May 3: 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.

May 4, 2018

Between ice and crocus, spring lunges across the Keweenaw Peninsula. No sooner did we hack down the snow bank did the warming sun reveal bursts of snowdrops, scilla, and grape hyacinth. Purples of all hues, creamy whites, and buttery yellows paint the greening grass as tree limbs stretch skyward with fat buds.

Never have I witnessed a spring so eager as not to wait for the passing of snow. I recall the slow gray days and brown transitions elsewhere. Here, I feel transported to a Thomas Kincade scene gone wild throughout my neighborhood.

To exemplify how close spring grazes winter, on Monday we drove the familiar path to Iron Mountain for a VA appointment. As we curved around the Keweenaw Bay in a ying-yang of ice and open water, I watched an ice fisherman walk out to his hole while another man prepared to launch a boat. No changing of the guard, just a strange co-existence as one season fades and the other blazes to life.

Tulip leaves with seductive curves reach out of the grass. How soon before they add to the canvas? I’ve never been as excited to spot flowers as I do birds, but it’s hard to resist the call of the colors. Somehow, it excites me more about the birds. In a mood to drive, to soak in the warmth of days, to spot flowers and winged fowl, the Hub and I meander home the long way from Iron Mountain and end up in the port city of Marquette.

We drive down to the pier where the iron ore dock stands like an abandoned skyscraper above a crackle of broken harbor ice. Lake Superior stretches out winter white and we drive by with windows rolled down. I feel like I’ve run down a rabbit hole where winter is warm, and spring bulbs dot the snow. We lose count of hawk sightings on the drive back to Hancock.

About ten miles from home, the Sturgeon River fills its banks with snowmelt. The week before we couldn’t access the marsh bird tower at this site because snow closed the road. This week, the road is clear, the river full, and the marsh is half ice, half winter grass. Eagerly, I take the wooden steps up to the three-story-tall observation deck of the Sturgeon River bird tower.

Between me and the far reaches of the Keweenaw Peninsula, I can see flat marsh, the river, the Portage Canal, and the ridge that hides Lake Superior. White seagulls circle over the canal when I scope the far horizon in my binoculars. A double-breasted cormorant flies low past the bird tower with slow flaps, dipping its head downward to scan the river.

Mallard drakes leap out of a patch of grass. Two veer left, and I keep binoculars on the one flying toward a frozen ditch in the shadow of a bank. It hovers over the bank, and beneath its webbed feet, I see something black begin to move. It glides out onto the ice, and I recognize the form of a river otter.

Slink, slink, glide…slink, slink, glide…

I squeal and watch Otter on Ice close-up in my binoculars. The Hub can see the movement and lets me look, knowing how excited I am. When the otter disappears into an open hole of water, I finally hand him the binoculars. A river otter sighting is like seeing Elvis at the mall. Everybody knows Elvis lives, but no one ever really sees him.

Later, when walking with Cranky (my neighbor who sells crank sewing machines), we talk about the otter and remark at all the crocuses and spring bulbs quilting the neighborhood. A robin twitters overhead as if to point out the buds. I say I want to be an otter — to glide on my belly across ice seems such a delight.

That’s when the bumblebee buzzes past, and we follow his trail to the cup of a purple crocus. Like a  dog rolling in the grass, the bee tumbles about the flower, and I decide I want to be a bee, too. I feel childlike with all senses open — the smells of the earth, the tweets of birds, the feel of the setting sun, the blaze of colors. I want to glide and roll in it all.

It reminds me of coloring and the reproof to color within the lines.

But what if the lines are a part of the coloring? Edges define one place to the next. I’m fascinated by edges and where we go past them. Lines separate and organize. Lines are to be crossed. All lined up feels formal and arranged. Perhaps winter and all its lines have me yearning for the scattering of color outside them. It’s not the end of the line. It’s only the beginning.

May 3, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the variation of the word meaning, or you can think of visual references. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 15, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.

Lined Up to Go (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Wagons lined up to cross Rock Creek. Early season argonauts set land sails toward Colorado Territory – Pikes Peak or bust. Wagons hauling wares to mining-camps joined throngs of optimistic miners. Sarah counted several women, rare as mules among oxen. The trek suited the bull-headed. Seated next to Cobb on their Conestoga, they waited. He wanted to reckon crossings. The muddy slopes caused slippage and broken axels. Two wagons tipped, one man drowned, and two-hundred and fifty-four wagons crossed.

“That settles it,” Cobb said after Sarah lined up the numbers. “We’re buying Rock Creek Station and building a toll bridge.”

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226 Comments

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Dang, look it thet long line at Shorty’s chuck wagon.”
    “Yep, she’s in a bloomin’ good mood Kid. Spring’s got ‘er cookin’ outdoors again an’ she’s fried up a mess a bacon fer ever’one.”
    “Yeehaw! ‘Bout time! Let’s go. Oh, yeah, Pal, ya kin smell the bacon even back here at the end a the line. I cain’t wait.”
    “Ya’ll have ta wait Kid, wait yer turn.”
    “I know Pal.”
    “Otherwise ya’d be outta line.”
    “I ain’t gittin’ outta this line… gittin’ there, Pal… Shorty! Shorty? Why’d ya serve me a carrot?”
    “Sorry, Kid, outta bacon, but carrots aplenty.”

    • Shallow Reflections

      Argggh! No bacon? And a carrot instead? I love carrots and the Carrot Ranch, but I would get out of line to get me some bacon! -Molly

    • anuragbakhshi

      Playing by the rules is not all that it is made out to be 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The funny thing is, there were 99 in line; Kid was numero 100. Goes to show. The Kid has an unwavering faith that Shorty knows best, so carrots it is. Pal says you should bring home yer own bacon anyway.

    • paulamoyer

      Very funny! And not one to inspire following rules!

    • Jules

      A carrot is better than a rock. I’ve been watching cooking shows – do you know they’ve got bacon for just about anything – even desert! Chocolate cover bacon… I think I’d rather have a carrot. 😉

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Watch out fer Shorty regarding that rock comment, Jules.
        Maple bacon ice-cream, yum. Bacon also serves as a swizzle stick in a bloody mary or a maple whiskey based Manhattan. Bacon wrapped scallops, apples, brussel sprouts… Bacon chai latte… yeah.
        But of course it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. Carrots are awesome.

      • Jules

        Rocks ‘er good fer stone soup! 🙂
        Maybe not the real special rocks though?

        I like limoncello and cream Bourbon. An’ real good Tequila. 😉

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ok, rein it in, you didn’t even mention bacon.

      • Jules

        Turkey bacon’s OK… Pork and I don’t get along… Yeah I know it’s not quite the same, but at least the piggies are happy. The Turkey’s – not so much.

      • Charli Mills

        Jules, you do know you are getting a box of rocks?! 😀

      • Jules

        🙂
        Rocks are good for many things – but they might break yer teeth if ya try and munch ’em.
        I look forward to it! I’m sure the Grands will enjoy it too. 🙂

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      I do love carrots. But bacon is a winner.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s hard to cut that one darling…! But we will find some more bacon. I was thinking honey roasted carrots with crumbled bacon on top next chuck wagon.

  2. Reena Saxena

    ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LINE

    A crowd gathered near the shore in the old port town.

    “Women have always been punished for crossing the line. Eve took a bite of the apple. Sita crossed the line drawn by one man, to be kidnapped by another. The crimes against women have increased since, and the victim blamed.

    I tried to escape on a boat, and had my legs cut off. But I have learnt how to swim. There is no helplessness on the other side of the line.”

    So saying, the mermaid spat on the perpetrator…. it was the venom she had carried for ages.

    • floridaborne

      Yes — the thinking of men through the ages: I swerved to the left, I swerved to the right, but the tree hit me anyway. ” 🙂

    • LucciaGray

      Wow! Loved this flash. It was so unexpected and makes such a good point!

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you so much, Luccia!

    • Liz H

      Powerful!

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks, Molly!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Great ending

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks, Anurag!

    • thedarknetizen

      A really powerful read! 🙂
      Loved it!

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you so much!

    • paulamoyer

      This took my breath away.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Jules

      “There is no helplessness on the other side of the line.”
      A valuable lesson for everyone.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you so much, Jules!

    • Charli Mills

      Reena, you packed a full punch in this flash fiction, from the gathering crowd to the venom of ages. I think the most powerful anchor in your piece is: “I tried to escape on a boat, and had my legs cut off. But I have learnt how to swim. There is no helplessness on the other side of the line.””

      • Reena Saxena

        Developing different tools is no joke,but a person on the brink of destruction can do it at times. Thanks!

  3. Annecdotist

    Enjoyed your story from Rock Creek with that lovely image of the Argonauts setting sail. I imagine people would happily pay the toll to avoid such a risky crossing.
    Spring is also coming to the UK this weekend after some exceptionally chilly weather. My cherry blossom is in bloom and butterflies are fluttering around the garden. Seems it’s got you excited over there and you’re not sure whether you need to rein it in or let go.
    Your association with children’s colouring books has worked well for me as I had two reviews waiting featuring men taking salaried posts after art school. But my flash has taken me in a different direction with a story about a famous imaginary lion.
    After art school: The Chalk Artist & You http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/05/after-art-school-the-chalk-artist-you.html

    • Shallow Reflections

      Love the word play and the idea of the equator becoming an equalizer. Stretching the band would create a new world. – Molly

    • paulamoyer

      Good play on words! Also leaves open a gap between the narrator’s expected gold star and what happens next.

    • Jules

      I agree with Molly – Maybe we can make it happen with and for our own children and grandchildren.

    • Charli Mills

      One of the controversies to come out of the Rock Creek history is the opinion that Cobb was a greedy man to build a toll bridge. I think he was smart, and his prices show him to be fair. It’s been a knot to untangle fact from opinion in this story, and funny how writing its fiction gives stronger glimpses to the truth.

      The image of butterflies and cherry blossoms sounds advanced to our river otters on ice and bumble bees in crocus cups, but I’ll take what we have with glee. And your flash is both thought-provoking and delightful in its character’s determination.

  4. pensitivity101

    How wonderful to see an otter that close!

    here’s my offering this week
    One of the designs I attempted when I first started making cards some years ago was curves with straight lines, using silvered thread in various fluorescent colours. It was quite straightforward and similar to the demonstration where we used threads on a serrated circle to get the desired effect. By adding a little diamante in the centre, the cards were simple, but effective.
    The only drawback I found on mine was that although they looked very nice on the front, the backs were always untidy, so I had to put a secondary card in place to cover my workings!

    • Jules

      Reminds me of counted stitchery. Though if you do that right the front is supposed to look almost as good as the back. Though Embroidery is different because of variety of stitches.

      • pensitivity101

        I’ve never heard of this, though I used to do quite a lot of embroidery when I was younger.

      • Jules

        Also known as counted-cross stitch – hobby and fabric stores sell kits. Some have the pattern on the special material and you fill it with two strands of floss – others the material is blank and you have to be very careful about counting where your X’s go.

      • pensitivity101

        Ah, cross stitch I am familiar with, though I have never done any. A work colleague did one from a wedding photograph of another work colleague and it was fabulous.

    • Charli Mills

      Di, it was a divine moment! Usually, such sightings happen so fast that by the time I focus the binoculars, it’s over. But I caught it perfect as the otter emerged. Your cards — and flash — are of a brilliant design even if the back work has to be covered.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. I haven’t done any like that for a while as the thread etc were in the boxes that were given away.

  5. denmaniacs4

    As a writer who loves the sun, I am rarely drawn to vampirical observations. But the stars aligned, my mood-skin punctured by a slight tincture of night hunger…

    Blood Line Slippage

    I have not knowingly given my blood since then. That blood test could have damaged me, us, our secret. There is no hiding from the laboratory.

    “Your blood is ink-black,” she’d said. “Thick, like fibrous phlegm.”

    I was taken aback. Grampa Drac had warned my old transfusion-nannywench. “The lad’s home schooled. Avoid physicians, their ilk, like the sun. He has human sensibilities.”

    Juvenile awkward, lost in the midnight mist, I had stumbled on a moss-laden gravestone, been carted away to the clinic.

    The technician’s skin was soft and warm.

    I corrected my grievous error.

    The blood line was secure.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • LucciaGray

      Loved it. Chilling!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Thank God he didn’t get tainted by human blood.

    • Jules

      Oh…nice ending! Saved the family Jewels… I mean blood.

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, you ought to write more when a midnight snack is calling! You created such empathy and drama for the Drac-line.

    • Liz H

      Groan! Totally relatable! 😉

    • Shallow Reflections

      Persistent and creative even if the lines are cheesy! -Molly Stevens

      • Ritu

        Ha ha! He is definitely persistent Molly!
        Thanks for reading!

    • paulamoyer

      Great approach to this prompt!

      • Ritu

        😀

    • Jules

      A nice take on ‘Lines’ 🙂

      • Ritu

        Thanks Jules, just some of the cheese you hear out there!

      • Jules

        Thankfully after decades of a happy marriage I don’t have to deal with that kind of ‘cheese’. 🙂

      • Ritu

        No… I don’t either… 2 decades settled… but this harks back to uni days!!!

    • Charli Mills

      Ritu, the cheese is oozing from your flash! Great humor between the lines. 🙂

      • Ritu

        I’m sure we all like a bit of cheese Charli!!!

      • Charli Mills

        I like a tall glass of whine with my cheese! 😀

    • Shallow Reflections

      Interesting flash and commentary on the 50’s. I was alive during that decade and my parents lived through the depression. My mother was never critical but when it was hard to please my Dad. Thanks for the insight. Now I need therapy just like poor Helen. ???? -Molly Stevens

    • Jules

      Oooh…this reminds me of a movie I saw about a girl who when she got angry drew… and if she drew rocks, they would fall from the sky –
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Red_(miniseries) Rose Red is a haunted house.
      “Annie begins to draw pictures of boulders striking the house, smashed doors, and broken glass, and soon doors and windows all over the house are opening and closing violently and glass in the windows shatters. Rocks begin to fall, destroying Mrs. Waterman’s car and causing severe damage to Rose Red.”

      • floridaborne

        If only she’d had that power…

    • Charli Mills

      Joelle, your flash shows us what the adults are failing to see between the lines.

      • floridaborne

        Children pick up on it and the effects last for a lifetime.

    • Liz H

      Wonderful pairing of your artwork and your flash!

      • lisarey1990

        Thank you for reading. 🙂

    • Shallow Reflections

      The horrible reality of drug addiction in 99 words. Well done! -Molly Stevens

      • lisarey1990

        Thank you for reading. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      You took us to that painful realization through the lines the character contemplates. Good one, Lisa.

    • Jules

      Hopefully without injury?
      Always scary to lose control of something with such great force.

      • weejars

        Thankfully it wasn’t an entirely true story…just loosely based on one!

    • Charli Mills

      That would be a momentary relief. Fun take on the prompt, Sarah.

      • weejars

        Momentary being the operative word if he’s anything like my husband! Lol ????

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Lines Cut

    I said I’d drop her a line and left. For adventure for independence for life.
    I traveled, knew the hypnotic spell of the white line binding the highway’s edge, don’t cross it. I pulsed to the marcato beat of white lines cut on a sad square of mirror, don’t look. Learned to cook with a crucible spoon, quick and easy recipe scratched in welted purple lines on my skin, don’t ask.
    My life is a tangled broken web, doesn’t hold fast. She tossed a lifeline but I cut it into pieces to knot around my arm, no going back.

    • LucciaGray

      Great flash. I can really feel her desperation and need to sever all lines / links to her p.ast

    • Jules

      Choices… Each has to make their own.

    • Charli Mills

      Your lines to describe a downward spiral have a staccato beat that adds to the demise.

  7. Peregrine Arc

    Because you’re mine…I walk the line.

    I jumbled another quarter into the jukebox, willing the old machine to pick up a record and come back to life.

    “Cash for Cash,” I mumbled, my nose pressed eagerly against the dusty glass casing.

    “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine…” meandered out, scratchy but strong. I sighed and finally sat down to my breakfast.

    “Johnny, it’s not going too good here,” I mumbled between my yolks. “How did you get through life without losing hope and faith?”

    “…I walk the line…”

    https://peregrinearc.com/2018/05/05/flash-fiction-may-3rd-because-youre-mine-i-walk-the-line/#more-388

    Johnny Cash popped into my head at the line prompt. I put the lyrics in italics in my blog; couldn’t do that here. Enjoy!

    • LucciaGray

      Great take on the prompt. We all need to walk the line, or else…?

      • Peregrine Arc

        Pensive thoughts, indeed. Thanks for reading.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I had that song in my head too. I like how Johnny is invoked in this piece.
      He was Something.

      • Peregrine Arc

        He was, indeed. Thanks for reading!

    • Liz H

      I heard him immediately–great song and a unique take on the prompt!

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thanks for reading!

    • paulamoyer

      Totally love what you did with this prompt!

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thanks and thanks for reading!

    • Jules

      Lines on a record. Some moods just spiral – Nice take.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Lovely comment. Thanks for reading.

    • Charli Mills

      Your flash even expresses that weight of the world felt in Johnny Cash’s songs.

    • Liz H

      Totally unexpected–great!

    • Jules

      Always magic in the sea. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

  8. Shallow Reflections

    Oh, how I look forward to your weekly introductions to the prompt, Charli. Your description of ‘spring grazing winter’ is exquisite! Unlike last week when I struggled to come up with a response to fishing, this week there were so many ways to write about lines, I had trouble deciding what to write about. Here is what I settled on.

    Guilty as charged

    The judge asked, “What do you have to say in your defense?”

    “I didn’t mean for this to happen,” she replied.

    “Well, you did, and now the damage is done. How did you sink to this level?”

    “It started with a greeting in the hallway. Then we sat next to each other at lunch, which led to discussions over coffee.”

    “That seems innocent enough.”

    “It was. I’m as surprised as you that I was capable of seeing issues from her point of view.”

    “You realize I have no choice but to punish you, right? You crossed the party line.”

    https://www.shallowreflections.com/guilty-as-charged-flash-fiction/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! Are these congressmen?
      Charli’s posts are what makes the CRLC prompts stand out from the rest. I wrote here once that Thursdays were like Christmas morning every week. We are some lucky kids.

      • Shallow Reflections

        They could be members of congress for sure! I feel the same way about the day I read the prompt and Charli’s post. I can’t wait to get out of bed and unwrap the weekly present!???? We are lucky kids!

    • Liz H

      Totally worth the risk, though!

    • Annecdotist

      Clever one, Molly. It certainly is a crazy world where it’s taken as weakness to consider another person’s point of view.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you, Anne. I agree. What happened to the art of debate? How will I ever grow and learn if I can’t hear another’s opinion?

    • Charli Mills

      Molly, I hope spring is grazing winter in your parts, too! Or maybe it’s crossing the line and getting too friendly with the opposition. What a terrific modern tale!

      • Shallow Reflections

        Haha! Spring is not just grazing here, it is gorging itself. The grass is lush and green. Leaves and blossoms are popping out everywhere, and birds are busy making nests. It is glorious!

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, gorging spring! Yes, at long last!

  9. LucciaGray

    Glad spring’s finally arrived. It’s lovely and warm in Spain with lots of roses and wildflowers, they’re both so beautiful that I keep taking pictures and posting pictures on my blog.
    Great flash. Tells us more about Cobb’s character. What a great idea to build a toll bridge! Cobb’s a cool businessman indeed.
    My ‘line’ took me to a very contemporary dating venue this time! Hope you enjoy.
    https://lucciagray.com/2018/05/06/carrot-ranch-flashfiction-speed-dating-99words-sundayblogshare/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Well done! Nice use of the writer’s notebook. (You know some are going to wonder how this turns out; keep the notebook handy)

      • LucciaGray

        Yes, I was thinking this couple could have some more episodes????

    • Shallow Reflections

      She helped him write a perfect pick up line, LucciaGray! Creative take on the prompt. – Molly Stevens

    • susansleggs

      It’s nice to know someone at the venue wanted to be honest. Well done.

    • Annecdotist

      Sweet story, Lucy.

      • LucciaGray

        Thank you, Anne.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m going to gawk at your flowers, Lucy! Roses must fill the air with warm scents, too. I’m glad Cobb is coming across as a cool-headed businessman. Your flash is both funny and sweet!

      • LucciaGray

        There are some lovely scents and textures. May is a colourful month in my part of the world!

  10. Colleen Chesebro

    I had a great day playing in the Colorado dirt yesterday. I hope you enjoy. <3

    "Beltane's Song"

    I plunged my hands into the soil feeling the remains of winter’s damp. I smiled as the sun’s abundant rays covered me in a blanket of warmth and opulence. Today brings the first indication that a line has been crossed from winter into spring.

    Consecrating life –

    Goddess fertility thrives,

    Beltane’s assurance.

    Birds cantillate, flowers bloom,

    crops sprout neath the flower moon.

    Spring has always been my favorite time of year. Beltane is halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Beltane honors new life. It represents that Spring is underway, and Summer is just around the corner.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Gardening, a right fine spring ritual. I am glad to get more on Beltane, I have been seeing that one around. So thanks!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        You’re welcome. Beltane is May 1st, and really celebrates the fertility of the season. <3

    • Shallow Reflections

      I have never heard of Beltane before so thank you, Colleen, for introducing me to the meaning of the word. I love this time of year thus I love Beltane. Also I love the word ‘cantillate.’ – Molly Stevens

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Molly. I’m on a quest to find words that sound great in poetry. I’m thrilled you enjoyed. ????????????

    • anuragbakhshi

      What a cool song.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks. Happy Spring! ????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Colleen, your song of spring is fitting for a day spent in fertile soil. Beautiful flash!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thank you! I’m thrilled. ????????

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    This Strange Eventful History

    “*All the world’s a….*”
    “Stage.”
    “*Stage; and* … I forget my lines!”
    “*And all the men and women merely players*.”
    “I can’t play, I forget my lines; I don’t know my lines!”
    “Stop panicking, the show must go on. You’re on stage for God’s sake, just improvise.”
    “Shouldn’t there be a script?”
    “You’re better off without it. It’s been lifted, revised and reworded so many times now… no one can agree on any of it. Just play it as you like it.”
    “What if it doesn’t make sense?”
    “Doesn’t matter, it will all make sense in the seventh act.”

    • Liz H

      “Just play it as you like it.”
      I saw what you did there–fun!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        It’s all an allusion. I forget the source… Whose Line? Where it’s all made up and the points don’t matter? Something like that.

      • Liz H

        “Allusion” You’re two for two, here! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      “I can’t play…”! Playing with lines is panic-inducing. I used to have dreams about forgetting lines, and I don’t play either.

  12. Liz H

    Perhaps it’s the wonderful blog on Spring and Nature that you’ve shared with us here, Charli, but this week I went from negative and apocalyptic, as shown in the Flash below, to something more hopeful in a longer piece.

    Combined the Carrot Ranch prompt with one from a Saturday morning prompt with locals, then dialed it back to 99 words. For the fuller version that reads quite differently, click on the link for “jack the Ripper Spins.”

    Cheers for our beautiful Spring weather!

    Cheesy Lines in Apocalyptic Times

    Air quality alerts had been on “Severe” for the past two months. The pub was filled with exhausted workers.

    “Stock in Enviro-domes hit an unprecedented high today,” a googly-eyed hack chirped from the TV above the bar. “So much winning in our war against the Climate Accord!”

    Molly drooped over her pint, breath labored and bubbling. “I’m sick of being sick.”

    “I know a sure remedy for that!” a skeletal man waggled his eyebrows, his leer thick as the city smog.

    “I’d say blow it out your ass, Jack, but it stinks worse than your cheesy lines,” Molly snapped.

    © Liz Husebye Hartmann (2018)

    Slightly longer version, different meaning, more satisfying tale: Jack the Ripper Spins

    • Shallow Reflections

      This made me laugh in spite of the serious topic, Liz. I love the image of a google-eyed hack chirping, and a skeletal man waggling his eyebrows. Of course, Molly steals the show with her perfect comeback. 😉 – Molly

      • Liz H

        ( I just got that YOU’RE Molly!)

      • Shallow Reflections

        I just realized that people would not necessarily know who I am since I use my name on the Carrot Ranch site but my website name on comments. I’m going to try to bring my two identities together. Haha!

      • Liz H

        You can be a Superhero Carrot Cowpoke and have a secret identity…think of the costuming possibilities!

      • Shallow Reflections

        Good point, Liz! I had not thought of that. I’m going back under cover ASAP. ????

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ok, good flash, grim scenario, clever dialogue. (Go Molly) Gotta head over to your place for a different view. (And isn’t it fun to play that way? I did that last week. I think.)

      • Liz H

        It’s funny what happens when you borrow from the TUFF stuff…

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I’m back. It took longer than I thought, Tom poured me a drink. I think I dropped my comment at the bar.

      • Liz H

        Probably the only tip Tommy gets today… 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Even when doomsday looms, some things never change at the bar scene! Molly (the character) has a great come back!

    • Charli Mills

      Like pop music! 😀

  13. The Haunted Wordsmith

    Waiting in Line

    The worn-down woman’s bones creaked and ached as she woke her children before dawn.

    “Quietly,” she whispers. “Don’t wake the others.”

    Dutifully, the children rise and smooth the linen that served as last night’s blanket.

    “Mama, I’m cold,” the youngest one says as the cool morning air punctures his skinny body.

    “Why do we have to do this every morning?” her oldest daughter asks.

    “Shush,” their mother tells them as they reach the end of the line.

    “Maybe one day we’ll be able to have food again without waiting in line,” she tells her children.

    “Yes, Mama,” they concede.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwe, that’s so Heart-breaking.

      • The Haunted Wordsmith

        It was the first thing that came to my mind.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Had to be written, this line penned by poor feet in our country but not always read.

    • Charli Mills

      I think the saddest line comes with the children’s concession. Nicely done.

    • papershots

      ???? nice touch! Totally unexpected ending

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank you so much

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      There’s something intriguing about this, if I could only put my finger on it…

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Thank you so much

    • Charli Mills

      You have a wonderful vacation! Come back with lots of stories, Anurag!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, let’s just bee! 😀

    • thedarknetizen

      The last three lines were hard-hitting indeed! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie! I enjoyed your extra constraint of using poetry for your flash., too.

  14. papershots

    LINES
    “And all these coinciding factors caused a state of utter poverty…” He was struggling the get the girls’ attention. Their highlighters drew colorful lines through the paragraphs of the book. That was more interesting than his words. “There’s a striking resemblance with today. Think about the current crisis.” One girl looked up, but the professor’s gaze was on the clear-cut horizon of the fields outside, above the straight line of the window. He wished history could be like that. Surely he couldn’t cross that line? “Personally I like them blonde but brunettes are fine as well, when they’re young…”

    https://papershots.org/2018/05/07/lines/

    • Charli Mills

      Great overlapping ideas centered on lines and crossing them.

      • papershots

        Thanks! 🙂

  15. susansleggs

    Police Escort

    When my parents arrived for my son’s birthday party, my father was red-faced and sputtering. “We couldn’t turn off the side road because a cop blocked it for almost five minutes while a line of motorcycles flew by.”
    “Did a lot of the bikes have American flags attached and were the riders wearing vests with lots of patches?”
    “So what. They made us late.”
    “I think you missed seeing the front of the line. That was the Patriot Guard escorting our neighbor’s cousin to her funeral. She was killed in Afghanistan.”
    “Oh. I guess she deserved a cop escort.”

    https://wordpress.com/post/susansleggs.com/10471

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A good reminder to slow when we are slowed and to pay attention to what has slowed us. And maybe pay respects while we pause there…
      (and who doesn’t love a motorcycle brigade?)

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Robbie.

    • Charli Mills

      You do the honor guards justice in your flash, Susan.

    • papershots

      me too! 🙂

      • thedarknetizen

        Awesome! 🙂
        Cheers to prompts and all these amazing takes on them!! 😀

    • susansleggs

      Hope your story awakens someone to the fact selfies can be dangerous. Well said.

      • thedarknetizen

        Thank You, Susan! 🙂
        I hope the same, that my story reaches some eyes!

    • Liz H

      Couldn’t have been heaven, so musta been hell.
      Or is it purgatory—the place for interminable waiting? That sigh said it all…

      • thedarknetizen

        It is Purgatory indeed!!

        Thank you for reading! 😀

      • Liz H

        My pleasure!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m delighted you are enjoying the prompts! I certainly enjoy the responses!

  16. Ann Edall-Robson

    Lifetime Passion
    by Ann Edall-Robson

    Speaking volumes of risqué thoughts and borderline worships with an avant-garde, flamboyant collection of pinks, greens and purple shades thrown into the mix. Who would have thought that one day of playing could turn into a lifetime passion? From afar, or near, it’s not easy to see what prompted the glorious, devil may care conglomeration of flowers surrounded by the oddest looking wavy lines of wood. The hooker red and devil black colours of the short picket fence melded with the ambiance of the flora. A subtle shock factor as one board flanked the next in dramatic contrast.
    https://bit.ly/2I0WK27

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Crossing lines with the borders? Or just pushing? Good colorful fences might piss off the neighbors.

    • Liz H

      Sign of Spring-into-Summer: from blushing bud to full-blown flower-riot!
      Can hardly wait for that to happen in my neck of the woods! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Wickedly great description of coloring outside the garden lines, Ann! And what a fence!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

  17. paulamoyer

    Oh, there are so many ways to use this prompt! Here’s mine:

    Wise Woman’s Warning

    By Paula Moyer

    Her junior year, Jean’s marriage collapsed.

    So her mother warned her about “the line”: “My wife doesn’t understand me.”

    “They’ll say that,” Mom cautioned. “Watch out.”

    Jean blew Mom off. It sounded like an old, not-so-good movie. Until.

    She was studying at an all-night coffee shop. Stan was in the next booth. Her best friend’s husband. “What are you doing here?”

    “Charlie left.” Jean cried. Stan came over, gave her tissues. Put his arm around her shoulder.

    “We should talk,” he said. “Sarah doesn’t understand me.”

    Thanks to Mom, Jean was ready.

    “Sarah understands you,” Jean answered. “Too well.”

    https://wordpress.com/post/paulajmoyerwrites.wordpress.com/333

    • Liz H

      They do indeed!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      And don’t let them on the couch now if you won’t want them there when they’re grown.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks you two!

    • Liz H

      Planning is everything in negotiation! 😉

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        True. If you make decisions in the heat of the moment, you are left with half of a bedroom with no exit.

      • Liz H

        …and a painfully full bladder–haha!

    • Charli Mills

      Parenting often proves to be a great resource for writing ideas. 🙂

  18. Jules

    Charli,

    I enjoyed the lines of your adventure of Cobb and Sarah. I cannot imagine being in that type of a caravan. But I suppose if one didn’t have a choice.
    And those famous lasting words “That settles it,” Cobb said after Sarah lined up the numbers. “We’re buying Rock Creek Station and building a toll bridge.”

    I’m still behind on reading. I may go to last weeks compilation. But I’m caught up on the comment lines… enough to mash up three prompts for:
    Unparalleled
    (please used the title link to see the other prompts)

    The thin lines of her orange bikini stood out amid the waves
    and surf of Hawaii. Some of the men, tourists on the beach
    had to clutch their chests as their heart rates escalated.
    They all wondered if the woman had any propinquity or
    sempiternal relationships with the younger men who sat
    on beaches’ driftwood.

    When she exited the water the woman had a swagger like
    the local Nene. But that was the only thing the woman had
    in common with the gray-brown goose.

    Imagination was like a hot air balloon – it would rise, eventually
    returning to Terra Ferma.

    ©JP/dh

    The grey brown goose is Hawai’i’s Nene. Other word definitions at post site.

    • robbiesinspiration

      This is brilliant, Jules. You certainly killed three with one blow here.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      BOTS? Memoir? Or old fashioned fiction? You masher, you.

      • Jules

        Pure fiction 99.99% anyway. As I have been to Maui. And I wear more than just strings (for my bathing costume!). Hardy ever wore a bikini…If it were BoTS I might have (nf) by the title – but that’s at my blog.

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      I love a good mashup!

    • Charli Mills

      The caravans that I would least like to be in were the hand-carts! Imagine pushing your belongings across the prairies and Rocky Mountains! Great mash-up, Jules! You have some interesting new vocabulary for me.

  19. janmalique

    I’ve missed participating in these prompts. Will post my contribution soon.

    • Charli Mills

      I look forward to your writing, Jan!

      • janmalique

        Been busy Charli, but glad I’ve managed to get one offering posted.

  20. Norah

    Hi Charli, I finally made it here with my response to the prompt, “Reading Between the Lines” https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-19c
    Looks like I’m last in line. I hope I’m not too late. When I noticed the responses were due by the 15th, I hoped I had plenty of time, but wondered if it was a mistake.
    I was a bit intrigued by the prompt as there are many ways to interpret it. You surprised me with your own, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was thinking of fishing lines and colouring between the lines. But what else could it be but a line of wagons?
    I’m hoping to catch up on some reading soon.

    • Charli Mills

      And I’ve made it al last to your response, Norah! I did not catch my deadline typo until I was setting up for the next one. I did note acknowledgment of the date and offered that stories could still be turned in, but yours was in the bucket on time so I got it! Thank you! Ah, yes, so many different lines to consider.

      • Norah

        I saw your acknowledgement but am pleased I made it in time anyway. At least you’re catching up. I think I’ve resigned to not doing so and just letting them go. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I follow many blogs by email, and I just cleared them out, “reset” my intentions for upcoming posts, and feel less under the pile. There’s a time for catching up, a time for doing, and a time for letting go. Don’t forget to take time to just be! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, but in the bucket, your flash is at the top! 🙂 Good to have you back and in great form, Lisa!

    • Charli Mills

      And yet still creative, Kate.

      • calmkate

        thanks so much Charli.

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing!

  22. Jules

    Could be the start of something good – that relationship. 🙂

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thank you!

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