September 19: 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.

September 20, 2019

Last night my hands shook as I checked my iPhone battery obsessively, focused my camera, and touched the American flag on a stick in my back pocket. I didn’t want to gouge somebody with the flag, but I couldn’t hold my sign, banner, and phone all at once. My sign read, Welcome home, Rich. His wife made a batch of them for us who gathered with her. I did not want to miss the loving moment 49 years in the making. B had waited that long to welcome home her soldier.

On July 4, 1969, R left for Vietnam, giving his fiance a rhinestone American flag pin. He married her, perhaps with reluctance as most returning Vietnam soldiers felt like damaged goods, unworthy for loved ones they had left behind. Many broke off engagements. Many lashed out at wives, initiating cycles of generational trauma. Some rode out the storms, finding help, finding balance, finding peace.

B waited for R, and they exchanged vows. Their marriage has been both loving and fraught with the specters of Vietnam. Every veteran adjusts — or not — differently. The spouses do, too. Those who are strong, like B, hold onto their identities, advocate for healthcare, and shake up their veterans when necessary. At lunch a few weeks ago, R told me his wife is a pit bull. He means she fights for him as committedly as he fought for his nation. He then said I was a pit bull, too. I take it as a term of honor, coming from a combat veteran who fought an unpopular war.

Standing next to B at the Delta County Airport in Escanaba, Michigan which is 200 miles from their home on the Keweenaw, I asked her what it felt like to welcome home her hero 50 years after he had left for Vietnam. She confided that she never thought she’d see the day. R never spoke of what he experienced in-country, but he finally opened up after seeking help for PTSD ten years ago. Like me, B was surprised to meet other combat veteran spouses. We are so invisible that we don’t even know about each other until we end up in groups like ours. The Vet Centers of America are the only organizations that actively include veteran spouses in readjustment counseling.

Three of us BABs (veteran spouses) stood next to B on the tarmac, watching the sunset turn the scattering of horizontal clouds copper. We waited with B to welcome home R from the Mission 17 UP Honor Flight to Washington DC. It’s a project that helps combat veterans find closure. They visit war memorials, meet their state representatives, read mail call on the flight, and return to a patriotic reception. Koppers, a local plant, charted a bus and catered our dinner, all free of charge, so we could travel the 400 miles to be part of the crowd that welcomes home our veterans. R. was on Mission 17 yesterday.

B with her new blue hoodie that reads on the back, “It’s never too late to say thanks,” printed off greeting signs for us. One of our other BABs bought us all small flags to wave. B wore a huge smile and her 50-year-old pin. Beneath it was a new one to commemorate the Honor Flight. She said she never believed she’d see the day R would be welcomed home. A youngster waiting in the crowd told a bystander, “My friend thought it was disgusting that my grandpa got spit on, but we are not going to spit at him this time.” No, we were going to cheer and hug.

And I was going to capture that reunion. A welcome home born of war, cancer, and interludes.

Just like when we write a novel, life holds key kernels, those events that shape us and our relationships. All else are satellite details in terms of narratology. But the interludes add up too and quantify who we become. Despite war on one end of marriage and cancer on this end, B and R have had sweet interludes with family, friends, and living on the Keweenaw. B was there to welcome him home like they were young and in love all over again. She was going to welcome him home with the expectation of the young woman who waited 50 years ago, not knowing if she’d ever see the young man who gave her a pin. B was going to welcome him home with every ounce of energy she had left in her bones and soul.

Interludes are not the transitions, but the sweet music that fills in the gaps of life. After we graduate school, often we take an interlude of traveling or working. When the kids leave home, we fill the space with distractions until we find purpose again. Writers complete a novel and paint until words come again, and a new novel takes seed. Veteran spouses know many interludes and are adept at filling the space. I find that my own life has entered an interlude of sorts. Not a transition, not a beginning or an ending, but a song until the orchestra returns; coursework until I’m ready to tackle the manuscript with new vigor.

Soon, I’ll be starting the workshop process. I want to learn both sides — as a writer and as a teacher. One gap I see for indie writers is the lack of access to creative writing critique. It’s crucial to development, and yet it can be crushing if not executed with respect and expertise. Kind of like squashing the spirit of a veteran who is trying to find healing and closure. For now, I’m learning with an eye to offering critique groups in the future. It can help develop a book to prepare it for an editor. My instructor has advised us that how we learn to critique is like developing our own editorial style. I hadn’t thought of editing being a style like writing.

And so it progresses. Life with its big moments and small interludes in between. How can we use those to tell stories?

September 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an interlude. It can be a pause between two key moments, the pause between acts in a play, an intermission, or a temporary amusement Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 24, 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.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

To Be Left Behind (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Iraq was Ike’s interlude. He said it was what he needed to do between jobs, something temporary, a way to make money until they got better situated. Danni sensed it was greater than a diversion. Iraq threatened her marriage. It was the husband-stealer, a merciless sexpot siren with a hunger for middle-aged soldiers, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. “I cannot compete with you, Jolene,” the words sang without mercy in Danni’s mind, clenching her chest. Interludes end and the main event picks up again. Ike would come home. But Danni could not get over his leaving. What if Iraq kept him?

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143 Comments

  1. Chelsea Owens

    I love your description of an interlude, and your sharing this sweet reunion with us.

    • Charli Mills

      Space in between. Thanks, Chelsea! It was a special and tender moment. Our wives have been through so much this past year, it was good to celebrate.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Loved your 99 words and tried to leave the following comment on your blog, but might have gone to spam.
      Beautifully expressed, Chelsea. One of my favourites from the compilation.

      • Chelsea Owens

        Thank you, Anne. ?

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and so quickly), Michael!

      • Michael

        My pleasure just happened to be here when you arrived

      • Charli Mills

        Nice timing between Upper Michigan and Australia!

  2. Ritu

    Oh my, this was just so touching ???? I’ll be back with my entry ????

  3. Norah

    Welcome home, Rich. What a remarkable journey and emotional post. I enjoyed seeing Rich welcomed home and found it quite overwhelming to watch the video of Mission XVI. When my father returned from WWII (before my time), the ‘new’ civilians were just expected to get on it life, forget about the war and not talk about it. Many of them didn’t. It’s nice to see these veterans have the opportunity to be respected, thanked and welcomed, an opportunity for their own healing and self-acceptance. It might be late but it’s better than never. It was a long interlude in coming. I understand the words playing in Danni’s mind and the clench in her chest. It is too difficult to contemplate your final question, “What if Iraq kept him?” A fear too real for far too many.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah! I will share your gratitude with Rich next week. I had lunch with him and Bonnie today and he said the experience was cathartic. Our WWII veterans were expected to put the battles and horrors behind them, and our Vietnam veterans were held up to be shamed by their own country. My husband said the Rangers were not welcomed in local establishments, and they were told to walk eyes forward and not engage with anyone who spits or swore at them. Then after Grenada, they were welcomed back like heroes. He said it embarrassed him. No matter their experiences, honor flights are meant to help them heal. I wish your Dad could have gone on one. I think there were four or five WWII vets who went on Mission XVI.

      Thank you for commenting on Danni’s plight, too. I’m studying beginnings and endings and had an epiphany that endings are an exit but not always the elixir as I talk about with the Hero’s Journey. But they do have a construct in the contemporary novel. I think the answer is not whether or not Ike returns, but that there is a cost to war and a nation bears the burden. Not just the soldiers or their parents, wives, husbands, sons and daughters.

      • Norah

        The Vietnam Vets weren’t treated any better here. I was speaking solely from my Dad’s perspective.
        That’s an interesting epiphany and subsequent movement in your thinking about where your novel might end. So many stories don’t have a happy ending. Will Danni’s and Ike’s? We’ll have to wait to see. Of course, I’d like a ‘happy ever after’ ending, as would we all. Life doesn’t always dish them out though. Sometimes we have to find our our way to be happy.

      • Charli Mills

        Real life, even when it gives us what we wanted, doesn’t mean happily ever after. I now recognize that my genre is contemporary realism. Endings in modern novels are an exit. George Levine writes that realism should lead “not to closure but to indeterminacy.” This completely lifts a weight off my shoulders as for years I’ve been trying to figure out how to provide Danni with closure. In realism, whether Ike returns from Iraq or not, her ending is an exit through a doorway. I still believe in the Hero Journey’s elixir because it symbolizes transformation — she will be changed. Not necessarily happier, but different. And I know my theme better because of working it out in all these 99-word skits. Of course, I could flip and start writing romance. 😀

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Oh, Anne, it might be true. But I’m going to invoke the freedom to contradict myself!

      • Charli Mills

        Today I learned the difference between skillful and corrosive questioning — one asks for clarity and the other uses doubt to halt curiosity. Skillful questioning distinguishes the growth mindset, too. May we never grow so sure of ourselves that we stop questioning our own beliefs. 🙂

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        On the day after our PM accused female MPs of humbug when they mentioned death threats against them for their political stance, we have a shining example of growing ‘so sure of ourselves that we stop questioning our own beliefs’ very similar to the stuff going on in your own government.

    • Norah

      Here’s my story: https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1vX

      The Interlude
      It was intended as an interlude filling the gap between childhood and marriage. Hired as governess to a grazier friend of a friend, they relished the possibility she’d meet a wealthy future-husband—plenty of single men in the bush— while she made herself useful. But life doesn’t always comply with one’s plans, especially for another. The grazier’s children were eager students and she taught them well. Soon others came to learn from her tuition. They built a small schoolhouse which filled with willing minds. While suitors were a-plenty, none captured her love for teaching which became her main event.

      • Charli Mills

        She found her own expectations to live for in the bush. I love this story, Norah. A small schoolhouse filled with willing minds. When I think of the heritage of one-room schoolhouses across the US West, this is how I envision it — willing hands to build, willing minds to learn.

      • Norah

        Thanks for seeing it that way, Charli. I was actually blending the Australian with what I’ve seen in movies and on TV and read in books about the US. I think the little ‘independent’ schoolhouses were more a feature in the US than here, but there are a lot of little government-run one-teacher rural schools here. I also based it very much on my relatives who were graziers and employed governesses to help their children with the School of the Air program. Eventually, there were enough children (most of them my cousins) for a small school and the government built one on their property. It was pretty cool. So my story had many influences and I’m pleased it worked okay.

      • Charli Mills

        You pulled together a lot of influences, Norah.

      • Norah

        And they were just the tip of it, Charli. 🙂

  4. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I love that idea of a celebratory ritual for those who were punished for fighting a war that wasn’t of their choosing. Very moving to watch your friend coming home, and hope it’s helped him and his wife.

    So much can happen in interludes, even if they’re not high drama. I have a short story called In The Interim here:

    http://www.amarillobay.org/contents/goodwin-anne/interim.htm

    but my flash might be about missing mothers as that’s the theme of my recent reading.

    Also great point about editing style. Writers need to find editors whose style they can gel with. I’ve had a couple I didn’t so appreciate more the one I have.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, it is so important to find the right editor. Now, I’m gaining a better idea of what that means. An editor should be able to describe their editing style, too which can be a challenge. But it’s better for an editor that they align with a writer, too.

      You nailed the power of Honor Flights. I know that WWII veterans have found visits something that allows closure and even sharing, but Vietnam vets have that added layer of shame from the punishment they endured. Rich and his wife were on cloud nine today! In fact, he said he was “higher than the cruising altitude” of the Honor Flight. He found it Cathartic. His sone took a photo of him reflected in the Vietnam War Memorial wall, and it shows a pensive man contemplating his own forgiveness. It’s powerful. I’m going to try to share it.

      Thanks for sharing your short story!

      • Charli Mills

        You manage to find new and interesting ways to explore the theme of attachment in your writing, Anne.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        And one day I’ll manage to do it in a way that readers can easily understand!!!

      • Charli Mills

        Isn’t that part of the challenge, perhaps the exciting part? Processing an important theme until we have better clarity. And the writer gets to invite the reader along. Maybe instead of asking authors what genres they write, we should ask what themes they pursue in their books.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I’m all for pursuing themes, although right now mine doesn’t even have a name people can relate to. But that’s okay, it’s my tiny bit of activism, a smaller version of yours.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

  5. Jules

    Charli,

    It is good to see this project of welcoming to fruition. The warm regard to the returning soldiers who deserve our gratitude. Closure is a funny thing – we don’t always get what we want. We can plead our cases, we can beg to be heard and then be thankful for those who do listen.

    At the post I have links to what is becoming a continuation of sorts. But for now for here this is enough of a break Between Acts

    Between Acts
    (haibun)

    Claire gave what she thought were clear instructions about getting a second opinion. Let the consult Doc find someone who will consider what we want. But her hubby had his own ideas. While he did get the process started he chose for himself, someone out of town. The consult Doc was surprised that his man, that he had recommended wasn’t part of the fifty percent that did the minimal procedure. The consult Doc had heard of the ‘New Man’ and was happy to forward the needed information.

    life in the pause lane;
    we wait with our positive
    determined gusto

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for recognizing the veterans, Jules. Closure is less about getting what we want and more about acceptance of where we are at so we can heal and move on. There’s a picture of Rich at the Wall, and his son caught his reflection. He said that was the moment he witnessed his dad healing. Engraved names on a wall were more vital to Rich’s closure than the hurrah of his welcome home.

      “life in the pause lane” imparts much that is relevant to each of us on our paths when we come to major events and pause for the interlude.

      • Jules

        Living in the moment gives us the opportunity to see things like the International Space Station go by – by chance I saw a buried article in the news paper – Hubby and I got to watch its full flight I wrote this five line elfje:

        Good Catch in Our Neighborhood
        (Elfje)

        Saw
        The International
        Space Station do
        A fly by around
        Eight

        ©JP/dh
        Note: it was only visible from about 8:00 – 8:05 pm.
        That was a gentle pause 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        What a sight! I love such interludes that seem to be unrelated to anything in our busy lives but give us pause, remind us to look up, and see wonder.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Pos as you must to stay pauseitive.
      (Good form with the haibun)

  6. denmaniacs4

    Just a Moment

    I saw the sea; the sea I saw.
    And on the sea, sea sophistry.
    Was it a dream, the dream I saw,
    Or simply sea, sea mystery?

    I saw my love, my love I saw
    Upon the sea, my sea-tossed love.
    Was it my love whom I did see,
    and did she wave, her hand, her glove?

    I caught a glimpse, a glimpse I caught,
    Then she was gone, gone from my sight,
    Into the mist, a new life sought,
    A sky of red, a red winged night.

    I dream of you,
    And you of me
    under the sea.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      What a moment, Bill! Beautifully constructed verse. I love all the mirroring that makes the moment feel like infinity.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Just a moment indeed. This poem gave me pause; such enchanting lines.

  7. Becky Ross Michael

    Everything in this post is wonderful, from beginning to end.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for reading, Becky!

  8. Miriam Hurdle

    Nothing stands alone, the interlude is part of the whole picture. Thank you for sharing your story, Charli. Thanks to support groups for you and the welcome home and the reunion.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, Miriam. The interludes provide continuity. Thank you for your support, too!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Charli.

  9. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli.
    Babes

    There are times when patience falters,
    Help and much needed sleep is lacking
    Evoking short tempers and frustration:
    Inconsolable babes disturbing the peace and tranquility,
    Not interested in food or motherly comfort
    They cry and whimper non stop for no apparent reason.
    Enjoyment of precious leisiure time is shattered thanks to their
    Raging demands for attention and reassurance.
    Looking for ways and means to keep them pacified or occupied,
    Under duress having to endure terrible twos tantrums and
    Disorderly conduct fast approaching madness,
    Enter the wonders of naptime and sleep,
    Such a sweet interlude in a mother’s chaotic day.

    • Charli Mills

      How you bring back the blessed peace of those interludes, Di! I remember reading that mothers fall in love with their babies again when they sleep. 😉 Great perspective for interludes.

      • pensitivity101

        thanks Charli!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I feel the exhaustion in this, and the relief at the end, sweet dreams.

      • pensitivity101

        Glad you liked it.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes tepid is what comes before an unleashing of energy, Joelle! I didn’t find it tepid, though.

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

        One of the many things I like about the 99 word prompt is the way it challenges a writer to pour as much emotion into as few words as possible. I found this one a hard pour.

      • Charli Mills

        The other aspect about writing 99-words is that we can repeat the pour until we feel we have the tone we want. Thanks for that feedback!

    • Pete

      I think we’re on the same page this week!

  10. CJ N8tive's Scenes

    very creative. i have an actual story non fiction, but will with hold for the rules here. Good variety of space and events.

    • Charli Mills

      We call it flash fiction for its form but welcome any 99-word story. We call nonfiction BOTS (based on a true story).

  11. Colleen M. Chesebro

    My R still has the dreams. It is what it is. We talk about it and move on. Many vets don’t have that. Anway, I’ll tackle this challenge tomorrow. The bit you said about getting feedback. That is critical for a writers growth. We all need that advice. You’re the best, Charli. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Is there a Vet Center in your area? Our R would love to talk to your R. His mission is to get Vietnam vets hooked up with Vet Centers to meet others who still have the dreams, too. It is what it is, but good to have company who understands. For you, too!

      We are starting the workshop process. I want to offer this online one day, set up criteria, train writers in it and then set up small groups. One of the advantages of an MFA program is workshopping. If Carrot Ranch makes literary art accessible, I think this needs to be one of the goals here. Yes, we all need constructive advice that helps us grow.

      Thanks Colleen! <3

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Thanks, Charli. I sure hope we can do this at Carrot Ranch. I know I need that kind of constructive advice for sure. <3

      • Charli Mills

        I think this has been a missing element for me, and we have all had good practice in creating safe space as Welby Altidore describes in his book, Creative Courage. One thing for me, going into this MFA workshop, I’m determined to learn all I can as a writer and future workshop leader, but it’s not safe space. I think that’s an advantage we’ll have at Carrot Ranch.

  12. Liz H

    What a beautifully done tribute with the UP Honor Flight.
    And your next installment of Danni and Ike—hurts my heart. <3

    • Charli Mills

      It was so fresh in my aura, I had to write its energy, Liz. As for Danni, that’s an analogy I’ve tried to craft before and I think my pencil is getting sharper.

      • Liz H

        Practice made perfect!

  13. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    A very moving post and a welcome home with much needed respect that is long overdue. Will be back later with my bit of flash..hugs ?

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sally! It was such a moving experience. My friends are resting today, thoroughly wiped out by it. Hugs! <3

  14. Jennie

    This is incredibly powerful. Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for reading, Jennie and for having a heart for these veterans.

      • Jennie

        I do, Charli. And I pass that along to my students. ??

      • Charli Mills

        You make the world a better place!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sascha! War can evoke such feelings. Great descriptions in your flash — “oxygen-drought of space.”

      • Sascha Darlington

        Thank you, Charli! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you were touched by the welcome home and video! Thank you for sharing your heart, Ruchira!

    • Susan Zutautas

      Cannot comment on your blog. Don’t know why. Left you a message on Facebook 🙂

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    An’ a One, An’ a Two…

    “Where ya goin’ Kid?”
    “It’s intermission. Goin’ ta the outhouse.”
    “Intermission? No, the prompt is interlude.”
    “What’s the difference?”
    “Well, if’n were talkin’ ‘bout a break in the show, interlude implies more of a performance, music mebbe.”
    “Oh. Yep, I kin do that.”
    “Well hurry up Kid, we got things ta do.”
    “Like what?”
    “Carrot Ranch’s hostin’ its third Rodeo, comin’ soon. October. Gonna be busy aroun’ here. We have ta make sure they’s plenty a hay fer the hosses an’ carrots fer the contestants. Shorty cain’t do it all.”
    “Cain’t she?”
    “Ha! If anyone can it’d be Shorty.”

    • Charli Mills

      Shorty shorted the ranch staffing, so Shorty’ll have to shovel fast. No worries. Shorty’s old hat at Rodeos! Got some local judges lined up for beans and a new system, kinda like going Cadilac with the chuckwagon. But them leaders can’t venture too far. There’s a new gig for them. So I hear.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Funny you should mention beans and chuckwagons. I heard that the Kid has some rodeo ideas, but was waiting to spring them.

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Following Leads

    “Shorty, when ranch hands go where the prompt leads, does that mean they’s trackin’ it down nose ta trail?”
    “Sometimes, Kid. Some sniff out their story like a hound-dog. Some bird-dog the tall grass ta flush their story. Some ranch hands see thet prompt, jist throw their lasso, git dragged along till they kin wrangle their story and git it tied down.”
    “Sounds dangerous.”
    “It kin be a wild ride, Kid, but no one gits hurt at Carrot Ranch. Wranglin’ words is a entertainin’ way ta build writin’ muscle. Next month folks’ll flex that muscle at the rodeo.”
    “Yeehaw!”

    ** Yep, the prompt is not in this piece. Consider it an interlude to the responses and a public service response alerting you to the upcoming rodeo, in which cash along with carrots will be offered. Please not that even though in October the challenges become contests, it will still be fun and safe.**

    • Charli Mills

      Much obliged for the public service interludes for the upcoming Rodeo.

    • nightlake

      This was fun:) but well explained.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome back, Robbie!

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Admissions

    “Jamie’s moms weren’t sure if they should invite Linda too?”

    It was a question containing more questions, nestled like a stack of paper cups. One of the contained questions was about Dad and Jimmy’s mom. Linda.

    “Dad?”

    “She’s never coming back August.”

    “Linda?”

    “Huh? No. Not Linda. Your mother. She’s never coming back.” The admission crept like gray dawn across his face.

    My voice cracked. “Like Jimmy.”

    “Linda’s hurting bad.”

    “It’s no reason to not like Jamie.”

    “I told her that.” He let his breath out slowly. “Thanksgiving will be a nice interlude. Just you, me, and Jamie’s family.”

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/admissions/

    • Charli Mills

      While there is pain in the admissions, the healing begins there, too.

    • Charli Mills

      I guess I hadn’t either until Danni suggested it! *author blames character* Kidding aside, I think that question, what is it to be left behind when a soldier goes to war is what I continue to explore and look for meaning in different ways. I’m glad interludes prompted you!

      • Nobbinmaug

        I know all about characters taking over. I appreciate it every time.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a gift!

  18. nightlake

    The real-life story of B and R is touching. It is amazing that B has held on to the hope and strength for 50 years. To be Left Behind is a lovely piece. To Danni’s husband, it was a way to make money. Perhaps war is a means of survival for the enemy. The enemy has a life, he has a wife and she has the same feelings. Ultimately, war is a big loss for humanity.

    • Charli Mills

      It touches me that B and R have stayed together for 50 years, the war always present. R is a huge advocate of readjustment therapy and he says he’s a walking billboard to open up conversations with other vets who have suffered for all those decades, too. They are an amazing couple.

      You make an interesting point. I think there can be times of desperation where war feels like it could wipe the slate clean, be a fresh start for families. And on both sides. Have you ever read Mark Twain’s War Prayer? It’s a prodding short story that reminds “us” that when we pray for “our soldiers” we are asking God to kill the sons of other mothers and destroy their food, children, and nation. Yes, ultimately humanity loses in war. Yet the warring nation must share the burden, not just the soldier and their family.

      Thanks for discussing your observations! I enjoy that you are writing at the Ranch. Do you go by another moniker, or do I keep calling you nightlake?

      • nightlake

        You are so right, Charli. And the soldiers are fighting someone else’s (politicians’) war, I am yet to read, ‘War Prayer’. Thank you for letting me know of it. My name is Padmini and I usually write haiku and haibun for online journals. I enjoy writing here in the ranch as it improves my writing skills and helps me interact with other writers.

      • nightlake

        Hi Charli,

        I just read, ‘The War Prayer’. Thank you for informing me of it. It should perhaps be read by every person in power who is threatening other countries with nuclear war. But, I think they are so hardened that even this will not make an impact on them…

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your reflective flash!

      • amrithakrish

        Thank you for the interesting prompt ????

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Susan! I’m glad for getting time with B & R, and getting to share an important moment in their lives. It still tingles, the thought of that homecoming. Thanks for sharing your interlude!

  19. robertawrites235681907

    This is a very encouraging post, Charli. The US has its faults, but you are fortunate to live there. Your piece is very good.

    • Charli Mills

      That is a true statement of anyplace home to people. We all have faults. And yet we in the US are immeasurably fortunate to have so much. We need to stop wasting resources on profits for a few and do more for the greater good of all.

      • robertawrites235681907

        An excellent goal for all countries. At least in the US, people have a strong voice.

  20. Pete

    Ricky had never felt so alive. The passionate, lunchtime romps. The no-strings-attached goodbyes. She smelled exotic, like fruit. Julie always smelled like a hospital.

    He told himself many things. He was a man. He had needs. He would stop once the baby was born. It was—what did she call it?—a romantic interlude. Sounded better than cheating.

    But when the baby came, she wouldn’t let it go. She called him at home, when Julia was trying to nurse the baby. When his in-laws were sitting in the kitchen. When the baby started crying.

    It wasn’t so romantic then.

    • Charli Mills

      Well set up from fun interlude to consequences. This is a great example of all three acts in a single story — of 99 words!

    • Charli Mills

      What a great way to spend half a day, TN! I find the stories each week to be inspiring because of all the creative responses. I especially liked your visual drama unfolding with remnants of art and Spanish culture.

  21. Sherri Matthews

    Oh Charli, I am weeping. Moved beyond words having just watched your videos, which I did see on FB, but put together here with your beautiful narrative…well, I am choked up. I remember the attitude towards ‘Vietnam Vets’ upon their return from the war from stories my GI told me. Of course, mine was at the tail end of all that, being the late 70s, but when he returned home in his full military ‘dress’ uniform for his summer vacation, as was his military duty until he could return to civvies after travelling, I wonder what it must have really felt like at that time in history? But for your friends, R&B, goodness…what a homecoming! And for their children and grandchildren too! Charli, your write so beautifully and capture the essence of the struggle for Veterans and their spouses so powerfully. I am so proud of you and all you’re achieving with your goals and aspirations…living them now! As for critique groups, I wish I had had one nearby, but never have found one. I have been totally put off by horror stories as it is… but I wish I could join yours for my next… novel???!!!! Anyway, hope I’m not to late with my flash. Wonderful to gallop in once again! <3

    A Space In The Sun

    The light of day in a sunshine blaze flooded my room. Sun. Now. Get up. I shuffled outside, flopped on the grass and closed my eyes to the sound of summer bee buzz. No sirens, no sprinklers, no screen doors slamming. Strident and angry, left back in LA. In a single sigh I caught the scent of lavender and thyme. The smell of home. Not pot, weed, whatever, choking my lungs. That smell. All the time. Not anger – rage. Why, I pleaded? But he kept me sweet with his smile and his kiss. For now though, I’ll stay here.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Sherri, you know what a deep dive this has been because you’ve diving, too. Your flash, a powerful glimpse of what it’s like to be on the fringes of rage, far from home. I think most veteran wives can raise their hands and say, “Been there with ya, Sister.” And yet, in our isolation we don’t realize such a sisterhood exists, so we stay, persuaded. I love the imagery of flopping to the grass and the sound of summer bees.

      Your GI was just a few years before mine. They were post-Vietnam and before 9/11 when the public still held a special vehemence for the military. The Hub says they were instructed as tho how to behave in airports when traveling in uniform. They were not allowed to engage and sometimes I wonder if the tauntings were worse because the soldiers couldn’t say anything or defend themselves from getting spit on. The Hub was spit on, he was barred from businesses near his base, and he was jumped several times by local boys trying to make a name by “beating up” a Ranger. Then, after Grenada, the community held a parade, businesses opened up, and still, the stupid boys instigated fights. Now people say “Thanks for your service,” and he still feels his nation doesn’t get it. It’s complicated. Writing Danni’s story, as you know, has been a deep dive to understand what it means to be in this Netherland veterans and families occupy because of wars our nation too easily entertains.

      We need books like yours to gain insight, a glimpse, from a homesick English girl who loved an American GI. Thanks, Sister!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Ah Charli…you’ve sparked so much in my memory of that time. I meant to say in my first comment how much I loved your flash. It pulled me right in, powerful. Danni comparing the call of Iraq on Ike to a ‘sexpot siren’ like Jolene (love that song, btw and have been humming it ever since!) is brilliant. And I get that! Taking your post and prompt, I used a scene from my memoir and adapted it for the flash, and the emotion of suppressed rage came to the fore. That loneliness, isolation and helplessness in a foreign land. But yes…we stay. My GI’s experience was very different to Todd’s, he didn’t go to war for one thing, but your historical knowledge of that time in history they both shared just years apart is powerful for me writing about it all these decades later. I do remember him being proud in uniform. but wary. I wish I could remember more about that particular scene in the airport and his feelings. His reunion with his brother takes over…and of course, my first time ever in America, LA, California. In 1979. I do remember watching the news about the end of Vietnam and not able to understand why returning soldiers were so mistreated. I get why Todd feels the way he does when people say, ‘Thanks for your service.’ After all he went through…it’s something you don’t forget. To be beaten up and spat on…I can’t get my head around it. Todd and every soldier like him is my hero. Within my split self, America is my home as much as England. I never thought of myself as a ‘Sister’ until I met you. I was just an English girl who fell in love with my American GI in an ear so different to today. Thank you for giving me the validation to share my story amongst my other heroes…you and your Warrior Sisters. I don’t feel worthy, I haven’t lived it like you and they still do…but you made me believe my story counts. And that is the essence of the power of the written word. Stories yet to be told. Thank YOU, Charli! Write on! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Miriam, thanks!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Charli!

  22. Miriam Hurdle

    https://theshowersofblessings.com/2019/09/25/flash-fiction-2019-09-19-interlude/

    Key Change by Miriam Hurdle

    “Choir, that’s beautiful. All the parts blend well. We’ll add something to our rehearsal.”
    “What? I just got all the lyrics memorized.”
    “Wonderful, Liz, now you look at me rather than the music score.”
    “What else do we have to learn?”
    “We change key for the last stanza. The lyrics are the same. Chris composed the interlude. Now listen once.”
    “It sounds heavenly, but I can’t catch the note for the key change.”
    “There are sixteen bars. Listen to the last bar. Hum the last note that takes you to the first note of the next stanza.”
    “Got it.”

    • Charli Mills

      An interlude insight!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        🙂

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chris!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks for the roundup, Sally!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!

  28. Charli Mills

    Hi Lucy! Good to see you at the Ranch!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  11. #Flashfiction – Interlude – Roberta Writes - […] The above 99-word piece of flash fiction is for Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch challenge. You can join in here:…
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  13. Flash Fiction: Replay – NobbinBlog - […] was written for Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Each week’s challenge is to write to a prompt in exactly…
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  19. The Interlude #flash fiction | Norah Colvin - […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write…
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  22. Choosing to Decide – Flash Fiction Challenge | Jo Hawk - […] Choosing to Decide Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story about an interlude. Word count:  99 […]
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