It’s hot. It’s disastrous. It’s a meltdown.
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.
In an Afternoon by Michael Fishman
Business is slow. You’re not one to argue so when Colby tells you to take the afternoon you listen.
At the park you take a bench by the lake. You read, toss peanuts to pigeons. You doze.
Waking, you look around, get your bearings. You see Colby about 20 yards away, on a bench perpendicular to yours. His back is to you. He leans left and you see your wife. You see her laugh; touch his cheek.
You see them kiss.
Your wife. Your job. Your boss.
A life lost in an afternoon.
The meltdown happens in the car.
Straightened Up by Reena Saxena
I invite a meltdown.
I challenge meltdowns to sort themselves out into new patterns.
I challenge meltdowns to harbour elements which change with compounding, and look at each other in new ways.
We pride ourselves on our identity, but now it looks melded with yours.
There are commonalities, and there are contradictions mocking each other. I can’t find a place to hide. There are mirrors all around.
Yes, I made a mistake.
I’ve stepped on a new path – moving towards you. Loops behind are closing down. The spiral ahead is straightening itself – shortening the distance – between Me and You.
Meltdown by Joanne Fisher
“So what’s the matter now?”
“Nothing really, it’s just a lot of people I care about seemed to totally ignore my birthday.”
“Maybe they were preoccupied with other matters? Perhaps they were really busy?”
“Yeah, but how hard is it to just wish someone a happy birthday?” I mean really?”
“They may have not known it was your birthday. Seriously, it’s not worth having a meltdown over.”
“I’m not having a meltdown! I’m just disappointed is all, and feeling sad.”
“Do you think maybe the problem is your own expectations, rather than anything they have failed to do?”
No Regrets by Simon Prathap D
Frozen strawberry ice cream, on a small bowl, gently flowing cool smoke, the colour, the layers.
I took a spoon, pressed on its head, what a view, the meltdown of my favourite strawberry cream.
My daughter stopped me, the rage in my eyes, I can’t express, not because she wanted it.
She pointed out my sugar level, I understand, I am old, If one scoop of an ice cream could kill me, let it kill.
She walked out, yelling!
I want to die without regrets, I yelled back.
Life is like an ice cream, enjoy, before it
Meltdown by Sarah Whiley
It’s all a blur – once the meltdown begins. That familiar sinking feeling, consumes me again.
My face blanches as I realise what I’ve done. It’s too late now though. It’s happened.
“What were you thinking?” my beleaguered mind screams.
“That’s the problem… she wasn’t,” replies my subconscious, smirking, “Always the way, once she gets a few drinks in her.”
My head spins as I scrabble to assemble jigsaw pieces of the previous night.
But it’s no use,
There’s nothing there,
Time hosts invisible memories.
Sick to my stomach, all I can do now is ask, “Who else knows?”
Cousins by Carole Warren
Two cousins sharing an amazing weekend on the island.
Close since her birth, I would take charge of my baby cousin. Hold her, swing her, walk her, play. Always enjoying our times together.
Admiring her sweet spirit, I swear, we could chat for hours. We have. We do again on a sunny patio examining life’s challenges, hers greater than mine.
Looking past her glassy eyes, I sense unspoken pain. A past we don’t discuss: numerous surgeries, daily discomfort, looming blood clots, the challenges of wheelchair confinement.
She says nothing, blinks, turns back to me, then smiles. Silent meltdown over.
A Family Meltdown by Susan Spitulnik
Katie didn’t try to hide her anger or tears. “Does she think she can swoop in here and be welcomed? I don’t care if she is my blood grandmother. She’s never sent me so much as a hello.”
Thad empathized with his daughter. “I’m not any more comfortable with meeting her than you are, but your grandfather and Nan say it will benefit us to reconnect.”
“How can Grandma be so positive?”
“She says you’ll understand better after you’ve had children.”
“I’m also worried about this woman’s reappearance upsetting Grandpa?”
“I’m sure his loyalty to Nan will prevent problems.”
Gloria’s Book Group Reads Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson by Anne Goodwin
Her book group is blinkered. Gloria sits back and watches as her friends turn themselves inside out to prove that Jeanette Winterson’s memoir isn’t about Christianity’s cruelty to kids growing up gay.
They know about her son and his soon-to-be husband. Yet they persist in picking adoption quotes. The author would have been fine if she’d had better parents. What’s the big deal?
Love didn’t hold when I was born, Randall reads. Gloria blushes as a desperate howl rises from her belly. To avoid public meltdown, she rushes to the toilets. No-one can know she’s been that abandoned child.
Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills
His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.
Max refused to stroke the cat rubbing its head against her folded arms. She leaned against one of two posts holding up the front porch. The exterior needed sanding. Through the open door to the three-room cabin – kitchen, sitting room, bedroom – Max noted cooling cherry pies, lace curtains, jelly jars of garden flowers. What some would call “a woman’s touch.” Her dad lived alone.
She’d been seven when the church elders drove him from their South Range home, beating him with fists and folded newspapers. Mascara and tears streaking his face.
Grilled Cheese Wizardry by Bill Engleson
It was so damn easy. Two hunks of sliced bread, the kind my mother made, but then couldn’t, especially after the arthritis took control of her farm girl’s hands, a slab of cheese, not too thick but not like it was shaved by a piker, a slice of onion, red, yellow, white, and weren’t we always thankful that there were no blue onions, slam it all together, melt a square of butter in a sizzling frying pan, brown one side like crazy, flip her, burn it like the sun was doing the cooking and Houston, we had meltdown nirvana…
The Meltdown by Colleen Chesebro
Not again! My spell had failed. I gazed at the mess covering my newly painted kitchen walls. Green goop ran like rivers into puddles on the floor.
How could this be? I’d followed the recipe from my mother’s ancient Grimoire. There were no herbal substitutions.
“Oh, this is really bad,” my husband muttered from the doorway. “What did you forget this time?”
My meltdown was now complete! How dare he insinuate that my memory was failing! “Nothing. I forgot nothing,” I answered frostily.
“Oh,” he answered. I’ve got that eye of newt you asked me to get for you.”
The Great Chili Meltdown by JulesPaige
His wife had a meltdown. He bought the dehydrator to preserve his hot peppers. But he didn’t think – he had the unit filled to the brim and when the process started the whole house filled with the distribution of capsaicin vapors. She made him clean up his ‘mess’, with tears in her eyes and her throat burning. And made him promise to sell the machine at their next garage sale. With that lesson passed on… the neighbor bought the hardly used machine. Herbs might work better.
too hot to handle
internal flames were to blame
no more capsaicin
The Meltdown by Pete Fanning
The radio station sent me to Paradise lake to broadcast, where the heat index was set to purgatory and my shoes, socks, and jeans felt like blankets of torture as kids frolicked about the shore, popsicles dripping down their fists.
Mere seconds before I went live on air, Daryl Hall’s voice warbled horribly offkey. Sweating in horror, I watched the vinyl curl under the glare of the sun. Mic in hand, I turned for the next record, only to find the kids launching it like a frisbee.
“Let’s go live to Paradise Lake.”
And that was my last broadcast.
Ice Cream Meltdown by Norah Colvin
“Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”
“Good morning. Sounds like someone’s not happy.”
“The ice cream’s melted.”
“An ice cream meltdown. Kids will be kids.”
“Yeah. Our fifth lockdown this year. We’re homeschooling. Again. My FIFO hub’s trapped in woop-woop. I can’t visit mum in hospital cause she’s interstate even if hub did get home. And no power now for three days. Our freezer food’s spoiled, and he’s whinging about ice cream. When will the lines be fixed?”
“Sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up. The boss can fire me. No way she’d buy raffle tickets.
What Meltdown by kathy70
Not sure if I ever really had one, stiff upper lip and all that drivel. As a child it was certainly not allowed by my mother. Maybe I was never allowed to have expectations that would make me feel special or wanted. Other than get good grades.
An adult now, so I get to set the standards, but how does that feel I’ve no idea. Real feelings hurt too much so lets not go there. A true meltdown might be a good thing. I watch as global-warming melts glaciers. Maybe I can melt myself enough to feel real once?
Year Thirty by Larry Trasciatti
It was thirty years after the pandemic.
The Great Society’s Meltdown was underway.
Martin and Barbara were reading about how neighbors of theirs were executed for referring to the Outsiders as ‘those people’, and ‘some of my best friends.’
The only things illegal were intolerance and being offensive. Anything, at random, could be deemed intolerant or offensive. The party’s whims were law.
It was noon so they drove to the courthouse to find out what they were allowed to do that day.
They stood on line among others with identical poker faces.
Invisible cameras stared down toward them constantly.
Contempt by C. E. Ayr
Président Macron speaks of ‘Les gens qui réussissent et les gens qui ne sont rien’*, as he turns France into an over-controlled, over-surveilled police state.
Jacob Rees-Mogg jokes about ‘happy fish’ while the Scottish fishing industry is devastated by Brexit.
He also amuses himself by unfunny alliteration, like ‘bands of blighters’, referring to asylum-seekers.
This vile creature is part of Liar Johnson’s inner circle as they rape the UK with blatant corruption and cronyism.
This level of contempt from politicians towards the general population presages a new generation of fascism comparable to 1930s Nazi Germany.
Democracy is in meltdown.
* ‘People who succeed and people who are nothing’.
Please note, not people who do nothing, or people who have nothing, but people who ARE nothing.
Moving Meltdown by FloridaBorne
My father was four inches shorter than six feet. His thick build and barrel chest were developed from strapping pianos on his back and carrying them up several flights of stairs for thirty years of his life.
He hated “New Yorkers” after he carried a baby grand piano up three flights of stairs in Miami one summer. The moment that rich woman from up north told him not to enter her apartment until he removed the stench from his body, he should’ve had a meltdown. He drove home, showered, and finished moving the piano so he could get paid.
Sunflower Meltdown by Nancy Brady
Surprise sunflowers came up in the flower bed that was planted with canna lilies. Seeds dropped by hungry birds at the feeder probably were the reason for the surprise.
The feeders were gone for the summer, but some of the birds remained. New birds also arrived, attracted by the bright yellow flowers. Bees, too, found the flowers attractive, but two birds were particularly enamored by the sunny faces.
Goldfinches, male and female, feasted on the ripening seeds. Whether it was the goldfinches or the heaviness of the sunflower heads, it was a meltdown dipping their heads toward the earth.
Icarus in Starlight by Saifun Hassam
Keith flew in orbit around the bright star Berenice in a new experimental Solar spacecraft designed for space photography. The craft’s solar sails were sensitive to the force of light from stars, creating tiny flight deviations. Something he needed for stellar photography. But those subtle changes could also send him spinning into the star.
Icarus came to mind. Keith loved reading about Earth, that ancestral home, its mythological tales. Earth was no more. Keith imagined Icarus with his wings of feathers and wax, soaring up towards a bright star, the Sun. A meltdown in starlight. Crashing into an ocean.
Visitor by Rebecca Glaessner
The grounds shuddered. The air hummed along with urgency.
Something was happening.
Its kin at rest, a lone creature emerged from its dwelling, peering out toward the meeting line of void and land.
The hum grew violent as the void tore open with a flash. From the tear, a being of another kind tumbled into the creature’s world. Grounds shaking beneath them, the being heaved upright and cried out as it lunged toward the closing tear, but the hum stopped, the lands stilled.
The visitor remained.
It discovered its onlooker and both understood, the visitor was there to stay.
A Puddle of Broken Promises by Donna Matthews
“Hurry! See those red clouds in the east? We need to finish this access tunnel!”
“But I don’t want to live underground!” Sam cried.
“I know, love. None of us do. But here we are…please hand me that cement bag. I need your help to pour it.”
She couldn’t show her rising panic. They needed to hurry, but the cement would only set as fast as it would. She knew yesterday the negotiations were melting down into a puddle of broken promises. Now, the red radioactive cloud had reached her horizon. They had just until nightfall to be underground.
Meltdown by D. Avery
“Yer lookin’ hot unner the collar Kid. Fit ta be tied.”
“Got nuthin’ fer this prompt Pal. Meltdown? Yeesh. I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout meltdowns.”
“Hmmm. Tell ya Kid, it reminds me a way back rodeoin’. Drew a bull named Meltdown. Whoooeee, ya think this is a tough write? They was one rough ride. Ok’ Meltdown threw me inta the air an’ if not fer some serious rodeo clowns woulda stomped me inta the ground. Was sure weak-kneed after thet one.”
“That’s a short story pal, kinda incomplete.”
“So was thet ride. But I got up.”
“Write on, Pal.”