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June 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s a bit of a chaotic time. Transitions. On a global scale, we are all transitioning from pandemic to (hopefully) post-pandemic. Personally, I’m transitioning from MFA to post-MFA. I’m searching for an agent, a job, and a New Life. Times like these can feel uncomfortable. When my nerves are jangled, I get outside or arrange colors and textures. Gardening and designing can combine into an obsession.

My daughter and I spent the last few weeks, haunting the local greenhouses, hovering over flowers, discussing “holes” in the gardens that need to be filled. She has her moon garden and I have my potager, fairy, and hummingbird gardens. Mostly, I have perennials or bulbs in the first two. Last year’s holes host Sweet William, roses, and poppies. The fairy gardens are like me, a bit of a mess right now but with promising signs of shaping into something. For now, I’m avoiding my messes.

That leaves the hummingbird garden — aka my summer office. I had big plans and little seeds to plant perennials in the three-tiered planter box on my deck. Alas, I only managed to plant a flat of French Marigolds. My daughter planted a wall of flats, but the particular flowers I was hoping to place in my box didn’t do well. I had my heart set on establishing Monarda and lantana. None of the greenhouses had either until I swooped into Pat’s Foods, a local grocer, and found some. Excited, I told my daughter and we arranged another trip.

Let’s just say, my daughter and I should not be allowed to plant shop together. Throughout winter, we watch all the Monty Don shows we can on Amazon Prime. I have several of his books and daughter draws elaborate dioramas. I use Canva. Our heads float in a greenhouse, disconnected from thoughts like, “Do I really need a shopping cart full of annuals?” We are both going through emotional distress. Her dad, my husband, and one of America’s vets slipping into a crack that is now a chasm is forcing hard decisions and creating unsafe conditions. So, mother/daughter in duress, we buy happy-place flowers.

My daughter has a job. I do not. She has a partner who frowns at me when we show up at their homestead, carrying flats of flowers. I go home to my puppy-infused space, hoping if I plant enough flowers, I can stay and my wounded warrior can quietly walk away. Post-MFA, I can no longer ignore that his care is beyond my capacity. Panic never recedes and I play my part to keep the peace. The doctors continue to shrug off answers. They can’t rule out long-term TBI or CTE but they say the white matter lesions are not worrisome (despite other correlating symptoms). I’ve done all I can do and I’m trying to jump off this sinking ship.

I reach for my oxygen mask and he doesn’t understand why I won’t keep breathing for him.

Therefore, I exhale the colors of joy like an alchemist who transforms despair and depression, guilt and grief, into life. Petunias the colors of periwinkle, wine velvet, raspberry pink, and limencello emerge from the vines and stalks of greenery. I’m transformed elsewhere. It’s like the act of writing — thinking into being. Before I completed the hummingbird garden, a ruby red throat buzzed my activity. Happiness pushed clouds away.

At last the summer office came to life with buzzing mascots. The Poet Tree shades the deck and I park on a gardening knee pad atop yoga mat with a throw pillow between my back and the hummingbird flower boxes. Mause has become my office mate. She’s a restless sort, repositioning every few minutes and on guard to robins. She eats the occasional maple leaf and tries to dig where I have dug. She’s not ideal for sharing a cubical but she is cute.

Mause at HQ

Carrot Ranch offices are now open on Roberts Street in the outdoor hummingbird suite. Mause prefers peanut-butter-buddies if you visit in person.

June 10, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 15, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Her Own Office by Charli Mills

Moonflower Johnson’s preferred people call her “June.” Applications forced her to disclose her full name and job interviewers raised an eyebrow or coughed to cover surprise. She watched them squirm with a need to ask. She never offered an answer. June preferred to office outside where she had homeschooled her five children and tended to the miking goats. After 30 years beyond her career, she longed to office remotely, back home, outside. But motherhood was not considered experience for the office. Her degree had gone dormant. She decided to create her own office. Outside. And used her degree differently.  

🥕🥕🥕

Leashed

Leashed or not, these stories run wild.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

The Chase by Susan Joy Clark

It only took a blink for Toby to pour himself like liquid through the crack in the front door, run across the street and crash the neighbor’s backyard barbecue. I ran after him barefoot, imitating the hot coal dance as I crossed the asphalt and lolloped past my neighbors, grinning stupidly, as they enjoyed their burgers and brats. After two rotations around the house, I saw my chase was futile. Remembering some dog owner advice, I dropped prostrate into the grass. Neighbors lurched out of chairs, hovering over me. “Call 911!” Toby stopped, turned running, and I nabbed him.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Doug Jacquier

Most mornings, a yellow monster would consume the small humans and lumber away. As Agent K9 of the Protective Services Division, I was distressingly unable to intervene due to the leash attached to my collar. Later in the day, the monster would return and disgorge the small humans, seemingly unharmed, but clearly tired and hungry. Unleashed, I would leap upon them and implore them to not go near the monster again. One morning, in a supercanine effort, I escaped and pursued this nemesis but it simply winked at me with its red eyes and farted smoke in my face.

🥕🥕🥕

Being a Good Dog by Joanne Fisher

“Now sit!” Sara told her. Trixie sat. “Good girl!” Trixie wanted to please her owner. Sara began to put a leash on her. Trixie stood up in protest. “You know I don’t like having a leash put on me.” Trixie complained. “Bad girl!’ Sara commanded. “Back on all fours like the good dog you are!” Trixie sighed and got back on all fours again, as she was told. This time she sat quietly as Sara put a leash on her. “Remember you’re my bitch.” It was a mystery, even to Trixie herself, why she liked being treated this way…

🥕🥕🥕

Woof! by Hugh W. Roberts

Rusty always wanted to please his owner. Today was no different!

***
Panting, Rusty admired the world around him. Doing this got him excited. A hard pull on his leash forced him to stop fantasising.

“Good boy, Rusty. You deserve a treat for being so good today,” said his owner.

‘A treat,’ thought Rusty. ‘I hope that means doing this again today.’

Twenty minutes later, an exhausted Rusty stood up and asked his owner if they could try out what they’d been doing with the leash down at the new leather bar.

As his boyfriend’s eyes lit up, Rusty knew the thought of other leashed men on parade was a winner.

🥕🥕🥕

Unleashed by Anita Dawes

Unchained by the skin I wear The way I think always gets me in so much trouble with other people I don’t feel the way they do about things I am the odd one out There are days I feel so bad about being leashed to myself It is lonely, even with family They do not agree with half the things I say They agree with each other well enough Most of the time I must pretend Hide my true self from them The others, as I have come to call them For now, the leash holds me tight…

🥕🥕🥕

Life on a Leash by Ruchira Khanna

“Where are you going?”

“Umm, I was planning on going to the mall,” said Neena in a meek voice.

“Why? In an hour, it’ll be time for my tea.” said the master authoritatively, “And won’t the endless walking in the mall make you tired?” 

There was silence.

“Go and rest till your next chore rather than galavanting.” said the 65-year-old lady in a commanding tone. 

Neena gave out a long sigh as she dragged her feet into the 4*4 room, ” I wish I had not taken an advance from my master. I’m on a leash until six months.” 

🥕🥕🥕

Stay by MRMacrum

His power over me has its limits. He thinks I can be manipulated by one word from him. I will show him who has the last word.  He is not here.  I will do as I wish until he comes back. Yeah, I will show him.

But what do I want to do?  So many possibilities, I cannot pick. Every choice looks like trouble. Better just follow his orders; it’s the safe thing to do.

“Alright Maggie, you stayed. Who’s the good dog? ………. Here’s a treat.”

I remember now why I listen to him. He is my whole world.

🥕🥕🥕

Obedience Training by Anne Goodwin

He had her walk to heel initially, on a two-metre leash. As she earned his trust, he gave her leeway, to trot ahead to chase some shiny bauble or pause to sniff a flower. But he never took her out without a taser and packet of chocolate-drop rewards. He thought he’d tamed her until, unfettered in woodland, she ran. It took two days, three men and four bullets to rein her in. Now his wife hobbles happily around home and hearth, except when shrapnel pains her. Then he blames himself for pushing her beyond the boundaries of her sex.

🥕🥕🥕

Tsunami by Reena Saxena

Nature’s fury unleashed

scream headlines after the tsunami.

Who or what had held its fury on leash, seething, boiling in the underbelly of aquatic worlds – close to the heart of earth, but not quite there?

Does it lash out at pre-selected targets, or is it a random act of revenge?

Did it step out to meet the world on their own terrain, but was unaware of its own force?

What makes it retreat, when a vulnerable, cowered down world can be swallowed easily?

Anger management is a mammoth task. I’ve to touch the bottom of the dark seas.

🥕🥕🥕

Restraint by Charli Mills

Restraining six leashed sled dogs required brute strength. Max wasn’t the only woman to run the Copper Dog, but she was the only one to hold six dogs and six leads while muscling a single fan-hitch. It’s how the Arctic peoples ran dogs. Not that Max gave a shit. Her natural skepticism heightened by eight years in the Marine Corp didn’t trust her crazy tree-wizard deadbeat dad who claimed Sami blood in their Finnish veins. Why she had come back to the Keweenaw, she couldn’t say. Sometimes you have to poke the bear, her former staff sergeant would say.

🥕🥕🥕

Leashed by Simon Prathap D

Leashed for a reason Simon I gazed upon the sky, I tried to fly, something pulled me down. One question hit my head like a stone. It was painful, do questions pain? Yes! It uncovered the leash, I was tied, by myself. This is my body, my soul, my earth. I set myself free, if I want to. But, the thought of this life without the leash. No, something not felt right, I like this way. Without this leash, this life never gets better. I need all recipe the Sweet, Spice, Bitterness and unexpected Good bye. Is this life? No, But this is interesting.

🥕🥕🥕

History Challenge: 21st Century Discovery by Duane L. Herrmann

Stunned. Before me was a discovery not even my father knew and he farmed here when I was young. On this steep hillside, climbing which was strenuous, was a kind of shelf along the side. Below this shelf, the hillside dropped off even steeper than above. Overgrown and eroded, it was obviously a farm track he never used. This land, in eastern Kansas, was first owned by the widow of a soldier of the war of 1812. Bankrupt government gave land instead of pensions. Was this track made by the first one who tried to farm here? Who else?

🥕🥕🥕

No Third Wheel Required by Nicole Horlings

Stella opened the letter with great trepidation, scanned it with hopeful eyes, then sighed deeply. It was another rejection, which was somewhat expected, but what made her blood boil was the suggestion to include a love triangle to give her story more conflict and “excitement”. Ugh.

She didn’t need the presence of an overused trope to create unnecessary drama in a story that wasn’t even primarily a romance, but rather an action-adventure.

She also didn’t need to twist her story into what this particular silly publishing company considered more widely marketable. Not when the option of self-publishing was available.

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Leash the Beast by Liz Husebye Hartmann

April hoisted the printout of her first novel off the counter of the Office Supply Store.

“Maybe you’d like a box for that?” suggested employee Office Max. “Don’t think I have a bag strong enough!”

April smiled. “Good idea. Thanks!”

He handed back her credit card, and fetched an empty printer paper box. She sighed. It might be time to invest in her own printer. All this productivity was breaking her budget. She needed a new strategy.

“So what’s next?” Max held the box steady as she loaded her tome.

“Massive edits,” April groaned. “Time to leash the beast.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Real World by Michael Fishman

Six-thirty Monday morning.
Post-(Current?)pandemic rush hour still not bad. Mark it down: a positive. Rare, but important.

Set the cruise, listen to the radio, don’t think about the nine hours ahead.
Turn up the radio.

Gene Harris. This Masquerade. Another positive.
Sunrise peeking over downtown (and another).

Exit on Hawthorne. Rights and lefts. Eleven blocks, eleven lights.
Lock.
Doublecheck.
Walk.

Welcome to the Anchor. May we hold your leash?
Help yourself. Just leave me room to breath?
Right.

Hello. Mornin’. Hi.
Nice, and yours? Not a lot, you?
Blah.
Blah.
Blah.

Inhale. This is not the real world. Exhale.

🥕🥕🥕

Park Life by Joanne Fisher

“You should put that dog of yours on a leash!” the man complained. Jess retrieved Lucky who had been investigating the park and rejoined the picnic. She looked over at Cindy who was munching on some grapes.

“Did we bring enough food? You seem especially ravenous today.”

“Well I am eating for two. It’s legit you know.” Cindy replied.

“So you’re not using your pregnancy as an excuse to pig out then?”

“Of course not.” Cindy replied innocently as she tucked into another sandwich.

“Aha.” Lucky suddenly ran off again.

“My turn!” Cindy shouted as she ran after him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hallmark Moment by Donna Matthews

We sit together on the cliff edge, feet hanging off, the ocean slamming into the rocks below. The sky to the east is turning pink, and we see just a touch of orange peeking over the horizon. It’s gonna be a hot one.

“You know I have to go. It’s like I’m a dog tied to a tree, running in circles and circles until I’m pinned against the trunk. I’m miserable here.”

“I know. But I’m sad.”

“This leaving is me, not you!”

Ruffling his hair, grabbing him up in a hug, “Oh, stop with the Hallmark moment. Go!”

🥕🥕🥕

Granma Desiree by Saifun Hassam

Granma Desiree left her Cottonwoods Canyon cottage at sunrise. And never returned.

When Granpa Jake was killed by a mountain lion, Desiree was forty. She ran the Cottonwood Ranch for thirty years and then turned over the ropes to Maryanne, my mother.

I imagine her riding those canyon trails, unleashing herself for a while from life’s unexpected turns. Forget for a while her Jake, calling on the mountain spirits to make her courageous.

She left with her horse, guns, and rifle. She knew to fish and hunt. To be a part of that wilderness that she had always loved.

🥕🥕🥕

Not an Ordinary Day by Sue Spitulnik

Katie got bad vibes, but she carded and served the group. One female pointed to the picture of Mac’s friend wearing his Medal of Honor and said, “Look, the highest grade dog collar a person can earn in this stupid country.”

Katie stammered. “Wha…t?”

“I see military folks as dogs on leashes, totally controlled.”

Mac appeared from nowhere. “I see you as ignorant, immature, and lacking common sense considering all the dogs in here, except me, served by choice and are off-leash. I suggest you drink up and get out!”

Experiencing palpable raised hackles, they gulped drinks and skedaddled.

🥕🥕🥕

Unleashed by Norah Colvin

It began harmlessly with a mini-slinky party favour in a birthday bag. The sparkles mesmerised Jamie as it tumbled end over end down the driveway or stairs. Soon it became an obsession. Swapping favours at birthday parties, pleading for them in supermarkets, Jamie hoarded them in a can carried everywhere. The obsession progressed from sparkles to numbers as the can filled. Eventually, no more slinkies would fit. As Jamie pressed and squeezed, the recalcitrant can tipped. Slinkies erupted, springing to life. As they danced away, sparkling in the sunlight, Jamie was captivated. Even slinkies need freedom to be themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

A Tighter Leash by FloridaBorne

When I moved to my present home, dogs roamed free. They traveled to the small pond two dirt roads away, about 500 feet as the crow flies. Hours later, they’d arrived home happy, wet, and ready for dinner.

As more people moved in, and more laws about dogs were passed, we built a five foot fence around our two acres, a place to roam without collars or leashes. My dogs whined at the fence, wanting to explore their forests.

As additional laws are passed restricting both dogs and humans, I wonder; which species is wearing the tightest choker chain?

🥕🥕🥕

Subdue by Rebecca Glaessner

Drones overhead revealed the enemy territory via LiDAR readings.

The enemy’s shield-tech was far advanced, blips of movement only appearing sporadically on each soldier’s heads-up-display. They couldn’t get a complete picture.

But it was enough.

Orders remained. Subdue at all costs.

A military unit moved out in small groups, silently diverging through the forest toward the enemy.

The unit advanced on the clearing, emerging through the brush at once.

The scene that greeted them froze them still.

The enemy, frail creatures, frantic, broken, scurrying around the remains of a crashed star-ship, were vulnerable.

The unit commander demanded a fall-back.

🥕🥕🥕

Parable by Matthew Wester

The wise man teaches that if you place a leash on a baby elephant and tie that leash to a post, that elephant will think himself inescapably anchored even after he grows up and gains the strength to break the tether. Ultimately it is not the leash that keeps the elephant bound. Your takeaway from that story indicates what kind of student you are. Do you like your leash? Fellow traveler, along the path do you pound posts or drop keys? You may not know who uses the key but you give that person the power to free themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

Samurai Sensei by JulesPaige

So you think you can leash the power of an ocean?
Truly do not meditate with your back to the waves.
While seeking enlightenment you might end up face forward in the sands of time.

While you seek to unleash yourself from the worlds heavy burdens
do so in a safe place, a quiet place one were the birds will not
attack and untie the ribbon binding your top knot.

Be open to opinions.
Do not be leashed to one particular political dogma.
Be a comfort rather than a hindering burden.

seizing time
be careful whilst you
be carefree

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking the Leash by Bill Engleson

“Another one?”
“Came in last night.”
“WHAT’S going on? Must be the fourth one this week…”
“Sixth.”
“Mother of…what are the presenting symptoms…”
“He’s…guess you could call it…singing them. Have a listen…”

“Please Releash me, I won’t go….”
“Not quite as written. Humperdinck, right? Engelberry?”
“Englebert…old song, goes back to the 1940’s…”
“Hmmm…what else?”
“Pretty obscure…he’s slightly reworked the lyrics to a Ginger Rogers film…he sang “I got a new leash on life, now, lead me by the nose…”
“Poor devils. Why’re they punishing themselves so?”
“It’s these damnable flash stories. Everything’s crammed in. Nuts.”
“At the very leash!”

🥕🥕🥕

When Pigs Slide by D. Avery

“Tellin’ ya Pal, I’m glad ta’ve got a hog ‘stead of a dog. Curly’s been easy ta train. Look’t her perched up here on my hoss with me. Got her on her leash jist in case, leash’s tied ‘roun my waist.”
“Thing ‘bout Carrot Ranch, Kid, there ain’t never been no lashes nor leashes. Jist free range cre-a-tiv-i-ty. Yep, unleashed characters an’ unfettered writers. Only constraint’s the word count, 99, no more no less.”
“Aaaagghh!!!!”
“Dang, Kid, ya shoulda give Curly a longer leash. Pig’s danglin’ like a ham an’ yer lookin’ like the num’ral eight.”
“Unleash the hog!”

🥕🥕🥕

Humor in Writing

I write contemporary fiction genre with themes that revolve around the facts of life.  

Bowled but Not Out (BbNO) revolves around second chances. Often, an individual who has been let down the first time from a dysfunctional relationship will not have the courage to stand up and look out for another opportunity. Despair and discouragement will envelop her. 

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh; otherwise, they’ll kill you.”

― George Bernard Shaw

That’s when I thought of sprinkling humor in my protagonist’s life, Saru, by using cricket as a metaphor throughout the novel. I have projected Saru to be confident, empathic, funny, and silly at times. She bats away the sarcasm and negativity in the stadium that is her life. 

Humor isn’t easy to define. While you know that comedy is a cognitive and emotional experience that often leads to laughter, you may not know why. 

Why is something funny?

No one knows how to answer that question definitively. Humor is personal, subjective, and biased.

Humor is often the result of surprise. An unexpected action or phrase can be a delightful treat when set up in the right way.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

― Erma Bombeck

There is a thin line that separates laughter from pain. I embraced some tips to be able to make it an entertaining read.

  1. Mold a protagonist to appear silly. I portrayed her as a die-hard Bollywood fan who would love to sing and dance around trees and even get emotionally charged if someone did a favor for her. This easy-going personality came in handy when I showcased her in a dysfunctional relationship. But then I also tried to have a character support her transition during that period and not give up. 
  2. Compare two lives. One was the protagonist who had entered a dysfunctional relationship, and the other was her co-sister happily married. This contrast helps the reader get a grip on what my protagonist is going through, and it helps generate empathy for her. 
  3. Use metaphors to define her tragedies in addition to happy moments keeps the mood light. I used the terms of cricket to do the above. 

Example: “Go and hit the ball out of the park.” Saru’s dad cheered when they reached their destination. Saru realized that she had received a beamer and was quick to duck figuratively to avoid getting hurt. Her self-pride was bruised, but she continued to glare at the maid’s audacity. 

4. Place a character reader love to hate. That prevents the plot from becoming too spicy and intense.

Example: “Just remember, Saru, the whole world will be watching you.” Mom got comfortable on the dining chair with the rotary phone on her lap.

“What a smart way to encourage your daughter, Sushma!” Her dad scorned his wife then inquired, “What are you doing?”

“I have to inform our relatives, Colonel. How will they know that our Saru is going to be on TV?”

5. Make them laugh when they least expect it. Never set the expectation that you’re about to try to be funny. It’s much easier to be funny unexpectedly. Attempting to be funny is a subtle side effect; humor is a pleasant deviation from an expectation. Then create a scenario where laughter is induced skillfully. 

Example: Saru goes for a TV interview, and things don’t go as planned. But she turns out to be everybody’s favorite towards the end. 

I usually project the mental growth of my characters as they learn from their failures. And in my Bowled but Not Out novel, I project the same. This young lady knows to groom herself to be a confident achiever and strengthen the platform for her daughter and her future. 

The use of simple language, smooth transition of the story plot, humor, relatable and straightforward characters all make this book enjoyable and a must-read by one and all.

============

This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/RuchiraKhanna01

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Welcome, ladies and gents, to Anyone Can Poem, the rodeo where …well, anyone can poem.

Last time we were in the saddle, I introduced the basics of haiku. We used its general syllable outline to jump in and have some fun.

Where will we ride from here?

To limericks.

A limerick (/ˈlɪmərɪk/) is a form of verse, usually humorous and frequently rude, in five-line, predominantly anapestic trimeter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, in which the first, second and fifth line rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme.

Wikipedia

I don’t know about you, pard’ner, but that was a whole chunk of intimidating text. -And limericks are not intimidating.

They’re fun. They’re edgy. They’re funny!

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’
-Edward Lear

Like haiku, limericks follow a form. Myself, I find this form easy to write to once I pick up on the beat. Try reading Edward Lear’s (credited as being the master limerickist) contribution out loud. Still not hearing it? Here are a few more:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.
-Dixon Lanier Merritt

Alas for the death of Hugh Hannity
Whose boat was capsized by a manatee.
When they saw it swim by,
All the townsfolk would cry:
“There he goes! Oh the beast! The Hugh manatee!”
-Graham Lester

Now do you hear it? Do you feel it? Anyone can poem a limerick, including me:

There once was a mother of four
Who never could sweep up her floor.
The clothes and the toys
Were stuck beneath boys.
Daddy wonders who taught them to swore.
Chel Owens

  1. The pattern of AABBA and anapestic trimeter means that you start with two longer lines that rhyme. In the case of Lear’s poem, the rhymes are beard and feared.
  2. Next, you pick two shorter lines that rhyme with a different word. Again, with Lear’s, those words are Hen and Wren.
  3. Finally, you end with a zinger of the same length as the first two lines that also rhymes with them. Lear uses beard again -that cheater.

Whenever I set out to write a limerick, I first choose a subject. For today’s rodeo, let’s pick everyone’s favorite duty: cleaning up after animals. Not only will this subject fulfill the necessities of being somewhat inappropriate and humorous, it will provide many easy-to-rhyme words.

Some possible opening lines:
There once was a man named O’Coot.
There once was a grand rodeo.
I went to the show to just sit.

There! The most difficult part is over, especially since I picked some easy rhymers (except for rodeo). O’Coot can match up with poop scoop and boot and shoot! Sit, on the other hand, has at least one possibility amongst the thesaurus suggestions for animal excrement.

There’s no wrong subject or strict count for limericks if you’re worried. Many famous poets break the form left, right, and center. The main criteria is silliness and that recognizable rhyme pattern.

Send me a few samples through the form. Or, write one or a dozen up in the comments. You’ll love it and so will we!

Don’t overthink; just do it!

—–

An embarrassing mess was my brother
With one leg that was short. Not the other
Which made this eccentric
Walk in circles concentric
Causing constant distress to our mother
Richmond Road
(From the A Mused Poetry Contest)

©2021 Chel Owens

June 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

As I blindly swing a staff of driftwood beneath my couch, I’m thinking Mause needs a leash for her collection of balls. They scatter to places she can’t reach. She retrieves balls of all shapes and sizes from her walks. We have six tennis balls, eight baseballs, and a soccer ball. Driving to Boston (a Keweenaw ghost town, not the city), I spied something in the road. So did Mause. It was a ball. I drove past and she protested loudly. I’ve tried hiding her balls, limiting playtime, and introducing her to other games. Still, she remains a ball-obsessed seven-month-old pup.

One of Mause’s favorite ball distractions is a puppy play-date. With outdoor activities and vaccinations high among my circle of friends, we get to introduce our pups. Evidently, Covid dogs are a thing. If it feels like many people you know — yourself included — got a dog during the height of the pandemic, it’s true. Shelters in the US have even reported that they are running out of dogs to adopt.

A typical puppy play-date means hooking up with dogs of a similar age and temperament for activities. We don’t have a dog park in our region, yet. On Sundays, my SIL holds “dog church” for friends with dogs to walk the trails he maintains on 19 acres. This is how Mause met Violet. On a leashed walk, dog owners can find out (safely) if their dogs make good friends. Violet is closer to two-years-old but still has a lot of puppy antics in her. She’s a lab mix and not much bigger than Mause. Because they hit it off on date one, we set up date two.

We — the two-leggeds — had to find a place to take the four-leggeds. Hikes or walks are good, but we wanted to see how the girls would do off-leash. I’ve been taking Mause to my favorite beaches, including the dog beach at McLains. Technically, the rules state that dogs must be on-leash, but most owners allow socialized dogs to be under voice command. Violet is a recent rescue dog and Mause is a recent critter so we agreed to test our pooches on recall — the ability to come when called.

Violet and Mause met at the parking lot at McLain State Park near the dog beach. Armed with pockets of dog treats, we walked both pooches on the trail through the shoreline forest. Mause pulled me the entire way, leaping through the sand. I was nervous about letting her free but also realized she was as obsessed with Violet as she is with balls. Unless Violet ran off, Mause would stick around.

Unleashed, both dogs sprinted along the shoreline, waves lapping at their paws. No other dogs (or people) were in sight. We tested our powers of recall, and both ran back to us, ears flopping happily. Together, Violet and Mause discovered games around massive circles of driftwood, how to lap water from waves, and digging in the agate-bearing gravel. Violet’s two-legged mom found a beautiful agate in situ and I found two small ones. Not bad for a doggy play-date.

No longer leashed by school, I feel a bit like a dog that’s roamed the neighborhood and is missing the structure of a leashed life. Not that I want my collar snapped, but I’m aware that it’s up to me to create the structure. I’m still waiting for my diploma and official transcripts to apply for jobs. I’m also still dragging my feet to reengage social media. My desk looms like a doghouse and I know I have to plant my seat in the chair and get back to the platform, future plans, and writing.

I will make dates to run unleashed and return to more disciplined walks. Already, my mind is churning with the balls of a new book to write. I set a hard fast rule that I can’t leap into exploratory practice beyond 99-word stories until a project is complete. Every writer is different and chooses different publishing paths. In my chosen industry, the leash is tighter and the walk must be complete before unleashing to search for the next obsession. I admire the way many indie writers can craft quick works, but I yearn to go deep. Neither way is right or wrong. It’s important to learn the length of your leash or if you agree to work with one. Discovery is my unleashed time and I’m excited for my upcoming play-dates with characters that don’t even have names yet.

In the meantime, I need to clean up the Ranch, fix some barns and back pages. My MFA helped me see that this community is based on mentoring and that’s how it will remain. Carrot Ranch exists to make literary art accessible 99-words at a time. As a place of mentorship, I’d like some feedback from the community. Mentoring at its heart is encouragement. This is a place where you are encouraged to write stories within the 99-word constraint. What encourages you as a writer of literary art? Do you have ideas for Carrot Ranch moving forward? Is there something the Ranch can offer on its pages to help you grow as a writer?

I’m building an education platform that would unfold in phases. It is part of income building for me as an author, something we worked on in our MFA program. I have a good idea of who my target audience is for students and I want to assure you that I see a separation between community and clients. Can someone from the community become a client? Certainly. However, I do not plan to target the community. I bring this up because I don’t want to put up barriers to literary art or make the community feel like there are expectations. There are no obligations to play, share, and connect here.

So, I’m asking you what would be helpful at Carrot Ranch for your growth as a writer that is not part of a cost structure. List of resources? Posts about craft or platform? Pages that would support the community? How? I’m asking you to help me refine our community to live up to its mentoring ideal. Weekly challenges will continue with an annual contest. Are there other events of interest? This is an unleashed time of discovery! Let me know any thoughts, ideas, or feedback by the end of June. You can comment or shoot me an email wordsforpeople(at)gmail(dot)com.

Time to leash up!

June 3, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story being leashed. Is it literal or metaphorical? Who or what is leashed. How does it set the tone? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 8, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Restraint by Charli Mills

Restraining six leashed sled dogs required brute strength. Max wasn’t the only woman to run the Copper Dog, but she was the only one to hold six dogs and six leads while muscling a single fan-hitch. It’s how the Arctic peoples ran dogs. Not that Max gave a shit. Her natural skepticism heightened by eight years in the Marine Corp didn’t trust her crazy tree-wizard deadbeat dad who claimed Sami blood in their Finnish veins. Why she had come back to the Keweenaw, she couldn’t say. Sometimes you have to poke the bear, her former staff sergeant would say.

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Tiny Flying Insects

We got the buzz on tiny flying insects.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

An Unnatural Glade by Chel Owens

Var paused. This opening felt different.

The echo of his soot-crusted boots ceased. His kerchiefed breathing slowed. As charred branches, brittle pine boughs, and scorched roots recovered from his recent passing; he realized he was not alone.

Furthermore, Var could not be the only living thing in this unliving world.

There! Ash-strewn sunlight touched a new, green bud. And, there! A lonely peppered moth took flight. Oh, there! Buzzing annoyance nipped a sunburned ear.

But, there! -Most of all, there! In this unnatural glade amidst a smoldering hell of war’s aftermath, he heard an ancient sound: sweet, whistling birdsong.

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Little Things by Rebecca Glaessner

Almost unshielded, Earth is hotter now than my last visit.

Yet, its natural chaos is still wondrous.

These humans don’t plan well, their cities struggled with the changing, despite how gradual.

Chaos is hard to protect, to regulate. Impossible, they said.

But humans inspire me. Their fragility breeds courage, authenticity.

I had to return.

Despite humans, across all those years, nature survived.

Thrived.

I made sure I recorded memories of the little things – ants in the lawn, onslaughts of flies – and used those memories to design this form.

What a glorious Earthen day. The insects don’t even see me.

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Defending Scotland by Geoff Le Pard

‘Have you thought about this year’s holiday, Logan?’
‘I’m staying here.’
‘Oh you can’t. We’ve been locked in and…’
‘We chased our tails around the States, if you remember….’
‘That wasn’t a holiday.’
‘You’re telling me…’
‘I meant it was business…’
‘Those goats weren’t a pleasure, that’s true.’
‘So a holiday…’
‘Abroad is out.’
‘We could do a staycation.’
‘Not England.’
‘Why?’
‘Too many English.’
‘What about Wales?’
‘Too wet…’
‘Scotland…’
‘We’ll never survive the attacks.’
‘They’re not unfriendly…’
‘We’re not talking of the people. Remember?’
‘Ah…’
‘Exactly. Midges. Genetically designed to eat the English. William Wallaces with wings…’

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Warfare by Reena Saxena

The Prize is being given for a discovery, not an invention. The scientist calls it an ‘act of God’ and not his creation.

A new breed of insects discovered feed on viruses (not the man-made computer ones). They are fed the deadliest ones and its mutants, and the tiny insects appear to thrive on those.

Windows are shut as those insects throng the sky.

“OMG!” Someone in the lab exclaims, “Have you tested the impact of these insects on humans? Or have you released a new monster in the world?”

The deed is done. It is biological warfare.

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Hosts by Joanne Fisher

A team was sent to investigate the planet’s surface. They found an inordinate amount of tiny flying insects everywhere they went. After taking off their protective visors they were swarmed by them. They signaled for immediate retrieval.

“What’s with the red eyes?” the commanding officer asked when the team returned onboard. They didn’t say a word, but opened up their sample boxes and suddenly the entire ship was engulfed with tiny insects.

Once the spaceship was under the insects control, via their human hosts, the insects now planned to explore the rest of the galaxy, and take it over.

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Flying Purple People Eaters by Doug Jacquier

Apart from their milk-white skins and their shoes, you could always tell the new kids in the tropics. They had gentian violet daubs on their arms and legs because they’d scratched their midge bites. Thus newbies were referred to as purple midgets. Midges bite more on a full moon, adding rampant lunacy to the constant irritation, which led to the legend that victims briefly turned into werewolves with wings, spawning that hit tune of the 50’s, The Flying Purple People-Eater. Eventually, immunity would set in and you became a local, primed to mock the next influx of purple midgets.

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BBQ the Fly by Norah Colvin

Named for their favourite thing, BBQ’s parents farewelled their son on his first independent foray.
“You can! Avoid the can!” they called. BBQ had trained relentlessly, perfecting every manoeuvre — walking on ceilings, buzzing people and, especially, dodging the dreaded spray.
BBQ’s antennae zeroed in on a backyard barbecue where he chose a juicy sausage for his ritual dance. He had just extended his proboscis when a swarm muscled in. Through the crowd, one of his compound eyes caught the glint of something metallic —a can!
He retracted his proboscis and escaped just as the spray downed the unfortunate swarm.

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Probe by Laura Finn

I’m just a tiny thing – that sends giants running. My weapon isn’t meant to kill, or cause mass destruction. I just hunger, for flesh – the pulsating flow of blood. I can’t resist. Your heat draws me to you, and I probe, deep into your meat. I feed.

You, giant, don’t like that though.

I imagine the sow, who covers herself in mud to abate my advances, doesn’t either, but I do not woo her as you do. You, hungry for her flesh, stick your probe into her, taking from her body, for yours. We, too, are alike.

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Tiny Biting Insects by J.B. Scarce

“GO AWAY!” yelled the Bi-Leg as he swatted at a Dragonfly.
“You are Dolittle’s descendant. You understand us. We- we need you!” The young fly cried.
“What can I do?” the man asked sadly. “I’m just some old man who’s losing his hair and his mind. What good am I?”
“You love all of God’s animals, including spiders. Even I’m not fond of them, and they’re my cousins. But you care.”
The Bi-Leg looked at the Dragonfly. Then a smile crept onto his face.
“All right, you talked me into it.” the Bi-Leg agreed, and beamed at the Dragonfly.

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A Summer Afternoon by Michael Fishman

Tad sat with his father on the edge of an old oak stump. They sat, father and son, watching the water.

Tad didn’t have the heart to tell his father he’d rather be in the water than sitting and watching the water.

“Don’t fret, son. It takes practice; you’ve got it in you.”

“Yeah, I know, but—”

“Hold it, Tad, look,” his dad said as he poked his son in the side.

“Where?”

“There, to your left. Now watch.”

Dad threw his tongue out, grabbed the unsuspecting mosquito and pulled it back into his mouth.

“Wow dad, cool!”

“Ribbit.”

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Bugged by Bill Engleson

“Hey, you…”
“Huh?”
“Wake up…”
“Leave me alone. I’m sleeping.”
“Really!”
“Yeah, really. What’s it to ya?”
“I’m a little concerned about you.”
“What’s to be concerned about? I’m fine.”
“Fine for now. Depends how long NOW is.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Well, life expectancy, for one.”
“What’s that?”
“It means…how long you’ve got…to live.”
“You mean, at some point, I’ll die?”
“Yeah. Like, if you were a male mosquito, you might have five or six days. The ladies live much longer. Unless they get swatted.”
“Whew…thank goodness I am no mosquito.”
“Really, you’re sure about that?”
“You mean…?”
“Yup!”

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Small Song Reigning by JulesPaige

Mist clears before mine eyes
Overnight precipitation, – in morn, sunrise
Clears the deluge of a haunting nightmare
Those torrential images caused me to, stare

Thankfully no monsoon, just a cooling
No freezing sleet, to kill young roots spooling
Nor hail to rip the garden’s gentle heart beating
Cloudburst came, though not so fleeting

Flooded with relief, yet there’s disappointment
Showers brought an onslaught of lament
Drizzling in swarms; biters – midge and mosquito
Pour I must salves upon myself from head to toe

Even with that sprinkle of bugs, I love rain
And will stream words welcoming refrain

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Surprise Discovery by Duane L Herrmann

I began waking down the hill to my truck. I hadn’t gotten very far when I began to hear it. At first I was puzzled: what was that odd buzzing sound? It was a different kind of buzzing than I was familiar with. As I descended, the sound became louder and louder, yet not real loud. I reached the clearing above the creek and saw a mist that was not a mist. Then, I understood. There was no wind down here, the creek and pools of water were here – and so were mosquitoes. Millions of them!

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Travel Plans by Ruchira Khanna

In November, my family and I decided to trek the redwoods. 

The fog, chirp of birds, and redwoods combined to create a calm, moist environment, like the cloud forests. 

 Just then, a buzzing noise caught our attention, and it started getting louder with each second. 

“What’s that noise?” asked my son.    

We looked yonder and saw a grey cloud coming our way.

“Duck” was my instant command.

We gave way to them. The swarm of insects passed by us within seconds as if they were on a mission. 

They didn’t bother us since we didn’t disturb their travel plans. 

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Time’s a Changin’ by Cara Stefano

Frank had been a cross country trucker for some time. Burn-out was coming on strong, though; keeping his eyes open for a pertinent sign kept his wheels turning. Sometimes during lonely overnighters on the empty highways he felt a kinship with the tiny insects that rocketed towards his windshield on their kamikaze trajectories -they didn’t know the end was near until it hit them in the face. And he hated when anything with a stinger tried hitching into the cab with him. But what’s this: a dragon fly? Bingo! Time for a change!

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Mother Knows Best Even When Dead by Ellen Best

A knocking of the front door made Mavis stop. “Mavis, coooeee, it’s me, alright if I come in?” Mavis poked her red face from under the stairs. “Stop catterwalling Jo, and close that door.”
“I knew I’d find it Mothers book, look Jo just what we need, one part white vinegar, a squirt of dish soap and warm water. Perfect, all I do is mix and spray liberally and Bobs yer uncle. “That upstart at the nurseries can keep his bug spray at £4 a can. Mother had a trick for everything.” My roses will be safe in Mothers hands.

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Murder In Picnic Wood by Hugh W. Roberts

Sometimes, even the tiniest of things can turn a person to commit murder.

***
Swatting away the tiny flying insects from around her, Mary turned to her husband and demanded they headed home.

“It’s too hot, too humid, and these insects are bugging me.”

Laughing at what he thought was a joke, Micheal picked up a can of insect repellant while the persistent nagging carried on.

“Use it! Use it!” demanded Mary.

Two hours later, Michael opened a can of cold beer in the garden of his now nag-free life. I must buy more insect repellant, he told himself.

Twenty-three miles away, the tiny flying insects feasted on what remained in Picnic Wood.

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River Camp by Saifun Hassam

At sunset, the River Camp was surrounded by tropical darkness.

A rogue spy buzzed intel to the Camp: Invasion at nightfall.

Lamps lit up the Camp, traps for the invaders.

No invader should get into the Camp unscathed.

Rubber tire traps were checked and rechecked for leaks. No invader must escape.

Citronella sprayers were checked for blocked nozzles.

Nightjars and bats flew overhead.

News spread fast of an approaching swarm.

First Aid Station was on high alert.

Swarm after swarm of mosquitoes darkened the skies.

Morning dawned.

Shimmering dragonflies swept into the Camp.

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Beasties by C. E. Ayr

My daughter’s scream has me scrambling out of bed.
She is sitting up, hands covering her face, still shrieking.
I flick on her bedside lamp and shudder.
There are wee flying beasties everywhere, swarming around and crawling over her.
It’s okay, baby, I gather her in my arms, swatting the horrid beetle-like thingys away.
Then I panic.
There are more on her feet and legs.
I slap at them, brush them from my own face.
Then I see wings emerge from her nose.
I roar in anger and fear until I no longer can.
Because my mouth is full.

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A Day For Remembering by Sue Spitulnik

The annual Memorial Day pig roast at the No Thanks was an event Michael looked forward to and dreaded. It was no live band day, so he couldn’t hide behind his instrument, singing words not his own. Often, family members remained outside, and the veterans retreated to the purposely darkened indoors to reminisce about those they had fought with and lost.
Thankfully he knew the secret to defuse a too-heavy conversation; swat his arm and say, “Damn mosquitoes.” The discussion would quickly become animated about the size of flying insects in specific war zones before returning to painful memories.

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MacArthur Wasted Men Like Flies by Charli Mills

Mud and biting flies greeted Sgt. McDermott on the Pacific Island of “lady.” Leyte sprawled, a slattern who rolled soldiers in the mud. Swatting possessed insects proved futile. At night, it rained. Supplies failed to reach American soldiers. McDermott’s unit fought jungle diseases and gunfire unsupported. They lived on coconut and sugarcane, sweetening sweat and blood for the insects. Ormac Valley loomed for the taking. “You’ll get a medal, Sarge,” his men said for his efforts to conquer the last outpost. Before the official battle, McDermott dropped from a sniper’s bullet. His men dropped like flies the next day.

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Horror of Flies by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I’ve tried to picture in my mind what 480,000 bodies would look like, but all I can visualize are hundreds of fat, black corpse flies feasting on them and, even worse, laying their eggs on them. I see the clusters of flies in the corners of their eyes and in their mouths, noses and ears, and the speckles of fly dust that mark their clothes. The buzzing of the flies fills my mind and I think of those poor dead men turning into a mass of maggots. My gorge rises and it’s all I can do not to vomit.

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Biting Yarns (Part I) by D. Avery

“The Lemmon Brothers! Hey there Tim, Tom. Tim, yer wearin’ pants?”
“I’m Tom Pal.”
“Oops, sorry. Tom, where’s yer dress?”
“Wearin’ pants ta thwart them dang black flies was comin’ up unner my dress.”
“Oh. Tim why’re ya wearin’ a dress then?”
“Waited too long. Got so many welts unner this here dress cain’t git ma pants on. Where’s Kid at Pal?”
“Kid’s off wallowin’ with Curly the pig, tryin’ ta git away from these black flies. Kid’s bit up all over, an’ I mean all over, after last week’s nekked gard’nin’. An’ now this.”
“Yep, this prompt bites.”

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Biting Yarns (Part II) by D. Avery

“I figgered we could use our powers a fiction ta keep mis’rable critters sech as black flies an’ skeeters away from the Ranch. Now Shorty wants us ta use ‘em ta power our fiction. Hmmf.”
“Speakin’ a miserable critters, ain’t that—”
“Slim Chance! What’re ya doin’ here?”
“Heard y’all’s bein’ bugged at Carrot Ranch.”
“Only thing buggin’ me is you, Slim. You must have black flies too, I kin see the dark cloud over yer spread from here.”
“Got ‘em Pal, an’ I got a concoction ta keep ‘em off ya. I’m willin’ ta share. Fer a price.”

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Biting Yarns (Part III) by D. Avery

“Why should I buy yer concoction, Slim Chance?”
“What a question! Black flies is eatin’ ya alive! Makin’ yer skin raw and itchy, all lumps an’ bumps an’ scabs an’ sores. This stuff keeps ‘em off ya.”
“I don’t gen’rally cotton ta concoctions. Anyways, ya sure it works? Yer lookin’ mighty puffy likes as if ya got all bug bit Slim.”
“It works real good. Jist kinda makes yer skin itchy an’ sore is all. Mebbe break out inta lumps an’ bumps an’ sores. Small price ta pay ta keep the bugs off a ya Pal.”
“Bug off, Slim.”

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Biting Yarns (Part IV) by D. Avery

“Ah jeez. Was hopin’ this yarn, like black fly season, would end soon. But here comes Kid an’ Curly right on the heels a Pepe LeGume.
Kid, I sure hope thet’s mud yer wearin’ like a snuggy. An’ why are ya followin’ Legume aroun’ like thet?”
“Hey Pal. Yep, been earthin’ in the mud, makes ma bug bites feel better. Then Pepe happened by an’ I noticed he’s the only one aroun’ here ain’t bothered by them flyin’ insects been set upon us. So I been clingin’ ta Pepe like stink on sh—”
“Shush Kid. An’ move over.”

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London

Growing up I had a blueprint in mind, a family ideal loosely based on a 70s television show. It consisted of a white-collar husband, responsible and kind. And exactly two children, a girl and a boy. I envisioned meals around the table, Sundays in church, sleepover Saturdays, and a collage of my children’s artwork magnetized to our fridge. What I hadn’t envisioned was what came to be. Yes, I had the kind husband, two children, the artistic fridge door. But it was a late addition that altered the plan: our third child—an Olde English Bulldogge named London.  

She appeared to us all paw and leg. Adventure in her blood. Endless pup. Though she was the last remaining of the litter, her coat was first class, striped gold and black, a stark white stop and snout with boots and chest to match. Her tail had been cropped to prevent it from drawing up like a fiddlehead fern, and her fudge-like eyes—sweet and dewy as they were—possessed a hue of curiosity, a dab of mischief. She was both awkward and adorable, three months old and filling in fast, except for the wrinkles. Those would always remain.

When first we met, she clasped a bird in her jaw, a corpse she’d discovered beneath the spirea, or perhaps it was a viburnum. The farmer scooped her up, pried two fingers between her teeth, tossed the bird off to the side. “Eck,” he said.

What were we getting ourselves into?

We tried to hold her that muggy July evening, to cuddle her like an infant. She flailed about, ears flopping, bum wiggling, head hung over our forearms. Her body was too busy. I grimaced. “She’s got an awful lot of energy,” I said. But I could see both son and husband were smitten with her, taken in by her fierce independence, her fearlessness. They set her down in the grass, her home turf, and interacted there on her terms. Hesitancy niggled. Did we really want to own a dog? But the look on Noah’s face told me my feelings were moot. The plot had shifted. This dog now owned us.

In her first days in our home, London, as she came to be called, was more interested in sniffing than snuggling. Her nose was ever to the ground. She was under the chairs, under the tables, beneath the beds and the sofa (from which she needed help getting out). She even found her way inside our dishwasher. But when she had finally learned the lay of the land, she settled in to learning more about us. One day, as I reclined on the sofa for my afternoon nap, she didn’t want to be left out. She perched at the cushion’s edge, nuzzled, grunted. Moist eyes pleaded. I had set a rule that she would not be permitted on the furniture. We had just redecorated, and I was bound and determined that ‘the dog’ should remain on the floor. I hung my hand over the edge, caressed her brindled fur. “Lay down, London,” I said. “Go sleepy.” But she persisted, as was her way, working from one end of the couch to the other, trying to make the leap, her legs a hair too short. “Alright,” I said, and gave in, hoisted her up. “Just this once.” She rooted about my neck like an infant, let out a big sigh, then she was out. “Baby girl,” I whispered, then drifted off too, warm puffs of puppy breath upon my skin. Our afternoon naps became the norm. Another plot shift.

As months passed, many pet no-nos fell by the wayside despite earlier learned philosophies. I had descended from a line of old-school dog keepers. My childhood home had supported ‘free-range’ pups, Skippy and Poopsie, who were more like traveling salesmen than household pets. Noah, on the other hand, never had a dog in his childhood. His first experience with one was after he’d moved out on his own. He’d adopted a male pup almost immediately and raised it as a backyard pet before we met. Together we’d adopted a female in our early years of marriage, one you might call a hybrid model who spent her days in the backyard and her nights asleep at the hearth. London was something altogether different. She wasn’t a breed for roaming the great outdoors, even though, given another body, that may have been her preference. A brachycephaly, she couldn’t tolerate temperature extremes. Heat and humidity were especially hard on her with her compressed snout. She couldn’t cool herself, so we had to be watchful of her. As it turned out, that wasn’t the only thing we had to be watchful of.

A recreation of an extinct breed, the Olde English Bulldogge was said to have better health outcomes than the more well known English Bulldog. That was the primary reason we chose it. Unfortunately, for London, this didn’t hold true. From puppy vaginitis to skin allergies to pododermatitis to gingival hyperplasia, London experienced it all. Our closet overflowed with limited ingredient food and treats, medicated shampoo, antihistamines, ear medications, creams and salves, and antifungal wipes and solutions. Because of her skin allergies, we took to showering her at home rather than taking her to the groomer’s. I learned to trim nails, flush ears, soak inflamed paws, and treat yeast infections. Mama’s good girl, I’d say after I cleansed her facial folds with a foul-smelling wipe, an activity she would only tolerate because it was followed up with a treat. She’s always good for Mom-Dog, Noah would say, though I wasn’t sure how I felt about that moniker.

It was the combination of it all that made London more like our child than our pet. Through the cuddles and the playtime and the ailments and the treatments, a deep bond developed. She wasn’t ‘the dog’ anymore—she was our Baby Girl. We’d take her for car rides when she was bored. I’d surprise her with toys when I returned from the store, for which she would wait at my feet at the sight of a bag. She even took possession of Noah’s club chair, something I never dreamed he’d allow. We’d line it daily with fresh bedding, to protect the upholstery we said, but really it was to make her more comfortable.

When we moved to a new home, London’s needs came first. The home lacked a fence, so she couldn’t be off-leash. There were a lot of other things the home lacked too, but the first thing Noah built was a pretty wooden fence for London. She loved to lie in the yard, to watch the neighbors through the pickets, to duel the chipmunks, to hear the buzz of the hummingbirds. It was within this fence that she experienced those joys. And it was within this fence where she first showed signs of what was to come.

We were sitting on the patio swing when Noah noticed it, a slight drag of a rear paw, the scrape of nail on pavement. “Something’s going on with her,” he said. There was gravity in his voice, a shadow uncommon to him.

“It’s just her lazy walk,” I assured him. But that was just the beginning.

She began slipping on the floor of the new home. “This floor just isn’t her thing,” I said, and added some rugs. Soon she began slipping outside too, losing her balance when she ran, tumbling in her turns. While grooming her one day, I noticed the nail of one toe worn away to the quick, a result of the dragging. She began struggling to jump into her chair, climb the stairs, leap into the truck. “Are you getting too old for climbing?” I asked as I hoisted her hips. She turned to me, gave me a sloppy kiss. Translation: Thanks, Mom.

We brought our observations about the dragging foot and growing lack of strength and stability to her veterinarian. Concerned about a spinal injury, we tried laser therapy. Her condition didn’t improve. An MRI was recommended. We travelled six hours to a southern Wisconsin clinic. They coaxed her down the hall. She looked back at us. Our hearts ached. “We’ll be waiting,” I called. Baby girl, I thought.

The vet met with us afterward. “There’s no evidence of spinal injury,” she said. What they saw instead were symptoms of a condition called degenerative myelopathy, a disease affecting the spinal cord. She wanted to run a test on spinal fluid they had drawn to see if she carried the DM genes. “That will take a few days,” she said, “but we’ll call you when we get the results.”

The test returned positive; both genes were present. Other conditions ruled out, London was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease of the spinal cord, a fatal condition. It began in the hind quarters and would ruthlessly work its way through her body until all was gone: the wag of her tail, her legs, her bark, her ability to swallow, and eventually her ability to breathe. London was dying, and we couldn’t help her.

“She may have a year or so,” the vet said. “I’m so sorry to have to deliver this news.”

In the months that followed, we managed to provide for our girl as best we could. We ordered special booties with bands to help with foot placement and grip and to protect her skin from abrasion. We exercised her, created resistance on her rear paws to promote muscle tone. Walking became more and more difficult. We ordered a cart, and though she learned to use it, she wasn’t happy. Noah took to walking her in a sling instead. He bore the weight she couldn’t. She was thrilled to be out of the cart again, tooling across the open field, just like the old days. Now, it wasn’t her feet dragging behind her—it was Noah. I would watch from the window as he scooted along at her hip, struggling to keep up with her momentum, holding the straps with his right arm, using his left as ballast. She’s doing great! the neighbors would say. 

Though we did all we could for London, we couldn’t stem the tide of her disease. We couldn’t change its outcome.

It was mid-January when our vet made a house call. The pandemic was among us, so she couldn’t come inside, but she was willing to meet outdoors. Fortunately, the mild winter showed mercy. We dressed London in her jacket, lined the frozen ground with a thick pad, covered it with her favorite bedding, and placed a sprig of sage in the center. Noah helped her outside where she met the vet with a kiss-filled lunge and a tumble. We gathered close around her, held her, whispered endearments to her. I told her how much I loved her, what a very special girl she was, how much she meant to us. I heard the murmurs of Noah and Sam. We were all together there, suffocating in a stew of grief. I saw out the corner of my eye the syringe that delivered London’s departure, wished I could have reversed it. She let out a big sigh, just as she had as a puppy when first she laid on my chest for our nap, rested her head on her front paws, closed her eyes. “My baby,” I whispered into the thick folds of her neck. “My baby.”

*     *     *

Throughout the winter, I often looked for signs of London in our yard. At first, there were sink holes in the snow where her feet had been, but fresh precipitation soon erased them from view. In the spring, I waited for the snow to melt, anxious, hopeful. Surely there would be signs of her left over from the fall, a chew toy, a ball, some droppings here and there. But when the snow receded, I found nothing. No sign of London. No sign of her life.

It wasn’t until the temperature warmed and the grass began to thrive that London’s former presence at last made itself known. It appeared as crop art, burn spots in the lawn, traces of her urine in unusual shapes. A comma here. A figure eight there. “Sweet baby,” I said. “Thank you.”

I know one day these spots will green again. They’ll fade away, erase what is left of our girl from the lawn. But not from the heart. Never from the heart. For now, I’ll cherish them, cling to them. For as long as they last, I’ll treasure these precious works of art, just as I do the ones on my fridge.

London “Lundy Lu” McAlister
April 2011 – January 2021


Photo by Natalie Carolyn Photography

Born amidst the copper mining ruins of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, T. Marie Bertineau is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the L’Anse Reservation, migizi odoodeman. Her work has appeared online with Minnesota’s Carver County Arts Consortium; in Mino Miikana, a publication of the Native Justice Coalition and Waub Ajijaak Press; and in the annual journal U.P. Reader. Her debut memoir The Mason House (Lanternfish Press, 2020) was named a 2021 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. Married and the mother of two, she makes her home in Michigan’s Keweenaw.

Saddle Up Saloon; World Wide Garden Tour

“Hey Pal. I’m glad yer here, ‘cause we’re about ta head off.”

“Head off? We gotta man the Saloon.”

“Nope. This is where we’ll start but this week we’re spons’rin’ a garden tour.”

“Ah, shift. Thinkin’ gard’nin’ ‘roun Carrot Ranch is gittin’ outta hand.”

“It’s a Garden Tour Pal. We’re goin’ ‘roun’ the world! We’ll start here at the Saloon then head east till we end up at the Carrot Ranch World Wide Headquarters, or CRWWHQ for short.”

“Might be shorter ta say Hancock, MI.”

“S’pose. Or Shorty’s place. Anyway, we’ll start here ‘cause here we are. Then I’m hopin’ folks’ll look’t the pictures here an’ click on the links ta see more a these gard’ners’ gardens an’ related writin’s.”

 “Kid, the Saddle Up Saloon ain’t got a garden.”

“Sure it does. We got the Poet Tree offshoot a’growin’ in the back.”

“Seems a stretch. Got any pictures ta share?”

“Naw. Reckon folks has their own pictures in mind fer the saloon, I don’t wanna ruin their images. But here’s a buckaroo-ku regardin’ the poet tree:

deep rooted dreams grow

sky stroked visions branching out

far reaching embrace

Now let’s head east ta southwestern Pennsylvania an’ see what our own Poet Lariat’s up ta in her outdoors.”

Jules Paige?”

“The one an’ only.”

Looking at my raised garden, folks might actually think I knew what I was doing. I’m winging it. I’ve got some Bok Choy, rainbow and yellow peppers, some herbs, and of course the lettuce. Watching these plants grow makes my heart sing.


lettuce 

entertain you; leaf 

ya laughin’

pepper

your dreamin’

healthy

tomatoes

gonna be a

brighter day

mind your

peas and q’s

porridge?

  ©JP/dh  

I’ve always had flowers. Not always veggies. But one year I did try to grow strawberries and corn… and even asparagus! I’ve had veggies for a few years now. Not quite a potager garden. But just enough to keep me happy.

“Looks like Jules keeps the butterflies happy too.”

“That was nice Kid. I reckon lotsa folks keep a bit a garden ta keep ’em in fresh veggies and a bit a earthin’.”

“Yep. Hey, let’s drop in on our writer in Vermont as we head farther east on this here garden tour.”

“There’s somethin’ in bloom.”

“Thet ain’t a garden plant! Thet’s a wild Lady’s Slipper she found at the edge a where her lawn meets the woods.

“And thet’s jist driftwood!”

“She says she planted it there.”

“Hmmf. And what’s this? Closeups a her “lawn”? Some gardener.”

“Yep, bit of a let down. Let’s venture across the pond.”

“The stock pond? We goin’ ta Ernie’s?”

“Nope. We’re headed ta the UK. We’ll start at Sherri Matthews‘ place. Her garden grows in the West Country of England and in another life, in California.”

“Ya mean the reknown ranch hand and columnist, Sherri Matthews?”

“Yep. The memoirist. And gardener!”

I’ve always grown lavender, it’s good for the bees. And, so I learnt, good near roses to keep greenfly (aphids) away. I have a “Bee Hotel” in my garden. During our first national lockdown for three months in 2020 in the UK, we had glorious sunny weather. Confined to our homes unless for one hour of exercise and essential shopping/medical needs, our garden was a godsend, one I never take for granted. Watching the bees of an evening emerge from their winter hibernation was a true gift. Nature, unstoppable. See more on this HERE.

This rambling rose was my pride and joy in my previous garden. I created an archway with roses and jasmine, something I’d wanted for years. I planted the rose in a half-barrel I brought back from California when I left after twenty years there. I loved my archway, but when we moved to our present house three years ago, I thought of ways I might keep my barrel. To take it would mean cutting down the rose. I couldn’t do that. So I left it for the new owners. Let them have the joy of it. I found out from our previous neighbours that within weeks of moving in, the new people promptly tore it down, rose, archway, jasmine. The lot. I could have taken my barrel after all. Click HERE for more on this hope filled summer garden.

Said neighbours/friends brought us this rose as a housewarming gift when we moved to our present home, having left all my roses behind…for the new people. I planted it the following spring after our move. It’s called Tickled Pink. And I am tickled pink at its progress and beauty. It blooms three or four times a year, is disease resistant and brings stunning colour to the garden. Bloom where you’re planted, as I always say. As someone who learnt to grow roses in California and has left many behind, I know this to be true. I also discovered you can buy a pot of ladybirds (ladybugs) to sprinkle on your roses, a natural and safe way to keep aphids at bay.Click HERE for more on Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home. 

“Oh that was well worth the trip. Ain’t we got some other green-thumbed Ranchers over here in the UK?”

“Yep. Here we are at Anne Goodwin‘s place.”

“Whoa. Ms. Goodwin’s also gardens on the wild side.”

“Yep. Read all about it and see more stunning photos HERE.

When we moved to this house over twenty years ago, I was most excited about the garden. Although I’d previously worked an allotment, I’d never had custody of shrubberies and trees. That first winter, we cleared a patch of ground for ten raised vegetable beds and another for fruit bushes, fenced-in to keep out the birds. Along with that and creating a pond and patio, we didn’t pay much attention to the grass. See more HERE.

“Kid, thet was purty dang purty. Glad we clicked the links. This is a great tour! Who do we see next?”

“Yet another ranch hand, the prolific Geoff Le Pard. He’s got some before and after shots to share with us.”

Then…

Thirty years ago we moved into this house (above) with a new born in tow. The house sits on a wide road on the outskirts of one of London’s remaining villages, Dulwich. Did we love the garden? In 1970, it had been laid out with a single terrace and central steps down to an oval lawn. Several of the mature trees we inherited (magnolias, silver birches and ornamental firs) were new then as were the many roses and peonies. We itched to work on it – our immediate predecessors had done nothing beyond the occasional lawn mow for the best part of two years – but we knew enough (courtesy of my mother) to sit back and see what came up in that first year.

then….

Now

The forget-me-nots are the many great grand-offspring of those that we saw that first year. We’ve moved many things, lost a fair few – the rhododendrons and azaleas have pretty much all gone now – and introduced many more. We’ve made a few structural changes but not many. I’m in the process of introducing a rainwater capture system to stop using potable water given a cautious assessment of the rain that leeches off our roof every year is in excess of 50,000 litres.

See more of Geoff’s gardens HERE.

“Hang onta yer hat, Pal. Now we’re headed down under fer a peek at Norah Colvin‘s garden.”

“Kid, we come a long way ta be viewin’ ‘Merican plants.”

“Norah got us good! Says this “garden” come from spilled bird seed! But worth it. Look’t her garden visitors Pal!”

“Them’s sure some exotic birds!”

“Thinkin’ we’re the odd ducks down ‘roun here Kid. Uh-oh. Hope Shorty don’t see these next visitors ta Norah’s garden. Them critters tend ta spook ‘er.”

“Speakin’ a Shorty thet’s where we’re headed next. We’ll end the Saloon’s first world wide garden tour at World Headquarters. An’ here we are!”

Look, there’s the front potager garden with them rabbits someone surprised her with!”

“Yep. An’ jist look’t ‘er bloomin’ bulbs.”

“Whoa! Look’t the color!”

“Thet ain’t flowers! Thet’s Shory’s cake!”

“Well it’s a celebration a all she’s been sowin’ an’ growin’ so we’ll allow it.”

“This was a fascinatin’ tour, Kid. I injoyed gittin’ out an’ seein’ how other ranch hands garden an’ all. But ya know what?”

“Yep. We’re homesick. Let’s git back ta the ranch.”

Wither we roam, there’s no place like home.

Thank you Jules Paige, Sherri Mathews, Anne Goodwin, Geoff Le Pard, Norah Colvin and Charli Mills for takin’ part in this debut garden tour.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

May 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

Midges, mosquitoes, gnats, and black flies. Oh, my. With the burst of warm weather in the northern hemisphere, come the hatches of tiny flying insects.

Mause is learning the ropes of gardening, which means she knows how far her cable reaches and that biting my tulips elicits a response from me. She’s content to watch me pull young maple trees (who knew that would be my greatest garden weed) and gnaw on a fallen branch. But when she rolled over and exposed a belly full of bullseyes, I felt panic rise. My pup had the measles or Lyme disease!

Turns out, the classic bullseye mark associated with tick bites does not occur on dogs. Black flies — also called buffalo gnats — leave the mass of red rings on dog bellies. Mause didn’t seem to mind. I’m allergic to the fly’s saliva, and my bites swell and itch horribly. Grabbing my homemade plantain salve, I applied it liberally to Mause who then licked it appreciatively.

Apparently, plantain in coconut oil is tasty.

The belly bites heralded the tiny flying insect season. They are here. Mosquitoes don’t bother me as long as I have plantain leaves nearby. It grows where mosquitoes live, including my natural lawn. I use an assortment of essential oils and will try making a catnip oil after hearing a neighborhood rumor that it is good for bug repellent. Nothing repels black flies. I heard of a local rock picker who wears a hat with fly-tape and mosquito netting. A website advises smearing petroleum jelly on a hard hat and dressing like a Victorian, covering exposed skin.

Insects can be good fodder for fish and fiction. Think of the fun you can have as a writer, exposing your unsuspecting characters to a swarm of midges. What action might evolve? What character flaws might mosquito bites reveal? If you are writing a regional story, you can research the biting flies.

So far, Mause has had the most bites and they have cleared up. She now chases me through the house when I dab my mosquito bites, having developed a taste for salve. “No lick,” is a new command. While my kiddos visited, we were not harassed by black flies. We spread gravel across what I now call my beach patio and then headed to a Lake Superior beach with BBQ takeout from the Fitz.

After we shared a meal, I introduced Mause to waves. She barked at the rollers as they washed across the beach at a slant. I took off her leash and she chased waves, barking and receiving mouthfuls of water in return. The waves ended at the river’s entrance, and she’d march back to me and renew the chase. I don’t think this is going to be a water-loving dog!

My son joined me in my search, quickly learning the difference between quartz, prehnite, chert and chalcedony. “What’s this, Mum?” He held up a large pink agate the size of bubble gum. He’s a quick learner, that one. My best moment was sharing the hunt with him, and delighting in his finds. The pup ran herself ragged, covered in beach sand and slobber. She fell asleep with her head on my daughter’s shoulder on the ride home, drooling.

Flowers and flies awaited our arrival but within two days the weather shifted. A late winter or early fall, hard to tell in the Northwoods. It’s been a complicated week with lots of personal transitions and I’m wiped. I’ll take the return of cold for now in exchange for reprieve from bites.

Black flies or not, I will travel to Copper Harbor to honor those who gave all this Monday, Memorial Day. I’d like to remember for first cousin twice removed, George Anthony McDermott. My dad shares his name, and according to his WWII draft card, we shared auburn hair and hazel eyes. He worked for one of the fruit packing companies which makes me think of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. He was raised by his half-Portuguese, half-Irish grandmother in Oakland, California where his uncles left to work ranches nearby. George earned the Bronze Medal for “heroic achievement in battle” on Leyte in the Philippines. He died of combat wounds November 6, 1944 and is buried next to his grandmother in Oakland. I wish I knew more of his story.

May 27, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tiny flying insects. Think about how the insects shape the scene or add to the action. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 1, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

McArthur Wasted Men Like Flies by Charli Mills

Mud and biting flies greeted Sgt. McDermott on the Pacific Island of “lady.” Leyte sprawled, a slattern who rolled soldiers in the mud. Swatting possessed insects proved futile. At night, it rained. Supplies failed to reach American soldiers. McDermott’s unit fought jungle diseases and gunfire unsupported. They lived on coconut and sugarcane, sweetening sweat and blood for the insects. Ormac Valley loomed for the taking. “You’ll get a medal, Sarge,” his men said for his efforts to conquer the last outpost. Before the official battle, McDermott dropped from a sniper’s bullet. His men dropped like flies the next day.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening

Gardening in the buff has led to unexpected stories.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

The Other Edward Carpenter by Anne Goodwin

In another life, he’d freed his feet from the tyranny of shoe leather. Liberated his limbs from linen’s law. He’d felt a lightning flash of revelation, commanding him to shed convention’s carapace with his clothes.

In that life, Edward was a naturist, a socialist, a feminist, an environmentalist and vegetarian. Rambler, recycler, smallholder, author, philosopher and openly gay man. Alas, his current life shrinks him to a single label, distorts his passions with its disapproving prism. His psychiatrist, arriving unannounced to find him gardening naked, observes a symptom of his schizophrenia diagnosis and feels compelled to up his meds.

🥕🥕🥕

Pages by Reena Saxena

I’m so sure she has written about me in her book – all those secrets I wouldn’t want the world to know. I’ll find a way to sue her. My lawyer has been sounded off…

I retreat to the farm house to read it – almost afraid the secrets will spill out of pages in the public eye.

I look hard for myself in the pages, with a magnifying glass. All I find is bits and parts of her I’d never seen before.

I wonder how a shy person like her can expose her soul. I’d never seen it, and now.

🥕🥕🥕

Pieces by Rebecca Glaessner

Motes danced in the morning’s first sweltering rays. Hektor savoured two plain, poached eggs, resolving to take some home one day.

His mind’s eye showed his home’s rituals, worlds away, mrul-filled bowls steaming. He smelled its comforting decadence.

Soon.

Outside, planting seedlings, Hektor trained his mind toward his Earthen students, out too, exploring, growing.

He smiled. Like sprouts, humans also need their sunlight.

Then, his mind darkened.

Something distant, unseen, entered the atmosphere.

His pot crashed on pavement.

Blind, disconnected.

Utterly naked.

Stranded among a world of human sprouts, Hektor gathered the broken pot and got to work.

🥕🥕🥕

Without a Hat by Norah Colvin

The farmer was out standing in the field when, one day, a wind whipped up and snatched his hat, tossing it into the air. It swooped over the garden beds as if playfully daring, ‘Come catch me.’ But the farmer couldn’t catch the hat which had been a fixture on his head for countless years. Everyone said he looked naked without it, but no other hat would do. Without it, he wilted in sun’s heat and sagged in rain. As the parading seasons took their toll, he disintegrated and decomposed, continuing to nourish the garden in a new way.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It was Mabel’s favorite roadside stand, with unbeatable seasonal produce. Lettuce, firm and delicate, and tomatoes glowing with morning dew and midday sun were so flavorful, a scanty splash of vinegar and virgin olive oil defined perfection. The berries were bright with cool moonlight and damp lake winds dancing over pine and shrub.

Then Elsie, the source garden’s matriarch, had died of COVID from an unmasked customer. Some said the heirs started using chemicals to boost yield.

Mabel checked the rumors with her extra-sensitive skin. Under a moonless sky, she stripped down and lay amongst the lettuces.

And smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Sherlock by C E Ayr

I am tending my marrows, feeling more confident than ever of capturing the Vegetable of the Year Trophy at the Helton-on-Clyde Garden Festival.
My wife always laughed at me when I said I’d do anything to win.
But this new fertiliser, a secret to all except myself, has made such a difference.
A quiet cough makes me turn my head.
Sherlock Holmes, accompanied by Dr Watson, is studying me.
The Great Detective’s first question strips me naked, and tells me that I’m heading for the gallows.
Do you think that your produce is quite suitable for vegetarians, he asks.

🥕🥕🥕

Defended the Defenseless by JulesPaige

Lone
Fallen
Lettuce seed
Nestled in the
Driveways’ edge, last year, caught a break and grew

Naked little leaves unfolded in spring
After a rain,
Glistened, called
“See me!”
There

Cute!
Of course
Saving this
Plant became a
Priority – in the garden it went

Just today with the grandchildren helping
We added some
New lettuce
Little
Seeds

Looking at my raised garden, folks might actually think I knew what I was doing. I’m winging it. I’ve got some Bok Choy, rainbow and yellow peppers, some herbs, and of course the lettuce. Watching these plants grow makes my heart sing.

🥕🥕🥕

A Brush with Passion by Doug Jacquier

She was so provocative that she put new meaning into garden hoe. Draped across the trellis, she flaunted her nascent fecundity, exposing her femininity to his blushing gaze. Her rampant, unfettered, unproductive growth bore witness to his failure to fulfil his most earnest desire, which was to sup on the nectar of the gods.
He knew what he must do but his hand trembled at the very thought of such intimacy. Nonetheless. he steeled himself to the task and dipped his paintbrush into her stamen and coated her beckoning pistil and imagined the future ecstasy of his passion fruit.

🥕🥕🥕

New Neighbor by Anita Dawes

I admit I don’t like gardening, but
I like walking through other people’s gardens,
Admiring all their hard work.
I believe gardeners are a breed apart
Like the sudden sight of a rainbow,
Their joy is palpable.
Today, I am sitting on my porch
Overlooking my neighbours garden
He is new to the neighbourhood
In his mid-twenties, built like a Greek God.
The day was hot, I sat there praying
For a coco-cola advert to appear before my eyes.
He stripped down to his shorts
I reached out for a glass of cold water
Which made my eyes steam…

🥕🥕🥕

Morning View by Joanne Fisher

In the morning Cindy quickly got out of bed and went outside to check her new herb garden. Yesterday she had planted some basil, mint, sage, and parsley by the homestead, and that was only the beginning of her plans for it.

“Whatcha doing my love?” Jess asked as she came outside onto the porch drinking some coffee. Cindy looked up at her.

“I’m just checking to see how the herbs I planted yesterday are doing.” Cindy told her.

“It’s not that I don’t admire the view, but don’t you think you should have put some clothes on first?”

🥕🥕🥕

Barely Cultivated by Bill Engleson

“He really knows his stuff, Harry. Has a feel for soil, for showing newbies the ropes.”

“But, Walt, he’s also been showing his STUFF. Some of the guys don’t mind, not that they’d say anything, but we’ve got some fairly prim and proper…ladies…can I say ladies?”

“Of course, you can say ladies. I don’t mind.”

“Fine! Ladies. Women. And even some of the guys. People bring their kids. Their Grandkids. It’s not right.”

“Okay, it’s just, you know, Sunshine in The Buff Acres, the local Nudist Club…it got sold. After forty-five years. Our Community Garden was his only option.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gardening Naked by Susan Joy Clark

Kendra handed her neighbor, Irene, a pair of gardening shears, handles first, over the garden fence, then screamed.

“What are you screaming about?”

“You … you’re naked! I can not unsee that.” Kendra covered her eyes.

“It’s World Naked Gardening Day, and I’m in my own private yard. It’s liberating. You should try it.”

There’s a day on the calendar for everything! “Uh … no, no thanks. I’m good over here. Carry on.”

Before long, Kendra hears a kerfuffle, then a scream.

“Why are you screaming?”

“Bees! Bees! The whole hive is after me!”

🥕🥕🥕

Slip Up by Charli Mills

An early summer scorcher in the Great Basin robbed the buckaroos of their appetite. Bev wasn’t about to see her gang shrivel in the sun unfed. She sliced cold cuts and tomatoes and packed almonds and dried apricots for the trail. Wilfred, the ranch foreman raised a wooly eyebrow but kept silent. He advised everyone to tank up on water and required they carried canteens. After Bev cleaned the cookshack she headed for the garden, feeling sluggish. Later she’d claim she slipped in a pile of fresh horse apples when the crew returned early to find her gardening naked.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening by FloridaBorne

Such a silly concept; naked gardening. Not a fan of squatting that close to soil without something between my derriere and the dirt.

Yes, I know vegetables aren’t grown in grocery stores, and meat doesn’t show up in the butcher shop already sliced, wrapped and priced. Someone has to tend the farms. But(t)… naked?

What’s next… people attending church naked? I don’t want to sit on any public seating where someone else’s squishy bodily fluids await.

With good fortune, nudity, corsets, and stiletto’s will be thrown on the garbage dump of ridiculous fashion ideas — while comfortable clothing prevails.

🥕🥕🥕

Lunch and Munch Garden Club by Saifun Hassam

Hi fellow gardeners!

Time for our weekly weedin’ and diggin’ and pickin’!

And for planting tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

We’ll be meeting in the Veggie Patch as per our normal Saturday time, from 10 am to 2 pm.

Lunch will consist of salami and cheese sandwiches, veggie pizza.

Our very fresh garden salad.

Also Stella’s special “Barely Barley Soup.”

Choice of cherry torte, chocolate cake, coffee, tea, orange juice & bottled water.

Bring spades and veggie peelers.

For our very fresh salad, we’ll be digging up carrots and radishes,
picking zucchini and peapods.

Lettuce looks ready.

No dressing required.

🥕🥕🥕

Selective Forgetfulness by Sue Spitulnik

When Tessa and her mother arrived at Lexi’s country home, they found her and Emma outside, sitting in the baby’s wading pool, sans clothing.
Lexi said, “Hi. I got some garden planted, but then Emma woke up. When I brought her out here, she kept crawling toward the pool. I was sweaty, so we both got in.”
Tessa smiled. “I can see that.”
Jenny was shocked. “I heard them talking about Gardening Naked Day on the radio this morning, but I didn’t think anyone would do it.”
Tessa responded. “Mom, should I bring up Woodstock stories.”
“That was different!”

🥕🥕🥕

Hank’s Tomatoes by Michael Fishman

Every year folks waited for some of Hank’s Brandywines. Don’t know how he does it, some said. Best tomato ever, said others.

When August rolled around and no one had seen Hank or his tomatoes folks worried. It’s the virus, some said. He’ll be around soon, said others.

Then Mrs. Murphy looked out her window one moon-filled evening and saw Hank weeding her flowerbed in the nude and that was that.

After Hank’s mind twisted the town fell quiet. Everyone offered sad, tight-lipped smiles.

Life happens, they all said while saying a prayer for Hank.

And one for themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

Drinking While Pruning by Pete Fanning

You hear about Lewis?

No. What now?

Awful.

Yeah?

He was trying to prune back the cherry tree. The one by his house?

Doesn’t seem odd.

Gladys said he’d been drinking. He was hot, so he stripped down.

Like, naked?

Naked as he came.

Wow.

He’s going on about the limbs, said they were messing with his satellite reception.

I don’t think it was the tree.

He’s got the shears, but then, no ladder. So he drags out the neighbor’s trampoline—

Wait, what?

–and he’s jumping, trying to, you know…

Don’t tell me.

Pruned his own cherries.

Ouch.

🥕🥕🥕

Garden Club Party by Kerry E.B. Black

Fiona covered her eyes. “What are you doing?”

Her brother, Ian, lifted weights. “Getting ready for the party.”

“What party?”

“You know the hot chick across the street?”

Fiona crossed her arms. “The woman who just moved in?”

“Yeah, her. She’s started a garden club.”

“You don’t garden.”

Ian leapt to the chin-up bar. “Thought…” pulled himself up, “I’d try…” chin-up, “Something new.”

“But where’re your clothes?”

“Read the invitation. Printed right there, ‘Come to the Buff Garden Club Party.’ Now, I’ve got to shower.”

Fiona wondered when he’d notice the name on the mailbox. It read, “The Buffs.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bare by Matt Wester

We are not your typical gardening group. When the last applicant joked that he was layered like an onion, we told him to get out. We don’t do layers here. We know you have nothing unless you get to the heart of the artichoke. Hear me? Raw vegetables only. We only want you if you know that everything but the root is decoration. We bare it all to bear it all and that’s why we call it naked gardening. So if you’re not willing to get dirty and tell the truth then get gloved and find some other group.

🥕🥕🥕

Under the Full Moon by Colleen M. Chesebro

The moon’s glow washed over my garden, lighting up the angelica, feverfew, and mugwort shimmering with healing energy. I gathered my tools and prepared for my early summer gardening ritual. I stripped naked and danced under the full moon.

My garden produced an amazing number of herbs from this tradition. I sold these herbs for sacred baths, teas, and tinctures, and even sewed them into spell bags.

Naked gardening imbued my herbs with strong magick. For years, I’d kept this secret under wraps—literally! Until today when a camera flash exploded in front of me! My secret was out!

🥕🥕🥕

Exposed by D. Avery

“I’m too fat!”

She didn’t think so, though it was hard to tell through Amanda’s bulky clothes.

“Amanda, it’s your choice, but remember, part of World Naked Gardening Day for us has always been about being comfortable with our own bodies, of celebrating the naturalness of them.”

Maybe Amanda also craved the normalcy that the unusual family tradition offered because she eventually did join them.

How had she not noticed?

Keeping a brave face through the planting, trying not to stare at the sharp collarbone and raised ribs, she determined to call their physician regarding anorexia that very day.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked and Afraid by Donna

once, long, long ago
a man and a woman
ate fruit from the tree of knowledge
and what was this knowing they ate?
nakedness, vulnerability
sharp thorns cutting their feet
sun burning their eyes
shame at their sexual differences

soon, they left this garden
into the world, they went
naked and afraid

and a battle ensued
they covered themselves
animal skin over human skin
eyes averting the nakedness
words deflecting kinship
the man and woman
barriers between them

until, at last
some began to see
with new eyes, new understanding
it is only by our exposure
we can connect

🥕🥕🥕

Kid and Pal Hangin’ Out by D. Avery

“Aaahhhggg! Ain’t never wanted ta see this side a ya Kid.”
“Hey Pal.”
“Not thet side neither! Kid, why’re ya gardenin’ in yer birthday suit?”
“Almanac says plant by a full moon. Mmm, feel that loam ‘twixt yer bare toes.”
“I’ll jist take ma boots off.”
“Sunbeams sure feel good on yer belly.”
“Mebbe ma shirt.”
“Ahh, breeze in my hair.”
“Yer hair? Yer wearin’ yer hat. Oh. I see. Jeez Kid. Feels good though?”
“Yep.”
“Mebbe this is whut them writers mean ‘bout pantsin’. Ok, they’re off. Mmmm. I feel powerfully vulnerable.”
“Own it, Pal. Cultivate yer power.”

🥕🥕🥕

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