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August 12: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s five minutes before bedtime. I’m trying. Getting up in the morning is a struggle for me. I do my best work at the midnight hour and it’s difficult to go to bed when I’m most relaxed and focused. A friend and fellow night owl once explained, “we stay up late because the world has gone silent.”

Perhaps not the world, but my corner of it quiets considerably.

The pup is asleep on the couch. The house breathes the fresh night air. Roberts Street is asleep, houselights snuffed for the night. I feel refreshed.

Earlier in the day when I was trying to get out emails to clients, prepare for faculty work, set aside books I need to read, and catch up at the Ranch, a cacophony of sound had me out of sorts.

The chipping sparrows surround my house. Chipping. Chipping loud as electronic equipment gone haywire. I’m a bird lover and not accustomed to wanting to tell off any bird, but these guys, they are discordant and constant. I’m ready to remove their bird feeder. Shh…!

Mause was wound up. She had the evening poop zoomies. Finally, third time out, she did her duty but not before pointing a rabbit. The small brown bunny held still, eyes locked on Mause. Her instinct is spot on for a GSP. She pointed. That means, she locked eyes and held still. A pointer will hold the gaze of a game bird (well, okay, a flightless bunny in this case). The point allows a hunter to get ready to command the dog to flush the bird, once in position. I prepared to have my arm yanked.

When the bunny dashed, so did Mause. I was ready and sat against her dive to chase. Bunny lived another day to eat my dandelions. After the encounter, Mause barked her head off at anything she could see out the window. The neighbor’s beach shoes drying on his sidewalk. Someone walking a poodle. A bush that wiggled in the wind.

And still the sparrows chipped. ZZZT! ZZZT! ZZZT!

Finlandia is back to regular morning and evening football practice. The field is near my house so I could hear the team. Why do football players grunt so much? And how can they grunt so loudly?

That diesel truck from down the street with loud pipes blasted by the house.

Mause barked another frenzy.

Music stopped and started upstairs. The only thing more distracting than a veteran with no attention span starting and stopping songs on a computer is if he was downstairs starting and stopping military history videos on YouTube. Granted, I get good ideas from what I overhear, but tonight I can’t take the sounds because I have work to do and I can’t give up, go water or fix dinner. Bedtime is now as discordant as all the noise.

Twitching, I make it through to the delicious time of quiet and solitude. Ahh…! The sparrows quieted. Mause makes soft nose wheezes as she sleeps. The music upstairs has stopped. I turn to Calm and play Sweet Dreams, soft piano mix for recalibrating the mind.

Tomorrow morning is my first day of Finlandia University faculty training. The jitters are receding as my passion to teach writing rises. I’m 54-years-old and starting a new career. Feels bold. It was always a sweet dream to think I’d expand my writing career in this direction. Even in school to get my MFA, I didn’t think I’d get this opportunity. Stars aligned and I’m grateful. I paused in the silence to let a wave of anticipation vibrate through me.

Mause slept.

Birds slept.

Neighbors cruised their dreams.

This is why I write late into the night. Silence refreshes me. I was made for stillness. The mind expands, the imagination opens up. The stars keep me company without saying, ZZZT! ZZZT! ZZZT!

Alas, I’m willing to nod off to a sleep story (Calm app is amazing) and set an alarm. Because I will have young minds to engage. I hope to learn and grow as they do. It’s a big deal to me to pick novels to assign, find handouts, and create meaningful assignments. Will they write 99-word stories? Oh, yes. They will even learn TUFF to draft ideas for research papers. They will explore their personal values, find their strengths as writers, and craft a vision for their overall college success.

After the cacophony, I find the answers in silence.

Sweet Dreams!

August 13, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can use the word or show discordant sound inaction. How can you create literary cacophony with your words? This one might be of interest to poets as a literary device. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 17, 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.

Batter-born Biscuits by Charli Mills

Batter-born biscuits dropped to a sizzling cast-iron griddle. Max held her lips in formation. The day before, her mother complained Max was too pretty to withhold her smile. Max adjusted her prosthetic foot to stand near the outdoor flames. The arrival of a squawking blue jay, twittering squirrels, and her father in a silk robe announced morning with forest cacophony. Weird as her dad might be, she’d take him at her campfire wearing what suited him best over the silent pretense of her mother’s morning prayers, rules, and cold cereal. Funny how grim her mother looked, reading her devotions.



  1. The noise challenges me too. Young kids and close neighbours abound. I enjoyed journeying with you through your own cacophony and into the sweet silence of the midnight hours. I used to stay awake late too but prefer to be up before dawn instead now. It has the same silent blanket, yet is filled with refreshed potential of the day ahead and none of the lack-of-sleep guilt. Unless I do both…

    I also enjoyed the journey from worry into passionate excitement for your new start. Have a wonderful day tomorrow. I can’t wait for the stories that emerge!

    As for the prompt, my automatic thought was of avoiding the sound. So I challenged that. Why would my character seek it out?

    • Charli Mills says:

      I remember kid-sounds, too, Rebecca. Later, I shifted to early morning but I feel so rusty in that pre-dawn silence. For whatever reason, I sleep best at that time! I’m glad you have found it to be a delicious time for you.

      The first day was acclimated me to the new system. I might be new on the faculty but the system is like the one I used as a student so I know how to use it technically. That was a relief!

      Immediately, your story places the reader in the action. Your sentence variation builds the tension as the character wanders and worries over her friend. Short, blunt sentences create a faster pace. The longer sentences slow down the reader, allowing for the relief that the characters make it back to safety.

  2. Norah says:

    What an exciting adventure, Charli. Your young minds are so fortunate to learn from you for you have so much knowledge and experience to share. It will be interesting to see what they do with the 99 words and how they TUFF it out to make sense of their assignments.
    I don’t mind a bit of noise, though I appreciate the quiet too. I love to hear the birds sing outside my window, but we have some noisy miners that can make a very loud, shrill and persistant chatter, that seems very similar to what you describe of the sparrow.
    The forest cacophony greeting the morning sounds delicious. I think I know who Max’s favourite parent is.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Norah, your birds would be an exotic sound to my ears! Normally, I like the chatter. I was feeling the pressure of bedtime and resisting it like a kid. I will be fortunate to have my students, too. I’m sure I will learn as I interact with them. And, I think you might be right about Max but she has lots to reconcile.

    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my story. I hope you like it.

      Children’s voices rose from the street with excitement, until laughter exploded like fireworks, startling a flock of corellas into screeching flight.
      Mrs Black in #4 slammed her door and windows tight, excluding the abhorrent noise daring to smother her favourite show.
      Mr Judd from #5, pruning his grevilleas, shook his fist and said, “Stone the crows! What’s with all that racket?”
      Mr Dredge in #7 dozed on, snoring in decibels way higher than those outside.
      But Mrs Twigg in #3 flung wide her window, inhaling the children’s merriment that inspired memories of her own childhood antics so long ago.

  3. Carcophony (n), Pronounced car-coffin-eeeeeeeee: Sound emanating from the rear seats on a family holiday. (From the old Latin ‘coffinus’, meaning claustrophobia). Just trying to help. 😉

  4. Great story Charli ‘Batter-Born Biscuits.’ Wonder ful specific, sensory details and unusual content, grab reader’s attention.
    I love the new theme of cacophony. As it will help improve us as a community of literary writers.

  5. […] 8.13 Write an Empty poem. Or…// The best way to use a cup, a quart and a pound of cherries. Carrot Ranch August 13, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can […]

  6. Jules says:


    I used to be OK with noise. Now not so much. I like quiet when I write. Not easy when Hubby is either doing business in his ‘downstairs’ office or across the table from me. I manage. You’ve brought some fun images and sounds in your flash. Hope you have (had) a great first day!

    I played with another prompt and created a 99 word poem. The verses in ( ) are supposed to be italic). And I’ve got an image of the cherry dress at my post 😀

    Unbound Sounds

    All that’s left is crumbs.
    Empty pie tin
    Pitted the cherries
    Cup of sugar…
    Quartered the feast

    (spoons rattled, clanged
    oven door opened with a metallic creek
    and closed, bang
    fork scrapped the china plate…
    scritchty scratch
    buttons popping… tapping the wall, ping
    rattled and settled, plop)

    Ate each quart(her)
    Cherries, cherries, yum, yum!
    Patterns on her dress
    Now on the floor –
    Since it don’t fit no more.

    (now resting stretched
    out on the bed
    with a soft pillow for her head…
    content and full –
    there not so dainty
    started as a wheeze,
    now an outright snore)

    See next page

    © JP/dh

  7. […] words required there, this story is a nod to the August 5th prompt which is now closed and to the current prompt which is to “write a story, using cacophony“. I thank my prompters and also Marge who led me […]

  8. I do most of my writing late at night. I love the silence.

  9. Liz H says:

    Pretty exciting to see Mause discovering her identity and purpose, and all the excitement that brings her! Sounds like there’s a little of that going on for you, too.
    You’re gonna do great, Coach!
    Loved your flash extra, this week. Those characters, their conflicts are lit up like the moon in a smoke-free sky! More! More!

  10. I like early morning for the quiet, although it’s too early if I’m up before the birds. I’m excited about your university post. Take care, it’ll be tiring settling in.

  11. […] Carrot Ranch  Go where the prompt leads! This one was very challenging! Try it here! […]

  12. Myrna Migala says:

    My little story can be read here or below: —>

    “Mom, what if?”

    “What if what child, speak your question!”

    “I was thinking, what if I woke up and there wasn’t any internet, no phone connections either? I was thinking too, what the world would be like, if it remained that way, without anything to do? What if mom, what if?”

    “Well, child, I suppose you would do what I did and especially what your grandparents did?”

    “What was that?”

    “We made noise, we giggled, laugh, and sang as loud as we could! We formed clubs and played games till the street lights outside came on.
    If only again!”

  13. denmaniacs4 says:

    Night Sounds

    The crow came to my window at midnight,
    cawed his screech,
    his dark bird speech,
    like a bent rusty nail caught in his throat,
    pulled out by the sinister hammer of night,
    the crow’s squawky plea
    in much the same tone,
    a raw shattered bone
    stuck in his craw
    as when he flies the zone
    far above my head
    In the dead
    of day.

    The crow stayed at window ‘til morn,
    and beyond,
    a bent broken bird
    sprawled on the sill,
    rotting away,
    flies pecking its flesh
    as the sun lit the day,
    as the crows had their say.

  14. Judy says ‘No!’

    As she stood in the queue at the bank, Judy was approached by a smarmy suit and patronisingly advised that she could complete her transaction at the ATM outside. Judy said loudly ‘No, I’d prefer to keep a teller in a job, not in another queue, at the unemployment office. That way they can pay the rent and feed their kids.’ The suit approached others and a chant of ‘No’ began to gather in strength, rising to a cacophony that had the security guard retreat with his hands over his ears. But to Judy, it sounded like a symphony.

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

  16. […] August 13: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch Literary Community In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can use the word or show discordant sound in action. How can you create a literary cacophony with your words? This one might be of interest to poets as a literary device. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  17. […] Carrot Ranch 99 word challenge this […]

  18. Summer of Love

    The pair of geese that patrolled the yard were first to sound the alarm. Then his father’s hounds bugled from the kennels. The Jerseys lowed as they closed ranks across the pasture and filed toward the barn. Finally there came the sharp report of the screen door springing shut behind his mother, anxiously wringing her dish towel on the familiar porch, laughing and crying at his approach.

    These welcoming sounds began to quiet the shrieks and chants from the gauntlet he’d faced at the airport. But even as his mother refrained, ‘You’re really home’, doubts drummed like throbbing pain.

  19. Jennie says:

    I am feeling excited for you, Charli. Your new chapter in life is here, and it’s just what you love!

  20. […] This was written with the prompt cacophony provided by the Carrot Ranch August 12 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  21. conner dickinson says:

    Hi Charli Regarding my story Copse of Flagged Cliff.

    I’m just letting you know that I sent in a second version of my latest story for the cacophony challenge. As in the first story, I put hoover’s instead of hovers. Thanks from Connor ________________________________

  22. […] Notes: This week, Charli over at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community gave us the word cacophony as a prompt…I can’t think of a better word to describe my […]

  23. […] was written with the prompt cacophony provided by the Carrot Ranch August 12 Flash Fiction Challenge. This is my second take on the […]

  24. SueSpitulnik says:

    I think we can all identify with getting frustrated with noise when we are trying to accomplish something. I’m not fussy about the time of day, but I do my best writing when I am in the house with just the cats. Even they can be distracting, but certainly not like the TV.
    I will be excited to hear about all your new experiences at Finlandia. Your students will be the winners.
    My prompt response is generic this week…

    Laying in a Hospital Bed

    An inward sucking noise
    An outward swooshing
    Over and Over
    The ventilator keeps perfect time

    The incessant beeping
    When the IV bag is empty
    “Someone” please turn it off
    Where is everyone

    Now a fall-alarm is blaring
    My adrenalin rushes but
    I hear no one running in response
    Don’t they care

    Too busy to answer call buttons
    But I can hear them talking
    How many people are working
    Where is my friendly nurse

    The meal-cart wheels squeak
    Compartment doors slam
    The tube prevents eating
    My mind says I’m hungry

    My God, it’s finally quiet
    It’s peaceful
    Am I dead

  25. Aloysius’s Garden

    Aloysius had just finished lapping at the fountain in the middle of the maze. He sat, licking his paws and whiskers. His bath complete, the white cat sauntered away.
    Aloysius’s tail flicked from side to side causing a cacophony of colors to burst out. To the left and right, he left a trail of lush wildflowers in his wake. Purple and blue lupine, poppies of red, and yellow and orange coneflowers with deep indigo centers sprung up all around him. Green ferns, too, could be seen waving their fronds.
    Not only had he changed, but so had the garden.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

  26. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (08/13/21): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  27. Liz H says:

    Thus ends this Universe’s tale of the Twins, Sister Indelicata, and the Duchess and her yappy, cheese-eating little hound. There may be more of the story in Universe 2…

    Well, Why Not? (Part 4)

    Sister Indelicata left the cacophony of squeals and laughter behind her; the tall, hardwood door sneezed delicately shut, blessing the happy, healed family. Indelicata’s bare feet whispered swift and sure, softer than the guttering of the beeswax candles that provided more scent than light.

    She caught the perfume of open sea before she saw it, and glided through the marble hallway to the worn spiral stairs and ocean access.

    She shimmered; habit, wimple, and net slid free into the freezing waves. Flicking her mermaid’s tail, she dove.

    Goodbyes were easiest if her charges never liked her to begin with.

  28. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can use the word or show discord… […]

  29. […] Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, Tale Weaver – 12.8.21 and Wordle #253; as well as, Carrot Ranch, August 12: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  30. […] wrote this inspired by the carrot Ranch flash fiction […]

  31. Miss Judy says:

    Here is a late contribution. I don’t think I did justice to the cacophony of senses from the Fair, but here it is:


  32. I missed this challenge but I can’t wait to read everyone’s contribution. <3

  33. […] August 12: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

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