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May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

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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.”


  1. […] Source: May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “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.”

    Liked by 13 people

  3. […] May 3- Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reena Saxena says:


    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.

    Liked by 13 people

  5. Annecdotist says:

    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

    Liked by 7 people

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

      Liked by 2 people

    • paulamoyer says:

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

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jules says:

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

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      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.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 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!

    Liked by 7 people

    • Jules says:

      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.

      Liked by 1 person

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

        Liked by 2 people

      • Jules says:

        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.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 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.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      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.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. denmaniacs4 says:

    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.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Ritu says:

    Blurred lines between seawsns, I like that observation of yours Charli!
    Here’s my take today!

    Liked by 5 people

  9. […] Carrot Ranch, Flash Fiction – May 3, 2018. Task – In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 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.

    Liked by 9 people

  11. […] post that primes her May 3rd prompt at Carrot Ranch this week is upbeat and hopeful with the promise and excitement of spring. But a […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link: […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] was to incorporate the word “line”, however it popped into your head. Check it out from Charli at the Carrot Ranch for details of this week’s 99 word […]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 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…”

    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!

    Liked by 8 people

  15. […] via May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Literary Community […]

    Liked by 1 person

  16. […] in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include ‘a line’ in the story. Check out other entries or take part […]

    Liked by 2 people

  17. 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.”

    Liked by 6 people

  18. LucciaGray says:

    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.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. […] 3, 2018, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the variation of the […]

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I had a great day playing in the Colorado dirt yesterday. I hope you enjoy. ❤

    "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.

    Liked by 7 people

  21. This Strange Eventful History

    “*All the world’s a….*”
    “*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.”

    Liked by 5 people

  22. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (05/03/2018): 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. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Liz H says:

    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

    Liked by 6 people

  24. […] is a second take on the Carrot Ranch May 3rd prompt , 99 words (no more, no less) using a line in the story. It is also six sentences with the word […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. The Haunted Wordsmith says:

    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.

    Liked by 7 people

  26. […] Charli’s prompt this week, in her own words, was: […]

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Here’s my entry for the week Charli. Have been extremely busy preparing fro my upcoming loooong vacation, so haven’t really been able to comment much. Will correct that this week

    Liked by 5 people

  28. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction […]

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Loved your flash this week. Cobb is a man who sees an opportunity and takes it. No waiting in the line for him. Your descriptions of spring sound just beautiful and the desire to have the freedom to be an otter or a bee I will join you. Mine this week:

    Liked by 6 people

  30. I love this article, Charli. It is so positive. Here is my contribution, a 99-word poem this week:

    Liked by 6 people

  31. […] In response to: […]

    Liked by 1 person

  32. papershots says:

    “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…”

    Liked by 4 people

  33. susansleggs says:

    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.”

    Liked by 4 people

  34. […] You can join in the prompt here: […]

    Liked by 1 person

  35. […] This story was written in response to Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge “Line” […]

    Liked by 1 person

  36. […] May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I love working on these prompts! 😀

    This is my take on the prompt:

    Liked by 5 people

  38. Ann Edall-Robson says:

    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.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. paulamoyer says:

    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.”

    Liked by 3 people

  40. […] May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  41. […] in response to Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge and the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt. Check ’em […]

    Liked by 1 person

  42. This week’s prompt made me think of old tv shows where kids drew a line down the middle of their bedrooms when mad at each other. I have 4 kids and when they shared rooms, this is definitely what they would have done.

    Liked by 3 people

  43. […] Carrot Ranch prompt 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. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Jules says:


    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:
    (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.


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

    Liked by 5 people

  45. janmalique says:

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

    Liked by 1 person

  46. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the variation of the word … […]

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I finally made it here with my response to the prompt, “Reading Between the Lines”
    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.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      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.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        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. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        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! ❤


  48. […] For: Carrot Ranch’s May 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 2 people

  49. […] in response to the May 3, 2018, flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Here I am, bringing up the rear again! Love your intro and your treatment of the prompt. It’s so good to be back here writing. Now I have lots of reading to do…

    Liked by 1 person

  51. […] Carrot Ranch 99 word Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  52. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (05/03/2018): 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. […]


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