September 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

September 17, 2015

LoveWhen the weather warms the air in the spring, bees rush from dandelion bloom to dandelion bloom. What many might find appalling to a green lawn, is the early nourishment of bees. As fall approaches in northern Idaho, the dandelions bloom again and feed the bees sluggish with cold.

No matter the season, no matter the times, love, like bees, must be fed. From youth to old age, love seeks the welcoming blooms that keep it alive.

The Hub is my cosmo. It’s a big purplish-pinkish flower that blooms when it damn well pleases, but I love its independent, wild spirit. It’s hardy, dependable and reseeds itself year after year. Just as the cosmo attracts bees, the Hub attracts me. For 28 years, in fact.

I’m reflecting on the longevity of love as we approach our anniversary. We’re no spring blossoms, but neither are we dead stalks. What keeps our love alive is the same for the bees — it’s all in what we feed it.

Monday night, our middle child arrived from Missoula, Montana. It had been a dry spell for me. My children are like dandelions that I hope to find in abundance in my life (I don’t mean I want an abundance of children, I just want to see and hug the ones I have abundantly). And I do believe that our love for others strengthens our love for our spouses and significants.

Through my husband I have a sister. I’ve often told her that even if the cosmo of our love fades and the Hub and I are no longer significant, I’ll still love her. By the Hub, we have three incredible children who are wild blooms of their own. Like the papa cosmo, they keep me tethered to the nourishment I derive from loving each one of them. Even my friend Kate who lost her bloom too early for me to stand, leaves the garden of her life still flourishing and drawing me near with new friends to love.

We need cosmos and bees in this world. We need to scatter love.

When we love, we smile at strangers. We open the door for another. We ask, “Where are you from?” and we listen. We see loving acts in the world. We commit loving acts at home. We hold hands. We hug. We feed those at our table. We invite others to our table. We pollinate the world with love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” ~ William Shakespeare

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.”   ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

At this juncture of bees feeding in the autumn of life and that of my nearing wedding anniversary, I’m thinking about love 167 years ago.

On a wintry North Carolina, February 21, 1848, nineteen-year-old Cobb McCanles married fifteen-year-old Mary Green. She had black hair and brilliant blue eyes, a real Appalachian beauty. She was only 28 years old when Cobb was shot, and only one year older that her husband’s mistress, who was another dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty.

Love does not feed with the eyes no matter how much we believe that lie. The bee does not crawl all over the cosmo because it’s the prettiest of all the flowers. Pretty is subjective. The more we love someone, the more attractive they become in our own eyes. Even greater familiarity lends to a higher opinion of beauty. Cobb did not love Mary just because she was beautiful and Cobb did not have a mistress because she was more beautiful.

My theory is that Cobb noticed Mary over Sarah because Mary had a more outgoing personality. Cobb’s own father writes about her nature and how everyone was her friend. Mary loved. Sarah was shy and studious. She loved, too but quietly in her mind and from afar. She didn’t initiate the visits.

What changed? Mary lost her mother two years into marriage. I can’t help but think of the impact that had on her as a young wife and mother. Another two years later and Cobb ran a hard campaign to win the county election as sheriff. His budding career, her growing isolation at home with the children. You can read the strain in the pauses between children. In that longest pause, Cobb turned to Sarah. By then she was 22, a spinster because she wanted an educated man. Cobb was that, although he was also a family man.

And love for family won out. You can see a reconciliation in the timeline between Cobb and Mary. And if she wanted the reconciliation, she knew better how to love Cobb. Through his children. Her cooking. Her support of his career. Sarah became the one dependent on Cobb. She was shunned by family and community. Friendless, she asked to go to Nebraska. Why did Mary agree? How did that impact their relationship? What was the nature of their love once settled in Rock Creek?

Important questions as I explore through writing their stories. Love is broader art than the simple paintings historians give. None have tried to understand the love involved. Family. New friendships. Old temptations. When Mary died decades later, she let her tombstone state the finality of her love — she’s buried next to him, simply as Mary, wife of D.C. McCanles.

Yes, love is the air, flitting among the late blooms of dandelions, marigolds and cosmos. It was with our ancestors and it will be with our descendants. And it’s the prompt for the week.

September 16, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a love story. Explore what feeds love. It can be romantic or platonic. It can be devoted or damaged. It can be recovering or enduring. Focus on characters or setting, weaving a 99-word love story.

Respond by September 22, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Years Later by Charli Mills

Sarah lost her nerve at the molasses pull. David Colbert McCanles flashed like a brook trout in his military school uniform, taller and more vibrant than any in the Greene barn. Mary Greene had nerve. She dominated dances, her laugh rich as summer honey.

That they married so soon took none by surprise. Sarah hid her love for Cobb until years later, when he’d stop by her father’s store at night. “Keeping books?” A simple question that kept her at the ledgers late, hoping he’d see her light burning.

She gained nerve when she should have told him no.

###

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71 Comments

  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Love the flash (no pun intended). Great post, as usual. True about family and being open and able to love more the more you give. Cheesy? Perhaps. But true. Also, good to see Cobb and Co. again this week.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s how I like my truths, cheesy! 🙂 Thanks, Sarah! It get’s me motivated to work on Rock Creek instead of fussing over my gaps or elusive research.

  2. julespaige

    Charli – your flash is going to be a tough act to follow.
    Happy Anniversary. I just had mine. Add 8 or so to yours…

    I’ve just finished my piece… but I don’t have time to post it.
    Hopefully later this evening or tomorrow.

    • Charli Mills

      Usually I view my flashes as not much of an act on their own! I like to use the flashes to push ideas I’m struggling with in my bigger projects or to have a moment of creative free play. But thanks! 🙂 And Happy Anniversary to you, too!

  3. Pete

    Great post, Charli, I’m often focused on my flash so I don’t always comment on your posts or how great it is that I found you site. Anyway this one was excellent and touching and coincides with a story I’m working on so I’m going to cheat some and post an excerpt. Oh, and, happy early anniversary!

    Edwin was careful and patient, steering Dorothy clear of the debris. Broken beams and rusted nails littered the grounds. Shingles from the church house roof that had been removed, splintered boards and shims from the bullet shaped holes where stain glass windows once captured the rising sun. Yet the couple trudged on, as though headed for a Sunday sermon.

    Traffic rushed past the future Rent-to-Own center, past the steeple laying in the grass. Past Edwin and Dorothy, lifelong lovers determined to renew the vows they’d made in that very same church on that very same day fifty years ago.

    Link to the full story here:

    https://lunchbreakfiction.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/the-best-man/

    • Charli Mills

      I’m really encouraged that this flash came through. It’s a crucial element to Rock Creek as a whole, to see this love triangle beyond the simplicity of history’s go-to explanation. And it’s never a cheat to post an excerpt. I’ve found great usefulness in writing excerpts as a flash fiction to find the important nugget of a scene, characterization or plot line. My biggest hope is that we, as writers, can use a regular practice and interaction to enhance our greater works in progress. I’m so glad you found Carrot Ranch! I love your writing and am glad to get to read more! That’s a beautiful and powerful flash!

  4. Ula

    Charli, you always write such amazing posts. Happy anniversary. I hope I can say similar things about my husband when we’re celebrating our 28th – we celebrated our 7th in July. Love is definitely important – most important probably.
    Be back with a flash on Sunday.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ula! And congratulations on 7 years! All things can work through love, though sometime love can be work. 🙂

  5. Norah

    As the others have also said, this is a great post, Charli. Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary. It will be 41 for me this year. As you say in your comment to Ula, love also takes work. But the work can be rewarding. I agree with you about the joys of children and needing them around. I am very pleased to have all my offspring close by, and am looking forward to spending the afternoon with my two gorgeous grandchildren.
    The information you shared about Mary, Cobb and Sarah is interesting. They were so young. Your flash puts an extra twist on that as well so you have given us much to think about. Thank you for that.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Congratulations Norah. 41 years seems such a long time to me but if the love is there it is probably actually very short. We are only hitting 23 years.

      • Norah

        Thanks Irene. One day at time – doesn’t matter if it’s five, ten, twenty-three or forty-one, it’s still: one day at a time.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I agree Norah. It is something to work at and it is the quality of the relationship that probably matters more than the number of years.

      • Charli Mills

        Such a true statement, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah! We decided to give it another year! 😀 It is rewarding work. My sister (his, but I claim her) sent me a great essay about the importance of expressing gratitude, naming our feelings and touch. Congratulation on your upcoming anniversary milestone, too! And yes, those are some of the details I’m combing out of the timelines to put the story in perspective. History forgets how young they all were. Hickok was 23 at the time of the shooting.

    • julespaige

      Best to you to Norah (& Hubby) –
      I’m between you and Charli – as you saw.
      September – OK any month is a good month to celebrate!

      • Norah

        Definitely!

  6. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Charli, Your post was so full of love and I loved the way you linked your loved ones to flowers. Just beautiful. You can hear your happiness as I read your words. Happy Anniversary – 28 years is both long and short. I hope you have many many more of them.
    It was a lovely flash putting a deeper layer to the historical facts. Hope it worked out any dilemma you were having with Rock Creek.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Irene. I like what Norah said about it’s not the number of years but the one-day-at-a-time. Love is work, but love is worth the conscious effort. Yes, I’m finding the flash is giving me some sparks. I was feeling buried beneath the research and needed to “play.”

  7. Katie Sorensen

    Charli, I very much look forward to your posts. It keeps me connected to you. (Thank you Kate for unintentionally bringing me this friendship.) Great post this week. My life is bursting with love right now; a new grandbaby, Mike and Shauna just celebrated 10 years of marriage, a loving husband. I like your reference to loves flowering and fading and flowering again. Love you girl.

    • Charli Mills

      Katie, you are definitely a gift from Kate! I’m sure she’s smiling down on us both. So much blooming in your life right now with love and I hope you’ll write again with us. You have a hidden talent that needs the light of day! Love you too! <3

    • A. E. Robson

      Ed is a good man.

    • Pat Cummings

      Thank you for NOT calling Ed’s move a “sacrifice”… We always choose the higher value (if we are sane). Ed is sane, and Edna is obviously his higher value!

    • Charli Mills

      You’re so right. And Ed demonstrates such class!

  8. rogershipp

    Finding Your Own Way

    “I never wanted this to happen.”

    “I know.” We lay, relaxed, under the old oak back of our dorm. “We both knew what could happen… each seeking separate ways for one year of service. We could have visited. We purposefully chose not to do so.”

    “I still love you.”

    “I love you. But Garth is where your heart is now. I see it when you talk about him. Your eyes used to glow like that when you spoke of me.”

    “We promised each other.”

    “We kept that promise. Let’s just rest here, collecting our memories, before we say goodbye.”

    • Charli Mills

      The love remembered and given up without bitterness. Makes me wonder what will come of this one memory years later? Great use of dialog to express the story.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Have to agree that “sheer excitement in the presence of another” probably does it for me to but I don’t know about whether I’d feel that with a Titan’s championship.

    • Charli Mills

      You are head over heals in love, Dave! Great use of multi-media to carry your story with tweets in between the lines. A big heart for creativity!

  9. A. E. Robson

    Falling in love can be a hard thing to fathom. For some, it is seeing and breathing a place that lets them know this is the future. This is where you will be complete. It is what guides them to a love that is so fulfilling there is no need for anything or anyone else.

    The Beginning
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Weathered hands, brown from working outside, lay resting on her lap. She rocked slowly back and forth enjoying the sounds and the view. The voice from the creaking chair soothed her as it moved to her body rhythm. She could see everything from this spot on the wooden porch.

    She remembered the beginning of their life together. A life that started during hard times and required hard work to survive. The foundation of what was now before her.

    The initial introduction had been love at first sight. She had known from the beginning she belonged here. On this land.

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/the-beginning

    • Charli Mills

      The land can have a lot to do with falling in love. It reminds me of my young love with the Hub and those Nevada vistas he took me too and how much we wanted so badly to have a ranch in a draw below. It still feels like an ache, not getting it, but it’s an ache we both share. Beautiful flash!

      • paulamoyer

        Ah, Charli — the dream-home ache. It’s such a tender spot. My own dream-home ache ended up being the triggering event of my memoir — as you know!

      • Charli Mills

        There’s so much around that dream-home ache. But I do believe that those who have to seek it for a myriad of reasons, have a deeper understanding of what home is.

  10. julespaige

    faithful
    (haibun poem/ flash BOTS fiction)

    there was no theft
    nor any gentle persuasion
    just the meeting and melding
    of two soul mates

    partners honoring
    family traditions; then
    tied the marriage knot

    compromise, honor, respect
    grows love every single day
    ***
    How unusual is it to meet your future spouse at someone
    else’s wedding? We did. Four homes, two children, two
    grandchildren later… wasn’t that just yesterday?
    We think so – though our silver locks say otherwise.

    We celebrate everyday we are together with humor. So it
    is a very nice surprise when I get flowers on our anniversary.
    Because I don’t get ‘em every year.

    ©JP/dh

    The post was delayed because we took some time
    for ourselves; went to lunch, to see a play, take a boat
    tour, have a fancy dinner and an overnight in ‘The Big Apple’.

    The whole (with a tad bit more explanation) post can be found here:
    faithful /haibun-flashfiction-BOTS

    • Charli Mills

      Another creative expression! Love must inspire that openness of heart. I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I spent mine quietly with the Hub, watching movies and sharing wine.

  11. paulamoyer

    One of my favorite love stories, that of my parents:

    Neighborly Romance

    By Paula Moyer

    Frances met Bill in third grade. Classmates ever since. First semester of college, both were music majors. She was his assigned accompanist. He played trombone.

    Pearl Harbor.

    Bill enlisted, Asked Frances to write to him. She did. They drifted apart.

    Five years after the war, Frances walked home from the bus, right past Bill’s. His mother looked out the window.

    “Bill, Bill,” she called. “There’s Frances! Better go get her.”

    Bill called out the door, “Need a ride?”

    The ride became dinner. Two weeks later: “Will you be my girl?”

    They married six months later: 55 years, three kids.

    • Charli Mills

      I can understand why that would be one of your favorite stories!

    • Pat Cummings

      “a world where you aimed to get by, not ahead…” How powerful! I am in awe of the simplicity…

      • Sarrah J. Woods

        Thank you! I think the simplicity came from the 99-word form; it really helped me cut out extraneous stuff to get to the heart of the story.

    • Charli Mills

      I agree with Pat. The simplicity is in your sharp details that reveal so much. A beautiful flash and powerful writing.

      • Sarrah J. Woods

        Thank you so much! I am finding the 99-word limit really helpful for teaching me to say more with fewer words. Thank you for that, too, Charli!

      • Charli Mills

        I find the form a useful instructor, too!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, your labor of love! A great twist I didn’t expect!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anne! It was a quiet celebration this year, relaxed. Enjoyed your reflections and as always, you hit the mark like Cupid!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruchira! We have many more to come, but as Norah said, all relationships are one day at a time. :-)Thank you for your take!

  12. TanGental

    Linda is a devoted saver of bees; when it pours down she’ll carry any she fears might be drowned into the greenhouse until they’ve dried off. Heaven knows how many petitions she has signed to ban pesticides that might harm them. It’s all part of her many Bee Causes
    Here’s my little effort. Number 67 in the series!
    http://geofflepard.com/2015/09/21/love-is-the-drug/

    • Pat Cummings

      Quick thinking on Paul’s part; he is obviously NOT dumb!

      • TanGental

        probably a bit of animal cunning though…

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes! Good for Linda! We share a similar love of the little buzzers.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome, Cindy! So happy you found the trail from Poland to Idaho. The ranch is rather global. 🙂 Thank you for joining us!

  13. Norah

    Hi Charli, I’m looking at love from another angle – what else! http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-yD

    • A. E. Robson

      A beautiful way to demonstrate the love of a parent for a child.

    • Charli Mills

      How sweet! The Hub and I were just looking at Venus early this morning, about 5 am. It was like a headlight on the eastern horizon. Star gazing with children is a wonderful way to tell stories.

      • Norah

        Romantic! Venus – the evening star and the morning star! Looking into the sky at night has a special mystical quality. (I don’t often see it at 5 am!)

      • Charli Mills

        I don’t either unless the dogs feel the need to go outside at that hour!

    • Charli Mills

      No hurry! I’m on the tail end of time and more of a night owl than an early bird. 🙂 Glad to see you ride in again this week! I enjoy your writing!

    • A. E. Robson

      I can see those puppy dog eyes melting your heart as they willed you to share your dessert.

  14. Charli Mills

    You are welcome to post at Carrot Ranch anytime! I was delighted to find your flash fiction stories!

  15. udosdottir

    oops, sorry, I wasn’t aware I was sending out pingbacks (blushes). There is no point in hiding now, I guess.

    Thank you for this wonderful blog and weekly prompts!

  16. Charli Mills

    Come join us at the campfire! It’s a friendly crew! 🙂

  17. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch! Beautiful flash where love begins with a dream.

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