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Sudden Storm: Flash Fiction by Cam

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Author's Note.

This was originally a response to Annart's challenge with a painting of her daughter on the beach. The story has undergone a couple of rewrites which includes a title change from Mandy Remembers to Sudden Storm. Mandy is now Maddy. I hope you enjoy the story.

Sudden Storm

The Channel is quiet today, just like it was a year ago. How can it be that a whole year has passed since I last walked in this sand? I used to come here nearly every day with my ten-year-old brother, Angus. He never minded hanging out with his big sister, Maddy. Over the last year, I’ve looked toward the water from our house and heard the breakers crashing onto the rocks during storms. The rumbling of thunder and the roaring of waves make me want to hide in my bed with blankets covering my head like a flood, crying myself to sleep. I’ve cried and slept a lot since that day.

I don’t want to remember, but isn’t that why I’ve finally come back? The water was so still and the skies so clear, I decided to take our little sailboat out for the afternoon. The Channel is narrow at the beach but grows wider until it opens up into the sea. The sailboat was moored a short distance from shore. We rowed out in a small dinghy that we kept on the beach, beyond the reach of the tide.

As I said, I’ve slept a lot this last year, but my mother is coping with things a bit differently. I do the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Mother stays in her room with the telly turned up and a bottle tipped up. She even stayed in there for my seventeenth birthday. It’s her way. I leave her to it.


Angus and I climbed into the sailboat and raised the sail. There was hardly enough breeze to move us, but eventually, we were out into the Channel, basking in the sun. There were no other boats in sight, so I drifted off to sleep. Angus spent the time fruitlessly dangling a fishing line over the edge of the boat.

I don’t know how long I slept, but Angus finally woke me because he was worried about the clouds forming in the distance. They grew higher and higher like mountains rising out of the sea. I hoisted the sail and turned toward shore.

When the boat came about, the lighthouse on the beach was barely visible against the background of trees. The wind was rising and helped us make headway. I had lost track of time, and our father would soon be home from working on the fishing boats. I hoped we’d be back on shore before he came to look for us.

The first peal of thunder was distant but shook any confidence we had that we would reach shore ahead of the storm. The first wave to come over the stern soaked both of us and flooded the boat. The wind was building and driving us so hard that I had a difficult time controlling the boom and sail. Angus steered, but I could see the fear in his wide eyes. I shouted to him that we were going to make it, but the words were swept away by wind and water.


The boat tipped to the starboard. Two hands clutched the gunwale, and our father pulled himself out of the small skiff he had been rowing and into the sailboat. He tumbled onto the flooded floor and struck his shoulder hard against the mast. I helped him onto the bench where he hugged me with his injured arm and Angus with the other. Father took down the sail, pulled out two oars and struggled against the wind and waves. I could tell his shoulder was hurting, but what else could we do?

I don’t know why Angus stood up. It could be that he wanted to help with the rowing, or maybe he was disoriented with fear. The wave took him so fast, it was as if he had disappeared into the air. My father grabbed two life preservers and was over the edge before I could scream my brother’s name.

I watched my father dive and resurface, time and time again. He had lost the life preservers, and I threw him the floatation ring attached to the boat with a rope. My aim was poor, and the ring flew wide of its mark. I pulled it back and threw it again, but my father was gone.


I stand here and look at the place where my father and brother died. I remember every anguishing, torturous detail, memories that have up to now been eclipsed by a storm cloud of guilt and shame. I’ve told myself that it wasn’t my fault, but I know that isn’t true. I was sixteen years old, and I knew about the sudden storms that could come thundering down the coast.

“Daddy, Angus, please forgive me. I love you.”

The words sound empty and taste bitter.

Before I leave this place I’ll sing a folk song my father sang to me when I was a little girl and to Angus after that.

Thou shalt have a fishy

On a little dishy,

Thou shalt have a fishy

When the boat comes in.

Dance to your Daddy, sing to your mummy,

Dance to your Daddy, sing to your mummy, sing.

Dance to your Daddy, sing to your mummy,

Dance to your Daddy, sing to your mummy, sing.

Thou shalt have a fishy

On a little dishy,

Thou shalt have a fishy

When the boat comes in.

A good memory to leave with. It’s dinner time, and I'll ask mother to join me. I miss her too.



Ann Carr from SW England on July 29, 2017:

Glad I could inspire! I'm sitting only half a mile or so from that very spot on Burnham Beach, in front of my computer writing this! I always wanted to return to this town where my daughter (in the photo) grew up.

It's one of my favourite stories too.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 28, 2017:

Ann, yes, this was a response to your challenge with the painting at the top as the only prompt. You labeled the painting, Burnham Beach, so I was able to isolate the location and view it on Google Maps. I did rewrite the story at some point to reflect some improvement in my writing skills. Actually, I could rewrite it again today, and it would be better still. This has always been one of my favorite stories.

Robert Sacchi on July 28, 2017:

I'm glad I found it.

Ann Carr from SW England on July 28, 2017:

This is great, Chris! It's a rewrite, isn't it? I seem to remember you doing this as a response to my challenge.

It certainly pulls at the heart strings. I love the verse at the end which was written about the fishing boats coming in from the North Sea, close to Newcastle -upon-Tyne. It should be sung with a rich Geordie brogue so that the word 'boat' sounds like 'boh-at'. Another line of the version I know is 'thou shalt have a fishie on a little dishie'. There was also a tv series with that title (When the Boat Comes In) written about the area, set after the war.

You've crafted this well and the last line is perfect; so much meaning in so few words. Brilliant!


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 27, 2017:

Robert, first of all, I'm glad to hear that your cousins got through that similar situation safely. I'm glad you found this story today. It is still one of my favorites. So much emotion. Thanks for stopping by.

Robert Sacchi on July 27, 2017:

A sad story about loss and guilt. My 2 cousins were in a small sailboat when there was a sudden squall. My older cousin was able to keep control of the boat and they were both safe. I kept thinking of that incident as I was reading your story. Well done.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 26, 2015:

Essie, Thank you. I'm glad you found the story touching. I appreciate the vote.

Essie from Southern California on April 26, 2015:

Another good story.....touching....voted up! :)

William Thomas from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! on April 14, 2015:

Hey, Cam! Thanks for that---you didn't have to say that. We comment on your hubs to honor you, not to fish for compliments. But thank you. Frankly, I was starting to think that story of mine was, perhaps, a bit off the mark.

But you produce real, professional-quality literary work. You are one of my top five favorite writers on this site. Frank Atanacio is one... and I forgot the other three!

Take it easy! :)

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 13, 2015:

wingedcentaur, Thanks for all you said. You know, I think someone did a damn fine job writing about a 7'4" behemoth of a woman basketball player/women's prison queen. Yes, it is a challenge to pick main characters you are totally different from. Right now my writing is one experiment after another. What works, what doesn't? Thanks again for reading.

William Thomas from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! on April 13, 2015:

Hey, Cam.

I voted this 'up' and 'beautiful.' You know, I do believe this is the first time I've ever voted a hub 'beautiful.' But it is; you did a good job of getting into the head of someone that is not like you: a young woman. But that is what good writers do: imagine what it is like to be other kinds of people, like actors in a way, I've always thought.

The part about her "missing" her mother too (who is still alive---sort of) was particularly poignant.

Take it easy.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 14, 2015:

So beautifully shared ...it seemed as if I were caught up in the moments as they were unfolding.

there seems to be an expression of an experience that has a ring of truth to it....

Well done...

Angels are on the way to you.

Voted up+++ and shared ps

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on November 21, 2014:

The mood was captured perfectly. Enough said.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 08, 2014:

Suhail.....and your dog.....:) I appreciate your heartfelt response to my story. Yes, it was emotional, even as I was writing it, I could sense the tragedy. Thank you both for stopping by and reading.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 08, 2014:

What a sad story so beautifully told. It was so suspenseful and I was caught up in the suspense. I can see why the mother is so broken and poor Maddy probably feels so responsible for her mother as much as her father and brother. But, there was nothing she could do - she did about all she could to help the situation. Really fine story to add to Ann's challenge. All the responses are so different yet all so creative and unique.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on November 08, 2014:

Wow, what an emotional story! I almost thought it happened to someone near and dear to me. Hats off on coming up with this on Hubber's Challenge.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 07, 2014:

Liesl5858, thank you for the very special compliment. Thanks for the visit.

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on November 07, 2014:

Chris, I love the way you interpreted Ann's painting in a story. You are really a very good and inspiring writer. Thank you. Voted up.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 29, 2014:

Paula, I'm glad you liked the story. and thanks for the votes and sharing. I'm jumping in to to a couple of more challenges. I've got the lid of one this afternoon.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 29, 2014:

Harishprasad, I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you for the encouraging words .

Suzie from Carson City on October 29, 2014:

Cam......You have an abundance of creativity and imagination! What a fabulous story you've presented your readers. I'd say you've certainly been successful in responding to Ann's challenge. I truly enjoyed reading this, even though my heart was broken in the end......UP+++pinned & tweeted

Harish Mamgain from New Delhi , India on October 29, 2014:

Chris, I got to read you through Ann's challenge, I'm so thankful to her. Sudden Storm that you created as a response is very creative and fantastic and all the characters are so memorable that even when I was finished reading the story, their activities resonated in my mind. The mom's character is awesome. I also love your fascinating narrating style. Great and wonderful response ! Voted up and shared.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 28, 2014:

Romeos Quill, Thank you for stopping by and reading my story. I'm still blown away by the quality of your poetry. Sorry about the sadness element regarding my story, but I suppose that's the effect I was aiming for. I look forward to seeing you around on HubPages.

Romeos Quill from Lincolnshire, England on October 28, 2014:

Quite a dramatic and striking portrayal of life at sea cam8510 ( Chris ) which read very well and could relate to this kind of tragedy living on the coast. My old dad used to be a trawlerman and he lost a few pals washed overboard in the choppy waters of the North Atlantic.

The sadness of the little girl's memories lingered long after the story finished.

Thanks for a great read and the marvellous commentary you left on my reply to Ann's challenge.

All the Best;


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 27, 2014:

The Stages of Me, Thank you for reading my story and commenting so beautifully. There have been so many wonderful stories in response to annart's challenge. This has been fun. Thanks for stopping by.

Kathy Henderson from Pa on October 27, 2014:

Great tragic story, so emotionally felt in the read. The sea is a beautiful and tortuous thing at the same time. It has brought so many across it to new places and has claimed many along the way. It's a wonder beyond words of joy and grief combined. You have brought us to a reality of its existence. Loved one's are lost so quickly when it's angry, however, even though the loss is quick, the imprint lasts forever in the weight of those left behind. Great story

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 27, 2014:

Jamie, Thank you for taking time to read and comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on October 27, 2014:

Great read. Thank you for the opportunity to get a glimpse of this fiction. Jamie

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 27, 2014:

Jennifer, thank you for reading and commenting on this story. I've been attempting to become more of a shower than a teller in my fiction, and it has been a difficult transition for me. I'm glad Maddy's grief came across as I intended.

Jennifer Arnett from California on October 27, 2014:

Chris, this is a lovely contribution to Ann's challenge and an interesting view into the different methods of grief. Everyone grieves differently and you have captured that with this family. The guilt felt by the daughter holds so much weight.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 25, 2014:

There were lots of great stories written in the challenge. I'm glad I was able to take part.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 25, 2014:

I changed the title. The other one seemed a little boring.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 25, 2014:

Thanks for reading and commenting on my response to annart's challenge. We did have an awesome prompt in that painting by annart.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2014:

Genna, Thank you so much for reading AND commenting AND sharing. I haven't had a commenter for over 40 hours on this story, so I really do appreciate it. It is a sad story. That is simply how the painting impacted me at first glance, so I went with it.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on October 24, 2014:

Such a tragic story, Cam. I‘m sitting here with tears in my eyes. This is so beautifully and compellingly written! And it truly portrays the spirit in Ann’s painting. Voted up ++ and shared.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2014:

The girl in the prompt painting, along with the surreal surroundings certainly do have an emotional effect. A writer could focus on the setting of the sun as an image of the end of life. Or the whole scene could inspire writing about beauty, love and life. The painting is very versatile in that way.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 22, 2014:

Michelle, thank you for being such a faithful reader and for taking time to comment on my story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 22, 2014:

Hi Faith Reaper, It is interesting that Ann's painting, which is so beautiful, is leading to such emotional stories of this sort. But writers have to express whatever feelings are drawn out. I appreciate you stopping by to comment. And thanks for the vote and the sharing too. I hope we have the opportunity to read your interpretation of Ann's painting......:)

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 22, 2014:

Great writing, heart-rending and painful. Loved your take on Ann's painting.

Creative and well-written.

Voted up +++ tweeting and pinning

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 22, 2014:

Hi Jo, I'm working on my next hub and saw that you just posted on my story. Thanks for those very encouraging words. Nice to see you.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on October 22, 2014:

Chris, you've really captured the feel of Ann's painting. When I look at the painting I can feel the tragedy of that awful day unfolding in the girl's mind once again. You painted a sorrowful picture and you did it beautifully. Well done!

michelle on October 22, 2014:

i think this is your best work so far, chris. excellent job!!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Randi, when I looked at Ann's painting, this story began to immediately form in my mind. I had it down on paper, rough draft of course, within an hour. Thanks for reading. I'm glad it struck an emotional chord.

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on October 21, 2014:

Intense and tragic. Beautifully done, incredibly sad.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Janet, I'm glad you connected with this story on an emotional level. For me, that is what writing is all about. Thanks for reading and responding.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

John, thank you for reading this story. It is sad, tragic and it brought tears to my eyes as I was writing. That sort of thing doesn't happen to me often. You are very kind with your compliments. Please, please write a story for Ann's challenge. I love your stories and look forward to reading.

Janet A on October 21, 2014:

It was so good Chris, and I hate reading tear jerkers. Made me think about so many things. Felt like I was there wishing I could reach out to Maddie.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 21, 2014:

Wow Cam, this was heart wrenching. Well written by a master story teller. I saw Ann's beautiful painting and am considering attempting a story. I know this is not a competition but you have set the bar so high. Well done. Voted up.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Gawth, glad you liked it.

Ron Gawthorp from Millboro, Virginia on October 21, 2014:

I liked it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Ruby, Thanks for the kind words. I really hope you are able to write something for the challenge. There is no specific deadline, so if something comes to mind, go for it.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 21, 2014:

Oh Cam, this is so sad but beautifully written. I almost felt the wave as it took Angus away. I looked at the picture and could not come up with anything when Ann gave the challenge...

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Thank you Becky, I'm glad you were able to read the story. Thanks for stopping by.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Purplepassion1, I'm glad you liked the story. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Frank, "wow" is plenty. Thank you.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Ann, thank you for the opportunity to offer my interpretation of your painting. There is so much to work with in that image.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on October 21, 2014:

So sad, and so well written.

Joanne Lombardo from Prescott AZ on October 21, 2014:

I loved it, write on.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on October 21, 2014:

wow.. this was so good Cam.. all I can type out is wow

Ann Carr from SW England on October 21, 2014:

You've done so well with this, Chris. I was crying by the end (even though I'd already seen it!). Your writing is powerful; you've not only painted an emotional picture with your words, we're right there with you in the video of that sea tragedy.

This is a brilliant interpretation of my image. Thank you so much for rising to the challenge.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2014:

Ann has provided a painting, her own, as the prompt for this challenge. I expect to see lots of emotion in the stories. Thanks for reading, Eric.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 21, 2014:

Well if sad was what you were going for,, I felt the dark creep in in the very beginning. Excellently written and tragic.

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