EXTENDED! October 19: 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.

October 20, 2016

october-19Carrot Ranch is in the middle of a move. Same online home but new office on wheels. Thinking it would go smoothly was optimistic. The new RV Coach is a 2004 Alfa with real oak woodwork, office slide, master bedroom and a beautiful kitchen. It’s wonderful, yet overwhelming. So far, I locked myself out the first night, couldn’t get outlets to work and thought I had no propane. It’s a big learning curve going from a 19 foot camper to a 36 foot home and office on wheels. Thank you for your patience during this transition!

See you from this new space:


Bobo is having a rough adjustment. We had to go back to the vet because she’s not eating and drinking too much water. After numerous tests, she’s not experiencing kidney disease, which is good news. The vet thinks it’s behavioral — she’s grieving Grenny. The move only added stress. She’s on rescue remedy and a natural mood and joint enhancer. I might need to share it with her! She does like her new spot on the couch, though. She has a real couch! Keep her in your thoughts.



As of October 27, I’d say the Hub and I are no longer homeless. I cooked the first breakfast in four months this morning in a working kitchen. When I did the dishes and stuck my hands in hot, soapy water for the first time since leaving Elmira Pond, I cried. This move is proving emotional to me because I’m realizing how much we lost and went without. I feel like someone who held strong during a disaster, and once everything was over and good, my legs started shaking.

What we lived in for four months was not even the size of a studio flat. I now have a bedroom, and no longer have claustrophobic attacks. I have a full bathroom, walk-in closet, dressers, a recliner, a sofa sleeper (for guests!) and even a ridiculously large flat screen television. Once through the transition, I’ll be back in full swing. I have missed so much, and appreciate the support of this community. It’s my turn to come back and serve all you wonderful writers once again. If I could, I’d fix you all breakfast:



Extended Flash Fiction Challenge:

If you didn’t get to write a raptor flash, the deadline is now extended to November 1.

Raptors wheel on currents of air high above the La Verkin Overlook. Wings outstretched overhead, a visual blip on the terrain so vast that raptors seem hummingbirds lost in the vastness. The plateau beneath my feet is but a step to the mesas stretching to the south and the tallest sandstone cliffs and pillars in the world rising to the east. This mid-terrain is known as the Zion Canyon Corridor, part of the Grand Staircase of three national parks, Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  Below, what the overlook is meant to view, is the Hurricane Valley. To the northwest are the Pine Mountains standing over 10,000 feet in elevation and to the southwest is the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The mantra here is, “Take pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”

Looking up, the raptors soon dive and I find I’m looking down on feathered backs when they swoop past the cliffs and hang in the air over the valley below. It’s surreal and I want to add, “Let your imagination take wing.”

This land is a candy store to me. I want to nibble each chocolate for a taste, not sure which one I really want to devour first. When it comes to westerns, this is iconic and historic country. When it comes to geology, it’s a transition zone geologists call a conundrum. When it comes to raptors, songbirds, migrators, reptiles and more it’s a super highway for many and a unique home for some rare environments. I look up, I look out, I look down and the candy shop is endless. It’s still Mars to me but becoming home more and more. Familiarity is already unfolding.

Because so many western movies were filmed in this area, we all think of the Wild West as being further west than it really was. Granted, the west coast destination of California, Oregon and Washington Territory were west, but much of the activities of heroes like Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickok took place in the “far west” of the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska or the mesa country of Colorado and New Mexico. Despite the implications that Hickok knew this land I stand upon, his far west was Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s almost 600 miles east.

Before the US Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, depending upon which side of the divide one stood) Hickok was still known by his given name, James Butler Hickok. He left his native Illinois for the Kansas Territory as a young man, about 1856 (according to biographer, Joseph Rosa). He would have been 19-years old. That same year, 28-year old David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles was elected a third term as sheriff of Watauga County, North Carolina. In five years, these two men would clash in what is known as the Rock Creek Affair (among other more fiendish titles).

It’s one of the earliest wild west tales, yet far removed from the iconic wild west where I watch raptors soar.

This makes me wonder — does it matter, the sweeping landscape? Does it make a difference if the gunfight occurred atop a mesa or in a lone road station in the Midwestern prairie? Of course, storytellers know the power of a setting to stage a scene or backdrop action. And yet, I once watched a Shakespearean performance of King Leer on a stark stage of gray monoliths. When the story takes flight like the majesty of the raptors, does it matter that they soar and dip among startling terrain or would they hold their own in nothing but blue sky?

I find myself fixated on the wings of the raptors.

Another day, and I’m drinking coffee at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin far below the overlook above. Two raptors are engaging in what looks like a dance over the gorge below where the Virgin River has cut a path. The land truly is a series of staircases. And the raptors own the air in between. I find it is the expression of flight that enthralls me most. It could be flat as a prairie and the raptors would still be the focal point. I’m lucky to get to see them, like celebrity visitors to the candy store where I live.

I believe in writing stories as compelling as raptors in flight. What you add or subtract are details that contain the story. Of course, there are many abstract ways to write, too and not all pieces of literature are story-forward. In fact, much of literature is character-driven and some of it is experimental. I’m a proponent of stories because I’m a story-teller. As a marketer I learned that people respond to stories. There’s even science that examines how the brain is hardwired for stories. Naturally I look to the raptors and see stories among pillars of sandstone and gorges of basalt.

October 19, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor. Let your imagination take wing, or dive into natural science. Tell a story about flight, talons or tail-feathers. Create a myth or share a BOTS (based on a true story). Set the raptor in a spectacular place or focus on bird itself. And for clarification, raptors are eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.

EXTENDED! Respond by November 1, 2016 to be included in the compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Side-seat Driver (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Ike, look out!” Danni steadied her travel mug so she wouldn’t spill it. Habit. The mug was empty, but there was a small mass on the faded paved two-lane. Morning sun illuminated feathers Danni didn’t want her husband to hit after fixing the alignment on their truck.

Ike barely swerved, smiled broadly beneath his mousy-brown handlebar mustache and began singing, “There’s a dead…chicken…in the road…a dead…chicken…in—”

“Ike, that’s a hawk.” She leaned back into his chest, his right arm never once moved from her shoulders despite her jostling.

“There’s my side-seat driver. Awake now?”’

“Watch the road, Ike.”


Dreaming of Flight (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Beyond the whispering voices Sarah could hear the pounding of horse hooves. Like a falcon pushing off a fence post, Sarah took flight and could see the prairie stretch below. She was the raptor and Cobb the rider. He ran a blood-red bay with black mane and tail that whipped in the wind like a woman’s unbound tresses. The horse put his entire body into the run. Sarah pushed hers into flight. Together they covered endless buffalo grass until her coughing broke the spell. She was in bed.

Some feared to die. At 98, Sarah feared she never would.


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  1. Annecdotist

    Oh, absolutely this line:

    Some feared to die. At 98, Sarah feared she never would.

    (Thankfully, I’m still a little way off that point!)

    Lovely to find you enjoying a new landscape. I’ll be back with my flash before the deadline.

    • Charli Mills

      Both Hickok and Cobb died young. Yet Sarah, the event’s witness, lived to be almost 100, and she was not treated well in life by her family. Thanks. Getting out and looking up.

      • Sherri

        I love your flash Anne…a lesson in looking up!

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for saying that, Anne. I feel like nature is where I go for healing and it gives me a beautiful elixir to return with. Sarah Shull had a long life to hold on to what she witnessed when the others involved died young. Ah! A birdcage review seems a good place to start for you!

      • Annecdotist

        Love the look of the new place, Charli. At last! But getting what you need so often enables us to truly realise what we’ve missed, so bittersweet indeed!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! And a great flash you gave wing to!

  2. Norah

    Hi Charli, It’s so nice to hear you enjoying your new landscape, and especially the birds. Flight is amazing. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of my favourite philosophical books – always striving to improve. I always thought that I’d love to be be a bird and soar above the world. I love looking out of an airplane window. Raptors now, I was thinking of the dino-raptors. Never mind, I’m sure I’ll come up with a raptor story to fit the bill. I have a BOTS idea similar to that experienced by Danni and Ike, not sure if I’ll write about that though. We’ll see. Interesting reading about them sitting close in the car. We used to do that too, squeezed up close in the bench seats. That is, until seat belts became compulsory in the seventies and bench seats were replaced by bucket seats. It’s nice to have this death bed scene of Sarah’s revisited. I think she’s ready to soar. I hope those angel wings sprout soon. Thanks for a lovely post and interesting challenge.

    • Charli Mills

      I really want to read that book again. It had a lasting impression on me. You have such exotic birds, but then it seems that way to you, as well. How wonderful that we can have a bird exchange of sorts. An yes, I almost included “a dromaeosaurid dinosaur” under the raptor definition but thought maybe it would be too close to the recent dino prompt. Oh, I used to love bench seats. Now we just hold hands in the middle between the bucket seats. I’m revising Sarah’s last days (in my novel) and I applied the raptor analogy and actually liked how it fit. I’m still working out that scene which is then split and woven throughout the greater story. I can’t say any more than that or I’ll give away my big surprise at the end! 🙂 Thanks, Norah!

      • Norah

        Wow! A “a dromaeosaurid dinosaur”. What a mouthful! It’s your prompt, and you’re allowed to take it wherever you want! 🙂
        Yes, it is lovely to share bird stories. Although some are migratory, some are confined to particular continents. They are amazing creatures. And to think they are related to dinosaurs. Awesome.
        I like the thought of Sarah’s final days being woven throughout the story. I guess her thinking back over her life will give many story and scene possibilities. Hmm. Surprise at the end. Hurry up and finish this book! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! I truly hope I’m not one day 98 and trying to finish what I’ve started! 😉 Birds are continuous sources of fascination for me. On Elmira Pond, my sense of seasons was more about the traffic of the migratory birds. Here, I’m drawn to look to look to the raptors riding the air currents. Not sure what to make of it as far as seasonality, though.

  3. pegggillard

    On Raptor’s Wings

    She came silently, lithely like a raptor hell bent on its prey’s capture. Focus so sharp it could pierce steel. Stopping just short of her mark, booted feet planted hip-width apart, gloved hand outstretched, she waited. He knelt before her, head bent in her shadow cast by a razored winter moon. When he looked up into the night, into her eyes rapt paralysis cloaked him. Suddenly, from above and behind him, The Snowy Owl dove to her gloved fist and the two vanished into the moon. Jaw agape in confusion, until he felt himself lifted up on raptor’s wings.

    • Norah

      Love the image of that Snowy Owl alighting on her gloved fist. Now I wonder: for what purpose is he lifted?

    • Charli Mills

      Wow! What a story in such rich detail and fantastical mystery. Great setting of tone and mood. Makes me want to delve into more of this tale.

    • Charli Mills

      Ruchira, I think you would appreciate Jonathon Livingston Seagull. Deep thoughts by a bird, a bit more humble than those of raptors. 😉

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Love that mantra! “leave nothing but footprints.” ????????????

    I also very much love that this place is becoming more and more home to you. Both flashes this week are aces. I’ll have to see what I can do…

    • Sarah Brentyn

      So pleased for you. A big change, I know, but a good one. I understand the transition difficulty and the breakdown after the actual ordeal is over. Hugs to you and sending positive, healing vibes to Bobo. <3

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Sarah. It finally feels like home space, writing space and safe space. I’m glad you mentioned the transition because the day we got this new RV I expected everything to change for the good and it seems like I slumped even more. But picking up, getting a home and office routine set up, and committing November to making the ranch all it was meant to be. As for asking for it, yes, I know that (and oddly, appreciative it) each week. 😀 It means you had a spark!

  5. denmaniacs4


    Dobbs had waited in broiling heat before. Too many times. Senses primed; sizzling; tension bubbling up; each moment stretched in dusty silence, taut, like the hangman’s rope.

    Sounds magnified, fear, loud, heart-thumping, startling.

    His mind was wandering.


    Heat waves shimmered, fluttered on the flat horizon; images appeared, specks of movement, real, imagined, an omen or ominous messages of imminent death.

    He snapped alert, focused on Hank and Aggie.

    They both glanced at him.

    Above them, as if swinging from the sun, three turkey vultures circled wide, their wings large and knowing, waiting.

    Suddenly, Aggie pointed to the north.


    • Deborah Lee

      I also read your piece about Trump picking his running mate. Priceless!

    • Charli Mills

      Fabulous flash, Bill! The details have us in the environment and in the character’s thinking. We snap alert with Dobbs. Love that second to the last line, especially “swinging from the sun.”

  6. A. E. Robson

    Hours spent driving the back roads in search of all things that make us smile. We were thrilled to come across a Swainson’s Hawk that not only posed, but seemed to fly in slow motion. Pictures of this graceful raptor, taken out an open window and through the wind shield, were my inspiration for this week’s flash.

    The Hunter
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Through the breeze, the silence of the land penetrates the vision of the hunter. He waits patiently. There is movement that catches his eye.

    Wait. Wait. Lift off. Soaring to heights on the wind like a kite with no strings attached. Flawlessly his wings dip, pushing at the wind. Moving ever closer to the unsuspecting prey scooting from grass to bush.

    ?The wind floats him downward. Still silent. Still unseen. Legs and talons drop. A hair raising screech reverberates across the meadow. A split second, and up again. Lifeless prey dangles beneath the hunter’s body. Another scream declares victory.


    • julespaige

      Great photos….If I ever get that photo of the Coopers Hawk off my camera I’ll have to see if I can get Charli to stick it in my post.

      • A. E. Robson

        Thanks. There’s nothing like seeing these magnificent birds in the own environment.

      • julespaige

        Even in the suburbs it is fun to see ‘wildlife’. I did see an eagle in the mountains of Arizona – that was very cool.

    • Charli Mills

      Some places feel like they belong to the raptors. Maybe that’s what was unique to me about Elmira Pond — it was more about passing through than a domain of any bird. I’m getting a strong sense of the raptors here and I can just see you in the truck with your camera living alongside the hawks!

      • A. E. Robson

        Moments to remember and savour along the Pond and down the gravel roads.

      • Charli Mills

        Better to have traveled the roads and sat along the shores of a pond, than never to know nature at her loveliest.

  7. Kerry E.B. Black

    I, too, especially liked the “at 98…” line.

    Follows is my offering. I hope you’ll like it.

    On Owl’s Wings
    A story of 99 words
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Its unblinking eyes unnerved Hal as much as knowing why it visited. His people told owl’s purpose. It conveyed souls to the afterlife. Hal flapped his clipboard at it, hoping it would fly from its perch above the ambulance, but it remained unflappable.
    The rest of the crew pushed a laden gurney through the nursing home doors. The owl craned its white-feathered neck for a better view.
    “Leave her alone,” Hal said, but with the sound of muffled death, the owl swooped, talons outstretched.
    Hal muffled a scream, helpless to stop the winged death collect the dying woman’s soul.

    • Norah

      Powerful, like the owl.

    • Deborah Lee

      Wow! Is that a Native American tradition? An old English belief is that seeing an owl in daylight portends a death to come in the family. I must say, I rather like the idea of my soul being collected by an owl.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kerry. I think that is a good anchor for Sarah Shull, her age. Oh, I love your flash and it captures a deep superstition that I’m going to confess. When I was a child I heard from a Native American elder that owls meant someone was to die. One of my favorite song’s is “Wildfire” and there’s a line about a “hoot owl outside my window…she’s coming for me, I know, and on Wildfire we’re both going to go.”

  8. Norah

    Hi Charli, You won’t be surprised to find that I headed off in a different direction – again! This time thinking of prey of a different kind, just in time for Prevent bullying month: Prey time http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-Or

    • pegggillard

      Very fitting post for the flash fiction! The beauty of the raptor takes our attention from the prey because it is larger which propels its power forcefully. However, were we to see the prey by itself, it too would be beautiful. You focused on the beauty of the prey. Thank you!

      • Norah

        Thank you for your comment, encouraging even me to see things a little differently.

    • Charli Mills

      I always appreciate the perspective you take and what I learn from it!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli.

  9. julespaige

    Charli – what is it with guys and animals in the middle of the road? 🙂

    I like how Sarah became free even if only in her dreams. I think our oldest relative was almost 92… – And back ‘then’ when the average life span was shorter 98 must have seemed like forever.

    Here’s a little humor:

    Diligent ‘Accipiter cooperii’?

    There are hawks in the neighborhood. I’ve seen them carry
    off both rabbit and squirrel. That doesn’t seem to stem those
    populations. I am walking more to observe nature. I was
    rewarded one morning, a hawk swooped low. I stood still
    to watch it – thinking the bird of prey was looking for breakfast
    in the bush planted between the neighbors garage and front
    door. I was able to snap a grainy photo of the bird. There
    was a posted alert that I hadn’t viewed clearly until after I had
    enlarged the image and it made me chuckle, ”Home Security”


    The link has information on “Cooper’s Hawk”
    Diligent ‘Accipiter cooperii’?

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Your question makes me laugh. I don’t know but they seem to notice and make light of it. When my middle child was young, she’d notice, too and would say, “Look a chicken!” We still tease each other this day when getting distracted — look a chicken! Silly. Love the humor that can happen even as we think we are being in serious form as an observer!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Jurassic Park introduced us all to the idea of dinosuars being raptors, thus expressing Jack Horner’s theory about the evolution of birds! I can’t help but think of birds of prey as feathered dinos.

    • Charli Mills

      That makes me laugh to think you also sing Dead Chicken in the Middle of the Road in Australia! Ah, wildlife and roads have a tragic dynamic. I love that idea that women are raptors when they love a man!

  10. Joe Owens

    Hello Charli! I was so happy to see the word EXTENDED added to last week’s challenge. As is often the case the busyness of the week precluded me from getting my entry in by the Tuesday deadline and I so wanted to join the fun. Now I can.

    Here is my first try: https://fictionplayground.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/the-battle-of-the-old-birds/ I look forward to reading and getting to know each of you members of the Congress of Rough Riders Keep up the high quality work!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Joe! So good to see you at the ranch! These prompts will be more regular and responsive on my part now that I finally have an office and home once again. We look forward to getting to know you, too! I hope you find the 99 words both a fun and quick challenge to take a busyness break. 🙂

  11. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    I’m so pleased I popped back for a look. I didn’t receive notice of the update in my inbox and was wondering what was going on.
    I love the look of your new home. You office is magnificent, and how wonderful to have a non-claustrophobic bedroom, a bathroom, and hot running water. Breakfast looks delicious. Thanks for the invite. I understand your going weak at the knees when you put your hands into that hot soapy water. It’s amazing how resilient and how strong we can be when we need to be, and then when the pressure is off, how we can allow ourselves to crumble a little in order to allow ourselves to heal and recuperate. I do hope this all goes smoothly now, and that your new home serves you well. I’m very excited to see the pics. I hope Bobo settles in too. Best wishes for happy trails in your new trailer!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah! We are all settling in, although Todd needs to work at getting the trailer level and the jacks stabilized. I get to tapping away at the keys on my laptop and the trailer rocks! But it really rocks in many other and great ways. Ah, hot water and now an ergonomic office chair. It is happy trails indeed!

      • Norah

        It will be great for you to experience some stability for a change. I love the thought of you rocking the keyboard – but figuratively rather than literally! Enjoy your new found comforts.

  12. Sherri

    Hi Charli, hi Rough Writers! I’ve learnt something here – but then I always do! – specifically about Raptors! Had no idea the term referred to Eagles, Owls, hawks etc. Naturally, I was thinking, wow, you even have dinosaurs on Mars lol! Seriously though, can you imagine? Speaking of which, I am fascinated to also learn about the definition of the ‘Wild West’ and how far it actually goes. Yes, to me (thanks to watching all those wonderful Westerns), the very definition of the terrain would be exactly where you are living now, or further out to Arizona and California, but actually it’s further east than I realised, so I thank you for your history and geography lessons, which I relish. How amazing it must be for you after all you’ve been through…the feel of hot, soapy water, making breakfast, all that wonderful room – and a desk! – watching the raptor as hummingbirds swoop through those big – massive! – skies! Oh Charli, I know that feeling in the aftermath…when you finally come down to roost, to realise you are at last back home, where you need to be, right now. Like your raptor, building your nest. Love your flashes as always – such a poignant last line about Sarah, and your dream description is powerful. I took a dream theme for my flash… Happy Trails my friend 🙂 <3

    Fly Like An Eagle

    Always, it started out the same: one step, then another, then raising both arms out to her sides, her feet left the ground and she was flying!

    She wheeled and circled, weightless as a feather, swooping low and back up again, high above her world, through the air that belonged only to her.

    She was free! Like the eagle she had watched on television once, master of its city without walls and doors and locks, no prison to hold it barred.

    When she awoke, she knew with certainty she would never know such freedom, but she held her smile.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sherri! Actually there were dinosaurs once on Mars and they left footprints and perhaps evolved into those current riding raptors! I’m so happy to have you riding alongside as I learn all about this terrain, too. I love your dream flash and that feeling of utter freedom. Happy trails to you, too! <3

      • Sherri

        My thoughts exactly! Just the place for those dinosaurs and there are strong links between them and their flying raptor counterparts, so I believe! Glad you enjoyed the flash, thanks Charli, and thank you for your always warm and loving welcome…great to be back in the saddle amongst friends 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills

        Great to hear your saddle leather creaking beside me as we ride! <3

  13. Deborah Lee

    Oh, I am so happy for you! !!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Deborah! It is finally starting to feel normal. Not that I believe in normal any more 🙂

  14. paulamoyer

    Charli, more later, but I am glad you are in your new digs! A chapter that needed to be over is over. I get the time it takes to readjust. I’ll have a raptor story later tomorrow.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Paula! That chapter is closed and a new one with hot running water begins. I’ll keep an eagle-eye out for your raptor story!

  15. paulamoyer

    A Falcon Graces the Suburbs

    By Paula Moyer

    Its presence was magical. Jean didn’t expect one here. This inner suburb, situated between two golf courses and near two malls, was abuzz with city life.

    But there – on the first branch of a neighbor’s tree. A peregrine falcon, talons encircling the branch, calm eyes stalking – something. Something now living, but soon …

    Jean froze, as did her dog. They were mesmerized. Small for a raptor, it was gigantic compared to the burb’s songbirds.

    Soon the falcon would seize the little guy. Time to finish the walk. The falcon would fulfill its nature – but Jean didn’t have to see.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s so amazing how much of nature can be seen in the suburbs and even inner cities. Yet I also appreciate Jean’s choice to not witness it all. Love that last line!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli! Our very own Solar Man once said (as a child), “Why does every ‘Animal Kingdom’ show have to tell us the animal’s part in the food chain?”


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