May 23: 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.

May 23, 2019

Work, work, and more work. If you want to know why my daughter is living on the Svalbard Archipelago, she’s there to work. Her partner is head chef at a top restaurant that caters to eco-tourists, and given that he’s fed scientists in Antartica and elite lodgers in Alaska, he’s no stranger to cooking on ice. She went with him for a few months, which turned into a year and a half.

Rock Climber lives on an arctic chain of islands in Norway, working in all the restaurants. Off-shift for one, another calls her in to wait tables or tend bar. She has the effervescent personality of a wandering bard, and I can understand why hospitality on one of the world’s most remote arctic places holds her in high demand. To get to work, she often has to travel by boat or plane. Stories bubble up all around her.

If you’re wondering why I have Rock Climber on the brain, it’s because she’s back on land, among trees, and in Montana for a friend’s wedding. This means cell-phone service! On ice, I rarely get to communicate with my daughter, just crossed messages. When she calls, my heart soars, and I soak up her stories and laughter and love. She might be the Sgt.’s daughter, the wild child of a US Army Ranger, but she’s 100 percent buckaroo storyteller.

I call my daughter Rock Climber because she embraces the thrill of the climb. A kinesthetic learner, she masters hand-holds and knows where her body is mid-tumble. For years, she competed in gymnastics. Now, she is the Polar Bear Whisperer. I’m not sure I like that designation because it implies that the bears seek her out.

One night, at a place where she works, a bear broke into the wine cellar and feasted on the fine vintage and chocolate. She says it was a bear after her own heart! As long as the bear only eats her chocolate and not her internal organs. When they go out of town past the guards, they carry rifles and flare guns, not to shoot the bears but to scare them off.

She tells me about commuting to work on a Zodiac, which are the same boats the Hub managed as the lead combat diver for his Ranger unit back in the early ’80s. The arctic sea spray leaves crusts of ice in her ears, and she has to wear a survival suit with a beacon. On one trip, the sea rolled and dipped as the boat cut through the waves. Rock Climber and her partner stayed at the bow, and when it tipped downward, two walruses emerged. These behemoths pack tusks, and she says she fears them more than polar bears.

Yet, like polar bears, they are dying.

The reality of climate change impacted the polar regions of our world first. Think of the Arctic as our canary in the coal mine. If you aren’t familiar with that phrase, let me explain. Coal mines emit deadly gases that will kill a caged bird before building up to levels lethal enough to kill miners. It can’t be detected until it’s too late. To say the Arctic is the canary means that our planet is changing so rapidly that species are dying. The bi-peds who can actually understand this and do something about it choose to agitate their fellows into arguing semantics and causes in a stupendous show of disregard for our environment. It’s like the American politicians spin the death of the canary into myth and convince constituents that rising sea levels are nothing more than falling rocks.

Walruses are falling into the ocean. From cliffs high above the northern waters where they feed, they plummet to their deaths, front flappers wobbling like hopeless wings. Their carcasses litter miles and miles of Svalbard. My daughter fears a walrus tusk ripping apart her commuter boat on frigid seas, but she cares about their well-being. They are not well, the flightless walruses. Once, they rose above waters to dry out in the sun on the shelves of ice. Now, icemelt forces them up dangerous cliffs to sunbathe. Without ice, they endanger their own lives.

Without ice, we endanger our lives, too.

Rock Climber tells me human bodies don’t decompose in the permafrost. If you think this is a gruesome statement, hold on, you haven’t heard the story, yet. In 1998 a crew of gravediggers from London punched their way through the ice to solve a global puzzle — what killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic? Because permafrost preserves bodies, and what remains in them, scientists hired professional gravediggers to hack into a mass grave of seven coal miners who arrived near Longyearbyen already sick with the flu in 1918.

Today, without ice, these graves pose a biological disaster waiting to be released by the unprecedented mudslides in the region. Before Rock Climber arrived, an avalanche wiped out the rental her partner arranged. For the first year, the two of them couch-surfed between the various islands.  Svalbard is no stranger to the oddities of humanity arriving at the land of the midnight sun and retreating ice. Climate change, epidemics, mining, and tourism all in one place.

But not cats. Cats — and dying — are forbidden on Svalbard. Because of the isolated ecosystem, cats are banned to protect migrating birds. Also, a rabies outbreak started last year in 2018. Polar foxes contract the disease, as well as reindeer. Rock Climber has witnessed rabid reindeer, which makes me imagine Santa Claus horror stories.

For now, my daughter is happy to be stateside where polar bears don’t eat her chocolate, and people speak her native language. She loves trees and this planet. She lives at ground zero of a planet changing. Life is full of contradictions.

Denial wraps us up in a comforting blanket while we whisper the boogeyman away from under our beds. But to ponder walruses that can’t fly, polar bears that starve, and biology ripe for a zombie-apocalypse plotline seem horrific alternatives. The Beauty Way of the Navajo teaches that for all things out of context with life, we bring them back to the natural order. In a way, that’s what writers do.

We can write into the Shadowlands, shape what a world of great loss looks like, offer warnings more tangible than a flat-lined canary. We can write satire, use humor to call out political leaders making up science, or erasing it. We can write into the wave where the walrus yet live, put readers in the bow of a Zodiac prepared to journey to the center of their minds. We are writers. We can imagine the possibilities.

I can hear it in my daughter’s voice no matter the story — sad, funny, surprising — I can hear life.

In the end, it’s not about work. It’s not about what we did to save or end the planet. It’s all in how we live today. They say we only live once. But writers get many lives. Catch all the stories you can. Write them down. Find beauty among the rock outcroppings.

May 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story without ice. It can be a world without ice or a summer camp that runs out of cubes for lemonade. What does the lack mean to the story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 28, 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.


Whiskey Ditch (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Honky-tonk music crackled over speakers, the kind her dad listened to – Merle Haggard. Danni’s boots crunched peanut shells on a floor that hadn’t been swept in years. Not recognizing anyone in particular, she noted the regulars easily – the hovering barflies and closed-eye drunks reliving better days. It’s the kind of place her dad would have entered, leaving her to sit in the cab of his truck, reading a book. For a moment, she felt small again. And it hit her. Ike had really left. Iraq had beckoned him becoming the other woman. Danni ordered a whiskey ditch without ice.

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  1. calmkate

    wow your daughter certainly has some stories to tell there … how amazing!
    Glad for both of you that she is at the end of a phone in safe comfort for a short while at least 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I told her I was robbing her stories! She thinks she’ll be there another year at least, but she will meet up with her dad and me in NYC when we go to the brain injury center at Mt. Sinai. We don’t have a date, but she brings out the best in him, though it looks like sheer rebellion to me. I think she’ll be a comfort for him. I’d love to get to Svalbard, too. But first, finish school. Thanks, Kate.

      • calmkate

        that is a huge support and so essential for such things!
        I’m not keen on the cold so I’ll leave that for others to do 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Funny, my daughter is not keen on cold either! 😀

  2. Becky Ross Michael

    Love this post…so interesting and beautifully told. The flash fiction was good, too:)

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for reading, Becky!

      • Becky Ross Michael

        You’re so welcome; I really enjoyed it, Charli!

  3. Norah

    An archaeologist walks into a bar and orders a drink without ice. Could be the beginning of a joke. But living on a planet without ice would be no joke.
    I love the way you describe the Rock Climber, her adventures and her exuberance for life. She is at ground zero for climate change. I think we are over here too with not enough recognition for how the climate is changing and poor decisions being made with no comprehension of or concern for the future effect of those decisions. Sad days. We need to live in the moments and savour them, then use them to improve the future for all. We need to live and let live, not live and let die which seems to be happening all over. I was interested to hear that dying is not allowed on Svalbard. The thought conjures up some pretty funny stories.
    And Danni feels lost and alone again, adrift without her paddle. I hope the whiskey helps more than briefly.

    • Charli Mills

      An archeologist walks into a bar … ha, ha! Yes, and I like jokes that begin that way. I think that might be the interesting intersection of this week’s prompt. We can go into stark reality or humor. And I will be surprised by the in-betweens. It was so good to talk to her and soak up her stories. In some ways, I could say she’s safe because it’s illegal to die where she lives. That could create some funny stories! No dying allowed! I long for a more thoughtful world that openly experiences its wonders and also saves them for future generations. We’ll see what comes next for Danni. I suspect her childhood was lonely and she won’t linger long digging up bad memories.

      • Norah

        Yes, it will be interesting to see how the stories go. I think mine is an outlier in-between. As usual, I just don’t want to conform. 🙂
        But that avalanche you mentioned that occurred just before they arrived, I read that two people died in it. I wonder how they worked that out. How tragic for them, and obviously unexpected.
        I agree with you about the need for “a more thoughtful world that openly experiences its wonders and also saves them for future generations.”
        I think many of us bury secrets of the past that we’d rather forget. Trouble is, they are the ones that don’t seem to want to stay buried but keep surfacing. Perhaps Danni experiences the same thing.

      • Charli Mills

        Not sure how two died in an avalanche where dying is prohibited. Who gets charged in such an absurd case? And yes, the stories we try to bury are the ones likely to surface. This will be an issue for Danni.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Anne. I was disappointed, thought, that I couldn’t conjure a punchline for the joke.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Norah, it’ll drive you to drink:

      Archeologist walks into a bar.
      “What’ll ya have?”
      “No ice.”
      “Water you’ll have?”
      “With whiskey.”
      “So, how long have you worked here?”
      “Are you digging into my past?”
      “Aren’t I an archeologist?”
      “Another whiskey ditch?”
      “Why would I switch?”
      “No ice?”
      “Save the ice.”
      “Yes, save the ice.”
      “How do we save ice?”
      “Keep it on ice?”
      “How then do you keep that ice?”
      “Sawdust. Lots of sawdust.”
      “From sawn trees.”
      “Sawn trees?”
      “Yes. Sawdust insulates the ice, keeps it from melting.”
      “Last week’s prompt won’t like this.”
      “Yeah. Save the ice.”

      (99, of course)

      • Susan Zutautas

        Love this! 🙂

      • Norah

        Thanks for finishing the joke – in 99 words, no less (or more). I think it will drive me to drink!
        So sawdust insulates ice. That’s interesting. But you’re right. The trees won’t be happy with that. We need to save the ice and the trees. 🙂
        Such clever lines. I may have started the joke, but you finished it in fine form.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Norah, that dang opening was niggling me all day long. So.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Glad you rose to Norah’s (implied) challenge. Your second version is even better. I do appreciate your boundless wit.

      • Norah

        Hi D., This is a comment on your second poem with all the experts gathering in the bar. What a deep and meaningful poem with a positively sad conclusion. So many of them are so very clever and amusing, but the despair got me in the end. I found the climatologist followed by the theologist quite heartbreaking. We’ve just voted a Pentecostal climate-denier into our top position. A review I read (whether a true interpretation is perhaps debatable) stated that he wouldn’t want to do anything about climate change as he would believe it is ‘God’s will’. And then for the poor polar bear to have nowhere else to go … I’m sorry. I guess I brought all this baggage to your very clever piece. I guess that’s partly the cleverness of it. Ease us in then wallop us with the painful truth.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Not baggage, Norah, but the sad truth.
        Looks like across the world we’re sinking together. Let’s hold hands as long as we can.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Norah it is as you read it. There’s a sad wollop at the end. Cause that’s the way it is. It’ll drive you to drink. Watch out for polar bears when you do.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Haha, great story line, Norah.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Miriam. D. finished it off beautifully. 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        She did indeed.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        An archeologist walks into a bar, starts digging into other’s stories, unearths some skeletons.
        An entomologist walks into a bar, observes the barflies.
        A magician walks into a bar, makes drinks disappear.
        A mathematician walks into a bar, in a calculating manner.
        A geologist walks into a bar, orders a mudslide, rocks.
        A climatologist walks into a bar, asks for ice, lots of ice, please hurry, before its too late.
        A theologist walks into a bar, for God’s sake, prays its not too late.
        A polar bear walks into a bar, because it had no place else to go.

        (yes, 99)

      • Miriam Hurdle

        OMG, D, I’m laughing at the punch line. It’s too funny. I guess the polar bear found some ice, finally.

      • Charli Mills

        Great sequencing, D.

    • Norah

      I’m popping back with my contribution:

      Let’s Hear it for Ice

      A world without ice —
      That made me think tw—
      Two times.

      A world without ice
      Would not be so n—

      We couldn’t play games
      With a six-sided d—
      Numbered cube.

      We couldn’t have fries
      With a side-serve of r—
      Food grain.

      Our food would be bland
      Without pinches of sp—

      A world without ice
      Where rule is by v—

      A world without ice
      We’d all pay the pr—

      A world without ice
      I’d say in a tr—

      A world without ice
      I’d even say thr—
      Three times

      Would never
      Could never
      Be anything nice!

      • Charli Mills

        Norah! This is a clever dev–! I enjoyed the word play!

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. I’m pleased you thought it was n — you know! 🙂

  4. joanne the geek

    I’m usually an optimist, but I’m not sure we can survive climate change, unless we drastically change the way we live.

    I was struck by the unless I just wrote. That word is in The Lorax, a book that shaped my ecological perspective from a young age. As the Once-ler states at the end of the book having created an environmental wasteland and regretting it:

    “UNLESS someone like you
    cares a whole awful lot,
    nothing is going to get better.
    It’s not.”

    Interesting challenge. I can already see some ideas forming…

    • Charli Mills

      Unless. A transformative word. I want us to care a whole awful lot but not out of fear or guilt, rather from a place of wonder and appreciation. My early ecological influence was the work of Aldo Leopold and his stunning Land Ethics. He taught that we need to learn to observe and through observation we would learn to care. We writers have the ability to continue the work of Suess and Leopold, changing minds and hearts through stories. I look forward to what you formulate, Joanne!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I agree we need to start by looking. Some things are neglected because we don’t see them, like wildflowers dismissed as garden weeds.
        We need to feel concerned enough to act, but not so wracked with guilt we’re paralysed. Although in small doses guilt can be a motivator.

      • Charli Mills

        Anne, there is a balance and I think it’s different for each person.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      So true, Joanne. Unless is also the title of a novel by Carol Shields. It’s not about climate change, but it is about protest and being ignored.

    • Norah

      I loved The Lorax too and it’s powerful message. Written so long ago, why are so many still not getting it?

  5. Chelsea Owens

    Beautiful and poignant, Charli. I wish more people cared beyond themselves. 🙁

    • Charli Mills

      Maybe more people need to go live with the polar bears! Maybe more people just need to remember what it is to experience life. Thanks, Chelsea.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I agree with you, Molly. Our planet is heading for the worse.

    • Jules

      Some planet phases are natural. I do hope however not to roam the planet with Dino’s – apparently for all the hype, dino’s an humans never did share the earth at the same time. I did a sci fi bit too. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I like the title, too, Joanne!

      • Norah

        I like the title and the repetition – makes a powerful statement.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      I do hope that it stays as fiction also, Joanne.

  6. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I’m reading a novel about rock climbers right now and was already thinking of your daughter. Great that you’re now in phone contact.
    I can’t help thinking that tourism — eco or otherwise — is part of the problem. Maybe that’s the seed of my story!

    • Charli Mills

      Tourism is a bizarre additive to the mix. I remember reading an article about the “positives” of ice melt in arctic Canada because it would allow for more tourism. What exactly do these tourists want to see? To me, it’s so disconnected. I’ll be interested to learn more about the novel when you review it.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Aargh, and the warmer weather is great for tourism in the UK.
        I’ve finished the book, but a hard one to review. It’s set in my stomping ground (apart from the climbs, of course).

      • Charli Mills

        Maybe we were all accidental tourists over the ages, and this is how we came to be located where we are.

        Well, I hope you get the book reviewed, I’d like to learn more about where you stomped your boots.

      • Charli Mills

        I have learned so much of your part of the world through 99-words, Anne!

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks so much!

    • Charli Mills

      An interesting use of the prompt, Reena!

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you, Charli!

    • Norah

      That’s an interesting interpretation of the prompt, Reena. There’s not much warmth left in that relationship.

      • Reena Saxena

        It;’s more about survival than finding warmth.

  7. robbiesinspiration

    You have shared some scary things here, Charli. In the end, it is all about human greed and hunger for power.

    • Miriam Hurdle

      You’re right, Robbie. The vice president Al Gore (1969 – ) tried to bring the awareness of global warming. The subject didn’t help any politician to gain power. To these days, it’s not on the political agenda. Al Gore wrote a book on global warming. I should buy it because it topic is close to my heart.

      • robbiesinspiration

        I remember Al Gore’s campaign well, Miriam. A great shame he didn’t win the election. I think he may have also been involved in a movie about global warming. I must check again.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re right, Robbie. The movie is based on his book. It’s on DVD. It’s sad that people only care about the immediate fame and fortune.

      • Charli Mills

        Al Gore’s book (and movie) is aptly titled An Inconvenient Truth. It’s a powerful story, Miriam. I highly recommend reading it. It not only focuses on the early science, the call for change but also on Mr. Gore’s personal journey, coming from the tobacco farms of the south and the impact of losing his sister to cancer.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        It sounds interesting. I saw it on Amazon the day I wrote the Flash. I saw the DVD also.

    • Charli Mills

      It seems like every end for humanity is linked to the shortsightedness of greed and power. But I can’t help but see the beauty and catch the stories, too. That, hopefully, makes us more human.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Of course there are lots of good people out there, Charli, who are fighting hard for a good outcome. They have louder voices now than in the past especially with social media.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks for reminding me, Robbie!

  8. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    Inspired by your stories from the Rock Climber, Charli. Both from a resolve to honor the planet and to continue to use my imagination to write stories. I’ve had a dry spell. Maybe a result of too much ice here in the cold northeast. I suppose I could come up with a million weather excuses. But there are much larger weather concerns we must deal with. Loved your flash fiction.

    • Charli Mills

      The well goes dry, sometimes, Molly. Like you, I look for inspiration in the stories others tell or create. Enough stories fill us up and creativity begins to thaw. It’s been a long, hard, cold winter between your neck of the woods and mine. Almost June and we still have the heater on! Thanks for reading my flash. I’ve been exploring ways that Danni could confront past issues because of her current circumstances.

  9. denmaniacs4

    A wonderful post, Charli. About as timely as you could get.

    Not Ice

    “I trust you got the notice?”


    “Yes. The Intergalactic Commissions Epistle on Global Defrosting.”

    “Oh, yes. The ICE Notice on Not Ice. I got it.”

    “Whew. Good. Everyone needs to be in the loop. Communications have been patchy.”

    “Everyone? Even…?”

    “The Holdouts? Sadly, there’re still a few. The ones who can make their own cubes. You know, at home. So selfish. I’ve got mine, they say. I’m good.”

    “And what about…you know…?”

    “Ah! The Impeachable Colluding Entity? He’ll be the death of us. We have the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he says. Global Warming be damned.”

    “So sad!”

    • Charli Mills

      Sad, indeed! “The Impeachable Colluding Entity” will be the death of many things. I could do without his ICE. Nice place with acronyms and shady characters.

  10. Liz H

    “It’s like the American politicians spin the death of the canary into myth and convince constituents that rising sea levels are nothing more than falling rocks.”
    BOOM! (mike drop)

    • Charli Mills

      Somewhere a rock falls into the ocean and the leaders fail to ask why. Thanks, Liz.

      • Norah

        That’s cause they don’t hear it.

  11. Susan Zutautas

    I have to confess Charli, I went right to the prompt this week before writing my story. Polar bears are the first thing I thought about for this weeks prompt. My story isn’t really a flash fiction as there’s so much truth to it.
    Climate change is a very scary thing and it breaks my heart to think about all the poor animals. Then, of course, there are us humans. I do hope that you’ll get to see Rock Climber soon.
    Here’s mine for this week:

    • Miriam Hurdle

      We must do something so the Polar bears won’t disappear. Great post, Susan.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I’ve been sad for the plight of the polar bears a long time, too. In 2007, my co-op was one of the sponsors of Will Steger’s expedition across Baffin Island to raise awareness of Global Warming. Back then, we discussed how buying locally and using less plastic could “save the polar bears.” 12 years later and we seemed to have not made progress. It breaks my heart, too. Thanks! I hope I get to see her soon — maybe on Svalbard, on ice!

  12. Jules


    All of us have our own amazing stories. Lucky you to be able to borrow Rock Climber’s stories. I think just like native peoples who did not own land… we too can not claim to own words. But we can have fun and play with words for a while. Best to you and your family with all the warm and icy situations that are yet to evolve. Just thinking about brain surgery… but I do know some folks who couldn’t exist without some alteration to their brains, buy doctors that is.

    I can sympathize with Danni. It can be hard when the lure of another person or thing takes away something you love. I had to look up what a whiskey ditch was.

    I went Sci Fi with my entry:
    Searching for Diamonds in the Rough

    The replicator could create many things in space. Synthesized alcohol, drugs for healing any number of species, humanoid or not. Even books. But it could not recreate ice.

    Which was partly why Sherman had gotten involved with this crew. They were to explore and to a point exploit those silent balls of ice where no life lived. The trick would be finding any. Most of the nearest systems had been over harvested.

    Sherman’s secondary reason, that he had kept hidden from the crew was that he was a Glaciologist. He wanted core samples of ice to read its history.


    Glaciology (from Latin: glacies, “frost, ice”, and Ancient Greek: ?????, logos, “subject matter”; literally “study of ice”) is the scientific study of glaciers, or more generally ice and natural phenomena that involve ice.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I like how Sherman was still just curious and anxious to study the glacier despite the grim circumstances of having to harvest ice for survival.

    • Charli Mills

      You are so right Jules — everyone has amazing stories. It’s fun and a privilege to catch the stories of others. I once met an old historian and storyteller in Idaho. When she learned that I was interested in the stories of women on the frontier, she gifted one to me she had gathered 50 years earlier. What a gift! Interesting, your extended concept of ownership. I think you are right in that regard, too — know one owns words. Perhaps there is a sacredness to both though. We need to respect the land and stories, being good stewards of both.

      Ha! You are ever the wordsmith, Jules! I think the term is Montanan and regionally, that extends to North Idaho. Thank you for the geology lesson, too! I did not know about the Greek origins. I loved your sci-fi flash!

      • Ritu


      • Ritu

        Thank you… Neat indeed! ????

    • Charli Mills

      She was the daughter I thought destined for warmer climates. May our children always surprise and delight us! Thanks for your neat flash!

      • Ritu

        You’re welcome! And may our children always surprise us pleasantly!!!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! And if not, there always a neat drink to calm the nerves!

    • Norah

      I’m sure there’s a few over there in need of a stiff drink.

      • Ritu

        I think so too Norah!

  13. Jules

    A second entry:

    Removing the Glaze of Grief
    (reverse haibun with an acrostic haiku)

    independence lost
    calm weather would not, could not
    ease the burn of pain

    Just when had it happened and really did it matter. Marge and Tina were talking. There were years that a berg had been between them. The base had spread through misunderstanding the others youth. But they had to join forces now. Dad needed them, now at a loss without Mom. Her illness had started slow, gained strength and then within moment froze the life out of the woman, as well as the man who had adored her. Now if they could just get James on board.


    Some synonyms for ‘ice: chunk, crystal, diamonds, floe, glacier, glaze, hail, hailstone, iceburg…

    • Charli Mills

      You iced over this one with all the glacial words, Jules! Yet a poignant story AND a clever use of poetic form.

  14. pensitivity101

    Hi Charli.
    Another interesting post here.

    Here’s my take on this week’s prompt

    Cold as Ice

    Another day, another boring evening.
    Something smelt nice and he lifted the lid on the pan to have a taste.
    ‘I wouldn’t,’ she said. ‘That’s for the dogs. Your dinner’s in the fridge.’
    Chicken salad again. Great. Not even new potatoes.
    He sighed, got a glass and peered into the freezer.
    ‘There’s no ice Honey.’ he said.
    ‘Tough. Have tea instead.’
    ‘I don’t want tea.’
    ‘Coffee then.’
    ‘I don’t want coffee. Any beer?’
    The dogs were getting excited for their supper as she spooned it into their bowls.
    ‘I’m off down the pub,’ he said.
    ‘Sure.’ she replied.

    • robertawrites235681907

      Well, we know you the favourites are in this house.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Cold indeed. I’m betting the dogs are not the ones in the doghouse.

      • pensitivity101

        My brother told me the dog got steak and he had beans on toast with his first wife.

    • Norah

      Sounds like that was what she was hoping for.

    • Charli Mills

      Plenty of ice in that house, just not in the freezer! Good use of characterization to show the cold shoulder, Di. That would be a tough relationship to endure.

  15. Miriam Hurdle

    Great stories, Charli. Rock Climber may have to replenish chocolates when going back to work. Here’s my story:

    The Last Voyage by Miriam

    “Where are we going, honey?”
    “Real estate office.”
    “They have a new listing.”
    “Anything bigger?”
    “Yes, a living quarter of 300 square feet, a share of 8 square feet of vegetable patch in the atrium, and a 5 square feet chicken farm.”
    “How much time do we have?”
    “Billions of people live on house ships already. We’re the last group. The ice from Arctic and Antarctic is melting fast. The ocean level has raised one inch a year for centuries. The last pieces of ice will collapse any minute.”
    “Our ancestors couldn’t perceive us living on house ships.”

    • Susan Zutautas

      House ships, great idea!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Susan! It would be a futuristic Noah’s Ark!

    • Jules

      I think I read somewhere that there actually is a huge ship that is condos stores., gyms, doctors offices…But that’s for those with big bucks. For the whole world to live that way would be a challenge…

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, Jules. It’s kind of a science fiction!

        We’ll be going on a cruise soon and I’ll check out what it is like.

      • Jules

        Safe travels. I’ve only been on one cruise, but I know of some folks that take two or three a year. 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Jules. I want to do more land travel and wait to do more cruises when I get older and don’t want to walk too much. 🙂 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Robbie. I had fun writing it.

    • Anony Mole

      SeaSteading. It’s a thing. And it’s coming to a shoreline near you.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you!! It may become the fashion of vacation or semi-living arrangement!!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Miriam! Who knew polar bears would like chocolate?

      An imaginative take on the future without ice. You show the adaptability of people.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        This is not too far out there, Charli. I’m afraid!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Leanne!

  16. Jennie

    You are a master storyteller, Charli. I so enjoyed reading about your daughter. Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for that kind comment, Jennie! I’m blessed to get to catch my daughter’s stories and share them.

      • Jennie

        You’re welcome, Charlie. And you tell those stories so well. ????

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Hello Charli. I notice that, perhaps because of its placement, perhaps because I am simply too squirrel-like, I most often neglect to tell you how much I enjoy YOUR 99 word contributions each week. It has been great to see Danni and hers so much lately, great to see her and her story growing 99 words at a time. While I felt for her this week (yep, when you go ahead into the bar on your own you know he’s gone for a while) I have to admit that despite an association with whiskey the term ‘whiskey ditch’ was new to me. I googled it. It’s regional (yours) but apparently not entirely new to me.

    The post? This child of yours and her stories, the world’s stories… God bless ya for ending this powerful post in a positive hopeful way: “We can imagine the possibilities. I can hear it in my daughter’s voice no matter the story — sad, funny, surprising — I can hear life.”

    Write on.

    • Norah

      Brilliantly said, D. Thank you for noticing the positives in Charli’s words. She’s a meliorist, after all. I’m hopeful, but struggling with that, at the moment.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for following along with Danni’s development. I write my own 99-words last and sometimes I’m in a quandary to make it work, but I find the challenge pushes me to know her and where she’s at. Ah-a! Taught you a western colloquialism. Yes, as our good friend, Norah, points out, I do have a melioristic heart and search for those hopeful notes. Thanks for writin’ on with me!

  18. Anony Mole

    We’d climbed for hours. Suction cups to our knees and “pump-cups” in our hands. This glass tower was our fourth conquest. At the top, I had a surprise for her.
    “Only sixteen more floors to go.”
    “God, what I wouldn’t give for a parachute.”
    I re-positioned the pump and sealed it to the thick safety-glass.
    “You say that every time.”
    “This time, I mean it.”
    At the top edge we paused.
    “Stop here.”
    “I have a question.”
    From my pocket I pulled the ring. It flew from my hand.
    “Damn, lost the ice, baby. Will you still marry me?”

    • susansleggs

      Haven’t seen your name before. Welcome!
      What a place to propose. I can’t say I’d enjoy the climbing activity.

      • Anony Mole

        No, I’m not a regular. I do pop in, every few months, usually with a different take on the topic of the time.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! That’s an adventurous couple and a fun take on the prompt, Anony!

  19. J.S - WEW

    Nice to read about your daughter. Working in restaurant is good, especially when your colleagues are good. I totally agree with your View “It’s all in how we live today”.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s true — you want to work with good colleagues especially when you all live on a small island. Thanks!

  20. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    With a Paddle?

    “Hey, Ranger.”
    “Pal. Where’s your side-kick?”
    “You mean that pain in the ass Kid? Up a tree.”
    “Is Kid stuck again?”
    “Claims not, but chooses ta stay, come ‘hellish high water’. So sayeth the Kid. Kid’s kinda freaked ‘bout meltin’ glaciers and risin’ waters.”
    “Want me to climb up there, have a chat?”
    “Naw, let’s enjoy the peace and quiet. Kid’ll come down at the first whiff a bacon.”
    “You going to cook up some bacon?”
    “Naw. Anyway, Kid’s onta buckaroo-ku.”

    *Impermanent frosts
    ancient glaciers speeding by
    unnatural nature
    Kid paddles in poet tree
    Asses below, heads in sand*

    • Jules

      Gotta admire Poet Tree and buckaroo-ku.

    • Norah

      Another strong message to finish with. We might all need some paddles the way things are going.

    • Charli Mills

      Kid’s making good use of that poet-tree — good point about the asses below!

      • Jen Goldie

        LOL What cake? ????

    • Norah

      It does sound like the day was a little disastrous – the climate changed a few times in your story. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      We can always use laughter, Jen!

      • Jen Goldie

        Laughter’s my strong point LOL When’s the next prompt?

      • Charli Mills

        I’ll be cranking out another tomorrow (depends upon where our days connect). Prompts on Thursday, but I’m not an early bird.

      • Jen Goldie

        This girl’s not usually an early bird either Charli. I’ll be looking out for the prompt tomorrow. Thanks for the heads up!

  21. H.R.R. Gorman

    I loved this tale about your daughter. What a brave person! I hope she gets tons of adventures up in the frozen north.

    (Though my favorite part of the story was the way you described walruses… too cool, too cool.)

    • Charli Mills

      She’s brave, that Wild Child. Ha– I hear strains of the Beatles in your comment.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Perhaps I live in a yellow submarine, haha!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Did you ever get that Beatles earworm when you were serving on a sub?

  22. tnkerr

    Hmmmm, Me and bitter cold have never seen eye to eye.

    When the submarine finally broke through the ice at the pole the second man off the boat was the ship’s photographer, his 35mm camera tucked inside his foul weather jacket. He soon learned that he could fire off no more than three quick shots before the mechanism of his ‘pre-digital’ equipment would freeze. It had to be returned to the confines beneath his coat and allowed to warm up again. Recording history three snaps at a time.

    Great post, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow — what a detail to know. What an experience to pop up through the polar ice in a submarine. Bitter cold lives up to its name. Thanks, TN!

  23. Ann Edall-Robson

    Without Ice
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Thwunk. Quiet. Thwunk.

    He watched Hanna from the shadow of the cookhouse. A glass of lemonade, without ice, in his hand. That’s how she liked it.

    With each swing of the axe, she sent wood flying. Methodically stopping to stack the split pieces before settling the next chunk of wood in place.

    “Why aren’t you using the splitter?”

    Wiping the sweat from her brow, Hanna gave him a sarcastic look with a lopsided grin.

    “And miss working off some steam?”

    Tal wondered what had ticked her off. He hoped it wasn’t him.

    Stepping closer, he offered her the glass.

    • Charli Mills

      Hmm, I think the ice is melting…! And Hanna’s right — nothing like whacking chores to let off steam. The characters deepen.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie!

  24. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    Great blog – very thuoght-provoking; and wonderful FF and comments.
    No ice == I would miss the beauty Nature provides: different shapes of ice crystals; stalagmites and stalactites; frozen waterfalls…

    Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” came to mind:

    “Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.”– First printed in Harper’s Magazine, December 1920.

    Thinking over ideas for FF.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, lovely Robert Frost poem to share, Saifun! Yes, so much beauty we would miss.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Johawk!

  25. Anony Mole

    A whiskey ditch – neat.

    • Charli Mills

      Neat — without the ditch cutting through. 😉

  26. anuragbakhshi

    Your daughter is getting such a brilliant experience, Charli. I am so envious of her, even though I know how harsh life out there can be, plus the strain on relationships of course. I count myself among the luckiest people on earth because I’ve actually been to Svalbard(as you know), and seen reindeer roaming around the town like they owned it(which they do, actually). Unfortunately(or fortunately, maybe), we didn’t get to see any Polar Bears, but their presence was a reality in the region, with warning signboards of ‘Gjelder hele Svalbard'(All over Svalbard, with pics of Polar bears) installed all over.

    Here’s my story for the week, inspired by your writeup, and what we see happening all around us:

    • Charli Mills

      I agree, Anurag — my daughter is having an amazing experience. I love that you have actually been there and seen the reindeer and warning signs for polar bears. If there is a next time, I’ll make sure you get hooked up with Chef. He can prepare fabulous local fare with a global twist. Thanks for your 99 words!

    • Norah

      A murder mystery with an unusual clue.

    • Charli Mills

      Water from an earthen pot has such a cool and refreshing feel to it. May writing of ice bring you some coolness, Kalpana.

  27. Liz H

    A reflection on yesterday’s labors, as the day-long rain pelts down. Hey, we take what victories we can, no? 😉

    To the Victor Go…

    She’d let the dandelions go unchecked too long. Creeping Charlie was on the march, cannons of blue and green vines poised, ready to trip the unwary.
    Nevertheless, she persisted. There were city ordinances and fines to deal with.
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, we do! Claim all victories, Liz!

  28. susansleggs

    Charli, Thank you for telling us about Rock Climber. What a fascinating life she is living; getting to work via boat or plane. I wish she could take the powers that be to see the dead walruses and let them be near-by when the epidemic graves let go of their toxins because there is no ice. Quite frightening when you let the facts sink in. I’m glad she is back among her trees for now.

    Melting Ice

    When we go to bed at home it’s silent. Not so in a hotel. That little refrigerator always makes distressing noises. I turn it off and prop open the door. Feeling I’ve overcome the demon, my husband and I lounge and read. CRASH! A few expletives fly and we are both standing looking around. What was that? Nothing appears broken or moved. Peeking out from the fridge door is a half inch slab of ice. I have unwittingly defrosted the freezer. Ice falling on plastic is noisy. We laugh away our adrenaline. Husband remarks, “There’s no ice build-up now.”

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, I’m with you in thinking leaders who make decisions need to see what it is impacted. And the dangers. I think it would be fun to commute by boat or plane, for a while at least. Your 99-words made me laugh! I know how annoying that hotel room refrigerator can be. The falling ice would be startling!

      • susansleggs

        Glad you laughed. My goal was to see if I could get someone to do that.

  29. Nicole Horlings

    So I decided to write my story for this week without double checking the prompt, and genuinely believed that the prompt was “write a story about searching for ice,” clearly mixing together this week’s and last week’s prompts.
    Luckily, I double checked the prompt before submitting my story.
    But hey, two stories are better than one, right?

    • Charli Mills

      We firmly believe — go where the prompt leads! And that covers misreads and extra stories. 😉 Thanks, Nicole!

    • Charli Mills

      The backstory is interesting how they got there. More like being open to serendipity and willing to go to an unusual place. Thanks, Kay!

  30. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    Submitting mine in the nick of time, Charli!

    Lawmaker Has Shocking Epiphany about Climate Change

    “The walrus’s testimony was convincing,” said senator Doughty. “But I wanted to walk out of the hearing when he started rambling about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings, and whether pigs have wings. I’m sorry he’s endangered, but I don’t believe the ice cap is melting. Or that the time has come to ask, ‘why the sea is boiling hot.'”

    The server approached, and the senator said, “I’ll have the lobster.”

    “Lobsters have had a pleasant run. But with higher ocean temps, we’ve eaten every one!”

    With sobs and tears, he squealed, “Climate change is real!”

    • Liz H

      Go ask Alice…
      When logic and proportion
      Have fallen softly dead
      And the White Knight is walking backwards
      While the Red Queen’s off her head.
      Remember, what the Dormouse said…?

      Climate Change IS real!
      (Nicely done, Mollie!)

      • Charli Mills

        I’m glad you two connected over the Go Ask Alice reference, but when Liz recited the lyrics, I realized that all these years I thought it was what “the Doorman said…”!

      • Liz H

        Alice in Wonderland, Alice in heavy kohl liner–with Grace Slick, it could well have been the Doorman…or Charon on the river Styx! 😮 Feed your head!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ah. The time has come, the walrus said…
      Get that testimony quickly, they’re dropping like acorns from on high.

    • Charli Mills

      Brilliant humor with a lively punch, Molly! Love the rhythm and rhyme that gives the piece a surreal tone.

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        Thank you, Charli! I’m glad to read your comment to validate that the piece worked as I’d hoped it would.

  31. Jackie

    What a satisfying read! I shared the joy of being on the phone with Rock Climber, the scare of the Polar Bear Incident, the horrors of being a witness on the front lines of Climate Change. I got the heebees thinking about the possibility of the spread of disease. Shiver. Thanks also for being explicit about what writers do when we imagine; forewarn, maybe forestall, maybe reroute?

  32. butimbeautiful

    Really enjoyed that. The climate change thing is just too terrible to contemplate.

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, H.R.R.!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jolene!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Gordon!

  36. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Frank!

  38. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  39. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  40. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hayley!

  41. Charli Mills

    Good to see you, Sarah!


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