March 21: 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.

March 21, 2019

Water Walkers, women of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, take the floor and welcome the audience to Tribal Water Day. I sit at a bingo table near hanging art created by local schoolchildren. One poster reads,  “Water feels no bad vibes.” My daughter, Radio Geek, is interviewing guest speakers who range from state representatives to PhDs from the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech. On the way down from Hancock to Baraga on the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior, we plowed through lakes of melting snow while a spring squall spit more flakes at our windshield.

So it goes with transitions — are we rain or snow? Are we who we were or who we have become? Transitions tread the space between. For us, on this day, the focus is on water. Outside Nibi (the Ojibwe word for water) moves from one state to another in a gritty arrival of spring. Melt is not beautiful, and yet it gives way to what we know as the most inspiring time of year. Snow breaks down into icy pebbles, shedding its fleecy white coat. Sand from road traction piles up and mud emerges as the first glimpse of soil hidden for months.

Radio Geek tells me she wants to add a question to her interviews. Among queries about mercury in white fish, tribal data, and water-related research, she wants to ask, “What does water say to you?”

One of the Water Walkers introduces herself at the front of the room in what usually serves as a Bingo Hall. Today it transforms into a community center. She speaks in her native language and then explains she has identified herself as an Anishinaabe woman, her clan, her name. She says, “We welcome you today. Community members of sincere heart, mind, and spirit join us in seeking truth, knowledge, and healing through the original sacred way of life.”

Notebook open, colored pens laid out before me, I can’t deny the feeling of awe in being here. Having grown up out west, I can’t remember a time when a native tribe opened up teachings to the general public. This is not an anthropology class or a dominant culture history-speaking over a marginalized one. This is the Anishinaabekwe — the Women — providing teaching. This group refers to themselves as the Water Walkers because they carry the sacred Nibi in a bucket to honor her. To speak to her.

To answer Radio Geek’s question, the Anishinaabekwe agree that Nibi speaks. But they want us to understand that we must first speak to her. I smile, hearing Nibi personified as a woman because I knew Lady Lake Superior was female. I came here this morning, rising earlier than I’m inclined to because I wanted to glimpse the Water Walkers in action. It feels like a cultural transformation is taking place — borders and boundaries give way like warming ice.

And I anticipate beauty carried in a water bucket.

A secondary motive drove me across wet roads today, as well. In my novel, Miracle of Ducks, I’ve constructed a project for my character, Dr. Danni Gordon. I had to give her an archeological task not only for her profession, but to explain why she lives in North Idaho. I also wanted it to be a source of tension. Earlier drafts focused on her dislike of children and had her leading a volunteer site further south. After pouring over Forest Service records I finally found a poosibility in North Idaho, and it was multi-agency, including tribal input.

In 2017, while the Hub and I were limping toward Michigan, beaten down by our homeless travels, we took a break at his sister’s home in Kansas. Several days earlier I had turned 50. In Kansas, Sis had a birthday surprise for me — archeology school. It infused a greater sense of topic authority for my character. I met and interviewed archeologists, worked alongside them in grids and labs, and kept in touch with several as alpha readers.

One gave me a great backstory for Danni and then joked that it might look like what he lived. I felt honored to have someone share their story with me — a fiction writer who will take that story and mold it into something new. The experience gave me greater confidence as a novel writer to interview people. For so long, I’ve interviewed people for articles and profiles that doing so for an imaginary story felt off. I’m glad I got over feeling that way. Interviewing authorities provides great research.

That is what has brought me to Tribal Water Day. I’ve been drafting scenes around the project I gave Danni, and one includes a public presentation led by the Kootenai Tribe of North Idaho. I’ve never experienced such a gathering and wondered how it would differ from a presentation led by the Forest Service or a local special interest group.

Before me, I have two pens — turquoise for general notes and purple for drafts.

Danni joins me at the bingo table, and I begin to feel her nervousness. Unlike me, Danni hates public speaking. Her palms tingle and she can’t feel her feet. Danni’s greatest desire in life is to belong. But she’s often thwarted by her greatest secret fear that she doesn’t believe she belongs anywhere. I can feel her tensions as I look at the unfolding presentations through her lens. Danni relaxes, inhaling deeply of the smoldering sage, her heart beating in rhythm to the deep drumming of the tribal Singers. Then Michael Robineaux walks in, and she flinches, remembering she is an outsider.

Not once throughout the day do I feel like an outsider. I marvel that every speaker is a woman! Several are official water specialists, working for their tribe. Others are wildlife and environmental biologists. My daughter is the media representative of Michigan Tech. The men serve in supporting roles. The Tribal Singers drum for the Water Walkers. Many men assist the water specialists and biologists in their work. A tribal artist displays his portraits of Anishinaabekwe.

As a woman, I feel affirmed. I observe a room full of leaders among my gender. I feel hope for Danni in her chosen profession and gaining the credibility she needs to make her project work. I feel hope for the water surrounding us. And I decide to accept the invitation to walk next time the bucket of water is carried from Copper Harbor to Sand Point.

Life is good.

Officially, Macaroo is a workhorse, and I’m almost back in the swing of things. A flu-bug is winding its way through the Keweenaw, and I’ve caught it, though it’s not so bad. I just feel low on energy. Nonetheless, the snow is receding slowly, our local township group is progressing, and I’ve officially been accepted into the MFA Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. It’s online so I will travel virtually. Miracle of Ducks will be my thesis, and I’ve also added studies to get certified to teach writing online for universities.

I’m pleased with how everything is settling down like a bucket of clean water from an artesian well. Dare I say, the rough ride is mellowing out.

Grab a bucket. And as the Anishinaabekwe said to me, “Come with an empty mind, open heart, open hands” and scoop a story in 99 words among a community of literary artists.

March 21, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a bucket of water. What is the condition of the water and what is the bucket for? Drop deep into the weel and draw from where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 26, 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.


When It Felt Full (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Unable to stop smiling, Danni bought a galvanized steel water bucket. After twelve years of studying, summer digs, teaching undergrads, and crediting her work to advisors, Danni had completed her Ph.D. She promptly married Ike and bought a horse.

“I was thinking we might need a house,” Ike said, staring up at the stars above their sleeping bags.

“We can find a barn by winter.”

“Mrs. Gordon, we need more than a barn.”

Ike’s uncle sold them his small spread when he moved to town. Danni’s bucket of water felt full for ten years. Until Iraq poked a hole.

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ah, Charli! Life is good. I smiled with you throughout this post. So good to hear about the MFA and the other courses. Life is good, Perfesser Mills.

    • Charli Mills

      One day I can be a real Perfesser! Thanks for smilin’ with me.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yer already a Teachor, here at the one room Ranch.

      • Charli Mills

        I like that — one room Ranch!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Watering Whole

    “Well, Kid, water ya waitin fer? The prompt has arrived, it’s time ta saddle up. Oh, let me guess, yer gonna turn water inta whine, gonna whine about the prompt. Again.”
    “That’s a deep subject, Kid, an’ Shorty’s done subjected us ta deep thinkin’. Thinkin’ that musta been quite a time, bein’ amongst those water walkin’ women. Sounds right powerful.”
    “Reckon it was, Pal. Ain’t nuthin’ more powerful ‘an a group a women ‘an water. Makes me smile ta think a Shorty at a tribal gatherin’.”
    “Pal, Shorty’s at a tribal gatherin’ ever week. She leads Buckaroo Nation!”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Oops in my hast I got the speakers mixed up at the end. I hate when I do that.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        haste Might should give up now. PS, I think that was the fastest yarn yet!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        And, Charli, I like that flash. The title wrks so well, adding to the poignancy.

      • Charli Mills

        I reckon’ your characters are rollin’ their eyes at ya! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Gather round the tribe! There’s some powerful words to pass around (like water into whine!).

  3. floridaborne

    This one was fun. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      ‘Bout time we had some fun again, eh!

      • floridaborne

        Yep. 🙂

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      Oh, my, gosh… I don’t think my kids would have stayed. They’d have slept somewhere hidden to escape your dad’s wake-up surprise! hahah

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        oops, meant for Kate’s story.

      • Charli Mills

        I get lost sometimes, too, Kerry! 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate!

      • calmkate

        pleasure Charli!

  4. Miriam Hurdle

    Great to hear you Miracle of Ducks, Charli, and your teaching writing online for universities. How exciting!

    I just came home from Portland, Oregon. Hope to start doing some reading and writing.

    • Macy

      Good luck to you in your writing Miriam! What were you up to in Portland? I live in Eugene and it is always fun meeting people nearby!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oh, my daughter and her husband live there. I went to see my granddaughter for a week, just came back to Orange County, CA this morning. My next trip is for Mother’s Day week or long weekend.
        It would be fun for me to meet up also.

      • Charli Mills

        Fun, Macy and Miriam! I love meeting up with writers!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Miriam. It’ll be two years of working hard, but it’s work that I love and many of the classes will expand Carrot Ranch, too. Enjoy your transformation back into writing and reading.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        A lot of exciting news coming your way. It’s good to hear that, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Macy, I’m always looking for ways to learn from my own experiences and sharing helps with that. I like the community at the Ranch where we can share (or not). Catching your own stories will help you in business, too. Happy spring break!

    • Charli Mills

      A memorable winter but not for good reasons. Thanks for sharing, Joanne!

    • Charli Mills

      You bring it home in that last line.

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much! 😀 🙂

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      Makes me think of the Lost Boys with the super soakers.

    • Charli Mills

      The vampire didn’t want to be left out — until they realized the consequences.

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Got All Them Buckets Comin’ Out of My Ears*

    “Oh fer bucket’s sake. Kid, yer writer went ta the well without a bucket, plumb fergot the prompt word in that first bit.”
    “She’s yer writer too Pal, don’t cast yer aspersions on me. But yeah, I heard she might be in the weeds this week, leastways she’s s’posed ta be tendin’ her day job.”
    “Heard she might wanna start a ranch a her own, raise turkeys. She’d be the lead cluckaroo.”
    “Gobbledygook Kid. Wattle you say next?”
    “S’what I heard, Pal.”
    “Yer hearin’s hurtin’, Kid.”
    “What’d ya say?”
    “Yer bucket’s done sprung a leak.”
    “I heard that.”

    * from Bob Dylan’s Buckets of Rain

    • Charli Mills

      I snort-laughed at the Writer of these two thinking of taking up lead cluckaroo! If you do, D., you need to bring back the turkey drives. Nice nod to Dylan.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Buckets of Rain from Blood on the Tracks. Had that one in my head since the prompt, thank you. No worries, these two are full of it, there is only one ranch (until the franchise deal) and (I’ll stop before I do more buckaroo rhymes)

  6. pensitivity101

    Liked your story Charli.
    Here’s mine

    Well I never!

    We are more into barrels than buckets these days, but before hosepipes and rain catchers, the bucket was a familiar and important part of our camping gear.
    We had two, one black and one orange. It was important to remember which colour was for what, and as far as I can remember nobody got it wrong.
    It was my job to collect the water in the orange bucket for washing and drinking.
    I filled it to the brim and carried it back to the tent, not understanding why it wasn’t very heavy.
    I will never live down the song.

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      I’m not a camper, so I wonder, what are the colors indicating?

      • papershots

        I think I can guess what the two buckets are for but I’d like to know too…

      • pensitivity101

        Ha. Just the luck of the draw. One for water and one for a loo!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Di! I enjoyed learning an expanded version of two buckets for camping. We dig holes and in some places, “carry out.” But I know all about carrying the water bucket to camp, sloshing most of it along the trail.

      • pensitivity101

        happy days Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Your bucket is in my bucket, Di!

  7. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    It is the time of the week when Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch writing community shares events from her week and also sets the challenge for the 99 word flash fiction. This week a fascinating gathering at the community centre… here is a brief snippet but do head over to read the rest

    “Water Walkers, women of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, take the floor and welcome the audience to Tribal Water Day. I sit at a bingo table near hanging art created by local schoolchildren. One poster reads, “Water feels no bad vibes.” My daughter, Radio Geek, is interviewing guest speakers who range from state representatives to PhDs from the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech. On the way down from Hancock to Baraga on the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior, we plowed through lakes of melting snow while a spring squall spit more flakes at our windshield.

    So it goes with transitions — are we rain or snow? Are we who we were or who we have become? Transitions tread the space between. For us, on this day, the focus is on water. Outside Nibi (the Ojibwe word for water) moves from one state to another in a gritty arrival of spring. Melt is not beautiful, and yet it gives way to what we know as the most inspiring time of year. Snow breaks down into icy pebbles, shedding its fleecy white coat. Sand from road traction piles up and mud emerges as the first glimpse of soil hidden for months.”

  8. KC Redding-Gonzalez

    Congratulations on the MFA acceptance! Enjoy the journey!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, KC! I’m ready for the next leg of the journey!

  9. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    We could all learn something from that reverence for water. Interesting for you to take part both as yourself and Danni. Hope your bug doesn’t bite for too long! Will return later with my flash.

  10. tnkerr

    “When It Felt Full”
    A fabulous bit of writing. Reads like it could be either a poem or a short story. I love it.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for saying, so, TN! I’ve been paring down this character for a while.

  11. Jules


    You reminded me of a song I used to sing when I was a kiddo; There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Eliza…

    It is nice when things seem to settle. I actually looked up Water Walkers of Michigan and found a lovely children’s book about them. As well as other articles.

    I went in a slightly different direction with a tanka haibun (yep only 99 words)
    The Wait of Water

    A human fish; swimming before being bipedal, so I was told.
    I am one with natural liquid, especially salted oceans.
    Now that I have a home by a creek; all future homes will have flow too.

    If I were to have a bucket list in retirement; home on the beach.
    I’d be able to take said bucket and fill it to my heart’s content.
    To explore everyday all the gifts therein; brought to me by the sea.

    born out of water
    Into a sign of flowing
    to write on beach sands

    am I asking for too much
    simple serendipity


    Notes: two paragraphs of 3 American Sentence haiku; tanka haibun
    An American Sentence = 17 syllables – 1 line haiku
    haibun ; prose with traditional American haiku; though this piece has a tanka
    tanka: haiku of three lines 5,7,5 syllables (line space) followed by two lines of 7 syllables each.

    While it might be traditional to just have a single American Sentence haiku… well I may have created a new form by combining them into paragraphs and adding haibun parts. May our creativity continue to over flow…

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I liked the direction you took. And be happy with the creek. Beaches equal sand blasting. Very messy. Stings.

      • Jules

        We were in the Florida Keys… They get their sand shipped in from the Bahamas! So said one of the natives. The Keys are basically built on ancient coral and that’s like walking on hard cement.

    • Charli Mills

      A poetic title, too Jules. You filled the bucket to the brim with poetic forms, including new ones. May serendipity runneth over as well. Thanks for sharing your childhood song, too. It seems vaguely familiar but I can’t quite place it.

      • Jules

        I just keep altering the boundaries of poetic forms. If there is/was a run not to combine short forms I’ve broken it several times. And maybe created some new ones….

        I’m not sure where the song came from, but it was sung on road trips too. Kind of like ‘The bear went over the mountain…’ takes up some mileage without having parents have to hear ‘Are we there yet’ every two minutes. 😉

  12. Frank Hubeny

    Grace fills a small bucket of water from her sink for four plants on her balcony overlooking the bay overlooking her former life far away. She hopes the plants thrive. They may not like it here and they have no way to escape.

    With the water delivered she looks down on the tiny neighbors walking the street all accustomed to being here, mentally preoccupied. They look happy, but who knows? Happiness is not what it’s all about. It’s all about – what?

    She figures those tiny plants have to trust her, but sometimes water comes from the sky as well.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      There is a flow to this. I’m thinking she’s trusting those plants even as she figures they have to trust her.

      • Frank Hubeny

        There is trust going on in all directions.

      • papershots

        So have I. The ending has a quality of peace to it I can’t explain

    • Charli Mills

      Frank, the circle of trust and transformation pulls me into this beautiful flash.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you, Charli!

  13. jeanne229

    So glad I stopped by the ranch today for a little visit. This pony (cow, more like it, these days), needs to break free from the herd more often. Loved the post. It resonated deeply with a book I was gifted for my birthday back in February: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and member of the Potawatomi tribe. As you indicate in your writings, Charli, its beyond time for us children of the Enlightenment with its focus on reason and science to explore other ways of knowing. Loved your beautiful writing as always and excited for you as you wander new paths amidst the melting snows and new life of spring.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hi there. I know you’re saying hey to Charli, but it’s good to see you. (You’re a buckaroo who helped corral me in my beginning) That book is one that Amazon keeps telling me I like so now I am convinced I must. (First I will see if it is at the local 3-D store)
      Hope things are good with you.

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, Jeanne, thank you for the gift of D.!

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you wandering this way, Jeanne! I feel like we are living in a time where Indigenous tribes are willing, once again, to share their wisdom and knowledge. More of us seem to be willing to listen without hijacking their culture. I keep going back to the Anishanabekwe call to “empty our minds.” Funny how enlightenment made us feel as though we had to stuff them instead. Let it flow, eh. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. denmaniacs4

    Water Daze

    I first saw Sharallee in the brilliance of my youth.

    I lived in the far valley.

    She was of the mountain people.

    We were strangers to each other.

    Then, one day, our stars aligned.

    I was seeking a change.

    She was a restless and thirsty beauty.

    The Sweetflower River cascaded down from her hills to ensure that our fertile farm land would produce all the food a people could desire.

    Me with my bucket of dreams, she with her grandmother’s locket, some said we were ill-prepared for the adventure.

    These many years later, I cannot but disagree with them.

    • Charli Mills

      You scooped this one, Bill. A gentle flow that feels universal.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, thank you for your story! Enjoy your mother-in-law’s visit. I hope you are settling into spring. I know it’s hit and miss along the Great Lakes this time of year. But someone spotted freighters headed to Duluth so the shipping lanes are open — that’s like seeing a robin!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu! I found the experience uplifting. Your character is having buckets of trouble with his dripping.

      • Ritu

        The most annoying trouble!!!

  15. Colleen Chesebro

    I’ve missed you all so much! I’m back to share! Hope you enjoy. <3

    The Transformation

    I stared into the bucket of water expecting to see my own image stare back at me. Instead, the image of a Rusalka water nymph wavered within the watery depths. Her eyes glinted with green fire and her golden hair drifted around her shoulders.

    She slipped from the water and stood before me clothed only in the gray mists that circled the banks of the river.

    “Come, friend. I’ll show you the way.”

    “The way?”

    “You died before your time, and now you’ve transformed into a Rusalka water nymph.”

    “I’m dead?”

    “Of course. You belong to the river now.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A transformative kick the bucket story. And I found the last line uplifting.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, D. That’s what I’m after! ??

    • Charli Mills

      Colleen! Welcome back to the Ranch and the Carrot Fae! Your flash contains an unexpected kind of welcome. I wonder if she finds out how she died before her time?

      • Colleen Chesebro

        You can be sure that the answer will be in my new book. LOL! It felt good to write flash again. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Letting, D. Avery

    Robert trotted right past his little brother without seeing him. Before Thomas could follow, his father called for him.

    “Yes, Pa?”

    “Thomas, I need an extra pair of hands. Bring those buckets there and come around the back of the barn.”

    “Yes Pa. Pa? I thought you didn’t want me helpin’ with that chore yet.”

    “Looks like I need you now. You know it’s got to be done, right Thomas?”

    “ I know. Them pigs was always meant to feed us.”

    “That’s right Thomas. And Thomas? I don’t want you pesterin’ Robert no more for stories about the war.”

    • susansleggs

      A strong and powerful visual for anyone with ties to war and front- line action.

    • Charli Mills

      This one makes me feel for the father. He’s unable to protect either son from the harsh realities of life and yet he tries. Thomas might help his brother heal, too. We go silent and wounds fester. Good one, D.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yep, it’s a whole good family, good for Robert.

    • Charli Mills

      Pleased to see that you caught World Water Day, Nobbinmaug!

      • Nobbinmaug

        I have to admit, it was random chance that I saw an article about.

  17. Jennie

    I just love your stories, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jennie! <3

      • Jennie

        You’re welcome, Charli. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for expanding my mind, Bladud!

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Here it is, take two, with water this time.

    I am the Moon that orbits the Earth
    I am the Earth; I am her Oceans that gather Moon’s beams

    I am the woman who gathers water
    I am the woman whose water breaks

    I am the woman who carries water
    Who nourishes, who cleanses, who sustains the child

    I am the child who swings the bucket in play
    Denying gravity with centripetal force

    I am the child who gathers gifts from oceans
    Who collects moonbeams in the bucket

    I am the Child become the Woman who gathers water
    Becomes the Oceans becomes the Moon becomes a centered force.

    • Charli Mills

      Love this, D.! A strong water song. I hope you get the chance to sing this to Nibi.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks Boss, glad you like it. I used to be a poet before becoming a flasher. (hey, is 99 words of historical fiction called flashback? And futuristic flash would be flash forward? And stream of consciousness flash would be a flash flood.

    • Norah

      I read this in the compilation, D. and popped over (via the link) to your website to comment, but couldn’t find it, so had to come back here to tell you how much I love this. From the Child who collects moonbeams in the bucket to the Woman who becomes the Moon – a centred force. And so the circle goes round – beautiful.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thank you for all that, Norah. Sorry to have you running in circles. Yeah, I was glad to have Robert showing up again, but Charli’s prompt is too beautiful to leave it at that scene. It flowed this way into a poem that I feel is a better match. I think this is closer to what I wanted to respond with this week. (Oops, now it’s almost next week- yay, another prompt headed our way!)

  19. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,

    A world of ideas in your blog, and the posted FF & great poetry.

    My FF for today came from your thoughts on seasons, on transitons:

    “So it goes with transitions — are we rain or snow? Are we who we were or who we have become? Transitions tread the space between….”

    “Melt is not beautiful, and yet it gives way to what we know as the most inspiring time of year…”

    And once again, I drew on my past FF to write this one. It’s a surprise to me, as I never thought my FF would lead to “world-building”.

    Thank you!


    • Charli Mills

      I’m delighted this gave you inspiration, Saifun! And yes — go build worlds!

  20. Liz H

    “I’ve officially been accepted into the MFA Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University. It’s online so I will travel virtually. Miracle of Ducks will be my thesis, and I’ve also added studies to get certified to teach writing online for universities.”
    That’s fantastic news, Charli! Congratulations!! <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! I’m thrilled to have a focus for all three in one program, doing something I didn’t think I’d get to do. Thank you! <3

  21. Norah

    What a fabulous experience, Charli, to learn from the Indigenous peoples about their respect for the Earth and its resources. I like how you are able to make the connections for Danni also and was particularly pleased that she was able to join you for the talk and experience it first hand. It helped you get to know her a little better too.
    When I glanced at your post in my inbox and saw the prompt was a bucket of water, my first thought was of the old song “There’s a hole in the bucket”. I see now, after having read your post, that it is hardly appropriate. Never mind. Still waters run deep and hopefully, productive thoughts will soon flow.
    It’s interesting to read about your melt. We’re still melting over here in Summer’s relentless heat. It is still in the high 30s (high 90s to you) and we’re, supposedly, 1/3 into autumn. Funny how I can still feel snowed under in sweltering heat. It’s obvious that so many of our common phrases are more suited to the northern hemisphere than ours. Oh, we’re used to it, living in our upside-down world.
    I’m pleased that Macaroo is performing as required and that life is good. May it remain so. Awomen.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back with my story More Precious than Gold.
      I hope you like it.

      The children observed the bucket.
      Teacher explained, “Let’s find out about what’s in the bucket. Ask only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Do not say what you think it is.”
      “Is it wet?” “Yes.”
      “Is it a liquid?” “Yes.”
      “Is it heavy?” “Try.” “Yes.”
      “Do we drink it?” “Does it come from clouds?” “Does it make puddles?”
      “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
      “Is it more precious than gold?”
      “Don’t be stupid,” spluttered Andy. “It’s water!”
      Teacher glared. Andy’s smirk dissolved.
      Ahmed looked squarely at Andy. “In my country… “
      Teacher closed the book. Ahmed’s lesson was more effective than any she’d prepare.

      • Charli Mills

        Love your flash, Norah! The exuberance of the students is keenly felt, yet you show how quickly they can shut down (just like adults). The wise teacher lets the unexpected perspective teach.

        Is it an annoyance to know the world is so upright focused? Being someone who is influenced by the seasons, I try to imagine how this world spins and that we experience brutal winters and summers simultaneously.

        Awomen! <3

      • Norah

        Thanks so much, Charli. Children (and we) can all learn so much from each other. The children in the class are sometimes the richest source of information, if only we let them share.

        The upright focus is something that we learn to accept and not question ‘down’ here. It just is. Like so many other wrongs in the world – but probably not as harmful or limiting as many.

        Awomen! (You see, that’s one of them – I’d almost written Amen, and then changed it. 🙂 Thanks for noticing. )

  22. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    “Snow breaks down into icy pebbles, shedding its fleecy white coat. Sand from road traction piles up and mud emerges as the first glimpse of soil hidden for months.” This is a beautiful way to look at mud season, Charli. We are into it full force here in Maine and I’m making a conscious effort to appreciate it. Water is a precious commodity and what an honor for you to be included in the native teachings. Things are falling into place for you and Danni. I’m so happy for you to be formally accepted into the MFA program. You will shine!

    The bucket in my flash this week was a ‘little’ problem for Chester. There’s only so much a wife can sacrifice so her husband can watch the NCAA basketball tournament. Ruth reached her limit.

    Chester has a little problem

    “Why is there a bucket of water in the bathroom?” said Ruth.

    “There’s a little problem with flushing the toilet,” said Chester.

    “Fiddling with the handle is a ‘little’ problem. Not being able to flush without a bucket is a big problem!”

    “Relax. I’m plannin’ to fix it as soon as March Madness is over.”

    Ruth walked over to the television and unplugged the cable box.

    “Woman! What are you doin’? LSU and Maryland are tied, and there’s only two seconds left to play!”

    “I believe your ticket to The Big Dance is waiting for you at Home Depot.”

    • susansleggs

      I had never thought of Chester and Ruth living in the actual present, more like the 60’s. Feeling her unplug the cable box gave me a good laugh.

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        Glad you could get a chuckle out of Chester’s dilemma, Susan. May they are a 60’s couple caught in the present day. haha!

      • Charli Mills

        I think there are a lot of ’60s couples trapped in the present! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      We have to find some beauty in the mud, right, Molly? I keep thinking, though, you have lobsters. That’s worth coping with mud season. I’ve got agates. Getting itchy to go find some.

      Oh, Ruth has a big problem! Chester’s bucket won’t do!

  23. Ann Edall-Robson

    Bucket Lost
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The roar of the spring runoff over still frozen layers of ice was deafening—making the bridge the only safe place to access the water. Tossing the bucket into the creek with a rope tied to its handle was the easy part. Within seconds of resting the filled vessel on a piece of ice before pulling it up, there came a thunderous crack. The bridge shuddered. The taut rope went limp leaving the frayed remnants swinging in an outstretched hand. The bucket? It sloshed its way downstream on the rural iceberg before being tossed unceremoniously into the swirling water.

    • Charli Mills

      These are the spring runoffs I remember, growing up. I feared for the bridge crumpling in your flash and relieved only a bucket was lost.

  24. Sarah Unsicker

    I love your phrasing of “a dominant culture history-speaking over a marginalized one.” That encompasses so much of the way history has been told over centuries, a culture that is trying to be changed but meeting with much resistance. I hope I am not history-speaking over my character too much, but your image of a bucket of water evoked an African woman on her daily task of carrying water for her family, tales of impoverishment I hear from church projects like Bread for the World and the Peanut Butter Project.

    At the shallow river, she hoists the worn basket of water onto her head. The basket her mother mended this morning. The basket carries the weight of her worry. The child walking by her feet, his stomach protruding with malnourishment, trembles with exhaustion. Stone soup will not carry him another day.
    She stumbles over a tree root. Catches herself and the water that splashes. The child laughs weakly – music she has not heard in days. The splashes reveal an egg, precious protein for the soup. With some leaves and roots, there will be dinner tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you caught that phrase, Sarah. It seems like we are taught history that often disregards those it speaks of. But I also believe literary art is a way to express and understand. With your involvement in church projects, you need a way to process the stories you hear, the lives you encounter different from your own experiences. Taking it to flash fiction is empathy for a woman like you, concerned with her children yet unlike you forced to consider where she can find food and water daily. Thank you for stopping by the Ranch! Keep fighting the good fight!

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      This also makes me grateful for running water and hopeful for those in need.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Ruchira, For some odd reason I was unable to leave a comment on your post. I too hope the water crisis is over.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruchira! I look forward to learning more from the Water Walkers. Many experience water crisis, and your flash reminds us of that.

  25. tnkerr

    This is a good prompt. The stories I’ve read so far do this prompt justice. Nicely written one and all.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anurag!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, life is good! Even the hiccups pass. I’m glad you like to work with objects. I like how the three plastic buckets are primary to your flash yet the objects ignored.

    • Charli Mills

      I was curious to see where it would go, Robbie! Thanks for pushing through with it.

  26. Pete

    Such great news, Charli. A wonderful, well-deserved opportunity!

    Dad whistled a familiar tune, humming along as he went from bucket to bucket as the rain drilled the roof.

    It had poured for like that for days, unrelenting, an army of angry droplets invading the kitchen, falling rhythmically into the old paint buckets.
    Bloop. Bleep. Bloop.

    Dad tousled my hair. He hoisted a bucket by the handle, his rubber boots squeaking, trailing mud on the already wet floor. I turned from the soaked towels to Mom, standing in the doorway, baby Jane tight against her neck, a faraway stare in her eyes.

    The rain was driving us crazy.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pete! Your flash reveals the relentless optimism some folks have contrasted with the bleakness of a situation. You tell such stories well through the eyes of a youth.

  27. Violet Lentz

    Never one to be proficient at following direction, I did not include my name with my post, rather I supplied you with the title. Sorry about that. Thank you, Charli for the brilliant window into your world each week. I always enjoy slowing down for as long as it takes me to read your weeks journey- even when you don’t see an entry from me, I am enjoying my time spent here at Carrot Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank, Violet! It’s good to know you enjoy your time at the Ranch. I maintain that literary art happens between reading, writing and discoursing. Good to have a flash from you, too. Don’t worry, I appreciate rebels. 😉 I’ll add your name to the collection!

    • susansleggs

      The “rest of the story” explains it all.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael! And yes, I hope for safe virtual travels.

  28. johnrieber

    Charlie, I used a line from your story as the launching off point of my 99-word “flash fiction”…thank you for the inspiration! I submitted it on the form above, but here it is as well for anyone who wants to read it now…

    “Speaking To Me” by John Rieber –

    “The Anishinaabekwe agree that Nibi speaks. But they want us to understand that we must first speak to her.”

    I had never heard this before. A name for water: “Nibi”. So how do you speak to it? Staring at the ocean, I sensed its power and peacefulness in equal measure. I grabbed a bucket, ran to the edge and filled it full of briny, icy cold water. I dipped my fingers in it. I waited for a sign, but everything was quiet, still. I was disappointed for a moment, then thought that perhaps that was the point after all.

      • johnrieber

        Thank you for the note – that’s what i was trying to convey!

    • Charli Mills

      Awesome, John! And your conclusion might be the point — we can use more stillness and being in our lives. Nibi may have that to say.

      • johnrieber

        Thanks i hoped that came across

      • Charli Mills

        You carried it across clearly, showing its value.

  29. susansleggs

    I would have enjoyed attending Tribal Water Day. There is so much to learn from the people who knew to depend on nature first. I tried multiple ways to write a flash that told what I believe, Water is Life, but am not sure that meaning came through so I used it as my title.

    I’m so glad life is settling down for you and I can’t wait to share your college efforts vicariously. All the ranch hands will benefit from your endeavors.

    Water Is Life

    Ezra sat waiting for his wife to come home from the field hospital. He had fed their children, bacon, biscuits slathered with butter and wild berry jam, and fresh cow’s milk for supper. The garden wasn’t yet producing vegetables, but it would in a few weeks. Keeping it weed free was something he could manage even with his wounds. When Louise finally arrived on horseback, he offered her dinner.
    “No,” she said. “Just water. Cold, fresh and clear water.”
    Their eldest ran to fetch a bucket of water from the stream, careful not to muddy it while doing so.

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, I will have a treat for you at the refuge in Vermont! I’m learning from a Water Keeper some of the ways. She’s also choreographing some “movements” to songs for us writers to take breaks with. I’m so excited to share these with you. And yes, I already set up my own plan for how I intend to share with all the Ranch what I learn.

      Your flash got the message through how Louise only wanted cold, fresh and clear water. Great piece of historical writing, too!

      • susansleggs

        I will look forward to a special treat. Actually just being on a lake/pond in Vermont will be a treat and more so when I will be sharing it with my mentor and friends.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for bringing a bucket of water, Miriam!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Charli. I’m so happy for you!!

  30. Sascha Darlington

    That last line, Charli, wow.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sascha.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Gayatri! I appreciate your message with your flash about the struggles of women who have to collect water.

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Teresa!

  32. Charli Mills

    The punch for freedom!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Annette!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sarah!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  36. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  38. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch Leara!

  39. Charli Mills

    Welcome to Carrot Ranch!

  40. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jackie!


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