June 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

June 15, 2018

White hedgerow roses bloom on the corner of Ethel and Roberts Streets. With each pass, I wonder at their fragrance and details — are they white or tinged with a subtle color the way prehnite covers a gray rock of basalt with a sea-green glow when wet?

I’m breathing deep of the crisp air and watering my daughter’s garden which rises and blooms with purpose. She’s planted alternating heights, textures, and colors, timing the blooms, so there are buds to watch when spent petals fade and drop. It rarely gets hot in the Keweenaw, but if it doesn’t often rain the sandy soil quickly dries.

My 85-year-old neighbor, Mrs. H, watches me water the flagging yellow lilies and explosion of purple allium. I’m curious about a thicker and bigger bulb that’s not yet ready to reveal it’s color. It continues to grow, and its bud reminds me of a green coxcomb. I smile and wave to Mrs. H. She returns the smile and walks over to me.

“Winter’s coming, hey,” she says.

At first, I think she’s alluding to the nip in the near-summer air or the smear of gray rainless clouds overhead. But she means something more — when you live in a remote region with Lake Superior’s micro-climate that dumps an average of 300 inches of snow a year, you have winter and preparing for winter.

Winter’s coming, hey. It’s more profound than planning for next round of snow. It has to do with seizing the moment, savoring the bounce of bumble-bees, and seeking agates under every rock on McLain Beach. The time is now. Stop and smell the roses for winter is coming and you need to populate your senses with a full bouquet.

Watering, I know each bloom will pass so I’m mindful of each moment — gauging its height, noting changes in shapes, and admiring deepening shades of hues. I’m more attentive to the differences. I let Mrs. H know I’ve noticed her hedgerow flowers blooming. Her light blue eyes widen.

“They must have just bloomed,” she says.

Daily, Mrs. H circles her property. She pauses at the forget-me-knots and points to the Columbine. No matter where she walks, tiny white English daisies carpet all our lawns on the block. At night, the flowers tighten and reveal a hot-pink undercoat. I remark that I’ve never lived in a place like this where flowers bloom from snowmelt to snowfall.

Mrs. H nods and says people never had lawns. Everyone had flowers! What I see all around me when I walk the neighborhood or woods where farms and houses once stood during the mining heydays reflects abandoned yards of flowers. Historically, this amazes me the same way old stone foundations do — someone once lived here.

I turn the spray to the phlox to water this brilliant scrub of bubblegum-pink flowers. Mrs. H tells me phlox are her favorite. Her grandmother’s yard was full of phlox. I try to imagine the lawns gone and replaced with clumps of phlox and daisies. I can even see Mrs. H as a little girl trailing behind her grandmother.

These flashes of images come to me like a bouquet of emotion. I pick out each flower, each feeling to capture the scene. Often a story begins in sensory distortion until I can define what it is about. I’ll file away such scenes in my mind’s cabinet box and when I’m writing fiction, access it to use its color, scent, and feel. This is part of filling the well, catching stories for later use, like collecting herbals for dyes and healing teas.

Mrs. H leaves me to water, and I mull over the paperwork for the Hub and think of how healing this garden will be for my daughter when she returns home from surgery at the Mayo. A part of my whirring mind urges me to quit dallying around — so much to do, so behind, so much worry, so many unknowns. That’s like anticipating snow shoveling instead of experiencing how big the begonia buds are today.

Winter’s coming, hey. I’ll fill my mind with petunias and possibilities before returning to the tasks and trade. I’ll focus on what I love about literary art and branding and community and serendipity. I’ll chase down flowers in the woods and rocks on the beach. I’ll catch all the stories I can and finish the ones I can tame.

Before I go inside, Mrs. H returns with white hedgerow roses and blue forget-me-nots clasped in her thin and papery hand. She shares with me the day’s bounty. We meet in this moment, and time spins around us — she is at once a girl and a wise woman to me. She’s ageless as she passes the gift. One her grandmother once bestowed upon her.

June 14, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a bouquet. You can explore the meaning of the word or gather a bunch of flowers. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 19, 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.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

A Mother’s Bouquet (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Mama, flowers!” Lizzie stumbled through the cabin door, dropping her bouquet of Black-eyed Susans.

Sarah cringed as Lizzie wailed, wanting to escape the chores Mary gave her.  Lizzie’s brothers rushed in to help gather their sister’s spilled flowers.

Monroe calmed Lizzie while Jules and Cling gathered her bouquet, handing it back. Lizzie sniffled. Mary knelt with Baby Charles on her hip, and Lizzie thrust the flowers to her mother. “They are beautiful, Lizzie.”

Sarah’s heart ached for a little girl to gather a bouquet for her.  But she left her daughter in the grave in back in North Carolina.

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264 Comments

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    (Ouch. I have yet to get out to smell the summer flowers and ya have winter in the air.)
    Just keep chasing rocks and flowers, Ms. Mills, take care of you. You are where you are and you are doing great there. Just ask those flowers you’re tending. Seems like you’re picking up some good people too. Enjoy the bounty of your neighborhood, your well.
    Thanks for the prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      “Winter’s coming, hey” is the Keweenaw version of living mindfully with urgency! Taking care of business and flowers. You get out to smelling yours soon as you can, D.!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Liz H

      Quite clever and spot on for (one of the reasons) why we do this (beyond all the fun).

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Pal! Where’s Shorty at?”
    “Whoa, Kid, what’s wrong?”
    “The ranch hands! They’s all off in the upper meadows an’ in the woods sniffin’ flowers an’ makin’ daisy chains.”
    “So?”
    “So?! They should be makin’ hay, not pickin’ flowers! We gotta be makin’ hay; sowin’ an’ reapin’. Git ready fer winter. Where’s Shorty?”
    “Kid, whyn’t you relax, go sniff some flowers yerself?”
    “Cain’t, no time, gotta replenish the carrot bin, git hay inta the barn. Winter’s comin’. Where’s Shorty?”
    “Kid, go back ta the meadow. Shorty’s there gatherin’ flowers.”
    “What?”
    “Fuel fer the soul, Kid. Important work, time well spent.”

    • susansleggs

      Yes, D., if the soul isn’t fed, there is no point.

    • Frank Hubeny

      Nice reason to collect flowers: fuel for the soul.

    • Norah

      So much to do, so little time. Must make time to smell the flowers or life’s gone before you know it. Great advice, Pal.

    • Charli Mills

      Winter’s coming, get the soul burning bright! Pal and the Ranchers will get the Kid sniffin’ his way to storing up stories like a certain mouse once did.

      • Liz H

        Frederick!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! You know the mouse!

    • Mardra

      Love this! Way to tie it all in! Hay!

    • anuragbakhshi

      The most important work of all 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for such a visual life experience bouquet!

      • dharkanein

        Pleasure is mine….you gave me the chance to write this way…thanks again

  3. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli:

    With Love

    Her hands were bloody and dirty, nails broken and uneven.
    But the smile was a full one thousand watts as she handed the bouquet to me.
    ‘From the garden’ she announced proudly.
    ‘I picked them myself, just for you. Sorry they’re a bit untidy and not tied with a fancy ribbon, but I wanted you to have them.’
    Mr Robbins looked over at me and smiled sadly.
    They were actually his roses, from his garden, but Gran didn’t realise that.
    Gone were the days when she tended her own flower beds, but no doubt the memories were still there.

    • Norah

      So sad, but lovely Mr Robbins to take it in his stride. Many would bemoan the loss of their precious roses.

      • pensitivity101

        I think these days when it’s known someone is suffering from dementia, neighbours make allowances. I know they did for my Mum, but as far as I know she didn’t pick anyone’s flowers, bless her.

    • Charli Mills

      Dementia is one of those things we are fearful of, but I find that when it does come into the realm of loved ones, there can be an amazing response of compassion. You’ve expressed that bouquet of compassion well, Di.

      • pensitivity101

        I wish I’d been able to spend more time with my Mum. I find it so hard to fathom how well she looked at the beginning of September to how I last saw her in December and when I said my final goodbye on the morning of the funeral. I have wonderful memories of her sitting in her chair and getting her to chat about days gone by. Time didn’t mean anything and we’d encourage conversation.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, what a sad loss so quickly. I wish those conversations could have gone on endlessly.

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Poignant memories… <3

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Colleen.

    • anuragbakhshi

      It’s sad yet beautiful at the sane time.

  4. janmalique

    A beautiful post and prompt Charli. The glory of flowers, of any type, filled the heart and senses with their presence. Hopefully post my offering this weekend.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jan! Flowers do have that glorious quality, don’t they?

      • janmalique

        They lift the spirit in incredible ways Charli.

  5. H.R.R. Gorman

    I was inspired quickly this week!

    ~~The Smart Home~~ (This will go up on my blog Sunday!)

    Master Ellen left me in my own devices every morning, heading off to work while I – her Smart Home – tended to her domestic needs.  She returned every evening with a smile and a ‘thank you.’

    A man, I’ll call him ‘Asshole,’ showed up at me with a bouquet.  She let him in with his dirty shoes every time he arrived with flowers. 

    My gardening protocols kicked into overdrive.  I grew flowers and made arrangements, leaving them at my door.  She cared for my creations.

    Eventually, Asshole returned.  “Thank you for all the bouquets!”

    He stepped back.  “It wasn’t me.”

    • Charli Mills

      The Smart Home has a loving, soft and sassy side! What a quick and yet lavish response. I cracked up over the house’s take on the suitor with dirty shoes!

    • Mardra

      Ha! No need for him, after all! 🙂 Well played.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        I’ve considered doing Charli’s super-duper challenge with this one. I’m not sure if I’d want to make the smart home sweet or if I’d want to go full-on horror and make it possessive.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha. That was a unique and ‘smart’ take indeed.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thanks – thinking about doing the Carrot Ranch’s challenge with this one!

  6. Jules

    Charli,
    Summer hasn’t even started and “Winter’s coming hey…” Esh!
    But yep when the solstice arrives the day’s will be getting shorter.
    Just keep filling yours with joy!

    We need to appreciate the gifts youth can bring – even when those little fingers want to escape work. We can take a lesson in that – be in the present.
    And untie the ribbons of each and every floral petal. 🙂

    I went with something that caught my eye in the news this morning. People taking the time to do good. That is a treasure filled bouquet. Link to the news story is at my blog.

    Bundled Batch

    It was a cardboard bouquet – with sweet aroma of warm food.
    The people in the back of truck though they were in the middle
    of a fairy tale.

    They were aliens… unknowns. Some were whisked away by
    princes who worked in the medical fields. But most were left
    with just some cool air and water. The stranger on the white
    horse galloped, after work and hearing their plight on the news
    – to the local pizzeria and just bought them a meal. Just
    because he didn’t know when they had eaten last. Could this
    temporary happy ending continue to last?

    ©JP/dh

    • Norah

      People taking time to do good is indeed a treasure-filled bouquet, Jules. Let’s grow those bouquets.

    • Charli Mills

      This year, I’m celebrating the solstice with a midsummer Finnish bonfire on Agate Beach near Toivola, MI (about 20 miles away). I’m excited to see such a huge bonfire on the shores of Lady Lake. Especially on a beach called “agate”! I love your advice to appreciate all the little gifts we receive daily and “untie the ribbons of each and every floral petal.” Yes! And what a beautiful story to capture in a flash fiction — a bouquet of good deeds.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I’m there with you Charli. Watch the flames. I’ll drift in the smoke. <3

      • Charli Mills

        I’ll look for you!

    • Jules

      Just noticed that ‘though’ in the first line should be ‘thought’
      “The people in the back of truck thought… ”
      Maybe there’ll be a fix or not… But I fixed my blog post.

    • Liz H

      We can only hope, and sow our own seeds. Well done, Jules!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! I enjoyed reading your flash!

      • thedarknetizen

        Thanks so much! 😀 😀

  7. Liz H

    “Winter’s coming, hey. I’ll fill my mind with petunias and possibilities…”
    My new mantra–love this! <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      I thought you’d get the heart and petunias of this saying, Liz! Savor your moments well for the snow will return.

  8. Annecdotist

    I love your flash, Charli, so poignant. And awareness of impending winter – real or metaphorical – while living well in the present is important for us all.
    I need a bit more headspace before I can come back with my contribution.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anne! I think Sarah must have thought of her own deceased child while watching Mary’s thrive. I look forward to what percolates in your headspace.

    • Annecdotist

      What a circuitous route I’ve taken to today’s post, Charli, squeezing in my flash just before the deadline (I think – these transatlantic time zones are beyond me) taking in an incorrect interpretation of Irene’s Times Past prompt. And then failing to find a photo of the lovely bouquet I got when I finished work.
      Anyway, the flash is here but I’ve given it a different title for the compilation:
      I’m not telling you http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/06/im-not-telling-you.html

      • Jules

        Anne – something is not right. Your link or your site name come up with: Sorry not found.

      • Charli Mills

        Sometimes what we think we are going to pick is different from what is blooming. It all works out in the end.

      • Charli Mills

        Jules, I think it’s working now! Thanks!

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks for letting me know, Jules, but it’s working for me

  9. Colleen Chesebro

    Whew! I’ve missed you guys! I’m ready to write some flash fiction! WOO HOO! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Woo Hoo! Welcome back, Fairy Cowgirl! Hope you had a fine vacation and have lots of fresh ideas to write!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Oh, yes! Wait until you see. My new book comes out on Thursday. I have a special dedication to you in the acknowledgements. I love this flash fiction challenge. My writing has bloomed. Thanks for that. <3

  10. floridaborne

    She stared at the bouquet of long-stemmed yellow roses, tears streaming.

    The best florist in town, the baby breath arranged perfectly in a cut crystal vase, his intentions unmistakable, she opened the embossed envelope and read the gold lettering on an elegant card, “You were right.”

    Yesterday, they’d argued about his late nights at work, and excessive spending. She’d accused him of having an affair.

    She’d once quipped, “If you want a divorce, just send me a dozen yellow roses.”

    He knew she hated that color. He didn’t know she was pregnant.

    He’d learn to hate child support more.

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      The twists and gut-wrenching hurt of this one is intense! Wowies!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks.

        I’m light sensitive and bright yellow gives me migraines if I don’t wear dark glasses. Once, I did tell a man that if he wanted a divorce to give me yellow roses. No one has ever given me yellow roses. 🙂

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Hi Joelle, it’s a brilliant twist of the story and a heartbreaking one.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks for the kind words.

        I love the 99 word prompt. It makes me wring as much emotion out of the fewest words possible. My thanks to Charli and her crew for giving writers the opportunity to learn how to write a heartbreaking story in so few words.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I agree with you, Joelle. It’s a great way to release the emotion and fell relief when we hit the nail on the head. Well done!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        “feel”

    • Norah

      Oh dear. So sad, but so well told.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks.

    • Charli Mills

      A fierce flash, Joelle! Good use of emotion and surprise in your bouquet.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Mardra

      Wow! What a great example of complete storytelling in Flash form. Love it.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha. That was a wicked twist in the end.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Liz H

      Sharp and savage–Love it!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

      Great job with this flash however heartbreaking it may be. It’s amazing how much can be said with the color of a rose.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • denmaniacs4

      How sad and full of the spite that some lives suffer from. Treachery, and a child who will fall by the wayside. Nicely wrought…

      • floridaborne

        I find people, at times, to be a mixture of well-intentions, spite, and treachery. Thanks for letting me know that you saw all sides of the 2 people involved.

  11. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,
    A great post! So much wisdom in a few words:”Winter is coming, hey!”. A time and season for all things.
    I enjoy reading poetry. And your post reminded me of Robert Frost’s poems. Here’s a few lines from “Putting in the Seed” (1920) (or you could say “springtime is coming, hey!”!):

    “… If I can leave off burying the white
    Soft petals fallen from the apple tree.
    (Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
    Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea;)…”
    (The poem is online at Academy of American Poets website, and is in the public domain).

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Robert Frost has such a way of slowing down and savoring the full richness of the moment it takes for an apple blossom petal to fall. Thank you for sharing how poetry expresses the time and season of all things!

  12. Frank Hubeny

    Lovely description of Mrs H. The desire for flowers more than lawn helped inspire the following story.

    ———————————-
    Finally Blooming by Frank Hubeny

    That was the spring Alice turned the lawn into a big bouquet of flowers. It surprised Joe but looking at her face looking at the former lawn with a gentle smile she rarely showed him anymore made him grateful.

    The neighborhood wives thought her odd for years. Her newfound gardening energy did not impress them. Alice’s view of them wasn’t pretty either.

    That winter Alice died.

    Joe kept her bouquet of former lawn going for the next decade as long as his life allowed. He received help especially towards the end and gifts of plants from the neighborhood wives.

    • Charli Mills

      You built a beautiful story around the inspiration of flowers instead of lawn, Frank. I also enjoy the sense of community support, too.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Charli! The idea you presented of wanting more flowers than lawn motivated this.

    • robbiecheadle

      This is such a touching post, Frank. Beautifully done.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Robbie!

    • Miriam Hurdle

      My lawn is shrinking and the bouquet is getting bigger and brighter. I’m for a bigger bouquet, Frank. 🙂

      • Frank Hubeny

        I prefer the bigger bouquet as well. Thank you, Miriam!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Frank. I have bouquet in my front yard and back yard.

    • anuragbakhshi

      So lovely that everyone got together and continued taking cate of the lawn.
      Just one small feedback, the second line in its current form is quite complex and unwieldy, and is becoming slightly difficult to understand.

      • Frank Hubeny

        I see what you mean about the second line. I should break that into two or three shorter sentences. I will keep that in mind should I use this elsewhere. Thank you!

    • Colleen Chesebro

      What a beautiful story, Frank. I loved it. <3

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Colleen!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Michael! Thanks for your thoughts on bouquets!

  13. JEN Garrett

    Some Great flash fiction here! I’ve written a few super short stories, but never with the emotional depth that these stories have. So, sorry for commenting without an entry, but I just had to say Good Job, Writers!

    • Norah

      You’ve still got a few days to join in, JEN. You never know what you may write until you try. Carrot Ranch welcomes all writers regardless of emotional depth. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for commenting, Jen! Actually, we are a literary community and there are three pillars of literature — reading, writing, and discourse. We appreciate your engagement no matter how it inspires you to respond!

  14. denmaniacs4

    A Posey Mosey

    He thinks, “I could do better.”

    She thinks, “I don’t require much. Just a sense that I am thought of, some gesture.”

    And he thinks, “I’ve missed so many opportunities. I really am a slouch.”

    And she muses, “Yes, you are, but that comes as no surprize.”

    And he wonders, “Do I offer no surprises, anymore? Was it always so?”

    She doesn’t hold back. “You’ve always been fairly predictable. Like I said, I don’t require much, and I expect less.”

    And he finally realizes, “I’ve had a free ride, haven’t I? Should’ve gotten her a posey. At least one.”

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      What I love about these thoughts, Bill, is how you show the silence in dialog. That brilliant! And yes, he comes to the realization we can hope he acts upon.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Better late than never 🙂

  15. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I love your daughter’s garden. She is doing what the gardening books tell me to do: plant alternating heights, textures, and colors, timing the blooms, so there are buds to watch when spent petals fade and drop.
    Mrs. H has a good story to tell about her flowers.

    I have winter flowers and summer flowers. The summer flowers bloom when winter flowers hibernate. My first ten rose bushes turned out to be red or burgundy. I planted other colors of flowers such as various lilies, lavender, geraniums to give my eyes a break of boredom. Walking around the garden in the morning is my therapy.

    I’ll do my flash fiction soon, just had a long day of running around. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Miriam, I love my daughter’s garden, too! She’s got the mix going on in a good way. Oh, how wonderful to have both winter and summer blooms! I can relate to your morning garden therapy. I look forward to where this takes you in your flash.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oops, my flash went in a different direction. It was and pantser writing, I started without knowing how it ends. I may do something about my morning therapy in the future.

      • Charli Mills

        I love that you followed your flash to the end, even though you didn’t know it. That kind of discovery is why I like to write flash fiction.

    • Charli Mills

      Sarah, what a clever idea! I’m a big fan of revising and reworking pieces, especially ones you know resonate with readers.

      • weejars

        Thanks Charli! It’s the first time I’ve attempted it and I really enjoyed the process.

  16. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli

    I’m back. Yes, seizing the moment! When it’s gone, it went with the wind.
    Here’s my flash fiction for the week.

    Bouquet Business by Miriam Hurdle

    “My husband buys me bouquet every week,” Sandy blushed. She forgot who bought up the subject.

    “It will get old in no time. Guys buy a bouquet every now and then,” Mr. Cole’s deep voice came from the other side of the room.

    “They are still on honeymoon,” Mrs. Cole was embarrassed by her husband.

    “Kyle is a devoted customer. He came to my floral shop for a special bouquet five months ago. I praised his affection for Sandy. He has been coming every week.”

    “Sorry, I’m not trying to ruin your business,” Mr. Cole whispered to Ms. Laura.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Miriam! Thanks for your flash and getting down to business with bouquets!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Charli. The first few sentences are true. The second half is flash. It works out, I think!

  17. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    Marlon looks out into the garden at the rear of his house. This is my house he reminds himself, not a shack or a cabin or a squat, my HOUSE.
    He steps carefully off the step and busies himself in the scrub that passes for a garden. He wanders through the tress stopping and bending, his fingers brushing through the weeds and tall grass before returning to the other guys sitting around the fire. A large bunch of green and flowery foliage in his hands.
    ‘These weeds gentleman are called bouquet garni. in restaurants the posh folks go to’.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! I like your take on the prompt and finding a different perspective on one’s circumstances. Fun final line!

      • tearsofbloodinmyheart

        Thank you Charli, I love writing these short pieces.
        I was stuck on the writing struggle bus for so long but your prompts have given me a shove in the right direction.

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you, but I’ll give credit to the science behind constraints! Any constraint — word count, minutes, number of pages — form a pattern of problem-solving. Flash fiction can be a great way to open up writing creativity, and it can also be a terrific tool. I’m so glad you are feeling the results! Me, too! 🙂

  18. Juliet

    Hi Fellow Ranchers,
    I’m sitting in my wildly overgrown and underloved garden as I write this and the sun is making me silly. I loved your post, Charli. My offering this week is away off on another tangent. It must be because summer is almost here and the World Cup has started. ????

    Catch Me If You Can

    Julia had hovered behind her sister all day, following her like a faithful young puppy. A puppy in teetering heels and an atrociously tight scarlet dress.

    She was the older one, surely she should have had a say in what she wore today?

    As she lingered she kept a careful eye on the bouquet. The scent from its red and white roses had tickled her nostrils all day.

    When was her sister ever going to throw the damned thing?

    Julia prayed that her months of training as the goalie of the local female football team would finally pay off.

    • Norah

      Love it, Julia. I was thinking little sisters dressing up, until we got to the second last sentence. Well done for creating the illusion, and good luck to Julia in both bouquet catching and football. 🙂

      • Juliet

        Thanks, Norah! I wonder if she’ll catch it. Hope so ????

    • Mardra

      Love this! Practice practice practice… 🙂

      • Juliet

        Thanks! ??

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha, nice twist.

      • Juliet

        Thanks!????

    • Liz H

      Ha! Plot twist!
      I don’t think I’d dare get between Julia and her bouquet– 😀

      • Juliet

        Hi Liz. I don’t think anyone should! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Juliet! Oh, what a wonderful place to be sitting and soaking up the giddy rays of sunlight! A well-crafted flash with a character we can all cheer on as if she’s at the World Cup of Weddings!

    • robbiecheadle

      A lovely flash, Miriam. Beautiful idea.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you so much, Robbie.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Miriam!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome! Charli.

  19. Norah

    What a bouquet of beautiful thoughts you have presented us with in this post, Charli. Winter’s coming! I thought your summer had just begun. But your summer is unlike our summer, and your winter unlike ours. You have winter and preparing for winter. So cold. But yet you find beauty in it, and possibilities to explore, gathering up the stories into your mind’s store. (Interesting the connection between stories and store.)
    Watering the garden is a meditation, time to be in the present moment, but time for the mind to wander wherever it pleases.
    I do hope daughter’s surgery has gone well and that hub’s forms complete themselves with ease. So many concerns to weigh upon a mind that would prefer to be arranging bouquets of stories.
    I almost forgot to read your flash again this week, forgetting to look beyond the form before commenting (I like to post my comment before reading others, otherwise I get caught up in conversations and forget to comment on your post. :))
    Your flash, so sad for all. Lovely big brothers to help Lizzie though. Black-eyed Susans. I haven’t thought of them for years. My parents had them in the garden when I was a child, along with many others of the flowers you mention in the post. I think Black-eyed Susans were one of my favourites. I think the name did it. Poor Sarah has no one with who to share her loss and grief.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my post and story – A Special Bouquet. https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1at Thanks, Norah

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Norah, I always enjoy your notes to Charli. Hope you don’t mind but you’re always so spontaneous and real. I love it. <3

      • Norah

        Thank you, Colleen. That is a lovely comment. How could I possibly mind. I love it! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, there is always beauty to be gathered, even from rubble, I have discovered. Mrs. H prepared me for an unexpected week — not only do we prepare for winter, but we also gather as a community when called upon. I can’t say enough good about my new home (except that I’m starting t long for a home of my own). The paperwork was disastrous, thus that longing will have to wait. I’m full of ill-feelings toward the VA this week and the impossibility of their “evidence.” I was told not to give up, and I will try not to. Witnessing neighbors helping neighbors this week, I know we all struggle and we help where we can. We are bouquets unto each other. You are the black-eyed Susan of my bouquet!

      Thank you for commenting on Sarah’s grief. It’s a cornerstone of friendship between her and Nancy Jane — a grief they both share but respond to differently. Thank you for your creative take on bouquet!

      • Norah

        Beauty in rubble – yes, we do need to find it, even when the digging is sometimes hard. A welcoming community helps, but I can understand the need for a home of your own too. It’s a long time coming.
        I’m sorry to hear the paperwork was disastrous. The VA seems to be intent on grinding you down. I guess too many give up and they win, so they do it again.
        Know what? I just googled images of black-eyed Susans, and they are not what I was remembering. Either I’ve remembered incorrectly (likely) or my parents named them incorrectly (unlikely). I’ll have to try to find out what the flower was but I’m not sure how. Will give it a go and let you know. 🙂
        Grief is such a personal thing. I’m not surprised Sarah and Nancy Jane respond differently to their circumstances.
        Thank you for sharing bouquets (and not brickbats).

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I do believe that is the intent of the VA, too and it all comes down to resources. We had a town hall meeting with all the wives and the Vet Center director for our region (which is a branch of the VA which focuses on the mental health of combat veterans). They are terminating our beloved counselor who has done so much for our veterans, families and she herself is a combat vet. Through no fault of her own, they are eliminating her position because of a bureaucratic move to make their human resources more effectively. We are all outraged. She can apply for the new position but no guarantees that she will get it or that the Vet Center will continue service here. I was so proud to be a part of this meeting and when the director droned on about policy over his head and the turnover he’s had to deal with and then launched into understanding “our needs” by reciting the cycle of grief to us, I cut him off and said these women are here to speak and you need to hear what they have to say. And they spoke up! Yes, we do all handle grief differently and as we’ve discussed before, I think on Anne’s blog, grief is difficult to write authentically.

      Oh, maybe we both have that name for different flowers! It was true of fireweed, too.

      • Norah

        Good on you for standing up and ensuring the women’s voices were heard. Too many take what is handed down from ‘above’ and pass it down the line as if it’s gospel, passed down from even further above. Sometime, someone in the chain, before it gets to the last link, must stop and say, “No, I’m not doing it. It’s not right to treat people this way.” Nothing will change while those people fear for their jobs, which in reality is a nothing job as it creates and solves nothing. I am so tired of bureaucrats trying to make things work more effectively by getting rid of those efficient workers at the front line. All they want to do is keep their own little circle of penpushers employed rubbing each other’s backs. If they make the circle too big, they know they won’t be able to cope. Grrr. It happens here, it happens there, it happens everywhere. I think this is another reason why we need women in power. I think, I hope, they would work with more compassion.

      • Charli Mills

        You understand the full picture! Yes, the penpushers want to protect their jobs that don’t impact the people they serve by removing those who do. Some days, my mind boggles at all the ridiculous bureaucracy. It is so insidious that we can recognize it around the world. Yes, I do think women have compassion and yet I’ve seen women in these position makes the same poor decisions. Our regional state representative is a man, and I’m so impressed how he’s been on the ground all over the disaster sites, listening to people and pitching in, being our voice. We need people like that. I’m going to call him about of vet center. And tell him that it’s in jeopardy because someone in DC thinks that “efficiency” serves vets. It doesn’t if they remove our effective frontline people. We need more compassion!

    • susansleggs

      Beautiful imagery. Well done.

      • janmalique

        Thank you. ????

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      This one was so beautiful and calm! Gave me chill bumps when the Guardian showed up at the end.

      • janmalique

        Thank you so much for reading and the lovely feedback. ?

    • Liz H

      Beautiful, meditative piece, and peace.

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Happy Litha, Jan. I loved this story. <3

      • janmalique

        Many blessings for you on this sacred day Colleen. ?

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Much appreciated. Hugs, Jan ??????

      • janmalique

        Hugs back Colleen! ?

      • Charli Mills

        Happy Juhannus! (The Finnish version.) <3

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Happy Litha! ????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jan!

  20. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    Here’s my response to a great FF prompt: Bouquet

    Eagle Point Ridge was devastated first by a firestorm, then deep winter snows and spring thaw mud slides. Carmen drove up a steep valley road towards the timberline. She gazed at the scorched forlorn firs, spruce and pines among jagged rocks and boulders in the muddy valleys.
    Near the road’s edge, a clump of bright green ferns caught her eye. Among the ferns was a bouquet of bear grass, tall green stalks crowned with tightly packed white flowers. The faint fragrance of the vibrant precious bouquet drifted in the slight breeze, a sign of hope for the days ahead.

    • Liz H

      Nice contrasts, could almost smell the cool greens! <3

      • reading journeys

        thanks very much – glad the story came “alive”!

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Lovely descriptions! I stood there with you! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Signs of hope are so powerful and needed, especially after a disaster. I can smell your flash fiction it is so vivid.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thanks to all who read. I will be delayed in reading and commenting this week, but do look forward to the floribunda flashes. Perhaps when Charli has them artfully arranged in her literary bouquet.

    • robbiecheadle

      I loved your description and the poem.

    • Liz H

      Simply lovely, and inspired to tie the bouquet up with a gentle nod that we do the gathering.

    • Charli Mills

      You are full of wild blooms, D.!

  21. calmkate

    Vibrant colours, sweet fragrance, singular flowers or bunched bouquets thrill with heartfelt joy! Those purchased or plucked make delightful offerings to one we wish to thank or cheer.

    Brightening another’s day, claiming they are loved and dear. Garden blooms emit radiance to those passing through our neighbourhoods.

    But best of all are those innocently picked by children … to thread a daisy chain; puff at the dandelion; discard petals to the chant ‘he love me, he loves me not’; or gigglingly gifted to a much adored mother. Our inner child beams playful smiles as flowers flourish irresistible profound power.

    • robbiecheadle

      A beautiful entry. It made me smile.

      • calmkate

        thanks Robbie 🙂

    • anuragbakhshi

      Loved it, especially the last line.

      • calmkate

        thank you so much!

    • Liz H

      Flower power indeed! This phrasing grabbed me: “puff at the dandelion”.

      • calmkate

        lol we all love doing that to see how many puffs it took to blow it away 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Your flash gathers up all the joy of bouquets, Kate!

      • calmkate

        yes, thought light and bright was the way to go Charli, thanks 🙂

    • Frank Hubeny

      I like how you turned the 99-word story into a more elaborate ghost story.

      • robbiecheadle

        Thank you, Frank. Something new for me.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      I love the story. It’s sad of such tragedy but a good story.

      • robbiecheadle

        Thank you, Miriam. It was a real ghost so I thought I should base my story on the real facts.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oh, that’s even sadder when it’s a real story. It should be told though. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Jules

      Amazing, chilling and just a big Wow!

    • Charli Mills

      Great idea to ask for feedback on the longer story. I think that’s excellent use of flash fiction as a tool, Robbie!

  22. Colleen Chesebro

    The Litha preparations had been underway for days. Yesterday, the children had gathered bouquets of yellow daisies for us to carry on our journey to the bonfire which would honor the magnificence of Father Sun. The people were assembled, ready to pay homage to the One.

    Excitement coursed through my veins, and I quivered. Tonight, my secret would be revealed. The mother had blessed me with the greatest gift of all. Inside, I felt the first fluttering of my tiny son.

    My summer posies—

    awash with an early dew

    standing sentinel.

    A gift of fertility,

    honoring the summer sun.

    • Mardra

      Lovely. Best gift of all. 🙂

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Madra. This was a fun write. <3

    • robbiecheadle

      This is beautiful, Colleen.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Robbie. I really saw this in mind. Glad you enjoyed. <3

    • Miriam Hurdle

      It’s so beautiful, Colleen. A gift of fertility is a blissful gift indeed!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Miriam! I’m thrilled you enjoyed my story. <3

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Colleen. It’s such a cheerful story. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Colleen! What a timely flash as we prepare to celebrate a midsummer bonfire at Agate Beach on Saturday. So strong in the gifts of life’s bouquet!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Wish I was there to celebrate with you! Enjoy! ??????????????

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! We’d be dancing and looking for rocks in the firelight! <3

    • Charli Mills

      No apologies needed! We use “fiction” loosely here at the Ranch and happy to know you found inspiration in the prompt. I’d encourage you to take your story and trim it to 99 words. You might find it’s a fun writing form.

    • Liz H

      Wow! Comment on this sharp piece on your site.
      Just…wow.

    • Charli Mills

      I got it, Mardra! Thanks!

    • Liz H

      Seems like an analogy for what writer’s do, but then, your piece really got me thinking…

      • Liz H

        (AACk…writers, not writer’s!)

      • Charli Mills

        Auto-thwarted!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

    • susansleggs

      Wow, that was an unexpected ending. Heart wrenching.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank you so much Susan.

    • Liz H

      You never fail to surprise and delight!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Awwe, thank you for the encouragement Liz.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to have you back, Anurag!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank you so much Charli

  23. anuragbakhshi

    OK, so just read your heart-breaking story Charli, and realized that we both took slightly similar routes in spirit. Oops.

    • Charli Mills

      When I collect all the stories, I look for intersecting spirits and contrasting perspectives. It makes for a beautiful bouquet of literary art. Glad we intersected, Anurag!

  24. susansleggs

    Charli, I’m sure you would rather have gone with your daughter instead of staying home and tending the flowers, but the home front needs you too. You take care of your own and all of us, be assured we’ll wait while you take care of yourself. I hope your daughter heals quickly and completely. The flower beds sound marvelous and Mrs. H. an empathetic neighbor. Nice to have. Your prompt brought many thoughts as usual. This is the winner for this week. Hugs.

    Bouquets

    When I got home from work the aroma of dinner, a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine waited. I exclaimed to my teenagers, “Wow. What’s the occasion?”
    “Your birthday.”
    “That’s next week.”
    “We know. Surprise!”
    “I’m going to cry.”
    “Not allowed. Open the wine instead.”
    “How did you get wine?”
    “Dad took us. He said this Merlot has a great bouquet.”
    “So Dad was involved in this?” I hesitated, took a deep breath and added, “You might as well call him to join us.”
    “Really?”
    “We told you, we’re just taking a break, not getting a divorce.”

    • Liz H

      Love the deep breath of uncertainty in this piece, and the hope.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Liz

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan! I’m so happy to have my daughter home, recovering. She shuffles out to her garden every day. Her flowers bring her much joy.

      Your flash has many layers that add to a bouquet. There’s hesitation and hope between the lines.

    • susansleggs

      What was in the pot surprised me. Now I want some.

      • Liz H

        There ya go! (hands over a mug full, sprinkled with cheese)

    • Charli Mills

      Funny how good winter can sound when panting in a pool of sweat. I appreciate the departure, though now that we were thoroughly whipped by thunderstorms, it has cooled.

  25. Ruchira Khanna

    I absolutely loved the description of your daughter’s garden. No grass just flowers!! Wow!!
    Also I liked how Mrs. H said…winter is coming! Yes, we ought to be prepared for cold season 🙂

    My take: https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2018/06/hope-beneath-loss.html

    • Charli Mills

      My daughter’s flowers are so glorious, Ruchira! Things keep blooming and it’s joyous. Yikes — Mrs. H. should have said that mudslides were coming first! Thanks for your take!

  26. Deborah Lee

    Live in the moment as much as you can. Especially when the moment is filled with flowers. 🙂

    “You got a job offer! But this is thrilling!”

    Jane laughs. She pulls a bottle from her backpack with a flourish. “It’s not much, but we can celebrate.”

    “I’m honored to help you celebrate, dear girl,” the old man says. “I wish I had proper glasses, to appropriately savor the bouquet of this lovely drop.” His eyes dance.

    “Bouquet,” Jane snorts, uncapping the wine. “Two-Buck Chuck doesn’t have a bouquet. More like a…twang.”

    “A pungency.”

    “A stench!” Jane squeals, giddy.

    Henry drinks, wipes the the bottle, passes it. “I could not be happier for you,” he says quietly.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah! And you captured that moment so well in this flash, Deborah done to the giddiness of celebration.

  27. wallietheimp

    Wallie and my response–“Red Roses”–https://wallieswentletrap.com/2018/06/19/red-roses/#more-155060

    • Liz H

      <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Imp Duo!

  28. paulamoyer

    New Bouquets at Cheever’s

    By Paula Moyer

    Sitting in the upscale-but-casual restaurant, Jean could not tell it had been a florist – Cheever’s. Now the restaurant was part of a different bouquet, the renaissance of downtown Oklahoma City.

    One by one, flower by flower, new businesses sprouted in old buildings – an art gallery where Fred Jones Ford had been. A restaurant inside Cheever’s. As a salute to the history, each new business took on the name of the old one. Thanks to a city-wide sales tax, new life pulsed through the old part of town.

    Jean and Lynn took their seats. Their salads were fresh as carnations.

    https://wordpress.com/post/paulajmoyerwrites.wordpress.com/341

  29. Sherri Matthews

    Winter’s coming, hey? Life is to be lived with urgency, what a wonderful expression of all that is to be taken in the moment, for what comes around the corner next is never guaranteed, good, bad or inbetween. A timely, quite prophetic post, dear Charli, and I know not what else to say <3

    A Bouquet of Tears

    If forget-me-nots would bring you back, I would grow nothing else.

    If an English Country Garden cooled your fire, I would gather every living plant and flower and bulb growing there, tie them together with a bright, red ribbon and send them by whatever means possible across the Shining Sea.

    If lilies, white and pure, touched your brow and returned your smile, I would place them carefully in your hand and cry with joy.

    But it cannot be.

    So I bring my love in a single rose and lay it on your grave and I weep for wasted years.

    *******
    For Mark, dear brother <3

    • Liz H

      <3 The love blooms with this one, Sherri <3
      Pure poetry.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you from my <3 Liz

    • susansleggs

      Others of us know the pain of losing a sibling or child way too soon. We share your grief with understanding.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Mark was my brother-in-law, but like a brother and in my life seen our teens. And now he is gone too soon and I am having trouble accepting that I will never see him again. I am so sorry you know that same pain. Bless you and thank you Susan <3

    • Jules

      Too much loss…
      May his memory be for blessings.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you Jules <3

    • Charli Mills

      Sherri, what a beautiful tribute to Mark. Bouquets can’t squelch the pain, but may this collection of bouquets be a balm to your heart. My love and condolences to you and your family. <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you Charli. A beautiful and moving collection, that it is <3

    • Juliet

      What a beautifully written, beautifully sad tribute to your brother-in-law, Sherri. Your words shine with the tears you have shed. Wonderful!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you Juliet <3

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing!

  31. susansleggs

    I like a romantic man that takes time to get the details right.

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rugby!

  33. Liz H

    Such longing!

  34. Charli Mills

    Glad you found inspiration and followed it’s lead!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  36. robbiecheadle

    Awesome flash, Hugh. Very powerful indeed.

  37. Liz H

    Shocked and surprised—well done, Hugh!

  38. susansleggs

    Thought provoking indeed. Wow

  39. Charli Mills

    Always wonderful to see you at the Ranch, Hugh!

  40. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  41. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Deborah!

  42. Liz H

    Love the relationship between the two!

  43. Liz H

    That last line, so powerful and so poignant!

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