Frayed at the Edges

Written by Charli Mills

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

July 6, 2017

Threads unravel and seams pull apart. What is frayed at the edges can be more than a bit of fabric. It can be a feeling or circumstance that wears.

Writers explored what is frayed this week, looking for meaning among the threads. Word play, metaphors and stories for deep within knit this week’s compilation.

The following are based on the June 29, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something frayed.


Frayed by C. Jai Ferry

His first year back, it was burgers and beer, with a side of Black Cats. In the glow of the rockets’ red glare, his belligerence burned white hot, landing a bluish bruise across his wife’s cheek.

How could you, they said.

His second year back, he eschewed the fermentation of the fruited plains. The aerial repeaters spewed bombs burning in the air. He squeezed his eyes shut against the crushing memories.

Man up, they said.

His third year back, he hid in a dark room, his scars shrouded in the battle-worn flag from his barracks.

How unAmerican, they said.


Current History by Elliott Lyngreen

Now structured, carved lens, laser-like bends, sharp ghosted terrains; find everything after.

Burning, streaking figments of my youthful imagination burst and fray into them great sky-legged creatures.

And mind –awakes that fearless struck-in-the-head type waves, booms frequencies, this smoked raining –I remember… in so many ways, angles, viewpoints.

‘That was everyday once’ ,,,, of the smoke grains in empty space…. Tristan says.

I can see it all, misting and blown open.. balanced, the message, the things we already know, ‘gravity always wins’…wearing down.

Long, long ago, far far removed, but arching, spot in the clearing …..remains, lonely…history.


Away Too Long by Kerry E.B. Black

Ward relied on memories as frayed and faded as an old coverlet. Remembered roads looked unfamiliar. Street names sounded foreign. As he struggled to recognize a landmark or some continuity of recollection, the thread unraveled further. He squinted, envisioning younger trees and buildings without patina.

A child carrying a wicker basket rushed ahead. Ward called,

“Pardon me? Is this the way to Accalia?”

As he backed away, Ward imagined in his upturned eyes a resemblance to an old school companion. The child clutched his basket. “Can’t talk to strangers.” He ran.

Ward sighed. “Guess I’ve been away too long.”


Fray (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane sits in the reception area, her face a mask of pre-interview eagerness, mentally rehearsing everything she’s learned about this company.

If she crosses her legs, she can hide the crease in her slacks. Living out of a duffel doesn’t allow for ironing much. She eyes her blouse cuffs and wonders again if the frayed edges are obvious, whether rolling them would look too casual.

Even her good-luck almost-leather portfolio, cradling her resumé, looks frayed. Frayed, like her heart, her very spirit, after so many years of trying and failing. How many times can you try just once more?


An Everyday Occurrence by Bill Engleson

“Are you afraid?” I ask. She is just a shape in the shadows.

“Yes…yes, I am,” she answers, just as another volley smacks the air.

“It sounds like they are on the floor below,” I state, guessing more than knowing.

“They? There’s more than one?”

“I don’t know. It’s usually one crazy person I suppose. But sometimes…”

“Why would someone, anyone do something like this? I don’t understand.”

Her voice is cracking, her fear rising, the sound of her fright getting louder.

“You shouldn’t talk,” I suggest. “We need to stay quiet.”

“Of course. I’m sorry.”

And we wait.


To Unravel, or Repair? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The spell had existed, long before she’d begun chronicling by gathering their hair. Candle-lit, she bent over the long braid, a weave of auburn, nut-brown, curly black, and her own pale blonde.

She’d discovered her three friends intertwined in a drunken Midsummer meadow. She’d been forgotten once again. Her heart cried betrayal.

When had it begun?

She turned the braid and saw the place where her strands had loosened, as theirs grew closer. “There!” she hissed.

Tearing at the strands, she stopped.

She pressed them to her face, inhaling.

Sighing, she set her clever fingers to reworking the braid.


Before the Castle Gates Close by Madra Sikora

The hallucinated movements in my peripheral vision are tricks of the fatigue.

The Queen walked this same journey’s path to her new throne. I wonder, did her cloak become frayed and torn from the thistles and brush constantly clawing, holding her back?

How did this trail look with hope calling from the destination? How does it feel to be rushing toward the light rather than fleeing the darkness?

The forest nights offer no respite, the eyes of the universe upon me. One step after another, I continue on, praying I reach the castle before the gates are closed.



Worn by Sarah Brentyn

My teacher slaps my desk. I jump.

Students keep their heads down. I’m glad for this.

He asks me a question. Tells me it’s the second time he’s asked. That I’m not paying attention.

He’s right. I’m not. At least not to this lesson. I’ve been staring at his robe.

The edges are frayed.

Teachers are respected in The Society. They wear the robes of the higher classes. Dark blue. Tailored. Immaculate.

He sees me eyeing his sleeve and yanks his hand away. Something is wrong. I make a mental note to look at the other teachers after lessons.


Tattered by Kalpana Solsi

“The blue represents the water bodies”, replied Amritawith complete concentration on her school project.

“And the adjoining green body is land-mass.”

” There aren’t demarcated boundaries on this globe”, I reminded my daughter in amusement.

“There shouldn’t be any. A global village in the truest sense is what we need.”

“The lines on the land fray people’s emotions segregate into nations and separate humanity”, she continued in even breath.

I inhaled deeply. The Amritsar air seemed less polluted.

I thought about my estranged cousin in Lahore. The lines of

communication have to be kept open obliterating all barriers.


Frayed by Susan Zutautas

Sitting on her bed with her head heavy in her hands, Meg felt as if she was going to explode all over the walls. She didn’t know how much more she could possibly take. Her nerves were frayed and she was exhausted from all the bullshit that was going on in her life.

She started her new job but wasn’t quite feeling all that comfortable yet. Her step-mother kept calling her work, only to complain about her father. The endless calls were driving her to drink.

Meg’s cell rang. Not again! She let it go through to her voicemail.


Quintessential Quietus (Janice vs Richard #12) by Jules Paige

Janice refused to posture to slovenly behavior while being
immured in the safe house. Wondering if Richard had more
than just an insulin imbalance – how could he still shake up
her emotions like lightning radiated from a cloudburst – she
was the one who suffered!

Containers from the latest takeout restaurant displayed the
strength of gladiola or – was it a lotus, Chinese symbolizing
purity? And then the fortune, what galimatias was that? It read;
“Hereafter is your passion; frayed dreams stabilize future plans”

Would it take the death of Richard to calm Janice’s frayed
nerves? Detective Longhorn thought it might.


Frayed by Michael

Roger and Mary’s marriage was frayed to breaking point. Long had gone the means of communication they once enjoyed. Nowadays their relationship consisted of a series of grunts in greeting the start of a day the ending of the same.

The trust they held in one another was considerably threadbare, their physical contact was tattered, ragged and holey. In fact, Mary found Roger shabby in every way.

It was the start of another day, and Roger grunted to Mary to pass the sugar as he sweetened his coffee the only sweet thing left in his frayed and moth-eaten life.


Dodging the Question by Geoff Le Pard

‘For pity’s sake, when will anyone ask?’

Mary glanced at Susan, who said, ‘Ask?’ The three women had known each other since antenatal classes.

Naomi waved a hand. ‘About… Sorry, you’re both lovely, but…’

Mary said, ‘We didn’t, you know, think you’d want reminding.’

Naomi glared. ‘Reminding? My husband’s dead at 44; I’m reminded every time I wake up.’ She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry; everyone’s really nice, sympathetic but you assume I want to move on, not talk about it. And I do but you two,’ she waved again. ‘I need more, if I’m not to come apart.


Let Freedom Ring (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

“I heard her husband led the Palmetto Guard.”

“He murdered free-staters on raids.”


Mary McCanles walked bare-headed through the crowd with her basket, ignoring the fine women in stiff bonnets deep enough to hide wrinkles and scowls.

She settled on the quilt her daughter Lizza spread. A gray-haired woman herself, Lizza smiled broadly and attended several Otoe-Missouri papooses. Though frayed, it was Mary’s treasured marriage quilt.

“I love babies, Mama!”

“You are good with them, Daughter.”  Mary dared anyone say anything to Lizza. Born a blue baby, she was often ridiculed. Not today.

“Ain’t Independence Day grand, Mama?”


Fraying Nerves by Jeanne Lombardo

Fuck. How did I get in this position, she thought.

Her hands burned, the rawness bleeding the rope red.

“Come on! You have to help me.”

She watched the young man through the slats of the bridge. He looked up from where he dangled, the ground a mile down. Still he did not speak.

“I can’t hold you. Climb up or swing to the supports. Are you listening?”

The rope jerked, sawing at her hands.

“There’s no more time,” she screamed. “The rope is fraying.”

She saw herself then, and let go, falling back, gazing into the cloudless blue.


Her Knitwear Will Not Fray by Anne Goodwin

She played the pins the way the nuns taught her: in – over – through – off. Later, when her dreams began to fray at the edges, until all she’d worked for seemed to slip away, she added another stage, and another: pull – pull tight.

Her kids complained their clothes were too constraining, biting into their armpits, crushing their chests. They wanted the freedom to flap their arms. They thought, in their youth and innocence, they might fly.

But she was stronger, wiser, resolved to save them the only way she could. Weaving a cage with her yarn to lock them in.


Frayed by D. Avery

Weather worn, that’s what she was, frayed further from lack of sleep. The relentless rain was a steady march, a bellicose drumbeat that only paused, never stopping long enough for anything to dry out. In the night, if the rain did cease for a time, the change in tempo would awaken her. The drilling streams from the broken gutters, the incessant drip from the trees, ponging off the roof, kept restless rhythms. Should the sun ever shine again she would lie outside and sleep in quiet, absorbing the warmth and the light into the vast reaches of her dreaming.


Nerves by Reena Saxena

Being everything to some people, and something to everyone takes its toll. Susan had struggled to retain her own identity. Yet, she felt like being several parts that did not add up to a whole.

She moved to get up, but the tassels of her scarf were entangled in the drawer. Her stylist was right, that she needed only clean, straight lines in her clothes.

It was an epiphany. She needed to be at the center, where others connected to her, not vice versa. Only then, she could smoothen the frayed edges of life, and stop being all nerves.


A Bit Frayed by FloridaBorne

Great Aunt Lucy struggled to remain calm. She turned to walk out the locked door, stopped by my insistent hand. “You want that hand swatted?”

“Do that, and you’ll be committed too,” I replied.

“She’s a worthless addle.”

“Her husband of 50 years just died. She’s still in grief. Her children want her committed so they can take her home away.”

“That’s not my business.”

“You have no children, and her children are your next of kin. You allow them to do this, and you’re next!”

A bit frayed she replied, “I’ll get a lawyer – for both our sakes.”


Second-hand Store by Norah Colvin

He’d perched on the stool for longer than anyone knew. Though his coat was threadbare and his bowtie frayed, nothing could erase his smile as he waited daily for a tinkle announcing a potential buyer. The days, though long, were not too long for one as imaginative as he, conjuring stories for items cluttering the shelves.

One day a woman in a large blue hat and floral coat examined everything in the store, so quietly, he’d forgotten she was there. She startled him saying, “I’ll take him.”

Lovingly restored, he took his place alongside others in the Toy Museum.


The Blanket by Allison Maruska

Baby girl skips through the rain. She stops, holds her arms out, and spins.

“Child! You gonna catch pneumonia!”

“What’s that?” She runs to my dry spot outside the 7-11.

“A bad cough. C’mere.” I grab the tattered blanket from my cart and wrap her up. “Your momma can’t afford you gettin’ sick.”

She runs her fingers over the frayed edges. “This is old.”

“So am I.” I wink. “Don’t mean it ain’t still useful.”

She giggles and hands it back. “I’m gonna bring you a new one!”

“Nah.” I tap her nose with it. “This one’s just fine.”


Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

She hated sewing. It wasn’t that she couldn’t, just that she preferred not to.

Her daughter was the same, she too would rather go out and buy a new pair of jeans or shirt than sew a hem or put on a button.

Their mutual love of gardening saw them outside tending blooms and trellises, hitching and pitching, digging and twigging.

Their clothes became snagged and tagged, but they didn’t mind.

In fact they came up with such a novel idea, they set up in business.

Who would’ve thought that frayed jeans in disrepair would become the latest fashion!


Camaraderie by KittyVerses

Meeta chose to visit an old age home,as a part of her college project. She was very excited, she had no grandparents of her own and was envious of her friends who recounted the camaraderie they shared with their grandparents.

Some people were there because they had no one of their own, others due to the neglect of their kids, yet others due to poverty. They all had one thing in common, they craved companionship, their only possession being frayed memories of good times gone by.

She promised to visit them every week, she was their own granddaughter now.


Restoring the Threads by IdyllsoftheKing

“It was grandmother’s. We could still reconstruct it, with a bit of work.”

“That’s work that we don’t need to do. We should give up. Things have changed since then. The world is different. Why fix the quilt?”

“Is it really that different? We made an oath.”

“I don’t remember making any oaths, do you?”

“Our duty goes beyond just us. This is for everyone.”

“And if I want a normal life? Something something where I can participate instead of just observe?”

“Then that’s your choice, not mine.”

“What if nothing comes to me?”

“I know you’ll be inspired.”


Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

I studied the picture of Mom on my dresser, at the beach pier, her arms on the railing, her hair swept back by the ocean mist in the breeze. Sometimes I spoke to her or kissed her pretty face before I went to sleep. Sometimes I heard her soft, gentle words in the crashing waves.

The mist in my eyes. I fell onto the bed, plunging deep into the soft down comforter.

This new life of mine was bizarre, almost fake, while the memories with Mom were frayed and strained. The result was this. Now.

Breathing but not feeling.


De Fence by D. Avery

“Sorry Shorty, I thought it was apple juice. I didn’t get into the fray, I’m just steerin’ the Kid here to the bunkhouse.”

“That’s quite a shiner. What happened?”

“I showed ‘em, that’s what happened. I said, ‘Shorty ain’t ‘fraid of nothin’ and I mighta punctuated my meanin’ with a left hook.”

“Your left hook was more of a question mark, Kid, but that was quite the exclamation point you took to the eye. Shorty, I thought the Kid knew they said frayed, not ‘fraid.”

“Oh, it’ll be alright. Kid, sometimes we’re all afraid and frayed.”

“ ’Fraid so.”


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  1. Susan Budig

    Some of these positively scream for more. Frayed is a great word.

    • Charli Mills

      I think the word frayed was speaking to many of the writers. It did leave some compelling lose ends!

  2. robbiesinspiration

    Some very interesting responses here, Charli. A lovely read.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for reading, Robbie!

  3. Norah

    It’s an interesting collection with a variety of moods and colours, overall quite sombre though I feel, or is that just me?

    • Charli Mills

      I think there were more sombre threads and yet that can be the wearing down.

  4. Sharmishtha Basu

    great collection charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Sharmistha!

    • Charli Mills

      You are welcome any time, Lisa!

    • Charli Mills

      Good thing I’m handy with a rope, Joelle! I’ll wrangle your dark humor over to the next prompt! 😉

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