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September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Seed pods of Queen Ann’s Lace form fists and pummel the sides of the paved road in high winds. Summer tourists have finally ebbed, leaving our region to witness fall’s rampant approach in peace. It’s hard not to face the winds without seeing a promise of snow flurries. But first, the leaves will deepen and reveal true colors — orange, burgundy, and gold. This is a time to still the mind. It is a process, not a completion.

We drive past the sparring roadside flowers of late summer on the Keweenaw. Ever since we took a boat ride up and down the Portage Canal and experienced the magnitude of the deep waters, the Hub has called our peninsula an island. From the water, it is so completely surrounded by the depths of Lake Superior with only one bridge on and off. Today he’s asking me if I think the winds will blow our island away. I tell him I don’t think so. Then we crest the ridge and see the waves of Lady Lake marching in full force to shore three miles ahead. He says the Lake will take this island. I say nothing, silently agreeing. She will cleave this peninsula one day, the way a miner’s pickax slices ore along the grain.

Today we watch homebound tourists.

Birch trees scream in leafy breaths at Calumet Waterworks beach, treetops bent and pointing north with all branches in unison. The surf and winds are so loud I can’t hear anything else. Freight trains roar quieter than Lady Lake in a gale. Below, she’s strewn trees and limbs and driftwood like a child throwing a temper tantrum. This is no day to cross her, not to step a toe in her waters. She’s buried her own beach cobbles beneath sand and wood rubble. I feel this is unfair because I clearly marked Friday as “Lake Day!” on my calendar with the intention of rock picking. I have no idea what beaches will have rocks after this mess.

The Hub bought me a coffee at Cafe Rosetta, wearing his Vikings mask. Coffee used to be a treat, and now, after COVID, it feels decadent; a guilty pleasure. We hold our cups and gawk. The Hub talks to everyone he meets, and we bottleneck on the stairs going to the beach. Not the best pandemic protocol, and I wonder if the high winds will kill the virus or carry it to the arctic. A local at the viewing deck explains to us that the unusually hot summer has warmed the lake, and with cold fronts, she blows up. Ah. I understand. Menopause. Lake Superior is having a hot flash. I tried to film the experience but don’t plan to pick up filmmaking anytime soon. I did start a Carrot Ranch YouTube Channel, and you can listen to the audio howl of wind and surf at Calumet.

We decide to drive over to the breakers at McLain State Park. When the wind howls from the west, the waves crest the breaker walls at the mouth of Portage Canal, where a lighthouse still stands as a beacon of safety. When we went on our boat ride, I discovered how unstable the water feels at the opening of the canal as if it constantly struggles against its constraints, writhing. From the beach, I think the water has escaped. Families line the beach, and locals sit on sand dunes above the flow of water. There is no beach as I know it — water and sand flow over all that was familiar. Long-haired athletes in wetsuits battle the wind and surge to walk the treacherous breaker far out enough that they jump into the rolling waves with surfboards leashed to their ankles. we watch them bob like seals in the swells.

One by one, each surfer rises to stand on their boards to surf Lake Superior. It’s mutual entertainment, those of us in the audience enjoying the ride as much as those taking the risk. We all feel the sand pelting us, the water spray, and adrenaline. It’s a glorious way to spend an afternoon. Invigorating. The tourists who left with the summer heat are missing out on the best season when the Lake shows us all who is boss. She rules the surf, sand, and sky. No doubt it is Lady Lake who rises on mists to freeze the air and gather her moisture in clouds to bury us in snow. More on that later in the year.

We wind our way back home, following the bends and bays in the canal. The water is not choppy but looks as though it has a river current from the wind pushing hard in one direction. No one is at Hancock City Beach. That’s right, everyone was out wave-watching. We top the hill to Roberts Street and spot a city truck, one used in snow removal. This time a crew is clearing the roads of fallen trees and broken branches. We wave. They wave. And then I see my Lemon Queens. Three have snapped in the wind, and I mourn. Gently, I cradle a sapling with a dozen wilting sunny heads, feeling the heft of life yet present. I’ve never understood vegetarians who can’t eat meat. Don’t they know plants die, too?

Death is inevitable. Our island will be no more one day. Today, Lemon Queens died. I realize, what matters most is dignity. It’s not that we avoid death; we die with dignity and grant it to others who are passing. I hold my queens, snip a vase full of flowers to take inside, remove each toppled stalk, and lay them to rest. I speak a few words, giving praise and thanks. Stretched out along the creeping butternut squash, I leave them to dry. Seeds will feed birds and squirrels. Some seeds will grow to be next year’s Lemon Queens. They dim beneath a full moon. So I weed and harvest more seeds from marigolds and monarda. I pick yet more courgettes.

And the wind continues to blow.

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

September 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds. It can be on land, sea or in outer space. Who is facing the wind or protected from it? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 8, 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.

Last Pass by Charli Mills

In the Sierras, high winds herald snow. A wagon train of weary souls had hoisted beasts and conveyances to the top of Kit Carson’s pass to reach California’s goldfields below. They looped their way around bulging batholiths and high-altitude lakes glimmering like cut emeralds. The air thinned and the wind rose. The wagon master bellowed, and oxen trundled faster, sensing danger. They didn’t stop at night to rest. By the light of lanterns, they battled banshee winds, tarps snapping like sails. Sunrise opened with peaceful silence followed by splats of rain. Behind them, snow closed the pass until spring.


  1. […] September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  2. […] September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge: High Winds […]

  3. Liz H says:

    Love the comparison with Lady Lake’s temperature peaks to menopause. Priceless! And nice contrast of lake with desert wi ds!

  4. Liz H says:

    Love the comparison with Lady Lake’s temperature peaks to menopause. Priceless! And nice contrast of lake with desert winds!

  5. What Was the Question?

    “Kid! Shut the front door!”
    “Cain’t, Pal! It flew off its hinges! Never seen a wind like this, not even when the saloon became a salon.”
    “O, my! Ever’thin’s up in the air. Whut was thet, jist blew by?”
    “Reckon them was answers, my friend.”
    “This prompt’s really made some waves. They’s whitecaps in the stock tanks.”
    “In the stock tank?”
    “No, duck, Pal! The bunkhouse is blowin’ apart! Hunker down!”
    …….. ……. ……. …….. ……..
    “Phew. It’s over. Ever’thin’s blown flat. ‘Cept the Poet Tree!”

    *strong roots
    words hold fast
    life lines*

    “Come on Kid, let’s see where them answers fetched up.”

    • “Kid, wake up, yer havin’ a bad dream.”
      “Wha— Pal! Ever’thin’s still here! The Ranch’s jist fine.”
      “A course the Ranch is fine, always has been, always will be.”
      “So. Jist a dream. Reckon it were a sign?”
      “Mebbe. But Kid, I’m thinkin’ tweren’t about the Ranch. What woulda happened if’n the Ranch did git flattened by high winds?”
      “Reckon we all woulda pitched in an’ put it back t’gether.”
      “Yep. One thing gits blown down, ‘nuther gits built. An’ if yer wunnerin’ when yer ship’s gonna come in, jist set sail already, Kid. Ya got a tale wind.”

      • Liz H says:

        It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
        We WILL rebuild from the storms of 2020!
        (But shhhh, there’s another quarter to go, yet…)

    • Norah says:

      These two love telling tales and winding each other up. It a good thing the Ranch is made of stronger stuff than any wind can snuff.

    • Charli Mills says:

      After a flattening wind, community gathers. Answers collected, roots hold strong. Windy thoughts from Kid and Pal. Glad it were a dream — white caps in the horse trough might unsettle Frankie’s hoss.

  6. denmaniacs4 says:


    The pressure builds. Each second of squall is a minute of gale, is an hour of fury, is a lifetime of rage.

    Hoble is the town weatherglass. When he is at peace, found comfort in food, in conversation, in those placid moments most of us can kick into gear with planning, common sense, whatever you call it, then we breathe one of those sighs of relief found when wars end.

    When Hoble explodes, when the world twists him pretzel-like, when he steps into an errant cheerless shadow, we cower.

    And we wonder, how did we allow this to happen.

  7. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. The High Winds of Temptation a story. 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 “high winds.” […]

  8. […] September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  9. Jules says:


    I’m on l little vacation break. So the prompt might wait until I get home.
    But this morning I watched the sunrise over the ocean and later I felt like a bird who had taken a sand bath…The wind is rolling the waves and taking the barely dew dried sand up and over and around. it’s rough waters out there. And even though I did get in up to my knees. That’s about as far as I’m going to risk it without life guards. The waters need to calm down just a tad. Might work that into my post 🙂 🌊

    • Charli Mills says:

      Enjoy your vacation and ocean, Jules! I’m sure you’ll be bringing home sand. I can never seem to be without it the way those grins like to migrate into scalps and sandals. Stay safe! Our waves have not subsided, yet but they are tamer two-footers.

  10. […] This was written with the prompt high winds provided by the Carrot Ranch September 3 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  11. […] For the Carrotranch September 3: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  12. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (09/03/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds. It can be on land, sea or in outer space. Who is facing the wind or protected from it? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  13. Liz H says:

    It’s a two-fer, based on a picture and the CR prompt. That’s the long and the short of it, and I hope it pleases and amuses on this holiday weekend!
    Cheers to all!

    When the Wind Blows High

    Cora stretched her long neck, beak pecking the fast moving clouds in the pale sky. Twisting, she at last freed herself from her heavy, confining carapace. It’d been necessary protection against wicked solar radiation, brought on by the forebears of those singing blessings to the thin creek twisting through desert, below.

    Wind off the melting icecaps ruffled her damp feathers, coaxing the final stage of her transformation to fierce dragon, like breeze to butterfly. When the wind blew high, she would fly to find the rest of her kind.

    She eyed the scant group of humans below, stomach rumbling.

  14. Norah says:

    I love the imagery of your flash, Charli. While the scene is unfamiliar to me, I can imagine it clearly through your descriptions, aided a little from a childhood of watching Westerns on TV. Your beautiful descriptive language in your post is poetic too. It’s interesting to read about the change in the season over there and its effects upon the natural world. I appreciate the way you speak of death in hopeful tones, today’s sorrow is tomorrow’s joy.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Norah. My love for the wind began in the Sierras when its howls brought snow. I never witnessed wind damage until later when I lived on flatter ground. Thanks for going visual with me! There is hope, even in sorrow and death. If you ever watched the tv western, Bonanza, that was filmed in the Sierras.

      • Norah says:

        I loved Bonanza. So long ago now, though. I thought some of the Clint Eastwook movies or perhaps the City Slickers movies might have been filmed there too. Or am I getting the wrong image? I missed out on writing a story this week. I think the high winds blew my ideas away.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I loved Clint Eastwood’s “spaghetti westerns” but they were filmed in Spain (looks a lot like Nevada). But he did film parts of High Plains Drifter on the easter side of the Sierras which is south of where Bonanza was filmed. City Slickers (I love that movie, especially the character Curly) was filmed in New Mexico, Colorado, and…Spain!

  15. TanGental says:

    The boys are being blown around the Lakes, while rueing the loss of those sunflowers…
    ‘You’re not going out, Logan!’
    ‘Why not? Just a light breeze.’
    ‘It’s a hurricane. Did you see that trash can fly by?’
    ‘A tr… oh the rubbish bin. Rather flimsy.’
    ‘You think British bins are better?’
    ‘No, it’s just they make such a fuss…’
    ‘The US gets stronger winds than we do.’
    ‘Of course. They supersize everything. They call that a lake, but it’s the size of Wales.’
    ‘It destroyed those sunflowers.’
    ‘My point exactly. When Sevenoaks was devastated by the 1987 hurricanes, the citizens just changed the town name to Oneoak.’
    ‘They were lovely sunflowers, though.’
    ‘I know.’

  16. […] by Carrot Ranch‘s prompt, high […]

  17. […] adventure fir Logan and Morgan, still staying near the Great Lakes. This week’s prompt from the #carrotranch […]

  18. […] Written for this weeks flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch. […]

  19. I cannot for the life of me figure out why I cannot click on like or why when I’m signed onto WordPress I end up here to fill out details of my email, name, and website. I’ve been having this problem for quite some time now. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions please let me know.
    Anyways here is mine for this week.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Susan,
      Sounds like a log-in issue. My iPhone is always logging me out of WP and it can be a pain. Or if I try to access a WP story from Twitter, I have to log-in again. If you can’t activate a like, it’s a log-in issue. I don’t know what the answer is and I haven’t successfully researched it, just avoid using my phone. Does it happen on a specific device or at all times? Are you coming to the site from your WP Reader or through a link or internet? I’m sorry you are having that issue. Technology — it’d be fun they said!

      Thanks for your story!

    • Re WP, sometimes, even here tonight, I have to hit refresh often to be able to “like” and comment.

    • Liz H says:

      The site’s been slow to load the last several days. Wonder if there are updates being installed behind the scenes?

  20. Hi Charli
    A great blog!
    Loved the videos – surf sand sea…
    And the seasonal changes, life and death, and life again.

    Your post, the comments, and FF posted by the Carrot Ranchers – all inspired me to write my FF!
    Thank you, Carror Ranchers!


    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Saifun,

      Glad you enjoyed the surf, sand, and sea with me! Yes, the everchanging cycle, and yet it still surprises me for its depth and its release. I look forward to your inspired story!

  21. […] to Carrot Ranch’s September 3rd Flash Fiction Challenge where Charli Mills offers the theme of “high winds” for these 99-word […]

  22. Those are high winds, Charli, but ours are also getting stronger here in the UK. I’ve time travelled back to a review post from just over a year ago for my contribution as I didn’t have anything current about wind:

    Clergymen on a quest: The Wind That Lays Waste & Beastings

    My response is rather rushed, but it’s based on a friend’s son’s childhood and a famous weather forecasting bloomer.

    Bettering Michael Fish

    His family spent summers camping. Idyllic, except the canvas never dried out. Back home, he kept his sleeping bag beside his wellingtons. Rain equalled holidays to him.

    He was five in 1987, when the famous hurricane struck England. Old enough to ask why the weatherman said don’t worry. Young enough to fear he’d be yanked from his bed when the wind took the roof from the house. Now, as climate change makes high winds more common, he’s determined he won’t get caught out. A degree in meteorology got him in front of the weather chart on the evening news.

    PS. I’m vegetarian and it’s nothing to do with not liking the idea of animals dying. Although I do think people who eat meat should be prepared to kill it.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Michael Fish has yet to live down 1987 and I see his name has become a phrase, too. I do like your story about the boy who grows up to take on the weather to not get caught out.

      I agree, Anne. There’s a missing connection to eating meat if you aren’t willing to harvest. All three of my kids hunt for the freezer and my eldest is expanding her homestead (they raise and butcher chickens for now). Rotation hogs next, and a mini-Jersey (to make butter).

  23. Breakwater

    Stories distracted and comforted her younger sister. “One night a mighty wind banged and tore at the trailer until the trailer lifted right into the air and carried the two girls far away, where they lived just them.”
    “No dad?”
    “No. A big tree killed him. The mom cried and didn’t even notice her girls were gone. But they lived happily ever after in the candy meadow.”
    Sudden pounding and roaring stole the younger girl’s smile.
    “It’s just that wind, Sis. You stay down.” Biting her trembling lip, the older girl stepped into the hall to meet the storm.

  24. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    I love a good storm and have this weird desire to experience a hurricane, in safety of course. My hubby thinks I’m nuts. There’s something magnetic about watching a calm lake turn into a frothy, angry white-capped entity. I’ve never body surfed, but I too would want to be watching those who partake.
    We have a big maple in our back yard that sheds big and small pieces when the wind blows hard enough. It’s a challenge to pick up the “sticks” before the lawn guys arrive. I saw some lemon queens while on a drive this week Their lemon-colored petals were so pretty. I’m sure the animals will enjoy your seeds. The food cycle in nature is a necessary, magical thing. On to the prompt…

    GaleForce Winds

    Tessa struggled against the wind to open the front door and once inside, the gale slammed it behind her. She heard no greeting. “Michael?”
    The wind squealed through the house’s old window frames with such ferocity she feared they would break. She went from room to room calling, “Michael? Jester?” She saw Michael’s empty chair in the bedroom and discovered him in the closet cuddling the dog under a sleeping bag.
    Tessa crouched down. “You two all right?”
    “Yeah. Jester buried himself in here when the wind got bad so I joined him. I think we need new windows.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue,

      I understand what you mean about wanting to experience a weather event like that. Until we moved to the Keweenaw, I had only experienced Lake Superior in summer (once in winter). To live here and experience a gale was a mesmerizing idea, and the first one I got to see didn’t disappoint. However, our gales do little damage unless they take down ships, so those now take safe harbor. We lose electricity but not roofs or houses. The surfing is fun to watch! Lemon queens will feed the critters! I saw a chipmunk near them today. I think she was grinning!

      Your story lends a sweet image of a soldier and dog snugged under a sleeping bag in the closet! Michael needs a VA EEM loan to replace those windows.

  25. Erie Kai

    The cat was roaring…
    roaring all night long
    I could hear it
    in night visions—
    a feral cat
    invading dreams,
    disturbing sleep.

    In the morning still angry
    with power,
    lashing out its claws,
    swishing tail,
    leaving marks as it paced
    and scratched, attacking its prey
    with waves and water flying
    all up and down the coast.

    Anger spent,
    the wind subsides, turning 180 degrees.
    The cat begins to purr,
    paws now velvetted,
    lapping and grooming the shores once again,

    Except in Canada where
    winds are high,
    blowing from the south, and
    the cat begins to roar.

    Nancy Brady

    It’s been some time since I posted anything, but have lurked at the edges (and yet missed way too many cut-off dates). The weeks seem to fly by, but this year feels like it has lasted way longer than previous ones. Hopefully, I will do better in the future.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Good to see you, Nancy! I enjoyed your image of Lake Erie (Lake of the Cat) on the prowl or grooming softly. Each side of the lake can be the roaring or lapping cat.

    • I like the wind storm as a cat. Well done, and welcome back.

    • Jules says:

      This is great. I thought I had one more day… but I included my entry here in the comments as well as the up there…

      I was away …anyone else having issues with WP notifications in the Dashboard area. I’ve been having issues so I can’t see when someone makes a comment on my posts, and those comments don’t go to my email.

  26. […] following is in response to the September 3, 2020, challenge from Charli at Carrot Ranch: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds. […]

  27. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high winds. It can be on land, sea or in outer space. Who is facing the wind or protected from it? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by September 8, 2020. […]

  28. Jules says:

    Too late for the compilation? Though I had one more day… But I did get this done even with flaky internet this morning… (I’ll stick it in though…)

    Blown Away

    The high winds left from the last hurricane pelted Gina and James as they tried to get to the pier. Even without getting into the water sand managed to find its way into every crevice of their bodies. The ocean water had risen to make rivers across the beach and over the sidewalks and onto the road. The ocean had risen so for the safety of the public, the pier closed. The couple made their way back to the ice cream parlor for refuge. What a vacation!

    deafening air moved
    across their ears; no gulls flew
    was nature angry?


    • Charli Mills says:

      If the form is still up, Jules, it’s “open.” I enjoyed that you made a story about migrating sand! The ocen rising and making rivers must be a sight to see.

      • Jules says:

        It was based on a BoTS of a few years ago…The water was incredibly high. There were little parks for children and sand cleaning stations which were all under sea waters! The ocean reached the roadway – some of the beaches had rivulets so wide that were sometimes ankle and knee deep! And the water was cold!!

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