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November 28: Story Challenge in 99-words

A pickled old woman stands next to me in the hardware store. Her breath smells like a stale barroom that hasn’t seen the light of day since 1974. She’s tiny, her hunched head barely at my shoulders. When I acknowledge her — we both regard the holiday lights display at the hardware store — a smile illuminates her face.

I recognize an honest face.

She tells me she’s looking for mini-lights. Before I respond another shopper interrupts, “You don’t want those. Cost too much electricity.”

We wait as the shopper grabs four boxes of LEDs and leaves. I’m wondering if she understands not everyone can afford one box, let alone four. Mini-lights are cheap and efficient in small spaces. I point to the minis and ask, “Which is your favorite color?”

“Green,” she says, “My son has Down’s Syndrome and he loves the green lights.”

She tells me where she likes to string the lights — the railing, the back deck, the windows. She tells me how much she loves this time of year for the lights. I wonder if she’s ever thought to string them all year, and that’s when I remember the allure of delayed gratification. If you practice it enough, the act becomes enjoyable. I can have turkey any time of the year; but I only have turkey on Thanksgiving. The joy of waiting a year keeps the meal special.

This woman bares the truth of her joy to wait until November’s end to replenish her minilights that she must love as much as her son does.

As writers, we often find such encounters stay with us long past the departure of someone important yet anonymous. We encounter a stranger in public who we can’t forget; we hike a trail once and the vistas remain with us; we overhear a conversation and the dialog continues days, months after. If this is the kind of writer you are — one who notices and wonders — then you are a story-catcher.

In my Dream Tending studies, we learn to encounter dreams as living images. Story-catchers encounter life as living images. This allows us to animate the images. Like me, imagining this honest old woman’s life because I can’t stop thinking of the complexity of her smile, alcoholic breath, Christmas lights, and devotion to a child. When I write creatively, I access my imagination and let figures or ideas rise and give me a story. This is how writers bring images to life.

There’s much to writing because it is part of a deep need within us to express and explore, to connect and cultivate. The craft, or mechanics, of writing is one aspect. The shape of the writing is vital to finding readers. These are elements we can learn and apply. We can even get creative with these elements. But the most important aspect of writing is storytelling. And the best stories convey life, truth. Like the old woman, we are willing endure the dark to wait for the lights once a year.

If I can get you thinking of dreams, memories, and stories as living things, you can go deeper into animating your stories. Practice imagining a house. It can be any house but let it be the house that comes to you. Approach this house from the front to access the door. Is there a porch? What does the door look like? Is it readily available or do you have to take the stairs? Each time you imagine this house, let it reveal more to you. Go over the familiar, notice any changes. By the time it becomes easy to access this house and its rich details, you will have come to understand that the house told you everything. Because you learned to access the house as a living image.

Most creative writers recognize some variation of encountering living images. The experience feels like inspiration or the process of creativity. Dream tending offers a language and understanding of what it is to tend not only dreams but stories and living images. It’s the continual unfolding of mythology as we create, relate, and live it.

I invite you this week to play with the idea of creating a story from an image you tended first. My neighbor loaned me a novel and the title caught my attention — The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock. My challenge to you is to practice animating a house. Then write from that house, imagining your story, tending to where it goes.

November 28, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write the smell of other people’s houses. You could compare your childhood home to friends’ homes; houses in different regions; houses on the same street; dorm rooms or public housing. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by December 4, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Once Upon a Time Collection

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.

When the Moon Grows Full by Reena Saxena

When the moon grows full, a story howls from deep precincts of the psyche. It wants to remain in the dark, yet bask in moonlight. It was asked to stay incognito, out of bounds for the civilized world.

I feel it growing inside me like an expectant mother, knowing that eventually, it will see lights of the world. I may nurse it or dream about it, but it will take its own predetermined shape.

On a New Moon night, it kicks imposed walls. I don’t know how many more phases it will wax and wane, and finally be seen.


We Were Dust Once by Charli Mills

When diamonds shattered, stardust compressed to form a spherical skeleton we call earth. Molten blood surged beneath layers of geological skin that degraded and renewed. Earth can obtrude an island one day and subduct California the next. Yet the planet sustains life despite broken bones, organ transplants, and blood loss. Life arrived with stardust — the first sneeze, the first inhale, breath. Ever since, life has covered Earth like the murmuration of starlings, shifting direction to adapt, extinguish, renew. Nature does not exist because humans do. Life needs no technology. The dinosaurs never died; they took flight as birds.


A Place Where Stories Begin: 1. Nope, Nu-uh by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Once upon a time, in the before times when tigers smoked, and fish farted unicorns on black sandy beaches, before Noah built his ark and the Wright brothers flew their plane, an egg hatched.

Slowly, it pecked out of its shell with its crystal-tipped tail, then increased in speed as the scent of musky cigar smoke, and perfume sweet as cotton candy permeated its tight world.

Finally, it lay free of its shell, panting on black sands and looking up at dark figures against the warm sun.

“Are you my Mommy?” it peeped with a spurt of dragon fire.


A Place Where Stories Begin: 2. What’s a Bandersnatch to Do? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Twas brillig, long ago, and the slithy toves had just about had enough. It wasn’t so bad that the mome raths constantly outgrabe without so much as a by your leave (it was pretty much their culture), or that the Tumtum tree didn’t bother to give me a head’s up about what was going down.

It was that this uffish kid with Alice-blond hair stood under that damn tree, wielding that vorpal sword and snicker-snack, took off with the poor Jabberwock’s head.

Jabby was our best friend, and now I’m doubly frumious.

Nobody’s gonna live happily ever after, now!


A Place Where Stories Begin: 3. Do Over, Please by Liz Husebye Hartmann

In the After Times, that came before the last time the world was restarted, trees had lips to susurrate, rain wore tiny shoes to dance on water, and stars twinkled in ever-present darkness. Humans were unnecessary because everyone knew their own names, and recognition went beyond what words could ever tell.

But not all worlds are like this. Not even ours, Little One.

Sometimes worlds and cultures collide. Sometimes damage is done, and what looks like an ending may be a beginning: not everyone agrees, not everyone knows.

Patience and forgiveness, humor and do-overs are what restart the world.


Once Upon a Time by Kerry E.B. Black

You hear the words and lean close, cuddled in the comfort they produce. They connect you to your childhood, when stories told by a comforting voice rocked you to dreamland. They opened magic passageways into a shared history with ancestors and lands never visited. They twisted the fabric of time until it looped in luxurious ribbons around the essential presence of life, when a hard working scullery maid could change her life with magical assistance and virtue always won the day. Simpler understandings and intuitive wisdom encircled your brain like a golden crown, gathered by “Once Upon a Time.”


It Is Said by Ann Edall-Robson

It is said Homestead Creek carries stories to rivers far away.
The overgrown trail to the mossy covered rocks along its banks might overhear voices across the meadow, in the berry patch.

The day a fork in the trail leading to a knoll was discovered, the spirit stories changed.

People were seen in the abandoned log buildings below. An occasional sighting for those who patiently watched atop the hill.

Once during a storm, riders were seen, and life below the knoll changed forever.

The knoll trail on a stormy day is not for the meek; or so it’s said.


When I Was a Little Boy by Duane L Herrmann

When I was a little boy there were giants: giants who roamed the land going, doing as they willed, inscrutable to my little self. I had no idea what their motivations, goals, aims or purpose might have been. Strange sounds they made, too, which I did not understand. Emotions though, were obvious and unavoidable, despite my tries and cries. They simply commanded and I had to comply, there was no reason why. I wish this story had a nice, happy middle, but it doth not. The end is miracle, though: I, strangely, became a giant too, with little ones.


Nick Fishes for the Truth by D. Avery

“Today’s your day, Nick.”

“You’ll finally tell me about your leg, Ilene?”

“Once upon a time I fished. Probably more than Marge.”

“A fish story? I’m not biting.”

“Nick. Tsk.

“I especially loved ice-fishing. It’d been cold and was getting colder by the minute, so I went out. The ice seemed solid.

Then my left leg went right through.”

“And a giant pike ate it.”

“Really, Nick?

“The temperature dropped so fast ice formed immediately around my leg. I was trapped. I yanked desperately. I escaped, but my leg remained icebound until spring.”


“Then a pike ate it.”


Old Wise Mothers by JulesPaige

Once upon a time
There was that first month with sleet
Desert dwellers gasped
Used to cold blood being warmed
By the brightest sky day star

Late winter garden
Of blooming cacti lost life
Spines, needles shivered
Scorpions danced to keep warm
Their frenzy not for mating

Old mother held tight
Her horse blanket by the fire
Desert should have sun
She unwove some threads and tossed
Threads skyward melting the frost
“Winter sky go north
where you belong,” she pleaded
last lone tear melted
another generation
granted safety for a spell

Ever since… our Mothers, they protect us.


My Networking Reality by Sue Spitulnik

As a girl, I dreamed of being an author.

But, after high school, I became a military wife writing letters home instead of a novel.

Years later, I started a blog. An avid reader from South Africa discovered it and led me to Carrot Ranch.

I enjoyed a Charli-led retreat in Vermont and became friends with another author who introduced me to Women Writing the West.

After a WWW conference where I heard Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer speak, I met an artist on the Big Easy Cruise whose eyes lit up because I knew about Houma and Choctaw Native Americans.


The Boy Who Loved Books by Melissa Lemay

Once upon a time, there was a sad little boy who lived in a castle. His father loved war. The boy detested violence, and loved books. He had a library and he’d read every book.

One day, he noticed a well-loved book he’d never seen. Upon opening it, he read its title: The Greatest Story Ever Told.

He read of a story-writing book that came to people in need; and about a boy turned king, filling the world with books. He smiled as he closed the book, knowing that he had just read the most beautiful story ever written.


And the Story…of the Fall of Humans by Sadje

Once upon a time….humans lived together as one big family. There was no fighting, wars, or animosity between them.

Then they became greedy. They wanted more. More of what others, their brothers and sisters had. More money, more land, and most unfortunately- more power.

They started killing each other for gain, forgetting that they were born of same parents. Their lust grew so much that they developed weapons that could kill millions in a blink. They called it progress and safeguarding their interests.

Now humans live divided, fearful, and distrusting each other, in an environment of hate.



A Limp Fairytale by Doug Jacquier

Once upon a time, all the guns in the world went limp. Monty Python-like, armies were reduced to yelling insults at each other. When they tried to throw hand grenades they found blancmanges in their hands. When they fixed bayonets, they found their swords were only drawn, not real.

Gangsters became a laughing stock when they had to resort to ‘bang, bang, you’re dead’.

Lions fell about when all that popped out of the end of hunters’ rifles were corks on strings. Ducks danced on the hats of men camouflaged in the marshes.

And everyone lived happily ever after.


Mara and the Infinite Darkness by Joanne Fisher

Once upon a time there was a girl named Mara everyone ignored. No one knew that inside her there was a darkness steadily growing larger. As her loneliness and sadness grew, so did this darkness. She knew it was there, but when anyone showed her kindness it diminished in size. That’s all they had to do, just show some kindness, yet that was so infrequent the darkness kept growing.

One day she died alone of a broken heart and the darkness was finally released. Now unfettered, it continued to grow until it consumed the world and everyone living in it.


Once Upon a Time, There Was Petal of Pages and Poetry by Rockstar Girl

Once upon a time, I was looking through the archives and I found the pages of you I used to write my love letters and poems in, but it all now became blank pages and I hardly have any petals of words or letters to the pages I held close to my heart where if I had a handclasp on time I would have written our story through a lifetime.
I was looking back and trying to piece together all the final clues, but the reality does not seem to hold the keys to this never ending mystery ink.


When the Past Predicts the Future by Dianne Borowski

At first I thought it was a bad dream. I found myself hovering near what looked like a planet. Upon closer investigation I noticed it was so hot steam rose from its surface. There was no water anywhere.

Eventually I looked around to discover I was really sitting on the grass gazing at stars.

What had happened, I wondered. Was I gifted with a close view of our planet earth millions of years ago or was it a warning to future generations? I had to laugh but then thought maybe the whole world is in our hands! Who knows?


Time to Rethink by Mario Milizia

Once upon a time, Adam was a very successful but lonely businessman. He wanted to know his future so, over the next few years, working with scientists and engineers, he financed a time machine.

He went forward sixty years and found his tombstone. No future wife’s name. Not even surrounding flowers. A plain, desolate tombstone describing his desolate life. It scared him. “Is this all there was to my life?”

He came back in time, put the machine in storage, and changed his priorities. He worked to always be surrounded by family and friends. He looked forward to tomorrows.


The Ballad of the Last Hanging Tree by Bill Engleson

Once upon a time,
the old west sung,
a song of time,
a man was hung

And every day,
a woman mourned
in every way,
a man falsely scorned.

Until one day,
truth appeared.
Her lover was lost,
his name was cleared,

Because of that,
the fierce desert sun,
lies roast to a crisp,
the sin of the gun.

Because of that,
left dangling high,
bones in the wind,
skin leather dry.

Because of that
hanging tree lie,
he was the last
left there to die.

And ever since,
the tree’s a grave
memory cries
for love so brave.


Allies an Cow Pies (Part I) by D. Avery

“How ya doin with thet story spine prompt, Kid?”

“Still thinkin on my openin line, Pal. Might jist go with:

Long ago, an far away…

“If ya went with the secon half a thet, I’d be much obliged.”

“Shush, Pal.

Long ago an far away, but closer’n ya kin imagine, there was a virtual ranch. An ever day writers an readers showed up ta play an ta learn. An ever since, it’s been a peaceful easy place ta hang out an practice writin.

“Ya missed yer ‘until one day’s an all yer ‘because’s.”

Because they don’t fit.”




Allies an Cow Pies (Part II) by D. Avery

Not too long ago an no where near far ‘nough away, Pal kept yappin. Cuz a all that yappin an inneruptin, Kid, writer extraordinaire, couldn’t hardly git a story out.

“Strordinaire? Hmmff.”

Til one day when a helper come along.

“Ow! Kid yer dang hog jist headbutted me!”

Yep, an cuz Pal got headbutted, Pal fell, face-plantin in a cow pie, which ain’t really pie. So Pal had ta go git cleaned up. Curly sat near the intrepid storyteller ta keep Pal away. Finally Pal learned an stayed away. An now there’s a beginnin, middle an endin.
“Good Curly.”


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

November 21: Story Challenge in 99-words

The Huntress sailed into my imagination. Earlier this year, in May, I visited Portland, Maine where Todd’s third-great-grandfather once apprenticed in the mercantile industry with his “uncles.” For decades, the family genealogists have tried to suss out who these uncles were and why they were in Maine. James Harvey Mills was born in Vermont to Deacon James Mills, and we’ve stalled at the Mills brick wall unable to connect to any of the known Mills lines in Vermont, Connecticut, or Massachusetts.

I’ve been pondering ever since — what if the Mills family originated in Portland?

D. Avery drove me across the White Mountains from her piece of Vermont history to Maine and back through Lunenberg (Todd’s piece of Vermont history). We talked about stage coach roads and how important the Portland port would have been to the region. I could even imagine my husband’s ancestor as a boy, traveling those mountain passes. I’ve not looked into it seriously, as such inquiries can be daunting, diving into historical records. But as I settled into the early phase of a new life transition (role of Gran’mum to a wee girl-king named Regis E. Hauck-Mills), I wondered enough to poke through the historic newspaper archives online.

Such a poke (or a peek) is a gamble. The best approach is to go directly to historical archives because the online ones are spotty and incomplete. But who knows? Maybe on a late Saturday evening when the house is quiet and I’m not yet asleep, trying to find my way back from a profound experience, I might get lucky. Curiously, I found three more generations of Maine settlers all named James Mills, but nothing specific to link them to our James Millses. Another brick in the wall.

And then, I spied the Huntress. The ship’s name leaped from the page, so intriguing to me. I can’t say why. It was late. I was hunting ancestors. I liked the way Huntress sounds in dialog as in, “Uncle, the Huntress is overdue…” I could imagine young Jim Mills picking up on the chatter at the merchentile, overhearing snippets of rumors and conversations. It had nothing to do with genealogy, but the ship amplified my idea of what Portland, Maine was possibly like when James Mills apprenticed there.

Regis, my granddaughter with the kingly name, is a whopping two weeks old. Will she enjoy history? Time will tell. Her dad did not. He was the one who often asked to stay home to play with Legos instead of going to the History Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. He stopped going to historical sites, too. He was never into collecting stories in cemeteries. That’s alright. Maybe the interest skipped a generation. Maybe eighty years from now, Regis will appreciate the research her ol’ Gran’mum did. Maybe she’ll find a connection between the Millses and the Huntress.

To those of you stateside in the US, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. No matter where you write in the world, know that I’m grateful for your participation in this literary community. I enjoy this time of year with its rituals of celebration as we cook, decorate, and spend time to reflect. I have much to reflect on with both gratitude and grief. Though loss is inevitable, so is living. We live every day.

May we live as we write — with a sense of wonder, an eye for beauty in all its surprising forms, and the courage to search in the dark even if we aren’t sure what we search for. May you find your stories at such wondrous depths. Time to find the Huntress!

November 21, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a ship named the Huntress. What type of ship is it? Where does it go and what does it carry? Who are the characters involved with this ship? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 27, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Waiting Collection

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.

Waiting by D. Avery

Elsewhere innocuous, here its round face is cruel, returning furtive glances with a cold unblinking stare. The constant television, flickering noise and light, cannot compete with the steady heartbeat of this clock on the wall. It is this metronomic ticking that gives it authority even over their phones, talismans clutched tight in each worried pair of fidgeting hands while its steady hands mark time. In a waiting room full of people, they each wait alone, uncertain, wishing to turn the clock ahead, wishing to turn it back.
Autumned grass tufts sweep
Circular tracks in the snow
Roots remember spring


Waiting for Godot by Reena Saxena

“Peace will descend tonight from Heaven, and all will be well with the world.”

“Are you sure of those spirits up there – can they even hear our voices?”

“Well, we need to ask the clouds and the sky about how much permeability they offer….”

“Then what gives you that confidence of tonight?”

“Actually, confidence is viewed as moronic up there. But they want us to hold on to another sublime thing – Hope.”

“Waiting for Godot, huh?”

“I don’t mind really, do you? It gives us time to peep within to discover other realities.”

“Start acting on this one first.”


Problems as a Kid by Mario Milizia

Emily was trying to stay awake for Santa

“Mama. When is Santa coming?” Emily asked falling asleep on the couch.

“I’m sorry, dear. He checks if all kids are asleep before he delivers presents. I’ll help you up to bed.”

“So if I stay awake waiting for him, he won’t come,” she asks as she’s walking up the stairs.

“Yes. Those are his rules.”

“What if he brings me the wrong present? What if I change my mind?”

“You’ll just have to trust him or wait until next year.”

“Santa needs a phone number so we can call him.”


Waiting for Tod Ogden by Bill Engleson

“Stop looking at your watch.”

“That’s what it’s for.”

“Fine. I know, but it’s irritating. Read a book.”

“Too anxious. Tod should’ve been here hours ago.”

“Could have picked him up.”

“I offered. Said he likes to take his own good time. Always been that way. You know that.”

“Too damned independent. Been on the road too long. What kind of life is that? It’s not like he’s Willie Nelson.”

“Sings pretty good, though. Least wise, used to.”

“Play some Willie…

“Good idea…how about The Party’s Over?”

“Sure, though it won’t begin until he gets here.”

“Play it anyways.”


The Waiting Game by Anne Goodwin

While I wait I peel and chop an onion. While I wait my baby learns to roll over, learns to crawl. A superstitious streak calls me to cook my grandma’s weekday staple. My daughter learns to walk, to hop, to run.

My girl devours grandma’s peas and mashed potatoes, but she pushes the offal around her plate. I won’t scold her for wasting food – eating pig’s liver won’t fortify hers. She can’t understand why I can’t chase her around the garden. She doesn’t know I’m waiting for a stranger to die and bequeath their healthy human liver to me.


Vigilance by JulesPaige

It is a strange phenomenon to board a plane by oneself. Normally not a solo traveler. So much hurry up and waiting while attempting to quickly get to the end of a destination. Especially when where you’re going is not to some sunny beach. But to a hospital; the deplaning, cab ride to, entry, all forgotten as the vision of your loved one lays silent. Unresponsive to your presence.

You want to lose yourself in suspended time reliving good memories. A sated family reunion. yet there cries the newest haloed member.

so precious
all life old and new


The Scent of Rain by Doug Jacquier

The water bore’s gone dry and Adam stares at the grey-black clouds that cluster like a bunch of stuck-up girls at a school dance turning him down every time.

He flicks on his solar batteries, powers up his Hendrix-like stack of Marshall amps, loads his player with Classic Hits, turns the volume up to 11, hits play, picks up the microphone and in synchronicity with the soaring guitars and the drums, screams “God, make them dance with me!”

An apocalyptic lightning flash is followed by raindrops like bullets and, as they hit the dust, Adam’s nostrils fill with petrichor.


Defined by Dark Deeds by Kerry E.B. Black

Situated in the deepest shadow, he hunkered, ignoring muscle cramps and anxious aches. From this vantage, he scouted. His quarry capered beneath campus streetlights, oblivious of potential dangers. Their youth, good health, and privilige glowed from their skin like beacons while he stalked from within the gloom of their absence. They relied on university police, local law enforcement, and the goodwill of their fellows, never recognizing malice mounting from an unlikely source. He sharpened hidden blades with resentment, using imagined slights as the whetstone. Soon, he’d leap from obscurity. Be defined by dark deeds. Until then, he impatiently waited.


The Last Bus by Dianne Borowski

8 o’clock has come and gone. The once crowded bus stop is now deserted. It’s just me and a shadowy figure dressed in black. I feel cold though the wind is warm, the breeze is balmy. Who is this person I must share space with? If a stranger arrived and offered me a ride I might be inclined to do so.

Ah, lights come around the corner. Finally! The shadow pushes me aside. The bus pulls away. I realize I am alone. My scream fills the lonely night as I slowly disappear.


Intoxicated by Meredith Caine

They never even know I am here. This position gives me the vantage I need to focus, to plan. It is a precise timing. I worship the rush of adrenaline that comes as the time grows closer. My heart rate ascends so high I can hear it echo off my rib cage. It’s a fast methodical strum. My body temperature gradually rises while I wait and watch. Small beads of sweat start to assemble across my temples. I know the perfect time is here. I feel powerful, like a God. Blood floods my veins as I take a life.


Waiting For Who by Hugh W. Roberts

I’d been waiting for hours. Why was I here?

‘You’ll soon find out,’ said a voice in my head.

I’d sat on every chair. All were uncomfortable. I paced up and down, breathing in the heavy air of dread.

“Mr Roberts?” a voice whispered. “Follow me.”

I had no idea where the handsome nurse had come from, but I followed him.

“This is it,” he said, ushering me into a room.

A dim light lit up a figure in the bed, covered in a white sheet.

I approached and pulled back the sheet.

My face stared back at me.


Waiting by ladyleemanilla

There’s a little girl who waits and waits
Her friend borrowed her skates, not back for ages
Mummy will be worried sick
If she’s not back in a tick
Friend not back yet, not anymore playmates

They’re playing hide and seek, she’s the “it”
She can’t find them, they hide well, she’s to admit
It’s getting late
Should be home by eight
She gave up looking, shouted she has to quit

She can’t sleep, something’s bothering her
She kept on tossing and turning
Husband’s fast asleep
Also hear the sheep
And the cat came to the room and purr


I’m Bored by Norah Colvin

“For Christmas,” said Mum.

“But it’s a looooong time,” said Jamie.

“Not long enough,” said Dad. “Only three more pay days.”

“Wait till you’re my age,” said Grandpa. “It’ll be gone in a blink.”

“But there’s nothing to do,” said Jamie.

“When I was your age,” said Grandpa. “we’d be out all day, playing until dark.”

“Mum won’t let me go anywhere. Dad says no screens until after dinner. It’s boring.”

“Tell you what, kiddo. How’s about you and me take a walk and do some exploring. What d’you say?”

“Can I, Mum?”

“Sure. It’ll do us all good.”


Are the Results Out, Yet? by Ruchira Khanna

I shouted, “Are the results out yet?” while quickly pulling on my pants and zipping them up, then pushed the door open. 

Mom was busy knitting, and she shook her head no.

“Mom!” I shrieked, refreshed the screen, and exhaled deeply. 

Our eyes met. 

She was calm, wearing a gentle smile despite my reaction. 

The results had not yet been released, so I sat beside her. “I can’t take this waiting game!” I lamented.

“Sing a song!” Mom said. 

“Huh?” I responded. 

“Keep your mind busy, Sara. Time will tick away! Besides, the results are not in your hand.” 


The Adventures of Aloysius by Nancy Brady

It felt like forever; the waiting seemed to go on and on.

Frankly, I never thought that anything would come of my writing. It started with one prompt that sparked my imagination. Subsequent prompts allowed the story to be finished.

Now, I had to find an illustrator for the stories. My first artist didn’t work out. After waiting months, I discovered a teen with artistic talent; she made drawings for each story.

There was more waiting; the editor worked on the book, putting it all together. Finally, the waiting is over; the book is out: The Adventures of Aloysius.


The Brothers Understand by Sue Spitulnik

Michael and Tessa moved with the line snaking toward the cruise ship. The slow pace was difficult for Michael, yet he smiled at every set of eyes that met his. When an older man came opposite them in the cue, he said, “Welcome home, brother.”

Tessa burst into tears watching Michael and his brother-for-life shake hands, and exchange understanding nods. The man’s companion touched Tessa’s arm and handed her a tissue. “It hurts my soul that our servicemen wait to hear that from their brothers. I admire your man for sharing his legs.”
Tessa mumbled, “Me too. Thank you.”


Wishing by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They sat on the carpet, knee to knee. Two, sometimes three rows of them, hands in laps, breathing light, shallow breaths. Good as gold, these little ones.
She knew better than to push her luck.
Raising the book, she announced the title and splayed it open.
The protagonist, Curious George, was always a favorite because he was so relatable. Well meaning, a burning desire to explore and learn, but not sure of all the rules, so more often than not, chaos. And then the regret!
Someone rights the wrong, George is saved, and loved again.
A promise for all.


Balancing Life by Sadje

Waiting was not easy knowing that he had to reach home by four.

Anxiously, he looked at his watch and he drew a deep breath, trying to calm himself.

He needed to balance his own work and the desire to help out his friends, otherwise both would suffer.

Finally, when his friend arrived, he spoke irritatedly; why are you so late? you know I have to be home before my sister arrives and only I have the key!

Hurriedly, he went over the project with his friend pointing out some mistakes.

He then sprinted home to his waiting sister.


It’s The Waiting Game by Rockstar Girl

It’s the waiting game until we can press play and restart the story of where we left off in the last chapter but things have changed since the last time we saw each other

Even though within ourselves may have stayed the same but the outside is a completely different story from the person you saw on the inside and sometimes not everything is the same as when you left it

It can either change or become an entirely different story than what you presumed the story was going to be about from the beginning to the very end.


Encounter on the Road by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy heard the sound of hooves. They both waited, until they saw a rider approach them on a white horse with silver bells on it’s mane. The rider shone with light.

“It’s a fey noble, we also call them High Elves.” Cindy remarked. The rider stopped and examined them.

“Mortals on the Queen’s Road.” She stated.

“I have fey blood.” Cindy told her.

“Be that as it may, what made you think you had leave to be here?” Cindy’s heart sank. She always thought she could wander around Faerie at will, but maybe this wasn’t the case…


Luna’s Return by Colleen M. Chesebro

After Luna stepped into the faery circle, Faeryn waited for her return. She mulled over her options. How could she get Luna back from the Otherworld?

Sometimes the good neighbors let the witches travel between the veil and the human world, no questions asked. Other times… well, she didn’t want to think negative thoughts.

A snap of a branch got her attention. “Luna, is that you?”

“Yes. The Gentry gave me lunch and sent me back.”

“Did you eat anything?”

“No, I remembered. Never eat anything from the Otherworld.” Luna touched the honey cake she’d hid in her pocket.


Going Gently by D. Avery

Glasses empty, they sat back on the sofa.

“Well.” He tried a smile. “Now we wait.”

“Yes. Together.” Her smile came easily. He relaxed, happy to see her happy. He took her hand in his.

“You were right all along, Dear. All we’ve been doing, really, is wait.”

She leaned against him. After two years of adamant refusal, he’d surprised her. “No more waiting,” he’d declared. He’d helped plan and prepare. He hadn’t let on to anyone, not even the kids.

“I won’t need help off the sofa today,” he teased.

They laughed together until they no longer could.


Quick Snax by Geoff Le Pard

When Wei Ting escaped a forced Taoist marriage to philosopher Winnie Pooh, he sought asylum in Little Tittweaking. Catering was his trade. He began designing menus, starting with a series of Chow Mains before adding Chow Staters, Chow Puddings and Chow Coffee and Mints. After success with his Fowl Expressions selection: Peeking Duck, Squinting Pigeon and Staring Ptarmigan, he surprised everyone by joining with Ho Hum, Lee Wards and Fook’s Sake to open a new restaurant that had people were quite prepared to queue round several blocks to enjoy. Wei Ting at Ho Lee Fook was a tremendous success.


Flood by Simon

The night was filled with terror as his world crumbled. The city engulfed by an unexpected downpour. In the midst of despair, he made the decision to end his life by hanging, fearing impending flood. Three times the rope snapped, but a glimmer of hope ignited within. He saw it as a divine sign not to kill himself. So he waited, anxiously watching as the water continued to rise, reaching his neck. He clung to the rope that was once meant to end his life. Then, the rain ceased, the water began to recede. His patience paid off, fortunately.


Waiting for Bliss by Sassy

She’d been waiting for this moment so long. When they first met, she found him to be charming and sweet and quiet in a way that seemed so… Unbelievable. She wanted to kiss him, to know him, to be vulnerable, but she’d held back, afraid he was putting on a good show.
But now… Now it had been years of friendship and mutual affection, respect, attraction… Now she knew who he was and she ached for his touch, his gaze, the smell of him on her skin.
When he held her face and brought his lips to hers…


Waiting by Ann Edall-Robson

Waiting for the New Year
​Waiting for the winter’s hiatus, tree buds pop
Waiting for splashing in rain puddles
Waiting for the summer’s heat, flowers in bloom
Waiting for cooler evenings
Waiting for the sunset’s palette, twinkling stars appear
Waiting for the full moon
Waiting for frosty autumn days, leaves turning colour
Waiting for geese to take wing
Waiting for harvest, the start of hunting season
Waiting for winter snow days
Waiting for skating on frozen ponds, sleigh rides
Waiting for Christmas decorations
Waiting for Auld Lang Syne, mistletoe kisses
Waiting for more of the same
Waiting, always waiting


Without a Paddle by D. Avery

Tell ya Kid, seems ol’ Shorty’s always waitin fer somethin.”

“Reckon waitin’s kinda her curse, Pal.”

“Speakin a, have we been cursed with the bambeano yet?”


“There a little LeGume joined us?”


“What? An ya didn’t say nuthin? Have ya seen it?”

“He. Yep.”

“What’s it— he— look like?”

“Hard ta say. He was swaddled.”

“Swaddled? They swaddled their baby? Thet ain’t right, Kid. Shouldn’t never swat a child, ‘specially a baby.”

“Not paddled, Pal! Swaddled. He was all wrapped up in white cloth. Looked like a… let’s jist say he’s a chip off the fam’ly block.


Up Shift Creek by D. Avery

“Cain’t wait ta see ‘im. Where ‘zactly the LeGumes live, Kid?”

“It’s a far ride ta their place, Pal. Cuz Logatha’s kinda reclusive.”

“Yeah, only comes out as necessary. But her sister, Cherie D’Sharte, kin be pretty outgoing.”

“No holdin that one back, that’s fer sure.”

“So, Kid? Directions?

“Ride over 2Hard2 Pass, follow Shift Creek. You’ll find ‘em.”


“The answer, my frien, is blowin in the wind.”

“Uh, s’pose so. They name the bambeano yet?”



“Not Will. Doo.”

“Will do what?”

“Baby’s name’s Doo. Doolittle Zippy LeGume.”

“Reckon he’ll be peppy as his pappy, Pepe.”


Nom de LeGume by D. Avery

“Pal! An unexpected veezit.”

“Couldn’t wait ta check in LeGume. Missus doin okay?”

“Oui, merci, she ees resteeng but ees finest kind.”

“An how’s the baby?”

“De bébé ees also resteeng. He ees doeeng very well.”


“Do what, Pal?”

“Baby’s called Doo?”

“Sometimes he ees D.Z.”

“Dizzy? Mebbe we should get him to a doctor, Pepe.”

“No, not deezy, D.Z.; sometimes we call him by hees eenitials.”

“O… K… Y?”

“Dees is a writeeng ranch, Pal. Eet’s a writerly theeng, eenitials names, so eet’s feeting, no?”

“Doolittle seems a fittin name fer a certain writer.”

“Dees I know.”


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

November 14: Story Challenge in 99-words

Once upon a time, there lived a girl in the wild, wild west. Every day, she wished upon a silver star to see her missing uncle again. Until one day, she had grown enough to wear his pistols. Because of that, she left for San Fransisco, the last place her uncle had gone. Because of that, she had to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Because of that, she met gold-miners along the way who deputized her after proving handy with her uncle’s guns. Until one day, she discovered what happened to her uncle. And ever since, she was changed.

Ah, the story spine. Do you recognize it in the opening tale? Behold the classic story starter, “Once upon a time…” The template simplifies a story structure:

  • Once upon a time…
  • And every day…
  • Until one day…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Until one day…
  • And ever since…

Although each vertebrae of the story spine has a specific purpose to carry the story from start to finish, writers do not need to use the structural phrases. In fact, the classic “Once upon a time…” opening can morph into any place and time. Liz Husebye Hartmann, one of our fellow Carrot Ranchers, recently posted an interesting meme on FB about the way Korean folk stories begin: “Back when tigers used to smoke…” The phrase is meant to cue story. Your options for starting a story are endless.

Here’s a revision of the simple tale above without using the structural phrases:

Where the wind blew fierce across the wild, wild west, a girl mourned her lost uncle. She wished upon his silver sherrif’s star to see him again until she’d grown enough to wear his pistols. On her sixteenth birthday, she left for San Fransisco, the last place her uncle had gone. The wind howled at her back when she crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On a treeless peak, she met gold-miners who deputized her for bravery and proving handy with her uncle’s guns. Chasing claim jumpers, she discovered what happened to her uncle. He’d become the criminal she arrested.

The story spine can expand from each bone. We, as creative writers, get to play. Templates give writers structure to produce more complex and compelling pieces of writing. We can change the protagonist to another gender, a particular age, size, or a million other concrete details. We can change the setting, the tone, the genre. We can specify the action through cause and effect. We can pick one conclusion from a billion. We can reveal what the story meant to the protagonist or the journey or surprise the reader.

Here’s a completely different story created by changing details from the original.

When beavers still roamed the wild, wild west, a girl mourned her lost pony. She wished upon the boulder near her village to see her ride again. After three nights, a vision came. After spring runoff, she left for the coast, following the vision of abalone. The rain soaked her when she neared the Pacific surf. On a friendless beach, she found a herd of stolen horses; her pony among them. Sneaking into camp at night, she released the herd, mounted her pony, and rode away. She returned with horses and a stash of trade shells for her village.

Writers increase their creativity when they play! Curiosity opens our minds wider when we slow down and reconsider different choices to make when writing and revising. If you want extra play this challenge, consider submitting two stories, one based on the original but different in its details and action. Be sure to indicate which story is the original if you submit two.

Back at Carrot Ranch Headquarters in the Keweenaw, we are basking in the newness of grandparenthood.

Knowing that Regis Elle is in the world brings profound peace. Holding her bonded me soul-to-soul to a new wonder of life. She lights me up and softens the Ranger’s features. She has the kind of parents every child deserves. Watching my son gives me so much joy. I’m grateful to my DIL and her mom, too. This past week has been a deepening of my soul.

Crystal, my co-grandma, sent me this awesome cheer: (Give me a “K,” give me a “y,’ give me an “l,” give me an “e;” what does it spell? Daddy!)

Regis has great expressions, her daddy’s eyebrows, her mom’s curly hair with daddy’s cowlicks (that’s going to be wild).

These two grandparents are totally smitten, and you get to see Todd’s soft side!

Much to be grateful for as we slip into the long cold nights of winter Up Over. Can’t wait to kayak one day with this girl!

November 14, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that begins with “Once upon a time…” or use a different beginning. Invent a new story-starter or research different beginnings from among the world’s cultures. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 20, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Flakes Collection

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 Southern Drop by Nancy Brady

Once upon a time there was a drop from the south. Life was mostly grand for the drop. Sometimes, she would be dew, sometimes a light shower, but all too frequently, a powerful hurricane. The drop wasn’t thrilled with dumping all that water on land time after time, but what could she do?

Returning to a cloud, she overheard a conversation between other drops, who were talking about a different kind of precipitation, snow. It sounded like heaven to her, and she found out she could hop a cloud to Chicago where, over time, she became a fluffy flake.


Teasing Flakes by Ann Edall-Robson

In the silence of the night, their arrival slowly commences. Drifting past the window without a sound, taking their place with the others. As the dark sky transitions to dawn, they blend with the gray horizon, numbers continue to grow. Each has made an individual journey. All have come for one thing, to accentuate the silent vista and transform it into a new world. Dusted fields become stunning landscapes, orchestrated into fluffed ornaments on branches. The crisp, white, exquisite, filigreed shapes flounce hither and yon in the breeze. Blankets of winter flakes tease and test the days of fall.


Flakes of Life by Hugh W. Roberts

Flakes of frosty dread drifted through the old, abandoned house I’d taken shelter in. They weren’t ordinary flakes but echoes of lost souls.

I heard tales whispered by those who’d glimpsed the spectral dance, telling me the flakes carried memories of those who perished here, trapped between two worlds.

Icy fingers brushed my skin as the flakes swirled. The past and present merged in an eerie waltz, unveiling secrets and sorrows long ago buried.

I closed my eyes and joined them.

For those who entered after me, the house held chilling promises of both revelation and haunting, forever entwined.


Joy in the Morning by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jack heaved a sigh so huge, the box of Corny Ye-Haws slid clear over the counter’s edge, splattering a fan of sugary flakes across the linoleum. He regretted moving on Darla last night, pushing the limits of their childhood friendship too far. She and Chad had not split up, after all.

She’d rushed out of his house like one possessed, her motorcycle tearing up the country road, and his heart.
Scraping a handful of cereal into his best, cracked blue bowl, he resigned himself to a lifetime of lonely breakfasts.
Then he heard the sound of a motorcycle … returning!


Retro Black Light Disco by Norah Colvin

On their first date, Paul took Josie to the Retro Black Light Disco. She’d heard about it but never been, so was curious. “Wear something white. You’ll really stand out,” her older friends advised. Josie was amused that Paul dressed all in black, as usual, but guessed some habits were hard to break. Josie absolutely glowed under the lights, but Paul virtually disappeared. Until he turned around, looking like he’d brought a glowworm army on his back. Josie started to say, “How beautiful!” when she realised they were flakes of dandruff. “Gross,” she thought. “I’ve seen enough,” she said.


Skin by Pete Fanning

Skin. That’s what they called him. Okay, me too, sometimes, be it at the park or the bus stop, where he’d stand hunched, clawing away at the tops of his hands, arms bumpy and red, flakes of dry skin falling like saw dust.

He’d endure it, whatever the teasing, while I stood to the side with a dumb smile—relief—happy the attention was off me. But it never lasted.

“Hey, lazy eye.”

The pack would shift. In a blink I’d see that same relief wash over Skin and I’d snarl at him.

“What are you looking at, Skin?”


Flake News By Bill Engleson

He’s a cute kid. Standing at the window, yelling at the passing parade, the ghoulies, the goblins, the tiny Trumpsters, which scares me more then ghosts and graveyards, demanding his boodle.
I had dragged out an old Nixon mask from my childhood.
Don’t know why I’d hung onto it.
Tricky Dick wasn’t always a treat, was he.
We were out for an hour. Must have hit fifty houses.
He wanted to be a snowflake.
I said, “You mean a ghost?”
But no, he meant flake.
So, a huge paper snowflake it was.
Cute kid, but definitely weird.


A Flaky Man by Geoff Le Pard

Inspired by his dermatological setbacks and Marc Quinn’s Self*, Dan Druff determined on his life’s work. He joined Little Tittweaking’s hermit community, where he remained undercover. On Dan’s thirtieth birthday, he threw open his yurt to the curious visitors. Sadly a misunderstanding of variable air pressures and an incredible lightness of being rendered nineteen years of assiduously collected dead skin to become airborne as they dispersed across the town.

This gratuitous sharing of DNA generated two observations locally: those ingesting Dan-flakes were surprised he tasted of cardamom; and using forensics to solve crime was rendered pointless for two years.

*Marc Quinn used his own blood as the material for a cast of his own head


Extract from an Interview with Genghis Khan by Doug Jacquier

Interviewer: “Just one last question, Mr. Khan. We’ve covered the unification of the Mongol tribes, developing the Silk Road, controlling huge areas of the world with your conquering armies. However, perhaps history may remember you most for your unmerciful slaughter of millions of innocent people and the annexation of their lands. Tell me, is there a geographical line somewhere in your head where you will stand and be satisfied that you have achieved all of your dreams ?”

Genghis: “You reporters. Snowflake questions to feed your clickbait headlines. That ‘line’ remains what it’s always been for me. The horizon.”


Cumulus Corn or Frosted Flakes*? by JulesPaige

Like thin crisps or chips; freshly fried
Look up to see these unreachable delights.
Advertised and tempting
Upon the mottled sky page
That attempts to subliminally
Catch your attention, make your mouth water
Urge you to seek to fill your face
With homemade or store packaged goodies.
Your brain registers the need to eat… something
And yet you are partaking of atmospheric manna
What spiritual quest can you fulfill?
While your brain tricks your eyes…
Are you enlightened, encouraged, sated?

You stand looking up, mesmerized, hypnotized
Are you alone a single ‘flake’
Or have others followed your captured gaze?

*Frosted Flakes; as in the chilled wisps of high atmospheric clouds


Walk Out by Reena Saxena

The final walkout was not liberation. It was the realization that she had left doors open for manipulators. She disrespected herself by believing flaky promises and catering to his desire for control.

She felt a surge of relief, a burst of freedom, a spark of joy. She felt like she had reclaimed her life, re-discovered herself, reignited her dreams.

She walked away from him, from his lies, from his pain. She walked towards herself, towards her truth, towards her happiness.

She walked away from flaky promises.

She walked towards liberation, into a world where she held her own life.


Flakes of Ash by Sweeter Than Nothing

Fluttering gently, like a lover’s sigh
Flakes of ash float high up in the sky
Soft and light, they dance and play
A beautiful dream, a nightmare ballet

Their whispers echo, a gentle breeze
A soft caress, a goodnight kiss
Broken hearts used to yearn
Glowing love can only burn

Flakes of ash, they fall like snow
Softly descending, serene and slow
Gentle whispers of a distant fire
Echoes of a past desire

Their delicate touch, a fleeting dream
A memory of a love so extreme
A fragile beauty, a moment’s grace
A fleeting glimpse of a vanishing place


Paint Constellations by Kerry E.B. Black

Jenna scraped her fingernail under a bubble of paint, peeling a swath from the countertop. The phone rang in her hand, impatient as a striking serpent, while Jenna sent silvery paint flakes spiraling to the blue linoleum floor. Jenna’s heart pounded, anxious about the call, enlarging the blemish on the kitchen counter. As the growing blotch revealed antique wood enrobed in peeling paint, the call pronounced her fear. The doctor answered. Clipt speech. Businesslike manner. His tenor brought an internal quake, and Jenna felt each weighty word wreck future expectations. She collapsed, sat in blurred constellations of silvery paint.


Grandpa’s Legacy by Anne Goodwin

Snowflakes cling to the cracked windowpanes. Flecks of dandruff fall from Grandpa’s scalp. “This’ll all be yourn when I’m gone.”

I hunch over my cornflakes. Twenty acres and a farmhouse with crumbling walls can’t compensate for years of slavery.

Grandpa coughs. Gurgles. Crackles. Hands hover at his throat. I spring to my feet and thump him between the shoulder blades. No use.

I was the flakiest student on the First Aid course. Failed the Heimlich manoeuvre on account of my withered arm. Mangled by the machine when Grandpa disabled the failsafe device. When he stops breathing, I’ll call 999.


Glittering Lights by Duane L Herrmann

Glittering on the edge of light of leaping flames, snowflakes fell in the dark. Mysteriously appearing from black sky, glittering momentarily, then vanishing again. Magical!! The fire was small, but the magic was great. I recall it years later. Snowflakes, those bits of sky falling, floating down, have entranced me since I was little. One winter when I was young I was sick and we had a new baby at home. No one wanted the baby sick. I was sent away – to the paradise of my grandmother’s. While there big fluffly snow flakes, fell. I was entranced and remember.


Chili Flakes by Sadje

A margarita pizza, with blobs of fresh mozzarella cheese and green rocket ( arugula ) leaves was ordered. When baked in an open fire brick/ clay oven and delivered piping hot to our table, its aroma was hard to resist. They provided us with chili flakes, chili oil, and garlic powder.

This was a genuine Italian restaurant and there was no tomato ketchup in sight. In fact, they didn’t serve tomato sauce with their French fries either. It was considered an affront to the tastebuds to offer ketchup with any food.

I remember that quaint little restaurant, in Washington DC, fondly.


First Snow by Dianne Borowski

It’s snowing. As I watch the wind swirling snowflakes outside my window I long to be a kid again. The snowflakes begin to accumulate, covering the street and sidewalks. I grab my jacket, move down the stairs and out the door.

I loved the first snowfall of winter long ago, ice skating, snow forts, snowballs and sledding. Now I’m grown. Just this once I want to feel snowflakes on my tongue and in my hair. I want to slip and slide down the drive and dance through snow drifts. I want to feel young and alive once more.


Priorities by Mario Milizia

As a kid, when the first flakes of snow used to fall, it automatically meant snowball wars in the neighborhood. There were always two groups – the strongest, best throwers versus Jack and every other kid in the neighborhood.

Jack’s team usually didn’t win, but they always had fun and that’s all that mattered to him. Jack married one of the tomboys, Julie, that used to join him.

Now, years later, with kids of their own, Jack is struggling to convince their ten year old son, Adam, why he should consider picking some of the weaker kids when picking teams.


Snow? by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa was riding shotgun while Lexi drove to Emma’s three-year-old well baby check-up. Tessa said, “My mother has turned into a complete flake?”

Lexi asked for details.

“She can’t seem to make up her mind about anything anymore and she’s so hot and cold about so many subjects I can’t keep track of her opinion. Like I said, flaky.”

The “parrot” in the back seat said, “Where’s snowflakes? I can’t see any. I don’t have my coat.”

Lexi grinned. “On you, Gramma.”

Tessa turned, “It’s not going to snow Emma Blossom. Gramma’s make mistakes sometimes.” The explanation satisfied her.


TricksnFlake by D. Avery

“Kid! Thet dang hog a yers is makin a mess a the bunkhouse.”

“The shift she is Pal. Curly’s potty trained.”

“Talkin bout her flaky skin. I’m ferever dustin an sweepin.”

“Should git better Pal. I been putting lotion on her. Made from goats’ milk. From those kid goats now growed inta milk goats.”

“Oh yeah, yer kid goats. Haven’t heard mention a them in months.”

“Well, they’re mentioned now cause we need the goat milk lotion. Fer Curly’s flaky skin.”

“Thet’s convenient.”

“Yeah… Tell ya what’s flaky, Pal— our writer’s shifty tricks.”

“Cain’t make this stuff up, Kid.”


Fakin Flake by D. Avery

“Pal, member how I got Curly bout the same time Shorty got her pup, Mause?”


“An the LeGumes ‘nnounced their bambeano bout the same time’s Shorty ‘nnounced becomin a Granma. D’ya smell what I’m steppin in, Pal? Total flake, thet writer a ours, imitatin stead a originatin, liftin an shiftin Shorty’s stories.”

“There’s nuggets a truth in thet stream a consciousness.”

“Reckon our writer’s no better’n a claim jumper. Don’t know how this’ll pan out, but we gotta let Shorty know our concerns. Tell her the truth bout D. Avery.”

“Shorty might see things dif’rently, Kid.”

“Mebbe. Shorty?”


Stormin Off, Not by D. Avery

“Hold up Kid, Frankie jist rode in.” 

“Hey Pal. Kid, don’t be headin off. It’s snowin.”

“It’s jist a few flakes. I gotta git ta Shorty. File a complaint ‘gainst our writer.”

“These few flakes is gonna add up ta a whole lotta snow, I don’t advise ridin in this storm even on that high horse a yers.”

“Well, if anyone knows bout ridin in wild weather, it’s you, Frankie. But don’tcha see, yer anuther example a the problem. You showed up in one a Shorty’s flashes an D. Avery took ya over. Appropriatin characters an stories ain’t appropriate.”


Steppin Down From the High Horse Ta Step Up, Mebbe by D. Avery

“Kid, no two ways about it, we ain’t seein eye ta eye on this.”

“Listen, Frankie, for one, I—”

“Shut yer pie-hole, Kid. You listen. I’m responsible fer me. Pal’s responsible fer Pal. Yer responsible fer— well, what I mean is, now that we all are outta the pen and onta the page, we have life of our own. Cain’t blame our writer. Steppin forward fer a prompt, that’s our choice. We don’t git forced. You of all characters should know that, Kid. Yer always steppin up, heppin out.”

“Reckon Frankie’s right Kid. Ya ain’t never flaked out.”


Used, Not Amused by D. Avery

“Okay, but… Sometimes feels like D. Avery uses us, uses the whole ranch jist ta git 99 words. Is that fair ta folks? How come, fer example, she gits ta write a beaver pond inta the ranch? With beavers? Why, we got ranch hands mighta wanted platypuses swimmin in the pond. Mebbe’d perfer kangaroos roun here too, stead a goats.”

“That’d be somethin. Wunner if it’s too late ta git some kanga-roonicorns fer the cryptid prompt.”

“Pal! Don’t ya git it? Now kanga-roonicorns’ll be a thing, jist wait an see!”

“Yep. Ain’t thet a joeyful thing?”

“Flaky, Pal. Flaky.”


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

November 7: Story Challenge in 99-words

Tonight, my home is warm with the aroma of curry and waiting blankets of joy. Mause and I welcome the cold weather for the opportunity to wrap up in fleecy snuggles. All I want to do is burrow. Waiting is hard.

There was no indication of how hard waiting for a grandbaby would be. After all, I experienced waiting for the arrival of my own three. I’ve waited for October 31 since we found out our surprise in April.

Halloween has come and gone, and no Boo.

My DIL is courageous and has strength. She went to the birthing center with my son early yesterday morning and has been there ever since. And no Boo, yet. The waiting yesterday nearly consumed me. Intellectually, I know the journey is hers, her child’s, my son’s, but waiting feels like getting run over by a driverless Tesla the size of a tank.

Argh! I crave news: I crave completion; I crave my grandchild here happy and well, born to healthy happy parents. Did I not understand the risks as a pregnant woman? I see risks everywhere in this waiting. I feel their exhaustion, worry it like a beach pebble in my pocket, and…wait.

As you can imagine, I’m not up to the task of telling you about my first module in DreamTending and Deep Imagination, yet. You’ll have to wait on the profound revelations Dreaming has for creative writing. So much to tell you. So much has been in transition this year, and right now, the portal is opening. If this were a movie, perhaps the music would change in quality, the camera pan out or zoom in, and then the scene would cut to the next. Voila — no waiting.

But tonight, I still wait. I’m going to curl up with Mause and a bowl of curry under a blanket of joy (I can’t wait to share blankets as a grandmum). Send Leah, Kyle, and Baby Boo good, welcoming, loving thoughts, intentions, and prayers. We are a Ranch community in waiting tonight.

November 7, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about waiting. Where does this waiting take place? Does it have a past or a future outcome? Who is waiting and why? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 13, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.


Welcome, Regis Elle Hauck-Mills! Our precious granddaughter! We traveled to the Baraboo Hills of Wisconsin to meet you and we are so in love! Waiting to become grandparents wasn’t easy but worth the wait. You are so precious to us! A new journey begins.

Cryptozoology Collection

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 Bunyip of the Keweenaw by Doug Jacquier

Professor Drongo Farnarkle’s studies took him to the US to investigate whether diprotodon carrotranchia may have a common ancestor with the Australian bunyip. He hated his work being described as cryptozoology. Such an epithet always contained the whiff of charlatanism and he often had cryptid cross words with anyone skeptical of his proof that the bunyip exists. Recently, he’d heard uncorroborated reports of the hybrid of a flightless bird and alligator living in the Keweenaw. This creature, just like the bunyip, allegedly hugs its victims to death, like some demented grandparent. He was in need of some brave cowpokes.



Big Feet by Bill Engleson

It was name-calling that crafted this career of mine.
Cruel children. They were like their parents. Carbon copies. Anything different and it was to be spurned, shunned, scorned into dust.
Silly children.
They called me Big Feet. Not Foot. Feet. Got it wrong by one. I had two.
They were always big.
I’d never heard of Big Foot or Sasquatch before then.
Sheltered, I suppose.
Mother comforted me. My parents were both…large people.
With humongous feet.
My path was set.
The Himalayas seeking the Yeti.
A thousand other locales.
People paid good money to have me hunt their hallucinations.


Paundrake by Reena Saxena

“This is Paundraka, no ordinary buffalo…”

“Where does it come from?”

“Lord Yama, the God of Death rides it as a vehicle. It starts moving when a human is born and takes a lifetime to reach the person.”

“Then, why not a turtle?”

“Buffaloes signify ignorance, and that is how a major part of the human race lives – oblivious of the opportunity it has in the human body for spiritual work.”

“Have you found a carcass of Paundraka?”

“Shhh … the Vehicle of Death does not die. And it carries souls, not carcasses.”

“Are you a cryptozoologist or mystic?”


Under the Radar by Ann Edall-Robson

How long had they managed to stay under the radar? And now, because of an unfortunate recent slip of the pen and subsequent conversation, nine years of research are in jeopardy. The casual mention of their scientific name had blown the lid off of their fact-finding investigation of this international group. High on the list of data collected was the aptitude of the collective minds and their collaboration in creating the underlying code 99. Fostered by a group of imaginative characters, the tales were conceived. Future analysis by Cryptozoologists is in danger if their mole is found out.


The ‘Richness’ of Dreams by JulesPaige

one marten
huddled under the
raise garden

The garden, skirted with a tarp was supposed to discourage animals from making homes under it. Reese thought a small fox had made a den there and called for some help. Roger Stapleton worked for the county and fancied himself a closet cryptozoologist. He was up with the sun peeking through the tree in his backyard. Would today be the day he found a pine marten? Unlikely, but he was hopeful. The little rodent could make a comeback…

To prepare
For a deepening
Autumn chill

Pine marten
Attempts to
Dig a
Winter den


The Cryptozoologist by Norah Colvin

Josie and her cousins stood around the punch bowl, quenching their thirst after a rowdy line dance (family tradition).

Josie was catching up on all the goss she’d missed out while away: who was with whom, who’d broken up, etcetera.

“What about him? Who’s he with?” she nodded towards the lone one in the shadows.

“Don’t worry about him. He’s just with himself.”

“What do you mean?”

Susie laughed. “He’s a cryptozoologist.”

“A crypto-what? Does he mine cryptocurrency?”

“Not that interesting. He studies cryptids.”

“What are cryptids?”

“Imaginary monsters. They’re all in his mind.”

“Oh?” said Josie.

Everyone laughed.


Odd Tracks by Mario Milizia

I give talks to tourists as a cryptozoologist to supplement my income. I got a call from the local park ranger about Big Foot tracks. I rushed to the camp area, located the footprints, and instinctively followed.

I realized, when I was deep into the woods, that I had no gun, no bars on my cellphone, and no idea what to do if I encountered it.

After looking, the prints were too identical to be real. I told the park ranger.

We called the person who reported them. He admitted his girlfriend wanted to go camping and he didn’t.


The Scale By Nicole Horlings

Vragimyre carefully studied the scale, examining its luster, size, and durability, before looking back up at Alyssia. “This is indeed different and not from any creature currently documented by science.”

“So, it is a dragon scale?” the teen asked excitedly.

The herpetologist hesitated. “Well, to jump all the way to that conclu…”

“It’s gotta be. Between Karkenti’s sighting and my discovery of this scale, that proves it! Dragons do exist!”

“No, not necessarily.”

“I can prove that Karkenti wasn’t hoaxing anything,” Alyssia whispered to herself. “I can fix his reputation.”

“Please don’t misquote me while doing that,” Vragimyre begged.


Hunting Nessie by Joanne Fisher

“You’ve been camped out on the shores of Loch Ness for five years now to take the definitive shot of Nessie, and you’ve nothing to show for it?”

“I wouldn’t say that. What about these photos?”

“What about them?”

“Look at this one.”

“It’s a picture of mist.”

“Yes, but Nessie was in that mist.”

“All I see is mist.”

“Well I think this one is pretty definitive.”

“It’s a photo of Loch Ness and you’ve drawn in Nessie with a black marker.”

“Or have I?”

“Is there anything else?”

“How about a picture of Nessie and Bigfoot together?”


Shift’s Getting Real (Part I) by D. Avery

I said I wasn’t a cryptozoologist, I was a scientist, which got a grunt out of the ranch hand behind the plank table. The next question, also hard to understand with the dialect, was ‘which cryptid was I interested in seeing’.
“I’d rather not say,” I said. “People tend to see what they want to see. I just want to look around, find out for myself why Carrot Ranch has attracted so many cryptozoologists.”

“Our critters is legit,” the ranch hand replied. “But yer right bout folks bein predisposed. Thet’s why ya gotta think good thoughts an speak truth.”


Shift’s Getting Real (Part II) by D. Avery

Well. Maybe this Pal (seriously, that’s what the name-tag said) wasn’t such a curmudgeon after all. I was encouraged to roam the ranch, and told that if it looks like a pig in a shaggy angora sweater— it is.

I wandered all around this virtual ranch. Had the place to myself as the visiting cryptozoologists were busy chasing a so-called cryptid around the barn. (Pal clued me in to that hoax in a hat.)

Did I see any real cryptids? Does it matter? I saw that anything imaginable is possible and learned Carrot Ranch is truly a magical place.


Spotted by Melissa Lemay

Paul was determined to prove to the world that Nessie was real. While he understood her predilection for solitude, he needed people to see.

He planned a meeting for a small group. He didn’t tell Nessie. He went to the lake, as he did every morning, and brought her favorite arctic char. He’d forewarned invitees there could be no flash photography.

Guests gathered eagerly. Paul stood by with his fish bucket. Suddenly–a phone flashlight shone into the fog. The last anyone heard or saw of the people gathered that day was a scrambled iPhone recording. People were screaming.


Cryptozoologist Craig by Kerry E.B. Black

A reedy man in flannel extended his hand. “Craig. Nice to meet you.”

Cindy fought nerves as she shook his hand.

He motioned to a chair and turned monitors. “I staked out the area. Concealed surveillance. High angles and low. If your little friend makes another appearance, we’ll get him.”

Cindy chuckled at the irony. The creature that tore the screen door from its hinges was anything but small. Unfortunately, nobody but this gent from the Eastern Region Cryptozoological Society believed her. Friends and family called her insane.

Cindy just wished his name wasn’t alliterative. Craig the Crytopzoologist sounded – well – crazy.


Cryptic Or Not? by Sweeter Than Nothing

They told him he was crazy, called him all sorts of names but he knew what he saw last summer wasn’t just a figment of his imagination. He’d researched this area for months, mapped every nook and made a list of places she could hibernate.

He’d get a much better photo of her when she was sleeping.

He stopped at the mouth of a cave, hearing soft snores from inside and grinned, readying his camera he crept inside.

Sadly, the flash woke the sleeping grizzly and he was never seen again, the rumour of The Yeti claimed another life.


What do Two-Foots Know? by Duane L Herrmann

“What are we going to do, Mamma?” Little One asked. “The Two-Foots don’t think we’re real.”

“We’re as real as we think we are,” Mamma answered.

“So, we are real?”

“We’re here aren’t we?” Mamma answered back.

“Yes,” Little One answered slowly. “But, I can’t see you.”

“Not everything that exists can be seen.”

“Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.”

“No one can see wind, can they?” Mamma asked. “And, air. Most of the time you can’t see air, but when you can, it’s dirt in the air you see, not actually air.”

“Oh. I’m glad.” Little One relaxed.


Crypto-Wotsits? by Geoff Le Pard

Many assume that cryptozoologies thrive in the off-kilter world of Little Tittweaking. Rather, it’s, they’re cousins – the Typozoologists – whose home is here. Led by Sir David Rottenborough, they run a sanctuary for misspelt animals, hoping to reintroduce them to the wild. After an initial success revowelling a prides of loins, they straightened out a confusion of bewildered beests and saved a group of arctic minkeys from hypothermia by extracting them from a shawl of coldfish. Their latest challenge is to persuade a herd of lonely tonies they are really ponies. As Sir David said, ‘Any Paloyourno is a Palomino.’


Hit an’ a Myth by D. Avery

“Dang it, Pal. This prompt ain’t fair ta our shy critters that come ta the Ranch fer refuge. Cain’t believe Shorty’s invitin a bunch a pseudoscientists ta come pokin roun the ranch.”

“Aw, lighten up, Kid. Anyways, it was jist a matter a time afore creeptoe-zollogists foun their way ta Carrot Ranch. It’s hardly been a secret thet we got uni-corns, bigfoots… fairies, rainbow cats… it’s a magical place, Kid.”

“What if all the investigatin undoes the magic? Wisht I never said nuthin. Drop one little comment an dang Shorty runs with it.”

“Kid. That’s part a the magic.”


Shakin an Shiftin (Part I) by D. Avery

Shorty mighta run with Kid’s thinkin, but Kid run fer the hills. Cuz sure ‘nough, the ranch was crawlin with them creeptoe-zollogists. Kid wouldn’t have nuthin ta do with it, went off ta pertect our more unique critters. But I ain’t as free range as Kid, my main job is heppin Shorty, no matter. So I set up a table ta meet an greet all the creeptoe-zollogists, git em headed in the right d’rection. An what a camo-clothed camera-carryin crowd! First through the gate? Nanjo! Only thing worse an admittin ta bein wrong is admittin thet Kid is right.


Shakin an Shiftin (Part II) by D. Avery

Seems Nanjo’d misread the prompt, thought it said cryptocurrency. Well, I got rid a Nanjo some quick.

Next creeptoe-zollogist said she’s lookin fer long lost critters, not necessarily cryptids. Asked bout pantsers, of all things.

Course we got pantsers at Carrot Ranch I told her. Closer then ya know!

No, she says. Wants ta see a cougar. I referred her ta our writer’s character, Ilene. Again, she says no. Wants ta see a big cat. Sent her ta the Rainbow Cat collection.

Then Ernie happened by, an a bunch a these creepy folks chased him up the Poet Tree.


Shakin an Shiftin III by D. Avery

It was a hairy sitchu-ation. Ol’ Ernie didn’t have a poem or a prayer ta git hisself outta thet tree. Then, seeminly without rhyme er reason, all them creeptoe-zollogists left him, started off towards the barn. Fer a new kinda cryptid critter was a comin outta there!

It was stinky an bristly, lurchin about on two feet, but it weren’t no bigfoot, wasn’t much size to it, though the critter made up fer that with yowlin an caterwaulin. Them creeptoe-zollogists was creepin forward an droppin back, skeered an amazed at this heretafore unknown cryptid.

I knew. It was CryptKid!


Shakin an Shiftin IV by D. Avery

Kid hadn’t got far in the mission ta pertect Carrot Ranch’s more exotic critters, fact only as far as the barn. The barn thet Kid s’posedly shovels out reg’lar. Seems Kid’s been slippin in thet department lately, so there was plenny fer Kid ta slip in, an Kid did, slip that is, right inta sticky slimy sh*t. Kep slippin, an slidin, ended up rollin through hay an shavins, which a course stuck ta the sh*t til Kid ‘peared ta be a shaggy monster.

Kid shifted the ‘ttention a them creeptoe-zollogists an our resident bigfoots an unicorns was safe afterall.


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

Shaggy Collection

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.

Have You Heard Of Shaggy Pages? by Hugh W. Roberts

I opened a charming bookstore called ‘Shaggy Pages’ in a quaint town.

It became a refuge for the LGBTQ+ community, where stories of love and acceptance filled the air.

My cosy shop, adorned with shaggy tapestries and shelves brimming with diverse tales, was a sanctuary for those seeking solace and connection. It was here that relationships bloomed, and hearts found belonging.

In the warm embrace of ‘Shaggy Pages,’ I wove together stories of love, courage, and pride, creating a tapestry of acceptance far beyond my shop’s walls.

‘Shaggy Pages’ – the place where everyone is welcome. Come on in.


Pals by Dianne Borowski

He looked shaggy, kind of scruffy. He wandered around town panhandling, searching for food. The pony was tiny. Doc Jenkins encouraged us to watch her closely. She was quite frail.

He came by the house looking for work. Dad gave him something to eat and let him bed down in the barn for the night.

He saw the pony and lay down near her. Dad said OK, just don’t bother her. Next morning dad hired him. He took good care of the pony. Together they grew stronger. They were like family. Years passed. Buried them together, side by side.


Shaggy, Shaggy, Shaggy by Sue Spitulnik

There’re dogs named Shaggy,
And there’re shaggy dogs.
There are even shaggy cats,
My Maine Coon, Big’n, for one.
There is Shaggin’ on the Boulevard,
referring to dancing in the street.
There are heads of hair that look shaggy
Because they need a cut,
Or because they are cut that way.
There are shagbark hickory trees,
And willow trees whose branches hang like shaggy hair.
Remember the shag rug era in the seventies,
When Moms took hours to vacuum
The shag in the same direction?
And then daughters who walked circular footprints on them,
Got grounded for their efforts.


The New Shaggy Carpet by Sadje

Sadie was very house-proud, and when she bought a new high-pile carpet, she wanted everyone to notice and admire it.

Sadie’s friends were coming over for tea to admire the new carpet when disaster struck.

Her two mischievous sons ruined her grand moment!

Matt spilled his chocolate milk all over the carpet, and when he and his brother tried to clean it, it spread all over the area, giving it a blotchy appearance.

Of course, they both hid in their room and Mom had to roll up the carpet and put it in the basement before her friends came.


Scare Bear by Doug Jacquier

Victoria knew that drop bears, an allegedly vicious killer form of the koala, were a hoax designed to scare tourists visiting Australia and the otherwise gullible. Naturally, as they set up camp in the bush with their parents, she couldn’t resist telling her younger sister, Charlotte, not to worry about drop bears. She stressed that they were a myth and that one would not suddenly descend on her from the trees and attack her savagely. Charlotte’s giant teddy, the now very shaggy Mr. Fuzzy, did very nicely as Victoria hid in a tree and dropped him on Charlotte.


Shaggy Sergio by Kerry E.B. Black

Sergio lifted his lip and snarled at his reflection. “I’m too hairy!”

His father ruffled his son’s already touseled hair and chuckled. “It’s your age. Let me introduce you to my favorite grooming tool.” He presented a razor.

Sergio groaned. “That only makes the hair grow back thicker.”

“Ladies like manly men, and we’re known for being hairy. Sculpt yourself a bit. Like Michelangelo and the marble angel.” He ran a hand over his own trimmed beard.

“The style’s to have a beard. But this…” Sergio growled. “This is excessive.”

“What do you expect?” His father shrugged. “We’re werewolves.”


A Life in the Deity by Geoff Le Pard

History shows gods tend to be (a) male and (b) hirsute. Final proof of the link between the tonsorial and the theological came when bounteously bouffant Terry Godd commenced his ministry in Little Tittweaking with endless tales. His adherents flocked to hear these shaggy god stories. One such was Japanese chef, Sue Nami who named her signature sauce after this mode of preaching: Terry Yacking. Terryists believe nirvana is finally achieved if rendered comatose by the monotony of delivery. It is also further proof that if, on waking, one finds another story has started, some gods are right bastards.


The Shag by Jill Marie

The stylist asks what I want today. “A shaggy haircut….you know what that is? A shag?” She sniffles and tells me that those are not popular right now. Well it’s come to that, as I realize I am not so popular right now. A woman soon 70 years old. Wanting to capture youth again. That shag that was one of the many different cuts I’ve worn over the years but the one that gave me pleasure with the way it looked and the ease of care. Let me try my younger self on again. “Yes, please, a shag.”


Wistful Thinking by JulesPaige

haloed ‘round
her mylar balloons
to bring cheer

Would Granny be able to overcome the ripped denim jeans she wore?

Claire’s Mom had warned her to dress nicely when visiting Granny’s retirement home. Most older folks there looked a tad shaggy around the edges, and some even as if they’d been through the ringer themselves. They’d frown on clothing that looked like it should have been cut into strips and braided into rag rugs. Claire hoped the balloons would be a happy distraction, so the old folks wouldn’t complain about her outfit. Claire never whined about ‘Ode du Old Folks!’


Shaggy Dog by Norah Colvin

“I want a dog,” said Jason.

“You’re in the right place,” said the attendant at Rescue Kennels. “We’ve all sorts of dogs. What sort are you after?”

“A shaggy dog, please.”

The attendant showed Jason the shaggy dogs.

“They need a lot grooming,” he warned.

“Oh. Not shaggy then. Curly perhaps?”

Jason shook his own curly head at the curly dogs. They’d need grooming too.

“How about short?” said the attendant.

“They’re awfully noisy,” said Jason, as they walked the aisles.

“They are dogs,” said the attendant.

“Right,” said Jason. “Do you have any cats? Maybe a shaggy cat?”


Big Pat by Gloria McBreen

I went there for a new-born girl, but I ended up with a twelve-year-old boy! He looked out of place with his shaggy hair and bald patch, so I asked about him. They said that when his mamma had died, he ran away. He was found wandering in the grounds of a nursing home. No one knew his name.

His eyes followed me. He looked sad but I sensed he had charisma. I signed the papers, and took him home. When he strutted into our kitchen, he charmed us immediately with his feline cockiness. We christened him Sexy Pat.


Hairin’ Up by Ann Edall-Robson

“Winter’s coming early, probably a long one too,” Mac said, rubbing his hand along the shaggy neck of the horse.

The young cowboy wondered if the decision to call about the advertisement for the ranch job had been a good one. Smirking, he asked, “Where’d you hear that? You some kind of a weather guru?”

Mac’s face didn’t change. Teaching youngsters the old ways of telling the weather had saved more than one who rode for them.

The foreman shook his head. “It’s August, the horses are hairin’ up.”


Mac chuckled. Sooner or later the boy would learn.


On and on and on…by Bill Engleson

I was twelve when Disney inflicted the first one on me. On the world. Didn’t have a dog, so I suppose I was at loose ends pet-wise. It didn’t help when I came home and told my parents that I’d just seem a movie where the main character turned into a sheep dog. Not that we had sheep so a sheepdog wouldn’t be of much use. And we certainly had no use for boy turning into a sheepdog. Especially as I was the only boy in the house.
Tried to get my sister to volunteer.
That went nowhere fast.


Powers of Perception by D. Avery

“My hair is the source of my strength.”

“Well, Sampson, you could at least run a comb through that bedraggled, shaggy excuse for hair of yours sticking out every which way.”

“My hair acts like radar when it’s like this, increases my powers of perception.”

“Boy, you’ve got an answer for everything.”

“No, that’s you Gramps, you never ask any questions, all you ever do is make judgements.”

“Here’s a question for you then; how long will she last at rehab this time?” but the boy’s only answer was to hang his head, thick hair shielding his welling eyes.


Shaggy Tail by Reena Saxena

I see a shaggy tail mid-air, and there …. She has landed on the sofa or bench.

It doesn’t help much that it is covered by a shaggy cover. Remnants of calcium bones get lost in it, and my girl has to work hard to retrieve it. It’s not easy for me to separate hair they shed from the covers.

So, well …. We’ll go in for a satiny smooth one before the New Year begins.

Let the self-anointed Queen slip off her throne sometimes, and yet … let her remain covered with the satiny smoothness of our love.


Freeda My Shaggy Dachshund by Brenda Fluharty

Freeda the Shaggy dachshund, my only sunshine,

You bring joy and happiness into my life divine.

With your long, furry body and wagging tail,

You could brighten even the darkest trail.

Through difficulties, you’re always by my side,

A faithful companion, my heart’s chosen guide.

In your company, all worries seem to fade away,

You are my sunshine, my ray of light every day.

So, Freeda the Shaggy dachshund,

I cherish the bond we share, until the very end.

You bring endless love and a zest for life,

Forever grateful to call you mine, my sweet canine.


Philippine Eagle by ladyleemanila

Philippine eagle
brown and white with shaggy crest
fast and agile bird

fast and agile bird
gives loud and high pitched whistles
our national bird

our national bird
critically endangered

we should protect and conserve
before it’s too late

not too late to save
without other predators
dominant hunter

flight’s fast and agile
monkey-eating eagle
still-hunting or perch-hunting

hunting to survive
once paired, monogamous
courtship begins by nest building

building relationship
aerial display and loud calling
copulation follows

eagle’s nest made of sticks
both parents take care of eaglets
threatened by deforestation
let’s protect and conserve them


Keepin Cryptoz Off the Ranch by D. Avery

“Well, Kid, s’pose yer all set up fer a shaggy hog story, what with Curly sportin her new angora goat fleece jacket.”

“First thing come ta mind was Ernie an that shaggy shirt he’s always wearin.”

“Better not write nuthin bout thet, Kid.”

“Why not?”

“Cuz Ernie ain’t never worn a shirt unnerneath his overalls, not even in winter.”

“Gulp. I see.”

“The unseein won’t come easy.”

“Reckon Ernie’s manscapin ‘splains Sassysquatch’s ‘ttraction to ‘im. But I ain’t gonna write bout that neither, won’t have a bunch a cryptozoologists creepin roun the ranch.”

“Thet’s write decent a ya, Kid.”


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

October 31: Story Challenge in 99-words

Yellow leaves and snowflakes fill the air. Chickadees burst from the snow-covered brush, searching for seeds and braving human contact. One such bird flutters so forcefully in my direction as I toss a toy for Mause I can see the intricate array of single feathers forming fans to encircle the bird in paused flight. It forms an unforgettable and dubious image in my mind.

Unforgettable for obvious reasons — who can unsee the beauty of nature, resist yet another sunset, or catch the shape of something ephemeral? Once I saw the chickadee fully fanned, my imagination recognized a living image. How that image plays out seven years or seven generations from now is up to the great mystery of life. Yes, I saw it; but didn’t you see it, too?

Dubious for reasons of memory-making. Somehow, we expect our memory to record a given moment clearly as a snapshot. But we are humans, not machines. We all experience input, yet vary in which details to grab, which details to believe. Did I really see both wings and tailfeathers of the paused chickadee fully fanned or did my mind sharpen the blur my eyes caught? Did the feathers make a sound? Did Mause? What did the day smell like? The new snow? What was I feeling at the time? Thinking?

Do you think it matters that memory and imagination are roommates? I’m a truth-seeker, a dreamer, a creative writer, a literary artist. Truth matters to me. Yet truth is not found only in facts and clear unfiltered memories; truth is found in living images. The truth is, factually, a bird flew in my direction when I went outside with my dog. My truth is that a chickadee spread wings so close to me I could see universal beauty. Another truth is that a stupid bird startled someone who gasped and thought who cares what type it was? Thus, image-making is where writers play with pieces of memories like Legos. Yet, by playing, we are spinning the truth — not to change it but to see it from different perspectives; to deepen our experiences and the truth of them.

As a craft, we can add all kinds of elements to give shape to our images, our memories, our fictional truths. We can blend facts with stories; pair new ideas to old objects; give analysis emotional intelligence. We can play with words, build worlds, and bring characters to life. Writers are the best dreamers because we first write in the imaginal and then on the page. Dreamers need to cultivate a bridge between the imaginal and the waking world. Writers use that bridge all the time. Even when forming a memory to commit to story.

My ideas feel flakey to me. Not that I’m admitting to being a flake, even if I do write in a Unicorn Room. Somewhere, if I dig deeply enough, there is a gold nugget in my mind. In the meantime, I sift for flakes of its existence. I don’t know what this idea is, but I know it exists. It drives me to be curious about things like imagination, truth, deep psyche, and collective unconscious. It calls me to pay attention to the wonders around me, including Dreams. The gold nugget is my goal when I write, following the flakes. Beginning this Friday, I get to study dreams and the deep imagination.

What will I learn? How will that change the course of my thinking?

Despite the snow, my rambling thoughts, and the distraction of gold leaves on white ground, a hundred images visited me tonight. Halloween is a great time to people-watch. And remember how human we all are at the neighborhood level (let us not forget to build and maintain our villages). The tiny toddlers in fabric costumes over snow coats and fleecy baby lambs didn’t quite know what was going on as parents collected candy. I shared knowing winks. The ones old enough to understand the candy collection can be strong grabbers of handfuls, eyes glazed. The older groups run together, some dressed alike or to a theme.

A grandmother drove through the neighborhood, and each time her little tricky-treater jumped out, she grinned. I stood on my doorstep and grinned back. Soon, any day, soon I’ll be a grandma, too. I wonder how that will shape my living images? And I may never know because there will always be something to be learned or realized. How I write, where I gain inspiration, even why I write, will change — evolve; become.

Maybe I don’t really want to find the nugget of knowledge. Forever chasing flakes feels more appealing. Dream on, writers!

October 31, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word or idea, flakes. What or who is a flake? Is there tension or phenomenon that is creating flakes? Can flakes be massive or minute? Go to your flakiest memories for living images to play with. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 6, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.