CRLC Challenge; Office

The Carrot Ranch, June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 15, 2021. Use the comment section 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.

High Rise

The little kitchen table was still flanked by three mismatched chairs. ‘For Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear’ he used to say.

He imagined his daughter, all grown up now, sitting in a fancy leather swivel chair in a high-rise office building overlooking the city. Or he imagined she might even be in a director’s chair in one of the studios— more likely, creative as she was.

He made trips to the city. He couldn’t imagine her hunkered on a sidewalk.

But he looked. And worried that after all these years he wouldn’t even recognize his Baby Bear.

CRLC Challenge; Naked Gardening

The May 20, 2021, Carrot Ranch prompt is to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by May 25, 2021. Use the comment section at Carrot Ranch 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.


“I’m too fat!” 

She didn’t think so, though it was hard to tell through Amanda’s bulky clothes.

“Amanda, it’s your choice, but remember, part of World Naked Gardening Day for us has always been about being comfortable with our own bodies, of celebrating the naturalness of them.”

Maybe Amanda also craved the normalcy that the unusual family tradition offered because she eventually did join them.

How had she not noticed?

Keeping a brave face through the planting, trying not to stare at the sharp collarbone and raised ribs, she determined to call their physician regarding anorexia that very day.

CRLC Challenge; partying hens

From Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch, the May 6, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about party hens. Who are these chickens and why do they party? Go where the prompt leads! Turn yours in by days end tomorrow.

Flying the Coop

“Where you going now?” he squawked. “Let me guess, another one of your ridiculous groups. Book talk? Stitch’n’bitch?”

She scratched in her purse for her keys. “If you must know, a life changing decision’s been made. A bunch of us are gathering to celebrate.”

“Hmmf. Well fine, go to your hen party, I’m sure I’ll find something to eat. Don’t worry about me.”

“I won’t,” she clucked, and shut the door behind her.

“Don’t be out with those biddies too late!” he crowed after her.

“The cocky good-for-nothing,” she cackled. “Can’t imagine it’s me we’re celebrating. That he’s cock-a-doodle-done!”

CRLC Challenge; Hit the Road Jack

The Carrot Ranch Literary Community April 29, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads!

Hapless Jack

Like a hapless fairy tale Jack he was always certain his luck would change, that things would work out for the better.

But the perfect job always fell through, usually after a heated argument with his boss. Or he’d quit to pursue some entrepreneurial scheme. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,” he’d say. But the scheme would fail.

“Next time,” he’d say. And he’d smile that smile and tell Jill no matter what, she was his princess. Once more they’d pack up. “Time to hit the road, Jill.”


Jill sighed. How much longer would she go stumbling after?

CRLC Challenge & SixSentenceStory

I’m a little late, but not too late for this week’s Six Sentence Story. The prompt word is pawn, and I almost let the living chess idea go, but then the Carrot Ranch prompt to use the phrase “hit the road jack” was the extra impetus for the following six-sentence 99-word story. Thank you Denise, host of Six Sentence Stories, and Charli Mills, 99-word guru buckaroo.

Fair Game

Live chess, with human pieces; Roman had expected blunders but this, the pawns refusing to move, was beyond the pale.

“We serve no king!”

Except for the short-lived knights, everything was in gridlock, and though the opposition moved cautiously, it was over for the king’s court quite quickly.

Roman clambered down from the platform and stalked onto the chessboard to confront his pawns, only for them to tell him what he had already witnessed— they would not advance, even in their own defense.

Roman watched his white pawns turn and applaud the black queen’s demand.

“Hit the road Jack!”

CRLC Challenge; Earthing Revisited

This is another response to the Carrot Ranch Literary Community April 22, 2021, prompt to write about “earthing”. I had posted what I thought of as two separate flashes in response to the prompt, but some readers saw them as being related and the same character. So here is a third (actually fourth) take on the prompt. This one combines the two ideas into one story and is less violent. I think this is more of what I had wanted to write in the first place. So thank you Chel Owens, for once again sending me back to the drawing board.

The Gardener

In the moonlight she knelt and breathed deeply of the sweet loamy air. The rich earth never failed to soothe her. Her garden was her oasis.

She straightened the ceramic sign, ‘Bloom where you’re planted’.

“Have to grow to bloom,” she thought. “Takes the right soil and light.”

Her garden was her oasis and her marriage a desert, with extremes of heat and cold, and violent unpredictable storms.

She squeezed a handful of soil. For him, a note on the counter. For her garden, a whispered goodbye in the moonlight.

She rose up, brushed herself off, and moved on.

The Carrot Ranch Literary Community April 22, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about earthing. Put a character’s hands, feet or body and soul into the earth. Who needs recharging? What happens between the interaction? Go where the prompt leads!

CRLC Challenge; Earthing

The Carrot Ranch Literary Community April 22, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about earthing. Put a character’s hands, feet or body and soul into the earth. Who needs recharging? What happens between the interaction? Go where the prompt leads!

Two unrelated takes from me, one dark one not.


“You wanna get up and run some more?”
He struck her again. She fell to the ground.
He stood over her. “Did you really think you could get away from me?”
Leaf mold pillowed her broken jaw. She couldn’t answer if she’d wanted to.
“You.” He kicked her.
“Will not.” Kicked her again.
“Get.” Kick.
“Away.” Kick.
“From me.”
Then he staggered back to the house, left her where she lay.
Stretched flat against the cool earth, she breathed in the sweet musty air. She reached her fingers and toes deep into the soil. She gathered strength, gathered courage.


The raised beds were filled with rich well-drained loam that she tilled and prepared for planting. Carefully she marked rows and sowed seeds. She nurtured the seedlings; diligently thinned, weeded, mulched and watered her growing greens and vegetable plants. All the raised beds were lush and verdant, except one.
One bed remained unplanted, though it was also carefully cultivated, its dark friable soil sun warmed.
“Welcoming,” she felt.
Only she knew that she planted that bed every day. Planted herself; then rose up, brushed herself off, raked the bed smooth, always leaving the garden feeling refreshed, smelling of earth.

CRLC Challenge & SixSentenceStory

A two part response to the April 15, 2021, Carrot Ranch prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that seeds generosity. Who is generous and why? Think of generosity as planting a future outcome. Go where the prompt leads!The second part is 99 words and six sentences for Denise’s Six Sentence Story prompt, “walk”.

A Good Fit

“You’re very kind, but you don’t need to buy me clothes.”

“I expect reimbursement. I’m not that generous. But I saw these pants and thought they’d look good on you. Try them on.”

“They fit just like all my slacks— no slack. Ugh. Just break out the ice cream. I give up. I’ll be a size 14 forever.”

“That’s less than16. Plateaus happen. Besides, look at the tag— 12! You’re going down, Girl.”


She smiled, knowing that this “success” would motivate her friend in her weight loss efforts. It had been worth her effort in changing the tag.


“Forget the ice cream, it was too long a battle getting down to these size 12’s, I don’t want to lose ground; let’s go for a walk while you’re here.”

To her surprise, her friend set a faster pace than usual.

“You’ve got some real pep in your step today!”

“Be honest, do these pants make my ass look fast?” and she walked even faster, breaking a sweat. “Maybe I should buy them in another color.”

“Um, you know what, I am feeling generous after all and so in celebration of your success, the next pair is on me.” 

#SixSentenceStory; Home

It’s Wednesday, Six Sentence Story link up day, with the word of the week being “home”. Use that word or some form of it in exactly six sentences between now and Saturday. Find the linky at Denise’s GirlieOntheEdge blog. This Six is also in 99 words, the form used at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community for their weekly flash challenge. I’m too late for the recent “swift passage” challenge but it helped me here. Speaking of the Saddle Up Saloon at Carrot Ranch, there are now poetry challenges to be sampled there every first and third Monday, each open for a month, and this Monday, the twelfth, our own Clark Farley will be interviewed by fictional characters Kid and Pal.


Guides met me right away, with assurances of swift passage and a guaranteed berth. They would have preferred I take their advice but they have to honor the wishes of their charges and I’d made a promise to myself and to my family.

And so I am not where the guides advised me to go but neither am I where so many others, in stunned and stubborn denial, remain.

No. I promised those I love that I would come home.

I’ve been mourning my decision though, for I’m learning that we ghosts feel more haunted even than the living.

CRLC Challenge; Escape

Rumi said,  “You have been released from ten successive prisons/ Each larger and containing the last.”  (Coleman Barks translation)

I thought of that quote when I saw the prompt for the Carrot Ranch challenge this week. I used it in one of my poems in Chicken Shift, where escape is a recurring theme.

It’s a great quote; at it’s worst, escaping the pan for the fire; at it’s best, a comforting delusion of linear progression.

But here we are.

            “Here’s the pisser, here’s the catch

            Any one could peck the latch.”

And then where are we?

Here. Alone together.


Charli’s post and prompt led me back to Robert, my fictional Civil War vet.

Did he imagine as a seventeen year old farm boy that going off to fight the Rebels would be an escape from the Vermont farm, or simply an escape from the perceived limits of childhood? I had some vague idea of showing Robert back on the farm trying to escape his memories of the war through hard work but the flash went differently and upon completion had no mention of “escape” other than stalled development. So I cheat, and use the prompt in the title.


No Escape

She wiped her eyes with her apron when he came through the gate. Standing awkwardly with her, his eyes rolled quickly over the headstones, finally settling on his own feet. “You’re mourning the young’uns?”

“No. That’s past.”

A thrush called. He looked at her tear stained face, waited.

“I’m mourning Robert.”

“Robert? He’s home Anna. We haven’t lost our oldest boy.”

“He’s not the boy he was.”

“He’s a man now.”

“He’s a broken hurt child. You must see that it’s Thomas, all of seven, looks out for him. I’m mourning the man that our Robert will never become.”


With no argument left, he embraced his wife and mourned with her, allowing his own tears to fall for Robert’s pain, witnessed only by her and the granite markers of their other lost children.

Walking together back to the farmhouse they met Robert carrying a bundled rag.

“What is it Robert?”

“Mice. From the kitchen.”

“Oh, just kill them!” Anna instantly regretted her command, but Robert smiled forgiveness.

“A mother and pink babies. Surely you could allow them to live in the stonewall.”

“Anna, maybe our boy isn’t the man we’d expected. He’s different. But he’s a good man.”