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November 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

The turkey roasts in the oven, a compound of sage, smoked sea salt, orange zest, cracked black pepper, and butter slid carefully beneath its skin. Every thirty minutes I will baste it with white wine, sage, and orange sauce.

Green beans and mushrooms slow cook in one crock, and French onion dressing cooks in the other. It took nearly an hour to carmelize the onions for the dressing and it will be worth the effort.

Outside on the porch, I have a second cooler thanks to the cold temperatures. The Reisling chills. Pumpkin pies I baked last night rest. The scalloped corn and candied yams wait their turn in the oven. Soon I will peel the potatoes, set out the olives and deviled eggs, and pull the Mills Family salad from the freezer.

There are two Mills for dinner. The family table set for two. I won’t linger on that thought. Instead, I focus on cooking the feast I cherished most to fix for my family.

We did get Facetime — Allison and Drew cuddling with their puppies on the farm where I will go tomorrow; Kyle and Leah at her mom’s place in Wisconsin where they are cutting backstraps from the deer my son shot this morning to the pride of his Hauck women; Brianna and full bar with 500 bottles of the best whiskey in Europe in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.

Yesterday, as I ran errands and visited friends in town, I swung through Urban Rustics for a treat — a dark chocolate peppermint mocha. The barista asked if my dog wanted whip. Sure! Mause got a cup of whipped cream. She licked every inch of that cup and then ripped it to shreds. I saved half my decadent drink for this moment. For posting a new challenge while Thanksgiving stews in its juices.

This is one of those moments when every muscle relaxes. Ahhh…! I wish I could share the savory smells and the sweet sips with each of you.

Remember, your writing needs lulls like this, too. Where you let the hard work of plotting, drafting, character development, and world-building be. You, the author, need the equivalent of the best warm drink ever. Warm enough to soothe your aching bones. Sweet enough to melt your heart. If you have been hard at projects or NaNoWrimo, let it all rest. The feast will come together after you take this moment.

For our prompt, I want to give travel writing a shot in the arm. News has focused on holiday travels in the US. A local radio station offered the lamest “tips” for what to do if your flight is canceled — buy travel insurance and don’t get upset. It was such a useless report, I wondered if travel writers have left the field after a rough year and a half of a global pandemic.

Of course, here at the Ranch, we write stories — fiction, BOTS, and even poetry. I figured we’d all have more to offer on the subject of canceled flights. Anything can happen. Maybe we’d have better tips, too.

November 25, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 30, 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.

A Relief by Charli Mills

Snow blew in horizontal lines. The gate agent assured the twenty-four passengers the flight would depart. Downstate, Clarice knew small planes as puddle-jumpers but above the Arctic Circle, they were called ice-breakers. She shuddered at unwanted images of airplanes crashing through expansive sea ice. She wrapped her arms around a worn travel bag, willing the screen above the single gate to read, FLIGHT CANCELED. Winds howled outside the Quonset hut. Clarice missed family, her cat, her university friends. Luck had landed her an internship on Baffin Island. Would her luck run out? The screen flickered. Others groaned. Clarice rejoiced.



  1. Ha! I used to wonder at important impatient people in our puddle jumper airports who were so upset when flights were cancelled. “Do you know who I am?” one outraged would be passenger demanded. Me, I figured if the pilot didn’t want to go neither did I.
    Thanks Boss. Happy restful Thanksgivings to all.

  2. No feasts in line for us Down Under, but the kids have the weekend off basketball so we can squeeze in some extra family time. We love to switch off and just enjoy each others’ company, whether we play games, cook or exercise together, we do our best to appreciate every moment and we’re grateful our kiddos are all still under one roof. Life is beautiful right now, we tackle anything life throws our way, together, and I’m thankful we’ve made it to this point with so much strength and health and love. Enjoy your feast for two, and your time away afterwards. I wonder if Mause will end up seated at the table too, I can imagine she’s hard to say no to.

    As for the prompt, I’m trying to imagine a new way to think of flight and I doubly appreciate the early prompt too! Gives me time to get it done before school pick up this arvo (currently 10:45am when I post this) and the start of the weekend.

    Hmm.. personal flight devices? VR? Low gravity exoplanet? Zero gravity space craft? Or even soaring through the ocean.. the ocean is akin to space in its abundance of mysteries. I wonder where this week’s piece will end up.

  3. floridaborne says:

    Reading your post, I had to chuckle. I was at 50,000 words by the 20th day. The book is a sequel and a lot easier to write.

    I just had a very “interesting” experience with Amazon. I’m spending $100 (my bonus check for the end of the year) to advertise one of my books, Immortal Sands. The 120 letter “blurb” was denied due to profanity. Me? Profane?

    So I asked them to show me the profanity. It was the word b- – tard (said by an angry person about the main character). I never thought that the word for an illegitimate child was considered profane these days. The “F” word? Yes, but not the B word. 🙂

    • Liz H says:

      Algorythms are rarely literate. Certainly not context sensitive. I hope they let it pass, as is.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Good job, Joelle! You use your time to draft well. Well, that’s an interesting development. I don’t think “bastard” is a legit swear word, but it can be used as an insult. Now I’m curious how profanity algorithms are created. What a pain in the rump.

    • As we would say in Aus, what a pack of mongrel bastards! Seeing that they’re OK with f-words, perhaps you could substitute ‘fitz’, a common English suffix meaning ‘bastard son of’, as in FitzGerald, FitzWilliam etc. 😉

      • floridaborne says:

        I had to water-down the sentiment. It’s a bit more like having “milk-toast” rather than a shot of whiskey, but it will do.

        However, I love “Fitz” as a swear word.

  4. No flights of fancy this week. Just a true anecdote.

    Surviving a Qantas crash

    It’s 29 October 2011 and never-crashed Qantas has grounded its entire fleet over an industrial dispute. We’ve booked with them to England for the following day, with connections and accommodation all locked in. Panic ensues and my wife and I hit our laptops to try to book with alternative airlines, only to find their sites totally overwhelmed. Miraculously, on the umpteenth try, my wife gets through to Singapore Airlines and books the only two seats left for their flight leaving next day for London. Months later we get a free ‘sorry’ trip to New Zealand. Never flown Qantas since.

    Umpteenth – Adjective used to describe an action or event that has been done, or taken place, too many times to count.

    Never-crashed Qantas – See ‘Rain Man’ movie.

    • Qantas haven’t been so great to their workforce either. Don’t think I’ll be flying with them any time soon. I’ve only flown twice, both times with Australia’s tiny, budget airline, Tiger Airways. Good enough for local flights, not sure about longer trips. LOVED the experience though, didn’t mind the lack of space, that rush of excitement on takeoff and how such a machine can just drift upon the air was enough for me. Glad you got to London and back safely in the end! That title made me fear you got caught up in a crash.

    • Charli Mills says:

      A crash that leaves you frustrated is one that lets you live to spread the word as to which airline to avoid! And thanks for reminding me how much I love the movie Rain Man.

  5. […] November 25: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot RanchIn 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  6. HI Charli, your Thanksgiving meal sounds wonderful. I hope it tasted as good as it sounds. Cancelled flights can be very stressful if you are trying to get home for Christmas.

  7. Good to see Clarice back again, Charli. I admire you cooking that elaborate meal even though there are fewer of you around the table. I hope you enjoyed it. As for cancelled flights, I can’t helping thinking that, with the Climate Emergency, that’s progress.

  8. Gloria says:

    Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Wow….that food! I smelt it and I tasted it Charli. 😋 We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Ireland. Christmas Day is our feast day. French onion dressing sounds delicious. And I like the sound of that flavoured butter slid under the turkey skin! 😯
    It’s lovely to spend these special days with family, but unfortunately that’s not always possible! We’re planning to travel to my daughters this Christmas, but with talk of another lockdown here, I’m worried that we might not! 😔
    You’re so committed to us all here, that you took time out of your busy and special day to write this post for us! Thank you.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The French onion dressing could have been the whole meal, Gloria! Todd polished it off while I was at my daughter’s farm, so I think he liked it, too. I hope you get to travel for the holidays.

  9. noelleg44 says:

    It doesn’t matter how many people are around the table – only that you enjoy cooking and eating the food and giving thanks!

  10. Ice Up

    After a mild lingering fall, winter came on fast. Maybe that’s why the loon stayed too long and was now trapped in a shrinking pool of open water.
    Skidding the canoe over the shore ice, she then paddled close and threw a blanket. She bundled the anxious bird away to a larger lake that had enough open water left for the loon to run on the surface, wings flapping until it could lift off and take flight.
    Blinking, she watched the loon disappear into the gray sky, then returned to her small chilly home. Snow was in the air.

  11. […] At Carrot Ranch the November 25, 2021, prompt is to in 99 words (no more, no less) write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by November 30, 2021. […]

  12. The meal sounds delicious and much respect for your ability to pull it all together and make it happen. Setting the oven to 425 is close to the limit of my cooking. What makes up a ‘Mills Family salad’? I’m guessing a fruit salad?

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s a skill, Michael. You could count as a kitchen helper. Ah, the Mills Family salad involves fresh grapes and canned pineapple and apricots. Then it gets un-salad-like with Jell-o, fresh lemon juice, and maraschino cherry juice. If the kitchen helpers don’t snitch all the cherries, they go into the salad along with whipping cream and…mayonnaise. The entire concoction is then placed in a 1970s green Tupperware jello mold to freeze.

  13. […] 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 theme “Cancelled Flight“ […]

  14. […] post for NanoPoblano is a double-duty post as it is also a submission to Carrot Ranch‘s Flash Fiction Challenge. Anyone can […]

  15. Transpertashuns

    “What’sa matter Kid?”
    “Jist once it’d be nice ta git a prompt that’s smooth sailin’. Was hopin’ my ship would come in Pal, but now Shorty’s got us off ta the airport. My storyin’ ideas is grounded.”
    “Really? It’s plain ta see yer given ta flights a fancy. Somethin’s sure ta take off.”
    “Writin’s hard. I keep losin’ my train a thought.”
    “Thinkin’ thet train’s gone roun’ the bend.”
    “Jist wing it Kid.”
    “Okay, Pal….
    *It was a dark and stormy night…*”
    “Keep chuggin’ Kid.”
    “*So flights was cancelled.*”
    “Yer drivin’ me crazy Kid.”
    “Roun’ the bend?”

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

  17. TanGental says:

    More tales from the annals of Little Tittweaking…

    The Balloonatics

    Godfrey Pricktingle held two important positions in Little Tittweaking society: chair of the hot air balloon club, the ‘Balloonatics’; and umpire of the spring betfest, when the village cow, Moose was released after her winter’s incarceration, enabling the residents to bet on where she would defecate first. Each year Godfrey offered to fly the winter around the village as a treat and each declined. Godfrey feared it was the smell that put people off; others worried someone might literally ‘take flight’ to avoid inhaling. In truth, the agglomeration of methane about his person rendered Godfrey a distinct fire hazard.

  18. Jennie says:

    Thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving, Charli. You always pull me into your world in the best of ways.

  19. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (11/25/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  20. Liz H says:

    So fortunate here in the U.S., to not have inclement weather for the first Thanksgiving back. Hopefully a sign of brighter days for all of us.
    Here’s my offering for this week: Canceled Flight Canceled

  21. […] This was written with the prompt cancelled flight provided by the Carrot Ranch November 25 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  22. […] weeks carrot ranch prompt […]

  23. […] 11.28 Is Death Really an Ending? 3p (CR FF, OLWG 238, QNv28 FF & poem) Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction November 25, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was […]

  24. Jules says:

    Charli, sometimes it is a good thing when a flight is canceled. Hubby used to travel quite a bit. Canceled flights are just something that happens. I think it might be scary though to be up in one of those puddle jumpers and not be able to land. That happened to a relative of mine who wasn’t used to rain.

    I couldn’t managed one piece. So there are three fiction pieces in this series all 99 words each.

    Is Death Really an Ending?

    Maureen had a legitimate reason to dislike flying. Seeing a newscast of a plane shatter when it hit the ground on the news when young didn’t help. She told her mother, “Just because I’d rather take the train to c’mon down to see you – yes I know that means less time with y’all, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

    When her Mom died she had to take a flight. Winter weather delayed it and then canceled it. Maureen took that as a sign to go home. After all, it didn’t matter to the dead body, did it?

    Maureen called her siblings. There just wasn’t any way she could make it in time for anything. Mom had been in a retirement community and didn’t have all that much left to distribute or ‘clean up’. The woman had taken care of all the ‘arrangements’ dealing with her death. So Maureen didn’t really feel bad about not showing up.

    Maureen called her siblings with regrets. They would have to deal with whatever ‘hands on’ was needed. A final cutting of apron strings, that held little comfort. That canceled flight, that could be a new beginning for Maureen ~ freedom.

    That night in her journal Maureen poetically filled the page with questions
    that she really didn’t care if they were ever answered;

    Why Me, Why Me, Why?

    Why is death something to be feared yet celebrated?
    Why do siblings flee the nest?
    Why then expect those left home to be the responsible ones?
    Why be buried in hallowed ground where no one will visit?
    Why is there a death tax, haven’t enough been paid in life?
    Why be afraid of flying when there are drunk drivers everywhere?
    Why should we honor the dead who gave us grief in life…?

    © JP/dh

    • There’s a lot in here, Jules. I’ll respond to the driving vs flying line; statistically flying is way safer than getting into an automobile, and in part because thought does go into whether or not it is a good idea. There are guidelines and checklists and people in the tower as well as the pilot. But plane crashes are just so dramatic and seem more deserved because of the hubris of taking to the air.
      As to the flashes: Maureen, it seems, took flight long ago and now a cancelled flight is giving her time and space for reflection.
      Know what they warn new pilots about? Something they call Get-Home-itus, when the desire to get where you’re going over rides common sense. It kills GA pilots and passengers. Maureen will be fine.

      • Jules says:

        My hubby has been watching this You-tube guy who is a pilot who does video’s on all things airplane related. Including some of those accidents…

        I watched one where the cabin crew got help from passengers who were retired pilots that all worked together to get the plane down safely. Listening and cooperation is key. Yep those checklists are important.

        Folks who fly far from family (I’ve had distant family like that) – well they have to work things out however they can. Real and imagined charactors just need some time and space. Thanks.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Frequent flyers would be better equipped to roll with the tides of canceled flights. Jules, I love the sequence of the three parts you entwined.

  25. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge: Carrot Ranch posed the following prompt and challenge: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does it impact and why? How does a protagonist handle the situation?” […]

  26. SueSpitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    Your Thanksgiving dinner with hubs sounds delicious. I applaud you for doing what others can not. I hope you had a restful time with your children and good family competition during the board games. We tend to swear a lot when playing together, good-naturedly of course.
    Thank you too for the hints on letting our author rest. As usual, great information. On to the prompt…

    A Letter of Regret

    To my son and granddaughter I will never get to know. It pains me to admit I have not aged well, so the travel time between our two countries is prohibitive. Though my heart desires to get reacquainted with my long-ago friend and meet my descendants, I fear the current trend of many flight cancelations has made me realize my hope to visit is unrealistic. Instead, may I ask you to send recent photos and letters about yourselves. I have included pictures of the familiar places in my life where I have imagined you sitting or walking with me.
    Note: Thad’s biological mother lives in Vietnam. She hasn’t seen Thad since he was about six months old and has never met her granddaughter, Katie.

  27. Norah says:

    Your Thanksgiving dinner sounds amazing, Charli. I’m always astounded at the effort to which you go. It think it adds even more significance to the event. Cooking with so much fresh produce, the produce for which you are giving thanks, is excellent, I think. I’ve never slow cooked anything or taken the time to cook a turkey the way you describe. For me, the most important part is the eating, rather than the cooking. It seems that for you, the eating is what happens after the cooking. I know your Thanksgiving is now days over. I hope it all went well for you and that you enjoyed all the different ways you had of celebrating.
    Your treat sounds deliciously decadent, and I’m pleased that Mause was treated too.
    In your flash, I would have been sitting alongside Clarice and hoping for that flight to be cancelled too. There’s no point in destroying all future opportunities at once. I certainly wouldn’t have been happy sitting there, wanting to be somewhere else, but not wanting to get there. Fortunately, a sensible and safe decision was made. Althought the others may have regretted the decision, we’ll never know the outcome had they decided to push ahead.

    • Norah says:

      And here’s my story:

      Flight Cancelled
      Heron balanced on one leg on the bare tree branch above the water. He spread his wings and stretched his neck to face the breeze. He revelled in the freedom of flight even before his feet lifted from their base — the exultation of gliding through the thermals. Superhero Heron — like his namesake — was ready for take-off.
      ‘Heron! Heron! Get down. This instance.’
      ‘I am. I’m flying down.’
      ‘No. You are using the same ladder you used to get up.’
      ‘You called me Heron, so I can fly.’
      ‘You will not fly today. This flight is cancelled. You are grounded.’

      • One of my favorite neighbors here on my lake is Blue Heron. So you had me with descriptions of take off– I know. Then the switch to kid– brilliant, and possibly Mom stepped in in the knick of time.

      • Norah says:

        Herons are gorgeous and I was pleased to find a picture of one to match my story. I was also delighted that Heron is used as a boy’s name and means ‘hero’. It all worked for me. If not for him. But maybe you’re right. Perhaps Mum stepped in in the knick of time. I’d love to know what becomes of Heron in the future. He might have his own space company.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It was worth all the cooking, Norah! At the farm, we had food the kids had grown from a pork roast with garlic to stuffed potatoes to delicata squash. I brought a hunk of triple cream brie that was our treat while playing games. Mause gets treated often! Yes, some flights are worth canceling! I laughed over Heron’s grounded flight! I might have had children who resembled that character.

      • Norah says:

        Your dinner sounds delicious, Charli. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it and enjoyed your games. I’m looking forward to games with my family over the Christmas break.
        I thought grounding Heron worked quite well. 🙂

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

  29. […] Written in response to: Carrot Ranch Literary Community […]

  30. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write about a canceled flight. Where was the flight headed? Who does… […]

  31. […] The Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by “Cancelled Flight”. […]

  32. ceayr says:

    Am I too late?
    It’s been that sort of week…

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