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April 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

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And so it has come to pass.

Dry leaves from October broke free of their icy moorings following the equinox. Spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern. A point of perfect balance between night and day shared by the world over in successive time. Momentous and yet unique to each one of us. The day Sue Vincent died, I was watching dry leaves twirl in the wind with a puppy named Mause.

We didn’t yet know. Gusts hit our old copper miner’s house and leaves circled upward. Mause propped her small body against the top of the couch with lanky growing legs. She’s still floppy at four months old, yet attentive. She never barked but followed each leaf with wonder and intensity. We went for a walk in the wind and Mause bounded, leaping into the air, catching leaves in her mouth.

Seeing the world through Mause’s eyes can shift me in profound ways. Instead of leaf litter or the dun of winter grit, I see whirling wings and hillocks to climb. Every sight and sound is worth a pause and cock of the head. The world is new and enchanting to a puppy. Dogs mature but stay in that center of mindful wonder. I borrow Mause’s perspective — the path is never the same though we walk it every day.

It’s like the weekly collection. I feel like a pup snapping at leaves. Look at that one — the twist at the end. And this one — rich detail. Stories, characters, settings, tones, humor, darkness, hope. Leaves tumbling in a vortex, the 99-word stories delight each and every outing. We are all human. Yet we each have different lived experiences and rich details to draw from, and imagination to express. Our writing prompts brings us to a shared mindful moment where each voice speaks.

Sue Vincent led an extraordinary life. You can read between the lines and see that she paid attention to people, history, mystery, and literary art. Sue had a rich inner life that could express and draw others in to play with words to share moments and tell stories. Sue had a tenacious sense of humor. Even toward the end of her life she found reason to laugh. It reminded me of the time I shared in my best friend’s passing from this world to the next. We laughed.

It’s human to laugh, to cry, to feel, to think, to imagine what if and why.

As writers, we are the containers of human experience. Like ink pads we soak up stories and control the spill of details from our quills. We think deeply and mine the thoughts for expression. Sometimes we barely think at all and respond like wildfire across the pages. No matter what languages we speak, our mother tongue is storytelling. Our beauty and hope and art form words. So do our shadows.

The craft of writing is one of life-long mastery. Writing forces us to heal and grow. Water can’t remain stagnant when it flows. Rivers well up in us and the process shapes the outpouring. We tumble from dark places, artisan wells and cracks in bedrock, to journey to the sea where other waterways spill. From drops of water comes an ocean.

Writing communities meet and mingle in the great bodies of water. We all flow from source to a common place. Each of us with different perspectives, joining our voices through stories. Sue was the captain across such seas. She knew Albion best and drew writers to her source. She gifted many through the life she led and the stories she wrote. We will miss her and yet her presence is palpable among us, such are the echoes of her writing legacy.

What a gift she gave us all, sharing the intimacy of her end days with us. What a gift the community gave to her, surrounding Sue with stories she inspired. She impacted us. Shared her soul’s song. Like a pup chasing winter-weary debris, she made the best of her life and left a legacy of words.

Though gone from us here and now, she left a guided meditation that feels like the peace, calling us to shed our stress and pain. I hope you find the gift she intended for us all with Swift Passage. Sue Vincent went into spirit on March 29, 2021 while old leaves danced to spring winds.

April 1 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 6, 2021. 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.

You Were on My Mind Again by Charli Mills

From Ireland to your deathbed was a span of 150 years. Your culture, after five generations in America, remained Catholic. You didn’t call it your religion or heritage. You spoke of your faith as elemental as DNA, your smile brightening a room with the luminaries of sainthood.

You married him anyway. He was Scots to your Irish, a wounded Vietnam vet. A smile that lit yours. Two daughters later, he left to comfort his National Guard Unit as a lay minister on the battlefield. You lost him. But you never lost heart. Swift passage, my dear friend. Home again.

🥕🥕🥕


133 Comments

  1. wonderful Charli.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. restlessjo says:

    I haven’t known what to say about, Sue, other than regret her passing, Charli. I’m not a writer and hadn’t really known her well, but we shared a love for some of the same places and she touched a chord in me. Thank you for honouring her here, and for your stories.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      To share a love of places and to touch another in this big, wide world is life-affirming. It’s good to acknowledge the positive impacts we make on each other. Thank you, Jo.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. That’s an amazing, beautiful piece of writing Charli Mills. It took my breath away.
    thank you

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Norah says:

    Inspiring piece, Charli. I like Mause’s perspective – that the path is never the same though we walk it every day. A beautiful way to maintain a sense of wonder. It’s the small things that bring us joy each day – the small changes we notice, like a leaf being released from a twig or a new flower opening.
    I had to read your flash a few times to understand the time frame. The sense of faith being DNA is true and understandable. Such a beautiful tribute, again, to your friend. She’ll never leave your heart.
    Nor will Sue. Her guided meditation is a beautiful gift, just one of many. She will live on in many hearts.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I took liberties with time, Norah. Yes, keeping a sense of wonder feeds the joy (and the puppy). We take from that which came before us and give to those who come after us. Gifts in hearts. Thank you for remembering my friend.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my response: https://norahcolvin.com/2021/04/07/time-flies/
      I hope you enjoy it.

      Regardless
      “How long does it take to get old, Grandma?”
      “Not long enough, Mickey. Never long enough.”
      She’d once thought anyone over fifty was old, that it’d take infinity to get there. Now she well exceeded that number. She didn’t feel older, just creaked louder.
      “My birthday takes too long. I want it now.”
      “It’ll come soon enough, Mickey. Then another, and another. Soon you’ll be counting as many years as me.”
      “That’s too long, Grandma.”
      “When you get to my age, Mickey, you’ll see how short life is. Time doesn’t only fly when you’re having fun, it flies regardless.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. floridaborne says:

    Puppies are joy, bounding with pure energy and love. When we live with doggies, they enrich our lives and our perspectives.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The prompt made me think of this (Jonathon) Swift passage from Gulliver’s Travels but for the life of me I can’t think of who it brought to mind. 😉

    “A First or Chief Minister of State (of the Houyhnhnms) … was a creature wholly exempt from joy and grief, love and hatred, pity and anger; at least made use of no other passions but a violent desire of wealth, power, and titles; that he applies his words to all uses, except to the indication of his mind; that he never tells a truth, but with an intent that you should take it for a lie; nor a lie, but with a design that you should take it for a truth; that those he speaks worst of behind their backs are in the surest way to preferment; and whenever he begins to praise you to others or to yourself, you are from that day forlorn. The worst mark you can receive is a promise, especially when it is confirmed with an oath; after which every wise man retires, and gives over all hopes.”

    I’m sure this will give Sue a chuckle when she reads her celestial email.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. […] April 1 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 4 people

  8. To the Swift

    “Kid, what’s thet noise? There a critter in the chimney?”
    “It’s a fam’ly a chimney swifts Pal!”
    “This far west?”
    “Yep. Reckon they been keepin’ us skeeter free, least we kin do is let ‘em nest in the chimney. We kin sweep it after, a’fore we fire up the stove. Their nests are crescents stuck ta the inside a the chimney, like a hoss shoe. These birds are always in the air ‘cept fer nestin’. Cain’t even perch, jist cling ta the sides a their nestin’ site. When the young’uns are ready they climb out.”
    “A swift passage?”
    “Yep.”

    https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chimney_Swift/overview

    Liked by 7 people

    • “To the Shift”

      “Wake up Kid, yer makin’ too much noise sleepin’.”
      “Huh? Pal. What a dream. There was a swift passage a time. The Poet Tree was ancient, all gnarled an’ hollow.”
      “What about me?”
      “You was no more gnarled an’ hollow then usual.”
      “Hmmff. Was the Poet Tree still alive?”
      “Yep! An’ there were swifts nestin’ in its hollow parts!

      *swift passage of time
      eternal circular path
      still the old tree hums

      ancient songs of life
      hope chirps within the hollows
      budding into flight*”.

      “Hmmf.

      *Kid’s buckaroo-ku
      how deep is thet mud puddle?
      cain’t say not knowin’.
      Shift passes swiftly*.”

      Liked by 7 people

      • To the Shift Too

        “Pal? Ranch ta Pal. Now it’s looks like you that’s dreamin’.”
        “Kinda was, Kid. Was thinkin’ back ta when I was stuck in thet mine shaft.”
        “An’ Curley come got Shorty an’ the Poet lariat lassoed ya an’ we pulled ya out?”
        “Yeah, thet… It was darker an’ a hero’s cave down there Kid. Cain’t say how much time passed… ‘nough I reckon…”
        “Pal, sorry ta innerupt yer musin’ but the young swifts are makin’ their way out the chimney. Let’s go watch ‘em.”

        *climb outta thet dark
        when ya kin see yer way clear
        take wing inta light*

        Liked by 5 people

    • This brought a smile to my face! Thank you. ❤

      Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I learned something new today, D. I wonder if there are chimney swifts making use of all the abandoned smelter smokestacks in the Keweenaw?

      Liked by 3 people

    • Jules says:

      I enjoyed the learnin’ somethin’ new. I think there’s some swifts round these parts. I think one of my ol’ cotton woods has a hole that could be a swift nest? Could belong to them pesky squirrels though.

      (I thought swift shift was what one had, when they …um had the runs…)

      Anyways, I enjoyed all the verses too!
      I’ve been tucking some ‘honor’ ‘ku at comments in posts that Stuart has gifted.
      Maybe if I git enough and they fit a prompt I’ll make a post of them…

      Liked by 3 people

    • Well, that’s a new one on me. Thanks to Kid for sharing this wisdom.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Jules says:

    Charli, I’ve not read anything here yet… but I wanted to share that I was thinking recently of the song :

    And to let the community know that at least in my ‘extended circle’ – a little girl was born March 29, 2021.

    I’ll be back with a flash…

    Liked by 7 people

  10. Thank you for sharing Sue’s guided visualization: Swift Passage. 💗 It is a beautiful, peaceful gift. You’re spot on there.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Between your lovely writing, Charli, thoughts of Sue who I did not know, and Swift Passage, I am left feeling weepy and melancholy this morning, but in a healthy way.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Fit Ta Print

    “What’cha readin’ Pal?”
    “Quow-Poke Quarterly. Fella name a Finn Lee Winnin jist earned hissef a nice rodeo buckle. He’s on top.”
    “Hmmph. That was a swift passage.”
    “What d’ya mean Kid?”
    “Well, where’d he come from? I ain’t never heard a ‘im.”
    “Reckon this weren’t his first rodeo Kid. An I reckon his first rodeo weren’t his first time on a bull.”
    “What else they got ta say ‘bout this Whinin fella?”
    “Winnin, not Whinin, Kid. ‘Member thet. He says, ‘It’s nice havin’ extra buckles, but I still gotta thread my belt through the loops.’
    Thet’s no bull, Kid.”

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Such emotion in your post this week, Charli. From happiness and joy to sadness and tears after hearing of Sue’s passing. I also saw her as a great teacher in the writing world. Somebody who taught me how to get the best out of what I wrote and who helped guide me through uncharted territory I was unfamiliar with. The first time she visited my blog and left a comment, I knew this was somebody who loved life and everything it bought with it.
    Likewise, here at the Carrot Ranch, many teachers share their wisdom of the journeys we all find ourselves on.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      The greatest way to honor our teachers like Sue is to step up and be the next one to help others, and I certainly see you doing that, Hugh. We all felt life more vibrantly through Sue’s lens and pens. Good to share the journey with you. ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Reena Saxena says:

    I remember wishing her a speedy recovery on her weekly #writephoto feature which appeared erratically in the last few months. Her reply indicated that the end was near, and there was no hope. Somehow, I did not have the heart to revisit her blog, till yesterday, and I saw the news …

    Here’s my piece for this week https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2021/04/02/swift-passage/

    Liked by 5 people

  15. […] April 1 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads! Link […]

    Liked by 2 people

  16. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt, dedicated to our wonderful friend, Sue […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ritu says:

    Thank you for this opportunity to honour Sue, get again, Charli. She touched the lives of so many of us.
    I also dedicate this piece to my Mamaji, my uncle, who is in palliative care, right now, and we have been told to be on standby for that news that no one wants to receive.

    April 1: Flash Fiction Challenge – Gone

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jules says:

      I remember visiting a few different folks in their last days… and not being there when that time came….
      But at least I was there before (the end…) so maybe they did know that.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      We are all processing our loss, and some are grieving more. My heart goes out to you, Ritu. How wonderful to dedicate your piece to your beloved Mamaji.

      Like

      • Ritu says:

        Thank you, Charli.
        He slipped away, the day after I wrote this, in Australia, with his wife and children all by his side and my mum, (his sister), and my other uncle ( his brother), both in different countries (UK and Kenya), on a video call, with peaceful smile.
        RIP Mamaji 🙏🏼💜

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        I saw your photos to honor him on FB and what a beautiful smile he had. May you have peace and memory of that smile.

        Like

  18. denmaniacs4 says:

    Rapid Transit

    “Excuse me,” I ask the woman standing at the bus stop.

    She has a bright pink face, the sort you might get from laughing all the time.

    She looks me up and down like I am a slab of meat gone slightly off.

    “What?”

    “When’s the next bus?” I squeak out. “I don’t usually…”

    “Take the bus? Oh, my! You poor man.”

    I take both of my feet out of my mouth, decide to bear my soul.

    “Lost my license.”

    “Tough. For drinking and driving?”

    “Uh-uh. Driving too slow.”

    “Well, you should be right at home on this bus.”

    Liked by 8 people

  19. […] been some time since I have written any flash fiction. It was the Carrot Rench’s April 1st challenge, and I had to do it. April 1st is Fred’s The Anniversary with […]

    Liked by 5 people

  20. Sunlight, a pink aurora in the shining sky,
    from the brushwood, the crows take wing
    shadows dance and small birds sing
    swift passage comes for ancestral souls on high.

    Faery queens gather to welcome their otherworldly kin
    she who walked among those bound to the earth
    now takes passage within the Bardo of her rebirth,
    spring rain washes away the pain of our loss and chagrin.

    Raise your arms to the circle of the sun
    close your eyes and breathe, inhale the celestial breath
    thank you for the golden words of wisdom you’ve spun
    your earthly quest is won.

    For Sue, who encouraged me to break away from my syllables, once in a while. ❤

    Liked by 8 people

  21. willowdot21 says:

    Beautiful Charli so touching.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  22. It’s so bizarre to have interacted with Sue just a couple of weeks ago… Even though I knew things were coming to an end, the human brain doesn’t think of it during the dialogue. Well, at least mine did not… Strange…

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Gloria says:

    Beautiful words Charli. It’s hard to know what to say around death sometimes. Just so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. […] This was written with the prompt swift passage provided by the Carrot Ranch April 1 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. […] Carrot Ranch April 1 April 1 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by April 6, 2021 […]

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Jules says:

    Charli,

    Think of lost loves, is always a bit melancholic. I went with a haibun with an internal pi ku – a memory of an excursion of (so far) my one and only ‘cruise’ :

    Not Quite on ‘Cruise’ Control

    One the swift passage out to see
    The bottom of the deep blue sea…
    Before settling to glance below at the
    Glass base of the tourist boat
    I had erred to fully digest breakfast
    The base thumping of the waves
    Against the sides added to the harsh ride

    shaken rough
    by
    waves right and left

    Too soon the Caribbean fish became
    Heir what may have been
    an unexpected treasure of a free meal…
    The Captain made sure to let
    The passengers know that the ocean
    Was a better recipient of such ‘gifts’
    Rather than the interior of his vessel!

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 6 people

  27. Jennie says:

    So beautiful, Charli!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. […] by this prompt from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a […]

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Here is mine:

    A Sailor’s Promise

    A Sailor’s Promise

    They stood on the shore, arms around each other’s waists, the sunset reflecting off the water, their toes spread in the warm sand and cool waves lapping at their feet. A perfect moment.

    But one that couldn’t last.

    “This shouldn’t be long trip. Just to Port Gorem and back,” he murmured.

    She squeezed him tighter. “You’re still going to be gone.”

    He kissed her forehead. “Soon I’ll have earned enough money to buy us a farm, and I won’t have to leave for so long again.”

    “And if the sea monsters attack your ship?”

    “Then I’ll fight them off.”

    Liked by 5 people

  30. Here’s mine for this round.

    The Fall

    St. Peter said ‘Yes, can I help you?’ Donald, all smiling charm, said, ‘I certainly believe you can. I’m Donald ..’
    St. Peter cut him off with ‘Yes, I know who you are. Why are you here?’
    ‘Well, to negotiate my way into Heaven and eternal life, of course. I’m a great negotiator. Huge.’
    ‘No negotiations here, Donald. You’re either on the list or you’re not. And you’re not.’
    ‘Even if I could Make the Almighty Great Again?’
    ‘He never wasn’t.’
    ‘So where do I go now?
    ‘You know where. And, believe me, it will be a swift passage.’

    Liked by 5 people

  31. Hi Charli
    Beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking blog.

    Prayers for peace for Sue Vincent’s soul.

    I’m no storyteller but your words always make me go deeper for FF prompts:

    “No matter what languages we speak, our mother tongue is storytelling. Our beauty and hope and art form words. So do our shadows.”

    Thank you!
    Saifun

    Liked by 2 people

  32. The following 99 words are not mine. I lifted each and every one of them, whole phrases even from Sue Vincent’s “Swift Passage” to create sort of a found poem. Maybe I shouldn’t have, as that is such a beautiful piece and such an incredible gift. But this is where the prompt led.

    you begin to descend
    the way is steep
    you continue down the path
    you had forgotten it was there…
    yet it has always been there

    the stream is an ancient cup
    wise child, drink in the moment
    stand, simply
    you are
    part of the earth

    the earth takes you into itself
    unconstricted you
    move easily
    sure-footed even in the shadows
    you are here, now, in this time and in this place

    you are at home here
    in the heart of the earth.
    You see many offerings,
    the first morning of the world!
    It is all you need to know.

    Liked by 5 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Beautifully eloquent tribute, Charli. Thanks for sharing. Here’s my swift passage:
    The morning after
    https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/rereading-mr-loverman-the-secret-scripture

    Liked by 3 people

  35. TanGental says:

    Very powerful, Charli. Inevitably, as Sue would well understand, and given it’s the boys doing the thinking, I’ve gone for flippant
    Moving On
    ‘I don’t think I was meant to drink water, Logan.’
    ‘Is this another of your woke mindfulness bollockoids, Morgan? You only drink kale and compassion smoothies for a peaceful inner being.’
    ‘You can scoff…’
    ‘My scoffing is a thing of beauty…’
    ‘Indeed. My point is that every time the water changes, my stomach rebels.’
    ‘TMI, old chap.’
    ‘This time it’s constipation…’
    ‘You really do over-share, don’t you? But, as a friend, I will make you my great aunt’s cure-all. Try this.’
    ‘Will it loosen me?’
    ‘It can’t promise you a comfortable passage, but it will be swift…’

    Liked by 5 people

  36. […] week Charli at Carrot Ranch prompts us to write about a swift passage. In 99 words, no more, no less. I’m remembering my […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. suespitulnik says:

    Charli,

    Your essay brought tears to my eyes: for how well it is written, for sharing your feelings for Sue, and for giving us as much as Sue was able to give. I had meant to sit down and write about my positive feelings for my mentors but life got in the way. My offering this week is written as if my bonus son wrote it about the heart-breaking loss of a good friend.

    Dedicated to Trabs

    I was your friend
    I felt close to you
    I knew you hurt inside
    But didn’t know how deep
    I wish I’d understood

    We, your co-workers
    And your peers
    Tried to help by talking
    You pushed us away
    Saying you were okay

    You gained more weight
    When already large
    You drank more
    Already having a problem
    We watched, very aware

    It troubled us to see you
    Stuck in your own way
    Unable to break free
    From the fears
    That controlled you

    Now you are gone
    Such a swift passage
    We believe you’re free
    from the pain you suffered

    Liked by 5 people

  38. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (01/01/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  39. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from a… […]

    Liked by 1 person

  40. […] Carrot Ranch Literary Community for their weekly flash challenge. I’m too late for the recent “swift passage” challenge but it helped me here. Speaking of the Saddle Up Saloon at Carrot Ranch, there are now poetry […]

    Liked by 1 person

  41. […] April 1: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  42. […] at the Carrot Ranch prompted us to write a 99-word piece of flash fiction with the prompt ‘Swift Passage‘, I immediately saw a big ship. No, I wasn’t at the beach or by the sea, but some […]

    Like

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