July 12: 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.

July 12, 2018

He shuffles across the rubble that bridges the 2nd Street drainage system of Ripley Creek. Wisps of white locks curl from beneath a baseball cap, and his t-shirt glows as white as if he reserves a brand new one for rare occasions. Spotting this reclusive Vietnam veteran hovering in what used to be the front yard of one of his neighbors feels like a sighting an elusive Sasquatch.

He hesitates and reminds me of a moth that bobs back and forth on my back porch, seeking entrance through the glass and darting away just as quickly. Like the lapping waves of Lake Superior on a hot calm day. Shy, uncertain but reaching out. Cynthia rises from the silt-covered floor of her gutted house, speaking his name in reverent tones.

As much as I want to dash out the front door and greet this rare neighbor, I hold back, letting Cynthia guide him up the front steps. I’ve heard much about the man. Cynthia has a big heart for the elderly. He lives alone in his mother’s old house down the street. When she first moved to Ripley, a girl in the neighborhood told her that the man’s house was haunted. The lights came on after midnight.

Like many who live in seclusion, this neighbor keeps odd hours. He is the only specter in his domain. Cynthia befriended him not in person but on social media. Although only one house separates them, they chat late at night on Facebook. She’s told me how brilliant he is, knowing much about music and art. Vietnam secluded him, fenced him off from community.

It’s a kind gesture on his part that’s he’s ventured well beyond his comfort zone to see if Cynthia is okay. With last night’s rain, Ripley Creek overflowed, washing away the sandbags along Cynthia’s house. We’re filling out applications for funding and trying to find immediate resources so Cynthia can get temporarily housed. It worries me when my friend is unsure of where she is sleeping each night.

It’s also troubling to wait on the dictates of others — no one has a permanent solution for the Ripley drainage and the elephant hunkered on the hill above our community is the unstable sand escarpment that can trigger more landslides. Powers that be monitor the temporary silt mitigation, but no one knows how to work together or even if Federal funding is coming.

Another neighbor, HockyPuck because he has the personality of one, strode by earlier, bragging about how the flood got him started on his home improvement projects early. He can afford to put his family up in a hotel and start repairs without care to grants, funding or donations. I heard he was brave the night of the landslide, rescuing his wife and children. But he refuses to give me an interview because he’s too busy.

I want to say I’m not interested in his story anyway. It’s the broken fences I find more interesting. Who cares about a fence that never breaks because it has all the resources and support it needs. Capitalism forgets that while some earn a comfortable life surrounded by ornate fences, most struggle. My friend and this gentle neighbor buckle beneath worry and real-life fears.

But everyone’s story matters. When collecting the stories of an event — or even here at the Ranch, the way we collect multiple stories on a single theme — different perspectives contribute to the greater story of us all. No one is to be excluded. No perspective matters more than others. It’s not about the best but the invitation to have your story heard.

My friend is not without her support network. In fact, the fence of human hands that surround her is amazing. All these hands, reaching out, pulling up. Even the Hub showed up with his truck to build weirs and fill sandbags. A few friends did the best they could do. I returned home to finish some paperwork for Cynthia, and that’s when I opened a portal to a long-held dream.

It came via email like Elvis popping up in a chat box.

You see, the dream is old — I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Not just an archeologist, but one who traveled and adventured. Who learned in the field and archives. Who taught college and wrote books. Oh, that was the original Big Dream! I even left my hometown to study archeology for a semester. It didn’t work out.

In 1998, I graduated from college ten years after my first failed attempt. Back then, to be a career author, one had to get an MFA. I could have been a contender! Instead, I chose to be a wife and mother, and I veered from the dream and used my creative writing degree in a marketing career.

I never lost touch with my literary roots and as I gained life experience, I better understood what the Big Dream meant to me. To be Indiana Jones, I had to be open to adventure, travel, and discovery. I’m not an archeologist, but I certainly excavate stories from the layers of the past. I’m now writing, and I’ve taught workshops for years. Not exactly college, but satisfying enough.

Until now. Until the pinch-me-Elvis-sighting moment.

I’ve written here before about my presentation to 1 Million Cups. Carrot Ranch Literary Community made the evening news, and many in the room warmed to the idea of storytelling and flash fiction as a tool. Already, I’m finishing up a small but mighty gig I landed from that presentation, coaching six entrepreneurs to craft their 10-minute pitches in a series of 99-word stories. Tomorrow they test-run their speeches.

Another organization met with me after the 1MC presentation to talk about workshops — Finlandia University. I toured their facility on campus where I can use conference rooms and the large hall for public workshops. It’s great space from intimate settings to large presentations. I shared my Curricula Vitae and received an unexpected response — had I ever considered teaching adjunct?

Short answer, yes! And quickly followed by the fact that I never went on to get my MFA, let alone my Ph.D. to complete the Big Dream. However, it was suggested that my CV was robust enough to waive the masters. I felt light like a butterfly flitting among honeyed flowers. So, I looked at their need for adjuncts, of course. One stood out as perfect — a marketing course intended for high school students through a partnership with the university. I thought, why not try!

Today, I received my appointment at Finlandia University for nine months to teach the CTE Marketing course. That’s about as close as I’ll ever get to sighting Elvis! Never did I think that part of the Big Dream would happen without a different journey. It’s only 10 hours a week, all hands-on (so no homework), includes 60 hours of prep time (I get to design the course!), a budget for materials, a van for field trips, and my very own college classroom.

I’ve become Indiana Jones, after all. Carrot Ranch is my beloved field work of discovery and treasure; I have a college appointment to teach; and I continue to write novels through the stories I catch 99 words at a time.

Broken fences can be mended. Everyone’s story matters.

July 12, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a broken fence. You can mend it, leave it, or explain its place in a story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by July 17, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Horses Have Greater Value (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Blast it you duck-billed buffalo!” Cobb lunged at the stock handler.

Despite his injuries, Hickok dodged the charging man better than the bear that tore him up. “It weren’t me,” he said, confronting his angry boss.

“That busted fence didn’t happen on its own accord,” Cobb growled, pointing to the corral empty of horses.

“No Sir, pert sure it didn’t. Found it that way before you showed up. Recon’ Dock rode out after ‘em.”

“Then quit idling and get after that herd!”

Hickok sighed and set out on foot, his left arm hanging as useless at the fence post.

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    • Charli Mills

      😀 Kinda sorta! Adjunct works just fine for me. I love that I’ve been “appointed.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Finlandia and your students will love it too. That is some fine gig.

  1. magnoliajem


    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      When sister’s mend fences, watch out! Good one, Joelle.

  2. denmaniacs4

    A complex post Charli. It’ll build a lot of fences, and maybe repair some

    Old Hickson

    I would’ve come home anyways that summer. There was the job at the mill. This was in the days when a few months work could pay for a full year of edumacation.

    So, when mom called and said old Hickson had up and died, I knew there’d be a new layer of remembering.

    He was always the old guy next door. On the other side of our fence.

    His fence, really.

    As a kid, I avoided looking over.

    But one year, I was fourteen, I saw the way he looked at me.

    The lonely old bugger.

    And I knew.


    • Liz H

      Some fences better left locked tight.
      Subtly, but powerfully told!

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, sharp writing. “…a layer of remembering” and the final three lines in sequence. Powerful in what is said and left unsaid.

  3. Norah

    That’s awesome, Charli. Congratulations! I’ve always been in favour of alternate paths, especially in education. It’s great to see that experience still counts as much as a piece of paper. It really should count for more. I’m so excited for you. No need to sight Elvis, Michigan Mills will do. Who knows what may come of this. We really do create our own possibilities. (That was the motto of the alternative school I attempted to open: create the possibilities.) Woohoo!
    I look forward to reading future stories you catch.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my contribution to the collection: Broken with Intent. https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1ba

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Great opening joke!

      • Norah

        It’s an oldie, but funny in the way it made me think of a lot of fun activities on the theme. I might have to work on them one day. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Create the possibilities! Yes, Norah, that’s the best motto we can give to learners. I think this is why I like vision work, too because it lets us dream the possibilities and then work toward them. Thank you!

      • Norah

        I like your thinking. 🙂

  4. Earthenware Ministry

    Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your story, as well as the challenge story! I hope you will write some observations along the way. Cheering for you! I have shared your post on Facebook, and on my blog.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! I appreciate your cheering encouragement!

  5. Miriam Hurdle

    Wow, Charli, didn’t we just talk about from self-employment to employment? Congratulations, professor! Don’t worry about the gown with three stripes. I walked with the three stripes gown, but creativity and experience count. Not all the professors need to have them. I like “ho homework.” You design your course. Nothing can beat that.

    I’ll catch up with the broken fence soon.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Funny how we were just talking about that. I like how this will fit in nicely with my self-employment, basically filling in for a client. I didn’t think about walking! The stripes won’t matter — I’m thrilled experience counted and I get to design the course. Thank you!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Charli, don’t underestimate the filling in experience. I started out substituted for a school district. Then got a job at LA Unified School District. One year later, at a restaurant, the superintendent from the previous district came over to our table, offered an interview, and hired me the next day. That’s the district I worked for 25 years. You may be filling in long term!!

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you for that encouragement, Miriam!

  6. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Congratulations!! Such big, exciting news to share! Pretty sure your class is going to be wait-listed the moment it becomes available 😀

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a chipper thought, Kay! Thank you! 😀

  7. calmkate

    Congratulations Charli, that’s magic … I can hear your excitement, realising your dream and getting to design your own course! Couldn’t happen to a better person … now you will be super busy 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kate! It is magic, one of those wonderful moments of serendipity. And the great part about it is that it will be less work than the client I had for six years. It will be focused and fun. It will feed what I’m doing here!

      • calmkate

        kudos to you for persisting with your passion! You are an inspiration to us all 🙂

  8. Annecdotist

    Congratulations Charli, I’m very excited for you and it shows it’s always worth putting ourselves out there as we never know what rewards it might reap. That’s something I’ve been musing on for another post, but today’s is a continuation of my picking on the hero’s journey. Seems almost churlish to post it right now when I want to celebrate your own elixir, but it fits with the theme of broken fences.
    However, with your illustrious president visiting us here in the UK demonstrating his idiosyncratic brand of diplomacy by criticising Theresa May’s Brexit strategy (and actually being right for once and agreeing with his predecessor), and for once I feel a profound sympathy for the Queen having to entertain him this afternoon, my 99-word story has a political bent. Strong and stable is about fences that really ought to be bridges:
    Narrative structure, psychoanalytic theory and the grief that never goes http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/07/narrative-structure-psychoanalytic-theory-and-the-grief-that-never-goes.html

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Thinking about Boris and Donald in the same room makes me cringe.

    • Liz H

      Believe me, many of us in the U.S. would gladly build him a wall–around himself, sturdy and unbroken. We’re sorry…

      • Charli Mills

        Let’s get that wall started!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anne. There are always rewards and risks for stepping out of the comfort zone, and I enjoy discovering the rewards. It’s been good to consider the HJ from other perspectives and allow for flexibility in how a character evolves. Good, thought-provoking post. A fitting flash.

      I don’t know how your Queen endured!

      • Annecdotist

        With more grace than anyone else in her family could manage, I imagine.

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall

    “En guarde, Pal!”
    “Put that dang thing away Kid.”
    “Foiled again. But Shorty says we’re to fence.”
    “We’re ta mend fences Kid.”
    “Oh. Didn’t know we had a problem Pal.”
    “We’re fixin’ fences ‘round the Ranch.”
    “What’s that fence there do, keep the garden from strayin’?”
    “Keeps critters out.”
    “What about that fence? That keep critters out?”
    “No, that one keeps the cattle in, keeps ‘em from strayin’.”
    “Oh. Like if they reckon they’s greener pastures on the other side a the fence.”
    “Seems like they’s two sides, in and out.”
    “Seems like that could give offense.”


    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha. That one was deep, not just funny 🙂

    • papershots

      loved this one! the pace of the dialogue just has a nice rhythm of its own.. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Two sides — in and out! This yarn is speaking truth over fences.

    • Norah

      Very clever, D. And Kid shows himself to be more clever than often given the credit for. A point made as subtle as that on the end of that ‘dang thing’. Well done.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Kid’s a thief. A whole line and ideas stolen blatantly from Robert Frost.

      • Norah

        A well-read thief then, 🙂

  10. susansleggs

    Wow and double wow. You told us you weren’t afraid of change in your life at the moment and look where you ended up, smack in the middle of your original life dream teaching at a college. What a powerful message to never give up. When one is meant to arrive at a destination it happens even when the roads aren’t the one we thought they would be. Happy for you.

    What a gift to Cynthia to have her reclusive neighbor venture into the daylight. Ripley’s problems are bringing a lot of goodness to light, just wish it wasn’t due to so much loss. So wish the govt. agencies knew how to work together in time of disaster!

    Will come back with a flash.

    • Charli Mills

      I didn’t see this twist coming! I was excited to lead workshops at the college! The Copper Country is certainly a treasure. Cynthia has decided she wants to rebuild, but lots of waiting on the parts of others involved. Disasters expose how dysfunctional government agencies have become. We need to change that. I look forward to your flash! Thanks, Sue!

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Write On Buckaroo Nation

    “Kid, why’re you sketchin’? That was last week.”
    “Thought I’d sketch the Ranch. For perspective. Look, not a fence in sight.”
    “I see it that way too Kid. Free range.”
    “That’s right, free range! Where ever the prompts lead! No boundaries!”
    “While I appreciate your unbridled enthusiasm Kid, there’re always boundaries.”
    “What d’ya mean, Aussie?”
    “You’re free to range about, explore and express yourself, but within the bounds of societal norms.”
    “Oh. Maybe we oughtta fence out the new normal.”
    “No Kid, let’s see what comes and goes as we all range freely.”
    “Good ideas Aussie! Good ideas.”


    • Jules

      Free range writing – Because fictional lives matter and so do Buckaroos!

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, they all do Jules! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Free-range where the writers do roam and the stories flow freely.

    • Norah

      Hehehe. It’s lovely to be included, particularly when good suggestions are made. Sorry it took me so long to make my way here – too many dang fences to jump. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ha! I knew you’d be ’round! Kid and Pal needed a voice of reason, so we called on Aussie, the Buckaroo wonder from down under.

      • Norah

        Awh, gee, shucks, you’re too kind. 🙂

  12. Jennie

    Congratulations, Charli! And, I dearly loved reading this story. Wow!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jennie!

      • Jennie

        You’re welcome!

  13. Frank Hubeny

    Broken Fence by Frank Hubeny

    The Fredericks bought Adkins Estate with farmhouse, barn and sheds. The farm maintained itself from land rentals to local farmers. There was also a notorious fence separating it from ancient Indian burial grounds.

    That’s why they bought it. They planned to rent rooms to people wanting to spend the night in a haunted house.

    They repaired the buildings but broke the fence to make it look spookier. They called their website “Visit Fredericks’ Freaky Ghost House”.

    Many rented rooms and left five-star reviews until it became known that after changes to the fence, the ghosts no longer felt welcome.

    • papershots

      We all know that ghosts love their fences! 🙂

      • Frank Hubeny

        At least these do. Thank you!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Poor ghosts.

      • Frank Hubeny

        They wish the old owner was back. Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! The ghosts didn’t appreciate the glamorous tourist life. Wonder if they left to find the old owner? An unexpected take on the prompt, Frank.

      • Frank Hubeny

        I like to think they preferred the old owner. Thank you, Charli!

  14. Jules


    First off, congratulations!!! To do something you love where you can inspire others and get paid – Woop-Woop!

    Some fences you can’t see. But they are still there… Like the Vet in your post.
    I went that route… but just a bit differently with:

    Emotional Barricades

    Clark could only imagine how his daughter felt. Mainly
    because he never asked. Then her thick letter arrived.
    He’d never had the opportunity to answer her questions
    before. It was about time he mended those fences with
    truth, even if it was just from his vantage point. Then he

    While cleaning out Clark’s paperwork his third wife found
    the letters relating memories that she selfishly couldn’t cope
    with. So, she trashed them.

    Years later the wife, in a conversation filled with anger,
    told the daughter what she did. Thus, creating a new
    unmendable fence cementing their shaky relationship.


    • calmkate

      Ouch Jules … this sounds very familiar 🙁

      • Jules

        I think the familiarity comes from recognizing that every now an then someone else makes a choice that perhaps wasn’t theirs to make. Legality though it may have been – possession being 9 tenths and all that… the responsible thing to to would be to honor even unspoken wishes of those who pass to let/help loved ones resolve issues.

      • calmkate

        I know several people who pry, lie and steal from their close ones … discernment is vital for many reasons, self protection is essential …

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for celebrating with me, Jules! Ah, your flash put up a fence, but one that is needed. There are many ways to experience betrayal and this story describes one.

  15. Reena Saxena


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Liz H

      Inspiring and inspired!

      • Nandini Jain

        Thank you! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Nandini!

      • Nandini Jain

        Thank you Charli, feels great to be a part of the community! ????

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a friendly and safe place to play with words!

  16. The Haunted Wordsmith

    Here’s my take on it…hope you enjoy 🙂

    Grandpa’s Fence

    It was just an old wooden fence out back on my Grandpa’s property. Nothing to look at, nothing special. Every summer we took a bucket of whitewash out there and painted the fence. Time passed and when I was thirteen I refused to go visit. Hadn’t spoken to him in fifteen years. Not until the day Grandma died. I wasn’t invited to the funeral. It hurt, but I knew why. I left the family. I drove all night to get there on time. When he came home, I had the bucket of whitewash ready to mend our broken fence.

    • calmkate

      lovely 🙂

      • calmkate

        you’re most welcome!

    • Charli Mills

      That last line shows the work it takes to mend a relationship. Beautiful!

    • susansleggs

      Too often a child suffers in silence. Sad.

      • Ritu

        I know… Breaks your heart… And as a teacher I see so many such sadnesses…

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena! Rocks will be involved, lol! Good to see a flash from you!

      • Ritu

        Ha! You gave me a new name ???? I enjoyed the flash challenge ????

  17. pensitivity101

    The Gap was like a hole in a fence, patched but forever failing.
    ‘The strength is in the surrounding support,’ the experts said.
    Support indeed, carrying, lifting, holding, protecting, but still The Gap remained.
    In desperation, the family closed ranks, thinking erroneously they were helping by providing shelter and respite.
    Their unity failed too as the recipient felt trapped, claustrophobic, judged, restricted and stifled, rebelling in anger, spite and bitterness.
    So it was agreed to leave The Gap alone, maintain the remainder and leave the open wound to heal or fester. Time would tell and they would be waiting.

    This might have duplicated Charli as my connection kept failing.

    • Liz H

      Sometimes people and things heal better when given room to breathe~~
      Nicely expressed!

      • pensitivity101

        I’m a half full glass kind gal……………

    • anuragbakhshi

      With time, the gap would surely fill, as long as they have the intent to heal.

      • pensitivity101

        sadly that’s doubtful, but you never know.

    • Charli Mills

      What an insightful flash, Di! I think many families can relate to having a Gap. It’s hard when the mending or healing has to come from within that space.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli.

    • susansleggs

      Would love to know what’s in store for the destructive teens.

      • the dark netizen

        Thank You! 😀

        The story continues in Flash Fiction: The Tree

    • Charli Mills

      Senior citizens do have to take care of themselves somehow…! Great mashup for the day of superstition!

  18. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,

    And thank you for sharing with us the “zigs” and “zags” in your life that have led you to your Big Dream, in one way or another.

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments already posted. Food for thought, as always.
    Sometimes I think of life as a kaleidoscope – of how quickly a pattern in life can change with a sudden “zig”, some unforeseen event or something beyond your control.

    “Zig-zagging” my thoughts towards a “broken fence” …

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, and also for that beautiful kaleidoscope image of life! I hope zig-zagging leads to an interesting place. Life can surprise us with its unexpected beauty, too!

  19. papershots

    Congratulations on your appointment! 🙂 I’ve missed this challenge a lot because of, you know, when life gets in the way (as they say…) i do hope to come up with something this week. Thanks and here’s to your new post! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! And yes, life is always there to challenge the best of plans and intentions. We learn to flow! 🙂

      • papershots

        So true!

    • Charli Mills


      • papershots

        Thank YOU!

    • Liz H

      <3 <3 Sweet recovery of Hope!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Deepa! Great story about overcoming and staying hopeful.

  20. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Final Frontier

    “If you don’t replace that board I will. I didn’t put this fence up so that you could ‘just see what I’m up to’ over here, and I certainly don’t want to see your crap.”
    His idea of a backyard was a place to putter with junk; hers tidy gardened areas and a well-appointed patio. The fence was her solution to the visual and spatial assaults when his piles increasingly spread and drifted towards her territory.
    He felt her solution only caused more problems. “It’s come between us,” he called over the fence.
    Sometimes her husband stated the obvious.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Help! My WordPress isn’t working. It won’t pull up the page, I can’t post. I don’t know what to do about it. Do you? I can’t go to WordPress for help because it’s all blank.

      • Jules

        Did you get your WP fixed?
        They keep messing with changing stuff and that just messes up stuff that don’t need fence mending…

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Jules, I just got back from putting chickens to bed, saw you here, checked it and … YES! something happened, I was able to post this finally. You fixed it!
        Very strange, but hopefully all set now.
        I am behind in writing and reading; this week is flying by fast.

      • Charli Mills

        I held space for you while WP sorted itself out!

    • susansleggs

      Thanks for a good laugh with that surprise ending.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I need that fence, D. It needs to come between some couples!

  21. David Wesley Woolverton

    Congratulations Charli! This is a wonderful opportunity, and well deserved too!

    And now, here’s my response to the prompt;

    He should have been a writer or a con artist. He should never have been both. Being both meant spending too much time in fantasy, loosing ground in reality. Now the consequences were beginning to show.

    “I don’t have a sister. Wait, I do.”

    The fence that should separate lies from the truth was breaking down.

    “Or maybe she was a cousin. How many of those did I say I had?”

    He mentally flipped through the reference book of his characters, then realized that was the wrong place and tried a family album, then realized the album was forged.

    • Liz H

      Oh what a tangled web we weave…! 😉

    • anuragbakhshi

      Poor guy 🙂

    • papershots

      i guess all writers of family sagas or lots of books with characters get to that point, sooner or later! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, David! Your flash is a clever look at a tangle of tangled webs. I think reality has slipped!

      • David Wesley Woolverton

        You’re welcome, and thank you also for your kind words 🙂

  22. susansleggs

    The Yellow Flower

    I was a reservist in Iraq, where everything inside and out of our barbed wire compound was sand colored, including the hazy air. One morning there was an unfamiliar excited buzz in the conversations. The words flower and yellow were prevalent. I listened for details. During the day I made it to the south side of the compound, where outside the fence, sprouting out of a pile of leftover razor sharp wire was a sorry excuse for vegetation. The weed wasn’t even green, but it had the most beautiful yellow flower on top. Hope growing out of the dust.

    (Based on a memoir written by Army Sgt. John Steele, a member of the Rochester, NY, Veteran’s Writing Group.)

    • calmkate

      Beautiful writing, and great message 🙂

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      This was really interesting and great to read.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I love how 99-words can be an expression of a memoir from veterans. I’ve been exploring such stories with my veterans here, too and I find it so rewarding to capture an essence of a memory as you have done. Great flash!

  23. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    Hi everyone here’s my contribution to this weeks Flash….

    The line between land and sky is dramatic. Purple meets gold, a haunting and deadly combination. The air is heavy tainted with a smell akin to burning.
    Bree dismounts holding the skittish appaloosas reins tight. The rain starts. Huge fat spots which turn cold and icy. And even though the cattle aren’t hers she hopes the strays that breached her fence have been rounded up and moved to a place of safety.
    Slade stands on his side of the boundary. ‘You have my steers, you cut the wire’. he screams. The charge in the air ratchets up a notch.

    • Michael

      Great response, well done.

    • Liz H

      Am waiting on the next bit, you’ve set up the tension so well!

      • tearsofbloodinmyheart

        Thank you Liz. I might play around with this theme in the future if the opportunity arises.

      • Liz H

        (fingers crossed that stars align)

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes, the air is charged! Great build up of tension, characters, and scene, all in 99 words. Now we eagerly await the next installment. 🙂

      • tearsofbloodinmyheart

        Thank you for your kind words. I really enjoyed writing this one.

    • Liz H

      Vivid! And sadly reminiscent of more thoughtful times.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing your inspiration, Marje!

    • Norah

      Love it. Good luck with your pitching. 🙂

  24. oneletterup

    An inspiring prompt…also inspired by the previous challenge.

    My contribution for this week’s flash:

    Matter of Time

    Damn her.

    His hand hurt like hell. She’d broken the skin.
    Blood smeared onto the bed as he pulled himself up.

    Damn her.

    He stumbled out the open back door into the yard.
    He lit a cigarette and growled…
    “I know you’re out here. It’s just a matter of time.”

    Moonlight reflected off the chicken wire on the old split rail fence. The entire yard surrounded. And overgrown.

    He smiled and spoke…
    “You Know There’s No Way Out.”

    Then he noticed it. Mangled wire. Rotted wood in pieces. An opening.

    A broken fence had ruined everything.

    She was gone.

    • Liz H

      Dark, suspenseful…glad she escaped!

      • oneletterup

        Thank you! (yes, me too…)

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, never have I been so happy for old rotted wood. Great suspenseful writing and a dark, scary character. We never see the escapee and yet her escape makes here a heroine!

  25. Liz H

    Stopping here to take a breath before pacing off into more peaceful meadows:

    I Threw a Shoe

    She sits on the highway’s gravel shoulder, rubbing her sore, unshod feet. The sun presses hard on her head and shoulders.

    She roots through her backpack, amazed at all the crap picked up on her journey, and pushes it away, disgusted; had she truly traveled so far without a sip of water on hand?
    . [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      Take a breath, Liz! Sometimes a thrown shoe is all we need to catch the scent to better meadows, forgoing the super highway we all busily travel.

      • Liz H

        That was my thought, too!

    • Liz H

      <3 Final sentence flipp-a-rooney. She's our Gal!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Thank you so much Liz.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anurag! I appreciate the honor of making it into your flash as a protagonist, complete with my own twist! Rustling will continue!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha, you’re most welcome Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Now that’s a fence with many tales and one fine conclusion. You and the imp did well!

      • wallietheimp

        Wallie thanks you 🙂 He and I enjoyed the prompt very much.

  26. susansleggs

    A Gift

    “Grandpa, there’s a round green thing growing out back by the broken fence.”
    “There is? We better take a look.”
    After a slow painful walk, Grandpa said, “I’d say that’s going to be a pumpkin.”
    “Can we keep it?”
    “Rightly it belongs to the neighbors. It’s their vine coming through the hole.”
    “Let’s not tell them.”
    “Would that be right?”
    “No, but can we wait till it gets big so I can watch it grow?”
    “No harm in that.”
    A few weeks later they found a note near the big, almost orange pumpkin, “It’s yours. Carve it for Halloween.”

    • Sherri Matthews

      Beautiful story Susan…brought tears to my eyes… <3

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Sherri. That’s a high compliment.

      • Sherri Matthews

        My pleasure Susan x

    • Jules

      This reminds me of the commercial where the little boy is writing on paper airplanes to his father in the service. The old neighbor on the other side of the fence collects them and mails them. Then receives a box of paper plane letters to fly back over the fence 🙂

      A joy to read.

      • susansleggs

        I hadn’t heard of the paper airplane story. Heart warming. So much of my flash is BOTS, this one was truly fiction. Thanks for reading.

      • Jules

        I forget what channel that commercial airs on…
        here it is:

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Jules, My hubby and I are both softies and that got to both of us.

      • Charli Mills

        Paper also needed in the form of tissue for that commercial, Jules! Thanks for sharing.

    • Liz H

      I love this. Good neighbors, for sure!

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, what a gift of a story! Your flash is what we need more of — everybody on both sides of the fence doing the right thing, valuing people.

  27. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    99 words of congratulations to you, Charlie:

    Broken fences get mended; isolated men befriended.

    When tragedy strikes, our hearts need love; shelter from the rain above.

    Tragedy’s brush paints uneven strokes; some easily recover, others remain broke.

    Perhaps in wallet but not in spirit, community support helps to heal it.

    Not all is lost and fireweeds grow, the prompts we receive have a tie to their flow.

    Some dreams we let fade based on choices we make, what-ifs play on loop regretting paths we didn’t take.

    But the right path for us is the one that we choose, Charli we are here to celebrate your news!!

    • Charli Mills

      Kay, thank you for your 99 words of celebration! ‘not is all lost and fireweeds grow…” I love how you weaved past prompts into your verse.

  28. Sherri Matthews

    Fred is howling at the moon tonight in exhileration for you Charli! Sooo incredibly proud of you, my hero, Indiana Mills. I’ll be back shortly 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Arooooooh! I’m howling with Fred! Thank you, Sherri! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…I can hear you! From Copper County to Somerset…Fred is out tonight! 😀 <3 😀

  29. Sherri Matthews

    Hi again Charli, back with my flash. There is so much more I want to say…but what strikes me the hardest is how it seems that the closer we come to our dream, the harder we have to fight. And then, when it seems it is all over, a door opens and without understanding what just happened, we walk through it into our new beginning. Just like you did, and as Cynthia will when, at last, she is returned to her beloved home <3


    Exhaustion seeps through me like melting lead. I feel older than my years, stretched too thin like frayed rope. Tie another knot. Maybe it will hold a little longer. Or maybe it will slip and come undone. There is no more space to fill with let-me-help-you. I wander, aimlessly, from one broken fence to another, and my helplessness mocks me in the scrape of splintered wood against my skin. Bleed, then. Stick me again, and again I will bleed. Then I will cuss and rage and come to life, and I will wield my hammer and nails and rebuild.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s so true, Sherri. I was just reading something recently about how it gets hardest before we break through. Your flash is a powerful response to not giving up, but reaching deeper for the drive to rebuild. Good one!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you, Charli! <3 As hubby often reminds me, 'it is darkest before dawn'. <3

    • Norah

      Love the positive message of your piece, Sherri. Let it not stay dark for too long.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Indeed, and I’m so glad that you found the positive from it…it was a struggle to find it, at first, but had to be. Thank you so much Norah -) <3

      • Norah

        It can be a struggle to find the positive. But we try. Always try. 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        Always, Norah. Always 🙂

  30. Kerry E.B. Black

    Charli, I’m so happy to hear your good news!

    Here’s my story. It’s a bit late to the party, but that’s usually how it goes for me. :/

    Hidden Garden
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Erin swung the two loose boards of the fencing and scampered beneath, heedless of the dirt grinding into her knees and palms. She shouldn’t enter this yard any more than an errant Peter Rabbit should raid Mr. MacGregor’s garden, but something about the forbidden draws the adventurous spirit. Once she discovered the accessibility of the fence and that it was just her size, she couldn’t resist.

    She hunkered beneath a hydrangea to take in the scene. The old lady’s yard outdid any park Erin had ever seen, with fragrant swaths of flowers surrounding bizarre statues. Why did she hide it away?

    • Jules

      Sometimes artists like to hide their work. Too much traffic spoils the appeal. I would like to imagine that this little girl and the old lady become friends…

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kerry! The barn is always open at the Ranch! Good to have waves of writers passing through at all hours. 🙂

      Oh, no! I fear for Erin and her curiosity at the size of the hole and the bizarre statues! This fence is a trap.

  31. Eric Pone

    The Short Way-

    Suzie and Sue made their way along the fence perimeter owned by the Jamison Cartel in Columbia. Suzie was intent in her search.

    “What are you looking for?” Sue in a whispered voice.

    “There is always a broken section in a fence. And its always out of the way. Be patient love.”

    Around the bend, they found the break. A broken section of fence with paint long since withered. Suzie thumb her comm.

    “Found a break target acquisition in one hour.” She said.

    “Roger That! Standing By” came the reply from Ginger playing sniper and their cover 2200 meters away.

    • Charli Mills

      Suzie shows she has stealth and smarts. Great use of tension and a fence, Eric!

      • Eric Pone

        Thanks Charlie!

  32. Charli Mills

    A beautiful and poetic reflection, Lady Lee!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  34. Liz H

    What’s the saying? Good fences make good neighbors…

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  36. Liz H

    <3 <3 <3 Sweet whimsy!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks for your story!


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