A Year Later

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.

March 25, 2021

A year later, we pause to reflect. Any year. A particular year. The power of time passing.

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.

A Year Later by Nicole Horlings

A piece of junk mail with his name had shown up today. Despite the annoying and ineffective attempt to sell a credit card, an envelope that she would have immediately discarded if it had her name on it, she held it tenderly. She would have never imagined longing for the mundane like this.

There would be no more nights home late from work with grateful smiles at the sight of dinner, or quick kisses before rushing off in the morning.

There would only be future junk mail.

Time passes slowly
except when tragedy strikes
it all went too quick


The Great American Past-Time by Jack Keaton

After the ride to the station, the hum of the train, the anticipation at the ticket gate, buying a new cap for a new season, a new beginning, Clay anxiously took his seat along the third baseline.

A year had passed since he had attended one of these. Now, he’d swear he could smell the Kentucky bluegrass.

The mask he wore reminded him that not that long had passed since he could only watch them on television.

But he was here now. All he needed was to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd.


I’ll Always Love You, New York by Ariel Soon

I moved out of New York six months before the pandemic, but made one last trip in mid-February. I wanted to visit friends and get my stuff out of storage so I wouldn’t have to pay the $110 a month anymore.

Even though I was away for six months, it felt like I had never left. I was using the subway like I usually did. Only a few were wearing masks, but overall, the city felt completely normal that bright sunny day.
Two weeks later the first case of COVID hit. The city hasn’t been the same since.


A Year on from June 2019 by Anne Goodwin

Sky-grey stallions clip-clopped a Cinderella coach past ranks of men in pillar-box red jackets and beehive furry hats. Militiamen drilled like clockwork soldiers, clacking their weapons in unison from shoulder to shoulder and down to the ground. Waves of Union Jacks as people cheered the Queen. Last year.

This year should’ve been Matty’s turn for pomp and spectacle. For fireworks and champagne. A grande dame‘s centenary is no trifling affair. Matty hates depriving her devotees. Yet here she is, confined to bed, without even the stomach for trifle. Without the breath to blow out the candles on her cake.


Arduous Acrimony by JulesPaige

Lost faith is easy for some to carry while
Discarding the struggle with hereafter treasures
With parched throat, a year later still
Slowly crawling up the dunes of regulations
With little to quench or take away the nagging fears

We falter with our goals, bearing lonely burdens
Wondering how we can alter our wishes
So we can possibly admire the work we have done
We venture out into another spring – puffing ourselves
Attempting to conceal our bluff, that there still is no prize

life continues as
if one huge cliffhanger that
hasn’t ended yet

…and yet we attempt prayer


There, but for… by Bill Engleson

“Why not.”
“Tell me.”
“Of course.”
“Now please.”
“Take a breath.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I fully understand.”
“Give me a moment.”
“More if you like.”
“It’s just, you know…”
“It’s been a while.”
“It seems like years.”
“It’s been eons.”
“I just couldn’t…”
“What? Say goodbye?”
“That’s it exactly.”
“But the smell?”
“That was worrisome.”
‘Would have thought…”
“I stopped thinking.”
“A human response.”
“I loved her.”
“I can tell.”
“It’s hard…”
“Saying goodbye?”
“Yes, that.”
“It’s time.”
“Can I?”
“No problemo.”


A Year Later by FloridaBorne

Dogs cuddle with me as I sleep, my coon cat purrs. This is life!

For an entire year, I walked outside and never once bumped into another person. No one tried to shake my hand or force a touch. And now…

“There is no mask mandate, and all restrictions are rescinded,” the newsmaker said. “Hug at will!”

One step outside, and a neighbor rushed toward me, arms outstretched.

“Don’t hug me!” I yelled.

“Then you need it all the more!”

Slamming the door in her face, I swore, “Never again will I suffer through other people’s idea of normal.”


29 February 2020 by Douryeh/Hajar

We were told to stay indoors — if we can
I belonged to those who are allowed to work
How little has changed, actually, in a year’s time
Also now we say, ‘Only a few more months’
But now, a Mediterranean Sun vacation is less likely
The State has paid business owners’ rent, also now
Today, people say, covid is to stay coming years
Most of us aren’t used to what now adheres
People elected the same State back, despite its ills
In the end, they trust its anti covid19 policy.


Homecoming by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They’d passed through the portal just after moonrise. Their ship navigated left, then right, and left again, pulling up to the dock with a scrape and a sigh.

“Nice landing,” Jo snickered, looping lines over neat, steely cleats. Until they knew who’d won the city, stealth was best.

“Next time, you can bring her in.”

“Not if I can help it. I’m leaving by land, never returning.”

“Not counting my chickens…”

“Suit yourself, Rae. I’m done with the pirate’s life.”

They hauled on their packs and grabbed a laser, oblivious to the silent line of torches descending the hill.


The Victory by Joanne Fisher

Meredith suddenly realised a year had passed since the zombie apocalypse. It had been close, but they had prevailed in the end and now things had finally settled down.

So many were missing, she thought as she went into the town centre. She had a busy day today of wandering mindlessly through town with all the others. She might be a zombie now, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t put in a full day of shambling. She mused it was such a shame they couldn’t get fresh human meat anymore, they all had to make do with livestock now.


A Year Later by Anita Dawes

My last memory of Joe
Doesn’t match the person I see now.
The weight loss taken, more than his clothes size.
He has lost his humour
Maybe it’s true; it was only there
To deflect from his size
His eyes have lost the spark I remember
Now I see the sadness hidden all these years.
Over lunch, we spoke of his childhood
Rough, painful, I never gave a thought to
He spoke of hunger,
never enough food, enough love
now he’s happy, getting married,
looking forward to becoming a father next year
I believe he’ll be a good father…


Steven Seagal in New Orleans (or Was He?) by Doug Jacquier

New Orleans, a year after Hurricane Katrina, at a restaurant. Suddenly a small crowd has gathered close to the entrance. My companion says ‘It’s Steven Seagal! Take my picture with him.’ We return to our table. ‘Show me’ he says.

The photo could be of almost any two people but he shows everyone. Most say ‘I can’t really see him.’ He turns to me and asks me to confirm the story and I say, ‘yes, he was there’ but, as soon his back is turned, I tap the side of my head and mouth ‘never happened’ to his audience.


Bird School by Norah Colvin

Dear Mr Emu,
As Eddie performed below expectations on some tests, he must repeat next year.
Dear Mrs Grimbald,
Which tests did Eddie fail? I’ll bring him up to speed over the holidays.
Dear Mr Emu,
Eddie’s ground speed is unmatched. He failed lift-off.
Mrs Grimbald,
Inability to lift-off is inherited. No one in Eddie’s family ever lifted-off. Advance him.
Dear Mr Emu,
Parents shouldn’t discuss limitations lest they become self-fulfilling.
Inability to lift-off does not limit Eddie any more than your inability to run limits you. Adjust your curriculum. Progress our Eddie.
Principal Grimbald huffed. How impertinent.


A Year Later and… by Missy Lynne

A year later and
I am back home.
A year later and
I’ve lost 20 pounds.
A year later and
No calls from my dad.
A year later and
I am healing.
A year later and
I have a renewed heart.
A year later and
I still have dreams.
A year later and
I am writing.
A year later and
I am looking forward.
A year later and
I want to take on an adventure.
A year later and
I want to LIVE my life.
A year later and
The chains are breaking.
A year later and
I will overcome.


One Year Later by Ritu Bhathal

I crack my eyes open and reach over to switch off the alarm.
Sitting up, I rub the sleep from my eyes, and instinctively pick up my phone to check my messages.
The first thing I notice is the date.
A year. It’s been a whole year, since you went.
A whole year since you last told me off for grabbing my phone, first thing every morning.
A year I’ve cried myself to sleep.
I smooth my hand over your side of the bed, an indent no longer obvious.
But the indent in my heart.
That will never fill.


A Year Later… by Goldie

A year later, I’m still angry.

Angry with you for leaving without a word. Even though you knew you would be departing last time we spoke, you made no mention of it.

An ‘I love you’ would have sufficed.

Did you really hate me that much?

I couldn’t help with your pain, but was that a good enough reason to inflict this suffering onto me?

That’s not how a parent acts.

A year later, I’m angry with you for leaving, but I smile, realizing you’ve been preparing me for this my whole life. I am a survivor. Thank you.


Putting By by D. Avery

Almost a year!

Knowing the time for him to go missing was before he was missed, she had left the keys in his truck then walked home by a different route, masked of course, hood pulled up against a chill spring wind. Should the truck ever be found the search would begin there, but disinterested authorities had already concluded with the assumption he had simply fled, fed up.

She wondered what she might prepare for dinner. Almost a year, but the chest freezer still contained plenty of stockpiled food, packets of meat, vegetables and casseroles concealing his frozen body.


Missing in Action by Donna Matthews

Suzy switches off the radio, turns back to me, asking, “Are you scared? When was the last time you heard from Dan?”

“It’s been a couple months now. But I also haven’t heard from anyone, so that’s hopeful, yes? Emily had the MP just show up at her door last week. I guess as long as no one comes, he’s okay?”

Suzie sits down, puts her arm around me as we both study his military photo. Taken last year, he was so proud to be a soldier.

I put my face in my hands; God, I hope he’s okay.


Last Year by Chel Owens

Daniel could reach the top of the doorway now. He’d always wanted to -ever since watching Dad swing one big, strong, long arm up and smack it in passing. Daniel watched that arm throughout his life, wondering at his dad’s strength and size.

Up until last year, that is. Up until the cancer.

“I did it today, Dad,” he whispered.

“What, Danny?” His mom raised her eyes from Dad’s headstone and fixed Daniel with a sad, confused gaze.

“Nothin,'” Daniel muttered, looking down. He wondered how long it’d be before he could smack the doorway without cheating. Without jumping.


A Year Later by Padmini Krishnan

Sam completed his homework as his sister waited patiently with her Math problems. After helping her, Sam organized the table for the primary school students he tutored. He could hear his mom typing away in the next room. She was also training to be a Montessori teacher. Sam thought about their lives a year ago. His mother spent all her time on TV soaps while Sam and his sister fought over petty video games. His father, the sole breadwinner, labored until he fell sick with Covid. Now Sam wished his father had been around to see his ‘responsible’ family.


Celestial Time by Saifun Hassam

When the pandemic hit in March,
I chanced a grocery visit.
Aha! my choice of apples by the bag,
limit of two bags but oh joy!
Gala Fuji Honeycrisp Green.
Two looms bananas, one green, one yellow.
Swing past the empty paper products and household aisles.
No coffee pods. Never mind. Generic instant coffee would do.
Frozen foods gone
except turkey meatballs, frozen peas, and green beans.
Plenty of jalapeno salsa verde and corn tortillas.
I celebrated the vernal equinox in grand style on my patio.
Marked my calendar to celebrate summer solstice, autumnal equinox, winter solstice.
Spring again!


A Year Later by Charli Mills

Hazelnut creamer, your favorite, expired months ago but I couldn’t throw it out. We bought groceries like it was end times. Panicked when the shelves remained bare of pasta and dried beans. Flour disappeared and pictures of “first time” bread-bakers emerged online. We bought sliced rye. At first, I enjoyed the solitude. You loathed it, seeking excuses to venture out. Creamer. Always short on hazelnut creamer, willing to search for it. That’s how you found the last ten-pound bag of Montana Flour. I wept. Not as hard as the day you died. Did Covid take the extroverts like you?


A Year of Changes by Sue Spitulnik

The warm breeze fluttered Tessa’s short brown curly hair. Her blue-green eyes shown love as she gazed down at her sleepy granddaughter. While rocking her, she talked in a soothing tone. “I wasn’t sure moving back to my roots was a good plan. I never thought your Mama would choose to come live here too, and not a single person could have convinced me your real grandpa would ignore you. Now here we are, living with Grandpa Michael. He loves us both even if we are pudgy. What a year full of changes it has been. We’re lucky ladies.”


Mom’s Birthday by Kate

Balloons and cake,
Guests all confirmed,
The out-of-towners;
Their flights all reserved.

The virus arrived
And people died.
Our party was scrapped
As the country locked down.

One year later.

Mom’s birthday again,
And the virus still rages.
Vaccines jabbed in stages
Based on our ages.

We gather as family
All masked and distanced.
We sing our good wishes
And blow her air kisses.

Mom’s still in lockdown
With nowhere to go.
Her hair is now long,
Her body still strong.

She smiles and waves
From inside the building.
Our visit means a lot,
Even more than we thought.


A Poem for the Current Status by pensitivity101

Where did the last year go?
So many changes, yet everything the same,
Isolation, solitude, shielding,
People alone, by another name.
Have we learned anything?
Appreciate family and friends,
A welcome smile or contact,
A means to an end.
We have all pulled together,
Each looking out for our neighbour,
Clapped on the roadside,
Socially distant behaviour.
We shopped and we walked often,
Waved from across the street,
If we saw strangers,
We reversed rather than meet.
Now one year on,
Little sadly has changed
But we’ve had our first jabs now,
Though the second has to be arranged.


Cuttin’ Bait by D. Avery

“Cuttin’ it purty close, ain’tcha, Kid? Got 99 words?”
“Couldn’t catch a story Pal. Nary a nibble.”
“Jeez, Kid! Where’n heck ya been?”
“Fishin’. Easier ta put fish in the pan than flash in the pan.”
“Shorty ain’t lookin’ fer fish, Kid.”
“I’m fried. Got nuthin’.”
“Ya best git writin’.”
“I’m all done with that. Specially with that prompt.”
“Really?! Cain’t think a nuthin’ whut’s been aroun’ fer a year?”
“Nope. Keep comin’ up dry.”
“Kid, let’s head over ta the Saloon. Mebbe if ya wet yer whistle you’ll think on somethin’ good’s come outta this year jist past.”


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  1. Ritu

    Some beautiful entries ????

    • Charli Mills

      Some funny ones, too.

      • Ritu


  2. restlessjo

    Somethin’ good that’s come out of this year? A lot of fine writing. A lot of kind thoughts. For me, personally, a better relationship with my partner of many years. Beyond that… nothing! A lot of heartbreak. Thanks for the prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      I love your focus on the good changes, kindness and relationship.

      • restlessjo


  3. Doug Jacquier

    Great effort by all to chew your year off. ‘As Time Goes By’ awards to Nicole, Jack, Anne, D., and Chel but Rock of Ages to Norah and Mr.Emu’s son, Eddie. He can’t fly but I’m tellin’ you, he can run the pants off a kangaroo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqgENQLwT1I

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! That’s a great demonstration, Doug!

  4. Becky Ross Michael

    Interesting variety and very thought-provoking pieces!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for reading, Becky!

      • Becky Ross Michael

        I always enjoy these collections, Charli!

      • Charli Mills

        It’s my favorite part of the challenge!

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    I’m seeing these here for the first time this week. Wow!

    Wholly wow.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s especially powerful the way the stories work together, which is why I love collecting individual responses. Wholly wow is right!

  6. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View

    Wow More great stuff
    Laugh Until It annoys someone. They’ll thank you

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Thank you for the laughing public service announcement, too (off to annoy the puppy and Hub).

      • Mr. Ohh's Sideways View

        Kiss the puppy and send the hubby out to the back yard for me.

  7. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    Charli, thank you for this prompt. The piece I penned was very therapeutic for me and I felt like I wanted to write something like that for a while. Finally got the final push. Perfect timing!
    @FloridaBorne – Ha! Totally agree
    @Missy Lynne – beautifully poignant; I relate.

    • Charli Mills

      Goldie, your 99-word story was deep and cathartic. I’m glad this prompt came at the right time for you.

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