May 11: 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.

May 12, 2016

May 11Cerulean flashes between stands of winter birch, stark and leafless. As the car draws nearer to the water so deeply blue it makes the sky look like faded laundry, my heart rate picks up. Spring is delayed at its shore, the water so cold it can alter seasons. I wonder what the shore will be like beyond the hardwoods?

Before me sprawls the greatest of the Great Lakes, Superior by its cartography name, and I’ve walked its black moonscape on bare bedrock cliffs along Minnesota’s north shore where waves crash endlessly and shatter fishing boats like tossed toys. Gordon Lightfoot sings, “The lake, it s said, never gives up her dead/when the skies of November turn gloomy.” Yet, it is May and this is not Minnesota.

Nor is it Wisconsin where I once lived a full season along the brownstone cliffs and pink quartz beaches of Superior’s Chequamegon Bay. Miracle of Ducks is set in the quaint fishing and sailing village of Bayfield, a place that smells of blueberry blossoms in May and has shallow bays warm enough to swim, yet fierce enough to kayak surf. I drove through Wisconsin’s north woods on the way to this destination and felt a tingle of home. This lake never gives up her living, either.

I’m in Michigan, my first visit to my eldest and SIL’s new home in the Upper Peninsula. They live in Hancock, a small former mining town across the steep hardwood hills that line the canal. On the other side is Houghton where Michigan Tech plugs into the community like life support. It’s remote and underpopulated, the number of residents no longer fill the expanse of brick and mortar. First the indigenous mined here, then in the 1840s the Cornish came followed by Finns; hard-rock miners with strong constitutions.

If you look at a map of Lake Superior and follow the US edge, you’ll see that the lake folds over itself, bending into Minnesota. A stubborn strip of land juts up in to her middle. That’s copper-laden country. That’s Michigan, the UP, the Keewenaw Peninsula. Once the Superior canal cuts across that tip, the land becomes an island, surrounded by lake water and connected to the US by a single lift-bridge.

My first full day here and the kids take me to the lake, mere miles from their house which once belonged to a miner and his family. We follow the canal until we can see the full expanse of the Great Lake. Trees give way to a grassy knoll and the full sapphire of deep waters flash before me as I were touring nature’s favorite crown jewel.

It’s my first glimpse of Gitche Gumee, the name Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shares in his Song of Hiawatha:

“On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Of the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O’er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.” ~ HW Longfellow

The water laps repeatedly at the sandy knoll, eroding its edge. I’m reminded of photos and a post from the UK that Geoff Le Pard shared in Life’s a Beach. I wonder if his #glorioussuffolk compares to my #gloriouskeewenaw? Erosion is a constant force. It’s obvious in sand and dirt; stunning to consider the Grand Canyon. Over time, over time, over time, it all washes away.

In Calumet, 10 miles out of Hancock, my SIL works for the National Parks Service. The town of 600 once catered to a region of 30,000 people. A cluster of tall churches pointing to God and stars stand empty. The Parks campus is built of Jacobson sandstone and bedrock that once yielded copper. The buildings are stout and dark with age. Downtown is eerie. Big as a city in buildings, but sparsely inhabited. A massive Opera House with intact carriage entry still provides shows. I hear the seats are red velvet inside.

On this day, however, we go to the only open restaurant and have lunch at one of seven tables. Seven tables is enough for a town that still has an Opera House. It boggles the mind. Here, the economy has eroded how people make a living. The Finns stick it out, some living on their family farms in summer, retreating to Calumet in winter to escape the harsh snows. The kids show me a building — a five-story brick structure — collapsed by snow last winter. Even the snow erodes around here.

When we leave the sandwich shop, I ask the man who has been writing in a stack of yellow ledgers, what’s his story? He looks up from his paper and scrawl, blinking eyes as brilliantly blue as the lake. His full head and beard of silver and tough worn skin give him the mark of a man with sisu — a Finn. He pauses so long, I fear he’s found my direct question a rude interruption. But once he starts talking about his novel (I knew it!) he becomes animated and reveals he’s a story-teller.

The man tells me that Keewenaw is Ojibwa for “portage” and that this peninsula has served as a crossroads for many cultures over centuries. His novel is modern and includes the college from where new cultures emerge in this area among the fading Finns, stories of Hiawatha and pasties of the Cornish. This idea of portaging cultures intrigues me, one washing up against another. I think of eroding cultures and how differences can rub.

Across the sea in the UK one finds a polite and full explanation as to the dangers of an eroding edge; in the US we simply state the obvious. Here’s one of my photos and Geoff’s to illustrate:

Cultural Differences

I rather like the polite explanation, yet I see the practicality in directness. Does one way erase another? Is this why we fear other cultures? Cumin might be replaced by curry; English might be replaced by Arabic; Christianity might be replaced by Buddhism; blue eyes might be replaced by brown. Do we really fear this?

I have an idea — what if we looked at another culture and asked a simple question, “What do you love?” I love my family, my friends, my dogs. I love both cumin and curry and lots of garlic. I love action-adventure movies and long epic novels. I love rocks and Lake Superior. I love north Idaho and Montana. I love people who live in many places and I want to see new land, waters and cultures. I love to cook and I love to eat out. I love to grow food, too. I love birds, ideas, stories, history and writing. I love God. I’m not threatened if you don’t love what I do because I bet I can connect with you on some level the more we rattle off our lists to one another. Maybe I’ll go deep with one person, maybe I won’t get beyond spices or children with another.

We can’t stop the repetitive action of water any more than we can stop the spread of people. Do you think these modern borders have always existed? Do you think our language stagnant? Life itself erodes all we try to not change. Embrace what you love, learn what others love and co-exist in this ever-eroding world.

I didn’t always think of the Civil War in the US as a culture clash, but it was certainly an erosion between different regions, people and their needs. When I read historical newspapers during Cobb’s time in North Carolina, I read inflammatory stories of the likes in modern media. The kind of stories to get people worked up against others. To play on those fears that others’ ideas or values or ways or beliefs or home-cooking might erode theirs. I believe Cobb came west to escape some of those ideals he no longer conformed to. Yet, in a curious posting, Sheriff Cobb McCanles advertised for a “Found Negro Man” and is holding him in the Watauga County jail until the owner “proves property.”

It’s a notice that makes my skin crawl. Reading history books — written by white men — Watauga County, North Carolina holds to a false innocence that it had few slaves in antebellum times. Bull shit. I found the slave records and every single man of means, including Mary’s Greene family and Sarah’s Shull family, owned slaves. Slaves were not even considered people but property. The line, “prove property” sickens me. I’ve wondered what to do with it. Actually, the posting remains a mystery — it’s published six months in advance of Cobb leaving. Despite their position and wealth, none of the McCanles family ever owned slaves. Cobb’s mother came from a wealthy plantation that did and she chose to marry an educated man who didn’t. In part, this is what leads the McCanles clan to be at odds with southern neighbors.

They are not abolitionists, but Cobb does a curious thing. He posts this ad for the required 6 months and when it’s time to set the prisoner free, Cobb leaves. If a slave is unclaimed, he’ll simply get claimed by someone else. Even free men of color were wrongfully enslaved after gaining their freedom, or would enslave their own wife and children to protect them from being owned by another. It would be dangerous in the volatile year leading up to the Civil War to have dark skin and no owner. Here’s an interesting thought: Rock Creek was a portage through which many cultures came — French traders, buffalo hunters, Mormons, immigrants, northern pioneers, southern pioneers, and yes, free black men.

History has a weird way of remaining silent, after all it is written by men with prejudice. Read any historical account of Rock Creek and you get the sense of “for” and “against.” Two states even battled in the arena of public opinion regarding who was the real villain, Cobb or Hickok. No one considered they were each men of their times and cultural influences, men with their own hearts and reason. No one considered Jane Wellman or what she was capable of doing. No one considered Mary as being isolated from her southern roots because she followed her Unionist husband west. No one considered Sarah as a business partner to Cobb. And no one considered who James Gordon was.

The shoot-out at Rock Creek left Cobb McCanles, his cousin James Woods and his ranch hand James Gordon dead. I can locate James Woods in historical records; I can’t find James Gordon. In frustration, I wondered if he was secretly female because he is the only person at Rock Creek who is as historically elusive as the three women. Then it struck me, that weirdness about history. History is silent of what it doesn’t approve of. What is so offensive about James Gordon that even today, no one ever bothered to re-inter his grave. Park officials claim his burial site is unknown, yet I found plenty of newspaper accounts of old locals who did know its location. Why did no one ever give an outcry for the wrongful death of James Gordon? Cobb was villainized, and his cousin an associate. Why is James Gordon not in the Census record though he lived in Rock Creek? He wasn’t female; maybe he was black.

That’s my imaginative theory, but it’s plausible and makes sense as for why Gordon was ignored by historians. It also explains what happened to the man in Cobb’s custody. He came west with Cobb and Sarah. He died violently, unfairly, but he did die a free man.

We can’t replace what gets eroded over time, but we can read the records to understand what is missing the way geologists read canyon walls to understand what it once was, what it now is, and how it will further change. Erosion is a process of life. No sense pining for fallen rocks or refusing to budge until the water eats the sand beneath our feet. We can change with the landscape and each day go to the edge with a sense of wonder, goodwill and love.

May 11, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story, using the power of erosion. It can be natural, cultural or something different. Is the force personified or does it add to the overall tone? You can use the word in its variations, or avoid the word and write its action.

Respond by May 17, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Free to Go by Charli Mills

Gordon stood with hat in hand. Cobb sat and ignored the fidgeting young man.

“Cobb,” Gordon said and at his name, he rose, smiling.

“Gordon, sit. Mary, get Gordon a cup. See, quit calling me ‘Sir’ like some knight or slave-owner and I’ll respond.”

Gordon expelled his breath. “Yes, S…Cobb. Am I really free?”

“Nebraska Territory’s not a slave state. I pay you same wage I pay any hand. You bunk with the other hands.”

“But can I leave?”

Cobb leaned forward, holding the man’s worried gaze. “Gordon, you’re free to go, but remember, gold is a hard master.”


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  1. Kerry E.B. Black

    I do so enjoy your weekly 99 word challenges. Thank you for allowing me to participate!

    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    A doubt nagged Kim. “Why was he out late every Friday?” She pushed distrust into a corner and closed a door on negativity. She applied lipstick and powder and awaited his return.

    When he dragged his briefcase over the threshold, she embraced him. “Welcome home, darling!” He pecked her on the cheek and slouched to his desk and more work without a word.

    She studied her appearance in the cheval. Still thin. Not gray. No wrinkles. Yet he showed no interest.

    After he slept, she snuck into his files and found among his notes, “I’ll love you always, Tracy.”

    • Charli Mills

      And I enjoy your participation, Kerry! Your flash shows the subtle way doubt and unfaithfulness erode a relationship. No matter how much we push emotions in a corner, the tide eventually wears down something!

  2. Norah

    You’ve given us a lot to think about in this post, Charli. Your description of Lake Superior is superb. It sounds amazing, as I’m sure it is. From there through to erosion, on many different levels and thoughts to ponder.
    I like the suggestion you are making regarding the identity of James Gordon, and the way you have woven it into your flash. You portray Cobb as a hero for everyman, and I like that. How forward thinking was it for people to step out of the consensus of those times and recognize the humanity in all peoples. Sounds like Gordon may have chosen to stay, content in the knowledge that he was free to leave.
    Your mention of Longfellow’s poem “Hiawatha” reminded me of when I learned to recite it at school. I remember little of it now and believe we learned nothing of its significance. It was simply a poem to learn.
    I have no idea how I’ll respond to this one yet. It is eluding me so far, washed away in the stream, no doubt.

    • Charli Mills

      The Song of Hiawatha cannot be an easy one to recite, given all the First Nations words, but it is one that sweeps a broad brush across the idyllic painting that was the American Frontier at that time. Like Longfelllow, Aldo Leopold had much to write from his observation of wilderness. Something he said reminds me of the path Cobb was on as a human being. It seems early in his career he conformed to whatever his political backers did. As he matured, he seemed to recognize the current consensus was not worth upholding. Leopold wrote, “Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.” Being able to think beyond Facebook memes is our modern challenge, perhaps. Thus, education will always be critical to our evolution. But Cobb was also a rapscallion, fiery and intimidating at times. Maybe what erodes is how we can evolve. I’m sure the waves will wash you back this way!

      • Norah

        Hi Charli, I’ve come back with my contribution entitled “The Rock” But how embarrassing: I hit “publish” without giving my post a title. I think all this talk of erosion just eroded my thoughts, so I went with that! Thanks for the challenge.

      • Norah

        Maybe we didn’t learn the whole poem. Only a little. I’ll have to look it up.
        Interesting you mention Leopold again. I know we’ve discussed him before. I have just finished The Nature Principle by Richard Louv and he rates more than one mention in there. I thought I would see if his book is available on audio for me to read next. I love that quote about nonconformity. I guess any of us nonconformists are going to agree! (Does that then make us conformists?)
        I think eroding the old inefficient ways is definitely the path to evolution. I love that thought.
        The waves did wash me back – but only just. I do struggle with a Tuesday night (for me) deadline, but I’d probably struggle anyway.
        As always, I appreciate the challenge.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Your title eroded! But what is lost, can be built back up. “The Rock” it is. Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” is worth a read and I think you will like his learning by observation. I will read up on Richard Louv, too. And as to us non-conformists, I think we have each evolved differently to still claim the title. We value core ideas, I believe, but we are a diverse group nonetheless. Cooperating non-conformists, perhaps!

    • elliotttlyngreen

      Norah, really enjoyed the flash. I find a great benefit in reading your writings as well… in that, your prelude or whatever it is called (my mind is eroding today too – with so much ‘real’ work on ma plate ahhhh); the introduction to your flashes and the inclusion of the weeks theme and prompt are very intuitive. You present them solidly. I am striving, i am always striving toward a more concrete and narrowed presentation of a thought. That is one thing of what I take from your submissions. If I could just focus on the one idea/theme/prompt. I have a tendency to make 5 paragraphs one sentence and an even worse tendency to love it! But I am in wonder how you as well the others here manage to keep within that one thought. And consistent with the theme erode the things not needed (if there is anyway when you start creating this week’s piece). How do you know when you have included enough info, the correct info, and when it needs more. It is a mystery to me or maybe a lack of attention how you get that focus. I am pretty sure I know the reasons… I just wanted to mention how well structured your writing is and how envious I am 🙂 but I am working on it.

      • Norah

        Thank you very much for your very generous comment, Elliot. I appreciate it. I’m pleased that my posts are coherent and make sense to the you, the reader.
        I have to admit that I often struggle to make a connection with Charli’s prompt and the focus of my blog, which is education. It often takes me a few days to think of a way of making a link. Then I need to figure out a way of expressing it that will make some sort of sense. With a recent change in other commitments, I am finding it difficult to set aside the time to write the post, and fear sometimes they may be a little too rushed and shallow. However, I enjoy the challenge and love being a part of the Carrot Ranch community, so for now I will persevere and do my best to participate. Thank you for being a part of it and for visiting me on my blog and leaving such a positive and encouraging comment. Best wishes. N.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Its hard for me to color within the lines of the prompt… and yes need more time to write ????

      • Norah

        I know what you mean!

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Good good :]will still participate. Writing always buggin me. nows me can get a little more wiley in my stylings.. and maybe even be understood. Ill b reading, may not have time for complimenting and discussion.

  3. Pete

    It’s nice to have you back, Charli! As you so beautifully described, there’ s many different routes to go with this one, maybe I’ll return with another….


    The coffee groans. Hot water trickling through the grinds, into the pot as we slide past each other without words.

    Her laugh used to tickle my back on its way up my scalp, where I would bury my face in the curve of her neck, finding my own little refuge from the world.

    Now a river of silence slides between us. It drips through the ridges, into the folds of my brain, washing away the laughter and dulling her smile. I peek to her neck, and slowly wade into the waters of my own stubbornness.

    Our river is rising.

    • Annecdotist

      Ah, Pete, this is truly beautiful

      • Pete

        Thank you, Anne!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pete! Good to be back among this wonderful community! I love how you wrote this relationship transition as geology. Works well!

  4. Lisa Reiter

    Wow! What a fabulous post Charli. Testimony to your craftswomanship, every word held my scattered attention and I love the passion pouring off the page. I hope to be back with something ??

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Lisa! The words built up and crashed upon the page. 🙂

  5. Annecdotist

    Charli, you write so beautifully about the natural world, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling I’m there with you. Hope you’re enjoying your well-earned break. There’s so much to comment on in this post, but I’ll restrict myself to a couple of points. I love how you’ve taken a neglected character from history and speculated on the reasons, with every instalment I’m more taken with Rock Creek.
    But now an obscure point, what do you do with cumin apart from in a curry? I’m sure I’d never come across it until we started cooking Indian food, but you see them as distinct?
    Anyway, I’ve got my flash in quickly – look forward to hearing what you think:

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! A cultural erosion that perhaps I see the two spices so differently? Cumin is definitely Mexican, but often Portuguese in terms of American cuisine. Cumin + turmeric + spices = Curry (I think); Cumin + Cayene + Chipotle (smoked, dried jalapenos) = Chili Powder; and Cumin + Cinnamon = Portuguese base for Sopas. I hope Gordon works out. I’ve left his character undeveloped as I pondered the possibilities of his omission in history. I wrote a scene where he heads off to the mining camp as an anchor to how gold fever impacted the pioneers. This flash let me consider what it would be like if I added that detail of his background.

  6. denmaniacs4

    I loved your introductory essay, Charli. It offered infusion, rather than erosion. Thank you.

    Midnight Stroll

    Dobbs left the banker staring out into the fractious night, warmed only by his whisky-deluded memories.

    Shrill screams of grim bacchanalian excess echoed from Union City’s half dozen saloons.

    Desolate drunks, the wounded warriors and wastrels, still warbled slurred songs, unintelligible dirges to wanton lives.

    Dobbs shrugged off the temptation to walk amongst them once again, breath in their spirits-soaked fear, cry for them, with them.

    “I have no stomach for that anymore,” he said to the mad moon.

    Keeping to the shadows, he headed to Henry Taylor’s Livery and sleep.

    The scabrous failings of lost men corroded him.

    • Charli Mills

      Good! Glad I could offer infusion from a topic like erosion. I like your use of words like fractious and corroded. Even from the shadows and haze, Dobbs clearly articulates how men’s wanton indulgences erode their lives and Dobbs has to resist the pull.

    • Pat Cummings

      I see I’m not the only one inspired to provide a two-fer! Loved the encapsulation of the birth of two great concepts!

    • elliotttlyngreen

      connections of influence… always find that fascinating.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the ranch, Gordon and what a fine pair of stories!

    • Pat Cummings

      Ed is not alone. I remember my Dad convulsed with laughter once when my mother said, “I can’t help it, I just keep seeing faces on the mountainside.” (The laughter came when she showed him the picture she’d been looking at: Mt. Rushmore.)

      • Annecdotist

        Reminds me of Punch Rock in Zimbabwe. For ages I couldn’t see him, and then …!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Thanks, Larry! Glad those didn’t erode. 😉

  7. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I really enjoyed your post Charli and your descriptions of Lake Superior. My Dad used to recite the Hiawatha so you brought back some fond memories here. Unlike Norah we weren’t taught it at school. I like your seque into the movement of people (and I do hope we can look at an approach that is full of goodwill and love) until you finally narrow it down to that one man who was with Cobb. I’d say you have analysed the reasons well as to why he was basically ignored. Leading into your flash. Cobb does seem to be a fair man and Gordon I think can’t believe that he is free. I like that last line “but gold is a hard master.”

    • Pat Cummings

      Whoa. That’s one way to get even with a cruel world!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        LOL. I was seeing it as yet another mistake but it could be taken as payback just as easily. I can think of examples in life where both scenarios have happened

      • Annecdotist

        I also read it as a mistake, but I like Pat’s take on it better!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! I feel rather satisfied in that Gordon was the last uncertainty I had. I can’t prove it, but I want the fiction to be rooted in what’s plausible from interpreting what evidence does exist. It would be hard to fathom real freedom. I’d think Gordon would still believe he had to stay with Cobb. Gold fever is the attraction, but Gordon does return.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        A bit of my research has taken me to slave narratives which were something I used to shrug off. Now I’m finding it quite fascinating and when I have more time to delve deeper than the edges I’m going to spend some time with it. It would be an unreal feeling to be free but would the fear ever leave totally.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m inclined to think the fear would not leave without a huge effort and perhaps has even been passed down in generational patterns of thinking and behavior.

  8. elliotttlyngreen

    Charli, I truly enjoy reading your writing. It seems that is just pours onto the page. I alwaye learn something.

    Excellent prompt idea as well. But, where’s the squirrel prompt? =]

    After much editing and considering whether or not to share everything – Here is my contribution to this week’s flash fiction challenge.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Elliot! And I really appreciate what you are doing with your writing. In Sandpoint, we have an Open Mic Night once a month for poetry, and flash fiction is welcome. What I like about the event is that it’s an incubator. It’s a place for poets to test out raw material, to directly interact with listeners. I feel like you are incubating your creative style here and that’s important space. Thank you for sharing!

      • elliotttlyngreen

        do you mean that Folks like my crap?

      • Charli Mills

        If you mean “crap” as in what we refer to in novel writing as a “shitty first draft,” then yes. Crap is good. It fertilizes what grows.

  9. Pat Cummings

    I’ve given you a two-fer this week: an engineering-literal story of eroding profits and reputation (and literal erosion as well) in my main post, plus the flash “Unloading the Toe” at

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for the two-fer! Nice sedimentation of stories!

  10. katespencer17

    Welcome back Charli! Your post brought back my own memories of Lake Superior. I’ve driven the northern shore many times, always spellbound by the rugged scenery: a powerful lake of many mysteries. My post is local to the west coast of Canada, exploring the power of man as it erodes to build.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kate though it’s been a rocky return. Between travel and the shock of getting served a 30 day notice to vacate, I’m consumed with frantic packing now that I’m back in Idaho. Then my internet wouldn’t work. I’m in Starbucks now! Ah, I’d love to see the north shore beyond Minnesota. It is a powerful lake, isn’t it? A good erosin to explore. Thanks!

  11. julespaige

    Just under the wire. I’ve been distracted…

    The Great Divide

    Distance caused further erosion. But there was erosion
    long before the siblings got separate bedrooms. Because
    teenage girls need privacy. And the favored child must
    have requested such. They might have spent some time
    together around the family dinner table. Well that was
    when and if the elder were home. Gone every other week-
    end to visit her friend. And on alternate weekends the friend
    visited her. Every Friday and Saturday evening the younger
    Sister babysat. So she was never in the way.

    Now that they were at opposite coasts, the elder wanted
    a relationship. Could it be possible?


    Link to post:
    The Great Divide

    • Charli Mills

      Distraction? I might know something of that! 😉 That’s a hard erosion to overcome.

      • julespaige

        I’m trying some new tactics… like putting the whole ‘thing’ for me on hold for a bit. Not easy though when one has to move forward. Hope things are going well for you. I think of you often. More good thoughts sent your way…

  12. A. E. Robson

    The land would never be the same after devastating floods in 2013. Water logged and unstable, is slowly slides towards the bottom of the incline and into the creek.

    Ann Edall-Robson

    The ice has given way to the sound of running water. The creek chortles over rocks, mud-covered twigs and raw roots. Natural springs create mini gorges in the ground. Opening gashes in the land on their way to join with the creek.

    The country thaws and the saturation spreads. A devastated landscape shows new signs of sloughing along the already scarred hills.
    Mother Nature tests all she come in contact with. There is no arguing. There is not recourse. A beautiful woman who gives in to no one. What she wants she never asks for. She just takes.

    • elliotttlyngreen

      Or what she does not (want), she will not accept, let take her…something like that. Perfect metaphor of a beautiful woman.

    • Charli Mills

      Your flash become a thing of monstrous beauty, nature creating though scaring. Is it she or me who has trouble reconciling the scars?

      • A. E. Robson

        Trouble reconciling the things that erode and leave scars is a normal course. If the water runs deep, so too will the banks that have been cut out to keep the life it sustains flowing in the right direction.

      • Charli Mills

        And the wonder is having the faith that something new will emerge.

    • Charli Mills

      Glad we both made it! 🙂

  13. Sherri

    Oh Charli, I could write a book in response to this amazing post, ha! The differences between our ‘polite’ warnings and those more direct in the States…always made me smile, that 😉 Great writing, love how you reel us in from your first word to last, weaving your way along the shores of Lake Superior to your homecoming with your darling chicks, the place where Miracle of Ducks was born and all the way back to Rock Creek – and all the while challenging us to examine the way different cultures and ‘ways of doing’ affect us all. And I know The Song of Hiawatha, I know I do. I recognise the verse you quoted but I can’t think from where! It’s really bugging me now. And I remember learning about the Great Lakes in geography at school and always, always, being utterly fascinated by them. Never been…hmmmm… ! And James Gordon…his story intrigues me greatly. All your research shines through here…and is just one more reminder of how much I seriously can’t wait to read Rock Creek. Love your flash too. Like Irene, I love that last line particularly. Here’s mine…wrote it on the train 🙂 <3

    Bird’s Nest

    Some call it an eyesore; others call it a nesting ground for starlings, to be protected at all costs.

    Battered by decades of crashing, sea, its twisted, black-rusted frame forms an eerie coastline silhouette. Lit up once by thousands of pretty lights and summer-dressed children racing along the boardwalk, now it stands in barren shadow.

    I remember the pier in its hey-day, playing the arcades with pocket money from my dad while laughing at his silly jokes. Then he moved away and spent his money on booze; his promises eroded like the pier’s remains.

    But the starlings don’t mind.

    • Charli Mills

      Lake Superior is one of those places I’d love to share with you! It is instantly mystifying and clarifying in a single first glance. It amazes me that the Song of Hiawatha was as popular in school across the globe as it seems. After all, so many words are Algonquian (I think) and strange to all. But then again, the exotic words might be part of the appeal. I’ve been on the fence about reorienting James’ character to reveal an unexpected cultural past, but this flash gives me hope to make those changes. Ah, you wrote this on the train! I’ve enjoyed those journeys with you! Your flash is poignant and makes me think of your memoir. That last line is powerful.

      • Sherri

        I think you’re right about the exotic appeal Charil! And Lake Superior is on the list!! I love that you shared your reorienting thoughts about James, utterly intriguing in fact and I’m so glad you’ve gained hope here to keep pressing in on his story. You must go where the story takes you! 🙂 And thank you about the flash…funny isn’t it where these thoughts come from… <3

    • Charli Mills

      Sounds like a house from the UP, Tony! Renovations can be eroded by troubles too big to fix.

  14. Charli Mills

    An interesting idea that while time erodes us, we become fuller with our talents and passions.

  15. Charli Mills

    Like that, the yin and yang of erosion.


  1. Time’s Paths #flashfiction | Urszula Humienik - […] This flash fiction is in response to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]
  2. To see a World in a Grain of Sand – The Origin of Ideas | The Curious Archaeologist - […] Mills has challenged her fellow bloggers to write about erosion (details here). I have cheated slightly and written two…
  3. Water Management: 99 Word Flash Fiction | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist) - […] response to Charli’s prompt where she […]
  4. Future | inextricableknotblog - […] by flash fiction challenge prompt at THee Ranch for for the theme of […]
  5. Mountain Grooming | Eloquently Kate - […] Mills’ Carrot Ranch May 11th Flash Fiction Challenge was to write a story in 99 words (no more, no less) about…
  6. (f) Carrot Ranch/ The Great Divide (5.16) | Jules in Flashy Fiction - […] May 11: Flash Fiction Challenge May 11, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story, using…
  7. Microfiction: Puppy love – Jane Dougherty Writes - […] For Charli Mills’ flash fiction prompt—erosion […]
  8. Norah Colvin - […] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about erosion, but not just the literal kind. She says…
  9. what goes around… | TanGental - […] Charli Mills is back in the saddle and her prompt this week is […]

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