Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Blog

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino August 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“I sure am glad ta be back at the Ranch Pal, jist in time fer another Cowsino! Always feel like I won the lottery when I see that slot machine whirlin out story prompts.”

“I agree Kid, we’re some lucky ta have the Saddle Up Saloon where ranchers kin take the stage an the Cowsino where ranchers kin try their luck at the slot machine.”

“It ain’t luck, Pal. Ya gotta play ta win, an any playful practice at writin kin only build yer skills.”

“I reckon yer right bout this writin prompt Kid.”

“Whoa! What’re the odds a you agreein with me not once but twice! This is my lucky day. Think I’ll step up ta the slot machine an see if a story drops out.”

“Good luck Kid. Yer gonna need it.”

“Thought we agreed this ain’t about luck. Okay, let’s see… tree, ketchup, bear…

Once upon a time trouble was brewin fer B.B. Bearkly.

Every day he went into the trees ta see the forest ‘cause that’s where folks told him he needed ta be.

Until one day he went too far an lost his bearins.

Because of that the wheels of his 4-wheel drive monster Smartcar stopped turnin.

Because of that he had to walk, walk, walk, though he was still lost.

Because of that walkin he got all fit an then content too, out there in the woods an he decided ta stop tryin ta catchup ta all them folks who told him how he oughta be.

Finally he knew where he was an didn’t never wanna leave an lived happily ever after out among the trees.

“What d’ya think Pal?”

“Eh, I think yer lucky Shorty likes ya. Ya sure this has verisimilitude?”

“Versimilitude, Pal? Really? It’ll truly do an I jist hope others come play too.”

“Me too Kid. Folks, leave yer stories down in the comments below. We’d love ta read em an chat with ya!”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more then one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

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

Sweet as Cherries 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.

Sweet As Cherries by Marsha Ingrao

Jolene walked towards him. No time to wipe the telltale signs of nervousness and Oreos. Everyone would see if she wiped on her gown. She rubbed her fingers together to make the stickiness disappear before she reached him.

She remembered her first dance. Worse than sticky hands, beads formed on her nose. Boys looked and turned away. This time she wasn’t going to be defeated. She had already performed. Her accomplishment felt as sweet as cherries.

Jolene reached out her hand as she reached him.

“Well done, Jolene. You earned this.” And the University President handed her the diploma.

🥕🥕🥕

Had I a Cherry by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

Had I a red cherry for every memory lost
I’d own the largest cherry tree
from the East to the West Coast

Sweet mountain cherries all fresh
Picked daily in the new morning dew
Each one a memory returning to me

Some so tart set my mouth a-pucker
Others sweeter than honey’s nectar
Good ones or bad ones memories all

Erubescent rubies piled up so high
A delicious bite of cold crimson fruit
Bringing magical memories to mind

Each remembrance is treasured true
Lay in a bowl full of luscious cherries
Lovingly shared with every one of you

🥕🥕🥕

Cherry Wine by Kerry E.B. Black

I sip cherry wine from a crystal goblet.

Within its red swirls a summer spent on a picnic blanket at the edge of Lady’s Lake, dandelion fluff caught in our hair. Birds sang of hardships to come, but we didn’t heed, tangled in each other, legs entwined, hearts beating the same romance. Ants collected scraps as we tasted sweetness in each other. When summer storms threatened, we’d roll until the blanket enveloped us, its red and white checks deepening to burgundy and grey as rain soaked through. Nothing dulled our love. We lived on cherry wine and each other.

🥕🥕🥕

Honeyed Memory by JulesPaige

On the postage stamp lot of our first home there was a Black Cherry tree. It had to be over eighty years old. That’s at least how old the house was when we bought it. It was so large it was able to shade all of the backyard. Bing Cherry trees can live to be over two hundred.

Those sweet cherries were unreachable for humans. We never got to see its fruit on the longest day of the year. We only got to see it bloom once before we had to move.

newlyweds
bowl of cherries life
That old tree

🥕🥕🥕

Cupboard Love by Ann Edall-Robson

The warm breath before the sensation of his facial hair tickling along the neckline of her shirt made her giggle. She playfully pushed him away with a gentle hand. She didn’t mind the interruption, cleaning stalls was not her favourite chore, but a necessary one. She felt him nibbling at her ear, and giggled. Turning, she buried her face in his warm neck. He was the sweetest thing in her life. Certainly better than a bowl of cherries. Stepping away from her embrace, he reached for the oat pail. Laughing, she scolded the foal. “You’re nothing but cupboard love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Cheeks by Charli Mills

“Look at those cheeks, sweet as cherries.” Old Fran cooed, grasping the blurry face inches from her nose with gnarled hands.

The young farmers watched their ancient neighbor fuss and sputter. Chad glanced at his wife. Worry furrowed between his brows. “What do we do?”

“Don’t whisper,” Jenna said. “Old Fran’s deaf as mine-rock.”

“Blind, too.”

“Apparently.”

Old Fran creaked when she pulled away, gumming a smile. “Put that youngin’ to bed. Read to him.” She shuffled away muttering, sweet, sweet baby.

The farmers resumed their walk, tugging the lead to their rosey-cheeked red goat. “Think she’ll ever notice?”

🥕🥕🥕

Break for the Border by Jenny Logan

It was my maiden visit to Galashiels, the capital of Scotland’s border towns.

We had cherries for dessert—the richest, juiciest, sweetest, plumpest. I romantically imagined they had been purchased from a farm shop. But no. Tesco.

We counted the pips. I was to marry a tailor.

“Imagine the dresses!” Perhaps my tailor would be too grumpy and tired at day’s end. A busman’s holiday? Is that how he would see me?

Maybe I’ll find a Taylor instead. Bulging muscles and an inferiority complex—would I have to constantly massage his ego?

Maybe I’ll stick with the first one.

🥕🥕🥕

Fresh Meat by Sylvia Cognac

She was laying across the steps behind Storke Tower, colossal chemistry book strewn wide open over her tiny lap. Blonde ringlets twirled past cherry red lipstick, cascading past her collarbone, finally falling onto her cherry-print halter top. Other than a blue jean mini skirt, flip flops, and matching cherry accessories, she was all cleavage. Being raised strictly Baptist in my conservative hometown in the Mojave Desert, I’d been told that only sinners dressed that way, but she looked like Heaven to me. She glanced up, interrupting my pondering as to whether her lipstick tasted as sweet as it appeared.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Cherry Pie by Colleen M. Chesebro

It was time. Hazel opened the oven door. The sweet scent of cherries filled the room. She knew this pie would be a winner at the Pie Bake Off at the park this afternoon. After all, she’d added her secret ingredient.

Later, she watched in fascination as the judge took his first bite. His eyes lit up with pleasure at the taste of her sweet confection.

“This is the one,” he said. “First place!”

Then he crumpled in a heap to the ground.

Hazel smiled. She had finally found a way to deal with her ex-husband once and for all.

🥕🥕🥕

Disappeared 36 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It wasn’t that they didn’t miss their stepdad. He was fun, taking all four children to the zoo, the pool, or out for ice-cream right before he brought them home for dinner on Sunday nights. When they made a mess of his house, his maid picked it all up.

And he always had Smith Bros cherry cough drops in his pocket.

Then he lost his job, his maid, and his coterie of girlfriends. Eloise and Andrew had to pick up his slack.

The Twins were bereft. “Weezy, where’s Daddy?”

She’d shrug, and hand them a cherry cough drop, instead.

🥕🥕🥕

Cough Syrup Memories by Sue Spitulnik

Michael developed a change of seasons cold, so Tessa bought him some cherry-flavored cough syrup. She received an unexpected burst of complaint when she handed it to him.

“I’m not going to swallow that. I remember. My mother told me that it tasted sweet as cherries. Cherries, my ass. That stuff made my mouth pucker and my throat burn. I gargled two glasses of water trying to get the crap off my teeth, and it gave me an upset stomach. Mom fooled me when I was a kid, and I’m not getting fooled again.”

Tessa belly laughed at him.

🥕🥕🥕

Life is a Bowl of Cherries by Charli Mills

A cherry pit landed on the page Lucy was reading. Wet and red, it stained the print. “You jerk!”

Laughter sang from the branches above before a small boy dropped to his boots. “Gotcha, Four-Eyes!”

Throughout the summers, Trevor spat numerous cherry pits at Lucy. At the Fourth of July Parade, the county rodeo, their senior picnic. When Trevor returned home after three tours in Iraq, Lucy met him on the tarmac in Oakland. His hard eyes softened when she spat a cherry pit, hitting him squarely on the chin.

“You jerk,” he said with a lopsided grin.

🥕🥕🥕

A Nostalgic Salvation by Gary A. Wilson

I had no experience with depression.

But losing friends to age – then a nephew and daughter to war all left this man who never cries, soaking in tears.

But losing my precious wife to covid – was the abyss I could neither avoid nor survive.

Searching the attic for papers, I found a boot box of letters from Cherise, circa high school promising to stay in love despite our college separation.

Reading about our innocent love was soothing. Then the phone rang, and voice said, “I heard of your loss.”

Cherise, my Cherry, came to hold me, closing that abyss.

🥕🥕🥕

Bing Cherry Memories by Nancy Brady

I knew Cammie throughout school, but in high school, she became my best friend. Spending days at the pool, we followed up by spending evenings coloring or playing various games at my home. At her house, we’d needlepoint or write mysteries, using certain phrases. There, Cammie’s parents gave us huge bowls of Bing cherries as a snack, expecting us to eat them all. As an adult buying Bing cherries for my family, I realized just how generous they were. Cherries are expensive particularly the vast quantities they gave us, yet to my knowledge they never begrudged me a one.

🥕🥕🥕

A Bowl of Cherries by Sadje

Sara brought boxes of dark succulent cherries for everyone in the family when she returned from her trip up north. Dark and sweet, they were hard to resist and we had gone through almost half of our share by morning.

“Don’t eat everyone’s share”, she said, because they were so tempting. “Also you might upset your tummy from eating too many”. Needless to say, her advice fell on deaf ears and greedy fingers, with consequences foretold.

Next morning, I asked her to send the leftover fruit to her brother and sister’s so that I don’t have another bad night.

🥕🥕🥕

Glee by Simon

Hey little cherry
You grew up as a family
What will be your taste
for your color I don’t hesitate
I am looking for a fruit
That taste very absolute
What will be your flavour?
Will you do me a favor!
Tell me about you
I’ve decided to chew
How will you be
I’m searching glee
Will you be sour
That only is bore
Will you be sweet
That’ll be a treat
What if you are both?
I’ll give an oath
Let me put you in my mouth
And bite you with no plea
Sweet lord, I found glee!

🥕🥕🥕

The Sugar Wars by Geoff Le Pard

While in 1642, Little Tittweaking refused to take sides with either Roundheads or Cavaliers, not that either noticed, it has had its own civil war, when Di Abetes barred Sue-Lynn Shotte from their jointly owned sweet shop concession. Di’s supporters, The Humbugs were hard, rather brittle and considered to be sucky sods; Sue-Lynn’s supporters, the Pastels by contrast were colourful, inclined to believe they were good-for-everyone and chewy cuds.

Things got out of hand until St Pancreas brokered a peace by persuading Di Abetes to let in Sue-Lynn Shotte, achieving a balance previously unattainable.

🥕🥕🥕

Are Cherries Allowed on a Low-potassium Diet? by Anne Goodwin

“What do you think of the food?” asked the dietician.

“It’s okay,” said Anne. “There’s plenty of it but it’s not very healthy. The vegetables have the flavour boiled out of them and the fruit is tinned.”

The dietician handed her a leaflet. “Let me explain the low potassium diet.”

No coffee, chocolate or bananas: she could handle that. But no stir-fry, roast or steaming without pre-boiling? No muesli, lentils or nuts? No beetroot, blackcurrants or tomatoes, would she have to compost the crop?

It’s summer and she fancies cherries. High or low potassium? They’re not on any list.

🥕🥕🥕

Cravings by Hugh W. Roberts

Life was a bowl of cherries for Vinnie.

Despite what was happening, he still had ample food.

Life was fun, and had given Vinnie a sweet tooth. When he saw Mrs Longacre running past his kitchen window holding a cherry pie and screaming, he knew life was about to get sweeter.

Within seconds, Vinnie was out of the house and sinking his teeth, not into a cherry pie, but into Mrs Longacre’s neck. The sweetness of flesh helped his sweet cravings.

Having been a Zombie for an hour, Vinnie hoped the sweetness of this new life would last forever.

🥕🥕🥕

Un’altra Notte Rossa by Tina Stewart Brakebill

All around me, conversations swell. I understand little but instead of seeming cacophonous, the words soothe. They distract from my reality until the prosecco dulls the pain.

Then the old woman who runs the osteria stands over me, “Ciligie”?

Seeing the cherries shakes me from my stupor.

She continues, “Devi rimanere per La Notte Rossa.”

The Red Night.

Stuck in an unrelenting loop, I had forgotten the world moves on. Ciliegie abound. And the people celebrate. But not us.

The cherries taunt me with their promise of sweetness but my mind fills with another red night as darkness falls.

🥕🥕🥕

Extraordinary Plot by Reena Saxena

The bowl of cherries on the table are pure temptation, and your slender fingers feed my lust.

A champagne flute almost threatens with its glistening transparency, till a golden liquid satiates its dark instincts.

I need to feign intoxication till secrets spill out, and your fingers laced with poison dip into a sea of fantasy.

Evenings can’t get better than this … I know I’ll wake up next morning with a new plot..

or not wake up at all and let the world write extraordinary fiction – a life that others only dreamt of, that I lived and died for…

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet Cherries by Norah Colvin

Mum loves cherries, but are they sweet? She taste-tested. Yes! She tore off a bag and stuffed it with cherries. Further on, she spotted punnets. That would impress Mum more. She grabbed one and ditched the loose cherries.

Code blue. Code blue. Customer down in fresh produce!

“You alright, ma’am? Need a hand?”

“I’m alright — this time!” She was as red-faced as the cherries. “But you should keep these floors clean.”

Later, dignity reinstalled, exaggerating injuries, she demanded compensation.

The video told the story — a cherry, yes — a rogue cherry; escaped her unceremonious dumping; only to be splattered underfoot.

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet by Duane L Herrmann

There was a dessert in my childhood that I loved. It was made with dates, nuts and syrup, and best eaten when covered in whipped topping. Oddly, it was called a “pudding” though when baked, the top layer became more like a cake with a crust. I enjoyed making it, but reserved it only for special occasions. As an adult, when I ate some, my stomach would get queasy. As much as I enjoyed it, I could tell I should not make or eat it anymore. I eventually learned this sweet, delightful treat was no good for my diabetes!

🥕🥕🥕

A Sour Taste by Bill Engleson

The moon glowed full. A sky of brightness. Wise thieves would have stayed in the shadows. I would have stayed in the shadows.

Cowering.

But there was a yearning.

Inexplicable, I know.

A taste for youth.

The honeyed flesh of youth.

Our lost youth.

It went beyond the pale. Anyone with an iota of sense would know that sampling the wayward flesh of youth would not return the nibbler, strips of youthful flesh dribbling from his lascivious lips to full bloom.

But the yearning would not be assuaged.

Though the mind left a sour taste, the craving was sweet.

🥕🥕🥕

What Hodags Are Made Of by Charli Mills

Sweet as cherries and dark as death, a new hodag slithered through the swamp on a moonless night. By the next full moon, her fangs had grown big enough to reflect the lunar light. She hopped on a marsh mat of moss and decayed logs, thrilling to the jiggle of bouncing her spines from head to tail. Jumping strengthened her repurposed bones. The spine of an old oxen, the hooves of a young calf, the ribs of two wolves, the skull of a baby bear, the ear bones of a murdered lumberjack. A Bing cherry pit for a heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Pit Stops (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid! Bout time ya got back ta the ranch!”

“Ya look peeved Pal. Ya gonna ground me? Get it? Grounded? Cause I jist landed in Pepe’s hot air balloon?”

“Kid, thet was one a the most irresponsible things ya’ve done yet.”

“Tough call.”

“Ya left the ranch when ya should a been heppin out. An poor Frankie. She’s been bawlin her eye out worryin an missin Burt. An whatever did ya do with the mail in his mailbag?”

“Airmail! Them letters’ll land close enough fer goverment work.”

“Kid, thet’s it. Yer fired.”

“Sure am. It was a long trip.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pit Stops (Part II) by D. Avery

“Fired! Yer fired Kid.”

“I’m fired up alright Pal. Trip up north was jist what I needed. An Curly too. She an Pepe both met up with kinfolk. Good times.”

“Dang it Kid, I ain’t sure I kin take much more a yer shenanigins. An look up there, ya went through 99 words an didn’t even use the prompt. I oughtta can ya.”

“Canned Kid? Convenient! Like canned cherries.”

“Hmmf. Kid, is thet lipstick on yer pig?”

“No! She’s been eatin fresh Michigan cherries. Here, try some.”

“Sweet! Ow!”

“Mind the pit. Ow!”

“Back at ya, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

August 1: Story Challenge in 99-words

Bird books describe common mergansers as “streamlined ducks.” Ever since my first encounter with hooded mergansers on Elmira Pond in North Idaho, I thrill to encounter them in the wild. In a remote wilderness area on the remote peninsula of the remote northernmost mitten of Michigan, I spent eight days outside and on the water with fellow writer and Carrot Rancher, D. Avery. And we got to watch a mama merganser swim and fish with her eight acrobatic ducklings.

We camped and kayaked at Sylvania Wilderness Area, Twin Lakes, and Ghost House Farm. We paddled Crooked Lake, portaged to Mountain Lake, and ate lunch on the water. We paddled beneath soaring eagles and among loons and logs turned terrariums. We paddled four lakes in a single day and pondered a memorial carved into a mystery on a picnic table. We took breaks to play Scrabble. We sloughed. Laughed. We watched birds, followed a moose trail in a swamp, smiled at pigs in sprinklers, and agreed that any writer’s residency on the Keweenaw didn’t need to be rustic.

The rustic cabin was a bust, but it made me realize that rustic was the wrong feature. The Keweenaw is remote and rich in inspiration.

While the re-enactment of Doug Jacquier’s “Bad Day at Black Fly Rock” did not unfold as planned, there were moments when we were swarmed. Mosquitos, Paulding Lights, a tour of kayakers. Yet, the one wee thing that nearly sent me squealing out of my own kayak was an awkwardly over-friendly frog. We will not talk of the frog. I still talk to frogs, but none will be allowed to frantically hop between my thighs in a kayak. Again.

We did not see the Northern Lights, but we did catch the Paulding Lights. Our first night, I woke up to D.’s tent flashing like a casino. We were in the wilderness area campground so it seemed strange. The next morning, we realized there were no campsites behind D.’s tent! I thought it must be the Paulding Lights, but it was a Christmas in July effort by our camp hosts. They did direct us to the actual Paulding Lights and we watched the phenomenon:

As promised, D. and I investigated the Conglomerate Falls Cabin as a possible place for a Carrot Ranch Literary Artist in Residency. We decided there’s such a thing as too rustic. I’m now considering ways to focus retreats, workshops, and residencies on the vastness of nowhere and anywhere of the Keweenaw. Carrot Ranch Headquarters are remote beauty sure to inspire writers.

August 1, 2022, prompt: Write a story that features someplace remote in 99 words (no more, no less). It can be a wild sort of terrain or the distance between people. What is the impact of a remote place? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by August 6, 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.

Floating 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.

Suspending Your Ship by Bill Engleson

He was finding himself tiresome. No matter the prompt, he felt an uncontrollable urge to mess with it. Revamp it. Take Floating Your Boat, for instance. It would’ve been a perfectly acceptable title for this particular ninety-nine-word opus.

In fact, that was the first thing he thought to name it.

This was his usual modus operandi.

Invariably he needed a title, a witty aperitif to riff off.

Occasionally he might revise it.

Not often but sometimes the title demanded titular revision.

Like now.

What the heck did Suspending Your Ship actually mean?

Was he waiting for a shipstorm?

Hmmm!

🥕🥕🥕

Music on the Water by Sue Spitulnik

When Michael heard the band had been invited to play on a pontoon boat he wasn’t happy. “I’m not going unless I can use my wheelchair.”

Thad gave him a look. “My aren’t we cooperative today.”

“These metal legs were made for terra firma. Balancing on a rocking boat is not something I’m used to. I can relax in my chair.”

Thad replied, “Fine. Whatever floats your boat.”

“Exactly. We’ll all be able to sway with the waves.”

Tyrell rolled his eyes. “Pontoon boats don’t sway, they glide along smooth and quiet.”

“I’ll pretend you didn’t tell me that.”

🥕🥕🥕

Shapeshifters by Ann Edall-Robson

Moving from the horizon
Towards the unsuspecting
Unafraid of openness
Nothing stops the charge
Tracking their movement
Anticipation stirs, a calm elation
Visible on the child’s face
No fear in the eyes of one so young
Imagination has no limits
Excitement tingles through tiny limbs
Shapeshifters float into view
Above the grassy blanket
Each different, hovering overhead
Friend, foe, pleasing, and menacing
These shapeshifters gather
Arriving as one, leaving together
Travelling in the wind
A game of guessing, identifying
Images in clouds, their transition
Leaving their story to be told
By those who see the shapes
The child within

🥕🥕🥕

Questions at a Parade by Scott Bailey

“Dad?”
“Yes, Son?”

“Why do those big balloons have ropes?”
“To keep them from floating away.”

“Oh, what makes them float?”
“Helium, a Gas.”

“Oh, like gas in a car?”
“No, that’s a different gas.”

“Oh, what’s that thing with all those flowers and people on it?”
“That’s a float.”

“Oh, do they float like balloons?”
“No, they just drive along.”

“Oh, does our elevator float?”
“No.”

“Oh, does a boat float?”
“Yes, but only when it’s on the water.”

“Oh, will a float, float on the water?”
“Hey Son, how about we go inside for a RootBeer Float?”

🥕🥕🥕

Dreaming by Colleen M. Chesebro

It is night. The darkness swaddles me in a tight embrace. I sense this is a dream, and I glide like a bird in flight, arms extended to catch the air currents; I float. It is in this place of zero gravity where I feel the nothingness of just being. There is no sound other than the steady beat of my heart chakra, a green glow blooming in my chest. With a burst of energy, I soar and dive toward the edge of darkness, which fades into a starry sky.

“Mom, wake up! I’m hungry. When’s breakfast?”

Reality bites!

🥕🥕🥕

The Creek (Part I) by Miss Judy

The creek flows down from up above, under the bridge where tiny fish float serenely in crystal clear waters, past the weather-worn house sagging with age like the couple who lived within, down past the garden, over-grown and brown, abandoned, on under Pa’s old barn where only rotted beams and boards still stand, past the privy, over stones worn smooth with time, on to the swimming hole at the corner where the children’s laughter can still be heard floating in the air, on it flows winding through the fields and towns, there are still miles to travel this day.

🥕🥕🥕

The Creek (Part II) by Miss Judy

Sundays were for family. Aunts, uncles, cousins gathered at the farmhouse by the creek. Ma and Pa’s house for as long as I knew. While the grown-up’s were grown-up’ing, cousins headed to the creek. Sometimes fishing off the bridge or to the swimming hole on a hot summer day. We’d float in old innertubes, swing from the frayed robe, skip stones and catch polliwogs. We might lie in the grass and watch the clouds float by – a parade of odd shapes and sizes – a game, “What Do You See?” Those were the happiest of times, carefree, we were blessed.

🥕🥕🥕

Floating by gjef2871

I’m floating at Coogee Beach pool; learning to swim where my Mum learned—my 80-year-old grandma sprightly and upright walking miles up hills and down dales to see us at the beach.

That night I lie in bed and capture the sensation of floating: the relaxation and joy of being in water—being held, supported, and caressed by nature.

My hair gets gold highlights in it and my sister and I walk down the beach searching out shells and treasures.

One time my sister found $10! Just don’t bathe near the storm water outlet cos it makes people sick.

🥕🥕🥕

Ship to Shore by Doug Jacquier

I am an island trader, willing to chart any course to avoid emptiness, still floating but in a race against rust. I am a ship of the line that limps into your harbour to refuel and unload its weary cargo. I lean against your wharf when the tide is at its lowest ebb.

You are a net exporter, with warehouses of new dawns, freely welcoming ships of all flags. You send tugs to listing vessels, like this one with its dreams encrusted, and push them to where the cranes are and show them pylons that defy the sucking mud.

🥕🥕🥕

Nellie Bly on Blackwell’s Island by Anne Goodwin

At first she struggled but it was futile: there were more of them and the door was locked. Curled up in a ball, she tried to protect her head. She howled when they kicked her in the kidneys instead.

Why had she embarked on this crazy project? She could die on the island and none of her family would know. As another blow landed, death seemed the only escape.

Her body went limp. Pain transformed to buzzing in her ears. Feather-light, she floated above the rag-doll version of her. She would survive to scream her story to the world.

🥕🥕🥕

Circle of Love by Hugh W. Roberts

Vikki floated on cloud nine for years while dating two men who had no idea the other existed.

As soon as she knew which one to propose and marry, she’d divorce her husband and end the relationship with the other man she was secretly seeing.

But Vikki couldn’t make up her mind.

Eventually, her bubble burst, and she was bought down from cloud nine with a bump when her husband made up her mind for her when she found him in bed with one of her lovers.

It wasn’t long before all four were floating on cloud nine again.

🥕🥕🥕

Just 3 Breaths to Peace by Gary A. Wilson

“It works. I proved it. I was much younger and seeing my doctor. While taking my blood pressure. His huge-breasted assistant embarrassed me by shoving my arm under hers – pressing me against her.”

“Hm, your BP’s high.”

Of course it is, I thought. “Having heard that this worked, I answered, “Give me a moment and let’s try again.” She smiled and studied her clipboard.

I closed my eyes, took three deep breaths and slowly released each while envisioning floating on thick air – completely at peace.”

“Ready?”

“I am.”

“Wow! Did you just nod off? Your BP is perfect now.”

🥕🥕🥕

“Sink or Swim? Float or Falter?” by MarlaPaige

Laying back, prickly grass jabbing her through her thin dress, she watched the puffy clouds float by. Mind reeling from her most recent break up: “How do I always find the ones who float in and out of my life and never stay? What do I keep doing wrong?”

The thought floated into her mind on a whisper, but slammed down hard like a crack of thunder: “I need to call my ex! He always tells me everything I do wrong!”

She watched as he floated in armed with a mental laundry list of her faults.

She sighed, wearily.

🥕🥕🥕

Al salvataggio (Italian for To the Rescue) by JulesPaige

Gertie sat in her office on L’isola Della Donna. All of her daughters, and the lost women she’d found. They all worked together to restore her faith in humankind. While no men were ever allowed on this island, they did have some men who were helpers. Those men like her father and husbands who knew right from wrong. On her desk coded in a musical score an address for her band of angels to float in and out undetected. Another woman to rescue.

Floating; a
Sea of memory
Lost husbands
Found daughters
Gentle music playing in
Her old pate

🥕🥕🥕

Elixir by Shari Marshall

“Is it so different?” Tallie asks. “Your world, this planet called Earth, floats. It floats in the sea of a vast universe.”

Simon’s eyes flare. “Float! Earth most certainly does not float. In fact, Earth is fall…”

“Are you bonkers?” Tallie gives a fast assessment of herself and Simon. “No wind rushing past, feet on the ground, no discernable indications of falling.” Simon opens his mouth to respond, but Tallie keeps going. “Earth isn’t hanging, there are no strings. Like my planet Earth is buoyant, suspended in the elixir.”

“Elixir? It’s mythical!”

Exasperated Tallie raises her eyebrows. “Is it?”

🥕🥕🥕

The Skies Are Friendly Frank James

“Thank you for taking me away from the crowds,” I say to the captain flaming hot air into the balloon. He releases the anchor, and we sail into the Heavens. I watch people on the beach shrink. We pass through the moist clouds and emerge, floating above white pillows. They break, and I peer down to the seashore and see just offshore a shiver of sharks patrolling for dinner. Terror jolts me!

“I see it all the time,” captain smirks. He guides the balloon to a soft landing.

Delight fills me to float in limbo and land on ground.

🥕🥕🥕

Drifting by Valentina Okorie

The lecture hall, although hot and cramped, was much friendlier than the blazing sun outside. She was in between the inaudible lecturer and her sleepy mind. For the umpteenth time, she drifted up and away. She smoothed her suit and grabbed her purse. She’d rather brave the blazing sun than spend another minute outside her air-conditioned car. She branched at an eatery and grabbed a bite for herself and her housemate. Smiling as she spun her steering wheel, she’d soon be home. She felt hot again. Raised voices made the lecture hall hotter. The lecture was finally over.

🥕🥕🥕

Floating by Duane L Herrmann

Like a feather, but lighter, I drift along – with the clouds, in the clouds, part of the clouds, but my own self. I can hear music, soft, gentle, soothing, refreshing, invigorating. The music gives me strength and energy. I send out thoughts to those around me. We were not alone. We are together in harmony and love. This is such a contrast to what I was used to or what I had expected. Here, there is nothing to fear. This is PEACE! This is so, so much better than my life on Earth. I’m so glad that’s over!

🥕🥕🥕

Disappeared 34 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The mage rocked backward, surprised. Bethany was pregnant, and if he wasn’t mistaken, with twins!

That was fast. 

She and the apparently virile older, second husband hadn’t been married that long. He surely couldn’t tell the fragile Joseph about this; any progress they’d made in recovering his memories and resigning him to his situation would be trashed.

Again, he probed Bethany’s cells, and was greeted by twin giggles. Was there an edge of hysteria to them? Floating in the Shadow World, souls often had a sense of what was coming.

Bethany absently placed a comforting hand on her belly.

🥕🥕🥕

Magical Tooth by Simon

The floating cup amazed her, papa’s magic was always her favourite, a suspicious person, not lived long.

By the time she entered college, she implanted papa’s gift inside her; a craved magical tooth, that gave her skills to defy from gravity, she could able to move things.

With great power comes great responsibility. She spoiled that quote, she became a magician, like her grandfather.

Luckily, Nana was still alive. She helped her, to use her greater powers to help herself.

God of universe watched all of it, he regretted for wasting 2 generations. Tooth decayed, she lost the tooth.

🥕🥕🥕

Floating by Norah Colvin

What a day! The hottest in a long, hot, relentless summer. And it was only just December. After constant interruptions, distracted children and demanding parents, the pool was too enticing to ignore. And she had it to herself. On the Li-lo, miles away, she was oblivious to the world: the knocking at the door, the squeaky gate and the shush of voices as her location was discovered. A sudden WOOF! and a “One, two, three, jump!” annihilated her peace and upended her into the water. “We didn’t know you were going to swim with us, Grandma. You never do!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sink Or Swim? by Geoff Le Pard

Near Little Tittweaking is an ancient sinkhole, the Devil’s Rectum which, every May, fills with the turgid brown snow melt from Mount Zit. True Tittweakers join the crowds for the annual float challenge, made near impossible by the water’s lack of buoyancy. Until Dee Cuppe, exotic dancer and courgette sculptress arrived, the best time was 47 seconds. Her record is one hour, though questions have been raised whether her surgically enhanced embonpoint may give her a lift. Her fame has resulted in several nicknames – ‘pillow pecs’ being one – though her unsinkability has led to the most commonly used: Bob.

🥕🥕🥕

Cooler Than a Pool by Annette Rochelle Aben

Mom banished all the kids from the pool when she wanted to use it. In fact, she didn’t even want us in the backyard while she relaxed. She turned the radio to her favorite station, donned her sunglasses, and floated on her blow-up raft.

That worked for us! We enjoyed having access to the kitchen when she wasn’t around. One of us grabbed the glasses. Another found the long, skinny iced tea spoons, and I gathered the goodies.

Two scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with cold Vernors ginger ale. She floated her way, and we floated our way!

🥕🥕🥕

Processing Time by KL Caley

Laying in the water, she closed her eyes against the blinding sun. Just floating, listening to the water, clearing her mind. In the distance she could hear other sounds, children laughing, seagulls squawking but for now she ignored them all. She just needed five minutes to herself. Five minutes of alone time.

No-one could predict when they would hear bad news, or how they would react when they received it. With children, you don’t allow yourself time to process it, their needs must be met first, your anger, your pain, your processing comes later. Her five minutes were now.

🥕🥕🥕

Wings on the Wall by Echoes of the Soul

She always wondered what it was, that drew her to the inanimate wings etched on the wall.

On that fateful night, on the way back from her office, she was surrounded by the uncouth, lecherous ruffians of the neighbourhood who had been stalking her. As she struggled in the clutches of the evil, she felt helpless and violated as the groping hands pinned her to the wall.

Then in a stroke of a miracle, she started to float. The wings had come alive. She soared in the sky, flying free. Then she turned and dived, going for the kill.

🥕🥕🥕

Floating by Sadje

Imagine yourself floating serenely on a white cloud. A pleasing wind ruffles your hair gently. It’s all very calm, nothing hurried or urgent about it.

Then suddenly, your cloud deflates and descends towards terra firma, and you’re deposited with a rude shock to the living room of your home.

The whole experiment of disassociating the mind from the body and floating through space failed.

Hmmm…..

“If you weigh down yourself with the weight of worries and stress, you won’t be able to soar. Let go of all that’s holding you down”, said the instructor.

“Let’s try again!”

It worked!

🥕🥕🥕

Should Not Float by Kerry E.B. Black

Mrs. Tigerio’s fifth grade science class sat cross-legged along the parking lot curb. All seven kids tracked something overhead.

“I really thought the evidence would prove she was too heavy.” Tom blinked, owl-like.

His best friend stroked his chin, searching in vain for the beginnings of beard stubble. “Seemed that way.”

Chrissie shaded her eyes with her hand. “Guess our computations were wrong.”

“Mercury’s denser,” Tom mused. “Who’d’ve thought?”

Everyone nodded.

“So on Mars, we’d weigh least.”

Another chorus of silent nodding.

Chrissie worried. “How’re we getting her down?”

“She’ll reacclimate to earth’s gravitational pull,” Tom’s brow furrowed. “Eventually.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hot Air Currents by D. Avery

“Hey Pal. Where’s Kid?”

“Look up, Shorty. Kid’s floatin over the ranch with LeGume in thet infernal fume powered hot air balloon a his.”

“You didn’t wanna go?”

“Thet don’t float my boat. Asides, they’re warn’t no room. Curly hopped aboard, then Burt wanted ta go. Have a look with these bi-noc’lars. Thet’s a horse of a dif’rent color.”

“Yer right. Green. Ew! Duck!”

“They’s a duck up there too?”

“No Pal, Burt’s lost his lunch, it’s floatin down.”

“Hay! Aw, horse feathers! Burt’s ruint ma hat!”

“Shake it off, Pal.”

“Hmmff. I blame LeGume.”

“Rise above it Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

July 25: Story Challenge in 99-words

A friend met me at the Ghost House Farm and I discovered I have a grandma-belly. She brought her charming 4-year-old granddaughter — let’s call her Cherries because she’s sweet.

Cherries climbed out of the car, ran to me, and pressed her face into my big soft belly. Until this moment, I had thought of my abdomen as a mama-belly, the place where I stored great treasures including womb-raised babies and decades of cake.

Now, I understand my belly’s capacity to comfort a shy grandchild. Cherries snuggled until she was ready to greet the farm.

Then Snake decided to slither in greeting. Cherries face-planted once again. I explained that garter snakes live in the meadowy spaces on the farm and have a job, eating insects. We had walked to the chickens when Snake greeted us and I assured Cherries that Snake didn’t like to tickle his belly on the gravel path. Snake proved me wrong.

Eventually, the sweet red tree “berries” caught her attention. The cool summer provided optimum growth for our fruit trees in the Keweenaw. Cherries abound (the edible sort). Cherries, the child, recognized a sweet treat. She wasn’t wrong and we followed Snake (I didn’t point out that we were following Snake).

After our snack, we visited the “goatses.” Don’t ask me why me and my 32-year-old daughter call the goat herd something that sounds suspiciously like baby-talk. We never baby-talked our kids, but we did delight in their mispronunciations (they inherited that quirk from me). Cherries approved the word and I smiled broadly as she called, “Here goatses.”

We fed them kale left over from the last farmers market, each goat nibbling the hand-held leaves. Cherries noticed they didn’t eat the dropped ones. Feeding is an act of engagement with the goats. It is a bonding experience. Big Chip pushed his way through the middle of the herd and I had to refrain from loving on him without my Chip-lovin’-gloves.

Then Cherries said, “I want him on my lap.”

Yes, Sweet One, I hear you. Big Chip puts out strong snuggle vibes. I want to sit in the shade and let Chip curl up in my lap, too. Oh, boy — we’d stink forever if we gave in to that notion!

We searched for the pigs but they must have bedded down beneath cedar trees out of sight. No amount of calling roused them for their kale treats and Cherries’ grandma did not want us clambering over hot electrical fencing. Good call, Grandma.

The hotwire fence is brilliant. Wheels of rope-like wire make easy perimeters to keep farm animals contained and coyotes, bears, and wolves out. Even the mobile chicken coop resides behind hotwire. The farmers can reroute farm workers (aka pigs and goats) to de-brush or root a section of land for farm reclamation.

In the process, the archaeology pigs dig up all kinds of human debris from scads of broken glass to buried Model-Ts. Cherries shared my interest in the glass. I showed her broken bottle necks, the slender side of a dainty bottle, the lip of a mason jar, crockery, dinner plates, and a chunk of what was once a stemmed candy dish.

We met the farmer and his human crew of one — my SIL and a 12-year-old neighbor boy — planting beets in the pumpkin and corn patch. We showed them our shattered glass gems. Cherries decided she needed more time with the goatses, which led to a hunger for more cherries.

We sat beneath the shade of the 100-year-old tree and I taught Cherries how to spit pits. In the effort, I splattered spit on her cheek, and yes, a child not fond of snakes was also not fond of wiping away my spittle. I’m working on my bedside grandma-belly manners. She caught on to the trick only swallowing a pit once.

Cherries left with her grandma and a hoard of glass. I can tell I might not be popular among parentses. But isn’t that the fun of being an elder? The call of becoming a Hagitude.

Now that last word, I did not invent. The fabulous mythologist, Sharon Blackie coined the word, melding “hag” and “attitude.” In her book (and year-long course) Hagitude, she informs women in the second half of life to live unexpectedly out loud.

‘There can be a perverse pleasure, as well as a sense of rightness and beauty, in insisting on flowering just when the world expects you to become quiet and diminish.’

~ Sharon Blackie

It’s not coincidental that these past difficult years have also ushered in a decade of peri and full-on menopause. My mama-belly has clearly morphed, signaling my shape-shifting years yet to come. These past five years have crushed me but not broken me. As I’ve crumbled, questioning everything about my identity, purpose, and relationships, I feel the Hagitude rising.

I am not afraid of snakes or the second half of life emerging. Bring on something sweet as cherries!

July 25, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story sweet as cherries. It can be about the fruit or something cherries represent. Why is it sweet? Can you use contrast to draw out the beauty? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 30, 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.

For a Day 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.

Donna is Found (Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa’s father had come alone to give her a taped plain cardboard box. “I found this in the attic and your name is on the tape, so I brought it over.”

Tessa opened the box to find her much-loved Thumbelina doll snuggled in shredded paper. “Oh my. I thought Mom threw her out because I wanted to take her to college with me. I used to pretend she was Michael’s and my baby.” Tear’s formed as she hugged the doll. “Wait till Michael sees that we’ve been reunited with Donna.”

“Donna?”

“Yes, after the best Dad we both love.”

🥕🥕🥕

Donna is Found (Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

That evening Tessa and Michael sat on the couch with Donna between them. They reminisced about the dreams they had as teenagers and wondered how different their lives would be had they married then. Without thinking about their granddaughter, they left Donna sitting alone when they went to bed.

When Lexi dropped Emma off in the morning for “Gramma Day,” Emma toddled straight to Donna. She pointed to her, “Baby!” Then she picked her up, hugged her, and said,

“Mine!”

Tessa and Michael watched with their mouths open. Tessa touched Michael’s arm. “Well, she was home for a day.”

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Picnic 1917 by Anne Goodwin

We’d make love as dawn light caressed the bedroom curtains and Molly would forgive my bristly chin. Later, as she prepared the picnic, our son would watch me as I shaved. We’d sing as we cycled to the river and I wouldn’t have to turn my back on them to eat.

I was prepared to sacrifice a limb for my country. Even give my life. I never thought my face was handsome till I lost it. But oh to have it back for just one day, not to have to choose between ghoulishness and disappearing behind a painted mask.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing Parts by Frank James

I wished I were complete for a day, but that could never happen. Shrapnel wounded me during war, and I lost myself. A wonderful group of people at the VA took me on an untamed journey through the human mind and body. As we traveled, surgeons pieced me together. Others peeled away layers of emotional injury and anxiety. One day, we paused, and we reflected to reveal who I was. I am a veteran who survived war. They cleared my blurry vision leaving me to see my missing parts were that. Me as a person was whole all along.

🥕🥕🥕

We Can Be Heroes and Be the Voice by Doug Jacquier

Unknown to most Americans, Australia sent 60,000 defence personnel to the Vietnam War. As the war continued, with no end in sight, a wide range of people began to object to the war and the draft on moral grounds. In May 1970, 200,000 Australians marched in city streets against the War. Right-wing politicians and media said it would be a blood-bath but clergy, teachers, academics, unions, politicians and school students made sure it wasn’t. It didn’t stop the war immediately but it changed our country forever because ordinary people realised they could be heroes, even for just one day.

You’re the Voice – John Farnham
David Bowie – We can be heroes

🥕🥕🥕

For a Day by Ann Edall-Robson

The slender bodies in green standing guard over me need to move aside for me to feel the sun on my face. I’m tired, but I am a fighter, it will be worth it. Last night rain fell, leaving drops behind on my outer self. That doesn’t matter, I need to keep on track, everyone around me is expecting me to show my true colours. It’s a lot of pressure, every year is the same. I know I’m up for it because I’m one of the hundreds of daylily plants in the garden that blooms only for a day.

🥕🥕🥕

Christmas with the Grandparents… Whenever by James M. Lane

Just for 24 hours the grandparents are back.
Is it a miracle? Who knows? But here we all are feasting on Christmas snap.
Good times, merriment, oh… How the world has changed!
A mercy you never lived it, or you’d be deranged!
And when you last saw me, I wasn’t doing too good.
A bit of a loser? Or misunderstood?
Yes, I’m doing better now, yes, I’m okay.
You could say I was a success at the end of the day.
Just as I prepared to tell them of the man I’d become.
The clock went and struck 12.01.

🥕🥕🥕

For a Day by Bill Engleson

He stood on the corner below my window. He gently repeated the same six words.
“Each day is the last day.”
“Each day is the last day.”
The weather was pleasant, a warm July morning.
A heat wave was expected but for now, it was just that.
A pleasant morning.
Except, I suppose, for the delicate repetition of his message.
It was just for that day.
That one early July morning.
The next morning, he was not there.
I peered out my window, looked up and down the street.
He was not there.
That day was his last day.

🥕🥕🥕

Death by RoundAbout by Geoff LePard

Three strange deaths occurred in Little Tittweaking during 2021’s fog-bound winter: Millie Peed’s electrocution when, lost in the mist she mistook the substation for a portaloo; committed runner Perce Strings, garrotted by Anna Bolic-Steroid’s washing line in the white-out; and Neville Erending, local Petomane* impersonator, who expired when failing to find the exit on the roundabout. His constant circling caused his lower intestine to knot and then explode. Ironic, they said that he both lived from gas and died by G.A.S. – Gyroscopical Anus Syndrome – which brought down the curtain on Nev Erending’s story.

*Author’s Note: in case you’re not aware of the story of Le Petomane.

🥕🥕🥕

The Mysteries of a Foster Grandpa by Gary A. Wilson

We cousins had an iconic, audacious, and outrageous storytelling step-grandpa.

His life between hobo-ing for work across the country via railroad to joining our family was a mystery. His accounts were so wild and entertaining; no way they could all be true, but were any?

His adventures sent us dreaming, but our parents knew we were safe with him – mostly.

At twelve, he taught me to drive his old stick-shift truck after committing me to not telling mom.

Given one more day with him, I’d spend some clarifying actual history, but most of it capturing his barely plausible stories.

🥕🥕🥕

Gravity, the Jokester by Scott Bailey

I first met the Jokester Gravity when I was just a little boy. He pushed me out of my treehouse. While falling, a beautiful sensation of weightlessness engulfed me as Gravity pulled me Earthward. Though I met the ground with a resounding thud, that floating feeling made the trip worth it.

Now, I’m old and apparently still a friend, that relentless Jokester Gravity still occasionally buckles my knees and drops me. I don’t look forward to those momentary bouts of weightlessness anymore because just last week Gravity saw fit to toss me down the stairs, breaking both my arms.

🥕🥕🥕

The Exchange by D. Avery

“What you’re looking for is certainly here, but is it what you need?” The twinkle in the old man’s eyes turned sharp as he cautioned, “Consider the cost.”

“Someone or something from my past to spend a day with? — that’s a priceless gift.”

“To revisit what was for what might be,” he said, handing her an old mirror, “Giving up a present day, still charged with possibility— it’s a costly exchange.”

The mirror was identical to one she’d had as a little girl, the one that had once belonged to her grandmother. “The past is for reflection, not reliving.”

🥕🥕🥕

Disappeared 32 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The mage gently fed Joseph’s memories back to him, like one endless day in purgatory: the more Joseph remembered, the greater the pain. Both felt it.

Traveling through shadowlands to observe the living world came naturally to the mage, but not to Joseph, despite his intensive studies of magical worlds. And while the mage could travel anywhere just by thinking, Joseph was restricted to the tunnels, caves, and grounds of the robber baron’s mansion. Some said the mansion was haunted, most were insensate to the poor man’s cries.

How could the mage tell Joseph his woman had moved on?

🥕🥕🥕

Marching on the Twenty-fifth by Kerry E.B. Black

She pulled the box from beneath her childhood bed and blew dust from its top. Bound with a chocolate heart’s red ribbon, the box held a maiden’s treasures. Poetic offerings from her only high school beau. A green pinkie ring – his favorite color. Her prom photo – They’d missed most of the dance, but their youthful smiles didn’t mind. A tiny brass rose and dolphin bookends. A dried corsage, its decayed perfume more vibrant than its crumbling flowers. An envelope of ticket stubs decorated with a floating dinosaur. No longer Romeo’s Juliette, she replaced the lid and slid it back.

🥕🥕🥕

The Blue Bunny by Norah Colvin

By the light of a kerosine lamp, when the day’s chores were done and the house was quiet as the children gave in to sleep, but only after a one-millionth drink of water and a final trip to the outside dunny in the cool night air, she knitted a blue bunny for her third child’s third birthday. A baby slept in the cot beside her, and another stirred within her. It took a basketful of creativity and a pinch of magic to feed the growing brood, but stitched with love, a child’s gift was creativity of a different kind.

🥕🥕🥕

If Only… by Nancy Brady

People always talk about closure, but it rarely happens. For Donny, at four, it never came.
Donny’s memories of his mother are nonexistent. He remembers the events of a photograph: him, dressed in church clothes, sitting in a chair by the teacher, who said he wouldn’t be in the picture. He remembers the short pants showing his knees. The back of the photo indicates she was alive when it was taken.
Life changed for this family when the mother and baby died. If for one day, the man could see and talk to her what a difference it’d make.

🥕🥕🥕

The Other-side of a Day by Hugh W. Roberts

He couldn’t believe he’d slept for a day.

The world was still there when he drew back the curtains. He watched as people went about their business.

After making himself a coffee, he sat down and thought about what he’d done.

He’d just as well try again because nobody had missed him.

Picking up the empty pill bottle, he realised he’d need to get more sleeping tablets and another bottle of vodka.

In the pharmacy, he met David, working there for a day. He married him a year later.

He was so glad the pill bottle had been empty.

🥕🥕🥕

At Day’s End by D. Avery

“Did you see this?”

She hadn’t. She sighed, looked at him over her book.

“I know what I would spend a day with.”

“What?”

“Who, really. You.”

“You are spending a day with me.” Another one, she thought. Another endless, aimless day. She tried to find her place but was interrupted again.

“I’d cherish a day with the old you.”

“Don’t you mean the young me?”

“Sure, you when you were younger.”

“So you want a younger woman?”

He looked at her uncertainly. “Just you. When you still loved me.”

She bent her head to the tear blurred page.

🥕🥕🥕

The Iconic Mr. Patel by Scott Bailey

The old grammar school looks smaller than I remember, the trash and graffiti worse. In the bodega next door, I ask the clerk if he knew where the old man who used to own the place had moved too.

“My Grandfather owned it for fifty years, still lives upstairs but is very sick.” He said.

“I owe him something. May I see him?” I asked.

-upstairs-

“I recognize you, come to steal more candy?” Coyly grinning, the bed ridden old man asked.

Smiling sheepishly, I put ten thousand dollars in his hand and left, “Sorry about all the candy.”

🥕🥕🥕

For a Day by Duane L Herrmann

What would I enjoy doing for a day if I had my choice of activity, time, or place? I don’t know. Going back to my childhood past would not be satisfactory, I am not the same as I was then.

After considerable days reflection, I realize there is one place of peace I would like to return to. I do often in my mind, going again in person would be nice. It is a sacred space on a hillside, a holy tomb full of light and peace and joy, the heart of the Bahá’í World Center. Take me there.

🥕🥕🥕

Just for a Day by Sadje

I have regrets about the past, who doesn’t?

But I’ve come to terms with them because that’s the pragmatic, sensible thing to do. I don’t wish to go back and re-do or undo anything that happened for I know everything happened for a reason.

Would I like to spend some time with my mom who passed away before I even got to know her or form memories of her? Or have another day with my loving father? Yes, I would like to, but I know it will make things even more difficult.

Instead, I choose to remember them fondly!

🥕🥕🥕

Worry Free (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

Water falls
Calm cool bracing air
For a day
Just us two
The faithful rescue pet that
Sparked a grand future

Gertie retreated to her private office, the other women could revel in their reunion. “Jane” and her friend, as well as the others who had taken refuge on L’isola Della Donna. Closing and locking the door. For just a day to be so free again without any worries. On the wall were many photos. The one her Mother took of her and Alba, when she thought she was alone, was a favorite. Closing her eyes; there again.

🥕🥕🥕

Gifted Kid by D. Avery

“Pal, was you ever young?”

“Sayin I’m old Kid?”

“Sayin yer always sayin ya’ve been at Carrot Ranch ferever. So was you a kid here, with parents an all?”

“Works thet way fer some fictional characters, but not all. Nope, I was never a kid, Kid.”

“So ya jist showed up full blown onta the page?”

“Well, I’d like ta think I’ve developed some, but yep, full-blown, full-grown.”

“Huh. So what bout Shorty’s question? Got a icon a yer past, Pal?”

“Was kinda hopin it’d be you.”

“I ain’t from yer past.”

“Nope, but that’d be a nice present.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

July 18: Story Challenge in 99-words

Thunderheads punch white pillars into blue sky. The towering clouds float at a distance in suspended animation, slowly morphing from rock features to dragons. It’s not a warm summer on the Keweenaw but no one is complaining and it’s a bumper crop of sweet cherries and field-grown strawberries. Nights are pleasantly cool.

Nokomis Gichigami, Grandmother Big Sea, is frigid.

Yesterday, Lake Superior recorded 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday, I swam with Mause.

Let me back up to explain “swimming.” I’m fine paddling about in a kayak or in water with my head scoping the path forward. At one time in my life — age 13 — I sufficiently overcame my terror of getting my head submerged to have joined the county swim team. My coach told me to wear nose plugs. Since then, I’ve regressed and won’t submerge my head.

But a friend of mine floats and I want to float, too. Last year, I decided to try the water on one of our boat rides (her partner has a beautiful pontoon boat for cruising our vast Portage Canal and edges of Lake Superior). I climbed down the back ladder and clung to the boat, hyperventilating. I’m a pro at meditation, though and I began to calm and deepen my breath.

Then my leg cramped and I got scared and thought maybe floating wasn’t for me. Yet.

This summer, I’ve returned to yoga and I’m working on those hamstrings (the ones that cramp). I also bought an apparatus that I remember using to learn different strokes when swimming — a kickboard. Mine is purple with the tiniest smattering of turquoise glitter. A vast improvement over the plain white boards of the ’70s.

That’s how I came to be in the water, watching thunderheads expand vertically. My friend’s boat is the happy place for many of us. He generously takes guests on weekend cruises, and I’m fortunate to be a frequent-boater-future-floater. This time, he invited a local massage therapist who lives off-grid with her husband. They’re both in their seventies, near eighties. She loves to float but shares my fear. She wears a life vest.

This time, I felt confident going into the water. Panic hit but I was ready for it and countered my breaths until I felt calm. Then I dared to push away from the boat and my kickboard glided. We had stopped in a cove not far from White City, the beach that once entertained miners’ families with amusements and picnics. Only the Portage lighthouses and breakwall remains.

At some point, I relaxed enough to rest my chin on the board, my arms forward like in child-pose, and suddenly, I felt it. Buoyancy. I breathed into the feeling and let my body float. Glorious water held me. I floated into a warm spot and among my friends, one on her back, the other floating like a bobber in her vest. We spoke to each other as we floated. Sometimes we fell silent.

In one of those silent moments, another boat coasted into the cove and met up with our captain. We heard a new voice remark, “Are those corpses?” followed by laughter from the other boats that had also pulled in without our notice. I suppose we made an odd sight. But none of us cared and we floated until called back to the boat.

That’s how I arrived at the moment of swimming with Mause yesterday. Mause’s swim history is much shorter and begins yesterday.

It’s hit or miss with a German Shorthaired Pointers. Either they love water or they loathe it. Last summer, Mause was a young puppy (now she’s an elder puppy). We introduced her to water, but she never swam. She chased waves and rocks. It’s been too cold to swim this year, as noted by the Lake’s chilly temperature. Still, the sun heats surface water and it’s warmer where the waves blow to shore.

The day was hot and we decided to cool off at McLeans. I poked around among the rock bars, getting my ankles adjusted to the cold. Mause chased rocks, and I waded deeper. Having plunged my arm deep to retrieve an interesting rock or two, I felt ready to repeat my floating experience. I grabbed my kickboard from the shore and glided across the waves.

It’s more difficult to float with rock shoes weighing down my feet and waves battering my board. I thrust across the waves testing my memory of swim kicks when I heard a rhythmic plunging approach. Mause had swam out to me on her own! Her expression of surprise in her eyes and ears changed to joy and I knew we had a swimmer GSP. I crooned and encouraged her. She swam circles around me. It was as good as floating!

What floats your boat? Or your dandelion fluff, or ever-changing cloud cover?

July 18, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about floating. Who is floating, where, and in what? Is the floating real or felt internally? Whatever floats your boat, go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 23, 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.

Swarms 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.

Bad Day at Black Fly Rock by Doug Jacquier

In retreat from the world, Charli and D lazed by the lake, catching their breath for a few days before returning to the frayed edges of their lives, replete with accumulated peace and just a soupcon of wisdom. The detritus of their eclectic lunch of the mundane and the exotic sat on their tree stump table and they lay on the ground in post-prandial semi-snooze mode.

Charli lazily ventured ‘I can feel that sun repairing my bones.’

D replied slowly ‘Yeah, s’warm.’

Whereupon Charli launched herself from prone to full sprint position before diving into the lake, screaming ‘Where?!”

🥕🥕🥕

Swarm by D. Avery

Like my pal Kid, I didn’t come up with 99 words last week, and am barely squeaking this in after a second chance at swarm. I don’t know why this such a difficult prompt. I am not unfamiliar with blackflies. The stippled grill and windscreen of my truck are reminders of the season now past. My bumpy wounds have finally healed, just in time for the current onslaught of mosquitoes. Somehow they always seem to find me just before sleep does.

It’s only one thing

Then another endlessly

Insidious horde frenzied

hungry as worry

unseen answers out of reach

🥕🥕🥕

Meadows for Butterflies by Anne Goodwin

I remember Iguazu, the roaring cataract where three countries collide, water sheeting down the Devil’s throat, in Spanish or in Portuguese it was heavenly. The butterflies that thronged around us as we strolled between viewpoints, a dancing honour guard of brightest blue.

Our English garden was designed as a feast for insects, but we dispatched the invitations forty years too late. The thirsty soil thinks waterfalls pure fantasy, yet still we persevere and count our purple orchids, thrilled to spot a pair of ringlets or a solitary common blue. Will these too desert us or will the swarms return?

🥕🥕🥕

The Duvet, the Thread and the Wardrobe by Hugh W. Roberts

It was hardly a swarm, but they kept coming. A trickle at first, but the more Pauline pulled at the thread on the duvet cover she’d found in the attic, the more they swarmed.

Eventually, Pauline killed them with the hardcover book she grabbed from the bedside table before vacuuming them up with the battery-operated handheld hoover she’d found in the box hidden at the back of the old wardrobe the previous owner had left.

The following morning, there was no sign of Pauline or the swarm of whatever had eaten her. Not even the handheld hoover needed emptying.

🥕🥕🥕

Adding Insect Insult to Injury by Gary A. Wilson

“Insects should not make history. Look at this mess.”

“Damn! The country is trying to rebuild itself after Wall Street. We’ve got 15% unemployment and food riots. Now this – grasshopper swarms throughout Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska.”

“Actually, these hoppers have metamorphosed into locust. Locusts have stronger wings to fly further.”

“Shocking. This is your map? How can this be possible?”

“Scientists say it’s the drought. It’s already reduced crops this year. A fungus in damp soil normally kills most of their eggs. Without rain, they all hatch and swarm looking for food.”

“We’ll not soon forget July 1931.”

🥕🥕🥕

Swarming by Ann Edall-Robson

An ominous sound filters through the trees, a drone of thousands of voices, low and steady. Flying under a canopy of clouds, clearing on the tail of a storm. Surround sound exemplifies the direction of their existence. Nothing visual to substantiate the eerie din, yet. The song becomes clearer, not a song with words, humming, with a smattering of rustling branches accentuating the beat. ​ Clouds move out, branches become a sieve for the evening sun, the unknown push into sight. The reflection of the setting orb danced over the iridescent wings of swarming bodies. Mosquitoes search for their prey.

🥕🥕🥕

Seeking Safety by JulesPaige

Alone with the swarm and a very thin vent screen between me and them. The small trailer home for vacations sat on a small lot in the country. Not something a city child was used to. Convenience had me in the back bedroom. So the adults could stay up later. But they’d gone out for the evening. Had they left me emergency numbers? Did we even have a phone? That I don’t recall at all. I woke to their incessant buzzing. I put on my robe and hightailed it to the nearest neighbor in the dark of the night.

🥕🥕🥕

A Swarm of Family by Duane L Herrmann

It was a reunion. The sister had returned to visit from far away, unable to return even once a year. The brothers lived close but saw each other seldom. Their wives had different lives and, in keeping away from their mother, kept away from each other too. At this reunion meal, one in-law challenged a brother. His reply was not sufficient. Another in-law started, joined by her spouse. Soon, all demanded answers, though he had done nothing wrong. They simply did not like his choice. Their swarm of anger left him drained. Then he had to go to work.

🥕🥕🥕

Encounter with the Yellow Butterfly by Sadje

I was four when I had my first encounter with wasps . I was alone on the veranda one summer afternoon. There was a hole in the wall and I saw a yellow butterfly crawl into it. I was intrigued so I stepped in for closer observation and was suddenly attacked by a swarm of wasps.

My mother came running when she heard my screams. Mercifully, my memory is a bit hazy but I remember being given medication to control the allergic reactions to the stings.

For a few days I was the favorite one in the family.

🥕🥕🥕

Mayflies by Nancy Brady

Summer at the lake usually includes the appearance of mayflies. They should hatch over the lake; however, the wind often pushes them onto the land where they’ll cover houses, garages, storefronts, trees, and bushes during their short life of nymphs, morphing to adulthood when they’ll mate. Mayflies, with large wings and even larger ovipositors, don’t sting, bite, or eat. They just mate in a swarm of insects. Then they die, leaving stinking, rotting carcasses behind. The week after brings the midges, called muffleheads, in another swarm of lusty mating, humming in what seems to be great clouds of smoke.

🥕🥕🥕

Disappeared 28 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Joseph fell back, hands empty of the mallet and chisel used to strike the brass plaque from the sewer wall. The older man before him mirrored his seated pose, flickering between dark and nothing, until he settled to something between the two.

He looked familiar: wide green eyes, cleft chin, arching brows, silver-streaked dark hair.

Joseph cried out as memories of Bethany, Andrew, and Eloise gathered in a swarm around his head and flew toward the older man. He felt a snap, and muffling blankness.

“Oh dear!” the Scotsman sighed. He leaned back to catch and save the memories.

🥕🥕🥕

The Swarm by Norah Colvin

People swarmed like ants to a plate of jelly. Jodie stretched on tiptoes but saw nothing. She peered first left, then right, but heads blocked any view. There was nothing to hear — no singing, no instrument, no announcement. The crowd was silent and still. Jodie might have left but was trapped by others who’d filled the space behind. “What is it, Mummy?” her child whispered. Frowning faces pressed fingers to tight lips. “I can’t see anything,” the child declared. “Shhhhh!” the crowd admonished, breaking the spell. The swarm dispersed. “What was it, Mummy?” Jodie shrugged. “Nothing. It was nothing.”

🥕🥕🥕

Wayne Kerr Drops a Log by Scott Bailey

“The last poet for tonight’s ‘Open Mic Night’ please welcome Wayne Kerr,” the club’s owner announced.

“Like swollen torrents gushing through the canyons of my emotions, your love swarms over me, carrying my throbbing soul onward unto the precipice where I fall helplessly into the chasm of your loveliness while the swirling eddies of our selfless beings meld as one and we are whole,” the poet Wayne Kerr read aloud.

“Now, THAT’s one steaming load of shit!” the owner whispered to the bartender.

“Sweet Jumpin’ Jesus, flies are already swarming on that fragrant turd!” the bartender chuckled in return.

🥕🥕🥕

Seeing In Summer by Geoff Le Pard

Some places celebrate summer with fetes and festivals; Little Tittweaking has Arnold Paraffin’s bee swarm extravaganza. Arnold’s bees aren’t any old buzzers, but bestriped performance artists (who also make honey). Each hive choreographs itself into a sculptured structure which is then judged (from a safe distance) by the chair of the horticultural society, Bette Sensibly. Past winners usually disperse quickly, when the finger buffet appears. This year’s winners, a vibrating icicle surprised everyone, by self immolating on the barbecue. When interviewed later, the Queen explained she’d been told it was the only safe way to keep the bee swarm.

🥕🥕🥕

A Blind Payout by Frank James

Zambian Joseph Kaunda watched a locust swarm devour his crops. He surrendered his future for work in Lusaka one-hundred-fifty miles away. He labored at a construction company living in a tent. He earned poverty but believed change would come. He sent earnings home, except food allowance. While slogging away, Innovation Farmers saved the day with his wife redeveloping fields and green houses to grow larger crops removed from swarms.

One day, his foreman handed him a check, “Go home.”

He returned to his wife displaying seedlings. Joseph teared. His son hugged him. “New crops, Papa.” Sacrifice sometimes brings surprises.

🥕🥕🥕

Out of the Sky by Sue Spitulnik

After Mac’s comment and respectful silence, the talk about jumping continued. Tyrell was nodding his head in the affirmative. He took a swallow of his beer and then spoke softly, unusual for him. “I once witnessed some jumpers training for a night landing. It was just before full dark when I heard the plane, and it sounded like it might stall for going too slow. I looked up and could just make out bodies and chutes floating silently towards me. They looked like a frightening swarm of giant bugs descending. I was glad I knew what they actually were.”

Author’s Note: Tyrell is the African-American drummer in the Band of Brothers and an Iraqi veteran.

🥕🥕🥕

Swarm for Bees by kathy70

When 2,000 people show up to protest or support that could be considered a swarm. Like bees swarm and move out of a hive when it is no longer safe maybe people need to do more swarming. In the 60’s and 70’s protests were everywhere. I only attended one and it was pretty harmless for ZPG. Never have I seen a swarm of bees but maybe they need us to swarm now for them. Let’s plan a human swarm to protect bees habitat. Okay who’s with me lets swarm a parking lot and cover it with bee friendly flowers.

🥕🥕🥕

S’Warm, Isn’t It! by Bill Engleson

Up here, we’re accustomed to ‘normal’. Each year’s the same. Oh, there might be a slight difference one year from the next, a few degrees up or down, bit more snow in winter, spring rains, moderate summers with a few days hotter than anyone ever remembered, and Autumn winds that cause a bit of a worrisome whirl. Like I said, normal. Nothing we can’t manage. But lately. Mamma Mia! Seas and rivers rising! Mountains sliding! The sun slivering, blasting shafts of fire, a locust-like winged shimmering of heat barbs slicing our skin, swarming us in an unholy flesh-ripping inferno.

🥕🥕🥕

Swarms’ Warm Arms Receive My Soul by Scott Bailey

My spacewalk sabotaged, this spacesuit is now my home (as long as the oxygen lasts). Holding the severed tether, I stare at my glove, knowing a painful end awaits as I watch the spaceship sail away. Later, I watch a tiny sparkle land on my sleeve, then another and another. Raising my other arm I see many more. Soon the sparkles cover my spacesuit as they swarm and pass through me. They cause no fear. I feel safe, at peace. The swarms’ light overpowers me; blinding me, lifting me, holding me, peacefully letting me lay my head to sleep.

🥕🥕🥕

Twinkling Swarm by Kerry E.B. Black

Fireflies glinted, sparkled, bright gold fairy lights, illuminating summer and beckoning. “Come frolic!”

Jenny’s children answered their call, with pastel nets and jars with holes in the lids. They ran to the flashes, anticipated the glowing bugs’ next move. With giggles and mad dashes through the mint and rosy scented air, they amassed a small swarm.

“Time for cocoa and cookies.” Jenny shepherded her brood to the door where they released their luminous captives. The children applauded the impromptu display.

“They’re better than fireworks!” her little boy enthused.

“Prettier than Rapunzel’s floating lanterns!” her little girl exclaimed.

Jenny agreed.

🥕🥕🥕

Got No Buzzin’ by D. Avery

“Jeez Kid. Yer burnin the midnight oil. If Carrot Ranch had midges an moskeeters they’d be swarmin roun this lamp. Whut’re ya up to?”

“Tryin ta come up with a response ta the prompt Pal. Sometimes I’m buzzin with ideas. Not this time. Got nuthin. Asked Ernie if he had anything fer swarm he said he swims when it’s warm an jumped in the crick an swum. Asked Pepe what he’d do for swarm he said he’d jist stamp his feet ta warn folks it’s comin. You got anythin Pal?”

“Nope. I’m so worn out, think I’ll turn in.”

🥕🥕🥕

Swarm by D. Avery

“Always thoughta Shorty as havin a sunny disposition, Kid, but seems ta be a dark cloud over her.”

“It’s that swarm a blackflies from headquarters. We ain’t gotta worry bout them here at the Ranch.”

“Why’s thet?”

“Bein fictional has its advantages, Pal. An we got Pepe. He’s made a product called LeGume’s La Fume, a organic grass roots bug repellent.”

“Ass toots? Hmmf. Jist keep LeGume an his products from stinkin up the Saloon, Kid. Folks is gonna be swarmin ta the Cowsino Friday ta play the story spine slots.”

“More writin prompts?! That don’t stink Pal!”

“Nope!”

🥕🥕🥕

Wrangle, Wangle, a Swing and a Swish by D. Avery

“Thought I heard the whine of a swarm a bugs, but it’s jist Kid.”

“Hmmph. Pal, I’m thinkin Pepe’s repellent works too good. I cain’t net an idea fer this prompt even with an extension.”

“Thet bites. Yer usually buzzin with ideas.”

“Yeah, sometimes I’m swamped with ideas, but lately— jist swamped. Reckon I’ll go fer a walk.”

“Out on the sward? Thet might hep ya git ideas fer this prompt.”

“Or mebbe I’ll swing by Ernie’s swath of old still stream. Come on Curly!”

“Swimmin with yer swine?”

“Yep. You comin too?”

“Might’s well.”

“Swell.”

 “It’s so warm.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

July 11: Story Challenge in 99-words

For a day, I had Daisy.

What feels like a lifetime ago, I grew up around cow dogs. Shorty went where I went on the old Hardwick Ranch outside of Paicines, California. I remember lifting Shorty’s front paws and dancing with him. One day, when I was about four, he killed a rattlesnake on the hillside where I swung on a rope in the massive oak tree above the ranch house.

Working for Nevada ranches as a teenager, I came to realize, that cow dogs do more than herd and guard. Ranchers installed them in the beds of their trucks as anti-theft devices. Some cow dogs, like McNabs and Kelpies, worked with such ferocity that only their handlers could approach them. Then there were the Queensland Heelers, part dingo, part dalmatian, and a hodgepodge of other cattle dog breeds. I gave a piece of my heart to those speckled blue dogs that could hang on the neck of a steer by their teeth.

Growing up, I understood these dogs were not pets. Our infamous Queensland bit many people, including me. We had to muzzle him for vet visits. Any time my mom tried to brush out his winter coat, he’d snap at his own floating tufts of shed hair. Yet, I was convinced heelers could be pets. I was 19 when I tested that theory and bought a blue heeler puppy.

The story doesn’t end well.

I loved Lobo and got into raising litters of Queenslands for ranchers in Nevada. I met Todd and he had a neurotic Springer Spaniel. When we married, our dogs formed a strange blended family. One dog was smart, the other, not so much. I had difficulty adjusting to the personality of bird dogs, a struggle that remains, although time among spaniels and GSPs has tempered my opinion of the breeds. At least GSPs are smart.

Lobo guarded my two baby daughters and went everywhere with us. It was impossible to keep her penned. If she couldn’t go over or under a fence, she climbed it. Then one day, she bit a local boy and he had to get stitches. The awful reality of owning a dog that could attack a child led us to a difficult decision. Before our small family moved to Montana we put down Lobo and buried her in the mountain canyon where I used to ride my horse. I put my ranching days behind me.

Over the next three decades, we welcomed and said goodbye to many dogs. Most were German Shorthaired Pointers. With each new puppy, I felt an ache for the ghost-faced heelers who are born mostly white. A few times, I expressed frustration. Why not a different breed?

Over the past ten years, I’ve noticed families who wouldn’t know the backend of a hay truck from a living, breathing hay burner owning heelers as pets. The name has changed, too. What we called Queenslands are now called Blue Heelers. There are Texas Heelers, Red Heelers, and Australian Cattle Dogs, too. They all look similar. I began to believe they were adapting well to domestication off the ranches and away from rural settings.

To say this past year has been one of the hardest to live is an understatement. Everything I thought I knew about myself or the world continues to meet with a grinder of sorts. It’s in times of uncertainty that we notice anchors of familiarity and long for something we shouldn’t desire anymore. Within the whirlwind that has been May, Todd’s Covid, my quarantine, a Franciscan retreat, another allergic reaction (a black fly black eye this time), and planning for environmental disaster, I spotted something that plucked my heartstrings.

At the new Hancock dog park, Mause met a Queensland baby, a blue heeler puppy. Todd found out where the litter was located and like a woman in a daze, I went with him to see. On a UP cattle ranch outside Mass City, Daisy jumped into my arms as her littermates gnawed on my ankles. I forgot how hard cow dogs bite. At eight weeks, they draw human blood. We brought Daisy back to our unraveling home. How was this ever going to work?

Daisy helped me right the wrong of my past. Cattle dogs deserve to live in the country and guard herds and homes. If I had a horse, she’d be the best trail dog ever. I have a kayak and dingoes, as far as I know, are not enamored with water. We thought Mause would love a baby and have the energy to manage a heeler. By evening, Daisy had claimed the couch the way heelers claim truck beds. When she took Mause down for the infraction of thinking the couch was big enough for both, I had the wisdom to recognize that one cannot change the instincts of another.

Blue heelers are working dogs and we returned Daisy to her litter to find a more suitable home. She had an adventure and I got to love a Daisy for a day.

Mostly, the bizarre situation opened an unhealed wound in my heart in the shape of Lobo so I could tend to it. It’s hard being a transitional generation. It’s hard to be a cutting from one’s roots. I grew up in a cattle culture from a long line of ancestors that likely go all the way back to domesticating the first aurochs. My grown children don’t know how to ride horses and they were the first generation in my family to grow up in a suburb. The one daughter who does farm refuses to add black Angus to her goat herd. I accept I’m not a working buckaroo.

But I am a buckaroo writer. I can create stories from the old world. I can craft characters, like my protagonist Danni Gordon, who would be better suited for adopting certain lifestyle traits I’ve retired.

If you had a day to spend with an icon of your past what would that be?

July 11, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by the idea, “for a day.” It doesn’t need to be never-ending, like me forgetting to update a prompt. What is so special about the action, person, or object experienced for a day? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 16, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

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

Active Reading for Writers

When writers read we’re not only escaping into an entertaining story, we’re honing our craft. Or we can do, if we pay attention to the scaffolding alongside the finished product. How do we do this? How do we read as writers without turning an activity we’ve loved since childhood into a chore?

Somewhere between a stark star rating and a polished review is the sweet spot where our critical eye and pleasure-seeking tendencies coincide. By considering some of the same elements we’d address in our writing we can progress beyond a simple hit/miss to feed our creative process. Here are a few ideas of how we might do this.

Read anything and everything

We need to become experts on the genre we write in but that’s no excuse to neglect other styles. Authors of literary fiction can learn about pace and plot from thrillers. Science fiction writers can see how to build tension into intimate relationships from reading romance. We can gain as much from books we don’t like as from those we relish, especially if the book we scorn is commercially successful. What makes it popular with readers? Can we apply that to our writing?

Notes in the margin

Simply reading with a pencil in hand or a readiness to use the highlight function on our ereader can help us galvanise our critic. Pick out choice words and phrases, analyse why some work and others fall flat. Notice the inconsistencies and repetitions an editor has failed to rectify. Notice when the text surprises us, what we’d like to emulate and pitfalls we’d want to avoid.

Consider the three act structure

Does the author pull you in from the opening sentence or does it take time for you to connect? How do they keep your attention through the middle section? What stops you putting this book down? Is the ending credible? Predictable? Satisfying? Approaching the end of a novel I am reading, I often ask myself how I would wind it up.

Create a checklist

Draw up your personal checklist of factors that you deem essential to a satisfying story and check the books you read against this list. For example, some might be willing to sacrifice character depth in favour of intriguing world-building or poetic language. Or take one factor, perhaps one you’re currently struggling with, and study how other authors tackle it.

Write reviews

Reviewing is part of literary citizenship but it does take time. I think it’s worth investing that time at least occasionally because transforming your thoughts into a blog post or similar can help you work out what you think. But short reviews, like the 99-word story, are also beneficial in striving to capture the essence of the book.

Enjoy

If these suggestions seem too simplistic, why not take a literature course for a deep dive into how stories work? If they seem too burdensome, then ditch them: the bottom line is to read, read and read some more. I know some authors worry about losing their own authentic voice by reading others’ but I’ve never found that. On the contrary, I often get ideas for my own WIP when I’m sitting comfortably in my reading chair lapping up the words.

What are your tips for reading as a writer? Comment below!

About the author

Anne Goodwin is the author of three novels and a short story collection with small independent press Inspired Quill. Anne reviews every book she reads and posts about reading and writing on her blog Annecdotal.

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

Be a Patron of Literary Art

Donate Button with Credit Cards

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

Proud Member

Stories Published Weekly

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,621 other followers