August 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

August 18, 2017

Mona slinks across the dining room table, wraps her body around the edge of my laptop and brushes long whiskers across my hand. It’s become a ritual of sorts. The cat begs permission to perch upon my chest every afternoon. I grumble. I’m on multiple deadlines and focused, not wanting the interruption of a pestering feline. She’s not even my cat. Mona insists; I resist. Push the cat away, push the cat away, push the…oh, all right already!

I’ve learned it’s easiest to coax her into the curve of my left arm, as if inviting Mona into a sling. She presses against my chest, settles squarely on the bosom she believes to be her personal cat shelf, tucks her splayed toes into the crook of my arm and purrs. Her warmth radiates and I rest my chin on her tiny head. I stop. I don’t write on deadline; worry about the interviews not yet arranged; fret about my lateness to my own ranch; I don’t think about anything but the purring, the warmth, the love I suddenly and inexplicably feel in this paused moment.

I want America to sit with a cat purring against its breast.

Mother of Exiles: Give me your tired, your poor… (Emma Lazarus)

…ask not what your country can do for you… (Robert F. Kennedy)

…we are united in common values… (President Barrack OBama)

If you get, give. If you learn, teach. (Maya Angelou)

If the great American people will only keep their temper… (President Abraham Lincoln)

I am the American Dream…It said you can come from anywhere and be anything you want… (Whoopie Goldberg)

Only Americans can hurt America. (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“A constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom.” (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

One of the amazing features of Carrot Ranch is that it’s a literary community without borders. It invites diversity — different ages, gender identifications, experiences, genres. We marvel at the different ways each writer approaches a challenge and how each responds. Some write by the seat of pants; some polish and revise. Some base flash fiction on a true story; some grasp at neon threads of imagination. We find common ground in writing, pursuing what it is we do creatively with words. This is literary arts open to all writers.

It’s important to acknowledge our diversity and common ground because this is an American ranch. And our nation is struggling with its history and healing. While the world is being battered by terrorism, America is becoming its own worst terrorist. Two cars-as-deadly-weapons within a week — one in Barcelona, Spain and another in Charlottesville, Virginia. I cringe to even compare the two but it is necessary to understand the difference. In Spain an extremist group has claimed responsibility and world leaders denounce the violence. In America an extremist group had gathered to express white supremacy and those opposed to fascism staged a counter protest. A reported neo-Nazi plowed his car into the protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. The POTUS blamed both sides.

Stay with me. This is not meant to be a political rant of runaway horses. Hug a cat. Feel the heartbeat, the warmth, the love, and let’s move on to statues.

As a historian of the American West, I’m sensitive to the complex influences and impact of the Civil War upon westward expansion. It’s not as simple as pro- and anti-slavery divisions. Kansas Territory with the nickname “Bleeding Kansas” became embattled before the war between those who wanted to make it a slave state and those wanting to abolish slavery. Yet, even abolitionists were racists. Some of Wild Bill Hickok’s early letters home from Kansas espoused prejudice views and language. He was the son of an abolitionist and as a boy partook in getting slaves to freedom in Canada.

The south often refers to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression. From this perspective, the issue emerges as one of states rights versus perceived federal tyranny. The idea is that America fought for its freedom, therefore states held that they shouldn’t be controlled by the interests of other regions. Of course, no one can miss the ultimate irony of a nation proclaiming its freedom on the backs of slaves, indentured servants, and cheap industrial labor. Free for whom? Which leads us to the greater underlying cause of the Civil War beyond its issues, institutions and ideals — power and control.

There are those who want power, and there are those who don’t want to be controlled. This human dynamic is probably as old as sex. Slavery: power over another population; control of land and property wealth. Abolition: power over the moral attitudes of others; control of social behavior. Industry: power to take at will; control over workers and wealth. These power struggles play out in politics, place and among people at odds. One solution might cause a ripple elsewhere. But the bottom line of ending the ugliness of power and control is captured in the vision for “equal rights.” This is where Americans divide. Whose rights infringe upon whom?

Don’t kill babies. That’s clear as a cliched bell to everyone. Who’d kill a baby? Well, now we tussle over the definition of when life begins and who controls that life in a woman’s uterus. No, we aren’t discussing that here. The point I want to make is, hug a cat. Not a real cat this time, but think of what it means to hold a cat, feel the purring, the warmth, the love. Now give someone else that cat. What would it look like? To me, I see men and women of faith who love life from its earliest conception, loving the women who approach an abortion clinic. I see them offering blankets, hot cocoa with marshmallows and inviting them to talk, asking them what’s going on, how can they be of service, of help. Listening.

Did you hear that word? Listening. Listen to the story of another. We all have our narratives. We are all vulnerable and feel scrutinized. Actively listen. What if we thought up ways to offer an outreach of cat hugs and listening?

Statues. I didn’t forget. We need to listen to the stories behind these Confederate statues. I don’t want to see civil war over the Civil War. Twice now death has come to Virginia behind secessionist symbols. First it was the Confederate Flag, waved by convicted killer, Dylan Roof who tried to start a “race war” by barging into a black church in Charleston, shooting nine members of its congregation. That’s when the Confederate Flag as an American symbol came under fire, and rightly so. Once a symbol of states rebellion, the General Lee has evolved into one of white supremacy and hate. That’s when calls went out to dismantle or add to Confederate statues in the US, most located in the South.

Statue toppling is something associated in countries of extreme unrest or violent rebellion. It also gives me pause as a historian — are we rewriting history as some claim?

In my research of Rock Creek, I recall a story about a statue placed in Tennessee or Kentucky 20 years after the end of the Civil War. It wasn’t one of the big-name military leaders, but a man who was a Confederate, captured by southern neighbors and repaid for the earlier killings of eastern Tennessee’s Unionists (those opposed to secession, like Cobb McCanles and his family). By rights of capture, the man should have been imprisoned, but instead he was quickly hung. I can’t recall the controversy exactly, but I remember the intent of the statue — to heal the rift between neighbors living with the aftermath of the Civil War.

However, the majority of the Confederate statues in question were raised during Jim Crow laws when black men and boys hung from southern trees like Strange Fruit. Or during the 1950s as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum. Most of the decisions to fly the Confederate flags in southern states also came after states were mandated to eliminate segregation. Symbols of power and control. Symbols to intimidate. The statues do hold history, however, but the memory of historical events. Decision to erect them and take them down are commentary on the history, not about erasing it.

Out West one lone Confederate statue is on the map of those proposed to come down — Helena, Montana where I went to school and researched the state’s colorful mining history with deep struggles of power and control rooted in divisions that came west with Civil War soldiers. Ultimately, the statue will come down. It was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and although I’m not an expert on the subject, I understand they are connected to or support the Klu Klux Klan (have you ever heard of a stupider name? Oh, yes — Nazis). Let me take a deep breath and hug the cat…Better.

If you are not American and do not know about the KKK, they are a domestic terrorist group started after the Civil War with the single purpose of harassing and eradicating the freed slaves and their descendants. They march alongside the neo-Nazis. They used to where white robes and elaborate pointy hoods and masks. They seriously look like sheets or bags with eyeholes. But they kept their identities hidden and often intimidated other townspeople to participate. I heard many KKK stories in Kansas from only a few generations back when I was researching. Power and control. That’s why these statues are coming down. We aren’t calling to rewrite history, but to amend our understanding of it.

It’s scary for many Americans who have not had to confront the violence behind these symbols. I know that Confederate statue in Pioneer Park in Helena. I’ve seen it so many times at gathering and events. It’s a large urn with a dedication plaque. POTUS tweet-stormed about how “sad” it is that these “beautiful” statues are coming down. I look at old photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and listen to old reels of his eloquent speeches and feel sad this beautiful man was cut down. I’m okay removing stones. We can build something different in our public squares and parks.

It’s like writing. We don’t throw away the first draft because we revise. We come back to important elements, eliminate what’s unnecessary and build up what is stronger. Today I tweeted, too. I wrote, “America needs a revision. When we draft we make mistakes. We go back and revise and revise until we improve what we started.” When I was looking for American quotes that inspired me, I found this one by Winston Churchill, who noted that we tend to write bad drafts but do well to revise:

“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

Another quote, and one that led to this week’s prompt in addition to Mona, comes from a woman I admire greatly, Michelle Obama:

“The fact is, with every friendship you make, and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world. That is so important. So when you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger.”

Michelle encourages us Americans to make our nation stronger through friendships and bonds of trust abroad. That’s what the Ranch is here for — to create a place where we can come from anywhere, create bonds of trust and friendships, and create art with words. Literary art has a place in this mixed-up world. It can be for escape, exploring, learning, teaching, delighting and agitating. Now grab a cat and a pen…

August 17, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that heals America. Difficult and idealistic, I know. Think about building bonds of trust or stories of friendship. It could be a positive story about America. Bonus points for hugging a cat.

Respond by August 22, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 23). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Community Mutterings by Charli Mills

“Move your car!” Stan yells from his porch. Viola ignores him, dropping off kale for her friend.

“It’s a fire lane!”

Viola mutters, “There’s no fire, old codger.”

The young mechanic next door nearly swipes Viola’s Honda, racing his Dodge truck again. “Idiot!”

Finished with her garden deliveries, Viola drives to the vigil. She’s expecting the liberal-minded to light candles for Charlottesville. Solidarity. As the wife of an Iranian grad-student in a small American college town, she misses urban diversity.

Viola’s eyes sting when she sees Stan hobble from his neighbor’s Dodge, both lighting candles. “Glad you both came.”


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  1. Michael

    Hugely insightful and i learned loads thanks

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael. It’s certainly made me do some thinking and learning, too.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Making America great again was the phrase that got Prof. trumpet his place at the lectern. It could be viewed as a suggestion of a need for revision. Therefore I disagree with your cat; we are yet in need of revision, not wholesale rewriting, but thoughtful and compassionate revision. Now if we all only agreed on what greatness is… what a story this nation could write.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Michael! It takes different perspectives, I think. Thanks for the reminder that much good has come out of America, but that we can’t get arrogant about it. Love the addition of the cat!

  2. Reena Saxena

    Reblogged this on Reena Saxena and commented:
    Don’t miss the powerful voice of the write-up. Take the challenge, if you feel up yo it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Reena! I appreciate the share!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Ask the right questions every day.” A prayer for peace, perhaps.

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      I’ve always though the questions were more important than the answers!!

      • Reena Saxena

        The right questions are more important than wrong answers.

    • Charli Mills

      It is the thoughtful who will shift the thinking. Thank you for your response to the prompt, Reena!

  3. Reena Saxena

    I just happened to Google ‘online learning values’, and found only one course on British values. The politicians will soon capture this space. History text books are already being tampered. There are umpteen social media propagating ‘nationalism, as they see it ….’.

    Should we take the initiative to build courses on Values applicable to humanity, not just a nation and distribute it to students at nominal or no cost? The horrors of a polarized world need to be highlighted. Maybe, our combined strength as readers and writers can help.

    I invite your feedback.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Human values should be common to all and I guess this is what the United Nations and the declaration of human rights has attempted to achieve. I think it is sad that this is an area that has to be taught – values should be instilled by watching those around you. Unfortunately our role models have become tainted. Writers have a huge role to play in getting these values across and it doesn’t hurt to hand them out freely but I don’t think that alone will affect change. A good conversation to start.

      • Reena Saxena

        Tainted role models and weird games that children are allowed to play …

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for bringing up the UN and the declaration of human rights. I do think as writers we can be attentive to both successes and failings, thus revising as we continue to spread these values of human rights (and dignity).

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I couldn’t agree more Charli. Writers have been crucial in effecting change. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harper Lee and even Charles Dickens. All these spread these values (two before they had been set on Parchment).

    • Charli Mills

      I do believe this is an important role for writers. Perhaps we are not the ones to organize the texts, but we are certainly the ones to demonstrate through our blogs, our books, our public words who we are as people with common human values without borders. Thank you for inviting discussion. We do have a combined strength as readers and writers.

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      Back in the ’70’s, there was a whole academic pedagogy around “Values Clarification.” The idea was to encourage people to detect and explore their own values in a thoughtful, far-reaching way. Maybe assuming, like Lawrence Kohlberg, that higher levels of moral reasoning will naturally evolve into a more humanistic way of being. Always loved that work & happy to see you remind me of it, with your Flash!

      • Reena Saxena

        Decades later, it feels that the values inculcated are not suitable for the present environment. A simple expectation like ‘Competence on the chosen job’ is not seen. As a customer or consultant, I have to repress my rage several times.

      • Liz Husebye Hartmann

        That’s the time to pause, pick up a kitty, and purr! 😉

      • Charli Mills

        That’s when appreciative inquiry came about, too (the idea we can transform work cultures by looking at what an organization does well instead of looking at what it does poorly). I understand, though, that it’s frustrating to see companies that seem void of values. Maybe because the focus became bottom line profits and not about people building relationships for business or service. If we allowed space for people to examine and strengthen their values maybe we could overcome this dehuminizing way business and politics are treating people?

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      “As ye reap, so shall ye sow.” A truth as old as Time.

    • Charli Mills

      We definitely need to seed our back yards! Thank you, Kalpana!

  4. Deborah Lee

    There is a Confederate monument out West, in Seattle (and nobody I know can figure out what it’s doing here, lol). It, too, was installed by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and there is presently a petition to have it taken down, along with a statue of Lenin. These are on private property, though, so we’ll see.

    I don’t understand glorifying hatred and oppression. Those who worry about history being “lost” might be interested to learn of the existence of schools and libraries.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      It is the art I have a problem with destroying. I was devastated when the Bamiyan Buddahs were destroyed and other artifacts. I was even saddened by the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein. Although the statues certainly cannot be classified as artifacts they are a part of history and art. Perhaps they should be displayed in museums where explanatory notes can be added. I can see it from your point of view though Deborah and because this history is so recent and the mentality does not appear to have moved on from this point they should go so as not to glorify a culture that should be dead and buried.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a good point, Irene. And I think many communities have made concessions to remove the statues to museums or to private groups. The one in Helena was to be amended and left in place, but they never came up with the addition in two years. Removal is one step, but destruction is one too far. I think public spaces deserve to feel non-threatening to all citizens, but as art, it can be preserved and the fuller story explained.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Charli I think you hit the nail on the head – public spaces should be non-threatening to all.

    • Charli Mills

      I want this on a bumper sticker, Deborah: Those who worry about history being “lost” might be interested to learn of the existence of schools and libraries. Yes!

      It’s probably unattainable to take down monuments on private property. I heard about the Lenin statue but not the story behind it. Often these statues make a statement we no longer understand.

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    “Where you headed?”
    “Goin’ to round ‘em all up. Get ‘em corralled. Maybe herd ‘em right off the ranch.”
    “Oh, Jeez, what are you on about?”
    “Cats! Cats are over runnin’ the ranch. I swear there’s more of them than us.”
    “Yep, they’s lots, real diverse, all colors and stripes. I like havin’ ‘em around.”
    “Well Shorty says to round ‘em up. Let’s go.”
    “No, Shorty says we should pick ‘em up. Not round ‘em up. Just pick one up.”
    “Which one? Which color?”
    “Doesn’t matter. Just pick one up.”
    “Shh. Listen to this beautiful cat purring.”

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      A purring cat does seem to soothe all ills…and maybe ill-intent?

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, we can hope so, Liz!

    • Charli Mills

      Purrfectly pitched ranch yarn, D.!

    • Norah

      Definitely purrfect!

  6. Annecdotist

    A great post, Charli, you articulate the hurt underlying the hatred without condoning it – a pity your president couldn’t follow your lead. Your analogy with revising writing is a good one, we don’t demolish first drafts but make them better. (Although let’s not forget the haste in which the largely US/UK coalition toppled statue of Saddam Hussein.)
    I thought with America taking such a bad press right now, I’d pair my flash with a post I had in draft on
    How to write a negative review
    No easy answer to how to begin the healing process but, from your wonderful range of quotes, I’ve taken my cue from the dignity of Michelle Obama.

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      I love that you wrote from the perspective of the former first ladies, and the line about “…not from behind hoods” but from designer dresses destined to be picked apart by tabloids. Brilliant.

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Kerry, it sort of just “came” once I had the idea. Glad it worked.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You reveal the difficult role of first ladies. Somehow the thought of the formers having an association as in your flash is indeed hopeful and healing. Of course it also highlights another deficiency in our present circumstances.

      • Annecdotist

        I think the idea was partly influenced by a paper I studied many years ago about the stresses experienced by “diplomatic wives”, something I’d never have considered otherwise. Perhaps if the first ladies set up an association they’d invite me along to facilitate their first session!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      A great flash. Humour that hit home. Good advice also in how to give a negative review.

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Irene.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, by what right do more powerful nations have to decide the fate of other nation’s statues. These situations are ever so simple as those in power try to make them seem. Not much hope for our POTUS. Excellent timing for your post and my country’s woeful and yet deserved bad press. Perhaps I’ll reconsider your tips in light of how to survive a bad president. Way to focus on the First Ladies! Thank you for that!

      • Annecdotist

        Let’s hope there’s a good woman to pick up the pieces when it all ends!

  7. Liz Husebye Hartmann

    “I’m okay removing stones. We can build something different in our public squares and parks.”

    So many good things in your post. I’m writing with my cat in my lap, after an hour’s worth of cardio to let loose the inner-bitch-beast. At last, with these two, I can relax, maybe unreel some vision.

    I highlighted this one quote from your essay, because I love the generative idea. We CAN build something different, that better reflects where we’ve been, and what we’re learning to understand now. Renewing vows? Some real love there. <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I can relate to letting loose the inner-bitch-beast for I draw so much from her power in our battles with the VA, but all I really want to do is comb the beaches, write wildly and snuggle the cat. I didn’t even realize how that could be a viable solution, but perhaps we do need to renew our vows! Thank you for expanding that thought, Liz!

  8. floridaborne

    I’m against rewriting history. When we don’t know history, we don’t know to avoid trying certain things over again. To tear down statues is no better than ISIS destroying historical monuments. Trying to make 1915 the center of diversity, or change the way the old stories were written robs us of understanding the mores of that day.

    • Charli Mills

      Several of my professors who guided me on my first attempt at a historical novel expressed the similar idea that we have to look at the context of the era. Yet, they also advised that from my point in history, I would never fully understand. The best a historical fictioneer can do is to research diligently, but interpret through one’s own modern lens. And somewhere between the two there might be understanding. I don’t think it’s fully possible to rewrite history, though many attempt to rewrite its memory. History has a way of resurfacing. I think we are facing a crisis of interpretation of our history, and what is best to do. I don’t have the answers, nor do I think anyone has The Answer. But we can try to listen to the different narratives with open minds and hearts, meet on common ground. Thank you for speaking out from your perspective, Joelle. That literary art can encompass many narratives is vital to real healing. If a bone is broken, it does no good to hide the arm. And no matter what we do, it’s going to hurt until fully healed.

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      Just to let you know you were heard–and yes, the cost is often heartbreakingly high–even though we have different perspectives.

      I understand your point; I’m more fearful of a view of history that stands brittle, without honest reappraisal and growth (living history). Which is why we can’t afford to forget the past…

    • Charli Mills

      An ironic consideration of how to heal America. Point taken: if we are so quick to erase history, might we also be so quick to erase those who have different ideals. I think this prods deeper at what our national discord is about.

      • floridaborne

        If people continue to try destroying our history, and continue trying to destroy the principles this country was founded upon (individual liberties/freedom) in an attempt to set up a globalist/socialist society — it appears that war is where we’re headed.

        I, for one, would like to find another way.

        United we stand, divided we fall. We have to consider who might be there to pick up the pieces once it’s over: ISIS? China? Are either of those alternatives better? I think not.

      • Charli Mills

        Divided we are certainly distracted.

  9. Norah

    What a post, Charli. Although you have urged us to hug a cat and spread peace and love, I can’t help but be saddened by the events that have occurred. I agree with this statement: “I’m okay removing stones. We can build something different in our public squares and parks.” It is definitely time for rebuilding. I don’t like the buildings that I’m seeing springing up all around. I remember seeing movies about the KKK. I think it may have featured quite a bit in “Roots”, a very powerful story. I was sickened by the hate and the cowardly behaviour. They wouldn’t even reveal their identity in their bid to humiliate and terrorise. How could the lessons have not been learned? How close do we have to get to the brink to realise we must pull back? I hope it’s not too late. The minorities are making the loudest noise and creating the most havoc. When will we raise our voices and say, “Enough. No more.” An uneducated voice is not an equal voice in a democracy. If an statement is made without justification, then it has no value. I read a great statement about this recently. I’ll let you know where if I remember. We respect people, but we don’t have to respect ideas. Ideas without substance don’t deserve respect. I thought I may have read it in a Conversation article but couldn’t find it. I found this one though, which reiterates your thoughts. I love the coming together, in spite of differences and bitter words, in your flash. I’ll have to think a little more. I’ve only had thoughts of ripping things apart.

    • floridaborne

      In the 1990’s a black man who was in his 80’s said that the KKK started out as a way to make men who beat their wives stop doing it. The cowardly wife beaters didn’t know who was out their threatening them and would straighten up. As with any group (like some groups of color that show up at rally’s with bats) what starts out with good intentions morphs into something evil.

      Tearing down our history is not the answer. Understanding it is a reminder, learning from it so that we don’t do the same things again — that is the answer

      • Norah

        Understanding and learning. Yes! That’s what it takes.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s an interesting story about the KKK. The second installment of the hate-group focused on Catholics, Jews and immigrants, as well as blacks and that begin in 1915, perhaps fitting this time frame. Interestingly, the first wave focused on Republicans. Not because Republicans post Civil War were wife-beaters but because they supported an integrated south. I agree, tearing down our history is not the answer. In 1915 the KKK tore down the history after Reconstruction and before Jim Crow. But history is harder to erase and documents and newspaper accounts are resurfacing to show us that time period when former slaves served as Senators and started newspapers and schools. Oral histories are important, too. Like this story, it can show us unconsidered elements. We will always have much to learn and re-learn, I think.

      • floridaborne

        I only know what a man of color told me about the KKK. He was born in the early 20th century. Thanks for providing more history.

        I saw this information on one of the conservative talk shows about the fact that we had people of color serving in important positions — and that this had been hidden from us. I’m happy to hear there are newspaper accounts resurfacing to show us that time period when former slaves served as Senators and started newspapers and schools. It’s about time that we started knowing our history and learning from it.

      • Charli Mills

        As someone who “digs” in the records, I’m always surprised by what I find that I had never heard about. However, it does make me hopeful that no matter how hard different groups, any group or interest, tries to rewrite history, it has a way of exposing itself. Oral histories are fascinating because they are living memories that might not always have clear facts, but certainly give us the insight to how people saw their living history, unlike those of us looking only at facts. Thank you for adding so much to the discussion. That in itself keeps us all open to different perspectives than our own.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with this week’s offering. I hoped to be a little different and not too predictable, but I’ve ended up the same. What’s the difference?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Don’t go changing! We love you all the same.

      • Norah

        Awh shucks. You’re so sweet. 🙂

      • Norah

        Thanks so much, Irene.

      • Liz Husebye Hartmann

        Love this! We absolutely need your sunshine perspective!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Liz. I try to spread the sunshine. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, you are delightfully dependable and always creative. I wouldn’t call that predictable! <3

      • Norah

        How lovely! Thank you. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Roots was a powerful movie, Norah. It was a mini-series on television when it came out and it was so shocking because it brought to life the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow and all that was overcome in the line of one family that served as surrogate to all African Americans. In some ways, I feel like the whole Black Lives Matter movement is like when Roots came out — lots of shock and denial, yet recognition of a history of pain. And no matter how we look at our history in America, there’s no denying that we founded our nation on the backs of those less powerful. We have to contend with our slave history. We must respect people. We don’t have to share ideas and I love that statement — “We respect people, but we don’t have to respect ideas. Ideas without substance don’t deserve respect.” Thank you for sharing that article, too.

      • Norah

        I guess when we look at the history of any county, there are always things that were far from perfect. It is important to learn from these and move forward in more positive ways. There are many opportunities to mend the errors and improve the situation for future generations. We need to make the most of those.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      If only we people could remember that common color that you show in your flash, maybe we’d be less willing to spill it.

    • Charli Mills

      I think perhaps we forget the soldiers stuck in the uniforms when we focus only on the memory of the leaders and causes. Great flash, Jack!

  10. Kerry E.B. Black

    Unity Park
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Keinwen shepherded her third-grade students to the site. Garbage littered the ground. Hateful graffiti marred nearby walls. A pedestal displayed no historic statue, the place of protests. She said. “Let’s get to work.”
    Like a vindicating tide, they rushed into the square with scrub brushes and potted plants. They bagged trash and painted a new mural featuring smiles and shaking hands. Keinwen and two other teachers mapped out a path and poured sand. The children placed stones decorated with inspirational phrases, the week’s art project, as a border to the path leading to the place’s new name. “Unity Park.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A revised park! Let’s put these kids on a pedestal.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Lovely when kids get involved in making things better. They never have the same prejudices and hatreds that many adults seem to harbour and they can turn hearts.

    • Charli Mills

      Kerry, this flash fiction is both a vision and a solution! It’s one I’ll hold on, to.

  11. denmaniacs4

    Solving Hatred After a Few Beers

    Joe, local know-it-all, is holding court at Solly’s Tavern.

    “Terrible…what happened in Charlottesville…”

    “Yeah,” someone says, “Terrible. Whattayagonnado, eh?”

    “Well…” and I can see Joe’s wheels turning, grinding away. Where he sits, he’s got all the answers. “Well, if I was in charge…”

    “Of?” another voice asks from the back.

    “Like, the President, eh…I’d…line ‘em all up, Nazis, anti-Nazis, the whole shooting match…”

    “What then, Joe?”


    Joe’s starting to sputter. He’s overreached.

    “Joe,” I decide to give him an assist, “You’d hug ‘em all, man, and then insist they hug each other. Help ‘em find their inner pussycat.”

    • Charli Mills

      Hug your inner pussycat! I think that’s worth double bonus points, Bill. Great set up, the “…local know-it-all, is holding court at Solly’s Tavern. “

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “He opened his window”… that’s a start towards healing.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie! Poetic license is issued to all fictioneers! 🙂

  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    A wonderful post Charli. You have hit the nail on the head when you ask whose rights impinge upon whom. This is where we need great leadership and a very good education system and I believe a society where the weak are looked after. Thus we need health care, public housing and affordable education for all. We need to create a society where one sector is not disadvantaged because once the disparity springs up and hope is taken from the weaker they have nothing to lose but everything to gain by joining in this case white supremacy groups. We need strong leadership that embraces not only the cat, but every person irregardless of financial state, education status, gender and religious beliefs. We have to be led that intolerance of minority groups will not be tolerated. We must treat all people with respect. In a country where this was the norm nobody would feel they needed to bear arms to protect themselves and apart from sportsman and farmers the need for everyone to have weapons would go. There are too many mentally ill people to make it sensible to have guns freely available. Perhaps there would be less mental illness if people were treated as humans. I know that is idealistic but I believe that unless something is done to stem this tide of hatred the world as we know it will change irreversibly for ever and that saddens me greatly. Communism didn’t work. I wonder whether capitalism works either. I too think that we shouldn’t tear down history. We need to remember the past to make a better future and not repeat the same mistakes. I will stop ranting. I know this is not a political site but I think all we all want is peace and to embrace the diversity as we do at the ranch in a literary sense.

    • Charli Mills

      We’ve come a long ways from instituting a militia (the reason for our Second Amendment) and it was an extension of the ideology that Americans would not be powerless to tyranny. And yet here we are tyrants from our pursuit of profits over people. Armed. Fearful. Those without fear, and those who have fear they might lose it. Instead we should have full bellies, health care and homes. I think our current state is the result of shifts throughout history and the result of not facing the history of capitalism as it used people for the gain of a powerful few, whether those people were slaves, indentured or stuck in factory jobs. What we need is balance, rational discussions and freedom from the fear of not having basic needs met. But that all runs counter to deep American traditions. I think it’s why we are seeing the lashing out. Thank you for sharing your perspective. It adds to the diversity of thought expressed here this week.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        In some ways I think President Trump was trying to overthrow American tradition. Just a pity that he doesn’t believe in balance, rational discussion or ensuring basic needs are met. Perhaps the person that follows will have a clean slate with tradition broken to take America on a path that encompasses all those things.

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Meeting

    Driving to the meeting, he was angry when he spied his daughter with that girl. He had forbidden this friendship. He pulled over, anxious.
    “Get in the car! Now! I told you to only play with our own kind!”
    “Daddy”, she sobbed, “Celia’s cat got hit.” Both girls clung to him, faces tear streaked, begging him to do something.
    He bundled the limp cat in the white sheet that he removed from his car. The cat mewed when he lifted it.
    “You girls get in the car. Celia, here’s my phone. Have your parents meet us at the vets’.”

    • Charli Mills

      D., your flash expresses that internal struggle between tightly held beliefs and the reality of interacting and accepting the humanity in others. Well done to draw that out.

  14. Pete

    It’s six fifteen on Tuesday and the regulars sit in the courtyard under the shadows of the monuments. They talk politics with removed passion. Some chain smoke and slug down the stale coffee. Others stare at their feet.

    They are black and white. Old and young. Male and female because needles care not about such things. Prestige and privilege only go so far when it comes to a fix.

    They don’t show up to be cured but to manage. To do…something…to find the strength between meetings. To nod and stare and not be alone.

    Because sometimes, that is enough.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow, that’s a sight we often overlook in parks — America’s invisible. Powerful, Pete!

  15. Kerry E.B. Black

    Viewing the Eclipse
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Erin slid dark glasses on her nose. “Lyla, do you think we’ll be blinded?”

    Lyla tapped her glasses. ”We’ll be fine.”

    The crowd in Unity Park jostled at street vendors. Everyone sported glasses or viewing devices, everyone except a family huddled together on the fringe. They whispered among themselves, heads close together, three young children in odd clothing.

    Lyla pointed her chin. “They’re refugees. Let’s go.”

    Erin pulled away from Lyla’s grip. “Just a second.” She cleared her throat. “Excuse me. Would you like to share my glasses when the time comes? We can take turns.”

    The family smiled.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Erin did indeed pull away from Lyla’s grip. Not always easy.

    • Charli Mills

      Great to see more interaction going on at Unity Park!

  16. Liz Husebye Hartmann

    Hope this brings more hope than resignation… 🙁

    Meditation with a Purring Cat

    I can’t heal the world, not on my own. Can’t heal America, can’t do much beyond my own limited vision.
    And yet…

    I’ve seen the wave, the one that comes from:
    • People in positions of power. They gather together and crest “No, we won’t.” And then roll away.
    • The sheltering night. Removing symbols of hatred, knowing history is not forgotten, but enriched.
    • The light of day. Behind the Deli counter, hands folded, back strong, they meet arrogance with dignity.

    Their cool balance calls me to speak up.
    Their family needs that job.
    We need their Family.

    • Liz Husebye Hartmann

      Third bullet downward corrected: “they meet” and “their” becomes “she meets” and “her”.

      • Liz Husebye Hartmann

        Yeah, it wanted even more edits. I’m done now.

      • Charli Mills

        Got it all, Liz it’s edited for the compilation! And I find your flash hopeful. We should all meditate with a purring cat before writing tough topics.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Sometimes Mona interrupts the museum!

    • elliotttlyngreen

      Aw man. Sorry for the duplicates….

      • Charli Mills

        So good to see you at the Ranch, Elliott and congratulations! That’s exciting to get published. I took care of the duplicate, WordPress glitch!

      • elliotttlyngreen Thank you. Missed the ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Probably a good idea to leave the cat out of this one! They don’t fare well in the wilderness. 🙂

  17. elliotttlyngreen

    Hey Charli! Finally got through my published piece and the issue has been released. Phew…. So, i dont want to promote too much on your site here but if you dont mind.. can i say if anyone is interested to read or hear me narrate =] i can provide a link and info. If thats not cool please lmk. Its fine to delete. Ok thanks!! Here is my contribution to healing. Hope everyone is great!!! What did i miss??

    Bird by Elliott Lyngreen

    A little birdie once told me
    “There’s too much strength
    For this earth to evaporate”
    But in a strength of
    tweet tweet tweet

    One the God of gods
    could not vanquish

    The wind was its soul

    He championed
    At gazes in tiny species
    In instances overwhelming

    As if we were merely healed
    Watching for in the trees

    Greater than
    too much strength
    in the ways he even
    wriggled open hearts

    Cuz there he
    the same bird
    Chirpa chirpa churpa
    Warming through a soul
    Warming up like that fresh sense
    Of a new Spring
    Just sang whenever
    new windows opened

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Congrats. I missed seeing you around the ranch! Cuz yer a window opener.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Huge thanks D!! Been trying to… It is nice to come back to the Ranch, where windows are everopen.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Elliot! Congratulations on your published piece! What would you think about a featured post for Raw Literature next Tuesday? That way we could get the promotion of it out there. Just tell a bit about the piece, how the idea came to life or your creative process. Include a bio and the link and we’ll post it! Great flash! I like how you weave in the bird.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Really? Wow i think that would be really cool… ok. Im overwhelmed with appreciation… and yes i think i can muster up …mmmmsomething!

      • elliotttlyngreen

        I sent you an email this morning. Hopefully it did not spam. From my gmail its ‘twotonetyphoon’ … long story but thats me!! Lmk thanks

      • Charli Mills

        Got it, Elliott! Thank you!

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Still Water

    “Lose somethin’ Kid?”
    “Jest reflectin’ at this reflectin’ pool.”
    “Kid, I swear, you are greener than frog spit. This ain’t no reflectin’ pool. It’s just a stock pond.”
    “I can see myself, so it’s a reflectin’ pool. Look, you’ll see yerself too.”
    “Oh yeah… hey Kid, it’s deep.”
    “Yep. Shorty oughta call her place Reflection Ranch. People can come here an’, you know…”
    “I reckon they already do. Been some mighty deep conversations goin’ on.”
    “Yep, they ain’t been shallow. I’ve had some a my thoughts provoked ‘round here.”
    “In a good way?”
    “In the best way.”

    • Charli Mills

      At the end of the day, that’s about the best thing that can happen. Happy trails!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        You pulled an all nighter here, Ms. Mills.
        From your post and prompt to each and every reply, this is Good Work. Consider every comment “liked” and the thoughtfulness and compassion behind them appreciated, yours and the others’. I am enriched and humbled here at the ranch.

      • Charli Mills

        This was deeply thought providing this week. Powerful, though, to read through everyone’s responses and ideas, concerns and hopes. No two cats are asking, not should they be.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        And yet your all nighter is showing. (Dang phones)

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Well, you did provide me thoughts… 😀

  19. Norah

    Fabulous post and discussion. I haven’t responded to, but read, through the thoughts and conversations. You know how to light the fires and warm the hearth. Inspiring and hopeful, we raise our voices united for a better future.

  20. TinderellaAnna

    Wonderful! Thank you for following my story, too. I hope to get some feedback and ideas from you. xx

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks for joining us this week!

  22. Charli Mills

    America needs more crazy cat ladies, Jules!

  23. julespaige

    Golly… did I forget to post the story???
    At least the link is there.

  24. Charli Mills

    I found you, Jules! I know how the treasures of the beach can distract. 😉

  25. Charli Mills

    I found you, Jules! I know how the treasures of the beach can distract. 😉

  26. Charli Mills

    I found you, Jules! I know how the treasures of the beach can distract. 😉


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