Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #3

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.

November 21, 2017

Septolet in Motion Contest Results

By JulesPaige

Thank you to all who ‘Spelled’ a bit of magic by entering Septolet in Motion either in the Contest or Challenge arenas. The short Selptolet verse of fourteen words in two parts totaling fourteen lines intertwined in a short fiction piece cast magic for Susan Z, Susan B and Jules. We used a point system through blind judging. Then Jules averaged the scores. Our winner is Deborah Lee.

Practical Magic, Or Even Best Efforts Need a Push Sometimes

By Deborah Lee

She pauses in the vestibule by the elevator outside the law firm doors. Beyond the window the sky looms gray over twenty-five stories of air filled with drizzle.

Another interview over. For better or worse.

No. For better, this time.

She examines the cuffs of her blouse, new-to-her from the thrift store, not frayed, nicely white. Her slacks bag a bit; she’s lost weight. She hopes nobody looked closely at her shoes. She showered right before coming here, in the college locker room after her fitness class, the shower being the only thing a college fitness class could possibly be useful for. Her core aches pleasantly. Her hair is clean and tidy; her makeup easily understated. Leftover Pell grant money and ten hours a week work-study don’t exactly take a girl to Sephora.

Her good-luck portfolio, holding paper copies of her résumé and her passport – a nice touch, along with her slender purse. This is not the look of a woman living in a tent. She hopes.

Homeless for not much longer, if she pulled this off. It felt like it went well, but then, it always feels like it went well. Every time for the last five years, it’s felt like it went well.

She composes her mind, focusing as she pulls a small cloth bag from her purse, and from that a generous pinch of chamomile buds. “I attract you, prosperity,” she whispers, sprinkling it in the soil of the potted polyscias outside the firm’s door. Into the dirt she tucks an aventurine crystal: “For good luck.” She closes her eyes and chants quietly, with force:

My skills,

Your needs,

Perfect match.

I need

This job,

You need me.



“So mote it be,” she whispers, and calls the elevator.

When the scores were averaged out our second and third place winners became:

Second place:

Why I Tossed My Clothing

By Joelle LeGendre

Never believe a sign that says, “Historic monument 300 feet.”

My leggings and mid-calf sweater dress were magnets for Spanish needles. Subtropics USA? Strange.

From a well-worn trail, I’d walked through a hole in the rocks, and stepped onto a narrow path.  I did what any sane person wearing $500 worth of clothing would do.  I made a U-turn to the other side.  There, I found the same 6-inch path I’d just vacated.

Had I known the truth, I would’ve dressed in my jungle wear.  At present, I had a 6 foot tall, 200 pound problem blocking my way to civilization.

“You say your name is Maddie Smith?” The man with Ben Franklin spectacles asked. “By what means have you appeared in our village?”

His top hat, well-trimmed beard and long coat were circa 1850’s. Women in hooped skirts skittered around me, trying to avoid contagion?  If this was the outskirts, I didn’t want to experience the stench at the center of town.

“I was walking through the woods and found a stone with etching in Latin,” I replied.

He motioned me into an office smelling of unwashed bodies, directing my eyes to a portrait of said stone.  “Is this the one?”

I remembered the words, and thought about their meaning

Count life

Wisely – Words

and numbers

speak your mind


Every atom

Vibrates possible



“Yes,” I replied.

“Most who see it become blithering idiots, babbling about other centuries.  They are taken forthwith to the asylum!”

“May I continue on my journey?” I asked.

“I do not have reason to detain you.”

I returned to the hole, rereading the warning, words and numbers count. “Pennsylvania year 2017.”

A well-worn path!  I ran to the parking lot finding my car waiting.

Some days it pays to listen to the rocks.


Third Place:

Nora’s Mistake

By Liz Husebye Hartmann

Nora crouched at the edge of Fischer’s Gorge and pulled a braid of human hair from inside her jacket. Each strand in this braid had been woven together from the remainders of uncounted childhood games, battles fought and forgiven, and secrets shared among four friends, over nearly two decades. She pressed it to her face and breathed in their memories, then began the unraveling.

Rickard’s sleek brown hair had bound their different shades tightly together, even as Kara’s sooty curls poked and twisted for release. Peter—Oh Peter!–his hair had darkened from a toddler’s brittle carrot to the rich auburn that easily warmed her own white-blonde locks. She’d strengthened their bond over the years, collecting and braiding these colors together in word and song, but now it was time to break the spell. Things had become unbalanced. Kara was meant to be with Rickard, but Peter belonged to her.

She stood in the bitter night wind and raised the braid to the moon.

“Around and


Colors break free



Shall Unwind

Will rebind them

To me”

The breeze softened and swirled around her thin body, questioning. Was she sure? So much time and love in the spelling, why loosen the weave?

Nora visualized Peter and Kara bursting from the barn, bareback on a single horse under the Midsummer Moon. Thundering up the twilight road to the far meadow, the two had returned just before sunrise. Rickard’s face, twisted in jealous shadow, had mirrored her own unspoken fear.

Kara had to go.

She straightened her back, ignored her tears, and shouted.




Is She


As we do

Pray it

So mote it be

The wind moaned, but obeyed. The braid reformed in brown, blonde, and red, and Kara’s dark knots lifted and dropped into the Gorge.


Susan Zutautas’ favorite piece was “The Last Reflection” by Reena Saxena, She says, “Because I could envision the entire story.  It was like I was right there watching the monitor in the Intensive Care Unit. I really liked how the writer not only used 1 septolet but used 3. The only reason that I didn’t give this story a 100 was because I thought that it was lacking a tad bit in the magic theme.”

The Last Reflection

By Reena Saxena

Reverend Marshall was in the terminal stage of his life. There was a small mirror on the wall opposite his bed in the Intensive Care Unit, which reflected the display screen of the monitor.

The lines moved in a zig-zag fashion, as he struggled for breath, despite the oxygen mask. The line can go straight any moment, but he will not see it. All other senses would have given away.

As of now, distant memory was functional. He remembered the lines that were etched on a wall in the church. People stopped by to ask what the answer was.

I will
take it
from you
do not
hold too hard


preserve purity

He knew the answer today. It was his life or soul, and the Giver was taking it back. He hoped the condition was good enough to please the Lord and Master.

cross oceans
in your conscience
nothing is
deeper than that


holding secrets

Reverend Marshall was a preacher, because he had grown up in the church, and knew of no other means of earning a livelihood. In his heart of hearts, he knew that he was not a believer. The suffering that he saw around him, did not justify the existence or imposition of a religion. There had to be something bigger than that.

The world
needs justice
those who suffer
are the jury


are just

Let the line go straight, and let there be justice in the world …. I will not preach ….. about turning the other cheek around. I will not be nailed ……. on the cross again.

His soul was finally at peace with the confession. The line was running straight on the monitor. Just that he could not see the last reflection.

“May his soul rest in peace!”


Susan Budig says of her favorite: “I wavered between ‘A Gift to the Weak’ by jackschuyler, and  ‘Nora’s Mistake’ by Liz H. I finally chose ‘A Gift to the Weak.’ The language was vivid. I was especially swayed by the phrase, ‘such a cruel key to unlock eternal life.’ The author used such descriptive language, I could easily envision the scene. It pulled at my heart to think of this mother leaving her child via death. I didn’t fully understand it, but that made no difference to me. It was an enjoyable and memorable read.”

A Gift to the Weak

By Jack Schuyler

The door splintered inward under a tremendous blow and Lucille pressed closer to her mother’s bosom. Pale light streamed through the dark window, spilling over the tousled bed sheets and illuminating the female shapes intertwined among tossed pillows. Lady Chamberlain held her trembling daughter close and faced the door like a cornered she wolf. In the hall and down the stairs, a mob seethed and raged, brandishing whatever weapons could be found: old muskets, makeshift spears, fists. Over the roaring of the mob, a preacher recited scripture as if from a Grimoire, “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish!”

A tear fell from Lady Chamberlain’s cheek and splashed onto Lucille’s fair head.
“Hush my dove,” she said. She pressed her face into her daughter’s blonde hair and sang amidst the shouts of the mob:

shall be
the child’s


for flight
is a gift
to the weak

The mother’s voice soothed Lucille and her sobbing ebbed. As Lady Chamberlain continued her soft tune, however, sorrow crept into the words, for she knew this was the last gift she would ever give her child. She stroked the cold sliver of a blade between her thumb and forefinger; such a cruel key to unlock eternal rest. “Forgive me,” she plunged it into soft flesh.

The door gave way and flickering torchlight burst into the room.

“The Witch is dead!”

The crowd cheered over the body of Lady Chamberlain, sprawled back on the bed, arms spread, and utterly alone. The knife stood erect, still buried in the mother’s chest and the burning light cast grotesque shadows as colonists danced around her blood soaked mattress. In the open window, a dove perched for a moment then flitted off into the moonlight.


Jules’ favorite: “The Magic in Living – A Septet of Septolets” by Norah Colvin. Mostly because it was something I think I would have done, thinking outside the box and using the Septolets to tell the majority of the story.

The Magic in Living – A Septet of Septolets

By Norah Colvin

When we take time to rest a spell, release worries, let peace in, magic happens.

The workday
drags unbearably
scrubbing floors
washing pots
cleaning windows
Won’t it
Ever end?

After the chores are done, she sinks into the wicker chair on the back porch.

Cool drink
Soft seat
Welcoming shade
Whispering breeze
Relieves heat
Breathe deep
Work’s done.

Slowly, tensions begin to creep softly from her pores and fade into the changing light.

Setting sun
Paints azure
Dotted skies
Purple, pink,
Orange hues
Eyes envisage
Magic skies.

A sense of wonder and joy in living gently seeps into her being, spreading peace.

White wings
Flap homeward
Indigo heavens
Crescent moon
Evening star
Mind frees
Day erased.

As the pressures of the day release their hold, the mind clears and possibilities appear.

Squadrons of
Silent wings
Silhouetted against
Darkened cobalt
Seek fruit
Imagination creates
Other possibilities.

The transition to night completes, enveloping her with reassurance of her place among the stars.

Blackness interrupted
By windows
Scattered low
Resembling starlight
Moon aglow
Sleep beckons
Dreams await.

Dreams play across the backdrop of her imagination, inspiring magical stories of heroism and courage.

Birdsong heralds
Daylight’s whispers
Pink skies
Beckon her
Eyes awaken
A new
Day begins.

Before chores plunder the treasure of her imaginings, she pauses to retell her night-time reverie.



Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on you blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

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  1. Ritu

    Huge congratulations to all the winners!!!!

    • Charli Mills

      Woot! Woot! Thanks for joining in the celebration!

      • Ritu

        Worth celebrating Charli!!!

  2. Charli Mills

    This was such a fun contest, Jules! Many thanks to you and your judges, Susan Z. and Susan B.! Great winner’s showcase! Congratulations, Deborah and all honorable mentions. Good job, all who entered!

  3. Susan Budig

    Congratulations to each person who found their entry in the winner’s circle.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for judging, Susan!

  4. Juliet Nubel

    Well done, winners. These were all fabulous pieces.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Juliet!

  5. kim blades, writer

    Congratulations and well done!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kim!

  6. floridaborne

    I’m blown away. Not literally (my arms and legs are intact). My thanks to you for providing writers with the opportunity to make our writing better.

    Loved reading the imaginations of other writers.

    • Charli Mills

      Whew — glad your arms and legs are intact, Joelle! 😀 I’m so glad you think that about the Ranch. I certainly agree with the enjoyment of reading the imaginations of other writers. Congratulations for capturing our imaginations!

      • floridaborne

        One of my top goals in life. 🙂

        Thanks for the kind words.

  7. floridaborne

    Reblogged this on Two on a Rant and commented:
    How I got the number 2 spot, I may never know, but I’m honored to be chosen as one of the highlighted entries.

    If you’re a writer and you want a blog that helps you become a better writer, I highly recommend “Carrot Ranch.”

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joelle!

  8. Believing Sight Unseen

    Congratulations to all who got the hang of this … read you all and learnt!

    • Charli Mills

      It was an interesting form to try. I learned too! We had great entries and imaginative uses of the septolet.

  9. TanGental

    well done to the winners. Yee Ha!!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for celebrating with us, Geoff!

  10. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    What wonderful stories all of these were. Congratulations to Deborah and all the others in the winner’s circle. You all nailed it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! Not an easy form to nail, but fun t try and enjoyable to read.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing!

  11. Sherri Matthews

    Wonderful entries, one and all! Many congratulation to Deborah and all the runner’s up and honourable mentions. I enjoyed every one of these septolets in motion, thanks for an inspiring contest Jules!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sherri!

  12. Norah

    Congratulations, Deborah, on winning the septolet contest. What a fabulous story. It deserved to win. Congratulations also to Joelle for second place and Liz for third. Congratulations to Reena and Jack for their honourable mentions too. And me! Thank you, Jules, for choosing my septolets. I am so excited. I was reading through all the other wonderful stories, thinking how clever they were and how I’d missed the mark for a magic spell with an alternative interpretation; but you liked it. I’m totally chuffed. Thank you! I did work hard on that piece and enjoyed learning about septolets. I guess it’s obvious. I did get a bit carried away. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Way to septolet, Norah! You crafted a marvelous piece of literary writing with the form. Congratulations to all of you for catching the admiration of the judges!

      • Norah

        This was a really fun challenge. I enjoyed crafting the piece, but didn’t expect to get a mention. I wrote seven septolets, each of fourteen words with a one-word title (fifteen words in all) separated from each other with a fifteen-word “explanation”. (I’m sure there’s a better word but I can’t think of one right now.) It was tough to meet the extra criteria I set for myself, but I was happy with the result. Even if no one else noticed, I did!
        But the winning stories were excellent narratives and impressed me with their magic spells.

  13. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    Do you know what a septolet is? Did you enter the Septolets in Motion #FFRodeo Contest #3? Whether you answered yes or no, check out the winning entries to read great stories and find out what a septolet is. I didn’t know before I entered the contest. Now I do! And guess what? I even got an honourable mention. Thank you Judge Jules! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Norah!

      • Norah

        My pleasure. I meant to add it to my flash post, but forgot. How could I not share it when I got a mention! Surely it gives me bragging rights, momentarily at least. 🙂

  14. D. Wallace Peach

    This was a really fun challenge and I love getting a chance to read so many of the submissions. Congrats to Deborah and to the runners-up and the judges’ favorites. I’m looking forward to the next batch. 🙂

    • Liz H

      I loved reading so many of the entries, as well! Looking forward to the January digital compilation in January, but happy to have this taste right now!

    • Charli Mills

      It was a fun form to write. I enjoyed it as a challenge, too. The entries were so creative. It will be fun when the collection all comes together. And, yes, I’m looking forward to the next batch, too!

      • D. Wallace Peach

        Each challenge had a twist to it, Charli, that I really enjoyed.

      • Charli Mills

        The beauty of the Ranch is its collection of individual writers.

  15. Annette Rochelle Aben

    This is so much fun! Congrats to all the winners.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Annette!

  16. Liz H

    Congratulations to Debora, and to Joelle! And to all the judges’ favorites with their clever and touching entries. Can’t wait to see the rest in January!

    Also, many, many thanks to the judges who supplied feedback and recognition to so many. We have such a talented group here at the Ranch (thanks Charli!), they had had their work cut out for them!

    • Charli Mills

      The judges have not had an easy time with so many talented writers! It’s going to be a great collection to read!

      • Liz H

        I’ve been loving the sweet sips we’ve been getting here in the results posts!

      • Charli Mills

        Ah — sweet sips! As we wait for the brew to finish. 🙂

  17. julespaige

    You all are up way to early for me… or it’s just that I have another routine that I didn’t get to be here until now. Thanks to all who entered contests and wrote challenges, to my co-judges and of course to our lead Buckaroo who made us bend and stretch and reach for the stars!

    While poetry is my first love, I also have been inspired to explore flash fiction and meet some fantastic folks here at Carrot Ranch from all over the place!

    Write on!

    Hugs all around, Jules

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Jules! Ah — I posted after midnight so we could be announce across the globe. Then I went to bed! 🙂 Thank you for leading Rodeo Contest #3 and for creating such an inventive literary form. I enjoyed how the poetry and flash melded. You had many talented writers with inspired entries!

  18. Colleen Chesebro

    Congratulations to all these fine writers. The septuplet form is an interesting concept. Great poetry and excellent stories. ??

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Colleen!

  19. Judy E Martin

    Congratulations to all of the winners, it can’t have been an easy decision to make as those featured are of such a high standard. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Judy!

  20. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    These are fantastic. I am sad to have missed this one. After seeing these beautiful examples, I may just revisit the challenge and try it out!
    Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions – wonderful work!

    • Charli Mills

      I thought I’d have difficulty with it, but the challenge made me rethink a scene from my WIP and I liked the result. It’s an inventive form! Thanks, Lisa.

  21. Anna Nyms

    Congrats on everyone one who won and congrats on everyone who wrote something.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anna!

  22. robinettercleave

    Wow!! Great stories – I loved reading them all. And now I know what a septolet is! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      An interesting form, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by!

  23. dgkaye

    Fantastic entries. Congratulations to all who entered and to Deborah for winning. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Debby!

  24. robbiesinspiration

    Congratulations to all the entrants and to the winners. Lovely pieces here.

  25. Kerry E.B. Black

    Magical! Good job, everyone!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing your septolet, Etol! It was a tough contest with so many terrific entries.


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