March 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

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.

March 6, 2020

It’s March 5, a blizzard blows with an easterly wind, and I’m feeling disenfranchised. I’ve struggled to keep my right to vote as an American. I had to battle residency hurdles since 2016, and now that I have a permanent home like I’m some lucky dog rescued from the pound, I don’t get to vote for my candidate. I’m bitterly disappointed, choosing to sulk for the moment.

Primaries are not my area of knowledge other than my general understanding that each party votes for their presidential candidate. I never understood the fawning over Iowa voters as if farming gobs of corn make them wiser than the rest of the US. New Hampshire and Nevada follow Iowa. Then there’s something called Super Tuesday when a block of states conduct their voting, which happened this week.

Now I understand that Iowa is remarkable only because it’s advantaged — the state votes in the primaries first.

In Michigan, I researched if and how I can vote in the primaries because I never have. Why? I’m an independent, forsaking the two-party tussle. I vote my conscience, not a party’s platform. I’ve held this important personal value ever since I learned in high school civics class that I have the right to remain independent of party affiliations. And so, I have never voted in a party primary before.

The thought of having to enroll in a party disturbed me, but I was willing to become a Democrat to vote for one of five candidates I felt could unify my politically shattered nation. But I discovered that Michigan does not require citizens to register with a party to vote! I had my choice of which primary I wanted to vote in, and that had me feeling empowered.

Then, following the primary elections in other states, one by one, my choices dropped out. Today, Elizabeth Warren, the woman with plans, experience, wit, fortitude, and a vagina, dropped out. I’m devastated. I “get” to vote next Tuesday. The two Democratic choices remaining do not offer me the same vote as Iowa, or New Hampshire, or the Super States got. I don’t even get to say, “I voted for my Woman.”

And that is disenfranchisement.

I’m so disgusted, I actually understand why people voted for Trump. I actually spoke the words out loud — “Fine, I’ll vote for Trump, then.” I was horrified by my own shadow rising. What was it saying? That I feel petulant for not getting my way? That I feel fearful that I have no say in my country? That I feel oppressed by rigged institutions? That I feel like lopping off a breast and killing guards of the patriarchy with long spears? Okay, that last one went dark, but it is my Amazon shadow self pitching a fit. Shadows elected Donald Trump.

What I really wanted was a candidate who could listen to the varied voices of my nation. I want my brethren out west to be understood for their rural issues. I don’t want veterans living in fear that their hard-earned benefits will be yanked away. I want all peoples to have a seat at the table to discuss the condition of our world and what we can do to find common ground, especially the indigenous who are rising up, willing to offer what guidance they still have. I want healing and hope. Don’t we all? Don’t we?

So much uncertainty exists at levels so broad I can only process it through fiction. And here’s where I’ll ungracefully stumble off my soapbox, mumble an apology for voicing politics, and examine how fiction helps me make sense of a world poised for disaster. I’m going to unleash my mind and ask questions that lead to stories:

  • What if a pandemic swept the world, killing all the adults and only children were left?
  • What if a couple met over Ham radio waves and had a long-distance romance while modern society imploded?
  • What if an indigenous woman succeeded in getting elected as president of the US?

I think we live in a time where what we think we’ve known is about to change. Tonight, I had dinner and chakradance with my daughter. She’s a science writer at Michigan Tech University, and the Coronavirus-19 has been a focal point. She reports on some of the cutting edge research, interviewing bio-engineers and medical researchers. This new type of virus is here to stay, and we know so little about it yet. We do know — it’s not the flu.

Tonight, my daughter told me that she and her husband have been talking about death and dying. A heavy topic for a couple who is in their early 30s. Another friend recently completed an entire course all about death. She has terminal cancer and questions. She told me how people can have green burials, but need to be placed in the ground within 48 hours. Another friend says that’s what she wants but doesn’t have access to land. A couple I know is trying to get land approved as a cemetery for veterans and their wives. A rule prohibits wives from burial before the veteran, though. Guess that means the guys have to go first.

Politics and death. Not the cheery topics I planned. But then there was chakradance.

The blizzard began to blow more ice and less snow. My daughter drove us to the Jutila Center at the bottom of Quincy Hill from where I live in Hancock. The former chapel is now a large space for workshops, and this is where we gather to freely dance for 90 minutes every Thursday. At first, I was uncertain about it, but it’s now an activity I look forward to because it integrates body, mind, and spirit. I have actually dreamed parts of my novel during chakradance, which isn’t all that unusual, considering that many authors seek movement to integrate creative breakthroughs in writing. Dance sets me free to imagine.

I’m feeling calmer and less hopeless. There will be people willing to find common ground and act from a center of kindness. There will also be people willing to research and find ways to improve the lives of others. The big stage of life can look daunting at times, and when it does, I know it’s time to scale back.

This is what I mean — a friend in Colorado wants to save dogs. It can be a formidable mission. She can’t save all the dogs, but she can find ones in need if she pays attention. And she does. In just the past month, she’s helped a homeless family get their two dogs, spayed and neutered. Then, early one morning, she found a dog near death in a park. She rescued the animal and contributed to getting her fostered. My friend can’t save all dogs, but she models for us what it looks like to save the ones who cross her path.

This is how inspiration works. We see that a thing is possible. We learn how to participate in art or rescue or living mindfully by watching others. We grow in this way. To me, it’s better than getting wrapped around the axel of things I cannot change. The one thing I can change is my own thinking, and that leads to doing and growing. So, I set aside my earlier feelings. I acknowledge my pain and frustration. I accept worry but refuse to bow down to its weight. I told my daughter tonight, “We are all going to die. Now, let’s go dance.”

Let’s dance with Clarice. Who is she? She is many — women throughout history, perhaps from your own circle of family and friends, who have been named Clarice. Last week, Bill Engleson challenged our thinking to recognize the contributions of women named Clarice beyond a notable character from Silence of the Lambs. Here is the list he shared:

Clarice Assad (born 1978), Brazilian composer
Clarice Beckett (1887–1935), Australian painter
Clarice Benini (1905–1976), Italian chess master
Clarice Blackburn (1921–1995), American actress
Clarice Carson (1929–2015), Canadian opera singer
Clarice Cliff (1899–1972), British ceramic artist
Clarice de’ Medici (1493–1528), Tuscan noblewoman
Clarice Lispector (1920–1977), Brazilian writer
Clarice Mayne (1886–1966), English actress
Clarice McLean (born 1936), American dancer
Clarice Modeste-Curwen (born 1945), Grenadan politician
Clarice Morant (1904–2009), American centenarian and caretaker
Clarice Orsini (1450–1488), Tuscan queen
Clarice Shaw (1883–1946), Scottish politician
Clarice Taylor (1917–2011), American actress
Clarice Tinsley (born 1954), American journalist
Clarice Vance (1870–1961), American actress

We might live in troubling times, but every age has such. We are facing the challenges of our moment in history, which is but one small bead in the greater tapestry. We are also the writers, poets, artists, readers, and dreamers. We have the capacity to imagine and evoke, to prod and comfort, challenge, and celebrate. What will you write? Who knows. But do it. Write.

March 5, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about Clarice. She can be any Clarice real, historical, or imagined. What story does she have for you to tell? Go where she may lead!

Respond by March 12, 2020. 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.

Submissions closed. Find our latest weekly Flash Fiction Challenge.

Escaping to Misery Bay by Charli Mills

Viv drove down a narrow two-track, brush scratching Hal’s 1956 Ford Victoria. How that man would howl if he saw his car now. Viv smiled, keeping both hands on the wheel. She’d hide out at Clarice’s cabin on Misery Bay. A few deer camps populated the unmined swath of land void of copper. Clarice escaped the mines to live carefree, growing vegetables and chickens. Driving the Ford out of the brush, Viv lightly honked. Clarice – born Clarence Guntecher – strode out to the porch wearing only a long flannel shirt and unlaced boots. Clarice snapped fingers and shouted, “Girl party!”

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  1. joanne the geek

    I don’t live in America but I always thought Elizabeth Warren would make a great President. She is always impressive in the debates. It’s a shame she has dropped out.

    You mentioned a virus that only wipes out adults. That’s the plot of a children’s (or YA fiction) book by John Christopher. I don’t remember the title of it though, but I did read it when I was younger.

    • Charli Mills

      Elizabeth Warren did an interview with Rachel Maddow tonight and I think most of us are stinging that she isn’t our president because she understands the complexities of the issues we face and she’s fierce but kind.

      Ah–already a plot! I was struck by how children are not susceptible to this new virus because usually, they are a vulnerable group. It’s a similar plot to Lord of the Flies, too and a book Anne Goodwin recently reviewed.

      • joanne the geek

        I also thought Warren would help bridge the gap between the moderates and democratic socialists in the party. Had she been selected as the presidential candidate a great deal of the party would have behind her. Whoever wins now will have a fractured party behind them which won’t be good.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        i was trying to remember that novel as I read your post, Charli, but I can’t recall which it is. Maybe it’ll come to me.

      • Charli Mills

        Joanne, I think Warren could have been a unifying force as you point out. Now, I think it’s important for the Democratic party to think about how they will use their candidate to do that — choosing a running mate and then a competent cabinet. We shall see.

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Given the two old farts running, I’m hoping for her as a VP pick. Either Biden or Sanders is likely to drop dead at any moment, and Warren seems to have better health and energy than them. I think having her as VP, no matter which one gets chosen, would greatly help the Dems have a chance in November. Problem is while she’s in the dead-end position of VP, she can’t have a more useful position within the cabinet.

      (Caveat: I voted Yang on Super Tuesday because of his policies on nuclear energy, even though he was already out. I knew Warren wasn’t going to stay in the race much longer, and I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a creepy guy I don’t like and an angry guy who’s going to destroy my livelihood. Warren hasn’t/hadn’t declared a position on nuclear, but I get the feeling she’s knowledgeable that she’d be able to make the right choice.)

      • joanne the geek

        I did hear that she was going to drop out and that Biden was going to make her his running mate, but that was just rumour. I’m disappointed it’s come down to two old white dudes, but I guess that was bound to happen.

      • Charli Mills

        Two old farts on the ticket stinks. I think either of them could have thoughtful picks as VP, and what a hopeful idea for Warren to be a cabinet pick. Can you imagine? Competent people in the cabinet again. I’d rather have an administration and Congress open to making better decisions, not biased or profitable ones. That way, those of us in specific industries feel like we can have a seat at the table. I liked Yang and his youth and science. We’ll see how this all plays out.

  2. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    If you don’t understand the preliminaries, Charli, imagine what it’s like for those of us outside the US who still get fed updates! Although trying to avoid worrying things I can’t influence, I wasn’t aware that Elizabeth Warren had dropped out. Disappointing. It’s strange that nonparty members can vote since wouldn’t some be motivated to vote against the best candidate? Although, like you, I’ve always voted with my conscience.
    I think you need to add healthcare to your list! We’ve had the first UK death from coronavirus but at least we know here that – while resources last – we’ll be taken care of if we succumb.
    I’m glad you’ve resurrected Bill’s list of Clarices for the challenge, especially as it’s Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on Sunday. I love your 99-word story – I should have seen that twist coming but it was actually a very satisfying surprise. I’ll be back later with mine.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Mine’s up: Clarice Orsini, go-between
      I think it was a great prompt and I’m really looking forward to browsing through the collection. I found it really hard because I didn’t know much/anything about the characters on offer but I wanted to try and create a historical flash without having any time to research it. Not sure I’ve succeeded but it was fun.
      16 novels about Women’s History #WomensHistoryMonth – annethology

      • reading journeys

        Wow! Thanks for the reviews – wonderful and diverse collection of novels to read, to celebrate Women’s History Month. All of the authors are new to me, and I liked the range from fiction about real life historical figures to theme-based novels about war, slavery and social justice.
        On my TBR list:
        Ali Bacon’s In the Blink of an Eye
        Sally Magnusson’s debut novel, The Sealwoman’s Gift.
        Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer.
        Thanks again!

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Thanks so much for taking a journey through my recommendations. You’ve chosen a diverse selection of wonderful books. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, each state holds its own presidential primaries and it’s a horse race from Iowa through Super Tuesday, best I can tell. To your point about sabotaging a vote, that is possible. For example, this Tuesday, I can instead choose to vote against Trump’s nomination on the Republican ticket but that’s a waste of my voting privilege and futile. I can still vote for Elizabeth Warren just to say I did. I can try to decide which old white man should be the party candidate. Already, I see so much nastiness within the Sanders support, making it look as cultish as Trump’s support. Different ideals, same brainwashed behaviors. But I won’t vote against something. I’ll find something worth supporting and be a part of a needed change.

      *groan* Our healthcare is a mess and yet the top CEOs for healthcare corporations rake in millions with sickeningly exorbitant salaries. Good that you will be taken care of during the coronavirus outbreak. We are told to stay home, or, if our orange monstrosity is to be taken at his word (ha!) we are to go to work if symptoms are mild. Oh, and wash our hands like we just chopped up jalapeno peppers and need to put in our contacts. Our local University is highly regarded around the world and has top researchers so I actually feel safer living in the Keweenaw because we will have their expertise if, or when, it reaches us. In the meantime, I’m making elderberry syrup with the woman-folk who know their medicinals.

      I love your collection of book reviews in support of women’s history. I hadn’t thought about the timeliness of looking to the Clarices of history, too focused on Elizabeth Warren. She seems to be more popular now that she is no longer running. Go figure. I see the Middle Ages returning, complete with Black Plague. Maybe I better understand why anchoresses walled themselves away.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Well, it’s now super Tuesday so I hope you feel ready to vote! We have a much lower key election going on here with three candidates for Labour Party leader (which only party members can vote for) doing the rounds which seems to be quite a friendly affair – perhaps because there is little chance of any of them becoming prime minister, especially when the Tories are likely to change the electoral boundaries in their favour.
        I wonder if unconsciously you knew about Women’s History Month when you picked the challenge – or Bill did when he listed the Clarices! I did think about including an anchoress in my collection but maybe I’ll save her for a post on incarceration.
        Yeah, looks as if we all might be locked in soon as has already happened in northern Italy. But I have a sense that the worldwide panic isn’t only about this virus. I know it hasn’t yet reached its peak but it isn’t yet as lethal here as ordinary winter flu, which only gets a mention in relation to hospital bed numbers.
        Hope you’re safe with the researchers on the doorstep.

      • Charli Mills

        We didn’t get Super Tuesday, Anne, just simply the Tuesday after with the remnants. We did vote. Ah, so you have gerrymandering too? We have all sorts of voter suppression, some of it, we’ve lived through first-hand.

        My son is in New Jersey, working with the medical community to manage technology systems for screening and monitory Covid-19. His fiance is managing crisis communication in a tourist region. My eldest is at the research university on a Covid-19 taskforce and they just shut down face-to-face classes after spring break (next week). And my middlest is making Nordic beer on an isolated Arctic island. I’m still not sure what to make of it all, but I saw a good quote shared by my daughter’s university (to paraphrase) that in a pandemic initial reactions seem alarmist and afterward they seem insufficient.

        The introverts may inherit the earth, after all — self-isolation is a welcomed way to survive.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Reena!

  3. ellenbest24

    I was pleased to read she had a vagina as life would be somewhat difficult (if of course sh identifies as a woman) had she lost that as well as her place. I am pleased that you got your vote back and at least have an opportunity to have your say.
    Your story made me smile visulising Viv grinning as she scraped his prize possession. Misery bay probably has seen less Misery than most spots to retreat to, as I cn’t imagine being miserable around feisty Clarice.

    • Charli Mills

      I was a bit wound up, Ellen. I wish I had an opportunity to make my vote count, but I will consider how to use it Tuesday, understand that it’s a precious right to have. And, I’m enjoying this Viv and her friend Clare.

      • ellenbest24

        As are anyone who reads about them. I am sure you will find the perfect spot for your mark. If I can not decide Because of a personality that I would clash with, or a party I did not like (recent happenings come to mind) I ask myself would I trust them to put my granny to bed? Cantankerous, curmudgeonly, Grandma, if that person would be kind enough to do it, would he be thick skinned enough to survive the insults and pokes she undoubtedly will deliver. Then that is who I would chose. But I would not vote tactically or for someone who says what they think would win them votes, empty platitudes do not save economies or children. Good luck Charli Emily Pankhurst will be proud.

      • Charli Mills

        I voted Ellen, and I kept your Grandma in mind.

  4. floridaborne

    Poly Ticks: A class of parasites whose sole purpose is to suck their country dry.

    Discussing politics is like talking about life to a 12-year-old. Left and Right have their own opinions about it. Trying to argue “truths” is a waste of time. People will either see it, or they won’t, but it has to be their idea to look in the right direction.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Poly Ticks! Oh, yes. I’m thinking we just keep passing on division. How I’d like to be a part of productive growth in our nation. Common ground fares as well as common sense, though. I should know better than to even dip a toe where the Poly Ticks live, but I was needing to express.

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Horse of a Different Color (and gender and dietary preferences and gait and name)”

    “Hmmph. I delare!”
    “Clarice! We have ta write about Clarice?!”
    “Clearly, Kid.”
    “Think ya mean ‘precisely’.”
    “Exactly. 99 words. No more, no less.”
    “Thet heps with clarity, don’tcha think, Kid?”
    “Not clarity. Clarice! I need hep with Clarice.”
    “Why look, Frankie’s here with the mail. Frankie, where’s ol’ Burt?
    “He’s on furlough. Because of eatin’ up Doug’s flash.”
    “Oh, yeah. Well, this un’s a fine lookin’ filly. But why’re you sportin’ a eye-patch this time?”
    “She’s got a rough gait, Pal. Bounced me so hard, I had trouble keepin’ my eye off the road. Dang Clarice.”

    • Susan Zutautas

      Made me smile D. 🙂 I always enjoy your flashes in the comment section and stories on your blog!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s all very clear now! I hope Burt didn’t get colick on account he ate Doug’s story last week. Clarice sound like a rough ride.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yeah, keep your eyes peeled for Frankie’s.

      • Charli Mills


        Hey, that reminds me of a Hallowwen campfire story!

  6. Norah

    The American system of voting is very different from ours. I’ve never really understood how it works. I think I understand it a little better now and get your frustration at not being able to vote for the one you wanted as she had been eliminated before your turn came. It does suck a bit.
    Politics and death. Yes, both will come. May as well dance (and write) while we can.
    That’s a lot of active Clarice’s. It would be fun to research other names – our names perhaps.
    I wonder what escapades Clarice will get up to this week. In your story, I think she will enjoy Viv’s company and they’ll both have a wonderful ‘girl party’, with or without a girl president.

      • Norah

        Thanks, D. You’re the observant one. 🙂

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my imaginary historical story. I hope you like it.
      Here is the link:

      First Cow in Space
      “We are here today with the first cow in space, whose identity, until now, has been kept secret. Will you please welcome [drum roll] Clarice Cloverdale.”
      “Clarice, please tell us about your adventure and why your identity was undisclosed for so long.”
      “It was simply a non-disclosure agreement. That contract has now terminated so I’m free to tell.”
      “Go on.”
      “We were all tired of playing second-fiddle to Cat. Dish and Spoon ran away so Dog had no alternative but to make me the star. Needless to say, I was over the moon. The rest is history.”

      • Doug Jacquier

        Hilarious, love it.

      • Norah

        Thank you. 🙂

      • Allison Maruska

        This is delightful! 🙂

      • Norah

        Thank you, Allison. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Live out loud, dance, and write to the moon and back, all better than getting bent out of shape over politics. What a great idea to do a writing prompt to research our own names. I’ve had Clarice and Viv stuck in my head all weekend. I think they are bursting to be active.

      I love your imaginative take on Clarice and the backstory to a popular tale and place where I’d enjoy sending most of our politicians.

      • Norah

        That’s so funny, Charli. I dread to think what they’d do out there though. 🙂
        I know there’s a few famous Norahs, well, two anyway – Nora Roberts the writer and Norah Jones the singer; only one of whom spells her name the right way. 🙂 I haven’t thought to see if there are others.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, wow, Doug, that’s a chilling futuristic Viv! I’ll keep mine back in the ’50s!

      • Charli Mills

        It might be fun to find! I wonder how many female Charlis there are?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        There was Charlotte Parkhurst (One-Eyed Charlie) a renown stage coach driver who lived as a man back in the 1800s. Kid you not. Riding Freedom, a middle years book.

  7. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    These are troubling times, and yet we still get inspired and write on. Six years ago there was another March fifth prompt. In 2014 Charli launched the first ever Carrot Ranch 99 word challenge! Happy anniversary to Charli Mills, Norah Colvin, Susan Zutautas, Rhuchira Khana, Paula Moyer, and Jason Kennedy, who participated in that fledgling Flash Fiction Challenge.
    Congratulations on all the growth and accomplishment! I am so very gratified to take part in this community that you have cultivated since even before these weekly gatherings. Write on, everyone. Write on.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Thanks so much, D.!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        And it’s still fun, six years later, at least you make it seem so! Thank you, for you got this great thing going with those early flashes. Now look at the roaring campfire!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thinking you might of come in fairly early on; used your navigational skills to help keep the good ship Carrot Ranch on course. All I know is I’m glad to have stumbled upon this place with all these fine people.

    • Norah

      Thanks, D. It must be fun or we wouldn’t still be here. 🙂

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        It seems to this late arrival that it is something more than fun too. Seems like you and others have helped get the wagon train over some tough passes here and there. But every week here it is! Thank you Norah. I’m not much of a joiner but you got me to sit by the fire and I’m grateful for its warmth and light.

      • Norah

        There’s not much I join either, but I joined in early here and stayed. I’m pleased you pulled up a stump (as we say in Australia) too and have hung around. It wouldn’t be the same without you. But I think the reason we stay is that Charli’s description of the Ranch matches exactly what it is/ what she’s made it – a safe haven for writers of all descriptions.

    • Hugh's Views and News

      I haven’t participated in all of them, but I can confidently say that as a result of participating in the odd 99-word flash fiction challenge that my writing and confidence have both been boosted.
      Thanks so much, Charli. And happy anniversary to everyone from that first challenge.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, D. and all who write here! I wanted to play with writers and so I built a sandbox, named it a ranch, and have found inspiration from all of you week after week. I’m so amazed at how creativity grows. I’ve delighted in seeing the growth in individual writers, too. And deepest gratitude to those who joined in that very first prompt. Six years and counting!

    • TanGental

      is it six years already; cripes! I followed on Anne’s crinoline tails some time in 2014 and still 99 words tickle the fancy… any idea how many 99 words you’ve seen in that time Charli? To infinity and beyond I guess if you laid them end to end…

      • Charli Mills

        At least 12,000 99-word stories making it over a million words that have passed through the Ranch! I’m glad you followed, Geoff.

  8. Susan Zutautas

    I pay close attention to what is happening in the USA and I’m pretty disappointed that there are only 2 candidates left to vote for if you’re a democrat. I used to despise politics at one time but now I find they can be quite entertaining or not 🙂
    I know who you’re talking about and Diana is a hero in my eyes. She has such love and a huge heart for all animals. Bless her.
    It keeps snowing here and it’s starting to get me down as I just want to go outside and plant a garden.
    Anyways enough babbling from me. Here is my contribution to this week’s flash. A little on the dark side.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I cringe to think about how US politics must look. I hope we can return some dignity to it.

      Ah, yes, Diana is a hero in many ways. She actually drove to northern New Mexico to meet me and the Hub when we were wandering homeless. She impressed me so much, meeting the Hub on his own terms, asking him to teach her to shoot. She made him feel useful. She is exceedingly wise and compassionate. Then she took me to a ghost town and cemetery! Oh, what a treat. I’m so glad to see she has given Blessing a home.

      Enough snow already! I turned to maple sap, not realizing how wondrous it is to brew for tea or breakfast rice. It tastes like spring!

      Thank you for supporting the Ranch from the beginning when I was like, hey — I got this idea…

      Your flash explores the grim reality of human pain. Well done.

  9. denmaniacs4

    We Canadians are a tad less engaged in our political system, I think. And if that’s an exaggeration, as some might think, what I mean is that it is quite a bit more compress. The 2020 election has been in almost full gear since Trump was inaugurated. For the Democrats, a wealth of possible choices stepped up. Excellent women and men. For me, a woman in the White House as President is long overdue. Canada has a very short experience with a woman as Prime Minister. Many of our women politicians are by my reckoning quite superior to their male counterparts. All that aside, here is my slightly derivative take on the prompt…Bonecrusher’s Wisdom

    “What’s your poison, hon?”

    “Coffee, please.”

    “Comin’ right up. Anything else?”


    “Pardon me for buttin’ in but you look like you’re down in the dumps.”

    “Just politics. That’s all.”

    “All? ALL? Let me tell you, hon, if my name ain’t Clarice Bonecrusher, politics is everything.”


    “Figure of speech. My waitress nom de plumer. Anyhoo, it ain’t about Elizabeth steppin’ aside, is it?”


    “Smacked me too. Know what I thought? You can get all mopey or you can agitate, make sure a woman is chosen VP. Lots of great choices.”

    “It’s not easy.”

    “It’s inevitable, hon. Infriggininevitable.”

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Bill, your flash lifted my spirits and gave me a new word! We are long overdue for a woman in the White House. I do think either remaining candidate can do well to be mindful of their selection for running mate. Further, I have high hopes for the return of competency to the cabinet and administration.

  10. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Charli, why are you having issues voting? That’s crazy! Now that you have a home you should be able to vote in Michigan with no issues. I fear our country has devolved into a third world country run by a king. I hate discussing politics because it’s always them against us. But, truthfully, I’ve always voted for who I think will do the best job. Unfortunately, the Republicans have never received my vote. Culturally, I don’t agree with their vision of America. Stay tough my sister. And, thanks for a lovely prompt. I’ll take time off from my book to add something creative. <3

    • Charli Mills

      We had voting issues when we were homeless. I don’t think many are aware of how insidious disenfranchisement is in the US, especially among vulnerable groups. We have all that we need to vote now that we are homed. I’m sad to not have the choices, and think primaries shouldn’t be a horse race out the gate from Iowa just because they vote early. Why don’t all the states vote the same day? You stay tough too, Sister! We can have a better vision and one that includes all Americans. Wishing you great strides on your book!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        I’m glad that you are guys are better situated now. Hugs and love to you both! <3

      • Charli Mills

        Hugs and love back, Colleen!

  11. Pete

    Technically, Tulsi is still around. I know she doesn’t have a chance but I have no doubt she would do more than hold her own in a debate with any candidate or the sitting president.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for reminding me of that, Pete. I looked her up tonight and see that she’s been struggling with the party changing the rules for debate. Good to see she’s hanging in there and still fighting, but ridiculous that they aren’t allowing her to debate.

  12. Pete

    We’re in the dairy section, on the hunt for banana yogurt because it’s the only one my child will eat. The child spinning out a new spell when someone blocks my view.

    The lady’s eyes crinkle with concern. She nods at my daughter. “Why would you let her dress that way?”

    “Huh? Oh.” I turn, regard the pointy hat, black cloak, the stick wand. “Clarice, dear. Why are you dressed that way?”

    Clarice giggles. “Because I’m a witch, Daddy.”

    I shrug. “Witch.” The lady shakes her head, tears off. I find the last of the banana.

    “Abracadabra, sweetie.”

    • Susan Zutautas

      Excellent, Pete 🙂

    • explorereikiworld

      That’s a good one, Pete.

    • Charli Mills

      Bless that little witch and her daddy!

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      That’s fabulous! And other people should not stick their noses into other people’s business. My littlest girl had a penchant for costumes, and I’d do the same. Whatever struck her fancy. She often wore wings, but both she and one of her older sisters enjoyed being witches, too, on many occasions. Childhood is so fleeting.

      • Pete

        It sure is! My son is seven and the phases come and go. Thing is, I get stuck on something with him, like football cards and then he’s off to the next thing! I wish they could stay little forever!

      • Charli Mills

        They grow up so fast and suddenly you find yourself making a playroom because you need unicorns for writing space. 😉

    • Jules

      Reminds me of the time an old lady stopped me and asked why my son was carrying a baby doll – (just had his sibling and I wanted my son to feel comfortable…) anyway she asked; “Why does that boy have a doll?” and I said; “Because he is going to be a great Daddy someday!” (…and he is!)

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Clarice Morant

    Clarice Morant was Classie to family. The articles telling of Classie tenderly caring for her younger sister and brother for years wouldn’t have been written except that at the time of their deaths Classie herself was over 100 years old.

    A two-sentence obituary mentions when she died and at what age, and that she is survived by numerous “nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends”. That’s it. She’d been married, but children aren’t mentioned. Neither are a younger woman’s heartbreaks, nor dreams noted.

    I choose to presume Classie was an extraordinary woman throughout all her decades, even the unwritten ones.

    • Charli Mills

      Much more than 99 between the lines of a life lived with a name like Classie.

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    Clarice was tired of not getting out. She used to enjoy the ‘girl parties’ where she and her friends dispensed comfort and commiseration; welcomed and advised another to widowhood; or comforted grieving husbands with casseroles and sidelong confessions of loneliness. That’s when funerals were social gatherings, deaths predictable and occasional occurrences.

    Now there were no gatherings. She and her friends that remained stayed home, kept updated by phone and facebook. Deaths were frequent, funerals just transactions for proper disposal.

    At 85, Clarice thought she’d be ready when her time came. But this virus unnerved her with its urgent insistence.

    • Charli Mills

      You have a wealth of details in these 99 words, D. “…funerals just transactions for proper disposal…” The social fabric torn, isolation, and then the quickness of death. So much that is sobering.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I’d thought of this Clarice as a sassy and healthy old one who enjoyed a good funeral for all they have to offer- socializing, spoils and pride of survivorship, but even she gets rattled when Death is less finicky. Dang prompt led here. Thanks for it, Boss.

  15. Jim Borden

    your post reminded me of one of favorite bumper stickers, “Think Globally, Act Locally”. I too felt bad about Warren dropping out; she had a lot to offer and would have made a great President. That being said, there is no way I could ever vote for Trump. By the way, I never knew about your residency troubles, I hope it’s all settled now!

    • Charli Mills

      I like that bumper sticker, Jim. We got to vote and used it to help stop the chaos. I hope people can listen with that empathetic mindset and we can find common ground. Yes, we have settled, in many ways.

      • Jim Borden

        It looks pretty clear that Biden will be the candidate. I hope he is able to get all the democratic voters unified. glad to hear you have settled in…

  16. Doug Jacquier

    My contribution centres on Clarice Beckett (thanks, Bill). You can read more about her here

    Clarice of the light

    ‘Oh, that Clarice. Fancies painting more than men. Imagine that? Still, she’s done the right thing by her parents. Even if she doesn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.’
    Robbed of her days by bedpans and sponge baths and soiled sheets, she inhabited the fringes of light, the beginnings and endings.
    At the end, all of that light was in the shed, rotted and torn by the deniers of her eyes.
    Yet the sun rose from her grave and illuminated her beaches and her streets anew. And now the monied hang the consequences.

    • reading journeys

      Great FF. I read Clarice Beckett’s bio on Wiki – a woman who had the courage to paint, and live life on her terms!

    • Charli Mills

      She was so young to be in a nursing home. You did well, imagining her on the fringes of light, Doug.

  17. Doug Jacquier

    Charli, the primaries are a result of a Presidential system system similar to other republics, where the election of a President is separate from the broader election process (e.g. France), inasmuch as there is a gradual reduction of the number of candidates until you arrive at two. Otherwise, the standard model of representative democracies applies (i.e. the Senate and Reps in the US), where Warren remains as a Senator. The problem for all republics is when the President is out of sync with elected reps and neither can further their agenda. That remains the key reason Australians keep voting against becoming a republic, not loyalty to the Queen. Living in a Westminster style democracy in Australia (where voting is compulsory) it can be difficult to understand US politics until you strip it back to the essentials. The hardest thing for us to understand is how an avowedly Christian country can see universal health care and rational gun control as dangerous socialist ideas.

    • Charli Mills

      Doug, I appreciate your perspective as I had not thought of a republic in those terms. Well, as for your last sentence, the US was built on slavery and in my mind that gave our nation practice in cognitive dissonance. How else to explain our stance?

  18. H.R.R. Gorman

    Hopefully I’ll get out a story this weekend, but I’ve been busy (and depression is really getting to me). I thought, however, that I’d be remiss in telling you some stuff:

    1) Your Michigan ballot is already set. Warren dropped out recently, but her name will still appear. You can, technically, still vote for her – it just probably won’t make a difference in reality. But will voting either Biden or Sanders do it for you? If not, getting the satisfaction of ticking her box to say “F*CK YOU” to the establishment can be worth it. You just have to decide if it truly matters to you which of the old white straight men gets the nod, or if it’ll be worth it just to feel that you voted for her.

    2) You can check what your ballot looks like by searching “michigan sample ballot primaries” and choosing a government site. I already looked for it and found it, but I know putting links in comments often gets them sent to the spam dungeon.

    Hope that helps.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi H.R.R., thanks for your pointers. It gave me comfort to at least see Warren’s name listed. However, I felt I voted thoughtfully rather than with a middle finger raised. I did have to chuckle at the Hub who requested a Republican ticket so he could pointedly vote “not Trump.” He was denied his vote last election because it never got counted and we were unsure why it got tossed out (I went to extreme measures on election day to make sure my “ID” counted because they required things we didn’t have because of a lack of address. I got mine through, but he didn’t. I’m not sure his vote was productive but it satisfied him.

      I hope some light returns to you!

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Haha, I think your Hub is an inspiration. That’s a perfect response, especially if you’re not convinced Biden or Sanders will be better than one another.

    • Charli Mills

      Fingers crossed, Ruchira! I’m glad you got to vote for Warren!

  19. Jules


    Once again you fill us with want and wonder. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do… but going where a mash of prompts twists and shouts brought about:

    Clarice’s Conviction

    It was without mock shock
    That with barrel, lock and stock
    That Clarice as if a typhoon, no committee ad hoc
    Led body, fetlock and hock
    Of her horse across the course… no crock would dare to block
    Her determination with her livestock and flintlock
    Deterred any who would backtalk or try and sweet talk
    Her into any other course, once in motion, onward ticked her clock
    The rope bridge wouldn’t be a roadblock, she had her lucky shamrock
    Clarice would not rest to count her assets until safely she reached bedrock,
    Only then would she assess her frock


    Note: Originally, a frock was a loose, long garment with wide, full sleeves, such as the habit of a monk or priest, commonly belted.

    • Charli Mills

      Lovely internal rhymes, and an intriguing story, Jules! I especially liked the contrast between sweet talk and balktalk.

  20. traceyr1984

    I can’t believe no one mentioned Clarice from “Rudolph the red Nosed Reindeer”. She was a strong, brave, female!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Great inclusion, Tracey!

  21. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    Always learning from Carrot Ranch: Thank you!
    from your thoughts
    “The one thing I can change is my own thinking, and that leads to doing and growing”.

    Still thinking about the FF but even if I don’t write one, I’m enjoying exploring:
    Lives of women with the courage to live life on their terms.

    Thanks to Bill Engleson’s challenge: the contributions of women named Clarice.
    Thanks to Anne Goodwin for her great reviews of 16 diverse novels for Women’s History month.

    Keep writing & reading & learning!!


    • Charli Mills

      It’s invigorating to challenge one another with thinking and reading, always growing. Thanks for appreciating the growth mindset, Saifun!

  22. Violet Lentz

    The Clarice that I envisioned had quite her own agenda. And I fear followed the path of many of my heroine’s into infamy. Regardless, I am thrilled to be here and not only read your gracious words, but alas have a suitable response to this weeks prompt.

    Let me not leave without saying, I am in love with your chosen Clarice, and curse the word count that bars me from knowing more about her.

    • Charli Mills

      Those with the name Clarice must pack strong wills with their own agendas. My Clarice requires more exploring, I think. Thanks for joining in, Violet!

  23. Allison Maruska

    “What if a pandemic swept the world, killing all the adults and only children were left?”
    This is almost the premise for one of my books, Drake and the Fliers. Only teenagers were left. 🙂

    Now I’m off to work on the prompt!

    • Charli Mills

      You continue to master the format and twists, Hugh!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

  24. susansleggs

    Charli, Your chakra dance sounds marvelous. My writing is often inspired while I’m listening to live music or driving. I think movement might jog even more thoughts…

    The Physical Therapist
    Michael’s mother and Tessa both held wadded wet tissues. They were looking at a photo album that chronicled Michael’s recuperation after his IED blast injuries.
    Tessa blew her nose. “No wonder he doesn’t talk about that year. Who’s the cute, young nurse?”
    Mom laughed. “She’s a physical therapy specialist, Clare Stelzenmuller. They nick-named her Clarice Alphabet. Michael said she wouldn’t take ‘no or I can’t’ from anyone, and Clare was too sweet a name for her bulldog ways. Expect to see the occasional card from her asking if he’s walking or riding. She’d be happy to know about you.”

    • Charli Mills

      There is something to movement and thought, Sue. Like you, I find music inspiring. Your flash drew me right in, I could see the two women as they flipped through the albums and poured their sadness into tissue. Such sessions can be cathartic. I like the name play with the PT!

  25. Lisa R. Howeler

    It’s too bad we have certain political parties and certain generations who focus only on death. And it’s unfortunate I have to unfollow you under my “no politics in my blog world rule.” Good luck with the voting and luckily I have a candidate who cares for the rural areas and many, many others.

    • Lisa R. Howeler

      Well, I meant unfollow you for the week so I don’t break my rule of avoiding politics on my blog world, but this quick written comment came out much more bitchy than I meant it too. Sigh. That’s what happens when I write a comment before I’ve fully woken up!

    • Charli Mills

      I understand, Lisa. I prefer to focus on life, love, and literature but sometimes I have to cross a line an express what I need to say. Ultimately, I hope we can all find common ground. We’ll have a fresh start next week — awake and politic-free.

      • Lisa R. Howeler

        I’ve been there and I actually agreed with much of what you said. You have every right! It’s your blog! I just needed a politics break for this week 🙂 and I would still follow you even with the politics. You’re a good writer and a kind soul!

  26. Kerry E.B. Black

    There is a green burial area here in the Eastern suburbs of Pgh, PA. They employ a donkey and some sheep to keep the grass in the meadow trim, and they do not allow big markers. It is a peaceful place, and if I did not already own “death reality,” I would consider it. Yes, I have plots purchased for the inevitable, because I don’t want the kids to have to worry about that part at least.

    • Charli Mills

      What an interesting place to be buried among the donkey and sheep grass trimmers. Reminds me of a Michael Martin Murphy song, though about Cowboy Logic. I wanted to invest in death realty but it was hard enough getting the Hub to commit to a spot while yet living. We’ll get veteran and spouse burials, hopefully here in that yet to be built cemetery.

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  28. Charli Mills

    You are making marvelous work of the challenges, Hugh!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Lisa!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!


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