August 24: 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.

August 25, 2016

August 24Hot sun heats the metal beyond touching comfortably. The playground equipment squats at the mouth of a giant coulee, as if poised to be devoured. No children run across the taupe grit where soap suds lap at the water’s edge. Soap Lake gets its name from those minerailzed suds, and a few adults wade out into its tepid waters. What do they hope to be healed of?

The town of Soap Lake is as gritty as the sand. Houses built of black basalt are void of green lawns. Small businesses based on an alternative healing niche line a short main street. A few resorts boast of healing waters piped to rooms. Locals 30 miles away in Moses Lake warn me of biting red bugs in the water and tweakers in the desert.

It looks as inhospitable as a homeless shelter must feel to a child.

That we even have homeless shelters for children in a country where a free-market system reigns puts to question the value of profit over people. In America, you can own a Boeing Triple 7. Or you can watch your child sleep in a homeless shelter and despair of how to afford $20 a week to put him on a city bus so he can go to first grade. If you want to make yourself feel better, google “help for homeless families” and breath a sigh of relief as listing after listing scrolls to reveal lots of aid. It’s a facade. It’s as fake as a spray-on tan.

Two months ago I could not admit this — but I’m fortunate. Two months ago, I felt as if I won a lotto ticket to hell. I mourned the loss of home, office, writing stability. I panicked in tight spaces, felt no joy in the wilderness and wondered if I’d ever feel normal again. Ironic for someone who has never felt normal. However, I’ve witnessed first-hand the normalizing of homelessness in America. It’s the new normal for many, and I’m not talking street people or panhandlers on busy corners.

Many uncounted people exist among you. We are the invisible homeless, the fortunate ones. The ones with tents or camp trailers. The ones with kitchenettes or motel rooms. The ones who are independent and have access to work and means, if not to a permanent address. We have complications, including mail, schooling and voting. For a valid ID, bank account, debit card, car insurance, health insurance and VA benefits you need an address. What do we do? We lie. Most ask a relative or friend to help and use their address. Then that mail proxy forwards to a General Delivery address.

That’s really where I live — General Delivery, Moses Lake 98837. But to keepTodd going through the VA, we have to have an address. To vote in the presidential elections, we have to have an address. To maintain my health insurance, I have to have an address. So we have simply kept our old one. It’s not like anyone else is currently living there. We forward our mail to GD and pick up our mail with identification that says we live somewhere that used to be home.

My husband is better at normalizing our experience than I am. When asked where we live, he answers, “We’re in between homes.” We are surrounded by others who do the same. Here I thought we camped among retirees. Some are, but many are “in between homes” like we are. There’s the engineer in town, advising on Air Japan’s entry to a facility in Moses Lake. His work makes it better for him to travel in an RV. Our neighbor five spots down from us is a plumber and has no where to live but his trailer. The family across the way recently admitted to us that they’ve lived here in this RV park with two sons and two dogs since last November. They can’t find a house they can afford, but he works and she home-schools the kids.

Don’t donate to those charities. They are nothing more than what my husband calls trust fund repositories. They give money in the way of grants. Call them up and say, “Hey, I have a young mother in need” and they’ll tell you they don’t ACTUALLY help the homeless; they fund grants for those who do. Okay. Who would that be? Seriously, I know a young mother in need. Her son starts first grade August 28 but they are living in a shelter.

Shelters are a crap-shoot. They reduce the number they serve by being specific: battered women and children; single men; families; veterans. Oddly enough, there are few shelters for single women. One homeless woman we see on our way to VA appointments stands on a corner with a cardboard sign that reads, “SMILE.” We do. We smile and wave; she waves back. I’m no longer hesitant to sit with homeless people on the streets. I buy us McDonald’s Sausage McMuffins and coffee. If I have change I empty my wallet. I’m lucky. I have client work and friends who care. My husband works. Our expenses are reduced except when we have emergencies. Fortunate or not, all homeless dread emergencies. We can’t afford to have them.

That’s when it hits you — there is no help. The safety net broke long ago. The charities are full of bullshit and only work to get grants or government funding. We worked with one specifically for Homeless Veterans. They took our time, cost us money to drive to appointments and never did a damned thing. I began listening more carefully –“might be able to…” When I told them to remove our case, they fought hard to keep us. They made several more “might” promises. As long as we were counted as being serviced, they got paid. We didn’t. They did.

Some shelters, despite reducing their numbers by serving specific sectors of population, have a lottery system. This sickens me most. Imagine the uncertainty that comes from being homeless. Now add to it that you have to gather with others and wait to see if your lotto number is drawn. If yes, you get a bed for the night. If no, well, there’s the street. What angers me is that the visible homeless have risen in numbers. In NYC alone, the number of homeless single adults has risen 95 percent. Rough sleeping is on the rise in the UK. In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States, and of that number, 206,286 were people in families. Children. Nine percent of US homeless are veterans.

Why? Actually, the answer is the same here as it is across the pond. Circumstances, mental health and addiction issues might vary, but the core cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. As a writer working from home, 75 percent of what I earned went to rent. My husband’s contracts were sporadic and his service-related disability was barely enough to cover groceries. We received no assistance and we simple went without to live in an rental. When that rental was no longer available to us, we had no where to go. The rental shortage hurt the already tight market. It hurt people like us. We are among the rural homeless which often displaces people from place, as it has us.

Children suffer because their parents are caught in circumstances they can’t help. A young boy sleeps in a shelter tonight because his parents lost their lease and couldn’t afford the rent elsewhere. His father has battled addiction but before getting clean, he was evicted from a place. That means he’s not eligible to rent. If he stays with his family, his family is not eligible to rent. Where is the incentive to stay together? To stay sober? Where is the hope for this child? How is his mother to find work without an address? Where can she leave her son to go to an interview? Most shelters separate families.

We are fortunate. We have a camper, each other and no young children. I have office space. I no longer have shame to yell at practitioners who refuse VA insurance for my husband and I can say the homeless word with a spark of rebellion in my tone. I dare you to change things in this world. If you don’t want to look, I’ll draw your attention anyway. If over 500,000 people aren’t sleeping in a bed tonight, I don’t want us sleeping easily on distance from the issue. I worry for the children. I dream that one day, this boy in the shelter will go to college.

One day at a time. Spend your kindness on others. Validate their humanity. Smile. See what needs noticing around you. I can’t solve 500,000 problems. You can’t either. But I can take 10 extra minutes and $5 extra bucks to have breakfast with Andy on the street corner. Yes. He has a name. He even has a truck. Find your own Andy. Or Mindy who just wants smiles. If it concerns you to give a panhandler cash, give a food or gas gift card. Better yet, share a meal. Give your time. Support charities that do actual work, not just intake and head-counting. Serve soup, serve on councils.

And we all need to work together to find real solutions to affordable housing.

This is where most people stick their heads in the sand. What can you really do? In the US most homeless, including the fortunate RVers like we’ve landed with, are temporary. It’s estimated that about 82,000 are chronic. But all face affordable housing issues. Another estimate is that there are only 29 affordable homes per every 100 people in need of one. And other barriers to chronic homelessness include mental health and addictions. This group can’t even navigate the paperwork required to get into linear programs that they most likely will get kicked out of once they have a mental episode or addictive relapse.

But Utah has a solution for the chronically homeless facing deeper issues. It was based on the idea of a NYU psychologist:

“Okay,” Tsemberis recalls thinking, “they’re schizophrenic, alcoholic, traumatized, brain damaged. What if we don’t make them pass any tests or fill out any forms? They aren’t any good at that stuff. Inability to pass tests and fill out forms was a large part of how they ended up homeless in the first place. Why not just give them a place to live and offer them free counseling and therapy, health care, and let them decide if they want to participate? Why not treat chronically homeless people as human beings and members of our community who have a basic right to housing and health care?”

And the rest of us? We help each other. I’ve asked the mother across the row if there’s anything I can do to help with her sons’ education. Mostly, she just wants another woman who understands to chat with; someone who won’t judge her or make her feel like crap for living in a camp trailer with two boys and two dogs. The homeless man we met at Soap Lake just wanted to talk about cameras. The veteran who now helps other vets with their dogs wants a woman who won’t be ashamed of his struggles with PTSD. His wife left him when he sought help because the stigma embarrassed her.

I know this is temporary and I feel as though the worst has passed and it was survivable. We have decided not to move back to Sandpoint and passed on the affordable rental we had found. Instead we have developed several plans of action around what care my husband needs from the VA and how much longer his knee will hold out working in aviation on the floor. He’s looking for office work in aviation and has applied for a VA education program he’s eligible for, but will take months to find out if he’s entitled. No surprise. This much needed veteran program is underfunded and understaffed.

For now I office in a caravan. I live in 161-square feet of space with two big dogs and a former soldier. I’m fortunate. I’ve seen what lies across that line of fortune. I hurt most for the children and their parents who lack support and means.

August 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an empty playground. Is it abandoned or are the children in school? What is it about the emptiness that might hint of deeper social issues. It can be a modern story, apocalyptic or historical. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 31, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


First School at Rock Creek by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)

A rope swing dangled beneath a cottonwood branch where Cobb stood, puffing a pipe. Mary walked across the short-lived school-yard to stand next to him.

“No teacher, no school,” he said.

“I know it was important to you. Lizzie was excited to come west and teach.” Mary glanced at the freshly turned earth.

“We need another teacher. What will Da say?”

“He’ll be sad. He saw to her education at Normal School.”

“Bad enough our teacher died, but she took half the students with her.”

Diphtheria. Mary counted five graves and then counted her blessings. None were her children.


Where a Schoolhouse Once Stood by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)

Danni rolled the clay marble in the palm of her hand. While Ike picked cherries, she scratched at the dirt. According to Forest Service Records, Spring Creek School stood across the narrow creek bed from Carter Station. Danni looked for evidence of foundations, but nothing remained. She studied the land and imagined where the school would have been. Though she didn’t know, she applied logic – proximity to water, flatness of the terrain, evidence of fruit trees. If her hunch was right, she’d be standing in the empty playground where children of homesteaders played. That’s where she found the marble.



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    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ruchira! I think what frustrates me most is the amount of money these charities circulate without actually resolving any issues. On the other hand, I’m impressed with the churches that are hands on, boots on the ground actually serving food and taking care of people. But so many of the homeless are people you probably know, but don’t realize. We know affordable housing is the core issue, yet it sits untouched. Utah, though, is doing something incredible and it actually saves the state money. Thanks for your flash, too!

    • Charli Mills

      We are actually doing better, but learning more about experience and of course, the stories of others. It’s actually amazing how pervasive homelessness is and I do realize how fortunate we are to have caring friends. Thank you for your prayers, Susan! And thanks for the spooky-fun story!

  1. Norah

    Hi Charli. What a dreadful situation it is for so many. Our most vulnerable need most support, but they receive less. It seems incomprehensible that, in such wealthy countries as ours, anyone should have to go without. Isn’t a home a basic human need? A right?
    I feel for the mother and her boys. You say one of the boys is starting year one. Let me know if she needs any educational support. Perhaps I can send some suggestions across.
    I like that you have pointed out the humanity in each of the homeless people you find, a recognition of their individuality, that they are not a nameless statistic. It’s so sad to hear of the lack of work done with money to charities. I guess at least the administrators are in jobs and homes! Now it’s time to help others. Funny how those with the least are often the ones most willing to share.
    Your flash are both poignant and touched me. The thought of the diphtheria taking the teacher and the students is very sad. I understand Mary’s relief. Sometimes it can be tinged with guilt when others have been taken and you have been spared. It’s difficult to celebrate when others are grieving.
    Danni’s use of clues and logic reminds me of you. She was using all available to deduce the history of what had been.
    I am very much looking forward to reading both of these.
    I hope your situation, and that of the families around you, and far from you, improve soon. Where are the philanthropists when you need them! Fitting out those luxury planes. Now, really!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Norah! When I worked in Minnesota where this young mother is, I knew all kinds of charities. Minnesota has a huge philanthropy community. But as I began giving phone numbers or calling myself, I realized how few actually work hands-on to help. Then I discovered the lottery system and that just seemed so inhumane. I’m encouraging her to try and work with the school where her son is enrolled, but as another teacher pointed out to me, the family has to have an address. There seem to be more catches than solutions. I was also intrigued by Tsemberis’ observation that often the chronically homeless are the ones who struggle with paperwork and linear programs. This made me think of the students who struggle with test-taking. Many chronically homeless are adult versions of poor test-takers. All I can say is any chance a person has to offer creative help, like your kind offer to extend teaching support to this young parent, is what we can do. Offer our skills, insight, hearts and hands. The gap between a boy in a shelter and a man investing half a million dollars to carpet his plane is mind-boggling. I’ll let you know in an email how things are going with this boy’s education. He’s so bright! I want to see him continue to have that growth mindset. They meet with his teacher tomorrow. Thank you!

      • Norah

        It is so sad that help is not getting to those who need it. We give our dollars and think we have helped, but it seems it is not necessarily so. I agree with Tsemberis’ observations. We need to support people at every life stage, but it is through supporting children that we maybe have some hope of breaking the cycle. Much more needs to be done. How can a child be denied an education if he doesn’t have a home! How will he ever get a home if he doesn’t have an education. Education of all secures our future. It is so important. Yes, please do let me know if I can help. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        “How can a child be denied an education if he doesn’t have a home! How will he ever get a home if he doesn’t have an education.” That’s the conundrum, right there.

  2. julespaige

    I’ll get to my own flash in a bit but I read this article the other day and I think it is inspiring. I hope other cities follow – (you might have to wait for an add to vanish, but the article will come up):

    In our own area, especially in winter when the shelters are full several congregations volunteer on a rotating basis to help hold the overage.

    Our congregation also supplies volunteers to read at a local city school as well as collects items for schools in need and the local woman’s shelter. We used to collect food stuffs, but now we are asked to just supply grocery gift cards so the shelters can buy in bulk as well as get the actual supplies they need. I am sure there are many in the area that provide other services. One of our radio stations does a yearly ‘Stuff the school bus with school supplies’ to pass out to the local schools whose budgets seem to always get cut.

    • Charli Mills

      That’ a great article to show initiatives that offer true help over punitive action. The Mayor cites the same finding as in Utah — it saves the government money to provide homes for the chronically homeless. Further, Albuquerque shows improved donating. I find it is the Catholic Charities and individual churches that organize and give the most. I like that your congregation focuses less on food collection and more on funds for buying food in bulk. Usually that provides better meals. I think human dignity is an important factor, too. Giving a person more options and real choices, a chance to be known and know others, to have help and hope that’s tangible.

    • Norah

      Thanks for sharing the article. What a great initiative.

  3. julespaige

    Charli… illness is never just one persons fault. Your abandoned playgrounds…remind me that there is a local playground that we helped to build about 25 years ago, that finally needs rebuilding… maybe we’ll be able to help out a second time at the same location with some physical labor.

    I didn’t have to go far for this…though the names have been changed…:

    Hope, Less

    Late summer at the campgrounds, Hope was alone, again.
    The sun was setting – there wasn’t much to do for a young
    tomboy on her own except go to the central empty play-
    ground. Ten year old Hope, sat on one of the abandoned
    swings scattering the dusty dirt with her worn sneakers.

    The only thing she could think of to do was sing. And she
    sang Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence”. A
    young father and his daughter came close enough to listen,
    when the girl invited them to hear – but the song is sad and
    they soon left.


    Post link:
    Hope, Less

    • Charli Mills

      Like the title and play on punctuation. It feels like a universal truth, the avoidance of sadness which leads to silence. I’m all about voice and being real, acknowledging all the parts of our selves. Aw, but hurts my heart that you grabbed this one from memory.

      • julespaige

        It is from our experiences that we ‘draw’ our life. For some it is a well too deep that they would rather not reach and for others a thirst quencher – a release, however solemn.

  4. paulamoyer

    Another good one, Charli! Here’s mine:

    Summer of Innocence

    By Paula Moyer

    Summer weekends at Nana’s and Papa’s felt like country in the city to Jean and her cousin Lynn. Bird calls, big clouds. Adirondack chairs in the big back yard.

    Today the seven-year-olds picked their way through the vacant lot to the school playground on the other side. Big swings, big teeter-totters. This summer, the girls could finally, just barely, propel themselves on their own power.

    “I can go higher!”

    “No, me!”

    Soon school would start. The kids that used the playground daily would return. Today, though, the girls claimed it.

    “Teedi, teeda.” A chickadee called.

    Golden moment. Golden time.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Paula! Oh, I love the innocence and independence claimed on the playground. Good take on why a playground would be empty, too. Love the bird call!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw an empty playground. They can be haunting, or just resting until the school year.

  5. paulamoyer

    Also — I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s been something I would never go through without some kicking and screaming, but it has strengthen my resolve in being more mindful of what is unraveling in our nation. Nothing community and compassion can’t fix!

      • paulamoyer

        What spirit. I am inspired by your persistence.

  6. Annecdotist

    Aargh, it’s such an Alice-in-Wonderland world we live in, in which houses are capital and not homes / refuges / shelters and charities don’t actually dispense charity but chase grants and people are statistics. What a lot of time and energy the poor are required to put into the chance of getting what so many of us take for granted. But at least you have the prospect of Mr Trump setting the world to rights (sorry, that was cruel, but given his guest Mr Brexit at a rally yesterday, we’re definitely in this mess together).
    Superb writing despite these injustices, Ms Mills. I loved that Danni found the marble — another kind of fossil.
    Mine is here on the craziness theme of an ‘all work and no play’ attitude to efficiency

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I’m not holding my breath for the Mad Hatter setting the world to rights. Upon reading of Mr. Brexit stumping for Trump, I had a shiver of ick run through me. But when I realized that Farage was speaking to a crowd in Jackson, Mississippi, it felt exploitative. It’s a place of civil unrest, of cultural revolution. As if Farage didn’t trick the downtrodden and fearful in his own nation, he had to go poking into communities of social unrest here. And in the meantime, statistics rack up for competitive grants. People are counted but unheard. That’s okay. I believe in the words of another politician, John F. Kennedy who once said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” I’m off to read about corporate efficiency now!

  7. paulamoyer

    Beautiful and said, Anne. Very well done with the overly scheduled child!

  8. denmaniacs4

    Not the same schoolyard as you describe, Charli. Only a little bit of learning going on in Union City, but I hope my playground dalliance furthers my tale.


    Dobbs burrowed into the alley behind the bank.

    With the Marshall a bag of bones bleaching in the desert, any hope of assistance in facing Caldwell was lost.

    As it was too early for the bank to open, he made his way to the edge of town.

    The school looked new.

    A child was swinging on a rope.

    Another pushed her.

    A few other children loitered in the dirt.

    A young woman, stern beyond her years, scowled at the dalliers. “IN,” she insisted.

    Soon the schoolyard was empty.

    A dozen horsemen rode by.

    Their dust was swirling sudden death.

    • Charli Mills

      You used the prompt to build the tension and further Dobbs dilemma. So much hope a community puts into anew school, yet such a fragile thing in the face of those who have no regard for its potential.

  9. Sarah Brentyn

    This saddens me. It truly does. I try to help and do what I can but I can’t help everyone. Not individually. That has always overwhelmed me and upset me. I do what I can and I hope. (I do give to shelters and institutions so I hope the money is going where it’s needed. But I know they have limits and I give as often as I can to those around me – food, clothing, blankets, gift cards to coffee shops… I have to keep hoping or I’ll fall apart.)

    I know your situation is the same but your perspective has changed. I admire both of you. And am sad for the loss of your rental but trust your choice of staying with what you have is the best thing right now. Thinking of you and sending positive vibes always. ????

    • Charli Mills

      No one can help everyone. I’ve become more attentive around me. Time and compassion goes further than dollars and donated canned goods. But that’s intimidating. Just be wise in which charities you select. I love that water charity you told me about. That’s tangible. Dollars = action. What has happened is that charities get set up as tax shelters for trust funds. No taxes on your $10 million dollar nest egg provided your charity gives out a million in grants. Your trust can own your houses, cars and meetings can be a month-long and held on an exotic beach or ski slopes in the alps. Write off your million dollar upgrade to your luxury jet because it flies your charity director who happens to be your son-in-law. On the flip side, the charities that rely on the grants or government support are so competitive to serve that they count people but never help. Not all fall between such extremes, but pay attention to websites. If you were homeless and googled help, which ones actually have a place for a homeless person to contact them, or is the charity only seeking donations? I’ll step off my soap box. I’ve learned a lot and many of these charities rely on people feeling helpless but wanting to help. Their marketers know to use emotional push points. Thank you for saying you have seen a perspective shift. I hope this situation grows me. I actually have outstanding news to announce tomorrow! Thank you for daring to walk in the dark just to say, “Come on, this way.”

  10. Pete

    Virtually Lost

    Sabrya was wet to the shins as they trampled the weeds and came to the clearing. Jaro, out in front, pointed to the structures.


    In a click he was through. Sabrya meandered along the fence, her fingers catching the woven chain. Jaro screamed out, sliding down a ribbon of metal. Natlia mounted a caterpillar. A rusty swing set awoke with a squeak.

    “Sabrya, come.”

    “I can’t, my battery pack…”

    Darkness. Sabrya tore off her Oculus. It always malfunctioned when they were exploring. She watched, stuck in class while her friends stared off in wonder, arms outstretched, enjoying life.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s chilling! I’m a huge proponent of imagination, yet I value the actual living of life, too. To be robbed of that by technology is a futuristic fear.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Larry! We continue to rise on our path but my eyes are open wider than they were before. Another great contribution!

  11. Rowena

    Reblogged this on beyondtheflow and commented:
    A first-hand insight into homeless, which everyone should read. It could be you. It could be me. xx Rowena

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Rowena! Good to see you at the ranch! Thank you for reblogging and supporting the message.

      • Rowena

        Hi Charli! It’s great to be back again and I don’t know how I got sideswiped because I’ve been loving the flash format and your challenges.
        Every challenge, I’m amazed at what can be condensed into 99 words when it usually takes me 1000 words to write a post. I don’t know if you clicked through to the link with the interviews with people returning to this town, but they were very poignant. This one family had locked their house. Still had the key but looters had been through and taken things. Low act.
        I write quite a lot about social justice and I used to be on the local Status of Women committee with our local council. One of the other committee members is in management with Coast Shelter, which provides services to homeless people in our region. Here’s a link to their web site and client stories:
        You are in my thoughts xx Ro

  12. Rowena

    Sorry to hear of your ongoing battles with homelessness , but at the same time, there’s a definite strength woven through your words and I can’t help but hope this season is preparing you for growth in some way.
    I chose to write about a playground near Chernobyl abandoned after the nuclear reactor exploded.
    Take care. LOve and blessings,

    • Charli Mills

      Like growing pains, I feel the bones knitting into something stronger. And I have a good breakthrough to share with everyone tomorrow. Oh, I think I have seen photos of that playground. What an awful modern tragedy. Thanks for adding your contribution! Thank you, and love and blessing back to you! <3

  13. elliotttlyngreen

    …around the uneven horrendous pavement, stone-pocked edgings, wet cement, puddles reflecting vision-memories of unknown games; ballers rolled out into summer like air pressure continually adjusting a sonic door, busted and fumed with the constant fizz until the parking lot filled with thumps and bumps and beats of some unheard distant repetitive whoosh across open miniature glances, and the glass-sealed doors, from both ends, served as the vacant space I just described, and at times by some of the clamors, within… The Legion that waited 2, 3, maybe 4 hours just to get inside; in determining the power of sky flooded like the sidelines and single set of bleachers, with Little League crowd-sized changes in faces and bodies, colors and dimes.. that silence captivated by streetball scattered moves, and the echoes dribbling and the flinging of them rungs upended in myyhead motivated me to the palms, snagged, ripping,
    “who got last?’—off like I am someone, when sneaking up in smirks to them all like—‘who goin t’let me run wittem?’ as if some extension of them and as a very important cog in the revolved smoothly…. mmmm just lingering swinging slamming back gate sort of irrelevance —enter the runs with me, thee, “naw naw we runnin this back” as another sprung, which yoked some tough dude with inside out sweatpants—“hell naw! nigger they 50 people waiting!”— as if it did not offend or matter. And then turn unto me, “Now You got next Mickey.’—‘Awright Lets get this rolled!’ With huge outfits, stances, placements, positions, and looks in the crowd; lanky ones too, scrawny too, shabby players but huge basketball features no matter what, and stocky ones that forced in bulldozing slips and athletic scrapes galore, soles along the cracked concrete scattered mostly by intercepted anticipations, shot real jazzy, reactions wicked, dribblings, soars, slamdunks with fierce whites “aaaaaaaaaagh!” donging rimshakes of echoes erupted across the practice fields and ball diamonds—-alley-oops, “daaaaaaaaaaamn,!!” chills, swallows, throats, jutted out thick awaiting of that chance to dazzle the long stares and the feeble impressions squirreled but kind of like the evening maroons, and thee elevated swirled airs of such significance of so many thoughts appeared easy and graceful, when, not so much nervy outside… these chills rose upon my shoulders when the chain reactions shredded infinitely and eternally grave each of those evenings.. mmm to put it all in HERE

    I will just go incredible to instill all the streaking out awful sad situations that in life itself is such rotting angst of ……, and…. I actually…… am jealous of such fascinations you are encountering Charli. Upon thinking of the way playgrounds are empty and the many possibilities.. well, to me that means the rims are dangling or the backboards are just faceless. Thanks!

    Dangling rims and Faceless Backboards by Elliot Lyngreen

    No doubt Lewis was branded—“kid wit-the-pill, he ‘Scribbles’,”; flung no-look bounces, sprung smooth in Trilby; only there, Lewis can, in indifference, in thee…absence, in the recordless allusion, crooked blue key and half 3-point line arched to wings, those stone-pocked edgings; embrace that erratic reintroducing of out of touch filtered differentiations in the fuzzy sunlight then rapt park shades slipped and smooshed impossible like writ in italicized slant. Wilson. Lewis, “oh we’ll win. Me. You. some goofy old guy.” Real fine leather flipped, gripped the orange peels, caught, spun palms, grazed, dropped just vanishing The Legion where it echoes..

    • Charli Mills

      I feel like your word gave me an infusion of basketball, as if i just breathed it in and finally understood. I could feel and hear and see the beats played out from streets to gyms, an elixir of life in places where basketball is all we got to share. Great introspection and loved the continued sensory jam of your flash. All those faceless backboards, but the players have names.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Its amazing. All this racist garbage flying around social medias is just crap… i was the smallest, whitest dude in some of the meanest areas around; never had a problem. Your infusion with them poor souls kind of aligned me with my experiences over those courts. You, Charli, are not only documenting the realest struggles and issues in this country, but even more you are embracing thee grotesque and making it just beauty. I truly wish you nothing but the best. I think it is soooooo inspirational. I think, no, i know, it is just sickening that anyone fortunate has so much anger and is just fighting problems that are sooooo minimal; when these realities are indefinitely unknown. Once again, i am honored to be a part and to know your infallible efforts to accomplish your story. You are a hero.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Diana. I’m glad to have you here!

    • Charli Mills

      Easy is relative. In many ways, my life is simpler than it was. And as for the dark, I once read another blogger’s statement that she wrote the dark so she could let in the light. Follow the prompt where it leads and keep writing!

  14. A. E. Robson

    Thinking Back
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Eyes closed. Listening to the creak of the lonely swings moving listlessly in the breeze. Legs straight out. Flying up and away. Curled back. Pumping up, into the sky once more. Brassy little boys waiting to the very last minute when the outstretched rope reaches it precipice before launching. Airborne body twisting out through the space to land on the grass and claim the title of farthest jump. Under ducks from the bigger kids creating squeals of laughter and fright. Tiny feet digging trenches with the tips of their toes in an attempt to slow down the ride. Reminiscing.

    • Charli Mills

      Such a tactile memory. Love this detail and line: “Tiny feet digging trenches with the tips of their toes in an attempt to slow down the ride.”

  15. Norah

    Hi Charli, I’m back with my attempt. I struggled with this one. The ideas just weren’t playing nicely. Never mind. I had a go. Thanks for stretching my imagination. I enjoyed learning a little of the history of playgrounds as I went. 🙂 Here’s a link

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, interesting, Norah! I wouldn’t have thought to examine the history of playgrounds. Always an education at your place, even if the ideas weren’t “playing” nicely (clever).

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. You do send me down interesting paths. I wish I had more time to follow them.

    • Charli Mills

      The earth is tilting, fortunes shifting, I hope lessons remain…healing is ongoing. Thank you.

  16. Kerry E.B. Black

    Abandoned Innocence
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Angel’s heels click-clacked like lonely heartbeats, footfalls echoing from abandoned playground equipment. She ran a hand over a rusting spring-horse, sending it rocking with metallic groans. Chipped paint snowed beneath it, adding to the litter.
    Angel sat on a swing, contemplating a place once important to her. She’d conquered her fear of heights besting the monkey bars rusting in the corner. Her Double-Dutch team won an award here, and beneath the gazebo, she experienced her first kiss.
    She pressed a finger into one of the bullet holes pocking the equipment and wondered if its maker took a young life.

    • Charli Mills

      Your flash is like multiple layers of decay. Not just equipment, but eroded lives.

  17. Charli Mills

    And the serial writer continues! “Playing the field” had me worried about gasses appearing, but Paul kept it grounded.


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