April 18: 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 18, 2019

Today, I’m dressed for success. My hair is cut to shoulder-length with a buzzed undercut that I will keep until I die. At least that’s what I told my new hair-dresser, NC (she’s from North Carolina). How freeing to have that mass of heavy hair lifted from the back of my head. I rub the fuzzy stubble that feels like velvet. Head velvet. The rest of my hair covers it, so unless I clip my hair up, you’d not know I shave part of my head. It pairs with my favorite worm flannel shirt of blue and gray buffalo plaid. No strappy undergarments hem me in today, and I’m wearing a cheap flowy and floral yoga pants I found on Amazon for nine dollars.

A board room executive might feel confident in a tailored suit and expensive shoes, but I’m writing away, barefoot and comfortable. This is my definition of success — pursuing a creative life without dressing and primping to codes that don’t fit me.

NC shaves the left side of her head. She has pretty blond curls and a shaved patch which was impulsive — her hair was hanging in her face one day, and she buzzed it off. She laughed, admitting she picked up the razor impulsively but justified that as a hair-dresser, she knew the look would be in fashion. My daughter asked her dad to shave her head into a high-and-tight and women are exploring razor cuts. NC said, “It’s freeing.”

And yes it is. Freeing physically — it feels great — and from social expectations of how women are supposed to wear their hair. I like the undercut because I can have both buzzed and longer locks.

I know women who had to wear dresses growing up. I loathed dresses. I felt most like me in Wrangler jeans, flannel shirts, and boots. Certain activities, however, dictated I had to have a dress or two in my closet. At age 15, I had three jobs and money to hire a local seamstress who made me two dresses according to patterns I pieced together. Both were checked gingham and looked pioneer-meets-80s-pop. The fad never caught on with anyone else, but if I were going to be forced to wear dresses to compete in forensics, it would be on my terms and in my white, gold-tipped cowboy boots.

When I had three children — two girls and one boy, I let their own tastes dictate their choices. Mostly they wore hand-me-downs or clothes we bartered for at yard sales, but they got to pick what to wear. My son’s favorite color to this day is hot pink. My girls both disdain pink because it’s girly (yet they don’t think of their brother as girly). Colors are colors. Why do we assign gender association?

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter. The photo had two cards side by side. The card with a pink envelop read, “I’d buy you flowers.” The card with the blue envelop read, “I’d make you a sandwich.” The person posting made a comment about capitalism and cooking, or something like that. I didn’t really pay too much attention because I got lost on the tangent that the line of cards targeted kids. I was like, wait, kids are buying each other greeting cards? I thought kids still made cards for others.

But the image stayed with me because I later became confused. Yes, the messages were gender tropes, or were they? Nothing on the cards said which gender had to buy which card and for whom. I thought of my son and his favorite color. Why would my son buy such a card, and I imagined him as an eight-year-old boy. He studied ballet, loved receiving flowers at recitals, and the color pink. If he were to buy a card for his best buddy, he would have selected the pink one about flowers.

Where is the pressure to be binary come from? Obviously family of origin, secondary would be the culture we grew up in and participate in. My family called me Charli from the time I came home from the hospital. I rode horses, pushed cattle, worked on logging sites, and cleaned houses after school. I wore dresses when necessary, and find joy in wearing a broad range of colors. Some days I’m a lumberjack, and other days I’m a colorful diva. I like feeling a mixture of appropriate and rebellious.

Sometimes I’ve had to be strong. Resilient. Other days I’ve cried over the beauty of a sunset.

What does this say about my gender? Honestly, I don’t know. The more I think about it, the more confused I become. I can fall back on social norms and say that I’m a married mom of three. Duh. Female. But one of my daughters, married and choosing not to be a mother, says she is gender fluid. Her husband, a self-proclaimed feminist, accepts this. They are less confused about the fluidity of gender. They don’t experience the rigidity of binarism.

Gender binary by definition is “the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite, and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine, whether by social system or cultural belief.”

And I feel free to not choose sides. I accept that others freak out at the thought of not having the boxes. If they want the boxes, they can have the boxes. But why can’t we also accept boxlessness?

Today, an extraordinary thing took place — I officially became a resident of Michigan. I have a new enhanced driver’s license (meaning I can cross borders into Canada and Mexico, which I will need when D. Avery and I go road tripping between the Kingdom and the Keweenaw after the Writing Refuge where JulesPaige, Susan Sleggs, and Ann Edall Robson will be meeting up). I’m also registered to vote. But all the applications and paperwork made me choose: (box) male or (box) female. I was fine ticking F, but I worried for those who are not.

<And here is where I insert, you really need to read Anne Goodwin’s Sugar and Snails.>

I’ve been toying with gender as a prompt but didn’t know how to prompt it without complication. Literary art expresses our deepest authentic selves if we are brave enough to dive below the surface. Last Saturday, I met with local writers for Wrangling Words at the library. They are a terrific bunch of authors and poets. I told them I was experimenting and wanted to know is “gender” could elicit a response as a prompt. The variety ranged from a confused ivy-like intergalactic being misunderstanding human genders to my own exploration of a boy buying a friend a card. So I’m going to go with it!

<And here is where I insert, if you have any recent books you wish to promote, I’ll be updating ads next week. They are free for all our Ranchers who play here with 99-words and more.>

April 18, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender. It can be fixed or fluid. Explore the topic on your own terms and open your mind to possibilities and understanding. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 23, 2019. Use the comment section below 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.


Why Choose? by Charli Mills

The conference held at the UCLA campus thought of everything to address gender identity. The bathrooms were resigned, and attendees could declare their preferred pronouns.

“I’m not a pronoun. I am me.”

“Yes, but do you identify he or she.”



“I am he or she.”

A line piled at the registration table. The woman seated, and we’ll call her a woman because a petunia pink ribbon beneath her conference Volunteer badge declared such, tapped her finger. “Look, organizers are sensitive to your identity. But you gotta tell me – do you want a blue ribbon or pink.”



Simon’s Pink Card by Charli Mills

Simon’s best friend Frank had crashed his bike, breaking his ankle. Simon’s mom suggested he make his friend a card. But Simon couldn’t draw the lines right and this made him sad.

“Let’s go buy Frank a card, okay?”

Simon brightened. Standing before rows of cards, he finally found the perfect one. The words described what he tried so hard to draw and couldn’t afford to purchase.

“But it’s pink.”

Simon smiled. “I like the words.”

That day, Frank grinned from ear to ear when his best buddy delivered a card that read, “I’d buy you all the flowers.”


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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    There They Go Again

    “Let’s git goin’ Pal, Shorty’s steerin’ us ta some delicate ranchin’ chores. Git it? ‘Steer’?”
    “No, I don’t git yer meanin’, Kid.”
    “We’s ta do some gender fixin’. Ya know, gelding the colts, deballin’ the bulls.”
    “Kid, that ain’t what they meant when they said fixed gender.”
    “They? Shorty said; jist the one Shorty. She.”
    “Nowadays ya kin say they fer a singular pronoun; gives ‘em wiggle room. Fluidity.”
    “Pal, yer nuts, an’ speakin’ a such, do we or don’t we got some geldin’ ta do?”
    “No! No gelding!”
    “Ok. But there goes dinner. Was gonna serve ya oysters.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Pal, then what’s this prompt about? I’m confused. Ya know as well as me, when a calf is born we look an’ there’s only so much we’s expectin’ ta see. Innies or outties.”
      “It ain’t about that neither Kid, ain’t about parts. It’s mebbe more how the calf sees itself , how it sees itself in the world.”
      “Ain’t really ‘bout calves, is it Pal?”
      “But folks is folks, kin be who they want, dress how they want?”
      “World might be a more peaceful place if we weren’t jammin’ folks inta jist a couple a boxes.”

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Kid! Ha, ha! I snort-laughed the minute you brought up steers. I think your writer is feelin’ frisky! And oysters are mighty tasty, just sayin’.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Here’s hopin’ yer nose weren’t a cider hose.
        I ain’t never et those western oysters. Don’t reckon I’ll ever be hungry enough ta wanna.

      • Charli Mills

        Brandings are a big deal out west and likely little understood around the world. Like some people grew up going to summer camp, I grew up going to annual brandings. Rocky mountain oysters are an acquired tastes I presume!

    • Jules

      Sometimes a one track mind can be entertaining…
      I actually watched a show once where they showed how to prep them ‘Western Oysters’… Kinda like sushi to me. I’ll pass that plate.

      Kid, Pal and Shorty are all none specific gender names so you can place whom ever you want in their places… when your the reader that is.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yep. I have been reticent to specifically assign gender to these Ranch hands, kept them as generic stock characters. None of it matters though.

      • Jules

        …Only matters to ‘them’ 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Jules, real cowboys and cowgirls BBQ mountain oysters! Never like sushi!

      • Jules

        After the correct prep work… I think this particular cow-chef deep fried them oysters.
        Here’s to using every bit of what you’ve got.

      • Charli Mills

        Deep fried would be good but I never had them that way.

      • Jules

        Just like sushi… I’m sure some foods are an acquired taste XD

    • robertawrites235681907

      I only read your post now, Charli, a tough work week and Easter has put me behind. You post was intriguing to me. I am a very girly girl. I loved dolls and still do, I have a huge collection. I wear mainly pink and flowers and flowy scarves. I have friends that dress in the opposite manner, and a sister who is into horses and lives in riding clothes. It is all okay. Each to their own, I always say.

      • Charli Mills

        I think we all feel our best when we can express who we are. I hope your tough work week is well behind you, now!

    • Charli Mills

      I had been wondering how to bring up the gender fluidity because I do think it deserves play as much as discussion. I was pleased with how thoughtful and yet playful the 99-word stories were at Wrangling Words, and everyone here comes up with such diverse stories I thought this could be a road toward acceptance. It’s difficult to untangle cultural beliefs, but not all cultures believe in gender binary. Native Americans honor Two-Spirits, but ask that non-natives not co-opt their tradition because it is sacred to them. So where does that leave those looking for expressions of fluidity? Who knows, but we can get it started.

      Oh, hey, I did miss it and so glad you nudged me to go look! What an awesome tribute.

      • calmkate

        yes most people have never had the ignorance or fears confronted on this matter … have probably met people they didn’t even know had such challenges … by open discussion and writing about such matters hopefully they can overcome humps 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Literary art can be a forum for exploration and helping others see what the challenges can be.

      • calmkate

        thanks so much Robbie, hope the other ranchers will meander for a gander 🙂

  2. The Haunted Wordsmith

    Great prompt! I have never been “feminine” and will haunt my son for the rest of eternity if he buries me in a dress. He claims non-binary bisexual as his “title” lol. Our lives are even funnier if you take political interests into consideration.

    • Charli Mills

      Tracey, I’m going to have to add that haunting bit to my directive because it didn’t occur to me that my kids might bury me in a dress for laughs! I’d not be laughing, like you, I’d be haunting. I think our kids are more accepting and playful with gender fluidity and its terms. Politics doesn’t understand and fans fear-flames because that gets folks riled.

    • papershots

      “I will haunt my son for the rest of eternity if he buries me in a dress” this is a great line to start a novel 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Yes, it would be!

  3. Prior...

    Ok – so I am totally going to try and join in this week! I almost made the deadline for “beggars can’t be choosers” – and thought of carrot ranch when the phrase was in an episode Downton Abbey yesterday ((Mr Mosley agreed to work as a footman! Setback after setback))

    And the gender topic “is” a good one and I think we all need to “go there” more often.
    I like how you also wrote about clothes
    (Appropriateness – rebel side – barefoot comfy (and how fun is flowing and floral yoga pants)


    • Charli Mills

      Ha! The proverb showed up in Downton Abbey. After the Hub comes home from surgery we might be watching it. And, even if you are late, you can always share a story from an earlier prompt.

      Yes, I think gender can be a topic we visit more often, opening up avenues of understanding.

      • Prior...

        Thanks for being so hospitable….
        and keep me posted if you get to see downton abbey – I only recently had the wonderful experience of watching all of the seasons – and so glad I did.
        And side note – think you will Like this because you love words and phrases etc
        – a couple years ago I had a slideshow with “just desserts” in it and it was new to me –
        led to a big discussion (I teach college part time) and in downton abbey they have just desserts at least twice – and was wondering if that term “just desserts” is new to you

      • Charli Mills

        Thank you, again, for reminding me of Downton Abbey! I knew there was something I was going to watch… Of course, I’m so pooped (there’s a phrase I doubt will make it into the lexicon of Downton Abbey). Curious — “just desserts” is one I’ve heard but never have used in writing. Is it “just desserts” or “just deserts”? You get what you deserve…? I’m enjoying the phrase-talk!

  4. Jules


    I enjoyed both of your ‘entries’. My entry is a bit of a BoTS from over thirty years ago. Stereotyping is a hard thing to break. These modern times have put a small chink in the armor of who’s who and whom can be whom.

    Two Cents Worth Sense?

    Two Cents Worth Sense?

    Our eldest child was almost three years old when the second one was due.
    A soft baby doll resembling our eldest was bought for love practice.
    Changing the cloth diaper, singing lullabies, ever gentle hugging.

    crabby old lady
    said what good was it for him
    to have a dolly

    Our eldest is now a Daddy; he’s got one of each a peach, a plum.

    crabby old lady
    may not have had children or
    a dolly to love

    He’s changed diapers for both, sang lullabies and gives gentle hugs with love.

    The world is a better place with gentle love.


    American Strand haibun = American Sentence(s) haiku prose including other
    American Japanese Style haikai forms making a haibun. Created by JP/dh March 2019
    An American Sentence = 17 syllables – 1 line haiku
    haibun ; prose with traditional American haiku (or other haikai)
    The last line of nine words was added to fit the prompt count of 99 words.

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, what a great idea to give an older sibling a baby-doll for love practice. It paid off in greater love to give, too. The “cabby old lady” reminds me of the voice that tries to control the familial “norms.” It can be hard to have that voice harping especially when a parent’s intent is love.

  5. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Congratulations on your new look and new / confirmed geographical identity. I got so excited reading this, thinking, yay, that’s my subject, so thanks for the link to Sugar and Snails.

    A couple of things about gender:

    the pink / blue thing used to be the other way around, pink being thought a strong colour more suitable for boys

    Cordelia Fine who has researched the lack of biological evidence for innate gender differences (as opposed to socialised) suggests we refer to the OTHER sex rather than the OPPOSITE to reduce polarization – although I still think nonbinary is better

    I so agree with your line

    The more I think about it, the more confused I become.

    Yup, same here!

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      I’m going to write something else for the compilation, but on the pink/blue issue this is an almost straight 99-word extract from the manuscript of my hopefully next novel, from the point of view of an English girl in the 1930s. I just hope when it’s published readers don’t think it’s a proofing error!

      I sat down and took up my knitting. I used white wool but, once the baby was born, I’d buy some coloured ribbon to thread through the coat and booties. Bold pink for a baby brother. For a sister, delicate blue. “Do you hope it’s a boy or girl?”

      “Which would you prefer, Matilda? A brother or sister?”

      “A sister would be best because I could guide her. But Mother, I asked you!”

      “I don’t care as long as the baby’s healthy.”

      I blushed; if I were serious about becoming a doctor that should have been my answer too.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        To get you reading more non-fiction: try The 57 Bus.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        No, this reads like a novel but happens to be true story researched and written up. It was a good read for the info and insight into all the trans gender stuff.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        There are a few acclaimed trans memoirs around now but I’m still resisting!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        This isn’t a memoir. It’s the well told tale of the kid who messed with the kid who was wearing a skirt and the skirt was quite flammable and all the aftermath and learning and the misunderstandings that the trans kid as well as the African American kid had suffered in their lives. It was about learning and forgiving and understanding. Near as I can remember.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Thanks for putting me right, as did the mighty Amazon after I’d left my comment (which just shows my disregard for the facts). Does look to be a thoughtful book about a tragic situation.

    • TanGental

      I’m always intrigued by the question of whether gender differences have any biological basis. I’ve seen a few programmes, read the odd article that suggest there are some but not read Ms Fine. Have to have a read.

      • Charli Mills

        Geoof, I often wonder how little we actually understand hormones and brain influences on the biology of a person. But not enough to go reading after it. However, Anne’s suggestion sounds worthwhile, as does D.’s.

      • Charli Mills

        Bah! Sorry for the goofy name typo!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        An interesting point I recall from the book regarding hormones is that both men’s and women’s testosterone levels decreased when caring for children showing it’s a consequence and not a cause of caring behaviours.

      • Charli Mills

        Interesting! The brain and neuroscience is another fascinating aspect, and I don’t think the brain necessarily cares what sex the body is in its own functions and responses.

      • TanGental

        Yep the good ol‘ brain, off on a frolic of its own

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Posted it on last week’s form initially but should be there now.

      • Jules

        For the longest time I rejected girlie colors because the other gals in my household were into fashion. Then with my own home – all guys except me it was a way to tell what was mine 😉
        At least until it came a time when they wouldn’t fit in anything I’d wear.

        Interesting the history of color choices in different eras or countries too.

    • Charli Mills

      I knew this would be right up your topic alley, Anne! Sometimes I think we over complicate it all trying to prove or maintain gender differences. Even the attempt to include can lead to polarization. Novels like Sugar & Snails can allow us to see through the eyes of characters who explore what it means. Maybe we all feel confused because it’s something we shouldn’t have to define as clearly as society wants us to.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        I really think capitalism is a significant driver here. Gendered clothes, toys and accessories means twice the sales.
        Right now we’re in the process of getting new uniforms for volunteer rangers. I didn’t expect these outdoor clothes would be gendered, but they are, and the female version generally less robust / suitable for the job than the male. So we’re swapping around (or picking up a female and a male version) but so interesting how women will happily wear the male but men balk at wearing the female, even when it isn’t about quality.

      • Charli Mills

        I agree that capitalism is a big driver. But I’m surprised to learn that Ranger uniforms are gendered. I could understand size differences, or even cut to a certain degree, but color or design? Wow. Yeah, I’d be all for swapping out the gender options! I wonder if men get shamed more than women for choosing nontraditional gender options.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Our uniforms weren’t gendered until last year when they we had a rebranding sponsored by an American company (so it’s your fault ;-)) but the colours are standard. The cut differs, but not always in a sensible way, eg the women’s polo shirts have cap sleeves and a sharper V-neck when you actually need to cover up if you’re out in the sun all day (yes, it does happen).

        If women are the inferior sex then it’s bound to be more shaming for men to join us. Poor men!

      • Charli Mills

        *groan* Welcome to American capitalism where plunging necklines and cutesy sleeves warrant complicated clothing that most American women loathe.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

  6. Ritu

    I’m loving this prompt, and your thoughts… Gender fluidity is a good thing, I think!
    Time to get thinking about the prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      There are so many levels to it and so much that influences gender identity. I think it’s a good topic to explore and a rich area for character creation.

      • Ritu


  7. joanne the geek

    I think I’ve got several ideas for this prompt, having written one already.

    It reminds me when I wrote the Surprise! story which had a vampire in it. As it was an undead entity that lives on blood I decided the gender was not important so I just used gender-neutral language to describe them, which confused a few people at the time…

    • Charli Mills

      Joanne, it was your vampire story that got my mind buzzing, then several other gender-related issues came up and I decided it was good to explore. You inspired me!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

    • Charli Mills

      I like the humor, and that you furthered your serial characters.

    • Charli Mills

      Good job, Ritu!

      • Ritu


  8. H.R.R. Gorman

    NC! Da home state, woot woot! Represent! And I’m glad you’ve got a haircut you like – I still haven’t found what cut I like. I want something that I don’t have to upkeep, but I also don’t want to have to get a cut every couple weeks just to keep it out of my ears.

    Either way, I made a wee thing for the week, and I’m currently lazy/pressed enough that I’m just going to leave a link rather than the whole thing…



    • Charli Mills

      Yeah, the upkeep can be a pain, although it’s easy for my daughter to buzz the undercut for me. No problem, share it where and how you’d like, H.R.R. It’s a brilliant flash!

  9. Jennie

    Excellent, Charli. My new favorite word is ‘boxlesness’.

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you liked the new word, and we can call it an alternative spelling, Jennie.

      • Jennie

        I love it!

  10. Jennie

    Oops, ‘boxlessness’

  11. denmaniacs4

    With apologies to D. Avery…amongst many others…

    Gender Comrades

    “In my day, there weren’t no genders. Just men and wimin. Pretty sure that’s the way it were. Hard to remember, though.”

    “Well, Luke, I’ll tell ya, your day was my day. I recollect it different.”

    “Ya do, do ya. How so?”

    “That time I sailed over ter France, daddy told me, ‘neither a borrower nor a gender be.’ ”

    “What the heck did he mean?”

    “It befluxed me, too. Said it were from Shakespeare’s Piglet… or Cutlet…anyways, it meant, be yourself, and keep your hand on your purse. Or your person. Somethin’ like that.”

    “It’s a headscratcher, alright.”


    • Jules

      Tears of laughter are forming at the edges of my eyes while I am laughing out loud!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Apologies? Fer whut? I try not ta be jealous a wicked sharp writin’.
      My daddy actually said ta me, “Girls an’ boys is diff’rent things.” Which meant I wasn’t allowed to go to a big ol’ party that was sure ta be trouble and where my brothers had always gone. So I went on an overnight fishin’ trip instead, camped out in the woods. Crashed the party. True story of double standards and the power of fishin’.

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, you got a hankering for writing a yarn and went fer it! Great misinterpretations that kind make good sense!

  12. Ann Edall-Robson

    The Greenhorn
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The greenhorn was getting his ranch introduction under Tal’s tutelage. The kid, as Mrs. Johnson called him, was an exchange student. He would be with them for a couple of months.

    Hanna leaned on the fence listening to Tal explain the difference between the horses found on the ranch.

    “Mares are the females. They get bred to stallions. Most of the horses here are geldings.”

    “What’s a gelding?” The kid asked.

    Tal thought for a moment before answering. “We classify them as being non-gender specific.”

    Hanna couldn’t help but laugh. She had to agree, Tal was bang on.


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! Ya kin gild the lily but don’t bother tryin’ ta geld the filly.

    • Charli Mills

      Ann, what a perfect point from the ranching ways — geldings are non-gender specific. Best horses, too. Bang on with your flash!

    • Charli Mills

      Happy Easter, Michael!

  13. pensitivity101

    Nice story Charli.
    Here’s mine. I’ve entitled it Confusing

    Life was straightforward growing up, you had girls and boys.
    Girls liked pink, boys liked blue.
    Girls played with dolls, boys played with soldiers.
    Or did they?
    Suddenly pink shirts became fashionable, and from then on, the colour stereotype got slung out of the window.
    There is no such thing as one or the other gender now.
    It’s confusing, and the space on the job application form has multiple choice.
    For security staff, it’s a nightmare, especially when it comes to body searches.
    The world’s gone mad.
    Imagine when asked
    ‘What gender are you?’ the answer is
    ‘You pick.’

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Maybe the real madness is the need for body searches?

    • Charli Mills

      On one hand, the human brain wants simple categories, and yet we humans are much more complex. And yes, I do think it’s confusing as we are early in trying to sort it all out. Hopefully, though, people will feel accepted as who they are.

      • pensitivity101

        It’s not the wrapping that matters, but what’s inside………….

    • Charli Mills

      Always good to see Ernest and Marge.

    • Charli Mills

      A punchy edge. Good to see ya TUFFin’ things out and makin’ room for more characters (or getting the unknowns named).

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Bladud!

  14. tnkerr

    I got a lot to talk about this week:

    First – my apologies to all. The like button was functioning only intermittently as I was reading your entries. It’s been doing this for a couple of days. Not sure if it’s me or WP.
    Second – The flash fiction I have submitted this week is an excerpt from a much longer story I wrote about five years ago. It immediately came to mind whenI read what Charli wrote and this week’s prompt. I opened that story and pulled the summation out, pasted it in Word.
    Guess what? Ninety nine words with no editing. It seemed preordained and it had a tangential relation to the prompt so I went with it.
    Charli, please feel free to not post it if you think this might be cheating. I’ll understand and do better next time, but if you want to let it fly…


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Gotta hit the refresh button around here is all, regarding the like button.

    • Charli Mills

      Sounds like a browser issue, and D. has a fix — refresh. I prefer Firefox as that happens less.

      TN, it’s not a cheat at all — what you did is use the prompt and constraint as a tool to play with the material of your creation. As writers, we don’t just output, we rearrange, reorganize, rethink our written words and stories. This is exactly what I hope writers learn from playing here each week. Because you can apply these techniques to respond faster to contests and literary submissions. Good job!

    • reading journeys

      Great FF and very imaginative “philosophical” graphics!

    • Charli Mills

      I enjoyed your take, Net!

      • the dark netizen

        Thanks so much, Charli! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Violet! I’m glad you found the prompt delicious. I found all the resulting stories delicious, too.

  15. reading journeys

    Hi Charli
    Challenging FF: thinking outside my own box; maybe “boxlessness” . Hm.

    Sci fi stories & gender came to mind: humans, robots, androids, AIs. The stories of Isaac Asimonv, Ursula K. Le Guinn, Octavia Butler.

    And my FF is in.
    Thank you for the challenging and thought-provoking prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      Loved what you did with your sci-fi story, Saifun. You achieved starship boxlessness!

    • Charli Mills

      Love the offering to Carrot Ranch, Kate! Thank you!

      • calmkate

        thanks Charli!

    • Deborah Lee

      I meant to say threads, not rags. Apparently I’m as awake as my outfit is (men’s pj pants by the way–no pink tax so less $$, size easy to find, and POCKETS).

    • Charli Mills

      I love “flowy rags” Deborah as I tend to wear my favorites to such! And with men’s pj pants, often there is air conditioning, lol!

    • Charli Mills

      Since I’m backward my timing, I can say the results are terrific and diverse!

  16. susansleggs

    Hi Charli,

    Never thought about what my burial outfit might be. Guess I better put it in writing with the rest of the requests. My husband occasionally say, “I forgot you had legs,” as dresses are far and few between in my closet too. PJ’s all day is good and so comfortable. I had to look up gender and found there are two sexes but many genders. Live and learn. Be who you want to be! Glad the knee replacement is over and all went well…………

    Gender-proof Names

    The proud parents of toddler twins, a boy and a girl, couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to see which child picked which “rocking horse.” Without hesitation, Taylor went to the black and white motorcycle shaped one and Devin went to the golden pony. The parents smiled.
    Years later the gender argument arose when the twins got their driver permits. Taylor asked, “Dad, in this day and age do we really have to mark the Female or Male box on this application?”
    He answered, “It’s only good for statistics these days, each of you pick one, but make them different.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Having a husband with a gender proof name is an advantage when fielding those annoying phone calls. I just say this is she and then say no thank you, take me off the list.

      • susansleggs

        If it works…go for it.

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, my best friend prepared her own funeral and requested a specific dress, which was unusual as she wasn’t into dresses, either. But it was a comfortable mu-mu! Her daughters were appalled — “not that thing!” In the end, we all had a good laugh, which was part of her intent. Eternal comfort was the other.

      I like where you took your characters, to a celebration of choices.

      • susansleggs

        “Eternal comfort” I need to keep that thought in mind. I love mu-mu’s and my kids hate them. Tee-hee

    • Jules

      I enjoyed your post and the history too.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie! I had a lovely Easter. The calm before the storm, I suppose! I hope you had a lovely one, too.

  17. Norah

    An interesting contemplation, Charli. I like the sound of your buzz cut. Does hair really define us? It reminds me of the old story of Samson and Delilah. I thought now it was anything goes. When Hub was a teenager (before I knew him), his hair was longer than mine’s ever been. It was still quite long when I met him, but is now short (what’s left of it :)) Both my children have also had hair longer than mine’s ever been (I would have loved waist-length hair but never got it far past my shoulders), and both have shaved their heads. They are far more hair-adventurous than I am. Bec has had an undercut for a number of years now and her partner (who, when I first met him, also had waist-length hair – what is it with these other people achieving what I wanted?) now shaves his head, sometimes. When I was at school, there were rules about hair length and how it must be worn. I don’t think those rules exist anymore, in most schools anyway. It is good to have the choice and maybe, for young people, the choice wouldn’t even come into question the way it might for us.

    Your flash stories touch on some of the issues with which the younger generations will need to deal. It will be difficult to change centuries-old attitudes and, I think, as with many things, many ideas get shaken around, different ones pop to the top occasionally, and then it will all settle. What an interesting journey it will be.

    It’s great that you recommended Anne’s book. It is certainly one to stimulate a bit of thought.

    Congratulations on your new status with a licence to drive internationally (without leaving the continent!! – something I can’t do) and to vote. I am so envious of you, D. Avery, Jules, Susan and Ann. I wish I could be there with you. What a wonderfully creative time you will have together – and then a road trip. I hope you make a movie of it! 🙂

    I’ve added my story to the mix:

    Rainbow Futures
    The children went around the circle telling what they’d be when they grew up: police officer, paramedic, teacher, doctor, prosecutor, influencer …
    Laughter erupted when Rudii responded, “Mother.”
    “You can’t be a mother,” taunted one.
    “Can too.”
    “But you don’t have, you know, boobies,” said another, glancing at the teacher.
    “Dad said I can be anything I want,” retorted Rudii.
    The teacher silenced them and the circle continued, punctuated only by an occasional half-giggle or nudge.
    A rainbow of opportunity awaits, Teacher smiled inwardly, contemplating the question he and his partner were processing: who would be Mom?


    • susansleggs

      Norah, The retreat being all ranch hands, with our lead buckaroo, is going to be the highlight of my summer. I’m sure the other names and stories we are familiar with here will be a part of our conversations. It would be grand if one day we could all come together for a few days.
      Your flash say it all for some sets of partners today. Well done.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Susan. I’m sure there are many of us who wish we could be with you in more than spirit. One day …

    • Charli Mills

      A wonderful bonus of imagination is that I can picture you with that long, waist-length hair, Norah! It’s fun to look back at photos of family to see hair change over time. My son changed his the most, including facial hair. That I can’t do! If your husband is anything like mine, the back hair is now longer than the head hair. We joke about it. The Hub had a perm in the ’70s in high school. At least we didn’t live through the era of massive wigs.

      I appreciate how your flash didn’t stop with the discussion among the children. Adding the teacher’s contemplation added to the greater dimension of changes. I think societal changes are difficult when people are rooted in fear. I hope for a world with less fear.

      Thanks for adding your rainbow!

      An international driver’s license is the beginning. I’m excited to spend the summer retreat with Ranch Hands and plan to do more in different places. Gotta get a home base set up, firm up that stability.

      • Norah

        Thank you for all your kind and supportive words, Charli.
        I’ve been thinking about your retreat and wondering how I can be a presence from so far away. No clues yet. 🙂
        A home base is a affirming and encouraging and the progress that Todd is making is wonderful. How far away is the home stability?
        Talking about perms, I used to get my hair permed in the early 80s. The first time was in 79. Son was 5. When Hub and Son picked me up from the appointment, S cried when I got in the car. He wanted his real Mummy back – so sad. 🙁
        Sometimes, the perm was so wild, I felt like I was the wicked witch of the west. I’d still love curls but my hair is between straight and wavy – impossible to do anything with and no one seems to perm any more. It was straight until the perms. 🙂

    • Jules

      I actually think it is cool when I see guys, some famous athletes knitting or crocheting! What about that pair in the commercials… that make cupcakes now. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Look at you go, Joanne!

  18. Pete

    Markita sat in the doctor’s office, hands resting on her belly. A woman looked up from her phone.

    “Boy or girl?”

    Markita smiled. Why did they always have to know? It was her baby, kicking at night, rolling over her bladder, causing her feet to swell.

    “I don’t know.”

    The woman’s eyes nearly spilled from her skull. “You don’t know? What about the name?”

    “What about it?”

    “I mean the room, the colors, the clothes. We’ve been planning Baby Brooklyn’s nursery for months.”

    Markita smiled. Colors. Names. Clothes. She only wanted to meet the person growing inside of her.

    • Jules

      I never wanted to know… and refused to let anyone know our name choices until after. In some cultures one doesn’t even set up the nursery until after the child is home.

    • Charli Mills

      Pete, I like Markita’s focus on meeting the person and not crafting the persona of her child.

  19. Kerry E.B. Black

    Charity’s Childhood
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Charity played football while wearing her tutu and tiara. Her Barbies explored sunken treasures, donned armor, and battled evil warlords. She named her bike Ragnarok and imagined charging into battle every time she pedalled, yet she stopped to admire flowers, searched for fairies in mushroom rings, and danced like Shirley Temple.

    Deeana broke from a group of gossiping classmates, manicured hands on her designer jeans. “Charity, why do you think boys like you because you can hit a baseball?”

    Charity’s nostrils flared like a wolf scenting prey or a doe ready to flee. “Why do you hate me because I do?”

    • Pete

      Loved this flash. So well written. So true

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes! The groups often disdain the individualists the most. I love the name of the bike, too!

  20. pedometergeek

    Room 112

    It’s an historic building where Julie worked, and according to some people, it was once a home for orphaned children. Some of her co-workers claim they still hear the moans and screams of children when the building is empty.

    One office suite was unusual as it had been converted. It was the only one in which girls, women, and those who identify as female entered and exited with regularity. Julie, too, visited the office regularly and always felt better (perhaps relief would be a better word). Rarely was she not satisfied even with her short visits to Room 112.

    Nancy Brady, 2019

    • Charli Mills

      Room 112 has evolved from a place of misery to one of relief. Thanks, Nan!

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Teresa!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, David!

  23. Jules

    Many folks believe the “Great Spirit” is known in many forms – is either gender less or both. All of us have one mouth and two ears… now to just listen 🙂 Nicely done.

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jackie!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rupali!

  26. Charli Mills

    And what a beautiful photo on a joyous day, Kate!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tien!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Kelley!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Lucy!


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