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July 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

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I’m having a serious meltdown.

Mause ate my turquoise Keens. She chewed through the straps by the start of warm weather. Keens are my power center. Keens have seen me through adventures, interviews of farmers, and recovery from back surgeries. Keens give me stable footing. They are my travel companions, my outdoor gear. This particular pair went to LA when I won a scholarship to a writers conference. The color symbolized my dream to teach writing and welcome writers to retreat space.

It’s not the first time I’ve lost a pair of Keens to a wild animal (puppies are feral beasts). You can read my 2012 lament to Keens lost and then found destroyed along the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior in A Tale of Two Keens. But something has changed.

They don’t make Keens like they used to. It’s more than fashion travesty when a brand you love changes. It feels like betrayal. I was loyal, why couldn’t you be loyal too, Keen? It’s not just me. Other jilted shoe-lovers mourn the loss of a dependable brand. So far, since the beginning of May, I’ve ordered and returned four pairs of Keens. None of them fit. I tried different sizes, styles and genders. The fit was the whole reason for our foot affair. The shape is gone, the love with it.

I tried Merrels and kept a pair. But they are not Keens. If I walk to long in them, the front straps rub my pinky toes.

Today, a pair of coral Chacos arrived in a box. The river rafters and hiking enthusiasts out West swear by this brand. I’ve snubbed my nose, content with Keens. Now, I rip my package in desperation for a new shoe mate. Immediately, I swing a foot sideways to place a sandal. I can’t get my toe under the right strap. Why are there so many straps? A folded card has a series of instructions numbered at each strap and shoe placement. Easy as 1-2-3.

Uh, no. I have to sit down because I’m not understanding the entanglement. It’s a sandal. My foot should slide in place. This is when dyslexia pops up to help my brain with a problem. I can’t figure out anything left/right oriented. Like the one way streets in Minneapolis because they use the circle with a line to say don’t turn the direction of the lined arrow except my brain can’t interpret which direction I’m not supposed to go and every time, I’d turn down the wrong way. In Zoom meetings I point the wrong direction to things behind me. I struggle with math, maps, phonemes, pronunciation, and time.

Cue the meltdown because I don’t have time for this strap nonsense.

There I was, sitting on the couch, attempting to put my foot through a puzzle of straps when I pulled the toe straps wide open. You see, if the directions had been written out instead of a numbered visual, I could have comprehended how the Chaco straps pull through the bed of the sandal. I managed to get one on my foot. Then the next foot. Mause ate the instructions while I fussed.

I stood up and one foot said, “Okay,” and the other said, “wtf…” I started to spin. I didn’t intend to spin but that directional disorientation couldn’t figure out which way my foot was supposed to go. I rotated in a circle and still couldn’t get my foot straight on the sandal bed. The straps held. At times like these, I usually laugh. Because, what else can I do? Well, I did the other thing. I burst into tears.

It’s been a week in two days, and not just because I can’t find a pair of sporting sandals. I’m overwrought by unscheduled time and competing tasks and wondering who in my house is crazier? (I’m pointing at Mause, who’s looking at me.) Am I too busy to call the numbers I researched to search for answers to where does the mind of an aging veteran go? Or am I really as tired as my bones feel? Despite it all, good news rises in the midst of chaos.

Finlandia University offered me the Adjunct Instructor position. I have two classes to teach this fall semester! Adjunct means contract. They’ll hire me as long as there are classes available. It’s great because I’ll have a base income to cover me while I build my education platform here. It gives me flexibility without having to force my feral writing brain back into a 9-to-5. It’s also a foot in the door to the Academic World. It’s beyond what my turquoise Keens had hoped for!

The transition is only a season. I hope for days that fit better into my weeks. I hope for less confusing straps and triggering moments. Truly, I am grateful to have such trivial complaints as, “My dog ate my shoes.” But sometimes, we need to embrace the time of the dark moon and have a proper meltdown. Now, I can stop actively searching for work, which is a huge weight off my shoulders. Time to prepare for teaching!

As long as I don’t have to distinguish my left from my right.

July 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by July 20, 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.

Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills

His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.

Max refused to stroke the cat rubbing its head against her folded arms. She leaned against one of two posts holding up the front porch. The exterior needed sanding. Through the open door to the three-room cabin – kitchen, sitting room, bedroom – Max noted cooling cherry pies, lace curtains, jelly jars of garden flowers. What some would call “a woman’s touch.” Her dad lived alone.

She’d been seven when the church elders drove him from their South Range home, beating him with fists and folded newspapers. Mascara and tears streaking his face.

🥕🥕🥕


144 Comments

  1. I remember the keens. The turquoise keens. From forever ago. Truly sorry. (Also, congrats on the teaching position!)

    Liked by 6 people

  2. That sounds like a nightmare. I often find myself spinning round on the spot to work out left from right. Which hand are they holding up? Which direction do they need me to go? There’s a disparity between my visual-spatial and logical sides. I need to see the thing the right way up, to decipher it. I feel your pain. Sandals should never be that complicated.

    I’m feeling joyous for your teaching position though! What exciting news! My heart warms for you and the journey you’re on. You’re taking steps toward your goals and conquering this chaotic and oftentimes overwhelming thing called life.

    We’re all standing behind you, especially when you need to cry.

    This week’s prompt calls for a meltdown. I immediately think of a Nuclear Reactor, but I’m curious to see what else I can coax from my Right Brain.

    Sending love.

    Also, have you tried Crocs?

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Hi Charli, I am sorry to hear about your shoe troubles, and I am delighted to hear about your new job.

    Liked by 8 people

  4. denmaniacs4 says:

    Grilled Cheese Wizardry

    It was so damn easy. Two hunks of sliced bread, the kind my mother made, but then couldn’t, especially after the arthritis took control of her farm girl’s hands, a slab of cheese, not too thick but not like it was shaved by a piker, a slice of onion, red, yellow, white, and weren’t we always thankful that there were no blue onions, slam it all together, melt a square of butter in a sizzling frying pan, brown one side like crazy, flip her, burn it like the sun was doing the cooking and Houston, we had meltdown nirvana…

    Liked by 10 people

  5. restlessjo says:

    Yay! Congratulations on the job! I have a minor meltdown at least once a week. I blame it on the times… Onwards and upwards, Charli! Have a good weekend.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jo, as long as the meltdown progresses forward (onward and upward), melt away! I think it can be cleansing to release emotion before moving on. We will get through these times. You have a good weekend, too!

      Liked by 4 people

  6. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with you! Congratulations on the new job! Hugs ♥️♥️

    Liked by 6 people

  7. […] July 15 Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Literary Community: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  8. […] Carrot Ranch July 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!// Respond by July 20, 2021. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Jules says:

    Charli,

    Your piece reminds me of the movie ‘Welcome to Marwen’ – Many unexpected twists and turns and about shoes too!

    Wishing you success in your job and shoes! (((Hugs))).

    I went with food – I’m actually using the ‘unit’ for some parsley… I actually found a dried pepper in the unit! That got tossed.

    The Great Chili Meltdown

    His wife had a meltdown. He bought the dehydrator to preserve his hot peppers. But he didn’t think – he had the unit filled to the brim and when the process started the whole house filled with the distribution of capsaicin vapors. She made him clean up his ‘mess’, with tears in her eyes and her throat burning. And made him promise to sell the machine at their next garage sale. With that lesson passed on… the neighbor bought the hardly used machine. Herbs might work better.

    too hot to handle
    internal flames were to blame
    no more capsaicin

    © JP/dh

    ‘Capsaicin is the stuff in chili peppers that makes your mouth feel hot. But it’s also got a medical purpose. It’s a key ingredient in creams and patches that can give you relief from pain.’

    Liked by 8 people

  10. […] Carrot Ranch is a dynamic online literary community for those practicing their craft, reading stories, and discussing the process. Charlie Mills hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt “meltdown“ […]

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I remembered a silly cliche from my mother’s era. “My mother told me there would be days like this; she just didn’t tell me there would be so many!”

    Woke up early, 5 a.m. I felt something caught in my throat. It was claustrophobic, stealing my breath away. I got up to clear my thoat, my sinuses. I started choking on … nothing! What gives? Dizzy, found myself on the floor.

    Chills, fever, gagging cough, my mind swimming. Throat closing!

    Phone rings, my boyfriend. “Positive–COVID!”

    This was my meltdown, unconscious: anaphylactic shock! 9-1-1!

    Liked by 7 people

  12. “So many” claustrophobic days on a ventilator!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. weejars says:

    For some reason, the link isn’t working for me to submit. So here ‘it’s….

    Meltdown by Sarah Whiley

    It’s all a blur – once the meltdown begins. That familiar sinking feeling, consumes me again.

    My face blanches as I realise what I’ve done. It’s too late now though. It’s happened.
    “What were you thinking?” my beleaguered mind screams.
    “That’s the problem… she wasn’t,” replies my subconscious, smirking, “Always the way, once she gets a few drinks in her.”

    My head spins as I scrabble to assemble jigsaw pieces of the previous night.
    But it’s no use,
    There’s nothing there,
    Time hosts invisible memories.

    Sick to my stomach, all I can do now is ask, “Who else knows?”

    Liked by 7 people

  14. floridaborne says:

    This is an observation, not an answer to the prompt.

    I have 2 puppies who ate the arms off my chairs. The chairs were not in great condition when given to me years ago, in case I had another dog like the one who ate half my couch. But there were more dogs prior to the couch eater who loved to chew hard-to-replace items.

    Dogs seem to know which shoes are your favorites. I had a pair of Italian leather shoes that I’d purchased for 1/2 price in the 1990’s for around $60). I wore them for years to special occasions and important meetings until a puppy chewed them into rubbish.

    As she grew, she became my favorite puppy of all time. I would have gladly chewed up my own shoes if it would have prevented her death from esophageal cancer.

    It was a lesson never forgotten: Decide which is more important — your stuff or the little spirits who come into your life to teach you unconditional love.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH […]

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Alice in Grandpa Land

    Alice learned early that Grandpa’s fibs were as bad as his jokes. So when he asked her ‘How do you get down from an elephant?’ she simply waited for him to tell her.

    ‘You don’t’ said Grandpa ‘you get down from a goose’.

    ‘Huh?’ said Alice, quizzically.

    Grandpa explained. ‘Down is the under feathers of a goose. They use it to make warm jackets.’

    Alice, alarmed, said ‘Do they kill the goose to get the feathers?’

    Grandpa said, ‘No, these days they give me them a potion that makes their feathers fall out. It’s called Meltdown.’

    Alice said, ‘Grandpa!’

    Liked by 8 people

  17. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I get where you’re coming from, knowing your left from your right and how to put something together from instructions that contain no words, Charli. Being dyslexic, words are often my enemy, but sometimes I really do miss it when they’re not there.
    I’ve never heard of a shoe meltdown before but seeing how I’ve had the same pair of shoes for the last five years that take me everywhere; you’ll know that I don’t do a lot of shoe shopping. Perhaps my shoe meltdown is yet to come?
    Congratulations on the new job. That’s excellent news. And I loved your flash!

    Liked by 7 people

  19. Hi Charli
    Great blog – love the way you write about the ups & downs, contrasts of life that happen in the space of an hour, a few days …

    Congratulations on the teaching job!

    still thinking about the FF – perhaps from the story of Icarus … getting feathers & meltdowns tangled up in my head!

    Saifun

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Saiffun! Oh, I a meltdown could be very Icarus-like. From epics to daily moments, we find what resonates. Thanks! I’m excited to be teaching. That was my ideal scenario but I had to pursue other options, too. Now I’m on the path I had hoped to be. Perhaps barefoot, lol.

      Liked by 5 people

  20. Congratulations on the new position, Charli! It’s just what you need to give you some security while tending to other ranch business. I’m sorry about your shoes. Puppies are such a mess in the chewing stage. By the way, kittens chew stuff too! LOL! I can think of a few melt downs to write about…

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Colleen, I did not realize kittens were chewers, too! In fact, I had been thinking why didn’t we get a kitten? It’s just a stage. Velociraptor stage. Yes, this was ideal for me. Time to figure out the other pieces now that I know what I’ll be doing for income. Ha! Yes, lots of choices for meltdowns.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Chloe and Sophie like chewing on baskets and cardboard! It’s quite interesting. 😂

        Liked by 4 people

      • Yes! Our cats love to chew on things too, and they’re all fully grown. We can’t leave plastic bags or wrapping of any kind out, or ribbon either. Most string actually. And then there’s the chewing while kissing that one of them does, he’ll rub his face against our fingers and then start chomping, or the computer screen, or our chairs, shoes… anything. Though he’s the one we say is a dog in a cat’s body (he’ll roll around happily with the dogs – a Husky and German Shepherd – when they come inside).

        Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        I haven’t encountered a chewing cat yet! Dogs in cat clothing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I don’t think we have that brand here and I had to look it up. I used to love my walking sandals, including a pair I bought in Namibia. But even my old trusties stopped being comfortable about a decade ago and now it’s walking boots for me whatever the weather. I can’t get the brand that took me round South America but fortunately the one I found afterwards is fine, and fairly priced.

    Commiserations and mega congratulations on your appointment. It’s a foot in the door. And do we now get to call you Professor Mills?

    My meltdown takes place at a book group and I think it’s the first I’ve based on my WIP, Matilda’s follow-up, although this features a totally new character:

    Gloria’s book group reads Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

    Her book group is blinkered. Gloria sits back and watches as her friends turn themselves inside out to prove that Jeanette Winterson’s memoir isn’t about Christianity’s cruelty to kids growing up gay …

    https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/the-past-lingers-on-ever-rest-old-bones-and-this-other-island

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Feet, shoes, brands and steps change over time. I do like a good hiking boot, too and I have two that are yet unproven — short walks and hike. I’ll find out in October if I broke them in enough (the Water Walkers recommend changing out two different pairs of shoes and the last time I walked, I had my Keen sandals).

      Good question, Anne! I think it depends. Technically an MFA is a terminal degree in Creative Writing, but I’ll be teaching English among other MFAs and PhDs. I’m also adjunct not tenured. It depends on the school culture and formality. I think it’s perfectly okay to call me “Professer” Mills at the Ranch, misspelling intended to be a western dialect. I refuse to be called “Mrs.” so it will likely be Ms. Mills or Charli. I remember the delight of professors inviting me to call them by their first name. We shall see!

      Onto the WIP and with a new character who seems interesting!

      Liked by 4 people

  22. […] Carrot Ranch July 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You […]

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I’ve sure missed this challenge. Here’s a little something to make you laugh! https://colleenchesebro.com/2021/07/18/the-meltdown-flashfiction/

    Liked by 6 people

  24. I tried a pair of Keens once and sent them back because they weren’t side enough. You talked about one of my least favorite things in this post: shoe shopping. I hated it in the store because they rarely had what I wanted in stock – but they could get it shipped in in just three days! – and online isn’t much better as long as one doesn’t mind hauling a huge box of returns to UPS. And then there’s the whole thought of how many pairs of feet have been stuck inside those pairs of shoes before your feet showed up to join the list. Shoe companies are always changing styles and fits and it’s just plain evil! /rant. I have to remember shoe shopping the next time I can’t think of anything to write about LOL!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Now you have me thinking about how many pairs of feet were in my trail shoes! I’d say none in those devilish Chacos because who could figure out the straps? Yes, I’ve been that person with endless shoe boxes returned to the UPS Store. Two years ago, when I was shopping for hiking boots, I used a service that let’s you order numerous pairs online to try and then you keep which one you want. It’s handy when you might want to try different sizes. The problem with that shipment is that I liked every pair and couldn’t decide. I ended up buying three pairs of boots instead of one! Yes, shoe shopping can rev up the emotion and words!

      Liked by 4 people

  25. Norah says:

    So disappointed for you and your Keens, Charli, turquoise Keens at that. I remember hearing about them before and know how important they were to you. Mause must have thought you had outgrown your need for them as new paths are unfolding on your journey. Don’t stress. I’m sure you’ll find just the right pair to carry you through. And Mause will know.
    Congratulations on the new teaching position. How fortunate the students who score you as a teacher.
    Your flash is interesting. What a terrible situation. You bring it all home in that final paragraph.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      And I’m back again with my story: https://norahcolvin.com/2021/07/21/ice-cream-meltdown/

      Ice Cream Meltdown
      “Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”
      “Good morning. Sounds like someone’s not happy.”
      “The ice cream’s melted.”
      “An ice cream meltdown. Kids will be kids.”
      “Yeah. Our fifth lockdown this year. We’re homeschooling. Again. My FIFO hub’s trapped in woop-woop. I can’t visit mum in hospital cause she’s interstate even if hub did get home. And no power now for three days. Our freezer food’s spoiled, and he’s whinging about ice cream. When will the lines be fixed?”
      “Sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up. The boss can fire me. No way she’d buy raffle tickets.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s a better way for me to think of Mause and my Keens. The position will mean a wardrobe upgrade from feral writer to classroom instructor. I guess, in that sense, I have outgrown my Keens, Norah. I have my eye on a pair of pumps and sensible flats and dress boots. I might turn into a shoe maven! Thank you, Norah. I wasn’t expecting to get into the formal classroom so soon and so close to home. It’s ideal, too.

      And thanks for reading. I’m on the hunt to discover my new character after spending so much time with Danni.

      Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 2 people

  27. […] From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s challenge. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  28. […] This was written with the prompt meltdown provided by the Carrot Rance July 15 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  29. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    With the load you have been carrying, I’m surprised a meltdown hasn’t happened sooner. We all get it.
    My sister never could tell her right from her left without looking at her hands and concentrating. If driving we told her to take a passenger turn or driver turn. It worked for her.
    I’m sorry about your Keens and just as excited/happy about your new teaching position. Your students don’t know how lucky they are. I’m sure you will make a total difference in some of their lives.
    With a multitude of veteran family members, it was hard to decide who should have the meltdown…

    A Family Meltdown

    Katie didn’t try to hide her anger or tears. “Does she think she can swoop in here and be welcomed? I don’t care if she is my blood grandmother. She’s never sent me so much as a hello.”
    Thad empathized with his daughter. “I’m not any more comfortable with meeting her than you are, but your grandfather and Nan say it will benefit us to reconnect.”
    “How can Grandma be so positive?”
    “She says you’ll understand better after you’ve had children.”
    “I’m also worried about this woman’s reappearance upsetting Grandpa?”
    “I’m sure his loyalty to Nan will prevent problems.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue! Ha! Yes, my daughters navigate that same way, or they say, “Turn Mom, or turn Allison.” Both daughters have directional issues too, and they’ve discussed getting a small “L” tattooed on their left hands.

      Thanks! I’m just as lucky to get to teach. It’s been fun, thinking about what novels and essays/articles to assign. I look forward to their discussions and those a-ha moments that will give them confidence as communicators and critical thinkers.

      No kidding — whose turn to meltdown in the veteran family! Just not all at once. This family drama is complicated and I appreciate how your stories show the interaction between life circumstances, personal choices, and the burdens of war. Well done.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Pete says:

    The Meltdown

    The radio station sent me to Paradise lake to broadcast, where the heat index was set to purgatory and my shoes, socks, and jeans felt like blankets of torture as kids frolicked about the shore, popsicles dripping down their fists.

    Mere seconds before I went live on air, Daryl Hall’s voice warbled horribly offkey. Sweating in horror, I watched the vinyl curl under the glare of the sun. Mic in hand, I turned for the next record, only to find the kids launching it like a frisbee.

    “Let’s go live to Paradise Lake.”

    And that was my last broadcast.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an… […]

    Like

  32. First off, congrats Charli on the new position. That’s exciting for you and your family.

    Now for a late entry, dashed off quickly because my first attempt earlier in the week just wasn’t making it. (Nor does this one, but…)

    Sunflower Meltdown

    Surprise sunflowers came up in the flower bed that was planted with canna lilies. Seeds dropped by hungry birds at the feeder probably were the reason for the surprise.
    The feeders were gone for the summer, but some of the birds remained. New birds also arrived, attracted by the bright yellow flowers. Bees, too, found the flowers attractive, but two birds were particularly enamored by the sunny faces.
    Goldfinches, male and female, feasted on the ripening seeds. Whether it was the goldfinches or the heaviness of the sunflower heads, it was a meltdown dipping their heads toward the earth.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Nancy!

      Oh, the imagery of the self-seeded sunflowers and late summer days among gardens and birds. The goldfinches remind me of happy birds and sunflowers are botanical joy. Your flash, though downward, is uplifting.

      Liked by 1 person

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