March 4: 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 4, 2021

Sweet potatoes arrived in the mail this morning. Two packages of dehydrated fries for Mause, my three-month-old German Short-haired Pointer. It takes her ten minutes to eat one and she gets two a day. This buys me twenty minutes of time. Such is life with an energetic puppy.

The Hub fancies he’ll train her for quail hunting and who am I — an artist of stories who fancies she’ll publish novels — to say how unlikely that is. It’s not because we have no quail in Upper Michigan. He can travel to his family’s ranches in Nevada. He struggles to train her at all. His brain trauma has robbed him of patience and reasoning. Not that a former Airborne Ranger was ever the patient sort, but it’s become comical how I have to clicker train him to clicker train his dog. Of the three of us, the GSP remains the most competent.

We are all allowed our dreams. I’ll kick anyone in the shins who dampens the dreams of another, especially the dreams of the vulnerable. I’m not a violent person but I feel locked in a strange battle where I have to fight the VA system to get the healthcare my warrior needs and I have to fight my warrior to get the healthcare he needs and I have to fight myself to carry on because none of this is normal. But maybe the concept of normal is derived from the same fluff of dreams and cotton candy. Sweet on the tongue but ephemeral. Not real.

I write fiction. I craft stories that are not real. It’s called verisimilitude — the appearance of being real or true.

My life feels not real at times. Like when he badgers me to go outside in the snow at 11 pm because Mars is visible in the sky. He’s obsessed with Mars and can point out all the planetary alignments. That part feels authentic. But when I try to capture a real moment, try to connect, try to remember who he used to be, a car turns down Roberts Street and I remind him to step out of the road with the puppy and he rages at the car for driving fast and reckless. They are not. But I can’t say so.

He continues like nothing abnormal happened and points to Taurus’s eye — “That’s your sign,” he tells me. It is not. A knee-jerk reflex and I protest, forgetting my place of accepting what is not real. “I’m a Gemini,” I say. “No you’re not,” and he continues telling me about the night sky. Sometimes I laugh. But sometimes I cry. He’s my husband and does not know me.

I’ve become the villain in his mind, the person who has trapped him in this God-awful snowy prison. He slips on the ice, walking the dog and it’s as if I’ve deliberately swung a sledgehammer to bash both knees. It takes a week before his counselor can convince him to go see his primary care physician, and it’ll take me days to help him remember he agreed to do it. I’m not too concerned. He’s not limping. Just grumbling. He needs a bad story to chew on and anything that makes me the bad guy is his favorite fairytale.

Remember, it not real, it’s the verisimilitude of an altered mind.

So, here I am, writing fiction about a veteran spouse. She is not me. I couldn’t bear to give her my burden. Instead, I wanted to explore how long-haul veteran spouses come to carry the weight of wounded warriors. I wanted to give a definition of the invisibility of veteran spouses. We are real and so are our loyalty and our brokenness. We get crushed beneath the packs of what they bring home from combat training and war zones.

Forget eggshells. Some of us walk on broken glass.

I wanted to write a beautiful novel. An uplifting story. One that faces death, dismemberment, and dementia. One that shows the struggle to understand what PTSD is and how many soldiers overcome it.

My husband did. He used his combat dive training to manage night terrors. He remained, and remains, fearless. He knew something was wrong with his thinking years ago and back then, he trusted me to find out why. We were still a team. I have much admiration and respect for him in confronting the debilitation of multiple conditions. At what point do I say enough? He doesn’t get to. Why should I?

And so I stand before you a Taurus prison guard (aka a Gemini veteran spouse) and I think of sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes fries (not the dehydrated ones for puppies to gnaw). Twice-baked sweet potatoes. Roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potato pie. From savory to sweet, these tubers can become many things. Sort of like veteran spouses.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Myrtle’s Basket by Charli Mills

Myrtle dug the tubers. Her spade cut the loam, missing the sweet potatoes with garnet skins. She shook them free of California soil, cut their vines, and placed each in a basket her mother wove of old clothes. Myrtle fingered a faded blue cloth, remembering the dress her sister used to wear when she gardened. Before the Spanish Flu robbed them of Althea and Papa. Dirt was harder back then. The graves difficult to hack into the drought-toughen soil. That was the only year they didn’t grow sweet potatoes. Myrtle carried fresh tubers and old memories to her kitchen.


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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ah, Charli.
    You and Myrtle know loss, pain.

    • Charli Mills

      We still have tubers to gather and the earth feels good.

  2. floridaborne

    OMG! This is so true: “Forget eggshells. Some of us walk on broken glass.”

    • Charli Mills

      Thick boots help.

      • floridaborne

        …and thick skin. ????

      • Charli Mills

        That, too!

  3. denmaniacs4

    So, I hadn’t sung a song all day, not even in my shower, so this prompt just could not be denied…

    The Coronavirus Sweet Potato Pie Blues

    I caught the Covid love bug.
    It surely took my breath way.
    Can’t give my baby a hug,
    In a snuggly way.

    And my sweet, my sweet potato pie
    You were the apple, the apple of my eye,
    My sweet, my sweet potato pie.
    I went off my diet and that’s no bloomin’ lie.

    I got the Covid love bug,
    Played a fancy man’s game.
    Ended up a lonely mug
    Only got myself to blame.

    Caught the Covid love bug,
    the Coronavirus blues.
    I’m a two-timin’ lug.
    So, what else is news.

    …and my sweet…my sweet potato pie….

    • Charli Mills

      I did not see this coming, Bill, and I’m laughing!

      • denmaniacs4

        Then my mission is a success, Charli…

      • Charli Mills

        Laughter accomplished!

    • ellenbest24

      Now I can laugh and did/am still. I want to know what tune you sing it too? Seasick Steve esq doesn’t quite do it and it is sending me loopy trying to fit it into other tunes. ????????

      • denmaniacs4

        Ellen, this may be hard to believe but each time I sing it (three times so far), it’s a slightly different tune…bluesy, folksy…but always charmingly harmonious…and typically, no one is listening to offer a contrary view…which is comforting.

      • ellenbest24

        Dolly Parton tunes did not work at all. But to be fair they probably would have if it was she and not me trying. ????????

    • Jules

      I did a sorta romance thing too…

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      Absolutely brilliant, Bill. I’m still laughing. <3

      • denmaniacs4

        Then you must have heard me singing…

  4. Liz H

    I am sorry for your struggles, but awed by your devotion. Remember to keep yourself safe, as well; soul bruises go deep and last long.
    And yes, sweet potatoes are nourishment for heart & soul, baked and mashed hot, with butter, maple syrup, and a generous sprinkle of cayenne. I’m wishing you such comfort, tonight!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a comforting recipe. Yes, heart food, them sweet potatoes. There are unexpected delights, too. Like when he forgets he used to mock Star Wars and now he wants to watch The Mandalorian with me.

  5. Doug Jacquier

    Hi, Charli. As a former owner of a German short-haired pointer, I fear The Hub is about to re-live the lfate of Sisyphus. But I digress.

    This week’s essay challenge, based on the prompt, is as follows:

    Q: Of what value is a bet based on a sweet patootie, in the sense of the expression ‘you bet your sweet patootie’, referring to someone’s assurance of sincerity. Modern times have transformed this former endearment into a somewhat uncouth reference to a person’s derriere (aka a person’s rhymes-with-pass), giving rise to a conundrum. If the person being spoken to is a Boney Moroney with a patootie to match, does this mean the bet is of little value? Conversely, if applied to a person of steatopygian dimensions in the booty department, is it a bet of immense value? Discuss.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Okay. Let’s say Boney Maroney has a cutie patootie and no matter the size, it’s adorable. 😀

    • Liz H

      The world may never have a definitive answer to this puzzling conundrum, but we sure could have a good time, over a bottle of wine, in the Carrot Ranch Saloon, puzzling it out!
      Made me laugh!!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Liz. That’s (almost) always the object. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thought-provoking, Reena!

      • Reena Saxena


  6. Norah

    Gemini – Gentle, affectionate, curious, adaptable, ability to learn quickly and exchange ideas
    Taurus – Reliable, patient, practical, devoted, responsible, stable
    I think you’re both right. He’s a lucky man, and would be luckier if he knew it. Your loyalty and courage are medals to wear with honour, Charli. But even they can be removed occasionally.
    Sweet potatoes – yum! One of my favourite memories of sweet potato was of them baked in – now I’ve forgotten – cinnamon and brown sugar, I think, at a Lone Star (Western American) Restaurant. They (the restaurants) sprang up here a few years ago but didn’t last long. But they were mighty good potatoes. I love them baked. I have made a delicious sweet potato roulade for Christmas for my vegetarian family. It’s worth the effort – occasionally.
    May you week be as sweet as the potatoes with a tinge of cinnamon and brown sugar.

    • Charli Mills

      Aw, you are too kind, Norah. Okay, I can accept attributes of both. And it’s a good reminder to seek the good in the unexpected.

      Huh. That’s interesting — Lone Star restaurants must be similar to Outback Steakhouses in the US. Most US restaurants that serve sweet potatoes, make them into fries (chips?). I love to roast them in olive oil and curry powder. They are versatile. Your sweet potato roulade must be spectacular. I’ve never made one before.

      May your week be as sweet as you!

      • Norah

        You’re very sweet, Charli. Thank you. Sweet potato chips (fries?) have become quite popular here in recent years too. I like to serve them with fish. They go really well with my lemon myrtle barramundi. 🙂 I was thinking about the Lone Star sweet potatoes again and wondering if it might have been nutmeg rather than cinnamon. Either one would be rather delicious. I haven’t tried them roasted with curry powder. That sounds good too.
        Have a wonderful week.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, my — lemon myrtle barramundi — sounds delish! You make that and I’ll bring the curry-roasted sweet potatoes!

  7. ellenbest24

    Your story, it feels a little like loving someone who has extreme dementia. Sometimes you have to not interupt the conversation pointed right at you, the one that the person delivering it 100% believes is for you. And agree. … Like an actor, take on the person he thinks you are even if it is uncle Jack the hobo from Kentucky. Your acting skills people would pay to watch. You could write a stage play! You could show what it is like to live with you having to be so many characters. … How hard that only rarely are you thought of as the person you really are. And through it all you still love the man that once was. P.S. I believe to do that you probably live as if you are a Gemini sometimes. Xx

    • Charli Mills

      I see the irony of being a Gemini, Ellen! I have a friend here who is also a grief counselor and has worked with dementia patients for years. She’s a kind person who has developed ideas about dementia that makes it feel less scary. She says they do become other people but not fight it. So, if you must become the hobo from Kentucky, do so with love. We continue to look for the pillars of familiarity and intellect that are still there. Thanks!

      • ellenbest24


  8. joanne the geek

    I love astronomy. I like going out into the dark and gazing at the stars. One of my dreams is to one day have a telescope (I’ve wanted one since I was a kid) but for the moment I manage with a pair of binoculars that aren’t quite the right aperture for stargazing, but the moon still looks really good through them.

    I’m sorry for all the stuff you have to deal with. You’re a very loving soul and that must test your resolve at times. You certainly don’t deserve it, but relationships can be tricky at the best of times. I think it’s why I prefer being alone at the moment as I don’t really know how to deal with other people that well.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes I feel like I forget how to “people” but relationships challenge us at every level. Brene Brown suggests we extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Love is the reset.

      Oh, it would make me happy to see you with a telescope in a place of your own, Joanne!

    • Charli Mills

      They are nutritious and versatile. I hadn’t thought of them as diet spuds! Thanks, Ritu!

      • Ritu

        Thank you for reminding me to buy some, today!!!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Add to grocery list… orange spuds!

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Shameless Self Promotin’

    “Aussie, ya brung sweet ‘tater pie! What’s the occasion?”
    “You tell me Pal. I’m guessing Kid isn’t around and you don’t want to be caught talking to yourself.”
    “Aw, shucks, ya guessed right. Yeah, Kid’s ridin’ herd on thet story over ta Marsha’s place.”
    “Story Chat?”
    “Yep. Kid’s concerned there’s more story then chat.”
    “Thought Kid was nervous about the chat.”
    “Yep, an’ now worried it’s fell flat. Tell ya, it ain’t a bad round up a all the fictional ranch hands. We’re all in it.”
    “It’s a little risqué, that mystery.”
    “Writers have ta take a risk, ey?”

    • Charli Mills

      Head on over and catch all the Ranch Yarn characters! Even Nanjo Castille shows up and Burt the horse. It’s a great story, Kid.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s a congregation worth attending!

  10. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Curly Lies

    “Quit yer yammerin’, Kid.”
    “Dig the taters outta yer ears an’ listen, Pal. Tellin’ ya, we got anuther mystery goin’ on here at Carrot Ranch.”
    “How kin a sweet p’tater patch wander off, Kid? Ya musta fergot where ya planted ‘em.”
    “No. Way.”
    “We’ll look agin. See any vines creepin’ ‘long the groun’?”
    “Nope. Mebbe I should git Curly ta hep sniff ‘em out. Curly? She seems mighty tired. I’ll let the sleepin’ hog lie.”
    “Kid! Look it thet turned over soil! Yer pig et the sweet p’taters, vines an’ all!”
    “No yams fer us.”
    “Mebbe ham?”
    “No way!”

    *Note: While the terms are often used interchangeably, yams and sweet potatoes are two different plants. The leaves of the sweet potato, unlike regular potatoes, are edible.*

    • Charli Mills

      Yam ham? Hmm… Sweet Patater Bacon?

      So, which one is used for its ornamental vines? I learned something new and edible from the garden. That’s some pig.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        The sweet potato is known and grown for its vines. What a plant! I am going to try growing some as it is something I eat a lot of.

      • Charli Mills

        Okay! It is the sweet potato, then. Its vines are gorgeous. I might hive it a go.

    • Nicole Horlings

      This one made me laugh. Fantastic!

  11. Sherri Matthews

    I’d never heard of sweet potatoes until I moved to CA. My mother in law made ‘Yams’ with marshmallows on top baked in the oven for my first Thanksgiving. I love them to this day, piping hot mashed with butter and pepper. Mmmm. I will think of you with Mause next time I bake one 🙂 My heart goes out to you in your struggles, Charli. You have written a beautiful novel that will touch many hearts. How can it not? <3

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, those marshmallow-topped Thanksgiving yams! Funny how we call them yams, but we eat sweet potatoes. A good California memory. Thank you, Sherri. <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Charli, we are riding the crest of the Californian wavelength! 🙂 I really wanted to write a flash this week, but it’s been a full on week in which my edits have suffered too. But now back to the laptop…and to another new dawn, new day. And how I hope life is easing for you too, my friend <3

      • Charli Mills

        Every day is renewed! Keep moving forward. Some weeks we need to roll with what comes our way. <3

  12. Jules


    Your story is only one of many hardships new folks had to deal with. I took a little liberty with some names of regular as well as sweet potatoes to interject some humor 🙂 Along with some notes… I hope you enjoy:

    Tater Talk

    Two boys from Idaho, Spud Murphy and his friend Red Norland were visiting their North Carolina friend Ned Nugget. Ned’s sister Jewel had her friend Hannah Garnet over. Spud had his eye on Hannah!

    Beauregard Covington was Hannah’s Uncle and guardian, he was at the Nuggets too! He wasn’t fond of Northerners especially from the west. Beau was gonna root out any trouble quicker than one could mash potatoes! No one was gonna be sweet on his niece that was from outta town.

    Hannah saw her Uncle getting steamed. “I’ll move to Okinawa if you don’t settle,” she hissed!


    Since the word spuddy was once the nickname for a seller of bad potatoes, it has also been supposed that the word spud derived from this. … Since, for some reason, people named Murphy inevitably get the nickname Spud, and potatoes are sometimes called “Murphy,” the name Spud was also applied to potatoes.

    Also some famous potatoes come from Idaho, but some sweet potatoes in the states are grown in North Carolina.

    I’ve used the names (and nick-names) of potatoes and sweet potatoes and other related spud words in this little ditty. Some are more particular to ‘Sweet Potatoes.’ In no particular order; tater, spud, Murphy, Red Norland, Nugget, Jewel, Hannah, Garnet, Beauregard, Covington, root, mash, potatoes, sweet, steamed, Okinawa and well sometimes when they cook steamed potatoes hiss!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Jules! What a fun and brilliant play with potatoes, using names and nicknames. I have learned much and enjoyed your story.

      • Jules

        Perhaps not as many, but spuds have names like nail polish and lipstick! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Spud inspired stories might be a thing, then.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ya struck Yukon Gold with this one Jules. What fun!

  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Child’s Play

    He arranged the sweet potatoes into orderly rows on the grass.

    “No. They’re dry. Mommy says to put them in the crates.”

    Ruth knew she was in charge. She also knew that play helped with any work. Her potatoes sang and danced their way into the crates.

    His marched, then dove into the crates. “Ayaaaa!”

    “Gently. Don’t hurt them.”

    He blinked at her, then feverishly started removing potatoes, tossing them to safety behind the tangled vines. “I won’t leave you! Come on!”

    She went to him, hugged his tear-stained face like Mommy does, said, “It’s okay Daddy, it’s okay.”

    • explorereikiworld

      I like how children do role play. Cute story 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      What a sweet child grown before her time. No potatoes left behind. No daddy’s deserted to their pain.

    • Liz H

      Poignant is right.
      Made me tear up for young Ruth and the soldier/father struggling to be at home, if I’ve read this as intended. (?) 🙁

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        You’re a good reader, Liz. Thanks/sorry (the tears)

      • Liz H

        Tears are cleansing. No worries.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, the effort in polishing brings out the shine. Thank you, Ruchira.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne!

  14. Anne Goodwin's Sugar and Snails is free in February

    Tough times for both of you, Charli, and I’m always impressed and delighted by how beautifully you write from that painful position.

    Sweet potatoes have taken off in the UK only relatively recently. (Probably later than avocados.) I was surprised you’d be feeding them to dogs, however. Surely you’re not raising yours as a vegetarian?

    A surprising alternative meaning of sweet potato made its way into my flash, which enabled me to mix music and mental health:

    Modern Classics set on hospital wards: Memento Mori & One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes it bubbles up and needs expression, Anne. My daughter mentioned recently that she has difficulty relating to friends because their parents are older and aren’t dealing with this particular issue, yet. I appreciate the tolerance when I do.

      Sweet potatoes didn’t catch on like potato potatoes? Ha! Yes, they are nutritious for dogs, but meat is an important part of the Mause diet, too. She gets lamb and a kid-milk supplement, too.

      An interesting convergence of mediums over at your place!

      • Anne Goodwin's next novel is out May 28

        Yes, I feel for your children too. Grown up I kmow but very young to have to deal with this in a parent and puts them out of step with their peers.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a good way to put it — out of step with their peers.

  15. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Bona Sub Terra Theory

    “That one likes to snuggle,” she said.

    He cradled the hen on his lap as he lifted his jar of dandelion wine.

    “Try this snack— Jerusalem artichokes, best thing to come out of God’s good earth.”

    The moon was just rising. He didn’t see her slight smile as he went on about the gastronomic miracles in his garden, with flesh the color of a summer sunset, but he heard her accept his invitation to dinner even as he wondered how he would prepare the sweet potatoes for her.

    ‘So much good,’ she’d said, ‘so much goodness under the surface.’

  16. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    Your stories are always so wise and poignant, but they are also filled with humor, which I definitely appreciate. It’s a great balance you strike.

    Clicker training your hubby. HAHAHAH. EPIC

    People dampening other people’s dreams. I hear you and I agree, but then, sometimes I feel the need to inject just a tidbit of “wisdom.” Not because I don’t believe in them, but because I want them to be prepared for any potential hurdles. Once I am done with that, I will be their number one cheerleader, though.

    Well, I feel silly having written all of the above. When there’s a lot to comment on, I tend to write as I read so as not to forget my thoughts, as if they were crucial for anyone else to hear… Anyway, I do it because that’s the way I engage with the author.

    I feel silly because the rest of this post is so gut-wrenching. I’m so sorry to hear that you have to deal with so much pain…

    • Charli Mills

      I love to laugh, Goldie! Ha, ha — I should do a workshop called, “How to Clicker Train Your Partner.” Yes, I think we can balance awareness of barriers on the path and encouragement for the journey.

      It’s a strange place for me to be, having completed a novel that has had many stops and starts because of these issues in my life. And in the end, the book and its protagonist are not me. I had to remember what it was to be in my boots and not Danni’s.

      Thanks for making me laugh!

  17. Hugh W. Roberts

    Like your hubby, I’ve been rather obsessed with Mars, Charli. To think that the human race has yet another vehicle on that planet, yet nobody has invented the washing machine that irons the shirts for me yet! Maybe one day? By which time, we will have built a motorway on Mars and have planted sweet potatoes in its dry, dusty soil.

    • Jules


      Interestingly in the movie The Martian (2015) ‘”An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.” The astronaut grows spuds!! And I was watching a show that basically said most of what happened in the movie was scientifically proven to be very capable of actually happening (Well he did sort of have a greenhouse and a little help…)- like actually growing those spuds on Mars. So I’m not sure how far off your last statement is 😉


      • Hugh W. Roberts

        I remember the movie Jules. Now, as they had on the original TV show ‘Lost In Space,’ I’m hoping he also had a washing machine that washed and ironed shirts.

      • Jules

        I haven’t picked up an iron in years…
        But then I don’t have much that requires more than hand pressing when I put it on top of the dryer 😉

        I remember some episodes of the old ‘Lost in Space’… maybe you need to invent that machine? There are those refreshing steam machines… but perhaps that just not what you were looking for 😉

      • Hugh W. Roberts

        No, I want a machine that washes and irons for me, Jules. In ‘Lost In Space, ‘ garments came out of the washing machine wrapped neatly in plastic. Of course, I only want one that uses recyclable plastic.

        They also had those hair-dryers I remember my mother sitting under at the hairdressers that washed, cut and styled your hair for you.

      • Jules

        I remember those huge bubble hair driers – burn your scalp!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Good point, Hugh! We can do incredible far-out feats and yet lack innovation in a laundry rover. Won’t that be something? Mars sweet potatoes. Will farmers look for the blue planet at night?

      • Hugh W. Roberts

        Once upon a time, I expect they will have, Charli. Maybe they went to the empty. blue planet and preferred it?

      • Charli Mills

        May we never stop dreaming and progressing, Hugh.

  18. Nicole Horlings

    “We are all allowed our dreams. I’ll kick anyone in the shins who dampens the dreams of another, especially the dreams of the vulnerable.” – This hit me hard, and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

    “I’ve become the villain in his mind” and “Forget eggshells. Some of us walk on broken glass.” – I can’t begin to imagine the pain that you endure. It’s incredible that you’re taking your experiences and building off of them to write a wonderful novel. I think your writing is going to have such a meaningful impact when you publish it.

    • Charli Mills

      Dreamers need a champion. Maybe we get to be that shin-kicker for each other. 😉

      After writing my novel, I’m seeking to recalibrate. It’s good to have writing to express and process. It hurts less that way, giving feelings wings and resetting situations. Thanks, Nicole.

  19. Nicole Horlings

    Here’s my story:

    Sweet Potato Disaster

    He heard a cry of frustration as he opened the door, and soft sobbing as he took off his shoes and coat. “Oh honey, what’s wrong?” he called out as he gathered up his briefcase and travel mug.

    “I can’t do anything right.” She pointed at the charred mashed sweet potato and marshmallow dish. Just at that moment, the smoke from the oven reached the fire alarm. She scrambled to get up off the kitchen floor, but he beat her to it.

    She stood despondently in the hallway. He pulled her into a hug, whispering, “We can get takeout.”

    • Charli Mills

      Anda beautiful story of how to be a champion when your partner is down in the sweet potato dumps.

  20. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Charli, our veteran spouses don’t live in the actual world. The real world was the military, the mission… and their place in that world. All of that goes away in the civilian world. The camaraderie is never the same. It doesn’t matter how you leave the military, we all feel it. The stakes change and you never feel part of the big machine again. Our dear friend, our son from another mother, retired a few years ago. He stopped by the other day to say how unfulfilling civilian jobs are compared to the military. He’s barely 40 years old, and he feels it too. Your hubs has given much to the country. I’m in awe of your compassion, love, and understanding. The wives and kids of veterans are the ones always left to pick up the pieces. We are the true warrior-women. I’m always here for you. <3

    Ugh… sweet potatoes. They are supposedly good for WW! Guess what? Not for me. I gain weight eating vegetables… ah, such is the battle of the bulge. I'll come up with a flash. <3

    • suespitulnik

      Well put, Colleen. You would know having been a part of the “big machine.” I wish I could help in a bigger way other than listening and understanding. Hugs.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Me too, Sue. It’s wonderful to have an outlet for us military wives too. We need each other – still. ??

    • Charli Mills

      You are so right, Colleen. We live in that altered civilian world. We serve, too, like mop-up crews. Getting veterans together helps — get ’em hiking, fishing, gardening, writing together. As Mary Gauthier sings, “The closest family I have ever known.” Thank you. <3

      Ha! That's not the side effect you want from your veggies!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Yes! It is a family. And, all veterans know this. It’s an unbroken bond. The wives are veterans too. They are the glue that holds it all together. ??????

      • Charli Mills

        It’s super glue for all the fragments. <3

  21. Colleen M. Chesebro

    “I Yam, What I Yam”

    “Excuse me, young man, you work in this department. Where’s the yams?”

    “Do you mean sweet potatoes? You know, the orange ones?”

    “Yeah, yams. I need ‘em to make my grandson’s favorite dish, Candied Yams.”

    “Well now, ma’am. Yams are the brown ones and sweet potatoes are the orange ones. We have Beauregard, Jewel, and Garnet. Myself, I like the purple ones from Okinawa.”

    The old woman stared at me and blinked her eyes. “Yams aren’t purple.”

    I chuckled under my breath. “No, ma’am. Yams are brown and look like roots.”

    She smiled. “Yeah, you got any orange yams?”

    • pedometergeek

      Nice story. Hey, I can’t tell the difference between sweet potatoes and yams. To me, they are one and the same. ~nan

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! I know! Same for me. I thought I would poke fun at that aspect. ????

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      You’re quite the ham.
      Stores often perpetuate the misnomer by labeling sweet potatoes yams. Just get the orange ones. (Or the purple ones)

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Right? I actually overheard this conversation. I couldn’t help chuckling at the little old lady. She was cute too! I’m not good at writing humor like you are. I always come off kind of lame… which I hope is funny in the end. ???????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Your story has me laughing! That customer is going to yammer on until she gets her orange yam!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        LOL! The lady in Meijer’s wasn’t going to give it up! ??????

      • Charli Mills

        Nope! She proved to be the more determined. 😀

  22. TanGental

    Goodness, the battles continue even when the battle ends. A mind most torn.
    The sweet potato is a delight but as my two incorrigible scamps point out, when did they suddenly become a thing here? Why did we wait so long to have them? They even grow here, for Pete’s sake.

    ‘What’s that?’
    ‘Sweet potato fries?’
    ‘What’s wrong with chips?’
    ‘Nothing, Logan. Just different.’
    ‘When did sweet potatoes become a thing? When I was a kid there were just potatoes. Then someone adds sugar and you have these things. ‘
    ‘They weren’t invented, Logan. They originated in South America…’
    ‘So you say. But I bet you never had a sweet potato anything as a child.’
    ‘No, but…’
    ‘Just the common or garden spud.’
    ‘Yes, but…’
    ‘It’s the Americanisation of vegetables. Culinary appropriation…’
    ‘The potato came from America. We all learnt that, didn’t we?’
    ‘You’re a contrarian…’
    ‘Takes one to know one.’

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Accept it, Logan. Sweet potato chips, crisps and tots, all here to stay, all good. And good for you.

      • TanGental

        He’s not the accepting sort, more the resigning sort…

    • Charli Mills

      An “altered brain” they say. It’s like living in an altered reality and I have to readjust every so often. His memory is sharp. So’s his intellect. In fact, he was asking about your Dad’s service the other day, having remembered some of your letters I had read to him years ago. I try to find intersections where I can meet him.

      I wondered if sweet potatoes grew in the UK! I mean, their cousin the plain potato does. It’s all culinary appropriation.

      • TanGental

        He served 3/4 years, 1944 to 1948, the first 18 months training to be a paratrooper, the last 2.5 ‘peacekeeping’ in what was Palestine prior to partition in 1948.

      • Charli Mills

        Yeah, we know about “peacekeeping.”

  23. pedometergeek

    Vegetable Cookery (BOTS)

    The sophomore home economics’ curriculum included yeast bread, which was the main reason Julie chose this elective; however, it also included vegetable cookery. Julie wasn’t thrilled about this unit because she didn’t like vegetables; the rule was that students had to taste each one. Swiss chard, rutabagas, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, and more vegetables that she had never heard of, but found that she liked. A new favorite was sweet potatoes especially with brown sugar and marshmallows. One vegetable she managed to not eat was okra, and how Julie managed to do that without getting caught, well, that’s another story.

    Nancy Brady, 2021

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Okra, yes, what is the point there? But good for her to discover those others. The one way I do not care for sweet potatoes is with marshmallows. I keep marshmallows with the okra.

    • Charli Mills

      You’ve aroused my curiosity, Nan! And reminded me of ways I knew to dispose of the dreaded bland green beans served at school lunch.

  24. willowdot21

    What a sad but beautiful story, life goes on ????????

    • Charli Mills

      Life moves us, Willow! <3

      • willowdot21

        Yes indeed it does ????

  25. Liz H

    Not fiction today, but a wish for better things to come…

    Hope. Springs. Eternal.

    We’ve gotten a respite from chilblain-blistering cold, with temps tomorrow in the mid-sixties. Nearly a week of melting’s left my home’s southern exposure (nearly) stripped of snow, grass matted like a week in bed with stomach flu. Rain, possibly thunder, predicted for the day after tomorrow; may it inspire some green…
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      Days come and go like seasons. Better is always the hope, Thanks, Liz.

  26. Lisa Coleman

    Hi Charli

    PTSD is such a serious disease and when you add brain trauma, it is downright difficult. I was in the Marine Corps and so was my ex-husband. Neither of us served during wartime, before Desert Shield, but living on eggshells is something I know a great deal about. My situation was different because it wasn’t PTSD, but short-tempered domineering egomaniac putting me down at every turn. The reason he is my ex! I commend you for sticking by your hubby’s side.

    Marsha turned me on to your site on Saturday when her and I conferenced called. I thought I would give it a try today with your Sweet Potato prompt.

    Nice to meet you! 🙂

    • suespitulnik

      Welcome Lisa. The Ranch is a safe, fun place to write. There aren’t any eggshells here, but quite a few who have experienced some sort of military life. Nice to meet you and thank you for your service.

      • Lisa Coleman

        Thank you for the warm welcome, Sue. I appreciate it! I’m terrible at time management and find I have little of it, but I look forward to getting on here as much as I can. 🙂

      • Lisa Coleman

        It’s a lot. I’m trying to take it all in. LOL!

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Welcome to the Ranch, Lisa.

      • Lisa Coleman

        Thank you so much! I’m trying to understand how it all works. So much content! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Lisa! Good to meet you and thanks for coming to the Ranch. You are one of the Warriors, and we have several here who have served as well as family members. I appreciate that Marsha sent you this direction and Sue’s right, no eggshells. Write your story, share your perspective, and be welcomed!

      • Lisa Coleman

        Thank you so much for the welcome! I have a great hubby now so I no longer walk on eggshells anyway. Not sure how often I can get by, but I think all of you are awesome! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Gloria. And wishing you the best with your edits!

  27. suespitulnik

    I’m sorry your hubs pack is so heavy on you and you have such a fight on your hands. I admire you for giving the veteran spouse a voice, in reality, and fiction. I hope you have been able to meet with your vets’ wives group at least on Zoom so they can help with the load. Perhaps I should insert more PTSD scenes in my serial to make it more authentic. I’m glad you have Mause to help you smile. That face of hers has me wanting to snuggle her. On to the prompt…

    A Filipino Treat

    Tessa looked at the shopping list with skepticism. She asked Michael, “What are you going to make?”
    “A dessert that I was introduced to while in the Philippines. It’s a thin tapioca pudding made with coconut milk. Then rice balls, sliced plantains, boiled sweet potato nuggets, and chopped figs are added.”
    “Sounds labor-intensive.”
    “It is. You have to prepare all the add-ins first.”
    “You’ll sure dirty a lot of pans.”
    “Correct. That’s why I’m making it when Lexi and Adam will be here to help with eating and clean up. I promise everyone will love it, especially Emma Blossom.”

    • Charli Mills

      The pack is heavy, Sue but the load is light with many hands, including yours. This is what your story exemplifies with Michael reaching out for help with the clean-up. You know, I find your serial authentic. And I think it’s important to show how well-functioning the veteran community can be. That was something I intended to show in Miracle of Ducks.

      Oh, yes! I get my daily dose of Mause snuggles. Thanks!

  28. Ann Edall-Robson

    Yam Jungle
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “What’s that?”

    “Yam jungle?”

    “Did you say, damn jungle?”

    “No! I said yam jungle.”

    “Those are sweet potatoes!”

    “No, they’re not.”

    “Well, that’s what we call them.”

    “Well, you are wrong, they are yams.”

    “No need to get your knickers in a knot.”

    “Well, then, call them what they are.”

    “What’s the difference miss know it all?”

    “Sweet potatoes have white flesh and are starchy, like potatoes. Yams have an orangey flesh and a sweet flavour.”

    “You’ve said they’re sweet potatoes.”

    “No I didn’t! Geesh, why do you continually insist on arguing with me when you know I’m right?”

    When the yams sprouted while waiting to be cooked, I let them go to it. It was a nice bit of greenery. I left them, and I left them, and I left them…They got lots of comments and suggestions from those coming to our kitchen. 18 months later, when they had used up all of their internal food, the greenery shrivelled and all that was left was the outside shell of the yam.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Um… I enjoyed the flash and the picture of the yam jungle, but, um, I believe you have the names on the wrong color, that is sweet potatoes orange insides, yams, pale, though both unrelated species have variations inside and out and many groceries in the States call sweet potatoes yams even though they are not.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        You are right, D. Our grocery stores do the same. The joy of writing a fiction argument, and knowing you are not correct in things you are saying, and wondering if anyone will call you out. If I had a prize to give, you would be the winner.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Not looking for a prize, just advocating for truth in fiction.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m so yamned confused, lol!

    • Charli Mills

      A yam jungle! Wow, 18 months. That’s kitchen science right there. I’m thinking your character would enjoy Colleen’s. I’ll send in D. to settle any yam/SP disputes. 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for contributing and reminding me I can stop earing like it’s March 2020. 😀

  29. Marsha

    It’s late and I have to leave these sweet potato pie comments for later reading, but your story moved me. I’m struggling with my vet so many years after his service as a translator wearing earphones for hours every day is going deaf. It is so annoying when he hears me wrong and gets mad. Or something pushes my button and I finally yell – because how else will he hear me, right? I’m praying for patience and for anger management – on my part. But your story resonated with me reminding me that I can deal with a little problem like hearing. It’s nothing as bad as PTSD or loss of mental acuity or many other issues that our Veterans have because of their service. Thank you for bringing me back to a good place. 🙂 I think I’ll go have some sweet potato pie and go to bed. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hearing loss is the number one ailment of veterans, Marsha. I know, it makes communication frustrating and yet funny at times. I hope he’s gone into the VA. They will cover all his service-connected hearing loss needs. Thank you for understanding! And, I got your sweet potato 99-word story in the collection!

      • Marsha

        Thank you Charlie. Yes, since we moved here, he’s had his first appointment. They are fabulous. I hope they can do something for him that works. He’s tried two different expensive hearing aids and won’t even wear them because they are too uncomfortable for him. So I feel you pain – on a much smaller scale. Lots of love to you for all your patience and kindness.

      • Charli Mills

        I hope he gets devices that work for him. We often use the phrase “quality of life” when dealing with VA healthcare. We often have to remind them.

  30. Amy Vasterling

    You’re soft and silky. Velvety to the tongue. Sweet as pie who leaves my brother numb.

    Be it as it may, your skin is too thin. Toughen up my friend because you aim to win.

    Show off your looks your glistening hot body. Steamy and dreamy you come to us from the family of morning glory.

    You can be hard and cold, rooted and odd. Misshapen and drab, gaping and gold.

    I press my lips against your flesh and sense you’re no ordinary yam, you’re a sweet potato. Everybody gets it wrong. Correct them with a little brown sugar.

    • Charli Mills

      Wonderfully sensual ode to the sweet potato! Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Amy!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Denise!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rebecca!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Padre!

  34. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Dave!

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!


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