July 25: Story Challenge in 99-words

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.

July 25, 2022

A friend met me at the Ghost House Farm and I discovered I have a grandma-belly. She brought her charming 4-year-old granddaughter — let’s call her Cherries because she’s sweet.

Cherries climbed out of the car, ran to me, and pressed her face into my big soft belly. Until this moment, I had thought of my abdomen as a mama-belly, the place where I stored great treasures including womb-raised babies and decades of cake.

Now, I understand my belly’s capacity to comfort a shy grandchild. Cherries snuggled until she was ready to greet the farm.

Then Snake decided to slither in greeting. Cherries face-planted once again. I explained that garter snakes live in the meadowy spaces on the farm and have a job, eating insects. We had walked to the chickens when Snake greeted us and I assured Cherries that Snake didn’t like to tickle his belly on the gravel path. Snake proved me wrong.

Eventually, the sweet red tree “berries” caught her attention. The cool summer provided optimum growth for our fruit trees in the Keweenaw. Cherries abound (the edible sort). Cherries, the child, recognized a sweet treat. She wasn’t wrong and we followed Snake (I didn’t point out that we were following Snake).

After our snack, we visited the “goatses.” Don’t ask me why me and my 32-year-old daughter call the goat herd something that sounds suspiciously like baby-talk. We never baby-talked our kids, but we did delight in their mispronunciations (they inherited that quirk from me). Cherries approved the word and I smiled broadly as she called, “Here goatses.”

We fed them kale left over from the last farmers market, each goat nibbling the hand-held leaves. Cherries noticed they didn’t eat the dropped ones. Feeding is an act of engagement with the goats. It is a bonding experience. Big Chip pushed his way through the middle of the herd and I had to refrain from loving on him without my Chip-lovin’-gloves.

Then Cherries said, “I want him on my lap.”

Yes, Sweet One, I hear you. Big Chip puts out strong snuggle vibes. I want to sit in the shade and let Chip curl up in my lap, too. Oh, boy — we’d stink forever if we gave in to that notion!

We searched for the pigs but they must have bedded down beneath cedar trees out of sight. No amount of calling roused them for their kale treats and Cherries’ grandma did not want us clambering over hot electrical fencing. Good call, Grandma.

The hotwire fence is brilliant. Wheels of rope-like wire make easy perimeters to keep farm animals contained and coyotes, bears, and wolves out. Even the mobile chicken coop resides behind hotwire. The farmers can reroute farm workers (aka pigs and goats) to de-brush or root a section of land for farm reclamation.

In the process, the archaeology pigs dig up all kinds of human debris from scads of broken glass to buried Model-Ts. Cherries shared my interest in the glass. I showed her broken bottle necks, the slender side of a dainty bottle, the lip of a mason jar, crockery, dinner plates, and a chunk of what was once a stemmed candy dish.

We met the farmer and his human crew of one — my SIL and a 12-year-old neighbor boy — planting beets in the pumpkin and corn patch. We showed them our shattered glass gems. Cherries decided she needed more time with the goatses, which led to a hunger for more cherries.

We sat beneath the shade of the 100-year-old tree and I taught Cherries how to spit pits. In the effort, I splattered spit on her cheek, and yes, a child not fond of snakes was also not fond of wiping away my spittle. I’m working on my bedside grandma-belly manners. She caught on to the trick only swallowing a pit once.

Cherries left with her grandma and a hoard of glass. I can tell I might not be popular among parentses. But isn’t that the fun of being an elder? The call of becoming a Hagitude.

Now that last word, I did not invent. The fabulous mythologist, Sharon Blackie coined the word, melding “hag” and “attitude.” In her book (and year-long course) Hagitude, she informs women in the second half of life to live unexpectedly out loud.

‘There can be a perverse pleasure, as well as a sense of rightness and beauty, in insisting on flowering just when the world expects you to become quiet and diminish.’

~ Sharon Blackie

It’s not coincidental that these past difficult years have also ushered in a decade of peri and full-on menopause. My mama-belly has clearly morphed, signaling my shape-shifting years yet to come. These past five years have crushed me but not broken me. As I’ve crumbled, questioning everything about my identity, purpose, and relationships, I feel the Hagitude rising.

I am not afraid of snakes or the second half of life emerging. Bring on something sweet as cherries!

July 25, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story sweet as cherries. It can be about the fruit or something cherries represent. Why is it sweet? Can you use contrast to draw out the beauty? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 30, 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.
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30 Comments

  1. ellenbest24

    A tale as sweet a cherry fool. Xx

    • Charli Mills

      Lovely, Ellen! And I remember my grandmother making strawberry fool.

      • ellenbest24

        I can almost taste it. ????

  2. Liz H

    Hagitude in purple! Or maybe cherry red!
    Yes, we welcome it in any way we want to live it, from Baba Yaga in her chicken-legged house, to Granny in Tweetie cartoons, to Jane Fonda on the front lines of protest, to the soft shapes of a cloud bank in a summer sunset. Power of all stripe!
    Sounds like you had a sweet day with your Cherry Girl!

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      Hagitude, indeed? You dear ladies. We have unflattering names for elderly women, and I don’t understand why. Isn’t it the expectation that we’ll all enter The age of the Crone? Why aren’t men called anything other than “Old Men.” They’re still considered men, yet we women are to morph somehow, to stop being what we are, and why? Because our hormones change us? But we’re still women, filled with the same cherry sweetness, perhaps even more of it, because from our vantage, we can perceive the bitter and the sweet. I am glad to know you all, you beautiful women, and send you hugs.

      • Liz H

        Let’s make “hagitude” a positive, fill it with all the sweet breath of Autumn and sparkle of winter snow under a full moon!

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        No question mark intended. It was supposed to be an exclamation point.

      • Charli Mills

        We are sweet by any name, Kerry! I don’t mind the names so much because even unflattering, we can own the image. It’s the invisibility that fires me up, how we stop seeing women once the cherry blossom of youth fades. I will be seen, heard, and felt! Yes, I will be a biting Hagitude refusing to go sit quietly in a corner and diminish. I’m going to thrive this second half of life with or without lipstick (my choice!). 😉

        To me, all women ARE BEAUTY. We hold beauty in life, death, and all transformations in between. The Beauty in me sees the Beauty in you, Sister. Hugs back! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Purple! Cherry red! Must I choose, lol? Liz, I’m right there with you, enjoying the hags of all stripes. Yes, it was a sweet day with Cherry Girl.

  3. denmaniacs4

    Gotta say Charli, I went dark…

    • Charli Mills

      There are dark cherries, Bill. We go where the prompt leads, where our creativity takes us into the realm of light and shadow.

  4. Jennie

    Here’s to the Hagitude!

    • Charli Mills

      Arooo! That’s my Hagitude howl, Jennie! <3

      • Jennie

        Haha! Love it! ????

  5. Colleen Chesebro: WordCraftPoetry

    Hagitude rules! I loved your imagery and descriptions in this story prompt. I feel the “witchyness” bubbling up out of me! Goatses works for me. In fact ,I have two catses that agree with your pronunciation! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I’m glad the catses understand the goatses pronunciation! Bubble, bubble, poetry and word stubble! Long live the hags with attitude. Be seen, Sister! <3

  6. Tina Stewart Brakebill

    Thanks for the inspiration–but I must warn, I also went dark.

    • Charli Mills

      Tina, the dark is part of life and I’m pleased you braved following your creativity there.

  7. Marsha

    I didn’t go dark with Hagitude but I had fun with it. So many ways you could go.

    • Charli Mills

      Dark and light, play and work — it’s all intertwined and we listen for what calls us, Marsha. Glad you played!

      • Marsha

        Thanks Charli, I want to try to make 99 words a regular thing as much as I can. 🙂

  8. Norah

    I think the mid-years are the difficult years. Hang in there, Charli, the best is yet to come!
    Cherries, the granddaughter, sounds real sweet. It’s not so sweet having someone else’s (no matter how much you love them) spittle on your cheek so I’m with Cherries there too. The farm sounds amazing with so much to observe, experience and learn. Not to mention write about! What a sweet notion.
    I hope you get more time to spend with Cherries, the goatses, the pigses and even the snakeses. Sounds like tons of fun!

    • Charli Mills

      I might have to grow up and stop spitting on people, Norah! The farm is so full of life this time of year. A were inspiring place to write and write about. Oh, yes, the naming can continue — birdses, plantses…

      • Norah

        No need to grow up, Charli. There’s not much fun in that. Just try to control your spittle a little better. ????????

  9. Liz H

    I did another installment of the serial, and while not as dark as previous episodes, it was a little sad. Number 36, and the story has turned toward home…

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, the great turning point. Headed home with the elixir!

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