It’s my last day on the farm and I survived the robotic appliances. Namely DJ Roomba — the vacuum shaped like a giant gray cough drop.
DJ comes to life at precisely 11:00 p.m. EST with a pulsing green light, three whirs, and an announcement that sounds like robotic balderdash. After the first night, I learned to be upstairs with the dogs by 11 (after the dogs woke me at 5 a.m. every morning, going to bed early was less of an issue).
Having a robot clean the floors nightly feels like the cartoon Meet the Jetsons has come to life. The quick sequence of thumps and bumps downstairs was unnerving to me, at first. It sounded like someone was in the house. Well, yes, someone — DJ — was in the house. The banging sounded endless.
The next morning, I discovered DJ Roomba had locked me out of the (only) bathroom in the house. Fortunately, the door wasn’t locked, it was blocked with a bamboo floor mat. Once I pushed inside, I found the round vacuum guarding the toilet. What sounded like low growls was a dying battery. I picked up DJ like rescuing a turtle on the road and set the cleaner on the recharge station.
Sometimes, DJ would suddenly spin to life and nip at my heels while I tried to work at the dining room table before redocking. One morning, I heard the Roomba speaking gibberish with a plaintive, “Help,” spoken last. It’s unnerving to hunt for a lost robot. I found DJ on the porch, trying to devour my snowboot. I had to pull the lace out of the vacuum’s maw.
This morning, while talking to one of the goat milkers, I heard the gibberish followed by a cry for help and we were both startled. “It’s the robotic vacuum,” I said. As if that would put anyone at ease. I found DJ lurking under a kitchen cabinet, and I yelled, “Roomba, go home!” A green eye flashed at me and I could see DJ was stuck. Or it was a trap. Again, I pulled out the cleaner and held it like a snapping turtle.
I’m not keen on appliances that talk to me. I prefer people. Is that bias? Am I an electronicist? Is it my fear of the unknown or unfamiliar? I grew up watching Rosie clean for the Jetsons and sass the family she worked for. You’d think I’d be prepared to open my heart and mind to robots.
But I’m not there, yet.
People. I have a great appreciation for the people in my life. And animals. And trees, water, birds, nature. I even feel a kinship with rocks. So what is hard to accept about a robot who cleans my daughter’s floors every night without a paid wage or protest? I will extend a bit of gratitude to DJ Roomba. At least I didn’t have to sleep.
Now, I’d like to offer a huge wave of gratitude to the writers at Carrot Ranch who pulled together to offer our community encouragement and entertainment during the lockdowns of the pandemic.
When we went into our first lockdown globally, we all felt the unease of the times and the uncertainty of what next. I reached out to writers in our community who I thought would be open to writing columns from their areas of interest and knowledge. Kid and Pal (the beloved Carrot Ranchers who remind us that characters are people, too) inspired their writer to create an imaginary watering hole at an imaginary ranch for all the characters we writers imagine. The Saddle Up Saloon was born and took on a life of its own with the help of other writing hands.
I’m so grateful to write among so many talented people who also agreed to engage our community further in difficult times. Much has changed in the past few years for all of us. You’d have to be a Roomba on Mars to not notice. But what hasn’t changed is our need to encourage one another in this writer’s journey we share. I want to thank the writers who took on columns and a Saloon during a pandemic.
H.R.R. Gorman (US) not only delves into the past and what relevancy it maintains for us, but H. is also unafraid to broach difficult situations within our greater writing community. H. led us in a moving living tribute to a dying friend with a special Rodeo Contest and Fundraiser for Sue Vincent who crossed the veil in 2021.
Anne Goodwin (UK) is an expert book reviewer and if you want to stay current on contemporary literature, follow her reviews. She kept us informed on reading choices while also drafting a pandemic sequel to her latest novel, Matilda Windsor is Coming Home.
Bill Engleson (CA) knows film noir and how to relate it to modern times. Known for his tight storytelling in short fiction, which has garnered him numerous literary wins, Bill can also weave a thorough review of films many of us may not know existed.
Ann Edall-Robson (CA) writes to preserve a way of life that honors the quiet spirits of her pioneering ancestors and the Canadian ranching community she calls home. Ann knows cattle, horses, and when to say, “Whoa. Stop. Back up,” to catch stories in photographs. Her work inspires other writers to listen within.
Susan Spitulnik (UK) knows the veteran experience from multiple perspectives. Not only is she currently working on a series about a wounded veteran and his refound love, but Sue also participates in a veteran writing group. She shares her stories with compassion, realism, and authenticity.
Norah Colvin (AU) is an early childhood educator who uses her knowledge to build educational materials at readilearn. She also uses her experience to craft stories with relatable characters, often from a child’s perspective. Norah is The One who showed up at Carrot Ranch in its earliest beginnings to form a global community.
Sherri Matthews (UK) writes compelling memoir as someone who has lived on both sides of the pond in the UK and the US. She understands language and cultural differences and bridges the gaps with profound insight. Throughout the years, Sherri has been an encouraging writing partner, sharing the ups and downs of the writer’s life with me.
Ruchira Khanna (US) is a Reiki Masters as well as a novelist who crafts stories about the choices people make and how it impacts their lives. Often, her characters form a diverse cast of friends and family, seeking to grow. Ruchira fortifies her beliefs in healing through writing. She has also been a writer who stretches her own growth.
Anna Rodriguez (US)was part of my MFA cohort at SNHU and when we partnered on a project through school, I knew I wanted to do more collaborations with her. We share a home-state and similar philosophies about making creative writing more accessible. Anna writes about family and its importance and crafts novels with a diverse cast of characters from her Mexican American roots.
Hugh Roberts (UK) writes openly about his journey as a writer with dyslexia and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Anyone familiar with Hugh’s writing knows that he masters plot twists. He shares his experiences, talents, and tips with the greater writing community.
T. Marie Bertineau (US) writes from the Keweenaw, home of World Headquarters for Carrot Ranch. She’s a celebrated Indigenous author whose book The Mason House has won several notable awards. She writes about life in the UP of Michigan, sharing memories of her grandmothers.
D. Avery (US) would prefer the spotlight on Kid and Pal, but no matter how much Kid protests, she is their author. D.’s lively Vermont wit found a home with her creation of a saloon on the edge of Carrot Ranch. Her characters have interviewed the characters of other writers, they’ve invited artists and writers to showcase their creativity, and they’ve created interim prompts and a handy stage for other programming.
Chelsea Owens (US) has a ten-gallon hat and hung her shingle at the Saddle Up Saloon to encourage all writers to try their hand at poetry with the Anyone Can Poem challenge. Her explanations and explorations of poetry in creative writing prompted non-poets and poets alike.
Colleen M. Chesebro (US) writes and teaches syllabic poetry, crafting magic through prose and poems. As a Rodeo leader at Carrot Ranch, she invented a form based on the ennead but counting 99 syllables. She hosted a challenge at the Saddle Up Saloon and will join me next week in announcing some exciting news.
As you can see in this line-up, Carrot Ranch is rich in talent and literary citizenship. I’m so grateful to each of these writers for their time to encourage others during a difficult episode in modern history. They provided insight, encouragement, and inspiration. And we will move into the future — yet uncertain with world events continuing to unravel — as writers moved to make a difference through the stories we tell whether for entertainment or exploration. Next week, I’ll reveal what’s next at Carrot Ranch.
Thankfully, none of these writers have to dock to charge their batteries. But it leads to a thought-provoking what if…
March 7, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a robotic writer. Is it an analogy or a battery-operated i-writer? Is it possible? What will happen if robots write? Go where the prompt leads!
- Submit by March 12, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
- Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
- Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
- Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
- Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.