February 8: 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 8, 2018

Like a blank page, the white goes on and on.

I’m rugged up and running errands with the Hub. For today’s entertainment, we sit in the parking lot at the drug store and watch two snowboarders bounce on a precipice formed on the ridge of the hill across from our front row parking lot seats. He keeps the car running for our comfort and we watch as the two figures climb back to the top of the ridge. Evidently, the precipice passed the stress test.

The Hub fusses with his camera and gives me a dissertation on how the lens focuses. We no longer have real conversations. I’m with him, but I’m lonely. His abstract thinking is all that remains. That and the pestering need for attention that makes him seem frozen in the terrible twos. His sense of humor was always a high point in our relationship and I never expected it would one day be the most annoying thing about him.

But it also remains the most recognizable aspect too, so I grit my teeth and bear it.

In a flash, the first snowboarder leaps from the ridge, hits the precipice and soars momentarily airborne like someone with Olympic dreams. I think this time of year as the nations gather for the Winter Olympics we all feel the excitement of such dreams.

He nails the landing and the second snowboarder launches, hits the precipe and wipes out. So it goes with chasing the tail of dreams. Some days we catch a glorious moment and other days we get a mouthful of cold snow. Both snowboarders begin the long hike back up and we head to the store.

Our hike continues and where it will end we don’t know — curable? incurable? — more tests and scans and evaluations will tell. For now, everyone is puzzled by the Hub’s behavior I’ve been red-flagging to deaf ears for nearly five years now. Something is definitely wrong to the point that he doesn’t even know himself anymore.

But I know who I am. I’m fireweed, the purple and pink flower that grows like a tall spear in a tribe of flower warriors. After a forest fire, mining reclamation, road grading or any kind of soil disturbance, fireweed grows back first from seeds born of despair. It’s a phoenix flower, a soil nourisher, a defier of the odds when life is bleakest.

Fireweed and her toddler enter the store.

I have ibuprofen and office supplies to pick up — a few folders to hold the contents of developing plans and workshops. I shop to ease my back pain and keep hope alive. I also browse, drawn to colorful Valentine’s Day merchandise. I attempt to ignore the chocolate.

The Hub plays peek-a-boo with me from the opposite end of the aisle. I hear employees asking him if he needs help and he says he’s just waiting. I feel that’s apt. His life is waiting. He waits for me to get up, to go to bed to notice him. I feel like a cad, ignoring him, but it’s so hard for me to engage with his skewed thinking. He tells me I look nice in the shirt he bought me because he thought it was colorful and he likes colors I don’t and don’t you remember that time…

The moment he dips to the past I stop listening. It takes energy to not argue. He didn’t buy me this shirt. I do like colors. And no, I can’t listen to another story from the past. He lives in the past and I don’t know what to do in the present. Finally, others are seeing the cracks only they’ve become chasms. And he knows it but doesn’t know how to get across.

Yesterday in frustration at his constant pestering (because he was bored), I snapped at him to let me work. He silently left and sat alone on the couch. I heard him tell the dog, “She told me to shut the eff up. Yep. Just shut the eff up.” I wanted to bawl, to go to him and say I don’t want to shut you up, but I’m scared and I’m focusing on jumping off my own precipices and I don’t know how to help you. I can’t have him hindering me. My work is all we have.

I am the fireweed and I brave the inclement weather with one purpose — grow, grow, grow.

At the register, the Hub is making jokes and a woman with sleek gray hair and a classy red and black wool coats finds him outrageous. With an audience, he continues to ham it up. He tells her I’m his support — like a bro bra. I want to cringe, but she laughs. The woman says he’s fun. The Hub elbows me and says he’s fun. I roll my eyes as I concentrate on my transaction.

Then he tells her, “She misses the old me.”

This is the second time in two months he’s said this. One day when we were driving across the bridge he said, “I miss how we used to be.” I do, too. His therapist says not to give up hope, but we don’t yet know what we are dealing with. What I thought was a blight of combat PTSD is now a terrifying dementia-like “something-we-don’t-know.”

The woman asks how long we’ve been together. 30 years, he says and looks at me, grinning. I nod and smile. “Yes, 30 years.” She tells me I look beautiful in my coat. It takes me by surprise. Beauty is not a strength. And I had been admiring her classiness. Perhaps she can see I am the fireweed.

February 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.

Respond by February 13 , 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 14). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Life Comes Back (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Spears of purple lined the narrow two-track. Tall dead trees stood like charred sentinels, remaining witnesses to the last forest fire.

“Life comes back,” Danni spoke to no one in particular. Her only companions were three dogs on leash, each tugging a different direction.

At the site of the dig from two years ago, Danni hiked the ridge to her former perch. Any moment she expected Ike to rumble up the road in his truck. Yet there she was with his dogs. She opened the can and spread the ashes, hoping fireweed would find its way into her heart.

###

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207 Comments

  1. Old Jules

    “Lord, just let me get through this. I’ll never do that crap again.” I changed
    positions and savored the hand of my only source of comfort. Suzanne, my
    patient, devoted wife.

    “What was it? What went wrong?” She was a tower of strength. She’d had an
    enduringly bad trip the only time she smoked jade.

    “Fireweed, babe.” I tried to imagine my head chained to the floor. “Paraquat.
    They sprayed it on the crop in Mexico.”

    Forever came and went but she stayed. “Are you coming down at all yet?” Her
    tension spoke through her fingers over my forehead.

    • Charli Mills

      That last line sums up what it can be like for the spouse, the waiting, touching, and fear: “Her tension spoke through her fingers over my forehead.” An interesting take on fireweed, Jules, and well-written.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Uh, I have no idea what this is about… but I too like the tension speaking through fingertips. She’s a good woman.

    • Liz H

      Love’ll get you through any bad trip that gets thrown on you…

  2. Colleen Chesebro

    Hugs, Charli. Life hands you lemons… you know what to do. You got this. <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’m a master at lemonade, Colleen! 🙂 I just needed to express my lemon peels and declare I’m not giving up yet. Thank you! <3

      • Colleen Chesebro

        We all have to lament sometimes. It clears out the old so you can take in the new. ??

      • Charli Mills

        I like that, Colleen. Thank you!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Oh, Charli. Ms Mills. Boss. Shorty. Fireweed…
    dang.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I’m thinking those three dogs all yanking in different directions is also a metaphor. Tough to manage so many pulls with only two arms and holding fast to the quill. Hold fast to the quill.

      • Charli Mills

        I think you’re right, D. There’s a metaphor in those tugging leashes. I’ve got the quill and I can feel its lift!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch!

    • Liz H

      Let’s hope the fire burns out soon…too much dismantling going on.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Michael! Thanks for your thoughts on fireweed.

      • Michael

        My pleasure

    • Liz H

      Persistent weeds make for good neighbors!

      • Michael

        Or conversely, unhappy ones.

      • Liz H

        Oh dear! Maybe the stranger you don’t know is better?

  4. kim blades, writer

    I am so sorry for the anguish you feel. Your relationship with your husband sounds like an exhausting marathon that never ends, with you oscillating between fear and exhaustion of one hand and very occasional optimism on the other. Continue to be strong, the fireweed that you know you are. You are not alone.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s something I continue to process. We write and can understand and cope better through our expressions. I’m very blessed with the communities I have and I feel supported. It helps me support him better. Thank you, Kim!

  5. Ritu

    I feel I can give nothing but {{{hugs}}} Charli…

    • Charli Mills

      Hugs are wonderful, Ritu! Thank you! I just needed to let that story bubble up as I deal with the dailies of life.

      • Ritu

        Sometimes you just have to allow yourself to drain these emotions via words to feel clearer. ????

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, it helps. I “write” a lot in my mind.

  6. susansleggs

    Charli, I admire you for being able to share your situation. I hope that helps you deal with such frustration. There are things I know I need to heal from, but don’t feel safe sharing the emotions that go with. I am glad your work keeps you centered because we depend on you too. Hang in there. 99 words to come later. Oh, I am not actually a veteran, but an ex of a veteran. I belong to a Veteran’s writing group as a mouth of the home front and because I identify with my ex-military friends. Hugs.

    • Charli Mills

      You served, too Susan! I think wives need a special kind of Purple Heart. In my novel, my character has a realization after interviewing the ex-wife of a soldier. I had wanted to include the exes, too because just like the brothers in arms, we are always sisters. Writing is how I deal with the emotions which helps me prepare for the advocacy battles. Keep being that mouth of the home-front! Hugs, to you, too!

    • Charli Mills

      A nice story to spread the fireweed, Di!

    • Charli Mills

      A tragic and yet realistic spread, Reena.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you so much!

  7. Annecdotist

    My heart bleeds for you both, Charli. This doesn’t have the ring of PTSD but a type of dementia. Hope you can get some help.
    The good news for me is that I now know what fireweed is! In the UK we call it rosebay willowherb.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anne. Yes, that’s what we began to realize this fall. What we thought to be worsening PTSD turns out to be something else. Ah, what a lovely name — rosebay willowherb! I looked up its medicinal properties, and it makes a tea for sore throats. And, I read “it’s steadfast and strong and rarely stands alone.” I’m really liking this plant!

    • Jules

      Anne,

      It seems I’ve always been new… To be ‘Old’ at the Ranch is an amazing feeling. But then just being a buckaroo here is a comfort.

      • Charli Mills

        You’re getting kind of “old” Jules! I’m happy you find being a buckaroo a comfort. 🙂

  8. denmaniacs4

    A powerful post, Charli. I hope my nonsense doesn’t demean or lessen its power.

    Dot

    “Dot, you have your assignment.”

    “Louis, I know she’s your favourite but, really, she’s not listening.”

    “I know, Freddy. But I like to think my tone of love, of respect, somehow has an impact…”

    “Sure. You’re one sensitive zoologist. A credit to scientists everywhere. But it’s not Dot’s assignment, it’s ours.”

    “Lighten up. You’re not the one eating this stuff.”

    “Stuff? Fireweed is not stuff! Its chamerion augustifolium, as you well know.”

    “Holy herbivore, Freddy. We’re in the field with two hundred sheep chowing down on acres of vegetation. Research, yes, but tedious.”

    “Fine, but please stop cuddling her.”

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      The best thing about the Ranch is that we can all come as we are, express what we need to and share our love of words and stories no matter how different our approaches. And your take on the fireweed is hilarious! I’ve known a few cowpokes like that researcher, too!

  9. Jules

    Charli,

    Life has a way of healing … sometimes taking the most round about routes.
    One can only hope for ‘used to be’s’… but the reality is having to live with the ‘what is’. Living with relatives with degenerative memories… I know is a very hard thing. (((hugs))).

    I went a tad selfishly Sci-fi…(title is post link)
    Angusto Animi

    Angusto Animi

    They were the new colonists. Escaping from overcrowding,
    indecisive politics, and diminished resources. They were
    branded the Fireweeds. On a set course to wake into a
    distant future, to hopefully send back anything that might
    help.

    One thing good about the mind is that most thoughts were
    unreadable. The crew of the Fireweed had been selected
    partly on their ability to communicate through telepathy.

    This crew however was smarter than the average bear –
    they also knew how to protect their thoughts from
    unwanted probing. Which was for the mutinous crew a
    good thing. Since they were only for themselves.

    ©JP/dh

    angusto animi = Latin for narrow mindedness, taken from definition/description of fireweed: in The specific epithet angustifolium (‘narrowleaved’) I played with the word for the title since the ‘crew’
    were only for themselves.

    • Charli Mills

      Great opening line, Jules, as it sets up the mission and also grabs an attribute of fireweed. And thank you for your encouraging words. Some days I just need to write it out. I’m better once I do.

  10. susanzutautas

    Oh, Charli I’m so sorry you’re going through this. You’re a strong woman and I know you’ll get through this hurdle too. Sending you much love and hugs.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan. Some days the hurdles are not what we expect, but then they teach us to pay attention to where we are on the path. Love and hugs back!

    • paulamoyer

      Great introduction to the properties of a plant species — in 99 words!

      • Ritu

        Lol thanks Paula!

    • Jules

      Sometimes just a little research expands our thoughts. I like where your piece went. I’m reading a book based on Mata Hari… War is never pretty when you do not have any friends.

      • Ritu

        Thanks Jules! It’s great to expand our knowledge!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s an incredible bit of research you turned up. I know what fireweed looks like after a fire so it really gives me a new understanding of bombed out places in the UK looking like the devastation of forest fires. Great effort, Ritu!

      • Ritu

        Thank you for pushing me to write something different!

      • Charli Mills

        If you ever want to take up the “History Challenge” it’s part of the line up for guest posts. I think you’d write a great piece!

  11. FatTide

    Some boys love girls and others love money, but John loved one pure thing – fire.

    At six years old he stole a match from the kitchen drawer and lit it in the backyard.
    Matches lead to lighters, and, as a 19-year-old American Indian boy, he had set dozens of wildfires without being detected.

    After it started, the fire crews would show up. The news media, smoke, purging – it all gave him such a thrill. It needed a fresh start.

    Months after all the commotion, he would return to the site to see his favorite part – fireweed popping like candy.

    https://fattide.wordpress.com/

    • paulamoyer

      Wow — the tender, sweet side of an arsonist!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Still a little boy, playing with fire, enjoying the visual candy. Love how he gets more bang for his buck with the fireweed bloom.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch, Jeremy! And I understand from your email you are new to blogging. Wishing you the best in that new endeavor. Your last line makes me think the character is searching for renewal.

    • Shallow Reflections

      Love it! Funny and a great take on the prompt.

    • Jules

      Ooooh…. I like your take!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I like it when you have fun, Joelle!

  12. floridaborne

    Charli, my 2nd husband had diabetes and kidney failure. It was hard to control the amount of insulin he needed. When he was hypoglycemic, he’d hallucinate,and he’d become like a different person. In-laws were always willing to dispense advice, but never willing to provide a day or two of respite. Neighbors came to my aid more than once. At the age of 31, with 2 young children, hope became a luxury. Without my neighbors or my parents, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

    At present, I can do nothing more than say that I understand the emotional torture, and the need to find a way to cope with it.

    • Charli Mills

      Writing is my coping! But goodness, to go through what you did with children. That’s hard. The support is so necessary and yet near-impossible for some to give. We might have the same inlaws. His sister and our kids and their significant others are all like rocks. Hopefully, we’ll finally get some answers and a plan. Hope still rises. Thanks for sharing, Joelle.

      • floridaborne

        I hope you get good news, but it you don’t get that, I hope that you at least get answers and the hep that is needed.

      • Charli Mills

        I’d be grateful for answers right now. Thanks.

  13. paulamoyer

    Words are inadequate for what’s going on, Charli. Just know you’re not alone: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). Here’s my flash:

    Regeneration

    By Paula Moyer

    For two years after Charley left her, Jean’s heart couldn’t grow fireweed. Even when she tried to love – nothing. Only ruined pulp remained.

    Then she moved to Minnesota, started graduate school. And met Michael. She loved all of him – East Coast, Italian-American, laughed at her jokes, her Southern accent.

    “We’re the only early risers!” he greeted Jean one morning in the dorm’s cafeteria.

    Not the best choice. He was gay. Couldn’t even admit it – the seventies.

    At first, Jean didn’t need to be loved back. To know love could sprout, flourish, from her burnt, scarred core – was enough.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ahh. The fireweed germinated after all. All good. I like the layers of this.

    • Liz H

      I’m guessing there’s a whole volume to follow, a broken heart twice broken, but stronger & more able for the first opportunity to discover her indominatible spirit…?

      • paulamoyer

        Broken a few times! Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’! Thanks, Liz!

    • Norah

      The love of friendship pure and strong makes no demands that may break its power. Great story.

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for being in my cloud, Paula. Lve that last line: “To know love could sprout, flourish, from her burnt, scarred core – was enough.” That’s when we know the healing has begun.

      • paulamoyer

        You are welcome, Charli. And thank you!

        Note that the operative words are in the previous sentence: “At first.” (Cue the “Dragnet” theme: dum-ta-dum-dum …). Not the last thing to say about this episode of “Jean’s” life!

      • Charli Mills

        Oh-ho! I heard the dum-ta-dum-dum…!

    • Charli Mills

      What a great analogy your flash makes for creating greener pastures, Sarah.

      • weejars

        Thanks so much ????

  14. susansleggs

    From Fire to Fireweed
    No fire had ever come close to our valley before. We could see the leaping yellow and red flames over the crest of the hill. We tied wet cloths over our faces to hand out water to firefighters in the dense smoke. They said we were safe. We weren’t, but we had lots of warning compared to others and left with full cars.
    Months later we returned with a builder who agreed to work around the original stone fireplace. Vibrant purple fireweed greeted us. The irony of the plants name made us laugh aloud. There had been enough tears.

    • paulamoyer

      Sweet! Great arc to this story.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Paula

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      There’s good attitude in this, with the gratefulness and humor and resilience. Definitely fireweed worthy.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, this story captures the community spirit of standing together, and the added humor expresses their humanity. Nicely written!

      • susansleggs

        Thank you Charli.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I like the personification. Some big personalities in that flash.

    • Charli Mills

      So you are so right, Ruchira! Adversity never stays! Thank you!

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Any Other Name

    “How long you been here on the ranch Pal?”
    “My whole life.”
    “Ever leave?”
    “Well,
    *I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
    It felt good to be out of the rain
    In the desert you can remember your name
    ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain*.”
    “That was kinda weird Pal, and stealing song lyrics too.”
    “Yep, but that’s where I went, Kid. It was a lonesome place an’ I was all alone an’ never felt lonely.”
    “Gotta point, Pal?”
    “Not sure, Kid. ‘Cept ta say there’s flowers in the desert.”

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

    • Liz H

      (An America-n tale) 😉

    • Norah

      Nice. We need to look for those symbols of hope that spring up, sometimes where least expected. Sometimes we can feel more alone in a roomful of others than when we are by ourselves with our own thoughts.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Who knows what Pal was thinking, except that that’s where Charli’s prompt led. Do you know that song by America?

      • Norah

        I am familiar with the song. I thought the words you selected fitted well. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      There were flowers in the desert but the horse had no name! Clever intrusion of lyrics, and now I have the song stuck in my head, D.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        and there ain’t no one for to give ya no pain. Lalalalalala

        and you can remember your name

        Fireweed!

      • Charli Mills

        Just as it had drifted from my ears…
        Lalalalalala

  16. goroyboy

    Beautiful tribute and tie into the ashes Charli. Life in another species renewed.

    • Charli Mills

      Life continues and that matters. Thanks, Raymond.

    • Liz H

      “Today the creator

      Rewards my deed

      For in my footsteps grows sacred fireweed.”

      Nice!

      • goroyboy

        Thanks Liz 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, fantastic! Thanks for the fireweed legend!

  17. Shallow Reflections

    So much you are going through, Charli. I see the pain of care taking every day in the patients I deal with in my nursing career. It is a rough road and I’m glad you are able to write about it.

    Two weeks in a row for me to participate in the challenge! Here is my entry. https://www.shallowreflections.com/a-new-identity/

    • paulamoyer

      Good one! I like the idea of “firing” one’s name. Great play on the words.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you so much. I love having fun with words.

    • Liz H

      Wonderful whimsy!

    • Norah

      Love it – Dan’s a much nicer name than Weed. 🙂

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you, Norah. Even though it’s a nickname for dandelion. ???? He just can’t get away from being a Weed. Haha!

      • Norah

        Doh! I missed that – too clever! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Writing is a good outlet. I often wonder how nurses survive in their roles, seeing the never-ending passage of patients. The good ones I’ve met have a raucous sense of humor to match their deep sense of compassion. I’m so glad you returned with another humorous flash, Molly!

      • Shallow Reflections

        That raucous sense of humor has gotten me through a lot – in my career and my personal life, Charli. Thank you for your warm comments.

      • Charli Mills

        It does wonders!

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Our flower warrior, Charli, reminds us of the colorful way that fireweed tells of both past trauma and of resilience and healing for the future. I’ll never forget seeing acres of burned forest; the charred trunks, silent standing memorials amidst a resounding choir of color, purples and reds echoing brightly on the eyes. Which is not to do with my response.

    Ground Cover
    Though she didn’t know him, she climbed the granite boulder underneath the craggy maple and sat with him looking over the hayfield.
    A beautiful quilt he said, the red and orange paintbrush, the blue chicory. She loved how he spoke, but bluntly informed him those were weeds that covered poor soil. Then she blushed; the weeds exposed her family’s poverty, her father’s laziness and ineptitude. This field should be green, not the color of scars and bruises.
    She noted his backpack and tightly rolled sleeping bag. “Don’t go yet”, she instructed him. “I need to get a few things.”

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/ground-cover/

    • Charli Mills

      That is a sight to see, D. Where we think exists an end, it’s really a new beginning. No matter where on that spectrum, we strive to experience where we are now. I love your flash and the way the female character feels vulnerable to what the soil exposes of her roots.

  19. Pete

    Hang in there, Charli, your wonderful, heartfelt writing seems to be what keeps you sane. At least you can find the words, if not the answers….

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, at least I can find the words! Thank you, Pete!

  20. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Hey kids, I just took that memory of fireweed and used it to participate in the February #twitter flash Challenge.
    file://localhost/( https/::charlim3.sg-host.com:2018:02:02:february-2018-twitterflash:)
    Then I pared those 200 down to 99, just for fun.
    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/allegiance/Now it’s your turn. And don’t forget THE WORK OF MEMOIR. https://carrotranch.com/2018/02/09/the-work-of-memoir/
    ***

    In the Wake of Fire

    I’ll never forget seeing acres and acres of burned forest. Some charred trunks still standing, silent memorials amidst a resounding choir of color, the purples and reds of riotous fireweed echoing brightly. The tree trunks intoned their past trauma as the fireweed sang the refrain of resilience. It was beautiful and it was ugly. It was awesome and it was eerie. It was quiet and loud. Back in the truck I stared out the window at this powerfully incongruous scene for miles. Later the memory would appear unbidden, and whisper reminders of the immeasurable capacities of the human spirit.

    • Charli Mills

      Brilliant work, D.! I’ve been Twitter AWOL and better get to tweetin’! I know these whispers. They linger long after and come when needed.

  21. Chelsea Owens

    I loved reading about the fireweed, though your story was poignant. I felt inspired to think of flowers, and therefore came up with my entry:
    https://chelseaannowens.com/2018/02/11/plantae-uel-animalia/

    If you were to assign a flower to my childhood personality, you might search among the less-desirable weeds. I wouldn’t have minded; I’d have stuck my prickly, unwanted self even further into your business.

    My grandmother, however, was a soft-spoken, kind-thinking sort. I never heard her raise her voice nor speak insult. She was more like the gently-swaying field flowers of springtime, shyly smiling to a beckoning sun.

    While people greeted my coming akin to a dandelion outbreak, we all recall my grandmother’s mischievous blue eyes with forget-me-nots.

    At least dandelions are my son’s favorite.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Kids do love dandelions! Weeds know what they are about and have a great tenacity. PS, you can eat the blooms and the greens of dandelions, or make wine of the blooms. Should you need to deal with an outbreak.

      • Chelsea Owens

        😀 Are you suggesting someone should just eat me?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Its a useful weed is all. Just throwing out fun facts.

      • Charli Mills

        We can make wine out of you, Chelsea! 😀
        I think dandelions are the coolest weeds.

    • Charli Mills

      Chelsea, your comparison of flowers between granddaughter and grandmother works well. A beautiful flash!

      • Chelsea Owens

        Thank you!

  22. Pete

    Miles blamed his friends. What on Earth did they have in common? It was chilly outside, and he was sitting on the hood of a Toyota, watching a girl with dreadlocks roll a joint.

    “This is good shit,” Ava said with a lick and a flourish. “It’s called fireweed.”

    Miles coughed. He got very high. He went on about a Neil deGrass Tyson book.

    Ava yawned. She lay back against the windshield, pointed to Jupiter, some five-hundred million miles above their heads. Miles sat next to her, found Mars. Ava giggled.

    “See, the sky is better than the book.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Uh, I have no idea what this is about… but I think they have something in common now. Like how you got the home planet in there too. Glad they were not lounging on a Saturn.

    • Charli Mills

      “See, the sky is better than the book.” Excellent, Pete!

      • Pete

        Thanks Charli! Perhaps a title will help clear up confusion. How about, The Date

      • Charli Mills

        “The Date” is a great title! However, I think Ms. Avery who is a school teacher by day is feigning ignorance of any illicit activity! 🙂

  23. Deborah Lee

    Oh, Charli — my heart breaks for you. My hubby and I are in a similar situation. His health has been steadily declining to the point I am afraid his systems are slowly shutting down. Severe chronic illness and psychotic depression have changed him entirely. Yes, I miss who he used to be, and I miss the me I used to be and the us we used to be. He is only 55. This is where “in sickness and in health” hits us in the head. It’s so hard to live with, and I feel selfish for thinking it’s hard. But it is. All us fireweeds can do is keep on keeping on.

    https://99monkeysblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/fireweed-jane-doe-flash-fiction/

    • Charli Mills

      Hey, Fireweed, we’ll get through. Your hub is the same age as mine. I think what is hardest is the gap it creates. And it’s not like, okay he’s sick this week and he’ll cover for me when I get sick. It’s that definitive this is the new normal that can be disconcerting. I wish you all the strength you can muster on the days it feels charred and the wind blows lonely. Know you are not alone. Fireweed is a tribe. Keep on keeping on, and keep on writing!

  24. anuragbakhshi

    A big hug to you Charli. I love how you share snippets of your life with us in such a meaningful way. Here’s my story inspired by this week’s prompt: https://jagahdilmein.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-midnight-raid/

    Again, I am apologizing in advance since I will not be able to read other people’s stories this week too, kind of swamped with some writing projects, and looking at any screen after a full day of writing on the laptop is daunting. I promise I will finish my backlog as soon as I can 🙂

    • Liz H

      (Who ya gonna call?)

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ummm… Aaaa… Lemme think about it 🙂

      • Liz H

        😀

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anurag! I’m glad you find the meaning in what I share as that’s my intent. No apologies needed. The Ranch is a place to come and go as you can. Wishing you the best with your writing projects!

  25. Liz H

    Here’s my effort, dreaming warmth and health and transformation in this imagined world, at least: Cora’s Fireweed

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/coras-fireweed/

    September’s last rays paled as velvet breezes whispered of long nights to come. Cora nestled deeper into a warm hollow at cliff’s edge, ignoring the salt sway of the fjord below. Gripping her tail between front claws, she nibbled at fiery dreams.

    Smallest in the clutch, she’d not found the final element to ensure her next passage. Jonah’d found lavender, Pete pine, and Minna bright marigold. Soon they, with their mother would migrate to the Northland to winter.

    But what was her element?

    Night sighed a hot pink scent.

    Corazon’s triangular head lifted. Bugling once, her wings opened, joyful.

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/coras-fireweed/

    • Abby

      What beautiful language you use.
      “Night sighed a hot pink scent.” Gorgeous.

      • Liz H

        Thank you, Abby!

    • Charli Mills

      Brilliantly creative flash, Liz! This holds all the tension: “Gripping her tail between front claws, she nibbled at fiery dreams.”

      • Liz H

        Thanks!

  26. Abby

    Hello Fireweed xx

    This took me a while until I realised it’s what I’ve always known as rosebay willowherb. Then suddenly the prompt was intimate. I loved it.

    Peripheral

      • Abby

        There’s me thinking I got this html stuff down pat. Thank you so much for bothering to chase it down! And for posting a working link. Much appreciated x

      • Liz H

        No problem, just paying it forward from help from Jules. Wouldn’t want anyone to miss your Flash!

    • Charli Mills

      I hope your rosebay is as enduring as fireweed! I’m sure those who mined knew it well. Thanks, Abby!

    • Liz H

      Cherry picking sometimes peels away the ungenuine outer layer.
      Nicely done!

    • Charli Mills

      Beautiful, Kay! Thanks!

  27. wallietheimp

    Wallie and I wrote our response! Thanks for the great prompt! “Castles and Carpeting”–https://wallieswentletrap.com/2018/02/12/castles-and-carpeting/

    • Charli Mills

      You and Wallie conjured up a good one! Thanks!

  28. Kerry E.B. Black

    I wish we were closer. I’d love to give you a huge hug and share a bit of tea. We could use some of those lemons with our brew.

    Here are my 99 fireweedy-words.

    Lady Fireweed

    My SpukWu’say cast herself like the seed of the willow herb on an Alaskan breeze, blowing where fate might have her alight. I don’t think she cared if she ever landed. She wanted to experience freedom and, since she’d been nurtured and knew her worth, she felt no fear. She drifted until she found a prairie and a community she admired. There she set down roots. She stretched her abilities like tender greens, practiced healing and aided all. When at last she bloomed, her talents lit her world like translucent fairy dances until all tried to imitate Lady Fireweed.

    • Juliet

      Hi Kerry, I wish I had read your story before posting mine. I’m sorry, I too speak of fairies and their dancing. Great minds think alike?

      • Liz H

        Fits Charli to a ‘T’…We are so fortunate! <3

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        Haha! Indeed! No reason to be sorry. I look forward to reading yours… After I make dinner, finish homework, get the kids to tae kwon do, get them ready for bed, and then tidy up! Oh, I am tired thinking about it all!

    • Charli Mills

      We’ll have to settle for a shared cup of lemon brew with a bit of snow and distance between us. Thank you for this beautiful flash, Kerry.

  29. Juliet

    Good afternoon, everyone. Your post made me so sad, Charli. I really, really feel for you. Your words made me realise just how lucky I am, we are, to still be fit and healthy and happy.
    Here’s a sad little piece as my offering today:

    The Fireweed Fairies

    It took almost a year for the fireweed to cover the large circle of blackened grass.

    On the first of May, for over thirty years, they had lit the huge pile of sticks, watching the flames lick the sky as their guests cheered in time to the blaring music.

    But this year there would be no fire, no music, no feasting friends.

    This year the fireweed fairies could continue their march.

    They could stray outside the circle, across the field, down to the cemetery.

    And there they could dance forever more on the gravel path leading to her grave.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Juliet. I find writing to be a good way to manage and understand my feelings. Sometimes stories pop up and push me to write the heaviness. I feel lighter! It’s life and we all have our journey. I’m glad to have one with a tribe of writers. A lovely and melancholy flash.

  30. Jules

    Second entry (see title/link for other prompts used including a 12 word wordle list):

    Euphoric Wish?

    Was it Wabi Sabi, that ancient process of birth and renewal in
    the guise of twisting fireweed, to take over the valley? Norma,
    just a visitor, stood transfixed. Urged by some profane tug this
    spring Wednesday – to see what the updraft of fire had
    left. The professional naturalist, did a quick assessment.

    The news headlines had shown two boys who had come from
    the local school that, was octagonally shaped. They skipped
    out of their lunch, smirking with the joy of freedom, that fall
    afternoon. Yet their black and white faces showed compunction
    for the destruction they had caused.

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Wabi Sabi, that’s an interesting concept! Thanks for introducing it, Jules and for the second flash!

    • Liz H

      Spanning generations in a scant 99 words–Lovely image you’ve left with us!

    • Charli Mills

      Heather is another strong endurer. I love your image of being a small child lying amongst it.

  31. TanGental

    seriously tough for you Charli; hope there’s some better news somewhere. All that and all this too – you are amazing. Here’s mine; it’ll be up Wednesday so the link will, maybe miss the deadline. Just in case…

    It’s All There, On A Plate

    ‘Hey Morgan, what you got?’
    ‘Caterpillar.’
    ‘Geez, that’s huge. Hey, it’s got a trunk.’
    ‘Yeah, it’s an elephant hawk moth.’
    ‘Must be really rare.’
    ‘Yeah, but you know it lives on a really common plant.’
    ‘Yeah?’
    ‘Fire weed.’
    ‘Funny. The Queen likes cornflakes.’
    ‘Is that so, Logan?’
    ‘And Jeremy Corbyn’s into quinoa.’
    ‘You just can’t tell from what they eat.’
    ‘We’re all the same under the skin.’
    ‘Troo dat.’
    ‘They say Trump only eats Mac burgers and fries.’
    ‘There has to be the exception that proves the rule.’
    ‘Never did understand that expression.’
    ‘Any more than I understand Trump.’

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      See: Fast Food Nation; that shit could kill him! (oh….)

      • Charli Mills

        Yeah, Trump’s probably an exception to that rule, too D. He’ll outlive us all on burgers and fries.

    • Charli Mills

      We’ll see what we find out. At least the tests are in progress, we have a good place to be, and he thinks he’s still getting hit on. 🙂 Thanks, Geoff. It’s been a journey. But we have right here, right now, full of wonderous moths and awakening seeds, quinoa and burgers.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

  32. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    I’ve read your post a number of times since you published it, but am only just getting to the computer to comment on it now. There is so much in your brave strong post, I hardly know where to start. That you are fireweed is true. You have endured so much and from it gathered strength, determination, to succeed. I’m sorry that the situation with Todd has become so difficult to endure, but endure I know you will. That is your way. You don’t buckle under adversity. As I said in my post, through acceptance comes recovery. I’m trusting that the support services come through for you. You and Danni are both resilient, both fireweed, both able to face challenges head-on and find a way to make things work. Look at what you have achieved with the Carrot Ranch. It’s no small feat.
    I found this prompt quite a challenge, but decided to bring Marnie’s story out of moth balls and create another scene. You and I both thought of her again at the same time. There must be something in that. My story is called Burning with hope, and can be found here https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-150 Thanks for “making me” stretch my imagination again.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah. There’s a time for everything, including a time to be resilient, a time to let go. It’s a bit like making a puzzle out of one’s life when the pieces look like one section but turn out to be in another. The Ranch grants me safe space to write and explore my experience which is kind of funny because I started here most certain I’d never write memoir! A growth mindset, right? Even in tough circumstances. I’ve learned much from you, Teacher! And I’m glad you are dusting off the mothball from Marnie’s story. She’s your fireweed character.

      • Norah

        You need to know when to hold them and when to fold them, and when to grit your teeth and bare it. It’s bad enough when the puzzle pieces don’t fit where you first thought – it’s even worse when they’re missing.
        Never write memoir! Sometimes I think we write ourselves into our stories. I write little bits of me and my experiences into many of mine – things I may not feel “safe” writing as memoir. Fiction is great for that!
        Marnie is definitely fireweed. She needs to be – more than I ever did. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Our blood is all over our words! Marnie is definitely fireweed and is a messenger of sorts, too. She has something to teach us all about humanity and that open mindset.

  33. Michael B. Fishman

    This was a sad essay, Charli, and I don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry you’re both going through it. “She misses the old me.” 🙁 He knows and I’m guessing he must be feeling some fear over what’s happening to him. Anyway, positive thoughts to you both. Here’s mine for this week. It’s similar in a way to what you’re going through so you might want to skip it.

    https://michaelsfishbowl.com/2018/02/12/one-spring-monrning-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction%E2%80%AFchallenge/

    • Charli Mills

      Michael, I find that writing into truth, even the hard ones are validating and healing. It creates an authentic life. Not a perfect one, but a beautiful one nonetheless. Thank you for a beautiful flash that captures the fading.

  34. Pete

    I have dreams about stabbing my personal trainer in the back. Yep, it’s true, just plunging a knife right between one of her many thick, grooved back muscles.

    I also have dreams about Twinkies. Pie. Chocolate donuts with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. But mostly I dream about stabbing my trainer in the back.

    A fireweed. That’s what they called her when I signed up. And it should have been enough to make me turn and haul my jiggly self out the door. But for years I’ve wanted this—dreamed about it.

    So I run. I follow the fireweed.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Great twist on the prompt, Pete. It could be dangerous to be a personal trainer.

  35. FatTide

    I liked this one. Alot said in 99 words.

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you liked it, Jeremy!

  36. lisarey1990

    I’m really sorry to hear this Charli. This is a very brave piece of writing. Sending you both strength and positive feelings at the moment.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Lisa, I appreciate that!

  37. Ann Edall-Robson

    Last year wildfires affected those near and dear to our heart. The thought of spring and Fireweeds giving colour to what Mother Nature so brutally took away is something to look forward to.

    Fireweed
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    For miles in every direction, there is nothing but death. Tall sentinels become charred, decrepit reminders of the devastation. Piles of ebony shin tangle across the expanse of bleak nothingness. The seasons change. Slight bits of green push through the blackened earth. Long wispy leaves on fibrous stocks. Tight pink buds open with a flourish. A brilliant contrast to the carnage, life after death. And when it is their turn to become the colours of their end, the Fireweed fluffs up against the odds. Sending offspring in search of a new home to brighten the landscape after a wildfire.

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/fireweed

    • Kate

      Lovely flash full of hope for the future.

    • Charli Mills

      The west endures horrific wildland fires. Each year it seems it’s a different community while others rebuild and others wonder when it will be them. Great use of imagery, Ann.

  38. Kate

    Hi Charli, My heart and wishes are always with you. You write courageously with compassion about the world you live in. You capture our attention and your words flow like music on a page. Somehow you make it look seamless – a sign of a great writer and author.

    I’m back this week with Gladys and Jim coming in to tell a story about a fictional young couple who through their actions are a metaphor for fireweed – creating beauty from ashes. Last year British Columbia (B.C.) Canada, like other parts of the world, experienced devastating wildfires and news of these fires filled our headlines for months. No doubt, we’ll be seeing fireweed sprout up throughout B.C. this summer.

    https://eloquentlykate.com/2018/02/13/foraged-from-ashes/

    • Shallow Reflections

      I love the scene between Gladys and Jim – doing ordinary things while they discuss extraordinary acts of kindness and hope.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Kate! I’m happy to see Gladys and Jim return. I can’t recall, when was the last time B.C. was hit by fires? It seems like an unusual place for fire. I hope you get morell mushrooms, too! Strange, the gifts nature offers after devastation.

  39. Lisa A. Listwa

    Charli, my heart just goes out to you. You are in my prayers. Your tenacity is amazing. Somehow, no matter what you encounter, you find and bring the beauty of life to us again and again.

    I’m back at the ranch (finally) with a flash about life from death. Great prompt!

    http://www.themeaningofme.com/the-fireweed/

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the Ranch, Lisa! I keep looking. Thank you. 🙂

    • Shallow Reflections

      Gut wrenching, Robbie. A scene all to often witnessed in our community I fear.

    • Charli Mills

      Robbie, I think you are discovering what every fiction writer come across. There is light, and there is darkness. You can handle it different ways: you can write into the light, or you can write out the darkness. Either way makes your writing more authentic and powerful.

  40. Sherri Matthews

    Oh Charli, I so much wanted to write a fireweed flash and get here to read your post way before this. You are beautiful and strong and rooted fireweed, rising from the ashes and standing tall even when all around you falls apart. This post moved me to tears, so tender and vulnerable and authentic and powerfully beautiful your writing. Like you, my dear friend. You know I am standing with you, your fellow fireweed. One day at a time, one answer at a time …<3

    • Charli Mills

      Fireweed knows good company! You’ve been such a source of emotional support, knowing the daily struggles. It’s good to have you as a friend. And dare I say, I might be learning something from you and Irene in regards to pushing into memoir? I’ll call it creative non-fiction! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Likewise Charli, you are a wonderful friend 🙂 <3 Oh I get excited hearing you talk about 'pushing into memoir'! I've always loved your creative non-fiction! It was Irene who helped me better understand the difference between that and memoir. I'm honoured that I might be able to add something to the dialogue! Who knows where it will take you! 😉

      • Charli Mills

        I’m going to attempt my first memoir piece for Vol. 2. I’ll be needing the help of my writing partner! <3

  41. Liz H

    Sneaky or strategic? Or just what he needed, at the right time in his life?

  42. Charli Mills

    There are benefits to fireweed! Thanks, Neel.

  43. Liz H

    Wow! Taken literally, this takes a spooky turn. But you’re speaking in metaphors, right?

  44. Charli Mills

    Hi Sue! Great to see you at the Ranch!

  45. Charli Mills

    Thanks for taking fireweed into your sci-fi world, Rebecca!

  46. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Denise!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  6. 99 word prompt : fireweed | Two on a Rant - […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  https://carrotranch.com/2018/02/08/february-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
  7. February 8: Flash Fiction Challenge: 99 Word Prompt – Fireweed – Carrot Ranch Literary Community « culturevultureexpress - […] https://carrotranch.com/2018/02/08/february-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
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  13. A new identity - #flash fiction - Shallow Reflections - […] via Carrot Ranch Literary Community February 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]
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  15. Fireweed (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) – 99 Monkeys - […] week, Charli Mills hosts a flash fiction challenge at the Ranch. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more,…
  16. The Midnight Raid | jagahdilmein - […] the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by Charli Mills. Charli’s prompt this week, in her own words, […]
  17. Cora’s Fireweed | From the Valley of the Trolls - […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (02/08/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it…
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  19. Fireweed (99 Words – Flash Fiction) – The Memory Cellar - […] If you want to participate: https://carrotranch.com/2018/02/08/february-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
  20. Castles and Carpeting | Wallie's Wentletrap - […] (tangentially) to the Daily Post‘s Daily Prompt, “Conjure,” and directly to Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Check it […]
  21. (f) CR/ 2 MLMM / Euphoric Wish? (2.12) | Jules in Flashy Fiction - […] The three prompts used: February 8: Flash Fiction Challenge February 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less)…
  22. One Spring Monrning (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction?Challenge) | Michaelsfishbowl - […] The Carrot Ranch Literary Community, hosted by Charli Mills, is?HERE.  […]
  23. Out of the fire comes hope | Norah Colvin - […] week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about fireweed. She describes it […]
  24. Out of the fire comes hope | Norah Colvin - […] week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about fireweed. She describes it […]
  25. Foraged from Ashes – Eloquently Kate - […] wrote this in response to Charli Mills’ February 8 2018 Flash Fiction Challenge. In 99 words (no more, no less)…
  26. Counterfeit coffee – Bilocalalia - […] Via #CarrotRanch challenge […]
  27. #Carrotranch flash fiction challenge – Fireweed – Robbie's inspiration - […] You can join in this challenge here: https://carrotranch.com/2018/02/08/february-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
  28. It’s All There, On A Plate #carrotranch #roughwriters | TanGental - […] prompt this week […]
  29. The Fireweed – The Meaning of Me - […] in response to the February 8, 2018, flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

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