August 30: 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 31, 2018

So I find myself in a bit of a bottleneck. The Rodeo is unfolding with a TUFF Free-Write contest, and that first bull is about to blast out the shoot in…24 hours and 32 minutes. I spent much of my day navigating not one but two school systems, and for an adjunct unfamiliar with any school systems, my brains are curdling.

It’s all good! After all, I counted 34 hibiscus buds on the northern-hardy geo-engineered plant out front, and that assures me winter is not yet here. Maple leaves might be flaring crimson in patches, but summer hangs on, and I still have time to figure this all out.

The biggest puzzle pieces fell into place with the Hub on Thursday and a follow up with his Vet Center therapist who might yet achieve Super Angel status. She took that puzzle piece and worked it some more. I wanted to write about it — about moral injury and how combat PTSD is a different beast than how it’s classified. We learned he suffers emotional flashbacks multiple times a day. It explains much of why he is stuck. I wanted to contrast the beast to hibiscus buds but time forces me to push through the bottleneck.

The point of a free-write is to learn to “let ‘er rip.” Sometimes, in business, you have to create copy or write an article on deadline. You don’t have the luxury of waiting until inspiration strikes. You have to go — write, write, write! The wisdom is to give yourself enough time to edit. The adage is a day or two. So after fast writing, let it sit for more than 24 hours and then edit. After you edit, then go back and proofread.

A 24-free-write is the closest approximation to that drafting without editing and the pressure to write without stopping. It can be unnerving. It’s your eight seconds on the bull. You aren’t meant to turn in a flawless piece. I’m looking for how creative you can write on the fly. How well can you craft under pressure? Can you let creativity take the reins and flow like champagne bubbles in your imagination?

That free-write is on my heels, already written and scheduled for 12:00 a.m. Saturday, September 1. I had hoped to get this post out earlier, to give you all a head’s up, but I got caught up in the details of a new class, brain matter, and stopped momentarily to consisider the meaning of hearty hibiscus. Yesterday’s trip requires pondering, and I’m leaving again in the morning to visit my son in Wisconsin.

But like a late summer flower in a place that knows winter all too well, he has some hope. Maybe this bottleneck, this juncture where too many things are trying to pass a narrow spot in time and place is the momentum we need. It might pop. It might fizzle. But it will move.

And if you miss the speed at which the free-write explodes out the chute, know that you’ll have four more chances. The next one will post September 7. Go for it!

August 30, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a bottleneck. You can be literal or use the term to describe congestion. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 4, 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.


Idiots on the Road (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Ike passed cars like a Hollywood speed-chase. Danni put her hand on his knee, “Slow down.”

“These idiots on the road are going to cause an accident.”

Danni kept her opinion that Ike was the one driving like an idiot. You’d think he was chasing down Al Qaeda in a Humvee the way he swerved around slower vehicles.

Stands of pines zipped past until traffic ahead came to a bottleneck at Culvers Point. Ike swore smooth as opera. Tourists stopped in the road to snap pictures of a mama moose. Danni reminded Ike, “Remember, we’re in Idaho, not Iraq.”

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    • Charli Mills

      Every bottle of bubbly has to effervesce through the bottleneck to uncork. I’m waiting for life to pour me a fine glass one of these days. 🙂

      • Liz H

        It’s on its way!

      • Charli Mills

        Looking forward to it! ????

  1. Norah

    Lots to think about and work through, I feel the pulse of time in your post and in your flash. So much to do. Just do it, do it, do it, it seems to say. Now, now, now, faster, faster, faster. It’s time to breathe. Deep. Slow. Calm. Time with son will do that. Time away to allow for a new perspective to settle on the ever-changing vision. Take care. The bottleneck will find release and what will be will be. Enjoy!

    • Charli Mills

      Wise words, Norah. We seem to drive quickly to the bottleneck and have to show down any how. Taking time to just take time this weekend. On our way now!

      • Norah

        I hope you have had a wonderful weekend. 🙂

    • Norah

      I back with my story. I hope you enjoy it.

      Lemons, Limes and Other Mysteries

      She hit the brakes and thumped the steering wheel.
      “Mummy swore.”
      “I heard.”
      “Why we stopped, Mummy?”
      “There’s a traffic jam.”
      “Jam? I love stawbrey jam sammich.”
      “Not that jam — must be a bottleneck up ahead.” Please be a merge, not an accident.
      “We learned ‘bout bottlenecks today.”
      “Live in the ocean. Maminals, like us. Where’s bottleneck, Mummy?”
      “Not bottleneck, Jamie, bottlenose.”
      “You said bottleneck.”
      “I meant — aargh!”
      Finally, they were home.
      “You look frazzled, hon.”
      She rolled her eyes and took the beer.
      “Why lemon is in your bottle neck?” asked Jamie.
      “Because it’s not lime.”

      • Norah

        I’m back. (I was stuck in my story. 🙂 )

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! The pacing is perfect to match the carefree spirit of a young child and the limping gait of a frazzled mum. “Maminals” is one of my favorite words because my children misspoke that one, too. Such a dry-humor ending and a good call on stuffing a lemon in the bottleneck of a beer.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. I’m pleased you enjoyed the story. I had fun writing it. My spell checker had fun with some of my spellings in this one. I might go down a notch or two in Grammarly this week. 🙂
        When I Googled the lemon and lime beer question, it seems the answer is almost one of those ‘just because’ responses. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a funny bottleneck where no answer is going to bode well. Good one, Deepa!

      • syncwithdeep

        Thank u charli

      • Charli Mills

        And just to let you know, Deepa, I did get this flash in the form. Thank you for your patience with using it!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your thoughts, Michael!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

  2. Writing Sparkle

    “Idiots on the Road” is like a snippet from my life on the drive back from our last camping trip. It was bison though and not a moose. Anyway, nicely written and it gave me a chuckle. Thanks for sharing.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Yes, that scenario plays out often where narrow roads contain both campers and wildlife.

  3. Frank Hubeny

    Bottleneck by Frank Hubeny

    Some say your real brains are in your gut. Bill knew his wasn’t in his brain. Sharon doubted he had any in his gut either.

    That’s when she got pregnant and started worrying.

    That’s when they had to move to a smaller apartment.

    That’s when it looked like he would lose his job.

    That’s also when he didn’t lose his job, but got an indirect promotion.

    That’s also when they realized they loved that new apartment.

    That’s when he held her and told her he was glad she was pregnant.

    That’s when she changed her mind about his brains.

    • Annecdotist

      Frank, this is lovely. So sweetly satisfying without being cloying.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you! I was trying a “reverse” technique–going negative half way and then coming back up. I am glad it worked for you.

    • Charli Mills

      Frank, I enjoyed how you structured the story and showed the influence of circumstances on perspective.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Charli!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      What they said. It is very effective, great use of the 99 with the repetition and the reversal.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you!

    • tnkerr

      This is really nice – well thought out – fun to read.

      • Frank Hubeny

        I am glad you liked it!

    • Jules

      I agree with the other comments. A fun read.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Jules!

    • Liz H

      The gathering, the squeeze, and release…beautifully constructed!

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Liz!

    • kayuk

      What a great way to change the bottleneck of frustration and doubt into hope and joy.

  4. denmaniacs4


    I peer into the darkness.
    Stella’s driving.
    The fog’s thicker than shower steam.
    “There’s the turnoff,” I point, bumping my digit against the windshield.
    “I see it,” she snaps. “I’m not blind.”
    “Sorry…” I apologize, shaking my bent finger.
    “Did you hurt your pinkie?” she asks.
    “No. Just nerves.”
    The offramp quickly turns into a one-lane cow path.
    “I can barely see,” she offers.
    “It’s a good thing you’re driving,” I confess. “I can’t see squat.”
    Suddenly, a tiny wooden bridge appears.
    “THAT,” she says, “looks flimsy. I’m turning back.”
    “Can’t. Bosses party.”
    “And we’re…?”
    “Yup. The only guests.”

    • Annecdotist

      Turn back, Stella! I’m sure it’s going to end badly.

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, it reads like an unfolding horror story and when we realize the event, it’s even more horrific! Great mounting tension.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You will continue this for us, right?

      • denmaniacs4

        Not to coin a phrase, it might turn out to be a flash in a pan piece…

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Still can’t say that flash didn’t pan out.

    • Jules

      You could always open your ending …to pass the buck if you’re not wanting to see where this goes. But yep… I’d turn back… Can’t they hear the ominous music playing or maybe the rain is drowning it out.

    • kayuk

      Wow! A tense tale that sounds like it’s about to take a turn for the worse.

  5. Pete

    Music pulsed, matching the thump of my heart in my ears as I leaned in and gave the wine bottle a carefully planned spin. Breath held. The circle tightened. Julie Jennings’ knee touched against mine, the bottleneck now a whir of fate.

    Thump. Warmth hit my cheeks as the wand settled on Julia. A nervous laugh. What now? But with a giggle Julie nudged it two more places—miles it seemed!—to the metallic smile of Christina Cash. A small terror in my chest. A gust of strawberries. Julia shrugged, winked, then shoved me off towards her best friend.

    • Charli Mills

      Pete, such dizzying games of blooming adolescence. You write all the hope and discomfort into the scene as the bottle and the game spins.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      What a dreadful use of a bottle. It yet may have been a vehicle of fate, pointing at a confident girl who is loyal to her friends.

  6. pensitivity101

    Bit of humour from me Charli

    Not exactly an hour-glass figure.

    ‘You need to go on a diet.’
    ‘Don’t you start! How can I help it if there’s so much to choose from, I want to try it all?’
    ‘Somehow seeing you stuck like that is doing you no favours as regards your street cred.’
    ‘I’ll have you know this colour is very fetching! Brings out the natural blue of my eyes.’
    ‘At the moment they look a bit bloodshot. You’ve probably cut off your circulation, you’ve gotten so fat.’
    ‘ No need to be nasty. I’ll just make a wish!’
    ‘But that’s cheating!’
    ‘Ha! I’m a Genie darling! I’m allowed!’

    • Annecdotist

      Yay for the genie. Clever twist, I loved it!

      • pensitivity101

        Hello Anne. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you liked it.

    • kayuk

      Love the surprise ending!

      • pensitivity101

        Glad you did! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Good use of an expanded hourglass figure! Your comedic timing comes through (easier than the genie’s hips).

      • pensitivity101

        haha. Thanks

    • kayuk

      Bwahahahaha! I love the twisted ending.

      • pensitivity101

        Glad you did! Thanks for commenting.

    • kayuk

      LOL! The bane of every writer!

      • Ritu


    • Charli Mills

      I recognize that vintage of bottleneck, Ritu!

      • Ritu

        It’s a good un… But you get an almighty hangover from it!

  7. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    wishing you a safe and sound journey to Badger Territory!


    • Charli Mills

      Ah! Yes, it was Badger country, indeed. With the opening of school, they were swarming. 🙂 I love that part of Wisconsin. Thanks!

  8. calmkate

    Glad you’ve found that angel for hubby, your fiction echoes his tragedy!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate. I’m glad for her, too. She is Angel to many.

      • calmkate

        those guys need it …

  9. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    Puzzle pieces fitting into place and hibiscus buds – there is no winter in sight on the Ranch, Charli. I cannot imagine having multiple flashbacks of a traumatic experience on a daily basis. I sure hope the Vets find some help for you hub. Happy Memorial Weekend – oh wait. It’s Labor Day, isn’t it? How did that happen so fast???

    Here is this weeks offering:

    Chester makes amends

    Chester knew he had to dig himself out of a crater after he gave the wrong impression to his wife, Ruth.

    He settled on his strategy and said, “I remember the exact moment I knew you was the one. And though it was magic, my decision to ask for your hand in marriage had nothin’ to do with a silly eight ball.”


    “Yes. I chose you in the fifth grade.”


    “Remember the party at Rosie house? We gathered in a circle, and I spun first. When the bottleneck pointed in your direction, I knew you’d be mine.”

    • Jules

      Oh… I remember THAT game. Let’s give Chester some brownie points.

    • kayuk

      So….what bomb created the crater? I need a prequel!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Molly. Combat PTSD is so complicated. The moral injury component and flashbacks without actually thinking of the events (just the emotion of them) make it hard to grasp what is happening. But the brain gets hijacked, for sure. Not our hibiscus, yet. No hijacking of late summer though I think we skipped a month.

      As for Chester — amends or a deeper hole? 😀

  10. susansleggs


    The amount you accomplish it seems to me you always have too much going on at the same time. I admire your ability to keep is all straight. Fantastic news that a big important puzzle piece has been identified for the hubs. May it soon lead away from the bottleneck and into a smooth peaceful road. I’m looking forward to the rodeo since this will be my first.
    On to the prompt.

    A Lesson in Trust

    My grandson’s dentist appointment was after school which meant dealing with rush-hour traffic. While sitting on the overpass waiting for the light so I could turn onto the expressway ramp, I could look down to gauge the usual traffic bottleneck. Bad news. Traffic was completely stopped. I said, “We’re going for a little ride to avoid the expressway.”

    I wound my way around side streets going north and west.

    I heard from the backseat, “I have no idea where we are!”

    After two more turns he saw familiar buildings. “You weren’t lost after all Grandma? I was worried.”

    • Jules

      I used to have to get lost to figure out where I was going…
      I feel for this Grandma! As I am directionally challenged.

    • kayuk

      LOL! That was a fun ride.

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, you are going to ride just fine in your first rodeo! Somehow, I think it all comes together, or else falls apart. We pick up what we can and rebuild a new day. I think veteran families experience that a lot. And your flash also captures the trust we need to have to get through and yes, the youngun in the backseat got a lesson.

      • susansleggs

        My grandson is my favorite buddy to drag places. He even likes quilt stores and shows.

      • Charli Mills

        What a great buddy to have! I’m sure he loves hanging out with you.

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Slow and Steady Kid

    “Hey, Pal. Have a beer with me. Ever wonder why bottles is shaped the way they are, with the long neck?”
    “Mebbe it’s so it’s easier ta pour. But we got no glass nor class, drinkin’ right outta the bottle.”
    “If ya hang onta the bottle neck yer beer doesn’t git all warm.”
    “Jist drink it down fast. Gimme anuther Kid.”
    “I like coozies, ‘specially handy with so many switchin’ ta cans.”
    “Don’t need a coozie, jist drink ‘em right down. ‘Nuther, Kid.”
    “You prefer bottles, or cans, Pal? Pal?”
    “That was fast. Pal’s downed from downin’ beer.”

    • Frank Hubeny

      That part about the beer getting warm makes sense.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        There’s always a lesson with these two. We learn to read to read to learn.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a pour way to find out one’s tolerances, ha, ha!

  12. Annecdotist

    Wishing you safe passage through the bottleneck, Charli. You do manage to juggle an awful lot of balls! Having played with your TUFF challenge today, I feel I’m about to hit a bottleneck myself – or is it just a bottle?
    My 99-word story is quite a sad one, albeit in solidarity with nations around the world where the police refuse to recognise that all lives matter. I wonder if you got to hear about Hillsborough, April 1989 in the USA?
    And you’ve prompted me to blog about the publishing bottleneck – although I might have had more to say if I hadn’t succumbed to TUFF
    Pushing through the publishing bottleneck: is there an ingredient X?

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Another well done post and flash. Are things managed differently since that tragic event at the stadium?

      • Annecdotist

        Oh, yes, I should have mentioned that in my post. At the time, supporters stood in “pens” – standing had always been the way of it but they had introduced the barriers at the front to stop people running onto the pitch, as there had been an increase in unruly behaviour. After the incident, those barriers have been removed and seating introduced which puts a limit on the numbers of punters in the area. I think it was quite a cultural change for football supporters (of which I’m not one, but I do remember the atmosphere at the few matches I attended long before this debacle) but much safer.
        So it was partly the environment, but serious mistakes were also made in the policing. However, the worst of it was the denial from the authorities and attempted cover-up, including the police altering their records.

    • Jules

      I remember having to fight through crowds to get to nose-bleed seats.
      I’ve stopped going to venues that have thousands of people trying to see a small patch of anything, sporting or otherwise.

      Hubby volunteered as an EMT one year for a race sporting event where the whole middle of the field is more or less open to revelers. The biggest issue is heat exhaustion. But fisticuffs can also result in tragedy.

      So sorry to hear about a tragic loss that still hasn’t been but right.

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Jules. Likewise huge crowds are not my thing. I think football has numbered seats now, so less of a fight. and not much chance of heat exhaustion over here!

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I’m pleased you succumbed to the TUFF challenge and awakened a competitive drive. I tend to not be competitive but recognize moments when the drive to achieve takes over and gives me clarity at that moment. The publishing bottleneck is real, although different issues may stop the flow depending upon the type of publishing. I have heard about the tragic events at the Hillsborough, but not from the time of the event. We learn (or don’t) from such hard lessons. I’m not a big fan of sports (although I love rodeos, which tend to be small local events) and even for ones I enjoy, watching from the pub or living room is more fun.

      • Annecdotist

        Yup, now I’ve tuned in to the TUFF challenge, I’m gutted I won’t be able to make the next one!

  13. Jules

    Busy with cat and bird sitting… and free-writing…
    I’ll be back but for now …I’m clear for now –
    (remember the icon doesn’t go to the post but the title is the link:


    Sometimes I can’t breathe through my nose. I get air
    in through my mouth. I wait for the over the counter
    medicine to give me some relief. That’s what the
    change in the weather does. I get stuffed, or a burning
    drip. Neither one allows for present enjoyment, much
    less the capability to even sleep.

    I want a drill to unclog my sinuses. Or a plumber to
    stop the constant running… He teases; Does your
    nose run, do your feet smell then you’re built upside
    down. There’s more to that with Longfellow and
    Dickens… but I can’t think straight.


      • Jules

        D – being stopped up isn’t funny… but I found the missing piece to the rhyme – it was actually the lead in or maybe just a different verse altogether:

        You’re a poet
        but you don’t know it
        but you’re feet show it
        ’cause they’re Longfellows
        and they smell like the Dickens.

    • Charli Mills

      Cat-sitting! Me, too (so I’m glad you reminded me). My neighbor has not left her foursome of cats before. They are sweet, but one hides. Hmm, you have a bird in the midst? A clever take on the prompt although it might not feel clever with a stuffed nose. I get that, too.

  14. Pete

    Forgot how much fun this writing thing is!

    Bottleneck Binkins came crunching across the gravel lot of the Red Rooster. “I know what I saw.”

    I tried to explain. But Cookie, her sultry billboard eyes on the overpass, was distracting. It must’ve lured in every trucker and preacher from here to Tulsa.

    Bottleneck reared back, bottle in hand (oh, so that’s why…), when the back door swung open.

    Cookie, half dressed and screaming about some jerk getting touchy.

    Bottleneck froze, then turned and lumbered off to find his next victim.

    I rubbed my ear and smiled. Blew a kiss to the billboard and got in my rig.

    • Charli Mills

      Pete! Never forget! It’s fun! Love this, “…lured in every trucker and preacher from here to Tulsa.”

    • tnkerr

      Acrostic Bottleneck
      Beneath the quiet, dormant wheels
      Of this sharp, sleek, motionless luxury automobile
      The motorway lies still, inert and unmoving despite my serious objections. Roll up the windows then,
      The heat is relentless and the malodourous exhaust fumes of a thousand cars
      Lingers and mingles languidly with the
      Ether that surrounds us.
      Needless to say, we should take the next available
      Exit, we should find a relaxing spot to picnic; or a back road we might use as an alternative – a means to
      Circumnavigate this bottleneck, else we won’t be home before
      Kwanzaa, and it’s not yet Guy Fawkes Night.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Nice use of an acrostic to give the reader a feeling of a bottleneck in the text. I like the phrase “serious objections” in the circumstances.

      • tnkerr

        Thanks, Frank. I’m pleased that you liked it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thom, that’s a clever structure for your flash! It pushes the creative envelope but it’s the lyrical language that drives it all home.

      • tnkerr

        Thank you, Charli – I’m truly enjoying the challenges that you, so kindly, provide us.

    • Jules

      Oh, boy. Some things you just can’t plan for.

      • kayuk

        I know. I think it’s part of Murphy’s Law.

    • Charli Mills

      A perfect storm and the bottleneck destroys his ambitions with ketchup. Good one, Vickie!

      • kayuk

        Thanks Charli! As soon as I saw the prompt I saw red.

    • Charli Mills

      Sounds like a tale to require some bubbly! Thanks, Gordon.

  15. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,
    You and your team are great coaches! Thanks!

    So: Jist practicin’ : Dialogues:
    (not quite FF… yet….): Title — “Breakthrough”

    “… to be or not to be …”
    “Hey sis! What’s up?”
    “Learning to write a story with dialogue.”
    “That’s a monologue. Soliloquy, to be exact.”
    “Yeah. But it’s a great story … Hamlet … greed, desire, murder, ghosts, revenge …”
    “There is one problem. A huge bottleneck.”
    “Li’l sis, greenhorn, you’re no Shakespeare! … And I’m outta here!”


    • Charli Mills

      Every greenhorn decides to be or not to be! Great use of dialog, getting you warmed up for the Rodeo, Saifun.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s good fun to get to play with our art. Thanks for contributing, Sascha!

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    I finally got a flash. This is rodeo themed.

    Lil’ Ugly

    When he drew a bull called Lil’ Ugly the other cowboys laughed.
    Bow legged and barrel-chested with a bottle neck and a jug head, he endured a great deal of ribbing. He disappointed his tormentors by walking away. They could tell they angered him but could never get him to throw a punch. In addition to picking on his looks they questioned his manhood.
    As he approached the chute the others joked, wondered who was going to be on top.
    They didn’t wonder any longer than eight seconds.
    They knew now what he did with his bottled up rage.

  17. Jules


    It is good to hear that your Angel is looking out for you. To finally know some answers is always a relief.

    I came up with a second entry (remember the icon goes to a closed site) the title is the post link:

    *Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

    Tammy wondered if it was always this hard to buy your
    first home. You had to prove you were, have been and
    would be employed – able to make mortgage payments.

    What started out as a simple bottleneck situation turned
    into a log jam. The red tape became like a thick hungry
    boa constrictor wanting to squeeze the very life from her
    with having to fill out form after form after form.

    There would be a celebration eventually. Hopefully soon.
    One where she’d invite her best friends to uncork a bottle
    of champagne. When she finally held her home’s key.


    • Charli Mills

      That describes a tight bottleneck but also determination to see a dream come to fruition. Good (second) one, Jules!

  18. oneletterup

    Wow! Thanks Charli for another inspiring prompt.

    My contribution:

    The Slide

    She sees it. Poking out from under the sofa. She reaches down, closing her hand around the smooth green glass.

    Just like Gramma’s! When she played the big guitar. Special for her.
    “Honey, this is a bottleneck slide. It goes on my finger. Look!”
    Then Gramma would smile, wink and whisper…
    “This song is just for you.”
    Pressing on the strings, she’d slide the glass. And sing. And fill them both up…
    ”If not for you…I’d be sad and blue if not for you…”

    The little girl finds her there.
    Holding the green slide. Tight.
    “You found it!”

    • Charli Mills

      You certainly stepped into the inspiration on this one! Your flash is filled with promise that comes from the sharing of music and words.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anurag!

  19. Kelvin M. Knight's blog

    It’s a classic car chase, like none I’ve seen before. And I can just picture it. What a rapid scene, Charli. Such wonderful turns of phrase.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kelvin. I appreciate your feedback!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

  20. Liz H

    So, I guess this means I’m an old fogey…Lol!

    Quality Control

    “There’s your bottleneck,” Justin nodded at the bleach-blonde woman at the end of the production line. A stack of TMPuregold Widgets sat to her left. Picking one, she held it up, squinting along its length, and nodded.
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      Nothing wrong with being an old fogey, Liz!

  21. Ann Edall-Robson

    Backcountry Bottleneck
    by Ann Edall-Robson

    A body and soul drive along gravel roads riddled with potholes is nothing short of bliss. The gray matter lodged between the ears has no expectations other than to watch for what Mother Nature has to offer. There is no rush in this journey. It is a plethora of whoa, stop, back up moments soaking in the sights on a trek to an unknown destination. Traffic lights do not exist, and the only bottleneck to endure may be a herd of cattle coming at you on the road. There is nothing like the backcountry to rejuvenate the writing mind.

    • Liz H

      Sounds like a little bit of much-needed Heaven~~

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Every chance I get, Liz.

      • Liz H


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Soothingly cool…
      Worst bottleneck like that I ever saw was in Australia, with the dogs running over the sheep’ backs to get to the front and get them going. Way better to sit behind all that than to be in the Big Dig of BeanTown.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        It would be neat to see the dogs working like that.

    • Charli Mills

      Ann, this is bliss: “The gray matter lodged between the ears has no expectations other than to watch for what Mother Nature has to offer.”

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        It most certainly is, Charli.

    • kayuk

      Great story! Reminds me of riding across Canada.

  22. paulamoyer

    Here’s mine, just under the wire, I think:

    One Night, Both Ends of Life

    By Paula Moyer

    6:30: the call. Finally, that night.

    “Today’s the day.” Her nephew Max, about his father, Jean’s brother.

    “Did he die?”

    “Yes.” The wait/weight – done. Alcoholic organ failure – complete.

    7:30 p.m.: the text. “My water broke.” A very pregnant woman’s message to Jean, her doula. “But nothing’s happening.” Jean gassed up anyway.

    9:30: the call. The husband. “It’s time.”

    Jean battled State Fair traffic, road work, bridge closures.

    10:10: Raced into the birth center. “Waaa.” On the floor: Chux pads, blood everywhere. On the bed: parents and one angry baby.

    11:30: the drive home, joy and grief wedged in together.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Joy and grief- often in the same bottle, coming and going.

    • Charli Mills

      What a bottleneck, Paula. Deeply captured in the structure of writing, too. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Extraordinary writing arises from the ordinary, Kate.

      • calmkate

        thanks so much Charli … really appreciate your comment!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Extra ordinary for the relatabilty of it. That was the worst bottleneck of all the one that stood between sushi, comfort… home.

      • calmkate

        lol nice one … had to inject a bit of normality, thanks for your comment 🙂

  23. Jules

    Yep, rubbernecking for no reason is one way to jam up an otherwise clear roadway.

    I did read the other day about a food truck that got stuck in traffic and made a good business before the mass started to move again.

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Patrick!


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