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October 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

october-12Water so blue; sand so red. I sway, not sure I can stand, but I feel a desperate need to keep my remaining dog joyful. Grief is never a straight path, and one curve turns us to the pain of loss and the other to the fear of it. Bobo has a leaking heart valve, a healed spinal injury that leaves a leg limping, and seizures. Add to that loneliness for her brother Grenny and increasing urination, and I’m terrified of losing her, too.

But we cannot live in the shadow of death. That’s not the purpose of grief.

Grief is firmer stuff than that. It may cast the shadow, but only so we can soak up all the love and light we yet have. We do not succumb to grief; we step into the valley and walk across it. Like stepping out onto this southern Utah red sand, I sink and then feel the hold. It’s firm enough to walk. Firm enough to seek joy in memories. Firm enough to make new ones.

As I walk, Bobo pulls at her harness like a lunging sled dog. She sees the blue water and smells the warm air, full of scents unknown and in need of investigation. Halfway down the slope that leads to the beach, I unsnap her lead and she runs straight into the water rippling to shore. In the distance a flock of floating mud hens watch her, understanding they will be fleeter on water than an animal that sinks. Barely deep enough for her paws to still touch she veers right and swim-walks.

The red sand is darker and firmer where it meets water. Water is the force that carves this desert wonderland, despite its rarity. We have many forces upon us in a lifetime, but unlike stationary sandstone and basalt, we can choose how we react.

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” ~Ellen Glasgow

We may need to take a walk with what happens and slog through what it means, to step one foot in front of the other in the sand and confirm we are still on solid ground. We may look around and notice only the shadows or unfamiliarity. Hold firm. Give it time.  I begin to look through the eyes of my dog wading where water and sand define her moment of bliss. And why bliss? The vet can’t say how much longer she has, but none of us know that. Bliss is the present moment of scents and sand and wetness. She’s yet delighted in life. I look around again and see curious prints in the sand. I wonder.

To a writer, what’s that is almost as good as pondering what if.

Not only do writers get to choose to react to the forces in life, we also get to shape them into stories. Part of what we learn to do is build reaction — we lead with the unexpected or end with a twist. Maybe because writers understand reaction and choice, we look at social situations through a different lens. Often we can see what sets off the reaction. Consider DJT — Donald J Trump. He’s built a career of manipulating reactions to feed his lust for power. His legacy, whether he wins or loses, is that he radicalized hatred in the US. Many writers from big medias to small blogs have continued to point out his campaign of hate.

But what disturbs me more is the reaction of those who support DJT.

Hate, like compassion, is a choice. It’s easy to cave in to my own negative feelings during a time of grief. I let the latest Trump scandal get under my skin because I saw how it relates directly to rape and rape culture. I spoke out because I know the dangers of silence. Many rabid Trump supports, mostly (surprisingly) women, gnashed their teeth at me. In my grief, I felt unbalanced more than I normally might. I succumbed to paralysis and hopelessness. I drove home from the beach only to watch my previously blissful dog succumb to a grand mal seizure. I felt lost and alone on Mars.

A few days later, Bobo was recovered and ready to pull at the harness once again. I avoided the beach, but took her to town. I got out of my confining space and just drove in the sunshine. I went trailer shopping. I looked at the only rental in the area that would accept a large breed dog. I bought a pesto pasta lunch at a small market. I walked Bobo down a tree-shaded sidewalk and went no where but around the block. And then I chose my reaction. I chose to get up out of the sand, brush off and live another day. With love. With joy. And yes, even with sorrow. But not fear. Not hate. Not despair.

With the help of a loan and perseverance to find the right “home” I might have an improved trailer next week. If we save and search, we might find our own property next spring. From there, who knows? We don’t know. We have today. And these wise words:

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.” ~Nelson Mandela

This wisdom is important to remember in the days to come. We might not know what to expect after the US presidential election. We’ve never had such a stir. But we can find firm footing in each step forward if we declare our intention for peace and stability. Reaction is not progress. Hateful rhetoric will never heal what ails our society. Violence will only breed more violence. And words can be violent. Let our words lift up instead.

We are not the only ones making tracks in the sand. I saw where snakes left grooves, mice pattered in circles and a gila monster scurried. Each so different from my own print. We walk across the sand, all of us. One does not have more right to do so than the other. I’m curious again. I wonder and wander and choose carefully my next steps while being open to both joys and sorrows. Once again, I have much to learn from my dog.

October 12, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a walk across the sand. It can be a literal day at a beach, in the sand box or a metaphor of your choosing. What is the sand like and what does it reveal to the reader?

Respond by October 18, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Running the Beach (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Looking skyward, Danni noted how the clouds, water and land curved like a snow globe illuminated by an unseen sun. A bald eagle scouted the beach beneath cloud layers, and the two young pointers zigzagged across the sand. Biddy plodded behind, slow but with head up and ears perked. Gripping both leashes, Danni ran heavily, the sand hindering her steps, but she pushed through, laughing as the two dogs bounded and pulsed with matched vigor. Breathless, she let go and both dogs galloped, tongues flapping.

Michael passed Biddy and caught up to Danni. “What did you do that for?”


Crossing the Sand Dunes (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Mary swaddled baby Charles to her chest, and clung to him with one hand, while keeping the ever curious Lizzie close with the other. The older boys walked behind. Sally whined to her husband Leroy that the sand was too hard to walk in, and though Mary agreed, she kept stepping forward and sliding back in silence. At the knoll, the boys giggled, running and sliding downward. The wagon teetered and Leroy coaxed the mules. “Easy!” Then it tilted again, dangling momentarily. Sally screamed as the wagon toppled. Leroy rose to his feet, reigns in hand, sand in mouth.

Author’s Note: The McCanles family never crossed the sand dunes in Nebraska, but they were bothersome to the Mormon Migration that did. They simply up righted the toppled wagons and continued.



  1. Ah, yes. The red sand. Happy to hear that Bobo is doing alright and you seem to be, too. <3 We must live with love and joy and sorrow. The light and dark. Yin and yang. It is life. We are living it. We let it get us down sometimes but, always, we get back up. Love and light to you, my friend.

    Great flash, both. You know I am loving the MoD squad. 🙂

  2. Norah says:

    Sarah read more hope and joy into your post than I did. I hope she read it right. I’m sorry to hear about Bobo’s poor health too. It must be an extra burden. I applaud your ability to pick yourself up and choose positives. It is difficult though, and I got an inkling of the struggle you must be going through.
    A new trailer sounds great, and a new property on the horizon even better. I hope the new trailer does not let you down as this one has.
    I’m enjoying the interactions between Michael and Danni. It is interesting to see the development in their relationship.
    The story of the wagons falling is interesting. I think I’d be screaming with Sally too! I wouldn’t be too happy about getting a mouthful of sand, though I guess that would be the least of the worries.
    Your image and discussion of walking in sand reminded me of one of my favourite poems “Footprints”. I hope there will (very) soon be just one set of footprints in the sand where you walk. I’ll try to do better with the prompt this time, promise. But no promises!
    Take care.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I didn’t realize how much I put into hope until the new trailer deal fell through. We seem to be hitting all the gaps out there. I am trying hard not to feel bitter. Bobo seems to be doing okay, although we get up frequently with her at night. I do love that poem footprints. I feel anxious to get through this sand. Thank you, Norah!

      • Norah says:

        Sometimes when we’re out driving we get all the red lights too. I wonder why. Not getting the trailer is disappointing. You deserve a part-way decent home at least. You do well to not feel bitter. It takes work and a strong mind and heart to do so.
        I’m pleased Bobo is doing okay. I hope she hangs in with you for a while longer.
        That sand is difficult to walk through. Watch out for quick sand. I’ve heard it’s no walk in the park, either.

      • Charli Mills says:

        The sand has slowed us down, but also provides a chance to consider what is going on and where to step next. Bobo got to run across the beach today. And O sat in the warm sand and just thought. No quick sand!

  3. Pete says:

    Great flash, Charli, I could feel the sand as I ran on that beach. Good stuff. Here’s mine, an excerpt from a ya novel I’m working on…

    I’ll never forget that stupid little boy running around at the beach, swatting at butterflies and being a complete pain in the ass. When he saw Mom he stopped and gawked. Mom, who’d always looked so natural in a bathing suit, before chemo left her sharp and bony, her hair patchy and ravaged. I planted my feet in the hot sand. Waves smashing down with my anger. I could’ve kicked that boy in the jaw, which I did in my thoughts. Finally, his mother led him away, and only then did I turn and find Mom gawking. At me.

    • I can’t wait to read this YA novel, Pete. 🙂

    • jeanne229 says:

      Your flash really hit home for me. I once had male co-worker during my college days tell my “Wow, your dad really got a lemon” when I told him of my mother’s severe rheumatoid arthritis. The stupidity and insensitivity of his comment still bites. Good for you for dealing with this in your YA novel. It made a great flash.

      • Charli Mills says:

        What a hurtful thing to say! I have a dear cousin with RA and she recently gave me a great pep talk regarding Miracle of Ducks and likened it to her sexy suit that gives her confidence. I love that she can have RA and still feel like a confident woman. It’s a mindset we cultivate with support, though.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Pete! So good to see you at the ranch, and thank you. Wow, sharp flash you wrote and I’m already intrigued by the YA novel. You are one of those writers that can draw us in to the lives of your characters so easily.

  4. TanGental says:

    I can understand how Bobo’s concerns just increase your own but more power to you for facing forward as ever, even if the rain is driving hard, metaphorically at least. Hope the trailer plans come to fruition soon. The sand is an interesting prompt this week. I usually think of it as shifting, unstable but from it we make concrete.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Geoff. We all seem to be adjusting as a pack of three and Bobo will live out her days completely spoiled. Already, my favorite little coffee shop gives her pads to rest upon and a plate of her own bacon! Ah, the trailer passed inspection but the dealership raised the price. They’ve given us two weeks to come up with the difference and we are taking our time to think it over. It does feel like shifting sand, but there is a firmness below. At least it isn’t quick sand.

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

  6. jeanne229 says:

    Multi-threaded and thought-provoking post as always. So moving. Love the way you go where your present experiences take you, weaving in your heart and environment and hope and grief and engagement with the larger world. I have never had a dog, at least not of my own. I can only guess at the pain Bobo’s decline and Grenny’s recent death bring. But your resolve in the face of the inevitable and the suffering to come rings so right: “And then I chose my reaction. I chose to get up out of the sand, brush off and live another day. With love. With joy. And yes, even with sorrow. But not fear. Not hate. Not despair.” Thank you for these words Charli. I take them to heart.
    And the flashes: great. What wonderful symbolism in the first, the dogs unleashed, running free, followed by that question that hardly needs to be answered. And the second: when we ponder what it was actually like to forge inroads through the hostile environment of the West, we pause and marvel at the courage and tenacity and perseverance of those who made such a journey.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Jeanne. I think those are words we Americans can put into action after the election. I’m no longer worried about the election, but the aftermath. It’s clear that Trump is feeding off the frenzy he’s created. We need to choose a different path. And believe in freedom and be brave like our pioneers. 🙂

  7. Annecdotist says:

    A journey through grief is always wobbly, but it seems both your other dog your writing are helping to steady the ground beneath your feet. Here’s my response to the walking prompt:

    • Charli Mills says:

      There seems to be a firmness if we only dare to step out. I like where you went with the prompt and the idea of taking ownership. In a way, I think we have to do that with grief.

  8. denmaniacs4 says:


    Their vigil continued.

    Heat pummeled them ruthlessly.

    If for no other reason than the unrelenting inferno, Dobbs knew the outriders would soon arrive.

    Deserts drove men mad. Mad men easily lose their way.

    He’d born witness to that some years earlier.

    He and Waco Braid had been returning from California in late July and had underestimated their water supply. Waco’s horse gave up the ghost early and then Spark, his long-time companion, crumpled under the barrage of heat.

    Though rescued by Casper Wallace, an engineer looking for Borax, Waco’s mind was shattered.

    He slashed his throat a week later.

    • Charli Mills says:

      At first I found the desert strange yet stunning. Now I’m learning just how vast it is and what a feat to cross on horseback. This flash captures the danger to body and mind, as well as add a new dimension to your story.

  9. […] October 12: Flash Fiction Challenge October 12, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a walk across the sand. It can be a literal day at a beach, in the sand box or a metaphor of your choosing. What is the sand like and what does it reveal to the reader? […]

  10. julespaige says:

    I remember clearly my visit to Arizona and the red sands with stand of cactus instead of pines…. All the reds and browns… Your first flash and you being stuck on ‘Mars’ reminds me of that time. I have only limited shore front knowledge of sand… none like the interior dessert of your second flash. That I’ve only seen on history and educational shows. But I was surprised to find out one time when I was in Florida that some of the red in the ancient coral (often used to face buildings) was so old that (the red sand) was actually from the Sahara desert!

    My flash a haibun:
    Ancient History?

    After the storm. That was always the best time to look for
    bits of coral on the gulf shore. Or the Atlantic or Pacific
    coasts for that matter. The coral bits were mixed together
    in one jar. Somewhere there was a small purple piece that
    some ocean had given up. Was that from the Caribbean?
    Or maybe from Maui? It really didn’t matter – they were
    just symbols of time spent together, eyes only slightly misted.
    There would be other times that her feet would be welcomed
    by warm soothing sand.

    once home;
    coral told the story
    of life lived


    The link to post:
    Ancient History?

    • Charli Mills says:

      The colors out here are striking and the reds are so vibrant. There is a purple layer I’m learning to discern, too and your one purple coral reminds me of that. I had no idea the red coral in Florida was so ancient!

  11. […] Flash fiction for the latest Carrot Ranch Communications prompt. […]

  12. Drew Sheldon says:

    Because I can’t seem to help but go dark with these things…

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s okay, Drew! Go where the prompt leads. We once had a fantastical animals prompt and you wouldn’t believe the dark places unicorns showed up! I joked that I’d never have a prompt about cuddly kittens, fearing the worst. But we did make it to cats and got through it. I’m glad you are taking on flash fiction.

  13. […] My story for Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge: October 12 […]

  14. […] week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a walk across the sand. This is my response. I hope you enjoy […]

  15. Norah says:

    Hi Charli,
    I dared to get the sand between my toes in response to your challenge this week: Building sandcastles. I hope you enjoy it.

    • Charli Mills says:

      An opportunity to see your photos again of Anthony Gormley’s sculpture park. I looked more carefully at the sand which does indeed look goopy.

  16. Hope I’m not too late to partake this week Charli.

  17. A. E. Robson says:

    This prompt took me to a wander along the creek to the sandy spot where the memories of childhood return. Slip of the shoes and socks. Digging the toes into the damp sand and skipping rocks across the water.

    Creek Bank Memories
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    I was once the rock in your vision. I was once your strength to lean on. I have crumbled in your longing. My memory starts forever ago, when you were young. Skipping me across the crystal clear waters.
    Returning to the place you found me. Thrown here time and time again to transform. No longer solid and dancing aimlessly under the glass.
    ​Lounging in the eddy of the stream. Relaxing. Inviting you to bask in the sun with me. Messaging your mind from the soles of your feet. The solace you seek. The hourglass of memories beneath your toes.

  18. We are doomed either way… I intend to leave a blank _ _ _ _
    But all I have to say is, Hillary, you better take care of someone like me =]
    A white Christian male
    Straight and well….

    Sorry I missed last week
    Could have shared my boy Zeeke
    Sorry to hear of news so disturbing
    So CArry on Carry on
    And keep inspiring

    So feeling the rhyme
    So lets do some poetry
    And thank you Charli

    Virga Sands by Elliott Lyngreen

    So I keep practicing sandcastles
    So surreal, so the tide vanishes
    So the initial magnified eye of vital dawn,
    Perforates a virga in the sky
    So they become long bright sands above
    And white furrowed shimmers
    Completely fortified, formed
    Of the whooshes that erode
    So the rooks float, so the horizons warm,
    The washing cannons, loaded
    Only extend the mote
    I am spent, preparations
    Building toodly-doo-tweedly-dee
    Whistles while I worked
    Exhaust the fortifications
    The thinner walls
    Yet the stronghold castles of thought
    But never touching dawn
    So smooth, so bulky enthrall
    Overcomes the shores so morphing
    More and more

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m so over this election already and we have doomed ourselves with allowing hate to be stirred. I’m prepping now to start spreading the love because we are all going to need to practice kindness to one another. Feeling your rhyme vibe! Carry on, too and keep practicing sandcastles. Love the virga and expanse it creates in my mind.

  19. So sorry to hear about Bobo, but trust she is on the road to recovery. Sending positive vibes your way, losing a beloved pet leaves a big hole.

    • Charli Mills says:

      She seems to be doing okay. I think she’s stabalized as much as she can and we are just enjoying each day with her and spoiling her. Thank you.

  20. Sherri says:

    Hi Charli! Hi Rough Writers! Been far too long, I’ve missed you. So much grabs me in this post…the power of your writing had me right there when Danni’s dogs ‘galloped across the sand, tongues flapping’. I’ve felt like doing that a few times lately. Breaking loose. Through the grief. But we find hope in the sure footing of a walk on wet sand and we keep moving anyway. Great to read another Rock Creek flash…ha, a mouth full of sand…again, I could visualise it all, and thank you for the historical input!
    As a society, we seem to have lost the ability to listen properly and ponder our response; knee-jerk reactions pour thick and fast and what is said cannot be taken back. But you are right Charli, it is in our reaction that we have the choice. And you made the choice to walk in love and I am so proud of you. Here’s my flash…maybe a BOTS, of sorts 😉 Huge hugs to you my friend…I hope you feel less lonely on Mars and you get your new trailer soon and Bobo keeps smiling…and swmming 🙂 <3

    Line In The Sand

    Red-hot sand scolded her feet, like she gave a shit.

    An hour earlier, she swam through the breakers and bobbed up and down in the sea with Tom, her legs wrapped around him like seaweed. Now he ignored her as he smoked another joint, getting wasted.

    Her first time in California; golden sands and sky-high rollers, so different to Brighton with its pebble strewn beach and dark, swirling ocean where she had played as a child and longed for adventure.

    But now she squashed her American Dream with every footprint.

    She was nothing but a stranger far from home.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Howdy Sherri! So good to see you at the ranch! And here you are, the one who taught me to squelch sand in my toes. 🙂 Oh, I know. That feeling to just break loose, shake it all off and be done with it. Yet grief settles upon us and goes where we go until we get to those shaking moments. A dance on the beach, I suppose. I once climbed Sand Mountain, a huge dune in Nevada. We ran and slid down the slope and I got sand everywhere! I figured poor Leroy would come up sputtering. Thanks. We all have choices to make, especially coming up for the US. And I don’t mean candidate choices! Our behavior. No go today on the trailer, as you know. Todd thinks maybe in two weeks with his paycheck we can make up the difference. Again, we have a choice to make and we are thinking on it for now. Great flash and BOTS (of sorts). Love the details and comparison of beaches. Thank you for visiting (virtually). 🙂 <3

      • Sherri says:

        Ahh…thanks so much Charli! Howdy back! It feels so good galloping back to the Ranch, waving my hat in the air, hooting and hollering…well, sort of, ha!! Dancing on the beach, squelching sand between our toes, decisions to make…even if sometimes we have to get a mouth full of sand along the way! Poor Leroy indeed…and Sand Mountain sounds fun! My brother and I used to love rolling down sand dunes as kids…yep, know that sand everywhere feeling! Dreams feel like they’re sinking sometimes, but footprints remind us we’re leaving our mark… So hoping it all works out for you with your trailer…New Dawn, New Day my friend! 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills says:

        Thanks, Sherri! <3 <3 <3

  21. floridaborne says:

    I’m late, but didn’t know about the 99 word challenge:

    My birth in South Florida condemned me to a childhood of sand. My first experience with anything but grit that refused to grow more than Bermuda grass came during a vacation to Central Florida. I wanted to know why their sand looked like poo.

    The beach was a 45 minute drive. After an expressway cut through town, it took 15 minutes. For a child, anything longer than 5 minutes is an eternity.

    My love for the beach ended at the age of 23 after a moonlight walk with my date left welts on my legs. Two words: Sand Fleas.

  22. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s October 12 Flash Fiction Challenge: Walk across the sand […]

  23. dnagai says:

    For some reason, I had a hard time with one. My resulting flash isn’t where I thought I’d end up.

  24. […] Carrot Ranch October 12 flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a walk across the sand. […]

  25. Charli, I pray you and your family will find a boardwalk over the shifting sands.

    99 words – sands are unsteady surfaces at best. This is what I thought up, perhaps because I’m trying to understand what someone dear to me is going through.

    Anxiety’s Sands

    When she.received a less-than-perfect science grade, Betty felt the earth shift beneath her. Nobody else noticed, which she thought odd. Maybe it was an earthquake that caused the disruption. Maybe something else.

    It happened again when she discovered her old dog died. The ground gobbled up her feet, pulling and miring like wet sand.

    She phoned her bestie, Margaret, but Margaret sobbed, “My parents are divorcing.” Margaret’s tragedy trumped a lost pet. Betty ‘ s head spun with worry, and she stumbled, weak-kneed.

    Life continued, as it will, and with every setback, Betty sunk deeper into sands felt by Noone but her.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I like the idea of boardwalks across the sand, Kerry. Thank you. I think each person has their own walk in the sand, and finds it shifting, sinking or firming.

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