August 8: 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.

August 8, 2019

My heart is heavy, so I pick tomatoes. Not big slicers or heirlooms, but round dark globes black as cherries on a tree. Indeed, they are cherry tomatoes. Black cherry tomatoes. My fingers carry the lingering scent, a distinct aroma that can only be described as tomato, sharp like poison.

From the time I was a child, I called tomatoes poisonous. I can’t tell you why. I didn’t like them. Maybe I thought they muted the tang of a sandwich, or rendered a salad bland. Maybe someone tried to feed me watered down spaghetti, and I thought it tasted awful without proper spices.

As a kid, I favored spice — I appreciated garlic, herbs, black pepper, and spoonfuls of vinegar. Vinegar lessens the poison of tomatoes. It spruced up the blandness. Because of vinegar, I love tomatoes in ketchup, salsa, and Caprese. I grow cherry tomatoes for bite-sized snacks constructed of one cherry tomato, one fresh leaf of Thai basil, one small fresh Mozza-ball, and a good dousing of balsamic vinegar.

I eat two Capreses, sit in the canopy my maples, and contemplate the toxicity of the world.

We need less poison. Today’s headlines (and I’m referring to responsible journalistic sources) offer a range of trends from someone airing grievances to others demanding justice to a young person blasting and organization to families scrambling after a raid. And none of these stories relate to the loss of life from mass shooters over the weekend. It’s apparent people feel angry. Understandable. People also feel scared and unheard.

Voice is something I encourage writers to develop. You can think of voice as a person’s style of writing, an imprint on the page as unique as a thumbprint. The process of writing can also help people find their voice. It’s not a technique you can learn or imitate from another. You can’t take on someone else’s set of fingerprints. Voice is your core authenticity and something for you to explore and discover.

The late Toni Morrison — a mentor I read from afar but held close to my heart — has this to say about writing:

“Make up a story. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

The origin of voice comes from our bank of experiences. Where we have invested our energies, passions, and actions gives back dividends unique to each of us. Consider that every week, a group of writers set out to craft 99 words about the same theme or topic. Individually, we submit stories as unique as our own lives and personalities. Even when we share similar backgrounds or hit upon the same idea, each story carries a unique voice.

And the more authentic you can be to your own voice, the more it will stand out. The better we are at articulating our deep places — the dark recesses and the breaks that let the light shine in — the stronger our voices will be. Toni would agree to go where the prompt leads you! She said,

“Writing is really a way of thinking, not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.”

Today, I’m thinking about the toxicity of words, not just what we say but how we say it. Yes, writing can help us poke into those painful areas where injustice is unresolved and equality not yet achieved. Writing explores our scariest what-ifs and most cavernous mysteries of the human psyche. But when we write about our darkest hours, fears, and observations, it is a clear voice of authenticity that resonates the most. In other words, scathing rhetoric does not justify the problems delved.

The world is losing the humanity of its voice. Those who want to air their grievances are doing so by stepping on the heads of others. Language of politicians — spin and bias — permeate mainstream media and choke the social media networks with soundbites that lose meaning with regurgitation. Language has become a battlefield, and not everyone fully understands they are speaking with grenades in their mouths.

On Sunday, I read more articles than normal, trying — once again — to get a handle on where all this toxicity is coming from and why my nation is killing itself with an icon of its democratic freedom. I read everything from how mass shooters have domestic violence in common to the accessibility to weapons of war. Take away the guns seems a simple solution, but how do you remove the hate?

Consider these recent acts: a week ago, three Michigan men (mid-20s) were run down by a neighbor when they shouted for him to slow down on their shared access road. After killing one man, and maiming another for life, the neighbor drove back to the scene and continued to shout at them. Over the weekend, two local friends had a dispute, and one got in his SUV and ran over his friend twice. In Montana, a man cracked the skull of a 13-year-old-boy for not removing his hat during the national anthem at the start of a rodeo.

I mention these three acts because they are people within my known circles, not removed mass shooters. Yet, all senseless acts of violence are rooted in hatred, in the toxicity of I’m-right-you’re-wrong. And this poison begins with language. Light bulbs went off after I read this article in The Atlantic about Language in the Trump Era. It addresses the clarity of Trump’s simple language and what many hear as truth-speaking. But it also addresses how the more articulate opposition also creates a hierarchy and sense of superiority with its language.

The more individuals shout for their voices to be heard, the more shouting. The more shouting, the more emotion rises without thought. The more shouting, the more intellect rises without emotion. Toxic shouting erases our common ground of shared humanity. Yes, I’m tempted to shout, “Stop shouting — and listen!”

Toni Morrison also had this to say:

“I feel totally curious and alive and in control. And almost … magnificent, when I write.”

Why? Think about your answer for a moment. Make that your next private journal prompt or public post. Why do you feel curious, alive, in control, magnificent when you write? Because you are exploring and discovering what is most authentic to you — your voice. All that shouting comes from people either desperate for their voice to be heard or manipulated by that desperation. And because it is not authentic (yes, you supposed truth-speakers are not speaking from your truth; you are voicing opinions because you are afraid to discover your own true voice).

It’s easy to tune out the shouting, to post memes of peace, and disengage from seeking justice. But apathy is as dangerous as agitation. Can I make the world write in 99 words what is really at the heart of their fear? Can I get them to write 99 words about what they love most and set it in a collection to show the world we are more alike than our othering makes us? If I had a hammer…I’d hammer out 99 words of love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.

I’d say love is the answer, but Toni Morrison wisely cautioned:

“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.”

It’s daunting enough to send us all into hiding. Writer, Cheryl Oreglia, shared a post exploring her own experience with what it is to feel like hiding away from the toxic world events: Fill the Potholes.

Writing has a place in this world. You are called to not only tell stories but to use your voice in the telling. We can spend a lifetime — and I hope I do — exploring who we are and what our voices have to say. We can easily tear down. Toxicity does that — it destroys. But think about how we can build up with our words. What can we construct with our authenticity?

A final thought from Toni Morrison:

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art.”

August 8, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple. Let’s explore dark myth. Deconstruct the original or invent something new. Negotiate the shadows, shed light, but go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by August 13, 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.


Like a Poisoned Apple (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni wrinkled her nose at Ramona’s offering. A tomato, freshly plucked. A Kellogg, an heirloom bright as carnelian and hard to grow in North Idaho. But Ike’s grandmother had forgotten that Danni gagged at the taste of any tomato.

“Thank you, Grandma. I’ll take it home.”

Ramona glared.

Danni sighed. “How about we share it?” Maybe Ramona would forget by the time they hauled veggies into the house.

The old woman continued to scowl. “I’m not your grandmother.” Dementia worsened when Ramona tired. It was like a poisoned apple.

Maybe Ramona would remember her if Danni took a bite.

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  1. Jim Borden

    a nice goal – to change the world, one word at a time

    • Charli Mills

      It begins with what we decide will be our first word, doesn’t it? Thanks, Jim!

      • Jim Borden

        I guess first words, like first impressions, matter.

      • Charli Mills

        They can be the difference, I think.

  2. Norah

    You are right, Charli. Our words are powerful. They can influence others towards peace or incite animosity. There is a revolution of language going on everywhere, I think. We are adjusting the words we use to speak more respectfully of others and, at the same time, words are being used as weapons to destroy. The poisoned apple is a great analogy.
    The power of words reminds me of a Van Morrison song, The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.
    Sadly, it goes both ways, depending on who shouts the loudest and who is able to sway the public most with fear and lies.

    • Jim Borden

      I’ve never heard that Van Morrison song, but it seems quite appropriate. We need to realize how powerful words can be.

      • Norah

        We do! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I feel like the shouting is growing in volume and we need to return to a volume where our words can be heard, take turns, listen and speak from our hearts without stomping on others. It’s an immature way to get one’s voice heard. But I’m seeing a change in people’s tolerance for shouts and fear-mongering and lies. I hope the tide turns. Very apt, Van Morrison’s song! Thanks for sharing.

      • Norah

        I agree, Charli. We need to actively listen with understanding and compassion. I hope the tide turns too – and soon.

    • Liz H

      Van is the Man!

      • Norah

        He is!

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story.

      It’s an institution

      They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.

      The 99-word antidote follows the story in the post.

      • Charli Mills

        Wow, Norah — what a powerful statement on the poisoning of eager minds by institutions demanding regurgitation.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. It’s sad too.

    • Susan Zutautas

      I’ve always been a huge fan of Van Morrison yet I’d never heard this song before. I can see how the power of words would remind you of this song.

      • Norah

        I love Van Morrison’s music. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Joelle, I’m glad you saw the horizon and went where the prompt led you!

      • floridaborne

        It’s so much fun to find two characters willing to use a fairy tale to make a point and come to two very different conclusions. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        It’s fun to be a writer and have the imagination to follow two characters. 😉

  3. denmaniacs4

    Well Charli, Social Media was never the Garden of Eden some supposed it was. Or might be.

    My Facebook Friend

    I know him.

    The sound of him.

    Not the facts of him.

    Not how he was raised.

    Not who his people were.

    Not what went wrong.

    In an earlier time, he would thunder in the gloom, cower in the shadows.

    Whether fortune shone on his dark soul or not, he was born in the age of social media.

    He would never have to scream in pain alone, howl in the forest, weep in the dark woods.

    His pain could now haemorrhage before the entire universe.

    We could all be drowned in the anguished streams of his boundless blood sorrow.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “not the facts of him, how he was raised, who his people were”
      Yeah, with social media the spewers are decontextualized, not just faceless but place-less. Ungrounded.

      • Charli Mills

        I picked up on the place-lessness, too D.! Maybe one went West to howl in the wind. Now the social media platforms are like a frontier to the ungrounded without chance of finding roots or return. A thought-provoking 99-words, Bill!

    • Jules

      Only hearing one side of the story is a hard apple to swallow.
      I limit social media to the newspaper, online good news, and blogging.

    • Norah

      It’s so familiar, this picture you have painted of haemorrhaging before the entire universe. Because they can, they do.

  4. joanne the geek

    I do agree that one of the best we can do in these dark times is tell stories to one another. Keep the flame burning.

    • Charli Mills

      We gather around the final embers of a dying fire and breathe into our storytelling, lighting the flames. Glad to have you at the campfire, Joanne!

  5. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Sorry the world’s darkness is getting to you right now, Charli. It’s so hard to keep aware of the toxicity, and try to counteract it, without getting worn down. Thanks for sharing the wise words of Toni Morrison. I’ll be back later with my flash. I love the symbolism of Snow White’s apple, and think it will pair nicely with a review coming soon.

    PS. I wonder if part of why you thought apples poisonous — if your parents grew them, that is — is that the plant always leaves a residue on your fingers that stains the water yellow when you wash your hands. I like the smell but would feel toxic if you didn’t.

    • Charli Mills

      Ann, that’s an interesting thought on the smell of tomatoes and the stain of wash-water. When I smell tomatoes, I remember — disjointedly — big green tomato worms. I can’t specifically place the memory. It seems to have something to do with my aversion to the fruit. And smell is powerful to memory. Alas, I just don’t remember “what” smelled toxic exactly!

      World events hit me sideways on Sunday. Have you encountered the phrase “sponge people” in therapy? It refers to those who absorb the pain or emotions of others. In our veteran spouses’ group, we often address our collective tendency to be sponges because most of us have deeply caring (or caretaking) natures. I like to think of myself as an ink pad. I recognize my capacity to be a sponge, and yet I use writing to process what I absorb. I’m working with the Vet Center on a national level to create a writing program that blends narrative therapy with literary art to create more ink pad opportunities for veterans and their families. Writing can help us when events knock us sideways or we take on the world’s darkness.

      Sad to lose Toni Morrison this past week. She was full of life-lived wisdom, an ink pad of tremendous proportion. Her words will continue to more and guide us.

      I look forward to where Snow White and your review take you!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I haven’t come across that term, Charli, but am only too familiar with the concept! It’s often what draws people – albeit unconsciously – to the helping professions, and I understand it in terms of attachment and psychoanalytic theories as stemming from an early relationship with an unresponsive mothers/carer when the baby’s survival depends on monitoring the other’s moods and/or absorbing the negative emotions so that the mother doesn’t have to feel them.
        Which brings me nicely to my flash and reviews! I’ve called mine Staying close to Mother
        Young women trapped on adulthood’s frontier: The Blue Room & The Ha-Ha

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, I didn’t realize the idea behind the phrase would fit so keenly into your area of attachment theory. Good segues!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      I agree, Ritu! We can always find joy twinkling in even the most obscure and dark places.

      • Ritu

        If you look hard enough, there’s always a sparkle!

      • Charli Mills

        And that’s all it ever takes — just the faintest sparkle.

    • Charli Mills

      Nice one Don Net!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much, Donna Charli! 😀

    • Liz H

      Boom! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Robbie!

  6. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli:

    How far from the tree?

    She was different, though didn’t understand why.
    They came from the same gene pool, the same background, the same upbringing.
    They had grown up together, been taught the same values, attended the same school.
    But she was different, and she knew it.
    She stood out. It wasn’t intentional, and the others tried to put her down, swamp her with their opinions and demanding attention.
    Their offspring were the same as them.
    Calculating, scheming, self-centred and selfish. No good deed done or thought of unless it benefited them.
    Where had the poison originated?
    And thank god she not been affected.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      At least there’s one good apple. Consider grafting.

      • pensitivity101

        There is that. Thanks for commenting.

    • Jim Borden

      sometimes it’s tough to be the one that’s different

      • pensitivity101

        I can relate to that Jim. Thanks for commenting.

      • Jim Borden

        as can I!

    • Charli Mills

      They same one bad apple ruins the bunch, but they don’t explain how one apple stays unaffected by a barrel of ruined ones.

      • pensitivity101

        Exactly Charli.

      • Liz H

        Thick skin?

      • Charli Mills

        Maybe disease-resistant!

    • Norah

      Many of us feel isolated and out of place, just as you’ve described.

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Norah. It can be very disconcerting.

      • Norah

        It can. 🙁

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    When in doubt go to the garage. (I also went to Barbara G. Walker’s Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets to brush up on apples. Yep, the poison apple is just another purposeful twisting of older female centric beliefs, a wresting for control of religious matters.)

    Good Magic

    Ilene pulled her El Camino in front of the garage. “Lloyd, I went by your place.” She tossed him an apple.
    “I’d wipe that silly grin off your face, Lloyd. It’s probably poisoned.”
    “Nard, Nard, ye of too much Christian faith. Apples are from the Goddesses’ tree of eternal life. It’s good magic.”
    “Beer, Ilene?”
    “No, Marge, just here looking for Lloyd.”
    Lloyd cut the apple, revealing the five-pointed star inside. He bit into one half while holding the other for Ilene to bite into.
    For no apparent reason Ernest went as red as the apple the couple shared.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      part two:


      “Jeez. Ilene, you old crone, just take your boy-toy and go, please. Bob for apples somewhere else.”
      “Nard, Nard. You only compliment my consort. For the apple is alpha-omega, the Virgin Kore within the mature Earth Mother. It represents the heart of transformation. You bet we’re leaving.”
      Nard stuck his finger down his throat as Lloyd spilled into the El Camino. As Ilene spun unto the highway Nard turned to Marge for support. But she and Ernest had slipped away through the she-shed. Only Kristof remained, holding an apple.
      “We should go now too, Lenny. Apple of my eye.”

      • Charli Mills

        Love fruits for all!

      • Charli Mills

        A draft horse. Maybe it’s his story!

      • Jules

        There are theories that the fruit of Eden was a pomegranate – not an apple at all.

    • Charli Mills

      You are in the zone, D.! Whippin’ up some good emotion for your characters. We never did sit down and talk about Karen Dionne, did we? I meant to. She, too, went to the Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets or something like it to find mythology to frame her WIP. I thought you might like that idea for “finding” a story for your characters who are well placed. Really like the tension in this one, the mythology.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Do you think I should include a horse? For pov?

    • Norah

      I like these stories – the love apple – the downfall. Hmm. Very clever.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thank you Norah. Long long ago the apple was associated with sacred sex and with marriage but not Downfall. In the oldest traditions the apple was a symbol of eternal Life, not eternal or original sin. It took wary MALes eager for a patriarchy to appropriate the symbol and MALe-ign women with the now more familiar Eve story, forever casting apple bearing women as MALevolent. Herstory became Hisstory.

      • Norah

        Interesting, D. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Word Up

    “Kid, is thet Le’Gume character still around?”
    “Reckon Carrot Ranch’s a hard place to leave,. Pal, are you still worried Pepe is a bad apple?”
    “Naw, s’pose not, though he does have some noxious qualities, if ya know what I mean.”
    “Yep, I smell what yer steppin’ in, if ya know what I mean. Hey Pal? Ya ever worry that folks don’t know what ya mean?”
    “Well, Kid, word is, speakin’ is a big responsibility. Was much simpler when we jist used sticks an’ stones. If ya know what I mean.”
    “Mean words could git us back ta that.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Dang. Punctuation.
      Reckon.Carrot Ranch’s a hard place to leave.

    • Jules

      I think sometimes it is easier to heal from sticks and stones than nasty words…

      • Liz H

        Tone of research on emotional/psychological supports this, Jules!

    • Charli Mills

      At least we knew the intent of sticks and stones. With words, a believed lie takes on greater malice. If you know what I mean. I know what you mean, about Pepe, at least. Le’Gume beneath the stars.

    • Norah

      I know what ya mean.

    • Jules

      Yeah… cute. Gotta watch whats around electronics. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Fun perspective, Jim!

      • Jim Borden

        thanks, Charli!

  9. Jules

    Charli, I like your Danni entry, though I don’t think there is much help for dementia. Most of the Early Americans thought tomatoes were poisonous too. I’m not sure when that changed. But tomatoes are in the same family as poison ivy!

    I got a tad carried away with my fantasy in four 99 parts. I mixed the original Grimm with Disney. I hadn’t actually read the Grimm version before – I have that link at my site.

    Enjoy: An Annulment Achievement

    Part 1

    The queen of the fae was in a big huff. This poison apple thing was getting out of hand. The forest was littered with sleeping beauties, princes and even peasants. The dwarves were trying to keep up with building enough glass shelters for all the bodies. Pretty soon the whole countryside was going to be in a deep sleep and it was going to be up to strangers to kiss all these dreamers.

    What was the cause? Was it a ruthless royalty? Turned out to be a clan of worms that had been contaminated by that first poisonous fruit.

    Part 2

    Fruit laced with sleeping draught – Poisoned from a jealous Queen. And worms just doing what they do naturally, multiplying and crawling through apples. The wicked queen who had wanted Little Snow-White dead had been forced to dance to death in a pair of red hot iron shoes… who would be able to save the worms? For even worms have a valued place in the forest.

    Time to enlist someone with some mad science skills. How could they save the genetically modified worms. How could they capture all the affected worms? Maybe with one giant apple with the right antidote?

    Part 3

    The queen of the fae offered a generous reward for and antidote that would save the worms and get all the sleeping people out of her domain. The fae kisses weren’t strong enough to wake deep sleep of all the humans. She would have to see if extracting saliva and making a potion for wakefulness would work. Maybe she could employ the Tooth Fairy Guild?

    Within a fortnight everyone and everything was ready. The giant apple sat in the middle of a special glade that had been sprayed with a special ode du decay to attract all the worms.

    Part 4

    The dwarves and fae teamed up. As soon as the dwarves removed the glass coverings several fae flew to the lips of the sleeping bodies to paint on the wakeful kissing potion. And then as quick as a wink they ran and hid to see what would happen.

    Slowly the people began to stir from their dreams. They could only wonder why they had been resting on odd platforms. And without hesitation made their way back to their homes.

    Dwarves dismantled the platforms with joy. In time, all that was left of the great big Apple was the core.


    • susansleggs

      Well done. This writing is different than what you usually post. You are a gifted writer with many different avenues to share your voice.

      • Jules

        I did a few twisted fairy tales for the last Rodeo… 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, I think potatoes were also thought of as poisonous! I didn’t know tomatoes were related to poison ivy. Yikes!

      You had fun twisting fairy tales, I see. Yes, the Grimm versions live up to the name “grim.” That was before Walt Disney and “happy ever after.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      From poison to potions and a happy ending- you’re on a roll!

    • Norah

      This is very clever, Jules. I really enjoyed your story. The part about the worms being infected is very imaginative.

  10. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Remember a girl named Marlie? Has a Destiny Doll? There’s a slightly longer version at
    but here’s the 99 word take.


    “I’m Snow White. I’m dead.”
    “Oh dear.”
    “Don’t worry, only for a while.”
    “Until a prince happens along?”
    “That’s how Tommy’s mom tells it.”
    “Hmm. Is there another way to tell it?”
    Marlie unclasped her hands and sat up. “Well, Sofie’s mom says the apple was yellow, not red. And it wasn’t poison, it was the apple of wisdom that the mother shared with her daughters.”
    “What else?”
    “No princes, just farmers and craftsmen. Useful and polite. Oh, and Snow White is really called Eartha Brown.”
    “Marlie, now that you’ve come back to life you could invite Sofie over.”

    • Charli Mills

      Marlie is unforgettable! And now we have a wise friend. This is going to get good!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Sofie’s mother read everything Toni Morrison ever wrote. So she’s a few steps ahead of this reader and writer but she has inspired me. Ans I did find a Toni under the Tony in one of my stacks in that there trailer. Reading’ it Boss. (Paradise)

      • Charli Mills

        Paradise was the first Toni Morrison book I read!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Beloved was amazing. Read that couple years back.
        PS I did follow up this Marlie episode with another but thru another prompt. She’s prompt hopping apparently. My characters are shameless.

      • Charli Mills

        Characters can sometimes operate on their own, outside the boundaries their writer attempts to set. Follow ’em! I never created Ramona for MOD and there she butted in and I realized I needed her there all along.

    • Norah

      I like Sophie’s Mum. I think I’d be inviting Sophie over too. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Chris! Definitely an entertaining story!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Leanne!

  11. Chocoviv


    • Charli Mills


      • Chocoviv

        You are welcome ????

  12. Jennie

    Fabulous, Charli. Your build up is always tremendously exciting and interesting, and of course pulls at heart strings. Thank you for that constant.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your reading and finding meaning in it, Jennie!

      • Jennie

        My pleasure, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Toni Morrison’s voice will long reverberate with its power rooted firmly in speaking truth. Her passing seemed sudden. It caught me by surprise. I hope your lazy morning spread into a lovely day!

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        It did! And yeah, Morrison’s voice will influence many for generations to come!

  13. neeltheauthor- author of WHEN LIFE THROWS THOSE CURVE BALLS


    By Neel Anil Panicker

    All who knew her made a very conscious effort to steer clear of her by a mile.

    Asha had that thing about her, emanating vibes that could only be described as venomous.

    Pretty insular to the negativity she spread all around, Asha hurled her barbs at one and all.

    And woe betide all those who came under her crosshairs; or worse, happened to come under her bad books.

    Then, she would turn a virago, and wreck vengeance of a scale and intensity that can only be termed diabolical.

    A poisoned, rotten apple is what the world knew her as.
    #neelanilpanicker #flash #fiction #shortstory

    • Charli Mills

      A chilling description of a rotten apple, Neel! Bad to the core.

  14. Liz H

    This one begged to be longer, bolstered by another prompt in another setting. Here is the Cliff Notes version, for your consideration. dark times, indeed:
    A Desperate Balance (99 version)

    She stands in the shallows of the hidden cove, salt water lapping at her toes.

    “What does she want?” the ocean wonders. “Here as supplicant…or queen?”

    She draws an apple from her heavy cloak. It drops, its power releasing into the shadows.

    The apple glints wickedly.

    Naked in the scarlet sunrise, she lifts the apple to her lips, bites, and mumbles a spell, so quiet, weary of a world gone sour. The ocean hears these words and more, and accepts.

    She swallows, drops with the poisoned apple, into the shallows.

    The waves surge, accepting both poison and cure.

    [Fuller, better version, if you like ]

    • Charli Mills

      Dark times calls for a balance that requires both poison and cure. We cannot fix what we can’t see, and yet, it is hard to witness the darkness.

      • Liz H

        An everyday occurrence in these troubled times.

  15. twothirdsrasta

    I dug my thumbs into the divot at the top and pulled it apart. The apple split unevenly, breaking into two but with one part twice the size of the other. It was this piece I took first, nibbling away at one side. It was juicy but sharp in its flavour, a bitterness I’d not expected causing me to gag a little as I chewed.

    “They’re perfectly ripe,” she said, a half smile flickering across her face. “But the one that I ate hadn’t been doctored with cyanide.”

    I already knew it was too late. I should have known.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Oops, what a way to die.

    • Charli Mills

      Great details and building up of tension to the moment too late. Thanks for joining us at Carrot Ranch!

    • Liz H

      Powerful tale of vengeance birthed.

    • Charli Mills

      Her words will outlive us all, Allison. And hopefully will influence each generation to better understanding.

  16. reading journeys

    Hi Charli,

    A very thought-provoking blog. And a great collection of posted FF and comments.

    The quotes from Toni Morrison and the prompt “poisoned apple” brought to mind Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (1844)
    — the story about Beatrice, the beautiful and poisonous daughter of Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini. Beatrice tends Rappaccini’s garden of poisonous plants, she becomes resistant to the poisons, but she herself becomes poisonous to others.
    Thinking over ideas for the FF.

    • Charli Mills

      Good literary link to recall Rappachini’s Daughter, Saiffun. I read that so long ago, I had forgotten. I’ll be interested to see where the poisoned apple takes you!

    • Liz H

      The sweetest revenge!

      • Sarah Brentyn


    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Sarah! Glad to temp you. Yes, you’re right, the world is always shifting toward balance. I heard an elder say recently that batteries run on both negative and positive in equal exchange. Something to ponder.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Yes, it is. ???? I guess that’s true.

    • Charli Mills

      Well put, Anurag. A little bit of insanity is needed to stay sane. I’d like to think your story would be the second chance we all want to have to reset humanity.

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    (pardon a triple. It’s not me, it’s them)


    “Pal, is ol’ Ornery Ernie still aroun’?”
    “Yep, but with all these new folks at the Ranch, Ornery’s been feelin’ crowded, moved further up the creek.”
    “Sounds like a sour apple.”
    “Mebbe, Kid, but Ornery ain’t never been mean ta no one. Jist feels like people is poison. Tends ta be over cautious.”
    “Ornery oughtta try writin’ it out. Flash his feelin’s.”
    “His art runs a diff’rent way. Says they’s plenty a rotten people but ain’t no bad apples. Gathers up apples like Shorty gathers stories. Makes cider.”
    “Cider? Does Shorty know?”
    “About Ornery Ernie’s elixir? Yep, Shorty knows.”
    “So somewhere’s along the way life gave ol’ Ornery lemons an’ he now makes apple cider. But Pal, don’t Ornery know it ain’t all folks that’s bad? That it’s good safe folks at the Ranch?”
    “Reckon he does an’ reckon he’s a might shy. He’ll git tamed in his own time. Ya know Shorty feeds ‘im now and agin, tells him stories. But we have ta accept if he’d ruther live off on his own, keep his stories to his self.”
    “Like a hermit in a cave.”
    “Yep, but he does make some fine elixir in them thar hills.”
    “Hey Pal, where’s Kid?”
    “Hey Shorty. Kid got all contemplative, climbed the poet tree.”
    “Ernie’s got the hills, Kid’s got that tree. What about you, Pal?”
    “I git on my horse and ride this great wide ranch.”
    “You ride, I write. Well, let’s hope Kid’s climbin’ and contemplatin’ work out.”
    “I hear you! Hear this:

    up a creek
    poisoned by people
    thirsty still

    Oooohhhh! Look out! Ow…”
    “Yer outta yer tree, Kid.”
    “Got. More:

    far fallen
    rotten cores within
    polished skins
    hollow wormy lies
    elixir salty
    tears stream from our eyes”

    “Dust off, Kid. It’s gonna be all right.”

    • Charli Mills

      A trio and an elixir! Them characters are riding their writer hard. Hope they recall to feed her a cider.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Cider’s gone; went west. I’ll get through my Survival pack and head south. But then, North to the future!

      • Charli Mills

        South is a wrapping up, a gift with a chance to tie a final bow. Then North to Some Day Soon and Next Time. Cider is doing its duty.

    • Norah

      Those polished skins with rotten cores don’t make for happy cider. Sounds like Ornery Ernie’s got the right idea.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Maybe he does. Avoidance and apathy are easy ways out though. Not helpful really. And I’m right there with him.

      • Norah

        I don’t see traces of either in you, D.

  18. susansleggs

    Charli, Thank you for sharing Toni Morrison’s wise words. She had a way of writing that fit everyone’s circumstances. I wish there was an answer for the current toxic ways of thinking. Personally I would like to abandon instant news avaialable to all in hopes there would be less people trying for fame (in a negative way) and fewer examples of how to carry out sudden mayhem. It is sad that bad news sells better than good news.
    I do see a lot of new faces (names) at the Ranch. It’s a feather in your cap that the group is growing. On to the prompt.

    If the Mirror Said More

    The Queen questioned her reliable magic mirror but this time the answer was different. Snow White was deemed more fair.

    “Why?” screamed the angry queen.

    “Your beauty is still supreme but not your heart. Snow White cares for others more than herself. She is loyal without being jealous. She works hard, without complaining, nor expecting return. She follows the laws while still helping the less fortunate and she sees her near empty glass as replenishable with good fortune.”

    “I shall kill her with a poison apple!”

    “No, my Queen. Learn from her or the poison will surely kill you.”

    • Susan Zutautas

      Love that last line.

    • Charli Mills

      That would be a splendid idea, Sue — no instant news. Maybe that’s part of what we’ve lost (among ethics). We need time to process and gather. We need to not buy the drama. Otherwise, bad news keeps selling. Let’s look forward to when the poisoned apple dries up. Your flash holds the wisdom.

    • Norah

      I love your story, Susan. We can all learn something from it.

      • susansleggs

        Thank you Norah and Charli

    • Jules

      Too many folks don’t see the good in competition. Someone’s gotta win, but good sportsmanship needs to also be in the mix.
      A good lesson here if it could be learned.

    • Charli Mills

      But could be the scent of it! Thanks, Susan!

    • Charli Mills

      A multi-layered quandary and decision made. All in 99 words!

      • nightlake

        Thank you:)

    • Charli Mills

      A “folk tale mash-up.” Now, that’s a cool genre!

    • Jules

      I like this… I did some tale-smashing too!

  19. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli, I wish I had got here sooner, but better late than never (though too late for a flash, sadly). What inspiring quotes and what a powerful post. There’s no doubt that writing through the dark and fear and ugliness around us empowers us to believe that at least, one word at a time, we can do something, anything, to make a difference. An anecdote to the poison <3

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sherri! Good to see you at the Ranch, and with an elixir — keep writing one word at a time through the darkness for in that light we carry the anecdote. <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Always great to be here, Charli, thank you! Next week starting fresh, determined to flash again, I miss the Ranch. Meanwhile…keeping hold of that anecdote in a firm grip! <3

  20. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jomz!

  21. Liz H

    Well done, in quarters!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Paula!

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, DJ!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, TN!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hugh!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Angie! Welcome to Carrot Ranch!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!


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