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Soldier, Prisoner, & Buttercup

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.

Soldier, Prisoner & Buttercup by Christine Bialczak

Jessie stepped off the bus into the dusty heat. Instantly his lips dried and his throat felt scratchy.  Walking into the station, Jessie looked around. The old guy at the counter looked up.

“Can I help you?”

“Sure, I’m looking for Merle.” The old guy stood up and Jessie noticed he was missing his right arm.  Bounding out behind him a golden lab ran at Jessie.

“Darn dog! Stay!”

Jessie caught the dog in his arms and smiled. “Hey, girl!”

“How do you know my dog?”

“I was her trainer, up at the prison. She must’ve recognized my voice.”

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An Exciting Invitation by Sue Spitulnik

“Tessa, remember Ben, the double amputee I worked with?” Michael asked. “He’s doing great now he’s paired with a yellow lab named Buttercup who was trained in a prison by a guy named James.”

“I didn’t know they released trainers’ names.”

“They don’t. The guys had a chance meeting after James got out when he recognized Buttercup. Ben and friends are building tiny houses for homeless vets in Kansas City and want to start a dog training school. Ben asked James to train more trainers. They want me to come talk about second chances.”

“I’m going too.”

“Excellent idea!”

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Pups for People by Annette Rochelle Aben 

Gail leaned over in her wheelchair and smiled at the furry little family. “Buttercup, you’re such a good mother! Your loving pups will one day mean as much to others as you mean to me!”

Gravel crunched under the weight of truck tires. Loretta was here. Gail couldn’t breathe. It was time to say goodbye. “Well, here they are, Loretta. Five enthusiastic recruits for the program. I’m sure the ladies who will train them will do as wonderful a job as you did with Buttercup!”

“Thank you, Gail. I get more out of this program than words can say!”

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Dog Days v2 by Scott Bailey 

Beautiful in her tight orange jumpsuit, Ramona introduced me to Buster. For the next three days at the prison, the two year old Yellow Lab listened intently as Ramona taught me the commands she’d spent two years teaching Buster in the Puppies and Prisoners program. When the training was over, we said our goodbyes and I headed home with Buster at my side. Probably five years later, there was a knock at my door. So I opened it and there stood Ramona. Busters’ tail nearly fell off from wagging it so hard. We all hugged and laughed out loud.

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When Blindness Isn’t a Disability Frank James

“I never imagined a trainer like you,” John James, Colonel retired said. His dog’s tail wagged as Malik Jones approached.

Jones smirked, “Never thought you had eyeballs.”

“They don’t work,” James laughed. “Thank you for releasing me from blindness.”

“T-bone did,” Jones replied. He looked down.

“Humility,” James said.

“Prison humbles a man. It’s why I train dogs for the blind,” Jones replied.

“Well, it helped you. My Freedom Team Foundation assists veterans like you. It reviewed your case, convincing a judge to give you another trial,” James said.

Jones collapsed, looking up. “This began when greed blinded me.”

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Buttercup by Hugh W. Roberts

“Good to see you back, James.”

“Have I missed much?”

“Nothing, apart from the 100-year war. We’d have lost if it were not for the secret weapon you trained while away.”

“I thought I recognised her.”

“Why did you name it Buttercup?”

“The prisoner I shared a cell with had a pet by the same name. I thought it suited her.”

“As you can see, I lost an arm and leg, but not in the war. I volunteered to be Buttercup’s victim. Now, tell us the secrets you learned of the human race while in one of their prisons.”

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Pay It Forward by Marsh Ingrao

James traveled in a time tunnel as the bus took him away. Two hundred dollars. He’d never held that much money. He smiled his thanks. “$215,” the kiosk at the bus terminal said. James’ hands shook. Hey, Buddy, just get out? How much you short?” “Fifteen,” James said. Parents dead, no way to meet girls in solitary. “Thanks, man, I’ll…” “Pay it forward.” James nodded unsure what to say. The bus pulled into a darkened parking lot of a deserted Iowa gas station. “Would Aunt Sally accept a call from her brother’s bad kid?” James looked for a payphone.

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Yes, Man to a Nomen by JulesPaige

James exited the bus in Paulina, Iowa and was confronted by a man filling his car for gas. Frank stood, apparently on false legs. He was confident and strong, which was more than what James was right now after leaving prison. Frank stood filling his truck, his dog poked his head out. James whispered; “Buttercup?” Who then ran to Jim as he knelt to pet the dog. Frank questioned with his eyes and James explained; I trained her. “You did good!” Frank said, adding; “Want to train more?” Jim’s grin was a positive answer. “I’m James” “Get in, Jimmy!”

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Flutter of Hope by Michael Fishman

James woke to something warm on his cheek. He’d fallen asleep again on the sidewalk outside of Donaldsons’. He opened his eyes, blinked hard. The smiling Lab knocked over the HOMELESS sign on James’ lap in her haste to say hello again. “Buttercup?” “She knows you.” James looked up, saw a tall man with prosthetics where his left arm and leg used to be. “I trained her. I—” “Inmate?” “Was. Sometimes maybe still am. Vet? “Iraq. Buttercup, she saved my life.” James swatted a tear. The man reached down. “Let me give you a hand up, pal. You hungry?”

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Sunny by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Sergeant Jan Mathers? It’s good to meet you.” “Same here.” I reached out with my one good arm and shook his hand. For a newly released inmate, John Tyler held himself confidently. Sunny, my support dog, whined at my side. “It’s okay girl, you remember him, don’t you?” Tyler locked eyes with the golden lab. “After Iraq, I never thought I needed help, but I’d lost more than just an arm. I’m thankful you trained her. She saved my life.” Tyler grinned. “She saved my life, too.” “You start at the pound Monday, Tyler. Don’t be late.” “Yes ma’am.”

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The Measure of a Man’s Best Friend by Chel Owens 

The Greyhound halted. This was where $200 took James. He disembarked, shouldered his prison-issued backpack, and read the station’s name: Kum & Go. “Here to rob it?” James swung to see a man by a pickup; opened his mouth, then shut it. The man had no legs. The truck had a dog. -But not just any dog. “Buttercup!” The yellow lab hurtled out and licked him, desisting at her master’s call. James had trained her in prison, as a service animal for a wounded soldier. James looked up, and both men saw each other -clearly- for the first time.

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More Than a Number by Duane L Herrmann 

James loved dogs. He’d had one as a pet – for a few days – until his dad shot it. He learned not to cry. He learned cruelty at home and was sent to prison for it. In prison, he could have a dog. The dog made him human, teaching love, acceptance, and bonding. The dog respected James as no human ever had. The dog demonstrated respect and obedience. James felt different, but good. The dog was passed on to help others who could not help themselves. James trained another. Eventually, James was released, more whole than ever before.

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Playing Ball by Geoff LePard

When Ron Precarious left the Army, having lost his left testicle in an accidental conflagration caused by some malfunctioning self-immolating underwear that were part of his brother Tom’s initiation ceremony as Little Tittweaking’s self-appointed Demonic Representative, he was happy to see Tom jailed. Tom waited by the prison gates. Ron pointed at the terrier with two additional heads attached to its neck. ‘Well? How’s he going to fix this? Tom unclipped the dog’s lead. ‘Find Uncle Ron’s ball, Cerberus!’ In a puff of smoke Cerberus disappeared. ‘You sure you can trust him?’ ‘Better the devil you know…’

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Saying Bye to Buttercup by KL Caley

He buried his face into the soft golden fur and let out one slow sob, hoping against hope the other prisoners wouldn’t hear. Another excuse for a beating was the last thing he needed. He looked into buttercup’s large brown eyes and felt his heart tear. He had always known he would only have her a short while, that was the point of the Puppies Behind Bars program, yet saying goodbye was harder than he had realised it would be. He finally had someone in his life that understood what it was to give unconditional love. He’d miss her.

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Rescue Dog by Anne Goodwin 

Everything she loved was taken from her. So, when the cell door closed, she resolved never to love again. She wouldn’t love the puppies she trained as support dogs for disabled veterans. Hell, she only did that job to expedite her release. Once out, she refused to love the freedom. Perhaps that’s why she got in the car with the mean-eyed man. And his golden retriever that smelled like one of hers. She refused to care when he pulled a knife and unzipped his fly. But when he grabbed her clothing, the dog bit his arm and she ran.

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Far From Prison by Gary A. Wilson

“Buttercup?” The soldier, veteran and just-released felon met the dog’s eyes. “How are you here?” Expecting a small town far from prison, the bus had left him at the midnight neon lights of this dusty gas station surrounded by corn fields. Apparently – this is the town. A pickup had pulled in. Buttercup jumped out on seeing him. He knelt, “Come here girl – there.” He’d trained her for the Dogs for Veterans project in prison. Her owner, with prosthetic legs and a captain’s insignia jacket approached. He instinctively stood and saluted. “At ease. Soldier—how do you know my dog?”

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Dog Days by Scott Bailey

Skinny, inked, mid-forties and incarcerated, Ramon introduced me to Buster. For the next three days at the prison the two year old Yellow Lab listened intently as Ramon taught me the commands he’d spent two years teaching Buster in the Puppies and Prisoners program. So impressed was I with Ramon, I told him to write me next year when he gets out, I can help him with a job. Six months later the warden calls me, says Ramon died. Prison gang payback for something or other. I didn’t tell Buster about Ramon dying, but I think he knew.

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Joint Custody Bill Engleson

“He’s coming, buddy. Your old friend. Love it! Yeah, he’s a good boy. That got your tail wagging. Here let me really give that old chewie a toss.” Bailey gets his balance in check and wings it high over the swings. Little Girl is pumping hard. I scoot around her just avoiding her return descent. I remember him. Within that space, I became a helper. We were as one, Jimmy and I, until I was sent here. Got the chewie. And what’s that? It’s him. Coming ‘round the side of the house. No high walls. All my people together.

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Peeling the Labels by Doug Jacquier

“I’m sorry about you being a cripple for your country, Greg,” Harley said to the veteran.

“We don’t say that anymore, Harley, we say ‘person with a disability’. But thanks and I’m sorry about you having been a prisoner.”

“We don’t say ‘prisoner’ anymore. We say ‘person who is incarcerated’ or, in my case, ‘was’.”

“Anyway, about that dog you trained for me. It’s the thought that counts and I appreciate it and we get along really well, but all he seems to want to do is escape.”

“Yeah, I did that deliberately, so you could follow his lead.”

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As Far as a Prisoner Can Go by Nancy Brady

The invasion began with bombs and gunfire. Oksana and her husband Andriy were hiding out. Andriy was obligated to serve, but he insisted she must go. Escaping the prison of a bomb shelter, Oksana made the last train out of Kyiv, knowing she was leaving behind Andriy to fight, perhaps die. The train only went so far; she would need to walk miles toward a new world. Along the way, Oksana found a young child crying and clinging to his dead parents. Oksana picked up the boy, calling him Matviy, making him her own as they continued toward safety.

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Released by D. Avery 

“Know whut I’m thinkin Pal?”

“Nope, but I gotta feelin yer gonna tell me.”

“Thinkin I’d just a-soon we was still somewheres else this week. I got nuthin.”

“Jeez, Kid. Already back whining bout the prompts?”

“Mebbe we was imprisoned, Pal.”

“Don’t think so Kid.”

“Yeah, jailed, but training puglets ta hep vets.”

“Vetternarians?”

“No, veterans. Service hogs fer those who served.”

“Servin up bacon?”

“That ain’t funny, Pal. Think a Curly.”

“Thinkin mebbe ya should oughta disappear agin, lay low till there’s a easier challenge.”

“Think I will. Come on, Curly. See ya later Pal.”

“Phew! I’m free!”

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Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection! This special collection is based on a Story Chat short story, feedback from readers, and the extended imaginations of writers at Carrot Ranch.

May 23: Story Challenge in 99-words

It’s my birthday weekend and I’m far away, four miles down the road, camped at the edge of Lady Superior. The well’s gone dry as a bone. It’s time to replenish.

When I was a kid, my parents had an 8-track collection that included Mike Cross. It was among my favorites, a rollicking blue-grass style with deep pains and outrageous humor. My gift to you is a sample of that 8-track, including the song, Old Paint Peeling, with the line, “…well’s gone dry as a bone…” It’s time to get out of town, reconnect, and

The next song is western and has always lit my imagination. Who was the criminal in this story and who was the bounty hunter? We never learn what brought the two together but this story haunts my imagination even today.

This is one of my favorite “jokes” to tell. Have you ever made a joke out of a song?

This last one was a song I used to wish I could listen to in a full gallop (alas, pre-walkman days).

I hope you enjoy the little trot down memory lane and get inspired by the variety of styles found within a single musical artist. May we all fill our creative wells.

May 23, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “well’s gone dry.” Is it a real well or a metaphorical well? Why is it dry? What is the consequence and to whom? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 28, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Mom Selfies 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.

My Mom Selfie by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

Looking into the mirror, I see my mom looking back at me. The woman in the mirror has the same wrinkles in nearly the same places. Though her eyes were black as coal and mine are a greenish-amber; they are the same shape and size and both having a distant, distracted look.

The shape of our lips and even the color was identical. It’s the outside wrinkles of our mouths that sets us apart. Hers from being a chain smoker, addicted to those Pall Mall cigarettes. Mine from laughter and love.

Too bad I got my dad’s nose!

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Taking on the Best by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa sat in the warm sunshine on their deck, hand sewing the binding on her latest quilt. She reminisced about the good times in her teens when she and her mother enjoyed scratch cooking and sewing together. Then she wondered why her mother was so often critical of her these days. Her thoughts wandered to the time she spent with Michael’s mother and how she was much more patient, positive, generous, and willing to help whenever needed. The light bulb came on. Tessa felt she had adopted the best attributes of both women, and her mother might be jealous.

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Mom by Saifun Hassam

Mom’s first wife was a mermaid. Her farewell note talked about impossible love.
My dad was mom’s second wife. Mom’s genes were mostly human. The rest were Venusian genes. I inherited my azure hair and sea-green eyes from my Venusian great-great-grandmother.

I was seven when we went to Venus. It was her first visit ever. She turned her love for adventure into a tourist business. I missed Earth for a while. At mom’s insistence, I wrote to dad but he never replied.

I took over our growing tourist business when Mom fell ill. Maybe I’ll visit Earth one day.

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Phoebe-1915 by Bill Engleson

The dust is blowing in.
It clings to the curtains, to everything like a sickness.
The summer wind is swirling so.
Sweet children, come to me. Bring me my babe.
I need to suckle him.
I need him close.
I need you all so very close.
Oh, Thomas, I have born you five. We have suffered so with the loss of the twin at birth. And you my love, the heartache of your first lost love wears you away.
And now, I am on the verge of leaving.
What is the date…the last day of June?
I am done.

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When Dreams Aren’t Enough by Miss Judy

When 13-year old Isabel is betrothed to 34-year old Frederick, she dreams of an idyllic love affair.
Frederick, a wealthy English landowner, sees a prize possession; he will be richly rewarded.
Conceiving immediately Isabel endures a difficult pregnancy before giving birth to a girl. Disappointed, Frederick proclaims, “We will have another.”
Still deeply depressed, Isabel conceives quickly. After another difficult pregnancy and exhausting labor, a son is stillborn.
Frederick blames Isabel for killing his son. With a husband who has only contempt and daughter she cannot love, Isabel’s dreams die. Only pain and disappointment fill this mother’s loveless heart.

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Thanks Bad Mom by Simon

She was the light, the light of happiness, the light that gave everything I wanted, in simple words I saw heaven.

When there was light, there is dark too, it had over powered the light, at certain point the bright days became just a memory. The darker days gave me scars of mental health, the days I wished I died and regret having you, only I know how much I wanted to grow up and escape from you. Despite of all the flaws you are still my Mom, I won’t forgive you, but thank you for making me stronger.

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Mother Without a Clue by Duane L Herrmann

What to do? What to do? She didn’t know what to do. Her mother had no mother, at least after age eight, so she had only hints of what to do, the rest was overwhelming. What do to? She was trapped with no way out. In her bewilderment and frustration, she screamed; at her husband, at her babies and her children as they grew. Life for them was hell. She didn’t know what to do. Finally, at the very end, she was able to show to her oldest child that she did care. It turned his life upside down.

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Mom’s Selfie by Scott Bailey

I carefully return her photograph to my cigar box of treasures. She’s young and pretty in the faded black and white picture and it’s the only image I have of her.

“The Triangle Factory fire,” murmured voices whispered whenever I was around. I was too young to remember her and that picture is all I have anchoring me to some time and someone. Without that, would I even exist?

Rebellious in orphanages and ill suited for adoption, I ran away, making the train tracks my home. My Mom’s image, forever burned in my mind, can never leave me again.

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Selfless Selfie? (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

Motherland
Created image,
Barren scene
Dark forest
After devastating flames
Seeds grow by starlight

Gertie held tightly to the sobbing fragile child. A seed not yet ready to bloom unattended. Jane’s heart was scared first by growing up in an orphanage, then placed into servitude. While Gertie had not borne any of her own children she had raised several daughters. Each learning much from the other. Gertie would give of herself again, her compassion, her knowledge and do whatever she could to help Jane become an independent woman of means. That was the task all mothers had wasn’t it?

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Modern Motherhood by Reena Saxena

The meeting starts at 9.30 am. I’m late.

The kids have to manage with takeaways. They love it, but I’m not sure if it is the right thing for healthy growth.

I stop in my tracks by the sarcastic look in my boss’s eyes “You’re not the only mother out here. We need to run a business.”

Life goes on. The kids are doing fine wherever they are.

I’ve developed lifestyle diseases, and need to move to an assisted home. All the stress has taken its toll.

And my children think I never had enough time for them.

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Portrait of a Mom by Sadje

I am a mom of three and a grandmother to three. I’m not a perfect mother, no one is. But I do try. I often make mistakes and forget things that I ought to remember but I do try.

I gave up my career so that I could be a full-time mom. I did what all mothers do to make sure that the children are well looked after.

My children love me but they aren’t very demonstrative. That’s why when they do something like this I am so pleased.

A customized poem and hand-painted dupatta to show her love.

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Disappeared 14 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Bethany grabbed her purse, the picture of her four children, and the small box of confetti containing her shredded, many-times rejected work.

Sticking her head in her boss’ office, she recoiled at the stink of gin, but chirped, “Today’s my last day! Here’s your grant proposal!”

She winked as she dumped its contents into the air with a wide sweep of her arm, dropped the box, and jogged out of the building. Car keys jingling, she thought, “Pick up ice-cream? No, it’ll be a family picnic on that abandoned mansion’s grounds!”

New job, new life. She’d missed her kids!

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Look in Awe and Wonder by Scott Rhodie

She’s always available and ready to help.

Bright, cheerful, and without complaint, she’s ready from early until long after bed.

The light of life is a familiar glow and waiting, as she heals my tired body and attempts to stop rivers of tears.

She protects, clothes, feeds and shelters, but still asks for little in return.

Not everyone feels the same as they take and take, forever taking. She must feel hurt and alone in this universe of ours.

Let’s come together for her, as she wraps her arms around one and all.

Our glorious and only Mother Earth.

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Mothering by Norah Colvin

She paused in the shopping mall, one arm cradling her week-old infant, the other hand her breast as she gently positioned it enabling the infant to suckle. So engrossed was she in her newborn that the world of passing shoppers and nearby café chatter was non-existent. Her face radiated love, peace and joy, the child’s adoration, contentment and bliss. Serenity. I smiled as I passed, captivated in the moment, drawn into the circle of life and love, both envying and admiring her confidence and lack of inhibition in a situation won for her by generations of mothers before her.

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A Matter of Life by Hugh W. Roberts

It was a matter of life or death. But if only she had known that she wasn’t the only one racing toward her child as he sunk toward the bottom of the ocean floor.

***

As the creature snatched at the sinking, lifeless object, it used its other tentacle to grab the prey that pursued it and squeezed the life out of it. Now it could feed the offspring it had given birth to, which would otherwise have died on this strange, watery planet.

A mother had to do everything in her power to ensure the survival of her children.

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Build A Mum by Geoff Le Pard

Tobias Frankenstein, distant relative of Dickie Frankenstein, novelty pretzel designer, lacked one thing: a mother. He set about creating the perfect parent. After months of testing and tubing, he fed the Little Tittweaking Electric Corporation meter with one hundred pound coins and pulled the switch, holding his breath. Would she have those characteristics he associated with the perfect mother? He started, opening his eyes.
‘Toby Frankenstein, if I’ve told you once…’ the chastisement continued uninterrupted and uninterruptible for an hour. When finally Toby was tucked in bed, his teeth cleaned, he smiled: he’d got exactly what he wished for.

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For This Also, Thanks Mom by Gary A. Wilson Stories

Shirley, the daughter of an unfavored marriage between her Danish mother and Italian father, met, loved, and married a gentle man.

With her mom shunned by her own family, Shirley moved on.

She wanted college, but life’s immediacies drove elsewhere. Instead, she joined the biggest department store in town and soon rose to the second most senior role of assistant manager.

Everyone knew and loved her as friendly, hard-working, and driven to help others. Despite diseases and crises, her family thrived.

Shirley’s children knew almost nothing of their grandmother’s disfavored marriage.

Unnourished, this root of racism withered and died.

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Ethnicity–Does It Matter? by Nancy Brady

Mom always said that her father never said where they came from except to say they were hilligans. When I asked what that meant, she said she didn’t know.

Not knowing or questioning her father didn’t seem to bother her. Mom accepted his explanation and considered the matter closed. Not me, though, I wondered.

She knew her grandparents surnames and from those, I can only surmise that they were Scottish.Could they have on the wrong side at the Battle of Culloden and been forced to emigrate? Could they have been Highlanders kicked off their lands? I’ll never know.

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Her Life by Ann Edall-Robson

Memories spin in her head like an old news reel. A young woman, waiting for the cue to board the Aquitania. Leaving all she knew, to follow her soldier husband to a foreign land across the Atlantic. Her Gran seeing her off. The cabin, her new home, wind blowing through cracks. Wood stove, frozen water buckets, and learning to cook. A mother-in-law who never thought she was good enough. The bairns lost. The two who lived. The girl now has daughters of her own. Five generations of women blazing their trail with grit, determination, laughter and tears.

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My Image of Mom by Colleen M. Chesebro

At night, in between dreams, I think of you often. What did you look like compared to the few black and white photos of a Russian dark-haired beauty I have tucked in my photo album?

My older sister once told me you had eyes the color of cornflowers. My older brother said you were always kind. I wish I had known you or had memories of you as “my” mother.

Yet, when I close my eyes, I imagine you holding me in your arms. I sense your love. You are the mother I’d always dreamed of. You’re inside me.

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Magic Momma by Kerry E.B. Black

As a pre-teen, I curled into myself, buried my hurts and withdrew from society, but my mother never gave up on me. She interpreted my silence and saw through sullen acts. She read to me from her experiences and invented activities to draw me out of my shell of solitude.

With a young Solomon’s insight, she imparted wisdom in gentle parables. Her touch atop my head soothed. Her embrace protected. With patience she forged armor to insulate oversensitive me. She weaved magic as a cloak and studded it with stars.

Through her, I lived. Because of her, I thrive.

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The Dance Tree by Anne Goodwin

Follow me to the forest if you want to meet the real me, the me neither my husband nor his mother can bear to see. We’ll pass the bees that I love almost as much as I love my children. When I hum a lullaby, the bees don’t sting.

Come, we’ll leave the path and push through brambles. You must not mind if they scratch. There, in the clearing, the tree leafed with ribbons. My church, my shrine, my loneliness, my refuge, my grief, my hideaway. My memorial: a coloured strip of cloth blooming there for every lost child.

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Mudder Mucky Kid by D. Avery

“Good ta have ya back Pal.”
“Thanks. Kid too?”
“Course! Where’s Kid at, anyways?”
“There. A ranch hand and swine reunion is only a motion away.”
“Oh, yeah, a-huggin Curly.”
“Yep. Now feedin thet hog her fav’rite dish, curried carrots an cornbread.”
“Lucky pig.”
“Curly?”
“Yep. Now look, Kid’s bathin Curly an now’s rubbin sunscreen all over her. How thoughtful. An whut’s that, a new collar?”
“Necklace. Pearls fer swine. Uh-oh. Kid’s hand’s got stuck in thet necklace with Curly took off runnin through the barns.”
“Them barns ain’t been shoveled since y’all disappeared.”
“Shift! What a mudder!”

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

May 16: Story Challenge in 99-words

Spring unfolds like discordant popcorn. The daffodils did not wait their turn and flashed tones of yellow before the purples and pinks of hyacinth. Crocus raced the glories of the snow and they bloomed simultaneously. Stunted tulips gave up height for budding. It’s a disarray of ephemerals and I’m perplexed by the abnormal sequence. It’s a new and hasty song trapped bulbs made up in an extended snow prison.

Other signs of spring remain familiar and sequential. Shrinking piles of gritty snow continue to melt, and water plummets from the rocky spine of the Keweenaw. At night through the chill of open windows, I hear an amphibian invasion of spring peepers. It’s as if winter said, “Wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…” and then BOOM (or, BLOOM) and the frogs cheered. I’m struggling not to garden this year and hope that next spring I don’t pop inharmoniously because I waited.

I remind myself daily that the frogs and flowers will come again. It’s okay that someone else will love my gardens. I will make new ones.

This week, my focus turns inward as I prepare to take a four-day birthday retreat camping solo at my favorite state park (McLain’s). I’m looking to get my creative mojo back. It’s something all writers experience and I’ve allowed my own lapse after a difficult decade (I was going to write, “year” but it’s been a pile of years). Like the irregular bursting of flowers, I’m anticipating lots of creative explosions this coming weekend inspired by rocks, mergansers, campfire dinners with friends, a dance show, dinner in town for my free Geminani’s B-day meal, a day alone with my creative writing, and a cemetery field trip followed by a free day of nothing but research on what the gravesites revealed.

If that doesn’t jumpstart the creative juices, I’ll keep writing until they fire on all imaginative synapses. As Steven Pressfield reminds writers in his book, The War of Art:

“Start before you’re ready.”

Steven Pressfield

I’m going to hit the creative writing with all I’ve got no matter all that is going on. And much of what is going on is good, like diamonds emerging from all the pressure. This summer promises more excitement than I’ve felt in a long time, including work on a new anthology for Carrot Ranch. It’s all coming together even if I look like a mess of spring flowers out of tune. By summer, beauty will emerge from the transition.

This week, we are doing something different! Oh, of course, we are still doing it in 99-words, but the prompt is inspired and unusual. Marsha Ingrao graciously invited me to participate in her Story Chat. My genre is women’s fiction but I had this story idea that wouldn’t stick to any female characters so I thought Story Chat provided me an opportunity to write male characters for a change. Really, the idea was nothing more than a premise cobbled from several sources — a friend who used to lead a Puppies Behind Bars program for prisoners; disabled veterans I know; and the idea of what if they met through the dog.

What Story Chat provides is in-depth feedback. An author posts a short story and readers respond with questions, analysis, and critique. Not everyone agrees but responders gain understanding from reading each others’ feedback. The author gains insight for future revision. And I’m all about the revision process! Any insight is informative. When it comes to final revision, every author has to decide how to manage feedback and why. Later, I will revise according to feedback, and a potential home (I think it’s imperative that writers have an intended target audience or purpose for their published pieces).

If you have an interest in learning in-depth analysis and how to use it for revision, I invite you to read the comments (including my teaching points for the process of revision). For the purpose of this week’s challenge, you can read the short story “As Far as a Prisoner Can Go.” Your task is to tell the same story but differently. That may sound ambiguous, but it’s what we writers do. All the stories have already been told. Not all the storytellers have yet told them in their own style, voice, genre, tone, or perspective. Take all the liberties you want! Improve it. Wreck it. SciFi it. Romance it. Darken it. Tickle it. Make the story your own.

May 16, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about when a newly released prisoner meets the disabled veteran who adopted the puppy the prisoner trained behind bars. The prompt is based on the short story I wrote for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat. Yes, rewrite my story in your words, 99, no more, no less. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 21, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Extraction 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.

Caution: Pharmacist at Work by Nancy Brady

At the College of Pharmacy, I made tablets, solutions, emulsions, ointments, creams, and suppositories. Whether I ever made an extract, I can’t recall; however, I can’t imagine that I didn’t. After all, our class even made eye drops with a laminar flow hood. As a pharmacist, I made many compounded prescriptions.

This recipe required vanilla extract, and I wondered: could I make it? Considering that I was out, and with supply chain issues, so was the store. I scanned the shelves carefully, and then I saw it. Wedged behind lemon extract, one bottle of vanilla—I slowly extracted it.

🥕🥕🥕

Evicted by Hugh W. Roberts

They’d never wanted to move home. But the time had come.

If the landlord had only looked after the maintenance a little more, they wouldn’t have found themselves homeless.

On the day they were evicted, they’d all clung on for dear life. They hadn’t expected the maintenance to be so bad. Luckily some friends close by took them in.

“It won’t take long, Mrs Knowls. You’re doing very well,” said a rather plump lady dressed in a white coat. “That tooth is severely infected with bacteria who’ve made it their home. I’m about to extract them and their residence.”

🥕🥕🥕

Conversation Extraction by Norah Colvin

Marcia’s eyes met Henry’s across the room. He looked as unenthralled and uncomfortable as she was. He raised an eyebrow. Her mouth twitched, part smile. She extracted herself from the conversation. He did the same. They met by the kitchen door.

“Haven’t seen you at one of these shindigs before,” he said.

“First time.”

“Enjoying it?”

“Better now. That conversation was more boring than a tooth extraction.”

“What were they discussing?”

“Teeth extractions. They’re all dentists.”

“What about you?”

“Teacher. You?”

“Dentist.”

“Oh.” She reddened, then smiled. “You should join that conversation.”

“You should join mine. They’re all teachers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Extra Traction by Bill Engleson

I skid sometimes. My feet give way. I fall. I see my wobbly self plummet to the ground, crash into the earth, become one with the dust.
Love!
My quicksand!
Sliding, slipping on the hot payment of desire, hankering, she calls it.
She?
Where did that come from?
“Hey, Romeo…”
I feel a tap on my upper arm.
The tap becomes a shake.
“Seriously. I know you’re awake now.”
I guess I blinked.
“Your dreams are becoming pretty X-rated, sweetie,” she laughs.
I roll over, sheepishly.
“What’d I say?”
“HOT PAVEMENT OF DESIRE,” she snickers.
“I’ll make the coffee.

🥕🥕🥕

Extraction by Ann Edall-Robson

Water sputters across roof tops from garden sprinklers. Taps open wide. Smoke bellows over the ridge. Flames crowning tree pushed by the fire’s own weather system. Retreat choices are gone. The argument to stay, to fight for my livelihood, my life, lost. I hear the helicopter coming to extract me from this hell I didn’t ask for. Tears splash through grime on my face and I wipe my nose on my sleeve, not giving a damn who sees the raw emotion. Sniffing, I take one last look, before the chopper dips, retreating towards the other end of the valley.

🥕🥕🥕

The Extraction by Joanne Fisher

“They think I’m crazy! I need an extraction immediately.” Maz said talking into her wrist.

“And what are we doing out of bed?” The nurse asked shining a flashlight.

“I’m trying to leave.” Maz told her.

“I think you should be sleeping.” The nurse replied. Maz was marched back to her room and given a sedative.

“I don’t like these pills.” Maz complained.

“Just take it, and no more night adventures please.” The nurse ordered. She closed the door behind her, but heard a thud. Opening the door again, she found Maz was gone. “Damn the alien got away.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Extraction by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

“You nervous?” Cheri asked.

“Extremely,” I answered, “Kyle’s supposed to be extracted from Afghanistan soon.”

“Why are medical places always so cold?”Cheri complained.

“I guess to keep the germs out,” I murmured.

“You alright?” Cheri asked.

“I’m really tense, but excited too.” I said.

“Miss Franklin, we’re ready for you now.”

A lady in pink sat me in a medical chair. A tall man in a white lab coat and easy smile, came in.

“Open wide then, let’s get those teeth extracted. Your fiancé’ll be surprised won’t he?” He asked.

I nodded, closed my eyes and opened wide.

🥕🥕🥕

Rotten by Gloria McBreen

The masked face stood over my dread-filled body. Inhale through the left nostril, exhale from the right; they said to do, in a book I read once. So I did. Imagine having your feet massaged. Visualise soft hands gently kneading away your fear. I did that too. But I couldn’t relax my tremoring body. I dug my fingernails into the palms of my sweaty hands as his latex fingers came at me.

I cried inside as I imagined life without lemon drops and fudge. I tasted blood. I felt dizzy. Then it was all over. Another rotten tooth extracted!

🥕🥕🥕

Trying to Look Beyond the Gray by JulesPaige

Extraction
From one’s familiar
Bound in gray
Servitude
Some people know nothing else
The wind rattles truth

Jane thought she could handle her emotions. But the kindness of Gertie let Jane’s tears flow. Even without the wind rattling, Gertie knew there were many unjust actions taken across the ocean known as Pearl Lake. Politicians often staffed their homes from orphanages. Were those children there by choice, or stolen? Did they really lose their parents after one last starry night filled with enjoyment… those memories too soon to fade by harsh realities. Jane sobbed over the loss of her friends.

🥕🥕🥕

Mrs Dalloway Comes to Therapy by Anne Goodwin

She would have to buy blinds. On sunny afternoons the room got so hot she risked nodding off. It was bad enough letting her thoughts wander, contemplating furnishings instead of focusing on her client. Mrs Dalloway might have a tendency to ramble but Anne’s job was to extract the deeper meaning from the noise. But it was a struggle. The woman’s preoccupation with her party seemed trivial. Unless Anne’s musings on window-dressing were the key to her unconscious? Perhaps Mrs Dalloway regretted turning a blind eye towards those less fortunate. Perhaps she wanted help to face to the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Guilty? Or Not? Will the Committee Decide? by Judy Marshall

“He’s guilty!” “Arrest him!” everyone knew who was responsible.

The authorities called for calm. They would need ironclad facts to convict. “We need an investigating committee.”

The committee spoke with hundreds of witnesses and gathered thousands of documents and digital records. The days and months wore on, evidence piled up. Nothing seemed enough. They needed the “silver bullet,” the one pointing at Mr. Big.

Would they be able to extract it before it was too late? Time was running out. People were losing confidence in the people assigned to the task.

Will justice prevail? “Time will tell,” they say.

🥕🥕🥕

Buried Truth by Simon

What are you doing?

Heard of the phenol‐chloroform DNA extraction procedure? Slightly modified version to blend with our existing virus.

But Why?

Our DNA have a resemblance with this Virus.

What are you proving here?

Our species don’t belong to Earth, all the theories we read are bag of lies.

Woah! I have no words to say now, except ‘Hands up’

What you doing?

This piece of information dies here.

Our species can do more than we think.

Yes, we can do more, where do you think Newton, Einstein came from? Like me.

Gun shot.

Rest in Peace Dr.

🥕🥕🥕

Tell Me if This Hurts by Doug Jacquier

Every evening, Dr. Frankenstein returned home from his dental practice (where he made his routine joke with new patients that he was of European extraction) and drilled every ounce of joy from his wife and children that had accumulated within the cavities of their hearts during the day. He would then fill the holes with an amalgam of worthlessness and inferiority, before relaxing in his armchair, crunching nitrous oxide cartridges between his perfect teeth. What he didn’t count on was Mrs. Frankenstein developing a keen interest in cartridges of a different kind. Never again would he hurt their fillings.

🥕🥕🥕

Extract by Scott Bailey

Hands shaking with excitement, two archeologists, eager to make a discovery that would overshadow their bumbling incompetence, nervously extract pieces of parchment from a clay jar found deep in a cave.

The ancient text is badly damaged, nearly illegible. Scientific Theories? Holy writings? They guessed wildly while sitting cross legged on the cave’s floor anxiously poring over the eons old documents spread out before them.

Badly misinterpreting words and phrases, until suddenly they break the secret code.

“Eureka!” they shout. Elatedly and triumphantly they proudly read out loud the mysterious and cryptic deciphered text: “We Skipped the Light Fandango”.

🥕🥕🥕

After Armageddon by H.R.R. Gorman

Once Armageddon was over, the angels gathered up the dust and bones of all the dead people that had ever existed upon the earth. They separated them in piles: good bones or bad bones, faithful dust or unfaithful dust. They placed the pieces into two boxes, then squeezed and distilled until the souls were extracted from the atoms within.

The good souls remained together, happy to exist in unity. They enveloped the earth and lived there forever.

The bad souls evaporated into the Chaos, and there they’ll stay there, alone, until they can forgive themselves and all of creation.

🥕🥕🥕

Cyborg Escape by Saifun Hassam

The CyBorg Starship was closing in on my space yacht. Ahead was the giant star of Cygnet Tau. Better the neverending orbit around the star than to be tortured by Cyborg extraction of my mind. I had seen enough zombie spacefarers on planets that were jumping-off points for exploring deep space.

Fighter yachts shot out of the Cyborg starship. I was already in orbit around the star. The mother ship crashed into the fiery depths of Cygnet Tau. I cheered!

My Mindship Adelia reset the systems drawing on the star’s energy. The Cyborg fighters would return, I was sure.

🥕🥕🥕

To The Stars by Duane L Herrmann

“I don’t want to go!”

“I know son, but you must. You can’t stay in this cave forever.”

“It’s scary out there. I might get hurt.”

“It is scary until you get used to it. You have to learn how to be out on your own.”

“Something might eat me!”

“You’ll have to learn to run.”

“MOM!!”

“OUT!” She pushed her son out into the sunshine.

Leaving the cave is always scary, but staying in would not help mankind progress. We had to go out into the world. Extraction was necessary.

🥕🥕🥕

Extraction by FloridaBorne

Extraction can mean removal, mining, origin.  What if you were removed from your planet and didn’t remember your origin?  Not unusual when the galaxy is run by miners. We were still using the horse and buggy when they pulled us children out of our houses.

Most of the mining is mechanized. I learned how to fix the machinery and they dropped me here at fifteen. Most die at twenty-one.  I was twenty when the miners took away their machinery.

It’s lonely out here living in a hut under the stars.

🥕🥕🥕

Extraction by Sue Spitulnik

Scott, the young vet that had begun tending bar at the No Thanks was a keen piano player. He enjoyed making up jazz tunes, so his was a totally different sound than the house band. One afternoon, he played the same main theme repeatedly, adding a few more bars of music each time. The whomping of the lower notes drew Mac in, so when Scott finally stopped, Mac asked, “What are you going to name that piece?”

Scott looked startled, like he had forgotten he wasn’t alone. “Extraction.”

Mac nodded. “You have the sound of the helicopters down pat.”

🥕🥕🥕

Disappeared 12 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Eloise shook her head to clear it of the song, but she couldn’t clear it of her guilt. Andrew, pain that he sometimes was, had helped in the past with the twins.

“You’re annoying, but I don’t hate you,” Eloise held her arms out and took a twin under each arm.

“Look, I did a bad thing. I sent Andrew on a Quest, and I don’t know how to get him back home.”

The twins looked at each other and piped up, “We do! Shadow Man needs the right words to undo the spirit extraction. But we gotta hurry!”

🥕🥕🥕

Not Again by Sadje

My tooth was giving me so much pain that I was desperate for relief. I rang up my dentist and was told to come in the next day. On my arrival, he took X-rays, and after examining the offending molar closely, he told me the bad news. You can either get rid of this one as it’s the last one on this side or go for a root canal treatment.

I opted for extraction. It was the quickest option. The molar was so firmly fixed that it required quite an effort to pull it out.

I’d lost another tooth!

🥕🥕🥕

Step Forward into Altered Destinies by Scott Rhodie

Harsh stubble grates against my luminous work jacket as I listen to the tap of steel toe capped boots. I’m aware my morning grey matter cannot engage with thought.

A dark-skinned unwanted beauty stands waiting in the bus queue; his tight green dress straining over hourglass hips, with exquisite nails, sumptuous red lips, and bright heels to round off her ensemble; she’s dazzling and tragic.

Our journey’s conversation guided us both to the extraction and exchange of ideas in useful directions, knowing we should leave no room for uncomfortable silences and irrational fears as we make society’s shame visible.

🥕🥕🥕

Follow Me by Michael Fishman

The day was sunny and warm. The sky was as clear and blue as Cindy’s eyes, and if a fellow wasn’t careful, he could get lost in both.

“C’mon,” Cindy said. “Take off your shoes and follow me.”

“Where to?”

“Never mind, just c’mon.”

“I’m not sure—”

“Oh, stop. You’re stodgy. Just do it.”

I did it, but not for long.

~~~

The worst part was when the emergency room doctor pulled the rusty Coke pull tab out of my foot and stitched it up.

The best part came later than night as Cindy proved to be an excellent nurse.

🥕🥕🥕

Can You Trust Me by Gary A. Wilson

Monica rubbed condensation from the barred window so she could see the moon-lit field.
Kidnappers had pushed her into a van. She fought until one slugged her so hard that she collapsed, barely conscious.
A metallic sound startled her. Having been warned about local sex trafficking, she fought panic as a chain was removed from the door. Someone was coming.
A dim light silhouetted a large man. Her heart seized.
“Who are you?”
“Call me, Driver. I drove the van last night; but I did not sign up for this so I’m extracting you – if you can trust me.”

🥕🥕🥕

Out Out! by Geoff Le Pard

Pretentious Fullofhimself was born with a tendency to sneer and belittle. When he started at Little Tittweaking’s School for the Permanently Confused he corrected the teacher’s grammar, questioned the logic of school rules and treated his contemporaries with contempt, accusing them of using terminological inexactitudes rather than fibbing. His teacher, Solid Downtoearth often despaired but eventually embraced Prentitious’s methods: if he wanted him to hurry along, he knew he’d get through if he told him to ‘extract a digit’ rather than pull his finger out.

After several false employment starts, Pretentious found success in the Local Council’s complaints department.

🥕🥕🥕

Home On the Ranch At Last Installment (Part I) by Miss Trie Writer

“Dang it Pepe, we been all around the world in this stinkin hot air balloon a yers, still ain’t seen hide ner hair a Kid an Pal.”
“Deed you notice Ernie, dat we saw da whole world an never left da ranch? Dees ees a worldwide community!”
“Thet’s great, but where in the world are Kid an Pal? How’s this Mz Trie Wrighter gonna extract us from this endless mythtry?”
“I teenk you mean extricate, but oui, she ees not much better den D. Avery. We weel land dees balloon behind de saloon. Frankie an dem are waiting dere.”

🥕🥕🥕

Home On the Ranch At Last Installment (Part II) by Miss Trie Writer

Frankie and the gang got the balloon secured. After extracting Ernie and Pepe from the basket, they went around to the front of the Saddle Up Saloon.
“Hey y’all.”
“Pal! Keed! Where in de world ‘ave you bean?”
“What d’ya mean? Was down by the crick, where ducklins was eatin Kid’s lunch. Next thing we know, here we are.”
“Pal, ducklins was a month ago. Ya ain’t been seen since.”
“Whoa. Stop. Back up. What?!”
“Ees true, Keed. Ees beeg meestery where you two ‘ave bean.”
“Mebbe we all should set at the Saddle Up bar, have a think.”

🥕🥕🥕

Home On the Ranch At Last Installment (Part III) by Miss Trie Writer

“Who gives a shift where dees two ‘ave bean?”
“Mon cheri!”
“Just sayeeng; dey’re here now.”
“I’m with Logatha. Characters wander. They wander back.”
“Okay, thank you Logatha an Wanda. Tip? Top? Any ideas?”
“Nope.”
“Not a one ‘twixt the two of us, Frankie.”
“Haven’t heard much from you Kid.”
“Feel dazed an confused, Frankie.”
“Ah ain’t rulin out alien deduction.”
“That’s it, Ernie!”
“Ain’t neither. Me an Kid weren’t beamed up.”
“No, but we kin let the readers an writers deduce where ya been, let the ranch community extract truth, extricate us from this endless misery.”
“Mystery.”
“Write.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

May 9: Story Challenge in 99-words

Purple crocus and glories of the snow burst across the sodden mat of brown grass and maple leaves stretching from house to house on Roberts Street. Grit and fine dirt cover front lawns, curbs, and streets.

It’s a dirty transition.

Yet, spirits rise along with the sun. On the Keweenaw, we have missed our blazing star of daylight, oft-hidden beneath clouds or fog. Mause has rediscovered sleeping in sunbeams and I’ve opened my sun porch for the first time since September. I feel like I’m emerging from a time warp.

Mother’s Day in the US came early, the second Sunday in May falling on the 8th. Next weekend is my Svalbardian daughter’s birthday, and the following is mine. My son and DIL invited me to their home in Wisconsin to spend the weekend. May is rich beyond measure with sunshine, flowers, and the promise of cake.

Moms, as a topic, is complex. We all have one, and yet our relationships, proximity, and stories differ. How we craft moms in stories is endless. Who do we have in mind when we craft moms into our writing? Do we idealize, vilify, or seek to understand moms? What books have you read that feature a mom you adored, or one you abhorred?

Sometimes, moms remain like ghosts in the background of our main characters. I often think of the ghosts of my maternal line and wonder how DNA or generational experiences have shaped who my mom is, who I am, and who my daughters are. Do we regard maternal lines because history has little to say about women? Or do women pass down secret knowledge unbroken between generations?

In women’s circles, I’ve introduced myself as “Daughter of…” It feels empowering and yet maddening that I can only go back a short way. I’m Charli, daughter of Marie, daughter of Donna, daughter of Mayme, Daughter of Maria de Abreu. Maria, or Mary as she later anglicized her name, passed down her auburn hair and a warning to her descendants — don’t step foot in the church.

By the time the story reached me, the facts proved to be fiction. No matter the reason, I believe the warning is the point of the embellished tales. Recently, I began studying the DNA to suss out an explanation. Last week, I realized Ancestry had created a new DNA feature. Without samples, they can determine what percentage I receive from each parent of my ethnic heritage.

My eldest and I have tried to unravel the mystery of our red-headed Portuguese grandmother, Maria de Abreu Chado Ferreira. She married a Portuguese Brazilian on her home island of Madiera. She may have been born in a fishing village, Camara de Lobos (Chamber of Sea Wolves). But when she left, she had no more ties to family. Despite her distinct name, I’ve had trouble finding her in any records. Her daughter, Mayme Ferreira, married my Bumpa, Marcus Bundeson, the son of poor Danish immigrants.

Theoretically, the union made my Grandma Donna half Portuguese and half Danish. Yet, according to the new Ancestry DNA split view, I inherited one percent of my Portuguese DNA from my mother, who oddly enough, also contributed four percent Balkans. Balkans? I don’t even know how to process that. Nothing in my family tree hints at a Balkans heritage.

Or maybe, the hint is in the distrust of the church for the women of my lineage.

Trying to understand the Balkans connection I discovered that many Sephardic Jews persecuted in Spain and Portugal fled to the Balkans, and later immigrated to the Azores, where Madiera is among the Portuguese islands. Could Maria de Abreu be a descendant of crypto-Jews, those forced to convert during the Portuguese Inquisition? Searching her surname I discovered it is believed to be of Jewish origin. Was that why daughters were not to step foot in a church?

It’s disconcerting but I also found every Portuguese surname in my family tree to be among those recorded in the Portuguese Inquisition. What I don’t have is connecting evidence. Within a week, I inquired with an organization researching the hidden lineage of Sephardic Jews and they are looking for records on Maria’s past. Will it explain her auburn hair?

When I read about the near-genocide of Sephardic Jews in the Balkans region during WWII, I realized those could have been unknown cousins who had survived multiple inquisitions. I laid my head on my desk and cried. It might not be my mother’s story but it is the story of someone’s mom. Many moms. We are the survivors of moms who survived, and back and back and back.

May we go forward with new stories of moms.

This week, we are going to create mom selfies. Think of it as a 99-word image or impression. Take a story snapshot of a mom in repose, action, or study. Think of how you craft an image, allowing readers to slip into the character’s skin, or keep her at a distance. Use memory or real-time. Explore different genres. Use elements of imagery or flow of dialog. Challenge your craft skills this week and experiment.

May 9, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a mom selfie — a story that creates an image of a mom. No one mom looks alike or fits a maternal mold. Who is she? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 15, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Howdy once again! It’s been a wild ride but this here’s the final post for Anyone Can Poem.

I’d planned to use this last post to wrap up everyone’s free verse poems from last month; problem is, no one came round to share ’em.

Instead, we’re a-gonna wrap up everything we done did learn over all the past year o’ poeming:

  1. March, 2021. This was whare it all began. I asked you to take yourself on a relaxing date. While moseying around with such a stunning partner, you then needed to “word dump prosaically.”
    This was a way to loosen up any of y’all who was feeling nervous about writing.
  2. April, 2021. Next, naturally, we tried mimicryParodyPastiche.
  3. May, 2021. I introduced haiku -sort-of. I’d always meant to come back to this beautiful form and do it right proper, but it is what it is.
  4. June, 2021. This month was one o’ my favorites! We all tried limericks.
  5. July, 2021. After expressing mah pet-peeve of messed-up meter, I suggested we mess up meters.
  6. August, 2021. Continuing with meter, we ‘fixed’ some famous poems.
  7. September, 2021. This ‘un discussed the need for concise poeming.
  8. October, 2021. To further improve our poetry, I said to “pick impactful, meaningful words and phrases that put the reader in the moment.”
  9. November, 2021. I delivered a healthy baby boy, and suggested we try an Acrostic Poem.
  10. December, 2021. We faced the greatest poetic challenge of all: free verse. I’d meant for this ‘un to be a two-parter, but had to take a break on completin’ the second part till…
  11. April, 2022. The follow-up on where we’d gone with free-versing.

An’ now we’re here. We’ve spent a year working together so y’all can be right cozy with writing a poem. I have no more challenges for you, excepting that you go through them steps anytime you think, I can’t write poetry.

I’m telling ya: YES, YOU CAN. Anyone can poem.

And, as always, you can send me any poem you’re struggling with. Just use the form at the bottom o’ one o’ the old challenges. I’m happy to help.

—–

©2022 Chel Owens

Up and Away

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 Prison Cell by Hugh W. Roberts

Karl compared his life to a prison cell.

He’d done nothing wrong but fall in love, yet he couldn’t escape. Some people believed he belonged in hell. He was a threat to society and should never be allowed freedom.

“What’s the matter?” asked the uniformed prison guard.

“I need help escaping from this prison cell,” replied Karl.

“Come with me,” demanded the guard.

After a short walk to a large, stuffy sitting room, Karl got introduced.

“Mum, Dad. This is Karl, my boyfriend.”

Instantly, Karl’s life was up and away. He’d escaped the prison cell lodged in his head.

🥕🥕🥕

Remembering Maya Angelou by Reena Saxena

Maya Angelou is the beautiful soul whom I never stop quoting.

The breadth and depth of her experience qualified her to be the star she was.

I came across an interesting fact about her death in 2014. Her son said she suffered from heart problems and pain caused by dancing.

I salute the soul who could dance at the age of 86 … she certainly knew “why the caged bird sings” and the peacock dances.

I wonder how many saw her soul rise up and above that day. I see her as the brightest guiding star whenever night falls.

🥕🥕🥕

Within the White Wall by Anne Goodwin

You see a void, I see the cosmos in this imperfectly painted white wall. Brushstrokes are birds, blemishes mountains, as I dream, as I ponder and fly. My wheelchair’s a chariot, as I drive the horses, I sing them an aria to carry us up and away. Or it’s a balloon, not the kind on a card but filled with hot air raising a basket and we look down on the earth with a grin. If all you can see is a boy without speech without movement parked next to nothing, then it must be your perception that’s flawed.

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Up and Away! by Joanne Fisher

“Supergirl is up and away!” Jill’s been watching superhero movies lately, and now she’s dressed in a makeshift costume. To be honest the MCU and others have never much interested me, not when there is Star Wars, something Jill has never been interested in.

“Be careful!” I tell her as she runs around the living room narrowly avoiding shelves and tables.

“Watch me mummy!” Jill calls out as she runs into the backyard.

“Wait!”

“Up and away!” I hear her yell. I run out to the yard and she’s nowhere to be seen. I look up into the sky….

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Untold Tales by Simon

Feels like to fly up and away and disappear…. she whispers

Here talks the Pilot, Her brother made a comment.

She remains silent, he notices nothing but fiddle with his phone. He fails to notice the tear welled up on her eyes, her soul shatter while her ex passing the opposite holding tight the hands of his new girlfriend, she burnt herself alive from the inside.

Bus door opens. She sat inside the bus by the window, her blank face hid a sad story a deep scar no one can see.

Some Untold stories feels like burning alive forever.

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Eats on the Fly by Annette Rochelle Aben

The bag of birdseed on the park bench was top rolled down, wide open. Every once in a while, a frail hand lifted some out and scattered it on the pavement at her feet. The trees emptied as the birds swooped down to have their fill.

The bag under the park bench, empty and crumpled was where the old cat sat. Eyes became the size of saucers each time the birds came to dine. Every now and then, a wary paw would shoot out from under the bench. The trees would fill quickly as the birds hurriedly flew away.

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Up and Away by Marsha Ingrao

“We’re burning daylight here,”
Huh? It was HER 55th birthday, She wanted to luxuriate, to enjoy a mimosa, another of his delicious peppermint oil backrubs, the brush of sea-green silk sheets. She yawned and stretched.
Jimmy tugged her extended arm.
“Don’t forget your camera.”
An hour later, they stepped out of the hotel’s taxi service and walked up the ramp into the largest hot air balloon Vanessa had ever seen. Up and away they floated silently above the roar of cheetah and lion cubs playing in the jungle.
“Happy birthday, darling,” Jimmy said as they clicked their orange mimosas.

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Up and Away by Scott Bailey

The tropical sun bakes our shoulders, freckles our noses, bleaches our hair but we don’t mind. Tepid salt water, clear yet blue, splashes our skin as we wade the canoe to sea.

We paddle from the small island, across open water to the mainland, two bronze statues of youth, free, strong and confident, silently pulling pieces of ocean up and away from our paddles, propelling us forward.

She pauses, gazes back past me at the receding paradise. She’s resplendent against the sparkling water.

No matter how long I live, I will cherish the life and love we found there.

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Emma is Walking by Sue Spitulnik

Lexi hadn’t brought Emma to Irish dance class lately, so it was a treat when they arrived at the end of rehearsal. Lexi carried her around to say hello. When they reached Michael, she said, “Follow us onto the dance floor.” He didn’t understand why but did as requested. Lexi set Emma down, and the group watched as she took a few unsteady steps to her Grandpa. Everyone clapped their approval, and Scott, now working at the bar, went to the piano and started playing “Up, Up and Away.” Michael changed the words to, “There’s no stopping her now!”

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Stanley in The Graceful Garden Long Term Care Home by Bill Engleson

What’s that moaning? Spooky!
It’s Stanley.
What’s his problem?
He’s just a little out of it.
Jesus, it’s 1:30 in the morning. Everyone’s trying to sleep.
He’s not being a nuisance. Told him to keep it down.
Keep what down. Sounds like he’s in a pail of pain.
Nah…he’s just full of memories…
Memories?
Ha. Believe it or not, our Stan’s a former flower child.
A hippie?
Seems to be…keeps on singing a song…
Which song?
Old Fifth Dimension tune…Up Up and Away. First line’s…‘Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?’
Way before my time.
Mine too.

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Imagining Images (Spot on?) by JulesPaige

In the flames
Up and away; ash
One lost life
vanishes
How to reconstruct oneself
Perhaps with some help

Gertie Simple held the crock of tulips in her one arm, and gently knocked on the bedroom door of the girl who had introduced herself as Jane on the yacht. Would the girl use the fireplace to destroy her past identity? Gertie wasn’t born yesterday and just in case she needed them, had made copies of all the documents in the young woman’s purse. Including a sweet photo of two young girls in a meadow, one reading to the other.

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Energy Medicine by Ruchira

“How can I help you today?” asked the practitioner as she registered her client for her upcoming healing session.

“Oh! I’ve been having anxiety, lower back pain, and difficulty expressing myself,” said Kisna with a long deep sigh!

With a confident nod, Dolly gave a gentle smile and said, “I know exactly which chakra is acting up. Lay on the table, and I’ll be back to start your session.”

With dim lights and a piece of gentle background music, Dolly started brushing Kisna’s dense aura with a murmur, “Up and away!”

That was followed by chakra balancing and grounding.

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Up, Up and Away by Christine Bialczak

I held my breath at the sight of it. Those balloons! It brought me back to being a little girl, holding dad’s hand as he yelled, “Up, up and away!” as the beautiful balloons cut their tethers and lifted off the ground with fire blazing. The festival was our tradition, my dad and me, we went every year as far back as I can even remember. We should have gone up at least once, I think. At least I have the memories and know that he is floating somewhere watching me now. “Hey Dad, which balloon is your favorite?”

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It’ll Be Alright In The End… And If It’s Not Alright, It’s Not The End… by Geoff Le Pard

The funeral of Little Tittweaking stalwart Rodney Pearbollik was well attended. The mayor, on day release from the Home for the Terminally Bewildered joined Rodney’s extensive family.
The cremation service went without a hitch until finally the coffin slide between the curtains and Fate stepped in, stopping open the oven doors; the mourners gawped as flames engulfed the open casket and a superheated Rodney first sat up and then shot into the dark recesses of the oven.
‘Ah me,’ sighed his long suffering wife, ‘he was always the first to be up and away after he’d buggered things up.’

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Up and Away by Ann Edall-Robson

Slow movement starts the feeling of transporting to a mythical land. With eyes closed and breathing slow, relaxation mode sets in. There is comfort in the knowledge that the equipment needed for the pending job is hiding in plain sight. Nearby and within reach. Shaking and rumbling starts, yet still the eyes remain closed. The brain questions why, the mind answers with a simple, “Because.”

Up and away, the powerful engines roar. Camera now in hand ready to capture moments others may never get to experience. The window of the 737 becomes the portal to life from 30,000 feet.

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Shush by Sadje

Sometimes, life lands you in such situations that you’d just like to be magicked away from there like a balloon that floats up and away leaving everything behind.
A quarrel in the family or demand from someone you don’t like to disappoint but still cannot fulfill is such a quagmire situation that you’d wish to be extracted and spirited away. But unfortunately, we have to be there and resolve these problems like adults.
One solution I’ve found effective is to just pause; say or do nothing for a while. Some storms blow over if we don’t tamper with them.

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Cleared for Takeoff by Michael Fishman

This wasn’t his first mission, but that didn’t calm the butterflies. Each launch carried its own dangers, and as an experienced astronaut he knew the risks.

Major David planned on a safe voyage and landing, but was prepared should he find himself on an ice planet like Zeistorun, or worse, a prison planet like BL7130.

He took a deep breath when the countdown reached 10 seconds.

3… 2… 1…

“Up and away!” He jumped and landed with a thud on the wood floor.

“DAVEY!” came the call from Mission Control. “Are you jumping off your bed again?”

“Sorry, mom.”

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Up and Away by Norah Colvin

April placed a coin onto his palm.
“What will I make for you?”
“A magic balloon, please.”
He scanned her face, searched deep within her eyes, read her every wish.
“A magic balloon,” he said, selecting a dark blue.
He stretched it this way and that, then blew. As the balloon filled, the blue lightened and brightened. It shed sparkles that glistened in the sunlight. He knotted the end, held it out, then twisted and twirled and pulled it into a star.
He wound the ribbon around April’s wrist. “Up and away!” he whispered, as April was whisked aloft.

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Up Into the Sky by Nancy Brady

Aloysius, the white cat, liked to fly ever since he found the blue jay feather, which, when tucked behind his left ear, gave him the power to soar. He didn’t need to say the magic words, “up and away,” or need a beautiful balloon; he just needed his feather and his desire to fly.

When he flew, Aloysius felt so empowered that he almost felt like he ended up in a fifth dimension, a dimension where it was just sky filled with fluffy clouds and the sun shining on his fur. Returning to earth, though, was a pleasure, too.

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Disappeared 10 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Andrew stood, patting his pockets for the matchbox, and noticed a hollow in the tunnel wall, the same size as the plaque of runes, gleaming on the oozing mudslide before him. He blinked, surprised. There were runes on the wall, as well!
Locating the matchbox in an inner jacket pocket, he opened and pulled one out, ready to strike. Just a little more light, and he could read them aloud.
Andrew struck, the match flared and extinguished. The box flew up and away, out of his hands.
He’d felt a blast of hot air, a single silent word: “Stop!”

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Runway No. Nine by Colleen M. Chesebro

Covid had taken its toll. My friend Clive succumbed to the disease. His funeral was small, and we all wore masks. I hovered close to Clive’s wife. Jean was my best friend.

We both cried when the service ended. I walked Jean outside.

“Have you figured out where you want the celebration of life held?” I asked.

Jean took her time answering. “Clive loved fixing airplanes. That was his soul’s desire, you know. I think we should scatter his ashes at the airport on runway number nine, his favorite. He always said he wanted to fly up and away.”

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Flying by Duane L Herrmann

I used to fly more often than now. I don’t know what has changed. My life? Certainly. But, would that stop my flying? I don’t know. I had many restrictions previously, now the only ones are residual, like habits I can’t break. Was the flying a way to escape those bounds? Is there a therapist who can tell me? Or, have I already figured it out? No matter the reason, I miss the flying, though I never knew when it might happen. I enjoyed it so much. Without preparation, I would suddenly be up and away in some dream.

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What’s Up? K & P Still Away (Part I) by Miss Trie Wrighter

While Frankie and Ernie mused on the mystery of missing ranch hands Kid and pal, spring sprang. At long last the rain and snow ceased falling, finally the sun shone. Like a flower bursting into bloom, Ernie had an idea.
“Hot air!”
“Yep, air’s considerably warmer now Ernie.”
“No. Pepe. He’s got a hot air balloon. Me and him will git in it an go up and away searchin fer Kid and Pal.”
“He an I.”
“Think it’d be better if me an him did this, Frankie.”
Frankie only hoped their slick sleuthing didn’t balloon into a basket case.

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What’s Up? K & P Still Away (Part I) by Miss Trie Wrighter

Frankie, Burt, Tip and Top Lemmon, and Wanda let go the ropes and watched Pepe and Ernie ascend into the clear blue skies over Carrot Ranch.
“Not ta be negative, but I don’t think they’re gonna find em. We already searched the ranch. What I think, is thet writer a theirs jist put her dang pen up an away an now they’re in Limbo.”
“Wanda, why would they be bendin over backwards unner a stick?”
“No Top, Limbo’s thet far gone dude ranch. Past Slim Chance’s place even.”
Meanwhile, in the basket, Ernie and Pepe pondered their next move.

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What’s Up? K & P Still Away (Part I) by Miss Trie Wrighter

“Pepe, ya sure ya kin keep this contraption in the air?”
“I have never run out of gas Ernie. Where shall we search for Keed and Pal?”
“Fictional characters disappeared from a virtual ranch… they could be anywhere. They could be nowhere. Mebbe Kid finely turned tail, went back east.”
“Keed leave dees ranch? Not when dere ees steel beer in da saloon. And Keed weel not leave Curly. Day are somewhere. We weel find dem.”
“Uh, Pepe, how d’ya steer these thangs?”
“I do not know. We weel have to go where da prompt leads. Up and away!”

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

May 2: Story Challenge in 99-words

History is a series of extractions. We identify and take resources we value. Once, we pulled colors from plants to make pigments for cave paintings and early clothes. We found outcroppings of tin and copper to smelt bronze. We plucked the most docile animals from the wild and planted grains in captivity to farm our food. Yet, I’m not convinced we humans ever stopped hunting and gathering.

We merely improved our ability to extract.

It’s true that synthetic dyes have replaced most natural ones and processed foods fill our grocery shelves. But we continue to hunt for resources to use in labs and manufacturing, gathering the goods to sell, trade, or use. We are more extractive than ever, and yet our systems of production and commerce are primitive mindsets. We fail to understand the consequences of hunting and gathering oil, metals, and other modern resources. We fail to give back what we take from the environment.

Spring semester at Finlandia University ended on April 29th. Throughout my ENG 104 class, we listened to Suzanne Simard read her book, Finding the Mother Tree. Her research shows that trees are sentient, communicating within an underground network of mycorrhizal. Modern logging clear cuts forest for lumber, replacing harvested trees with seedlings. Yet, this plantation system fails because we don’t understand what the Indigenous have known all along — we are forests are interdependent. In fact, so are humans.

It’s easy to forget that mobile devices, batteries, and cars are not what we depend on for a thriving life. We all need nurturing, shelter, clean water, and food that feeds us. Simard’s research calls us to consider the ways we connect and cooperate, going against the idea of competition for survival. Her work proves that forests need diversity and that mother trees will nurture strangers among their seedlings. Has extraction cut off humans from what it means to live?

I’m pondering such thoughts at the closing of Simard’s book (which is actually an encouraging read about science told through storytelling) and because I met an author of a popular modern novel about a labor strike on the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1913. You might say, I have extraction on my mind.

The rocky spine where I live surrounded by Lake Superior contains copper. Lots of copper. Over 12 billion pounds of native metal mined primarily by immigrants. As usual, in the long history of extraction of wealth, the workers remained impoverished. How can mine bosses and owners justify their large elegant homes when those laboring for them suffered? Why do communities feel proud of such suffering? What did it take to ignite a labor strike in an area that offered mining homes to its workers and refuge to immigrants fleeing the unrest of their homelands?

People all across Michigan are discussing these and other questions in relation to Mary Doria Russell’s novel, Women of the Copper Country in what we call the Great Michigan Read. Since Calumet was the heart of the miner’s strike to unionize in 1913, Michigan Humanities included our remote thumb of the upper mitten and provided a grant to the Keweenaw Storytelling Center to have a live conversation with the author. I had the honor of serving as moderator.

But I also had a different extraction in mind. I was curious to peel back the layers of an author I greatly admire for her career in pointing the feminine lens at stories in history. Women’s fiction, especially stories from the fringes and frontiers, is my chosen genre, too. And it’s not often I get to meet an author who writes this sort of novels. When we met, I felt an instant appreciation for her.

Mary Doria Russell is witty, curious, and a keen historian. She also writes in a different style that is neither plot nor character-driven. How can that be, I thought as I worked on questions to ask her. Mary’s novel features Big Annie Clements, Mother Jones, and countless other characters based on real people from history. Definitely a lot of characters. But typically, character-driven novels slip beneath the skin of one or more characters. I described Mary’s narrative perspective as that of a butterfly that flits from shoulder to shoulder throughout the strike’s timeline while maintaining the thread of story.

She smiled and thanked me for noticing. Then Mary explained how she writes at truth in the center of her story and she never knows until she’s researching and drafting whose perspective she will need to best view that truth. For example, she struggled to tell the horrific conclusion to the strike that left 73 people, mostly children, dead. The story didn’t capture the feeling she wanted to convey until she realized she needed an outside perspective and wrote the aftermath through the eyes of the investigating coroner. When she read in her research that he could never look at his own children’s bare feet again after placing so many toe tags on the young bodies, she knew that was the view of truth.

What encouraged me most about meeting Mary was learning of her dedication to how she processes history in her novels. Even though she is a New York Times bestselling author, twenty-two publishers passed on her manuscript to Women of the Copper Country. I’m glad I extracted that little nugget because it is important to lift each other up in our writing journies.

Yet, the idea of extraction itself and why we do it is less heartwarming. I want spring to hasten the time I get to spend kayaking among trees. Maybe extraction is haste. Maybe the difference between living in a joyful interdependency and living in a discordant social-economic hierarchy is mindfulness. Like Suzanne Simard’s mother trees, we can grow tall and prosper when we pay attention to all life (and death) where we live.

May 2, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about extraction. What is being extracted and from where? Is it an idea? How does genre change the perspective (sci-fi versus romance)? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 7, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Never Ending

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.

Endless Sparks of Creativity by Anne Goodwin

“I can’t share it before it’s published, they might pinch my idea.”
“How could they? It’s like nicking your big toe.”
“Exactly. They’d be taking part of me.”
“You could wear your heavy boots so it’s harder to get at.”
“Hah bloody hah.”
“You’re not really worried, are you? What use is your idea to someone else? Like your toe, once they took it, it would be dead.”
“They could revive it, like Frankenstein’s monster.”
“Then it would be a different story. Filtered through their separate minds.”
“So I should submit my flash fiction?”
“Of course. Creativity never ends.”

🥕🥕🥕

He Saw Himself Looking by Duane L Herrmann

He looked in the mirror and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the mirror and and saw himself looking in the…

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Never Ending by Ann Edall-Robson

Does it stop at the meadow’s edge, or the tree line along the ridge? Perhaps it’s where the horizon vanishes at day’s end, or at that point a slit of light starts a new day. Always welcome, this view from atop the hill, the home to the joyous sightings and sounds that the land brings. The evocative, earthy, smells segues into the connection of magical glimpses of all that graze this corridor, and dance on wings through the clouds. Resonating with the memories of those who rest here. Consummated by a never-ending love of life and the land.

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Never-ending Never-ending by Bill Engleson

Years ago, the train used to stop up the hill from my home. No depot. No ticket master. You’d stick out your thumb and the Dayliner would pull to a halt. You’d step onboard and head south to the Capital. Later that night, after a day in the city, you’d make the return journey.
It no longer runs but I hear the whistle blow every day.
I see myself hailing the iron horse, watch it stop, see myself get aboard.
Later I return up island and disembark.
I imagine I do this every day.
And will until I die.

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Always the Same by Michael Fishman

You sit in your parked trying to calm your pounding heart. You watch people walking in. You take a breath, pause, release slowly. Over and over.

Your body doesn’t listen. BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM.

You reassure yourself. Relax, you say, you’re ok. it’s just—

But it doesn’t matter what “it’s just” because it’s always the same. It’s whatever today is and it doesn’t matter.

Breath, pause, release slowly. BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM.

You start the car, pull out of the spot. BOOMBOOM

BOOM

Boom

boom.

Quiet.

You drive slow. You’re going home. You tell yourself it’s ok. You tell yourself you’ll try next time. Again.

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Means and Ends by Doug Jacquier

When she said to me our relationship was never-ending, my first thought was she’s saying ‘We’ll be together until death and beyond’. Later we had an argument over something I considered trivial and I started to wonder if she’d meant never-ending in the sense of ‘ongoing burden’. But then I cheered myself with thinking she’d meant ‘never’ ending, as in we could each stop saying ‘I’m never going to find someone who loves me’.

I’m probably over-thinking this. Of course the logical thing to do is just ask her but then I’d probably never hear the end of it.

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Mutation by Nancy Brady

It was a never-ending story, or so it seemed. It began late in December, but really took wing in March of the following year. Many people didn’t believe that it existed, or if it existed, it was not much of a threat. In fact, it was roundly denied by many of those who should have taken it seriously. But it was and they vehemently didn’t.

Then came the ramifications, the reality, and the rules, which were often ignored.

Three years it’s been now, and it still causes too many problems, and death. Covid-19 and its variants are still never-ending.

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Disappeared 8 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Chuckie and Ducks were dropped back home at their mother’s, two days early. Stepdad mumbled about a work thing he couldn’t get out of.

Translation? The twins were too much, even for him.

With Mom and Andrew gone, Eloise was left alone with the twins. Now they’d found her hide-away under the willow tree. She dropped her head, despairing, clenching her jaw.

The branches thrashed. The two punched through into her sanctuary, singing, “This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends!…”

Who the holy hell had exposed them to Shari and Lambchop?

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A Change of Attitude by Sue Spitulnik

Walking this dog is a pain. It’s my husband’s cute little lap dog except for when it’s walk time. Yeah, I get to smell the fresh air, flowers, and poop, but it’s never ending, never ending.

There’s war in Ukraine! The TV news images are simply horrifying.

“Come on Buttons, let’s go for a walk.” Look at that, the neighbors redid their front flower beds. The magnolias are bursting forth. “Good girl. That’s a nice firm poop today. Let’s wave to that old lady that peeks out her window. Thank God I can safely do this never ending chore.”

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The Death and Life of Bill by Hugh W. Roberts

“Will your book ever get published?” Peggy asked her husband.

“When it’s ready,” replied Bill.

“How long have you been writing it?

“Since I was seven.”

“Seven? What’s it about?”

“Death and life.”

“What? Does it have a title?”

“Never-ending.”

“Never-ending what?”

“Never-ending. That’s it.”

“Bit of a dumb title,” laughed Peggy.

7-years later, after Bill’s death, Peggy finally began reading her husband’s unpublished book online and soon realised it was his life story, but with a twist. He’d predicted his own death.

But the biggest shock to Peggy was that Bill’s never-ending story continued from beyond his grave.

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About Your Car’s Warranty by Gary A. Wilson

“What are you so upset about?”

“I got scam calls all weekend about my car’s warranty. As employees, we’re supposed to have exemptions built in. I shouldn’t have gotten any calls, so I started hanging up on all caller IDs.

“Five were from the hospital. My wife had been in an accident.

“I – HUNG – UP – ON – THEM – and she died before I got there.”

“It shouldn’t have happened.”

“Sorry man. That’s rough.”

“As their lead programmer, I’m feeding it right back. Our execs are going to get calls non-stop starting midnight. We’ll see how they like this never-ending scam.”

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The Never Ending Story by Joanne Fisher

“So I went over to Tasha’s place and we decided to go into town and meet up with Fuzz and Shev, but Tasha’s car wouldn’t start and we caught a bus, which took ages to come, so we were hella late. When we got to the bar only Fuzz was there. It turned out Shev hadn’t even turned up yet. So we had a few drinks and went to get something to eat, but Gazza surprisingly turned up, then we went into an alleyway…”

I sat there patiently listening to Janelle, wondering if her story actually had an ending…

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Never Ending Staircase by Simon

Don’t spill those pills on ground.

Is it magical? Is this why you were hiding it from us?

It’s kinda magical, it is evil, it will eventually kill you.

He stared at the pill, something magical happened, an evil possessed his grandson. He dropped the pills on the ground. A staircase grew pointed to the sky with a bag full of gold coins in the end.

Grandpa stared in awe, possessed with greed his grandson started to climb. The steps grew as he climbed and climbed and he kept on climbing.

Grandpa turned statue watching the never ending staircase.

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Heavenly Library by Kerry E.B. Black

In the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last,” all the main character wanted was to read, but life prevented it. An apocalypse occurred, and finally, he could do what he loved. However, as he’s about to do so, the myopic man breaks his glasses.

I felt bereft for him.

Then I consider the never-ending books available in this world, and I understand. If I spent every waking moment immersed in books, I wouldn’t put a dent in the wealth available. Rather than become discouraged, though, I’ll read all I can and imagine Heaven must have an amazing library.

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Dieting–No More by Sadje

Getting fit and going down to my ideal weight was a never-ending struggle for me.

Unbeknown to me, I had thyroid disease since my teenage which made my weight fluctuate periodically. At forty-four, I was diagnosed and became aware of its implications. Since then, I am on thyroid medication and ’til a year ago, I still was trying to lose weight, only to gain it all back eventually.

My motivation for losing weight has changed and the desire to look better has taken a backseat, to be healthy. Now I eat healthy, and keep my stats in the range.

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Promise Kept by Annette Rochelle Aben

“True love never ends.” Her fingers slowly traced the gold-embossed letters on a white napkin from their wedding 42 years ago.

White dress. White roses. White gold ring. White diamonds. White frosting on a white cake. Innocent symbols of hope for the promise of a never-ending love.

White paper signed in black ink dissolving the promise a mere nine years later.

A carefully folded white napkin fell out of a white envelope into her lap.

“If you are reading this, I have died. Even though our marriage couldn’t survive, my love for you never ended.”

Through tears, she smiled.

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Endless Wonder By JulesPaige

Exhaling
Never-ending pace
Of breathing
Inhaling
Taking one day at a time
In changing seasons

Jane saw the friendly fire… Well if she was starting new why not. She rummaged through her small bag, took out her Identification information and without even looking inside to confirm who she had been – tossed it in the fire. And with the poker stirred the ashes.

Someone was slowly walking down the hall. Were they coming to see her? Probably. Maybe it was the kind older woman – what was her name… Gertie… Simple. This situation wasn’t simple at all, would Gertie help her?

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Unending Cycle by Reena Saxena

“The Creator, Preserver and Destroyer,” he said with a smirk, “Don’t we all know the Trinity?”

“Yes. We do. It is an easily understandable concept. I strive to know if it is a straight line or circle. What happens after the End? Is there recreation, or only new creation?”

“Sounds like Copernicus saying the earth is spherical… he was condemned for his discovery.”

“Occult sciences arise from this point. They try to show a different world, but never give proof. And on and on it goes – the interest, discredit, ridicule and the gradual rise of a set of believers.”

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And On and On… by Geoff Le Pard

Tendentious Illomen lived to ninety. He never stopped arguing. Even dead, his hectoring continued, through a series of calls from an unknown number, each one a recorded blast of familiar abuse. Tendentious, buried in the family mausoleum had a phone, connected to a solar panel that never stopped calling. Little Tittweaking was at its wit’s end until Gibbon Tango, part-time hooligan and appalling performance poet called the number and began reciting his year-long epic blank verse ‘The Boil On My Bum’. After three weeks a small explosion was heard from inside the tomb and the calls ended.

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The Never Ending Winter (Double Ennead-99 syllables) by Colleen M. Chesebro

winter’s eternal chill
remains mantled in
unyielding leaden skies filled with sleety rain
while the goddess slumbers
readying for spring

it’s just one of those years
the farmers bellow
surveying wet fields glazed with inches of snow
soon our plows will furrow
and seedlets will grow

yet, winter’s unhurried—
infinite, it seems…
for beneath the Michigan soil, magic waits
the transition of time
until spring has sprung!

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The Rock-movers of Ee-arth by Leonard Mills

“Sir, we’ve established the planet’s name. Ee-arth.”
“And what do inhabitants of Ee-arth, do?”
“Baffling Sir, they’re pre-occupied with moving rock. It’s never-ending.”
“What?”
“Odd behaviour. They excavate vast quantities, crush it, remake into small squares, then transport it on a ‘boat’ (a slow spacecraft on water Sir), to elsewhere.”
“Then?”
“Put it back in the ground and call it ‘patio’. Then burn excavated fossilised plant, in a ritual called ‘barbecue’. Er, roughly translated to ‘cooked badly’ Sir.”
“Absurd!”
“Quite Sir. Shall move on to a more intelligent species, The Bugsnorters of Qaar?”
“Absolutely. Let’s hope they’re less wasteful.”

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Never Ending by Scott Bailey

We live in a finite world where everything has a beginning and therefore an end.

But as a young boy, asleep at night, I dreamt of running after, chasing a thing. It always floated out of reach, taunted me, made me want it. So close yet so elusive.

Years passed and it teased my dreams often.

Now an old man, dreaming of a childhood me, standing on a hill in a meadow when it appears before me. I reach out but tumble down. On my back at the bottom, it hovers above me. I reach up but it disappears.

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No End Ta the Mystery (Part I) by Miss Trie Wrighter

Leaving Pepe and Logatha at the bunkhouse, Frankie and old Burt trudged through the relentless rain on up to Ernie’s place.
“Howdy Frankie. Ya bringin mail in this wet mess?”
“No mail fer ya t’day, Ernie. Was wundrin if ya’ve seen Kid and Pal lately. Mebbe they’re holed up here?”
“No, I ain’t seen em. Figger they’d be hangin out at the saloon, what with all the goin-ons.”
“Ya’d think, but they ain’t been there. Ain’t been anywhere lately.”
“Mebbe their writer finally got em corralled and shut up.”
“She ain’t been around either, Ernie.”
“Mysterious!”
“Yep. Endless intrigue.”

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No End Ta the Mystery (Part II) by Miss Trie Wrighter

“Ain’t like them two ta be away from the ranch or the saloon. Reckon Shorty fired em?”
“Not likely. Everone’s welcome at Carrot Ranch, you know thet. Reckon thet also means folks is welcome ta mosey on.”
“Those yahoos wouldn’t. Couldn’t. Ain’t never seen characters more innertwined with place.”
“Mebbe thet writer a theirs jist stopped writin em.”
“Frankie, what happens ta characters thet don’t get writ no more? Do they…?”
“No! Once let onta the page fictional characters is immortal. Even have super powers, kin git transformed an emboldened by readers.”
“Like an endless string a yarn.”
“Yep.”

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