April 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

April 27, 2016

April 27It’s a season.

Watching mason bees bob from flower head to flower head, I see the symbiotic relationship of life unfold beneath my seat in the grass. Life is full of the unexpected. Life is full. As a writer, we must drink it all in, the colors, scents, sounds and yes, even the stings.

Dandelions provide balm beneath a sky half torn between sunshine and clouds.

Thus I have felt torn between one place or another; one choice or another. And yet I write. Writing is an act, an empowering one. As lead buckaroo at Carrot Ranch I’m reminded what a community can do. Many thanks to the ranch hands posting guest posts; the Rough Writers carrying on in reading, writing and commenting, and the friends who show up to join in or read. I’ll be back next week. For now, I hand you over to Rough Writer, Anne Goodwin, who is about to take you all on a journey this week. Carry on!


Showing someone round: Carrot Ranch guest prompt 28th April by Anne Goodwin

Writers are especially curious about other people, always alert to the variety of ways in which a character reveals their quirks. If we’re lucky, we can stamp our personalities on the places in which we live. On that basis, who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to nose around someone else’s home, scrutinising their bookshelves, peeping into drawers?

How many of us believe, as does Hildy Good, the protagonist of Ann Leary’s novel The Good House, “I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions”? I’m surprised that, given their creative potential, she’s the only fictional estate agent I’ve encountered on the page. But I’ve given one minor role in my second novel, Underneath, currently undergoing its final edits, in which a house with a cellar is the setting for some disturbing goings-on.

The opening of stately homes to the public affords an opportunity to pry into the past in a way that can feel particularly personal. In the UK, visiting National trust properties is a popular weekend pastime – although I’m sure part of the attraction is the quality of the cakes. I live only a walk away from a fine Elizabethan mansion famous for its tapestries (although the nineteenth century workhouse an hour’s drive away feels a better fit with my assumed heritage). Any connection to a famous figure, however spurious, brings in the tourists. Last weekend, to mark the author’s bicentenary, I was helping out at the open weekend of North Lees Hall in the Peak District National Park, thought to be Charlotte Brontë’s inspiration for Mr Rochester’s house in Jane Eyre.

But back to our ordinary houses, is it as much fun to show prospective buyers around a home as it is to do the snooping? I guess it depends on the circumstances. When my then partner was working weekends, and in the process of selling his house to move in with me, I used to enjoy cycling over to his place to show someone around. But I’ve seen the other side of this in the trauma of a house for sale because the couple is getting a divorce. And, in different but equally painful circumstances, we’ve all felt for Chief Buckaroo, Charli Mills, having to suffer people looking around the rented home she doesn’t want to leave.

With so much on her plate right now, the Rough Writers have been rallying round to maintain the ranch routines. So I’m proud to follow Lisa Reiter and Norah Colvin into the ring with my own guest prompt. You’ve probably guessed it already, I’m inviting you to compose a 99-word flash on the theme of showing someone around a property. Who’s showing whom, and how do they feel about it? Is it a country house, a garden shed or something in between? Is it even a building or is it a piece of land or a virtual property like website or blog? Don’t let your imagination be constrained by four walls.

If you’re new here (and if so, you’re most welcome), you might want to check out the rules. If you’re a regular, you know the drill, post here by 3rd May 2016 to be included in next Wednesday’s compilation. Meanwhile, here’s where the idea took me:

The renter’s revenge by Anne Goodwin

Oops, should’ve warned you about that low beam. It’s not normally a problem, though one friend got concussion, but that was yonks ago.

Don’t worry about the damp in the spare room; it dries out completely in summer. Though I should mention my grandson developed asthma after sleeping there.

Oh, those? Yeah, for the rats; you stop thinking it’s cruel after a few sleepless nights with them scurrying through the loft.

Well, nice to meet you too, and sorry it’s not the kind of place you’re looking for. I hope nothing I said put you off.

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  1. Deborah Lee

    Love the renter’s revenge! That must be so tempting, Charli.

    • Annecdotist

      Thanks, Deborah, I certainly had Charli in mind when I wrote my flash, and even considered calling it Charli’s Revenge, but I thought she would be far too moral to play that game!

      • Deborah Lee

        I wondered! Nice. Very nice!

    • Charli Mills

      The Hub is getting good at this and he sticks to facts — cheerfully chatting about the number of trains that lumber by daily, the future highway expansion and the real age of the house. Great flash Anne, made my day! Thank you for your help this week!

      • Annecdotist

        Brilliant, hope he lays it on thickly!

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Ack! I missed Norah’s ‘circles’! Well, perhaps I’ll incorporate one into this week’s theme. So nice to see you here, Anne. 🙂 And fantastic prompt.

    • Annecdotist

      Glad you caught this one, Sarah, and I’m sure you’ll manage to show someone round in a circular path – I actually didn’t see that connection when I thought of the prompt!

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Anne! That flash is hilarious! 😀 What a fabulous job on the dialogue there. I’m laughing out loud (and trying to be quiet as it’s almost midnight here).

      • Norah

        You did very well to combine both prompts in one brilliant piece. Well done, Sarah.

      • Annecdotist

        I agree with Norah, that’s a brilliant integration of the prompts.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂 I had a darker idea but couldn’t do it justice before it was due here today. This one was fun to write.

  3. Norah

    Yes, Anne, great prompt. I’m sure if Charli thought such behaviour was to her benefit, she’d have tried it already. Love your flash. Devilishly humourous. “I hope it wasn’t something I said.” Yeah right. Sadly, while I’m sure these words were intentional, I know people who make similar statements without any awareness of the effects of their words. I’m looking forward to joining in.

    • Annecdotist

      Thanks, Norah, and I look forward to your contribution. I just hope I can keep up with the comments here as well as you and Lisa did. I’m reminded of Charli’s turquoise boots – and I think it was you who asked for the photograph – but those are some impressive shoes to step into!

      • Norah

        They are impressive, Anne, and I have no doubt that you will wear them well. )

      • Charli Mills

        You’d look great in turquoise boots!

    • Charli Mills

      This is in line with the Hub’s sense of humor. And he sticks to the facts so he’s speaking truth. I can’t help but honestly say I love the place.

      • Norah

        It makes me so sad just thinking about your leaving it. It’s nestled firmly in your heart.

  4. elliotttlyngreen

    Hello Anne! Hello Charli! Hello Ranch!

    Fantastic writing. Writers also ask too many questions. But just One question; what does ‘yonks’ mean?

    I am precarious to be the first story… but thats me. Jumping the gun I poured my heart onto the virtual page and tried to introduce you around to my little world. Hope it does not bore or is a place you are not looking for…or do not want to see.

    Here is my participation for your prompt and this weeks invitation.


    • elliotttlyngreen

      Forgot pictures. Wups. Now its ready.

    • Annecdotist

      Thanks for pitching in, Elliott, and congratulations on being the first! Enjoyed your pictures – it’s good to look at our worlds in all their different guises.
      Yonks means a long time, as in “ages ago”! It’s always fascinating connecting with English speakers around the world and coming up against words and terms in common usage in one country that are completely incomprehensible in another. Our use of language is yet another way of showing a person around our place.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        I dont know about incomprehensible. i usually just plug in a definition that fits. I was close. But a good use of ‘slang’ can open up worlds. You grasp the feeling. I would rather read and write using ‘slang’ but its so unprofessional i hear. You can never tell these days, i thought maybe it was an autocorrect lol.

      • Annecdotist

        Actually, that you’re closer to the mark than you think – I rely on voice activated software which often mangles my words. Obviously I always check them over but howlers can sneak through when I’m in a hurry.
        As for slang, I think it can lend authenticity to the voice when used appropriately, but it’s a gamble. We don’t want to confuse readers.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Indeed we dont want to confuse. Its in attempt to educate or capture the story. I never aim to confuse but i do at times miss a very important word or grammar that just ruins everything. And currently working on something idk what its going to be but it utilizes code, like compter commands but no one seems to like it or understand it. I just dont hav a flair for simple. And too many sentences come out before the one i was intending to get to… i am forever editing.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s an interesting topic — slang, regional dialect, national differences between a so-called common language. I believe language is a living, breathing thing. I get Anne’s point about clarity, yet I also find Elliott’s pushing slang as something like creative code to be exhilarating. I’m puzzled by some words or phrases but find the discovery of clarity to be an experience.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        I write 500 words to get a ‘howler’, anne. (may hav to steal that sometime. Its a great title maybe..) Standing alone, more effective than a long explanation, when the turn of a world with one word finds clarity… the confusion though, that is why i began writing. And the defining of a different perspective. I look for unusual terms. Anyways, i look forward to the writings from across the pond. Like wikepedia we could provide them as links…? Maybe ???? thanks for the prompt. Another successful week of tremendous inspiration here.

    • Charli Mills

      Hello Elliott! You are an unfolding mystery full of poetic views of hard angles and overlooked nature in unexpected places. I’m enjoying that I get to see your world unfold one flash fiction at a time.

      • elliotttlyngreen

        Yea i want to rip open the curtain.. let the speakers hit the fan. I know its there. I am enjoying this group. Quite a difference these flashes; solid and direct. Everyone clearly knows what they want to tell, or show. They are so beneficial to literature itself. We will be heard.

  5. denmaniacs4


    “Dobbs, fancy a drink?” the Banker asked.

    I was tempted and not a little thirsty.

    Outside, hyenas were on the prowl.

    “Why not,” I said.

    He found two glasses and poured us some whiskey.

    “Take a look out my window, Dobbs.”

    I stared through the dirty glass.

    The feverish daytime street had blackened into a shadowy tableau.

    Screams of drunken debauchery screeched in the air.

    Shots rang out.

    “THIS…this was MY town once. My people had a good life. A hard life, maybe, but they prospered. So did I.”

    “And now?” I asked.

    “Caldwell has sucked out our soul.”

    • Annecdotist

      Oh, that’s sad! Sometimes our communities change for the better, sometimes they deteriorate. You captured that decline and sense of betrayal so well in your flash. Thanks for responding so promptly to the prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      I was thinking the Banker was the Black Hat, but seems we have yet to meet the snake in this western. Great set up — pondering the drunker debauchery over a gentlemanly glass of whiskey. Like life, prosperity lies in the balance.

  6. Gulara

    Fabulous post, Anne! And an inspiring prompt! So inspiring that I’ve just written mine 🙂 Thank you very much!

    • Annecdotist

      Hurrah, I look forward to reading it.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m happy to see new flash fiction at the ranch!

  7. Sherri

    Ha! Great flash Anne, I’ll be back, I hope…blogging time continues on a go-slow. Love your prompt and the quote from The Good House and I agree, estate agents make for great writing fodder, across the board! I know the pain of selling a house because of divorce and of having to give up a home, rented and owned and it hurts deeply. Charli needs all the support we can give her during this time, thank you for giving her yours by taking the reins this week.
    Charli, just want to say to this: ‘As a writer, we must drink it all in, the colors, scents, sounds and yes, even the stings.’ Too true, too true <3

    • Annecdotist

      Look forward to reading your flash, Sherri.

    • Charli Mills

      Here’s to days of bee-dandies, full of life to give our words meaning! It’s difficult to walk through muck, but I realize there’s more gifts in doing so than a life time of muck avoidance. Thank you for your behind-the-scenes support and the beautiful card!<3

      • Sherri

        Bee-dandies make life smile again 😀 <3

    • Annecdotist

      You’ve dealt with the prompt swingingly, Larry – if that’s a suitable golfing term!

      • Larry LaForge

        Yes – That term is definitely up to par!

    • Charli Mills

      You always show up to the green, Larry! Thank you!

    • Annecdotist

      Wonderfully spooky, Jane, and a great take on the prompt.

      • Jane Dougherty

        Thanks Anne 🙂

    • Norah

      Love it, Jane. Seriously scary.

      • Jane Dougherty

        Sometimes it’s good to write about the dark side 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good creep factor to add to the collection!

      • Jane Dougherty

        Reptiles, some of them.

    • Norah

      It’s a great post, as usual, Anne. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      This has felt strange for me, too although I’m seeing the benefit of stepping outside one’s comfort zone. I’m returning with a strengthened resolve and a tremendous appreciation for this community.

      • Annecdotist

        Enjoyed stepping in, but lovely to have you back, Charli

  8. Pete


    On a sunny Sunday just before two, the doors opened by way of the bank-owned key from the lock box.

    They came in pairs, poking around in closets and bedrooms, asking about square footage. A faint warmth clung to the living room. Notches and dates climbed the kitchen doorjamb. A tree house in the backyard and a faded Child Finder sticker on an upstairs window. Plenty of space, but no interest.

    At four, the realtor left her card on the counter and locked up. She thought paint might help. Anything to help the house let go of its family.

    • Annecdotist

      That’s great, Pete, another spooky one – and I love that last line.

    • Norah

      It almost feels like the house has consumed the family. You say plenty of space. Looks like there’s no space for anyone else though.

    • Annecdotist

      I like this even more now having just started reading a novel which fits this story perfectly!

    • Charli Mills

      A family that loves the house shows. Ah, thank you for this flash. It expresses so much, understanding the hardships of many, many families.

  9. Kerry E.B. Black

    My thought on the theme.

    Foggy Friend word count: 99
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Helen followed the frog as it hopped beneath plants not-yet grown into their foliage, fascinated by the little thing’s movements. New to walking, Helen toddled, entranced by her new friend. For its part, the amphibian seemed to wait until the child caught up, leading a merry tour about its home.
    Her lips formed rosebuds when it went afield. “Foggy.”
    Mud squelched around her Robeez, holding with greed.
    Helen tugged but freed only her foot. She left the shoe to continue after her willing quarry, a memento for a mother who should have kept better track of a darling girl.

    • Annecdotist

      Ha, a frog showing a child around, what a great take on the prompt! I love that phrase “new to walking”, telling us what we need to know about Helen’s age. But I hope her mother does catch up with her – the frog might be friendly but will she be happy feasting on slugs and grubs?

    • Norah

      Ooh, I fear for Helen. I don’t like the sound of “a memento for a mother who should have kept better track of a darling girl”. It is sad. How many tragedies occur when children are out of sight for such a short while. There was another toddler drowning here yesterday. The toddler wandered into a neighbour’s yard and drowned in their little garden pond. So tragic.

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        Oh, that is awful. Poor little souls.

      • Annecdotist

        You’re right, Norah, it can happen so quickly, even with the offspring of quite vigilant parents. You see, I thought the frog was so nice it would see her safely home, but that’s not the only way to read it!

      • Norah

        Your ending was much nicer than mine. i guess always having the responsibility for watching over the safety of children makes me interpret it this way. It would be interesting to know what Kerry intended.

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, I’m so sorry for your community’s loss! That is so tragic, and yes, it can happen so fast.

      • Norah

        Thanks, Charli. It was tragic. I’ve just re-read my comment and realised I may have indicated it was my neighbour. It wasn’t, but it is no less sad and tragic.

    • Charli Mills

      Curiosity of the innocent. At some point we grow up — to be the mother left with only the clue of a shoe, or the grown child with the memory of the foggy adventure we once had.

    • Annecdotist

      An original take on the prompt, Gulara, and a great flash.

      • Gulara

        Thank you for your kind words, Anne, much appreciated. Thank you for such fun prompt!

    • Norah

      Yes, great response Gulara. I commented over at your place.

      • Gulara

        Thank you so much, Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for adding your insights to the ranch! Your flash is one of insight.

      • Gulara

        Thank you for a warm welcome, Charli.

  10. Ula

    I see my post got linked up already. So nice to see you taking the reigns this week, Anne. These last few prompts have helped me tremendously in getting through the A to Z challenge. Here’s this week’s flash: http://urszulahumienik.com/z-is-for-zomp/

    • Annecdotist

      Great flash, Ula, and always impressed when it serves two propmts — as well as a new word for most of us1

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Ula! Glad to see you fulfilling double duty on your A-Z challenge.

  11. julespaige

    I’m moving slow this week… wrote it but just posting today.

    Thanks Anne for helping out Charli! I hope you enjoy:

    Gotta Start Somewhere

    We decided to look for a small starter home before we
    married. And that is what we found. “Balloon Construction”
    means no insulation in the walls. Because at one time the
    over eighty year old bungalow on a “Postage Stamp”
    (very small) lot was heated by the coal stove in the basement.
    Heat rose up through the hollow walls.

    The two bedrooms were barely able to fit a double bed and
    a single dresser. Each bedroom had one closet that had been
    added on and took up precious floor space. For eighteen
    months we called that building our home.


    The post link is here:
    Gotta Start Somewhere

    • Annecdotist

      Not too slow, Jules, and a great reminder that even the simplest places can provide the security of home.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, a starter home! Hard to start over. 😉

  12. A. E. Robson

    The things you share with your best friend. Wishes, Grief, Love and Secrets.

    Secret Room
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “I don’t want to go in there? It’s old and decrepit.”

    “No it’s not. You’ll see!”

    Brandi grabbed her best friend’s hand and pulled her through the open doorway of the old house.

    “i’m not going up those stairs.”

    “You don’t have to. We’re going under them.”

    She opened the door. Reaching up on the beam for the flashlight she new was there. Brandi turned it on and opened a second door.

    “Oh Brandi! How did you find this room? Look at these old things. The toys. The books.”

    Brandi smiled. “We tell no one. It is our secret.”


    • Annecdotist

      Fab flash, Ann, I can really feel the children’s excitement.

  13. Norah

    Hi Anne and Charli. I’ve just managed to scrape in again. I got caught up in my imaginative play and almost forgot the time! Here’s a link to my contribution, New World http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-HI
    You know it occurred to me that we first three flash explorers attempting to follow Charli’s lead are three of the four who met up in London in 2014. There’s only one missing (and he knows who he is). It’s a pretty nice feeling to be in such good company.

    • Annecdotist

      Yes, where is he? Especially as the deadline’s approaching (although I’ve no idea what time it is over at the real ranch). And it would have been so great if Charli could have joined us at that meet up in London. Could have shown her round the British library.

      • Annecdotist

        And, as I said in a comment on your blog, your flash is great – very playful.

      • Norah

        One day it will be wonderful if we could all get together. We should start saving our pennies now!

      • Charli Mills

        I would have loved the showing of every nook and cranny of the British Library!

    • Charli Mills

      How lucky I am to have the four of you in this community! And the fourth already extended help, resolving Cobb’s scandal in North Carolina, although he’s welcome to guest post in the future. It is a nice feeling to be surrounded by such company of companions. Thank you, Norah!

      • Norah

        I remember your mentioning his help with that issue! How lucky we all were to find each other across the miles in this big web. How we did it, I’ll never know, but I’m pleased we did! SMAG! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Love the glimpse it gives us of Jane’s “home.”

    • Annecdotist

      Loved the response! Very poignant.

  14. Annecdotist

    Glad you made it Geoff, with another great instalment from Mary’s life and yours!


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