July 4: 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.

July 4, 2019

This morning I prepared and consumed the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. I had left-over white bread to feed hungry house-painters and satisfy a seven-year-old boy. I chose right — the first sandwich I made for my grand-nephew K, I asked which bread he’d like, offering him the choice of whole wheat, sourdough, or white. “Normal bread,” he said. Yep. White bread.

I remember being seven-years-old and new to downhill skiing. We had recently moved to the Sierra Nevada mountains from the California coastal mountains surrounding old land-grant ranchos, buckaroos, and vineyards. We didn’t ski in San Benito County, but having been born into a horse culture, I found my balance readily (and later in life, lost it). You can learn more about why my school had us kids on skis at Norah Colvin’s new series, School Days, where she interviews writers to reminisce about formative educational experiences. When I discovered skiing, I also discovered American cheese.

American cheese, mayonnaise, and Wonderbread (a step below white bread in nutrition, in fact, it might not be bread but a 1970s cheap filler food). At home, we typically had sourdough bread or sandwich rolls, salami, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno pickles. If we had cheese, it was most likely Monterey Jack. Sometimes, we’d have Tillamook Cheddar from Oregon. When we went skiing, we had those American cheese sandwiches, and to this day, they taste like The Best Day.

Problem is, once grown I realized American cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on the bread with the least food nutrition value are not the healthiest choices. Lots of food I remember from the ’70s are best forgotten — eating powered Jell-o from the box, Tab soda, Suzy Qs, new potatoes in a can, Velveeta macaroni, and cheese, chipped beef from a jar, Vienna sausages, and pop rocks. But once in a blue moon, I’d fix my kids a grilled cheese sandwich, using my American cheese sandwich ingredients and frying it all in butter.

Let the holiday be my excuse. It’s Independence Day in America, and I splurged on American cheese. Tonight, I’ll go sit on the shores of Lake Superior in Eagle River, listen to local bands, drink Shorts Beer, and wait for the long dusk to darken enough for fireworks. The Hub doesn’t mind fireworks at all, in fact, he prefers to be the one lighting them off. But combat PTSD doesn’t always look like what the media tells us. Fireworks can and do trigger many veterans and pets. Others get excited. It’s good to be aware of those in your own circle of contact. Isolation can be a greater danger. Check on your veteran neighbors, make sure they are not alone.

Tonight, I’ll watch for ships on Lake Superior, using the marine traffic map and my binoculars. Every year, I wonder what it must be like to be on a Great Lake freighter, seeing fireworks blast from towns and celebrations along the shoreline. And that is the direction I’m steering this week’s prompt. This collection will be included in a live literary event at Fort Wilkins on July 25 when D. Avery joins me in reading 99-word stories. We’ll focus on Copper Country history, drawing from past collections and creating some new material this week.

It’s a different kind of prompt but still, flash storytelling. I hope you will stretch your creativity and lend a voice to this upcoming event.

On the home-front, we are nearing completion. The bankers and their blasted extended holiday mean no closing tomorrow. The title company is going out of their way to meet with the Hub and me on Saturday so I can sign papers because I’m flying to Vermont during our closing on Monday. If the bank fails to get the paperwork over to the title company during off hours, I’ll have to sign a power of attorney for the Hub to sign on my behalf. Other than the final messy frays, it’s looking good. Better than our patchwork paint job, but it passed the inspection, and that’s what matters. Almost home!

This week, history meets literary art. Keweenaw National Historic Park is all about the history of a place — the Keweenaw Peninsula. The National Park Service has a collection of microhistories, the stories of individuals, on their website. Our 99-word stories will use these microhistories as the prompt and will be included in a public reading at Fort Wilkins on July 25 by D. Avery and me. Join us in the fun!

July 4, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using your choice of microhistory from Keweenaw National Historic Park. Be historical, funny, or flagrantly fictional. Choose a character, time, place, or event. Be as creative as you want in telling the story (for those doing serials, how can you meld this into your own storyline?). Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 9, 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.

The Old Ramona (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Big Annie wrapped the American flag around her shoulders like a shawl to march with striking copper miners,” Danni explained.

Ramona frowned at the old photo. It was part of Danni’s Keweenaw collection where she had earned her master’s in industrial archeology. Before she met Ike in Idaho. Ramona used to relish stories about Big Annie who rallied the miners and spent time in jail in 1913. Now, Ike’s grandmother glared.

“Shouldn’t disgrace the flag that way,” she said.

Ramona left the room and Danni sagged. She missed Ike in Iraq more than ever. She missed the old Ramona.

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  1. Miriam Hurdle

    Great news, Charli, for flying to Vermont to close on Monday. I remember working with the banker and title company for my real estate investment then selling the house about 8 years ago. Timing is the essence.

    Congratulations to you and the bank shouldn’t have problem for your Hub to sign the paper.

    I’ll be back with the flash and hope I’ll make it this week.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Miriam! We have Plan A and Plan B, and both should work and still get me on that plane, although in order for the Hub to get back in time for closing he has to leave me all day in Iron Mountain. But it will work!!! Hope to see you back with a flash!

  2. Jules


    It is good to hear positive news!! Age does change perceptions. My MIL was strong willed but did not like change. I’ve just been reading some historical fiction about the beginnings of our own country. Spies and intrigue – Respect and disrespect it seems that never changes much.

    Anyway I did quite a bit of back research for the person I chose. Partly for my own background I chose and Italian woman. But in my research I found someone with the same family name from Italy who was a poet! As I put in my post; This story is fiction I do not know if the two women were related. But wouldn’t it be fun if they were?

    Safe travels and enjoy my fiction about: Dusala Banettini

    • Jules

      Uh, oh, I forgot to put the post in:

      Dusala Banettini

      Dusala Banettini was not like her beautiful cousin the dancer and poet Teressa. Dusala, though was a smart business woman and at twenty five left Italy to start fresh in America. It would be good to be independent from her family. While she loved them they were always loud and boisterous. And everyone was in your face wanting to give you advice.

      In 1903 It was good to have the confectionery close to the Calumet Theatre. Now in her early forties, Dusala could take part in the community theatre productions. To her that was a good connection to Teressa.


      Note: This story is fiction I do not know if the two women were related. But wouldn’t it be fun if they were?

  3. denmaniacs4

    Is she?

    So, I’m scrolling through the microhistory, eh. Its chock full of a ton of ordinary folk, living, loving, divorcing, and dying.

    Anyways, a couple of them strike my fancy.

    The first is John Petermann. I give his profile a boo thinking there might be a link to Seinfeld’s Mr. Peterman. Straight arrow guy, eh. Different spelling but what the hey. TV Character; historical character.

    Topping my list though is Big Annie. Now I see right away that Charli has glommed onto her.

    Her tales got punch.

    All I got is the Amy/Annie Klobuchar notion.

    That ain’t going anywhere fast!


  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Unattended Baggage

    “Whut Kid?”
    “Our writer gittin’ dragged west. Hmmph.”
    “Don’t think she’s gittin’ dragged. Heard she offered ta drive.”
    “Jimmy who?”
    “GMC. Truck.”
    “Jist gonna keep hmmphin’?”
    “What’s the word count? I’ll hmmph 60 more times.”
    “It’s no skin off yer teeth Kid. An’ it’s good fer the Ranch.”
    “Hmmph. I don’t trust our writer. She don’t git out much ya know. We’d best pack our saddle bags, Pal.”
    “Heard she’s plannin’ on packin’ her sourdough starter.”
    “Why hmmph with /ph/, Kid?”
    “’Cause I’m sofisticated. We’ll tuck down in the back a the truck.”

    • denmaniacs4

      Hmmf, eh! “Our writer.” Possessive little critters you’ve created. Minds of their own.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        They do seem to have minds of their own. Not sure if I can keep them out of the truck. But Copper Country’s no place for the bumpkins.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The writer is pretty durn excited about all this. Not least the fact that housing is coming together for Charli.

    • Norah

      I’m pleased they’re heading out to Vermont for the Refuge too. It might be good to have a little diversion from time to time. Enjoy!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “Kid, we should stay put right here.”
        “Really, Pal? An’ where’s ‘here’, exactly? Anyway, that’s a ways off. Look it her squirm now with this prompt. Whinin’ ‘bout not knowin’ Copper Country so she cain’t be writin’ ‘bout its folks. But she’ll have ta come up with somethin’. Shorty’s got her committed, seems.”
        “Prob’ly should have her committed. Ya know, Kid, we will go out there. We’s kinda like thet sourdough she totes ever’where. She feeds us an’ we feed her.”
        “Yep. She needs and kneads.”
        “Reckon the whole Carrot Ranch Literary Community’s comin’ along fer the ride.”

        (* “shotgun” means calling the front passenger seat, a term from stagecoach days when someone would sit beside the driver “riding shotgun” ready to ward off attacks. Don’t know if non-Americans are familiar with the term)

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        I have adult children who still holler “shotgun” when we are all travelling together. Common in Canada.

      • Norah

        I think it would be difficult for them to stay if the writer’s going and the whole Ranch is going too. Who’d want to miss out on that party?
        I think I remember the term ‘shotgun’ from the 60s’ Rawhide series, and other Western tv shows. We didn’t have much local back then, mainly imports from the US. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Some of us foreigners do recognise the term. Not sure of the details, but we did have men with pistols accompanying some stagecoaches in case of ‘highwaymen’.

      • Norah

        ‘some of us foreigners’. I like that, Anne. ????

    • Jules

      In my Grandmother’s Suitcase I put…. Hummmph a couple of fun opinionated characters who are going to come out into the sun and play!

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      What a find, Ritu! I remember that song but never gave a thought to the character behind it. So he went to Copper County? Great flash.

      • Ritu

        I was so excited to find a name that was familiar to me Anne!
        Feel closer to the Ranch now!!!

    • Norah

      Good one, Ritu.

      • Ritu

        Thanks Norah ????

    • Jules

      I remember that rhyme! Most children’s rhymes and stories have a bit of fact in them 😉

      • Ritu

        They do indeed. I love finding backgrounds for nursery rhymes!

      • Ritu


  5. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    So glad there’s good news on the horizon, but the universe sure makes you work for your rewards. Not much space left to get excited about your meet-up with D — perhaps when you’re on the plane. Looking forward to hearing about it.

    Ugh, white bread — first introduced for the rich because the old-style millstones turned the wheat grey. Here, people buy a cheap loaf from the supermarket, cross the road and feed it to the ducks on the reservoir, ignoring the signs that say DON’T because it produces a deformity called angel wing.

    I hope there are some historic meadows in the Keweenaw because it’s National Meadows Day here tomorrow so that’s the topic of my post!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I went, I read, I liked.
        Regarding your bread comments above; have you read The Soil and Health by Sir Albert Howard? It’s a classic long the lines of FH King’s Farmers for Forty Centuries. There’s a succinct history of bread flour at the back of it as I recall.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I haven’t, thanks for flagging. I know about the bread via helping out with a walk through millstone territory. Our local gritstone was eventually superseded by the French* and many lost their livelihoods.
        *This must be why, over a century on, we’re leaving the EU.

      • Jules

        There are so many native plants that have value. Their beauty is a bonus. I have Jewelweed near me – supposedly if you get stung by witch-hazel or poison ivy you can break the succulent stem and spread it on your skin to ease the itch. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Isn’t it amazing how the cures often exist side-by-side with the skin-irritating plant. Here dock often grows near nettles. Jewelweed is new to me. It must be your personal plant, Jules!

  6. Norah

    Happy 4th, Charli. Your American cheese sandwiches seem a fitting way to celebrate, white bread and all.
    It must be sad, as well as difficult, for Dannii to cope with the changes in Ramona, especially when she has no one close to share the loss and grief. I’m sure this change in attitude is probably not the only situation affected and Dannii probably only finds out as each subject is raised. Dementia is a cruel disease. It doesn’t only affect the ‘patient’. You have brought out the salient bits of each character well through their reactions.
    I haven’t looked up the history yet, but this sure is a prompt of a different kind. I look forward to giving it a try.
    If I interpret your words correctly, you have a long wait at the airport. Writing time, no doubt? Enjoy.
    I look forward to congratulating the new homeowners.
    Have a wonderful Writers Refuge. Best wishes to all.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my story:

      In Search of History

      Sorting through her father’s papers, Nette discovered secrets never revealed in life. “Mum” wasn’t mum. Her birth mother died when she was two. Although obviously named Antonette Mary after her maternal grandparents, their stories had never been told. Now, she needed to know. In the old schoolhouse, she traced her mother’s name—Agnes—so long ago carved into the wooden desktop. She’d felt no connection at the cemetery, nor reading the family’s Census record. But when the school bell rang, she shivered as the spirits of children past, her mother, aunts and uncles, joined her for Keweenaw history lessons.

      Here is the link (I hope): Title

  7. Ann Edall-Robson

    Hanna’s Story almost passed on this prompt, but then the light came on!

    The Judge
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The box of old pictures and newspaper clippings lay sprawled across Hanna’s bed. Everything made sense until the name Judge William Pettit Raley surfaced. What was the significance of this man who kept appearing in the oddest places among the family archives she had been gifted? Her grandmother had been adamant she not falter when it came to finding the truth about their families history. Staring at the Judge’s obituary, the light came on. He wasn’t the important one! Hanna jotted down her fleeting thoughts. She would have to pursue them later. Now it was time to do chores.


    • Jules

      Ann – got your reply and replied; just in case spam or trash eats it again…
      (Your surprise is good to go!).

      To anyone traveling anywhere; Safe Travels! ~Jules

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Thanks for letting me know.

      • Jules

        Just sent you another email… about your ‘request’.

  8. Jules

    Our ancestors can be bit pieces of a larger puzzle. It was easier to keep track of people when they lived closer. Down the generations and passing through countries and states makes the tracking harder. I hope Hanna discovered what she wanted.

    (PS is Purple a good color? Perhaps the email I sent you ended up in spam?)

  9. Jennie

    I love your stories, Charli. Fingers crossed on the closing.

  10. susansleggs

    Charli, Hurray, you passed the inspection. Maybe your two-toned green house will become a fad on the YUPPA. I’m impressed with how your extended family all chipped in. I’m sure you are still holding your breath until all the final papers are signed. This prompt was an interesting one. I picked William Butterfield because I have a good friend with that last name. I enjoyed reading the microhistories. The included map with the location of the Butterfield House gave me the information I needed for my story. More towns should do it.

    Location, Location

    William Butterfield sat across from his wife Phebe. “This is the best chicken and biscuits I’ve ever eaten.”
    Phebe laughed, “You didn’t know you married the best cook on the peninsula, did you.”
    “I didn’t. In my travels here I ate bad meals and stayed in flea ridden rooms. What say you to the notion of us building a new hotel and you cookin’ for the guests?”
    “We won’t be able to surpass the Douglass House.”
    “No, but with our location we’ll have a better veranda view.”
    “I’ll do it if we have our own private sitting and bedroom.”

    • Jules

      Yep, location is a big key. I’ve moved quite a bit. I like where I’ve settle now 🙂

  11. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,
    So glad to know things are moving along in the right direction. All the best for the house closing. And have a safe & sound trip.

    I’m thinking of a FF based on the life of Cora Reynolds Anderson (1882 – 1950), born in L’Anse, Michigan, of Ojibwe descent.
    What an inspiration!

    “In 1924, she became the first woman and first Native American to be elected to the Michigan House of Representatives….
    Her community involvement in education, health, and economy led to her effective involvement in politics;…
    In 2001, her life’s work was honored when she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.”

    Thank you for this prompt — fascinating and inspiring history !


  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ellen Dickens

    Mama was Lewis’ wet nurse. We called him Lil’ Dickens, me and Mama, and his granddad did too, ‘cause he was always gettin’ into mischief.
    His granddad, Old Mr. Dickens, he trusted me, put me in charge of keepin’ Lil’ Dickens out of trouble. Showed us both where to fish. It wasn’t so bad then.
    Lil’ Dicken’s own daddy, couldn’t no one stay out of trouble with him. No one.
    After Old Mr. Dickens passed I ran. Caught up with Lil’ Dickens, who’d run first. Lewis took me in like his sister. His own children call me Auntie Ellen.

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Anselm Studer

    When I was in New York I felt like I was still aboard ship on the churning sea. The buildings there towered tall but they were hollow rustling hives.
    I came to the Keweenaw. Here there are no towering buildings. There are no great mountains like the Alps of my homeland, but this place, these people, possess their indomitable strength. The miners call it sisu. I think of this Finnish word that defines my America as I build foundations for the new buildings.
    This is something I know: the tallest mountains, the strongest communities, are built on solid foundations.

    • Jules

      Foundations – an excellent word for our own Carrot Ranch community!

  14. Colleen Chesebro

    Great news, Charli. Have a marvelous time and WOO HOO on the house. That is the kind of news I wanted to hear!! <3

  15. Pete

    Our house in Ontonagon was full of scars. The notch marks on the railings, the deep burns near the hearth. Miss Ellen had purplish ones across her back. I’d cried first time I saw them. Mary said it was from another life, in Kentucky.

    Daddy and I shared a scar, a wound like a canal between us. Ellen said it wasn’t my fault Mama died having me. Said it was like the war, just one of those things that happened.

    Her words were like ointment. I hoped one day we could build a bridge, and cross over our scars.

  16. Susan Zutautas

    I don’t care if grilled cheese with processed cheese slices are not good for you. I like them, and that’s that 🙂
    Charli, I found the most amazing cheese slices by Black Diamond (Thinking it’s a Canadian brand) Jalapeno cheddar.
    This is all I could come up with this week, a silly little poem.
    Captain Jack
    In 1813, many years ago Captain Jack Angus was born
    He sailed the lakes and seas
    Never passed up a good breeze
    Schooners he did sail
    I’m sure he must have seen a few whales
    The captain felt safer on the salty sea
    Then in the lakes, you see
    Married a Metis woman from Sault Ste. Marie
    At LaPoint he was a lighthouse keeper
    This was probably cheaper
    Then living in a house
    Having to watch out for a mouse
    In 1894 he passed away one day
    A sailor at heart from the start is all I can say

    • susansleggs

      Susan, It’s a great poem. Well done.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Thanks, Susan youre too kind 🙂

    • susansleggs

      How sad, but unfortunately could be very true.

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        It sounded like a tough situation. The micro story said they encountered “challenges” and one can only guess what those were. In my story I had them married for a while but in reality I think it was more like a couple of years. Not too much is known about where he went and the direction James’ like took afterwards.


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