The Dishes Collection

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.

February 8, 2023

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.

The Dishes by Sadje

We all have different approaches when it comes to doing the dishes. I like to wash them as they are dirtied, a piled up kitchen sink is not acceptable.

My eldest daughter uses the dishwasher, rinsing them when she has enough for a load and then running it. She says it conserves water and time.

My youngest loves washing dishes by hand. She says it relaxes her and she’d insist on doing them whenever she gets the chance!

The rest of the family, like my husband or grandson, are still under the tutelage on how to wash the dishes!

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Grease Trap by Sarah Whiley

The grease was thick and clung like blooms of algae atop the water. The plates and utensils blurred watercolours; my hands blindly hunting for them below the surface.

The roast had been delicious but I wished Barney hadn’t thrown the pans in with the dishes.

I drummed my fingers on the bench top as I thought. I walked to the pantry to grab some paper towel, hoping to spread the slimy load. But as I turned around I saw he was already pulling the plug!

“Barns, no!” I wailed.

Peacefully, the water flooded as the grease clogged the pipes.

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Seeing Straight by D. Avery

Me and Aunt Helen picked up takeout while Daddy walked to the package store, then we set the little table in our new apartment with those fancy dishes. We shared lo mein out of a dish Helen called a tureen and we all drank out of tea cups with saucers.

Katie called and Daddy told us that Katie said dirtying dishes missed the point of takeout. Helen laughed and said that was the point. She laughed even more when Daddy said Katie said he was blurring his words.

“Splained it’s a family celebration of clean slates and dirty dishes.”

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This Boot Is Made For Walking by Ilene Higginbottom

Once upon a time that pesky little Cupid kept buzzing around like a deerfly until finally it bit the reluctant one-legged cowgirl princess.

Every day her cowboy cooed and wooed, brought her roses and stuff like that until they finally shacked up together.

Because of that he got complacent. There was no wooing and less cooing and he didn’t help with the dishes. She noticed the last rose forgotten in the vase, all thorny stem, its bloom blackened and brittle. She noticed that Cupid’s sting was beginning to fester and itch.

Finally, she pulled on her boot and walked.

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Breaking Tradition by D. Avery

“House warming gift,” Aunt Helen said. Daddy lifted paper from the box.

“You said you could use some dishes.”

“Momma’s China set! We were never allowed to touch these. I don’t think they ever got used.”

“Not even at Christmas.”

“What am I supposed to do with these?”

“Use them!”

“What if they break?”

“What if?” And Aunt Helen raised a plate over her head and smashed it down on the floor! “I’m not going to be stuck with these dishes.” She let me break one too.

“Every day,” she said, looking right at me, “Is to be celebrated.”

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Memories by Margaret G. Hanna

“What ya’ doing?

“Packing up Grandma’s stuff. Like this everyday china.”

“You givin’ it to the thrift store?”

“I don’t know what else to do with it. Do you want it?”

“Why would I want those plates?”

“They were Grandma’s, that’s why!”

“But they’re crazed and stained. The cups are chipped.”

“Remember her fried chicken? It was s-o-o good.”

“Yah, and her meat pies. The best.”

“She gave me my first milky tea in one of those cups.”

“Yah, and that’s why it’s chipped.

A pause.

“Okay, I’ll take one plate, but just to remember Grandma.”

“Yah, me, too.”

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A History Lesson in Dishes by Miss Judy

“Mom, why do you display those dishes? It’s embarrassing.”

“Those dishes are our family history. When your Irish ancestors immigrated to America in 1890, they left all behind for a better life. Fleeing famine, taxes and religious persecution, they and hundreds of others spent weeks huddled on the ship’s floors sharing food and water.”

“Your ancestors brought these dishes wrapped within their clothes. The chips and crakes happened during that journey. They are a reminder of the hardships endured for freedom.”

“You shouldn’t be embarrassed, but proud and thankful for all you have because of their determination and perseverance.”

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Michael Treats the Dishwashers by Sue Spitulnik

In the special occasion restaurant, one server said to the other, “Any idea who the party is on table ten? Every time I take something to the table, one of the older ladies comments how many dishes she had to wash to enjoy it; and everybody laughs.”

The dishwasher, being a veteran, overheard and went to look. The next time he saw the servers, he said, “The younger man on ten is the band leader at the No Thanks. He treats his bandmates’ parents to Valentine’s dinner for doing the dishes during the bar’s annual veterans-only Thanksgiving eve meal.”

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Calamity by Kate Spencer

The emergency room door slid open and in ran Doris, her arms flailing about.

“Aaaaah! Come quickly. A terrible thing. Ralph fell down.”

Grabbing a gurney, the triage nurse and orderly rushed out the door, followed by Doris.

There they found the old codger sitting on a bench with an ice packed ankle.

“What happened?” the nurse asked.

“I tell you, it was an awful thing,” began Doris. “He fell off the roof.”

“What was he doing up there?”

“Giving the old satellite dish a kick.”

The nurse stared at Ralph.

“The picture died and the Yankees were losing.”

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The Garden Party by Norah Colvin

Ellie observed that the table looked delightful. Ollie said he’d never used such fine chinaware before. Teddy commented that the fairy cakes were scrumptious and iced tea was perfect for a warm day. Everyone agreed. Amy and Lucy beamed.

Afterwards, the guests offered to help with the dishes.

“No way,” said Amy. “You’re our guests.”

“We insist,” said Ellie. Swiping swiftly with her trunk, she launched the plates likes frisbees. Ollie deftly caught them and stacked them by the sink. Teddy frothed the soap suds and washed while Lucy dried.

“Many hands,” said Amy, putting cups and plates away.

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Follow 10 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jill, pristine tights now soggy, shivered, wriggling them off while sitting, afraid to stand and tip the shoe-boat. Jack cleared his throat and looked away.

“What?” she growled. “You’ve seen me in shorts before, at Track Regional Finals. And I am wearing undies, so just chill.”

“TMI, Jill,” Jack muttered, cheeks blazing hot.

It was her turn to blush.

The stream slowed, widening. They watched the water in silence. Ants floated on sturdy leaves. Helmeted kittens sailed a tiny Viking ship. An Owl and Pussy Cat rocked blissfully. And along the riverbank, a dish ran away with a spoon.

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Fish in the Dish by Marge Small

One time a highly successful and skillful fisherwoman found herself in Florida, of all places. Every day she wanted to go fishing but what passed for creeks looked like ditches and were lined with alligators and snakes, not to mention snarly, snaggly brambles. Fishing was challenging until she switched her rod and reel for a small bow and arrow. Because of that alligators stopped chasing her bait and it was easier to maneuver. Her tall boots protected her from snakes and thorns. Finally, she’d found a way to put fish in the dish, but couldn’t wait to go home.

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Fully Baked by Nicole Horlings

She kept her opinion inside the oven of her mouth, allowing it to finish cooking while the debate on either side of her continued to heat up. Both of their arguments followed old traditional recipes, the strong flavours clashing and unable to meld. She picked out the ingredients that she felt could be mixed together with the correct emulsifier of context, then mentally prepared a garnish of nuance to sprinkle on top. Once her opinion was properly set, she set the dish on the table, then let it rest, allowing the juices to redistribute as both sides reconsidered things.

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Retirement by Reena Saxena

“I ordered baklava today, but it does not live up to my mom’s cooking”, coos her daughter on the phone while ordering dinner online.

Her husband senses her disappointment.

“Let them live their own lives. You did your best.”

She used to gloat in compliments after guests enjoyed her lavish dinners, and erroneously built her identity around it. She is still appreciated, but not needed.

The importance of the right dish in presenting a culinary masterpiece cannot be overemphasized.

As they dine alone in mellow candlelight, she wonders if she has turned into a dish from a sumptuous meal.

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All the Little Moments by Heather Gonzalez

Martha inhaled her last breath. Within the seconds it took to exhale, she saw her life before her eyes. She saw her mother’s smile as she sipped from a coffee cup, her father hugging her while she washed the dishes after supper, her husband throwing a plate at their wedding, her daughter dropping her cup of juice on the floor, and the day she was diagnosed with cancer and threw her coffee mug against the wall. When her body had finally given up the battle, Martha felt warm water on her hands and her father’s embrace. She was home.

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Apron Strings by Bill Engleson

I could never resist pulling them. Her apron strings. She would stand at the sink, innocently doing dishes, the ones I was supposed to do until she saw how unhappy chores made me. Instead of insisting that I learn some basic kitchen skills, she’d smile, say something like, “I’ll do them, sonny boy,” and that would be that.

Except I never left it at that.

From my earliest years, the strings of her apron dangled invitingly, and I would always come up behind her and pull them.

A thousand times at least.

Each time, a pure act of love.

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Broken by Elizabeth

a broken dish
mended with gold
the scar is precious
it tells time and has a story
shouldn’t be erased, discarded
travelling to countries, continents
rough oceans, calm skies
it reveals a path taken, chosen
to reach the eventful moment
a split second of sorrow
when the past can’t be redone
however, the future is a choice
the trash bin or the shining on the shelf
a decision must be made
the fragility in the hands of the doer
a smile, a memory of celebration
a lump in my throat, a memory of an empty dish
mended with gold

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On This Day by Gloria McBreen

Lily pulled on her warmest woolly jumper and stepped into her oversized wellingtons. She always liked her wellies a size bigger, so that she could wear two pairs of her dad’s socks to keep her toes nice and warm.
She trudged through the marshy field to where the thickest rushes grew. With her small scissors she snipped sixteen long rushes. She sat on a tuft of grass and weaved them together to make a St Bridget’s cross.
Her belly rumbled. Her mam always made one of Lily’s favourite dishes on St Brigid’s Day; colcannon. Lily made her way home.

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Shadow Woman by Kelly S.

The sound of scrubbing dishes. After that, a broom across an old tile floor. An entire day of work and not a single word of thanks. Washed clothes, folded nicely, and placed gently on the bed. As a child, she had a brother. He was taught to grow out. She was taught to shrink in. As his light was nurtured until it burned as bright as Hollywood, her was dimmed until it became nothing more than a shadow. She met a man who would treat her the same as her father. She would raise a daughter. Another shadow woman.

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Smithereens by C. E. Ayr

Guess who?
The soapy plate slips from my fingers.
She looks older, exhausted.
She is wearing a man’s coat and work-boots.
I need clothes and money, she says, heading for our bedroom.
The coat falls, and she’s naked.
She’s small, skinny now, brutally bruised.
They let you go?
She scowls scornfully.
Did you hurt anyone?
Only when deserved…
She dresses quickly, in dark, practical clothes.
Quaking with fear, I give her all the money I have.
She punches me in the mouth, hard.
Payback, she says, or an alibi.
I-I didn’t …
But she’s gone.
Back to the Resistance.

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Do Vampires Really Need Dishes? by Joanne Fisher

“Why do we have so many dishes? We’re vampires. It’s not like we cook meals or throw dinner parties.” Katherine asked as she looked around their kitchen where there were cupboards full of cups, bowls, and plates.

“We could eat food if we wanted to.” Sylvia replied.

“Sure, but we would receive no nourishment from it.” Katherine argued. Sylvia picked up a plate with swirling patterns on it.

“Anyway, I think they’re pretty.”

“Sure, but they serve no functional use here.” Katherine stated. Sylvia pouted and put the plate back in the cupboard.

“Do they have to?” She asked.

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Dish of the Day by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking has thrice been invaded by aliens: once, in 693 by thirteen Soporifs who slept the whole time; and twice by the dish people from the porcelain star cluster. The first, in 1324 ended with them attacked by ravenous pottery-eating fungi, after which their spokesperson described events as being ‘spore form’; and the second, in 1954 when the visitors, in retaliation abducted Sue Plate, Little Miss TT 1953 after Little Tittweaking’s Examiner’s described her thusly: ‘Sue Plate is a real dish’. Tensions eased after both sides shared a mushroom-themed supper, with a view to moulding a new relationship.

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The Bread Plate by Hugh W. Roberts

While daydreaming, admiring the dishes on the table, Madeline watched the dapper servers rush by holding trays of plates covered with metal domes. Nobody would miss a small bread plate if she secretly hid one in her purse, would they?

She’d add a dinner service like this, without the name, to her upcoming wedding gift list.

An unexpected rattling of the dishes, cutlery and glasses made as they shuddered broke her daydream.

“What’s causing everything to clatter, Madeline?” asked her mother.

“I don’t know, ma-ma,” Madeline replied, wondering if the word ‘Titanic’ would easily rub off her bread plate.

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Dishes by Jeff Heal

Dishes everywhere here there, under foot on end table.

I only have two kids but wow, two kids equal many friends and all seem to be hungry all the time.

Had the talk, dishes now out in kitchen on counter not washed just piled, but hey they made it to the kitchen, nothing anywhere else.

Ok happier, another talk, dirty dishes in the dishwasher counters cleaned but dishwasher not turned on, but nothing laying around incredibly happy.

Dishes always dishes. Turn dishwasher on now we always have clean dishes.

Ok now to get washer emptied.

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Togetherness by Larry Trasciatti

Arthur had always dreaded washing dishes.

‘Are we Luddites or something?’ he asked Martha.

‘We can’t get a machine?’

‘It’s a shared activity,’ Martha said

‘This way we get to spend time together.’

‘It’s such a sticky annoying chore,’ he said.

‘Can’t we spend time together sorting dry things?’

Soon she won as wives always do.

He put an honest effort into it, and even got a kick out of the weird designs on several plates and cups.

He even found out her mother’s middle name is Bertha.

Washing dishes makes a big difference. Soon they were all finished.

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Helping Hands by JulesPaige

Last night I attempted to follow a recipe. I use them as guidelines. I did that fancy fish prep with salmon. I poached it in a parchment envelope. I didn’t have lemon slices, so I sliced a tomato to top the fish. I put the fish over some scallions and added some salt, pepper, ground ginger and lemon zest mix. I honestly don’t remember the other veggie I had. I made a fancy presentation, just because I could.

Hubby, without asking, cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher. A nice change up from me doing everything for our evening meal.

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The Kitchen Sink by Jenny Logan

“Is this all there is?” she’d asked. “Saturday night and I’m elbow-deep in washing up. I used to be somebody, had a social life and a job.”

Over the years her feelings changed.

“I get to wash dishes and take care of the only man who’s ever wanted me around on a permanent basis—just ask any of my ex-husbands.”

She smiled as she prepared meals to his preferences rather than hers, except on rare occasions—perhaps her birthday.

“We’ve done pretty good over the years, haven’t we, hon?” she asked him one morning.

“You won’t hear me complaining.”

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Good Dishes by Kerry E.B. Black

The teen ran a finger around the gold edge of the china. “I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, we’re just gonna put food on them.”

“They were Gram’s. She only used them for special meals, like this one.” His mother polished gold-plated cutlery. “Makes posh place settings.” She placed two forks to the left of a plate.

“Then they need to be hand washed.”

“Too delicate for the dishwasher.” She ruffled his hair. “But you’re the best dishwasher ever.” She hummed while folding linen napkins.

He pressed his lips tight. “I’d rather use paper plates.”

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The Day I Won’t Forget Doing Dishes by Duane L Herrmann

I had been ordered to was the dishes – again! I was so tired of washing dishes, cooking, doing the laundry and cleaning house. At least my brothers had outgrown their diapers, but I still had to give them baths and shine their shoes every Sunday morning. And, there were the chickens, and sometimes hogs, I had to care for. I was so tired of the work. I wanted to die. This day I made and remade island bubbles around the dishes in the sink. My reward was a concussion from my mother. I was about ten years old.

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Teacup by Kelly S.

My mom went to an antique store around 40 years ago and bought a teacup with a matching saucer. The outside of the cup is plain white. Inside is an intricate mandala of blue and gold. The saucer is identical to the cup. When my sister or I got sick, she’d make us tea, and serve it inside the cup and put little cookies on the plate. For the rest of the time, it has a golden stand to rest on as a decoration. Ever since she passed, her picture rests next to the set in a golden frame.

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Heirloom China by TJ Smith

The Wedgewood china with beautiful pastel pink roses say on display in an oak cabinet in the formal dining room. Mama often bragged to southern relatives about how she got the cabinet while we were visiting Italy and the china while visiting Nantucket.

Mama also had melmac dishes in a putrid shade of celery green popular back in the ’60s, scratched, chipped, and hidden away in the kitchen cabinet.

When she was angry, she threw the melmac at the wall.

When she was furious, she threw the china at me.

I hate roses.

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Marriage and Flying Saucers by Doug Jacquier

My wife believes in flying saucers. And cups. And dinner plates. Even the occasional saucepan sails through space.

The problem is my wife’s frustration with what she sees as an irredeemable flaw in my character, namely that her pearls of wisdom, not to mention her specific instructions, don’t seem to arrive intact at my semi-deaf ears as often as she would like.

When I demurred, half the dinner service was sacrificed on that field of battle.

So now we stand close enough to ensure clear communication, although this has led to dancing and who knows where that might end?

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Do the Dishes by sweeterthannothing

“Do the dishes, you say, do the hoovering, do the washing, go shopping, take out the recycling, cook dinner..”

Betty ran her hands through her hair in stress and paced the kitchen.

“I’m so sick of it, sick of being told what to do, you’re always commanding, demanding. Do this, do that, wear this, don’t say that…”

She kicked the unconscious man at her feet.

“Well no more, you won’t tell me to do a single damn thing ever again.”

She brought the iron down in an arc, striking his already damaged skull.

“No, I won’t do your dishes”

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Grime Sticks on the Dishes by Satish Warrier

The grime stuck stubbornly on the plate. Blood red, dried and flaky, remnant of the meal, they never finished. It started amicably but then turned toxic, like how it had always been. It was a relief if some of the dishes actually reached the sink. Rest unfortunate ones shattered on her face and stained walls. For his aggression she felt responsible. Always feeling apologetic. This meal was different. She had made a choice. The raised plate was resolutely grasped and snatched away. His expression changed from anger to fear. The plate struck on his throat. Tearing through his skin.

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Best Served Cold by Anne Goodwin

Angie cringed when she saw the cereal bowl centred on the kitchen table. Her shoulder screamed as she scraped at crusted oats with a lacquered nail. If he could dislocate a joint for ‘smiling inappropriately’, he could murder her for being a sloppy housewife.

Yet, despite the pain, she smiles as she stirs the batter in the baking bowl. She’s doubled the sugar to disguise the taste of strychnine, doubled the chocolate to inspire him to take a second slice. She did hesitate between hot pudding and tray-bake brownies. But everyone knows revenge is a dish best served cold.

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The Dishes by Caroline Williams

Newly divorced and liberated, new plates are needed. These fit the bill and she unwraps them reverently, proudly. Yes, these will do nicely. Evenings with new beaus are anticipated: Ottolenghi-inspired delicacies will be arrayed and consumed. She will be just like Nigella. She will be carefree, casual, quirky. Witty, bohemian friends will throng; their intelligent bon mots the sparkling soundtrack to her middle-aged renaissance. The John Lewis matching dinner service for six and Delia’s Complete Cookery Course have been dispatched to the charity shop. Good riddance to all that. New plates, new pants, new haircut, new start.

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Hog Wash by D. Avery

“That dang Pal. Cain’t be bothered ta cook dinner or clean up afterwards, don’t never pitch in anymore. Claims ta always have some place ta be, seems ta git back jist after I’ve finished cleanin up. Well, Curly, we’ll show that yahoo. Yep, here comes Pal now, must think I’m done with the dishes. But I’m jist gittin started. Come here Curly. Good girl.

“Oh, hey, Pal.”

“Kid! Why’s thet hog lickin the dishes?!”

“Jeez Pal, how d’ya think I git the dishes cleaned? Curly’s always willin ta hep.

“Git, I’ll wash the dang dishes.”

“Have it yer way.”

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Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

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5 Comments

  1. beth

    these were wonderful

  2. restlessjo

    That’s some heap of dishes! I enjoyed the read.

  3. suespitulnik

    I’m not sure I knew there were so many uses for dishes, some glorious and some dangerous. Thank you, everyone, for an enlightening, educational, and thought-provoking read. I have my mother’s china that sits in the china case unused because everyone complains the gravy always flows off the edge of the plate. Maybe having a breaking party is a good idea for them!!

  4. Norah

    That’s quite a motley collection, like one or two dishes from different service sets arranged on a shelf, some downright deadly, others romantic and others pure fun. Thanks everyone, I enjoyed reading them.

  5. Nicole Horlings

    A bit late to reading the collection. I tried to follow the link to give Irene’s story This Booy is Made For Walking a like on her own blog, but the link brought me to the cowsino instead.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Nobody thought anything could go wrong when love and nature had a date. - […] Click here to view last week’s entries. […]
  2. Letter to Nature #99WordStories | Norah Colvin - […] The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Dishes, including mine, can be read at the Carrot…
  3. #99Word Stories; Jam | ShiftnShake - […] sure to go to Carrot Ranch to read the complete “Dishes” collection from last week. And there’s always the…

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