June 15: 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.

June 15, 2017

Guest Challenger: Word Wrangler, Shorty’s Creator, Author, Ranch Hand & Pre-Dawn Warrior, D. Avery

No tales from the West or Midwest this week. This prompt was inspired from an opposite direction.

The native people of this place are the Wampanogs, the People of the breaking day. Their name for this place means Faraway Island. Here there are no mountains, no hills, not even tall trees to buffer the relentless brightening that rolls in from the east, unimpeded by the lapping waves of the Atlantic. The day breaks early.

There is scrub, which provides ample food and shelter for the birds that daily celebrate this brightening, most insistently the male cardinal, who chirps and trills from the highest perch he can flag, greeting the sun before it even cracks the horizon. It is hard to sleep through the unhindered light and the joyous symphony of early dawn.

Some people have always been less joyous than the birds about the transition from night to day. A couple of years back, while reading in the wee hours, I discovered this poem by Japanese poet Fujiwara No Michinobu:

In the dawn, though I know

It will grow dark again,

How I hate the coming day.

If you are one who often bears witness to the coming day, you also might attest to the uncanny arrival of dread in the predawn. Dawn can be the worst time, the time when we might be at war with ourselves, the time when we knead our worries, allowing them to give rise to restless wonderings and anxious what-ifs.

But that is not what the cardinal is chirping about; worry and doubt are not why he and the towhees, robins, and others are exhorting you to wake. For hopefully you also have experienced the inspiration that often steals in with the coming of day. And maybe Michinobu wasn’t so much dreading the coming day but was regretting the ending of night, for the hours before dawn can be a time of contentment such as this poet felt:

Night Sitting*

The hermit doesn’t sleep at night;

In love with the blue of the vacant moon

The cool of the breeze

That rustles the trees

Rustles him too.

The first poet wrote darkly of the light, the second wrote brightly of the dark. Both light and dark are necessary. Ask any tree. A seed starts in the dark, sends its radicle, its primary root, down into the soil before unfolding its embryonic leaves into the light. For many of us, inspiration also germinates in the dark and must take hold there, nurtured by consideration and intent before expending energy on shooting outwards and upwards. The predawn hours can be a time of contemplation and insight, a time to let the imagination out to play and to entertain ideas as possibilities. Though hinting at restlessness, the hermit of the second poem was inspired by night, and perhaps he also welcomed the morning light that illuminated his thoughts and ignited his creative impulses.

Are you a predawn worrier, or a predawn warrior? If you are reading this you are more likely a predawn warrior, someone who is open to inspiration and intuition. You are not afraid of the dark, and you certainly are not afraid of the light. You welcome both and use them both to creative ends. How does the dawn break in your place, how does it come to you? Does it arrive with the patience afforded mountains? Does it get filtered by tall trees, or buffeted by tall buildings? Do you greet it with offerings, with sprouted seeds of inspiration and ideas gathered in the night?

In this place the names of the European supplanters who came to these shores four hundred years ago remain, along with Wampanog place names. This place is not what it was. Cars rattle over the cobblestoned streets. Planes interrupt the skies overhead. Ferries disgorge numerous tractor-trailers laden with food and all other supplies. They disgorge carloads of people. In town, there is a “night life,” crowded and boisterous. But there are quiet places too, and quiet times. Expanses of sky and water mirror one another, both sparkling with starlight. Fishermen awaken in the dark that they might confront their quarry at break of dawn. These fishermen might be seen by artists endeavoring to capture on their canvas the subtle changes of light as night dissolves and day breaks over the shimmering harbor.

I, like many, still lie in bed, but not for long. As always, the transition from night to dawn is vibrantly championed by the birds who incite the night sitters and other dreamers to rouse ourselves, to unfold into a new day.

June 15, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that symbolically, mythically, mystically, or realistically involves dawn, as a noun or verb. Write about the dawn of time or the time of dawn, or the dawning of an idea. As always, go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 20, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published June 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

* I regret that I did not take note of this poet’s name when I copied this down years ago, nor can locate the book it might have come from.

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  1. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    I have always found the pre-dawn hours (say from 3AM until the birds sing) somewhat disconcerting. It seems the darkest part of night for me. There is something comforting in the sound of birdsong breaking through the last moments of the night. And I suppose having an opinion about that at all suggests that I spend far too many nights not sleeping through those hours…as is true again tonight, obviously. The transition from night to day is, like many things, subject to the perspective and personal experiences of the individual. I love that all our varied interpretations are right and true.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Not sleeping through the night seems to be the new normal. I’ve learned to go with it, have plenty of books right handy. But look at you! You were the early bird that got the carrots!

      • floridaborne

        No silver lining — too bright. 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A geotropic, phototropic tree; wandering, willful fruit… delicious.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks 🙂 It is interesting to see how interpretations change with the readers. For me, the apple’s journey from a hostile environment to the scientist’s head, was one of self-discovery.

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Hmm… If I’m to see dawn, it’s because I stayed up until then, not (ever) because I woke up then. 😉 Great post. Thanks for this week’s fab prompt, D!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thanks. It was an honor and a pleasure.
      Funny, I am not sure if I have a flash response. Maybe one will dawn on me later.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Har… 😀

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        That’s a powerful piece of writing. Strong imagery.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Thanks! 🙂

      • jeanne229

        Evocative flash, vividly capturing a dramatic moment in time but hinting at the depths of a larger story. Cinematic.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Thank you, Jeanne! 🙂

  3. Pete

    This is the opening chapter of something I’m working on. At least if nothing else, I can get a flash out of it, so thanks, D!

    I watch Tarah blink into the brand new sun. She shrugs into a yawn that grows into a deep, satisfying stretch. Her eyes crinkle and her steps shuffle to accommodate the arrangement. It reminds me of a little girl, rising lazily to traipse into a room full of presents on Christmas morning. Not Tarah’s Christmases—those were something to get through, not enjoy. But something about the way her eyes glisten, how they’re disarmed and innocent like the newborn day, it gives me hope, something I can’t grasp—at least until she blinks again and sees me watching her.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Wow…. thanks your’e welcome.
      This something is worth working on.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Meaning I like it, not that it needs work. There’s a lot there.

      • Pete

        Thanks D! And fittingly, the working title is, The Wide Awakes, so I had to use it here.

    • jeanne229

      Leaves me wanting to know more. Great contrast between the image of a small, innocent girl and the more complex reality of your character, Tarah. Just enough back story in that one line about past Christmases.

    • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

      Definitely keep working on this. I love “The Wide Awakes” as a title…beautiful.

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    When in doubt, rely on Shorty and the gang. Except I almost missed using the dang prompt ’til I titled it.

    One Fine Dawn at The Ranch by D. Avery

    “I miss Shorty’s cookin’.”
    “Well, Shorty’s busy. You’ll just have to make do.”
    “I guess. And I ‘spose things are goin’ along pretty good. That was a first rate round up last week.”
    “Yeah, it was Kid. There’re some mighty fine wranglers around here.”
    “Shorty’s talkin’ to the bank?”
    “Somethin’ like that. She’s gonna make the ranch even better, better for all of us.”
    “Will we have our own brand?”
    “Somethin’ like that Kid. It’s gonna be quite a spread.”
    “But who’s gonna pay, Pal?”
    “Was that a hint?”
    “Somethin’ like that.”
    “Drink yer milk.”
    “I miss Shorty’s cookin’.”

    • Pete

      I love the pay, pal line. Cracked me up. Great flash!

    • jeanne229

      Great use of dialogue as characterization. And a poignant theme expressed so effectively. I hope Shorty’s trip to the bank is a success!

    • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

      Pay, Pal. *snorks* Loved that. And thanks for the link to all the Shorty stuff! Will check it out later.

  5. idyllsoftheking

    The second poem, Night Sitting, seems to be by a poet called Ching An, and appears along with several others by said poet in The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry.

    • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

      Yes, what idyllsoftheking said is correct. Cool stuff.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yup, I did find that very book hiding on my shelves. After the hint. Very cool stuff.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Dawn… beginning of day or end of night? All’s well that ends well, but you have to start somewhere.

      • Michael

        Sorry D.Avery but I should have addressed you in my message…thanks for this prompt, yes I must start somewhere I guess…and end??

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      How sad or telling that I did not think to google it… instead I pored over my shelves, leafed through my old books. I might have had more fun…

      • Liz Husebye Hartmann

        But we love that old book smell & the sound of riffling pages!

      • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

        Yeah, but there’s nothing like digging though old books and re-discovering what lives in them.

  6. elliotttlyngreen

    Well, That supercharged. Definitely inspiring. Like I wanted you to keep going. Where is this place? Did you say? but, Very WEll done. Thanks D!!
    Standing Ovation.

    magnifieddawn by Elliott Lyngreen

    Pierced powderkeg
    combustible dusts candle flamed,
    Anguish on path,
    flame slid
    gnarled braid of fates’ sinuous
    slowly ripped circuitous length
    With every intention to reach the street of dreams,
    To extend through, erupt that tremendous crystal;
    Explode the real separation-
    A dynamite exasperation of

    Then, among glittering,
    Then among breaking or popping
    Among cracking release
    gazing at embers
    in italic jet ruptures,
    Totally stealing that look,
    that awaking little look,
    That stealing look, stealing that look in your eye
    now ember breaks or pops,
    cracks open
    gentle blasted scars
    across glass just in pieces,
    Crinkled concrete.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That is an incendiary piece of writing. As the sixth graders say, it’s lit.
      And thank you for your kind words regarding the prompt.
      The place is just a little bit of glacial moraine 30 miles out in the sea. Nothing permanent.

  7. julespaige

    First off – Thanks for a fine prompt. I added to a serial…
    I was pondering what to do when a shadow crept up behind me and… well
    Sometimes even the dark characters get to have a turn 😉

    Mourning Dawn

    Mourning Dawn
    (Janice vs Richard #10)

    Richard disliked dawn. Too much damned light. He rather
    liked to prowl before the long shadows of Del Sol wakened
    the general populace from their slumber. He felt safest in
    the depths of the night’s dark embrace.

    Richard wanted to wake Janice from her slumber in the
    middle of the night. Embrace the warmth she once so freely
    had given him. Wasn’t a reward in order for getting rid of
    the neighborhood’s Peeping Tom?

    Janice still eluded him. Where’d she go? He’d left her a
    new red dress in her old wardrobe. Had a new Cell
    phone delivered too…


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Glad you got to walk your characters. Another Dawn Dreader, this one.
      I will have to catch up on this series. In a couple of weeks. Not enough hours in the day just now.

      • julespaige

        I know about not enough hours. 😉
        No rush…do so when you have time. Most are for CR so they are only 99 words. Other segments are only a page long.

        I’m going to have to do some catching up on “Shorty”. Though the about 300 page paper back mysteries have been taking up some of my time…

        Maybe I’ll have to do a flip version – find something good about dawn. I’ve been walking in the mornings… and it is quite a peaceful and beautiful time of day.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Shorty flashes started here at the Ranch not too long ago. They occur here randomly since the May 6 prompt. They are just some in house fun.

      • julespaige

        You can create a page for them so they are all together. I think I may have read some. I try to leave likes at CR – but I don’t always. I’ll have to back track a tad and have a look see. 😉 -I made myself a note 🙂
        Thank you.

    • jeanne229

      Red dress and a cell phone…can’t compete with sleep and the dawn. Poignant portrayal of the wall that separates a couple. And I had to “laugh” in recognition of that woman. More than one man in my life has wanted to wake me up in the middle of the night to talk….I’m glad Janice has been left to enjoy her slumber. But I do feel some sympathy for Richard too.

      • julespaige

        Actually FYI Richard is a nasty unstable element. But I can see how he could garner sympathy if you didn’t know his background.

        I’m hoping to catch up on some CR reading this weekend. Maybe even a few tomorrow.
        Thanks for ‘stopping by’ ~Jules

  8. jeanne229

    Wonderful prompt and beautiful post D. I love the haiku and the Chinese poem you included, as well as the evocative images of the “dark before the dawn” and the “unhindered light and the joyous symphony” of the brightening day. You’ve inspired me to post and flash after a long, dark night of blogging silence. Thank you for that. Will be back “in a flash.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thank you so much. And welcome back to the light of day. Looking forward to your flashy return!

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    flash memoir this time;


    Second grade; the formulaic assignment: three sentences, no more, no less. We all had the same title: If I Had Three Wishes, written after reading the traditional tales. I remember choosing my words as thoughtfully as the wishes, spending those allotted sentences carefully, mindful of sequence and tone.
    Publication provided audience. The large lined primary paper with hand-drawn illustrations at top were hung in the hallway of the small K-12 school. High school students, big, like grownups, but more approachable, stopped to read. Seeing me, one spoke. “I like your story.”
    It was the dawning of my writing self.

    • jeanne229

      Lovely piece on the emergence of an identity. Brought to mind my own early experiences with writing. Now I wonder what those wishes were?

  10. Annecdotist

    Thanks for taking the reins at the ranch this week. Dawn is a great prompt and you’ve given us lots of ideas from different angles to get our creative juices flowing. However, I struggled a little initially as I’d given myself the extra challenge of tying it in with a theme for Fathers’ Day, but got there:
    Four Fictional Absent Fathers http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2017/06/four-fictional-absent-fathers.html

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I’d say you met your challenge. That story has just begun I’d say.

    • jeanne229

      Brava on combining the prompt with a reflection on fathers, absent and present. Your flash effectively reflects the traditional role of the father as wise cautionary figure, in this case for sons. Now I am pondering my own past and the role of mothers in restraining their daughters (or sons) when the hot blood roils.

  11. denmaniacs4

    In one ear and out the other…how often I heard that as a child.

    Bogiesque Ramblings at Dusk

    Dawn sprouts,
    flourishes in the shadows,
    emerges into the blaze,
    seeks “heat,
    like a newborn spider.”
    God, I love that line.
    Old General Sternwood,
    Bogie sweating,
    the magic of The Big Sleep
    There is a civility
    that emerged in the 1940’s,
    and how sweet is the line,
    “Ben Hur, 1860?”
    And Malone,
    her career in its infancy,
    her and Bogie,
    he bacalling,
    she maloneing,
    trading bookish vibrations,
    chandler movie ferocity,
    competing pleasures.
    Before birth,
    dawn of my life,
    cinematic imaginings,
    Colorado Territory,
    High and Low Sierra,
    love and death,
    all in those moments
    before life dawns.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Old names, new verbs… The dawn and dusk of cinema…You used your poetic license well.

    • jeanne229

      Ahh, you must be a TCM fan. Loved the poem and all the images it evoked! Such beautiful lines:
      Dawn sprouts,
      flourishes in the shadows,
      emerges into the blaze,
      seeks “heat,
      like a newborn spider.”

      • denmaniacs4

        Thank you. Old movies all the way. The line “heat like a newborn spider” is from the movie, though I wish it were mine.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Them’s fightin’ words. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the toughest of them all? I like how she has the ends and the means on her post its; good lesson in goal setting.

  12. Norah

    A lovely contemplative past – just right for those moments before the dawn. Across the waves from you and your cardinals, the magpies and kookaburras sing the beginning of my day in a beautiful dawn serenade. I love listening to the birds and the joy with which they greet each new day. It’s a great reminder of all that is good on tbe world. Rejoice!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      there is a right Way
      awaken to birdsong praise
      to God’s ordered world.

      • Norah

        Joyous birdsong!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      About 25 years ago my husband and I traveled about NSW in a camper van. The first night we were right in Sydney in an rv park near a beach. We were less than rejoiceful regarding the swarms of cockatoos all making their own joyful noises at raucous volume. Nature gone wild right there in the city.

      • Norah

        We do have a lot of noisy birds. I haven’t experienced the cockatoos at the beach, but I know the rainbow lorikeets can be very noisy at dusk too. I guess if you were trying to relax or sleep they could be a problem, but I’d rather be with them than without them. If only we’d known each other 25 years ago, we could have swapped bird stories with a raucous birdsong chorus!

    • Norah

      Sorry. I’m out and about and on my phone. I have posted my contribution. My path, like a walk in the dark might be a bit obscure but I hope it makes sense. The ping back should take you there.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        It’s all good, Norah. there is no one right way to contribute. And you showed your work! I love what you did with your 99 words.

      • Norah

        Thank you, D. I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

  13. Kerry E.B. Black

    Thank you for guest word wrangling, D. Avery! I hope Charli is feeling like saddling up again soon. Sending good thoughts and hope-filled prayers her way.

    I’m a history enthusiast, and WWII is haunting me of late. Perhaps my Grandfather’s approaching birthday is the reason for this, or a recently read novel. In any case, the influence is evident in this drabble of mine. I hope you’ll like it.

    Final Day
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Inga resented surviving, but she clung to a half-life.

    Nazi monsters invaded her home, destroyed with polished assurances. They separated mother from children to “ensure their proper education.” Formal manners hid wolfish teeth. They requisitioned belongings and like locust devoured her meals.

    In her desperation, rat meat appealed, if only she could catch one. Her joints and head ached. Hair fell in clumps, studded by pearly teeth. Flesh skimmed bones, beauty mocked from pictures of the past.

    Life be damned. She ignored the dictates and their penalties and ripped away newsprint from her window to watch her final day dawn.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Damned indeed. A powerful conclusion. If you can’t control your living, take control of your dying and watch it dawn.

  14. Liz Husebye Hartmann

    Out of my comfort zone, but raw as they come?

    Queen of the Night*

    Creamy cactus buds, feathered with pink curving petals.
    Shy flamingos sparsely shelter in thick, darkly unassuming leaves.
    Sun sets, ushering in the cooling desert dawn,
    The Queen’s one chance at immortality.

    Another dune shelters a second hopeful corps de ballet,
    Essential to the dance.

    Groups of the troupe,
    Pale petals stretch to Mother Moon.
    Bud becomes blossom,
    Stamens shake their sweetness, splay to the bat’s slow tongue.
    Moon rises higher as bat flits from flower to flower.

    It takes a village to pollinate the Queen.

    Moon curtsies, fades away.
    Blossom droops and dies,
    Holding the future in her belly.


    * Selenicereus grandiflorus, Night-blooming Cereus


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Great imagery to describe a night blooming plant. One would almost expect birds and bees, but no, because it’s plant that blooms at night, just a plant, albeit going for it, because it just has the one night. To flower. It’s a plant. A night blooming flowering plant.

      • Liz Husebye Hartmann

        You nailed it. And it can only be pollinated on that one night by cross fertilization from a bloom from another Queen of the Night plant (that second corps de ballet that also hopes). Some amazing FAQ sheets and videos out there on the web…maybe I’ll see one for real some day…

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It is a well done flash, and yes it does feel like part of a larger story. I wonder about this guy. Maybe you’ll give us more another time. (And I suspect that quitting smoking will be very difficult for him.)

      • Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

        Thank you, D. There is already more to this! At the moment, it’s just a bit but it may be more.

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    That’s some tight writing. The story feels both mythical and futuristic to me.

  16. Liz Husebye Hartmann

    “for even our greatest enemies do not deserve a painful death”
    So true!

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    You’re back! Great post, great flash. We must have posted these flash memoirs about the same time. Close call, Dawn Warrior.

  18. jeanne229

    That’s what I was thinking. Ships passing in the night 🙂 And we both did memoir 🙂

  19. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    We’ve all been there. Is it so noisy when we don’t want to lie in?

  20. Liz Husebye Hartmann

    No one should be forced to rise before the sun does! 😉

  21. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Wow. I loved your take on dawn in your post. Geoff is almost as reflective as Paul. A lovely feel good flash.


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