Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.
We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Soldier, Prisoner & Buttercup by Christine Bialczak
Jessie stepped off the bus into the dusty heat. Instantly his lips dried and his throat felt scratchy. Walking into the station, Jessie looked around. The old guy at the counter looked up.
“Can I help you?”
“Sure, I’m looking for Merle.” The old guy stood up and Jessie noticed he was missing his right arm. Bounding out behind him a golden lab ran at Jessie.
“Darn dog! Stay!”
Jessie caught the dog in his arms and smiled. “Hey, girl!”
“How do you know my dog?”
“I was her trainer, up at the prison. She must’ve recognized my voice.”
An Exciting Invitation by Sue Spitulnik
“Tessa, remember Ben, the double amputee I worked with?” Michael asked. “He’s doing great now he’s paired with a yellow lab named Buttercup who was trained in a prison by a guy named James.”
“I didn’t know they released trainers’ names.”
“They don’t. The guys had a chance meeting after James got out when he recognized Buttercup. Ben and friends are building tiny houses for homeless vets in Kansas City and want to start a dog training school. Ben asked James to train more trainers. They want me to come talk about second chances.”
“I’m going too.”
Pups for People by Annette Rochelle Aben
Gail leaned over in her wheelchair and smiled at the furry little family. “Buttercup, you’re such a good mother! Your loving pups will one day mean as much to others as you mean to me!”
Gravel crunched under the weight of truck tires. Loretta was here. Gail couldn’t breathe. It was time to say goodbye. “Well, here they are, Loretta. Five enthusiastic recruits for the program. I’m sure the ladies who will train them will do as wonderful a job as you did with Buttercup!”
“Thank you, Gail. I get more out of this program than words can say!”
Dog Days v2 by Scott Bailey
Beautiful in her tight orange jumpsuit, Ramona introduced me to Buster. For the next three days at the prison, the two year old Yellow Lab listened intently as Ramona taught me the commands she’d spent two years teaching Buster in the Puppies and Prisoners program. When the training was over, we said our goodbyes and I headed home with Buster at my side. Probably five years later, there was a knock at my door. So I opened it and there stood Ramona. Busters’ tail nearly fell off from wagging it so hard. We all hugged and laughed out loud.
When Blindness Isn’t a Disability Frank James
“I never imagined a trainer like you,” John James, Colonel retired said. His dog’s tail wagged as Malik Jones approached.
Jones smirked, “Never thought you had eyeballs.”
“They don’t work,” James laughed. “Thank you for releasing me from blindness.”
“T-bone did,” Jones replied. He looked down.
“Humility,” James said.
“Prison humbles a man. It’s why I train dogs for the blind,” Jones replied.
“Well, it helped you. My Freedom Team Foundation assists veterans like you. It reviewed your case, convincing a judge to give you another trial,” James said.
Jones collapsed, looking up. “This began when greed blinded me.”
Buttercup by Hugh W. Roberts
“Good to see you back, James.”
“Have I missed much?”
“Nothing, apart from the 100-year war. We’d have lost if it were not for the secret weapon you trained while away.”
“I thought I recognised her.”
“Why did you name it Buttercup?”
“The prisoner I shared a cell with had a pet by the same name. I thought it suited her.”
“As you can see, I lost an arm and leg, but not in the war. I volunteered to be Buttercup’s victim. Now, tell us the secrets you learned of the human race while in one of their prisons.”
Pay It Forward by Marsh Ingrao
James traveled in a time tunnel as the bus took him away. Two hundred dollars. He’d never held that much money. He smiled his thanks. “$215,” the kiosk at the bus terminal said. James’ hands shook. Hey, Buddy, just get out? How much you short?” “Fifteen,” James said. Parents dead, no way to meet girls in solitary. “Thanks, man, I’ll…” “Pay it forward.” James nodded unsure what to say. The bus pulled into a darkened parking lot of a deserted Iowa gas station. “Would Aunt Sally accept a call from her brother’s bad kid?” James looked for a payphone.
Yes, Man to a Nomen by JulesPaige
James exited the bus in Paulina, Iowa and was confronted by a man filling his car for gas. Frank stood, apparently on false legs. He was confident and strong, which was more than what James was right now after leaving prison. Frank stood filling his truck, his dog poked his head out. James whispered; “Buttercup?” Who then ran to Jim as he knelt to pet the dog. Frank questioned with his eyes and James explained; I trained her. “You did good!” Frank said, adding; “Want to train more?” Jim’s grin was a positive answer. “I’m James” “Get in, Jimmy!”
Flutter of Hope by Michael Fishman
James woke to something warm on his cheek. He’d fallen asleep again on the sidewalk outside of Donaldsons’. He opened his eyes, blinked hard. The smiling Lab knocked over the HOMELESS sign on James’ lap in her haste to say hello again. “Buttercup?” “She knows you.” James looked up, saw a tall man with prosthetics where his left arm and leg used to be. “I trained her. I—” “Inmate?” “Was. Sometimes maybe still am. Vet? “Iraq. Buttercup, she saved my life.” James swatted a tear. The man reached down. “Let me give you a hand up, pal. You hungry?”
Sunny by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Sergeant Jan Mathers? It’s good to meet you.” “Same here.” I reached out with my one good arm and shook his hand. For a newly released inmate, John Tyler held himself confidently. Sunny, my support dog, whined at my side. “It’s okay girl, you remember him, don’t you?” Tyler locked eyes with the golden lab. “After Iraq, I never thought I needed help, but I’d lost more than just an arm. I’m thankful you trained her. She saved my life.” Tyler grinned. “She saved my life, too.” “You start at the pound Monday, Tyler. Don’t be late.” “Yes ma’am.”
The Measure of a Man’s Best Friend by Chel Owens
The Greyhound halted. This was where $200 took James. He disembarked, shouldered his prison-issued backpack, and read the station’s name: Kum & Go. “Here to rob it?” James swung to see a man by a pickup; opened his mouth, then shut it. The man had no legs. The truck had a dog. -But not just any dog. “Buttercup!” The yellow lab hurtled out and licked him, desisting at her master’s call. James had trained her in prison, as a service animal for a wounded soldier. James looked up, and both men saw each other -clearly- for the first time.
More Than a Number by Duane L Herrmann
James loved dogs. He’d had one as a pet – for a few days – until his dad shot it. He learned not to cry. He learned cruelty at home and was sent to prison for it. In prison, he could have a dog. The dog made him human, teaching love, acceptance, and bonding. The dog respected James as no human ever had. The dog demonstrated respect and obedience. James felt different, but good. The dog was passed on to help others who could not help themselves. James trained another. Eventually, James was released, more whole than ever before.
Playing Ball by Geoff LePard
When Ron Precarious left the Army, having lost his left testicle in an accidental conflagration caused by some malfunctioning self-immolating underwear that were part of his brother Tom’s initiation ceremony as Little Tittweaking’s self-appointed Demonic Representative, he was happy to see Tom jailed. Tom waited by the prison gates. Ron pointed at the terrier with two additional heads attached to its neck. ‘Well? How’s he going to fix this? Tom unclipped the dog’s lead. ‘Find Uncle Ron’s ball, Cerberus!’ In a puff of smoke Cerberus disappeared. ‘You sure you can trust him?’ ‘Better the devil you know…’
Saying Bye to Buttercup by KL Caley
He buried his face into the soft golden fur and let out one slow sob, hoping against hope the other prisoners wouldn’t hear. Another excuse for a beating was the last thing he needed. He looked into buttercup’s large brown eyes and felt his heart tear. He had always known he would only have her a short while, that was the point of the Puppies Behind Bars program, yet saying goodbye was harder than he had realised it would be. He finally had someone in his life that understood what it was to give unconditional love. He’d miss her.
Rescue Dog by Anne Goodwin
Everything she loved was taken from her. So, when the cell door closed, she resolved never to love again. She wouldn’t love the puppies she trained as support dogs for disabled veterans. Hell, she only did that job to expedite her release. Once out, she refused to love the freedom. Perhaps that’s why she got in the car with the mean-eyed man. And his golden retriever that smelled like one of hers. She refused to care when he pulled a knife and unzipped his fly. But when he grabbed her clothing, the dog bit his arm and she ran.
Far From Prison by Gary A. Wilson
“Buttercup?” The soldier, veteran and just-released felon met the dog’s eyes. “How are you here?” Expecting a small town far from prison, the bus had left him at the midnight neon lights of this dusty gas station surrounded by corn fields. Apparently – this is the town. A pickup had pulled in. Buttercup jumped out on seeing him. He knelt, “Come here girl – there.” He’d trained her for the Dogs for Veterans project in prison. Her owner, with prosthetic legs and a captain’s insignia jacket approached. He instinctively stood and saluted. “At ease. Soldier—how do you know my dog?”
Dog Days by Scott Bailey
Skinny, inked, mid-forties and incarcerated, Ramon introduced me to Buster. For the next three days at the prison the two year old Yellow Lab listened intently as Ramon taught me the commands he’d spent two years teaching Buster in the Puppies and Prisoners program. So impressed was I with Ramon, I told him to write me next year when he gets out, I can help him with a job. Six months later the warden calls me, says Ramon died. Prison gang payback for something or other. I didn’t tell Buster about Ramon dying, but I think he knew.
Joint Custody Bill Engleson
“He’s coming, buddy. Your old friend. Love it! Yeah, he’s a good boy. That got your tail wagging. Here let me really give that old chewie a toss.” Bailey gets his balance in check and wings it high over the swings. Little Girl is pumping hard. I scoot around her just avoiding her return descent. I remember him. Within that space, I became a helper. We were as one, Jimmy and I, until I was sent here. Got the chewie. And what’s that? It’s him. Coming ‘round the side of the house. No high walls. All my people together.
Peeling the Labels by Doug Jacquier
“I’m sorry about you being a cripple for your country, Greg,” Harley said to the veteran.
“We don’t say that anymore, Harley, we say ‘person with a disability’. But thanks and I’m sorry about you having been a prisoner.”
“We don’t say ‘prisoner’ anymore. We say ‘person who is incarcerated’ or, in my case, ‘was’.”
“Anyway, about that dog you trained for me. It’s the thought that counts and I appreciate it and we get along really well, but all he seems to want to do is escape.”
“Yeah, I did that deliberately, so you could follow his lead.”
As Far as a Prisoner Can Go by Nancy Brady
The invasion began with bombs and gunfire. Oksana and her husband Andriy were hiding out. Andriy was obligated to serve, but he insisted she must go. Escaping the prison of a bomb shelter, Oksana made the last train out of Kyiv, knowing she was leaving behind Andriy to fight, perhaps die. The train only went so far; she would need to walk miles toward a new world. Along the way, Oksana found a young child crying and clinging to his dead parents. Oksana picked up the boy, calling him Matviy, making him her own as they continued toward safety.
Released by D. Avery
“Know whut I’m thinkin Pal?”
“Nope, but I gotta feelin yer gonna tell me.”
“Thinkin I’d just a-soon we was still somewheres else this week. I got nuthin.”
“Jeez, Kid. Already back whining bout the prompts?”
“Mebbe we was imprisoned, Pal.”
“Don’t think so Kid.”
“Yeah, jailed, but training puglets ta hep vets.”
“No, veterans. Service hogs fer those who served.”
“Servin up bacon?”
“That ain’t funny, Pal. Think a Curly.”
“Thinkin mebbe ya should oughta disappear agin, lay low till there’s a easier challenge.”
“Think I will. Come on, Curly. See ya later Pal.”
“Phew! I’m free!”
[…] Flash Fiction Challenge Entries – Spin off this month’s Story Chat […]
These turned out great, Charli. I have some favorites, and I almost hate to say which they are, but Kid and Pal made me laugh, as usual. Nobody on this site can get offended at Kid and Pal being a fav. I love the way they turned out so differently. I had to laugh at Geoff and the lost testicle. LOL I know that’s no laughing matter but … Many of them kept close to the storyline, but Anne’s veered significantly, and not in a way I’d expect. I’d say this was a raging success, my friend. Congratulations, and belated Happy Birthday.
It’s okay to voice favorites, and it’s helpful to say why! The humor is always a welcome vibe within the collection, and I appreciate how writers expand or reimagine the storyline. Thank you for inspiring this!
I think it was a joint effort – inspiration coming mostly from you!
With stories that range from silly to serious, this is yet another sublime collection.
It might interest readers to know that in Geoff’s story the dog actually retrieved not one but two balls; the film version is entitled ET, The Extra Testicle, and while that means mc Ron is more whole than before, Duane L. Herrmann’s story about a man becoming more whole struck me as more wholesome.
Overall, these stories show how dogs can help, heal, and bring out the best in humans. My hat is off to all you writers who unleashed your creativity and went where this unique and challenging prompt led.
I’m dying, ET!!! You know, Geoff does not need the encouragement. He has cosmic depth in his humor and imagination. I agree that these stories bring out the best in both the 4-paw and two-paw people.
Great job to you all; dogged excellence made it happen for you . I certainly understand D’s issue with the prompt as I felt the same way. Enjoyed reading them all.
I continued to use travel and time as an excuse for not writing for this prompt, but Kid certainly had issues with it. I am amazed at how well everyone did with this challenge. I liked the current events take of yours.
Ha, ha — dogged excellence. Good one, Nan!
I thought this weeks prompt was the most challenging of the five or six I’ve taken part in so far. And what I mean by that is, even though Charli was quite specific with what she wanted to see in the stories (I want to see a disabled vet, a dog and a prisoner and all three in a chance encounter), which should make crafting a story a snap, but with only 99 words to work with made it very challenging. I tried to concentrate on, what to me, was the essence of the original story. I felt like I had to leave out parts like the bus ride, the gate money, the gas station, etc… to focus on the essence as I see it. That’s why I found it very interesting to see how some writers were able to retain as much of the original story as they did. To them I would like to extend “this Laurel, and Hardy handshake”, they stayed very true to the prompt. And to some others who went in an entirely different direction, my hat’s off to you , too. It’s tough to pick a favorite this week so I’ll just say congratulations to all and to all a good write!
I haven’t been very present at the ranch the past few weeks and did not participate in this challenge, but am glad to see you discuss your process. I have always loved the puzzling and whittling of the 99 word challenge, getting the story just so in just so many words. And you think, there, I did it, and then read others’ and see all the other ways it can be managed. A learning opportunity for sure. Maybe one time we should all do two or three versions of our own responses to a prompt, as you did with this one. Maybe people do, as they draft.
Good point about the constraint requiring focus in the essence. That’s another aspect of 99-words as a tool — it can give us enough space to find a focus, and also let us play with different ideas, arrangements, and details. Congrats to all of you who took this challenging challenge on!
[…] The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Soldier, Prisoner and Buttercup, which I unfortunately didn’t find time to respond to, can be read at the Carrot […]
I’m just impressed with everyone who responded. This really stretched me.
It was fantastic stretching by all the writers. Thanks for taking up the challenge, Chel.
I applaud all who took Charli’s dare. This was a very different challenge but those who participated showed once again, that we all write from our own thoughts and experiences. I especially enjoyed those who used female veterans.
Ah, I appreciated the inclusion of female veterans, too! Thanks, Sue!
I was distracted by other things and didn’t join in with this prompt, but I’m impressed by all the responses. Some stayed truish to Charli’s story, others strayed a little, but they all fulfilled the requirements of the challenge – or should I say exceeded. The humour, the sadness, the serious – they were all great. Well done everyone. I enjoyed the read.
It’s a great collection to read, Norah. Thank you!
It is indeed. 🙂
Doug… I enjoyed your story. Labels can be so confusing.
I’m really behind but hope to read more from this collection and others collections soon.
[…] Flash Fiction from several Story Chat Authors on Carrot Ranch Literary Community. […]
[…] Flash Fiction Challenge Entries – Spinoff May’s Story […]
[…] Flash Fiction Challenge Entries – Spinoff May’s Story […]