May 17: 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 17, 2018

As tight young leaves unfurl, real estate has gone to the birds. Some couples arrive at the neighborhood to find protected perches to weave grass nests. Others seek cavities. A turf war broke out between two couples who each wanted the same property. Those of us who live here, wonder what will become of the property values.

Much depends on the new neighbors.

When the woodpeckers first arrived, I admit I felt some alarm. After all, they make holes in trees. However, they eat insects that kill trees; thus they can be good neighbors. I watch them move into a tall maple at the edge of the backyard. They are northern flickers, and chatty. Across Ethel half a block away we can hear a resident blue jay. He’s even chattier.

That’s when the Whirlygig bird makes his move. He stands atop the peaked roof of the red house between ours and Ethel, next door to Cranky, my walking neighbor. With her lovely sewing skills, she’s embroidered me a fox potholder, embellishing it with a carrot. I’m blessed to have good neighbors. We both watch the newcomer cautiously. How will he fit in?

Like lead in a pencil, he squeezes his dark body into a wooden crevice we didn’t know existed in the attic of the red house. When not shoving snippets of pine twigs or grass into the opening, he stands on the roof’s peak and twirls his wings like a mechanical wind-up bird. He clicks and cries and steps a few dance moves. The sun catches iridescent colors, and we realize a starling has arrived in the ‘hood.

There go the property values.

Starlings are not native to the US. Like most Americans who are also not indigenous, the birds arrived on boats from Europe. Also, like those who colonize from elsewhere, they bully others out of their native homes. Starlings also prefer the crevices woodpeckers seek. In short order, Whirlygig comes knocking on the new residence of the northern flickers.

For two days, I’ve held my breath. Who will win the hole in the maple? Starlings have forced woodpeckers to delay breeding. A compromise of sorts. But northern flickers are also migrators, unlike their downy, red-headed and piliated cousins. Therefore they must compete and not delay.

Whirlygig is dogged in his dance. The moment he catches the flicker couple away, he flies from the roof of the red house into the hole in the maple. He throws out their nesting material and my writer’s mind shifts to what if…What if squatters took over your home? What if a couple went out to buy groceries and returned to an aggressor throwing out their bed and shoes?

In the end, aggression wins. It seems unjust, and I recognize how easy it is to villainize starlings. They are the loud, boisterous neighbors no one wants. Whirlygig is the equivalent of the guy mowing the lawn without a shirt (oh, wait, that’s the Hub). Starlings are the noisy college frat boys sitting on their roof drinking beer. Uncouth, but does it really mean the values sink?

My new bird-feeders overflow with promise of more than starlings. An American goldfinch and a rose-headed house finch have made introductions. The jay down the street continues to squawk. A black and white woodpecker crawled all over the backside of Cranky’s house carefully pecking between the slates for insects. It a diverse neighborhood despite the obnoxious bird and his new bride.

Warmer days, longer sunlight and the absence of snow brings out the two and four-legged neighbors, too. Cranky and I continue our walks, exploring the flowers of our neighborhood, gossiping about Whirlygig. It’s the first time I’ve had a fellow nature-lover for a neighbor. Walks end up with us standing in other people’s yards inspecting flowers or gawking up into tree limbs to identify a bird.

Yesterday, we spotted a trail that led off the road into the woods. A hand-painted sign warned that bridges were unstable. Oh, how could we resist exploring? We walked through trees waving miniature flags not yet full leaves. Cranky taught me to smell the leaves to aid identification. We scanned birch for conks of chaga, a medicinal fungus. We admired trout lilies and spotted early sprouts of trillium.

Then I saw the pile of rocks.

It was old, perhaps from mining days or maybe this hilltop meadow was once pastured. Whatever its purpose someone moved a lot of stones. I suggested that it was a farm with ten children and the kids grew up picking rocks from the fields. We both hoped it had nothing to do with mines for we had left the beaten path. I began to scope for shafts.

At one point we crossed a bog (no unstable bridge in sight). I was certain the snowmobile trail was just ahead, and we could catch that and walk back into town. On the edge of the bog, Cranky spotted dark green bushes with salmon-colored berries. She plucked one and said, “Eat this.” Whether or not this was a starling-like tactic to rid the neighborhood of me, I thought nothing of it and popped the berry in my mouth.

Cranky smiled and said, “Taste the wintergreen?”

I said, “No.”

She frowned and said, “Spit it out!”

We both laughed. She thought she was giving me wintergreen. We’re not sure what it was, but wintergreen it was not. Neighbors can be trusting in that way. We found our way back, and I never suffered for the nibble of an unknown spring berry. Closer to home we met more dogs and neighbors. Everyone is raking grit out of the front lawns, and a few real estate signs have appeared.

To me, the value is high, starlings and all.

This weekend marks my last as age 50. On Friday I go out with my fellow veteran spouses. I order my birthday cake and will buy brats and champagne for my Sunday party. On Saturday morning I’ll head to a local cemetery with a Wounded Warrior Sister and plant American flags on the graves of soldiers for Memorial Day. That evening, I’m attending a dance performance at Michigan Tech. My daughter’s dance classes are in the show.

Sunday is the big shin-dig at Calumet Waterworks (McLain cost too much, and Calumet reserves it’s picnic shelter for free). I like CWW better for hunting rocks. I’m bringing all the binoculars, too. C Jai Ferry is planning to drive all the way from Nebraska to celebrate. And on Monday we’ll go out to Gemminani’s, the Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. They give out free dinners on your birthday, and I turn 51 on Monday.

All in all, life is good. You can’t avoid the starlings or mistaken berries along the way, but you can make the best of what you have where you are and who you meet.

May 17, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about property values. Perhaps its a home, business or pencil museum. What makes them go up or down? Go where the prompt leads.

Deadline Extended. Continue to Use Form.

Respond by May 29, 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.


Value in the Balance (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Property values go up the more improvements we make.” Cobb replaced his years of responsibility as a sheriff with a drive to improve every inch of Rock Creek Station.

Sarah unpacked the latest freight of sundries from St. Louis While Cobb sawed planks for the new schoolhouse. The wood gleamed gold like the barn, toll booth, toll bridge, post office, eastside station and horse stables. The store Sarah operated had gray wood, showing its age. Sarah calculated Cobbs improvements and noted that it added up to more debt that income.

“Those values had better go up soon,” she muttered.

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    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing!

  1. Annecdotist

    Beautifully evocative description of the birds beginning to nest in the neighbourhood, Charli, and glad you survived that berry.
    Interesting that starlings are a pest over there as they seem to have declined significantly in the UK. Clearly they’ve migrated to a more congenial habitat. Woodpeckers also tend to be a rare sighting here, although we have had them at our birdfeeders occasionally in other years.
    I hate how houses have become more of an investment than a home for some, pricing others out of the market. But it’s a different matter when your home is your business, as for Sarah and Cobb in your clever flash.
    Seems like you’ve got a fabulous birthday weekend ahead of you. Hope you have a joyful time.
    Thanks for the nudge about the pencil museum – I’m sure I’ll find a way to link it with a property values flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I hadn’t realized the starlings were in decline in your neck of the world. Ironic. They seem to flourish here, and judging by the behavior of Whirlygig, they manage more than one nest. I’d love to see a pileated woodpecker, but they are not often about. You can hear them when they pound out a hole, though!

      Ha! I was challenging myself to include a pencil somehow, and I’m glad to accommodate or pressure you, whichever it turns out to be!

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to the birthday weekend. Almost done with all I’d like to finish beforehand, too. Have a good weekend! I look forward to the pencil museum.

    • Jules

      Ann – you’ve interesting reading in regards to pencils! My FIL used a – but to my knowledge he just sharpened the point with his pen knife.

      I like watching the home shows where the folks take ugly or damage or very old homes and bring them up to little gems. Often keeping the character intact. Thanks for sharing your splendid pair.

      • Jules

        Oops sorry I forgot your E.. Anne.

      • Annecdotist

        No worries, Jules, I’ll answer to anything 😉

      • Annecdotist

        Now we need a museum dedicated to those carpenters’ pencils. I’m sure I have one somewhere (the pencil, not the museum)

    • Shallow Reflections

      Enjoyed your post about the pencil museum and both of your 99 word responses to the prompt, Anne. Left you a comment on your site. -Molly

  2. The Haunted Wordsmith

    We love the birds in our neighborhood. Did you know an interesting (and sad) fact about starlings? They were brought here from the UK for a Shakespeare festival (type thing) in Central Park. The people running the event brought all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and released them at the performances. The only ones to survive were the starlings. No one knew they were going to end up an invasive species. I like them because they are excellent season detectors. Haven’t been wrong in the 5 years we’ve lived in Kansas.

    • Charli Mills

      I did not know that! Well, their acting career led to a new home. I also enjoyed learning that they can predict the seasons. I will pay attention to them. Quite the gregarious birds, if a bit aggressive toward others. Thanks for the insights on Whirlygig’s kin!

    • Annecdotist

      Fascinating, so it’s all Shakespeare’s fault!

      • The Haunted Wordsmith

        In a way…lol. when I first learned what the committee had done and how all the others had died, I cried and was so mad at them for not knowing about different habitats…lol. I was younger than 10 though, when I learned it…so I cut them some slack now.

      • Aweni

        ????. It appears so.

  3. Norah

    When I read your posts describing your landscape, flora and fauna, I realise how different our environments are. Yours are exotic to me. You have birds unlike ours, as ours are unlike yours. But property values in the neighbourhoods fluctuate as much here as they do there. I was tempted to take your anecdote about the aggressive squatters a step or two further back in time to those who turfed out the traditions of the indigenous peoples of our lands.
    How wonderful you have a nature lover with whom you can walk, wonder and learn. Your final statement, that “you can make the best of what you have where you are and who you meet” seems to sum up nicely your own philosophy and what you have demonstrated over the past few years.
    I wish you a wonderful celebration of your fifty-first birthday, may it mark the beginning of great things for you personally and for the Carrot Ranch. I’m so sorry I can’t be there with you. But I will join in the celebrations and lift a glass from afar.
    Your flash is great and reflective of the work so many of us do – we may paint it in gold but it often comes up more in debt than in income.
    Best wishes to you and yours. Happy days! xx

    • Charli Mills

      And yours are so exotic to me, Norah! I’m still in awe that you have fruit bats visiting your fig tree, or did if your Hubby has already removed it. On New Years, I feel you are having an experience similar to our 4th of July! So much to share between our two worlds. I like your summary of the Rock Creek situation. I have found evidence that Cobb never did get ahead which is in part why he grew so angry over the Pony Express not paying him. Thank you for sharing in my birthday although a bit far away! Cheers!

      • Norah

        The tree remains, but bereft of fruit, the bats go elsewhere for a while.
        It’s funny how our countries can be so alike and so different at the same time. I guess that diversity to is encourage the sharing between us.
        I think I’d be a bit cross doing all that work and not getting paid also.
        Cheers for your birthday! May the celebrations last long, the laughter flow, and the stories rage. Best wishes.

    • Annecdotist

      I was expecting someone would write about the evacuation of indigenous peoples, so if it’s not you, Norah, it might be me! Although I’ve already posted two pieces – must be avoiding some other work – but I’m just finishing the second of two novels (by different authors) about the history of Zimbabwe, where land appropriation has been a big issue. It seems to operate the same way throughout the world – the original farmers and/or pastoralists tricked onto less fertile land.

      • Norah

        It’s not me, Anne, so it must be you. 🙂 I look forward to reading.

      • Norah

        You did all three stories well, Anne. I commented over there, but forgot to mention your third flash in my comment – got carried away with other things. You describe the politics well.

      • Jules

        for your third piece…
        I do believe that most often those who benefit most from land takeover are rarely seen by those who were the original owners.

        In the States… the land was so easily taken from the Native Peoples because they didn’t believe that anyone owned the land – and foolishly believed that respect for the land was a value held by all men.

        And then there is the government’s use and misuse of ’eminent domain.’

  4. The Haunted Wordsmith

    Great prompt…here’s my entry:

    Moving Day

    Moving day is almost always noisy, but this time was exceptionally loud; even Taft heard the commotion three subdivisions over. The new neighbor is young and that always makes a difference.

    “Son, we’re a quiet neighborhood,” Pershing told him, patting the young man on the shoulder.

    “We have the best property values in town,” I added. “Quiet, peaceful, and away from the Blue Line.”

    “Oh, lord knows, I feel for those by the Blue Line,” Pershing agreed, nodding. “Welcome to Arlington.”

    “I could get used to it here,” the young man said, looking around. “Just thought I’d be older.”

    • Charli Mills

      Peace at what cost. I wish they all could be older when they move on to Arlington. Quite a thought-provoking flash. Thank you!

    • Norah

      Very thought provoking and sad flash – once I looked up Arlington. Being an Aussie the concept is not so familiar to me. When I looked it up it all made such sad sense. They should all be much older.

  5. Frank Hubeny

    Happy birthday, Charli!


    Property Values by Frank Hubeny

    Tim’s intuition played tricks on him. What he thought would turn a profit didn’t. What he gave up on suddenly succeeded.

    He didn’t want the Langford place, but Jennifer loved its enchanted forest. So they bought it. They also bought the Stevens property. Its value rose, as did their taxes, but this year they sold it for a loss.

    Jennifer walked with him through the Langford woods. She pointed out, “We could build a home near the fairies if we keep it small.”

    Tim felt his intuition smile at Jennifer’s innocence. They built that home and kept it small.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for the birthday wishes, Frank! I enjoyed your character finally getting in touch with his intuition. Perhaps aided by the wee fairies?

      • Frank Hubeny

        Hopefully he and his intuition get on the same page. Maybe those fairies will help. I am glad you liked it.

  6. Miriam Hurdle

    Happy big birthday to you, Charli! Half a century seems awesome. Years of journey bring insights and wisdom. Wishing your next half a century brighter and better all around. Cheers! <3 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Miriam! I look forward to the brighter half of a century! 😉

      • Miriam Hurdle

        My friend said when you have fun, time flies. The Ranch keeps you fying through time. Have a nice weekend. ????

  7. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli.

    It stood alone, neglected and run down for at least six years that I remember.
    In order to avoid local taxes, the family had the roof removed then sold it for just under £1m.
    Properties round it were a mix of apartments, terraces and semis, most privately owned before the Buy to Let craziness started. Nothing was valued at more than seventy grand.
    They knocked it down and developed the site with a mix similar to that already in existence. The company made a killing, as forty three homes were erected on the plot previously occupied by one bungalow.

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve seen such properties in the US, too, Di. It’s interesting up here in the Keweenaw, though. Some of the old towns have houses go for back taxes but no developers want them, You can pick them up cheap but likely never sell it! Crazy what dictates property fortunes, eh?

    • Annecdotist

      Buy to let has certainly been crazy here in the UK. Some landlords are ethical but many are out to profit from the poor.

      • pensitivity101

        IMO it’s killed the property market for the first time buyer. It wouldn’t be so bad if the second or third property were investments for later retirement, but some landlords own entire roads, and that to me just isn’t right.

  8. pensitivity101

    Oh, should say it’s scheduled for the 18th

    • Charli Mills

      Okay! I’ll grab the link after it posts!

  9. susansleggs

    What a description of birds and neighbors. I love the nick-names. I was imagining writing about my local birds, very much like yours, then you surprised me with property values. I’ll have to think about that. I did look up how long it would take to drive to your party, fifteen hours plus potty and food stops. I was tempted, but the weekend was already claimed by my husband’s family. Maybe next time. Have a marvelous birthday weekend and thank you making time for the Vets and your writing family.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I love that you looked at the path to the party! Perhaps one day! You can certainly write about property values from the perspective of birds. I also wonder what happens to the value when a starling squeezes his nest into an attic? Thank you! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jan! I enjoyed the gothic slant to your flash!

      • janmalique

        Glad you did Charli.

      • janmalique

        ???? I’m all for re-inventing and rebranding.

    • papershots

      No spam. I can read it 🙂 and i also commented on it. Great story with funny and thought-provoking twist at the end…

      • Ritu

        Thank You!!!

    • Jules

      At least we are not being assimilated into the Borg collective!

      • Ritu


    • Debora

      LOL! Loved it!

      • Ritu

        Thank you ????

  10. papershots

    Here’s to another 50 years! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  11. papershots


    I’ve become the gardener at my own home (my family’s. I’ve left.) Kindly contributing to the communal sharing of hardships, I was mowing the lawns when more and more grass was being left behind. Rake it away, naturally. So I went out back where… I didn’t know where a rake could be. I vaguely remembered the rake; but that wasn’t enough. And one I found leaning against a wall in the toolshed, its keyless door shut by a big tree fork, the previous owner – great-grandfather! – must have had a story about this “bifurcation in the trunk of a tree.”

  12. Juliet

    Hi Charli and the Gang,
    I loved your post. So many birds coming and going around your hood. I detest starlings (and had no idea they had arrived by boat to your side of the Atlantic!) but love all the little blue tits and cute sparrows we have round here.
    Fifty-one is good and fifty-two too! Believe me. Enjoy your birthday weekend.
    My story this week came to mind after thinking about all the floods we had in France this winter.

    Up The River

    They had taken refuge upstairs when the river had come crashing angrily out of its bed and swept into their home.
    It had ignored their screams, settling itself comfortably throughout the ground floor, drowning their precious belongings without a hint of regret. The watermark high on the walls still showed today in spite of their scrubbing.
    The prospective buyers always noticed it, their eyes growing wide when they realised what it was. They then left, never to be heard from again.
    They had been imprisoned that fateful day. They would now be prisoners forever in a beautiful, worthless home.

    • Jules

      There have been floods all over, in the states. Because of that our flood zones have changed. The Big Muck Mucks want everyone else to pay for the uninsured… who can’t pay. Our original flood zone was the last third of our land. It got moved to the front of our house, then back to the back half of the yard. While no damage… we would have had to disclose that our home was in a flood zone. At least now though we could sell… but I still am happy here.

      Because our home is paid for we did not get Flood Insurance – which by ‘their’ standards was worthless anyway. So I feel for your characters.

      • Juliet

        Hi Jules. I feel for you too.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Sadly yours is such a true story and devastating for those that are the victims of it. Floods cause such damage and are so hard to clean up and the stench that goes with it makes it worse. You’ve written it well Juliet – I hope this wasn’t your own story but if it was I really feel for you.

      • Juliet

        Hi Irene. No this wasn’t my own story. Thanks for your kind words.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That the house withstood that river shows that it does have worth. They survived. It survived. But yes, it’s hard to flip in a flood zone.
      I liked the personification of the river in your flash.

      • Juliet

        Hi D. Thanks for your comment. Yes, they survived but will they survive the next flood? Who knows….I almost wrote ‘crashing out of her bed’ then wondered why on earth this river would be feminine. Because of Mother Nature perhaps? But then I changed my mind and made it a neutral being. Much fairer.

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      A bunch of my in-laws live in Houston. My grandmother-in-law’s house got water damage, and the value literally halved. It was very sad.

      • Juliet

        Very sad indeed. I feel for her.

    • Norah

      Vividly told, Juliet. Well done.

      • Juliet

        Thanks, Norah! ????

  13. Jules


    Neighborhoods have to grow… but at what cost. The two lane dirt road stretches to seven lanes with a mega multi shopping center and hotel…
    Never mind where’s the beef, where’s the corn?

    My story is based on a different road, which is still at one point a one lane bridge, though paved. Here’s my mini mash with a few different words for ‘light’ in the title (which is the link to the post):

    Plowed Progress Offering Refulgent Reward via Burnished Boxes?

    The light through the whole in the roof, due to the fire – was
    distressing. A few of the bushes were cordoned off so that
    when repairs were made that maybe the workers wouldn’t
    trample them. What are the property values along a busy

    Just perhaps when the building gets fixed, or torn down
    and rebuilt all of those other little aged homes on the street
    will also do some sprucing up? After all, the farmland right
    across the road has almost vanished, replaced by mini-
    mcmansions, and several storied Condos… and a nice
    park for all the neighborhood children.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Improved roads often destroy towns, emptying out Main streets. What if with every road “improvement” they also had to build bike paths that kept people and businesses connected at a slower pace and a deeper level? More than local business health would be addressed.

      • Jules

        I think there might be bike and bus lanes on the ‘new’ roads. I know I’ve seen at least bike lanes on the bridges that were redone to connect my city with the northern suburbs. But more could be done. Some sidewalks have been added, but often the sidewalks only go so far and don’t go ‘all the way’ so I still have to walk in grassy areas to get from point a to point b.

        A town just north added or improved sloping corners for the main intersection, but had to redo them as they had the buttons for the traffic too high – at least I think that was the reason. They had months of inconvenience and then had a few more weeks for the redo. What happened to ‘measure twice, cut once?’

  14. Reena Saxena


    My boss: How good is your best salesperson if he cannot add value to the book at the end of the financial year? Think about replacing him.

    A loan applicant: My property offered as collateral is being undervalued. The adjoining plot has been sold at double the rate.

    Me: The adjoining plot has been purchased by a businessman, who will multiply his investment 10X in two years. We will not always find a buyer like him. It is only the distress sale value of an asset that really matters. It’s about being as good as the last deal clinched.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks, Irene 🙂

    • Norah

      Yep. It’s only worth what someone will pay for it. Well said.

    • WWW.???.I?S?S.??Z

      What ?

      • calmkate

        Thanks for reposting the link … yes sadly bills need to be paid …

    • Jules

      That is a wrench when one needs food and a roof – or an escape from poverty.

      • calmkate

        you got it Jules … wickedly cruel!

  15. denmaniacs4

    Hi Charli and Rough Writers. Hmm…here’s my take…writing anything is speculative, I suppose. As always, Charli, a very thoughtful prompt.

    Rebrand the Swamp

    “Let’s go for a spin,” he said. So, as a good and gullible friend, we headed up the valley in behind the old Mission. Three dirt roads later, he pulled off into the scrub.

    “It’s over that hill.”

    And it was.

    Whatever he saw, I didn’t. “It’s a swamp, Charlie. A mosquito-invested puddle of muck and muskrats.”

    “Infested, Henry. Infested. Smell that. It stinks of opportunity.”

    “Oh, it stinks all right. Look, if I need to take a bath, I’ll jump in my tub.”

    “Ground floor, Henry.”

    “My loss, Charlie.”

    It was.

    Who could have predicted International Swamp Tours?

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      LOL. The swamp tours was a twist I wasn’t expecting. I thought it was going to be black gold. Enjoyable story.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yes, branding is everything. His friend must be a great marketer.

    • Norah

      It’s sometimes difficult to see the potential for the swamp.

  16. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Love your description of the nesting birds – as Norah says they are very different to ours and to me it sounds like another world. We can find the differences in even our own neck of the woods and the value of property varies accordingly. Mine this week:
    Your flash shows that it has been a common problem for many years when it comes to property – overcapitalising. Still it will make the sale easier even if they don’t make a profit.

  17. neeltheauthor- author of WHEN LIFE THROWS THOSE CURVE BALLS

    By Neel Anil Panicker

    “And what’s the guarantee it’s going to go up?”

    ‘Damnt it!!! Rajesh always wondered whether his wife was a born fool or turned one after marriage.

    Employing his best milk and honey voice he volleyed, “My dear wife, life you know comes with no guarantees. At least, that’s what I thought until you came into my life. You’ve managed to change all that. Look at you. You’ve been a revelation. Haven’t you been delivering on your promise of giving me everlasting bliss day in and day out. Likewise, take it from me, this property will give us the same.’

    #neelanilpanicker #fictionchallenge #99words #shortstory #flash #instashorts

    • Jules

      Counted her chickens before they were hatched…

    • Jules

      I like how you brought nursery stories into your post.
      Often there is much hidden in such stories. 🙂

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Charli. thank you for another excellent post and flash. I love that you are celebrating your birthday again. As a writer you know the value of revision so it makes sense to revise your fiftieth.
    I was struggling with a response but events from the day, most notably, in Texas, led me to this one. More background is here:

    Plummeting Values

    They sat together in their one bedroom apartment with their laptops, looking at real estate listings.
    “There’s lots of listings that have everything we want, but are out of our price range.”
    “Yeah… wait, look at this. It has a porch… big backyard…. family room… plenty of bedrooms and storage… and it’s less than our maximum.”
    “Oh, it sure looks nice. That is the exact place I’ve imagined raising a family. Where is it?”
    “Let’s see… located close to schools…”
    “Stop. We can’t raise a family close to schools.”
    “What, why not?”
    “Why not?! Guns. Schools are dangerous places.”

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Great post. D. It looks like we have more control if we homeschool our kids. Property value is a hot issue to have homes in excellent school districts areas.

      My husband and I have a lengthy discussion on the latest gun issue at school. I was a school district administrator. We had some issues at our Junior High. Fortunately, we had good principals. In addition to the school counselors watching for signs of problem kids, bullying, underdog, the principals were visible on the playground to reinforce good behaviors, called students by their names. We have officers visible on sites also.

      I think there are things can be done at the school level, of course, with available funding for school counselors, more hours for the school psychologist (instead of spreading thin to cover many schools).
      So the Fed and States can help in the school funding rather than issue such as gun control.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I agree that there are other things to be done at school, local, state, and national levels in addition to issues of gun control. But this matter of assault weapons being readily available to civilians needs to be addressed. The callousness with which that man and his minions regard the slaughter of children in the places that are meant to make them proficient, contributing citizens is reprehensible.
        So, yeah, I twisted the realtors’ “close to schools” theme. It is a twisted time.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I was on a 24-day jury duty of 5 fang members. They started in Juvenile court and moved up to superior court when they became adults. After the shooting (when they were teenagers), before police arrived, they passed the guns over the fence to grandpa lived next door. So these were generations of gangs. In situations like like, gun control would apply, I still have no idea of how to avoid leaving the guns to these youngsters or gangsters. I once had a second grader in my class who talked about visiting his cousin in jail during the weekend as if it’s a normal part of life.
        I know guns in gangsters’ hands is not the same as in civilians hands.
        Good twisted for the challenge.

    • Peregrine Arc

      Thanks for this–it inspired my own prompt.

    • Jules

      I just read in the news after hearing of another ‘gun’ incident – that way too many schools are targets. Yet one article struck me – it was of a city school that had taken precautions because of the neighborhood it was located in – it had already had in place a screening and entry policy years before any school shooting had taken place. And they never had an incident.

      I remember though being in a NYC middle school and being harassed in the stair well for my lunch money.

  19. susansleggs

    Property Values

    The elderly nosey sisters returned home to see a sold sign on the house next door. “Damn, we missed seeing who bought it,” Ethel said.
    To their dismay two noisy Harley’s arrived a few weeks later just before a moving van. “Bikers! There goes the neighborhood. I wonder if they know their back yard connects to a cops. This could get interesting,” Maude said peeking out.
    The next day the sisters watched the cop and his family walk in next door with a six-pack and a heavy picnic basket.
    “Well there goes our fun. They already know each other.”

    • robbiesinspiration

      Now this is definitely interesting, Susan.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      The ending has a sense of humor. I love ii, Susan.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Oops, typing in the dark.

    • Norah

      Hehehe. You never know who’s riding those bikes.

  20. Bladud Fleas

    Thanks for the prompt. I hope I have the submission process right, I get confused.

    Property Values

    Smart Alec, so-called because his sleeper once cost a hundred bucks, his mattress an unfolded packing case from Bergdorf Goodman, his rain shelter another from Saks. He never panhandled below Fifth, and never slept east of 49th; if he could help it. If the cops moved him on, he’d keep walking the block, until the cops moved on, or got a call.?

    He said he knew Trump, knew the price of any building in NYC, but they say you’re just one step away from the streets and, once there, you’re a million miles away from where you were.

    • Norah

      Powerful, and too sad.

  21. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I’m here in the Denali lodge, looking at the snowy mountain surrounding us. The sun came out early in the morning – 6:00 a.m. I took a few photos while having breakfast. After breakfast, the clouds move in and it started raining. The tour bus will start in 45 minutes.

    I have House Finch, White Headed Sparrow, and Mourning Doves in my garden, it’s almost entertaining watching them fight for the territories.

    I love your story about the birds. I have many stories about the birds in my garden.

    Here’s my take on this week’s challenge,

    • robbiesinspiration

      I hope you are having a wonderful time, Miriam.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Robbie. Yes, we’re fortunate to have sunny blue sky to see the snowy mountains.

    • Jules

      You made me think of snow-birds… the people who are able to have at least two properties and avoid weather that is too hot or too cold. One would think they’d find one property… but then family ties come into play.

      It is odd that there is a property in our neighborhood that is larger than most – it was once two lots, but the original owners only build one house. The new owners had to sign papers and jump through hoops to state that they would not divide the property.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Hi Jules, I know of one area that the lands must maintain two acres and not to be divided. The owners knew and signed before they bought the property. The owners usually build unique mansions in the property. I guess they want to maintain the property value by doing that.

      • Jules

        Some areas have more people than land… our first home had what we call a postage stamp lot. We only have about a 1/3 acre. But most on the inside are have less. I think they just build stuff too close together. It takes money for mansions.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I have a friend whose daughter designed and wanted to build in Beverly Hills in California. Her design didn’t get approved because the neighbors thought that her home was too small and didn’t match with other home in the neighborhood.

      • Jules

        And then there is the ‘Tiny Home’ movement… maybe just a tad too small for me. Or even those who wish to live off the grid.

        In some area the ‘Home Owners Associations’ have rules like ‘no fences’ or what color you can paint your house. I think when buying a home you need to be very diligent in researching the area and such. One association we had belonged to – part of the yearly fee went to added security patrols and snow removal. So one needs to know what they are getting into. 🙂

  22. H.R.R. Gorman

    I found this one hard to write, but that made it all the more important for me to finish.

    So I took a different route. If anyone is interested in the background, I wrote from the perspective of the land beneath the Kowloon Walled City.

    ~~The Lament of Kowloon~~

    I was born when they put rocks around me, shy and still despite my welcoming gates. More humans came with houses and wells, and I ensconced them in my earthen folds. Invaders stole my stone walls, but I supported the burdens of my precious humans. Thousands moved in, and my houses became towers and dark alleys.

    With more bodies came squalor and chaos, and the outsiders failed to help my precious charges. I tried to support them, but my veins ran out of water and my body became overcrowded. Humans demolished my structures then abandoned me through forlorn gates.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thanks – I think it’s pretty weird, but I had fun.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Are you writing about the Kowloon I know of? But I don’t know where Kowloon Walled City is. You could help me out.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you for the link. I left Hong Kong in 1977. We went back to visit my family many time. My nephew is getting married in January 2019, we’re making plan to visit.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Wow! So cool! I hope the story was ok. I’ve never been to Hong Kong, but the history of the walled city fascinates me.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I was not aware of the history. I bookmarked the link and read it later since we’re on the road (on vacation) at the moment. I appreciate the flash fiction to get my attention. Will sure to visit your blog when I get home

    • Jules

      Your entry reminds me of the book ‘The Giving Tree’.
      Well done – I like your point of view.

  23. Peregrine Arc

    Values of Stuff

    “And here is a Parisian armchair, part of our priceless Sun King collection,” the museum guide announced. “Louis the XIV, you know…”

    I tapped one of my dozing students and gestured for our guide to continue.

    “And over here are more…No cell phones, please!”

    A student fumbled to silent her phone, paling as she read a text message.

    “There’s another school shooting…” she explained breathlessly.

    “I think,” another student spoke,“armchairs have more value than us nowadays…”

    Another person in the comments mentioned the Texas school shooting that happened yesterday. It made me think about it and I tried to picture how these kids picture their value nowadays.

    Thanks for the prompt, Charli. Loved reading about all your birds.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Good take on the prompt. It has always been a challenge to keep a teenager’s interest and attention, but more so when they are distracted by worries about their own safety. How do we teach and instill values when we don’t value their right to life over rights to unrestricted gun possession.

    • Norah

      Sad. Too sad.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Yes, indeed.

  24. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Here they are.


    “Carrot Ranch, Pal, it’s pretty big.”
    “Yep, gits bigger ever day, seems.”
    “It’s set up good fer cattle an’ hosses, plenty a range.”
    “Yep. Shorty knows how ta take care a such.”
    “But they’s also wilderness fer forest bathing; big skies fer dreamin’; plenty a space and cover fer unicorns, longhorns, an’ all manner a birds. They’s even fishin’ holes an’ bat caves.”
    “Yep. Shorty’s got quite a spread.”
    “An’ she welcomes ever’one.”
    “Ever’one what kin behave.”
    “Big di-verse spread like this, must be pretty valuable.”
    “Kid, this place is priceless.”
    “I sure value it, Pal.”
    “Me too, Kid.”
    “Yep, I sure admire what Shorty’s done here. Got herself a fine spread.”
    “Thing is Kid, land don’t really ever belong ta anyone.”
    “You sayin’ this ain’t Shorty’s ranch?”
    “I ain’t sayin’ that. But Shorty belongs ta the ranch as much as the ranch belongs ta Shorty. If ya live on a place ya got a responsibility to it, gotta take care of it if’n ya ‘xpect it ta take care a you.”
    “Well, Shorty sure ‘nough takes care a the ranch an’ all the critters an’ folks that come through.”
    “Yep. Shorty an’ the ranch are gonna flourish.”

    • Norah

      Love these guys, the Ranch, Charli, and you! 🙂

  25. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    “Walter”, muttered Edna. He needed to borrow some gas so he could finish his mowing. George invited him to iced tea on their cool tree shaded porch.

    “Sometimes I wish I had a small lawn like you”, Walter said, mopping his brow. “George, you should take some of these trees down. Enhance your property.”

    “Walter, I don’t want to hear it again. We like the view as it is, dead trees and all.”

    A woodpecker worked its way around a yellow birch. Wrens flitted among the lower branches.

    “See, we aren’t the only ones who live here,” Edna explained.

    • robbiesinspiration

      This is so nice. A great flash.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      This property would have a higher value to bird lovers. I love this flash.

    • Jules

      Reminds me of the pines that have died… maybe struck by lightning that we’ve left up…

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A thought provoking response.
      The questions sit in a ring and suppose, the answer sits in the center and knows. (Or something like that, by Robert Frost)

      • robbiesinspiration

        I didn’t know that quote. Thank you for sharing it.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ugh, I remembered it wrong; here it is for real:

        “The Secret Sits” Robert Frost

        We dance round in a ring and suppose,
        But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        That is a great quote from Robert Frost with many interpretations.

      • Deborah Lee

        Probably my favorite poem! (And thank you for not attributing it to Emily Dickinson, which people seem to do all the time. 🙂

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Wow, I loved this one! The ending was so bittersweet, yet the story felt complete.

    • Jules


      I’ve a family member who wanted to but couldn’t wear her bands – so she wore them on a necklace… until they got lost… I don’t know if they were replaced.

      Traditions are an interesting ‘ring’ : According to a tradition believed to have been derived from the Romans, the wedding ring is worn on the left hand ring finger because there was thought to be a vein in the finger, referred to as the ‘Vena Amoris’ or the ‘Vein of Love’ said to be directly connected to the heart.

  26. calmkate

    Charli you have spam getting thru! After posting my link .. someone spammed “what?” … my kismit just spams these so just flagging you …

  27. calmkate

    here is a second entry …

    Cultural Value

    Traditional landowners clearly had a strong spiritual connection to the land, waterways, animals, plants, seasons and dreamtime. Nomadic they survived by respect and understanding for their environment and folklore.

    White invaders, colonisers, committed mass genocide while raping their land and women, with blatant disregard for seasons or songlines. They mowed down forests and the people, polluted everything obsessed with their own wealth!

    What value could you put on plundered life and land? Stolen generations continue to this day, overseen by those who use and abuse what chance to sustain their language, culture and pride. Denigrated in every way …

    [actual post has photos and links, thanks]

  28. Shallow Reflections

    I was busy this weekend but still managed to scratch out a 99 word piece of flash fiction thanks to the abundant material that Chester provides for me.

    Hen pecked

    Chester slammed his fist on the counter. “I need to talk to the town manager now.”

    “What’s going on, Chester?”

    “I’ve put up with that birdwatchin’, forest bathin’ woman next door and didn’t even complain when she was arrested for indecent exposure. But I’ve reached my limit.”

    “What’s wrong?”

    She’s set up a chicken coup, and I don’t like what this does to the valuation of my property. Plus I’ve got her free-range idiots chasin’ me around my yard, peckin’ at my legs.”

    “Have you cleaned the tires and trash out from behind your shed?”

    “Don’t change the subject.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      So, is it a typo or a true coup? Score one for the chickens?

      • Shallow Reflections

        I wish I could say I was clever enough to have used ‘coup’ on purpose. Oh wait. That is what meant. No typo here. No sireee. Hahaha!

    • Norah

      Love your clever chicken coup too. Well done.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you, Norah. While the chicken coup was inadvertent I’m happy it was a clever typo. Haha!

      • Norah

        Yes. You did well. They are not always that accommodating. 🙂

  29. Eric Pone

    Eowyn stared at Windsor Castle and sighed. “Ono I need to dump this place. It is a huge drag on finances.” Ono responded. “Let’s get a realtor!” 

    Betty Whitehurst sat across the desk from Eowyn in sheer shock. “You want to sell Windsor?” Without a beat, Eowyn smiled. “I do. This place is too large, I can’t the income I need out of it. It has to go.” 

    Betty had the property appraised and the art and tapestries…the history. Sitting down again with Eowyn.  

    “It’s priceless. Don’t be a dumbass and sell!” Ono, replied. “How much?” “Billions Love.”

  30. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I submitted to the form today because I’m not sure if I did it when I left the link in the comment.

    There’s no difference between day and night here. I saw a children’s book entitled “Good Night, Good Light.”

    I love traveling but I usually don’t want to be away from home more than two weeks. We came back to Anchorage from Denali, now we’re heading south of the city. Will check my blog when I could squeeze in a few minutes.

  31. Aweni

    I do have loads of fun here Charli????. Thank you. Just been through your post and then through some of the comments (????how do you keep up!) and I see the theme emerging ‘re neighbours make or break a neighbourhood’ so, my take on the flash will not be surprising….blaming the neighbours is so much fun????.
    I love your vivid description of nature in your write up and I learnt something else today about the Starlings and how they came to be in the USA. Thank you.

    Ps. Is the Shakespeare story on their genesis in the USA true?

      • Aweni

        ???? !!!
        It is so kind of you to put up the right link on my behalf Frank! Thank you so very much. I really appreciate it.

        And thank you for your lovely comment????.

    • Norah

      Nice flash – pity about the neighbourhood. 🙂

      • Aweni

        ???? thank you

      • Aweni

        Thank you????

    • susansleggs

      I think I know why the house was inexpensive. It’s already occupied!

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        When my husband read it, he thought the house ate the sister. Either way, a good reason for such a low price.

    • Norah

      Clever. Well done.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      My friend who is a real estate agent showed the home of her deceased mom to a buyer. The buyer saw sone behind my friend. She asked if anyone living in the house, and said someone was behind my friend. My friend said, no, and asked the buyer to describe that person. She did, and my friends said, it’s my mom (I don’t know if the house was sold).

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        Wow. That is amazing how in tune that person was. From an outsiders perspective that sounds really fascinating but I bet as a person who sees things like that, you would feel burdened by it at times. Powerful.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I know some people can see things when they are in tune. I was with a person in her last few weeks of life. She saw the angel who was there to take her to the other side of the world. She said, “She is sitting next to you.”

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        I feel like some of us are very in tune and others have just feelings. I get feelings. Like something is going to happen or something is there that we can’t see. It fascinates me.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I have that feelings also. I felt that the moment my daughter was pregnant. She knows when I feel things about her. It fascinates us also.

  32. Debora

    Hi, Charli,

    Wishing you the best luck and fortune and a very joyful long life, Happy Birthday!
    I bet the celebrations were awesome!

    Well, a day late to wish you a Happy Birthday, but hopefully on time for the challenge’s deadline… 😀

    I thought the story would not come out. I almost gave up. But here it is:


    • Norah

      Beautiful photo to accompany a meaningful flash.

      • Debora

        Thanks, Norah!

    • Jules

      I’ve lived in cities… I like my little slice of suburbia.

  33. Kerry E.B. Black

    Witches Next Door
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Poppa scowled at the moving van, inventorying items deposited next door. Movers left garden items – astrolabes, statuary, tools, and potted plants – along the fenceline. Poppa stomped out a cigarette. “Darnnit, there goes the neighborhood.”

    Josey crinkled her forehead. “Why, Poppa?”

    He pointed. “Spell books. Magic chests. At least four cats. Witches’re moving in.”

    Two plump, frizzy-haired ladies smiled and waved.

    Josey waved. “They seem nice.”

    Poppa spat. “Property value goes down when witches move in? Nobody wants to be mixed up in magic.”

    Josey disagreed. Nothing in their quiet town seemed as interesting. Besides, how’d Poppa know about magic?

    • Norah

      Exactly! Love that final question.

  34. Deborah Lee

    So happy you get to have a proper birthday celebration, and that C Jai Ferry can join you!

    I love all the birds, all the different critters of spring…even the obnoxious ones. I’ll take them over obnoxious people any day.


    “But I don’t want to sell my house,” Michelle says.

    “Property values are up,” Caroline presses. “Now’s your chance to make a killing.”

    “Just move for no reason? I like my house.”

    “Roll it into a bigger house, with land.” Duh, says Caroline’s tone.

    “Uh-huh,” says Michelle, “with an even bigger mortgage, double the payment.”

    “Not if you buy farther out, get ahead of the next gentrification rush.”

    “Yeah, so then my commute is two hours one way instead of one. No thanks.”

    “But property values–”

    Michelle holds her hand up: stop. “There’s a big difference between value and worth.”

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      I really like how you touched on gentrification. The area I live in now is going through gentrification, and I’m faced with similar questions as the people in your story, so this one really plucked at my heartstrings.

  35. endlessramblingssite

    Hi Charli, this is a really good prompt! I had fun with this, and I feel another flash coming on. Here is my story, including a link to my blog. Thanks!

    New Decking

    We found a body in our back garden. Right where we wanted our new decking. What are the chances?
    The estate agents obviously never said anything about it.
    Of course the local media soon caught wind and documented the whole thing: forensic tents, police detectives, us.
    Months later and they’re still camped outside our door every day.
    We’re sick of the attention and want to move; start again somewhere else. But we can’t because the property is now worth pennies, and no one wants to live in a suspected “murder house.”
    And we still haven’t got our new decking.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’ll sell; “Backyard to die for”… it’s all about marketing.

  36. Sherri Matthews

    You had a wonderful, packed birthday weekend Charli and C Jai came too, wow! Loved reading your excitement for your bird visitors. I’m excited too as we have our new bird feeder station up for the first time since we moved. So far we’ve had a blackbird, ring-necked dove (there is a dove cote at the neighbour’s behind us) and a magpie. Robin sings from the tree above the wall so I am hoping he visits too! As for the starlings, yep, they are prolific here and looks like they’re bringing their noisy party ways to your town too! They squabble on our roof and will soon be at the feeders I’m sure. Loved your flash. Will be back with mine, on a wing and a prayer 😉 <3

    • Jules

      Good luck… but then with such concerns… maybe luck hasn’t a thing to do with ‘it’ 🙂

      • thedarknetizen

        Indeed! 😛

  37. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli, nice to play again 🙂 <3

    Rise and Fall

    “Can you believe it, she took the broiler pan from the oven?”

    Joy smiled sweetly at her new neighbour. “I’m sure it was by accident, if she did.”

    “Well, I’m not happy about it.” Phyllis Mather huffed.

    That night, Joy emailed her best friend Shirley and told her everything Phyllis had said. “Accused you of taking the drapes too, of all the nerve.”

    Shirley had bigger fish to fry with her divorce and didn’t care much, but she smiled when she read Joy’s further news that property values in her old neighbourhood had since slumped. Broiler pan my ass.

  38. Jules

    Reminds me of (I believe) the book ‘Fried Green Tomatoes…’

    Unfortunately there will be others… to replace ‘im.

  39. Jules

    Reminds me of the “Fulton” play house in Lancaster, PA –
    though they have managed to restore and keep it up. Other smaller old playhouses and movie houses have disappeared eaten up by the ever growing hospital complex.

  40. Jules

    It is sad to believe that type of action still exists in some parts.

  41. Jules

    I’m not sure where my comment went my internet got interrupted…
    Thanks for the info and the drawings too.


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