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August 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

The carnies have come to town. At any moment, I’m anticipating a flight of pigs to buzz Roberts Street. I’d wave, and think nothing of it. Stranger things have happened, and I never expected to be standing in my own classroom this week. Pigs must be flying.

My daughter and SIL have pigs. They think of their homestead herds as animals on the payroll. The chickens (okay, flock) provide their market garden with nitrogen. The goats clear brush and brambles. And the pigs root. After the rooting, the chickens on nitrogen duty perform a secondary function — they follow where the pigs rooted and pooped to eat the parasites. Yup. Pigs have parasites. Everybody has to eat in this environment.

Lately, I’ve been spending more time learning about soil and the health of the environment. My dad is working on a document to inform BLM in Nevada how trees communicate underground. Recently, he sent me a book called, Finding the Mother Tree. It gave me an idea for why my fictional tree wizard showed up in my writing as a lumberjack wearing a skirt. Neither my dad nor the Finnish shaman I’ve met would fit the description of cross-dressers. But through them, I’ve learned more about the varied ways we humans connect to the forests. Clear-cut tree stands are missing their mother. It’s plausible that my character embraces the feminine sacred to embody what the trees are lacking — a mother.

Such is the rambling of my imagination, my creative brain. I’m teaching my students about different ways to think. Our brains can be both analytical and creative. Our hearts think with emotion and out guts think through intuition. Writing is thinking and we use the full-bodied expression. I’m delighting to create weekly modules to support my syllabi and learning outcomes. My students make me think, especially about the future because what they do daily at college is all about their future.

This is the part where I expect to hear squeals overhead. I though pigs would fly before someone ever called me prof. On Monday, one of my students thanked me for the class and said, “See ya later, Prof.” Everything stilled as if I were in a movie and the director was ready to say, “Cut!” But this is real. As real as the memory that implanted itself on my new office door. I recalled the door to my attic hideaway in the Markleeville General Store and the life-sized monochromatic poster of Indiana Jones.

I wanted to be Indiana Jones. It was a deep dream, the kind you don’t tell other people. It’s the kind of dream I tell writers to explore when they craft their vision of success as authors. It’s the impossible dream that contains possibility. What about Indiana Jones captivated my young mind in 1981. I had wanted to be an archaeologist before the movie came out. I kept my own notes. I also wanted to write historical novels, and I crafted elaborate stories and genealogies for characters with names like Nicodemus and Silver. I sought travel and adventure. And deep down, I want all that Indy had — the exploration of people and cultures, the world travel, the knowledge and storytelling, and the college classroom.

When I was in my MFA program, I also worked toward a masters certification to teach writing online. It aligned with my plans to develop writers workshops, and I learned how to coach and teach. My peers dreamed of college teaching, too and I never shared my deep-down dream except when prompted to write reflective essays. It’s a muddy career because most college professors hold PhD’s. Such instructors have served as lecturers and teacher’s assistants in large universities. However, MFA’s are terminal degrees and count toward teaching in college. Typically, MFA holders are expected to have had at least one, sometimes as many as five books published.

I’m unpublished (yet) although I have an extensive writing portfolio of magazine articles, profiles, essays, and short stories. I have an MFA but no classroom experience. Yeah, I figured I’d get hired in marketing before I’d get hired at a university. But the stars aligned like magic as they often do when you commit to your North Star and express the deep core of your dreams. I sat at my office desk Wednesday and could see my old movie poster materialize on the door across the room. Indy winked. “You got this, Kid,” he said.

Then a flock of pigs flew past my window.

Okay, I’m daydreaming out loud now. But you know the feeling — when only fiction can describe the depth of a moment so profound. I’m not daydreaming in the classroom. I’ve arrived. And I love every aspect of it.

I love having my office mate text to set up another “Ladies Coffee” where she and I sit over a press pot and shared lunch to discuss what we hope is the launch of our college teaching careers. I love having my friend who also teaches at FinnU loan me a plant for our office. I love that one of the full-time English professors who is impassioned about literature and students reach out to ask how my first week is going. I love that the bookstore manager expressed excitement for my choices of reading material. I love that I’m already using the 99-word format as a teaching tool. Micro-essays are a thing now.

There have been hiccups and technical glitches. My contract never arrived and I began to panic that the school found out about that time I was in a gang except that I never was in a gang but fiction writers can easily slip into guilty minds. I did imagine it. But it was a name issue, namely the Annette/Charli thing that I’m going to make my dad write me a note to explain it to employers. And the insane number of programs I have to log into just for a single class to happen. But, as my office mate said, it’s refreshing to be at a university focused on the student learning and not the prestige image.

Yes, I like where I have landed.

The wonderful thing about a work schedule is that suddenly I feel less scattered. It’s hard for me to compartmentalize when my chair remains the same. When I go on campus, I know what I’m doing. When I go to my office, I’m productive in less time. I feel like I have more time and focus. Thinking has cleared, writing has flowed, and I get errands done quickly when before it would take weeks and weeks. I’ve even gone to the lake four days in a row! My new schedule outside the home made me realize the toll personal life chaos has taken on me.

I might go live among the pigs and build a she-shed on the back property with a three season writing nook. Who knows? I’m open to change and a future that doesn’t feel stark and stressful. My future is looking bright as the shine of deep dreams emerge.

August 26, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by August 31, 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.

The Fair Opens Early by Charli Mills

For three days, diesel engines have geared low to turn at Satori’s Corner halfway up Quincy Hill. Carnies arrive, hauling chunks of amusement rides and galley games. Trucks towing hot dog shacks, popcorn houses, and ramshackle campers follow. Carnie food and homes. Perpetual travelers from across the nation bring fun and excitement to rural counties on a continuous loop. The Houghton County Fair opens on Thursday. When a trailer full of 4H pigs escape and the Ferris Wheel operator leaves popcorn in a seat before the test ride, a flight of pigs launches the first attraction a day early.



  1. floridaborne says:

    What a wonderful feeling to be just exactly where you hoped you would be, and have the future look so bright.

    I didn’t get to that place until I was in my mid-60’s. It’s never too late.

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

  3. denmaniacs4 says:

    A Healthy Pork-Life Balance

    It started when I built that house of brick. You remember that story, right? Made the social media rounds. Pretty soon every pig and his brother wanted to know how to build a brick house.

    I kept on saying, read the book. That’s what I did. One hundred years old.

    Lots of pressure from my brothers.

    “You wanna be a one-brick piggie all your life?” they asked.

    Anyways, soon I had to become a consultant.

    Flying all around the country.

    Showing porkers everywhere how to build brick pig houses.

    Brought in a lot of bacon, let me tell ya.

  4. At some point you must have been channeling Monty Python. 🙂

    Monty Python – Im A Lumberjack Lyrics
    I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok
    I sleep all night and I work all day
    (He’s a lumberjack and he’s ok
    He sleeps all night and he works all day)
    I cut down trees, I eat my lunch
    I go to the lavat’ry
    On Wednesdays I go shopping
    And have buttered scones for tea
    (He cuts down trees…)
    (He’s a lumberjack…)
    I cut down trees, I skip and jump
    I love to press wild flow’rs
    I put on women’s clothing
    And hang around in bars
    (He cuts down trees…)
    (He’s a lumberjack…)
    I cut down trees, I wear high heels
    Suspenders and a bra
    I wish I’d been a girlie
    Just like my dear mama
    (He cuts down trees…)
    (He’s a lumberjack…)

  5. […] challenge — Well come and see, what can YOU write with only 99 words. Please see what I […]

  6. I feel that aimlessness of endless time. With the kids at home for the last month, I struggle to just get up and do things. Whereas the school runs kept me to a deadline each day, more product within a smaller timeframe. Lockdowns are too lenient on the dreaded procrastination bug.

    I imagine your heart soared just like those pigs at the sound of “prof”. I wonder what I can conjure up. The stories so far are a delight! I look forward to the rest.

    Enjoy your second week to come, Professor Mills! I’m positively beaming with joy for you.

  7. I love this ♥️
    So happy for you and reading about your dreams coming true!

  8. Jules says:

    Prof Charli 😀

    I’ll be back with a story later than sooner. Travel plans for work for hubby got forwarded and we’re off again for a few days …

    However one of my favorite books… and you have to wait for it… the pigs flies

  9. […] Carrot Ranch August 26, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by August 31, 2021. […]

  10. Jules says:

    OK Charli, I’m back…

    Here’s my nd 8.27 Lotta Piggies in Flight

    (99 word haibun)

    Me, be an editor?! When pigs fly. Apparently the pigs are flying. I can now list on my resume that I am a co-editor of a poetry book! I’ve done my part in spell checking, design, and general co-creator! That’s what you get when two people can work together (via the internet) and encourage each other.

    like moths to a flame –
    do pigs fly when the moon’s full?
    maybe in autumn

    I’ve zoomed, zigged and zagged. Now I can sit back and cheer. Thanking all the folks who counted syllables to create enchanting verses for ‘The Moons of Autumn’.

    © JP/dh

    • I’m excited to see this collection! I’m glad you’re cheering your efforts. And what a clever idea to use the project as inspiration for the prompt too!

      • Jules says:

        Charli gave me the head start – with her flash fiction 😉

        You can actually go swimming with some pigs… ” Where are the swimming pigs? The pigs live on Big Major Cay, one of the over 365 islands in Exuma, a district of the Bahamas. Also known as Pig Beach (for obvious reasons), the island is about 82 miles southeast of Nassau, and about 50 miles northwest of George Town. It is entirely uninhabited by humans.” 🐷

      • Oh what a sight that would be! I can’t say I’ve ever seen a pig in water, though I haven’t met many pigs in the first place, I can see them though, squealing with joy, their little front feet paddling away like a dog, eyes keenly aware of their peers. They’re hugely social creatures, I hear, not far off humans on that front. Social awareness being a primary factor in the assessment of intelligence.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Jules, that island of the pigs sounds like the setting for Lord of the Flies!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Pigs are zipping all around, Jules! Good to see your spirits riding high, too. “The Moons of Autumn” will be a fabulous collection!

    • Very cool, Jules. It’s out and available?

      • Jules says:

        Not quite yet. October 1st. But I think you can pre-order for Kindle.

        “The Moons of Autumn…will be available for purchase on October 1, 2021. We’ve submitted the Kindle for pre-order and will update you on the date of availability.”

  11. If you’ve never read ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, this will mystify you, in the same way that I am mystified that you haven’t. 😉

    Four legs good, two legs bad

    As he tentatively trottered onto the plane, Napoleon ticked off another first for an upright pig. Squealer followed close behind, as always, and when they settled into their first-class seats, the hostess brought them complimentary champagne. Both pig-men were excited to be attending the first international convention of animal farmers, where Napoleon would deliver the keynote speech and covertly lobby to become their President. The plane shuddered into the sky but, after leveling off, suddenly changed course and flew towards the ocean. At the controls, a revengeful Mr. Jones was ensuring the flight of pigs would remain a myth.

  12. […] August 26: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  13. […] Written in response to CARROT RANCH Flash Fiction Challenge of August 26th — 99 words on When Pigs Fly. […]

  14. Hey, Prof, I wonder if that will ever get to feel ordinary. 300,000 cheers for you. I’m so happy you’ve landed right there. I like your daughter’s attitude to her animals too.

    Here’s the opening of my 99-word story:

    Fear of Flying course

    The registration desk is closing when I show the clerk my booking reference. After scanning my phone, she scans me. “You didn’t bring a pet?”


  15. This was fun! I submitted mine.

  16. Jennie says:

    I can feel your thrill of your new stage in life. So exciting! Of course pigs can fly.

  17. What a great first week, Charli. You had me beaming with you as I read your post. If pigs can fly (and they can), then anything can happen. You have to be there and make it happen because nobody else will do it for you. When you put yourself in charge of yourself, pigs will fly.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I agree, Hugh! In the end, we take control of the rudder and fly ourselves.

      Today I thought of you as a young man approached me after class, eyes downcast and shoving a photocopied document across my desk to communicate a disability. I asked him what his best way to learn is. He glanced up. He explained he struggled with reading and notes. I nodded and asked again. He said he had dyslexia. I said, “Me, too.” I told him how I draw pictures because that helps me process information. He said pictures were good for him. Then he spoke up that listening was good but that the college didn’t have the required reading in recorded format. I asked if they could download Audible for him. He said he’d check. I told him if not, I would make sure he got an Audible book by next class. I asked him about podcasts and he said he loved podcasts. Every week, I’ll make sure I provide a resource in a podcast format.

      I thought of you, standing beside me, encouraging me to find ways to get this young person to see he could find ways to learn. That he was worth it. I’m so proud of him for taking on college and I hope this class gives him the tools he needs to write and fly. Any suggestions that might help him?

      • Thank you for sharing that with me, Charli. I’m so pleased he came to you and talked about his struggles. He probably felt very lonely about it, if anything like I was, but he got the courage to talk to you. He has begun to break down the wall that often builds itself around people who have dyslexia. And you have encouraged him to keep trying and to find ways around his struggles.

        I’d certainly encourage him to look for support groups for dyslexic people and point him in the direction of the works of other dyslexic writers. I’d also encourage him to talk more about his struggles with reading. Something that helped me a great deal was to read children’s books and to move on to fiction for young adults when I felt I was ready to do that. I read them in private to avoid any strange looks, but these days I also read to my Great niece, who is 3-years-old on Monday. Not only do I enjoy reading to her, but it also helps me a great deal and builds my confidence with reading.

        I’m on a brief blogging break until later next week, so no piece of flash from me this week, but I’ll certainly return next week or in a few weeks time.

      • Charli Mills says:

        A support group is such a good idea. You are right on about the isolation dyslexia can create. It’s hard enough being a Freshman, let alone dealing with such an issue. What a clever way to practice reading! You are making me feel more confident about my choice of novel — a YA contemporary fiction. It’s so well-written and engaging, plus it introduces the students to the Ojibwa culture (Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley). I have lots of friends who collect and read children’s books, and of course, reading them to the Littles in our lives. That’s a great strategy for practicing reading. Thank you for your support! Have a grand break!

  18. […] Carrot Ranch August 26, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It […]

  19. I have been a terrible follower of late, but I am so pleased that you’re doing well and that the MFA *OBVIOUSLY* bore fruit! This is so fantastic. And, you know, I think it bodes well for that book you’ll publish one day. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Howdy, H. You are a great friend of Carrot Ranch. Nothing terrible about busy seasons. They are. And the pass. And yes, the MFA bore fruit quickly! A good sign, I believe. Thank you!

  20. Pig Aloft

    “Kid? Kid, where ya at?”

    “Psst! Pal. I’m up here in the hay loft.”

    “Ya sure flew the coop at this prompt. What’re ya doin’ up there?”

    “This’s a cruel an’ unusual prompt. Figgered I’d put Curly in hidin’.”

    “How in heck’d ya git yer dang pig up there?”

    “The hay elevator. ‘Cept I had it runnin’ too fast. Poor Curly went flyin’ across the mow. Now she won’t come near it.”

    “Hmmf. How now d’ya pr’pose ta git thet pig down outta thet hay loft? She’s too big ta carry anymore.”

    “I’ll figger somethin’ out.”

    “When pigs fly.”

    • Jules says:

      Might have to use a kinda rope and pully system with a biggg basket!!
      Don’t think Curly’s got wings 🙂

    • “Kid, kin ya mebbe lower her down? There’s a block an’ tackle over the hayloft doors.”

      “Poor Curly’s so upset from her elevator ride I cain’t git near her.”

      “Now whut’s all thet squealin’? Did ya catch her?”

      “No, but she’s all caught up in somethin’. Some sorta sign. Her hooves’ve gone through, she’s wearin’ this thing like a… a wing! Look out below! She’s skidded inta the wild blue! Curly’s flyin’!”

      *When pigs fly
      Aloft on good grace
      Prayer wings*

      “Landed at the Poet Tree. Hep her outta that wing.”

      “Thet wing was Shorty’s rodeo banner.”


  21. This prompt has me remembering one of my all time favorite books by one of my all time favorite authors. Chester the Worldly Pig, by Bill Peet

  22. Good for you on you life stuff your prompt made me laugh so i wandered what it would be like to land a flight of pigs

    Barnyard Air Four Three Niner this is Old MacDonald tower. Do you copy?
    Oink Oink Here
    Roger that. The winds are out of the north at two knots, we will be asking you to use runway one eight zero. That’s the one by the silo. Do you copy?
    Oink Oink There?
    Roger. The other runway is currently blocked by cows Frankly It’s just everywhere a moo moo, down here. Also be advised that Colonel Porker will want to see Captain Swine upon landing. The call letters are Epsilon, Indigo, Epsilon, Indigo, Oscar. Acknowledge
    Here an Oink There an Oink
    Laugh Well and Often!!

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

  24. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (08/26/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  25. Liz H says:

    Something to brighten your morning (I hope) or when you’re just feeling like things’ll only get better when pigs fly!

    Sometimes a Miracle!

    Maximilian munched on his last MLT sandwich. The sun set over the mesa he lived atop. Years ago, it’d split away – like magic! – as the surrounding continent had sunk under the ocean. The sheep dwindled, while lettuce, tomatoes, and wheat thrived…
    [Continue ]

  26. Liz H says:

    (Hey, was anyone else besides me NOT getting their email notices from Carrot Ranch?)

  27. suespitulnik says:


    I’m well acquainted with that “pigs flying” feeling. I’ll let Tessa explain in my BOTS flash.
    I am thrilled for you that your dreams are lining up and coming true. I enjoyed introducing you as a university professor at my Zoom meeting Saturday. The “thank you for such a good presentation” notes are mounting in my in-box. A true tribute to you and your teaching…

    Family Shenanigans

    Who said a forty-something shouldn’t feel like an excited young bride? The ladies in Tessa’s family invited her friends for a personal wedding shower. Michael’s and her sister oohed and aahed as she opened each special gift, but they held one box in reserve to be the last presented. Finally, the most elaborate paper and bow lay on the floor. Tessa held up a life-size felted pink piglet with curly tail and sparkly silver wings for all to see. She didn’t understand the present.
    The sisters exclaimed, “Michael swore he wouldn’t get married till pigs could fly!”
    Everyone laughed.

  28. Indigo Wings (Or When Pigs Fly)

    Aloysius loved to fly. Yet, he rarely stuck the feather behind his ear unless he found it absolutely necessary.

    The day he wandered into farm country, a few pigs had escaped and were being chased by a dog. Squealing in fear, they ran. Aloysius wasn’t fond of dogs either, but he wanted to help.

    Finding it absolutely necessary, the white cat put his feather on, grabbed the pigs, and tried to lift off. They were too heavy until the feather turned a deeper blue. Aloysius and the pigs rose, taking flight, sailing over the field back to their barnyard.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

  29. Norah says:

    This is wonderful, Charli. I’m so pleased you have found your happy place. But, my, you had to work hard for it and your ‘yet’ mindset aligned with your North Star to keep you on track. I love that Indiana Jones winked in support of all you’ve achieved. He would be proud of you. I loved those movies too. Your daughter’s ranch seems to be expanding all the time. How well they are doing since moving on from your now home. I didn’t know your Dad was also a writer, so that was an interesting piece of information.
    I love your flash and the pigs flying in the ferris wheel. Such fun. Popcorn can be a great incentive for almost anyone. Enjoy the carnival and continue to enjoy your new role, ‘Prof’. It’s so good to find your niche.

    • Norah says:

      And here’s my story:

      Flying Pigs
      Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?
      “We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”
      The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      You taught me that yet mindset, Norah. I remember the post you wrote and thinking how powerful “not yet” can be. And it is. I am also delighted that many of my students are expressing a growth mindset in their personal values essays. Ha! I’m craving popcorn, thinking bout it now. I enjoyed your flash of teaching inspiration!

      • Norah says:

        I know you are going to find your classes so rewarding, Charli. It is wonderful when students and teacher can grow together, learning from each other. It’s definitely a two-way street.
        Popcorn – now you’ve got me thinking about it too!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Today I walked past a display in Nikkander Hall all about cultivating a growth mindset. I smiled. And thought of that popcorn I still haven’t had. 😉

  30. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-rela… […]

  31. Beer Flights and Bar Fights

    “That your girlfriend?”

    Ignoring the two men beside them at the bar, Nard and Marge continued talking about Nard’s beer brewing projects. “I finish it in plastic 2 1/2 gallon dispensers, called pigs. I’ve got different kinds of beer going, Marge— a flight of pigs!”

    “Your girlfriend looks like a pig.”

    Just then Kristof arrived and kissed Nard.

    What those two men said next needn’t be repeated.
    They hadn’t seen Ernest also come in. Ernest lifted both those chauvinists off their barstools and tossed them squealing out the front door.

    “Bravo, Ernest! Now that was a flight of pigs!”

  32. […] This was written with the prompt flight of pigs provided by the Carrot Ranch August 26 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

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