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Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino June 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.

“Holy cow, Kid! Look’t the saloon! Shorty’s got it fixed up real nice. I
like how the stage is center stage.”

“How now, Pal? What’s that cow doin in here?”

“Really? The Saddle Up Saloon’s a part a Carrot Ranch. Ranches have cows.
Asides, what’s yer beef? Yer kid goats has been through here, not ta mention Frankie’s horse
Burt, an thet hoglet a yers.”

“This is udderly dif’rent.”

“Well, here’s Shorty. Take it up with her.”

“Hey Kid. Hey Pal. I see you’ve met Tildie. This cow is trained to pull the
handle on the slot machine.”

“Slot machine? Never woulda bet there’d be gamblin in the saloon.”

“Not gambling, Kid, just takin a chance that folks will want to play with a
different kind of story prompt. See, everyone wins with this slot machine. But I need you two ta run Cowsino Night here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Run Cowsino Night? You betcha! Um, what zactly is Cowsino Night?”

“That’s right, you two had already disappeared when I pulled the lever for
the first one. Just make sure Tildie pulls the handle. Then encourage folks to use all three images to write a story.”

“99 words?”

“More or less, Pal. On Cowsino Night the challenge is to use the story spine
to structure a story. Words count, but we’re not counting words. Responses go
in the comments.”

“Souns like a good time, Shorty. We’ll be happy ta hep out.”

“Every first Friday of the month.” 

“Yeehaw! Let’s git writin ever’one!”

“Yep. Be sure an read an comment on one ‘nuther’s story spines in the comments below.”

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.

Well’s Gone Dry Collection

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

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

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

The Well Has Gone Dry by Rob Smith

When my father retired to Georgia, he had a sixty-eight foot well drilled at the base of the mountain that was his backyard. One dry summer, the well nearly went dry, but there was a spring higher up the hill. Cutting through undergrowth, he laid plastic pipe and brought water to the house. Eventually, he drilled a second well. Now he had two wells and a supply of spring water for flushing the toilets. He never did write an owner’s manual, and in the end, my brother and I had to sort out the pipes and valves and memories.

🥕🥕🥕

Now It’s Your Turn by Hugh W. Roberts

“Every second of his days had been like hell. Even when he had slept, his dreams would not allow the agony to subside. He’d have to wash his bedding every other day because of the hot night sweats, but they had been the least of his problems.”

Turning to the middle-aged man beside her, Tanya continued talking.

“You can all be like him if you want. You can stand up and face head-on the problem you all have in common. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Wells, and Wells’s gone dry. He conquered being an alcoholic. Now it’s your turn.”

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Well’s Gone Dry by Norah Colvin

Having lived independently for years, when they moved in together, they had two of everything and needed nothing more.

At their public celebration, they advised, ‘No gifts, please. Wishing well contributions appreciated.’

With well-paying jobs, they had no immediate need of the well’s contents, which they didn’t inspect but agreed to keep for a ‘rainy day’.

It sat untouched for many years, until it didn’t just rain; it poured.

“Must be all notes,” they said when it didn’t jingle. There was but one note: “Always carry an umbrella in case of rain.”

The well remained the only thing dry.

🥕🥕🥕

A Marriage Tale by Duane L Herrmann

The marriage had not been easy. Each felt they were carrying the load. Neither could be supportive of the other. She held a job that supported the family. He was emotionally supportive of the children and his spouse. Though not a builder, plumber, or electrician, he built a house for the family to live in while also filling role as cook, house-keeper, etc. Though suggesting the move to the country, she insisted on selling the house and moving to town. After that, his emotions were flat. “The well’s gone dry,” is all he could say when asked why.

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Desperation by Michael Fishman

I said, “Let’s give it another try?”

She said, “No dear, ‘cuz the well’s gone dry.”

I said, “But we’ve got lotsa history.”

She said, “Yes dear, and it’s all blistery.”

I hung my head and I started to cry.

She said, “You’ll forget me in the by and by.”

There was one last hug one tender squeeze, and I let out a whimper that sounded like, “Please?”. I begged, “Ya think that some time I might drop by?”

She said, “No dear, ‘cuz the well’s gone dry.”

I gave it a try. Nothing left to say but goodbye.

🥕🥕🥕

Homage to Dr. Clair Stelzenmuller by Sue Spitulnik

James listened as Michael and Ben talked about being in Walter Reed. Michael said, “You ran my well of ideas dry trying to convince you it would be worth learning to walk again.”

Ben nodded. “Those were some dark days. I appreciate you and Clarice not giving up on me.”

“I took some convincing too. That’s why I offered to help.”

James asked. “Who’s Clarice?”

After Michael and Ben explained about their doctor, James said, “I’m hearing the names Clarice, Doc, Chance, and Feisty in the first set of dogs we train.”

Michael laughed. “She’d be good with that.”

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Disappeared 18 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He looked into the boy’s eyes, mistaking him for his own image from years past. The arch of his brows, wide green eyes, the cleft in his chin – clearly, he was someone else! He snapped out of the decade-plus years of enchantment — a spell he’d brought on himself — and realized he should be somewhere else. “Well’s gone dry,” he whispered. A memory, an Appalachian ballad, nearly toppled him; he had to find a way back home to her. But he also had to be right here, right now.

“Just wait a bit, son. Help’s on the way.”

🥕🥕🥕

Where Has the Water Gone? by Sadje

The tap was silent except for a few drops of water. Frantically she ran outside to check if the water tap with the direct connection had water. That tap was dry too. In frustration, she sat down and shed a few angry tears. When people were told not to waste water by washing their cars, or watering their lawn no one listened. Now the well’s gone dry and children are thirsty for freshwater. Resignedly, she picked up an earthen pot and started for the next village. They had a tube-well and perhaps she’ll get some drinking water from there.

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Endurance by Joanne Fisher

“Well’s gone dry.” Sarika stated. Both her and Kali stared at the dusty ground.

“We’ll have to dig a new well then.” Kali said. She knew if they didn’t find water, then they would have to find it somewhere else, but water was scarce in this parched valley. In fact the whole world seemed dry now.

“If we don’t find water, then we die.” Sarika stated. This was the constant reality all survivors now faced.

“Then the sooner we build a new well the better.” Kali replied trying to sound upbeat. They went to find the others to help.

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Warning Note by Simon

In this cold hearted desert, there was a well of love. It has gone dry, well’s gone dry my dear, it will soon disappear, warrior is reborn. It wasn’t painful, the day she shoved that large knife next to my heart, the way our enemy laughed at me. The moment I pulled out the large sword out of my chest and used it against both of them, and beheaded her and the commander. I am still not satisfied, this desert should wet only with blood. The rage began, the entire kingdom of King the IV, I’m coming for YOU.

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The Source by Tzvi Fievel Schnee

The well’s gone dry, and the cisterns are empty. The land is devoid of its precious nutrients, and the once fertile soil is depleted. How much more so does the earth echo the dwindling inner reservoir of our souls, malnourished on toxic ideas, partial truths, and outright lies. The sources of our well-being are often insubstantial, as ephemeral as the clouds, and inconstant as the rain. If we proceed along the avenues of selfish endeavors to procure for ourselves, what cannot be acquired solely by our own efforts, then, the well of salvation will be hidden from our eyes.

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Well’s Gone Dry by Anita Dawes

I had planned this pilgrimage for a year

A sacred well, 140 mile walk

Could take a week

My father told me about it

To drink from it, brings good luck I need some

The trek hard, my feet blistered

My back broken

The scenery beautiful

So many birds I had never seen

Camping at night, early morning pilgrims

Walking down, their faces grim

I thought little of it, except the walk had been tough

Then a couple told me the well’s gone dry

I continued, disappointed, however

I was still hoping to hear the whisper from the well…

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Wishes by KL Caley

Lena made her wish as she tossed her coin in but there was no splash.

“There’s no splash!”

“What?” her sister, already unimpressed by the detour responded.

“Well’s gone dry.” Lena’s voice wobbled. “Do you think my wish will still come true?”

Her big sister looked into her watery, pleading eyes. “Depends what you wished for I suppose?”

“If I tell you, it won’t come true… but it was something for us both,” Lena said with a smile.

“Well, then I definitely think it will come true.” The girls linked arms and left the well to do its magic.

🥕🥕🥕

Well’s Gone Dry by Ann Edall-Robson

“Is this a sign the well’s gone dry?”

“Why do you ask?” Laying the pencil on the grid-lined pad, she smiled.

“There’s been nothing new sprouting from you in a while.”

“Just because the pages aren’t filed with words doesn’t mean I’m not productive.“

“Looks like the only thing you’re germinating involves expanding the garden next to the horse pasture.”

Leafing through a seed catalogue, she stopped at the Heritage Collection and scribbled more notes on the pad. “You’re wrong, it’s research for a book.”

He winked and said, “Yes, dear. Glad to hear the well’s not dry.”

🥕🥕🥕

Alone by Reena Saxena

Alone

is all-in-one

when I come together

gather different pieces

to make a whole

to make sense of it

I dissect dreams

to see

what one part of my psyche

says to another

and it’s so engrossing…

Alone

is what all others

don’t like

it leaves them out

excludes them from

control rooms

Separates their ego

From my the glory

of my individuality

those who respect me

respect my alone-ness

Lonely is only

when I pine for company

other than my own

It’s a well gone dry

looking for irrigation

Alone is all-in-one

Alone is complete

Alone is bliss

🥕🥕🥕

Fill in the Blank by JulesPaige

useful muse taps sleeps’
dream bin when the well’s gone dry;
intertwines life’s truths

When the days’ passages seem to differ little, when headlines’ constant news is bleak – That’s when some seek escape in sleep. Where are the visions of sugar plums, the unicorns and fae? When the head rests on the pillow and eyelids close one can only pray nightmares stay far away.

Creative muse can you bring forth a well of words to overflow? Help me fill in the blanks with some sense. Some words that bring a difference to the sameness of my days

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At What Expense by Frank James

“You thought the well was dry!” Johnson hollered at his brother, Bruce.

“Yes, it’s full,” Bruce said with sullen face.

Johnson pointed at the churning oil rig where a cornfield once was. Workers flared methane flames into the blue sky. Bulldozers pushed black sludge into pits burying it. Protesters chanted at the gate, “Fossil fuel is a dinosaur.”

Bruce’s wife strolled up, pointing at new shoes. “Thank you for discovering our new wealth.” Bruce shook his head.

Johnson tapped a clipboard, “We need to negotiate selling price.”

Bruce’s face winced, “At what expense?”

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Well’s Gone Dry by D. Avery

in wind-stormed time of drought

nothing shines but rust

silt and sand swirled colors of the silent muse

faded promise wrung out

sunbaked bone and dust

in hard times, hard to trust

to shake fear and doubt

to beseech again and again be refused

one must do as one must

seeding one’s own clouds

with faith of rooting sprouts

breaking through the crust

dream of green catching glistening drops of dew

if muse gasps, one must shout

wake up dreams long hushed

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The Coming of Petrichor by Doug Jacquier

Well’s gone dry and Adam stares at the grey-black clouds that cluster like a bunch of stuck-up girls at a school dance that turn him down every time.

So he flicks on his solar batteries (powered by the daily hell-fire Sun), powers up his Hendrix-like stack of Marshall amps, loads his player with Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’, turns the volume up to 11, hits play, picks up the microphone and in synchronicity with the soaring strings, the bells and the cannons, screams “Send ‘er down, Hughie!”

As his tears fall like rain into the dust, his nostrils fill with petrichor.

***

Glossary: ‘Send ‘er down, Hughie’ – Traditional Australian prayer to the heavens to deliver plenty of rain Petrichor – The earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil, a term coined by two Australian scientists.

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Welling Up by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s Devil’s Well became famous when a bottle of its water turned into a potent gin one wet Bank holiday. So potent was it that many said a drinker would forever after pass ‘a particularly muscular urine’. To combat the town’s inebriation, the incumbent, Roger Andoubt turned the well into a temperance hotel. New visitors were turned away with a mournful ‘Well’s gone dry’. On his death, Clover, Roger’s widow, had his casket lowered into the well. It came back as a crate of absinthe. Each year, on his death day, Roger’s absinthe was toasted by grateful locals.

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Well’s Gone by Scott Bailey

Old MacDonald had a farm and the well’s gone dry. The sun had driven the water table too deep, a shady spot fifty feet away looked better. He removed the well-head and hooked his team of four huge Clydesdales to the solid steel pulling hooks driven into the rim of the well. On his command the horses leaned hard into their yokes, pulling and snorting, hooves scraping against the dirt. Shoulders and flanks rippling sinew as the chains fought against snapping, slowly the well inched across the yard to the target spot. There, water started filling the well.

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You’re Done by Gary A. Wilson

So, I’ve decided. You’re done hurting me. You’ve eroded my finances, my health, my self-respect. You’ve insulted my family, my friends, and my God. You’ve broken my trust, my body, and my good name. You’re always quick to apologize, but your good intentions quickly fade. Yes, I have already forgiven your last loss of self-control, but you need help I can’t provide. I no longer want you in my life. That well’s gone dry. I filled it in with the rubbish that you left of my life and when I leave, I’m starting a new one, completely — without — you.

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An Ordinary Day by Nancy Brady

It was an ordinary day until it wasn’t. Another mass shooting, in a small Texas town, this time. Twenty-one dead: two teachers trying to protect their students and nineteen young children. Each family, in minutes, losing the future they thought they’d know. A town left to grieve. Hardened news reporters turning away from the camera, returning to say, “I’m sorry.” The country is sorry. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Dayton’s Oregon District, Las Vegas, and too many others still resonate, reminding of callous, indiscriminate gunfire, more loss of life, more grieving families, and more tears until the well’s gone dry.

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My Well’s Gone Dry by Bill Engleson

My well’s gone dry

And my heart is empty,

I don’t know why I ain’t got plenty

I don’t know why I ain’t got plenty of love…

I ain’t as spry as when I was twenty.

I swore I could fly like my darling Jenny.

Swore I could fly like my darling Jenny.

Fly into the sky… fly in the sky.

You know I’ll try

To find a shiny penny steal or lie to try to find any,

steal or lie to find as many.

Whatever it takes to fill my well,

heaven or hell to fill my well.

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Diggin Inta Pre-Herstory by D. Avery

“All thet pencil tappin tells me yer still drillin, Kid.”

“Looks that way Pal. Well’s gone dry after all. But I ain’t whinin, it’ll come.”

“Thet’s the spirit. Meantime, I’ll tell ya bout a character come through here one time, a water witch a sorts she was…

This was way back when the ranch wasn’t a ranch, was jist a seed rattlin roun young Shorty’s head, could a been mistaken fer stardust, it was so small at thet time. Anyway, this water witch come through an took out her dowzin rods.”

“Lookin fer water?”

“Nope. A well a creativity.”

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“Did that water witch character find creativity, Pal?”

“Ya kiddin, Kid? Them dowzin sticks was dancin a jig all over the ranch.”

“Ya said it weren’t the ranch yet.”

“Shush Kid.

This entire area was a vortex a creativity; the site a the saloon, the comments, the collection. She had Ernie dig a well at the challenge post. Ernie was smart, commenced ta digging whilst wearin a blowup uni-corn floatie roun his middle.”

“What fer?”

“Cuz he knew thet well was gonna gush!

Sure ‘nough, ol’ Ernie come ashootin up outta thet hole he dug like a bottle rocket.”

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“What happened ta Ernie’s unicorn?”

“They say thet uni-corn floatie come ta life thet day, thet it kin yet be found wandrin the place thet come ta be Carrot Ranch. As fer the water witch, she moved on, said she’d left her mark.”

“A watermark?”

“Shush Kid.

She went on her way but assured one an all, past, present an future, thet the creative wells would always be full at this magical place, long as folks kept dippin an sippin. Ever since there’s been a rainbow over the place.”

“A rainbow an a north star!”

“Yep. Shinin on ferever.”

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All’s Well That Ends Well by A. Kid

Once upon a time Pal disappeared, an Kid too, but only ‘cause Kid had ta save Pal. Ever day Kid and the intrepid puglet, Curly, looked fer Pal. Until Curly figgered mebbe Pal had fallen inta the well. Because of that Kid an Curly run ta the well an looked in only ta find the well had run dry. Because of that Pal wasn’t drowned but got knocked on the rocks. Because of that Pal may or may not be sure if this is a true story or not. Finally, Kid an Curly pulled Pal up outta the well. 

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“Kid, I’m happy fer ya thet yer creative well is flowin agin, but thet ain’t a true account at all! Heck, it ain’t even good fiction. D’ya think mebbe ya shoulda changed the names, put in a disclaimer bout co-incidennal similarities?”

“Change the names? Pal, we’re already fictional characters, so… Anyways, reframe yer comments. Cain’t ya say anything positive?”

“Well… dispite the unlikely hero, I do like thet ever’one come out okay. An I like how ya used the story spine like folks’ll use at the Cowsino ever first Friday of the month.”

“Heehee, yep. Jist primin the pump.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

May 30: Story Challenge in 99-words

White pine, birch, and birdsong encircle me like a secret garden. I stand on what was once a sandy dune when Lake Superior surpassed its modern shoreline about a mile away. Modest white gravestones line a small meadow patched with magenta phlox. The garden perennial grows wild among the dead Finns of Waasa Cemetery between abandoned copper mines and farms.

It is the memorials that catch my eye.

In the US, every person who served in the American Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard can receive a headstone, grave marker, or medallion to honor their service. The bronze markers and medallions stand out and it’s clear the Finnish migrant families served heavily.

Carefully, I step over blooming phlox and approach the markers with my camera. WWII stands out as the majority of service, followed by Vietnam. I only count a single WWI headstone. I wonder if the Finns who left their homeland after generations of conflict with Sweden and Russia preferred to work the mines during the Great War. The next generation, however, signed up for duty.

Most of the dates indicate that those who served also survived. It’s comforting to know that soldiers returned from war to be buried next to their families. But the sacrifice of fighting in a war for one’s nation extends beyond death. War aftereffects also destroy families and lives. Even training for combat alters people. It feels surreal to be standing in a quiet cemetery so far from Ukraine, knowing that many of the 397 souls interred with military honors also experienced the acrid smells of battle and deafening blast of battles.

Does every generation feel we should have evolved beyond war aggression by now? Does every generation feel there is yet something worth fighting for? The human family feels locked in this paradox.

In the natural setting that is Waasa Cemetery, I feel at peace at this moment. I have not had much peace in the past five years and while I can say it’s service-related, I never served in the military. I’m one of the veterans of the war after the war. Lately, I’ve felt so invisible I have lost sight of myself. I’ve come here to reconnect to my passion for catching stories. I didn’t expect to find so many veterans. But I follow my instinct and allow curiosity to sing like a yellow-bellied warbler.

Who was Arthur E Kela?

Born to Edward Kela and Kate Jankala in 1920, Arthur was a multi-generational Finn. His father immigrated to America in 1907 and his mother was born to immigrants in Calumet. His parents would have known Big Annie and the property where my eldest daughter lives. Arthur was born in Boston (Michigan, that is). His father worked deep in the Quincy Mine until one day he was struck by a streetcar and killed before he was the age of 30.

According to the 1930 census, Arthur’s mother Kate owned her home. This is curious because one of the contentions of the 1914 Miners Strike was that the companies owned the homes and families were displaced when a miner died. Kate’s only sons were two and newborn when her husband died. She also had twins (girls) and two daughters, all older than the boys. I wonder how she made a living? In 1930, a border (a copper miner) is listed in the household.

By 1940 Arthur was 20 and his brother Randolph 18. They were single and living at home with their mother, both working as laborers, while each of their sisters had married and left the Boston Location home. They both enlisted in the Army for WWII in the summer of 1942. They both survived. One of their sisters, Hilda, died young from complications of bronchiectasis while her brothers served.

Arthur married Arlene Linja in 1948. He was 28 and she was 16. By 1950, they were living with Kate, Arthur’s mother. She had married in 1946 but was listed as separated, and her estranged spouse was boarding elsewhere. He died in 1956, and although nothing indicates that they ever reconciled, Kate is buried in Waasa Cemetery under the surname Oikarinen (he’s buried in Houghton). By the way, such name changes make women difficult to track in historical and public records.

Also, in 1950, Arthur’s nephew by his deceased sister, Ronald Ojala, was living with him. Ronald grew up and moved to the copper mines in Butte, Montana.

Meanwhile, Arthur’s brother Randolph who also served in WWII, married and had one son and one daughter. Gary Randolph Kela served in Vietnam. When he came back home to Calumet, Michigan, he lost control of his truck and struck a building at one of my favorite local parks where I pick prehnite. He died of his injuries in 1968 and his military marker is next to his father’s in Lake View Cemetery where Arthur’s father is buried. I find it curious that Kate’s final resting place is not there.

Cemeteries might yield stories anchored by headstones, but it’s the living in between the deaths within a family that gets me wondering. Wondering leads to wandering in my imagination. Kate interests me the most — a young widow who raised six children in the shadow of the mines, the mother of two young men who left to fight overseas. A grandmother who raised her motherless grandson.

Curiously, I could not locate the grave of Arthur’s wife. There is a bit of living news, however — she is alive and a neighbor to my daughter, living where her husband was born in Boston Location. I want to meet this woman and share a cup of tea and listen to family stories from living memories.

This Memorial Day, I’d like to once again mention two friends of my husband who were killed in action in Grenada. Philip Grenier and Mark Yumane. May we remember your names.

May 30, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story behind a memorial. Is it a structure, plaque, or something else? What does it seek to remind those who view it? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 4, 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.

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!

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

  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!

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

  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.

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

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

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