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November 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wandering the pebble beach at McLain State Park, I lose track of time. I walk from the car through a forest rooted in eons of compacted sand dunes to emerge above the water. Lake Superior eats her shoreline like a sea-creature and the edge of the forest drops into her maw. For now, Lady Lake’s waves loll like the tongue of a placid pet. All it takes is for another gale to blow and she’ll bulldoze rocks to shore with bare teeth.

I follow the sandy trail to where it dips down a slope. It’s too fresh and granular to hold a path, and with each step, my feet sink and launch tiny avalanches of sand. A few months ago, the base of this transition zone formed a ten feet edge of sandy beach. Now, long ridges of rocks ranging in size from mangoes to huckleberries bury the beach.

Chaos is not without order. I notice the uniformity of different ridges and note the ones most likely to contain agates based on size. I’m searching for bars of rocks the size of purple grapes. I look for hints of copper in the bigger stones and readily find a water-worn piece of basalt with nodules of pyrite. The mineral forms cubes; the water prefers rounded edges.

With all the time in the world, water wins over rock.

It’s November. Winter arrives early to the Keweenaw. In fact, we had our first 2020 gale on September 3, two months ago. Littered leaves and people clad in knit hats slide into descending temperatures and accumulating snow. Already, our jut of land surrounded by Lake Superior has measured 11 inches of snow. So, you might be surprised to learn that I came to the lake today to swim. We have a rare break in the plummet to winter. It’s warm-ish and sunny.

On my head, I’m wearing a thick cable-knit hat. I’ve layered a swim top beneath a t-shirt, thermal long-sleeved shirt, and a down vest with a wool lining. But I wore my quick-dry kayak bottom that extend to my ankles and water shoes. Already, my exposed fingers are cold and I’m thinking this is a bad idea. Earlier in summer when I played in the waves with one of my local friends, she told me that some years you can swim in Lake Superior in November. I was captivated by the idea.

Today, with a stiff breeze clipping off the waves, fingers, and exposed ankles feeling the cold, I’m less captivated by a November dip in the lake. Undaunted, or stubborn, I must try. First, I circulate my blood by picking sun-warmed rocks. Each stone I touch holds heat. My hat itches and my head begins to feel hot. Time to dip my feet.

Cold can burn all the way to the marrow of bone.

I clench my teeth and reason the pain will soon pass. What a ridiculous thought, like sticking your hand in boiling water, expecting to adjust to the sensation. There is a reason our bodies react with alarm to extremes. I tolerate the pain for a full three minutes deciding I’m not here to prove any masochistic tenancies. Whatever romantic notion I held about swimming in Lake Superior in November vanish. I can say, I stood in Lake Superior in November and froze my ankles. I escape with all ten toes still attached.

Not one to waste time at the shoreline, I walk the water’s edge. I pluck a few wishing stones and pick up favosite — quartz-fossilized coral from ancient seas that existed long before glacier came and receded. Some of the fossils retain the shape of their honey-comb heads and other glitter with crystals. I collect enough to hold in each hand and sit in the sun-warmed rocks, close my eyes, and follow my breath in meditation.

When I stand up, I find time had been sitting next to me in the form of a 1982 rubber watch still as brown as the day it was lost. Objects make great props in the hands of fictional characters. They can initiate a story or provide a twist. I ponder this 38-year old cheap accessory, realizing that someone in the 1980s might have treasured it.

Lost time is the stuff that fuels the imagination.

November 5, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or something speculative. How does lost time impact the character of your story? Bonus points if you include a 1982 brown rubber watch Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 10, 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 now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Not Her World by Charli Mills

Ivie stashed her digital watch in a pile of discarded clothes, ready to dive into Superior. She waved at her dad and brother bobbing in the lake. When she emerged, her family had vanished, the beach became a sterile room. Medical equipment pulsed and wheezed. Nurses initiated a flurry of activity until the room swelled with old people claiming to be her relatives. Ivie requested her watch to check the date and time for herself. A bearded geezer claimed it was lost the day of her accident. That’s when she knew. Ivie dove through time to a strange world.



  1. There was no time lost by you in this latest MacLain adventure! You got 99 words and another prompt for us. I thought maybe the prompt was going to come from “Cold can burn all the way to the marrow of bone.” Funny when cold burns, but it does. I was at the waterfall recently, another perspective on the sunset (4:30!) and as always when there, thinking how “With all the time in the world, water wins over rock.” They know each other’s stories, Water and Rock. I heard them today from my kayak, murmuring, content. For now.
    Cool flash, but Ivie may want to take another dip.

    Liked by 11 people

    • Jules says:

      I remember dipping in freezing waterfall with black rocks in Maui…
      I go not recall if I dunked my head. But I did get in up to my neck – Once you are numb, nothing seems to matter. And then you get out and you freeze – even in Maui!

      Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      D., that’s a conversation I like to tune into, the ongoing one between Water and Rock. It happens at some fantastic places like that waterfall of yours (4:30 is sunset, now, eh?). We have an hour longer, being on the tail-end of your time. That cold burns, but I thought we’d wander timeless.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. denmaniacs4 says:

    Time Bus

    “Been waiting long?”

    “I don’t know. Hour, maybe? Two months?”

    “What’s time’s it supposed to be here?”

    “Schedule’s on that pole. Didn’t look.”

    “How come? Not curious?”

    “Just didn’t, that’s all. Look, don’t look, it’ll come when it does.”

    “Makes sense. Think I’ll take a boo.”

    “Be my guest.”


    “Hmm what?”

    “That’s odd.”


    “Took a look…”

    “At the schedule?”



    “Well, it’s kinda confusing.”

    “It’s a schedule. They’re all confusing. That’s why I don’t bother.”

    “Not that kind of confusing.”

    “What kind, then?”

    “It says…Time Bus Leaving When It’s Your Time.”


    “What time you got?”

    Liked by 11 people

  3. Time of Hands

    “Tellin’ ya Pal, I’m glad vacation’s done. It’s easier knowin’ how ta spend time when ya ain’t got so much free time.”
    “Thet’s true Kid. I thought it’d be a good time visitin’ my cuzzins, but ended up more like doin’ hard time.”
    “Ya spend any time at the Rodeo?”
    “Was gonna but time flew. You?”
    “Dang goats took too much a my time. I was ferever roundin’ ‘em up.”
    “Once upon a time thet’s how Shorty got started rodeoin’— ropin’ goats.”
    “She’s put her time in, fer sure.”
    “Yep. Her time’s comin’. Now move, Kid. Time ta work.”

    Liked by 7 people

  4. […] to Carrot Ranch November 5 Flash Fiction Challenge where Charli Mills offers the theme of “lost time” for these stories of 99 […]

    Liked by 4 people

  5. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (11/05/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or something speculative. How does lost time impact the character of your story? Bonus points if you include a 1982 brown rubber watch Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Liz H says:

    Still a little wobbly, as we all wait. But no matter the outcome on the upper levels, we still have our own work to do, down here…is it time lost, or time spent renewing sense of purpose?

    Time Lost

    Elbows on bent knees,
    Hands dangle between, wings on a gentle-breezed bird.
    Butt planted, chilly on Autumnal Earth.
    Grass spent, golden and crackling
    Under a sky sharp as blue porcelain.
    Leaves flicker down from balding trees,
    The memories still, cut deep…
    [Continue ]

    Liked by 8 people

  7. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. Stanton near Forsyth Street 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 “lost time.” […]

    Liked by 4 people

  8. […] Carrot Ranch Nov 5 :November 5, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or something speculative. How does lost time impact the character of your story? Bonus points if you include a 1982 brown rubber watch Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Jules says:


    Your flash reminds me of shows I’ve watch where folks loose time because of accidents. We knew a gal who was in a bad accident, while she wasn’t in a coma, she did loose some memories as well as some of her motor skills and had to start a very long recovery process.

    I got just a tad lost in the mountains today. The hike up – as well as down I needed all of my concentration. I didn’t make the summit. But I did take some photos of the Delaware River. My story however continues my Damned Family series (I went were the prompt lead):

    (17) Damned Family

    Jesse paced the Presidential Suite, an escape gifted by Uncle Stan. The dishes in the kitchen sink was proof that she had made something to eat. But what it was she couldn’t recall. Or how long ago she had actually eaten – she didn’t remember.

    The curtains were closed, only minimal light illuminated the path that Jesse had created from the Master suite, around the dining table and the sitting area. She unplugged all the clocks, and landline phones. As well as turning off her flip phone. Sleep meant she might dream. Jesse wanted to lose time and some memories.


    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      What a lovely hike that must have been, Jules. With the leaves gone, I bet the view was expanded. Head injuries have a long time to heal. The Hub’s high school girlfriend was struck by a car her first year at college. She was riding her bike, no helmets back then. It didn’t strike her hard but she hit her head when she landed. She’s been in a coma ever since. What would she think of the world if she woke up today?

      I like how your character is wanting to lose time and memories, deepening the mystery.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Jules says:

        If we had gone last week as planned there would have been snow! As it was we have almost spring like weather and many folks were out up the trail. We got one of the last parking spots in the lot we chose to enter. I did get some nice photos. Today we just went on a local sort of linear trail – easier on the knees. And one of my favorite photos was of a moth that paused just long enough for me to photograph it. We were hoping to get on the water (In a canoe or kayak), but well being November that option wasn’t on the table. So we’re back home.

        I cannot imagine a person being in a coma for so long. I think a while back there was a flurry of news about a family that had finally chose to let their loved one go… I think though there were other medical difficulties as well.

        I think perhaps our world is no stranger than if we had a great grand still living and we were comparing apples to oranges believing they were the same fruit. Certainly the world has more people in it… and the technology is like magic.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        Still in a coma! That’s tragic. 💖

        Liked by 2 people

    • Gloria says:

      I read this on your blog just now. I see from the other comments that this is part of a bigger story? Interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

    • This flash does a good job of portraying a sense of lost time, that sleepy twilighty zone feel. (I’d rather be lost on a mountain)

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Here’s my take on this week’s challenge. Standing by for bonus points, Charli. 🙂

    The Brown Rubber Watch

    The Great Crisis of the History of the Universe included the collapse of the Daylight Savings Bank. Claims were made (but never verified), that people were seen leaping from the clock face of Big Ben, in despair at the plummeting value of their Time shares. The only asset holding its value was the Futures market, dominated by Brown Brothers, which had a history of bouncing back like a rubber ball, no matter the catastrophe. Elections and the virus disappeared from screens as the world settled into nervously searching for signs of recovery, later known as the Brown Rubber Watch.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. […] week’s Flash Fiction Challenge comes from Carrot Ranch. Deadline to submit your entry is on November 10, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love your piece of flash fiction, Charli. What an incredible piece of writing. And I enjoyed spending time with you on the shoreline of Lake Superior looking for pieces of time that were once lost but which were found again after the planet it’s all a part of has circled its star over 40 times.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. So, what I did here was use Colleen’s ennead form of 6,5,11,6,5 syllables in three stanzas for 99 syllables but I kept going until I also got to 99 words, so sorry Colleen this is 128 syllables in 99 words.

    Give my watch back to me
    Lost since ‘83
    Relic of time— brown rubber band, hands that wind,
    Never thought I would see
    its face again; Sea

    scratched; etched and lined
    not so unlike mine
    Time-keeper losing faith; time come back to me
    Covering sands march blind
    measuring marked time

    Not for the watch these tears
    Thirty-seven years!
    It’s the time that went (foolishly spent) I want
    In a flash, disappeared!
    Suddenly I’m Here.

    Another flash, lost time
    No reason, some rhyme
    Give me my watch, give me back the time it’s seen
    Its stories, its drawn lines

    Liked by 7 people

  14. Norah says:

    You were so brave to test the November water, Charli. But sense won over the foolhardy, I’m pleased to hear. I thought I might try a dip in our November pool. The water was almost warm enough. Now we’ve had a drop in temperature and overcast days again, so I might be waiting for December as usual.
    I love the imagery you use in your post and was especially captivated by this: ‘Lake Superior eats her shoreline like a sea-creature’. How beautiful.
    I enjoyed your flash too. What a rude awakening.
    I’m wondering about the watch in your post though – do you think it may a done a bit of time travel? 😅

    Liked by 5 people

  15. Kerry E.B. Black says:

    What a fun speculative piece, Charli!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. TanGental says:

    Time Bandit

    ‘Here we are.’
    ‘Are you sure this is a new motel. It feels the same.’
    ‘There’s no ashtray.’
    ‘Small mercies. I’m losing track of time.’
    ‘You’ve never cared about time.’
    ‘Very Einstein, Morgan. What’s that even mean?’
    ‘You’re never on time.’
    ‘I’ve never missed a plane.’
    ‘What about that old brown watch? It was always fast.’
    ‘It meant I knew I had more time than I thought I did. What about you? Your watch never even went.’
    ‘At least it was right twice a day.’
    ‘Which is more than could be said for its owner.’
    ‘It was dad’s.’

    Liked by 10 people

  17. Friendship of Time
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Whirr, bong, bong, bong. The old clock echoed through the dark house. He counted hollow sounds off in his mind. His trusted friend spoke to him hourly. And so his days and nights went. The mantle clock kept him in sync with the goings-on in the house. When the neighbour would drop by for his lessons in braille and sign language. When his family would come home from their day to lavish him with news and gossip of the world outside his personal cave. The accident had cost him, but he had not lost the friendship of time.

    Liked by 9 people

  18. I’m not sure I filled in the form properly so here it is – a sad one this week:
    by M J Mallon

    Stan picked up an imaginary sand timer, turned it over and watched as the grains of sand ran. He didn’t say a word. His grandchildren were playing on the beach building sandcastles, oblivious to his moment of sadness. On his wrist, he wore a 1982 brown rubber watch. It was now 2020. The watch had long since given up ticking, but he’d never throw it out. It would be terrible to do so. The watch belonged to his beautiful wife and brought back happy memories.

    June died in 1983, was never fancy but always special.

    Liked by 10 people

  19. Chel Owens says:

    What a beautiful description of your time at the lake, Charli. I hope all your toes are still attached!

    Liked by 3 people

  20. […] response to Carrot Ranch‘s […]

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Ruchira Khanna says:

    I loved how you described Lake Superior. Beautiful weaving, Charli.
    Glad your mind took control over your desire to take a dip 🙂

    My take from the prompt:

    Liked by 7 people

  22. […] week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or […]

    Liked by 2 people

  23. […] Charli’s 99 word flash fiction challenge this week is about lost time. In 99 words, no more, no less, write about lost time. We are Holistic gets this week’s flash fiction post… Tasheenga’s blog, is okay with that. (Very hard to keep them both happy) […]

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Gloria says:

    I remember those watches so well. Fun memories!

    Here my 99 words of lost time.


    Rose opened the shabby old shoebox.
    ‘All my favourite things,’ she said softly with her hand on her heart. ‘You kept them.’
    She rummaged through the box and lifted out a brown rubber watch.
    Laughing she said, ‘Matt gave me this when we were eight.’
    Nancy dabbed her eyes with her hanky. ‘I’m so sorry Rose…and ashamed. I’ve missed so much.’
    ‘We all have Mam. I’m sorry too, for staying away.’
    The doorbell rang. ‘Are you ready?’ Rose asked.
    Nancy nodded. Yes, she was at last ready to welcome her son-in-law Matt, and to finally meet her twenty-eight-year-old grandson.

    Liked by 8 people

  25. […] This story was written with the prompt lost time provided by the Carrot Ranch November 5 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I’m glad you didn’t go in the water, Charli. That could have been you in your fun time-travelling 99-word story!

    Of course, we don’t have it quite so cold here but plenty of people do swim outdoors year-round, and there are various Christmas/New Year rituals where people take the plunge.

    As for that watch you found, it sounds very like one I still have – minus its plastic strap – which makes a very useful stopwatch (and cheap so no big worries about losing it). I’m sure I got mine a little later than 1982 but it would be that decade – all the fun runners had them for checking if we’d beaten our PBs (personal best). I now carry with me as a navigation tool.

    I’ve spent the weekend intensely focused on some tech for a promo which has sparked a rather silly/philosophical thingamajig on losing time.

    I’m hosting a six-novel giveaway competition – unfortunately only readers in the UK can claim the prize:

    PS. Time must be trying to tell you something as the date’s a week out in your image!

    Liked by 5 people

  27. TanGental says:

    […] week’s #carrotranch prompt […]

    Liked by 2 people

  28. […] week, November 5, 2020, the prompt from Carrot Ranch is to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic […]


  29. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,

    You’re braver than I am. My toes wouldn’t have made it into the water. I agree with the others. I’m glad you didn’t take the plunge. We need you.
    And there’s time. I waste too much of it in a day doing silly puzzles. At least I can say my mind is busy.
    I’m enjoying the rodeo results and thriving on everyone’s creativity. On to the prompt…

    Overcoming Obstacles

    Michael sat on the floor of the rehab room facing a young woman, wheelchairs beside both of them. Her leg stumps matched his. He said, “How did you pass the boot camp obstacle course? You appear too short to defeat the rock wall.”
    “You mean I was too short!” She stopped. He waited. “Another recruit showed me the trick.”
    “How long in hospital?”
    “Six months.”
    “That’s lost time, but if you’ll master getting into your chair from the floor they’ll let you learn to use legs back home.”
    “Nobody told me that.”
    “I just did.”
    “Show me how. Please.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Nice. Still sharing tricks.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jules says:

      Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.
      Just gotta listen…

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      It was worth a hope to dip once more, Sue! But, yes, too cold.

      Puzzles are not silly at all — good for the brain. I crave doing puzzles this time of year when I’m outdoors less.

      And thanks for tuning into the Rodeo results! I’m having fun gathering up and reading all the entries. Such great writing from everyone.

      Your story takes a turn and reveals the kind of perseverance soldiers need to carry their burden after the war. It’s a beautiful interaction you capture, when one soldier shows another the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. […] Carrot Ranch….Flash Fiction Challenge….99 Words….Lost Time […]

    Liked by 1 person

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