May 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

May 11, 2018

It’s hard to take silent steps across broken glass. Shards ground into nuggets the size of small peas glitter green, brown, blue and diamond-clear litter the path. In the back of my mind, I acknowledge the oddity of walking on glass, but it’s some Wisconsin recycling measure to pave the trails with glass gravel. Right now. This moment. I’m on the hunt. Shhh…cranes.

Across time many have proposed theories to explain the brain — cranium size and shape, left brain, right brain, synapses firing. These attributes mean something and nothing. Perhaps the final frontier is not the vastness of space, but what is contained in the folds of the mind.

For me, I acknowledge pockets of focus. I put on my thinking cap, or I disappear into my head to read (or write) a good story. Some of my focus might actually be distractions, but I can’t wrap my mind around that quandary at the moment. I know I have Rock Brain and History Brain — oh, look, a squirrel! But most focused/distracting of all is Bird Brain.

I’m in stealth Bird Brain mode.

The gravel crunches beneath my sneakers, and I don’t think I’m sneaking up on any birds. Maybe that’s the actual point of the glass gravel. A sign explained it all, but when one has become a full-fledged member of the International Crane Institute of Baraboo, Wisconsin, one does not stop to read non-bird related signs. I’m hunting the elusive Whooping Crane.

Whoopers remain one of the rarest (and tallest) birds to grace the North American continent. They once nestled on the northern prairies from central Canada as far south as Iowa. In the winter they hung out in Texas and Louisianna. Then settlers, like Cobb McCanles and his family, moved west, and the whoopers disappeared.

By 1941, the Texas wintering flock huddled near extinction with only 15 birds remaining. In 1971, two Cornell University students dreamed of an organization that could protect the world’s 15 species of cranes, including the Whoopers. Serendipity is when you follow your passion, and you find an unexpected gift. It’s a happy chance.

Ornithology students, Ron Sauey and George Archibald, envisioned a place where they could combine research, captive breeding, and reintroduction of cranes to their depopulated habitats. They imagined a place where restoration and education would engage citizens to support a crane-focused organization. The first happy chance came from Wisconsin where a horse rancher offered land to the ornithology students.

The next bit of serendipity came when George accepted an invitation to go on the Johnny Carson Show, a well-viewed late-night program in the 1970s. Part of the appeal to a late-night American audience was the humorous story about how George wooed a Whooper named Tex. She was hatched in captivity and therefore imprinted to humans. To her Bird Brain, George was a potential mate.

Every morning, George walked with Tex, and they danced the crane dance until she readied herself for breeding. While George held her attention, two other biologists artificially inseminated the lovelorn crane. We can all chuckle, but the true heart of the story is that the match yielded a single Whooper from 54 eggs that didn’t make it.

Gee Whiz, George’s crane-son, went on to become the crane that built the Wisconsin flock which now has over 200 of the existing 700 Whooping Cranes today. In a sad twist, the night before George went on the Johnny Carson Show, a marauding raccoon invaded Tex’s pen and killed her.

Everyone laughed about the crane dance between ornithologist and bird, but they put their dollars where their hearts were and that single sad tale on a late-night tv show serendipitously funded the International Crane Foundation. Today, it lives up to its original vision to provide sanctuary for all 15 species of cranes.

I’m hunting the Whoopers in the back pasture by the small pond full of singing spring peepers. But my heart overrides my Bird Brain when a female Gray Crowned Crane begins flirting with my son and husband. With head feathers looking more like thoughts on fire than a crown, I loved the display she puts on like a comedic dancer in a burlesque show.

She shows me what George understood all along — the charisma of cranes.

Whoopers, Black Crowned, Back Necked, Blue, Brolga, Siberian, Wattled, Hooded, Red Crowned, Sarus, White Naped, Gray Crowned, Demoiselle, Eurasian, and Sandhill cranes ignite the imaginations of the world with their compelling attractiveness. We paint them, write poetry of them, and even craft origami after them. Peaceful, graceful, fierce — we fall in love with the charisma of cranes.

A note to the regular Ranch Hands — my trip to the cranes was part of a three-day tour to see our son and visit an orthopedic surgeon at Veteran Affairs to finally get the acknowledgment that the Hub’s knee is as empty as the prairies were of Whoopers in the 1940s. Nothing left to salvage, nothing left to cushion. As the orthopedic explained, “It’s like a bomb went off in your knee.” Finally, a gel shot, and hopefully a replacement.

My technology acted up on the road, and I couldn’t keep up with comments, but the Ranch collection bucket (the form) performed well, and I published the stories when I got back home. I promise to catch up on my comments because that’s an important commitment of mine to give each of you positive feedback on your contributions to the challenge. And I thank the community for commenting, too!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community made the local news. I was not prepared to be recorded and televised, but I was thrilled to share the power of what we do through literary art 99 words at a time. The next morning after our trip, I was invited to present what we do at Carrot Ranch to 1 Million Cups, a national organization with a local chapter in the Keweenaw. I read Pete Fanning’s flash from Vol. 1, “Normandy,” and I read my most recent #CarrotRanchRocks story, “The Girlie Rock.”

The Girlie Rock by Charli Mills

Rex teased Amy about the big pink rock she found on the beach. A gift from Lake Superior days before deployment. He loved her enough that he took that girlie rock with him to Iraq. He placed its cool flat surface against his chest during coughing fits. Smoldering chemical fires seared his lungs. He married Amy and returned her girlie rock. When they drove to the VA for treatment, she rubbed its pink smoothness like some magic genie would emerge and save his life. A pink rock on marble white – in the end, she left it on his grave.

CWW-07-17-24 (Pink feldspar and green epidote)

My head feels a bit like how the crown of a crane looks, all my synapses firing in a bazillion directions, but there is a vision to madness. I hope I can pull off the charisma of cranes and anchor Carrot Ranch and our literary art in the Keweenaw Community which has been so warm and welcoming (despite 304 inches of snow).

Lastly, I’m re-doing my 50th Birthday Party. No offense to the stunning state of New Mexico, but I felt robbed of my milestone birthday celebration stranded and homeless in the Land of Enchantment. You are all invited to Rock the 5.0 with me, snow or sun, at McLain State Park on May 20 with grilled brats, birthday cake, rock picking, WIP-reading, and a Copper Country sunset over Lake Superior. If you are unable to attend, you can send birthday cards to:

Carrot Ranch, PO Box 306, Hancock, MI 49930

Thank you all for your writing and reading patronage! Your individual stories matter, and yet you are also part of a greater, global, artistic calling. A calling to peace like a crane.

May 10, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story defining “the charisma of cranes.” For centuries, cranes have inspired art and philosophy. You can write a crane story or create something new out of the phrase. 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.

(I just noticed my bird-brained typo last week; you can still turn in May 3 stories if you thought you had until May 15, but use the May 3 Flash Fiction Challenge Form.)

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.


The Charisma of Whooping Cranes in 1858 (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Slowly lifting on outstretched angel wings, hundreds of white cranes trumpeted and took flight. Nancy Jane dug her bare heels into the sides of her prairie pony, tail flying as she rode beneath the flock. Sarah clung to the pony’s sides with her legs, catching the rhythm of his galloping paces. Her arms wrapped around Nancy Jane’s waist to grasp handfuls of mane. The cranes landed across the Platte, gracefully perching on long legs. Sarah gawked, mesmerized. Nancy Jane slowed her steady mount, and both women whooped loud as the angels who came to charm them in Nebraska Territory.

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    What a ride, Nancy Jane and Sarah, galloping beneath angels. So much to trumpet here. What a ride, Charli Mills, a gel shot at last.
    Happy Birthday. Welcome Home.
    So much to trumpet here. Your post had me smiling and hopeful.

    • Charli Mills

      I wondered what it would have been like to see Whoopers before they diminished in numbers and then I realized that Nancy Jane and Sarah might have seen them. I once watched white egrets circling a pond in a late spring squall and I swear they looked like angels. Thank you for the trumpets, D.

  2. Norah

    My, but that crowned crane is gorgeous. It is mesmerising. I am so proud of you being a citizen scientist helping support the cranes. I loved the love story of the ornithologist and the crane. How sad Tex didn’t make it through to see the results of her labour.
    Your Girlie Rock story made me cry. Such profoundness in so few words, a story to touch hearts. You are energised, and you share your energy around. The Keewanaw is lucky you’ve landed on solid ground. What a great place to host your birthday celebration. How I wish I could join you in body as well as in spirit. You forgot to mention that you especially enjoy receiving money in your birthday cards. 🙂
    Your flash with Sarah and Nancy Jane flying on their pony below the cloud of angels creates an amazing image. I laughed at them whooping as loud as the angels – a nice touch.
    Best wishes for your birthday celebration – dare I say, “Whoop it up!”, the gel knee and the surgery to follow. Ms Mills has found her home.

    • Charli Mills

      I wish you were here to whoop it up with me, Norah! Funny BOTS about that girlie rock — I keep it in the car as my “stress rock” when I go to the VA. The Hub notices when I rub it and jokes that he’s about to get hit with it. We laugh. But when I wrote about the rock it came out sad. I have found a home territory, that’s for certain. I’ve found a welcoming community. Thank you!

      • Norah

        I’ll whoop it up over here, Charli. Your story about the rock was sad. I guess that’s how it often feels when we think of what might be. It’s our choice of optimism that keeps us going. I’m so pleased you’ve found somewhere to reconnect with your heart. Best wishes for your celebration!

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Norah!

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my response. I’m stretching it a bit, I know, but I came up blank with bird cranes. My story is entitled living the nightmare. Well, you said to go where the prompt leads. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        You are pushing into the prompt and following it to surprising places, Norah. Thank you!

      • Norah

        True. I should have started with “Surprise!”

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “So many egrets.”
    “Regrets? What do you have ta regret, Pal?”
    “No, Kid, egrets, they’s a bunch a cattle egrets roamin’ the ranch.”
    “Oh. Thought they was cranes.”
    “No, egrets is more like herons.”
    “Yeah, they’s here on the ranch. Cranes.”
    “We do git sandhill cranes here, Kid, but cranes an’ herons an’ egrets is diff’rent.”
    “Well, what’s the diff’rence then, Pal?”
    “Fer one, cranes fly with their necks straight out not tucked in.”
    “Seems a bold move, Pal, stickin’ their necks out an’ all.”
    “Yep. Bold an’ beautiful.”
    “Let’s raise cranes! At Carrot Ranch!”
    “Shorty sure won’t mind.”

    • Jules

      Yep… I always thought my Blue Heron’s round these parts were cranes… but t’ain’t. Still beautiful birdies that stick out their necks… sometimes.

      In my travels, I have seen some cranes and egrets too.

    • Liz H

      “The more you know…”
      I always mix up my herons and egrets—don’t know if we have cranes in my neck of the woods–but I always love to see their loping climb into the sky.

    • Shallow Reflections

      Yup! The Carrot Ranch raises writers who stick their necks out, so does that make us a bunch of cranes?

      • Aweni


    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I responded to your comment with an egret tale before I realized you went all bold and beautiful with your flash, including the egrets here on the Ranch! Clever!

  4. Reena Saxena

    Molly looked crestfallen.

    “What happens when a leader you worship,displays negative behavior.”

    “Stop worshipping.”

    “But… “ Unconditioning was clearly not easy for her.

    “The majesty of a crane lies in its ability to rise up to the challenge. Stooping down or swooping down on anybody other than aggressors earns him no respect.”

    “I have been hit…. And injured.”

    “He is no more a leader, and no more majestic. Worship is uncalled for.”

    Two weeks later, the top honcho was asked to resign. One of his female team members had accused him of inappropriate conduct in the #MeToo movement. Molly?

    • Jules

      So much in the news to be crestfallen about. One can only hope that appropriate behaviors be displayed in the future and that those injured parties can recover.

      • Reena Saxena

        It makes me wonder — how much more is hidden, and how many are squirming? Is it viewed as normal behavior for people with even an iota of power?

      • Jules

        I think it was the same in times past… though ‘it’ didn’t hit the fan so much as news wasn’t as instantiations. And too many were afraid to come forward.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you, Irene!

    • Liz H

      From your Flash to God’s ears…
      the world needs relief.

      • Reena Saxena

        I swear…..

    • Shallow Reflections

      Interesting way to weave cranes into a loaded topic. No tolerance for inappropriate conduct!

      • Reena Saxena


    • robbiesinspiration

      This is a great way to weave the crane into the story, Reena.

      • Reena Saxena

        Cranes are just used as a symbol of what we admire. Thank you so much, Robbie!

    • Charli Mills

      Somehow, those we admire have failed us with behavior deserving of that view. It’s an awakening. Beautifully told with comparisons to cranes, Reena.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you, Charli!

  5. Shallow Reflections

    You are stretching my bird brain this morning, Charli. We have herons here in Maine, but I don’t believe we are graced with cranes. The story of their revival is inspiring, as is your willingness to walk on broken glass to spot them. I hope hub’s knee gets some relief from the injection, but sounds like a trip to the OR is in his future. 🙁 The local news item was terrific – what a wonderful interview! Nice to see you promoting the Ranch and literary art. We’ve imprinted on you like Tex on George. Haha! Your story of the pink rock is sweet and moving. And the crane story is glorious. Now, the question is. Can I come up something?

    • denmaniacs4

      Herons galore here as well on the Canadian west coast. No cranes to speak of. Well, I guess I am speaking of them but…I agree, Charli’s crane story is glorious…

      • Shallow Reflections

        I did some research and parts of Maine do have sandhill cranes. Now that gives me fodder for a story. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Blue Herons are among my favorite birds. I had one who visited my pond after the mating season. He’d molt and pick at his feather, and bathe in the pond then dry, looking like a one-bird burlesque show. Then I met the cranes. I fall easily in love! We all can do the crane dance here at the Ranch, now! Thanks, Molly. I know you’ll come up with a bird winner!

  6. Lisa A. Listwa

    Cranes? Ooh, boy, that’s going to tax my brain. 😀 I just read Girlie Rock via FB – loved it. So exciting to be putting Carrot Ranch out there!
    OK, time to exercise and start thinking about cranes. *think think think…*

    • Charli Mills

      Just crane your brain a bit, Lisa! 😀 And yes, it is exciting to get Carrot Ranch out there. Literary art has a place, and we show how powerful it can be even in just 99 words. Keep thinking!

  7. Jules


    Well He and Haw – one of the big ones! Happy Birthday!!! I wish I could be there! I did find out that there is a slight difference between a crane and a heron: Both herons and cranes are big grey birds, but there are some very distinct differences. The heron flies with its neck bent and head tucked in so appears short necked, with long trailing legs. The crane flies with neck outstretched like a goose and but also trails its long legs behind.

    I can imaging your ‘gals’ craning their own necks with delight in the midst of seeing that great flock. A delightful read. And also glad that your Hubby’s knee is finally getting some help. And to see you on TV for Carrot Ranch, what a trill 🙂

    While I see some Blue’s at my creek I also have seen them at the Library pond. I wrote about one I saw a few years ago…
    A Little Neck Stretching

    Summer – she stretched her neck to see the Great Blue standing,
    poised and posing on the rock near the south bend. There was
    once a pair, thrived here peaceably dining on what the fisherfolk
    who did catch and release, left them.

    Somewhere she has a memory of that scene in digital form – she
    also has a small copy of the photo on the bird wall in her home.

    One of fisherfolk she spoke to this spring saw a pair within the last
    few years. Might just be a new pair – since the bird’s life expectancy
    is only fifteen years.


    • robbiesinspiration

      A lovely flash, Jules. These birds do make an impression on you.

      • Jules

        I’ve seen a lone one, could be a juvenile at the pond near our library. They are beautiful. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I like that you call the herons Blues. They are among my favorite birds. I’ve never seen a nesting pair, though! I wish you could join me for the birthday celebration. I wanted to have a big party for my 50th, but instead, I got “broken down in New Mexico.” A do-over before I turn 51! I enjoyed your flash and thanks for pointing out the differences between herons and cranes.

      • Jules

        They are called Great Blue Herons. They only have a little feather head-dress 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Great Blue Herons are magnificent. I once saw one quietly flap up the Virgin River and disappear into the mouth of a canyon. I loved it when they visited Elmira Pond. I’ve seen them here, too. We share Blues between us.

  8. The Haunted Wordsmith

    A Mother for Aimi

    “Why do you look so sad, Grandpa?” Aimi asked, holding his hand.

    “Because cranes should not be kept in tiny cages at the fair,” Taiki replied, wiping a tear from his eye.

    Walking out of the children’s petting zoo, Taiki told her the story of Tsuru no Ongaeshi.

    “What!” Aimi screamed and began wailing, looking at the zoo.

    Taiki hugged her and tried to calm her down, but it was no use. The man from the petting zoo walked past.

    “You let her go!” Aimi screamed at him. “I will keep her secret and she can be my mom!”

      • Jules

        That is nice too. A morale like Aesop’s fables.
        Thank you.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Jules for sourcing the story. It is lovely. If ever anyone comes and looks after me I’ll do exactly as they say.

      • Jules

        The other site by The Haunted Wordsmith is slightly different. But same – Honor your promises.

    • Liz H

      I don’t know the original story (will look up later), but your Flash brought tears to my eyes!

    • Shallow Reflections

      Read the story referenced by Jules. Your flash is a moving account of a child applying the story to her own life.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for sharing this folklore, one of many tales inspired by the beauty and mystery of cranes, and for adding your own take with the little girl and a petting zoon.

  9. Liz H

    Fantastic news about the hubs getting both relief and a more permanent solution. Wonderful informative blog today & Girlie Rock touched my heart! Thanks for all you so generously offer up here…you truly rock!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for absorbing all from the blog, as there was much I wanted to share. Now, after examining cranes, I’m more curious about that glass gravel. I think you rock, as well, Liz!

  10. denmaniacs4

    It is possible I craned my neck in an unfamiliar direction, Charli…

    The Instructor

    “Fold the paper in half,” she says. “Like this.”

    I do.

    “Then this way.”

    I follow her lead.

    I get momentarily lost.

    She is patient. “It’s easy. You’ll get the hang of it.”

    I give my clunky fingers a little crane dance.

    “Origami isn’t my strong suit,” I confess.

    “Doesn’t have to be,” she replies.

    She continues.

    I take a break.

    “Art can be exhausting,” she cracks.

    I nod agreement.

    Minutes fly by.

    Fold after fold.

    At last, “Voila.”

    “Beautiful,” I say.

    “Not as majestic as the real thing, though.”

    “No. But it’ll do.”

    “In a pinch,” she quips.

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      Ooh, I love this one!

    • Charli Mills

      You might have craned your neck a different direction, Bill, but you created a process of folds familiar to the writer trying to follow the deceptively simple lines of the master artists. I loved this line and imagery: “I give my clunky fingers a little crane dance.” Next time I shake off my stiff fingers at the keyboard, I’m going to think of them as doing a clunky crane dance!

  11. pensitivity101

    Such a lovely story about George and Tex Charli. Love Gee Whiz!

    Here’s my offering this week.

    Be Mine!

    I am gorgeous, am I not?
    We are two of a kind, you and I.
    My blue eyes can see what you’re thinking, and I understand.
    Do not be fooled by appearances.
    My legs may be spindly, but they are surprisingly sturdy and strong.
    I can keep up with the flock.
    My crowning glory shimmers in the autumn sun.
    I am smitten by your beauty, as you are stunned by my prowess.
    We will make such beautiful chicks together.
    We cranes mate for life.
    Be mine forever and I will follow you to the edge of eternity and beyond.

    • Deborah Lee

      This is lovely.

    • Charli Mills

      Di, I find it delightful that you verbalized the immortal crane dance of love. Certainly charismatic!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. I often imagine conversations between animals. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ritu! And my apologies for the mischievous gremlins who snatched away your submission!

      • Ritu

        Those WP gremlins can be so naughty!

  12. elliotttlyngreen

    Wel Holy Toledo, such a pleasure to read the way you write Charli! ! And, I cannot believe I communicate with a celebrity. Sharp interview. What a wonderful promotion for The Ranch.

    I am sharing a story of my great grandfather with this week’s prompt.. kind of a BOTS. Mmmm hope I did not share this one already. Memory fails me at this moment. Oh well, here it is! !

    From the Left Hand of Wallace Williams
    by Elliott Lyngreen

    Wallace Williams drew on pulp one crane, grandiloquent among thousands of ashen pulps.

    Charcoal shades soft forestry. Edges of naked males swimming. Stain glass lines. Heavier horse-drawn carriages amongst ferns. Darker gables and fascia, corners, planks perfectly prominent, poles, wire sags crest rock formations. Gray layers terrain, structure fine staples, pencil-like effects. A portfolio capturing rural American 40s and 50s.

    The charisma that blends the crane, however, scales this vanishing point at minute discomfort. Art Wallace Williams prepared for my grandmother. She elucidates, “..oh how he drew this. . . using his left hand due to a recent stroke.”

    • Peregrine Arc

      This is beautiful, particularly the ending lines and how it finished the prompt so sharply, almost like a drawing line itself.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I like your description of 40/50’s America. Your title, a gift for your grandmother and that last sentence that hits you with a punch makes this a great flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey Elliott, good to see you shooting through the stars over Carrot Ranch! Ha! Hardly a celebrity, more the eccentric literary lady distracted by rocks and birds. Your flash rings fresh to me, but I might have a failed memory, too! A beautiful flight through rural art and overcoming barriers.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Its really cool to think how far the ranch has traversed those . . . Stars.

  13. paulamoyer

    That crowned crane is so gorgeous, Charli! Great that you got to be on TV about Flash Fiction, too! What a rock star! Here’s my entry, taking “Charisma of Cranes” in a different, non-ornithological direction:

    New Cranes, Old Memories

    By Paula Moyer

    After the Wall came down, Berlin was a flurry of new construction. Huge cranes punctuated the landscape everywhere. The noise was its own buzz. Everywhere were fences around the sites. Boards with sketches of the respective projects.

    After jetlag had settled, Jean and Steve couldn’t take their eyes off them, the sheer modernity, buildings popping up everywhere.

    Away from the big tourist draws: the New Synagogue, rebuilt in 1995, 57 years after Kristallnight. Jean first saw it in 1980. Fenced off, a sign telling the story, ending with the words: “Never forget this.” Glass still tinkled as it fell.

    • Peregrine Arc

      Powerful. The Night of Broken Glass. A night not to be forgotten.

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Peregrine! — Paula

    • Liz H

      A unique take, a hopeful reminder on a night that should never have happened!

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Liz!

      • paulamoyer

        Tricky, indeed. When I click the link in my post, I go right to the story.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Liz!

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      I love the ‘crane’ pun!

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you!

    • Deborah Lee

      I love synchronicity–I just finished a novel that had the destruction of the Berlin Wall as a side bit (The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, if anyone’s interested). No, we must never forget.

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Deborah — to think it has been long enough that the end of the Berlin Wall figures into a novel. Well, it was here in a flash, so why not a novel?

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, sounds like a good book, Deborah!

    • Charli Mills

      Paula, you set a powerful image with the cranes dominating the skyline, and you deftly take the story to the minute fragments of glass. Well-written!

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sarah! And I saw the brolgas (not dancing but telling me to get lost because they had a nest).

  14. Shallow Reflections

    Chester and Myra are back in this week’s flash.

    The cranes in Maine by Molly Stevens

    “What’s that screwball woman doin’ now?” asked Chester, stretching his neck to watch his neighbor, Myra.

    “Looks like she’s geared up to go bird watching,” said Ruth. “She’s a member of the Audubon Society, you know.”

    “I’d sooner walk on broken glass than tramp around lookin’ for birds. And don’t she know she’s not gettin’ any younger? What she needs to do is go on the hunt for a man.”

    “She told me she’s looking for sandhill cranes.”

    “Sandhill canes in Maine? She won’t find them north of Belgrade.”

    “How do you know that?”

    “I watch the Nature Show.”

    • Peregrine Arc

      Hahaha! Oh my. Ain’t that a kick in the head.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thanks for sharing a laugh with me. Chester likes to make people laugh but he doesn’t know it.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Laughter is one of the best medicines.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m digging these two characters, Molly! I can hear their voices. Oh, wait, that just my neighbor Ed outside, grumbling! It’s interesting that the cranes are in Maine. Wouldn’t it be great to see some?

      • Shallow Reflections

        Everyone has a neighbor like Chester, right Charli? It would be great to see cranes in Maine. I had no idea we had them until I did I little wikipedia research.

      • Charli Mills

        I think each street might have a Chester implanted!

  15. Peregrine Arc

    The Boldness of Cranes

    Cranes tell us the delight of crisp pickles, bring us babies at prearranged appointments and adorn rice paper bordered with poetry. The birds fly and swoop, skirt ponds and stand in water effortlessly still. Their reflections add milk to still waters, twirling in eddies like bizarre espressos of Lake Michigan.

    They march in single lines, chanting, strutting their wings in constrained fury. The air is theirs, they declare; the seas and lakes, too. Their feathers brush against the winds, bouncing up and down rhythmically. A black eye fixates on you. They are aware of your presence. Are you, too?

    My mind seems to keep jumping to commercial things (Vlasic pickles in this case) with these prompts lately, haha.

    Charli, thanks for sharing your interview. Absolutely loved watching it and seeing your dreams grow and take off. I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your journeys. Thank you for Carrot Ranch as well. Cheers!

    • Shallow Reflections

      I love where the prompt took you. Lovely imagery. -Molly

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thank you. These prompts are lovely, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Beginning with pickles and ending with self-awareness — what a flight, Peregrine!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for chasing after the cranes, Jan!

      • janmalique

        I loved it Charli!

  16. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    glad to hear that finally something might happen for the hub. Wonderful work being done in saving the cranes in more places than one. Make sure you pause for breath. Perhaps having technology issues was a way the universe was making you take a welll deserved break. Great making the local news. Happy re birthday – a great idea. Everyone should have a party for their 50th. I loved the description in your flash of the cranes taking off. Mine this week:

    • Shallow Reflections

      Creative flash, Irene, made even more meaningful with your notes about the significance of the Sarus crane to the Vietnamese. Bravo! -Molly

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! Yes, technology was insistent. I really enjoyed the walk through the crane sanctuary, and at one pond there were spring peepers noisily singing. It was refreshing. I think 50 deserves a party. I found your flash profound.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Charli and have a wonderful 50th. Wish I could be there to celebrate with you but an ocean prevents me.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you! I did watch the blue skies over the inland sea and pretended I could see Noosa skies beyond!

  17. Liz H

    My take on an atypical charismatic–and very lucky–crane. Devotion shall be rewarded.

    His Secret, and Hers

    His long spatulate fingers, joints knobby as cherry pits, cup a bouquet of fresh dwarf roses. He shifts from foot to foot within the grove of birch trees, anxious over his late arrival at the graveyard.

    href=”“> [Continue]

    And Happy Mothers to day, to all who birth Flash Fiction and other creative works! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, Happy Mothers Day to all with mothers! 😉 And aren’t we all the mothers of stories! Good one, Liz. And you’ve cast your cliffhanger at just the right hook.

      • Liz H

        Thanks, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate!

      • calmkate

        always a pleasure Charli, glad you have a team to help!

  18. Annecdotist

    Enjoy your birthday celebrations, Charli. You’re very wise to have postponed festivities until you’re in a settled place.
    I’m intrigued by the use of glass on footpaths, and hope it doesn’t dazzle your eyes with reflected sun. But those cranes, wow! Not something we get to see so easily over here, although, as in the US, there have been some recent drives to encourage them back.
    Your pitch to the local business community looks very successful and congratulations for making the local news. I love your poignant rock flash. Likewise the charisma you’ve captured in your 99-word story from Rock Creek.
    The prompt has been slow in firing up my brain. First I tried and failed to connect cranes to a post I’m itching to share about my visit to the (presumably) world’s only pencil museum. Instead it’s here with reviews of two novels with gravity in the title and resurrecting Henry for my WIP:

    Gravity Well & The Gravity of Love

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, the glass was ground so it looked almost like sea glass, matte more than shiny. Now, I’m more curious about it, but the cranes captivated my attention. I’m curious to know more about your visit to the pencil museum, too so hopefully one of these prompts will match up. As a result of the news clip, I’m meeting up with someone from Finlandia University tomorrow. I’m always happy to read more of your WIP characters.

  19. H.R.R. Gorman

    This is my first time participating in a Carrot Ranch prompt. I love being able to scroll through the comments and seeing so much good stuff! Thanks for creating what seems to be a really fun community.

    I had a pingback, but I personally noticed that I liked it more when people actually posted their story in comments.

    **Country of Cranes**

    I poured some tea into Mr. Suzuki’s cup, but the old man gazed elsewhere out the window, then forlornly pointed. “There she is again.”

    I lifted the curtains made from yellowed lace to see a large bird soaring. “Are you sure it’s the same one?”

    “She is the only red-capped crane in your country.”

    “It’s your country, too.”

    He sipped his tea at last. “My country lies on the other side. She flies by my window to call me there.”


    When I arrived the next morning, Mr. Suzuki’s body remained behind, but two cranes flew west outside his window.

    • Liz H

      Welcome to the Ranch! A lovely, wistful first flash!

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thank you! I hope to keep having fun with some more prompts in the future!

      • Liz H

        Looking forward to reading your responses!

    • Deborah Lee

      A nicely bittersweet tale. Welcome!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! I’d agree with your observation that it helps to insert the story rather than the linkback. It gives writers a chance to be readers, and engage one another in discussion. The submission format makes gathering easier for me so I can arrange and publish a collection for our readers to then enjoy. They are not so inclined to pick through the comments as are writers! A beautiful, well-crafted flash for your arrival.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thanks for your supportive comments! I really like the feeling of the community you’ve fostered, and I hope to participate (at least in comments) more often! I found so many good blogs through this contest last week, and I bet continuing to peek will be fruitful!

  20. susansleggs

    So glad Hubs got a shot of Synvisc in his knee. That helped my hubby for a time before his replacement.
    The Lab of Ornithology at Cornell is mere miles from us. A new building was opened in 2003 that my hubby had a large part in design and construction; he considers it one of his best projects.
    We don’t have cranes in our neck of the country. I would love to see one of their mating dances.
    Happy Birthday, enjoy your day on the 20th.

    Cranes – Flash Fiction

    The business man’s suit was very expensive. When you work in a fabric shop you can tell things like that. He was in search of cotton fabric that had cranes on it, not the machine, but the majestic white bird with a red crown. He explained the crane signified good luck and longevity in Japan where the new owner of his company would be visiting from. The fabric would be tied in a specific manner around a gift. The style of folding and knots more important than the present and the cranes a bonus. We enjoyed the cultural lesson.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      good story and you have given a good lesson in cultural differences and beliefs and how this knowledge could be the difference between a contract or not. I read the Nike founder’s memoir and this message was clear in that as well. It was a really good inspirational read.

      • susansleggs

        Thank you Irene.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Synvisc! You know more about the gel than I do! Good to hear it helped. Cornell Bird Labs is bookmarked on my computer! Wow, to be so close to such bird brilliance. And what an interesting take on the flash. Thanks, Susan!

  21. Colleen Chesebro

    Amazing stories this week. Glad to be here!

    “Be the Crane”

    Osha’s essence soared in the celestial expanses of his spiritual quest. His soul maneuvered through the ebony cosmos littered with sparkling pulsars guiding him toward his goal.

    A crane, outlined in stars floated before him in the macrocosm. This bird was his spirit animal associated with royalty, balance, grace, and longevity.

    The crane spoke, “Do not express your opinions, protect your family, and keep balance in life. This is the charisma of the cranes.”

    Osha felt the oneness opening, and he became the crane. In the Menominee tradition, Osha claimed his new name, Atokngyam, belonging to the Crane Clan.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      And yours is another amazing story to add to the collection Colleen. I really enjoyed this one.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Irene. I just channel the magic. It pours through me. ??

    • Deborah Lee

      Such a noble spirit animal. 🙂

      • Colleen Chesebro

        This flash piece would make a fabulous story in great detail. I love the cranes and their connection to the Buddhist philosophies. I grew up in Wisconsin so the Native American part came easy. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Colleen, I love the inclusion of the Menominee culture in your flash, and the explanation of the charisma of cranes. Well done!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Charli. I grew up in Wisconsin. It was fun remembering State history. ??????

    • Liz H

      Fun story of a boy and his…crane! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Now I wish I would have paused to learn more about that recycled glass path. And thank you, we are feeling closer to a solution, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

  22. Aweni

    Happy birthday Charli????.

    It is a lovely piece you have written on cranes here. Are you an Ornithologist too?

    You inspired me to learn more about Cranes. What lobelu creatures they are. Thank you.
    Here’s my take on the challenge.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank for the birthday wishes, Aweni! I’m simply a person interested in birds (and rocks). To me, the natural world is like being surrounded by stories. I like what you accomplished in your flash, going deeper than the myths.

      • Aweni

        I hope you have many more happy years Charli, bringing inspiration to people and telling your stories ????. Thank you for your kind comment ‘re the flash????.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for pining away on a story, D.!

    • Charli Mills

      Tell Wallie, thanks!

  23. Juliet

    Hi all. Flying in here at the last minute with my offering without reading any other stories yet. Oops.
    Glad to be back…


    They were changing the face of the city. Dozens of them standing high over the wastelands, their spines tall and straight, their long necks stretching out over the green plains. They were of all different colours, colliding and merging in the brand new skyscape. How many could the eye take in at once?
    Some found them charismatic, bringing life to the town. Others detested their metallic structures, so out of touch with the ever-receding beauty of the surrounding fields.
    Daily, men climbed the ladders to reach tiny cabins, then looked down upon the concrete boxes growing beneath their feet.

    • Liz H

      A different perspective on cranes–nicely visioned!

      • Juliet

        Thanks Liz. Not far from my house looks like this vision… ????

    • Deborah Lee

      Aha, someone else went the same place I did. 🙂

      • Juliet

        Hi Deborah. I didn’t realise that. I will go and read yours now. Great minds think alike ????

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Juliet! I love the word “cranescape.” And how you describe it is imaginative and engaging. Good to have you back!

      • Juliet


    • Liz H

      So touching!

    • Charli Mills

      I like that idea of what we pass down, Heather. A good lead to follow.

  24. calmkate

    Charli is this your picture of a crane … or do you use others photos for our prompts?

    • Charli Mills

      Most of the pictures are mine, but I do purchase some on canva when I feel I don’t have the right shot. This one I purchased because my picture had a fence between me and Miss Red Crown.

      • calmkate

        this one is stunning but the fence would have added another dimension to the prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Deborah! The Ranch is always open, the pot of coffee on. 😉 Be sure to put your story in the form, too. Life is a series of ups and downs, isn’t it? We’re happy to finally get a solution.

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Irene!

  27. Liz H

    Beautiful exemplar of origami cranes = good luck & well wishes

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Lucy!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks for your story!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thank you!


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