September 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

September 10, 2015

September 9Sometimes I lose my way.

Another 10 feet above the power pole at the Amtrak Train Station in Sandpoint, Idaho a lone osprey chirrups loudly. With great brown wings and brilliant white marking, he hunkers in a stash of dead sticks that have been his nest all summer. And I’m surprised to find him still there.

It’s only September and he has time, yet. The osprey will be gone by October, and a local tour boat on Lake Pend Oreille has noticed that only a few osprey still straggle around the lake. This osprey can still find his way to a winter home he’s never been to before.

Osprey arrive in April or May to northern Idaho and build up their nests of sticks. Many have platforms such as this one at the train depot. It helps the birds and also prevents the havoc their huge nests can create on power poles, stadium lights and cell towers. It feels like a miracle of nature that the osprey return.

My favorite pair are Iris and Stanley over in Missoula, Montana. That’s because Radio Geek interned with the Montana Osprey Project and managed the social media for them while she worked on her masters in environmental journalism. Here’s her podcasts. Listen to the intro and you’ll hear the chirruping of an osprey. The train depot osprey the Hub introduced me to after discovering him on his route. We visit in person when we go to Sandpoint.

Often when I feel lost, I look up. Maybe it’s perspective, maybe it’s spiritual, but often it helps me orientate. When an osprey is lost does the bird look down?

I worry this youngling is lost. He chirrups but no parents respond. Usually the parents help teach their young to fish after a summer of feeding them trout. I think of them flying off together, one happy family unit. But that’s not necessarily the case.

My own children have flown three different directions. I’m pleased that at least one, Rock Climber, is close to us in neighboring Montana. But she works to river raft and rock climb and we don’t see her often. Frequently she works or plays in places with no cell phone service. Radio Geek has used her newly minted masters to get a job at Michigan Tech as a science writer and often flies to D.C. in time zones off-kilter to mine. Runner is finishing his masters in Wisconsin and his phone speaker broke.

This all culminated in a crisis for me as a mother missing her brood on Sunday. It was Runner’s birthday and I just wanted to hear his voice. No answer to my texts. No daughters available, either. No Kate to call and commiserate with, and I felt lost. Like the lone osprey at the train depot nest, I chirruped loudly.

Rain robbed me of my watering duties and I was so thorough at weeding that I have nothing left to pull. September is the month that empties out the pond and I don’t like how empty I feel in reflection. Yet, I am a writer. A writer not writing. How did that happen? When did that happen?

An invigorating trip to LA, promising projects in the works, confidence in my writing…drought, dying friend, heat waves, death, smoke, forests closed…weeding, watering, Carrot Ranch, weeding, watering…and I got lost on my writing path.

Carrot Ranch is path light and one I’m glad I have otherwise I fear that every word inside of me would have shriveled like pine needles in the flames.

I’m surprised how productive watering and weeding made me feel until the need ended and I couldn’t pull myself back to the page. It’s not writer’s block, it’s more like loss of focus. I had so many projects going and now I can’t seem to get any re-started. I’ve lost my way. I can sit at my desk and cry, hoping a muse drops me a big trout until I feel I can find my own fish, find my own way back to Costa Rica. I can talk to the sticks around me, but nothing’s going to happen until I write, until I unfurl my wings and do with them what I intend.

On the upswing, my son borrowed a phone and called me. Then Rock Climber called with good news that she had time off next week to visit us. Radio Geek writes so I can follow her trail at MI Tech, the way I can watch the osprey migrate. I spent all of Monday working out a schedule that focus on writing, not the avoidance of it. I can’t say it’s successful, but I’m working the plan and feel like the terrain looks more familiar each day.

Then I had a surprise yesterday. If you’ll go back to the compilation Migration Reflections & Exchanges, you’ll find a story (second in the line up) by Katherine Sorensen. She sent it to me in an email and my heart burst. Katie is a long-time friend of Kate’s. It was a reminder that our friends live on in us. Kate may not be here to write with me, but another friend has offered the gift of sharing words. No gilded offering or sack of diamonds could be better.

I know that young osprey will find his way off  the nest. It’s the only way he’ll survive. We cannot remain lost. There’s too much for us yet to find.

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of.” ~Michel de Montaigne

In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” ~Alice Walker

September 9, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone or something that’s lost. It can be lost in a setting (storm, darkness, ocean) or it can be a feeling. Is there a recovery? What are the consequences of remaining lost? What are the opportunities?

Respond by September 15, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Far From Home by Charli Mills

Mary ignored the nighttime twaddle of unfamiliar sounds while she nursed the baby. After three days on Nebraska Territory ruts, the children needed no coaxing to bed. Even Monroe who tried to act older, curled up in slumber. Settling the babe, she shivered. Not cold. Lost. She craved North Carolina. Longed for home and hearth. Ached for her husband.

Wagon canvas lit up bright as if struck by morning sun. But it was still dark of night. Curious, Mary pulled back the ties to see outlandish hues of green and pink undulating like stars gone mad in the heavens.


Author’s note: Mary McCanles stayed behind in North Carolina in 1859 when her husband set out to find their new prosperity. She was pregnant. She came west later that year with her husband’s brother, his family and her children, including a newborn babe. They would have been on the trail to Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory on September 2 when the largest solar flare ever recorded hit. I can only imagine how such an event would have overcome her sense of homesickness. A weaker woman would have fled. But Mary McCanles was not one to stay lost. She built her home on that strange prairie and despite the murder of her husband, Indian raids, locust invasion and every day hardships of pioneers, she stayed. She is buried on that prairie next to Cob, and her stone reads, “wife.” Mary always found her way.

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  1. TanGental

    What a stimulating post, Charli! I enjoy getting lost if I’m confident I’ll find myself but being lost and believing there is no ‘found’ is the stuff of nightmares. I’m sure this will generate extra special flash. Yours is beautiful and fascinating around solar flares. Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      I discovered the solar flares by accident. I was researching a poem that Cob’s father wrote about a comet and the Carrington Event (as it was called) popped up. I’m uncomfortable being lost; I like to be found! 🙂 Thanks! Looking forward to what this generates.

      • Pat Cummings

        I just read a Neal Stephenson novel that built from a Carrington Event to a present-day EMP disaster with low-latitude Aurora Borealis precursors! It is amazing to me how ideas cluster…

      • Charli Mills

        I’m going to have to look up that book! They said it blew out telegraph systems and operators got zapped. Today? Wow, that would be a chilling event. No screens! 🙂 It is fun to see how ideas cluster and grow and inspire new ones.

  2. Ula

    Wow! You gave so much here, Charli, I am willing to bet the responses will be amazing. Going to think on it for a while. Great prompt.

    I like getting lost or being disoriented. It’s exciting and a bit scary. It also requires trust that you’ll find your way.

    • Charli Mills

      I admire that kind of confidence! I can get lost in research and bird watching, but often I work back from where I want to be to where I am so I can see the way. But there is something about being lost as part of the process of finding what step is next.

      • Charli Mills

        A good lost that promises to lead somewhere even if one is not moving.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! It’s still such a spectacular sight to us today. I can’t imagine what the biggest solar flare must have felt like on the vast prairie as a pioneer! Thanks for joining us this week!

    • DMaddenMMA

      I’m never going to think about a bus the same.

  3. Pat Cummings

    What a wonderful prompt; so many directions it could possibly go! Mine went to being suddenly Mapless ( )…

    • Charli Mills

      So many “directions”… 🙂 I like the path you took in Mapless!

    • Erika W

      creative direction! I liked the juxtaposition from someone who was so proud and confident, still having her license. Presents it well as it’s a problem that affect strong people.

    • A. E. Robson

      A frightening thought to reach a destination and not know why. Something that can happen to anyone, not just those who are aging.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      So much is done by instinct. My problem is I tend to drive and I get to the wrong destination only because I’ve been daydreaming and gone the way I most often travel.

  4. Pete

    Assisted Living

    DeCarlos settled on the porch as the summer sky squeezed the day pink in the horizon. Right on time, the old man shuffled down the walk and wheezed into the metal chair.

    “Evening Spyros,” DeCarlos said, offering a candy bar.

    A small, satisfied grin emerged. Two lazy swats at the bugs before reaching out for Decarlos. His yellow, papery skin—splotched with freckles, bruises the tint of hard-boiled egg yolk—contrasting with the brown, wiry thread of his own arm.

    “It’s nice to be home, David.”

    “Yeah,” Decarlos said, figuring he’d give him a minute before walking him back.

    • Charli Mills

      There’s such an aching tenderness to that end pause, giving him a minute. Your flash makes me think how that sense of home never leaves us even when we no longer know where we should be.

    • Pat Cummings

      I loved the sense of the everyday event given by just three word: “Right on time…” Great story, Pete!

    • Erika W

      there is love here. Maybe of many forms. perhaps from Decarlos to Spyros, perhaps from Spyros to David and the home he loves so much. Perhaps from the writer to someone he was thinking of.

      regardless, there is love here. 🙂

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Sometimes routine is all that keeps you going. Loved the way Decarlos gave him a minute.

  5. digbydigz

    I feel your pain. I, too, am lost. Overwhelmed. Can’t seem to focus on one thing because I’m dazzled by the many. Loved this piece.

    • Charli Mills

      “Dazzled by the many…” I understand that! Time to start with a few. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Erika W

    I thought I dealt with this already.

    But deep wounds leave scars. And I fall again.

    Will I ever stop being able to be brought down in an instant?

    A moment’s reminder and my breath freezes in my throat, my mind lost in fear, grief and pain.

    At least now, I know it passes. I know happiness still exists. Someday this will be something that happened TO us, not something that broke us.

    Time heals all wounds. Bullshit.

    Today, in moments lost, I take comfort in knowing that I will be whole again. Someday.

    Perhaps, for now, that’s enough.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Erika! That’s a powerful flash which captures the emotion of how quickly that sense of loss and brokenness can wash over. I can feel the struggle in the words and hope with the character for it to pass.

  7. Erika W

    by the way, Charli, “stars gone mad in the heavens” is just fantastic. It’s like beauty that’s lost control. Beautiful.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Erika! I feel what might have looked like madness was enchanting enough to encourage Mary to continue her journey. Which she did.

  8. Norah

    Oh, Charli, I’m so sorry you are feeling so lost, and on the special day of your son’s birthday. You have had a tough time of late and have been reaching out in support of others. Perhaps your lost feelings are telling you to stop, slow down and look within, at you, and your needs; where you are and where you are going. There’s no harm in sitting still, and breathing in the moment for a while. When you are ready your projects will awaken and reenergise you. Like Mary, you won’t stay lost.
    Thank you for linking to the beautiful Ospreys. I enjoyed hearing their chirruping and splashing in the water. I very much enjoyed listening to Alison as well. She sounds just as gorgeous as her Mum. I’m sure you are very proud of her achievements.
    Your flash is excellent. How well you capture the exhaustion, and the surprise. I loved the additional information you supplied about the solar flare and you have inspired me to find out more. Thank you.
    Look after yourself. Sounds like we’re all going to be lost together this time. I think that also means we’ll find each other. ????

    • Charli Mills

      I think my lost feelings are telling me to stop watering and start being again. I now realize, that even though it was needed, it become avoidance for me. Avoiding writing is to avoid how I’m feeling. I don’t like to feel the grief. Geez, who does? But I need a balance in my mind so I can use it for the writing and perhaps write through some of these feelings. We can be lost together if we are all found together! 🙂 That solar flare is an interesting incident and an example of where I’m at in Rock Creek — trying to reconcile character timelines with event timelines. Things I didn’t think were important, I’m realizing their timing could have been significant after all. Thanks for the encouragement, Norah! I am finding my way.

      • Norah

        Pleased to hear that you are finding your way, Charli. Interesting that you are mapping the timelines and events in Rock Crock as you find the path back to your writing. Sometimes when there is a particular focus, the other parts of the brain (well, thinking of other things) is allowed to happen freely without attention. I hope you do achieve that balance soon.:)

    • A. E. Robson

      Will they embark on a new retirement adventure? I’m looking forward to finding out.

    • DMaddenMMA

      Sounds like heaven.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes, that does happen! My husband’s Aunt & Uncle sold their house after retiring as teachers and began traveling. They got lost in fun ways.

  9. A. E. Robson

    Animals are used in therapy every day. They talk to us in a way that is sometimes hard to understand. They can be the connection to relaxation and focus. Guiding us to the road we have veered from, or one we have been uncertain we should follow. Actions that speak volumes in their wordless ability of making a point. A simple gesture that may direct us to the path of understanding where we have lost ourselves.

    Lost Journey
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The bay horse knew the kind of therapy needed here. Muscled hind quarters was all that was offered to the woman.

    The mare feels this female is strong; and only needs to clear her mind. Returning to where her soul longs to travel.

    Turning away, ignoring her, all part of the subtle technique in helping the woman to look within. Then, and only then, nuzzling her to let her know she has never been alone.

    These two possess a quiet vibe. A connection few welcome or understand. Support without words. A guide to the path of the lost journey.

    • DMaddenMMA

      I loved this sentence, “Muscled hind quarters was all that was offered to the woman.”

      Wordless discovery is my favorite.

      • A. E. Robson

        They have a way of telling you just how it is. Their actions can definitely speak louder than any words.

    • Charli Mills

      This is beautiful, Ann. Horses are the best therapists. When we moved to Idaho and found this place, it came with horses. I loved having them, but was sad that the owners did not care for them. This year we asked if we could bring in our own or let the neighboring ranches rotate pastures in the drought. The owner of the property said, no more horses. I think I’d be feeling less lost if I had the horses here. But that’s out of my control. But I’ve been walking to the ranches nearby and getting my horse therapy over the fence!

      • A. E. Robson

        Horses have always been a part of my life. I no longer own any of these majestic caring animals; however, I too am within close proximity to get my horse fix when I am in need (and even when I am not in need). They have such strength to share with us and strength to make us give without realizing it.

    • ruchira

      Beautiful wordings and the love and emotions flowed well 🙂

  10. Lisa Reiter

    Feels like that time of year when we should all re-group, re-plan and re-energise. Thanks for sharing Charli. xxx

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, it does! “Re” time of year. Thanks, Lisa!

  11. julespaige

    Yes Ma’am it is all perspective – I enjoyed your flash and the background history. Mine is not as dramatic…

    Before GPS and Cell Phones

    Directions are not like recipes. If you want to get somewhere
    you have to read the map and know how to use a compass
    rose. Where the sun rises and sets and how to find north.

    Didn’t help when they painted or changed buildings. Or when
    one crosses state lines because they can’t get off the highway.

    Getting the feel of the newest neighborhood and where the
    streets go, only gets better with time. Say about twenty five
    years or more? At least that’s what Maggie thought. Having
    a full tank of gas helps.


    Yes, I am ‘directionally’ challenged – and I have gotten better.
    Now though that I’m older, I prefer not to travel alone or at
    night. Maybe one day I’ll upgrade my flip phone for a smarter
    version. But it still helps to have a map in the car… so I can
    humanly recalculate and get my bearings.

    You can see the post here:
    Before GPS and Cell Phones

    • A. E. Robson

      I can relate. We still carry maps and know what you mean if a landmark/building changes. Makes for some interesting adventures.

    • jeanne229

      I have a smart phone and celebrate the techno advances that have led to it. Such ease! But I love maps too, love the wires that light up and buzz in my brain when I open one up, the sense of adventure when I trace the roads and rivers, and locate a town or mountain. I think the young should be given the new technology only when they have mastered the old…

      • Charli Mills

        What a great idea!

      • julespaige

        I know my boys learned ‘Mountaineering’ in Scouts’ Compass, map, knowing the side of the tree that moss grows on… Maybe I need to look into that 😉

        Though I am not good with math myself… I think calculators need to wait until Senior year in HS. No one really knows how to estimate anymore. So Yep I agree with that last sentence of yours 100%.

    • DMaddenMMA

      I’ve gotten lost in a parking lost before. My excuse was that it was foggy.

      • julespaige

        When ever I park in a large lot I take two reference points so most of the time I can find my car again. I’ve also got a decoration on top of my radio antenna – that has helped too.

        For those places I shop at regularly I try and park in the same spot 🙂
        OK it may be at the far end of the lot and bonus under a tree… but it works for me.

    • Charli Mills

      Maps work great before going somewhere. I have one of those supposed “smart phones” but prefer the map. Good thing the Hub knows his directions!

      • julespaige

        GPS was great, but now smart cars and smart phones have outdated that helpmate. At least with a paper map the battery won’t die…

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve wondered about our dependence on electronics! One big solar flare and — oops!

  12. julespaige

    I’m having some connection issues via my phone company… that messes up my net access too. I hope to be back to enjoy others stories.
    Hopefully it will be fixed by Tuesday.

    • DMaddenMMA

      Oh no! Your connection is lost!

      • julespaige

        Turns out it was brittle phone wires that were broken when a different repair for someone else was attempted. I’m back in business now – I hope.

    • Charli Mills

      Lost connection! 😀 We know you will be found!

      • julespaige

        Turns out it was the phone company… and hopefully it was fixed yesterday.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s good to get reconnected. We have satellite Internet and if it goes down, it’s days before the company can fix it.

  13. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Charli, you have had so much sadness and stresses in such a short space of time it is no wonder you are feeling a little lost. It will return. I haven’t experienced children leaving the nest but that must be harder than anything despite the immense pride you have for them that they have earnt.
    I love the explanation of the flash – the Carrington Event. It would have been some sight. I would love to see the Northern lights one year as that too must be just amazing.
    What does twaddle mean in American? Here it means nonsense.It wouldn’t have been much fun being lost with a new born in those circumstances. The sky gave her time to regroup just as you will.

    • Charli Mills

      At least my lawns and garden did well. Time to refocus and find my way back to the page. The northern lights have been out but we keep missing the show. The Hub sat outside at 1 a.m. waiting but instead he listened to the bucks chomping apples and watched stars. I woke up last night and stood in the window looking for the glow. I’ve only seen them once. I can imagine that the Carrington event was amazing.

      Yes, twaddle means nonsense. Not sure if that worked but trying to convey meaninglessness in the sounds Mary heard as the prairie is so different from where she had lived all her life.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I didn’t realise you would see the Northern lights so far south. I hope you catch them one night.
        Aha! I get what you were trying to say. I don’t know that twaddle works but I can’t think of any other word to convey your meaning either so perhaps it does. She had to be one tough lady to make that move.

    • Norah

      I thought ‘twaddle’ was quite effective. Since Mary didn’t recognise any of the sounds, she couldn’t make sense of them, didn’t know what she was listening to, and so couldn’t interpret them – all a bit of non-sense to her. I thought together with ‘unfamiliar’ they worked quite well. It’s interesting how we each pick up different words and the way they add to or detract from meaning for each of us.

      • Charli Mills

        Part of the fun in writing is selecting words; the other part is gauging reactions to those selections. I was also hoping to show that she was more irritated than frightened by the newness of the sounds.

      • Norah

        Yes. I think that came through too. 🙂

  14. jeanne229

    I’ve been saving this post for a moment when I could slow down and relish it. Now I know why some invisible hand stayed me from opening it earlier. Both your reflections leading up to the flash and the beautiful story you crafted from those feelings of loss and disconnection found their mark. It sometimes seems you speak right to my own heart, though you cast your stars out to all of us. My daughter moved to Oakland two weeks ago. Her physical absence is beginning to find correspondence with an ache all through the middle of me. And, I am in avoidance mode with my own writing, creative sparks spinning in my head only to escape into the ether, trailing thin wisps to death. I plug on with my paid work, distract myself with tasks. But you! You write. Despite the sorrows and smoke of summer… I loved the flash and the story of your inspiration for it. Have been delving into my own pioneer past since returning from North Dakota, thinking of those women who went before me, wondering at their steadfast strength. And I remembered a glowing, shifting curtain in the sky on a starless night in 1961, my mother’s voice in my ear telling us to look, look, at the Northern Lights. I’ll stop here, Turn all this into a flash. Read the rest of the comments. Revel in this connection.

    • Charli Mills

      This is why I love the full circle of literature — the writing, reading and discussing. We claim that the best stories are ones with universal themes, but really is comes down to sharing real life in a way that others can recognize and share in return. Sometimes I’m not even aware of what is beneath what I write or read something that feels like it speaks directly to me.

      The motherly ache is a tough one and I hear it mirrored in your reflection on your memory of your own mother calling you to look at the sky. We all want our children to look at the sky. Be inspired. Follow the stars. Then we miss them in the emptiness of their going. We look for anchors — in our ancestors, stories. Thank you for the connection, and I know you’ll do something beautiful and powerful with it.

    • Norah

      I love your description of ‘creative sparks spinning in my head only to escape into the ether, trailing thin wisps to death’ – such beautiful imagery, and something I can identify with.

    • DMaddenMMA

      Good luck in office!

      • Sarah

        Thank you! I’ll have to get there first, the election is a year away.

    • Charli Mills

      It makes me feel like we are all in this journey together, and really that is the writing path. To connect. Thanks for doing so, Sarah!

  15. DMaddenMMA

    I was lost on this week’s prompt, but I found something that I thought would work. Thanks for another week of fun Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you found your way, Dave! Your flash is an interesting perspective on the MMA sports and what can be found in the arena or cage.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, it is. And sometimes we get lost because it’s the way to finding what we seek. Thank you, Ruchira! Your take is a new perspective for me, too! I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    • Charli Mills

      Yay! That star was a bright one last night! And yes, I think the McCanles clan needs to do its own prompting on me and I’m working through my “gaps” by using the flash.

  16. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    Here’s my link to an early childhood post about strategies to help prevent being lost.
    Thanks for the challenge.

    • Charli Mills

      Strategies! Oh, that’s wonderful, Norah. Thank you for the map of sorts in your post’s lesson.

  17. Annecdotist

    Another lovely thoughtful post, Charli. I was really moved by your description of feeling lost when you couldn’t contact your children and the simple jobs that had grounded you over the past few weeks weren’t needed any more. I’m glad you recovered enough to write the post and that lovely flash. It’s great that your Rock Creek research is getting an airing in such a powerful way.
    It’s hard to believe you feel blocked from your writing when you can produce such a quality post, but I thought I’d link to my thoughts on writer’s block as something not to be fought against:
    You inspired my Sunday walk in more ways than one – here’s my post on how I oscillate between excitement and anxiety as I frequently get lost out there – and my flash is from a related theme in Sugar and Snails:

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve read your post before and found it interesting; this time however, I found it made more of an impact. The difference must be my frame of mind at each reading. I’m not fond of the phrase “writer’s block.” Maybe if we called it something else — writer’s procrastination or writer’s discouragement. For me, it is important to write through it, but also to pull back and do some planning. I’m more a pantser, but I do need a plan if just to use it to map out where I am and where I’m headed. I’m glad to have given you something to think about on your Sunday walk and that you’ve tied it to Sugar and Snails.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you found your way through the uncertainty. 🙂 Thanks!

  18. Judith Post

    Great post. I need a certain amount of emotional energy to write anything good. Life can deplete that energy sometimes, but glad you’re finding your reserve. Happy writing!

    • Charli Mills

      I find that sharing the writing journey — and sharing life — with others helps to fill the reserves, too! Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! Good to see you at the ranch! You found your way. 🙂

  19. Christina Rose

    I’ve been SUCH a horrid slacker lately! We have been trying to squeeze in as much outdoorsiness as we can before the weather turns nasty! Happy to FINALLY be back in the groove and ready to hit the ground running!

    Great prompt this week, reminded me of my grandmother. She passed away a few months before my birth, when my parents were honemooning in Germany. The family had no way to reach my mother as it was far out of service range. A tragic story, but a moving one about loss nonetheless.

    Here it is! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I feel like we got cheated of that oudoorsiness here in northern Idaho! First the drought, then the heat wave then the fires. I tried to cram it all into yesterday as we hiked/fished/gleaned/explored. But too cold to swim! I hope it refreshes you! Your flash is so beautiful, the way you tie in different remembrances of her to life and death events.

      • Christina Rose

        The 4th of July and Labor Day were pretty much the only 2 weekends we DIDN’T get cheated out of! I totally feel your pain. The beginning of July was just before the fires, we lost the bulk of July and August because it was physically impossible to do more than shorter day trips (due to air quality or fires ripping through where we hike). Labor Day was beautiful, but man was it cold!

        I instantly knew I wanted to bring my grandparents into this weeks’ flash. I feel that any relationship I could have had with my grandmother was lost because of her untimely death. And she was always lost to my grandfather, it is comforting to know they are finally together. So it just seemed fitting 🙂

    • jeanne229

      Cannot help but smirk, not unkindly, at the fretting about “outdoorsiness”issues. Here in Arizona we droolingly watch the calendar as if it were ticking like a clock. Come August we feel positively incarcerated in our air-conditioned cells. I long to walk in the park, to hike the mountain preserves! To get out! October 20th is my personal start to fall–never seems to come before then–or if not fall at least that glorious indeterminate season that stretches from one summer to the next. I am sorry though that you both got shortchanged on summer weather though.

      • Charli Mills

        We might have to visit you in Arizona and get an outdoorsy fix!

  20. jeanne229

    Here goes, an attempt to reconcile two themes within this week’s prompt…

    Luck and Loss

    I’ve read that lightning strikes Earth 1.4 billion times per year. I have never been struck.

    I’ve read that in 2012 669,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year, the bulk of them young adults aged 18–25. I wish I could say my son was not among them.

    One of these phenomena may have more to do with luck than the other, but still I might ask, “why not me?” or “why my son?”

    Whatever rules The Way Things Are, he is lost to me these days.

    I am lost too. But still I search. And search.

    • Charli Mills

      A powerful flash that entwines the two themes! A mother would rather be struck by lightning. Interesting format, starting with facts, statistics and unwinding to that emotional impact at the end.

      • jeanne229

        Almost wrote to you to ask to to refrain from including it in the collection. Didn’t seem a fit somehow, or perhaps I felt it was indulgent or not really a story or … too close to the bone. But, had that image of lightning going ’round in my head, and of course the other thing is always there. And yes, using the facts in a way that hints at some deeper meaning. Thanks Charli for your encouragement.

      • Charli Mills

        When the stories all come together, though they are varied, there’s an interesting disconnectedness, too.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s okay, Geoff! I’m very late, indeed! Spent the day with my daughter which did immeasurable good for my lost state of being. Thank you for taking the time in midst of your busy blog tour!

      • TanGental

        Can’t miss now if I possibly can..

  21. paulamoyer

    I’m late, too, but here it is:

    Monster Dream

    By Paula Moyer

    Soon after Jean started dating Charlie, it happened. The dream.

    A monster was chasing her, gaining on her. Faster and faster. Then there she was in the corner. Again. She opened her mouth. Nothing.

    She tried again. Nothing. Oh, if only I could scream, she thought furiously. Someone could find me and help me. The horrible, huge monster loomed over her. Her mouth was silent.

    “Paula, wake up.” Her father called out. “You’re having a nightmare.”

    All over. For now.

    Scientific: the REM sleep phase paralyzes.

    The bigger truth: Jean was losing herself. Charlie took everything. Even her voice.

    • Charli Mills

      Late might have to be a theme! 🙂 No problem. I do late well on my own and welcome it in others because it is better to write and be late than not write at all. A great realization, often REM is where we work out problems. As Jean discovered.

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Charli! Yes, I think late could be a prompt!

  22. Charli Mills

    One of the best scenes from Hook — Toodles, “Lost, lost, lost!”

  23. Charli Mills

    Really a deep and dark moment caught in a flash. Well-written, Irene!

  24. A. E. Robson

    A gut wrenching piece, Irene. Her strength is to be admired.


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  8. Backcountry - The Plagued Parent - […] Fiction Challenge contribution for Carrot Ranch. The prompt focused on theme of being lost or losing one’s […]
  9. Lost and Found | TanGental - […] is the latest prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. We all lose things, though not always the…

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