July 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

July 9, 2021

Mause proves me slow. She bounces and flies, covering ten times the territory of my pace. For each one foot in front of the other I step, she is rompy-bompy to the end of her leash and back asking, “Are you there yet?” I’m a slow-plodding T-Rex, so slow my bones are fossilizing.

The clear evidence of our different speeds of life emerged like a cliched smoking gun. I observed Mause watching me water flowers from the top of the deck. When I turned off the water, and closed the mudroom, I opened the basement door and screamed. The creature that leapt at me was not a massive Wolfrick spider or racoon. It was Mause.

The only explanation for her traveling the greater distance to beat me to the back door is that I’m slow. She is quicksilver.

Do you ever feel that way as a writer?

We seem to fall into two categories. The rompy-bompy book authors and the dinosaurs that follow. I’ve had other writers confess to me their concern. They worry that they are too slow when they learn their peers have published yet again and they are still hand-painting illuminations on a manuscript. To this I say, know and appreciate who you are as a writer. We can share paths as peers but we can not compare our strides. Long or short, our pace belongs to each of us.

We are free to change. Frankly, I have no desire to bounce like Mause. When I considered what took me so long, I realized I had paused. I noticed how the mudroom smelled like cedar because it’s where the sauna is. I scanned the garden shelves for any overlooked items that might want to go outside. I noted with satisfaction that I had enough tomato cages if my plants grow. A misplaced frying pan from our wandering days reminded me to add it to my camping gear. I felt the tickle of a cobweb and brushed it away from my face. I wondered, where did my jawline go and will I get it back or am I destined to become a fabulous crone? The idea scared and intrigued me. Only then did I reach for the basement door.

Surprise! Eight-month-old puppy paws reached up to punch my belly.

At first I wanted to believe in Mause’s magic (because she is). But I rationalized that she was smart enough to have seen me disappear into the mudroom from the deck and she flew through the porch door, across the sun room, through the kitchen, to the upstairs basement door, pushed it open, flew down the stairs across the painted cement floor to greet me. She was probably wiggling in anticipation as I meandered in my head.

I’m a processor who lives a rich life in my imagination. You can’t believe the universe inside. No wonder I slow down. I’m time traveling. While Mause zips from a leaf to a June bug, I’ve visited stars and written manifestos and Russian epics. I can be still in my body the way she can spring from paw to paw, spinning to catch her bobbed tail. In the end, we are all protons, energy that can’t be created or destroyed. Yet we can arrange ourselves infinitely. Believe what we want about what it all means.

Some of us write and publish quickly. Some of us compose in our heads and drag the suitcases around the world until we decide to drop a manuscript. It’s okay. Be you. I’m being me. Mause is Mause. “Unabashedly,” as a friend said to me earlier this week during a three-way conversation about societal pressures. I belong to a small group of Women Doing It Their Way. Each of us is on a different career path or entrepreneurialism. We were talking about how the fast pace of modern culture pressures us to be something we aren’t.

Who pressures us as writers? The quick answer might be ourselves. But where and when and from whom did we internalize the voices that tell us we are not enough? Not fast enough. Not smart enough. It warps our expectations. Soon we believe there is something wrong because even a dog moves quicker. But I reject that because I know the Writer that I am. I know that this…this moment…this right here, right now is my Writing Life.

I am the writer who spots a downy white feather against a blue sky and can watch it float on unseen drafts of air and by the time it lands on the head of a budding milkweed, I’ve constructed a thousand lives for the winged unicorn who dropped it. I am the writer with blood memory in a foreign land who sings to the bones of my ancestors mineralized on the shore of an inland sea none of them ever experienced. But there they are. I remember stones. I can’t remember home. I am the writer who believes in unicorns and have witnessed my dog become one. More on that in a bit because I’m a writer who likes to weave unlikely silken thought threads into a story that looks like a Bohemian sundress on a lumberjack. I’m a writer who sits a lot and needs a dog to take her for walks only to get lost in the green of summer trees, forgetting that time exists.

You don’t need to understand me. I don’t. I am many things I haven’t even begun to explore. But I am a writer and that’s what I do. I go deep. And I’m slow, observing the senses, emotions and mysteries beyond the single note of a robin happy for the sunset and smorgasbord of dusk-flying insects. Where was I? Oh, yes, Mause the Unicorn.

If you have children (grandchildren, or were a child) of a certain age of videos, you might be familiar with the classic, The Last Unicorn. An evil old man used a flaming bull to round up all the unicorns and drive them into the sea. If you look into the crest of white foaming waves, you can see them.

When the heat of what will probably be our hottest summer day drove me away from my desk, including the outside office, I sought relief at Lake Superior. Mause is young and still uncertain about water. But she’s determined to chase down waves. Lake Superior had little rollers on that hot day. I was waist deep, standing on tumbles stones, coaxing Mause to swim to me. A wave would rise and distract her. She crashed to shore in a cresting wave, and momentarily, white foam blended with white fur and the brown speckling morphed into rocks.

Mause disappeared in the spray like a unicorn. It was a moment of magic. She crested with several more waves and I laughed with delight at my captured puppy unicorn. Some of you might be afraid I’m going to make you write about unicorns…again. Do not fear. I have feathers on the brain. And communism.

I’m editing a fascinating historical novella about how easy it was for communists to dupe Americans during the Great Depression. I’ve been immersed in researching 1930s newspaper accounts regarding a spectacular international incident that links the Michigan Upper Peninsula to a spy trial in Finland. It has made me rethink how people reacted to the loss of jobs and lack of food. I tried my hand at exploring that time in my 99-word story.

Go be you and write to find who you are, knowing you can revise at any time. And remember, it doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow as long as you are living your Writer’s Life.

“To me success and fulfillment lead in two different directions: one outwardly to the hope of glory, the other inwardly to the guarantee of peace.”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

July 8, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 13, 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 are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Red Feathers of 1932 by Charli Mills

She plucked the chicken, swiping a feather from her forehead. Now what, thought Nella. Dumplings tonight wouldn’t stop the hunger pains to come. No more eggs. No more breakfasts for loggers. Loggers turned to the rails. Hoboes for hire. She brushed off her mother’s borrowed apron. When she left the northern peninsula to teach in Detroit, she never imagined she’d return broke. But the economy crashed, no one could pay taxes and schools closed. Capitalism. She growled the word. It had robbed all workers down to the last chicken. Tonight, she’d join Frank at the meeting with the communists.


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  1. Chel Owens

    You and I both reminisced about writing minds today! I’ll try to get some feathers down to write a unicorn story. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Well, Chel, you know…great writing minds…! Bonus for unicorns, always. ????

      • Chel Owens

        😀 ???? Always

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael!

  2. Norah

    Fast or slow, we all travel at our own pace. It’s best not to judge or compare, but appreciate the differences. My pace is so slow, sometimes I think I’ll be in Yet forever.
    Mause sounds such a delight, a distraction, a comfort, a muse and an inspiration. Funny how her name can be rearranged to make both ‘a muse’ and ‘amuse’.
    I loved the imagery of the unicorns in the waves’ white tops. We call them white horses. Why not white unicorns?
    The places your research is taking you are interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of feathers leading to a story about capitalism and communism. How difficult life was for so many during the Depression. It must have been confronting knowing you were eating your last meal for a while. I didn’t know that schools had to close because tax couldn’t be paid.
    Did I tell you that I listened to Where the Crawdads Sing earlier this year (I think you may have recommended it at some stage)? Feathers played an important role in that story.

    • Charli Mills

      Yet, it’s not a bad place to be, Norah, always looking forward to what can come with a growth mindset. I’m in a blissful research rabbit hole, having completed a timeline of events for the book I’m editing. I want to write a story about the protagonist’s wife. She’s far more interesting! But of course, gets put in the backseat as “Mrs.” I’m content to correct a few of her details and clarify her role. It’s staggering to consider that 20,000 schools closed in the US during the Great Depression. I have Where the Crawdad Sings on my TBR list.

      I didn’t know you called the crest of waves white horses! Well, that’s fitting. Add horns!

      • Norah

        That’s true, Charli. I think I’ll be in Yet forever. 🙂
        That rabbit hole sounds interesting – like you might be getting something out of it too.
        So it wasn’t you who recommended the Crawdads. I think the recommendation came from a few people. I’m pretty sure another book I read on your recommendation was mentioned in it a few times. I just can’t think who or what at the moment. All I can get is Stone Country, but that’s an Australian book.
        Actually, I Googled white horses and it seems it’s a thing. I thought it was only us kids growing up. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Was it The Giver of Stars, perhaps? So many books to read…yet!

    • Norah

      Here’s my response: https://norahcolvin.com/2021/07/13/the-feather-flashfiction/

      The Feather
      ‘It’s not just a feather. It’s the feather.’
      ‘Which feather?’
      ‘The one from the beach that day.’
      ‘Which day?’
      ‘Remember when we went to the beach and there was a flock of birds that looked like they were having a conference but when they saw us they flew away and one dropped a feather that landed on top of our castle. We knew it was a sign, they were telling us something.’
      ‘That’s just silly childish stuff.’
      ‘It was a sign. The birds need our help. The bulldozers have arrived. They will destroy the habitat. We must stop them!’

      • Charli Mills

        When we pay attention to the world around us, we aren’t being silly. I love that you start with a playful tone but change to a serious matter.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. It was a sign. 🙂

  3. restlessjo

    I enjoyed the romp with Mause. Distraction is welcome because I have a new laptop and learning to do the simplest things is agonisingly slow. But I made it here.

    • Charli Mills

      Mause offers great distractions! You made it here, Jo, so you are making progress!

  4. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    I’m much like you in this, Charli. I’m slow in my movements and progress because my thoughts are full, always wondering, wandering internally. I like the feeling I get from deep thought. I don’t like when I need to rush and hurry, I feel like so much gets left behind in those moments. Like I’ve missed the world. Thanks for this timely reminder of self acceptance and pride in who and where we are. We are writers, in all our similarly grand and subtle perspectives. Walking along together.

    Now for feathers…

      • Charli Mills

        No apologies needed, but thanks for the warning to readers.

      • Liz H

        A cool approach to what can be seen as an angel story. I like this one very much!

    • Charli Mills

      Good to know I walk (wandering and wondering) in good company, Rebecca! Rushing makes me anxious, which makes me rush more until I check myself. I’m learning mindfulness which can adapt to any pace but calls us to be in the moment with what is. “Like I’ve missed the world.” Yes. I understand.

      Take pride in who you are and how you are unfolding as a writer! You have developed a strong and yet tender voice in your chosen genre.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        I like that, strong yet tender. And I know my journey has been different to what I hoped but expectations are always shallow. Life is complex and expectations don’t often fit alongside our travels. I’m proud of where I’ve been and where I am right now. I hope you are too.

        As for mindfulness, I have the kids doing guided kids meditations every night before bed and after a story together, and they cherish it. They’ve learned the words to express complex and challenging emotions in the moment (most moments), and are gradually learning what tools work best for them and their unique minds. I love that they’re able to learn this so young, they are lucky to have the resources now and they’ll come out of childhood stronger, with a deeper sense of self than many of us who didn’t get the same kind of start. It has me hopeful for the future.

        We don’t go away or go out much at all during the holiday breaks either, because the world out there still rushes all about us no matter the time of year, and we crave the peace and pace of home. It’s our haven.

      • Charli Mills

        I love that your home is your haven, Rebecca. I used to read my children guided meditations at bedtime and I agree that mindfulness and emotional competency will make them more aware of who they are in the world. Good for you to give them such tools.

        You are wise in noting that our expectations can be shallow and life is richer and more complex than what we hope for. Accepting that richness and the beauty in the challenges will deepen your writing and writer’s life.

        Yes, I am, too!

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Rhymes in 99

    A first feather from a first flash
    A poet’s page fluttering from ash

    Once upon another time, a magic feather quill
    A heroine true to her path, one she travels still

    Another tale of transformation, turtle becoming crane
    No longer pining, shedding shell for feathered wings

    Many birds have tracked across these pages
    Blue herons, common loons, sashaying chickens, noisy ravens

    Here at Carrot Ranch I first began to write
    Here took up quill and with that quill took flight

    Now it’s a matter of when and not whether
    I’ll come up with a flash again featuring a feather.

    • explorereikiworld

      Loved it!
      And it rhymes too 🙂

    • bowmanauthor/bowmaneditor

      Delightful! A true story of writing and how we inspire each other. ????

    • Jules

      I think it matters not what you write with, or if feathers are mentioned – just as long as you keep returning 😀

    • Doug Jacquier

      You are a feather-like heavyweight, D. (btw that’s a major compliment.) 🙂

    • denmaniacs4

      a finely featured feathery exemplar of flash…

    • Charli Mills

      My favorite story to come from your flashing is the quill. I’m feather-brained and forget my own earlier prompts! This one is plural…

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Relax Boss, none of those were feather prompts, but this prompt led me to the flashes I had written earlier that featured feathers. So far nothing fresh for this prompt though. Yet. Extra points for unicorns you say?

      • Charli Mills

        Relaxing…! Of course, for other reasons. Campfires…

    • Liz H

      Ah! My fine feathered friend…I really liked this poem! <3

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Keepin’ Up

    “Not agin!”
    “Sure hope you ain’t startin’ inta whinin’ ‘bout the prompt Kid.”
    “Hope is the thing with feathers Pal. She wants us ta round up unicorns agin.”
    “Horse feathers Kid! Thet ain’t what she’s after.”
    “Well what does she want then? I cain’t keep up, she moves too fast. Shorty’s all over the place.”
    “Seems pretty grounded ta me, ‘cept fer all her flights a fancy. Look Kid, jist go at yer own pace. You’ll dream up an idea.”
    “What’re ya doin’?”
    “Gonna take a nap with ma head on this here feather pillow. Perchance ta dream.”

    • Charli Mills

      Perchance ta dream! That makes me smile!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Good! That is why these two are here, to make you smile.

    • Liz H

      The bard bows to your sleepy plan, and summons a muse and the mischievous Pan…

  7. floridaborne

    I have several dogs who love to be near me. At night, there are dogs next to me as if they were glued there. No matter their quirks, I don’t want to imagine life without them.

    • Charli Mills

      They are a comfort, those dogs that stick to our backs and our hearts.

  8. joanne the geek

    I’ve written two novels and still have no idea how to get them published.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m not familiar with the New Zealand book publishing industry. I imagine you have similar options — commercial publishers, small presses, independent publishing services, DIY publishing, and hybrids. Do you have supporting organizations or resources to guide you, Joanne?

    • Charli Mills

      It’s going to be a long flight!

  9. robertawrites235681907

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts about life, who you are. and your writing, Charli. I am also a slow writer. It took me 2 years to publish A Ghost and His Gold and just over a year to publish Through the Nethergate. I try to be slow and steady.

    • Charli Mills

      You are steady, Robbie. I think you have tremendous focus…look, a squirrel…oops, that’s me getting distracted by a thousand nutty thoughts. Sometimes I think you have clones to work, to parent, to bake, and to publish. But you are definitely thorough and thoughtful about what you produce.

      • robertawrites235681907

        Thank you, Charli. I do think focus is a strength of mine. Even as a child I could not be distracted from my books without a loud voice or slight shake.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s good to know (and use) your strengths!

    • suespitulnik

      Robbie, In my experience two years to write and get a book published, is lightning speed. Well done. I have A Ghost and His Gold on my table and it is my next read. I’m looking forward to learning your country’s history as other reviewers have mentioned. I admire your accomplishments.

      • robertawrites235681907

        HI Sue, thank you for your encouraging words. Some writers seem to manage to publish a book every four months. I will never be able to do that as I invest to much time in intricate research and I also go back when I’m finished my draft and check the entire draft for telling and now showing. It results in a lot of re-writing. I then developmentally edit and then edit again. At least 6 rounds of editing. I spend a lot of my holidays writing and editing. I hope you enjoy A Ghost and HIs Gold. There are a lot of similarities between US history and SA history and I will be interested in your opinion of this book.

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, Robbie, it’s revision that shapes the book. You have an excellent approach.

  10. denmaniacs4

    A beautiful post, Charli…and this is slightly revised from the post in the top section

    Lunch with Stewart

    “I wouldn’t worry about him, Karl. He’s no heavyweight.”

    Stewart usually gave good advice. This time I wasn’t so sure. I could feel Harry the Hamster breathing down my neck. Small-town financial planning was competitive. Almost a blood sport. And maybe I was slowing down. Not as hungry as I once was.

    “Maybe,” I agreed, “but he ain’t no featherweight either.”

    “Even featherweights got a kick, Karl. But I agree, he’s no Kid Chocolate.”


    “Cuban boxer. Way before our time. The Cuban Bon Bon. A ferocious fighter.

    Stewart always took my mind off my worries.

    “Tell me more.”


    • Charli Mills

      Now, I want to know more about the Cuban Bon Bon! Bill, you are spot on about small-town financial planners. All wanting the prize.

  11. Jules


    History is something humans need to learn from. Unfortunately those in charge of writing it down will always favor their own point of view and either take credit where it may not be due, or place blame where it naught be.

    I think the closest thing current folks can come to the same experience of the Great Depression is looking for toilet paper during Covid 19… And waiting on lines to even get into stores because of the restrictions of how many could be in any one building.

    I went with a BoTS, for this Sebunku haibun:
    Avian Mystery

    fallen nest
    from the porch roof eave
    twigs, feathers

    Black and

    How long had the mother bird coddled her nestlings? Who’d she raise? The nest was there before we left for just a few days. It was down on our return. A treasure of woven things and a variety of feathers of all colors, shapes and sizes. The closest thing I found in my searching was that the black and white feathers may have belonged to a Downy Woodpecker. I’ll never know who took down the nest. I hope the birds will build again next spring.

    © JP/dh

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, you bring up a good point — history can teach us if we look back to learn rather than to applaud or blame. Better yet, if we can make the connections. I’ve been thinking how weird it is that our modern “Depression” was running out of toilet paper or having to be inconvenienced. Hardly “Grapes of Wrath.” I wonder what great novels will rise out of our times?

      Your story is a lovely pause to reflect. I can see the weavings and feathers. Oh, I was thinking Downy woodpecker, too!

      • Jules

        I think some of the good writing about Covid 19 will be about how so many came to help another. How teachers and students still managed and learned lessons of compassion, patience, courage and even bravery.

        I thought I had found two little black or white feathers with a single black or white dot… but I can’t find them… I might have put them someplace special… – but they too could have been from the Downy woodpecker?

      • Charli Mills

        So true, Jules! The overcoming and the community connections will be what influences us in stories of this time.

        Sure sounds like a Downy woodpecker feather! It’s distinct.

    • Jules

      Good to have folks who believe in you.

    • Liz H

      Mom deserves a feather or two in her own cap, for great parenting!

    • Charli Mills

      Well said, Ruchira! I agree that we should enjoy the process and find a fulfilling writer’s path. That Mause is a frollicker!

  12. Hugh W. Roberts

    Yes, I’ve wondered how some writers can publish lots of books within a few years, yet I’ve only been able to publish two short story collections in 5 years! But then I look at my blog and all the writing on it and tell myself that I’ve probably written a few more books on it too.

    I’m the same with my blog posts, Charli. I tend to take days (even weeks) to write a blog post before I publish it. I keep hearing the words – ‘The first draft is s!!! (not good).’

    Life is like a toilet roll – the nearer you get to the end, the quicker it runs out. So, enjoy every moment.

    • Jules

      Great ‘last’ line there. A real royal ‘flush’ 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Life is like a toilet roll…! That made me laugh, Hugh, but it is true. Ah, that inner critic. I like to employ mine for creating a Revision Plan. Otherwise, it has to go sit in the attic and be quiet. Drafts need the work of creativity instead. You have accomplished much in five years, Hugh. You are an authority on best blogging practices, a sharp short-story writer, a contest winner, and a columnist. Wow. All in five years! Plus you have published two books. Enjoy your moments!

  13. bowmanauthor/bowmaneditor

    “Hush, quiet makes them come,”
    I whispered to my daughter, Kelsey.
    She looked up, bathed in sun.
    4 years old, bright red hair; she’s a wee faerie!

    The standing stones, tucked away.
    The time was right; planets set, providing the edge!
    I had waited years for this day.
    Bringing Kelsey to Scotland, her heritage.

    A gray cloud floated by.
    In shadow, wisp of a glowing feather.
    It took flight and I started to cry,
    Holding my breath…

    Hundreds of feathers, alive, dancing in the sun!
    Golden feathers with wings, tiny faces. “See, Kelsey?”
    “The Faeries have come!”
    Blessed be…

    • Jules

      Belief is a wonderful magic.

    • Charli Mills

      You build palpable suspense and when the moment comes, it’s thrilling! Lovely story.

      • Charli Mills

        To the reader as well. Ah, and that’s the balance, right? To share what we feel as a writer.

      • bowmanauthor/bowmaneditor

        Feelings are the toughest… I wrote a piece when my husband died called “Our Last Day”. Took me all night to write, but it got me through “the night”. I relived everything, shed a million tears. By morning, I could face the day. The last, last piece of mine I ever, ever wanted to go viral! But it did; my husband was a popular networking businessman. Yet, the salvation from the pain came from a stranger, another editor. They wanted to use my piece to teach “writing emotion”. Why not? A lovely tribute. The quote that was related to my piece, “To write emotion, go to the typewriter and just bleed.”–Ernest Hemingway

  14. Michael B. Fishman

    “But where and when and from whom did we internalize the voices that tell us we are not enough? Not fast enough. Not smart enough. It warps our expectations. Soon we believe there is something wrong”

    And this is why psychologists were invented! I’ve been trying to answer these questions in different ways that I can understand for decades and will probably continue until I can convince myself that the answers really don’t matter.

    Suitcase dragging dinosaur who just saw something else to follow for a little while.

    • Jules

      Ah, we all have our own baggage, don’t we.
      Good write.

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, Dear suit-case dragging dinosaur — a wise woman once wrote how to collect the voices like fireflies and placing them in a mason jar with a lid. They can buzz and chatter but you can no longer hear them! Know that you are counted among the curious dinos with wonderfully crafted stories to write.

      • Michael B. Fishman

        It’s good to know I’m not alone! I just found the wise woman’s words and I’m going to copy it. And I also found a thought from another wise woman who once wrote that, “You gotta do the things that scare you.” I’m gonna copy that one as well.

      • Charli Mills

        Writer’s doubt is the shadow self of a creative writer. Natalie Goldberg also says that when we no longer fear the voices inside our head, we will not fear the critics on the outside. But as your other piece of wisdom goes, do things that scare you as a writer! Good job looking up those wise women!

  15. Doug Jacquier

    Ah, what would romance be without feathers (well, obviously featherless but you know what I mean). So here’s a tale of a young man who has arrived at puberty, is in love for the first time but with someone he can never have, except in his dreams. Any resemblance to an experience had by the author is purely coincidental of course.

    Angus – A Short Romance

    Angus had torn his shorts rough-housing in the playground. Back in class, Miss Anderson (his secret love) noticed.
    ‘Angus, what have you done to your shorts?’
    ‘Nothing, Miss.’
    ‘Nonsense, young man. Come here.’
    Angus, light-headed and leaden-footed, presented himself at Miss Anderson’s desk. She produced a sewing kit and proceeded to sew up the tear.
    As her fingers brushed against the skin of his thigh, his uncontrollable puberty announced itself suddenly and unmistakably.
    Clearly flustered, Miss Anderson snipped the thread and ordered Angus to return to his seat. Scarlet-faced, but glowing with undying devotion, Angus obeyed, floating on feathers.

    • Liz H

      Oh dear. Being human can be so embarrassing. Luckily, Angus was on Cloud 9 at the time.

    • suespitulnik

      I read this to my husband who I knew would understand the emotions better than I. First, he laughed, then said, “Oh my.” I can feel the angst of both the teacher and the boy.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Sue, to you and your husband. Always great to hear how readers respond.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yo, Angus, what’s up?
      A tough spot for both and you told it well.

      • Doug Jacquier

        🙂 Thanks, D.

    • Charli Mills

      That is an emerging romance, Doug and a lasting impression. Upon Angus, of course. Your longer version makes me wonder if adults were ever able to assure the budding young Romeo about the intensity of human hormones as a natural occurrence.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Oh, Charli, perish the thought in late 1950’s Australia. What little we learned was from the dog-eared pages of certain notorious library books, sneaking a peek at the girlie magazines in the local store and rampant misinformation in the schoolyard. 🙂

  16. ellenbest24

    I am always drawn in by Mause tales ???? whoops a pun. I think he is magic enough without glitter and twisty forehead appendages.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Mause tales! That is one magic pup, puns and all.

  17. pedometergeek

    Aloysius’s Discovery

    Aloysius, AKA Rainbow, serendipitously discovered that his multi-colored fur had magical powers. Blue seemed connected with sky. This began the day he found a blue jay’s feather on the ground. When he touched it with his front paw, he felt himself lifting from the ground. All four feet fanned out, and with his tail as a rudder, he flew.
    Okay, Aloysius was a bit clumsy with flying at first, but with his trusty feather stuck behind his left ear, he soon soared over treetops and roofs. No one seemed to notice a flying cat, and he found it empowering.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

      • pedometergeek

        I hadn’t thought about that possibility, Anne. Definitely never the blue jays as they are about as sassy as any bird I know. ~nan

    • Charli Mills

      Aloysius returns with a feather in his cap, or fur! I love the image of a flying cat, using his tail as a rudder. Wonderful, Nan.

      • pedometergeek

        Hopefully, I can use some of the upcoming prompts to flesh out more attributes associated with his color. Nothing like taking a prompt and making it more difficult as JulesPaige does frequently. So I trying to channel my inner-JP.

      • Charli Mills

        Your inner JP! She’s a good mentor when it comes to adding complexity and playing with words and arrangement. I look forward to watching Aloysius evolve.

      • pedometergeek

        Thanks Charli; I appreciate your words about Aloysius. I have my best friend Christy to thank for the name. I had never heard the name until she called one of her art pieces Aloysius when we still in high school.

  18. Liz H

    A bit of silliness from an alternate time & world… 😉


    Alana shifted, quick step and stomp, nearly stumbling. A drop of sweat ran down the powerful slope of her nose, around the edge of her nostril, and dangled, tickling and stinging. She blew once, twice, and the drop sailed into endless blue skies, evaporating in the shearing heat. [Continue ]

    • Doug Jacquier

      Hilariously imaginative, Liz. I must say the Earth moved for me on this one. 🙂

      • Liz H

        (Oh No! Now I have a Carole King ear worm unspooling…

      • Doug Jacquier

        Could be a lot worse. 🙂

      • Liz H

        Bay-bee shark do do do do do-do!….

    • Charli Mills

      As soon as I read AH-CHOO, I was reminded of the tickling impact of a feather! Silly is great.

      • Liz H

        It’s definitely a life style. ????

  19. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    Is it that we are slow or in denial about how long our writing needs to marinate? I imagine your puppy has fewer competing demands on her brain cells than you have.
    Here’s my feather, it seems last week’s photograph has crept in too!
    Love tokens
    She didn’t need to go elsewhere to meet him. He was threaded through the fabric of their home. His hatred of spaghetti in the kitchen. His favourite artist down the hall.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good question, Anne! Marination takes time and I don’t think we honor that process as writers, feeling a steady impulse to push. Must we? Maybe writing is like cooking in a kitchen with some pots left to simmer and other foods seared quickly. Definitely, Mause has less demand on her brain cells and a more powerful spring in her step.

  20. Nicole Horlings

    I can write flash fiction pieces fairly quickly, and feel confident about them, but when it comes to my novels… I am very slow. I put so much pressure on myself to get it right, and I while I’m learning to let some things be for the editing process so that I can continue getting the basic plot down, I find myself continuing to fear that I’m not setting things up correctly for an impactful and satisfying climax and conclusion. I have a publish author friend who commented to me that since I’m still working on completing what will likely be my debut novel, and therefore still figuring how this works, that I may go through the writing process more smoothly with my future novels.

    • Charli Mills

      Your friend makes a good point, Nicole. My professors continually emphasized during my two-year MFA that we were not just writing a novel, we were learning how to construct future ones. The first one is such a huge learning curve!

  21. suespitulnik

    Hi Charli,

    “Unlikely silken thought threads” woven into a story. What a lasting image. And Mause surprising you at the basement door. I could see her wriggling in wait. I guess I never thought about fast or slow as a writer, but I’ve certainly realized writing is never done because it can always be changed in some way, perhaps for the better and perhaps not. That’s what I find frustrating. I do admit I do better with a deadline. But that pertains to almost anything I do. Thanks for another thought-provoking essay. On to the prompt…

    Ruffled Feathers

    Tessa stomped into the house and slammed the door behind her. “Mom makes me so mad.”
    “I guess she ruffled your feathers again. About what now?” Michael asked.
    “I explained to her that the base and medical benefits I lost when I got divorced, I would get back when we get married. Instead of looking at it as a positive, she reminded me I wouldn’t be able to take her to the Officer’s Club for dinner.”
    “Her and her status hang up. I’ll tell her that the NCO Club food is better because there are more NCOs than Officers.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I think she’ll have more fun at the NCO Club. Michael is a laid back guy these days isn’t he?

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Sue, she was wiggling and ready to jump up on me! I think the pace is individual and we are all different in regards to our goals and experiences. Like Nicole mentioned in her comment above, we are often using that first novel as a learning experience. My Prof made me stick to writing my Revision Plan and that’s when I had breakthroughs. Of course, such insights will be different for each writer (just as a sense of one being fast or slow differs). Changes have to serve a purpose or else you’ll get trapped in an endless loop. Use purpose like you do deadlines and end with satisfaction!

      Deadlines used to work better for me. But I fight the resistance.

      Ruffled feathers! Tessa’s mom has some rigid ideas. I never thought about losing Officer Club benefits, hanging out with the NCO rabble! But the Officers I know remain humble and don’t emphasize a class difference. Tessa’s mom would love to use that status for her own ego. And Michael, ever practical, pointing out that NCOs get the better food!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Nicole!

  22. Allison Maruska

    I love love love this: “know and appreciate who you are as a writer. We can share paths as peers but we can not compare our strides. Long or short, our pace belongs to each of us.”
    Brilliant words.

    • Charli Mills

      I like the idea of peers striding at their own pace and feeling good about it. Thanks, Allison!

  23. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Goodwill Hatching

    “Okay, I’m here. Mother trucking services. What’s up?”
    “It’s epic, Marge.”
    Brightly colored clothing spilled and tumbled out of boxes and bags that lined Ilene’s walkway.
    “What’s epic, Lloyd?”
    “Ilene’s molting!”
    “Yes! I’m divesting myself of my plumage! It’s simple earth tone tunics and leggings for me from here on out.”
    “Don’t you mean legging? Really, Ilene? No more Toucan Sam outfits? Bet Fruit Loops here put you up to this. You going to cut your big hair too?”
    “No! That’s my crowning glory!”
    “At least keep this pink feather boa, Ilene. And what’s this?”
    “My unicorn headband.”

    • Charli Mills

      Mother trucking services! I’ve missed these characters, D. Ilene can’t give up her colors and unicorn headband!

  24. Ann Edall-Robson

    Black Feather
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Squawking interrupts the quiet of the post dawn. Insistent parents teaching fledglings. Myths surround the onyx coloured spirit bird with the piercing eyes. Yet, once you get to know them, they’re the friend you want hanging around. The one who’ll have your back, lets you know you’re watched over, gives you a nudge when you would rather be left alone, and lets you see insightful truths. On this morning, when their wings took them skyward to see who else they could annoy with their noise, the crows left a gift. A reminder of their importance…One lone black feather.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      One of my favorite birds. This does well by them.

    • Charli Mills

      Crows are talkers, but what great birds.

  25. Ann Edall-Robson

    My life is inspired by feathers in so many ways.

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    left behind
    from above
    no direction in mind
    drifting aimlessly
    with the clouds
    to landscape
    far below
    nestled on
    the open range
    for how long
    dancing lazily
    to and fro
    listening to the
    wind’s song
    twisting branches
    breezy gusts
    tossed into the air
    to travel across
    the grassland’s
    shimmering bust
    whirling pirouettes
    sashay up and down
    jostled to a standstill
    thrown to the ground
    grassy thorns penetrate
    a blustery
    simmering storm
    end over end
    to a full stop
    choreographed freeform
    lifted upward
    void of wind
    full circle resonates
    beginning or end
    homeward bound
    ?to line a nest


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I was just thinking how feathers are your thing and then this beautiful piece appeared. I love the full circle soft ending of this poem.

    • Charli Mills

      I want to bob in the breeze like this feather, Ann.

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, C.! Feather-raising tale from the Highland!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Willow!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Padre!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Michael!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Simon!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Hugh!


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