Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Flash Fiction Challenge » January 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Same window, different image. Downtown Houghton gathers Tech grad students, professors, locals, sledders, and window apparitions. I settled into my Wednesday spot and wondered if I’d see my three Italian sisters in mourning across the street. I didn’t. I saw a row of miners as if sitting on a bench, wearing blue overalls. I never really thought about what copper miners wore. They could have been futuristic astronauts or ancient argonauts. I can’t say I was prepared to see a different image from the one I saw last time I peered across the nighttime street into the darkened window of a closed business.

I thought about ignoring it. We do that with what disturbs us — put the blinders on and pay it no heed. It’s how the chronic homeless on the streets slip into oblivion before our eyes. They become the unseen. It’s not our pain we fear but the reminder of our own vulnerability. And, thoughts go straight to my favorite researcher storyteller, Brene Brown, who expands the idea of embracing our vulnerability:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”~ Brene Brown

So I explored the darkness. I looked at what was disturbing me about the image I could see of miners created by the reflection of lights and my imagination — they had black hoods on their heads as if they were condemned. Was my mind feeling the pressure of my first week back to school? Regardless, I opened my Word Doc and spun a story in 99-words.

Gerard’s Tale by Charli Mills

Rumbling, the tram lumbers nineteen levels below to the copper veins. Sun, snow — the weather fails to influence the deep. I inhale pulverized basalt, hack black snot. Time slips away, my hands numb [hold the drill, young Geri]. I dream of sweet Maggie’s warmth in our bed, our mewling babe between us [hold the drill, young Geri]. Rock cracks, steel sings, the widow-maker hammers above my head [hold the drill, young Geri]. The tram rumbles like a beast upward, toward my wife and child. My body exits, wrapped in canvas. My soul trapped below, black dust to black dust.

When I realized  I only caught one miner, I cut them off. After all, I had work to do. Maybe I’ll continue to press into the songs of condemned copper miners. The brackets reminded me of a chorus as if the group was singing of the individual’s cause of demise. Actually, it’s an influence from a contemporary novel I’m loving to loathe. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is a beautifully written novel about a seemingly perfect couple (with brackets to denote narrative interruptions from the characterization of their marriage). They are not. And I’m having difficulty with pretention parading as suffering. But I’m pushing myself to dig deeper past my dislike to unravel the workings of the novel.

The Business of Writing class had a reading assignment that amused me because I like to go on about visions and vision-based goals. The article, How to Set Goals for the Life You Actually Want, echoes the Twitter chat I did in December about setting joyful goals. But I’m hoping to learn what I don’t know.

Today’s challenge is going to be something different. Susan Sleggs shared a gif that shows the daily cycle of a park bench, and it is full of different human stories in each timeframe. An option will be to watch the gif play out and write one of the scenes in a story. If the gif is inaccessible for some reason (technology), the prompt will remain “park bench.”

January 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a park bench. Use this gif to choose a timeframe and write the story behind that particular scene. Use the time as your title. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 28, 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.

9:30 by Charli Mills

Gina sat and talked about auras. Maizie chalked vivid colors on the sidewalk, capturing the world’s energy field. She said my daughter was an inquisitive “indigo” and that I was a wise “violet.” I leaned back on the bench, hand in hair, wanting to believe my aura held meaningful hues like she said. But as we walked back to our apartment, all  I could think about were the lonely shadows waiting inside. I wonder what color his aura was when my husband died in a botched training? In return, Maizie and I received a flag – red, white, and blue.


  1. Norah says:

    Hi Charli,
    Two sad flashes today. That’s unusual. Your first about the miner is very much like that of the miner who probably lost his life in a gold mine in Tasmania when it collapsed yesterday morning. Drones have been sent in as its too unsafe for people at the moment, but it is presumed the miner did not survive – sad. Also sad is the loss of three American firefighters who died when their plane crashed fighting our fires yesterday. The conditions are very dangerous and it is so sad that your firefighters died helping us out over here. That their contribution is much appreciated seems small mercy.
    It’s funny reading about your set reading in the writing course. Some of it I think you could have written. Perhaps you will learn something from another’s perspective. I guess that’s the whole idea. Enjoy!
    That park bench sees some action. I’m sure the stories will reveal all.

    • I hadn’t heard about either of those tragedies, Norah. Very sad as you head towards Australia Day.

      • Norah says:

        Thank you, Anne. Both are so sad. The country has mixed feelings about the celebration of Australia Day as it is.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ah, Norah, I didn’t know! The service of firefighters is not always appreciated for its risks until death. I’m sad to learn of the tragedy, yet it was what they were willing to give. Humbling to consider that humans would risk so much for others. As for the miner, he wants to feed his family, taking risks for corporations who would never stand in harm’s way and let others risk life for their marble mansions. Not very meliorist of me with that last thought. I’m not sure why I was waxing into sad tales — maybe first week jitters in school! I do hope to learn from other perspectives. Thanks!

      • Norah says:

        Yes, it is ‘humbling to consider that humans would risk so much for others’. That’s what helps us to be meliorists. There are more of those than of the other type you mention. Sadly, they are just not the ones in control. I think someone wise once said ‘the meek shall inherit the Earth’. Maybe our day is coming. The others aren’t doing much a job of it at the moment. We learn. Always. We learn. Have a good week.

      • Charli Mills says:

        We have that to hold us up, Norah — knowing no matter what, we learn. Have a good week!

    • Jules says:

      On of our local children’s groups has organized via a restaurant to have a percent of funds collected on a particular day to be donated to New South Wales’ Wildlife Information and Rescue and also to the New South Wares Rural Fire Service (which in a note says is the largest volunteer fire service in the world).

      It is sad to hear of any death related to any job or volunteer actions.

      May all who lost lives rest in peace …

      • Norah says:

        What a wonderfully generous gesture from the children’s groups and the restaurant. Thank you.
        Yes, the deaths are very sad. May they rest in peace and their families find comfort …

  2. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:   CARROT RANCH […]

  3. floridaborne says:

    I was once 13.

    Karma is a bitch.

    • Charli Mills says:

      They don’t yet know but alas, one day they will feel the bite of those snickers, Joelle. Yeah, we can recall being full of ourselves at 13.

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    Time for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt from Charli Mills and this week apart from another wonderful post on writing and imagination, Charli has provided a gif to use to spark our own creative thoughts… head over to read and to participate.

  5. I love the quote from Brene Brown but wasn’t sure if I understood your gripe with Lauren Goff. Is it that there’s a lot of poor-me stuff in the novel in relation to characters who actually have an easy life?
    Both your flash fiction pieces are very moving – although I couldn’t be doing that stuff about auras myself.
    I composed my 99-word story before reading your full post to complement a review on a novel about motherhood and mental health. Fortunately, there’s a time slot that more or less fits my story, but this is such a great idea for a prompt, I might push myself to do another one!
    Exile: A Long Petal of the Sea & Little Bandaged Days

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ultimately, Anne, my biggest gripe is the lack of character growth, stemming from characters (perhaps an author) who don’t understand real struggle because money protects them. There is grief in the novel that didn’t ring true, and in the end, no one grew or learned or felt enlightened. I felt cheated as a reader! The structure and mechanics were stellar. The story didn’t move me.

      Yes, I like most words that roll out of Brene Brown’s mouth.

      I was enchanted by this bench and I might even write another one, too. Thanks for yours and your review!

  6. […] January 22: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  7. […] in response to Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Somehow a very melancholy prompt. […]

  8. Charli,

    I love your 9:30 response. It’s so sad. I don’t know what it is about this prompt that’s so melancholy!

    Here’s my response — “6:00”

    Well, it was early morning yet. No need to worry.

    The old split wood knew he would come. He had always come. He had found that one area no one ever sits in at the park because it isn’t pretty, not really, and he had been so proud in himself, the silly little man.

    In time he had brought friends. Later there was a woman who knew what it was as much as him. Then children.

    Now the little man was old, but the bench sat very still for him, and when it heard his voice it was alive.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Caroline! There is something melancholy about the bench, especially at that spare 6:00 point, all alone and “old split wood.” It’s experienced much of life.

  9. Especially love your copper miner piece, Charli!

  10. A very interesting post, Charli, and the prompt is really unusual.

    • Charli Mills says:

      That bench life cycle has lots of potential! Thanks, Robbie.

      • Poor Young Geri and his family!
        Concentrating on one specific aspect, a microcosm, sometimes brings the bigger picture into a more approachable, human, and understandable reality.

        I don’t know that I’ve interpreted the prompt as you’d hoped. I’ve just started to read the stories from our other delightful Carrot Ranchers. I hope it’ll do, though. It is a departure for me.

  11. Pete says:


    My mother took her life on a park bench. It made the evening news. They spoke of tragedy, witnesses, of what drove her to such desperation.

    Sitting on the same bench, I wonder if the breeze gave her a chill or if the squawk of the geese reminded her of grandma’s pond. I hope her last thoughts were peaceful. It’s why I brought flowers to the place she died, not where she’s buried.

    But it’s no good, standing, sitting, people telling me she’ll show up.
    She won’t show up. And so I throw the flowers in the trash.

  12. dgkaye says:

    Loved the Copper Minor post Charli. Great image for a prompt, I’ll try my best. 🙂 x

  13. Jules says:


    As always an interesting and informative post. Your 99 words remind me of the flag I now possess that was given to my MIL when my FIL passed.

    I did a composite (which is sort of funny when you thing that most park benches are now a composite of plastics…) :

    An Acrostic of the Subjected Subject

    Placement, location; a free place to rest old bones
    Atmosphere dependent upon the continuum of reality’s timeline
    Rehearsals, rituals; just a place to pass en route; to and fro
    Kinetic action witnessed of who does or does not make use thereof

    Beacon of respite? Seat, table, bed. A voiceless witness of life’s vibrations.
    Entrenched; bolted in pavement… if flight were even possible on four steel legs
    Nicks and scratches heal without aid of medicinal plasters; just weathered air
    Cobbled recollections; laughter, joy, sorrow, nightmares – litter of memories
    Helpless to record what passes for this inanimate object… maybe not?


  14. This is an intriguing prompt… Off to watch the gif. (You know I adore Brené Brown. I think you know that. Hmm. Anyway, thanks for sharing that.)

  15. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. It’s a story. Call it Friday Fact or Fiction. Some stories will be 100% fact (or close to it) while others will be 100% fiction. Most will be a little bit of both. You, the reader, can delight in speculating where the story belongs.Today’s entry is in a category known as flash fiction. There are many other names (micro, mini, nano, etc) and a variety of different lengths (one-word stories, six-word stories, 12-word stories, 100 words, 500 words.) Carrot Ranch is a dynamic online literary community for those practicing their craft, reading stories and discussing the process. Charlie Mills hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt of “park bench.” […]

  16. Teresa Grabs says:

    Great prompt! Here is my take on 6:00 (it reflects on previous time stamps)

    Flashing red lights reflected off puddles on the asphalt. The silent procession made its way through the quiet, slumbering city. A forgotten man, a broken man, who served no purpose in society had slipped back among the stars. No news reporters or cameras. No weeping loved ones. A soul cast out, alone, but unafraid. And not without a friend. Mama squirrel romped around the bench looking, waiting for her friend. Sister pigeon cooed, calling for her friend. Cousin ant gathered by the bench’s leg, waiting for their crumbs. No, the broken man was not so broken. Just cast aside.

  17. “Dang. This prompt looks ta be a workout, Pal. Not sure I kin bench press 99 words.”
    “Here’s Kid with the weekly whine. Speakin’ a beer, did ya see thet Shorty’s still visionin’?”
    “Yep, she’s real big on vision questin’ an’ goal settin’. Got a positive outlook fer the future.”
    “No, I mean Visions. She’s got a window looks out inta the past.”
    “Does the Ranch have a window like that?”
    “Window’s wide open. Folks kin reflect an’ let their ‘maginations run free range here.”
    “Should shut that window. Ya never know what kinda characters might come through.”
    “Well, jeez, Pal. Last week it was hands in the air, standin’ up protestin’, now this week it’s ‘bout settin’ down on a bench. Ya ever even seen a bench aroun’ here? I’ll set alright. Gonna set this one out.”
    “So where ya headed, Kid?”
    “Might’s well set in the Poet Tree.”
    “Yer navel’s hardly a window on the world, Kid, but sure, go up yer tree an’ contemplate.”

    *history’s imprint
    heavy stories come to light
    bench pressing 99
    lifting portal lids, mirrors
    giving apparitions form*

    “Ya didn’t really follow the prompt Kid.”
    “I went where it led, Pal.”

  18. denmaniacs4 says:

    Some of my finest writing has been about benches, Charli. It’s not a huge amount but occasionally I slip into serious reflection. You need a solid bench for that.

    Park It

    “You’re benched, Potter.”

    “Coach, that’s nuts. I’m playing darn well.”

    “Not arguing with that. I agree, you’re channeling Gretsky.”

    “Then why you benching me?”

    “Stop hovering. Sit your arse down. I don’t appreciate a 6’9” fifteen-year-old sucking my air.”

    “Sorry coach. So, what’s your tofu with me.”

    “Potter, you know how much time you spend at the rink? Playing?

    “As much as I can, Coach.”

    “Every waking hour, boyo. You ever go outdoors? Walk in the park? Sit on your duff?”

    “No time for that stuff. I’m going to the NHL.”

    “But at what price, Potter. What price.”

  19. […] got this idea from Charli’s Carrot Ranch prompt this […]

  20. […] Click here to join other writers participating in the challenge. […]

  21. The pingback to entry for last week’s flash didn’t seem to work, so I include the link to this week’s saga of Doug, Sophie and Mike, Charli.

    Have a lovely weekend.

  22. 17:00

    I see you not seeing me. My chuckling hurries you on.
    Read somewhere about the ground being a mirror-line for an inversion of two realms, the living and the dead walking sole to sole. I chuckle to think there’s a frumpy old lady sitting on a park bench right underneath me.
    Yes, I read, and I think. My mind is sharp, but a little stroke’s made talking difficult.
    The pigeons don’t visit me for my conversation.
    I wouldn’t go to a doctor even if I could. I know I could have another stroke.
    I’m braver than I look too.

  23. 11:00

    He might be retired, but he keeps busy, keeps fit in mind and body. Every day a brisk walk through the park, then some time reading the daily news; he keeps up with current events like it is his sworn duty and obligation. So he assumes a scowl when rain interferes with his ritual, forcing him to repurpose the paper as an umbrella as he retraces his route.
    He retreats, dampened, secretly grateful for the rain that hides escaped tears; he fervently and futilely wishes the world’s woes could be as easily washed away as a child’s chalk drawings.

  24. […] is a very intriguing Carrot Ranch January 23, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a park bench. Use this gif to choose a […]

  25. I was very moved by the post that introduces this week’s challenge, particularly “Gerard’s Tale.”

  26. Too Late

    No, Ma’am, we can’t be sure that he went back through the park. Nobody remembers seeing him.
    Yes. I assure you we are.
    I know. But the men that were there playing chess at his usual time do not remember seeing him. He could have walked right by them, but they can’t say.
    Ma’am? We won’t give up.
    What? He’s back!
    Following a dog?
    Oh, no Ma’am, don’t tell me you want to kill him.
    It’s so good he’s home and okay.
    Yes, Ma’am. So. Did he catch the dog?
    Ha! We’ll keep an eye out.
    Yes. Good night Ma’am.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The emotion comes through clearly in this one-sided tale! Clever structure, Kid’s wrangler.

      • Yep, I was just playing here. It’s a little better polished in the catching machine. I was interested by the two quiet characters who walked by twice in the 24 hours, the kid with the back pack and the guy with the little dog on the leash. This raw piece also acknowledges the wildish dog that has two appearances. (while I don’t believe in penis envy, there’s something about statementing with a simple smooth lift of the leg as the unleashed dog does) (SO THANK YOU SUSAN SLEGS FOR PROMPTING PERFESSOR MILLS WITH THE GIFT OF THIS GIF) PS the all caps was an accident whilst typing.

  27. […] was written for Carrot Ranch for a very cool prompt. If you’d like to have a go, click here. Thanks, Charli and Susan Sleggs for this wonderfully innovative […]

  28. I loved your words, Charli. As always, I’m left with something to think about.

    Thanks to you guys who have been so wonderful to comment on me. I’m getting my act together and will try to be more in evidence here. I appreciate you all and this group! Sincerely!

    My effort for this prompt is here:

    Thank you.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sascha! I’m happy that we get to share thoughts and inspiration. To me, it’s what makes literary art accessible. Thank you for your appreciation!

      Your flash is one of those turning points in life that can happen hastily and linger as regret. Well done.

  29. […] this week’s Flash Fiction challenge at Charli Mills’ CarrotRanch – In 99 words write a story about this […]

  30. […] From this gif, as prompted by Charli at Carrot Ranch. […]

  31. […] week’s #carrotranch prompt […]

  32. susansleggs says:

    Charli, The images you see in a dark window created by shadows and your mind are fascinating. Our own mortality does indeed frighten us at times. I’m writing down the books you mention to get from the library. Reading for construction, and content, is a good exercise. I’m glad you found the gif as interesting as I did. It wasn’t easy to get it to fit my series at first, but it worked…


    Kera straddled Brent on the park bench. “I love you and getting engaged has made me very happy, but doing this without protection is a bit scary.”
    “We’ve been talking about kids and when I told Mom about the ring she said Michael was looking forward to her having grandchildren. They just might get one sooner than any of us thought.”
    “My Mom would only be upset about not getting to plan the perfect wedding.”
    “A perfect wedding would be our families and friends in this park.”
    “I’d prefer a church but this would be fine, if we must.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Way to boldly jump into midnight, Susan. I’d like to think we all have such impulsive moments we look back on. And some of us can count those moments by children, lol. Thank you for sharing this gif and finding a way to make it work for your unfolding series. I’m glad you can look up these books at your library!

  33. […] -Charli Mills, January 23 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  34. The two flashes were poignant but had a good take home lesson, Charli.

    My take:

  35. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (01/23/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a park bench. Use this gif to choose a timeframe and write the story behind that particular scene. Use the time as your title. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  36. Liz H says:

    So many stories to be told with this prompt and that GIF, but l leave you with one here, and a fuller version on my blog site, if you wish to visit.

    She supposed she should scatter birdseed, as her grandson often admonished her.

    Her widow’s pension was meant for sustenance, not luxury, so she shared what she had. The birds didn’t object. They gathered at her feet at this park bench, every day at 5 pm.

    She prayed on it, asking for a sign. A brush of wings, a whisper in her ear. “Look left, and many thanks, Svetlana.”

    On the trash bin’s edge sat a half-dozen perfect red roses, reminiscent of the sweet nosegays gathered by her gallant Sergei.

    What she wouldn’t give for one more walk with him.

    [Continue ]

  37. I have a short piece (somewhere) that begins with the MC sitting on a park bench in Paris smoking a cigarette in the rose-gold of the pre-dawn morning. I’ve been hunting for it because I want to revisit and expand it. This prompt reminded me of that story.
    But I will endeavor to have something new for this challenge!

  38. […] This was written with the prompt about a story involving a park bench provided by the Carrot Ranch January 23 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  39. The Bench
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Hanna walked toward the pasture’s evening light, veering off to where she had seen the trail. Pushing past the bushes, the pungent freshness of the rain that had fallen earlier in the day engulfed her. The overgrown track took her to the creek and a surprised. It had seen better days, but the weathered bench felt sound when she sat on it.

    Closing her eyes to the setting sun, her mind danced with memories until the sound of a shutter clicking brought her back to reality.

    Striding from the sanctuary, Hanna knew the days of being alone were gone.

  40. […] here to read stories or to join in with one of your […]

  41. Michael B. Fishman says:

    “young Geri”… You made me feel like I want to and march with people somewhere for something.

  42. […] in response to January 22, 2019, flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

  43. 9:00

    The day was sunny and warm so Victoria decided to take her little boy to the park. Jamie held his mother’s hand as they crossed the street and walked to the playground.

    Jamie loved the slides, and Torie loved the Little Free Library that was adjacent to the bench. There was always a good selection of books for both kids and adults.

    As Jamie played nearby with his trucks, Torie chose Shrader Marks: Keelhouse from the library and began to read. She also chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar for Jamie’s naptime.

    Tomorrow, she’d bring a couple books to share.

    Nancy Brady, 2020

    (modified from the original, and just in the nick of time)

  44. Well, I think I made it! I had my story all worked out…and then realized I hadn’t actually used the GIF as the prompt. SO. I found a time that worked, did a little adjusting, and…well, we’ll see. LOL

    Park Bench – 15:00 Hours

    Jean-Luc sat easily on the park bench, one arm draped over the back. He pulled a slow, hard drag from his cigarette, inhaling the afternoon heat.

    “Your first time in Paris, monsieur?”

    The man’s aroma suggested it had been some time since he bathed.

    “I’ve been…away for many years.”

    “I know places to see, monsieur. For a few francs?”

    “Tell you what, brother,” said Jean-Luc. He stood, stuffed the cigarette between his lips, and unbuttoned his prison drab. “How about the shirt off my back instead?”

    Handing the shirt to the stranger, Jean-Luc walked bare-chested out of the garden.

  45. […] skipped the last two prompts from Carrot Ranch, one didn’t interest me enough and one felt more controversial than I wanted to to […]

  46. 23:30

    Young and vibrant, the couple first met when he was a sailor on one of the Great Lakes ore boats. He was the ship’s cook, and she, a teacher.

    Whenever he came into Huron, the pair met at the park overlooking Lake Erie. Over time, their love grew with kisses, cuddles, and poetry. Eventually, they married, settling here.

    Sixty-four years later, they celebrate once again. She has dementia; he has Parkinson’s, but their love is still strong.

    In the park where they once met is a bench with a dedication to them: “The sailor comes home from the sea.”

    Nancy Brady, 2020

    (a little late, but I needed to tell this story of this couple…dedicated to Bob and Shirley).

  47. […] Observations from a Park Bench Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story about a park bench. Word count:  99 […]

  48. beetleypete says:

    Many thanks for following my blog, Charli.
    I have seen your fiction challenge on other blogs, but I don’t think I can get my stuff down as low as 99 words. I usually think anything under 500 is pushing it. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

Comments are closed.

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

Be a Patron of Literary Art

Donate Button with Credit Cards

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

Proud Member

Stories Published Weekly

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills


Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,743 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: