June 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

June 12, 2020

Deep waters fill my cup. A teabag bobs like a small raft, brown stains the water. The cup — Polishware handpainted in circles and flowers, blue and orange — is too hot to hold, so I pull down the long sleeves of my flannel shirt like makeshift potholders, and I grip the cup between my covered hands. Heat seeps into cold bones. It’s 40 degrees F tonight, and the Hub has all the windows flung open. I huddle in my recliner, tuck up my knees, and sip hot tea. I contemplate deep waters.

In my mind’s eye, I can see to the bottom of the lake. The deep water is so clear it acts as a lens. I scope the watery landscape for large agates, but sediment covers the rocks, and they all look like brown cobbles. Farther out, the shelf drops so steeply all you can see is clear blue, clear blue, clear blue. I don’t dare venture that far, a novice in a kayak. I know better than to tempt Lady Lake into an invitation to tea below. The vastness of water feels so big it swells around me.

I once lost sight of mountains. In all of my life, I could look to familiar ridges and peaks. I used to tell people I was born in the Gabilans, raised in the Sierra, and educated in the Rockies. Then we moved to Iowa. The final mountain ranges faded, and prairie flattened all around me. In a panic, I wondered if this was what it was like to lose sight of land. Did a sailor feel what I felt when the shore dipped away? Roads laid out in grids across Iowa, and every day I’d get lost; the farms with house, silos, and cornfields all looked the same. There were no mountains to guide me home. Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived in Iowa and never wrote about it. All I have to say is that I lost my identity there.

Deep waters brought me home. Not to Montana, but to Minnesota with its North Shore of Lake Superior — the craggy, wild side of the lake. I orientated to co-ops, local food, and up north. Identity adapted. No mountain, but I could feel the energy of the lake, and I was lulled. Every summer, we tossed the canoe on the Expedition, loaded up three kids, tents, and outdoor cooking kitchen. On a lake in the boundary waters, the Hub and I paddled, the kids on shore, when we heard our daughter bellow, “Mooooose!” We cut across those deep waters of emerald green, headed to the rocks and pines of shore, frantically calling out the names of our children. That canoe never glided so fast. One daughter bumped into the backend of a moose and scared it worse than it scared her. We laugh to this day over her bellow. That kid could have been a yodeler. I decided I was pleased that moose lived near mountains and deep waters. A connection.

They say moose crossed the ice of Lake Superior when it froze between Canada and Isle Royale. The wolves followed. Another camping trip north, the kids and I rode Voyeguer II across Lake Superior to visit the most remote National Park in the lower 48. Over deep waters, the air temperatures drop 30 to 40 degrees from land. We saw another moose that day, swimming along the shore of the island. We hiked the park trails, and when the Voyeguer blasted its horn to call passengers back to harbor, we turned around, passing another person from our boat. He started to say something to me about my dog. I gave him a funny look because I had no dog with us. The wolf who decided to be our canine companion dashed off into the trees. No one had time to yell, “Wolf!” Somehow, the kids were less excited over a predator following them than running into a sleeping moose. We crossed back over those deep waters on 14-foot swells.

That’s how I like to enjoy Lake Superior — on her shoreline facing the roar of rolling water. She’s become my mountains, my solitude, my place of reflection. May we all take time to reflect. Waters run deep.

June 11, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story deep waters. It can be literal or metaphorical. Think of a place and person and situation. Explore. Bathe. Renew. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 16, 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.

Into Deep Waters by Charli Mills

What to place in my memory box? That last night out at the Fitz when the sun slanted across the western horizon dazzling like a copper-clad ruby while five-foot waves chomped the last of winter’s ice. March 13. We reached across the table, five friends sharing poutine and smoked brisket. We sang happy birthday. Later we dodged deer crossing the road back to Calumet, we stopped for a Bota Box of red wine. We found toilet paper, joking that Yoopers wouldn’t panic buy TP. Into deep waters, memories plunge. Most vivid — the last time I felt normal.

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96 Comments

    • Charli Mills

      Days and nights of water and tea.

    • Charli Mills

      Beautifully written, Reena! Thanks!

    • susansleggs

      So powerful. Written for those whose parents failed them.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you, Susan!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu! Yours is a powerful contemplation.

      • Ritu

        ????????????

  1. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I think the landscape of our childhoods influence what we take for normal. I grew up on the coast and close to lakes and now am near neither (although the distances are small relative to what you to travel in the USA); it’s also taken me a while to adjust to the gentler hills of the Peak District compared to the spikier Lake District fells.

    And we’ve drastically changed our lives since before covid – I remember you writing about your partying before lockdown which you expertly condensed in your flash. It’s not so long ago but history is moving fast. I’m still stuck on the topic of justice, racism and the transatlantic slave trade, so you can probably guess who’s in my deep water:

    Racism, entitlement and protest in the age of covid https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2020/06/racism-entitlement-and-political-protest-in-the-age-of-covid.html

    • Charli Mills

      The Azorean Portuguese have a term called suadade — I learned it to mean homesickness for the mountains, but Google defines it as a melancholy for perceived happiness past. Childhood, and often generational regions, certainly influence us.

      By name, I would think “Peak District” would possess the spikier hills. Have you ever experienced thinking a place was flat and then walking or biking it? Of course, I saw buildings with a different skew — four stories was tall. Anything over that was like 20 stories to me. I remember my first job in Minneapolis, my boss had me drop off a package on my way home. I realized where he was directing me and said, “Oh, that tall building.” “Tall?” he asked. “Yeah, it’s like 20 stories.” Turns out it was eight!

      With suadade, I remember that final pre-COVID party. Yes, history is clipping along. Perhaps it’s like one of those earthquakes where plates have rubbed, stuck for centuries, and finally break free with massive shockwaves. I think it appropriate your deep waters go to the epicenter.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Yeah, Peak is confusing, simply an old word for hill. Our highest point is 636 m (2,088 feet) and that’s on plateau! Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, is twice that height at 1,345 m — still low by your standards. I like your specific concept of suade, but will ask a Brazilian friend to arbitrate.

        Regarding your concept of tall buildings, it reminds me of cultures I’ve read about which don’t bother with words for numbers larger than what can be estimated with the naked eye. If you don’t need a concept you don’t need the word!

        Gosh, I do hope something good comes out of this mess. The Right has a remarkable ability to recover.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, I’d like to hear what your Brazillian friend says. My second-great grandfather on my mom’s maternal side was Brazilian Portuguese.

        I’d still like to hike your peaks one day. I enjoy watching Time Team and Tony Robin’s walks across the UK, and there’s steep terrain! But I hadn’t considered the absence of concepts, but it does make sense. No one had ever asked me how tall a building was before and my observations were limited.

        Ugh. Reminds me of the ’70s toy, “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

  2. Liz H

    I think that’s another opportunity form the pandemic: we have the time and impetus to really miss and re-value the things we’ve sometimes taken for granted. Their meaning lies deeper than we often notice, though they’ve written themselves in our souls.
    Lovely, soulful blog , Charlie!

    • Charli Mills

      Yeah, Liz, I think COVID extended us an opportunity to readjust. To slow down, be mindful, recall what matters and why. Good timing as I also try to understand how I’m part of current events. My soul goes wandering.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Anne, there’s a lot of sitting beneath bird-song and staring out windows that accompanies my fluries.

  3. noelleg44

    Lovely, Charli. Your story took me away. My husband sailed the Great Lakes in his younger days but he always said Huron was the clearest.

    • Charli Mills

      What an experience, Noelle, to sail the Great Lakes! Last year, I discovered Lake Huron, and I’d love to explore those waters, too. Thanks!

  4. denmaniacs4

    Truth is, some memories just sit out there on the edge of recall, waiting to be pulled in, yet struggling to keep their secrets, not wanting exposure.

    A Memory of Long Lake

    It was my toughest bike ride ever.

    Up to then, anyways.

    Ernie and I usually rode up to the Dam to swim.

    Or walked two blocks to the Millstream.

    Not this time.

    “We can’t do it,” I whined. “Gotta be a hundred miles.”

    “Nah. Ten.”

    “Fifty.”

    “Come on.”

    Early July.

    Hot.

    Pumping away.

    Dripping sweat.

    Train tracks snuggling the old highway.

    Wishing we were crows.

    Got there by noon.

    Dog-tired.

    A dozen local kids swimming away.

    “There’s really no bottom to it, Ernie?”

    “Goes all the way to China, I hear.”

    I believed every word then.

    Kinda still do.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Charli Mills

      Those long bike rides were like rites of passages as kids. They used to kill me because I was accustom to riding horses, so I’d be pedaling dog-tired, too. You could go many directions in the what happens next, Bill.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Sweaty bike rides and legendary cold water deeps. Howdy neighbor. I know that swimming hole.

  5. Jules

    Charli,

    Normal is so different for so many. We went out to dinner last week – our Yellow allows dining outside with all plastic… One friend said it was the first time she’d drunk wine from a plastic cup and would bring her own glass one next time. I did another haibun for this prompt – mixed with some book titles from another: Enjoy:

    There’s Always the Eye of a Needle

    Sun under wood, shaded yard
    Scavenger loop, just to see the ‘mettle’ of the earth
    My endurance lacking in the humidity for the time and being

    And never said a word (not boo), let the crow catch a few seeds…
    Those blackbirds they are skittish ~
    Like me shopping with a mask this morning, just wanting home…

    But before that, I paused at the first yard sale of the season –
    Reaching into the depths of my wallet for two dollars.
    More buttons and spools ~

    if the bobbin would
    stop cutting its own thread I’d
    sew me together

    ©JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Like all things, Jules, normal is a perspective. This is a beautiful snapshot of a moment sewn into other moments, a search for which one is really the defining patch.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      The Poet Lariat has done it again. Love those last three lines especially.

      • Jules

        Turns out the bobbin replacement was bad – so the machine is going again. So I can work on ‘other projects’ besides meself 😉

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    She was eighty years my senior, I the youngest child of her youngest child’s oldest child. From the 20 years our lives overlapped I have only a handful of memories, recalled like sepia snapshots. But if I examine any one of those snapshot memories of us together, somewhere in the frame, in distinct shiny color, is her queen conch shell. Me trying to fathom the spindrift shell, she saying put it to your ear, smiling as ageless ocean washes over me in a rushing tide; us swimming easily, floating in timeless deep waters that muffle all but that moment.

    • susansleggs

      Time with a Great-grandmother (I think) fondly remembered. Beautiful scene.

    • Charli Mills

      The math adds up to ainfinite moment and an ageless sound. Mighty fine, D.

    • Norah

      What a gift to have 20 years with someone 80 years older than you. I love the timelessness of your story. Worlds meet.

    • Liz H

      I can feel the push and pull of the waves with this one, the sparkle of bright light, and the susurration of sand…lovely!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

    • Susan Zutautas

      That was fun 🙂

    • Liz H

      The Little scary Mermaid! <3 <3

  7. susansleggs

    Charli, I grew up in the Finger Lakes of New York state and felt right at home in mountainous western Wahington state, but lost in flat Illinois. I now live on the hilly side of Rochester, NY and fully understand why I picked this neighborhood. It’s a comfort. Your kayak ride sounds like a calming experience, though lacking a loon. And that moose…what a childhood memory for your family.
    I am only going to leave a link to my flash this week because I want people to go to my blog to see who I had the privilege of knowing during my school years. Both families were very large, and welcome additions in our classrooms and on our sports teams.

    http://susansleggs.com/2020/06/13/famous-classmates-bots/

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes, we appreciate that environmental comfort. It’s unsettling to see such different landscapes. Often, certain cultures settle in places in the New World that reminded them of the old.

      Alas, no loons. Though I have seen some other ducks.

      What fun to have famous classmates!

    • Charli Mills

      Deep waters has that influence. When I’m troubled a cup of tea can be a deep well of contemplation. Thanks for your offering!

  8. TanGental

    The boys are getting closer to the Ranch…

    Profoundly Shallow

    ‘Where are we?’
    ‘The Great Lakes, Morgan. Lake Erie.’
    ‘It sure is eerie. Too bloody quiet.’
    ‘Can’t we just enjoy its magnificence?’
    ‘It scares the willies out of me. It’s… so deep.’
    ‘Yes mysterious. Profound.’
    ‘It’s just a lot of the wet stuff that given half a chance will swallow me whole.’
    ‘It’s majestic. Unknowable. Imagine what memories it holds…. You know what they say about Still Waters?’
    ‘He’s the best Pokemon Go hunter ever?’
    ‘What?’
    ‘Stile Warters, German Guy. He caught more Pokemon last year. Shall we see if any are here?’
    ‘Sure. Why not try out there?’

    • Norah

      Oh dear. That sounds like a dare he’d be better not to take.

    • Charli Mills

      Wait until they get to the greatest of the Great! Not sure if there are Pokemon, but lots of cool rocks.

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Kiddhartha

    “Feels like a long while since we jist ranched.”

    “Yep, it’s good ta be out ridin’ the range, herdin’ hosses, gittin’ ‘em ta greener pastures. Whoa. There’s a river. Think we kin ford it?”

    “We ain’t gotta buy it Kid, jist gtta git acrost it. Carefully.”

    “Water looks still.”

    “Still waters run deep. We’ll git the hosses down ta the river, let ‘em quench their thirst an’ rest up. ***
    Dang, Kid. I led ‘em ta water but cain’t git these hosses ta drink. Kid?”

    “Shush, Pal. I’m a settin’ here watchin’ the river flow. Havin’ me a think.”

    • Norah

      Sitting watching the river flow. Nice. So serene.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thankee, Norah, but nothing original here. Just a nod to Herman Hesse, Bob Dylan, and Buddhism.

      • Norah

        We breathe the words from others but make the truth our own.

    • Charli Mills

      I love a good think. Sometimes, a thought flashes like the belly of a jumping trout then swims back to the deep.

  10. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    From the Deep

    He and Hope followed the brook through the softwoods to his favorite fishing spot. But when Hope saw the clear deep pool she was no longer interested in catching trout. She became a trout, flashing sleek and slippery through the water.
    Hope stood briefly, a little girl again. Then she knelt beneath the surface, remained curled up on the gravel bottom. He held his own breath until finally Hope unfolded, emerging at last from the cold water. Solemnly she disclosed that she’d been a rock for ten million years.
    “There’s magic here, Daddy.”
    “Yes, Hope. I see it too.”

    • Norah

      I’m so pleased Hope emerged. Hopeful.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yeah. That’s how I take it too. And the trout are glad to live to see another day.

      • Norah

        Most of us are.

    • Liz H

      Maybe this is the true expression of shape shifting? I love the poetry and serious play of this one.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I have a couple of kid characters who have vivid shape shifting imaginations. I’m thinking it’s a thing. Play is serious and a lot can seriously be learned from it.
        Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Mmm, I like that kind of magic. Funny, because that’s where my thoughts went, with Hope, when I responded to Kid. I had no idea you already followed the flash of trout deep! Good to see Hope and her Dad.

  11. Norah

    I felt lulled by your post, drawing in its peace. Yes, even with moose and wolves, it felt peaceful, still, like deep waters. I think it is time for you to allow the waters to wash over and refresh you. You’re fighting some difficult battles. Your flash is excellent too. Life certainly doesn’t feel normal and we do need to reach deep within to find those vestiges of what we were before. Maybe we should reach out only those threads that will take us forward into a positive future. Look after yourself, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I feel like this is an opportunity to rework the threads worth creating a different future. Now the heat has descended and I’m really wanting those deep waters to wash over me! Thanks. You take care, too.

      • Norah

        We do need to undo some threads from the past to weave a new future. Some threads may be reworked. Others must be discarded – forever.

  12. jgard3

    “Displacement”

    Nobody knows which raindrop transmuted our reservoir into a frothing bull that breached the levee, stampeding downriver, chased by debris. One moment, we marveled at the storm; the next, our recreational area transgressed its cage and reclaimed its territory: roads that scarred the landscape healed by a fresh, muddy skin, cloned McMansions gutted of their trophies, converted to bird houses.

    On higher ground, we found sanctuary in the high school, now a bed and breakfast for a thousand refugees. While we waited on our cots, calmer voices gathered to assign blame with flashes of insight, booming words of consolation.

    https://jeffgardfiction.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/displacement-micro-fiction/

    • susansleggs

      Within so few words I can hear and see the destruction and then the blame being spewed in all directions. Well done.

    • Charli Mills

      Clever, the way your flash opens not knowing “which raindrop” and yet ends with assigned blame. Well written. It reminds me of the Midland County dam breaches last month in Michigan.

  13. Susan Zutautas

    We’ve had a few very cold nights here this past week and I’ve been enjoying many cups of tea. Actually a welcomed break from the heat. I was a little worried about my garden but it survived 🙂
    My FF this week is a true story from my childhood at Old Orchard Beach in Maine. I think I was somewhere around 10 – 12 years of age.
    http://susansplace.blog/2020/06/14/terrified-flash-fiction/

    • susansleggs

      Sounds scary to me. Glad the wave brought you to shore.

    • Liz H

      I has a similar experience first time I swam in the ocean, as a child. Luckily, my cousin was standing nearby as I tumbled, and he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me up, spluttering.
      Yes, terrifying!

      • Susan Zutautas

        Glad your cousin was there.

      • Liz H

        Me too!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      My family used to vacation there! It was a great place for sand dollars and the sand was gray and smooth packed. Your memory is scarier.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Somehow I knew you were going to say that about OOB. Some of my family still goes there every year. I keep wanting to join them. Maybe if I do, I’ll let you know and we could meet up. I used to collect sand dollars from there 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Maine- Vacationland! (I think now their plates say the way life used to be… as if. ) Either way, see you there. I want also to go to Portland and the Allagash Brewery.
        Another fun fact; in the old days we used to be able to just drive across the border into Quebec for stronger beer (Brador). I regularly listened to CHOM FM out of Montreal.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I’ve been drinking tea, too, it’s been so chilly! My garden came through it, but further up the ridge on the Keweenaw, my daughter lost nearly all her 36 tomatoes to frost. Then yesterday we got hit with a 30-degree increase. Ugh. I prefer tea! Our poor plants! What must they make of these temperature changes?

      • Susan Zutautas

        So sorry about your daughters tomato plants. I’d be devastated.

      • Charli Mills

        Her husband is going to get some greenhouse plants to replace them. I still have all mine started from seed so we’ll see who gets a tomato first!

    • Charli Mills

      Deep waters left is a loss that will be lingering.

  14. Liz H

    Here’s mine..a bit of a late entry:

    Still Waters

    “Okay, you can uncover your eyes now.”
    “Wow! That’s beautiful…and heartbreaking. Who made this mural?”
    “Trevor made this one. And take a few steps around this corner. This is one by Teresa. Yeah…it makes me tremble, too.”
    “Wait! Those quiet kids who never join in on anything?”
    “Apparently they just don’t join in on the things we’ve been offering.”
    “I had no idea.”
    “Neither did I. It seems those still waters run deep.”
    “So what do we do now?”
    “We go back to school. Donate groceries. Attend drum circles and honor Juneteenth.”
    “And never go back to normal?”
    “Exactly.”
    [Link to blog post ]

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      If we should spend some time defining ‘normal’ we would not go back, not exactly.

    • Charli Mills

      Imagine how much treasure has been buried beneath the gunk of oppression. I love this vision, this glimpse of coming out, not returning to status quo. Drumming circles, yes! I’m attending one via Zoom Saturday night. I’ll have these images in mind.

      • Liz H

        <3 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you found your way here!

  15. ancapandrea

    My first time around, just found this. Can’t wait to read some, write some, connect with all of you

    https://amesswithapen.tumblr.com/post/621104356087955456/deep-waters

    I have a pocketful of dreams. Heavy, they forgot how to breathe. I drag my feet through the afternoon light, dancing over the surface. Shadows reach out from the abyss, and ghosts are all shadow. I don’t look back, the shore I can’t call home anymore. I stumble. It’s hope that tugs at the my feet, tiny and fleeting. The river runs slow and cold and blue. Do dark, almost black. Quiet and gentle and infinite. Not enough to drown the tears. I let go of my breath one last time. Between myself and I, only the deep waters.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! Sorry for the delay. First-time comments go into a holding pen so we can keep a safe space for all writers here. Beautiful reflection in your 99-word story!

      • ancapandrea

        No worries. Thank you for having me 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch. This is a strong dive into the waters. The second sentence is indeed heavy, dreams forgetting how to breathe.
      Keep writing and enjoy the fresh air of the write open range.

  16. jgard3

    Great scene. Somehow it feels serene and ominous at the same time.

  17. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Padre!

  18. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  19. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  20. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Dave!

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