July 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

July 15, 2016

July 13In America, mangoes taste like cucumbers. And I’m an angry American with my full frowny-face exposed for all the world to see. Many tell me to cover up my anger. “Don’t be angry,” or “You can’t let it anger you.” From where I’m sitting, I can see things are not just in my nation. Skin color, uniforms, politics, bathrooms, mass shootings — I can’t keep up with the toilet paper and bullets; the NPR commentary and social media trends. I’m even following Brexit and then a truck in France kills Bastille Day revelers.

Has the world gone mad?

Or do we have an unchecked anger issue among humanity?  When I can’t understand what is happening or what is another person’s experience, I look for commonality. What have I experienced that makes it something I can relate to? I can easily speak to my own anger and I think it holds a clue. Anger is often denied, misdirected and disconnected. We don’t embrace our anger.

We live in a time of extremes. At any given moment, around the world, we can access media. Even homeless in the Inland Pacific Northwest, I wander with a cell phone. Digital screens are everywhere and news is 24/7. One news program I listened to (because I also have a radio in my car) explained how the world was “out there” but now we live it. Yet in this time of open communication, we seem to do less communicating.

One extreme is that of disparity. We might all have cell phones (in the US there is even a government program to give struggling low income Americans free cell phones), but not homes. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that 3.5 million Americans are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. It’s further estimated that up to 600,000 veterans a night go homeless. Rural homelessness is defined by living in a car or camper. Welcome to my summer of homelessness; a temporary condition, according to the experts. And the source of my anger.

I’m angry because I had a home and home-office. My rent ratio was high in accordance to my income as a writer, but I never missed my rent payment. Nor did I damage the property or conduct illegal activity. Instead, I blogged about my home, weeded and gardened, took care of the resident cat, and welcomed several writers to stay. I’m angry that it currently sits vacant because the owners think it will sell better that way. I’m angry because the property managers have not paid back our security deposit. I’m angry because of the disparity between what is affordable in a rural community and what is available. I’m angry that despite the number or organizations that accept government funding, there is a lack of practical help. I’m angry over how dehumanizing the experience is and the assumptions people make, the ignorant blame.

What surprises me is the number of people who attempt to diffuse my anger. Yeah, I get it — I don’t like listening to my bellyaching either, and I’d rather be writing about magnificent blue herons and cotton-candy sunsets, about history and interesting characters. But my circumstances call for outrage. What has happened to me has happened to others. In fact, rural homelessness is called a silent epidemic. Yet, according to a 2009 National Coalition for the Homeless, the US government has invested 1.5 billion dollars to reduce homelessness. These programs are known to poorly serve rural communities and overlook front-end and support services needs.

And that’s been my experience. We are now officially counted among the veteran homeless and our camper was deemed uninhabitable. But no one from the service organizations or veterans groups helped us. None advocated for us to our landlord. Imagine the impact of a letter from an official; it might have made the owners rethink giving us the boot. There is no consequence to landlords contributing to rural homelessness. There is no incentive for property managers to offer rents that match rural wages. There is no re-education for veterans unless they fit some unlikely profile. I’m an angry homeless American writer married to an under-served disabled homeless vet.

So what the blazes does my anger have to do with my nation? First of all, I understand the frustration of extremes and disparity. I don’t crave to be wealthy; I just want what most people do — a comfortable, stable and happy home and satisfying work. I went to college to be a writer, I enjoy writing, yet I’m angry that writers are under paid and under valued. Many in my nation have experienced these same disparities — jobs in urban areas that are predominately black do not pay the same as jobs elsewhere. A good friend of mine who is a woman of color and highly educated explained to me how black business professionals are often sought from other regions to fill corporate equality quotas while ignoring the minorities in their area to keep them from rising beyond their circumstances.

And for black America, these are circumstances that have been long-suffering. Consider authority. First, Africans were enslaved and under the authority of slave trade. Then under the authority of slave owners. Then under the authority of Jim Crow laws. And under the authority of laws and those who apply them. I’m not a person of color, but if my homeless experience is anything like the battle for civil rights among black Americans, I understand the anger. Unlike those experiencing homelessness, the black communities across America are coming together in their anger to protest what they have experienced.

Yet, I have many police officers in my circle of family and friends. The men and women I know are good citizens and uphold the laws, often under stressful circumstances. The police see a different side of society. They see what is broken, abused and drugged. If soldiers experience PTSD, why not police officers? I know what undiagnosed PTSD can look like and what if we are ignoring an entire profession and denying them help because we don’t want to admit that being a police officer is stressful? I worry for my family and friends who serve their communities. But I don’t feel angry over their situation as a whole.

There is a disparity between between cops and blacks. As to answers, I don’t have any, but I can understand the anger on one side and the duty on the other. And in the midst of this mess, toss in the arguments for or against who uses which bathroom and the question of how are we incubating mass shooters. In between are a myriad of other injustices big and small. Teachers chastise parents to suck it up and buy their kids all those school supplies and parents belittle the profession of teachers. Breast-feeding mothers feud with bottle-feeding mothers. Skinny women dis fat women, and no one understands the different disorders that others have. We deny anger yet we seem to be angry about petty issues.

Anger is polarizing us.

It is healthy to describe and attribute one’s anger. It’s not healthy to stay there, but it does need validation to move on. When we deny our own anger or that of another, we tend to misdirect the emotion. It doesn’t just go away. Snark is often anger coming out sideways to mask the real issue. If you can’t claim your anger, you can’t find a solution. Taking an us-versus-them stance is another way to mask anger. The problem with all this denied and misdirected anger is that it’s also superficial. We don’t go deep; we stay shallow.

You might be wondering why I’m angry that mangoes in America taste like cucumbers. I’m not. It was something I heard on NPR, and the person who said it wasn’t angry either. My point is disconnection. Americans seem to claim anger not really their own. Instead of looking within for reflection and understanding, Americans seems to be looking outside and expressing disconnected anger. I can understand my friend, the woman I mentioned earlier, expressing anger over what is happening in her black community. I don’t understand another friend who is expressing anger in regards to something she hasn’t experienced and yet she scolds me not be angry over my current circumstances.

And who knows what deep-seated anger or other emotions drive the actions of mass shooters or assassins or truck drivers who could stomach running over humans.

Writers, we need you more than ever! We need you to connect emotion to intellect, to express the experiences of one group to be understood by another. And literature has a unique way of doing so without polarization or sermonizing. Fiction has a place in making the world see where it has gone mad. One reader at a time until we all start thinking critically; allowing emotions to be acknowledged and processed; feeling empathy for the other; humanizing our human experiences.

My heart breaks for those experiencing the pain of lost loved ones to violence. May our anger or denial of it never escalate to such human tragedy.

July 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the emotion of anger. You can express it without naming it, or write a story about it. Challenge yourself to think about how we accept or deny anger. Is there a warning? Is there a resolution? You can write humorously, seriously or ironically about anger.

Respond by July 19, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


I’ll post my flash in the comments. We are headed back to Spokane tomorrow for a VA appointment and an interview at a local college. My greatest appreciation for those who have helped me and Todd in our season of homelessness. If you want to help us with repairs to our trailer and the installation of a desk and office chair you can donate, but please don’t feel you need to. Carrot Ranch is for you, the writers. We are managing and have been helped to make it this far. I might be angry, but I’m also grateful to those of you who show up to write, read and discuss here.

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  1. elliotttlyngreen

    People will never change unless you let them. Yet it is a different form of communication today; if an overabundance. I am texting, working, typing this and listening to music. Trying to repress all these natural instincts is just another side effect to civilization. And which one is correct or perfect. Change is never easy. It feels like the beginning; to what and to what ends..? We may never know. Yet, even Pat the Bunny retired this year, the year the music died. Why?!

    I think he wants to just go (to a) home too.

    So, carry forward, continue your story; for who? ME (and cuz the Ranch). My energy is low and I know.. and yes i know what its like to run out of rage, turn, look back at the silly path that stood in my way – obliterated.. Someday this change will see the same. I hope we laugh after the last page.

    Well… Here’s to you Johnny!! And of Course Charli.

    Squints ii by Elliott Lyngreen

    { a pair of contacts; that connect/signal}. Chance was genius. {(disclaimer: any resemblances to real folks… is mere coincidence)} Sylvia first look upon him was like he said he was allergic to the moon. {We will never…touch that, my krypto_ignite -yes!} Ignite.? Her first reading…though; she follows separate parallel phases to reach/ground. {Don’t wait for your wings to awake. We CAN touch/connect/attach to moon light and beam ^, see.?} Close imagination tilts her head {there you go..}, a silverlash stains the quarter as this surreal unglued version….Of Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains…

    Thanks for
    God Bless

    • Charli Mills

      Looking forward to laughing at that last page. I have a story for you…when we were camped on the Coeur D’Alene River, we found a tavern established in 1891. It’s seems strange out in the forest, no towns or signs of why a tavern would be located here. It’s near the original discovery of gold and all that remains of a later CCC camp and Forest Service station. A small band…bass guitar, drums, and a singer on a piano…was playing one weekend. We sat and listened for over four hours! That piano player never got up once. He played covers, but what he really had a tangent for was reading the small audience and playing to us like it was communication. The longer the night went, the more we felt energized. One of the last songs he played was American Pie. I don’t know why, but you instantly came to mind.

      Great continuation of your flash silver. Thanks!

      • elliotttlyngreen

        That takes a pretty special talent. And great story thanks for sharing. Give them what they want but always leave them wanting more. Small venues are the best setting for live music. I could hang there for 4 hours easy. I would be the one setting there not letting hin read. So he gives me everything hes got to get me into the groove. Most bands hav a set list, so thats fascinating.

      • Charli Mills

        One of his band members mentioned that the piano player had a broader list than most and if you could find it online, he could likely play it. Music, writing, creating, all so amazing!

  2. denmaniacs4


    “I think,” Merle said, as Cheroot smoke drifted over the street, “that the Good Lord is willing…even when I’m not.”

    “Might be one and the same,” Dobbs reflected.

    “Maybe, Mr. Dobbs. Maybe. Most nights I watch Henry struggle with his wrath. He isn’t, by nature, a volatile man, but Caldwell and his killers strike without warning. At the innocent, anyone they choose. Henry is protective…of me, of our friends, of the town. It makes a body sick to hold all that in, to squirm in…in impotence.”

    “Perhaps it will all end today, Merle.

    “I pray it does, Mr. Dobbs.”


    • Charli Mills

      I wonder if that’s what we are missing…the struggle. A struggle implies recognition, reflection and restraint. But then, as your story builds, collectively, a community can only take so much and certain individuals are asked to bear what others restrain.

    • Charli Mills

      Valid point about control and restraint. Yet to have control, we first need to acknowledge the emotion. Yesterday was frustrating. At several points yesterday I could have lost my control on my anger, and it could have been an ugly day, but we got what we needed. Today, I’m taking an anger break. Thank you for your contribution!

  3. Annecdotist

    Is that you in that picture, Charli? You sure look cute, but I imagine you had a lot to be angry about, even if it was on a small scale (or perhaps it wasn’t), as you certainly have now. Your circumstances, like many in the world, call for outrage yet you’re right that anger is so often misdirected. I think you know I’m not in favour of denying our “negative” feelings – it’s much healthier to be authentic in both our light and dark, and I’m usually up for the latter in my writing.
    However, this has caught me at a busy and celebratory period, as I head towards my book’s first birthday. I thought I might sit it out until I remembered a scene from my novel on the topic of the potential harm of repressed anger, so I’ve cobbled something together from that.
    Anyway, I’d be pleased if Ranchers could make it over to my post as, along with my contribution to the compilation, I’ve got a not-as-excruciating-as-I-thought-but-still-embarrassing video interview to share (although I’ll understand with your limited Internet time, you might have to come back to it in hopefully happier times) and, for those who like ebooks, a cheap-as-chips (or actually cheaper) promotional discount on my novel
    I look forward to reading your flash when you have time.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s my daughter who was angry over having less Easter eggs than her sister! Anger was not something allowed from me as a child and there were unkind ways to support the lesson. Showing anger, even do this day, can make me feel like I’m wrong or even fearful if authority is involved, which tends to make me more determined to embrace my anger. I let my kids express their emotions and as they got older we talked about how to handle them.

      Congratulations! A year old! Your book is growing up. ????I’ll be more than happy to hop on over to your place this weekend and I’ll get the word out, too. I’m glad you are showing your interview, too. I can’t wait to see it. I’m taking a break from anger this weekend, so a perfect time to focus on cheerier things. And rancher accomplishments!

      • Annecdotist

        I’m glad you’re able to take a break from anger, Charli, so long as it’s self-motivated and not other people telling you to keep quiet. Actually, I should have known that photo wouldn’t be you – I certainly recognise that kind of childhood and still have major difficulties with anger myself. I think it’s fabulous that you were able to enjoy your children’s anger enough to capture it in a photo.
        I have a friend whose daughter is an extremely talented performance poet – among other things – one of whose poems has the line ‘My mother taught me to scream’ which of course I love. This isn’t it but the only one I could find this morning before I head out for the moors

      • Charli Mills

        She is talented! I really love performance poetry and hearing the spoken words. What a great line! I’ll have to see if I can find that one. Ah, how wonderful a jaunt across the moors sounds! My anger break was self-prescribed and worth it, although it was hard to let go at first. Getting out helped — a jaunt across the coulees of eastern Washington. How can one stay angry when surrounded by natural beauty and wonder?

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! We aren’t always angry here, but it seems we need to blow off some steam and make way for positive action. Thanks for contributing!

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Yes. This: “When we deny our own anger or that of another, we tend to misdirect the emotion.” It doesn’t just go away. I hope you find some light soon, lady. Both of you. ???? It’s difficult right now but I hope you can.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m looking for light among the blight. My circumstances are not going to smooth out but when I took a deliberate anger break, I realized I had been standing in the way of my own joy. I am still angry, but I’m choosing to direct it and let it go like yoga breaths. Today, I dare say I felt like “me” again. That gave me tremendous hope! Trying to “direct” the anger and let in more light. Thank you. <3

    • Charli Mills

      I will…it’s one of my favorite pictures of her! She can be very expressive. The interview was not what we expected, but Todd got enough information and knows better what he needs to qualify. He has another choice, too. That’s good and bad; he has trouble deciding, but I prod him along and keep all his appointments straight with the VA schedulers. Your flash reminds me of the absurdities one encounters when homeless. We have no problem with appointments at the VA, but when it comes to care, they can’t figure out where to schedule him despite asking for a specific location. In other words, we need a permanent address, but not something we have so it confounds the schedulers and we get appointments in northern Idaho when we are now in eastern Washington. We try to change those and we lose our placement. We get something set up in Moses Lake and then a scheduler cancels it because they see Todd is from Sandpoint. It’s my job every morning to keep track of his appointments, location and time so he doesn’t miss much work. And work is something he was advised not to do for the Veteran’s Homeless Program (if you can believe that!) but we are so far managing all this chaos on our own without any outside help. I’m still puzzled as to what these programs do besides take data, fill out gobs of paperwork and give us the same list of churches or food banks, neither of which we need. Their arbitrary program rules are a joke and I can empathize with those who do what they have to to make the broken systems work for them. Thus the position Jane finds herself in. Yes. Enough to make anyone crazy and angry. Thank you. I continue to write on!

  5. Deborah Lee

    And don’t forget, anger can be a powerful force for good when it’s channeled constructively. Look what Gandhi and MLK Jr accomplished. Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street are important movements seeded in anger at injustice. Writing is such a good way to make productive use of something that can be destructive when mishandled. Keep writing! <3

  6. julespaige

    (a poem…)

    A Different Reflection (with an addition)
    (Choka/ Shadorma (plus)

    Push, I’ll push you back
    So do expect my attack
    That is what I thought –
    If to your thinking, I bought
    What game do you play
    Taking my sunshine away
    so many years; tears
    As I hid behind my fears
    Your hand in a fist
    Your attitude in a mist…
    All those falsely tied ribbons

    The dances
    Of memory fade
    As silence
    Gifts relief
    The present is my best gift
    Even without you


    (We want to live without anger.
    Yet anger is but one fuel for justice.
    How can justice be portrayed as
    a blind woman? I don’t know.)


    Post link:
    A Different Reflection (with an addition)

    • Charli Mills

      The lines feel like protesters face to face, like a survivor standing up to an abuser. It feels so face-to-face. Great pacing and message!

  7. Pete

    Gone Fishing

    Larry sent his anger up with the flag—a duty he would gladly relinquish upon retirement. In accordance to code, he raised it full—to the finial—where a flag belonged in a normal world. Larry took a breath, thinking how he was through with flag poles and ready for fishing poles.

    He regarded the stars and stripes fluttering in the morning breeze. A quick prayer and he slid the flag down to half-staff, where it flew four days last week. Twelve out of the past thirty days. To where the new guy might end up leaving it altogether.

    • Charli Mills

      This makes me weep. You have caught the utter despair of our nation and world caught in endless violent acts. The comparison between flag pole and fishing is brilliant.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a magical writing moment when something new expresses on the page. I’m glad to hear that happened!

    • Charli Mills

      Glad to made over here, Larry! I would have missed Ed. 🙂

  8. A. E. Robson

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “Why don’t you yell at me? You know you want to.”

    It had been the second time in a month that he had not come home before curfew. He worried about his son and what he was up to, but yelling wasn’t the answer. It only made them both anxious and sour.

    He watched his boy from across the table. He didn’t have to yell if the boy thought he should. He already knew he was wrong.

    Raising his voice did nothing for both of them. It was easier to keep his counsel. The affect had the same outcome.


    • julespaige

      That’s the ‘Pick the right battle’ adage of parenting in a nut shell. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Great flash1 Love the use of the word “sour.”

    • Charli Mills

      You’re half a day ahead of me! Never too late at the ranch, Geoff.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, of course, always on time at the ranch. 🙂 Oh, good! Glad you used that!

  9. Norah

    Congratulations on expressing your anger so clearly, Charli. Expression doesn’t diminish it, but it helps to reach clarity and understanding of its causes and impacts. Allowing anger to fester does lead to misdirection, as you say. Many who are turning to violence as a way of expressing their anger probably have no real idea of why they are, or should or shouldn’t be, angry. To take it out on innocent people has no justification. I believe this is so on a personal as well as global level.
    Take care, my friend. Use your anger to make better things happen. 🙂


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