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October 3: Story Challenge in 99-words

Ideas flit like smelt in my head, but thoughts swim deep and slow. Ideas flash shiny bellies, distracting me with wonder. Thoughts evolve and grow. Sometimes they rest and other times they rise to the surface, tetrapods ready to breathe beyond the cognitive waters where they formed.

I savor the thought process.

Writers know to keep the well filled for inspiration, but we also want to keep the long forming thoughts swimming until they inform our writing. If we write what we know, we must do more than chase experiences. We need to let thoughts rise from the experiences we feed them. It takes time to be, to reflect, to connect.

In an overly digitized 24/7 world of convenience, thinking–also known to writers as window gazing–feels slow. It’s okay to let small thoughts swim a while, meet other circling thoughts, consume a school of flashy ideas, and then sink for later rumination. Thinking, like imagining and feeling, comes from our inner worlds. You can be thinking in a cafe, on a train, or perched on a rock where other hikers wave to you. No one knows the rich inner life you are living in the moment.

Writing our thoughts happens when the thoughts need to breathe and words on pages give them oxegyn. Here’s the fun part–we can write these thoughts in a sermon, a poem, a post, an essay, an article, a text, a memoir, a tweet, a novel. I tell my students, “Everyone is a writer; writing is thinking.” If you aren’t thinking, you aren’t breathing. And I’m beginning to suspect even ghosts and trees and snakeflies breathe. They don’t have pens or keyboards so they breathe their thoughts into ours.

If you have ever encountered anxiety, you know that thoughts can ravage your inner well. We can grow sharks–thought patterns that want to tear our flesh and eat us whole. Not all thoughts serve us and sometimes we have to go fishing and clear out the well we fill so deep. Some writers might even harvest those shadow thoughts and hard experiences, such as author, Kagan Goh. He’s a Singapore-Canadian spoken word poet, playwright, author, mental health advocate, and someone who lives with mental illness.

Kagan Goh is author of Surviving Samsara: A Memoir of Breakdowns, Breakthroughs, and Mental Illness. He is also an upcoming featured storyteller in Michignan and I’ve been asked to interview him for a Keweenaw Storytelling literary event. It will be a digital interview and e-tickets are free. I’m reading his memoir and letting it swim deep with my own thoughts.

This past Friday and Saturday proved a fulfilling multidisciplinary workshop, The Movement of Joy. I attended an online workshop last season for the Rozsa Center at Michigan Tech and have been captured by Naila Ansari’s graduate work in archiving black women’s joy. She has a crew of artists she works with and I was thrilled that spoken word poet, Ten Thousand, drove to the Keweenaw through Canada from Buffalo (I’ve been there!).

To watch thdancer and poet share artistic energy in collaboration is inspiring. They sparked a school of ideas and fed deep thoughts, too. As a writer of women’s fiction, I’m inspired by women’s stories missing from history. Both Naila and Marquis speak to the effort to archive stories for a fuller, richer record. Ten Thousand kindly exchange information with me and allowed me to record a message for my students. He’s willing to do a zoom class for them and expand their 99-word story practice.

I can’t help but think of all the fragments I chase as a writer and feed my deep thoughts. Women’s stories have come to me from ranches in Nevada, from elders in a mountain town in California, from slivers of information left on graves, Census records, and history books that focus on dominate culture men. I’m pondering how my work is that of an archivist. It’s akin to our weekly collection that is unfolds like story snapshots of literary anthropology.

We are archivists of the moment in a world unusually connected because of digital technology.

Last week, I wrote about my teapot. But after comments, I had to think deeper on how it was that I valued British teapots. A memory, a fragment, came to me. I was seven-years-old, new to Markleeville, shy, and without siblings. I met Mrs. Coyan when I delivered a bag of groceries to her. She asked me to stay for tea and stale cookies she’s called biscuits (this confused me for years as I thought bisquits were a type of cookie, not another name altogether). She must have said her beautiful round teapot was from England and I had a thing for tea and British teapots ever after.

When Mrs. Coyan’s son died this year–Gary was my bus driver and I babysat all his sons–my mom sent me his obituary. I realize it’s a story about Gary, but even in 2022 and written by a woman, the history unfolds through the male lens. There is no archive of his mother’s stories and her life was courageous and pioneering, too. My thoughts on all of this is renewed vigor for the value of archiving women’s lives in a genre specific to the gender.

Last week, a quick-witted smelt flashed, giving me the idea for rituals of tea from writers around the world as a prompt. That idea sparked from Doug in Australia. I went for it, hook, line, and sinker. The bigger, heavier thoughts I will leave for the depths for now.

Let’s write and have a spot of tea!

October 3, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about any ritual involving tea. It can be a daily afternoon tea prepared specifically or the reading of tea leaves in a cup. What do you know? What do you imagine? Is your story deep and ponderous or bright and flash? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. October 8, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Mud on the Tires 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.

An Annoying Speck by Hugh W. Roberts

It was the tiniest speck of mud on the type, but it annoyed him. He couldn’t leave it there on such a special occasion.

“MARSHALL! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” bellowed a voice.

“But sir, there’s–“



A few seconds before setting off, Marshall retook his chance and removed the mud while his leader turned his back.

Then, on the sound of his boss’s bellowing voice giving orders, Midshipman Marshall joined the other 97 royal navy soldiers in towing the carriage containing the Queen’s coffin as the sound of bagpipes played.


Stories Retold by Reena Saxena

He is ready to glide into the future. Inherited wings feel light on shoulders, as wheels whir before leaving the ground.

A force stands ready to support, send or receive anything as per instructions. Vehicles are cleaned and polished to carry stories into the future.

Somehow, the mud on tires refuses to go. It is mixed with blood and gore and talks about wheels skidding to death and a car forced to speed away from life.

A son wipes his tears away, as the prince gets ready for the throne.

Memories are subjective. Stories change form on being retold.


Mud on the Tires of Life by Miss Judy

Growing up rural in 1950’s was hard. Small rural schools taught reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, home economics for the girls, shop for the boys. Teachers were strict, parents stricter. Girls would be wives and mothers; boys would be husbands with jobs. Futures were cast.

The school of hard knocks taught how to survive, things not learned in textbooks, experiences gained navigating young lives. Some prospered, became successful and happy; others survived.

The experiences gained, lessons learned, successes and failures, whether thick or thin, it’s all just mud on one’s tires of life. Only one knows how thick the mud.


Driving Lesson by Kerry E.B. Black

Mia chewed her lip, shoulders tight enough to snug her ears. Heart pounding, gaze darting everywhere. Good speed. Not too close to the white. Not too near the double yellow with its onrushing traffic.

“You’ve got this.” Her mother depressed an imaginary brake on the passenger’s side. Her white knuckles belied a different story than her calm voice. “Stay in your lane.” Tone shift. “Back on the road!”

“You’re making me nervous!”

The car veered further.

“Pull over.”

While her mother checked for damage, Mia fought tears.

Her mother pulled Mia into a hug. “Just muddy tires. Try again.”


Driving Lesson by Duane L Herrmann

I let my youngest daughter drive on empty country roads. We turned a sharp corner and she abruptly stopt.

“I can’t dad.”

“Go slow, it’ll be all right.”

“No. You drive,” she insisted.

I did not argue, so we traded places. It was easy – for me, I’d driven on a low-water bridge before. The road went sharply down the bank to the nearly dry creek bed, then sharply up again. The “bridge” was just one lane wide, and narrow at that. She didn’t want to drive any more that day.

No mud on those tires.


The Ranch Christmas Party (Part I) by Colleen M. Chesebro

Montana winters are brutal, but this one started out like a lamb—until today. The road to Dearborn Ranch swerved sharply to the right. I hugged the curve. The mud on the tires of my red Chevy Sprint spattered the windows. The swarm of snowflakes caught in the glare of the headlights blinded me. Winter had finally arrived.

The ranch Christmas party featured Angus flat iron steaks, baked potatoes, and freshly baked bread and desserts from the Hutterite colony down the road. Drinks were on the house. This was when the city girl got to mingle with real cowboys!


The Ranch Christmas Party (Part II) by Colleen M. Chesebro

My thoughts were on the party, and not the road. Now, the snow blew sideways against the car. It was then, the biggest deer I’d ever seen in my life walked across the road! I slowed to a stop. The animal was huge. The bottom of his belly almost touched the hood of my car. Then he was gone.

I arrived without a scratch. The first thing I did was retell my adventure on the road. The cowboys hooted with laughter.

“Colleen, that wasn’t a deer. With that size, it had to be an elk,” the ranch boss said.


Mud Covered by Ann Edall-Robson

The rain from the past few weeks added to the level of the creek and she missed the crossing by five feet. Trying to correct her error, one front wheel sunk into the bank. Now she played the game…reverse, first gear, reverse…rock, spin…repeat. No use arguing with a tire covered in mud. Sloshing up the creek bank on her way to get help, she was glad it was mud and water and not ice and snow. It would undoubtedly be added to the dinner table banter, and living this one down wasn’t going to happen soon.


Stuck in the Mud by Joanne Fisher

Jess got out of the tractor. Due to an excessive amount of rain the south field had turned into a swamp. Her tractor was mired, the tires caked with mud. She sighed. Already she had tried for several hours to get the tractor moving again, but to no avail. Cindy had gone to Faerie to meet the Elven Queen. She had been gone a couple of days now. Jess hated it when Cindy wasn’t here. The farm never felt right without her. Jess decided to walk back to the homestead and figure out what to do over some coffee.


Last Ride by Charli Mills

Mud on the tires slid the truck toward the unpaved road’s edge. The sandstone plateau loomed above the serpentine track. Jan aimed the hood left, then right, spinning the steering wheel to counter each skid. She refused to let off the gas despite every thought screaming to brake. She ignored her fear, pressing onward, upward. Windshield wipers swiped rain and smeared red mud. When clay gave way to exposed sandstone her truck glided sideways. No traction. No response between steering and tires. Like rain over the rim, Jan’s truck poured off the road. Dropping, she lit a final cigarette.


A Muddy Disappearance (Part 1) by Kayla Morrill

I open the door and foggy cold air creeps past my ankles uninvited into my house.

“Good morning Miss Charlotte Begolonni? Have you seen Sarah Lancaster recently?” Detective Morgan asks.

“I was with her last night until about…11 o’clock and…”

“A-a-a-n-n-d-d?” the detective asks.

“I-I don’t remember,” I honestly say.

“Can we look around?”

I nod.

“Sir, there is mud on her tires.”

“Can you explain where the mud came from?”

“No I-I can’t,” I reply confused.

“We are going to have to take you down to the station to ask you more questions and impound your car.”



A Muddy Blur (Part 2) by Kayla Morrill

I sit on my bunk reading the paper headlined “Sarah Lancaster Still Missing 10 Years Later”.

I turn my eyes towards the picture of my mug shot. My red hair parted like a wet mop and my bloodshot eyes searching for answers in a faraway land. Next to my photo was Sarah’s, as if the journalists wanted to make it obvious who the bad one was.

I tried to remember that night many times but can’t.

What was worse, muddied brain or muddied tires?

According to the court, muddy tires were good enough to put me on Death Row.


Back Tracking by D. Avery

“Relax, it’s not a spider.”

Her husband’s voice startled her more than the string that brushed her face. She switched on the light, illuminating the motel cabin, a stringed balloon at the ceiling, her husband sitting up in the armchair, the portable oxygen tank in his lap.

“I put the top up on the convertible.”

“And stole a balloon.”

“Just before this downpour.”

He was wheezing and didn’t argue when she gave him morphine drops.

“It came on fast.”

“It’s just rain,” she said. “What’s a little mud on our tires?”

He smiled wanly. “We should head home tomorrow.”


Nature Cure? by Anne Goodwin

She cursed when she saw the sign for the diversion, barely a mile from the edge of the moors. She took a chance and drove around it; the road crumbled beneath her wheels. She abandoned the car and stomped through the heather, the wind whistling around her ears.

She hadn’t come for answers. She hadn’t come to forget. But here in the moody landscape she could let her emotions roam free.

She returned to the parking place as darkness gathered. Footsore, hungry, tired. Mud on her boots, mud on her tyres, the ghost of a smile on her face.


Rut-riding by Nancy Brady

Annie learned to ride a bicycle long after her younger sister did. Soon, she could keep up with more experienced riders. Often, Annie raced her sister home and won when she rode her older sister’s bike. The bike didn’t look racy at all with its balloon tires, but it was deceptively fast. It was fun to ride, too.

Annie discovered that if she rode on the berm, she could ride in the ruts. She named this activity rut-riding and enjoyed the bumpy ride especially when it was wet. Splashing through puddles with mud in her tires made her smile.


Mud on Tyres by ladyleemanila

When Mark and Pat renovated their home, they discovered an old bicycle. It was Mark’s old bike when he was a boy. He remembered all the adventures he had with that bike. All the scratches, bruises, mud cakes formed and mischiefs.

He checked it out, it still works. He has to pump air in the tyres, check the brakes, scrub and paint the rusted parts. Voila! A new bike for their son, Peter. He’s looking forward to teaching Peter how to ride a bike. He might even buy a second hand bike for himself. That was a good find.


Muddy Tires by Sadje

The layer of caked mud on the tires was thick and the wheels were stuck hard. Jessie pulled hard without success.

She then had a bright idea, she brought the water hose, turned the water on the bike to make it easy to extract. Now the mud was acting like bubblegum and the bike was stuck fast. When Jessie pushed harder, she slipped in the mud and the bike fell on top of her.

The bike was free at last, all they both needed was a hosing down, hopefully before her brother found out that she’d taken his bike.


Complex Chocolate? by JulesPaige

When you can’t drive you can’t get mud on your tires, but adults can. They got mud on their tires when we went to visit relatives in the country. I didn’t know the eldest son of my grandfather from his first wife. The Grands lived with Randy and Kate who I don’t think were happy to see us. But Grampa was Dad’s father in law. Gran, Mom’s mother.

My sibling and I were told to go out and play while the adults talked. Together we found a water hose and dirt and had fun making stacks of mud pies.


Mud on the Tyres by Norah Colvin

After the wedding, Teddy and Ollie scrunched into the back of the little red convertible.

As Amy and Lucy drove them away from the faraway forest, the guests cheered and threw confetti. The empty cans, now replacing balloons on the bumper, clattered across the wooden bridge and scattered gravel along the mountain trail.

At the honeymoon resort, Teddy and Ollie splashed in the pool first, but they were overexcited, and the grounds were soon a mucky muddy mess.

When Mother called, ‘Dinnertime!’, the girls were mud-spattered, from the hair on their heads to their convertible’s tyres.

‘Coming!’ they replied.


Mud by Sylvia Cognac

My older sister called to warn me that a monsoon was coming.

“The more time we spend on the phone, the later I’ll get home,” I said.

A moment after hanging up, I was soaking wet, and my legs, feet, shoes, and tires were all soaked in mud.

My muddy shoelace caught in my pedal, nearly ejecting me off of my bicycle into the monsoon.

Stopping in the storm, I tied a stronger knot.

“I cannot believe you took a bike ride during a monsoon,” scolded my sister when I arrived home an hour later, drenched to the bone.


Mud Flats by Bill Engleson

She’s a little putout. “You can’t bring them in here. This is a house. Not a mud hut.”

“Ma,” I scream, “The river’s rising. All of my tools and my bikes will get washed away.”

“I don’t care if the heavens are weeping buckets till forever, I will not have all that gas-guzzling machinery in this house. Put it all back in the garage like it always is.”

“Ma,” I point out with clarity and passion, “The bloody garage is already a foot under…”

“Then, Sonny boy, that was the way that he intended it to be. Now scoot.”


A Sweet Tragedy by Frank James

Convict Carl Brown trained a blind veteran’s dog, Maverick. Every day, he pushed a cart down a clay path and mud caked his tires and boots. He slogged to the kennel giving him meaning. Training ticked years away. Without noticing, Maverick became his visceral life.

Feeding Maverick flashed thoughts of him eating at five-star restaurants. Other times, Carl imagined him trotting from a boat or plane onto an exotic island.
Six-years later, Carl cleaned the mud because Maverick’s veteran arrived. Carl kneeled with Maverick, “I’ll miss you. Go experience the life I’ll never have.”


The Drive that Changed Everything – A True Story by The Curious Archaeologist

He had kept raising difficulties. From doubts about the engine to mud on the tyres.

She was more confident, her money had helped built it, she had helped design it, she knew it would work.

She planned it carefully, told her husband she was going to her mother’s home more than a hundred miles away, he expected her to take the train, she waited until he had left the house.

Then her sons rolled the ungainly machine out of the stable, pushed it until it started, and Bertha Benz took the world’s first motor car and drove into history.


As Clear as Mud by Doug Jacquier

The ashen-faced homicide detective said ‘We know it was you from the mud on your tyres matching the crime scene. So confess.’

I said ‘It’s a supermarket car park.’

The detective groaned ‘OK, but we’ve got your prints on the murder weapon.’

I said ‘Which was?’

The detective grunted ‘OK, so we haven’t found the murder weapon but you’ve been positively identified as being in the vicinity shortly after the crime.’

I said ‘Boss, I’m your Sergeant. I came with you.’

The detective yawned ‘I really need to get some sleep. Just don’t leave town without letting me know.’


A Brand New Chevrolet by Nicole Horlings

When Brad’s sedan broke down, he thought about what car he wanted to buy next. He had recently gotten into crafting coffee tables for a hobby, and having a vehicle with a big open trunk would be perfect if he began taking commissions.

After he drove home his new Chevy pickup, his uncle happened to stop by to drop off something, and seeing the truck, laughed and asked, “So Brad, when are you going to get some mud on the tires?”

Brad looked confused, so his uncle played a specific country song for him. Brad listened then laughed too.


Gender Reveal by Sue Spitulnik

Lexi and Adam’s families were excited the day of the gender reveal party but the fact there were no decorations caused a lot of hushed comments. Everyone had eaten and some were ready to leave. A cousin was snooping in the house for color clues. Then a cheer started from near the garage when Emma came out pulling her wagon that had blue balloons fastened to it and was hauling a cake with blue frosting. After the group settled down, it was disclosed that mud had to be cleaned off the wagon wheels before Emma could pull it easily.


A Stain Transformed by Gary A. Wilson

“Yo babe! What’s this? It was in your old dresser”

“Oh that. It’s from the night some jerk drove through an oily, muddy puddle and sprayed me outside my prom.”

“You – may have mentioned this.”

“I had mud and road grit in my hair, down my cleavage. The dress was ruined. I saved it to recall my hatred and anger.

“But – years passed: college, first jobs, a war, an unplanned child and a marriage – all happened. That dress transformed from an icon of hatred into one of blessing when you, that same jerk, transformed into my husband.”


The Phynx’s Riddle by Christy Gard

When I woke that morning, the reak of new rubber wafted off the tires. I imagined buffing that black every hour until it shined. I’d keep my tires pristine until dusk.

He arrived that afternoon, insisting on taking my vehicle for a spin. I begged him not to blemish my beauty. He promised he’d be careful. I argued that just driving down the street would cover the tires in dust.

That evening I scrubbed and scrubbed at the muddy stains left behind on my ruined tires. His recklessness had tainted my entire view of the day.


Internally Combustive by Geoff Le Pard

From three, Sandy Mudd wanted to be a car mechanic. He re-sparked plugs and dipped sticks until everyone said he’d surely be the youngest ever winner of the Total Spanner award. His ambition to join Little Tittweaking’s star team at The Greased Monkey, was set back when he displayed his supersized big end during a speed-dating event at the Compost and Rot for which he was temporarily banned. Sadly, his exceptional dexterity when nipple greasing Penny Forthem’s open top failed to help and anyone asking as to his whereabouts was always answered with ‘Mudd’s on the tyres.’


Homicide by Simon

Andrew never thought the mud on his tires could serve him jail sentence.

A rainy night, cold climate, while she hung up on her Secret friend, Andrew hung up his knife on her neck. Dragging her body he disappeared in woods, resumed back to his routine life like nothing happened.

It was a month now, he made everyone believe she ran away.

Andrew was confident that nobody could find any dead body, he was wrong.

Police were clueless except the tire mark and muds that matched Andrews car for all 8 murders .

Andrew regretted, for not changing his tires.


A Red Faced Wang by Scott Bailey

In police headquarters garage, the Captain showed two detectives the stolen Jeep and said, “Detective Cagney, Detective Lacey this is Forensic Specialist Dr. Wang HangLow”.

Dr. HangLow showed them the white chips he dug out of a mud packed tire. “Definitely bone fragments from your missing man,” he said confidently and beaming with pride.

“What about that big piece sticking out on top?” Cagney pointed.

With tweezers, Lacey picked it out of the mud, looked closely, turned it over and remarked, “It says made in China”.

“Great work, Dr. HangLow, you found an old coffee cup”. Cagney said.


Plenny a Problems With the Prompt (Part I) by D. Avery

*Some ya might recall thet ma last words last week was, “What could go wrong?” Kin tell ya: plenny.

First off, beavers is good at a lot, but not knot tyin, though them knots held fer a bit, longer on the rear a the truck.

Seconly, a hot air balloon ’parently ain’t powerful ‘nough ta lift a ranch truck outta a creek, though it looked promisin fer a bit.

Thirdly, worse’n thet truck ta begin with is thet truck flippin in the air an landin belly up in the creek. Dang tires ain’t got no mud on ‘em!*


Plenny a Problems With the Prompt (Part II) by D. Avery

“That didn’t go swimminly, Pal.”

“No shift, Kid!”

“Uh-oh, here comes Shorty.”

“Hey Kid. Seen the Ford?”

“Ford’s in the stream.”

“I don’t want to ford the stream. I want the Ford truck.”

“Oh shucks. Um, I’m havin it cleaned?”

“That’s thoughtful, Kid, but unnecessary. I want to go back-roadin, get some mud on the tires.”

“Thought ya was inta kayakin? Mebbe ya wanna go boatin ‘stead a takin the truck.”

“Stop spinning your wheels Kid. Where’s the truck?”

“Long story, Shorty.”

“Think thet story’ll hold water?”

“Shush, Pal.”

“Tell an abridged version.”

“A bridge! Yer truck’s become infras-truck-cher.”


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

September 26: Story Challenge in 99-words

The gray-sky season has returned to the Keweenaw. Lady Lake Superior broods with atmospheric moodiness while air and water temperatures collide. Cloudy tension hangs over our rocky spine. Those who know what will come next already want to hunker into snuggly flannel and mugs of hot tea.

I miss my white porcelain tea pot. Once, I had a cheerful yellow teapot from the UK; a graduation gift back in the ’90s. It was so precious to me, that when we moved from a temporary apartment to our house in Minnesota, I decided to carry it rather than pack it.

What was I thinking? My children treasured the teapot, too, remembering their Aunt Kate back in Montana who had gifted me the item. We used to have tea with her and for my eldest’s ninth birthday, she helped me organize a high tea party. Tea leaves, water, and memories lived in that yellow pot. It shattered on the driveway of our new Minnesota house.

Later, I bought another teapot but it was smaller and the spout dribbled. I found another pot with less dribble and more capacity but it was devoid of any commitment to color. It was white. It served the family well enough that I miss its absence. It exists, somewhere in Idaho with shoes I’ve not worn in over five years.

Yet, I hardly ever drink tea anymore. It must be the moodiness of the changing weather tricking me into thinking cozy tea thoughts. I was surprised to find a British porcelain teapot on clearance at the Hancock food co-op. After all, I had never seen teapots for sale there. Its periwinkle-blue side flaunted a garishly orange discount sticker. I couldn’t resist. Now I’m properly potted, and yes, I’m drinking more tea.

Have you even tackled a project because you were infused with tea? That’s how I came to organize the historical research that I’ve lugged around since leaving Idaho, which led to the discovery of a weird note. Evidently, I scribbled the disjointed ideas on a recycled piece of paper. It could have been from 2004 or 2012. I have no recollection of jotting the thoughts I didn’t want to “forget.”

Drafting is the part of writing that is a massive info dump. If you are a pantser, then you know the joy of dumping to the page like lake-effect snow (not here, yet). The act is glorious but rarely is the mess. The other part of writing, revision, seeks to clean up the mess. If you are a plotter, you relish planning every last detail. Regardless of where your writing joy resides, you must find beauty and balance in “plantsing,” which calls us to draft, plan, and revise.

Trying to make sense of my dump note is like trying to understand my brain. Here’s what I wrote on a quarter-page of recycled paper:

Would you fake a broken arm for me? (based on a robin protecting another from potential danger at the cat farm) -- birdsers vs. cat lovers -- robin humping for worms or insects
The Isolation of a Lone Gunman
Find Your Happy Place as a Beauty Regime -- thrift store top -- earrings

I’m intrigued by my question. But what was the cat farm? Back in the ’00s, I was freelancing and writing columns and stories about food cooperatives and the local food scene. I probably interviewed hundreds of farmers, chefs, food artisans, and co-op members during that time and visited six to eight farms a year for 16 years. I can’t recall a cat farm; many farms had feral cats, though.

Birdsers is a funny typo. I’m pretty sure I meant birders and I can see that I was contemplating an article about the impact of farm cats on wildlife. I hope I never used “robin humping for worms” in anything I wrote back then. The other two items, well, I can’t say. Was I inserting plot points? I know I longed to write fictional stories while I was working. I can’t imagine lone gunmen relevant to the natural food movement. The Happy Place note is vaguely familiar. I may have used the idea for a “recycled self-care” article.

That note is a snapshot of my mind dumping long ago. The lead question still intrigues me: would you fake a broken arm for me? I thought it might be difficult as a prompt, though, so I simplified it to a broken arm. But if you are up to answering the question in a story, I’ll sit back and enjoy a pot of tea beneath moody skies and read your intriguing responses.

September 26, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a broken arm. What happened? Is there a cause and effect because of the broken arm? Was the injury faked? Why? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 1, 2022. Please use the form if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Balloons on a Bumper 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.

No Ordinary Delivery by Anne Goodwin

The run-up to publication was always hectic, whether or not she had a publisher to hold her hand. With so many plates spinning, it felt as if she’d be crossing the finishing line in her pyjamas.

She breathed more freely once her box of books arrived. They made it real. Yet the driver plonked them on the doorstep like an ordinary delivery: the week’s groceries not the sentences she’d sweated over for years. But someone must’ve dropped a hint that this latest book was special. The bumper of the truck that stopped outside her window was festooned with balloons.


A Homecoming Parade by Nancy Brady

The homecoming parade was scheduled for Saturday before the big game with a cross-county rival.

First, however, the parade floats were built; the marching band practiced their music, and the homecoming court was selected. All was readied for the parade.

Leading off the parade were the local police and fire department vehicles, followed by the cheerleaders, the homecoming court on a float, the local high school band, the football team’s float, and candidates riding in classic convertibles. Last, but not least, was the vintage fire engine. The bumpers and sides were covered in ninety-nine balloons (no more, no less).


Balloons on the Bumper by Norah Colvin

“Where to today?” asked Amy.
“A party,” said Lucy, tying balloons to the bumper of their little red convertible.
“Whose party?”
“Teddy’s. He’s getting married.”
“I didn’t know he had a girlfriend.”
“He doesn’t. He has a unicorn-friend. Mother said I can marry anyone I want. So, Teddy can too.”
“Right. Which way?”
“Over the mountains, across the river, and through the far-away forest.”
“Be home for dinner,” said Mother.
“We will!”

The balloons sailed above the little red car. At the party, the children fluttered with fairies and pranced with unicorns as Teddy and Ollie shared their vows.


Three, Two, One: Bumper Balloons by Chel Owens

Flip – flap – flutter
went the bits of man-made rubber
as he took away the rudder
and he waved goodbye to mother.

‘I’m an engine of the sky,’
sang he, loud, while he sped by,
while his mama dabbed her eye,
while his wobbly wings a-try

To lift, or maybe thrust,
by ignoring drag, or just

By the will of boyish hope,
as his canter speeds to lope;

And seven small balloons
circle ’round, like rainbow moons;
dip and swirl ‘gainst the noon;
flutter, drag to boyish tune

Of hasty dreams, of racing knees
Of birthday dreams on summer breeze.


Katie Puts Her Foot Down by Sue Spitulnik

The Irish Dance Troupe sponsored by the No Thanks was always featured in the Fireman’s Carnival parade, some dancing and some riding in convertibles. This year the oldest group felt they had earned the right to ride, but were arguing over which car they wanted to carry them. Katie listened long enough, then went to make a private phone call.

Later, when it was time to leave, Katie had each dancer pick a crayon out of a bag. She said, “The convertibles have balloons tied to their bumpers. You’ll ride in the car whose balloon matches your crayon color.”

Author’s Note: Katie is Mac’s adult granddaughter and teaches the Irish Sword Dance.


Balloons and Binder Twine by Ann Edall-Robson

Watching from the kitchen window, she wondered what her girls were imagining today. They wrapped binder twine around stones, making odd-shaped balls. Then they disappeared into the trees near the pasture, returning with sticks, attaching twine to each piece of wood. The balls and sticks were tied to their bike fenders. Curiosity got the better of her, sliding the window open in time to hear them laughing as they put crowns of wild flowers on their heads before peddling down the road yelling, “Just Married”. Sticks bounced behind and the twine covered rocks became balloons tied to fenders.


Down the Road by D. Avery

“Should we warn them?”

The giggling newlyweds disappeared into a motel cabin.

“They wouldn’t believe us.” Wheeling his oxygen tank, she followed him into their own cabin before unloading the remaining luggage and supplies from the convertible.

Preparing dinner in the small kitchenette while he dozed, she wondered at all that smiling bride hadn’t been told.

That night she dreamed she was popping the balloons that were tied to the honeymooners’ bumper, one by one. She awoke to rain drops bursting on the cabin’s tin roof. She sighed, remembered she hadn’t put the top up on the red convertible.


Future Things by Hugh W. Roberts

“Why pink balloons?”

“I feel that in 50 or so years, pink will be the colour for people like us,” replied Giles.

“I hope they don’t damage the bumper of my new Ford Model C Ten,” responded Roger.

“Damaging the bumper of your new car is the least of our worries. What happens when we get there matters more.”

“Yes, you’re quite right. We may not be married in law, but the reaction of our parents when we tell them we married each other is something I dread. I wonder if same-sex marriage is a thing of the future?”


Balloons on a Bumper by Shari Marshall

I have to stop their fatal mistake. “Check your colours,” I yell as I run, waving my arms frantically. They’re trying to use only cloud white balloons. “STOP.” I holler. “You need more colours.”

I blow out the breath I was holding and turn toward the balloon stand, grabbing two blue and two yellow to help with weightlessness, heat, and part of the rainbow. We need grey for storms and one red, orange, green, indigo, and violet. I hurry to the car and pass the balloons to Sam. “Tie these balloons to the bumper and let’s fly.”

They stop.


Balloons on a Bumper by Jenny Logan

My brother and his wife’s friends were ‘extra’. They tied so much stuff on the wedding car it hit a tourist. My Dad, a bit merry and oblivious, told the gentleman it was customary to pin money onto the dresses of bridesmaids. The man was not amused and said, “Is it also customary to knock over tourists with a trash can?”

None of us had seen the incident, so it’s possible he was exaggerating. My Dad suggested he sue the Oxford University College in question as they “have plenty of money”. I expect the visitor was even less amused.


Balloon by Scott Bailey

Mistake number one: following that hot air balloon.
Mistake number two: racing across the open fields to be there when it lands.
Mistake number three: letting Phynias T. Schmebbs tie off his ballon to the back bumper of my pick up.
Mistake number four: helping him untie all the ballast sand bags.
Mistake number five: watching the balloon ascend, lifting the rear of my truck.
Mistake number six: believing him when he said all I had to do was get in and drive and the balloon would settle down.
At least the view is nice from way up here.


The Buffoon in the Balloon by Doug Jacquier

Rufus Dufus had decided that Branson had the wrong idea going ballooning in a basket. He figured the only vehicle worth taking to the skies in was his red convertible and he’d provide live commentary. Despite having the lung capacity of a politician, he realised his own hot air wasn’t going to do the trick and helium balloons attached to his bumpers was the way to go. That way, when he wanted to land he’d just slowly let out the helium through each balloon’s narrow neck. Bystanders swore that just before he crashed, Rufus was doing Donald Duck impersonations.


A Good Death by Geoff Le Pard

Harold Cottonbud, Little Tittweaking’ infamous aviator, always wanted to fly. As a small child he made wings from two wire coathangers and Sibelius, the pet chicken’s feathers. Sibelius’ complaints on being defeathered, if not melodious were certainly symphonic. As for flying, Harold’s ensuing faceplant offered the denuded bird the chance of some avian schadenfreude. Finally, Harold devised a foolproof plan, attaching helium balloons to his toy car’s bumpers. As Harold disappeared skywards, Sibelius’ clucks became chuckles, while locals used ‘what goes up, stays up’ to connote stupidity. In time Harold became renowned in Little Tittweaking as a ‘stupid plucker’.


Guards on Duty by Nicole Horlings

The balloons swayed from the bumper, seemingly cheerful, to the muffled loud music. However, their eyes were slightly narrowed, scanning the parking lot for danger.

“Attention, squad,” the commander said, his face grim, “We have a drunkard stumbling out of the east entrance.” The fellow zigzagged across the parking lot, seemingly towards the Honda Civic, until he veered off towards the taxi whose driver called out to him, and the balloons all let out a sigh of relief.

Some of the younger balloons relaxed and started bouncing. “Stay alert!” their commander reprimanded them, “until the bride and groom arrive.”


Set Free by Reena Saxena

Volatility makes one feel insecure. Flying with no strings attached is a nightmare.

My daughter wants to go abroad for a doctorate, and I’ve spent three sleepless nights in a row. Umbilical cords remain. Relationships become tumultuous if one side holds tighter.

Quivering balloons on the bumper of the car driving ahead tell me she needs a vehicle of her own – to drive to her destination. I can’t continue giving her rides.

At the next red light, I get down and cut the balloon strings. I’ll compensate the owners for their loss. But someone needs to be set free…


A Bumper Crop by Bill Engleson

Never thought they’d do it.
I was twenty-one.
Sucked the heart out of me.
Our own communal construct.
It was the swinging sixties.
Marriage was so bourgeois.
A free-love ball and chain.
Maybe we actually weren’t all that advanced, all that liberated from predictable orthodoxy.
Those two literally gushed announcing their connubial treachery.
“It isn’t me,” Arbutus whispered. “Underneath, Hyacinthe’s a conventional girl. Needs a bloody ring.”
They rented a limo.
An actual limousine
Tied a rainbow festoon of balloons to its brash bumper.
Like it was still the fifties.
Maybe it was.


Missing Jed by Charli Mills

At breakfast, Joan flipped flapjacks with such vigor each resembled a squashed bug. No one complained. Ross left for town in a wake of dust. Joan yelled, “Good riddance!”

The crew lowered their brims and she stomped into the cookshack to scrub every inch. When Ross returned, the crew gathered outside. Their laughter fortified Joan’s misery. Jed would’ve been 62.

She decided to tear into the crew but stopped in the doorway. Colorful balloons floated above the bumper of the ranch truck, and candles flamed on a store-bought cake. They left a big piece and balloons at Jed’s grave.


Celebrating Life by Sadje

Mourning the death of a loved one is natural, but most people who have lived a full life prefer that their life be celebrated rather than mourned.

When I die, I’d like there to be balloons tied to the hearse, people singing and dancing and telling each other of happy occasions they spent with me. I’d love to leave behind a happy legacy in the hearts of people. I do hope that they would recall only the good things that I did or said and not the petty stuff that we all are guilty of from time to time.


Balloon and Beer for Bumper by Gary A. Wilson

Kirby looked at his peer frat members and lifted the mic. Most were drunk already.

“Alright, it’s countdown time. Please welcome – the Bumper 8 V2 rocket – the first launched at Cape Canaveral on July 24, 1950.”

The crowd cheered, glasses clinked, and beer spilled as a three-dimensional, opaque video appeared before them.

A projected countdown expired, and the simulation played to rowdy cheers.

“Next; commemorating Bumper’s 100th anniversary, the folks at Huntsville’s Rocket Republic Brewing have a six-pack for whoever can pin a balloon on Bumper’s photo within the circle representing the null-gravity field of our 2050 quantum engine.”

Author’s Note: See link for history references and photo.


Inflated Ego? By JulesPaige

As a young woman enjoying the freedoms of the 1960’s, she was bedazzled by riding a motorcycle driven by a handsome man who doted on her and respected her independence and strength. A huge red balloon was tied to the rim of the back seat when he picked her up for their date.

Out of the back of her helmet her long silky black hair flowed as they maneuvered the community streets of Greenwich village. They rode south around Washington Square Park to Chinatown. Back then Hong Fats on Mott’s Street was the place to go and be seen.


Tailgating by Kerry E.B. Black

Tailgating grew in popularity as the Steelers won football games. Stout-hearted fans arrived hours prior to kickoff with increasingly elaborate spreads served from the back of their vehicles. With parking at a premium, finding tailgate parties proved difficult at times. To become easier for invited guests to find, the Toggart family hung black and gold helium balloons from their bumper. However, many fellow tailgaters noticed the increased visibility the balloons provided, and they began employing the same technique. Soon, all of the bumpers outside of Three Rivers Stadium boasted sparking, helium-filled mylar balloons, a sea of black and gold.


Safety Net by Ruchira Khanna

“Hi, Girls!” said Amy with a wide grin and gleaming eyes as if twilight, “I drove to school today,” she said while bouncing from foot to foot.

“Huh! But, the last time you drove, you crashed the bumper of your dad’s Ford Escort into the wall. How did your dad allow it?” asked Gloria with a gulp and curious eyes.

“Balloons! are my safety net.”

Seeing the puzzled look in their eyes, Amy walked them to her car, which had balloons on the front and back of her bumper.

“They’ll pop, and I’ll know when to screech the brakes.”


Pickup Lines (PART I) by D. Avery

“Pal! Throw me a line!”

“Um, okay… Say, what’s a nice Kid like you doin a-settin in a creek like this?”

“Toss a rope Pal! I’m a-settin on the roof of the ranch pickup.”

“I’ll fetch ya ta shore so’s ya kin ‘splain how ya put the truck in the creek.


“Was tryin out a idea is all. Usually we jist ford the creek, but sometimes, like now, it’s too deep. Tied a bunch a balloons ta the bumpers, tried floatin it across. Mebbe I shoulda used more balloons.”

“Shoulda tried this last week, Kid. Woulda gone swimminly.”


Pickup Lines (PART II) by D. Avery

“Ya cain’t leave thet truck in the creek, Kid. Thet’s litterin in a big way.”

“This’s a big time litter-ary community.”

“Speakin a littered air, here’s LeGume.”

“Ello Keed. Pal. I sense trouble, no? ‘ave no fear, Pepe ees here.”

“Reckon ya might hep. Still got thet hot air balloon?”

“Oui, Pal.”

“Plenny a gas? ‘Nough ta pick up thet pickup?”

“Mais bien sûr.”

“Git yer rig ready, LeGume. Kid, call Curly an her beaver friens. They kin dive unner an tie ropes from the hot air balloon ta the bumpers. Then up an away. What could go wrong?”


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

September 19: Story Challenge in 99-words

Thirty-five years ago today, a younger version of me put on a wedding dress and rode a horse-drawn buggy to marry a younger version of Todd on the summer meadows of the Jubilee Ranch. We had no idea how our lives, relationship, and future family would unfold. Last year, I didn’t think we’d make it to 35.

But, here we are.

The last ten years have been formative. For what? I don’t know and it’s okay. Younger Me would have wanted to KNOW; would have had a PLAN; would have wanted it all to MEAN something.

Between our wedding day and 35th anniversary, we’ve put a lot of mud on the tires. I guess this seems similar to balloons on a bumper. It differs, though. Mud is real. Balloons are temporary hopes and dreams susceptible to popping. Mud can stain. Mud can wash away. Mud says, “You’ve been places, Kiddo.”

Just this past weekend, we got mud on the tires, traveling over 800 miles and crossing the Might Mac twice. As D. Avery can attest, there are a whole lot of trees between the Keweenaw Peninsula and the bridge to downstate Michigan. A whole lot of interesting water bodies, too, thus me saying throughout the fifteen-plus hours in the truck, “I’d paddle that.” We were not kayaking. Instead, we loaded up the Mause, a shotgun, and two boxes of shells (someone was hopeful).

We went pheasant hunting at Tails-a-Waggin’ Acres outside Marion, Michigan.

When I learned about the Veteran Pheasant Hunt that Chuck and Joan Connell offer, I wanted to enlist Todd but it was too big of a crowd for him. Chuck graciously offered a hunt the weekend before the big event. He let us bring our green hunting dog, Mauser Mannlicher (Mause). It seemed like it might be too big an undertaking, too far, and too much to ask of a young German Short-haired Pointer. But we were all willing to try. We left Friday after classes and returned Sunday in time for me to prep for classes.

Thirty-six years ago, Todd and I were dating. A typical date? You got it — pheasant hunting. Followed by pheasant plucking, pheasant marinating, and roasted pheasant meals. We ate so much pheasant during that time, I’ve not had it since! It took three decades for me to salivate at the thought of hunting game birds once again.

I had no idea what to expect. My job was to monitor Todd for pain, cognition resets and needed breaks. He can hike for miles but if he falls, he can’t get up on his own. I made sure we didn’t travel as fast and hard as he wanted. I told him I longed to enjoy a couple of nice hotel rooms. Pet-friendly, of course. Mause is not a fan of sleeping elsewhere. She shares that in common with Todd. They endured restlessly and I will have to catch up on missed sleep. The trip was worth the effort.

Todd and Mause were in sync in their happy place. I was the attending chronicler.

Although Chuck released three pheasants, Mause and Todd did not flush or shoot any. They hunted diligently and did not shy away from the brambles, alders, and deep grass. Todd had thorns in his socks and Mause found plenty of signs. Cool fact: German Short-haired Pointers do not get stickers in their coats and they have self-cleaning oils in their fur.

At one point, she carried a pheasant feather in her mouth. She learned what birdie she was searching for and her little tail buzzed. She ran circles and discovered the joys of a dog watering trough.

After we returned, Todd and Mause went out again. It took a lot out of him to hunt like that but it gave him back something he has missed, too. That night, as we watched the sun set over Lake Huron from our balcony room near the Mackinac Bridge, I asked Todd what brought him joy from the day. He said, “Watching Mause hunt.” I agreed but added that I enjoyed watching him, too. If ever we needed a healing excursion, this was The One.

Mause can show you her joy at the end of the hunt.

Thirty-five years and a lot of mud later, I’m not living the life I expected. Yet, it is my life and I rise with each new day I get to greet and search for stories. When we pay attention to the mud, we realize it has meaning, after all. I once read an article that claimed happiness was found in living a meaningful life. I can’t make sense of all that has happened to us, nor can I give back to Todd all he’s lost because of his service. I know he’d say he’d do it again even if he knew the consequences. I didn’t serve but I can dignify his service. I can find meaningful moments in the mud.

Dare I say, I’m happy? (Wipes mud from brow. Grins. Taps out a story.)

September 19, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about mud on the tires. The tires can be from any conveyance or serve as an analogy. How did they get muddy and why? What impact does mud on the tires have on the story (plot) or characters (motivation)? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 24, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Swimmingly 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 Short History of Swimming in Little Tittweaking by Geoff Le Pard

No one swims in Little Tittweaking now. During the Wars of the Ripe Plums from 1791 to 1803, the Jam Makers Of Desultory on Scum were rounded up and forced to exfoliate in the River Titt using granite chips and overripe Victorias. Disgraced MP Callous Hardpustule was paraded through the town in spiked budgie smugglers before being dipped in Lake Peachtingle until severely wrinkled and scrotally perforated. Any reference to anything swimming related is to court disaster. Thus when Harold Understaine, at his 127th birthday said things were going swimmingly, everyone knew his days of twerking threesomes were over.


Life’s Mixture by Ann Edall-Robson

One foot in front of the other
Step, step, stumble, step, step
Sunrises, lofty clouds, sunsets
Picnics, bugs, wading in the creek
Hurt, love, joy, loss
Horses, rodeo, win, bucked off
No more, no less, 99 words
Blizzards, -40, skating snowballs
Marriage, divorce, first love
Print, cursive, computer
Seedlings, water, sun, harvest
Cozy mystery, novel
Children, grandchildren, nana
Thunderstorm, drizzling rain
Stick men, paint, watercolour
Write, edit, shelf, write
Flash fiction, 5-word sentence,
Stories, poetry, haiku
Baking, canning, recipe books
Animals, stories, children’s books
Trails, gravel roads, grounding
Cut up, sew together, quilting
My life’s mixture works


My Writing Process by Nancy Brady

When the writing prompt is posted, I start thinking about what to write. Ideas are considered and rejected. Once an idea comes, I write until what I wanted to convey is expressed. Then I edit, removing irrelevant words to reduce the number.

Sometimes the prompt doesn’t resonate at all. This is one of those prompts. Still, it kept nudging me, making me hyper-aware. I’d read something and the prompt would appear in it. Some television programs used the word. I heard people say it, and eventually, I decided to allow it to dictate this post, and it did, swimmingly.


Sink Swimmingly by Kerry E.B. Black

After a bracing breath, she marched into the bookstore, smiled at a harried man ten years her junior, and withdrew her book from her shoulder bag. “I think you’ll want my novel on your shelves.”

The shopkeep paged through the volume while she filled the near silence with her elevator pitch and nervous banter.

He closed the book and slid it across the counter. “I don’t think it’ll sell. Sorry.”

Her heart leaden, she thanked him for his time. In the anonymity of her driver’s seat, she steeled herself for the next bookstore, picturing the interaction finally going swimmingly.


Pixels and Petals by Reena Saxena

“Say what you may, but those forsaken futures at the end of the road live only in your mind. They have found their place somewhere else in the lives of people who walked that road.

Could it have been a swimmingly smooth ride, instead of the sanity-stretching sojourn to glamorous, glossy goals your life has been?

Whatever happened was concrete, cavernous – calamitous and cacophonous for some, canonical for others.”

I don’t know the stories she carried with her. I keep those pixelated pages and perishable petals on her coffin. It’s all I can do to convey posthumous acceptance.


Peter’s Story by Frank James

Peter, medic, swam into triage. He clamped a leg wound gushing blood. Off to surgery. He splinted a fractured arm, notifying Orthopedics. Peter took on a head wound, started an I.V sedating the combative soldier. He rolled him to surgery.

“I need a surgeon!” Peter hollered.

A masked man charged in, “Hi ho, let’s go!”

Back in triage, a leg amputation demanded Peter’s skills. He wrapped the patient in a blanket: anesthetizing and elevating the stump. He sat, “I’m here. You will survive. You are strong.”

A British soldier said, “You swimmingly treated them.”

Peter smirked, “A day’s work.”


The Hustle by Joanne Fisher

So we found two marks. They were a couple of successful businessmen. We pretended to be investment brokers who had discovered a way to get speedy returns. They were suspicious of us at first, but we convinced them to invest a small amount of money which we gave back to them shortly afterwards with some of our own. Satisfied, they then gave us a couple of million in briefcases to invest, which we then ran off with. It was all going swimmingly until we were suddenly surrounded by cops. It turned out our marks were undercover policeman all along.


Fabulously and Swimmingly by Kerry E.B. Black

She’d bobbed her hair, an affectation to blend with peers. With shortened skirts and a smear of lipstick, she might pass for a modern woman. If she lifted her chin and looked life fully in its terrifying face, that is.

The key, she decided, was to emulate fabulous flappers. Zelda Fitzgerald’s devil-may-care attitude or Dorothy Parker’s scathing wit. She straightened her back, hummed the Charleston tune, and approached the front desk for her interview. She thrust out her hand to shake.

He smiled around his old-fashioned mustache. “I like a good, firm handshake.”

She laughed. “I believe we’ll get along swimmingly.”


Deep Water Romance Woes by Bill Engleson

I like the shore.

Sure do.

Don’t talk about it much. Usually, when you’re on the shore, you’re headed into the water.

She’s out there. Where the horizon meets the rim of the sea. “Come,” she beckons. “I’m waiting.”

But I like the shore. The firmness of the stones and sand.

I smile back at her.

“You’re teasing me,” she says, her voice a smooth stone winging its way across the water, circular, a pleasing motion.

“I’m not a good swimmer,” I say.

She smiles back. “I’ll hold you.”

I dip my toes.

This first date is going swimmingly.


Reclaiming Summer, 1964 by Anne Goodwin

It was all going swimmingly until Doris went for her Woodbines. True, the coffee was bitter but their sense of themselves as they drank it was sweet. Matty blames herself. She should’ve known that the chap who flourished his lighter wasn’t a gentleman from his lanky hair.

But oh, how delicious it felt to skip away from the asylum unaccompanied except for her friend. To ride on the bus among regular people, to browse the menu in the burger bar. To be treated as customers, ladies who lunch. Whatever the consequences, no-one could take the taste of freedom away.


Swipe Right by Chel Owens

Stanley Klülez stared across the candlelit table at Cindy Titepaunts. She looked just like her profile picture -a rarity. Stanley had started making a game out of how much his dates would differ from their appearance, as girl after girl after ‘girl’ proved …surprising.

“So.” He cleared his throat. “Do you like the color pink?”

Cindy, dressed head to toe in varying shades of coral, salmon, and rose, blinked at him. “Obviously. Do you like bargain-shopping?”

Stanley puffed out his chest in his cuffed, oil-stained coveralls. “Of course!”

He smiled happily as she snorted. This date was going swimmingly.


A Wedding by Sadje

“Well, that went swimmingly”. Ali, the father remarked as the last of the guests departed. It was a small affair. The small intimate wedding function with just the families from both sides present.

There were no relatives of the relatives, no second or third cousins removed, no colleagues or even friends. The bride and the groom wanted to keep it simple and so it was.

Every detail was arranged by them both and the parents had little to do but to pay off the caterers.

“I wish every wedding was that simply done and was so hassle-free,” Ali said.


Kate’s Date by Hugh W. Roberts

Kate couldn’t believe how swimmingly her date with Vera had gone.

They may have both been in their eighties, but sixty years ago, when they first started dating people of the same sex, life was more difficult. You could hold hands without drawing much attention, but a passionate kiss on the lips was a no-go area. Murdering someone was easier.

Looking at Vera’s lifeless body, Kate carefully removed the poisonous lipstick from her lips and took a swig of the antidote to be on the safe side.

Murdering someone was still as swimmingly as it was sixty years ago.


Death by Jenny Logan

You’ve killed it. I am so relieved. It was like one of those ‘Herman’ cakes, constantly requiring attention. Feeding and baking. Feeding and baking. No end to its need. But too much attachment and guilt on my part to just chuck it out, however sick of yeasty cake I’d become.

Anyway, you did the decent thing and murdered my affection for you with one snap of your putrid jaw. It was misplaced anyway. Now I am entirely detached as though having an out of body experience. No doubt life will go swimmingly without your energy tugging at my own.


A Modern Conversation by Sue Spitulnik

Text from Lexi. “Mom, do you know what human chorionic gonadotropin is?”

Answer from Tessa. “No. Google it.”

Answer from Lexi. “LOL. I know what it is. It’s a hormone in a lady’s pee. You better sit down.”

“I am.”

“Good news. Adam’s little swimmers did their thing and I can put away all the red stuff.”

“Are you telling me you’re pregnant?”

“Yes! Isn’t that great?”

“Wonderful! Michael’ll want to know immediately. Can I tell Grandma?”

“Not for a couple months. We just found out.”

“Okay. I’m happy the red sheets helped everyone have a swimmingly good time.”


Swim Team Tryouts by Nicole Horlings

A plate of dinner was waiting on the counter for Alex when he came home, which he put in the microwave while waving bye to Jordan and his mom through the kitchen window.

“How did the team tryouts go?” asked Alex’s mom, putting down her Sudoku puzzle and walking over for a conversation.

“I bet it went swimmingly,” said Dad, guffawing to himself, and eyeing both of them, hoping for at least a light chuckle.

“It went well,” Alex said. “Coach said I have a strong backstroke, and I have a lot of potential.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Mom, smiling.


Word List by Duane L Herrmann


“What are you doing?” Rafiq asked Stan.

“Making a list of words.”

“That’s not a word,” Rafiq pointed to ‘swimmeret.’

“Yes, it is. It’s another word for a pleopod.”

“You’re weird!”

“A pleopod is a forked swimming limb of a crustacean, five pairs of which are typically attached to the abdomen,” Stan explained, but Rafiq had walked away.

Stan didn’t understand why none of the other kids wanted to be friends.

“Don’t be mediocre!” His father would say. Stan liked words, the more unusual, the better.


Disappeared 49 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The spell had been well-cast – he felt it to his core — but Bethany and family had seemingly disappeared. The Scottish Mage was alone in a dark, silent space. He barely felt support under his feet.

“Well, THAT went swimmingly.” He grimaced, bushy eyebrows raised as he fingered the cleft in his chin.

There was nothing else for it. He waited for enlightenment, presumably from the Fates; he could sense their delightful femininity at the edge of whatever reality this was.

He’d not say “Uncle.” Let them make the next move, as if it could be any other way.


Dad Is Going Swimmingly by Doug Jacquier

Courtesy of the pandemic and brain plaque, I can’t touch him anymore, not that he would know who I was anyway. All I can do is wave to him through the nursing home window and watch him wave back, like he does to everybody. His manners remain intact.

On his lap is an album of old photographs that he leafs through constantly. Whether the staff put it there in the hope of a spark or whether he clings to its importance without knowing why is anybody’s guess. To me, through the glass, he seems like a goldfish with Alzheimer’s.


Road Trip by D. Avery

“How did we get here?”

“In this shiny new red convertible.”

“I mean Here. This.” He indicated his oxygen tank, his medical bag, swept his hand through his thin gray hair.

“Oh. The aging thing. I’ve no idea. I remember signing a contract with a young handsome man… something about in sickness and in health. It’s gone swimmingly.”

“Yes. Gone. Swimmingly… up Shit’s Creek. Next stop, Death.”

“That’s grim.”

“What do you expect?”

“I expect you to paddle!”

Eyes on the road, blinking back tears, she clutched the wheel of the red convertible, her emotions tangling in the wind.


Gallium Goes Hollywood by Gary A. Wilson

“Mom – you were right. I love chemistry.”

“Well, that took all of two classes. What got you so excited?”

“Liquid metal – just like the Terminator.”

“Sweetie, that’s Hollywood.”

“No – it’s real. It’s a silver-colored metal named Gallium, that melts just above room temperature. It can be used to make robots.”

“I’ve never heard of it. We can make robots from it?”

“Yes, microscopic ones that move, swimmingly, through fluid. They could be injected into people to precisely deliver medicines.”

“Oh – I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”

“Mom – don’t think ‘Hollywood’, think how they could have cured grandpa’s cancer.”


Don’t Mess with the Ranch Cook by Charli Mills

Freda stirred and poured. The cookshack steamed with pickling and canning. Putting up meant no one was put out when larders grew lean in winter. Ranch-hands fared according to the contents of Ball jars. She’d pickled beets, jalapenos, cucumbers, and dilly beans. She canned peaches with whole cloves and chunky applesauce with cinnamon. Fancy, them ignorant hands would coo, living high until snowmelt drove them back to the line-shacks.

When Freda caught Lefty and Juan snitching a jar of peaches, she said, “Thems’ flies swimming in the syrup, fellas.” Wide-eyed and untrained to spices, they let go their prize.


The Party by Colleen M. Chesebro

The conversation had not been going swimmingly, and I’ll take part in the blame for the chilly turn. I could not fathom why Marcy stayed with her boring husband. I rolled my eyes as Rob blathered on about nothing.

“Sorry, I’ve got to go.” I deposited my untouched glass of champagne on the table and walked out of the room.

In the hall, Marcy met me at the door. “Leaving so soon?” She slurred.

“Yes, I’ve got an early meeting.”

Marcy was plastered. It was a shame to leave, especially when it was obvious the party had just started.


Routing the Tarnished Signet by JulesPaige

gilded words
ran afoul, became
soft as eggs

Oozing, dripping, uncooked, contrived, or hard boiled. Jade saw through them straight to the green patina covering bronze. She would not go swimmingly into their false pretenses. She had worked up from the scullery, learned from the cook, would not become the next parlor maid. Silver shillings saved would buy her passage across the pea green sea. Dressed as a deckhand in brown stable boy’s clothes, as Jay, would escape those had been fed with silver spoons – The Master had lost his last bet and there’d be no fixing the castle.


Starting Over by Miss Judy

The day had come to a close, Howard left to turn-out the lights. He had maintained the hotel swimmingly for over 50 years, she was his baby. They were being retired. As he closed the door, a tear caressed his cheek.

Howard arrived home to find Martha busy preparing a king’s dinner – her king she said. He swung her in his arms, both giggling like school children.

As the flames died to embers, Howard and Martha knew they had unfurled a passion forgotten, a love taken for granted, understood but unspoken. The future was theirs; they were ready.


Fun in the Pool by Norah Colvin

A perfect summer’s day: azure sky with not a hint of cloud, a whispering breeze to kiss away humidity, children’s laughter sparkling like glitter; it was all going swimmingly, until … Kevin kicked furiously, and … the tube crashed.

Tina tipped heels over head, chipping Chelsea’s chin, as she smacked into the water.

Chelsea fell against Liam, who yelled, “Get off me!” as they splashed down.

The three resurfaced together, and grabbed the tube, catapulting Kevin overhead, arms and legs flailing, into the water.

“Wow!” “That’s fun!” “Do it to me!” “I’m first!”

It was all going swimmingly …


Swimmingly by Scott Bailey

Watching my Grandson, Puggsly, splash around the shallow end of the kiddy pool kind of reminds me of a nature documentary about a baby hippo spastically reveling in its first dip in the watering hole.

Puggsly’s twice the size of the other kids his age, no matter which direction you measure, but that’s okay, he gets along just fine.

One of the other kids, same age as Puggsly, is just the opposite. A small thin kid by the name of Lee, this kid is like a fish. The kids used to call him Swimming Lee. Go Swimming Lee, go!


Swimmingly by H.R.Allen

She stared at the blank screen, and observed the little line of doom blinking almost mockingly. She watched as white refilled the space where a few clumsy sentences once stood.

She scoured her brain, inspecting every nook and cranny for any flicker of an idea. When she came up empty, she decided to shift her focus to the space around her. Surely there would be an idea here, right?

Soon, she turned back to her screen, readied her hands for the next best short story of her generation and found…nothing.

“How’s the challenge going?” Her teacher asked.

“Just swimmingly.”


Rockin the Deep End (Part I) by D. Avery

“Phew! Nuther challenge met an corralled, Kid.”


“Still wond’rin why thet sidewinder Slim Chance was sidlin up ta the Saddle Up.”

“Say agin?”

“Was like he was spyin.”

“Spyin an tryin previous prompts. But Slim don’t git it, don’t git that the challenge is whatever anyone wants ta make of it, it ain’t no competition or nuthin.”

“Thet’s write. Practice amongst a frien’ly ‘preciative literary community.”

“But Slim says there ain’t no two ways bout it, ya either sink or swim.”

“Thet is two ways. But they’s a third way— float!”

“Yep. Floatin works swimminly fer me, Pal.”


Rockin the Deep End (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal, d’ya think mebbe I float too much?”

“What’re ya gittin at Kid?”

“Meanin I’m mebbe more adrift than afloat. Shore feel washed up.”

“So start paddlin, Kid.”

“Feel like I’m jist thrashin aroun. That ain’t the same as makin a splash.”

“Ya ain’t here ta make a splash Kid. But ya done got yer toes in the water. Swim!”

“Cain’t Pal.”

“Whut’s thet Kid?”

“Said I cain’t swim! Never learned.”

“We’ll s’port ya Kid. Oof! Yer heavier then I figgered.”

“Found some shiny rocks. Mebbe I should empty my pockets?”

“Reckon lessons’ll go more swiminly if’n ya do.”


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

September 12: Story Challenge in 99-words

After I exit from McLain State Park, I follow the familiar curves of pavement home to Hancock four miles away. The road hugs the shore of the canal that makes our Keweenaw Peninsula an island. Mause is wet and snugged as close to me as she can get. We played with a lot of rocks while the waves battered the shore.

In the rearview mirror, I notice a truck advancing with great speed. Five other vehicles follow it closely and before I know it, I’m lead car. The truck behind me has white balloons bobbing from its front bumper. I feel like I’m sucked into a parade of sorts.

Unwilling to lead the party parade, I pull over to the narrow shoulder. The truck blasts past me and Mause. The tailgate reads, “Just Married.” Wherever those newlyweds are heading, I’m no longer slowing down their progress to party. The vehicles following the married couple pass, honking their horns. I honk back with good cheer.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, but I’m finding my groove. I’ve had three full weekends and two full weeks of teaching. I have sixty-one students, three classes, and seven learning labs. I’m beginning to grade the first round of essays and I’ve already assigned the second 99-word story. I love how the students come to life in their writing. In ENG 103 we begin with personal narratives and in 104 we jump into writing with “rock essays.”

What I love about the rock essays is that I get to go full-on rock nerd. I collect rocks for each class, thinking about rock lessons, such as comparing granite to gneiss. Both contain a similar mineral makeup of quartz, plagioclase, k-spar, and mica but the minerals in gneiss form bands. Amygdaloidal basalt (or rhyolite) allows for me to explain vesicles (gas bubbles) and secondary metamorphosis where minerals like epidote, calcite, jasper, analcime, and chalcedony fill the holes. I like to pick plain basalt and tell students it’s 1.087 billion years old!

Of course, I also look for my favorites — prehnite, copper, and agates. It’s fun to watch the students pick a rock and then ponder it. The assignment asks that they observe the rock dry and then wet, noting any differences. Then, they have to solicit opinions from their peers about their rocks. Finally, I go around the room and inform each student of their rock so they can research it. This assignment establishes where my students are at with writing and how difficult it is to write about a topic they have no experience or interest in. It sets up the next two weeks of exploring topics for their 15-page research paper.

I remind my students that writing is thinking. But it is also feeling. We write best with material (subjects, genres, BOTs, stories) we can relate to. However, one of my students who has clearly had a classical education, explained how he developed a thesis to engage with his rock observations, opinions, and research. He’s way ahead of where I’m leading the class, but through brainstorming, mind-mapping, and plumbing the depths of modern media we will catch up on how to develop research questions.

It always cheers me when a student declares an appreciation for their rock. Better, is when they decide they might actually appreciate writing.

We know, as writers, that stories are thrilling to collect. The moment I saw balloons on a bumper of a big pickup truck in my rearview mirror, I began to see stories rise. I wonder…what if…the treasured inspiration we think about and feel our way into as imagination greets us to play.

September 12, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about balloons on a bumper. Is it a spectacle, an occasion, an eccentricity? Why are the balloons there? Who is involved? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 17, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Red Convertible 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.

Playtime by Kayla Morrill

Top open wide, a red convertible slows down and comes to a stop at the incredulous bumper to bumper line forming behind the pay station. It’s thirty cars deep and the sign estimates a thirty-minute wait before the red dirt covered, currently tan, convertible gets a wash. The cars begin to move quickly as the pay station lady allows more cars to cram into the car wash.

“Lacy, dinners ready!”… “Coming mom!”

Hands quickly drive the convertible into a bucket of browning water along with the rest of the Matchbox cars. Lacy content with her work goes to eat.


The Little Red Convertible by Norah Colvin

“Where to today?” asked Amy.

“Over the mountains, across the river, and through the far-away forest,” said Lucy.

“Be home in time for dinner,” said Mother.

“We will!”

The little red convertible chugged to the peak of the highest mountain where the children danced in clouds. It rolled through misty valleys and onto the plain where the children played hide-and-seek in patchwork fields. It trundled across the wooden bridge over the river that led to the forest where they fluttered with fairies and pranced with unicorns.
Rumbling bellies told them to head for home.

“Just in time,” said Mother.


The Red Convertible by Duane L Herrmann

We were in eighth grade and drew names for the Christmas gift exchange. I got the name of a neighbor girl who I’d been friends with since long before we started school. With her name she had written that she wanted a red Corvette convertible. I was stumped but managed to get her the car. She was overwhelmed. After decades of going our separate ways, we met again.

“The red convertible you gave me was the only one I ever had,” she remarked.

“Really?” I was amazed.

“Yes, that toy model I had to put together.”


The Toy Car by Hugh W. Roberts

I’d spent all my pocket money. Mum wouldn’t buy me the toy red convertible car, so I stole it after hearing somebody say the seller was blind.

That night, I woke to the roar of a car engine and was shocked to see the toy car I’d stolen now full-sized.

Behind the steering wheel was a figure I recognised with dark glasses, who was shaking a white cane.

My screams got drowned out by the constant sound of the car horn while full-beamed lights blinded my eyes. Now I’m deaf and blind.

I wish I hadn’t stolen the car.


Read, Converted by Anne Goodwin

It wasn’t her kind of holiday, but a beach resort with familiar food made sense for the kids. She tried speaking Spanish to the servers, but they returned the volley in scripted English and poured more wine. On an evening stroll they stumbled upon a bookstall and she couldn’t resist a classic Garcia Marquez, although he said they had come to relax. By the pool the next day, she wished she’d heeded his warning: she understood one word in ten. It wasn’t much clearer with Google translate. But she persisted and finished the novel as they arrived at Heathrow.


Two Ford Convertibles by Nancy Brady

Over my lifetime, I have owned all makes of cars: a Comet, Hondas, a Mitsubishi, and Toyotas, but none were convertibles, red or otherwise.

I have ridden in convertibles, the latest being John’s red Ford Mustang. John drove me home. My hair whipping around, the sun’s warmth, it was a brief, exciting ride.

At the other end of the spectrum, my first ride in an open-air vehicle was a Ford Model A, riding in the rumble seat, going out for ice cream. My next-door neighbor spent years restoring the car, and this was a gift one warm summer night.


Roadtrippin’ with The Beach Boys by Miss Judy

Hittin’ the road, the top down on my 60’s red Roadster “I get around…town to town.” No real place to go, no real time to get there.

Just me, Brian and the Boys, drivin’ fast as I can, radio blastin’ all our favorite songs, “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations.”

Got the wind in my hair, sun on my face, not a care in the world and “warmth of the sun within me tonight.”

Maybe we’ll head on down “Off the Florida Keys there’s a place called Kokomo.”

“We’ll have “Fun, Fun, Fun…” livin’ for today, no worries ‘bout tomorrow.


Red Rider by Bill Engleson

Thumb’s out, heavy as a stump, it seems, after a few minutes.
Super busy highway.
Damn muggy day.
I’m not looking my best. Been a while since that heyday.
Smile, buddy!
Show them pearlies.
You’d have to be nuts to stop on this highway horror show and pick me up.
Lots of crazy folks though.
My salvation, the loose screws of the world.
They love fellow travelers.
I’m gonna start fantasizing, I can feel it.
Hitchhikers’ hallucinations.
Had them countless times.
A sweet little blonde in a red MG.
Almost happened once.
Swear it did.
Even if it didn’t.


Oops, Sorry! by ladyleemanila

She knew she’d hit something. But what? She saw the shadow suddenly running in front of her red convertible. Her heart was racing, maybe it was just her imagination. Or the fog and the darkness setting in. Then her heart froze – a deer! Poor deer, she didn’t mean to hit it. Michael would be furious when he sees the damage to the car, again! Last time, Sheena nearly went to the lake when it skidded through the rain. They’ve also just replaced the tyres because she kept on driving it home even though the “tyres alarm” was blinking.


Karma  by Colleen M. Chesebro

Shadows patterned the tree-lined road into the boneyard. I stood at the entrance, confused at how I’d arrived there.

The last thing I remembered was holding a gun. I shook my head. My memories had vanished like smoke in the wind. A cold lump twisted in my gut.

I paused when I heard a car approach. A red convertible turned into the driveway entrance and stopped. From the radio, Polka music blared, hurting my ears.

Breaking news abruptly interrupted the song. “The Ridgeway killer is dead.”

The door swung open. “Get in,” Satan purred. “I’m your ride to damnation.”


Red Convertible by Ann Edall-Robson

The baseball cap was locked in place over her auburn ponytail. Cheeky aviator sunglasses settled snugly on her nose, and a flashy wild rag knotted at her neck, flying and snapping behind her in the wind.

Sunset’s lofty clouds added to the evening cruise to visit her biggest supporters, her grandparents. Encouraging her to build the business from her years of dreaming and planning, they helped her to buy this version of a red convertible. She lovingly patted the dash of her red bi-plane crop duster before dipping to the left, moving into position to buzz their ranch.


Reunited by Charli Mills

Sylvia blew past the parked vehicle on a lonely stretch of Hwy 50. Flashing lights spun in her rearview mirror. She hadn’t meant to drive so far outside Las Vegas but with an open highway and a fast car, what else was a bored starlet to do? She lived life in the fast-lane. Movie locations, premiers, body-sculpting, interviews, empty dates, and false friends. She slowed the convertible and time stood still. She knew him. The Sheriff. They graduated Eureka High together, sharing the stage and dreams. She left. He stayed. Neither removed their sunglasses. He smiled. “Can I drive?”


Top Down Management by Doug Jacquier

She wore the dress she knew he liked, the one with the cleavage that promised the Grand Canyon but only exposed a small but perfectly formed ravine. She slipped on the high heels that had cost her a month’s wages and required the poise of a ballerina to cross a room without breaking an ankle. (She knew every woman there would watch like a hawk.) Then she tightly pinned her flowing auburn waves to the back of her head, slipped on the cap and finally the platinum blonde wig. She knew how much he’d always wanted a red convertible.


Dating Scene by Jenny Logan

“Hey, Janey, how d’your date go?”

“So so.”


“We had a lovely ride in his red convertible.”


“Just not my thing, though. He told me all about his flying lessons.”


“Again—heroic hobbies? Nah. Plus, he’s got two kids. I’m too young for all that.”

“You sound fairly definite.”

“I am. He’s a cosmetic surgeon. He said, ‘So, if you ever want anything doing’. The cheek of him! I don’t need tweaking. I’m alright as I am.”

“Good for you. So, you’re throwing this one back?”

“Yeah. He’s not for me.”

“Can I get his number?”


Transformative Insight by JulesPaige

I thought I’d get to ride in his red convertible, see touristy places on my vacation. My host picked me up from the airport in a rental, the spiffy vehicle was in the shop. He’d chosen not to take any time off work that week either. No sightseeing!

While he went to work Monday I took a walk. Almost to the Santa Monica State Beach pier, hours on the sand there (then back), filling my lonely day. He’d the nerve not to believe me! I saw plenty of red, silently fuming. Converted my rage to action, and left him.


Feet of Clay, Buttocks of Delight by Geoff Le Pard

When the church’s highly regarded musical director, Don Quaydraws was caught in flagrante and on camera, Little Tittweaking’s previously enraptured citizens were devastated. The local paper reported the shock of watching Don display his mastery of the portable organ while using his delicate fingering to bring the second violin to a syncopated climax inside his red convertible. ‘There is no doubt,’ intoned the leader, ‘that watching those highly-strung buttocks appear and disappear out of the roof like two beige bellows during All Things Bright and Beautiful has been what many consider to be the director’s first bum note.’


The Red Convertible by Joanne Fisher

Once the divorce happened I let her keep virtually everything. She could have the house and all the things in it as far as I was concerned. It was mostly hers anyway. My lawyer thought I was crazy letting her get way too much. They said I was going to regret it, but the truth was I was happy, as I got the red convertible. The only thing I actually wanted.

When all was settled, I got in my convertible and drove off leaving everything behind me. I drove on until I found some place new to begin again.


Dreams by Reena Saxena

A question marked Urgent perplexes me. A millennial wants advice if he should opt for a car loan and invest his money in mutual funds to earn higher returns. It takes tough questions and hard calculations to make him see sense. I question his assumptions of the future.

The session leaves me with more questions than answers. Owning that red convertible is an obsession with him. All other goals for the future are blurred.

I visualize him driving into the metaverse in his dream car. It’s a world out there I can’t fathom, with my feet on slippery sands.


Don’t You Touch My Car! by Sadje

When Alfred realized his dream of owning a red convertible, he became very stingy and possessive about anyone touching or using his precious car.

He even demanded that anyone admiring it should wear cotton gloves before laying a hand on its glossy surface.

Cynthia, his girlfriend got so fed up with his concern for his car, more than her, that she refused to set foot in it. He was shunned by his friends for the same reason.

The result of this over-obsessive attitude was that he became a loner who spent most of his time alone with his car.


Convertible (Part I) by D. Avery

“This is not how I thought it would be.” He looked at the bloodstained towel, pressed it back to his nose. “Used to think I’d get myself a red convertible for old age. Maybe die in that.”

“I always thought I’d kill you well before we got to old age.” She exchanged his crimson towel for a clean one. “You’ve got to pinch it more and talk less if you want the bleeding to stop.”

“It’s slowing down. Finally.” He smiled. “Not dead yet.”

She kissed the top of his head then fixed his oxygen tube. “No. Not yet.”


Convertible (Part II) by D. Avery

While he napped, she cleaned up after the latest nose bleed. She put laundry going, filled the portable oxygen tanks, and organized his medications. As she started to prepare dinner, she heard him clicking rapidly through the TV channels and begin his complaints of boredom. She tossed the dishrag into the sink.

“So let’s buy that red convertible,” she said, facing him. “Go touring.”

“What? Now?”

“Can you think of a better time?”

“You’ll have to drive.”



He smiled in the passenger’s seat. “Not dead yet.”

She preferred yellow, but was willing to compromise while their journey continued.


That Car by Jenny Williams

The car was parked across the road from the cafe. It called out to my soul. The liquid red paint job screamed fast, the open top, freedom. I knew I had to have it.
Over an hour, I lingered at my sidewalk table checking the street, looking for the owner and formulating a plan. 2 minutes is all I need to hot wire the car and drive away.

Tools in hand and totally focused, I crossed the road.

Stupid bus blindsided me. Intense pain as my pelvis shattered. Dreams of that car vanished as the crowd gathered around me.


Red is Definitely My Color by Tina Stewart Brakebill

I was never a “convertible person.” Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter. Buggy. Windy. Nope. Not for me.

But … I had to admit, I looked good. Red was definitely my color.

A horn blasted and I shifted my gaze to the truck also reflected in the store window. Resisting the urge to flip them off, I meekly waved. They roared past me, blasting exhaust.

As that rumble faded, the sound from the trunk grew louder. Time to get back to the task at hand.

I indulged in one last look. Yes. Red definitely was my color.


Throttled by Nicole Horlings

It was the thrill of the wind blowing through her hair, the sun caressing her face, and the power controlled by her hands and feet that drove her to taking the red convertible out for a spin a second time. A route formed of twisting bends and sloping hills only added to the joy ride.

The bright red paint, and her exposed face when the top was down… She should have realized the risk she was taking. It didn’t take long for the police to find her.

If only she had waited until her employer was again on vacation.


The Magic of Red by Sue Spitulnik

Each time Tessa visited her daughter she saw more red: glass art pieces, cookware, vases, flowers, candles, pillows, and even candy. “Lexi, what’s up with the red?”

“Remember that vacation when Adam and I rented a red convertible? We believe Emma was made in that car. Under the stars. You Know.”

“I get it.”

“We’ve been trying so our kids aren’t too far apart but no luck, so Adam thought maybe some red would make the magic happen.”

“Are you practicing magic in the family area?”

“No, our sheets and towels are red too.”

Tessa rolled her eyes. “Oh.”


Into My Sunset by Gary A. Wilson

Only 3:58am. Why am I awake? It’s still two hours before the alarm won’t go off, but I’ll get out of bed anyway.

Gloria will ask what I’m doing today and all I’ve got are quick yard chores, a clock battery to replace and six bills to pay. I could review the ads in my email but there won’t be anything of substance.

Damn but I miss thinking!

I thought our empty nest was a shock, but retirement leaving me with nothing significant will take me out before any virus.

Perhaps it is finally time for that red convertible.


Hats Off by D. Avery

“Phew! Was so busy back in the comments a this challenge post, a-heppin Shorty git back ta HQ, almost fergot bout the act’chal challenge. D’ya got anythin fer ‘Red Convertible’ Kid?”

“Shorty traded me that sorrel hoss fer that oversized felt hat, so that’ll have ta do.”

“Speakin a red convertibles, I see Mikhail Gorbachev has passed.”

“May he rest.”

“Thet seems so long ago, when he was leader a the Soviet Union. Bringin walls down. Glasnost.”

“Ain’t no dis-putin his impact. But fer ev’ry action there’s a re-action.”

“Ain’t no dis-putin thet, Kid. Best hang onta yer hat.”


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

September 5: Story Challenge in 99-words

And Mause swam into the sunset.

I had stood waist-deep in the cold water of Lake Superior at my favorite pebble beach at McLains State Park, coaxing the 21-month-old German Shorthaired pup. She had followed me out as far as she could stand, barking at me to throw her a rock.

Our game goes like this: I find a rock beneath the clear water, one that glows like a translucent agate or prehnite. I scoop the rock of interest and a bonus rock — any rock — the size of a chicken’s egg. I throw the egg-rock beyond the pile of beach-worn pebbles to the sand further upslope. Mause chases the thrown rock and digs it into the sand. She pushes it with her paws back to shore or picks it up in her mouth. I look at the rock I wanted to see and keep or toss it.

I had walked backward, continuing to convince Mause to follow. We have spent the summer trying to teach her to swim. She will go into the deeper water and panic-paddle, thrashing. On this particular day, the waves were big and intimidating. They pushed at me, threatening my balance. I waded deeper where they swell with less thrust.

Mause decided to change games. Instead of following me, she chased the big rollers as they crashed at an angel to shore. White breakwater splashed as she followed the crest down the beach, turning around to chase another. Then she braved the swells and paddle-splashed toward me. Todd said to lift her belly when she neared.

Okay. Grabbing a half-panicked dog in cold rising waves is no easy feat. But at last, I timed it right, side-stepped and slipped both forearms beneath her. Todd was right. The lift corrected her thrashing paws. Mause paddled beneath the water, and swam back to shore. She returned and made a beautiful half arc. Todd and I cheered. Our pup finally learned how to swim.

The third time out, her front paws pulling beneath the water with her back legs tucked up like a baby hippo, Mause swam past me. Todd was out even further. She swam past Todd. And that was the moment she swam into the sunset. We called her back. Slowly, she swam in a large arc and glided past us to shore. Relieved, we followed.

Sometimes, life goes so swimmingly well we don’t want to stop.

After a rough start to my third semester instructing college English composition, the week went smoothly. Mostly. I temporarily lost a class. We found each other. A returning student walked into another class, gave me a big hug, and announced to his classmates that I was the best prof on campus. I felt giddy, listening to students interview one another for a writing assignment as they shared stories about their names and why they chose their majors. So much potential and promise. Fresh starts.

Of course, there are the labs to run, data to maintain, lesson plans to create, and the reality of grading papers for sixty students. I walked into my office to discover I forgot I borrowed a plant from another faculty last year. I forgot I was an adopted plant mom over the summer. My officemate forgot, too. But she decorated my W-board with colorful markers and I remembered why I liked officing with her. We are both forgetful plant tenders but we nourish each other’s creativity.

I felt fully supported by my college, my dean, my Learning Center director, and my students when I missed the first day of class. I caused ripples by asking for a different classroom because I have the largest incoming freshman classes in the smallest humanities classrooms. I had to admit to my dean and registrar that I had already moved my class, maverick that I can be. No one was using the larger room, so I made a decision. I didn’t know it takes an act of the registrar gods to reassign a classroom, let alone three times. But my dean stood up for me. And I stood up for my students.

I’m still nervous-excited when I think of each day in the classroom. Honestly, I hope that never goes away. It means that I care enough to want to do my best for sixty young minds. I want to teach what can be the hardest thing to teach — writing. “Writing is thinking,” I tell my students. I can’t teach them to think or find their voices. But I trust the process of writing to be my co-instructor. I trust the 99-word template to give them a pattern, a prompt to spark creativity, a safe space to grow, and weekly writing to practice craft.

We write a lot in ENG I, starting with personal narratives and ending with literary criticism. Our book is Firekeeper’s Daughter and our style guide is good ol’ Strunk & White. In ENG II we slow down the full writing process from brainstorming to organizing thoughts to researching to drafting to revising to editing a single 15-page research paper. We are also listening to The Four Pivots on audiobook in class.

One week down, 15 more to go, including finals week and Thanksgiving break. I hope it all continues to go swimmingly. Like Mause, I’m facing the beauty of the setting sun, trusting newfound buoyancy.

September 5, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word, “swimmingly.” which means “smoothly or satisfactorily.” What is the situation? Who is involved? Let the word take you into a story. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 10, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

August 28: Story Challenge in 99-words

I’m stuck in O’Hare International Airport, and so many flights are delayed there’s no seating for everyone gathered. Rain pelts the windows facing the F-concourse where my husband worked for the airlines back in the1990s. The golden era of flight back when I wore a pin on my jacket proudly proclaiming, “I Love to fly!”

It’s been a downhill slide after 9/11.

I could bemoan the industry with stories from this single day. Travelers are cranky, and employees (if you see any) are crankier. Digital systems drive everything. You can’t fly without a smartphone. The “contactless” systems startled me since I haven’t flown in a while but my flight to New York was smooth. Not so much on the way back. However, my trip was a good one, and that’s the story I will tell while I sit in O’Hare with other delayed passengers who are sharing their travel tales like we are waiting pilgrims.

New York state is beautiful. I landed in Buffalo on Wednesday and Sue Spitulnik picked me up in a forest green Lexus SUV. We rode in style to Niagra Falls and I watched in awe as the water that begins with Lake Superior and makes its way over rapids and falls between New York and Canada. I never knew that visitors could stand right next to the top of the falls. The rising mist felt good on my skin.

The next day, Sue lowered the roof on her red Mini Cooper convertible, and — surprise, surprise — we visited cemeteries. First, she took me to Mount Hope Cemetery where Susan B Anthony is buried. It’s the largest cemetery I’ve explored to date. We even found abandoned plots on a hillside at the back where I was delighted to see a boulder on a grave. A boulder! And not just any boulder but what we call a pudding stone in Michigan.

From Rochester, we drove to explore murals in small towns and other smaller cemeteries with family ties to Sue. It’s a personal way to learn stories of families rooted in a region. One cemetery sat on top of a rural hill above an old battle site. It felt peaceful. The murals we visited each were different and reminded me of how the stories in our collections each week differ, expanding the capacity of art. It was the best (first) convertible adventure I’ve had.

That night we got down to business and I presented to Sue’s veteran writing group. She is an organized leader of her local groups and had members attend in person and on Zoom. We had a good discussion and I ended with one of my 99-word stories I thought the group would like. It’s a personal challenge to pick stories for people and I hit the mark. The Lt. Col. in the group asked for a copy and I said, “Sure, I’ll give you this story and a penny if you give me a dollar.”

Friday was a day of viewing the vistas of the New York Finger Lakes with Sue and her husband, Bob. After a Greek breakfast at Steve’s, we were back to the Lexus and I felt like I was on a luxury tour. Bob held open both our doors, played blues music on the radio, and talked about the views of each lake. Sue introduced me to quilt fabric stores! Her art — and her quilts are indeed art — amazed me with how she can calculate designs. We ended the day with a white-hot (a New York hot dog).

Saturday, Sue put on an all-day seminar with two sessions and lunch. I was the guest presenter. Session One was Revision, and Session Two was Marketing. We began with a call to 9-1-1. Our emergency? The Town Hall was not open where we were to set up the seminar. Sue took charge and got it resolved and we only started 15 minutes late. It was a good crowd, about 30 people. That night, she and Bob took me out to a Rochester creation called a Chicken French — lemony, garlicky, and served over angel hair pasta.

The food, fun, and friendship keep me smiling despite this long delay in Chicago. Hopefully, I’ll get to Hancock with some time to sleep before my first day back at FinnU. I’ve had conversations — and overheard others — to fill up my afternoon and evening. Our challenge this week will put you in a red convertible for your own adventure.

Maybe someone will pick me up and take me north to the Keweenaw!

August 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a red convertible. Who is driving or riding? Where is the car going? Maybe it isn’t even a car. Have fun and go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 3, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.