August 6: 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.

August 6, 2020

I’m sitting on a pile of beach pebbles like a dragon on its hoard, sand gnats swarming me every time the breeze stalls. It’s perfect weather — 74 degrees F, sunny, gentle wind, blue sky, no humidity, and frolicking Lady Lake Superior waves of sun-soaked surface water. Off to my left, a pair of common mergansers fish. A crow glides overhead and cries, “Caa-caa,” casting a shadow across the rocks in flight. The insects of early August are not the biting ones of mid-June, and I don’t mind their dance around my legs as I pick through the mineral treasure before me. Already, I’ve found seven agates and three large basalts with agates still in situ. I needed a perfect day to remember my magic.

My feet ache from the walking I did earlier. Every year I try a new pair of water shoes. Keens have the best soles, but no mesh to keep out small pebbles and sand. Various water shoes that have lightweight mesh also have thin soles. Like the pair, I’m wearing now. Walking on the rocky shore leaves my feet feeling bruised. Long gone is the barefoot kid who used to hop rocks in mountain creeks and run around on all surfaces. Now, I’m an overgrown tenderfoot, yet I can’t resist rock-picking.

My favorite finds today include the agate in situ, meaning the host rock of dark gray basalt still holds the agate formation. It’s the size of a small grape and banded in the colors of fawn and cream and milk chocolate. When the basalt had formed, lava first geysered as molten fountains that flooded and hardened into the bedrock of this region. I’m sitting on once fiery rocks as old as 2.7 billion years. Gas bubbles formed when the lava cooled, causing holes called vesicles, which was crucial for the secondary formation of agates, amygdaloid microcrystals, and Patricianite. Silica-rich water led to a mass of secondary mineralization, and further metamorphosis leached copper into the largest raw masses found in the world. In the Keweenaw, copper infuses basalts and silicas. Copper Country.

I have a hand lens that opens up a minute world of veins and vesicles to me. With enough finds in my satchel, I plop down like I am now and examine the structures and colors. Some contact metamorphic granites create yin-yang rocks of two different makeups where different liquid rocks pressed together. Purplish garnets appear in milky-white quartz. Feldspar — white plagioclase or pink k-spar — can result in large crystals in granite. Pink k-spar with veins of pistachio-green epidote is called unakite. The pink and green combination stuns visitors to the area. But it’s what formed in basalt that intrigues me most. Often I discard my finds after a thorough examination, leaving the treasure for a curious beachcomber to find. On other days, I set up beneath a birch tree and build flat sandstone cairns topped with microcrystalline gems caught in basalt. Sometimes, I return to find someone who has added their own picks.

Before COVID, I loved talking to others on the beach, learning and teaching what we know, or don’t know about Great Lakes rocks. I avoided my favorite beaches after my birthday in May, disturbed by how many tourists were coming to our shores on the Keweenaw. Yet, oddly enough, despite McLains (it’s F. J. McLain S. P. but locals add the “s” and drop the initials) campground at full capacity with license plates from all over the US, no one goes to my favorite beach. Relieved I don’t have to actively avoid people, I come here whenever I need fresh air, cool water, and hot rocks.

My MFA program is heating up. My professor is line-editing our manuscripts to callout patterns of bad habits. Things like misplaced commas. Evidently, she doesn’t appreciate my theory that commas go into a jar to be sprinkled liberally over a set of writing. I don’t know why commas are punctuation I struggle with, but I’m not alone. If you want to join me in improving comma use, here’s a basic guide from Grammarly. If you are serious about the publishing industry as an editor or writer, you should invest in a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style. According to that source, “Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with the goal being ease of reading.”

Another bad writing habit my professor flagged surprised me, and yet now I can’t stop seeing it (which is a good thing). She told me to reduce my use of prepositions following a verb. For example, instead of writing that “she picked up rocks,” write “she collected rocks,” or “she scooped rocks,” or “she grabbed all the rocks.” Her list of my bad habits stunned me the way unakite startles newbie rock pickers. Wow, we think, I had no idea that existed. Our inclinations do exist — syntax is part of our distinct voice — yet some can weaken our writing. It might sound depressing to read page after page of such feedback, yet it is also liberating to know that as an MFA student this is the greatest attention our writing will ever receive. I’m taking in all of it — I’m absorbing it all. See? I can reduce prepositions and learn commas, and…

My prof left me with this quote and I’ll leave it with you:

“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Juno Diaz

August 6, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about molten lava. It can be real-time, such as a volcanic event or the result of one in the geologic timeline. Or, think about making the prompt into a metaphor of heat. What is so hot? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 11, 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.

CALL FOR RODEO LEADERS: The Rodeo 99-word Stories Contest will return in October with a first-place cash prize sponsored by Carrot Ranch. As indicated, each contest is 99-words. However, the type of story, format, subject, or added prompts is wide open to creative direction. Carrot Ranch will host the TUFF (99-59-9-99) contest at the Saddle Up Saloon every Monday in October. The ranch buckaroo is looking for three more leaders who have blogs and would like to create, host, and work with judges of their choosing to host a Rodeo contest at their blog on an October Tuesday. This is different from previous contests so that the regular challenges can continue simultaneously. It will help regulate ranch traffic and can increase traffic for partner blogs. If you are interested, contact Charli at wordsforpeople(at)gmail(dot)com. There will be a Zoom meeting in late August for Rodeo leaders.

Submissions are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

Summer Geology by Charli Mills

At what temperature do people melt like molten lava? It’s 110 degrees F for the third day, and the swimming pool glistens like blue silica. Doris slathers more sunscreen on her brown wrinkled skin, rubbing the cream in circles as if softening an ostrich leather purse. It’s so hot she could burst, but the swimming beckons, promising a cooldown. Two weeks quarantined at her daughter’s place is better than self-combusting in her Airstream back at the seniors only RV park. She sinks her body and becomes a secondary metamorphic process, a volcano abating. Her bones crystalize in the pool.

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Wowza! You’re in early, Boss! Sounds like you had a rocky day, in a good way. I think that’s great that the Rodeo, now in it’s fourth year, will be in addition to and not instead of the regularly scheduled program of challenge.

    Somebody check on Doris before she becomes Stew.

    • Charli Mills

      Weird, eh? I’m in over my head and off the schedule. But swimming to shore. I think Doris enjoys a good stewing. Kinda reminds me of my aunt who loves to swim in near 90 degree water! That’s a bath. Or stew. Or silicification.

      Trying to find a good balance with the Rodeo.

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    A Tasteless Tale

    “Hey Kid. Kid? Cat got yer tongue?”
    “Whut? Ernie’s fallen inta the well?”
    “Jeez, Kid, set yersef down, lemme git ya some cool water. Yer practic’ly steamin’. There’s beads a sweat big as marbles on yer face, yer tongue’s all swoll up, an’, not fer nuthin’, this ain’t yer best hair day neither. Here, drink up.”
    “Shanksawwahhawtthawtt!! Ow! Wattah makes it hottah.”
    “Whut happened Kid?”
    “Was at Ernie’s. Ate. Chili. He. Made. Ow. Hurt.”
    “Oh, Kid, ya shouldn’t oughtta done thet. Thet stuff’s powerful hot, stuff’s like molten lava.”
    “No shit, Pal.”
    “Yeah, about thet…”
    “Mama mia…”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! We were talking about a similar subject tonight. Is Ernie a veteran by chance? Seems Marines get issued Tabasco Sauce in their MREs and hot makes shit taste better!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Think Kid’s concerned about the passage of… time… Cuz hot don’t go away.

      • Charli Mills

        Hot lingers. Give the Kid a glass of milk. 😉

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It Gets Worse

      “Pepe LeGume. Long time no see.”
      “Keed! I almost deed not see you. Why do you seet in dat stock tank?”
      “Ah’m still overheatin’ from eatin’ Ornery Ernie’s hot lava chili. It burned me good, Pepe.”
      “Why deed you eat it, den?”
      “Didja know he uses bacon? Guess I ate too much too fast. It still burns.”
      “Dees weel pass.”
      “That’s what Ah’m afraid of, Pepe.”
      “My dear wife, Logatha, she would advise you drink lots of milk and eat bread. Dees weel cool things down eenside.”
      “Good idea. Ice cream?”
      “You might, Keed. Dere weel be an eruption.”

      • Charli Mills

        That’s volcanic activity!

      • Liz H

        Run for your lives! (And wear asbestos suits at the Ranch?)

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Leez, I do not know about assbestest, but I teenk Keed’s ass will take eet da worstest.

  3. Becky Ross Michael

    Love that quote, Charli (and your walk at the beach:)

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for walking the beach with me, Becky. Do you have a favorite Keweenaw rock you like to hunt for? I liked that quote, too.

      • Becky Ross Michael

        I lean toward the granite specimens that are heavy on the pinks, but I love so many of them. Luckily, I kept some:)

      • Charli Mills

        Those pinks are some of my favorites, too.

  4. denmaniacs4

    It must be something in the air, Charli. I don’t really know and can’t account for it. It’s just one of those days where lava and laughter seem to fuse in one big molten mess of writing.

    Death Stuff

    Helga was giving thoughts of death a serious think today. In her wheelchair, waiting for our special seventy-fifth anniversary memorial Hiroshima sushi lunch, our little way of marking that event, she was also agitated by the recent Beirut dock explosion.

    What with everyone wearing masks, Covid-19 was also painfully present.

    I thought if I could find some eccentric examples of death, that might cheer her up.

    Chef Pang Pen being bitten by the severed head of Cobra almost got a giggle.

    Poor Phillip’s death by glass shard from his exploding Lava Lamp unfortunately sent her into a deeper funk.

    • Charli Mills

      It happens, Bill. A molten mess is how we make sense of it all. Death by Lava Lamp was rumored back in the day but that was pre-YouTube. Hard to guage what would cheer up a person these days.

  5. Norah

    Love that quote about writing – against the odds. How I’d love to be sitting with you on your favourite beach, scooping up rocks and listening while you describe them. One day, eh?

    • Charli Mills

      One day, Norah! All things are yet possible.

      • Norah


      • Charli Mills

        Yet! And this week we are discussing the relationship of grit to the growth mindset.

  6. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    Glad to hear about the competition rodeo Charli. I will try to get more involved – there is a lot going on in my life at the moment – long story. But hopefully come the autumn I can be more active again. Best, Marje x

    • Charli Mills

      You have been busy, Marje. It’s remarkable that you collected and published a book during lockdown (on lockdown!) and these times have tossed us all into choppy waters. I hope the Rodeo can give incentive or something to look forward to!

      • Marje @ Kyrosmagica

        Yes I tend to always take on a lot of projects! And then realise I’m in the midst of them all… I look forward to the Rodeo. Marje x

  7. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    So, why is “She sat down” so bad?

    • Charli Mills

      Well, it depends on your sentences and I seem to have a habit of loading up (like, “she sat back down…” or “she backed up into…”). We practice cutting unnecessary words with tight constraints and it makes writing stronger. Then again, my brain is fried tonight! I got the second half of my thesis turned in. Turned in? Submitted!

      • Charli Mills

        I need it! 😉

  8. Jim Borden

    how wonderful to get such feedback from your teacher. and by the way, I thought your first paragraph reminded me a bit of the way Pat Conroy writes – and to me, no one writes as well as he does!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for that high praise, Jim. I might have to pay attention to my magic in that first paragraph.

  9. Hugh W. Roberts

    No humidity and temps in the 70s? It sounds like my perfect summer, Charli. And I’m glad the tourists haven’t found your favourite beach. It sounds like a place full of treasures, not only physical but the type of treasure that forms in our minds and becomes a great piece of writing.

    Thanks for the mention about prepositions following a verb. Grammarly can certainly help me out when it comes to those types of words. I need to remember to trust Grammarly’s recommendations more often.

    Glad Doris found a place to cool off.

    • Charli Mills

      We agree on what makes perfect summer weather, Hugh! I feel like I can’t craft a sentence tonight without questioning my words. Alas. Grammarly and I often debate but I’m trying to learn there, too.

      May we all find the relief Doris found!

  10. Jules

    Charli… I’m not quite like Doris… I like warmer water to swim in, but not bathwater. I’ve been in lake water. And after you body gets numb… it’s not so bad 😉

    I’ve got a BoTS haibun for you:
    P?hoehoe and ?a??

    Molten lava once formed the now empty tubes near the bottom of Maui, Hawai’i where the ocean waves rush in creating anywhere from thirty to forty feet tall water spout. The height of a three story building. That lava traveled down Mt. Haleakal? between 1480 and 1600. It was cold when I was at the top of the mountain which is 10,023 feet, in the early 2000’s.

    quickly the sun sets
    in Maui’s Pacific ocean
    the star stays glowing

    I prefer the beaches and water warmed by Sol. Yet one is never far to view cooled lava on Maui.


    Haleakal? East Maui volcano, known as Haleakal?, has witnessed at least ten eruptions in the past 1,000 years, and numerous eruptions have occurred there in the past 10,000 years. The most recent eruptions occurred sometime between the years 1480 and 1600. The tallest peak of Haleakal?, at 10,023 feet, is Pu?u ?Ula?ula.

    P?hoehoe and ?a?? : Lavas, particularly basaltic ones, come in two primary types: pahoehoe (pronounced ‘paw-hoey-hoey”) and aa (pronounced “ah-ah”). Both names, like a number of volcanological terms, are of Hawaiian origin.

    An approximate count of 99 word entries that I’ve kept track of in a particular folder for weekly prompts has just reached 300!! Thank you Charli Mills top Boss at Carrot Ranch!! ????

    • reading journeys

      Hi Jules – wow! 300 FF! Congratulations and thank you —
      inspired me to write my FF! thank you!
      And I second your thanks to Charli — she is inspiring!

      • Jules

        Glad I could inspire you. That 300 was just for the weekly (only occasionally I’ve written more than one for a single prompt). and the newer additional column prompts. I’ve written more to satisfy the Annual Rodeo contests (and additional in the comment pieces).

        My first writing for Carrot Ranch was mid June 2015 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Yes, Jules, it’s not so bad after the numbness hits. It was cold, even for me this last Friday. I remember learning P?hoehoe and ?a?? lava in my first geology class. The former means rope (for the smooth coils it forms) and the latter is the sound a person makes walking across the sharp shards! I’ve never seen the Hawaiian examples, though. Must be amazing!

      • Jules

        I don’t recall the Hawai’ian name but there is also Pillow Lava, well because it looks like a pillow. I don’t think I’d be using a rock pillow anytime soon. But …well pillows in general are interesting. As some ancient ‘pillows’ were what looked to me to be just neck rests… I saw that in a museum.

        “Before porcelain pillows became popular in ancient China, the Chinese used to sleep on stone, roof tile, or pottery pillows. The porcelain pillow may have originated after the Han (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) and Wei (220-264) Dynasties.”

        When I looked under porcelain pillow I found: During the Sui Dynasty (581-618), porcelain headrests were the most common type of ancient pillows. … It became more popular in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and reached its heyday in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was those porcelain pillows that I saw in a museum. I thought they were wood? Maybe some were wood that couldn’t get porcelain. Hard to tell what the material was… (long ago that memory) but they were beautifully decorated.

        Hmm… I got a tad derailed. But hey, learned somethin’ new 😀

      • Charli Mills

        I did not know about the pillow lava. Interesting!

  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Epoch Weekend

    The only one more disgruntled by the arrangement than her was her grandson. Sulking in the bow of the canoe, he showed no interest even in the great blue heron. In a huff she planted the paddle and abruptly turned the canoe. The heron, startled, lifted to flight.
    They followed the pterodactyl. It landed in the marsh. There, miniature pterodactyls, light as dragonflies, landed on their knees.
    They ate Hershey bars by the fire and turned marshmallows into molten lava. The sun slipped low over the mountain.
    In the fog draped morning it would be a fire-breathing dragon.

    • Charli Mills

      Just needed a geological shift to make it all magic. And I believe Blue Herons are the descendants of pterodactyls. Dragonflies knew dinosaurs personally and dragons still exist in the cores of mountains. Wonder!

    • Liz H

      That’s how we invite them in, isn’t it? Let ’em tell their own stories and watch ’em grow.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        These two returned in my latest post, a six sentence story.

  12. Ann Edall Robson

    I am not a lover of heat, and when the temps hit mid-high 20’s – low 30’s (82-94 F) I tell everyone, “It can snow anytime.” And I mean it.

    Molten Lava
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    For over a month water bombers flew through the acrid haze. The old-timers said it was the worst fire season of their memory. Black clouds forming in the West were the only hope of a reprieve. Their empty promises brought nothing but more lightning strikes to bolster the fire stats. Then the wind switched direction, blowing from the East. According to the old boys, that meant moisture was coming soon. Looking east on the morning it rained, the colours of fire silhouetted the ridge, like molten lava wrestling with the skyline. How could a sunrise be so cruel?

    • Charli Mills

      I have heard that sentiment uttered several times this summer, but I like the nice in-between days to linger, Ann.

      Your final imagery gave me a chill with its molten horror at sunrise.

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    “All these lipsticks are some shade of red, how do you choose? What’s that called, the one you’re using?”
    “Molten Lava.”
    “Ooh, hot.” She pushed away his attempted kiss, told him coolly to just get ready and not cause them to be late for the dinner party.
    He sighed, but obediently moved away from her, got busy with his tie. “What if, just this once, we didn’t go? They’re all alike. We’d not even be missed.”
    “We would be missed. And talked about.”
    “Does that really matter?”
    Her eyes threw sparks. He headed to the car before she erupted.

    These characters I just met here:
    I was sort of working on expanding that story a bit, but then got distracted by this 99 word flash which I probably won’t incorporate.

    • Charli Mills

      Ack! That horror of which shade to pick! I think this one knows how to pull off Molten Lava.

  14. robbiesinspiration

    I have said it before, Charli, but for me being a good writer is about having a unique and compelling idea that grips the reader. There are tools that make the telling of the story tighter and better, but I often think there is to much focus on how a story is told and not enough on what the story comprises of. I was reading Sinbad the Sailor yesterday and I couldn’t help thinking that the writing of this book isn’t remotely up to the modern showing and not telling mantra. Yet, this book has stood the tests of time and is so different and unique.

    • Charli Mills

      Robbie, what you see in a classic like Sinbad the Sailor is the marvelous imprint of a captivating story. Classics might not compare to modern writing techniques, but they do remind us that stories with staying power speak to us across time and culture.

      I think what makes writing unique is the author’s voice. It’s why I like collecting the 99-word stories every week to see all the different takes on a single topic. Style comes from voice. I think it’s amazing that all these centuries later, modern readers can still hear the voice of Sinbad’s storyteller. But is it good writing? That’s subjective. Compelling, yes.

      Writing is like a trade that moves through levels from apprenticeship to novice to mastery. Keeping with a growth mindset, I don’t think we ever stop becoming good writers.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Thanks for your comprehensive response, Charli. I agree that there is a lot to be said for learning to write well. I can see the huge development in my own writing thanks to you, Esther and Dan. I have remembered what you told me about looking to see how the great writers wrote things and described them. If I am a bit stuck, I always go and read a scene that is in the same vein to get inspiration. That was the best piece of advice ever.

      • Charli Mills

        Robbie, you have that growth mindset drive which will continue to influence your development as a writer.

  15. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Line edits can be a shock initially, but so valuable! My bad habits include overuse of the verb to be, and the continuous mood (not sure if that’s the term) e.g. “I was going” when “I went” would do just as well. And I make your mistake of prepositions following a verb, although hadn’t seen it till I read your post, so thanks for that.

    I love your take on the prompt and this fabulous phrase ‘rubbing the cream in circles as if softening an ostrich leather purse’. We had temperatures like molten lava yesterday but thankfully cooler today and I enjoyed my morning walk in the drizzle. Unfortunately I’ve had a bad couple of days psychologically, but feeling better since I tried (and failed) to express that feeling in my flash:

    Mental health, Brexit, and political displacement projects

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I really should feel so grateful that someone took the time to list my writing faults! I had to laugh at one page where I was struggling for the right imagery and I must have tested out at least ten analogies where one would have suited. Now I’m working on a system for copying notes into Scrivener on each scene. I’m liking that program more and more.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I think Scrivener’s great if you type, but (last time I tried it) I couldn’t dictate into it directly, so I’m stuck with zillions of Word docs.

    • Charli Mills

      You took on the geology and created an interesting setting for your characters, E.A.! Well done!

      • robertawrites235681907

        Hi Miss D, yes, the Australian firestorms sound horrific.

    • Charli Mills

      That would be so terrifying to face, Robbie!

  16. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    A great blog – and I loved the quote from your prof:
    “…In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Juno Diaz

    I think of myself as “almost a writer” because I love reading more! But your prof’s words and your blogs are a great encouragement for writing.
    I’m glad I somehow wandered into writing 99-word FF.

    Thanks Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Saifun,

      The best writers are the best readers! I count you a writer, but I also like to use the term “literary artist” because it captures both the reading and writing elements. I”m glad you found your way to the Ranch, to!

  17. TanGental

    Here’s mine, inspired by the boys progressing towards the peninsula. I wonder who the woman is?

    ‘These rocks are incredible…’
    ‘That woman’s talking to them.’
    ‘They were made from molten lava…’
    ‘Do you think she’s dangerous?’
    ‘Are you listening, Morgan?’
    ‘Aunt Maisie talked to her knitting. She’s bonkers.’
    ‘Forget the knitting. This is an agate, and…
    ‘Colin Airplane talked to his shoes.’
    ‘His shoes?’
    ‘He said it kept them pointing in the right direction.’
    ‘It doesn’t follow that he’s potty.’
    ‘Prince Charles talks to his trees.’
    ‘Ok, he’s the exception that proves the rule. Anyway I’d say she’s very sane, talking to her rocks.’
    ‘How’s that?’
    ‘Well, it stopped you talking to her, didn’t it?’

    And I’m rather with Robbie on the writing rules, feeling that they are over emphasised. That said anything that brings variety into writing and makes us think about the words we are using has to be good.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I thought I saw a couple of odd characters at the beach last Friday! Rock-talking is a good social-distancing strategy.

      If Robbie’s idea about unique and compelling sets the standard for good writing, Geoff, you are a master! I think voice (that unique and compelling style, in addition to ideas) will always be the attribute that matters to differentiate writers. If commercial success is what one wants, one must please the masses and the gate-keepers. If literary accolades are what one wants, polish up the rule book and then break the rules in magnificent ways.

      Like I told Robbie, I think of writing as a trade with levels. We seek to improve — some learn through studying rules, some the classics, and others from doing. How can we not improve if we continue to write? Does it matter that we follow rules? Eh, depends on your goals.

      But the molten lava rule is to talk to rocks for inspiration!

      • TanGental

        Wise words Charli. There are many ways through hell; all we have to remember is to keep going…

    • Charli Mills

      Good use of molten lava, Joanne!

  18. Michael B. Fishman

    I really liked this blog and how you captured the joy and fascination (and love) of rocks. I especially like this: “On other days, I set up beneath a birch tree and build flat sandstone cairns topped with microcrystalline gems caught in basalt. Sometimes, I return to find someone who has added their own picks.” I would think coming back to find that someone added to your creation would be a good feeling.

    You reminded me how much I want to try rock painting. Maybe to hide away on walking paths for others to find (and maybe just for me).

    • Charli Mills

      Michael, I love the phenomenon of rock-painting to share and disperse. It’s like that feeling of interacting with other rock pickers on the beach. You never really know what becomes of the rock you painted and hid along a trail for someone to discover, but it’s connecting nonetheless. My friend keeps some of hers, too, and places them in her garden.

  19. Liz H

    On the other side of a break in the heat and humidity, marked by post-midnight flash, flicker, pause and boom. Cooler today, and grateful for the next season to come. And because Winter will follow up soon enough…

    Surviving the Storm

    Pace the living room, arms hugging my chest. My growling belly needs comfort and protection, not for need of nourishment, but because it craves. Outside, snow drives sidewise, piling up outside the doors, gathering in dark window corners.

    The fire’s lit, has blazed and quieted to embers. Red is poured, been airing and warming for half the day. White rises, bowled, in stiff peaks in the refrigerator. Dinner’s been dispensed with, a thick, hot mess of beans, beef, and tomatoes. Yes, I’ve planned this winter respite.

    The timer dings, chocolate hot lava cake is ready.

    Bring on the Whip!

    • Liz H

      Quick edit: replace ‘molten’ for ‘hot’, second to last line.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Doesn’t sound like a bad day at all. Move over, hand me a fork, please. I like the contrast of the cold white outside and the warm reds inside.

    • Charli Mills

      Molten or hot, Liz, I’m all for the Whip! I made the change for the collection but it will cost you a cake.

      • Liz H


    • Charli Mills

      Hi Jack! I like the cuppa you served up in your story.

  20. suespitulnik

    Hi Charli,
    Your time on the beach sounds wonderful. I’m glad you have a spot that is still yours to enjoy along with the birds.
    I’m hoping for a picture of you and hubs in your finery for the wedding. I’m confident it will be a good day in all ways.
    I am learning about hospice this week, for my sister, so the words aren’t coming to Michael and Tessa. I asked my grandson, not quite 15, for a writing suggestion and his answer was to tell about the boy who was looking at the hot new girl in his class. I’m chuckling that life keeps evolving and my little boy grandson is now a young man that walks wooded park trails with me and talks about government, laws, and the importance of family.
    Have a wonderful time Saturday and congratulations on the advancement of your thesis.
    By the way, in my literal mind, “take it all in” displays a feeling/action, and “absorbing” is sterile.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sue! My heart is heavy for yours that hospice is the lesson, but there is something profoundly beautiful about support at end of life that connects to your conversations with your grandson. Life is lived in the space between joys and sorrows. I hope Michael and Tessa help you process through writing when the time is right.

      As for tightening language, there is a balance somewhere between voice and revision.

      I will have photos. So far, it’s all coming together (I think)!

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Frank!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Kerry!


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