January 11: 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.

January 12, 2018

Could it be Canada’s gift of a mid-winter Chinook? Perhaps a pressure ridge explained by a climatologist on the evening news that I never watch? Whatever the reason, Lady Lake has retreated to her ice-water mansions and allowed the Keweenaw to recall blue skies.

On my walk, I follow the road that curves downhill, and an unexpected melt exposes pavement like random ink blots. In a region with less snow, one might see ground but ours remain firmly girded by mounds of crisp meringue. Along the driveway, the drifts grow taller than the hood of my car.

The previous week, Jasper, one of two huskies I live with, escaped his pen because the snow drifts and the piles I’ve pushed off the deck until it grew taller than a single story of a house created a land bridge similar to the one I imagine first Americans crossing from one continent to another.

Once free of dog fencing, Jasper roamed the neighborhood and found a rabbit. To my great sadness, the rabbit did not survive being discovered by a husky. I knew that bunny — I’d watch him every night after the household sought slumber. It was the bunny-hour when he’d hop from behind Mrs. H’s garage and burrow his way into our dormant garden.

Who minds a bunny in winter eating what remains of unharvested kale? Evidently, Jasper.

We all awoke to crimson snow, blotted like a crude ink painting by a deranged editor has gone mad with a red pen. You can’t blame the dog for following instinct. We hadn’t realized the bridge formed a means of escape. Never had I mourned a rabbit, but somehow as I age life becomes more precious; spilled blood so wasteful.

That’s when the warmth arrived and the snow ceased to fall. Every time I took the stairs, I could see the red snow from the landing window. I wanted fresh precipitation to cover the evidence. Ever notice how difficult it can be to confront our shadow selves? We see dogs as loyal companions because we want to believe in higher motives for us all.

In the end, they are dogs with instincts and we are fallible to protect the life around us. Recently I read a profound statement that each one of us is dying our own way. I’ve heard it before, that we began dying the day we were born. Even Mel Gibson as his famous character, William Wallace said, “Everyone dies, not everyone lives.”

It’s the second part of that line which draws my attention. The snuffing of a winter rabbit reminds me of my own mortality, yet it is the capacity to feel sorrow at its passing that reminds me to live. To know joy we must know sorrow. To live we must confront the inevitability of death. It comes down to choice.

I know what not living looks like. I’ve seen it in the suburbs with families who train up their children to be conformists. I’ve seen it in the rural areas with people choosing to be separatists, carving out hidey-holes and hoarding food for times of impending doom. I don’t want to pretend death doesn’t exist or that I can avoid it in a bunker. I want to live. I want to throw ink and shape the blots into stories that break through conformity and hiding.

Ink has vexed me these past months. Writers depend upon ink as if it were our bloodline — without ink there could be no written stories, no books, no pages of WIPS to mark with an editor’s red pen. My desk holds no quill or bottle, but my printer drinks vials of the stuff. Ink has run dry.

First, it was black. Makes sense, after all, I write and print pages in black ink. To purchase the recommended replacement, it took me a month to save up the extra cash. By the time I replaced it cyan began to falter like a disappearing Keweenaw sky in winter. Yellow followed and soon magenta. Colorless, I switched to grayscale.

Then my printer decided it couldn’t do black anymore. I bought another but it refused to print, saying the colors must be replaced too — it did not have enough ink to maintain printer quality. Is that some analogy for writing (oh, you know it is)? Without the lifeblood, we can’t produce. Without choosing to be ink we go dry and nothing happens. Nothing gets written. No stories emerge.

It took another month to afford the three colors. My list of what I needed to print bloomed. No store carries my printer brand, so I ordered online. When the brown delivery truck arrived I rejoiced. Ink had returned like the sun! Ah, blast it all — the ink catridges fit but my printer declared “can’t detect.” Learning I could return the inks, but needing to print a return slip, I ordered a cheap off-brand.

It didn’t work, either.

Finally, I called the printer company, and after I recited printer models and serial numbers, and tried the ink cartridges with the rep on the line two conclusions arose — first, I ordered an incompatible but correct brand, and second I ordered the wrong brand. My printer would not accept the microchips in either. Microchips? Yes, ink is chipped and I don’t feel good about this technological advance.

Give me ink. Give me life. Let me create freely, unfettered by monitoring, policing, judgment or microchips.

The irony of it all is that I had to order yet a third round of ink before I could return the first two. At least I get my money back for the frst two or else it’d be after the return of daffodils before I was up and printing again. Ink arrived today along with a splurge purchase of a turquoise infinity scarf decorated with golden-red foxes. I plan to wear it to my Vet Center book event.

Tonight I’m late in finishing this post not because of my nocturnal writing preference but because of a follow up to the Jasper story. We blocked his land bridge but he found access to it nonetheless. Knowing dogs, once they catch the scent of prey, they’ll keep sniffing so I’ve become mindful when I let him out and supervise his outdoor time.

Someone else let the two huskies out, and I realized it when I heard the other, Ilya, barking his stranger-danger bark. Thinking, Jasper might be out, I rushed to the door to the deck and pen below and Jasper pushed into the porch. Relieved, I called Ilya who was barking at a man parked on the road that had been ink-blotted the day before but now was buried beneath a fresh snowstorm.

Through the pelting snow, he yelled up to me as I stood on the deck, something about hitting a dog with his truck. Knowing Bobo was inside on the couch, Jasper on the porch and Ilya making conversation in a blizzard difficult, I assured him it wasn’t our dogs. Then he said, “But I hit the dog you just let in.” My heart stilled a brief moment.

By then my SIL had come out and I told him Jasper had been hit…by a huge truck. The man explained it was snowing and he tried to stop when the dog bounded out in front of him but his brakes locked on the fresh ice, and he slid into the dog. He followed Jasper to our place and watched the dog get back into the pen. We thanked him for his kindness in letting us know, otherwise, we’d have had no idea of the event.

Tonight, we’ve monitored Jasper after a call to the vet. No long bones seem to be broken, his stomach is not distended and his gums readily pink (if he had internal bleeding his gums would stay white after pressing upon them because of lack of blood flow). But the dog is contrite and sore. He pressed into my thigh with his big husky head and I crooned in his ear, rubbing his shoulders.

I told him, “Sometimes we get lucky and find bunnies in the big world. And sometimes we get hit by big trucks. But for tonight, you’re alive Jasper and I’m grateful.”

I suppose we seek a balance between reckless living and fear of dying. Don’t be afraid to use your ink, but don’t take it for granted either.

January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

The Evaluation by Charli Mills

“This?”

“Looks like an athlete running.”

“And this?”

“Definitely a giraffe dancing the mamba.”

I can’t tell if the suit showing me ink blots takes my answers seriously. He’s just another cog in the government wheel of oppression.

“This?”

“A storm with black raindrops.”

His pictures are stale blots. After watching FBI agents shoot my mother why would I conform to the government? They killed the adults in our compound. I’m only 13, but I know the freedom he doesn’t.

“This?”

“A deer in the willows.”

My imagination is wet ink. I’ll survive captivity to create a better world.

###

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212 Comments

  1. Norah

    Wow! That flash was totally unexpected. Where was Danni? Where were Cobb, Sarah and Mary? But what a powerful flash. I like your use of the ink blots. It does rather fit your post. The painting of the red-spattered birds is beautiful, but sad when I think of the bunny too. Sounds like the bunny’s blood was obliterated by the truck. I am so pleased that Jasper survived this one. Life is on his side. It’s interesting you write about the balance between reckless living and fear of dying. Each time Hub hears of the passing of another our age, he laments. I’ve lived my life with vulnerability. Since my since passed at age 36, I’ve known life holds no promises. We must enjoy what we have, whatever we do, whatever we choose – this is it, be it our last day or the first of many more. We all know we have to go sometime. I’m not ready to go yet. I wish it was a choice we could make – to stay until we’re ready, dig our heels into the sand like a child and refuse to budge. But it doesn’t work that way. I’m pleased Jasper lives to face another day, (and maybe even going rabbit hunting again. Shhh.)
    Sorry about your ink situation. I had similar problems ordering online cartridges. They were refilled cartridges and made a huge mess of my printer. The company kept pestering me to buy more. It took a serious threat to get them to leave me alone. Obviously notes weren’t made on my profile after the first 100 calls.
    I love the sound of your turquoise scarf – please post a photo. We can’t let our writing dry up like your printer’s ink.

    • Charli Mills

      I have no idea where that flash came from, but go where the prompt leads! I’ve been immersed with Danni, trying to get her darn story firmly rooted in Idaho, and a few days ago Sarah Shull pestered me into writing a scene. So they are getting ink time. When I began the idea of ink for this post, I found the art on Canva and fell in love with the birds and the color. That was before the rabbit. It didn’t hit me until I published how morbid it could be taken. But I’m a bit discombobulated tonight with the adrenaline of Jasper’s escapades. It all makes for interesting art. Oh, my — 100 calls! Unfortunately, those refillable inks can be problematic. I bought the second round from such a source out of desperation. In the end, I have the inks, my dogs are all okay and I have a brilliant new scarf. Best of all — the print pre-sale has FINALLY begun on Amazon. Yes, we live each day as a gift. No one has it figured out, and why lament while we yet breathe? Live! Have a wonderful week! Can’t wait to see where wet ink takes you.

      • floridaborne

        I liked this prompt. It took me back to the early 1990’s. I was given the Rorschach test and one of the ink blots reminded me of a picture of a1960-style motor cycle rider, (painted from feet level. That’s what I said it looked like. I was told later that most people see a butterfly. Ah, the mind of a writer. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! That’s a great response, Joelle! I like that writers can see what “most” do not.

      • Norah

        I’m pleased Danni and Sarah are getting their share of ink time.
        The Canva bird art is beautiful. It’s great to have such a valuable resource to hand.
        I’m pleased you have your ink, your dogs, your scarf … your yet mindset, and your determination.
        Don’t get you hopes up about wet ink. The ideas haven’t fully materialised yet – still wet.

    • Norah

      I didn’t want to blot my copybook, so am back with my contribution https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-140. Have a great week. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I’m learning that it can be a vulnerable time, waiting for the ink to dry. Thanks, Norah! And you have a good week, too!

  2. Ritu

    Oh Charli, I can totally resonate with you on the ink situation.. And our printer is one that is not a readily available model of cartridge, and if it is in a shop here it is mighty expensive, so I have to save up to get them!
    And Thank goodness Jasper is okay! Bruised possibly but still with you and fine.
    I shall explore ink later…!

    • Charli Mills

      I suspect we have the same printer! It’s like saving up to buy a kidney. Sheesh. Yes, Jasper is going to be bruised. He gets to sleep with his people tonight and got one of Ilya’s pain pills. Iyla has old dog hip pain. Jasper was the youngin’ but I think this might cool his heels. Enjoy your ink explorations, Ritu!

      • Ritu

        Bless him!
        Thanks Charli!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I ended up going mono laser printer to solve the ink problem. Whenever I want colour, which isn’t often I head off to Office Works.

      • Ritu

        Sometimes you just have to find your own solutions!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a good idea, Irene.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Huh. From poop to blood, snow reveals its tales of life. Ink.
    That is a spunky flash. Suppose that girl is gonna visit your pages again?

    • Charli Mills

      This is true. I was hoping for more color, but it turned out differently from what I had in mind. And that girl! Who knows, she survived and is determined.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome back, Eric! I enjoyed your flash!

      • Peachcreek Media Corporation

        Thank you. I always thought of myself as a blogger and nonfiction article writer. I have found fiction writing this month has been quite freeing.

    • paulamoyer

      Beautiful and poignant, Eric!

    • Charli Mills

      Really? (That was my bit of sarcasm). 😀

      • floridaborne

        Loosely based on truth. 🙂

    • paulamoyer

      So funny! Thanks for this!

      • floridaborne

        Glad you liked it. 🙂

    • julespaige

      I loves me some sarcasm.
      Computers may rule us yet. Though I’m holding out on becoming too connected. I do however enjoy being connected to the Ranch and its Buckaroos!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

        True — there are good reasons for being slightly connected.

  4. Liz H

    Wow! You’ve had A Week, and it pours out from your very powerful flash.

    Sorry about the scare over Jasper, but I’m glad he’s okay (for now–keep watching, cuz it may be like human whiplash…).

    And if I could add, also, that your struggles with technology and getting-the-damn-thing-to-accept your best-researched solutions really spoke to the creative process. Like a succinct, 21st version of Julia Cameron’s writings on refilling the creative well. In this case, kinda like refilling the creative (ink) well.

    • Charli Mills

      It was more eventful than I normally expect from lake snow. Jasper is doing better but he’s sore and won’t go outside alone. I’m shaking my head at the beautiful artwork for this post I had tripped across on Canva, painting it with ink and then realizing the dog adventures give it a different perspective. That was a creative slip! I love Julia Cameron and the Artist’s Way! The more I see others being creative, the more creative art I expose myself to, the more creative I feel.

      • Liz H

        But oh! “he(’s sore and )won’t go outside alone.”
        Speaks volumes. Poor pup… 🙁

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yep, there was a whole bunch of serendipity doodah in your eventful post.

      • paulamoyer

        Poor Jasper! I love that dog, Sister-Mom!

      • Charli Mills

        Jasper is back to eyeing bunnies, ears perk, and no stiffness remaining.

    • Juliet Nubel

      I loved this!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks for commenting Juliet. Have a good evening!

    • Charli Mills

      And a magnificent artist, Di! Thank you!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. 🙂

    • Liz H

      Nice marriage between the verbal prompt and the photo provided. And your final line…Oy!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Liz. Glad you liked it

    • paulamoyer

      Stunning. With the best line for last.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Paula

    • julespaige

      Every artist has a secret!

  5. Colleen Chesebro

    Whew! I got emotional reading this, Charli. Glad the dogs are all right. I’m back this week. Missing my flash fiction. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Jasper is good and got to spread out on the couch today, Colleen. I’m glad the flash fiction is calling like a word siren. 😉

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Glad to hear Jasper (the rascal) is all right. Wait until you read my flash. I need to explore this character in greater detail! <3

      • Charli Mills

        I love it when characters appear. There’s a distinct difference (for me) between catching a story and having a character show up with a story I don’t know yet.

    • paulamoyer

      Absolutely stunning, Colleen! That last line completely blew me away. I read the story twice.

      • paulamoyer

        This is in the wrong place; I’ll retrace my steps. Sorry!

    • Charli Mills

      How sweet to dedicate your flash to your left-handed Lil Princess, Ritu!

      • Ritu

        She was sitting next to me as I sat down to create, and just happened to mention smudging her writing, and that was it!
        It’s tough for lefties out there!
        Thanks Charli!

      • Charli Mills

        It is. Good thing she has an attentive Mama!

    • paulamoyer

      Left-handedness and wet ink are apparently a popular link! Loved the way you captured the dilemma of the smear.

      • Ritu

        Thank you so much Paula!

    • julespaige

      I’ve got lefties in my family. I learned to cut left handed as a pre-school
      teacher so I could teach my little lefties. I also played with trying to write with my opposite dominant hand. 🙂

      You can’t tell who is a lefty when typing :0

      • Ritu

        That last comment is very true!!!! The things we learn as teachers, eh! I am becoming adept at writing in cursive upside down too!

      • Norah

        Both you and Ritu are as clever as you are compassionate, Jules.

  6. denmaniacs4

    There is no joy in this submission, Charli. Sometimes we descend into a cavern of despair. I am sure you know that.

    Bitter Ink

    Jowls droop, fleshy things they are, dangling like fudgy cleavers, poised to slaver and savour his shabby instincts which tauntingly venture deep beyond the pale.

    Eyelids, bulbous and midnight dune, glint dull in the moonlight, his bruising purple prose, vile acid-tainted dispatches from his fatuous demons, etching the air, scratching our communal spine, cavorting to the venom of his dark refrain.

    Lips, antediluvian lips, fouled by callous conversations held in rooms of gold, rarely resist pronunciations from his poisoned pen.

    Our spirits marrow is breached, the seepage flows into our organs, our minds, our dreams, with its bitter ink.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      What a beautiful lyrical piece. You have given me such a vision with this one. It also makes me think Shakespeare.

    • anuragbakhshi

      My God, that was powerful stuff.

    • Liz H

      You’ve tRumped the prompt…Bravo!

    • julespaige

      Looks like someone let the ‘Dark Shadows’ in…
      Yep I agree with Irene.
      A fine poised pen indeed.

    • Charli Mills

      How profound, Bill. And sometimes we must dip the quill into the shadows, let the bitter ink escape so it doesn’t recirculate. Alas, for some it can be too late. Beautiful writing.

    • Norah

      Wow! That’s a deep piece of writing.

    • Juliet Nubel

      A fabulous flash, Colleen.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thank you, Juliet. Much appreciated. <3

    • Liz H

      Cool…and with a touch of your signature magic!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Wow… what a compliment. Thanks, Liz. You’ve made my day! <3

    • julespaige

      Ooooh… spooky.
      🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Brain explosions are the best! 😀 Well, creatively speaking, that is. What a great flash of inspiration and writing, Colleen.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I feel like a school girl! Thank you so much. It’s those “flashes” of creativity that thrill me. <3

    • paulamoyer

      Ah, here we are. Colleen, I loved this story. So much in keeping with your paranormal theme. The idea of tattoos taking a life of their own and the character in the tattoo speaking to the tattoo artist. Last line — my mind is officially blown.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Hello, Paula. Fantasy and the paranormal fascinate me. There are so many possibilities. Thank you kindly for your compliments. I’m just happy you enjoyed it. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sascha, good to see you at the Ranch!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you are enjoying the challenge, Dan! I enjoy it and the results each week, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing the link, sometimes the pingbacks go into outer space. Aw, Jasper doing well, Thanks, Annette!

  7. Juliet Nubel

    Hi Charli, I gasped my way through your post today. I’m so glad that Jasper is fine. Pets are so precious.
    I haven’t taken the time yet to read everyone’s entries. I shall do that tomorrow. But these words were swirling around my head all day so I’m setting them free now before I go to bed.

    Dear John

    She almost began with ‘My Darling’ but this letter had to be the last, so she wrote simply ‘Dear John’.

    Then, weeping silently, she listed the reasons she wanted to leave him after thirty long years.

    She could take no more of his sporadic, misplaced fury. It coated her in a dirty, thick sludge of angry words which sullied and betrayed their miraculous marriage.

    As she folded the page, the tear-soaked ink became a bright blue pool of illegible smudges.

    So she crumpled it, slipped into bed beside her tortured, grieving spouse, and wrapped him tightly in her arms.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Juliet that was lovely. It makes me think too of how many of our actions on the spur of the moment would be put away if the ink was wet. Sometimes just the writing of them is all that is needed for catharsis.

      • Juliet Nubel

        Thanks Irene. You’re right. Spur of the moment actions can have irreparable consequences. I have written many an angry word which I am glad I never sent. Have a lovely day!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Maybe she could write him a second letter, one that begins,’My Darling’ and that asks him to write back.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Brilliant. Great ending.

      • Juliet

        Thanks! ????

    • julespaige

      This reminds me of when one spouse is taken by dementia – and no longer knows or understands the love of their spouse.
      It is so hard to leave … if the relationship was good.

      And yet there are many a marriage where the routine is such that the spouses are just together for the show of it.

      But being abused in any form… is something that it takes courage to leave.

    • Charli Mills

      What a stunning flash this week, Juliet! What you wrote reminds me that our stories are carried on emotion and action — we don’t always have to “know” what is happening, but get hooked into caring for the characters and their struggles. And Jasper is doing well!

      • Juliet

        Thanks, Charli. I’m still amazed at how much can be conveyed in so few words. It is a real challenge, trying to achieve a good mix of emotion and action in just 99 words. A challenge I love! I’m glad Jasper is fine.

  8. notyouraveragemomblogweb

    The inspiration for this story came to me in the shower when I was thinking about how my children hardly ever pick up a pen. One day we will see writing instruments become obsolete for new technology. I for one feel sadden by this fact. I still have a box filled with old notebooks that have handwritten poems and short stories from my youth. My children are less likely to have a box full of things in their closet when they are older and more likely that they will just have a file on a device. So, here is my story:
    https://notyouraveragemomblogweb.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/flash-fiction-the-pen-is-not-mightier-than-the-tablet/

    • Liz H

      Oh, the foolish rejection of the simpler technologies. Sadly, my kids are the same way about reading books for pleasure…Hope they find their way back!

    • julespaige

      While I think cursive is going by the way-side – my grandson is still learning how to write. But he is very capable with his tablet –
      yep only in second grade. I didn’t even learn to type until I was in 6th grade. And that was on a manual!

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, Heather, I know what you mean. I’m so sentimental over those stashed boxes. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future. I hold out hope for creativity always pushing for expression.

  9. noelleg44

    Sorry to hear about the bunny, Charli, but a dog is a dog. We had one (hald Rottweiler and half Doberman and sweet) that used to bring them home as a gift but they weren’t harmed. He carried them in his mouth. We would box them with some heat until they were back to normal and left them way out in the woods. As for the ink, I’m with you! There have been times when I’ve wanted to take my printers – I have two – and throw them down the stairs!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing your dog and bunny story, Noelle! I think many breeds do have a “soft” mouth. How sweet that he was gifting you his finds. And as for the printers, yes, I was at the point of tossing, but for the moment, it’s good to print again.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

    • Norah

      Oh, yes. I remember – so very true.

  10. dancjulian

    It has just occurred to me that this prompt lacks only the letter ‘h’ and a slight change in spacing to become ‘we think’.

    Thanks for making us think.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! That’s great! Yes, I do “think” that our shared stories give us all pause to think about creating and reading.

    • Norah

      I like it!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Ah, Jeez, Kid! Look here, another dang cephalopod!”
      “Yep, this ranch its all kinds a critters from time ta time.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “Gits, not its. Read on down below to git the meanin'”

      • Liz H

        Pullman fan…

    • Charli Mills

      I think you inspired some playful responses to your flash and blots, Jack!

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Wonderland

    “Kid ya kin sure shovel it. Barn looks good.”
    “Yep, shovelin’ manure’s a winter chore I got talent for.”
    “Kid, ever think about goin’ on vacation, mebbe travel?”
    “Uhuh. Leave the ranch? There’s so much goin’ on. This is the place ta be.”
    “Hmmph. Ain’t snow an’ cold Down Under.”
    “Still thinkin’ ‘bout trippin’ down there?”
    “Nah, best keep an eye on ya here at the ranch. B‘sides, thet snow sure is purty.”
    “Yep.”
    “Kid?”
    “Yep?”
    “Where’d all the shit from the barn go, anyway?”
    “Ph.D.”
    “Huh?”
    “Piled higher an’ deeper.”
    “But where?”
    “Spring’s comin’. All will be revealed.”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ph. D. Ha ha ha ha. Great fun as always.

    • Charli Mills

      Yeah, that “all will be revealed” part is troublesome. Maybe spring is when we need to be Down Under!

  12. floatinggold

    I really enjoyed reading your printer and bunny vs. dog vs. truck story. So full of meaning.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for reading and pondering!

  13. julespaige

    Charli… it is true that children know more than they tell. I remember that test from taking it once as a child when my parents were going through a difficult time… And then also in College classes. We can only hope that every child can be thinking of the good of all – but often survival is the only instinct left when such horrors occur.

    I went with a memory…
    Dusty Bottles All in a Row

    Dusty Bottles All in a Row
    .
    The wet colored ink is mostly dry… but there was a time
    that an Italian Glass Fountain pen had been used to write.
    Frequently dipping for the store of ink in the nib only scripted
    six to eight letters.
    .
    Poems, thoughts, the importance of actual communication
    through postal correspondence. That was one way to occupy
    the time of day when alone for a spell and other chores were
    put on hold with the prospect of believing the recipient really
    cared about you.
    .
    Oh, the colors; purple, orange, green – flowing into and
    gripping the warp and weft of woven paper…
    .
    ©JP/dh

    (The periods are space keepers… that’t the only way I can keep my line spaces tight when I copy and paste.)

    • Juliet Nubel

      I could really see all these colours in that Italian glass fountain pen, Jules. Nice!

      • julespaige

        The pen is clear and green the inks were different colors.
        The photo to the right, mine is more green. I got it at a book store. 🙂
        Glass fountain pen

      • Juliet Nubel

        So does it change the colour of the inks inside it? Looks very pretty anyway.

      • julespaige

        The pen doesn’t change color. I used different color ink. The swirls in the glass tip are what hold the ink in the nib. Like a straw holding fluid – capillary action.

      • Juliet Nubel

        Yes, I just wondered if the green glass made us see the ink differently on the inside of the pen before it came out onto the page…

      • julespaige

        I think most of the nibs are clear glass – but that is a nice thought to imagine the ink or ideas spilling differently from the insides of the pen through the insides of us. When using any type of fountain pen there is much to consider when the ink is drawn – the handwriting of the writer, the pressure of the pen on paper, the mistakes of extra ink or too little when the paper grabs or does not accept the ink deep enough. I saw one pen that had a marble colored glass shaft… that could put forth a rainbow of ideas I think 😀

      • julespaige

        Also if you click the link of glass pens you can see details of the nib or tip.

      • Liz H

        I’m looking at the picture of the fountain pen, and reading your comment that starts “I think most of the nibs are clear glass – but ” and I see a short story needs to be written…by you! 🙂

      • julespaige

        First and foremost. But fiction is fun too. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Is it terrible that now I want a $295 glass pen from Italy? Yes, I see there are much more affordable ones. For the discerning writers, indeed. You brought the pen to life in your flash, too.

      • julespaige

        Mine is of the $20 ilk. I think they would work the same as the more elaborate pens. I suppose the bigger the glass nib the more ink it would hold. But it does take some getting used to to use. Keep your ink well handy. 🙂

  14. mrmacrum

    My effort is up – https://lostinthebozone.blogspot.com/2018/01/crime-in-99.html

    My first try was a 300 word epic. When I read it, I pulled a few sentences out and expanded them slowly until I felt good about the result. Seems I am finally feeling very comfortable again with flash. This one fell into place quite nicely.

    “Crime in 99”

    Outwardly, Harold was a picture of calm as the cop pressed his hand into the ink saturated blotter.

    Sgt. Pine handed Harold a towel. “Confirmation prints, Mr. Jenkins.”

    “Confirmation prints?” Harold stopped wiping his hands. His stomach knotted.

    “You mean elimination prints, yes?” Harold felt his blood begin to rush.

    “No sir. Confirmation ……. You said you saw the victim through the window and never went inside, right?”

    “Uh, Yes,…that’s right.”

    “Well, we found a print with a nick running through it. We think the perp cut himself recently.” The cop’s eyes sparkled.

    Harold slowly turned over his hand.

    • Juliet Nubel

      I like this!

      • mrmacrum

        Thank you. I was pleased also. It feels like it could work as a beginning or an end, yet seems to stand on its own just fine.

      • Juliet Nubel

        Yes, it could. But it’s perfect on its own too.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good process to take and look at what a fabulous result you got this week! Love that last line.

  15. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I can’t get past the image of the giraffe doing the mamba Charli.
    I understand your ink problem. Mono laser for me and the problem is solved. The bunny is sad – I think we have so much exposure to horrible events, catastrophes, wars, terrorist bombs, natural disasters that we can’t allow ourselves to be affected by them all or we would all have PTSD. Instead it is those small (in comparison) and often involving animals that we allow our grief to concentrate on. I can visualise that it did look like ink in the snow. I’s so glad that Japsper is alright.
    I apologise the prompt prompted but in such a way that I couldn’t get it to 99 words so it morphed into something else. https://irenewaters19.com/2018/01/14/the-blot-99-word-flash-fiction/

    I’d no sooner published than a story from my childhood came to me. I’m afraid you have them both.
    https://irenewaters19.com/2018/01/14/skeletons-in-the-closet-99-word-flash-fiction/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Both well worth having. Isn’t that the way sometimes, one thing leading to another.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        You’re too kind D. One thing does lead to another for which I’m thankful most of the time.

    • Liz H

      Doubled my pleasure…and made me Google “Dutch Courage”!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        It is something as a writer that it is so easy to fall into the trap of – idioms that may only be known in the country of origin.

      • Liz H

        Add flavor, though…yum!

    • Charli Mills

      You know, that’s a good insight, Irene. We are bombarded with terrible news and we seem to detach from it all. Yet, one bunny snuffed out in bloody seems to get through and remind us how fragile life can be. And how lucky the dog is! You have a splendid idea to solve the printer issue.
      And thank you for double the stories! Always good to see inspiration flowing.

  16. robbiesinspiration

    Sorry to hear about the bunny and then Jasper’s accident. At least he wasn’t hurt. Interesting prompt, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so relieved he wasn’t hurt and it was so good for the driver to stop and let us know. Sad about the bunny, but already another has taken it’s place

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Double Trouble
    “Shorty sent ya ta town?”
    “Yep, said she needed ink.”
    “Hope she also told ya not to talk ta strangers, ta stay on the trail, ta not take magic beans nor wooden nickels in trade.”
    “Fairytale funny, Pal. I’m smarter than ya think.”
    “Ya went ta the General Store I hope.”
    “Well, I was headed there but there was this guy on the corner.”
    “Uh-oh.”
    “Who had some good deals on ink cartridges. Only slightly damaged. From fallin’ off his cousin’s wagon.”
    “What’d he look like?”
    “Dunno. He stayed in the shadows. Spoke with an accent. Offered good deals.”
    ***
    “Kid, that was Nanjo! Tell me ya didn’t git ink from Nanjo.”
    “I didn’t git ink from Nanjo. Got this.”
    “A bucket? You bought ink by the bucketful?”
    “No, Pal. They’s squids in there.”
    “You got squid, Kid?”
    “Yeah. Feller said we’d never run outta ink if we had us some squid. Squirts ink if ya scare ‘em.”
    “I’m gonna scare the ink outta you, Kid.”
    “Squid. Jeez Pal, yer color’s changin’. Like a squid.”
    “We cain’t be keepin’ squid on the ranch!”
    “Pal, who’s Amari? Guy said, call Amari ta git rid of squid.”
    “That’s calamari, Kid.”
    “Squid.”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha ha ha. Loved the second one.

    • Liz H

      I have a feeling Nanjo will be a frequent shady visitor to The Ranch…stay tuned, folks, and keep your coin purses close!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Funny D. Poor Nanjo – he is probably a little worried at the moment with his investment falling in value.

    • Charli Mills

      Those two are double trouble! But highly entertaining. The squid, Kid is downright slapstick. 😀

    • Norah

      I just love this pair. Call Amari. Love it too! 🙂

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    My turn!

    Story Hunting

    Recognize the spoor, like that tuft of hair on the twig, blood like ink on the ground; this one’s been hunted before. It’s okay if someone else spooked it, if it crosses your path it’s fair game. Don’t follow too close, don’t give chase too soon. A direct approach will send it running. Same with your searching eyes; relax, over-focus and you’ll never see it. Trust your quarry to come into focus.
    The shot has to be well aimed and certain. Make sure it’s in the clear, ready for its own end, final and swift. Bam, end of story.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Did it again, fired too soon. This one’s cleaner.

      Recognize the spoor, that tuft of hair on the twig, blood like ink on the ground; this one’s been hunted before. It’s okay if someone else spooked it, if it crosses your path it’s fair game. Don’t follow too close, don’t give chase too soon. A direct approach will send it running. Same with your searching eyes; relax, over-focus and you’ll never see it. Trust; your quarry will reveal itself to you. The shot has to be well aimed and certain. Make sure it’s in the clear, ready for its own end, final and swift. There; there’s a story.

      https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/story-hunting/

      • Liz H

        That’s it right there. Tolerance for ambiguity, the tease of letting the wave build in itself, then diving the crest just so and riding it to shore…
        Nice!

      • Charli Mills

        Clean shot! I was hoping the Kid and Pal were going to let D. take a turn. And a good turn you took!

    • Norah

      I think I prefer your first. I read it twice and was quite impressed by how well it was told, and finished. Perhaps I appreciated it too much to prefer the second. I thought it was spot on target.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I guess I tried to de-violence it a bit…emphasize the not trying too hard to see something…
        I haven’t hunted in decades but I know that looking too hard for anything makes it hard to find.

      • Norah

        Hmm. That’s interesting. Maybe I should stop trying? 🙂

  19. susansleggs

    Snow high enough to form a bridge. In western NY we get that. Another thought provoking prompt.

    Unexpected News – Flash Fiction

    With great excitement and anticipation I opened my son’s first letter since he had joined the Air Force. I expected personal news and an address. I got the opposite.
    “I’m sure you don’t know, Dad told me to never come home again for enlisting without his blessing. I don’t think it’s safe to give you any contact information because he will force you to choose between him and me. I’m sorry.”
    My sudden tears wet the ink. I realized any letters would have to be kept secret and I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwwee. So awful for the woman.

    • paulamoyer

      Heartbreaking and very well done.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, you’ve captured that sometimes contentious time between fathers and sons and expectations with mother caught in the middle.

    • Norah

      Wow, what a choice to make. I hope son does make it home and that mother and son are reunited. It would be too sad otherwise, but I guess it must happen that way too often.

  20. Michael B. Fishman

    It’s difficult to get mad at an animal doing what’s instinctive but like you mentioned, it’s reassuring that we can at least still feel remorse and compassion. Whether it’s a winter rabbit or a cow or a chicken. . . or a person standing outside in sub zero weather holding a cardboard sign asking for our help. I think what’s saddest is with the knowledge of death facing us how we continue to prioritize and live our lives but maybe it’s that that keeps us sane? Anyway, I didn’t quite understand your flash because the mention of a compound made me wonder if the narrator wasn’t a member of a cult and then a flash of the Pine Ridge shootout from however many years ago flashed into my mind and I think that makes more sense.

    Here’s mine:
    https://michaelsfishbowl.com/2018/01/14/when-she-holds-me-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-challenge/

    • Charli Mills

      The dog is being a dog is simple; humans navigating life becomes complex, and yes I think keeping sane is about compartmentalizing the complexities. When I wrote my flash I had an image of a teen girl having some sport with the Rorschach test. Then I wondered who she was and what she was trying to hide. Are you thinking Ruby Ridge? I lived in North Idaho just a few miles from Ruby Ridge. I wasn’t there when it happened but we encountered the odd subculture of the separatists. I then thought about a compound like a cult would have, perhaps Waco. Then I wondered, what if these cults or extremist groups were really the heroes of the story and their offspring would fight on? A lot of thoughts for just 99 words!

  21. Chelsea Owens

    https://chelseaannowens.com/2018/01/14/wait-for-it-to-dry/

    “Nearly done, darlin’.” Her purpled tongue-stub protruded.

    “Sue’s the best,” they’d said, in town.

    I flinched. “I wouldn’t do that.” Her potato-skin face was expressionless. Cataract-blue globes never strayed from her age-veined fingers.

    “Just don’ get the snake,” an old-timer warned.

    A stool creak told me Sue was done. I peeked, gasped, and shifted my shoulder to view the deep golds and blues of the dragon’s ink-birthed scales.

    Sue looked …the same. “Don’t you forget to let ‘im dry,” she scolded.

    I nodded, paid, left. Absentmindedly, I slipped on my jacket. It was cold, everywhere except my arm…

    • Liz H

      Nice, subtle, sharp!

    • Charli Mills

      “Ink-birthed scales…” that’s a great line. Your flash sharpens the moment.

    • Charli Mills

      Hola, Anurag! It’s just a hay barn. 😀 But your offering is appreciated!

  22. paulamoyer

    I’m back!

    Blue Marks

    By Paula Moyer

    Being left-handed is over-rated. So Jean thought as she assessed the past hour’s journaling. The blank book and the gel pen seemed like a good idea. But now she looked down. The writing was not legible due to the smudges. And big, blue circles shone on each knuckle of each finger.

    It looked like more than just a left hand sweeping across still-wet ink before it dried. As if the ink were more plenteous than that used by right-handed people.

    Both moved left to right. While right hands moved across virgin paper, lefts caught all the marks. Held grudges.

    • Abby

      I love the ‘held grudges’ poetically pulling together the whole story. I’d never thought about the technicalities of writing left handed!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Superb last line.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Right? Lefties get left in a lurch writing from left to right.

    • Liz H

      This also: “As if the ink were more plenteous than that used by right-handed people.”
      Nicely penned!

    • paulamoyer

      Thanks for all the kind remarks, everyone! It is nice to be back.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Paula! Good to see you at the Ranch! That last paragraph explains the dilemma, but the final line captures the heart of it.

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Charli! Looks like left-handedness and wet ink go hand in hand for a couple of us….

  23. Abby

    My contribution came to me as I was driving west in the rain, pondering the two pieces I wanted to write. Wet Ink, and An Afternoon to Remember (300, for my writer’s group). As fate would have it, inspiration for both was handed to me in spades. Hazard Lights

    • Liz H

      Nice approach and commit. You took us along for the ride and at the end…I won’t saw cuz spoiler alert. Click the link and read!!

      • Liz H

        (“saw” should read “say”…Urgh!)

      • Charli Mills

        I thought maybe saw was a hint, like cutting away! 🙂

    • paulamoyer

      Lovely!

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes circumstances unfold as if they’ve read our minds. It dealt you good material, Abby!

  24. susansleggs

    Charli, this one is for you. There are others who understand and deal with loved ones who suffer with PTSD. You are not alone.

    PTSD Personified
    “Doc, my family feared I would die shortly after the ink was dry on my enlistment papers. Now I’ve made it back home without a visible wound they want me to tell them what my days were like: what I ate, what I saw, if I met any nice girls. They have no idea all the Army wanted from me was a body count. Having done what I was expected to do in order to survive, now I am dead inside. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night because of the nightmares and ashamed I made it home.”

    • Charli Mills

      What a kind gift of a story, Susan! Thank you. A local Vietnam veteran said, “Yet it’s sad that the ones who don’t fight for freedom are the only ones who get to be free.” Your flash gives a story to military PTSD is like.

  25. Annecdotist

    Another smorgasbord of perfect metaphors. Sorry about your dog’s misadventure. I imagine blood in the snow is rather more disturbing than urine, and reminds me of a novel I read last year where they liked the snow – I think – because it showed up the devil’s footprints.
    Sorry about your printer problems too, those inks can be quite awkward and expensive. Still it took you to a great flash (and artwork).
    I’ve taken to checking the prompt and finding my response before reading your own contribution, it looks as if I’ve written the “prequel” to yours. Great minds!
    Hope your scarf is well received at the launch! Good luck!
    My fast first draft three years on #amwriting http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/01/my-fast-first-draft-three-years-on.html

    • Charli Mills

      The idea that snow kept a community safe because it shows the devil’s footprints sounds very American colonial. Interesting ideas about their paranoia stemming from terror of the wilderness to New World molds on the grains they grew making colonists a tad crazy. I’m sure that blood on the snow would be a bad sign. It’s now covered up with more snow as if it never happened. Ha! A prequel works just fine for our great minds! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      It’s nuts, and yes, it profits driven not consumer need driven. My SIL pointed out to me that the ink cartridges have computer chips, so that’s why off-brands are incompatible. Yeah, I had ink all over my fingers! Great flash this week.

  26. Kerry E.B. Black

    Artistic Pages
    written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Youngest of the order, Brother Seamus crafted ink by scraping carbon from candle backs, crushing Gum Arabic, and adding drops of wine to reach the correct viscosity. He carried a bottle stained black to replenish his brothers’ failing supplies. They hunched over vellum made from animal skins stretched until translucent. Hours, weeks, and months bled into each of their artistic pages. Awed by a piece, Brother Seamus leaned closer, forgetting himself. Fresh ink poured over an illuminated letter, marring the holy scene. His eyes widened in horror, and Brother Seamus fled before the artist broke his vow of silence.

    • Liz H

      Awesome! You pushed me beyond the final word to the inevitable what happens next…

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        Oh, thank you! I am glad you were invested in his plight!

    • Charli Mills

      All the painstaking care to creating the inks and the pages and both lost to a single fumble. Great flash, Kerry!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Ben! Good to see you at the Ranch this week!

  27. Liz H

    In remembrance of what we have yet to do:

    But the People Can’t Wait

    He lay the quill down beside his Manifesto, reaching to close the cap on the near-empty inkwell.

    Leaning back, he gazed out his window at the sunrise, the horizon full with rooftops. It was a sign of Providence for the impoverished people of his city, he decided.

    His fingers rasped over his many-days growth of beard, poetical hair flowing long and dark over his shoulders… like the ink that had poured from his pen!

    “Finished?” Eliza’s heels clicked over the bare wooden floor. “Let’s get moving, then!”

    “The ink’s still wet! Let me enjoy my moment!”

    “We’ve no time.”

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/but-the-people-cant-wait/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Can we trust her? What if she’s planning a smear campaign?

      • Liz H

        Oh, she’s all about action and getting good things done. Him? He needs a nudge… 😉

      • Liz H

        Oh, you punster, you! I just got it…

    • Charli Mills

      Rather prophetic — the US declared its Independence and our nation has been in a “let me enjoy the moment” and women are speaking out and saying, nope, we have got to DO this not just declare it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie!

  28. existentialtableau

    This is great. I’m new on this site, but you clearly are a talented writer.

  29. Pete

    Damn, I missed this prompt. Oh well, here’s my tardy response…sappy and all…

    I never read the note without crying. Even while I know it’s weaponry in each fold, each stain, each slanted loop of the letters. Perhaps I know best the hesitation parked between E and D in LOVED.

    She loveD me.

    And a million tiny decisions hitched that D to the E. Knocked a majestic word from its perch. It gave the note its bite, it’s meaning, its weight in my hands. It’s why it looks romantically beige in the sunlight, modernly blue in the glow of a device, tragically silver beneath a full moon, yet always blurry at Goodbye.

  30. neeltheauthor- author of WHEN LIFE THROWS THOSE CURVE BALLS

    SINK IN THE INK
    By Neel Anil Panicker
    This was Rita’s first attempt at writing fiction, a short story at that. Truth was this was her very first attempt at writing anything.
    Rubbing off the early morning blearedness from her eyes, she reviewed her piece, ensuring there were no loopholes left unplugged as far as character, plot, dialogue and point of view were concerned __the stock tools of the writer.
    Finally, she heaved a sigh of relief.
    Her attempt was good. She had poured her sorrow onto the page.
    It had turned into wet ink and created a masterpiece.
    The perks of a failed marriage, she averred.
    ©2018neelanilpanicker #fiction #shortstory

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rugby!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks for your old time rag piece, Denise!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Lucy!

  35. Liz H

    A sad ending for a very fine pen.

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