May 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

May 15, 2020

Gardening is dangerous. Plant one seed, and next thing you know, you are planting ten flats. You see a corner of your yard, and you dream about how to fill it, and then you notice another corner and another. Yesterday, I carved out more for a small potager, a plot of the front yard that’s absorbed the dreams of several who have lived on Roberts Street. I’m not the only one who lives dangerously, growing a green thumb. My yard is the product of 120 years of cultivation. All around me is evidence of those who came before.

Someone planted six maple trees when my house went up. Four remain, and they are magnificent in all seasons. Sapping in spring, shading in summer, mulching in fall, and whistling in winter. Birds from blue jays to hummers flit in and out of their branches. The canopy provides an outdoor office when it gets too hot to be inside. Fairies, rocks, and gnomes summer at their bases, providing a new level of gardening intrigue. A few neighbors have caught on to my fairy gardens and have left offerings of their own, including a porcelain heart that hangs in one of the maples.

Toward the front, two low stumps from the maples that didn’t survive this long still offer something to my gardens. A discarded iron cauldron leftover from copper mining days sits on one stump, and the other marks the spot for a pallet compost pile. The cauldron served as my eldest’s moon garden — a massive black pot that overflowed with white varietal flowers. She has moved on to construct bigger spaces, and I get to tinker.

A crescent of thyme remains in the cauldron. My SIL had left a small deer skull with forked antlers when they moved to the country, and in the spirit of playing with fairies, I placed it in the center of the thyme. Carefully, I pulled several strands through each eye-socket and placed a pink rock of feldspar the size of a rosette between its antlers. Mind you, my intent is not to be morbid. Gardening is an art, and I’m attempting to replicate a more colorful homage to Georgia O’Keefe. Google “cow skulls and flowers” to see this visual art in full manifestation. Each corner — or cauldron — of the yard becomes its own individual canvas where staring at bare dirt is akin to writers staring out windows.

The frontmost canvas that abuts Roberts Street is where my eldest and her husband planted a rock and succulent garden to survive the heavy street sandings of winter. The sedum, along with hens and chicks, emerge unscathed ready for a spring bath of rain. The flock has multiplied. Last fall, we dug up the garden behind the succulents, leaving the peonies and lavender, but despite my SIL having rooted out bulbs like a pig seeking truffles, clusters of tulips, alum, and hyacinth remained. This is the head of my potager, a traditional kitchen garden that blends flowers, veg, and herbs, incorporating aesthetics and verticality.

All around my yard, earlier bulbs that former gardeners planted a century ago emerge — crocus, Muscari, hyacinth, glories of the snow, old-fashioned tulips of bold red and yellow, snowdrops, and daylilies. Beneath the shadiest area between maples, woodland trout lilies grow, a North American spring ephemeral. This summer, a few months before the first frost, I plan to hit the shady patch with bee bombs loaded with foxglove seeds. I’m going to fill out other shady areas with ferns. I think this will enhance the centenarians and please the garden fey. The potager will start at Roberts Street and go all the way back to the maples.

Yesterday, I relocated a massive lavender to be front and center of the potager. I dug carefully with a spade and felt when she released, willing to go to her new spot behind the succulents, hyacinth, and a border of newly transplanted dianthus from the abandoned homes on my eldest’s new property. On each side of the lavender, I buried two bare root roses of pastel pink. My SIL dug these up for me from roses he found near the ruins of an old mining house. It had survived on its own for at least 50 years, so I think it will be hardy. Directly behind the lavender, I planted a metal trellis and left a spot for my newly arrived purple Polish spirit clematis. Staggered behind and diagonal to that main feature are the beginnings of two shorter mounds. I planted purple podded peas, white sweet peas, and left room for my moonflowers who tell me it’s too cold yet for their sensitive roots. The back edge of this front canvas has established chives, yarrow, monarda, and two peonies.

When it all gets going, I’ll fill in the blank spots with cosmos, bachelor buttons, lemon queen sunflowers, and milkweed. And that’s only the beginning. See how dangerous it is to start with a single seed?

Today, May 14, my favorite middle child, quarantined on Svalbard, turned 30. She had planned to be out on another days-long scooter excursion, but they ran into trouble with bad weather, avalanches, and melting snow bridges. Her scooter took a 15-meter tumble down a crevasse, end over end, busting the windshield. She and her companions are okay, and remarkably, they were able to retrieve her Viper. When I talked to her on Messenger later, they were safely back in Longyearbyen, and one of the local bands got together to play for her birthday. This was my “emergency room” child, the one who lept off of rooftops, competed as an elite gymnast, and rafted raging rivers in snowmelt.

So, when I told her my kayak had finally arrived, she turned the tables and told me to be safe! I’m not going to do what she would do in a kayak.

For her birthday, she has the privilege of prompting our stories this week. I liked that she phrased her prompt as a question. She has always had an inquisitive mind. Others were asking her, now that she’s thirty if she wants to have children. I laughed, knowing her answer. That’s dangerous territory for an adventurer. Funny how women get asked that question. For me, I’ll stick to the dangers of creative gardening and long-term writing. I’ll play it safe on the waters. And I encourage you all to focus on remaining hopeful.

May 14, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that answers the question, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you are in absolute danger?” Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 19, 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.

First Response by Charli Mills

One car flipped belly-up in the broad ditch of Kansas grass and sunflowers, the other crumpled to half its original size against the guardrail. Jess instructed her 18-year-old niece to pull over, her voice calm, all thoughts pushed away except for a running list: check breathing, smell for gas, stabilize necks. Plural. There would be multiple people in danger of dying this moment. They called this stretch of highway, “Bloody Kansas” and it was the route her niece would drive now that she had graduated and would begin college in two months. Check breathing, smell for gas, stabilize necks.

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    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, a BOTS! Thanks, Joanne.

    • susansleggs

      What a scare, Joanne. Thanks for sharing.

  1. Sherri Matthews

    A kayak…and fairy garden….and maple trees! I close my eyes and I am there. Happy Birthday to your favourite middle child, Charli, thank goodness she is safe and sound. Great prompt! <3

    • Charli Mills

      So…I got a call from the freight company about my kayak and panicked, knowing your treadmill story, lol! But it’s all good and delivered. How I’d love to show you around, Sherri! Thank you!

      • Doug Jacquier

        The good thing about a kayak is you’re never the wrong way around because it spells the same in either direction 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! So that’s why they look the same front to back (good thing my seat points me in the right direction)!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Oh no and phew rolled into one! Hardly surprising you panicked…but so good it ended well too. Bet you can’t wait to use it! And oh you know I would jump at the chance to be shown around. One day, Charli, one day! <3

  2. Hugh W. Roberts

    I love the way how you described gardening as an art of painting a garden, Charli. It’s so true. I look out of our sitting room window onto a garden painted by my partner who has carefully placed plants in certain places so that their colours can match each other and bring joy to those who visit. I wonder if the birds and wildlife that visit notice those colour combinations?

    So glad to hear that your daughter was not hurt badly after the accident. She sounds like a budding Indiana Jones in the making.

    I’m off to pen a piece for Doug, Sophie and Mike with the words your daughter gave for this week’s prompt.

    See you later.

    • Charli Mills

      Hugh, I’d love to think the wildlife and birds appreciate the colors your partner paints your garden with. To me, the English garden is the standard of beauty in abundance. My daughter has to remind me often, “Mom, this is not the UK.” Today I added a couple of hanging ferns to shady nooks. The canvas keeps calling!

      Ha! She is like her dad. I cringe sometimes, but I know she has good reflexes.

      Danger belongs to Doug, Sophie, and Mike!

    • Charli Mills

      Well, now I’m curious, Doug! But glad you could resort to your Mum’s ideas.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Only to satisfy your curiosity, mind, but it would be along the lines of profane questioning of the wisdom of whatever deity, life force or guru responsible for foisting this upon me and demanding they cease and desist forthwith.

      • Charli Mills

        Sounds reasonable to me! The West added new words to profanity thanks to dealing with rank and dangerous horses. You’re a cowboy Doug!

    • Norah

      Potatoes and skidmarks. I’ve heard those stories too – but never to or by me. 🙂

  3. Jim Borden

    I loved your description of how the maple trees provide beauty all year; I’ve never thought of trees in that way – wonderful! I’m glad your daughter is ok; how nice that a band played for her birthday.

    Enjoy your kayak – and be safe! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I promise — I will be safe — I also purchased an insulated life vest, and I have no plans to kayak the big Lake. Well, a few calm bays. On nice days. In the summer when the water temps rise a bit.

      Ah, yes, the glory of trees, everchanging.

      Thanks, Jim!

      • Jim Borden

        sounds like my kind of conditions for kayaking!

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, I want to enjoy the experience!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu! <3

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Why do people still ask women that question? That’s a pet peeve of mine. Happy Birthday to your daughter! (No questions, just a virtual cake.) ????

    Ah! I miss my lavender plants. So happy to hear you’re replanting yours. I’m envious but, mostly, I’ll settle for living vicariously. Just knowing you have lavender will make me smile. I can smell it from here…

    • Pete

      That must be annoying. What I always hated was when, because my wife and I have one kid, people would ask us, “When’s the next one coming along?” Like we are some baby making factory.

      I understand, It’s a natural thing to say, but at times I wanted to say, “Well, we recently miscarried so, not anytime soon.” But that might get awkward.

      Anyway, we are now expecting our second child, and people are already saying, “You sure took long enough.”


      • Sarah Brentyn

        I have friends who chose not to have children and get asked that. I do have children but, honestly, it’s such an invasive question. And a loaded one. Also, it feels very…1950s to me. Like, did you have dinner on the table when your husband got home from work and, by the way, where are your pearls?

        I’m sorry to hear about the miscarriage but congratulations! (Those are two things I didn’t think I’d have in the same sentence but there you go.) As far as when is the next one / oh, the next one…what took so long–you will never please people. They’ll always have something to say about your life, your body, your choices, your lifestyle.

        Congrats, again, on your new release! Hope you and your family are well. ????

      • Pete


      • Susan Zutautas

        That’s wonderful news, Pete! Congrats to you, your son, and your wife of course.

      • Pete

        Thanks, Susan!

      • Charli Mills

        Pete, people can poke into painful areas with such questioning of private matters. We had three kids within four years so it was the opposite — when are you going to stop? Our son had a twin who didn’t survive the pregnancy and people actually said that was “lucky.” Such a weird social dynamic that is insensitive. But celebrations are in order — a second child and a second book on the way!

    • Charli Mills

      I will waft lavender your way, Sarah. My greatest terror was that I killed the plant by uprooting it, but so far, she seems amendable. I left behind a beautiful patch of tarragon in Idaho. I have three shaggy spindles I planted over winter in my kitchen. Hopeful. Often people ask me if I want grandchildren? Another annoying question. It’s not my decision. Thanks for sending the daughter virtual cake!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I agree Sarah and Pete. As a childless woman those kind of questions can’t help but make you feel somewhat less of a woman. I wonder if we will ever move away from these gender based expectations of what is normal.
      Congratulations on two counts Pete.

  5. Michelle M Wright

    Happy birthday to your daughter! I do really wish people would stop asking women that question.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Michelle, I hope you aren’t going to have to suffer such questioning now that you are engaged. I wish they’d stop asking women, too.

  6. Liz H

    First off, I’m relieved that your Valkyrie-daughter is ok. Sounds like she’s been giving her mama heart palpitations from day one.
    Some kids are like that.
    Second, I want to note that your gardening blog today reads like a beautiful riot of an enchanted garden, gently reigned in (yes, I did use that word on purpose) by a benevolent Sorceress. Long may you ride…this gave me Joy!

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, she would love being called my Valkyrie-daughter! Yes, she arrived quietly but has made big noise ever since. She’s that kid! And I love “benevolent Sorceress”! Adds to the magic of my watering wand! I’m happy to share the joy of gardening.

  7. denmaniacs4

    I may not be quite on point with this rumination, folks but here goes nothing…and, incidentally, thanks to many of the contributors to a recent Facebook discussion on the relative future value of people based solely on their age. It was delightfully eyeopening…and quite entertaining.

    Head Games in a Flash

    “You’re quite old,” I hear myself think.

    Then I sigh.

    “No denying that,” I hear my other little voice admit.

    “By many standards, you’ve had a good run,” I soothingly allow.

    “You saying the race is over?” other voice asks.

    “No, I’m not saying that. Just trying to be real,” I clarify.

    “It’s that ravenous throng of under thirty terrorists getting into your head, isn’t it?”

    “I’ve read their manifesto. There’s not a lot of wiggle room.”

    “Yeah, they threw nuance out the window with that mob. And that COVID-19 motto…”

    “THIRTY OR DUST! You gotta admit. It’s catchy.”

    • Charli Mills

      Head games, indeed! Maybe because I’m getting older, I feel concerned about the disposability of anyone over a certain age. I like your humor in examining the issue, though. Haven’t younger generations always faced the folly of what their elders leave them? The Anasazi, teens at the end of the Roman Empire? I appreciate the reverence the native tribes give their elders. May we each contribute to a good run, passing down the baton.

  8. Pete

    When I was six my dad got hit by a train on his way to work at a local radio station. As the story goes, he had the radio on (ha) and didn’t hear the train coming until it was barreling down on him. He gunned it, the tires spun, leaving him no option but to dive into the passenger floorboard. The train hit the driver side, flipped the car into the air and hit it once again for good measure. All of his records went flying from the trunk, some I still have today.

    That was it for me. It only confirmed my dad really was Superman. But he didn’t survive completely unscathed, he had a nasty little scratch where the gearshift caught his bicep when he dove!

    Well, there goes the suspense. Here’s my story!

    The engineer hobbled down the tracks, his train hissing and hot from the mash of brakes. He looked up, hat in hand, to me on the bank, smoking a cigarette with a trembling hand.

    “I saw your car go flying and thought for sure you were dead.”

    The car, a tangled wad of green and chrome, lay a hundred feet away, beneath the radio tower. LP’s and 45’s scattered in its wake. Charred rubber and gas filled the air.

    “What were you thinking, anyway?”

    “I guess I was thinking, ‘this town is going to need a new morning dee-jay.’”

    • Doug Jacquier

      What a great story, Pete. Methinks hereby hangs a longer tale in gestation.

    • Charli Mills

      What a story and confirmation of your dad as Superman, Pete. Having lived where trains were prevalent, it’s so easy to forget about them. It must have hit your dad’s car in the luckiest spot. Cigarettes used to be good for dangerous confrontations.

  9. Liz H

    Here’s the long and the short of it—a dangerous situation when you combine one prompt with another. I must’ve been in a mood this morning. Please forgive me…I’m a terrible person. Lol…

    Photo & Film on NewsLine Tonight

    Jack stood at canyon’s edge, his phone set to selfie. “Ugh! Too much face, not enough canyon.”

    He climbed the ledge, noting the low safety railing. Holding the camera at arm’s length, he noticed the screen icon for many figures, versus one. He chose many, and raised his arm again.

    The wind gusted his bangs into his mouth. He hadn’t gotten a chance to visit his masked, shielded barber before this road. His buddy Tyler’d bailed on him because Shelter in Place.

    “This picture’ll be worth the risk!”

    That was his last thought before he tripped over the railing.

    [For something a bit more uplifting? ]

    • Doug Jacquier

      True to life and funny. Great combinatioin.

      • Liz H

        Thanks, Doug!

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Ha, not the risk he thought he was taking. It’s a long way down!

    • denmaniacs4

      This flash reminded me of a scene from a favourite classic film, 1934’s Six of a Kind. This trailer at 1 minute and 36 seconds might show you why…

      • Liz H

        “Oh no, you’re TOO far now…”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! It’s dangerous writing about current events, no telling where our creative minds will go. Good one, Liz. I enjoyed the longer version and all its juicy details.

      • Liz H

        Thanks. Challenging to do two versions of the same event, and two meanings. Fun times!

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, yes, but a great skill to develop. You can write quickly in different directions without committing to “the way.” It makes writing more exploratory and expansive.

  10. Liz H

    (Oops! Word count issue, corrected at the end of the blog post…)

    • Charli Mills

      No more, no less! You’ll go over the edge! 😀

      • Liz H

        (Screaming as she tips over the edge, grabs a slender root and hangs on).

      • Charli Mills

        Hang in there!

  11. Susan Zutautas

    Happy Birthday to your daughter, Charli! It sounds like she always has the best time of her life. Your garden is going to be magnificent! I have not done much with mine yet. Still waiting on the weather to warm up.
    Here’s my entry for this week. It’s actually a true story that happened to me when I was 14.

    • Susan Zutautas

      P.S. Have not seen much of D lately, hoping all is well with her.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Seems she’s been busy with the Poet Tree — a new post today.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Oh okay, thanks Anne!

      • Charli Mills

        D. has not been kidnapped by Kid and Pal. She’s well and in her happy place with little internet connectivity.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Good to hear, Charli except for the little internet connectivity.

      • Susan Zutautas

        It was very scary.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan! She’s kinesthetic so my daughter needs to experience things hands-on. I like to think I’m having the time of my life too, but most of it takes place in my head. 😉

      It’s hard to decide on the weather. I actually dared to plant two of my wee little three-leafed tomato seedlings, using milk jugs with the bottoms cut off to be protective greenhouses. Really gardening dangerously now!

      You experience at age 14 presented several dangers from the immediate to the life-long.

      • Susan Zutautas

        We finally got our vegetable garden dug yesterday and then my son built planter boxes and installed them in the garden. Ready to plant soon. 🙂 I’m so excited.

  12. wallietheimp

    Wallie and my response 🙂

    Story Time (99 Words)

    “Were you ’fraid, Tilly?” Noel’s sounded as tiny as he was, looking up into Mr. Caddy’s face with the wide open eyes of a six-year-old.

    “Wisht, no,” said Mr. Caddy. He challenged his audience with mischievous eyes. “D’ye know why I wasn’t afraid? Well I’ll tell you. I knew, sure I knew, that Hattie would save me.”

    The goblin Green Hat, or Hattie, looked at him with unappreciative somber eyes.

    “You were scared,” said Josie, bouncing on her heels impatiently. “I saw you!”

    “Aye, you saw me,” said Mr. Caddy. “And see how I am now? I was right!”

    • wallietheimp

      Yaaargh, this is the story without the obvious typo:

      Story Time (99 Words)

      “Were you ’fraid, Tilly?” Noel sounded as tiny as he was, looking up into Mr. Caddy’s face with the wide open eyes of a six-year-old.

      “Wisht, no,” said Mr. Caddy. He challenged his audience with mischievous eyes. “D’ye know why I wasn’t afraid? Well I’ll tell you. I knew, sure I knew, that Hattie would save me.”

      The goblin Green Hat, or Hattie, looked at him with unappreciative somber eyes.

      “You were scared,” said Josie, bouncing on her heels impatiently. “I saw you!”

      “Aye, you saw me,” said Mr. Caddy. “And see how I am now? I was right!”

    • Charli Mills

      I wish typos were more obvious, then I could see them! It’s a lovely story, with the retelling of a story to soften the edges of the original danger.

      • wallietheimp

        Thank you!! 🙂

  13. Caroline Kribbs

    My response. Just a little exercise after releasing my first romance on Amazon!! (Yep, shameless self promotion.)

    I’ve missed these prompts. Life has been so crazy, it’s good to be here again.


    The Cold After the Storm

    Annie was shaking so hard her teeth were chattering. It was infuriating, somehow, to see the man so calm. The gunfire was in her ears and her heart was thundering so hard it hurt. It was over, but she still felt how it was to lie in the mud, waiting to die.

    “How do you stand it?”

    Hamish wanted to be impatient because she reminded him of what he had been, before the outlaw gang that had killed his family and destroyed their farm. Instead, he was only quiet and brief.

    “I don’t think,” he said. “I never think.”

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you back, Caroline, and congratulations on publishing your romance novel! I tried to go over to your website but couldn’t get to it. When you have it sorted out, post the link here so we can find your book, too.

      Great nod to your genre with this flash. Romance is all about relationships and I can see one budding here.

  14. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    Glad to know your daughter came through alive and in one piece!

    I’ve really enjoyed the last few prompts because somehow they’ve lead me into re-reading classic poetry and stories.

    This week’s FF prompt got me thinking about stories and poems about leviathans and monsters
    — stories like Jaws or Jekyll & Hyde or Dracula ; Or Lovecraft ‘s stories
    Or poems like “Kraken” or “Jabberwocky”

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

    Maybe I’ll end up writing a horror FF – a challenge for me!

    Keep well.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Saifun! I appreciate your dive into the classics. I think in moments such as we are experiencing, we feel a draw to better understand what truths still stand from the storytellers of the past. Thanks for sharing Jabberwocky!

  15. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    My FF is in!

    More a tall tale type of FF than horror! .
    Writing horror stories takes more finesse than I’m capable of!

    But I had a lot of fun writing the FF, and reading poetry & stories for ideas!!


    • Charli Mills

      It’s a fantastic flash, Saifun! I think what works well is the contrast you set up — the details of a beautiful place, a peaceful float, and then — interrupted. Horror is in the same category as romance because both engage the reader through emotion.

      • reading journeys

        Wow! Thank you! And thanks for the insight.

    • Liz H

      Very scary…!

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      A great way of getting back into writing. Glad your muse managed to avoid the interuptions.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the Ranch, Heather! Motivation does ebb and flow. It’s excellent training to write with the distraction of children.

  16. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Well, Charli, it would have to be your middle child who fell into the gap as she is destined to be in between. Glad she’s okay and I’m with you on sticking to the dangers of writing and gardening – it’s lovely to read about how both are going well for you. And I’m amazed at how much you get done.
    It’s mental health awareness week in the UK and I have a blog post on the impact of the politics of unkindness.
    My 99-word story isn’t political, but you can probably guess which character chosen to explore the theme of danger:

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! She is the gap child! And I don’t know how much I get done. Lots of it feels like making mud pies of finger-painting. But each is a break from the other and this is how I live dangerously.

      I’m struck by the politics of unkindness, sad to my core when a chance for compassion goes astray with so many. It’s a troubling mindset. Will anyone notice that it’s mental health week? With insanity leading my nation, mental health feels like a hoax. I appreciate your article!

      And Mattie’s flash. She’s good at promotion, willing to step out into the limelight.

  17. TanGental

    Here’s Logan hearing something unexpected

    ‘Logan! Logan! HELP!!’
    ‘What on earth…? It’s 4.00 am.’
    ‘I’ve gone blind!’
    ‘Here. Stand still.’
    ‘I’m falling!!’
    ‘I… oh yes. My eye-mask. I forgot.’
    ‘Why do you wear that thing?’
    ‘I stop dreaming…’
    ‘And have nightmares instead? What was that about falling? You were standing by the coffee table.’
    ‘I thought I’d wandered onto the balcony and I was bang up against the parapet. I was sure I’d die if I moved.’
    ‘You did sound terrified. You ok?’
    ‘Yes, thanks. You know what hit me, when I thought I’d die?’
    ‘Go on.’
    ‘I’d miss you most.’

    • Norah

      Love it, Geoff. These two are a riot. Actually, I think Morgan is a riot on his own in this one. How comforting for Logan to know that he’d be missed. 🙂

      • TanGental

        I’m not sure he’ll see it that way but thanks Noraj

      • Norah


    • Susan Zutautas

      Your flash just conjured up so many memories for me that I’ve not thought about in years. Sleepwalking.

      • TanGental

        Oh that whole issue of parasomnia is an awful affliction. I hope you’re over it

      • Susan Zutautas

        Yes, thank goodness.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow, Geoff. This is definitely unexpected. I could feel the genuine fear and despite the silly reason, it’s plausible (as in, something I could see myself doing). This friendship just exposed its depth beneath the comic relief.

      • TanGental

        It’s actually based on a true story..

  18. Norah

    Happy birthday to your middle daughter, and happy gardening to you. Your garden sounds beautiful, if only I knew the plants you name. Please post some pics as they grow and flower. I like that history is embedded in your garden along with your plants — merry bedfellows.
    Your story is fraught with danger. Oh, how thankful am I that I have never come across such a scene. I fear I’d be consumed by fear and unable to help. Look after yourself.
    Charli, Charli, quite creative, how doth your garden grow!

    • Charli Mills

      I love your re-rhyme, thanks, Norah! I will post some photos as it evolves. It’ll probably take two to three years to establish and meld the new with the old. But something to nourish and create. I love that fiction’s “what if” can carry over to the garden.

      • Norah

        I look forward to the photos of the work in progress. How could you work a 99-prompt into the garden to see it flourish like writing does? 99 minutes of watering? 99 minutes of weeded? 99 minutes of enjoying?
        Enjoy! And happy birthday!

  19. susansleggs

    Charli, Your garden sounds like a work of love and will turn into a peaceful place of beauty and bounty. I’m sure your neighbors will enjoy it too. Your middle daughter sounds like my son. She didn’t go into the crevice with the scooter, did she? And is the scooter what we would call a snow machine? I’m happy to hear about your kayak. I hope you make as good memories near home as you did last summer on Greenwood Lake…On to the prompt…

    Absolute Danger
    Tessa said, “At our Home-front Warriors meeting we discussed what flashes through our mind when we meet with danger. Do you remember what you thought?”
    Michael looked away. “I’ve never admitted this. I can’t answer, because I blackout. Remember in high school when I wedged my car against a tree after hitting black ice?”
    “I recall the car starting to skid, and getting out of it, no impact, no details.”
    “And in Iraq.”
    “We were talking about our mission, and then it was three weeks later. Coming to was terrifying.”
    “I’m sorry.”
    “I can talk about it now.”

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, you got it — a scooter is a snow machine or what we call out west, a snowmobile. She did not go down the crevice. That one has quick reflexes. So, to live dangerously, I’m making my first kayak outing on the grand lady herself! But I’m doing it safely — I checked marine hazards and winds and tomorrow is perfect for rare flat waters, I have my floatation device, and the beach we are going to is relatively shallow (until it is not), and that’s as far as I’ll go! I’ve dreamed of being on the water since last summer. And I’ll stick to exploring the canal and lakes nearby that are smaller.

      Great flash to show the depth of survival one’s mind will go to. And yes, how terrifying “coming to” must be.

      • susansleggs

        Have a relaxing time on the calm lady. Happy Birthday.

  20. Sascha Darlington

    Charli, I love the sound of your garden. This has been a year of gardening. I’ve been thinking about ripping up grass because I’ve too many seedlings, where to put them? Offer them to neighbors?

    And you story. I was so there. A couple of years ago, someone I worked with who was also the son of the boss lost his life in a horrible accident and your story reminded me of that. So well written, reaching all the emotions.

    • Charli Mills

      YES! Rip up grass! Or get some of those fabric pots. Maybe set out a “free” sign with seedlings where neighbors can pick up your extras. Ah! The joy of gardening is compounded by being a writer (or any kind of artist). I think they go hand-in-hand.

  21. Sascha Darlington

    And, I tried to post via the form but was (again) too late.

    Here’s my contribution for the week. Thanks, Charli.


    A jostle interrupted Kelly’s stroke, she was sinking, panicking, unthinking. Lou helped her surface. She swam to the side where she stayed shaking, acknowledging she should never have gone in the deep end even to avoid rowdy kids.

    “Thank you,” she said later. “You saved—”

    “Save it,” he said, his tone slapping.

    Did he think she had been faking?

    Later at dinner with his sister, as they giggled over an in-joke, she did not understand, she felt her lungs compress. She drank too much, obliterated emotion. She could still feel the panic paralyzing her, a suffocating infinite blankness.

    • Charli Mills

      If the form is still up, it’s not too late! The deadline helps me herd the bulk of submissions, but the few that trickle in are manageable and I like to get them posted as long as I know you want to be included.

      Such tension in your 99 words — the actual event layered beneath the dangerous emotions.

  22. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    All’s Well That Ends Well

    “Ever been in danger, Pal?”
    “Absolutely. Thet time the bull was seein’ red. Charged me like a Amazon purchase, but I thought ta jist grab thet bull by the horns. I honked fer Jesus, flipped right over thet bull an inta the creek.”
    “Lucky landin’.”
    “Ya’d think, Kid, but it’d been droughty. I landed in a creek without a puddle, an’ facin’ a rattler. First thing I thought was, tastes like chicken. Secon’, I’d have ta strike first. Lightnin’ reflexes.”
    “You ain’t that fast Pal.”
    “No. But lightnin’ struck thet snake, had it skinned an’ sizzlin’ fer my dinner.
    “Lucky lightnin’ strike, Pal! Outta danger an’ dinner in hand!”
    “Ya’s think so, Kid. But that drought had all the critters edgy an’ hungry. When thet mountain lion yowled at me I wasn’t sure if she wanted ta eat me or my rattler, still sizzlin’ warm from the lightnin’.”
    “What’d ya do, Pal?”
    “Afore I could think ‘bout thet, the rain finally came, hard and fast an’ thet creek swelled right up an’ my most eminent danger was a flash flood.”
    “No, it warn’t about ta happen, was happ’nin’ right then, ‘an I was positively gittin’ washed away.”
    “What luck, Pal. Um, is it good or bad luck?”
    “It’s all good, Kid. I still had thet snake, still warm an’ sizzling’ from the lightnin’, held it up outta the water. An’ I was gittin’ farther an’ farther away from thet bull an’ thet mountain lion. So I jist went with the flow as they say, waitin’ ta see where I’d fetch up.”
    “Sounds like you was goin’ downhill, Pal.”
    “Downstream, Kid. The creek started ta flatten out an’ slow down an’ things came familiar. I had arrived. At the Ranch.”
    “Lucky, Pal!”
    “Ya got thet right, Kid.”

    • Charli Mills

      A mighty fine trio of tall tales. Somehow leaves me hankering for a sizzled rattlesnake. I think it tastes more like bacon. Pal lands upright every time.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! You are a sight for sore eyes! I’m so happy to see you flashing at the Ranch! Welcome home, virtually, that is.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thanks Charli. It is great to be back and hope to get around and catch up with old and new writers/friends.

  23. Jules

    Good evening Charli and All Ranchers –

    This is what I came up with…

    Infinite Challenge?
    (reverse haibun)

    compounded terror
    unable to conceive then
    the hearts empty nest

    When as a toddler, in the mall the child was lost. Familiar tug on clothing gone – who does one call first? Panic must remain at bay.
    An organized search must be started before there is time to even think that someone else could walk off with such a treasure.

    Frankly there is limited memory. There was a positive result and that is what mattered most. And soon a child leash once thought cruel, now became a comfort in the crowd.

    That empty nest of a grown child, is different…


    • Charli Mills

      Hi Jules! I love the powerful portrayal of emptiness in the line “the hearts empty nest.” What a terrifying experience. My grandmother played peek-a-boo with Model-Ts on the farm road past her house as a toddler, hiding beneath a gunny sack to scare drivers! She was soon tethered to the clothesline. I can understand the blank spot though, such a terrifying moment for any parent.

  24. Prior...

    that massive lavender has me envious because my lavender plants are stunted – but it is till early and there is lots summer coming
    and happy bday to your daughter – she sounds adventurous
    be back with my fiction

    • Charli Mills

      Yvette, the odd thing about lavender is that they are so hard to get established and yet they prefer poor soil. This one’s a beauty! I sing to it, too! 😀 Thanks! And I updated your link in the collection.

      • Prior...

        Thanks for updating my link
        – and also – that is interesting what you say about the lavender And poor soil – a few years ago we got an estimate for some work done on son’s car (to undo a stupid custom upgrade he made to the muffler – lol)
        And walking in to the shop – lavender tall and strong growing in this weird spot – small area between the building and sidewalk – so you might be right about that soil – hmmm – have a good day and ttys

  25. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I couldn’t figure out what happened decades ago until I wrote this flash!! It made sense to me now.

    Flat Tire on the Freeway

    “I had a flat tire.”
    “When? Where?”
    “Today when I was on the freeway to downtown Los Angeles.”
    “It must be awful.”
    “My car spun several times until the rear end hit the guardrail.”
    “Were you okay?”
    “I held the steering wheel but released my foot from the pedal. After the car hit the guardrail, I saw the cars were 1,000 feet away. A police car zigzagged to slow down the traffic. Then he used the speaker to escort me to the next exit. I felt the angel created a shield around me.”
    “The angel surely watched over you!”

    • Charli Mills

      Isn’t that a wonder of writing, Miriam? A past situation, a memory, and a bit of creative writing with a constraint pulls it together with new insight. And what an amazing story!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yeah, Charli, I’m still reflecting and haven’t shared this new found insight to my hubby yet.

  26. Quarantined Gal

    this was a really enjoyable read, thank you

  27. Charli Mills

    Good to see you at the Ranch, Rugby!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, pendantry!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Padre!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Dave!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!


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