January 9: 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.

January 10, 2020

Well, it is finished: Term Two Week Ten. My final grades come out on January 16, and this week, we wrapped up our discussions. My thesis, when accepted, will be a contemporary novel about Danni Gordon who is an archeologist ready to settle down but married to a restless veteran who finds a way back to Iraq. In Advanced Literature, we studied the four primary genres of my MFA program: YA, romance, speculative and contemporary. Our final project was short and creative. We had to write a two-sentence story for each genre to show the differences.

Here’s my homework:

YA: My name is Danni and I’m a Nevada girl who can drive steers, mustangs, and any old Jeep. Before you start thinking that’s all cool, understand that my life is misery, too — my name came up on the teenage ranchhands list at the bunkhouse today and I drew short straw to muck out the calving barn.

Romance: Danni couldn’t resist staring at the way the fisherman’s black tee-shirt stretched across his muscled chest and she could forgive him for walking across her archeology grid. Ike had no idea who the stupendously sexy woman digging in the dirt was, but he could forgive her from distracting him from fly-fishing the rest of the afternoon.

Speculative: With a single brushstroke, Danni uncovered a metallic glint among fragments of Navajo potshards. She kept brushing until days later the outline revealed what archeology had not prepared her to find — an ancient spaceship.

Contemporary: Ike charged her with his knife drawn but the full-body impact came from her left side. She never saw the charging moose her husband took down with a single slash.

Can you spot the differences? YA is a teenaged version of Danni told in the first-person POV and demonstrating a strong narrative voice. Romance focuses on a relationship and famously includes a first meet, and often told from alternating perspectives, which I did but as close third-person POV. Speculative includes spaceships. Contemporary creates verisimilitude through details that put the reader in the story. My biggest takeaway, though, is that no matter our genres of preference to write or read, we all blend genres. What is important to know for the purpose of publication is which genre best describes yours. Do you give this topic much thought or do you write what you write?

I’ve come to decide, for now, at least for we are always evolving, that I write contemporary fiction about the women’s frontiers. Typically I look for stories not being told or forgotten in time. As a researcher, it can be hard to find women in the records at all. Yet, stories have a way of rising to the surface, even ones buried in time.

Today, I took an artist’s date with a friend who claims to be the longest-standing student of Finnish language who still can’t speak it. I admire her attempt — it’s like Nordic Welsh. Hancock (Hankooki) has street signs double posted in English and Finnish, and after two years in the Keweenaw, I’m still no closer to understanding how to say a single word. Still, I appreciate living in a place with strong cultural identity from many sectors. While I originally planned a post inspired by my local Italian neighborhood, I got sidetracked this afternoon at the Finnish Cultural Heritage Center, where my friend and I watched the new documentary, Sirkka, by local filmmaker and Finnish American, Kristin Ojaniemi.

At 99 and a half, Sirkka Tuomi Holm is blind in one eye and can hardly see out the other. Born five days before women had the right to vote in the US, her foreign-born Finnish parents raised her to fight for what is right. She stood on picket lines as a child with the working class, joined the Army as a WAC in WWII, and stood up as a hostile witness under the hysteria of McCarthyism. She writes a column in the Finnish American Reporter monthly and says history will always repeat itself. She should know. She’s lived through it. A veteran and a woman born before the Vote. Yet living, breathing, and showing how the past informs the present.


You can see from the film trailer how easily Sirkka captivated me. She relates a story about her shoes falling apart, repairing them with cardboard. She lived through the Great Depression and remembers the harsh times. A teacher referred her to the school principal for a shoe donation. The principal wrote out a slip for the program, but rather than hand it to Sirkka, she crumpled it and threw it on the ground to make the girl fetch it, saying, “You foreign-born make me sick! Lazy! Your father should be working to provide your shoes.”

Those words echo down through time and find new mouths to spill out from, shaming those who migrate for a better life, enduring poverty and hardships in the transition. Sirkka was shamed but held her gaze directly at the interviewer and said of the principal, “She was a bitch on wheels.” 80-some years later, Sirkka still recalls how that woman made her feel. As writers, that’s what we want to capture no matter the genre and its tropes we write. Readers should walk away from books remembering how the characters made them feel.

As for living history, Sirkka participated in the fight against fascism, aiding D-Day in Normandy. Yet, less than a decade later, she watched fear of communism turn to hysteria. Many Finns, such as Sirkka and her parents, were indeed Red Finns. They maintained their language, love of theater, religion, and politics without any subversive motives. She embraced being American because it meant the freedom to be who you are, speaking out, standing up for justice. The tide turned against her, and McCarthyism left her hating. Then, she realized that hate was making her like those who had wronged her. She loved people and made a choice to dispell hate.

Sirkka has a message for us. She says history will repeat itself, and it’s up to us to remain human. We do that together. She said, “Sing together. Go for walks together.” I’ll add to that — write together.

The debut of Sirkka’s film kicked off the mid-winter festival in Hankooki — Heikinpäivä. In Finland, they say, “The bear rolls over,” meaning winter is halfway over. And here’s how they say it:

Heikinpäivä 2020 includes a stick horse parade, pasties, kick-sledding, and a wife-carrying contest. Little appeals to me in the sport’s origins or modern contest, but it makes locals laugh and cheer the contestants without being as intense as other races. But it got me wondering, as writers are wont to do with strange little tidbits — what other ways and reasons might wives be carried?

January 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 14, 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 closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

Arrival to Rock Creek by Charli Mills

Her black hair sleeked and pinned, Mary Green McCanles rode the Tennessee Walker sidesaddle alongside the wagon train from Carter’s Station. Among the dusty herd and hands, she looked regal and rested. Sarah’s cheeks flushed, and she patted the frizzy sides of her brown hair, feeling like a pale version of Mary. Sarah dimmed when Mary dazzled. Cobb strode from the barn, ignoring the new livestock that just made him the wealthiest man in Nebraska Territory. He swung his wife off the horse and carried to the outburst of cheers. Sarah would have to sleep in the barn tonight.

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  1. Norah

    I enjoyed reading Danni’s story in four genres, Charli. It did help to distinguish them. I had never been sure about contemporary and didn’t know that speculative meant spaceships. I also enjoyed reading (and listening to) Sirkka’s story. How bright she is still after so many years – an inspiration.
    I enjoyed the excerpt from Rock River. It’s a while since we’ve caught up with Cob and his two women. Mary is the lucky one tonight. Sarah will have her turn.
    Wife carrying – I’d say that’s not for the faint-hearted.

    • Charli Mills

      It was fun to write Norah, but I think I was unfair in describing speculative fiction. It encompasses fantasy, sci-fi and paranormal. I went for the easy and obvious trope of a spaceship. A lot of sci-fi is heavily researched and projects into imagining technology of the future.

      Isn’t Sirkka delightfully inspirational? And she still writes at 99 years old! She spoke to us via Zoom after the film and she’s sharp and sassy and yet, so loving. You could feel it emanate from her.

      Ha! Sarah will have to wait. Yes, I was surprised when I sat down to respond that Mary showed up so I went with it.

      As for wife carrying, I think the Hub and I should enter. He’s always been strong and could carry me and the winner gets cash 5 x the wife’s weight. Lol, we’d make a killing! Too bad about his knees.

      I hope you are well. Your country is on the minds and in the hearts of many of us. If there are organizations or fundraisers you’d recommend, let me know and I’ll share them here. Canva, the design platform I use is donating 100% of premium photos to bushfire relief so I’m using premium photos as long as they do that.

      • Norah

        We have to give ourselves a break occasionally and take the easy road. If a flight on a spaceship is that, then I’m all for it.
        Yes, Sirkka is amazing. How inspiring to speak with her via Zoom after the movie.
        It would be great if you and Hub could win the wife carrying contest. What fun!
        Thank you for your kind words about Australia and the devastation of the bushfires. I am not personally affected but feel quite overwhelmed and helpless by it all. So many are giving their time, energy and money so generously. It blows me away. Hopefully this will be the turning point in taking action for a better future. I’m so sorry it had to come to this though.
        I noticed today that Canva is giving to the bushfire appeal. So many organisations are. Many new appeals are being set up. I just hope the money gets to where it is needed. We are cautioned about scams, which is sad.
        This article gives some suggestions which are genuine. https://about.abc.net.au/appeals/
        The Red Cross seems to rate highly.
        Thank you for your concern and your care.

      • Charli Mills

        It is sad when scammers show up, but it is relatively easy to find out who is not. If you can’t prove someone or an organization is legit, pass and find one who is. Thank you for sharing the article. I’m wondering if those unaffected feel guilty as well as helpless. It’s common in disasters and combat. What your country is going through is beyond unnatural. You can help in other ways, such as writing educational materials to help children process the many losses or encouragement to find ways to be useful when helplessness descends. It must feel unending. I loved the article you shared on FB; so full of hope and justice despite acknowledgment of the pain and loss. Big hugs! <3

    • Norah

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

      The Strong One
      “You’re strong,” she giggled as he piggy-backed her around the playground at lunchtime.

      “You’re strong,” she murmured as he lifted her over the puddle outside their graduation dance.

      When he carried her over the threshold on their wedding day, her eyes sparkled with words unsaid but understood.

      When they heard of Finland’s wife carrying contest, she smirked. “We could do that. You’re strong.”

      He indicated the sleeping children. “When they’re grown.”

      When cancer ravaged her body, she soothed, “Stay strong.”

      When he and their sons carried her from the chapel on her final journey, he’d never felt so weak.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I did. Like it that is. Commented at your place.

      • Norah

        Thank you so much. I appreciated (and replied to) your comment. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        The expression of grief is striking in your story that includes a lifetime relationship in the span of 99 words. Well done, Norah.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli.

      • pedometergeek

        That’s a powerful story, Norah. Emotionally raw at the end.

      • Norah

        Thank you for your lovely comment.

      • Jules

        We often feel weak when we think there isn’t anything we can do after a death. But we can also feel week when the living refuse our help in the present.

        I really enjoyed the romance and support of this piece. To hope that all families could be so supportive throughout life.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Jules. 🙂

  2. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I can’t believe you’re at the end of your course already! I’m sure if it were me I’d be just getting into it.
    I like how you’ve illustrated the genres, and it’s a fine achievement when your original idea would be to write it in a particular way. But I imagine also freeing.
    I don’t think speculative always means spaceships, but I imagine that was partly tongue in cheek.
    Not thrilled at the thought of a wife carrying contest but I’m sure we’ll have fun speculating on the prompt. Great potential for spaceships, but what about history, where does that fit in your genres?

    • Charli Mills

      The 10 weeks fly by quickly. I think I’m getting into the rhythm of it, and it’s helpful that, so far, each class has had lessons I can apply to what I’m doing or writing.

      I found the exercise freeing, and yes, I short shrifted speculative fiction. It is indeed more complex and rich than simply spaceships. History falls into contemporary, which made my writing life much easier! I struggled with what to consider Miracle of Ducks realizing I’d then shift to publishing historical fiction. Not to mention I didn’t want to further complicate matters with a climate fiction novel I wrote and then put away. Now I’m considering how all of it is contemporary fiction, focusing on the stories of women. Why did that take me eight years and initiating an MFA to figure out? 😀

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Charli, did I misunderstand what the end of the 10 weeks means? Is it one part of the course that’s finished and there’s more to come?
        I had to laugh at the idea of historical fiction being contemporary, but it does make it easier to position your work.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Yes, I have many more 10-week terms to go (another 18 months). If you consider contemporary fiction one umbrella and speculative the other, then historical comes under the first. I found genre blends most relevant but we still reside within an industry that applies the labels. For me, yes, it makes an easier grouping.

      • Charli Mills

        Your anthologies seemed timely, and I found some seriousness woven among the silliness of your flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      Nice one, Joanne!

  3. floridaborne

    I had to laugh: Wife carrying?

    At the age of 42, when we were living in Houston, I used to walk on the path next to Braes Bayou while carrying my husband piggyback for exercise. It almost caused more than a few car accidents as it tends to make people stare. 🙂

    • carolinescott1800

      That is hilarious 🙂 and so cute!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a fun story, Joelle! I heard about the wife-carrying contest our first winter festival here. Lots of the college students get involved and none are truly wives! My daughter had suggested it would be funny if she and Drew showed up and she carried him. But when I looked up its history, it’s not so fun. But such is awareness. I like that you messed with people’s expectations.

    • Liz H

      One of my favorite scenes from the Drew Barrymore/Anjelica Huston film “Everafter” is the one in which she rescues the prince from the gypsy camp by carrying him on her back. It’s a great, mighty girl retelling of the Cinderella story…
      Thanks for bringing that memory back to me!

      • floridaborne

        Never saw the movie. Looks like it’s going to be one on my list. 🙂

      • Liz H

        A classic, from way back in 1988

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a great scene, Liz!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Caroline!

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Congrats! Love that final project assignment. And well done in all genres!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sarah! It was a fun prompt. I’m loving my coursework (but enjoying the week break, too).

  5. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    Good job!
    It was very interesting to see the different genres portraying your story.
    I often find it hard to categorize mine.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Goldie! What has worked for me is reading different genres simultaneously. It’s clearer (t me, at least) to see the differences side. I also love the Reader Advisory Books (Genre Fiction and Fiction Blends). They are pricey but you can buy them used, as I have, or at the library. I feel like I’m getting my head wrapped around genre, seeing it as made up of specific craft elements, instead of seeing it as book labels.

  6. denmaniacs4

    A fascinating story. My wife has carried me pretty much our entire life together so it is somewhat disconcerting to think we had it backwards.

    The Time Lily Put Her Foot Down and Stated Clearly, “I Am Not A Sack of Spuds.”

    He’d declared himself with passion. His passions were modest befitting our customs. “It is our way, Lily. From your father’s home to our new home. I will carry you the distance.”

    I looked at my betrothed. Yes, he was a stocky, corn fed youth. Strong as a rock, as serious as the soil he tended. Still, our home would be six miles away. A healthy distance to walk even without a burden.”

    “Why would you weary yourself out, Emil? Of what use will you be to me on our wedding night?”

    The seed was planted.

    My point was made.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! Her way is now his way- hard for him to argue against that reasoning.

    • Charli Mills

      Thus demonstrating how wives often do the heavy-lifting of thinking! Yes, I think we often carry one another in metaphorical ways in marriage, too. Ways that uplift the spirit. Nice flash, Bill!

  7. Pete

    Wow Charli, congrats on your progress. Wow, you really nailed those genres!

    Here’s mine

    Every spring my parents entered our town’s Wife Carrying event. They usually nabbed first or second place, even as Mom wasn’t crazy about it. But she was a good sport, even when Dad showed up in a dress. And won.

    Then he got sick. Real sick. He lost fifty pounds of muscle. Winter came and the doctors were talking months, not years.

    One night I heard some banging downstairs. I found my mother struggling, my father folded over her shoulders.

    “What…” A lump in my throat. “Are you doing?”

    Mom turned so I could see my dad beaming. “Training.”

    • Liz H

      Lovely! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Pete! I’m experiencing lots of a-ha moments. Genre is one I’m beginning to see distinguished by specific craft elements. And once you start “seeing” you can’t stop.

      The emotion in your flash is keenly delivered. I teared up at the couple who keep moving forward, taking turns.

    • Jules

      A true partnership.

    • Liz H

      <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu!

  8. dgkaye

    I loved your telling of the story of Sirrka. God bless her! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Isn’t she something, Debby? Thanks!

      • dgkaye

        <3 <3

  9. Jules

    Charli –

    Congratulations on all of your activities. Wow I watched and it just tickled me to see the mispronunciation, since transliteration of words turned into standard American used of several languages is always comical. And Sirkka story is amazing too. Reading about sleeping in the barn… ouch. Being second fiddle is never fun.

    I added to my current series here:
    #75 Hold

    los pobrecitos
    bottle of emotion then,
    an awkward present

    the man carried his sick wife;
    children follow in darkness

    safe haven; farmhouse
    mixed languages; but all the
    faces smiled kindly

    Another scribe in a different hand from the hidden hutch records; “The tall thin man carried his wife with such tenderness. It was unfortunate that there was little we could do but make them as comfortable as we could. In the end she passed. And he reluctantly took his two children with him to the next stop.” Smelling her roses again… I thought ‘my’ gentle spirit Ife right away…


    Note: Hold A process by which a bank restricts funds deposited by checks. Usually but not always used to restrict the proceeds of checks drawn on other banks until the funds have been transferred by the drawer’s bank to an account that the depositor’s bank maintains with the Federal Reserve. I am using Hold as in Carry… to fit the Carrot Ranch prompt 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jules! The mispronunciations are amusing, especially with an unfamiliar language. Your flash is sad and yet touching, a moment of struggle for freedom, a glimpse of sacrifice and love. I like how you adapted the prompt to fit your series.

    • Liz H

      Delightful surprise! The best things come in small packages, or should I say, ‘backpacks’?

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Well, I sure enjoyed the genre and the one-upmanship of the couples, Doug!

  10. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Fair Game

    “Okay, Great Aunt Fannie, here we are at Heikinpäivä. Is your interest in the Wife Carrying contest because you were carried off?”
    “Horse pucks! That’s what they say. I wasn’t ever carried off. Have always stood my ground. I’ve been known to get carried away a time or two, but that’s another story.”
    “What do you think of this wife carrying contest?”
    “Once a year, what the hell? I see it as a symbolic gesture of reciprocation.”
    “What do you mean, Aunt Frannie?”
    “Women-folk carry their men all year long. Without making a sporting event about all they bear.”

    (Yep, that Frannie https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/hiding/)

    • Liz H

      Point taken and noted…Yay!!

    • Charli Mills

      Hooe, hooe! Frannie got a good point! Glad to see she returned to from whence she dissappeared (in myth).

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Matter of Loggatha LeGume

    “*My Beanie lies over the mountain, my Beanie lies over the plains…*”
    “Pepe Legume. Why ya singin’ sech a sad song?”
    “‘Ello Pal, ‘Ello Keed. I am apart from my wife.”
    “You have a wife?”
    “Oui. Mon cher, mon petite Beanie. But her given name is Loggatha.”
    “Well, where is Loggatha, why ain’t ya tagether?”
    “Dere ees many times, many places when she cannot go where I can. Often she ees detained. Sigh. She ees warm and soft, dat one, but a solid partner, my better half. She carries me! But you know, dere’s a leetle Loggatha in everyone.”


    • Charli Mills

      On one level, sweet and caring, on another — I think Pepe’s author’s is having some shifty fun with Loggatha!

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Missed Fit

    “What do you mean, that bruise on your cheek is from Ernest?”
    “Relax, Ilene, he was just messing around, said we should practice for our wedding night. He tried to carry me into the bedroom but didn’t turn enough. Banged my ankle on the other side of the doorway.”
    “Jeezus, Marge.”
    “Oh, it gets worse. He dropped me when his back gave out. He couldn’t move.”
    “Shit. What’d you do?”
    “What do you think? I got myself up then I picked Ernest up and carried him into the bedroom. And there he lies, helpless.”
    “That’s a helluva preview Marge.”


    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Oh my! The vision of this made me giggle.

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Now, this was brilliant! You have the gift of humor! Truly a masterpiece! 😀

    • Jules

      Gotta take turns carrying each other in a partnership…

    • Charli Mills

      They say a bad dress rehearsal spells success for opening night. At least now they know who will best do the carrying! You do have a gift for humor.

      • pedometergeek

        Is this where someone says, “Break a leg!”?

  13. Liz Gauffreau

    I particularly enjoyed the video of Sirkka talking about her life–and what a life that’s been! Kudos on the successful completion of your second MFA term! I enjoyed reading your take on the genre writing exercise.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Liz! The genre exercise was fun. If you ever get a chance to see the full film, Sirkka’s story is amazing.

  14. Nobbinmaug

    Very interesting post here, Charli. I was ignorant of the difference between speculative and contemporary fiction. I’ve only been aware of speculative broken down to its smaller parts, sci-fi, fantasy, high fantasy, low fantasy… I’m also a fan of anyone who fights for freedom and equality.

    Here’s my little tale:


    • Charli Mills

      You know much about how speculative is broken down, Nobbinmaug. Also, something thematic is another good entry point for readers. Thanks for your tale!

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Carrying On

    Those first springs the bony fish were welcome food and they ate them gratefully. At first they used them to feed the hills of corn as I showed them to do. They saw how it was, and early on these ones that came to Patuxet did not allow blocking the river as some English would do. Back then we all went to the river in the spring, carried full baskets of alewives to our families, our fields.
    More ships came, with seeds and pigs and cattle. It did not take them long to forget how the alewives carried them.

    Last one! Probably. Maybe. Likely, because those Word Press gremlins made getting these here: https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com , torture and I still can’t get Charli’s graphic to stick and the spacing to come out right. Wonked.

    • Liz H

      You made me google…and now I know what “alewife” means. Clever you!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Sometimes a google, sometimes a giggle… always something in a gaggle o f flashes.

    • Charli Mills

      Wonked gremlins can’t keep a good 99-word story down, or two, or three or more. I like Squanto’s voice. It reminds me of a voice rising from the past to reconnect with us to listen again.

  16. Kerry E.B. Black

    Oh Charli, well done and good luck! How inspirational is your friend? I’m awed.

    • Charli Mills

      Sirkka lifted us all up! I’m in awe of her, too! Thanks, Kerry!

    • Doug Jacquier

      Inspired piece, Roberta, on so many levels. Congratulations.

      • robertawrites235681907

        Thank you, Doug. I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Speaks volumes in a mere 99 words.

    • Liz H

      Heartbreaking and razor sharp. Well done!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Robbie!

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Seeing the Finish Line

    “Kid, you bin kinda scarce.”
    “What diff’rence it make Pal? Ain’t much we kin do with this prompt. We won’t be carryin’ on with this challenge.”
    “Why not? I kin carry ya. Or you kin carry me. Jist so’s we git the job done.”
    “This roundup is purty specific— wife carryin’. Ain’t neither one of us no kinda a spouse ta no one.”
    “Kid, ain’tcha never heard a “work spouses”? Thet one person ya kin rely on an’ confide in at yer job?”
    “The one who’s got yer back an’ you got theirs?”
    “We kin take turns Pal.”

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      I was wondering if Kid and Pal would manage an appearance on this one. Well played.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I was wondering too! (Ya ever wonder if maybe that Charli just has a mean streak, like ‘Let’s see if they can do anything with this one’? First time I thought that was “longhorns”; then unicorns; and now this.) Anyway, yeah, they made it.

    • Charli Mills

      I knew you could do it D. Avery! Kid and Pal are always carrying on and they can wife-up and help each other out on the ranch.

  18. Ann Edall-Robson

    From racy to demure, there are three other 99 shorts, and one long version that came out of this prompt. It wasn’t easy picking the one that would be #23 of Hanna’s Story. The rest, I am sure will be used when I get around to writing the book. Haha…one day.

    Keeper of the Stories
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he grinned thinking about all of the stories the old steps could tell.
    Each time he passed the majestic staircase, he remembered the look of surprise etched on her face.
    It had started with an innocent discussion about chores, and then it just happened. Gathering her into his arms he’d carried her upstairs. He knew right then and there, she was the one, and so did she.
    That wouldn’t be the last time the love of his life would go up the stairs in his arms.
    Whistling, he walked towards the kitchen.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Say… is one of the other versions from the horse’s point of view? (and if so, is that version racy or demure?)

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        Perhaps the other versions will be considered for sharing when the moon’s just right and the fire crackles.

      • Charli Mills

        Moonlight tales from the hay-burner! I’m glad this story has a hold of you Ann. It will work its way out. Those old steps have more to say, too!

    • Charli Mills

      Great minds! 🙂 Your characters have had a sweet marriage to reflect back on!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! Sometimes, those are the most fulfilling to write. <3

  19. debzbennett

    Hi Charli, I thought the story was mysterious, in a good way. Like who was this wealthy man Cobb and what was the context of the cheering? newlyweds?

    • Charli Mills

      One of the challenges (and part of the fun) of writing a small story is what to include and what to leave out. Cobb was indeed the wealthiest among the first settlers of Nebraska Territory, and the cheering was the arrival of his wife with all their cattle and horses from Tennesse. Sarah has been living with Cobb in the meantime, helping him run the business of the road ranch (like a truck stop along the wagon trails). But that’s not stated. Thanks for commenting!

  20. debzbennett

    How do I find the form for my story to be published please?

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Just above Charli’s flash. Just under the prompt. Like a sandwich.

      • debzbennett

        i think i know. thanks. where you fill in your name, email, optional url then the 99 words?

    • Charli Mills

      Deb, you are in good hands with D.! I see your story in the collection bucket.

      Thank for helping, D.!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Pick a genre? Aren’t you a close reader? (I’m still resisting this whole genre ID thing)
      Welcome back!

    • Charli Mills

      Deborah! It’s always good to see you at the Ranch! No sneaking needed. Ride tall in the saddle.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yikes! You noticed the discrepancy between what I put here and what ends up at my site? It’s not necessarily intentional. I tend to be impulsive, but have learned to trust raw and live with it here but often get niggled and compulsively tweak there.
      What you did is way more dramatic! Two very different endings, different feel. What fun with flash!

    • Liz H

      Nice flip to these, with just a few details to do so! <3

    • Charli Mills

      You were well inspired to craft different endings. It shows how you can be flexible as a writer. I enjoyed them both!

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      Love the two versions – particularly the feeling conveyed by the black veil. Nice.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you enjoyed the trailer for Sirkka’s story. She is a wonder! The genre exercise is useful. You can try it with a couple of sentences from each of your books.

  21. Lisa R. Howeler

    Very interesting information about the woman and her story! Thank you for sharing. I hope to look her up. I had a mistake in my first submission to this, since I forgot my link. Oops! I’ll leave it here as well:

    They had to carry her out when they found him lying there on the floor by the hutch covered in blood.

    How could he have done it? Why would he have done it? He had all a son could want, all she could give him. Hadn’t the money been enough all these years?

    They called it a miracle that she’d walked in when she had; startling him and causing him to drop the gun and shoot himself in the foot instead of the head liked he had intended. She’d collapsed when the gun went off, falling against the hutch.

    • Charli Mills

      You build up the tension with blood and then unravel how it got to that point. If you want to correct a submission, just resubmit it. Since I was working on the collection as I read this, I grabbed this one and changed “son” to “man” for you. Great 99-word story!

      • Lisa R. Howeler

        Thank you. I’ll be more careful next time 🙂

    • pedometergeek

      Nice twist at the end.

  22. Lisa R. Howeler

    Oh my ..messed up and wrote “a son” instead of “a man.” well…I guess I really do have the cold my son had now. My brain is a complete mess. Ha!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hmm. But maybe she should have a connection to the desert shooter? The mention of money and the location made me wonder if he was struggling with addiction or depression, so the mistake made sense. Like Nightlake, you now have two versions to choose from!

      • Lisa R. Howeler

        Yeah, later I decided it could have gone either way.

    • Charli Mills

      I did change it Lisa, but I also think it works either way. In one version I saw a mother, in the other a wife. But the important emotions are clear.

      • Lisa R. Howeler

        Well, I kept thinking it was supposed to be carrying a mother and then I double checked and it was a wife. Oops!

  23. pedometergeek


    The woman was elderly, but he took great care of her. He stayed by her side throughout the day, only to return the following day.

    Between her dementia and the cancer that was eating at her body, she was wasting away. Her mind wandered, with thoughts of long ago, memories of her childhood and that of a young wife and mother of a boy. She was barely lucid especially when he gave her the morphine to ease her pain.

    Once, she carried him in her body, but now he was the one who carried her through her last days.

    Nancy Brady, 2020

    Will be back to check all of these stories out, but our writers’ group is meeting in a few minutes. Don’t know if I will read this one out loud, or not.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That’s strong prose that carries a powerful story of role reversal and life cycles.

      • pedometergeek

        Thanks D. I kinda of cheated. I mentioned wife and carried, but not together. I take Charli literally…I follow where the prompt takes me, and sometimes, it is way out there as far as the intention is. You know like Pal and Shorty. ~nan

    • Liz H

      Hope you read it to them—such a treat should be shared!

      • pedometergeek

        Liz and Charli, I did read it and a couple of other recent ones. Not one word uttered by any of them after reading. I don’t know if there was too much of a leap from one to another, or that they don’t know how to take these short pieces. Or that I read this one without emotion purposely. Thankfully, this group here and on my blog is more responsive. ~nan

    • Charli Mills

      A powerful story about what it is to care, carry and caretake. I hope you did read it, Nan!

  24. Liz H

    Here’s what I came up with. Hope you all enjoy!

    A little flash fiction around a prompt of “Wife Carrying.” Because maybe that’s the true test of a strong partnership:

    All Are Welcome Here

    It’d never occurred to them that their participation might not be welcome. Celebrating the fortitude and stamina required to go the distance in marriage–what better way to do this than with a test of physical endurance? [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      I like that thought as a true test of a strong partnership. Thanks, Liz!

  25. nightlake

    What Sirkka experienced long ago is still taking place today, although it is more subtle in many places. Thankfully, there are many kind people who mare friendly with immigrants.

    Glad that you have made a lot of progress. And Thanks, Charli, for showing us the different genres. Speculative fiction doesn’t need a setting and time, does it?

    • Charli Mills

      I think what Sirkka experienced continues on and on and on. She said in her long lifetime she’s seen history repeat itself but she also encouraged us that doing things together is the anecdote. So, together, we write stories!

  26. susansleggs

    Charli, As the others have said, thank you for sharing the differences between the four different genres. It’s so easy to understand when it’s right in front of you. I would enjoy watching a wife-carrying contest. I can imagine the hilarity…

    Why Tessa is Divorced

    Tessa loaded the last of her personal items into the car then went back inside the house they had shared at Ft. Riley, Kansas, for the last six years. She did a walk-through remembering the good times with her children and how lonely she had been with her husband gone so much. When she locked the front door for the last time she could hear his words, “I’m done carrying you.” She felt she had carried the family without his help and knew she couldn’t stay after finding out his last three deployments had been at his own request.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Seems like his thinking is kind of one sided. Thinking Tessa will be just fine.

    • Charli Mills

      The Wife Carrying races would be funny! Depending on the snow, I’d like to go watch. I’m getting a handle on the genres! Sharing helps me, too. You capture a painful moment found in military life. The carrying can get lopsided as soldiers forget their families in their need to carry their brothers. She’s found her own strength.

  27. Lisa L.

    Well, I done it! I finished and posted my first flash in a VERY long time.
    Loved your bit on the differences in genres. And glad you updated your thoughts on speculative fiction. Definitely more than spaceships – although that is indeed a great topic! I probably fit mostly in the speculative realm, but could also argue for contemporary. Anyway, it’s good to be back here poking around. I’ve submitted my offering for the week! http://www.themeaningofme.com/carried/

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Well done. Good to see you in these parts.

      • Lisa A. Listwa

        Thanks, D.! Good to be back in these parts!

    • Charli Mills

      Hope it felt good to stretch your legs in a writing gallop, Lisa! And yes, I was unfair to speculative fiction, taking the easiest trope I could think of. More to it than spaceships, and what I enjoy is that all books can use these genre elements. That’s what’s mindblowing to me — I busted free of the label way of thinking and see more clearly the elements used in telling specific stories. Thanks for your offering!

      • Lisa A. Listwa

        The more I read, the more I see so much crossover. Looking forward to reading some of these “Carried Wives” offerings. Talk about a strange one to jump in with!

  28. Liz H

    Nice empowering take on the prompt!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks for the laugh, Hugh!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Michael!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sasha!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Dave!

  36. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Marje!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jacquie!

  38. Charli Mills

    Thanks, H.R.R.!


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