January 16: 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 17, 2020

A black raven lands on my neighbor’s sloped roof to dig in the snow. Always one for a good bird show, I pause in rinsing dishes to watch. With a long thick beak, the raven scoops snow like those of us below with steel shovels and scoops. Finally, he retrieves something frozen the size of a cracker and lifts his wings, chomping his hoard. The raven must have stashed food on the roof, and I witnessed his mid-day snack.

It’s the days of messy middles. With winter half over in the northern hemisphere, we impatiently endure more snow and wait for the sun to return. Half a world away, Australia suffers a hot mess, waiting for the sun to subside, the heat to relent, the fires to burn out. Writer and educator, Norah Colvin, is safe where she lives in Australia but witnesses the daily impact of her nation burning. Last week, she left a link in the comments to an article that lists genuine organizations to help.

Several years ago, Norah created a S.M.A.G. Badge to spread goodness in the world across our literary, writing, educator, and blogging networks. She called the recognition the Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude. It calls to mind what 99-year-old Sirkka said about the anecdote to hate in the world. In her documentary, she calls for us to come together for humanity. S.M.A.G. is such a call. If you look to the right-hand column, you’ll see a graphic and a link to Bushfire Recovery Relief.

Please consider copying the graphic and posting it on your own site, blog, or social media. After all, we are communicators with reader traffic, and together, we can share links to legitimate organizations that have boots on the ground in the areas devastated. Norah also shared an op-ed by Jackie French, who writes, “Focus on what you can do. Don’t cry for what you can’t.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the face of tragedy, in life’s unexpected twists, in the persistence required to write novels.  So, we focus on what we can do.

Sirkka’s mother protested. It was dangerous to stand up for injustice or call out for rights denied. History is filled with tales of violence against those who protest. When Sirkka’s mother protested, she took her daughter with her. The miners were demanding safer work conditions and fair wages. Their wives and daughters took to the picket lines to deliver these messages and make the world aware of the situations. In return, thugs were hired to beat the women and told to aim for the kidneys. Sirkka recalls standing up to a thug ready to strike her mother but shamed by looking into the eyes of a determined little girl.

On Christmas Eve, 107 years ago in Calumet just north of Carrot Ranch World Headquarters 19 miles, a large group of women and children were celebrating the festivities at the Italian Hall. For six long months, copper miners struck, led by a woman, some call the Joan of Arc of the Copper Country. (You can read about her and others in the new novel, Women of the Copper Country.) It was a time of great tension, and the holiday should have provided a respite. Instead, the greatest mining-related disaster on record in this region occurred that night, and 73 women and children died.

Witnesses claimed that someone yelled, “Fire!” from below. The reception hall was upstairs, and some argue that anti-union thugs held the doors. It remains, to this day, a wound upon the Copper Country community. No one yet agrees to the specific events or intentions, and no one was ever charged for a crime. But when families tried to flee, many slipped down the steep stairs, and inexplicably, the doors failed to open, suffocating those on the stairs.

When Sirkka faced down the thug ready to beat her mother, it was 1925, twelve years after the Italian Hall tragedy. I think about how Sirkka stood up all her life for the “foreign-born” like her parents. Cultures came together to speak up for the reason they came to America in the first place — a better life. From my posts, you know that Finns populate the Keweenaw. So do the Italians. My neighbor’s house that holds the raven stash is Italian-American. In fact, my Roberts Street neighborhood is said to have been an Italian one with many markets. Today, the Keweenaw Co-op remains as our corner grocery store.

Maybe I had all these jumbled ideas in mind — influenced by Sirkka’s documentary and resonating words, by recent research to discover the roots of my Italian neighbor, by concern for climate change and how it is burning and flooding communities. It’s no wonder we feel called to protest, to take up from the long line of others who have confronted injustice. But I’m also a writer, and I let these ideas stew and simmer into something I can serve up in a story. The night after the raven’s visit, I was downtown and looked out the window across the street and saw three women in mourning attire. When I focused, I realized it was an optical illusion of night shows and reflected lights.

But I was curious about what my mind had momentarily witnessed.

If you have ever stared at cloud shapes or optical illusions and seen what is not there, that is the power of imagination. Often we feel the need to correct what we thought we saw. Or sometimes we innocently play like a child and describe great ships or rearing lions that float by in the sky on a summer’s day. I often like to indulge the illusion. If it is real, what do I see? If I look closely at the reflection in a closed business across the street, I see a yarn shop with round skeins for sale, tags bobbing. I can’t explain it. No such thing exists across the street, and I don’t know why my brain thought yarn. Fuzzy, right?

But I go with it. Go ahead, brain, play. I pretend what I’m seeing is real. Across the street is a yarn shop. What else? And there they are — three dark-haired women in long black dresses with corseted waists standing together in a tight huddle. Mourners come to mind. Sisters.

When the Hub comes over and asks if I want another beer (full disclosure: I only had half, and it had nothing to do with the optical illusion). I point out the window, asking if he sees anything in the window across the street. He explains what I’m seeing is a reflection of a reflection of KBC, the local brew-pub. Except he sees it differently. Different perspective. I explain what I see, and he grunts and says he’ll leave me alone to write. Not everyone appreciates imagination. So I write my illusion in a sentence:

Three sisters in black opened a yarn shop in Houghton, Michigan, 19 miles away from where their children died in a stairwell.

I’m surprised by what I write because I was not thinking about the Italian Hall tragedy, but it slipped in there – soft yarn, three dark-haired women in black, dead children. Such is my mind. Normally, this is where I would get excited about discovery and let loose. This time, I’m inviting a playmate over for imagination. As an MFA student, I’m studying the writing process. Imagination and discovery is part of that. How we shape it into a story is another part.

I’m figuring out – learning – what I don’t know about writing fiction. I know I’m a pantser who has easy access to imagination and a keen interest in people, history, and stories. But I’m also learning that my pantsing can lead to half-baked stories. Great ideas, emotive, sharply imagined characters, sometimes I even have a point. Sometimes I lack form, the structure of plotters. Intellectually, I know story arcs and plot points. But imagination doesn’t remember to play with intellect. Writing 99-words helps to bridge left-brain, right-brain. But I’m also learning to incorporate other tools. So, Story Spine gets invited to play.

It looks like this (by Kenn Adams, author and Artistic Director of Synergy Theater):

  1. Once upon a time…
  2. Every day…
  3. But one day…
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that…
  6. Because of that…
  7. Until finally…
  8. And, ever since then…

Like 99-words, Story Spine becomes a problem-solving tool. So, I used my intriguing first sentence to describe the optical illusion as “once upon a time.” Then I followed the rest of the script.


Three sisters in black opened a yarn shop in Houghton, Michigan, 14 miles away from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner like three dark muses, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Heads held high to defy pity from the wives of wealthy mine captains, they sold colorful yarn soft as baby’s hair. Pity or fear, they induced a brisk business.

One day, another Italian family from Calumet crossed the Portage canal and planned a confectionary business. They would armor their building with steel ceilings to curb caramel fires that could start in the expansive kitchen filled with heat and sugar.

Because of the false fire at the Italian Hall on that fateful Christmas Eve, 57 children died in the greatest minie-related disaster of the Copper Country.

Because families lost children, safety and survival melded like chocolate and wove a community with skeins of cashmere.

Because grief poured into business, the next generations of Italian Americans prospered greater than the mine captains, owners and enforcers whose fortunes fizzled with the depth of copper and shallowness of the economy.

Therefore the Copper Country was built on the entrepreneurial spirit of widows, mourning mothers, and a desire for comfort and safety.

I’ll plan to use this draft to put it in place as my 99-word response. It’s interesting to follow the script because I didn’t feel as hemmed in creatively as I had expected. It’s also a good exercise to recognize the Story Spine of books or fairy tales you’ve read. This helps you develop as a writer with another tool to aid your curiosity and imagination.

This weekend, I have a choice — to retreat or protest. The Women’s March happens this Saturday with a protest scheduled for the Houghton Lift Bridge. That same day, my friend Cynthia is hosting a retreat for vision work. I’m thinking back to Jackie French’s words about doing what you can. And Sirkka’s about doing things together. Therefore, my form of protest will be to go on retreat and focus on what Carrot Ranch can do together with writers and poets and bloggers and teachers and readers and storytellers of the world.

Together, let’s make literary art our stand.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story. It can be about a protest, or you can investigate the word and expand the idea. Who is protesting, where, and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 21, 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.


Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Jeez, Pal. Tellin’ ya, Shorty’s all over the map with her prompts. Now a protest story? I cain’t write a protest story.”

    “Thinkin’ ya protest too much, Kid. Ever dang week yer protestin’, or is thet jist whinin’? This here could be serious ya know. Stop yer whinin’ an’ complainin’ an consider the plight a them’s thet really git the short end a the rope.”

    “Reckin I kin try, Pal, but I ain’t got Shorty’s machinations.”

    “Do ya mean ‘magination? It’s a difference ‘tween seemin’ and schemin’”

    “Guess as long as she does the write thing it’s all good.”

    • Charli Mills

      Stand up for what’s write! I figured Kid would protest. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        *Once upon a time Princess Buckaroo lived on a enchanted snow-globe peninsula.*
        “Writin’ after all Kid?”
        *One day all the Yooper Scoopers quit shov’lin an’ plowin’. They marched on snowshoes, holdin’ their their shovels up like signs, protestin’ ‘gainst low wages an’ high accumulations a snow.
        Princess Buckaroo retreated ta another story.*
        “Lit out fer another tale?”
        “No, she went upstairs when the first story got snowed over.”
        *Snow kep fallin’. The Buckaroo Princess got out on snowshoes as ever’thin’ got buried over. *
        “What happened?!”
        *The Buckaroo Princess was at new heights; snowshoed right ta her north star. *

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Progressively more whacky? Say, Doc Ranger, should this be cause for concern? Personally, I’m not seeing the progression. Same old.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s one way to get there! Them Yoopers had out the roof rakes, today. I heard mumblings of protests against snow. Tonight, it’s clear enough to see North Stars. I think there’s more showing up!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        The whackiness might be more in my head but a cause for celebration, not concern.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      I like how your characters highlight the difference between whining and protesting. It can be subtle sometimes, but still important to distinguish. Now is that the springboard for my 99 words?

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a jumping-off point, but what are your reviews this week?

      • Charli Mills

        A couple of interesting reviews, Anne. Wow, Faulks’ book was epic. and I found your review of it a fascinating journey of the human mind in progress.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Might be wrong, but I think I could also detect the workings of the author’s mind in that book too.

      • Charli Mills

        Of all the fictional therapists you’ve reviewed, have you narrowed down a favorite?

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        That’s a hard one, Charli, but I feel I haven’t found it yet!

    • carolinescott1800

      Love this so much! 🙂

  2. floridaborne

    Interesting. What is the world but a chaos of those condemned to repeat history? (My apologies to Santayana)

    • Charli Mills

      Certainly, some of us might get it like Bill Murray did! (To borrow from Groundhog Day.)

      • Norah


      • Charli Mills


  3. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I love the thought of you protesting by retreating, Charli, and hope you have a fruitful day. Thanks for sharing this story spine – I think it maps quite closely to other story structures, but I think for us pantsers it’s well worth reiterating from different angles until we find one that speaks to us. I love what you’ve done with this and the flash that came from it in the end. When grief hits, we tend to protest initially by denial, we just can’t take it in, but hopefully can progress to the stage of protesting by living and loving, as did the widows in your flash. Here in the UK to the women were instrumental in supporting the miners’ strike – not that it did them much good in the end. Lots of ideas for this prompt and I might link it again to the short story anthology I reviewed last week.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, well, the weather has had the final protest in the Keweenaw and the retreat will be rescheduled. I’ve been waiting up to see the snow begin and it has. We’re to expect an inch an hour, so a couple of feet before it’s over. I’ll retreat into my reading chair.

      So, has their been a structure that you’ve found useful? I still like my W as a storyboard tool, but I like the compact structure of the story spine to think through where the wild horses of my imagination might go.

      Another thought comes to mind when I think of the UK, miners and their families — they are the ones who initially demanded a “fair weight” for flour and food sold at market. The Rochdale Pioneers established principles of cooperation still used throughout the US today. Interesting how a small protest can have a long-lasting impact.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I’m not yet ready to nail my story structure, but currently I come pretty close to your W. In drafting Snowflake, even though I didn’t really know where the story was going, I was very conscious of the word count in order to build in major plot points/reversal at the quarter, half and three quarters mark. With revisions, I’ve hit these almost exactly, but now I don’t know how well I’ll be able to keep these in place after the additional changes beta readers have brought to my attention.
        Ah yes, the Rochdale Pioneers – I’d forgotten how we developed a model of socialism alongside the capitalism sparked by the industrial revolution. That’s a hopeful reminder for our current times too.
        As to the weather, winter has been extremely mild here, though had some welcome frost over the weekend. I’m glad we don’t get snowfall like yours but we do need someone to kill the bugs.

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve started paying attention to the halfway mark with books I’m reading and will need to note quarter and three-quarter, too. Yeah, that can be tricky with revision if you have the balance but need to make structural changes. Well, thank you for the socialism that built American food co-ops!

      • Charli Mills

        Anne, our snow is Someone, too! 😀

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Good points in this story, Anne. <3

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Read it, liked it. Couldn’t find smiley faces or stars or anything around though.

  4. carolinescott1800

    Here’s mine, “Protest Proposal.” I sure hope this counts as a kind of protest. This prompt is really hard! 🙂

    He was going to do it.

    She could see it in his eyes. There was a strange, liquid gleam in them, and a kind of manic terror.

    She should speak. She needed to stop this before he did something either of them regretted. A protest rose on her lips but he was already on his knees.

    She’d never seen a man so afraid.

    “Will you marry me?”

    It was his question, but she said it. If the point was at all worth arguing, he didn’t say so. When her arms went around his neck, all he said was,


    • Charli Mills

      Your use of protest works well, Caroline. It makes a nice contrast to the tension of the proposal. I appreciate that line: “A protest rose on her lips but he was already on his knees.” We like to say, “go where the prompt leads”!

      • carolinescott1800

        🙂 Ha, thank you! These prompts are really challenging, but they’re great at making you try new things. I’m so glad I found Carrot Ranch!

      • Charli Mills

        99-words gives us plenty of space to explore!

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Excellent take on the words. I enjoyed this piece. Like Charli said, great tension. <3

  5. Jacquie Biggar

    Love the imagery in your post, Charli- so good!

    • Charli Mills

      I appreciate that, Jacquie! Thanks!

  6. Jules


    You always have interesting info. And the imagination to see those three woman… I can imagine them too.

    I played here:
    #81 Discharge?

    my mind protests, sighs
    you’re not what I expected;
    mirrored reflection

    Hoping that I’m not still blushing when Sam arrives; I am still in wonderment about how my body protests… But I smell Ife’s rose scent – I calm down. Just what can I tell him? That some myths are prophecy, like history is doomed to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it? Quite a bit of the Underground Railroad, just like the Pony Express has been amplified, romanticized. Yet there were kernels of truth.

    Maybe I’ll open with; “Have you ever used a psychic to help solve cases?” …


    Discharge is a banking term. It was the closest I could get to protest…
    I think it fits though because when we blush our face is protesting or ‘discharging’ our emotions, most often unwillingly.

    • Charli Mills

      They might have been distant cousins, Jules. Stories are people-centric to me and sometimes I see the people before I know their story. Thanks for looking with me into reflected windows! Ah, yes, interesting point about the protest of a blush, a discharge of emotion.

  7. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Charli, I grabbed the image and link from your Let’s Help Australia widget and added it to my blog. Many thanks, my friend. I’ll be back tomorrow with a story. <3

    • Norah

      Thanks so much, Colleen. ????

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Thank you, Norah. I think of you and Australia often. ??????

      • Norah

        Thank you, Colleen. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, thank you, Colleen!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        You and Norah are most welcome. ??

  8. dgkaye

    Brava my friend. Well told story, brave women, and I wish you a positive protest on behalf of women everywhere! I really want to jump on this challenge,. and I will proudly put up the widget on my blog. <3

    • Norah

      Thank you, Debby. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, thank you, Debby! <3 I greatly appreciate your kindness!

      • dgkaye


  9. Jim Borden

    thanks for the history lesson, and the intriguing prompt. and how ironic that your two choices for the weekend were to retreat or to protest…

    • Charli Mills

      Interesting choices, indeed, Jim! And then the winter storm shut it all down and I had a lovely weekend of reading before going back to coursework. I’m looking forward to all the stories.

  10. Doug Jacquier

    An inspired intro to your prompt, Charli. What you see is not necessarily what you get 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, perhaps a writer is someone with extra sight! Thanks, Doug!

    • Charli Mills

      I admire the added constraint of poetry, Doug.

  11. Doug Jacquier

    For the edification of the Flash Fiction 99 word challenge coterie, I offer the following conundrum.
    Q – What goes 99-clump, 99-clump, 99 clump?
    A – A centipede with a wooden leg.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      What’s Kid and Pal’s favorite song?
      99 Bottles of beer on the wall.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        What do you call a bunch of word warriors who wrangle 99 word protest stories?

      • Charli Mills

        And D. brings more! We might have to come up with 99 riddles and jokes!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha, ha! That’s a good one, Dough! The official joke of the Ranch!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The best part of Doug’s joke is the 49 and a half pair of little cowboy boots that not quite centipede is wearing. You should hear it when it’s wearing spurs on those boots!

      • Charli Mills

        They’d jingle-jangle for sure!

  12. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    Thank you so much for your beautiful introduction to SMAG and your use of it to recognise the plight of many suffering from the bushfires here in Australia. Some areas received good rain in the last twenty-four hours and some of the fires have been almost extinguished. Now we hope they don’t flood. Some areas still remain at risk of fire and many areas are still polluted by the smoke. Recovery will take many years so all those generous donations will be very well received and, hopefully, put to good use.
    I like the structure of the Story Spine and use something very similar to it in my writing. It seems like an intuitive structure.
    I enjoyed where your imagination went with the three sisters in mourning but am appalled by the original story of the Italian Hall Tragedy. I can’t believe what people do to each other. I also find it interesting that you combine the story with a protest (I guess they were linked) and that you also had a protest of your own to attend, or not.
    There has been a tragic story occur here in the past week. The student leader of a group protesting against Drag Queens reading to children at a council library took his own life after a lot of backlash on social media. Tragic on many levels.
    I’m not sure if I’ll get to join in this week. I’ve a few ideas buzzing around in my head but other commitments might have to be prioritised. I’ll see how I go. Have a great week.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I felt it was right to do something to spread the spirit of SMAG for that is a balm to help heal, even if it is standing in unity. Funny, that’s how I perceive protesting — standing up for what’s right. Miners and wives protested for fair wages and safer conditions. Women protested for the right to vote, continue to protest for the right to be heard. In my mind, protests are about social justice. But to protest against Drag Queens reading to children. That’s not justice. That’s bullying. And then I read the article and felt sad for the family who felt their son had been misled and they called for better mentors. Thus we circle back around to SMAG. Anyone with such a badge, I think is a worthy mentor. Remember your focus word of the year! <3

      • Norah

        I agree with you about protesting for social justice. That’s how we progress – when we see a situation that needs to be improved and we do something about it. Interrupting story time with bullying behaviour does not teach children appropriate ways of protesting and sadly, the situation had a very bad outcome. Lessons need not be so tough to learn. Too many hearts are hurting. SMAG!

      • Charli Mills

        I can’t quite get my head around why people equate protesting storytime with protesting social justice. It seems they are missing the point and causing greater harm. I hope this tragic incident can serve as a point of healing as the parents seem to want that outcome, too. SMAG. <3

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    “Staff members shouldn’t join student anti’s, Ms. Higginbottom.”
    “Anti’s. My dad, a member of the NRA, called protesters that, Mr. Mathy.”
    Mr. Massey the math teacher looked at Ilene, unsure of her lisp and her tone.
    “But this is not my father’s NRA. Not by a long shot.”
    “You give up one constitutional right, the rest are vulnerable.”
    Incredulous, Ilene finally spoke. “Look at the reciprocals; not what they’re against but what they are for; that’s what pro-test means, testifying for a cause.”
    “And what are these children standing for Ms. Higginbottom?”
    “Life, Mr. Massey. They want to live.”

    longer version here: https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/standing/

    • Charli Mills

      Ms. Higginbotton has a story to tell, and when I catch glimpses, I think of how it can be that definition of a pro-test. Good to see Ilene sparking the page.

  14. ellenbest24

    A sad tale for your 99, writen with the perfection we come to expect. Mine may only just pass muster, I hope you think it works. If it was easy It would not be able to be called a challenge, would it?

    • Charli Mills

      May it always be a challenge of us all, Ellen! I appreciate getting to explore ideas, stories or characters in the 99-word format and being challenged, too.

    • Charli Mills

      Like you, I find sources of inspiration fascinating. That’s why the collection every week is like an artist’s date to me! Great flash!

  15. Ann Edall-Robson

    Rebel Released
    By Ann Edall-Robso

    “What’s going here?” Hanna pointed at the picture.

    “The whisper went through the halls of the school.

    ‘We’re walking out as soon as first period starts after lunch.’

    Rumours had been swirling for weeks. Finally, the day arrived to protest having to wear skirts and dresses at school, especially in -40F weather. All we wanted was to be able to wear slacks.

    There I was, a junior, scared to death I’d be expelled, making my way down the halls, out onto the lawn with the others.”

    Liz closed the Yearbook with a laugh.

    “My inner rebel had been released.”


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hard ta be a pantser in a skirt. (Auto correct had to be corrected, wanted to say panther. Maybe the group was called the Pants Panthers?)

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        By the time the day was finished, I am sure they had all kinds of names they (and others) wanted to call their group.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      I believe part of the function of school uniforms is to give kids a safe way to rebel. We had this the other way around in a recent hot summer with boys protesting for the right to wear skirts. I thought that was well cool.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        That is an interesting twist.

    • Charli Mills

      The traveling to and from such rural schools in those days, too had to be pure misery and in subzero temperatures, dangerous.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        That is true, Charli.

  16. Liz H

    Here’s a little reflection on the last couple of days and the weeks to come. And thanks to all who carry on, even in the storms of indifference, or perhaps just self-interest. I should take a page from this book, huh?


    Snowmageddon! Stay home if you don’t have to go out! Feels like double-digit negative temps! Treacherous conditions! Freezing drizzle! Mega-storm sweeping the continent, laying waste to everything in its path!

    She switched off the t.v., powered down her computer, snapped off background radio reports. She believed the footage…
    [Continue ]

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Didn’t see that coming. Your character is a true heroine (as are you for creating her).

    • Charli Mills

      It’s amazing to me that we’ve coined such words in the media as snowmageddon, but as your use of exclamation points shows — the strain of constant news is intense. Power dowm. Good choice! I hope you got out, too.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Love the humour. Sadly slim chance of artists running out of inspiration here in the UK.

    • Charli Mills

      Good use of humor! It makes me think we’d always find something to protest. And maybe it’s important that we do have struggle, but not the manmade kind.

  17. H.R.R. Gorman

    It seems you’re learning so much with your MFA – thank you for sharing small snippets for those of us who aren’t in these sorts of classes! I also liked how you looped it back in to Sirkka, too. 🙂

    Here’s todays little snippet:


    ***I Must Protest***

    The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

    The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

    The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, one schemer infringing upon another. I like how you created a strong sensory scene. I could see the encounter, H.R.R.

      It’s a delight to share the MFA nuggets. And I don’t think Sirkka is through with me yet. I’m captivated!

    • susansleggs

      You hit the nail on the head. Well done.

    • Charli Mills

      Robert, I appreciated your intro, too, mentioning the different aspects of protesting. Thanks!

      • Robert Kirkendall

        Thank you, Charli 🙂 An intro seemed necessary for the subject matter.

    • Charli Mills


  18. susansleggs

    Charli, Thank you for the history lesson. What a tragic waste of human life on the stairwell, and what did it accomplish except more pain and anguish. Sad. The story spine is a great tool, but I’m with you, I like the W better, maybe because I’m more familiar with it. You pack so much into a week. I’m sorry the snow kept you home on Thursday.

    The Gift of Music
    The wheelchair-bound veterans weren’t surprised when asked to join Gil Brandt near his bus. The musician learned names then turned to Michael, “I’ve heard of your talent and that you live near multiple VA medical centers so I’m giving you this to share.”
    A vehicle whose sides were painted with music murals and the words “Veterans’ Music Van” pulled up. Doors were opened to reveal many instruments and other band equipment.
    “I can’t accept such a gift,” Michael said.
    “No protesting. I hope you’ll develop or add to a music program at each center because music has healing power.”

    Note: There is a young country music star named Brantley Gilbert that is pro veterans and recognizes them whenever he can. I don’t know if he has given a gift of this magnitude, but he was the inspiration.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Alright! You’re really growing this story.

      • susansleggs

        It has been easier than I expected. We’ll see if that continues.

    • Lisa R. Howeler

      Every time I hear this artist’s name I do a double take because there was a young man who lived in our town named Brandon Gilbert and he was killed in a car accident when he was very young. He is in a corner of the cemetery where so much tragedy happened in such a short time. There was a soldier from our town killed in Iraq when he was just 19, then this Brandon, then a young boy with cancer, six when he died and then a local fire chief, also cancer. All of them died so close together and I had to keep writing about them for the paper. It about broke me and is probably why I retired from newspapers earlier than most.

      • susansleggs

        Lisa, I can understand why writing such sad stories could get to a person. I admire nurses and doctors that take care of the sick and see so much heartache. I couldn’t do it.

    • Charli Mills

      The gift of music is one that keeps on giving and healing. I’d like to believe this story is possible, Sue. Veteran Songs and Voices just opened a chapter here and I’m volunteering with the 99-word story format. The organization supplies instruments to veterans wanting to learn, like guitars.

      The W is still the workhorse storyboard tool! Story spine is a pattern. I’ve been looking for the pattern as I read novels, too. So much in my head. 🙂

      • susansleggs

        I have seen segments on the news of music programs in the VA medical centers but don’t know if it’s true around here. If Michael lives where I do, that would give him 5 major centers within two hours drive. We’ll have to see if the prompts take him traveling.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Debby!

  19. Colleen M. Chesebro

    This was an excellent challenge. I thought about it a long time, too! Here is my flash:

    A Pregnant Protest
    Susan squeezed her husband’s hand, turning his knuckles white.

    “I’ll never let you into my bed again,” she protested.

    Tim nodded his head. “I’m so sorry love,” he whispered.

    The contractions began again as Susan shrieked out a primal wail. She panted through the waves of torment.

    “You’re almost there,” the doctor murmured, intent on his ministrations. “One more push, Susan, and that should do it.”

    Susan closed her eyes in concentration. With one long scream, she pushed out the reason for her pain.

    The infant resembled his father. A long-tail protruded from the base of his spine.

    ©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! I had so much fun with this one. I tried to tell my hubby (who has always wanted a pet monkey) but I was laughing so hard; I cried. Great fun. 😀

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Enjoyed that tail too. There’s a novel by Liz Jensen, Ark Baby, can’t remember the details, but there are similarities in the story.

    • Charli Mills

      Such a great pregnant protest and then you caught me by surprise with the tail! That couple had been monkeying around. 🙂

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! So, originally I thought of an alien and wanted this to be considered speculative fiction. They, I read the story to my hubby. He used to pester me about us raising a monkey as a pet. This on top of five kids! We had a great laugh at the story. LOL! 😀

    • Jules

      oooh. Nice twisty ending.
      I almost broke my hubby’s arm twice –
      There was no third time 😉

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Ha, Ha, Ha! I do know you mean. Apparently, I was thick-headed. I had a third time. LOL! 😀

      • Jules

        I went to college with a class mate who was one of 20 to the same mom…. What about that reality show 19 or 20 and counting. The Mom was due with the latest the same time on of the older daughters was due!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        OMG! I raised five and almost died from that. Granted, two of them were step-daughters. I can’t even imagine. Phew!

      • Jules

        Granted some can be more challenging than others 😉 Glad you lived to tell your tale!

  20. Lisa R. Howeler

    The story of those women breaks my heart 🙁 Thank you for sharing it. I loved your flash fiction based on it. Here is mine for this week:

    Fern watched her father gathering his winter clothes together.

    “Dad, you’re not going to that protest are you?”

    “It’s not a protest, it’s a rally,” he said with a sigh, pulling his woolen har down on his head over his ears.

    “But it’s 21 degrees out and you’re — ”

    “I know, I’m 76 but age shouldn’t stop me from standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

    Fern sighed, shaking her head. “Okay, Dad, but I better not get a call from the police that you and Nancy have chained yourselves to the courthouse steps again.”

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a dedicated dad, standing up where others have no voice, Lisa. But I understand his daughter having to set some boundaries! Thanks for having a heart for those touched by grief in our Italian community.

  21. denmaniacs4

    My e-mail has been line corroded for almost a week. Here is my somewhat delayed entry. A protest of an unseemly sort.

    At Home in the Land of the Privileged

    We were stoned that night. I’ll admit that much. Me, anyways. Sitting behind them I was, slumped on our ratty old davenport.


    Gangster-like they were, huddled at the-steal-at-five-bucks, pink arborite table Rose scored at the Sally Ann. She was the key insurgent in our ménage à pick-a-number. She’d transferred up from Berkeley, following the crimson flame of revolution into Canada.

    Tommy was a prairie kid, swooning over Rose, brain-fried by hormones.

    Larson. He was something else again.

    Angry as a twister.

    Larson’s the one who proposed, “one well-placed bullet, comrades. If we’re serious, we need to draw blood.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Seeing red, ey? Love the language and pace of this, and the simmering of this soup of personalities and interests.

    • Charli Mills

      Hope your line has opened back up, Bill. This line is fabulous: “She’d transferred up from Berkeley, following the crimson flame of revolution into Canada.” Now I know how far north the hippies went!

      • denmaniacs4

        It has. A lineman arrived six days in, determined that corrosion and antiquated connections had reached the end of their days. My little story has a germ of memory driving it…some of us were lucky to get out of the sixties relatively intact.

    • Charli Mills

      Yeehaw! You are riding tall, Lisa!

  22. pedometergeek

    Student Protest

    Julia wanted to be inducted into her school’s National Honor Society.

    Each year she saw outstanding upperclassmen selected for the honor. As a junior, she watched her classmates and the seniors get chosen one by one.

    The school administration and teachers were shocked when one senior refused in protest over a blatant prejudice against another student. Apparently, the seniors knew that the student was treated unfairly, making a pact to reject the honor; however, only Jerry had the strength of character to protest this injustice.

    How they found out was never revealed, but it forever changed the school’s policy.

    Nancy Brady, 2020

    (nothing like posting at the last minute)

    • Charli Mills

      Nan, I enjoy your stories each week no matter when you post! I appreciate how it only takes one person to stand up to make a difference.

      • pedometergeek

        Thanks, Charli, for saying that. That one person had integrity was the point, and he was successful in his protest. BOTS are usually the easiest to write…well, that is, until the editing and deleting of extraneous words begin. ~nan

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Ritu!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jacquie!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Marje!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Debby!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Dave!


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