Rodeo #5: Sound and Fury Winners

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 14, 2018

By D. Avery

Sometimes fear, respect, and awe are the braids of one rope. Sometimes that one rope is all a buckaroo has to hang onto. Your flash should never let go of that rope.

That was my lead-in to the prompt for the final rodeo contest, the Sound and Fury. I wanted contestants to write about a dangerous situation that people willingly engage in.

I have learned so much here at the Ranch even since penning such tough talk over a month ago. The prompt was to write of danger and risk, but for many just sharing one’s writing is a risk, and to compete is an even greater risk. To be willing to face a fear, to do what is not easy to do, engenders learning and growth; it is an act of creative courage.

Creative courage is what Carrot Ranch is about. The rope here is a lifeline, a support, a way to find your way through a blizzard of self-doubt and fear. It is braided from caring, safety, and trust. I am grateful and in awe of all who participated in the rodeo events and applaud the contestants’ courage and willingness to take a risk.

I naively posited to my co-judges that this year’s contest would be easier to judge, as there were fewer entries. I also assumed (spell check) that as the writer in our group I had the advantage and insights necessary to our task. Then my co-judges, both voracious readers, schooled me in judging, exposing the flaws in my assumptions as they showed me how to read a 99-word story. Because there were fewer entries, 19 after two had to be dropped for consideration because of word count, we were able to read more closely and collaboratively, but that did not make the task easier. Around the table, it was felt that there was a lot of talent and many great ideas and takes on danger presented in response to the prompt. We found that the quality of all entries was very high and that the entries were closer in range. This forced us to focus on word choice, on beginnings and endings; while we felt a story did not have to be totally resolved, we agreed there should not be uncertainties that distract from the reading and that there should be a sense of completeness in a story. And then we re-read again. Our deliberations finally brought us agreement on our three winners.

Taking first place and $25 is Jules Paige’s Contested Contingent.

They are silent soldiers. A rare unified army. Commanded by a queen to seek the supplies to survive. Instinctual training leads them through dense foliage to the structures of giants. With all the unseasonable torrential rains their homes have become flooded. Yet they expect no outside relief. They are a self-sufficient bunch.

Mother has not seen the arrival of the invaders. In her nightgown, robe and slippers she ventures into the morning light of the kitchen and… draws a blood curdling scream. Father rushes to her aide. His bravery unsurpassed, he calms Mother and calls the local ant exterminator.

The Amazing Educator felt that this entry had “something extra” with the twist of ants being in danger, and the tongue in cheek humor regarding the brave father protecting the assaulted mother, and appreciated that it was well paced with strong vocabulary and sensory details. We all agreed that though the six-legged characters were unexpected, Jules provided a fun take and answered our criteria for showing the “dance between the danger and the endangered.” The motivations of the ants and the humans were clear, and the irony of the ants escaping one danger only to become endangered again because of the supposed danger they posed to the domicile of the giants was quite a dance indeed.

Anne Goodwin comes in second with To the Rescue. In addition to collecting another ranger badge, Anne wins a copy of D. Avery’s After Ever.

Cold cruel enough to cut the breath from me. Waves roar loud enough to drown out other sounds. It took a fool to dive in after her. It’ll take a hero to ferry her to shore.

Hair and beard turn to icicles. Arms to cartwheels, legs to flippers, brain to military command. Kick harder! Plough faster! Fight off lakebed vegetation, fear and fatigue!

I’ve almost reached her when a tether takes my ankle. I yank it back. It reins me in. I’m swallowing water when I grab her wrist. How will history judge me: a hero or a fool?  

The desperate dance in the water was very vivid and tense with Anne’s terse sentences and succinct descriptions. Though the ultimate outcome was unresolved, it was clear what the motivation was, and we felt this story was complete and only enhanced by the suspense of not knowing whether the foolish hero succeeds or even survives.

Third place and a copy of Chicken Shift go to Ritu Bhathal for Goodbye Fall.

Below me flowed water, fast and furious.

I tightened my grip on the pot.

“All ready?” The instructor checked my harnesses.

I gulped.

But I nodded. I needed to do this.

Launching myself, as instructed, I fell, headfirst, feeling the air zoom past me.

The elastic went taut and I bounced up and down several times.

My heart was in my mouth.

As I came to a stop, I looked at the pot, still in my hands.

Loosening its lid and allowing the contents to fall into the water, I whispered “Goodbye Jake,” before slowly being pulled back up.

What is apparent from the beginning is both the narrator’s fear and resolve to make this jump, though Ritu reveals this through discreet details, such as a tightened grip, a gulp, a silent nod. The motivation isn’t revealed until the end, with the detail of whispering and being pulled back up slowly adding to the poignancy.

For her Honorable Mention, Bonnie chose Chasing the Past, by Sascha Darlington.

Blake’s ultimatum: “Stop storm chasing or I’ll leave.”

The first fat drop of rain hits the windshield as I pull onto Rafferty Road. Forget Blake. Focus.

The hail throttles me awake. The tornado falls out of the sky, barrels toward me. Momentarily, I’m awed by the intensity, the blackness, the harsh windy sound of the twisting, family-killing creature.

“Stupid!” I jerk the Suburban’s wheel, bounce over the median, then turn right onto a dirt road. I’m nearly standing on the gas pedal. The rearview shows only blackness. Debris shatters the back window.

If I survive, I’ll never storm-chase again.

This was one we had all looked at more than once. There was compelling language and tension, though the final sentence felt flat.

For her Honorable Mention, the Amazing Educator chose Addressing the Animated Alarm, by Jules Paige.

They sit around quite a bit. But their hands aren’t idle. In their spare time they keep their credentials current and their equipment clean. Each man and woman forming a bond, a second family that they can depend on. Some are volunteers, others get compensation. Some paid members volunteer at other locations. Not a one would consider themselves a hero.

Whenever that klaxon rings, fear gets pushed aside. Danger gets treated with respect and all follow the leader who barks the orders of where the equipment and bodies need to be. There is no hesitation for the brave firefighters.

The Amazing Educator liked the language of this piece, the word choice and the rhythm of it. She only wishes that it could somehow be more inclusive regarding the EMTs and others who also put themselves into dangerous situations to serve and protect others.

My Honorable Mention choice is a story that made me feel like I was watching the kind of movie I don’t watch. It was scary, with the character in an ill-advised and dangerous situation. Oh yeah, that was the prompt.

Susan Sleggs’ He Had Kind Eyes was disturbing to me, and well written, and I appreciate that Susan ended it with unexpected chivalry. Susan accomplished a lot with her 99 words. 

The bartender told the tarted up woman, “There’s a rule; the boss gets first dibs on any strange and then they share?”

She stayed, sipping whiskey a little too fast. The Harleys roared in.

The group entered. The noise level tripled. They eyed her until she ordered another. A man smelling of leather, and aftershave paid; took proprietorship. Soon walked her out.

In the quiet night, he said, “Your perfume smells like fear. What do you want?”

Tears formed. “To prove I’m not a mouse.”

He kissed her like no other had. “Go home. You proved it to me.”

Phew! I’ll say it again; this was no easy task. We found merit with each and every one of the entries; each demanded careful consideration. I learned a lot about writing flash from each entry and from reading with my fellow judges. Thank you to my friends and fellow judges, the multi-talented Bonnie Sheila, and a really smart woman who truly is an Amazing Educator. Thank you Carrot Ranch Literary Community, the writers, leaders, and readers and other supporters, for riding along with the second Flash Fiction Rodeo. Congratulations to Charli on another successful Rodeo.

Congratulations to all who placed and all who played.

You can read the qualifying entries under the Rodeo tab at Rodeo #5: Sound and Fury.

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  1. floatinggold

    What a rodeo it’s been. CongratZ to the winners. I liked the clash of the ant and the human world in the winning piece.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Goldie! It’s been a great ride! I also like the ant versus human clash.

  2. Jules

    Yowzers! The first time ever I’ve won cash for writing! Thank you!
    I truly had fun writing all of my entries.

    And just to clarify for “The Animated Alarm” that in some states firefighters also have to be EMTs – I know because my guys are such. They also volunteer for Hazmat duty – hazardous Materials – and there isn’t really a klaxton for that; just pagers/texts at any hour of the day or night. When duty calls the professionals and volunteers are ready.

    As a side note 70 to 80% of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers. And the difference in training is really negligible. The main difference is that the Pro’s get paid and the volunteers don’t.

    Again I am beyond thrilled to be a Rodeo Winner. I have had oodles of fun and am just busting at my seams this morning! I think the smile I’ve got on my face is going to be there for quite some time. 😀

    Congratulations to all the winners and honorable mentions. I hope to read every piece eventually!

    Yippee! ~ Jules

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yes, Yippee and Yowzers!
      Congratulations Jules. You rode strong and long. Buckin’ nay!

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Congratulations, Jules! Well done! <3

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Congratulations, Jules. Don’t spend the $25, it may multiplies!!

    • Annecdotist

      Both fabulous stories, Jules. Congratulations.

    • Norah

      Congratulations, Jules. I love your ant story and appreciate the way you show appreciation for the firefighters. Great job!

      • Jules

        While my hubby isn’t as young as he used to be and knows his limitations… a few years ago he did receive his 25 years of volunteer ‘life’ service notice from our local volunteer group. He still serves when he can with the Hazmat volunteer group. Both son’s got involved with training when they were 14 -they are now in their 30’s. One got his wife to become a volunteer firefighter and the other, while continuing to volunteer is also a professional.

        The training that both volunteers and professionals for fire fighting, Emergency Medical Technician (training -Not just limited to the paid ambulance service -even police get some medical training), and Hazmat is time consuming and extensive. I even took an on line first aid course this year. Periodically the rules change for CPR – I try to stay updated with those changes.

        I guess to me the klaxon is more associated with firefighters – though really some stations don’t even use it anymore because now things are computerized and texted to smart phones. Though our neighboring volunteer station still uses a klaxon – and we do hear it all too often.

      • Norah

        What a wonderful family of volunteers, Jules. You must be very proud of the contribution you make individually and collectively. Best wishes to you and yours for the Christmas season.

    • Charli Mills

      Yippee, Jules! I hope you are still grinning broadly! While I enjoyed the clever writing of your first place flash, I was also happy to see your firefighter flash in the winner’s circle, too. Thank you for your family’s service, for your call of duty any time of day or night. Congratulations!

  3. JoHawkTheWriter

    Congrats to the winners and everyone who entered. Great stuff here. ????

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so glad you congratulated everyone who entered, Jo. It takes courage to put our writing out there to be judged and that winning isn’t always top prize. Thank you.

  4. Annecdotist

    Yay, being generally danger averse I really didn’t think I could do this one! So glad you liked my entry and I really enjoyed the other stories here. Jules’ army of ants is fabulous.
    Thanks to the judges – I’m still smiling D at your description of being put in your place.
    As I already have a copy of After Ever, I’m content with the honour and my Ranger badge, which is fitting as I actually worked on this while out on patrol.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Well now I’ll have to find a ranger badge and you will get copies of my books of poetry whether you want them or not.
      Congratulations Anne.

      • Annecdotist

        Will be most welcome!

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Congratulations, Anne! Excellent flash!

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Miriam, I just checked out your photos from The Messiah concert – hope it went well, my turn tomorrow!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, it did. We had a new conductor at a new church as the previous conductor retired. The new church took the choral under their wing. My friends who attended appreciated the new setting!

    • Norah

      Congratulations, Anne. Great story!

    • Charli Mills

      Congratulations, Anne! You’ve really stretched your mettle this Rodeo, taking on danger and memoir.

  5. Liz H

    Congratulations to the first thru third-place winners as well as the honorable mentions (Susan, I loved your tender take especially!).
    I’m delighted by the high quality of the the qualifying entrants, a smaller group than for the other rodeo events–must have been a bear to choose among them! Good work judges!
    A Happy Holiday present to all of us! <3

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thank you, Liz. It was good hard work, that. My co-judges were superb every step of the way. It was a valuable experience and I am glad it’s over.

    • susansleggs

      Thanks Liz. Most “bikers” are really good people

    • Charli Mills

      I like thinking of all these Rodeo collections as holiday gifts we’ve been unwrapping. Thank you, Liz!

  6. Ritu

    Firstly congratulations to the winners.. and SAY WHAT? I got a place? Wow!
    Thank you so much for appreciating my writing! I am beyond thrilled!!!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yep. You’ve had quite a rodeo. It’s a hard way to get a free copy of Chicken Shift, but there you go. Congratulations.

      • Ritu

        Ha ha!!!
        Worth it though xxx

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Congratulations, Ritu! Wow, you’re coming up to the first very soon!

      • Ritu

        Thank you so much Miriam!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Ritu!

    • Annecdotist

      Loved your story, Ritu. I doubt I’d be that brave – in fact, I’m going to have The Conversation with Mr A so there’s no misunderstanding when the time comes 😉

      • Ritu

        Ha ha!!! Let’s hope a more sedate option is decided upon!!!

    • Norah

      Congratulations, Ritu. Great story.

      • Ritu

        Thank you Norah ????

    • Charli Mills

      Yep, you PLACED! Congratulations, Ritu! Your story professes a deep love and a unique way to “let go.”

      • Ritu

        I don’t know where ideas come from, but thank you Charli!!! I was placed!!!

  7. denmaniacs4

    It has been a diverse and delicious rodeo journey. Congratulations to all…

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you riding along, Bill and adding to the journey!

  8. pedometergeek

    Wow! Congrats to all the winners and honorable mentions. Awesome stories from Jules (both as the 1st place winner and HM), Anne, Ritu, Sascha, and Susan. Well done, all.

    I don’t think I even attempted this challenge as it was too “dangerous” and I must be risk adverse. The muse was hiding out so am doubly impressed with all of you. Congrats again. ~nan

    • pedometergeek

      Oh yeah, I was all too caught up in my job with the board of elections…that was danger enough.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Maybe you’ll write that some day.
        We don’t all have to be in every event. Thank you for being in the stands and encouraging those who rode this one.

      • Charli Mills

        Nan, I hope you survived the board of election! Thank you!

    • Annecdotist

      I’m certainly risk averse, but definitely feels less dangerous in fiction than in real life.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Well, one can try all sorts of things in one’s writing without leaving the chair. But this writing thing has felt like a risky venture. But like motorcycling, it gets less stressful with practice. Almost getting run off the road doesn’t get the heart racing like it used to, you just swerve and keep on.

  9. calmkate

    Congrats to all the winners and thanks to the judges … Jules you rocked!

      • calmkate

        lol good one 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Jules knows how to rock! Thanks, Kate.

      • calmkate

        She most certainly does .. loved her entries in other categories too, she has truckloads of talent!

  10. tnkerr

    Wow – Nice

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good sound, TN!

  11. Colleen Chesebro

    Congratulations everyone! This was a tough challenge. Well done to the winners! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Like writing and dancing all at once! Thanks, Colleen!

  12. Miriam Hurdle

    Congratulations to all the winners and mentions. What a Rodeo year!! Great job, Charli. I hope to be riding around next year! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Miriam, I hope to see you back in the saddle for next Rodeo and riding at the Ranch when it’s not as dangerous. 🙂 Hope everything is going well with your book publish!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        If I have a book next year, I’ll try not to publish it too close to your Rodeo time. I’ll spend next week in Portland seeing my granddaughter, come home for a week, then we all go to Hong Kong and Japan for almost 3 weeks for my nephew’s wedding and visit my daughter and s-i-l’s school friends working in Japan. I’ll be back to the flash in February. Will do more promotion of the book when I come back. 🙂 🙂

  13. reading journeys

    Congratulations to all the winners, and to all the participants, in all the TUFF & 99-word FF Rodeos!

    And thank you, Charli, and all the judges, for your enthusiasm, your time and hard work.

    I’m glad I participated – scary to begin with, but in the end, great fun!

    Thanks again.


    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Saifun! I hope that as scary as contests can be, the entering gets easier, more familiar, and always fun to take on a challenge.

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    The results for Rodeo #5: Sound and Fury are in. Charli Mills is wrapping up another fun and successful Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Hop over and see all the stories from all the events.

    • Charli Mills

      D. you did a fine job leading a merry bull dance across the Rodeo arena. You and your judges were dance partners to the writers. Thank you for the time, thought and sound-scaping that went into the Sound and Fury.

  15. robertawrites235681907

    These are all amazing pieces. Congratulations all round.

  16. Norah

    Congratulations to Jules for a fabulous story and winning first place. Congratulations to Anne for second and Ritu for third place. Such great stories. Also congratulations to Sascha, Jules and Susan for their Honourable mentions. Fabulous contest D. with many fearless writers. You and your judges did well to choose the winners. I appreciate the insightful and helpful feedback. Thanks, Charli, for a fabulous rodeo. What a variety of contests and stories. You show how to make literary arts accessible.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, you are a gracious and important part of that accessibility. Thank you for all you’ve done to make the Ranch and Rodeo reach out to writers.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. I do what I can.

  17. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    The results of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #5 The Sound and the Fury have been announced. What fabulous stories. Ride on over to the Ranch to read the winners, the Honourable Mentions and all the entries. Great writing everyone!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for sharing, Traci!

      • tracikenworth

        You’re welcome, Charli!

  18. Sarah Brentyn

    Congratulations to all! 🙂

  19. Sascha Darlington

    101 and more apologies to all here. I so much appreciated being selected for honorable mention and I’m afraid I knew that the last line ruined the story, but that was on me for not writing a story until I was down to the wire and then semi-freaking (okay totally freaking). However, I so much wanted to respond earlier, but things got in the way. Thanks to D. Avery and all the rest of the judges and everyone here. It was quite a rodeo for me. I learned a lot and practicing writing is never a bad thing. And again, thanks to everyone involved and I’m so very sorry (again) for this late response.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey Sascha! No apologies needed. You know, it’s interesting how we think a line or phrasing ruins our story, but the reader sees it differently. It was a flash fiction worthy of its honorable mention!

      • Sascha Darlington

        Thank you. The community you’ve built is so supportive. I am so happy to have found it.

      • Charli Mills

        A little haven for us all as we write. Thanks for being here!


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