossly inadequate in a time of such loss and sorrow. My heart and prayers go out to you as you continue to deal with and process this loss. You are so incredibly brave for sharing this precious story with us.

    Being “selfish, easily frightened, a seeker of comfort, and feeling fraudulent” simply means you’re human, and that is an amazing thing. Compassion is hard to recognize during these trials, and in the face of the anger and rage that can consume us all when we have to deal with these situations. But it is most certainly there and your compassion is something I truly admire.

    From what I have seen/read, I can only hope that I can be as strong and handle myself as gracefully as you have if I am ever in your shoes.

    Much love <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve often thought the same thing about the phrase “I’m sorry” but I now know that it conveys what can’t be said in words. It’s like a blanket in the cold, dark night and though it doesn’t change the night, it makes it bearable. So thank you for that.

      And yes, I’m very human. It was transforming to stay when running was my favored option. It makes me think that compassion really is learned, by trials, by those who’ve made the choice before us.

      These are shoes we will each wear. If you think of it in biblical terms, facing death was the “cup” Jesus asked that His father remove from him when he prayed in the garden. We each stand beside others when the cup is theirs, and one day, others will stand beside us. Neither is easy, but we do find grace in the moment. Thank you.

      • Christina Rose

        Your story and prompt made me remember the “breathless” moment I felt when we got a call at 2am, informing us that my grandfather had passed away. You can never prepare for such a moment and those raw feelings of pure heartbreak will forever stay with me.

        My grandfather was a farmer for most of his life, and in his retirement he kept busy by growing a variety of flowers and veggies in his backyard that he would sell to local nurseries. The last gift he gave me was a stunning butterfly bush that I have in my front yard. Every day when I water our garden, I take a deep sniff of the amazing honey scented blooms, and remember him and his love for flowers and his family.


      • Charli Mills

        What a beautiful story based on a life-affirming last gift! It makes me want to plant a butterfly bush!

  4. Annecdotist

    Totally agree with Sarah and Christina, these aren’t failings but part of being human (which I think might be where you’ve got to by the end of this post). It seems to me it’s healthy that we should try to protect ourselves from painful experiences but we can also make a choice, as you’ve done, to go with the pain for some greater good. We get so little experience of living through another’s death, it’s hard to know how to handle it, but it seems you have followed your instincts and done the right thing for you, Kate and her family. I’m not greatly in favour of self-sacrifice (and, while I respect your own analysis of the situation, I don’t think this is), but just because you want to run a mile from the situation it doesn’t mean you’re not being compassionate.
    I’m starting to ramble, but I hope you can feel the support the Carrot Ranchers are trying to send your way.

    • Charli Mills

      Being human, or at least a good one, doesn’t just come to us. Compassion is a choice. Was it in your blog post that you wrote about compassion being something we learn from it being shown to us? Yes, it is survival to want to protect ourselves, but it is not every day that a close loved one dies. I do believe in self-sacrifice for those moments, in the sense of not doing what is desired, but doing what is needed, what one might be called to do that is difficult. I do feel the support and will probably explore this experience more through fiction and blogging. Thank you.

  5. Norah

    Totally agree with Sarah, Christina and Anne. It is difficult to walk the walk with someone who is suffering. There are so many emotions all mixed up: guilt at not suffering yourself, frustration that you can’t take the suffering away, sorrow for the pain that is being experienced and fear for your own possible future, not to mention love and compassion in huge quantities. I think one of the most difficult things to face when supporting a friend of similar age is one’s own immortality. Death doesn’t just come for those who are old and live long lives. When will it be your turn? I appreciate that you have shared your emotional journey with us. You help us see the humanity in every step. My thoughts are with you and Kate’s family as you say your sad farewells and celebrate all that she shared throughout her life. We learn from her wisdom through your words. Thank you for sharing. May the legacy of her love uplift and support you all. Hugs all round. xo ????

    • Norah

      Of course, I wrote the wrong word – I meant mortality! Sorry.

      • Annecdotist

        Beautifully put, Norah, and I didn’t even notice the typo.

      • Charli Mills

        I didn’t notice it either!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, it is a huge sea of emotions and any one can engulf. Mortality, loss, these are as much a part of life as living. Thank you for your thoughts and beautifully expressed words, Norah! Hugs in return!

      • Norah

        Hugs all round, Charli. Take care.

  6. Pat Cummings

    Timely and marvelous as always! My Silent Wonder is the response to this week’s prompt… ( http://goo.gl/rLQvFi )

    • Charli Mills

      That would be an amazing, breathless ride!

    • julespaige

      Thanks Geoff – I’d visit, but I don’t see where.
      Continued success with your writing.

      • julespaige

        Charli – with what I remembered and a second try on Geoff’s part he’s got his site linked onto his avatar now. So he’ll be easy to find now.

        Help comes from near and far. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, I’m sorry for that familiarity. If we escape it early in life, I suppose it catches up with us. And yes, I second your statement! Thank you!

  7. paulamoyer

    Charli, I’ll leave my post later. Just got back from a vacation. But for now know that I think this was a very fine hour(s) on your part. It matters little that you wanted to run and didn’t want to be there. What matters more is that you didn’t run and were there. I offered you up in prayer this week while at Cascade Falls with my cousin. I offer you and Kate’s family my deepest condolences for your loss.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Paula! I’m sorry you had difficulty posting to Carrot Ranch, but I do have your story on the FB page and it will be in the compilation. Looks like you had a refreshing trip at Cascade Falls!

  8. jeanne229

    The others have said it very well Charli. I am not so sure either about the idea of sacrifice. The word that came to my mind, one my sister the nun has often used, is “witness.” You were there by your friend’s side to witness her journey, to affirm her life and the friendship you shared. That is a beautiful thing.
    I am thinking of you as I write. It must be about 8:00 pm in Helena now; you’ve said the rosary, you’ve cried some more, you’ve got the last sad ordeal of the funeral tomorrow–and then you fly home to the nurturing soil of your place, your land, your home. Godspeed. Like the others, I humbly thank you for sharing this experience with us…

    • Charli Mills

      I like the word “witness” yet it was self-sacrificing in the sense that I didn’t want to witness! I held, though and by not giving into my inclination to run and hide, I experienced a difficult but beautiful experience. And I felt like I stood at the bridge for Kate’s passing and was surprised to discover that it helped her family. Surprised to also find nine Littles (her grandchildren) in my life! The witness reward? All in all, there is something life-affirming about facing death. The peace came on me after the rosary and watching the Littles play a game of waving at cars from the porch of the funeral home. If car drivers waved back, they’d run inside and give out hugs. Kate would have chuckled over their impromptu game! My daughter, Rock Climber, drove from her lodge (place of employment) where she camps out of her car in summer and stood by me for the funeral. It gave me great revival. So did all of Kate’s family and friends. I lost a best friend but gained a Helena Family. Amazing.

  9. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Charli my heart goes out to your pain. You were where you were meant to be and sharing that journey with Kate will, eventually, give you peace and acceptance. No-one can make it easier for you but you know we are all sending our love and hugs across the cyber waves to cushion you at this really sad sad time. Lots of love

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your deeper understanding of this process. What you shared with me, helped. It’s a sad time, yet the letting go feels more complicated than just sorrow. It feels freeing in a way, too. I’m glad I stuck it out to the end. Thank you!

  10. Sherri

    Do you know what speaks to me the loudest out of these words you so badly needed to breathe Charli? ‘One last laugh’.
    Even in the most tragic and dire of moments, what a beautiful legacy your sister-of-the-heart left for you and her daughters and all her family – the gift of joy, of love and of laughter to carry you through the dark days ahead.
    Yes, is is indeed farewell but you can now go forward knowing that you did everything you could for your best friend in her hour of need, and how wonderful that she knew you were with her, to the very end.
    You are filled with compassion and kindness and love Charli, and so now it is your turn to receive the very same from others, as you have already witnessed.
    Although you questioned your percieved ‘failings’, how could you, nor anyone, know how how they will feel when faced with the death of a loved one? Of course you wanted to flee. But you didn’t. You stayed because you love Kate and she loved you. You did the right thing and because of it, you will always remember that One Last Laugh <3

    • Charli Mills

      Kate’s recognition of me was such an amazing gift. It affirmed I was supposed to be there, and it helped her daughters during that time. That, too, is a gift — new relationships with her daughters, husbands and children, even new friends. Happy for that last laugh, and for the grandchildren who played. If you read Kate’s one and only flash fiction about the Peace Roses, it was heavy on her mind that her funeral be light-hearted. The children naturally began to play and I knew Kate would have loved that. One Last Laugh, a Legacy of Love & Laughter. Thanks for seeing it!

      • Sherri

        I didn’t read Kate’s flash, did I miss it? I meant to say that I was deeply moved by the beautiful obituary you wrote for her. Her recognition of you was a beautiful gift and legacy of her love for you indeed, which lives on through your new friendships and family. Hugs & blessings to you Charli <3

    • Charli Mills

      A breathless moment, experiencing the beginning.

  11. mj6969

    When faced with the awful and often agonizing reality of a friend, suffering – and then dying, if we are – and I stress ARE – compassionate and loving, we naturally begin to question ourselves – and we seek and find our “weakest” traits. But this is not failure – it is being human. And the remembrance is that we are spirits on an earth-walk – and we have lessons to learn.

    Charli – as many have already said – I would suggest to you that with time, as the immediate pain, grief, anger, rage and sadness wear down, and finally drop away like an Autumn leaf, you will recognize and realize just how tremendously generous and loving and compassionate you are. And perhaps, this is also an “insiders joke between your heart sister Kate.”

    She has left you with a very tremendous gift – not only of recalling and revisiting memories, but when the moment of Truth came knocking, you answered the call, despite how difficult and painful it was. You and your ability to grit your teeth, face your fears, deal with your pain on her behalf, that ever strong desire and wish for hope for a different outcome, that crazy denial – when it came right to it – you were there. And Kate knew it. Kate has offered you the gift of witnessing what can be so terrifying and hard – and yet, it was a scenario when there were so many, who rallied together, and offered support and love to each other – in a moment – a time – when it really really matters.

    Spirit lives on – and I would suggest that not one person who was witness to this passing – will not be changed – and that as the initial shock and pain subside, you will realize and understand, that you too, share so much strength, grace and dignity – and honesty – as did your friend, Kate.

    Prayers and light to you Charli – and to Kate’s family and friends.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I love that you wrote, “spirits on an earth-walk.” Kate said all the time that she was a spiritual being on an earthly journey and that death was “graduation day.” In the moment I felt so anguished and so far at sea in a storm of emotions. I wanted safe harbor. But the seas calmed enough for me to see others and we clung together like on a life raft. I’ve bonded with the friends and family of her daughters in such a deep way I never anticipated. Kate left me many gifts, in many ways. Thank you!

      • mj6969

        I’m so glad to hear, that despite the deeply affecting moments, you found kinship, and love, in ways you never expected. Another surprise and blessing 🙂

  12. A. E. Robson

    Beautiful words this week, Charli. You have shared so much with us on your journey with Kate. I am truly sorry for your loss. You have shouldered a lot through this time. Life will come into perspective again, when the time is right for you. Don’t rush it. . . Finding comfort in putting pen to paper is the solace that we sometimes need to help us breathe and carry on.

    • Charli Mills

      Writing did help me get through and now I’m feeling few degrees outside of my life, as if I recognize it, but it’s different. Usually I’m not a morning person, but I’m finding myself up early and working hard at the weeds and watering, then sinking into writing time on my WIP, and catching up at Carrot Ranch. Perhaps a renewal. No rush! Thanks!

  13. A. E. Robson

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Following a game trail along the creek made the journey easier. They had said at the livery it wasn’t too far, as the crow flies.

    He was day three in the saddle before the trees started to thin out and the overhead sun could be felt through the filtering leaves. The trail jogged away from the creek and up a rocky slope where it opened onto a grassy knoll.

    Rolling hills surrounded an endless meadow. The grass was lush green and horse belly deep.

    Completely in awe of the vista that would become home, he stepped off his horse


    • Charli Mills

      This is one of my favorite moments to imagine — the first person to see the first land that would become a ranch. My father use to point out old, abandoned homesteads and say, “That was somebody’s dream.” It got me to dreaming too!

      • A. E. Robson

        There are so many places that show off the land as the settlers would have seen it. It is a gift to be able to spend time at these locations taking pictures and imagining.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your simple yet meaningful words, Larry. I appreciate that! Now to see what Ed and Edna are up to…

    • Charli Mills

      A spectacular view, breathless on step three!

      • mj6969

        Yup – and the heat – quite literally -sucks the air right out of your lungs – as if someone has a Hoover hose in your mouth – until you realize – rather quickly – that you need to breathe differently – it leaves you dizzy. Especially after emerging from a pressurized cabin, with recycled air. Most people adjust quickly – even the seasoned veterans said they always “forgot” about that bit! But everything else makes up for that “gasping gulping” moment. And so off you go – vacation time – pass the rum, please 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Rum must ease the breathing process! 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anne. I’ve been getting back into things one step at a time. When I got home on Saturday afternoon, I stayed outside until 9 p.m. just weeding and watering. Sunday I had to tackle the house that looked like a “man cave” and had carpets covered in dry corn husks (courtesy of the house man who forgot to get the husks out of the reach of dogs). Normally the Hub would be in hot water, but I felt unreasonably calm and appreciated cleaning. Physical work feels grounding and I have plenty to do with the knapweed infestation on our place. My garden looks like an incomplete patchwork quilt. Usually I plant in the gaps as I garden throughout the summer, but now I just have gaps among festooning squash plants, beans and corn. My beets are swallowed up by weeds and my lettuce bolted. I’ll plant more. And I’m writing on my WIP, digging in. Slowly getting acclimated to the computer again. Anyhow, thought you, as a fellow gardener, might understand my draw to work outside. Garden therapy. And, I am late. Not rushing, but enjoying each flash and blog I read.

  14. Norah

    Hi Charli, Here’s mine – breathless in wonder: http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-vq
    I realise that I neither read nor commented on your flash any time I have been here earlier. I think I read your post and just ignored your flash. Apologies. I have just read it now. It is heartbreaking also. I’m sure you have been in that position. I don’t know how to comment and do it justice while being sensitive. There are many interpretations to be made. You have done well to write it at this sad time. I agree with Anne – no need to rush the compilation. Look after yourself. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I was sneaky about my flash! I did not actually write one, nor did I post a photo icon for the week. On Sunday, I added the flash and photo, under the radar so to speak. I’m slowly getting back online, working outside a lot. I’m feeling the need to express, though — stories and thoughts are building up!

      The flash is an old story I remember hearing from a Nevada rancher. Mustangs in the US are not truly “wild” animals in the sense that they were brought here by different groups and then set loose (or lost) to forage in herds. The US Army Cavalry set hundreds free in the Great Basin, which can be a harsh environment for horses. Mustangs are hardy because they are the ones that have survived. What is sad is that when droughts dry up the grass and springs, the horses suffer greatly. I recall this rancher telling me about the hardest thing he ever had to do, but it “had to be done.” I guess I was mulling over how unusually dry it is here in northern Idaho and having returned from my own hard thing, I thought of that horse and the young man who put it down.

      Thank you, I’m not pushing myself, except maybe outside but that feels really therapeutic right now, and I’m drinking lots of water and taking breaks at the pond.

      • Norah

        Ah! So that’s why I missed your flash. It wasn’t there! Thanks for explaining. I thought I had just been so caught up in your post!
        Thanks for the explanation about the mustangs. It is a sad story too. I have no personal experience with choices like that, other than for Bec’s pet rat many years ago. That was traumatic enough for her.
        I’m sure being outdoors and breathing in that beautiful wild air will be as good for you as writing. I hope the heat has lessened and that your days are more pleasant. Take care, drink lots of water, breathe the pure country air and inhale – life. It’s yours to live.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      So… That would be “prompting me to write and practice my craft” or, alternatively, “prompting us to write and practice our craft”. *sigh* Better writer, indeed. O_o

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, well, no grammar sheriffs patrol the ranch! Write well and hire a good editor. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      LOL– but it’s me being selfish again, Sarah! I had an experience with flash fiction back in the early days of social media, and I knew it expanded me as a writer. In fact, it preserved my connection to creativity in writing back when I was immersed in business writing and marketing. When I was ready for the transition, I needed help. All of you who write here weekly help push me in my own craft. 🙂 But cheeky smile aside, I’m so pleased that you find a benefit to writing these challenges. Perhaps one day a collaboration on how flash challenges can be craft practice will be in order. Thank you!

  15. AJ

    It’s funny how we do not quite see ourselves as others view us. I would have to disagree with you on your lack of compassion and everything else. You are full of the best kind of compassion and everything else. I am sorry for the loss of your best friend, I just can’t imagine… My prayers are with you and her family.

    Here is my week’s flash.
    By AJ Prince

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes I forget that an inner struggle is better than being clueless. But it was definitely an inner struggle to choose compassion! When I stayed with Kate for two weeks in June, I absolutely lost it before I even left Helena. I had to pull over at the fairgrounds and I called my sister-in-law (who is more like my sister) and I sobbed. I knew Kate was dying but I didn’t know she’d go so quickly thereafter, or that I’d be with her standing vigil. The no-moreness has yet to fully hit me. No more best friend seems unreal even though I saw it for myself. But life feels altered. Not bad necessarily, just different. And then there are her gifts — her daughters and grandchildren. Somehow, when the world should feel empty, it feels fuller. Life, even death, can be amazing in unexpected ways. Thank you, AJ.

      • AJ

        Death is inevitable, but it doesn’t dull the sharp edged pain that it brings. I just can’t imagine, and “I’m sorry for your loss” just feels inadequate.

      • Charli Mills

        Strangely enough, the phrase is also familiar and comforting.

    • DMaddenMMA

      I enjoyed yours so much that it felt like more than 99 words. I also loved how you structured the 99 word flash in your Word Press, so I used you as a mentor.

      • TanGental

        Oh me? A mentor? Surely some mistake?! Thanks so much.

      • Charli Mills

        Geoff is a great mentor! 😀

    • A. E. Robson

      Touching in every way.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Geoff. You are a big-hearted man!

  16. TanGental

    After I posted I recalled Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How Shall I Love Thee? It seems appropriate somehow to this post.

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
    I love thee to the level of everyday’s
    Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
    I love thee freely, as men might strive for Right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
    I love thee with the passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.

    • Charli Mills

      So appropriate!

  17. DMaddenMMA

    Hope life is treating everyone well. Here is the 99 word flash I came up with. I’m excited to read yours.


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Dave! I like how you built your flash out of cliches, like building blocks. Building blocks? Is that cliche?

    • Charli Mills

      I understand that anguished feeling, Kalpana. I’m sorry to see anyone succumb to terminal disease, it is such suffering. I’m sorry you lost a dear friend. A family friend came to Kate’s room and played his guitar. Though she never stirred, we could visibly see her relax into a more peaceful slumber.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah…thank you! <3 Beautifully written, Sherri!

      • Sherri

        <3 <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’m feeling bruised by it, but it is getting better. I’m finding solace in working outside, battling weeds, watering gardens, mowing. Thank you!

  18. Pete

    Charli, I hope you’re getting through this tough time okay. The flash i came up with didn’t seem to fit this week, but then again, writing heals, even weird writing, so…here…this is what I get for watching this clip and then coming to the ranch…Yes, sorry, I’m %100 male.

    The Advance

    They churned over the hill. Sleek and shimmering, their synched efficient strides like a pack of mechanical wolves. I turned to my men. Real, red-blooded men. Some cried. Our chests heaved as the buzzing serenaded our doom. A high-pitched, winding of gears and wires, advanced upon us without conscience—or even a face. Only orders.

    Blood curdled. Men retreated. Others marveled at what lay ahead, breathless with wonder. Whispering prayers.

    They came fast. Our saviors. Technology gone awry—or evolved. Where man had God, these machines had only us.

    And that in itself was most the terrifying of all.

    • Charli Mills

      Weird writing heals, too! I can’t tell you all the weird thoughts I’ve had or the inappropriate laughs. Grief, itself, is weird. I’ve keened, mourned, sniffled, felt numb and ridiculously silly. Okay, that robo-cat-thing would scare the blazes out of me in a dark alley at night! It’s creepy by daylight — it runs backwards! I know a bunch of men are standing around high-fiving and saying, Cool, Dudes!” But I think you caught it’s essence in your flash. Battling a pack would be breathless! Weird, but well-written and vivid.

  19. paulamoyer

    OK, whatever was wrong is right now. Here’s my post — all of these are so excellent. Thinking of you every day, Charli.


    By Paula Moyer

    Lester was skeptical. How would a dog assuage those nightmares laced with jungles and body parts? Vietnam inside him.

    Abby was the first dog he met. Little for a Golden Retriever. Full of spunk, tail aswish. Train, train, then switch dogs. Now he had Loyal, a big light-yellow Lab with a short attention span.

    “Drop your leash,” the trainer called out.


    “Now say, ‘Pick it up.’”

    “Pick it up.” Lester gave the command. Loyal obeyed, Lester praised.

    Looked up. Abby was trotting, leash in mouth. She stopped at Lester’s feet and sat.

    She would never change partners again.

    • Charli Mills

      “Vietnam inside of him.” Wow. Powerful way to describe the aftermath, then to bring it to a dog. Beautiful flash!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli — the story is real, names changed to protect privacy.

    • Charli Mills

      Well told story! It seemed like one of those moments that is scary until overcome, but turned out scarier in the end. It made me catch my breath as I read!

  20. plaguedparents

    I am sorry I am just reading and replying to this post now. And I am so sorry for your loss. I think critical introspection is understandable in times like these, but do not sell yourself short. You have been a loving, compassionate, true and real friend. I am sure she knew and truly appreciated that about you.

  21. Charli Mills

    Beautiful rewind!


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