March 23: 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.

March 24, 2017

Ahead, partial sunlight illuminates sand that has seeped from a massive geological structure aptly named, Sand Mountain. From the north, it rises like a slope out of the shores of a deep blue body of water, Sand Hollow. On its south-side the underpinnings of metamorphic rock expose ridges of red cliff. Those curious blotches of sand seeps are orange and remind me of powdered koolaid. In fact, the scene on the backside of Sand Mountain translates easily to a candy shop given the unnaturally sweet colors. Grape gumdrops push up against the strawberry taffy base not far from the powdered orange koolaid.

Among the sweet treats of this lower staircase of land, beneath the Navajo Sandstones of Zion white as cookie dough and the gnarly basalt of the Virgin Plain black as licorice, is a level that holds something more of child-like interest: Jurassic dinosaurs.

All of Zion, its surrounding mesas and transitional zone, are all Jurassic in age, spanning back 145 to 200 million years. The candy around here is stale and crumbly. Once it was an area with swaths of mudflats, an early flood plane. Conifers, ferns and cycads lined the shores, sand dunes swept to the northeast and fish populated the seasonal lakes and streams. Dinosaurs tip-toed through soft sediments to leave behind impressions in what looks like petrified chocolate.

If there’s anything better than going to a sweet shop, it’s going with a friend. Today, I have Norah Colvin in my pocket.

Norah is not only one of the first generation Rough Writers at Carrot Ranch, she’s also the One. She’s the one who discovered a brand new flash fiction challenge three years ago. She’s the one who introduced other blogging friends, and the ranch gathering has become like writing at the local soda fountain where we have learned what malts or sodas each prefers. Through our sweet shop talk, I’ve come to learn that Norah’s grandchildren are dino-crazed. And what a good interest to have! Science, mystery and Jurassic monsters all rolled up in one. What else I’ve come to know about Norah is her dedication to early childhood education. Her newly launched website readilearn is an accumulation of her experience, creativity and passion for teaching.

Our truck kicks up fine red dust as we travel across the hard-packed land. After our last outing, the next destination is my choice, and I want to find dinosaur tracks for Norah. I learned about these tracks when we first landed on Mars (also known on maps as southwestern Utah). Because of anticipating her excitement for such a discovery, I’ve been on a mission to step where Jurassic lizards have trod. We’ll be leaving Mars soon and still, I hadn’t found the tracks. So we are searching among the purple gumdrops and oozing orange koolaid.

Tiny mesquite leaves unfurl among spindly brush and newborn cactus needles blur the outline of the plants with fuzz. Garnet red buds line the tops of prickly pear cactus and tiny yellow bells trumpet from thorny shrubs. White flowers on a single stalk rise up like spears from the dark brown clay. This is Warner Valley in spring. Somewhere out here, the toes of Dilophosaurus and Megapnosaurus trailed across a mudflat millions of springs ago before this was a desert. in 1982, a man from Cedar City, Utah was walking down a wash and found an exposed fossil of over 400 tracks.

Locating the site is like finding a lost cactus spine in the sand. Unless you directly step on it, it remains hidden. The Hub and I traverse several BLM (Bureau of Land Management, public lands) roads. The reason we had found the Honeymoon Trail earlier is because I was looking for this site. I understood the old pioneer trail was nearby. But, as often is the trouble in this steep terrain, the Honeymoon Trail plummets over the Hurricane Cliffs in what is now regarded as an extreme Jeep trail. Thwarted in our search, we’ve come to the Warner Valley a different way — this is below the Hurricane Cliffs and behind Sand Mountain (which was the first place I search for the tracks).

Our BLM map shows the valley as deceptively flat. We trundle over hillocks, and dip down and up through dry washes. We stop to chat with a motorcyclist, and he confirms the dinosaur tracks are out here, “somewhere.” Another cyclist comes along and encourages us to continue down a road we decided wasn’t going anywhere. Turns out, that road led us to the grape gumdrops and we are on a two-track that feels similar to a carnival roller-coaster. The purple landscape might be a clue: according to geology books this level gains its color and treacherous stickiness when wet from ancient volcanic ash. That sounds Jurassic to me.

We come to a fence, turn up the road and a BLM sign marks the spot — to park, that is. From here, the search continues on foot. The rolling trail continues and I walk past smooth sandstone clusters that look like ruins of Bedrock from the 1970s cartoon, The Flintstones. The closer I get to the cliffs and scree of Sand Mountain, the more obvious the carving of the land by water. The trail dips into a flat wash that continues to travel down as if servile to water when it marches this way. Finally, a broad flat of chocolate malt rock spreads out before me. I have found the Holy Grail of sweets in this gumdrop desert. Norah, this treat is for you!

It might sound silly to take along a friend in a pocket, but truly, as writers we do that. When we go on these journeys of discovery, and writing is both, we think of audience. Many talk about turning off the “inner critic.” Critics are for editing. Creative flow needs friendly encouragement. That’s why I like to write to a friendly audience. And you don’t have to actually know your reader. Norah doesn’t always have to ride in my pocket! Many times, I make up the audience. And the reason is sane and important to writing. You might write first for yourself, but if you want to connect with others, you write next for an audience.

It’s easy for me to match up an adventure involving dinosaurs to a friend who appreciates the Jurassic lizards (or ancestors of birds). So how do I do this with an unknown audience?

My beat used to be organic and local food systems, such as cranberry farms, artisan cheese-makers, grass-fed cattle ranches, urban community gardens, Hmong collective farms, CSAs, farmers markets and cooperatives (farm, producer and retailer). For 15 years, I interviewed people where they tilled black soil, bogged cranberries or fought for food justice. I wrote for publications like Edible Twin Cities, Stress-free Living and This is Living Naturally. I’ve been featured on NPR, interviewed for local news and contributed to regional cookbooks.

Each time, I was aware that I was writing for an audience. If I was alone, prone on the soft earth in a French vineyard that endured Minnesota weather for three decades, poised to capture the sunrise over grapes that suffered, I talked to my readers as if they were blind. I took notes and photographs as if I were their eyes. I included other senses, too and built relationships with the land and those who tended it as if I were match-making with readers. I was the experience, and that’s how I learned to write sensory. It became engaging to the point that I had real readers who wanted to go with me.

And many did. I’d put out a call and take others along. They asked questions I hadn’t thought of which taught me to anticipate what a reader wants to know. One memorable experience was with an accountant who didn’t agree that local food should “cost” a premium until I invited him to go with me on assignment to an organic cranberry bog. We toured the entire day, the farmer introducing us to neighbors so we could see the multiple ways farmers harvest cranberries. We left, but the accountant never fully left the bogs; it was in his system and he became a local food advocate.

What about fiction? I start with the story, and think as a story-teller — what would an audience want to know and what will surprise them? But first, I write my novels for me. Now, I’m writing them for readers. I carry along readers in my pocket to remind me to look at the journey for them. This is one way to write for readers. I’m sure more than a few of you, especially bloggers, have experienced processing a post mentally as if you were in conversation with those you know read. And for those we don’t know, we think of them as friendly. We, the writer, return from the desert with a gift we can share.

And thank you to everyone here at Carrot Ranch — Rough Writers & Friends, Readers and Lurkers — last week resulted in a profound collection of writing that supports the idea that art is free and within us, no matter political climates and cuts. I know many of you read as responses are posted, but if you get the chance, take a read of the Without Art collection as a whole. Thank you. That is the gift writers share, and reading is the gift in return to writers.

March 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience. It can be broad or small, and gathered for any reason. How does your character react to an audience? Is the audience itself a character. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 28, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published March 29). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Surprise Audience (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni met Peter at the archeological site when a bus pulled up.

“Guess what? We have a school field trip. I told the teachers we’d have Q & A with an archaeologist.”

“You can’t be serious,” said Danni.

“This way, I knew you’d show up. It gives us a chance to tweak your Little Ranger Program. It’s sound, but not kid friendly. Time for you to learn your audience. What age, are you thinking?”

“Is this a cruel test?”

“Kind of. How old?” Peter folded his arms, grinning at the kids.

“Can I look at their teeth?” asked Danni.

 ###

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116 Comments

  1. Norah

    Thank you for your beautiful gift, Charli. It, you, are awesome. It was a pleasure to go along with you in your pocket. What a cosy, safe and warm space for me to be – and to see such wonders! How absolutely amazing to see those dinosaurs tracks. It is amazing to think they have been there long before any human walked the earth. I hope they last thousands of years more. What an amazing landscape you have, made all the more so through your descriptions. These descriptions today are just delicious: Grape gumdrops, strawberry taffy, and powdered orange koolaid, the white of cookie dough and the black of licorice. You are making my mouth water the way my eyes are watering for the land you describe. Not to mention your very kind words. Thank you very much for your generosity, and for linking to readilearn.
    Your photos of the dinosaur tracks are amazing, and the countryside, always, reminds me of Central Australia. We had dinosaurs here too, and there are tracks inland that can be visited, but I’ve not done it yet. I’m hoping that when the grandchildren are a little older, they may invite me to go with them to see. Perhaps I’ll take you with me too. What fun we would have. I am honoured that you (and Todd) would spend so much time looking for these dinosaur tracks just for me. I appreciate them, and the way you linked from that through to audience. You are right, audience is important. If the audience can’t be imagined, the words will never fall in a way that speaks to another. They will not last like the dinosaur tracks, but will be erased like writing in the sand on a beach – gone and forgotten.
    I laughed at Danni trying to gauge the age of her audience by their teeth. But it’s true. There’s nothing like children’s teeth from age about six to nine when they start losing their baby teeth and gaining their adult teeth. Older than that, teeth may not give such a clear picture. I’m sure she led from there into a captivating talk for the young ones. Now I’ll have to think about my audience for next week. 🙂

    • Sherri Matthews

      How wonderful to learn of your grandchildren’s dinosaur fascination Norah…and speaking of audience, I wanted to share this with you as I thought you might get a kick out of it. My eldest son was/is the dinosaur enthusiast in the family. Obsessed I should probably say! When he was six years old in Kindergarten, the teacher asked the students in his class what they wanted to be when they grew up. When it came to my son’s turn, he of course, said, with great measure ‘a paleontologist’ (a tricky word to say for anyone, never mind a child!). Nobody knew what he meant, not even the teacher! Today he’s a project manager…but I know what he would rather be doing 😉 I so much hope you get to go on those dinosaur trails with your grandchildren, how amazing would that be?

      • Norah

        Inside every small child beats the heart of a paleontologist – wanting to make a huge discovery and change the world. It’s an awesome goal, isn’t it? As well as an awesome word. I often wonder why we find dinosaurs so fascinating. The animal kingdom is filled with many wonders. Thank you for sharing, Sherri. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Way to master speaking skills pronouncing not only paleontologist, but all those tricky dinosaur names! My daughter became a geologist, as did her husband and I really wanted them to be field geologists so I could go visit them on site. Thanks for sharing that story about your son, Sherri. 🙂

    • Norah

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back with my creative approach to audience and the joys of childhood. I hope you enjoy it. I’m the only dinosaur in sight though. 🙂 Thanks for the challenge. http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-SO

      • Deborah Lee

        I love this! The utter abandon children have…I often think we are taught to be self-conscious. On a funnier note, I had not been aware that I often dance in my chair while listening over earbuds as I work. It wasn’t until I was working in an office with other people (after working alone for many years) that it was drawn to my attention. Yep, instantly embarrassed! I am now back at my old one-woman-office job, and happily butt-dancing again.

      • Norah

        Hi Deborah, Thank for so much for joining in and sharing your butt-dancing story. It is hilarious. You should have continued dancing in the office and got them all to join in. It would have been great for both the mental and physical health of all involved. I’m doing a little wriggle in support of butt-dancers everywhere. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Norah, you’re funny! It’s always a gift when you share the joys of childhood with us.

      • Norah

        I’m pleased you find me funny. Sometimes I’m the only one laughing at my jokes. It can be a bit embarrassing at times. At least my 7-year-old grandson shares the same sense of humour (for a while at least) and we have great laughs together. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      One day, I hope you take me along in your pocket, too to see your country’s famous Jurassic tracks. In person would even be better. I might just put this RV on a boat and set sail for Down Under. I had hoped for words as sweet as you are to me. As for poor Danni, she’s rather lost around children, but Bubbie saves the day and becomes known to the local schoolchildren as Bubbie the Archeology Dog. It’s a dog, not teeth, that helps Danni improve her social skills among the younger audience. I suppose a teacher has an eager audience every day! May we all be so blessed with bright and eager readers. 🙂

      • Norah

        Yes, please do put your RV on a boat and sail it down under, and we’ll go in search of those dinosaurs together! I wonder if they left the tracks in the knowledge that they’d have a massive and captivated audience millions of years later. Will we humans leave anything remarkable for future audiences? I wonder.
        Bubbie is a wonderful way of helping Danni improve her social skills. Many schools are now using dogs as therapy for kids, or for kids to read to. What a great idea.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

    • D. Avery

      Yes. There’s the audience, but I feel the violinist plays for himself. It is a show of strength and courage and maybe normalcy.

      • Charli Mills

        Good point, D.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow, what a profound story and knowing the source of its inspiration makes it all the more incredible. Joe, that’s an awesome flash!

  2. Annecdotist

    Charli, what a lovely post and lovely tribute to one of the gems of the blogosphere who is certainly no dinosaur! I love being part of the audience for your adventures and will be back after the weekend with my flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anne! Norah is not Jurassic, that’s for certain. Though we have a funny saying out west: if you like something a lot, we say you have it for brains, like dinos for brains, or books for brains actually that sounds right). Thanks for riding along on these adventures.

    • Deborah Lee

      Completely thrown by a different kind of audience! How much the audience influences what we give them. Nice!

    • Charli Mills

      Great flash, Reena! Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Had her in my pocket like a lucky charm! It must have worked; we found the prints. 😉

  3. Sherri Matthews

    I’m sorry to miss so much here Charli, thank you for understanding why. How amazing to find these dinosaur tracks for Norah, I love that I can tag along too with the same dinosaur craziness in our family 🙂 This truly is an amazing find. Very helpful the way you explain the importance of audience…your flash is a perfect illustration of that! It really is wonderful to write for a friend like this, and it’s lovely to read the joy and excitement in Norah’s comment. I’ll go away and think about this one…time to get back to flash! I have really missed being here and not by choice. Thanks again Charli for all you share with us <3

    • jeanne229

      Time for me too, Sherri. Like you, I’ve been away too long! It is such a comfort and joy to know that, like the land she describes, Charli abides ????

      • Sherri Matthews

        Love that…’like the land she describes, Charli abides’. She certainly does, and we are so glad for that! You’ve been busy Jeanne…for all the best reasons for your book and many congratulations once again! Isn’t it great to congregate at the Ranch once again?! <3

      • Charli Mills

        And yet it’s a joy to see you when can stop over! Ha, ha! Thanks, Jeanne. I like abiding. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It’s always good to see you here, Sherri! Life ripples in between the pages and prompts and you do more than you think to manage it all. You are often in my pocket when I’m on these mesa tops. 🙂 Sometimes I look at an expanse and wonder, how do I bring you all here, how do I give you the experience? Writing and hiking is all about being in the moment. I think that’s gift of the memoirist, too because you take the audience back to experience a moment and be present in it no matter when it occurred. Good to see your hoof tracks all over the ranch this week! <3

  4. SonniQ

    Reblogged this on Watch and Whirl and commented:
    This is for those who like to do a little reading and a lot of writing who’d like a place for others to read it. I will be hard pressed to do this challenge, but I know this definitely isn’t her last.

    I am up to my eyeballs – let me rephrase that – up to my eyebrows in rewriting the first draft of Jamie’s book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. I’ve learned a lot about writing ( with much to go) since I started, and reading it makes me cringe in places. But that’s a good thing. No one is ever good at something until they pay their dues. If I can recognize sentences written wrong then I’ve made progress. This coming week I’m taking an online class and submitting the first five pages for critique. So this must be done first. I’m excited.

    The great thing about writing is you can be a beginner at age 100. (no I’m not THAT old yet) Nothing matters but the ideas that come out your fingers through your wonderful mind.

    Start writing and make sure to let me know if you enter something to read!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi SonniQ! Thanks for sharing this, and I don’t know how possible it would be to work with Jamie, but if he can respond to any prompts, he might actually like the writing experience. It’s liberating! And even if he can’t keep up with the schedule, I can always go back and add his story in to the weekly collection. Just a thought to pass along! Like you say, it’s never too late to start writing. How exciting for you that you are revising and have a course coming up. Yes, it’s keeps you busy. Let me know if I can help with anything. Your book is going to be relevant and important to giving voice to a voiceless population.

  5. D. Avery

    Audience

    Val and Lauren were getting coffee in the kitchen.
    “Such sophomoric writing. It was painful.”
    “OMG, right? Horrid, trite clichés.”
    She knew they were talking about her. She knew she should not have tried this.
    Red-faced, she slipped past and rejoined the rest of the group.
    Noreen smiled at her. “I truly related to the girl character in your story.”
    “Yes”, said Linda. “Your story is raw yet, but powerful. Do you think she will ever get rescued?”
    She lifted her head. “Definitely. She might even liberate herself. She’s the type that won’t keep her light under a barrel.”

    • jeanne229

      Ouch! The dynamics of a writing group. Val and Lauren need some pointers on what NOT to do, but fortunately for your character Noreen and Linda have the right idea. You captured so much here, and not just
      about audience but also simple human nature.

      • D. Avery

        It’s total fiction. It is more Carat Raunch than Carrot Ranch.

      • Charli Mills

        Fresh healthy carrots here! 😀

    • Deborah Lee

      The opposite of what Anne wrote about necessary narcissism, I think, is the vulnerability we all subject ourselves to when we dare to share our souls in what we write. That’s why I love this group — the feedback is always building up, never tearing down.

    • Charli Mills

      Good answer! Ugh. I remember high school and how something so mind opening to me as writing, also became a source of bullying. I was the first sophomore invited to be on the school newspaper and you would have thought the world ended among the upper students. I never said what Noreen had the gumption to say, but boy, I thought it often! Writing is this wonderful, difficult path and we are all at various points, growing, exploring, pondering, breaking through barriers. Why push someone off, right? Great flash, especially for writers! 🙂

  6. denmaniacs4

    Left Hanging

    “I’ve not seen something like this before.”

    “Times have changed. You lock ‘em up…they cost you. You stretch their worthless necks…you’re done with them.”

    “You make it sound so…so business like.”

    “Retribution is a simple business transaction, I find. In my line of work, and it once was profitable family work, for My grandfather was the Snapper…”

    “The Snapper, eh!”

    “That’s what they called him. A mortician by trade but a man who appreciated a law that was absolute. His services were in high demand.”

    “But public executions are a sideshow.”

    “That they are, my friend. That they are.”

    • jeanne229

      Super use of dialogue to convey your setting, the situation, and the different perspectives and level of experience of the two characters. “The Snapper”…. that moniker alone says so much!

    • D. Avery

      Yep, it’s kinda grim; and well executed.

      • Deborah Lee

        You’re very punny, D. Avery. 🙂

    • Deborah Lee

      What Jeanne said about the dialogue and perspectives. I could see and hear them as I read. Nicely done!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Bill, this has the taste of an interesting western character. My mind is jumping to ideas like “law and order” and how twisted it can be played out in public, like in public hangings. Great flash!

  7. Kerry E.B. Black

    Your post was not only lovely, but it also made me a bit peckish. haha! I love the idea of taking a friend in your pocket! Norah, I hope you enjoyed the trip.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for coming along, Kerry! Next time I’ll feed you gumdrops and sugar cookies. 🙂

  8. jeanne229

    Thanks for another stupendous tour of Mars, Charli. You have outdone yourself this time with your candy-themed descriptions that are so true to the desert landscape you are describing. And like Norah and Sherri, I was taken back to my own son’s fascination with dinosaurs, of the hours spent poring over picture books and digging up less ancient bird and rodent bones scoured clean by weather and time. You had that audience of one in your pocket, but the rest of us, of course, have walked right along with you. And audience….yes. Important to remember your prospective readers. Indeed, it can be liberating to write for the audience, I think, to get out of the egocentric hole where you fret over being too self-indulgent, too afraid to confront a truth–to think of another human being out there–a friendly one–who may relate to your experience and write for her (or him). Not that it is easy…you have to trust both yourself and that imaginary audience. Glad too to drop in with Danni again after such a long stay away. Like Norah, I loved that last line about judging the kids’ age by their teeth! Signing off but thinking about a flash piece on this already….

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Jeanne and to know we have a magnificent, glorious expanse between us. I have thoroughly enjoyed your Southwest, and who knows, perhaps Mars will be a reoccurring wintering spot, like true snowbirds. I think my children missed out on the whole dinosaur experience because I was too busy showing them rocks, cemeteries and ghost towns. Old bones, indeed, but not Jurassic. Whatever the focus in the natural world, there’s a plethora of wonders to discover. I’m excited for your book; it looks as polished as one would expect from a spine surgeon, and having known a few neurosurgeons (though they had the advantage over me as I was under) I’m interested in the topic. You’ve carved out a nice co-writing niche for yourself. Ah, but let loose with some lyrical intellectualism when you can!

    • Charli Mills

      That sounds like an adventure to me, too! Thanks, Di!

  9. gordon759

    Yet another of my historical tales, one of those events that I would love to have seen.

    The Paper Magicians

    There was certainly an impressive audience for whatever was to happen. No one knew what the two men in the middle of the square were trying to do.

    Some people said it was magic, certainly the way the two men were carefully tending a fire under a huge paper bag looked diabolical.

    The bag was filling with smoke, and it was moving!, perhaps there was a demon in the bag.

    One of the men called to the other, a rope was cut – somebody screamed and fainted as bag rose above the crowd!

    The conquest of the air had begun.

    In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers launched their first balloon from a square in Paris.

    • jeanne229

      Left a comment on your blog, Gordon. Really loved this. Fascinating topic! Imagine the excitement.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a pleasure when you drop by in your paper air machine with a historical story, Gordon! I’m not certain about those glitchy Word Press kinks, but your page it found. Thanks!

    • jeanne229

      What a novel and chilling use of the prompt. Haunting description of the faces witnessing his end. Well done.

      • Scarlett Sauvage

        Thank you very much. The prompts on Carrot Ranch always get the creative cogs turning.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, for coming along this week, Scarlett! Wow, that’s a punch of a last line.

      • Scarlett Sauvage

        Thanks! I was hoping it might be.

  10. rogershipp

    Nickilai

    It started with a suggestive “look”.

    It quickly escalated into “yo’r mama’s”.

    Now, here behind the textile plant, Nichilai, my best friend, was hell-bent to defend the honor of his family.

    Stupidity encircled us… in all shapes, sizes, creeds, and colors.

    We were the new-ones. Dad had been recently promoted … a low-level executive position. He had finagled an associate’s position for his nephew, Nichilai’s father.

    Family was important.

    Defending family… a duty.

    More and more were gathering. Bets were being places. Taunts were being tossed. No one here actually cared about the outcome…

    Just Nickilai.

    And his honor.

    https://rogershipp.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/nichilai/

    • Deborah Lee

      As always, would it matter if no one was watching?

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Roger! Interesting weave of a story. The building audience is of no consequence, it’s the outcome. Honor has your character focused.

      • rogershipp

        Thanks.

  11. Kerry E.B. Black

    Queen’s Final Performance
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    They gathered for her final performance, to cheer the Queen’s last bow.
    She stepped upon the stage, humbled head bowed. Her costume recalled a younger, simpler maid. No warble betrayed her presented lines. “You see before you a woman who commends herself to your mercies. I’ve made mistakes. Who among us has not?”

    Their voices rolled into an oceanic wave, crushing her words beneath theirs. Her stomach lurched as she took the mark, center stage. Their faces blurred before her tearful vision.

    She recalled days when they loved her. She knelt, neck outstretched, before the axe-man and met her fate.

    • D. Avery

      Also well executed. An audience with the queen…

      • jeanne229

        D. Avery, you stretched your neck out on those comments. Loved them!

      • Charli Mills

        I was going to say, “Sharp!” The writing and hopefully the blade was, too. 🙂

    • jeanne229

      Another great use of the prompt. Unexpected perspective!

    • Deborah Lee

      Ah, yes…sometimes being the center of attention is not such a good thing.

    • Charli Mills

      You diverted our eyes from the stage and surprised us with it in the end! Good one, Kerry!

    • jeanne229

      Brilliant post and flash. I would not have thought anyone could make me feel good about narcissism in our current political climate!

    • Deborah Lee

      You are absolutely right; we need a teensy bit of narcissism to put our stuff out there. Your flash made me laugh out loud. I wish we had a Queen Elizabeth!

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      That may be the only way to get rid of him. If we all close our eyes, clap our hands TOGETHER, and ignore him, d’you think he’ll just disappear in a pouf of fetid orange smoke?

      • Charli Mills

        I wish! He’d stand there and bask in the clapping, the biggest clapping ever, winning clapping, the most clapping…POUF!

      • Liz Husebye Hartmann

        Clapping his tiny li’l hands in glee!

    • Charli Mills

      Narcissism seems like one of those attributes we don’t want to embrace, but there are times in life we need it. Oh, US/UK diplomacy…I’ll hope you continued in the vein of humor! If not, it’s probably “sad” or “a disaster” to borrow a POTUS word or two. 🙂

  12. jeanne229

    Pulled a scene from my recent ghostwriting (credited) project to create this flash, and thinking about Nazis…The narrator is a German-born, naturalized American citizen born in Prussia (in the East) in the last days of WWII. Here he is presenting to an audience of German surgeons his “Personal Reflection on the Cold War.”

    Dresden

    When I’d finished speaking, the air in the hall felt like a single, collective breath being held. Then clapping surged, a hard rain on a tin roof.

    Several fellow Germans made their way to the podium.

    “Very fitting, Doctor,” one said, his voice breaking. “I’ve not thought about those days in so long.”

    “Your story is my own,” said another. “No one has talked about what happened to us after the war.”

    Last was the distinguished head of a large hospital. Blinking through tears, he took my hand. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m very grateful.”

    My own throat closed.

    For more, go to:
    https://jeannelombardo.com/2017/03/the-nazis-legacy-of-silence/

    • Sherri Matthews

      Moving and powerful flash Jeanne…just as the narrator moved his audience to tears… <3

      • jeanne229

        Of course the scene I took it from delves deeper…and then you get to see the significance of the title “Dresden.” Thanks Sherri!

    • Charli Mills

      What a project to be working on, Jeanne! The flash you’ve pulled from it’s depths give significance to the whole. I’ve found flash to be useful in drawing out the heart of a larger scene or concept. This is going to be another amazing project.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      I wanted to get the flash in for this week, rather. Sigh…autocorrect.

      • jeanne229

        I sort of like “get the flashing in.” 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Flash, flashing, it’s all 99 words! 🙂

    • jeanne229

      Loved this flash. Beautiful imagery, and that “telescoping” at the end to the creatures watching over them. Glad I started my day with this!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Me too Sarah…on both counts right there with Jeanne, ditto…beautiful imagery…

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Thanks, lovely ladies. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sarah! Hope you catch your tail soon! Thanks for flashing as you ride by! 😀

  13. julespaige

    Carli –
    I like the checking their teeth reference 😉

    I had a couple ideas for this week, but went with a BoTs:

    All the World’s a Stage?
    (Title is post link)

    Limping she wondered if she had an audience. So many
    expect everyone to be at the peak of health. They just
    don’t know and should not judge about anyone except
    themselves. Age that relative number that insurance surveys
    like to give you when they only ask limiting questions without
    room for any explanations.

    Was it before, during or after the snowstorm that she pulled
    a muscle. Why does it take so long to heel? Why are stairs,
    Getting in and out of the car, sitting, standing or even sleeping
    so difficult? Thankfully there isn’t an audience for every grimace.

    ©JP/dh

    • Deborah Lee

      I feel her pain!

      • julespaige

        We take good health and movement for granted. I so hope I mend sooner than later. Just getting out of bed or up from a chair is a big OUCHIE right now…

        I hope you don’t have the same pain and that if you do you can mend quickly!

    • jeanne229

      Touching flash, exposing the self consciousness of age and illness. It aptly portrays the effect of this society we live in, with its false, commercially driven promises of perfect health and youthful later years. Good use of the prompt!

      • julespaige

        I actually didn’t mind using the cane so much as I needed it the other day…but folks tend to go overboard when they don’t know the cause.

        I am on the mend though. I just have to be careful of quick movement that stretches the in the incorrect direction. Pulled muscles are like that.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jules! Danni knows more about horses than children. 😉 I can feel your pain. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it is as if we have an audience as we age, perhaps by those who think to avoid it. So many spend their lives avoiding aging they don’t handle it as well as those of us limping along.

  14. Sherri Matthews

    Hi again Charli! Here’s my flash…thanks for allowing me to explore 😉

    Target Audience

    Adored by millions, rave reviews splashed across every newspaper. The audience, mesmerized by her performance fell at her slender feet, her talent a gift to the world.

    She stared at the portrait commissioned by her husband almost fifty years before and sighed.

    “Was that really you Grandma?”

    She nodded silently as she admired her once large, firm breasts, shimmering blonde hair and flawless complexion.

    Talent? It was never about the talent…

    “Fancy an ice cream?” she said, smiling down at her grandson. She might not have the tits and ass anymore, but she had the only audience that mattered.

    • Deborah Lee

      The good things in life.

      • Sherri Matthews

        The good things indeed…thank you Deborah 🙂

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      And Gramma’s always gonna be beautiful!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Absolutely! Thanks Liz 🙂

    • jeanne229

      Ah yes, our values and concerns change. We have children and grandchildren, and find the narrow counterfeit love of narcissism swelling the borders of self. Not that I don’t lament from time to time the fallen t and a 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        So very true Jeanne! I’m not a grandmother – yet – but I’m already doing that lament…from time to time at least 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Best target audience is the one who loves you! If you’re going to have ’em fawning at your feet, best the have the ones you want to keep around. Great surprise at the end. I think this character channeled a little bit of Nancy Jane, lol! Funny story, too. Charli has been my nickname all my life, but my given name is Annette. When Todd and I married, I sent out thank you cards after the wedding and being formal, I used my formal name. However, address the return on the envelops over and over was tedious, so I used our initials…and never again: T & A Mills! Great flash, Sherri! It’ll be a good one to wrap up the collection,

      • jeanne229

        Oh Annette, this is hilarious! LOL

      • Sherri Matthews

        Oh I love that…and I wasn’t actually thinking about Nancy Jane but now that you mention her…I can see why lol!! Oh I do love that woman! Glad you enjoyed the surprise…thanks again for a great prompt, I had fun with this. And T & A Mills…oh Charli, I am seriously laughing out loud, that’s hilarious!!!!! 😀

  15. Pete

    What a great post, Chali. I love (and I’m more than a little envious of) your way with description. The pictures are merely a side note! A pleasure to read.

    Here’s mine, I think it works with my latest short story…

    *Prime Time Dad

    I hated sharing my dad. But his sitcom was a smash and Dot said I was lucky. She convinced me to smile for the cameras and hold his hand in public.

    The man on television smiled and laughed and offered worthy advice. The one at home was short tempered and stressed. He smelled of brandy, smoked cigars, and sometimes called me Randy—the name of his onscreen son.

    Dot always rolled the television out and we’d watch the show. Then one night I started crying. Dot wiped my face and consoled me.

    She said Dad was a great actor.

    *Full version here: https://lunchbreakfiction.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/prime-time-dad/

    • Deborah Lee

      It would be so hard to see what kind of dad your dad could be, if he wanted to act like it! 🙁

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      We should all have a person as perceptive as Dot, in our lives!

    • jeanne229

      How poignant this flash is. Great title, and that last line is brilliant. Ties it all together. Perfect details…calling his son by the name of the TV son–heartbreaking. Well done Pete.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pete! My ongoing challenge to write the land. 🙂 Wow, great flash! It’s relatable, too. Even Dads who were different from the public persona to the one at home, often with wives and children captive to the misery no one else saw. You take that to the screen to give it an audience. Like a witness. I really liked the longer version, too!

    • jeanne229

      Ah, it’s all in the language we use and how we tell ourselves the story! And we ourselves can believe the version we like. Nice flash.

    • Charli Mills

      So true! We do have many audiences to please. I rather like having all these people in my RV. 🙂

  16. elliotttlyngreen

    I literally lol reading this. Yes please dont whip the bag of my remains over your head.

    I have a great interest in the ruins and archeology of america. Whats buried benearh. So very interesting.
    I mean we have tremendous record of the east going back 1000s and 1000s of years. Well, should i say middle earth. Rome. Greece. Egypt. Europe. Etc. I havent read much into the far east but its available. But not here. am always intrigued to envision this west at the same points in ancient history i am reading of the other side of the globe. A part of me pictures it empty….

    Science is Coming by Elliott Lyngreen

    Nate’s been expecting there will be a grand movement i step aside myself. Or lose myself. Exist around, outside myself.

    Instead of inside this womb prosing on about and ever contemplating.

    Charges coins now to share. The game is its more instant – but is, not speaking.

    There’ve always been rules.

    For speaking?

    “Cant stand my echoes.”

    Frees sound even my exhaling bellies; executes me further en passant. . . .

    Pressing into the navel of a fuzzy peach. Nate cannot eat them.

    Tainted on this bird repetitively clunking its reflection; for once, i want to remove the windows.

    “Check, Nate.”

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Elliott! Oops! I lost track of you over here! My apologies, I’ll get you properly linked up with the rest of the navels! Clever flash!

      You need to travel to the 4 Corners one day and take in the ancient sites. It’s old and you can feel it.

  17. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. March 23: Flash Fiction Challenge – Tough Audience | Morpethroad - […] Written for: https://carrotranch.com/2017/03/24/march-23-flash-fiction-challenge-2/ […]
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  4. Carrot Ranch Fiction Challenge March 23 | Scarlett Sauvage - […] Written for Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction 99-Word Challenge […]
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  6. The Nazis' Legacy of Silence - Jeanne Belisle Lombardo - […] it is that scene that has provided my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge this week: March 23, 2017…
  7. Softness #WritePhoto | Lemon Shark Reef - […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch which asks writers to pen a piece in 99 words (this week’s…
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  9. (nf) CR/ All the World’s a Stage? (3.28) | Jules in Flashy Fiction - […] March 23: Flash Fiction Challenge March 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience.…
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