May 6: 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.

May 6, 2021

Back at the Boston Homestead where my daughter and her husband are expanding their farm across what was once a neighborhood of company copper miners, their hens escaped the coop. The girls didn’t go far. Chanticleer, the rooster who crows when I sing to him about eating cracked corn, didn’t stray from them. They gathered among the budding blueberry plants and partied.

I’ll accept that as my cue to follow suit. Somebody blow party horn.

School’s out, but may the learning never cease. How quickly coursework gave way to gardening. Black soil slips under the tips of my fingernails, erasing twenty-one straight months of studies and writing for an MFA. Technically, I get my degree by mail after June 1. May is limbo month. A month of fresh ideas, starts and new paths. A month to find joy among emerging flowers, seedlings, and dreamers.

I’m with the chickens, pecking after the best blossoms. Except my escape from the student coop calls for cake not flower petals. I’ll confess to having had two lemon cakes already. One in late March after I completed my thesis. The special women in my veteran spouses group lent their stories and struggles. My protagonist met her own group of warrior sisters, ones she would called BABs. Danni Gordon gets cake in THE MIRACLE OF DUCKS. Lemon cake. When I completed my thesis and turned over my manuscript (MS) to my BABs, one of them made her famous lemon cake. After she read the MS, she baked me a second!

A fun aside to the second cake: Coming home from our last group meeting, I had lemon cake in my car. I stopped in Ripply where I haven’t been in ages because of the pandemic. In front of a friend’s house, we distantly gathered, delighting in the sunshine and recent second vaccinations. It seemed surreal to “people” and then I remembered. I had cake. A small village street consumed a lemon cake. Forgotten birthdays and private celebrations surfaced. Through shared cake, we felt human again.

I’m distancing my grad celebrations which is really an excuse to camp for three nights. But first, to Bayfield and the Old Rittenhouse Inn on Monday. My novel began in Bayfield. It flared in many directions, and in the end it became ashes. The thesis I wrote rose up from the ashes of my first novel to become a Phoenix among my drafts. I kept the title and protagonist but changed the premise, crafted a plot, and created a compelling character arc with a memorable group of women who carry the burdens their husband’s bring home from the battlefield. For me, to visit Bayfield is to reconcile the full journey I’ve been on to write my novel.

After a night in Wisconsin, I’ll pick up my incredible celebration cake from three Chippewa sisters in Minnesota. Then I return four hours to the Keweenaw to camp for three nights at McLain State Park. Cake, bonfires, cacao, and the sound of surf and spring peepers. Friday, I’ll go home to wish my Svalbard daughter a happy birthday. Then it’s off to the Unicorn Room for a Musical Zen Sound Bath with my sound therapist. She’s offering to do the meditation that bathes participants in sounds from drums to crystal bowls. It will be live on her FaceBook page at 5 pm EST on Friday, May 14. If you are interested in sharing this experience with me, shoot me an email at wordsforpeople(at)gmail(dot)com for links and instructions.

On Saturday, May 15, I’ve set up three Zoom Rancher Gatherings to cover a diversity of time zones and availability. Hop on to meet and talk with fellow writers at Carrot Ranch. Maybe meet the chickens of Boston or the wild Mause of the House. Celebrate. Socialize. I’ll read a snippet from my thesis and ask any questions about MFAs or writing. Bring your own bubbly! Times: 9 am/2 pm/7 pm (Eastern Time US).

If you are interested in the sound bath, socializing on Saturday, or setting up a time to chat, shoot me an email at wordsforpeople(at)gmail(dot)com for links and instructions. If you want to send graduation cards, you can mail to headquarters at 1112 Roberts Street, Hancock, MI 49930.

It’s my birthday on May 21. My son and daughter-in-law are driving up from Wisconsin for the weekend. I will complete my celebrations that weekend and start the new journey in earnest. For now, I’m going to party like hens let loose in the berry patch.

Note extended deadline on account of Party Business.

May 6, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about party hens. Who are these chickens and why do they party? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 18, 2021. 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 now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

The Hen Party by Charli Mills

Chanty shook his coxcomb. “Party ‘til the cows come home. Farmer Brown doesn’t know his party hens.”

The hens lunged for the blueberry patch. In the morning Farmer Brown would blame a blight or a bloke. Either way, he wouldn’t believe his best layer had a spare key to the coop. Seventeen hens clucked and clogged beneath the moon.

“It’s time,” said Henny Penny. They slowed their shimmies and wrote their plans in chicken-scratch.

“Party hard, Ladies. We have to write the next campaign to get a Madame President in Office.” Henny Penny held the party line – Chicks Only.


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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    I like that you are talking chickens as you talk about shifts.
    You met chickens when you first arrived in that area, remember the petticoated hens? Pal might have been right, roads are endless loops.
    Same with celebrations; they will not be complete on May 21, there will be plenty more reasons for you to have cake.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Oh yeah. That. I know who wrote it (eons ago) and I know who read it. Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      There are influential loops and shifts unfolding around chickens. Inspiration travels these roads. Yes, there will future cakes.

  2. Doug Jacquier

    Hi, Charli. I’ll give the Zoom party a miss; two of the three times are well past my bedtime and the morning one for me is before I transform back into human form. Have fun though and I’ll send a poultry piece of prose later.

    • Charli Mills

      One of these days, I’ll set up a Zoom Social for 1 am my time, afternoon for you, I believe. Looking forward to a poultry piece of prose, Doug!

      • Doug Jacquier

        1 a.m. for you is far too heroic and extreme, Charli. One night I won’t be able to sleep and I’ll turn up unannounced on Zoom in my PJs and white dressing gown, like a ghostly apparition. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! That will be fun, Doug. And 2 am is not usually extreme for me. I have an off-kilter time clock.

  3. restlessjo

    Party hard, Charli! Sounds like a month of fun 🙂 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jo! I’ll be dancing in the trees!

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Past Prompts Present

    “Wholly shift, Kid, it’s wild out there! Ain’t never seen the like.”
    “Is it stormin’ Pal?”
    “It’s a rumpus! Mause an’ Curly’s barkin’ an’ squealin’ an’ rootin’ through the carrot patch. Ever’ unicorn from ever’ dang unicorn flash is here stompin’ an’ gallopin’ about.”
    “I hear that herd.”
    “Yep, an’ the longhorns is wearin’ strings a flowers, the ranchers is whoopin’ an’ yodelin’ aroun’ the fire like women warriors, an’ rabbits is dancin’ on the barn roofs. An’ the chickens’ve flown the coop.”
    “Where’s Shorty at?”
    “Followin’ the hens. With cake.”
    “Kin we eat it too?”
    “Party time!”

    • Charli Mills

      I love it, D.! This is my favorite line: “Followin’ the hens. With cake.”

    • Jules

      OOh… Unicorns and cake – great combo!!

    • Charli Mills

      What a great opening line, Reena!

      • Reena Saxena

        Thank you, Charli!

    • Doug Jacquier

      Who would have thought it, Reena. All that hidden darkness in you. 🙂 Good piece.

      • Reena Saxena

        Thanks! 🙂

    • Norah

      Very strong message, Reena. Cleverly written.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Those strong, resolved hens aren’t chicken. Brave new world for them.

      • Reena Saxena

        Sure! They are not chicken ?? Thank you, D.Avery!

  5. floridaborne

    Happy birthday!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joelle!

  6. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    Chickens, cake, camping, celebrations, a whole host of fitting fun for the master of the Ranch. Have at it Charli! Party your heart out. We’re all feeling your joy right along with you.

  7. Sarah Brentyn

    Party hens! ????

    Happy (early) birthday, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Brings great images to mind! And thank you — never too early or late to celebrate!

      • Sarah Brentyn


    • Charli Mills

      Fine feathered friends you have! But I’m glad you followed where the prompt led.

    • Doug Jacquier

      True confessions emerging here? 🙂 Funny story.

  8. Liz H

    Party on, Charli. You deserve to celebrate yo’self, and I completely admire the way you always share your joy–and lemon cake!–with others.
    Enjoy the Rittenhouse! Had diner there on my honeymoon, and the food was amazing, with local ingredients!
    Woot! And cluck cluck buckAHH!

    • Charli Mills

      I set a new standard for random street parties. Might have to drive around with cake more often!

      What a divine place to honeymoon, Liz. Bayfield has been a special place for me but I have not yet stayed at the Rittenhouse. Breakfast, yes. Oh, their food. Such great local food in the area.

      Thanks for the clucks!

    • ellenbest24

      I suspect fowl play (eek! I just love a good cliche. Nearly as much as the fun and whimsy of this.

  9. denmaniacs4

    Congratulations, Charli. You are amazing…a little poetic drivel from an admirer…and with a malfunctioning rhyming scheme to boot…

    The Party Hen Dance

    As for which came first,
    the chicken or the egg
    what would be worse:
    a game of mumblety-peg?

    Not a chicken’s game,
    I’d down a whole keg
    but my belly would burst:
    I’m not pulling your leg.

    We might want to know
    Why the chicken crossed the road.
    Perhaps traffic was slow
    And we were in writer mode?

    But we’re drifting away
    from our debatable dregs,
    that query of the day,
    what came first, chickens or eggs?

    You know, I really have to think
    it’s not a matter of when,
    that the missing link
    Is the Masterful party hen.

    • Charli Mills

      I love the verse, Bill! I’m off to master hen parties!

    • Doug Jacquier

      My chiro has a cartoon in his waiting room, depicting a chicken and egg sitting in a waiting room and a doctor emerging, saying ‘Who was here first?’

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      This is a fine and worthy poem.
      Yeah. There is a book out there for you, if you want the answers to these sorts of fowl questions. Then again, this fine and worthy poem shows you don’t need that book. Good one, Bill.

  10. Jennie

    May is YOUR month, with so much to party for and about. Where around Boston are these fabulous hens? I’m northwest of the city close to the NH border in an old town, Groton. Party hardy (or is it hearty?), Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      More reasons to love May with its sunshine and flowers. Ah, Boston, Michigan. It’s a ghost town on the Keweenaw Peninsula where copper miners lived next to the Franklin Jr Mine. I’d like to visit the big Boston one day, Jennie! My college is in NH — Southern New Hampshire University.

      • Jennie

        Ah! Now that makes perfect sense. I was trying to picture you flying out here for a few days, which sounded way over the top. I think Boston, Michigan sounds delightful. The big Boston is waaay to big and too citified’

      • Jennie

        Ooops, too ‘city’ for me. Southern New Hampshire Univ. is a great school. They are advertising like crazy right now. I look forward to hearing about your May adventures. ????

  11. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    Happy Birthday!

    And may the learning continue opening new doors for you.

    All the best

    • Charli Mills

      Learning is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks, Saifun!

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Kid, what’re ya doin’ with them binoculars?”
    “Bird watchin’, Pal.”
    “Bird watchin’?”
    “Keepin’ an eye on them hens. They’re still partyin’.”
    “Where’s thet rooster?”
    “Jack? The hens done told him ta hit the road… an’ look, there she is, still partyin’ with ‘em.”
    “She who?”
    “Shorty. Jeez. That caged bird sure was slingin’ words but now she ain’t cooped up no more she’s flexin’ her wings an’ slingin’ cake like it were cracked corn.”
    “Thinkin’ thet’s rice cake, Kid.”
    “Scatterin’ rice? Shorty gittin’ married?”
    “Heck, no! But she is commencin’ a new life.”
    “Skeery. An’ somethin’ ta celebrate.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Kid, stop botherin’ ‘bout them hens. Let ‘em party. Why don’tcha join ‘em?”
      “Don’t like parties.”
      “Thet’s right, I fergot. Yer a chicken.”
      “Jist shy’s all. They’re too loud. What the cluck is this all about anyways?”
      “Jeez, Kid. It’s a graduation celebration. An’ on top a thet, Shorty’s had her shots an’ kin fly the coop. Put down her pen fer a bit an’ injoy not bein’ penned up.”
      “Has been a long haul ain’t it?”
      “Mebbe I will jist zoom over an socialize, say howdy.”
      “Jist email Charli fer the zoom link. See ya Saturday, Ranchers!”

  13. Norah

    Woohoo! So much to celebrate, Charli. Congratulations. Every step is a step towards that North Star and to achieving your goals. I can’t believe it’s almost 2 years since you started your MFA. What an achievement, and so much to be proud of, regardless of quantifiable outcomes. They will be the icing on the (lemon/carrot) cake.
    Enjoy every moment of your celebrations. I’m so sorry that I’m not able to join you for any of the events you have organised. You know I would dearly love to be with you and am extremely disappointed that I can’t. You have chosen times to suit us all and some would have normally suited me, but I have family staying that weekend and it just won’t work. Know that I will be with you in spirit and am celebrating for you anyway. Enjoy!

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story:

      The Hens’ Party
      The hens cackled with anticipation of their leader’s address, then quietened as the activist took the stage.
      “Ladies and ladies,” she began. “We don’t have to take this anymore — all day cooped up, laying on demand, while His Lordship struts about crowing, taking credit for the sun shining. Now it’s our time to shine!”
      The assembly fluffed their feathers and stamped their feet. “We won’t take it anymore!”
      “Ladies, what do we want?”
      “Hen’s rights!”
      “When do we want them?”
      “First, we slip him a sleeping pill, then tomorrow — we make the sun come up!”
      “Hens rule forever!”

  14. Doug Jacquier

    My poultry contribution for this week.

    Not Buck’s Night

    The party in full swing, Hildegard, with a motherly wing, quietly herded Charlotte aside.
    ‘Charlotte,’ she clucked, ‘I see you have your eye on Buck.’
    Charlotte, cluckchucklingly replied ‘Buck? Buck McGurk?’
    Hildegard’s neck imitated an Egyptian before she cocked her head to one side to intimate ‘You know what they say? Rooster today, feather duster tomorrow.’
    Charlotte, with her inimitable throaty gurgle, said ‘Mum, word is he’s tomorrow’s roast.’
    Relieved, Hildegard said ‘Well, that’s alright then. But, all the same, don’t let him slip you one of his chicken cocktails.’
    ‘Why’ enquired Charlotte.
    ‘One drink and you’ll lay anywhere.’

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      Hilariously brilliant play on words Doug! Buck better watch his tailfeathers!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Many thanks, Rebecca. Glad you enjoyed it.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Fer flock’s sake, Doug! That’s pfunny stuff.

      • ellenbest24

        What a wag you are. I love the play on words now go shake a tail feather.

  15. Geoff

    The Masked Terror

    ‘Logan, you look dreadful. What’s happened?’
    ‘I thought it was time I went out. I caught a train.’
    ‘Was it packed?’
    ‘Not really. About ten others.’
    ‘Oh. Did they get too close?’
    ‘Not really.’
    ‘Didn’t they have masks?’
    ‘That was part of the problem. The masks.’
    ‘Didn’t they cover their faces?’
    ‘No, they hide everything.’
    ‘How can ten mask-wearing people on an otherwise empty train cause such distress?’
    ‘Morgan, it was a hen party. They wore Megan Markle masks. They said they wanted to read me their new children’s story. I couldn’t get away.’
    ‘You’d better lie down.’

    Not all hen parties are fun… the boys reveal all

  16. SueSpitulnik

    Hi Charli,

    I am so proud of your success and thrilled I got to ride along. Party hearty. Enjoy your camping and let the earth rejuvenate you. I’m honored I have had the chance to share cake with you in person. May we do it again sometime soon. Happy Birthday a bit early. On to the prompt…

    A Family Gathering

    The men sat in front of the TV at Michael’s parents watching a baseball game they weren’t interested in, but at least it was a sports event. They were having trouble staying awake.
    The women were in the kitchen. Two were doing dishes. Someone was holding a sleeping cat, another was making a list of foods to bring to the next gathering, and they were all talking. Nonstop! There was rarely a quiet moment.
    During a commercial, one man got the others’ attention. “What do they find to talk about? Sounds like a bunch of hens.” They all shrugged.

    • ceayr

      I’m just happy it wasn’t a man who wrote this, Sue!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Who’s getting things done? Who makes things happen?

  17. ceayr

    Bye Bye Boris by C. E. Ayr

    Mr Johnson, this is a summary of the Scottish Parliamentary Elections held in May 2021.
    On the First-Past-The-Post system the SNP won 62 seats, the Tories 5, and the Red Tories 2.
    On the List System the SNP received 1,094,374 votes, the Tories 637,131.
    Previously, at the Brexit referendum, Scotland voted 62-38% to remain European.
    I put it to you, Mr Johnson, that you have no mandate here.
    Scotland has overwhelmingly rejected your party; henceforth we suggest you stay in Westminster.
    It seems that lies, corruption, and disregard for human life are acceptable practices there.
    But not here.

  18. Jules


    Best to you in all your adventures and achievements!!! Eat cake, camp and relax to the max!!! (((Hugs))).

    I don’t know all that much about chickens, but sometimes gals can gaggle – or so my hubby tells me so. I took his point of view from a meeting I had decades ago in this haibun:

    Cock-eyed Rooster?

    The ladies met. I knew I should have left the house…but I was curious. My wife was always complaining about my rowdy friends and our off color language. So I stayed home not so much to eavesdrop on their conversations, but I wanted to get a comparable reference.

    Any one interested in what would make a grown man blush… put him in earshot of ladies that think they are free to speak. Maybe there was some wine involved. Red, white, rose – no beer or hard liquor. Certainly whining was involved.

    party hens
    ruffle their
    own feathers
    few are mute


    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yep. I have seen it. Women can get rough and rowdy and even off color. Not me of course…

  19. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Flying the Coop

    “Where you going now?” he squawked. “Let me guess, another one of your ridiculous groups. Book talk? Stitch’n’bitch?”
    She scratched in her purse for her keys. “If you must know, a life changing decision’s been made. A bunch of us are gathering to celebrate.”
    “Hmmf. Well fine, go to your hen party, I’m sure I’ll find something to eat. Don’t worry about me.”
    “I won’t,” she clucked, and shut the door behind her.
    “Don’t be out with those biddies too late!” he crowed after her.
    “The cocky good-for-nothing,” she cackled. “Can’t imagine it’s me we’re celebrating. That he’s cock-a-doodle-done!”

  20. ellenbest24

    Not sure if my effort was entered correctly > rolls eyes < just in case I shall leave it here.
    The Cock Of The Walk. BY Ellen Best.
    He swaggered a bit as he walked, it could be a horse; or his boat he is missing, I am not sure which. Despite the frost on his brows and steaming nostrils, he was coatless. A crisp white shirt shone it gave him an ethereal air against the dark night. Several giggly girlies sighed and batted lashes his way, but his soft blue eyes held mine fast. Not being so easily impressed by the swagger I went into the hall alone. The cock of the walk he maybe, but he wore his ego too brightly for this party chick.

  21. Kate

    Congratulations on your huge success Charli and now your weeks of eating delicious cake. Well deserved. I didn’t write a piece about partying hens. I was inspired to write about a barred owl and he charmed me into writing about magical moments instead. I’ve added the link if you’re interested. Enjoy the rest of your parties!

  22. Charli Mills

    Thank you for all the well-wishes and the hen-speckled stories! I appreciate the community carrying on in my absence. The parties are winding down. It’s down to my birthday weekend with my son visiting from out of town. I’m hoping for flowers and help in the garden! Then I will be riding with you all at the Ranch! Write on!


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