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June 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills


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It’s a bit of a chaotic time. Transitions. On a global scale, we are all transitioning from pandemic to (hopefully) post-pandemic. Personally, I’m transitioning from MFA to post-MFA. I’m searching for an agent, a job, and a New Life. Times like these can feel uncomfortable. When my nerves are jangled, I get outside or arrange colors and textures. Gardening and designing can combine into an obsession.

My daughter and I spent the last few weeks, haunting the local greenhouses, hovering over flowers, discussing “holes” in the gardens that need to be filled. She has her moon garden and I have my potager, fairy, and hummingbird gardens. Mostly, I have perennials or bulbs in the first two. Last year’s holes host Sweet William, roses, and poppies. The fairy gardens are like me, a bit of a mess right now but with promising signs of shaping into something. For now, I’m avoiding my messes.

That leaves the hummingbird garden — aka my summer office. I had big plans and little seeds to plant perennials in the three-tiered planter box on my deck. Alas, I only managed to plant a flat of French Marigolds. My daughter planted a wall of flats, but the particular flowers I was hoping to place in my box didn’t do well. I had my heart set on establishing Monarda and lantana. None of the greenhouses had either until I swooped into Pat’s Foods, a local grocer, and found some. Excited, I told my daughter and we arranged another trip.

Let’s just say, my daughter and I should not be allowed to plant shop together. Throughout winter, we watch all the Monty Don shows we can on Amazon Prime. I have several of his books and daughter draws elaborate dioramas. I use Canva. Our heads float in a greenhouse, disconnected from thoughts like, “Do I really need a shopping cart full of annuals?” We are both going through emotional distress. Her dad, my husband, and one of America’s vets slipping into a crack that is now a chasm is forcing hard decisions and creating unsafe conditions. So, mother/daughter in duress, we buy happy-place flowers.

My daughter has a job. I do not. She has a partner who frowns at me when we show up at their homestead, carrying flats of flowers. I go home to my puppy-infused space, hoping if I plant enough flowers, I can stay and my wounded warrior can quietly walk away. Post-MFA, I can no longer ignore that his care is beyond my capacity. Panic never recedes and I play my part to keep the peace. The doctors continue to shrug off answers. They can’t rule out long-term TBI or CTE but they say the white matter lesions are not worrisome (despite other correlating symptoms). I’ve done all I can do and I’m trying to jump off this sinking ship.

I reach for my oxygen mask and he doesn’t understand why I won’t keep breathing for him.

Therefore, I exhale the colors of joy like an alchemist who transforms despair and depression, guilt and grief, into life. Petunias the colors of periwinkle, wine velvet, raspberry pink, and limencello emerge from the vines and stalks of greenery. I’m transformed elsewhere. It’s like the act of writing — thinking into being. Before I completed the hummingbird garden, a ruby red throat buzzed my activity. Happiness pushed clouds away.

At last the summer office came to life with buzzing mascots. The Poet Tree shades the deck and I park on a gardening knee pad atop yoga mat with a throw pillow between my back and the hummingbird flower boxes. Mause has become my office mate. She’s a restless sort, repositioning every few minutes and on guard to robins. She eats the occasional maple leaf and tries to dig where I have dug. She’s not ideal for sharing a cubical but she is cute.

Mause at HQ

Carrot Ranch offices are now open on Roberts Street in the outdoor hummingbird suite. Mause prefers peanut-butter-buddies if you visit in person.

June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 15, 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.

Her Own Office by Charli Mills

Moonflower Johnson’s preferred people call her “June.” Applications forced her to disclose her full name and job interviewers raised an eyebrow or coughed to cover surprise. She watched them squirm with a need to ask. She never offered an answer. June preferred to office outside where she had homeschooled her five children and tended to the miking goats. After 30 years beyond her career, she longed to office remotely, back home, outside. But motherhood was not considered experience for the office. Her degree had gone dormant. She decided to create her own office. Outside. And used her degree differently.  



  1. restlessjo says:

    Oh, Charli! What life has thrown at you hurts my heart, but there is no path other than onwards. I know you’ll find a way, and meantime continue to make us smile, think, admire… and come play in your garden 🙂 🙂
    That is one weird-looking dog, but in a good way. Good luck, hon!

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Wow, your outdoor office looks fabulous, and those holes don’t show. I wish I was there to share the flowers and hug you through this painful time. I’m glad you mentioned your oxygen mask. You must take care of yourself before you can decide on your husband’s future care. You are Wonder Woman, but all humans have their limits. Back later with my FF.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. I can not offer my thoughts and love and care any better than the two ladies above already have. Just know my heart is with you and I wish you peace through the coming changes, as I’m sure all of us at the Ranch do. I’m glad you have some constant moments of light and joy at this time.

    I’ll also be back with my flash piece soon.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Norah says:

    Sending hugs for strength and hope and healing, Charli. Life throws some twists and tangles that are difficult to make sense of. I know you are strong and will come through this, but the coming through may be tough. I’m pleased you have Mause as companion, comfort and confidante. Gardening provides solace too. Your photos are beautiful (the flowers and your outside summer office) and cute (Mause). As you journey from post-MFA to the next iteration, I know there will be bigger and smaller hurdles for you to jump over, through and under. Whatever is in my power to support you, I offer it but have no idea what that might be. We are here, circling the wagons again, with love. Reach out if and when you need.
    Moonflower – beautiful name, but June is perfect. Homeschooling outdoors – how wonderful for all, immersed in nature and surrounded with love. What could be better than that?!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Homeschooling outdoors would be amazing, Norah. I think that’s where education should happen, not locked away in windowless buildings of concrete. Whatever our journies, we just have to get through. Thanks. Your friendship is all the support I need.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Windowless building of concrete. That’s no education.
        Friendship is priceless. 💖

        Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        I was appalled when my kids entered middle school. It was all concrete and no light. But they survived and my daughters attended the very opposite at the School of Environmental Studies. Education engages the whole student and includes sunshine, fresh air, and even snow. I really enjoyed your chat with D. Avery over at the Saloon in regards to education!


    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my story:
      I hope you enjoy it.

      Writer in Residence
      The large old oak writer’s desk with multiple drawers, pigeon holes, an ink well and leather writing mat faced the room.
      Upon it, a multitude of cups stocked with pencils, pens and other writing and drawing tools sat ready. The pigeon holes held a magnificence of paper and cardboard, and the drawers essentials like scissors, glue, rulers, lettering guides, clips and stapler. It was a writer’s paradise — perfect for the daily Writer in Residence.
      The children loved it. Especially when they were Writer for the day with freedom to organise, reorganise and create to their heart’s content — growing writers.


  5. I’m so sorry to hear of the difficulties and the difficult decisions upon you right now, Charli. As Norah said in her comment, we’re here for you if we can be of any help. In the 7 years I’ve been a part of the blogging community, the support I have got when needed has always been not only amazing but inspirational too.

    Your garden and plants (and summer office) look like they offer a place to enjoy some peace where you and Mause can sit and reflect. The photos were beautiful (especially the one of Mause exploring the contents of the watering can). I only wish I could hear the sounds of the birds with you. If it’s anything like our garden, it’s a great place to listen to the chattering birds.

    Take care, Charli.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. nightlake says:

    Just read up what TBI meant and I hope that writing gives you some respite and joy. And your story was lovely. We are not in normal times now, but certainly hope to return by 2022, at least.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. […] was written for Charli’s Flash Fiction Challenge for Carrot Ranch. This week’s challenge is to write a story about a new way to office. Has the […]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. nightlake says:

    Hi Charli, Please do find my flash fiction link below:

    Being ‘Normal’

    Liked by 4 people

  9. […] June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It sounds like you’re going through some big changes. I really hope it works out for the best. Stay strong and remember you’ve got heaps of people here ready to give you love and support if needed ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Liz H says:

    Oh boy, Charli, but transitions can be hard! (Handing my Spirit O2 Mask over to you). Few things more frustrating than the professionals not seeing what they can’t control, and downplaying the caregiver’s knowing.
    Your daughter and Mause are allies for sure–hugs to both of them, as well!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. suespitulnik says:

    My heart is heavy for you, and I’m wishing I could ease some of your chaos. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first even when it doesn’t seem right to do so. I’m happy your daughter is close by so you can share your passion for flowers and life with her. As the others have said, we are all hoping/praying for a positive resolution for all involved. You have our support and understanding,

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m happy my daughter is close by, too, Sue. I appreciate the intention for a positive resolution for all involved. It’s painful but necessary. Another veteran spouse told me today, “Veterans don’t take lives, they hold them hostage.” I can say, I’ve wanted my life back for the past nine years. I stayed to try and help him carry his service burden. Everyone in the VA agrees that age, TBI, and PTSD don’t mix but they also claim they can’t diagnose it. We’ve been pushed around full circle and are where we were four years ago. This time, I have to jump ship. I know you understand. Thanks for your support, too. This is an ongoing theme to address in literary art — the invisible lives of veteran wives who carry rucksacks that have become too heavy. Grief. Cost of war. Independence and dignity. Community.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. […] This was written with the prompt of a new way to office provided by the Carrot Ranch June 10 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Charli, my heart hurts for you and all you are going through. I’m always here for you. Remember, I have a spare bedroom if you need a getaway retreat. If there’s something I can do, just say the word. TBI is difficult. I’m just thankful that you have your kids and Mause. Gardening has been great for me as well. We need to brainstorm. Huge hugs. I’ll submit my flash later. ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  15. As others have said, Charli, think of us as the other home offices just over the fence, discreetly screened but close handy when you need a cuppa (or something stronger). ‘Cuppa’ is Aussie for a cup of tea.

    Re you garden, don’t be too anxious to fill up ‘holes’. Gardens have a delightful (OK, sometimes annoying) habit of producing self-seeded orphans from elsewhere and bring a bit of magic with them.

    Monarda is a delight but give it plenty of circulating air because they are prone to downy mildew in humid weather. Oh and they can take over your garden if not carefully monitored. A bit like Mause really.

    As for lantana, there are places in Australia where farmers would shoot you for even mentioning the word, let alone planting it. In many places here it is a declared noxious weed which can quickly spread from feet to acres and is hellishly expensive to control. Just sayin’. 🙂

    I’ll be back later with a 99-word cuppa (or something stronger).

    Liked by 6 people

  16. As promised, here we go.


    ‘How do you like my new aurafice?’

    ‘Orifice! You mean you have a new hole?’

    ‘No, it’s a hybrid between an office and an aura. It fills holes. Including black ones.’

    ‘How does it work?’

    ‘It projects an aura into a hole and voila! Hole filled. I call it an Appleication to create new office Windows.’

    ‘So what’s that spinning toy for?’

    ‘It’s a desk top.’

    ‘And that cabinet with the STOP sign?’

    ‘That’s my stationary cupboard.’

    ‘And the dog next sitting next to your computer?’

    ‘That’s my Mause’.

    ‘Time for a cuppa, or something much stronger, I think.’

    Liked by 8 people

  17. denmaniacs4 says:

    Every moment seems to be fraught with transition, Charli. Some you can plan for. Some take you by surprise. Chart your course as well as you can. I wish you continued strength.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      “Fraught with transitions” is a good way to put it. But that’s the journey. I’ve always liked the Garth Brooks song called The Dance. We don’t know how it all goes or how it will end, but it was worth the dance. Thanks.


  18. […] 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt “a new way to office” which I took the liberty of using a […]

    Liked by 4 people

  19. denmaniacs4 says:

    We move along the continuum of life. We try and sidestep the quicksand. If we are occasionally gentle, we seek to make the journey of others smoother, lighter, warmer. With this prompt, I immediately (and it pains me to admit this because I am a serious fellow but my brain tends to wander into locked rooms) thought about Ice and Off and immediately skated into a Wayne Gretsky doppelganger who was singing 99 bottles of beer on the…well, wherever they were. Until they fell “off.” the wall.
    And then I wrote this…Go figure!

    Off-Ice; On-Ice

    When you start to parse “office”, you enter a series of damaged doors, ideological ideas about where many people spend their days.
    Or did.
    Office is not exactly a comfortable word. Slightly off, you might say.
    Off and Ice.
    A cold place.
    A place of ‘business’.
    A slightly off-place of cold business.
    Derived from ‘officium’.
    A hard-working Greek, he was.
    Officious, I mean.
    Coined the term, ‘officium’.
    Or so I once heard at a water cooler.
    Likely a go-getting business tax collector.
    Absolutely no mention of Onice.
    O’ nice.
    Not On Ice.
    Like, suspended.
    Oh, nice!

    Liked by 7 people

  20. I am sorry to read about your difficulties, Charli. Strangely, I did the same thing this week for my Thursday Doors post which was about my last week running to and from the hospital and then to the vaccination station with my mom and aunt. It makes us stronger and better 🤗.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Robbie, I’m hoping for your continued strength, too. I wish I could remember the interview date to find a clip for you, but all I have is a fuzzy memory to share about Stephen King. It was back in the early 1990s and he was interviewed on tv. He explained how writing horror was a way to cope with life, and children interrupting his writing time. The latter part of the comment made me laugh. But I was thinking of how you write horror and what a healing outlet it actually is. People might not readily realize it, but it takes strength to write the genre. Hugs to you! ❤


  21. “Hey there Shorty.”
    “Hey Pal. Where’s Kid?”
    “They’s a bunch a office work ta git done at the Saloon.”
    “So Kid’s at the Saloon?”
    “No way!”
    “Then where is Kid?”
    “Past the back forty, in the high meadow. Sent Kid off ta work remotely, ‘cause lately what Kid’s been up to don’t even remotely look like work.”
    “But Kid cain’t do office work way off up there. How’s that gonna help?”
    “Listen Shorty.”
    “I’m listenin’ Pal.”
    “No, listen. Ya hear thet?”
    “I don’t hear anythin’.”
    “Zactly. No yammerin’, no whinin’…”
    “Where ya goin’?”
    “Saloon office. Now I kin work.”
    “Good day at the office. Sure kin git lot’s done without Kid pesterin’ me an gittin’ in the way. Thet paperwork’s all organized an’ stacked there on the desk.
    “Pal! Here ya are!”
    “Kid, whut’re ya doin’ back so soon?”
    “’Member them kid goats I sent off in Logan an’ Morgan’s rental car? Well they musta let ‘em go. I jist rounded ‘em up an’ brought ‘em back.”
    “Kid, d’ya ‘member why ya them goats was on the run?”
    “Fergot ‘zactly.”
    “They was ettin’ manuscripts an’ submissions.”
    “Oh. Yeah. Uh, Pal, was that pile a papers there a manuscript?”

    Liked by 5 people

    • Oh no, Kid brought back the kids early. It’s dang near impossible to get papers cleared out before the little animals get their snouts into it. I do love how you tied off the first half, such a neat little bow. Kid and Pals little quips never cease to entertain.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! I love the play on remote work. Trouble, though, with the kids back in town. I hate to admit it, but I drank fresh goat milk and I kinda liked it. We might get more kids at HQ.


  22. Hi Charli
    Prayers for you and your family.
    Courage & strength; joy and happiness.
    All the best for the days ahead.


    Liked by 4 people

  23. […] Carrot Ranch, June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. […]


  24. High Rise

    The little kitchen table was still flanked by three mismatched chairs. ‘For Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear’ he used to say.

    He imagined his daughter, all grown up now, sitting in a fancy leather swivel chair in a high-rise office building overlooking the city. Or he imagined she might even be in a director’s chair in one of the studios— more likely, creative as she was.

    He made trips to the city. He couldn’t imagine her hunkered on a sidewalk.

    But he looked. And worried that after all these years he wouldn’t even recognize his Baby Bear.

    Yikes. I feel like I have been awol. WP changed since last I posted…

    Liked by 7 people

  25. […] Carrot Ranch, June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  26. […] Carrot Ranch June 10 June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by June 15, 2021. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Jules says:

    Dear Charli,

    Names really to change perception. I like your June – I hope she succeeds at what ever she does. Sounds like she will.

    Family issues can be scary. We have some too… preparing for an illness to take a loved one, dealing with another remotely whose care is adequate. Who pretty much made choices not to be near family. All we can do is plod one day at a time forward. And offer as much support as we can.

    I put several prompts into this BoTS haibun:
    Domestic Setting?

    Pandemonium working from home? A prelude to what it will be like while he’s here all the time without any specific investment. First he was in the lower half. Until winter moved him up to a warmer climate and to a square folding table which he heaped with his office debris in the living room. When he could no longer dodge that ‘mess’ he took over half of my territory on the dining room table. When he does retire will I have to relocate my office space for privacy?

    good thing I
    like his face, imp grin
    husband; mine

    © JP/dh

    Liked by 6 people

  28. […] 10, 2021, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? […]

    Liked by 1 person

  29. “New Beginnings”

    “Hello, Judith? Gather the others and meet me out back in half an hour.”

    Macy hung up her phone. Productivity at fairy headquarters had slowed during the human pandemic. When the humans quit believing in magic, the fabric of fairy reality faded. The fey hid in the otherworld, waiting. Today, Macy aimed to fix the problem.

    The fey folk assembled in the meadow, their new home office. They joined hands and danced. Macy said the magic words:

    fairy dance rhythms drift
    sacred smoke linger—cleansing
    belief in magic
    fiery memory’s return
    summer solstice fires burn

    Slowly the veil lifted…

    Liked by 4 people

  30. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH  […]

    Liked by 2 people

  31. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (06/10/21):  In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads […]


  32. Liz H says:

    Here’s where the prompt took me this week. Seems like sometimes it takes two to make things happen (fingers crossed the kids are truly launched, eh?)

    href=””>Growing Pains

    “Mom, Bobbi and I split up. I’m coming home to get my head together,” Toni’s voice crackled over the phone. “She kicked me out. Good thing I never signed the lease.”

    Joy rubbed her forehead. She’d be more open to her daughter’s return if it weren’t the third time in as many years. “Your room is now my office. Your bed’s gone, hon’.”

    “Where else am I supposed to go? Please, Mom!”

    “Doesn’t your dad have a spare room?”

    “He’d make me pay rent. You never do!”

    “I am now, Toni. I can’t keep both you and my job.”

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Change is the only constant!
    That is one mantra I’ve embraced since 2020. While my best wishes for your agent, and figuring out plans after MFA–tutorials, etc. My heart aches to hear about your better half. Prayers and Healing vibes!!! Let’s help him together…that’s what we at carrot ranch do!

    Today, one of my book titles: Bowled, but not out, sounds so appropriate for you!!
    Go Charli!!!

    My take is nonfiction this time:

    Liked by 4 people

  34. […] From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s challenge. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  35. […] Carrot Ranch ChallengeIn 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by the word OFFICE. […]

    Liked by 3 people

  36. […] The Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by “changes in the office”. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Emptied

    She emptied every drawer before removing them, cleared the desk surface, removing the stacks of paper, the pens, paperclips and knickknacks and the desktop pendulum.
    Now she could manage to push the desk to the door. Flipped onto its back she shoved it through the door and down the steps. A couple more flips placed it in the yard.
    Three trips for each drawer, another for the chair; while retrieving the pendulum she noticed the book of matches amongst the desk detritus.
    Seated again at her desk, the pendulum balls pulsed a steely beat amidst the shrieking fire alarms.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Jules says:

    The prompts worked for a second entry I actually had to add some words to get to 99!
    Spelling Independence

    T’was without any dalliance, after he was undressed (dressed down) by the staff for his ‘filthy’ endurance. He knew they were just fishing. They had jealous dry green stone hearts. He could give them no advice, they wouldn’t listen. He knew he had to work for his pay. He couldn’t just sit around looking ‘hip’. He was like a windup toy, ready to release his spring – as he left the office, knowing he wasn’t returning to ‘that’ job. A better office awaited the energy he could and would give.

    be nimble
    Jack jumped ‘cross the road
    to safety

    © JP/dh

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Rough waters, huh? I’m glad you are able to use some nature and color to zen things out.

    I’m really concerned about this world. Is anyone truly happy anymore? Have so many people always been in so much pain or was I just not looking close enough?

    I’ve been working from home for the most part so while my office has changed somewhat, it’s still nothing drastic. I have to admit that I was thinking about the logistics of working from the local park. It would involve some additional tech gadgets and an extra internet subscription… Not sure if it’s worth it. It’s too hot now anyway. But I see some people work outside. I think it’s amazing! I feel totally different on a call looking at the lake than in an office cubicle in a room with no windows. It’s like I’ve been a prisoner for a few years and I finally managed to get out.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. I’m glad that you are able to receive comfort from nature. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to acknowledge that your husband’s care is beyond what you can handle. I say go and plant all of the flowers and bring all of the joy you can into your life.

    Here’s mine for this week. I combined this prompt with a word list challenge, which was easier to do than expected.

    Home Office Attire

    Liked by 1 person

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