Carrot Ranch Literary Community


September 26: Story Challenge in 99-words

A blade of grass grows from one of two hanging baskets in my front yard. In years past, I’ve grown petunias or moss roses in those baskets. This year, well, I hung the baskets.

Another transition is upon us as the earth spins and the weather shifts. In my small bubble of the world, I can enjoy a pristine blade of grass that grew to shine as the featured plant in a flower basket.

For centuries, likely for thousands of years, humans have pondered blades of grass and recreated their image in our depths. From Wadsworth to Whitman, the human soul becomes the one thing growing in my flower basket.

How amazing is that? How amazing, a blade of grass.

Said a Blade of Grass

Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again—and she was a blade of grass. And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, “O these autumn leaves! They make such noise!

Kahlil Gibran

Another poet goes deeper and portrays the interconnectedness between nature and art. Brian Patten compares a poem to a blade of grass (you can read the poem in the Blue Ridge Journal).

How long have humans been living and we still can write something meaningful through nature images? And we continue to feel so compelled; we long to create as much as we need to communicate. In the reverse, it also improves our sense of well-being when we go outside or view art.

This coming Saturday, September 30 the Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk is set to invite yoopers outside to walk a path through an art show that features 20 local paintings (by TOJ) paired with 20 stories by writer from Carrot Ranch. The full experience includes art activities to encourage people to paint and craft with words. This is the fun we can have when we collaborate with artists and audiences. A sense of play can grow our craft, too.

Consider Gibran’s “Said a Blade of Grass.” What can you learn about your own writing by imitating his? In my first college-level creative writing class, Dr. Stottlemeyer had us students write an imitation of a passage by Hemingway. The lesson stuck with me for three reasons. First, I learned how Hemmingway’s strategy to “write tight” made his stories feel punchy. I appreciated how the author spread the flesh thin on the solid bones of story. Second, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing tight. I liked the feel of it; a kidskin glove to my dominant writing hand.

The third reason the imitation activity made a lasting impression on me distills to one word — play. The assignment reminded me of Mad Libs, the game you play with a group of people replacing sentence components for hilarious results when read with the new words. Word games that instill a sense of play can be our best teachers.

If technology and time cooperate this weekend, I plan to launch a Virtual Art Walk on September 30. It’s meant to invoke play and the encouragement to get outside and connect our art to nature. To feel the inspiration of breeze in our hair, the whispers of a story from moving water, and the impulse to capture something beautiful, tragic, or both in a sunset. While I can’t supply you with paints and brushes or colored pens, I will include DIY art activities with suggestions for alternatives. Look for the post on September 30 or October 1.

Meanwhile, go play with a blade of grass!

September 26, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a blade of grass. What can you compare it to? Or in contrast? Is it a character prop or a story linchpin? Go poetic, go any genre or tone. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 7, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Insect Nation 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.

Transformative Creatures by D. Avery

I need to find some inspiration
for this prompt of Insect Nation
I admire what some older writers did
using insects in stories for kids
But I lack their imagination.

Now I’m running out of time
guess I’ll fall back on simple rhyme
I’m no Collodi, Selden, or Dahl*
and my unfeathered hat is off to them all
with their crickets and grasshoppers so sublime.

Bold little creatures so humble and wise
from small shoulders they watch and advise
Personifications, perhaps, these storied side-kick teachers
But these insect people, tenacious achievers
they creep and they crawl and eventually fly

*authors of Pinocchio, Cricket In Times Square, James and the Giant Peach


A Nation or Symphony by Melissa Lemay

Cicadas lithely circle branches, their clicking sounds tiny metronomes, while crickets’ whistling chirrups fill the air and cryptic katydids, rasping, sing, one symphonic nation. Turning leaves rustle, influenced by secret winds, and stars speckle the sky, the inverse of freckled porcelain skin, frequented by mosquitos’ starving needle mouths. The striped bumbles and honeybees have gone away for the night to sleep, since there isn’t any light for them to collect their pollen and nectar. Brown marmorated stink bugs blend with tree bark, and grasshoppers’ crackling wings begin settling in, as red and black spotted lanternflies gather around silhouettes.


Bob the Bee by Margaret G. Hanna

She put down her crayons, grabbed the paper and ran into the kitchen.

“Mommy, a picture for you.”

Mommy sat down, hoisted her 5-year-old daughter onto her lap, and placed the paper on the table.

“Such a pretty picture of my flower garden. Look at that big bumble bee. I thought you were afraid of bees.”

“That’s Bob. He’s nice. He doesn’t bite like other bees.”

“Who is this?”

“That’s Susie. She’s a spider. See, that’s her web. She’s Bob’s bestest friend. That’s why he’s smiling.”

“You know what I’m going to do? Frame your drawing. It’s that good.”


🕷️ Insect Nation 🕷️ by Colleen Chesebro

“Welcome to 🕷️Insect Nation🕷️ a weekly show about all the creepy crawlies used in witchcraft. I’m your host, Morticia Widow-Maker. This week’s program is all about spider magic.”

“In folk magic, a spider eaten every morning will bestow great strength and power… if you can choke them down!”

“Did you know that spider legs make your potions stronger? Spider web silk rubbed on your skin will make your wrinkles disappear.”

“So, there you have it! Spiders are good for the craft. Just watch out for wolf spiders. They will make you sneeze!”

Morticia Widow-maker signing off. Until next time.


Survival of the Fittest by Dianne Borowski

The colony was under attack! Messages bounced from one antenna to another..

The enemy was fast approaching the colony of tiny creatures whose only purpose was to
ensure the survival of the species. It would eventually be a fight to the death for many of
the workers.

The phorid flies are on the move. Worker’s, especially foragers, are alerted and begin to
move toward the safety of the nest. When cornered the worker’s best option is to use the C position,
curling into a ball to protect its head from the fly’s deadly sting. The insect world, a microcosm of our
world. Amazing!


Mealtime Chit-Chat by Norah Colvin

“What have we got?” Finally, the stranger, now identified as Paul, asked a question.

“The usual for one of these shindigs,” said Josie. “Aunt Agnes’s lasagne, Clara’s meatballs, Priscilla’s chicken fricassee and Joe’s sliced meats.”

“And for dessert, there’s Marie’s apple pie and Josh’s lumpy custard. Looks like Great-Aunt Rose has added berries to her strawberry jelly,” said Josie, taking a scoop.

“Blaaah!” Josie spat the jelly. “That’s not a berry!”

“It’s just a fly.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Flies don’t hurt. Extra protein.”

“Then you have it,” said Josie, shoving the plate into him and storming off.


Insects: Busy Bodies by Sadje

Insects come in different sizes and colors! They are our co-inhibitors on this planet. Their number far exceeds that of all the animal species combined. And so is their importance!

Where would we be without our pollinators, the bees, the flies, the butterflies, the dragonflies, and even the mosquitoes? All working without us even helping them to make sure plants and crops grow, there are flowers for us to admire and vegetables to eat.

The ants, spiders, and other insects, all doing what nature has intended for them. None of them are out of balance or whack- except us!


If You Go Down to the Woods by Hugh W. Roberts

In the ancient woods, a spectral chill whispered through the leaves, carrying the wail of the Insect Nation’s forgotten souls.

Beetles, once known as sacred guardians, marched in supernatural processions. Fireflies, long extinguished, flickered like ghostly lanterns in the moonless night. Spiders wove threads of sorrow in their tattered webs, trapping echoes of their past.

But the creepy swarm of bluebottle flies sent shivers down the spine of all who trespassed. Their eerie hum was the insect kingdom’s tragic requiem, a reminder of their timeless dominion, unseen yet ever-present.

In the haunted woods, the Insect Nation’s phantoms reigned supreme.


Whining and Dining by D. Avery

“Thanks for always walking in front. Saving me from spider webs.”

“You know, spider webs are useful. Coagulant. Fiber. It’s time you got over your spider phobia. We’ve bigger problems.”

“Uh. I can’t stand any insects or creepy-crawlies. Why are there so many on the planet anyway?”

“Food chain.”

“Food chain! Mosquitoes are eating me alive!”

“We all feed the creepy-crawlies eventually. Now here, eat up. If we walk strong, we might reach a road today.”

“Food? How?”

“Gifts of nature, for the picking.”

“Yum. Crunchy and nutty… What is it?”

“Let’s just say I rustled up some grubs.”


The Spider in the Basement by Joanne Fisher

“You’re really into spiders aren’t you?” Valerie asked. There were pictures, models, and live spiders around the lounge.

“Yes.” Beatrice answered. “How about you?”

“I don’t care for insects.”

“Spiders aren’t insects, they are arachnids which also include mites, and scorpions.”

“Thanks for the info.”

“Want to see my wolf spider in the basement?” Beatrice asked.

“Uh, okay.”

In the basement Valerie saw a shadow in the corner. It suddenly moved. Valerie quickly ran back upstairs, but found the door was now locked. She watched the spider, that was far larger than her, approach. No one heard her screams.


Life Cycle by Ann Edall-Robson

“They know we’re here. We don’t have much time before they come from the sky to get us. Some of us will make it, some won’t. The ones that do, need to procreate to make sure our breed lives. We can’t all stick together. I suggest some start moving now to the next planned target.”

The flock of crows lifted off the branches of the trees surrounding the field. Circling, hovering, licking their lips at the prospects of the meal. Their assault on the insects is too late. Competition drones toward them. Crop-dusters swoop in for the kill.


Invasive by Raven Boerger

She is an unsuspecting ash tree with the strongest of roots, and he is a metallic, green beetle who burrows and bores, leaving marks of a swirled trail resembling a children’s maze. She is a bright, juicy lemon hanging firmly in place, and he is a nymph removing nectar from her shoots and replacing it with fresh, salivary toxins. She is a woman who spends an ample amount of time outside, tending to her garden, where she plans to make a freshly chopped salsa with her harvests, and he is a mosquito with the ferocious bite of a tiger.


Crickets in the House by Sue Spitlnik

When Tessa came home from shopping, Jester raised his head and thumped his tail once. Rainbow opened one eye, and

Michael waved from the couch.

Tessa asked, “No energetic greetings. What’s been happening?”

Michael mumbled, “Crickets.”


Michael sat up. “Two crickets chirping in here. Jester was running around trying to find them, and then Rainbow got in the mix. I swear, those insects did it on purpose, moving from place to place. I saw them hopping, but I couldn’t catch them either. We’re exhausted from the chase.”

Tessa laughed, and a cricket chirped. “It’ll be a noisy night.”

Note: Jester is the family mutt, and Rainbow is an older cat.


The Philosophizing Fruit Fly by Michael Fishman

I’ve got about a month here and all I do is worry. Almost 487 siblings and they don’t seem to think about this stuff, so what’s up with me?

I’m called an annoyance and that hurts. It’s not me – not my choice – I was hatched this way. So why does it bother me so much?

I have no appetite. The sibs, those that didn’t get tricked into the vinegar traps, are swarming that mushy melon rind that should have gone into the trash bin a day ago. They’re having the time of their life and I just sit.



Morning Has Come by Duane L Herrmann

“Get up! Get up!” Tatiyana poked her sleeping friend in a soft spot. He rolled over, softly moaned. He didn’t want to be awake, and tried to curl up, but found there was no room. All he could do was strecth, then wiggled out, hoping that no one would get him. “Watch for birds!” She called a warning.

“Now, I have a bit more space,” Tatiyana said as she woke up a light above her. Two were needed. She had tried to train them so they wouldn’t blink at the same time, but the fireflies had their own competition.


Regal Experience by JulesPaige

There was, that summer long ago, when I, the fearless Den Leader of Cub Scouts, ventured with my ‘boys’ and Tagalong baby brother across the bridge of the creek. I can only guess we were aiming for some nature badge. It was Tagalong that found the Monarch Cat (caterpillar).

I have a great tolerance for insects when they are outside of the house. However this time we took in the caterpillar. Made it a comfy home with twigs and milkweed. And then we waited. Our reward, the chrysalis with golden dots and then, the emerging Monarch butterfly we freed.


After the Fall by Anne Goodwin

We built new homes among the debris of their vanity. Our elders were suspicious, fearing stray survivors lurked behind those crumbling walls. They were a cruel species who’d swat us dead if we trespassed on the land they’d colonised. Of course, we celebrated their demise.

Our youth gorged on their rotting flesh and putrid entrails. Then they mated and their offspring feasted too. With food for future generations, and freedom from attack, our nation would prosper. But we’d stay humble. When vegetation submerged all traces of humanity, we’d repeat their story to our children as a warning. Hubris kills.


Making One’s Web and Lying In It by Bill Engleson

Nathan first noticed them in the early days of Covid. In his favourite bathroom ― he had two ― small flossy webs were being spun.
The daddy long-legs spinner located itself in a high corner.
Through the long months, the isolation, he conversed with Stanley.
Meaningful observations about life.
In time, at least two, maybe three other daddy long-legs moved in.
Livingston and Ralph, and possibly Donald, joined Stanley in creating a symphony of spidery webs.
Nathan studied them.
He wondered why he thought them male.
And decided it didn’t matter.
They brought him comfort.
It was almost love.


Migration of the Wasps by Mario Milizia

Every November, at my home, it gets colder, deer start nibbling at the birdfeeders, and wasps invade my home.

Wasps make their way down the chimney, past the closed vent and glass doors of the fireplace, over to the cool family room windows to hibernate.

Discovering their hiding place behind the drapes, I quickly trap them with a clear plastic cup, slide a thin cardboard ad under the cup’s edge, and throw them back into the cold outdoors.

I remember the pain of the bite as a kid. I would kill them all if my wife would let me!


Army-In-Waiting by Reena Saxena

“I feel like someone gnawing at my insides. I constantly live in fear of losing balance.”

“Your medical reports look fine. Maybe confidence-building measures will help. See a counsellor.”

The medical staff looks agitated as patients with brain fever are admitted to wards. The symptoms are different, making treatment all the more difficult.

“It looks like a new strain of virus, which cannot be detected with a microscope.” The doctor looks shaky, as the President and Army Chief are admitted to special wards.

Deep in the interiors, an army waits to take charge.

Humans will not rule any more.


Pollen Count 2, 3, 4 by Mr. Ohh!

Everybody gather round.

Amanda’s at the hive entrance, and I can smell the pollen on her legs. My antennae haven’t vibrated like this since the almond rush last spring.

Lillian, Watch the dance! Take note of the direction and distance. It looks like a large patch of flowers, and we sure can use one after so much rain and so little food.

All right here’s Amanda. It looks like flowers to the southwest at five-thousand yards. wait, she’s turning. More like southeast and three-thousand. No, she’s shifting!

Oh Drones! You have to hate a worker bee who likes disco.


In the Land of Insects by ladyleemaila

In a land of the very small insects
I came to visit and see their world
Ants build their nests, their treasures are buried
Termites are much older than the human race
Their soldiers and workers are usually blind
A grasshopper and a beetle fighting each one
How about spiders, where would they be?
Brazilian wandering spiders, their bites deathly
A tarantula can be a pet for its relatively harmless bite
Butterfly, bumble bee, I love their flights
Blue-fronted dancer, it bounces along its way
Insects are busy going about their daily activities
Don’t squeeze them, enjoy their beauties


It’s Unlikely a Chainsaw by Marsha Ingrao

Sure, I make lots of noise, but usually nobody but the girls ever find us. About a thousand of us were singing in the grass at Courthouse Square when this huge black thing with two holes poked me right in the face. I quit rubbing my legs, hoping it would go away. Then, this huge, hairy stick scratched me out of the grass. I saw its eyes. A giant pink thing slurped me up and carried me away miles from my friends.

“Arff, drop that huge bug right now! Cicadas are not toys!”

I fell hard. Everything went black.


Spiders by Jaye Marie

Spiders are a big problem in my family. Luckily, they seem to know this and rarely put in an appearance.

At least my family think so. I see them and know all their hideouts. Their webs give them away.

On those rare occasions when one does dare to put in an appearance and either runs across the floor, or turns up in the bath, I am the one my family scream for.

They tell me that September is the time when male spiders go hunting for a mate.

All I can say to them is, go pick another house!


S’warmin Ta the Idea by D. Avery

“This prompt’s really buggin me Kid.”

“Why Pal? Ain’t like ya have ta write fer it.”

“Thought this was a insect free place. No skeeters, black flies an sech. Now the Ranch’s crawlin with creepy responses.”

“Good thing too. Think bout settin by the fire Pal. Listen. Crickets! Kin ya ‘magine life without that sound? Now, ‘member earlier in the summer, all them flickerin flashin lightnin bugs?”

“Fireflies! Yep. ‘Member when we saw thet humminbird moth at Shorty’s flowers?”

“Yep! An all the butterflies an bees busy pollinatin em.”

“Birds, Kid! Swoopin an feedin on bugs.”

“Bugs is beautiful!”


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

September 19: Story Challenge in 99-words

Bumblebees curl up in blooms of pink cosmos. The Keweenaw is cooling as the world balances and the equinox cools the Northern hemisphere and warms the Southern. The honey-makers are slow on the day of the Farm Tour, a local co-op event connecting eaters to their food growers.

Lily Venable, photographer, local food promoter, and friend of Ghost House Farm, walks the paths and fields with her camera. (All the photos in this post are her creations, including the challenge pic.) She notices the bear in a pine burl, the contrast of colors between green clover and orange pumpkins, and the delight of kids encountering goats.

Siblings, the children of parents who are also friends of the farm, spend the afternoon hanging out. One settles into the tractor seat to read and the other kicks a soccer ball as high as the weeping willow. Then, they find a feline. Or does the cat find them? Their mom joins the chase and before long they’ve tamed a yearling.

The cat must live most her days outdoors, she’s so wild. It could be her youthful exuberance but she displays skills beyond that of a domestic cat. The family helps with local cat rescues so they have the patience and understanding to call her. They plop in the grass and thump the ground; the kitten answers the thud of their drumming. The youngest swoops her up and before long, we are all snuggling a purr-fectly soft and amenable near-cat. Lily snaps photos.

People park along Boston Location Road and walk onto the farm. “Welcome to Ghost House Farm,” one of us, or all of us greet. What do they tour and learn?

You see the fenced area full of colored lettuce and flowers? That’s the original market garden — the origin spot of the farm. Go ahead, you can walk among bumble and blooms. The bees are slow today. The people in light jackets, sweatshirts, or flannels. I’m wearing my turquoise Stowe (Vermont) sweatshirt in solidarity with the farmers in that state whose fields did not yield harvests because of the extreme summer flooding. We understand the term “thousand year flood,” as do many in our world.

Yet we grow. Stay the course. Adjust. Help where we can, seed another year.

Next, you can go into the greenhouse we built last spring when the snow was still four feet deep. “We” means my SIL and his father who does not believe we are ever without snow along the lee shore of Lake Superior. This glorious day proves that we do go snowless and yet the chill reminds us that winter is not far off. See the dirt pile to the left? That’s topsoil. We’ve ripped out all the beautiful tomato and cucumber vines, not because of the cooler weather but because of the shorter days of sunlight. The tomatoes stopped growing. We are putting in drain tile to help mitigate flooding of the farm’s shallow fragipan, and will build up the beds with more topsoil. Then, we (Drew) will plant lettuce.

Here’s the cool thing about lettuce — it will grow over winter even below freezing as long as it is covered by the hoop house. The plants will stop germinating but we can have (we hope) year-round triple-washed salad mix for the Keweenaw. Like people all around the world. We are experimenting with ways to extend seasons and work with changing climates and extreme weather episodes. And, yes, the washing machine in the pack tent is brand new from Kirkish Furniture and we (Drew) have altered it to be a giant salad spinner (thank you Vermonters for innovating).

Don’t miss the goats(es). They live in the Ghost House. That ghostly sound you hear is Chip, the buck in rut. If you hear him woo-woo-woo-ing, and see his tongue sticking out, step back. Don’t let him pee on you (Yes, Chip peed on a farm guest). The ladies are less stinky and do not projectile urinate in anyone’s general direction, but if you bend down to grab kale or cabbage leaves to feed the goats(es), Molly might chew on your hair. She grabbed me good and I’m her Gigi. Impatient, is all. She loves greens. Pegasus is the pregnant one (good job jumping the fence, Chip) and the smallest is Vandalia. She’s shy.

From the Ghost House, you can walk down the path to the main fields where pumpkins, delicatas, costata romanesco, Brussels sprouts, celery, rose potatoes, and green clover grow. The clover is a cover crop and there’s a balance between the crop it grows with and we missed the sweet spot with winter squash. Our fall harvest will not be as planned. Such is farming. We grow, we learn.

All the glass? Well, humans haven’t changed all that much. Wherever we live, we leave trash piles. The glass is like today’s plastics. It’s what the miners and earlier inhabitants left behind between 1850 and 1970. Earlier inhabitants used natural materials, but even early humans left midden piles behind. We are a trashy species. But innovative, too. We make use of the glass — we study our past and save the material for artists and industrial archaeologists.

Back to the bumbles. As evening falls, they stay in the cosmos, using petals as blankets. A three-year-old grabs my hand to show me. A new farm feline plays with the older kids. And the adults eat grilled zucchini and local burgers with artisan bread. How sweet the day.

September 19, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a blanket. Any interpretation works! What happens to a story when you give a character the prop of a blanket? Is the blanket the story? Is it a memory container, a source of comfort, or smothering? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 25, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Southwest Pumpkins 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.

“Southwest Pumpkins” oil painting by TOJ. The following stories interpret visual art into literary art.

Paths to Pumpkins by Chel Owens

Elu knew his path. “Shimasaní told me the way my family walked before, and The Great Creator lights my way tomorrow.”

He stood near the tree under which his father had come into the world. The world might change around Elu and his tribe; the roots remained.

Elu thought of all this as he showed his first child how to direct the gathered rainwater to their fledgling gourds. Both watched the desert soil darken around each green bud.

“Will we have pumpkins for Halloween, Shizhé’é?”

Elu smiled at his son. “Yes.” He smiled wider. “But don’t tell your great-grandmother.”


Beware, The Witch by Mario Milizia

This once small, quiet, dusty town no longer exists. Survivors say it started when townspeople, led by the mayor, decided to burn the witch, nicknamed “Old Tumbleweed” out of her home. A cat saw the approaching mob, freaked out, and alerted the witch.

The top of this picture, the last transmitted by a reporter before his death, shows black, horizontal human remains littered across the desert; body counts etched onto the cauldron. The mayor’s sad eyes are permanently embedded into the ceramic vase as a warning to others.

New Mexico police have cordoned off the area.

Everyone. Stay Away!


Mabon Approaches by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Attention! The Sisterhood of the Raven is called to order. It’s time to plan for the second harvest festival of the year. What should we do for Mabon this year?” asked Morticia.

“I’ll bake the pumpkin pies,” said Luna.

“What are we going to wear?” asked Faeryn. Laughter erupted around the room.

Hilda listened. For her, Mabon was the time to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for the season’s blessings. It was the beginning of winter. It made her sad to say goodbye to summer.

“You okay, Hilda? Faeryn grinned.

“Hilda nodded. Yes. I’ll bring the sacred cauldron.”


A Visitor by D. Avery

He arrived at the edge of the patio as quietly as the stars appearing in the sky. Though my adobe home was remote, he did not surprise or frighten me.

Said his name was Jesús, but he was Diné.

I poured him water. Shared pepitas and pumpkin empanadas with him. How he enjoyed that! He talked about his grandmother’s pumpkin soup. Told me he was of the Pumpkin clan. He reached into his pockets, handed me some bean and corn seeds, bright as polished gemstones.

By sunrise he’d gone, towards the orange mesas, carrying the pumpkin I’d given him.


Autumn’s Tune by Anne Goodwin

I drape myself in robes of pumpkin colours. Friends scowl and ask if I’ve turned Buddhist. “An Autumnist,” I say.

As my hair grows back, they praise my resilience. I let them think I’ve won. I’ve squandered spring and summer accommodating other people. Autumn is for me.

When the evenings chill, I gather my friends around the bonfire. Serve them bowls of steaming soup. Listen to their talk of future projects. When I don’t contribute, I let them think I’m extra cautious. Don’t mention winter’s spite will put a freeze on this. Till then, I’ll dance to autumn’s tune.


Summer of the Red Sun by Dianne Borowski

The sun was red,
The earth parched.
Little grew that summer. Hunger was everywhere.
Many died.
We buried them with food, blankets,
Stones placed over the graves
Kept our dead safe from harm.
Grandmother cried and cried.
So many losses, so little food.
It was impossible for her
To leave our home anymore.
Each day she took her bowls
From the shelf.
She ran her fingers gently
Over her creations,
The works of her hands…
Ah, the pumpkin ,
Perfectly formed.
The summer of the red sun,
Grandmother died.
Her spirit became
One with the rain.
Forever watching over us.


Southern Pumpkins by Melissa Lemay

Aromas of nutmeg and clove mingled as the oven preheated. Every year she planted pumpkins. Right before summer’s turning, she gathered her harvest and spent weekends making pies, butters, jams, biscuits, pretty much anything pumpkin you could dream. She read her recipe as the late summer rain breezed through the window. The counter was lined with brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, butter, eggs, all makings of delectable fare.
“Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt…” she checked that everything was right and began whisking the ingredients together in the large mixing bowl


Path To Prosperity By Gena Daman

Pumpkins in abundance signify it is time to harvest areas of one’s life.

Because pumpkins grow in different directions while staying connected, their presence encourages a mindset of trying a new path, knowing it does not have to be the final path.

This year she would make the fall passage.

Final preparations were under way for the send off. New glaze had been applied to the ceremonial pottery, marking her passage and binding it to prior ones.

She was now a layer, to be glazed over next year for someone else’s time. But for now, she was on top.


Harvest Joy by Duane L Herrmann

Nights were getting colder, time to bring the pumpkins in. Little Arrow was happy to help.

“We won’t be hungry this winter, will we Momma?” He asked hopefully.

“We will have food this winter,” she agreed.

“I like this one the best,” he said as he tried to pick up the largest one.

“Let me help you, it is as big as you are.”

He accepted the “help,” not realizing that his participation complicated the effort.

“Let’s put it here!” He said excitedly, pointing to space beside the green jar. “The colors are pretty together.”

And so, it sat.


A Dark Fall by Charli Mills

The darker the night, the heavier the stars sag until nearly touching the terra firma of Earth. The life of a star is stark and cold. They longed to bake in the playa of the southwest, to roast impaled like diamond marshmallows on sandstone spires, or to slumber in a desert hot springs. Sometimes, a star falls from the sky the way a child might roll from bed. When a star is lost; when a star is a trapped alien; when stars hide among us – they become pumpkins destined to infiltrate technology. A star falls to Earth. Destruction follows.


Autumn Offering by Kerry E.B. Black

I left an offering in a deep, red bowl, filled to the brim with good intentions. Alongside sat bottles of the best wines imported from lands where grass and glass were green, so unlike this foreign landscape with sand, not soil. I spilled a cup of cream, too, the way my Nan always did, from a blue crockery to attract good attention.

Why? To transform this adobe into whitewash and thatch, where jack o’lanterns guide souls.

But no helpful sprites came to call. The desert devoured all.

And I fear it won’t be long before I, too, become desiccated.


Ready for Harvest by ladyleemanila

ready for harvest, apples, pumpkins
children all excited to start the new term
let them enjoy the term, we say in prayers
let them learn all the lessons in the long-term
when autumn leaves seem to drown down the stream
light breaks over the horizon, that’s confirmed
magnificent season, top of the cream
autumn at its best and life is such a dream
carving pumpkins into jack o lanterns
apple bobbing and divination games
sceneries for plays and masks costumes
tapered served as thermal chimneys lanterns
fish and chips with salt and vinegar
played through the night some games


Autumnal Pumpkin’s Fate by Sadje

The crop was very good that year. Beautiful pumpkins, ready just near Halloween.

Billy picked up a nice pumpkin, by himself. It was just right for carving and making a Jack-o-lantern!

Since he was almost ten this year, his parents allowed him to do most of the carving. His mum, just pointing out where he should cut out the eyes and the mouth. He did need help with the teeth as the little knife he was given wasn’t very sharp.

He was very proud of the end result, especially when the candle lit inside threw out perfectly horror-able shadows!


Nature’s Paintbrush by JulesPaige

The wedding took place in New Mexico, outside of the museum. The reception was inside. October, while still warm, had the wind blowing the bride’s veil almost horizontal to the stunning southwestern landscape.

The groom’s parents still had a home not far from the event and that is where the family gathered the next day to continue celebrating the joining of the two families.

The russet colors of autumn were evident in the flowers that still bloomed. Would the groom call his bride ‘Pumpkin’?

mango, tangerine,
salmon, papaya, coral
apricot background

…such was nature’s paintbrush for the auspicious start.


A Still Life by Sue Spitulnik

The battered blue bowl sits empty by the well-loved green bottle of oil. The burning orange canister holding the flour has no dusty fingerprints on it this year. The items form a still life on the marred wooden work table. There is no reason to make the dough, for the young ones have left and are not there to enjoy the festival bread. The wine bottle remains capped, and the pumpkin sits unused. The elderly, too old to walk hundreds of miles, have no interest in celebrating, and they too, sit still, back in the dark shadows of loneliness.


The Art Institute by Michael Fishman

If she’d been standing anywhere else, I wouldn’t have seen her, but there, with the spotlight reflecting off her hair, she was striking.

The docent was talking about southwestern art in words I didn’t hear. She was absorbed, taking notes as the docent spoke. We were in front of “Southwest Pumpkins”, a glorious still life with vibrant autumn colors. Any other day, any other time, I would have focused on the painting, the brushstrokes and technique, but today I was absorbed by her.

She stopped writing, turned her head toward me. She smiled. I exhaled and walked toward her.


Savouring the Southwest by Ann Edall-Robson

The horizon’s distant desert sky and craggy rocks meld the scene. Remote hues contrast the soft, comforting sandstone colours where the still-life clay objects pose. Their designs depict life from long ago, reminiscent of their uses. Tall, thin-necked vessels made to hold precious water. Thick-rimmed bowls, a sturdy addition needed to prepare food. The drying pot, sculpted with vertical cat eye openings, dried the treasured pumpkin. The important food staple artistically included, expressing the significance of a fruit whose parts are all edible. Silent strokes across a canvas recite a story of history in the Southwest.


The Next Leg by Norah Colvin

The distant mountains did a thumbs up as if measuring how far the moon had still to travel before they’d reach their destination. While this taverna was welcoming, not all were so obliging, and the desert could never be thought of as a friend. They thanked their host and gathered their belongings, including replenished canteens and knapsacks. Grasping their hands firmly, the host wished them a safe journey. He advised on signs to seek and others to avoid. They bade farewell, but then, before they left, they finger framed the scene, a memory to guide them on their way.


Pumpkin Dream by Bill Engleson

I’d like to sip from my pumpkin jug,
I’d like to drink from a mountain stream,
the place of my childhood starting to tug,
toying with my memory and what I’ve seen.

Walked in the mountains, the hills of my youth.
Camped in the forest, deep in the wood.
Prayed for enlightenment, a rivulet of truth,
a sense I was doing the best that I could.

I’d still like to sip from my pumpkin gourd,
taste the sweet water from a mountain stream.
slip into the valley, hear a comforting word,
Know that I’m living in a pumpkin dream.


Cinderella by Reena Saxena

Cinderella casts a benign glance at her envious step-sisters,

“You can have all that you want – the Prince and the glass slippers. My authenticity demands that I walk barefoot.”

“But walk where?” The sisters are stuttering at her new-found confidence.

“The power to convert pumpkins into pathways was dormant within me. I will walk towards my dream destinations, without a vehicle, if needed. And I don’t need a prince to grant me respectability by kneeling to propose, or marrying me.

Someone who shares my vision will extend a hand someday, maybe or maybe not … it doesn’t matter really.”


IT by Margaret G. Hanna

Sid tripped, staggered, regained balance and continued running, occasionally glancing behind. Yes, IT was still thumping along, gaining ground.

“Why’s IT chasing me? Just because I said IT’s face was hideous? That IT would scare kids?”

“Hide! I gotta hide. Where? There. Up those stairs. IT can’t climb stairs.”

Sid clambered up the stairs. They went on forever. He glanced behind. “No! No way! IT is right behind me!”


Sid sat bolt upright in bed, gasping, sweating. “Thank heavens, it was only a dream.”


IT sat in his doorway, leering.

No one could ever explain Sid’s disappearance.


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

September 12: Story Challenge in 99-words

I don’t know who had the worst day — me or the spider. It began with laundry in the basement and ended in battle for the sanctity of my Rodeo Room.

But first, I have to explain to you what a “rat’s nest” is.

When I was a kid, I had long hair that tangled despite the braids the adults made me wear. I swear my two grandmothers competed for who could braid the tightest (for the record, my mom’s mom Donna could alter my facial features with French braids).

It was my mom who had to comb out the mess I’d somehow made of my braids complete with tangles, hay, and horse snot. She’d grab at the debris with a thick comb and pull. Any knots with dislodged strands she discarded as a rat’s nest.

The tradition continued with my daughters who both inherited my baby-fine hair in thick, copious amounts. One wore her hair in ballet buns; the other allowed me to plaster her scalp in rows of tiny rubber bands. My son escaped the hairy rat race with buzz cuts. Between the three of us with tons of long hair, we regularly choked the vacuum rollers and clogged the bathroom plumbing. One daughter loved to brush her locks outside and make huge rats’ nests to give to the birds; the other buzzed her head like her brother.

To this day, rat’s nest remains a fond phrase. My hair is short and my children grown, but I can still collect masses of fallen hair when I sweep. Sometimes, a rat’s nest will form in the washing machine and adhere to a flannel shirt. I tell you this to set the scene.

Laundry is a basement activity. We live in an old three-story mining house built around 1910 on Roberts Street near the Quincy Mine on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The third-story stairs are now blocked as we filled the top floor with insulation and the second story is where our rooms are — the bathroom, Bird Farts Room (not my room, his), Rodeo Room (my dream sanctuary), and the Unicorn Room for breathing, writing, and office work. To do laundry, I carry my towels, bedding, or hamper down two flights of stairs and back.

In the basement, I hang delicates on a line, fold towels, return bedding upstairs, and the last task is to collect my clean clothes in the hamper. In the Rodeo Room, I dump my clothes onto my bed to fold, sort, hang, and put away. Something I appreciate about domestic chores is how complete the tasks can feel. When I’m overwhelmed, laundry can calm me. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Everything is neat, orderly, and in its place. A peace came over me as I began to sort and fold on this day.

Right away, I noticed a rat’s nest and chuckled. I don’t see many these days and I wondered if my son will come to know them as an expectant father. For fun, I flicked the rat’s nest from one item of clothing to the other as the pile dwindled. Once I tucked everything away, all that remained was a lavender-scented dryer sheet and a single rat’s nest. But when I tried to pick up the rat’s nest it moved. I froze. The mat of “hair” turned out to be a hairy basement wolf spider. I had been tossing Wolfric (my name for all the hairy spiders that live in the basement far below) from socks to underwear to t-shirts to jammies.

This spider had touched it all.

Wolfric didn’t seem amused. And I had a full-blown bodily reaction, all my muscles quivering like aspen leaves. Bravely, I scooped Wolfric into the dryer sheet and held it softly so as not to harm her. At the Rodeo Room door, I realized the wiley spider had crawled outside the sheet and was moving. I squealed, Mause came running up the stairs, and Wolfric jumped, scampering beneath a dresser in the hallway. No, no, no! Wolfric cannot live upstairs with me!

At this point, Todd wandered upstairs to see what all the commotion was. Mause shook because I did, and I pointed to the dresser and explained to Todd that one of the wolf spiders made it upstairs in my laundry hamper. Mause didn’t understand but she was not happy about the new flatmate either. Apparently, Wolfric had enough of my nonsense and headed downstairs on her own. And yes, I watched to make sure she made it.

This is why Rickety Cricket visits my dreams. The Insect Nation is calling me home. We are all interconnected beings and live in a constant cycle of life and death. We humans are good at blocking what we don’t want in our space too afraid to confront the idea that we are surrounded. Ants too close to the house? Call the exterminator. Grubs in the garden? Break out the pesticide. Spiders and flies in the house? Set off a bug bomb. Japanese beetles on the wall? Move. The Insect Nation wonders why we are so afraid of them when all they do is go about their purpose in life while we invent ways to annihilate them.

The first time I tended Rickety Cricket from dreams, I knew this insect to morph from cricket to praying mantis. In a Zoom session with Dr. Aizenstat at the Dream Institute, he had us go into a meditation and let a dream image animate. It was supposed to be a session on animals in our dreams, but I knew enough to not question why a Rickety Cricket showed up. The cricket became a bee and I grew small and the bee huge. During the shrinking, the bee asked, “Why are you so afraid when we are the ones as tiny as you are now?” The next animation was me on the Bee’s back riding through my front garden. I knew all the flowers by color and scent. We flew so fast that the hues melded into a flowing living painting. The space stretched as if I were speeding through a massive landscape and yet I never left the six-foot by eight-foot plot of garden.

Insect Nation showed me the beauty they witness in this world. Have you ever stopped to ponder what wonders they must see from their size and infiltration of spaces? What must it be to live in soil, to crawl through openings in moss, and to tuck into a flower head? Is it possible that Wolfric enjoyed my playful tossing until I realized the rat’s nest was alive?

I don’t want to shake at encounters with the insects around me. Let’s say I had the worst day because of my limitations. How do I overcome my physical and psychological reactions? Through dream tending to continue to encounter Rickety Cricket in dreams and animations. And to invite you all to write about Insect Nation to stir up the collective unconscious on what bugs us about bugs, and what beauty may lurk in our basements.

September 12, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the insect nation. You can focus on a particular insect or all insects. Is your story one of acceptance and understanding? Scientific knowledge? Or apocalyptic horror? Get bugged and go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 18, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

It’s Festa Time Collection

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

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

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

Food Is at the Center of All Celebrations by Sadje

In a country where opportunities for recreation are scarce, and our enjoyment is limited to eating, all our festivals revolve around food.

Be it a birthday, anniversary, graduation, promotion, or any other special occasion, we celebrate by eating.

The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is the one where food takes on a special significance as it comes after a month of fasting. People usually think that after abstaining from eating food whenever they wanted, eating on this holy day is mandatory. So we cook, entertain, and eat like there’s no tomorrow!

Predictably many have regrets about their actions the next day!


Festival for Everyone but Grandma by Mario Milizia

Instead of going to festivals, as a kid, we visited my grandparent’s (Mom’s parents) house.

Grandma cooked on both a small gas and a large, cast iron, wood-heated stove. Food included handmade macaroni and sauce created from her garden tomatoes.

Dinner lasted three hours. Mom delivered new dishes every fifteen minutes. After initially eating, the men surrounded a small black and white television, playing cards. Us kids played outside.

Occasionally, Grandma would say, “Mongiare.” Italian for eat. Everybody would nibble more.

After, Grandma ate quickly and then cleaned up. Nobody ever complimented Grandma’s hard work. It was just expected.


Pride and Prejudices by Hugh W. Roberts

Amid the vibrant fiesta in my town that once silenced love’s diversity, Johnny and I dared to be ourselves.

No longer afraid, we clasped hands and weaved through the colourful crowds of acceptance.

Together, we two young men danced under the moonlit sky while rainbow butterflies fluttered around us.

This fiesta was more than just a celebration; it was a declaration of our love over prejudice.

Embraced by cheers and applause, we finally kissed, the world around us fading to insignificance.

Our love was a beacon at that moment, guiding others towards acceptance and a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.


Brownies Idea Is a Winner by Sue Spitulnik

The conversation at the No Thanks was about raising money for the Irish Dancers. Mac said, “We have to come up with something no one else does for an annual event.”

Brownie looked at everyone. “Locally, we’ve already got an apple, grape, pumpkin, balloon, dogwood, lilac, and jazz festival. The only special food is grape pies. An’ they all sell the same junk food. The only thing we ain’t got is one for squash. Ain’t nobody gives it any credit.”

Mac’s eyes got big. “That’s it, we can have a squash festival.”

Brownie muttered, “Shoulda kept my trap shut.”


Family Fun by Norah Colvin

The celebration was progressing in the usual Festa fashion. The aunts huddled down one end, criticising and badmouthing anyone out of earshot, and even some who weren’t. The men propped up the bar ensuring they didn’t miss their fair share of the free-flowing beer. The children played spotlight outside, relishing the lack of supervision. Any young people whose protests had failed wished they were somewhere, anywhere, else. Including Josie. The stranger, who’d become more intriguing with the aunts’ warnings, was totally self-absorbed. Seems the cool exterior was just that. Nothing of substance below. Now what was Josie to do?


Eclipsed (Part I) by D. Avery

I made a new friend at school. She’s interesting. Her family celebrates blue moons with a traditional feast.

‘Just bring yourself’.

And here I am, sole guest. Her grandmother pinches my cheeks. Then my arms. ‘Stop, you’ll bruise her’. We all laugh. Her mom and dad, both wearing aprons, begin honing knives. Through the kitchen window I see the moon rising.

“Thank you again for having me,” I say. They smile, say it wouldn’t be a celebration without me. Then my arms are held, my throat neatly slit. My blood is caught in their traditional way. The moon fades.


The Curse by Simon

Dear God,

It is enchanting. To sit at the top of the roof, alone in the dark, with moon light. It is a special day, festa night is here, it’s an eye treat to view the rocket works decorates the sky.

Villagers pass on their wishes to you, so do I. You heard my wishes right?

If you give me opportunity, I am going to waste it. In reality magic doesn’t exist, I am matured enough to know that part. But please do a magic spell, and remove my curse called “FEAR”, because that’s my only barrier of all.


Alive and Dancing? by JulesPaige

summer ends
long weekend

Wind blows the white puff clouds across the blue sky; birds fly, leaves yellow, fall.

Some celebrate the return of students to school. Some have been lucky enough to have a family vacation down by the shore. Building sand castles, watching seagulls and maybe dolphins jump in the sea. For others the day passes as a birthday, some have cake, others toast.

On the table in a jar, summer blossoms celebrate the gift of the sun with pinks, purples, yellows, reds, whites and greens. Everyday is a fiesta when we can live life fully.


Squiggly by Bill Engleson

He was that kind of kid. Always squirming, like he had fleas. While he may have had fleas- okay, I know he had fleas- what he mostly had was beer drinking parents.
Serious beer drinkers.
Squiggly spent a lot of time outside, day and night.
My folks often brought him home to us.
He’d be crying, saying ‘beer…they drink all that beer.’
It wasn’t a secret.
‘Why?’ we’d ask.
‘Cause of Iceland.’
Squiggly’s folks were from Iceland
Iceland had banned beer during WW1.
His parents opposed that.
They went overboard with their protesting.
They desperately wanted Beer Emancipation Day.


Eclipsed (Part II) by D. Avery

My mother was surprised when the school called her, asking why I was absent. “She’s probably with friends,” my mom had replied. Good old Mom, the only person who would guess that. The school notified the cops.

Now that my whereabouts are unknown, I’m finally getting noticed at school. Everyone talks about me. The new girl just shrugs at their questions, and they quickly move on. Smart.

Yeah, she played me. Still… I had a friend and joined a real family in their traditions.

It felt good. That feeling only happens once in a blue moon. Truly worth celebrating.


The Spoiler by Dianne Borowski

The highlight of every Labor Day weekend was our trip to the church’s annual festival. It was hot and crowded that Sunday. The food was gross. Greasy spaghetti and rock hard bread had my stomach churning.

“Ma,” I yelled, “My stomach hurts!”

“Go to the john,” she said.

I didn’t make it to the stall. Some lady started screaming. Someone said, ” She’s Betty’s kid. Go get her.”

Ma slapped me hard and dragged me back to the table. We left.

The kids were crying and smacking me, telling me you stink. At home I got slapped again. Dang! I hate


Eclipsed Part III by D. Avery

Relatives I’d hardly seen while I was alive come to my funeral service, then afterwards gather in the back room of Gustav’s for food. I wonder who’ll pay for that.

Mom’s a wreck, as confused as she is sad. But what are you supposed to do when there’s no body? It’s been weeks, and I am gone without a trace. There’s no suspects, no leads, but Mom says she knows I’m dead, not missing.

My friend and her family aren’t here. I get that.

But that one time, short-lived as it was, I was the life of the party.


Flowers Always Mean Celebration by woundedcat

I was walking along an ordinary street when I suddenly came across a cluster of flower shops selling beautiful bundles of flowers with splashes of the brightest colors that contrasted against the dingy sidewalks and storefronts. In addition to the colorful array of sunflowers, daisies, carnations, and roses, there were life-sized stuffed animals and balloons. Some shops even had music and strobe lights to get shoppers in festive moods. It seemed that a banquet hall or a club was nearby, but as I walked a bit farther down the block, I saw it. A cemetery was right next door.


Say You Love Me With Flowers by woundedcat

Stone statues of Mother Mary were hovering over the departed to keep a watchful eye over the graves to ensure the spirits had escaped the earthly bodies only to be sent directly to heaven. The graves possessed built-in vases where flowers could be displayed as a sign of the life that was now buried under the engraved marble bearing their names. Indeed, the cemetery didn’t smell of death, as the fragrance of roses wafted in the air to fill visitors with an uplifting feeling of life. The streaks of color cropping up throughout the cemetery were symbols of lives celebrated.


Night That Never Ends by Simon

The shore reflects the festa nights enchanting view. It was loud, people were cheering, celebrating, praying, wishing to God.

While the hands of this little girl worked hard on making a statue out of sand. Her little fingers made it’s best to make a statue in memory of her late Mother. She kept the photo in front of the statue and hugs it tight closing her eyes.

Her tiny tears recalled the nights she spent watching the fireworks with her mom. She passed a note in the sea “Those were the days I wished it will never end Mom.”


Festa by Reena Saxena

“Did you celebrate all these ‘Days’ in your childhood? Now, it looks like I’m not a good son, if I don’t write a message to my father on Father’s Day.”

“What gets more ridiculous than that are love letters to your spouse or live-in partner published on social media on an anniversary or something? Oh, boy … you do live under the same roof, don’t you? Or do you connect only through Facebook?”

Anna echoes my opinion on the subject.

“So, how do we plan to celebrate our anniversary?”

“Right where we are … but with a digital detox.”


The Little Brown Bell by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s Festival of Poop takes place every August for the honour of winning the Dung Bell, a pat shaped trophy gifted by first winner, Sue Rage. When she retired because of a growing allergy to the obese flies (known locally as ‘walks’), Fi Cees took her mantle. Fi was a monumentalist, whose herd of Charolais deposited enormous sculptural turds that rivalled all waxworks for their facial as well as fecal accuracy. As soon as the winner was chosen, the MC closed the Festival by asking:

What’s brown and sounds like a bell?

To which the crowd chorused:



Pepe’s Sprout Shout Out by D. Avery

“Pepe LeGume!”

“Ello, Keed. Ello Pal. I am hopeeng you weel join me and Logatha for a fair la fête.”

“Fair la fête? You bet! What’re we celebratin?”

“The upcoming birth of our leetle bambeano! Eet ees strange, no, how life imeetates art.”

“Thinkin yer bass-ackwards on thet, LeGume. Yer the mimesis.”

“Why must you eenseest on being my nemesis, Pal? And no, I announced our bakeeng bambeano before Mees Shorty announced her grand. Eet ees no coeencidence.”

“Hmmf. An now yer havin a festa.”

“Fair la fête. Eet weel be, how you say, artsy-fartsy.”

“Yer half right, LeGume.”


How Ya Bean by D. Avery

“Ernie, come here.”

“What d’ya need, Frankie?”

“Need anuther set a eyes on this potluck signup sheet fer the LeGumes’ shindig.”

“Looks full ta me.”

“It’s full all right. Pal’s makin Shorty’s western-style baked beans, so Shorty’s makin Kid’s New England baked beans.”

“What’s Kid bringin?”



“An beans— Jamaican jerk.”

“Didn’t know Kid was Jamaican.”

“What’re you bringin, Ernie?”

“Bringin a salad.”

“Good! Things is lookin up. What kinda salad?”

“Uh, was gonna bring my three-bean salad.”

“Ugh, this festa stinks!”

“It’s got pot-ential.”

“Heard Wanda will be there.”

“Yep. She’s bringin her signature dessert.”




Dancin an Prancin by D. Avery

“Hello Frankie! We’re here!”

“Tip an Top, loud an proud. You two are certainly a sight for a sore eye. Glad yer comin ta the LeGume’s fair la fête.”

“Wouldn’t miss a party!”

“The Lemmon brothers are the party!”

“Only thing’ll be better dressed than us’ll be Top’s roast turkey and my fresh garden salad.”

“And we brought our dancin shoes!”

“Dancin? I’m not sure if there’ll be dancin at a baby shower.”

“Ello, ev’ree one.”


“Dere weel be music. I weel tune up. How ees da menu comeeng, Frankie?”

“Think it’ll strike a chord with ya, Pepe.”


Ain’t No I In Festa by D. Avery

“Frankie, tank you for helpeeng weeth dees party for Logatha and our leetle bambeeano.”

“Way I see it, a young’un is cause fer celebration, Pepe. You an Logatha’ll have yer hands full, but we fictional folks’ll all pitch in. That bambeano a yers’ll have plenny a characters ta hep it along.”

“Eet takes a ranch, no?”

“Yep. Which’s why I wanna ‘spress ma thanks fer this here weekly festa at Carrot Ranch. Ev’ry week Ranchers from all over the world show up, bring new stories ta the page, they read, they comment.”

“Dey are de life of the party!”


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

September 5: Story Challenge in 99-words

It was inevitable. The carrot and the rabbit would join forces to do good in the world.

When I first met the artist known as TOJ, I also learned that Tammy Gajewski is a poet and was a prison guard. She owns Red Rabbit Studio and lives on Rabbit Bay on the south side of the Keweenaw Peninsula. After our first introduction and she learned of Carrot Ranch, we decided we’d “do something” together One Day.

Don’t you love One Days? Those moments when you realize that something you dreamed into existence is finally going to manifest in a tangible way?

TOJ had a heart to make nature and art accessible. Maybe it was all her years behind bars where she established a Leader Dog program and taught prisoners how to paint. TOJ kayaks Lake Superior, and bikes the backroads of the southside, something her prisoners could not do. Art and nature liberate the soul. The dual experience was something she wanted to make accessible.

Then, TOJ had a vision. Three years ago, a microburst hit the cedar bog behind her home and left a swath of downed trees. What if? TOJ began to dream about turning those trees into boardwalks across the glen. With the help of a friend who owned a portable sawmill, they worked an entire summer to clean the downburst, plane logs into lumber, and restore the bog. The next summer they built a winding plank trail through the woods, connecting her home on Rabbit Bay to a county gravel road behind her property. The trail was born.

All the time TOJ worked her land, she dreamed of an event where people would park on the county road and walk to her art studio through the cedar bog on a raised plank trail. It feels all at once, neolithic and new.

Two years ago, TOJ talked through her dream for an interactive art walk. I was excited because Canadian author, photographer, and Carrot Rancher Ann Edall-Robson had introduced me years ago to an intriguing artist collaboration in her community. In fact, her most recent submission to Voices and Visions 2023 features in a Canadian magazine. Ann put a seed in my dreamscape to One Day pair literary artists with visual artists. So, when TOJ pitched Red Rabbit collaborating with Carrot Ranch, I saw an opportunity.

Not only a chance to implement pairing 99-words to TOJ’s art but also to work with someone who shares my passion for accessibility. After all, Carrot Ranch exists to make literary art accessible 99 words at a time. Since then, TOJ and I have met numerous times to plan and implement over two years. It’s a joy to present the first-ever annual Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk.

While we are selling tickets locally to grow and sustain the event, we are also offering family discounts and scholarships so no one is turned away. We need to cover Porta Potty, signage, art supply costs, and continued development. We have local people donating refreshments, including a local Finnish artist who is famous for spreads and jams she makes from her garden. The trail will be strung with 20 works of art and their corresponding 99-word stories. Benches and stations will invite participants to reflect and create. They can submit a single-sentence reflection, haiku, or a 99-word story and paint rocks, driftwood, and coasters. All beneath the canopy of nature, surrounded by inspiration.

Where does the Carrot Ranch Literary Community come in? We get the chance to pair 99-word stories or free-verse to 20 of TOJ’s paintings. This is a community collaboration and an interesting way to involve literary artists beyond a small remote point of land surrounded by Lake Superior. Full disclosure — we are publishing a commemorative book to use to sustain the future of the walk. We plan to curate and publish the pairings, stories from this week’s challenge, and selected submissions from the participants.

If you want to participate in the pairing collaboration, please email me: wordsforpeople (at) gmail (dot) com to receive a photo of a painting to prompt a 99-word story or free verse.

If you want to submit this week’s response to the collection that will also go in the commemorative book, indicate your agreement to participate in the two temporary fields in this week’s form.

I know the Rabbit and the Carrot would be honored to showcase your writing talents in our community.

September 5, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that depicts the painting, “Southwest Pumpkins” by TOJ (from the introductory photo). Feel free to explore the nuances — do you focus on the art or seek a story? What vibes do you get? Who shows up to enter the image? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 11, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

The Weather Arrives 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 Box (Part I) by D. Avery

Red sat, legs swinging, staring at the box her mother had told her to leave alone.

Red once told her Grandma about overhearing her mother claim that red-headed children were difficult, impulsive. Grandma had clucked sympathetically and reassured Red that she was just a curious child, and curiosity was a sign of intelligence.

Red wanted to know what was in that box. Maybe it was from Grandma!

Red stood over the box and read. “Handle With Care… hmm.”

Red tugged until the lid sprang open with a woosh! Every sort of weather imaginable swirled out. What could go wrong?


The Box (Part II) by D. Avery

Red struggled to lower the lid again, but the wind and rain conspired against her efforts. Just as she was weakening, Grandma arrived and helped her close and latch the box, with all the weather back inside.

Red could only nod when her Grandma asked if she’d been curious. But then Red regained her courage and suggested that maybe they could extract just warm sunny weather, leaving the rest.

Grandma encouraged Red to think what might happen over time if there was only one kind of weather.

Grandma, while praying for balance and moderation, opened and emptied the box.


Weather’s Arrival by Duane L Herrmann

On the central steppes of the continent, where there are no barriers to wind, weather can change quickly. Wind can be still, or gale force. Change can arrive from either the Arctic or the Tropics during a day. Morning can have one pattern of weather and the afternoon, the opposite. Living here, farming, one learns to watch the sky and its clouds. Dark, dark clouds can roll over the sky in minutes. You learn to be ready to change plans, sometimes drastically, on a moment’s notice. Life is exciting and the sky is awesome and commanding! Come, you’ll see.


Storm Ciara by Sweeter Than Nothing

With a crack of lightning and a torrent of rain, my life as I knew it was over.

Storm Ciara charged in on a Sunday morning wild and uncontainable, it was terrifying, exhilarating.

But then, falling in love always is, isn’t it?

She knocked on my door dripping wet, the storm outside raged, she shivered but there was fire in her eyes.

I should have known then I was in trouble.

That weekend devastated me, I lost everything to the stormy sea.

I gained you.

Ciara my love, how aptly they named you.

It took everything, you gave everything.


Fall Cometh by Sadje

The raging bull, that summer is, has us all sweating and pleading for its swift departure. It stays here for most of the year, leaving a few months of cooler, more pleasant weather.

Fall, the lady with golden hair with tints of auburn and red. She is shy and hesitant to come and show her pretty face despite so many longing for her.

The delicate foliage announces her arrival, quietly and stealthily.

“Rejoice mortals for the heat has gone for a little while at least. Come out and enjoy the beautiful spectacle nature has created for you!”

She announces.


The Queen of Winter by Colleen Chesebro

I watched as the storm approached. The wind howled. Rain lashed the window, obscuring my view. Wait… is that an old woman standing under the trees? No one should be out in this wild storm.

I ran outside as a booming voice rang out. “I am the Cailleach Béara. I command the winds of winter to blow!” The woman raised her arms skyward.

I stopped, fear halting my progress. This was the Hag of Béara, a goddess who brought winter with her wherever she appeared. She turned into a corvid and flew off.

The Queen of Winter had arrived.


Fog 90 by Ann Edall-Robson

Looking out the window at the lazy snow flakes settling in the grass; at this time of year it might be snow or rain. Glancing at the calendar, she wasn’t surprised to see the moisture. A note written on today’s square told her precipitation was expected. Sure enough, the old ways her grandmother had ingrained in her held true once again. No need to listen to the radio, TV, or check an app to know if moisture should happen. Her weather report: record the foggy days, count out 90 days, make the note FOG90 in the appropriate calendar square.


Ruby, Our Ruby by JulesPaige

We called her a hurricane. So full of energy. Everytime she entered the room a friendly type of chaos would ensue. One day she would take us by the hand, lead us through the darkness of impending storms of disagreements of how and who should live where and when.

She came from us. We first whispered then shouted. Both amazed and proud. That smile from her lips that went across her face from ear to ear. Instinctively knowing that the future was her gift, all she had to do was engulf the present each and every single day.


Whether the Weather by Norah Colvin

Thunderous footsteps echoed down the hall, announcing her arrival.

“Look what the storm blew in.” One aunt grimaced, nodding towards the figure in the doorway.

“I’d say she brought the storm with her. As usual,” said another, noticing the flashing eyes and dark clouds encircling her wild red hair.

“Don’t worry,” said a third. “It’ll just be a storm in her E-cup.”

“Don’t you mean teacup?” asked Josie.

“No,” said the third, patting her chest. “Elsie’s always too big for her E-cup.”

The aunts laughed, but as Elsie stormed towards them, their laughter evaporated as quickly as a sunshower.


The Rain by Simon

She waits for the dark clouds in the sky.

As it comes closer, as the rain drops touches her cheek, before the rain, her tears comes harder than rain. While everyone jumps in joy, she let her all worries out in tears like the pounding rain.

She wants to talk, she needs a shoulder, she needs a hug, but all she has now is the rain. Like the dark cloud is destined for her, it hears her silent cries, it tastes her silent tears, and it rains harder as if the rain decides to last until she is fine.


It’s Wally the Weatherman by Dianne Borowski

Hi There! I’m Wally the Weatherman for WWSSIN in Massapoeka, Wisconsin. Better get your raincoats and umbrellas ready because it’s gonna be raining cats and dogs in the morning. A storm front is moving West over the Great Lakes.

Chance of precipitation is 99.9%.

And now a word from our sponsor, Andy’s Used Cars, located at Fifth and Grange. You can’t get a better used car anywhere else in town.

Now remember this, Wisconsinites, winter is on the way and “Cheese it’s cold here.”


The Seasons to Be Cheerful by Geoff Le Pard

When Little Tittweaking experienced unusual weather patterns, meteorologist and sex therapist Hildegard Downpour suggested these were caused by its tendency to enjoy microclimaxes. A study showed what began in a drizzle of expectations, as the isobars filled with punters tended to fade into short sharp bursts of what ifs, that gradually gave way to longer periods of sunny-side dispositions, though occasional depressions could bubble up unexpectedly. Bands of perhapses would presage spells of maybes with more intense pulses of regrets in the early evenings. Longer spells of disappointments might be followed by intemperate stormings out amidst blizzards of misgivings.


Warning by Reena Saxena

“But there’s no water anywhere around here”
I exclaim on seeing a ship anchored to the threshold of my front door.
Thankfully, it’s a dream.

“Trevor, will you stop watching news and help me in the kitchen?”
“The city is getting flooded. Didn’t you hear thunder last night?”
“I saw a ship…” I stop in my tracks to see water trickling inside from the main entrance.

No, I didn’t hear the thunder. But I heard a warning and ignored it.
The ship announced the arrival of water. It needs to sail.

And we need a safe place to move.


Stormy Dissonance by Michael Fishman

Monk’s soft piano was the perfect accompaniment to the slow chopping of the watercress to top the salad.

The rain started softly, barely noticeable over ‘Round Midnight. It picked up when they finally sat down to eat.

The thunder cracked. Half past dinner. Lightning.

Then several quiet minutes while they focused on the food.

“It’s very good.”

“Thank you.”

“A new recipe.”


The conversation was stale. Cold as hail. Windy words thin as the braciole, dry as the chianti. The air was electrified, ready to ignite into flame.

A long peal of thunder and a torrent of rain.


The Orphan by D. Avery

All they ever did was talk about the weather. Wet or dry, warm or cold; how severe was it going to be; how long would it last? No matter the weather at any given time, it wasn’t enough or it was too much. Querulous predictions and constant complaints was the language of this village.

I tried to get the white-haired couple that raised me to speak of other things. But on the matter of where I’d come from they were quiet as snow on a windless night.

I left, a rainbow my only map, the sky brightening before me.


The Final Breaths of Summer by Hugh W. Roberts

Amidst the flags, my town celebrated love, welcoming the weather’s arrival that marked the final breaths of summer. Hearts bloomed like the June flowers.

Couples, regardless of gender, held hands, their love as natural as the warm sun that had kissed their cheeks.

But, like people, the weather could be erratic.

A sudden storm darkened the sky, raining on the love. But as resilient as a rainbow after the rain, love persisted.

Together, we weather life’s disruptions, proving that love knows no bounds, no matter the storm. It always shines as brilliantly as the sun emerging from the clouds.


The Coming Storm by Sassy

He sat on the rocking chair on the front porch knowing that the storm would hit at some point but still he sat just rocking away. He knew he could have avoided it altogether by choosing to leave before impending doom came but still he sat rocking and going no where. For far too long, he’d been comfortable, complacent really, and unwilling to do anything to shore up his world or leave it behind. Perhaps there was some denial there as well, denial that the big storm would never happen, never actually hit him. Oh, how wrong he was.


Brownie’s New Nickname by Sue Spitulnik

When the door of The No Thanks opened, Scottie said, “Crap, here comes the weatherman.”

Mac asked, “How did Brownie become the weatherman?”

“I call him that because he always has a smile on his face, just like a forecaster, but you don’t know if his temperament will be sunny, cloudy, or close to a tornado.”

Mac started chuckling and tried to escape to his office.

Brownie noticed Mac’s attempted departure and shouted, “What, I’m not good enough for a hello today?” His smile never changed, but he sounded angry.

Mac turned, “Howdy, you old grump.”

Everyone laughed together.


Unintentioned Art by Kerry E.B. Black

Her friends “ooh’ed” and “ahh’ed,” touching Selene’s freshly clipped and dyed hair. “It’s called peacock,” she explained as they fanned the feathery style from nearly purple to a copper, with blue surrounding all.

They grouped together, a knot of feminine fun strolling the outdoor art festival. While they admired the art, thunderclouds rumbled. “Hope it passes,” Selene expressed, but alas, the clouds disgorged. Rain trickled through Selene’s hair, pulled pigments, and ran in staining, blue rivulets.

The girls sought shelter. There, they pointed. “Selene, your dye bled.” “You look like a pictish warrior!” “No, she’s a work of art.”


Unexpected Weather by Ruchira

“Mom, it’s raining stones outside, and I have bruises all over,” Jules exclaimed as she entered the house, holding her head and examining her arms.

Curious, her Mom asked, “Raining stones? In sunny California?” She quickly looked out the window and saw a hailstorm.

The wind was forcefully throwing ice balls, creating a sound similar to throwing stones when they hit the ground.

“Oh my, I never thought I’d see this kind of weather on our side of the country. And to think I pay high taxes for sunny days! This must be due to Global Warming,” she fumed.


Airy Rain by woundedcat

I wake up, and I can’t even hear the rain. Although the rain in this area comes down in varying degrees and intensities, it vanishes as soon as it appears. The clouds move quickly overhead along with the showers they bring with them. This might force me to take a pause in my day, but it barely interrupts my planned activities. The sun behaves like the clouds’ companion, appearing in tandem with the rain, or follows it soon after to dry up the mess that’s left. The day ends as it starts, just to repeat itself the following dawn.


Unsure by Mario Milizia

When the rain began, it made our dreams possible. Last year, the drought killed our crops and bank account.
When the rain came down harder, we danced in it, jumping, and splashing in newly formed puddles.
But the rain didn’t stop.

The welcome rain became streams running down neat rows of corn. The streams washed away soil, exposing our crops to failure again. The skies darkened. Tornadoes were on the way.

We grabbed blankets, and ran for the storm cellar, as the barn roof ripped away.
Jackie, shivering next to me, asked, “Can we afford to rebuild?
We prayed.


Late Arrivals by D. Avery

Heads bent, they approached her house, looked over their shoulders before knocking tentatively on her door. Cold rain whipped them while they waited.

She stood impassively in the doorway, did not greet them.

Finally, one among them spoke. “Please. Please, Mother Nature. Stop this intolerable weather.”

“It’s destroying everything,” another said. “Not just our buildings; the very land is being swept to sea.”

“Or burning up,” said another. “Droughts and wildfires.”

“Help us. Get the weather back under control!”

Mother Nature shook her head sadly. “You humans unleashed forces that put Weather beyond my powers.” She shut the door.


Red Rain by Joanne Fisher

“We need to get inside quickly!” One of our group said in alarm.

I looked up and saw the black clouds coming in. They were swirling chaotically and approaching fast. We ran to the shelter and got indoors just as the rain started falling. I looked out at the rain. The red rain. Slowly the world turned to crimson.

We were trapped here until it stopped. If you went out in it, you would get covered in burns that would heal slowly.

I stood there, looking out, wishing the world would go back to how it used to be.


Bass Note by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Shuffle ‘cross the kitchen, sharp drop to hardwood chair.
Looks like no break, no midnight magic to slake my thirst.
Skin crackles painful, radiates heat.
How long has it been?

Sun sets, no ease with darkness.
Deep pull on southern bourbon.
Radio crackles resistance, then clears.
Stand, sway, bare feet brush worn oak planking.
A call to communion.

Bass note rattles foundation.
Wind cuts straight through screen doors, front to back.
Rooftop patter twists to muscular hiss.
Skin rises to meet the rain.
Step out into the yard, embrace the skyborne lover.
Cat looks on with green gimlet eyes


Flame-out by Bill Engleson

She sidles up to me at the corner. I’m waiting for the light to change. Suddenly, there is this fleshy flounder slinking into the back of me, tilting like we’re in a crushed tandem bike and itching to be merged.

I glance back, see the massive swirl of crazy red hair, draped all around her, down to the ground of her, feel the heat of her, hand-on-the-stove-top-element heat of her, burning my matter, the depth of me, frozen in fire, waiting for the light, that damn light that stays red, burns into my eyes.

And then the sun explodes.


Blowin In the Wind by D. Avery

“S’matter Kid? Why’re ya stormin aroun?”

“Shorty sure dreamed up another tough challenge prompt.”

“Jist do yer best, Kid. Don’t matter weather or not ya come up with a story.”

“Har-har, Pal. Punny. My mind is too foggy fer this.”

“Yer thinkin’ll clear, you’ll be right as rain in time fer the collection. Shift, Kid, it’s weather. It always arrives, one way or anuther. An you know how it often goes, doesn’t rain but it pours. Ya might git flooded with ideas.”

“Might suffer from drought too.”

“Might blow us away with yer weather yarn.”

“Hope I do, Pal.”


Kid turned ta the Poet Tree by D. Avery

a natchral weather channel
tuned ta the sun, each leaf a solar panel

Noticed if the leaves turn tipsy
an branches b’gin ta sway
wind storm’s aheadin our way

But thet tree is deeply rooted
thrives on rain an melted snow
yep, takes all kindsa weather
ta make the Poet Tree grow

Kid climbed thet tree
an Kid’s fog begun ta lift
looked aroun, an counted all the gifts

Fer on the Ranch the sun always shines
‘cept when ya need shade or rain
Kid vowed, then an there, ta never more complain.


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

August 29: Story Challenge in 99-words

Two massive tundra swans rest upon the dark waters of Boston Pond near my daughter’s farm. The nesting parties of the northern hemisphere have ended for 2023 and migrators are leaving their breeding grounds to overwinter elsewhere.

The merlins, falcons, and osprey have left the Northwoods of Michigan and Wisconsin. The sandhill cranes, dabblers, and divers are gathering to take their leave, too. Everyone with feathers has either fledged or molted. With the birds sporting their duller non-breeding colors, it’s time for the leaves to stand out.

And celebrate. It’s festa time!

When I was a child in Old Californio — okay, I’m not that old, but I did grow up in one of the last holdouts of vaquero culture — the Azorean Portagees practiced celebrations called “festas.” They were religious festivals associated with the Cult of the Holy Spirit, a sect of Catholicism going back to the fourteenth century and linked to Franciscan monks. Today, the Azores and small pockets of buckaroo country in the western US (parts of California, Nevada, and southern Idaho), continue the tradition.

Festa foods are among my favorites, a tradition my coming grandchild will one day know. Originally, the communities gathered all their soup, sausage, bread, and milk. Cattle were butchered and the sopas prepared. In my family, the beef chunks were cooked in a vat of red wine with onions, garlic, and spices then served over chunks of San Francisco sourdough bread with fresh mint. When we lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I used to harvest wild mint for festa soup we called sopas.

My kids grew up on festa foods, and we all lamented when we moved to Minnesota where there is no linguica. That’s the sausage. It, too, is made with red wine and spices. While the pinnacle of best food ever has been linguisa and eggs, Vermont introduced me to linguisa and lobster. Oh…my… Another festa sausage remains rarer — we called it marcella, but I don’t know if I’m spelling it correctly. It could be called marsala for (you guessed it) red wine. I recall my grandmother putting red wine in every Azorean recipe from rabbit marinade to jerky. My grandparents made marcella, using fresh pig blood. It’s blood sausage made with wine, garlic, and spices. My eldest daughter, Allison, will get to try it when she visits the Azores in November.

November will be the month of festas for my family and we kicked it off in August.

Allison and I drove to southern Wisconsin this past weekend for a baby shower my son, Kyle, and his wife, Leah, hosted. It was an elegant affair and they were the fashionable couple, the mother-to-be in a Grecian seafoam green dress and the father-to-be in a buff linen suit with matching green gingham shirt. It was a luncheon with an open bar (my son bartender through six years of college) and neither parent had anything alcoholic. Which might be why we didn’t have festa foods.

What a joy to be in my son’s life as he’s embarking on fatherhood. I’m excited, but I’m more excited to watch my son grow with his child. It feels like a gift. Driving back, I realized it was also a gift to have travel time with Allison. We did arrive home to the Keweenaw late and she was expecting to harvest her flowers for markets. I told her I’d help her if she delayed. The next day we harvest flowers together. Her husband, Drew, who had been in the fields or pack-shack all day took a break by grilling and reading. I was invited to feast, or festa, with them afterward.

And yes, there was red wine served with zucchini, poblanos, mojo peppers, tomatillos, and local beef sausage.

I’m wondering what you dreamers and writers will catch from “festa”? What celebratory foods or rituals do you still find comfort or delight? What are the origins of festivals you’ve attended? Go tend your stories and if you chase a white calf down a rabbit hole, remember, it’s all about connecting to your creativity as literary artists.

August 29, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a festa. It can be any festival, celebration, or use of the word. Is it food-related or an event? Is it an object or a shout-out? Who is involved and why? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

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

Journey to Home 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.

Mental State by woundedcat

Home is a state of mind for a vagabond like myself. When people say, “Where is your home?” they usually mean a physical location filled with material things such as a chair or a laundry basket. I suppose it’s also where you’re supposed to eat and sleep, but homeless people also do these things. As you can tell, I’ve never really had a home that I could be proud to say to someone, “This is my home.” When you don’t have an anchor such as this, you tend to wander, perhaps endlessly, for something that feels like a home.


Home by Sweeter Than Nothing

“For the night is dark and lacking bus stops.”


“Nothing,” Sarah snuggled closer into Simon’s armpit, stealing all the warmth she could get.

He dropped a kiss on her forehead, “Who’s idea was it to go backpacking without checking the transport times?”

She shrugged guiltily, “It adds to the adventure, plus, I’m not in any hurry to get home.”

The couple carried on their slow march down the empty highway, arms wrapped around each other.

Simon thought back to the times they had shared together these past few weeks, “I already am home,” he said, squeezing her tighter.


Home by Simon

My car moved at 40 mph, after 11 hours of continuous drive, My Car had entered my forest.

From there, there were no roads, I drove at my own pace. Soon my gas will empty. There are no gas stations nearby.

I came here to get stuck. With my old friends, I ran the rat race in a populated city where I gave up my race, my identity, my language and my nature.

It is time, 37 years in an illusion world. Whatever years I am left with, I will be here with my aged friends, nature, MY HOME.


Going Home by Sadje

Retracting her steps, the journey home was perhaps the most natural yet the hardest decision she had taken to date.

Home beckoned, and memories asked to be awakened and relived. But…..

She had not been in touch with her parents in a long while. Since she left home at eighteen, rebelling against the laws laid down by her father.

Like a bird, she wanted to return to her nest. To hug her parents tightly and to say that they were right…. And that she was right too! She had achieved what she desired in life.

Tentatively she knocked softly.


Hiraeth for Hound by E.A. Colquitt

When at last she travels to the east, a part of her will remain there.

Where? That quiet place, at the feet of the western woods.

North no longer exists… just as it was. The old green view over the sea is blocked by buildings; there is now no glimpse, even, of the farmhouse jutting from the crest of the hill like the roots of the eastern fells.

On the southern side, this old collie dozes. Yet through the trees, the puppy turns the corner at the end of the path…

She spots the steading. She bounds for home.


Home for Christmas by Joanne Fisher

Danielle returned home for Christmas. It had been years since she had been back. When she had come out as gay, her family had disowned her. Yet slowly over time there had been a thaw in the ice of their relations, and now she had been invited back to the family gathering. It had surprised her and at first she decided not to go, but then she had her mind changed.

Danielle stood on the porch with her girlfriend Rachel holding hands as she knocked on the front door. There was a long wait, and then the door opened…


Funding Failure by Kerry E.B. Black

After celebratory evening reveries, fellow students remained abed while Cindy set off. Fog ringed the campus, barely-penetrable, intent on protecting Happy Valley. “A modern-day Brigadoon,” she thought, though she hoped when the time came, she’d be able to return.

She turned up the radio, bobbing her head along with her favorite artist, though her fists gripped the steering wheel with all her newly-minted licensed might. She steered carefully, afraid she’d careen off the mountain. Once she crested the apex, daylight would burn the fog from the road. Then it was two hours to home to regroup and reconsider life choices.


Home by Dianne Borowski

Home is not always a happy place to be. Pa worked the mines. He would come home dirty, tired and cranky. If dinner wasn’t on the table he would holler. I would hold my breath, hoping Pa would calm down. Sometimes pots on the stove would end up on the floor and we kids would scatter in every direction, covering our ears. The storm always passed.
Most times though, home meant good times. Pa died young. The mines took him. He worked hard for all of us. In that old house we learned the meaning of love.


Going Home by Ann Edall-Robson

The familiar turn off welcomes me not far from where I want to be. Singing to old favourites coming through the airwaves, the anticipation of my destination bounces through me as I navigate the ruts and pot holes. Two more cattle guard crossings before I continue northwest on the road flanked with aspens and evergreens. I can see the place in my mind. I’ll be greeted by the fenced pasture. In the distance, the hills will dance with colour on their journey to the mountains. This road never fails me. I can count on it to take me home.


The Dream That Goes Unnoticed by Meredith Caine

Here I am once again, a tear rolling down my cheek, as I close yet another door to a place that was supposed to be mine. Home, it’s the only thing I want. A sense of stay, a hug of safety, an echo of laughter up and down its halls. I just stand there, staring at the door as the emptiness sets in. Home fills the hole, it mends my broken. I long for the day I won’t have to leave, when this part of my life is over. When home is my right and not just a dream.


Slipping Away by Nancy Richy

My elderly mother stood by the window, her hand pulling back a section of curtain. “Mom, what are you doing up? It’s nearly 3AM.”

Without turning to look at me, she replied. “I’m waiting for my husband. He’s returning from the war and will be home any minute.”

I closed my eyes and sighed in resignation. One moment she was lucid, the next her mind clouded over like wintry days. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the truth again.

“Here, Mom. Lie down. Try to get some sleep.”

She closed her eyes as I silently left her room.


Remembering by D. Avery

Robert leaned his scythe against the granite post and joined his mother in the small cemetery.
This time his ma wasn’t by the stones of his younger siblings.
“You were just a little boy when my parents died. One after the other. And so young, really. They both taught me so much about life, but they didn’t teach me about growing old, or even about dying. Had to learn that from my own children. Do you remember them, Robert?”
“I remember, Ma. My grandparents and the children. Each of them died at home. With you by their side.”
“Robert, I’m sorry to burden you. I come out here to these handful of graves and feel sorry for myself…”
“We’ll always feel for them, Ma. It’s right to.”
They stood together looking across the fields to the mountains beyond.
“Dying soldiers all just wanted to go home,” Robert said softly.
She looked up at her son. “Heaven?”
“Home. Reckon they were too young to want anything more. I’d stay with them, talk about home until they passed.”
“How’d you know what their homes were like?”
“Didn’t. Only ever described Vermont. Sure hope heaven wasn’t a let-down.”
“Oh, Robert!”
Anna walked with Robert back to the house. “There’s chicken and dumplings for dinner.”
“I’m surely in Heaven.”
“I’m so grateful you made it home, Robert.”
“I won’t ever be able to forget what I saw. Never.”
“I know, son.”
“But I did some good, in the field hospitals. I’m studying up on doctoring, Ma. I’ll be working with Doc Robinson.”
“Stay away from his tonic!”
Robert laughed. “That’s why I’m studying with Queenie too.”
“Queenie? But she’s a…”
“She knows more about medicine than anyone around.”
Anna smiled to think how Robert might heal all kinds of wounds.


A Quilt Comes Home –True Story by Sue Spitulnik

Twenty years ago, I made a quilt for radio station WBEE’s fundraiser using T-shirts that each on-air personality had signed.
This morning, a listener knocked on the station door and gifted that quilt to Terry Clifford as a retirement present. I don’t know where the quilt has been, but today, it came home to a lovable lady who has given so much to the community for the last forty-five years. Terry will cherish all the memories it holds from the maker, past fellow employees who signed it with her initially, her time on the radio, and at WBEE events.


Where’s “Home?” by Margaret G. Hanna

Not much is left. The house is gone – vandals torched it years ago. The barn lists dangerously – a good prairie wind would finish it. Grass has overrun the yard and garden except for a defiant cluster of brilliant orange-red Oriental Poppies.
And yet . . .
I see Mom and me sitting on the porch swing, plotting and dreaming. I hear the tractor start up – Dad’s going out to finish seeding. Dale barks at my brother to toss the stick she just dropped at his feet.
No need to go “back home” when “Home” is always in my heart.


The Journey Home by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d followed their path through the woods, noting how they easily spotted treasures in flora and fauna. Taking only what they needed, they left the rest for future wanderers. Kills were merciful, no parts wasted. One carried firm seeds of three sisters, the other dreamed with moonstones and what might be created from them.
She hid under toadstools and rode the sky in mortar and pestle. She knew a hard world needs strong children. Keeping distant, but sending familiars, she was pleased with the results.
So when they arrived, she opened her door with a welcome waft of gingerbread.


She Went Before Him by Sassy

She’d been waiting for so long. She’d known she’d have to lay the path before he would brave the wilds. She’d known it for years having foreseen it in her dreams. It had taken her so long to get there herself, she’d wondered at times if he’d ever make it… But somehow he had by increments.

It was always when he feared losing her that he would take another step forward.

And she had usually been alright waiting but recently, her faith was shaken and shattered.

Until… Until she saw him on the horizon, moving toward home, toward her.


Far Enough by D. Avery

She looked across the breakfast table at him. “Do you remember what you told me, when we got married?”
“I told you you’d never travel alone.”
“There’s some place I want to go. Now.”
He didn’t trust himself to drive very far. “Where?”
“I want to go home.”
He blinked, looked around. Toast growing cold on the same plates they’d always had. Daily medications next to their juice glasses. “We are home.”
“I want to go on a journey. Back in time. With you.” She pulled a pill bottle from the pouch on her walker.
“Oh. Yes, I’m ready.”


La sua casa rifugio by JulesPaige

Grandpa had two homes. One was a hideaway up in the mountains. Or so it seemed. I don’t think he built the city home, but I know he built the hideaway home with the son from his first wife. I’m not sure what happened to her. My Grandma (mom’s mother) was his second wife.

The home had to be sold to care for my Grandma after Grandpa passed. His son wasn’t happy about that. My step-uncle wanted to keep that home for his own children to enjoy. Some dreams fade away.

that retreat
built by their hands; a


The Hearth Of The Matter by Geoff Le Pard

Dee Zaster feared bankruptcy of Little Tittweaking’s last bus service when the council set up as steam-powered segway concession. She tried offers, concessions and open bribery and was at her wit’s end. Finally she ran a door to door service that promised to ‘take you home to the heart of your family’. This caused dismay for chair of the zombie society, Fletch Eater who pointed out no one in his family had a heart and Dee accused Fletch of deliberately destroying her business. Violence was only just avoided when mediator Kat A’Strophe pointed out both parties were equally heartless.


In the Wind by Bill Engleson

There’s something gusting in the wind,
something sweet and low again,
something I knew way back when,
something I knew when I was young.

Can’t quite get it off my mind.
It’s tied so knotted to the line,
floating in memories that bind.
Home is calling me home again.

There’s something hanging in the sky.
Dawn is breaking on the fly.
Voices from the past wondering why,
why I don’t journey home again.

Can’t quite get it off my mind.
It’s tied so knotted to the line,
floating in memories that bind.
My home is calling me home again.


Leading the Way by Duane L Herrmann

When I was a boy I loved to go out to the pasture on the hill beside our house. There was always wind and sometimes the moon. As I walked the strange familiar landscape, I pretended I was the leader of a group of people searching for a home. I didn’t know who or where, but I was in front. That has never come true in that way, and probably won’t now that I’m past 70, but in another way – my writing may be doing that. Only time will tell long after I am gone. I may never know.


IN SEARCH OF HOME by Reena Saxena

One step forward, two backward but hundred go down
it feels more like quicksand than slippery ground.
Memories charm, but dizzy giant wheels
dim clear vision on many rounds.
Perspectives change; so do stories
I tell myself without sound.

When the sky is clear, yet it begins to rain
I dial a fairy, am accosted by a gnome
Passengers keep boarding; leaving the train
Dialects change; landmarks vanish; Google roams
Changing the map, reinstating milestones slain
Life’s actually a journey in search of home
let the apps say what they want
the journeys home have all been in vain.


Already There by D. Avery

“What’re ya doin Kid?”
“Workin on a song, Pal.

Home, home on the Ranch
where ever one’s got somethin ta say
though it’s preferred in zactly 99 words
writers from roun the world are welcome ta play

“What d’ya think?”
“Thinkin thet tune souns strangely familiar. Least ways, strange.”
“Says you. It’s where the prompt led. I’m already home, might’s well sing bout it.

A great place ta be, with its own Poets’ Trees
an a saloon always open ta all
we read here an write, both heavy an light
an the collections make me yell, Yippee to Y’all!


Allusions by D. Avery

“Seriously, Kid, where d’ya think this prompt’ll lead ya?”
“Kinda obvious, ain’t it Pal? Leads ta home. An fer me that’s Carrot Ranch.”
“Hmmf. Was hopin ya’d feel compelled ta make a journey. Ya’d have a home-comin ta write about. I’d git a break from ya.”
“Incredible idea, Pal. But nope, no way. I journeyed enough. Member, I set out last spring. The April 13 prompt? But all roads led me home. Ta the ranch.”
“Also recall ya kinda missed me Pal.”
“Anyways, Pal, I’m scared ta leave agin.”
“Read somewhere’s ya cain’t go home agin.”


Not So Prodigal Pal by D. Avery

“Don’t be askeered ta leave now an agin, Kid. The ranch’ll always be yer home, yer always welcome back.”
“I reckon. But I’ve seen ‘nough. ‘Nough ta know there’s no place like home.”
“Home is where the heart is Kid. But ya always ‘preciate it more once ya been away fer awhile.”
“Pal, if yer so fired up bout journeyin an returnin, whyn’t you head off?”
“Whut?! Whoa! I cain’t be leavin the ranch. I’m needed roun here.”
“Reckon Shorty could git along fer a bit without ya. I kin do more whilst yer gone.”
“That’s what skeers me.”


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