August 2: 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.

August 3, 2018

Monty sits on what remains of Cynthia’s deck in Ripley. Much of the rubble from the landslide remains, and yet life boldly rises. The apple tree uprooted and hanging over the fury of water that flooded Ripley Creek after the mountain slid, grows like a tree from a fantasy novel out of the gray and green rocks. Apples hang heavy in its branches.

A clump of roses takes root in a barren patch of dirt and kale spreads like weeds. Milkweed, nectar to butterflies, protrudes in clusters, tall green and promising to flower. A daylily nods its orange head by the deck. Purselane spreads across the rocky ground like nature’s band-aid.

I watch the Hub pet Monty, Cynthia’s charming rescue dog, a Daschund. He’s sitting down, which is good. Typically, the Hub would be gnashing his teeth at the pain in his knee, but he tells me the gel shot he got on Mondy is working. He’s tired, and no shot will take away the instability of both his knees.

The Hub gave us a big scare on Tuesday, ending up in an emergency room. His VA doctor offered to drive him after determining his blood pressure was through the roof. The day before, when he got the shot, the nurse raised the alarm over his dangerously high blood pressure, but he told her she measured it wrong. He can be surly to deal with in such circumstances.

On Tuesday we went to the local clinic for a weekly visit. Afterward, he wanted to see the Marine nurse he likes. I like her, too. She fights for him to get the care I’m fighting for him to get. She and his primary care doctor are the best. But often the referrals they make get denied by the VA. Slogging through the system is never easy.

I returned home to conduct a phone interview for a profile I’m writing, so the Hub drove back. He asked the Marine nurse to take his blood pressure because she does it right. She said it was THAT high. The doc came in, and both told him he needed to go to the emergency room immediately.

When his calls came through to me, I was on another call — the DVIBC had called me back, and it wasn’t a call I could miss, so I ignored his. He only told me he wanted to “talk” to the Marine nurse. I didn’t know he was checking up on his blood pressure. Or that he was in crisis.

I was managing the ongoing crisis — the Hub’s head. We’ve been down a scary path of weakening executive function over the past eight years. When it got bad, I pestered him to get seen for PTSD. I didn’t know what else it could be. His family and friends always talked about how changed he was after service, and I knew his quirks and moments when I’d call him out as “Sgt. Mills” because of his intensity.

But these past few years have been crisis hell. I couldn’t understand why, when we lost our rental two months before we could get into our next one, that he’d insist on going into the wilderness. I’m still traumatized by the experience. That’s when I started fighting hard as I ever have to get him into the VA. Before it was his knees. This time it was his shifts in thinking and behavior.

The VA had no trouble diagnosing him with combat anxiety even 33 years after the event. But he wouldn’t stay put. Next, we were off like a rocket to Mars (southern Utah) because it was a chance for him to get back into his aviation career which he loved. But he couldn’t do it. He was fired for PTSD symptoms.

That’s when I got scared. My husband was not acting like my husband and yet he couldn’t see it. I grieved terribly. I felt like I lost him, and in many ways, I have. A few widows have put it in perspective for me though — I still have him. It’s a bitter pill. But I charged on, getting him up to Michigan with him resisting the entire way.

Even now, it’s a weekly battle for two therapists and one ready-to-give-up wife to keep him here. I love my new community. I love being close to my eldest and youngest. I love Lake Superior and her tempestuous moods and generous rocks. I love new friends like Cynthia and Cranky. I love what the Red Cross discovered when they came to the Keweenaw — we are an intact community.

The Hub wants to leave. He hates mosquitos. He hates snow. He hates feeling bored, and he hates not being able to connect thoughts. He hates that his knees hurt so bad after years of needing a replacement.

You might notice a difference in attitude, and that’s part of the rub. But still, I fight to get him care. His therapists were the ones to catch on that something more was going on with him. That led to suspicion of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It would take sleuthing the pieces to puzzle out what happened.

We all knew about his hard landing into to combat.

The Hub’s mom got a phone call early in the morning of October 25, 1983, that her son was on his way to Grenada. A determined US president confirmed on television that he deployed US special forces – Navy Seals and Army Rangers – to rescue US medical students on an island that Cubans had fortified to build a runway for Soviet planes. So much for a dairy farmer’s wife to comprehend.

How could she know her son was jumping with a concussion? He didn’t even know.

Less than a week earlier, a fellow Ranger spearheaded the Hub in the face during a soccer game and knocked him out cold. He was ticked off to get pulled from the game. Knocked out cold and that’s all that happened. That’s the culture of “Ranger Tough.” Within days, he was flying in a C-130 to combat.

The Hub jumped with a T-10 parachute which Airborne uses for mass combat jumps. His rate of descent increased with his heavy load — a mortar round and all the communications gear for his unit. He hit so hard he bounced. He hit right knee, hip and head…bounced…hit his head again. He wore an M1 helmet which the Army acknowledges was not designed for impact. He essentially wore no head protection for 174 career jumps.

It would take almost five years for the Hub to realize that the pain in his knee after that jump was from bone fragments and a complete internal derangement of his knee. He had continued to jump, play soccer and rugby, all on a broken knee. That’s the culture of “Ranger Tough.” As much as I’d like to smash that tough attitude, I also recognize that it conforms to his identity.

When we go to the VA, I fight him as much as I fight them. I must be “Ranger Wife Tough.” He’ll ignore pain or report it’s low, then go home and rail about the pain. I won’t go into what it’s like to be married to a veteran, really only other veteran spouses get it, and many of them are exes. It’s not a glorious role.

But I know the Hub is a good man. He’s been a good dad, and I always felt safe with him (up until wilderness homelessness and Mars wanderings). Just as I did when I was raising three children, I ask, “Why this behavior?” Each new puzzle piece comes with a “why.” I keep arranging, searching the scientific studies, reading articles from the National Football League, reaching out to experts, asking for more tests.

We now understand that the Hub’s symptoms at the end of his military service and after he came home were likely due to TBI. PTSD certainly factored in — simply surviving Ranger Battalion required the maximum effort and PTSD is proof that one is a survivor. Another piece of the puzzle was linking his combat dive specialty after Grenada, after a TBI. It compounded the lack of healing.

But the brain can and does heal. The problem is what they call second impact syndrome. After a concussion, the brain releases tau, a protein which destroys more of the brain’s neurons. It leaves the brain vulnerable until it heals. If the brain suffers another impact (even a jolt), more tau is released. This is why repetitive concussions are dangerous. They lead to degenerative brain disease.

Chronic Traumatic Encephaly (CTE) can only be diagnosed after death through autopsy. Researchers are studying the brains of retired and living NFL players to look for clues. One marker is the presence of white matter brain lesions which also manifest in dementia. The Hub’s brain MRI reveals white matter brain lesions.

Symptoms include loss of executive functioning which explains why at age 55 the Hub was diagnosed by a VA psychiatrist with ADD. He never had ADD as a child or teen, or even hinted at it with learning or behavioral problems. But loss of executive functioning in adults is often confused as ADD. So it makes sense.

It’s why, when a doctor tells the Hub he needs to take the pills to lower his blood pressure, the Hub argues with him that he doesn’t have high blood pressure.

But today was a victory. In therapy with his Vet Center PTSD counselor, he recognized himself in a younger veteran he recently met. The signature wound of Iraq and Afghanistan is TBI. And most soldiers with TBI have PTSD. The VA, once it began to understand the immensity of the problem through recent TBI research, began screening all post-9/11 veterans.

The Hub is pre-9/11. When he came home, his parents wanted help, but no resources existed.

The fact that the Hub could see his own symptoms in another person was a huge moment of clarity. He understood why we were focusing on the two in-patient treatment options we have. He’s agreed to either one that comes through for him. I’m beyond relieved. He’ll have a team of medical and mental health professionals to work with all his issues.

Like Cynthia, though, we wait. We wait to find out if and when. She will rebuild a new home. We will rebuild a different life.

As I watch the Hub pet Monty while talking roofs and walls and how to live in a house with no running water or floors, I feel we are all going to be okay. I feel like it’s a yellow tent moment. We’ve pitched our tents and wait for the stars to come out. My tent is yellow. The color of sunshine and hope.

August 2, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a yellow tent. Where is it and who does it belong to? Think of how the color adds to the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 7, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Wanting to Hide (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni unzipped her tent. Vapors rose from the creek where it meandered smooth and flat across a meadow dotted with daisies. The sun cast colors across the eastern horizon of sharp mountains. She checked each boot, a habit from growing up in Nevada where scorpions liked to take refuge in a cozy shoe. The feel of laced boots gave her confidence to face the day. The volunteers would soon be arriving to camp. Ike had always teased her about how bright yellow her tent was – “Astronauts in space can spot it.” Today, she wished she had his camo tent.

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343 Comments

  1. Ritu

    Oh wow Charli… I’m just glad his condition has been recognised, and that he has accepted it too… No more Ranger Tough. Well, at least not where his health is concerned!
    ????????????

    • Charli Mills

      That’s so, Ritu! It’s taken so long to unravel, but in the end, it’s been all the research at the VA that helped make sense of it. I know I belly-ache a lot about the VA and its slow system, but they do good, too. Right now I’m focusing on “dignity.” That was something that struck me when I saw your Dad’s photo. Despite what he had recently been through he had his dignity.

      • Ritu

        Dignity is a big thing. As long as you have that, you do alright. I hope your journey isn’t too much more arduous.
        Pops is a true inspiration in so many ways to me Charli ????

      • Charli Mills

        I feel like we finally crested the peak of a long climb! Much love to you and your Pops! <3

  2. Reena Saxena

    It was a heart-wrenching read at what combat and intense physical activity can do, without the person knowing it. I am sharing it with arny wives (that is what we call them here) in the social circle.

    Wishing you courage and strength ….

    • Charli Mills

      Reena, thank you for sharing! I’ve found much courage and strength among my veteran wives. <3

      • Reena Saxena

        Yes. That is what a community means.

      • Charli Mills

        And we all need community!

    • LateNightGirl.org

      This is very rich!
      You say so much here! *making notes to learn…*

      • Reena Saxena

        Appreciation is much-valued.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena! That’s an image to hold onto.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you, Molly!

    • robbiecheadle

      This is a great piece of writing, Reena.

  3. janmalique

    Gosh Charli, I never realised how hard the struggles were and are for both you. It also impacts everyone else around you as well. It can be difficult to admit to and show vulnerability. It sounds like you have a good support network, and hopefully the creative activities help.

    • Charli Mills

      Throughout it all, writing has been an empowerment. It’s why I’m dedicated to literary art because I know how powerful stories can be. Even the fiction we write can move, connect and express everything we are processing in life. I feel like I have clarity and options now, and that’s a relief. Thank you, Jan.

      • janmalique

        Words have incredible power and can help when we are unable to vocalise what’s important. Seeing our words written down can be a big release Charli.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks for validating the power of expression, Jan!

  4. TanGental

    When are you going to publish your prompts as the travelling memoir of a valiant vet and his even more valuable wife? Your stories Hub and you are so compelling yet it is almost voyeuristic reading at times. I doubt my simplistic flash will do it justice but be sure I’ll do it thinking of you too and Monty and Cynthia and even the pesky mosquitos…

    • Charli Mills

      Geoff, writing has helped me process, but I also get tangled up in what I’m processing and what I’m writing. I’ll work through it because I want to put out stories that are meaningful in regards to the veteran journey and the spouse experience without adding, well, my angst to it! We’ll see what comes of it all in the artistic output. Beware of the mossies — they are voracious this year! Thank you!

      • TanGental

        One day I’ll get you to Scotland and you can compare mozzies and midges. I’m prepared to bet midges are worse

      • Charli Mills

        Maybe that’s why my ancestors fled! 😀

    • LateNightGirl.org

      Ok, when I started to read, I quickly went back and kicked Messner and a Beatle out, to not have the tent so crowded for privacy!

      This was brilliant!

      • syncwithdeep

        ????????????

      • LateNightGirl.org

        I did a little add on for you on my porch 😉
        Couldn’t help the fun!

      • syncwithdeep

        I enjoyed it

    • Charli Mills

      It’s such a gift to get to write with all of you here at the Ranch because I can process my journey in meaningful ways. This is a turning point and not that it will get easier, but we finally have options. And that feels like a relief. I enjoyed where you went with getting naughty in nature!

      • syncwithdeep

        Hahha.. Thank u so much. These words mean a lot to me to get inspired.

    • LateNightGirl.org

      I hope I didn’t offend you. You liked my comment, started to follow my blog and now un-liked and un-followed. I hope I didn’t offend you in any way. My story is very complex and painful, but I mean no harm.

      Apologies if I wrote something wrong.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Everyone has the liberty to un-follow, I just want to say I didn’t mean to offend anyone if that was the case. I am not after followers, but I also don’t want anyone to feel offended by anything I write. I’m sorry if I did.

      • syncwithdeep

        hey, no, i did not unfollow. not sure how it happened. i also dont like and then unlike. infact i stayed from other social media only becos of likes for likes and comments for comments. i hate that. i am sorry if it happened. I did not do. since yesterday my WP has been giving me problem. i had to update and fix it.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Please don’t explain, it is totally ok, I reall am not after followers, I just get into anxiety mode from what I went through and then think I must have said something that shocked people??

        You really don’t need to follow, it’s totally fine, really!

        I just don’t want people to feel unease if I write something, because I can come across strong, but it is just my passion and pain.

      • syncwithdeep

        I absolutely loved your take on my post. no guilt or no hard feelings. I loved the way you took the privelege to write something related and tag me for that.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        No problem, I love to spread people’s writings and connect people as best I can. I loved your entry.

      • syncwithdeep

        delete the comments. let us not discuss here. u can always mail me @syncwithdeep@gmail.com

      • syncwithdeep

        i think we could not do this. leave it.. as long u understood the fact, i am happy. we are not wrong in any way

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Don’t know how to delete. Sorry for the mess @Charli. How can I delete?

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Sorry, didn’t mean to be so open here.

      • syncwithdeep

        One of my friend also encountered this problem and I told her. Apologies if that hurt u. i followed u back. pls let me know if this happenes again so that i can report this problem to WP

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Please, no need to apologize, I just get into anxiety mode from what I have experienced. I really really don’t mind when people don’t follow.

      • syncwithdeep

        let me delete the comments here. u too can do it.

      • Charli Mills

        From time to time, WordPress updates and it creates unintentional unfollows. WP can be glitchy. I’ve had the same issue as Deepa when having to make a WP update. Our focus as a literary community is all about writing in a safe space without any obligations. If you like someone’s writing, then point out what you like. Otherwise, nothing needs to be said.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Absolutely. I slipped into anxiety mode, working on it. Good Sunday.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re having a conversation (comments) on Charli’s post. So only Charli has your comments. You don’t have them your own Blogs’ comment section if you want to delete them.
        WP does strange thing to make follow and unfollow. I stopped trying to figure out.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Yes, thank you. I made a mistake, didn’t mean to “spam” Charli’s comment section. Won’t happen again.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I don’t see a problem. No worry.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s okay! 🙂

  5. Frank Hubeny

    Best wishes to you and your husband, Charli.

    ———————————-

    Yellow Tent by Frank Hubeny

    Perhaps it was the sunshine yellow that attracted the bear or the food or curiosity. Bill had a camper over his Ford pickup truck, but he could not stand up in it and so he bought the tent.

    He thinned naturally grown trees on clear-cut paper company land. This kept him alone in the woods for a week at a time or until the project finished.

    He thought the tent was perfect until the bear came. It pushed its nose into the fabric deeply breathing. Bill swatted it and it ran off.

    After that they left each other alone.

    • LateNightGirl.org

      Hi,

      I can even imagine the sound of the bear breathing! Scary stuff, but a safe ending!

      LNG

      • Frank Hubeny

        It was scary as I recall. 🙂 But the bear and I got along after that.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Frank! Your flash captures my worst camping fear — a snuffling bear. I’m glad they scared each other enough to remain distant after the encounter.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Such experiences can be frightful. Thank you, Charli!

      • Charli Mills

        I’d like to think they are frightful to the bears, too. I once saw one running and it outran our truck so I gave up thinking I could run faster than a bear!

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      We had a bear attack our backyard grill and that is the closest I want to be to this beast. If I was in a tent when he approached, I am sure I couldn’t handle it! I did enjoy reading about it, though.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, Molly — that would be disconcerting and yet I’m sure you could write a Patrick McManus-style story about it!

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        Three things, Charli. 1) Great idea – I must write about the night the bear visited us (with some embellishment of course); 2) I had to google Patrick McManus and now I’ve got to check him out! And 3) Yes, it was disconcerting. ????

      • Frank Hubeny

        Those bears can be dangerous. That does sound like the beginnings of a story, Molly.

      • Charli Mills

        Your funny bone will appreciate Patrick McManus!

    • denmaniacs4

      Perhaps it was my natural inclination to prefer urban environments (even though I currently live a mildly rural lifestyle) but after watching the 1976 somewhat simplistic film Grizzly, I spend even less time anywhere near bears. Its on you tube for those with the stomach for it. Nice story, Frank.

      • Frank Hubeny

        I would avoid them as well. But that’s mainly a true story about my encounter with a bear. The only part that wasn’t true was the tent was blue, not yellow, and the name of the main character wasn’t Bill.

      • Charli Mills

        I remember that movie, too, Bill, and it definitely shaped my ideas about bears. But then, as a teen, I actually saw a California Grizzly (though they are said to be extinct) and the majesty overcame the fear. But still…I keep my distance!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha, my original idea was that Bigfoot would get attracted to a yellow tent 🙂

      • Frank Hubeny

        I’d love to run into Bigfoot in the woods. Thank you!

    • robbiecheadle

      This is exactly why I don’t like camping, Frank. I don’t want to run into a bear in the night. Great tale.

      • Frank Hubeny

        The only time I have camped is for work. I worked on forestry teams seasonally for four years during college. A bear can be frightening.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I hope there wasn’t food in your tent. You have to cache it in a bear bag swung over a tree branch. The bad thing about tents is that soft shell, the good thing about the soft shell is you can swat through it. Lucky you the swat was enough.
      Huh, I wonder if tent color matters to bears.

  6. LateNightGirl.org

    This is a feast for my eye kind of flash fuction prompt. My mind’s already all over the place.

    Would it be ok to change the entry date to 2nd Aug, as it still has previous week’s date of 26th July?

    • LateNightGirl.org

      Sorry, fone typing, I meant fiction not the “F” word!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Fuction might make an interesting prompt! Oh, I know, I get frustrated with autocorrect on my phone, too. Thanks for alerting me to my fudged date on the icon. It’s updated, and I can’t pin that one on my phone. 😉

      • LateNightGirl.org

        I have autocorrect disabled. It’s my typing. I am useless when it comes to fone typing, plus I don’t have spellcheck on my fone. So, if there are weird mistakes it’s a good indicator I’m typing on the “bell”.

  7. Jennie

    Oh my! You describe Hub so well. Thank you for this, as the world needs to know, and Vets need services. A yellow tent moment… that is just wonderful.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jennie. It’s the Iraq and Afghanistan vets who have the highest incidence of TBI, and much research and policy change is helping current and modern soldiers. We got the call from Minneapolis today and it looks like they’ll start the process in September. We have options finally. And I still feel it’s a yellow tent moment.

      • Jennie

        That’s good news. A yellow tent moment. ????

  8. Liz H

    Uffda.
    Glad that you & hubs have a ribbon of sunshine as he recognizes himself and takes a next step. Wishing you two strength and serenity, & hope that the good tide continues. <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Liz! Uffda, indeed. Looks like we’ll be heading to Minneapolis in September. As long as we have options I feel like we have hope. <3

  9. LateNightGirl.org

    —————————————————–

    “A Beatle’s Wasteland”

    ‘How did I get myself into this mess?!’ he thought while trying to find beauty in his surroundings, with freeze burn on his toes.

    His mind was frozen from the cold. And in this solitude, all he managed to do was to hum a tune to try and stay awake. All that came to mind in this ironic turn of events, was a song he used to sing with his friends under a starry night around the camp fire…

    “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow sub…mmaa….riiinee…”

    And then he dosed off into the stars.

    —————————————————–

    I hope it is acceptable that I borrowed 11 words from The Beatles?

    Just experimenting a little, I just did what came to mind.

    https://latenightgirl.org/2018/08/03/a-beatles-wasteland/

    • Frank Hubeny

      I like how you got yellow into your story. And the stars are now the tent.

    • Charli Mills

      A gripping tale with a bit of dark humor to color the dire situation. I like how you used the lyrics.

  10. LateNightGirl.org

    Dear Charli,

    thanks for such an open share. Yes, no one can relate until they are married to a vet, and your husband finally saw something as if he stood next to himself when he saw the young vet.

    It is incredible the immense pain but love.

    LNG

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks. Sometimes love comes at the cost of pain, yet it is love that eases the pain, too.

  11. reading journeys

    My thoughts & prayers for you and your husband.
    Your courage, persistence, and keeping faith in your husband and yourself, are truly fantastic .

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you. We have a long history, and I’m not going to give up on him yet. If he has no quit, I won’t either. And we got good news today — looks like he’ll get some vital testing in Minneapolis.

  12. pensitivity101

    May you and the Hub continue to make progress Charli

    Here’s my contribution under the title of Mum and Dad’s tent

    It was sunshine in a sky of green, brown and grey,
    A golden globe to feast your eyes on and aim for.
    It was the smile that shone through on a rainy day,
    The honey pot to attract the bees, and more.
    A symbol of hope and simplistic clarity,
    A bright star on which you could depend and wish,
    It stood out like no other, a guide and a beacon,
    There would never be another quite like this.
    There was an inner magic,
    Built on devotion and love,
    Was it no wonder then
    It could be seen from above?

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Di! Such beautiful imagery in Mum and Dad’s tent!

      • pensitivity101

        We did go camping as a family on a few occasions…………. it was different, especially when we had the ambulance!

      • Charli Mills

        That would be fun just to see reactions from other campers!

      • pensitivity101

        Seems my tent folded. I thought I’d had a problem loading it last week.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no, Di! Can you reload? Maybe I need to troubleshoot it with you. I checked spam and it wasn’t there either.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Lovely imagery.

    • robbiecheadle

      This is a beautiful response, Di.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Robbie.

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, a delightfully ender flash this week. Thanks! 😀

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much!! 🙂 🙂

    • Jules

      I saw a shooting star as a child…
      I’d like to see one again –
      I did see the comet with two tails out of my back window –
      now the trees take up most of the summer sky.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, wow! I’ve not seen a comet.

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, yes, I remember that comet but I didn’t take time to look at it. In 1857, Cobb saw a comet and his dad wrote a poem about it.

      • Jules

        I think now that you mention that – the Cobb poem of 1857 – you might make a post about it and share? Unless you are saving it for the book. 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Jules, I’ll do that sometime soon!

    • robbiecheadle

      A great response, it reminded me of the beginning of The day of the Triffids.

      • the dark netizen

        Ah that is high praise! 🙂
        Thanks so much! 😀

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Nice. So, is it true you are changing your handle to The light netizen?

      • the dark netizen

        Hahahaha! XD
        Not yet! 😛
        This is a once in a while instance! 😀

      • Charli Mills

        This was Dark Netizen Light, a seasonal!

  13. denmaniacs4

    The Crawlspace

    “Help me?” she pleads.

    “Sure. With what?” I reluctantly query.

    “The crawlspace…under the back porch. It’s a fire hazard.”

    The world is ablaze, I think, and she’s worried about the dank confines of the porch.

    “Okay,” I concede. “I’m too big to slither in there, though.”

    “Fine,” she says, ticked. “I’ll slither in…hand the stuff to you.”

    Delighted with my negotiating skills, I wait while she inches in.

    “This is heavy…smells to high heaven.” She shoves out the old canvas tent, once khaki, now splotchy yellow.

    “Full of sweet memories,” I opine.

    “And fat spiders and mummified mice, sweetheart.”

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Memories are sweet, but not the ravages of time. Great details, and partner negotiating, Bill.

    • anuragbakhshi

      No one really wins in such situations 🙂

    • robbiecheadle

      Eeek, spiders, not my cup of tea at all. Well penned.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      The prompt led to the crawlspace. While the world is ablaze one needs the distractions of mouldering under porch accumulations.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m really glad to hear that! The VA can be a laborious system to navigate, but the care we receive is good. We have close friends who just returned from the Milwaukee VA and I’d say they saved his life, too. Great flash!

    • robbiecheadle

      This is a good read.

      • tnkerr

        Thank you. I’m glad you liked it.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Great descriptions and gotcha in that flash.

      • Ritu

        I’m glad you liked it! Deep’s was good too but a different slant ????

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Yes! LOL

        I kicked my people from my story out of the tent for Deepa! 😀

      • Ritu

        ????

    • Charli Mills

      Great title, too, Ritu! The red light districts were infamous in the wild west towns.

      • Ritu

        Thanks Charli!

    • robbiecheadle

      Oh dear, Ritu, that poor woman. ..

      • Ritu

        I know….

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Don’t jump to conclusions, it’s a very common name.

      • Ritu

        That would be a good lesson to learn!

  14. floridaborne

    You’ve been through the mill and ground back up again. I’m happy to hear that you have family, friends, and you love where you’re living. You need that support to get you through the next few years.

    • Charli Mills

      But I’m like snappy black pepper, lol! Support is vital, especially now and I’m grateful for it.

      • floridaborne

        Our support may be virtual, but our minds are with you. That’s why it’s so great for you to have family with you.

      • Charli Mills

        We need communities — those we can share thoughts and stories with are as vital as the ones who get us to the appointments and help him. Our daughter and SIL deserve medals.

    • LateNightGirl.org

      Love this rawness of telling the story.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Powerful writing, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

        I can’t imagine what I would do if my dad had left us to fend for myself and then showed up at the door.

      • Charli Mills

        Dad, who? Then shut the door.
        But who knows. As writers, we can play with the different scenarios and reactions. As people, we don’t always know how we’d react.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Yellow!”
    “Hello?”
    “Huh? Oh, hey Pal. Jeez… Yellow tents… ”
    “You seem a might tense, Kid. Maybe a might yeller too. Just go where the prompt leads, don’t be afraid.”
    “I ain’t afraid, Pal, in fact I prefer ta sleep out under the stars, no tent at all.”
    “Don’t Kid, ‘cause I’m afraid I’ll have ta listen ta yer complainin’ ‘bout skeeter bites.”
    “Hmmph. Pal, why is Shorty’s tent yeller?”
    “It ain’t yeller. It’s transparent.”
    “I see.”
    “Yep. The midnight oil she burns makes it ‘pear yeller. Claims it’s like sunshine.”
    “I prefer moonshine.”
    “Jist go ta yer tent Kid.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! A bit of moonshine in a sunny tent might not be so bad!

    • Norah

      Always an answer, Kid, has always an answer. Always a mighty fine flash too. Thanks.

  16. Annecdotist

    Another extremely poignant post, Charli – what a hero’s journey you’ve been on! I imagine there’d be similar struggles with a hard-to-diagnose condition in a reluctant patient here in the UK but at least here you wouldn’t be fighting the insurance companies to pay for it as well. Although we are likely to be following the US down that rabbit hole before too long.

    Enjoyed your flash – you can’t hide a yellow tent so easily! But I wondered if you noticed the connection between your character and your husband’s attempt to run away from his condition (by moving to new territory, although unfortunately away from the support structures you’ve built)? It’s something we all do in different ways in response to adversity we can’t control and don’t want to admit to – perhaps for some of us do this through writing!

    Your post also made me reflect (a lot of thinking on my walk to the shops this morning for breakfast croissants) on the constant dance of accommodating to a partner’s different point of view. We need to compromise but, when that partner is more vulnerable, we sometimes need to take control. And then, having taken control, to give it back, either entirely or in part. A complex business!

    I’ve been rather perverse in my interpretation of the yellow tent – my flash needed to accompany a particular photograph of me as well as a post about The Toddler in My Laptop https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/08/the-toddler-in-my-laptop.html

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I truly hope the UK can prevent a travesty of healthcare and NOT follow the US down the rabbit hole where profit margins matter more than the health of its nation. I was asking my daughter recently how to put our journey with her dad succinctly, and you’ve given me my nine words: “it is a hard-to-diagnose condition in a reluctant patient.” Thanks!

      Ah…I’ve become so mired in that move. It reflects my own sense of displacement — where do I belong? He’s moved us so much I have no roots and find it difficult to give them to Danni. I’m frustrated that I’ve become hung up on it. I appreciate that you’ve pointed it out.

      Perspectives within a relationship are tricky to navigate, and power struggles, trickier. I finally feel as though we’ve reached a level of support from his team that I gave over control to his therapist last week and no longer will be going. That he’s agreed to the program in Minneapolis is promising, too. We got the call on Friday that they will conduct neurological-psychological testing there in September. No matter the result they will take him their program or send him to Milwaukee. I no longer feel burdened with trying to get him care. He has it.

      I look forward to reading your flash. A toddler is not what I would expect!

      • Annecdotist

        I’m glad that helped, Charli. I suppose I was also looking for a way of framing your experience for myself, acknowledging the commonalities without denying the uniqueness. I’m glad you’re now in a position to hand over care. And I think I might have hit on the running away theme because it chimes with something in myself right now, albeit in a very different way. I might be saying more about that on the blog soon.
        Our NHS is continuously under threat from right-wingers who hate the idea of people without wealth and a decent quality of life. It was amazing from this side of the pond to hear about the American suspiciousness of socialised healthcare. It seemed they picked on extreme examples from over here about restricted choice. Here, some people do choose private healthcare – but when that goes wrong, as it too often does, it’s left to the NHS to pick up the pieces and sow them together again at great expense.

      • susansleggs

        So happy you got the call about a place for Hubs to get care. I hope you don’t have to move there, but can stay in Hancock near your daughters.

      • Charli Mills

        Anne, I’ll be interested to read what you write in your future post. As for Virgin, that article is disturbing. Why is it that people care more about wealth than health? Richard Branson is known as “hair-flipper” to my daughter who met him while on an expedition to Baffin Island. She has some funny stories to tell about him and his vanity. Not someone I’d feel comfortable covering healthcare contracts. And yes, American have this weird paranoia over socialized medicine. They call it “commie” medicine, which I find humorous given that these same people now declare they’d “rather be Russian than Democrat.” But so many suffer, not getting the care they need so CEOs and shareholders can enjoy their wealth.

      • Charli Mills

        We won’t be moving, Susan! The program is in-patient but temporary. They’ll build a team locally, which we already have. We just need a better treatment plan. Our Hancock area and daughter provide us the stability we need during this time.

      • Annecdotist

        You know about these things more than I do, Charli, but I suspect his hair, beard and casual dress is a cynical branding exercise to make him seem cuddly and unthreatening. I pity anyone using his healthcare services as we hear so many complaints about virgin trains.
        Shortly before I left the NHS contracts were opened up to “any willing provider” – I’m not entirely sure what the previous wording was but it did including assumption that the provider would be competent – with the odds strongly in favour of the private sector. But we’ve been on the rocky road towards privatisation, even under supposedly left-wing governments, for decades before. All it’s done is reduce staff morale and make the system more expensive. I wonder if it will see out its century before it cracks.

      • Charli Mills

        I can’t imagine Richard Branson as cuddly! I can see right up his nostrils in that photo of him from the article you shared! Competency would be a good thing given healthcare. It’s so interesting going through this disaster and navigating healthcare in the US. I don’t have much faith in these infrastructures but those making money seem to be sucking it up like carp does mud. I’m not sure any of these societal infrastructures are going to last.

      • Norah

        I’m so pleased that Hub now has care in the pipeline and that it has eased, if but a little, your burden.

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    At the Midway

    It was a yellow tent, not well placed in the carnival midway, but its owner sang out to prospective customers, enticing them to come closer, come curious, come in.

    *Come in, come in, all will be revealed
    Lived well, or sinned, come see how you’ll be dealed.
    Step through the yellow tent
    See how your end of days are spent.*

    Most went in just for a lark, laughing.
    Some came out beaming, said the tent had the buttercup color of sunshine summer days. Others came out shaken, said the tent was sulfur colored, reminded them of lightning, striking close.

    • Jules

      We each read into ‘things’ and interpret them from where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we’re going.

    • Liz H

      Oooh! Spooky, as summer’s end and all the county fairs roll through. ..
      <3

    • Charli Mills

      What a fascinating take on the yellow tent, D. And good story about perspective, too.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Aah, nicely done.

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Fortune Giver

    Also on the midway, an exotic red haired Portuguese gypsy woman spun fortunes from words. Her tent was unmistakably the color of sunshine, which drew people eager to spend their 99 cents for the gift of story. In every story the gypsy spun, they heard their own story and left emboldened enough to tell their stories themselves. This yellow tent buzzed and hummed with story as more and more people came to hear and to tell. The gypsy woman glowed, basking in her good fortune, measured not in the 99 cents, but the 99 word stories of her community.

    • Annecdotist

      Lovely story, but what’s the midway – I need a translation!

      • susansleggs

        Midway in the states is the main corridor of a carnival or fair where you would find the fortune teller’s tent

      • Charli Mills

        I will channel this story at the Tori! It’s inspiring!

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Molly

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Really, Ms. Mills? You relate to this one? Huh. Good luck at the Tori and on all your trails of tales.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yup, the midway is where the barkers and shysters try to come between you and money better spent on fried dough. (Sorry to be late- I was camping. Saw not one yellow tent, saying

      • Annecdotist

        Ha, love it that you were camping, D. I don’t think we even have a word for midway in British, although I’m no expert on fairground vocabulary.

  19. Chelsea Owens

    Ah, Charli. ? I aspire to be like you.

    • Charli Mills

      Not so sure I aspired! But we need community to get through the rocky spots. Thanks, Chelsea.

  20. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    I’ve been recovering from a mild concussion, Charli, so I cannot even imagine how your Hub endured his multiple TBIs and still carried on. What a road you have both traveled to get to this point with the VA. I am hoping and praying that the treatment will help him. Despite the frustration and fear you’ve expressed, reading your prose is such a pleasure for me – one I have not been able to indulge in for the past two months with my limited time on the computer. I’ve even written a flash this week! It feels so good to be back, and I will read the work of others as I can. Here is this week’s story:

    Not what she had in mind

    “What are you watching?” asked Chester.

    “The Travel Channel,” said Ruth. “Don’t you wish we could drive an RV across the country? There is so much to do and see.”

    “I’m pretty happy right here,” said Chester scratching his ample belly.

    But he saw the wistful look in Ruth’s eyes.

    “I’m going to run into town,” he said.

    When he returned, he was as radiant as a cloudless July sky.

    “This is going to be our home at Park’s Pond campground up the road in Clifton,” he announced.

    “Oh, Chester, I was longing for Yellowstone, not a yellow tent!”

    https://www.shallowreflections.com/not-what-she-had-in-mind-flashfiction/

    • Frank Hubeny

      I guess you have to start local before going all the way to Yellowstone.

    • Jules

      There can be confusion when the right questions aren’t asked.
      A fun read.

    • Annecdotist

      Fun flash, Molly.

    • susansleggs

      Not sure he got the message of RV….
      Glad you are healing and among us again.

    • Charli Mills

      Molly, we’ve gained so much more information about concussions in the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, it’s the signature wound of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The military does a better job of screening. Good news is that they do heal! It takes a while and symptoms can linger for months. It’s the second, or repetitive concussions you don’t want. That is what they believe leads to degeneration. I hope you are starting to feel better! We’ve missed you and your humor! Chester is up to his antics again.

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        I am feeling better and being extra careful to prevent any kind of second concussion. I talked to a young man at the post office yesterday who has had 7 concussions. Several were sports related but 2 were sustained in the army. Such a bright, young man but I fear for his future. Chester was restless while I took my break so I suspect he’ll be insisting on a lot of attention going forward!

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, it’s that second one you don’t want! As for many of our young veterans, they have a difficult road ahead. Anyone you meet like the young man at the post office, please let them know about the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center: http://dvbic.dcoe.mil/. Stay well, Molly!

  21. Jules

    Charli,

    I can only hope you and the Hub get all the help you need as quickly as possible. I know all that you spoke of in your post are huge steps. It took my own father years to get help for a hip he needed replacing because he didn’t trust doctors, much less the VA system.

    I went with fiction, though I’m not a true camper, I’ve been there and done that… and can check it off my life list and won’t have to do it again, if I don’t have to. So I’ve added some history of the color yellow (at my site) while I combined your prompt with another one.

    I was on vacation last week – I hope to catch up on reading last weeks offerings as well as this week, this coming week. Everyone please enjoy:

    Cowardly, Chloe Goes Camping

    I knew I’d be a heel if I didn’t go camping with him.
    He said it was a time to heal, being in nature. He’ll
    provide everything he said.

    I dreaded him coming down my lane. All night I
    had lain stiffly prone trying to sleep in the comfort of
    my bed… I tried to dream up some excuse not to
    go. I couldn’t find any…

    Maybe one night wouldn’t be so bad? We got to
    the lake and he set up a yellow tent. He brought
    an air cushion …

    No indoor plumbing. I’d be peeing in a can.

    ©JP/dh

    • pedometergeek

      Yeah, understand this feeling about camping. We actually have a yellow tent. I think we have only used it a few times. On second thought, the cover is yellow; I don’t remember whether it is green or gray. You can tell how often we have used it if I can’t remember. Love your final line; it made me smile. ~nan

      • Jules

        You know what they say about being out in nature… leave only footprints. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jules. I do believe the care can be good at the VA. The biggest hurdle is getting to it and I think we crossed them finally. I’m sorry your Dad had to suffer in pain before he finally sought treatment. It’s all too common. Thanks for writing a mashup and taking on the tent though, in real life, it’s a done deal!

  22. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Sending strength your way, Charli. It can’t be easy what you are going through but at least you have each other. Fingers crossed both he and you get the much needed (and long overdue) help you have been hoping for and fighting for for so long xx

    Here is my entry for the week:

    The Sunshine Kid by Kay Kingsley

    I emerged at dawn to a silence only those who have known solitude in the forrest long for. The sweet dampness of the morning burned the smell of warming Redwoods into my memory as I sat quietly by the fire perking coffee I drank from a tin cup.

    The smoke rose into the forrest’s canopy as the fire pit crackled and popped and as peace settled in the sun broke free cascading a kaleidoscope of light all around and from our yellow tent emerged my favorite person of all, my sunshine kid, beaming a smile from ear to ear.

    • susansleggs

      Sharing a campsite with a child full of wonder and desire to explore can be inspiring. A beautiful sight!

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        As a child it is so exciting to experience the unknown of exploring while camping outdoors. As an adult it is such a wonderful sight to watch the wonder in a child and experience it again as an adult through them. Glad you liked my flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kay. I’m still grappling with what it means to still have each other in the face of this. Like in your flash I try to take it all to still moments and breathe, remembering the beauty of a dappled sunrise with coffee in hand. Such a beautiful image you have emerging from the tent.

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        Sometimes all we can do is make lemonade with some of the lemons we are given although this process can take a while. Try not to lose hope and remember that we are all exactly where we are supped to be (I’d like to think).

        I am glad you liked my flash too. The prompt was a challenge this week. Thanks you for that.

  23. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    here’s my contribution for this week

    Charlotte steadies the kayak. From this far out it’s impossible to see anything on the beach. She steers right and paddles towards land, careful not to drift into the rocks beneath her.
    A flash of yellow at the back of the beach, James? This must be the place. She paddles, then pulls the kayak onto the sand above the tide line.
    Shane watches from trees. The woman paddling towards him doesn’t look like Soph, she looks more like Lotte his wife.
    He steps back into the yawning flap of the yellow tent and hopes that Soph doesn’t show up.

    • Liz H

      Reminds me of that Pina Colada song. Hope there’s a happy ending to this one! 😉

    • anuragbakhshi

      No happy endings here.

    • Charli Mills

      A lotta drama is unfolding around one yellow tent! I enjoyed your flash and if you’d like to be in the collection, be sure to use the form, too. Thanks!

      • tearsofbloodinmyheart

        Thank you Charli. When I read the prompt the story was there. I’m still really enjoying writing.

  24. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Luxury Home

    If you’ve ever sat and watched a mountaintop succumb to dusk’s misty cover; if you’ve sat long enough to see the fog reveal the mountaintop again but linger in the cuts and valleys; if a westward mountain reluctantly letting go its grip on the slanting sunlight that battled clouds all day, now trailing yellow rays, grasping at the underside of high branched leaves, streaking yellow ripples across the water, then you know. You’re just a poor camper, with all the riches that heaven and earth have to offer, with the late evening sky the roof of your yellow tent.

    • susansleggs

      Beautiful imagery of the mountain tops and valleys.

    • Charli Mills

      Those are mighty fine riches to behold!

  25. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I know how bad your hubby’s knees hurt. They must be bones rubbing bones by now. It only happened to my left thumb years ago and I couldn’t hold anything with the thumb and index finger. I hope he is not trying to walk with his knee condition.

    Thank you for sharing your need to be with the community and friends and the environment and your hubby wants to move. As hard as it is, I hope you could stay. You need your support so that you could support your hubby. Especially you could be with other vet’s wives. They are the ones who understand you and keep you from giving up.

    I know someone who stayed with her recovered mentally ill hubby. It’s tough.

    I know what you’re saying that you have a long history of being with your hubby. I appreciate that when he doesn’t give up, you won’t.

    I pray for your strength. Only you know what could sustain you and give you the energy you need.

    Here’s my flash:

    Yellow Tent

    “How was your sleep last night?”
    “Awful. I’m not the camping type. My back hurts.”
    “You slept in a cot. Didn’t it help?”
    “It’s just the idea of not having walls around that gave me a nightmare.”
    “The tent is our wall.”
    “But that yellow color is so light that I could see the moonlight.”
    “That should be soothing and relaxing.”
    “But, but… it’s like transparent. I felt like sleeping in the open air. I heard growling and saw a bear chasing me.”
    “The bear didn’t chase you. We had a bear visit and stole our food last night.”

    https://theshowerofblessings.wordpress.com/2018/08/04/august-2-flash-fiction-challenge-yellow-tent/

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oh, thank you! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Miriam, yes it is bone on bone with his right knee and nearly so with his left. It amazes me how he still muscles through it. His legs are powerful, but his knees have imploded. That’s why I hope he gets the right knee replaced, while he still has strength.

      Community is important to me right now and I’m not moving on because I know we need the stability of place. He doesn’t and he might choose to do something different. And maybe he should while he still can.

      Your flash captures why many don’t feel safe in a tent. And I think that character will not be camping again after a bear visit!

      Thank you for your encouraging words!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I surely hope he get the right knee replaced. He should not forces it.
        The second half of the flash is another camping trip with a camper in our previous own 10 acres in Washington Peninsula. We had a bear visit but no harm done. We parked next to a beehive though without knowing because we got there after dark.
        Take care of yourself.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes our stories coalesce, and this was one of those moments. We’ve been chasing down this dragon for a while and finally have caught its tail. I didn’t see your story in the bucket and I’d love to include it if you’d like to be in the collection.

  26. Norah

    Oh Charli, what a battle you’ve had, he’s had, you’ve both had – individually and together. I feel a tinge of yellow hope and sunshine in your post and hope that the in-house support is not long in coming. I’m so pleased that he is finally coming to realise. Imagine it taking a mirror (almost) for him to see. It is often said that we see ourselves in others. Perhaps this time, it is a good thing. Thank you for sharing your journey. It’s a tough road. It helps us better support you if we get a sense of what you’re going through. So much, too much, all at once and over a long time. I wish you a change of pace and better days.
    Love Danni’s flash and that her tent can be seen from space. I understand her desire to go unnoticed. A yellow tent doesn’t do much towards helping that desire. If only Ike could see it too.

    • Norah

      I wrote two responses to this one. I had to go with children and play, of course; and made a rare attempt at romance.

      With Intent I
      They dragged the upended chairs into position, stacked boxes in the middle and positioned the quoits hob on top.
      “Now a cover,” said one.
      “I know,” said the other. They raced inside.
      “What are you doing?” asked Mum.
      “Nothin’,” said one.
      “Just playin’,” said the other.
      “Don’t make a mess,” said Mum.
      “We won’t.”
      The yellow sheet refused to hide as they returned outdoors. Mum smiled.
      After some realignment of chairs and adjustments to boxes and sheet, they stood back to admire their work.
      “Lunchtime,” said Mum.
      “Can we eat in the tent?”
      “Only if I can join you.”

      With Intent II
      “I have to work.” She feigned disappointment.
      “That’s okay. Come after work.”
      “But I’m working late. It’ll be dark.”
      “It’s well-lit all the way.”
      “But I don’t know the way.”
      “That’s okay.” He punched the address into her navigation device. “Just follow the directions.”
      “How will I find you when I get there?”
      “I’ll be watching for you.”
      Conjuring no more excuses, she wasn’t yet ready to explain her attraction to him didn’t include camping.
      Later, when entering the campgrounds, deserted but for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” her fears melted.

      • pedometergeek

        Such diverse stories, but ones I really enjoyed reading. I am sucker for romance so truly appreciate the second. ~nan

      • Norah

        Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Nan. I appreciate your vote for the second.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The first is well done classic Norah, celebrating childhood. The second is well done classic Norah, her children grown up but still playful and bravely willing to explore.
        That’s some tight writing.

      • Norah

        Thank you, D. I appreciate your kind words to my two pieces.

      • Jules

        Oh, I just enjoyed both of your stories so much.
        I’ve let my grands decorate cardboard tents in my family room…
        and well as for romance that always brightens my day!

      • Norah

        Thank you reading and commenting, Jules. I love the enthusiasm of your response.

      • Jules

        I may not like outdoor tent camping, but I do remember building ‘Table Tents’ inside. 😉

        (Oh – every time you sign out of CR, and you sign in again -after that first submit… the form is blank again. I guess you can submit as many as you want – I like to check out the weekly round up since not everyone stops by the main blog.)

      • Norah

        Thanks for the tip, Jules. I thought that might be so, but I forgot to go back and check. All’s well. No worries.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah, you’ve been such a good friend throughout our crazy journey. I think he understands as much as he can. The greatest frustration is that he thinks he’s in control when he’s really out of control. It is good that he can see it in someone else, but often he’ll make a realization then not act upon it. But we have a good support team and promising options so I’ll take it in small steps.

      I loved both your flashes, Norah, but I only saw II in the bucket. Did you not want to include I? I’ll happily publish both!

      • Norah

        I’m hoping there’s a rainbow at the end of this VA trail, Charli. Though I fear there may still be more boulders popping up.
        As for the two stories – I couldn’t submit a second form after the first, and I forgot (obviously) to go back to see if I could put it in later. Perhaps I should have put them both in together on the one form. I didn’t think of that. No worries. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Wonder what was up with WP on a second submission. I get other ones, but with WP often it’s a weird glitch that isn’t explainable.

    • Jules

      *waves back*

      Your story reminds me of any number of ‘Tent Cities’ everywhere.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Shirley Jackson meets John Steinbeck. *They wave to Sarah Brentyn*

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sarah, so good to see you popping into the Ranch! Best to you as well!

  27. oneletterup

    Yellow is such a positive and hopeful color! I can understand the comfort you find in it, Charli.

    Here is my contribution:

    “Are you okay kid?”

    The last thing she remembers is a truck door closing.
    Then sleeping in this soft lap.
    She struggles to open her eyes. So tired.
    Where Am I?

    “Kid! What’s your name? Who are you?”

    She turns toward the voice. A kind voice.
    A smooth hand covers hers. Gentle and warm.
    Something in her untwists.
    Tears escape, sliding down her face.
    She feels herself lifted up. Hears a door opening.

    She peeks. A blue house. Flowers. Swings.
    A little girl. A little boy.
    A little yellow tent; flap up. Toys inside.
    “Ya wanna play?”
    She smiles.

    • Jules

      This could almost go either way…
      I’m swaying for positive.

      First memories are always tricky though…
      I remember being bathed in a kitchen sink – but not quite by whom.

    • anuragbakhshi

      I want to be happy for her, but I smell something sinister in the air.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a cheerful, hopeful color! I’m hoping your protagonist finds a hopeful situation, too.

  28. Peregrine Arc

    Yellow Tent for Sale

    “Yellow tent for sale, never used. Complete with stakes and poles. Good for camping trips. $99, OBO. Sleeps four comfortably. Inquiries at…”

    I squinted at the ad as I picked up the phone. Files littered my desk. Paper clipped photos of children stared back at me vacantly.

    “Hello? I’m interested in the tent. Would $70 do? Great, I’ll pick it up today. Cash only–I understand.”

    I grabbed my keys and stuck my head into my boss’ office.

    “Got another tent for a family. Be back in ten.”

    https://peregrinearc.com/2018/08/05/flash-fiction-yellow-tent-for-sale/

    Author’s notes:

    For those unfamiliar with OBO, the acronym means “or best offer.” It’s common to put this in personal sales ads.

    Whenever I see or hear the word tent now, I think of refugee families. American, Syrian, Mexican–whomever, wherever. I leave it up to you to decide where this particular flash fiction story takes place and who they’re helping. It could take place in the past in WWII, present with Syria or Greece, or even sometime in the future with all the parties changed and switched around.

    • Peregrine Arc

      P.S.–My prayers and thoughts are with you, Charli. I feel you should get a Purple Heart at this point.

    • Jules

      My one son’s fiancee does animal rescue and is always on the look out for thing that animal shelters can use.

      I like where you went with this flash.

      Thanks for bringing the plight of those in need into the light – of a yellow tent.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thanks for sharing that. That’s amazing. I felt I was going out on a limb assuming people (social workers/volunteers) had to scrounge for supplies. From your story, I see it does happen.

        Thanks for reading. 🙂

      • Jules

        PC: Just like many teachers who don’t have enough funds… volunteers often fork out their own funds to help the causes that they are passionate about. We have some refugees in our area – and some organized religious services that have armies of volunteers. We also have another group that still helps out a town recovering from one of the major hurricanes from a few years ago with an annual bus trip – that the individuals pay for the bus and room and board themselves (maybe some supplement funds) – and they use their time and talents to help that community rebuild.

        Once when we helped a family (that relative of mine had been assisting) move – they shared one of their own religious holiday celebrations with all those that had helped them with their ‘resettlement’.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thanks for reading.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        You’re welcome. I did actually read and love it.

      • Peregrine Arc

        🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      A powerful flash, Peregrine! I could feel the urgency of finding shelter for those in desperate need. And thanks for explaining OBO. It’s good to share unfamiliar terms or acronyms.

      • Peregrine Arc

        🙂 Thanks, Charli.

  29. pedometergeek

    For All In Tents and Purposes

    The truck pulled up and parked on the side of the road. The two men climbed out of the truck. Arrayed in green shirts, khaki pants, boots, and a utility belt to rival Batman’s, they attached their belts and shimmied up the telephone pole.

    With the sky looking overcast, the men put up a little safety yellow tent on the telephone line. Looking more like a tiny house than a typical pup tent, it hung there fifty feet above the street. It sheltered the two men as they worked furiously to fix the phone lines before the storm hit.

    http://www.nbsmithblog.wordpress.com
    Nancy Brady, 2018

    • Jules

      Tomorrow (sometime) I’ll have more of a BoTS entry…
      🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Nancy, a unique take on the prompt.

    • LateNightGirl.org

      Ever had Rattlesnake soup?

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha, don’t think I’ll ever have the courage.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Bummer! Wanted to ask how it tastes!! But I’m with you, I rather starve as long as I can eating dust and grass!

      • Charli Mills

        Hey guys, it tastes like chicken! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      That’s one rattlesnake that won’t be in her boot! Thanks, Anurag!

      • anuragbakhshi

        Thank you so much Charli.

  30. Pete

    Judy always loved the countryside drive. All that fresh air, the postcard views, the streams, the tattered American flags—some confederate ones too. She could almost hear the hymns of old spilling from the window-less clapboard church, it’s steeple at a tilt.

    But the yellow tents were new.

    Her breath caught. A camp, but nothing like she’d seen, with black and brown bodies, childrens’ hands grasping a gleaming chain link fence. Judy’s foot found the gas pedal.

    Judy thought the scene belonged in Europe. In the news. Debated from podiums. Instead it was sitting between cornfields, confronting her scenery.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow, good one, Pete. I love how “Judy’s foot found the gas pedal” describes so clearly the act of looking the other way. So stark, that image of tents, children, and a chainlink fence. It can’t be unseen.

  31. Pete

    *its

    • Charli Mills

      Wrangled that apostrophe out of there!

  32. Jules

    Second entry – a poem… and yes my feelings towards camping 🙂
    Been there done that…

    Blonde Dreams?

    Yellow was the color of my true love’s hair
    Never quite long enough to act as a tent
    For me to hide in –
    But with hugs and silent strength
    (even when a very few times when
    patience ran thin)
    I’ve always had that haven…

    Camping out in a yellow or any tent –
    Not high on my radar.
    However I hope that when we retire
    We can travel in or out of country
    (we’ve not yet been to all fifty states –
    I’ve been to a few countries)
    Maybe the hotel walls will be
    White-washed yellow – and that will
    Be enough…

    ©JP/dh

    • susansleggs

      My husband considers Motel 6 camping. He much prefers the comforts of home. I have to admit, I love nature, but tenting is not for me either now that I am 65. Yellow walls sound like a great substitute.

    • robbiecheadle

      You and I share similar views, Jules. I prefer to go to a hotel or self catering cottage to camping. I like my own bathroom.

      • Jules

        I know some folks who like their own bed and facilities that they got a camper for camping. So they don’t have do share anything with anyone else. And it’s nice too – Full shower bath, really nice kitchen. Yes they have to watch their water supply if they can’t find a hook up. But to them that is a minor inconvenience.

      • robbiecheadle

        Yes, that is a good way of doing it – with a camper.

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, you are on a roll! I like the dreaming and compromise. Many RV parks also have cabins. At McLain where I love to hunt rocks, they rent cabins in the off-season for like $35 a night. But BYO bedding. That makes a happy medium.

  33. susansleggs

    Charli,

    I’m glad you feel safe enough to pour your heart out to us and I’m thrilled Hubs has seen a bit of light. Being a caretaker is tough job and I salute you. I hope a spot for inhouse treatment opens sooner than you expect and Sgt. Mills will remember he agreed to go when the time comes. Waiting is the hardest part.

    Wrangling Words with my Vets group went very well. They liked the challenge of attaining 99 words and still telling their story. It was a great day.

    And now on to the yellow tent:

    The Birdcage Cover

    My sisters and I were gathered around an open trunk from our family home. Angelina took out a piece of yellow fabric that was shaped like a small Christmas tree skirt but only had a tiny center hole and snaps along the open edge. I asked, “What’s that?”

    “Do you remember the yellow canary we had when you were little?”

    “Yeah, it sang when we ran water and louder when anyone whistled.”

    “Mother made this from a tablecloth to cover its cage at night after Dad put the umpteenth cigarette burn in it. I wonder why she kept it?”

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Sue, thanks for recognizing that Sgt. Mills might not remember that agreement! He makes strange twists — sometimes they are funny, but often exasperating. He was told to cut back his coffee consumption — one or two cups tops. So today, he announces that he’s cutting back to 2/3 pot of coffee. I was like, wait a minute — that’s 8 cups of coffee! But he says, “They’re small cups.” I’m pretty sure when the doc said one or two, he meant “small” cups, too! But the bigger battle is to get him to continue with high blood pressure medication because he now is saying it was just a trial. Like I said, we have a good team and we are all working with him to do what is in his best interest. Thanks for being a part of the safe space here!

      You flash has both a sense of nostalgia and sorrow. So many tantalizing clues to put together a past that wasn’t sunny as a parakeet. Well done!

  34. robbiecheadle

    PTSD is so hard, Charli. Sometimes it is like living with a stranger and their needs to do their rituals and other things completely overwhelms everything else including love. The real person is still there though, underneath the symptoms and you do get through to them now and then. It is very frustrating and overwhelming for us. Love to you.
    Here is my piece, I wrote it before I read your post so it is a bit naughty rather than uplifting: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/carrotranchflashfiction-yellow-tent/

    • susansleggs

      Sometimes it’s hard to get a non-camper to realize the grandness of camping and nature. I could hear the argument between your characters. Fun.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thank you, Susan. I do appreciate nature, just not overnight [smile]

    • LateNightGirl.org

      You even made a cake! Brilliant!

    • Frank Hubeny

      Having wi-fi in the woods would be good.

      • robbiecheadle

        I suppose it would defeat the purpose of camping but I do like to relax with my blogger friends – I can do without everything else.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Oh, just try camping. You hear and see more, sleep better for the fresh air. As kids we often slept in the yard when not actually camping. I still do occasionally as an adult, much to the delight of the cat. The one worst thing is dew and dampness, be sure to bring your shoes inside the yellow tent at night.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Robbie. It’s better to get help sooner because what we think they are managing can fall apart. The TBI stuff is new for us to understand, too and disheartening to think that it’s degenerative. PTSD on its own is not degenerative so that is good for you to know. Take heart and take care!

      Your flash made me laugh!

    • Jules

      Robbie,
      I’m hoping that all the camping hubby and I did as youngsters is enough to carry us through. We have never (and hopefully never will) gone camping together!

      🙂

  35. The Haunted Wordsmith

    Here’s mine for the week (it’s just a little later than usual)

    Bright Yellow Tent

    “Let’s get you guys this one,” Lucy said, picking up a dome tent.

    Amber and Gin moaned.

    “Girls, the tickets alone were nearly a thousand dollars. I am not buying a top of the line tent for a music festival. Besides, how many people there will have a bright yellow tent?”

    They knew she could still change her mind about letting them go and she had a point about the color of the tent. No one wanted a bright yellow tent. When they arrived and was blinded by sunlight lying on the ground they learned how wrong she was.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Rookies. For that kind of tenting you want dark walls and bring your own flag for the top. That kind of tenting is way worse than camping in the woods, dirtier and more dangerous. So much wild life.
      Fun flash!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a great image of sunlight lying on the ground! Such a sea of tents at those concerts.

    • susansleggs

      I admire the author that can think of non-human characters. Well done.

    • LateNightGirl.org

      This is great. I was thinking at first as well to incorporate Joni M’s Big Yellow Taxi, you did that really well.

      • Sascha Darlington

        Thank you! Maybe you’re as tuned into music as I am? A friend once stated that I could find a song lyric in any statement. 🙂

      • LateNightGirl.org

        Yes, I love music. And even though I am not a Beatle’s fan, I couldn’t help but use Yellow Submarine for my “Beatle’s Wasteland” entry and then later for “The Torch” (under “The Porch”) entry a Rolling Stones song that a Beatle is singing! LOL! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      I like the direction, Sascha!

  36. Liz H

    Here’s my attempt. Combined with another prompt and image. You can decide if there’s any hope at all.
    Cheers! 😉

    Before The Gold Rush

    We’d started loading at the dawning of the third moon. Triage overflowed after the fifth wave from the Kipstanian Crisis. We tried to get the word out to all survivors; transport off our doomed planet ended today.
    [Continue ]

    • Liz H

      (with a nod to Neil Young)

      • Sherri Matthews

        We’re both stirred by a Neil in our flashes this week it seems…great flash, Liz!

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, that’s great writing to be able to allow the reader to surmise an outcome of hope…or not.

  37. calmkate

    Vets everywhere have such a hard time … if you can link up with a wives or ex group it would help tremendously … I know coz I helped set some up and twenty years on those women still support each other. Altho only two are still married 🙁

    Sunny Cindy
    Most prefer to blend into the bush when camping but not Cindy. When searching for firewood she had a tendency to often wander off completely distracted by an insect or looking for rocks or flowers. Hence she found a bright yellow tent was much easier to spot from afar.

    And let’s face it if there are other campers about they cannot wander into Cindy’s by mistake as it’s so distinct. Besides yellow suited her personality as she was a sunny type of lass always smiling and chatting to anyone with the time. Ready to help or listen whenever needed.

    • robbiecheadle

      Clever introduction of the colour in this piece.

      • LateNightGirl.org

        “sunny type of lass”
        I love those old words (lass) that are hardly used these days, didn’t expect this. Great!

      • calmkate

        lol with my attraction to sunflowers and yellow it had to be a feature, thanks Robbie!

    • Charli Mills

      Kate, you are so right about the wives! I have my veteran spouses sisters and I fit in between the Vietnam vet spouses and the Iraq vet spouses. I’m glad you helped set some up and not surprised they are still going 20 years later. Nor am I surprised by only two still married. I love Sunny Cindy!

      • calmkate

        thanks … thought we all needed cheering up 🙂

    • faithanncolburn

      I like your story. We never did that kind of stuff–small house; big farm (for a kid).

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        I made forts as a kid. The one I remember the most is when I used rocks to anchor the sheets. One fell and landed on my big toe. I never used rocks again.

    • LateNightGirl.org

      There’s a lot in here in few words. Great story-telling!

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        Thank you for your kind words. I felt rusty since I haven’t written in a few weeks. Summer break with the kids means I don’t get a lot of free time.

    • Charli Mills

      Summer is no vacation for Mom! Are you looking forward to the start os school soon? I like where you went with your idea of making tents from sheets, Heather.

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        My kids don’t go back to school until after labor day but I do look forward to it. 3 months of summer break is rough.

  38. paulamoyer

    Charli, so sorry to hear about Todd’s ER visit. Never a good time. I have been tied up with family emergencies, too — hence my squeaking under the wire for this week, but here it is.

    No Vacation

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean was 10 years old when she saw it in the catalogue: a bright yellow tent. It gleamed and beckoned. Oh, wouldn’t it be so marvelous – to live in that tent, with her family, on a vacation?

    She sighed and dreamed.

    “I’ve camped enough.” Her dad’s flat response woke her up.

    Twenty years before: “the war.” Simple name.

    Clarence, her dad, served in North Africa, Sicily, France. Like everyone else – “for the duration.” Three years in a khaki tent – no playful yellow.

    “I’ve camped enough.”

    Years later, in her own yellow tent, with her boyfriend, Jean swatted mosquitoes. Understood.

    https://wordpress.com/post/paulajmoyerwrites.wordpress.com/354

    • faithanncolburn

      Wow! I hadn’t thought about the tents really. My dad also camped in one (at least when he wasn’t in a hammock in dense jungle or a foxhole) for three and a half years also during the war. He didn’t camp in a tent when he got home, either.

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Faith!

      • paulamoyer

        Wanted also to say, Faith — no, they didn’t come back wanting to camp! Thanks for that background.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Frank: I do that every time!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! Yeah, mosquitos can turn the best of times into the worst of times.
      Powerful statement, that of the father.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, D. Isn’t it, though? It took forever for me to get what “I’ve camped enough” meant. But the mosquitoes — it’s just part of the deal in Minnesota.

      • faithanncolburn

        I’m going to try essential oils. Works on other insects. Ants flee before a trail of peppermint wiped across the windowsill. UNL’s regional entomologist is experimenting with them to discourage stable flies.

    • Charli Mills

      Sorry to hear you are having family issues, too. It’s never a good time. You bring up an interesting perspective. I’m wondering why WWII and Korean veterans are so different from Vietnam veterans on when it comes to living rough. Your last two lines made me laugh! Minnesota wins the lower 48 award for voracious mossies!

      • paulamoyer

        Thank you, Charli! I will email you. Let’s catch up!

  39. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli, I can’t believe how much I’ve missed at the Ranch…what happened? 🙁 So glad to be back again, and what a wonderful post to return to, so full of hope and optimism in the face of so many setbacks and hardships. For you and Todd and Cynthia. And how wonderful to belong to such a loving and caring community. <3 Like the apple tree, uprooted but heavy with fruit, life never stops giving and growing, does it? 🙂 I read your prompt from your FB link yesterday, but not your post, which I didn't read until just now after I wrote my flash, which is unusual, as usually I write it afterwards, to get a better feel for the story behind your prompt. Maybe that was why I found it so hard to come up with something, but your 'yellow tent' message must have stirred something in me. Ahh…the delicious surprise of 99 word flash fiction revealing a story we didn't know existed: never fails to amaze me…nor you, Charli! Two years ago tomorrow, August 8th, we played Amazing Grace, the Neil Diamond version, for my dad, but I wasn't thinking about that…until now…but obviously I must have been. See what I mean? A long road still to travel, but thank you for a such a heartening message, Charli 🙂 <3

    A Wretch Like Me

    ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…’

    Will sang to his heart’s content, as tuneless as he cared to in his truck and no chiding from Pauline back home fixing dinner, no ma'am.

    ‘That saved a wretch like me…’

    The radio cut dead and Will clamped the breaks. ‘Well, I’ll be damned…’ A tent as yellow as Pauline’s lemon pie covered Bud Wilson’s field and not a soul in sight.

    Then he heard it again, but from the tent. He walked inside.

    ‘I once was lost, but now am found…’

    Bud found Will’s body next morning, comforted by his smile.

    • faithanncolburn

      What a great story!!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you so much, Faith!

    • LateNightGirl.org

      Gosh. I am reading this a few times and have pictures in my mind.

      • Sherri Matthews

        I am moved to know this, thank you greatly, LateNightGirl…

    • robbiecheadle

      An excellent response, Sherri. I also love that song.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you so much Robbie. We played it at my dad’s funeral and is, and always has been, one of my most beloved of all songs.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I love how you spun this tale. There’s a bit of Mystery (and sadness), but in a good way. You do the song justice.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Love that you enjoyed it…wow…high praise…thanks so much, D.

    • Charli Mills

      Has it really been two years, Sherri? To have that song bubble up and lead you to an incredible story shows how connected our creativity is to our healing and processing. I love the description of the color of the tent, too — so full of good memories. I like that he had a smile. Comforting, in deed! 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        I know, I can’t believe it myself. Time flies too fast. You make such an excellent point, Charli. Even when we don’t realise it, our creativity takes us through a healing process that otherwise might have lain dormant. Ha…as for the lemon pie, it made me think, what the heck am I processing here? Several stories in one, I think! You’ve got me thinking some more…a good memory for Will…he was a good man 🙂 Yet…Jon’s (memoir) mother’s name was Pauline. She gave me a lemon meringue pie dish as a gift for Christmas, 1980. I still have it… 😉

      • Charli Mills

        I love how fiction lets your memoir work percolate! And that you are open to the processing.

  40. faithanncolburn

    The Yellow Tent Did It

    It was the yellow tent that did it. I hadn’t camped in years, hadn’t taken out the canoe, hadn’t even jumped in a swimming pool. When I went into Scheels for hand weights (gotta keep up my strength), it was in the next aisle. It looked so bright and lovely. I would ignore the aches in my joints and brave the wilds. Like my dad, I only needed a ring of bologna and a loaf of bread—and I’d make concessions to my years. In my yellow tent I would have my turquoise sleeping bag and an air mattress.

    • Sherri Matthews

      And likewise Faith, what a wonderful story! Makes me want to take up camping again…almost! 😉

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’s all about the air mattress for WBC’s. (would be campers)
      I’m not there yet, like to pack light. A bolder move is to leave behind the bologna and just take the bread and fishing line. I like the optimism and resolve in this flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Faith, I love the lure of the yellow tent and the colorful addition inside. My kind of camping gal! Bologna and bread, turquoise sleeping bag and mat, and it’s the great outdoors. Pop your flash into the form if you’d like to be in the collection!

  41. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Denise!

  42. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Oneta!

  43. Charli Mills

    Good one, H.R.R.!

  44. Liz H

    Lovely! Your imagination colors the worn lines of being a grownup~~we don’t give up!

  45. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  46. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

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  27. Big Yellow Tent | Sascha Darlington's Microcosm Explored - […] was written for Carrot Ranch. Many thanks to […]
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