What to get Charlie

Over at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, she has what she calls a TUFF challenge. This challenge has five steps:


I have looked at this for a little while, and I had not really decided if I wanted to toy around with this or not, because of Step 1. I don’t normally free write in its purest form, even though it is highly recommended by a lot of people. When I write, I am editing at the same time, which is a longer process, but it works for me. However, I decided to give it a go tonight.

So without further delay, here is what I wrote for each step (it took me 90 minutes to complete this challenge):

Step 1 (After 5 minutes of free write — 136 words)

Charlie’s ninth birthday was coming up and his parents have no idea what on Earth he wants this year. Some years have been easier than others, but this year was the hardest of them all. First, he no longer likes art, music, television, reading, writing, and thinks movies are for lazy people. Where he gets this stuff from we will never know.

“What about a science kit,” Harvey asked, looking at a make-at-home volcano kit in the catalog.

“Too much work,” I said. “How about a sewing machine, then he can at least make some clothes he won’t complain about.

We both laughed and shook our heads.

“We have to come up with something, and soon.” I picked up a catalog I received earlier that day from one of those street vendors down at the marketplace.

Step 2 (99 words)

Charlie’s ninth birthday is coming up and we have no idea what on Earth he wants. Some years have been easier, but this year is the hardest. First, he no longer likes art, music, or reading, and he thinks movies are lazy. Where he gets this stuff from we will never know.

“What about a science kit,” Harvey asked, looking at a volcano kit in a catalog.

“Too much work,” I said. “How about a sewing machine?”

We both laughed.


“Perfect,” I said. “Now he can pick out his own present when we go to Earth next week.”

Step 3 (59 words)

Charlie’s ninth birthday and we have no idea what he wants. It used to be easy, but now he doesn’t like anything. We don’t question. It’s better than way.

“What about this?” Harvey asked, pointing to a volcano kit.

“Too much work,” I said. “Sewing machine?”

We both laughed.


“Perfect. When we go to Earth, he can choose.”

Step 4 (9 words)

Son’s birthday and no gift idea.


“That’ll work”

Step 5 (599 words)

Turning nine was a momentous occasion for any child in the city. Leaving childhood behind and venturing further into the adult world. Children grow up so fast between birth and nine, that some parents are left feeling like they just don’t know their child from year to year, but the same could be said for the child. Things change so fast, that they themselves, can’t keep up. This was the case for Charlie Harker and many of his year’s class.

“What do you want, Charlie?” Angel asked after school at the soda shop.

“Well,” Charlie began, taking a sip of his float, “after the trip to the science lab this year, it would be cool to have a chemistry kit or something like that.”

“Oh, that, would be nice.” Angel poured more hot fudge on her sundae. “The science lab was fun, but I liked the textile mill better.”

“Yeah, that was cool too. If I had a sewing machine I could design my own clothes. Then I couldn’t complain about them being too confining.”

“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, huh?”

“Have you thought anymore about it, Harvey?” Mary asked, taking advantage of Charlie being out of the house with friends. “We really need to decide.”

“I know.” Harvey rubbed his eyes and scratched his beard stubble. “I went down to the aging committee and they just laughed at me and wished us luck.”

“Oh.” Mary looked discouraged. “This used to be so much easier.”

“Tell me about it,” Harvey chuckled. “He used to be happy with a box of crayons and paper.”

“Or books and music recordings,” Mary added. “But now, he doesn’t want any of those things.”

“Harvey, look,” Mary frowned, nearly crying. “Remember this picture?”

Harvey laughed, looking at the picture of Charlie in his clown costume. “His first aging festival. That seems so long ago.”

“While I was in the aging office, I took some catalogs that might help us pick his present.” He handed a small stack to Mary and kept some for himself.

“How about a science kit?” Harvey asked, pointing to a home-based chemistry set.

“He’d think it’s too boring.”

“What about a sewing machine?” Mary said, looking through a pattern catalog. “Then he can stop complaining about his clothes.”

“This really used to be so much easier.” Harvey said, shaking his head. “Cash?”

“Sounds okay,” Mary said, smiling. “I just don’t know what on Earth he’d really want.”

The alarm chimed at dawn on the day of the aging festival. Charlie yawned and stretched, then lay back down. I don’t really feel any different, he thought. Taking a deep breath, he set about his morning routine.

“No way!” Charlie said, holding up the suit Mary had laid out the night before. “She’s out of her mind if she think’s I’m wearing that to my aging festival. He put on a comfortable shirt, and trousers, then ran downstairs for his first breakfast as an adult.

“There’s the man of the hour,” Mary said, kissing him on the forehead. “What’ll it be?”

“Just the usual, Mom.”

“Well, fix it yourself,” Harvey said. “You’re a man now.”

“Gee thanks,” Charlie grumbled. “I don’t think I like this after all.”

Harvey laughed. “Neither did I son, neither did I.”

“Here you go dear,” Mary said, sliding him an envelope.

Charlie opened it, pulling out a card with VISA written on it. “Gee, thanks.”

“Well, your Mom and I thought you could pick your own presents when we go to Earth next week.”

“How thoughtful.” Charlie mastered the adult fake smile quickly.

The End

Hope you enjoyed it. Let me know in the comments what you think about free writing and the challenge.


For the Love of Fish

Dave loved fish. Tropical fish. Fresh water fish. Any kind of fish was good with him. From the time he was a boy and went fishing with his Dad at Spirit Lake, he knew he was destined to have fish. Years passed but his love of fish never faded. For the last ten years he has raised angel fish. Carefully breeding generation after generation, he cared for them like they were his children.

“Thanks again, Becky,” he said, going over the routine before he left for a week holiday at Spirit Lake.

“Sure, no problem. I love fish.” She lied.


(c) Teresa Grabs, 2018. You can find me on Twitter @TeresaGrabs.

If you would like to leave a tip and support the creation of more stories, please buy me a $3 coffee at https://ko-fi.com/D1D4DVAG

If you have Kindle Unlimited, remember you can read more stories by me on your kindle with Tales From the Haunted Wordsmith

The Sticker Patch

We are a family of readers and thinkers, but very little doers. Mom always says that the world needs more thinkers to think up better ways we could live, and Dad says that the world would be a much better place if there were more readers because readers spend so much time reading, they don’t have time for fighting. Funny how both my annoying little brother and I are always reading and thinking, and always fighting. Just yesterday he stole my copy of Dune and threw it into the sticker patch. He denies it of course, but I know it was him. He is the only one in the family that ever gives books dog ears. Who got in trouble for going outside though? That’s right! Me! I go out there to get MY book back and I’m the one stuck in my room for the rest of the week. It’s not fair. But I’ll get my revenge. You know how Captain Ahab wants revenge because of his leg and goes after the whale? Well, that’s what I’m going to do. I will hunt my little brother down and get my revenge for landing me in week-long room-bound purgatory. Dad was so mad I went outside, he confiscated all my books. Now I have nothing to do but sit here and think about what I did. At least, according to Mom. Ha! I’ll show them too. After being grounded last summer for over a month because I said I thought Mark Twain was a lousy writer, I hid some paper and pencils under a loose floor board. Just like in the Tell-Tale Heart—except I didn’t kill any one and it didn’t drive me insane. That’s what little brothers are for. Well, I’ve been stuck in here for two days already and I finally have my plan. Just need to wait for his book catalogue to arrive next month. Then we’ll see how he likes going into the sticker patch!

This was written for the Swimmers prompt: catalogue


(c) Teresa Grabs, 2018. You can find me on Twitter @TeresaGrabs.
If you would like to leave a tip and support the creation of more stories, you can buy me a $3 coffee at https://ko-fi.com/D1D4DVAG


It’s Too Hot

“They say that the planet is getting hotter,” Joanie said. “If we don’t do something about it terrible things will happen.”

“Yeah, right!” Franklin scoffed. “If it’s getting hotter like you say, then how come we had record setting snow and freezing temps last winter? Huh?”

Joanie shook her head, looking around the plaza and water fountain. “We had record low temperatures and snowfall because the climate is changing…not the weather. The weather is going to get more extreme.”

“Well I still think all you “global warming” warners are a bunch of nutters!”

The waitress finally brought their ice cream cones to the table. Joanie began licking her chocolate cone, and Franklin took large bites out of his strawberry cone. “Always have to be different, don’t ya,” Joanie said, laughing.

“All big brothers are different than their little sisters,” he said, grinning. “Better eat fast, these things are melting like crazy.”

Screams erupted from the open-air seating by the fountain. A woman sitting by herself was now burning. Flames were shooting up around her as she screamed and tried to douse the flames by jumping in the fountain. She never made it that far.

“What the –” Franklin began.

Another man sitting closer to the siblings burst into flames. Patrons and staff from the restaurant rushed to his assistance, but they were too late. Franklin grabbed Joanie, dragging her inside the restaurant just as a special news alert came over the televisions hanging on the walls.

“We interrupt your daily programming for this special alert. If you are inside hearing this message, do not, I repeat, do not, go out of your homes until the sun has set. Reports are coming in from all over the world. People are spontaneously combusting. Preliminary reports from scientists indicate holes in the ozone are forming over populated areas. Do not go into the open. If you are in the open, stay as close to a building as you can and pray. Stay tuned for further developments.”

“Well, I guess you were right after all,” Franklin said, as they both turned to watch more people erupt into flames trying to escape the plaza.”

(c) Teresa Grabs, 2018. You can find me on Twitter @TeresaGrabs.
If you would like to support even more stories — Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com