August 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

August 9, 2018

Ed peers at me from behind the ferns. He’s caught between the darkness of the deep woods and the sunlight pouring through the opening in the trees. I’d like to think Ed is “Ed McMahon” with a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstake check the size of a refrigerator door and enough zeros to last a lifetime of book-buying. Or Ed, as in the name of a yet-unknown publisher who knocks to say, “Golly-gosh, we love your writing – here’s a contract.”

No, Ed is a deer. A soft-eared doe with big dark, curious eyes peers at me from a glen in Minnesota that I’ve never seen. The photo is a gift, one of several that Keto Man gave me after an interview.

First, Keto Man is the very last member-owner of a co-op I will ever interview. He marks the conclusion of an era for me, the final one after seventeen years of interviews. During that time, I caught the stories of hundreds of co-op members, organic farmers, artisan cheese producers, and entrepreneurs.

Peering back at that time in my life, I see all who I interviewed as part of a colorful tapestry of a vibrant community food system. Food cooperatives in the US rose out of the need for people to have whole food. The movement countered processed meals, added sugar, and expense. In Berkley and Minneapolis, co-ops adopted the symbol of a fisted carrot: Food for people, not for profit!

Sound familiar? Carrot Ranch…Words for people! Sure, I lopped off the “not for profit part” because I emphatically believe literary artists, like all artists, should be valued and paid for their work. The name Carrot Ranch acknowledges community activism centered on fairness, and as a literary arts community, I believe in the power of writers to rise and say something powerful in the world tussle between chaos and order.

Literary art belongs to the people, not the ivory towers or pocketbooks of profit-first publishing. People first. Nothing against publishing dynasties or ivory towers. I love New York and vow to go back as a published author one day. But the industry strangles voices with a profit-driven model. And I’m not against higher education — I’m headed back to the ivory towers of liberal arts next month.

Of course, my position at Finlandia University suits my inner maverick. As an adjunct, I’ll be teaching a CTE Marketing course to high school juniors and seniors who get to enroll in college. Already I get to circumvent some of the pomp of being a full-fledged prof. I’m invited to the week-long orientation for new professors, but I can pick and chose which events to attend. I like that.

But I did have to get fingerprinted and entered into the FBI database. That’s a requirement of the Copper Country School District. I understand and made the most of my jail visit to the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department. I even got to sit in the sheriff’s office and talk to him about teaching (he used to be an adjunct at Finlandia, too). He agreed to talk to my class about how professionalism is part of his department’s brand.

In fact, I’ve been reaching out to many local business owners, companies and entrepreneurs to speak as guests. I hope to have one a week. I want to expose my students to many varied ideas about what they could do with a marketing career. And I want to drive home the only rule my classroom will have: always be professional. If any disciplinary issues arise, as administrators fear given that this is the first time they’ve opened their campus to high school students, I can begin with, “What would a professional do?” One required reading for the course will be “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.

Keto Man didn’t think our interview would last 20 minutes. My former client wanted one more member-owner profile after I completed my last project for them. As is the case with such last-minute stories, they turned over a willing candidate to interview. Keto Man didn’t think he was interesting. He wasn’t. He was fascinating and inspiring.

For starters, he led me to a dark place, as dark as the woods behind a deer. Like me, he has no cable television thus eliminating the 24-hour news media nonsense. While I support journalism and believe in a nation’s free-press, the US saw the information age give way to the misinformation age. Keto Man directed me to Jordan Peterson and The Intellectual Dark Web. I’ve only watched a few clips and not anything I’m compelled to share yet, but I fully understand the allure of intellectualism, of long conversations, of discourse.

As a literary writer, I support what Jordan Peterson says: When you are in college and have those years carved out for you, read every book you can in the library. Yes! Read deep and read broadly. It reminds me of how I often struggled as a writer in my twenties because I felt I didn’t have anything to say. And I was right. The twenties are for reading, for digesting. Sure, writing is a huge part of processing what you think about what you read, but you must input information and experiences, first.

Also, I’d add – go live! Go be a parent and understand that dirty diapers are daily, and you’ll get over yourself in a hurry. Go to college and cram all night, write every day and read every book until your eyes cross. Go work a job, any job, especially a job that doesn’t fulfill you, so you can understand what does bring you satisfaction. Go to the mountains, to the sea, to the desert, to the city, to someplace new. Go travel and talk to people who are different until you understand they are just like you.

And never stop. Never stop learning, experiencing, and using your voice to say something. Observe. Create. Express. Write. Repeat.

I connected with Keto Man. I understood his interest in long conversations and civil debates. I like the idea of the Dark Web for taking hot social topics and debating them on a long forum and following up with audience questions. Yes, I long for more intelligent discourse. However, I also long for more compassion. As with everything, balance.

Further in the interview, Keto Man explained a health crisis he experienced to which he responded by eliminating all sugar and grains. I felt inspired by his action. He’s on a ketogenic diet which has eliminated the culprit of inflammation. He is able to process his health so differently from many veterans like the Hub. Next time a VA doctor says the Hub is normal for his age, I have a comparison.

My adjustment with the Hub correlates to a phrase Anne Godwin gifted me with last week: my veteran’s a reluctant patient with a hard-to-diagnose condition. He’s not normal for his age. Even the 86-year old man who conversed with me at the beach/office today could hold focus better than the Hub.

I’m writing, and occasionally peering at others, as I’m officing from a picnic table at Hancock City Beach. A man with two teeth approaches and tells me a joke in such rapid Finnish-English I laugh, not because I understand but because I don’t. Then I tell him a joke. Evidently, this is a Finnish custom for opening a conversation. He lingers and asks why I’m at a picnic table with a computer on such a beautiful day. Exactly! It’s such a beautiful day, I wanted to go down to Portage Canal and write.

Tomorrow we have the first of several evaluations for the Hub. They will be peering into his service records, his medical records and at his old bones. I’d rather be peering at rocks or at a deer that might be named Ed. That will come later.

August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 14, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Ed in the Woods by Charli Mills

Ed was peering at me again. I could feel his gaze crawl across my shoulders. Let me finish the chapter, Ed. The Legendary Leaphorn is in the arroyo. The tickle continues. I persevere, finish the chapter and set down Tony Hillerman’s latest southwest detective book.

Snagging a sip from my gin, tonic, and blueberries, I grab a fresh-husked corn.

Ed still peers at me from the edge of the woods. His ears twist like radar. Slowly I raise my offering. He hesitates, leans in and nibbles from my hand. The deer dashes off, leaving me to read in peace.

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  1. Norah

    Best wishes for good results from the VA’s evaluations. I look forward to hearing the outcomes.
    One door closes and another opens – no more interviews – back to school. You’ll make a great teacher for those students. Act professionally is good advice. I guess it sort of equates to respectfully.
    The deer photo is cute. Deer aren’t native to Australia but some sports-minded people imported some for hunting purposes. Many escaped and now wander the suburbs. There are some living close by. We occasionally see them on the street when we’re coming home at night. At Christmas time, people decorate the road signs warning of deer with tinsel and add a red nose to the image. It’s amusing.
    I enjoyed your flash, being peered at by a deer. Nice of you to share your food with him. How lovely to have an up-close and personal encounter. Nice to see you reading widely and deeply in your own flash story.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah. I’m not sure what to expect it how long to find out if they rate the Hub. Funny thing about completing my last interview, today I did one on my own accord! I had started collecting the flood and landslide stories in Ripley and now I’m collecting stories beyond the village. I interviewed someone who had trees come through his home. Many traffic details but he chooses to focus on the positives. What all the flood interviewees say is how their communities gathered around them, no questions asked. So, there, another new door. Oh, that’s hilarious, to decorate the deer sign. You might have Ed’s cousin hanging around. Mostly my flash was fiction, except for reading Tony Hillerman!

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thanks also for continuing to update us. I was wondering how he was doing (and also feeling a bit of a gossip for wanting to pry into your life, haha!).

      • Norah

        I hope you don’t have to wait too long for results, Charli, and help.
        Trees through his home! How wonderful that the community has gathered together in such a positive way. Inspirational – and lots of stories ripe for the picking.
        I thought your story was fiction – flash, but fiction. 🙂
        Have a great weekend.

      • Charli Mills

        Some days, H.R.R., I think my life is following some crazy soap opera script that I’m constantly trying to rewrite! My daughter and I are working on an Instagram account called Sgt. Mills to add some humor to the situation. If you’ve ever been around anyone who has recovered from a stroke or has dementia, you’ll realize they have diminished filters. Add that to a former US Army Ranger who thinks the doctors are all wrong and has crazy conspiracy theories, and laughter is the only thing that gets us through (he laughs, too and is constantly trying to get our attention with antics). So… coming soon! I’ll keep you all posted. Today, we get his bones evaluated. In two weeks, his head, and next month he’s off to the PTRP or what my daughter is calling “our vacation.”

      • Miriam Hurdle

        It’s a great progress to have his bone, his head… tested so that the doctor could do something and hopefully you have a better picture of how to cope with the situation.
        It’s a long road (it has been a long road). I appreciate the way you and your daughter face it with humor!

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Miriam — we’re making progress and doing what we can for the long haul. Humor helps!

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story, Surprise!

      She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

      You can find it here:

      • paulamoyer

        Oh… spooky, Norah! You really packed this space with rich detail and suspense.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Paula. I’m pleased this episode worked for you.

      • Charli Mills

        A well-played surprise, Norah, adding to last week’s story and changing the tone. I can think of many silly and scary reasons for her to scream at what he made — maybe he left some rope for a symbol of “tying the knot” and in her frazzled state, she misread it as a noose. I’m wondering if they’ll overcome their camping misadventures…

      • Norah

        Hmmm, interesting suggestion, Charli.
        I wonder too. I’ll have to wait and see if they want to tell me more. 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        Oh, the suspense! I want to know…hope you’re writing the next installment Norah! Great flash 🙂

      • Norah

        Hi Sherri, Thank you. She hasn’t told me what she saw yet. 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        Ha…so we’re both in suspense then Norah! I hope she tells you soon! 😀

      • Norah

        Me too! 🙂

    • Jules

      We have deer all over. And deer crossing signs as well – some folks have put the red dot on the nose… but that’s about it. We also have geese and I think I’ve even seen duck crossing signs.

      But we don’t have any Kangaroo and Koala crossing signs 🙂

      • Norah

        The deer would be a problem for motorists. I like the duck crossing signs. They’re very cute. We do have kangaroo and koala signs. They don’t always take notice though, sadly.

      • Jules

        Signs are for people… *sign*
        I wonder if the Roo, Koala, deer, duck and geese know where the signs are … 😉

      • Norah

        I was just being silly, Jules. 🙂 I’m not sure that people take all that much notice either.

  2. Miriam Hurdle

    Charli, how exciting that you’re invited to the week-long orientation for new professors, and you can pick and chose which events to attend. What a great feeling to have. Good to hear that your hubby started the testing. Give us the update on the progress.

    Here’s the flash:


    Peering from the wood, something got its attention. It dashed across the road.
    Thump, thump, thud!
    “Oh, no. I didn’t see it coming.” Sid and Cindy jumped out of the car.
    “The impact was forceful. It crushed the front of the car.”
    “Is the deer okay?” Cindy looked at its head.
    “Let’s wait. It’s trying to get up…”
    “It’s limping across the road.”
    “it went across okay… No, it flopped and lied still.”
    “Do we want to go camping?”
    “The engine suffered the impact. Let’s go home.”
    * * *
    “Our car took the last breath getting us home.”

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Miriam! I respond to H.R.R. above about a lighthearted Instagram my daughter and I are setting up about Life with Sgt. Mills. We use humor a lot and he’s always sending us funny selfies. As for updates I’ll keep you all posted although we often have long periods of waiting…

      Nothing worse than that “Thump, thump, thud.” It’s an extended sound, and experience, troubling for all involved. Not to mention, the car is never the same again!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        The car didn’t make it. My daughter and her hubby had to sell it. They got a good car before the baby’s arrival. <3

      • Charli Mills

        I’m glad they got something more reliable for “baby on board”!

    • robbiecheadle

      A sad story, Miriam

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, Robbie. I’m sad for the deer. My daughter bought a new car.

    • Jules

      It is always disheartening to see ‘animals’ lining the highway.
      I’m not sure who is responsible for the ‘clean-up’.

      I think some do get permission to take the meat… but you do have to know what you are doing. I know people eat a variety of wild meats. But I usually hunt in the grocery isles…

      • Miriam Hurdle

        In my daughter’s area, that would be the Oregon wildlife control to pick up the dead deer. People would call and give them the location. I understand picking up in the grocery isles!!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Did you mark your site private? There’s no access to your site.

      • Jules

        The Carrot Ranch post is here:
        Fox Cub
        The icon doesn’t go to my Fiction site.
        But in my entry at CR the title is the link to my post.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I see. You mention that before. I’ll click the right link next time.

      • Jules

        Sorry for the confusion. The Icon doesn’t go to any blog that is open – I’m not sure how to switch that.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        No problem. I found you and left comment.

      • Jules

        Thank you. 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Jules. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Maybe’s it’s more common in some places, but I know that fresh road kill can be harvested. Like you, Jules, I prefer to hunt the local grocery store or co-op!

    • Charli Mills

      The doe knows! Good one, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • robbiecheadle

      Lovely and creepy, Joelle.

    • Jules

      I’m glad ‘he’ heeded her intuitive warning.

      • floridaborne

        Some guys just don’t like to be alone in the dark with a “witchy” woman. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Rosemary. I feel like I’m prof-light! I’m really looking forward to it. Yes, the photo really grabbed me. It has depth and so much to yield.

      • Rosemary Carlson

        Charli: You’re not anything “light!” Your students will be very lucky to have you!! BTW, loved those white birch trees in the photo prompt. They don’t grow naturally here though I’m trying to grow one in my yard. So far, it’s making it.

      • Charli Mills

        Aw, thank you for saying that Rosemary. I hope your birch makes it and clusters. I love a birch tree that has expanded like that.

    • robbiecheadle

      This is heart-warming, Rosemary.

    • Jules

      I was totally charmed.
      Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Deepa!

  3. pensitivity101

    Hi Charli. Good luck!

    Here’s my flash

    Here’s looking at you

    Did you hear it? That gentle rustling in the leaves.
    Did you see it? A quick flash of a white flagged rump.
    Did you catch it? Yes, but only on film.
    Did it see you? Most definitely, it was looking right at me.

    I often wonder what animals think of us humans when they see us intruding on their domain. I am certain there are more creatures looking at us than we realise.
    The woods are alive with insects, snakes, animals and birds.
    It is their world, and we abuse it. In fact, we’re killing it with our pollution.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Di! Yes, all around us nature is alive. What we poison in the natural world, we do to ourselves, too. I like the idea of being watched by other critters, as long as I’m not being considered for a meal.

      • pensitivity101

        I often see the birds watching us from the fence or rooftop, especially pigeons! We have a rather noisy sparrow that chatters at me until I fill the bird feeder!

      • Charli Mills

        Birds can get bossy!

  4. Ritu

    Good luck with the various evaluations for Hub, Charli!
    I was drawn to Keto Man because I have been trying the Keto way of eating the past couple of days. It’s meant to help with PCOS, which I have (the reason I struggled to have my two beautiful, but trying, miracles) and Diabetes, which I worry about more as both my parents are mildly diabetic.
    I’m hoping to feel many different health benefits.
    And the prompt… Oooh, that could work as a sequel to my ? tent story last week! ???? I’ll be on it today!

    • Charli Mills

      Just when I was thinking I needed to learn more, you posted a wealth of information! If it helps with PCOS, it would probably be good for other female concerns. Ha! Yes, a deer in the woods seems a natural extenuation of last week! We might learn more of Peter’s fate, or perhaps only the grazing deer know…

      • Ritu

        I’m glad my post was informative!

        Well you got to see a bit of what Peter did!!!

      • Charli Mills

        He’s in big trouble!

  5. quiall

    “Look! Seriously, come here and look!”

    “What? What? I’m eating. You are interrupting my lunch.”

    “Look over there . . .”

    “Where, I don’t see . . .oh yeah. It’s peering from the woods. It’s kinda scrawny.”

    “Do you think it’s alone?”

    “Nah, they never travel alone. They’re usually in packs.”

    “Packs! Are we safe? Will it kill us?”

    “Has it seen us? Or it is just wandering around for fun?”

    “Wandering for fun? Do you think I should go up to it? Say HI?”

    “Well, you could . . . but maybe you should leave the human alone.”

    • robbiecheadle

      A great flash.

      • quiall


    • paulamoyer

      Wow! That last line turns it on its head. Love it!

      • quiall

        Thanks! It was fun to write.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Great twist! Unfortunately, some do travel in packs. Don’t feed the humies!

      • quiall

        I like that . . “humies”!

    • Charli Mills

      This might turn into an outdoor soap opera!

      • Ritu

        You never know!!! ????

  6. denmaniacs4


    At that time, the lake was more a swamp.

    Stumps rose like rogue cannons, wooden effigies of flooded farmland.

    We hiked the deer path that edged the water. Eventually, we found a grassy knoll that afforded a cushion of comfort and privacy.

    Our adolescent fumbling’s did not betray us.

    Soft sun bathed my lover’s skin.

    Still, something, real, imagined, concerned her.

    “Are you sure we’re alone?” she whispered.

    I was sure of very little then.

    “Why?” I asked, looking into the nearby bush.

    “I don’t know,” she said. “It just feels creepy.”

    That did it.

    We hightailed outta there.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Bill, young romance is vulnerable to so much.

      • denmaniacs4

        Yes, Charli, including romanticizing the angst of the adolescent roller coaster…

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    So They Say

    “Hey, Aussie!”
    “G’day Pal. Where’s Kid?”
    “Hmmph. I ain’t too sure. Still tentin’ I reckon. Complained last week about yeller tents and then takes off fer the woods totin’ one.”
    “Well, look here, Pal, a note. It says, ‘See ya later Pal. Shorty says I am to appear in the woods.’ Seems Kid has misread the prompt.”
    “’Appears so Aussie. Dang!”
    “What’s wrong, Pal? Kid does just fine in the woods.”
    “Normally, yeah, but who knows what these ranch hands is gonna put inta the woods with this prompt. Why, they even say there’s a Bigfoot out and about.”
    “Oh, I hope Kid doesn’t come across Bigfoot!”
    “Me too, Aussie, poor Bigfoot doesn’t deserve that. Hey, do you feel like we’re bein’ watched or somethin’?”
    “Yes, I do, Pal. Why, who is that peering from the woods there? Kid!”
    “Aussie! Pal! I’m back.”
    “We kin see that. Where ya bin?”
    “I been appearin’ in woods all over. Went west. It was wild. Saw fossils an’ artsy facts an’ muse-icians.”
    “You call that campin’?”
    “Call it vacationin’. Guess who I spied peerin’ from the woods when I was tentin’?”
    “Frannie Hooe. Least they say it was her.”

    • robbiecheadle

      These are great, well done.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks, Robbie. I am always happy if these characters amuse more than just me.

    • Jules

      Robust laughing from Penns Woods.

    • Charli Mills

      Kid’s gon adventuring! Seems appearing in some great localities, too. Getting cultured, even. I might even know an inside scoop on some of those adventures. Keep filling the well! And be mindful of Big Foot and Frannie Who-Ho.

  8. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,

    Your thoughts about teaching, observations, to “go live” , and “peering from the woods” got me thinking of two very courageous women:

    Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, and their work in the African forests with chimpanzees & gorillas.

    That, and the FF already posted, gave me possible ideas for the FF — maybe dinosaurs ?! something along the lines of Jurassic Park!

    • Charli Mills

      The work of both women who peered into the jungles so we could have a deeper understanding is a good thought. Jurassic Park could be terrifying! Although, in all fairness, we never had a Jane Goodall to report back to us on the lives of dinosaurs. That could be an interesting story, Kate.

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Connection

    “I can’t do this anymore.”

    “What? The research? The constant camping it requires? Or…us?”

    “All of it. I’m just done.”

    “Ok. I’m sorry if this crazy venture made our relationship impossible. I’ll hike out with you. I’ve given up on ever finding Sasquatch. I’m done too.”

    It wasn’t just his obsession with his work. She’d never felt a strong connection with him. She knew now that she could have more.

    While he packed up the equipment, she hid the tufts of hair she’d found under a stone, brushed over a footprint.

    Sasquatch peered from the woods, relieved and sad.

    • Jules

      Sasquatch have families don’t they?
      At least now… if you’ve seen the pizza commercials – they can order take-out 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Big Foot did make it into a story! And one with a sad shift in priorities because of a lopsided relationship.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      They trudged to the logging road together, loaded the equipment into his truck, rode in silence to the general store where her car was parked.
      “I guess he doesn’t exist”, he said to her as goodbye.
      “I guess not”, she replied, and went into the store as he drove away.
      Resupplied, she returned to where she had seen the signs and had felt Sasquatch’s presence. She was learning that finding Sasquatch doesn’t require any electronic equipment, only being fearless and open-hearted.
      She smiled to find wildflowers left for her on a log, smiled that he’d known she’d be back.

      • Charli Mills

        aw, it’s blossoming into a love story!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        No, Boss. (I don’t write those) They get each other that’s all.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s the best kind of love.

      • Jules

        Open hearts earn trust. That’s all that’s needed.

    • robbiecheadle

      This is great, Michael

    • Jules

      I like how you incorporated the fairy tale. 🙂

      • Michael

        Thanks Jules

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

    • reading journeys

      Great graphics for the Medusa!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much! 😀

    • susansleggs

      I admire how you can continue your exciting story week to week. Well done.

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much!! 😀
        I am so glad it is being followed!

    • Jules

      I may not have read all the gems yet… I’ll have to go back and see.
      Maybe you can make a page with the links?

      • the dark netizen

        Hey! 🙂
        I have created links to every part on this post! 😀

      • Jules

        Most of them anyway… ‘Transformation’ wasn’t on the list… but I read it also. 🙂

        Got to read ’em. Reminds me of the TV shows with the Bionic Man/ 6 Million $ Man and then Woman… series in the 1970’s … guess I’m showing my age 😉

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much! 😀
        I will have to check those shows out, but I am glad my writing can show glimpses of pop shows! 🙂 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      This fits in nicely with your collection. Great read, Net!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much!! 😀 😀

  10. Annecdotist

    Thanks for the acknowledgement and for sharing that lovely photo, Charli. I often see deer on my walks, but if one is ever that close we’re both so startled there’s no chance of a photo.

    Exciting times ahead with your teaching. I have no particular talent for relating to adolescents, but I imagine that if you approach them respectfully and with expectations of professionalism they would respond positively.

    My post is on self-imposed impossible deadlines, so the other side of the coin, with a flash about Watching out for the birdwatcher

    What’s behind those overambitious targets and self-imposed deadlines?

    • robbiecheadle

      A lovely flash, Anne.

    • Charli Mills

      Most deer I encounter dash away, but if they become accustom to your presence, they become less shy and exhibit a curious nature. I got to see one nurse a fawn in Idaho and the fawn behaved like a calf, butting its head at its mother and bleating like a goat. I had never heard such a sound from typically quiet deer!

      I’m not sure I possess that talent, either, Anne! I did get to teach an afternoon session of writing to teens at a MI Tech Summer Youth Camp and I find when adolescents are interested in a subject, they are easier to teach. If they are signing up for a college course, I’m thinking they want to be in the class.

      Good question and post!

  11. pedometergeek

    Lone Ranger

    Going crazy, our cat saw something in the dark that she felt shouldn’t be in her territory. At first, I couldn’t see anything, but her night vision is better, but then I noticed the glint of dark eyes staring at us from the wildflower garden. A tangle of weeds and flowers blossom on the edge of the property, allowing for fauna hiding within, and on this night, the masked bandit was hiding inside.

    Why the raccoon was there wasn’t apparent until the next day when we discovered our sweet corn was decimated, a tasty snack for a midnight marauder.

    Nancy Brady

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      My mother raised corn in our family garden and as soon as it was ready for us to eat, the coons got to it first! You’ve brought back some sweet and sour memories, Nancy!

      • pedometergeek

        It was disappointing for us as well, Molly. Sorry to bring up sour memories. I guess we’ll be hitting the farmer’s market if we want fresh corn. Alas…

    • Charli Mills

      Perfect title for a marauding raccoon, Nan! Cats are sensitive to lurkers.

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      Every mom’s worst nightmare! (Both attempts posted, so don’t fear. You did it correctly! It takes a little time for the links to post sometimes, I think.)

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Oneta! It’s a dual entry — use the form if you’d like to be published in the weekly collection, and post or link back here if you’d like to interact with the community. Sometimes the linkbacks delay. Thanks for your patience and your stories!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

  12. Jules


    I really like your flash. 😉 …More on the way from that fabulous Library find.
    Also glad some things with the Hub are working out. Best to your teaching and community.

    You reminded me of the time I saw a stag a few yards over from mine in the mist one late fall or early winter morning. But I couldn’t get close enough for a photo. Though I think I do have some of a doe crossing my yard… somewhere.

    I went with a different animal… it is where the prompt took me;
    Fox Cub

    Seeming to be always at as well as on edge;
    creeping closer just to see if it was safe. Like
    her namesake, senses on high alert – always.

    They had left her to fend for herself. Was there
    a lesson to be learned? Distant from community,
    yet wanting to be a part – included, but always
    to some extent excluded.

    They made up excuses for her lack of cooperation.
    Dim-witted, ignorant, lame; would limping be her
    way of life.

    The forest had felt safer when the sun was out.
    But there were predators everywhere. Perhaps
    that was the lesson They taught?


    • robbiecheadle

      Life can be like this for some people, Jules. Those who are different often lurk on the edges of social life as they don’t really fit in with others, try as they might. I was so happy when I finished school and didn’t have to try to fit in with teen life anymore.

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      This one is deep, Jules. Included, and yet always excluded – how many of us feel that way in our lives? That is so much a part of the human condition. Well done!

      • Jules

        …everything we write could be a BoTS…
        as everything we (all of us) write reflects the human condition in some way. ~Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, you know what’s on my reading plate! I love some Hillerman like good comfort food. Ah, our nature encounters are always so fleeting, never time for the snapshot unless it’s a lucky shot. Your poignant flash makes me feel a rescue is needed!

      • Jules

        You “Rock” – Grands are visiting twice this week 🙂

        Surviving and living – share a fine balance.
        I think we all have memories, and even some present life moments we would like to be rescued from…

      • Charli Mills

        That’s when a good book or curious pile of rocks can rescue the moment and take us elsewhere. Enjoy exploring with the grands!

  13. calmkate

    Hi Charli and Cyber Clan
    … always appreciate your posts Charli as they are well written straight from the heart … your students will be very blessed to have you guiding them with guest speakers and all your experience …
    hubby, things are on the turn but maybe there are no real solutions just some clues on how to cope better …
    your fiction is so cute but I’ve gone for something quite different, very Australian and more cute with photos of the farm I’m moving to soon … be sure to check it out 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate! I’m excited about your move. Farm life is so full of possibility and ripe with stories.

      • calmkate

        you are so right about that Charli … looked at quite a few farms and just the owners themselves are such characters … let alone their livestock 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Farm (characters included)!

  14. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    Hi everyone, here is this weeks story…..

    Startled. Her eyes snap open. The right side of her face and mouth pressed into wet pine needles. Above her the sky, barely visible through the dark canopy of spruce.
    Her arm aches and somehow her dress has been torn. She unfurls herself from the forest floor, searches for her phone, her bag, anything that will explain why she is here. Nothing.
    The only sound, the creaking of trees as they move in a wind she cannot feel. She sees eyes peering brightly from the trees and hears the roar of traffic from the highway. Then nothing but cold.

    • Charli Mills

      You grab us with your one-word opener and take us moment by moment into the unsettling discovery. Chilling perspective.


    My Entry:


    “Fawn within fawn”

    “Oh deer! No headlights this time; Just eye to eye”, I thought to myself when I encountered this beautiful beast unsuccessfully trying to camouflage as a tree. Its two-leaf ears gave it away! My green coat may have equally looked like food, too, but I actually was looking for some game, yet couldn’t bring myself to break it to the fawn, gun in hand!

    What now?! We could both pretend neither is here or just hop on to the next best eatable opportunity down the food chain.

    I leave it to the reader to decide what happened next.



    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for the fun wordplay, oh deer! I’m going to decide the hunter went home and had a salad. 🙂

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      Well done, Robbie. I like the way you brought some tension into a family picnic. I’m glad it had a happy ending! You did a lot in 99 words.

    • Jules

      I lost (and found) my eldest when he was little in a department store – I can’t imagine losing a child in the woods.

    • Charli Mills

      They are draining, Robbie and it’s frustrating that literally, each bone has to be assessed and evaluated. And there are set protocols for treatment and re-evaluation. It’s a lot of redundancy. Thanks! I look forward to the teaching post. I enjoyed peering at your frosted tree, too!

  16. Peregrine Arc

    Peering Through

    Mary stood in her bedroom, staring closely into the antique mirror hung on the peeling wallpaper. Music crackled on the radio from across the hallway.

    An oil painting hung behind Mary of a lake and cabin scene at dusk. A man was smoking a glowing pipe patiently, peering from the woods. She could smell the smoke.

    But every night, after Mary finally turned away from the mirror, the man vanished. The painting returned to normal, barren of any figures.

    But the light was left on in the cabin tonight. And its front door was left open, quiet and inviting.

    I’ve been reading some Le Fanu short horror stories lately. I think he’s rubbing off on me.

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      Very scary! I love it! I couldn’t get your link to work – it seemed to want me to write a new blog post.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Sorry about that–must’ve been in a different viewing mode when I was writing?

    • Jules

      Have you ever read or watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?
      That’s just what your piece reminded me of. 🙂

      • Peregrine Arc

        That is one of my favorite movies!! I like to listen to it even when I’m cleaning and have it playing in the background.

      • Jules

        Last year sometime I caught the first black and white version…movie… not the TV series. I never saw the colorized remake. 🙂

        I also thought of a Star Trek the Next Generation episode where the doctor falls for the ‘spirit’…

      • Peregrine Arc

        Hmm I haven’t seen that Star Trek episode; I think I’ve mainly just seen the movies. Sounds very interesting.

        I didn’t know the movie was originally black and white. I think my dvd version is color. I love that first scene when he keeps blowing out her match. Classic. Love the lighting.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thanks. 🙂

      • Peregrine Arc

        Le Fanu has a short story about a painting/photo changing. It’s where I drew inspiration from. He’s such a good story teller.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Big thanks–both for the correct link and for the comment. 🙂 Hope the goosebumps went away.

    • Charli Mills

      Such a classic kind of horror story, Peregrine! It’s beautiful, though — the painting and the mirror.

      • Peregrine Arc

        Thank you. 🙂 I’m loving it, too.

  17. oneletterup

    Thanks Charli for another great prompt!!
    My contribution:


    She likes it here. How the breeze blows her hair as she swings. Back and forth.
    The soft sweat pants protect the scabs on her legs.

    “What’s your name?” the little boy keeps asking.
    But she keeps shaking her head. Silent.

    The little girl asks “Ya wanna swing with me?”
    She smiles and nods.

    In mid swing she sees it.
    A flash of red. Movement.
    In woods across the street.
    Foot down scraping grass.
    Swing slows. Jumps off. Stares hard.
    Fists clench.

    Someone is peering at her from under a tree.

    Turning around, she runs.
    The little girl follows.

    • Charli Mills

      You keep finding a way for this story and I hope the girl finds a way out!

    • Jules

      One way to discourage paparazzi …

      • anuragbakhshi


    • Charli Mills

      I’m going to rethink the cuteness factor of critters now, Anurag! A tale that won’t go away easily once read.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha. Sorry 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Keep it up — you’ll be memorable!

  18. paulamoyer

    Charli, your posts are so rich and disclosing. Great to talk to you this week! So great about the teaching gig. Continue to keep us posted about Todd.


    Becoming Wild

    By Paula Moyer

    February, 1966: Jean’s family did a suburbs-to-small-town move. Home was a two-bedroom rental at the edge of town. Behind the house, a woodsy spot. Jean was 13, Sam 11, Donny 9.

    When summer came, that spot grew dark with leaves. Sam and Donny disappeared into it every morning after breakfast. They would grab lunch and vanish again. Jean ignored them, practiced the piano.

    “Jean, go get the boys,” Mom called from the kitchen. “It’s supper time.”

    Sounded easy. Jean stood at the trees’ edge. “Guys, supper!”


    Her pupils adjusted. Then Donny’s eyes found hers. Here he was wild.

    (Hope the URL is right. This is what I get when I write the blog, post it, close and reopen.

  19. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    Reading your weekly flash fiction column is like an injection of motivation for me, Charli. You awaken my love of learning, creating, and exploring new ways to view the world. The foundation for all my writing has been the words I have read and my life experience. And no, your husband’s condition is not ‘normal for his age.’ I hope and pray the work up will yield some answers – preferably treatable. I didn’t think I had a story for this week’s flash fiction, but I went for a walk this morning and this is what came to me.

    A taste of wisdom

    Mary tapped a forbidden cylinder from the box. She couldn’t believe her good fortune, having found half a pack beside the road. She peered through the woods at her home, struck a match, and took her first drag.

    I didn’t even cough. I knew I’d be good at this.

    Later she shuffled home, wondering how to conceal her headache and nausea.

    At the sound of the screen door, her mother said, “What have you been doing?”

    “Does God give you what you want to teach you stuff?”

    Her mother smelled cigarette smoke, observed her daughter’s pale countenance, and smiled.

    • Charli Mills

      Molly, I love the essence of learning and exploring life. See — you went for a walk and stimulated a story! A clever one, too that portrays learning at it’s hardest — experience!

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        Walking is one of my best sources of inspirations, Charli, along with people like you. Experience is an effective teacher, but as you say it is not an easy one!

  20. susansleggs

    The people you interview sound so interesting and they certainly give you lots of fodder for writing and comparisons. I never thought of how we peer into others lives but realize now, I do it all the time, always wondering what makes another tick. The food-co-op would be right up my alley. Fresh is always better in my book.

    I also agree with your thoughts on professionalism. I feel anyone that is professional, must also be respectful so it would make for a more valuable interaction among students, co-workers, or even neighbors. Maybe I can pass it to other groups I am involved in.

    Keep us posted on the Hubs and hang in there. I’m glad you have your spouses group so you can vent to those that “get it.” …….. On to peering.

    Unwelcome Guests

    “My Dad told me the new people in the fenced mansion belong to the Mob,”
    Rock said.

    “I heard it was some rich old guy with a sexy young wife,” Dude answered.

    Crazy, always needing excitement, suggested, “Let’s sneak through the woods to see what we can see by their pool.”

    Shortly the rowdies peered around dense manicured bushes at scantily clad young beauties.

    A body guard turned their direction saying loudly, “I can feel eyes on us.” He reached behind his back bringing a gun forward and fired a shot above their heads. “Next time I won’t miss!”

    • Jules

      Something about fences making good neighbors…
      Some folks though are just… crazy.

    • tnkerr

      Could’ve turned out badly for those hooligans. Great story.

    • Charli Mills

      I really do enjoy interviewing people for their stories. I’m glad you’ve noticed your own inclination to observe and explore. I’ve enjoyed your veteran stories you’ve captured. The food co-ops in Minneapolis and St. Paul are amazing! I always like looking for co-ops when I travel. There’s one in Hancock and it’s only two blocks away. I walk there a lot!

      Your flash reflects the curiosity we have for the lives of others, and how walls only make us want to see over them. The boys were in for several surprises and danger!

  21. tnkerr

    This was an interesting one and my mind went instantly to an old song. The visual I’ve carried from that song set the basis for this quick story, titled: The Lewis and Rebman Expedition

    Lewis increased his pace to catch up and have a word with Rebman, “I expect our way will be blocked when we round the next bend. Have you seen them?”

    “Seen whom?” Rebman asked. He glanced about, now noticing flashes of bright crimson and deep indigo between the dense trees. He asked, “Who are they?”

    “The locals here are autochthonous,” Lewis advised. “The claim to be descended from Lellages, the purported elder son of Belabub. Who, in turn, was a Philistine god. The Hebrews called him Beelzebub, the Christians, called him Satan.”


    “I believe so, Rebman. I believe so.”

    • Charli Mills

      That’s quite the visual, TN! And I learned a new word from you: autochthonous.

    • Charli Mills

      That crawl is real but always head for the light. Thanks for sharing Allison!

      • Allison Maruska

        Thanks for hosting, as always. ????

  22. tnkerr

    I’ll never get all of these read, this week. I’ll try but it’s gonna be tough. My apologies to you all, just not enough time this time. I’ll keep trying and should do better next time.

    • Charli Mills

      With so many writers, do the best your time allows. There’s no obligation, although part of literary art is reading and discussing. The collection breaks down 10-minute segments if you’re interested in catching up there. I love arranging the flash in interesting ways and it’s fun to read them all. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I sometimes think cats imagine themselves bigger and wilder when outside. I like where you went with the prompt, Heather.

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        I live to watch them wiggle before they pounce. They may be small but when outside they go back to being a wild predator.

      • Charli Mills

        Mini-jungle cats!

  23. Sherri Matthews

    Ahh…a gin and tonic and beautiful Ed (what a darling photo!) peering out from the woods. Serene, despite the reading interruption. Charli, your post is so beautifully written and so inspiring <3 Thank you! I knew I would not be able to write a memoir in my twenties, not least of all because I had no idea how to even begin writing a book of any kind, but also because I had too much life to live, without realising it, or even expecting it. What wonderful advice to young people, especially at a time when so much seems so lost. The War of Art indeed. Hoping to hear good news for Todd's ongoing investigations. And here's to deep conversation! Only one doing the talking in my flash, though. Maybe it was the woods, or Ed, or the gin…who knows…something got Fred's attention 😉

    Fred’s Confession

    Fred peered out from behind the garden shed into the steely-eyed glare of Ethel through the kitchen window. He froze.

    ‘Hello my sweet, you look lovely today,’ Fred squirmed.

    ‘Get yer hairy arse back inside, now!’

    Fred padded gingerly into the kitchen and gulped. 'Ethel, me and Mavis…’ He caught his reflection in the mirror, distracting him from his confession. Funny, the dentist hadn’t mentioned how long and sharp his teeth had grown. And his hair, so grey…

    ‘Shut up yer gormless twit,’ Ethel fumed, ‘Mavis is a slut, but you…you’re a bleedin’ werewolf and it’s full moon tonight.’

    • Charli Mills

      I know what you mean, Sherri, about many in their twenties feeling lost. It’s always an age of solidifying identity but it seems more complicated and the world in flux. But we do need time to process, don’t we?

      Ha! Ed brought out Fred! My favorite werewolf! And methinks he’s in trouble with the missus!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Yes, that all important processing…and which we no longer call procrastinating, right? 😉 Haha…thanks Charli! Ed to Fred followed a given path! Big trouble…Fred is clueless, after all… 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’m digging the pasties and the rocks on the lake, Deborah! It’s been an interesting time. I’ve struggled with the writing vibe lately, I keep pushing through but I want to feel that flow again. Good to see you and Jane!

    • Jules

      You remind me of a time when on the way to the grandparents via car from NJ to FL… we had to make a pit stop on the side of the road… not easy for ‘gals’ on the side of the public highway.

  24. dnagai

    I am still here! It’s been a busy year for me and I think my creative juices have taken a back seat. I just drove 7 hours today and I got bored. To keep myself awake, I spent a lot of time thinking about this prompt. As I drove through the terrible fire-smoke in California and Oregon, I could hardly think of anything else but the fires. Here is my flash:

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Diana! Oh, the fires are so horrible this year, and you must have seen much devastation on your drive. It certainly created a powerful flash.

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Robert!

  26. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch!

  27. Jules

    Lovely tale of Polly –
    Good luck in your new ‘digs’.

  28. Charli Mills

    Good to see you, Etol!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Gordon!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  32. Charli Mills

    Maybe Big Foot leaves signs for those he wants to know.

  33. Charli Mills

    Thank you for all your stories!

  34. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch!

  35. Jules

    Nice to see you here… yes nature is a sanctuary for all.


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