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.
A Living Canvass by Benjamin Nambu
A soothing song sat softly on her mind all day and wouldn’t leave, like the way her story was trapped in that old dress and wouldn’t fade. The moving notes guided her fingers groping the margins of her heart for the right words to describe what that dress had come to symbolize for her.
Although time has hemmed her to death, years upon years have lip-synced and hummed her dress, but none has ever been able to truly sing its symbol.
The tenants are no more, but this old dress has lived to tell stories that once slept here.
The Ghost in the Dress by Hugh W. Roberts
The ghost always returned on the night of February 14th. Dressed in World War II uniform, we’d watch as it undressed and put on the dress we’d found behind the wood panelling in the main bedroom.
Our mother didn’t want to keep the dress in the house. She referred to it as an evil piece of cloth, but we couldn’t allow her to dispose of this piece of 1940s history.
“Does it still fit me?” the ghost always asked.
We’d nod our heads, smile and reply with the same answer.
“Yes. And you look so pretty in it, David.”
The Dress by Colleen M. Chesebro
Mildred hung the dress on a peg in the changing room she shared with the other actresses. She shivered. This place gave her the creeps. She’d felt odd ever since she’d arrived.
As a Betty Grable look-alike, Mildred often stood in for the star. But today, they had filmed the scene in this abandoned shack in the woods.
“Jack, in here,” a woman’s voice called out. “It’s still here.”
“What’s still there?”
“The dress. You know, the dress Mildred Setterfield wore as a stand-in for Betty Grable in the movie, “Suspense”. She died of an aneurysm in this cabin.”
Dress Rehearsal by Bill Engleson
I was looking for a career change.
“Real Estate,” Herb said.
Herb was retiring after a lifetime of selling dreams.
Dreams the shape of houses.
“I’ll give that a shot,” I said.
Herb mentored me.
After a year, he announced, “You’re good, kid. People like you. One more test.“
Herb took me to the Woffington Mansion.
“Anyone can sell a beauty. Selling a hovel with…history…takes talent.”
He pointed to the stained dress hanging above the great mantle.
“Tears. Letitia Woffington’s. Lover killed in the war. Inconsolable. Wept ‘til she died.”
Next week, my ex bought it.
World War Free, 2075 by D. Avery
The dress is displayed for all to see, to honor our foremothers. Over so many years, it’s now a collage of material and threads from its many patchings and repairs, each one a story within a story.
It was last worn in 2045 in commemoration of the Great Realization, begun some twenty years prior. By then the efforts of sisters the world over were coming to fruition, and our great Mother, Earth, had begun Her healing.
Acting from love, our sisters drew on their skills, strengths, and even magic to remedy the world’s ills.
Today people live without fear.
Thereby Hangs a Tale by Doug Jacquier
Her car broke down on an old highway on a winter night. Seeing a light in the distance, she trudged to the door of a house adjacent to a rundown motel. A man answered her knock and said his phone was out and then showed her to one of the units. In the room hung a dress like ones she’d seen in old movies and the man took it, saying ‘Mother’s. Sorry.’ As he left he wished her goodnight, smiled broadly and said ‘By the way, my name is Norman. Norman Bates. Would you like some milk and cookies?’
The One Who Left the Dress by Norah Colvin
The rotten timbers remained upright thanks to the bushes, branches and vines. Grassy tufts sprouted through decaying floorboards where leaves, animal scats and other detritus littered. The only hint of previous occupants was a wardrobe, miraculously still standing. Sandy gasped as its door fragmented as she opened it. Using her phone’s torch, she peered through cobwebs and dust, hoping for treasure. All she found was a dress, completely in tatters, but still hanging.
“Isn’t this your great grandmother’s — the one in the photo in the hall?”
“Could be.” said Angus. “So what?”
“I wonder why she left it here.”
A Photographic Memory by Nancy Brady
My sisters and I found the dress tucked in the back of Mom’s closet after she died. While I remember many dresses she wore when I was young, I don’t remember this one.
It was navy with polka dots, a large lace collar, and belted at the waist, and it was unlike any dress I had ever seen her wear.
We continued cleaning the house, discovering a professional photograph of her and our aunt, taken in 1943, after her high school graduation. In it, Mom is not only wearing this dress, but smiling, something she rarely did in photos.
The One Who Left the Dress by kathy70
Closets are small or non-existent, most of us don’t have a lot of clothes. My sister, brother and I share a dresser, we each have one drawer and the 4th is everyone’s socks.
Except for the closet under the stairs which has some clothes that no one wears.
Who gave us those things?
Why has mama never worn this blue dress, did this belong to her sister who died after getting so sick?
Was she afraid the dress would make her sick too and she would have to move away?
The doctor said grandma is doing very well today.
The Dress by Joanne Fisher
Jess discovered a dress in the spare room she had never seen before. She found Cindy in the study working at the computer.
“Whose is this?” Jess asked holding the dress up. Cindy turned and looked at it.
“Technically mine. Cousin Stacy left it here when she last visited. I never liked it, so I stuck it in the spare room.” Cindy explained.
“Um, it’s okay.” Jess remarked.
“Then maybe you should wear it.”
“I never wear dresses.” Jess stated.
“It’s not too late to start.” Cindy said. Jess looked at it again.
“Let’s just give it to Goodwill.”
That Dress by Duane L Herrmann
It was a simple dress, even elegant, from the 1940s. Her mother had been married in it, her pregnancy not yet obvious. Weeks after the birth, the mother died. The dress is all the daughter had left. She would look at it and wonder: What did she look like in it? How did she get it? What did her father think of her in it? The woman didn’t really remember her father, just a man who held her in his big strong arms. Then was gone. Later, she learned he was drunk with grief and drove off the road.
Satisfied Spirit by JulesPaige
I had always wanted to stay in this house. The house my husband built. But his only son, the one from his first marriage and also helped to build it, thought that after my husband died I was too much of a burden. And fostered me onto my middle daughter.
I always wanted to be a part of that house. I took one of my small cotton summer dresses, folded it and stuffed it in a loose floorboard when they weren’t home.
After that house was sold to finance my eldercare… I waited to return to my beloved home.
The One Who Left the Dress by Jenny Logan
That dress was the last straw. She had been wearing increasingly modest clothing for the last decade trying to appease him.
Her eyes were opened. She realized she had had more freedom in a religious cult than she had now. When a visit to Out Patients for a general and “getting the guts ripped out” felt like a nice daytrip, one simply wasn’t getting out enough.
She laughed aloud, slightly maniacally, packing her bag. Some people were never satisfied. She vowed not to become one of them and reversed all the way down the driveway, spraying gravel like confetti.
Sherloq by Simon
A 1940’s Era dress, hung in style on a big large mansion. For 82 years this was a treasure.
For Sherloq the dress wasn’t the treasure, but the secret it held. A small silver thread under the collar, 100 year old currency with a missing thread.
The clues matched precisely, this was a treasure that never reached the right person.
Sherloq found where the map is, the button is the direction, but the button was not there. After browsing thousands of museums found the button.
Sherloq began his solitary journey, he believed he was the only one, he isn’t.
Disappeared 40 (Part I) by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The Mage had left Joseph wandering the haunted mansion’s grounds. As memories returned, Joseph needed time away within the Shadowlands to grieve his losses. Given time, Joseph’s moans would quiet as he began to return to himself.
The Scottish mage also needed time away. He thought of The Twins and their mother, Bethany: just like that, he was there.
First to Bethany, in an unfamiliar, dark attic room. A vintage dress, ivory-colored with a lace veil, hung in the dusky light. She knelt beneath it, burying her face in its skirts.
The Mage’s heart cracked, “Poor girl.”
Disappeared 40 (Part II) by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The twin girls slammed the attic’s trap door, excelsior and cobwebs tangled in their curls. “Mama, lookit what we found!”
The Scottish mage looked from the girls gripping the vintage dress they’d found, and to Bethany’s distraught face.
“It’s just an old dress. Here, I’ll take it. It’s probably moldy,” Bethany said.
“It’s ours to keep!” mewled Duckie.
“Let go, girls,” the mage murmured. “It’s her most special dress.”
Chuckie gazed at her mother’s face, nudged her twin. “Here, Mama.”
Bethany took the dress, running trembling hands over the embroidered bodice.
“You’re right, Shadowman,” whispered Ducks.
“Who’s Shadowman, girls?”
The Last Day of the Dress by Raelyn Pracht
The mustard frock with its dulled glass buttons hung askew on a wire hanger in the upstairs closet of an abandoned house. She rubbed the sheer nylon between her two fingers – transporting herself back to the last day she had worn it.
That morning was beautiful with the sun beaming through the eastern windows of the large house. She smiled brightly at it as she drew back the heavy drapes of the bedroom.
“It’s the perfect day to die.”
She laid down on the bed, smoothing out the yellow dress so she would look pristine when he found her.
A Box of Clothes Left Behind by Sadje
My mom passed away 55 years ago, when I was barely 6. When I was 15, my grandmother showed me a box of her clothes that she had preserved with care for me. It was such a unexplainable feeling to touch the clothes she had worn when she was alive, because I hardly remembered her.
I altered most of them to my size as I was quite good at stitching by that age. And wore them with pride. It didn’t matter to me that the fabrics were outdated, just that they once belonged to my mom whom I loved.
Dress to Dust by Annette Rochelle Aben
She said yes to the dress. It belonged to her grandmother’s sister, for whom she was named. She had only seen photographs of her great aunt in the dress. It was all so romantic idea.
With her best friend by her side, she walked into the old family home, heading for the attic stairs. Cobwebs covered the walls and dust motes danced in the sparkling shaft of sunlight that stood between them and the dress.
On the other side of the sun, they gasped! As they watched, the beautiful dress from the picture fall apart right before their eyes.
The Abandoned House by E.A. Colquitt
Iris didn’t want to go. If somebody saw them – she wasn’t a burglar!
Participating, however, would make her one of the group much more easily…
She compromised, walking the house’s perimeter while the others went indoors. Around the back, colour unfurled through a broken window: pale yellow, like the inside of a banana, but it had once been gold.
How did she know? Iris touched the snagged material, avoiding the jagged pane, and – and found herself in a bright dance hall.
Everyone was done up: victory-roll hair, dresses with capped sleeves.
Iris looked down. She was clothed in sunshine.
Unknown Logging Camp 1901 by Charli Mills
Lindy laced the boots Stan stole for her over socks Joe nabbed the week before. She used her flimsy hosiery to belt a long flannel shirt she stripped from Gary when he was drunk. No pants. She’d escape if all she wore were boots. Lindy greased her hand with lard Fred swiped from the cookshack. She slipped the shackle, slinking past tents and shacks. Her dress still hung in the log boss’s window like a conquered curtain. She’d leave it behind with the memory of that night they stripped and chained her to the deep nowhere woods of Michigan.
Hidden Memory by Ann Edall-Robson
“Gran, do you remember we bought the property next to your parent’s old place?”
“I might be old, but I remember,” she paused, “everything!”
“There’s an abandoned cabin near the creek.”
The old woman nodded.
“I found this.” She said, lifting the lid from a soiled box. “Do you know anything about this wedding dress and tiara?”
Tears streamed down her grandmother’s anguished face.
The family matriarch searched for the hankie tucked in her sleeve. Sniffing, she knew it was time to tell the story she had kept hidden, along with the dress, since that day in 1949.
A Blue Reminder by Sue Spitulnik
While visiting Tyrell’s parents’ beautiful remote home, Tessa spotted the abandoned house almost hidden by trees. Tyrell offered to take her to see it.
As they entered, Tessa noticed the faded fancy blue dress hanging by a window.
Tyrell said, “Mama tells, my Grandma was to wear that to wed her beau, but another migrant killed him in a knife fight about who was to be boss. Grandma died soon after, so my Mama, already a young girl, hung that dress there to be a reminder to break the family cycle of poverty and violence. You’re witnessing her success.”
Author’s Note: Tyrell is the African-American drummer in Michael’s band.
Unsolved Mystery by Ruchira
“Milo! Don’t forget to take your prom dress and lock the main door before you leave.” Mom shouted while leaving for work at at noon.
Milo heard her and dozed off.
The alarm clock blared at 4 pm, which made her spring up with a jolt.
“Gosh! I’m late. Let me wear my dress here instead.” She locked the door behind her.
Hours ticked by, and Mom returned from work to find the dress in her closet.
She rushed to her school with knitted eyebrows to find Milo in one.
“Whose dress are you wearing? Who left this behind?”
Nea’s Dress Returned by Charli Mills
Throughout 1944, Nea stitched the dress in anticipation of welcoming home her brothers. She’d expanded their farm into a blooming enterprise. Flower bouquets sold well, despite disapproval from jilted men too old to farm or fight. Nea’s land flourished in ever-changing color patterns. Florals earned her keep. Only one brother returned the day she wore the dress. Rumors of her flower dalliance and refusal to marry agitated him. He hacked her plants, burned the dress, and sent her to the asylum. The flowers reseeded and witnesses claim to see a pristine dress waiting in a window. Undeterred, she returned.
Mystery Solved by Anne Goodwin
“You’ve got the figure for it,” said Janice.
Heather fingered the fabric. “It’s rather faded, but I do love vintage clothes. Especially polka dots.”
“I wonder who wore it. How it ended up here.”
Heather glanced at her watch. “Let’s sort this out later. It’s nearly time for the group.”
Heather locked the door on the abandoned suitcases. The women hurried to the ward. The patients assembled in the group room, bribed by the promise of biscuits and tea.
“Remember we’re going an outing next week?” Heather prompted.
“Tea with the mayor,” said Matty. “I’ll wear my polka-dot dress.”
The One Who Left the Dress by D. Avery
“The factory is giving our jobs to the men. Some thanks.”
“What are you complaining about, Maeve? Your husband made it home, intact. He wants to start a family.” She giggled and slapped her friend playfully. “Time to get back to the real business of being a woman.”
“I liked working.”
“So be a secretary.”
“Rick agreed to secretarial work. He even bought me this dress.”
“It’s perfect! Oh, gotta run. Dinner!”
“I built airplanes,” Maeve whispered as her friend let herself out.
Then she packed her suitcase. She included some of Rick’s clothes. She left the dress behind.
“This looks like it’s from the forties.”
“It is. I think it’s perfect for my first day. At Ms. Magazine!”
“I thought they wore pants. Where’d you get it anyway?”
“Family heirloom. See, my mother had a friend who left this dress along with her husband soon after the war because she didn’t want to be a housewife or secretary. After my mother divorced her crazy first husband, she married the friend’s husband and got the dress too.”
“That’s not family.”
“Sure it is. That sister left this dress behind. Her choice helped get us where we are today.”
“Uh-oh. The dress. What’s wrong?”
“I think my mom never gave her mom enough credit.”
“Grammy got herself out of an abusive relationship and into a good loving one. She chose to be a housewife and mother and was damn good at it.”
“Is it the promotion?”
“Same old story. A guy I trained got it.”
“We can’t afford to do what my grandparents did.”
“It should be a choice. An affordable choice.”
“Maybe your mom will lace up her marching shoes again. Really? Kids?”
“No. Maybe. Who will I leave this dress to?”
Myth of Wholeness by Reena Saxena
Do they know how much I loved my existence here?
That dress is just a part of me – one they chose to preserve. There was so much more which has been destroyed or left alone to perish.
A thought process, small impressions stitched together to blend with the whole called personality….
If you choose to remember this, it becomes a part of you.
And yet, wholeness is only a myth. I know it now, as I disintegrate, reform, reshape to touch the universe in different ways – once again, maybe forever…
Enrich the smallest parts to make a large impact.
Keep Karm and Carry On by Geoff Le Pard
Little Tittweaking was once a libertarian sanctuary. Only when the Mayor, Marmaduke Cornplaster was left three octaves beyond comfortable and Councillor Ali Bye had nowhere to hide did the tide turn. Constance-Lee Horrified led the defence in the middle of festival week that was dubbed: ‘Fed up with the Karma Sutra? Enjoy more Frantic Sutras in the company of percussive contortionist Elle Astic-Thighs and her vaginal wind orchestra, The Whistling Fannies of Tallinn’. Using brollies and hat pins Constance-Lee drove out the naked exhibitors, whose abandoned dresses were flown from the Town Hall as a warning.
Side Lines (Part I) by D. Avery
“Ain’t seen no one kayakin the irrigation ditches lately, Kid. Helga an Hess still aroun?”
“Ever figger out which one’s which?”
“Sure. One prefers Fords, one prefers GM.”
“Which un perfers which?”
“D’oh! Well, still, it proves they ain’t sisters afterall.”
“Cause clearly one weren’t raised right an the other was.”
“Which— oh never mind. They comin back?”
“Reckon we’ll see em agin Pal.”
“Good. Think one of em left a dress.”
“How would ya know?”
“Which way’d they head?”
“Def’nitely north. Helga’s got a GSP.”
“Aw fric, Kid.”
A Purty Dress, Well Hung by D. Avery
“Kid, what’s a dress doin at the Saddle Up?”
“Address? The Saddle Up is jist over the line. Whyn’tcha ask Frankie, she’d know.”
“Not an address. A dress. Who’d leave a dress behind?”
“What about lemons? Thet why yer face is all puckered? Don’t be so sour. I jist wanna know bout thet dress.”
“Tip an Top.”
“Yep, Kid, thet dress is in tiptop shape. But who left it?”
“Tip an Top, the Lemmon brothers. They’s the only ones I kin figger’d leave a dress behin. But they always say it’s what’s behin the dress that matters.”
Side Lines (Part II) by D. Avery
“Pal, that dress weren’t Helga or Hess’s. A Lemmon brother come got it.”
“Tip, or Top?”
“Um… frac, cain’t say fer sure.”
“Kid, I feel bad fer characters like Tip an Top, Helga an Hess… indistinguishable, always spoke of as one an the same…”
“Mebbe it’s more a sidekick thing, Pal.”
“Sidekick? Like Mini-Me?”
“Or Festus ta Matt Dillon. Pal, I kin think a tons a male sidekick combos, but I’m hard prest ta come up with women pairs.”
“Mebbe cuz sidekicks trail behind, unequal. A frien balances an supports, always at yer side.”
“I kin git behind that.”
That was a hefty collection, from a generous set of perspectives. Nice work, Ranchers!!
Well, what a collection frocked up to strut the runway this week and no-one was dressing down (although some were delivering one, mmm, Ms. D. ?)
I got particular frills from these ensembles.
Benjamin – ‘Time has hemmed her to death’
Hugh – Clever turn. 14th Feb reference escaped me at first. Ironically, on Valentine’s Day in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie and it’s still haunting him.
Colleen – Creepy and well crafted (the story that is). 😉
Bill – Still pondering that last line, which I suspect is diabolically loaded.
Kathy70 – Snuck up on us, you scallywag.
Jenny – Great finish ‘spraying gravel like confetti’.
Raelyn – You had me from ‘The mustard frock with its dulled glass buttons’.
Sadje – ‘It didn’t matter to me that the fabrics were outdated’. As we say in Oz, good on ya.
Charli – Stark and dark in ‘the deep nowhere woods’.
All dressed up and everywhere to go…with mystery and intrigue, with cotton and silk, with stories about the dress that was. Way to go, Word Wranglers.
[…] sure to go to Carrot Ranch to read the complete “The One Who left the Dress” collection from last week. And there’s always the Ranch Yarns with Kid and Pal’s […]
[…] read the full collection, click here […]
I think this is one of my favorite collections. Excellent everyone… D. Avery’s World War Free 2075, gave me goosebumps! What a great story! Bravo everyone! Excellent takes on the prompt. 💜
Unfortunately, my ‘like’ button is now temperamental: working on some webpages when I click it, but not on others. I don’t know if it’s because of WordPress, or Firefox, or what! Is anyone else struggling with this (apart from Colleen. I already know Colleen is)?
Anyway, good job, everyone – as ever 🙂 My favourite story this week was Ann’s – I want to know the grandmother’s tale/backstory now!
Great pieces everyone. I enjoy telling my friends about all the different stories that come from one prompt. Charli, your log boss is a man I’m glad I’ve never met.
What an amazing wardrobe of stories, such rich color and texture. Well done everyone!
Charli, I see you have honored the gardener you encountered at Ghost House Farm with a story. Both your stories feature strong women who persevere. I’m glad the log camp woman also had friends to help her away.
Thank you again for honoring all these characters and their writers here in this collection.