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April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

“My car broke down, too. Used to have a Nissan, ran it until it quit. Now I come to town on these tires.” The Navajo woman who’s about my age, just as tall but slender from being her own car points to her gray tennies. “Yeah, gonna need new Goodyears soon!”

The Hub and I laugh with her. She’s carrying two black velvet lined boxes filled with turquoise and stone silver rings. We’re eating breakfast, the cheapest we can find on the menu — $5 for an egg, bacon and roasted green chili pepper sandwich served with dark coffee. It fascinates me that we’re the only white people — Anglos — in Earl’s Restaurant. No one one pays us any mind except the artists who wander through the tables with their wares.

“My daughter is a Marine, and my sons are both Airborne,” she tells us, after learning the Hub is a veteran. He’s Airborne, too. In fact, he’s an Airborne Ranger so I tell her to coin him. Anyone claiming to be a Ranger has to coin up. If caught without one’s Ranger coin, he has to buy beer. She asks him to see his coin and he digs it out of his pocket. She holds it in her hand, flipping it to see both sides. “A Ranger,” she says, handing it back.

I thank her for her service, saying mothers deserve to be thanked, too. “That’s right,” she says, her face showing the love and pride she holds for her children’s military service. 100 percent. Her entire brood serves. I ask if that’s why Gallup, New Mexico has signs claiming to be the most patriotic town in America. She laughs and says it’s about the Code Talkers, too. And Hiroshi H. Miyamura, a Japanese-American Medal of Honor recipient. He’s known locally as “Hershey,” and is still alive, having served in WWII and the Korean War.

Hershey is known as Nisei. With close to a quarter million people living in New Mexico from pueblos and reservations who are Zuni, Toas, Tewa, Ute, Hopi, Apache and Navajo, Nisei sounds like another tribe. But it isn’t. To say Hershey is Nisei is to adopt the term to describe him as a second generation Japanese-American. During WWII the 100th Infantry Battalion of the US Army was 100 percent Nisei. Most had family held in Japanese-American internment camps. Many lost their homes and businesses. It was a cruel response to wartime, and robbed many of dignity.

However, Hershey’s family was never interned. They had their cameras, firearms and radios confiscated, but the citizens of Gallup signed a petition as character witnesses for the two dozen Japanese-American families living here. Hershey was born October 6, 1925 in Gallup, New Mexico just 13 years after it became a state, but his parents arrived earlier in 1906. Gallup was then a railroad and mining town with a nearby cavalry fort. According to the 1940 US Census record, Hershey’s father was widowed and operating a cafe and raising six children. Hershey says in a newspaper interview how grateful he was they lived in Gallup and escaped internment.

Not only is Gallup patriotic, it’s also called the Indian Capitol of the World because of its proximity to the diverse reservations and pueblos, including the largest — the Navajo Nation. From these southwestern tribes come the world’s most stunning art. Among the artists who walk past my breakfast table is a man selling his wife’s miniature Kachina dolls. Kachinas are spirit beings in the Pueblo traditions who assist with controlling the weather for crops. The Hopi, in particular, believe that it requires the supernatural to grow corn in the semi-arid high desert of the southwest.

The Hub is drawn to the dolls and despite being down to the last of our cash, he buys one for me — Morning Singer. The Kachinas represent harmony with the land, not dominance. Hopi men carve Kachina dolls from the root of cottonwood trees and dance as Kachinas to become supernatural. I find it curious that my little Morning Singer was carved by a woman, but collection of dolls has evolved into a large tourist trade and is not the same purpose. I’m dreaming of adding Native Art to Carrot Ranch, but reality is that artists are grossly taken advantage of and I could not stomach being a part of that system.

If I had the money I’d buy directly from the artists. One tall and lean young man in dark sunglasses and a hip-hop baseball cap walks up to us selling a silver squash blossom necklace with chunks of turquoise each the size of a walnut. I’m stunned. The silver-smithing alone is spectacular, and yet it is the high-grade turquoise that captures my attention. I know that a piece of jewelry like this will sell for $3,000 or more in a gallery. He’s selling it for $600 and offers it to us for $200. The temptation is to buy it and resell it at its value in the greater market outside Gallup. No way can I do this. I can’t devalue another artist.

It’s a familiar scenario for writers. Buy my book for .99 cents. Get published and you’re lucky to see 6 percent of each sale with the majority going to the publisher and distributor. And writers can’t bypass publishing and distribution. Gallup artists can’t compete with the online sales of knockoffs because they don’t have a way to get their art to the high-paying markets except through the trading posts and wholesalers. With great empathy, I show my appreciation for each piece as it parades by like an open mic night giving away words for cheap. My lame excuse for not paying the bargain price is, “We’re broke down.” They get it. We’re broke.

Most artists tell us their own broke stories, like the military mother who jokes that her shoes are her tires. “At least you only need to replace two worn tires, not four,” I jest in return. What is it with artists and poverty? We lead rich lives and create rich stories, rich horse-hair pottery, rich Kachina dolls, rich jewelry, but find no monetary wealth in the pursuit. We later stop at one of the trading posts and I notice the small Kachina dolls are marked off 20 percent. I ask how much and the “sale” price is $15. I bought mine directly from the artist for $5. Is it fair the trading post makes $10? If economics were my strength, I suppose I wouldn’t be a writer. Like one of our Rough Writers, Pete Fanning, wrote last week, “It makes my head hurt.”

I decline to buy one, explaining we’re broke down. I joke that if we can’t get a transmission we might live in Gallup. “Then you can get a job,” she replies. Ouch. Yes, there’s that, too. Despite my long hours, despite the material I’ve created and amassed for future publication, despite the articles and client content I write for pay, I don’t “really work.” The artists this proprietor takes advantage of to profit according to the religion of capitalism where, by God, where those who “work hard” deserve to make more than those slackers who merely create. How to even explain to her that my husband would gladly work, given a fair chance, but no one in his industry wants to hire a 50-something veteran with workplace adaptation issues due to PTSD.

That’s right; we’re a couple of homeless bums broke down in Gallup. But we are rich in other ways profits can never be. I’ll be a story-teller long after her shop closes down because the artists figure out how to work together for mutual benefit, cutting out those who take advantage of them. For now, I’m going to write from Gallup, collect stories as I catch them and explore the history of this region which is so unknown to me. I’m going to support other writers, and promote the value of literary arts from its rawest form to the possibilities of life-long mastery. That’s my job.

April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of jewelry. Whose ring is it and what’s its significance? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 18, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published April 19). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Only the Ring Remained (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Don’t you tire of sifting dirt?” Michael leaned back on the porch chair, drinking a Rocket Dog.

Danni knew Ike had stocked his workshop fridge with his Ranger buddy’s favorite beer. A token of appreciation. Or a bribe. “I thought we buried the hatchet, Michael.”

“Just curious. Seems boring.”

“It’s amazing how much evidence past garbage holds.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Garbage? No. The most disturbing find was considered a site contamination.”

“Contaminated garbage?”

“It was run-off from the 1956 Grand Canyon plane crash. A wedding band among Anasazi pottery. Identified as the pilot’s whose body was never recovered.”



  1. Happy Easter Charli. Here’s my contribution this week:
    I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

  2. […] For: April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  3. Hi there! I just came across this post of yours and your blog in general and I couldn’t help but comment and tell you how much I adore your blog and love this post! Keep up the great work, I am going to follow you so I can keep up with all your new posts!

  4. susanzutautas says:

    Hi Charli, Happy Easter. I’m loving your travel stories of late even though some are not the happiest.
    Here is my Flash for this weeks prompt.

  5. Happy Easter? Yesterday was Christmas Eve. Expectantly awaiting the gifts from the Ranch. Charli Mills is Santa Claus. The prompt did not disappoint. I will try it on for size later.
    This week’s tales, the non-fiction installment as well as the fictional flash, were worth the wait and are dazzling jewels. Happy Christmas.
    And here’s to keeping the sleigh on the road.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ho, ho, ho! Thanks, D. that’s a terrific compliment. I used to edit a magazine and when I turned over the content to the designer, I felt like the first look was Christmas. So I’m delighted you feel that way! I look forward to the gift you bring in exchange. The sleigh will be down a week or two — I guess we had to send out to the North Pole for a part. 🙂

  6. I love your stories from the road, and your resilient spirit. You are truly a wonder. Hope to have something to contribute this time around!

  7. denmaniacs4 says:

    Wishing you and the entire Carrot Ranch a fine and safe holiday, Charli.
    I hope this fabrication rings true.


    “Look at ‘em, Sybil. Sausages. Big fat sausages.”

    I spread my mitts in grand emphasis.

    “Yes, sweetie. You have big hands.”

    “Not exactly Presidential.”

    “No. But too big for your Mom’s ring. Maybe we can get it enlarged?”

    “You think?”

    “I don’t know. It’s pretty thin…probably hard to stretch…”

    “Dad made it from an old copper cup. True story.”

    “I’ve heard it often.”

    “Well, it’s a good story. He was a handy guy.”

    “A frugal, artistic man.”

    “Depression days, eh.”

    “Yes, it was. If we can’t expand it, maybe I should wear it.”

    “Would you?”

    “It’d be my pleasure.”

  8. Joe Owens says:

    Hey Charli. I have a light-hearted response this week. Big surprise from me, I know.

  9. […] wrote this in response to Charli Mills’ April 13th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a ring.  Keep the definition to that of […]

  10. Kate says:

    Charli, your post made me think about the quote from Forrest Gump: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” No matter what comes your way, Charli, you have a knack for finding the sweetness the chocolate coating has to offer. I’ve added my contribution for this week, ‘The Rescue’.

  11. […] April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  12. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (04/13/2017):  In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of jewelry. Whose ring is it and what’s its significance? Go where the prompt leads. […]

  13. Here’s a little flash, and it’s tastier…cuz bacon! 😉

    A Bacon Bit (Sizzlin’ in the Old West)

    Leadbelly sidled up to the bar, tossing a small leather bag on the counter. His boot hooked over the bar rail, spurs jangling, as he leaned toward the buxom barkeep.

    “What’ll ya have?” Lula eyed the bag of gold dust.

    “Whiskey, neat,” he twirled his greasy mustaches, “And you, disheveled.”

    She rolled her eyes and turned her back. The piano player threw him out. Polishing a glass, she waited.

    Josiah approached, sliding the fragrant waxed package across the counter. He laid a gold ring on top. His lips trembled. “Will you have me?”

    “You and your bacon? Forever, Love.”

  14. […] for The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. Requirements: April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the […]

  15. rogershipp says:

    A Father’s Blessing

    “Pap-pa, Esmeralda. She’s the one I’ve been telling you about.”

    Freddie lost his father. Lost? No… He just left.

    And Freddie appeared. Assisting with weeding the mowing… shooting hoops in the driveway… caring for the Dane when I’m away.

    The two are aglow.

    For a bride, so many traditions. Something old… new… borrowed… blue.

    Nothing for the groom. Marriage license. Money. Rehearsal dinner. More money. Honeymoon. Even more money.

    If a groom has no roots of his own… it’s hard to grow.

    I wonder… my fingers encircle the ring I’ve worn faithfully since Sara’s passing.

    “Freddie… if you’d like it.”

  16. […] our A-Z blogging series to bring you a 99-word flash fiction piece, inspired by the prompt over at Carrot Ranch:  In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of […]

  17. The Ring, D.Avery

    He acted like he had found gold, though it was just an old skidder wheel-rim.
    “Whatever for?” she asked.
    “For you”, he said. “I got you a ring.”
    He set it in the clearing behind the house. He gathered wood. He brought seats.
    And they along with friends and family often ended up there, speaking easily around a crackling fire, into the night, gazing into the flames in communion, staring in their own silent reveries.
    In the daytime, empty and cold, it looked like what it was, an old rusty rim. But it was gold. She loved this ring.

  18. […] Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  19. […] above was my response to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to […]

  20. kittysverses says:

    Hi Charli Mills, I’m happy to be part of this challenge. This is a my first time here. Please have a look at mine at
    Thank you.

  21. You know what they say about Goodyear’s — They are only good for a year.

    But seriously, Championless I lament the loss of a great man who taught me stories and fiction. Now I cannot tell you that unless I tell you it was indirectly always a lesson. I know a great one (story) when it comes across.

    One of his arts was to read scf-fi/fantasy novels in like 2 days. But another was to fish the lake. As full of sh## sometimes as he was of great places to find fish, he was full of stories.

    My stepfather, one of my dads; to me for 37 years; passed a few weeks ago. am still coming to grips with it but everything I read of your encouters, Charli, with these indian-natives reminds me of my family. His. So that is nice. He was some part indian, and mostly part mexican, and in my childhood turned me awake before the dawns to go ….. fishing. Who wants to do that? And damn I miss it now. I was there.

    So, well… im stealing one of them big tales for this week. Thank you Dad. And thank You Charli for the prompt!! Happy Easter as well . . . .

    Consider the Odds by Elliott Lyngreen

    This concrete pier doglegs like a long driveway into the lake.

    The horizon rises behind as I fish into the calm side; the inlet back into the marina and boat launches.

    This morning, he snuck away from the wife. As I tie a lead weight to my T-dropper rig he sets up his folding chair near the steel edges crashing waters whale.

    But, I am too excited to ask how he managed to get away. So I offer, “more weights in my box if needed.” He responds, “nah, just going to use my wedding bands.”

    Perch season begins perfectly.

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s a story to honor a man of stories! “…nah, just going to use my wedding bands.” Great zinger from a great storyteller and what a man to miss. Pueblos, Navajos, Mexicans…they look to the painted handprints on the cliff dwellings and say, “My ancestors were here.” That’s enough to know. He was here, your Dad. And now he is alive in the spirit world, according to local tradition. He’ll bring you more stories, I suspect. I’m, sorry, though, for the loss of his presence in your life. Coming to grips never really happens, but we try.

      • Very gracious for your kind words. Thank you. He ashes were supposed to be poured into the lake, but i guess its illegal so somewhere made him change his mind. Speaking of spirit of the world…. we indeed are here. And there are many reminders. Fascinating stuff

      • Charli Mills says:

        Elliott, I want you to know, I had already set up the prompt for next week before this comment…we must have linked thoughts! I was struck by certain postings at Chaco Canyon which led me to ponder such illegalities. I hope he got a satisfying final rest.

  22. Child Bride
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    It blurred in her vision, yellow gold devouring a too-thin finger. It weighted Shakti’s hand, tethered her to a place, a family, and an older man who didn’t regard her as more than property. She shook her hand, but the wedding ring clung like an infant to its mother’s breast.

    Wild-eyed, she searched the room hung with wedding silks, praying for an escape that didn’t come.

    Instead, her groom came to consummate the marriage. He lumbered atop her until she cried out in pain.

    After, she scrubbed the sheets, marring the gold band denoting her new status as wife.

  23. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s April 13 Flash Fiction Challenge: A Ring […]

  24. […] April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of jewelry. Whose ring is it and what’s its significance? Go where the prompt leads. […]

  25. julespaige says:


    It has been a busy week. I hope you can get your transmission fixed sooner than later. But it sounds like you are in a place that is full of art and wonderful people.

    I’ve been traveling a tad too…We got back from North Carolina – that was a quick trip and now I’m watching the sun set over the Ohio River from the Kentucky side (just on the other side is Indiana). I lived in Indy about 25 years ago. I’m told much has changed. But then not much stays the same.

    I’ve got a BoTS for you this week Title should be the link:

    Finders Keepers

    I found the gold ring with a chipped amber type square
    stone with four diamond-like gems, while walking the
    dogs one day. The band had a kink in it. But the sun
    made it sparkle in the gutter where it lay, lost or

    Now it was mine. And I wore it when ‘he’ came to visit –
    ‘He’ didn’t have to know that my new Beau hadn’t given
    it to me. It made breaking up with ‘him’ so much easier.

    I got the band fixed. Though I hardly ever wear that
    ring. Now wear my white gold wedding band.


    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Jules! Safe journey to you! We are in a holding pattern until our transmission reaches Albuquerque and then we have to rent a truck to get it, exchanging the old transmission. Kind of sounds like your ring story! I’m glad that lost or tossed (great line!) ring helped you hold out for the right man and band.

  26. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’m a writer on a break this week. I’ve been catching up with extended family and friends. One girl was wearing a beautiful large turquoise ring – reminded me of you. There is none similar in the collection in your photograph; all beautiful just the same.
    As you say, being an artist is difficult, particularly for those with “no name”. People will pay much for an artist whose name is familiar, but an equally talented, hard-working, persistent unknown artist is expected to work for “love”. It’s a hobby after all, not something one should expect payment for – that’s what others say. It is good to have your support and to know that you stand for fairness, in your actions as well as your words. People are always after a bargain, which means that the creator, whether artist or person on a production line, is paid poorly for effort. I agree with your position.
    This is an interesting scene in your flash this week, and good to see Danni and Michael discussing their relationship. A pilot’s ring contaminating the Anasazi artefacts, but telling a story itself. As you say, stories everywhere. Garbage is probably one of the richest sources.
    This week I have given my time to discovering family stories and making connections in a large gathering, all of whom are here as the result of the exchange of wedding vows and a ring between two people, my grandparents, almost a hundred years ago. While I would have loved to participate in your challenge, I’m spending the writing time with family and friends. I’ll hopefully be back with a contribution next week.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Norah! Enjoy your break and story-catching as you mingle with those who all descend from a ring long ago (makes it sound epic, like a Tolkien story). Turquoise is fabulous in any setting as far as I’m concerned. Ah, love the stone. It’s funny, but being here, I feel close to Danni’s roots in her profession, and learning the Native perspectives adds to the way I imagine her and Michael interacting and being at odds, yet finding common ground. The archaeology sites I’ve been to here say there are many truths. The wedding band from the Grand Canyon plane crash was something I learned recently, but like this adventure is doing, I’m collecting gritty details for Danni. This has been a fortuitous break down for writing. Enjoy your time with family and friends!

      • Norah says:

        Thank you, Charli. I have had a wonderful time with family and friends. Some of the family members live in Western Queensland in the area where dinosaur remains have been found and where there are some large dinosaur exhibits and museums. Some bones of a plesiosaur have even been found on my cousin’s property. Much of central Australia was once covered by an inland sea, hence the plesiosaur. It’ going to be very exciting to visit sometime.
        I think many stories could be told about my family. I guess like most families, it’s rich for mining.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, wow, Norah! Was your cousin part of the discovery? You have many stories to collect and memories to make.

  27. […] I’ve also added a third challenge, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch, weekly Flash Fiction Challenge based on a 99 word prompt. This weeks’ prompt is write about ‘a ring’, which is the subject […]

  28. LucciaGray says:

    Hi Charli, I loved reading about your travels and your conversations with the Navajo artists. Beautiful jewellery in your picture. I’d love to see a picture of the dolls! I was once at a Ute reservation in Utah, and we met some of the artists, too. Fascinating people and art. How an artist’s work is devalued for him, but gradually revalued and sold at increased prices along the marketing and distribution line is mind boggling and unfair. At least you were able to see the real artists and original works, much of what we see in Europe is probably an overpriced imitation made in China, which is another issue…
    My contribution today is a poem, also included in the AtoZ Challenge and the NationalPoetryMonth. It’s called ‘One Perfect Rose’, and it’s a light hearted story about a girl who wants a ring but gets a rose instead! Hope you like it:)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Seeing the art first-hand and meeting the artists feels like a deep connection. As I understand it, made-in-China knock-offs compete with the real art even here in Gallup. It reminds me of how popular it is to believe “fake news” over reading and researching real journalism. In the 1970s, the US experienced the rise of junk food for the body; now we gobble up junk food for the mind. And this adds (or subtracts?) to the already devalued system of writers where distributors and retailers make the profit. I hope I can return again, and be able to buy things such as beaded lanyards for workshops. Here’s my wee Morning Singer (among iced water at our breakfast table):

      Morning SingerMorning Singer

  29. Pete says:

    Wow Charlie, I too have thought about the trade off, with writing, with parenting, with quality of life. But I admire your spirit and fight, but I think you’re due for some better luck! My flash is a downer this week, but as you know, you can’t help where it goes…

    Maybe if she’d been wearing it things would’ve been different. But my skin was burning off my bones. I pulled for breath. Bugs skittered down my neck.

    Jada wasn’t home. The ring sat there. Shining.

    They gave me eight hundred bucks for it. Two days later I was broke again. Jada cried. Moved to her mother’s. I sat in a ball, for two days, shivering.

    The ring sat on the shelf. Shining. My skin burned. Nausea like shame in my gut. There was nothing to sell. Just the brick in my hand.

    I went to get Jada’s ring back.

    • Charli Mills says:

      We often talk about “balance” but really it’s more like trade-offs. We can be determined, or we can be broken by our choices, as the narrator of Jada’s ring. Powerful writing! It’s powerful when you have the guts to go where it leads. 😉 Thanks, Pete.

  30. Annecdotist says:

    You seem to be collecting some wonderful stories out of the difficulties life throws at you, but hope you manage to get on the road again soon. And good that you can defend your choices about what constitutes work and how it’s valued.
    I posted my flash on Sunday’s blog post but almost forgot to check in here
    Look forward, as ever, to your compilation.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The stories are good for the picking, although the field might be rough at the moment. Actually, our waiting has turned out to be pleasant. We might have a transmission tomorrow! But I know for certain, there are yet more stories to collect. An interesting pondering, about holidays setting a timeline for stories. And good to read more from your upcoming novel!

  31. […] This is the latest Carrot Ranch prompt […]

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