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August 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

Photo Credit: Kyle Green (

Photo Credit: Kyle Green (

When I was a child, I thought like a child: that one day there would be no forest fires. I believed more in Smokey Bear than I did Santa Clause, and I knew we could prevent forest fires. Yet, year after year, the fire season came as sure as winter snowfall in the mountains of the American West.

A month before my wedding, which was to take place in a meadow where I once rounded up cattle, a place above the saddle where my hometown sat in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the worst occurred: a forest fire struck. Dave Zellmer was not only my scheduled wedding singer, he was the local Fire Chief. You can read about his frustrations with how the fire was handled in this archived LA Times article.

I was old enough to marry but not yet savvy to the politics of firefighting. I still believed we could prevent them. I began to study forest management historically to look to the future.

In 2006 Montana burned.

I know, because my best friend Kate bought me the book, “Montana On Fire.” Many called it the worst fire event since the 1910 fires. Then came the 2012 season. Now the 2015. As I write, over one million acres burn. It’s smokey enough that my eyes sting and I cough during the night. Every day I update my Facebook with the latest posts, spreading evacuation notices and news.

No longer am I a child. Fire has a season and it is only going to to get worse with drought and climate change (see The Atlantic article).

Many remain in childish thinking: climate change is not real. I remember the first time I heard Will Steger talk about global warming. He explained that we would see more extreme events. Drought and wildland fires are an example. There was no preventing the flames — lightening strikes caused the initial spark, and drought is a weather pattern. Fires burned wilderness and ranches; logging sites and choked forests; and even jumped large rivers and changed direction with its own created winds.

While I’m no expert, I can see with my own eyes that fires have become extreme in the West.

One of the saddest stories I read was about a local fire chief, one like I knew in my hometown. By the time a fire struck his community, there was no one left to answer his call for help. We are beyond our local and state budgets. My county has declared a disaster emergency. Yet, help is pouring in…from Alaska and Arizona, Mississippi and New Jersey, Canada and California, Australia and New Zealand.

And this is my hopeful adult thinking: winds of change are certainly upon us and we will need to give and accept help for our growing extreme weather events.

August 26, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the need for help in an extreme weather event. Is the help local or global? Does it arrive or the plea go ignored? It doesn’t have to be fire. Think about extreme weather occurrences and consequences.

Respond by September 1, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Border Crossers by Charli Mills

Lucy’s helmet blew off when the smoky whirlwind hit. Flames began to illuminate the dense fog of gray. Radiant heat blazed like a torch. Bad signs.

Her crew boss transmitted the call. “Need help, HQ. Fire blew up on the west flank. Lines won’t hold.” Static. No answer.

Flames screamed. The air receded. They all hunkered low together. I’m going to die, she thought. And damn it, I lost my helmet.

Lucy never heard the Bombardiers before both dropped water like benevolent sky spirits, but she felt the instant relief. The Canadians heard their call and crossed the border.


Dedicated to all firefighters near and far who answered the West’s call for help in August of 2015.



  1. jabberjeans says:

    I’m a weather buff – so I’m constantly watching what happens around the world – all the extreme weather and the incredible losses – the western wildfires are just another horrific example of just how much is changing – far too quickly – without enough attention, concern or thought about how we – as people – of “developed” nations, need to re-prioritize our ways of living – consuming far less, protecting far more – and thinking ahead – before life takes on the surreal qualities of apocalyptic movies and books, like Mad Max or The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s truly frightening.

    As for your flash – great job in expressing the intensity of what I can’t even imagine as being possible, despite knowing it happens and is happening. (By this I mean feeling the incredible heat, the flames etc. in the thick of it. )

    I once had the experience of passing through a contained forest fire area – that had jumped the major highway – in northern Ontario – and as I remember – it was still so smokey (the fire was burning still) – the air was dense, thick, ashed filled and the asphalt – you could still see the heat waves rising from it. It was a very eerie feeling – I felt cut off from the world.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’ve become more in tune to local weather and patterns, figuring out ways to adjust. People used to do that because we used to grow our own food or hunt seasonal migrations of animals. Now so many believe food comes from the store and remain disconnected to the weather unless it is a crisis. No easy answers, but I do believe it’s important to plug into nature and grow food first-hand.

      What an experience! I hadn’t thought about that sense of feeling cut off from the world. I wonder how firefighters deal with that?

      Thank you! I’m glad the details could be felt.

  2. paulamoyer says:

    Great way to bring this crisis in your own life (past and present) into the Flash Fiction prompts, Charli! I’ll put my thinking cap on!

  3. […] Source: August 26: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  4. Ula says:

    I still find it hard to believe that there are climate change deniers. They are dangerous, especially when they are policy makers or somehow involved in politics.
    We have drought even here in north-west Poland, an area called the green lungs of Poland. Everything is turning brown and big wild fires are becoming more and more the norm. From what I’ve read, Ukraine is constantly in flames recently.
    Your flash is wonderful. I can feel the heat and hopelessness, and then the relief of the water at the end.

    • Charli Mills says:

      If every person could tune in to his or her own back yard, we’d be sharing a broad perspective. You just globalized my idea of drought and to think that a place called “the Green Lungs” is dry chills me. Denial comes from our disconnection, I believe. Politicians have their own agendas and I’m not sure what to do about that. But there are some decent proponents. We need more. We need to connect to our earth roots. Thanks!

  5. Pete says:

    Love the flash, Charli, I like the use of the short sentences that work to punctuate the action and desperation. And I like happy endings too!

  6. Pete says:

    Man’s Wrath

    It came from above. Fish scattered as the earth moved. Land slid and rocks shifted. Driftwood slammed to the ocean floor, releasing thick clouds that smothered the light.

    It was carnage, how mankind mangled the sea, trampling the coral reefs and contaminating its magical blue waters. The wreckage was everywhere: the sunken ships, the murky fog of filth and trash, the ghastly tangle of his net, swooping in like a giant mouth. The fish plunged deeper into the angry waters, searching for refuge…

    “Scottie, how many times do I have to tell you? Get out of the fish tank!”

    • julespaige says:


      A unique perspective. When I first read Scottie – I have to tell you I thought of Star-Trek and was wonder what Captain Kirk was up to.

      My Father-in-law made it a point to cut up the plastic loops that held a six pack of soda because he didn’t want fish to get caught. So much trash… I recycle – but I know I can do better. We all can.

    • The effects of a global issue captured vividly in a microcosm. I loved the twist at the end. Good one.

    • jeanne229 says:

      Very clever. A small apocalypse! Love the POV here. And beautiful writing too.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Great story that parallels what is happening environmentally with a light-hearted twist. Yet the greater message remains.

    • Norah says:

      Love the build up of tension, picturing crisis on a global level; then relief at it being only a fish tank. Hmm. Only a fish tank. Could that be what we are to others beyond?

      • Charli Mills says:

        Norah, your comment made me think how each little fish tank in our lives leads to a greater global impact. In reverse, we can take care of our world one fish tank at a time. Of course, we all need to do this together! 🙂

      • Norah says:

        That’s very true! We are in it together. 🙂

    • I enjoyed this take which had me angry at mankind for what they are doing to our environment and then you had me laughing seconds later that it was occurring in a fish tank. Great twist but certainly had the reader thinking about the wider implications of our actions.

  7. […] August 26, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the need for help in an extreme weather event. Is the help local or global? Does it arrive or the plea go ignored? It doesn’t have to be fire. Think about extreme weather occurrences and consequences. […]

  8. julespaige says:

    Hurricane Sandy

    Somewhere in the Midwest, a major weather event
    happened several years ago. A whole town lost its’
    footing. Yet the people would not give up – Someone
    knew someone who organized other people. That’s
    how a Jewish Congregation on the east coast started
    helping – becoming an annual bus trip to help the
    town rebuild.

    The first year it was one bus, and the next year two.
    Those who didn’t go gave money and supplies for
    those who did. The rabbi goes every year. It’s a mitzvah
    – a good deed that no one expected recognition for.

    Here is the post link:
    Hurricane Sandy

    • Charli Mills says:

      Such a great line and truism when seeking help — someone knew someone. A great BOTS!

      • julespaige says:

        I just read what BOTS meant somewhere… but I forget what it means…something about the piece being non-fiction. It has been said truth can be stranger than fiction 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Irene taught us the term — based on a true story. Even non-fiction can tell a story. And yes, often truth is the unbelievable one!

    • Norah says:

      I think those are the best kinds of good deeds: those that require no recognition and seek no reward.

      • julespaige says:

        Ever see a Hospital that has a wing named after someone. Why can’t they just build it or donate without having ten foot letters that can be seen from twenty miles away?

        I guess it just irks me that volunteer time of selfless folks doesn’t get near enough recognition. But then on the other hand… sometimes it is much better that way too. It seems thought that there is a ‘general pool’ of a few volunteers that seem to actually ‘do’ everything. At least sometimes.

      • Norah says:

        Sometimes those wings are named after people who did good works without the need for recognition or reward, but they got the recognition and others got the reward of their efforts. But I know what you mean.
        Volunteers don’t necessarily get a lot of recognition, but I guess if they are volunteering, their contribution may be enough reward. I know that my work as a teacher, though not a volunteer, often went without recognition, but it always had its rewards.I agree with you about that ‘sometimes’.

      • julespaige says:

        I remember reading about some actors… it wasn’t until after their deaths that folks were made aware of their charitable contributions. And then there are some sports stars that have foundations named after themselves. It all has to be put in perspective. If the end result is that people are giving because they can or getting because they have a need.

      • Norah says:

        That’s true. It’s not for us to judge the motives of another. If the effect is positive then that is the main thing. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        And for those nameless masses who do good unrecognized, I am grateful.

      • Norah says:

        I am too! 🙂

  9. julespaige says:

    Charli –
    My whole family is involved with volunteer firefighting. Once one of our sons traveled out of state to help with an underground tunnel fire. Another son has made firefighting his professional career.

    May you continue to get all the support you can and need. Your piece is a wonderful tribute to all those who help those communities that face this devastating phenomenon.

    • Charli Mills says:

      There’s a calling on those who fight fires. I’m in awe of it. I don’t have the calling but hope I can write in such a way to honor those who do. How do you feel, as a parent? Proud, worried? I’ll tell you the same thing I say everyday on fire posts for the area — Thank you firefighters and families! Stay safe!

      • julespaige says:

        Our family has been involved for so long… yes you do worry. But you know they are going to help someone who needs it. And it is almost a reverse in regards to waiting… you don’t want to get a ‘call’ because you know when the job is done they’ll come home, safe and tired. If you get a call too soon then you worry if someone has been hurt. The training is continuous. And if I may refer to last week’s prompt – these men and women always have each others’ backs.

        Thank you. Proud – you becha’, worry, perhaps more about what they don’t say if something didn’t go right. Like a rescue without survivors.

        70% to 80 % of all of the United States firefighters are volunteers. That’s what we should all be worried about. There is a camaraderie, a family that exists as well as politics as usual.

        And you did a wonderful job with your piece.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I hadn’t thought about “no call” is good news. Nor did I realize the percentage was so high for volunteers. I’ve always had a fascination with firefighting. My dad was a volunteer and wildland fires touched my life many times. A high school friend become one of the first women firefighters in Reno, Nevada and my sister-in-law and her daughter volunteer in Kansas. Kate’s daughter fought fires in Montana in 2001 and my daughter, Rock Climber, is applying for her card. My husband was not a firefighter, but he’d take part in mop up crews and fall smoldering timber. It is definitely a family or brotherhood (with many sisters). I hope one day to write more. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  10. jan says:

    If the wind blows down from the north, our air quality goes right down the toilet. It is so frightening. As is your piece of flash fiction. Very real and haunting.

    • Charli Mills says:

      An ill wind…I think when it blows down from the north, we get a reprieve! But not now. Fires in every direction. It’s been a bad season. I hope your neck of the west is doing okay.

      • jan says:

        Today yes but who knows. We’re all in it I’m afraid.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Yes, and we just got word that a new fire is burning east of us and another south. If they burn toward the existing complexes that will be most unfortunate. Any day. We are hoping for rain this week!

  11. Charli, those fires are so real this year – close to your home and mine. We have had some large ones on the Island that have yellowed and grayed our skies, forcing some evacuations and many indoors. Your tribute to the firefighters and their global brotherhood is timely.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I would find a fire on an island even more scary. The skies are sickly in those hues. I hope you can breathe easier soon and keep watchful and prepared. Thank you!

  12. jeanne229 says:

    Been following your FB posts on the fires Charli. Last week when traveling through northern AZ, I was wondering if some of the smoke was drifting down from Idaho and points north. Monument Valley was far hazier than I had remembered it from the last time I was there, as were the canyon lands of southern Utah. Scary phenomenon the way the fires have increased in scope and intensity. And loved your post. Great suspense, and the end was mythological in its sense of deliverance. Looking forward to taking part in this one.

    • Charli Mills says:

      There was a cold front that pushed the smoke further south last week. May have been! I’m rather obsessed on FB. It started out of being prepared, or helping evacuees. It’s grown so much that it’s hard to follow it all. Glad that ending came through, I was shooting for that but not sure if it was too subtle or seemingly out of left field. Thanks! Hope you had a good trip! It was fun peeking at your photos as you traveled!

      • jeanne229 says:

        Well….the trip. Let’s just say North Dakota kicked my ass again, as I explain in my post preceding this week’s flash. I always love it up there though. You get to experience the rural life everyday. I have to wait for small dollops 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Pretty photos of blue sky, and you were strong enough to visit! 🙂

  13. Pat Cummings says:

    Well, my flash this week has fires in it, but only incidentally: Midnight Locomotive ( ).

  14. Norah says:

    These fires are just so tragic, Charli. I occasionally see your posts on Facebook, though I am not over there often. The devastation to nature as well as to humankind is enormous.
    Australia also suffers greatly from bushfires. Interesting to hear from Ula about fires in Poland too.
    Some of our fires here may be as a result of forest management practices. I have read some interesting information about Indigenous fire management practices and their effects on the landscape prior to 1788.
    While some fires here are sparked by lightning also, others, horrifically, are started by arsonists. Some of those arsonists are even firefighters. I guess they are fascinated by the beauty and power of fire. I can understand that. Many of us enjoy watching the flames of a candle or a campfire dance, but the destruction caused by fire is horrifying. There are been many house fires and lives lost, one just around the corner from here, this winter. Many of them were caused by faults with heaters. Sad. The loss is tragic whatever the scale.
    As I read your post I thought about a previous flash you wrote about fire and wondered what you would do for this one. While I prefer the happy ending of this one, there are not always happy endings, and your portrayal of the fire, its heat and devastation is very vivid. Gotta love those water bombs! I wish they were the only kind.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Forest management and public land use are such huge topics in the west by our federal government back east seems to not grasp the nuances of such management and tends to favor the high dollar lobbyists. Many Americans want the land “wild” without considering that even our own indigenous populations once used fire management and that wilderness areas are only tinder boxes of unmanaged forest waiting for an event like we have now. I’ve seen posts that read, “Graze it, log, or lose it.” It’s too simplistic but captures the idea that we need to maintain our wildland areas for the better good of all those interested in preserving it.

      Sad to say arsonists exist. One traveled down a local road just last week tossing homemade bottle rockets to ignite the forest along the road. Five fires started as a result but thankfully were put out. I’d hate to think of firefighters doing such a thing but often they do become suspect for various reasons. Most would do no such thing.

      I tagged this flash loosely to the earlier one. A recent story in a local paper spoke of the two men who tried to hide beneath their bulldozer in the 1867 fire which I had based my earlier flash on. Interesting that the recent fires would dredge up that old account.

      • Norah says:

        It’s interesting that the Indigenous peoples over there also used fire management. Sometimes I think we have moved too far away from nature to really understand it. The dollar is too enticing a goal and it doesn’t matter what is trampled or lost in the process of achieving it.
        How terrible to have five fires started by a arsonist so close to you. I am pleased they were extinguished before getting out of control. I just can’t believe that people would be so (I pause, unable to think of a word) heartless, mean, destructive. I can’t find the word that says it all.
        Both your flash pieces were interesting. I still haven’t had a “flash” inspiration. That might be the path I take this time. I don’t have long left to drag it out as I work (for an employer) the next two days – not much thinking time left. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Aldo Leoplod wrote about land ethics and the impact of living disconnected from the land. You’ll get a flash of inspiration!

  15. A. E. Robson says:

    From wildfires to freezing weather. Life is insecure.

    Freezing Nightmare
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Darned truck. Where did the landmarks go?

    Blasting snow and howling north wind. Tired of walking. Need to stop. No! Keep moving. Rest, yes rest, here, beside the road. Need shelter from the wind. Stay awake.

    Consciousness slides away. Deeper and deeper his mind spirals. Struggling to keep his frosted eyelids open. Slowly, his thoughts welcome the abyss of darkness. It’s so cold. Imagination and hallucination take over. Sleep feels good.

    The ground shakes beneath him.The sound of an engine. A door slams. Amber lights flashing. A dream…

    The snowplow driver knelt beside him.

    The nightmare was over.

  16. I sometimes wonder why there aren’t more scientific breakthroughs in moderating extreme weather conditions. In my contribution to this week’s challenge, Ed is trying to do his part.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I can remember talk of seeding clouds in California back when I was a teen. I would have thought they’d have figured that out for droughts of for dousing fires! Can’t wait to see what Ed has come up with…

    • jeanne229 says:

      That darn Ed! But great practical solutions often come from such seemingly naive and simple ideas.

  17. […] Charli Mills‘ prompt this week is about weather extremes. In her Northern Idaho eerie she is suffering from the Forest Fire season.  It looks utterly grim. I hope it rains soon and for a long time. […]

  18. TanGental says:

    Hi Charli. Here’s mine. Sorry for the tangent to the ‘migrant crisis’. Maybe not weather as such but becoming, in Europe, a perfect storm.

  19. Sooo I’m totally breaking the rules this week, but you will see it was fitting! 1) I wrote a poem. 2) The poem was a reblog I tweaked a tad to meet the flash rules.

    It is about going back into New Orleans a decade ago to help with cleanup after Katrina hit. Man was that a humbling experience…

    • Charli Mills says:

      Wow…I can only imagine what that must have been like. Poems and rewrites are welcome! Sometime flash can help you dig at the core of a piece or see new possibility in it. The end goal isn’t necessarily the flash fiction itself, but what you gain from writing it. 🙂

  20. Sacha Black says:

    So I think I have been living in a cave. I don’t often watch the news, so I never get to hear about these awful events. How close is it to you? It must be close if the smoke is affecting you guys. I am hoping that its just wind carrying it rather than you actually being in danger from the fires.

    Seriously, are there really people that don’t believe in climate change… I mean I know there are, but come onnnnn.

    Ok. Here goes my two pennies.

    Arrogance By Sacha Black

    They were delicate rumbles at first. Tempting my arrogance to ignore them. So I did, I stayed, laptop open, coffee in hand, typing.

    But the hairs on my knuckles stood to attention. I knew I’d made a mistake. The rumbles became thundering cracks and the Earth ruptured.

    The coffee shop tore open like the sun bursting through clouds. My laptop slipped and fell into the ravine.

    “No,” I screamed, reaching for my life’s work. My foot slipped. I held on with five sweating fingertips. Four. Three. Two… At least I’d die with my work.

    Then a hand grabbed me.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I know you don’t live in a cave —you’re nails are too nice! 🙂 Fires are too close for comfort, but we are not in immediate danger. They shift so fast and we have five to watch closely for evacuation orders. Extremes are what scientists predicted. Now we have them and deniers want more evidence! Even if one didn’t believe, what harm in creating better ways to clear up our energy consumption and environment? Glad to see you out and about tossing your two pennies after your successful “the end”! Great flash –writing to the end in another sense!

      • Sacha Black says:

        Pahaha thats so true! my nails are lovely! hahahaha jokes. Not at the minute – no time to paint – too much tapping on the keyboard! I’m glad your not in danger, well…. immediate danger at any rate. I know, I sort of shrank into a cave over the last couple of months head buried deep in the novel. Trying to finish a couple of house projects and comp entries this week, but next week will try to throw in some more pennies!! :p and thank you kind lady, I’m still shocked I won!

    • I used to have nightmares about this very same scenario (except I didn’t have a laptop). You certainly built the tension and the hand came just in time.

  21. I will echo everyone’s well-wishes for you. It’s devastating to hear about these things and from a friend going through it… I do love reading that help is coming from all of those places. I wasn’t aware of that and it’s wonderful. <3 Take care.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I get so excited when I see rigs go past the house or see firefighters in town, still decked out in yellows. It’s such a good feeling to have help. and rain came on Sunday! They’re not out but many are close to 40% contained. Thank you!

  22. ruchira says:

    I loved your take Charli and amidst the high temps and fires…i am hoping your land gets respite via rain 🙂

    My take:

  23. Norah Colvin says:

    […] see, this week Charli is talking about the destruction caused by forest fires and other catastrophic weather […]

  24. Norah says:

    I’m in by the skin of my teeth, hanging in there for dear life. Just made it Charli, tenuous though it be.

  25. Annecdotist says:

    Must be unpleasant – and scary – tasting those fires in your mouth (oops, yeah, where else would you taste them) and I hope things cool down. Over here in England we sometimes have to close the moors because of the fire risk, but it’s not often, and definitely not this year when the weather’s been so autumnal, but there’s not much threat to people’s homes.
    In Europe we’ve been saddened by stories of refugees seeking, and sometimes failing to reach, salvation this past week so I based my contribution on that:
    Hope I haven’t missed the deadline – because yesterday was a bank holiday I keep thinking today’s Monday (it doesn’t take much to confuse me).

    • jeanne229 says:

      Anne the cadence of your piece reminded me of that poem written by a German pastor decrying the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews and the … complicity I guess is the word … of those who stand by and let it happen. “And then they came for….” I have followed the terrible migration stories closely, barely able to imagine the horror of that kind of inhumanity. Your story did good service to those people… brought their experience so close…

      • Annecdotist says:

        Thanks, Jeanne. We are complicit, and yet we feel so helpless – but I guess not as helpless as those refugees fighting for their lives.

    • Charli Mills says:

      This might sound odd, but you can taste the smoke, mouth closed and through your nose! I guess it gets there, but smoke really permeates. For days, I was waking up to the smell of campfire and coffee, thinking I was camping! I learned that the peat bogs we have here in northern Idaho present a special risk to the firefighters — fire travels underground through the drought-dry peat! Does that happen in the moors? I’m so sad to learn of the refugees this week. We have so many sad stories in America, a strange relationship with our Mexican border and “deportees.” I thought you might be interested in this song, it is so emotive in trying to give names to the nameless who die crossing borders: [youtube There’s something humane about saying goodbye and using names.

      • Annecdotist says:

        Thanks for sharing that song, Charli. We do need strategies to remind us that these are human beings. I noticed that some of our news reports have shown attractive young women – usually a cynical ploy – but perhaps helpful in this case to get the message through.
        Yes, that is the risk of our moorland fires, that they travel underground. With climate change, we do expect them to be more frequent, but I think it’s a good ten years since there was any around here. But in hot dry summers they do have to regularly check the temperature of the peat in case one is imminent.

      • Charli Mills says:

        What a tremendous thing, fire underground. Well, you taught me something new! I won’t think of the moors as so eternally boggy and wet. Interesting to show the “most favorable” looks of a migrant to get people to care, but we discussed this before when you wrote a flash about an earthquake and how newscasters zoomed in on the young attractive tourist female and not the native orphans.

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

  27. Didn’t think I’d manage this week, but I wrote it in a fit of insomnia last night at 2 AM.


    • jeanne229 says:

      Ahhh very sad, both the end of the dream of a beachfront home and the impulse of some to gloat in others’ misfortunes.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Insomnia is a good trigger to write! Hope it left you feeling like you could sleep. I’ve been pulling some late hours and fear getting my sleep cycle off after becoming a “normal” early bird. I’m just a night owl at heart!

  28. paulamoyer says:

    A crazy week, but here’s my flash of extreme weather and a rescue.

    One Shivering Southern Belle

    By Paula Moyer

    Her third winter up in Minnesota. Third season of sub-zero highs. Tonight, Jean paced at the bus stop, arms crossed, hands clapping her shoulders to keep – well, not warm, just moving.

    She went through the list of layers: “Next time I’ll …” but no. The extra socks? Two thermal undershirts? Tights under the long-johns? She’d done them all. Nothing more to do.

    The bank sign blinked: 25 below. Her shoulders heaved. She sobbed, then made herself stop – the moisture could cause frostbite.

    Despair. Then …

    “Stand close to me.” Jill, her roommate, just off work. Catching the same bus.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I had to laugh at the out of layers dilemma! There’s a bitter cold that defeats them all and it crawls across Minnesota. I like the rescue by the roommate at the bus shelter. Hope your week is less crazy!

    • I relate to that dilemma. Coming from a warm climate whenever I go south I find my layers just aren’t enough. Thank heavens Jill came along for Jean.

    • jeanne229 says:

      Wasn’t surprised to see a Minnesota winter come up in these pieces. My professor did grad school in Minneapolis eons ago and still remembers feeling like Dr. Zhivago in that winter scene. Beard like stalactites, glasses frozen to his nose, snow and ice that seemed frozen in the sky…too cold for it to even fall. And I remember my face HURTING after about a minute in that kind of weather. Just got to admire the hardy folks who deal with that on a regular basis. And Paula, that human companionship is perhaps the best warmth of all. Happy for Jean!

  29. […] Despite all the positives, this is a land that repays small lapses of judgment harshly. My father’s brother Jerry hit the angle of a ditch wrong coming out of a field in September of 1975 and tipped the tractor he was driving. It crushed him into the land he had farmed for half a century. The poetry of such an end has not lessened the tragedy of it among those who still tell the story all these years later. Then there was my grandfather’s brother Bill, who killed himself with a shotgun at the age of sixteen. I remember Aunt Rita and Aunt Jeannette nearly coming to blows as to how it happened at Uncle Roger’s funeral. Bill was either climbing over a fence or getting out of a truck when the gun went off. Either way, the gun was loaded and the prairie left to swallow the flood of pain that event must have unleashed. And twenty years ago, tragedy nearly claimed my cousin Janie’s son one record-breaking winter. Which brings us to this week’s flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch. […]

  30. Charli my heart goes out to all of those affected by the fires. I have been watching them on your facebook and they are really devastating. The firefighters must be exhausted. Our authorities are predicting a similar summer here. Your president is right and I wish our PM, who is a climate change denier, would pay attention to him. We have to act now.
    I loved your flash with help coming at right at the last minute. If only that always happened in real life.
    I couldn’t stop myself and have done two this week – just pick one and go with that.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Politicians have blinders on courtesy of whoever it is paid for their position. a jaded thought, but how can one not see the increase in extreme events and seasons? Even if you don’t believe, take care of the land that takes care of the people. I’ll pick both! And hope we don’t have to see a fire season follow in Australia!

      • I think it is like taking out insurance. Even if you don’t believe your house will get robbed, or burn down– you take out insurance. We should do just that for our planet. If it turns out there is no climate change (and none of the evidence makes it look as though that is the case) we have just insured ourselves because if there is climate change it will be too late to do anything if we don’t do something now. I said something similar to our prime minister when he was visiting our little town but he didn’t have the curtesy to stay and discuss it but rather went for a drink in the back bar with the boys that were already half full.
        Yes I hope our fire season isn’t as bad as yours has been. Glad to hear you have had some rain. Hopefully you’ll get some more.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Exactly! That’s a great analogy. We simply need to take out an insurance policy on earth. Maybe we can get reductions in premiums for making national improvements. And, more rain fell today!

  31. jeanne229 says:

    And getting mine in under the wire.

    Fence Down

    Paul cranked the ignition. Only the same harsh rasp. And no service on the cell phone.

    “Won’t be an hour,” he’d called, flinging his weight into the white, squinting wind; his mother’s voice a needle in the air before the sky sucked it up.

    Now cold seared a sugar crust onto the windshield. The snow funneled down. It’d swallowed the fence in the south pasture. Now dense, wet waves of it lapped against the tires.

    At least he’d found the cow, he thought, satisfied, settling back, closing his eyes, already oblivious to the sound of a truck door slamming.

    Here is the link if you want to read some background:

    And looking forward to savoring the other flash pieces here!

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