June 28: 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 28, 2018

My hand races across the page and I sketch the scene unfolding — Suomi dancers in blue aprons and kerchiefs over white-blond hair circle around, stepping in time to violins. To my left I’m vaguely aware of the large brick structure that once served as a high school and now classrooms to Finlandia University. Its bricks offer a backdrop of ghostly students, sons, and daughters of copper miners.

A shadow crosses my sketch, and a person asks, “Are you an artist?”

“Yes,” I answer glancing from dancers to page. I scribble a bit more, shade less, and turn the page to capture another scene.

“Can I see?”

I pause. The spell has broken, I’m now firmly aware of the rush of sights and sounds beyond the dancers. I’m at the Hancock Tori. The local farmers and craft market. A jewelry maker hawks carved stone beside me and a Calumet couple cut fresh microgreens for $3 a bag. My neighbor Cranky displays her collection of antique hand-crank sewing machines. Across the green from us, painters set up tents with scenes of Lady Lake Superior.

“Sure,” I say, handing over my sketchbook.

The man holds my raw art committed hastily to blank pages recycled from a dump on the East Coast. His eyebrows scrunch, and he shakes his head. “It’s just words,” he says.

I’m a literary artist. A writer. A novel-drafter. A publisher of weekly collections and annual anthologies. I flash, and I write for the long-haul of longer trains of words. I’m a story-teller, a story-catcher, a story-forger. I am an artist, and I sketch with words.

Years ago, in high school, I had a mentor who told me to carry sketchbooks. I had no trouble catching the wingspan of a hawk or the gurgle of a spring. Deer didn’t give me odd looks if I stared too long at their rumps or horns, figuring out how either end could feature in a tale.

But when I was among people, I felt self-conscious of observation. I didn’t enjoy thinking about the length of someone’s hair in relation to the tone of their voice. I became more adept at capturing emotions and motives than looks. I was too shy to sketch in front of other.

Now, I roll my eyes at the man’s comment and offer to read my scribblings. I really do look at people and write without looking at the page so it can be a mess of ink, jumping outside of lines, slanting and scratching out words, interjecting new ones. I clear my throat and read:

Suomi Dancing

A blonde quartet draw bows across time and strings of old-world violins. They remake the songs of midsummer in Finland. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA.  Voices rise, the blue cross on white flag rises, the Juhannus pole rise. It’s summer solstice and young girls in blue dresses with matching kerchiefs circle around the adults from out of town and suomi-dance with joy. Around and around they skip and step. Holding hands, they dance inward and back out again. Just like celebrations back home, a thread of culture unbroken dances lively beneath a copper country sun. Hey!

He smiles. Nods. “Cool,” he says.

We’ve discussed names and what we call ourselves as writers many times before at the Ranch. Artist is the latest evolution for me because it captures the spirit of all I write and arrange, as well as my vision for Carrot Ranch as a literary art community. Artist might feel weird for some writers, but we are — words are the medium we use, it’s what we paint and sketch.

A few days ago, collecting updates from Cynthia at ground zero at Ripley village, she realized with delight that her three friends were all writers. She said earlier that day her artist-artists were with her. The poet among us frowned and said, “Wait, artist-artists? Like, we aren’t real artists?” We all laughed, knowing we weren’t being excluded.

I’m happiest sketching freely. I carry a waterproof sketchbook for trips to hunt agates. I carry several in my purse, one in my car and have a stash in my desk next to the chocolate. Sometimes I meditate, give three cleansing breaths, then sit in my own stillness and catch what is around me. I listen for stories. I stare awkwardly at people’s clothes and gestures, but if I remain quiet and calm people don’t notice the way a nuthatch ignores a birdwatcher.

Sometimes, I know someone has a good story, and after coaxing them into telling me, I boldly whip out my sketchbook and say, “I’m writing this down, and make a few notes.” I captured the story of one of the Ripley firemen that way:

From Kitten to Fish

Bill wades into the muck to grab the flopping silver steelhead. Disaster all around and he can’t bear to see this fish die, gasping in the muck. The flash flood has wiped out the spawn. Had Bill been fishing in his boat, he’d have a great catch. Today he’s in waders and his volunteer fire department t-shirt. He thinks about keeping the fish for dinner later but sees the state patrol and thinks he better wade out to the flooded creek instead. A flash of a camera and the newspaper headline cheers the firemen for rescuing kittens and fish.

He really did save a steelhead trout, and the story is sad, although I chose to give it a lighthearted tone. In reality, Bill (whose name is not Bill, but I told him he’d recognize his tale by that name) saved a large steelhead stuck in the Ripley mud. All these floods in our local creeks washed out the spawning salmon, and the smelt are done for, which may take years to recover.

Not to mention most of our beaches are closed due to sewage and e-coli. I’ve vowed to stop licking rocks when I hunt! Already I’ve developed a different way of wetting Lake Superior rocks to see their best colors and definition. I take a small bowl to the Tori with me and keep a pool of water for dipping.

Visitors to the Tori enjoy the #CarrotRanchRocks stories, and I have a set of educational rocks to teach people a bit of geology. Then I read some 99-word literary art. Two of my tent-mates are rockhounds. One is going to take me out in his Jeep, the other gifted me with his art so I could assign stories about his etchings. This community doesn’t grip me — it holds me up.

In addition to sketching, teaching rocks, reading stories and selling books at the Tori, I’ve set up several activities in literary art. Once we get dates settled, I’ll be renewing Wrangling Words at the Portage Lake District Library. I offered this literary program at other libraries, and I thoroughly enjoy working with libraries. Susan Sleggs, one of our Rough Writers, is also giving a Wrangling Words presentation to her writer’s group.

My writers retreat at the Ripley Home of Healing is on hold. My nature writing workshops might be, too because McLain is cut off. But my presentation at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor is still a go July 16:

Copper Country History in 99 Words, No More, No Less
Join local author Charli Mills in a presentation of her flash fiction with a focus on local history. Participants will also learn the literary art of flash fiction and get to craft one of their own, using prompts from Fort Wilkins.
If the signs align, and they seem to be heading east from west, I have a special presentation to give around a Vermont campfire. I think cider and yarns might be involved.
We write, we sketch, we evolve.
When I started Carrot Ranch, I intended to have a landing page for marketing clients. I was still freelancing for major outlets on topics of business and marketing, traveling to give workshops to community food systems to set up marketing communications and branding. Looking back, I see that as fast as the Hub was unraveling, my desire to go all literary was rising.
I freelanced until May of 2016, writing my last magazine feature: Sandpoint Magazine Summer Issue: “Dog Town.” By the close of this month, my employer of 17 years will no longer contract with me as their publications editor and writer. It seems momentous, but I’m ready for that break. My GM left last year, and only one of my former staff remain of the department I built. My closest friend from the remaining management team is also moving on, and it seems a chapter has closed.
So how do I sketch my life from this point?
My latest evolution is to return to leading workshops, which I love to do. I’ve pondered the whole “marketing and editing” issue as I don’t want clients like I’ve had in the past. I’m done with that phase of my life. When authors contact me to market their books, I politely decline. Marketing is a huge task, and it’s part of the professional development of an author. Even if you get picked up by the so-called “Big 5” you will still have to develop your own marketing strategies.
To that end, I started developing an e-zine last year, called Marketing Mavericks. If you’ve ever heard of guerilla marketing (for small budgets and time allotments), then my take is similar. It’s specifically for authors with the ambition to market and sell. I’ve narrowed my niche to strategies and branding for authorpreneurs and entrepreneurs. The e-zine will be by subscription. I’ve also started writing for my book marketing hero, Rachel Thompson. You can catch my #NaNoProMo article or read thru the #BookMarketingChat she invited me two a few weeks ago: Author Marketing Strategies.
After my pitch to 1 Million Cups last month, a local incubator for entrepreneurs from Michigan Tech University contracted with me to teach entrepreneurs how to pitch for an upcoming event. I had my first coaching session with the small group on Monday and taught them the power and shape of stories, including the hero’s journey. It’s evolving, turning over yet another new leaf.
But it doesn’t change what Carrot Ranch is all about — a safe space to play with words, to craft stories, to interact with other writers. The weekly flash fiction challenge is the base of what I do to make literary art accessible. From there, any willing writer can join the Rough Writers in an anthology project. Vol. 2 is massive and magnificent! I’m in the throes of editing all I’ve arranged. You writers continue to amaze me.
We’ll Rodeo again in October. I’ve been uncertain what to do with all our entries. When I thought it would be “no big deal” to put them into an e-book, I had no idea how many words it would turn out to be. I know writers from last year’s contest want to read the volume, and I want to use it to raise the prize purse for this year. I’m contemplating a sale on a PDF through the Ranch. I’ll keep participants and leaders posted.
I’m doing some limited developmental editing and brand work. I’ve edited some scientific papers and content for a local web developer. I’m best at the developmental stage, I’m not a copy editor, but I can recommend some. You’ll be seeing some pages and ads going up. These are directed toward clients I’m interested in securing, so don’t think there’s any expectation on you — you are who I fondly call “my writers.” You are the story-tellers, the story-catchers, the novelists, the flash fictioneers, the memoirists, the sketchers. You are who the Ranch benefits. I want to make that clear.
I want to share my vision work with you, too. Part of my work with the entrepreneurs is to craft their visions and concepts into stories and pitches. So you might recognize part of TUFF! They are crafting their visions according to a process I shared. My writing partner in the UK has also completed this process. She did it brilliantly! In two weeks, the entrepreneurs will return with their vision in 99 words, which becomes a 59-word mission statement and a 9-word tagline. You are welcome to try this, too:

A Vision of Success (99)

Writers high-fived across the string of comments, appreciating craft and creativity in their sandbox, 99 words at a time. Carrot Ranch, an imaginary place made of real people from around the globe. A tribe. Buckaroo Nation. Authors and entrepreneurs arrived too, looking to forge brands and learn how to tell stories around investor campfires. Readers found literary art in small bites palpable to a modern diet of busyness. A buckaroo wrangled the words and published collections, hosted rodeos for writers, and flashed her way to write novels about veterans, history and earth science. The vision for the future rocked.

Carrot Ranch and A Lead Buckaroo’s North Star (59)

Carrot Ranch understands that writers and entrepreneurs need safe space to explore the craft of literary art and harness the power of storytelling. Lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, gave up riding horses to write brand stories. Now she wrangles 99-word flash about history, veterans, and rocks. Flash by flash, she crafts award-winning novels, leads authors on retreat and coaches entrepreneurs.

Tagline: Making literary art accessible 99 words at a time. (9)

June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble.

Respond by July 3, 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.


A Sketch of Rock Creek by Charli MIlls

From the barn, you can see across the draw that is Rock Creek. Wagon ruts remain visible on both sides. David Colbert “Cobb” McCanless built a toll bridge across the deep cut. He arrived at this road station along the Oregon Trail in March of 1859. Family denies that a woman, not his wife came with him, but records show her signature as his bookkeeper. His wife and children arrived from North Carolina in September 1859. The women know what happened when two years later a young Wild Bill Hickok shot Cobb. But no one thought to ask them.

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  1. pensitivity101


    The pad was a permanent feature on the bedside table.
    Ideas would come in dreams, at dusk or twilight, best to have the means of jotting them down.
    Key words, phrases and settings scrawled in an impatient hand, wanting to get the gist of a story on paper before it faded. How many opportunities missed, or corridors paced when sleep would not come as the demons of the night tormented.
    Poetry or prose, a combination of both, words and experiments with rhyme or a simple rhythm.
    Perhaps not a best seller, but satisfaction guaranteed when it all comes together.

    • Charli Mills

      A satisfying sketch, Di! I enjoy sketching best of all. It all begins there.

      • pensitivity101

        I’ve managed to out some of my dream ideas in a post and any a bit scary have been written out as poetry!

  2. pensitivity101

    Hi Charli.
    I didn’t have to modify my word count as it just flowed today.
    I can’t see the form though. Am I looking in the wrong place?


    The pad was a permanent feature on the bedside table.
    Ideas would come in dreams, at dusk or twilight, best to have the means of jotting them down.
    Key words, phrases and settings scrawled in an impatient hand, wanting to get the gist of a story on paper before it faded. How many opportunities missed, or corridors paced when sleep would not come as the demons of the night tormented.
    Poetry or prose, a combination of both, words and experiments with rhyme or a simple rhythm.
    Perhaps not a best seller, but satisfaction guaranteed when it all comes together.

    • Charli Mills

      I can’t see the form either! I’m on the road, taking our trailer out to clean it and assess storm damage. I’ll fix the form on Friday. Thanks for alerting me, Di! Terrific sketch, too!

      • pensitivity101

        Thank you! Drive safely.

      • Charli Mills

        We made it! Drove through a terrifying storm that turned day into night and slammed us with rain, hail and straight-line winds. It only lasted 15-minutes. And our creeks didn’t flood!

  3. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    Hi everyone here is my contribution to this weeks Flash……

    “And this is the fire escape that we don’t use”….. “because blah blah blah” The woman’s shrill voice cuts through the air above Jason’s head. If he stays quiet, his back pressed against the wall they wont know he’s there, a scraggy youth with a sleeping bag and not much else.
    After they’ve gone he picks up his pencil, adding to the intricately drawn Bees filling the wall in front of him.
    Donna leads the party off down another safer stairwell. She’s seen the Bees, their delicate wings holding up fat Bee bodies. A secret, sad scene. Artist unknown.

    • Charli Mills

      Your lovely flash has a haunting quality to it summed up in the secret life of an unknown artist.

    • Liz H

      I love this delicate sketch, the secret complicity to preserve the art without knowing the full story. Wonderful!

  4. Jules


    That’s a sketchy situation for sure. Wive and Mistresses had quite a bit to deal with back then – and even now.

    (Your link up system/form for the weekly compilation is not engaged…)

    Title of entry is link to my post:
    A Delicate Erasure?

    Stan wasn’t sure what to make of this woman. A Pen-pal
    who was sketchy at best. He knew she was married. Why
    did her husband disappear for weeks at a time. Was the
    gent in the service? Must be hard when there wasn’t any
    family around and young children to raise.

    While he knew it was a copy – the drawing of her hand,
    her wedding band clearly displayed, was placed in an
    envelope for him to open. Had he wanted more?

    Then as Stan got involved with local woman. Written
    exchanges became less frequent. And eventually
    correspondence stopped completely.


    • Jules

      Should be wives with an s…
      And for those celebrating the July 4th – Happy Red, White and Blue!

    • Charli Mills

      An interesting direction your flash took, Jules. So much said (and erased) in that sketch upon correspondence. Thanks for noting the lack of form! It’s fixed now. Happy 4th to you as well!

    • paulamoyer

      Layer upon layer of meaning regarding the “sketch,” writing, and a “sketchy” character. Well done!

    • Jules


      • the dark netizen

        Glad it could bring forth that reaction! 😀

      • Jules

        I am a fan of the Twilight Zone… Fantasy and Sci fi… but I like the older stuff better. Perhaps because it was first? The early Star Trek wasn’t all peaches and cream. There were some narrow escapes! But your character… well I shain’t give away the ‘Eeek!” 😉

      • the dark netizen

        Thank you so much Jules!! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of sequencing your story — as your character realizes what is happening, it comes as a shock to readers for a chilling reaction.

  5. Norah

    Power to you, Charli. What an awesome project. What a vision. You’re an artist-artist. As in one of the very few Twilight Zones I ever saw, you paint the world you want as you go. Thank you. You paint the way for us as well. We learn from the light you shine into the darkness ahead.

    • calmkate

      well said Norah … I wanted to say something similar but you painted it better 🙂

      Great vision, massive support and Charli you’ve planted seeds that I want to see grow 🙂

      • Norah

        I’m looking forward to seeing the garden bloom, Kate. It will be magnificent.

      • calmkate

        lol thanks so much Norah for your encouragement and support, keep watching 🙂

      • Norah


      • Charli Mills

        Grow, mighty seeds, grow! 😀

      • calmkate

        lol ….. they have all the necessary conditions 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      We are the Twilight Zone Gardeners and Painters! We see life, capture it, reflect it, and predict it in the sketches of our art. We all paint this creative reality. Is that a feature of the growth mindset, too?

      • Norah

        I like your thinking, Charli. We also paint it with our hopes and dreams. I think to be painting the future is definitely part of the growth mindset.

      • Charli Mills

        Wow! What a disappearing act! Not sketchy at all, Norah. And the articles you shared are thought-provoking, offering a sketch of what teachers face these days.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. We all disappear into our work at times. Others choose to see it in different ways. 🙂

  6. calmkate

    Your link up form is not engaged!?!

    Felt the need to retreat from every day life,
    Check in with myself to see what caused strife

    Emotional up and downs yet silence was profound
    Words flowed unstoppable, expression without sound

    Found my true love residing deep within
    Not voicing those words would be a real sin

    Our loving connection is like most romances
    We have moments but then draw even closer

    Soul mates forever, passion can’t be denied
    Weaving words to share what’s deep inside

    Blogging an outlet for those who wish to spy
    On our raw relationship bared for all without lie

    Words ignite emotions and unite!

    • susansleggs

      Well said Kate. We do share our souls in our writing. For me reading others work makes them friends. Thanks for sharing.

      • calmkate

        you are so right, thanks new friend Susan 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Form engaged, now, Kate! A bit of a hiccup… A beautiful and poetic flash with a rousing cheer at its conclusion. Words are full of fire and connectivity!

      • calmkate

        thanks heaps! will post it now 🙂

    • Jules

      T’was it not the great Bard who said ‘love thyself’ –
      all parts – those that conform, rebel and have a little bit of elf…

      • calmkate

        lol not heard that one before Jules!

      • Jules

        hmmm… could be psycho babble or even religious. I found this though:
        “No other person, other than you, has the right to hurt you or disrespect you or show you down. When you love yourself, and understand your value, you are confident about yourself and this way happier in a relationship or without it.” So love thyself and everyone will love you back.”

      • calmkate

        ah that is far easier to understand and in full agreement with my sentiments … thanks for digging deeper Jules 🙂

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “This ranch is yer ranch, this ranch is my ranch, from the cookhouse griddle, ta the windswept prairie!”
    “Jeez Pal, yer outta tune.”
    “Wrong again, Kid, I’m in tune, in tune with this here ranch. Don’t it jist produce an’ provide! Yep, Shorty sure works fer us.”
    “Works fer us? Ain’t Shorty boss?”
    “Hardest workin’ boss a ranch hand could ever work for, Kid.”
    “Yer right, Pal.”
    “All we have ta do is play with words, an’ we don’t even Have ta do that.
    “I shovel shit.”
    “An’ yer full of it. Now git ta work an’ go play.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Don’t Take Yer Guns Ta Town, by A. Kidd

      The scene an old west town, façaded building lined dusty street, wooden sidewalks, indifferent horses tied up outside the saloon where cider flows like whiskey which flows like water. Trouble simmering like the shimmering high noon sun.
      An over-eager wannabe steps out of the saloon to face the notorious Nemmy Cyss. Who would draw fastest? Whose aim would be true?

      “No! Kid, what’re ya doin’? Yer not s’posed ta be drawin’ sixguns!”
      “Well, Pal, I know it seems sketchy but Shorty said ta draw an’ so I figgered…”
      “No, read agin, Kid, yer ta sketch. With words.”
      “Oh. Shoot.”

      • Liz H

        (When one word beckons multiple scenarios!) 😉

    • Jules

      Gotta just love Kidd and Pal.

    • Charli Mills

      Loved the opening lyric, even if Kidd was outta tune — not outta line! And A. Kidd sketched a scene complete with the best-ever nemesis name. 😀

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Odd Rancher Out

    “Why’re ya askin’ me what the ranch looks like, Kid?”
    “I wanna sketch the ranch. Ain’tcha been here yer whole life? Who else should I ask?”
    “Ya could ask anyone includin’ yerself, Kid. We all see it. How ya see it is how it is.”
    “Huh. Reckon we all see it kinda the same. On account of it bein’ so ironic.”
    “I think ya mean iconic.”
    “Yeah. It’s a hoot though, ain’t it Pal? Folks from aroun’ the world can come here an’ be a buckaroo, git their old west on. Be literary oddests.”
    “Artists, Kid.”
    “Never mind.”

    • susansleggs

      Love your Ranch Yarns and play on words.

    • Jules

      Yep, I’m an Oddest alrighty!

    • Charli Mills

      Gather ’round ye literary oddests! Kid’s on a role!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Rachaelle! You’re welcome to join us in creating art 99-words at a time.

    • susansleggs

      A good sketch of depression. I hope your character gets help to see things in a better way.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks, Susan!

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Wow – that one was amazing! I think I caught a hint of PTSD in there too, or at least a background that could have precipitated the condition for the character. Thanks for sharing something like this!

      • Reena Saxena

        Mental states are complex. The scope is 99 words ????. The beauty is that the reader can go anywhere. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      A tragic sketch, Reena, and yet as I peer into your 99 words, I can see hope, too. You’re right in how 99 words can allow the reader to go in many directions.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you so much!

  9. Annecdotist

    Another extremely rich post, Charli, with exciting prospects for your continually expanding creativity.
    Interestingly, I read and other posts this week about using the discipline and mindset of life drawing to enhance description of characters in fiction. Seems eminently sensible, although I’m not sure I’ve taken it to heart!
    With my end of the month roundup of my reading I couldn’t resist sketching the reader’s mind, which isn’t quite what you are looking for perhaps, but I’ve gone were the prompt led me:
    Have your reading preferences changed over time? #amreading http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/06/have-your-reading-preferences-changed-over-time-amreading.html

    • Jules

      Yes, we are each others readers and characters – when we read we feed –
      until we hold our own pens…

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes, I think other mediums can add to our writing. However, I remember my best friend Kate always signing up for different art classes and creating disasters! We used to laugh over it. It can be distracting learning new skills, but it can also teach us about observation. I’m glad you went where the prompt led you, Anne. I find the stories more interesting and surprising that way.

    • susansleggs

      Good twist at the end. Had to read it twice to get it.

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Did you intentionally put a rhythm in your words? The first few sentences, especially, felt almost like a poem in the way they flowed.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sketching your 99 words, Parinitha! I enjoyed the story you crafted.

  10. elliotttlyngreen

    Hello Ranch! ! I love this time of the year and going to all the art festivals. If you are near, I highly recommend Black Swamp/Wood county Arts Festival coming up. . . So much to see.

    Beneath the halo of A street-lamp by Elliott Lyngreen

    Carry-out selections for gas and cigarettes. My tri-fold exposed wrinkled bills. The usual revved reveal, a thinly sucked muse setting Combos at the counter. And then again as we exit.

    Not begging for change, yet offering trade, “I would never just beg, but I gotta hat or …. ” He trailed further than his rusty Sketchers. Enough to interrupt, “I would man, but spent last of my cash on these smokes.”

    She pulled, “let’s jet this freak scene..” We discussed buying Combos instead of fuel.

    Perception slithered the Art festival with my New York shirt; which has paint stains.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Elliott! Always good to see you at the Ranch with your cosmic writing, sketching to the stars and across art festivals. I’m excited for the Copper Harbor Art Festival. It’s always cold on the tip of the Keweenaw, but such a magical place and magnificent artists. I love how your character reveals paint stains. Artists carry markers of their art!

      • elliotttlyngreen

        I defintely like the idea of writing Drawing pictures. If i could draw, i dont know that i would write too much. Good to read of the activity here. You are a true pioneer. [I left some details, like how the muse was with family.] Thinking of Exploring these flashes now. Would rather just be exploring. You find amazing places and folks!

      • Charli Mills

        I think art is all about exploring! Go make discoveries, Elliott! 🙂

  11. susansleggs

    Charli, You are an inspiration. With everything on your plate and now Cynthia’s troubles and McClain cut off, you still make the time far all of us ranch hands. Thank you for the shout-out in your essay this week. I’m sure my Vet’s group will have fun turning their writings into 99 word flashes. I love the word authorpreneur. You will have to submit it to Webster’s. The way your community is working together to help those in need is also an inspiration. How uplifting. Here’s my take for the week.

    Sad Regrets

    The devastating, but expected call came just before six-o-clock, her father was dead.
    The Uber could only get within two blocks of the extravagant condo high rise because downtown streets were blocked for a jazz festival.
    She entered the building with feelings in check and said her goodbyes. The music drew her to the balcony where a large sketch book lay on a table. She sat and opened it.
    Sketch after sketch of the street below from each year of the festival. She was in each one, but had never been there. Regrets swept her; she should have been.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I’m excited for your vets group and what you are doing with them. You show great leadership in sharing with them what you have learned and how they can, too. I love the word authorpreneur, too but can’t take credit for it! I agree that it should belong in Webster’s. Oh, wow, your flash really tugged at my heart. Those images, sketched year after year, show a longing to be connected and one she realizes too late. Beautiful writing!

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Charli. Too often we don’t know what we have until it is gone.
        My Vets group is used to writing 30 minutes free write from prompts. Getting them to condense it to 99 words will be the fun part.

      • Charli Mills

        The constraint adds another layer and yet it also opens a creative flow. I hope they enjoy it!

  12. denmaniacs4

    In the most limited of ways, I have riffed off your post, Charli, and also channeled a great Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock, who wrote Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in 1912…

    Rainy Day Sketches of a Very Small Village

    There are two tables and five chairs on the General Store porch.

    The location affords a front row seat on not much.

    I relish looking at not much.

    A delivery truck departs.


    Our community eats a ton of chips.

    I certainly do my bit.


    There’s no late June morning sun.

    Sprinkles nip the air.

    “It’s like autumn,” she moans.

    “So, you want to leave?”

    “Too cold to people watch. Let’s go home. Check on Trump.”

    I grimace, say, “Can’t beat cold weather people gawking. You go. Besides, Trump aggravates my hemorrhoids.”

    “That’s ridiculous.”

    “Maybe. Tell them that.”


    • Charli Mills

      Bill, I’ll have to investigate Stephen Leacock and his sketches. I think you are becoming a great Canadia comedian. Perhaps a backward gift from Trump!

  13. Liz H

    Charli, I read your blog and prompt, just before heading out on a morning walk and an iced coffee by sunny, breezy, 95-degree Lake Como. Opened up a Truman Capote novelette (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, set in the 1940’s, pub in 1958), and marveled at the brilliant sketch-work of Mr. Capote’s work. Or perhaps your thoughtful post primed the pump and made me mindful and grateful. 🙂

    Hope to be back later in the week with a response!

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, what a lovely sketch of your day and I’m savoring it all!

  14. gordon759

    As might be expected an historical tale, of a an amazing collaboration between two of the greatest Victorians.

    A Hospital Sketch

    ‘I will bring a sketch’, he said.
    The train left Bristol, maximum speed, the genius on board could command anything. But now he would be tested to the limit.
    ‘A hospital, prefabricated, weatherproof, well ventilated, easily heated’, designed by the time he reached London. By Bath he had the idea, by Swindon he was drawing, in London he rushed to her house, papers in hand.
    “Mr Brunel”, Miss Nightingale.”
    “Perfect, this is more than a sketch. When can you have them ready? The ship sails in six weeks.”
    “They will be ready in five.”
    They saved hundreds of lives.

    Yet another true story. After seeing conditions in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale returned to London to get the supplies she needed for her hospital in Scutari. This included prefabricated hospital buildings, she wrote to Isambard Kingdom Brunel asking him to design them. As soon as he received the letter he went straight to London, designing the hospital on the way.

    • Liz H

      Cool piece of history brought to life! <3

    • Jules

      I enjoy historical sketches. And appreciate the notes of explanation.
      Amazing people in this world.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Gordon! Good to see another historical sketch from you. I enjoy these!

  15. The Haunted Wordsmith

    Here is my contribution for the week…hope someone enjoys it 🙂

    Beware the Man in Gray

    The man in gray traveled alone. Always alone. He never stayed long in one town and never carried more than his sketch book and pencil that never seemed to whittle down to nothing no matter how many sketches he made. News traveled fast in these parts. Stories about the man in gray in the dead he leaves in his wake. Women in Empty Gulch saw him coming first and hollered for their children. Shutters slammed shut as he made his way through town. The miners quaked watching him sit down under the oak tree and open his sketch book.

    • Liz H


      • Michael

        Excellent build up of tension. Liked your response as you pose many questions about your character.

      • pedometergeek

        Like it…I want more of the story.

    • Jules

      A sketch book instead of a black hooded cape and sickle…
      I like that pencil that never needs sharpening.

    • David Wesley Woolverton

      This has my imagination racing with all the unanswered questions and ideas it sets up. Love it!

    • Charli Mills

      That last line is so simple and yet clear and chilling. To make miners quake! Good one!

  16. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,
    I always enjoy the wealth of details in your posts. This one turned into a “mural” of sketches in my mind, particularly when you described the Suomi dancing, the farmers and crafts market, and when the observer/writer/artist/ became the observed!
    My ideas for the response to the FF prompt came from those sketches, and from “artist-artist”.
    Thank you!
    My response to the FF prompt:


    Diamante loved the morning solitude of the square sunken garden in the ancient temple. He lit the ceremonial fire and chanted ancient prayers. The few remaining stone pillars, benches, urns, and cisterns inspired him to plant jasmine, lavender, climbing clematis and honeysuckle, golden showers and tube roses.

    The village women, quick to notice the artistic array of colors, and fragrances, planted fruit saplings around the temple. The men repaired the leaky well. The teacher and children tended to the garden once a week.

    Humming birds frequented the garden now. Diamante began to sketch again the scenes of village life.

    • paulamoyer

      So rich with detail. This flash is practically juicy. Beautiful!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yeah but, does he still get his solitude with all those village people helping out?

      • reading journeys

        Good question! I struggled with that — then decided to leave it for another FF!!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your comment — I like that my post came across as a mural if sketches. Diamante is the essence we can all use to express the energy of the artist-artist in us all. We find inspiration in what each of us does creatively. Beautiful flash!

      • reading journeys

        Hi Charli,
        Thank you very much! I love to read, and it has been a wonderful surprise for me how that is helping me to write FF.

      • Charli Mills

        For me, reading the FF of others broadens my borders of possibility. Art truly inspires art!

  17. Eric Pone

    The Sketch

    Ducky stared at the paper and slowly drew out the neighborhood as he remembered it. He included the storefront the gang used for cover. He drew the small storefront church that was next to it. And he included the trees and other details that struck him. He also drew the little girl who had died in his friend’s arms from a drive-by shooting. “They actually targeted a child…”He got up and lit his first cigarette and thought through what he was considering. He looked out at the harbor and considered the thousand who would die with that nuke.

    • paulamoyer

      Wow! So disturbing and so well done!

    • David Wesley Woolverton

      This beautifully captures the dark, sad reality of death and the ways people process it. I enjoyed it very much.

    • Charli Mills

      Eric, you got so much into this sketch! It begins observationally, then shifts at the point of the little girl and we see the deep and complex emotions behind the motives. Great writing!

      • Eric Pone

        I have been using your writing method of starting with a lot of content then rewriting it until you get to the crux of what you are trying to say. It is time-consuming but my writing has improved. Thank you noticing!

      • Charli Mills

        Eric, that’s excellent! We get told to “revise” but often not how. I’m glad that technique is working for you. It does show!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Michael! Interesting thoughts on what we value as art.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Lady Lee!

    • Liz H

      Karma can be a nasty thing…

      • floridaborne

        True…and most of us have learned that the hard way. 🙂

      • Liz H

        (ducks her head & raises her hand)

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no — who will care for the ones left behind! Great perspective on sketches, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

  18. pedometergeek


    Eulogy for Aunt Tillie (99-word Flash Fiction)

    I remember Aunt Tillie affectionately although she preferred my sisters Sally and Connie more. I think she liked me more once I began wearing glasses. Aunt Tillie was a bit silly, even odd. She always wore dresses and slippers. She loved food, especially collard greens and haddock, but food had to be served on a platter. She loved puppies and kittens, too, but her favorite pet was her guppy, Freddie. She would watch him swimming around all afternoon long. She was an accountant. Bookkeeping was her life, but she was happiest when reading books, her favorite being “Atlas Shrugged.”

    Nancy Brady

    • Jules

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! Character sketches and sketchy characters all have a place here. Hope you enjoy some of the other reads.

      You keep mentioning ‘Atlas Shrugged’ – I may just have to borrow ‘it’ from my library 😉

      • pedometergeek

        It is my favorite book, ever. I have read the novel countless times (20, 30, more?), but I have to admit that I don’t always read all the way through one of the chapters. There is plenty of philosophy throughout, but the mystery behind the disappearing men and women, the romance of the main characters, and even the parallels of today’s reality make it relevant and compelling reading. The first time I read it was late in my senior year of high school, and I finished it in about 7-10 days. The first 50-100 pages are the introduction to many of the characters. Yeah, if you can’t tell, I really, really love this one and I am overdue to read it.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I remember really liking that one in high school but couldn’t do a re-read a few years back. I did read Ayn Rand’s non-fiction books on writing. I don’t think she suffered from self esteem issues.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch, Nancy! Great use of details in your flash. I enjoyed the narrator’s reflection on her aunt and you presented it well in a sketch.

      • pedometergeek

        Thanks Charli for the warm welcome. I wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed, but with Jules help and instruction, I managed to ‘double down’ and write a sketch of Aunt Tillie. I hope to participate more in the future.
        I have enjoyed reading many of the crops by these carrot farmers…nan

      • Charli Mills

        I’m so glad Jules helped you! She’s a welcoming Rancher. I look forward to what you grow here.

  19. paulamoyer

    Charli, your blog and your prompts continue to be so evocative. Thank you for the presence of Carrot Ranch.


    Escape Cave

    By Paula Moyer

    Sixth grade, spring of 1964. Another homework assignment, staring Jean in the face. She couldn’t make herself do it. It would never be good enough for Mrs. O’Neal.

    The box of crayons – “64 colors.” The pad of sketch paper, a hobby store gift. Both sang to her, and soon Jean was drawing. The thing almost drew itself.

    The cavern appeared in sketch after sketch. An inverted “V” opened to a secret place with pastel walls, alternating blues and pinks. Oh, secret, soft cave. Safe cave.

    If only this place were real, Jean thought. Mrs. O’Neal would never find me.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Jules!

    • Liz H

      And thus we find creative pursuits to avoid the the criticizing, single-vision eye!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ooh, those 64 packs of crayons, so full of promise and potential. Too bad Mrs. O’Neal didn’t know how to draw it out of Jean.

      • paulamoyer

        No, classroom management by scapegoating rarely inspires creativity by the scapegoatee.

    • Charli Mills

      Jean found a beautiful sketch in crayons despite the pain that drove her to the cave.

  20. Jules

    Here’s my second entry… Yeah someone had to go there… and it was me!
    But if you go to the post link… you will not be shocked!

    Enjoy: Raw Draw

    Emma had enjoyed art classes in High School. So taking
    one in college seemed the right thing to do. It was after
    all the easels were set up and the charcoal sticks were
    distributed that the professor called in the model they were
    to sketch. This was a preliminary exercise that was not
    going to be graded. Any style would be accepted.

    In waltzed Randy. Emma knew him from watching him
    practice soccer on campus. She however was not expecting
    him to disrobe… while all the students were adults. Young
    Emma wondered if she was the only one blushing.


    • paulamoyer

      Such a relatable reaction. Good story, Jules!

    • susansleggs

      Took my 12 year old grandson to an art show recently where there were a noticeable number of nudes. His comment, “I’m surprised they allowed them.” I told him the naked body has been an art form forever. He replied, “I know.”
      I do think there would have been a different reaction had he known the subjects. Well done.

    • Liz H

      <3 You went there, and took us along for the ride!

      • Jules

        Shame though, I never had ‘that’ opportunity 😉
        Maybe I should take an art class in my advanced years… 🙂

      • Liz H

        It’s never too late!

      • Jules


    • Charli Mills

      Ha! You had to go there, Jules! 😀 Now I’m wondering — how do writers get someone to pose naked before us as we describe the human form…?

      • Jules

        I think as writers we turn things around.
        We start with a naked page and then dress it…

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a fabulous writing analogy!

  21. robbiecheadle

    It sounds like your life is changing quite quickly, Charli. It can be like that. Mine is too. Terence is flying to the UK for a job interview in two weeks time and we are possibly leaving South Africa and our families behind next year and moving to the UK. I am very excited as I love English history and literature but it is a bit scary to leave behind my Mom, Dad and three sisters as well as my sister-in-law and Mom-in-law. Life is a series of changes, isn’t it?

    • susansleggs

      Life’s changes can be daunting, especially when leaving family behind. I’m sure you will turn it into an adventure if it happens. With modern technology it isn’t quite the separation it used to be.

      • robbiecheadle

        Thank you, Susan, you are right that technology certainly helps.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Wow, that is a big move. Good luck to you and your family, and good luck with your book.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thank you, change is interesting.

    • Jules

      I had to move with my hubby for his job… twice. The first time to a place without family… and then as our family grew… other family retired here – and of course the added family of in-laws through marriage.

      Unfortunately some family is still too distant. Good luck with your move and your book!

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thank you, Jules. It is sad to leave family behind but it is fun to go somewhere new and meeting new people.

    • Annecdotist

      Big change ahead, Robbie. But we all like cake here, so you should be okay ; – )

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Anne, just think of the cakes Robbie could bake for all her English writer friends!

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thank you, Anne, that is a great point. I can also go to the bloggers bash…

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Robbie, those are big transitions — exciting and scary all rolled into one big move. Yes, life is a series of changes and it’s freeing to get to a point of acceptance. But oh-so-hard to accept! I hope things go well for Terence in a few weeks. I’m wishing the whole family well!

      • robbiesinspiration

        We have a lot of family in England too and my Mom and Dad will come for the English summer [I don’t think they could manage the winter]. The opportunities for the boys are so much greater in a first world country. That is my big motivation. I love those boys of mine.

      • Charli Mills

        You are a good Mum, Robbie! I remember my heartache at leaving Montana, but Minnesota offered our kids greater opportunities, which they thrived on, making it worthwhile. It’s not an easy decision, but it will be good.

  22. robbiecheadle

    PS I am 7 000 words into my new YA book and I am so excited about it. Putting all you amazing advice in place and am hoping you will be available to give me developmental editing when I finish.

    • Charli Mills

      Woohoo! Look at you go! Robbie, that’s great! And I would love to work with you again as a developmental editor.

      • robbiesinspiration

        I am thrilled, Charli, you certainly add so much value and it makes the whole editing process a great adventure.

  23. Sascha Darlington

    I love what you wrote here–the writing and sentiment were beautiful!. I love how you “sketch.” It’s never occurred to me to carry a notebook around for that.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sascha! Once I got over feeling self-conscious about openly watching people and sketching stories, I got hooked on it.

  24. Liz H

    (Somehow, I put all this on last week’s challenge re: All is not lost. Go figure…)

    Here’s my go. Based on a number of prompts and a long, soupy heatwave that only just broke this morning, it resulted in a bit of extra silliness. Hope you all “see” what I sketched out here. ????

    An Urban Truth

    He shambles out of the park, swaying side-to-side, shyly dominating the Midtown sidewalk. Sun glints in his blonde-bronze pelt, furry toes squashing—or shall we say “squatching”?—his platform flip-flops…
    [Continue ]

    • Jules

      Like the TV show reference. Though I didn’t watch it as the years passed.
      I think I like Baba Yaya. Smart woman.

    • Charli Mills

      I see, I see! It actually all ends up in the same bucket. Kind of like this eclectic neighborhood you describe, Liz.

    • Liz H

      Fabulous flip–howling in appreciation!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Thank you so much for the howl Liz 🙂

    • Jules

      Yep, What Liz said. Flipping good.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Thank you so much Jules.

    • Charli Mills

      Unprovoked! You have such a talent for twists and tales (tails?), Anurag.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha, thank you so much Charli

    • Liz H

      Oh dear! Your page is marked as a protected site & I have to get permission to enter. 🙁

      • weejars

        I’ve given you access ???? been having trouble with spam etc so trialing making it private for a while

      • Liz H

        Thanks…will try to access your Flash, now. 🙂

    • Liz H

      Nice one, Sarah!
      With so much material to cram down teacher ed students’ throats, they don’t spend much time on show-don’t-tell.
      The instructor, sadly, also ends up doodling even as (s)he lectures. (Guilty as charged)

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! That is too true. (I usually doodle dogs.)

    • Jules

      I had a prof like that in college. Always on tangents. We had to learn from the text to pass the tests. Nothing from the words that fell from his mouth helped the class at all.

      • weejars

        I also had one who read straight from the textbook!!

    • Charli Mills

      I used to doodle fat ponies though it was supposed to be a horse. Good use of the doodle to draw a point about education, Sarah.

  25. susansleggs

    A happy sketch based on a joke I read.

    Who Gets In

    “I’ve never laughed so much at a sketch in my life. The make-up on St. Peter made him look 1000 years old.”
    “Can you imagine some woman with big boobs actually telling him they were her reason to be invited into heaven, because they were God’s gift and he would enjoy seeing them regularly? I wonder if they were real?”
    “And a toilet at the gates of heaven. It didn’t even look odd sitting there or for the Queen to flush it.”
    “And a royal flush beats a pair, so the Queen was granted admittance. Ya gotta love it.”

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      I had a good chuckle at this one.

    • Charli Mills

      And a happy belly-laugh I had when I read your flash, Susan! You make a good point too — that we can find stories all around us. There’s so much to catch and sketch.

  26. David Wesley Woolverton

    Here’s my response for the June 28, 2018 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. Hope everyone likes it.

    Sketching Uncertainty

    Isabelle studied her sketch of her newly found mother. It’d felt almost unearthly to finally draw the woman who’d been a mystery for so long. The eyebrows still weren’t quite right, though. There was also too much white space beside her, demanding a sketch of the still-unknown father. She lowered the pencil to sketch how she imagined he looked, but fantasy would look wrong next to reality. She forced herself to start the circle for the face, but stopped half way. In the end she turned the semi-circle into a question mark and put down the pencil.

    • Liz H

      Sadly, one question almost always leads to another, unanswered question. Nicely penned, David!

    • Charli Mills

      David, your flash captures the process of unraveling an adoption mystery and the tone of discovery is balanced with uncertainty. That final image says it all.

  27. rogershipp

    Traveling the Hayfields with Pop

    Humping down the stairs and around the backyard, Pop, his cane waggling in front being used to scatter the beagle and the three strays more than for maintaining any semblance of balance, was headed toward the chariot… a ‘62 Valiant… and into the hayfields.

    I raced beside him knowing there was no waiting.

    Opening the door, I swung from the roof into the backseat.

    “Wait!” I bellowed. My fingers had not released from the roof before Pop had slammed the door.

    Exasperated, Pop opened and shut the door. Hard.

    “Next time, get’ya whole self in.”

    And off we went.


    • rogershipp

      Hope this finds you well, Charli. This writing was the first that I realized what you meant by posting twice! Sorry, I have a few too many rocks in-the-upstairs apparently. Loved the chance to reminisce about my grand-pop.

    • susansleggs

      Ah, the memories of time spent with a grandparent. Thanks for sharing.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Roger, good to see you at the Ranch! What a fun sketch, and I could feel the youthfulness of the observer. What a character, Pops!

      Ah, I might be the one with rocks in my head — I hadn’t considered that “post it twice” might be confusing, but it was an attempt to continue to share or link stories here while also using the collection form that makes the collecting effort more efficient for me.

      Glad you had the chance to reminisce about grand-pop!

      • rogershipp

        Once I saw the entirety of the post, I was far cleared. Actually, I saw the entirety of the post before… I just had never read it carefully… apparently. Thanks.

      • Charli Mills

        😀 Thanks, Roger!

    • Charli Mills

      Wallie led you down a good path to a flash this week!

      • wallietheimp

        Thank you! 🙂

    • Liz H

      Three clever takes, in three separate directions.
      That second one made me chuckle–“what it’s like, trying to get a simple answer from a writer.”

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, D.! Lots of sketching going on. I see your flash bloomed into multiple flowers. And each one different and yet connected in the sketchbook.

  28. Juliet

    Hi Jolly Ranchers,
    Rather last minute again this week, I’m afraid, so I haven’t read all the entries yet. I loved your description of how you sketch, Charli. Very inspiring to us all. My offering was inspired by something I saw a few years ago. An extraordinary artistic performance…

    Topsy Turvy

    The audience watched in silence as the artist swept huge strokes of white paint onto the black canvas.

    They were intrigued to see this man on stage. His act was far removed from the befrocked dancing poodles and gangly prancing singers.

    The sketch was taking shape, gradually becoming a beautifully abstract snowy landscape, accomplished in three minutes flat.

    As the clapping began he turned the canvas on its head, revealing the unmistakeable face of Albert Einstein.

    A loud gasp filled the air.

    The artist smiled as his message rang loud: look at things differently and all will become clear.

    • Jules

      You remind me of the artists that sketch a story with the addition or movement of sand… amazing.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi, Juliet of the Jolly Ranchers! Before I started writing flash fiction, I felt like my sketchbook was more of impressions — like a nose or the curve of a shoulder. But whose and to what point? Flash fiction became more of an incentive to craft a complete story, and now I don’t leave home without my sketchbooks. Your flash conveys what an extraordinary experience you had. Definitely better than trained poodles!

      • Juliet


    • Liz H

      Beautiful and complex, like the main character described. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I hope you do, Jan! There’s something so captivating about sketching, where with words or other media. It’s very in-the-moment. Perhaps it’s the zen of creativity. I enjoyed the inner workings displayed in your flash.

      • janmalique

        I’m learning the art of photography, and trying to combine it with words. Sketching with pencils and ink are other routes. I yearn to unleash the creativity that’s been sleeping for so long.

      • Charli Mills

        It all expands your lens for telling stories, Jan. And it deepens that creative well inside.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a romantic sketch, Kay! Thanks!

  29. Liz H

    So tender!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rugby!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Richmond!

  32. robbiecheadle

    I really liked your piece this week, Susan. I left a comment on your home site too.

  33. Jules

    I think I would like Muse Mother… I think I often did that for my own children… though a bit lacking in knowledge I made up for ‘it’ in imagination 🙂

  34. Charli Mills

    A fun take on the prompt!

  35. Charli Mills

    Love that opening line, Sascha!

  36. Liz H

    Clever, and I can so relate! 😀

  37. Charli Mills

    Ha! That is clever, Chelsea!

  38. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  39. pedometergeek

    That’s too funny. I love this one. You took your story in a direction that is similar to mine…making a joke in your cases, and a game in my case although perhaps mine was too subtle.

  40. Liz H

    Very cool! Put me in mind of Burt the Chimney Sweep, but with a bigger message. <3

  41. Charli Mills

    That’s a cool image, Liz! I can feel that vibe from Norah’s flash.

  42. Charli Mills

    Nice one, Goldie!


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