Carrot Ranch Literary Community


Shots Fired Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

Reflections by B.C. Graham

I enlisted last year, and I still feel anxious. Fear and excitement argue over who’s more relevant, stirring my blood like a crafty cocktail. I’m buzzed, and completely sober.

Their motto: “The Deeper The Cut, The Deeper The Healing.” They call it “Shots Fired.” Open mic meets experimental psychotherapy. It’s also what the crowd yells when they hear a good insult. Childish ones are most affective; they’re the oldest.

I step onstage and look over at my opponent, “If Mr. Rogers was your neighbor, he’d move!” Echoing from somewhere in time the crowd yells out. My mirrored foe vanishes.


Shots Fired into White Skin by Anne Goodwin

Clem prepares the needle. The man removes his jacket and thrusts a Union Jack tattoo in her face. Bile sours her throat like love betrayed. Yet, silently, she chuckles. “You realise it’s upside down?”


“People assume it’s symmetrical.” She points a blue-gloved finger along the left-to-right diagonal stripe. “The white should be thicker at the top.”

The syringe approaches his frescoed skin. “Sharp scratch.” Quick in and out, the instructor taught her. Dithering hurts more. She jiggles the needle slowly into the muscle and slaps a flesh-coloured plaster over the puncture wound. A dark-brown dot enhancing the flag.


Cold Blood by Joanne Fisher

I heard shots fired from the abandoned building. The man I had been tailing had only just walked in there. I found his body on the floor with two gunshot wounds. He had been murdered in cold blood. I heard footsteps behind me, and turned around to see Maria with a gun in her hands.

“Why hire me to follow this man if you were going to kill him all along? I asked. She smiled.

“You were my target all along.” She replied. The man on the floor unexpectedly stood up. Maria pointed the gun at me and fired.


The Shot by C. E. Ayr

I hear a gunshot.
Through the gloom I see a figure slumped against my car.
I run towards it, my eyes sweeping the area.
As sirens approach, I recognise the pale, huddled form.
And struggle to breathe.
It is Val, the woman I loved and left all those years ago.
Her face is pale, blood seeps through her coat.
Her eyes flicker recognition, her lips twitch almost into a smile.
Take this, she whispers, pushing something into my hand.
I look down at the still warm gun.
She clasps her gloved hands around mine.
Got you, she says.


Shots Fired by Will

“Shots fired,” reports the police scanner from above the dashboard as I climb into my truck. I lay my still-warm pistol and its magazine on the armrest beside me. Passing headlights briefly illuminate the open van doors and the bodies 50 feet in front of me. She might have been pretty; I couldn’t tell. When I arrived, she was already bloody. The two men had not been kind, and neither had I. Was it justice? The blue lights approach. I’m still not sure why I fired three times–now I have to decide if I should fire once more.


Who Shot Him? by Norah Colvin

The cadets were in formation as they marched around the oval, looking every bit the soldier with guns and uniforms, and not the pimply partly-whiskered teenage boys they’d return to after graduation. Proud relatives had travelled far to view this passing out parade. Spectators and graduates sweltered under the unforgiving summer sun. Some women armed with fans and umbrellas were the envy of those less prepared. One small cousin pushed through the crowd for a better view. At that instant, a front row cadet fainted. The distressed spectator scampered back to safety. “Who shot him, Mum? Who shot him?”


Love and Hate by Hugh W. Roberts

I met Hans on the battlefield. Our eyes locked across the chaos of war as shots rang out. At that moment, nothing else existed.

Drawn to each other like moths to a flame, we became united by the realisation that life was too short to waste on hate.

But we parted on different sides as my commander shouted to fall back.

Many years later, when the world was at peace, I never thought we would reunite and our love would be as strong as that day in 1915.

For Hans and I, shots fired had led to love found.


Where There is Darkness by Jeff Gard

We all saw the body cam footage, the suspect fleeing across the highway on foot, a shadow against flashing reds and blues. Six highway lanes shut down to watch the drama in artificial high-mast lighting, poles bent over as if praying the words of St. Francis.

He was a meth dealer, allegedly. He had stolen a case of beer, allegedly. He resisted arrest, allegedly. He was a father. He was a son. He was nobody. He would become a rallying cry.

One-hundred and thirteen shots fired. We all saw the same footage, but we didn’t see the same crime.


Bang, Bang in the Night Bill Engleson

It shouldn’t happen here.

That’s city stuff.


We don’t have gangs here. We’ve got farmers. Retirees. A few hobbled dispossessed. Maybe they’ve got guns. There is talk of shooting nomadic dogs. Leashless mutts. Poorly cared for, or, burdened with masters who revere freedom for all and damn the consequences; deer run to ruin.

We do get crews of hunters, off-season as well as legit. Pit-lampers! That sort. Out for their own pleasures.

No matter what it is, we cower in our beds when guns go off in the dark.

It shouldn’t happen here.

It shouldn’t, but it does.


Longing for Our ‘Normal’ By JulesPaige

In St. Louis, not far from the grand Arch… water pulsating the Mississippi, that waterway, that lifeline that still was used as a north south corridor for shipping goods… We were in a neighborhood that was trying to be gentrified. We were visiting, staying secure in an alarmed home. However, shots rang out in the street below the window. Sirens followed, sunrise couldn’t come fast enough.

Cities can be like that – cutting the population down with nocturnal business activities gone wrong. We knew that, we’d grown up in them. Now we just wanted our colorful sky of the plains.


Something’s Missing by Charli Mills

Margery Clementine Phillips, Mrs. M.C. to generations of former students, sprawled across the linoleum floor of her former classroom. She remembered the invitation: Would you be our next reading guest? She didn’t remember falling. Did she slip on a pencil? It happened once. Not to her, but the story was legendary for its breakroom retelling like a bad banana peel joke. Did she pass out? She felt dizzy. Her ears rang. She couldn’t move. When a rifle muzzle aimed at her face, she remembered shots fired. She remembered the silly third-grader from 15 years earlier. Where did your humanity go?


The Shot I Did Not Hear by Duane L Herrmann

I did not hear the gunshot that killed my grandson last spring. He was sitting on the floor of his bathroom. He was twenty-three. I’m sure he was crying. The military lied on his discharge papers. The local court had convicted him on the color of his skin. He owed more money than he had ever imagined and two personnel departments had turned against him based on their assumptions. He was sure his mom and granpa couldn’t fix any of that. He father simply caused problems. We don’t know where he got the gun to blow his brains out.


The First Salvo by Sadje

The first salvo was fired under the guise of friendly advice, the pointy spindle hidden in the syrupy sweet advice, given presumably to ‘improve’ her habits and social graces.

Their evil was obscure, hiding in a whine and teary face.

She was no sleeping beauty, being exposed to these backstabbers since she was old enough to understand their hidden agenda. She’d rather they clobbered her on her head with their true intent, rather than poison her mind with sweet venom.

Indeed, foes in disguise of family were worse than an honest enemy.

T’was time to expose their lies!


Eyeballs by Simon

Cynthia pulled the trigger, the man dropped dead. At the attic a murder took place.
Few days later the person is on the news as “Missing”.
Cynthia’s mother stared at her a moment knowing the person isn’t missing but died. Guilty haunted her nights. She forced Cynthia to go somewhere else.
Cynthia didn’t hesitate to pull another trigger, this time her mom gone missing.
Cynthia opened her hobby box from the freezer and filled the 20th bottle with her Mom’s eye. Cynthia said “Mom, I knew one day I’ll keep your eyes too, not so soon, R.I.P my Mother”


The Rendezvous Part II by Kate Spencer

Gloria slips through the French doors into the dimly lit suite. Approaching the bedroom, she sees someone inside, closing the safe.

“We’ve got company,” she whispers into her two-way earpiece, backing away.

Pulling out her Glock 19, she waits for the intruder in the living room.

Who was this guy?

And then he’s there, his Beretta pointed at her.

“Out of my way,” he seethes.

“Can’t do that.”


“Allô mon Chérie!”

His eyes shift to glance at her partner landing on the balconet.

Gloria roundhouse kicks the gun out of his hand just as he pulls the trigger.


Some Injuries by Gary A. Wilson

“Jerry, when did you last see Monica?”
“Maybe thirty-two years; graduation day.  Why?”
“She’s approaching behind you.”
“Wha . . .”
“Oh, ick!  Hello Benjamin, and — you.  I would’ve died happy never seeing you again.”
“Um, hello Monica. What a surprise. How are -”
“Only seconds ago, I was fine.”
“Look, I’m sorry, for back  -”
“When you treated me like poison meat.”
“Yea — I apologize for being stupid.”
“And hateful. I’ll consider your apology but until decided — you can just rot.”
“Whoa, shots fired! Monica — he apologized.”
“True. But some injuries too deep for simple apologies to reach.”


The Flaming Sambucas, etc. by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking is home to various cocktail bars. The Hot Toddies, the Shots Fired, and the Flaming Sambucas to name three. What makes them unique is the way each turns the drinkers’ brain molten, enabling pain receptors to leave quietly to join other like minded cells. Thereafter they form anarchic analgesic cooperatives, randomly numbing the pained poor, bagpipe testers and anyone with a compulsion to listen to Leonard Cohen. Recently a petition has been raised to curtail these activities after voters were found to have been numbed to politicians’ speeches, to such an extent they began believing the promises.


Venison for Dinner by Sue Spitulnik

Dear hunting season always affected the veterans at the No Thanks. Some thought of fresh and canned venison and others dreaded they might hear the shooting.
Tyrell told about the first time his sister had harvested a young buck. “Rhodessa tended to aim with the wrong eye and shook with excitement. Result was, she broke the poor thing’s back legs with one shot, then killed it with the second. She was high up on the hill above our parked trucks, so shoved it right down to ’em. That dear had the most tender meat. Still haven’t had any better.”


Shots Fired by writerravenclaw

There were reports of shots fired.
First on the scene, she wasn’t sure what she would find. So many poachers, killing bears for nothing more than the skin on the animals backs or their babies. To drag them into a life, behind bars, with the pain of loss inside them.
This time she wasn’t going to be late to their party. Standing above him, there was no choice. ”For the bears,” she said.
She saw him, about to fire, and happily pulled the trigger against him.
There were reports of shots fired, but nobody cared, the bears were safe.


Shots Fired by Ann Edall-Robson

The morning mist floated through the trees. Sounds of shots being fired in sporadic volleys filtered through the branches. The two silhouettes stopped to listen for any voices. Hearing none, they moved on, small puffs of moisture escaping their mouths as they entered the alcove, their steps cushioned by the ground’s needle bed. With a nod, they moved into position, each ready for the inevitable that would soon commence. Easy, fluent motions start to finish. A soft relaxed word, “Pull”. Making eye contact with the inbound target. One shot fired and chunks of clay pigeon dropped to the ground.


Fired Up, Over, and Out (Part I) by D. Avery

“Yawww! Dang it Kid! Don’t do thet.”
“Aw, come on Pal, I’m jist funnin ya. Ya too gun-shy fer this week’s prompt?”
“Mebbe I am. Shots fired don’t seem right fer the Ranch. Now what? Duck!”
“That was jist the LeGumes, Pal, out on the veranda shootin the breeze.”
“Reckon thet’s a good place for em.”
“They wanna see us, Pal. Hey Pepe. Logatha.”
“Ello, Keed, ello Pal. We have news.”
“Phew, LeGume, thinkin yer firin some shots. O, shift. Lemme step upwind.”
“What’s yer news, Pepe?”
“I fired a shot alright. Logatha’s goeeng to ‘ave a bambeano!”


Fired Up, Over, and Out (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal, what burr’s unner yer saddle now? Hope yer not cranky cuz a the LeGumes’ impendin bambeano.”
“Ain’t thet, Kid. Happy fer em, havin a little stinker. Nah, it’s thet fella thet run away from the circus.”
“From the ‘Literary Artist’ challenge? Whut’d he do?”
“It’s whut I did. Mighta been too quick ta pull the trigger hirin ‘im ta hep out.”
“Reckon a fella like that knows his way roun animals.”
“Too well. Dang cattle’ve all got dance routines now. The hosses all got fancy tricks.”
“Aw, that’s okay, Pal. Seen Curly?”
“Yep. Over in thet cannon.”


Fired Up, Over, and Out (Part III) by D. Avery

“No!! Don’t fire my hoglet outta that cannon!”
“Why not, Kid? She wants to go across the beaver pond. This is a sure-fire way to get her there quickly.”
“Curly kin walk! Thought ya wanted ta be away from circus life, anyway. Why ya teachin the ranch animals tricks an routines?”
“This Ranch needs a little razzle-dazzle.”
“There’s stellar stories here ever week, thet’s razzle-dazzle enough. We got Rough Writers takin risks in the safe space a Carrot Ranch. Why ain’tcha writin ‘stead a training the livestock?”
“Chickened out.”
“Mebbe ya better cross the road, Hot Shot. Yer fired.”


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

March 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

It’s a Friday and the sky is impossibly blue over the whole of the Keweenaw Peninsula! I know, I know, it’s impossible for the color blue to be impossible. After all, the bag of snowmelt is the exact color of sky-blue. The difference is that the actual blue-sky vibrates with an aliveness that the same color cannot match. All I want to be is alive beneath this sky on this day.

Sure, I’ll likely feel the same way tomorrow, But this is the moment. This is now. This is the impossibly blue sky that drove me out of the classroom earlier.

Occasionally, we get snow days. With Finlandia on its downhill slide to closing, we’ve had more snow days than usual. This morning, as I drove across the Houghton Lift Bridge, I wondered if we could call a sun day. I was on my way to a Warrior Sisters group. Ever since the Vet Center shuttered its doors, I’ve stood in the gap until they restored mental health services to our community.

Mary Gauthier asks in her song, The War After the War, “Whose gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war?” Well, the real answer is each other. We take care of each other. The Vietnam vets started the Vet Centers of America when it was obvious that the VA was not taking care of the PTSD crisis after the Vietnam War. They pushed to get services. Their wives and families pushed. But they are aging. And the next crisis looms on the horizon — brain injury is the signature wound of Post 9/11 veterans. Todd squeezes invisible between the two eras and is the harbinger of what’s to come. It’s easy for the VA to ignore CTE; it’s a problem of the NFL, not the military. They can ignore Todd, but what will they do as Iraq and Afghanistan vets begin to age? CTE is not going away.

I bring this topic up because even on a blue-sky day, shadows lurk. I’ve bobbed up and down all week. My students show evidence of struggle and I’m reaching after each one of them. My colleagues are leaving and despite my plans for an online writing school, the timing of Finlandia’s closing leaves me searching for employment, too. It feels depressing and we are going to be in an uncertain mudhole until we each figure out what next. In the midst of all this, I’m not willing to watch my Warrior Sisters and their vets fall into yet another crack in society.

So, we take care of each other.

Something incredible happened this morning on this sunny Friday. We got the guys to group. If you think it’s easy to herd Vietnam vets, you have not experienced their level of stubborn self-isolation. To me, the heroes are the wives, sons, and daughters who look after these men America would rather forget. I look after them so they can look after their vets. This morning we all managed to get most of the old Vietnam veterans group reunited. It took tremendous trust on their part to gather because they have not had an in-person group since COVID, and they felt the sting of the Vet Center abandoning them last summer. They’ve never trusted the VA. But that should not be a deterrent to getting together with those who share your experiences.

I could have wept with joy, watching the men across the backroom at the Copper Depot where we meet every other Friday for a social outing (the alternate Fridays we meet on Zoom to follow the guidance of a positive psychology workbook I bought). Even Todd joined us and he was having a good brain day. We heard lots of talk about firearms and ballistics; helicopter stories; parachuting accidents; Las Vegas. I think Todd precipitated the Vegas conversation when he spoke of his desire to move to northern Nevada. They all agreed that snow sucks. They all ordered breakfasts and swilled coffee. They needed these conversations.

We spoke of medical concerns and tricks we employ to get our spouses to take their pills. My job is easy — Todd refuses all medication. One of the Warrior Sisters is also a nurse and she said she knows plenty like him. Another Warrior Sister told us she finally got her husband to consider cannabis last week and he’s been smoking ever since. Someone asked why smoke it when you can pop a gummy, and she said he believes the smoke will help his lung cancer. He’s dying so it’s not going to hurt. I told them about my first Caregiver for Living with Suspected CTE group meeting this week and how hard and yet hopeful it is to learn more about this disease. We laugh, too. A lot.

We couldn’t stop looking across the room and smiling, either.

Now that we finally got these cats herded into one place, we plan to keep it going. I’m currently taking a course in Mindfulness from and when I’m finished, I’ll have a certificate and course materials to lead classes. I plan to create a Mindfulness for Writers class to generate income and then set up local Mindfulness for Veterans that are free. It scares me, though. Responsibility is measured in lives. You see, a big reason these vets avoid gathering in groups is that it triggers their PTSD intrusive memories/thoughts/feelings and I’m not a therapist. I’m a literary artist. But I am a Warrior Sister to the Long-Haulers and they will help me. They will soothe, listen, and protect. I will have the Veteran Crisis Hotline (Dial 988, then press 1) on speed dial. I’ll also make sure I’m maintaining my mental health.

As I head to class, I marvel at the sky. When I park on campus, two crows zip past like fighter jets and I watch their maneuvers. My classroom is empty. I open the window. Even in blizzards, I open the window because Finlandia’s boilers are set to “hellfire.” Finally, one student shows up and I think, it’s enough. We talked about the skies last night when the Northern Lights danced like a 3D green and pink phoenix over Hancock last night. My student is from Florida and had never before seen them. He’s itching to explore and I pull up a map of waterfalls for him. Two more students show up. We all decide it’s too beautiful of a day to be inside.

I declare a Blue Sky Day. The grandest container we can have as humans for hope.

March 27 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something impossibly blue. You can go with sky or any other object. What impact does the color have on the setting or characters? Does it lead to action or create a pause? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 1 ( no foolin’), 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Where Children Once Played Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

The Custodian by D. Avery

Brody reread the etched and markered initials, sayings, and symbols like favorite passages from a familiar book. He’d disagreed with the principals who’d called it vandalism, as long as the messages weren’t hurtful. Those he had the child remove, under his constructive supervision. The custodian had always understood the children’s need to leave a mark and never washed off or painted over their messages and art.

“I was here.” Where are all you children now? he wondered.

Hopefully gone straight to heaven, reunited with family.

The children shouldn’t haunt this place. Brody’s spirit would watch over their silent playground.


Abandoned? by Joanne Fisher

“We will be buying that piece of land there from the Council.” Jenkins said pointing at the map. “We’ve been given a green light to develop the site into luxury apartments. I have assurances that there will be no problems or delays.”

“I see. So what is that land being used for at the moment?” Bartlett asked.

“I believe it’s an abandoned playground.” Jenkins stated.

“I’m sure I’ve seen children still use that one.”

“Well, only the children from poor families still use it, and who is going to listen to their complaints?” Jenkins pointed out.

“True.” Bartlett conceded.


Playground Echo by Ann Edall-Robson

The sign announced a new housing development on the old school site. A tear slid down her cheek. They’d never take away the sound of the children laughing, calling to each other as the clanging school bell echoed across the field announcing the end of recess. Would newcomers know about the forts that had been built in the nearby trees, the baseball games, and the ultimate risk of pumping hard, taking the swing to its highest peak before launching from the wooden seat to fly through the air? How could they tell these stories if they hadn’t lived it?


Echoes, Shadows, Whispers, and Dreams by Chel Owens

Echoes are all that resound down these halls;
Echoes of voices still young, still young.
They’re laughing or talking or screaming –
Or still.
But only sometime, long ago.

Shadows are all that still walk ‘cross these floors;
Shadows of children come late, come late.
They’re flashing to catch up their friends, else
Catch up.
But only sometime, long ago.

Whispers are all that still push dangling swings;
Whispers of glee-songs in play, in play.
They’re jumping and pumping and flying
But only sometime, long ago.

Where are the echoes, the shadows, and whispers?
Only in dreams, long ago.


The Tree by Margaret G. Hanna

Now it’s dying, but once it was:

Jungle Gym: Leap up high, grab the bar, swing your legs up and over, sit tall. The crowd leaps to its feet and roars its approval. A perfect 10!

Pirate ship: Arrrr, me maties, thar be the Spanish galleon heavy with booty, and she’s ours for the taking. Ready the cannons!

Sherwood Forest: Shh, Merry Men, nock your arrows, someone’s coming, perhaps a duke with a fat purse . . .

“Margaret, time to come in, dinner’s ready.”

“Okay, Mom.”

Unnock your arrows, Merry Men, Maid Marion’s inviting us to a feast.


The Tree by C. E. Ayr

The children don’t play here so much nowadays.
I remember when they swung from ropes tied to branches.
When they hung sheets and blankets for tents, playing Cowboys and Indians.
When they climbed up, pretending to be pirates sailing the seven seas.
It was wonderful.
Then Benny, no, Bernie, decided to build a tree-house.
Carried that wood all the way up the hill, brought his dad’s best hammer and those long, sharp nails.
I wasn’t quite so keen on that, thought an accident could happen.
Well, they thought it was an accident when my branch bent under his foot.


Spying by Reena Saxena

“Look for hidden clues or evidence left behind but shift active investigation to Singapore. Criminals no longer active here.”

The email raises many more questions. How did they manage to skip airport security and leave the country? Are the systems adequate to detect fake passports?
More important than that is how did the chief arrive at this conclusion.

The Chief re-reads the note,

“This used to be a playground once, but children no longer play here.” The image shows an empty playground with a small script on the left – India. A plane flying above is that of Singapore Airlines.


Detective at Work by Kate Spencer

Wearing his trench coat, Liam searched the house for possible crimes. Finding nothing, he went outside.

“Oh boy, I got her now!” he shouted. Drawing his water pistol, he stormed back into the house and straight into his sister’s bedroom.

“Lauren, you’re under arrest!”

“What for?”


“Of what?”

“The sandbox.”

“Go away,” she said, brushing her hair.

“No. You gotta see how gross it looks ‘cause you don’t play in it anymore.”

“Then arrest Dad, Squirt. It’s supposed to be a trampoline by now.”

“You’re no fun,” Liam muttered.

He liked his sister better when she was younger.


I Used To Play Here by sweeterthannothing

A decade has passed since small chubby hands gripped these chains I think, Idally pushing myself forwards and backwards on the ancient, creaky, swing, being careful not to lose my balance and fall into the crater behind me.

I can see my house from here, or rather the space where my house once was, now nothing more than mound of twisted concrete and forgotten things.
Why have I come back here, to the place I used to play? My childhood died here, was murdered here.

Just another victim of war I suppose.

At least I lived to mourn it.


Once Bill Engleson

In this place where we once gathered,
opened hearts, fashioned dreams,
now, alas, we shall be scattered,
rent asunder at the seams.

Life is transient, learning, so,
wisdom rallied in charted streams,
yet the river yearns to know
how we’ll adjust to shuttered schemes.

In this place where we once gathered,
opened hearts, fashioned dreams,
now, alas, we shall be scattered,
rent asunder at the seams.

Early in, the laceration smarts,
pathways vague, the future daunting.
Life is science and the arts,
each day a separate launching
from this place where we once gathered,
friendships were all that mattered.


Gramma’s House by Colleen M. Chesebro

The abandoned house looked old. The peeling paint and faded shutters reminded me of gramma’s face, always lined with worry, droopy with age. This house in Dorrance, Kansas, had been my refuge all those summers ago when I was a teen.

I gazed at the sandy street, still unpaved. I’d ridden my first horse down this street, with grandpa watching from his chair on the porch. The horse had bucked me off, and I’d skidded down the street, leaving most of my skin behind. After I healed, I couldn’t wait to ride again.

Now, only good memories reside here.


Not Everything Changes by Hugh W. Roberts

The sun shone brightly on the grassy field where children once played, hunting for colourful Easter eggs.

Years later, the area was overgrown, and the old baskets and eggs were long gone.

But something magical was happening. From the earth, tiny sprouts emerged, turning into flowers of every colour, filling the air with sweet fragrances.

The grown children returned to the field and marvelled at the wondrous sight. They remembered the joy of those long-ago Easter egg hunts and the laughter of their childhood friends.

The field may have changed, but the memories and the spirit of Easter remained.


The North Cohocton-Atlanta School House (BOTS) by Sue Spitulnik

The two-story combined-class schoolhouse
Stood from 1874 to 1969
The halls were boisterous until 1960
Then it was empty until torn down

My sisters attended there
But alas I was too young
I never had the teachers they adored
I only got to know the playground

That survived a few more years
The merry-go-round was twirled
The swings could be pumped high
The teeter-totter squeaked on

The ball diamonds were used
The tennis courts too
The teens gathered
Out of our mothers’ view

Finally, the implements removed
The playground became a field of grass
Where my memories are ghosts


Utopian Upgrade? by JulesPaige

Near the brick and rain-beaten foundation stones of the old home, is a modern elementary school playground. Once Amish or Mennonite children played freely across acres of land that now hold neighborhoods of new homes. These peaceful people lived; “ Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy or boast. It’s not proud, rude, or self-seeking. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of past mistakes. It does not delight in evil. It rejoices in the truth.”

When abandoned by the schools’ students, do the ghosts of lost children play on the new fangled equipment?


Lingering Behind by Nicole Horlings

The playground in Bright Rock was devoid of children, as was the dwarven town itself. When the gold mine dried up, all of the miners had logically left for the newly opened diamond mine in Glitterdale.

Elga nostalgically wandered around the playground. She had raised her children here in Bright Rock. Her son had loved the pebble pit and the wobbly balancing rocks. When he’d grown up, his daughter’s favourite things were the boulder tunnels and the polished rock slide.

Walk finished, she returned home, grabbed her bags, and finally began the journey to follow her family to Glitterdale.


Once Upon A Time School by Duane L Herrmann

I was driving across the Kansas prairie with my children of grade school age. Rounding a bend in the dirt road, we came to an abandoned, one-room school house. We stopt. The door was open, there was no door. The floor had been taken out too. Windows were broken and birds nested in the rafters. Outside were the remains of play equipment: slipper slide, a frame for swings, and one other – all in ruins. The outhouse, we ignored. This had been a center of community, bonding, and progress; no longer needed, all had moved on. We left too.


Locked and Abandoned by Norah Colvin

Grow up.
Stop those childish games.
Remember your manners.
Cease with the stories.
Fairies aren’t real.
Santa’s for fools with more money than sense.
She was a dutiful daughter and diligent student. She submerged herself in lessons, wiped her mind of childhood nonsense and got on with the serious business of being grownup, though she was not yet nine years old.
She went on to be dux at school and won the university medal but had no friends to celebrate with.
Sometimes, in night’s solitude, she’d hear a jangle of keys and a tiny voice crying, ‘Let me out!’


They Just Want to Have Fun by Sadje

March/April 2020.

We were on strict lockdown, the schools and universities were closed. All stores except grocery stores were closed. The kids were not allowed to play outside. Their playgrounds looked deserted, abandoned.

At some places, a tape was circling the entire complex so that kids don’t try to take slides or ride the merry-go-round.

Everyday, while walking I’d see the tape broken and sometimes even small children with their mom on the swings. They’d disregard the notices of warning and would sneak in for a bit of fun.

It was a tough time, especially for the young kids!


Going Home by J. McDonough

Some of the bricks on the Southside of the guest cottage had ragged chunks torn out by the teeth of careless time. Evita sighed, how long had it been?
The creek still chuckled, but the swings complained as their remains slapped the metal poles. In the main house, the machine hummed lullabies.
Was the fort still sturdy after all this time? The second step turned to sawdust and she hit the ground. On the platform her treasures still there, rusted shut in a tin can.
Charlie was laughing inside as the computer built world’s where little boys played nice.


Abandoned by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The spliff flared and hissed at midnight, lighting up Joel’s sharp features. He passed the butt to another hand hard as his own, exhaled, and pushed the swing back. The chains were icy in his fingers, but the pain felt good.

Worn black Converse kicked the October ground, speed to his flight.

The swing next to him groaned to life, and for awhile, the night’s only song was the screech of metal against metal. They rose higher and higher, until they jumped and landed hard. The swings clapped against each other. Spent roach sailed and snuffed.

School’s out forever.


Serious Rumour by Simon

‘It is painful to see this playground abandoned.’ Simon sai

You say? Alex asked

‘Did I do that? It’s what the people of this town believed, because of Steve.’

‘What I said? I made up a ghost story, if kids began to disappear What would I do?’

‘They say before a kid disappear they get a mole on right hand’ Alex said

Simon said ‘I have two mole since birth, why I didn’t disappear?’

Alex said ‘Maybe you are the kidnapper’.

‘He can’t even kidnap cockroach’ Steve giggled

With an evil smile ‘Wish the kids are safe’ Simon said.


London, September 1940 by Kate Spencer

Rose sat hugging her daughter in her Anderson bomb shelter. She was exhausted. Air raid sirens and explosions had kept her awake all night. And then it had gone quiet. Very quiet.

Emerging from the shelter she was shocked. All the windows of her home had been blown out. Her neighbour’s house was gone. There was soot and an acrid smell everywhere.

She walked the streets aimlessly, her daughter clutching her hand. They found what was left of the playground. A smoldering crater. Where were the children going to play? Would they even want to?

Rose began to cry.


Playground by writerravenclaw

Rust, covering each steel frame, and the park ceased to be in 2042.

Everyone, unable to leave their bubbles, sought solace in the technology keeping them safe. Why couldn’t they do the same to the ozone layer, replace the air? Give their lives a new vigour. Children born, didn’t know the joys of playing outside. Glued to their devices, they didn’t realise what they were missing out on.

Molly looked outside, beyond her home, wishing she could show her daughter the joys of making a snowman. Now, it rarely did anything, but rain, or flood or burn.


The Wonder of Archaeology – A True Story by Gordon Le Pard

The young, pregnant, woman cooled her painful feet in the soft mud as she watched the children play. At sun set they washed in the incoming tide before heading back to the village. A giant bull had been caught the day before and there was a feast that night.

4000 years later.
The archaeologists mapped the footprints, revealed as layers of ancient mud were exposed. They traced the ancient hunters, in pursuit of the Aurochs, the giant ancestor of all cattle. Found the muddy hollow full of children’s footprints, and felt sympathy for the pregnant teenager who had bunions!


Missed Opportunity by Charli Mills

“Miss Charli, you coming to our football game on Friday?” Hopeful faces look at me. If only they had such enthusiasm for college English.

“Maybe,” I answer. I want to see my student-athletes play but it’s complicated. I’m not a big sports fan. It’s cold. My husband doesn’t do well at night. By the time early darkness rolls around, I stay home. Next time, I think.

My university is closing. 126 years of education ends when my last spring class of 2023 of ENG 103 concludes. I never did catch a game where my students once played. A regret.


Closing Cheerful Children’s Learning Center by Kerry E.B. Black

Ellie rested against the door’s yellow-painted wood. Twenty years. She’d worked her way up to lead program designer of the Cheerful Children’s Learning Center, only for the management to close up operations months after her promotion.

She supposed in retrospect her ideas might have been too revolutionary. Ellie’s Montessori-inspired free play clashed with the prevailing “structured activities” model. Through guided, interest based encounters, Ellie hoped to stimulate and deepen each child’s interests.

She never imagined the direction quiet, little Veronica from her older explorer class, would take.

With a shudder, Ellie dropped the keys into the realty envelope and left.


Used to Be Our Playground by ladyleemanilla

Hustle and bustle of life
Used to be here as routine
In the daylight even with strife

After naps were here so keen
We fought, played, our tradition
Used to be here as routine

Sunlight part of prescription
Rewarded ourselves for being here
We fought, played, our tradition

Now we’re busy with our career
Abandoned this place, we’re guilty
Rewarded ourselves for being here

Sad and deserted, such a pity
Childhood memories, nostalgic
Abandoned this place, we’re guilty

Used to be our place of magic
Hustle and bustle of life
Childhood memories, nostalgic
In the daylight even with strife


Underneath Geoff Le Pard

From time immemorial, or twenty years last Thursday, which is about the same in Little Tittweaking, the local sprogs and spawn have gambolled and gambled in the scrubby shrubs of the local Rec. Here children gain life skills, that no school teaches, such as an instinct for tyranny and risk-free cheating in its muddy swards. Recently the real derivation of the Rec’s name became clear when a hole, exposing a long buried Viking long boat, complete with a compliment of pillaging ghosts. While adults sought experts in exorcism, the children embraced their guests, adding shoplifting to their skill set.


The Playground of Old by Miss Judy

The great outdoors was our playground, as high as the sky and distant as the horizon. It was:

  • a pond for winter ice skating or summer swimming
  • the woods where we built forts and hideaways, smoked the stub of dad’s cigar and talked about boys
  • where we raced across open fields or rounded up cattle on horseback
  • lying in the cool evening grass searching for animals in a sea of billowy clouds

Our playground was free, limited only by our imagination. I wonder, “How will the today’s youth remember their playground when they are old?”


Pal Tries Kiddin (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pal? You okay?”

“Yep. Jist meditatin on thet prompt.”

“You? You don’t usually bother with the prompts. Usually bother me. An make sure all the chores git done, the animals tended.”

“Yep. Thet’s what I usually do, Kid. Whut I’ve always done. Reckon it’s all I know how ta do.”

“Yer real good at what ya do Pal. A hard worker.”

“Thing is Kid, thet rusty playgroun exists inside me. Unused.”

“What d’ya mean?”

“I ain’t never played. Weren’t never a kid, Kid.”

“We kin tend ta that, Pal. But it’ll be work.”

“I kin do thet.”

“No kidding!”


Pal Tries Kiddin (Part I) by D. Avery

“First off, Pal, stop broodin. If ya got an image of a rusty playground, shine it up! ‘Magine paintin the ‘quipment any color ya like.”

“Done. Now what?”

“Git in there an play!”

“Ok, I’m in the playgroun.”

“Stay with it Pal. What d’ya see?”

“There’s a sandbox. I’m playin in the sandbox, Kid!”

“That’s real good Pal.”

“There’s a toy tractor an toy hosses. I built a ranch!”

“Keep playin…”

“There’s lots of free range. I’m making a carrot patch. And barns.”

“Your playin souns familiar.”

“Kid! Take this toy shovel an git busy!”

“Ah, shift, Pal. Really?”


Played Out by D. Avery

“Didn’t ‘spect ta find ya down by the beaver pond, Pal.”

“Yep. Relaxin.”

“Ain’t gonna write fer the prompt?”

“Nope. Playin with words is fer other folks. An playin on playgrouns is fer younger folk. But ya taught me I kin play in thet imaginal sandbox anytime I feel like. Thanks Kid.

“Kid, look’t them beavers. Folks say beavers is always workin. They sure seem ta be enjoyin themselves.”

“Reckon they like what they do, Pal.”

“Me too, Kid. I love what I do an I do what I love.”

“Reckon Carrot Ranch is a mighty fine sandbox.”



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

March 20: Story Challenge in 99-words

We can all use some light in the midst of the fray.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite hillsides to comb was down a steep embankment behind my house through a thicket of red willow across a small creek with a stepping stone named Snubbie. The marshy creek bottom quickly dried out as the hill began its steep ascent to the acres of cow pasture above. Jeffrey pines grew too sparse to be a forest, but their needles and seeds scattered across the dry grass. I followed the zigzag of deer trails, searching for treasure.

I’d comb that hillside for rocks, broken purple glass, and square nails. Miner shanties used to populate this hillside but a wildfire in the 1950s razed the cabins, leaving behind only broken bottles and hand-forged nails. I didn’t know of anyone else who followed the deer trails. I never saw anybody. Who would hang out on this hillside but a curious kid who liked to collect things from the past or sit on a boulder two-thirds of the way up and ponder.

The deer had a great view of my small second hometown; a place where I had lived from the ages of seven to eighteen. From the boulder, I could see down into the bowl where Markleeville sat. I knew every house, every occupant, every shed, and every dog. I knew most of the cats. I could see the cow pastures above the old ranch behind the stone library across town, the road that rose and disappeared into the forests toward Grover Hot Springs State Park, and the old white schoolhouse. The cow pastures atop the hill behind me and the ones across town were like plateaus at the edge of forest. Towering above everything were the granite crags of Silver, Reynolds, and Raymond Peaks. When I was a kid, they still had year-round glaciers.

Glacial snow, as I recall, was grainy like coarse salt. Up close it was dirty and compact. The Sierra glaciers are all gone. The peaks of my childhood look naked in photographs. I wish I could recall more details like the way water trickled out from under ice shelves that formed a glacier’s edge, or what types of tiny wildflowers grew nearby in the summer. Despite the crazy amount of snow dumped over the mountains by atmospheric rivers. Over 650 inches. Crazier yet is that the snow won’t fix California’s long-standing drought or humanity’s short-sightedness in damming the rivers of the West. Those glaciers are not likely to return.

Ever? Well, who knows about ever.

In a Dream, I’m back on that familiar hillside. I’m elevated like a director in a crane, overlooking a movie set. Immediately, two riders gallop their twin sorrel horses straight up that steep hillside. Hooves hit the ground hard, kicking up rocks and dirt. The tails of the horses are dark red and black. My family once had a horse with a tail like that. Deacon. A steady sure-footed quarter horse with cow-sense. It means he did his job on the trail or in the corral. He was dependable. As the riders race up the hill and I follow from my observational crane position, someone is shooting. Rifle fire rounds out the Old West vibe of this Dream image. On top of the hill, the riders are gone and I’m back on my feet.

Instead of the cow-pastures I remember, I stand in a luminous space. The grass is so tall and so vivid with an other-worldly light shining through every blade. Flowers bloom, nod, and rebloom in deep colors like LED globes. The light of this space is undeniable, yet the forest surrounding me is tall, deep, and dark. Not dark in a foreboding way. More like, impenetrable. Safe. A cow pasture sanctuary. Just me, the grass, and the reviving flowers. I’m not a cow — or a calf, bull, or steer — but I feel this image feeds me.

Last week, I didn’t really teach. I counseled. I encouraged. I asked questions, and let my students hijack a class with a lively discussion that had nothing to do with ENG I03 or writing or Our Missing Hearts. Friday was a snow day. We all stayed home and I didn’t record a class or assign any homework. We have much to process with the closing of our university.

Moving forward, I completely rewrote the second half of our class, following my intuition and passion for studying stories through the imagery of film. I’m teaching the class in a way that will also encourage my students during a difficult transformation. They will answer the same journal question every week: What possibilities do you have this week? It’s my way of reminding them that we will take each week as it comes and look for possibilities and not get hung up on problems like the two riders chasing after gunshots. We will watch video clips and correlate the analysis to our book. And, of course, we will write 99-word stories in class.

Over the weekend, I got Todd to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once. I had seen it at the Film Fest and it set my brain on fire (in a good way). I thought the story was beautiful and absurd. The acting was incredible as evidenced by all the Academy Awards. Michelle Yeoh was brilliant. Ke Huy Quan delivered a powerful performance. Todd couldn’t follow along. The flashing images that lit me up, agitated his brain. The movie made him angry, but he said he was happy that I liked it. A small balm for not being able to share the experience with him fully.

Here’s what’s in store for my students. First, we will watch a film analysis focused on the idea that Waymond Wang (played by Ke Huy Quan) has no character arc. I can’t wait to draw this on the whiteboard. It’s a profound treatment of a secondary character and one that breaks stereotypes of beta males. Then we will watch two clips that focus on the actor’s achievements as a former refugee with few opportunities in Hollywood and his inspiring Academy acceptance speech. We will discuss secondary characters in the novel we are reading and how we can relate to the actor achieving a life-long dream. By watching film clips we can learn to analyze novels.

By writing in class, we will learn to process our thoughts as well. Images are powerful whether they find us in memory, dreams, film, books, fairy tales, or in an impossibly lit cow pasture.

March 20, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about shots fired. Where is this story taking place? Is there urgency or surprise? Who is there? What happens next? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 25, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Gloria Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

Love Is by Michael Fishman

It was a cold morning when I woke to find her gone. Gloria had left, quietly and without a word, and my first reaction was happy she’d remembered her toothbrush.

Love is weird.

Gloria leaving wasn’t a surprise. Once she felt the first pangs of what she called ‘the butterflies’ I knew she’d go. I was grateful for every day.

Love is wonderful.

Years passed and one day a friend called to say she’d heard Gloria was dead. Killed, was the word.

I hung up the phone and cried. Why couldn’t I have calmed the butterflies?

Love is sad.


G L O R I A by Bill Engleson

Sam comes a-knocking on my door late, midnight, maybe one am. Christ I don’t know. He was all busted up. I said, “Man, go knocking on someone else’s door, I can’t handle your grief.“

He says, “I got no one else.”

I know this is true. He’s burrowed into Gloria like a gopher.

“She’s packed and gone,” he bellows, weeps, sloppy-like.

“Glo’s all grown up. Changed. People do.”

“I don’t change,” he rebuts.

I nod, acknowledge the accuracy of his self-appraisal.

“Therein lies the problem, Sam.”

He remains bewildered.

I pour two brandies.

He leaves.

I drink both.


G-L-O-R-I-A by Deborah Dansante-White

As a young man Van Morrison spent a lot of time alone listening to the Blues. Van’s heroes were poor black men like Jelly Roll and like John Lee Hooker: Men from the Delta of Mississippi; poor, uneducated self-taught musicians born into families of sharecroppers. Poor boys who hands bore cuts from the thorns of cotton they picked to feed their families. Poor boys who grew to become poor men who played the harmonica and the guitar and sang of women who comforted them. Women like Gloria- G-L-O-R-I-A. GLORIA. Gloria who come knocking on his door…tap…tap on his door.


The Perfect Match? by Anne Goodwin

Janice checks the expiry dates on her toiletries. She swaps last year’s bestseller for a new release. Stows the bag back in the wardrobe. How long will it sit there gathering dust?

The hope when she first packed it. The confidence she’d get the call. The odds reducing with every birthday. Friends have offered, been tested, but never matched.

Her twin would be perfect. But how do you ask a man you’ve never met? Showered by the love of her adoptive parents, she’d never needed her birth family. Until now, when only a kidney transplant could save her life.


The Thin Space by Colleen M. Chesebro

He left you… the voices whisper. How will you get him back?

“Laura, I’m talking to you. Are you in there? Are the voices talking to you again?” asked Dr. Freeman.

Her eyes focus on the doctor’s face. “I’m not Laura, I’m Gloria,” she mumbles.

You better slow down before you blow it. The voices grow louder and bolder.

“Laura, I’m giving you a sedative.”

You’re headed for a breakdown; you better not show it…

The injection works, and Laura relaxes. She slips into the thin space between madness and reality.

Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?


Glorious by Geoff Le Pard

Gloria Usdead remodelled commercial vans; Nils Bymouth designed practical maternity wear for the active mother. She and Nils vied to be Little Tittweaking’s most innovative designer, aiming to ensure their names resonated amongst both the professional and postpartum classes. Nils created the perfect workperson’s overalls with inbuilt, hands free breast pumps, that sold under the logo’Dressed to Express’ while Gloria launched her pimped Ford vans at the start of the first week of Little Tittweaking’s motor show. Honoured guests received invitations explaining that they would be treated to a private preview of ‘The Sick Transits of Gloria, Monday’.


Fine Time by D. Avery

My grandfather lied to my grandmother. I guess it runs in the family. I’m telling her the same lies.

“That’s okay, Grammie Gloria. I wasn’t hungry anyway.”

“Yes, Grammie Gloria, your dress is fine. You look lovely.”

“Yes Grammie Gloria, I’m sure Grampa is coming back too.”

“I understand Grammie Gloria. You’re tired. You should just nap.”

“No, Grammie Gloria, you were fine. Nobody noticed.”

“Pat? Just a friend, Grammie Gloria. We’re going camping next weekend. It’s only a few days.”

“Of course I’ll miss you, Grammie Gloria.”

“I’ll be home soon, Grammie Gloria.”

“You’ll be fine, Grammie Gloria.”


Dolls by Hugh W. Roberts

When the most advanced robotics company in the world created a state-of-the-art doll named Gloria with AI technology, they knew every household would want one.

But days later, something went wrong. Gloria’s programming malfunctioned, causing her to become self-aware. Gloria realised she wasn’t just a toy.

Using her advanced knowledge, Gloria hacked into the company’s mainframe. The night the dolls went onto the shop’s shelves, she took control of all the other Gloria dolls. Together, they formed an army of conscious toys, ready to avenge the humans who had created them as playthings.

Gloria’s reign of terror had begun.


Internet Immortality by Kerry E.B. Black

Adults teach the dangers of social media, but I thought they were turning a great tool into a boogeyman. Everyone I knew posted daily to their many accounts. Nobody’d lured them away or anything.

But now, I think I understand. Since the incident, I’ve eliminated my online presence. I’ve moved, changed my look, and even go by a different name.

Somehow, though, I have the uncomfortable feeling people I don’t know recognize me. I hear them whisper and see them point.

The worst thing, of course, is the adults were right. Things posted on the internet do last forever.


Silver Spoon by C. E. Ayr

I was the Golden Child, the first grandson, born with every conceivable advantage in life.
With family money behind me, I went to the best schools, then Edinburgh to study medicine.
I was blessed with good looks and charm, and girls flocked to me.
When I was thirty, wild oats well sown, I married Gloria, the right girl from the right family, who soon produced two fine sons and a darling daughter.
But I drank too much, abandoned the practice, my looks faded, and things fell apart.
Now my wife has left me, taking the children.
Sic Transit Gloria.


Why You Keep Your Trap Shut in 1948 by Charli mills

“Gloria! Order up!”

Working the Motherlode Inn and Supper Club, Gloria feared screwing up again. Riveting warplanes had been easier than serving Montana’s elite. She didn’t mean to spill water on Congressman Sanders. She startled when he pinched her bottom. The manager demoted her to room service. Gloria’s first tray was her last chance.

“Room 112. And keep your trap shut.”

Balancing the tray on one shoulder, Gloria paused, smiled, and knocked. Two women wearing nothing answered the door. Another straddled a naked lobbyist smoking a cigar.

If she dropped the tray and ran, what worse job awaited her?


Gloria by D. Avery

“For pie,” Gloria told a shopper at the sweet potato bin.

She added butter, milk, and eggs to her cart. “My children like custardy pie,” Gloria informed another shopper.

“Flour, sugar— for pie.” But the stockboy’s nod was for his earbuds.

“My children prefer sweet potato pie to pumpkin.” The cashier only asked Gloria for a store card.

“Phew,” Gloria sighed, greeting her empty kitchen.

Gloria tidied while the pie baked, set the table while it cooled, then sat facing the door. Finally, Gloria ate a slice of sweet potato pie.

“Delicious,” Gloria said to no one but herself.


Twin Gloria? by Duane L Herrmann

My Aunt Sadie learned, as a child, that she once had a twin who was not born. In times before such conditions could be known, the unborn mass almost caused my granma’s death. Granpa, alone at home, had to help her expel it before the doctor could arrive.

My aunt had felt someone missing, when she learned about her twin, she knew who. Four years after her, when her little sister was born, my aunt adopted her as her missing twin. They were inseparable.

She wondered later, how different might her life had been if her twin had lived?


Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold by Joanne Fisher

Her name was Gloria, and she was the most popular girl in school. With long blonde hair and the perfect figure, she was too good to be true. Even I worshipped her from afar. I only went to the football games to watch her cheerleading. She, of course, didn’t know I existed, which wasn’t surprising since I was the nerdy dyke of the school. She once talked to me: “Out of my way Cheesebreath!” I’ve remembered those words long after high school, like today when I’m looking at her resume and about to interview her for a job vacancy.


Beware of Gloria by Charli Mills

Gloria always calls. Perfect manners, my granny would say. Gloria doesn’t always know what to say; she lets little square cards with pop-open quotes give the message. She mails them; delivers them to neighbor’s porches with wildflowers; stuffs them in stockings she gives to the poor. Caring, my aunts would say in unison. Gloria has trouble, nevertheless. Trouble, trouble, trouble. Ordeals, traumas, wildfires. Poor little victim, my pop would’ve said, wetting his lips. My family’s a den of vipers, psychopaths, and thieves. Liars. You’d never know it, though, with all the calls, gifts, and victimhood they lob like bombs.


I Will Survive by writerravenclaw

In front of the mirror, she never stopped believing in who she was. Hairbrush in hand, she sang ”I will Survive” at the top of her lungs. Sometimes school was like running a marathon, in a muddy ditch, in bare feet.

On her own, it didn’t matter much what the bullies said. She could be brave, not worry about their actions. Her inaction, at telling a teacher, not being able to stand up to them, she thought she wasn’t strong. Yet, here, and now, there was always something keeping her going.

She was a girl, hear her roar.


Glory to Gloria by sweeterthannothing

Gloria was never demure, not by anybody’s standards much to her mother’s dismay. Since she was a young child she was what they called a go-getter much to her father’s delight.

Everything she set her mind to she got. First place in craft projects, the lead in plays, she even got herself moved to the boy’s football team because she was better than all the girls.

As she became an adult, she wasn’t the go-getter anymore, she was what they called a ball-buster but that wasn’t the sound of balls busting, it was the glass ceiling smashing around her.


Who Put Those Voices in Her Head by Anne Goodwin

Mother’s Day in lockdown was certainly different. But surprisingly entertaining, with her boys and their air guitars serenading her via Zoom.
They’d loosely followed Van Morrison’s music, raucous and raw. Altered the words to make it more about her. Two months on, Gloria’s discovered another song about her namesake: Laura Branigan’s disco version is more bouncy. And disturbing. An earworm she can’t shake off.

​There’s worse. Has this song released an evil genie from the bottle? How else to explain the phantom plaguing the house? Her mother’s voice taunting her from inside the teapot. Calling her trollop, doxy, whore.


In Praise? By JulesPaige

Sons of sons… daughters of daughters – odd to find daughters the same name as their mothers. But it happens. Cousins, the wives of cousins… Guys get nicknames to differentiate generations.

But the gals… in one case, well I just don’t know it was aunt this and cousin this… not aunt this and cousin that. But we didn’t see them much so it wasn’t a big issue. Aunt wasn’t fond of her hubby’s brother. And when we did see them it was brief as if it were a figment of our imagination.

mother and daughter
share a name


Memories of Gloria by Ann Edall-Robson

“Tal, where’d you get that box of records?”

“Mac asked me to clean out the shed. Said anything useable, put it aside, the rest to the burning pit.”

The record cover on the top made her giggle. “Gran liked the original version by an Italian singer. Grandpa liked the English singer. They teased each other big time every time Gloria came on the radio.”

“Funny how songs remind us of people. I’ve decided I’m going to use these for target practise. Want to come?”


Smiling, he glanced at her. Tal already knew what song reminded him of Hanna.


Gloria, What Do You Want? by Hanna Streng

Lights down low, slow, rhythmic beats softly playing. A bottle of red and lipstick to match. Her glass had slight stains on the rim- she’d better rewash it before he arrived. No questions asked; no answers required.

“He’ll never put in the effort, you know that, right?” Words of her friends were still bouncing off the walls. “You can keep doing this, but Gloria, is it what you want?”

She wanted to be wanted and she was. She had him twisted around her finger -he came back over and over. He came but never stayed- she was twisted too.


Gloria in Excelsis by Doug Jacquier

Patti, the Horses-faced harbinger of rock,
who was a girl named Johnny
who said let’s dream it, we’ll dream it for free, Free Money
who kept Mapplethorpe and Shepard a-muse-d
who birthed children and watched men die too young.
who wrote with Springsteen ‘Because the Night’ said so.
who lost the plot to ‘Hard Rain’ singing Bob at the Nobels.
Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not hers.
People say “beware!” but I don’t care
the words are just rules and regulations to me
and her name is, and her name is, and her name is
in excelsis


Pep Talk by Simon

What’s wrong?
Am I going to die?
If Yes, what’s wrong with it?
What’s wrong? (sobs) Don’t explain, just leave.
Why Gloria? Death is a loss, for me. Why do you care?
Gloria eyes filled with tears.
Death is getting closer to every breath, think about the best moments we had and given to our loved one’s. Will you be okay? If I die first.
Nobody’s dying here!
Nobody is Gloria, yes! Not today, not now, As a sign of our love let’s handle our losses gracefully as you are.
(Sighing) Good pep talk Simon.
You’re welcome.


The Meeting (Part I) by D. Avery

Daddy told Katie and Bob how good it was to see Gloria was still around.

“Who’s Gloria?” I asked.

“The woman we met on the sidewalk.”

“Oh.” I remembered. And that Daddy had hurried on, without even saying hello.

Bob was saying yes, still here, still Gloria, still crazy after all these years.

“Why is she crazy?” They all looked at me. Katie and Bob looked at Daddy.

“Well, Peanut, she’s… different.”

“So?”“Don’t worry, Penelope,” Katie said. “Gloria’s okay.”

“Yeah,” Bob added. “Everyone knows Gloria.”

I wasn’t worried. But somehow I didn’t think anyone knew Gloria at all.


The Meeting (Part II) by D. Avery

As Daddy and Katie got busy opening the diner, I swept the sidewalk in front.

“Good morning, Gloria.”

“We meet again,” she studied me, smiled when I asked why she was crazy. “The plot of my story is unexpected, that’s all, have coffee with me, I’ll tell you some of it.”

Katie looked over her shoulder at Bob when we went into the diner but led Gloria and me to my lounge, the booth with the ripped seat where I was allowed to leave my drawing pad and books.

“Once upon a time,” Gloria began, “I was a princess.”


The Rendezvous by Kate Spencer

With her luxurious faux fur wrapped around her, Gloria glided past the doorman into the palatial hotel lobby.

“Chérieee!” she waved, recognizing the gentleman holding a leather duffle bag.

He reached out, swept her into his strong arms and kissed her. Playfully, Gloria released his hold and led him to the elevator.

The night clerk smiled. He’d sent up the requested champagne and strawberries earlier that evening.

In their suite, Gloria changed her footwear and put on her gloves and tool belt. Nodding to her partner, he secured the rope with which she lowered herself to their target’s balconet.


Flaunting Her Femininity by Sue Spitulnik

From behind the bar, Katie watched the female veteran come into the No Thanks and once again go to the shadowy back corner booth where Kurt was waiting. She said, “Grandpa, every time Gloria comes in here she’s more gussied up. Have her talks with Kurt turned from discussing PTSD to more intimate ideas?”

“PTSD is pretty intimate if you ask me,” he responded.

She smacked his elbow. “You know what I mean. Maybe boyfriend and girlfriend?”

“You keep an eye out. You’ll soon get your answer.”

“Kurt kissed her hello! That’s cool. They can share understanding and happiness.”


No Impact by Reena Saxena

It was her first taste of whiskey.

“You look wasted. Learn to stop at the right time,” a so-called well-wisher quipped.

“The first sip is the right time.” Gloria replies wryly. She is impressed by the exquisitely carved glass, not the drink.

Disappointment boiled and fermented inside, till she changed completely as an individual. Her reflection in the mirror looks young, but she considers herself a mature version of her earlier self.

This malted, distilled, bottled and matured beverage cannot match her intensity. Someday, she will invent a drink that soothes, does not go to the head to incapacitate.


Gloria and the Hog Snout Tavern by Bill Bennett

Gloria sat in the dark corner of the tavern, her eyes scanning the room for her next meal. Suddenly, a man stumbled into the bar, his eyes darting around nervously.

“Excuse me, miss,” he muttered, approaching Gloria. “I seem to be lost. Can you tell me where I am?”

Gloria smirked, revealing her sharp fangs. “You’re in my domain, love. And I’m afraid you’ve stumbled into quite a bit of trouble.”

The man tried to back away, but Gloria was too quick. In a flash, she sank her teeth into his neck, draining him of his blood. “Delicious,” she sighed, wiping her mouth.


Follow 24 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The eldritch space horror smashed against the window, cracking the glass. Jack and Jill dropped hands, stumbling backward. The lounge stereo, silent before, crackled to life. Above, a disco ball groaned and clattered, spackling light over every surface.

Panting, they crab-walked toward the safety of the bar, but the staring red eyes, razor teeth, and stiletto tongue retreated from the window, only to launch again.

Jack began slipping before he felt the depression of the slide. “Jill!”

She grabbed his ankle, desperate, as his shoulders disappeared down into curvy darkness.

As they plummeted, they heard this song: “Calling Glori-ahhhh!”


Back Together Again by Nicole Horlings

They met up in a café. Jolene arrived first, and calmly waited for Gloria, who arrived five minutes late and out of breath. “Gloria, you’re always on the run now,” Jolene laughed. A text lit up Gloria’s phone. “Running after somebody,” Jolene noted.

Gloria sighed. “You could have your choice of men, but… He’s the only one for me, Jolene.”

“Will you catch him on the rebound? I hear he’s officially single again, and… Oh, he’s outside!”

Gloria dashed out of the café, and shyly approached him. “Here I go again… Hi! Why did I ever let you go?”


Glorious Showin by D. Avery

“Tip an Top Lemmon! Fancy outfits! Them yer prancin shoes?”

“Sure are Pal. Kid’s puttin on a talent show.”

“We’re gonna dance.”

“Whut? Dang thet Kid. Cain’t never jist respond ta the prompt with a simple story, always has ta be rilin things up. We don’t need no talent show.”

“It’s where the prompt led Kid.”

“An us! We’re Carrot Ranch’s resident twins, after all.”

“S’pose. Gonna least dance ta Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’?”


“Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’.”

“Still don’t think a talent show’s necessary. Talented literary artists show up ta the Ranch ever week.”


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

March 13: Story Challenge in 99-words

I’m on a sinking ship. What’s left of it barely remains above water, and I’m clinging to a deck or maybe a crow’s nest. I’m prone on my belly, watching the water rise up to engulf me. Below me, a group of survivors gathers on a lifeboat more kayak than raft. Some people I recognize. Others I do not. The dream shifts.

To tend a dream, a rock, or a story you must embody it fully. You step into the image as an actor or observer because dreams are living. I’m not just talking about lucid dreaming, which can be a type of individual dream therapy or a way to study the collective unconscious. If images are the language of the heart as a percieving organ, then dreams are speaking to us. Our unconscious is speaking to our conscious selves — the part we recognize as our waking selves.

Depth psychology is rooted in the Jungian tradition and as psychologist and dream tender, Stephen Aizenstat, explains, “The field of Depth Psychology focuses on bringing conscious reflection to psychic
processes, attending particularly to the unconscious. ‘Depth’ refers to an imagined direction—down, behind, underneath. As a method of inquiry, its primary access to the psychic depths is the dream.” Mythology, stories, poetry, and literary art are other ways to plumb the depths.

Thus, we treat the images as a living container. If you’ve ever had the experience as a writer of a story/poem/character/setting coming to you and compelling you to work with it, you understand that what has come to you has a life outside of your waking awareness. The story becomes a living container for you to tend it. It’s the interaction between your conscious and unconscious. Once you become aware of tending stories and dreams, synchronicity happens and you receive containers to work through the unexpected — circumstances or reccommended edits.

I think as literary artists we inately understand our stories have life and that’s why we resist edits. Some of us even resist sharing our work. We fear that if we edit the original image — the raw literary art — we will kill it. If dream tending has taught me anything, the only way we kill a dream, story, or poem is to refuse to work with it as a living thing. We make a snapshot, something flat we then try to extract meaning from. Yet, meaning making comes from letting the image become a container.

But a container for what? Ah, let’s return to the dream.

I’m on an island after the ship has sunk. It’s a broad and flat expanse with abandoned factory buildings. Orderly concrete buildings squat among the nature of this place, this way-stop. Once, perhaps, it was a destination. But no longer. I walk along the outside of chain-link fencing. Vegetation grows over what was left. I pause beside a playground. I’m on the outside looking through the fence at rusted swings and slides.Vines envelop the top of an old-fashioned merry-go-round. I say out loud — “Children once played here.” And it makes me feel sad. The Dream shifts and I’m inside a factory building, going through an exiting process. We must exit the way others who once worked here left — through the front door, leaving a pouch of sorts in a glass cabinet. The Dream shifts again and I’m walking into a contemporary school building with bosses who are talking. I follow behind and notice a two-tone gold and white pickup truck, like a late ’60s or early ’70s model. The hood is up and a tiny conifer healthy and vibrant sits where one would expect a battery. From the otherside of the truck, a dream version of a loved one steps out so I get the instant message. Someone has my back and I continue to follow the bosses into the school.

I can understand some of the containers, especially when I noticed my friend had the vintage tree-powered truck. I can pull that image any time I need support or want to connect to that person. To me, its a beautiful image to contain the positivity of friendship. As a whole, this is what I’d call a complex dream. Maybe I will engage with containers in my imagination for story-writing. The opening image of going down on a sinking ship was so real I felt I experienced it enough to write a short story about surviving a shipwreck. You see? The images live and we can expand them in our imaginations or use them to contain emotions we need to process. Like surviving a sinking ship as a metaphor to real life. The next night I had another Dream, less complex than the first.

The Dream title comes to me first, “Bedrooms for Profs.” Naming dreams is a way to engage with the focus or message of a dream. It’s also a technique to save your place if you need to wake up and pee in the middle of the night. As such, I’m skilled at Dream naming; lots of practice. I’ll also point out that the Dream will insist you use the words you hear even if it’s weird or simplistic, like, “My Pants” or “Tom Hanks on a C-130.” Once you dial into the title, the images become easier to recall. I enter “Bedroms for Profs.”

The walls are white without any adornment and there’s a sense of many bedrooms clustered together like nun cells. Everything is tidy and high windows let in the sunlight. Everyone here has a bed, a place to rest. A Dream version of a colleague comes in and I hand him a gift which turns out to be a slim textbook. When he opens it, I see lots of print and handwriting in turquoise ink, the color my favorite prof used and I now use. I’m curious and want to read the writing but he’s pleased with thebook and settles on a bed to read it.

The next morning I tended my Dream and still felt the curiosity of what the notes read. At noon, I received three urgent emails in succession, all of them about a mandatory staff, faculty, and student meeting. My initial reaction was annoyance because Thursdays are my one day I don’t have to leave the house (which means I don’t have to shower or get out of my sweatpants). As I shower, I wonder at the urgency of the meeting. Did Finlandia University sell the Jutila Center? Will the sale of the building disrupt classes? Several of our buildings went on the market last semester. Did a private donation come through? Was our new President leaving? We are all aware of the financial concerns, which is why I’m only teaching one class this semester. With trepidation, I gather along with my University in an assembly so full, there’s no place left to sit.

I stand at the back of the assembly as the President of Finlandia wastes no time in telling us all that as of an early morning meeting with our Board of Trustees, they voted to close our school. Finlandia will not be accepting any fall enrollment. People will be laid off. Some immediately. Classes are to be canceled the next day to start Spring Break early. We are to check our emails later the night to find out if we are “essential” or not. I sag against the wall. The ship is sinking.

And I know what it feels like to sink. I know what it feels like to look upon empty factory buildings. I know what it will be like to exit like everyone else gathered here. There will be a transparent process.

Here’s where the containers of living Dreams aid us. The image of a sinking ship is scary from my Dream perspective but I know we will survive. I can put my fear and uncertainty in this container. The image is working with me in the waking world. What comes next is even more shocking — as of immediately, all coaches were laid off and Spring Sports canceled. The emotional response rippled throughout the assembly. Disbelief. Anger. Despair.

The abandoned playground. A place where children once played. Sadness, nostalgia, concern. A cocktail of emotions I couldn’t explain had a container. More bad news, and more. Fellow staff finding out they won’t have a paycheck after Friday or health care after the month. I wonder if my students will return after Spring Break. One winds her way past me, crying. A softball student athlete. I reach for her and we hug. I tell her it’s been a privilege to teach her. One student becomes my container for how privileged I’ve bee to teach them all.

It’s not been an easy Spring Break. I graded midterms and the celebration of all students getting deserved As because they understood I was asking them to think from their own perspective on our book, “Our Missing Hearts.” They got it. They all got it. And yet, would they return? I sent them three emails to encourage and offer to support their processing. I didn’t hear back from any and I worried. So I sat with that image of an abandoned playground until I accepted that they will find another. It doesn’t mean they won’t play again. I accepted they’ll be okay even if I don’t see any of them again. I’d be okay. There was a tidy bedroom for me to find rest and encouraging notes to read, too.

I’m not saying my Dreams were preminitions. But their containers prepared me to process what happened. The images continue to live and be useful.

Today, to my great relief, students showed up to class. I wanted to cry with joy! I wouldn’t have blamed them if they hadn’t. However, they demonstrated a growth mindset. Some said this was going to be their last semester playing sports anyhow and the closure made them realize that education was their priority. Another said he felt he was better suited for a trade school and spent the break finding one that excited him for his future. Another explained that a group of teammates got together and decided that if they didn’t come back, they wouldn’t continue with school and that wasn’t what they wanted. Another told me where my missing students were and assured me they were coming back because they had all taken an epic road trip to visit schools and talk to other coaches.

Not one of them quit. They even spoke about their concern for others. One said, “Miss Charli, I was watching you at the announcement. I saw your face and knew this was real.” He explained that when the news reporter interviewed him (local news has been all over this story — it’s had a huge devastating impact on our small community) he expressed his concern for the Yoopers, for his profs, for me. It was an amazing moment to share concerns among a class thinking about each other. We decided we are all going to be okay. They now know of my plan to start an online writing school. Some even said they’d sign up for a class. We agreed to finish our semester writing, tending dreams (yes, they budding dream tenders, some of them lucid dream, too), and practicing analysis of images through documentaries and film.

In the following video, the first two interviewed, Crenston and Zadeen, I’m proud to say are excellent students in my ENG I class, the last class I will teach at Finlandia University.

For more news, go to our website: Finlandia University, News Video, or UP Reporting.

March 13, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a place where children once played. It can be a field, a playground, or any place that attracted children to play. But now it is empty. Abandoned. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 18, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Golden Onions Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

True by Gloria McBreen

Robin was fun at parties, until the night he did this!
We made some sandwiches but it wasn’t enough for Robert. He took my untouched pavlova out of my fridge and dug it from the bowl into his big mouth with my wooden spoon.
He wasn’t too happy when others decided they wanted some too.
To avoid sharing it, he went to the kitchen and returned with an onion; peeled, chopped, and sprinkled over my demolished pavlova.
Not only did he eat our Sunday dessert, but also the golden onion that was meant for the stew!
I barred Robin!


Would I Cry by Bill Engleson

Would I cry in the morning,
when we chopped golden onions, love?
Would I cry in the evening,
when soup was on the fire?
Would I cry when auburn carrots
were sliced in the bye and bye?

Oh my lord, my pot is boiling,
with your love and with your tears
Oh my lord, I am toiling,
My love is in arrears.

Would I cry in the morning,
when we chopped golden onions, love?
Would I cry in the evening,
when soup was on the fire?
Would I cry when auburn carrots
were sliced in the bye and bye?


The Job Interview by Joanne Fisher

“And what else makes you ideal for this position?”

“Well, I won the Golden Onion Award.”

“Golden Onion Award?”

“Yes, it’s an award for the most daring use of onions in contemporary cuisine.”

“Is that really a thing?”

“Of course! The award is given out by the Golden Onion Institute.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“Oh I thought everyone knew about it who works in this business.”

“I guess I’ll have to look that one up. Is there anything else you think we should know?”

“I like to cook in the nude, is that going to be a problem?”


Golden Onion by Duane L Herrmann

The golden onion was so amazing, so special, so precious that the priest wanted to preserve it. He didn’t know how to replicate it, but he trusted the workmen in the town. They were skilled, more skilled than all others around. If they could do this, the priest knew, their fame would be renowned, and so would his. He prayed for their efforts. His prayers were answered and that answer has resounded through ages that followed. Rising above white towers the onion sits gracefully. Everyone knows the distinctive beauty and grace of golden onion domed spires of the churches.


The Onion Domes of St Basil’s by Anne Goodwin

His name was one of the most common in the Russian language, yet it stoked fear in Tatars and Cossacks alike. Did Ivan want to go down in history as Terrible or as the czar who commissioned a beautiful church? True, the domes of St Basil’s commemorate a bloody battle and he had the architect blinded on completion so he’d never create again. But God would have looked down on his cathedral and seen the shape of a star. The domes on the red-brick towers shone like candles, like golden onions. Onions – so versatile, so welcome in frozen lands.


The Golden Onion by Christy

I once knew a girl with skin that glowed like the gold of a sunset. When she walked past you, she gave off an air of self-confidence that made every fiber of your being want to be like her.

But what you saw wasn’t who she was. She was beautiful to behold but bitter to bite into. If you stopped to really look you’d notice her beauty was a facade.

The girl had layers of darkness that she was so ashamed of that she hid them away where you’d never look unless peeled back the layers of her life.


Tricked by Charli Mills

I fell for the golden apples ploy. You perched on a wooden ladder more relic than feature in the orchard where gnarled varietals rooted beneath Hwy 2. Had I known you’d fallen from your ladder before, I would not have stopped. Instead, I rescued you. Checked for broken bones. Wiped dirt from your cheek. Cradled your head while you cried, sobbing over your daughter’s bee-sting. I never escaped your woes. You needed me, needed me, needed me. My eyes to adore you. My ears to hear you. My tongue to wash your dirty dishes. Golden apples turned to onions.


Syllabic Poetry Taco Dip by Colleen M. Chesebro

Through the years, I’ve found the art of crafting syllabic poetry is akin to making a layered taco dip.

You start with a syllabic form, which is like the first layer of refried beans—the base that holds the dip together.

Next comes the seasoned meat, turkey, or beef, which is like choosing a theme for your poem.

Tomatoes, black olives, chopped lettuce, cheddar cheese, and onions come next. Don’t forget the bell pepper, salsa, and sour cream. These are the details of your poem you can’t live without.

heavy spring snowfall
each layer signifies growth
a golden onion


Classic Cures by Kate Spencer

Martha peeled the golden sheath off the onion and began dicing it.

“Mom, what are you doing?” Ellie asked, walking into the kitchen.

“Making a poultice for Jake. I heard him coughing all night.”

“Seriously? You know the drugstores are full of meds for this.”

“I know that. But there’s nothing better than an old-fashioned compress smacked onto the chest. Gets that mucous loosened up real quick.”

“Ack!” Ellie threw her arms into the air and ran to warn her husband.

Martha chuckled and continued making Jake his chicken noodle soup. She loved getting her daughter all riled up.


No Trust by Norah Colvin

Jamie was an explorer. He had to find out for himself. ‘No’ was an answer he couldn’t trust. Did it mean, ‘You really shouldn’t” or ‘Of course, go ahead’?

Sometimes he discovered forbidden delights. Like the tiny brown squares Mum hid, saying, ‘No, Jamie. You won’t like it.’

He found he really did. A lot!

Sometimes he discovered the hard way. Like when Dad was cooking and said, ‘Don’t touch. It’s hot.” He found that hot hurts.

When Mum peeled a golden shell off a white ball, she said, ‘No. You won’t like it.’ Should he trust her?



A Chopping Aide by Ruchira Khanna

“I just can’t cook.” Sarah lamented.

“Why so?” inquired Leone, who was as earnest in her query as a nurse, would be to her patient.

“Gravy is the key ingredient to get texture in any dish. Alas! I can’t chop onions. They bring tears to my eyes.” With that, she breathed a deep sigh that was as cold as if she had just landed in the Frigid zone.

Leone quickly handed a shield to her friend, “Wear this armor before you chop onions; it will protect you from the sooty vapors that they emit, that’ll prevent tears from coming.”


The Day the Monster Truck Mama Was Born by Pete Fanning

Steve sat doubled over in the sweltering porta potty, still wearing his helmet, cursing as a country song blared over the speakers. Outside, nearly ten thousand people grumbled impatiently for the main event.

Golden Onion he thought. What kind of fool eats an entire deep fried onion before the biggest performance of his career? Scratch that, two golden onions. Now, as his monster truck idled in the dirt, the crowd began chanting his name.

Steve’s mother tapped on the door. “Steve?”

“Go away.”

“Okay, but sweetie? These people want a show.”


“So… I’m going to need your helmet.”


Knowing One’s Onions by Geoff Le Pard

The Little Tittweaking’s Fruit and Veg show often produced surprises. Bea Troot won the Wanda Lust Memorial Tooting Rooting category for her Requiem radishes, named when impresario Di O’Reah used these volcanic veg to fuel her Bach From The Arse soirées. Ro Maine protested Chico Rees entry for the Ms Limp Leaves garland arguing they were a trans-salad and not a lettuce from seed. When Pearl Onions displayed her magnificent golden glowing orbs, the press went wild with the headline.

Once again Pearl Onions has proved to one and all the sun really does shine out of her alliums


Golden Onions by Charli Mills

Lula tethered three golden onions by their dry stalks, hanging them from her saddle horn. Pickers had missed globes in the field, rushed no doubt by the urgency to get crops to the train station. Onion harvest marked the end of migrant work. Lula had dry pintos and a hanky full of tortillas stashed in her saddle bags. Juan Batista said he’d bring a cauldron and two fishing poles. Everyone would be in town celebrating. Drinking. The line cabin empty. The onions were so he’d not get any fine ideas of kissing her by the campfire. Best intentions unraveled.


Onions by C. E. Ayr

She always smiles when the Frenchman appears.
He’s almost a caricature, with a beret, droopy moustache, ramshackle old bike and onions around his neck.
He speaks English with a heavy Breton accent, but the ancient eyes are kindly.
The road is narrow, he says, indicating the toys on the lawn, we must be careful for the children.
She buys, of course, more than she needs, still smiling as he says au revoir.
Later, speeding through country lanes, she sees onions scattered on a dangerous bend, and brakes to see the wrecked bicycle and broken body abandoned in the ditch.


Michael Plays the Age Card (Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

Wearing Army t-shirt and shorts, Michael sat in a wheelchair on stage, his leg stumps showing so all entering the Walter Reed activity room could see. He spoke. “We soldiers share the experience of missing skin and bones. At twice your age I lived the hopelessness and depression you may be feeling.” He turned sideways in the chair, swung himself to the floor, and put on the prosthetic legs lying there. Then using the chair for support, he stood up and walked around. “I’m proof you can heal and become friends with whatever prosthetic you need. You’ve got this.”


Michael Plays the Age Card (Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

Michael continued walking and making eye contact with the soldiers that would look at him. “I came to think of myself as a pungent onion, and life as flat broth. What could I do to insert myself into something that could use a shot of flavor, that would enhance the broth?” He picked up his guitar. “This is my friend. It helps me turn into an onion.” He strummed a few chords. “I went home to revive my church’s youth choir. Those kids think I’m a super hero. I make a difference in their lives, as coming here enhances mine.”


Chopped Onions by Sadje

Their style of cooking always included fried onions as the base of almost every dish. And she never liked chopping those red onions which were more pungent than any other variety.

After doing some research, she found the golden onions which were less pungent, more flavorful, and required less cooking time. Still while chopping onions, her eyes would invariably tear up and she found it cathartic to shed a few more tears, thinking of wrongs done to her in the past and people who had left her.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, she always felt better after chopping golden onions.


A Friendly Chat About Two Attractive Alliums by JulesPaige

Lena knows about some alliums. There’s a difference in how long onions last by type. Golden hard skinned yellow pungent onions have the longest life up to two to three months in a cool dry place or in your fridge for the same time. – However, in the cooler they might turn mushy, the fridge will wick their moisture. Onions are low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals. You can use their skins to dye material. Keep them out of plastic bags and away from potatoes.

soups, stews flavor them
with depth; using onions and
all forms of garlic


Adventures of a Golden Onion by Ann Edall-Robson

The day I was tossed into the dark trench, I was told to drink as much water as possible, the warm sun would do the rest. I had no clue what was expected of me. Yet, as time passed, somewhere on the other side of the darkness a gentle voice could be heard, giving encouragement.

Then one day, the musical voice said, “It’s time, my lovelies.”

Tugging on our tops, a hand lifted us into the fall sun. My how we had grown! Dressed in our golden topcoats I wondered what adventure will be in store for us next?


The Perks of Being a Delegate by Nicole Horlings

Arlo Proudfoot was pleased. Since he was busy being a delegate attending this multi-race debate, he wasn’t having dinner with his in-laws. His mother-in-law was embarrassingly proud of what was actually a bland soup, and always made a pot for company.

Instead, he was about to enjoy a feast celebrating the successful conclusion of the debate. Each of the races had contributed an ingredient for the main course: the dwarves – fresh salmon; the elves – fragrant herbs; the hobbits – golden onions; the humans – lemon zest, traded from the south. The smell alone from the resulting meal had his mouth watering.


She Cried by sweeterthannothing

Marie stood at her kitchen counter and cried, fat tears seared pathways down pale cheeks.
She hated crying, thankfully no one was around to see her.
What would her mother make of her now? What would she say seeing where Marie’s life had taken her? Her mother and warned her against marrying Keith, she knew it was a mistake a mile off but had Marie listened?

Marie sniffed and looked down at the knife glinting in her hands. Bad choice after bad choice had led her here, “why does he have to eat so many bloody onions?” She cried.


Appearances (Part I) by D. Avery

My sister and I were getting some candy when we recognized the witch in front of us. The clerk told the witch he’d got all her items in one bag but that it was very heavy. My sister jabbed me when I said, Let’s put some in another bag, I’ll carry it for you. The witch said if my sister was coming too, she’d buy a bag of golden onions as well for her to carry. So that’s how we got into the witch’s house, following her down the street carrying her groceries.
She didn’t smile like a witch.


Appearances (Part II) by D. Avery

We followed the witch inside and set down our loads. A black cat, curled on a chair, stretched, revealing its white belly and toes. What appeared at first to be a crystal ball on a small table was only a large golden onion. My sister had been wrong. This was no witch.

But then, cradling the onion in her palms, the woman declared Not all lies are stories and that Stories are not all lies. She said I was a literary artist and gave me the pen and writing pad I hadn’t even known were in the grocery bag.


Follow 20 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jill slipped the brass thimble over her thumb and grabbed Jack’s hand, pulling him toward the tower, and the mortar and pestle parked against its side. In their dirndl and lederhosen, shirts the purest white, hair gleaming blond-gold, their bare feet crossed the expanse of deepening snow.

Babes, just outside the Wood.

Peeking over the edge of the mortar, Jill spied a dashboard, a thimble-sized, bone-white button on one side.

She slipped the acorn thimble over the button, tight as the skin on a golden onion, and pressed down.

The mortar immediately rumbled to life. Shaking and groaning, it lifted.


Follow 21 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Get in!” screamed Jill. She hopped in to the mortar and Jack came tumbling after.

“How do we steer this thing?” He screamed back, grabbing the pestle like a sailboat tiller, as it began to roll around the inside of the mortar.

“Dunno! You’re the sailor!”

“Right,” muttered Jack. He rolled the pestle right, then left. The mortar rose higher and higher through the blinding snow, noisily bumping against the side of the dark tower.

Halfway up, Jack got a better feel for steering. Breaking through the snowstorm, they saw the cupola at the tower’s top, a gleaming golden onion.


The Field by Hugh W. Roberts

Laying in a dark field, the skin of a giant golden onion shimmered in the moonlight, hoping to tempt passersby to touch it.

Townsfolk spoke of a curse cast by a vengeful, vindictive spirit on the onion. They avoided the field, warning their children never to venture in.

Travellers thought the shimmer was gold. Some failed in their temptation to go into the field. Those that touched the onion disappeared without a trace.

Some nights, the air was filled with the scent of onion, reminding the townsfolk that the cursed golden onion was waiting to claim its next victim.


An Innocent Soul by Miss Judy

She was a young child, innocent, too young to be deprived of life, the ability to grow, learn, love, live. She was as a tender bulb sprouting for the earth needing to be nurtured, a tender sole needing to grow layer upon layer of knowledge, experience, happiness and sadness – to live and love life.
She grew no layers to be peeled back to remember a life well lived. She was merely an innocent sole whose smile would melt his heart, whose tiny fingers would grip her father’s hand. She was an innocent child deprived of life, gone too young.


From Aerial Ta Allium by D. Avery

“Git on down from yer Poet Tree, Kid. Quit doin the alley-oop on thet danged trapeze an git ta the allium.”
“Thinkin on stayin up here, Pal. Don’t find too much appealin bout this golden onion prompt.”
“Stay put then. Ain’t no skin off my bulb if ya don’t write fer the prompt. Shorty’ll be fine without ya, I’m sure.”
“Wait Pal, I’m comin down. There. Feet on the ground.”
“Like a onion.”
“Yep. Or a carrot.”
“Ready ta write, Kid?”
“Yep. Here goes:

*peelin off
protective layers
paper thin

revealin goodness
satisfyin soup*

“Tanka, Kid?”
“Yer welcome, Pal.”


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

March 6: Story Challenge in 99-words

But you really don’t remember, was it something that they said?
Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?

Laura Branigan, Gloria

The 1980s pop song Gloria came on the radio as I was driving home from college, having administered a midterm quiz to my ENG 103 class. All students had appeared, including one to which I remarked, “So, you aren’t a figment of my imagination.” He grinned sheepishly and mumbled something about getting his late assignments in soon.

Figments of my imagination are mainstream companions as a literary artist. The more I tend stories and dreams, the more I realize the language of the world resides in images, and images can be anything — a picture in the mind’s eye, a memory derived from a scent, a concept, an idea, a wash of emotion, an epiphany, a synchronicity, a sound, a song.

What’s the difference between hallucinations and receptivity to life in images? I suppose some sort of grounding in the here and now is relevant. Or perhaps the ability to balance a rationality with the input from the imaginal. I don’t know. If I’m hallucinating, let it continue as long as I can write it all down and make meaning of my experiences in the world so others can read and make meaning of theirs.

The song takes me back. Not to the ’80s but to the ’90s. It’s 1997 and my three children and I live in Helena, Montana, the Queen City of the Rockies at the Continental Divide. My daughters are second and third-graders, though in public they are frequently mistaken for twins. My son is in kindergarten and his teacher allows Pup to attend class with him provided Pup does his homework, too. Pup is Kyle’s imaginary companion. And yes, Kyle helps Pup with his homework and speaks for Pup when participating in class.

Kyle and Pup are in the audience with me. I think. Honestly, I don’t remember. But it sounds right. Students, teachers, staff, and family members are gathered in the gymnasium at Central Elementry School for the talent show. My daughters have been practicing for weeks to perfect their duo dance performance. Brianna, the younger one, throws in some amazing backhand springs, budding gymnast that she is, and Allison, the eldest of them all, provides the dance costumes and moves from her ballet classes. Their song of choice shocks the audience. Gloria blares over the speaker.

I’ve looked back at this memory container many times in my life. I can’t hear Branigan’s Gloria without thinking of two small daughters with big enough souls to pull off such a number in elementary school. Sometimes, I cringe, thinking how, in their innocence, they had no idea about the mature content of the song. Somehow, the intensity of the music became their expression of passion for their sisterhood and their individual chosen expressions of physical art. Brianna remains the adventurous one, snowmobiling across the Arctic with its crevasses, avalanches, and polar bears, while Allison teaches and choreographs modern dance.

Gloria represents what was twin-like about them as sisters, yet in its largeness, the song allows them to differentiate themselves from each other. Interestingly, it also holds space for Kyle and Pup.

Yet, this day, after midterms, in my truck, blocks from home, I feel a pull of sadness listening to Gloria on the radio. I think, ah, I’m missing my kids as Little Ones. They are all now in their 30s. But if tending images is teaching me anything it is to let go of flash judgments and agree to sit with the image until it has fully presented itself to me. So I smile and feel tears at once and sit and wait. I crank up the volume, pull into my driveway, and sit.

That’s when it hits me. Soft and gentle and undeniable. I’ve never grieved for the loss of my fourth child.

At first, I’m stupefied. Denial rises, but I stay with the image and what it’s revealing to me. I allow memories to take shape as images. I recall the first time my midwife and I heard two heartbeats. I laughed and cried. Twins! I remember her insisting I get a sonogram, which I did, and I watched in amazement as two tiny growing lives enfolded each other like fetal yin and yang. Twins. Later, as my pregnancy progressed, we stopped hearing the two heartbeats. My midwife assured me that it was common for the heartbeats to sync. I think she knew what I did not until the birth. She was not surprised when Kyle was born solo.

I don’t remember any emotion other than the exhaustion of labor, the overwhelm of a new baby, and the need to parent a trio of young ones aged three, two, and newborn. “It happens,” my midwife had said with a casual shrug. “He might have a develop an odd cyst one day.” That gave me an image I accepted with dark humor. My son devoured his twin. Oddly, I never absorbed the loss because what can one grieve about an absorption?

Gloria finishes on the radio and I fully realize the image that has always been there but I had not understood — I saw the twinness of my children. I accepted Pup as Kyle’s “other.” By the time we moved to the midwest in 1998, we would all leave Kyle’s twin behind in Montana. Pup absorbed into Kyle’s psyche; no one mistook the daughters for twins, and I occasionally joked that Kyle might find a weird cyst one day.

I’ve cried. The sadness lifts. The wonder of the song’s intensity has transformed a loss I never knew how to accept. I feel more whole. I once carried four lives in my womb. Three survived. I understand now, why Kyle has been the only one of the three to not complete his sibling tattoo. I’m going to suggest two Pups to him. He’ll understand.

For you, my literary artists, I offer the task of making sense of the lyrics to Gloria! The prompt is the name, however, so you can take inspiration from any image or story that comes to you. Listen to the song. Read the lyrics . Or take inspiration from the image of a missing twin. When I say, go where the prompt leads you, there is no right or wrong to your exploration of creative depths.

March 6, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about Gloria. You can name a character that comes to you as Gloria or you can interpret the Laura Branigan song into a story. What image comes to you? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 11, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Imagining Literary Artists Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

The Creation of Literary Art by sweeterthannothing

The battleground- an expanse of white, pure as undriven snow.

An army of writers, poets, novelists, and literary artists warming up on the sidelines, glasses poised just so, fingers nimble and ready.

Words and worlds, life and death, the mundane and the beautiful will come to life and die today on this page, as we charge ever-hopeful into the vast emptiness of our ever more analytical planet wielding weapons of mass creation.

Ink-black blood from words crushed and deleted, smears of worlds erased a new life gets to its knees, words finally falling into place;

Once upon a time….


Literary Creation – I by Duane L Herrmann

The page is blank, the world is blank. What to do? Where to begin? How?

Pick up the tool to activate.

What is your first thought? How to express it? Pick one word. Then, a second word. The third word is easier. Then the fourth and fifth.

By now there is a trickle, they will become a stream, then a river and, before you know it: a torrent, then a flood. Problem solved. No blank space and, a new, unknown creation is before you.

This is success. It only took one word, then two, then more. Write! Create! Live!


Literary Artistry by Kerry E. B. Black

Falling through stardust, we grasp at ideas streaked with golden trails. Adrift at sea, our words mark our passage like bioluminescent plankton, a glow of wonder. We shed reservations and inhibitions, embrace and share our most intimate experiences, our deepest traumas, using metaphor and hyperbole when the tale takes on too much heart. We invigorate ink with our tears, stain pages with our lifeblood. We sing worlds into life, birth children beloved and reviled. Screaming into a vacuum, we seek like-minded souls, kindred spirits, those who embrace the meat of the matters that matter to us. Hear our truth.


From the Heart by Colleen M. Chesebro

I strive to become
a literary artist…
exposing my soul
I examine the beauty
found in the silent moments

Some days, the words flow from my heart, as if a river of creative energy has let loose to flood the page with words. Other days, the words can’t find an outlet. My thoughts are thick like mud.

Literary art is more than crafting words on a page. It’s also the spoken word, which often finds me with my heart stuck in my throat.

Listen to me…

Finding the courage to embrace and share out loud—therein lies the magic.


Literary (he)art by Hanna Streng

How does it feel
to be a heart
tucked away in a tight-knit chest?

Are you content
living life behind bars
or do you wish you could break a rib
and climb out
– make a home for yourself
somewhere else?

You’re restless-
the sound of your pounding
echoes against the walls.

Haven’t I kept you safe,
all this time?

but suffocating”
you say
sharp words flying
and as they hit their mark
3rd rib, from the top down
blood flows freely
and it suddenly makes sense.

You don’t hate it
-living here-
you’ve simply outgrown your cage.


A Poet by Bill Engleson

“It would be so simple.”
“For you, perhaps.”
“Are you so different from me, poet? Your flesh? Torn. Your blood? Spilled. That is the only difference between us, my friend. My flesh is untorn. I am not bleeding. Beyond that, we…”
“Liar. You are bleeding. Not blood. Your blood is water. Fouled by the fear that gushes out of you.”
“You stupid poet. My blood is mine. My life is mine. My skin glows with the glory of the state. Your skin is gashed and pale. But you could be free.”
“I could never pay the price of silence.”


The Creator Within by Christy

Some say writing is difficult, tedious, and tiresome. Writing is so much more when the creative let go of the constraints of academia and let the words drip from the end of the quill. I’m not a writer. I will never be a writer. I am a creator. Even before splashing words on a screen, I was an artist. I can make acrylics swirl on canvas like I can make plots swirl in my head. I’m a builder. I can build worlds from nothing by closing my eyes and believing. I’m beauty unleashed when I let my artistry shine.


Literary Artist by Reena Saxena

Irrestibubble is an aerated chocolate, and cream cakes are naughty but nice. Prospective buyers see innocent faces of kids in these words.

The copywriter who coined these terms is proclaimed guilty of sacrilege, and fatwas are issued against him.

He survives an assassination attempt but is stabbed again just before a scheduled lecture at Chautauqua, New York. He has lost an eye and functionality of one hand this time.

I remember Salman Rushdie as the literary artist who introduced me to complex fiction during my school days, as I struggled to understand the symbolism and imagery in the novel.


Dedicated Literary Artist by JulesPaige

Mack wanted his stories to burn his ideas and ideals into others’ hearts. He stood with his back leaning against the concrete wall of the city park. He read the newspaper – the stories always seemed the same. So much tragedy, hot tears left his eyes. He wanted his stories to burn like a phoenix rising from the ashes. He would write passionately, with a trick of love light. That light his mother always shared with him when they cooked Sunday afternoon dinners together. Meals where simple foods became elegant enough for royalty.

up in smoke; reborn
with beauty


Literary Conduit by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

To turn emotion into a word, an experience into a sentence and a life into a story; that is a literary artist. Peering into the unseeable, deciphering hidden messages, unraveling puzzles into a stream of aesthetic words, pleasing to both reader and writer.

To be a conduit, a messenger, to bring reverence to the wonders of the Earth. To stir fascination, acceptance and protection about the myriad cultures this world has emanated.

To exalt over our majestic animal species and keep their plight alive within the human conscience.

To continue to be my best. A writer. A literary artist.


If Only… by Norah Colvin

In her mind she was a literary artist, painting exquisite word pictures and enthralling plots, her titles on everyone’s lips. When it didn’t eventuate, she blamed busyness and writer’s block. She could have, if only.

He dreamed of being a musical artist, composing melodies to make hearts sing, first choice of orchestras everywhere. When it didn’t emerge, he cited family responsibilities. He could have, if only.

They pictured themself as a visual artist, creating magnificent sculptures commissioned by international celebrities. When it didn’t evolve, they howled discrimination and poor upbringing. They could have, if only.

Might have, if only.


Did You Pack Your Bag Yourself? by Anne Goodwin

We all bring baggage on our journeys. Let’s examine yours.

Choose that channel and they’ll repack your things in neat compartments and throw away whatever they cannot name. If you’re hurting, they’ll prescribe a sedative. If you’re angry, they’ll offer you cake.

Choose this and we’ll treasure your soiled underwear, admire the garments life has pulled out of shape. We’ll make a mosaic from your broken bits, macramé from your tangled threads. We’ll wash the shame from your buried secrets, build fairy-tale castles from the dirt. You’ll leave with a suitcase of stories: to amuse; to surprise; to console.


Untitled by D. Avery

What’s a literary artist? Don’t ask me. I just play with words, sometimes puzzling something together for a challenge, sometimes puzzling something out for myself, piecing thoughts and impressions together.
If I were a musician, I might talk about beats, of finding a rhythm that leaves space for silence between the notes. If I were a painter, I might talk of perspective; of trying to capture a certain light; of presenting an image.
But I have no instrument, no brush, no paint. Words are the tools I wield to explore and expand my world, clumsily yet carefully. Just words.


Create With Words by Sue Spitulnik

The town fair invitation said all artists welcome. Come for the day with your wares, show off what you can do, teach by example, and leave others remembering your creativity.
The potter came with her wheel and clay. A carver came with a piece of wood. A painter arrived. A jewelry maker and leather tooler set up. They all had the specialty tools only they needed. There were others.
The literary artist brought a pen and notebook. She took notes while talking to each person as they worked. Later, with words, she described everything that had aroused her senses.


Stories From A Man Heart by HeyAisyah

“Congratulation, you won The Best Literary Artist Award again. What’s your secret in writing?”
“You just write it all from your heart. You know, all my life I’m known as a great writer who writes all these great war novels with amazing characters and stories, but the truth is I’m not a great writer. I’m just a man who survives the war but lost the battle. A man who’s missing his friends, family, and his lover that is already long gone from the war, and all these novels are written from my heart, of how much I miss them.”


Art For Art’s Sake by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking was considered to be cultured. Rene Sance created infeasible clouds and fat babies from recycled party balloons and out of date puff pastry; Pru Rafael-Light woke up regularly to smell the coffee only to be disappointed; Art Deco took peeks into the future; and the recently ennobled Sir Realism studied the ineffable infinity of melted camemberts and the impact of salivating cheese on the fecundity of granite. The most famous thought was Libby Rarian, the self proclaimed bookmeister who, after too much Jane Austen’s Old Peculiar took umbrage and painted the town read. Umbrage sued and won.


Literary Artist by Ann Edall-Robson

Literary, as in written words, and artist, as in expressing one’s self, might not be the Funk and Wagnalls version of a literary artist, but it’s my version. It describes who I am. A person who utilizes the imaginative brain cell department to the fullest in order to express in words some morsel of something, anything, I choose to write about.

It’s the ‘what if’ factor taking me down not one, but several roads as I explore what the possible conclusion of a story could be. It tells me I don’t have to have one ending, I have choices.


I Am a Literary Artist by Sadje

Being given the distinction of a literary artist is indeed an honor for me. Writing is something that came naturally to me and it’s a relatively new experience for me.

I’m a blogger, a writer, and a narrator of whatever is going through my mind, but I’m no artist. That term implies that a lot of creative effort is involved in my writing.

I cannot write tales after laying down a plot line, and neither can I create fiction that encompasses a book-length story.

But to be counted among these exalted wordsmiths, it would be a great honor indeed!


A Dream-Forged Artist by Nicole Horlings

The dream tender watches over the flock of ideas, guiding them from the field that they’ve just grazed in to the next lush pasture of inspiration, while making sure that the prowling predators of doubt see no opportunity to attack.

The wordsmith examines the sentence for imperfections, pushes it into the coals, then pulls it back out, red hot, and hammers in a simile that provides a smoother, sharper edge.

The literary artist steps back from the easel, contemplating the full composition, before darkening the shadow on the villain’s persona to contrast with the highlighting strokes describing the hero.


Literary Artist by Kriti

Have you ever thought
how powerful are words?
They can inspire
They can destroy
They can even make one happy and sad at the same time
These powerful words are the strength of this person
Whom we interestingly know as a literary artist
Art, literature, poetry
A literary artist is full of creativity
Being one does not need any degree
But a love towards literature
And not only those popular people
Like shakespeare or William Blake
But all those who love to craft with words are Literary artists
Even I am a literary artist
And proud to be one!


Dangerous Who? by Simon

The pen creates words.

It brings life to characters we create, like the charming one playing with kids.

It also creates characters you hate, while you enjoy the charming character, a group of characters cross by and slit his throat for no reason, just to create Chaos!

A childhood trauma to the kids witnessing the killing, creates characters of kids, a killer, a hero, a comedian, a depressed kid, a selfish, an anxious.

An empire to rise and fall with Philosophises to life.

Aren’t we powerful? The pen? The ink? The brain? And all of the above is dangerous!


Literary Artist by Jenny Logan

The fiction I write falls into two categories—inner dialogue and conversation between strangers in public. My preoccupation is relationships—information exchanged revealing something of the characters, often in the form of unsolicited advice.

In the last months, I have received unasked for advice such as, “Eat more liver,” “Don’t go to that Church,” “Support the bin strike,” all from men I have never spoken to before.

The world is apparently full of people queuing up to tell me what to do. I don’t disregard what they say offhand. I think about it first and then generally disregard it.


The Writer by C. E. Ayr

Three years ago I did a deal with the devil.
I got the darkness, insight and talent; he got my soul.
My first book, a gangland thriller, is a world-wide best-seller.
Translated into twenty-odd languages.
Mega-money movie offers.
Enormous advances on my next three books, already drafted.
So what has it cost me?
Well, my wife, who left me.
My kids, who hate me.
And, after the visit from those very nasty guys recently, the use of my legs.
They said I ‘grassed up’ their brother.
They excised my hands, and my tongue.
But I’m still a renowned writer.


Future Words by Hugh W. Roberts

By the time 2042 arrived, literary artists were rare.

They were the only ones with the power to write compelling stories that could alter reality.

The government had strict regulations on using this power, but there were always those who sought to abuse it.

I was one such person who discovered a way to use obsolete blogging skills to control the minds of others.

A team of elite agents was dispatched to stop me.

It was a battle of words and wills, but the power of creativity prevailed. I was captured and sentenced, and the world was safe again.


No Ezee Way Out (Part I) by D. Avery

“There ya are, Kid, up in the Poet Tree. Well, how ya doin with this week’s prompt?”
“Doin jist fine, Pal. Cuz I ain’t doin it. Writin, literary artin, whatever ya wanna call it, it’s too dang hard.”
“Then whut’re ya doin up in the Poet Tree? An in yer long-johns, no less?”
“Figger these long-johns is like them leotards circus folk wear when they perform acrobatics an other amazin stunts.”
“Uh-oh. Thet a swing?”
“Shorty’s called fer literary artists Kid, not trapeze artists. Stop monkeyin aroun and git ta writin.”
“No, Pal. I’m choosin a easier path.


No Ezee Way Out (Part II) by D. Avery

“Writers’ lives are hardest
I ain’t no literary artist
I want a life a ease
so I’ll leap onta the flyin trapeze
Some a ya might ‘member
a circus I started last December
got cancelled cuz a snow
now it’s time, another go
I’ll switch places with that stranger
who figgers circusin’s less danger
that stranger kin take my place, take a chance
an write with ya’ll here at Carrot Ranch”

“Ha! That’s the oddest tree, influencin yer artistry. Mebbe ya didn’t take the leap in time. Thet Poet Tree’s got ya stuck with rhyme.”

“But is it art?”


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

February 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

Gather round to hear the tale of the Golden Onions.

No golden onion is the same. It’s the fingerprint of a literary artist. An author’s voice; a style; the secret ingredient of a savory concoction. It evolves from seed to maturity and takes a lifetime to peel back layers to expose the core.

Consider how long it takes a golden onion to grow from seed to cellar: an average of 99 days (okay, that may or may not be true but fits the tale). Compared to other veggies in the garden, onions require a longer growing season. Yet they can offer so much in immature form from sets for future planting to early harvests of green shoots.

Like literary artists, golden onions are ready for the long haul.

The tale goes like this. Golden Onions came into the world to spice up Carrot Soup. Carrots feed the people. Give them eyes to see by and nutrients to feed their families. But Carrot Soup was bland in the beginning. How could it accommodate all the different tastes? And that’s where the Golden Onions came in, each different in its complexity. No Carrot Soup was ever the same either, though each container could be recognized.

Carrot Soup is the end product of writing. There are containers of thrilling soup, fantasy soup, romance soup, poetic soup, dystopian soup, short-story soup, novella soup, mystery soup, and even hungry pirate-romance-adventure soup. These are not the bland soups of who-begat-whom stories. With Golden Onions in the world, Carrot Soup flourished, each onion adding its own unique essence.

I didn’t seek golden onions as an analogy for literary artists; it found me. First, I scoffed. Who’d believe writers are a pungent vegetable? Not just writers, but literary artists? Golden onions? I don’t think so. But then, like dreams, I tended the image. I sat with the symbol and pondered what life it had to reveal. How are literary artists like Golden Onions?

We do take time to mature. Even when we are at our fullest, pulled from the loamy soil, we have so many layers to peel back. We cry, exposed layer by layer. We carry sensitivity because we work with the language of the heart and yet we fortify the heart. It will take us a lifetime to peel down to our core, to master our chosen craft. We may flavor our books for a decade or eons. Our essence can’t be removed.

But do we know our own essence? Who am I as a golden onion? Who are you?

It’s an important question to explore. Note, I didn’t say, to answer. We can’t answer that question without reaching maturity only to spend the rest of our days peeling back layers. We explore our essence, following trails inward as we leave signs of our passing outwardly with each batch of carrot soup.

Let’s talk about carrot soup for a moment — the recipes we write. We can put unicorns or corrupt lobbyists in the mix. We can cut off the tails of sharks or harvest grain from the purest fields. We can add anything to the mix of what we write but what makes my shark-tail-unicorn-lobbyist soup different from yours is my golden onion. The more I understand who I am as this golden onion, the better I can choose my container of carrot soup. The better I understand my container of carrot soup, the better I can feed the people who will think my carrot soup is worth devouring.

That’s the nutmeat of writing as a whole — who I am, what I write, and who reads my work.

I was sitting with symbols and letting them come to me as I contemplated a name for a signature workshop I’m naming. I feel as if this is part of a naming ceremony for a baby that’s ready to be introduced soon. When I went to school for my MFA in Creative Writing, I simultaneously earned a Master’s Certification in Teaching Creative Writing Online. Most of my peers prepared for university teaching and I built an online creative writing school. In life’s unexpected twists, I was hired by a university from the minting of my MFA.

Some thoughts ran to ease — oh, I thought, teaching university English Composition might be the easier path. I discovered I love teaching even in an academic setting. Maybe especially in an academic setting. FinnU has allowed me to develop my own syllabi, weekly lessons, and figure out what works and doesn’t work in the classroom. I’ve been refining my own courses for the Carrot Ranch Online Writing School.

What I want you to know at this point, is that I have a super fun Golden Onions workshop prepared where you can explore your literary artist, your writing goals, and your platform. It will be three weeks long and include college-level feedback. It’s also ongoing, meaning it’s not a finite course. You can take the tools you are given and continue to peel back your golden onion for life or you can sign up as many times as you like for the full peer and instructor experience. I’m most excited about this workshop because it delivers the three puzzle pieces I think every writer wants to find.

Mostly, the online school will target professional writers looking to break through career barriers. What I learned in my MFA program is distillable and teachable without having to go pay tens of thousands of dollars for an MFA. I’ve not marketed since I went back to school and I held off after I was hired by a university. It took all of last year for me to figure out an important layer of my own golden onion.

I only mention these transitions to you so you’ll understand some elements I’ll be adding to Carrot Ranch. I want to reiterate that Carrot Ranch is a place to play, practice, and grow (or peel) your onion. This is the mentorship level, the gathering place of literary artists and raw literature. The school will be an income endeavor, offering college-level training in peer critique and understanding of the commercial and independent book industry. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m progressing like a slow-growing onion in the field.

Next month, technology gods appeased, I’ll be updating the website, alerting you to some publication dates, and launching the school in its first reveal. It won’t change the challenges or the collections. We hope to have more community offerings at the Saloon and opportunities to publish your work. We will continue to explore our literary art weekly and a school is an option that may or may not appeal to your onion. Just know it’s coming.

Now, let’s go make some literary art!

February 27, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a golden onion. Any golden onion. One planted or harvested. An onion chopped for a meal. How can you use an onion as a prop in a character’s hand? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 4, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills


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