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July 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

Crystalline waves slap behind my knees. A copper sun sinks slowly toward the horizon, extending sunset from about 8 to 10 p.m. The best time to catch the waves at Calumet Water Works, a public park and beach on Lake Superior, is around 7. If the waves roll just right, they act as a lens to the tumbled rock beneath the surface of clear water that has not a trace of sediment, algae or vegetation. Pure water, fresh water from ancient and icy depths.

Agates bring me here like a junkie looking for a hit. Just one more rock.

Beachcombers walk the long evening in either direction: dogs stroll and children in rubber boots and neon swimsuits dart along the shore like tropical fish. Serious rock-hounds lug buckets and agate scoopers, quickly scanning the wave-saturated edges for glints of agates among the red and black basalt, broken and tumbled smooth into goose eggs. The agates and other stones of interest are marble-sized or smaller, each year decreasing in population. Agates have no mating cycle in geology.

How to find an agate: go to where they are found and look. Rock-hounds can’t tell you how to develop an eye for them, but you can learn tips: look for luster, look for quartz. What does that mean exactly? If you were in your yoga pants and rock shoes, and me in mine, we’d go to the edge together and I’d pick up several rocks of white to show you — this is dull, like a teacher’s stub of chalk. It’s limestone. But it could be chert if it’s glassier, like this one. See? That’s luster. Chert is silica, but fine grained and opaque.

See that one, glinting white as a wave recedes? That’s nice. No, not gneiss… I mean, it’s nice and all, pretty, but it’s not that secondary metamorphic rock. Let me see. Hmm, yes, it’s a granite, has quartz but that’s not the quartz we’re looking for. The shiny you see is mica. It’s a mineral that forms in flakes. The black spots are hornblend. Sometimes you can see pink crystal faces and that’s feldspar. This is granite. Not gneiss, not schist. Don’t take schist for granite.

Ah, here’s a possibility, a white robin’s egg just rolled up with that wave. Catch it before it rolls back down! Let’s look at it. Nope. Toss it back it’s calcite. Lots of calcite and zeolites on this beach. They are silica, too. Quartz is silica. Different heat and pressure results in different grains (crystals) or lack of them, smooth like glass. Calcite is softer and has less luster than quartz. Here’s one: see how translucent it is? If we were lucky and this were an agate you would see distinct rings or bands. I found one white agate with a delicate banded eye of apricot. Exquisite but the size of my thumbnail.

My daughter — she picked up this massive caramel agate of banded chert the size of a fat fig. She’s got an eye. She and her hubby also have matching geology degrees. He has his masters. Seems like the more a geologist masters the more he says, maybe. As in, maybe that’s Thompsonite. I find lots of pretty maybes that glow when wet but dull when dry. Kind of like writing — when it’s fresh with wet ink it’s an agate of a scene. Dry it becomes a maybe page.

We’ve only learned about luster, quartz and white rocks to look for tonight. I forgot to mention that you should look for odd shapes, the not-quite-marbles. If dull they could be fossilized limestone of honeycomb coral. I have a terrific eye for fossils, maybe because I rock-hounded on Mars and in Nevada and Montana where inland seas left fossilized coral beds. I once found a coral fossil the size of a economy car. A gold mining company had left it behind in an abandoned pit because fossils aren’t currency.

The Industrial Age drove the copper miners to seek the webs of shiny copper formed in and on quartz of the Keweenaw. They dug deep and long, mining since the Cliff Mine founded in 1836. No one can say for certain why the copper formed here. Perhaps alien spiders spewing webs of copper or God’s game of where-did-the-Almighty-hide-that-mineral? Junkies have come to this beach before me, looking to get a rush from the naturally sluiced rocks found here, chasing down their origins.

Rock-hounds say the motherlode of agate is off the shore and if you’re serious you should buy scuba gear. I’m tempted. Maybe I can snorkel. Oh, look — this one is covered in fiery copper strands as thin as silk, the color of the last spill of molten metal from the sun on water. The copper is subtle. It’s hard to say what to look for; hard to say what to write. But the more you show up to the beach and the page, the better your chances of finding a crystalline wonder. Develop your eye for it. And don’t mind the slap of cold waves or the constant grind of rocks. It’s natural.

July 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. It can be used in typical forms or in creative ways (like the name of a town). What meaning does it hold for the story or character(s)? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 1, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 2). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Clearly a Party Site (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni crouched and considered the crystalline structure of the rock in her hand. The lab had scoured Kansas clay from its coarse features. Pink. Granite. Not the Woodland sandstone hearth she had expected to find at this depth. What did it mean? She glanced at the identified bones – beaver, deer, elk.

“Dr. Gordon?” One of the Lawrence students approached, sweaty after a humid day of trowel-work. “Wanted to invite you to a pig roast this weekend.”

“Pig roast?”

“Yeah, my uncle’s a pit-master”

“A pit…It’s a pit not a hearth! Ha! We’ve discovered a thousand year old BBQ site!”



  1. Susan Budig says:

    That’s a tough word. I like a challenge.

  2. Michael says:

    Its is a tough word to play with, but I gave it a go Charli:

  3. There’s no ‘maybe’ about this post. It’s a keeper. It glows and sparkles.

    • And perhaps your fine prose reveals that some elements of your tumbled life are finally crystallizing and will bring you multi-faceted blessings. Hope so, Boss, hope so.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I like that idea, D.! Perhaps the polish is taking hold after all the tumbling. I’ll keep looking though. Among the words arranged will be the motherhood one day. 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ha, ha! Motherlode! Unless birthing a novel counts, I’m definitely NOT seeking motherhood in the words! 😀

  4. Mother Lode

    “Shorty’s got rocks in her head.”

    “Yep, it’s become purty obvious. Goin’ on an on ‘bout rocks all the time. Rocks in her head, alright, and in her pockets, in her saddlebags. She’s always gatherin’, seems like.”

    “Our tumbleweed’s become a rock tumbler.”

    “That phrase weren’t too smooth, Kid.”

    “Well, I’m in a hurry, itchin’ to do some minin’ of my own. There’s 24 carrot gold in these here hills.”

    “Jest remember, Kid, glitter ain’t always gold. Me, I’m jest gonna ride under the crystalline sky, enjoy a gem of a day.”

    “That’s minin’ too.”

    “Yep, Kid, it is.”

  5. […] Flash Fiction Challenge – Carrot Communications […]

  6. […] story is for Charli’s Carrot Ranch. This week’s challenge is to write a story of exactly 99 words including the word, […]

  7. It’s been awhile, but I’m giving the challenge a go this week.

  8. julespaige says:

    Since my morning got turned upside down, I wrote first.

    OK on the site of my post which should be the title (link) there is lots of info.
    I’ve added to Janice vs Richard with the help of a wordle, an obsolete word and a busted myth.

    Tralucent Trauma? JvR 16

    Tralucent Trauma? (Janice vs Richard #16)

    Unlike a bull in a china shop, anger and rage permeated
    every nervous pore in Richard’s body. Vacant eyes stared
    at the salvaged offal staining the shine of the celadon bowl
    of the animal he had just dissected. His shoulders sagged
    as just the hint of abashedness tried to surface. His trenchancy
    returning as he carefully placed the clippers on the tarp covered
    table. He thought he would ‘read’ the offering after setting fire
    to it.

    Richard wanted crystalline clear directions of what to do next.
    Would he, could he destroy the only thing that had once loved


    Celadon (n.)) a pale grey-green, any of several Chinese porcelains having a translucent, pale green glaze..)
    Trenchancy (adj.)) incisive or keen, as language or a person; caustic; cutting; vigorous; effective; energetic)
    Tralucent: (Webster’s hardback): a. transparent; clear; translucent. [Obs.-obsolete]

    • This guy again! Couldn’t he have googled for direction rather than table top eviscerations?
      But then we wouldn’t have your fun take, I suppose, with all those words.

      • julespaige says:

        I watch too many CSI shows… and well the word lists help too. 😉

        I was actually inspired by another bloggers’ take on reading fortunes…but with tea leaves. So everything gets mashed.. (yeah pun intended). :S

    • Charli Mills says:

      There’s so much joy in a writer who can find inspiration in “a wordle, an obsolete word and a busted myth. ” Thanks for teaching me “traluscent.” If we use it, will it no longer be obsolete? 😀

  9. This prompt is a challenge! I’ll have to do some thinking about it today 🙂

  10. Crystalline

    She laughed. “What do you mean you love me? We just met.”
    “Yet I’m madly in love with you.”
    “What do you love about me?”
    “The way you talk. I love the clarity of your thought, that sparkle in your eyes. I love the lustre of your smile.”
    “You talk like a geologist.”
    “And I’ve found a jewel. I’m in love with you.”
    “You don’t even know my name.”
    “So tell me.”
    “Ruby. No, it’s Gem, that’s what you are.”
    “No, and no. Not Ruby, not Gem.”
    “Tell me.”
    “My name is Crys.”
    Short for Crystalline.”

  11. […] Carrot Ranch, July 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. It can be used in […]

  12. julespaige says:

    (with thanks to Jane Dougherty… cri de cœur ˌ/krē də ˈkər/:
    noun a passionate appeal, complaint, or protest. Origin and
    Etymology of cri de coeur. French, literally, cry from the heart.
    First Known Use: 1897)

    CR/ Replay, Rewind, Repeat

    Replay, Rewind, Repeat

    While change is the only real constant – I will have my words
    in books that I can hold. I may be unschooled amid classical
    writings – but I will wonder books stores with shelves of sheaf’s
    that behold the hidden truths in poetic wrangling… And if I
    am to be consumed by those waves of words I shan’t ask for
    water… just specks… the kind one needs to make words
    crystalline, even if only briefly imagined in my dementia.

    Imogene’s specks were thick to magnify print. Reading the
    classics with dementia was like reading them for the first time


    • Charli Mills says:

      First of all, I’m delighted that you and Jane exchanged words bringing literary art to life through discussion, interaction, discovery and response. To me, that is what word play and story catching is all about and I find it meaningful. Next, I’m moved by yourflash and where you took the prompt, your new-found phrase, and what it stirred in you.

  13. floridaborne says:

    I’m a bit late for this party, and not particularly pleased with my offering, but it will have to due for the week. Yuck.

    • julespaige says:

      Considering the prompt just got put up today – I can’t see how you are late. Fate is like that sometimes… the wrong words trigger the right response.

      • floridaborne says:

        I consider finding the prompt an hour later “too late.” It’s in my nature to be like that.

      • julespaige says:

        And then I have been known to not worry and get my flash in moments before the dead-line.
        🙂 Though I have gotten better sometimes I post just a day or two after the prompt comes out 😉

    • Well, I liked your offering. Though no pie this week, he got his just desserts.

    • jeanne229 says:

      It’s an inventive use of the prompt. “Crystalline clear” still doesn’t get the message across to some…

      • floridaborne says:

        There are some messages that can’t be understood until they’re lived — or someone you know and love has been broken by it.

    • Oh yes! Why don’t they get that no thank you means NO THANK YOU! Bet if she looked back, he’d be staring at her, dumbfounded and still undeterred…grrrr!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Party’s always on Joelle! And I admire you for pressing through when you don’t feel satisfied with a piece. I feel that way some weeks, too but I find that it’s also freeing to let go and let the writing be.

  14. denmaniacs4 says:

    Blind Dreams

    The sun is so bright.

    Against sensible advice, I stare into its brilliant firestorm.

    The shock is immediate, I am blinded yet see the careening crystalline future, colors rampaging off into fireballs, shimmering delights chewing away at any clarity.

    I see all.

    I see nothing.

    My kaleidoscope eyes twinkle in the darkness.

    My mind’s eye remembers all.

    I have visions, you know.

    Sightless from the laser sun scorching my eyeballs acinder, images as clear as irony feast on my memory.

    I walk the night.

    It is as if it is day.

    And lo, it is the sun, so bright.

  15. susanzutautas says:

    Well this was a challenge to me. I wrote a 8 stanza senryu poem 🙂 Hope you like it.

  16. […] July 27: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  17. An intriguing word to work with. Here is another take; a darker one.

    Dark of Winter

    The joke that winter was everyone walked on water. Because everywhere was frozen water. It came down as freezing rain and remained frozen, encasing the countryside in a glassy sheen. Rain would be followed by a cold spell, with never any snow to soften the bleak monotonous gray. It was a winter of impossible travel, of long days stuck inside, of boredom and its attendant drinking and tempers. It was a winter when heinous occurrences, mute secrets, were blamed on the entrapments, the relentless icing.
    She wished the crystalline memories that gripped her, still frozen, would shatter, would melt.

  18. […] second take for Carrot Ranch, July 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. It can be used in […]

  19. Annecdotist says:

    A tough one for me this time, Charli, you’ll find I’ve cheated somewhat:
    What constitutes a holiday read?

  20. Norah says:

    This is a really interesting post, Charli, and sent me on my own (online) exploration for agates. I like the way you liken writing to agates, and maybes. And polishing too, allows the inner beauty to show through. I remember having a beautiful creamy white stone polished for me when I was a child. I wonder was it an agate.
    I hope you find lots of crystalline stones, literally and figuratively. We all turn up and complete the tasks often enough. I love the flash and the way Danni got a flash of inspiration from an unrelated comment. Fabulous. The mind works in mysterious ways.
    I see there are many comments already, but I’ll read after I have completed my own. It hasn’t been in the tumbler yet – still tumbling around in my head!
    Have a good week!

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli, I’ve completed my crystalline wonder: Darling Crystalline I’m looking forward to reading the other submissions. Will hopefully do that this evening. Best wishes. N

    • Charli Mills says:

      Aha, the tumbler! Yes, a good place to put stones and stories. Do you still have that white stone from childhood? I remember finding a captivating stone in the creek as a child, and then promptly dropping it back into the water. I never found it again. And Danni’s story is from the distilling process of having dug in Kansas! It’s been a good week, hope it has been for you, too!

      • Norah says:

        No, I don’t have that stone, but I do have a few others. G2 was quite interested in stones and gems, and I bought her a collection for her last birthday. I remember having a discussion with her on the beach at Santa Monica this time last year when she was but four. We discussed how many things were needed to make a collection. I bought her a tube of stones at the Tar Pits in LA, and then more for her birthday in November. I’m not sure if she still looks at them. I must ask her. I have a lovely piece of petrified wood sent to me by a special friend in the US. I think it has magical properties. 🙂
        Isn’t it great when all the experiences tumble around and come out with the freshness of a new story. Glad you had a good week. 🙂

  21. An interesting post about agate and crystalline stones, Charli. My older son and I collect rocks so I am sure we can come up with something interesting for this. I did participate in last weeks prompt. So that I didn’t link it back to your post but I will do so this time. Sometimes I schedule posts and then forget to do the link back.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, Robbie! Missing your post last week is like overlooking an agate! I try to stay on top of blogs but that’s often hit and miss, mostly on Mondays my “admin and social media day.” I will catch up with it though, and get it into last week’s compilation. I’m so glad to see you writing flash fiction!

  22. A. E. Robson says:

    It’s been a while since I joined the crew here in the corral. Charli, your post reminded me of a girl who always had a collection of rocks in her pockets. Like you, the collecting still continues. There is something intriguing about the solid mass we find beneath our feet.

    The Journey
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The freezing winter season turns my path into ice
    Blankets of snow keep me safe in my place
    Dislodged by the thaw and watery storms
    Occasionally, I rest with the spring’s flooded debris
    Waiting my turn to be unceremoniously flung adrift
    Traversing the land between rain drenched banks
    Travelling for miles only to stop unexpectedly
    Laying for days on end or tiny minutes in time
    I’ve rumbled and rolled, gathering speed in the flow
    From the highest of peaks to the creek bed below
    Cousin to crystalline, gold, sandstone and shale
    We’re gathered together in bunches along sandy shores

    • Yeah. I like the movement and flow of this.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Good to see you at the ranch, Ann! Pockets are meant for rocks. 🙂 I’ve been holding on to a vision of you internalizing those stunning shots you take and tumbling them into stories with the crystalline structure of your words. Your flash conveys the journey of any long process, taking time and gathering the results.

      • A. E. Robson says:

        Slowly we gather (the words) and when they start to roll, it often becomes a run away until we once again rest before taking on the next chapter. It’s good to be back, Charli.

  23. […] 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 using the word […]

  24. Deborah Lee says:

    Many happy hours I spent with my grandparents, rambling around the hills and looking for rocks. And it is hard to explain exactly what to look for, isn’t it? So many times I heard, “That’s pretty. It’s nothing, but it’s pretty” or “What a keeper!”

  25. You were quite punderful in this the roll and play on words! Makes me miss my Lake Superior mornings, rock hunting and minnow chasing!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Gneiss that you caught the word play. 😀 How can anyone touch Lake Superior and not miss her when gone? I feel that way about mountains, wild west spaces and the Queen of the Great Lakes. From which shore did you have your lovely mornings?

  26. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (07/27/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. It can be used in typical forms or in creative ways (like the name of a town). What meaning does it hold for the story or character(s)? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  27. Back in the saddle again, or maybe back on my skis. This one also needed pie, cuz I missed last week.


    Deep winter, full moon, subtle rhythm of skis hissing through snow just-crystallized after a day of drifting flakes. No firm path, just skirting the deep wood where nobody with good sense enters after dark.

    She liked to live on the edge.

    Cutting across the meadow towards cliff’s edge, she changes her stride for deeper pack. Ahead, her hut will be warm, sweet with the scents of tea, and pie made from autumn’s bounty—once she reanimates the hearth. The moon sparkles crystalline off the fjord’s open water.

    Shucking skis, she sets wards around the perimeter. No surprise visitors tonight.

    • There’s nothing better than moonlight skiing; except the warm hut (with pie) afterwards.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Bonus points for pie, Liz! Your flash reminds me of the Nordic heritage in my new place. We’ve looked at houses and rentals, and high on my list now is one with hearth and sauna. Lovely line: “The moon sparkles crystalline off the fjord’s open water.”

  28. jeanne229 says:

    Thinking about my “crystalline complexion” and the “all natural” beauty hype this week.

    My Crystalline Complexion

    The sales associate was all of 20.

    “I just want some eye cream,” I said.

    “I have the perfect product for you,” she enthused. “The Gone in 60 Seconds Instant Wrinkle Eraser.”

    “C’mon, nothing is going to erase my wrinkles,” I said.

    “This one will. With all-natural sodium silicate, it instantly erases fine lines and wrinkles. It’ll provide that little bit of a ‘lift’ you need. ”

    “Hmmm” I said, my skepticism deepening the frown between my eyebrows.

    “Really, I use both the eye and the face cream in the line. I’ve been told I have a crystalline complexion.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Jeanne, your opening line cleverly sets up the last. Silicas and even micas are the rage in beauty products now. Yet I hear they settle in wrinkles, which reminds me of the veins of sugar crystal I find in metamorphic rocks. Great take on the prompt!

  29. jeanne229 says:

    Thinking about my “crystalline complexion” and the “all natural” beauty hype this week.

    My Crystalline Complexion

    The sales associate was all of 20.

    “I just want some eye cream,” I said.

    “I have the perfect product for you,” she enthused. “The Gone in 60 Seconds Instant Wrinkle Eraser.”

    “C’mon, nothing is going to erase my wrinkles,” I said.

    “This one will. With all-natural sodium silicate, it instantly erases fine lines and wrinkles. It’ll provide that little bit of a ‘lift’ you need.”

    “Hmmm” I said, my skepticism deepening the frown between my eyebrows.

    “Really, I use both the eye and the face cream in the line. I’ve been told I have a crystalline complexion.”

  30. jeanne229 says:

    Sorry for the double entry! Trying to fix that runaway quotation mark 🙂

  31. Crystalline Confusion
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Doriya squinted into the crystaline globe, willing her gypsy blood to interpret the nothingness within. Her client chewed her lower lip, dark eyes wide in a too-pale face. Designer purse. Manicured nails, but terrible skin and teeth. A gold heart locket about her neck. Doriya ignored the silent ball and relied on body language. “You’re nervous.”
    The client blinked over-large eyes. “Do you see him?”
    Doriya nodded. “He’s handsome.”
    The client jiggled her foot. “Yes. Will he propose?”
    Doriya frowned. “Sorry, no.”
    The client’s cheeks colored, and she left. Doriya’d provided the wrong answer if she wanted a tip.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Kerry, what your flash crystallizes for me is how the crystal ball reader sees nothing within the ball and instead reads the client for the clues and answers.

  32. […] This week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. […]

  33. kittysverses says:

    Thanks for running the challenge, Charli Mills. Here’s my entry
    Thank you all for stopping by and reading.

  34. […] Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. […]

  35. C. Jai Ferry says:

    Nostalgia strikes. Now I feel old.

  36. Hi Charli, what a great word. I love rocks. Here is my little contribution:

    • Charli Mills says:

      Aren’t rocks amazing? Once I discovered I could buy them, I collected in a different way. But my favorite collecting on location. Thanks for your flash and for introducing me to pyrite suns!

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