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April 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

April 6The woman tells her friends to go on without her. They’re at the crest of a ridge that overlooks thousands of acres of wilderness in the Inland Pacific Northwest. Sun breaks through the clouds and they are illuminated, a human crown on top of the world. The friends want to hike to a thumb of sheer granite further up the trail. She declines. Says she doesn’t feel well.

In two hours the friends return to find the woman curled up beneath the boughs of a pine, sobbing. She can’t explain why. She says every time she stands she feels vertigo. One friend stays, to help her off the mountain ridge, while the others continue their hike and several days of back-country camping.

“Agoraphobia,” says the man, recounting the story. He was one of the friends who continued on the journey. Later he found out that she’d suffered an attack of agoraphobia — “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.” (Mayo Clinic definition.)

The man became fascinated by his friend’s condition. He empathized with her anxiety, understanding that she had many possibilities open to her but had to make a decision to choose one. The rest would go away. Unable to let go of the possibilities and confronted with endless wilderness, she succumbed to anxiety. This incident sparked the idea of a new book and and a new character. The author telling the story had just read from book two of the series.

Writers are story-catchers. I believe many of us were (are) voracious readers, but at some point we have to catch our own stories and not the ones already upon the page. Many writers are inspired to write because of the stories they read. Others find inspiration in discovered stories. I’ve gravitated to the latter, becoming a story-catcher in the way song-catchers record and reclaim forgotten tunes of folk history.

Before I ventured to the Well Read Moose in Coeur d’Alene, south of Sandpoint, I went to North Idaho Cider. It was a social event, yet I had managed to arrive late and the social part had left. So I chatted with the brewers, sipped a Logger dry cider that tasted of wood and spring sunshine, and caught fantastic stories. One of the brewers is a long-time investigative journalist covering the political beat. We started lamenting how writing has changed since the 1990s and how writers fell from grace and no longer earn their value as wordsmiths,  story-tellers and truth-seekers.

Yes, we cried little pity tears in our cider, then we moved on to the good stuff: swapping stories.

By the time I arrived to the bookstore, I was ready for more stories. As I’m meeting more local writers, I’m pushing myself to ridges of vulnerability. I’m continuing to read your flash fiction and mine at Open Mic to get people interested in what we are doing at Carrot Ranch; to find new authors and bloggers. I’m hosting Wrangling Words (the Idaho Writers League and two screen-writers showed up last time) and volunteering at the library. I’m helping other writing organizations to support writers, including BinderCon. And I’m stepping up my freelancing — I just submitted to some major US magazine networks, the Washington Post and some big regional publications.

I fell into a gig because I was outside my comfort zone and in the right place at an opportune time.

I’ve said it before — serendipity happens when we do something. We can’t hide in the boughs of a pine forever and expect unexpected gifts. Yet, not only is it uncomfortable out the comfort zone, it’s also vulnerable. We might fail. We might look foolish. We might be misunderstood or under-valued. But we won’t succeed, shine or prove our worth without trying. Despite our best efforts, situations occur beyond our control and we have to deal with them.

Last week I had shared a soul/sole polishing experience for Irene Water’s Times Past challenge. Every time I thought of the beach (which was the prompt) I thought of the sand at Sioux Beach, which made me think of what it felt like to lose my home. Not a cuddly memory. Yet, I had just met an inspiring New York Times best-selling author, Laura Munson, at the BinderCon event I had hosted in Missoula. She was our live speaker. I also met the phenomenal rising star, Montana writer and Binder, Stephanie Land. Both inspired me to write harder truths. So I did. And I felt vulnerable.

I don’t know if feeling vulnerable made a difference, but when I learned last Monday — completely out of the blue — that our house lease was not going to be renewed because the owners decided to sell, I was rocked to the core. I became that agoraphobic woman and huddled beneath a tree. I didn’t just sob, I howled. How can I be displaced — again? What is so wrong with me that I’d face the possibility of homelessness a second time. Vulnerability. As renters, we are vulnerable to the whims of owners. As owners we are vulnerable to a fraudulent system.

Every time I stand up, I get vertigo. My eyes water when I’m trying to watch my screen. I feel a sharp pain when I look outside at the beauty of Elmira Pond and think, it’s not mine. But it never was. In fact, my first post at Elmira Pond Spotter acknowledged that Paradise resides in the Shadow.

Still I rise from that hiding place on the ridge and face the wilderness like a Weeble (Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down). Agoraphobia demands that fears be faced. This is the worst thing I’ve feared. A repeat. But it is not a repeat because I can make choices. I am not without those. And one choice remains strong: I’ll write my way off this ridge.

This has me thinking of Mary McCanles. I’ve struggled with the last segment of Rock Creek because her scenes feel flat. Sarah and Nancy Jane are clearer. Then it came to me. I can imagine Mary feeling similar to how I feel. She must have felt displaced by Cobb’s tragedy. It wasn’t her doing, yet she was the one left behind. Even Sarah and Nancy Jane left. She was vulnerable, too.

But she made it off that ridge and raised all her children on one of the ranches Cobb built. She survived Indian attacks, locusts and the villainized reputation of her husband.

April 6, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a response to an agoraphobic moment. Does your character see the shadows or the light filtering through? This can be used as a character trait or as a moment that causes an anxious reaction. Explore the character’s discomfort — embarrassment, indecision, feeling trapped. The scene can be direct or overheard. Is there a solution when fears are faced?

Respond by April 12, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


When Breakfast Becomes a Decision by Charli Mills

The wagons left yesterday. East, not west. Mary collected eggs in the henhouse at dawn. Soon the orb was orange, the rutted road empty. Leroy said he’d not come back if she refused to go.

And refused she did.

Except now, Mary wanted to toss eggs from her gathered apron and run down the road. She changed her mind. Eggs splattered and Mary fell to her knees, clawing at her clenched throat, wheezing.

“Ma! Ma!” Roe ran to her throwing his arm around her shoulders. A sob finally escaped and she cried muddy tears before rising to cook breakfast.



  1. Annecdotist says:

    Oh, Charli, I’m howling with you, as I’m sure most of the Ranchers will be. It’s terrifying to lose your home, especially when it’s a repeat of something that’s happened before. And, while our virtual space remains safe, I can’t help feeling that I’m being evicted too.
    But how well you’ve fed that feeling into your writing – I know just how Mary feels, brave one moment in taking a stand and then swamped by anxiety about following through on her decision. Hope she manages to make something of those eggs for breakfast.
    I was also interested in the labelling of the woman’s paralysis in the wilderness as agoraphobia which gives a wider definition of the term than the one I was taught. Maybe we like our traumas to have a Greek-Latin flavour. But horrible to experience that panic, whatever it’s called.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ann, I thought of you instantly when the author introduced his character — a psychiatrist — and has turned it into a serial. I asked during the Q&A about his research into his character’s profession and he said, “It’s fiction, he can write what he wants.” When I looked up agoraphobia because I hadn’t heard of it before and according to the Mayo Clinic, it can be “self-diagnosed.” Anyhow, the pitched level of anxiety seemed to match my feelings when I received the news about our house. I howled and now I’m feeling a bit like a loosed dog sniffing out new territory and it’s providing new and interesting scents.

      • Annecdotist says:

        I’ve nothing against self-diagnosis, especially as those labels can often feel condemning rather than liberating when bestowed by experts. There might be cultural differences between the UK and the US, but I imagine my psychiatry colleagues over here would have called that a panic attack rather than an episode of agoraphobia (I’ve never heard the latter term used, though I’m familiar with the concept of agoraphobia as a condition consistent with your Mayo Clinic definition which is usually used for people unable to leave the house because of their anxiety). However, I imagine this might read like picking hairs!
        Anyway, the topic – is an experience rather than a diagnosis – is dear to my heart, and your post took me back to one that had been in my draft file for far too long, interestingly also sparked by some of your earlier posts:
        What Drives Your Characters: Fear or Desire?
        And really pleased to discover, from your responses to the chorus of howls, that you’re already on the way to a solution. I do hope you can find something equally suitable in the area. But househunting is hard work emotionally at the best of times, so do take care.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Picking hairs. You know, I think I’m in line with that when it comes to historical fiction. A part of me wishes I could stop picking hairs and just say, “It’s fiction.” Being historically accurate matters to me the way being correct regarding the profession of psychiatry matters to you. Yet, neither one of us wants to write non-fiction! 😀 I’m glad this sparked a topic that you could bring out of draft.

      • Annecdotist says:

        You’re right, Charli, it’s so interesting that we both fiercely defend accuracy in our particular fields yet are perfectly at ease with making things up. So picking hairs even further, I’m actually inclined to quibble with most of psychiatry’s fixation with diagnosis, but will argue for clarity for those terms that have either been adopted by psychology or are in popular use 😉

  2. […] guys! This is another 99 Word Flash Fiction challenge. This prompt was one that I was unfamiliar with (at least partially). Agoraphobia, from what I have […]

  3. imagenn793 says:

    What you are going through right now sounds horrible to say the least. But, you are both strong willed and minded, don’t let this crashing wave stop you from riding along the ocean 🙂 I have faith that you are going to come out on top of this whirlpool!
    Your post was very meaningful and this prompt was very serious. I loved writing this little piece of mine, ‘Tense Melodies’, link below 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s made me realize that I do not react well, but I can problem solve if I can just get over the hump of despair. Perhaps that’s how I was thinking of Mary — I imagine her as a stubborn woman and not really thinking what’s best and reacting from that place of stubbornness before realizing she might not have made the best choice in her reactionary state. But she had to live with that choice. As for me, I will ride along the ocean (great analogy!) and will come up, perhaps a bit upside down, but on top nonetheless. 🙂 And we all got to explore an interesting disorder this week! Great take on yours!

      • Annecdotist says:

        No evidence in what you’ve shared that you don’t react well, Charli! I’m sure many of us are impressed with how you’ve had your much-deserved howl, got it out of the way and are now looking for practical solutions. Excellent coping in my book!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Well, fortunately you did not see me on the floor sobbing. Next day got up, got out and started thinking of possibilities.

  4. Norah says:

    I’m howling along with Anne in support of you, Charli. You are a brave woman, facing up to the fears and injustices. It’s just not fair. Interesting that Mary at first refused to go but, upon reflection, decided that leave she must. Perhaps her thoughts are reflective of yours. Hopefully you won’t smash the eggs in the process but will be rewarded in ways as yet unimaginable. I’m pleased to see you extending your writing gigs in ways that will enhance your own opportunities, as well as those of your fellow writers. Thank you for sharing your frustration and fears. We are here, riding alongside, willing to support you in any way we can. Better hold on. It might be a rough ride for a while.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for the communal howl at the situation! And your support. <3 I think Mary is a bit opposite to me. She digs in, and I want to flee. But we both come to the same conclusion that our initial reactions did not solve the problem in the best way. Mary was stuck in Nebraska after the rest pulled out. I'm not stuck, but like Mary, I've decided to stay in this area. It's going to be rough waters for a bit! At least now I know what I'm facing.

      • Norah says:

        You’re a strong woman, Charli Mills. I know you’ll pull through. I hope the waters don’t get too rough and that the lake becomes still to show you the way. I think you need a bit of babble for your favourite fly fishing, don’t you? Take care. I look forward to hearing of developments.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, yes…a bit of babble for fly fishing will do!

  5. The chorous of howls is getting louder Charli as I too have joined in. I know you will break up inside leaving Elmira Pond but I also know that you will resurrect your life as you have done in the past and each time leads you to a life of wonder. Carrot Ranch will be going with you and the Congress of Rough Writers will be there cheering you along, giving hugs when needed (and perhaps when not needed) and mopping up tears. If we were closer we’d probably get the wagon trains and help pack you up for the move and certainly there’d be soup. Lots of it. I’m hoping you find a new place that makes you as happy as you have been at Elmira. Glad your writing is extending its reach. As a writer these life experiences are invaluable for the depth that you can then bring to your writing. Sending lots of hugs.

    • Charli Mills says:

      This is becoming a chorus, and thank you for joining in! I hope howling makes you feel stronger. I know it’s not for everyone, but a good howl and a good cry and then I put on my boots and do what I have to do. I love the wagon train and shared soup idea! I’m so relieved to now have a truck as that will make it easier when I have to move. Carrot Ranch will go along and the Congress of Rough Writers will relocate to another fabulous view. I might even have a lead on a place overlooking Lake Pend Oreille itself. How spectacular that would be! Even more migratory birds and water fowl for me to watch. Yes, depth of living does add to depth of writing. Thank you for the hugs! <3

  6. susanzutautas says:

    Oh Charli I’m so sorry to read that you’ll have to move. I know how much you and your family love Elmira Pond. I’ve grown to love the place just reading about it. I’ll pray that you find a place that’s comparable. Maybe you could lease off of the new owners?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ugh, I know! I have loved this pond so much. I even decided to take down Elmira Pond Spotter until I realized that would only hurt me. I don’t like the idea of real estate agents using it to promote a sale here, but then again, I’d want the new owners to understand what a magnificent pond it is and how much this place is loved. That’s a good idea, if someone one bought it for the ranch and didn’t plan to live in the house. I think what happened is that they had a serious buyer but they sprung it on us at the end of our lease in an unsavory way. That buyer already fell through so two days ago they were offering the place to us! We’re not prepared. If it was in a few more years, then yes. But I barely squeak by on my writing income. I just needed another year or two. Something good will come of all this.

  7. susanzutautas says:

    My flash for this week is from my childhood.

    • Charli Mills says:

      That paralyzing fear is expressed so well in this sad BOTS. That last line is really well done and says so much more about the child’s fear at the beginning of day. You turned a bad scenario into a strong flash.

    • Norah says:

      I didn’t realise it was a BOTS when I read it. Hugs.

  8. Lisa Reiter says:

    Hi Charli
    I’ll add my howls to the growing cacophony and soon you’ll imagine Carrot Ranch as a sanctuary for Wolves – and terminators – for you will rise again my friend. I am so sad you have to leave the spot you love so much and hold my heart open to the universe waiting for something even better to keep you bedded down in Idaho because it seems you have so much life going on there!
    If you need ‘hired hands’ (volunteers actually..) over this difficult time so you can keep other things going whilst finding time to house hunt – remember us Rough Writers of the Carrot Ranch. We are your community too and each can ‘guest post’ a flash prompt if that works to release a little time.

    Just call out my name and I’ll be there..

    Lisa xx

  9. […] In response to March 6 Flash Fiction Challenge @ […]

  10. I am sorry to read of this Charli. I can relate on so many levels to this weeks theme and posts you have shared. I understand and i offer my sympathy; which Im not good at it but im trying.

    So…. I started a blog, after reading through so many upon stumbling into your Ranch. How fantastic. Im sure they help to heal in this troubled time. . I have found so many.

    Here is my post for this weeks challenge.

    • Charli Mills says:

      You know, if you started a blog because of any inspiration or ideas from Carrot Ranch — awesome! I write to change the situations I face, to understand and explore different possibilities. I love creativity and the collaborative creative response of others. I’d take this any day over sympathy! Thank you.

      • Pretty much. And i started a blog because.. to hopefully maintain the perspective of shredding through this new light, Breaking thru to the awesome. I write only to achieve that rage. Its mine energy ya know. i learn way more about the west from your stories. I will show the subcity… your going to, So Lets fiction 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Keep the fiction going and you will be surprised (and delighted) where it leads you! Rage on!

  11. Sherri says:

    You WILL write your way off that ridge Charli, of that I have no doubt. For one thing, It’s great to read how you’ve stepped up your freelancing, you can expect some exciting developments from your submissions most certainly. Despite the awful blow you and Todd have suffered, you’re looking to ways to work through this, find a solution, a way forward, another home. Mary panicked, froze in anxiety as she realised the harsh reality of her situation, but with the help of her son (made me cry, that…) she got got back up and cooked breakfast. You are indeed a story catcher and Mary lives and breathes because of you, as do Cobb and ‘Wild Bill’ and Sarah and every single real person in your book. But in those lonely, heart-ripping moments when the cords of agoraphobia pull you down, remember, as others have already expressed here so lovingly, we are all with you, here to help in any way we can to support you, laugh and cry with you and heck, even crack open a few eggs for you if you wish. Sunny-side up perhaps? We aren’t going anywhere. Big hugs Charli…keep writing, keep moving, keep dreaming… <3

    • Charli Mills says:

      Monroe, her son, really did step into his father’s boots. I have a cousin who is a theater professor and he’s been writing a play about Rock Creek but all from Monroe’s perspective. I think if I were Mary, I’d find it grounding to do the simplest daily act to commit to the rest of my life. And she did. Thank you, Sherri! I do appreciate the support and yes, I’m pretty certain future eggs will be sunny-side up! 😀 I have t hold out until September.

  12. Pat Cummings says:

    An agoraphobe finds the Sense of Space he needs at

    And thanks for a prompt that had NO connection to any of Ken Cummings’ stories; I needed the breather.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Glad you take a breather! Hang in there — the long-term projects will eventually find conclusions. In the meantime, we can flash.

  13. denmaniacs4 says:

    High Meadow Reverie

    It had been a bonnie bit of roaming, thought Aggie Runacre. Whether God’s plan or simple fortune, her encounter with Clancy Dobbs had eased the darkness that shrouded her.

    She had kept putting off the trip from High Meadow. What was it her oracle, Pearl, had said? “Now? No, not now. If not now, when?”

    “There it is, Aggie, Union City,” Dobb’s said, adding a welcome layer to the voices.

    The spell broken, she looked out on a swarming humanity, buzzing like a revival meeting.

    “Seems very frantic, Mr. Dobbs.”

    “Folks dizzy from goin’ nowhere, Aggie…the definition of civilization.”

    • denmaniacs4 says:

      Clearly in my rush to post I skipped my own low editing bar.

      The second to last line should read

      “Seems very frantic, Mr. Dobbs.”

      Regards, Charli, and others carroting through life’s patch from the sunny West Coast of Canada…


      • Charli Mills says:

        An easy fix! I think we received West Canada’s sunshine this past weekend and everything responded in a burst of blossoms. Early for north Idaho but spectacular.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Great scene and internal look at Aggie, but wow, what a great last line! The swarm of humanity. And where do we find ourselves within it? I look forward to more of these two characters!

  14. I’m sending good thoughts and prayers and adding a howl at the uncertainty. I am so sorry.

    Follows is my story. It is also on my word press blog.

    Panic Attack
    written by Kerry E.B. Black

    I couldn’t catch my breath. Bands circled my chest, squeezed, threatened to crush my ribs into my soft insides until the mash leaked out in tears. Pain shot through to my left hand, numbing my fingers. “Help,” I gasped. My kids watched a movie in the car’s DVD player as I begged strangers for information. Sweat slicked my face and plastered my hair. “Where’s the closest hospital?” I pictured the scene in Steel Magnolias where the toddler tried to revive his dead mother. The vision shook me. I prayed.

    Not a heart attack. No. A damned panic attack. Why?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for the good thoughts and the howls! All this howling has brought the coyotes back, as it’s the first time since fall I’ve heard them. Uncertainty fades to possibilities… Your flash goes through that awful feeling of a panic attack and who can really tell the difference when under the grasp? Well done! Best to you with the A-Z and poetry month posts, too!

  15. Continuing to send hugs. 💗

  16. A. E. Robson says:

    Knowing you have support when you need it gets us through the trying times.

    Storm Within
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    All he ever wanted to do stared up at him. The acceptance letter was like a thunderous storm ravaging his chest. Shards of anxiety like lightening bolts.

    The Writer in Residence contract stated: “MUST teach two adult learning classes at community centre. MUST mentor at high school. MUST speak at local library”.

    He would reach out to the Literary Club he met with. They knew how shy and reserved he was. Speaking in front of people was his nemesis. They would help him.

    Determined to live his dream, the chest pains subsided. The horizon’s light dissolving the inner storm.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes it does! It means a lot to me to know I have that kind of support. Thank you! <3 And I hope every writer facing this dream-reality moment has support, too!

  17. Your flash rang so true I was there with her. How often have we made a decision and then left with the fear of being left behind and a desire to be where we had chosen not to be. Mary’s panic was palpable and I loved the way motherhood has a way of making you hold it all in. Life has to go on. Breakfast has to be cooked. A great piece of writing Charli.

  18. Best wishes, Charli. Very sorry about the bad news you recently received, but I know you will somehow turn it into a positive.

    Here is my contribution to this week’s agoraphobia challenge:

  19. ruchira says:

    As I post my take on your prompt..I am sending positive vibes to fight this out, Charli.

    I received your postcard…thank you so much for the kind words while I murmur ‘Amen’ to it 🙂

  20. jeanne229 says:

    Haven’t stopped by at the ranch in such a long time. Every time I do, I just want to stay here and write with you. But I was called to check in this morning. How very sad I am to hear the news about the lease. We rent too. We think of the same possibility that has befallen you….the “what if” hanging there even as our roots branch ever deeper into the community here. But Charli, you make damn good literature out of all your experiences. And I continue to be amazed at the writing life you have created for yourself. I am screaming inside at the loss of your ridge and your woods … you’ll carry them with you I expect, but it won’t ease the leaving. I hope this door you now stand at opens to something unexpectedly beautiful.
    Powerful post too. The catharsis under an orange sun. The eggs shattering. A kind of cosmic fear in the breast of this one woman standing in a vast landscape. The ordinary act of carrying on, as we all must.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Good to see you at the ranch! I think of you writing away for your client as I am often doing the same but on smaller projects. You know that feeling of spreading out roots when they might get cut. I’ve decided to stay rooted in this area. If not this place, something as spectacular. I do believe that if we seek beauty in this world we will find it. I’m glad the flash resonated with you. It helped me clarify something with Mary that I felt was missing in my revision.

  21. ellenbest24 says:

    Hi Charli.
    Sorry I am not joining in this one as my head cold has left me exhausted and I lost track of relevant dates for the few prompts I do. But I want to say from England I send you kind wishes and I am sad for your troubles. (Howl} Maybe just maybe, everything happens for a reason and some magic will be just around the next bend for you. I wish everyone luck with this weeks prompt and thank you Charli for giving this woman a lift every week. Keep keeping on.

  22. Sherri says:

    Here’s my flash Charli. Not what I planned. Something I wish I could have said I suppose. Hope things are easing a little for you…

    Tick The Box

    “I can’t go in there…” Becca gasped as her mother opened the door marked ‘Job Centre’, the airless waiting room heaving. Heads swivelled.

    “Just a short walk love, I’ll stay close,” whispered Carol.

    “But everyone’s staring at me. My heart, feel…” Becca clutched her mother’s hand to her pounding chest.

    Seated at last, Becca stared down at her trembling hands, terror rising with her nausea, unable to speak a word.

    “How about waitressing?” breezed the advisor.

    Carol blanched. “She has Asperger’s, she can’t leave the house without me. How the fuck will she manage serving food in a restaurant?”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Well said, and great title that goes with it. The fear is felt by everyone except the clueless advisor. Sometimes I think people in those positions become numb after a while. Great flash!

      • Sherri says:

        I think so too – or condensing, depending on the mood. Thanks Charli, it felt good to let rip at the end!

    • Norah says:

      Brilliant, Sherri. I’ve had to reply here since you didn’t post it on your blog. Some people just don’t get it, do they? For a different reason my brother has been going through similar inanity for a number of years. It just blows my mind. People are employed to ask the same stupid, insensitive questions week after week to save making payments to those in need of them! What is costing more money? And I know there are supposed to be no stupid questions, but I think situations such as these defy that supposed truth! Well done. You’ve got me riled too!

      • Sherri says:

        Ha! Sorry I got you riled, but then, maybe, that’s a good thing… for the flash? 😮 Thank you Norah, I really appreciate your comment. I will be posting my flashes here rather than on my own blog for the time being, until I can get back into the swing of things. I love that I can do that…thank you Charli!! I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to say what Carol said…but these days, with all the signs around warning about intolerance of ‘verbal abuse’ I had to hold my tongue. then again… it is the most demeaning thing, a box ticking exercise in person and on paper. I’m so sorry your brother has been at the receiving end of similar…makes my blood boil. And as you say, what is costing more money? Arrrrgghhhh…don’t get me started!!!!

      • Norah says:

        After posting that comment I read an (current) article about a man with a broken back. The doctor says he can’t work. Centre Link says he can. They have him jumping through the proverbial hoops too! Arrrggghhh! Don’t get either of us started.
        They can say what they like and we just have to hold our tongues. That’s fair.

  23. julespaige says:


    Ouch. All my support. I never had a real permanent place until this last place and it’s the fourth in 35 plus years with the same guy (though the last 25!). I think I counted once that before I married I had lived in about 30 places. And it wasn’t my choice to be nomadic. Part of that ‘always the new kid in town’ and never being able to really have anything that couldn’t fit in a box to be moved. Not always my choice… Now I’ve got friends moving into retirement communities. Just so they don’t have to mow grass or shovel snow.

    I sincerely hope with all the VA programs out there that you and yours can find a place better than what you have now. I’ll be back with something sooner or maybe later. ~Jules

    • Charli Mills says:

      Being the new kid in town over and over is such a hard deal. I want roots and I’m already planted here so I’ll find a way to stay in the area. Thanks!

  24. Norah says:

    Hi Charli,
    This one appealed to me with my fear of enclosed spaces and being trapped with no way out. Give me the wide open spaces any day! Here’s my contribution. Thanks for the challenge. I hope things are starting to work in your favour. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      You would like Montana with its Big Sky Country! Things are coming around although I hope to get more time before I actually have to move out. I suppose I want to feel more prepared for it.

      • Norah says:

        I would! Especially if you were in it with me. 🙂
        You just need that better place to be moving to. Then you’ll be ready. When you start singing “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” you’ll know it’s time!
        I hope you are not pushed out of your nest too soon. Take care.

  25. Pete says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about this, Charli. For whatever it’s worth, I’m forever amazed by your grit and spirit–not too mention your writing. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  26. Pete says:

    Not sure I followed this one, but this is what I came up with. I’ve got

    Robbie sat perched in the stall, having memorized the graffiti and become indifferent to the citrus and urine. Then the door swung open, spilling music and laughter before sweeping shut.

    Silence. A pair of well-worn Chuck Taylors planted themselves facing the wall. A belch like a gunshot, then the smack of pee into the urinal.

    Hop. Zip. Flush.

    “You going to hide all night?”

    “I told you, my stomach.”

    “Your stomach. Right.”

    The Chucks spun off, then stopped at the door. “They’re just girls, Robbie. One of them even thinks you’re cute.”

    The door opened. Laughter escaped.

    Robbie breathed.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sharp writing, Pete! It worked so well, the opening and closing of the door to let in what was going on outside the bathroom walls. Great sensory details!

  27. Pete says:

    *I think it should read, “having memorized the graffiti, he’d become indifferent to the citrus and urine.”

  28. julespaige says:

    Smoked Out!

    Being a friend of convenience never has a good reward.
    Jane had convinced Stella to go to the rooftop and try a
    cigarette. Jane had been saving pennies and nickels from
    the grocery money that her mother had given her. Saying
    that the missing change must have gotten lost.

    The pack of cigarettes was carefully ripped open. Jane
    thought she was being so smart. Stella wasn’t so sure.
    One drag was one toMany – that and the odd maintenance
    guy a few roofs over saying that he knew their folks and
    was going to tell if they didn’t vamoose.


    The post can be found here:
    Smoked Out!

  29. Deborah Lee says:

    Oh, no! I am so sorry to hear you’re being displaced once again. I, too, am looking for another place to rent, as my present landlords have raised our rent yearly to where we can no longer afford to stay. I lost my house three years ago. 🙁 You’ll be in my prayers.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ugh! I’ve heard from others about rents going up, too. I’m so sorry you lost your house and know what that is like. What you are doing with Jane Doe is writing the story that needs to be told. I hope you find a fabulous and fair-priced place! You are on my prayers, too! <3

  30. paulamoyer says:

    Sorry to be late, Charli. Don’t know if you can do anything with this one, but here it is:

    When the New Isn’t Good

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean knew. As if she saw Sam’s brain MRI, the tell-tale plaques.

    It was tricky. Sam wasn’t forgetting. Much, that is.

    He was hijacking conversations. He stayed awake all night. Grocery shopping and chatting with the night manager – “great guy!”

    Then there was that night.

    Sam had been over at the neighbor’s having a beer. He ducked his head in the door, said, “Be right back.”

    Jean saw the look. The smile was Sam’s. The beautiful blue eyes were Sam’s.

    But Sam wasn’t there.

    “Okay, see you soon.” Jean fake-smiled. Under the smile, she ran from this horrible future.

  31. Norah says:

    You’ve gathered some great storytellers here with your prompts and your hospitality, Charli. We’re circling the community of wagons around to support you.

  32. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

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