February 1: 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.

February 2, 2018

My winter habit is not flattering. The drab-green wool coat is oversized to fit layers of bulky clothes over a bulky body. Dry air makes static of my hair which I braid and stuff into a fur-lined mad-bomber found at the thrift store. My face beams pale as a winter full moon. Dressed against Lady Lake’s constant onslaught, I feel captive to my winter clothes.

I’m going to a dance class once a week and I disrobe before entering — unwrap the scarf, unbutton the coat, kick off each boot and pull my thick socks back up. Next, I remove the hat and my hair has enough electricity to form a halo I haven’t earned yet.

Every fiber cries out to flee but my body disobeys instinct and lumbers into the room with the black floor. My daughter teaches here. She’s spent a year coping with deep injuries and adjusting to an autoimmune disorder. And yet still she dances. The class she has convinced me to try is Feldenkrais. I know it has helped her through her injuries and pain, but I’m no dancer.

In fact, I tend to be a walking head. Body awareness is something I gave up incrementally as pain drove me from the body into the greater and less painful expanse of the mind. I used to ride horses, leaping over irrigation ditches and riding the heights of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve skied Black Diamond trails in the Tahoe Basin; I’ve rodeoed and ranched; hauled hay and worked road construction. I didn’t dance but my body was strong.

Now I write strong. I live in my head and ride the currents of Lake Superior and race my characters over trails on horses from the Pony Express. I era-hop and gender-morph. There’s nothing I can’t write and I choose the stories I want to bring to light. I’m in control.

Of my legs, I’m not in control. There I was lying reluctantly on the floor scuffed by jazz shoes. Yes, yes, I was supposed to be on the provided yoga mat but I couldn’t even control that matter. During the last class I agonized over the tight band of rocks that had solidified my hips, and yet by the end of class, I felt soft, shaky and strangely not pained. This class I’m crushing my rib cage, flopping like a trout when the command was “gently flex your ankle…back…and…forth.”

When we switched to the right leg after a series of neck contortions and a “rest” on our backs as my left leg twitched, I prepared for more flopping. But my left side obeyed. I could connect to the movement. Okay, I thought, I’ll use my imagination and pretend to do it on my right because that’s what the instructor had advised us. Everyone else was using their bodies and while we worked both legs, I flopped and seized and pretended like nobody’s business.

After surviving dance class — and mind you, I will insist it’s a dance class. The dancers all think it’s a rest for their bodies, although my daughter has attributed much of her healing to Feldenkrais and is close to achieving her goal of dancing ballet again. My goal is to survive class, pretend my way through it and get to a point where I don’t look like the dying trout on the floor.

After class, I remain shy and don’t speak up about my experience. But I tell my daughter. The instructor politely turns her head to hear and I realize she needs the feedback. So I explain how my leg muscles on one side refused to obey. The first day of physical therapy after a back surgery went wrong, I was dismayed to learn my muscles were not “firing.” They still were not firing seven years later.

However, I could feel it so strongly on my right side that I pretend I felt it on my left. I acknowledged that I didn’t look like I was doing it but in my mind, I was a dancer working her legs. I felt foolish. To my surprise, the instructor smiled and said, “You have good Feldenkrais instinct; that’s exactly what you are to do.” Feldenkrais uses the mind to heal the neuropathy in the body.

Walking up the hill to Milly’s to write while my daughter subs for a jazz class, I feel as if someone just told me I can ride a horse again.

Do nuns feel this way?

Maybe that’s an odd thought but I’ve had nuns on the mind since they came up with a story that Norah Colvin wrote for wet ink. She expressed a story familiar to those with a Catholic education during an era when even public schools used corporal punishment. Her story sparked a discussion about nuns, and I’ve had them on my mind ever since.

The first nun I can recall has no name. It was kindergarten and my mother dropped me off at a baby-sitter’s house before school. She had a town job off the family ranch. I walked five blocks to Sacred Heart Parish School. My family was Catholic; I was not. That’s what happens when teenagers procreate. To say I was an outsider despite my plaid skirt and red sweater was an understatement. Yet, I recall no cruelty from nuns; only family members.

My teacher was not the knuckle-wrapper my father told me he had in school. Instead, she was concerned. I think they were all concerned — unbaptized, rebellious and imaginative. My mind got me busted at age 5. The pet frog was the first to go. My grandfather took care of that one, sharing the imagined moment, asking to hold my frog which I gave him. He then threw it on the ground, squashed it with the heel of his cowboy boot and declared that pet gone.

I tried to explain that the girl I drew on the tree branch was not another imaginary friend, but it caused an emergency parent-teacher conference. I still recall the nun explaining the lesson to my parents — I was to circle the greater amount of birds either below or above the tree branch. Duh. I knew it was the flock of birds above. That’s why I drew the girl flying with them. She wasn’t imaginary. She was me. And I flew with the greater birds.

If my early experiences with nuns disappointed my imagination, my later experiences fed it. After a wonderful, restorative and mind-opening experience at a liberal arts Catholic college in Montana where I learned of the contributions of nuns and anchoresses throughout history (Hildegarde of Bingham, Heloise, Julian of Norwich) I met two former nuns in Minneapolis. That’s where I learned an intriguing concept — nuns who drive.

My friends openly spoke of their convent days and why they joined and why they left. One had been the only nun in her convent with the ability to drive. It was not often a skill a nun needed. She spoke philosophically about nuns who drive in that they are often the ones more apt to try new skills or ideas. They often led. And they often left. Nuns who drive drove away.

I’ve thought of this throughout my creative writing and even wrote a short story about a nun from the 1850s who knew how to drive a wagon. She flees a convent in Hawaii and becomes a mule-skinner in the California gold fields. Her imagined story intrigues me and maybe one day. I’ll rework it and dig deeper into that tale. I’m also inspired by this nun who drives:

After my walk up the snowy streets of Hancock, I wondered if nuns also lived on the Keweenaw. Turns out a parish only 17 miles away in Lake Linden had a large Canadian-French population, cutting timbers for the copper mines. Nuns from Quebec were dispatched to teach parish school in 1886 and continued until the school closed in 1971.

With the tunic-lifting winds and biting snow, I wondered what nuns wore beneath. According to anecdotes and an interesting book about what nuns wear, they would have worn pantaloons or even long-underwear. And thick socks.

I also questioned whether or not nuns would be an appropriate prompt.

My hesitation is that nuns are people, too. I know what it is to be pointed out as “other” and that’s not my intent. On the first day of Black History Month in the US, I think we all need to be mindful of how history has developed in this country. The blunt way to say it is that America was founded on the backs of slaves and indentured female servants, taking lands from indigenous tribes. It’s a history of dehumanization that will nip at our heels until we find a way to reconcile our shared humanity.

And a part of that harsh history is the religious persecution of “other” faiths. Catholics were often despised and persecuted in American history. My ancestors were Catholic Scots deposed from their homeland in the mid-1700s because of their faith. They relocated to the colonies, fought in the Revolutionary War, settled in Missouri and pushed a herd of cattle to California during the gold rush. They built the parish church where I was born and kept their faith throughout all those generations.

I have no nuns — that I know of — in my family, but I do have a priest for a great-great-grandfather. Nothing in life is simple, but our stories are rich, complex and varied. I’m going to expand the prompt to include anything that is black and white from a nun’s habit to a B-stripe juggling ball and chickadee to rigid black and white thinking. To get you creatively motivated, here’s a wonderful video from the KC Bonkers tribe in Hancock. And yes — for those of you with astute eyes who know about my wandering days, that’s my RV stored at the Bonkers family homestead.

Share

I believe art (and the imagination to expres it) is similar to Feldenkrais. We might feel a bit like a flopping trout trying to create it, but if we keep pretending we will build a bridge from what we imagine to the page we write upon.

February 1, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white. It could be a nun in a zebra monster truck, a rigid way of thinking, a bird in a tuxedo — be imaginative and go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 6 , 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

New in Angels Camp by Charli Mills

Sister Maria D’Abreau soaked the hide, tamping it down with a wooden pole. Her black dress felt softer than her habit packed away.

Henry watched, leaning against the corral. “You got laundry skills, I’ll say that much.”

Maria kept silent. What Mother Superior failed to teach her, living rough in mining camps had. She wouldn’t provoke a prickly miner down on his gold dust.

She stopped to test the hide, smiling when the hair slicked beneath her fingers. It would make the chore easier.

Father Kincaid approached. “The lass knows rawhide as well as mules.”

Henry spat. “We’ll see.”

###

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176 Comments

  1. Abby

    Wow! That is one all-encompassing post!
    ‘In fact, I tend to be a walking head.’ must be my favourite line I’ve read all year. I have never managed to put that into words.
    Black and white – great, I can run with this one 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve been a running head this week! 🙂 I’m glad that resonated with you. It felt like a big confession!

      • Abby

        Sorry to have been MIA these last two weeks. I was away for a while I’m hoping to be back on a roll for the next prompt ????

      • Charli Mills

        You are welcome anytime, Abby!

  2. Ritu

    Oooh got some ideas already!

    Your commentary reminded me of the saying Dance like no one’s watching…
    at the end of the day, no matter what you are physically doing, if you are mentally ‘dancing’ that is what matters!
    And I don’t think I’ve ever met a nun before… seen them, never had the chance to speak with one!

    • Charli Mills

      Now I’m thinking, “Dance like only the characters trapped in my head are watching!” Perhaps you’ll get an opportunity to have that conversation one day, Ritu. Thanks!

      • Ritu

        One day, eh Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I think I’d be finding a new lawyer, Joelle!

  3. kim blades, writer

    Hello. My response to this week’s flash fiction prompt, Black and White; is the prologue to the 99 word story I submitted last week in response to the On the Edge prompt.

    Sadie had made her mind up. Finally. Today was the day.
    She could not stand her life the way it was anymore. It had no colour, not even black and white.
    There was only a debilitating, miserable, empty greyness.
    So she deliberately stepped onto the very edge of the cliff.
    Immediately loose stones and sand began to crumble away. Sadie began to slide down with the rubble.
    Suddenly a white hot fear of death that she had thought was her only salvation, suffused her mind and body. She grabbed wildly for something that would stop her falling into blackness.

    • paulamoyer

      Marvelous, Kim! “it had no colour, not even black and white” and the last paragraph with the white hot fear and grabbing for something to “stop her from falling into blackness.” Good structure, good use of the words.

      • robbiesinspiration

        A very good piece, Kim. I can’t imagine feeling that desperate.

    • Charli Mills

      How interesting, Kim! Sometimes we get characters or stories that want us to keep writing them. We see Sadie’s inner battle, and decision that blackness is not going to be her color.

      • kim blades, writer

        Thanks Charli. I get very despondent sometimes so I know how Sadie felt.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s good to be able to write about the hard and dark places we know because we can write ourselves through it. Hugs! <3

  4. bilocalalia - talking about living in two places

    I was also fascinated with nuns as a child. They were the most powerful yet kindest women I knew.
    The theme of darkness and light often appears in my writing, so I’m looking forward to seeing where your prompt takes me.

    • Charli Mills

      Darkness and light, the ongoing battle. It’s such a powerful theme to write to. Thanks, Denise!

  5. Liz H

    “Ohhh my Sweet Lord.” Yes, of course God can be found in a monster truck!

    I sometimes forget how much mindfulness, time, and practice goes into accomplishing even the most usual of daily tasks…walking, eating, frying an egg (holding my tongue when a quick observation or quip wants out). There will likely come a time when I can’t do any of these…perhaps should start building better Karma with those around me.

    And can I just say? Your grandpa was mean—frogs were my best buddies well into my grade-school years. Did you channel that memory into Henry, in your flash?

    Karma (or something like it).

    • Charli Mills

      I loved her bravery and her reaction (finding God!) in that monster truck! Mindfulness is something I’m working on and probably won’t finish. 🙂 And yes, he was mean. He’d have everyone laughing, but he was not a nice person. I think Henry has the potential to carry that mantle. May my imaginary frog rest in peace. He was a good frog.

    • Charli Mills

      An interesting glimpse into another world.

  6. Kerry E.B. Black

    Fondue for Alexis
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    They craft it with care, a perfect balance of dark and white chocolate fondue formed into a yin yang. Black swirls into white in an eternal dance, captivating as the changing seasons or the passage from night to day. She dips fruit, disrupting the balance with impunity. For this the chocolatier created it, a pot of melted goodness for the birthday girl. But I am not ready. I fumble with my camera and miss the photo, didn’t capture the precarious moment when she dangled between youth and adulthood. She chomps her chocolate-coated berry, and the fleeting moment is gone.

    • paulamoyer

      This is a great example of finding and embellishing tension even in small moments, like taking pictures at a birthday party.

    • Charli Mills

      The black and white of the chocolate frames the moment and the dip of the fruit across the design mirrors the narrators missed shot. Suc beautifully poised writing, Kerry!

    • Juliet

      Hi Sarah. Good to see you. I’m waving back.

    • Jules

      Wild waving… (trying to generate heat as our ground hog says six more weeks of winter…)

    • paulamoyer

      Wow. Such a quiet and yet poignant piece. Elegant, Sarah.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sarah! Good to see you at the Ranch!

  7. Juliet

    Good evening (here anyway) everyone. Here is my offering. A definite BOTS one this time. Memories of another life on another continent…

    Sparkly Pink

    What did they care about colour? All they wanted to do was play.

    Diamond sat behind Emma, pulling a long-toothed sparkly comb through her golden curls. She had never touched hair this silky and soft.

    Then it was Emma’s turn to undo, one at a time, her friend’s tightly pleated braids.

    She stuck out her tongue as she concentrated on putting them back together again, with a tiny pink bead on the end of each one. She loved the noise they made when Diamond shook her head.

    Black and white meant nothing to them. Their friendship was sparkly pink.

      • Juliet

        Thanks D! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Great focus on the color that matters most to these two friends.

    • Charli Mills

      Nicely written, Ritu! Thanks!

      • Ritu

        Thanks Charli!

    • Jules

      Life, when kept in the dark can be scary. All we can do is ask… and then sometimes we don’t get the answers we want either.

      • Ritu

        Or cryptic clues…

      • Jules

        Some children only have cryptic clues to go on – especially when their elders think they can hear them (even when the child is in the room). If a child was to be seen and not heard often adults not hearing the child didn’t see them either. Growing up isn’t black and white – every childhood is different.

      • Ritu

        Very true…

  8. Annette Rochelle Aben

    https://wp.me/p4ayEo-2FF My short link in case my ping back doesn’t work. Thank you for the time warp, when I spent two years in a Catholic school and I was NOT Catholic. It was surreal.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Annette, I think you are the first person I’ve met who has experienced that surrealism. I know what a “recovering Catholic” means, but how to describe being among the system without the credentials? Thanks for your story!

    • Charli Mills

      Good story, Michael! Thanks for sharing!

      • Michael

        Thanks Charli..

  9. denmaniacs4

    Test Pattern

    On this bright morning, impaired by a knee that obstinately refuses to function with ease, I succumb, momentarily to the angst of the vast American divide.

    Its pettiness, as expected, depresses me, almost bores me, and I change channels.

    There, the small child, three, face blackened by the ravages of frostbite, a journey of death in the mountains, a loss of two generations of her loved ones, all in the search for a freedom I have always been swaddled in, recovers from surgery.

    And what do I do with this, with this contrast?

    Not much.

    Change the channel again?

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Frostbite black on snow white mountain, gray indifference… so is that a big screen HD TV?

    • Charli Mills

      The contrast of emotions from the expected pettiness to the horrors of recovery from frostbite and yet it does wash over us with a numbness we can’t let take hold. It hits me with irony, too that we are so concerned about our US borders and yet people are risking death and frostbite to flee ours. Poignant, Bill.

  10. Jules

    Charli,

    There are many options for the theme of black and white. My first thought was my favorite cookie… the half chocolate and white ice over a cake like cookie. But I went off in a different direction.

    Your whole post is fascinating. Especially since I’ve started simple Yoga, Tai chi and a book by Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer called ‘breath perception – a daily guide to stress relief, mindfulness, and inner peace.

    This is what I’ve got … so far:
    Tripped Up?
    (title is link to post)

    Bert, the father of two daughters was working three jobs
    to support them. Working full-time for the Township gave
    the gregarious man a small advantage as he was able to
    meet other officials and police officers. He was able to
    acquire one of those get out of jail free cards from one
    of his Detective buddies. Judiciously Bert passed onto
    his eldest.

    Bert knew his daughter had used his gift as soon as the
    black and white parked in front of his house. Jody was
    being guided out of the backseat. At least the lights and
    sirens were off.

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      I think I know those cookies, Jules! And what a clever story hinting at the police vehicle, the “black and white.”

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch!

      • pranabaxom

        Thanks.
        Hope to visit the RANCH again.

  11. Old Jules

    “You were speeding. It’s here in black and white.” He waved his
    radar gun. Beads of sweat around the bulged veins across his
    crimson forehead. His sour breath overwhelmed the exhaust street odor.

    “You’ve got it wrong officer.” Soft, reasonable. Respectful. “I saw your
    black and white. I was behind a car just like this one.” I nodded at the
    radar gadget. “It was him you clocked.”

    “That’s a black lie. You were in front. A white guy. Car behind had a black driver.”

    “But I’m black, officer. I just didn’t want to get shot.” Pulling off my mask.

    • Charli Mills

      This makes me think of the masks we wear to navigate society, and how blind the truth becomes in search of color coding. Good one to make us think!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      Great flash! Thanks for joining us at the Ranch and thanks for being part of the 1% of Americans who know what that kick in the pants is like.

      • goroyboy

        It’s an honor thanks for the warm welcome

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Outside the Ryman, hoping for coffee, watching a couple, animated, agitated; seeing me, they hand me a ticket, say enjoy the tour, walk up the street.
    Not how I dreamed it, but I’m going to the Mother Church. I’m happy to be inside, warm, with clean bathrooms.
    For hours I sit in the pews, awestruck, at the altar of the Grand Ole Opry stage. They say people have seen and heard spirits here. I don’t, but I feel… Sister Patsy, Brother John…
    Finally I leave. Looking up I see, high above this haunted town, a bald eagle, searching, soaring.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for the head’s up, Kay. You wrote a powerful flash, expressing the casualties of such a war.

  13. robbiesinspiration

    An interesting read, Charli. I also went to a convent and Sister Agatha gave me really fabulous books to read. When I think back, I am surprised at some of the books she gave me like When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Fattipuffs and Thinifers.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing that memory, Robbie! When we experience relationships, it’s so much richer than any stereotype we can come up with. Those are some great titles of books!

    • Charli Mills

      Some writers have a muse. You have an imp — cool! I enjoyed your fantasy take on the prompt.

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/black-white/

    Black & White
    He was a good bicyclist, skillful and considerate, always riding to the right of the white line. He used lights and wore a white helmet, making himself visible to drivers. They say he was a good man, teaching children to ride, fixing their bikes.
    His road bike was the green of a sent text message. The truck was black, they think. They found his bike tangled on the yellow line. His white helmet had somehow come off, somehow whole and spinning, spinning, on the silent black tar of the highway. They marked the spot with a white ghost bike.

    • robbiesinspiration

      Oh, that is such a terrible shame.

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of color. Such a tragic tale and yet it’s oddly intimate though we don’t even know his name.

    • paulamoyer

      A great tragic story!

  15. paulamoyer

    Good comments and good prompt, Charli! So sorry about Radio Geek’s health problems. She is a trooper.

    Could not do the nun, but the African American History Month got my wheels turning:

    Bad Signs

    By Paula Moyer

    When Jean was little, she always felt safe. After watching a Western TV show, she came to her mother in the kitchen and said, “Aren’t you glad there aren’t bad guys anymore?”

    “Oh.” Mother stopped and pushed her glasses up her nose. “There are still bad guys.”

    Hairs on Jean’s back stood up. Mother kept the bad guys out.

    One day they were at the train station, picking Daddy up. Signs above drinking fountains gave rules: “Whites only” and “Colored.”

    “Why two fountains?”

    “It’s the law.” A pause. “It’s wrong.”

    “Are the people that made the law bad guys?”

    • Charli Mills

      An astute child and a frightening realization, Paula. I, too, remember those westerns and how clearly the white and black hats were defines. As Jean comes to know, it’s not that simple.

      Thanks, Paula. Radio Geek and Solar Man are good at self-care and committing to what makes them healthier. Me, I have chocolate in my desk drawer!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Sister-Mom! Fortunately, “Jean” had a really great mom for the place and time. She was able to communicate that “de jure segregation” (segregation by law, or Jim Crow) was wrong while the other adults in Jean’s world were defending it. And all while creating a home life where Jean could feel so protected that she thought the bad guys were a thing of the past!

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Dividends

    “What’re you doin’?”
    “Gonna check the books, make sure the ranch’s in the black.”
    “Y’ain’t qualified nor authorized, Pal!”
    “It’s gotta take some green ta maintain all these green pastures, Kid. I worry.”
    “Reckon Shorty figgers it’ll kinda pay for itself.”
    “Been all aroun’ this ranch an’ I ain’t seen a money tree yet Kid.”
    “There’s a bookstore. An’ Amazon sales. Jeez, Pal.”
    “Yeah, yer right. An’ let’s tell folks about the “slot machine” up in the left hand corner, gives great returns on investments.”
    “Don’t lie, or you’ll pay, Pal.”
    “White lie, Kid. It does give great returns.”

    • Norah

      Wonderful! Shorty sure works her fingers to the bone to make sure everything works slick around here. A little bit of green stuff wouldn’t go astray. One can’t live on good wishes alone. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        So I gave it a spin and Pal is right, I got a whole lot a feel good. Better than a slot machine, much better odds. The ranch is a sure thing safe bet. And I saw that you can set up a painless monthly donation, kinda like flash donations. Posted automatically. How cool is that?

      • Norah

        It’s very cool. A little monthly donation of green stuff ain’t too much to ask for the hard work that Shorty puts in, is it. Set it up automatic like, and you don’t even have to think about it. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Norah and D.! It’s good to have help on the Ranch!

      • Norah

        Good help!

    • paulamoyer

      Great story! The mention of Amazon gives a sharp twist into the contemporary world — a twist I was not expecting!

    • Charli Mills

      Danke, Michael!

      • OIKOS™-Redaktion

        Ich habe zu danken! My pleasure. Michael

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Bene Fiction

    “Hey Pal, what’s black and white and read all over?”
    “Jeez… what, Kid?”
    “Flash fiction by the ranch hands!”
    “Har, har Kid, but I don’t think all this flashin’ is so funny. It’s gittin’ outta hand. D’ya see what they’re about this week? It ain’t right.”
    “Pal, what kinda humor does an ornery ole ranch hand have?”
    “Kid….”
    “Nun! Black and white, yer favorite colors, Pal.”
    “Kid, I’m serious, they shouldn’t be puttin’ nuns in monster trucks.”
    “It was un-convent-tional, Pal, but good fun.”
    “It’s outta hand.”
    Why’re ya worried?”
    “Because flash fiction is habit forming.”
    “Oh brother.”
    “Sister.”

    • Norah

      Bene fiction indeed! I love these two. They bring smiles to my day. Anything that does that is great in my books. 🙂

      • Norah

        Good, then keep them comin’. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I never know which one of you is coming or going! 😉 But glad you make a habit of having good fun!

    • Jules

      You’re on fire this week…

  18. Norah

    I almost forgot to comment on your post, Charli. I got carried away with reading the other comments and stories that I forgot about yours! Sorry.
    I really enjoyed your post. The description of you rugged up in your warm clothing amused me no end. I’ve never had to rug up like that. We’re mostly trying to stay cool over here. Our cool would be darn right hot to you! 🙂
    I was also interested to read about your Feldenkrais and dance experience, and agree with what you said about the relationship between your body and your mind. Mine’s pretty much the same. Stephen Fry said the same thing too. I’m not sure if that puts us in good company or not. 🙂 But he is! 🙂
    I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s health issues. I hope she does get to dance soon. I also tried Feldenkrais (quite) a few years ago – trying pilates at the moment. We’ll see how I go.
    It’s interesting that you shied away from the nun prompt. I started my response when it was first mentioned. Now I’m not sure if I should go ahead and try to finish it. I may be no kinder to them than they were to me. Actually I was reminded of one of the hurtful incidences yesterday at my writers’ critique group. One of the critique partners handed back everyone’s story but mine. I might have to include that in my post. We’ll see. It’s still brewing.
    I enjoyed the video of the nun driving the monster truck, and the juggling in black and white. There’s no grey areas there – it’s all fun!
    I couldn’t believe your grandfather stomped on your frog. It would have been like stomping on your spirit. That’s what they used to want to do to children – break their spirit – how dreadful.
    I think Sister Maria is made of stronger stuff – no miner will break her spirit. Well done!

    • Norah

      And I’m back with a disrespectful prayer in a post that asks for respect not fear. https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-14H I apologise in advance for my black and white thinking. I’m sorry – it’s a result of treatment in younger years.

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, this is safe space to express what your heart and mind need to get out! Thank you for sharing! It takes courage to write the hard truths of our lives but that where authenticity is.

      • Norah

        It does take courage. I don’t like to be mean to others, but there was truth in this story, if not in the poem. It was imaginative.

    • Charli Mills

      What a great phrase — “rugged up”! I’m going to rug up every time I step outside now. Teach these Yoopers some Aussie-talk! So you have taken Feldenkrais — any results or lack of? I’m rather hopeful. Pilates is a killer core workout. But that’s dance movement, too. You’ll have to share your critique group’s experience. I had my share over the years. I believe appreciative inquiry has better results. I think it also has to do with delivery. At any rate, I want the Ranch to be safe space to grow and learn through interaction, to experiment and build confidence. I’m not into spirit breaking which is exactly how my frog-crusher was. He raised a family of spirit-breakers. That’s what they do to horses, too — break their spirit. Watch this, Buck is a true buckaroo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4QcyvNh49o Thanks!

      • Norah

        Ha! I wouldn’t have thought of “rugged up” as a local colloquialism.
        I didn’t stick with Feldenkrais for long, maybe only ten weeks. I don’t think it made much difference. I wonder how long I’ll stick with Pilates – will let you know.
        It is called a critique group, but it’s very nice. They use the sandwich model – a positive beginning and end at least. The fellow’s actions were innocent – it just reminded me of the schooldays incident.
        I love Buck. We all need to be Buck. We’re getting there, learning from the lead Buckaroo. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I got the chance to use “rugged up” so I’m expanding my vocabulary! It’s good to find a critique group that works for you. I had a good one in Minnesota.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch with a flash, Molly! Thanks for joining in!

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you for making me feel welcome, Charli. It’s been great fun!

  19. paulamoyer

    I also want to say that the grandfather and the frog is one of the hardest things I’ve read. Good writing, awful experience. But, Charli, hats off to you for putting it into writing. And I love that you were the girl up there with the birds!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Paula! I try to keep Bird Girl flying! 🙂

  20. Michael B. Fishman

    I wait for the day we begin to reconcile our shared humanity as well as our recognizing all faiths. The sooner we truly treat others the way we want to be treated – rather than going around talking about it – can’t come too soon. I loved the juggling video. If juggling isn’t some sort of magical talent then I don’t know what is!

    Here’s mine:
    https://michaelsfishbowl.com/2018/02/04/black-and-white-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-challenge/

    • Charli Mills

      Maybe if we made everyone watch that juggling video, Michael! I wait for that day with you.

  21. Chelsea Owens

    https://chelseaannowens.com/2018/02/04/jeweled/

    Jewel often asked what her name meant; why Mother also carried it.

    “You’ll see,” Mother demurred.

    Their crumbling dictionary said Jewel was a stone that refracted light into color; but what was refracted? What was color?

    Other things, odd things -things Jewel couldn’t quite define- also set them apart.

    “Cheer up; tomorrow’s another day,” Mother reassured a stranger, in passing. How did she know he was sad? Jewel wondered, looking back at the black and white face.

    One day, at school, Jewel finally knew. Amidst the monochrome playchildren; her friend, Tom, smiled.

    In that glittering instant, he glowed yellow.

    • Charli Mills

      A beautiful name and a beautiful story, Chelsea.

    • Liz H

      I remember her…a great reminder that the cover of the book says but little of the story within!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      God must be on her side. I am thinking that is not an OSHA approved habit, and cringe to see it flapping near the chain. And I love that she has a saw and isn’t afraid to use it.

    • Charli Mills

      Texas Chainsaw Catechism! Lovely attitude and she has had a good impact on her students, too. Yes, we are all people beneath our “habits.” Thanks!

    • Eric Pone

      This posting may change.

      • Charli Mills

        Did you change it before I got there, Eric?

  22. susansleggs

    Black and White

    “I failed an honesty test.”
    “You? How?”
    “The questions were grey and they wanted black and white answers.”
    “Explain.”
    “One was; have you ever taken anything home from work?”
    “And you said yes.”
    “I have, baking pans from the pastry kitchen.”
    “But you had permission to borrow them. You didn’t steal them.”
    “But I took them home.”
    “They were asking if you stole things.”
    “I know that, but that’s not how the question was worded.”
    “You should have told them what they wanted to hear and not told the truth.”
    “Then it shouldn’t have been called an honesty test.”

    • Shallow Reflections

      I take questions like that literally, too. I can so understand the dilemma.

      • susansleggs

        Glad I’m not alone.

    • Charli Mills

      This subject has come up before in my veteran spouse’s group. You are not alone on this one, Susan! It’s so hard, to be honest, and yet be expected to think in ways that compromise real honesty for fake.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

  23. Ann Edall-Robson

    The song of the Chickadee always makes me smile.

    Chickadee Song
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Chick-a-dee-dee-dee. The unmistakable song of the small bird in the black and white habit speaks its piece nearby. Following the sound until the eyes focus on its safe perch within the shrubs, under the feeder. Flitting from branch to branch, pecking at tasty morsels as it goes. Feeding on bits of this and that left behind on the limbs. Always watching through the bare, leafless bush and then it’s gone. Darting across open ground to safe refuge in the trees nearby. Once again its identifying sound announces it has landed. Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/chickadee-song

    • Charli Mills

      These little black and white darters. I’ve seen a few on walks. Their call is one I recognize. I’m not good with calls. It’s a family joke that I always ask what bird the squirrel chatter is! But I’m good at spotting birds.

    • Charli Mills

      Hola, Anurag! Thank you for your story!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank YOU Charli, for all your efforts. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to comment on anybody’s stories this week, have been swamped by some projects. Will catch up as soon as I can, promise 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        That’s okay, Anurag! We all have cycles of busyness with work, life, and writing!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a fantastic Aussie icon. I thought how lovely the bird warbled and then I watched the video with Amber!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch!

      • calmkate

        thank you 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I like that imagery, Heather. Glad you made it to the Ranch!

  24. Liz H

    Seemed in keeping with the season…

    Cat Calls

    Black.
    Black.
    Black.

    Thick, dark, heaviness. There’s some comfort in that. My body aches, too weak to move. Why would I want to? I’ll just lie here, in this fever hollow. I roll my head to one side. A channel opens and a whisper of cool air flows.

    Liquid pools in the hollow of my neck, then spills. I sleep.

    Black.
    White.

    Must be daylight. I cough and groan. My chest bubbles and aches.

    Light.
    Then dark, punctured by two glowing green eyes. A nip on the chin.
    The Dread Mistress must be fed.

    Shoulda got the flu shot.

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/cat-calls/

    • Sherri Matthews

      Love it…clever!

      • Liz H

        Thanks Sherri!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Welcome Liz 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      She was testing to see if death had set in! Better than bringing you food — like a mouse in bed. I like how you constructed the narrative, Liz.

      • Liz H

        Maybe I was the hoped-for mouse?! 😮

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! You might have been!

  25. Annecdotist

    Another rich and varied post, Charli. I was interested in your “dance” class but not surprised that thinking about the movement can help to facilitate it. Something to do with mirror neurones perhaps?
    Despite “missing out” on baptism, you seem to have been lucky in your encounters with nuns. Catholic schools for my generation in the UK were less benign.
    When you mention the risk of Othering, I wonder have we not had a prompt about a “type” of person before?
    Whatever, despite the nuns in my images being draped in blue, I’ve come up with a black and white flash about convent life:
    “I was all right till I got to the nuns!” http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/02/i-was-all-right-till-i-got-to-the-nuns.html

    • Charli Mills

      It’s likely that Feldenkrais works with something like mirror neurons. At last — a dance class I can take. And I will get back to you on answering that question of a type in a prompt as I’m compiling all the prompts into a list. Blue! I’ve not seen nuns in blue but I understand that’s a specific order. Love that opening line, Anne!

  26. Pete

    I’m at the piano when the door swings open. Sheriff Bailey enters, clicking across the black and white tiles to the table where the game stops mid-deal.

    Bailey’s rasp fills the room. Pit stains and glistening, he’s the wettest dry county sheriff I ever saw. Sure enough, he finds the bottle of Jake Leg, admires it.

    “Drinking AND Gambling. Very nice, boys.”

    A chair falls. And Earnest, full of giggle juice, staggers. “No boys in here, Sheriff.”

    Moans all around. We’re going to jail.

    The Sheriff only smiles, then knocks back a hefty swig.

    “That’s good. Deal me in.”

    • Charli Mills

      Great story, Pete! Sounds like a small town. There was a brothel, bar and gambling hall in Helena, Montana that stayed open up into the 1970s despite the laws. The sheriff would occasionally shut it down to look good, but they used the Jorgenson’s Hotel as back up.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s been one of those weeks where I swear we lost a day!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        LOL! I’m so busy. I feel guilty if I take a day off! ????

  27. My Word Soup

    I stumbled on this…totally new for me. Here’s my try:

    Soccer with a Stranger

    My son arrived home last September– a brief visit from the Air Force.
    Franco is a fan of the newly birthed Minnesota United soccer team – the Loons.
    He brought home a fan scarf for me to wear in Section F, seat 18.
    I didn’t know he had season tickets.
    I stared at him sideways while he cheered for his favorite footballers.
    When did he become a stranger?
    We ate smuggled snacks and snapped selfies. I swung my scarf around at the proper moments.
    In two days, he was gone– leaving us empty, but transformed as Minnesota United soccer fans.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch, Lisa! That last line is poignant and one parents of grown children can relate to.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! No, but now I’m thinking about it! Of course, it counts — fiction is a catch-all word for creative writing because the latter is too cumbersome to apply to flash.

  28. Sherri Matthews

    I need Feldenkrais! I’ve been hearing more and more how pathways in the brain are actually, physically changed according to our way of thinking. It’s really quite extraordinary and exciting too. There’s so much we still don’t know about the way the brain really works. Your writing overflows with passion Charli. It’s wonderful that you’ve found something that helps you, and your daughter too. But I am so so sad about your frog. I remember you sharing about it before and it makes me cry every time, knowing you had to witness that. I’m glad you had a better experience with the Nuns <3 Ahh…you were a free spirit then and look at you now. You fly high Charli Girl! I couldn't think of anything about Nuns, as you can see. No idea where this one came from, hope the swear word is okay…

    Die Hard

    Bill checked the time. Almost midnight. He took another beer from the fridge.

    ‘That’s when I heard it,’ he later told the cops. ‘My wife was still out when I heard the scream from next door.’

    The cops left and Bill cracked open another beer. His wife, dead. Should have known it was that asshole neighbour, luring her in with his black and white movie collection.

    ‘Why do’ya watch that mindless shit?’ she had screeched at him when he put on Die Hard.

    Well screw them both. Black or white down the line baby. It’s Die Hard or nothin'.

    • Liz H

      (You and Hugh were channeling the same Muse… 😮 )

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…I think so Liz!! 😀

    • Hugh's Views and News

      We could almost be writing twins on this one when it comes to the way our minds went, Sherri. As soon as I read Charli’s prompt, movies came to me, too. Now, I could have gone with The Sound Of Music (with the nuns in black and white), but I’d not have had as much fun with the prompt. In fact, I would have been still trying to get my creative cogs turning.
      Well done. I’ll crack open a beer later and raise my can to you for this one.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Definitely Hugh! Now you can see why I reacted as I did to your flash! Oh yes, of course, the Sound of Music! You could be onto to something there, for another time perhaps. Haha…thanks Hugh, and I’ll raise a glass to your can and say cheers to you too! Have a great weekend 🙂 xxx

    • Charli Mills

      There’s so much incredible brain science yet to come to light. At the very least, it’s a dance class I can take! Thank you, Sherri. Friends keep me flying high (or at least fold my wings back in when I crash).

      Oh, I love your dark humor! “It’s die Hard or Nothin'”! Meanwhile, the film snobs had a falling out..! So good to see you riding at the Ranch!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Flying high or crashing…we’ll keep your wings in good working order 🙂 Haha…thanks Charli. The thing is, I love those classic black and whites but I’m also a huge Bruce Willis fan 😀 I love that man lol!!!!!! Thank you for letting me rip at the Ranch…I love riding here! 😀 <3

      • Charli Mills

        We’ll have wings like guns!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie! I’m enjoying how you are taking memories and putting them into flash fictions.

  29. paulamoyer

    So simple and poignant. A concise description of a rich personality.

  30. Charli Mills

    A nice story of unexpected friendship.

  31. Jules

    Fascinating link. Thanks.

  32. Jules

    Compromise seems to be a very grey area.

  33. Charli Mills

    A nice meander, Sascha!

  34. Charli Mills

    Not what I expected!

  35. Charli Mills

    Good one, Robert!

  36. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  37. Charli Mills

    Welcome to the Ranch, Haley!

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