December 2: 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.

December 3, 2015

December 2My day has been plundered, and it’s barely begun.

My head, stuffy with a lingering cold, makes me slow this morning, but I can still hear the Hub talking in irate tones downstairs after I drag myself from bed. It can mean several things – he’s on the phone with the VA; he’s trying to reschedule a needed work release appointment locally after the VA sent them the wrong documents; or it’s with our “internet” provider.

Think of Austin Powers a moment, making finger quotes – that’s how I mean, “internet” provider. It’s bad enough that we only have satellite options in rural Idaho, but ever since we switched from HughesNet to Excede we’ve had nothing but problems. In fact, the company name means we “exceed” our quota of data every month. Satellite is slow – I dream of having dial-up – but we blow through our 15 gigabytes in about three weeks. With HughesNet we typically used 8 gigabytes a month.

This morning the company tells Todd that in July we had a service reset our router password. What? If they know that, why are they telling us in December? If I log into my Gmail from a new computer, I get an email alerting me to the action. If I change my password on a social media site, same alert goes out. We never changed our router password; in fact it’s the same password. But someone actually used a “service” to hack our router.

It’s Rocky Mountain piracy, that’s what it is!

You can actually purchase boosting equipment to pirate someone else’s satellite. And now we know you can also use a service to get access to someone’s wireless router. Pirates struck once before when we had no password, so we bought a new router and password protected it, thinking we were safe. Well, the Jolly Roger flies over Elmira once again.

That’s not all. I wander downstairs still not feeling hungry enough to cook, so I grab a box of Wheat Thins and pour a big mug of elderberry concoction. It’s my own health tonic from elderberries I wild-crafted in September and keep frozen. I boil a cup of berries, mash them through a strainer, add local honey, heaps of cayenne, grated fresh ginger and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Determine to kick this cold, I double the dose and heat it up in a mug. The cayenne burns my sinuses, throat and ears – ah, this is a good thing. The burn penetrates the good stuff quicker.

Now I’m super dizzy. I watch the flames in the fire, knowing I need to get to writing upstairs, but I just want to doze off instead. I wasn’t feeling this bad earlier. That’s when the Hub walks in and asks if I liked my spiked cold stuff. Spiked? What is he talking about?

Two nights ago when I was feeling achy I though a shot of whiskey in my elderberries might be the equivalent of Nightquil Cold & Flu Medicine before bed. I bought a small bottle of Jack Daniels for my cranberry sauce, but found it empty and grumbled to the Hub. He claimed innocence, and then I remembered the kids made squash nog and probably finished it off. Somehow the Hub thought my tonic needed booze. Without telling me, he bought rum and added it to my jar.

I drank a full mug of rum-spiked elderberries for breakfast.

How could I taste anything beyond the cayenne? The Hub just grins while I groan. He repeats some inane t-shirt saying, “Drinking rum before 10 a.m. makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic.” Now I have to see if Hemmingway’s theory holds up, “Write drunk, and edit sober.” Coffee, more crackers and a walk in the cold morning air takes off the edge and by the time I return feeling less of a pirate, the Hub has succeeded in resetting our equipment and getting a discount from Excede.

Arrr, mateys, we’ll get through this day, yet! All I need now is a parrot.

Last week, I caught a terrific parrot story. Writing for Go Idaho Magazine is a great gig for me. Although I tend to be an introvert, preferring my own port over sailing the high seas, I love stories. It’s how I best connect with people. I come out of my port for stories, and that’s my job with the magazine – find interesting and fun stories.

So, at Chateau de Pomme de Terre (earth apples are potatoes, so Castle Potato) there’s a beautiful oil painting, a copy of a Renaissance portrait featuring a parrot. The castle owner missed out buying the original and commissioned an artist friend to recreate it, using his own parrot. The collection of arms and armor at the castle reminds me of things pirates might clank around with, but you won’t get plundered if you stay at the guest castle.

Before you start wondering just how much rum I had for breakfast, let’s get to the prompt!

December 2, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a pirate story. It can be about pirates or piracy; modern or of yore. Swashbuckling, parrots and rum can be involved or maybe you’ll invent details beyond standard pirates.

Respond by December 8, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Pirate of the Plains by Charli Mills

Frank Wilstach guided Sarah up the steps of the Robbins Hotel. “Table for two.”

The hostess regarded Sarah the way one might a dog seeking entrance. Sarah stood as straight as her 92-year-old frame allowed until the woman relented.

Sarah folded her hands. “Folks in these parts have long memories.”

“It’s McCanles, right?”

Sarah regarded the eager Hickok biographer. He wouldn’t understand the tensions of those past days, of church shunning and land grabs. “Yes, Sir. Let me tell how he became the pirate of the plains.”

Wilstach wrote furiously in his journal. Sarah smiled, enjoying her free lunch.


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  1. paulamoyer

    Feel better, Charli! Good luck with the piracy thang. I will contribute later. Divine flash — loving Sarah.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Paula! This comes from a scene I re-wrote and I think I’ve got Sarah in sharper perspective now. 🙂

  2. Norah

    Piracy on the plains! Stealing your data. I don’t like the sound of that. Interesting that you are looking forward to dial-up. We haven’t had dial-up for years. It is so good having cable now. It used to be frustrating having the phone line tied up, taking ages to get a response and the line dropping out frequently. Cable and wi-fi now is so much better. Our national broadband system, when it finally reaches us, will be even better.
    Your writing gig sounds fun. I like that the castle owner had a painting made of his own parrot. What beautiful birds they are. I recently saw a man at a market with a real macaw on his shoulder. It was obviously a well-trained (maybe read “constrained”) bird. I felt sorry for it. They are stunning birds, but not meant to be tied to a human, and I guess it probably had its wings clipped too.
    It is interesting to read this flash now from the end of Sarah’s life and of the journalist who came to interview her. Great stuff Charli. The flesh of your story is filling out.
    But aw gee! We’re back for one week to respond! I hope the pirates don’t steal all my time. Time is my greatest treasure at the moment. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Sigh…seems we can’t even get dial-up. The local phone provider says they might have DSL options for us in maybe two years, but they said that two years ago. We simply don’t have the population density to warrants the millions of dollars to install fiber optic and there are not enough satellites over northern Idaho. GPS doesn’t work up here, either. Is your national broadband hitting remote and rural areas, too? I hope time is not a pirate, Norah! It is a great treasure! 🙂

      • Norah

        I’m pretty sure the national broadband is meant to include remote areas. It is/was meant to give everyone access to the internet. We have had some changes in government and policy and I’m not totally up-to-date with the latest. I was really surprised to hear you didn’t have access over there. I thought everyone would.
        We’ll have to do our best to avoid those time pirates! 🙂

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Yes the National Broadband is reaching rural and remote. Friends in Gloucester have already been hooked up and are loving the new speed that they are getting. Probably also loving having a reliable service.

      • Charli Mills

        It was something I didn’t even consider; I assumed broadband was everywhere. What’s frustrating is that the fiber optic cable necessary for it cuts through our property. But we don’t have enough residences to warrant the relay station and then cabling to individual houses. Satellite is the solution but it’s sketchy. Our original provider was slow but steady.

  3. Sherri

    Well rum that early will plunder your morning for sure…glad your walk in the fresh air helped clear the cobwebs (or should I say parrot feathers) and Todd got the right action from your internet provider. Hope those pirates sail far from your shores and fly the Jolly Roger elsewhere. Love the image of Sarah smiling at her ‘free lunch’…her moment to talk. Wonderful. I’ll be back Charli, barring further misadventures, with a flash and a pint of grog or two 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, yes, it felt like pirate feathers on the brain! The pain of having to reset all out technology is now over and hopefully it was worth it to thwart the local pirates. Cheers with a grog to smooth adventures this week!

      • Sherri

        Cheers 😀

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Pirates! 😀 What?! Love the flash: “pirate of the plains.” I’m so sorry about your troubles here but I laughed throughout. I’m really sorry… I am ashamed.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, high adventure! Great heroine!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        She was no heroine. Anne Bonny was ruthless. (This isn’t really a flash fiction, now that I think of it…historical fiction? Character profile?)

      • Charli Mills

        She was a real person? Okay, I suppose not a heroine. I was thinking a bodice ripper story kind of pirate. Women can be ruthless, too just often forgotten by the historians. It would be an interesting character to explore — was she really ruthless, or made out to be that way because she was different from the standard colonial wife?

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Yes. She was real. There’s different accounts of what she actually did after her capture but there are no disagreements as to whether or not she was a fierce, bloodthirsty fighter. Actually, she gave some of the men their reputations as dangerous pirates because she was with them…and…you’re making me want to research this woman. You did this on purpose! I said I could never write historical fiction! You evil temptress! 😀

      • Charli Mills

        You can write it…one flash fiction at a time! Try it! Really, I looked at research I thought was way to deep to dive into, but I (ahem) skimmed with flash and then linked the pearls together. You can do this, and you will love it! And I want to read your historical novel already. The way you write fierce females, oh, yeah, I want you to write this!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Oh, geez. I want to write this now… 😀

    • Charli Mills

      It is ridiculous, modern living in the Rockies can get weird so best to just laugh. Plus, rum makes me giggly. 🙂 Hickok get called the “pistoleer of the plains” so I thought Cobb could have a fun name for his villainy…though I know him to be more valiant, like that of a misunderstood privateer.

  5. Pete

    Sorry for you illness/internet troubles, but I have to confess I laughed out loud about your husband sneaking rum into your elixir. Good luck with the service provider!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Yes, I’ll have to be more mindful around him now that I know his spiking ways…as for internet, well, we have some fixes and we’ll see.

  6. Pete

    The van was gassed up and packed. Mr. Locke handed the IPAD to his son.

    “Driving music.”

    “Aye Aye Captain.”

    The van made it exactly seventeen inches before stopping. “And Bryan, keep it clean.”

    “Whoa, where’d you get eight thousand songs, Dad?”

    “’Long ago, there was a place called Napster.”

    “Nap, who?”

    Mr. Locke’s chuckle was cut short as his teenage daughter leaned forward.

    “Piracy, Bryan. He stole them.”

    “Dad’s a pirate?”

    “It wasn’t stealing, Clara, it was…” Mr. Locke turned to Mrs. Locke for support, but instead found a smirk.

    “You opened this can of worms, Pirate Locke.”

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a great take on piracy, Pete! Sounds like his wife is leaving him to walk the plank alone on that one. 😉

      • Pete

        Yeah, she reminds me of someone I know!

    • paulamoyer

      Brilliant, Pete! He couldn’t wiggle out of that one.

      • Pete

        Thanks Paula!

    • Norah

      Love the names to go with the story. Well done. That’s modern piracy all right! 🙂

      • Pete

        Thanks, Norah, funny how an old English teacher showed up in this one!

      • Pete

        I’d like to say say something significant, that it was the length of Blackbeard’s knife, but honestly I have no idea. Thanks, Irene!

  7. A. E. Robson

    Piracy. The word conjures up tall sailing ships and gold doubloons. Imaginary lords sailing the ocean while fearless foe and damsels of ill repute stalk them at sea and in ports. The common goal for these menaces of the water? To own what is not theirs.

    Lots of food for thought this week, Charli. Hope you are feeling better.

    Stolen Identity
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    He stood staring out at the land before him. Tears flowed unchecked down the rugged leathery features.

    He wouldn’t fight back. Couldn’t fight back. They told him he had to leave this place he had called home for over fifty years. They knew what he had done.

    He knew the end would eventually come. He had known that there would be no way to turn the tide. To make it right.

    He had seen a man killed. Taken his identity and his land deed.

    There was nothing he could do now but leave. Taking only what he owned.


    • Charli Mills

      I have that romantic vision of pirates, but I think it was all those romance novels I read in my 20s. 🙂 Feeling better, thanks, Ann! What a heartbreak your flash is and far from any romanticized views.

    • Pat Cummings

      I had the same take on piracy, Ann! Great image from the pirate’s POV…

    • paulamoyer

      Really great flash, Anne.

    • Charli Mills

      Arrr, Larry, can’t wait to see what Ed & Edna are up too!

  8. Pat Cummings

    Okay, the illustration on my blog post was irresistible, but the story is less cute, and returns to a theme I’ve broached before: (Yo) Ho Ho Ho is at . Hope all are finding great giving and sharing opportunities during the holidays!

    • A. E. Robson

      It’s so easy for the pirates to plunder in this modern world we live in.

    • paulamoyer

      Wow, is he every a pirate! Your graphic is so naughty too!

    • Charli Mills

      (Y0) Ho Ho Ho and a rum-raisin muffin to go! Clever! It is a scheming time of year for some. Patience is a great gift to give and share this season when so many seem frazzled and busy, especially those working in retail.

  9. paulamoyer

    Here’s my entry; will read the others later:


    By Paula Moyer

    Initially, it was just another day, low-tech and high-tech comingling. Jean filled her stovetop percolator and fired up a burner.

    While waiting, she pulled up her checking account on her Android. Weird, she whispered. Why was there $700 less than she expected? A payment to a used car lot three states away? Really, Sam? she whispered. Her husband adored collector cars.

    Then she called the car lot. It was worse. The dealer repo’ed some jerk’s car. The jerk hacked into their account, paid off the car – with Jean’s and Sam’s money.

    An old problem in a new century: piracy.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s even worse than hacking to steal gigabytes from your neighbor. A real modern piracy problem.

      • paulamoyer

        It definitely wasn’t my favorite event in my life!

      • Charli Mills

        What a shock to realize!

  10. rogershipp

    An Interview with My Life-Long Friend

    “Christmas morning, 1962.”

    “He guarded on the outside edge of the bed. Kept the boogie-man from reaching up with his long arms to snatch me away.”

    “Like a charm… El Coco never got me.”

    “Yes, many different out-fits. He was born wearing a motley, blue-checkered coat offsetting his golden fur.”

    “Mom and I placed him in my overhauls. Pudgy graduated to guard duty to the corner of the piano.”

    “About your age?”

    “His eye? It was just lost through the years.”

    The next day an envelope was on my desk.

    To Pudgy.
    Your New Freend.

    Inside … an eyepatch.

    (This one is a true story.)

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, that’s a sweet take on the prompt!

  11. Annecdotist

    Sorry about your cold, Charli. As you are the second one of my blogging connections who’ve gone down with a virus, I’m anxious now that mind from a few weeks ago has been passed on through the airwaves. But given your antique Internet connection (satellite sounds fab until you say dial-up would be an advancement) it would be even more sad if it got to you that way. Gosh, I’m amazed at how much you manage to do online with a dodgy connection. Another of the many reasons you are such a star! (But then for someone to steal it – how low can you get?)
    Look forward to seeing how your writing went with a dose of rum – that flash was an excellent start.I’m so glad Sarah enjoyed her free lunch.
    After an initial hiccup, I had fun reflecting on the various forms of piracy and hereby bring you mine

    • Charli Mills

      The cold is abating; perhaps the dose of rum did the trick! Still having connection issues and might have to go into a coffee shop in town. Not a bad prospect, once in a while! Hopefully only internet viruses are passed through technology, but who knows? Maybe a sci-fi writer will take that idea of a technological human virus. At first, I read your link as “Pop Pirates”! 🙂

  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Hope you are feeling better by now Charli and that you found the writing you did whilst teetering after the tot turned out to be great but not great enough that it sends you into a life of drink.
    Your internet connection sounds like ours was when we had the farm. Now (not to rub it in) we have a great connection and because we were used to slow or non-existent it seems so fast although we still don’t have the best technology available. These days it really is crucial to have a reliable connection that doesn’t cost you the earth.
    With these two trains of thought I can easily see how the prompt Pirates came into being. A prompt I thoroughly enjoyed.
    Your flash I found sad – folks have long memories. How lonely she must have been. Glad she could stand tall and get her free lunch.

    • Charli Mills

      No teetering the tot and writing habits for me! I think I need to be wound up to write! Internet connectivity is sketchy in rural places. As a writer’s retreat, this is definitely the place to unplug! We have no phone, no tv and slow internet.

      That’s the part of Sarah’s life that has made me sad, too. The lunch is fictionalized, but the interview is real. Sarah was known to show up at friendly folks’ homes around supper time. I think she didn’t eat much and I wondered how Frank Wilstach got her to talk to him. Lunch seemed a likely exchange.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Glad to hear it. Hopefully one day unplugging at the ranch will be a possibility for all of us.

      • Charli Mills

        I can’t wait for the day you can unplug at the ranch! 🙂

  13. Norah

    Hi Charli, Here’s my offering. I really enjoyed thinking and writing about this one – put me back into an early childhood classroom for a moment. Thank you for taking me somewhere I hadn’t been. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Glad this prompt could take you there! It’s always a pleasure to learn from your teaching experiences.

      • Norah

        Thanks Charli. 🙂

  14. julespaige

    I’m going to have to get back to this…
    On the computer note – I’m not quite sure it is related to you situation.
    But we have had to deal with adding some electronics to our system, so that they are accepted. Like an Electric book. Anyway my hubby was saying that he doesn’t allow our system to show up when others are looking for whose ether system is out there. Say you are at a hotel…you have a choice of whose system you can go on. The hotel might have one or several but you need a code to get on. But other systems show up like Joesmith47 or mybox…
    That you could choose and if they don’t have a password you could, well borrow their internet access. So maybe there is a way to not have your ‘router’ show up so that ‘Pirates’ don’t even know you are out there?

    I hope I explained that correctly because, well I’m not the computer geek of the family. But maybe there is enough info that you can ask the right questions of someone who might know what they are doing. Good luck, Charli. And I hope you feel better!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, I think I know what you are talking about. I don’t know how to hide the router, but I do think there is a way and I’ll find out how. I’m not feeling terrible, but this cold is lingering. Chicken soup is on the menu tomorrow night!

      • julespaige

        🙂 I sent you an e-mail about the router.
        You need the instructions that came with it. Apparently it can be done.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Jules!

  15. Sherri

    I did it! Here is my Pirate flash, and thanks so much Charli for putting up with my ever-increasing lateness…hope not too late 😮 But I had a lot of fun with this, thanks for bringing back some great memories (and music!)… and yes, I do think Johnny Depp is rather scrummy, with or without a pint of grog and a parrot on his shoulder 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, I think I know what you are talking about. I don’t know how to hide the router, but I do think there is a way and I’ll find out how. I’m not feeling terrible, but this cold is lingering. Chicken soup is on the menu tomorrow night!

  16. julespaige

    A tad late to the party but in before the ‘wire’

    Trade Off

    Faith sat next to Jon. She would rather look at him than
    pay attention to the teacher in the front of the room. She
    wanted to know how he drew those special stars. She
    wanted him to teach her how to make them. Jon wasn’t
    interested in Faith at all. But if the only way to get her to
    leave him alone was to show her how to make his stars…
    he’d do it. She was like a relentless pirate. And he would
    pay the ransom for her silence. They both ended up getting
    what they wanted.


    You can find the post here:
    Trade Off

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a great take on the prompt! Love this “ransom for her silence.”


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