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August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

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My desk faces a wall, and two large picture windows to my right dominate the living room. I can’t help but peek out the windows and watch the red squirrel nibble the suet upsidedown or catch the raspberry sherbert glow of sunset over the rooftops on a partially cloudy evening. Last week I glimpsed fluttering in the branches of a tall pine across the street. Squeals and squawks alerted me to a nest of fledglings. With movement, I tried to get a closer look. That’s how I came to be writing at my desk with binoculars.

It was worth adding the lenses to my piles of paper, reference books (including The Sibley Field Guide to Birds), and a  hoard of colored gel pens (purple, turquoise, pink, carrot-top green, and functional black). The shrill cries belonged to a family of American Kestrels. According to Sibley, they are “…screaming killy, killy, killy.” No less than five juveniles hopped and beat their wings in the tree outside my window. Two parents dutifully supplied insects to the noisy brood.

Earlier, the robins fledged two batches of babies. The hummingbirds nested in secret, and the starlings returned to a successful nest in our neighborhood. It seems to me that birds of prey fledge later than the songbirds. A few streets up the hill from the co-op, Merlins nest. They feed almost entirely on birds, although they will eat a dragonfly. Alaska, the Keweenaw, and New England are the few US areas where Merlins nest. They prefer to rear young in Canada. Eagles prefer to nest near water, and we have a large lake nearby.

With the Merlins and Kestrels busy in town, we happened to find a juvenile eagle along the red sandstone cliffs of Lake Superior past the breakers where the canal spills into the Lake. We were boating the canal with our double bubble double date. In times of COVID, we have made a pact to connect with another couple to share outdoor activities. In a season of isolation, it’s a gift to boat with friends (an even greater gift to have friends who own a boat). Weather and timing were perfect for a Sunday cruise out to the red cliffs. The canal is large enough for the lakers, and sometimes they seek shelter from gales before winter shuts down the shipping lanes on Superior. The water grows choppy at the mouth of the canal, and it opens up to the inland sea that is our lake.

Cruising down the shoreline, we heard the distinct chirp of an eagle. Overhead, an adult glided as we anchored near a spectacular waterfall. At the time, I was more interested in — you guessed it — the rocks. I was ogling the variety beneath the boat, eager to examine them. We slid into the water from the swimming deck and went to shore. I was thrilled at the prospect of rocks inaccessible to casual beachcombers. The eagle circled, and soon, we realized she had a young one. Like the Kestrels and Merlins, he was noisy, demanding mother to feed him. The Hub got a laugh out of the young eagle watching me. I think the bird hoped I’d catch a fish.

Later, with “garden” rocks loaded in the boat, we ate lunch beneath the youngster who was still expressing his interest in a meal. Maybe inspired or tired of us non-fishing types, he fled the coop, so to speak. It startled me to see the baby eagle clumsily descend toward the lake, and soon, we were all shouting for him to “Pull up! Pull up!” Maybe our human advice worked. Maybe it was his own instinct, but he haltingly glided and beached himself. We worried that he’d have a harder time lifting up from the ground. And he did. Eventually, he made his way back to the tree.

And then, he flew!

It’s a marvelous event to witness the first flight of any bird, but one so big as an eagle was a rare sight. We cheered his effort and wished him well. It was like graduation day. The eagle made me think of my own baby eaglet. When my son was two-years-old, he had wispy blond hair that he liked to run his fingers through. At that age, he perched on my back, often in a backpack designed to tote toddlers. With one hand, he’d lift his hai, and with the other, he’d play with mine. I remember looking forward to the day he’d “fly” and no longer be in my hair. With bittersweetness, I watched the juvenile eagle fledge and fly off as they do.

This weekend, my eaglet marries his bride. We leave in the morning for Wisconsin, our wedding clothes carefully secured in a garment bag. My toenails are painted a deep cabernet, and my eyebrows are tame. My COVID hair is cut and shaped, and I do not miss having to pull it back. It seems like yesterday, my son had his fingers in my hair. I know he will fly this weekend, and I’ll probably smile and cry all at one time. I’ll be home on Monday, in time for my finals, and then I get a small break. It seems like it’s going too fast already, and I just want the moment to slow so I can savor it.

August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 25, 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 are now closed. See our latest challenge to enter.

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. Thank you, Goldie and Marsha, for signing on! We have two openings left! I’d love to have some diversity to offer broader opportunities.

First Flight by Charli Mills

The phoenix spent a lifetime reinventing herself. Each experience stabilized the bits, girding future wings. Her thoughts solidified. From dusty ashes, elegance rose. Sometimes her development caused an imbalance—she’d gain strength in one wing, leaving a talon incorporeal, a sooty ghost foot. Failure created more ashes, but ashes packed form like down in a pillow. Soft, at first, the padding transformed to muscle and bone. Fully engineered, the phoenix’s original vision improved with age and wisdom gained. A fire of kindness flamed her fully actualized self and she burned, a sacrifice to the ashes of her next life.


114 Comments

  1. Well done, Boss. Safe travels and enjoy this landmark weekend.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      We arrived in style. The airport car rental was low on inventory and they didn’t clean any of the economy models so we ended up with the electric blue Dodge Charger. We are having so much fun driving this hot rod! I want this weekend to pass slowly, to savor all its moments. I hadn’t realized how worried I had been about getting here until we got on the road and I felt a flood of relief. And somehow I ended up with two extra dresses, lol! I’m set. Oh — and Todd is wearing his Tux t-shirt tomorrow!

      Liked by 6 people

  2. The first flight story in the end is great, but the one that touch my heart the most is the intro of the challenge and the story about your son… I have a 4-year-old soon and I can almost see the years passing by and waking up to see him goodbye to start his own family 🥺🥰 bittersweet definitely.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jessica, I feel like just yesterday I had a four-year-old son! He used to sleep with me at that age and I remember waking up one morning to him looking at me with this big smile and he said, “Mom, I’m going to sleep with you until I’m 30.” Ha! I wish I could scoop up that little eaglet again. But I’m proud of the man he’s become and I love that my soon to be DIL loves him because she recognizes his sweet nature. Bittersweet, but emphasis on the sweet.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I don’t know about flying, but you’re on a whirlwind, the stuff you fit in. Wishing you tears of joy! Safe travels – I’m sure it’ll be wonderful.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. […] This was written with the prompt to write a story about a first flight provided by the Carrot Ranch August 13 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Liz H says:

    Joyous wedding tidings!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Deborah Dansante-White says:

    Congratulations to you all. Beautiful wedding…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. denmaniacs4 says:

    First flights! Last Flights! I guess I was feeling a tad flighty…

    A Flightening Experience from Back in the Day

    “It was up there,” Ham Slater, the friendly, eager, local realtor said, pointing to the high bluff running along the skyline for a few miles.

    “Really?”

    “Yup. 1968. Hot summer evening, they say.”

    “They?” I asked.

    “Yup. Locals. Ones playing golf on the meadow below.”

    “The island has a golf course?” I interrupted.

    “Wellll…not officially. Mostly farmland. Sheep keep ‘er nicely chomped.”

    “Ah,“ I said, not fully enlightened. “So, the bluff?”

    “Zeke Buttworm, old time farmer…inventor. Built a glider…also tried…mescaline…young hippie girl Zeke was…courtin’…Lass was devastated.”

    “It crashed?”

    “Yup. Killed Zeke dead…and three sheep.”

    “Sad.”

    “Oh! And one golfer.”

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 10 people

  8. Jim Borden says:

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Your baby is getting onto another phase of life…Yeah!

    I too miss how my boy used to curl is then small fingers in the curls of my hair…memories left 🙂

    My take on today’s prompt: https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2020/08/a-graduate.html

    Liked by 7 people

  10. I’m baaaack. 😉 Here’s my piece for this week. https://sixcrookedhighways.com/2020/08/14/fight-or-flight/

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Reena Saxena says:

    Wishing the best to all of you… May your eaglet be blessed with a happy wedded life!

    Like

  12. […] August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

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  13. Ann Edall Robson says:

    My inside desk resonates with your desk, Charli. A place to observe, create, and an option to venture outside to check on the feathered friends, and foe, of the neighbourhood. Near our home, the predators come in the form of Kestrels, Red-Tailed Hawks, Crows, and occasionally Shrikes. Eagles are usually a sighting that happens on back-road travels.

    Her First Flight
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Desk, check. Window, check. Binoculars, check. Camera, check. Water, check.

    She sat on a log, enjoying the vista. The sound of the creek chortling over the rocks made her smile. A shadow of a cloud floated within sight. Lifting the binoculars to her eyes she almost missed the hawk lifting of its perch. Its flight taking the predator out of camera range.​

    Her contented sigh caused a misty cloud in the cool, morning air. Picking up her pencil, she started to write. Her first flight to work from home was a success. Outdoor office days were here to stay.

    Liked by 9 people

    • The bald eagle is back on my lake. So cool when it flies by well over the lake but at eye level with me when I’m at my office deck chair outside the trailer. The loons are all adults so they come and go also flying by at eye level. Love my high rise office!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Jules says:

      I get a good view of bird life out my back dining room bi-level high window. Saw a falcon play with it’s food, then later I went out to see him or her finishing of ‘lunch’ on a willow branch. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ann Edall Robson says:

    The link to Her First Flight c/w picture.

    https://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/her-first-flight

    Liked by 5 people

  15. […] Carrot Ranch August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by August 18, 2020. […]

    Like

  16. Jules says:

    Charli,

    Your flash is a powerful lesson. Realizing that change is the only constant and that we continue to reinvent ourselves. I would be proud to be that Phoenix.

    I flew in a different direction or perhaps similar? With:
    Learning to Fly?

    was judgement clouded
    when the elementary
    student left at lunch

    first time run-a-way; gone south
    trying to find those who cared

    since it was so clear
    that one little voice would not
    be heard by adults

    Over the years; still no one would listen. More attempts were fathomed, planned, engineered and carried out. No real truths were ever revealed leaving the past misted in disillusionment. No real resolutions, except to forgive those striving to do their best for themselves with only second thoughts to those around them. The pain lessens. Clouds parted for true love, laughter and compassionate hope.

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 5 people

  17. […] to Carrot Ranch August 13 Flash Fiction Challenge where Charli Mills offers the theme of “first flight” for these 99-word […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. It’s a story called First Solo. Call it Friday Fact or Fiction. Some stories will be 100% fact (or close to it) while others will be 100% fiction. Most will be a little bit of both. You, the reader, can delight in speculating where the story belongs.Today’s entry is in a category known as flash fiction. There are many other names (micro, mini, nano, etc) and a variety of different lengths (one-word stories, six-word stories, 12-word stories, 100 words, 500 words.) Carrot Ranch is a dynamic online literary community for those practicing their craft, reading stories and discussing the process. Charlie Mills hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt of “first flight.” […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. […] was written for the obvious trap of a prompt from the Carrot Ranch, first flight. I’m from North Carolina, so how could I resist? My damn license plates say “First in […]

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  20. Ok, so, your theme was “First Flight”, which is basically like honey to flies for a North Carolinian. How dare you entrap me so?

    https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/2020/08/15/first-flight-carrotranch/

    Liked by 7 people

  21. Hi Charli

    Congratulations! All the best for your family. Keep well.

    Enjoyed the blog –
    Thinking about the FF: First flight:
    Mythological & fictional critters came to mind: Winged horses and Winged Unicorns!

    Pegasus. Mythical winged divine horse. Offspring of the god Poseidon.
    Pegasus and his brother Chrysaor sprang from the blood of Medusa when she was beheaded by Perseus!
    Trying to picture a beheaded Medusa in the sea, serpent hair a tangled mass, and foals flying from her neck!!

    Not sure of the origins of the idea of a Winged Unicorn. Popular in children’s lit, Sci-fi, and Fantasy…

    Wishing you safe and sound journeys ( no flying horses!).

    Saifun

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Hope the wedding was beautiful and that it is the start of a long happy life for your son and his wife. Beautiful beginnings. He certainly has flown. Off to think of a story.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. […] week’s prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch is; August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone […]

    Like

  24. gordon759 says:

    Thank you for the prompt, one right up my street. Naturally I had to go right back into the beginnings of flight, a nearly sucessful attempt eight centuries before Sir George Caley got it right.

    https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/the-first-flight/

    Liked by 5 people

  25. […] August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

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  26. Hello Charli! Here’s my contribution about first flight. I chose the peregrine falcon because its my favorite bird, a beautiful and sleek raptor. http://robertkirkendall.com/2020/08/16/99-word-prompt-first-flight/

    Liked by 5 people

  27. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (08/13/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Like

  28. Liz H says:

    So wonderful to hear and see your pre-wedding & wedding thoughts–looks like a flight of romance and happiness, in perfect weather. The angels must’ve been smiling that day!
    Anywho, here’s my effort at the prompt. Hope you enjoy, all!

    First Flight

    She shifted her hips, attempting to get comfortable. Elbows on the counter, chin on fist, she gazed at the display, attempting to suss out meaning from the frothy spill of words. All gibberish. She sighed.

    And she’d wanted to make a good impression.

    He perched, mirror image to this beautiful woman, heels hooked on the stool’s rungs. He’d suggested this venue for its relaxed atmosphere, located between river and train. He also wanted to make a good impression.
    “I don’t know beans about beer!”

    “Trust me?” he leaned back. “Let’s share a flight. This brewery has a nice selection.”

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Norah says:

    I enjoyed your post about bird watching, Charli. I enjoy bird watching too. I love having them visit our garden and especially enjoy their morning chorus. We don’t have merlins here, so I had to look them up. I was interested in your statement that birds of prey seem to fledge later than others. I wonder is that because they have to wait for their food source to be available through fledging. Not much point fledging if your food’s not yet available.
    I’m so pleased that you got to travel to your son’s wedding. What a joyous occasion for all of you. I wish them a happy life together.
    I look forward to pics of the hair, the eyebrows, the toenails, and the dresses (all three).
    Enjoy the respite that is on the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli,
      The extended window gave me the opportunity to join in with this prompt. You can find my response to First Flight here: https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1DN

      Dear Butterfly, Love Caterpillar

      Dear Butterfly,
      You make the impossible seem possible. You inspire our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. How can I be like you?

      Dear Caterpillar,
      Dreams create possibilities but now you are exactly who you were meant to be.

      Dear Butterfly,
      Life is monotonous. Everyone does the same thing, day after day. Shouldn’t life be more than this?

      Dear Caterpillar,
      Nothing happens overnight. Patience, determination and persistence will reward you in the end.

      Dear Butterfly,
      I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. I think I will sleep forever. Goodbye.

      Wake up, butterfly. It’s time to spread your wings and fly!

      Like

    • Norah says:

      I forgot to mention your wonderful flash fiction. With each new life, new lessons are learned. If only we, like the phoenix, could remember them.

      Like

  30. […] This week’s prompt from the #carrotranch […]

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Basket Case

    “Whoa, Kid. Stop. Back up. What’re ya plannin’?”
    “Pal, this is gonna be great! We’re gonna fly!”
    “Prompt says anythin’ or anyone thet flies, but I’m tellin’ ya, Kid, I ain’t goin’ in any flyin’ contraption. ‘Specially if Pepe LeGume’s runnin’ it. What in heck’s he know ‘bout aeroplanes anyway?”
    “Ain’t gonna fly in a aeroplane, Pal. Pepe’s got a more economical idea.”
    “Oh, jeez, Kid, what’re you two up too?”
    “We’ll be up, up and away in a hot air balloon! An’ guess how Pepe plans on fuelin’ it?”
    “Oh, the humanity!”
    “Pepe’s an amazin’ human bean alright.”

    Liked by 4 people

  32. […] Carrot Ranch, the August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone […]

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  33. Arriving

    Signs and arrows made navigating the mazelike interior of the airport easier than she’d imagined. Still she was passed left and right by more experienced travelers towing wheeled suitcases, rushing down the wide corridor labeled “Departures”. She clutched her satchel and continued until she was in a glassed in peninsula thrust into a sea of tarmac, roiling with activity. She found her gate, a closed door really, but one that would open for her, take her away. Away at last. Seated close to this doorway she again examined her ticket. One way. She would be transported and then— “Arrivals”.

    Liked by 5 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Michael B. Fishman says:

    It’s always a good thing to have a friends with a boat. Especially if they don’t want it anymore and they tell you, “Here, you can have it and you can live on it.” 🙂

    Like

  36. SueSpitulnik says:

    Fledgling Dancers

    Before she moved home, Tessa’s sister had kept her informed about Michael’s growing involvement in community activities since his return. Ally had never mentioned a bar called the “No Thanks Needed,” nor the Irish dancing classes being held there.

    Soon after she arrived in town, Michael invited Tessa to go watch. She had never seen Irish dancing up close and was surprised the youngest of the dancers were only eight years old. Compared to their teachers, Thad and Katie, the children looked like fledgling birds trying their wings for the first time. They were tittering like young birds too.

    Liked by 3 people

  37. Marge Small- First In Flight

    Marge had fought them all. Just because Lloyd and Ilene had become avid kayakers didn’t mean it was for everyone. Nard and Kristof took it up next, which started Nard in to nagging her to get one too.
    “Marge, think of fishing! No longer limited by the reach of our cast from what shore we can get to.”
    “No! That doesn’t look fun at all! I’m not meant to be floating out on the water. Why do you people want to see me drown?”
    Marge’s friends eventually wore her down and got her out on the water.
    “I’m flying!”
    ###
    “I’m flying!” Marge exclaimed. Ilene shot Nard a warning look, but he stated the obvious anyway.
    “Jeezus Marge, flying? You’re barely moving. You have to actually pull on that paddle to get the thing to go, you know.”
    But Marge kept staring into the water, rapt. “Look, I’m floating on the sky.”
    “Yes, Marge,
    We’re taut thin lines, caught
    between real and reflection
    Wisps adrift, soaring.”
    “Ugh, stop spewing haiku, Lloyd!”
    But Nard too joined in staring at the reflected sky in the water. They all drifted quietly. They had taught Marge to kayak; she taught them to fly.

    Liked by 3 people

  38. […] note I’ve extended the August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge to August 25. If you have already submitted, you can leave an offering in the comments — a […]

    Liked by 1 person

  39. […] August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

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  40. douryeh says:

    My story about a peregrine falcon’s very first flight https://hajarstexts.com/2020/08/21/first-flight/

    Liked by 1 person

  41. […] Written for a flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch. […]

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  42. […] In the current prompt, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone tha… […]

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  43. Marsha says:

    Congratulations on your son’s wedding. How exciting. I have been to the Wisconsin Dells. Our friends Ruth and Dallas Loomis live there, and their families before them. I remember picking wild strawberries in Thelma Loomis’ yard because she needed all the help she could get to make wild strawberry jam – which was delicious. Have a wonderful trip.

    Like

  44. jgard3 says:

    Metamorphosis, Revisited

    Jerome’s thumbs peck the screen. His eyes burrow through layers of lamestream media to find the Truth. Hunched over his phone, bones strain at skin, T-shirt molting against expanding shoulder blades until leathery wings sprout.

    Truth flees sentences, buzzing through air, swarming like gnats. Everything the establishment hides, deep state crimes of pedophilic cannibalism obfuscated by so-called experts – these morsels can only be consumed by minds adapted to bite-sized, carefully coded minutia.

    Jerome chases the latest conspiracy out a window in dusk where other believers gather. They speak in stuttering chirps, guiding each other with the sounds of night.

    Like

  45. […] August 13, 2020, Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone […]

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  46. I’d love to incorporate the flash fiction challenge into my poetry challenge, if you’d think that would work. If not, I’ll still host and give my poets a week off. Either way, I’d be happy to help! Sounds like fun! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  47. “First Flight”

    The wings were brand new. The two small buds on her back had blossomed into full-fledged wings covered with white feathers. She stretched these new extensions as far as she could, flexing the newly formed muscles taut.

    She was sure that they made these new appendages for flying. How long had she wished to fly free like the eagle and the hawk?

    She sniffed the air and pawed the ground. From a canter to a dead run, she was ready to spread her wings. At the cliff, the ground fell away, and she flew. It was unicorn’s first flight.

    Like

  48. […] This was my second response to the prompt of a first flight provided by the Carrot Ranch August 13 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

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  49. Here’s a second one. I hope you don’t mind the subject matter: https://jedigirlblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/fallen-poem/

    Like

  50. […] August 13, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads! […]

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  51. […] August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

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  52. […] The One by Paula Puolakka […]

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  53. […] Lemon Queens. This is a second response and it continues a Six Sentence Story which continued a 99 word story which I seem to have only posted in the comments at Carrot Ranch. Anyway Marge et al. now kayak and […]

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