December 6: 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.

December 6, 2018

If winter on the Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan were a masterpiece, then the sky works in collaboration with Lake Superior. Together they manipulate air temperatures to create color and texture. You might be surprised to learn that Lady Lake prowls on land during the winter. I don’t mean waves that batter her shores — she’s an artist hovering in the air, twisting her waters into a scattering of icy snowflakes, mist, or battleship-gray clouds.

Today’s collaboration features patchy blue sky milky as glacial till. After a furious night of banshee-snow, Lady Lake has calmed and sorts her art into glowing pink remnants of moisture that look like clouds made of shell. Soon the sun will dip, but it won’t grow as dark as you might expect. That’s the gift of living in a snow globe — all that white from below to above captures light.

Colorful Christmas lights make the neighborhood festive. We humans add our own imprint upon the natural winter art of the region, expanding the collaboration. I’m surrounded by an ever-changing canvas.

Is the nature of art collaborative?

It’s like the philosophical question — if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound? Sure, it might reverberate, but if the vibrations don’t hit an eardrum, the sound is not heard. Art requires one to produce and another to receive. I suppose an artist can appreciate his or her own work, but the sharing creates a dynamic. In such a way, artist and reader/viewer/listener/beholder work in collaboration.

As a writer who’s share work, you’ve probably experienced comments that observe something in your story you did not intend. And yet the reader points it out. To some, this interaction can feel disconcerting. But we don’t have to own (or defend) the alternate perspectives. We can embrace it as an expansion. As a collaboration of sorts.

Like another philosophical question — which came first, the chicken or the egg? — I also wonder which came first — art or the inspiration?

When did you first become inspired to craft stories or imagine the lives of characters? Likely you read or were read to. I remember Mrs. Couch reading to us every day in first, second and third grade. In fourth, fifth and sixth grade, Mr. Smith read us YA sci-fi. In seventh and eighth grade, Mr. Price required us to write weekly spelling stories.

Growing up in a buckaroo culture, I heard stories swapped with regularity and recognized that the tellers had a rhythm and often delayed an element of surprise for humorous effect.  I read comic books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, classics, Ian Flemming, Louis L’Amour, and discovered romance novels.

And everywhere I stepped I was acutely aware that others had passed this way before me from the Washo people to the likes of Kit Carson and nameless pioneers. History told it’s own stories if you knew how to read a cemetery or discarded artifacts of another era.

Somewhere in the mixture of all those influences, I found inspiration to write stories I imagined. Mostly, I get strong impressions about people who lived where I do now because I’m curious as to why they came to some of the remote regions I’ve known.

When does inspiration become art?

Often, these near-winter days, I watch the dense gray bank of moisture that rises up from Lake Superior. I get a better view when I cross the Portage Canal and look back toward where the Lake nestles below the ridge of Keweenaw hills with start white birch and leafless maples. I image Lady Lake “soaking up” before she creates a storm across the sky. As writers, artists, we do that too — we soak up.

Then we let it out. Lady Lake can change wind directions so swiftly that I can see the snow shift out one window and yet still blow the opposite direction out another window. To me, that’s a master who can blow all those details and craft their shapes in multiple ways at once. Drafting is often like spewing snow.

Yet, the masterpiece is not complete until after the snow. Wind can reshape drifts, temperature can crystalize snow and suspend icycles, sun can sparkle, and sunsets can add color. Writers return to the storm upon the page make it into something different, something new.

Inspiration also comes to me from those who create in different mediums.

Growing up, Greek mythology, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones inspired me (hence my fascination with the hero’s journey). I could recognize artistry and felt drawn to it — I once spent my entire month’s earnings on a hide painting a traveling artist painted when I was 14. Music moved me. I played the radio, records, 8-tracks, and cassettes all the time, and thought the greatest invention in the world was the boombox.

Johnny Cash, Regina Gigli (the print artist I cleaned house for), John Beata (the cowboy foreman I rode for who trained horses like an artist), and Bob Parker who hand tooled a leather scene of my horse were my go-to’s for inspiration. But I never dared to think I could collaborate with any of them. Not that I had a chance to work with Johnny Cash, but I knew plenty of dancers, musicians, poets, crafters, and artists.

Somehow I thought I had to do my art on my own. My guilty pleasure was to “feel” a song and let it color a story I wrote, or admire a painting and imagine it’s likeness in a character. One writer would post a story and ignite a spark of an idea. Last year, one Carrot Ranch writer invited others to add to her Boots flash fiction in what emerged as a collaborative murder-mystery.

I think it’s natural for creative impulses to rise and feed others as much as it feeds our intended interest. Like Lady Lake, we soak up. And we share.

Last night I was listening to an interview with Hozier, an Irish musician. He was influenced by the 1960s civil rights movement in America, and its impact on his own country. His latest song is not only one that honors those who influenced him but also features the voice of an American blues singer who knew the very protestors in his song. What a collaboration!

“It’s not the song, it’s the singing!” What that makes me think is that it isn’t the art but the making of it. It isn’t the story so much as it is the catching of it. Art in action and the more people involved, the more powerful. I don’t mean in its creation but in it’s sharing and influencing and making new.

Consider Hozier’s first song. It moved a young Ukraine ballet dancer, and this video of collaborative art went viral:

And when I say collaborative, I’m talking more about the natural space of artistic influences. Hozier didn’t know about this dance project. I think the record label got snippy about it at one point, but in the interview, Hozier was humbled by the interpretation and use of his song. So much that he did collaborate with Sergei Polunin on a new song.

We are like Lady Lake and the sky. Every week we soak up, share and form a collective voice on a single topic. Creativity knows no bounds.

There’s something open and uplifting about art expressed without boundaries, taking influence from other artists and mediums. This week, we are going to turn toward graffiti, an expression of art on the street. How can we take it to a story in 99 words?

December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 11, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

A Sign (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni traced graffiti on the grain-car. What did it mean? A message? A name? Traffic stalled on both sides of the tracks where it crossed the highway. She didn’t want to think about Ike who had been ahead of them. Better to study the graffiti and let Ronnie find out what happened. She wasn’t in a hurry to know.


She stiffened and asked, “Who got hit?”

“An elk.”

Danni blew out the air she’d been holding in. “Ah, damn elk.” Ike had made it across then. Maybe the graffiti was a symbol of gratitude to live another day.

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  1. Liz H

    Mavis Staples in this Hozier song–a collaboration that results in chills, and a tear or two!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Artist

    “Ms. Higginbottom, you do recall that I’m the principal?”

    “Bob, I’m not calling.”

    “Graffiti can’t be tolerated. And you know this boy has problems.”

    “And suspension’s a solution, Bob?”

    “What can be done, Ms. Higginbottom?”

    “Pull him from Health and Geography. Put him in Art, Theatre Workshop.”

    “Health and Writing are required courses!”

    “I see more of him than those teachers do, they send him to the office so often. He’s going to have to repeat them anyway, so let him learn to like school first. Channel his artistic ability.”

    “You’ve already made the schedule changes, haven’t you?”


    • Charli Mills

      I love this Ms. Higginbottom. She’s got the right angle — “let him learn to like school first.”

      By the way, this post is your fault for tuning me into WUMB. 😀

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        It’s Ilene. Eventually someone’s going to write her a big story in which she becomes a school secretary. Couldn’t quite fit it all into 99.
        By the way I went to a school with two teachers for six grades too.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake


        “Administrative Assistants should not be making these sorts of decisions. I’ll remind you again that you work for me.”
        “When you hired me you said everyone here worked for the students. Everyone. I figured I’d assist you in assisting this kid to stay in school where he belongs.”
        “Ms. Higginbottom… You are neither an educator nor a guidance counselor.”
        “You said that everyone in your school is a teacher and a learner.”
        “Yes, but…”
        “We can put a brush in his hand and a canvas in front of him or send him away with his spray can.”
        “Oy. Okay.”

      • Charli Mills

        Ilene rocks (and typos can be sorted).

    • Michael

      A wise educator.

    • Annecdotist

      Go Ms H! She probably saves the boy’s life.

    • Liz H

      My favorite kinda teacher, And it’s true! The Admin Assistants do rule the world, as well they should!

    • Sascha Darlington

      That’s the way school’s should be run.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I just loved this D. If only school had been more like this I think a lot more children would have achieved what they needed to. Love both parts. Ms Higginbottom is worth more than her weight in gold. She listens, she is practical and foreward thinking – if only the world had more of her and not just schools.

    • robbiesinspiration

      Very nice D. I don’t know why people can’t let others develop the skills they enjoy and are good at. I know lots of parents that insist on their boys taking higher grade maths because not to “closes doors”. If you get 9% for HG maths that door is closed, Mom. Wake up and smell the coffee beans and stop traumatising your child.

      • Charli Mills

        The pressure can be so hard on kids to perform. Yet if we can help students find purpose and passion, we might not need all that pressure.

    • Jules

      I ended up taking quite a few art classes in High School – though that last year I got stuck with a stuffed shirt. I guess I still ended up liking school enough to continue on to a two year college. Though I wish I had studied art there instead of more ‘practical’ courses.

      • Charli Mills

        When I went back to school I felt “old” being ten years older than most college students. And then I met a 92-year old student who convinced me that taking courses just to learn was a grand idea for later.

    • Charli Mills

      Great to see an example of your son’s art, Michael!

    • robbiesinspiration

      Your son is very talented, Michael [and so are you]

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne! Be sure to submit it through the form above, too.

      • joanne the geek

        I can’t see the form for some reason.

      • joanne the geek

        Ok I found it once I viewed the post as a webpage rather than through WordPress…

      • joanne the geek

        Did I send the right story?

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, for some reason it does not show up in that view. I need to indicate that the form is visible on the actual webpage. And yes! I got your story. Thank you for your persistence, Joanne!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Paint the Town Spaghetti Western

    “Shorty’s repeatin’ herself.”
    “We was prompted with pasta a while back, found out they’s at least 39 dif’rent kinds.”
    “What are ya talkin’ about, Kid?”
    “Graffiti, ain’t that some kinda pasta?”
    “Here’s a dictionary Kid. Read it.”
    “Graffiti: ‘writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place’. Illicitly? Shorty wants folks ta write dirty?”
    “Read some more Kid.”
    “Illicit: ‘Forbidden by law, rules, or custom’. Oh. Shorty jist wants folks ta break the law.”
    “Kid, Shorty jist wants folks ta write-wildly, freely, openly. “
    “Put it out there?”

    • Annecdotist

      Thanks for the definition, Pal, otherwise I might have been writing pasta.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Or graffing ziti. But we ‘spect the Ranger’s got a robust vocabulary an’ kin tag this prompt.

      • Annecdotist

        Sure, I need an extensive vocabulary for communing with the deer.

    • Charli Mills

      Graffiti does sound like pasta! Makes me want to fix a bowl of spaghetti and watch Clint Eastwood.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ha! You got that allusion. Good on ya, Shorty.

      • Charli Mills

        I love a good spaghetti western!

    • robbiesinspiration

      Haha D., Shorty is great.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your story, Reena!

  4. calmkate

    wow you are on a roll here Charli … your writing is indeed blossoming or is it snowing!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s snowing. 😉

      • calmkate

        then enjoy the quiet to keep creating 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I will enjoy that while it keeps flowing! 😀

  5. Annecdotist

    Lovely account of the compensations of being snowbound half the year, Charli. It’s still autumn here and I’d forgotten about that extra light.
    And I’ve always loved it when a reader has found something in my writing I haven’t knowingly put there, as long as it’s positive, of course.
    My graffiti flash Not in tablets of stone comes with The Annethology Christmas message. Obviously it’s not the kind of message you might expect!

    • Liz H

      From your keyboard to God’s ears! Loved this <3

      • Annecdotist

        Surprised me we’re still on speaking terms!

      • Liz H


    • Charli Mills

      Anne, perhaps your Annecdotal Christmas Message could be seen as a public service announcement. 😉 My biggest takeaway is permission to be an adult and choose one’s level of participation. I spent yesterday Christmas tree hunting (a friend, local artist, and fellow mother-of-a-grown-dancer offers her property for the purpose along with a party full of shared cookies and nibbles). Thus I’m in full Christmas mode now! Your flash makes me think God’s Graffiti could make for an interesting longer story.

      • Annecdotist

        Ha, I’d love it to be a public service announcement! It can be very difficult to remember you’re an adult at this time of the year.

      • Charli Mills

        It should be as simple as that!

    • Jules

      One side of the family follows a simple rule, after you are 18 no more gifts. Not everyone follows that rule. But keeping things simple is something I try to do. And not going into debt either. I heard on the radio that most families spend outrageous sums. And just who (I wonder) are the car companies targeting when they say buy your loved one a brand new car? No one in my universe.

      I liked your conversational play ‘up there’. 🙂

  6. denmaniacs4

    Paint by Numbers

    “So, you start with a title?”
    “Often do.”
    “And this time the flash is about…graffiti?”
    “Know much about the subject?”
    “Can’t say that I do?”
    “So, what follows the title? I mean, how does your brain work?”
    “Well, I’ve got an arty sounding title. It suggests…that paints involved.”
    “Good. What comes next?”
    “Fine-tuned google research. Learn the language. Like…tagger.”
    “Artist. Then…a twist. Picture this, a tag team of jungle artists. A Tiger tagger and a Giraffe graffiti artist…a Girafffiti Tiger, so to speak. Political animals, eh! Exposing trophy hunters…”
    “Sounds good. You better start writing.”
    “Okey dokey.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Do you figger Bill hears voices?”
      “Reckon he does.”
      “Yep, he’s got it bad.”

      • denmaniacs4

        I’m speechless…although the voices natter on incessantly…

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Bill — go get ’em, you Girafffiti Tiger!

    • Liz H

      You do great work when rushed…really liked this!

      • Ritu

        Thank you so much… I think I work best under pressure!

      • Liz H


    • Charli Mills

      Flash in a flash! No need to apologize — it’s actually a good practice (and a good result)!

      • Ritu

        Why thank you Charli! ????

  7. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli, though not very original I’m afraid

    It was an eyesore, and Harold didn’t know what he could do about it.
    He was too old and unsteady on his legs to sort something out himself but his neighbour George came up with an idea and agreed to split the cost as it affected him too.
    Jim and Chris were identical twins and had a gift with paint and colour. The two boys were happy to help, and at the end of the day, with £50 in their pocket, Harold had a piece of modern art at the bottom of his garden instead of a dirty concrete wall.

    • Charli Mills

      A sweet story, Di and actually a good twist — the elderly neighbors paying youth to render colorful art. I like it!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli.

      • pensitivity101

        Thank you.

  8. H.R.R. Gorman

    Somehow, I found this one even tougher than that doozy a couple weeks ago with the mashed potatoes + superheroes! Glad to see Miracle of Ducks featured again, too.

    This week’s meager contribution:
    **Writing on the Wall**

    I washed the filthy language from the overpass. I swear, the internet is ruining today’s youth and ruining hearts and minds.

    A the driver crossing the overpass rolled down his window. A man pointed at my pressure washer then asked, “Ain’t leaning over the side there dangerous?”

    “State don’t like swastikas on the overpass. Obvious reasons.”

    “Looks mighty dangerous to me. Wouldn’t want to fall, would you?”

    I caught the threat in his voice, and turned down the pressure washer. As he drove off, I took down his tag number.

    Adults these days… rotting the minds of the youth.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That’s not a meager offering. It’s good. Writers around here…

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Lol! Thanks, partner!

    • Annecdotist

      I like it! Youth gets blamed a lot for society’s ills, yet they’re the ones who will bear the brunt of older generations’ greed.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        No matter what we try, those after us will have to live with what we did. It’s an interesting conundrum!

    • Charli Mills

      Perhaps a doozy to write, but it took you to a powerful story that captures the bad behavior of those trying to spread their rot.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        In North Carolina, crap like this and KKK nonsense sparks up every once in a while…

      • Charli Mills

        I attended an archeology field school in Kansas a year ago and while cleaning artifacts (aka broken glass and square nails) I listen to stories swapped between tables. I was surprised to learn how many older participants had kkk stories and how grandparent fought back. It’s insidious, but I like to think that resisting it and being kind follows us through history, too.

    • Jules

      That symbol originally was for peace, historically that is. Until…
      Anyway a few years back a chain card store had some wrapping paper with that design… and yes someone complained and the store pulled it.

      “The swastika (as a character ? or ?) is a geometrical figure and an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia, used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions.” That was before the 1930’s…
      There is more info if you look it up. 🙂

      There are many today who are still very threatening to all that peace stands for.

      (PS remember to hit enter when you add a link – If your link didn’t turn color – red here at the ranch then it won’t work.)

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thanks for the link tip! Sometimes I’ve been perplexed by the ‘why’ when they do or don’t change color!

      • Jules

        Anytime – Most often I learn from my own mistakes. 🙂 I really can’t tell you when I figured that out…

  9. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    Just like last week (into the darkness), this Ff was a challenge for me.
    But as happens so often, I found a phrase in your posting that “unlocked” my mind:
    “art expressed without boundaries”.

    So keep writing these wonderful blogs — they are inspiring! Thanks!


    • Charli Mills

      I’m pleased to know that something led to that “unlock.” I love to experience those unlocked minds moments. Keep pushing into your art, Saifun!

  10. Liz H

    One to start our weekend out right?

    Zuzu’s Petals

    Hannah couldn’t stand it any longer: So many sad faces, mouths turned down with refusal after refusal, so bad that no one dared a joyful and barbaric “Yawp!” a la Whitman, or even a comic, life-saving “Yopp!” as Horton had heard it.
    [Continue ]

    Happy Friday, All!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Keep shaking up the weekends (and weekdays), Liz!

      • Liz H

        This one WAS fun, especially with the meme pic. 😀

      • Charli Mills

        That meme is great! I would swear it was me as a child fleeing a calf in the ranch pen, lol! We used to spray paint the calves for some odd-forgotten reason why…

    • Liz H

      Every overlooked kid needs someone to be believe in him/her!

      • calmkate

        so true Liz … they need support and encouragement!

    • robbiesinspiration

      Lovely and uplifting, Kate.

      • calmkate

        thanks so much Robbie, really appreciate your comments

    • Charli Mills

      That’s the way to reach a student! I enjoyed the story in your flash, Kate.

      • calmkate

        thanks so much Charli!

    • pedometergeek

      What a wonderful story and so uplifting. ~nan

      • calmkate

        thanks so much!

  11. tnkerr

    A Quick story about the artist of some prehistoric Jornada Mogollon rock art located in Otero County NM. Just really old graffiti… Right?

    The Petroglyphs at Three Rivers

    Istaqa was a sentry. The night threatened to be as cold as it would be long. He was not vigilant. He spent the night carving pictures of goats on the rocks surrounding his post. Come morning he would show the goats to Chosovi’s father. Chosovi would be his wife if Istaqa could present her father with sufficient goats, and a rifle.

    The goats were a symbolic transference of wealth. The rifle was a true symbol of peace between their families. No warrior would arm his enemies.

    Istaqa already had the rifle and by morning he would have enough goats.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! And I love that really old graffiti! Found some of it while lost on mars (southern Utah). Makes me want to go read a Tony Hillerman novel.

  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    An interesting prompt Charli. Made me think of graffiti through the ages and the evolution it has made in modern times but in reality it is the same as prehistoric graffiti – we all want to make our mark.
    You had me with heart in mouth with your story. Huge sigh of relief even though the poor elk copped it.
    Mine this week

    • Charli Mills

      I enjoyed your history lesson and certainly fits your recent look at ancient graffiti. Oh, those train accidents in Elmira, Idaho never ended well elk, moose, bear, or passenger car.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Sad. They don’t end well here and I don’t know about wildlife that gets caught. I have a feeling it is probably only vehicles and the odd cow.

  13. Jules

    Still busy as we all are this month… I hope to catch up next week. I had a party (hubby’s work) last night and we are having our own this evening.

    I went with some history; If you go to the post that’s where you will find more info and a photo of stylized graffiti of Lady Liberty.

    Finding Liberty?

    Over water to the separated land, visitors came to see the expressed art in the form of graffiti, which stood for about twenty eight years. Only when the wall was finally taken down could families connect again to some normalcy.

    Some artwork of the west side of the Berlin wall has been preserved. Most of it was by anonymous artists. If given the opportunity to express hope to a divided people what could be expressed. One piece of wall projected a series of an American viewpoint. Lady Liberty who once welcomed strangers seeking freedom. Many hope She still does.


    • Sascha Darlington

      I love the idea of finding the old graffiti from when the walls were still up and feeling their hope shine through. Good flash!

    • pedometergeek

      Excellent take, Jules. Your unique perspective rides again. Well done.

    • Charli Mills

      Tis a busy month, indeed, Jules. I wish you well in all your festivities! I stand among the many who still believes in her ideals as flawed as we might be in executing them. Great flash!

  14. susansleggs

    I too love the view of sunshine, then snow, the ice crystals and the ensuing decorations a good storm can leave on the waterfront. Winter is a beautiful time for those of us who like it, or at least embrace it. I hope all had a good Thanksgiving and welcome to the new names I am seeing. I know tattoos are high priced, pre-planned art, but not necessarily enjoyable in some cases….

    Body Graffiti

    The ballet dancer lay motionless on the stage allowing the music to draw me in. After a few bars he raised into a standing position with undulations I couldn’t imagine a body being able to accomplish. The music quickened and he leaped along with the beat then twisted and rolled across the stage as it slowed. His torso and legs were waxed bare, and his leggings matched the color of his skin. His perfected physique was a delight to view in so many different positions. Alas, he cheated himself because the dark blue body graffiti distracted my mind’s eye.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Sue, I do love the art left by crystal-painters and wind-sculptors. Winter can be beautiful with a glistening white canvas. Your flash made me laugh, though — I can see how distracting tattoos can be on a dancer in nude tights. I had noticed the body art but followed the flawless dancing. After your flash, I couldn’t stop noticing the tats! I keep wondering who is on his shoulder. It looks like a chubby Putin, but I think that unlikely.

  15. Sascha Darlington

    Coincidentally my music monday post this week was Hozier, whom I adore. The man can write beautiful, meaningful music and has a pair of pipes.

    Love your flash, Charli. I could feel the relief when she knew it wasn’t Ike who had been hit.

    Here is my flash for the week:

    • Charli Mills

      We share an adoration, Sascha. Hozier’s voice is recognizable and I love the passion he puts into his songwriting. I was fascinated to learn that he was little-known until Take Me to Church. And I love Nina Cries Power! If you like music, check out the streaming radio station out of Boston — D. Avery has me hooked on the station. Fun flash!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Art appreciation; I liked the idea of the graffiti slowing folks down.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Neel! Yes, the graffers and flashers — we call the world to pause a moment.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey Dark Net! Love the contrast between ancient mystery and modern reality tv. I enjoyed the read!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much, Charli! 🙂 😀

  16. Norah

    Such beautiful descriptions, Charli. You paint clear images with your magic word brushes. What a wonderful way to describe artistic collaboration and then to draw us all back to the weekly collaboration right here on your Ranch, that owes its success to those who drop by to read, write, stay or drift on. The welcome sign is always up for anyone who chooses to join in with positive intent.
    I breathed a sigh of relief with Danni too. I’m sure she wasn’t pleased that the elk had been injured, but better the elk (for her) than Ike. Hopefully, the graffiti is a good omen. Perhaps it will bring out the best in writers here at the Ranch also.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I just scraped enough time to scratch up a story but not a post. Here’s my story:

      The Meliorist
      He opened his bag and glanced about — nobody in sight. A faint glow emanated from single street light further down. A cat meowed somewhere close but the hum of traffic was too far away to deter. The can warmed in his hand as he shook it. He hesitated, then removed the cap. Pressing his lips together, he began spraying, high first, then low. Only when a car horn sounded did he pause. When his cans were spent, he melded into the night and slipped away. In daylight, commuters paused to admire his work and contemplate its message of hope.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        There’s that positive intent of which you speak. A not so random act of vandalism that signals hope…

      • Norah

        That’s what I hope to achieve with my own words. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah. You’ve added the neon to the open sign at the Ranch over the years. I’ve learned so much from you, including the meaning of meliorist. Dare I say, we’ve made progress? 😉 I embrace the meliorist as artist in your flash.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. I had many ideas floating around for this one, but the meliorist in me emerged so I grabbed it before it drifted away.

      • Charli Mills

        Always grab the meliorist, Norah!

  17. pedometergeek

    Graphic Artists

    Angela was going to the museum to see the new collection of graphic artists. That is, until she got stopped by the train. It was a good thing she wasn’t in a hurry because the train was barely moving.

    As Angela sat there, she noticed all of the graffiti-covered boxcars and car carriers. Someone certainly had talent with spray paint; how did anyone find the time to paint them, she wondered. Intricate and detailed designs graced the sides of nearly every car. Although they may have been gang symbols, Angela realized she was enjoying an art collection on wheels.

    Nancy Brady

    • Charli Mills

      Art on the way to see the art! Great flash, Nancy. It reminds me of the time the trains would slowly pass on the tracks across from my Idaho home and I felt like I had my own art viewing as I washed dishes.

    • Charli Mills

      Howdy, Papershots! Thanks!

      • papershots


  18. papershots

    BTW, I love the image you found for this challenge. It reminds me of Greece, where there’s lots of wonderful graffiti on the walls of many cities and towns.

    • Charli Mills

      Greece sounds lovely — ancient and modern art! This lovely raven caught my eye the very last day of no-snow on a road trip through the Keweenaw. It’s graffiti on an old mine smelter.

  19. pedometergeek

    Street Artists

    Angela was going to the museum to see the new collection of graphic artists. That is, until she got stopped by the train. It was a good thing she wasn’t in a hurry because the train was barely moving.

    As Angela sat there, she noticed all of the graffiti-covered boxcars and car carriers. Someone certainly had talent with spray paint; how did anyone find the time to paint them, she wondered. Intricate and detailed designs graced the sides of nearly every car. Although they may have been gang symbols, Angela realized she was enjoying an art collection on wheels.

    Nancy Brady, 2018

    • Charli Mills

      Sorry, Nan, I think the WordPress gremlins played tricks with your story! But I enjoyed reading it twice! 😀

  20. Ann Edall Robson

    Classic Graffiti
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “99 words,” she says. “Graffiti,” she says. My mind goes to rail cars painted with obscure words and hieroglyphics. Nothing surfaces to write about. But wait, there is graffiti with an old school twist! Sidetracked for a few hours, the memories prevailed throughout one of the best movies of all time. A classic to be watched over and over – American Graffiti. Drive-in theatres were still the rage. It’s where I saw it for the first time. A must-have addition to the VCR collection with Wolfman Jack spinning the vinyls for an amazing soundtrack. Now, this is graffiti!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      See, you did it! I never saw that movie. Can you imagine how lit up a drive-in would be now with everyone on their phones the whole time?

      • Ann Edall Robson

        D it was a sad day when the drive-in was left behind. I know there are a few still around. They were a blast. The movie is worth seeing if you ever get the chance.

      • Charli Mills

        D., we are watching this movie come summer! You must feel the rock around the clock!

    • Charli Mills

      Not just any old twist, but THE peppermint twist! I followed you once you led, Ann! This is graffiti, indeed!

  21. Liz H

    Different idea, different mood:

    Noteworthy Collaboration

    Stepping back, Nora tipped her head, listening to the bright voices within the subterranean waterfall. They wove in and out, considering the words and images she’d already painted on the cave’s rock wall, and stopped on a questioning note, awaiting further input.
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      Like weather in Minnesota — wait five minutes! 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for taking me to the streets to run with the poets, Kay!

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        I am running right along side of you! Thanks for the fun prompt this past week.

  22. Kate

    ‘Tis the season where my kitchen transforms into a wonderland of butter, flour, sugar and spice. Little brown men, snowflakes and Christmas trees pop out of my oven on a regular basis. I’m quite rusty at writing, but I couldn’t resist combining this week’s ‘graffiti’ challenge with gingerbread.

    Gingerbread Art

    “Ger, you’re the best artist I know,” said Janet dropping the gingerbread showcase pamphlet on the kitchen table. She picked up a photo of the graffiti-laden Kelburn Castle in Scotland and handed it to Gerry. “You can do this.”

    “Sis, I only paint with oils, not icing.”

    “And I don’t see the difference; both are messy. Look, all you need to do is duplicate their Picasso-like mural onto my gingerbread.”

    “Not interested,” he said opening the fridge door.

    “I’m baking the castle and Julie’s helping create the garden paths, trees, yurts and-”


    “Yeah, Julie.”

    “Okay. Count me in.”

    • Liz H


    • Kate

      I just realized the original story had 100 words, not 99. Here is the 99 word version. Sorry folks!

      Gingerbread Art

      “Ger, you’re the best artist I know,” said Janet dropping the gingerbread showcase pamphlet on the kitchen table. She picked up a photo of the graffiti-laden Kelburn Castle in Scotland and handed it to her brother. “You can do this.”

      “Sis, I only paint with oils, not icing.”

      “And I don’t see the difference; both are messy. Look, all you need to do is duplicate their Picasso-like mural onto my gingerbread.”

      “Not interested,” he said opening the fridge door.

      “I’m baking the castle and Julie’s helping create the garden paths, yurts and–”



      “Okay. Count me in.”

      • Charli Mills

        Delicious in both versions, Kate! I like the family collaboration to bring this castles to the kitchen It reminds me of a showstopper on the Great British Bakeoff. I’d love to be in your kitchen right now! Glad to see you flashing, Kate.

  23. Sherri Matthews

    A moving and powerful collaberation…art breeds art and it is a beautiful thing to witness, isn’t it? Love your Elk’s message, Charli 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It does, doesn’t it? Reminds me of how sticker art breeds sticker art, too! 😀 Thanks, Sherri! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…too right, Charli! Sticker art in its very own genre! 😀 <3

    • Charli Mills

      WOW! From flash to a new Sir Chocolate book! Your creativity is flowing like paint! Good job, Robbie.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thank you, Charli. I haven’t been able to write a Sir Choc book for ages – too stressed and uptight. I am so happy that your word sparked and idea and Michael and I fleshed it out in one morning.

      • Charli Mills

        That makes me happy! There is science behind regularly practicing flash fiction constraints. The brain begins to recognize 99-words as “problem-solving mode.” And that can lead to creative breakthroughs. You should recognize your own tenacity, too — to keep writing even when it isn’t flowing the way it does when you are more relaxed and less stressed. Good job!

  24. Charli Mills

    An interesting insight on process, too!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks for your story!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo Hawk!

  29. Charli Mills

    Great reflection on music, Chelsea!


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