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August 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

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When I was a kid, staying home sick from school meant watching morning game shows like The Price is Right. The host gathered audience members selected to be game participants who often had to pick a door to reveal their prize. Behind one open door, a new car. Behind another, a pack of gum.

When doors first open to us, we feel the excitement of a potential grand prize. A new car, a new opportunity, a new chance to shine. We can also feel the shadow of doubt. What if it’s a pack of stale gum, a scam, something we will fail? Doors that open challenge our expectations and hopes, our fears and doubts.

Like the contestant who freezes on stage, the worse we can do is not pick a door. Go for it. A pack of gum is still a prize and we can snap bubbles as we search for the next opening. If what we wanted is not in hand, then it is still out there. The search is not over.

I feel like doors are cracked all around me. I have the heady excitement of going back to school coupled with the reality that this time I’m the teacher. I feel a strong sense of responsibility and expectation. What I want to feel is confident, flexible, and open to the growth of the entire class, including what I will learn from my students and the experience. This is a new door and I don’t yet know what to expect. And that is okay.

While I was away, exploring the Keweenaw with my good friend, I learned about a different kind of door, the one that slides open beyond the curve of a waterway. If the pool beneath a bridge where we put in our kayaks was any indication, like a ramshackle front porch to a house, I didn’t expect much. Around the corner we went, meandering a watery path until the front door slid open and we entered a beautiful slough surrounded in sedge, marsh plants, and framed by evergreens in the distance. Sheer magic appeared behind the open door and we explored.

Doors open up to writers every time curiosity, imagination and story form a key. Do you like to follow one lead or blend multiple inputs? Do you write from your mind or your heart (or both)? Do you keep stories in your head or jot notes on paper? I like to be a mixologist and blend birds, sand, cedar with hardrock mining, stories of people from the fringes of what we think we know, and a twist of what-if. Stories that make me think and feel inspire me to write.

Once my curiosity for slipping through the front doors of sloughs ignited, we ventured to a beaver pond on the west branch of the Eagle River at the base of Cliff where miners angled shafts 900 feet deep from 1852 to 1881. They came to chase flows of native copper and we descended with kayaks to circumnavigate the pond and reach the abandoned cemetery. We put in and slid up pond to watch Blue Heron spear minnows. A kingfisher zipped across the open water and two pileated woodpeckers dove from tree to tree. Larch hung feather boughs over the pond’s mine-side edge, the woods obscuring mine ruins and the old wagon road.

We left our kayaks on the far side of the pond from where we put in. I remembered the cemetery to be within view of the water and near the town garden plot. Naturally, I took us the wrong direction, following a rocky two-track that was once the road to the upper mines. The further we got from the water, the less certain I was that gravestones would emerge from the shadows of moss-grown boulders, brush and trees. We swatted flies and gnats and nibbled thimbleberries until we spotted a pile of berry-seed laden bear excrement. That was not a door I wanted to walk through and we turned back.

Above the pond, we found an overgrown trail off the two-track. A massive apple tree reminded me that the cemetery was near the town garden. We were near. Sure enough, an old wire mesh fence, rusted and dilapidated, announced the perimeter. Within, body-sized depressions hinted at unmarked graves. We walked gingerly past arranged stones, hallows, and chipmunk holes until we came upon a smattering of toppled graves with one stately obelisk standing tall. Below the crest of the cemetery hillside, the beaver pond glimmered a deep blue. A peaceful resting place.

Later, I returned to earlier notes I made on the site of Cliff, the half-opened door to a memory of a Black undertaker. A woman who lived among the miners, having escaped slavery. Her name, as I jotted in my earlier notes, was Fannie Harriet Wells. According to the Keweenaw National Historical Park, she served as the undertaker for these graves at Cliff. This is a story from the fringe. I didn’t expect to find much in the online historical records, but I did find her in an 1860 Federal Census record. She was living at Eagle Harbor ten miles up peninsula from Cliff, working at a hotel. The census record reveled she was 39 years old, born in Kentucky and living with two other Black women, 22-year-old Francis Wells, and 33-year-old Jane Courton.

Think about the open door to freedom.

Three enslaved women made their way to the copper mines of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Francis must have been Harriet’s daughter. The only other census record I can find listing any of the women is 1880. Harriet Wells is living next door to a doctor in Houghton with her 5-year-old granddaughter, Mary Wells. Both are listed as Mulatto. There’s no mention of Francis, but Mary’s granddaughter is noted as mother born in Kentucky and father born in Connecticut. Harriet is listed as widowed. When did that happen? In Kentucky? What happened to Francis? I can’t stop thinking about the journey these three women made to the Copper Country. Did Harriet watch Blue Heron spear minnows in his long beak?

A story behind each door. You, the writers, get to pick. Even if it’s gum, you can make a winner out of your story. Let’s get to it!

August 5, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 10, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

A New Door Opens by Charli Mills

At fourteen, Francis hid behind doors, gripping Mama’s hand, her breath hard as ore in her chest. One door led to another until they boarded a creaking vessel, shut below decks. Water lashed. The ship rose and fell and swayed from side to side. Wind howled. Finally, the hatch opened to sunlight and seagulls. They merged with a sea of humanity, walking to a mining camp called Cliff. When the mine captain’s wife died, Mama was the only one willing to wash and prep the body for burial. A new door opened – a job, income, a life beyond slavery.

🥕🥕🥕


148 Comments

  1. denmaniacs4 says:

    Child Welfare Report

    I never forget what it was like. A complaint comes it. Something terrible is happening behind closed doors. The doors of a family home.

    First steps are to do some checking.

    What do we know?

    Who knows what we don’t?

    Who knows this family?

    Will they tell us something useful?

    All this is happening with lightning speed.

    The best approach is to see the child at school.

    When that is not an option, for any number of reasons, a frontal assault is all that is left.

    The knock at the door.

    The heavy hand of the state.

    And then…

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 11 people

  2. What a journey Charli. I fell deeply into your story of your time away, kayaking, exploring, searching, admiring learning, listening and growing as a creative. What a story you found there too, I feel Frannie’s awe and admiration of her mother. The strength that permeates their family in a way it should never have had to.

    Doors are intimidating, many doors opening together is even more so, fear of success is so real. Feeling inadequate to live up to what others see in us, once we’ve achieved something that took work and effort and so much creative energy, is scary. To then step into a role where you’re faced with people who seek that insight and inspiration from you every time you stand before them as their teacher, that’s daunting as hell. I’m glad you got time away to think and feel and be free for a while. Your passion for people and stories and creativity will carry you through. One day at a time.

    I’m curious to see what my muse conjures for this prompt. But first, she must find me working… after some time with the family.

    Victorian Lockdown #6 is underway, though we can’t go adventuring as you did, I’m looking forward to stress free mornings and more energy to create over the next week. Though I also understand it’s not this way for most, my thoughts, love and prayers go out to everyone still struggling through this time, everywhere.

    Liked by 7 people

    • This week’s piece is a little more lyrical than usual. Introspective dreamworlds abound. And of course, the doors.

      Essentiality Remains

      Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I wish I knew what became of Fannie’s family, Rebecca. It can be like chasing ghosts, trying to shed light on the marginalized in history. Somewhere, someone still has that strength.

      Fear of success, disappointing others. These are revealed when doors begin to crack. You are describing fears I face, but I believe in grace, in overcoming, in being authentic even when I fall short. The best teachers are those willing to fail, learn and grow along with their students who do the same. Thank you for your encouragement.

      Another lockdown. I’m with you in your thoughts, love and prayers for all who are still struggling. Even those out of lockdown, facing new challenges can be a struggle. We need to remember one another kindly. Extend that grace we seek, too.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. […] If you want to take part, here is the link: Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I haven’t written in awhile due to poor health. I am trying to push past it and try to write again. Here is what I wrote – https://writinginthedeep.com/2021/08/06/flash-fiction-door-duty/

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Go Hog Wild

    “Kid! Shut the front door!”
    “Leavin’ it open fer Curly. My little hog’s wandered off, hopin’ she wanders back.”
    “Reckon she will aroun’ dinner time. What’d ya think a Shorty’s prompt?”
    “It’s liminal! Unlimited possibilities. Course, Slim Chance says opportunity only knocks at yer door jist once.”
    “Hmmf. Ernie says a jar’s a open doorway. I’d ruther set aroun’ with Ernie an’ his jars a story grease then thet shyster Slim Chance. He’s always lookin’ fer a opportunity ta pad his wallet. Nope, real opportunities abound, Kid, ya jist gotta grab hold of ‘em.”
    “Reckon so, Pal, reckon so.”
    ***
    “Pal, let’s go ta the Saddle Up Saloon, see if Curly’s gone there.”
    “Sure Kid. Anyway’s it’s about time we checked on the place.
    Wunner if folks know all the possibilities fer ‘em through them saloon doors.”
    “Them door’s always open ta folks wantin’ ta take the stage, mebbe let their characters out fer a romp, or share a story or happenin’.”
    “Yep. Folks could chat with us or showcase their art, promote a book— jist about anythin’.
    Well, here we are. Oh no! Yer puglet’s opened some doors fer hersef. The kitchen’s a mess!”
    “Who cares? Curly’s safe!”

    Liked by 7 people

  6. A lovely post, Charli. I certainly write from my head but I keep everything in my head to, more or less. A lovely piece of flash fiction.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. […] 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 “door“ […]

    Liked by 3 people

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

    Liked by 4 people

  9. […] August 5: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Literary CommunityIn 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Earlier this week, my wife and I visited my 99-year-od Dad in a nursing home interstate because they’d advised us that his time on this mortal coil may be ending. When we got there, most of his marbles were still rattling around in his head and he was as cantankerous as always but up for a laugh. But it was also clear he didn’t want to carry on any more and was quite open about it with me and my sisters and we told him that was his choice. Except it isn’t.

    Not on my shift you don’t!

    A nurse flits into Dad’s room, mock scolds him for barely touching his breakfast, and flits out again, ‘Were you born in a bloody tent?’ he calls after her, which means she hasn’t shut the door behind her. Again!

    I ask him how he is. His face sags, he looks me in the eye, and says ‘I’m buggered*, son’ and I know he’s decided he’s had enough and just wants to be left alone to leave this world on his own terms. But the nurse doesn’t want that happening on her shift. So she keeps leaving the door open.

    * buggered – Australian slang for ‘finished, exhausted, dead tired’

    Liked by 8 people

    • So much energy left in your dad, I admire the nurse’s commitment. He’s lived a long and full life, I’m sure, with a son like you 😉 my thoughts are with you, Doug, for the times to come.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Liz H says:

      Oh, I get you, Doug. I have a stubborn Mom (who I admire) with the mad skills and resources to go her own way.
      But for me, it’s also hard to remember and let go because we’re SUPPOSED to ignore their own quality of Life/Death choices.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Do you have hospice in your area, Doug? I’ve had numerous friends and family who have come to the end of their days and chose to go home and hospice checked in, monitored the business of dying on one’s own terms, and provided space for the family to grieve. We ask if you were born in a barn in the US.

      Like

      • His physical dependence needs are too advanced for that, Charli. The good news is that he’s rallied in the last couple of days. It would seem that he’s hanging out for a message from the Queen for his 100th in January. 🙂
        We don’t have a lot of barns here, although some have built them in recent years because they’ve watched too many westerns. 😉 One of my favorites is the Yorkshire expressions for ‘close the door’, which is ‘put wood in t’ole’.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        While I’d be thrilled to hear your dad got a letter from the Queen on his 100th, I hope no matter what, he goes on his own time and terms. Dignity needs grace when we become physically dependent.

        I might start using the Yorkshire phrase! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • SueSpitulnik says:

      I’ll be thinking of you Doug, and your family. Always a difficult time.

      Liked by 2 people

    • denmaniacs4 says:

      Doug, I would reckon that “buggered” is kind of universal…I hope your dad gets to exit on his terms…take care.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Not a lot of people leave those homes, they’re not exactly hospital or rehab, so you’d think there’d be some understandings around when residents are buggered and ready for the inevitable.
      A tough time for you, this.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, D, and yes, you would think so. It seems bizarre to me that doctors and staff in this ‘industry’ are less well equipped to deal with the inevitable cycle of life than the the general public. And don’t get me started on the cost of ‘heroic’ interventions to extend lives by a small fraction. On the bright side, Dad seems to have rallied considerably, courtesy of a bit of drainage and a couple of transfusions. Certainly well enough to resume his general grizzling. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Jennie says:

    What a journey! It does make one think of the doors we open, the opportunities we bravely take. I know how you feel about teaching being right around the corner. I can tell you, at this moment you have no idea what will happen in the classroom. Just open the doors that come along the way. There will be many!

    Liked by 4 people

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

    Liked by 4 people

  13. […] Carrot Ranch and the prompt IS write a story about an open door in 99 words (no more, no less), It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Myrna Migala says:

    I hope this is not a repeat since I created a pingback to my link earlier.

    A Short WHO DONE IT story!


    The short 99 word story that was fun to write

    ************

    “Why should I believe, as you say, did not do it!“

    “Because I didn’t do it; I was on the other side of town when it happened, which is an hour away.”

    “Yes, to drive only take minutes.”

    “I walked, so don’t blame me.”

    “I know it was you.“

    “Prove it!”

    “I awoke, ran to the window, noticed the door was closed, a short time later the door was opened. Who opened the door? Minutes later, it was there; so were you. You did it!“

    “Did not!”

    “That birthday cake for me just didn’t appear; you put it there.”

    Liked by 7 people

  15. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Aug 5August 5, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by August 10, 2021. MLMM Sat Mix Same but Different Your words are:Chair: bench, Floor: deck,// ground, Tree: forest, Black:, raven, Talk: spiel,// screed: a long speech or piece of writing, typically one regarded as tedious// spiel, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jules says:

    Charli,

    I like to research things too. Your flash of a door opening for Francis and her Mother is thought provoking. How many jobs are done just to put food on the table… that few others will do. It reminded me how in some countries dealing with death is left to the lowest caste in that society. A caste that is often hard to break. So many prejudices surrounding jobs that others don’t want. Yet in some faiths it is a true honor to attend to the dead.

    I always write, before I read – so it was quite a coincidence that my piece also alludes to that particular ‘porthole’…

    I used another prompt to venture into my story;
    Common Ground?

    The spiel around the deck’s fire pit, where we sat on benches, was about a raven. The bird screed into the night mimicking the other forest creatures. Like the storyteller droning. I only half listened.

    Some of us were camping in the backyard. After retiring, nature called. I wasn’t expecting to find a blackbird right outside my door flap. Thankfully neither of us made a sound. Though my heart raced. I fished out a granola bar out of my pocket as a peace offering. It was accepted, and the bird flew away. The quiver of darkness returned to normal.

    © JP/dh

    Notes: Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, the raven is often associated with loss and ill omen. Yet, its symbolism is complex. As a talking bird, the raven also represents prophecy and insight. Ravens in stories often act as psychopomps, connecting the material world with the world of spirits.
    Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός, psychopompós, literally meaning the ‘guide of souls’) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply to guide them.

    Liked by 7 people

  17. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt(08/05/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Liz H says:

    Another tale from long ago and faraway, in another universe not so different from our own…hope y’all have fun with it!

    Well, Why Not? (Part 3)
    (A ninety-nine word flash, times three…that will lead you back to Door Number One)

    The twins pushed the net over their heads, flinging it to the side. “Well Mam-Duchess, why DON’T you marry one? We’re still just kids, after all!”
    Sister Indelicata tipped her head, as she gathered up her seal-hunting net. That was the most grown-up thing they’d ever said. Perhaps those girls had promise, after all… [Continue ]

    Liked by 5 people

  19. weejars says:

    A loop poem for my flash this week

    Doorway

    Liked by 5 people

  20. […] Carrot Ranch, August 5: Flash Fiction […]

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Norah says:

    Open doors, leading out or leading in – new adventures either way, should one take up the opportunity. I’m sure you will be excellent in your new role of teacher/learner and I look forward to hearing about your new role. So exciting. Your time away with your good friend sounds fun with lots of explorations and thinking time.
    Your flash tells perfectly the story told by your discoveries. It made me think of a movie I watched earlier this year – The Underground Railroad, I think.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. What a lovely post, Charli. I love what you found on your walk from the pond and the history of those three women, even though there are gaps that one day I hope you will find the pieces to. And your piece of flash fiction is the icing on top of the cake that is one of your best posts I have read.
    Welcome back.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. TanGental says:

    Ah the Doors. Always thought they were overrated. What? Not that sort of door? Oh, Soz. Here’s a bit of the boys, looking a gift door in the mouth..

    ‘No good?’
    ‘They didn’t even call. Just a texted no.’
    ‘I did say you needed to think through your CV.’
    ‘They never mentioned piglet castrator, Logan.’
    ‘You wouldn’t, would you? If you wanted someone to sell deodorant.’
    ‘Oh well. One door closes, another opens.’
    ‘Really?’
    ‘I said as much to the chap in reception. He’d sold them a door. Offered me a job. Said he liked the cut of my gib.’
    ‘I’m pleased.’
    ‘Logan. What’s my gib?’
    ‘Your new post lockdown haircut.’
    ‘You think that’s what swung it?’
    ‘If you hair opens doors, then I’d even forgive a mullet.’

    Liked by 6 people

  24. […] Latin muliebris characteristic of a woman, effeminate (- unmanly))// spoiling for a fight. Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Aug 5August 5, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jules says:

    Just worked out for a second entry, with the help of another prompt:

    Giving Lacuna

    At the door, in uniform – one anyway…
    Her muliebral brother
    Was in a sleeveless dress
    Down to his ankles…
    Probably not spoiling for a fight –
    Just there to accompany the girl…
    It wasn’t until after she left
    (I bought my favorite cookies…)
    That I wondered just how liberal
    This town was… and hoped
    Perhaps beyond reasoning
    That they’d make it back home –
    Because I knew that across the street
    Behind some of those closed doors
    That some of the neighbors
    Who’d given our family some grief
    Because ‘We’ weren’t like ‘Them’ –
    Might not keep their door or mouth shut.

    © JP/dh

    Note: lacuna; noun: an unfilled space or interval; a gap.

    Liked by 6 people

  26. […] This was written with the prompt to write a story about an open door provided by the Carrot Ranch August 5 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. SueSpitulnik says:

    I’m glad your time away helped you relax and regroup. some of your activities sounded very familiar, though I’ll leave the camping and bedrolls to you younger ladies. Exploring the sloughs, I would enjoy.
    I’ve never thought of an “old west undertaker” as being female. Good for her, she recognized an open door. The ladies’ history is fascinating.
    On to the prompt…

    Michael’s Motivational Speech at Walter Reed

    Had I not been in a bomb blast, I would probably still be on active duty, stationed who knows where. Instead, I’m directing the teen choir in my hometown church, I’m singing lead in a veterans only band, I’m taking the healing power of music to multiple veterans’ facilities in a gifted van, I’m marrying for the first time, and I’ve immersed myself in family life. It took me a while to realize losing most of my legs had opened doors for me. The secret is to believe there is a specific, exciting purpose for the new you.

    Liked by 8 people

  28. Michael says:

    August 5, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads!

    Freedom! That’s what lay beyond the opened door.
    If only I could be brave enough to take that step.
    The shackles that bound me were growing tighter, pulling me into a dark abyss I knew would be my end.
    I had long harboured the desire to escape, find my own way. Threats kept me in my place. Financial ruin, public humiliation, alienation from my family.
    So, I labored within the confines I allowed to be imposed on me.
    But one day, the shackles fell, the door opened, I turned my back on misery and looked into a new world.

    Written for: https://carrotranch.com/2021/08/06/august-5-flash-fiction-challenge-2/

    Liked by 6 people

  29. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills invited writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical.… […]

    Liked by 2 people

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

    Liked by 2 people

  31. You’ve put it so well about the unknown of the open door. While I don’t advocate for walking through a door just because it’s open (see your bear example), I encourage everyone to take a look at what’s behind it because you just never know to which magical world it might transport you.

    A great prompt!

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Aloysius’s Curiosity

    Curiosity killed the kitty cat, they say, and Aloysius was extremely curious. Fortunately, he was also skilled at getting out of scrapes. Aloysius would sneak past those humans who might harm him, but he also knew instinctively whom to trust.

    One night while prowling, Aloysius discovered a door built into a hedgerow. Curiosity getting the better of him, he pawed it open and entered a maze. In the center of the maze was a fountain full of sparkling water. Little did he know that lapping from that fountain changed his life; his life would never be the same again.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

    Liked by 3 people

  33. […] Essentiality Remains by Rebecca Glaessner […]

    Like

  34. […] August 5: Flash Fiction Challenge Posted in Uncategorized […]

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