November 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

November 16, 2017

We look through screens all the time and never see the mesh. In the latest spit of snow, Lake Superior warmed enough to drop flakes like meringue. It clings to the screen, and I see the mesh. Small gingham squares of space fill the lines between fine steel wire. No longer do I see out the window; my eyes cast no further than the screen.

He interrupts my study, standing in the doorway. A wide arched entry between the living room and hallway. The oak banister leading upstairs gleams behind him. He has a mug of coffee, steaming in his hand. He looks good in his black sweatshirt. The man in black, not like Johnny Cash. More like tactical black. Army Ranger.

Why do you think he’s stuck in Ranger mode?

It’s just a pointless question that echoes in my head. I’m no brain doc or expert on neural connections. Instead, I recall a presentation I went to years ago about the hard-wiring of boys’ brains. The significant discovery was that boys don’t complete their neural connections until their mid-twenties. The presenter’s point regarded the dangerous influence of violent video games.

What about war, M16 rifles and extreme military training?

Like a small beach gravel stuck in my Keens, the idea rolls around my thinking uncomfortably. If video games are detrimental to the final phase of the developing male brain, then the military training, Ranger training, combat dive training, paratrooper training, live training in covert South American operations, and smash-landing in Grenada by the age of 22 has to be influential. Possibly injurious.

I can’t say when I noticed for certain that PTSD became a problem for the Hub. Wiser and more experienced friends suggested he should go to the VA. For four years I volunteered to help my friend give acupuncture to soldiers who did “not” have PTSD. To say so was to kill a career. So we helped with “stress,” the covert word.

And that’s what angers me. The denial from those who not only know better, but who could have helped. If we know male brains are not hard-wired until mid-twenties, isn’t it insidious to train them up as elite soldiers? If I were writing a conspiracy thriller I’d plot out how the government takes advantage of those qualifying for Navy Seals, Delta Force, or Army Rangers. What if they know, and that’s the point of the extreme training?

Problem is, once hard-wired, the off-switch goes missing. Readjustment counseling seeks to guide combat veterans back to civilian life. The Vet Center is a part of the VA but also a separate department set up in 1979 to acknowledge the difficulty Vietnam-era soldiers experienced adjusting to civilian life. In 1981, the Hub joined the Army, hard-wired for combat. His first combat jump smashed his body. 34 years later and he’s still seeking help.

What if he received readjustment counseling after Grenada?

If he had received it, would I be looking at him, standing in the doorway, wondering where he’s gone? Maybe the hard-wiring is irreparable. Maybe he could have found a way to use it productively. He did, on his own, for many years. Although the signs flagged, especially during times of stress, he always soldiered up. If I was certain of one thing, it was that my husband would protect us.

Now he is magnificently untrustworthy. It’s mind-blowing to me on many levels. He began to see the mesh and only the mesh. This started when we left Minnesota. The holes in the mesh are empty space. Look through the screen outside the window and you see clearly. Begin to focus on the mesh and it distorts your view. Focus too long and all you see is the screen.

Somewhere, the Hub is behind the screen in his mind. It unfolded slowly with moments that left me wondering why he was so unreasonable. That’s when I began to push for him to seek help for his injuries and PTSD. When we experienced crisis last year, he did not react the way a normal person would. He led us a merry chase with me prodding the whole way to get into the VA.

Fast-forward through the quagmire of the past year. Here we are, living with our eldest daughter. And he wants to go. Where? Just go. It’s the deployment response. Here, in the land of Lady Lake snow, he’s finally getting help. He’s finally meeting doctors and therapists who see the red flags. But is it too late?

Staring out through the window I look past the screen. I’ve returned from a healing retreat where I sat among women who’ve lost children to car accidents, mothers to cancer, husbands to heart attacks. Yet I was not the only veteran spouse there. I’m finding solidarity among for this specific pain. Ultimately, what matters is that we sit with each other, share and find our joy among the ashes.

We all bared our vulnerabilities, our pain and grief. We let go. I took off my earrings which I’ve worn every day since June 16, 2016. They had become my symbol of suffering at his side. Instead of taking the house on Sunnyside and continuing my writing retreats, I stayed with him, hoping for help, seeking help, not leaving him to wander alone.

I’m letting go of my position behind the mesh. It’s not what I choose to see. I know it’s where he’s stuck, but I can still support him from a different view. It may seem a little thing to let go of, but it’s profoundly shifted my perspective. As another friend recently told me, this is my new normal. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m feeling freer. I sigh, and hope he can feel that way again, too.

I turn back to the doorway, and he’s gone upstairs.

November 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by November 21, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published November 22). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Between Here and There (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni trailed a finger across the mesh. The screened box rested empty, all the dry artifacts now collected. Her vision blurred. The mesh veils the place between here and there. The thought startled Danni. No, the mesh is a tool. She shook off her stupor and focused on the Styrofoam trays that contained shards of crockery, broken glass and rusty square nails. After transporting sixty-seven trays to the lab, she flicked off the lights. In the dark, she thought again about space and time. If material items and bones remain, where does the energy of the spirit depart to?

###

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128 Comments

  1. Reena Saxena

    Ignore the above comment. Wrongly posted here.

    • Charli Mills

      No worries! Do you want me to remove it? 🙂

      • Reena Saxena

        Yes, please.

      • Charli Mills

        Done! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Mesh would have been nice in this story. 🙂

      • Michael

        At the time very much so. We wondered where we landed ourselves.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s interesting what we can learn to tolerate.

    • julespaige

      One summer I was very thankful for a screen in a vent in a small trailer type camper. It seems it was the only thing between me and either bees or hornets. Sounds like you needed some bed netting, at least for at night.

      • Michael

        It was a rugged time Jules I have to say….you felt the flies were big enough to carry off any small child.

  2. Juliet Nubel

    Such a moving post, Charli. Thank you for sharing these difficult moments.
    I will get my thinking cap on for this one. My brain isn’t quite awake yet. The sun is not up over here.
    Have a lovely day. I’ll be back…

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Juliet. I look to what inspiration the sun rise brings you. Time for bed here, though, as usual, late to bed! You have a lovely day!

  3. thecontentedcrafter

    This is a profoundly moving chapter of your story Charli. It is good you have changed perspective, not everyone has to be trapped in the mesh. Movement and change are inevitably part of all our lives whether or not we want it to be so and it is only the bravest who step into change willingly.

    • Charli Mills

      We have to be willing for that change. I also think we have to be willing to be vulnerable and to step outside of ourselves to be with others. Thank you, Paula. You’ve been an important point of light on my journey.

      • Charli Mills

        And a big hug back!

  4. Ritu

    Such a touching recount of how you are dealing with your situation Charli. Sometimes change is the only way, and that is a hard thing to do. Hugs <3

    • Charli Mills

      It can be! Thank you, Ritu! <3

      • Ritu

        ????????????

    • julespaige

      Getting through that mesh of broken relationships can be difficult.
      I like how you took the prompt away from something ‘physical’.

      • Reena Saxena

        There is a thin line between the possible and impossible. The past connects, present separates and the future is uncertain.

    • Charli Mills

      Your use of a mesh works well in your flash, Reena, where it feels like something is getting through and then is blocked.

      • Reena Saxena

        Right! Thank you, Charli!

  5. Reena Saxena

    It is an informative personal story. I did not know about male brains not getting hardwired till the age of 25. Career and relationship choices are often made before that. Stay strong!

    • Charli Mills

      Isn’t that interesting to consider? And a good point about careers and relationships choices. Thank you! Strong like the willow that bends. 🙂

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Porch Between

    “Kid, why you got them tools and that mesh screenin’?”
    “Feelin’ like doin’ somethin’ nice for Shorty, gonna screen in the front porch where ever’one sets ‘n tell stories.”
    “Why?”
    “Ta keep mosquitos ‘n such from botherin’ us.
    “Ya could, an’ this bein’ fiction an’ all you might even do a real fine job.”
    “Yep.”
    “But Kid, this bein’ fiction an’ all, we can jes’ say we ain’t got skeeters.”
    “That a fact?”
    “Yep. ‘Cause this’s fiction.”
    “Like alternate facts?”
    “Yep.”
    “So no skeeters.”
    “And an unimpeded view from Shorty’s porch.”
    “Things look good from here.”
    “That’s a fact.”

    • Charli Mills

      So many reasons to love this, D.! The tongue-in-cheek with fiction and alternate facts juxtaposed with the porch and screen is great!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The Kid just wanted to help, but the fact is the porch at the ranch is just fine, and always will be.

      • Charli Mills

        The porch is solid and has good company.

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Mess, as in mess of bacon, sounds like mesh, or maybe the title takes you to meshed potatoes but honestly there is no mesh in this one, and it’s not a mesh up.

    Thanksgiving

    “Whatcha got there, Kid?”
    “Vittles.”
    “Lemme guess. Got yerself a mess a bacon.”
    “Nope, I got carrots.”
    “An’ yer gonna roast ‘em, wrapped in bacon.”
    “Nope. Jes’ carrots.”
    “Oh, boy, here we go. Let’s hear it then.”
    “What?”
    “The whinin’ an’ lamentin’ about the dearth of bacon here at the ranch.”
    “Dearth?”
    “Dearth, Kid, lack, scarcity.”
    “Well, Pal, there is no scarcity. D’ Earth provides. Look at these beautiful carrots I pulled from d’ earth. Here, I’m giving you some.”
    “Uh, thanks.”
    “Yep, I’m givin’ thanks. I’m thankful fer ever’one at the ranch, an’ fer Shorty’s raw carrots.”

    • Rebecca Glaessner

      Could definitely be linked to the change in perspective aspect of mesh! One character has a negative view, and the other sees past the mesh of negativity and through to the gifts all around. Great writing! So much personality in pure dialogue. You’ve got some skills there.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thank you, but these are just a couple of rogue characters. They do all the work, playfully, and are happy to do it for this Ranch.

      • Charli Mills

        Hi Rebecca! Good to see you at the Ranch! D. has a good yarn going on with these characters that may or may not look like local ranchers. Thanks for spotting the intriguing duality that is a mesh without being overt.

    • Charli Mills

      The introduction is mesh enough, D. The play on dearth and d’earth is brilliant! I’m grateful for every writer here and that’s what Thanksgiving feels like to me.

  8. Annecdotist

    Hi, Charli, I’m sorry Todd is becoming unsettled just as you’ve found a welcoming porch. Sometimes it’s necessary to detach a little, nurture yourself, in order to be able to help. I hope things work out for both of you.
    I’m not up on the research, but I think the latest on brain development is that the brains of both men and women mature much later than was originally thought, so that we should regard adolescence as continuing into our 20s. I don’t know whether or not it’s slightly later for men, although it tends to be so for boy babies who are born with slightly less developed brains.
    I’m not convinced that governments anywhere care that much about the welfare of people who go into the military. (Although it must be better now than during the First World War when men were shot for combat stress.) And recruiting men and women before they have fully matured fits their purposes of moulding people into what is most effective for warfare, but not necessarily so for civilian life.
    With World Toilet Day coming up on 19th November, I have taken a very literal perspective on mesh:
    The importance of fictional pee and poo #WorldToiletDay #amreading http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2017/11/the-importance-of-fictional-pee-and-poo-worldtoiletday.html

    • julespaige

      I remember being told of some travelers in Europe that especially in camping areas that a toilet was simply a hole in the ground (no mesh).

      When my hubby was in school he did a paper on the evolution of the ‘Crapper’, his teacher was not amused.

      But I was with your perspective :).
      I still would rather not have flies in my house! 🙂

      • Annecdotist

        I’d be very surprised not to find proper flushing toilets, or at least well maintained chemical ones, at official camping sites in Europe. A different matter in parts of India and Africa, however, where there might not even be a hole in the ground. A major public health and equalities issue.

      • julespaige

        While I did not see the whole of it…just the adverting for “Slumdog Millionaire” I did read some reviews and material stating just what you have just reiterated. Progress seems painfully and poorly slow.

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I can’t help but wonder at the purpose of our developing brains when so much seems to happen in adolescence. And I share your skepticism about governments caring about the welfare of people serving in the military, though we can say it’s great they don’t get shot for combat stress these days. But I can’t stay on the front-line and not get worn out myself. Withdrawing for some R&R and hope the battle eases up. And good to see your plumbing running strong for further awareness of #worldtoiletday. Flies thwarted, aw, luckless flies.

      • Annecdotist

        Do take care of yourself, Charli. That always has to be the prime responsibility.

      • Charli Mills

        Today, we received word that one of the Hub’s Ranger brothers came out of neck surgery and is doing okay. He’ll probably lose his job, though and he’s not sure what he’s going to do. This band of brothers is falling apart because they were all paratroopers who were overburdened with what they carried as “grunts.” The Army now has weight limits, but these men suffer the rest of their lives for it, and I want to dig up some of that poo in the ground and dump it on the US White House and Pentagon with the message to clean up their stuff. Instead, I’ll go prep some peppermint tea with honey, plug into my daily meditation on Calm, and when the Hub returns from fetching two of our grown kids, I’ll focus on being present with them all. That’s my self care plan!

  9. Chris Mills

    I’m going to attempt to get back into the flash fiction challenges now. I’ve just finished writing for the semifinal round in another competition that also involves participation in a peer review forum. It is pretty intense, lasting from July through December if you advance all the way to the finals. Anyway, that’s why I disappeared after the Rodeo. Loved the Rodeo experience. Mesh? I can do that one, I hope.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Chris! That does sound intense, and yet rewarding, too. You must be doing well to make it to the semi-finals. I’m glad you enjoyed the Rodeo experience!

  10. Rebecca Glaessner

    Being finally officially married after nearly 9 years together and three kids, reading this post of yours Charli has hit me in a brand new place. The idea that my partner believes so strongly in our marriage, and that we will be together through our changes, growing older and finding ourselves again after the kids are grown. He has challenges with being open to how his mind works and where his emotions are borne, he tends to just shut things out and power through, and accept that things “just are”. I feel like one day I’ll be in your place, seeing him staring at the mesh, wondering how he’s gotten there, while I hope and stand strong beside him until he can teach himself to see past it. You’re an incredible human Charli. Thoroughly inspiring, even if you struggle to see it. You truly are. Thank you for sharing this. I hope you’re feeling stronger in yourself with this new perspective. You deserve to.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Rebecca! I was so excited to see you at the ranch! You help share the challenges and compilations faithfully every week, and I know you’ve been working on your book and raising your family. I’m so delighted for your recent marriage and feel hopeful at your enthusiasm to go through the changes our relationships experience. Thank you for your words. This really speaks to me: “while I hope and stand strong beside him until he can teach himself to see past it.” Ahhh, I need to be in that mode of patience. The Hub needs to teach himself to get around it, but I also need to teach myself to be supportive without getting caught up in the mesh. I do feel stronger for the perspective. Thank you! Be happy! You are an incredible human, too Rebecca!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a turning point and we’ll get through. The community here has been incredible, especially the spouses group. Than you. Oh, wow! Great flash Di!

    • Charli Mills

      Cheers, Lady Lee! Good to see you at the Ranch!

  11. kim blades, writer

    Hi Charli. Thank you for sharing something so personal. I wish I had your strength of character and could disentangle myself from my dead marriage.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Kim. I share the parts I hope are helpful, for my own processing, too. Self-care is important, and sometimes we have to reset the boundaries in a relationship. You are stronger than you think you are. <3

    • Liz H

      Oh dear…not finding your post from the link!

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Jules. I fixed the link!

      • julespaige

        Maybe you could have a tutorial page about links? I think some folks take their document link or wp doc link instead of the actual blog page link. – We help when we can 😉

        Thanks.

      • Charli Mills

        What a great idea, Jules!

    • Charli Mills

      No deterrent there, but an interesting insight.

  12. denmaniacs4

    MESH UNIT

    “Mesh me?”

    “Not much. Oh, did I mishear you?”

    “No, I misspoke.”

    “Ah.”

    I am silent.

    I want to remember.

    Montreal.

    “She’ll put you up,” Terri had said.

    “She’s only met me once.”

    “Don’t worry. I noticed the spark. You’ll be like lox and cream cheese.”

    It was a bitter winter. The Greyhound was having heating issues.

    Her dark hair, unfathomably red lips, welcoming arms, met me at the terminal.

    “It’s small,” she said. “We’ll have to share…everything.”

    “I have little,” I said, “So that should be easy.”

    One winter.

    Now, a fuzzy memory.

    It’s amazing how moments fly.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      Such a beautiful meandering memory, artfully told across the time by which moments fly.

  13. Liz H

    My heart is breaking for you, Charli. We recognize that the male brain doesn’t fully mature until the mid-twenties, but I wonder if it’s not similar for he the female brain, as well. Maybe we wouldn’t engage in half the risks we do, if our brains were ready a decade earlier?

    I also sometimes think adulthood is defined by whatever is the market need.

    Glad you find peace and choices with your vet spouses friends. Recovery is a long and twisty road with sidetracks and confusing forks–keep those friends near! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your kind words, Liz. Yes, Anne Goodwin mentioned that the latest research shows both male and female brains develop later than what was thought. Recovery is a bumpy road indeed. Confusing forks, oh yes! Those friends are near. Here, too! <3

  14. Judy E Martin

    It sounds as though you have been through a dreadful time of it Charli. I hope that the help your husband is getting is successful and he will soon be able to see beyond the mesh. Take care of yourself. ????

    • Charli Mills

      I have great hope in the help he’s getting with the Vet Center therapist. She’s a combat veteran, and an Army paratrooper. I have huge respect for her; she’s even working with Vietnam vets who often avoid care at all costs. That’s why I think this veteran spouses group is amazing because most of these woman are married to Vietnam vets. I’ve never been around so many at one time! And I’ve just come to realize that the Hub missed the Vietnam War by only 5 years. So he was greatly influenced by the soldiers of that era. I have hope. Love always hopes. Thank you. <3

      • Judy E Martin

        The therapist sounds amazing, what a woman! I am happy for you and your hubby that you are getting the right help, and yes, love does always hope. ????

      • Charli Mills

        The therapist is over the moon fantastic. She intentionally used her GI Bill to go to college after she served to become a combat veteran counselor “back home” which is here on the Keweenaw.

    • Charli Mills

      What a beautiful way to express a family mesh!

      • Ritu

        ???? thank you Charli ????

  15. Juliet Nubel

    Hi again Charli, I’m back. The sun came up but never came out. So I had a whole grey day to think about this challenge. Hope you enjoy it. Time for me to go to bed now…

    Mish-Mesh

    “Don’t we form an extraordinary mish-mesh?” Her fingers twisted into the smooth dark curls at the back of his neck.

    “Don’t you mean mish–mash, my love?”

    “No, we don’t mash. That’s what steel forks do to potoatoes, violently pummelling them into submission. That’s not us at all. We mesh.”

    To prove her point she threw her free arm over his chest and wrapped her leg around his bare calf.

    “Our mish-mesh will keep everything bad out.”

    “And everything good in” he added, slipping his hand into hers.

    They clutched at this dream as they clung to each other.

    • Charli Mills

      Lovely differentiation made between mesh and mash. And You told it in a love story that professes the dream we cling to. Well done! Yes, I enjoyed your flash, Juliet.

      • Juliet Nubel

        Thanks, Charli. Glad you enjoyed it.

      • Juliet Nubel

        Hi again Charli. I’ve just read the whole mesh collection which was brilliant. But I didn’t see my little Mish-Mesh piece. Sniff…

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no! Sometimes stories fall through the mesh! I’m on it! It will be included as soon as I find it!

      • Juliet Nubel

        No worries, Charli. Don’t waste precious time looking for it. I had a sniff moment but am over it. Really! ????

  16. Cheryl Oreglia

    A painfully difficult story to read Charli, it is sometimes impossible to be the light of hope when darkness surrounds you. Keep shinning Charli, the storm may pass, the landscape will change, but you are the constant.

    The Mesh

    I admit these baby blues screen me from the more painful realities of life. They are the mesh I stand behind, like bars of a prison, some days I’m looking in, and others I’m looking out. A sacred veil of sorts, or stained glass window that matches the sky, this is the sanctuary from which I view the world. Unlike contacts, I can’t remove them, especially when they fail to serve me, grooming my ignorance, and blurring my wisdom. My mesh is invisible to me, but not to the outside world, an ideological screen interwoven with human fallibility.

    • Charli Mills

      Poignant flash, Cheryl. You managed a balance between both sanctuary and prison, ignorance and wisdom. Beautiful analogy built from mesh.

      • Charli Mills

        Hi Allison! Good to see you at the Ranch! You’ve been riding the book launch circuit. I hope it’s all going well. 🙂

    • Allison Maruska

      Oops my comment should have been for the general public. Sorry.

      • floridaborne

        We all do stuff like that once in awhile. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a communal pasture here at the Ranch. It’s nice to have a stall of your own, but not necessary! 😉

    • Charli Mills

      You captured the familial dialog of a hard cycle, Joelle.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Allison!

  17. Colleen Chesebro

    https://colleenchesebro.com/2017/11/18/the-call-to-adventure/ Here is my contribution for this week, Charli.

    Your story moved me. As you know, my husband served two tours in Vietnam and retired from the Air Force after 24 years of service. He still has dreams and suffers from mild PTSD. He is a 100% disabled vet. Anyone who served understands the condition. My heart goes out to your husband. You are a brave and loving woman. Sometimes I think those of us who didn’t go through the experiences in person end up experiencing them through our loved ones which is equally as hard. Thank you both for your service. <3 I hope your journey eases with time and love. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your understanding and for the service and sacrifice both you and your husband made. In and out of the VA these past few years, I’ve heard the phrase “mild PTSD” often. Mostly, it can be dormant. It’s the triggers that can cause it to flare. But less obvious is when the mild ruts are eventually dug too deep. I have such a great support network here with these badass Vietnam veteran spouses. You who served that era made it better for those who followed. I hope you realize that. One legacy is the Vet Center and right now it’s his life-line, and allows me to have support, stepping away to a more secure territory than where he’s gone. I’m wishing you and yours peace, love and joy on your own journey! <3

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Aww, Charli. If you ever need to talk, I’d be happy to listen. Thank you for your friendship. I missed being considered a Vietnam Veteran by one day. I was a foster kid and went into the Air Force in July 1976. My husband is ten years older than I am. It was an amazing time for women for sure. I was happy to pave the way for the younger generation. <3

  18. Norah

    I’m so sorry to hear about the ongoing issues with your ranger. I hope he can stay settled for a while. You have achieved so much while you have been anchored in one spot. Sometimes taking the next step in self-revelation and healing, can be frightening, not knowing if one will be able to cope. It seems easier to run away, but in the end it isn’t, it just delays. Withe the support you have, the outcomes will be better if he can calm those jitters and stay. I hope your new way of seeing is an aid to you as well as to him. I wish you both (all) the best. Danni is learning a new way of seeing too, as you and she help us see new perspectives as we write to your prompts each week.

    • Norah

      I’m back with my meshing, hopefully rather than mashing, of ideas. https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-10F Strong Foundations

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah. I hope he can settle in and see what he has surrounding him. Yes, we all learn and shift our perspectives. You actually, just helped me with something I’ve been working on with Danni, so thanks for that observation.

      • Norah

        Hmm. I helped you. Excellent news. So pleased to be useful. I do like to be useful. 🙂

  19. julespaige

    Be back to read later…wanted to make sure I posted something before reading y’all…

    I had to drum up this one… a tad dry…
    Fleecing Lint

    Fleecing Lint

    As a teenager, Holly got local job. Certainly not something
    that was going to be a career – working at the corner dry-
    cleaners and laundromat. The chemical smell was horrid.
    And people literally dropped off their dirty laundry by the
    pound. Pockets had to be checked, and stains had to be
    noted in case they couldn’t be removed.

    A ‘perk’ was cleaning the dryers mesh lint traps. Sometimes
    loose change could be found. Holly did not feel obliged to
    report these treasures to the owners. She felt she deserved
    that can of pop or candy bar gotten from chump change.

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Great title and interesting perspective in your flash, Jules!

  20. Kerry E.B. Black

    Like a Friendly Spider
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    When as a child I didn’t get along with someone, my mom would say we didn’t “mesh.” An optimistic humanist, I had a hard time accepting this. I’d re-work my approach toward friendship, hoping to integrate into their lives. I’d learn a sport, watch popular films, read trending books. Still, the “mesh” eluded me.
    As I grew, classmates changed to fit into intricate webs of friendship.
    So I weaved a new fabric, one accepting others’ diverse contributions. Not everyone would want to be a part of my web, and that was okay. I could mesh with those who did.

    *Now I want to make a spider web patterned quilt. haahaa!

    • Charli Mills

      It takes time to make such a pattern in friendship, but the rewards are a beautiful web. I like this idea of a friendly spider. And yes, I’d like to see that quilt made!

  21. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Here’s where it went:

    “That was Uncle Robert’s musket. He leaned it there in the corner when he got back from the war.”
    At the time I was too young to have the questions I wish I had asked, that I come back to wondering about decades later. Uncle Robert was one of 35,000 Vermonters who had seen the elephant. Surely her beloved uncle told her stories of adventure and strange sights, but maybe didn’t talk about the battles. Maybe he was as silent as the sentinel musket that he had returned to the family home with but would never take up again.
    ***
    Seeing the Elephant

    Robert was practically running now.
    He would have missed sugar season, but his father would appreciate his help with spring planting. His father wouldn’t ask him, as the man on the train had, about the Battle of the Wilderness.
    Soon he’d be eating Ma’s cooking, would tousle the hair of his baby brother, six now, teach him everything there was to know, would have him driving the team, set him up with his own team of oxen. Robert ached to again work the farm, to mesh with the seasons.
    Almost home; soon he would set this damn musket down.

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/seeing-the-elephant/

    • Charli Mills

      Home means much more when embattled, yet the return is not always a promise of that ability to mesh with the seasons. Great Civil War story!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Rosemary! Welcome to Carrot Ranch!

  22. Frank Hubeny

    Best wishes to both you and your husband. I can see why people do not want to be diagnosed with something unless they can see a benefit coming from that diagnosis.

    Thank you for providing the prompt. Here is where the word “mesh” led me:

    PAIR UNBONDING

    The puzzle pieces didn’t mesh together. Robert thought something was missing.

    One: Robert’s girlfriend, Sylvia, spent the weekend with Paul.

    Two: Sylvia discovered Paul already had a girlfriend.

    Three: Sylvia’s girlfriends advised her to go back to Robert. “He’ll get over it.” He’s better than nothing.

    Robert heard of autistic people who could see the hidden patterns of puzzle pieces. They could fix intractable problems, but Janice wasn’t autistic nor was she motivated to solve such puzzles. Her approach was simpler. She become the missing piece and made a blanket from the others to keep her and Robert warm.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Frank. That is a good point. Sometimes healing comes with awareness of the mesh. The question is, how to help another see beyond it? Your flash is a creative puzzle, each piece coming together to make the whole in 99 words.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Robbie! Your flash is more volcanic than a chicken run! And a better use of mesh, though I really like chickens.

  23. susansleggs

    “Melding two people in marriage is like weaving your personalities into a strong mesh. Today I know your special mesh is as fine as Lilly’s wedding veil. It is my duty to warn you, life will present trials that will stretch the spaces and even create holes. Disputes can be about anything from how to raise your children, to spend money, or deal with your in-laws. I challenge you to never let your mesh get a hole in it. Do you accept my challenge?”
    The reverend eyed the bride’s family as the naive couple answered in unison, “We do.”

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a great analogy for marriage, Susan. And your last is spot on. Even the longest of marriages end up with holes. But the mesh still holds.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Charli. I am now in a strong mesh relationship, but the challenges are still there.

  24. Pete

    The kid hoisted the bag of slop in the dumpster. It hit with a splat and he toweled his hands with his apron.

    “Hey Mesh.”

    Mesh popped up. “Oh. Hey Brooke, I didn’t see, um, you okay?”

    “Yeah, it’s just…” She blew a cloud of smoke to the sky, wiped her face into the shining smile that raked in the tips. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

    “You sure?”

    “I swear to god if Paul touches my ass again…”

    “You should say something. He owns the restaurant, he doesn’t own you.”

    “Is that like some Hindu Indian wisdom?”

    “No, it’s common sense.”

    • Charli Mills

      You nailed the ending, Pete!

  25. Liz H

    Not sure where this came from…ha!

    Solit’s Web

    She’d climbed down the drainage tunnel, crawling due east, then straight down. That ladder better not end before the tunnel did. Beau had promised, and he was getting 60% of the take for having the only map to Solit. She had the muscle and the stealth, so it fell to her to do the actual theft.

    She snapped on her headlamp. The steel mesh of the spider’s web gleamed below her, easy enough to drop down to, but how was she going to get back up?

    Oh well. She’d figure that out, once she’d snatched the queen’s ruby eggs.

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/solits-web/

    • Charli Mills

      An exciting flash, Liz! Isn’t that great when an epic with steel spider webs and ruby eggs drop to the page? 🙂

      • Liz H

        Yeah! Never saw ’em comin’…!

  26. Sherri Matthews

    I remember reading about the young male brain some time ago, and my youngest, now being 25, has also pointed this out to me as he stares through the mesh of his reality, trying desperately to not just see through it but crawl through it. Also, I’ve long been fascinated by the neurological differences in the autistic brain, and again in those with Asperger’s, although it’s not defined as Asperger’s any longer. But it is different, as a high functioning autism. But I digress. Your friend spoke poignant words to you about your new normal. It’s hard – understatement I know – to accept it, but it means you are freer to move ahead with your life whilst also doing all you can to support your hub and hoping he finds his way too. And I loved the way you showed Danni’s struggle between the material, matter of fact world and the spiritual. Huge hugs my dear friend <3

    • Charli Mills

      The brain is a complex maze and sometimes we can get lost in all those nuero pathways. I don’t think we know much in comparison to what there is to know about neurological differences from varying roots. I hadn’t heard that Aspebergers changed. You’ll have to catch me up! It was a quick flash I wrote, but I see the elements of the inner struggle for Danni. Funny how flash can be a flash of insight sometimes! Hugs back, my friend! <3

  27. Sherri Matthews

    Here’s mine…thank you again for sharing your heart with us Charli <3

    Not Today

    I knocked once: waited; then again. No sound. I checked my phone. Nothing. I drew a deep breath and knocked again; at last I saw his outline through the mottled glass pane. He hadn’t opened the door yet, but I knew it would be a bad day. Rain fell, steady and cold. He must have heard it, yet he took an age to find his key while I got soaked. I watched him shuffle, shoulders slumped, to the door and I wondered when I would see him sharp and clear again, no longer through shadowed mesh. But not today.

    • Charli Mills

      Sherri, I trust you thoroughly with my heart! Thank you for sharing your sharp writing. The pacing mimics what it is to wait and readers can see through the blurred glass with the narrator. The emotional twist it represents is clear. Well done! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        As I trust you with mine my dear friend! Your words are music to my ears…mesh brought to mind blurred glass…flash is a wonderful writing tool. Thank you Charli! <3

    • Liz H

      Nice!

    • Charli Mills

      Enjoyed how you used mesh as a network, and added the dilemma of a snag, Jack.

  28. Charli Mills

    Great! You played with the sound!

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