July 25: 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 25, 2019

For one day, I held space for a loon chick. Not at a distance, but so close that I could gently blow her downy feathers like making a wish to black dandelion seeds. Her tiny body could fit in my cupped hands while her father’s penguin-like body could race across water with wings firm as a bodybuilder’s biceps. For one day, I stepped through a rent in nature and swam with a baby loon.

My second home in Vermont, my newly adopted state of steep rolling hills and backroads that wind through valleys and across clear rocky creeks, welcomes loons. History hides in abandoned stone fences and old cemeteries. Soldiers once fought in New World wars and later marched south for the Grand Army of the Republic. Vermonters think their own minds, though. At least one marched south to fight on the side of the Confederacy.

The place had me at loon lakes and Green Mountains, dirt roads and backwater bars, Cabot cheese, and Citizen Cider, but the sweetest slice of life served in Vermont comes with a side of words. Vermonters read. Literary art still matters, and I did not meet people who said, “I’m busy.” I met folks who swam in the lake after work and went home to read books. At every general store, locals swapped books. This came as a delightful surprise.

Some Day is now Next Time.

Next Time Carrot Ranch has a Nature Writing Refuge on Greenwood Lake in Vermont, I’ll include literary events. The libraries promoted Wrangling Words and offered a table at the farmers market. D. Avery packed the Galaxy Bookstore for a reading, and we joined local musicians at open mic night at the Whammy Bar. We also had several private readings, impromptu readings, and even sold a book or two on the fly.

Last night, D. and I rolled into Hancock, Michigan, World Headquarters of Carrot Ranch. We left Vermont two days earlier and crossed Quebec and Ontario in her truck. Once in Michigan on the Upper Peninsula, we drove and drove. D. began to doubt there was civilization. But we arrived, and today she got hooked on picking rocks and got to see the Continental Fire Company. Tomorrow we read from the History Meets Literary Art collection at Fort Wilkins where Fannie Hooe once went missing.

Sitting by the campfire over Greenwood lake, reading stories with Sue Sleggs, Ann Edall-Robson and JulesPaige remains a shining star of the whole trip. Sharing kayak time and waterfalls with them will shape all our writing to come as such experiences do. That is the long-burning fuel of a nature writing retreat.

What stays with me most is the One Day. For one day, I swam with a baby loon.

A nesting pair of loons live and breed on Greenwood Lake. Throughout the Nature Writing Refuge, we heard the calls and hoots of loons and frequently saw the big waterbirds on the lake. We even got to kayak up to the boundary of the nesting loons in Turtle Cove where author Sean Prentiss lives with his family. Yet, D. noticed odd loon behavior.

Every day, a trio of loons landed on the lake and circled like synchronized swimmers. The male of the nesting pair often joined in, and the routine looked cooperative, not aggressive. We thought Big Daddy might be swinging on the side. When the Loon Day Survey arrived, D. was going to observe the nest with its overdue egg, and I was going to report on any loon hook-ups. In kayaks, we split up and listened for the calls. When the trio arrived, Big Daddy showed up. And oddly enough, so did Mama.

Meanwhile, D. and another kayaker approached the abandoned nest, finding what was likely an infertile egg. To their surprise, a bobbing black puff appeared on the water — a newly hatched loon chick! But no adults in sight. While we were merely citizen scientists for the survey, we knew it highly strange for loon parents to leave a chick. I’ve found an article that might explain the behavior at The Loon Project. Chicks need more than hiding. They need warmth, food, and nurturing through constant vocalizations. This baby was shivering and stabbing her tiny beak at D.’s kayak straps.

Soon, the Prentiss family joined us on the water as we all tried to decide the best course of action, mystified by the absent parents. We got the baby back on the nest, but it wouldn’t stay, insisting on floating next to Mama D. We discussed calling the Vermont Loon Biologist, knowing it was Loon Day and he was likely out of cell service. We looked up the number for loon wildlife rescue, and it was the same number. We called, left a message, and waited.

During six hours — that’s how long the parents swam with the intruders — we caught a minnow, fed a baby chick, and D. gave her belly-time when she insisted on seeking a warm spot on her new human to rest. Finally, we decided the chick was abandoned, and we would keep her safe until we could hand her over for rescue. That’s when I got to swim and be eye-to-eye with a baby loon. Eventually, the parents returned, and we reunited the chick with them.

However, the territorial take-over turned violent while the baby slept at the edge of the nest. The loons in this video are not the ones we observed, but we did witness this level of violence. Who knew loons could punch? We watched one loon hold another under the water.

That night, we were relieved to hear the cheerful calls and hoots of the parents, as if all had returned to normal. I even woke up, certain I could hear the baby chirping. I fell back asleep, hopeful. In the morning we learned that the calls stopped and no one had seen the baby. I still hold out hope that the parents got better at successfully hiding their chick.
The following flash fiction is based on this true story (BOTS).

Citizen Science Checklist

July 20, 2019 and a kayak slips into the water carrying gear poised to document activity for the Vermont Loon Survey. 8:11 a.m. The lake spreads flat beneath a sun rising to Vermont hot. Composition notebook, turquoise pen and a homemade cider donut ride in a Ziplock bag. Coffee in a travel mug slops dark brew. Binoculars and Nikon D80 with telephoto lens hang at the ready from straps. A life-vest within reach concludes the checklist required to count loons on Greenwood Lake for an hour. Ready and backed into the shadows of the eastside three loons glide by.


Celtic Knots

Below camp, three loons circle. Water ripples like lines of an inked Celtic knot. The loons, black and white like the written word extend long black beaks forward poised to write on water. Circling slender dragon-head quills. If one periscopes red loon eyes to scan beneath the surface, the other two follow. What do they see? Fish for dinner or foe to challenge? They all submerge in unison. Thirty seconds later they bob to the surface and write their saga in circles. Territorial posturing distracts the nesting pair and the Celtic knot erases the idea of mating for life.


How It Happened

Nothing more than a puffball of black down, the newly hatched loon enters the water without parents. Hearing the swish of a kayaker who is examining the abandoned nest during loon survey, the hatchling follows. The volunteer nudges her back to the nest and departs to find the parents. When the volunteers converge without loon parents, the hatchling boldly swims among the kayaks oblivious to the lurking dangers below and above ready to make a meal of her. She tires, hungrily pecking her beak at kayak straps. That’s how it happened – a baby loon spent a day among humans.


Stay Objective

While calls go out to the state loon biologist, I stay objective, photographing the puff of black feathers that is the loon chick. We understand she’s doomed without the care of her adults, and in those long stretches of waiting for direction, I feel my own human instinct to nurture intensify. I watch as the tired chick is placed in the safety of a kayak-well. I watch as she struggles to clamber out, seeking the warmth of the kayaker. I watch the inadvertent bonding. I stay objective until it is my turn to feed, swim and warm the chick.



I once swam with a loon chick. Five hours old and already diving. She hears me laugh and paddles tiny webbed feet to me, searching for a wing. It’s Vermont hot, and I sizzle under the sun. I create a makeshift wing from my bandana to protect her. She snuggles to my chest, peeping softly as she sleeps. My heart swells for this tiny wonder, thumping in awe to witness her existence, this ephemeral dandelion wish. From volunteer citizen scientist to impromptu parent in half a day, I know nature’s course wins in the end. My sunburn outlives her.


July 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase “for one day.” The words single out a special occurrence. What is the emotion and vibe, where does it take place and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 30, 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.


Fire and False Hope (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

For one day, the crew held back the advancing fire. Danni dropped onto her sleeping bag, boots still on her feet, proud that she had shoveled in a way archeologists seldom do. They worked hard and deterred the fire with their break. Sometime during the night, the wind kicked up, and a chill woke Danni. Stretching, she groggily left the tent to refill her water bottle. The skyline glowed with orange flames, trees exploded, shooting embers the wind carried across the break. For one day, they saved their community from burning in hell. Now it was time to evacuate.

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  1. Prior...

    Hi – is that a typo to respond by July 23rd?

    • floatinggold

      Shall we travel back to the past?

    • Jules

      I’m thinking August 3…

    • Charli Mills

      Errorism on the Ranch!

      The deadline is corrected: July 30.

      • Prior...

        well whew – that means i can join in – and will be back later amiga

      • Charli Mills


  2. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    For one day, my biological and geographical clock is synchronised with the Ranch and the date on your post isn’t yesterday when I read it, but today!
    Sounds like you’ve had a glorious time at the Retreat, getting up close to nature. And great that D drove back with you – meeting up for real has an element of risk, but I reckon you’ve forged an enduring partnership.
    We’re heading for the hottest year on record here in the UK and looks like worldwide we’re going to get more of those wildfires poor Danni’s been trying to hold back in your flash I could certainly feel the heat in that writing. Back later with mine.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      The risks of meeting up were many and classically involved the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water; but mostly air. My greatest risk now is being captivated by Charli’s Copper Country.

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I posted early and we synchronized! It was a glorious time, and I’d suggest staying cool in a body of water. I’ve fallen for kayaking, having risked the meet-up with D. The laughter continues as we cruise across the Keweenaw spreading literary art like rogue Johnny Appleseeds. I hope your heat wave passes, and my condolences on your politicians resembling ours. The world has gone mad — we all need a nature break.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Condolences gratefully accepted, but at least we saw this one coming, ditto the heat. Cooler air promised for tomorrow.

      • Charli Mills

        If only cooler heads were in the political forecast!

    • Miriam Hurdle

      Hi Ann, it was 100F degree for the last three days and climbing here in California. It was 102F to 104F six weeks straight last year, record breaking hot. Our planet will be in flame before our eyes!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Sadly true, all the weather maps are dark red, although I always struggle with those 100s as we think in centigrade here.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oh no, Anne, what the world is happening or what is happening to the world? I think we have put ourselves in danger and I don’t know if it is late to save the planet.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I fear it might be. Apart from ditching single-use plastic shopping bags, I don’t see people changing their behaviour here, or not changing it fast enough.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re right, Anne. I don’t think people change fast enough, not as fast as the pace of the danger.

      • Charli Mills

        Anne, I went down a rabbit hole after reading The Guardian article you linked to in your post. What you learned from Rawsthorne and Winsor is valuable, but YA seems a tad crazy as a genre right now. Not unlike politics.

  3. Norah

    What an amazing adventure, Charli – both the refuge and the loons. I enjoyed the way you retold the loons’ part of the adventure in a series of flash fiction BOTS. They, and Danni’s story, give extra meaning to your prompt ‘for one day’. Both end rather tragically. Your initial telling left me hopeful of the baby’s survival, but your flash left no doubt when you said that your sunburn outlived her. And then Danni’s community had to evacuate. You set a mighty fine standard for us all to meet. I’ll see how I go. Welcome home. It’s nice to have you back. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      The amazing adventure continues — we travel up to Copper Harbor today, exploring before our Fort Wilkins reading tonight. Yes, I’m sad for our brief interaction with the loon chick, but glad it happened. As Sarah Prentiss said, it was a once in five lifetime’s kind of event. The chick could be hiding but the sounds of continued territorial takeover make it unlikely. How awful that loons behave like humans! Thank you for the welcome home!

      • Norah

        Let the adventure continue!! Sad about the loons. We’re not the only ones. 🙁

      • Charli Mills

        Instincts are animalistic. I’d rather see us humans practice more creativity and compassion.

    • Norah

      Here’s my story:
      It started slowly. First an outbreak in a school in central Australia, barely newsworthy. Then another in South America. A post on social media drew a few views but was largely ignored. When a third occurred in Western Europe, reports flooded news services. Soon, small isolated pockets erupted on every continent, and they multiplied and spread. The touch of a hand, a pat on a shoulder, the nod of a head, a brush of lips, the trace of a smile; all were infectious. The contagion was rampant. Random acts of kindness proliferated, and unbridled bursts of joy exploded everywhere.

      • Charli Mills

        YES! This is the creative compassion I want to see spread like a virus. I love the tension that gives way to hope in how you tell your flash, Norah.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. 🙂

      • Norah

        Thanks, Kerry. I’d like to see a little more of it ‘in real life’. 🙂

      • Norah


  4. Jules

    I am lucky enough to have seen the loon on her nest, and another hunting.
    But to be a temporary parent… sigh. Too much fighting over territory. If the animals can’t cooperate how are humans supposed to…

    I did an imaginary letter, a haibun, in this mixed prompt offering because that’s the way I roll: My Darling, …

    My Darling,

    When will it end? Can the world be still? Must it fluctuate. Is it my task to prove that even for one day, I am not crazy? Must I always fight going up the falls? Am I to be known as the Corpse Flower, and not a red rose? Must I always defend my territory as the loon, and lose my chick in the process?

    spirit and soul; one
    together within the skin
    shakes, seeks acceptance

    I am not a conformer. I am a creator. And I was lonely until I met you.

    Love, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the titan arum, is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. … For the same reason, the title corpse flower is also attributed to the genus Rafflesia.

    Elizabeth Barrett Browning: ‘Elizabeth’s volume Poems (1844) brought her great success, attracting the admiration of the writer Robert Browning. Their correspondence, courtship and marriage were carried out in secret, for fear of her father’s disapproval. Following the wedding she was indeed disinherited by her father. The couple moved to Italy in 1846, where she would live for the rest of her life. (The Wiki link is at my site.)

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, I’m happy that you got to see the loon nest and experience the birds on the lake. It’s disheartening to see humans and animals acting as base as survival instincts instead of using our intelligence and compassion and creativity. But you used creativity! Love the form you chose.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Wow, so much to learn from that one. But being the eternal optimist, I choose to see the silver lining in the couple’s story. They got to live in Italy for the rest of their lives 🙂

      • Jules

        Some times couples need to just get away from one set of in-law out-laws!

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    A Haibun

    “We could be heroes,” David Bowie sang, “Just for one day. Forever and ever, just for one day. We can steal time.”
    Aren’t there fairy tales and fables about making deals and negotiating to have an experience even if only for one day? What happens after such an exchange? Grasping at joy under such conditions must surely be wrung with pain. When you make deals in dreams, which of your Somedays would you negotiate for One Day?

    maybe it’s this day
    seeing eyes, expanding heart
    never mind the cost
    ripped heart bleeding clouds of tears
    forever now, no regrets

    • Jules

      …Back up, stop! 🙂

      The deals we make and break.

    • Charli Mills

      The day after For a Day is the hardest but no regrets.

  6. pensitivity101

    Hi Charli,
    a poem for you this week entitled I Wish

    Let me turn back time,
    Reset the clock for One Day,
    That day when I lost you.
    I never said the words I should,
    Never held you,
    Kissed you goodbye,
    Or told you I loved you.
    And now it is too late.
    Too late for you,
    But not for others.
    I am not afraid
    To say what I feel,
    Hold someone close,
    Breathe in their essence,
    Feel their heartbeat parallel to mine.
    But for you,
    I would not do these things.
    In passing,
    I realised what was important.
    I would dearly love
    To have you back.
    For one day.

    • anuragbakhshi


      • pensitivity101

        Thank you. I do indeed wish……………..

    • Charli Mills

      One missed and always longed for, but it also heightens awareness to see what is important before it is too late. Poignant, Di.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. I miss both of my parents.

      • Charli Mills

        That is an ache that does not recede. <3

  7. denmaniacs4


    “S’never too late, eh!”

    That thought tinkles in my ear: the gleeful spiel of the used car salesman.
    Tell me about it.

    “Take it for a spin,” he trills. “One hour. Ten minutes. This beauty’ll add years to your life.”

    I’m thinking, I don’t know. man. I’m not exactly built for a sports jobby. Might get stuck. Then I’m thinking, for one hour, for one day, maybe for whatever’s left of my life, getting stuck in a sleek little candy-apple red MG wouldn’t be the worst way to go.


    Maybe what I need is a bloody bucket list.


    • anuragbakhshi

      Absolutely! Carpe diem!

    • Charli Mills

      Not a bad way to spend a day or start a bucket list, Bill!

  8. Miriam Hurdle

    From some day to next time, Charli, how exiting. I had the poetry class today. One member commented that when she was in the midst of a storm, she didn’t know whether she could survive. When the storm was over, she just described how she “walked through” storm (past tense!!!!).

    I could sing for you to have come this far. How great it was for D to be there. Hey, D. I could imagine your truck bouncing.

    Last year I scared my baby hummingbird out of the nest before he was ready to fly away. I frantically picked up the baby in my cuffed hand and put him back in the nest before the PAPA came to scold me. The baby was okay and has been living with me for 14 months.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! The truck did bounce, though there were signs for that. We giggled so hard tears ran.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        So glad you had this summer fun with Charli. Do you live close to her?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        A quick hop through two Canadian provinces.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I’m glad you had a good time!! I would like to go back to Toronto again.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, the bouncing, the tears, and the strange little warning signs of Canada!

    • Charli Mills

      When in the storm, it seems impossible, but afterward, we see the movement and progression. Sounds like your poetry class went well, Miriam! Oh, what a relief that the baby hummingbird was okay and that he’s still in your vicinity.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, Charli, I enjoy watching the hummingbirds. There are three in the morning, I know one is Papa. I thought Mama went away, maybe not. Three of them dance for a long while, perhaps need exercise after a night of hibernation.

      • Charli Mills

        What a beautiful dance to watch and begin your day!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Net!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

  9. Pete

    Hi Charli, what a cool experience. I thought about you guys from the other side of the great(well, almost) Lake Champlain! Here’s my take on the prompt.

    The muck was soft, cool between my toes. The sun glittered off the lake like camera flashes as Mom and I swam out to the dock. We climbed the slimy ladder, Mom’s hair like a rope, dripping onto the ripply planks as we stretched out our legs and laughed at our toes until we were dry.

    Later, Mom was sundrenched and tired, exhausted from trying to be happy for one day. She always had to fight for a smile, to swim out to those tiny pockets of time on docks away from shores.

    But she was a great swimmer.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yes, just admit it, Champlain is a great lake.
      And, what a fine flash. Today it rained, hard and gray, even as the sun shone. This story is like that.

    • anuragbakhshi

      That was such an awesome story Pete, filled with sadness…and hope!

    • Charli Mills

      Pete, I was waving across Lake Champlain to you! Great flash — love how you show a mom’s resiliency.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Henrietta!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • susansleggs

      Ah yes. All eyes are on the bride!

      • Ritu

        ???? definitely!!!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s good to be back, Ritu! Thank you!

      (Yes, I covered up my tracks so no one else knows I’m going senile!)

      • Ritu

        Reena again… I should change my name lol !

      • Charli Mills

        OMG! Shoot me, Ritu! I’m out to pasture! LOL! I’m glad you are a forgiving friend, Re-, Ri-, Ra-!

  10. tedstrutz

    I was visiting my friend tnkerr and realized that I have been reading the carrot ranch ff challenge completely wrong… just looking at the photo and missing the words below with the challenge. I am remiss and forthwith submit my story for July 25… https://tedstrutz.com/2019/07/26/5904/

    • Charli Mills

      Not a problem, Ted! The Ranch is a safe place to explore and grow. 🙂

  11. faithanncolburn

    What a lovely story. We have loons on Lake McConaughy here in Nebraska in recent years. I’ve never managed to get close eough for a photo. How sweet to actually hold a baby in your hand. I hope it survived.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow! I never realized there were loons in Nebraska! Thanks for sharing that information with me, Faith.

      • faithanncolburn

        We haven’t always, Charli. I was pretty amazed when I saw the first on several years ago on Lake Ogallala (the spilling basin for Lake McConaughy.

      • Charli Mills

        I wonder if it a sign of their population growing? A good sign!

    • susansleggs

      Now that’s a great bucket list!

      • Leanne

        Thanks for the comment, Susan!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Leanne!

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    What’s In a Name?

    “Pal, I been thinkin’.”
    “Thinkin’ we gotta hep Shorty rethink this ‘flash fiction’ term. Seems the only rule she keeps is the 99 words no more no less part. But there’s BOTS an’ all kinds a poetry an’ creative non-fiction. Heck, if all Shorty cares about’s them 99 words, flash fiction’s a might misleadin’.”
    “So what would you call it?”
    “Well, if it’s a short form of literary art she’s after, shlit covers it. Pepe suggests l’shart.”
    “Jeez, Kid! Git some class. Who’s Pepe, anyway?”
    “Pepe LeGume. A real character.”
    “Dang. Thought LeGume was just for one day.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Dunno, Kid. Got a not so fresh feelin’ ‘bout this Le’Gume character. Where’s he from?”
      “Be a close reader, Pal. Shorty an’ D. Avery picked him up along the way.”
      “Read betwixt the lines, Kid. Pepe Le’Gume’s somethin’ they passed along the way.”
      “Don’t matter. Le’Gume is fulla beans, poppin’ with ideas. Could be a handy ranch hand.”
      “Don’t want him lingerin’.”
      “Lighten up Pal. Jest deal with the hand ya’ve smelt.”
      “So what’s one a his ideas?”
      “Buckaroo Nation totem pole! Koalas, unicorns, ravens, longhorns…”
      “Thet idea don’t stink. Kin he carve?”
      “Reckon he kin cut a log.”

      • reading journeys

        I vote for Pepe Le’gume — honorary Carrot Ranch resident! or something like that!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Pepe appreciates your vote and may well become a repeating character.
        I wonder if there is a visual artist amongst the ranch hands who could sketch this Carrot Ranch, i.e., Buckaroo Nation, totem pole.

      • Charli Mills

        Pepe is not to be dropping logs! But we can look for a totem artist.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha. I vote for shlit!

      • Charli Mills

        Shlit might catch on! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      LeGume Lives! But no l’sharts. I’m thinkin’ 99 words says it all (in two words). Kid’s got a point.

  13. H.R.R. Gorman

    Charli, I’m going to pray for you to have a good baby bird experience soon! After the events with the sparrow in the porch and the baby loon on the belly, you’re probably worn out! 🙂

    Anyway, I took this prompt down a super dark path, so be warned!


    ***I Promise***

    The spoon is hot, sterile, bent to give me the best angle. The needle is sharp – it’s new, straight from the packaging, not something I get every day.

    “You don’t have to do this.”

    I shake off that inner critic, that Jiminy Cricket that always chokes me with guilt. It wasn’t my fault I had back pain in 2005 and was overprescribed. It couldn’t help my kids left as soon as they turned 18. I didn’t mean for this to happen.

    I promised this was my last hit. I’d take this dose and, just for one day, everything would feel better.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Another perspective of “one day at a time”. Yep. Doctors can prescribe pain killers but have no prescription for withdrawal.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        The prescription for withdrawal is sadly to feed the addiction… T_T

    • pedometergeek

      Powerful story, powerful reminder…

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Thank you!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Dark indeed, but sounds so real.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Luckily, I only know of 1 person that has for sure been accidentally addicted to opioids.

    • susansleggs

      Pain, guilt and regret; three reasons to self-medicate to feel better. Hope he can turn his life around.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Yes! That would be good.

    • Charli Mills

      H.R.R. I’ve returned home to Copper Country to find that our resident peregrine falcons have successfully raised four baby chicks! They have fledged and I got to see all four flying with a parent tonight. I think the town pigeons are nervous! As for my chick losses, I’m still better off for having intervened.

      That’s a stark and well-crafted 99 words.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Whew! Glad there’s some bird success at last!

      • Charli Mills

        Right? I’m relieved!

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Driving Home

    The billboards were his wife’s idea. So many truckers and tourists saw those signs. How many knew anything about the pictured boy?
    He knew. He was one of the commuters that drove by them everyday. But if after work he took the back roads to the tavern he could miss one of the signs completely. And if he stayed late he’d not notice the others.
    But always was that smaller sign. “Let’s remember Adam.” Right there at the end of the driveway. Right there.
    How he wished that even for one day he could forget.
    He ordered another drink.

    • susansleggs

      I feel for this man. Belonging to the “I buried a child” club is the worst club on earth to be a part of.

    • Charli Mills

      To be the next of kin for Adam as the poster boy for his own passing must be devastating.

  15. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    What a unique experience!
    And what a terrific flow of stories from your retreat, from “The Loon” & “Koala” blogs, the FF and comments from the Ranchers.

    Your BOTS “journal” about the loon and the prompt “for one day” reminded me of time-lapse photography. And gave me ideas about more world-building of the Crater Lakes Habitat. Past FF: Jeff’s epic work place; the Koala carving at the old cabin; and for today’s FF maybe time-lapse photography of migratory birds –still writing this.

    I’m very glad I found my way online to the Carrot Ranch – it’s enriched my reading; my imagination; and I’ve ended up writing FF!

    • Charli Mills

      Saifun, it’s such a joy to watch you spread your creative wings with your own world-building. I think it is a gift we can keep giving around the campfire. Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your superior writing, D.!

  16. pedometergeek

    A Tail of Two Cats

    Bearcat, my black cat with just a touch of white on her chest, was a few months shy of twenty-two years when she died in my arms.

    Flash, our calico with an attitude, was eighteen years when finally she lapsed into a coma and passed away.

    Neither of them was particularly happy to have other cats around; they both preferred to be the only cat in the house.

    Bear died on April 5, 2001, and Flash was born on that same date. For one day, their lives briefly overlapped; while they never met each other, they certainly owned us.

    Nancy Brady, 2019

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      Pets do that, don’t they? Own us. It’s our arrogance that turns the roles around. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      What a crossing of paths with connectivity, as you you were not to be left unguarded or without companion. An amazing story, Nan!

    • Charli Mills

      Lingering among Ranchers and loons is my new favorite get-away! There will be a Next Time!

  17. Chelsea Owens

    I had to submit twice. I forgot to specifically use the phrase. Sorry, Charli. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      No tuna for you, Chelsea! 😀 Not a problem — I caught your second one!

      • Chelsea Owens

        ???? Thanks, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      It was an amazing trip and now I know my way into Canada! We might have to find a rock beach between us.

      • Susan Zutautas

        That would be awesome! So glad you enjoyed yourself. For what you’ve been through lately you more than deserve it and much more. <3

  18. susansleggs

    Charli and D.,
    I’m sorry to have missed one day with the baby loon. What an experience. But I am thrilled to have seen Greenwood Lake, Turtle Cove and all the back roads in person with such a crew of famous authors as Dede’s Mom called us. It was a privilege.

    Not Missing Another One More Day

    The thirty-something travel agent looked from the woman to her computer and back again. “Ma’am, to add that leg to your trip will triple your cost. You would be smarter to make a second trip instead of paying this price to only stay for one day.”
    The seventy-something client sighed. “You haven’t lived long enough to realize how important one more day can be with someone, or doing something you love. I don’t know when I can plan another trip but I can afford to do this and seeing my friend is worth it, so book the leg please.”


    (Thank you to whomever explained how to post my link correctly)

    • Charli Mills

      An infamous crew of authors to be certain! I do believe we left our mark upon the fair hill country and its delightful folk has left a mark upon me. It would have been something had the chick hatched normally and in time for your visit, Sue. Your story captures the importance of moments and time spent with friends when it might be the last one more day. I’m glad you figured out the link!

  19. Prior...

    The fiction selection was dense and provided the “seriousness” that goes with battling blazes. The descriptions really brought us there.

    and loved this part as you shared about the retreat:
    how the experiences ” will shape all our writing to come as such experiences do. That is the long-burning fuel of a nature writing retreat.”

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, it is a long slow burn, a glow to linger! Thanks!

  20. Ann Edall-Robson

    For One Day
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    For one day the sun rises
    Oranges, reds, greys, and black
    Filtering through the trees
    Peeking over the ridge

    For one day the wind blows
    Caressing rosy porcelain cheeks
    Tousling fringes to au naturel
    Rambling carelessly among leaves

    For one day the creek talks
    Quiet, soothing, tender words
    A journey of abandoned vigour
    Chattering with rocks and eddies

    For one day the moon hovers
    Draping light shards across water
    While stars dance through indigo
    Twinkling to a kindred song

    For one day there will be tenderness
    Propelled by devoted moments
    Perhaps rapture awaits
    For one day, when love evolves


    • susansleggs

      You describe a lovely day with no hint of regret but a look to a better future. Beautiful.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Each day we are given only what we want to see. There is so much more to embrace from these sightings.

    • Charli Mills

      I stepped into this one day and felt it engulf my spirit as I read, Ann. Beautiful!

  21. tnkerr

    It’s all amazing and this week it’s a bit overwhelming as well, I’ll try and get back to all the stories, but it may be awhile. Life keeps getting in the way of my writing, but I managed to get 99 words in. Here…

    • Charli Mills

      Good for you, pushing into 99 words during an overwhelming week!

  22. Jennie

    I’m glad you discovered firsthand how wonderful Vermont is. It fills me up, makes me want to stand up and be me. Does that make sense?

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Jennie! Vermont is that kind of special! I was taken by a sense of having been there before, and I left, knowing it was part of me.

      • Jennie

        I feel exactly the same way!

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Dave!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tien!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Marje!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hayley!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!


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