June 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

June 11, 2021

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.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

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.  

????????????

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138 Comments

  1. restlessjo

    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!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, Ha! Mause is a weird dog, but a beautiful sweetheart (most days). This veteran spouse ride is rough and just like those in the military retire, I need to find my peace. Thank you!

  2. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    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.

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I’d love to share flowers and hugs, and talk about books and writing, and natural gardens and contained ones. Yep. Time for the cape to come off and the oxygen mask to go on. I look forward to your flash. Last week’s was powerful.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Um, Anne? Did you forget to paste in your flash? I didn’t see it there after the reviews.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        There it is! Not hurtful, truthful. Trench humor. Remember this one? ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves’ Humor helps us withstand the beatings of institutionalized madness.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        I like this one Anne! My better half has taught me the strength in humour. I used to cringe at it, used to see it as a way to distract from the important things, humour was a weakness, childish. I also learned that humour was used against me once upon a time ago as a child, to do those very things, to push aside my needs. But he uses humour to comfort and connect through those same hard times instead. Humour as a salve for the pain, so we can catch our breath and talk through it. Humour is vital.

      • Charli Mills

        I think “new way” applies to the work of alternative historical fiction. After all, the genre gives us a new way to consider the impact of historical events.

      • Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

        Similar for me Rebecca, and now I’ve astonished myself by writing a humorous novel about a serious subject.
        I think humour can be used both to avoid and come closer to the truth about painful issues.

  3. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    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.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s good to let go during the season of sunshine and flowers, Rebecca. Beauty makes it easy to remember why we are here in the first place. Quality of life matters. Thank you.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        I agree. Whatever we evolve into, we are but creatures of the Earth and She is always willing and eager to help us rest whenever we need to. I hope the good weather stays with you for as long as you need it. Though I find the winter seasons deeply healing too.

      • Charli Mills

        Ah, winter in the Keweenaw with all its deep snow is like a cacoon. But even the dormancy of winter no matter snow or not is a restorative time too. Nature is a wonder and a healer.

    • Charli Mills

      Pets fit for the new way to office!

      • Reena Saxena

        There was a time I’d have loved to take my baby to office. She was a quiet one, and I was the branch manager, but it would have set wrong examples for others.

      • Charli Mills

        There are companies that have onsite daycare. I wonder if the future holds onsite pet care. It would have been wonderful to have your baby with you at work.

  4. Norah

    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?!

    • Charli Mills

      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.

      • Norah

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

      • Charli Mills

        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

      I’m back with my story: https://norahcolvin.com/2021/06/15/writer-in-residence/
      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.

      • Charli Mills

        Anything that starts with “Writer in Residence,” Norah! You know what sparks dreams. <3

      • Norah

        I wish I’d added an ‘s’ to ‘writer’ though. ????

  5. Hugh W. Roberts

    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.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your encouragement, Hugh. I find our community is one where we can be real and be inspired all at once. Oh, yes, the bird chatter is delightful!

      • Hugh W. Roberts

        I wonder if they’re chatting about the humans looking at them, Charli?

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! I’m sure we could invent some fun bird conversations!

  6. nightlake

    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.

    • Charli Mills

      Writing is my outlet, Padmini. Thank you! There’s a lot unfolding with TBIs and our lack of understanding of how they impact the aging brain. We are in transitioning times, and I think significant changes will be upon us, but I think many of these changes can be good ones.

      • nightlake

        You are an inspiration, Charli. Hope things work for you and you find some happiness.

      • Charli Mills

        I’m an optimist, and believe in happiness! Thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Great look at a moment that searches for normalcy.

      • nightlake

        Thank you, Charli

  7. joanne the geek

    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 ??

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for that reminder, Joanne. It makes a huge difference.

  8. Liz H

    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!

    • Charli Mills

      Liz, I appreciate how you framed the frustrating dance between caregivers and professionals. It’s hard on my allies, but they are troopers.

  9. suespitulnik

    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,

    • Charli Mills

      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.

      • suespitulnik

        Indeed, the whole family carries the cost of war and service. It’s the message my veterans writings group is always trying t

      • Charli Mills

        It’s an important message to convey. Families carry a heavy load with a heavy toll.

    • Jules

      Charli and Sue,

      While slightly different, the families of police and firefighters are in a similar boat. We know our family is out there, sometimes in very dangerous situations. And the best we can do is support them however we can.

      The system doesn’t always work. It didn’t when the military lost my FIL’s paper work and he got nothing after his exit as a Sargent. I’m also in a different situation with a relative who has severe short term memory loss and each time I call the conversations get shorter and shorter because really neither one of us knows what to say. And some of the phone connections issues (even just the volume control on the phone) can’t be explained without having to get the retirement community staff involved.

      • Charli Mills

        Jules,

        Yes, first-responders are on the frontlines, too. You are family support.

      • suespitulnik

        Jules, wouldn’t it be nice if we could fix the system.
        I’m sorry we are all dealing with issues with loved ones. It sure is hard to deal with at times.

    • Liz H

      Definitely dystopian!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a high cost to work! Well done, Joanne.

  10. Colleen M. Chesebro

    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. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your kind offer. I look forward to the near future when we can swap retreat spaces and find meet-ups in the middle. Gardening is a blessing (all those microbes, heady flowers, and fae). Plant medicine. We will brainstorm! <3

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Yes! I can’t wait for brainstorming. That is the best part. ??????

      • Charli Mills

        It tickles the brain cells and sparks creativity. <3

  11. Doug Jacquier

    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).

    • Jules

      A weed is anything you done want where ever it is. A rose bush can be a week if you don’t want it where it is growing.

    • Charli Mills

      I love how many home offices we have gathered here, Doug! I know a good cuppa. Yes, I want a monarda take over! Good to know about the air circulation. Good grief, I caught Mause in my hummingbird garden today. She’s an invasive species, that one. Had no idea lantana was such in Australia. You need snow to kill it off!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Ah, no, you keep your snow to yourself. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Well, if you grow weary of lantana, let me know! ??????

  12. Doug Jacquier

    As promised, here we go.

    CHARLI LOSES THE (GARDEN) PLOT

    ‘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.’

    • denmaniacs4

      It positively glows, Doug…

      • Liz H

        Sheer pundamonium!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, D. 🙂

    • Jules

      Dawg gone funny 😀

      • Doug Jacquier

        Thanks, Jules

    • Charli Mills

      That tickles my funny bone! Mause has her own pun as my officemate.

  13. denmaniacs4

    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.

    • Charli Mills

      “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.

  14. denmaniacs4

    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!
    See?
    Welcoming!
    Nice!

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Doug Jacquier

      To the extent that I understood any of this, Bill, it’s brilliant. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Your mind is like Disneyland for ideas and word chases. Ultimately, I like O’Nice like a fizzy beverage or lavender lemonade on ice. Nice.

  15. robertawrites235681907

    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 ????.

    • Charli Mills

      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! <3

      • robertawrites235681907

        Hi Charli, I have never thought of it quite like that but Stephen King’s words do resonate with me. I should read his memoir, but I’ve just bought Divine Comedy and Pilgrim’s Progress and I am so looking forward to listening to them. I woke up this morning with such a feeling of gratitude that I live in a world full of books and writers that makes me so happy. Love and hugs to you.

      • Charli Mills

        What a wonderful way to wake up, Robbie! Happy reading (and writing)!

  16. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “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?”

    • Rebecca Glaessner Author

      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.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thank you Rebecca, but you know your kind comments will only encourage me to never cease letting these two out.

    • Charli Mills

      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.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Haven’t had fresh goats milk since my 4-H days 45 years ago. Still trying to get the nasty taste out of my mouth. Glad you liked it. Kids at HQ. Oi.

      • Charli Mills

        Well, 45 years ago or more I licked a goat… 😉

  17. reading journeys

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

    Saifun

    • Charli Mills

      Beautiful. Thank you, Saifun.

  18. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    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…

    • Liz H

      What we wish for our children is often easy to imagine. What they become is often unknown, when contact is broken.
      This one made me feel sad…

      • Liz H

        It’s al true, none of it’s true…don’t ask. ????

    • Charli Mills

      There’s more than one way to lose a child. This is one that sticks with me.

      Oh, WP. They play mind games. Sometimes I imagine the Happiness Engineers giggling and moving buttons and updating forms.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        I just heard that Kid’s kids are in the Happiness Engineer cubicles, their cloven hooves clicking merrily away at the keyboards while the two leggeds drink fancy frothy coffees.
        Remember the “spacer” block I was so pleased to have discovered? Now it’s invisible! How fun is that?! But it’s still there, taking it’s place among those things we know exist but cannot see.
        Keep the Faith, Boss, in just a little while, everything will be all right.

      • Charli Mills

        Wishing the Kid’s kids well among the Happiness Engineers. Dreaming of campfires. I can hear the crackling…

  19. Jules

    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

    • Doug Jacquier

      Good thing indeed, Jules. 🙂

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      The pandemic forcing couples to remain at home has had some impact for sure, and added some steps to the dance. Stake your territory and hold your common ground.

    • suespitulnik

      Jules, I read your flash to my husband who resigned from his full-time position today. I fully agree with his decision, but I do worry about losing my private time. Perhaps I’ll redo an area in the basement for myself. Adjustments…onward we grow.

      • Jules

        My hubby is on the same road, but he reducing his load to see how that goes first. Yep adjustments… just like listening to music while you work. I tune his voice to background music 😉

        I tried to tell him that his ‘office’ downstairs was calling… but he’s still at the table. It is entertaining to watch him talk with his hands while on a headset.

        I might have to move my office downstairs, but then I won’t get the view from my picture window. Compromise is key 😀

    • Charli Mills

      We all go through these transitions, don’t we? It’s such a big part of the human experience and yet so private and intimate, too. I enjoyed your flash!

  20. Colleen M. Chesebro

    “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…

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      The first order of business is to get the humans outdoors.

    • Charli Mills

      The veil lifts! Bring on the magic! This is a better way for us all to office.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        Dancing in the meadow works for me! ????????????

  21. Liz H

    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?)
    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.”

    • Liz H

      Aargh!
      href=”https://valleyofthetrolls.blog/2021/06/13/growing-pains-2/”>Growing Pains

      • Charli Mills

        Mercury is in retrograde…
        I’ll fix the links!

      • Liz H

        I think it’s my hypermagnetic personality throwing thins off. Uffda!

    • Charli Mills

      The hard knocks of growing pains. For them both.

  22. explorereikiworld

    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: https://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2021/06/when-distances-become-small.html

    • Charli Mills

      That is a truthful mantra, Ruchira! Change is a constant. I appreciate your compassion and healing vibes. Yes, I can relate to Saru and will keep in mind her lessons. Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Your writing is worth the wait, C.! Who could resist Susie’s silent treatment? Great characterization.

  23. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    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.

    • Liz H

      Mama said there’d be days like this…

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Ahaha Liz! I must say, we fortunately did not reach this phase of homeschooling.

    • Charli Mills

      A great use of title for your flash. Yes, I can relate. Let the firetrucks come.

  24. Jules

    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

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see a second entry from you, Jules! When I arrange the stories, I look for ways to expand ideas, or contrast tone. I was chuckling to myself as I realized, your Jack jumped, but D.’s character in Emptied lit that candlestick! Either way, I hope both find happiness in their moves.

      • Jules

        I’m a tad behind on reading… I’ll be sure to look that one up! Thanks. 😀

  25. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    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.

    • Charli Mills

      There are so many ways to zen things out in nature. Even when Mause jumps into the flower boxes to chase bumbles.

      Good question. I think we are experiencing a “great questioning” and allowing denied pain to the surface. First, we must become aware, right? Maybe there’s lots of awareness happening.

      Working outdoors has its limitations, but the open air is refreshing.

  26. Nicole Horlings

    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.

    https://elderberrytea.wordpress.com/2021/06/14/home-office-attire/

    • Charli Mills

      Gather in the joy. That’s all any of us can do. Your character is reclaiming her joy, too.

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rebecca!

  28. Liz H

    Finally! Relevant curriculum…but in a dystopian future.

  29. Charli Mills

    I like this tale and look at the future, Donna!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, R.G.!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Joelle!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Michael!

  33. Charli Mills

    Welcome to the Ranch, Jenne! It’s a great day to write the range!

  34. Charli Mills

    The new office didn’t last! Thanks for the laugh, Hugh.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Being ‘Normal’ | call2read - […] was written for Charli’s Flash Fiction Challenge for Carrot Ranch. This week’s challenge is to write a story about…
  2. Just One – Rebecca Glaessner Author - […] June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to…
  3. The New Arrangement (flash fiction) – joanne the geek - […] This was written with the prompt of a new way to office provided by the Carrot Ranch June 10…
  4. Short Story: The New Classroom | DJ Ranch - […] 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt “a new way…
  5. CRLC Challenge; Office | ShiftnShake - […] Carrot Ranch, June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new…
  6. 99 words Prompt : A complainer talk - […] Carrot Ranch, June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new…
  7. nd 6.13 Domestic Setting? 3p – Jules Pens Some Gems… - […] Carrot Ranch June 10 June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about…
  8. “New Beginnings,” #flashfiction | Colleen M. Chesebro - […] 10, 2021, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a…
  9. 99 word prompt : | Two on a Rant - […] If you want to participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH  […]
  10. Growing Pains | Valley of the Trolls - […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (06/10/21):  In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to…
  11. Just 12 Tables | Michaelsfishbowl - […] From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s challenge. […]
  12. Back to the Office – Tales from Glasgow - […] Carrot Ranch ChallengeIn 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by the word OFFICE. […]
  13. Office Romance – Carrot Ranch | Sound Bite Fiction - […] The Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by “changes in the office”.…
  14. nd 6.14 Spelling Independence 3p – Jules Pens Some Gems… - […] piece for Carrot Ranch June 10 June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a…
  15. Home Office Attire | Elderberry Tea - […] first prompt was from the Carrot Ranch Literary community: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story…
  16. Writer in Residence | Norah Colvin - […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write…
  17. Push The Button #flashfiction – Hugh's Views & News   - […] for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join […]
  18. Miaow – Carrot Ranch | Sound Bite Fiction - […] The Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by “cat called rainbow”. […]
  19. The Photo – Carrot Ranch | Sound Bite Fiction - […] The Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by “old photograph”. […]

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