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August 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Toward the pink I go. Sand and pine needles muffle my steps between trees spaced apart by an unseen arborist’s hand. What mythologies lie beyond where the sound of surf tumbles copper stones? Does Narnia await? Will the Lady of the Lake deliver up Excalibur? Where is the veil of time and can I get a ticket out of here?

With numerous bags slung over my shoulder, I descend to the shoreline with items of escape. One bag is empty; maybe I’ll fill it with found magic: Thompsonite, prehnite, unakite, jasper and rare copper agates. Under the spell of thundering waves, I can disappear for hours, days, millennia. Who knows where I go when rocks tumble and pelt my bare calves. Stone enchantments hold strong.

To sustain a journey of epic distinction, another bag holds elixir, ambrosia and Elven lembas: strawberry-rhubarb beer, cheese curds and pumpkin seed crackers. As the pink spreads through thinning clouds, a feat the sky will host for several hours before sinking the sun for the night, I spread the food across a wave worn log. It’s an enchanted feast.

The final item of escape I withdraw from a bag is a worn leather-covered Kindle. The setting is complete, and I morph into an escape artist.

Books are a vehicle of escape. Stories crafted like spells transport us to other places to become other people. For the avid reader, Narnia remains within reach. Some books play important roles — they introduce us to cultures we can’t travel to on our own. Some teach us empathy and allow us to experience the journey of a thousand others. Some make us think, provoking uncomfortable thoughts, leaving us changed at the close of the final page. Yet the books that offer pure escapism are no less valued for their transformative role.

Most days I feel in and out of life. There comes the moments where I need to focus and set up interviews to write profiles for a client. And then the professionalism breaks down when one call involves interviewing my former boss who is now retiring. I’ve been tasked, no bestowed, the honor of writing her 37 years as a leader. A fifteen minute interview stretches past an hour and I’m taken back in time to when I’d sit in her office and discuss matters of marketing with the highest expectations of authenticity and transparency. How much I learned from this woman of servant leadership, of life-long learning, of taking calculated risks to pursue one’s passion.

My passion, writing; hers, leading a cooperative movement “…to make a difference in the lives of those we are serving.” She taught me that we serve others with our gifts. She taught me that to be a writer I must serve readers. She taught me that if I created a community of writers and readers, it would only work if it is authentic. Just as her co-op worked. As she retires, a co-op that once sold $5 coupons to open its doors twice a week to sell bulk foods — local cheese, honey, oats and wheat germ — is now 12,000 members strong with 130 employees and over 1,000 customers a day. And it was grown from a small group of passionate people who still retain ownership after 40 years.

A moment of reflection whisked me away and a million opportunities presented themselves like a million different plot twists. What if I had stayed? What if we had not left north Idaho? What if Todd went into the Coast Guard and never volunteered to be a paratrooper? Our lives twist with the what-ifs, but it is the writer who works in them. Especially if plots are ones to create space for escape. I can’t escape the decisions I’ve made in life nor my circumstances, but I can escape into a pinking twilight where gems are possible and C. S. Lewis’s lion, Aslan roars among the copper included waves.

Last week, writers approached a hard challenge — Stories to Heal America. What impressed me most was how each writer tackled the prompt with authenticity. Even when ideas or perspectives varied, writers showed the grace of accepting something different from their own view. I’m always delighted at the level of creativity and how writers push the edges of the constraint of 99 words, but last week showed a greater depth of skill and communication, as well as creativity. It’s not easy to write about hard truths, to find an inroad to reach a reader with surprise or agitation.

This week, writers get to be escape artists. Run away to Cirque du Soleil, stow away on a ship, become a master magician in a time-traveling show. Think of where you might want to escape. How you can use escape in a story. Think about your favorite books to escape into. Perhaps take a mental mini vacation and write it in 99 words. Have fun this week; remember the joy of escaping into a story.

August 17, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. It can even be you, the writer, escaping into a different realm or space in imagination. It can be any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story) or fantasy. You can focus on the escape, the twist or the person who is the escape artist.

Respond by August 29, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 30). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Fowl Play (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“He pulled a hen egg from Roe’s ear, Da!” Cling imitated the move he saw. Lizzie squealed, and Julius practiced his own flourish. Mary stood on the porch, silent.

Cobb saddled his horse, tightening the cinch. “Well, boys, he pulled more tricks than that one.”

“How’d he do it, Da?” Monroe asked.

“The egg was probably up his sleeve. Just a charlatan’s trick.”

“I mean…”

Cobb scowled. “I’m sure he had an accomplice. He distracted you and your Ma.”

“Stop messin’ around,” Monroe told his siblings. “Da’s gotta find where our chickens disappeared to with that escape artist.”

###

Time Travel Interrupted (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni disappeared into the 19th century. Darkness clung to corners and only the light of her head lamp glowed. It reflected off pieces of dull white china – service glass like you’d find in a restaurant or boarding house. She picked up barbed-wire scoured free of its earlier rust. With luck the design of the barbs would reveal the maker. Just one more clue, she thought as she reached deep into the past.

Overhead lights illuminated the school auditorium. “Hey, Dr. Gordon?”

Danni growled inwardly at the disruption to her time travel.

“Want some pizza? Archeologists have to eat, too!”

###

Level 6 by Charli Mills

Slick hung his brass key on Level 6. It remained; a tarnished token to a missing miner. Some thought he entered a low tunnel to follow a vein of copper. He might have fallen. Jeb reported hearing the widow-maker chipping until lunch. Maybe he collapsed. They all recalled the pasties that day. Slick’s was gone, so at least he vanished satisfied. His mother grieved. His father grumbled the boy never paid attention. Not many paid attention to Slick, the quiet sixth son of eight. Who’d suspect he’d escape the Keweenaw mines with enough native to buy a life elsewhere?

###


152 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on ladyleemanila and commented:
    Charli’s challenge 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely Charli, a really fascinating post. I like the prompt for this week and will have to put my thinking cap on. Have a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ranch Hideout

    “Thought you’d disappeared, Kid.”
    “Did disappear.”
    “But here ya are.”
    “So I ain’t somewheres else… gone! Far as folks back east are concerned, I done disappeared. If here, not there.”
    “There ya go agin.”
    “No, here I go. I’m here, so cain’t be there.”
    “Well, it’s neither here nor there to me. Ya ready to ride?”
    “Yawl go on without me.”
    “Yer not tryin’ to escape yer wranglin’ are ya?”
    “Wranglin’ is my escape. But they’s lookin’ fer me back east. Jist know if I ain’t aroun’ here, I’m there.”
    “You’ll ride.”
    “Maybe. But they’s ridin’ me.”
    “So escape.”

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/ranch-yarns/

    Liked by 12 people

    • Michael says:

      I like this, nicely done.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      The summer of the Kid’s escape. Been a pleasure ta ride with the Kid, chicken thoughts, yarns, and escapes. If you ain’t here, we’ll think on ya kindly there. The Ranch will be here for all who ride through. It’s not your destination. It’s no writer’s destinations. Those are inside of each of you. The Ranch just rides along for a spell, encouraging the traveler. Campfire will be on when you want to visit for a spell. Your yarns are always welcome here.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      I hope the Kid don’t disappear for too long. It’s not fun when others are ridin’ your back though. I love Shorty’s stories. I Kid you not.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Norah and D., it’s fun to watch you two word banter! Ya both have yur wits about ya!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        D. is a mighty fine contributor to the Ranch. She sure gets things moving a bit. She’s like you – full of energy!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Would you have to separate us if we were in your classroom, Norah? 😀 That was a running joke at Carroll College between Kate, me and our professors. We were in the same writing program, both older than the average student, energetic about our learning and sharing. We’d get amped up in class and feed off each other’s ideas. Professors joked that we’d have to be separated! I like to think we made classes fun.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Norah says:

        It sounds like you made those classes worth while. How much you must miss Kate and the synergy you had. Just imagine how much of that rubbed off on the other writers. I like to think I would enjoy having your energy and creativity in the class. Wouldn’t we like to bottle it and store it for times when the thoughts don’t flow.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You two, Norah and Charli, separate! You’re making me happysad. Karen and I became quite the pair at graduate school. One professor in particular would have separated us if he dared. He did not. I made jokes about him and those times and made her laugh even on her death bed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Hi D., sounds like you and Karen shared as special friendship as did Charli and Kate. I understand the happysad. The feelings get all mixed up we don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Nice to know you two had smiles together even as she passed. Sorry for your loss.

        Like

    • Norah says:

      Pleased to hear the Kid managed to escape and will ride a while longer. I hope it was for good purpose.

      Liked by 3 people

    • jeanne229 says:

      Just love this clever back and forth dialogue…what characters! A classic pairing of straight guy and “wise guy”. I like the way the kid thinks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. cam8510 says:

    Charli, I could see the mine, taste the pasty made with lard and sense the despair of the family which struggled to survive in the Keweenaw. The mining families of the Upper Peninsula had tough lives, but they were tough people. Was it Houghton, Calumet, Copper Harbor or one of the many other small towns which served the mining companies? I’ve been there many times and hope to return. I’m one of the trolls who live below the bridge. Leelanau County near Traverse City is my home. Good story.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Glad you enjoyed the trip to Level 6. I had in mind, Mohawk, which is one of the small hamlets between Calumet and Eagle River. It had, at one time, six mines. I recently went to an estate sale in Mohawk and saw one of those old brass ID tags. And, of course, I have a pasty every Friday. Amy J’s in Hancock are the best but Roy’s across the canal in Houghton has a Thanksgiving pasting that’s luxurious with turkey, stuffing, cranberries and gravy! A Down Stater, I’ve heard you Trolls be called. I’m an Outta Stater, newly relocated to this wondrous historic community.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. […] August 24: Flash Fiction Challenge, Thursday photo prompt – Cracked […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pete says:

    Great work, Charli. Your words paint a lovely picture in this post. Great flashes too. For me, I think Fowl Play takes the prize!

    Here’s mine:

    When Mr. Melvin sang, he wasn’t the old man next door. He wasn’t even in the room. He’d escaped, to someplace far away—years away—to the cruelty that filled the pages of his notebooks. And now, as he stomped and strummed and belted out about John Henry and his hammer like it was the end of times, Nita’s arms prickled and her heart caught time with the slap of his foot on the floor. Hearing the pain in his voice, the scars of his song, Nita finally felt the full weight of what she’d agreed to take on.

    Liked by 8 people

  8. […] August 24: Flash Fiction Challenge August 17, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. It can even be you, the writer, escaping into a different realm or space in imagination. It can be any genre, including BOTS (based on a true story) or fantasy. You can focus on the escape, the twist or the person who is the escape artist. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  9. julespaige says:

    Charli and Community,

    I’ve been a tad distracted. I thought I left last weeks story here. I might have…but forgot to press ‘post comment’… any way here’s my take…

    For Art’s Sake
    (title is link to post)

    This week the artist escaped. Really… Go to ozrocks.facebook.
    OZ stands For Ozaukee (the u is silent) County. To encourage
    both art and walking around the town, one decorates and hides
    Rocks. Or just find ‘em. I did both. But all I had was one black
    marker and some beach rocks. Signed ‘em with 2017 PA (being
    my home state).

    I’ve depicted the Lighthouse, The Lighthouse Station, the Electric
    Power Plant and the door window of the Port Hotel. Also simple
    designs and words. This was a wonderful no schedule escape
    week for me. I go home tomorrow…

    ©JP/dh

    See post for more info on Ozaukee County. 🙂

    I don’t know it this just started this summer or not.
    But I have also read about “The Kindness Rocks Project”.
    Maybe before I leave …I’ll leave a Kindness Rock. 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  10. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s August 24 Flash Fiction Challenge: Escape Artist […]

    Liked by 1 person

  11. dnagai says:

    The word “escape” reminds me of my time spent in Berlin. So Glück Auf!

    https://fledglingfictionblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/gluck-auf/

    Liked by 4 people

  12. […] for another flash fiction challenge courtesy of Charli over at Carrot Ranch. This week’s prompt let my mind travel to a wonderful place:  In 99 words (no more, no […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Christy B says:

    Your point about writers as escape artists is spot on!!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. […] to Charlie Mills flash fiction challenge, in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an escape artist, so I have described an escaping artist, I hope you enjoy […]

    Liked by 2 people

  15. gordon759 says:

    Here is my contribution, another historical tale, about an escaping artist.

    The Artist Escapes

    “Señor we must leave.”

    The Artist nodded, reluctantly he shut his sketch book, the last detail of the inlay pattern unfinished. Portfolio handing over his shoulder he followed his guide though the empty, ruinous palace.

    It had been different when he had arrived, the palace had been full of people, living in the abandoned rooms. They had welcomed him as he had drawn the wonders of the lost palace – then the plague came.

    Most were dead now, he had to escape, had he done enough? Could he convince the world of the need to protect, to save the Alhambra?

    When the artist and architect Owen Jones visited the Alhambra in the early nineteenth century the palace was ruinous. It was his wonderful drawings that convinced people across Europe that it had to be saved. Whilst he was there cholera broke out, it killed his companions and many of the local people, he was lucky to escape with his life. He went on to become one of the finest designers of the nineteenth century.

    https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/the-artist-escapes/

    Liked by 7 people

  16. Charli, I always forget to comment on your flashes, probably because I am still reeling from the brilliance of your posts. But how can I ignore the triple! Each sparkles and adds another rich layer to their bigger container. Each is a wonderful example of how effectively flash fiction can deliver the prompt. I remember Slick from some other piece. Your 99 words have me rooting for him in his crafty escape.
    This week I try (ok, cheat) at flash non-fiction, but it’s where the prompt led. If this seems too self-serving, yank it. Just seems like I wrote a book on escape, thought I’d do a recycle/rehash.

    Considering Escape D. Avery

    Another wild ranch ride! Now we are to consider escape, complete with freedom of choice regarding genre. I choose 99 words each for essay and poetry. Though sometimes a desperate, self-preserving departure, escape isn’t synonymous with freedom. Escape can be passive, sense dulling, a destructive distraction, achieved through electronic devices, gambling, drugs, or other means. Escape can also be active, creative and constructive, mindful distractions that refresh and renew, through physical activity, time outside, or a hobby. Active escape can become regenerative quest. These themes were explored in Chicken Shift, poems featuring chickens, some passive, some escaping, others searching.

    Back to the Egg

    One
    hen’s
    road
    led
    into
    a bottle where
    she curled up tight in
    that very fragile shell.
    Liquid warmth cozy
    comfort inside;
    outside a living hell.

    From Sister Pullet

    And while her sister pullets worried
    About the pecking order and who was boss
    Our girl watched and waited
    For the moment she would cross.
    And the answer to the question
    As to what was she going towards
    Isn’t so much that, as that she left what she abhorred.

    From Of Muskrats and Hens

    We’ve spoken of muskrats and hens;
    Rumi spoke of men.

    You have been released from ten successive prisons,
    Each larger than the last. *

    (* Coleman Barks translation)

    Liked by 6 people

  17. […] week, August 24, 2017, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch would have us considering escape in 99 words (no more, no […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Here it is!

    Sashay

    He was a very demanding man, not easy to live with. “I only ask that things be done right”, he’d say.
    “Attention to detail!” his battle cry, he expected perfection and hard work from everyone, especially his wife, rarely made mistakes himself.
    Here’s a detail she noticed that morning. He left the gate open. That’s right. Upon leaving after mending a nesting box, he left the gate open.
    She did her chores; hung the wash, picked beans, sat on the front porch to snap them, all the while watching the hens, one after the other, sashaying down the road.

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/sashay/

    Liked by 6 people

  19. Norah says:

    Your evening escape sounds well planned and delivered, a perfect way to escape life’s harsh realities.
    I enjoyed hearing about your former employer and what you learned from her. I’m sure she learned at least equally from you. Though the path of your passions may have differed, the purpose of each was similar.
    Your challenge is an interesting one and invites many interpretations. I’m thinking.
    Three flashes this week! How marvellous, and each with escapism of a different kind. I don’t like the sound of those chickens having assistance to escape; Danni escaping into the past through artefacts is, I’m sure, something with which you can identify; and, oh how I love the thought of escaping to a better life. It’s where I’ve been musing till now, but who knows where I may finally land.
    Thanks for a wonderful post with much to ponder.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Annecdotist says:

    Loved reading about your escape to the beach, Charli, and what a wonderful story about your former boss and possible inspiration for the writers’ community you’ve built here.

    Yesterday I read the prompt and wrote my flash to coincide with a review I wanted to post, thinking I’d come back to read your post when I had a bit more time. That might explain why mine isn’t quite in the celebratory spirit of the escape artist:

    Two novel perspectives on humanitarian responses to wartime atrocities http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2017/08/two-novel-perspectives-on-humanitarian-responses-to-wartime-atrocities.html

    Liked by 6 people

  21. Ruchira Khanna says:

    I pray you find your peace, Charli as Todd gets healed.

    I have been missing these fictions lately due to personal reasons, but am glad to be back and attached is my link.

    https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-hermit.html

    Liked by 4 people

  22. […] Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  23. A. E. Robson says:

    Every day we escape if we allow our mind to. The writer in us is guided to people, places, and life in general to open the imagination escape door.

    Where Do I Escape to Next?
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Where will I escape to next?

    Opening the fridge door, gather up some ingredients and voila, I have become a chef extraordinaire to all who sit at our table.

    Easy transition from chef to chauffeur. Ball cap, rain coat, and mini-van. Go. Stop. Wait.

    Laundry, shopping, cleaning and making beds. The new uniform is jeans and t-shirt. The singing maid dances around the room, dust wand mic in hand.

    The day ends but not the imagination. Travels to places unknown, in the pages that I write. Dozing off to thoughts of where I will escape to next.

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/where-will-i-escapte-to-next

    Liked by 4 people

  24. […] I’m thinking about escapes this week as Charli Mills has challenged the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. It can even be you, the writer, escapin… […]

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Joe Owens says:

    Hey Charli. No matter what I seem to always be the tail of this flash fiction dog! But, I will make a special effort this Friday since I will be in Alaska after Saturday for a week. I hope you all enjoy this: https://fictionplayground.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/the-red-baron-is-up-to-something-carrot-ranch-weekly-flash-082417/

    Liked by 3 people

  26. […] Once again my inspiration for today’s post is Charli Mill’s Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. jeanne229 says:

    Sorry to be so late! Back to read and comment.

    https://jeannelombardo.com/2017/08/sheriff-joes-jails-escape-story/

    Escape Artist

    Only his hands and eyes existed. And the thin strands. Cross, loop, knot; cross, loop, knot.

    He wanted to give her something. The nice gringa teacher. Who looked him in the eye. Who smiled. Who explained in Spanish when he couldn’t understand.

    The fat gringo voices around him faded. The rows of bunks. The sweating walls. The smell of urine.

    Cross, loop, knot. A cross. A heart. A simple cord necklace.

    He fingered his small creation. Thought of his village outside Culiacán. His mother. The smell of tortillas and the simmering pot of frijoles.

    He could taste them now.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Wow, Jeanne. If you’re going to be late, writing something great! What great depth, entering the character incarcerated in one of Joe’s prison camps. I listened to an interview with him on the NYT’S Daily and it was unnerving to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanne229 says:

        I must admit I took liberties when I taught that class. I was instructed not to share personal stories or let my students do so. That turned out to be impossible for me. Yes, many of those guys did some bad things. Many others got caught doing stupid things that today might be looked at a little more leniently, such as selling or possessing pot. All of them languished in a system that was essentially punishing them before any conviction, often for months. Pretty grim. Thanks, Charli, for the nice comment!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        To have witnessed Tent City is worth taking liberties to share.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Your flash is beautiful, poignant. Your post is frightening; another unpardonable episode. Oh, wait, there was a pardon.

      Liked by 3 people

  28. […] week at the Ranch (the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, that is), Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an escape artist. Fun flashes […]

    Liked by 1 person

  29. It May be Late by Elliott Lyngreen

    The great thing about Murray was that if he won, we all won. Like nights we would stay awake until the radio stations played our requests. He would get through and eventually hit the airwaves through the phone as if it was our song. And that was the how Murray got loose. It was not that he got through, but that we all did.
    The emptiness spilled in the lost gorgeous grips of the appreciation, connection of passions to moments in radios impressing. I could not say a word about what he just knows – but I will say it now.

    [not alot of time to be a writer this week, seems i still trying to escape to being an artist]

    Liked by 4 people

  30. […] Charli Mills challenge to come up with a piece of flash fiction, in exactly 99 words, that demonstrated our take on “escape artist” brought back to me my very favourite dolls of all. You can join in the challenge here: https://carrotranch.com/2017/08/25/august-24-flash-fiction-challenge-2/ […]

    Liked by 1 person

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