March 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.

March 9, 2018

A bag of colorful balloons adds festivity to any day. Snowflakes the size of downy feathers float from the omnipresent gray cloud, and all I want is to blow up colorful latex and toss color to the sky. Can you imagine the sight? Red, blue, green, purple and yellow globes of color floating among the snowflakes and bouncing lightly from drift to drift.

Despite a snow-locked land and a frozen shore, my mind and body respond to longer days of light. Not even the clouds can prevent its penetration. For five luscious days, the clouds backed off to hang over Lake Superior, and the southern sun-porch warmed up enough for noon coffee. On the sixth day, snow returned, and my teeth chattered as I tried to capture the joy of sitting in the sun. It was of no use, and I retreated back to the rooms with storm windows and radiant heat.

From my desk, I watch the snow and dream of balloons.

I’m in a festive mood because Carrot Ranch is celebrating four years of flash fiction challenges. Evidently, I drink coffee and talk a lot about the weather. Here’s how I opened the first challenge on March 5, 2014:

In northern Idaho, rain is falling on packed snow. It is a good day to hunker over the keyboard with a mug of hot Yuban coffee. But no matter your weather or drinking preference, I hope you have stopped by Carrot Ranch to pick up a prompt.

That day from a different northern climate, I let go a balloon with a message, hoping someone would answer. It was lonely drinking coffee and tapping keys. I wanted to recapture the camaraderie had felt back in the ’90s while I attended college for a degree in creative writing. I missed the passionate discussions in classes, where we sought hidden meanings in the language of authors. I missed sharing my writing for feedback from classmates I had grown to know and trust. I missed dreaming of the well with kindred spirits.

Many times since I tried to recreate those moments from college. I kept in touch with classmates and professors. I read. I attended literary workshops and joined writing groups. For a brief time, I found a close fit on a social media site called Gather. Started in 2005, the site encouraged discussion. I found groups where I could write fun and quick literary challenges, and I created lasting friendships. Several writers, I employed through my work as a marketing communicator for a natural food co-op, and Gather is where I met Ann Ravoula, a designer who worked with me to build an award-winning regional publication. She’s also the designer of our Carrot Ranch logo, Rough Writer log, and the cover for Vol. 1.

Gather instilled in me the idea that visual and literary artists could come together in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, social media site went the way of profiteering and became more about affinity marketing than social interaction. Affinity marketing sites are ones that force social interaction through a reward system. The idea is to boost traffic so the site owners can sell more lucrative ads. It killed the organic interactions and people left, no longer enjoying the experience.

In 2014 I wondered if I could create a writing challenge on my own website. Two years earlier I had left my job to write a novel. I wrote for business clients and felt isolated from my literary writing. I wrote about marketing and small business for magazines and newspapers, but I had no continuity among literary writers beyond the one month a year that I joined NaNoWriMo. Even there I felt isolated, not knowing anyone else, and the closest regional group was over 100 miles away.

My website was a placard for writing, and Carrot Ranch was the name of my communications business. But the website never generated business — I do that through a network of colleagues and clients, using email and cell phone. I wondered if I could shift some of my marketing knowledge to writers through blog posts, build up relationships and convince writers to play weekly with a literary art form called flash fiction.

Four years ago I launched the ballon, and five writers showed up: Susan Zutautas, Paula Moyer, Norah Colvin, Ruchira Khanna and Jason Kennedy. I knew Susan and Ruchira from social media connections. Paula is family (her Solar Man is married to my Radio Geek). Jason knew Susan (or they were both Canadian).  And Norah showed up with a gift in hand — a Liebster Award. I had no idea what it was but delighted that I wasn’t alone to meet my challenge.

From this humble start, I came to identify “the thing” I had been missing — a literary community. The question was, could we build one through practicing flash fiction together? Four years later I’m happy to report that the answer is yes. In fact, Norah helped me collect my thoughts on the topic, and she wrote a chapter on Building Community in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. When we wrote that book, and I worked with 29 other writers to bring it to fruition, I realized that we had been strangers until we wrote together.

And that’s a beautiful realization.

Carrot Ranch evolved from communications to a literary community. We make literary art accessible — we write, read and discourse. You’ve probably noticed we keep the feedback positive. In Vol. 1, Norah repeats the message:

Be positive, be polite, be encouraging.

It’s not stated anywhere explicitly, but my philosophies on writers feedback originate from three sources:

  1. Servant Leadership: a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.
  2. Appreciative Inquiry (AI): a change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well and then doing more of it. The basic tenet of AI is that an organization will grow in whichever direction that people in the organization focus their attention.
  3. StrengthsFinder (from Gallup): developing your strengths to do what you do best every day.  The pursuit of meaning — not happiness — is what makes life worthwhile. Knowing your strengths and using them is meaningful.

Over the course of four years, I’ve seen the impact of building a literary community through flash fiction on my own writing and that of others. We’ve met each other with care and have built trust, extending it to an environment where writers feel safe to explore and experiment. And we have fun!

Last October we launched a Flash Fiction Rodeo of eight contests. And that was loads of fun, plus eight writers each won a purse. We have a collection of outstanding writing from all the entries, and I intend to publish them in an e-book. I’ve already commissioned a cover, but when I tried to buy the software to design the inside, I realized I needed a Mac. I’m all for balloons, but I’m not going Mac. If anyone has suggestions, I’m open to learning.

Also in motion is Vol. 2. This goes beyond a collection. It begins with new 99-word arrangements from the Rough Writers (our core group from the community) and plays with “serial” arrangements. Think Marvel Comics (at least, that’s what I’m thinking)! You’ll bet we’ll have some BOTS and memoir essays and extended stories. We also have invited our Friends (those who write challenges frequently or lurk weekly) to play with a surprise challenge.

The editing process is intensive — from collecting submissions, working one-on-one with writers on development, working with a Rough Writer editorial team to define and maintain a style guide that represents global writers, working with special content writers, proofing, designing and proofing again. Four years ago I had no idea I’d be doing this, but I knew I longed to be doing meaningful work with literary art beyond my own writing.

From one little balloon, set free with a message — come write 99 words, no more, no less.

Now we are growing and bursting at the barn doors! In business, we say that’s a “good problem” to have. In communities, we focus on servant leadership practices to better understand what makes the community thrive. Going back to our three drivers of literary art — writing, reading, and discourse — I’m exploring ways to stay vibrant, relevant and engaged.

Writing. Our vibrancy comes from our diversity. We come from different locations, backgrounds, experiences, demographics, and genres of writing. I also understand that we each have different reasons for coming to the Ranch. Some seek the discipline of writing prompts; some want to increase their blog interactions; some are looking for the camaraderie. We are all looking to write. Bloggers can share links and writers can submit stories. We also offer Guest Posts.

Reading. We actually have a dedicated readership at Carrot Ranch, outside of our writers. That’s good! I also collect stories to read out loud and arrange into weekly collections. This is an area I want to grow. Readers have the opportunity to discover new writers and their blogs and books.

Discourse. We like to discuss at Carrot Ranch! Well, I’m sure you’ve seen those of us who do. I think we all keep a good balance with those who like discourse and those who just want to share the story quietly. Part of the infrastructure plan is to build a forum at Carrot Ranch. Part of it will be for Rough Writer work or Rodeo planning, and parts will be open to asking questions within the community or start topic threads.

I’m looking for anyone who might be interested in serving as Ranch Ambassadors (spreading goodwill among the writers who gather, so everyone feels welcomed as the response grows) and Ranch Moderators (assist with collecting and arranging weekly challenge responses). Each position will be volunteer (though I may send you books or rocks) and will have a brief description of participation. If you are interested in more of a leadership role and have a few hours a week to spare, shoot me an email wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Let me take time to introduce you to the Leadership Team who serve as Rodeo Contest Leaders and as an informal advisory group: Geoff Le Pard, Sherri Matthews, Irene Waters, Norah Colvin, D. Avery, JulesPaige and C. Jai Ferry. They already serve as ambassadors and support the Ranch in areas of extending literary accessibility (memoir, TwitterFlash, education, Ranch Yarns and behind-the-scenes support).

In October we will once again host the Flash Fiction Rodeo. Our Leadership Team will return to the event. We will put out a call at that time for new leaders who want to mentor in 2019 with the Leadership Team. In 2020 they will become the new Leadership Team, and in 2021 they will mentor a new group.

Why? It’s to develop leadership in the literary community through different roles and opportunities. Just as Carrot Ranch is a safe, fun and positive place to write, it’s all that for stepping out of your comfort zone and participating in more meaningful ways among the community.

And if you are rolling your eyes and saying, get to the prompt already — that’s okay, too! We make literary art accessible one 99-word flash fiction at a time. We come to the Ranch to play. Do what feels right for you, further your goals, dream, and by all means, keep writing!

If you like what we are doing here, consider offering Patron Support. It’s not required, but it helps with building and maintaining infrastructure to serve the community and helps cover the costs associated with publishing. Plus you can earn some cool gifts from the Lead Buckaroo.

One last consideration, let loose your own balloon this week. Do something that scares you, but you want to try. Take a risk, and take a step toward the dream you hold. The worst that can happen is that no one sees your balloon. But no one will if you don’t blow it up and let it fly!

March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

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

***

At the Edge of a Long Winter by Charli Mills

Searching the newspaper before I fire up the woodstove, a classified diverts my attention. For Sale: Party Balloon, Never Celebrated. There’s a number, and I recognize the area code for Montana. I’m across the border in North Dakota, trying to keep warm with seven other oil rig guys in a tin-roof modular on some farmer’s north forty. After my housemates rise to the heat of corncobs and newspaper, I finish my coffee and call.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice.

“Um, yeah, calling about your balloon.”

“Cabin fever. I needed to hear another voice.”

“Oil rigger. I’m lonely, too.”

“Let’s talk!”

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371 Comments

  1. Nidhi

    Well written post?????????I love to enjoy coffee and pleasant weather too????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Nidhi! It’s good to share coffee and pleasant weather with you.

      • Nidhi

        ????Thank You????

  2. Ritu

    Happy four year anniversary Charli!
    You and your balloon have indeed created a wonderful community, and I personally feel that since I started with your Rodeo, my fiction has evolved!
    Hope to hear from you regarding Vol #2!
    I’ll be back with my entry later! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ritu! And yes, you are on the list for plans!

      • Ritu

        Wonderful!

  3. janmalique

    Congratulations Charli! The Carrot Ranch Literary Community is a fantastic endeavour. It’s a warm and friendly place that you feel at home in. I’m glad I found you in my journey. I’ll post my entry later today.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jan! It does my heart good to hear it feels warm and friendly here! I’m glad you’ve found your way, too!

      • janmalique

        I’m glad I found the Carrot Ranch!

  4. jenanita01

    This has given me something else to think about today!

    • Charli Mills

      May your thoughts be colorful as balloons! And thanks for sharing the post on your blog!

  5. Annecdotist

    Congratulations, Charli, you’ve achieved so much and inspired so many over these past four years and I’m in awe of how your vision continues to grow. Having received my copy of the anthology this week, I’m enjoying settling down to revisit some of those earlier flashes as well as discovering the new extended stories and essays. And I really enjoyed your introduction.

    Sadly, my initial response to balloons is the litter they create. I might write about that or I might find something more jolly to fit the occasion. But if I don’t make it back in time I’m recycling a flash from the first year:

    http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/the-fictional-cheating-husband-from-novels-to-flash

    The prompt was a photo bomb and mine just happens to feature a hotair balloon.

    • Norah

      Nice to read the post and story again. Those hot air balloons do look a bit unstable. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for following Norah over to the Ranch, Anne! I’m glad you are reading the anthology and discovering some of its newer elements, too. I read your photobomb flash from the first year with fresh eyes. It does fit this prompt well. And so does litter, actually. Today, in the US, students who protested the lack of political response to mass shootings, released balloons during their walkout of classes. So much possibility for a short-lived piece of latex. Well, I suppose hot-air balloons have a longer lifespan (than new husbands on safari).

      • Annecdotist

        We heard about the students’ walkout, but not the balloons (unless I repressed that unpleasant information). There were balloons at the tills of the supermarket I visited yesterday. No idea what they were meant to be marking!

      • Charli Mills

        Which unpleasant information did you repress Anne — students, balloons or guns? That’s a recipe for wanting to forget! But I support their efforts. As for your market, perhaps it was for Pi(e) Day.

  6. calmkate

    four years and continued growth is awesome Charli, well done!
    Would like to participate in one of your above roles but currently undergoing interviews for a new job … need to see where this takes me first before I take on anything new … been volunteering for years now and need a wage as you will understand.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate! May it go well for you with your job interviews. That can always be a stressful and exciting time. I’m looking to make Ambassadorship more of a way to participate so it’s less obligatory and more of a hallmark of the Ranch. Stay tuned!

      • calmkate

        I’m open to any contribution but my priorities mean paid employment would come first. Had several interviews but no job offer … but that’s more than I’ve had in sometime 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        That’s hopeful, Kate!

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Congratulations Boss. This Ranch of yours, dreamed up and released four years ago, it is off the ground! It is flying!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, D.! It good to see it flying and with so many happy faces like kids with balloons. ???? ???? ????

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Second March On

    “Kid, guess what happened on the ranch one year ago today?”
    “Ya stepped in somethin’?”
    “Nope. D. Avery submitted her first ever flash fiction response.”
    “Oh. So she stepped in somethin’.”
    “Kid…”
    “Then we showed up couple months later, right Pal?”
    “Actually we were here ahead a her.”
    “How kin that be? I mean I git that Shorty, Aussie, Still Waters an’ the rest of ‘em were here, but us?”
    “Yep, we were here all along. Jest didn’t know it yet.”
    “Huh. Guess I don’t git this writin’ thing.”
    “Neither does D. Avery, but she ain’t tucked tail yet.”

    ***
    “Speakin’ a tales, there’s a bunch a new folks writin’ ‘round the ranch.”
    “Do tell.”
    “Yep, reckon they come fer the prompt an’ stay for the chomp.”
    “S’pose so.”
    “Yep. They read, write, an’ repeat.”
    “Kid, yer readin’ off the posters.”
    “Yep.”
    “Folks likely come by fer the same reasons we’re here.”
    “Ya mean they don’t wanna real job either?”
    “No! They jest wanna exchange stories by the campfire.”
    “Hang out by the chuck wagon, eat up Shorty’s vittles.”
    “All the raw carrots a buckaroo could want.”
    “It’s all good, all right. All we want for is bacon.”
    “Shush, Kid.”

    • Norah

      Congratulations on your year with us – and those two who for sure have been here in their hearts all along. I love their stories and their yarnin’ and I’m sure those others who stop by to read, write, repeat love them too. It doesn’t take long for any newcomers to be accepted into the fold. There’s room enough for all.

    • Michael B. Fishman

      I’ll trade ‘ya my bacon for some more of them raw carrots?

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha!

    • Charli Mills

      Yup. Kid stepped in something all right and it stuck on D. Avery’s shoe! Glad to have ya’ll along, spinning yarns, reading posters, swapping stories under the stars. It’s your anniversary, too!

  9. Shallow Reflections

    Congratulations, Charli. I’m new to the Ranch and so happy you had the vision to get it started. I feel a positive vibe here, and love getting to know the community. I know I am growing each week I participate. Now to set my mind in motion thinking about balloons. Love your image of balloons floating amongst the snowflakes. We had a big storm here in Maine yesterday and it despite my resistance to winter weather this late in the season it is unbelievably beautiful this morning in the aftermath. I can picture the snow covered trees decorated with colorful balloons!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Molly and for that lovely vision! There’s something about late-season squalls that seem more brilliant the next morning. Spring-snows or white-rain we called them out west. Good to share such vivid pictures and positive vibes with you.

      • Shallow Reflections

        It’s harder today to envision brightly colored balloons in the snow since we had another huge snowstorm yesterday. This one dumped about two feet of heavy snow on us over a 24 hour period. I suppose now that it’s over, clean up is finally done, and the power is back on, I can stop grumbling and look for balloons. Haha!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a grumble-worthy storm! I hope you get some balloon spotting in this weekend!

  10. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Happy 4 years, Charli and crew!! So glad I found you all. I am sure you have heard this a thousand times but I would like to add to the sentiment, thanks for running such a cool site filled with some pretty great folks and for spending so much time and energy helping all of us develop into better writers! With that being said, here is my entry for the week:

    https://memorycellar.wordpress.com/2018/03/09/hope/

    • Nicole

      This makes me want to know more about these children!

    • Norah

      Get them out of there!

    • Jules

      Reminds me of that family in the news… were the one escaped and ‘saved’ the rest. Hoping these ‘children’ get what they need and want too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kay! The gathering at the Ranch validates for me that we grow together and can learn from the positivity we express to one another as we grow. I think this place is populated with lots of cool people!

  11. OIKOS™-Redaktion

    Congratulations also from here. Thank you for the good work. Michael

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, I appreciate that, Michael! And I always enjoy when you share our posts. Thank you!

    • tintins

      Wow that story was brilliant!

      • pensitivity101

        Based on truth, my great niece in fact when my sister’s husband died.

      • tintins

        It was lovely x

      • pensitivity101

        Thank you, and welcome as a new follower! Hope you find things of interest. Looking forward to future comment exchanges.

    • Nicole

      I can see that tiny hand..

      • pensitivity101

        She held that balloon as if it was the most precious thing in the world, and when she released it, there weren’t many dry eyes. She’s 18 now.

      • Nicole

        Your writing is so vivid it takes the reader right there.

      • pensitivity101

        Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I try to take the reader wherever I am in my writing, so I’m so pleased you think so.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That child knew just what to do. She likely helped more than just herself get through that time.

      • pensitivity101

        She’s 18 now and has turned out to be a very pleasant young lady.

    • Charli Mills

      Your BOTS are always a treat, Di. You have a way of bringing these stories to life with clarity, bringing the reader along with you. And thank you for making others feel welcome at the Ranch!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. ‘;m glad you enjoy them.

  12. C M Smile

    Congrats!!
    I don’t think I could handle all that snow you’re gettin’. Brrr… We live in South Central Texas where we get all four seasons in a week (except snow)…sometimes all in one day! A friend lives in Maine and she is still receiving snow!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Enjoy your four-seasonal-sans-snow days in love South Central Texas! Are the avocados coming on yet? I can dream from behind big snowbanks! Yes, I understand Maine got another hit. Thanks for stopping by!

      • C M Smile

        Hi! I wish I lived closer to one of the orchards to know???? But, I plan on buying a tree from one of the nurseries then I’ll be able to learn when they start coming in. My pecan trees are barely getting their leaves back though!

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, pecans! That would be a great tress to have, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Patrick! And glad you could join us!

      • patrickmoconnor

        Thanks Charli. I’ll try to be consistent.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That was a surprise. Balloons are light, responsibility heavy.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Lady Lee! It’s always good to see you at the Ranch!

  13. denmaniacs4

    Hi Charli and Carrot Rancheros, congratulations on the four years.

    A Trojan Effort

    The search party had been looking for hours.

    Two kids.

    Lost in the bush.

    We’d found their beater.

    Two flat tires.
    Young love should be luckier. And smarter.

    But they hadn’t been.

    They didn’t stay on the old logging road like you’d expect. Course, we saw the tracks, knew why they ‘d made a beeline into the woods.

    “Big cat,” Harley said.

    “Hunting them?”

    “Likely!”

    “Maybe the copter will spot ‘em?”

    “Dense in there.”

    “Yup.”

    Then we heard good news from above.

    “Is that a balloon?” And then, “There they are.”

    Turns out, safe sex can be a lifesaver.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • tintins

      Haha!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I commend you for conveying these characters from their conundrum with the clever application of the condom. (Is that condoned?)

      • denmaniacs4

        Of course its allowed. When ever a condom is used, the rubber hits the road of condonation.

      • Charli Mills

        My sides are aching! My mind wilted with laughter and I’m going to leave you two punsters with the last guffaws! Bill, that was a clever take on the Trojan balloon!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha, I swear I too was going to write using tgat meaning of balloon, but a different story of course.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yikes. The girl needs a long walk in the woods.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, tintins!

    • tintins

      Just read yours. Great story, sad twist. Good read! 🙂

      • Ritu

        Thank you for reading 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ritu! You created an unexpected and sad twist.

      • Ritu

        Thanks for reading Charli 🙂

  14. rugby843

    I may skip this week since I just wrote a tale weaver challenge about an evil balloon. I’ll see if I think of something!

    • Charli Mills

      An evil balloon sounds like something a creepy clown would have. You are welcome to skip any time. 😉

      • rugby843

        Thanks, C

  15. Frank Hubeny

    Balloon

    He held his breath. What he thought would happen did not. The enemy came instead from the rear.

    If he were alone he wouldn’t mind so much, but he mispositioned the others.

    Were they the good guys he wouldn’t mind so much either, but he doubted if there were any good guys in this battle. This was alien home territory. They weren’t supposed to be there.

    The others understood all this, too, as the fighting started.

    His world was like a balloon. He wished it were yellow or blue. He wished he had steered it better.

    Then it popped.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      What could go wrong? Seems like just about everything!

      • Frank Hubeny

        In that case, everything did. Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      What a compelling way to use the idea of a balloon as something precious and fragile, Frank. Good use of expressing regret over a fatal mistake.

  16. Jules

    Charli,

    I’m thinking there are many directions your delicious balloon prompt could go. Just as your own took a different twist… I went with a wish to not be at a ‘kiddie’ party… And the link of the title will take you my post and a link to explanations about the title of the rhyme I used.

    Pop Goes The Weasel…

    There was an art to making balloon animals. It was unfortunate
    that at this party there was a clown making them – those dogs
    giraffes and weasels that wouldn’t live to see the end of the week.
    The squeak and twisting were worse than chalk on a blackboard.

    Just being one of the chaperones, Jess could back away to a
    far corner and think …’Hey how’d ya like to see some magic –
    I can make that balloon disappear?’..if I could just find a pin…
    Jess promised herself that her children would get to take one
    guest to a museum.

    ©JP/dh

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ugh. Meaning well done, I hate that squeaky balloon animal sound. You painted a dreadfully accurate picture.

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, you captured that squeaky sound perfectly and why I never appreciated balloon animals!

      • Michael

        Yes, one way of looking at it.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Michael! Thanks for your thoughts!

  17. susansleggs

    How happy I am to be a part of this four year anniversary party. Congratulations. Your vision to keep the community alive and strong is awesome. I have found a healthy place to belong. Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan! So happy to have you a part of the community!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joelle!

  18. Colleen Chesebro

    I’m using a MAC now… 😀

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I will never go back to Windows. What a pain. Apple is clearly a far superior product. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Seriously? We should talk Vellum! Was it hard to transition?

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I bought a MacBook first and after a month I was good to go. I will never go back to Windows. Mac is far superior. I use Word for Mac and that is also better! ??

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve considered getting an Apple mini.

  19. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    99 Wort Ballons

    “Pal, we oughtta have speech balloons.”
    “Yer jist sayin’ that ‘cause you an’ you know who are so het up about quotation marks.”
    “Says you. Jist sayin’ speech balloons’d be pretty cool.”
    “That could lead ta thought balloons. Ya want people readin’ yer thoughts?”
    “Wouldn’t be too much of an imposition.”
    “Kid, if we spoke an’ thought with those devices, well, we’d be cartoons!”
    “What are we now?”
    “Characters.”
    “Not caricatures?”
    “Well, mebbe… but that’s where I draw the line!”
    “Keep drawin’, Pal, mebbe ya can make a cartoon.”
    “Druther speak a thousand words.”
    “99 at a time Pal.”

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

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Pal?”
      “What now?”
      “She’s got nuthin’, ya know that right? That’s the only reason we’re out an’ about. She has no idea how ta respond ta balloons.”
      “So?”
      “Jist sayin'”
      “Shush Kid.”
      “Nuthin'”
      “Mebbe if you’d shut yer pie-hole…”
      “Pal?”
      “Dang it Kid, what?”
      “Know what ya call it when yer driving’ an’ listenin’ ta music? Car-tunes.”
      “Know what I’m thinking’, Kid?”
      “Yep, yer bubblin’ over. G’night Pal.”

      • Norah

        Car-tunes. You are so clever with these puns and other lame jokes, but I love them. Suit me down to the ground.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, it’s going to happen. Things take time like making maple syrup, but get used ta car-tunes!

      • Charli Mills

        And Happy Pi Day!

    • Norah

      Love it! These two would make a great comic strip. I wouldn’t have thought it on my own (my thought balloons are empty!), but it’s a great idea.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Norah, I heard you snorfle from here. “Lame jokes”?! For that you’ll have to see my six sentence story with Earnest Biggs.

      • Norah

        I sure will!

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, they would! And your thought bubbles are plenty busy, they’d be all neat and organized with no tyops! 😉

      • Norah

        Hehehe. There might be one or two tyops. I’m sure one of us could arrange that. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It’s part of the vision. Balloons will happen! No popping the cartoon bubble!

  20. nostalgicablog

    Many congratulations, Charli. I’m new here but this community seems like such a great place to be.

    • Norah

      Welcome! It is a great place to be. I’ve been here over four years now and never want to leave.

      • nostalgicablog

        Many thanks, Norah,
        I’m sending greetings from Singaporah.

        Oh, my poetry is poor, ah.

      • Norah

        🙂

    • anuragbakhshi

      It is, it is 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you and it’s good to have yo at the Ranch!

  21. nostalgicablog

    Balloonatix

    “What you doing, Uncle Slim?” I asked as I crossed the backyard.

    “Hiding from nephews what ask dumb questions.” was his first reply. “What does it look like I’m doing, you buffoon? I’m blowing up this here balloon. I’m intending to head off in it across vast, undiscovered plains to destinations never before heard of.” With that he coughed.

    I guess he didn’t want any company, but I did just say to him as I walked off “I’m sure they got a machine to blow up those balloons, Uncle Slim. Why, you’ll be there forever just using your mouth.”

    • Norah

      Hilarious. Especially love your title.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Full marks for effort though 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Great title for your crazy uncle character, Stephen. I could picture this scene and laugh.

  22. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ringside

    All eyes were on that ring. There was always something, the wrestlers always putting on a show, even whalloping the announcer and referee. But I happened to look just when a wrestler crossed the forgotten dim past the ring, making his way to the locker room; there was just enough light to see that his tights were shabby and dirty, that he was tired, even sad maybe. Seeing that wrestler leaving the lit up ring was like seeing forgotten balloons days after the party, faded and losing air.
    Now I knew. Wrestling was fake, but the wrestlers were real.

    • Norah

      Effective image there: forgotten balloons days after the party, faded and losing air; and interesting realisation.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        This was actually pared down from a longer paragraph from a longer story. As they said above, I had nuthin’ so cheated with something already in the file. Did kids in Australia have that phase around 10-12 of being interested in the Bermuda Triangle, Sasquatch, and such?

      • Norah

        Bermuda Triangle is fascinating. Don’t know about Sasquatch.
        Using something in the file’s not cheating. It’s revision, rewriting, re-purposing, sharing with a new appreciative audience.

    • Shallow Reflections

      You brought out some sadness with this one. I feel for the deflated wrestler.

    • Charli Mills

      The poignancy is in finding the person behind the performer. Well done, D.

    • tintins

      Enjoyed that story!

      • weejars

        Thank you

      • weejars

        Thank you

    • Norah

      It’s a touching story, Sarah, such a special tribute to your Nanna. Sorry for your loss.

    • Shallow Reflections

      What a lovely tribute using the balloon prompt. So sorry for your loss.

    • anuragbakhshi

      I loved it so much I just reblogged it.

    • Charli Mills

      A touching tribute, Sarah. Thank you for sharing with us!

  23. odysseyofhappiness

    Coulrophobia

    I admired the big red balloon tied to my wrist with a sense of love and wonder, as my father led me by the hand through the magic of the circus. It was beautiful!

    We passed through a group of clowns. My eyes, filled with awe, darted from clown to clown.

    Those eyes!

    My attention was grabbed by Him.
    The painted smile couldn’t mask what lied beneath.
    No one noticed but me.
    He walked slowly, never breaking his stare. Not blinking.
    He pulled a comically oversized needle from his sleeve, leaned over me, not breaking his fierce gaze.

    POP!

    • Liz H

      Gads! An evil clown has come to town…where it all begins!

    • Norah

      There’s always got to be some mean clown to pop your balloon, just when everything’s looking good. 🙂

    • Shallow Reflections

      No wonder kids are scared of clowns!

    • Charli Mills

      I’d say that’s the onset of coulrophobia for the narrator!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I think you may indeed love the idea of balloons. I loved that house.

    • Charli Mills

      You made it fun, Shari! Thanks!

  24. susansleggs

    Hot Air Balloon Ride

    My boyfriend glumly watched it storm. Why was he so upset we had to reschedule our hot air balloon ride over Letchworth. We had the whole summer. Even our parents called to commiserate.

    Finally, two months later the brilliant sun made spray from the water falls sparkle and bend with rainbow colors visible. The reflection from the gorge rocks glinted so bright we had to shade our eyes. Suddenly others in the basket turned their backs. My boyfriend presented a dazzling diamond ring brighter than the sunshine. Oh my. Yes!

    Our parents treated us to dinner after we landed.

    Note: Letchworth State Park in western New York state is known as the Grand Canyon of the east.

    • odysseyofhappiness

      I’ve always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride over Letchworth! It’s a 40 min trip from where I live, and my kids always ask to do the balloons when we see them flying. It’s so beautiful there

      • susansleggs

        We must be neighbors. I grew up in Steuben county and now live in Monroe.

      • odysseyofhappiness

        Pretty darn close. I work in Monroe and live in Ontario county (finger lakes region)

    • Nicole

      Sweet post!

    • Norah

      He waited two months for another opportunity. He was patient.

      • susansleggs

        When inclement weather prevents a rider from “flying” as they call it, you have to wait for a time when the balloon isn’t already booked, and the weather cooperates. The balloons don’t go up when it is too windy.

      • Norah

        I didn’t mean waiting for the flight, I meant waiting to propose. 🙂

      • susansleggs

        Oh sorry. I was thinking of my son when I wrote that. He would wait forever for the ideal setting.

      • Norah

        Forever can sometimes be too long. 🙂

    • anuragbakhshi

      So cute and romantic.

    • Charli Mills

      Fun flash, Susan! I like that the parents were involved, too. I hadn’t heard of Letchworth. Something to add to my list to see in our beautiful country.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Aloft but not aloof? Great point of view.

      • Nicole

        Thank you.

    • Shallow Reflections

      The landmarks are different, but the view of the ‘invisible’ is similar in any city. Gut wrenching

      • Nicole

        Yes, we just spent the week in NOLA and the difference from a couple of years ago was evident. The situatikn has worsened.

      • Shallow Reflections

        So sad. We have a big problem in our small city of Bangor, Maine, too. Drugs, homelessness, hopelessness.

      • Nicole

        I am so sorry to hear that! We often drive through Bangor in the summer on our way to Acadia. Same problem – joyful place for tourists, but so much pain for many residents. I grew up on the Jersey shore – same story there. It is so sad, as you say.

      • Shallow Reflections

        So glad you’ve been to Bangor. Our little city is also thriving in many ways, but it is sad to see how drugs have affected so many here and throughout the state. Isn’t Acadia fantastic?

      • Nicole

        Yes, I love to watch the sunset from Cadillac Mountain. About the drug problem, it is here in Northern Kentucky as well. One of my students died of a heroin overdose a couple of years ago, and that was my introduction to the magnitude of the problem locally, which is epidemic.

      • Shallow Reflections

        So very sad to lose our youth with so much potential to this epidemic. ????

    • susansleggs

      Wow! So true. We love to visit NOLA for the music and fun, but the problems are also very noticeable.

      • Nicole

        Thank you, Susan. We were shocked at how much the situation has deteriorated since we visited a couple of years ago.

    • Charli Mills

      How different the scenery can be from a distance, but close-up is what needs our attention. A strong social statement in your flash this week.

      • Nicole

        Thank you so much, Charli, for creating and care giving to this wonderful community. This is a bright spot in a dark time.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you, Nicole! I think all of literary artists can spread light, even by writing about the darkness head-on. Cheers!

  25. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Spring & Everything

    “Why were you at the department store, anyway?”
    Earnest handed Marge a large box.
    “It’s so light.”
    Marge lifted the lid off the box. Three red balloons floated out.
    “Three months together, a whole season. Winter to spring.”
    “Honestly, Earnest, how sweet.”
    “Box ain’t empty yet, Marge.”
    “Well! This ain’t yer mother’s overalls!”
    Turning as red as the tethered helium balloons that squeaked against each other on the ceiling, Earnest explained that the large slinky garment was called a teddy.
    Earnest bumped after Marge, balloons bumping behind him, and yes, he had some other latex. He’d thought of everything.

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/earnest-biggs-marge-small/

    This is a continuation of a six sentence story from couple days ago which was a continuation. These two got together with the January 18th boot prompt.

    • Norah

      I like this pair. They’re meant for each other.

    • Charli Mills

      Earnest has it going on after three months! Snow will be melting soon!

  26. Liz H

    Weary, contemplative, floating in on a winter breeze…

    Moonlit Balloons

    High on the hill, strands of moon drift, catching on the branch-ends of the Prairie Honey Tree. Barren of leaves, she bows under the fullness of her particular progeny…
    [Continue]

    • Liz H

      (Thanks Jules, for tutelage on hypertext syntax!)

      • Charli Mills

        You picked it up quickly for your cliff-hanging flair!

    • Shallow Reflections

      One doesn’t often think of a brutal summer where I come from, but it is autumn and winter is a welcome relief in much of the world. And the image of the ‘moonlit silver nuggets’ and ‘joyful first frost’ is lovely, Liz.

      • Liz H

        Thank you! Blessings and challenges to everything, often beyond the seasons…?

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, I enjoyed the magic vision and yet could relate to this scene as one time-honored between many other cultures and environments.

      • Liz H

        Magic, culture, environment–truly all rolled into one! 🙂

  27. Norah

    I read your post, Charli, then read all the comments, and almost forgot to comment myself.
    Congratulations on four years. What a distance we have travelled together (literally and figuratively – well, you did the literal miles and all the hard work to achieve what you have). I’m so proud to have been a part of it all since the very beginning, and my, how it’s grown. Your dream has expanded like a balloon, and just like a balloon it has but one continuous side, which, like the universe continues to expand. I’m sure that’s both klutzy in grammar and expression, but tonight I don’t care for tonight we celebrate.
    It’s so wonderful to see your achievements listed in this post, as well as your plans for the future. I can only wish you great success as I get dragged along in your dust.
    Your flash is lovely. What a creative way to get to talk to another when you go stir crazy from being locked inside over winter. I’m sure these two will have a wonderful chat.
    I’ll be back in a day or two with my story. There are already many beautiful pieces shared.
    You must feel very proud when you look out from the window to see the writers camped out on the Ranch, chatting, sharing, reading, writing, knowing that it is your dream to make literary art accessible that has made all this possible. Congratulations on all you have achieved.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hah! Norah, your thought balloons are full and… thoughtful! Your last paragraph made me think of these screens as being a window.

      • Norah

        They are a window onto others’ lives. Aren’t they amazing!

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story for this week, perhaps an unusual topic, some might think, to go with balloons: What makes a bully a bully? https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-16a

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for being a part of this journey and exploration! I’ve learned from you to cultivate a growth mindset among many other teachings you draw out from the prompts. Yes, we celebrate! And there’s never klutziness among friends. It’s an amazing view to see all the campers at Carrot Ranch, and even more amazing to witness so much literary art from 99 words. <3

      • Norah

        It’s been my pleasure, and my journey too, Charli. The literary art continues to amaze me. So much story in so few words. I once wouldn’t have thought it possible. Our stories are growing backwards in number of words but forwards in depth of meaning and often imagery.

      • Charli Mills

        What a good way to look at it, Norah!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Nicely done; he went from going through the motions to truly lightening up.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Yes, sometimes that’s what it takes. Fake it till you make it, right?

    • Liz H

      Another gift from the little ones, and one we give ourselves, even if we don’t think that’s what we need!

      • Shallow Reflections

        Yes. It is hard for adults to play. At least it is for me. And something as simple as a balloon is all the equipment we need. ????

    • Nicole

      Wow. What a wonderful and very wise story!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Molly, it is so important that adults don’t lose their sense of play! I like where the balloon led you!

      • Shallow Reflections

        I like where it led me, too, and yes, we adults need to remember to play. I decided to ‘play’ with last week’s prompt and make a man the focus of my story. The way it unfolded was as much of a surprise to me as it was to you!

      • Norah

        But are they good surprises?

    • Norah

      Who’s Esther?

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Neel!

  28. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    When the Party’s Over

    “Hmmph. Shorty an’ her dang celebratin’. With balloons? Ain’t seen this much latex since-
    “Come on, Pal. It was a party.”
    “Sure, an’ look who’s aroun’ ta clean up. You an’ me Kid, that’s who. Latex skeeves me out. An’ it’s litter, bad fer the critters.”
    “Pal, yer fergittin’ we’re fictional. Wanna happy ending? Ok, these balloons are made from corn. They’ll bio degrade, feed the soil.”
    “Corn, ay?”
    “Yep.”
    “Could be a problem.”
    “Jeez, Pal. How now?”
    “Remember Ernie? At Wanda’s still?”
    “Oh. Well, reuse, recycle, repurpose. Distill ends well.”
    “It’s kinda corny, but I’ll drink to it.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Special Celebration Announcement:

      You’ll note that I lacked the wit, experience, audacity to finish the sentence, “Ain’t seen this much latex since- ”

      Submit the end of that sentence here as a reply. If I like yours the best (no criteria or rubric) I will donate an undisclosed amount of money (not a ton) in your honor to Carrot Ranch through that fancy paypal button up there in the upper left hand corner. (Looks like a bar of gold)

      Furthermore, the winner, (if willing), will be featured in a future ranch yarn. This may mean that you get a nickname (unless you already have one).

      Good luck, be careful, and may the best end win.

      (Parenthetically yours, D. Avery)

      • Norah

        I’m not sure that I have the experience, wit or audacity either but I was thinking of a particular use of latex and combining it with a submarine and the men who travel inside. Yeah, definitely don’t have the nerve.

    • Norah

      Distill does end well. I like the sound of biodegradable latex. May not be suitable for all situations though. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Our local brewery uses cups that appear to be plastic but are a corn product. They work very well as vessels for beer (I tried it once) .

      • Norah

        I used biodegradable dinner ware, cutlery and cups here too, but never for beer! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Evidently, there are vegan biodegradable options! 😉

      • Norah

        🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I knew Pal had seen Earnest!

  29. kim blades, writer

    Balloon

    Judy didn’t believe the moon was made of cheese like nursery rhymes described. She was sure it was a balloon.

    Judy liked balloons, especially white ones.
    Their movement through the air seemed effortless. She knew this was because they weighed nothing.

    She so envied balloons. They were light and agile.

    Every Friday night she sat outside in the tiny garden in front of her house and released a round, white balloon.

    Watching as it danced skywards, Judy wished that one day she would be able to get up from her wheelchair and walk as effortlessly as the balloon floated.

    • Liz H

      Uffda, that twist! 😮

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwe, she will, I’m sure. Btw, freakily enough, I too wrote about the moon being a balloon.

    • Norah

      Lovely story, full of hopes and dreams and wishes. If only we could make them all come true.

    • Charli Mills

      Kim, your flash is almost like a fairy tale and yet it takes a twist of reality. A beautiful way to think of the moon and to wish on its weightlessness.

      • kim blades, writer

        Thanks Charli. There is a school for children with severe physical disabilities near where I live and when I donated some of my sons’ old story books there the other day, one of the quadraplegic children was having a birthday party and there were lots of balloons floating around. Then I came home and read your prompt ‘balloons’. So that is how I came to write this story.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a compelling inspiration, Kim!

  30. tintins

    Gosh!!! 🙁

  31. Juliet

    Hi Charli and the Carrot Gang,
    Happy four year anniversary to the Ranch and all who write here. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy writing and reading and sharing a common goal -flashing! Thank you Charli for all the work you put into this space.
    And since the addiction won’t go away here’s my offering for tonight.

    Love Is In The Air

    The postcard arrived six weeks later.

    “Dear Lucy,
    Your balloon came to rest at the top of my apple tree. I needed a ladder to take it down and find out who had sent it soaring into the sky, covering many miles before reaching my little village. What a lovely surprise. Please write back.”

    Fifty letters later, the Apple Tree Man rang at their doorbell. Lucy ran to answer, her mother hurrying behind her, as excited as a child too.

    They now knew love could appear in many different ways. Even on the string of a flying helium balloon.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      They offer carrots. They say, ‘What’s 99 words?’ They fail to mention the addiction that follows.
      Nice flash.

      • Juliet

        Yep, they sure do. Thanks, D!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The point is is what they don’t do. Addictions are serious concerns.
        (psst, scroll up for a special celebration announcement)

    • Liz H

      Good news Flash that made my day. Sweet!

      • Juliet

        Thanks Liz. So glad it made your day! ????

      • Juliet

        Thanks! I’m back in a cutey mood.

    • Norah

      Love flew through the air! How sweet. I hope he brought apples. 🙂

      • Juliet

        He did! ????????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Juliet! And I appreciate your offering! As a child, I once participated in a balloon release with a message and my address. No return, alas. But I love how your flash blossomed into a love story.

      • Juliet

        Thanks! My girls did it every year at primary school and nothing ever came back. I’m such a romantic dreamer ????

      • Charli Mills

        You and me both!

      • calmkate

        thanks for stopping by, appreciate your feedback!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate!

      • calmkate

        thanks Charli, you do a lot of work to include us all 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a pleasure to work with everyone’s writing. I think the magic happens collectively.

  32. Michael B. Fishman

    I loved Gather and still miss it (as well as some of the people who are no longer here) and every time I go onto Facebook, where I have many old Gather friends, I think ‘this isn’t Gather’ 🙁 It’s interesting that you mention StrengthFinder because I just had to take that assessment at work so if I didn’t, after all this time, know what my 34 (I think it’s 34?) workplace strengths are, I do now. I haven’t put much stock in the assessment because, you know, it’s work, but after you mentioned it here and related it to writing, I think I’ll go back and re-read my strengths and look at them with an eye to me the ‘person’ rather than me the ‘worker’ so thank you for planting that seed. Before I blabber on about Gather and StrengthFinder I want to say that I really liked this essay and as far as, “Do something that scares you, but you want to try. Take a risk, and take a step toward the dream you hold.”, maybe one day I’ll get there. Here’s mine.

    https://michaelsfishbowl.com/2018/03/11/boon-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-challenge/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You painted a very clear (and dear) picture.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, you knew Gather! It was a special platform, and Facebook does not cut it for recreating that space and creative interaction. So, you know what I was looking for when I wanted to make “literary art accessible.” And it sounds like you took the full StrengthFinder assessment. I find value in looking at the top five. It really opens your eyes and even shifts some thinking when you consider those first five strengths. Over the years, I took the assessment several times. Only once did one of my top five ever shift — no kidding, I lost empathy! It became an office joke, but I have empathy and individualization as my shifting 5/6 strengths. I think it represents that I’m empathetic but also see people as individuals. It’s interesting to think about. I hope you get some good insights. In the meantime, you are welcome to take creative risks at the Ranch!

  33. bowmanauthor

    The Reiki Session by Deborah A. Bowman

    “Hi, Liz, how are you?” I asked.

    “Good, Deborah. So happy to do an online session.”

    “Thanks, it’s been a tough winter.”

    “Okay,” the microphoned voice replied. “Let’s get you feeling better.”

    She etched the sacred symbols in the air. We both closed our eyes.

    I was floating, flying, with pink globes all around us. For thirty minutes, my pain went away.

    When we ended, I said, “I was flying! Liz, you were with me!”

    “Yes, I know,” she replied. “Did you see the rainbows?”

    “I did, but the globes?”

    “Deborah,” she laughed. “Those were balloons keeping us afloat!”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Such a lovely and unique take.

      • bowmanauthor

        Yes, it was wonderful. How did you know it was a true story. My practitioner, of course, her named changed, but not mine.

    • Norah

      Such a meditative experience.

      • bowmanauthor

        Meditation is good for the soul. Relaxing has always been one of my problems. Now I am learning to do so.

      • Norah

        Awesome!

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of dialogue in a BOTS, Deborah! I like the take on the balloons in this session.

      • bowmanauthor

        It ‘s different. Another Reiki session in the a.m. Wonder what will happen this time?

      • Charli Mills

        Hope it brings you what you need!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That’s a cool back story. Phew, you got to use the title! Here. At this ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anurag! I look forward to 40 more!

  34. Chelsea Owens

    https://chelseaannowens.com/2018/03/11/escape/

    If I had a hundred mathematically-large-enough

    balloons

    I’d cram the strings together

    in a woven vest and rise higher

    higher

    through rain-gilded cloudscape.

    I’d subsist on vapors, or maybe on sunrise ambrosia –

    till atmospheric pressure (or somesuch scientific phenomenon)

    popped just one

    balloon.

    Then I’d drop more rapidly than I rose:

    the most obsequious, impotent adherent to Gravity and his unalterable law.

    But really, I have to admit

    -as I revisit clouds and ambrosia rays and treetops drawing nearer-

    I was never free

    and soon

    I am right back where I started,

    amidst 99 deflated spheres of red.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      the poetess pounds
      us back to the ground
      brought us up then back down
      and yet the vest of strings
      and other lines
      wove a poem so sublime

      • Chelsea Owens

        Sink me, the lady’s a poet. 😀

    • Liz H

      Maybe something here about having to break an egg to make an omelette? You just need that one and a splash of water/rain to make it rise.

      • Chelsea Owens

        For some reason, your suggestion caused me to picture a magical spell cast on papier-mâché. 🙂

    • Norah

      It was a lovely journey while it lasted. But oh, those 99 spheres of deflation.

      • Chelsea Owens

        *sigh* Yep.

    • Charli Mills

      Chelsea, your flash is magical (and yet mathematically-based). You get bonus points for using 99 in a 99-word flash!

      • Chelsea Owens

        Yay! No one noticed the other reference, at least not that they noted. :/

      • jenanita01

        Thank you so much!

    • Charli Mills

      Yay, Anita!

    • Charli Mills

      Wallie would think of a dragon balloon!

      • wallietheimp

        Yep. He would 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Matters of fact, in a flash. Interesting as always.

    • Norah

      A sad story.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Gordon! I always enjoy your true historical tales. Such terribleness makes a lasting impression.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I especially liked ‘bubbling spring of happiness’.

    • Shallow Reflections

      Oh, how I loved my dolls, Robbie. You’ve taken me back to the days when my ‘job’ was playing with these sources of joy! – Molly

    • Charli Mills

      Robbie, your flash is certainly lovely and bright and reminds me of how happy dolls can make children.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thanks Charli, this prompt lent itself to happy thoughts.

  35. rogershipp

    No Recess for Robby

    “… and one more word, No Recess. Am I understood?”

    That was Ms. Fletcher. “Am I understood? this and Am I understood? that.”

    Robby had learned quickly learned the proper answer that followed… “Yes, ma’am.”

    Third grade was the worst.

    Now there was homework. Snack time was for babies. Recess was earned. (In our class’s case, NEVER EARNED.)

    Robby’s mother was sympathetic. “Hang in there. It’ll get better.”

    Robby’s brother was the problem-solver. “You’ll never win them all, Robby. But winning one can be worth it”.

    Robby walked to school today ‘A Winner’.

    Inside his backpack… a whoopee cushion.

    (99 Words) https://rogershipp.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/no-recess-for-robby/

    • Norah

      Good luck to Robbie. I wonder where he’ll put it!

      • rogershipp

        Haha!

      • Norah

        Sorry for misspelling Robby.

      • rogershipp

        My the is often teh if I am not careful and check twice!

      • Norah

        Funny! 🙂 Without the context I’d wonder what was a typo in that sentence.

    • Charli Mills

      Great dynamic between the brothers. I have a hunch this will be a bonding moment.

      • rogershipp

        Thanks for the kind words and the read.

    • Liz H

      Your final line–ballooned this story into an sweet surprise!

      • Allison Maruska

        Thanks! Glad it worked. ????

    • Charli Mills

      We had to widen the pastures, Allison! Glad you found a spot to park your wagon.

  36. Kerry E.B. Black

    Message in Mylar
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    A gold mylar balloon’s string knotted around branch high in a beech tree, secured by a Cub Scout named Stan. It bobbed, a cheerful beacon, a coded message. “Be well,” it said. “You’re not forgotten.”
    His pack-mate friend, Bob, got into huge trouble which resulted in suspension from school and a marathon grounding. Nobody under the age of ten had seen Bob since the prank which flooded the the school, and Stan worried about his mischievous friend.
    Since he couldn’t visit or phone, Stan sent a message as only he could, a cheerful balloon floating outside his bedroom window.

    • Norah

      Sounds like both Stan and Bob are not behind in creative thinking. A nice piece about friendship finding a way.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Balloon as beacon. Friends till the end, I’m thinking, even through the disconcerting disappearance through a “marathon grounding”.

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of language that puts us in a youthful frame of mind, cheering the idea to boost a friend’s spirits.

  37. paulamoyer

    Good post, Charli! Good to see Radio Geek and Solar Man this weekend — they gave good love to my broken ankle!

    Charmed by Jimmy Webb

    By Paula Moyer

    “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon …” Jean learned the alto part of “Up, Up, and Away,” dutifully in chorus, but with a different edge. The composer, Jimmy Webb, was from Oklahoma.

    “He’s one of us,” the girls whispered in awe. Other hits came later. He seemed golden.

    But “Up, Up, and Away” went into Jean’s soul. The idea of a guy offering her not just a ride in a car, even a nice one. But … in a balloon?

    “Suspended under a twilight canopy…”

    Jean hummed alto as if she could will him into life.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      This is well done, but dang it now that song is stuck in my head.

      • paulamoyer

        So funny!

    • Liz H

      Marilynn McCoo…the voice I always wanted to be be, growing up!

      • paulamoyer

        I did, too, Liz!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so glad they could give you good love while you settled in with your broken ankle. I hope it is doing better, but it will take time to heal. I had no idea Jimmy Webb was from Oklahoma! I loved that song!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli. Believe me, when you’re in a place that is often under the radar, like Oklahoma, no local-makes-good goes unnoticed!

  38. Rowena

    Hi Charli,
    I haven’t been round for awhile and hope I got this one in on time: The Silent Bomb beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/the-silent-bomb-carrot-ranch/
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    • Frank Hubeny

      I liked that part about ticking at the end.

      • Rowena

        Thanks very much, Frank. I actually did this prank on my brother but was laughing so much he knew something was wrong.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Rowena! Good to see you at the Ranch and with a fun flash in tow!

      • Rowena

        Thanks very much, Charli.

    • Liz H

      Lovely and touching…light as a balloon floating away…

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a lovely idea, Heather, and I hope you are feeling better. It’s so hard to be sick and to be a mom.

    • Charli Mills

      I know spring is out there, Joe! I’m willing to believe in it! Thanks for a heart-warming flash!

      • Joe Owens

        Do you allow serials Charli? If so I will try to fold in the recipient’s side this time around.

      • Charli Mills

        Definitely! When a character or storyline takes hold, a serial is a natural evolution to the 99-word form. In fact…that’s our focus in Vol. 2. We need to connect! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Anna! So good to see you at the Ranch!

  39. Sherri Matthews

    Love your flash Charli. And what a story of grit and persistance and vision…you’ve come a long way baby! You sent that one balloon up and five people reached for it and here we all are four years later. Truly inspiring and I am so so proud and honoured to belong here. And I am so proud of you Charli. Thank you so much for letting your balloon go. I am inspired to do the same everytime I feel the fear. As you say, if you don’t let go, you’ll never know what might happen 😉
    But still my flash turns what…dark? A tad crazy? The title did it, came to me in a flash…and you know what happens after that! Thanks so much for giving me room to play in the literary sandbox 🙂 <3 ( Apologies if any offence by the f word…had to be I think… )

    99 Red Balloons

    Jim screeched his truck out of the driveway, sending his trash cans flying.

    Mandy winced but said nothing. All she could think about was the red cloud heading their way that news reports said was harmless. But Jim didn’t believe it. ‘Pack up, we’re leaving,’ he said as she begged him not to.

    ‘But honey, surely the government would know…?’ she had reasoned.

    ‘Fuck the government, you know we can’t trust a damn thing they say!’

    Deserted neighbourhoods zoomed by as they hit the open road. '99 Red Balloons' came on the radio, but Mandy didn’t dare sing along.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sherri! It’s been a journey and one you know well as we’ve shared big chunks of it (as in mountains and valleys). I’m glad you found that first balloon and dared to write fiction though you thought you didn’t. Ha, ha…and look at you go…into a zombie apocalypse! Of course it would be dark and crazy. And I’m listening to 99 Red Balloons right now! ???? ???? ????

    • Norah

      You got that right about the government. What’s there to believe? Great story.
      So glad you grabbed Charli’s balloon too, Sherri. There’s a whole heap of us sailing up high at the moment. It’d take a big pin to bring us all down!

    • Charli Mills

      You brought the best balloons for spring, Lisa — robins!

  40. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Congratulations Charli on your 4 years. It is hard to believe that it has been that long – I think I turned up very close to the beginning. It has been an incredible journey to have joined you on and your vision just sends it every higher in its reach. Just like a balloon. I loved your flash this week – it reminds me of the community you have created here.
    Mine this week https://irenewaters19.com/2018/03/11/project-mogul-99-word-flash-fiction/

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! Yes, you did and I can still hear the creaking of the wheelbarrow you brought along! 😀 Thank you for being a pillar of the community!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Lucy! Thanks, I thought I’d give a nod to Hemingway in my flash, mimicking his famous six-word story (For sale: baby shoes, never worn.). Then I had to decide where it might lead! That’s an interesting idea — time travelers who leave something from the future like a balloon and how it could alter history.

      • LucciaGray

        I’ll try for time travel next time!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! That’s perfect. I had not seen this article before. Stephen Hawking did have a good sense of humor! Rather appropriate that he left for his cosmos journey on Pi Day.

      • Norah

        I think he must have planned it. It is very appropriate.

  41. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing!

  42. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Denise!

  43. Charli Mills

    Welcome to the Ranch, Hayley!

  44. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Robert!

  45. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  46. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hugh!

  47. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sue!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge – The Militant Negro™ - […] Source: March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]
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  4. Balloons – Swerve Strikes Again - […] weeks Carrot Ranch Literary Community 99 word challenge is now open.  The prompt this week is […]
  5. March 8 – Flash Fiction  – Balloon | But I Smile Anyway... - […] prompt this […]
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  7. March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge – Full Of Hot Air | Morpethroad - […] Written for: https://carrotranch.com/2018/03/09/march-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
  8. 99 word prompt : Ballooning career | Two on a Rant - […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  https://carrotranch.com/2018/03/09/march-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ […]
  9. Time To Let Go – By Sarah - […] Carrot Ranch, Flash Fiction Challenge – March 8, 2018. Task: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a…
  10. Coulrophobia – odyssey of happiness - […] Carrot Ranch, Flash Fiction Challenge – March 8, 2018. Task: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a…
  11. Balloon Children – Writing is Communication - […] in response to March 8, 2018, prompt by Carrot Ranch Literary Community: In 99 words (no more, no less)…
  12. Launch – ….Bilocalalia…. - […] Via #DailyPost and #CarrotRanchChallenge […]
  13. Project Mogul: 99 Word Flash Fiction | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist) - […] response to Charli’s prompt where she […]
  14. Moonlit Balloons | From the Valley of the Trolls - […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (08/08/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can…
  15. Balloons and Bubbles – aroused - […] Flash Fiction Contest […]
  16. neelwrites/balloon/flash/fiction/shortstory/100days/11/03/2018 | neelwritesblog - […] March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]
  17. Balloons | The Story Files - […] by; https://carrotranch.com/2018/03/09/march-8-flash-fiction-challenge/ with […]
  18. 99 Word Prompt: Balloons – Robert Kirkendall - […] March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]
  19. Boon! (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge) | Michaelsfishbowl - […] The Carrot Ranch Literary Community, hosted by Charli Mills, is?HERE. […]
  20. Stumped | ShiftnShake - […] complete story so far including the next installment, Spring & Everything, a  response to the Carrot Ranch March 8…
  21. The Moon’s a Balloon | jagahdilmein - […] Ranch Literary Community’s Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by Charli Mills. Charli’s prompt this week, in her own words, […]
  22. When The Balloon Goes Up #carrotranch #flashfiction | TanGental - […] week’s prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch […]
  23. The Dragon’s Balloon | Wallie's Wentletrap - […] in response to Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Check it […]
  24. A Balloon Tragedy – The First Air Accident | The Curious Archaeologist - […] week’s prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch […]
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  26. Flash Fiction: Mylar | Allison Maruska - […] been a while since I participated in a flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch, and I especially liked…
  27. What makes a bully a bully? | Norah Colvin - […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less)…
  28. Invisible Balloons – Hugh's Views & News - […] in response to the 99-word flash fiction challenge with the theme of ‘Balloons‘ over at the Carrot […]
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