Every ranch has chores from simmering beans to growing carrots to soaping saddles. Chores are universal.
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.
PART I (10-minute read)
Tales Out of School by D. Avery
She loved the pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children, of engaging all learners. When she taught she learned, delving deeply into the topic when developing units of study. She led her students by following their lead. She relished helping her students make connections and demonstrate their learning creatively.
Then came the canned curriculum, the boxed units.
“This will be easier for all teachers.”
Easier isn’t better. Let me do it my way, she said.
“Curriculum delivery should all be the same. You can do your thing as long as you follow the program.”
Teaching became a chore.
Tales Out of School by R. V. Mitchell
“Okay Marines, liberty is scheduled to commence at 1100. Unless this field day is finished, not a single one of you wastes of space is setting foot out of this barracks,” the sergeant snapped, before turning on his heel and heading back to his office.
“You heard him,” Corporal Chin said to his squad. “Meissner and Reece empty those shit cans. White and Cortez get this deck swabbed. Doc, you and Smitty get the head swabbed.”
The head was a daunting proposition, but Hospitalman Davis used Navy ingenuity, finishing on time by overflowing the toilets to speed the mopping.
The Power of Dusting by Eliza Mimski
Since the quarantine, Darla had assigned herself one chore per day to keep from losing her mind. Normally, when working, she never had time to do anything but make her bed and maybe do the dishes. Now, months into the Covid, she’d become a dust aficionado. She hunted down dust on the tops of doors, in the corners of rooms, behind the couch, and other secretive places where it tried, unsuccessfully, to hide. Try as it might, it couldn’t escape her suction vacuum cleaner, her dustag and Pledge, her paper towels and water. “I’m coming for you,” she screamed.
Slipping by Deborah Dansante-White
Before Anita’s perceived organic emancipation from reality, she had, as a child, been required to balance a book on her head; to diligently RSVP, no matter how much she disliked the inviter and to make her bed each morning. Anita remembers this as she places the shiny box behind the bin row, carefully unfastening then squaring each corner precisely upon her once inconceivable pillow. Anita is pleased with her find and decides easily that cobblestones are almost buttery when laminated. Anita’s housekeeping chores completed for the day, she slips into restless sleep and into dreams of discarded shopping carts.
Blueberries by Charli Mills
Blueberries spilled to the ground. “Like this, Kev.” Fran righted the bucket, setting it between the toddler’s bare feet. She knelt behind him, gently covering his hands with hers to pull fat, round berries from bushy strands. It was a bit like milking a cow, she mused. Kev pulled berries on his own, squishing a few into crimson juice. She smiled at her nephew and knelt to pick enough blueberries to make a pie. She didn’t mind babysitting his parents could vacation. Maybe country life would stall the creep of urban shadows. Her sister never did like the farm.
Another Planet Maybe by Donna Matthews
“I don’t want to set the table,” Nicole wailed.
“Why not love?” I asked while trying to grab her up in a hug.
“Well…if we don’t set the table, how will we eat the food?”
Nicole scoffs and stomps off.
But I get it. The table setting IS tedious, AND the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and all the other chores on the list. I wonder what it would be like living a chore-less existence? But please – a ridiculous proposal. Maybe on another planet or in another lifetime, but this one right here, dinner isn’t gonna cook itself.
The Bored Teen by Ruchira Khanna
“Pick up your plates, Nate. That’s the least you can do around the house,” I shouted at my teen in a high decibel.
“Mom! I get tired doing the same chore three times a day.” he retorted.
I stopped stirring the pot and gave him a confused look as if he had just declared that he has graduated from college; without going to one.
He saw that look and muttered, “A teen’s life is all about being with friends, and in these times, I’ve been eating home-cooked food. That is such a chore,” and he let out a sigh!
Listening by Doug Jacquier
Listening to our adult kids when they whine about how the world never gives them a break is a chore. Listening to politicians whose tin ears and stone hearts belong to the funders who put them there is a chore. Listening to teenagers who sheet home all the world’s ills to our generation and opt for despair is a chore. But listening to the magpies caroling to each other as they feed their new screeching chicks and listening to the whispering of the veg patch growing and listening to the desultory traffic of our village is not a chore.
Chores by kathy70
Never called chores in my house as a child, just the price you paid for the joy of living here. We were a house full of people, 10 plus the birds. Saturday chores/baths/laundry day. Descriptions on a paper slip went into the chore jar. Oldest picked first. We all watched and secretly cheered when our least-liked was gone. Today I have the dining room, dust 1st, then sweep next wash the floor. Now my favorite, polish the wood, I still like the smell of the polish on wood. Funny how a smell brings a happy memory to a tough time.
Domesticity drove her crazy. Or was it merely my muck made her mad? A ten-pound food-processing system: in went puréed parsnip, out came puke and shit. Now she’s the one in nappies, I flutter around her in kid gloves.
I left her once; guilt made me boomerang back. Or perhaps the hope she’d finally love me, now she had time to spare.
People say I’m saintly. I say I’ve no choice. They don’t see how easy it is, behind the cooking and cleaning and laundry. How easy to mess with the mind of someone you’ve known your entire life.
Chores by Simon
Why aren’t you taking her?
She was a care taker, we can’t trust these people?
These people? frowned, She tied an apron herself, pay me then!
You shouldn’t do any chores, undo this apron!
She raised her voice, She had the world’s toughest job, taking care of old people. She lost beautiful soul’s front of her eyes, Knowing they will leave, she loved them, served them from heart. she is jobless now, I want to help her & I will.
Sigh, whatever, undo your apron, and stop hurting yourself, she is appointed!
She hugged her mom, said “Thank you!”
Made To Tend by Michelle Vongkaysone
I tend to my home.
Only I occupy it now.
My family has left me.
They seek better things.
I’m left with their housework.
I clean, wash clothes and cook.
It dulls the pain within my heart.
Even living is another chore.
I can’t thrive without my kin.
I’m not enough for myself.
I want to live for them.
Without them, I toil vainly.
My life is a series of chores.
However, I adhere to them.
One day, they’ll return home.
Then, we can live like before.
I tend to my fleeting hopes.
Only they share my home now.
Tea and Biscuits with the Carer by M J Mallon
“That’s the blueberries washed!” she said with a smile.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Put the kettle on,” she said.
“Don’t you want to leave anything for the carer to do?”
She didn’t answer, instead she said, ““Get the pavlova and cream. Mini ones in the cupboard over there.”
I opened the biscuit tin and arranged them on a plate.
“What time’s she coming?”
“Now! Better wipe the table,” she said.
The carer bustled in.
Ten Again by Gloria McBreen
Norah’s room gleamed. Mamma will be pleased with her. She’s quicker at doing her chores now. Not like last year, when her mother cancelled her birthday party because she didn’t get them all done in time. Silly girl Norah. That won’t happen today. Her friends will soon be here and it’ll be the best party ever.
‘How’s Norah today?’ Nurse Annie asked her assistant.
‘She’s happy. She’s ten today…again!’
‘Bless her,’ Annie smiled.
‘I’ll nip out for a cream sponge.’
Norah blew out all ten candles on her cake as her companions in the nursing home sang happy birthday.
Vacuuming by Hugh W. Roberts
Having murdered his chore-loving wife, Herbert did the unthinkable and scattered her ashes throughout the house.
“That’ll teach you,’ Herbert chuckled. “Lived-in. Not a showhouse.”
On getting home from work the following day, the house was spotless. Unbeknown to Herbert, his wife had employed a domestic help to come in once a week.
That night, the sound of hoovering woke Herbert. Yet downstairs, the hoover was unplugged and stored under the stairs.
Questions: Had Herbert’s wife come back to haunt him? Was it time to buy a new vacuum cleaner? Or should he empty the cylinder of his wife?
Occupational Hazards? by JulesPaige
daydreams are cut short
my cat visitors seek out
attention from me
I pet, they sometimes purr but
mostly demand attention
one more week before
they make a return trip to
their adoptive folks
At the top of my chore list this past week and for next is to take care of my interlopers, two cats about a year old. They belong here, briefly. I am their chef cook and bottle washer, litter box cleaner, comforter and entertainer. Occasionally I get rewarded with a delicate cat purr. I’m behind on other chores, inanimate things can wait. Living things first!
PART II (10-minute read)
Chores by Joanne Fisher
It had been a busy day for farm chores, Cindy thought. Aside from doing the housework, she had been planting new rows of carrots, checking how the corn was doing, getting rid of weeds, and clearing land for a new project.
Now it was mid-afternoon and she decided to sit in the sun for a few minutes. Just as soon as she had, Jess appeared.
“It’s alright for some!” Jess said with a disapproving look. “If you’re not doing anything, you can always help with the fencing.” Cindy rolled her eyes, but slowly got up and followed her wife.
Getting Things Done by Sue Spitulnik
Tessa looked disgusted. “Would you please help me with the laundry and dishes. I have a meeting tonight.”
With a twinkle in his eye, Michael responded, “I’ve got my own chore of getting fast enough at the fingering on my new tin whistle to be able to keep up with the band.”
She swatted his arm. “How about I take the whistle with me and when I get home you’ll have the other things done.”
“Dear woman, please, don’t start sounding like your mother making threats.”
Tessa laughed, “That’s on unfair analogy. We’ll share the chores.”
“Yes’m,” he grinned.
Preptober Chore by Liz Husebye Hartmann
She stared at the first run, several scenes of a promising short story. She sighs at the hand-written rollercoaster of initiating events, triggers, resolutions, a final dramatic crisis, and a resolution that leaves the reader both satisfied, and wanting more. There’s also the novel…
This story is for Nano. Her usual mode of running after the muse, pants afire, has been foresworn. The project begs more consideration. She scribbles more notes, crumples paper, and digs through a messy drawer for colored pens. Prep and planning is a chore.
The cat strolls by, looking for dinner.
Hungry herself, she bails.
Lynn Valley by Saifun Hassam
Shirley was dog-tired from her job as sous-chef at Hannah’s restaurant. She returned home to find her sister Carole fast asleep on the living room couch. Terry, 12, and Pauline, 13, were curled up in sleeping bags.
Shirley soaked dirty dishes in the sink and wiped the counter clean. Kitchen greens went into a bag for the mulch patch. She hugged and fed her tabby Cricket.
Carole and her daughter Terry moved in with Shirley and Pauline after Carole lost her librarian job in the pandemic chaos.
When all was said and done, it was good to be together.
Chores by Anita Dawes
Picking blueberries would not have been a chore
Ironing my stepfather’s underwear definitely was
As a ten-year-old, I thought it ridiculous
But mother insisted
Another, was polishing his shoes plus my brothers
At least they were smaller
Sitting beside my baby brother’s cot
Stroking his head, trying to get him to sleep
With the sun shining
through my mother’s bedroom window
Reminding me I should be playing outside
That day, something broke in my heart
I felt a strange kind of dislike towards my mother
That grew over the years
Today I decided to bury that memory…
The Sweeper by Allison Maruska
I open the closet and lug out the vacuum for the third time today. Creeping around my heels, Rylie grabs the dustpan and 3-year-old sized broom. “I seep!”
“Yes, you sweep and I’ll vacuum.”
She toddles to the kitchen, where spilled Cheerios wait for us. Humming to herself, she pushes them around, yelling in victory when a piece makes it into the dustpan.
I plug in the vacuum.
Rylie claps at getting three Cheerios into the pan at once.
Laughing, I abandon the vacuum and sit at the table.
Best to let my daughter enjoy chores while she can.
Lost in Translation by D. Avery
“I learned a new word at school today.”
Hope’s dad continued scooping beans with his bread. “In the classroom or on the playground?”
He held his bread and looked up. “What word?”
“It started with a /c/ I think. Melinda made it seem like a bad word.” Hope continued while her parents exchanged glances. “It has to do with doing things you don’t want to do, and not getting to do fun things. Chores! That’s the word.”
“But Hope, you tend the chickens, and the garden; help us both out around the farm.”
“That’s fun! Mommy, what’s allowance?”
Autumn Afternoons Are for Fun by Kerry E.B. Black
Sunlight filtered through golden leaves as Byron’s footsteps crunched to Oma’s. Momma sent baked goods for Old Oma and told him to do Oma’s chores, but who could work on a day like this?
Once there, though, Byron’s heart sunk. The old lady held a rake in her crippled fingers. Begrudgingly, he handed her the cake and took the rake. Grumbling internally, he scraped the leaves into a pile nearly his width and height.
Oma smiled as she sliced the cake and poured tea into autumn rose decorated cups. “Now hurry and jump in. This cake’s cooling!”
A Lick and A Promise by Norah Colvin
Lisa dropped her bag, discarded her shoes, and darted down the hall.
“Where are you off to, miss?” called her mother.
“You’ve got chores first.”
“Did them this morning.”
“Did them? Ha! Was no more than a lick and a promise.”
“But, Mum. I’m up to the last chapter.”
“No buts. You’ll do your chores before anything else.”
Lisa muttered as she stomped to the broom closet.
“And don’t give me any more of that lip or you’ll be reading on the other side of your face for a week.”
When I’m an adult … Lisa promised herself.
A New Day by Chel Owens
Back and forth. In and out. Sun to down. Winter to winter, for thirty years.
The children changed. The house aged. The horses and cows and chickens and that mean old goat -all ended up at slaughter; to be replaced by horses, cows, chickens -but no more goats. For thirty years.
She stood while the priest spoke about the dark shadow she’d known for so very long. This and that. Bless his soul. Rest in peace.
Veiled and black. Grey and old. No more back or forth in or out sun to down. Clouds clearing, she smelled the spring.
Chores by Frank Hubeny
While raking leaves Bill thought back to the farm his parents had with asparagus, pickles, pumpkins, corn, hay and soybeans. The chores back then were not so bad. He hoed corn from the beans and stacked baled hay. There was the busy time of harvesting, but harvesting had to be done.
The worst were those chickens. He’d reach his hand under a sitting hen to gather eggs only to have it pecked. Sometimes he’d shoo them off the nest. Sometimes they wouldn’t go.
He wouldn’t want some hen doing that to him, but he had to get those eggs.
Chore Bores by Geoff Le Pard
‘Morgan, can you pick up your clothes? This place is a sty.’
‘Yes, mom, I’ll get right onto my chores.’
‘I know we’re in the States and I said we should embrace their culture, but in what world does ‘culture’ encompass their bastardised version of English?’
‘Hey, who yanked your tail?’
‘Everyone wishing me a good day and not meaning it.’
‘Like you always say you’re sorry and you don’t mean it.’
‘That’s different. Anyway we don’t do ‘chores’, any more than we do yard work.’
‘You liked it when that blonde said you had a cute accent…’
Thick As Thieves of Time by D. Avery
The call to chores went unheard and unheeded by Pal, for Pal was on vacation, an unprecedented October Rest. But visiting Cuzzins Ash and Dusty Trales at Turnip Farm was not restful for Pal. Ash and Dust’s idea of catching up meant using Pal’s help to harvest their crop, working from sunup to sundown. Speeding along in the overloaded turnip truck, Pal felt lucky to have not fallen off.
“I’m headin’ back to Carrot Ranch, cuzzins.”
“Stay. Blood’s thicker ‘an water Pal.”
“Yep. An’ water is life.”
And Pal rode back to where the wells ran deep and fresh.
En Garde, Le Pard by D. Avery
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Kid worried about the kids. The billy goats had sampled Shorty’s manuscript and even ate write out of the story collection bin. Kid knew they didn’t have a chance against a champion goat wrestler like Shorty, who also had a thing for kid gloves.
Worried and desperate, Kid almost didn’t notice the rental car parked along the trail. Almost. Before Logan and Morgan returned from vista viewing or whatever chore had taken them away from their vehicle, Kid had those kids stowed in the back seat, knowing these two would care for the goats.