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July 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Sails gain minimal height over rolling waves, riders like astronauts flip their bodies to the universe until gravity beats wind. They land, carving a crest of water. Not to be defeated, these wind-&-wave riders reach again and again for stars we can’t see in an overcast sky. Wake boards point to unseen constellations, but fall light years short of any terminus. Like writers, these Argonauts shoot for the moon. We never truly arrive, pointing our sails or words into the wind and leap perpetually.

We live for unexpected landings. Adventure or insights gained from a brutal crash, success and failure meld into multiple attempts that don’t end until we end the ride, pull the sails, clear the screen. Who wants to end when there’s so much wind yet to catch? So many words yet to write? The stars are near. The stories within reach. Type so fast your fingers lay a rooster-tail across the keyboard.

Blonde girls sell red strawberries along the foggy highway.

It’s a riddle to me. The wind-&-wave riders commune with my own seeking, but these girls make me question my location. My time. My space. Where am I? The fog tricks my senses, cloaking the season until my wandering mind marvels at strawberries in winter. No, it’s summer in the western hemisphere. Fog, berries and blondes. If I left Mars, I think I made an unexpected landing on Neptune.

In the southwest, where sand is its own artisan, attempting to blow its own glass with temperatures reaching furnace levels, red Mars is easy to see. Mesas and sandstone, heat and dry arroyos are the closest I’ve come to writing from another planet. Yet, now I find myself in this cool, watery and shrouded world. The blondes tell me its fine berry growing weather. And quarts of luscious sweet summer bites are only $4.95 while they last. Evidently Neptune must grow its own taste of summer because I see nothing else here that acknowledges the heat of Mars or the jungles of Kansas.

After a year and 27 days of wandering in search of home, I’ve found chickens. Look, chickens!

Like ladies in petticoats they run with wings as if to hike up their feathered skirts of buff, brown and red. The cock among them runs like a lady, too and they are charging me as if to respond to my distracted delight with a distraction of their own: Look, people! I cringe upon seeing the spurs, knowing the feel of such talons. I have little memory of the actual rooster attack except for falling to my young knees and covering my head with hands, screaming until my aunt beat the rooster to death with a broom. I don’t remember that it died, but feel bad, as if I caused his early entry to the stew pot, or so the ancient family story goes.

This fella is cheerful, the ladies excitable, and I throw back my head to laugh.

It’s foggy, but through the fine mist I can see twin spires of a Catholic Church bricked in Jacobsville Sandstone. I pause to wonder which group of miners dedicated this towering feature. All around me are chickens and miner’s houses in varying forms of decay. An Elvis poster hangs in a window across the street. Next door the house is neat as a pin, old, but standing tall. The next house is only a remnant of a cobbled rock foundation. Across from the rubble is a house about to go on sale at county auction. It will cost the buyer about $5,000, but no one gets to see inside until after the sale. It can be guts of joists and junk, or a gem in the rough. The house next to it has a malamute fixating on the chickens.

Here’s a look at the green and gray, the twin spires and the miner’s houses. Cue the choir:

The Hub and I fully intended to come to Michigan. It was the half-baked plan after reeling from the loss of home, of Elmira Pond and writing space. But the trailer we had leaked and didn’t pull well. The Hub went into a tactical response and we’ve been our own band of Argonauts ever since, picking cherries in Wallace, Idaho, discovering RV parks and migrant fruit-pickers in central Washington, landing on Mars for winter, taking detours through Pueblo nations, digging into the history of Kansas and Nebraska, passing the Midwest metropolises to arrive at one of the weirdest borders in America.

The Keweenaw was never for the feint of heart. Hard-rock miners from Cornwall and Slovenia, Sweden and Spain, Italy and Ireland, jack-hammered over 9,000 feet below after blue veins of copper for  an industrializing nation. The Quincy Mine had 92 levels of darkness, as if to prove Dante wrong. Cemeteries are full of tributes to miners who died in the mines. The land itself is a peninsula poking its finger into the belly of Lake Superior, a fresh water lake capable of snapping an ocean-going steel freighter in two. It’s not connected to the state of Michigan, but is considered its upper peninsula (the U.P., thus naming its residents “yoopers”).

Mostly the Finns remain. Sisu, and all. It’s a Finnish construct for grit. To live on the Keweenaw takes grit. The summers are cool and the winters accumulate over 300 inches of snowfall called Lake Effect. That explains the fog, too. Lake Superior creates its own climate. The locals will tell ya, hey, that it’s da freshest air in the world. If fresh means cool, I’d agree. It does feel fresh as spearmint gum in my mouth. I wonder what the chickens make of winter? The townsfolk of Calumet, the village housing said chickens, has no ordinances and welcomes eccentricities.

This video shows a sunnier side of the village and the coffee shop where you’ll find me writing on occasion:

The chickens and I have an announcement: we are going to be neighbors for a year. The Hub and I are renting a home after homeless wandering, to experience the Sisu it takes to live on the Keweenaw through winter, to meet up with the artist community, and to continue the fine services we’ve encountered in the U.P. for the Hub. Yes, we are going to be yoopers. We don’t know if we’ll stay longer, go back out west or venture to yet another planet. For now, we’re going to take this unexpected landing and yet, keep aiming for the stars like the wind-&-wave riders.

Tonight my future landlord welcomed me to the town that once boasted of 30,000 citizens.  I will join the 700 who remain. A new home, a new adventure, new stories to catch.

July 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an unplanned move or created into a metaphor. Go where the prompt, or chickens, lead.

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

***

The Coming Storm (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Wind gusted and cottonwoods along the creek groaned. A nightfall storm closed in. Sarah hadn’t meant to stay so late in the company of Nancy Jane, but venison stew and friendship offered made Sarah linger. How long since she’d had a friend?

A branch cracked and Sarah screamed, escaping the limb’s descent. A man hollered at her to get out of the trees. Topping the gully, Sarah recognized the young stock-tender who rarely spoke. Hickok led the way as trees began to snap.

Hickok’s dugout provided an unexpected landing from the raging storm. And an unanticipated reaction from Cobb.

###


114 Comments

  1. Sarah has a friend, Charli has a roof over her head… a town that allows wandering chickens is a good place to cease your own wanderings.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. […] July 13: Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch Communications […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] If you’d like to join the fun, here’s the link to the Carrot Ranch blog:  https://carrotranch.com/2017/07/14/july-13-flash-fiction-challenge-2/ […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Norah says:

    Awesome! A home that doesn’t rock when you walk in it, in which you can hold your head high and walk tall, a house in which you can swing a cat (as the saying goes) or is that a chicken? I am so excited for your having made this choice, your choice, to stay for a year. Oh, I’m sure the chickens are friendly, and where there are friendly chickens, surely there are friendly people too. I have good vibes about this, Charli. You’re going to be okay. You’ll have to keep the fingers dancing across the keyboards to not get (too) cold. It was great to see the coffee shop where you sometimes write and to meet some of the local folks in the video. I think this is a good landing.
    I absolutely love this” “Like ladies in petticoats they run with wings as if to hike up their feathered skirts of buff, brown and red. The cock among them runs like a lady,” Sometimes your imagery just blows me away, like the board riders cresting the waves. Poor silly, silly rooster for attacking you. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into. What a stew! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you for celebrating with me, Norah! I won’t be swinging any chickens, but good to know I’ll have the space to do so. The coffee shop is a nice little set-up only about five or six blocks away. Downtown is rather surreal as it looks like the buildings are for a much larger population, which they once were. Friendly people, too, like their chickens. My landlord said I was welcome to put any in the stewpot but unless there’s a repeat of that old rooster from childhood, they are safe with me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Hi Charli, I had to wait for the fog to clear before writing my piece Ready to land http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-Wu I hope you like it.
        I’m so pleased you’ve landed in a friendly zone. It sounds quite a delightful place to stop. I hope it works out for you. No chicken stew? A little chicken soup can be good for the soul, I’ve heard. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        It’s a friendly place, but we still have to work on our landing, too. No chicken soup for now, but I know where to find eggs. 🙂 Glad the fog cleared!

        Like

  5. susanzutautas says:

    Oh Charli, I’m so happy to read that you’ve found a place to call home for now.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. C. Jai Ferry says:

    “Look, chickens!

    Like ladies in petticoats they run with wings as if to hike up their feathered skirts of buff, brown and red.”

    This is the most perfect description of chickens I have ever read — it made me giddy to read 🙂

    Yay on the stable housing for at least a year. Yay yay YAY!!! (I would try flipping my own body to the universe, but my landing would be anything but graceful and pain-free.)

    Liked by 6 people

  7. “Aw, fricassee! I ain’t never seen chickens ‘round the ranch before. We gonna have to herd them too?”

    “If Shorty says.”

    “Chicken’d go nice with carrots.”

    “I doubt the chickens end up in the pot. She already thinks they’s ladies in petticoats for gosh sakes.”

    “Hmmph.”

    “Wouldn’t surprise me none if Shorty got ‘em to scratch out 99 words in the dirt for her. They’d scratch out some egg-citing tales, alright.”

    “Bah, what stories do chickens have?”

    “Some speak of the coop, some the road.”

    “Shorty says she’s done crisscrossin’ roads for awhile.”

    “Yep. That chicken has landed.”

    “Unexpectedly.”

    Liked by 6 people

  8. I love the prompt, Charli. It will make a nice change to be in one place for a longer period and explore all it has to offer. Sounds like you made a good choice of place.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. […] July 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Pete says:

    “Malik, what is this?”

    “What do you mean? It’s fifty-eight white sheets. Rush order.”

    “And the hoods?”

    “Why do you ask so many questions?”

    “Malik. These are costumes. For the men who’ve landed in town to protest the removal of the statue at the park.”

    “Why have statue for loser? Only here.”

    “Malik. This is serious. They don’t like us. They call us terrorists.”

    “Terrorists Cleaners, now that is a good one, no?”

    “Haven’t you seen the news?”

    “News. I don’t have time for news. I’m always here, washing.”

    “They march. They spread fear.”

    “Then they are terrorists, no?”

    Liked by 6 people

  11. julespaige says:

    Charli,

    I’m going to try and get something in by the due date.
    Glad to hear you are getting help and a home – even if temporary.
    I’m near ocean waters at the moment. Meeting up with family tomorrow.
    When I think of landing…its like getting home and sleeping in my own bed.
    But for now… I’ll have to think a bit to see where the words land.

    I did see some para-sailers… I don’t know where they eventually land. And while I’ve thought about taking that kind of flight…If I am thinking twice about going on a Ferris Wheel (I’ve done such when I was younger) at the end of the board walk…I think I’d like to keep my feet landed on the ground.

    More later. Hugs, Jules

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Jules! Enjoy your seaside and family. I watch these para-sailors and think how fun it would be, and then wisely stay on the shore. I like the idea of seeing where the words land! Hugs to you, too! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Hurray for a home and new neighbors!

    His Sister’s Keeper
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Mud squelched as Ward knelt beside his unconscious sister. “Please don’t be dead,” he repeated like a prayer. She’d tried to keep up with him, but his agility and speed had outstripped her crippled gait. He’d relished the freedom of flight, enjoyed the thrill of exerting muscles habitually held in check to match her pace, tired of being his sister’s keeper.
    Her scream halted his progress and his heart. She’d slipped down the hill. He had rushed to gather her to his chest. Frail, thin, with tendons protruding oddly, Nina groaned. Ward wiped a tear of regret and relief.

    Liked by 7 people

  13. denmaniacs4 says:

    The Diver

    The high board is a steep climb. Always. But I can do it. I’ve done it a zillion times.

    That first time was a killer. I was six. My mother, who wouldn’t even stand on a kitchen chair to brush the cobwebs and spiders off the dining room fan, was like a crazed cheerleader, yelling, climb! Climb! CLIMB!

    So, I climbed.

    I’d already mastered the low board.

    Cannonballs. Loved cannonballs.

    But not as much as diving.

    The jump. The spring. The flight. The spin.

    And then, the landing. A bullet… and, surprize, surprize, an Olympic rocket into the pool.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 6 people

  14. […] July 13: Flash Fiction Challenge July 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an unplanned move or created into a metaphor. Go where the prompt, or chickens, lead. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  15. julespaige says:

    Just a quick little something for my 100th contribution to Carrot Ranch 🙂

    Mission Impossible?

    Mission Impossible?

    It was the cat. Becky knew something wasn’t Kosher. Blinking
    was she conscious? The cat had not landed the way a cat
    should, well at least most of the time. Cats usually land on all
    four of their padded feet from generally any height. But there
    wasn’t any real gravity here …was there? Just where was here?

    The spaceship battle had taken a nasty turn. Some of the crew
    had been beamed out. Along with some other life forms. The
    large feline tabby had not landed feet first when transported.
    Just what ship was Becky on? Friend or foe?

    ©JP/dh

    Hope to catch up on some reading this week – though it may be later in the week. ~Jules

    Liked by 6 people

  16. Ruchira Khanna says:

    I am thrilled to read about you find a home without wheels. 🙂

    Chickens or no chickens the fact that you have activity around you is also thrilling.

    I have a bird seeder in my yard and love seeing the many traits these various birds give out as they feed their tummies. It’s fascinating!

    Sending you good vibes as you settle in, Charli.

    My take: https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2017/07/a-tune.html

    Liked by 5 people

  17. […] week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an unexpected […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Deborah Lee says:

    I am SO SO SO happy to hear you’re homed, even if it’s temporary. It doesn’t roll!

    https://99monkeysblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/nice-to-meet-you-jane-doe-flash-fiction/

    Liked by 5 people

  19. […] for Sammi Cox’s weekend writing prompt #11 and Carrot Ranch July 13th flash […]

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Had trouble getting going with this one, so started by listing some observed landings:

    The lacy winged dragonfly winking on the bow of the kayak, resting briefly from its hunting. The blue heron’s broad brush of the marsh as it lands with its awkward grace, lanky legs stretched forward to meet the shallows. The whirring hummingbird not quite landing, unmoving as it churns air, breakfasting at the petunias. The fledgling robin, wobbly first flight from nest to branch, uncertain, empowered. Even the insistent deerfly, brazen blue, pestering my neck. So many landings, each a common occurrence.
    Why then the unexpected depth of feeling, of awe and wonder? Joy has landed in my heart.

    (Yes, 99 words) That got me to another landing:

    Landing

    He did not want to take the old man fishing. He had few enough days to relax, dreaded the criticisms that would roll around the boat like rattling cans.
    In the cove they drift cast.
    “How’s work?”
    Here we go, he thought. “Fine.”
    “You deserve a day off. You work hard.”
    Then quiet except for one-word utterances, “Nibble.” “Hit.” Nothing stayed on the line. The old man told about their first time fishing this cove. “We got ‘em that day.”
    He had only been four, but he remembered.
    Today no fish were landed. “Can I buy you dinner, Dad?”

    Liked by 6 people

    • Norah says:

      I love your list of nature’s landing and share you sense of joy and wonder. How marvellous is flight and it’s landings, even almost landings. Surely even hummingbirds must land sometime. Sadly, I don’t know. We don’t have them here.
      I commented on your fishing story on your post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      D,. the way you entered what was not coming to you is a great example of how we can be inspired by both the interests we have and our surroundings. Like me, I suspect your interest in in your natural surroundings! I love the observation of natural landings and how it evolved into an idea for your flash between a father and a son. Great writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. And, to be clear, (since ranch hands seem to talk about process and such), these two pieces are not a connected evolution, other than pencil got put to paper. The Shorty stories are relatively easy, they summarize for me the post and the prompt and make me feel better, because I have written something, phew. Then I fret that I have nothing; each week, each prompt is impossible. But the prompt is bumping and bouncing around my head as I go about my days and something is better than nothing so, pencil to paper, and guess what? That usually leads to something. Some I like better than others. I make myself stop when I have something that seems to answer the prompt and is fiction. Then I go about my business until the next prompt. (What’s today?)

        Like

  21. Or?
    Soul-Bird

    Raven, protector, prominent on the totem pole, reminds all to live correctly. Raven who found the first People in a clamshell. Raven who keeps the tide, who balances night and day.
    Do not fear this soul-bird even when Raven comes for you unexpectedly. Yes, you will appear as dead to those who might see Raven bear you away; you might feel that you have drowned in the bottomless pools of Raven’s eyes, feel the winging as soft whispers of spirits. Raven will land you on the moon, where you will be warmly received, where you will be rebirthed.

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/soul-bird/

    Liked by 5 people

  22. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (07/13/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an unplanned move or created into a metaphor. Go where the prompt, or chickens, lead […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. There’s landing, and realizing the journey’s not quite over, or as you’d expected…

    Almost Ready to Fly

    After a crackling-hard winter, she was relieved to drag the Adirondack chair out of the shed. Morning sun dappled through the leafy canopy overhead, warm enough to make morning coffee outdoors feasible, but not enough to waken mosquitoes.

    This vision had carried her through those brutal months before retirement. Leaning back, she stretched her bare toes into the dewy grass and smiled. Too early for ticks, too!

    “I left the nest! God-willing, may all my mornings be blessed like this.”

    A nestling sparrow plummeted through the trees and onto her lap. He glared up at her through sparse fluff.

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/almost-ready-to-fly/

    Liked by 7 people

  24. Norah Colvin says:

    […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an un… […]

    Liked by 2 people

  25. […] Charli Mills latest prompt is here […]

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Annecdotist says:

    So glad you’ve landed somewhere to settle after such a long time on the road – from your eloquent description and from the video it looks like a place that will welcome people with your skills and outlook and you’ll make a great contribution to its regeneration. I look forward to learning about your recruitment into the choir!!!

    Meanwhile, I’ve landed my flash after the deadline according to my time zone but I’m hoping I’ve make it within yours

    Three novels about people whose brains work differently http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2017/07/three-novels-about-people-whose-brains-work-differently.html

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha! I hadn’t thought about getting roped into the choir. I might sound like a chicken chirping, and yet you’ve given me hope through your many posts that indicate anyone can sing. I’d be willing to try! Literary stuff and settling first. In zones, you remain ahead of time. Always interesting to consider how brains work, especially the different ones.

      Like

  27. I’m also really late with this. I’m blaming the humid July weather for my lack of productivity and overall sluggishness.

    http://wp.me/p5u9VI-17L

    Liked by 2 people

  28. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s July 13 Flash Fiction Challenge: Unexpected Landing […]

    Liked by 1 person

  29. dnagai says:

    Happy for you and hope this new home and community supports your soul for the coming year.

    Here’s my loosely followed prompt!
    https://fledglingfictionblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/unexpected-relationship/

    Liked by 2 people

  30. […] Charli Mills latest prompt is here […]

    Liked by 1 person

  31. gordon759 says:

    I nearly missed the challenge, here is my contribution two of my historical tales

    https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/first-steps-into-the-air/

    Liked by 2 people

  32. My flash has been uncooperative this week. But just wanted to say I’m so glad you’ve landed in a place to call home! That’s fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. […] week’s Carrot Ranch prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected […]

    Like

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