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October 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

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It’s the day before the Day of the Dead. As a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Living on the California and Nevada border meant a two-day celebration. You see, Nevada Day is also October 31. We could talk at least one parent into driving us “Alpine County” kids across the border on the night of October 30 because that’s when Nevadans do their trick-o-treating. It was only a 20-mile drive.

The next day, we got to dress up again because we partied at school. Yes, we partied at school. Bobbing for apples, games, even the older grades setting up a haunted house in the gymnasium. If that wasn’t enough, the Forest Service Station in my tiny hometown also hosted a party. But that was after every child in Alpine County paraded through Markleeville in full costume. Businesses competed to hand out the best treat bags. Then we marched on down to the Forest Service garage, where they roasted hot dogs and handed out hot cider. Once we warmed up, we ran around town in our costumes, trick-or-treating every house to the delight of the old-timers who rarely got so many visitors.

The refrain “trick or treat” still reverberates in my heart, a joyous sound. We never tricked anybody. It never occurred to us to do that because we were so happy to get candy and compliments for our clever costume ideas. We whooped and hollered loudly between houses, and in the dark stretches where there were no lights, we told ghost stories to scare each other. I didn’t know about zombies. Tommy Knockers from the old mine shafts or Water Babies from the Washo tradition kept us properly spooked.

One time, an older girl from a different town wanted to go up to the cemetery. I didn’t like the idea because the cemetery was special to me. It contained stories and curious people and beloveds. I was one of few children who lived in town, and as an only child, I sought out the company of old-timers. They fed me cookies, taught me about afternoon tea and coffee at any time of day. They knew where the old shafts were, and who was buried in the abandoned cemetery on the hill. They even told me where the old road to it was.

I’d go up to the cemetery to find and read every marker I could. Some had toppled. Some I had to scrape free of lichen. And some were simply gone, only depressions and snow-damaged wooden railings remained. Three of my favorite old-timers were what we’d call shut-ins today. They were also siblings, and despite their memories of burying their parents and another sibling who drowned as a child, I could not find the family graves. That’s what led to me reading and locating all the markers.

Curiosity drove me to ask about the other children buried up there or to find out about names I recognized from places. Grover’s Hot Springs was a state park near Markleeville, and the cemetery had elaborate graves marking the Grover family, including a 10-year-old girl. Yet, no one in the area remained who was a Grover decadent. Over the years, I also found many other abandoned graves, cemeteries, and even two burial grounds of the Washo. It took listening to stories, exploring, and learning to read old records. By the time I was 16, I had served on a county board to save the cemetery records and to record the archeological sites around my town.

So that Halloween, when the older out of town girl insisted we all go to the “scary” cemetery, I felt uncomfortable. It was not a scary place for me. I still laugh at the memory of climbing the hill in our costumes, crawling under the barbed wire fence that kept out the summer cattle, and shining a light across the familiar chaos of titling and toppled gravestones. When the light caught green eyes glowing in the dark and illuminated a black cat perched on a granite marker, the group screamed in pure terror and fled. I stayed behind laughing, petting the stray cat I knew well.

The Day of the Dead begins October 31 and goes through November 2. It’s a Mexican holiday, but one I’m sure that echoes the sentiment of other cultural days set aside to remember and pray for ancestors and those who have passed on. It’s a prayerful day, not one meant to incite fear. Like those kids that Halloween decades ago, fear is of the unknown.

Sugar skulls are a memento left behind at a grave during the Day of the Dead. Sugar was an ingredient readily available in Mexico and could be easily crafted into a skull treat left behind to remember a loved one or ancestor. Today, they can be made of other materials and are often elaborately and colorfully decorated. Some celebrants even dress up with faces painted like sugar skulls, which fits in with the Halloween tradition of dressing up in costume.

Tonight, the Hub is on his own to greet neighborhood trick-o-treaters. I look forward to future times when I’m not buried beneath coursework and responsibilities, and I create some fun outdoor decorations. I’m heading out to 41 North Film Fest at the Rozsa Center. I plan to read in between films this weekend. It’s like an intense artist date, screening thought-provoking films crafted as visual stories, and meeting directors and screenwriters. What a way to spend the Day of the Dead!

October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 5, 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.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Submission closed. Join us for the next prompt.

Bridging Culture by Charli Mills

Stage lights bounced to the beat of the music and Carmen danced with her college friends. Halloween landed on a weekend and that sent the entire engineering department to blow off steam in town. The floor was sticky with spilled beer and Carmen’s ears rang. She grabbed her roommate; said she was getting a breather. Outside, she walked downhill to the waterway. From her pocket, Carmen retrieved one of the sugar skulls she had made to delight her American friends. She held it to her heart, cast it into the water, and prayed to the memory of her father.


128 Comments

  1. Liz H says:

    Beautiful, heart-felt blog and flash today, Charli. May your Halloween bag be filled with the sweetness of a series of artist’s dates and sumptuous plates!

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Wow, your childhood sounds like it was fantastic Charli. I’ve never heard of Day of the Dead. It sounds like fun though.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. floatinggold says:

    I’m glad to see that we are back with the weekly 99s. Can’t wait for the end of November, though to read all entries and see who won.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. JT Twissel says:

    I grew up in Reno where there used to also be a parade down Virginia Street and any celebrities in town (mostly the cast of Bonanza) would participate. We trick or treated on the 30th because the next day we had a holiday so we could sleep in!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Nevada has a great gig going on with Halloween and a State holiday paired up! I rode my horse several times in the Carson City Nevada Day parade as a teen. That’s awesome that Hoss and the Bonanza family joined in! Reno was the “big city” for us. Roller skating was a big deal. In high school, I had to go to Minden (Douglas). Which high school were you at?

      Liked by 3 people

      • JT Twissel says:

        I went to Reno High. Gads so long ago it doesn’t seem real. Did you ever go rollerskating at the rink down on 4th Street near the Truckee? I used to go there all the time.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Yep! I skated there! If you ever had a Mr. Warren as a history or social studies teacher at Reno High, he was one of my heroes. He stayed interested in my writing when I had nothing to cling to but a dream. He asked me questions, helped me learn to research, and kept curiosity alive. His wife, Mrs. Warren, taught middle school. She’s the patron saint of Carrot Ranch.

        Like

  5. floridaborne says:

    This week is a BOT story.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. denmaniacs4 says:

    What wonderfully spooky memories you have, Charli.

    Night Munchies

    I stay in on nights like these.

    Perhaps it is the late October chill.

    Perhaps not.

    Still, it is a far cry from my youth, from those cemetery rambles, the half-eaten moon growling out its cannibal cries, the twisted wind blowing through our sullied skin, our meatless bones.

    I do peek out though.

    I relish the sight of them playing at death, their homemade horrors, strips of flammable paper costumes, their clustering together like pups at a mother’s tit.

    Will they come to my door?

    If they do, surely, I’ll invite them in.

    Sweet tasty creatures that they are.

    Liked by 10 people

  7. Familiar

    “Who could that be at the door anyway?”
    “It’s Halloween, remember?”
    She opened the door to a group of children.
    “Oh, my. What lovely costumes. You look just like my son when he was young. And you look like my best friend did. Honey, come see! Lorraine’s here too, as a kid, before the accident.”
    He stood beside her. “They’re here for you, dear. Remember? My heart attack eight years ago?”
    “Oh, right. So, what do you think?”
    He shrugged, with his familiar half smile. It was up to her.
    “Alright.”
    She stepped out into the cool dark night.

    Liked by 11 people

  8. Jim Borden says:

    how cool that you got to trick or treat twice while growing up! I’ve never heard of Day of the Dead – sounds like an interesting holiday

    Liked by 3 people

  9. We marked Halloween when I was growing up but not in the American style we adopted since then. All we knew about pumpkins was Cinderella’s coach so we made our lanterns out of swedes. Although we didn’t dress up, we might have taken them door-to-door and had small parties at home apple bobbing etc.
    At primary school we had a parade for all Saints Day which I think we marked on November 1. We painted posters of the saints we were named after – and at a Catholic school most of us were.
    I only managed two of the four Rodeo contests so hope to do better now we’re back to the ordinary routine.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, yes, Anne — I do believe that the Day of the Dead is Mexico’s version of all Saints Day after Spanish (Catholic) influence over their traditions. Saint Anne — patron saint of womanly obedience? The names we live up to; the shackles we cast off. I’m fascinated with how what we name evolves, including this Mexican holiday. The costumes were so fun as a kid, like extending dress-up. Today, people buy costumes but I still think the best ones are home-crafted or a clever expression. I’m curious what you thought of your namesake as a child? That’s kind of a heavy one. Mine is Marie (Annette Marie, or Charli Marie). Mother Mary herself, lol! I’m looking forward to a return to the routine, as well! And studying your book reviews which I have always appreciated but now see as more educational.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I think I was more conscious of the confusion of being named after an indefinite article as a small child, but it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to discover the burden of my name when I tell you that Marie is not only my middle name but my mother’s first name.
        We’d have enjoyed the dressing up I’m sure. There’s a lot of creativity killed with the current marketing of ready-made kids’ costumes, not to mention the environmental damage.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think I was more conscious of the confusion of being named after an indefinite article as a small child, but it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to discover the burden of my name when I tell you that Marie is not only my middle name but my mother’s first name.

      We’d have enjoyed the dressing up I’m sure. There’s a lot of creativity killed with the current marketing of ready-made kids’ costumes, not to mention the environmental damage.

      My 99-word story is rather gruesome – about an unpeaceful retirement from a rather unusual profession – but I do have some cheery pictures of autumn decay to compensate, as well as a review of an excellent Indian novel (and an OK Nigerian one):

      Reconnecting with figures from childhood: The Far Field & A Small Silence https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2019/11/reconnecting-with-figures-from-childhood-the-far-field-a-small-silence.html

      Liked by 3 people

  10. […] 29 Neither have I, The birds at dawn Carrot Ranch 10.31 October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Jules says:

    Charli and Ranchers…

    There are many traditions for Halloween – I just a added a simple addition to a mystery series because the prompt fit. I used to be more involved with costumes, not so much these days. Enjoy:

    # 20 Official Check(ing)?
    (fiction in 99 words)

    Before going down in the basement to learn more about my scarecrow friends, I thought it might be a good idea to pay my respects to the Seedsman family plot. The more I thought about it, I liked the idea. “Hey Dawg, hold up…,” I bent down to scratch behind one of his black and grey ears…”I know just what to do with Margo’s flowers. Come November second we’re going to bestow them to the little cemetery. We’ll visit with the birds at dawn. You don’t want to go at midnight!” Dawg, shook affirmatively. “Nope, neither do I.”

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 8 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jules, in some ways I miss the involvement in costuming, but I’m also happy to sit back and watch the parade of costumes that I didn’t have to help with. 🙂 I like the interaction with the dog and the shared sentiment to avoid the cemetery at night.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I had to research Day of the Dead since I’d never heard of it before.
    Anyways I came up with a 99-word description. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    The Day of the Dead was coming soon, and the entire town of Campeche was getting ready for all the festivities. The parade this year was going to be spectacular as always.
    Favorite foods and dishes of the dead were being prepared for the three-day event.
    Skeletons were being hung everywhere and the townspeople were getting everything together that they needed for costumes. Many of the women dress up as Catrina the goddess of death.
    Honoring the dead joyfully rather than in sadness each year at the cemeteries is such a wonderful tradition that many cultures would benefit from.

    Liked by 9 people

  13. […] for another 99-word flash piece inspired by this week’s prompt over at Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican […]

    Liked by 3 people

  14. […] This flash fiction, 99 words, was written for a challenge over at Carrot Ranch. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  15. […] In response to Charli Mills’ weekly 99-word Flash Fiction prompt: Day of the Dead […]

    Liked by 4 people

  16. […] Carrot Ranch October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (10/31/2019): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads […]

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Liz H says:

    As the season turns cool and the leaves are stripped from the trees, here’s hoping for a rebirth of sorts:

    Birth From Death

    Karoline felt the ache in her back radiate around to her front, the pressure increasing. She breathed deeply, willing her belly to unclench. Thinking herself safe to hike alone, she’d fled her family, their sole skill for processing grief in quarreling…
    [Continue ]</a

    Liked by 4 people

  19. […] I wrote this for the October 31st Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 2 people

  20. tnkerr says:

    https://tnkerr.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/una-visita-con-los-muertos/

    We always had marigolds growing when I was young. Marigolds are used to mark the path between the land of the living and the dead

    Liked by 7 people

  21. […] October 31: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Norah says:

    I enjoyed reading about your childhood adventures, Charli. They are so different from my own. Halloween wasn’t celebrated here when I was a child. It is probably only in the last 20 years or so that people have begun celebrating it and it is increasing in momentum each year.
    In the 80s teachers, in Queensland at least, were directed to not do anything to do with Halloween or witches in the classroom. That’s obviously changed now. I’m not sure how or when.
    I wasn’t aware of the Mexican Day of the Dead until I saw a movie about it last year and was quite fascinated with the concept. I think it’s a wonderful idea. We should have better ways of honouring and remembering those who have gone before. Sometimes it seems they have just disappeared into the ether. It would be good to keep their memories alive, even when they aren’t.
    I also enjoyed your story about Carmen. It demonstrates well the meaning of the day.
    Enjoy your movie weekend. So sad you had to miss Halloween this time, but there will be more.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back with my story. I hope you enjoy.

      Full Bags, Dying Heart
      From his room, Johnny watched the parade of monsters and ghouls wending from door to door. They laughed and giggled, whooped and cheered, clutching bags bulging with candy.
      “Get inside,” she’d admonished.
      “Why?”
      “It’s the devil’s work. Dressing up like dead people. It’s not our way.”
      She’d dragged him inside, shut the door and turned off the lights.
      “We don’t want those nasty children knocking on our door.”
      “But, Mum. It’s Graham and Gerard and even sweet Sue …”
      “Enough! Get to your room!”
      He watched, puzzled—How could it be devil’s work? They were his friends having fun.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Hi Norah!
        It seems that Halloween has been a part of globalization. And I wonder if we celebrated it in the US because of our proximity and influence from Mexico, but I’m not certain. I just remember the fun of it. Like your flash, it had nothing to do with evil intentions, unless you count the years I told my children that they wouldn’t like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (even then, my intention was not evil as much as I just really, really like Reese’s). But I know a lot of churches held harvest parties on Halloween. Your flash understands the confusion a child must feel looking at all the fun and puzzling why he can’t partake in it.

        Film Fest had an amazing line up with a variety of movies, including a creepy one I wished I hadn’t watched. I got to meet an Anishinaabe filmmaker who encouraged the audience to tell stories. Oh, yes!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        The globalisation of Halloween! I can think of worse things.
        I don’t understand the reference to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I don’t think they exist here. Maybe we need some more globalisation. 🙂 (Or maybe you’d rather keep them all for yourself? 🤣)
        I’m pleased the confusion came through in the story.
        I watched a video today that was quite disturbing and wish I hadn’t as well. At least it was only about 15 minutes. I was hoping for a satisfactory resolution but there wasn’t one.
        I can hear your celebration of stories from here. Enjoy!

        Like

  23. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    For those who are lamenting the passing of the Halloween trick or treating adventures and the elaborate costumes you might have donned to frighten the neighbours… there is still time to enjoy the Mexican Day of the Dead which runs from (as I do ghosts) from October 31st to November 2nd…I am going to make time to write a story between now and November 5th… get your skates on and tell a story in 99 words, no more, no less. Thanks to Charli Mills for the great prompt…

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Wonderful post Charli.. and what amazing memories of Halloween but also the community spirit. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  25. […] week on the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills – Charli has asked us to write a story using the Mexican Day of the Dead as a prompt.. anywhere that […]

    Liked by 2 people

  26. […] was written for the October 31st Carrot Ranch Prompt, Day of the Dead. I took inspiration from the syncretization of indigenous […]

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thankyou for the great entry. Hope you had a beautiful Halloween, without too much treats. 😉 Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  28. […] was written for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to write about the day of the […]

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Here they are.

    Erring Ideas

    “Day of the Dead, huh? Is’at ‘cause the excitement from the rodeo’s dyin’ down?”
    “It’s gonna git pretty lively at World Headquarters, Kid. Now comes the judgin’.”
    “Whooee, that’s right. Mebbe Pepe can help. He’s headed up there ta World Head Quarters now.”
    “What? Kid, why’n tarnation is LeGume goin’ ta HQ?”
    “It’s a place a higher learnin’. Pepe wants ta air some ideas.”
    “Kid, Shorty’s got enough on her plate, she don’t need this character around. The quality a his ideas is questionable. An’ now the Keweenaw’s air quality’ll be questionable too.”
    “She’s the one platin’ beans Pal.”
    ***
    “Pepe’s figgers there’ll be bio-engineerin’ eggsberts aroun’ them universities. Wants ta see ‘bout crossin’ a ostrich with a chicken; git big eggs ever’ day, good fer cookin’ fer crowds.”
    “Why not an emu?”
    “Hey Aussie! He who?”
    “Emu.”
    “Bless you.”
    “Kid, an emu is Australia’s big bird. Cross an emu with a chicken.”
    “An’ with a cow, call it a emoo. An’ while we’re down there we kin cross a pig with a platypus. Eggs an’ bacon in one go.”
    “Oh, Kid, and a kangaroo. They can deliver the eggs in their pouch.”
    “Et tu, Aussie? Yer killin’ me.”

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/ranch-yarns/

    Liked by 5 people

  30. […] October 31: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Hi Charli! Here’s my post. Took my a while to think up of a way to write about this prompt, but I think I found my interpretation of the subject.
    http://robertkirkendall.com/2019/11/04/99-word-prompt-day-of-the-dead/

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Hi there! I’m back once more! Hope everyone here is doing well. 🙂 My one for this week is called ‘Shine a Light’:

    Dusk dissolved into the hungry night. Night fed into dawn. Dawn became day.

    In the space of 24 hours the planet had undergone a revolution. The cold light of day shined upon the smoking ruins and gore-strewn streets, revealing the new world.

    Watery grey light washed over the city. The horrors that had been obscured by shadow were now unflinchingly illuminated. That which had been denied or debated was held under the microscope. Stony truth thudded down.

    She picked up her satchel and set off, listening to the moans of the dead sighing through the streets like a gale.

    Liked by 5 people

  33. susansleggs says:

    Charli,
    It’s good to be back in the normal routine though I did enjoy the rodeo. My blog fans have accused me of not writing especially after getting used to many pictures each morning of our Rt 66 trip. Now they will get a 99-word taste again. I too grew up with costumes on Halloween but hadn’t heard of the Day of the Dead. I’m sure your readings were as enjoyable as all the children. Congratulations on all A’s. On to the prompt…

    Decent Substitutes

    On a recent summer trip through the southwest United States, Annie admired the many brightly painted ceramic skulls she saw in gift shops. They seemed to be happy, not scary. She wondered why so many people collected them, skulls weren’t her thing. After getting home she read for the first time the definition of the Mexican Holiday, Day of the Dead. Now it all made sense and she wished she had bought some for her parents and brother-in-law’s gravesites. She decided to paint flowers on three flat stones and leave them for her loved ones next time she visited

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue,

      Ah, it sounds like your blog fans need you to travel more! Your trip was amazing, and you did a great job documenting it. Those painted skulls are beautiful and so varied in color and design. I love your idea to paint rocks for the graves of loved ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. It has been a few months since I have tackled writing 99 Words. I enjoyed following the Rodeo this year. Maybe one day I will not be going flat out and be able to participate. For now, it feels good to be back in the saddle again.

    Survival
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    I long to hold you close. Burying my nose in your essence. Trailing my fingers across your features hidden in the shadows of the evening. Our lifelong affair is destined to go nowhere. You have made me suffer through teary, reddened eyes while I saturate my hanky. Our contact is finally allowed when the season turns cold, and what is left of you, still waits for me. Then, and only then, do the tears stop. The day you no longer irritate my senses. The day I am freed from the clutches of my allergies. The day of the dead.

    https://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/survival

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Charli, what a beautiful post.

    Here’s my 99 words for this week. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

    Send ‘Em Off Right
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Emptiness fills her, oxymoronic. Leaves drip like tears to cover Bella’s skirt as she sits before the fresh tombstone. She wishes they’d bury her in elegant decay.

    Instead, winds pick up, whispers of promise, and sends them skipping to the next row. A parade approaches, dark-suited, broad-hatted, walking sticks and polished shoes. The leaves dance around their feet as a crow-like preacher eulogizes.

    Handkerchiefs catch tears until an old man with an antique trumpet plays. Slow and sad turns uptempo, then jubilation.

    An apparition swathed in black tulling calls to Bella. “That’s how we send ‘em off right, child.”

    Liked by 2 people

  36. […] This week Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holida… […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. […] This was written with the prompt Day of the Dead provided by Carrot Ranch’s October 31 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  38. […] “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead.” – a prompt for this week’s CW piece. [Source: @CarrotRanch] […]

    Like

  39. I enjoyed the post describing your childhood Halloween experiences.

    Like

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