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.

March 18, 2020

It begins softly, a tap-tap-tapping sound that intensifies into an English word with multiple meanings, rooted both in French and old Germanic. From dancers to barrel valves, tapping gets around. What a fun word to play with.

Writers took to the multiple meanings, following the sound of their own keyboards. Some went into dark corners and others illuminated light-heartedly. This is a collection created as the world played taps to modern life as we thought we knew it. But, as creativity shows us, we are not tapped out. There’s yet something sweet to be made of the changes.

The following is based on the March 12, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tapping.

PART I (10-minute read)

Tapped Out by Bill Engleson

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.


Tapped by Anne Goodwin

Tap tap tap: is that the central heating system waking? Or rain on windows rehearsing for another flood? Is it him, coming to repay the loan he tapped me for? Is it the virus making a start on my head? I should open the door, in case it’s the woman I tapped off with at last month’s party. I should lock it, in case it’s her trying to leave.

How many days since I touched someone? How many weeks since I spoke to anyone face-to-face? I have beer on tap but I’m going mental. Let’s face it, I’m tapped.


Tapping by Donna Matthews

Sitting at the linoleum kitchen table, tapping my fingers, and bouncing my knee, I waver between wanting to be the-in-control-adult and being-human-is-being-vulnerable state of mind. The truth is, I haven’t felt this vulnerable in a long time…nor this anxious. It’s the unknown that’s doing me in. But also the morbid fascination of it all… new words like social distancing and self-quarantine. The crazy traffic when leaving town. We simply won’t be the same when this is over. I decide to pull myself together and assess the main area of our underground bunker. These boxes aren’t going to unpack themselves.


Tapping by FloridaBorne

Trees glisten in Florida sunshine that peeks between what is left of the clouds after they’ve finished pouring out their heart.

Our dirt road cuts through forests past our home. If I danced naked in the middle of my yard, no one would know but our dogs.

People think “tranquility” when told that I live in the country. I wish our neighbor a half mile down the road wanted to sit cross-legged under a tree to find his zen.

You can hear the music from his speakers, and the hard tapping of drumsticks.

Will Karma render his children deaf?


Fingers Tapping by Susan Sleggs

“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.”


Finally Relief by Susan Zutautas

Cathy not feeling that great the last three months suffered from severe anxiety and depression. Every medication she tried wasn’t working. Tired of living on the dark side of life she started to research different methods that may help. Willing to try anything to make herself feel like normal again.

Finding something called EFT Tapping piqued her interest. Acupressure along with tapping your fingers on meridian points while talking about certain memories claimed this would help. Also effective for PTSD.

Cathy made an appointment to try this and the end result was no medication, anxiety gone, and depression subsided.


Get Out of My Head by eLPy

There was tapping around my house. I could not find it. Upstairs, downstairs, I looked in every room.

“What the hell!” One more sign I did not have control of my life. I collapsed in bed. There was movement behind the blinds.

I jumped up and twirled the wand, opening the blinds. Away went the red bird. It was vibrant, not the drab of winter. The sun glowed on my face. Green points poked up through the dirt. Birds whistled around my yard.

“Oh Little Cardinal, thank you for enlightening me with your tap-tap-tap.”


Magic Fingers by Reena Saxena

“You have magic fingers.”

The compliment from my mother-in-law is more than music to my ears, as she initially disapproved of her daughter marrying an Indian.

I wonder if the secret to a change of heart lies in the tapping of my fingers on the tabla, the fame and wealth I’ve recently acquired after signing a contract with a renowned music director in Bollywood, or the first pregnancy of her daughter.

It hurts. It terribly hurts to know that the music director I work with plans to marry my wife’s mother. So, it is not me, but someone else…


Tap Dancing by Doug Jacquier

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.


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.


Tap or Nap by Dave Madden

It was difficult to determine which aspect of Theodore Jameson better resembled a mule—his kicks or stubbornness.

If there were dandelions to pick on the mat during Jiu-Jitsu practice, TJ would have uprooted all of them.

“Are you listening?” Coach snapped, though he knew the answer.

TJ had a fight scheduled against a seasoned black belt, but he assumed he’d keep it on the feet.

Seconds after the bell, TJ was pulled to the canvas where he floundered like a fish gasping for breath.

Coach’s head was haloed by the spotlight above and said, “You didn’t tap.”


Boogeyman by Gloria McBreen

It was a wet stormy night when Anna’s husband went to work his night shift.

Later, her lover will come to her.

A fallen tree blocked the road, forcing her husband to return home. He slid into the bed beside her, cold and tired.

Soon after, she heard her lover tapping on the window. Anna reached into the cot beside her, and woke the baby with a nip. She lifted the crying tot, walked to the window, and sang these words out loud.

‘For the wind and the rain brought your daddy back again. Get away from the window, Boogeyman.’


Tapping by Hugh W. Roberts

Doug watched as Clarice tapped her long fingernails onto the cover of a hardback book she carried. He could tell she grew impatient with him while waiting for his response.


Two floors below, Mike froze to the spot. He’d not heard the name Clarice mentioned for years. The faint sound of tapping broke his concentration.


While Sophie wondered who Clarice was, a tapping noise behind her forced her to spin around. Her eyes met the rear view of a woman who tapped her fingers on a book while standing over the body of a man Sophie thought she recognised.


Something Behind by Lisa A. Listwa

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.


Sophie Dreams by Joanne Fisher

Sophie lay in bed. She could hear a tapping at the window made by a tree branch in the breeze. She fell into a deep sleep and dreamed that outside her window was a hideous ghoul with sallow skin, sharp teeth, and long nails. As it clawed at the window trying to get to her, it’s nails made a tapping sound against the glass.

Sophie awoke with a start in the darkness. She could still hear the branch tapping against the window, but then realised there was no longer any breeze. Turning her head, she saw long sharp teeth.


PART II (10-minute read)

Truth Tapping by Cara Stefano

Tap tap tap
I must find my own way through
Tap tap tap
What is the correct direction?
Shades of meaning
Press and stretch those muscles, far too long unused
Tap tap tap
Brush aside the obstacles and barriers standing strong and tall and firm before me
Tap tap tap
Empty the mind of all its endless hoarded clutter
Focus on the task at hand
Tap tap tap
No distractions and no other responsibilities
Flex my fingers, roll my shoulders, sit down and breathe
Tap tap tap
It’s just me and my computer now.


Tapping by Christine Bialczak

From inside the closet I could hear the tap-tap-tapping. I wasn’t going to open that door, at least not while home by myself. It’s Buckler. All he does is hang on the belt hanger, swinging slowly, in the dark. He thinks his leather is better than my cotton.

There it is again. He thinks tapping against the door is going to get him out faster. Buckler is nothing but trouble. Once He gets home and puts me on, He’ll go in the closet and shut Buckler up. Lucky for me I get shown off, not hidden under the gut.


Different Drum by D. Avery

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.”


Taps by tracey

I lay in bed, drowsy, waiting for my cue to sleep. It had been a good day, one that I thought of as well balanced. I worked hard all day diagnosing and fixing a rudder issue on my F-16 and then beat the boss’s team in a volleyball match. The chow hall had my favorite version of mystery meat for dinner. I spent the evening cleaning my boots and watching the latest episode of “Breaking Bad”.

Now the moon shown down and cool air rippled through the window.

And then I heard it, taps, the signal for lights out.


Dinner by D. Avery

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.”


Mommy Time by Jo Hawk

Steam rose from Audrey’s 1950s “First Lady Pink” bathtub as she shut the door and locked out her hectic 21st Century life. Past midnight, she was long overdue to relax, unwind and unplug. She twisted the knobs, stopping the flow of water from the faucet and tested the temperature with her toe. Just right.

She sank into the tub and sensed stress leaching from her tense muscles. The second she closed her eyes, she heard a soft tapping. Wide-eyed, her body stiffened.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep,” a muffled voice called.

Audrey’s shoulder slumped, and she regretfully pulled the plug.


Isabella of the Woods by Saifun Hassam

Isabella paused at the edge of the woodlands. As the early morning skies lit up, the tapping and drumming of woodpeckers reverberated, echoing the beat and roll of other woodpeckers from the forests. The trills and chatter of warblers and nuthatches filled the air.

Her heart was pounding. She walked up the flag stones to the silent and dark cottage. She tapped lightly on the kitchen window, a slow rhythmic repeating code. The kitchen door opened quietly. Genevieve slipped out. Soundlessly the two women disappeared down a barely visible path into the woodlands. To freedom, away from the plantations.


She Tapped Thrice by Padmini Krishnan

She tapped on his door every day when they were kids. “Shall we do our homework together?” “I have already completed mine”, he snapped, slamming the door. She continued tapping over the years. At college, she tapped after his basketball practice, “Some hot chocolate?” “I don’t eat or drink chocolate.” he smiled, turning her away. One day, she stopped tapping. He waited in his room, crying and praying, as she lay in the hospital. Drained of all arrogance, he hoped she would tap again. He would follow her this time, either to her room or to the other world.


In Flux by JulesPaige

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…


The Key by Norah Colvin

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!


Thunder and Lightning by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“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.”


Esurient Mine by Kerry E.B. Black

“We’re lost!” Tears bubbled into Layla’s trembling words.

Craig studied his chalkmark. They’d passed it twice already. Lost, indeed.

“Why’d we come here? There’s no treasure.” She slid to the hard ground. Stone snagged her long hair as though hungry for her touch. “Nobody even knows we’re here.”

“Shh, what’s that?”

She sniffed to silence and heard it. Tapping, alluring as the Pied Piper’s song.

She whispered, “Is it a miner?”

He shrugged. “Maybe.”

They followed. Better to accept their punishment for trespassing than die lost in the mine.

Knock, tap, tap. They followed deeper into the longing darkness.


Stranded by clfalcone *

It started with the tapping.

Three days now they were snowbound, no water or food, scarce firewood. The avalanche had completely covered the shack – only the chimney was exposed.

The four were on a work retreat gone awry and barely tolerated each other. Annoying habits abounded: pacing, snoring, coughing, farting – but the worst was the tapping. It drove the others crazy.

Tap-teh-tap-tap…. there it was again.

“I said stop it!” Grabbing the drummer’s collar.

“But I’m not,” timidly, “I think it’s the door.”

Tap-teh-tap went the door.

Pause, then loud cheering as they clamored to be rescued.


Tapped Out by D. Avery

“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.”


Passing by D. Avery

“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 travelin’ companion.

passing through
trav’lin’ tagether
pilgrims’ road”

“Whut Pepe passes lingers, Shorty.”

“But it’ll pass. Ever’thin’ does.”


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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Wow. This is a mighty fine collection, and kudos, Charli, well put together. Viva la Ranch!

    • Charli Mills

      I just rope the fine stock presented here on the ranch. Good job writing, Ranchers!

  2. Doug Jacquier

    I’m a newbie in the this neck of the literary woods but IMHO this is the finest collection of creativity I’ve seen to date. Well done to all!

    • Charli Mills

      The bar continues to rise, Doug! This is indeed a fine collection.

  3. JoHawkTheWriter

    A wonderful collection. Proof that we are not “all tapped out.”

    • Charli Mills

      Proof, indeed!

  4. Lisa A. Listwa

    Clearly, we tapped our creative resources here. What a collection!

    • Charli Mills

      Tapped into the good stuff!

  5. joanne the geek

    I think we all tapped into something.

    • Charli Mills

      A good batch resulted!

  6. Gloria

    Very creative bunch of writers here. This kind of thing can become addictive! (Positively of course)

    • Charli Mills

      In a good way! My favorite part is seeing how the stories all come together, showing how endless creativity is.

  7. eLPy

    Great stories! I enjoy seeing (and hearing) how this came together in so many different ways. 😀


  1. My Turn (flash fiction) – joanne the geek - […] This was written with the prompt tapping provided by the Carrot Ranch March 12 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

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