Tool Time

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.

November 24, 2021

Every fix or task has a tool. Which tools do these stories use?

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Grandpa’s Toolshed by Norah Colvin

Jacob worked tirelessly alongside Grandpa. He loved the sweet scent of sawdust curls and the heady smell of fresh paint. He loved that ash from Grandpa’s cigarette fell unchecked into the shavings. He especially liked using Grandpa’s real tools. The plastic bench at Kindy was only a toy.
Jacob’s visits decreased but Grandpa never forgot. He left the house, the shed and all his tools to Jacob. Standing in the dark, empty shed, Jacob tried to conjure the smells of Grandpa. There was nothing else to do. He rolled up his sleeves and started planing sawdust curls — in memory.


A Bit of a Tool by Geoff Le Pard

Dumpling Pendulous ran the Little Tittweaking Tool Museum with the zealousness of a radical grammarian, leaving no semi-colon unturned. Spanner week, when all unattached males displayed their equipment was anticipated by the residents as a way of getting all spotty, beardless lumpen peri-menopausal adolescent males out of their respective caves. This year Dennis Fumble entered his nickel alloy double ringed with unexpected gusto while the normally reticent Godfrey Pricktingle made a show of displaying his antique iron clad single end. But everyone agreed nothing was quite as impressive as Kevin Largehampton’s freshly lubricated two-handed reciprocating adjustable.


Hit Like and Subscribe by Kerry E.B. Black

Undine adjusted the loop light until it shone a perfect circle in her irises. Today’s vlog would bring her the coveted 10,000. Monetization couldn’t be far behind. She glanced at the arrayed makeup, more tools of her trade. The cosmetics company sent her samples which she applied as she wooed her audience with smiles and wit during the video. Undine wielded each product with the grace of an assured artist.

She edited and posted, anxious without reason, because Undine’s viewers pressed “like” and “subscribe,” thereby cementing her position as firmly as the setting spray set her latest look.


Of the Utmost Importance by Gloria McBreen

‘Mother, where’s the thingamajig for opening jars?’

‘In the knife drawer.’

I open the knife drawer, which has no knives in it. I rummage through all sorts of instruments; peelers, weird scoop things, funny scissors, whizzers and all shapes of silicone. A slip-on spout? Gadgets with attachments, blades and prongs. A spork and a chork? What happened the chopsticks?

Ah… here it is. The yoke for opening jars!

I suppose mother needs all these accoutrements. How else would she peel fruit, slice avocados, zest her lemons, measure spaghetti, spiralize veggies, flip her lids, and beat her meat? I wonder!


Last Sacrament by Anne Goodwin

As his hand disappears into his tool bag, I recall my boys’ toys: Joe had a carpentry set, Jim a doctor’s boxy case. Did they fight over the stethoscope and spirit level? Was there a rubber hammer in both?

My visitor spreads a white cloth across the table. Do nuns do his washing and ironing? Or is it outsourced to a laundry to be tumble-dried with a fornicator’s?

The priest drapes a tasselled purple stole across his shoulders and arranges his utensils on the cloth. A chalice and plate in shiny silver. A small round tin for the host.


Necessary Tools by Kerry E.B. Black

Ellen wrestled two horses to the trough for their nightly watering. As the pair drank, a chestnut gelding dragged a protesting fourteen-year-old with eyes made enormous by bottle-bottom glasses. “Stop,” she pleaded, but he muscled in for his drink..

Ellen lowered her eyebrows and glared at the blushing girl. “You have to control him.”

“I tried. He’s strong.”

Ellen’s stocky build and assertive nature provided a natural mastery of the horses, something this stick-armed, airy-voiced girl lacked. “You know, not everyone’s got the tools for this job.”

The girl’s blush spread to her sun-streaked hairline. “Please, I’ll try harder.”


Tools by Reena Saxena

If smallness bothers me, I humiliate others.

If inadequacy nags, I tell others they are not perfect.

Emptiness in my life drives me to get involved in other lives, stick to them like a leech they can’t get rid of. I transfer all my stress. I feed on their discomfort.

I have my battles but I blame you for that.

I convince myself life would be peaceful without these shadows looming large.

I need to cut them down to size. I need to see myself somewhere.

The tools employed indicate where I am on the evolutionary ladder. 

Someone knows…..


Richie by Michael Fishman

The guys asked Richie to do bad things. Once they asked him to go into Wagner’s drugstore and steal a Playboy magazine. Nice Mr. Wagner, but he did it anyway.

Once they said, “Richie, ask Jenny Edwards for a date.”

“She doesn’t like me,” he said.

“C’mon, it’ll be funny,” they said.

Jenny and the guys laughed. Richie laughed with them, but he was scared, and he hurt.

Richie wasn’t stupid. He ignored their loud whispers; he rationalized their laughter. He told himself he wasn’t a tool.

Making friends was difficult, and Richie believed this was better than nothing.


Pike’s Peak or Bust by Charli Mills

Bertie packed her father’s carpentry tools along with her calico dresses. The rest of his estate she sold to buy passage on the Merry Rover, a flat-bottomed steamship of the Missouri River. Somewhere, out there, where the sun set in streaks of orange and pink was her destiny. She learned the trade of building boxes and houses from her father, although none of the locals would hire her on account that she wore a skirt. Out west, her skills were needed, and she reckoned convention of gender wouldn’t matter as much. Pike’s Peak was not a bust for Bertie.


My Best Tool by Duane L Herrmann

My shovel is my most helpful tool, used for digging, carrying and prying. I’ve tried to pry rocks out of the ground which don’t want to move. The rocks I want are mostly those we use as decorations. They’re special, in a variety of colors. They’re not from here originally, but were brought, ages ago; some are huge. The top of one, otherwise totally buried, is the size of a car. I can’t dig that one out! They were brought by glaciers. I’ve broken several shovels in this way. I’ve recently found a prying tool. My shovel is thankful.


There’s No Tool like an… by Bill Engleson

Harley’s first sight of Pine Point was disheartening. The Hay River bus had barely made it through the snowstorm.

“This is no place for a city kid,” he thought.

Harley had volunteered for a four-month tour with Frontier College. He’d work as a miner during the day and teach interested coworkers English at night.

The bus dropped him at the bunkhouse.

The next day, Hastings, the Manager, said, “I’ve assigned you to work at the company tool crib. That way you’ll meet everyone.”

The first day, he spent two hours looking for a left-handed wrench.

Never did find it.


Not the Sharpest Tool in the Shed by Doug Jacquier

In Australia, ‘tool’, as elsewhere, refers to a useful implement, and we have some ironic references to particular tools e.g. a hammer being called a bush screwdriver.

However, in Australia ‘tool’ can also mean either a stupid male person who draws attention to himself or a euphemism for penis. (Astute readers will recognise there is some cross-over in these meanings.)

Hence I offer the following terms as potentially useful additions to the English slanguage.

Tool shed – House of Parliament or Congress
Tool box – Politician’s coffin
Power tool – Blind follower of politician
Web tool – Conspiracy theorist e.g. Q-anon supporter


New Era by Simon

It all began with this tools, my fingers.

Began a new Era. Nanotechnological suit, perfectly programmed codes now took over the human race.

No crime, No hunger, But, I was missing something, the interesting “Life” filled with lie, happiness and memories.

My fingers, began to rewrite the codes, remake the nanotech, a virus to begin with, I am the new Era time travelled Thanos.

One snap, 99% of the robotic elements disintegrated to useless piece of metals.

There began another new Era, Life without robots. How far it gone? N.AD 2021, the robots are back, in a better way


Free-for-All by Rebecca Glaessner

“Shut down that network, then you’ll get your repairs.”

She left the meeting with a sour taste, and strolled through the grand foyer, flexing glitchy cybernetic fingers.

» Download complete « pinged across her view. A car waited by the curb and flashy skyscrapers shrunk away as it drove her across the city, a hidden basement complex.

“Got it all,” she said, “they didn’t have a clue.”

Her growing team poured over the stolen data, cleaned it up then released it to the network.

The rich had misused their tools. She found them a new purpose.

She flexed her hands seamlessly.


Gemina by Saifun Hassam

Gemina was an engineer, with a talent for 3D printer innovations making nanoscale medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Her mom, Bernicea, ran a bakery shop in their home city, Port Montaine on Mars. Gemina tweaked a food 3D printer to make cakes and desserts. The machine couldn’t beat Mom’s cakes for taste and texture, but it created outlandish cake castles and space ships.

Gemina’s duties included the maintenance of 3D printers on spacefaring ships. To her thrill, Captain Celine of the OrionXXI offered her an engineer’s position, working on solar sails and fusion drives. A time of great space exploration.


Carrot Top by Nancy Brady

Aloysius considered himself to be ordinary as any cat believes he’s ordinary.

His magical powers were just part of who he was. His flying ability, his strength, his speed, and other abilities were all tools to be used when needed.

Aloysius mostly used his powers in a positive manner, but every so often his curiosity got the better of him.

This day, Aloysius watched the waving fronds of carrots in his family’s garden. Mesmerized, he pounced on them, pulling a carrot out. He took a bite, but wasn’t impressed until he realized he could see for miles.


The Throne by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It could have been a field of flowers, apricot sunrise honeying all. It could have been a berry patch, spread round with her the center, fingers damp with morning dew. It might’ve even been a dragon’s hoard, doubloons spilling from ruby-studded chalices, heavy pendants on worked, chain necklaces, diamond and emerald tiara resting on her head, proclaiming her queen of all she surveyed.

She sighed in resignation. No flowers, no berries, no dragon nor fairies. Just tile, mildewed and damp, a rug soaked and now slightly stained. This was what came of inviting people over.

She fetched the plunger.


The Tools of the Band by Sue Spitulnik

Instruments, reeds, strings, sticks, picks, sheets of music, and lyrics. Reverb pedals, rugs, amplifiers, microphones, speakers, and drinks. Playlist on my cell. Straight-leg jeans, boots, hats, and jackets. Diamond studs shine from our ears. Big smiles are plastered for the fans. Damn, I forgot the words. The audience doesn’t seem to notice or care. We strum the guitars and cover with the snare. Get the crowd to clap in time. Hallelujah, the many tools of the band. Loudly blend the notes and words. It doesn’t pay a lot but makes me feel alive playing as the man I am.

Author’s Note: the band this refers to is The Band of Brothers, an all-veteran band in which Michael is a guitarist and lead singer.


Fixing the Car? by Joanne Fisher

“What you doing?” Cindy asked.

“The car won’t start.” Jess told her as she examined the car engine.

“So why not call a mechanic?”

“They’re too expensive. Besides, I fix the tractor regularly.”

“Yes fix it regularly, because it keeps breaking down. Do you even have the right tools?” Cindy asked.

“Of course I do. Anyway I believe it’s fixed, see if you can start it.” Jess suggested. Cindy got in the front seat and turned the key, but nothing happened. “Okay, maybe it’s something else?” Cindy rolled her eyes. What would it take for Jess to admit defeat?


Import Important by JulesPaige

I empoy the rake to
manage the fall leaves
piling them high at the curb for picking up
or some are for my trees
raked round their bases

tender protection for
inclement weather
might damage the roots that are near the surface
perhaps when snow piles high
over the back yard…

rest well with slow sap, my
trees that shed their leaves
and know that I look for budding health come spring
now though brace for winter;
time for dreamings’ nigh

If I too could sleep the winter through,
could I would I sleep thusly
under warm leaf quilts


Playground by Annette Rochelle Aben

Freddie and Remington sat patiently as their eyes followed Bryan’s every move. It was no secret what was going on in their heads.
Completely aware of his audience, Bryan knew he could get the job done quicker if he’d just go out and buy a leaf blower but he enjoyed the effort it took to rake the leaves into big piles.
As the piles grew, so did the dog’s eyes. And tails swished slowly.
When Bryan sat to have lunch. the two hungry pups practically flew into the piles. He laughed as they surfaced with mouths filled with leaves!


In the Time of the Beaver Moon by D. Avery

“Jeez, Kid. Look’t them big words up there. Verisimilitude? Cain’t believe Shorty spelt thet c’rectly.”
“True, Pal. But I ain’t got time fer all this talk a tinkerin’ an’ word wrenchin’.”
“Well yer workin’ on somethin’.”
“Yep. Curly’s ready ta come home!”
“Changed her mind ‘bout bein’ a beaver?”
“So why d’ya have all thet grease?”
“Curly done overdid gittin’ ready fer winter. She cain’t git out through the openin’ a the beaver lodge. She’s stuck in there. I gotta git her out.”
“Plenny a tension in this story Kid, but d’ya really ‘spect folks ta believe it?”


No Toolin’ by D. Avery

“If folks has been readin’, the facts are all there, Pal. Curly, my pet puglet, ‘dennified as a beaver an’ has been livin’ with the ones thet dammed up the stream that flows through Carrot Ranch. An’ now she wants out but is stuck.”
“Hmmff. It’s true thet puglet never seems ta know if she’s comin’ or goin’. So, ya got a stuck pig and a slick idea fer gittin’ her out thet involves grease.”
“Yep. Hey! Here’s Curly! Reckon the beavers had all the tools needed ta git her freed up.”
“Beavers are smart Pal.”
“No Kidding.”


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  1. joanne the geek

    Great collection of stories everyone!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Joanne! We have a full tool chest of stories!

  2. Doug Jacquier

    Multi-tools personified this week, used to implement a shedload of crafty satisfaction. I’m just glad Gloria’s story was focusing on her mother and not her father at the end of her second last sentence. 😉

  3. Hugh W. Roberts

    Oh, no! I missed the deadline. I thought we had two weeks for this one. But I’ll be back for this one.

    • pedometergeek

      Me, too, Hugh, but at least you got yours written.

      I couldn’t come up with anything, but re-read the prompt and it said November 30, 2021 so I let it go. It took me until this afternoon before I brainstormed a way to incorporate the prompt into a story with my favorite fictional feline. When I came to post it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was a week behind. Alas…not only did I miss the cutoff I didn’t realize there was another prompt. With a few minutes before that deadline, well…I will be missing this week’s as well.

      • Hugh W. Roberts

        Oh no! I’m glad it wasn’t only me. I had to check several times that I hadn’t got the date wrong. But I got my piece of flash in on time for this week’s challenge, so I’m doing my ‘happy dance’ again.

  4. pedometergeek

    No tooling…you all had it together. Well done!

  5. pedometergeek

    Thanks Charli for including (inserting) my story with the rest of the Tool-ish stories. You obviously have the tools to add it in. Thanks again, much appreciated.

  6. Charli Mills

    Thanks for sharing the collection!


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