Once Lost Now Found 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 15, 2024

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.

Once Lost Now Found by Charli Mills

Your kennel sores scab. Healing hard testimonies of the months you spent pressing, pacing, leaping at the wired enclosure your life had become. Lost. Impounded. Shuttled. Forgotten. Unwanted. Yet, you loved beyond your wounding. Beyond your confines. Beyond lostness. You did not lose your sense of play. You did not lose your desire to connect to the loving volunteers who eased your captivity with meals and walks. At night you dreamed. I dreamed of you, too. We ran through woods, chased waves, and leaped into moonshine to fly with owls. We all dreamed of you until you were home.


Lost in Wonder by Kerry E.B. Black

The baby reached for the sunbeam, astonished when her chubby fingers caught nothing. She opened her fist again. Though her skin glowed golden, she couldn’t capture the glitter that caught her attention. She pushed forward, determined, invisible brows lowered with the determination of a bull.

The sunbeam danced over her nearly bald head, dazzling her infant eyes. She cooed, hoping to entice it to her grasp. She slapped, hoping to knock it into her awaiting lap. She burbled then yelled, but the sunbeam glowed brighter.

The baby opened her mouth, determined to become one with magical wonder.

She was.


Walk On Guy by Geoff Le Pard

Wanda Lust, Little Tittweaking’s tour guide loved lockdown. She curated online tours via SIT (See Interesting Things), her screen-based walking app, because she’d lost her love of perambulation, due to viral footgrains (corns, toe-oats and rye verrucas) and congenital laziness. Basically, Wanda stopped wandering. One day, her neighbour, Perry Grination, after whom Wanda secretly lusted, called for help. He’d woken, unable to stop walking, a bad case of heeltoesis. Wanda walked with him to the doctors, to the hospital; they walked 500 miles, never falling down. Finally they walked down the aisle, past the vicar and into the sunset.


The Search by Bill Engleson

“What are you doing?”


“For what?”

“My edge!”

“You’re what?”

“My edge!”

“You mean…crikey, what DO you mean?”

“My edge. That thing that keeps you sharp…”

“It’s not a thing…”

“’Course it is. My buddy, Walt, said I used to have it and now I don’t.”

“Walt, eh! And he would know! Sweet guy but he’s never been the sharpest peak on the mountain.”

“But he’s right…I’ve lost it…”

“If you have, you need to know…its not a tangible thing. It’s your character, your pizzazz.”

“Exactly. It has to be somewhere.”

“Good point. I’ll give you a hand.”


Lost & Found in SanFran by Gary A. Wilson

Life as a 16-year-old new driver was bliss.

My job was to deliver a package to San Francisco but the boss didn’t care when as long as it arrived on time

I tootled and wandered, deliberately lost just for the fun of finding my way. The day was bright and all seemed right when a turn into a four lane street seemed correct but instead – left me facing four lanes of ONCOMING TRAFFIC! — Yikes!

In a panic, I dodged into an open parking slot and was embarrassed by the nearest driver smirking and applauding me as he passed.



Lost and Found by Sadje

How easy it is to lose one’s mind in today’s hectic world? Misplacing stuff, losing keys and important documents all a result of the chaos amidst our busy lives.

I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness, by meditating for a few minutes every day and doing yoga daily to stay centered. It helps me to be fully aware of all that I’m doing and to find that lost sense of connection that eludes me when I’m living life mindlessly.

Finding the lost peace of mind is very important to me and every effort I make towards it is worth it!


Second Time Around by Joanne Fisher

Saffron suddenly stopped, there before her was Danielle.

“Hey Danielle!” She called while running to her. Danielle turned around with a surprised look.

“Oh Saffi, hi.”

“Where you been? You totally disappeared.”

“I’m sorry, I had to leave. There was a family emergency.” Danielle replied.

“But that was five years ago.”

“Yeah, when I came back I didn’t know how to contact you. If you give me your number, I’ll phone later. I gotta go unfortunately.”

Saffron gave Danielle her number and watched her leave quickly. Over the next days she stared at her phone hoping Danielle would ring.


Reconnecting With My Tribe (Memoir) by Sue Spitulnik

I spent twenty years away from my place of birth. Seven years as a military wife and thirteen more working among active duty military, veterans, and their families. I returned home to reconnect with family and friends, and instead of feeling a part of the group, I felt like an interloper trying to wheedle my way in. It was work.

Fifteen years later, I attended a veterans writing group on a research mission. Within minutes I felt I was back among my tribe. I was an immediate integral part. The military brotherhood is a bonded group stronger than family.


Hilary’s Loss by Hugh W. Roberts

Hilary had lost the love of her life, but life went on.

She looked at her reflection closely in the mirror.

‘Gorgeous.’ she assured herself.

“You are,’ said the reflection of her husband, Bert, from behind her.

Hilary quickly turned her head, but, of course, he wasn’t there. He was dead.

While clipping on the pearl earrings Bert had gifted her on their pearl wedding anniversary, Hilary was somewhat startled by the sound of the doorbell.

Opening the door, Hilary had found love again. She didn’t care that love came with a price. Some things were worth paying for.


India Inked Words by JulesPaige

Spring cleaning is a good activity when stuck in the house with an illness one doesn’t want to spread. Going through files I found a copy of a family letter dated from 1927. It needs to be translated. I may have found someone who can get that done for me. But making a copy of a copy didn’t quite work. I needed to find the original. Which I knew was in the house…

one bookcase
holds photos, records,

Found in an album of those things from his mother’s side; an ‘ancient’ letter from a brother to his sister.


Photo Found by Duane L. Herrmann

A few years ago I found a photo of my father that was taken just after my sister was born. He now had a boy and a girl. The delight and joy on his face are indescribable. I wish I could have understood then, but I was only two. I wish that happiness could have continued, but that was not to be. My mother was overwhelm by adult responsibilities, the babies were too much – then two more came. Our home became nightmarish hell. I ended up the work horse and desparately longed for escape. I ran to Granma’s house.


Lost in Depression by Sweeter Than Nothing

Blindly, I search for the exit, choking back tears, trying to fight the tide of grief that wants me to give up, lay down, accept my fate.

“You’ll be trapped here forever”, a dark part of me croons. “Trapped in your grief, trapped in your loneliness, trapped inside your own mind.”

“No,” I rebel, “No please, I want to leave, I want to be happy.”

I search and I stumble but I’m so lost in the fog of my depression. Until a warm hand slides into mine, calloused and knowing, full of love and hope, it leads me home.


The Scent of You Lingers by Sascha Darlington

You had a thing about leaving hair in brushes. “Blame it on 50’s voodoo movies,” you said. You’d guffaw at my expression. Your unbridled laugh, priceless.

No hairs in your brush. No nail clippings in the bathroom. No sign of your existence except a gentle wafting of Dior’s Poison as if you might have slipped out for a smoke.

Patch approaches, head drooping as a dog’s does when he suspects life has irrevocably altered. I scratch behind his silky ear, recognize inconsolability, heartbreak. Self-reflection.

I towel around the tub, absorb puddles. Your ruby ring shed, winks your final laugh.


Brother’s Keeper by D. Avery

“Olly, olly, oxen free!”

She involuntarily winced at the neighborhood children’s cries.

“Olly, olly, oxen free!”

The seeker’s call of surrender, the call that it was game over, time to come out of hiding; the call to safety.

She’d taught her little brother to play hide-and-seek but then had outgrown the game he never tired of. Sometimes she’d agree to play only to abandon him to her own pursuits. She’d never forget that last time. Admonished by her parents, she’d gone back outside, calling and calling.

“Olly, olly, oxen free!”

But he was never found.

Finders keepers, losers weepers.


Mini Mystery by Colleen Chesebro

I sorted through the papers on my desk. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but when I found it, everything would all come together.

I shuffled a stack of files into a large pile. Next, I took everything off the desk. I pulled out an antiseptic wipe and scrubbed the germs from my desk. I knew if I cleaned, I would find what I was looking for.

The more I scrubbed, the more I concentrated. Wait… I found it. A thread of magic wrapped around me, and my third eye opened.

I knew who killed the barista!


The Man Who Held My Hand by Christy Gard

My journey from childhood to adulthood was fraught with white water turbulence. While navigating that turbulence, I lost my balance. It was tossed into the rushing rapids.

I wandered always of kilter, wondering if I’d ever find my balance. Maybe if I followed the river of suffering far enough, I would find it and could pick it up again and go on.

But my balance wasn’t to be found in the river. It was found in you. You wandered into my life and handed it back to me, shiny and new. Giving me hope for a better life.


Lost and Found by Anita Neal

David turned to Laura. “I’ve read stories where people are visited by dead relatives.”

“Where are you going with this?” Laura asked.

“This was the walking stick that Mr. Cedric was using with Jenny. It looks just Dad’s. His stick is missing. He has been dead four years.”

“Serious? His name was Jonathan.”

“Jonathan Cedric.”

“Jenny, do these pictures look like Mr. Cedric that you saw today?’

“Maybe. He is not this old. Maybe he is kin to us or something?

David looked at Laura. “Maybe, I am just thankful he found you and led you back to us.”


I Lost My Wife by Vignette Swanepoel

“Oh my God, Benjamin, what if they kill her?” I yell.

“It’s alright, brother,” he said, “They wanted your money, they won’t kill her.”

A car screeched outside my doorstep, and then we heard a loud thump. I looked at Benjamin in panic before running to my front door. My shaking fingers fiddled with the lock, but I sprinted out when it budged.


My wife lay there tied up and bruised, her sad eyes begging me for help. I grabbed her limp body and held her close while Benjamin calmly stood next to us.

“There’s your lost watch.”


Lost and Found by Sam Kirk

“It’s not here,” I say under my breath as I run my hands again through the pockets of the man I had just killed.

“It’s not here!” This time I scream, slamming my fist against the dead man’s chest.

“You said it’d be here.” I look around, sobbing. ‘Must retrieve the flash drive.’

It’s then that I see him.

“Catch,” he says right before he throws the USB stick.

I wipe the blood from the device and kiss it. “You’re back!”

“Another soul reclaimed. He was lost but now is found.” Satisfied, the Devil stepped back into the shadows.


Lost and Found? by Melissa Lemay

Desperately hoping to find the missing items from her knapsack, Clementine traversed the snowy field. She remembered arriving to the gathering. Everything after was a blur. She knew drinking grain alcohol had been a horrible idea.

The fire had created a smoky haze, making it difficult to see more than a few feet in any direction. She thought if she could find that salient tree, she’d find her way back.

Her foot struck something. Looking down, she saw a circular mirror. ‘Peculiar,’ she thought, lifting it from snow. When she looked into the glass, her face was not reflected.


Purpose? What Purpose? by Margaret G. Hanna

Whaddya mean, find my purpose? Didn’t know I had one to lose. What’s it look like? Big? Small? Squishy? Salt-N-Vinegar flavoured?

Does it have an expiry date like the mouldering container of cottage cheese that threatens me every time I open the fridge door?

And where do I start looking? Don’t tell me under the bed. I already know what lurks there and it ain’t pretty.

Which reminds me, gotta call Pat. Think I left my T-shirt there the other night. Boy, what a party that was! Gotta do that again. Soon!

Meanwhile, any clues about that purpose thing?


Lost and Found by D. Avery

Molly understood how Janine could complain about old Mrs. Appleton.

But when fall arrived with the legendary fixture of middle school supplanted with a young English teacher fresh out of college, Janine continued her daily diatribes.

“You can find your voice, every one of you,” she mimicked. “Hell’s bells, I never lost my voice! Ask anyone!” The other girls laughed along with Janine.

“Hey, Molly, don’t you think I’m funny? Or did you lose your voice?”

She shut the cafeteria door on their cackling.


“Um, I really like your writing class.”

The new teacher smiled.

“I’m glad, Molly.”


Wandering Soul by Kate AKS

I return when I want to. You couldn’t keep me or insist that I am yours.

Don’t search for me, I never lost. I just have my interests outside your life. Don’t be too happy when I return. I can’t promise that’s for long. I have a wandering soul in each of my nine lives. I never stay in place.

If you are lucky enough I will be for you in the moment when you need me most. Fine, I need you most. But never in her life, the cat will make such a confession. Don’t wait for this.


Thumb’s Up (Part I) by D. Avery

“Ya git the cattle moved, Kid?”

“That dad-nabbed McNab already done it.”

“Well ain’t thet somethin? Now ya kin jist play with yer hog.”

“Could. ‘Ceptin Curly’s already played out. She an that new ranch dog been runnin all aroun, takin turns herdin each other. Wallowin in the mud, jist their li’l pink snouts pokin out. Now Curly’s dog-tired after playin so hard.”

“Reckon ya kin lean inta the prompt then.”

“Hmmph. Feel like I lost ma job, Pal. Might need ta find anuther.”

“Thet dog is purty amazin. But, Kid, it cain’t hold a shovel to you.”



Thumb’s Up (Part II) by D. Avery

“Hey, Kid. Pal said ya might be feelin a little put out by the new ranch dog.”

“Naw, it’s all good Shorty. An good ta have ya back! Reckon as long as that dog cain’t handle a shovel I’ll have a place here at the ranch.”

“Yep. Red kin dig but can’t shovel. Sure as shift, yer still needed.”

“Reckon I’ll git writin then. Had a story idea. Then lost it. Fact, look around, Shorty. There’s all kinds a great flashes corralled at the ranch but there’s also loose an lost threads blowin aroun like tumbleweed.”

“Rake ‘em in!”


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

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  1. beth

    wonderful collection

  2. sweeterthannothing

    Love the collection this week.

  3. OIKOS™- Art, Books

    Thanks for sharing this new, and again very thought provoking collection. Honestly, i have to read twice to get the full information out of it. 😉 Best wishes, Michael

  4. Jules

    Lost in admiration at all the directions that ‘lost’ took 😀

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Re-cappin fer Red

    “Those three still wallowing, Pal?”
    “Yep. Lissen, Shorty. Kid’s bringin yer dog up ta date.”

    *We been waitin fer ya, Red. Heck, the first prompt a the year was yer name! An a while back she was on about a dog in the desert. Then she was on about recovery, more like showin up an makin the best a things. Reckon that’s what she did when she went with her hub through wreckin weather, despite feelin like a fish outta water at first. Then she found you, Red, or vice versa, an ya both were no longer lost.*
    *There’s so much ta tell ya ‘bout Carrot Ranch, Red. You’ll meet lots a characters! Ernie lives up the creek. He was shacked up with Sassy-squatch but she left him, prob’ly jist because our writer don’t wanna write ‘bout that, but Ernie’s some upset, he can’t mask his emotions even through his grizzly beard. An there’s the LeGumes, Pepe an Logatha an their little Bambeano. An Logatha’s sister, Cheri d’Sharte. I get along with ‘em jist fine, but they’re no breath a fresh air, despite prevailing winds. An we all love ta see Frankie ridin in on ol’ Burt.*
    *Frankie’s an old friend a Shorty’s an Burt’s her mail-horse. I expect she’ll show up soon cause when I asked her would she want ta meet ya she said, would I! All excited like. But that might a been a reference ta her hand carved walnut prosthetic eye.
    There’s other characters that’ve been through. But the one ya really gotta watch out fer is Pal. Pal is a grumpy curmudgeonly know-it-all, always stompin down my ideas. But Red, pigs have flown on this Ranch! Right, Curly?*
    “Oui, oui!”
    *Unicorns graze here!
    Dream it an write it, Red. Welcome home!*

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    There, I’ve read through the collection, slowly savored each contribution. I find it fascinating that so many perspectives were found on the idea of something lost. Glad you all found your way to the page with this prompt! You haven’t lost your creative edges. Well done!


  1. #99Word Stories; Intolerable Masks | ShiftnShake - […] out the Once Lost Now Found collection at Carrot Ranch for some fantastic flash fiction and […]
  2. Once Lost Now Found Collection – Mom With a Blog - […] Once Lost Now Found Collection […]

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