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December 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

As much as I love the landscape and people of the American West, I’m content with my decision to leave the cradle of my family for seven generations. They came from the Pyrenees, Azores, Brazil, Denmark, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Most came directly to California and the rest from North Carolina. A few yet reside in Colorado and eastern Washington. Still, California and Nevada hold my family’s experience of America.

And then I met a veteran from Nevada and lived in almost every western state, thereafter. Sometimes I think it’s odd that we ended up in the Upper Midwest, of all places. But after struggling with the economic hardships of the rural west, we educated up and headed out. My husband grew up milking jerseys, and I worked ranches and logging camps.

Our grown children hardly know the difference between a heifer and a gelding. None of them ride horses. Yet, they matured among diversity, spent teen years swing dancing, going out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and prancing at the Gay 90s. Some of the stories, like a mishap with a bubble machine at a drag show, I’m only now learning. They’ve supported transgender friends through transformations, traveled to other countries where they had to learn the language and customs, and embrace a changing world with mindfulness.

I miss my kids. It’s a parent-thing. Maybe, it’s simply human nature to be nostalgic for what we create and give back to the world, not ours to keep. Every Message from Svalbard, phone call from Wisconsin, or text from nine miles up the Keweenaw, and I light up like Venus on a cloudless night. Every tear, worry, and pain, I feel. Any close relationship can relate. I’ve felt this close to a horse, and I know people who feel this close to their faith. We feel what we feel, and sometimes, deeply.

This time of year tends to expose tender nerves, whether emotions, unresolved situations, or memories. The veil between the past and present and future thins, and we expect to wake up like Scrooge to frosty ghosts and rattling chains. Sometimes we sit down at the kitchen table and wonder why we are here. We feel losses keenest when it seems like everyone else has what we do not. It’s an illusion, not true. We all suffer losses. Some deal with it differently.

No wonder bells, bows, gifts, and trees delight us. We want the lights, the sweets, the full celebration. Anything and everything to chase away the chill and dark thought. We make merry to make it through.

A good friend texted me tonight saying, “There’s so much pain at the hem of the world. So much.” She should know; she’s our region’s grief counselor who sits at that hem. She’s the person who witnesses the loss others feel despite her father having terminal cancer and her 22-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive lymphoma. She left her daughter’s side to attend the grief group she leads.

I have another friend, who is my personal witness. She gets me even when I’m not sure I understand myself. She lets me be silly and serious in varying degrees. She sits at my six (military-speak for “got your back”). We should all be so blessed to have such friends and to be one in return. Sometimes, I think she sits at my six, so I can sit at my grieving friend’s six, so she can sit at her group’s hem so the world can watch out for one another.

But I also understand that some feel no one in the world is watching their back. Isolation is deadly. I mean the mental kind where we don’t feel connected. Drop extended COVID protocols, disagreements, and polarizing politics into the world, and physical isolation turns mental. Bitterness is the inability to remember love. Love begins within. Take care to guard your hearts.

Be merry. Be bright. Someone needs you. Maybe you need you. Maybe your neighbor needs a light in your window to connect. Maybe a friend needs a goofy text. Maybe you need to forgive someone — not for their sake, but for your peace.

Write. Seriously, write. Scream into the page. Wet the ink with tears. Write a love story, a horror story. Play with words and remember what it was like to play as a child. Let that child breathe. Write like grammarians aren’t watching. Write nonsense. Write a manifesto for your creativity. Write an artist’s statement. Write a poem that doesn’t rhyme. Write a syllabic dialog. Talk to yourself. Talk to someone you miss. Talk to God, the Goddess, the Divine. Write the unexpected. Write what is typical of you.

Your authentic voice is needed; wanted; deserves breath. Tell stories. Any story. Your story.

You all gather here, weekly, intermittently, bashfully, or boldly stating opinions. What a grand space you make this! What a community! I know we can’t all possibly agree and yet for nearly six years, we’ve focused on how creativity flourishes among differences. You’ve forgiven me for rants when my injustice quota fills up and pours out onto the post. You’ve looked the other way, or rolled your eyes, when someone else writes — literally — the opposite perspective from yours. I feel like this literary anthropologist every week, weaving stories that are not alike.

We are not alike. And yet we are all so very human. So up and down. So vulnerable. So resilient. Contradictions and contrast, trying to connect.

Regardless of where you are from or where you are at, I’m happy you are here.

My daughter assured me that this video will bring a smile to any Grinch. She is a dancer and her troupe is delighting in this Christmas number, texting each other 🔔🎀🎁🎄. They are choreographing their own version on Zoom. I admire that the dancers with Todrick pull it off in stilettos, thus the prompt this week. I hope “Bells, Bows, Gifts, and Trees” brightens your day!

December 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 22, 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. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.



  1. You are such a wordsmith, Charli. A beautiful post.

  2. Kid’s Christmas Present

    “Yer up late Kid.”
    “A flash ‘bout stilettos?”
    “Hmmph. How kin ya write ‘bout somethin’ ya cain’t walk in? I’m writin’ a letter. Ta Santy Claus.”
    “Ya know he ain’t fer real.”
    “Then why?”
    “Miss him.”
    “How kin ya miss Santy if ya know he ain’t real?”
    “Reckon I miss believin, an’ all the other things I use ta know. Miss when Christmas weren’t so much ‘bout missin’ folks an’ what’s past an’ fears fer what’s future.”
    “So what’re ya askin’ fer?”
    “Nothin’ Pal! Jist listin’ ever’thin’ an’ ever’body I’m grateful fer. Right now.”
    “Write on Kid.”

  3. Thanks for your words Charli. This time of year has it’s stresses and I found what you said moving.

    • Charli Mills says:

      This time of year holds all the emotions and some are felt more keenly than others. Write your way through the stresses, Joanne. And let the ladies prance on the farm! 😉

  4. Gloria says:

    I’ve always admired men who can dance like that in stilettos! My heels have gotten lower as the years have passed, and I’m fine with that.
    Very relatable post today Charli. I always feel so emotional and grateful for everything at this time of year.
    My adult children can’t spend Christmas with me this year but I will get to see them all in the days following Christmas. And I share my 29th December birthday with my son and we always have a wonderful night out.
    The night out won’t happen this year because of ‘you know what’. But that’s okay…we’ll all be together.
    My nine year old daughter keeps me going and helps me not to miss the others so much.
    Your kids sound amazing too!
    I love that you say we’re there for a friend so that she can be there for a different friend and so on. I’ve never thought of it like that before.
    Merry Christmas Charli and all the Carrot Ranchers. I’m not sure if I’ll be here next weekend as Christmas is a long event in Ireland. 🎅🎄
    But I’ll be back in a day or two with a stiletto flash! 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Like your heels, Gloria, mine have flattened over the years, too! It’s a Christmas shake up this year with lots derailed, but I’m glad you get to see your kids, and may they continue to amaze you! Have a contented long Christmas in Ireland!

  5. Hi, Charli, my usual subversive contribution for this month. 😉

    He wears the pants, she wears the shoes.

    Larry thought he’d been very clever in concealing his affair. The separate burner phone, the second apartment, the long-running negotiations with a female client interstate to secure the deal that would make him and Lucia rich beyond their wildest dreams and secure their future independence from her family. What he’d forgotten was his wife’s Sicilian heritage and the path her family had trod from questionable ‘businesses’ to rolled gold Wall Street institution, supported by eyes that saw and knew everything. When Larry arrived home that night from his latest ‘business trip’, he discovered that the stiletto wounds all heels.

  6. Jennie says:

    Beautiful, Charli. I wish all people had your heart.

  7. […] This was written with the prompt stilettos provided by the Carrot Ranch December 17 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  8. As I never spend Christmas with anyone outside my immediate household, I’m in the tiny minority for whom the festive season isn’t blighted by the pandemic. I do feel for people who are lonely at Christmas this year as other years, but I think in ordinary years it’s partly the hype that makes some feel extra lonely even if they’re comfortable with solitude the rest of the time.
    I loved your flash and totally approve of female drag queens. I read an article maybe ten years ago about a drag festival in the US somewhere specifically for women parodying the female gender. It looked such fun, like dressing up as kids.
    My 99-word story, The writer knows her limits, is here:

    • Even more brillianter 🙂

    • That was an amusing dialogue, I enjoyed your flash.
      Those shoes need a puppy, let the puppy chew on them.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, it’s good to be free of the trappings. I think this is a good time of year to be reflective and restful. Simple gifts. It’s hard to let go of traditions when they have featured big and bold in our lives. It’s easy to feel lost and lonely. I think there’s a mix of heartache and a hope to find peace. For many, that means acceptance.

      I love that there is support for female drag queens! I will look that one up. I agree, dressing up in drag has a playful quality. Another writer, local to the Keweenaw, sent me a link Walk a Mile in Her Shoes which is an international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. They walk a mile in high heels.

      Bah humbug, merry solitude! 😉

  9. […] December 17: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  10. […] supposed to include an eerily out of place prop, but I did not bring that element in. This week the December 17, 2020, prompt at Carrot Ranch is: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will […]

  11. I used this prompt and prop to continue a story that came from the rodeo.

  12. denmaniacs4 says:

    Personally, I wanted to edge my 99 words to a homage for Harold Robbins and his novel, Stiletto…turned into a memorable is somewhat odd thriller filmed in 1969. And I also wanted to reference Mount Etna…Again, 99 words does set limits…In the Still of the Et Toe

    A contortionist of some renown,
    he dreamt of times departed.
    The twists, the turns, the ups and downs,
    his life, how it was charted.

    He‘d not fully stayed the course,
    His mind and body wandered.
    Pleasure’d been his driving force:
    his other duties squandered.

    Late in life, an epiphany,
    a desire to mend his ways,
    and so, he travelled to Sicily
    to pass his remaining days.

    Then one dark Italian night,
    in a mutilating blow,
    he swung a blade with guillotine might
    and severed every toe…

    But one, and with much practiced torsion,
    he chewed off the remaining portion.

    Merry Christmas one and all

  13. […] Carrot Ranch prompt December 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by December 22, 2020. (adding image stilettos to post) […]

  14. Jules says:


    What a wonderful post. If only more folks could be accepting of differences as well as similarities. I enjoyed the video. I only got to watch part of it.
    May all those who enjoy the warmth of family how ever they can ~ be blessed with good health and happiness!!

    I was able to connect the prompt to my running serial here:
    (64) Damned Family (Doe Eyed Maeve)
    (haibun with a Collom Lune)

    doe eyed, full
    of innocence, grandiose plans to
    save the world

    Mae remembered when she had embraced the full character of herself as Maeve, as she read the text from the Faithful Stag, and reminisced about the first time they had met. It was at a New Year’s Party in Washington, DC. My, those were the days. Women wore sparkling stilettos to gain some height, along with gold or silver sequined cocktail dresses or dramatic gowns with slits up to their armpits.

    Now Mae thought, if only she could ‘save’ those closest to her. Like her nephew Norman.


  15. Dear literary anthropologist!

    THANK YOU for providing us with this great vast Ranch, where writers, readers, Kid and Pal, Pete Legume, puppies, pigs, and goats all can roam freely, dream freely,

    What a great blog, Charli!
    “We are not alike. And yet we are all so very human. So up and down. So vulnerable. So resilient. Contradictions and contrast, trying to connect.”


    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you for picking up on the literary anthropology, Saifun! It takes people to make this all work, and I’m glad you are here among the cast of characters and their writers.

  16. […] Written for the Carrot Ranch. […]

  17. Honestly, I too don’t know the difference between heifer and a gelding. Googled it 🙂

    Happy Holidays Carrot Ranch.

    My Take:

  18. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt for December 17, 2020: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who […]

  19. gordon759 says:

    Here’s mine. Typically an historical varient involving my eighteenth century heroine, Miss Maria Fluart.
    I hadn’t realised quite how frightening she could be until I told this tale.

  20. Liz H-H says:

    Who knew such inspiration and warmth could be tasted from a fresh carrot, pulled from the ground, and shared here at the Ranch? Every week! And from everybody’s home garden?
    We are blessed in our multitude. May the holidays shine for us all, and may we (continue to) shine for all in these strange and half-familiar holidays!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Amen to shared carrots, Liz! May the gardens keep on delivering (carrots do well even in winter). The snow has returned so at least in our northern hemisphere we get the familiarity of snow and can pretend it is what has us housebound. Shine on!

  21. Party Like It’s Only 99

    “Kid! Thought you said thet piglet was potty trained.”
    “She is. She’s right here with me Pal.”
    “Then what’s thet smell?”
    “Oui, it ees me.”
    “Thet’s right, fergot yer bunkin’ with us. Seems someone cain’t keep all her stories straight.”
    “Hey, Pepe! Look’t you. What’s all this! Bells? Bows?”
    “Oui, Keed, an’ geefts for you and Pal and thees leetle evergreen tree. Eets got roots, we can plant it later.”
    “Shut the front door! Why it’s Tip and Top Lemmon. In stilettos?”
    “Dey want to perform for us.”
    “The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”
    “No. Dey weel prance!”

    • Norah says:

      Prancing around the Christmas tree … I think there’s a theme.

      • Solstice tree. Around here there is a custom of the carpenters building a new house nailing an evergreen at the peak of the roof for good luck. Not totally died out. Makes me sing in my heart when I see it. But here I gave the tree roots. Used to sell Christmas trees, justified it as another type of agriculture. But we always brought in live trees as well. Added this yarn in because I almost forgot about Pepe and it was bugging me that I’d already done stilettos then I remembered the Lemmon brothers.

      • Norah says:

        That’s a cool custom. How could you forget Pepe?
        All’s good. I’m not sure I remember the Lemmon brothers though.

    • Liz H says:

      “Don’t sit under that Christmas Tree
      With anyone else but me!”
      A Lemmon Sisters Family Favorite Christmas CD!

    • Charli Mills says:

      The return of the Lemmon Queens, prancing! I like that you sold trees with roots. We looked at our tree cutting days as thinning out overgrown forests. It meant we covered a lot of mountainous territory in the backcountry. The stories…one day…again…around the campfire.

  22. […] Flash Fiction Challenge: stilettos […]

  23. floridaborne says:

    Not a fan of stilettoes. I’ve known too many people who wore them when they were in their 20’s who now have hammertoe, and other problems because they bent their feet in ways that nature never intended.

    • Charli Mills says:

      We do some unusual things to our feet in the guise of fashion. Point shoes, binding, heels. Our feet are more precious than we give them credit for. But some can pull it off in dance or drag!

      • floridaborne says:

        Walking the path of life in stilettos can lead to a miserable end. Many times, the stiletto’s come with pointed toes. I know of people who have had surgery on the big toe so that the pain of walking can be bearable. I worked with a woman who couldn’t wear flats because she had worn stiletto’s since high school.

        As far as I can tell, stiletto’s are worth as much to society as corsets were in the late 1800’s.

  24. Norah says:

    Beautifully written post filled to the brim with wisdom, as usual, Charli. I’m sorry that you won’t get to spend Christmas with all your little ducks in person, but they are never far from your heart. I wish you and and your family, wherever they be, joy at Christmas time and health and happiness in 2021.
    I really enjoyed the video. It did make me smile. I also enjoyed your flash – a nice way to include some diversity.
    I’ll be back with my story in a little while.

    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my story. I hope you like it.

      The Princess wore Stilettos

      The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.
      “Do this.”
      “Don’t do that.”
      “Not now!”
      Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”
      They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.
      As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.
      When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Norah. I wish you health and happiness too, in the New Year. We are transitioning seasons, you take summer, I’ll grab winter. I’m glad you got a smile from the video!

      I recognize the tale you’ve told from princesses (and a prince) of yesteryears! Well done.

  25. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? G… […]

  26. […] December 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    • Charli Mills says:

      Rebecca, you do a great job of sliding the prompt into your sci-fi writing. I love the twist with the added height of the alien stilettos. Well done.

  27. […] Charli’s 99 word flash fiction prompt this week is to include stilettos, who will wear them and why. I contemplated telling the story about the night I nearly broke my neck in a pair, but it’s too embarrassing. Some other time maybe! Here’s a wee love story instead. […]

  28. suespitulnik says:

    Merry Christmas Charli and all Ranchers,
    I think everyone needs, at one time or another, to be reminded that someone needs them and they need others. I am not an introvert so I like having people around but am happy to be with my own thoughts also. I count myself lucky. I hope everyone gets to spend the holiday, whichever one it might be, sharing love and good times, even if via technology.
    On to the prompt…

    Military Pranksters

    Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”
    “Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”
    “Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”
    “The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”
    “It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”
    Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

  29. Marsha says:

    Hi Charli,
    I love the Christmas stories and the shoes. Gender Glitter was a girl posing as a boy posing as a girl? Interesting twists. In my story the only twist is an ankle. I haven’t learned to write suspense. I tried to submit it but it said the form was expired. Here’s my story attempt.
    First Dance
    by Marsha Ingrao

    “West Coast Swing?” Roger asked, sweat popping from every pore.
    He glanced at her gold stilettos. “Brush your soles.”
    Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”.
    He announced each step as they danced in their tight corner.
    “You’re doing well.”
    He spun her onto the main floor.
    With each back step and pull on her arm, Tanni felt laughter bubbling inside.
    Her ankle turned. Roger never missed a step as he flung her off the floor around him. When she landed, glistening as brightly as her stilettos, she picked up the beat with a back step.

    • Liz H says:

      Nice dance tale!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Marsha! Yes, a girl wanting to perform in drag, posing as a boy to pull it off. There are various “faux” queens. I like where you went (to the dance floor!) with your flash that felt in the moment. What a great dance partner to catch her twisted ankle.

      • Marsha says:

        Thanks, I read it correctly then. How funny. It was a great story. Fun prompt. I enjoyed writing it – or rewriting a tiny part of my novel. I’m finding my novel makes a great jumping off point for the flash fiction pieces. Have a great Christmas, and I look forward to talking to you soon. Jan. 2nd, right?

  30. […] Prompted from Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge at: […]

  31. Kate says:

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    One of the traditions in my household has been to curl up comfy and watch Christmas movies, old and new. Many of them, like It’s a Wonderful Life, personify both the hopeful and dreary aspects of the holiday season. My little story touches on the latter. Somehow the subject of shoes named and designed after a dagger drew me in that direction. In an effort to get shoes, daggers and Christmas all in one story, this is what I came up with … leaving you to decide what went through George’s mind.


    “So what’ya gonna give me for them?” Marco asked, leaning into the counter.

    George knew better than to ask Marco how he got a hold of the goods he brought into the pawnshop.

    “These are shoes. You know we don’t take shoes,” George said.

    “They’re red stilettos George. You gotta lady don’t you? Imagine her wearing them Christmas morning.”

    George examined the long dagger-like heels one more time. His fiery Roxy sure would be sexy in them. But those heels. They can kill.

    Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.

    “Like I said, we don’t take shoes.”

  32. […] wrote this is response to Charli Mills’ December 17, 2020 Flash Fiction Challenge.  In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and […]

  33. This is one of those real-life dramas that unfold before your eyes when your tyrant nephew comes to wake you up.

    Snake Killers
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Sitting on the bed, she watched the four-year-old tapping the heel of the stiletto on the palm of his hand. Did the upturn of his lips mean happy or sadistic? Tap. Tap. His piercing eyes bore into her groggy mind. Why had she agreed to go to the party wearing those shoes?
    “You know what these are good for?”
    “Not dancing,” she muttered.
    Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.
    “Killing snakes!” He giggled.
    She laughed as she slid her foot into her favourite heels.
    This morning her feet thanked her for bringing her cowboy boots.

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