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September 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

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.



  1. 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 says:

      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 says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

    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:

    • Charli Mills says:

      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 says:

    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.

  5. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge for this week: 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. […]

  6. Norah says:

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. Katie Sorensen says:

    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 says:

      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

  9. […] This flash fiction is in response to Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  10. I’m no expert, but I think love is about the little things.

  11. rogershipp says:

    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.”

  12. DMaddenMMA says:

    Love Truly Is A Battlefield

  13. A. E. Robson says:

    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.

    • Charli Mills says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

        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.

  14. […] 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. […]

  15. julespaige says:

    (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.


    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 says:

      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.

  16. […] Charli Mills’ September 16, 2015 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge came along, asking us to write a love story in 99 words (no more, no less) – I thought […]

  17. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Prompt – September 16, 2015 (Write a story about love.)  […]

  18. paulamoyer says:

    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.

  19. […] For Carrot Ranch’s weekly 99-word story challenge: this week, a 99-word love story. […]

  20. Pat Cummings says:

    Late a little with my labor of love: Delivery ( )

  21. Annecdotist says:

    While lost is easier for me than literary love, here’s my contribution with a few excerpts I’ve enjoyed from novels (in case my own isn’t up to the mark):
    Congratulations and all best wishes for your wedding anniversary.

  22. ruchira says:

    Happy Anniversary Charli. Wishing you and yours many many years of togetherness 🙂

    My take on your beautiful prompt!

  23. […] prompt from Charli Mills […]

  24. TanGental says:

    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!

  25. Cindy Scott says:

    I was directed here by Ula’s blog. Thought I would give it a try. 99 woids extactly is kinda hard, but I really enjoyed it. Thabnk you.

    #99word Flash Fiction Challenge –

  26. […] I read the challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a love story, I knew immediately that I would share some of my favourite picture books about […]

  27. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’m looking at love from another angle – what else!

  28. […] night, while mulling over the challenge Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch issued this week (write a story about love in 99 words), I decided to grab the pup and go for a […]

  29. C. Jai Ferry says:

    Really last minute this week (I say that every week, I think). Loved reading through everyone’s stories.

    • Charli Mills says:

      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 says:

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

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