Even with the lead Buckaroo away the writers played. In a quest for added glory, many substituted characters and situations in familiar fairy tales.
Writers responded to the prompt, and normally what would follow would be a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology. Instead it is a flash-salad made of the finest ingredients, amateurishly assembled by a stand-in.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Four and Twenty by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The Hunter’s moon rose high as Henry knelt, pulling the pie out of the oven. Dear Liza’d been sent, holey bucket in hand, to gather autumn leaves for decoration. For their 154th anniversary, he’d sworn to make the pie on his own, though Liza was the undisputed expert in finding solutions and substitutions not available in their Ancient Forest home.
Liza returned, bucket in hand, hole fixed, full to the brim with bounty.
The pie steamed and whistled as they sat down to feast.
“Couldn’t find blackbirds, so I substituted bats,” Henry cut the first slice.
“You’re brilliant, Love!”
Once Upon a Time to Be in the Sward by Bill Engleson
I will not be me tomorrow.
I have shed my skin.
All that was me.
Though I will no longer be me, I will still be where I am seen.
Others will see me.
Fewer in this time of isolation, I allow.
We have all become less than we once were.
Before the virus, we were the sum total of our world.
We were whom others saw.
And we chose to be seen.
Now, the sward has grown into the sky.
With no skin, I gloriously glide through the sheltered greensward.
I am free to be no longer me.
Evolutionaries by FloridaBorne
It was said that his ancestors evolved from creatures with thicker legs, smaller beaks, and wings. Their species system of determining height was the ancient wing span, oddly similar to a newly discovered planet. They used yards and meters, but were primitive in comparison. Their males were larger than females, and they were attempting space travel. A planet of savages! On his planet, females were twice the height of a male and they were the rulers. Perhaps Earth’s aberrance and savagery was the reason that he, and the other expendables, were in route to seek and destroy the humans?
The Stranger by Saifun Hassam
The Cowboy Roy and Maury settled into their sleeping bags around the campfire. It was a moonless night on Twin Horse Plateau. Spurs jangled. Guns in hand, Roy and Maury were instantly alert. Horses whinnied, desperate to cut loose. Roy shot. His bullet flew back pinging his gun! The stranger knocked the terrified Maury’s gun out of his hand. Tall and wiry, the stranger started up the campfire with a flint. His silver metal parts glinted. His voice was cold as a winter’s night. A cowboy at Circle AI, he was a lookout for horse thieves. “Tell me a tall tale.”
Bear Grease by Ann Edall-Robson
How many batches? She shrugged her shoulders and looked at the failures in the garbage. Once upon a time, she had watched her aunt make these cookies without a recipe. Each pinch and handful of ingredients melded together, resulting in a delicious treat. Why couldn’t she make them from memory? Giving in, she opened the cookbook to the inside back cover. She could feel her face redden as she read her aunt’s instructions. The substitution efforts would have made her aunt laugh. Replacing bear grease with bacon grease and then butter was the culprit? Back to the drawing board!
Finding Your Prince Charming by Ritu Bhathal
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Princess, awaiting her Prince Charming. After reading the Find Your Prince self-help book, she tried the Sleeping Beauty, the Snow White, and even the Cinderella. Nothing. Eventually, she decided to use her long hair as she attempted the Rapunzel.
Sitting in her tower, with her golden plait fluttering out of the window, she felt a tug. “Yes! Finally, my Prince is coming!”
More pulling followed by the grunt of her beloved-to-be as he hoisted himself up. Alas, no Prince, just the toothless Palace window cleaner!
Waking Up by Joanne Fisher
They cut through the hedge of thorns and found a castle full of sleeping figures. They walked up the stairs. There the Princess lay on her bed sleeping soundly. The figure closed in, kissing her on the lips. The spell broken, the Princess abruptly woke up and saw them standing over her.
“I thought a prince was meant to wake me.” She said wide-eyed.
“My brother is away, so I thought I would take care of this.”
“I’ve never been kissed by another girl before.” The Princess stated.
“Is it okay?” The Princess pulled her closer. They kissed again.
The Tale of the Frog Prince by Goldie
“Five minutes to curtain time,” the director announced. “Dylan won’t be able to make it. You’re up,” he added in passing, as if those words weren’t the most important of my life.
Being Dylan’s understudy never have I thought I would actually get to step in. My palms began to sweat. “A frog transformed by a kiss…” I gulped.
Veronica peeked through the curtain. “I’m nervous,” I thought she said. Her shoulder-length locks were made of gold. Her lips the color of raspberries. A real-life Barbie doll.
“Dylan!” Veronica squealed, lunging towards my nemesis who just walked through the door.
Prologue: Sunken Submarines: “Atlantis” by Saifun Hassam
The unique mini submersible “SeaSquid” maneuvered into the deep valleys of the Mariana Trench. It was designed to explore regions inaccessible to humans. “SeaSquid” contained an AI brain of digital code and human brain scans. Captain Louisa Verne and cyborg navigation officer Melville were stunned by the digital video camera feed. Supergiant stingray, octopus, and squid swam past “SeaSquid.” Another sign that Earth’s ecosystems were recovering from the intense global warming and freezing of past centuries. In a narrow defile in the Trench, “Seasquid” discovered a spherical titanium object! The sunken submarine “Atlantis” lost more than two centuries ago.
The Substitute by Marsha Ingrao
Room 12’s door banged behind Natalie.
“We can’t read cursive,” pronounced the linebacker sitting next to her chair.
“Raise your hand, dork.”
“She ain’t Grimes.”
“Raise your hands if you like magic.” Natalie pretended her arm was a wand. Hands lifted. “Can you print?” Natalie asked. Hands swayed like palm trees in a hurricane. “I’m going to turn cursive into printing and back again. Watch. Natalie winked, added connecting strokes, and raised her arms. “Done.”
“It says Miss Conifer, don’t it Teach?” said the giant. “I could do THAT magic.”
That day Ms. Grimes’ special education class learned cursive.
The Art of Supply Teaching by Jack Leonard
There were three of us that day, waiting in the reception area for the flustered head of department to hand over some hastily cobbled worksheets. The usual crew. A Stephen King lookalike (there the level of interest ended), me and a guy that looked like he had just unicycled his way out of the circus.
Maths. Five classes. Five different visions of the apocalypse. Stephen King went home at lunchtime, unable to cope with the horror. Leaving, I asked unicycle guy, ‘What did you have?’
‘Spent the day making origami pets with them all,’ he laughed, ‘They loved it.’
American Boarding School by D. Avery
My black hair flutters to the hard plank floor, dead crows windrowed around the stiff boots that bind my feet.
They point at me, repeat a sound.
I tell them my name. Pointing at myself I repeat my name. They beat me.
They point at me, call me that sound, make me say it. The sound is sand in my mouth.
I point at myself. I speak my name. They beat me again.
I say that other name. They smile.
I learn to keep my real name close. I will run with it, will leave their chafing boots behind.
Shady Characters by JulesPaige
Alice looked up into the tree and saw a golden shiny outline of an insect.
“I was expecting a smile to evolve into the Cheshire Cat, who are you,” she asked?
“I am the shade of a cricket, I once assisted a wooden boy a long time ago, but once he became real he no longer needed me,” the bug sang in a singsong voice.
Alice did not think before she stomped her foot and cried; “But I am a real girl!”
Jiminy sighed. How’d he end up in Wonderland. Maybe Peter’s Neverland would be better? So he vanished.
Shady Characters (Two) by JulesPaige
Jiminy must have taken a wrong turn at the stars that lead to Neverland. Somehow though the place reminded him of something familiar. Hopefully it wasn’t the Neverland Ranch – That particular Michael never did grow up did he?
Piglet felt a little breeze that made him sneeze. and saw a shimmy shine outline of an insect. And he knew just what to do about faded fairies. You had to clap to give them life! The shade of the cricket solidified. Piglet smiled welcomingly.
“What’s your name?” Piglet asked in his quiet way. “Welcome to Hundred Acre Woods little cricket!”
The Key by Clinton Siegle
In the trunk there was a journal in Spanish with an English translation attached to it in paper. The travels of Jorge Luis Borges. The book went into absurd detail about how to get into and out of a mirror of reality and the universe itself. There were charms and spells and of course a keyhole for a key in the journal. The exact location of where the journal would take someone was easy to understand. The realization I could use the key found elsewhere to go was intriguing. To be offered the adventure of a lifetime interesting. No?
Replaced by Anita Dawes
I woke late this morning, feeling less than my usual self.
As if a part of me had run off during the night.
I showered, dressed, tried to hurry.
Walking through the office saying Good Morning with no replies
Had they all become blind?
Patting myself down, the way some people pinch themselves.
Did I do something to be sent to Coventry?
I couldn’t think.
Reaching my desk I could see God knows what.
A shadow that had taken my place, holding my cup of coffee
My colleagues chatting, nothing seemed wrong.
I had been replaced by dust particles…
The Best Day of Your Life by Goldie
When Rashid told me for the first time that he already drove me that day, I just shrugged it off, but when the same happened a couple of weeks later, I asked him to drive me to where he thought he drove me earlier. That is how I met Aisha – a woman who is not related to me but looks eerily just like me. We thought it would be a fun prank for me to stand-in for her best friend’s wedding. Would they know the difference? I had a blast until one of the groomsmen decided to rape me.
It Would Be Her by Donna Matthews
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the stupidest of them all?” Carrie thought as she dressed for the day. Yesterday, an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions; she just didn’t know how she would manage the situation today.
Taking a deep breath and straightening her sweater, she rebuked herself for the harsh words earlier. Carrie knew she would figure it out. There was a time, not too long ago, she believed in and desired rescue. The ol’ knights in shining armor kind of fantasy. But no more. If anyone could get out of this jam today, it would be her.
Special Substitution by Norah Colvin
“Where’s my Burger Special? You promised!”
“Burger Specials have chips, not carrot sticks!” The carrot sticks plummeted to the floor.
“I substituted them, hon. Carrot sticks are healthier. We want to be healthy, don’t we?”
A mouthful of half-chewed bun adorned the table. “That’s disgusting!”
“Multi-grain’s healthier. Try some more. You will like it.”
“I don’t want substitutes.” The poorly-disguised plant-based patty frisbeed across the room. The parent hauled the protester from the restaurant.
“You promised Burger Special!”
“You’ll get something special, as soon as we get home.”
“There’s no substitute for proper parenting,” tut-tutted a diner.
Out of the Mouths of Babes by Sue Spitulnik
At a church dinner, a precocious girl about three appeared at Michael’s side. She looked over the wheelchair then patted his longest leg stump. With total innocence, she asked, “Why don’t you grow new legs like Pinocchio grew a new nose?”
Michael laughed, “Pinocchio didn’t lose his nose like I lost my legs. The nose he had grew longer. A man can’t grow new legs.”
“Why don’t you wear those fake ones I’ve seen you walk on?”
“Because they aren’t good substitutions for my real ones. They make sores on my stumps.”
“Oh. Will you give me a ride.”
A Deadly Substitution by Sarah Brentyn
“Your Majesty, I beseech you…”
“It is not your place,” the king continued rewrapping tampered-with food parcels. “I’m surprised it’s you who objects.”
“I live for the court,” the jester looked at his pointy shoes mumbling, “and this may bring the end of it.”
“What was that?”
Taking a deep breath, the jester lifted his head, bells on his hat jingling. “The commoners…they will revolt.”
“Nonsense!” The king’s face reddened, softened, and then he laughed. “Ah, another of your jokes.”
The jester cringed. “No joke, Your Majesty. Substituting carob for chocolate… It may be the end of the kingdom.”
Sometimes a dog is just a dog by Anne Goodwin
A friend’s new puppy steals the show at our Zoom session.
A substitute child.
Mutts a-leaping fracture my thoughts and scare my muse from my morning walk.
A substitute for purpose – a dog’s a god – in aimless times.
Government wags the daily vaccine stats. Opposition barks the death toll.
Their substitute for crisis management: Getting Brexit Done!
Yet Sigmund, whose habit killed him, declared: Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
Even he succumbed to canine charms eventually and leant on man’s best friend to soothe his aching jaw. The world’s awash with substitutions. So should I get a…?
“’Ello dere Pal. Ees Keed here?”
“Pepe LeGume. Long time no smell. Kid’s walkin’ the hog. Did ya happen ta catch this week’s prompt? Kid’s already whinin’ ‘bout the switchin’ an’ substitutin ‘roun here lately.”
“Stub-shit-toot-eeng? I do not know dees word, Pal.”
“Means steppin’ in, temper-arily.”
“Oh, I have stepped in eet before. An’ de air, eet was rank.”
“No, LeGume, fillin’ in.”
“I am a feeller upper Pal. Go beeg or go home, ey?”
“No, fillin’ in fer someone cain’t be there ta do the job themsefs.”
“Pal. Some teengs cannot be stubshittooted. I keed you not.”