March 12: 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 13, 2020

First, the roof-bergs broke loose. Great hunks of condensed ice thicker than a doorstep slipped from the eaves, crashing onto the garage with such tremendous force that my neighbor ran to the side of my house. I happened to be coming down the stairs at the moment and saw a flash of sun on ice before I felt the shock of vibrations that accompanied the blow. Spring wears heavy boots in the Keweenaw.

Next, came the tapping, drip-drip-drapping of water seeping from beneath the remaining bergs, ice sculptures, and packed drifts of geological snow layered storm by storm. A rapping, louder than water tapping, sounded at my door — ’tis a neighbor, nothing more. Cranky (as in Sew Cranky, not So Cranky) smiled and informed me that the maples no longer slumbered. Sap was flowing. Her husband came over and tapped our tree.

Now, this is no ordinary tree. It is the biggest of four old sugar maples that line our backyard and alleyway. It shades our deck and provides a home to hummingbirds in summer. This grand maple shades the deck where I write, read, garden, and barbeque. I’ll miss my canine companion who loved sleeping on the deck in the maple’s shade on warm days. She grew too old to worry the chipmunks who like to gather fallen seeds from the birdfeeders. In my mind’s eye I can see summer and her lounging in it still.

Every week, D. Avery entertains Carrot Ranchers with the wit and antics of yarn characters, including Kid, who sometimes climbs up his Poet Tree. Seems how Carrot Ranch’s world headquarters has a grand old maple, I thought it fitting to call it the Poet Tree. This summer, I will hang laminated 99-word poems from colorful ribbons to adorn the tree. We’ll have a special call for Poet Tree poems in April, so keep that in mind, a seed to plant in your creative thoughts.

Sweet maple water must be the elixir of poets. I had no idea! Golden sap water only takes a few hours to boil and poured over a tea bag, it prods me to sing songs of eternal spring. The locals have let me in on a secret — when you see foggy kitchen windows, you know someone has tapped a tree and is making golden water for breakfast rice. I feel initiated into the foggy window club, knowing we are all eating sweet rice and scrambled eggs for breakfast. The eggs are because another neighbor has a friend who has a friend with productive hens.

This is my small microcosm of a world right now. Poised for spring. Tapping, tapping. Drip-drip-drapping. Squalls of snow, bouts of sunshine, ferocious winds, and that is a single day. Tomorrow is a special birthday, a newbie among us, displaced from Texas, in hospice care. A good friend who is a grief counselor recognized that we’d be kindreds. She’s become a ray of light in my life, an intensity for learning and living because she was supposed to be dead by now. She lives, making each day precious. We talk about everything, including all the conspiracies the Hub can muster.

Tomorrow a group of us are taking her to see the ice flows because that’s an impressive part of a Keweenaw spring. I had shown her the Fitz Restaurant on a brief trip up the peninsula last week, so we made reservations for her birthday. She can’t eat much more than soup, but she wants to be in the ambiance of the place that sits right on the lake. I told her about the Fourth of July Fireworks on the beach, and we plan to attend before I leave for Vermont.

Plans. It’s a strange time to plan, the world transitioning seasons, and caught in a pandemic. But if a dying friend can live each day meaningfully and plan to see fireworks on the 4th, then I think we all need to remember that hope comes with plans. Hope wants to see the next sunrise and trace its colors with fingers held to the horizon. None of us ever knows when we’ll see our last sun event. I don’t want to waste it on fear or worry or any other bully emotion that would dim the senses.

Precaution, another p-word. It’s a responsible action. It feels alarmist, but it is containment. It feels surreal as our universities shut down, and all public events cancel, including the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Water Day. I was prepared to sing the Water Song as a Water Walker, wear a skirt and boots to show the earth that I’m a woman who can step as heavily as spring.

Life continues to surge, the sap flows, and I’m tapping.

March 12, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tapping. You can play with the sound, make it an action, or create something unexpected. Tap a story and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 17, 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.

A Spring Alliance Forms by Charli Mills

Using the blunt end of an ax, Viv tapped the last steel spile into an old sugar maple thick with lichen. She stood on squishy snow in borrowed snowshoes, hanging the last bucket. Sap pinged the steel. From a distance, Clarice yodeled, the sound echoing across the thawing expanse of Misery Bay. Snow clouds generated by the vast water flowed toward land like thick fog. Viv gave a shrill whistle in return. Safe as she was with her cross-dressing chicken-herding friend, mapling weather could turn treacherous. Viv plodded toward the cabin to sew Clarice a new skirt.

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    • Charli Mills

      Hi Reena! How are things where you are at? I would love to have magic fingers, as I just started to learn how to play a drum. I can keep a single beat and that’s it!

      • Reena Saxena

        I can’t play even that 🙂 We have the gamut of work-from-home, malls and schools closed all operative in certain cities.

      • Charli Mills

        I hope the shutting down does something for us as people, maybe an opening up to more family time or outdoor time.

  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Here comes Kid’s weekly whine, kin jist tell, the way yer tappin’ an’ huffin’.”
    “Cain’t stand it, Pal. “D. Avery entertains Carrot Ranchers”?! Really? D’ya see D. Avery aroun’ here?”
    “Done told ya, Kid, thet’s jist the way it is. Yer. A. Fiction. All. Character.”
    “But I identify as real, Pal.”
    “Why’re ya so het up on bein’ real Kid? Seems overrated ta me. Them folks got some real problems. Wrestle with yer ego by yersef, ya sap. I’m tappin’ out.”
    “Where ya goin’?”
    “Don’t really matter.”
    “Does too!”
    “Gonna tap the Poet Tree, try’n drum out some words.”

    • Norah

      I think the Kid’s got a good idea. I wouldn’t mind a little sweetness from that Poet Tree myself.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        No poetic words from Pal yet, nor me either. Yet.

      • Norah

        They aren’t required yet, though, are they? You’ve still got time for them to find you, and Pal, as I’m sure they will. I knew you first as a poet. The stories came after.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      I love how these two are growing more and more into themselves. Of course Kid identifies as real. Not sure about DAvery though.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Her search for identity is ongoing, and it’s possible she’s turned around and gone full circle.
        You made me laugh Anne Goodwin.

    • Charli Mills

      Kid knows thyself; authors, well, I think we write to uncover and that experience is often evolutionary.

  2. Jim Borden

    Spring is in the air!

    • Charli Mills

      It is, Jim! Even though it’s freezing and sun-shining in alternate bouts.

  3. Norah

    Tapping a tree for sweet sap – now that’s something I’d like to experience. There’s nothing quite like maple syrup. The maple rice for breakfast sounds interesting. You do things so much differently from us over there. I’m looking forward to tapping out a story and am hopeful of joining in again this week. It’s nice to have a respite from others’ deadlines at the moment.
    It’s nice to get to know a little more of Viv and Clarice. Sounds like they are settling into a comfortable rhythm, though they may have more differences than similarities.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, the sap froze and I got to experience my first sap-cycle! The elixir was so incredibly sweet this time, I couldn’t drink my tea! Had to water it down, it was so sweet. What is a typical breakfast for you in Australia? I’m also thinking that I’ll make maple custard, too.

      Good that you have a respite. How are things in Australia? I understand Tom Hanks and his wife are quarantined down under. Are schools shutting down? They are in the states. Lots of locals are rallying around each other to help young families and the elderly. Our normal safety nets are down and neighbors are watching out for neighbors.

      You’re right. I sense that Viv and Clarice are very different, but they must have some mutual interest. I haven’t quite pegged it yet!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Thanks for the laugh, Doug!

      • Norah

        That sap-cycle sounds fascinating and the syrup delicious. My typical breakfast is muesli with lemon myrtle yoghurt and strawberries at the moment (has been for quite a while). I think the muesli is similar to what might be called granola in the States. It’s similar to the breakfast I had every morning when I was in New York. My favourite muesli (actually it might be called Granola here too) is one I found in a small supermarket when I was in London and was delighted to find it here also. Now doesn’t that make me sound well-travelled. ???? I’m not really. That’s a typical breakfast for me but may not be for others.
        The respite might be ending soon, but I’ve enjoyed being a little more relaxed the last week or two.

        Tom and Rita are out of hospital now but still in isolation until they recover. Schools haven’t all shut yet but many parents are keeping their children home anyway. My grandchildren are home and, I’m hoping, might be coming to visit me tomorrow. People are helping each other out, which is great to see. Those that aren’t are panic buying. ???? Hopefully the madness will be over soon.
        It will be interesting to see what happens with Viv and Clarice.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back with my story. I hope you like it.

      The Key
      Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap.
      Peter removed his headphones.
      He returned to his game. ZING! KAPOW! BOOM!
      Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap.
      There it was again. Incessant.
      What was It? Where was it?
      He placed his tablet and headphones on the couch and crept towards the sound — the bookcase!
      Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap.
      With every step, the tapping intensified. The dusty glass obscured the interior, but the key was in the lock. Should he, or shouldn’t he?
      He did!
      Into his lap tumbled a rainbow cat, a girl in a hood, a herd of dinosaurs, an Egyptian Pharaoh and all the wonders of the world. Magic!

      • Charli Mills

        Hi Norah,

        I think the difference between muesli and granola is that granola is baked. Lemon myrtle yogurt and strawberries sound divine. My favorite is Brown Cow maple yogurt, sliced almonds, and fresh blueberries. Right now, we continue to get farm fresh eggs from a neighbor’s friend and that means soft scrambled eggs for breakfast.I’m finding comfort in cooking and baking at the moment.

        Thank you for the update on Tom and Rita. Thank you for taking such good care of Americans in your country. I’m heartened to see all the acts of kindness in my community, including people sharing activities with their kids online. I have shared your resources, too.

        Wonderful flash that makes me excited to see a child hear the tapping of a book over the loud noises of a video game. And Rainbow appeared!

        Enjoy some grand time!

      • Norah

        Ah. Thanks for the explanation of the difference. Your maple yoghurt with sliced almonds and blueberries sounds delicious too. Scrambled eggs are also yum. I should cook them more often – maybe for lunch tomorrow.
        I hope Tom and Rita are on the list of ‘recovered’ soon. Our numbers of those infected are increasing daily – low at the moment, but that will change I’m sure.
        Thanks for sharing my resources. I think they should be of great assistance to parents who have their children at home and looking for things to assist their learning, not just keep them occupied.
        I loved my time with the grands. Their parents took them out of school even though the schools haven’t closed here yet. A lot of people are hoping to avoid contracting the virus. It’s worrying times.
        I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. I was pleased to be able to use it to promote my passion. 🙂

  4. Becky Ross Michael

    “Hope comes with plans.” I love this, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Indeed it does! What are your plans for the week, Becky?

      • Becky Ross Michael

        Watch the rain, work, write, and “celebrate” my birthday:)

      • Charli Mills

        Happy birthday, Becky! I like a good spring rain; it washes us clean of winter.

  5. denmaniacs4

    Apparently I descended into some pit of universal despair…not my usual elevator ride but there you muse was not all that amused…

    Tapped Out

    Ka-bang, the sound I hear.
    The spigot twists in my heart, my dear,
    Yet perhaps there’s another sound,
    A fox death gasp run to ground.

    Will we huddle in the dark?
    Social isolates? Life, stark,
    hidden from the hubbub, the buzz,
    trapped in the recall of what was?

    “Keep your distance,” the global call,
    Six feet, ten feet, a virtual wall.
    Two weeks, fours weeks, forever time,
    The toll of it, the final chime.

    How dark the mind descends,
    Evoking lost dreams, chewing on swift ends?
    The days regimen, the sound of taps,
    Trumpeting great loss, life’s precious scraps.

    • Jules

      I went in a similar direction… Reaching into the past though to perhaps grasp the breadth of a future….

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That’s a fine poem that expresses the dark and fears that so many are feeling.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Love this Bill. There’s a huge mental health risk for some with this self isolation lark.

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, given your profession, I’m sure you know the dangers isolation poses to the human mind. My work with veterans and literary art is to offer something to counter isolation. My mind followed yours when I heard the words “isolation and “social distancing.” Friday night, we went out with friends to celebrate that precious birthday and the evening had a strange hold over us like it was our last chance gathering and we savored every bite, sip, and laugh. Driving home, five of us in a truck, three women giggling in the back seat, I felt like we were teenagers out past curfew. We stopped at a store on the peninsula for beer and toilet paper then went back to a friend’s and asked each other questions like, “When were you most afraid?” We all agreed we needed less isolating and more slowing down and connecting. The mind does go dark on such days. I’m working on operation sunshine stories! Shadows count, too. though for it helps us define the light. I hope you have precious moments this week.

  6. eLPy

    Great post Charli and beautiful imagery in both the post itself and your flash fiction piece. I really appreciate the message you’ve shared here. You have helped to enlighten my day in the midst of all this mess and anxiety. Thank you for the tap-tap-tap.

    Assuming I did it right I believe I’ve pinged back to you as well as posted my story here. Sorry for the redundancy if that’s a problem. Thanks again!

      • eLPy


      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I found it by clicking on your name above and then seeing the Carrot Ranch entry in the sidebar at your site. From there I read, liked, commented. Welcome to the Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi eLPy! Welcome to the Ranch where we can gather without having to stay distant. 😉 You successfully submitted your story into what I call the “bucket.” A fine flash, too. I do have a bit of redundancy here — the submission process is for those who want to be published in the weekly collection. You may also share your story or blog link here in the comments if you’d like. These are anxious time, but we will carry on with writing and sharing our literary art.

      • eLPy

        Thanks so much!
        Carrot on!!! 😀

      • Charli Mills

        We like to get carroted away here!

    • Doug Jacquier

      I susepct the next tap-tap you’ll hear will be Homeland Secuirty 😉

    • Jules

      All depends on the country at this point – this story could be for any one of the countries that has such an office.

      I watch quite a bit of sci fi too… one of the last shows (an old Star Trek with Capt. Janeway…) their ship was being attacked by a swarm of little ships sucking power. But of course the ship moved forward in their quest to get back to home.

    • Liz H

      Well done…and little bit scary, given the state of the world these days.

    • Charli Mills

      Ruchira, I hope all get to experience a thoughtful cleanse and a coming back together as a world that realizes our interdependency. I’m glad you invited your son to write, letting him express the shadows we often process through literary arrt.

  7. Doug Jacquier

    Here’s my twisted take on the prompt.

    Tap dancing
    He started with a shuffle on the kitchen table, skillfully avoiding the remnant spaghetti bolognaise, wine glasses and tootsie rolls. (Some time ago, ‘she’ became ‘he’ with a ball change when she was single in Buffalo.) Confident of his Shirley Temple rhythm now, he performed a twirling arabesque to the draining board, hoping for a riffle effect but the leftover goose fat cooked his plans. Less than deftly, he shim-shammed across the Hot and Cold, where, alas, he lost his footing and lay sprawled in the sink with a broken ankle, one of the many drawbacks of tap dancing.

    • denmaniacs4

      One too many taps in the sink…a fine fun flash frolic…

    • Charli Mills

      That was a a wild tap across time, gender and the kitchen, Doug! I’d say the prompt led you a merry chase this week and you followed.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Ouch, what a way to end a tap dance.

  8. Jules


    I enjoyed your flash. There is some sanity in doing routine things – remembering to take precautions is part of living. I played here with a reverse haibun with a solo renga.

    In Flux?

    In Flux?

    welkin lambent dusk
    waning gibbous moon schooling
    earth’s menagerie

    the classroom was a zoo with
    helter skelter panicked acts

    waiting tapping strength
    in line for supplies; and yet
    woodpeckers code spring

    Just what will all the students do without their classrooms? As imposed closures touch each and everyone of us? We will have to continue to learn to adapt to whatever the new normals are. Just as our ancient ancestors survived the ice age that came before… What is that coding in our DNA, the one that persists and insists on survival? Remember to help your neighbors in need…

    lambent : (of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance.
    “the magical, lambent light of the north”
    welkin: noun LITERARY 1. the sky or heaven.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Especially liked woodpeckers tapping out a code of spring. Happened to see one through the window just before reading this. The birds have been quite wonderful going about their business.

      • Jules

        Their flight helps to raise spirits. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Natural cycles continue even when there is change. I appreciate your story of human adjustment amidst natural elements, Jules.

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Smell Ya Later

    “Pal! Didn’t expect ta see you at the Poet Tree.”
    “Had ta git outta the bunkhouse Shorty.”
    “Kid gittin’ to ya?”
    “Yep, an’ as I was goin’ out, LeGume was goin’ in. Thet’s two good reasons ta come out here.”
    “Bunkhouse windows are fogged up. Those two boilin’ sap?”
    “Wish thet were the case, Shorty. It’s LeGume a course. In there jist a’tappin’ out his tunes. I ain’t never got what ya see in thet Pepe LeGume.”
    “Pal, Pepe’s a fine trav’lin’ companion.

    *passing through
    trav’lin’ tagether
    pilgrims’ road*”

    “Whut Pepe passes lingers, Shorty.”
    “But it’ll pass. Ever’thin’ does.”

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no Pepe taps are not what we want lingering. As with current state of affairs, I hope the passing goes quickly.

  10. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Although we never had the volume of snow you have, your post reminds me of our harsher winters in the 1980s. The roar of snow dropping from the roof at the beginning of the thaw once convinced me burglars had broken in.

    I love how you’ve drawn on various recent prompts and preoccupations in your 99-word story. Mine has the theme of mental health and masculinity, building on the Cumbrian word for crazy being tapped.

    Problematic Masculinity: Our Fathers & A Man Who Is Not a Man

    • Charli Mills

      Heavy snow can thunder! We remember those times of extremes, don’t we? I wonder how we all will remember this time in the future? I think we will feel tapped in many ways to come, Anne.

    • Charli Mills

      Excellent PSA! Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Padmini!

    • Jules

      I’m not sure what’s going on with the links – I had to tap onto your name to get to your site. As the link when copy and pasted into my browser didn’t go to your site. I wonder if WP has made some other change they haven’t told us about. As this has happened with others I’ve tried to visit.

      • nightlake

        oops. Don’t know why this happens…Hope you read the story. Thank you for making the effort to get onto the site. Cheers!

    • Charli Mills

      Clarice returns to add even more depth, Hugh. No worries, I’ll gind your link from here! Thanks!

  11. susansleggs

    Hi Charli,
    We tap the maples here in my neck of the woods too, but I have never heard of sweet water with rice. I think I’ve been missing something. I would imagine a huge chunk of snow letting go from the roof would raise one out of their chair when it hit the deck. Spring is trying to arrive, but what a different arrival this year. Thankfully we are in the digital age and can facetime, email, and send emojis. My husband is going to work by choice. I worry about my son, the UPS driver, with the added load, of, “Oh, we’ll ship it to you.” He says they aren’t ready and he sees way too many people in a day. On to the prompt…

    Fingers Tapping
    “Tap, tap, tap, tap. Michael’s fingers do it all day, sometimes in rhythm and sometimes not. It can get on my nerves.”
    Michael’s mother nodded in understanding. “Have you ever seen the Dear Abbey response to the woman complaining about her snoring husband? It was something like, be happy he’s alive, be happy he’s home where you want him to be, and thankful he’s not out with another woman. And in Michaels’ case, it keeps him hearing music, not the sounds of war.”
    Tessa thought. “Next time it gets to me I’ll ask him to sing what he’s hearing.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’s a good growing relationship between these two. The story grows stronger.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Sue! Oh, yes, if you can, get some tree sap from a tapper. A strange spring, indeed. I do worry about our delivery drivers, too and hope there are protocols in place for them. I love the shift at the end of your story and how Michael’s mother uses her wisdom thoughtfully for her DIL to grasp its importance to her husband. Well done.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Charli.

    • Jules

      Hoping your Hubby and son stays safe. I’ve got folks in the field – fire, police, and hazmat…

  12. Doug Jacquier

    Poignant and beautifully realised, Susan.

  13. Liz H

    This popped up today. A little rough, but a lot of fun as a side-story to something else I’ve been working on. Hope you-all enjoy!
    p.s. I misspelled my name on the submittal form (AAARGH!)

    Thunder and Lightning

    “You sure this is gonna work, Jonas?”

    “Have I ever steered you wrong before, Boy?”

    Peter muttered, “Only for a higher purpose. Or so you say.”

    Jonas grinned, his double row of needle-sharp teeth glinting in the cavern’s incandescence. His hearing was quite acute, even for a centuries-old creature as himself.

    Peter raised the gnome-forged hammer and tapped again at the second’s sliver of lightning. It sparked with each careful blow, but made its way into the crevice within the waterfall.

    The hammer slipped.

    “Careful!” Jonas’ brow lifted. “Too hard and the cure within the waters will be lost.”
    [For more story ]

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, I enjoyed this departure unto the lives of another realm (I wonder if fantasy will get a boost in book sales now the way the Wizard of Oz was so popular during the Depression?). Love the easy to experience characterization.

      • Liz H

        Sometimes it’s easier to think in fantasy, when real life’s a bit too grim.

      • Charli Mills

        I find that shifting from reality to fiction, I can process real feelings and experiences. I think this is what the masters (like Wallace Stegner) mean when they say, “Write what you know.” Imagination gives us great capacity to explore what we know without it looking like our personal diaries. 😉 Your longer piece is terrific.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Susan!

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Different Drum

    Robert pitched the last of the hay up into the hayloft. “Just in time,” he smiled at Thomas. “Hear that?”

    “Rain!” The much-needed rain began as an intermittent tapping then gathered strength, drumming the barn roof overhead.

    “No, that’s not rain, Thomas. Listen.” He grabbed up a bucket and a couple wooden pegs. Thomas, shouldering a hayfork, marched to the drumbeat Robert tapped out, around and around the hay wagon until finally they stopped, exhilarated.

    “A call to arms!”

    Robert took the hayfork from his little brother, said gently, “No, Thomas. No. Listen. It’s the call to cease firing.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Robert and Thomas sat on overturned buckets, watching the rain.

      “One of our drummer boys often worked with me in the field hospital.”

      The beginning of a story made Thomas forget his disappointment with the ceasefire.

      “This boy only ever talked about his mama’s chicken dumplings. One day he’s scarce, I figured maybe he run off even. But then I hear him drumming. Soft, taptaptap. ‘What’s that call?’ I asked him. Taptaptap. When I turn he’s not even holding his sticks and still taptaptap. ‘Call for dinner’ he grins, and shows me a big old hen inside his drum.”

    • Charli Mills

      I have missed Robert. Seems a fitting time for him to emerge, somehow.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Yeah… I knew these two would show up eventually, if I held the door open.

      • Charli Mills

        Richard is a thoughtful character and probably needs time to mull over his story before walking through doors, but when he does, you know he has something for you.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for joining the challenge this week, Christine!

      • Stine Writing

        Thank you for hosting!

      • Charli Mills

        Every week!

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Robert! Thanks for your explorations!

      • Robert Kirkendall

        You’re welcome, Charli!

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    All Normal, See?

    “Pal, you’re back from yer time at the Poet Tree. Got some lines that rhyme? Ya been out there fer four days.”

    “Seems longer, mebbe ‘cause a spendin’ some time with you, tellin’ ya ta jist keep it t’gether. I ain’t come up with a poem, Kid, but I gotta plan fer us.”

    “Plans is hopeful. What’re we ta do? Gather up supplies? Stay put? Keep our distance?”

    “Shush Kid. We’ll do the z’act opposite. ‘Cause Ranch plans ain’t changed. So we’ll take advantage a our fictional status an jist keep ta our chores here. No more, no less.”


    “Uh, Pal, what’re my chores again?”

    “Jist shovel shift, Kid. Hope folks find ya more amusin’ than annoyin’. Figger folks got enough ta worry ‘bout. At the Ranch they kin come close, enjoy a tale or two ‘roun the fire. Yer ta stop yer whinin’. ’Member this is a refuge fer the real folks thet come by. They kin say what they gotta say, but all us fictional folks is jist gonna injoy our normalcy.”

    “I see. Too bad.”

    “Why’s thet?”

    “I got a fictional six-pack a purell fer Frankie an’ a case a tp for Pepe.”

    “No shift?”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      All together now:

      Charli, these yahoos did three doubles this prompt. I put the first two in the catcher-machine, but you of course can use as few or as many as you see fit. If they ever speak out of turn, just lasso them and yank ’em right of their high horses.

      PS, I promise to keep them away from Clarice and Viv. (If you promise we have not heard the last from them.)

      • Charli Mills

        If ever we needed campfires and ranch chores, it would be now. Steady as we go topsy-turvy elsewhere. Give folks a place to create, to process, to explore. Thanks, D. You are a fine hand at the Ranch (hands in the six o’clock).

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    All Normal, See?

    “Pal, you’re back from yer time at the Poet Tree. Got some lines that rhyme? Ya been out there fer four days.”

    “Seems longer, mebbe ‘cause a spendin’ some time with you, tellin’ ya ta jist keep it t’gether. I ain’t come up with a poem, Kid, but I gotta plan fer us.”

    “Plans is hopeful. What’re we ta do? Gather up supplies? Stay put? Keep our distance?”

    “Shush Kid. We’ll do the z’act opposite. ‘Cause Ranch plans ain’t changed. So we’ll take advantage a our fictional status an jist keep ta our chores here. No more, no less.”


    “Uh, Pal, what’re my chores again?”

    “Jist shovel shift, Kid. Hope folks find ya more amusin’ than annoyin’. Figger folks got enough ta worry ‘bout. At the Ranch they kin come close, enjoy a tale or two ‘roun the fire. Yer ta stop yer whinin’. ’Member this is a refuge fer the real folks thet come by. They kin say what they gotta say, but all us fictional folks is jist gonna injoy our normalcy.”

    “I see. Too bad.”

    “Why’s thet?”

    “I got a fictional six-pack a purell fer Frankie an’ a case a tp for Pepe.”

    “No shift?”

      • Charli Mills

        Okay, okay! 😀

    • Doug Jacquier

      Dang you, your characters just invaded my brainspace (and such a small target). Not sure which one but something like this came out. “That there Poet Tree you keep talkin’ about. I remember I used to go there when I was young with that Avery girl when we were a couplet. Used to meet ‘er there to practice our line dancin’. Stanza reason she must be full groan by now.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Stanza reason! When poets ponder I s’pose. Thinking’ yer memory’s off though. Thet girl. Warn’t no rhyme or reason ta her, she was a free verse until she got run over by the qua-train.

      • Doug Jacquier

        I don’t take any responsibility for the recollections of my brain invaders. 😉 I did think about trying to fit in the qua-train somewhere but I thought might be cruel and unusual pun-ishment. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        You two tapped into something! Poets free ranging!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        And yes, Doug is a bad influence. No wonder Burt ate his mail.

      • Charli Mills

        Doug has to watch out for Burt and tap dancing.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

  17. Lisa A. Listwa

    I think I went a little weird this week. Must be the load on my mind. Here it is.

    Something Behind

    Jules sensed the tap before she heard it.

    Tap – a short and uncertain sound behind.

    I won’t look, she thought. It’s nothing.

    Tap tap – unmistakable this time.

    I won’t hurry.

    There was no reason to fear anything here on ground made so familiar by her feet night after night, year after year on so many evening walks.

    Tap tap tap – more insistent now.

    Jules quickened her step, less comforted by the well-known surroundings than she wanted to be.

    Tap tap tap tap – keeping pace every step.

    Jules whirled around, the sight behind her confirming her assertion.

    It was…nothing.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey, you made it, Lisa! Great suspense. Feels like…right now.

  18. Susan Zutautas

    Hi Charli and fellow ranchers, I’m up early today so I thought I’d stop by and see what everyone was up to. So many good flashes!
    When I was quite young we never tapped trees but I had a few friends where their parents did. What we would do is go to a spot in their yard where the snow was clean 🙂 Then we’d pour the maple syrup on the snow and eat it. Oh, man o man it was soooooooo good.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Susan! Oh, that sounds delicious! Sometimes, if the conditions are right and there’s a thaw followed by a freeze, you can find sap-cicles on the maple trees. Thanks for sharing that lovely memory!

    • Jules

      I’ve heard of maple syrup on snow… I guess that’s partly where the expression… “Don’t eat yellow snow”… came from. 😉

  19. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  20. Doug Jacquier

    Thanks, Den 🙂

  21. Charli Mills

    Thanks, H.R.R.!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Gloria!

  23. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  24. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks Dave!


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