January 30: Flash Fiction

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 30, 2020

A wisp of tarragon grows from a small pot in my windowsill, a gentle summer monk on a cold winter path to enlightenment. Or maybe not. Maybe, a frail twig of indoor tarragon dreams that one day it might be a hardy spear outside rooted in real dirt. How about — the emergence of tarragon in winter was unexpected as a pregnancy at age 50. Even — the tarragon leaned like a colt on spindly legs toward the window, seeking sunnier pastures.

What am I doing here, you might be pondering? I’m characterizing the upstart of growth in my kitchen herb box, surprised by the frail determination of tarragon I thought dormant. You see, this term of my MFA focuses on character development. Not only do I get to be Dr. Frankenstein to Danni Gordon, but I’m also tasked to bring life to her novel-mates. Thus, I’m practicing on a personified herb.

Character traits come in two forms — external and internal. Which do you dive into first? For me, character development is internal, considering who the character is and why. How did they get to be that way? What personality traits do I use to share the sense of this person with a reader? External traits help, and some are necessary if it matters to the story or character’s growth.

Take gender, for example. It’s an important external trait, typically. We want to know if Harry Potter is a boy or girl. Little Women would be silly if the characters turned out to be male (or perhaps profound with a deliberate framing). I recently read The Whale in the Wolf by Jordanna Max Brodsky. It’s the story of Omat, a small clan’s next shaman. The character is born to a young widow following a tragic accident on the ice that claimed all the young hunters (there were four, which conveys how small and vulnerable this group of people are). The baby is limp, the mother has expired, and the midwife abandons the newborn to the elements. The next day, a wolf appears over the baby who has survived the night, heralding the child as the new guide to a people whose hunting skills also rely on pleasing the spirits.

As a reader, we follow the child’s upbringing through his own story. We know he is small, has two freckles on his cheek from his mother’s final tears at birth, and is male. Omat was the name of his uncle. It’s believed that the spirit of the wolf and Omat reside in this young apprentice to the spirit realm. Those are the external traits. Internally, we learn that Omat is fiercely loyal to his family, determined to succeed as a shaman and a hunter, learning at every chance. A serious and studious person. He recognizes the jealousy of his older brother, who is bigger and stronger but envies Omat’s abilities. As characters, they are a striking contrast in personality. This deepens our understanding of who the Inuit are — individuals, and yet dependant upon group dynamics for survival.

Internal characteristics enrichen a story. They are the traits we can slip into. When we feel like Harry Potter or Omat, we don’t become boys. Instead, we become the personalities having experiences we relate to through the characters. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what shade of green a character’s eyes; it matters that we can see through her eyes and experience a new culture, past event, or future predicament. Internal traits embody the emotion of a novel, which is where character growth resides. Note: character growth is not a mandate, but it is an element crucial to some genres. For example, both characters must grow in romance to experience the happily ever after (or good enough for now) ending. Contemporary character-driven novels often hang a satisfying conclusion upon that growth.

Yet external traits come into play with that growth (or character arc), too. Those freckles, dark hair and coloring, and size add up to Omat’s unattractiveness to a blond, strapping Viking he’s rescued when later trying to find his brother. Brodsky manages to develop a natural unfolding of two people from different cultures through a process of friendship. Both find their external traits initially repulsive, but as they become friends and build trust to survive the harsh climate and rescue of Omat’s brother. In a way, this phenomenon shows that looks matter less than intention and action.

What is surprising is that one physical trait becomes the cornerstone of character growth for Omat. He was actually born a female biologically. The reader learns of this early on and comes to understand that Inuit have three genders because of their belief in ancestor souls returning to the newborn of their clan. It’s a complicated system where one’s son might also be a grandfather. And, in the case of Omat, the male spirit inhabited the baby girl. The book is Omat’s identity struggle physically, spiritually, and between cultures. It’s intricately written and well-plotted to be concerned for Omat on many levels.

According to one of my professors and the books I’m currently plowing through, every character has a core trait. For example, Omat’s concern for clan survival formed the core of a person who learned to accept both a woman’s body and a male spirit. Every plot point that emerged, Omat responded from failure or success to integrate self with survival. Another way to look at core personality is to examine psychology or personality tests. I once did numerology on the birthdates for the historical characters in Rock Creek and gained valuable insight.

Do you have to go take the Meyers Briggs for your character as I did for Danni Gordon? No. But you do need to have a core internal trait that guides your character’s actions and growth. As authors, we run the risk of developing characters who are flat, false, or familiar (to ourselves). If you want as deep  of a dive as I’m currently submerged in, here are some reading materials:

  • Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke
  • Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey (recommended by Jeff Gerke)
  • The Psychology Workbook for Writers by Darian Smith (I’d buy one from Anne Goodwin)
  • Writer’s Guide to Characterization by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (and yes, it includes the Hero’s Journey)

I’m also reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and recognizing why this book won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It’s a portrait of one woman’s life through the multiple perspectives of those who know her. It spans numerous decades but is not linear, with each chapter reading like a short story from different periods of her life. Some chapters aren’t even about her but have something to reveal who she is. It’s a remarkable contemporary novel and has saved me from the despair after having clawed my way through Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.

It’s important to read as a writer.

Read your genre. Read yesterday’s classics and today’s big prize winners. Read independents and small presses. Read what you like and define why. Study what succeeds even if you are not the target reader. Build your apprenticeship that not only takes you where you want to go but also gives you a fabulous journey along the way. Write daily. Plot fairy tales in the shower for practice. Talk about what you read or wrote and why either moved you.

Like a single sprig of tarragon, we grow our gardens from the faintest ideas to the strongest cores.

With winter piled upon the Keweenaw and garden season far away, I wondered what it must like to be a mail carrier in extreme conditions or unusual locations. How does the character’s core trait interact with such environments? What conditions can happen on the job to create a conflict, tension, or a plot twist?

January 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a postal carrier in an extreme situation. Even if you base your story on a true one, focus on the core trait of this postal carrier. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 4, 2020. 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.

Tough-Minded to the Core by Charli Mills

Poking at her glass eye with a felted mitten, Frankie yelled over the storm, “Ain’t no use, Burt. Can’t get through this detestable blizzard.”

Burt relied on her to find shelter. With one eye, she followed flagged Ponderosa pines back to the ridge where she stored supplies in a cavern. “This is why we scouted last summer, Burt.”

Prepared to ride out the storm, Frankie secured the US mailsack, unsaddled Burt, and cleaned her glass eye while beans bubbled in a tin over a crackling fire. Burt nickered for more oats. Just another day delivering mail to mining camps.

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  1. robbiesinspiration

    A very interesting story about Omat, Charli. The gender information is unexpected to me. I enjoyed your piece.

    • Charli Mills

      Brodsky has a great scene early on where Omat confronts her physical gender. I think it’s well done and expands the idea of what gender is, who decides, and for what reasons. Thanks for reading, Robbie!

    • Liz Gauffreau

      I enjoyed Charli’s piece as well.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Liz!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Hey, Boss. Wondering if you meant to say February 4th for the due date.
    Did you know that my mother’s father was a rural mail carrier in the great state of VT? You’d think I’d have a story. I liked yours. I know someone who will likely retell it but more from Burt’s point of view. (would that make it pony express?)

      • Charli Mills

        Farfenuggens pile up!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for having my six on the third/fourth. Errorists eliminated.

      I wish I knew Burt’s real name. I knew Frankie as Weezie, but she was not a mail carrier. She and (Burt) rode the backcountry to maintain telegraph lines. She was tough-minded, prepared, and fond of cleaning her glass eye. She came to mind to color the core of this character.

      It’s over the long-haul of a novel where a writer needs to be consistent. Having a core trait decided helps when we have to write through a situation as our character. Gerke writes how plot-driven authors are notorious for using characters to shift plot regardless of trait consistency. Michael Crichton had a fastidious scientist litter because that litter was needed to spark a plot point but made no sense to the character.

      Someone should tell Burt’s version!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Long haul of a novel… core traits… you’re telling me this why?

      • Charli Mills

        So you’ll be prepared to ride out the storm. At least you got both eyes!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        First things first; I seem to have trouble putting my butt in a chair. Can barely manage to write the weekly scatterings of farfenuggens.

      • Charli Mills

        Dropped a farfennugen in the wrong reply chain. They pile up and eventually provide great fertilizer!

  3. Norah

    What a fascinating flash. That would be a difficult postal delivery for sure. I had to read it a few times to fully understand where they were, who they were and what was going on, but once I twigged (like your little tarragon plant) it all made perfect sense.
    I was interested in what you wrote about Omat and the male spirit inhabiting the baby girl. Seems our societies may have a lot of catching up to do. I wonder why so much of the old wisdoms were lost.
    While few in the postal service in Australia had to contend with snow and blizzards, many had to deal with long distances and alternatively, drought or flooded rivers.
    I recently read (by ear) a contemporary prize-winning Australian novel that combines character and plot beautifully. I think it’s a wonderful first novel and look forward to reading many more from the same author. It is from the perspective of a boy (growing into a man) about the same age, as my son who grew up around here, so the setting is very familiar. It is called Boy Swallows Universe and the author is Trent Dalton (just in case anyone is interested).

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you pointed out that my flash was disorienting because I wrestled with that issue. I rewrote my flash numerous times to focus on the core character trait and as I rearranged or eliminated words, I ended up cutting out place and time. I intended to be elusive about Burt, having in mind those who treat their horses like partners. There are always so many layers for us to manage in writing so our artistry also has clarity!

      Even today, the Inuit acknowledge the spirit of their ancestors returning to newborns and many Native Americans, Anishinaabe included, recognize two-spiritedness. I often wonder how much was suppressed by Victorians and I often worry about what might come next with our shifting cultural tides. But I loved how the story of Omat explored a person coming to terms with their own identity.

      Thank you for sharing the book and author you recently read. I need another good Australian novel, having finished The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.

      I’m thinking mail carriers in the bush must have some crazy stories! Or what about during the fires? Did service stop, or get diverted?

      • Norah

        I enjoyed your ambiguity about Burt. I did get it in the end. Maybe I was reading a little too quickly at first. When I slowed down and did what ‘they’ call ‘close’ reading, I got it and appreciated how you had put it together. I think the effect of treating Burt as an equal works well. It was what threw me at first.
        I agree with you about Omat’s journey and personal exploration, also the effects of Victorian times.
        I read The Slap many years ago and really enjoyed it. Boy Swallows Universe is very different.
        Great questions about mail carriers. I was hoping to join in this time but I think I’m going to have to put my participation on hold for a while. I look forward to joining in when I can. Always love your posts though, and read as many of the responses to your prompts as I can. Have a great week.

      • Jules

        I got a little caught up in that pregnant at 50 – cause for a Whoa, stop, back up….

        Some faiths believe that the Creator is all gender and maybe more. As humans were created in the said image of. And that the union of two (and I don’t thing it really matters opposites or the same) combine to create a whole in the union of a couple.

        There seems that much has been lost in regards to natural things. Take some other animals that can change gender in order to continue their kind. When love is bountiful is that not magic enough? But then you can get trapped in narrow definitions of ‘love’.

      • Charli Mills

        The Slap would be a great book to Xray read and study for how it was constructed. Have a great week, Norah!

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Any mail, Kid?”
    “In this storm? I’m keepin’ an eye out fer Frankie. Reckin mebbe she’s holed up at Ernie’s?”
    “I heard she’s had her eye on Ernie since Wanda changed zip codes. I jist hope if she’s there she keeps her hands off the corn juice. I always have ta one-eye it after thet but thet might leave Frankie in the dark.”
    “Pal, we’s characters. But what’s our character? How d’ya s’pose folks see us?”
    “Well, yer the whiny one an’ I’m the wise one.”
    “Hmmph. Yer the cantankerous one. I’m the sophisticated one.”
    “Look! Frankie’s here!”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Frankie, come in. Kid’ll take care a Burt, put ‘im up in the barn.”
      “Readers take note- Pal’s bossy.”
      “Shush, Kid. They know I’m an experienced ranch hand thet’s earned the right ta delegate certain chores ta greenhorn hangers-on sech as you.”
      “Yer both kind ta bring me in. It’s pilin’ up out there. Shoulda stayed in my cave, or stopped at Ernie’s. But I have a letter for you. Here. Now I kin git some shut-eye till the storm abates.”
      “That letter’s bait. Who’s it from, Pal?”
      “Dunno. Thinkin’ our writer has no clue either.”
      “Hmmph. That’s characteristic.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “Ok, Pal, I’m back. Burt’s rubbed down an’ fed an’ settled inta a cozy stall. Now, tell me about that letter.”
        “Shush, Kid, Frankie’s gittin’ some shut-eye.”
        “Wish she’d consider shut-eyes, Pal, cain’t she put a lid on that glass one?”
        “Shush! Oops. Shhh. Kid, thet letter was… fan mail.”
        “Fan mail! For you?!”
        “The mail must go through!”
        “Sorry Frankie, go back ta sleep. Who is it Pal?”
        “It ain’t signed.”
        “What’s it say?”
        “Says they ‘preciate me is all. Why ya grinnin’, Kid?”
        “I wrote it Pal.”
        “Really? Why?”
        “’Expressin’ ma gratitude.”
        “Seems outta character, Kid.”

    • Charli Mills

      At their core, these two are characters! Interesting how each perceives their internal trail differently. It’s good to listen to your characters. Now I’m cracking up! As if you don’t have enough characters in your head, Frankie jumped ship and is pestering you. Send her back ove the mountain if she get’s out of hand!

    • Jules

      What’s the definition of character anyways? A series worthy of handy ranch hands. 😀

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Jules, scroll down to the bottom to see this revised. There’s a mission.

      • Jules

        Ohh… thanks for the update… I’ll be back….

    • Jules

      Got ‘er done… in the comments
      Look for: Ropin’ In Verse (in 99 words)

  5. Doug Jacquier

    A Man Out Here
    A man out here that whinged about the bush flies in his eyes, up his nose and in his ears wouldn’t be a man and Harry would never have that said of him. Out here, a man who couldn’t fix a snapped axle on a mail truck in a dry creek bed wouldn’t be worth feedin’. As for thinking he could hear the roar of an oncoming train, well, a man’d have to be a mental case to pay it any attention. So he got on with it, until the flash flood carried him and the mail miles downstream.

    • susansleggs

      Oh my…I have heard that wild swooshing water can sound like a train barreling down. Yikes. Seems a good mailman was lost.

    • Charli Mills

      Doug, your title is a great reflection of the anticipated character, someone to survive “out here.” And “snapped axel on a mail truck” is such a sharp detail. It would be hard to be the carrier to replace him.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A tragic tale of a manly man, well told.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Doug!

  6. Becky Ross Michael

    Love “Tough-Minded to the Core,” Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for reading, Becky!

  7. denmaniacs4

    Dead-Letter Drop

    He was a spy fan, old Clarence was. Mailman by day, James Bond in his head by night.

    Life held few mysteries for Clarence. No adventures. Just methodically serving his regular route in our hamlet, getting to know the people, forming friendships, sharing part of their lives.

    When a customer died, word would spread, correspondence would stop, time would move on.

    For a few, the lonelier ones, the occasional letter still showed up.

    Before he’d return to sender, he’d steam open the envelope, visit the grave, read the epistle in the sinking twilight, reseal, send it on its way.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Wow; he even delivers sole to sole, to the after-address.
      It does make you think this, all the people a mail carrier sees come and go, the changes in the land and in local properties.

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, that’s the story of a carrier dedicated to those he served. I enjoyed your opening two lines, too!

    • nightlake

      Somehow, this reminded me of Bartleby, the Scrivener…so well-written.

    • Jules

      There was a show I used to watch based on finding the homes of ‘dead letter items… I think it was on the Hallmark Channel… but since we switched providers I don’t get it anymore…

      Going above and beyond to find the owner of lost mail…

  8. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I think we require fictional characters to be more consistent than people are in real life, although it’s also true that we expect others to be more consistent than we are ourselves.
    I actually cringe at the prospect of books on psychology directed at writers but I haven’t really thought through why.
    I’m fascinated by the concept of two-spirit identities in Native American cultures which I first encountered in a novel by Patrick Gale
    Did you ever read it? You certainly commented on the post! You’d be better placed than I to judge if it’s rendered authentically.
    I liked your 99-word story and could picture that shape shifting landscape. My story is about a postal worker in challenging situation both geographically and politically, influenced by a recent read about a claustrophobic island and – although I was trying to ignore it – Brexit day here in the UK.

    • Charli Mills

      Well, the opening line to one of the books I’m reading claims, “Writing is a form of psychology.” I could probably think of a few reasons why psychology in the hands of writers might feel like letting a toddler drive a car. But I do find insights in the readings.

      That was an engaging review, but I have not yet read Patrick Gale’s book. Strange how some cultures see certain human actions or states of being as natural and others freak out over anything that doesn’t conform.

      My condolences on Brexit.

      • Ritu


    • Jules

      Reminded me of 1313 Mockingbird Lane… the home of Herman Munster… They had something living under the main stairs…

      • Ritu

        They did indeed!

      • Jules


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu!

  9. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    Get ready to flex your creative muscles for this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction set by Charli Mills.. this week the prompt is a mail carrier in extreme conditions… I look forward to seeing the recap.. I am sure there will be some great responses.

  10. dgkaye

    Loved this. And this is the 3rd time I’ve heard of that book Olive Kitteridge. That’s it! I’m off to Amazon. <3

  11. Liz Gauffreau

    I enjoyed reading your post about characterization. I know that I have my character’s core trait down when I reread a scene and say, No, she wouldn’t say that, or No, she wouldn’t do that.

    • Jules

      Had that in real life with our postal carrier and our old neighbor – saved his life. The guy had fallen and couldn’t get up. The one neighbor insisted that he get one of those call buttons once he got home from the hospital.

  12. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    Thank you for sharing so much of your own journey as a writer.
    I love the way you have expressed this in your blog.

    “It’s important to read as a writer.
    Read your genre. Read yesterday’s classics and today’s big prize winners. Read independents and small presses. Read what you like and define why.
    Study what succeeds even if you are not the target reader”.

    “Build your apprenticeship that not only takes you where you want to go but also gives you a fabulous journey along the way.”


    • Pete

      I agree. Read. A lot!

  13. Jules


    I remember a few storms we had to put out a box in a snow bank because the rural route driver couldn’t get to the mail box. But one year we were a bit miffed when the only delivery was a note that said; “I can’t deliver your mail because I can’t get to your mail box!”

    I went simple with: Special Delivery

  14. Jules

    OOps I forgot to post the story – Here it is…

    Special Delivery
    (by JulesPaige)

    Stan was the rooster of his route. He even made friends with the nasty fowl goose that Mrs. Lucy Chang had as a pet. He worked in fair and foul weather. The hardest, most extreme day was when he had to tell his customers he was retiring. They had all become his second family. Being a mail carrier had brought him a comfortable life for him and his wife.

    Stan’s coworkers had raised monies to pay the fare to see the Grand Canyon up close and personal. That’d put his daily strides to good use on the happy trails.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yes, his job would have prepared him well for retirement. Happy trails indeed, what thoughtful coworkers.

  15. Susan Zutautas

    Jumping back into the saddle after a short (long to me) break this is the first thing I’ve written in a while. So glad to be back. I loved this FFC and enjoyed your flash Charli. Will be back to read others flashes shortly.

    • Pete

      Love the compassion in this piece, Susan. Well done!

      • Susan Zutautas

        Thanks so much, Pete!

  16. Teresa Grabs

    Great prompt! Here’s my take on it:

    Always on the Job

    For sixty-two years Franklin drove down Route 3, turned left at the old Wilson place, headed out to Mrs. Cooper’s on Route 6, and waved at the kids running and playing tag during recess. Six days a week, rain or shine; even on that fateful winter day in ’74 when the blizzard hit early and the truck broke down by Mrs. Sampson’s place. For sixty-two years he saw to the needs of the town’s rural residents. Everyone questioned his absence and mourned his passing–until a silvery-mist traveled down Route 3 and turned left at the old Wilson place.

    • susansleggs

      I’m old enough to remember how important the mail arrival was each day. Never thought of how the mailman feels about that not being as true anymore.

  17. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ranch Yarns Revised and Reaching Out

    “Who could thet be in this storm? Open the door Kid.”
    “Frankie! Come in. Burt’s in the barn already? Dang! Cain’t believe ya ventured through this blizzard.”
    “Prob’ly shoulda stayed in my cave, but I have a letter for you. Here. Fine’ly I kin put my feet up an’ rest my eye fer a bit.”
    “Who’s it from, Pal?”
    “Dunno. Thinkin’ our writer has no clue either.”
    “Hmmph. That’s characteristic.”
    “Look, it’s a invitation.”
    “Where ya bin invited ta?”
    “No, it’s invitin’ the other ranch hands ta write the letter. Ta us. In 99 words, no more, no less.”

    Dear Ranch Hands,

    I didn’t like where the first Yarns ended up, that’s what I get for rushing them off in my sleep. Wrote myself into a corner with the arrival of the letter.
    So if anyone would like to write that letter, addressed to ANY Carrot Ranch Yarn character*, in 99, 59, or 9 words, please do so. That’s right, interactive Yarns.
    Just drop the letters off here in the comments. Thanks.

    D. Avery

    * Kid, Pal, Shorty, Aussie, Doc Ranger, The Poet Lariat, Pepe Legume, Ornery Ernie, Wanda, Frankie, Nanjo, Loggatha LeGume, Slim Chance… I think that’s it.

    • susansleggs

      59 word letter…….

      Dearest Ranch Hands,
      I look forward to your stories. Lots of times you make me laugh and there is always some excitement added, or thought to ponder. You’ve also shown me how to accomplish meeting the prompt’s expectations, especially during the Rodeo. You’ve helped me improve as a fellow “hand.”
      Thanks for letting me ride with you.
      Susan Sleggs

      9 word note………

      Thank you for showin’ others how Ranch writin’ works.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Dear Susan,

        What a thoughtful note regarding the work of all the Carrot Ranch hands (including yourself) I would try to tell you how much I have learned here but that would use up a lot of the allotted words.
        This is a fine bunch to ride with! Amazing, week after week.

        Now that you have shown us how it’s done perhaps others will also be prompted to put letters in Frankie’s mailbag. These can be addressed to any of the Yarn characters and can be an opportunity to ask a burning question.

        Thanks for playing, Susan!

        D. Avery

      • Jules

        Ropin’ In Verse (in 99 words)

        Roses are red
        Violets are blue
        Adore all the Hands at the Ranch
        That one ‘hudret’ percent true
        (Though mine own self I like alot –
        Some days the prompts
        Put me in a spot…)

        We’re all seekin the right combination
        To keep our friends attentions
        Sharpen’ our pencils
        Making sure our pens have ink
        ‘Specially when we choose
        To challenge ourselves
        Every week to the edge, the brink

        Of what we think are limitations
        Of our imaginations…
        Keeping our learning sharp
        Accepting all for their worth
        Because characters matter
        As we pursue and fine tune
        The Literary Arts!

        -The Poet Lariat

        (©JP/dh )

      • susansleggs

        Well done Jules. I can hear you reading this aloud.

      • Jules

        I did have fun writing it… 😀

    • susansleggs

      “Does Pepe Legume use his scent as a weapon?”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Dear Meez Suzan,
        Eet ees I, Monsieur LeGume. I use your question to remin’ one an’ all dat dees ees a very safe place, dees Ranch, dees Buckaroo Nation, so no, dees scent for wheech I am known, eet ees my supar power, but ees not ever a weapon. While day say dat de best defence is a strong offence, I believe in de free range principles of dees Ranch, derefore, no fence. Where I come from we say ‘better a stinker dan a sinker’ an’ ‘just wait, eet weel dissipate’.
        Suzan, weapons stink up de world. Try love.

    • Pete

      Wow, I could feel his exhaustion. Almost there, Mr. Postman. Great Take!

  18. susansleggs

    Charli, Your explanation of Omat’s gender has me rethinking it might not be a clear cut thing for some. I’m sure I will enjoy reading his story more than I am Fates and Furies. (I’m on page 55 and there is no clear problem to resolve.) I’m overwhelmed by the fact of how little I really know about writing and the ways to learn about it and improve. I just realized I didn’t put my mailman in a conflict so if you want to delete my flash from the submissions I understand, plus the word admiral should be admirable. Yikes. On to the prompt…

    Changing Vocations

    In the PTSD group, a young war vet hung his head. “I quit nursing school because I had a panic attack every time I got near patients.”
    Michael nodded with understanding, “Nothing to be ashamed of. What drew you to nursing?”
    “I wanted to feel useful and help other people plus I’m good with details.”
    “Admirable strengths. Well suited to a mailman. Delivering in all sorts of weather would be like serving.”
    Six months later. “I dig my mail route and I met a gal that asked where and when I served, not what I did in the Army.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You had a character in conflict and becoming a mailman was the solution! I learned something important too from that last line. This is an admiral piece, that is you show a command of the subject. Keep going with this Michael.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks D.

  19. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Here is my submission: “Mr. Prichard, are you home?”

    Jeanine nudged the door further ajar. Why was Mr. Prichard’s door open, she wondered? Her instincts kicked in. The hairs on her arm stood on end.

    Regulations required postal workers to be alert for older patrons. If they didn’t pick up their mail regularly, a call to the police was mandatory.

    But Mr. Prichard was her friend, and she couldn’t leave without making sure he was safe. She stepped inside the kitchen. The old man lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Without thinking, she dialed her phone.

    “911 what’s your emergency?”

    ©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro


    In my story above, Jeanine exhibited caring, effort, initiative, and courage when she recognized that something was wrong at Mr. Prichard’s house. Those core traits will make her a hero in any story. What a great lesson, Charli! Thank you. <3

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Is that really in the regulations, part of their training? I’ve heard hero postal worker stories and suspect the story wouldn’t change with or without the regulations.
      Just now I am remembering a conversation at grad school around a sociogram in which the subject had included their post person. Some though that sad and extreme, but there it is, these are people with daily contact with many other people, so it’s good to have the Jeanines within the postal corps.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Yes, I seem to recall that somewhere. Maybe, I read that it is a requirement now?

    • Jules

      Being an alert Delivery Person helped on of my neighbors…
      Got another neighbor he knew had a key and together they rescued our local vet who had a fall!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Oh yikes! For older folks living alone they need that help. Where I live, we have to walk to the mailboxes for our mail. The postal folks have no contact with their patrons.

      • Jules

        Those Mailbox Trees… very impersonal. I supposed there’s some efficiency – but it lacks that personal touch. Which too much of is lost… Though there was an article a while back that said something like – get to know your at least your neighbor on either side of you… just in case you too might need help.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Yes, I agree Jules. I do know my neighbors so that helps. ????

  20. Sascha Darlington

    Excellent flash, Charli. She definitely sounds tough to the core if she’s out there with one eye in a howling blizzard!
    I read Olive Kitteridge and loved it. There’s a sequel now that I’m hoping to read as soon as I get time.
    Here’s my story for this week: https://saschadarlington.me/2020/02/03/route-6-amwriting/

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      Thanks, nightlake! Riding on over…

  21. pedometergeek

    Working Conditions (BOTS)

    Recently, a postman climbed out of his truck, grabbing a package to deliver. Although his vehicle was pulled to the side of the road, he was sideswiped by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. The driver didn’t stop; he hit the man and kept going.

    Sustaining injuries that included two broken legs and a crushed pelvis, Carl was off work recovering for more than a year.

    Now, all the post office trucks around here sport a red flag. The flag is a recent addition, but became necessary to protect the men and women who deliver the mail, particularly packages.

    Nancy Brady, 2020

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      I always wonder about mail carriers when I see them out walking, climbing over people’s landscaping at mailboxes, fending off bees and dogs, delivering on the “wrong” side of the road. Not an easy job! Do the trucks in your area actually have these flags?

      • pedometergeek

        This accident happened because he was reaching into the truck to grab a package and his back was turned away from the traffic (but toward the road) when the driver hit him.
        And to answer your question: yes, our mail trucks do now have a red flag attached to the rear end of the truck. ~nan

      • Lisa A. Listwa

        A more dangerous job than most might think!

  22. eLPy

    Fabulous informative post. Thank you for sharing this. I know I need more dynamic characters for my WIP and your piece is a great guiding light. And you wrote it well. 🙂

    I’m a day behind so I won’t submit here but I went ahead and wrote a flash fiction piece. I too chose to put my carrier through a storm though in a much more run of the mill setting. I like your creativity and imagination in your piece, the glass eye, the horse, in the woods and mining camps. Great work. 😀

  23. Pete

    I wasn’t stealing. At least, it wasn’t my intention to steal.

    But the mail never stopped. Coupons, political ads, sweepstakes, magazines, flyers, return services, surveys, forms… There isn’t enough time in the day. My routes weren’t finished. I had to put it somewhere.

    The storage unit cost me $49 bucks a month. I planned to go back deliver once I was caught up. But mounds and mounds piled up. Then the Inspector General said he needed to see me.

    I tried to explain it was junk mail. No one would miss it.

    He said the same thing about me.

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  25. Doug Jacquier

    Thanks, Charli. This story is a combination of an actual event in my father’s service in the Army in WWII and the life of the legendary Tom Kruse (the non-scientologist) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Kruse_(mailman) Fortunately, unlike Harry, Tom died peacefully at the age of 96.

  26. Charli Mills

    Tom’s life was incredible and certainly deserves the recognition he received. It’s great to be a fiction writer who can grab details to fulfill a satisfying story.

  27. susansleggs

    Sadly, not all mail is welcome. Well put.

  28. susansleggs

    Ridding in from the Rach for Charli. I’m with you Tracey. I couldn’t imagine stealing some else’s mail. Well written.

  29. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Tracy your good enough is pretty darn good. And, this is a friendly challenge and not a contest. I try to read all the entries and yes reading others’ flashes had that oh shit, I didn’t show character traits, I didn’t have an extreme situation; but then- oh well. I subscribe more to “go where the prompt leads” and am thrilled just to have 99 words as a result of following that lead. It’s always good enough but it is fun too and good practice. We used to talk about “raw” a lot around here. It took me a while to accept and present my “raw”; it’s all raw, can be revised and added to (or not) anytime. It’s all good.


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