February 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

February 14, 2019

It’s February 14, and I find much to love today. I can imagine that the invisible warm winds lapping at the coast of snow outside my stoop conform to aerodynamic heart-shapes. Why not? The wind is unseen so I can pick how to see it in my mind. Hearts float by and surround me in such an imaginative construct.

Today, I met a Nigerian Prince, and I loved so much about our encounter. He didn’t say he was a prince, but by his demeanor and broad smile I couldn’t help but think he was. The local Rotary Chapter invited me to speak at their weekly luncheon. Not one to miss an opportunity to read and tell stories, I accepted the invitation to be their guest. That’s where I met the Prince.

He wore cloth not from the US — it looked thicker, and held a linen-like weave. It was dark blue, almost like a midnight sky when a full moon casts enough light to give color. Small dots of cream decorated the Prince’s matching shirt and pants. He dressed handsomely and spoke eloquently. Suddenly, I loved Nigerian language. It occurs to me in afterthought that I should have asked him to speak his native tongue.

The Prince spoke clear English, but I noticed he rounded his sounds as if his mouth were an instrument. It made me think how sacred oral communication is, how as people, we take great care to shape sounds into words to give meaning to what we feel inside. And what is that exactly? What is this tug to love so many things — people, ideas, stories, exchanges? Literary art feeds on this impulse of expression.

Mostly, I loved the Prince because he appreciated my stories. Isn’t that the simplest of love stories? He approached with great care and asked if I had my words down in something he could carry. A book. But think about that a minute, because that’s where I’ve been languishing all day, believing heart-shaped wind caresses my snow into melting. He asked to carry my stories back with him. Back to Nigeria.

How could I refuse such a request? Yes, I gave him a copy of Vol. 1, and he requested I write something in it just for him. I’ve not felt so revered as I did with the Prince. Of course, that’s why I thought he had to be royalty. He was magnificent. Further, he told me a story about how he and his friends collect books and how hard it is to take all the volumes back to his country because of weight limits. Image that Nigeria is a place where literacy is so valued that when you return, you try to haul back as many books as you can!

Although I’m less enamored with children, I did love the ones who came with their parents today (something about a half school day). They all wanted to listen to the writer. One listened intently. I could see her listening with her eyes, creating images of the stories her grandmother told at my lunch table. That woman was one to love — a natural-born storyteller who announced to me as she left that she was going to declare herself a buckaroo, too!

How about that? I found a kindred-buckaroo-spirit in the Keweenaw. She and her granddaughter would have understood if I had whispered to them that the winds were blowing hearts today.

During my talk, I read. I love the privilege of working at Carrot Ranch among such talented, tenacious, and courageous writers. Fellow literary artists. I read a few stories from Vol. 1. I read a trio of Copper Country stories for Vol. 2. The audience marveled at the power of 99-word flash and the scope of where writers come from around the world. I love watching people connect with the stories. There’s nothing quite like reading aloud literary art and watching it grab ahold of listeners.

When I talk to audiences, I make sure I know who they are — business or civic-minded, students, or casual listeners looking to be entertained. I select stories to stir their hearts and prod their minds. I have my own 99-word stories I read, and a few I share from my storytelling tradition. Today, I asked for a volunteer to join me up front to hold my hand. I swear I don’t gnash my teeth at people, but you’d think I went feral at the uncomfortable silence that ensued.

I love that uncomfortable silence.

That’s the space where humanity happens. If we are comfortable, then we are walled up, everyone happily co-existing in boundaries. I want to break down walls. I want to risk discomfort, which is the point of my request. The man from the back who braved stepping forward let me hold his hand. It’s not the story I tell that alters the audience. It’s the understanding that shifts their hearts.

Holding the man’s hand, I relate a story once gifted to me by a Kentucky storyteller who once spoke at Carroll College when I was a student. She had asked for my hand and told me about the time her grandfather died. Before he passed, he asked for her hand. She was eight-years-old, and he told her that when he was that age, he met a man who fought in the Civil War. He held a rifle in his hands and battled cousin against cousin. He was old, but held the boy’s hand and said: “Don’t forget — you once held the hand of a man who fought in the Civil War.”

The boy grew up, raised a family, and as an old man on his deathbed, he passed down the story to his granddaughter, holding her hand. He said, “You’ve now held the hand of a man who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War.”

And yes, I passed this down to a man in the Keweenaw Rotary Club today. I told him, “You held the hand of a woman who held the hand of the granddaughter of the man who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War.” It gets long-winded, lots of hand-holding as the story grows, but they all got it. And I loved that moment of recognition. That moment when stories express the humanity of one to the humanity of others. That’s literary art. And that’s why we practice and put our stories out there.

We talked about collecting stories, about being story-catchers for the Rotary, their businesses, families, and life. I gave them my Lego bucket analogy for gathering 99-word stories. The kids all knew what we do with Legos — we build. One member asked if Carrot Ranch was my business. No, I told her. It’s my author platform, and I share it with a community. I explained how authors need to work simultaneously on three strategies — writing (drafting, revising, editing), platform building, and publishing. I told her that I also loved the interaction with other writers and the chance to create literary art as I work on longer projects.

I closed with this 99-word story I wrote for one of the Rodeo contests in 2017. I think. Sometimes, I realize I’m not a good curator of my own writing as I wildly sow seeds and then try to gather them up in some sort of organization. I don’t always pick the same stories to share, but I love this one so I will share it now (perhaps, again):

When I Grow Up, I Just Want to Be Happy by Charli Mills

I’m six-years-old and have told a lie. “Mom said I could go home with Mitch.” I leave school early with my cousin and our grandfather.

Mitch is Underdog to my Polly Purebread fears. He’s my hero. My pulse doesn’t flutter like a swallowed bird in my throat when we’re together. We pedal bikes through the apricot orchards, watch cartoons, roam turkey barns, climb baled haystacks.

Our grandfather catches me in the lie when my mother panics, not finding me at school. “Always tell the truth,” he chastises us.

My cousin does. He becomes a cop.

Me; I write fiction.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m happy. In Finland, they greet, “Hyvää Ystävänpaivää!” Don’t ask me how to say it; I can hardly understand the English of Yoopers who shape their mouths and perform tongue gymnastics differently from my Nigerian Prince and me. But it means, “Happy Friendship Day!” And I love that. Love among friends, palentines for pals, love for life, humanity and art is so much broader than steak-and-lobster-for-two kind of love. Although, I do love steak and lobster.

A few household details — remember to include your story on the form, not just a link to your story. A link makes me work differently, kind of like I have to get off my horse to go take care of a chore that I asked a rancher to do. If you were my kids, I’d give you that “look.” And kudos to all of you who are getting into the mash-up vibe (combining constraints). I love that creative energy! But remember that this challenge is more than a prompt — it’s 99-words, no more, no less. Otherwise, you know the deal — go where the prompt lead!

Go spread love. Write. Make art.

February 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about valentines. It can be Valentine’s Day, the exchange, love for another, romance, or friendship. Have a heart and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 19, 2019. 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.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Be Mine (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

No Valentine’s Day card greeted Danni in the mailbox. Only an official Veterans Affairs mailer. She flipped on houselights, contemplating cold leftovers. She’d rather be wining and dining Ike, but he was in Iraq. Her landline rang.

“Hey, Michael.”

“What’s up? Hear from Ike?”

“No. just something from the VA.” Danni opened the envelop as Michael told her the latest from the Canadian border – nothing. “Oh, wow. This letter rates Ike for PTSD.”



“Are you going to leave him?” Michael asked.

“Are you going to dump your friend?”

“Hell no!”

“That’s my answer. He’ll always be mine.”

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  1. calmkate

    Powerful, and would have loved to meet your Nigerian Prince 🙂
    Appreciate how adept you are at involving your audience and opening them up … a skill I’d like to learn!

    • Charli Mills

      He was someone I could have visited with all afternoon, Kate! Just read ’em and tell ’em stories. 😉

      • calmkate


  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “No gittin’ aroun’ this dang theme. An’ who’s gonna rein Shorty in, goin’ on ‘bout charming princes; tellin’ ya, she’s goin’ snow crazy up there.”
    “Nah, she’s jist crazy ‘bout story tellin’ in 99 words. Why’re ya so orn’ry ‘bout this prompt, Kid? Come on, what’s yer story of love?”
    “You purty much know it. I love bacon. An’ I love the smell of mud in the spring when there’s still snow on the ground. Love the sound a peepers. Love sharin’ stories here at the ranch.”
    “Lovely. Let yer Palentine git ya a cider, tell ya a story.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Pal’s Story

      “It was a long cold winter, lotsa snow. Spring arrived in a rush, swellin’ the rivers with melt water, turnin’ the roads inta oozy mire. The roads were impassable, travel impossible.”
      “No bull, Pal?”
      “Was a lady, Val was her name, got caught up in the flood, afloatin’ on a ice floe steerin’ with a board till it got tore from her grip. She was helpless, ‘bout ta be crushed in a ice jam.”
      “Up the creek without a paddle?”
      “Yep, but her lover went ta her rescue.”
      “Did he get ta Val in time?”
      “Yep. Saved the day.”

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, Val, oh, Val, what a punny Valentine!

      • Liz H

        “Val in time” (facepalm).
        Ya got me!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Liz, the smack of your palm unto your face- well it makes my day. Heeheehee. (thanks)

      • Jules

        Yeh, I’ve been up the creek without a paddle a few times…
        Love conquers all don’t it 😀

    • Charli Mills

      A bit snow crazy — story crazy, too. Hope those two Palentines have a good cider session!

  3. Norah

    Lovely, lovely post, Charli. How I would have loved to be in that audience as you shared the stories, connecting hearts and humanity.
    To meet a real-life prince is amazing, but at the same time, perhaps not so. Many are around, they just need to be recognised as you have done.
    I remember your story from 2017 and love that your cousin became a cop and you – well, we know – you write stories. What else is there for you do?
    I enjoyed the repartee between Danni and Michael, too. What a great retort from Danni. Why should Michael think her response would be any different from his? They both love Ike, though it may not always be easy.
    I think I know what I might write to this prompt, but I’ll have to wait to see where it takes me.
    Have a wonderful weekend. Let those snow hearts smother you with love.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, had you been there today I would have been giddy over the moon! Yes, I think we all meet more princes than we know. Just have to see the majesty in those we meet.

      2017, okay. Thanks for the verification! I realized I have stories all over the place like scattered Skittles, little rainbows in drawers and files. I tightened the story a bit, changed some wording for clarity.

      Thanks for reading Danni and Michael’s exchange. I’ve been working on why he doesn’t accept her.

      Sending you snow hearts on the global currents. I look forward to your valentine! You have a good weekend, too.

      • Norah

        We could have danced around the moon together with every prince we met. 🙂
        I thought you may have changed the story, but I recognised the conclusion. I think you wrote it in relation to my ‘When I was six years old’ Rodeo Contest. (I’m not certain, but I think).
        I love Danni and Michael both, and they both love Ike. I’m sure one day they will come to love each other too. 🙂
        Thanks for the snow hearts. Sending bubbles of warmth your way.

      • Charli Mills

        Can you imagine the fuss at the equator if my snow heart met up with your warmth bubbles? Ah — yes, of course, now I remember which contest it was for. Michael and Danni do come to an understanding but it’s her struggle to overcome.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my story about one of my special loves: sharing a love of literacy with young children. I hope you like it: https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1ju

      Just for the love of it
      The teacher closed the book, but the children were abuzz.
      “Keep going,” they urged.
      “Will they be alright?”
      “What will happen?”
      The teacher looked at the clock. The minutes had passed like seconds. Was there time?
      The teacher opened the book.
      “Yay!” cheered the children, then hushed as the words flowed.
      As the story unfolded, their eyes lit up and imaginations sparked. They discussed the story’s intricacies and contemplated outcomes as they journeyed with the author through good and fearsome times. Finally, just as the dragon was about to swoop, the teacher stopped. “Now write! What happens next?”

      • Charli Mills

        That love is needed before we can have a love for literary art, Norah! I love teachers who can draw students into lifelong reading.

      • Norah

        It’s the most magical thing, Charli. I love it! I miss it!

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, I can’t help but picture you with a published children’s book, traveling to classrooms, spreading literacy.

      • Norah

        I would so love to do that, Charli. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Me thinks that is a twinkle in your North Star!

      • Norah

        Me thinks so too. 🙂

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    This is awesome, Charli. I loved all of this post but my favorite part is this:

    “I love that uncomfortable silence.

    That’s the space where humanity happens. If we are comfortable, then we are walled up, everyone happily co-existing in boundaries. I want to break down walls. I want to risk discomfort…”

    Yes! That. So much that.
    Thanks for sharing. ?

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sarah! That’s where the magic happens, where our humanity touches. Go cause some discomfort! <3

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I plan to. 😉 That’s always my plan…

  5. joanne the geek

    I really enjoyed reading about the day you had. The Nigerian Prince sound like a really interesting person. I loved the description of the reading you did. I think that’s how it should be. We should all be reconnecting with each other telling stories. It is a very human thing to do. I think we tend to feel very cut off from other people at times and I think telling stories, as we are doing here, is a good way to connect with others at a truly basic level.

    Here’s my story for this weeks prompt: https://jedigirlblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/silver-lining-flash-fiction/

    • Charli Mills

      It was an energizing day, and I think the storytelling had a lot to do with it. This past summer, I was selling books at the Tori Market (a Finnish version of a farmers market). People didn’t want to stop and hear about a book. So I just started asking, “Can I read you a story?” After the story, they became receptive. Stories are so human. And that’s why I love what we are doing here. Great story you wrote this week, Joanne.

    • Charli Mills

      A perfect valentine cupcake! Great twist, Net. I enjoyed reading.

  6. floridaborne

    Civil war is one of those terms right up there with military intelligence. There is nothing civil about war, less so when families are fighting with each other. A better term seems to be: Infighting. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m not sure when we “civilized” the war but it had different monikers from different regions. War of Northern Aggression, War of Succession, War Between the States. I’ve studied a narrow window of history in a forgotten Unionist holdout of eastern Tennessee and “aggression” describes the political tone of the times on all sides. Not unlike today. We need to be civil before we regret our aggressions. Infighting is apt!

      Loved your flash.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

  7. pensitivity101

    Here’s my effort Charli

    From me.

    Another day, just like any other.
    She was certain he wouldn’t remember, or even care for that matter.
    The letter box rattled and there was a gentle thud on the mat.
    It was addressed to her.
    She waited until she sat down to breakfast before opening it.
    Roses and lilies.
    Flowers she associated with Love and Death.
    It was a beautiful card.
    He came downstairs and saw it on the table.
    ‘Who’s that from?’ he asked.
    ‘No idea,’ she replied.
    He frowned.
    That evening, she had flowers and his undivided attention.
    It was worth sending the card to herself.

    • susanzutautas

      Great ending. It’s amazing what jealousy will do.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Susan. Sometimes guys only need a nudge………………..

    • Pete

      Well played, and written!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Pete.

    • Charli Mills

      Clever valentine, Di! She knew how to get him to react like it was more than just another day.

      • pensitivity101

        thanks Charli

    • Jules

      Oooh…. good ploy – though I hope ‘he’ isn’t the jealous controlling type.

      • pensitivity101

        don’t think so. thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. papershots

    Beautiful story Charli! (it’s in silence that humanity happens….) Glad i stumbled upon this after being absent for quite a while. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to squeeze my love-related post into 99 words this time (Cupid knows I’ve tried!) so won’t post it here. Next time – or perhaps Cupid will inspire something else… In the meantime, i’ll enjoy reading what the others have written. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you Papershots! Hope Cupid constrains your next story! 😀

  9. H.R.R. Gorman

    Oh man, when you started with the Nigerian Prince, my body clenched in that spot right next to where I keep my wallet. But then you turned it around in such a beautiful way, and I genuinely hope that YOUR Prince gets all the books back to Nigeria that he could ever want.

    Anyway, I had an idea for this story that’s been mulling around in my head, unwritten, all week. It fits the spirit of the challenge, but thematically it’s quite the sore thumb!


    **St. Valentine’s Day Massacre**

    “All dis for jus’ a speakeasy.” Detective Banks spat, surveying the grisly scene by the garage. “Deez gangsters are despicable.”

    A beat cop with Tommy gun in hand nodded. “Yeah, all four of the shooters had to’ve been real bad guys.”

    “All four of ’em? Where you pullin’ that number from, kid?”

    The beat cop shrugged. “Nowhere.”

    “Old ladies in the ‘partment cross the street says four cops did it. You know anything ’bout that?”

    “No.” The beat cop sneered, held his Tommy gun a little higher.

    Detective Banks spat again. “Case looks unsolvable. Now, clean this mess up.”

    • susanzutautas

      Hope you continue on with this story as it sounds intriguing.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        It’s historical! The story actually has an ending you can find on Wikipedia.

        But, for ease of finding it, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which took place in 1929, was never solved. The Chicago police force suspected some of Capone’s lackeys and a few corrupt cops, but no one was ever brought to trial or convicted. I took the liberty of assuming the force knew who had done it and covered it up due to the rampant corruption of the time.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Oh okay, yes I do know the story of the Valentines Massacre. Duh, silly me 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That detective is pretty sharp. Sharp writing too,

      • H.R.R. Gorman


    • Charli Mills

      It’s great when we get to break down a stereotype, remind ourselves of the humanity in us all. Hmm, except I’m not sure what to say about the humanity of corruption, though some gangsters had mamas who cried for wayward sons. I left you a bonus historical note at your place. Great writing, loved the dialog.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        The historical note was duly appreciated! 🙂

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Wow, this is a good one!! 🙂 I hope that old ladies are protected.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        I think women were starting to be treated better in the 20’s, so I’d say yes!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oh good to hear that was the case!

  10. Jules


    Through thick and thin, we often manage to keep family together. Though some folks think vows can easily be broken, others know the true meaning of love everlasting. My story is based in truth – sometimes siblings can be friends and sometimes they drift apart. Magic helps in all relationships, at least I think so.

    The Postal Valentines

    Not one big for any holiday, she read a light murder mystery with Valentine in the title. When she was done reading it, she wrapped it in brown paper. Because it was just the thing for The Book Fairy to send to her sibling, for a quick read during lunch breaks.

    There was no special dinner, flowers, gifts or chocolates for The Book Fairy, and that really was fine. On Valentine’s Day along with bills, there was a card in the mail. One little cute Valentine. A thank you, to The Book Fairy. That made the day extra special.


    • susanzutautas

      I’d love a book fairy in my life.

    • pedometergeek

      Very nice Valentine there. Books always are a good gift. ~nan

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, those thin threads by which we maintain connection can be enough to provide the magic you mention. I especially liked the poignancy of this line: “On Valentine’s Day along with bills, there was a card in the mail.”

    • susanzutautas


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay!

    • susanzutautas

      More power to her!

      • Ritu


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      What a memorable Valentine’s Day she’ll have. Cool move.

      • Ritu

        Freeing! ????

    • Charli Mills

      And I bet they are delightful men!

      • Ritu

        One sadly passed a way a few years ago, sudden heart failure… he was just an amazing individual. The other is still in touch with us. <3

      • Charli Mills

        I’m sorry to hear that. ?

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Henrietta! Good to see you at the Ranch!

  11. susanzutautas

    Here’s a little poem I wrote back in 2011. I wrote it just for fun. Thought I’d share with you here. I adapted it so that it would be 99 words. The original poem can be found:

    Don’t bring me roses or chocolates tonight
    Bring me diamonds that glitter in the moonlight

    A Mercedes would be nice as well
    Rack the cards, the house we can sell

    Don’t forget that cruise you promised
    This weekend off we go to the Bahamas
    Mumm champagne will do just fine
    Before we go out, of course, to dine

    Caviar is expected
    Forget it, and you will be rejected
    If you insist on bringing home candy
    Please make sure they’re filled with brandy

    Before I go, darling, there is one more thing
    Make sure the diamond is a four-carat ring!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Susan, what a fun Valentines Day request. Good job at adapting it to 99 words, too!

    • Jules

      Reminds me of the song “Santa, Baby”

  12. Nobbinmaug

    I know a Prince. (^) He’s not Nigerian. He’s a proper English gentleman except when he jumps and barks. He’s been wet all day because he keeps wanting to go outside in the snow.

    • susanzutautas

      🙂 LOL

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Hi, Prince! Hope you’ve dried off by now! 😀

      • Nobbinmaug

        There there’s still snow in the yard, so he gets to dampen often.

      • Charli Mills

        Prince of Wet Fur.

  13. denmaniacs4

    Valentines Day Snow Yob

    “This is no story. It’s real.”

    I sound pouty.

    “It’s still a story, you yob.”

    Yob, I think, is not one of her usual disparagements.

    “Yob? Me?”

    She smiles. I feel my leg being pulled.

    “Just trying it on. Guess it doesn’t fit.”

    She’s got that right. The damn car is ice-stuck. Valentines dinner is a mile away down a winter highway.

    I don’t want to walk in the snow at night, even for love.

    She does.

    “I’ll go alone,” she’s announced.

    Friends are waiting for us.

    How will I write the ending?

    The appalling decisions yobs must make.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yob’d be foolish not to go along with her.

    • EluminoraCreations

      I really like this! It definitely tickled my fancy. Good writing too! Keep it up 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Yob’s a great word, and hopefully, he un-yobbed himself. But I still loved this line: “I don’t want to walk in the snow at night, even for love.”

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes, I think we find unexpected princes among us. Over the Christmas holiday when I was laid up with my ankle, I watched these “prince” movies that Netflix made. They were corny but so sweet. I got my prince fill. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! No romance required, Nobbimaug!

  14. Pete

    I found Mom at the sink, head bowed, shoulders drooped, water running. My unassembled Valentines scattered across the counter.

    I tried to slip away, but she turned. “Oh, Josh.” She wiped, sniffled, recovered. Sorry, I lost track of time.”

    We lost track a lot since Dad died. His birthday. Christmas. Anniversaries. The calendar had endless ammunition. How long would it take? A year? A lifetime?

    She fiddled with a heart, as though she didn’t know what it was.


    “Huh?” A wet mist in her breaths. And since I had no words, I launched into her with a hug.

    • susanzutautas

      Such a sad flash. One many of us can relate to.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      The calendar had endless ammunition… yes it would wouldn’t it? Nice.

    • Sascha Darlington

      Beautiful, and what an excellent ending.

      • Pete

        Thanks for the kind words

    • pedometergeek

      The pain of loss gets us all some time. Beautiful, poignant flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Pete, you nailed the emotion in this flash. So many lines that punch, especially that last one.

  15. stephrichmond

    Just in case the link didn’t work here’s my take on Valentines Day.

    Happy Valentine’s Day

    I watched surreptitiously from the window as Jess, my beautiful friend, ran towards the man outside. She paused in front of him. I could see her mouth moving but couldn’t hear what she said. His eyes danced over her and my heart dipped, what had I been thinking?

    Smiling he looked towards my house, I could see his gorgeous eyes sparkling in the sunlight. My heart melted. She handed him an envelope and returned to me.

    He opened the card, smiled and walked away. My heart sank without trace.

    Then the phone rang. My heart soared.

    Happy Valentine’s day.

    • susanzutautas

      I sure hope that was him calling.

    • Charli Mills

      Your flash is like the literary version of pulling daisy petals — he loves me, he loves me not.

      • stephrichmond

        What a lovely analogy. Thank you.

    • susanzutautas

      Had a good laugh! Good one!

    • Liz H

      (Blush) Lol!!

    • Charli Mills

      I always say go where the prompt leaves (and yes, I’ll deal with the consequences) ????

      • Charli Mills

        I always say go where the prompt leads (and yes, I’ll deal with the consequences) ????

      • Charli Mills

        This is what happens when I comment on my phone, during a blizzard on the way to the VA hospital! I guess this is also a consequence I deal with, ha, ha!

  16. Jennie

    Your Rotary Club story is deeply moving. Thank you for that!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Jennie. I’m glad I could share the joy it brought me, too.

      • Jennie

        I am so glad! It was the best, Charli. Really.

  17. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,

    My FF came from that very thought-provoking piece in the blog:

    “I love that uncomfortable silence.

    That’s the space where humanity happens.”


    • Charli Mills

      Yes! What a great point of entry to pick, Saifun!

  18. explorereikiworld

    I loved how you were invited to showcase your talent at the Rotary Club, Charli. Equally loved how you got fascinated by the Nigerian Prince. Different people different dialects and honestly its a beautiful feeling! I tried to showcase this via my “Breathing Two Worlds” Novel 🙂

    I loved how you held a person’s hand to narrate that story. The legacy moves on! He shall also do the same. Needless to say the impact left on the crowd (n the reader) is priceless.

    The expressions of the kids courtesy the half day at school is beyond priceless!! But then I shouldn’t have been surprised since you are so good at it!!

    My offering for this week’s take: https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2019/02/love-to-let-go.html

    • Charli Mills

      Local Rotary Clubs are great places to offer a reading, Ruchira. I can see you doing a talk about Reiki and HT, and reading from some of your novels. And yes — what I love about cultural diversity in the US, is the same beautiful feeling you expressed in “Breathing Two Worlds.” It’s so joyful to get to meet people who are from different places with different shapes of language. Holding someone’s hand to tell a story drives home how connecting stories are to us. Thank you for your story!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for sharing, Michael! Always good to read your thoughts!

      • Michael

        My pleasure Charli

  19. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Yes, an inspired and inspiring post. Poignant turning point for Danni and Mike. Well done Charli Mills, though I was kinda hoping you would ignore Valentine’s Day, but here we are. The character that gets to be in love for this prompt is from the Ernest and Marge series. Bigger picture is how that whole gang cares for one another. Forgive me for not choosing just one and putting a double 99 in.


    “S’up Nard?”
    “Marge. Ernest. Was at the auto parts store; thought I’d stop by.”
    “You’re shop foreman now, why’re you the one always running to the parts store?”
    “Good to get fresh air.”
    “Ha! Who is she?”
    “Nard’s blushing,” Ernest noted. “There is someone!”
    “There is. Can Kris and I join you and Ilene and Lloyd tonight when you go out for dinner?”
    “This Kris must be special; you’ve never introduced your lady friends.”
    “Yeah. One thing to know though…. Kris is the new parts man. Kristof.”
    Ernest recovered first. “Does he make you happy?”
    “Nathan’s Grille, 6:30.”
    “Nard. Kris? Hello. Take a seat.”
    “Leonard,” Ernest corrected Marge.
    Kris laughed. “I call him Lenny. I guess this is a surprise?”
    “I’ll say. At the dealership Nard always joked around insinuating that Lloyd was gay when all this time it was Nard trying to get his motor running with the wrong parts.”
    Kris snorted, choking on his beer. “That’s what I told him!”
    “Clearly hidden, behind walls of glass—”
    “Lloyd, let me finish this poem! I know a rhyme.”
    “Don’t, Marge. This is a family friendly place.”
    “And this is our family. Welcome Kris. Congratulations, Leonard. Cheers.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ignore the day of love? Nah! Let love flutter like awkward ducklings at the Ranch! I like how Marge and Ernest fostered an entire gang. And it’s appropriate to see their love. Great two perspectives on the story!

  20. faithanncolburn

    No Party for Me by Faith A. Colburn

    I must have been five, maybe six. My classmate had a Valentine’s Day party. She distributed invitations at school and my parents decided I should go. I had spent almost no time with children before starting kindergarten. Then I spent the year bringing home all the childhood diseases—measles, mumps, chicken pox, measles, and finally, bronchial pneumonia. I needed socialization. Dad took me to the house, but the girl’s parents wouldn’t let me in. I don’t remember my rejection, but my dad never forgot. I only know because I asked Mom years later why Dad so hated that family.


    • Susan Zutautas

      Oh my, the poor child.

    • Charli Mills

      Faith, I loved how you framed this memory as one that impacted your Dad more than you. He must have stung at that rejection.

      • faithanncolburn

        Dad grew up in that community. His dad was a successful and well-respected farmer. I don’t think he could imagine anyone thinking they were too good for his child.

    • Jules

      I can see no reason for the exclusion. Isolation hurts… I grew up with too much of that. And grudges… they just fester.

      A sad memory filled with strong emotion.

  21. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I can’t give you a Nigerian prince, unfortunately – although I do know a Nigerian man who’s rather princely – but I can introduce you to another novel set in Nigeria. I’ve taken my inspiration for my flash from this novel, and a song written by Irving Berlin:

    Sibling loyalties and multiple murders: My Sister The Serial Killer & The Night Tiger https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2019/02/sibling-loyalties-and-multiple-murders-my-sister-the-serial-killer-the-night-tiger.html

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Both books sound intriguing, particularly the second.
      Sibling loyalties indeed- undone in a flash.

    • Charli Mills

      I had hoped you would have a Nigerian novel to reference, Anne!

    • Charli Mills

      Eternal love broke on it’s iconic day.

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha, indeed.

  22. Liz H

    One of THOSE conversations:

    For Reals This Time

    “How many times are you going to bring that up?”
    “I didn’t say a thing.”
    “Oh, but that look.”
    “I wasn’t looking at you.”
    “But you were thinking of me, weren’t you?”
    “Because you stepped on my heel.”
    “That was an accident. I told you.”
    “Why stand so close to me?”
    “I mean, you have this entire ballroom, brimful of people. Why stand right behind me?”
    “Wanna tell you something.”
    “I don’t want to hear what you have to say.”
    “I forgive you.”
    “Happy Valentines Day.”
    “You said that last year.”
    “But this time I mean it.”


  23. susansleggs

    Charli, How fascinating to meet a Nigerian prince. I could almost hear his accent and your voice blending. And now Vol 1 is going to Africa, which to us in the Us seems so exotic. Good thing we have international writers like Robbie to let us know it’s more the same than we realize. On to Valentine’s…

    The Ultimate Gift

    When I started my new job the end of January, I asked, “Will we have a Valentine’s Day party?”
    My boss gave me an incredulous look. “We have open house every Valentine’s Day, but please, don’t call it a party. Our donor families are rarely in a party mood.”
    “Oh. Right.”
    When I opened the top drawer of my desk, a note waited;
    Be mindful that in the heart transplant unit a donor just had the worst day of their life and the lucky recipient is having the best and sometimes we get to meet both sets of families.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yeah, a tough line to walk. That was heartfelt.(sorry)

    • Sascha Darlington

      Excellent flash. That ending is worth a “gulp.”

  24. Susan Zutautas

    Truly is the ultimate gift.

  25. pedometergeek

    Valentine’s Day Surprise

    Julie gave Valentine’s Day cards to everyone in her class. She usually picked ones that were funny or silly, generic ‘Be My Valentine.’ She never got the mushy ones. She didn’t want any boy thinking she “liked” him especially Danny, who still picked his nose and wet his pants.

    Once home, she dumped the Valentines out looking through them. Most were like ones she gave to classmates, but there was an extra one that was handmade and unsigned except for, “I like you. Do you like me?” Although Julie never knew who gave it to her, she felt special.

    Nancy Brady, 2019

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You can tell me; was it Danny? Doesn’t matter, she felt special. Cool story for that.

      • pedometergeek

        I don’t know. I ran out of words. 😉
        Seriously, I thought I would leave up to the reader to decide, D.
        I also thought my entry this week was pretty lame. ~nan

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Well it put me right back in grade school, and I mostly liked grade school so I liked your story. I could see it. I was just joking though, it’s definitely not Danny.
        (I did cringe at the prompt… Valentine’s, yeesh, hard to work with)

      • pedometergeek

        Agreed, the prompt made me roll my eyes…I think that’s why I put it off so long.

        If I took you back to elementary school, I succeeded in what I was trying to do.

        Thanks for all your kind remarks. They are appreciated. ~nan

  26. tnkerr

    I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post this one or not but I finally gave in. Read it here, if so inclined.

    Loved what you wrote here Charli. The consensus in these comments seems to be your observations on “uncomfortable silence” and, although I agree with everything that has been said about this and I am impressed by the perception you possess to recognize this and then to write about it with such clarity, I am most taken with another observation that you wrote about.

    “…listening with her eyes…” I understand this so well.


    • susansleggs

      Nothing like a matchmaker to make life “interesting.” Glad you shared the story.

    • Liz H

      Better late than never…and this one was well worth the wait! <3

  27. Violet Lentz

    Your commentary is always uplifting, this one in particular. thank you for that. Just a piece of fluff from me this week, but I wanted to get in under the wire. Thanks so much for the inspiration and the warm welcoming venue!

  28. LucciaGray

    Loved your post, Charli!
    That ‘Prince’ sounds fascinating, and the little girl who you ‘could see listening with her eyes’, and ‘the person who held the hand of the the person who held the hand of one who fought in the Civil War’, priceless! Beautifully written. I could hear and see them all, in my mind and my heart.
    I also loved your flash. Love and friendship, so interrelated and yet so different…
    I’ve written a sweet, perhaps excessively sweet, piece about the first and maybe last love of two children. It’s where the picture took me.
    Thank you for the prompt and the inspirational post.
    Last, but not least, sorry for the prolongued silence on my part. It’s the same old, unoriginal, excuse we all have, too busy… I’ll try to keep in touch more often.
    Virtual hugs and thank you so much for being so supportive.

  29. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    I love the sound of the Nigerian Prince! And lovely you are sharing your stories and word is getting out there about Carrot Ranch. Awesome. I’ve written a piece about my daughter for Valentine’s! I wrote about this a long time ago and sometimes it’s good to jump back in time and reflect on broken ankles! Lol. https://mjmallon.com/2019/02/19/flash-fiction-unusual-valentines/

  30. Kerry E.B. Black

    I loved “When I Grow Up,” and I can’t help but love your prince who so valued your stories! He’s a man after my heart.

    Here’s my humble Valentine. Hugs to you all, and happy love and friendship season, ranchers!

    Heart Healthy
    written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Joelle gave up on Valentine’s romance long ago.

    In grade school, when everyone exchanged cards, her lace-covered shoebox remained empty. As she grew, hers was the only locker devoid of tissue-paper flowers, and in college, no vases of flowers perfumed her dorm.

    However, she refused to wallow. She didn’t tune to romantic movies, hum love songs, or read bodice-rippers.

    Instead, she jogged. The world blurred into a sepia sunset as slush squelched beneath her trainers. She ran toward true heart-healthiness.

    When she stopped for a smoothie at the local shoppe, she never dreamed she’s lose her cynicism concerning love.

  31. Sherri Matthews

    A Nigerian Prince, the hand of a Civil War soldier your heart of gold. A truly beautiful post. And I remember your flash, it moved me now as it did then. The last line the perfect punch… love it <3

  32. Miriam Hurdle

    What an experience of meeting a Prince, Charli!

    I remember my brother-in-law and sister had pictures taken with President Bush, Sr. and Mrs. Bush, and another time with Colin Powell when they were stationed in Cairo at the Naval base. I have both pictures, even posted on on the wall of my office when I was working.

    I have carpal tunnel problem and had appointment with the orthopedic doctor, good thing that I only need occupational therapy, not a surgery. I was cautious about typing for several months. At least it eases my mind that nothing is torn.

    Here’s my flash for this week.


  33. Charli Mills

    Hey Ranch Writers!

    If you catch this comment, know that Carrot Ranch is having technical difficulties. My operating system crashed last night. My phone essentially died six months ago. It’s been tethered ever since and is frustratingly difficult to use. I can’t write posts on my phone, and if you notice wonky or error-ridden comments, I’ll blame the phone’s smart(a**) spell check which I’m convinced is a Russian virus. Nonetheless, I’ll be finishing my comments and reading on my smart (not really) phone. Fingers crossed that they can fix my operating system. I’ll post the next prompt as soon as it’s running, then catch up where I left off on the valentine compilation. Thank for your patience!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Don’t be difficult Kid. Shorty’s busy tryin’ ta sort out her tech issues.”
      “Tack issues? Like saddle troubles?”
      “Oh, she’d have thet fixed in a cinch. Tech, as in technical difficulties. Her dang machines is all actin’ up. Reckon we’s jist gonna have ta be patient.”
      “I kin be patient Pal.”

      “Pal? Is it fixed yet?”
      “No Kid.”

      “Pal, now is it fixed?”
      “Go shovel somethin’ Kid. Jeez.”
      “Ya know, I don’t need a prompt. I kin write about… about…”
      “How ‘bout technical difficulties and folks’s love-hate relationship with these infernal computin’ comunicatin’ devices?”
      “Yeah, I’ll write ‘bout that.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “What in tarnation are ya doin’ Kid?”
        “Figger we cain’t jist set out here all isolated at the Ranch, Pal, we gotta do somethin’ ta help.”
        “How’s thet drum gonna help? Where’d it come from anyway?”
        “From when the women warriors was dancin’ roun’ the fire. Gonna use it fer old school messagin’.”
        “An’ them cans?”
        “Empty bean tins from when Shorty was off on some misadventure an’ weren’t here ta cook up her buckaroo beans. Gonna string ‘em tagether, git some lines a communication goin’ agin. Stop drinkin’ an’ help.”
        “Need the bottles. Gonna send some messages downriver.”

      • Charli Mills

        Needing all systems of communication! Save the bean cans!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “Kid, looks like yer lines a communicatin’ got all tangled and can-tankerous. Yer string phone’s not gonna work. Guess I’ll have another beer, make another message bottle.”
        “This ain’t funny, Pal. We’re stuck out here at the ranch, cut off from ever one.”
        “Seems good ta me.”
        “Yeah? You won’t think so when ya run outta beer. No tellin’ when Shorty’ll make it back. We gotta be mindful a supplies. We’re snowed in. It’s like Donner Pass.”
        “Now yer jist bein’ hysterically historical. Kid, why you lookin’ at me like thet?”
        “Do you have good taste, Pal?”
        “Kid…. Ow!”

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! We ran out of beer last night but still have bacon and ice cream! Computer is still down and the blizzard buried us. Snow was chest high on our roof and our car was buried. This here new iPhone was like breaking in a mustang but now that I’ve whispered it I’m liking the apple ride.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Shorty’s back!
        Sort of. Hang in there. I’m keeping good thoughts for that computer situation. As you can see, Kid has been a little flustered.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s all right Kid. I’ve been flustered, too.

      • Charli Mills

        If only this were fixed in cinch! Arghhhhh! All the tech fixes failed. Need a live technician but we got slammed by a blizzard and the town is shut down. At least my new phone is working!

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Aargh, so frustrating, but I’m glad it’s the technology on the blink rather than you 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Blinking technology has my eye twitching! Ugh. But hey, my new phone is operational and I’m finding Apple easier to learn. Last night I downloaded a Word Press app onto my new phone and it is so much easier to navigate than on my Android. That’s looking up! My computer is still down and we are buried beneath one of the largest blizzards to hit our area. I’m digging out in more than one way. Hopefully tech stores will be open tomorrow.

  34. pedometergeek

    Good luck! I am sure I am not the only one here that has had a similar frustrating thing like this happen. ~nan

    • Charli Mills

      It’s been a “perfect storm” and I’m just trying to ride it out. My new phone is worth the learning curve. Hoping the computer is fixed next.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Gayatri for your tender flash!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  36. Charli Mills

    Ah, the Chicago incident…!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing!

  38. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Paula!

  39. Charli Mills

    Lovely, Kate!

  40. Charli Mills

    What a sweet and fitting story for two old lovers, Sally.

  41. Jules

    Gotta love a good sale.

  42. Jules

    There is no reasoning with the loss of any love…
    Good prompt mash too!

  43. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Well, this week the wire snapped, but now more time to make the rounds and read. I am glad to see the four footed represented in this Valentine theme. Dogs are lovely and loving.

  44. Charli Mills

    After all this snow and technical loathing, I’m soothed by finding all the valentines. Yup. Wire busted. Still trying to fix the computer but the new phone is slick as a honey crisp apple. Thanks for taking time to read.

  45. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Lessons learned; what’s not to love?


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