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February 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

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February 10

Photo by Betsy Fulling, Courtesy of FSPW

Cute and furry are the mountain goats that live atop Scotchman Peaks in northern Idaho. Even their scientific name, oreamnos americanus, labels them as cute. It means, “a mountain lamb belonging to America.” Aw, what could be cuter than a mountain lamb? Funnily, they are not goats at all, but related to antelope and gazelle.

Nor are they sheep. The Cabinet Mountains, a craggy chain of the Rocky Mountains that span western Montana and the Idaho panhandle, are also home to bighorn sheep. Somehow, they aren’t as cute, but they do have magnificent curling horns. Tourist often confuse the two animals, and I’ve even heard one exclaim that she saw “bighorn goats.” The most notorious case of Rocky Mountain animal identity confusion is the story of the visiting hunter who shot an elk only to find out he tagged a llama.

For casual identification purposes, the mountain goats are cute and furry, white with black horns and beards (both sexes).

And they like salt. Ranchers put out mineral licks for cattle and horses, and it’s not unusual for deer to show up. Wildlife often gather in geological places where they can lick natural minerals, and mountain goats have a clever advantage — the ability to scale rock faces. They also have a newfound source atop the rocky vistas of Scotchman Peaks — hikers.

It sounds adorable. A cute and furry animal, greeting hikers, tongue extended. Like the attraction factor of piled kittens, unwise hikers offer a leg or arm to the mountain goats after a sweaty hike. Experienced hikers, like those knowledgeable of kittens, avoid such encounters with claws and cuspids, or rather horns and molars. Cute and furry mountain goats bite and butt. Last year, the main trail to one of the most spectacular vistas overlooking the Clark Fork and Lake Pend Oreille was closed due to a goat licking that turned ugly. A woman was bit.

Educating humans on good behavior in the wild is a small portion of what the Friends of Scotchman Peaks do. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Phil Hough, executive director of FSPW for an upcoming (March-ish) article in Go Idaho. Their target goal is to gain Congressional designation an 61,800 acre roadless area as Wilderness. However, their mission is to conduct education, outreach, and stewardship activities to preserve this amazingly diverse and rugged area where cute and furry goats live. Anyone can become a Friend. I’m a Friend!

In fact, my first event after becoming a Friend was to help the group decide a raging debate: Wine or Beer? My friend (who is also a Friend) joined me. She sided with a pale ale and I chose Love (a Washington state red). We broke the tie with a bacon-chicken sandwich dressed with greens and blue-cheese. Phil greeted me like a friend, and I made a new one, local author and publisher, Sandy Compton. When I say anyone can join, I mean even a shuffling middle-aged writer who most likely could never reach the top of the peaks to see the goats and shoo them off her sweaty limbs.

FSPW are master community builders, bringing together diverse Friends. You can read more about their community building success in my upcoming article, but two points I want to make here. One is the power of community and the other is the significance of wild places to everyone.

The past two weeks, the Rough Writers and Friends have explored the themes of community and power. They are related. Communities pull together, gather, build up. That can be powerful. What impressed me about FSPW is how they focus their efforts of stewardship. Phil pointed out to me that many environmental or advocacy groups circle the wagons around what they are against. Instead, FSPW embrace what positive benefits stewardship and wild places have for Friends of diverse walks (hikes) and interests.

Wild places matter, even to those who are not active hikers or hunters. It’s important to our psyche to know that wild places exist. Consider the words of great souls who understood the importance:

“And this, our life exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ~ Sir John Lubbock

“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Wild places are vital to writers. We find inspiration between sky and water, roots and crown of a tree, the wingspan of a kingfisher. We learn to use all our senses outdoors and seek wild spaces even if it is a city park or a backyard garden. We feel the pulsing energy of the land around us and we connect through it. We even melt into romantic notions at the sight of a cute and furry mountain goat. And what do we do with this? We write, of course.

Imagine the Nebraska Territory as Cobb McCanles first saw it in 1858. Pioneers had already cut ruts making haste to gold fields, promised land or future farms. Yet few actually lingered in the Territories. It was wild space to get through, pass by and go beyond. Buffalo herds still roamed, prairie fires burned seasonally and native grasses grew taller than a young child. Coyotes yipped and prairie chickens courted. A fringe-culture of traders, hunters, freighters and guides loosely populated the prairie before the Civil War. I believe Nancy Jane Holmes, the third female character of importance in Rock Creek, lived in one of these ungoverned wilderness societies.

Historians may disagree, but I believe that Cobb and his brother Leroy made it out to Colorado and back to North Carolina in the summer of 1858. Sarah Shull once mentioned later in life the brothers went out west that summer. It makes sense because antebellum North Carolina was rapidly on a comet path to war by then. Their father, James McCanles, moved with his wife and three married daughters to a cluster of farms in eastern Tennessee where Unionists were gathering and politicking. The McCanles brothers wanted no part of war and explored the areas beyond the Bleeding Kansas and Missouri border where the Border Wars between slavers and abolitionists were in full swing.

Beyond the Missouri River was Indian Territory. Wilderness.

Family anecdotes passed down through letters and generations say that Cobb and Leroy traveled west together. Some family vehemently disagree that Sarah Shull came with Cobb in late winter 1859. Yet surviving documents prove Cobb hired Sarah Shull in March of 1859. They both signed it so she had to be with him. Likewise, other documents place Leroy back in North Carolina at that time. It’s reasonable to assume the brothers did go west together as far as Colorado, but in 1858 not 1859. They would have passed through Rock Creek or other road ranches like it. Cobb knew Sarah grew up working in her father’s store and kept books. She didn’t want to be left behind where she was shunned because she bore a married man’s child, a child who died. Nothing held her to North Carolina.

But the married man, Cobb, was still married and had reconciled with his wife. They also had decided to raise their special needs daughter, almost unheard of in those days. Where else could a man like Cobb make new opportunities for his kin away from brewing war? Where else could he bring his former mistress to run a road ranch trading post? The wilderness beyond the Missouri River.

As to whether or not they encountered cute and furry animals is open to speculation. But I’m fairly certain pioneers wouldn’t have let mountain goats lick them. Who knows.

February 10, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of weeds in a vacant lot that attract songbirds. What is vital to the human psyche about wild spaces? Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry.

Respond by February 16, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

My gratitude to Phil Hough and my new 6,000 new Friends for the use of this week’s prompt photo. The outstanding mountain goat shot is the capture of Betsy Fulling.


Unseen by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane adjusted the rear sight and held the longrifle tucked to her body. One mule deer, one lead ball. She bit back the curse for her brother for getting himself killed in a border raid. It wasn’t their war. They were wilderness folk, free-landers, friends to Cree and French traders who liked the American prairies.

Movement caught her eye. Jackrabbit. Its long ears upright, nose twitching. If she missed the buck, she’d snare the rabbit. It spooked, and so did the deer when two men rode up on horses oblivious to her in the grass, holding a gun.



  1. Beautiful mountain goat. I had no idea they weren’t goats. Why do we do that? Anyway. I’m really looking forward to reading your article. Great flash, excellent prompt. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with this week. It’s going to be wild. (I am so sorry…I can’t seem to stop the corny puns.) 😜

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hee, hee…I’m hoping it’s going to be wild! Not entirely or scientifically certain about the goat designation because I’ve heard people call antelope desert goats, so maybe goat-ish? I think technically it has to do with hooves and teeth. Anyhow, yes, he (might be she) is beautiful. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Norah says:

    Such a full post, Charli. Six thousand new friends! That’s awesome. I hope they all don’t expect a Christmas gift! Maybe the gift is one of friendship and of working together to save the wild spaces anyway. What a wonderful gift that is. The thought of groups circling around what they don’t want rather than combining to work towards what they do want reminds me of research that Bec has been doing towards her PhD. She has said the same thing. Groups see their fights as different as their reasons appear to be different, but when it all boils down they want the same thing: preservation of the environment and way of life. Instead of fighting each other they would do better to work together.
    The mountain non-goats are very cute and how I envy their ability to walk up mountains. That must be a super power in itself. I’d like those extra points but am not sure how I’ll go with something cute and furry! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hopefully we can decide on a mutual Christmas gift! 🙂 Bec’s PhD. sounds interesting. It seems like a small shift but it really is positive. I’ve interviewed other organizations and often have found them to be defensive or even intimidating. This group really gets community and how to build it. Bec is right — better to work together. Ha, ha — mountain non-goats! Perhaps an unusual cute and furry thing will inspire you.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. ellenbest24 says:

    Just a passer by, one who may not get to Idaho in her lifetime, let alone see your infamous sweat licking non goats. You presented a full post very knowledgeable and friendly, for that and introducing me to the rocky scenery thank you. Your flash at the end was sharp and held me in the long grass looking down the barrel with you. Well writen. 😇

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Sacha Black says:

    Well, wilderness is right up the Firmament’s ally. It’s only a 300 mile wild ice shaft she needs traverse!

    Awesome goats, reminds me of trekking in the himalayas and the Yaks they used. Sound like an amazing opportunity though, and what an enormous space to be turned into a reserve ❤

    This piece is backwards in time. Lexi steps onto the ice for the second time as she head towards leaving the Firmament for the first time.

    The Firmament #9

    I stepped off the ship, and onto the snow covered ice shaft. The wind didn't roar, it screamed and charged across the desolate wasteland.

    I glanced at Luke through my goggles. He blinked rapidly. I touched my glove to him and bellowed, "It's going to be ok. We will make it."

    I stared out at the ice storm in front of us; mile upon mile of white. I couldn't work out what direction was South. A cold anchor dropped into my stomach. Forget getting past the Firmament. I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the edge this time.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Annecdotist says:

    We don’t have mountain goats in the UK (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) but I have seen them in Europe and they are fab.
    Those new friends sound like they’ll really suit you, Charli – how will people be motivated to conserve the wild places if they don’t understand the positives that will bring? While our national parks are not very wild, they are managed in a similar way, emphasising the benefits to us all if we can juggle the different interests.
    Love your flash and the new character – I’ll be back with mine in a couple of days, but would just like to flag up for Rough Writers and friends there’s a giveaway on my blog right now
    featuring work on the edges of the wild North Sea.

    Liked by 9 people

  6. paulamoyer says:

    Great prompt, Charli! Love the cautionary about the mountain goats. Speaking of which, my prompt says a lot about my tendency to appreciate the wilderness from a distance …

    Food Chain a la Minnesota

    By Paula Moyer

    The hike into the park entailed an hour of back-packing. But all had gone well. Jean and Bill set up their tent and then collapsed.

    What had she heard about mosquitoes? Yes. They have favorites. Those with the tastiest blood suffered the most bites.

    “Hey, Bill, did you know …” she began. Then gasped. Oh, her poor sweetheart.

    He had wrapped his hankie under his cap and over his ears – like a French Legionnaire. Then a long-sleeved shirt.

    Even so, his nose – seven bites in a cluster. Bill slapped all night.

    Dawn. The tent walls resembled a murder scene.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. Pete says:

    Point Au Roche

    Inside the path, under snowy pines and over the threshold of root and rocks, Lake Champlain glitters through the branches. My breaths, so primal and forgotten, come to life in the winter wind.

    I’m overcome by nature’s theater. Trees knotted to perfection. The buckshot of woodpecker holes. An absence of urgency. The unfathomable quality of life.

    The greens surrender to the beige of winter, the beige to a scatter of fossils along the glacier-licked shore. Snow geese blanket the sky. Vermont sits across the grey chop. Triumphantly cold and beautiful. I reach the point, heart thumping and fully renewed.

    Liked by 9 people

  8. I know I shouldn’t, but I find it ironically amusing and appropriate that people who allow a wild animal with teeth and pointy horns to lick them would experience unpleasant consequences. Thank you for the guilty pleasure of laughing at another’s expense and the untainted happiness of the mountain goat photo.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge 99 words, Prompt Wide open spaces, bonus for adding something c… […]

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Oliana says:

    My brain is in slow motion this month…must be the cold weather 😉 But this came to mind when thinking of the therapeutic benefits of open spaces.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Sherri says:

    I love the ‘mountain lamb belonging to America’ 🙂 Now that is cute and furry! I always assumed that a mountain goat was well, a goat! Thanks for educating me on that! Not surprised to read about the not so cute and furry outcome though…we had a goat once, and I know they can bite and headbutt 😮 It was great for ‘mowing’ the lawn though… Looking forward to reading more about FSPW in your article, 6,000 new friends, wow! What a wonderful community outreach. Glad you got the beer/wine debate sorted 😉 And your flash, really enjoyed reading about Nancy. Unseen indeed. But I’m glad the bunny got away… 😉 See you soon Charli!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I need that kind of lawn mower — goat powered! As for the bunny, I cheated a bit. Jack rabbits aren’t exactly cute like bunnies! Thanks for reading and for reading my Go Idaho articles, too!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sherri says:

        Haha! It would save you a lot of work in the summer! Yes…Jack Rabbits are what we called ‘Hares’ which are quite different, but it was fun to play with your ‘cute and furry’ theme, as a certain little Bunnykins ‘sprang’ to mind 😉 I love your writing Charli, you know it!! ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  12. […] flash fiction was prompted by The Carrot Flash Fiction Challenge this week and we were to write about wild open spaces with a bonus if you could add something cute […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jeanne229 says:

    Fabulous photo and inspiring post. Wonderful organization you’ve gotten yourself involved in! (Where DO you find the time woman?) Groups that come together to help protect our wild spaces deserve all the support they can get. That is something that came to mind with your rebellion prompt a few weeks ago, which opened my eyes to some of the less savory reasons some folks want the federal government to get out of the way. (Developers!) And found your historical notes on Nebraska in the 1850s fascinating. The more I read of the women who helped to settle those lands, the more in awe I am at their courage, tenacity, and strength. Pondering the prompt. Will be back.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I can get lost in that photo. The goat definitely attracts the gaze but when you look beyond — wow! That’s a view worth hiking to see. Honestly, I love working from home and in Idaho. Except when the internet thwarts me. I enjoy the interviews and have to remember not to get chatty or I pay for it when I transcribe. Otherwise it all meshes, this great interconnected thing I call the writing life. Women really were plucky to settle that wide wilderness. I loved how you captured that in your community flash.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Hi everyone. Here is my “wild” story for this week’s challenge:

    Liked by 6 people

  15. rogershipp says:

    Come On, Mate… It’s Just a Game of Horseshoes

    No longer does my three-point-stance turn beautifully into a fallaway three-pointer with the deadly swoosh. Gone … the days of a perfect toss of the ball forcefully spiked across the net for a ‘40-Love’.

    Life has always been an awkwardness of mixed metaphors.

    My youth-filled ‘wild side’ … sneaking past my parents’ bedroom… absconding my 8:30 curfew.

    Curses! The unwitting savior of the plain’s buffalo has me in death’s throes.

    My six-by-six havens are being ravaged by this obnoxious, impossible-to-kill Sledgehammer grass.

    Perfect twirls and dead-on ringers are being accosted by awkward entanglements.

    This unspeakable horror will not be my Waterloo.

    (Sorry, this one went a little weird?)

    Liked by 4 people

  16. […] February 10: Flash Fiction Challenge In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of weeds in a vacant lot that attract songbirds. What is vital to the human psyche about wild spaces? Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  17. julespaige says:

    I think I saw some relatives of your goats up in the Arizona mountains…
    along with a Bald Eagle! It was on a boat tour in a man made lake. And it was nice an cool – my bit though is from my back yard; enjoy something a tad smaller:

    Pyrrharctia isabella

    I remember seeing more Woolie Bear caterpillars in the
    country. There is an old wives tale that states the critters
    can foretell the coldness of the winter by the thickness of
    their stripes. Science has only proven that the critters have
    only basically stated what the past winter was like.

    The science doesn’t take away any of the thrill of finding
    the insect and sharing the wonder with a child. One just
    has to have a little patience to wait for the Woolie bug to
    unwind from its’ defensive ball and crawl on the skin of
    your open palm.


    The link also has some info on the critter –
    Pyrrharctia isabella

    Liked by 6 people

  18. […] February 10: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Wild places, well wildness in general is one of my favorite themes! I love your picture and your story. I’ve never really been a hiker. Walking in nature, yes but hardcore hiking not really. It’s nice to know so many are supportive of our unspoiled land, it’s needed for sure. Happy Valentines Day every one!

    Liked by 4 people

  20. […] Charli  has softened this week after her power trip with this prompt. […]

    Liked by 4 people

  21. DMaddenMMA says:

    Here is a wild space I found for my 99 word flash.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. […] theme for Charli’s flash fiction this week is […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Here’s my piece, Charli. Not quite the Great Outdoors, but we all have different mileage 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  24. denmaniacs4 says:

    A bit more, Charli, of the times and the trials of Clancy Dobbs.


    The sun was taking it’s time arising.

    Nothin’ new in that, Clancy Dobbs thought.

    Gawd, he fancied that first glint of heavenly blaze, poking up in the morning sky.

    Cold earth chilling his bones, he was damn sure he was getting too old to be sleeping rough. He rolled over, trying to escape two sharp rocks, puncturing through from the mountain’s bedrock, pressing against his spine.

    There it was, as it always was these days.

    The fresh scent of the wild mountains, the creatures who brought life and death to the earth and a Gunman’s old body wearing down.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Pat Cummings says:

    I claim the bonus points, although I’m not sure if marmots qualify as “cute” Dinner Dance is at

    Liked by 3 people

  26. A. E. Robson says:

    With this prompt, there were many visions. My rogue garden came to mind first. However, it was the solitude of Mother Nature and both her exhilarating and calming effect that won out.

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Shrouded in a cloud of dust from the old wagon trail, the truck came to a rolling stop. It had been years since she had been to the meadow.

    It looked like nothing had changed; other than the willows had grown taller. Well, so had she.

    She strolled through the waste high grass. From beneath her boots, the soothing scent of wild mint mingled with bees buzzing around flowers.

    As a child, this had been her playground. Picnics, exploring, honing her nature skills.

    Relaxation for the soul. A diversion for the mind. Then, as now, it was a sanctuary.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m glad this one won out, though I’d like to read about your rambling garden, too! It’s so important as a child we interact with nature. Then wild space become like familiar friends. Great sensory details, especially the wild mint. Once a playground, now a sanctuary.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. […] wrote this poem in response to Charli Mills’ February 10th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild […]

    Liked by 2 people

  28. roweeee says:

    Thanks so much for the prompt Charli. Here’s my version of the wilderness: Beyond Fame…the Wilderness.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 3 people

  29. I diverged and wrote a poem for this prompt – in 99 words in all. It’s titled ‘The Woodlot’s Gift of Peace’.

    Liked by 4 people

  30. […] I’m responding to a fiction prompt from Charli over at Carrot Ranch Carrot Ranch: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a […]

    Liked by 2 people

  31. […] challenge was to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of wee… I’ve also tried for the extra points. I’d love to know what you […]

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I enjoyed thinking about the benefits of wilderness to the psyche. Thank you. Here’s my contribution, with a cute furry creature included! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  33. […] Congress of Rough Writers February 10 Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words, no more and no less, write a story about wild spaces. Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Thanks for the challenge, Charli! Awesomely fun. It was great reading all the other ones on this thread, too. The prompt made me wonder about wildness in ourselves and others. Unfortunately I can’t collect any bonus points, though, there isn’t a single nonhuman furry critter.

    Night Diving

    By Patricia Cumbie

    She would never forget the way the boys glowed silver and blue before they threw themselves off the cliff into the cold, black water. The quarry was eighty feet deep and what was down there? She remembers shivering, rocks digging into her ass. Never got up the nerve. Girls didn’t.

    She couldn’t believe she just sat there, looking down into his casket, his barely blemished face on a goddamn satin pillow, of all things. What was once arch and wild rearranged to be “peaceful” and still. She flinched. Recoiled. Decided. She’d go back and take that vault after all.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Pat! Welcome to Carrot Ranch! That opening line is stunning. You have so much packed into these 99 words, the role the character feels she’s in, the one she’s about to change, the underlying memory and current casket. Wow. You are a master! I’ll post all the stories in the compilation Wild Spaces. It’s always a magical read, to see the various responses in one place. Thank you for stopping by the ranch and having some fun with us this week!


    • Annecdotist says:

      Beautifully poignant, Patricia, and thanks for joining us at the ranch.

      Liked by 1 person

    • jeanne229 says:

      Yes, beautiful evocation of the power of memory. The transition from memory to the narrator’s present moment was beautifully effected. And those images in both paragraphs strike at the heart… loss of the past, of friends, of opportunity. All wrapped up with a line that takes us into the future. Great to sample your writing Patricia.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. plaguedparents says:

    Here is my contribution Charli:

    Thanks for another great challenge.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Sherri says:

    Hi Charli…I’m sooooo late with this, so sorry, hope not too late though 😦 Just couldn’t get a post together, but wanted to write a flash. You’ll know why I wrote this – memoir/flash fiction, that whole ‘thing’ going on – ! Thanks for putting up with my frequent dust clouds… ❤

    California Dreaming

    She would miss it, the Californian Sun, but strapped into a seat on a 747 staring aimlessly at the sky map, what would it matter? She wasn’t coming back.

    A last vacation with the kids, he said, but he never showed up, leaving her with empty explanations and she was sick of it.

    Foam-capped waves danced on the sand, then sucked back again into vast sea, teasing her children in the chase as big sky melted into horizon’s dark line, Pacific sun sliding into purple day’s end.

    Time to go.

    A lone gull wheeled overhead and shrilled goodbye.

    Liked by 4 people

  37. […] short tour of the West and the flash that follows were inspired by this week’s prompt from Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of […]

    Liked by 1 person

  38. jeanne229 says:

    Ahh, always competing for last I reckon. But here’s a post and a flash. Will be back to savor all the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Norah says:

    What a great collection, Charli. And I’ve read them all before the compilation. Woohoo! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Loved that photo of the mountain non goat is just spectacular. I have not seen anything like it as though it is Queen of the Mountain and wearing a tiara.
    Your flash wants me knowing more, about Nancy Jane, about the two men…
    Mine was entered but missed. I just didn’t have time to comment but I did get in the little furry thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. […] gave us ‘Wild Spaces‘ as our 99 word flash fiction prompt last week.  I wasn’t able to post anything due to […]


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