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September 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

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I’m in need of a munchy snack, so I stop at the Keweenaw Co-op. The drill is familiar — mask up in the car, cross the street, enter with an eye for proximity to others, wash hands, and shop the one-way aisles. I notice a woman fussing with her mask and she breezes past the sink without stopping. I stop and wash. She blows past me again, searching for some elusive item. An employee calls her attention and reminds her to wash her hands. A year ago, I would not have guessed that businesses would be policing hand-washing as if society had reverted back to kindergarten. But here we are and I want chips.

To access the chip aisle I have to go down one of two other aisles and back up the middle to find the Kettles. The Ranch-style stands out. Not only is it “ranch” but the bag is also turquoise. I accept the signs that this is my bag of chips. Next, I grab a fresh pear and cheese curds imported from Wisconsin. These days, that state is the wild west, complete with shootings in the street. My son and DIL live there and they assure me it’s tame where they are at.

Winter is coming and I’m about to be cloistered again.

Tossing my snacks into my backpack, I head to McLains. It’s McLain State Park, but locals call it McLains. I’m local, not sure I’m a local of anywhere, but like COVID, here I am. As a student, I have 2,666 words to write today so I take a seat on a metal picnic table at the edge of Lake Superior. It’s colder than in town 10 miles away on the Portage Canal that opens up past the breaker walls to my left. Birch, maple, and pines surround me, randomly dumping needles or leaves, reminding me why we call this season fall. I like to think that every time a maple drops a red leaf, somewhere in the southern hemisphere a blossom opens.

Chips are a snack for the anxious. Or so I read. Snacks that crunch are associated with stress-eating. I don’t feel stressed. Quite the opposite. My reward was to finish what needed doing with the wi-fi access so I could go out to the lake and write, away from digital and home distractions. I’m surrounded by trees and water. Fog is rolling in like mystical mists, and plovers are circling inches above the sloshing waves, piping as they fly. I think they could be snacking, too. Chips sounded good for the crunch but I think its excitement more than stress. I love the chance to office outside, to entwine nature’s outward beauty to my inner imaginings.

Turns out my pear is crunchy, too. Sweet as late summer, though. Pear and apple season is here. The fruit trees come to life on the Keweenaw with more varieties than a single store sells. My eldest and her husband have apple trees all over their 19-acre homestead, left-over from mining families. They harvested their squash — butternut and pumpkins. Mine is yet on the vine — two white mashed potato squash and a single butternut sheltered beneath a show of flashy cosmos. Further up the ridge, they’ve had numerous hard frosts. The temperature warmed but the fog I see indicates a clash with cold air.

Soon I’m past the chips and into the curds. My story is unfolding, solving a riddle of its own making. Despite the plotting and mapping, drafting still reveals surprises. I’m pulled into the flow and aware that it’s getting colder, windier, and that the waves are slapping instead of sloshing. The plovers are gone. It’s just me and the story. I’m cold, but keep writing until I get to the end. I’ve written over 3,000 words and now I realize it’s dark and I’m startled. The waves are crashing. Hastily, I gather my snacking remnants and computer, sling the bag on my back, and follow the path.

Though it’s dark, I can tell path from woods. My eyes adjust and I find my way. At the parking lot, I see only my car and it’s an eerie feeling to think I was so far into my story that the park closed without my knowing. I’m surprised a state park ranger didn’t boot me out of the day-use area. I’m glad for it, too or else I might not have made my discovery. Maybe it was the chips.

Before I go, I want to tell you that the Rodeo is coming. It’s a grouping of writing contests held throughout October with each one created and led by a different writer at the ranch. Our Rodeo Leaders this year are Colleen Chesebro, Sam “Goldie” Kirk, Kerry E.B. Black, and Marsha Ingrao. They have exciting plans to challenge writers. The Rodeo is a chance to do something different with the 99-word format and to stretch craft skills. I’ll also be hosting a four-part contest at the Saddle Up Saloon throughout October called TUFF. Next Thursday, we’ll release more details and kick off the season.

Kid and Pal plan to interview me at the Saddle Up Saloon next Monday (I hope they have hard cider on tap). Bill Engleson will post a Film Noir column on Tuesday, and after that our Carrot Ranch Columnists will take a rodeo break through November. Contests will launch every Tuesday in October, and we’ll announce winners week by week every Tuesday in November. TUFF will take place on Mondays in October and the winner announced November 30. I’d like to thank our columnists for the excellent posts they have shared here every Tuesday, offering a variety of topics. We will resume columns in December. Kid and Pal will be back to entertain and gather us in November. D. Avery has created a fun outlet for characters and writers alike. There’s nothing quite like her Ranch Yarns. I’m grateful to D., Bill, Anne, H., Ann, Sue, Norah, Sherri, and Ruchira for sharing their fine writing with all of us.

The Ranch is meant to be a community. A place where writers can gather and throw loops without any judgment on what kind of horse you ride. All genres, styles, experiences, and writers are welcome to craft a 99-word story each week. For me, its become literary anthropology. Our collections arrange different perspectives on a single topic to gather different voices for a collaborative expression. Every week, the collection surprises me and I realize creativity has no limits. That encourages me and I hope it encourages you, too. I want literary art to be something accessible so that we can read and write and discuss creative expression outside of formal settings and closed circles.

Writers who join in at Carrot Ranch are not under any obligations. You don’t have to show up weekly, although I enjoy the return visits and the consistency of a core group. If you blog, you can share links or pingbacks. If you just want to write for the collection you need only to submit through the form. You are welcome to read at your pleasure. We delight when you read and comment on the collection. But I am going to ask a favor of all of you in the community.

I’d like to create more inter-community engagement this Rodeo season. I’ve decided to keep the challenges and collections going weekly as I’ve noticed that many who enjoy the weekly challenges do not participate in the Rodeo. I will try both simultaneously. October is also going to be a tough month for me, keeping up with my thesis requirements. I will read everyone’s submission as I collect and arrange them, but I may fall behind on keeping up with comments. Would each of you who submit a story be willing to engage three other writers? Mostly, I don’t want anyone overlooked in the challenges, especially new writers. If some of our leaders — or lariats — would be willing to scan the comments for any missed writers, that would ease my mind, too. Thank you for being in community with me and making literary art a part of your life!

September 24, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking. It can feature crunchy snacks or creamy one. Who is snacking on what and why? How can you make this a story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 29, 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.

Busted at Midnight by Charli mills

The crumple of a candy-bar wrapper woke the house. The cat stretched and hopped over to the couch. The dog laid her head on the armrest, silently begging. Martha heard Steve plod down the hall. She quickly shoved the wrapper with the rest down the side of the couch cushions, picking up her geology textbook and hot pink highlighter.

“Still up?” he asked, stifling a yawn.

“Mmm,” she replied, reading tectonics.

The twins and their older sister ran past Steve. Clara, hands on her hips, asked, “Mama, did you get into our Halloween buckets again?”

Martha sighed and swallowed.


143 Comments

  1. […] September 24: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yay, for Rodeo and fall! I am new to cheese curds, but it’s something I intend to be open to (really, I’m open to all forms of cheese). Are they like cheese curls?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Taking my inspiration for your writing in the woods, Charli.

    The Jabberwocky Revisited

    ’Twas rump-numbing, and the metal seats
    Did gyre and gimble in the McClains:
    All mimsy were ranch-style kettle chips,
    And curds and pears from out the plains.

    Beware-ing the unwash-ed ones!
    The jaws that blight, the masks dispatched!
    She forsook the jujube bird, and shunned
    The frumious butterscotch!”

    And, as in meringue-ish thought she stood,
    The Bar-of-choc, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the nougat wood,
    And coated as it came!

    But she did slay that Bar-of-Choc
    And shouldered arms, her foe now so brittle.
    O frabjous day! Get off my block!
    She said and scoffed her Skittles.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. […] This was written with the prompt to write a story about snacking provided by the Carrot Ranch September 24 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. denmaniacs4 says:

    Nuclear Snacking

    Jimbo was my neighbour back in the city. Had a bomb shelter. Didn’t build it. It was there when he bought the house. Early 50’s vintage.

    “Only one in the neighbourhood,” he’d whispered to me.

    “That you know of,” I said. “Read where the first rule of good Bomb Shelter management is…Mum’s the word.”

    “I trust you, Buddy. Let me show ya.”

    It was cozy.

    Outfitted well.

    “Besides water, bandages, stuff like that” he noted, “We’ve got a year’s supply of chocolate bars and potato chips. And Pru’s dried apricots, of course. Trick, Marty, is to rotate. Takes commitment.”

    Liked by 7 people

  6. Good for you, Ms. Mills! You put it out there. It is always a treat to have you visit a story and leave your comment, but I have wondered for a while if you simply don’t sleep to fit in all that you do, or maybe are some sort of superpowered human. That MFA program is very important so by all means let something go at the Ranch. For now. This is a strong community; we’ll get by, together. I’m afraid I’ve been a no show lately as life has been pretty full but will try to make the comment rounds this week. I missed it, but what a collection of mice stories.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      The MFA is very demanding at the moment, but the Ranch is the hub for all the literary missionary work I believe in. Just need to find a difference balance and think about sustainabilty. I love the strength of this community and think we can encourage each other without asking too much. We all have seasons as writers, pickers, and humans. The collections are always my favorite part! Thanks for all you do here, D. Well, thank Kid and Pal, too.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. TanGental says:

    The boys take a break for their hunt for the ranch and reminisce…

    ‘Morgan, stop.’
    ‘I’m only eating crisps.’
    ‘It’s,like being in an aural hailstorm. Close your mouth.’
    ‘Oh, soz. I thought you wanted to ban snacking. That would be tough and a nasty reminder of
    school.’
    ‘School?’
    ‘I was about fifteen, the head sent this memo about banning snacking. I was a bit of a lippy lout and wanted to protest, determined to stop it.’
    ‘It does seem harsh.’
    ‘Yes, well my class had to hold me back. I misread the memo. They were banning smacking.’
    ‘You weren’t popular.
    ‘Nope, they gave me a right old snacking for my pains.’

    Liked by 6 people

  8. TanGental says:

    Re your request Charli, happy to help as I can. Just let me know what you need…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. quiall says:

    The young boy sat back in his chair. A satisfied grin on his face. He enjoyed eating his snacks BEFORE his dinner. His mother wouldn’t find out this time. Nope, he had seen to that. With no warning, a tasty burb escaped his lips. He smiled. Something else he wouldn’t get in trouble for. Belching was considered rude. But his mother would never be mad at him ever again. Neither would his father. It amused him that neither parent had noticed the rat poison in their morning cup of coffee. I guess sugar really does cover up the taste.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Jim Borden says:

    I wish you a productive October!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (09/24/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking. It can feature crunchy snacks, or creamy one. Who is snacking on what and why? How can you make this a story? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Liz H says:

    Because snacks and picnic lunches always taster better at the family farm:

    Autumnal Trip

    They’d packed coffee and sandwiches, heading out, bike trails edging around lakes green with duckweed, geese and duck leaving their own paths as they nibbled, non-stop snacking to prepare them for the winter. The two biked on, through leaf-changing suburbs, under sharp-echoing freeways, until they finally arrived at Jack’s place.

    The orchard spread before them, multiple rows of red and green globes of goodness, a cool welcome after their long ride.

    “Took you long enough to get here!” called out Uncle Jack from the picnic table. “I was just about to grab a snack from one of these trees!”

    Liked by 8 people

  14. […] 99 word flash for Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Don’t you just love how on this side of the pond, chips are something different to the other side of the pond, Charli? Glad you got your snacks. I hope you got plenty to last you over the next couple of busy months. I’ll be sure to leave comments on at least three other entries to the 99-word flash fiction challenges.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. […] do you see? 48 internal post Image credit– Mohammad Hoseini Rad@ Unsplash – Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction September 24, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking. It can […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jules says:

    Dear Charli,

    I think it is a right of parents to snitch the goodie bags of our children. After all they shouldn’t get to have all of the cavities! October is going to be a busy month. I’ll do my best to peruse the regular ranch prompts and make some encouraging visits.

    I’ve got an image as well as three other prompts smashed into this haibun:
    Digesting the Situation

    I needed to divorce myself from my fears. The dark dismal city street appeared to be a place where zombies might jump out of doorways to snack on the likes of me. I had to convince myself that all I had to do was use Fifth Avenue as an entrance and Sixth as an exit. Just because I was no longer married and didn’t have a man to hang onto didn’t mean that I couldn’t do this on my own. I’d done it hundreds of times during the daylight hours.

    working late, again
    paying for independence
    fears dominate sense

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 4 people

  18. […] week’s prompt over at Carrot Ranch is a fun one: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking. It can feature crunchy […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Love the stolen candy story. LOL
    Here’s my take on this one. Fun prompt!
    https://allisonmaruska.com/2020/09/26/flash-fiction-cheese-and-crackers/

    Liked by 6 people

  20. Will come back tomorrow and read the other comments/stories 🙂 here is mine, inspired by some very shiny apples we’ve got at the moment: https://eacolquitt.wordpress.com/2020/09/27/apples/

    Liked by 4 people

  21. […] to Carrot Ranch’s September 24 Flash Fiction Challenge where Charli Mills offers the theme of snacking. You can read more about Jehu in 2 Kings chapters 9 […]

    Liked by 2 people

  22. […] for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Happy Trails

    “Kid, we been ridin’ a long time, I could use some a thet trail mix from yer saddlebag.”
    “It’s all gone, Pal.”
    “Whut?! Ya ate all a it?”
    “Didn’t eat none a it. We ain’t been on no trail, so I sprinkled it as we go so’s we kin find our way back ta the Ranch.”
    “Dang it, Kid, I’m feelin’ peckish.”
    “Uh-oh. Looks like birds an’ critters was too, they done pecked up the trail mix. Now it’s trail nix.”
    “Dang it Kid. Ya got any other snacks packed?”
    “Course, Pal. Have some carrot sticks an’ ranch dressing.”
    ###
    “Cain’t b’lieve ya wasted all our good trail mix, Kid.”
    “Ain’t wasted, Pal, jist got et by critters ‘stead a us.”
    “Hmmf. What’s thet yer snackin’ on? Thet ain’t carrots.”
    “Bacon jerky”
    “Ya are whut ya eat, Kid.”
    “How’ll we find our way Pal, now them critters ate my trail markers?”
    “Kid, we weren’t never lost. Kin range far an’ wide an’ still be on the ranch.”
    “Yeah, but—”
    “Come nightfall you’ll see, Kid.”
    “See what?”
    “The glow a campfires. An’ you’ll see stars shinin’ bright. An’ look off there. See thet cloud a dust?”
    “Rodeo’s comin’!”
    “Yep.”

    Liked by 3 people

  24. […] was written with the prompt to write a story with snacking provided by the Carrot Ranch September 24 Flash Fiction Challenge. This is my second one on the same […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I thought of a second one as I fell asleep last night. Amazingly I remembered it: https://jedigirlblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/29/movie-night-flash-fiction/

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Prior... says:

    Good luck with the rodeo and I will be on the sidelines trying to still do the weekly challenge- so thanks for keeping that going –
    And the post here was fun – hope you are doing well with your writing assignments
    And the photo of your chips reminded me of a season I had where kettle chips were my fav – (not the sweet kettle stuff but the hard and crunchy kind of chips) the avocado and olive oil options were a perk to get away from bad Oils

    Okay – wishing you a good day

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      These are the “good” chips, Yvette! They are from the co-op, they must be healthy! Thanks for letting me know you appreciate the ongoing challenges. You have a good day, too! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Prior... says:

        And side note about the kettle chips – they are crunchy and harder than other chips (which is why they are so good IMO)
        Anyhow – I have encountered two folks who said they could not eat the kettle chips because of their bad “teeth” –
        One was a security guard and it reminded me that some folks ha e all their health care needs met but not dental- and dental health impacts everything so it should be included in this horrible “for profit” system we have in the US

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Interesting point. I’ve often thought of dental as a dividing line between socio-economic groups in the US. Veterans do not get dental unless 100 percent service-related disabled. My husband had to pull his own tooth once before the VA would even give him antibiotics for the infection. He does not like Kettle Chips either because of their hardness.

        Like

  27. Norah says:

    Hi Charli,
    I’m pleased you got your words written out at the lake. How wonderful to be so immersed in your writing that the dimension of time slipped from view and away from importance. I love that feeling, but often wonder where the time went too.
    I’m pleased your son and his wife are safe where they are. Your daughter and her husband’s farmstead sounds amazing.
    I love that you think of a flower blooming down here for each leaf falling. It makes us seem all the more connected even though we are so far away from each other in distance.
    The rodeo sounds exciting, and you are heading for a tough month that will be filled with TUFF writing. I think it’s a great idea to keep the weekly challenges going. I will do my best to read and comment but I’ve been slipping behind a lot of late.
    I enjoyed your flash. There is nothing like the sound (no matter how small) of a treat being opened to alert everyone’s ears.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      I didn’t realise this challenge closed earlier than usual, or maybe I got my times mixed up. Anyway, I’ve missed the submission portal but, no worries, I can still post my response here. I think that’s in keeping with the theme of my story, which misses the mark in more ways than one. 🙂
      My story is called Crunch Time and here is the link: https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1F4

      Crunch Time
      “I really need this today,” she said.
      “Bad day?” asked the waiter, placing the coffee on the table.
      “Yeah,” she sighed.
      “Coffee’ll fix it,” he said. “I made it myself.”
      She smiled, thinking of all the I-made-it-myself gifts received over the years.
      With eyes closed, she scooped the delicious chocolatey froth into her mouth.
      Then her eyes popped. There shouldn’t be anything crunchy in a cappuccino. She pushed the crunchy bit out on her tongue.
      A fly! She spurted the remaining contents of her mouth over the table as a student and parent passed.
      “Are you okay?” they asked.

      Liked by 2 people

  28. We’re harvesting apples from three trees today and that’s going to take a while, so it has to be a labour of love for your daughter. I’m pleased you’re managing to churn out the words for your course – on a good day I’m happy if I get down a third of that. Maybe it’s down to the snacks.
    Loved your flash – when I’m scoffing cereal at bedtime, I often think how much harder it would be if there were children in the house! Here’s my 99-word story, along with reviews of a couple of novels that might interest you for different reasons:

    Food thrown in

    “You’re working for peanuts!”
    “They don’t farm peanuts. Besides, peanuts aren’t nuts.”
    “But you are, breaking your back for the price of a few rounds of drinks.”
    “How much would you pay for an all-you-can-eat buffet?”

    Continues:
    For better or worse (or much worse): An American Marriage & Soldier Boy https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2020/09/for-better-or-worse-or-much-worse-an-american-marriage-soldier-boy.html

    Liked by 3 people

  29. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    Your waterfront office looks sublime. I can imagine you so engrossed you wrote through closing time. That’s a gift in my opinion.
    So much happening with the Rodeo upon us. It will be a challenge to take advantage of every opportunity. I plan to make a game out of it. I do like deadlines.
    As others have said, take a step back from the weekly challenges if you need to in order to keep up with the hectic MFA and rodeo schedule. It will be an honor to help out by responding to stories.
    Thankfully, the mother in my serial is not someone I know…

    Karma

    At their party, Michael heard Tessa’s mother make another snide comment about how many snacks Tessa had eaten. He wheeled over to Jenny and got right in her face. “Do you remember saying ‘My house, my rules’ when we were growing up?”
    “So long ago. But yes, I do.”
    “Well, this is my house and my rules. Your negative comments about Tessa’s eating are not welcome here.”
    Jenny shot up out of her chair, “Well! Then neither am I. Don, take me home.”
    “You can take the car.” Her husband handed her the keys and opened the front door.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Sounds like Jenny’s being called out on a bad habit. Thinking Don is a new fan of Michael who took a stand.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue! Oh, it sublime. I returned Friday for more writing and almost sat on a huge agate in the rocks. Got distracted after I glanced down and saw it. Found another huge agate. Have to stick to the sandy side of the beach or my brain goes to rock picking. Great idea to make a game of the Rodeo. Thank you for responding to stories!

      Woohoo! Michael set up the boundaries well with with Jenny. I like how he defended her and was backed up by Don.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Jules says:

    Rules is rules. I remember some folks wouldn’t visit me and mine since I wouldn’t allow smoking in my home. Some who visited notice I didn’t have ashtrays and took it upon themselves to go outside. They didn’t even leave any butts!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking. It can feature crunchy snacks or cream… […]

    Liked by 1 person

  32. “One after the other, I couldn’t help myself, even when I knew they weren’t good for me.”
    “I know what you mean, Ilene,” Kristof said.
    “In the end none satisfied. Too sweet. Too salty. Too full of air!”
    “But we’ve made healthy choices now, both of us.”
    “Hi girls.” Though late in joining Ilene and Kristof, Marge jumped right into the conversation. “What’s wrong with some greasy finger-licking cheese that goes crunch? With enough beer it’s all good.”
    Ilene’s brows went up, but she agreed with Marge. “Yes, beer helps. But Marge, we were talking about men, not snacks.”

    Rehashed last week’s response just to amuse myself. Should call it Cheat-Ohs.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Prior... says:

    I guess my entry is late —
    for some reason, I thought I had until midnight on Tuesday – but I guess I need to double check the dates.

    anyhow, here is the Priorhouse entry for snacking – – 🙂

    Title: Snacking Curbside 

    Word Count: 99 

    *

    “Um, you didn’t tell me club members would be here.”

    SORRY BABE

    “There’s so many of them. And look!  Look who is at our table.”

    They paused as they reached their assigned table.

    “Honey, I can’t sit with them for two hours – especially when I’m famished.”

    “I just can’t….”

    silence

    HEY, I HAVE AN IDEA – COME WITH ME.  

    Jim grabbed snacks from his truck and sat with Maria, talking on the curb, which provided succor.

    The ground was hard beneath them

    The sky had soft clouds above

    Conversation nourished

    READY TO GO IN?

    “Yes, Yes I am.”

    both smiled

    wishing everyone a great week ahead and best wishes to everyone as the rodeo starts soon 🙂
    ~Prior

    Liked by 2 people

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