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April 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Quarantined near the North Pole, my middle daughter protects her face with a polarized shield from the blinding sun that circles endlessly overhead for the duration of an arctic summer. Suited up to ride on her scooter across the arctic wilderness, a Yamaha Viper, she lives up to her childhood nickname, looking like a Bug. She lives on Svalbard, part of an arctic archipelago that belongs to Norway. When the coronavirus began to spread, the island shut down — no ships or planes in or out. Considered a US citizen in limbo abroad during a pandemic, she’s making the best of it. Most of her work has shut down because it’s tourist-based, but she still brews beer at the world’s most northern brewery.

On the Hub’s birthday, she showed us the midnight sun through her web camera. I now know where the Crayola Crayon gets its color for “midnight blue.” Bug tells us that the sunny times disorient her more than the long winter darkness. I might complain of spring snow squalls on the Keweenaw, but she is still encountering white-out blizzards. During the shut-down, she and a small crew of locals attempted to make a grocery delivery to those isolated at Isfjord Radio, and they got stuck in massive drifts and had to turn around. Today, she texts that she returned from scootering to Little Russia.

Such trips are what tourists pay tens of thousands of dollars to do. My daughter and her partner work in the hospitality industry of Svalbard’s bustling eco-tourism and arctic research. They carry rifles to work because a law in Lonyearbyn states all people outside must be armed with bear-chasers. They don’t shoot the bears; they fire warning shots. With the island shut down, they have little work. Bug still brews beer and plays an odd game of tag with her co-workers, which leads to the loser drinking beer from a mukluk, but they are taking advantage of the downtime to scoot across landscapes few ever see. And, yes, I wish my daughter could wear a full-body bear shield.

Shields protect us. From basic coverings to high tech gear, humans have long developed shields to protect against the elements, war, and unseen particles.

At this moment in time, the world is showing solidarity through facemasks, bandanas, and 3D-printed face shields. On the Keweenaw, the grassroots sewing circles gather individual efforts to sew 10,000 facemasks for local medical workers and those medically compromised. This sewing phenomenon encircles the globe. Recently, I interviewed those involved and wrote an article for a local publication, Keweenaw Now. Women are producing masks from quilting material, t-shirt fabric, and even shop towels. If you read my article, you’ll find links to open source patterns and a study that shows what materials are best and why (fun fact: tea towels doubled up are as effective as a medical-grade surgical mask).

My eldest daughter, the Dancer, has not had a full night’s rest since the coronavirus crisis began. A science writer for a research university, she showed up at work a month ago to find out that overnight she had been reassigned as a crisis communicator. After emptying the college of most of its students, she’s been on call 24/7 to university researchers, the VP, and state senators. Behind the scenes, while the US grapples with a pandemic and a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE), Michigan Tech has reassigned labs for emergency development. I’m not the only Mills woman writing local articles. My daughter publishes through Tech outlets, but her stories also get picked up by Keweenaw Now, like this one: MTU Engineers Build Mobile Unit to Clean COVID-19 PPE.

Of course, it’s not just the women concerned with shielding our faces. My son-in-law, Solar Man, has employed his 3D-printing hobby into making face-shields full-time. According to the CDC protocols, when no medical facemasks are available, homemade facemasks beneath a face-shield of clear plastic will suffice as PPE. Solar Man not only prints the headpiece, but he also cuts and applies the plastic sheets, and arranges distribution of materials and finished shields while still upholding stay-at-home orders. Together the men and women of the Keweenaw are working to protect our remote community, our vital health care folks, and those most vulnerable among us. We have no ICUs and little capacity to manage a surge in critical illness. Our motto, developed by the sewists to encourage the use of masks, is: protect me, protect you, protect the community.

Another kind of shield to protect medical workers is the use of technology during a pandemic quarantine. Teachers Zoom to stay in touch with students, and health care workers use telehealth systems to screen COVID-19 patients. My son, the Runner, works for Epic, and he was on the frontline in New Jersey, setting up their telehealth before the quarantines hit. His work is leading to new innovations in the way patient symptoms are screened and recorded, giving much-needed data to map hotspots. He’s working from home now with his fiance, who is furloughed from her job in Wisconsin tourism.

Even the Hub is shielding his face. Every time he goes out for essentials or exercise, he wears a ducky mask.

April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 14, 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 most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

A New Dance Begins by Charli Mills

The Texas sun baked the canvas tent where Jess ripped lengths of satin. She cranked her sewing machine, finishing the edges of royal blue scarves. When she had enough, she carried the stack outside and handed two to every man who rode for her husband’s brand. The trail ride to Montana with a herd of longhorns would be arduous. Her husband survived the War and sacrificed all he had for this cattle drive. The least she could do was sacrifice ballroom gowns. “Shield your face,” she told him. He understood the gesture, her willingness to trust a new dance.


133 Comments

  1. jenanita01 says:

    You are sending a strong, positive message with this post, Charlie…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. floridaborne says:

    Oooooh… this one was deliciously fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely post and prompt, Charli. I am still working, harder than usual actually, as I try to help solve financial problems for clients coming out of this world pandemic. Your family are all doing great work. My boys and I have also started a YouTube video channel for children and are reading and sharing some of our free books and recipes.

    Liked by 4 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Charli, I love how you’ve shared your children’s differing roles in the international shielding, along with yours back home. Especially at this bank holiday weekend, it can be hard having family far dispersed.
    My latest blog post is actually about the contribution pessimism can make to staying safe and my 99-word story is about the potential for confusion for a patient waking up in intensive care, especially if she’s already prone to delusions:
    The positives of pessimism as we await the pandemic peak https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2020/04/the-positives-of-pessimism-as-we-await-the-pandemic-peak.html

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Initially, Anne, when COVID-19 shut down near and far, I had the morbid thought that I’d never see my children again. To me, the darkest shadow of this grave illness is that people die isolated behind a wall of shields and family can’t even be at the hospital or gather afterward for a funeral. I appreciate your post on the positivity of pessimism and read it earlier this morning and have been mulling it over ever since. I’ll leave my thoughts with you at your place.

      I think I share much in common with Matty; she’s imaginitive!

      Liked by 4 people

      • Scary thought to not see your children again, Charli, so glad you’re keeping in touch.
        I’ve seen your thoughful comment and will reply soon.
        There’s an old (70s maybe) research thread linking schizophrenia and creativity but I was neverr very impressed by it. I think we’re all using our imaginations to make sense of our experiences. However, in these strange times Matty’s imaginings seem more credible than reality.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        I think if the door to imagination becomes unrecognizable and one confuses which side of the door is real or imagined, trouble will follow. Or, maybe not. Faced with the realities of dementia and the long-term effects of TBI and possible CTE, I’ve learned to let go of the rigidity of what is real or right. I may even get dementia myself one day, and I hope to be as fun as Matty — imagine bringing all my characters and stories to life as if they were memories! I agree, we use imagination to process our experiences, too.

        Like

  6. […] April 9: Flash Fiction Challenge – Shield Your Face […]

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Jim Borden says:

    what a great post, Charli. I read your article about the face masks – well done. You were ahead of the curve with suggesting everyone should be wearing masks. And I loved reading about what your kids are doing during this crisis. I can’t imagine being so far North, but maybe the beer helps… 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Liz H says:

    The Keweenaw thrives on the people’s drive! I think the major gift that can come from this crisis is awakening the population to say “Yes, I can” and “Watch me get to work.” Innovation rules the day. Avoiding the obvious political slant: COVID 19, Hold my beer!
    Also picturing your arctic daughter as a 21st Century shield maiden.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. denmaniacs4 says:

    Marvelous post, Charli…many thanks…

    Liked by 3 people

  10. denmaniacs4 says:

    The Shield Of EDICT

    “Move along, rogue. This is not your place.”

    He wears the shield of EDICT.

    I make to move.

    I always move.

    Even before the scourge, I had no true place. But now the frayed net that caught bits of me, bits of all the others like me, has dissipated.

    We have no voice to stand our ground.

    We have no ground.

    And certainly no shield.

    This one’s no mucky muck.

    He could be me.

    Once.

    “You deef, buddy?” he persists.

    Why do I hesitate?

    Could now be my time?

    Can I utter the words, “When I’m good and ready!”

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Well, as long as she still brews beer, I guess it’s good. 🙂 Sorry. I love beer. I know these are serious times. We try to find bits of levity here when we can. (Love the fun fact about the tea towels! Where did you learn that? My mother is sewing masks day and night. She’s got a pattern but I’ll let her know that.) Hearts and health to you and your family. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  12. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch  […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] My attempt at the Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch – link […]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pic of Hub in ducky mask. Please! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I seriously doubt this is what you had in mind, Charli, but there you go. https://sixcrookedhighwaysblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/bucket-heads/

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Norah says:

    I hope your daughter and others in Longyearbyn are safe from the virus. Little communities like that should be easy to isolate and protect. What a perfect time for the workers to explore uninterrupted.
    Your family is certainly making a wonderful contribution to this war effort. We are all united in beating this tyrant who has thrown our world into chaos.
    The face mask situation differs over here. They are not recommended for us. It is surprising that so much of what we are required to do is similar around the world, but then we differ on other things.
    I like that you took your story back to the West. That was a different type of shield.
    I wish you and your family, wherever they are, a happy and safe Easter. Stay safe and stay well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Norah, when I was writing the article of Facemasks, WHO provided several good videos explaining how to prevent the spread of the virus, and they recommend only the ill wear masks. Our CDC and state governments agreed. However, many who test positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Wearing a mask in public on essentials runs shows we are willing to protect each other. The CDC changed its ruling just last week in the US. Perhaps the difference in policy is that Australia has had 57 death and the US (as of tonight) has topped 20,000 with 1,300 in my state. I think we feel more inclined to do all we can to protect ourselves and our neighbors. I hope you can continue to keep the spread at a minimum.

      And I certainly hope Svalbard remains isolated. My daughter hit a piece of Russian garbage — something metal abandoned in the snow and damaged her scooter. They give it a temporary fix but had to cancel plans to go on the longer trip. I’m relieved! They are sticking closer to Longyearbyen.

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed my story! You and your family keep well and have a Happy Easter, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Yes, we don’t have much community spread here. Most (not all) with the virus have brought it in from elsewhere. I hope our restrictions keep us safe. We had restrictions imposed before you did. The toll in the US is heartbreaking. I hope you all stay safe.
        Happy Easter!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        That makes a difference, Norah. We were late to it and it shows. Stay safe!

        Like

  17. Essential Characters

    “Kid, where’s Frankie? I’m waitin’ fer a delivery a coasters fer the saloon.”
    “Really, Pal? Times like this an’ yer worried ‘bout bar coasters? Even fictional folks is busy. Ernie’s runnin’ his still agin, makin’ ‘Corn-U-Cope-Ya’ll’, his homebrewed antiseptic lotion. With aloe.”
    “Uh, hello. An’ where’s Pepe LeGume?”
    “Pepe an’ Logatha been hunkered down sewing masks en masse, fer folks ta shield their face, pertect one ‘nuther. So let’s have Frankie send them coasters along ta Pepe, ta use as inserts.”
    “Ok. Whut kin we do, Kid?”
    “Reckon jist keep the Saddle Up Saloon open as an essential business.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • susansleggs says:

      Had to read this one to the Hub. Corn-U-Cope-Ya…love it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Many of the craft distilleries are doing just this, though maybe under another name. And I know of a woman who is repurposing all the Crown Royal bags that have accumulated in certain households over the years, turning them into masks. Being French Canadian, that’s probably what Pepe is doing. So this is all good, but somehow, through the magic of fiction, the Saloon is a pandemic free zone where any and all can come by, rub elbows, and go unmasked. See you there.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Everyone is doing what they can — some deliver, some sew, and some keep the virtual watering holes open. Thanks, Kid, Pall and Essential Crew!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Ritu says:

    Hello, Charli, and all you fellow Ranchers!
    Here’s my effort this week!
    https://butismileanyway.com/2020/04/11/april-9-flash-fiction-challenge-unveiled/

    Liked by 4 people

  19. […] joint with the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge to write a story about telling someone to “shield your face” resulted in this (thinly […]

    Liked by 1 person

  20. […] prompt to use the phrase ‘shield your face’ follows a post about shields in this ongoing pandemic. Likely, responses will implicitly or explicitly reflect […]

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Okay, I’m in. A triple play here:
    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/resurrection-crlc-challenge/

    And this raw reaction:

    “Duck!”
    My first instinct when my husband shouted that word was to shield my face with the book I was reading, though I also ducked as ordered, which meant the 4-ounce lure the bluefish had spit hooked me at the top of my head instead of my face.
    Hands raised in front of the face is innate self-protection, a primal defensive pose that can quickly go to offense.
    The masks shielding our smiling faces are to protect our respiratory systems. We are defending ourselves but also showing that we don’t wish to harm others. Breathe safely. Shield your face.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (04/09/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Liz H says:

    The sun is shining, and I have to get out and walk before the next round of snow and cold drops down.
    Leaving this here, the beginnings of a tale that I hope folks can relate to, on some level…

    Shields Down

    She’d gotten in near midnight, after the evening shift at the group home. Her own home was a shambles: beer cans and wine bottles, scummy bong water, butts strewn all over the floor, some of them human. They weren’t supposed to be here.

    Rodney emerged from the bedroom, a very drunk, half-clothed Britanny hanging off his shoulder, sharing his wide grin.

    “Sheralynn,” Rodney drew up his familiar shield of nonchalance. “I thought you were working a double shift.”

    “They sent me home. Likely COVID exposure,” she wiped her brow, unsure if it was fever, or rage. “Everybody out. Now.”

    [Continue ]

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Let’s hope the spring squalls soon pass, Liz. At least with the snow, it feels okay to stay inside. Your story captures the frustration of those health care workers who encounter the thick skulls of those who don’t seem to understand the risks they are taking on our behalf.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. […] Carrot Ranch April 9, 2020 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by April 14, 2020. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jules says:

    Charli,

    You always have interesting and informative posts. Sometimes as in your flash you have to work with the materials you have on hand.

    Homegrown Ingenuity?

    Homegrown Ingenuity?

    Working with what they have on hand folks become creative in the ability to shield themselves and protect the ones they love. Prototypes and various patterns abound with the use of basic cotton envelopes pleated on one side, folded to make pockets to hold layers of more cotton and other accepted shop type towels that are N95 approved.

    Working with coffee closures (found on bags of that product) to hold the nose channel in place and headbands and ponytail hair circles of various sizes in side channels; paperclips and zip ties hold the elastic tight against cheeks. Stay safe.

    ©JP/dh

    Note: I have a homemade mask pattern with instructions and photo steps that my son, a Hazmat Specialist, approved. If you are interested, please let me know.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. dgkaye says:

    Such a heartwarming post Charlie. I’m 1000% on the masks! Stay safe. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  27. […] This was written with the prompt to write a story that declares shield your face provided by the Carrot Ranch April 9 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  28. […] Operation: Recover Home Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story that declares, shield your face. Word count:  99 […]

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I didn’t know that factoid about tea towels!
    Here’s my contribution this week.
    https://allisonmaruska.com/2020/04/12/flash-fiction-shield-your-face/

    Liked by 4 people

  30. […] not sure where this came from, but it’s in response to Carrot Ranch‘s […]

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Such interesting times – and such successful children! I bet you’re proud.

    The covid phenomenon makes me feel like I’m living in WW2, where we must live with austerity and for the good of the whole. As much as the pandemic is terrible, it is good to know that spirit still lives in people, and also good to know that we haven’t needed it for *70 years*.

    Thanks for the prompt – but I’m on my phone this week, and just (barely) keeping up with comments is about all I can handle without my computer! Have a nice week!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      My kids make me beam. Of course, they could chase squirrels and I’d still be a proud mama. Yes, I get that same feeling of appreciation for the spirit of community. I suddenly just realized why both my grandmothers loved to bake and cook! Have a great computer-less week, H.!

      Liked by 2 people

  32. […] was written in response to this week’s #carrotranch […]

    Liked by 2 people

  33. susansleggs says:

    Hi Charli, I agree with H., your children must be a delight. I would especially enjoy shadowing Bug for a day and getting the chance to shoot a bear with a camera. All of them so involved; they have obviously learned from a good example. I appreciate your ramping up the activities at the Ranch. I look forward to hanging out at the saloon and reading something new on Tuesdays. When I signed onto my computer this morning the featured picture was one of Houghton Lake. The beauty makes me want to visit. On to the prompt…

    Showing Emotions

    An IED bomb is a localized small blast meant to destroy one vehicle. All Michael remembers of the fateful sunny day when he met one was going outside the fence in a convoy. A month later he would be told, “Private Amanda Jennings was driving the truck behind your jeep. We had all come to accept her as one of us, but when your jeep went up, the male in us automatically took over and we made every attempt to shield her face from the sight. She cried right there on the spot; we wish we could have too.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • These guys might have something to learn from Pvt. Jennings. There’s a lot in these 99 words Susan. And it’s good to get more background on Michael. I know he and Tessa have their issues with you but maybe it’s okay that you’re all getting to know the one another and the story together, gradually. At least with these machines the story isn’t chiseled into stone- you can always re-thread these beads later.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Susan, typically, I don’t get to talk as much as I have with my kids since the pandemic, so I enjoy it. Although I miss getting to see them in person. I want to shoot a bear with a camera, too (one with a very long telephoto lens). You and your Rt. 66 Traveler are welcome here any time we are not under quarantine!

      I think it’s significant that Michael is revealing this part of his story.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Ann Edall Robson says:

    First day of no white rain in a week. It comes, melts, and comes again. Now that my writing chores are complete for this morning, it’s time to find my hat and go for a wander along the paths in search of changes since my last outing a few weeks ago.

    Shielded Eyes
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Raking a hand through his blonde hair, he watched the moving silhouette in the arena. Stepping onto the bottom rail of the fence he settled his hat on his head in an effort to shield his eyes from the fall sun.

    The woman reined the buckskin gelding towards the intruder, offering him a flash of a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

    “You’re a long way from where you should be.”

    His eyes never wavered from hers.

    “You know damn well this is where I should be!”​

    “You don’t belong here. Never have, and you never will.” She taunted.

    https://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/shielded-eyes

    Liked by 4 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  36. How wonderful that the whole family are involved in fighting this invisible killer, Charli. And you’ve shared with us that nowhere on Earth is safe from the pandemic.
    I loved the Ducky facemask.

    Here’s the continuing story of Doug, Sophie and Mike. I think I’ll have to make Clarice a main character too, as she’s getting a main part in this story.

    https://hughsviewsandnews.com/2020/04/14/shielding-flashfiction/

    Take care and stay safe.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. […] Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s […]

    Liked by 1 person

  38. […] on the link here to join us, read some stories and find out how to share your […]

    Liked by 1 person

  39. […] This was written with the prompt to write a story that declares shield your face provided by the Carrot Ranch April 9 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Lisa L. says:

    First. Your kids – and you and Hub – are amazing. Keep on keeping on.
    I have always suspected tea towels were the unsung heroes of the homestead. Who knew?
    Late to the party this week (or every week LOL), but here’s my offering. http://www.themeaningofme.com/beaten/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I feel like this is a moment when we are witnessing the younger generation take charge. And Sgt Mills is a charming broken knight. ❤

      Time doesn't matter…isn't that the lesson of quarantine? Lol. Your offering is in good timing and quite profound. From such scars comes a later appreciation for self-esteem.

      Liked by 1 person

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