Tour of Duty

Saturday afternoons Marge steeled herself for a visit to her mother in The Home. The visits were a little easier now that Ernest went with her, but still difficult despite seeing more of her mother because of Ilene sometimes including her on their walks.

Holding hands, Ernest and Marge made their way to Betty Small’s room, both dreading the pain of the awkwardness and accusations that were sure to come. What they hadn’t anticipated was Marge’s mother having another visitor, but there was Nard, sitting and chatting away with a smiling Betty Small.

“Leonard, what a surprise.”

“Gee, Marge, what a surprise for you to finally respect me enough to use my given name, but please, call me Billy. I just thought I’d come by and cheer up my fiancé. She seemed so sad to see me go last time; thinks I’ll never return.”

“OMG, Leonard… I’ve always called you Nard because it suits a peckerhead, but…”

“Agreed, I am a wicked peckerhead, but just now, probably for the first time ever actually, I’m making a young woman happy.”

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Denise’s prompt for Six Sentence Stories this week is “agreed”.  The link up is open on Thursday. This SSS is a continuation of a flurry of Carrot Ranch responses that have continued to tell the tale of Ernest& Marge and their friends and family. This one follows BFF’s. Join the Six Sentence Story gang with your own take that includes the word “agree”. 


It’s Marge and Ilene with some backstory for the Thanksgiving dinner episode entitled Wielding and Yielding.


“Fine! Go on without me, Ilene, you and Betty enjoy your walk.”

“Marge, what’s wrong?”

“Not a thing, go ahead, go be my mother’s old dead friend Ida, I’ll walk on my own without my live friend Ilene. You two have fun.”

“Marge you’re jealous.”

“She always thinks you’re Ida, but I never know who she’ll think I am, just that it’s usually someone she didn’t like.”

“I’m sorry, Marge. Maybe I like doing things with Betty because I miss my own mother.”

“Well, I miss my own mother too, Ilene, the one that answered to Mom, not Betty.”

Wielding and Yielding


It was Ilene’s idea to include Marge’s senile mother for Thanksgiving.

“Everyone just be whoever she thinks you are. It’ll be fine.”

Fortunately she thought Marge and Ernest were her parents. Marge would wield some power.

“Betty, I think you know everyone.”

“I see Ida brought George.”

Marge smirked. Lloyd was to be her mother’s best friend’s brother; Ilene would have to keep her hands off him.

“Look who’s here.”

Nard spilled his beer when Betty Small embraced him. “Billy! You got leave!”

Marge grinned. “Yes, your fiancé.”

She could have asked Betty to mash the potatoes but didn’t.


“Make room on the couch for Betty and Billy,” Marge commanded. “Let them get caught up.” She laughed at Nard’s desperation as he helped her mother to the couch.

“I’m your father?”

“No. Billy didn’t make it back.”


“She never loved my father as much.”


When everyone in the crowded singlewide had a full plate Nard spoke, holding Mrs. Small’s hand.

“Thanks Lord for these friends and all this food. Lord, I’m grateful for Betty, love of my life… I’ll come home,” he promised.

After a moment of astounded silence Ernest coughed ‘amen’ and everyone dug in.


“Marge, Ernest- epic. Good food.”

“Thank you Lloyd. I sure do miss my mother’s mashed potatoes though. These are just ok. She did something that made hers….”


“Yeah, Lloyd, epic. I wish I knew what it was.”

“Marge, these are fine. A little garlic and rosemary wouldn’t of hurt either.”


But Marge’s mom was already Betty again, mooning over Nard. Nard’s uniform was just his cleanest Dickies from the dealership, but he was soldiering on in his role.

Leaning against Ernest, Marge smiled gratefully. “My mother hasn’t called me by name in two years.”

“Happy Thanksgiving, Marge.”


prompt-chomp.png The Carrot Ranch November 8, 2018, prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads.” Go to Carrot Ranch to read Charli’s powerful post, to enjoy more powerful potato stories from the ranch hands, or to submit your own. 

I was led to write three 99 word responses. Then I was led to write another 99 words, BFF that might clarify these episodes. If you like these characters, read more at the Ernest & Marge page


Star of the Show

At Carrot Ranch the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo is winding down and the regular weekly prompts have resumed. This week Charli’s November 1, 2018, prompt is to, “in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a festival of lights. It can be any holiday, event or moment. Express the hope of light over darkness. Or use it to highlight injustice. Go where the prompt leads.”

The prompt led me back to some characters that I haven’t heard from in a long while, back to the fold. I think I needed this family, needed to return to the comfort of their simpler time and place. Writers are fortunate; we can create gentler settings and kinder characters and happier endings if we choose. But that’s art, always Imitative; that’s not the real work. Our Work as humans is to try and write our own lives through our choices and the characters we surround ourselves with. Our free will is our candle. Choose kind. Be the Light.


Star of the Show

Hope made her guess. When her mother had incorrectly guessed Mary, Joseph, wise man, sheep, donkey, cow, inn keeper, and even baby Jesus, Hope finally told her what part she had in the Christmas pageant.

“It was my idea, Mommy! I got them to let me do my idea!”

“What, Hope? What role can possibly be left?”

Hope smiled broadly, her eyes radiating her pleasure. “The star! I’m going to be up on a ladder behind the stable dressed up like the star!”

“Do you have lines to memorize?”

“Nope. I just have to shine.”

“Oh, Hope, you do. You’re a natural.”

“Yup, our Hope is the star of the pageant. You girls get your boots on, let’s go snowshoeing.”

They hadn’t noticed him enter the kitchen, still in his boots, still dressed for outdoors.

“What? Now? It’s so dark out.”

“Maybe I have a surprise for you.”

“Ok. Let’s go, Hope. I’d rather tramp after him in the snow and dark than have to go through guessing again.”

He led them behind the house and up to the top of the meadow where the sugar woods began. Lights from neighboring farms and houses twinkled from the rolling hills that framed the frozen lake that was now an empty blackness in the moonless dark.

Below them they could see the glow from their own kitchen window.

Suddenly the cupola of their high barn lit up, beaming out over the bare trees and snow covered fields. The beams reached across to where they stood in the snowy meadow.

“Daddy! You put a star in the cupola for Christmas!”

“Think I’ll leave it throughout the long dark winter, Hope. We’ll shine our light every night.”



Rodeo #5: Sound and Fury

Here it is, the final Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo contest. Check it out and ride. Also, the Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio contest continues. Air your talent!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

A Flash Fiction contest by D. Avery
Co Judges: Bonnie Sheila and the Amazing Educator


Sometimes fear, respect, and awe are the braids of one rope. Sometimes that one rope is all a buckaroo has to hang onto. Your flash should never let go of that rope.

Think of a dangerous situation that people willingly engage in. It need not be heroic with a heroic outcome for it is ill-advised to sit down on a bull or to run with them charging down the same narrow street. But people do. Why? Explore the motivation for the character; how did they come to be in this situation?

A high scoring bull rider stays on an athletic bucking spinning bull for eight seconds after exploding out of the chute. They are dance partners, with a grace that is gritty and brutal. The rider holds that braided rope for dear life…

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This Six Sentence Story, hosted by Denise of  GirlieOnTheEdge, is a continuation of an earlier Six Sentence story entitled “Crunch“. Do go to GirlieOntheEdge’s Blog to read the other stories and to link up and enter your own. The prompt word this week is “up”. 


When our mom finally rose from her seat to take a break from her bedside vigil, I expected my brother’s trickery to be revealed by a crooked smile.

“Ok, she’s gone, you can knock it off now; you got me. Just say something already, tell me how you won the match because I’m such a dumbass.” I sat up in my chair in the corner of the cramped hospital room, watchful for any sign of deception, but his waxen face remained inscrutable and still, attached yet separate from the steady heaving drone of the respirator.

Mom returned and told me that decisions would have to be made and that she didn’t have the strength to make them, that I would have to be the one to tell the doctors when to remove the tubes and wires. While she wept inconsolably I pleaded with my brother to just get up, told him he’d won; he’d won again.

The Fire Escape


Here is my final recycled 297 word response to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo’s TUFF Contest prompts, this one “scars from climbing” posted on September 1st. To see the  winners  of the TUFF competition go to Carrot RanchCatch up  on this month’s weekly rodeo contests .



“Shouldn’t you be heading home? It’s a school night.”

The bartender was only half joking. Dan the Man was starting to get into form, transforming from mild mannered English teacher into righteous undiscovered literary genius.

“Take this bottle here,” he said. “A perfect metaphor, is it not? A container. Holding the distillations and fermentations of dreamers and schemers alike. Now watch.”

He swilled the contents, draining the bottle.

“The action is in the bottleneck, all that lovely liquid swirling, backing up on itself, wanting to be free, rushing to escape.”

All of Dan’s swilling gave him the confidence to extend his metaphor in an inappropriate direction, causing another patron some discomfort.

“Go home Dan.”

Complying, Dan left the bar and navigated the walk to his apartment building. Dan the Man though, was not quite ready to turn in, school night or not. On this half-moonlit night he would climb the fire escape to his apartment, where he would have another beer outside his third story window, a place Dan imagined to be inhabited by his muse.

He managed the leap up to catch the first platform, scraping his palms on the rusty metal, banging his knee as he pulled himself up. When further in the ascent he stumbled, his hand coming down on the jagged edge of a bottleneck, Dan sobered up enough to laugh at the irony and enough to feel badly about his behavior in the bar. He clambered through his window, dripping blood to the sink where he washed up. That gash would leave a scar. What story would he tell about this wounding tomorrow?

Maybe he’d stumbled onto his novel; a sad tale about a wanna be who was nobody, a pitiful character destined to bear the scars from climbing and getting nowhere.

Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio

From rodeo to radio, for a good olde tyme go to Carrot Ranch. The contests are never easy but always free.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Waves surged relentlessly against the craggy rocks of Eagle Harbor where I went to write for a few days as a guest of Keweenaw historian, Barb Koski. It was mid-October, and the gales of November had come even earlier than when the Edmond’s Fitzgerald went down. Barb’s expertise in maritime history focuses on the heroics of the surfmen — those who went out into the wind-driven swells in small boats to rescue the crews of large ships.

Like Barb, many who live, work or attend secondary education on the Keweenaw Peninsula fall in love with the area’s natural beauty and endless outdoor activities. Barb showed me many natural wonders and historic structures during our getaway. If you spend any time outdoors on the Keweenaw, you can’t escape the area’s bold history of industrial copper mining.

In 1885, Michigan Tech University founded Michigan Mining School. From 1886 to 1889…

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Graphic Litter-a-ture

“Are those crates of comic books in the back of the El Camino?”

“Those aren’t comic books Ernest, those are Illustrated Classics, all the books a person should’ve read, but in a way you can expect them to actually read. Marge just hauled these up out of my mother’s basement for me; she’s had these since I was a kid.”

“Yeah Ernest, Ilene feels like she needs to brush up on her litter-a-ture now that she’s dancing with the literati himself, good old Mumble-mouth Lloyd.’

“Ilene, is being well read part of Lloyd’s requirements, or yours?”

“Mine alone Ernest; Lloyd reads me well, but he doesn’t write me.”

***   ***   ***

six sentence story copy

By now we all recognize these characters but for a refresher go to their page HERE for their full story. We also recognize the iconic book cover to the left, indicating another Six Sentence Story prompt from Denise at girlieontheedge . This week’s prompt is “classic“. I also included last week’s prompt, “requirements” to make up for missing last week.


Rodeo #4: Fractured Fairy Tales

Norah Colvin is leading an enchanting rodeo event at Carrot Ranch. Try your hand at a fractured fairy tale. No entry fees, a chance at winning and guaranteed fun.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

A Flash Fiction contest by Norah Colvin
Co Judges: Anne Goodwin and Robbie Cheadle

Do you love fairy tales? Chances are, unless you are a parent or grandparent of young children or an early childhood educator as I am, you may not have encountered a fairy tale for a while. Well, I am about to change that by asking you to fracture a fairy tale for the fourth Carrot Ranch rodeo contest. [READ MORE…]

For insights and tips from the contest creator, read Norah’s Post, “Once Upon a Rodeo Time.” For word count, use Microsoft Word or Be aware that punctuation and word-hyphens can change your word count so run it through one of those two counters.

Norah Colvin is an Australian educator, passionate about learning and early childhood education especially. She has many years’ experience in a variety of educational roles. She currently blogs about education…

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