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April 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Pavement calls like a slithering snake that can wind to anywhere. Windows rolled down, engine roaring, music blasting. I’m seventeen again, driving my truck across the Nevada valley I once knew so well I could drive the roads in my dreams for decades after moving on. I didn’t know what came next but I knew I was outta there. Never did I think I’d move 22 times between then and now.

I’m not moving but I am moving on.

School’s out next week, and my wheels are turning. It’s hard to think beyond that one last essay I have to write because it’s Friday, due Sunday, and I really wanted to cross the finish line by now. Regardless, when I wake up Monday Morning, May 3, it will be like looking down a long stretch of road.

Where to next? Do I follow my map? Take a pleasure cruise, a side trip, an adventure down a two-track? Maybe I park under the shade of a black oak, and watch clouds scud across blue skies. May is not the month for hard decisions, nor is it time to lose momentum.

I’ve landed a freelancing gig and have plans to collaborate with a local artist, a podcaster, and a new storytelling center. I have business plans and job applications to finish, each taking me down different roads, each a companion to writing novels. The Ranch needs some new paint. My manuscript needs final edits. June 23 is the Big Day — the date I send my book to the agents who are interested. The wheels keep turning.

It’s the song, Hit the Road Jack, that comes to mind, though.

It’s more than moving on. It’s about leaving what is no longer needed. It’s telling 2020 to get lost. It’s declaring a new era. Claiming the road trip for your own purposes. Whatever happens next, I get to decide. When I left Nevada all those years ago, I never expected to live in almost every western state. I certainly didn’t expect to settle along one of the Great Lakes. When I hit the road, I had dreams.

I still do. We never stop dreaming.

Next week, I’ll let you know dates for my party plans. I have a truckload of fun to work out. Without a formal graduation ceremony, I decided to create my own. A friend is a neo-Druidic ceremonialist is going to lead an online graduation cacao ceremony. Another friend is going to host an online Sound Bath. I’m going to camp for three days at McLain State Park after I pick up the most incredible bucket-list celebration cake ever made by three young Chippewa sisters in Minnesota. And I will set up several readings and times for Ranchers to meet up on Zoom for friendly socials. Finally, my son and daughter-in-law will visit for a family weekend with a vegan cake (yes, two cakes).

On Monday, I also tell Covid to hit the road. I’ll be fully vaccinated and out of quarantine. It’s strange to emerge from the pandemic cocoon. Strange to not have coursework next week. But that’s the nature of moving on.

April 29, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 4, 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.

Jack’s Escape by Charli Mills

He waited for her the mouth of the mine. She visited late at night with stubs of carrots. She’d light a pipe and he’d sniff puffs of smoke while she spoke her troubles, wetting his neck with tears. Life in a mining camp caged a white mule and a soiled dove forced into service. One night, she arrived with a rope, blanket, and satchel. He had no regrets stepping outside his pen, letting her rig a makeshift bosal. She said, “Let’s hit the road, Jack,” and they left behind what they had known, never to speak of it again.

🥕🥕🥕


152 Comments

  1. Claire says:

    Great interpretation of the line!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. restlessjo says:

    Freedom beckons. Good to see you embrace it, Charli. On the road again… 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Busy busy busy! I’m glad you’re having a leaving ritual. Look forward to being part of your moving on.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. The cacao ceremony sounds like another form of Earthing, in its own way, taking in a product of the earth, in much the way it was meant, and allowing it to nourish and heal. Beautiful.

    My own regular sound baths come in the form of the musical mastery of Tool, or various instrumentals. Powerful creative inspiration, keeping the mind tethered to the art rather than the stresses of the world beyond.

    And one cake is never enough.

    I’m looking forward to hearing all about your celebrations, Charli! In the meantime, I’m testing out the wheels of a new character as he hits the road with this week’s prompt. Will link back when done.

    Enjoy all! Can’t wait to read everyone’s work.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Best wishes on your freelance gig and the options you have before you as new possibilities 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  6. douryeh says:

    I sent my story twice, probably… I apologize for that.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. […] April 29, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Six-Pac Tall Tale

    “S’matter Kid? Yer lookin’ lost.”
    “Dunno, Pal, got a crossroads kinda feelin’, don’t know which way ta head.”
    “Thet’s cuz there ain’t no sech thing as the end a the road, Kid. But sometimes ya gotta look fer signs, git a sense a direction. So slow down, take time fer a story.”
    “Alright, Pal. Do tell.”
    “Hmmmf.
    Was a strong woman, name a Jacquelyn, folks jist called her Jac.”
    “An’ she hit the road!”
    “Shush Kid. Asides, though Jac was stronger ‘an any a the lumberjacks in camp, she chose non-violence. Gen’le as a butterfly, she never hit nuthin’.”
    XXXX
    “Ok, Pal, so Jac lived in a lumber camp?”
    “Yep.
    Jac was the camp cook, but thet’s only cuz she liked ta cook an’ liked ta keep busy. See, she’d already felled trees, milled the logs an’ crafted fine furniture by the time the other jacks had even begun ta lumber off inta the woods.”
    “What kinda furniture’d she make?”
    “She always ended up makin’ writin’ desks.”
    “Was she a writer?”
    “Jist let me tell the tale, Kid.”
    “Is this a tall tale, Pal?”
    “Well, it’s certainly gonna be longer ‘an most, ‘specially with yer inneruptions an’ questions. Jeez.”
    XXXXX
    “Jac made beautiful writin’ desks an’ hankered ta set hersef down ta one. The woods was full a poetry an’ the camp was full a characters, but more an’ more she felt like they was too much lookin’ over her shoulder. More an’ more she was feelin’ like her stories was down anuther path. So one day she loaded the writin’ desks onta her truck an’—”
    “Hit the road!”
    “Set off.”
    “Bet she sells the desks ta make her fortune. Or trades ‘em fer magic beans.”
    “She give ‘em all away, ta other folks with stories ta write.”
    XXXX
    “Jac set off beyond skidder trails an’ loggin’ roads, headed down the biggest widest road she ever seen.”
    “Jac hit the road!”
    “No, Kid, told ya, she wouldn’t do thet. But oh, how Jac marveled at thet road…
    Thet road was like a trail a ink, ableedin’ from her past an’ aleadin’ ta her future. She didn’t hit the road, but she did pick it up an twirl it like a lasso. She caught stars an’ stories with thet lasso. Thet road had loops an’ swoops thet made it hard ta see ‘roun the bend, but she kep’ on.”
    XXXX
    “That sounds skeery Pal, not bein’ able ta see ‘roun the bend.”
    “Kid, would ya really wanna be seein’ straight ahead all the time?
    Jac kep’ on. At ev’ry turn she met good folks. Late nights, unner the stars, she’d set at one a the desks she’d made. Her adventures an’ ‘magination come t’gether inta constellations on the page. She was stronger ‘an ever. Each story she wrote gave her power an’ strength, more ‘an she ever thought possible.”
    “What was Jac’s greatest strength, Pal?”
    “Reckon thet no matter what, Jac kep’ on keepin’ on.”
    “Down that road.”
    “Yep.”
    XXXX
    “Pal, ya said roads ain’t got no end. Does this story have an end?”
    “Nope.
    Jac coulda stayed on in the camp where she started, or even circled back ta it. On the road she saw plenny a folks in houses, some fine an’ some not so fine, places where them folks’d decided ta stay put. She saw plenny a folks with no house an’ plenny who would never stay put, no matter.
    Jac knew thet road could lead back’ard or for’ard; could be knotted, looped, or pulled straight; but Jac kep’ it as a lasso fer her star.”

    Liked by 6 people

    • The road of life is long and winding, glad Jac felt confident to take that trip! It’s a rewarding one.

      I do love how you make such art possible through the slang and accents of Kid and Pal. Their conversations are always easy to follow despite the heavy drawl, you’ve a knack for it!

      As does Jac for keepin’ on keeping on.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Thanks. I appreciate that you appreciate those two. I enjoy them. Usually. They do best when I get out of the way.

        “Pal, ya hear that?”
        “Yep.”
        So? Why don’t she stay the heck outta our way?”
        “Needy, I reckon.”
        “Mebbe. Or a control freak.”
        “Easy Kid.”

        Liked by 3 people

    • I sense your tow philosophers have coopted a new comrade. They can staff the saloon while Jac goes off on her adventures.

      Liked by 4 people

      • You are usually correct, Ms. Goodwin. Not this time.
        No. More. Characters! (Having trouble keeping track)
        This is just a tall tale that Pal knows to tell, coincidentally about a legendary lumberjack/furniture making/lasso throwing writer named Jac who bears no resemblance to anyone we may or may not know.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Jules says:

      A cool six pack! An I think it’s great that Jac is fictional. It is tough keepin’ track of all the characters in stories. I was at a class once where the lesson basically was to keep index cards on you characters – like as to what hair and eye color they had. How tall etc. Family relationships – even where they were born so when you get to gettin’ on you don’t have to remember all the little details of whose who. Some big time authors have made the mistake of giving their character different eye colors or messing up a relationship. Continuity is a valuable tool.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      A serious series that had me at the edge of my desk chair. Jac has a great lasso, and Pal a good sense of storytelling.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jules says:

    Charli,

    You are brave, courageous and beautiful!!! I got my second shot yesterday. We still have to be careful though. Mainly because so many are refusing any dose and some who signed up for the second aren’t following through.

    At least with most of the elder pod vaccinated we’ll be able to celebrate with some small family gatherings for some up coming late spring and early summer birthdays for the grands.

    I’ve actually got a road trip – traveling with hubby on business this summer. One of those – he works, I play 😉

    Continued success in all your adventures and ventures (((HUGS)))
    I’ll be back later… hopefully sooner, with some fiction. ~Jules

    Liked by 6 people

  10. PS.
    Charli I really liked your flash, the perspective of Jack, the escape for them both.
    And so glad to see so much celebration planned. Of course! It has been a long road. Step aside for a moment, dust off, dance.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. […] The Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” […]

    Liked by 2 people

  12. ceayr says:

    I submitted my tale, not sure if it’s supposed to go here too, but…

    The Bully – Carrot Ranch

    Liked by 7 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for your submission! Glad to have you at Carrot Ranch. If you want to be in the published weekly collection, submit through the form. You can share your story here or in a linkback if you want to connect with other writers. Visit a few blogs or posted stories if you want to meet and connect. We have a great group of writers and readers here.

      Like

  13. denmaniacs4 says:

    Actually, Charli, I still know Jack…and this version is somewhat edited from the piece you may circulate…

    I Once Knew Jack

    I still count on my fingers,
    my pleasures and my pains.
    and though each of them lingers,
    the fine point of memory wanes.

    In the dark of evening’s decline,
    sun dimming its luminous light,
    shadows offer a somber shrine,
    as all I am slips into the night.

    And there, entranced by the dark,
    as silent as shadows can be,
    I reflect on my lifelines arc,
    the way time has had with me.

    Poems come quite easily to me,
    though I am a bit of a hack.
    Still, I offer this assigned poesy,
    that expires with, “Hit the road, Jack”.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 8 people

  14. […] words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt of “hit the road, Jack. […]

    Liked by 4 people

  15. […] Sentence Story. The prompt word is pawn, and I almost let the living chess idea go, but then the Carrot Ranch prompt to use the phrase “hit the road jack” was the extra impetus for the following six-sentence […]

    Liked by 4 people

  16. […] This was written with the prompt “hit the road, Jack” provided by the Carrot Ranch April 29 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Sometimes I see the prompt and think there’s no way I could come up with anything with that, and then I write something: https://jedigirlblog.wordpress.com/2021/05/01/the-movie-flash-fiction/

    Liked by 7 people

  18. ellenbest24 says:

    Charli, I am sure you will instinctively know where to go next and I can not wait to see where you land. I enjoyed the version of hit the road thank you for introducing me to them. Your response to the prompt as usual fits like comfy pants under well-loved jeans .

    Liked by 3 people

    • I too liked that take on this classic song. And the video, the dismissive reaction to the producer.
      As far as our friend, I bet it’s an instinctive landing fortified with a solid plan. (I think these new age earthing types call it flow)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ellen, what a great compliment — my goal now is to write stories that fit like comfy pants under well-loved jeans. I’m glad you liked the modern twist on the classic song. And D.’s right — I’m going for flow!

      Like

  19. OK, went all Jack Kerouac here and ended up in some weird places, just like Jack, but briefer in the telling. Those not familiar, look him up.

    ‘Hear your book On The Road is out, Jack.’
    ‘Yeah, Ray.’
    ‘When’s it coming out in braille?’
    ‘Soon I hope. Why?’
    ‘I think there’s a song in there that I could make a hit.’
    ‘That’d be cool.’
    ‘Hear Truman Capote’s not impressed. Said this ain’t writin’, it’s typin’.’
    ‘I’ll remember that when I have breakfast with him at Tiffany’s. I’ll shoot him down in cold blood.’
    ‘Hear the book is full of beets.’
    ‘No, Ray, beats. Poetry, drugs and all that jazz.’
    ‘Hey, Jack, you talkin’ ‘bout my generation?’
    ‘No, Ray, not unless your name is Ginsberg or Burroughs.’

    Liked by 7 people

  20. Congratulations on reaching the end of the current road you’re on, Charli. It sounds as if your next journey is already being planned. Your post took me back to the day I got on a bus to London with only a small bag containing my life. The bus driver was called Jack. How do I know? I remember his name badge for many reasons. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  21. […] Carrot Ranch April 29 Flash Fiction Challenge April 29, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by May 4, 2021. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Jules says:

    Charli,

    I had the same issue as last week. I put in my piece and it said my link expired… Did you get it? I backed up and the option to submit vanished.

    Every generation is known for something… I was told my folks almost made it to Woodstock… Anyway the prompts conspired and here’s

    Got Eyewash (#2)?

    There wasn’t anyway to augur how a visit to the community pool would go. I had to auger into my parents that they had to stop bringing hidden cocktails. All their retired groovy generation wanted to do was to lay around the pool in a few strategically placed lei. Which I guess would have been better if they actually belonged to a nudist community. They didn’t.

    “Too Much Information” could make elder matrons or curmudgeons ask management to politely tell them to ‘Hit the road Jack’. Then they’d move the party to someone’s backyard. Would that be any better?

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 5 people

    • These are not my parents. Community pool? No need in the Land of Lakes and Ponds. Still, I chuckled as this reminded me of some of the groovy city folk that migrated north back in the day and let it all hang out.
      Heehee. Ol’ Charli will have ta deal with ranch machinations once she crawls out from under that FINAL MFA shift. I bet it gets straightened out, but curious that you had this issue and trouble with my links too…
      (Yep, blaming the victim)

      Liked by 3 people

      • Jules says:

        I’ve had that happen several weeks in a row. I’m barely on ‘site’ and the link says I’ve timed out. – But it’ll work out eventually. I’m more patient with some online issues than others. 😉
        I don’t mind waiting for Charli to rest up and then figure the blog shift out. 😀

        Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        D., reminds me of the time my dad had a logging camp next to the nudist colony at Lake Tahoe. When you become a certain size or certain age, just be comfortable!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Jules! Getting blog shift sorted. I’ll have to troubleshoot the timing out. What browser are you using? Your entry made it. Love your flash! It made me laugh and I shared a memory on D.’s response.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jules says:

        “Shift Happens” …Just like Compost 😀
        No worries.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jules says:

        Charli,

        It’s one thing to see a guy with a good ‘six pack’ mowing without a shirt… but not so much when it could be someone’s uncle with a beer belly hanging over the tool shed… And maybe folks need special certificates or somethin’ to be allowed to wear ‘speedos’ at a public beach!

        I knew a gal who lived sorta in the country. But had nudists for neighbors… she wasn’t too happy, but there wasn’t a whole lot she could do. Well maybe (I thought about a different word here… but well it fits) erect a tall solid fence. I can’t imagine seeing someone mow in the buff.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Anyone who feels comfortable in a speedo should wear one! We all have bodies. Our bodies are different, not good or bad.

        Like

  23. Hi Charli

    Good to know your plans are falling into place. All the best for the days ahead.

    My FF idea came from last week’s FF by Doug Jacquier — conversation by Earthling with Martian… So thanks, Doug.

    Always great stories at Carrot Ranch!

    Saifun

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Jennie says:

    What a delightful post! Hope, freedom, and the open road all are in front of you. You must definitely feel seventeen again. I’m excited for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. […] Carrot Ranch Literary Community April 29, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can […]

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hapless Jack

    Like a hapless fairy tale Jack he was always certain his luck would change, that things would work out for the better.

    But the perfect job always fell through, usually after a heated argument with his boss. Or he’d quit to pursue some entrepreneurial scheme. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,” he’d say. But the scheme would fail.

    “Next time,” he’d say. And he’d smile that smile and tell Jill no matter what, she was his princess. Once more they’d pack up. “Time to hit the road, Jill.”

    Again.

    Jill sighed. How much longer would she go stumbling after?

    Liked by 6 people

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

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Being a young, healthy person in a county with low numbers (some of the lowest in Southern Ontario), with a day job that doesn’t involve working with venerable people, combined with how Ontario has been distributing the vaccine, I’m not able to get yet, and have no clue when I will be able to. However, I did get covid at Christmas (a mild case), so at least I do already have antibodies.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yikes! So glad you’re okay. So sad things don’t sound so great north of the border.
      But here’s a non-covid fun fact… did you know that the Ranch Yarn character Pepe LeGume was picked up as a hitchhiker in Ontario? I said no, but Charli Mills insisted, and things haven’t bean the same since. (But he is actually from Quebec)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m going to be sending your antibodies encouragement to fight the good fight for you, Nicole (if only they could hear me). The best distribution we’ve had here has been through the Native Nations. Any First-Nations near you? My daughter and son-in-law who are also young and healthy went to an Indigenous clinic an hour away for both shots.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Norah says:

    All those celebrations and a birthday in there too, I do believe. Enjoy. So much anticipation and no regrets. That’s the way to do it.
    What a haunting version of ‘Hit the road, Jack’. I used to sing along with the original all the time so it came back to me in a flash. (I hope it comes to me in a flash story too.)
    I like that Jack is escaping with a peace dove in your flash. What a lovely story. They also have no regrets and are bound to have a happy future together, I’m sure.
    May is a new beginning as it was all those years ago when a special bright star fell to earth from heaven.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Simon says:

    Hit the road Jack 😍 my new favorite song, thanks for sharing an amazing song Charli 😍. Do you podcast? What is your channel name? I folow Google podcast and got addicted with good story tellers from my country😺. You have a busy schedule ahead, may all your busy schedule turns into success and have a lovely week ahead..🏃✨🤗🤗

    Liked by 3 people

  31. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,

    I’m looking forward to sharing some of your well-deserved celebrations. I am so proud of you and thrilled to be along for the ride and benefits. How exciting you already have a free-lancing gig landed and are submitting resumes elsewhere. I’m sure you will have more than one road to choose from for your future travels.
    Your flash expresses hope for the characters, a new beginning. On to the prompt…

    Same Words, Different Thoughts

    It’s interesting how song lyrics can elicit different thoughts in different people.
    Thad played the melody to “Hit the Road Jack” on the piano and sang the words as if trying to perfect the phrasing.
    Mac remembered being ushered out of his pregnant Vietnamese girlfriend’s house by her unrelenting angry father and said, “Son, the band will NOT be singing that song.”
    Michael added, “I don’t care to sing that either. It brings up painful memories.”
    Tessa kept her good memory to herself. She had enjoyed a look of shock from her ex when she said it to him.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Ha! Brilliant. (You are Using your characters! In a good way) I love all the different takes on the prompt.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue!

      I wish I could share the wild rice cake with you, but I’ll take some photos! I look forward to celebrating with you over screens. Lots of possibilities next.

      Your flash is great! That was a clever way to show the difference in characters through their memories to a song. Of course, I liked Tessa’s quiet memory best.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. I don’t Know How it qualifies but it’s what I thought of first

    It was Tom’s last evening at Ray’s and he wanted to go out with a bang. He was glad it was a slow night, but some action would have made the time go faster. Sadly, Ray was his uncle. He might have pulled some last-night mischief, but he knew that kind of thing would follow him through the family and he wanted to be free of all this business as fast as possible.
    At ten to closing the stinking call came in. Damn, a flat on Cooper Dr. Tom looked at his tools. “Time to hit the road Jack”
    ;;
    ;;
    ;;
    Laugh You’ve earned it

    Liked by 4 people

  33. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (04/29/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Liz H says:

    A little late night, an implied order to “Hit the road, Jack.” But we all know how the story ends up…

    Runner Beans and Sky Dreams

    Jack’s a nimble lad, head in the clouds, quick with a story of why This went unfinished, and That was never started. He’s a good boy, though, quick to cheer the cheerless, and help the weak haul water…
    [Continue ]

    Liked by 4 people

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

    Liked by 3 people

  36. This week made me think of riding around with my family as a kid listening to the oldies station on the radio. Here is what I wrote:

    Flash Fiction – Hit the Road

    I wanted to say thank you for always having interesting 99 word prompts. I have truly enjoyed practicing the art of flash fiction. I feel like it makes you have to think harder at what the real meat of the story is.

    Liked by 3 people

  37. This week made me think of riding around with my family as a kid listening to the oldies station on the radio. Here is what I wrote:

    Flash Fiction – Hit the Road

    I wanted to say thank you for always having interesting 99 word prompts. I have truly enjoyed practicing the art of flash fiction. I feel like it makes you have to think harder at what the real meat of the story is. It definitely makes you take a real look at how you approach an idea in such a small limit.

    Liked by 3 people

  38. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can in… […]

    Liked by 1 person

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