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June 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

Woofie runs in mad circles across the lush mowed grass of eastern Kansas. It’s a doggie game — I call his name in a playful pitch, and he responds with the energy of a spunky toddler. He has big brown teddy-bear eyes behind long black fur. His face is like that of a Wookie, and when he drinks water he likes to slop his cold wet beard on someone’s lap or leg. He’s definitely the youngest dog in the pack but not the only one to play games.

My Sis (technically, The Hub’s Sis) is married to the Dog Whisperer of Missouri (DWM). He’s good at teaching old dogs games, like counting to five. Bobo knows her numbers and eagerly plays the game before DWM goes to work. Woofie and Kale have other tricks and games. Kale would play doggie flashlight tag until he dropped. Sis has even come home to find him nested in her bed (her side) with the flashlight lovingly grasped between his front paws.

No one plays games better than The Hub, and often this is to my dismay. His favorite games involve annoying me. Like talking in a monster-truck voice at the grocery store, announcing every item I pull from the shelf. It’s the result of a cooped up extrovert, living in an RV with an introvert. We all know the silent struggles of introverts, but silence can be difficult for extroverts to manage. So The Hub entertains himself with games.

Leaving a down-home coffee cafe, a tetherball gets me thinking of games. I haven’t seen one of these poles set in cement since I was a child. I vaguely recall playing tetherball and it seems a fun, albeit vague memory. Remember the games we once played? Running around, playing tag as exuberantly as a galloping dog? Hopscotch, hide-n-seek, jump-rope. I’m not sure screen games compare, being of the generation who didn’t have screens growing up, nor did my kids. We still like board games and cards. Seeing that tetherball was a remembrance of outdoor recess at school and that joy of having time for games.

Which leads me to time, or a lack of it. I’m so busy playing adult games, I feel like the child who laments the setting sun because it’s time to stop playing and go inside.

In the morning I return to KATP archeology field school to play in the lab. Danni’s scenes, and I have so many, where she’s working were generalized. Now I know what she’d be doing exactly and why she could get lost in her work. I’ve met dedicated archeologists who know what it is to pursue their passion although it will never lead to wealth in the pocketbook. Many professionals are volunteering on this dig and loving every minute of it, gritty with sweat and field dirt, smiles on their faces. One archeologist told me a joke I’m determined to fit into my novel, Miracle of Ducks. I think it resonates with career writers as well:

What’s the difference between an archeologist and a large pizza?

A pizza can feed a family of four!

Ouch. But true. Why is it, the pursuits that expand our minds and understanding like literary arts and cultural anthropology, are the ones we value least with money? Funding cuts are slashing deeply across the arts and even sciences in America. What a poor world where books are merely reports and cultures diminished and homogenized. I want vibrancy and diversity. I want time to play tetherball or cards over coffee.

While last week was bitter disappointment at the VA, we may have a ray of hope beating like fireflies at dusk. I’ve picked up the past-time of telling so-called veteran’s organizations what I really think of their fundraising and lack of services. We’ve had such unfortunate experiences reaching out to organizations that don’t help and then claim it’s because they are “not services.” In other words, they collect government money, grants and donations to NOT serve, but merely direct veterans to organizations that do. No kidding, last year at the height of crisis, we went through dozens of organizations that all filtered us to one to another to finally sending us to the same service that didn’t help because of criteria or (ironically) lack of funding.

The blip of hope is that I told off an organization only to be contacted by someone who said I misunderstood. It’s a veteran-led organization that has experienced our same frustrations. After talking to one of the organizers today, I felt…dignified. That may seem an odd reaction but until you’ve experienced what it is to have your human dignity taken away, it’s an empowering feeling to have someone restore it. We’ll know more on Monday, but they may be able to help in practical ways, understanding what barriers we’ve faced and validating that the VA does indeed block transients from care. They know the back alleys, the underground railroad of sorts. And I hope they pull through.

I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been away from the Ranch. It’s unintentional but think of me as temporarily away at a rodeo where I may win a purse or at least bring back new tales and stock. Between Rock Creek research (and I get to go visit Rock Creek station next week!) at the Kansas State Archives, archeology field school, beloved family and dogs, a possible new client contract, interviews for future profiles and articles, and trying to cram more time into a day, I’ve been called away. This is temporary, and I greatly appreciate the way the community supports one another in the comments and across individual blogs. Please continue to do so and know I will get caught up with you all over the next few weeks!

If any Rancher is interested in some ranch chores, I could use help wrangling stories from the last prompt and this one. If someone is up to it, I’d also welcome a guest prompt post next week. If not, I may extend the deadline next week, depending upon what happens Monday and when we get to Rock Creek, Nebraska. I’m grateful for this community and appreciate you all showing up and being patient. Think of the ranch challenge as a game, one we enjoying playing like tetherball or other long summer nights on the streets or dirt roads with friends.

And an update on our first Anthology and establishing an imprint — we are halfway there and have enough to start. The cover will be revealed after the Fourth of July. This is going to happen! Thank you to all who shared and contributed. More forthcoming, when I have time to process it all! To our Friends attending the Bloggers Bash, have a blast!

June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 13, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published June 14 unless extended). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Games Across Rock Creek (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“Rawr!” Cobb charged his five children on his hands and knees in the cropped grass in front of the west ranch house. Lizzie stood and giggled, blind since birth, she relied on her brothers to get around. Even playing games, the boys guided Lizzie. Cobb gently bumped her with his head and she squealed in delight. Young Charl tried clambering up Cobb’s back. Monroe boosted his youngest brother so he could ride Da’s back like a horse. Laughter carried across Rock Creek.

Sarah watched from the shadows on her side. Away from his precious family. The games they played.


  1. Do what you have to do. Your playtime is very important work and so is the other work you are doing. We’ll be okay, if you are.

    • Charli, if you want something off your plate, I might be able to wrangle out a guest prompt. It would not be you so that is a bummer, but if the gang will risk it I’ll give it a go. I too am in the weeds with time and work, but if you can handle a bit of rawness…

  2. […] :- Thank you Charli Mills for running the challenge at the Carrot Ranch Communications. The challenge is to write in exactly 99 words a story based on outdoor games. Thank you all for […]

  3. kittysverses says:

    Thanks for running the challenge Charli Mills. Please have a look at mine at
    Thank you all for stopping by and reading.

  4. Up and At ‘Em, by D. Avery

    “Come on Kid, up and at ‘em.”

    “Uhhnn. Where’s Shorty at anyway? I heard she mighta went into town.”

    “You heard, you heard. Ever heard of herdin’ cattle?”

    “Shorty’s in town, probly playin’ cards, havin’ fun.”

    “Shush. Shorty’s busy. And she might be gambling, but it’s a serious game she’s playin’.”

    “I heard Shorty’s at the rodeo.”

    “Well you heard right. She is, and it ain’t her first time. But this one’s big.”

    “What can we do with Shorty away?”

    “We’ll do what we always do.”

    “Yee haw! Time to play with words.”

    “That’s it Kid. Round ‘em up.”

  5. Rowena says:

    Sorry I’ve been away for so long, Charli and hope things are going better for you. I really enjoyed this prompt and my flash features a very energetic dog:
    Best wishes,

  6. Read this tale of an over achieving border collie. The moral is….

    (look before you leap)

  7. Pete says:

    We are free to run amuck without our lead rancher. I’ll try to behave, Charli!

    My flash is from an on and off work-in-progress. I’ll link the full chapter below if anyone wants to look…

    Bricktown Boys

    Ron and I rode our bikes past the abandoned brick factory that lined Clay Street. I checked for new graffiti or tags or any signs of life.

    Our part of Fairview was known for bricks. The blackened stackhouse stood defiantly against the sky as our monument, the teeth-like shards of broken windows were a warning, and the immovable darkness inside those old walls seemed to live in every man who’d walked into my living room.

    The factory was our landmark. A big, tough, ugly, brick trophy we held up to prove how tough our neighborhood was. Bricktown. Enough said.

    • I did read this earlier this week. Tough kids in a tough area holding out some hope for themselves, salvation through a game. The 99 words shared here work well as your flash. Love the last paragraph, it works well to show your characters as well as setting.

    • jeanne229 says:

      You evoke the sense of place so strongly, Pete. Beautiful and strong writing. Love the line, “the immovable darkness inside those old walls seemed to live in every man who’d walked into my living room.” I’ll take a look at the chapter if you link it. The flash made me hungry for more.

  8. Please, if there is ever anything I can do to be of help, let me know.

    Here’s my outside game. 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Around and Because
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Henry stepped to the plate. Eager teammates turned from loaded bases. “Come on, Henry. Don’t blow it.”
    “Again,” added Henry.
    Two outs. Two runs down. The last inning of a decisive game weighed.
    Queasy wriggled his stomach. His hands sweated. He gulped and swung.
    “Strike one.”
    Coach yelled, “Shake it off, Henry.”
    “Strike two.”
    He blinked tears. Two balls. A foul tip.
    He prayed, swung, connected. The ball soared. Unaccustomed to hitting, he watched it ascend, bounce, roll. Team mates screamed, “run.” He did not. Three slid past him to home plate. They won around and because of Henry.

    • Such a stressful game to play, when so much depends on the parts of the whole. I like how your character managed to choke and to be successful at the same time. His part was not to be the one to slide into home with the winning run, but did have his part in the whole success. More believable that way. Cool.

    • Deborah Lee says:

      “They won around and because of him…” Nice!

  9. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I can’t see an offer from someone to round-up last week’s stories so, unless I hear from you to say otherwise, I’ll lasso them and send them your way within 24 hours from now (I’ll get started in my morning, 12 hours from now.)
    As always there’s much in this post. The ongoing frustration with the VA and associated organisations would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. It reminds me of many skits that had us laughing because it was all too true. Not funny when it happens to you, though.
    I like your theme this week. A resource in the pipeline for readilearn is some outdoor games to teach kids to play in the playground. This might be an incentive to get my thoughts into gear.
    I can’t believe a dog playing flashlight tag. Teenagers yes, but dogs. I guess it shows how inexperienced I am with furry friends.
    I used to enjoy playing tether ball too. A great childhood memory.
    I’m so excited for you getting to work with the archaeologists and historians, and then getting to Rock Creek. There’s sure to be something good come of it all.
    It’s great that the anthology is making good progress too. I wonder how we can bump up the contributions to more than 50%. Is there a prompt in there?
    Must away to other tasks if I’m to rope up those stories tomorrow.
    I wish good things for you, on Monday, and every day. Thanks for your ongoing support.

  10. Counting, by D.Avery

    “Come on, Buddy, that’s at least fifty.”

    When they were younger, they counted to ten. Then twenty-five. Fifty was a maximum.

    Sometimes they just had their hands, clenching a fist with the index finger serving as barrel, thumb as hammer. Sometimes they’d find perfectly shaped sticks. Christmas might bring a realistic looking cap gun.

    Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians; “Bang, you’re dead”, and if it was an obvious hit you had to fall down for a specified count.

    Now they were playing army. They were the good guys.

    “Buddy, just get up. I don’t want to play anymore.”

    • Annecdotist says:

      I loved this. You start off in what seems a familiar place rendered new by your fine use of language followed by a brilliant segue away from kids stuff in that hard-hitting last line.

      • Thanks. I appreciate it.
        Of course video games are the new training tools for our young men, not the traditional sticks and cap guns.

        Is your busy busy time slowing down?

    • Norah says:

      I don’t blame them for not wanting to play. I don’t want to play either. These shooting “games” are too serious, and it’s no fun anymore when someone can’t get up. As Anne said, you have told this tale very well, from the innocent games of childhood to the bleakness of adult reality. Well done.

    • Nice shift in the last two lines. And quite poignant with its contrast to the innocence that started the work. Great!

    • jeanne229 says:

      Strong flash. Ominous last line. How well we train our children to shoot…and die.

  11. […]  Carrot Ranch; June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  12. Ruchira Khanna says:

    Tetherball…my kid’s fav game some years back 🙂

    My take:

  13. Annecdotist says:

    You work so hard servicing the community here, Charli, you are entitled to a break every now and then. We’ve had short gaps before, as well as ranchers picking up the chores, and I don’t think that’s stopped people coming back week after week.
    I’m a bit knackered with my blog tour and launch party right now so can’t take up your invitation to step in. But I have done my ninety-nine words!
    It’s uncanny how sometimes your prompts fit perfectly with a novel I’ve just read and reviewed, which is the case here. You might like the idea of Othello transported to the 1970s schoolyard in Washington DC, which I’d already tied in with Irene’s Times Past prompt when I read your post. My flash is of a remembered game from childhood, although not mine. I wonder if other Rough Writers have come across the Indian game of Kabaddi
    Games in the schoolyard: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

    • This week I am learning of new games, thank you all. Regardless of the game, I enjoyed your flash and sympathized with the character. As we age we have to endure the ruination of many a fine thing, in this case the pasteurization of play, and the homogenizing of a traditional raw game. (Or am I just milking a metaphor?)

      • Norah says:

        Clever. Well done, on your wonderful comments to everyone here, D. You have really stepped up to the plate. *Applause*

      • Thanks Norah. Last week I noticed that Charli was very busy. This week I am beginning to appreciate how much she has always done. And she’s doing more!

  14. […] week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that involves playing an […]

  15. julespaige says:

    Charli –
    I think we all get a tad crazy when we’ve got some good weather. I’ll keep a look out for your silver lining in the clouds and keep good thoughts funneled there. I created a complete fiction with your prompt, a photo and wordle list.

    I remember giving pony rides in and outside. Fun to be included and sad when not. Almost too hot here – getting into the 90’s today. (no Janice vs Richard this week). Enjoy:

    99 word Flash/ Golem’s Truth
    (title should be link to blog post, photo and word list)

    Carrie wasn’t sure she wanted to play Golem’s Truth – being
    Mal de coucou in this new neighborhood. The tendency in
    these new situations was to play the awestruck outsider.
    Be a parallel player without spilling too much of her own

    With a strong desire to fit in with this group, Carrie had to
    build up some nerve to please these ‘new’ friends. Without
    putting up too much of a smoke screen.

    This new twist on Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle. A
    couple had to go behind the barn, do something – And not
    tell what they did.


  16. gordon759 says:

    And lets go Historical – though this sometimes upsets our friends over the pond.

    The First Game.

    “We will have to stop Sir.”
    Prince Frederick looked up to the sky, there was no way the rain was going to stop.
    They stopped the game sadly and walked into the tavern.
    He enjoyed sports, and knew that this was a way into his subject’s hearts. The British loved sport, so did he and knew he had to show he was British, ‘Glory in the name of Briton’ he had told his son, and playing traditional British sports was one way to show it.
    This game, however, was new to him.
    “What’s it called?”
    Lord Middlesex replied.

    The first recorded game of baseball took place in Surrey in 1749. The players included Frederick Prince of Wales and Lord Middlesex. Prince Frederick was very keen to promote the Hanoverians as British monarchs. In traditional British fashion the game was halted because of bad weather.

    • Well, that’s not the way I heard it. But fact can be stranger than flash fiction.

      • gordon759 says:

        Well, if you can give me the reference to an earlier game of Baseball I would be grateful.

      • Gosh no. I don’t know much about it except that it is supposed to be the all American game.

      • gordon759 says:

        baseball was first mentioned in passing in an early eighteenth century book of children’s games, then the press report I mentioned. In the early nineteenth century it appears as a child’s game in books in both Britain and North America. It has remained a children’s game, usually called ’rounders’ in Britain.
        In the third quarter of the nineteenth century it was developed as a game for young men in American universities and colleges.

    • Deborah Lee says:

      The way I understand it, baseball (which is uniquely American) is descended from cricket (which is uniquely British). Perspective is everything. Nice flash; I always enjoy a historical take.

  17. […] June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  18. julespaige says:

    Charli …

    I went were the prompts lead… and to another entry for Janice vs Richard with (the title with link to photo and wordle list should be the title):

    Strategy in the Game
    (Janice vs Richard #9)

    Longhorn knew it was a paradox; Janice full of tension but
    being in a semophoristic mood, she didn’t want to talk, not
    in the park. The detective would have to bite his tongue on
    all the questions that were musing around in his head. No
    woman deserved the smooth playhouse of thieves that
    people like Richard played in.

    Once Longhorn had moved Janice into the safe house
    code named ‘Neptune’ – he could end this stalemate and
    she could open up about any information she possessed that
    would put a final checkmate on Richard and put the rogue
    behind bars.

    OK this doesn’t quite fit Charli’s theme except that chess can be played outside in a park…and the other prompts just fit for another addition to Janice vs Richard. It’s where the prompt went.

  19. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (06/08/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  20. A little summer gamesmanship, only partially autobiographical:

    Aw, Skip It!

    “Find one that’s flat and smooth…no bigger than your palm.”

    “Bigger than your palm?” she tipped her head. “Or mine?”

    “Great question! Let’s look and see what we find.” The water was clear, chilling his pale feet. She followed, knee-deep, eyes round.

    “Curl your finger around the edge, and flick!” The stone sailed, tripped half a dozen times and sunk.

    She grabbed a rock from his hand and threw it underhand. It arced and splashed.

    “Good first try!” He spied the perfect stone, heard a deep splash and got soaked from behind.

    “How’s that?” she laughed, hands on hips.

    • Ahhh. That’s sweet.
      And you know, you’re never too old to find that perfect skipping stone and let it sail across a watery surface. Your flash has my palm itching for a flat stone.

  21. denmaniacs4 says:

    May 30th 1955

    We were not supposed to play after dark.

    “I want you back before the sun goes down. You pay heed.”

    And our old lady meant it.

    But the thing about dark, it sneaks up on you like the devil.

    When your kid brain is consumed by the action, heart pumping, feet stomping, bush tromping, heavy breathing, finding that sweet spot to nuzzle into, to hide, to be sought but not found, that was the rush.

    But there was that thing about dark.

    It snuck up on sister Sue.

    It stuck her in a sack.

    And she was lost forever.

  22. […] In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball,… […]

  23. Here’s mine take on this weeks prompt:

    “Safety First!” because it’s all fun and games until the ER visit…

    • Hee hee hee. Done that. Also, football on ice skates. Also bicycle hockey on the frozen pond, kind of like polo. Also, skiing or sledding being towed behind a truck. Now I remind the kids to be safe, to use common sense.

  24. […] prompt this week […]

  25. Wow…where does the time go??? It’s been a CRAZY three weeks here. I’m exercising my right to remain silent this week and enjoy the words of the rest of the gang. I have to catch up on about fifteen things before I can hope to take part in the games again. (See what I did there?) 😀 Looking forward to joining in again next week. I’ll be back to read and visit after I’ve finished some work and poured a cup of tea. Catch you later!

  26. Here is my contribution for this week’s prompt.

    I Got My Dude Right Here by Elliott Lyngreen

    This dude had strolled up the cosmic black walkway spinning a gray-weather shreaded basketball ahead of himself so the english zipped it perfectly rolling atop the backside of one hand, up his arm, around his chest, swiftly down the other arm to a flip-spin onto the original hand with the middle finger extended in such wobbling revolutions he casually slapped, straightened so the ball turn smoothly and faster with each tap; then dropped so sweet as his knee come up, bumped the rock back up in one continuous motion continuing the tight whirling.

    Asked, “who got last ya’ll?”

  27. This prompt really got the words rollin’. I have been kinda busy of late, but when I get less busy I want to swing on over to Irene Waters’ Times Past post. You all might want to as well, as her topic is the school playground. It is interesting to see what comes out of different places and times.

  28. jeanne229 says:

    I got a hint something was going on with you Charli, from glimpses of your posts and Facebook. I’ve been totally AWOL for a while and feel guilty as hell about it. Also deprived. But I am thrilled to finally know the reason why you are out digging. Archaeology field school! Rock Creek! Wow! You know I was at the Peabody Museum a week or so ago and thought of you. Not only hte dinosaur and fossil displays, but so much to learn about practices in the field. Fascinating! Good to finally drop in. Reminds me how badly I miss the Ranch and your dedicated wranglers and writing.
    Sorry to hear the travails of dealing with the VA continue. Signs of the times. We glorify the warriors and then forget them when they return home. It is really a travesty. I don’t know how you deal with the bureaucracy (well, of course your motivation is right there by your side), but it would make me want to bang the brains out of my head.
    Been doing a lot of editing. Creating content for others. Procrastinating. All lame excuses for not writing or blogging at all. Maybe a guest post 2 or 3 weeks out would get me back into the swing of things if you are not back.
    Oh and loved the flashes here. Your stable has grown! You are a rock!

  29. […] Games Across Rock Creek (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills […]

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