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July 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

July 22Apples litter the dry grass unseasonably. Too many, too early and I know in my head I should feel sad, but in my heart I’ve no more room for such feeling. The heat-wave turned into a drought, and I hardly recognize my yard after returning from two weeks in Montana. A dry wind blows, and morning arrives without its customary mist and dew. The pond looks stagnate and the pastures weedy. A disheartening sight.

I scan the ground and add up the destruction:

  1. Apple crop, failed.
  2. Cherry tree, leafless, fruitless;
  3. Numerous bean plants, gone;
  4. Squash plants wilted like limp elephant ears;
  5. Flowers on the back porch burnt like toast;
  6. Grass crisp and yellow;
  7. Best friend, dead.

What am I to do? The house is dark to ward off the heat and I can’t stand it, yet the outside is filled with light, deadly and hot. I can only do one thing at a time. So I stay outside to water the potato plants that are flourishing in the sandy, hot soil. Strange things, potatoes. They thrive in suffering conditions.

Water arcs high in the air as the sprinkler makes its sweep. Already the sun is approaching the western ridge and sunlight sparkles in each water droplet like light on a diamond diadem. A hummingbird pauses in the spectacle, tiny wings flung open with gusto, and I think, am I really seeing this? Life doesn’t linger in the shadows, it plays out loud in the light, the water, the beauty that can’t be squelched by conditions.

The world feels as if it’s unhinged from its rotation. I want to see destruction, I want to feel sad. Yet, still it spins, different, but dynamically. I notice that I can still step one foot in front of the other in this new rotation. Thus I water the squash plants and they revive. The next day, I replace the crisp porch flowers with new ones and even crack a joke at the nursery not far from my home: “I bet the only people buying more annuals this time of year are the ones killing their plants.” The cashier smiles blandly.

It’s not a good joke.

Drought, it seems, makes knapweed easier to pull. The bane of ranches, a noxious weed, knapweed has spread in the heat, but instead of digging it out, I can simply pull. Well, it’s not entirely simple, but it’s satisfying to uproot something. Monday dawns with a new routine: up at 5:30 to fix the Hub sausages and bagels; watering; weeding; cleaning the house one thing at a time. Like picking up remnants of corn husks from the carpets.

Don’t ask me; ask the dogs. Evidently they were naughty and got into corn while I was away.

Outside does me good, like a sick person in need of fresh air. I expand my lungs, long and deep, exhale. I fill my big red cup with cold well water and drink it down as I sweat. And fill it again. Mowing seems like a good way to knock down the dry grass, and already I can see green responding to my ongoing watering efforts.

Living water. I’m opening up like the hummingbird.

I take the dogs on long romps around Elmira Pond in the afternoons. The Miracle of the Bear is that after Grenny encountered one (and survived), he no longer runs off. He’s a German Short-haired Pointer with boundless energy even at 10 years old and running off meant miles. He once had me praying hard for chickens after running off our property. Now he’s content to hang out around the pond and pastures.

Contentment can be about perspective.

Standing at the pond, watching Grenny happily leap after frogs, I look back at my apple tree and feel stunned. What I had assumed was a failed crop, is not so. At this vantage, I can see plenty of apples left in the tree, some already blush with red. My garden has holes, but I can fill the gaps. My lawn is responding to water and the pond still holds much avian life. My friend is gone, but I have her family to connect with, new friends to grow with and memories to share.

Not all conditions I can change, but I can be content with what is left and with what I can do. In less than a week, my gardens and lawns have responded to life-giving efforts. I can choose to look up when all I see is down. A scattering of dropped apples is not the end. Nor is the loss of a friend.

Perspective varies. There’s the faith view of salvation and heaven; the hopeful view of a better place; the practical view of no more suffering; and the scientific view that energy cannot be destroyed. Energy. Life. Creation. It all continues, perhaps differently, but always in one form or another.

And I cannot help but be swept up by the sight of a water-crowned hummingbird. My eyes do not linger long on fallen fruit.

July 22, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has a shift in perspective. It can be a transition of one character or a change between character points of view. Go where the prompt leads, either technically or creatively.

Respond by July 28, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Silver Thieves by Charli Mills

“Where’s the silver buried?” Carla snarled at the old woman.

“It ain’t here, Carla.” Vernon stomped his boots, entering the cabin.

Carla shoved the old lady down. “I know you buried it!” Spittle frothed on her lips, rabid. “Bah! Worthless!”

“We’ll be watching you, Old Woman.” Vernon pointed his shovel in her downcast face.

They left and she slowly stood. Silver! If she had silver she wouldn’t live here. She opened the locket they had cast aside. Brass. Tarnished. Inside his eyes twinkled like the greatest treasure she ever knew. Time and thieves would never rob her of love.




  1. noelleg44 says:

    Charli: Nice story but your own was an even better one. I’m glad to hear things aren’t so bad on the ranch and that a little water is reviving things. We’ve had a hideously hot summer here so far – leaves are already falling and our wooly worms, which usually don’t appear until late September, are already around and are very wooly! I think we are going to have a very early fall!

    • Charli Mills says:

      This morning we had mist on the pond, and I thought maybe it was going to be normal summer. But it is suppose to drop into the low 40s at night next week. My apples might be trying to say early fall, too! Crazy weather. Hope the wooly buggers are wrong! Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      • julespaige says:

        Just a little note about wooly caterpillars – I read study that suggested they did not foretell the future so much as relate the one that had just past.

        True love. May we all find it.

        I’ll be back later. Hugs.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I’m learning all sorts of new things! That’s interesting about the wooly buggers!

  2. Annecdotist says:

    These are strange times for you, Charli, not just the weather but living through your grief, yet your passion for words is so strong, you’ve communicated it beautifully for your readers. It seems that your senses and emotions are intensified, even the weather is writ large. Over here, it’s unusually cool this week, although not a great deal of rain.
    Just a thought regarding your apples, you know that they normally thin themselves out in June and July to produce fewer larger apples? Perhaps the drought just intensifies this process as they channel their remaining energy into fewer fruit. I do hope you get some to harvest.
    And a great flash – a good relationship, or the memory of one, is worth a lot more than silver.
    I hope the touch of the earth on your fingers and toes prove healing.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Given that I’m a reluctant orchardist, I didn’t realize that, Anne! Good to know. The first year, the apple tree had three apples. It’s old, so last year I was surprised by all the apples. The grass is usually heavy around the tree so maybe I missed seeing the process last time. With the drought, the apples are noticeable. The touch of the earth does feel healing!

  3. willowdot21 says:

    I really liked the tail of bringing your garden back from the brink ! Your flash fiction too was an interesting twist on life .

  4. Pete says:

    Great post and flash Charli. We’re having a typical Virginia summer here, and I’m trying my hardest to keep my flowers alive while she’s out of town.

  5. Pete says:

    My wife’s flowers that is…

  6. […] July 22, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has a shift in perspective. It can be a transition of one character or a change between character points of view. Go where the prompt leads, either technically or creatively. […]

  7. julespaige says:

    Here you go. A cross between fiction and non…
    I added some yellow squash, onion, salt and pepper.
    Sort of de-seeded as I chopped ’em for the pot.
    All the fluid was from the tomatoes though.

  8. Pete says:

    The colorful motorcade arrived to cheers. The morning was warm. Nevo kept pace, restraining lively children. No one was to touch the Archduke.

    Frenzied hands grasped at the Duchess. The archduke fixed his cuff and leaned close. His lips kissed a wisp of her hair. “They know not what a filthy whore you are, my love.”

    The duchess smiled. She stood and all order dissolved. Nevo ordered her down. Their eyes locked.

    The archduke never saw the gleam of the blade. Or the vigil held outside his estate. And he–nor anyone else–ever saw the duchess in mourning.

  9. mj6969 says:

    Your flash was interesting Charli – but honestly, your heartfelt post – well, the beauty of the writing lies there.

    You have already taken steps in the grieving process – but more profoundly still, your perspective on life and seeing the details – has changed. And perhaps, that is the ultimate gift that the death of a loved one can bring. Just as energy never dies – ultimately, what happens around us – the changes and shifts over which we have no control – they are but part of a cycle – for in every death – there is new life – just as life ends in death. And sometimes, we need to remember this – AND – look at the “in-between spaces and places” in order to really understand the wonder, the beauty, the incredible and, what – to our minds and understanding – is the improbable. A hummingbird bathing is spray? Miraculous indeed. And perhaps a gift from your sister Kate 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      It seems that writing gives us a chance to look in those in between places and when our lives shift, perhaps we see more revealed. I like that idea that the hummingbird was a gift from Kate. As writers, may we always be open to signs and wonders. 🙂 Thank you!

  10. A. E. Robson says:

    Charli, your garden struggled without your attentiveness while you were away. Now happy, and starting to thrive again under your nurturing, you will both smile more often.

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Crimson reds, smatterings of yellow, fading into the blackening sky. Standing in the open door of the log house he watched the sun set over the foothills.  

    It had not been many years since he’d brought her here as his wife. Hoping she would love the rolling hills and the house he had built for her. She never said it, but he knew she was unhappy. 

    He would stay on. This had always been his home and in his heart it would always be hers, too. 

    As he turned to go in, he heard her voice call his name.

  11. paulamoyer says:

    I’ll echo what others have said about your flash and your story, Charli. Here’s mine. Will comment on others later.

    The Things That Are Eternal

    By Paula Moyer

    Her last summer in Oklahoma, Jean lived in her grandmother’s guest room. Every moment was so predictable, especially the evenings – this 80-something woman bounding to the door to greet her after work, dinner on the table, and her grace, consisting of a medley of The Prayer of St. Francis and her own supplication: that the dear Lord help us to “discern the things that are trivial from the things that are eternal.”

    Jean could hardly wait to move to Minnesota and start graduate school.

    Forty years later, that summer glowed in Jean’s heart like a jewel. She had discerned.

    • Norah says:

      I love grandmother’s supplication to discern the trivial from the eternal. Great advice! I’m pleased Jean was able to learn it. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ah, the perspective time give us! Great evolution of such in your flash!

    • TanGental says:

      ‘Forty years later, that summer glowed in Jean’s heart like a jewel. She had discerned’ Love this Paula. Beautiful. If only we could all say ‘We have discerned’

  12. Norah says:

    Great post and beautiful writing as always, Charli; and a great perspective on life and death. I agree that contentment is about perspective, and perspective is perhaps something we can choose, along with contentment. The choice, and the choosing, is not always easy, but it is possible.
    Recently Sarah Brentyn said that we couldn’t have the light without the dark. I think that is true. We can’t have the day without the night, the happy without the sad. It is in their differences that we learn to appreciate what each has to offer. The beginning of your post reflected your loss and the inability to see what was there: you were wandering in the darkness, surrounded by loss and despair. But you chose the light; to look up and see the positives that were there all along, just hidden by your choices. You were lifted up on hummingbird wings and the sparkle of diamonds in a droplet of water. You lifted us with you. Thank you. But of course, it wasn’t only the choice to see, it was also the choice to act; and watering and nurturing your garden is showing rewards. Without the action, the thinking would have lacked strength.
    Your flash is beautiful too, showing the importance of treasures other than silver. I love that the old woman “said” that she wouldn’t be living there if she had silver. There is more to life and love than just one’s surrounds.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It is a bland life to live in the gray area, that often sought after safe zone between darkness and light. It is true that to know the light is to know darkness and there in between can we choose the light. It does come down to action. I wouldn’t know the heights of hummingbird wings without knowing the depths of loss. Thank you for your insights (and for sharing Sarah’s). There is so much more to life and love and may we continue to reach for it!

      • Norah says:

        We can stumble around in those grey areas far too long, can’t we, with our eyes never really adjusting to either the light or the dark – far better to reach out and grasp what life and love have to offer!

      • TanGental says:

        CS Lewis posited we live in a Shadowlands between Eden and Heaven which sounds grey and insipid but in his world view it actually meant we were driven to seek the glory of God’s Heaven, to drive to ensure we would be accepted rather than to sit in resignation and fail in what he saw as God’s true purpose for man. I may not have a religious conviction but I like that idea, that this is but a stage and we are hard wired to seek put light.

    • TanGental says:

      You are truly a poet, Ms Colvin, soaring on the wings of your metaphorical hummingbird.

  13. Another great post and flash by Charli!

    My “shift in perspective” story is only partially fictional. (Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.):

  14. ruchira says:

    I am happy to know that your priorities are changing each day and what a thoughtful prompt for this week, Charli.

    My take:

  15. DMaddenMMA says:

    Charli, your flashes always leave me with so many questions. If only a few more words:)

    Much like many perspective shifts, mine begin with clarification. Here is my flash for this week:

  16. paulamoyer says:

    Charli, your flash about the silver prospectors (and their lack of luck at it) is marvelous. Love the detail about the locket and its contents’ true value.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Paula! I’m working on my Rock Creek WIP and mulling over Sarah Shull’s later life in a one-room cabin. Locals believed she buried silver, but in truth she had no where else to go because of no money. It got me wondering…

  17. Judith Post says:

    Beautiful blog post. Touching.

  18. Annecdotist says:

    Well, it’s been a week of shifting perspectives for me with the publication of my novel also on shifting perspectives. Here’s the link to my post with a flash inspired by the shifting perspective of an optical illusion. Thanks for the inspiration.

  19. […] Mills, in her weekly post here,  has been gaining  a new perspective on her home, her pets, her friends and life in […]

  20. TanGental says:

    Thank you Charli; we all need a shift in focus, in perspective from time to time.

  21. […] Charli’s Flash Fiction Challenge for 7/22 was to write, in 99 words, a story that adopts a shift in perspective. […]

  22. This shift is subtle but I think it’s there. Thanks Charli.

  23. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

  24. Finally. Here is this week’s perspective: 🙂

    Pillow Talk

    Back to read…

  25. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about perspective. She challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has a shift in perspective. It is right up my alley. Thanks […]

  26. Norah says:

    Hi Charli. I really enjoyed this one. Do I always say that? Changing perspectives: inside outstide.

  27. Bill Bennett says:

    Here is my Flash for the week.

    Hunger of the Zombie

    • Charli Mills says:

      You caught both sides of the horror! I met one of the writers for Zombie Nation when I went to LA. Can you imagine the fun of being in that writer’s room? 🙂

  28. Took me forever to decide which direction to go with this topic! Here it is!! 🙂

  29. […] week for the Flash Fiction prompt over at Carrot Ranch, Charli ask us […]

  30. Sherri says:

    Hi Charli. I can’t believe I haven’t been over here to leave a comment. I thought I had, duh!! I had to think about this one at first, but then, for some reason, I thought of my Kingfisher. Your hummingbird is a sign, I am sure of it. A hummingbird appeared to me when I was at a low point during my divorce. It appeared right in front of my face and hovered for a long time. It made me look up, not down, and I felt there and then that everything would be alright. I only ever saw hummingbirds in California as you know, and they always utterly magical to me then and as much now. In England, I now have my robin, and yes, I believe that birds are sent to us in our hour of need, as your hummingbird appeared to you, to give you hope and colour and joy and beauty as you work in your garden and bring everything around you back to life. I am thinking of you, and hope you are well as you garden and write and heal. I love your flash. Silver? Love? It really is all about perspective. Sad but filled with the hope that keeps us going on the darkest of nights. Thank you for your wonderful inspiration <3

    • Charli Mills says:

      Your Kingfisher has been visiting, Sherri! I’ll have to post some photos of him hunting the pond and then taking a bath on the very log that Blue Heron recently used to give me the funniest peep show! The birds are really doing a great job of getting me to look outside my circumstances. They are feathered beacons of hope. I’m sure that seeing hummingbirds in California was more magical than Disneyland! How wonderful that one hovered in front of your face! Thank you!

      • Sherri says:

        Oh how wonderful! I can’t wait to see your photos Charli! Your ‘feathered beacons of hope’ are the most wonderful blessing for you, just what you need to keep looking up and keep being filled with the joy and lightness of these beautiful gifts of nature, wrapped up in feathers just for you 🙂 Yes, I have to agree, as much as I had a lot of fun at Disneyland over the years, seeing those hummingbirds was truly magical 🙂 As is the visiting kingfisher at just the pefect time for you, right now 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills says:

        Before I left Montana, Kate’s daughter gave me a small hanging quilt that belonged to her mother. It’s pretty with thistles trailing up the middle. I tucked it away in my closet until I could find the right place to hang it and last night I was getting my slippers and I looked at it and was stunned! Atop the crowning thistle was an embroidered hummingbird with wings open! How did I miss that? Then I got excited and started thinking about Kate that she really is still “buzzing” about me. It was a strange, joyful moment, but I thought you’d understand! <3 😀

      • Sherri says:

        Oh my goodness…I am speechless, utterly. I have goosebumps. Wow <3

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