August 23: 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 24, 2018

The air couldn’t be better had I a magic wand. It wavers in temperature between warm and cool, reminiscent of a perfect spring day when long sleeves are no longer needed to bask outside. The air holds the tune of a trio of late summer sounds in a town poised to trade tourists for students.

Down the hill toward Finlandia’s football field, whistles shrill sharply and coaches bark directions. I can hear the multitude of football players shout before a play. Soon, practice will give way to games, and the roar of a crowd will join the chorus. Pleasantly warm as it is, this sound reminds me to buy a Finlandia University blanket so I can bundle up and watch the fall games.

Up the hill toward the Houghton County Fairgrounds, I can make out the distant bellow of a microphone. The words flow like batter and none form meaning. Although I can’t understand what the announcer broadcasts to the fair-goers, I pick up the magical vibe of fair time. It reminds me of rodeos and that we will soon host the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo.

My neighborhood is small with spacious lots for yards and woods. Mining companies built most of the homes, but just a few blocks away, old homesteads remain evident among more modern homes built for the college trade of housing students and faculty. Half a block away is the fire station. I can’t see it because two mining homes and a copse of maples block its view.

But I hear the magic.

Pipers practice the bagpipes once a week. Most afternoons, I’ve missed them. But on this most exceptional day with its pitch-perfect air currents, I hear the pipers piping and the rapping of snare drums in accompaniment. I’ve hauled my work outside to the deck table to better drink in the trio of sounds as if a single summer day was attempting to bottle the essence.

As I work, I think about magic and writing. I ponder a recent Master Class I took on Calm with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Calm is an app I downloaded several years ago to practice daily meditation. You have to purchase the subscription to access the Master Classes, but they are worth it. Here’s a snippet from Elizabeth Gilbert’s class:

The hour-long class shifted my thinking which is why I sit out here among a bouquet of sounds, thinking. Gilbert says writers have three days. I’ve digested her course and summarize it as it fits my experience.

Day One is inspiration. Today is a Day One kind of day. The musical sounds float between my ears and spray sparks across synapses. One bubble of magic becomes a memory I don’t have but can envision — bagpipes playing for the Kincaid Clan in the Highlands. Another emerges as a future hope — sitting with new Finlandia friends to watch the Lions play, finally learning the nuances of American football. The third pops quickly like a burst of excitement displayed as fireworks. This feels like inspiration and even the mundane task of writing course material zips along.

Day Two is the apocalypse. That’s the kind of day when after the third draft the realization hits that it sucks worse than the first. Day Two is finding out your lovely characters are loathsome because you can’t get what you feel inside on the page, so readers understand. The story implodes. The beautifully constructed sentence collapses like a commuter bridge at rush hour. Day Two is when fear speaks up.

Day Three is our chance to accept our creativity or collapse under the scrutiny of fear. It’s when we claim our right to be here. Our right to create. If you believe in a writer’s perseverance or tenacity, Day Three is the day to overcome. Yet Gilbert makes a good point about what we can choose to do “when a magical idea comes knocking”:

“You can clear out whatever obstacles are preventing you from living your most creative life, with the simple understanding that whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I read this article after I took her Master Class, and I ordered her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. On the air this perfect day as I pondered Gilbert’s words, I realize I had forgotten to live a creative life. That was the goal. Not to produce. Not to have successes. Not to have failures. But to have a creative life.

Leaving Idaho had been so painful for me that I couldn’t even go back and look at my own blog from Elmira Pond Spotter. That was me living the creative life. I wasn’t fearless then, I’m not fearless now. I’ve been brave. The difference is that instead of joyfully creating, I now suffer to create.

I remember feeling awe at crafting drafts. Now I feel inadequate. I want my awe back. And here at the Ranch is where the spark resides. Carrot Ranch is Day One. Every week, it’s Day One. No matter what kind of Day Two I might be having, creativity knows no bounds. You all teach me that week after week.

One prompt, and no story is the same. Even when two or more get a similar idea, each writes it out differently. Inspiration comes, and writers grab the ideas like magic. And that’s the kind of magic, Gilbert is talking about. Ideas are living, breathing things. Think of them as bubbles floating all around us, bobbing off my shoulders to yours, seeking a writer to co-create with to manifest the idea.

As the bagpipes fade to silence and the fair noises drift away, I hear one last sharp whistle from the football field, and I vow to reclaim my magic. I want to regain the space for creating in joy.

“…I am a human being made not only of matter but of consciousness who has urges and impulses and desires and asthetics that allow me to want to participate in creation as is my human right as a child of creation. That’s who I am.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

You are all invited to join the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo in October which is multi-event contest. Rodeos aren’t just for cowboys and cowgirls — they are a chance for writers to exhibit skills and compete for top prize. There will be five contests in October (a new one launches every Wednesday, and you have one week to compete). Each contest will name three winners, and first prize is $25.

There’s a sixth contest, and it takes qualifying for — only five contestants will be selected to compete in October. To qualify, you must enter one of five TUFF Free-Writes. It’s a contest that must include the revealed prompt, and you only have 24 hours to respond. So it’s writing by the seat-of-your-pants. Go to the link above for the 2018 Rodeo for more details.

That’ll give us all a big shot of creativity. And remember — if fear strikes, choose to be brave. Choose to be joyful. Choose to be creative. You have the right to be here! Let’s write some magic…

August 23, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes magic. It can be a supernatural force, a moment or idea, or use it as a verb. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 28, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.

 

Up to His Tricks (from Rock Creek) by Charli MIlls

“Wanna see a magic trick?” Hickok splayed a deck of cards to Monroe.

“Pa doesn’t like hands playing cards.” The boy glanced at the barn door expecting Cobb to materialize.

“We’re not gaming. Just magic. Pick a card, any—”

“Monroe, your Ma is asking for you. Said to bring her the hen eggs.” Sarah stood in the door, arms crossed.

Monroe shuffled and then ran out the door. Sarah had to address the new hand before he got on Cobb’s wrong side.

Ready for her scolding, Hickok winked and smiled a boyish grin. “Wanna see a magic trick?”

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197 Comments

  1. cindy knoke

    You write beautifully.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Cindy. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for writing, Rosemary!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Deepa. I’m glad the story resonated with you. Thanks for yours!

    • Liz H

      😀 <3

  2. TanGental

    yes ditto to the above; it’s lyrical, you write in verse for a prose world. That is in and of itself magic. Bravo, brave Charli. Pens poised and in we dive….

    • Charli Mills

      Funny, considering I’m adverse to verse, Geoff! Diving, always, diving.

    • reading journeys

      Your story started a train of thought — horror creativity? !
      what would happen if you set the story in the times when people thought to be witches were burnt at the stake ? ?

      Great ranting! makes for great reading!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

        If I set the story in times when “witches” were burned at the stake the scientist would be burning right next to her. 🙂

      • Liz H

        Sign o’ the times… 🙁

    • Charli Mills

      Good to write into your testiness! What a great acronym, though painfully sad, it can be true for many.

      • floridaborne

        I was hoping it would be a bit of a different twist. 🙂

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      A perfect ending to the story of the proposal, Norah! So glad it was a happy ending. But what a fright you gave me with the middle story. Well done!

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      Oops! I left the wrong comment for you, floridaborne. Here is my comment for you: Your scientist definitely silenced the reporter – that’s my guess for the ‘rest of the story.’ Well done!

      • Charli Mills

        Molly, good to see I’m not alone in misplacing my comments or calling my writers by different names as if you all were my children, lol! 😀

      • Charli Mills

        😉

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Michael! Thanks for your flash!

      • Michael

        My pleasure Charli.

    • Liz H

      I’m with the little guy…

  3. Rosemary Carlson

    Charli: A beautiful, brave story. My opinion that just the “stuff” of everyday life saps our creativity or at least it does mine. When the day isn’t filled with obligations, I can feel that spark of creativity and try to take advantage of it. General family and other obligations, however, can kill it in a heartbeat.

    • Charli Mills

      Rosemary, it often saps our creativity and our reserves. I’m all for filling up the well and having as many Day One experiences as possible to help feed the longer every days that want to snuff it all out. Protect the spark and dance on!

    • reading journeys

      The Magician graphics is fantastic – out of this world! Worth a thousand words, at least!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much!! 😀 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Your romantic side emerges again from the shadows! Magic! 😀 Thanks, Net!

      • the dark netizen

        Most welcome, Charli! 🙂
        Romance and shadows together are intriguing! 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Definitely! Both are emotive and powerful influences.

    • tnkerr

      Yeah, What Charli says. Great story.

      • the dark netizen

        Thank You! 🙂 😀

    • Liz H

      If only such magic were real…lovely story!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much! 🙂
        I do wish it was real!

  4. Jules

    Charli and Crew,

    I might be back with another, but I find magic in challenges and so I combined this prompt with another for this poetic offering. There is a photo at my post. And the word list with a twist. The title is the link to the post (please use the title link – my icon goes to a closed site) – Enjoy:

    On the Occasion of the Poet’s Being Challenged (or TGIF)

    Magic for me, starts at dusk
    after the sun has retired.
    One must wait an entire cycle
    for the moonflower to bloom.
    Defenceless against the weather,
    the desire to grow at night
    in shadow is strong.

    I find a quality in dusk turning to night
    that makes it seem as if the silver river
    flows slower over the stones.

    The heat of a summer day
    makes me tired.
    I discover strength in darkness.
    Uncover the burdens of night dreaming
    and cover myself in moon glow.

    Repeat over and over a mantra of freedom.
    “It is Friday, it is Friday!”

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Love this Jules, as I can relate to the rise of magic as the sun sets. Love the homage to Friday and moonflowers!

    • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

      I love this, Jules. You’ve combined the beauty of a summer day’s end with the joy of Friday night. I work part-time but insisted one of my work days be Friday so I can continue to savor it’s luscious freedom.

    • Liz H

      We do have to protect that special, magical time for creativity, even if it’s past midnight!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Good one! It is a cooling, soothing poem.

      • Writing Sparkle

        Nicely written. I loved the magical feel it had. All the words like shadow, dusk, moonlight, silver river…just worked to accomplish the mood and the whole piece flowed wonderfully. Thank you for sharing

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha, so so true 🙂

  5. Frank Hubeny

    Magic by Frank Hubeny

    On a blue planet people believed in nothing that they couldn’t see. No ghosts. No gods. No angels.

    There were natural laws. That magic was powerful. The more it worked, the more they believed. Those who doubted were educated until they believed or in extreme cases there were prisons. In really extreme cases there were nuclear options.

    The people on the blue planet made a lot of money except for those who didn’t and so everyone who counted was happy.

    Things went very well until the “fay-rees”, as they became known after The Event, had their fill of it.

    • Liz H

      Let’s hope we don’t let things go that far…

      • Frank Hubeny

        Hopefully, not. Thank you, Liz!

    • Charli Mills

      What a statement in your flash: “The people on the blue planet made a lot of money except for those who didn’t and so everyone who counted was happy.” It’s a disturbing imbalance that overrides humanity. Great flash!

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Charli! I am glad you caught that irony.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Maybe it’ll be better if it happens, just saying 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Reena, hopefully, there will always be writing and transformations — deeper and deeper?

      • Reena Saxena

        Otherwise, it is not worth being a writer. Thanks so much!

  6. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli

    The ranks were gathered, thousands staring at the wondrous sight.
    Whispers of ‘where did it come from’ and ‘what was it’ filtered through the regimental columns, no-one making any effort to climb the mossy mound to investigate.
    Their Leader came to the front and once he had their full attention, announced that it was indeed magic, a Gift from the Gods.
    Their prayers had been answered and their diligence rewarded.
    This crystal globe contained a never ending source of the water they so badly needed.
    He thus called upon his ant armies to carry it and its precious cargo.

      • pensitivity101

        Hurrah! I like to surprise!!

    • Charli Mills

      Wonderful surprise perspective, Di!

  7. Jules

    Adding some fiction – though if you go to the post you’ll get some info on Azrael. Remember the title is the link to the post (my icon goes to a closed site); Enjoy:

    Adamant Acceptance

    Young Kendra willed magic. Ever since the first time death
    visited her family. Maybe Azrael possessed some healing
    powers? The girl wanted to communicate with those
    who had crossed over. Since the ones who were still
    around didn’t really communicate very well.

    Didn’t the adults read any of the books that contained
    rituals for magic? If they had maybe they wouldn’t
    shout so much or rub salt in old wounds. How could
    they live with themselves?

    Kendra would read all the books, even if they
    believed she could not read. She would whisper,
    repeat and most of all believe.

    ©JP/dh

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Some powerful messages rolled up in this flash.

      • Jules

        Though I believe Auntie Em and Uncle Ed were sure Dorothy could read… The lass just had to believe in knockin’ those ‘silver’ shoes together to get home… Some mix of life, fiction and messaging – thanks.

    • Charli Mills

      Much determination to believe in the magic of goodness and to seek it out, Jules.

  8. tearsofbloodinmyheart

    Here’s my contribution for this week….

    The show is for holiday makers. A drum ensemble, a rhythmic trance like beat. Chanting. But after midnight, and long after the tourists have gone to bed, the drumming starts again. Hypnotic. Pounding.
    It draws those of a spiritual disposition down to the beach. A handful of tourists. Maybe five in total. Dancers with swirling skirts. Voodoo. Who knows?
    Everyone is mesmerised. The waves lap the shore. The Full moon illuminates the sand, waves and trees. The breeze, a soft caress. The drumbeat pounds on. Everyone dances. The sound of horns fills the air. Tribal. A timeless ritual. Magic.

    • Liz H

      I’m on my way: second palm tree to the right, and keep on ’til morning…

    • Charli Mills

      There’s at least three of us lining up to be one of these five tourists! Great rhythmic writer that builds up the excitement and the tribal infusion.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awesome!

  9. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    Thanks for sharing and including the article by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve often found that creativity articles written for writers help me to be a more mindful reader. A way of “tuning” in into the thinking of the writer.

    Your post reminded me of a great storyteller (probably more than one actually) — the “1001 stories of Scheherazade”.

    So Carrot Ranch writers + creativity + magic = 1001 FF stories! or more…

    • Charli Mills

      Saifun, I agree with your insights on reading creativity articles. I enjoy the relationships to creativity between writers and readers. We can’t have literary art without both, and it gives us much to ponder and discover. I love it — Carrot Ranch writers + creativity + magic = 1001 FF stories!

  10. denmaniacs4

    A 1966 Really Groovy Incident

    I wasn’t supposed to be home the day that Alan dropped by with Lita and Louise, two Oregonian hitchhikers.

    “Picked them up on the freeway,” he said. “They need a place to crash and I…” and he explained…two rooms, one wife and a huge red setter with bladder problems.

    “I can see it’d be awkward,” I commiserated, adding, “In any case, we’re a commune. We can always make extra beds magically appear.”

    The Oregonians were exceptionally close.

    Still, Lita and I quickly found…mutual ground.

    Only Louise needed her own bed.

    Everyone was good with that.

    That first night, anyways.

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Haha – I like the setting, too. Not enough stories set in this time frame.

      • denmaniacs4

        As I was there in the 60’s, the odds are I have forgotten most of it. Occasionally, a little acid flashback grabs hold, shakes me gently, and asks, “Do you remember that?” I often lie and answer, “Sure. Of course.”

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Haha. A joke amongst Berkeley grads is “If you remember Berkeley in the 60’s, you weren’t actually at Berkeley.”

    • Charli Mills

      A terrific flashback, Bill! Groovy, indeed. You really capture the vibe as if you do recall the era…! 🙂

  11. tnkerr

    Here’s what I came up with as I considered the concept of “Magic” What is more magical than the imagination of a child?

    Waves of assassins, ninjas, and marauders had already been turned away by the intrepid Timmy McNab. Dead and wounded were piled, like cordwood, against the back fence while weapons of all types lay scattered throughout the garden. When the whistle sounded, our hero held up one finger stopping an attacking pirate who waited; cutlass in his left hand, dagger in the right, pistol tucked into the black sash around his waist.

    “Sorry, Cap’n,” That’s Mom. I gotta go, dinner time.”

    “No fair, Timmy it’s my turn.” The pirate groused.

    “We’ll play again tomorrow, after breakfast. You can go first.”

      • tnkerr

        Yes indeed, but which one of them was saved. Timmy’s been making short work outa the rest of them ruffians!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, the wide open spaces of a child’s magical imagination. May writers never grow up and leave pirates in the dust.

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Footloose

    Ilene Higginbottom pulled a folding chair from the bed of the El Camino and joined Marge and Ernest where they sat in their camp chairs outside the shop.
    “That’s a pretty fancy camp chair, Ilene, dual cup-holders, and look at you, it reclines too!”
    “Yeah, I like to put my foot up. This’s the last thing I bought with my ex-boyfriend’s money before letting him go; only thing about him appealed to me was his magic mailbox.”
    Ernest squeezed Marge’s hand before going for more beer, told her he’d start dinner.
    “Marge,” said Ilene, “What you’ve got is real magic.”

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, yes, there’s real magic between those two! D., I had to laugh at the easy dialog between friends and Ilene’s sure-footed confidence!

      • Ritu

        ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu! Your magician has sleight of hand.

      • Ritu

        Thanks Charli!!!

  13. Writing Sparkle

    Loved your prompt response, it made me smile.

    My response should show up as a pingback. Thanks for another great prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Shari! It shows up and leads to a beautiful flash.

  14. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    Oh, how I look forward to your weekly essays introducing the prompt, Charli. I experienced the sounds, the sights, the feel of your neighborhood poised on the change of seasons and activities. Such a lovely way to introduce the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo. What fun this looks to be! I will participate as much as time and creative spark allow! Here is my take on this week’s prompt. Chester is back and he’s got big problems.

    The magic of decision-making

    Ruth was on a mission to purge. She examined a round, black object she retrieved from the bottom of the trunk.

    “Chester, this yours?”

    “Yup.”

    “Why have you held onto it?”

    “It means a lot to me. It helped me make some major decisions through the years.”

    “Like what?”

    “Remember when I was thinkin’ about quittin’ school? Magic eight ball said, ‘My reply is no.’”

    What else?”

    Chester remained silent.

    “Magic eight ball, did Chester consult with you before he proposed to me? ‘Signs point to yes.’”

    Chester snatched the prophetic orb and pitched it into the dumpster.

    “Traitor!”

    https://www.shallowreflections.com/the-magic-of-decision-making-flashfiction/

    • susansleggs

      As a child I remember putting a lot of faith in A Magic 8 Ball. Some friends thought them to be dangerous. Funny.

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        I suppose they were akin to a Ouija board, Susan. I remember having fun with the Magic 8 ball, but being very freaked out by the Ouija board. ????

      • Charli Mills

        Susan and Molly, so funny the different games we play to predict and contact beyond what we knew or could perceive. I wonder if the spiritualists have been made obsolete by Google?

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Molly. I enjoy you coming along on the neighborhood walk, talking about the leaves changing or the creativity blooming. I’m so happy to see Chester return!

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        Ah, creativity blooming! I like the sound of that, Charli! Chester is back in all his glory. Haha!

      • Charli Mills

        Chester makes me laugh!

  15. Liz H

    Magic and danger, and a plea for help.

    A Warning and a Plea

    Lucy’s footsteps echoed pale blue, up and over the far reaches of Karlssen’s Glacier.

    She took her time, minding her breath; these tower steps had been built by others taller than her six foot frame. Per her nature, she’d planned for extra effort to reach the peak.

    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      You write with such a concrete sense of place, Liz. “Message-crow” makes me wonder at all the lost messages gathering in the woods!

      • Liz H

        Oh dear! No West Nile in this world…ok?

      • Charli Mills

        Or Lymes! That means no ticks or mosquitoes, right?

  16. oneletterup

    Great story Charli and thanks for the info about the master class. Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favorite authors.
    My flash for the week:

    “Breakfast”

    Nobody even mentions the comet.
    But she saw it! Last night. Out the window.
    Would they even believe her?
    Nobody believes her. Ever.

    The little boy squints at her over his oatmeal.
    “Come on…what’s your name?”

    She shakes her head. Chews.
    The little girl smiles at her.

    If only she could stay here forever.
    She wishes hard for a magic wand.
    Poof! She would belong in this blue house with the swings.
    This nice man. This nice lady. This little girl and little boy. And her. Safe.

    She would stop remembering.
    And she’d never have to go back.

    • Liz H

      Keep ’em coming! <3

      • oneletterup

        Thanks, Liz!

    • Charli Mills

      I have to admit I’m new to appreciating Elizabeth Gilbert as a writer, but I’m fully enchanted now. Oh, your story — as the series allows the girl to relax and wish, I feel a darker tension growing.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Onsie!

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Seeing Is Believing

    “Pal, watcha doin’ way out here all by yersef?”
    “Felt like bein’ alone, Kid.”
    “The ranch hands is all busy corrallin’ stories ’bout magic Pal.”
    “Jist wanted ta git away, lay out here unner the stars. ’Sides, I don’t believe in magic. Since yer here, set still, listen ta the popple leaves whisperin’.”
    “The Ranch is out west Pal, call ’em Aspen or cottonwoods.”
    “They whisper the same songs, Kid. Now look’t that big orange moon through the silhouetted treetops. Eh? Look ‘t that star strewn night sky. I tell ya Kid, it’s… it’s…”
    “Magic?”
    “I believe it is.”

    • susansleggs

      If we take the time to look, nature is indeed magic. I can hear the leaves whispering.

    • Liz H

      Full moon tonight, came up orange, here in the midwest tonight! Magic indeed~~

    • Norah

      I believe it’s magic too! Well done. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It is magic, and I saw that big ol’ moon high above the maples last night, bright as ever. Kid is leading Pal down the right path.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha, gotcha!

  18. susansleggs

    Charli,
    I love your description of the creative sounds of your town/neighborhood. On a good day the sounds are a gift. I can also think of days they would be a curse when silence is what is needed to recharge and refocus. I indeed find the spark of creativity at the ranch because you give us a subject. I can run with a subject, it’s difficult and scary to come up with my own. I’m looking forward to the Rodeo

    I wrote two flashes. I would like to ask the ranch hands which has more impact. Thanks!

    Childhood – A Magical Time

    Now that I’m an old lady I can say my favorite sound is a symphony of night time bug noises. I remember the music lulling me to sleep when I was a little girl and I kept the window by my bed wide open. During the day we built forts in the woods, raided the garden for snacks, and enjoyed getting dirty and tired. I didn’t know enough to worry about being hungry, having money problems, alcoholism, or cancer. Today the bug music takes me back to that magical time so I can clear my mind to fall asleep.

    *

    A Magic Sound

    “Child, open the window by my bed.”
    “Nurse told me not to. Too humid tonight.”
    “Don’t have nothin’ to do with hot or cold; has to do with bugs.”
    “How’s that?”
    “If you open that window like I asked, I can hear them bugs singin’. That sound is magic.”
    “Why’s that?”
    “Cause that’s the first sound I remember. Lulled me to sleep before I knowed what meanness, goin’ without, prejudice, and drinkin’ was. Can still do the same if I can just hear that singin’.”
    “Can I leave if I open the window so’s I don’t get blamed?”
    “Course.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Indeed! The only better sound are peepers and frogs.

    • Liz H

      The second one speaks more to me, whispers in many colors. But I just came back from a moonlight walk along the Mississippi, so my head is also full of trilling frogs & bugs. You brought it right back to me. <3

    • Norah

      I like the dialogue of the second, Susan, though each is written for a different purpose or POV so would be right for a particular telling.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Nora

    • tnkerr

      The first one keeps echoing in my head. I’ll choose that one.

      • susansleggs

        Thank you. That was my husband’s choice also.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan. You’ve also captured the magic of sound and I felt it keenly in your first flash — how that sound from an earlier and more innocent time can still bring a certain peace. Your dialog is sharp in the sense that it clearly creates characters I can see. If you were writing a longer piece, I’d encourage you to meld the two — to use dialog to shape your characters, and prose to push deep into observations that move your reader.

    • anuragbakhshi

      I definitely prefer the second one, it’s much more real, and hence, magical, if that makes any sense 🙂

  19. Ruchira Khanna

    Hi Charli,

    You have been my support system, and thanks to you I have been churning books.

    I wish the same for you. ‘To take inspiration from the incidents that hit you’ is what makes me want to write and write.

    My take:

    https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-magic-pill.html

    • Charli Mills

      Ruchira, you have put in so much effort into writing your books and conveying the kind of stories that reveal the vulnerabilities and strengths of diverse humans joining up in their lives. I’m so proud of what you’ve accomplished and improving your craft each time as every author should do. Thank you for reflecting back what inspires you. It does, me, too and I appreciate the reminder.

  20. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli,

    I like the Day One, Day Two, Day Three analysis. Yes, you have Day one with us every week. Every week is a new beginning of something.

    Here’s my story of the week:

    ~

    Magician

    “Danny, you’re my helper. Get me a chopstick and a cloth napkin.”
    Uncle Pat shaped his left hand like a funnel, pushed the center of the napkin into it with the four corners flapping like petals. He poked the thin end of the chopstick into the napkin fiercely to the bottom, then pulled it through and shook the napkin in the air.
    “Uncle, you didn’t poke a hole!”
    “It’s magic.”
    “Do it again.”
    “Next time.”
    Three days later.
    “Hello, sis, how are you doing?”
    “Danny poked a hole through three cloth napkins.”
    “He’ll be a great magician one day.”

    https://theshowersofblessings.com/2018/08/25/august-23-flash-fiction-challenge/

    • susansleggs

      Practice will make perfect. We expect.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Susan, for me, I can never ride a bike. Practiced it, fell again and again, didn’t make it perfect! So the saying is just a saying!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Funny flash! Three cloth napkins a small price to pay for magic.
        Lower the seat and take the pedals off the bike. Persevere. Discover the magic of two wheel self propelled transportation.

    • Charli Mills

      Miriam, I enjoy getting to share Day One with so many. We all go to our other Days, but know Day One is here to be shared. What an adorable story of the adults conveying with loving humor the trials of the young magician.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Charli! I like Day One. But sometimes my brain needs to churn on the idea before Day One appears. That the reason I rarely make my submission on the day of the prompt. Thank you for your hard work.

      • Charli Mills

        Your churning is worth the time you allow your inspiration to have space to fly, Miriam.

  21. janmalique

    How uplifting! You offer us a chance to indulge in wondrous things. I’ll certainly post an offering soon Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jan! It’s a shared indulgence.

      • janmalique

        They are treasured pleasures.

  22. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Pal Pays PayPal

    “Hey, Kid.”
    “What’s up, Pal?”
    “I been thinkin’ on all thet Shorty’s doin’; second anthology, the rodeo…”
    “Yep. Shore is a worker. Gives so much a hersef ta the Ranch.”
    “Well, Kid, I found a magic button thet’ll hep us give ta the Ranch too.”
    “Thought ya didn’t believe in magic.”
    “Well, I’m beginnin’ ta. Ya jist go up ta the upper left hand corner an’ push some buttons and Kazam! Magically the Ranch is gifted.”
    “You ain’t so gifted though. It ain’t magic; ya gotta pay, Pal.”
    “So? I’m happy ta pay fer some Ranch magic. It’s priceless.”

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Yeh, Ranch magic is priceless!! Thanks for the suggestion for my bike with an ET rider with me, maybe.

    • Norah

      Great tip, D.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pal! I’m also hunting down some local Sponsor Pals, too.

    • robbiecheadle

      You are right, this group and Charli are priceless. Great flash.

  23. Norah

    You’ve captured the magic in your words, Charli. Beautiful.
    I listened to Big Magic read by Elizabeth Gilbert last year. Brilliant. I highly recommend it. I recognise the article to which you linked as being from it. She makes a lot of sense.
    You are preparing us all for the challenge that will be the October Rodeo. There will be many riders sitting in the saddle of creativity this time round. It will do us well to listen to the creative wisdom of Elizabeth Gilbert.
    The notion of ideas being “out there” ready for someone to pick is one that I came across many years ago and have always found interesting. It has been stated by many and supposedly explains why there are often books on similar themes published, and movies with similar storylines produced, at the same time. It must also explain why books similar to my stories were published not long after my manuscripts were rejected. Too much the same.
    I enjoyed your flash and the first meeting of Sarah and Hickok. I was also interested that Sarah was doing Mary’s bidding. I wonder what magic Hickok had in mind.
    I was hoping for contact with creativity’s magic today but I think it was out of state. I’ll post my link in a little while.

    • Norah

      I am back with my story: https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1cE (Scroll to the end)

      A Sprinkle of This and a Pinch of That

      “Whatcha doin?”
      “Makin’ a spell.”
      “What sorta spell?”
      “A magic spell.”
      “Can I help?”
      “Sure.”
      “Whadda I do?”
      “Put stuff in the pot.”
      “What sorta stuff?”
      “Gotta read the recipe.”
      “What’s it say?”
      “Ya gotta read it.”
      “I can’t.”
      “Oh. Okay. I’ll help. Look, it says …”
      Mum stopped at the door to the kitchen. “Wha— What are you doing?”
      “Nothin’,” mumbled the older.
      “Makin’ magic spells,” grinned the younger, covered in flour from head to toe.
      “What sort of magic spell?” asked Mum, wishing for her own magic spell.
      “Take us to outa space.”
      “Can I come too?”

      • Sherri Matthews

        Me too! Your story is pure magic, Norah!

      • Norah

        Thank you, Sherri. 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        Welcome, Norah, loved it! <3

      • robbiecheadle

        This is a brilliant post on encouraging children to read, Norah. I have shared.

      • Norah

        Thank you so much, Robbie. Appreciated. 🙂

      • anuragbakhshi

        Me too 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m not surprised to learn you’ve already listened to Big Magic. I’m a late-comer to Elizabeth Gilbert, and I’m drinking up all the elixir she has to share on creativity. Yes, it is a thought I’ve encountered before and observed as you have — ideas nudge their way into existence and if not us, then somewhere else. I wonder if it has more to do with thoughts we all process given our place and time and influences. I think it’s what the masters call Muse.

      Your post on reading was fascinating. Like ideas, reading requires a rich environment in which to thrive. Makes me wonder how we can create those environments for ourselves to create. In one way, that’s what the Ranch is about. A safe space, a rich place, to let ideas come to fruition or discover new ones. I love your flash! Once again, you have such mastery over writing the perspective from children.

      • Norah

        I was a latecomer to Elizabeth Gilbert too. Her name had been mentioned so often, and I watched a TED talk by her, that I thought I just needed to take the plunge. I love it when I find an audiobook to listen to. I generally devour it all in small bites. I buy too many digital and paper books that languish, started by unfinished.
        I think so much of the commonality of our ideas is to do with the environment in which we live. We build upon the ideas of others. It’s not surprising so many of us go in the same direction, even if each is unique.
        I think the Ranch you have created is a perfect environment for encouraging creativity. We all start with a common idea but give it our unique flavour; like my writing from a child’s perspective. Sometimes it feels so naive beside the work of others, but it needs to be to get inside their heads. I thank you for appreciating my child-like writing.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m the opposite, Norah — my purchased audiobooks languish! It’s hard to give them space with podcasts and music. I’m grateful we can have many ways to access books. Yes, I was curious about the EG fuss, too and glad I took the plunge. Good point about ideas arising from shared environments, and also easier access to mainstream information. And yet… we can each put a unique touch to ideas as we see here each week, including your ability to capture the perspective from or of children.

  24. Colleen Chesebro

    The Feather

    I finished my gardening chores and wrapped the hose into a coil. There on the ground was a tiny grey feather. I picked it up and placed it under my gloves on the table for safe keeping.

    I walked toward the front garden where my daylilies drooped. I held the spray over the plants, and there on the ground was another gray feather!

    I hurried to retrieve the first feather, but it was gone. It was then, the magic of the moment struck me. Without a doubt, this feather had wanted me to find it. What could it mean?

    ***

    A memoirist I will never be, but nevertheless, this happened to me last week. There is plenty of evidence that finding a feather (or a magical one, as I did) represents some good omens.

    Two days later, I found a black feather, much larger, lodged in the rocks across from where I sit on my patio. Coincidence? Not to this fairy whisperer…

    Stop by my blog to click on the link to learn about finding feathers: https://colleenchesebro.com/2018/08/27/the-feather-flash-fiction/. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Colleen, the fairy whisperer becomes the feather hunter! I’m with you on the memoirist front — I love the wild ramble of fiction, and yet I’ve learned so much from our memoir writers here. It’s a certain knack. Thank you for sharing your feathers!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        You’re so welcome. And, you used my favorite word, magic! Thanks, Charli ????????????

    • Sherri Matthews

      I have found feathers too, Colleen, and often in completely random places. It’s only fairly recently I discovered that they have special meaning. Sounds like someone or something is sending you a special message 🙂

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thank you, Sherri. I think so, too. I was really excited to receive two feathers. I’m convinced now. 😀 <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        I love your true story Colleen…got chills…watch this space! 🙂 <3

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Ohhh, I shall. ??????

    • robbiecheadle

      I feel, Charli, that everything comes with a price tag in life. Magical moments, talent, gifts, they all bring pros and cons. Hugs.

      • Charli Mills

        That price tag is true, Robbie.

    • Charli Mills

      Hola, Anurag! Thank you for leading us to the source!

      • anuragbakhshi

        You’re most welcome Charli 🙂

  25. Annecdotist

    Oh, I recognise those Days! And sometimes there are far too many Day Twos. I’m sorry you’re struggling to find your groove at the moment, but you’ve a lot to grieve, with the loss of that idyllic creative life. I wonder if you’re also anxious about your new venture at the university, exciting as it is. Or that might be my projection as I overprepare for leading a workshop next month, having done almost no teaching for ten years.

    But writing does feel like magic sometimes, doesn’t it? Those moments make it so worthwhile.

    My magic flash comes with a post about a just-published magic-realist/slipstream story. If any Ranchers can find the time I’d love your opinion on this story as I’m trying to make up my mind whether to resurrect a novel based on the same ideas.

    Should I stretch this short story to a novel? https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/08/should-i-stretch-this-short-story-to-a-novel.html

    • robbiecheadle

      I thought your story was very unusual and interesting, Anne. A demonstration of the power of suggestion and thoughts over the physical body. I think you could easily build this idea into something longer and I think its uniqueness would make it attractive for readers.

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks for that, Robbie. I was worried the gruesomeness would put readers off.

      • robbiesinspiration

        I don’t think it is gruesome as it is not at all graphic. It is deeply disturbing but that makes it very interesting to me.

    • Charli Mills

      Too many Day Twos, Anne! But they are a necessary part of the process. I think I’m actually looking forward to the classroom. It’s only 10 hours a week, and I get to structure it any way I like provided it teaches the expected skills. I’m going to start the class with Day 1. I think as introverts, we can feel reluctant to do some of these public activities, but I find it’s worth braving.

      Your story of Eve is fascinating. I like this slipstream genre. Now, why do I like it but have difficulty with autofiction? Isn’t it sort of the same thing, though opposite? Slipstream uses reality to make the fantastical seem plausible whereas autofiction colors memory. You could do a workshop on the topic!

      • robbiecheadle

        A workshop is a great idea.

      • Annecdotist

        I’d have to wait until I understood the issues a bit more before running a workshop! But am interested that you see similarities with autofiction, albeit the other side of the coin. And I’m wondering why I like slipstream when I don’t like fantasy or much sci-fi. I think it’s bending reality just a little to explore “what if”, whereas autofiction seems too restrictive.

      • Charli Mills

        Anne, I think you are on your way to understanding the issues better (a future workshop…).

  26. robbiecheadle

    As always, an interesting post Charli. There is magic everywhere, if you just know where to look for it. My post is about magic mushrooms but not the kind that first comes to mind. https://bakeandwrite.co.za/flash-fiction-magic-mushrooms/

    • Sherri Matthews

      Definitely not that kind of magic mushroom Robbie! I lleft a comment on your post, but didn’t see it there after I posted it, hope you got it. Meant to say too, such an adorable photo of little you 🙂

      • robbiecheadle

        Thank you, Sherri, I have to approve comments on that site. For some reason it draws a lot of spam.

      • Sherri Matthews

        No worries, Robbi, I thought that might be the case. I get a little paranoid, as sometimes WP sends comments to spam for no reason, but I haven’t had that happen now for a long time, phew!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      See, reading is dangerous! And magical.

      • robbiecheadle

        As will all the worthwhile things in life.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes we need to let go and let the magic fly, Robbie! Except when tasting suspect mushrooms in the garden

    • Annecdotist

      We’re approaching mushroom season over here right now, Robbie. I tend not to take risks, but it’s often the most attractive that are the most dangerous. I hope the experience hasn’t put that little girl off reading for ever.

  27. Sherri Matthews

    I love listening to the trio of your late summer sounds Charli…your evocative description takes me right back to that space between tourists leaving and students arriving. I remember sharing that same space with my children when I returned home from spending the summer with my family to our home in California before a new school year began. The space filled with back to school shopping and a last round of swimming lessons 🙂 I don’t remember hearing any bagpipes, though! Love your flash and the way you show the start of the relationship between Cobb and Hickok…and the way Hickok charmed the ladies. Or did he? Hmmm… You’ve inspired me to reclaim the joy of creativity, in turn inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s quotes. Suffering is too damn exhausting. No idea where my flash ending came from..surprised the heck out of me! Must be magic! 🙂 <3

    Magic Moment

    ‘Happy Birthday, hope you like it!’

    Colin tore off the wrapping paper revealing a child’s magic set to roars of laughter from his friends.

    ‘Thanks guys…nice one…you bastards.’

    Colin laughed along, but the memory of his family’s teasing when he had put on his first magic show as a kid still stung. Not that his friends knew. It didn’t matter. They only knew that Colin was a media sensation after his win on Britain’s Got Talent.

    ‘Drinks on me.’

    Everybody turned as Simon Cowell arrived carrying a magnum of champagne.

    Nothing beat the magic of that night for Colin.

    • robbiecheadle

      I enjoyed this, Sherri. It is always good to read about success.

      • Sherri Matthews

        So glad you enjoyed it, Robbie, thank you so much 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Sherri, you went right past the packaged magic and found the bubbly! Great flash!

      Ah, those busy summer days when we tried cramming so much into the transition. Bagpipes make a good soundtrack, but I trust you had a good mix.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…anything to find the bubbly, right? 😀 Thanks, Charli!<3

  28. paulamoyer

    I am here just to say “hi” this week. Weird stuff, including a dental extraction today, has interfered with my creative juices. I know, that 99 words should feel like a breeze. But even writing this, I nodded off and had about 70 z’s. Looking forward to participating when I’m ale and hearty!

    • robbiecheadle

      Feel better soon.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no, Paula! That sounds like a Day 2 event. Not much inspiring about the dental visit although later, it may feed you something worthwhile. Rest up and take care!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks to both of you! I realize that I should be “hale” and hearty, although “ale” may help with the post-extraction day. …

      • Charli Mills

        Ale and hearty also sounds like the name of a good winter stew. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for getting your story in, Kay! I’m lagging in response, riding all over hill and dale this past week. 😉

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        No worries at all, Charli. I have been lagging in submitting my flash to the ranch because of my work schedule and the time difference. We are making it happen though 😉 Thanks for always responding no matter how many irons you have in the fire. It’s always much appreciated on my end.

      • Charli Mills

        Your commitment to craft will pay off, Kay! I’m always happy to meet each writer on the road. 😉

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Abhijit!

  30. susansleggs

    So true. Love takes a lot of giving.

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks for joining us at Carrot Ranch!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

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