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The Cooking Show

Time to find out what’s cooking! Lights, camera, start the stove…

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Witch’s Brew with Morgana Blackwing by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Welcome to this week’s broadcast of Witch’s Brew. Please welcome our guest, Morticia LeFay. This barista-witch knows how to mix her infusions!”

“Thank you, Morgana. This week, we’re brewing up a new concoction called Writer’s Essence.”

“Sounds perfect for all the writers out there.”

“That’s right, Morgana. It’s guaranteed to stop writer’s block!”

“How’s it made?”

First, bring a kettle of water to boil. Drop in a pinch of periwinkle, a shot of vodka, and some lemon juice. Let the tincture cool. Next, set your intention. Drink up!”

“Thanks for stopping by witches! To your health, bottoms up! Wassail.”

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Seabright Port Newsletter, June 1963 by Saifun Hassam

“On the first Saturday of June, Seabright Port overflows with visitors from nearby towns. It’s time to check out the Teflon Kitchen Exhibition and run in the 10-mile Teflon Kitchen Race. No one knows how the race got renamed “Teflon Egg Race.” Every year all the posters around town vanish with the visitors at day’s end.

The Seabright Seafood Omelette cooking show draws over five hundred entries. Five of the region’s best chefs are the judges. Fifty people are selected by a random drawing for the contest, more popularly called “The Teflon Stuffed Omelette Contest.” It’s a tough contest!”

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Debt to be Paid by Rebecca Glaessner

Radiation reached his skin through UV-resistant clothes.

“Four-hundred-thirteen billion credits for today’s contestant! If he survives…”

A hidden crowd cheered.

He retrieved his only permitted secret ingredient with a blistered hand.

“What’s today’s contestant chosen for us?”

Blinding light. The crowd gasped.

The glare receded and he staggered forward, balancing a platter, alien delicacies piled high.

“I… think he’s done it!”

Thunderous applause.

“Come. Into the shade. There. Tell us, what’s your secret?”

“I saved… a Moru life… once,” he wheezed, stumbled, “they owed me- Ma! I can finally fix the air-con now!”

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Missed It by Ann Edall-Robson

“What channel is it on?”

“Seventeen.”

“That’s the cooking channel. We want local.”

“It’s being televised on the big network.”

“You sure?”

“Yes! Your channel surfing is getting us no where.”

“Seventeen?”

“We are going to miss it. Their group is on first.”

Flashes of shows popped up on the screen one after another after another.

“Stop. Back up. Whoa! This is the one. They’re at commercial. Don’t go to another channel!”

“And now we return to the teen division. The judges have made their decision.”

“We missed the beginners. Why do you insist on not sharing the remote?”

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Rachel’s Cooking Show by Joanne Fisher

“Welcome back.” Rachel said smiling at the camera. “Today I’m making my no fail chocolate cake. In the last segment I mixed the cocoa, flour, and baking powder. Now I’m going to cream the butter and sugar. A microwave is good for softening the butter, but make sure you don’t melt it…”

They looked at her through the glass window.

“What do you suppose she’s doing?” asked one,

“She thinks she’s hosting a cooking show. A rather unfortunate case.” the other said, as they watched her beating an imaginary bowl. They then moved on to observe the next patient.

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Weighty Tales by Reena Saxena

I couldn’t believe it was her.

The eyes shone bright as ever, but the rest of her was lost under pounds of flesh. Yet, the famous hostess of a cooking show attracted attention.

She starts with a story.

“I dated an overweight guy and wanted him to lose weight. It did not happen, but I married him and got drawn to the world of good food.

So, here’s a dish we devoured on our first date…”

I’d rejected the same rich guy, but ended up being overweight myself. There are weightier matters to think of, while dating a man.

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Annoyed by Simon

What the rock is cooking?

Rock is cooking? is that a dish name?

Rocks don’t cook, yes it is a dish name.

Stares blankly… can we skip that question, what are you cooking for our show?

Cooking a delicious meat to eat.

How do you cook?

Obviously, In the fire?

I mean what style are you going to cook?

A style that needs to cook well.

How do you like it to be cooked?

I like it to be cooked well.

You know what? I quit! Channel, find a new anchor!

Are we stopping a boat now?

God!!! No!!

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Fishermen’s Stew by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“The first part of your feast begins with a kettle of cold mountain water, placed over the fire like so.” Sonja swung the kettle arm over the flames. “Tussen Takk for hauling water from the waterfall, Narn.”

Narn bobbed his head and blushed, then sat back on his haunches.

“It’s best to start with root vegetables, as I’ve done here. They take awhile to soften, so adjust by size of the protein source,” she continued. “What d’you think? When do we add the protein?”

“Later. They’re so skinny.”

Sonja nodded approval.

The tiny fishermen, wide-eyed, sweated in their cage.

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Cooking Show by Robert Kirkendall

“Today we’ll be cooking octopus,” the chef said to the camera. “The key is to cook it quickly on a high heat so it retains moisture and doesn’t get too chewy.” He held his hand over a skillet. “Our cooking surface is now hot, so let’s get it out.”

He opened a basket, then an octopus suddenly jumped out and wrapped its legs around the chef’s face. He struggled to pull it off as he thrashed around the studio, his screams muffled. He finally pried it off and the octopus quickly crawled away.

“But first, make sure it’s dead!”

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Cooked Rat by Doug Jacquier

The famous chef strolled onto the TV kitchen set and, after he’d waved the adoring response of the audience down, he announced he would be showing them how to make perfect ratatouille.

Suddenly, a woman stood up in the audience and yelled, ‘No. Today you’re going to make perfect amends. Sixteen years ago you got me pregnant and promptly disappeared, leaving me to raise our son alone.’

She turned to the young man seated next to her and said ‘Stand up, James’. As the boy stood, she turned back to the chef and said ‘Meet your new apprentice, Gordon.’

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Intercultural Cooking Contest by Anne Goodwin

I hope she doesn’t cook curry, thought Mary, offering the other finalist her hand. The smell!

Please don’t cook beef, thought Manju, greeting her rival with palms joined as in prayer.

Winking at the audience, the compere showed them their separate kitchens. Manju gasped at the oak cupboards, the marble worktops, the built-in stove. Mary gasped at the water pump, the stack of firewood, the grey clouds above.

Defeated by the controls on the cooker, Manju diced raw onion into yoghurt, garnished with coriander. Mary grated raw carrot into cream. Wisdom worth more than money, both felt they’d won.

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Tough Cooking by Kerry E.B. Black

Mostly bare cupboards, yet Rayne needed to feed her hungry family of five kids, plus herself and her husband. She pulled cans of tuna from the back of a low shelf. Butter and cream from the fridge. Peas and herbs from the garden. Rayne imagined herself on a cooking show. In her “basket” she found few luxuries, yet she wished to wow the judges. She whipped up a tuna noodle casserole and sampled the finished product. She smiled and set the table.

“Dinner!”

Family trickled to the dining table, grumbling. “Yuck! I don’t want this!”

“These judges’re tough,” she thought.

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Cake in the Pan by Norah Colvin

Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.

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On Course by D. Avery

It was a marvel what she produced in such a short time and with so little space, just a narrow counter top and a butcher block kitchen island.

She commandeered the small kitchen, flour clouding the roiling tempest of her activity. Then, while the oven did its transformative work she swabbed the surfaces and restored calm as she stowed the dishes and debris from her preparations. Snapping a table cloth over the butcher block, she displayed her confections. There was Black Forest cake, lava cake, and even rocky road ice cream. The butcher block was an enchanting desserted island.

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A Hare-brained Idea by Sue Spitulnik

Normally Michael had other band members along when he drove the Veterans Music Van to the VA. Today he needed silence to brainstorm. The Irish Dancers needed money so they could attend a competition. How could he get enough people involved so it wouldn’t be a hardship on any wallet? His mind wandered to his stomach. He hadn’t eaten breakfast. Food! What if they had a cook-off? Each group he belonged to could make the same meal using their own recipes. Voting for favorite dishes could be done with dollars. Cooks would get ribbons, and the dancers the money.

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Able Canning-Celebrity Chef by Bill Engleson

“Louie, caught your new show last night. Breakfast with Bernie.”

“That was episode two…you missed the pilot. What did you think?”

“No, I caught the pilot. Porridge! He ate porridge, Louie.”

“Bernie’s all about healthy breakfasts.”

“Last night he ate Gruel. Gruel is porridge.”

“No, it’s porridge-lite. There are innumerable porridge possibilities.”

“I don’t know. Shoulda went with Able Canning. The Dark Web’s feasting on his cooking show.“

“We looked into it.”

“It’s got fantastic numbers. Excellent audience participation.”

“Yeah. Once. Then they become filet mignon.”

“Earth’s overpopulated.”

“True enough. Still…”

“Food for thought, Louie. Food for thought.”

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It’s What’s for Dinner by Michael Fishman

Everyone wrote about the zombie apocalypse, but no one really believed it could happen.

Surprise!

I won’t bore you with viral genetics; I’ll just say that as SARS-CoV-2 continued to mutate over 103 years, the infected – 94% of the population – didn’t suffer the same as their ancestors, but instead became zombies.

A world of 10.8 billion zombies, all of them interested in different culinary traditions because there’re only so many ways to cook human flesh.

***

“Huuhnee, please turn on TeeVee?”

“Uhh kay, sweetie.”

“If you dish not cut it, chefs. Youuu wuhl be chopped. Open baskets now.

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The Cooking Show Bombs by Charli Mills

Carl chewed on his bottom lip. The basket revealed to him contained squid, maple syrup, goat cream, and volcanic black rice. The crowded rotunda erupted as the host of the MOA Cooking Challenge explained the secret ingredients. Sharon, fellow chef-restauranteur in downtown Minneapolis, gave Carl the side-eye. The squid. How in the world…? Ink. Black. Rice. Cream. But goat? He released his lip and ran to the pantry nearly colliding with Li Sun of the Golden Dragon Sushi Bar. She’d be his competition this round. Sharon froze on stage, flummoxed. Then, security rushed the stage. Saved by a bomb.

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Chef of the Hour by FloridaBorne

Jill yawned. Her best friend Kara had free tickets to “Chef of the Hour” and wanted company.

Four chefs battled for the $10,000 prize each week? Boring.
Why was there one empty station?

“Jill Jones,” the host said. “You’re our monthly mystery chef. If you can beat out these three, you’ll win $50,000!”

She walked to the station, and waited for the bell. Thirty minutes later, she’d perfectly created her mother’s chicken pot pie recipe. An hour later, she’d won!

Kara ran on stage, expecting a hug.

Jill glared at her. “Was the deception worth losing your best friend?”

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GBBS by Nancy Brady

Weekly, Julia watched mesmerized as twelve amateur bakers were whittled down to the best baker during this reality cooking show. Each baker was tasked with making baked goods based upon the theme.

There were three timed challenges: the Signature Bake, a special themed recipe that the contestant was comfortable preparing; the Technical Challenge, which consisted of one of the judge’s tricky recipes. Ingredients and minimal instructions were given to each baker, prepared, and then blindly judged; and the Showstopper, an over-the-top concoction.

Julia was most impressed with the unique flavor combinations, the imaginative designs, and each baker’s baking skills.

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Baking Her Way to Fame by Ellen Best

After watching The Great British Bake-Off, Sarah decides to self-tape her efforts to launch a cooking show. The next Nigella, she mused Mary Berry of East Anglia. She planned and tried recipes for days hoping to perfect a bake that would stun and make her go viral on Instagram or Tick-tock. Eventually, Sarah settled on simplicity after all, just how hard can a limoncello cream stuffed choux balls wedding cake, a Croquembouche be.A new apron couldn’t disguise the abject failure of her bake. She now is a star on tick-tock as ‘The Comedy Baker.”

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Hosting Facts and Fictions (in the Early Iron Chef Kitchens) by JulesPaige

“Allez! Cuisine!” or “Go! Kitchen!” was the instructional lead of a favorite cooking show “Iron Chef”. Katsuta Shigekatsu was an actor who played Chairman (Takeshi) Kaga. Kaga loved musicals; starred as leads in the Japanese theatrical company Gekidan Shiki as ‘Jesus’ and ‘Tony’

Mark Dacascos (born in Oahu, Hawaii) hosted the American version and was introduced as Kaga’s nephew. The only thing they had in common was that they were both actors. Apparently Mark did do the opening flips for that cooking show. Dacoscos could still flip in 2009 at the age of forty five! But could they cook?

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More or Less by Myrna Migala

“Deciding what recipe to donate for the recipe book; while encouraged to give our very best!”

“My opinion, share your mother’s muffin-tins “tatoe-bacon” recipe, and while your add it, whip a batch for the freezer for an occasional snack.”

“Good idea, since the ingredients are not written in stone, more like less of this and more of that, I’ll note the measurements.”

Mix 1lb of hash brown frozen shredded potatoes
one grated onion
one cup bacon-bits
two cans evaporated milk
three eggs
1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste
pour into muffin-tins bake at 375

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A Tiny Flaw by Ruchira Khanna

To the lightly roasted course semolina, add one cup of lukewarm milk.

Allow it to cook on a slow flame.

Once it’s semi-solid, add half a cup of granulated sugar.

Give it a vigorous stir before turning off the gas.

Now, I’m going to serve the audience.

I said with a wide smile as I approached them with serving bowls garnished with sliced almonds.

With fingers crossed, I watched them take a spoonful of my sweet dish into their mouth.

They ejected the morsel in unison.

“Major flaw!” one declared.

“You’ve put salt instead of sugar.” the other screeched.

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Light Charcoal Action by Annette Rochelle Aben

There is something special about charcoal-grilled hot dogs. Frank made sure he rolled them for even browning. He loved to use the grill. The taste of the food, along with the oohs and ahhs from hungry diners made his day.

Poised and ready for the first taste was Zeus, a patient, playful Rottie! His head followed the action of his master’s hands in syncopated rhythm. It was as though he was willing Frank to drop something on the ground.

Aware he was being watched, Frank laughed, “Gee, Zeus, I didn’t realize I was putting on a show here!”

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Pot Luck (Part I) by D. Avery

“Whatcha cookin’, Kid?”

“Makin’ beans fer Ernie an’ Wanda’s potluck gatherin’ Pal. Problem is, I got wind that Pepe’s also makin’ beans. An’ so’s Shorty. I cain’t no way compete with Shorty’s beans.”

“Is it a competition?”

“No. Jist a frien’ly gatherin’. But my beans is dif’rent. Folks’ll compare ‘em ta the other beans.”

“An’ they’ll notice thet each bean dish’s dif’rent, each good in its own way, reflectin’ the maker’s hist’ry even. Folks’ll be glad ta sample ‘em all. Kinda like the buffet a flash fiction responses thet Shorty puts out ever week.”

“So it’s all good?”

“Yep.”

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Pot Luck (Part II) by D. Avery

“So whut’s some a the others bringin’ ta the table, Kid?”

“Wanda’s makin’ her fire-in—the-hole chili. Ernie is a course makin’ his special cookies. Frankie says she cain’t deliver on cookin’ but will bring olives.”

“She did thet last time. Ate one a Ernie’s cookies an’ spent the rest a the night in a starin’ contest with one a her olives.”

“Ha! Yep.
Heard Logatha’s bakin’ up loaves a brown bread. What about you Pal?”

“Think I’ll roast corn over the fire.”

“There’s always a good fire ta set aroun’.”

“Thet’s where we share our stories.”

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Not Everyone Fits

Inspired by Ellis Delaney’s song, “Not Everyone Fits,” prompted by “prom dress” from within a creative circle of songwriters. Prompted music prompted literary art. We break free.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Ess-sense by Doug Jacquier

Not everyone fits a prom dress
Not everyone fits a compress
Not everyone spurns a temptress
Not everyone earns their distress
Not everyone wears a nightdress
Not everyone cares to undress
Not everyone has a headdress
Not everyone has the right address
Not everyone has their wounds dress’d
Not everyone is super-stressed
Not everyone gets some redress
Not everyone feels they’re repressed
Not everyone is a seamstress
Not everyone is a mistress
Not everyone is a waitress
Not everyone is a priestess
Not everyone is a tigress
Not everyone has to digress
But everyone needs a hand to press.

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Dress Code: Fancy by E.A. Colquitt

Kara was stuck. The only dresses in the approved shop were a trip hazard. And dinner jackets just felt so restrictive! By day, they barely stood the school blazer, throwing it off as soon as they got in.

Around the house, Kara just wore superhero costumes. They longed to inspire their peers, as their namesake had them. But how?

Mum was unfazed. ‘What’s the problem?’ she asked. ‘It says fancy dress.’

So, masked-up, Kara flew off to prom. Those knee-high boots with hidden jets easily vaulted the venue’s ha-ha.

No flowing cape, though. It’s not exactly à la Mode.

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An Unexpected Guest by Joanne Fisher

“My name is Gruu’nuh. I wish to look pretty and go to prom.” Gruu’nuh announced after emerging out of a portal in Samantha’s bedroom floor. Samantha was going to say that prom was for students and guests only, but she looked up at the towering figure with claws and writhing tentacles, and well, who was she to say no?

Nothing in the house would fit Gruu’nuh, so Samantha draped material over her and stapled it together. Satisfied, Gruu’nuh applied lipstick to her many mouths and eyeliner to her clusters of eyes. It was going to be a memorable evening.

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Dressed for the Prom by Norah Colvin

She surprised them when she emerged, resplendent in formal gown, announcing, “I’m going to the prom.” With a smile as wide as a rainbow after rain, she twirled for them to admire her from every angle. Gorgeous, they agreed, though it was a little wide in the shoulders and a little long in the hem. The neckline would be revealing without underclothes. Someone suggested the beads were overdone, that one or two strands would suffice, but the decision was made. As soon as Billy arrived in the limo for big sister Maud, she was ready. What was keeping him?

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If the Dress Fits by Duane L Herrmann

“Dad! NO! DON’T!!” Tuzulia shouted as her father went into the dressing room.

“You said you would be the ugliest person in this dress,” he replied. “I want to find out.”

“Oh, Dad,” she moaned and slumped in the chair by the door. Why had she opened her big mouth? Though she knew her father would do something incomprehensible; she never anticipated this!

“So,” he announced later, stepping out. “Who’s uglier in this prom dress? You, or me?”

“You,” she moaned.

“Now,” he asked gently. “Which one do you want to try on?”

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Not-so-haute Couture by Nancy Brady

Steve surprised Julia by asking her to the winter semi-formal. In high school, this didn’t mean a gown, just a dressy dress. When she asked, he told her the same thing.

Julia never went to prom; nor had a prom dress, but Julia was always worried about dressing inappropriately for events.

Julia wore her best short dress, but she was the only one. The other women wore gowns, but Steve didn’t seem to mind. He stopped and kissed her on the way in. It was her first kiss; he tasted like cherry, and she stopped worrying about her dress.

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One Size Does Not Fit All by Joanne Fisher

Max (short for Maxine) had always been a tomboy. Now into her teenage years others assumed she would finally become more feminine, but she continued to defy expectations by always wearing jeans and t-shirts and keeping her hair short, but now it was time to attend prom.

After going around clothes shops and trying on dresses, Max knew it wasn’t her every time she looked in the mirror. Her father remarked: “Not everyone fits a prom dress” when he saw her frustration. So Max went to the prom in a tux instead. No one was the least bit surprised.

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Sumita by Saifun Hassam

Dress? Sari? Sumita was adamant. She was not going to the prom dance. She thought of her music class at the temple that same evening.

Growing up in Chicago, Sumita enjoyed many things American and Indian. When it came to music, she loved Indian devotional music.

She went to her music class, playing ragas on her sitar. She came home to find a gorgeous bouquet of star lilies for her. It was from Paul. He wanted to learn to play the guitar to the sounds and rhythms of Indian music. Could he join her next Saturday at the temple?

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Haunted Prom Dress by Simon

Group of college students walked into an abandoned hotel for thrill.

One of them opened a room and there was a prom dress, bright and shiny. Amazed with what he saw, he tried to call his mates.

Before he does, he disappeared!

The moment he opened his eyes, he was wearing the dress.

His plea for help, scared his friends away, since then he is missing.

The investigations found a simple note

“Not everyone fits a prom dress, the one that fits will disappear”

The missing guy screamed, nobody heard his plea, all they saw is hung prom dress.

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Red and White Dress by Anne Goodwin

The bodice crushed my bosoms. Which would burst first, the seams of my dress or me? But I refused to wear that ugly smock for my homecoming. They could keep it for some other unfortunate girl.

Through the taxi window, nothing looked familiar. As we stopped at a palatial building, Sister Bernadette began to pray.

“Am I to go into service?”

A man descended the stone steps to meet us, his gaze on my breasts. I hoped he’d mistake the leakage for a white spot in the pattern of my dress.

“Welcome to Ghyllside.”

The asylum? I’d been tricked.

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Promenade? by Connor Dickinson

9am, Friday 4th July. I’m Cinderella’s lost slipper.
IT girl Melania indulges a tarty-red-number. Then weighs me up, ‘Who would want that porker?’
I’M LAYERED. Yet humiliated threadbare. Our Queen’s classless jibes. Her King dumbwitted: screwed.
Hailstones marble.
God, am I unworthy? I’m prettier, voluptuous perhaps?
Fantasy. A tuxed-Casanova, spins me. The dance floor explodes purple- organza-Catherin-wheels.
4pm. Door opens. I tremble. Damn, another false alarm.
4.55pm. Hopeless. Mother outlaw’s suitors after 5pm.
I hang?
Execute me please?
4.59pm. Chubby Clare Rogers trundles in panting, pounding Gallow-boards.
‘That beauty.’
I nearly die. Relief. Gracefully hooked off the rack.

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Something Old, Something New by Sue Spitulnik

Becca asked Tessa, “Is there any chance you still have your sparkly white prom dress from high school?”

“It’s probably in a closet at my parents. Why?”

“Michael frequently mentions how you looked in that dress, and he’s carried the picture all these years.”

“Really? You must realize there’s no way it’ll fit.”

“But I’ll bet we could use the skirt fabric layers to make a new bodice, even with sleeves if you want, and add a different skirt. Michael would be thrilled.”

“Won’t it be too formal?”

“Not if I design it right,” she said, sketching her visualization.

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Forgetting by D. Avery

A June night. Prom night. ‘A Night to Remember’. “You’re beautiful,” he said.

An August evening. “I’ll do the right thing. I’m working full time… we’ll live with my mom.”

A September morning. She would have been at college. It was a small wedding.

The baby came in March. “He’s perfect,” he said. “He looks just like his father,” his mother said.

Another August evening. He held the sleeping baby while watching baseball with his mother.

“I’m going out for a bit,” she said.

“Home run!” they shouted, waking the baby.

She left her prom dress and son behind.

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We Might Have Danced by Bill Engleson

We might have danced in the morning,
We might have breathed the sweet early air.
We might have flown like an eagle soaring.
We might have landed almost anywhere.

Maybe you think that we knew it all,
that there was nothing else left to learn.
But if we listened to our hearts love call,
We might have found a new fire to burn.

We might have danced in the evening light.
We might have breathed the cool night air.
We might have put up more of a fight
If we hadn’t been wearied from all that wear and tear.

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The Fitting Challenge by Fiery Females

“It tastes heavenly, but this is not the traditional recipe.” The mix of approval and disapproval in her expression is priceless.

“I tweak recipes everyday, because I don’t like food from graveyards. Those recipes were invented and perfected by people long gone. Food needs to be alive like me – thinking, changing, evolving and just the right fit for today’s moods.”

My aunt looks disgusted with “food from graveyards.”

“We need to respect our heritage.”

“By all means, I do improvise on heritage. Just don’t ask me to fit into old dresses or old lifestyles. You will always be disappointed.”

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The Inevitable by Charli Mills

A deputy pounded on Faith’s door. Time to flee. When evacuation orders came, Faith rushed.

Living in the Tahoe basin, she memorized a fire-safety plan she never believed she’d use. Nervous remote workers had fled earlier. For weeks, impenetrable smoke curdled blue sky. Her weather app displayed a gas-mask for air quality. Neighbors passed a rumor that the Nation would deploy the Army. Who would let Tahoe burn?

Climate reality answered with unstoppable flames jumping HWY 50 and the Pacific Crest. Faith double-checked her mental list shoved into a car.

The prom dress from 1985 she hung to burn.

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Mother Teaches by Myrna Migala

“Mom, Dad look and see that house you often admired its yard. It’s for sale! You would often say the grass was ever so green.”

“Yes, dear, but the grass always looks greener on the other side.”

“Huh, what does that mean?”

“It means some people are never satisfied with their own lives and wish for what they should not desire. They even believe that God makes mistakes.” Mother continues. “When/if they arrive on the greener grass, they might find out where they were was the best fit after all. Always trying to fit in can be boring.”

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Successful Stress by JulesPaige

I didn’t want to fit into a prom dress. Especially the one my mother picked for me. Nor did I really care for the blind date my father had set up. I’d have done just fine if I never attended my High School Senior Prom. In that white eyelet lace halter top, floor length gown. My waist long hair plastered in a ridiculous updo because the hairdresser my mother took me to, said it was all the ‘rage’. Bologna! I don’t think one other gal had such a stupid teased updo.

peer pressured
parent pleasing fail
year end dance

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The Pact by Annette Rochelle Eben

Senior prom, the biggest night of high school life, even bigger than homecoming. Cheryl was in tears. She had just been cast as the female lead for a local community theatre production of Butterflies Are Free. Of course, the production would run her senior prom weekend. It meant that she’d be the only one in her senior class who wouldn’t be at the prom.

Hearing her crying, her friend Annette promised to work backstage on the production so Cheryl wouldn’t be the only one not at the prom. There’d be at least one friend there for Cheryl’s big night!

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Not Everyone Fits by FloridaBorne

I didn’t want to go to my high school prom; I’m a terrible dancer and didn’t have a boyfriend.

My mother would have made a dress for me had I wanted to go, but who wants “mom” driving them to the prom?

When my boyfriend in college invited to the ROTC dance, she made an empire-style prom dress out of black velvet on the bottom with orange satin top. Mom had sewn it using a dollar’s worth of remnants and it was an inch too short.

My dress received lots of compliments from girls wearing expensive Scarlett O’hara dresses.

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Cigarette Smoke and Bad Memories by Ellen Best

On the anniversary, she hung her dress at the window. From her mattress, she watched the morning sun catch the turquoise fabric making it shimmer. She studied it through a haze of thick Cigarette Smoke.

The dress was the cleanest thing in there. The dress still bore the stain of his urine. Time had turned the intricate chiffon bodice a dirty shade of chartreuse.
Such a glorious name ruined as she had been ruined. It wasn’t only the prom he spoiled, but herself, her innocence, and the only connection to family that she had left, her Grandmother’s beautiful dress.

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Why I Didn’t Make It to the Party by Anne Goodwin

“Sorry, can’t let you in.” The bouncer thrust the invitation at her.

Anne checked it over: right date; right nightclub. “You’re joking!”

The bouncer flexed his muscles. “Your outfit contravenes the dress code.”

“What?” Anne knew she looked good tonight, even if she didn’t always, in her faux-silk trousers and high-collared blouse.

“The slippers.”

“What’s wrong with them?” What was wrong with him? If only the embroidered dragons on her pink satin shoes could breathe real fire.

“Let’s go!” Hari took her hand.

Anne’s cheeks roasted. It wasn’t her footwear that caused offence. It was her boyfriend’s brown skin.

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Timeless by Rebecca Glaessner

Despite countless weeks spent on coding and design, she’d almost forgotten the outfit.

School notification; dance-hall activated.

Eyes closed, chest tight, time to upload.

Other students uploaded too, filling the dark virtual dance-hall with a chaos of colour. The guests contrasting with timber decor meant for long-lost tuxedos and ballgowns.

She took a moment to escape above the excitement, drifting in a sleek, flight-encoded, wavelength-shifting jumpsuit.

Someone announced her name, startling her as she landed.

Everyone cheered. Friends embraced her.

She’d won best-dressed.

Breathing deep, she ascended again in a shimmer, and soared, feeling free and utterly glorious.

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The Night Owl by Donna Matthews

5 am, and my alarm is blaring.

Last night, frustrated by my less than stellar morning routine, I decided to start waking up earlier. But now that the moment arrived, what the hell was I thinking?? I didn’t even bother with snooze, just shutting the damn thing off.

Noon, I’m berating myself with a pile of unpaid bills, errands unrun, no workout. What’s wrong with me???

Later, after dinner, I break out the watercolors, inspired by a book I’m reading. Around midnight, I step back to admire the piece. The night owl stares back…two kindred spirits sharing the night.

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A Stitch in Time by D. Avery

“Kid! Thet ol’ Singer’s singin’! Didn’t figger ya fer a sewer.”

“Cuz ya make assumptions Pal, which limit yersef as well as me.”

“Hmmf. What’re ya makin’? Thet looks like a pile a old prom dresses thet yer takin apart at the seams.”

“Yep. Then I’m sewin’ ‘em all t’gether inta a parachute. Curly wants ta keep at flyin’.”

“S’pose thet pig told ya thet hersef.”

“Don’t assume she didn’t. If pigs can fly,…”

“Kid, thet was last week’s prompt. This’s pretty lame.”

“Tough prompt. What else I got?”

“Yer fergettin’ the Lemmon twins.”

“Shift! Mebbe I’ll be back.”

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Bespoke an’ Be Speakin’ by D. Avery

“Here they are! Tip an’ Top Lemmon!”

“Hey Kid. Heard ya was strugglin’ with the prompt.”

“It ain’t a good fit, fellas. Um… Yer wearin’ cowboyin’ duds.”

“We been cowboyin’, Kid. Was ya hopin’ we’d be wearin’ prom dresses?”

“Um…”

“Anyway, growth is good, but it sure makes it hard ta squeeze inta them old dresses.”

“Why d’ya do it? Hasn’t puttin’ on women’s clothin’ made it hard fer ya ta fit in?”

“Women’s clothin’? Clothes is clothes.”

“We’re comf’terble enough in our own skins ta cover our skins with whatever’s comf’terble.”

“So if it feels good—”

“Wear it!”

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Flight of the Pigs

The impossible has come to pass. And look — pigs are flying!

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Landing A Flight Of Pigs by Mr. Ohh!

Barnyard Air Four Three Niner this is Old MacDonald tower. Do you copy?

Oink Oink Here

Roger that. The winds are out of the north at two knots, we will be asking you to use runway one eight zero. That’s the one by the silo. Do you copy?

Oink Oink There?

Roger. The other runway is currently blocked by cows Frankly It’s just everywhere a moo moo, down here. Also be advised that Colonel Porker will want to see Captain Swine upon landing. The call letters are Epsilon, Indigo, Epsilon, Indigo, Oscar. Acknowledge

Here an Oink There an Oink

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A Healthy Pork-Life Balance by Bill Engleson

It started when I built that house of brick. You remember that story, right? Made the social media rounds. Pretty soon every pig and his brother wanted to know how to build a brick house.

I kept on saying, read the book. That’s what I did. One hundred years old.

Lots of pressure from my brothers.

“You wanna be a one-brick piggie all your life?” they asked.

Anyways, soon I had to become a consultant.

Flying all around the country.

Showing porkers everywhere how to build brick pig houses.

Brought in a lot of bacon, let me tell ya.

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The Pigs In Their Perfect World by Larry Trasciatti

The big Piggies chase

After the small Piggies

Their bacon supply is low

There is a flight

To freedom at midnight

Only available to those

Who have purchased tickets

Most local streets are vacant

Except for the ones

That lead to escape

The Large Piggies demand equality

‘Conform at all costs’ is

Their defiant battle cry

Equality is conformity for

All in their world

There are porcine gunmen

Always patrolling the streets

For some reason the

Road leading to the

Airport is much foggier

And icier than the

Other roads around here

Equality is the ultimate

Priority for pigs

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Unexpected Cutoff by Rebecca Glaessner

“Apologies all, our project must end,” the speaker announced.

“One more day!” Someone stepped forward, “we’re so close. Their brain’s are simple. I can prove-“

“No. We leave now. It’s not safe anymore, they’re volatile.”

With a thought, doors opened and the nervous crowd filed out.

Their commotion grew as others joined.

“Hostile movement ahead.”

Someone triggered a different thought-command, halting the hostiles.

The speaker hesitated, shouted, “run!”

As a crowd of feathers, fur and wool flew by, armed humanoids watched, immobilised by their own neural-chips.

Headlines the following morning read: Intelligent Lab Pigs Plot Mass Breakout. Now Citizens.

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Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad by Doug Jacquier

As he tentatively trottered onto the plane, Napoleon ticked off another first for an upright pig. Squealer followed close behind, as always, and when they settled into their first-class seats, the hostess brought them complimentary champagne. Both pig-men were excited to be attending the first international convention of animal farmers, where Napoleon would deliver the keynote speech and covertly lobby to become their President. The plane shuddered into the sky but, after leveling off, suddenly changed course and flew towards the ocean. At the controls, a revengeful Mr. Jones was ensuring the flight of pigs would remain a myth.

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This Little Piggie Went… by Deborah A. Bowman

The little piggie that went to the store, while the other stayed home, are usually connected to a foot. Tiny little toes and big fat pigs. Go figure?

How did we get this size thing all switched around and upside down? Humor and fantasy are close knit friends.

I see a minuscule world on the tip of my tongue. The clouds are my cheeks; the sun my nose; the Universe is violent shades of color, depth, and rambling highways mimicked in arms and legs.

When I scream, the darkness in my throat is a black hole.

I am complete.

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Head for the Hills by FloridaBorne

“Tell me again why your pigs fled for the hills?” Officer Benton asked.

Farmer Fred held a hiking staff, his backpack sporting a sleeping bag and supplies. “Granny says there’s an earthquake coming.”

“Where’s your granny?” Officer Benton asked the man of 70.

“Over there,” Fred said, pointing at the family graveyard.

“Your dead grandmother told you?”

“I was 30 when she said, They’ll be an earthquake here when pigs fly. You’d better tell folks to flee north.”

Fred walked away toward the hills. Benton drove away. A mile from town Earth shook; then the ground opened beneath Benton.

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Fear of Flying Course by Anne Goodwin

The registration desk is closing when I show the clerk my booking reference. After scanning my phone, she scans me. “You didn’t bring a pet?”

Hours searching for Marmaduke had made me late. “My cat had other plans.”

“No problem. You can pick one from the menagerie outside.”

I try to decline but she insists the treatment won’t work without an emotional support animal. I follow the direction of her thumb. The dogs, cats and hamsters are all taken. No way can I cuddle a rat. I board the plane with a piglet. Hoping pork can assuage my fears.

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My Guardian Angel by Annette Rochelle Aben

Roxanne’s daughter, Tiffany, made a bed in the hay, right next to her pet. Angel. The young sow was ill and the Vet said they had done all they could. Kneeling down next Tiffany, Roxanne covered the crying child with a warm blanket. It seemed like the only comfort she could offer.

“Mama, tell me something. Will Angel go to Heaven when she dies?”

“Honey, I believe she will always be with you because she found Heaven in your heart.”

“So, she’ll be like an Angel, I mean one who watches over me, right?”

“Right.”

“Will she have wings?”

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Beer Flights and Bar Fights by D. Avery

“That your girlfriend?”

Ignoring the two men beside them at the bar, Nard and Marge continued talking about Nard’s beer brewing projects. “I finish it in plastic 2 1/2 gallon dispensers, called pigs. I’ve got different kinds of beer going, Marge— a flight of pigs!”

“Your girlfriend looks like a pig.”

Just then Kristof arrived and kissed Nard.

What those two men said next needn’t be repeated.
They hadn’t seen Ernest also come in. Ernest lifted both those chauvinists off their barstools and tossed them squealing out the front door.

“Bravo, Ernest! Now that was a flight of pigs!”

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Pigs Don’t Fly By Cara Stefano

Ava didn’t have one of those picture-perfect childhoods; her parents were either yelling or absent. The one thing they got right, however, was getting Ava a library card. Every day after school Ava walked to the library for her daily escape. When her parents got home, usually long after she should’ve been in bed, Ava tried to share her excitement. “What if I was strong like Superman, Mommy?” “Can I be an astronaut when I grow up?” “Can we go to Mars, Mommy?” All she ever heard back was, “When pigs fly, kid!”

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The Time is Now By Cara Stefano

When Ava started reading books about animals she finally learned that pigs don’t fly. After so many years of hearing that her dreams might come true if ever she saw a pig fly, this was a particularly devastating revelation. Imagine her surprise when one day after reading a really great book about farm animals, she happened to look up at the sky; to her delight, there among the clouds Ava saw a flight, a flock, a swarm of pigs, all sporting tiny wings that held them aloft! Her mother stared, open-mouthed, amazed.

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Family Shenanigans by Sue Spitulnik

Who said a forty-something shouldn’t feel like an excited young bride? The ladies in Tessa’s family invited her friends for a personal wedding shower. Michael’s and her sister oohed and aahed as she opened each special gift, but they held one box in reserve to be the last presented. Finally, the most elaborate paper and bow lay on the floor. Tessa held up a life-size felted pink piglet with curly tail and sparkly silver wings for all to see. She didn’t understand the present.
The sisters exclaimed, “Michael swore he wouldn’t get married till pigs could fly!”

Everyone laughed.

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Do Pigs Fly? by Myrna Migala

The day! An excellent turnout if Miss Suzi Qque had anything to do with arrangements. Everything flawless, decorations to the menu.

These ten women had something to celebrate! What was it? A party to rejoice after they worked hard to lose 50 lbs.

The mascot chosen for laughs and keep them on their guard. A pig!

Pigs were the center of the decor; a tasty treat to nibble on was pigs in a blanket, a dish consisting of sausages wrapped in pancakes.

These women also had a catchy slogan, “Do we miss those 50 pounds? Do pigs fly?” NO!

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Drunkard by Jane Aguiar

A man used to come home drunk. One day he fell sick and was admitted to the hospital. He promised his wife that he would quit drinking. He then recovered and came back home.

When he woke up the next morning instead of drinking tea, he started running out of the house. Seeing him wearing sandals. His wife asked him, “Where are you going?” He replied, “I’ll be back soon.”

Wife understood his intention and she tried to stop him. He said, “I’m trying to quit drinking from tomorrow.” His wife ironically replied, “surely you’ll change, when pigs fly.”

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Swine Song by Kerry E.B. Black

We lived outside of Gerasene, a land where the Chosen never harried us.

Or so we thought.

A man swathed in sunlight called to a madman chained in the nearby tombs. “What is your name?”

The darkness within the madman growled, “Legion.”

The glowing man sent Legion into our doylt.

Cold settled into our bones. Acid ate our flesh. Demonic whispers infiltrated our thoughts.

We acted before Legion controlled us as it had the madman of the tombs.

Together, we leaped from the cliff, truly flew, suspended in our divine act before gravity called us to the primordial sea.

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Flying Pigs by Joanne Fisher

“Don’t those pigs have wings?” I asked looking up at the pigs in the laboratory.

“This is our research into flying pigs. We crossed them with bats. Unfortunately vampire bats, so not only do they fly, but they’ll swoop down and drain your blood. Hence the protective safety glass.” My guide tapped the barrier.

“Just one question: why?” He shrugged his shoulders.

“We thought there might be a market for it.”

“Flying vampiric pigs?”

“Well maybe not vampiric…” He conceded. “We’ll iron out the problems in the next trial. Hopefully they won’t escape the lab this time.”

“This time?!”

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Grafted Rethink by Connor Dickinson

Xenotransplantation Zoom Conference.

‘Germany flew twenty chimera-pigs secretly to Bavaria, high-tech laboratory professor Santiago.’

‘Swines. A scientific dew-claw. As FDA Argentinian Chair, I vote pannage for livestock, and no to human-pig trials Doctor Mateo.’

Week later.

I’m hospitalised with sixty-degree, pig-iron burns, my flesh putrid, steaky, nauseating.

‘Sign consent form for xeno/pig skin graft? Most like human skin,’ says silhouette.

‘NO.’ I die from painful heart attack.

Yet a day later I live, with a new pig heart. German maverick doctor glares at me. ‘Now, ethics committee advisor will you say yes to human pig trials?’

‘Definitely!’

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Flying Pigs by Norah Colvin

Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?

“We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”

The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

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Indigo Wings by Nancy Brady

Aloysius loved to fly. Yet, he rarely stuck the feather behind his ear unless he found it absolutely necessary.

The day he wandered into farm country, a few pigs had escaped and were being chased by a dog. Squealing in fear, they ran. Aloysius wasn’t fond of dogs either, but he wanted to help.

Finding it absolutely necessary, the white cat put his feather on, grabbed the pigs, and tried to lift off. They were too heavy until the feather turned a deeper blue. Aloysius and the pigs rose, taking flight, sailing over the field back to their barnyard.

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ALotta Piggies in Flight by JulesPaige

Me, be an editor?! When pigs fly. Apparently the pigs are flying. I can now list on my resume that I am a co-editor of a poetry book! I’ve done my part in spell checking, design, and general co-creator! That’s what you get when two people can work together (via the internet) and encourage each other.

like moths to a flame –
do pigs fly when the moon’s full?
maybe in autumn

I’ve zoomed, zigged and zagged. Now I can sit back and cheer. Thanking all the folks who counted syllables to create enchanting verses for ‘The Moons of Autumn’.

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Sometimes a Miracle! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Maximilian munched on his last MLT sandwich. The sun set over the mesa he lived atop. Years ago, it’d split away – like magic! – as the surrounding continent had sunk under the ocean. The sheep dwindled, while lettuce, tomatoes, and wheat thrived.

He knew it would be fish sandwiches from now on.

Max’s wife, Valerie, had known about his shameful craving for a BLT; pork was unlikely in their situation. On her death, tired of hearing him kvetch, she’d shrieked “When pigs fly!”

He sighed. And then heard the faint squealing and flapping of tiny wings, high above and circling.

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Once Upon Impossible by Duane L Herrmann

“When pigs fly!” She said dismissively because, of course, pigs can’t fly. Generations pass. Chemical pollution generated mutations. Animals sprouted features they’d never had before. New shapes, unusual combinations, appeared. A form of bird lots its feathers, except for the wings, which expanded. It also grew two extra feet, out of its chest, and began to walk on all four. Being closer to the ground, it began to root around and the beak became blunted. It developed a pot belly. They became named: Schwein Vogel, and would fly in herds.

Soon, impossible things occurred, now that pigs could fly!

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Sometimes, You Don’t Need What You Wish For by Frank James

Herbert the guinea pig escaped a cardboard box, scurrying outdoors. Boom! Talons snagged him, and up he went. An eagle found dinner, but Herbert writhed in air. He squealed as the bird swooped into a nest where chicks squawked.

Herbert struggled harder, but the bird squeezed his neck harder. He flipped him into the center of nest. Herbert saw an opening in the nest wall, dashing for it. A hungry chick grabbed his back, but Herbert yanked free into the hole. He hopped down limb-by-limb, except the last one. He had to jump.

“Whee!” He squealed, landing his master’s arms.

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Campout: A Mini-Memoir by Michael Fishman

I dated a farm girl who loved camping. Me? My farm knowledge was the words to Old McDonald, and camping was a room at the Holiday Inn.

You do things when you’re in love and that’s how I found myself camping in her brother’s yard one July Saturday night. The bathroom was close, and all things considered, it wasn’t so bad.

Early Sunday morning I woke to a shove. I opened the tent flap and was face-to-face with a very large pig. The pig snorted. Molly reacted with some deep-seated farm knowledge. The pig ran.

I didn’t scream.

E-I-E-I-ohhhhhh.

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When Pigs Fly by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Come one, come all, the circus is in town,” bellowed the bearded lady.

Me and Jude stood at the side of the road and gawked at the circus wagons. The calliope played with such fervor we had to cover our ears from the noise. We’d never smelled so many smells at the same time.

When the wagon of monkeys stopped, the critters screeched and pointed, like we were the funny ones.

“What do you think, Jude? Is your ma gonna let you go?”

“I hope so. Last year when I asked her all she said was, “When pigs fly!””

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The Fair Opens Early by Charli Mills

For three days, diesel engines have geared low to turn at Satori’s Corner halfway up Quincy Hill. Carnies arrive, hauling chunks of amusement rides and galley games. Trucks towing hot dog shacks, popcorn houses, and ramshackle campers follow. Carnie food and homes. Perpetual travelers from across the nation bring fun and excitement to rural counties on a continuous loop. The Houghton County Fair opens on Thursday. When a trailer full of 4H pigs escape and the Ferris Wheel operator leaves popcorn in a seat before the test ride, a flight of pigs launches the first attraction a day early.

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Sure Enough, I Saw by Artie Camenzind

A herd of roller-skating tortoises by the pond. A beaver family dancing salsa atop their dam. A rookery of herons singing Cosi Fan Tutte. A patch of hazel-nut trees debating souffle’ recipes. A group of teens with mobile phones off. A dog talking about irrigation flow efficiency. A yoga class of cats in downward dog. A stroller pushed by love bright as sun. A flight of pigs, none named Bacon Sandwich.

On Geisel’s Ferry Boulevard, I sure enough saw all this and more; sure enough I did do not say I did not – you were there, you saw.

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Pig Aloft (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid? Kid, where ya at?”

“Psst! Pal. I’m up here in the hay loft.”

“Ya sure flew the coop at this prompt. What’re ya doin’ up there?”

“This’s a cruel an’ unusual prompt. Figgered I’d put Curly in hidin’.”

“How in heck’d ya git yer dang pig up there?”

“The hay elevator. ‘Cept I had it runnin’ too fast. Poor Curly went flyin’ across the mow. Now she won’t come near it.”

“Hmmf. How now d’ya pr’pose ta git thet pig down outta thet hay loft? She’s too big ta carry anymore.”

“I’ll figger somethin’ out.”

“When pigs fly.”

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Pig Aloft (Part II) by D. Avery

“Kid, kin ya mebbe lower her down? There’s a block an’ tackle over the hayloft doors.”

“Poor Curly’s so upset from her elevator ride I cain’t git near her.”

“Now whut’s all thet squealin’? Did ya catch her?”

“No, but she’s all caught up in somethin’. Some sorta sign. Her hooves’ve gone through, she’s wearin’ this thing like a… a wing! Look out below! She’s skidded inta the wild blue! Curly’s flyin’!”

*When pigs fly
Aloft on good grace
Prayer wings*

“Landed at the Poet Tree. Hep her outta that wing.”

“Thet wing was Shorty’s rodeo banner.”

“Uh-oh.”

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Stars in the Sand

Take a walk through storyscapes and stars below the heavens.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Walking Through the Galaxy by Joanne Fisher

Their spaceship had crashed. The survivors had activated an emergency beacon. Ta’an left the wreckage in search of nearby settlements.

When Ta’an got to a plain, she beheld a breathtaking vista. It was as though there were two galaxies before her: the Milky Way above, and it’s mirror opposite below; stars in the sky and stars in the sand. The surface was so reflective that as she walked onwards, it was as though she was walking among the stars. They surrounded her. Looking downwards she saw red lights swiftly approaching. She looked up: the rescue ship was above her.

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Shelley by Connor Dickinson

Immortal sorcerer you wizard words on holy parchment.
I’m an inflated balloon, electrostatically charged.
Buoyant, seduced by my shadow-trickster: a sinking and drowning clown.
The prettiest words I would need.
Warped inside, wanting to honour you with pride.
Chewed-up by Devilish-diction. Reluctance, frustration, defeated. Capsized.

But your eternal-spirit rejuvenates my soul.
A revelation, ‘Don’t compete.’
‘Enjoy my odes and your writing journey.’
Millennia crush my bones to white ash.
Enchanted solar-winds carry my iridescence.
Let us share a Moon Fountain of lunar-sand.
Our pearl essence, caressing and cascading metres or miles-high in ballistic trajectories, timelessly.
Togetherness, stars in the sand.

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Stars in the Sand by Sue Spitulnik

Sand and rocks, all the same color. Windy. The sand didn’t care whose clothing it sifted into; US troops in full battle gear, residents they were training, or the enemy they had trouble identifying.

Then came the explosion. Michael’s legs in a million pieces, splattered in every direction. His driver’s body torn apart. The identifiable parts gathered reverently to return home in a flag-covered casket.

The General visited the compound. His soldiers knew he would come. He had their respect. He cared about their well-being. His stars shone in the sun, the same color as the unforgiving relentless sand.

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Idas and Marpessa by Anne Goodwin

Evenus insisted the man who married his daughter should first prove his worth. Challenged her suitors to a chariot race; a hundred losers’ heads graced his palace walls.

Idas loved Marpessa. She loved him. Yet, when Idas beat her father, Evenus set him ever more difficult tasks. Finding a needle in a haystack. A unicorn on a ranch.

Idas was a patient fellow, but he couldn’t waste another year searching for stars in sand.

Marpessa wept when he left her. But busied herself returning a thousand needles to her sewing box. Gathering a million stick-on stars from the beach.

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Midnight Dream by Jane Aguiar

Midnight, all flat,
Everywhere is quiet.
The twinkling of the stars,
And the moon’s dim light!!

Far away where the horizon is seen,
The sky yearns to meet the ocean.
There, We met each other,
And the pain vanished!!

Slow gusts of wind sound,
Innumerable stars around.
Suddenly you hugged me,
And pulled me on the ground!!

You dragged me into arms,
I stared , through the window of my eyes.
You kissed and cuddled me,
And I gave a good response!!

Suddenly I woke up,
And realised.
My dream was shattered.
But,I saw the stars
In the sand!!

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The Kaleidoscope by Larry Trasciatti

I’ve wandered into a kaleidoscope

The rules aren’t the same here

As I walk on by

I often peel the clouds from

The blue noontime sky with friends
Shall we share a most breathtaking

Lunch of sweet tangerines and marmalade?

Do whatever you want as long

As you get home by midnight

Meet the deadline and you’ll

Always be so very happy

During the frequent truly fine moments

You can truly relish the sparkling

Of the Stars In the Sand

The kaleidoscope will tell no secrets

Let it be your daily adventure

A splendid time is guaranteed for all

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Lake Michigan Midnight (Shore Lunes) by JulesPaige

too soon, the path will
allow me
to arrive coast side

I, imposter here
among the
good trees; hide from day

seek constellations
the sky’s book
notwithstanding dark

Black light at the ready to harvest rocks with iridescent spots. I will seek the stars in the sand as well as in the sky. Did the stars fall millions of years ago? I will create my own origin stories.

From this great lake with its north and south beaches… gifting up fossils, glass spears; marbles, lost china from sunken ships. Those can go to the day hunters. I’ll hoard Yooperlites!

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A Change of Climate by Floridaborne

Sigrid had looked out her window at the steep fjords white with snow many times, and as many times she’d turned her gaze toward the wall mural of Florida she’d once loved.

She’d dreamed of the palm trees, sleeping in the empty hammock strung between them, and shining white beaches with tiny stars sparkling in the sand.

Her plane landed, a taxi carried her to a beachfront hotel with the promise of hammocks amid the palms. She fell asleep to the whisper of waves, awakening inside a Miami hospital.

“Third degree burns,” the doctor said.

Sigrid longed for home.

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Stars in the Sand by Kerry E.B. Black

Lonely footprints in the sand marked her progress, footprints watered with her tears and the exuberant salt spray. She sniffed sadness with each step as she left her marital home.

The moon danced in the dark ocean’s waves and laughed at the woman’s consternation. This orb’s influence led the sea astray, pulling the waters along lunar whims. Likewise, it diverted the woman’s husband, enhancing his basest instincts. Like a madman, he romanced in moonlight with howls, dances, and gore.

In despair and fear, she fled, unaware with each resultant spray of her passage, she revealed stars in the sand.

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Stars in the Sand by Doug Jacquier

Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott-Thomas, their characters besotted with each other, gaze at the stars in the desert heavens and glory in both their mass and their individuality. Suddenly the sky is more sand than stars and they realise they are about to be enveloped by a khamsin. They make it to their truck and spend the night pursuing their mutual obsession as the sand buries them. They have no fear or trepidation because the English are very patient. In the morning, they dig themselves out and their journey continues, because the sand cannot bury stars of any kind.

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Stars in the Sand by Reena Saxena

“Join me to start a new initiative – social, creative or commercial”, I said. “It’s the closest friendship I can think of.”

They give me blank looks.

“You’re busy in a lockdown?” I hear amused remarks.

I stay away, not wanting to be a part of the idlers’ club.

I’m politely labelled unsocial, and treated as if I’m anti-social.

“You’re not counted in the close circle. Nobody likes you,” hisses my venomous mother.

Actually, nobody understands me. Is it fear or envy?

Some day, I’ll write my story with stars on the sands. I’m already visualising my Ted Talk.

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Heavenly Body by Annette Rochelle Aben

She absent-mindedly heard the tide rush towards the shore but felt it touch her toes as though trying to get her attention. A million miles beyond the moon was where she was tonight. Could the water take her to that distant galaxy where she felt she belonged?

One step at a time, she followed the promise of the tide that had obviously been sent like a taxi hailed by her heart. As water swirled around her ankles, she closed her eyes and smiled. She walked until she was floating above her tears which glistened like stars in the sand.

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Promised Waters by Rebecca Glaessner

Solar floodlights expose the beachfront like daylight. Crowds gathered there nightly to escape the endless heat, their music drowning the waves. I move on over slippery rock-pools and round the cliffs further up the coast.

Human sounds fall away as the cliffs lower to reveal a river mouth and marshy swampland, visible now beneath unburdened starlight, and rest upon a tree root.

They don’t have oceans on Mars, yet. That’s why they’re sending me.

Starlight glints off flecks of sand beneath my bare feet.

They say there’re stars in the sands of Mars.

Perhaps the waters will free them.

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The Collector by Hugh W. Roberts

The Collector has an important message for the people of the planet Earth. Will they listen?

***
One hundred and twenty million years had passed since its last visit.

It didn’t like the feel of the granular material, but the stars that had fallen into what humans named ‘sand’ needed replenishing to keep the planet alive.

Picking up an item the waves washed ashore, the Collector studied it. It smelt and tasted good. For every one of these items it took away, it left a star.

As beaches around the planet shone, humans wondered where all the plastic in the seas had gone.

It would only be another twenty years before the Collector returned.

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Aloysius on the Beach by Nancy Brady

Although the family, who believed they owned Aloysius, tried to keep him in their house and yard, he often wandered further afield.

One day he made his way down to the shore. The sunshine was shining brightly on Aloysius’s fur; the yellow beams created stars on the sand.

Like any normal feline (and Aloysius was anything but), the white cat reacted as most cats would, he pounced upon each and every star he saw. Aloysius vanquished them all, never looking back. Swishing his tail back and forth triumphantly, he padded back home, each footstep leaving behind another sand dollar.

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Foraminifera by Simon Prathap D

It’s boring here, give my brain something to chew.

How about sand?

Sand? what is there about it? are these alive?

how these sands looks like?

Star shaped?

Stars in these sands, are a living organism,

Living? are you kidding me?

Foraminifera, a single celled organism, found in open ocean, along the coasts and in estuaries, and they are ALIVE!

ALIVE! now I have hundreds of questions about it.

Good, now explore it and stay curious.

This is not fair

Now you got what you asked for, learn yourself, world is an amazing place to learn before you die.

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The Sea by Saifun Hassam

He is an old fisherman. He knows the seasons. When the Cygnet is high overhead, he walks barefoot along the dark shores.

He listens to the surf, far out, coming ever closer. Phosphorescence creatures ride the waves, sliding down along the walls of waves. Momentarily the dark wet sand comes alive with brilliant greens and blues. Millions of tiny universes scintillate like stars in the sand. The stars dim. Another wave spills its surf on the sand. Instantly the stars light up. Fiery and fluorescent the stars ride back to the waters, lights bound up with their watery universe.

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Stars in the Sand by D. Avery

Grandma says there are stars in the sand.

A lot of people think Grandma’s crazy.

I think it’s crazy that I have to go to school where all I learn is to keep quiet and avoid bullies.

Come on, Grandma says when I get home, Let’s go star gazing, and heads down to the beach, hours before sunset.

It’s not the right time, I say.

We can handle time she says, and we do. Wordless, we marvel at the glittering sand; we smooth it, sift it, lie in it.

You’re a star she says, and I know she’s right.

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The Crooner by Bill Engleson

I was on a late-night stroll along the sea wall. The moon was half full, slipping through the shadows of trees along my way.

I was alone, the last person on earth.

A comforting imaginative thought.

As I rounded a corner, I saw him sitting on a bench, singing: “Don’t let the stars get in your eyes, don’t let the moon break your heart…”

Suddenly I was a child again, mimicking Perry on the Motorola, flubbing the lyrics: “don’t let the stars in the sand get in your eyes…”

Mother would correct me.

I’d try again.

Loved her laugh!

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Stars in the Sand by Norah Colvin

Works of art, created from random pieces of this and that, were incomplete without a generous sprinkling of glitter. When stars were available, the children were in heaven. Though insignificant to others, the works held meaning for the artist, at least for a moment like a particle of glitter passing through a sandglass. Peta watched George painstakingly place his stars. She turned his paper around. “Stars don’t go in the sand, silly. They go in the sky.” George turned it back. “They’re starfish. Starfish go in the sand. Don’t you know anything?” “Oh,” said Peta. “They are beautiful starfish!”

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Ode to the Sandman by Myrna Migala

One day in the home of a happy family, the tiny little boy asked his mommy! “Where was I before I was born?”

“Oh dear, you were the twinkle in daddy’s eye.”

“Like stars?”

“Yes! Like stars.”

“Wow!” He kept saying as he excitedly ran to tell all his friends.
After a few days had gone by, he woke up rubbing his eyes on one fine sunny morning and noticed some sleepy particles on his fingers.

“Mommy, mommy, look and see the sandman came last night to visit me.
“I do hope he put some stars in the sand.”

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Stars in the Sand by Sarah Whiley

That’s right

I’m the sidekick
Riding the tailcoats
Of those braver than I



Too shy
Too scared
To bare my teeth
And so I smile






Push me around?
You can for a while
I promise, I won’t mind
Instead I smile

My knuckles are white
I grit my teeth
Composure like armour
“Yes,” I smile

My soul awakens
She tries to get out
Shh. No one cares
I falter…

Gently I push
Gently I prod
The cocoon opens wide
And I fly right out

I am bioluminescent
I’m ready.
Projecting my stars in the sand
For all to see

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Stars in the Sand by Anita Dawes

They told me that Egypt, the pyramids
Would be the holiday of a lifetime
Leaving the rain behind
Take off delayed
They forgot to load the luggage
Not a good start
We might have left the rain behind
The black cloud had followed us aboard
The hotel turned out nice, mood lifted
Next morning, with the tour guide
We made our way to the pyramids
Wow! They really are something
Somehow, I got separated from the tour
The sand dunes I found myself on
As beautiful as any painting
That’s when I found three lucky stars in the sand…

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To the Stars by Duane L Herrmann

“To the Stars Through Difficulties” is my state motto, a constant reminder that nothing is attained easily and certainly not stars. My life can be defined by its difficulties: social isolation, emotionally crippling effects of abuse, intellectual struggles with dyslexia, ADHD, and the limitations of poverty. There were certainly no stars, nor sand, but dirt – yes.

We farmed the dirt.

Despite all that, I continued to try. Rooted in that dirt, I reached for the stars and now, after decades, have attained some success: being published around the world, in several languages, one I can read and even others.

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White City Sand by Charli Mills

Copper miners’ families crowded the double-decker steamer. Wives and children sported tiny brass stars on collars and lapels. Solidarity for fair treatment twinkled across the open decks. An anonymous patron had provided the striking miners with an exclusive excursion to White City. Thirty-minutes east of closed mines, the summer-weary strikers and families anticipated their lucky day. Respite. The promised carousel, dance pavilion, and ham picnic came into view. Mine enforcers emerged. Hundreds. Clubs in fists. The boat docked. They say you can find stars in the sand where the working class were tricked and beaten into submission in 1909.

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99 Carrot Stars by D. Avery

“Kid what’re ya doin’ lettin’ thet dang hog a yers root an’ dig ever’where?”

“If it’s okay fer Mause, it’s okay fer Curly. We’re lookin’ fer stars in the sand, Pal.”

“Thet ain’t sand, Kid, thet’s Shorty’s garden.”

“Close enough. Hey, another one! Good Curly.”

“Thet ain’t a star, Kid, thet’s jist a carrot.”

“Jist a carrot?! Carrots fer the people, Pal. Tell ya somethin’ else. The people that show up ta the ranch is all stars. Their stories shine! An’ while we ain’t got beach sand here, there’s plenty a folks with grit.”

“Reckon so, Kid, reckon so.”

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Cacophony

A car alarm screeches, a unicorn snorts, and a spaceship breaks the sound barrier. But writers use the cacophony of sound to craft stories.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Cacophony by Norah Colvin

Children’s voices rose from the street with excitement, until laughter exploded like fireworks, startling a flock of corellas into screeching flight.

Mrs Black in #4 slammed her door and windows tight, excluding the abhorrent noise daring to smother her favourite show.

Mr Judd from #5, pruning his grevilleas, shook his fist and said, “Stone the crows! What’s with all that racket?”

Mr Dredge in #7 dozed on, snoring in decibels way higher than those outside.

But Mrs Twigg in #3 flung wide her window, inhaling the children’s merriment that inspired memories of her own childhood antics so long ago.

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This Sickness by Kerry E.B. Black

Someone with a ball peen hammer pounds every joint, stretching muscle and ligament until bone grinds cartilage.

An orchestra warms-up between the ears, its cacophony deafening, with pulse matching its erratic rhythm.

Eyes receded into aching sockets, where lightshows dance along the periphery.

Shadows sink into vision, obscuring. Strained eyesight triggers migraines, with comic book enthusiasm. “Bang, Pow, Pop!”

Razorblades reside in vocal cords, stripping speech to a barely audible squeak. Amusing to the children.

An anaconda squeezes the midsection, shrinking stomach capacity.

Hazy zombie turns to exhausted fever dreams between doses of medicine that promise returned good health.

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Laying in a Hospital Bed by Susan Spitulnik

An inward sucking noise
An outward swooshing
Over and Over
The ventilator keeps perfect time

The incessant beeping
When the IV bag is empty
“Someone” please turn it off
Where is everyone

Now a fall-alarm is blaring
My adrenalin rushes but
I hear no one running in response
Don’t they care

Too busy to answer call buttons
But I can hear them talking
How many people are working
Where is my friendly nurse

The meal-cart wheels squeak
Compartment doors slam
The tube prevents eating
My mind says I’m hungry

My God, it’s finally quiet
It’s peaceful
Am I dead

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Night Sounds by Bill Engleson

The crow came to my window at midnight,
cawed his screech,
his dark bird speech,
like a bent rusty nail caught in his throat,
pulled out by the sinister hammer of night,
the crow’s squawky plea
in much the same tone,
a raw shattered bone
stuck in his craw
as when he flies the zone
far above my head
In the dead
of day.

The crow stayed at window ‘til morn,
and beyond,
a bent broken bird
sprawled on the sill,
rotting away,
flies pecking its flesh
as the sun lit the day,
as the crows had their say.

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Dream a Little Dream by Sarah Whiley

There’s a cacophony in my head.
And it won’t go away.
I’ve tried sleeping pills
But there’s no guarantee.

I drop some helium
To cull the birds
Coz the tweets are endless
A faithless dirge

And so I’m held
Too painfully aware.
Is it possible to hope?
Do I dare to care?

This fustian pair
Between my ears
See that decisions are made
for me in arrears

Wishes are portable
This I do know
Thoughts are transferable
Wherever I go.

So while there is still
a slit; a gleam
I have to believe I can
Dream a little dream

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Well, Why Not? (Part 4) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Sister Indelicata left the cacophony of squeals and laughter behind her; the tall, hardwood door sneezed delicately shut, blessing the happy, healed family. Indelicata’s bare feet whispered swift and sure, softer than the guttering of the beeswax candles that provided more scent than light.

She caught the perfume of open sea before she saw it, and glided through the marble hallway to the worn spiral stairs and ocean access.

She shimmered; habit, wimple, and net slid free into the freezing waves. Flicking her mermaid’s tail, she dove.

Goodbyes were easiest if her charges never liked her to begin with.

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Aloysius’s Changes by Nancy Brady

Aloysius had just finished lapping at the fountain in the middle of the maze. He sat, licking his paws and whiskers. His bath complete, the white cat sauntered away.
Aloysius’s tail flicked from side to side causing a cacophony of colors to burst out. To the left and right, he left a trail of lush wildflowers in his wake. Purple and blue lupine, poppies of red, and yellow and orange coneflowers with deep indigo centers sprung up all around him. Green ferns, too, could be seen waving their fronds.
Not only had he changed, but so had the garden.

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Silent Came the Night by Frank James

Footsteps captivated a smile into a wrinkled face
A final prayer begged forgiveness to no response
Boots thumping grabbed his throat
The lock clanking shivered his body
Rattling chains extorted a moan
His whimpering proclaimed the end was near
Dragging feet marked his last seconds, as guards pulled him down the long hall
Rapping and squealing opened the door to the next life
A priest praying welcomed him into the tiny chamber
A final protest fell hushed by manacles clasping arms tight
His last word: Please
A flip of a switch silent came the night
Whoosh went the spirit

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Voiceless by Joanne Fisher

Harriet loved Lily. She felt deeply connected to her, though Lily never spoke to Harriet. All she wanted was a chance to speak to Lily to tell her how she felt and what Lily meant to her.

Now after years of pining away for her, Lily had unexpectedly consented to meet her in a cafe.

“So you wanted to tell me something?” Lily asked.

With a cacophony of voices behind her, Harriet gazed longingly at Lily’s blonde hair and perfect skin. She found herself unable to speak, as if she didn’t know where to start or what to say.

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A Wooden Sanctuary by Donna Matthews

a past week cacophony clamors around inside my head
harsh self-loathing
a death certificate
grief picked open
bizarre new dizzyness
money— work— purpose— insecurity— anxiety
discordant thinking no one else can see
all reaching a deafening crescendo— when did this concert grow so noisy?

spinning
spinning
spinning
thinking too much

I lace up my boots— and walk
one foot in front of the other
into the cover of a wooden sanctuary.

The clanking noise inside drowns out
a new cacophony—
cicada hum above, babbling creek below.

My breathing settles into a new rhythm—
that wondrous, peaceful melody of now.

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Copse of Cragged Cliff by Connor Dickinson

3pm. Granite bowl. Foxglove pestled. My knotted-knuckles s-n-a-p and c-r-a-c-k:
sinewy-veins, grinding roots of poisonous digitalis for marrow-bone-broth. His last supper.
‘Soup . . . . honeymooner?’
‘Mmm . . . . Clarissa.’
Choking.

Eventide.
His mother’s soul-less s-c-r-e-e-c-h-i-n-g statues me at convulsing ribbed-shutters. My nostrils torch as Romani’s blazing umbilical tail, scorches and whips a million spruce leaves, raven-black.
Thanatos cometh.
Her cavernous, d-e-t-a-c-h-e-d. face: misty-mottled-blue. Hovers around me.
Howling putrid breath, lacerates my barked flesh.
Thrashing her bitches’ acidic tongue, licking bones clean of skin.
Gypsy-blood cursifying. Fracking my bones. E-x-o-r-c-i-s-m.
My jowl r-a-t-t-l-e-s ─ but no-body hears.

As, she entombs me.

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Batter-born Biscuits by Charli Mills

Batter-born biscuits dropped to a sizzling cast-iron griddle. Max held her lips in formation. The day before, her mother complained Max was too pretty to withhold her smile. Max adjusted her prosthetic foot to stand near the outdoor flames. The arrival of a squawking blue jay, twittering squirrels, and her father in a silk robe announced morning with forest cacophony. Weird as her dad might be, she’d take him at her campfire wearing what suited him best over the silent pretense of her mother’s morning prayers, rules, and cold cereal. Funny how grim her mother looked, reading her devotions.

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Judy Says ‘No’ by Doug Jacquier

As she stood in the queue at the bank, Judy was approached by a smarmy suit and patronisingly advised that she could complete her transaction at the ATM outside. Judy said loudly ‘No, I’d prefer to keep a teller in a job, not in another queue, at the unemployment office. That way they can pay the rent and feed their kids.’ The suit approached others and a chant of ‘No’ began to gather in strength, rising to a cacophony that had the security guard retreat with his hands over his ears. But to Judy, it sounded like a symphony.

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Tower of Babel by Anne Goodwin

Beyond the wire, the night was silent. Within the camp, moaning built a tower of noise. Women called, but to little purpose. Words are worthless if those who hear can’t comprehend. Detainees complained in ninety different mother tongues.

A translator fished among the discord for languages she recognised. Echoed pleas in Pashto, Dari, Belarusian and Tajik. Others dredged for schoolgirl Urdu or dialects they’d heard their neighbours speak. Each language a stepping-stone to another, phrase by phrase community took hold.

That’s how they learnt that some were journalists, others lawyers. That’s how their fight for justice boomed and bloomed.

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Cacophony by Reena Saxena

shrill allegations
piercing souls
raised fingers
I’ll break some day…
What are they trying to
make me feel guilty about?

I want to give them mirrors
which show pictures
like those of Dorian Gray
podcasts which repeat
their word bullets
smash their eardrums

deep sense of inadequacy
their egos demand
unquestioning obedience
as they get uglier by the day

screaming
obstructing
objecting
blocking
now helpless…

They all disappear
I transcend
Into a state of being
alone, peaceful
On a solo journey
never to return

No destinations
nor a quest for happiness
finding eternal truths
shedding
Unhappiness
masquerading as Life

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Burn by Anita Dawes

The spiralling crescendo of roman candles
Shot towards heaven
Pulls an ancient knowing from my soul
Like a half-remembered dream
I stumble forward for knowledge
That is stacked up behind me
Above my head, fireworks light the sky
The sound echoes in my bones
An old sound that never went away
The colours remind me of something hidden
The lost pages of the grand grimoire
which have everything to do with
the last cacophony of sound
that will never be heard again.
the world will fall silent
not if I get my hands on it
I will burn it…

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Savannah Lands by Saifun Hassam

The dry winds intensified. The roar of the fire was deafening. Older forest groves were engulfed instantly.

For two days, animals streamed out of the valleys. They ran along ancient treks sounding warnings. Above the thud of pounding feet, you could hear the urgent trumpeting of elephants, the defiant roar of lions, the panicky laughter of hyenas, the howling of monkeys. Antelopes and gazelles ran, graceful, focused, silent. Elands and wild buffaloes rumbled along.

Majid, a biologist, and fireman followed the animals along a scorched forest road. He would do everything he could for the animals to find refuge.

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Dawn by Joanne Fisher

Natasha dreamed she was with Ellie. They were holding hands and walking down the sidewalk. It was sunny and they were heading for the beach. Then she was suddenly awoken. The dawn chorus had begun in the treetops above her. Already there was a cacophony.of birdsong building up. Since the end times they had gotten louder.

Natasha reluctantly got out of her sleeping bag and looked around, in case there was a roving band of survivors nearby. She didn’t want to end up being eaten, or worse. Thinking of Ellie, she quickly packed up her things and moved on.

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Tarnished Tranquility Rebecca Glaessner

She’s trudging through the forest as silence hits, sending chills through her despite the hike and heat of nearing sunrise. Could’ve been peaceful, under different circumstances.

Determined to find her missing friend, she persists. Body growing numb.

The forest’s stagnant silence thickens. Her mind reels.

Shouldn’t have ignored the reports, her friend wasn’t invulnerable.

And neither is she.

Sudden sound startles her, the cacophony yanking her senses back.

From nowhere, her friend emerges, barrels past, yelling “run!”

She staggers, follows.

Noise strengthening her after the eerie silence, they escape back to the comfort of a chaotic, sound-filled, life-affirming world.

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Cicada Circus by Duane L Herrmann

Summertime. Hot. As heat rises: 85, 95, 100 (Dear God, NO MORE!), cicadas increase their chorus. Some in seven year cycles, others – eleven years. This, the eleventh year, they are out in full force shrieking their joy and life in the heat. Today 100, and they did not stop until long after dark when it cooled down to 85. Finally cacophony was over and we could all sleep. The sun would soon cook us another day. As a child I delighted in finding the cases they had emerged from, and attach them to something else, but no longer.

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Myth by Simon

Dog’s are howling, someone’s going to die!

Who said that?

Dad said!

Death is inevitable and no one on earth could predict it.

But dad said, dog’s cacophony is a bad sign.

World is created by men like your dad, don’t believe anyone, question them, even me. Dog’s are our friends, they love us, the abandoned dogs feel lonely and they let out their feelings by howling, if some other dogs Howl, they share their feelings together.

I would like to adopt all our street dog’s.

All of them?

Yes mom, I don’t want them to feel lonely again.

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Summer in Suburbia by Annette Rochelle Aben

The thumping bass of the stereo starts around nine in the morning and blares all day long. Cue the beer-drinking corn hole players who curse if they win and curse if they lose. Then there are the children who bounce from the trampoline into the pool while shrieking like bloody murder at the top of their lungs. Add to this, the poor dog who barks from one end of the yard to the other to remind them that he needs to eat. And when it starts at nine in the evening, it goes on until 4 in the morning.

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Summer of Love by D. Avery

The pair of geese that patrolled the yard were first to sound the alarm. Then his father’s hounds bugled from the kennels. The Jerseys lowed as they closed ranks across the pasture and filed toward the barn. Finally there came the sharp report of the screen door springing shut behind his mother, anxiously wringing her dish towel on the familiar porch, laughing and crying at his approach.

These welcoming sounds began to quiet the shrieks and chants from the gauntlet he’d faced at the airport. But even as his mother refrained, ‘You’re really home’, doubts drummed like throbbing pain.

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Cacophony by FloridaBorne

Summer. Time for fans in the window. In the kitchen, there’s a ceiling fan, and a window fan cools the concrete floor where dogs like to lay.

Each fan sings a different pitch, gentle background music when I used to sit on the steps to watch clouds float by.

Once, a cacophony of crickets, katydids, birdsong, and wind flowing through the pine needles blended together.

A peaceful sound.

People moved from city to country. They play music so loud you wonder if their children are going to be deaf before the age of 15.

Now, there is no peace.

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Unbound Sounds by JulesPaige

All that’s left is crumbs.
Empty pie tin
Pitted the cherries
Cup of sugar…
Quartered the feast

(spoons rattled, clanged
oven door opened with a metallic creek
and closed, bang
fork scrapped the china plate…
scritchty scratch
buttons popping… tapping the wall, ping
rattled and settled, plop)

Ate each quart(her)
Cherries, cherries, yum, yum!
Patterns on her dress
Now on the floor –
Since it don’t fit no more.

(now resting stretched
out on the bed
with a soft pillow for her head…
content and full –
there not so dainty
started as a wheeze,
now an outright snore)

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Bela’s Evenings by Kavita Deo

Every evening Bela sat in her large patio overlooking a green hill and surrounded by greenery. A beautiful view for sure!

Bela enjoyed this hour with her coffee while winding up her day. Highlight of the coffee hour was surely the large gathering of crows that would start making a noise as if they are in a round table and trying to come at a resolution. Hearing them the parrots, the peacocks and sparrows would join them. Bela didn’t exactly mind the cacophony but would be all ears and wished she could get them to chirp in symphony!

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Surround Sound by C Mills

Shorty approached the Poet Tree. Ribbons and leaves bobbed in the breeze. Silence. Kid was off chasing Curly in a unicorn-y snafu. Somehow the piglet got stuck in a child’s floatie after Kid and Pal helped Marge dismount from her big bass adventure. Whatever cacophony hung over the lake between campfires in these parts, Shorty couldn’t hear. Ol’ Captain pulled at the bit. Shorty let the gelding have his head to munch the grass and swung a leg to rest across the saddle swells. Characters laughed, moaned, cajoled, and rose up in the distant ranch ether. All was well.

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Open Doors

Go ahead, crack open the door and read on.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Unopened Door by Duane L Herrmann

I was in the house, the same but different, there was a new door, opening to rooms, spaces I’d not known before. As I wandered these empty, unused places I wondered why we had not lived there. Possibilities were vast. When I woke up I instantly knew these were our possible lives that my mother did not know, experiences of joy and love we did not have, but could have. And I grieved for their absence in our lives. We could have been happy, enjoyed each other, been a real family – not the hell that was our home.

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Child Welfare Report by Bill Engleson

I never forget what it was like. A complaint comes it. Something terrible is happening behind closed doors. The doors of a family home.

First steps are to do some checking.

What do we know?

Who knows what we don’t?

Who knows this family?

Will they tell us something useful?

All this is happening with lightning speed.

The best approach is to see the child at school.

When that is not an option, for any number of reasons, a frontal assault is all that is left.

The knock at the door.

The heavy hand of the state.

And then…

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Un-Cooperative Doors by Connor Dickinson

1975’s dark mahogany doors s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d their masculinity, timelessly to the cornflower blue powder sky. Rectangular misty glass panels, soul-less eyes, vanishing miles from my four-year-old ‘buckled’ Clarke shoes. Mother knotted, scurried inside the Cooperative amongst thirty-so Glaswegians, grabbing a four-pack of McEwans, ‘not enough change’ for the 7p beans.

Gigantic metal padlock, unhinged stared at me demonstratively. Etching SECURITY in my brain. Clasping childhood shut. Happy to lock-up. Cursing shop-teller rang the police. Mother madder-red with embarrassment. I, menacingly content that dad couldn’t blacken her other eye for ages – the unlocking blue sirens seemed a lifetime.

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Two Masks Really Are Better Than One by Tain Leonard-Peck

Earlier today, two men robbed Rocky Mountain Bank. The pair briefly conversed with the receptionist after entering the building. It is believed they were stalling until the manager returned from lunch, as only she could open the vault door.

Once the manager arrived, the thieves removed their face masks. The bank’s occupants fled in a panic. The thieves then looted the bank at their leisure.

Police are doubtful that the perpetrators will be apprehended, as they were wearing Ronald Reagan masks under their Covid masks, which the victims didn’t notice as they fled in a Covid mask violation panic.

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Doors Old and New by Geof Le Pard

‘No good?’

‘They didn’t even call. Just a texted no.’

‘I did say you needed to think through your CV.’

‘They never mentioned piglet castrator, Logan.’

‘You wouldn’t, would you? If you wanted someone to sell deodorant.’

‘Oh well. One door closes, another opens.’

‘Really?’

‘I said as much to the chap in reception. He’d sold them a door. Offered me a job. Said he liked the cut of my gib.’

‘I’m pleased.’

‘Logan. What’s my gib?’

‘Your new post lockdown haircut.’

‘You think that’s what swung it?’

‘If you hair opens doors, then I’d even forgive a mullet.’

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What If?  by Hugh W. Roberts

What if what was on the other side of the open door wasn’t what he was expecting?

***
As I watched figures going through the open door, not even the pattering of rain on the roof of the car took away the fear I felt.

“What if…”

As my hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, anxiety began to snowball out of control.

“What if..?”

The thoughts of home and a warm bed were welcoming and safe.

“What if..?”

As I drove away, the LGBT community, who I feared, would have to wait another two years before joining them behind the open door that led to non-judgemental new friends, a new life and being who I really was.

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Door Duty by Heather Gonzalez

Macy knew she had locked the door, but something inside her told her to go back and check. It was wide open. There were no sounds to be heard from down the steps which scared her more than if she had heard screaming. Every citizen took turns checking that the door stayed locked.

Macy took a deep breath and began to walk towards the door. That is when she finally heard the guttural howl from below. Without a second thought, she slammed the door and locked it. She planned to be sick the next time it was her turn.

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Should I Retain Possession of My Hand, I Will Offer You Possession of My Heart by Kathryn Leonard-Peck

“I knew we shouldn’t have opened the door. Vampires in the ballroom, werewolves in the garden!”

“Calm yourself, darling. I have silver bullets. The way you’re wailing, you’d think us surrounded by French Republican rabble.”

“Heaven forbid. Did you know, Lord Ruthven told me the unnaturals gamble, then sow discord to avoid their debts.”

“That is shocking. Fangs to your left. Mind your hat.”

“Fur to your right, my lord. I shall dispatch it with my hatpin.”

“Shall we fight our way to the punchbowl? Slaughtering is drying work.”

“Thirsty…for blood!”

“Drat. In want of a wife again.”

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Aloysius’s Curiosity by Nancy Brady

Curiosity killed the kitty cat, they say, and Aloysius was extremely curious. Fortunately, he was also skilled at getting out of scrapes. Aloysius would sneak past those humans who might harm him, but he also knew instinctively whom to trust.

One night while prowling, Aloysius discovered a door built into a hedgerow. Curiosity getting the better of him, he pawed it open and entered a maze. In the center of the maze was a fountain full of sparkling water. Little did he know that lapping from that fountain changed his life; his life would never be the same again.

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Giving Lacuna by JulesPaige

At the door, in uniform – one anyway…
Her muliebral brother
Was in a sleeveless dress
Down to his ankles…
Probably not spoiling for a fight –
Just there to accompany the girl…
It wasn’t until after she left
(I bought my favorite cookies…)
That I wondered just how liberal
This town was… and hoped
Perhaps beyond reasoning
That they’d make it back home –
Because I knew that across the street
Behind some of those closed doors
That some of the neighbors
Who’d given our family some grief
Because ‘We’ weren’t like ‘Them’ –
Might not keep their door or mouth shut.

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Closed Door by D. Avery

The door was almost within reach but still she moved slowly. In her socks, she crept at the edge, avoiding the creaky worn boards in the middle of the hallway. Holding her shoes in one hand, her stuffed shoulder bag clutched close under her arm, she cautiously listened to his steady snoring from the couch. Then she reached for the knob with her free hand.

Click.

He’d sat up, cocked his revolver.

“Fooled you.” He fired.

Her shoes hit the floor before she did. He fired again.

She bled out in front of the door, now out of reach.

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Left the Door Open by Anita Dawes

Honey, you left the door open
God’s doing that shining thing again
Does he still have the hump with you
For believing your own abilities?
For taking so many of his winged ones with you
What did he have to say?
The more I lift them up, to do their own thing
The more he will smite them
He is threatening floods, famine, plague
He has a nasty one up his sleeve
Says he’s been working on it for awhile
When the moment is right
He will arrange for a cock up
Many hands, but China will take the blame…

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Trapped in a Nightmare by Miss Judy

Jessica found herself in a long, stark white hallway, antiseptic. Doors to the left, doors to the right, all sealed shut. She looks back, sees only the same white hallway and doors sealed shut.

An open door appears ahead filled with darkness and shadows – a way out? She walks toward the open door and the darkness. She gets no closer. The hallway seems to have no beginning and no end. Frightened, she tries to scream but cannot. “Jeff, where is Jeff? Help me!”

A hand grips her arm. “Jessy – wake up! You were having a bad dream.”

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Keys in Her Hand by Annette Rochelle Aben

She knew she had to leave a marriage that most likely should have never taken place. Doors were opening all the time. On their honeymoon when he raped her, that was the first door. But she was just too shocked and confused. Their first wedding anniversary when he told her what a piece of shit she was, was another open door. But the sweet apology closed the door, because she believed she was worthless anyway.

7 more years of verbal, mental and emotional abuse opened the door to counseling. Which lead to opening the door to the lawyer’s office.

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The Blue Door by Reena Saxena

The door was never locked, just pulled tight.

She kept floating in self-doubt, inadequacy and a guilt about not being what others expected her to be. Deep down, she knew the allegations are not true. But there was no way out. There was no way of getting rid of antagonistic shadows.

Today, that one truth hit her like a sun in darkness. She is a victim of mental abuse, not a perpetrator of wrongs.

That one article, that one link to a webinar, and she knew it….

The door was always open. She just has to walk out.

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Doorway by Sarah Whiley

I dream of escape
Escape from in here
Here is my nightmare
Nightmare and fear

Spiralling down
Down to the black
Black prefers dark
Dark doesn’t talk back

It’s been a long time
Time has stood still
Still in my mind
Mind been through hell

But now dawn is rising
Rising to light
Light from a doorway
Doorway in sight

I cross the threshold
threshold anew
anew expectations
Expectations of you

Please hold my hand
hand trembling, I go
Go through the opening
Opening so slow

Guide me with love
Love me carefully
Carefully we’ll weave
Weave a journey

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Essentiality Remains by Rebecca Glaessner

My restless body sleeps, mind seeking.

Endless doorways. Some lead nowhere, others to places I cannot comprehend.

There’s just one I search for. Within, contains a source of darkness. I must eliminate it.

I wander twisting corridors, labyrinthine in nature, as all minds are.

There, ahead. The darkness, flickering and tremulous. I follow, my heart pounding within and without.

The next corner conceals it. I falter as I turn. Reach the final door. There’s no light. I proceed despite fear.

Within, darkness overwhelms, engulfs, devours me.

Fear.

I breathe.

I embrace.

Persist through.

Quiet.

Strengthened, mind and body remain.

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Door to Adventure by Kerry E.B. Black

In Granny’s grand, dark house, Cleo was forbidden to enter the study, no matter how intriguing. Granny’d locked it and all of its secrets when Uncle Jameson died.

However, Cleo longed to sneak inside.

The door breathed temptation. Its woodgrain spelled suspense.

Day after day, Cleo snuck to the door and pressed her ear to the warm wood. Night after night, she turned the handle. It remained unmoving.

One quiet evening, Cleo’s family left to run errands.

Cleo crept to the door and turned the brass handle, expecting it to remain stable, as always.

Incredibly, it twisted in her grip.

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She Escapes by Joanne Fisher

When he arrived home, he found the door to the basement was open. With his heart thudding in his ears, he quickly went down the stairs and found the cage he had kept her in was empty, the door hanging wide open. How she had escaped he had no idea. He went back upstairs. Already it was dark and quiet outside. She could be anywhere by now. He sat down on a couch and waited for the inevitable. Soon there was the sound of many sirens approaching. They wouldn’t understand that with her free, the world would soon end.

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DD (Death Door) by Simon

Grim reaper assistant accidentally opens a door of death.

“What have you done?”

“Boss, apologies. This is a mistake”

“My work load is going to pile up with dead souls”

“So a new catastrophe? this door is gonna be interesting”

“Interesting? seriously?” sighed Grim Reaper “The game between life and death is what makes earth interesting – it can be closed, IF human worked together”

“Are they powerful than us?”

“Not really, but they are, we create catastrophe, they create peace”

“Just one catastrophe, right?”

“One? enough to wipe 50% of human population. Catastrophe Begins 2019, Ends Unknown, COVID”

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An Open Invitation by Norah Colvin

Actions speak louder than words so, when the door opened, she assumed it was an invitation, even though she’d been told to stay inside. She didn’t need naptime. She was a big girl.

Outside the day sparkled with springtime. Birds chatted as they flitted from tree to tree, inviting her to follow. A lizard peeked from a log, then rustled away in winter’s leaves. She followed, crawling under bushes, into an open space where rocks warmed in the sun. Gum nuts and seed pods, twigs and leaves enthralled until, lulled by the warmth and the dappling light, she napped.

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Letting the Light in by Anne Goodwin

Suzi begged her mum to leave the door ajar. She begged her daddy too. Then, if a nightmare awoke her, she could see her teddies, and the landing light would stretch through the gap and chase any witches away. But if the adults’ games disturbed her – thumping music, shouting, shattering glass – she’d creep from her bed and shut the door on the noise.

One night, she felt a hand on her tummy. Under the Cinderella duvet and her Pocahontas pyjama top. Suzi hasn’t slept at her daddy’s since then. Even at home, she insists on closing her bedroom door.

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Open Doors by FloridaBorne

“Be wary of con artists,” Mom said. “They’ll open doors you thought impossible to enter, and you’ll beg them to take your money.”

Her clothing was modest. She never traveled farther than the county’s edge. When strangers entered our town she sequestered us inside the house and closed the curtains.

When she died, we found a poster of her. Young, wearing a gypsy-like outfit that showed off a well-endowed chest, the caption said, “Madam Truepetto, fortune teller.”

Next to it was a newspaper article titled “10 most wanted,” her picture on top.

I opened my own doors after that.

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Michael’s Motivational Speech at Walter Reed by Sue Spitulnik

Had I not been in a bomb blast, I would probably still be on active duty, stationed who knows where. Instead, I’m directing the teen choir in my hometown church, I’m singing lead in a veterans only band, I’m taking the healing power of music to multiple veterans’ facilities in a gifted van , I’m marrying for the first time, and I’ve immersed myself in family life. It took me a while to realize losing most of my legs had opened doors for me. The secret is to believe there is a specific, exciting purpose for the new you.

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Freedom by Michael

Freedom! That’s what lay beyond the opened door.
If only I could be brave enough to take that step.
The shackles that bound me were growing tighter, pulling me into a dark abyss I knew would be my end.
I had long harboured the desire to escape, find my own way. Threats kept me in my place. Financial ruin, public humiliation, alienation from my family.
So, I labored within the confines I allowed to be imposed on me.
But one day, the shackles fell, the door opened, I turned my back on misery and looked into a new world.

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A New Door Opens by Charli Mills

At fourteen, Francis hid behind doors, gripping Mama’s hand, her breath hard as ore in her chest. One door led to another until they boarded a creaking vessel, shut below decks. Water lashed. The ship rose and fell and swayed from side to side. Wind howled. Finally, the hatch opened to sunlight and seagulls. They merged with a sea of humanity, walking to a mining camp called Cliff. When the mine captain’s wife died, Mama was the only one willing to wash and prep the body for burial. A new door opened – a job, income, a life beyond slavery.

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Not on My Shift You Don’t by Doug Jacquier

A nurse flits into Dad’s room, mock scolds him for barely touching his breakfast, and flits out again, ‘Were you born in a bloody tent?’ he calls after her, which means she hasn’t shut the door behind her. Again!

I ask him how he is. His face sags, he looks me in the eye, and says ‘I’m buggered*, son’ and I know he’s decided he’s had enough and just wants to be left alone to leave this world on his own terms. But the nurse doesn’t want that happening on her shift. So she keeps leaving the door open.

* buggered – Australian slang for ‘finished, exhausted, dead tired’

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Diamante by Saifun Hassam

Diamante hiked down the mountain trail under a canopy of tall evergreens. Sunlight filtered through openings like windows into the cloudless blue sky.

Diamante had finished helping the teachers of the mountain villages set up their summer classes. He was enjoying his new role, learning to be a teacher of teachers.

He loved the mountains, but his first love would always be the sea.
He trekked down to the limestone cliffs and saw the sea. Like an open door into another universe. He gazed entranced by that far horizon where the sky touched the sea. Time to go sailing.

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Well, Why Not? (Part 3) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

(A ninety-nine word flash, times three…that will lead you back to Door Number One)

The twins pushed the net over their heads, flinging it to the side. “Well Mam-Duchess, why DON’T you marry one? We’re still just kids, after all!”
Sister Indelicata tipped her head, as she gathered up her seal-hunting net. That was the most grown-up thing they’d ever said. Perhaps those girls had promise, after all.
The Duchess blushed and the lonely widowers shuffled. The first, largest group beat a hasty retreat to the ballroom door, careful to stuff handfuls of delicacies from the banquet table into their pockets. One snagged a bottle of bubbly. Sister began to swing her net.
#
The door began to swing shut behind the First Lonely Widowers. The Duchess shook her head. Sister shrugged and folded the net over her arms. Twins Tikk and Tokk drew their sleeves under their runny noses, eying the glistening towers of spun sugar confectionaries.
The second group of widowers muttered to each other.
“Those two girls could use a good bath, and some discipline…”
“I prefer them meek, like my dearest departed…”
“Too bad the net-hunter’s a nun…”
“Give them another five years, I might…”
“How old do you think they are? How old do you think SHE is?”
#
One man stepped forward, teary-eyed for the Duchess’ embarrassment. “I don’t know who’re the biggest fools, here. This group of shallow, (some) slightly perverted, bored widowers that came here to take advantage of your generosity…or you?! All that was needed was to ask for help, little sister.”
“I wanted to raise the girls on my own. Their father was my childhood love, their mother my dearest friend.”
“You’ve always been independent.”
The twins’ eyes grew wide. “You had a choice, and you chose us?”
The Duchess nodded. The girls tackled her.
Sister Indelicata smiled, and slipped out the door.

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The Wolf Pack by Donna Matthews

A smirk plays at my lips as I study the females through the windshield. Some girls like to be cute, as in, “Feeling cute, might delete later!” Me, I’ve never related. Cute feels fragile, fleeting. No, I definitely feel more at home with wild, untamed.

I check myself.

Why is it we humans feel this need to compare, to rank ourselves? We aren’t so removed from the wolf pack as we like to think. Alpha, lone wolf, the outsiders trying to fit in. Ugh. The ridiculousness of it all. Opening the car door, I smile and greet my friends.

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Common Ground? by JulesPaige

The spiel around the deck’s fire pit, where we sat on benches, was about a raven. The bird screed into the night mimicking the other forest creatures. Like the storyteller droning. I only half listened.

Some of us were camping in the backyard. After retiring, nature called. I wasn’t expecting to find a blackbird right outside my door flap. Thankfully neither of us made a sound. Though my heart raced. I fished out a granola bar out of my pocket as a peace offering. It was accepted, and the bird flew away. The quiver of darkness returned to normal.

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Couch Philosopher by Michael Fishman

Margie didn’t say goodbye because that conversation had taken place a long time ago. She just took one last look, exhaled and opened the door and walked away. Darrell sat on the couch and watched the door until it faded and became a part of the wall.

He thought Emerson said that every wall is a door. He wondered if it’s the walls in front of us or the doors we walk through – or close – that define our existence.

Hell if I know, he thought.

Then one day he stood up and opened the door and took a breath.

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Go Hog Wild (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid! Shut the front door!”
“Leavin’ it open fer Curly. My little hog’s wandered off, hopin’ she wanders back.”
“Reckon she will aroun’ dinner time. What’d ya think a Shorty’s prompt?”
“It’s liminal! Unlimited possibilities. Course, Slim Chance says opportunity only knocks at yer door jist once.”
“Hmmf. Ernie says a jar’s a open doorway. I’d ruther set aroun’ with Ernie an’ his jars a story grease then thet shyster Slim Chance. He’s always lookin’ fer a opportunity ta pad his wallet. Nope, real opportunities abound, Kid, ya jist gotta grab hold of ‘em.”
“Reckon so, Pal, reckon so.”

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Go Hog Wild (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal, let’s go ta the Saddle Up Saloon, see if Curly’s gone there.”
“Sure Kid. Anyway’s it’s about time we checked on the place.
Wunner if folks know all the possibilities fer ‘em through them saloon doors.”
“Them door’s always open ta folks wantin’ ta take the stage, mebbe let their characters out fer a romp, or share a story or happenin’.”
“Yep. Folks could chat with us or showcase their art, promote a book— jist about anythin’.
Well, here we are. Oh no! Yer puglet’s opened some doors fer hersef. The kitchen’s a mess!”
“Who cares? Curly’s safe!”

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My Hometown

It’s the place that contains memories and childhood, a place to escape or return to.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Markleeville by Charli MIlls

I’m eight years old running after the bus, crying. A car stops. “Don’t cry honey. We’ll catch the bus.” I don’t know who she is, but I get in her car. She speeds, making good on her promise. She’s the mom of a girl in my class. I don’t make friends easily. I prefer adults, especially the old-timers no one visits. They tell me stories, like what Monitor looked like when it wasn’t a vacant flat of sagebrush. Hometown will always be the people who saw me. I carry stories of Markleevile in my heart long after they’ve gone.

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From Queens by Larry Trasciatti

I haven’t lived in my Hometown, East Elmhurst, since about my twelfth birthday.

My parents and I went back to visit the old parish, St. Gabriel’s, in February, 2001.

I got to see my classmates, and the Sisters Of Charity and De La Salle Christian Brothers who taught us.

A lot had happened on Astoria Boulevard since Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’ album was the rage.

The empty lots on yesterday’s street corners were replaced by fast food franchises.

It was interesting to see that world from the point of view of a spectator, merely playing a role, from a distance.

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Same Place, Different People by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa and her father talked about memorable family events while planting geraniums by his parents’ headstone.

Walking back to the car, Tessa said, “I thought I would know everyone in town when I moved back, but I don’t. Sadly I see many familiar names here.”

“You were gone over twenty-five years. Folks passed on, and lots of your generation moved away.”

“Funny, my life was always changing, and yet I expected my hometown not to. Sort’a naive.”

Her father nodded. “What’s that saying, children don’t age if you don’t witness it happening.”

“I guess that applies to hometowns too.”

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Home is Where the Heart Is by Norah Colvin

The playlist his children organised looped a soundtrack to his questions — retirement and grandchildren afforded time and reason — to resolve. Why did they flee? Why darkness? Telling nobody? Taking nothing? Disallowed of memories to share? He’d never felt he was completely whole. This hometown jaunt should patch the space within. But nothing matched the picture painted in his mind; no road sign, store name, building or a tree. Concrete covered sandy roads where once they played. Then a breeze swirled round a feeling of forgiveness and of freedom and he turned his mind and car to heart and home.

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Hometown Growth by Frank James

Happiness swirls memories of my hometown. They make me sad, too. The haven fostered me to leave hometown life behind for university and new job. Excitement vibrated me, walking into the future.

I later reflected on thoughts of my roots. I looked around to see my present moment was nothing like hometown. Melancholy settled in, and then my uncle asserted hometowns are excellent barometers for reality. They provide a solid foundation to develop and seek opportunities. They also gauge whether the new place in life is good or not.

How?

Come home to see how much you have grown.

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Home Town Funeral by Doug Jacquier

Gordon surveyed the scattering of mourners, mostly people from his home town. Women in obligatory black, men in too-tight suits and black ties. He began.

‘The open casket has confirmed Uncle Ted’s demise, so relax. As you know, Uncle Ted never gave a damn about any of you. He was the epitome of indifference towards people that were not centred on him and his desires. He was a narcissist, a walking stiletto dipped in venom.

Knowing that, we must do our best to kill the Uncle Ted in all of us. So, who wants to push the furnace button?’

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Haunted by Kerry E.B. Black

Every town hosts a haunted house, a place kids cross streets to avoid, an imposing presence that exudes menace. I wondered where ours was. I inquired, but neighbors looked askance without answering. Undeterred, I visited the local library, but history did not point an accusing finger. I trudged home, hands plunged into my cardigan pockets. Our front gate protested its opening. Unseasonable leaves skittered. Abandoned toys littered the yard, sad as gravestones. The front door creaked open. I patted our stone gargoyle on the way in when I experienced an epiphany. My house was the haunted one in my hometown.

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Home Again by Joanne Fisher

This was my hometown. Now it was just nothing but piles of scabrous rocks weathering under a pitiless sun. There were once people here, and houses, even love and happiness, but then the Fire came and ended it all. Then there was chaos and confusion, and I took to wandering.

I wandered for many years, so many I had lost count how long I had been in the wasteland, but somehow I ended up back here. The place where it all began for me. Leaving the ruins behind, I wandered through the cemetery. The final grave bore my name.

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When Death Comes Quickly by Hugh W. Roberts

The residents’ of Annabelle’s hometown were not as safe as they thought they were.

***

Finding herself abandoned by her parents, Annabelle settled down for the night. This was the first time she’d be alone in her hometown, and it was dark, damp and smelly.

Squeezing into a tiny corner, she sobbed. Why had her parents decided now was the time to leave their hometown without her? She was too vulnerable to be left alone.

It was a bright light that woke her before she and her hometown were covered in a minty mouthwash that instantly killed them.

Not even a germ was safe when its hometown was the mouth of a human being.

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Lest She Forget Where She Came From by Anne Goodwin

“Your memory book!” Beaming, Scarlett slipped the slim volume onto Olive’s lap. “We’ve done them for all the rezzies.”

With hands like claws, Olive turned the pages. She’d taught the girl’s parents. Scarlett meant well.

She rarely looked at her photo album. Those Polaroids and Kodak prints a blur. These images were much sharper, like a professionally published book.

But page after page of her three months in India? A skinny cow, women drawing water from a well. “What is this?”

“Your hometown,” said Scarlett.

“I’m Cumbrian born and bred,” said Olive. “You’ve given me Joshil’s book by mistake.”

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Change by Rebecca Glaessner

The old cattle shed sat three streets from her no-longer small childhood home.

The house’s presence hung heavy over town now, sprawling in its decadence and greed.

Perhaps they hadn’t changed.

A droid greeted her, lead her inside to a room bright with filtered sunlight and untouched delicacies.

The woman that entered both was and wasn’t her mother. Despite DNA, she wouldn’t recognise her only daughter sitting before her, pleading help.

“I’m sorry, Miss- there are appropriate channels required for advances.”

“Mum, it’s me-“

The woman just smiled, then turned and left.

She too saw herself out, alone.

Free.

🥕🥕🥕

A Hometown by Nancy Brady

It was not her hometown. Nor could it be; she didn’t grow up there. She was an import to the small city. Thus, she’d never quite fit in. That was okay with her since she found the pettiness of the locals still rehashing the urban renewal of the downtown back in the Sixties as silly as their current rant about the city’s creation of bicycle lanes causing general mayhem. There had been no deaths despite the dire predictions. She and her spouse loved the small city they now lived in, finding the area so livable (and also now bikeable).

🥕🥕🥕

Journeys by Saifun Hassam

Carlos grew up in Blue Cascade Township. His hometown was a ramshackle one-street town like others in the rolling foothills of Pinnacle Mountains. The towns sprang up as orchards and vineyards flourished. Children went to nearby elementary schools and high schools, making friends with each other.

Carlos was now a pre-med student at Cascade University. He wanted better medical services for those towns. In his literature class, he learned about William Carlos Williams, a physician, a poet, who made home visits to his patients. He met physicians with “Doctors Without Borders.” He could return home, live, and work there.

🥕🥕🥕

Curtains by Jenne Gray

What’s she doing here?
I thought we’d finally seen the back of her when her father died.
Poor man, what he had to put up with: the weird clothes, the hippy hair.
He always defended her, but we knew what he really thought.
And that husband of hers.
People should keep to their own kind.
It’s the children I feel sorry for.
Where do they fit in?
Certainly not here.

They’re watching from behind the curtains, Dad, still judging.
They’ll never understand.
I won’t be back.
There’s no point now.
We only ever came because you wanted us to.

🥕🥕🥕

No Buzz for What Was by JulesPaige

deadwood stood
lost memories in
gray shadows

Stationary abandoned buildings; a ghost town.
You could barely see the horse image on the stable sign.
For all the hoarse ghostly voices that shouted; “Save this place!”
No one with ears had heard their cries.
Nothing had been written down on stationery, no protective petitions.
No philanthropic donors or relatives with deep pockets.
The bulldozers were coming, to make the area ‘safe’.
There were no plans so far to rebuild anything on those few dusty acres.
What was once someone’s hometown – would be forever lost.
Only sepia photographs were left.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost Dad by Simon Prathap D

Hometown is where I met my Lost Dad.

I was happy to introduce him to mom, but, she didn’t believe me.

I showed him. She didn’t speak to him, she took me away from hometown, then I became more social with new friends, I had so much fun. Mom was worried.

She brought me back to my hometown, I was locked, tortured by mom. Then I was arrested for killing her, but, I didn’t, nobody believed.

I met my dad again, he believed me, he also advised, “Living won’t talk to the dead and you should stop doing it”

🥕🥕🥕

Feather Found by Duane L Herrmann

Feather on the ground, it didn’t belong. From the air, what was it doing there? I marveled. Bright blue as sky, I know it’s source: Kukulkan controlled – social stability, crops, weather, the earth, and language. God of….. ancient, Native peoples, no less significant for that. Last remnant of dinosaurs.

I picked it up, wondering what did dinosaurs REALLY looked like? Did all have feathers? Or, just some? How is it that feathers, beaks and claws survived adaptation to modern birds? Creation is amazing!

🥕🥕🥕

Returning by Rebecca Glaessner

She and her brothers spent many summers out by the rusted cattle shed, before the sunburns became too much. They thought it was haunted.

“Pantry and freezer are stocked, should do you all till we get back,” their parents would say. Then they wouldn’t hear from them for weeks.

At first it was exciting, then it became routine.

They grew up.

The shed sat in the same dust-bowl, protected beneath the town’s new dome.

At least their parents’ money went toward the town’s protection, though more for themselves than anyone, probably.

But she had no where else to turn.

🥕🥕🥕

Do You Want to Come Home? By Donna Matthews

I feel the landing gear engage. What am I doing? I escaped 20 years ago; now I’m heading back?

Isn’t escape a little dramatic? I chide myself.

I don’t even know anymore. Some days I can’t believe I left. Dad and his new wife – a cliche and worn-out trope. Me, the leftover love child from the previous marriage. Uh, yeah, no thanks.

But yesterday, the call came. We haven’t talked in years, my cousin and me. He said dad had a stroke.

Do you want to come home and say goodbye to him?

Of course, I do…don’t I?

🥕🥕🥕

Hometown by Reena Saxena

The structure of the township has changed. I hope to find an old soul with whom I can reconnect, but they’ve disappeared or changed.

Then, I find some of them on social media. Facebook, WhatsApp help us reconnect. There’s a quaint group where everybody reminisces for sometime, and then conversations drop down to inane forwards or exchanging personal news.

Hometowns keep shifting, as I look for kindred spirits. It’s not easy for anyone. They need to travel back to where I came from, and then reconnect with the person I’m today.

Who’ll want to be in biographical journeys though?

🥕🥕🥕

Hometown by Shreya Shah

A lot of memories that never fade, making it special when I remember my hometown. The place where I was born, where I spent happy and carefree summers. But, what makes that place special are the people, essentially my GRANDPARENTS. I followed my grandfather everywhere while my grandmother knitted me a pair of socks or a sweater. In the afternoon, I would sit in the backyard, reading a book, waiting for the mangoes to ripen and fall off the trees. A place filled with childhood memories, from my first birthday to when I went to school with no bag!

🥕🥕🥕

First Love by C. E. Ayr

Grey. Dreich. Depressing.
Twenty years since I’ve been here, and I know why I left.
But it’s my home town, where I fell in love for the first time.
I wander down High Street, and my heart leaps.
She is coming out of a café with a good-looking guy, arms linked.
Her smile tells me that, even at this distance, she recognises me.
I cross over, say hello.
How’s your mum, I ask.
They look at each other.
Not long now, he says, and she nods.
This place’s still a dump, she says, taking my hand. Let’s go home.

🥕🥕🥕

Hometown by Robert Kirkendall

“Where’s the old UA Cinema?”

“Closed about twenty years ago.”

“Too bad, saw a lot of cheap movies there.”

“We sure did. Now it’s a church.”

“Really. How about Grocery Village?”

“It’s now some place that sells deck chairs and barbecues.”

“So where do people buy food, the Safeway down the street?”

“That Safeway moved a mile north into a bigger location.”

“On the last patch of open land?”

“Yep.”

“So what’s left?”

“Not much, but it’ll always be our hometown, even though it doesn’t much resemble what it was.”

“Time marched on… but at least we have memories.”

🥕🥕🥕

No One’s Hometown by FloridaBorne

Archeological digs take years. It’s not a profession for the instant gratification crowd.  Many a student chose to pursue another field after twelve hours of work just to nudge an intact jawbone out of its stone prison.

“What have we learned about migration in the Americas so far?” I asked.

“This country wasn’t stolen from the indigenous people,” a girl of twenty replied. “Ownership belongs to the strongest.”

“We’ve discovered European tools 26,000 years old,” I said. “Asian tribes moved here 15,500 years ago.”

“Asians eradicated Europeans, then Europeans eradicated Native Americans?”

Finally… understanding! “Welcome to human nature 101.”

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown

It’s hot. It’s disastrous. It’s a meltdown.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

In an Afternoon by Michael Fishman

Business is slow. You’re not one to argue so when Colby tells you to take the afternoon you listen.

At the park you take a bench by the lake. You read, toss peanuts to pigeons. You doze.

Waking, you look around, get your bearings. You see Colby about 20 yards away, on a bench perpendicular to yours. His back is to you. He leans left and you see your wife. You see her laugh; touch his cheek.

You see them kiss.

Your wife. Your job. Your boss.

A life lost in an afternoon.

The meltdown happens in the car.

🥕🥕🥕

Straightened Up by Reena Saxena

I invite a meltdown.

I challenge meltdowns to sort themselves out into new patterns.

I challenge meltdowns to harbour elements which change with compounding, and look at each other in new ways.

We pride ourselves on our identity, but now it looks melded with yours.

There are commonalities, and there are contradictions mocking each other. I can’t find a place to hide. There are mirrors all around.

Yes, I made a mistake.

I’ve stepped on a new path – moving towards you. Loops behind are closing down. The spiral ahead is straightening itself – shortening the distance – between Me and You.

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown by Joanne Fisher

“So what’s the matter now?”

“Nothing really, it’s just a lot of people I care about seemed to totally ignore my birthday.”

“Maybe they were preoccupied with other matters? Perhaps they were really busy?”

“Yeah, but how hard is it to just wish someone a happy birthday?” I mean really?”

“They may have not known it was your birthday. Seriously, it’s not worth having a meltdown over.”

“I’m not having a meltdown! I’m just disappointed is all, and feeling sad.”

“Do you think maybe the problem is your own expectations, rather than anything they have failed to do?”

“Whatever.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Regrets by Simon Prathap D

Frozen strawberry ice cream, on a small bowl, gently flowing cool smoke, the colour, the layers.

I took a spoon, pressed on its head, what a view, the meltdown of my favourite strawberry cream.

My daughter stopped me, the rage in my eyes, I can’t express, not because she wanted it.

She pointed out my sugar level, I understand, I am old, If one scoop of an ice cream could kill me, let it kill.

She walked out, yelling!

I want to die without regrets, I yelled back.

Life is like an ice cream, enjoy, before it melts kills!

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown by Sarah Whiley

It’s all a blur – once the meltdown begins. That familiar sinking feeling, consumes me again.

My face blanches as I realise what I’ve done. It’s too late now though. It’s happened.
“What were you thinking?” my beleaguered mind screams.
“That’s the problem… she wasn’t,” replies my subconscious, smirking, “Always the way, once she gets a few drinks in her.”

My head spins as I scrabble to assemble jigsaw pieces of the previous night.
But it’s no use,
There’s nothing there,
Time hosts invisible memories.

Sick to my stomach, all I can do now is ask, “Who else knows?”

🥕🥕🥕

Cousins by Carole Warren

Two cousins sharing an amazing weekend on the island.

Close since her birth, I would take charge of my baby cousin. Hold her, swing her, walk her, play. Always enjoying our times together.

Admiring her sweet spirit, I swear, we could chat for hours. We have. We do again on a sunny patio examining life’s challenges, hers greater than mine.

Looking past her glassy eyes, I sense unspoken pain. A past we don’t discuss: numerous surgeries, daily discomfort, looming blood clots, the challenges of wheelchair confinement.

She says nothing, blinks, turns back to me, then smiles. Silent meltdown over.

🥕🥕🥕

A Family Meltdown by Susan Spitulnik

Katie didn’t try to hide her anger or tears. “Does she think she can swoop in here and be welcomed? I don’t care if she is my blood grandmother. She’s never sent me so much as a hello.”

Thad empathized with his daughter. “I’m not any more comfortable with meeting her than you are, but your grandfather and Nan say it will benefit us to reconnect.”

“How can Grandma be so positive?”

“She says you’ll understand better after you’ve had children.”

“I’m also worried about this woman’s reappearance upsetting Grandpa?”

“I’m sure his loyalty to Nan will prevent problems.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria’s Book Group Reads Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson by Anne Goodwin

Her book group is blinkered. Gloria sits back and watches as her friends turn themselves inside out to prove that Jeanette Winterson’s memoir isn’t about Christianity’s cruelty to kids growing up gay.

They know about her son and his soon-to-be husband. Yet they persist in picking adoption quotes. The author would have been fine if she’d had better parents. What’s the big deal?

Love didn’t hold when I was born, Randall reads. Gloria blushes as a desperate howl rises from her belly. To avoid public meltdown, she rushes to the toilets. No-one can know she’s been that abandoned child.

🥕🥕🥕

Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills

His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.

Max refused to stroke the cat rubbing its head against her folded arms. She leaned against one of two posts holding up the front porch. The exterior needed sanding. Through the open door to the three-room cabin – kitchen, sitting room, bedroom – Max noted cooling cherry pies, lace curtains, jelly jars of garden flowers. What some would call “a woman’s touch.” Her dad lived alone.

She’d been seven when the church elders drove him from their South Range home, beating him with fists and folded newspapers. Mascara and tears streaking his face.

🥕🥕🥕

Grilled Cheese Wizardry by Bill Engleson

It was so damn easy. Two hunks of sliced bread, the kind my mother made, but then couldn’t, especially after the arthritis took control of her farm girl’s hands, a slab of cheese, not too thick but not like it was shaved by a piker, a slice of onion, red, yellow, white, and weren’t we always thankful that there were no blue onions, slam it all together, melt a square of butter in a sizzling frying pan, brown one side like crazy, flip her, burn it like the sun was doing the cooking and Houston, we had meltdown nirvana…

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The Meltdown by Colleen Chesebro

Not again! My spell had failed. I gazed at the mess covering my newly painted kitchen walls. Green goop ran like rivers into puddles on the floor.

How could this be? I’d followed the recipe from my mother’s ancient Grimoire. There were no herbal substitutions.

“Oh, this is really bad,” my husband muttered from the doorway. “What did you forget this time?”

My meltdown was now complete! How dare he insinuate that my memory was failing! “Nothing. I forgot nothing,” I answered frostily.

“Oh,” he answered. I’ve got that eye of newt you asked me to get for you.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Great Chili Meltdown by JulesPaige

His wife had a meltdown. He bought the dehydrator to preserve his hot peppers. But he didn’t think – he had the unit filled to the brim and when the process started the whole house filled with the distribution of capsaicin vapors. She made him clean up his ‘mess’, with tears in her eyes and her throat burning. And made him promise to sell the machine at their next garage sale. With that lesson passed on… the neighbor bought the hardly used machine. Herbs might work better.

too hot to handle
internal flames were to blame
no more capsaicin

🥕🥕🥕

The Meltdown by Pete Fanning

The radio station sent me to Paradise lake to broadcast, where the heat index was set to purgatory and my shoes, socks, and jeans felt like blankets of torture as kids frolicked about the shore, popsicles dripping down their fists.

Mere seconds before I went live on air, Daryl Hall’s voice warbled horribly offkey. Sweating in horror, I watched the vinyl curl under the glare of the sun. Mic in hand, I turned for the next record, only to find the kids launching it like a frisbee.

“Let’s go live to Paradise Lake.”

And that was my last broadcast.

🥕🥕🥕

Ice Cream Meltdown by Norah Colvin

“Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”

“Good morning. Sounds like someone’s not happy.”

“The ice cream’s melted.”

“An ice cream meltdown. Kids will be kids.”

“Yeah. Our fifth lockdown this year. We’re homeschooling. Again. My FIFO hub’s trapped in woop-woop. I can’t visit mum in hospital cause she’s interstate even if hub did get home. And no power now for three days. Our freezer food’s spoiled, and he’s whinging about ice cream. When will the lines be fixed?”

“Sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up. The boss can fire me. No way she’d buy raffle tickets.

🥕🥕🥕

What Meltdown by kathy70

Not sure if I ever really had one, stiff upper lip and all that drivel. As a child it was certainly not allowed by my mother. Maybe I was never allowed to have expectations that would make me feel special or wanted. Other than get good grades.

An adult now, so I get to set the standards, but how does that feel I’ve no idea. Real feelings hurt too much so lets not go there. A true meltdown might be a good thing. I watch as global-warming melts glaciers. Maybe I can melt myself enough to feel real once?

🥕🥕🥕

Year Thirty by Larry Trasciatti

It was thirty years after the pandemic.

The Great Society’s Meltdown was underway.

Martin and Barbara were reading about how neighbors of theirs were executed for referring to the Outsiders as ‘those people’, and ‘some of my best friends.’

The only things illegal were intolerance and being offensive. Anything, at random, could be deemed intolerant or offensive. The party’s whims were law.

It was noon so they drove to the courthouse to find out what they were allowed to do that day.

They stood on line among others with identical poker faces.

Invisible cameras stared down toward them constantly.

🥕🥕🥕

Contempt by C. E. Ayr

Président Macron speaks of ‘Les gens qui réussissent et les gens qui ne sont rien’*, as he turns France into an over-controlled, over-surveilled police state.
Jacob Rees-Mogg jokes about ‘happy fish’ while the Scottish fishing industry is devastated by Brexit.
He also amuses himself by unfunny alliteration, like ‘bands of blighters’, referring to asylum-seekers.
This vile creature is part of Liar Johnson’s inner circle as they rape the UK with blatant corruption and cronyism.
This level of contempt from politicians towards the general population presages a new generation of fascism comparable to 1930s Nazi Germany.
Democracy is in meltdown.

* ‘People who succeed and people who are nothing’.
Please note, not people who do nothing, or people who have nothing, but people who ARE nothing.

🥕🥕🥕

Moving Meltdown by FloridaBorne

My father was four inches shorter than six feet. His thick build and barrel chest were developed from strapping pianos on his back and carrying them up several flights of stairs for thirty years of his life.

He hated “New Yorkers” after he carried a baby grand piano up three flights of stairs in Miami one summer. The moment that rich woman from up north told him not to enter her apartment until he removed the stench from his body, he should’ve had a meltdown. He drove home, showered, and finished moving the piano so he could get paid.

🥕🥕🥕

Sunflower Meltdown by Nancy Brady

Surprise sunflowers came up in the flower bed that was planted with canna lilies. Seeds dropped by hungry birds at the feeder probably were the reason for the surprise.

The feeders were gone for the summer, but some of the birds remained. New birds also arrived, attracted by the bright yellow flowers. Bees, too, found the flowers attractive, but two birds were particularly enamored by the sunny faces.

Goldfinches, male and female, feasted on the ripening seeds. Whether it was the goldfinches or the heaviness of the sunflower heads, it was a meltdown dipping their heads toward the earth.

🥕🥕🥕

Icarus in Starlight by Saifun Hassam

Keith flew in orbit around the bright star Berenice in a new experimental Solar spacecraft designed for space photography. The craft’s solar sails were sensitive to the force of light from stars, creating tiny flight deviations. Something he needed for stellar photography. But those subtle changes could also send him spinning into the star.

Icarus came to mind. Keith loved reading about Earth, that ancestral home, its mythological tales. Earth was no more. Keith imagined Icarus with his wings of feathers and wax, soaring up towards a bright star, the Sun. A meltdown in starlight. Crashing into an ocean.

🥕🥕🥕

Visitor by Rebecca Glaessner

The grounds shuddered. The air hummed along with urgency.

Something was happening.

Its kin at rest, a lone creature emerged from its dwelling, peering out toward the meeting line of void and land.

The hum grew violent as the void tore open with a flash. From the tear, a being of another kind tumbled into the creature’s world. Grounds shaking beneath them, the being heaved upright and cried out as it lunged toward the closing tear, but the hum stopped, the lands stilled.

The visitor remained.

It discovered its onlooker and both understood, the visitor was there to stay.

🥕🥕🥕

A Puddle of Broken Promises by Donna Matthews

“Hurry! See those red clouds in the east? We need to finish this access tunnel!”

“But I don’t want to live underground!” Sam cried.

“I know, love. None of us do. But here we are…please hand me that cement bag. I need your help to pour it.”

She couldn’t show her rising panic. They needed to hurry, but the cement would only set as fast as it would. She knew yesterday the negotiations were melting down into a puddle of broken promises. Now, the red radioactive cloud had reached her horizon. They had just until nightfall to be underground.

🥕🥕🥕

Meltdown by D. Avery

“Yer lookin’ hot unner the collar Kid. Fit ta be tied.”

“Got nuthin’ fer this prompt Pal. Meltdown? Yeesh. I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout meltdowns.”

“Hmmm. Tell ya Kid, it reminds me a way back rodeoin’. Drew a bull named Meltdown. Whoooeee, ya think this is a tough write? They was one rough ride. Ok’ Meltdown threw me inta the air an’ if not fer some serious rodeo clowns woulda stomped me inta the ground. Was sure weak-kneed after thet one.”

“That’s a short story pal, kinda incomplete.”

“So was thet ride. But I got up.”

“Write on, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers

Feathers. Who knows where one might lead you? Fly into this collection o feathered stories.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

The Gryphons by Nicole Horlings

there were warnings
not to take those paths;
never linger near the nests,
beware when feathers ruffle,
and respect the royal truce

but a different king in the castle
desiring dangerous convenience
decreed garish rewards to those
who revealed the monsters muffled,
and the land trembled in terror

let the legends linger long,
the memories of those who mourn
mimic the glory that once glowed,
until feet shift and shuffle
when their extinction is evident

yet voices grumble
accepting no accountability
glaringly asking why their generation is accused

when feathers ruffle,
reveal the monsters muffled;
feet shift and shuffle

🥕🥕🥕

The Haggis by C. E. Ayr

There are three different breeds of these savage creatures.
The Furry Hillside Haggis has two short and two long legs, and hunts bairns on the slopes of the misty mysterious Ben.
The Wild Marine or Sea-Water Haggis has a shell of steel and claws like daggers, and if you tempt them onto the rocks, you can sometimes trap them in a stout wooden box.
But the Three-legged Nasty Haggis has sharp teeth and feathers, and scurries around under the heather, ready to attack knees or anything else under the kilt.
Ah, the Highlands, the most romantic spot on earth.

🥕🥕🥕

AHH-CHOO! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Alana shifted, quick step and stomp, nearly stumbling. A drop of sweat ran down the powerful slope of her nose, around the edge of her nostril, and dangled, tickling and stinging. She blew once, twice, and the drop sailed into endless blue skies, evaporating in the shearing heat.

Her shoulders ached with having taken on the weight of the world for her sketchy cousin, Atlas.

Dammit! He’d promised to pick them up a couple of Popeye’s chicken sandwiches, then be right back. The lines must be really long.

A feather floated, settling on her sweaty upper lip.

It tickled.

🥕🥕🥕

Whispers of Faeries by Deborah A. Bowman

“Hush, quiet makes them come,”
I whispered to my daughter, Kelsey.
She looked up, bathed in sun.
4 years old, bright red hair; she’s a wee faerie!

The standing stones, tucked away.
The time was right; planets set, providing the edge!
I had waited years for this day.
Bringing Kelsey to Scotland, her heritage.

A gray cloud floated by.
In shadow, wisp of a glowing feather.
It took flight and I started to cry,
Holding my breath…

Hundreds of feathers, alive, dancing in the sun!
Golden feathers with wings, tiny faces. “See, Kelsey?”
“The Faeries have come!”
Blessed be…

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by Norah Colvin

‘It’s not just a feather. It’s the feather.’

‘Which feather?’

‘The one from the beach that day.’

‘Which day?’

‘Remember when we went to the beach and there was a flock of birds that looked like they were having a conference but when they saw us they flew away and one dropped a feather that landed on top of our castle. We knew it was a sign, they were telling us something.’

‘That’s just silly childish stuff.’

‘It was a sign. The birds need our help. The bulldozers have arrived. They will destroy the habitat. We must stop them!’

🥕🥕🥕

Flying by Joanne Fisher

It was time to board the plane. Branwen walked up the steps and tried to find her seat. Sitting down, she found she was shaking. She always hated flying this way, but traveling to the other side of the world was a long way and she really had no choice.

“You a nervous flyer?” asked the flight attendant.

“I just like to be the one in control when I fly.” Branwen answered.

“Oh, are you a pilot?”

“In a manner of speaking.” She replied. The flight attendant left. Branwen held on tightly to a raven feather, just in case.

🥕🥕🥕

Black Feather by Ann Edall-Robson

Squawking interrupts the quiet of the post dawn. Insistent parents teaching fledglings. Myths surround the onyx coloured spirit bird with the piercing eyes. Yet, once you get to know them, they’re the friend you want hanging around. The one who’ll have your back, lets you know you’re watched over, gives you a nudge when you would rather be left alone, and lets you see insightful truths. On this morning, when their wings took them skyward to see who else they could annoy with their noise, the crows left a gift. A reminder of their importance…One lone black feather.

🥕🥕🥕

Memories by Saifun Hassam

A dappled feather floated down gently on the open page of Selena’s journal. She loved the early morning quiet of the backyard, her favorite writing spot.

The feather reminded her of a silver filigree necklace, a gift from Grandma. An intricate network of overlapping silver feathers from an antique shop. Selena loved jewelry and books, odds and ends, rich with stories from someone else’s life.

Selena wore it to Grandma’s funeral. She traced the feathers in the necklace, which somehow had become a “journal” for her. A reminder of happy times. And the quarrels that tore apart her parents.

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by FloridaBorne

Though it was forbidden, Mary held within her hand the remains of a turkey feather once part of her great-great-great grandfather’s cape.

During a time before Europeans, men of her tribe wore breechcloth and women only wore skirts made of animal skins. Each generation, the patriarch passed this feather along to his oldest son as a reminder of their heritage.

But the Cherokee were matriarchal.

Before the Europeans arrived no one was saddled with her name. She put the tattered token of her family’s delusions back into the plastic bag, and tucked the wretched thing into its ornamental box.

🥕🥕🥕

Worth Waiting For by Rebecca Glaessner

They chose Earth. Chose a human child.

Though her mind began dark, she, my host, became my home.

As she grew, I learned how her brain worked completely, every single firing synapse that surrounded me.

I even stepped her back off a cliff once.

That was a fight.

She didn’t want to stay. They wanted to extract me, to let her do her thing, find me another host.

I refused.

That was then.

Matured, I return to Earth in a form of my choosing, feathers soft and powerful.

She’s waiting at that cliff edge.

We’ll soar this time.

Together.

🥕🥕🥕

Douglas by Simon Prathap D

Douglas, his Blue feather fell on my car.

Humans, so much drama for one life. Rituals, caste, colour, money decides luxury of a coffin, Dead doesn’t know how they were buried right? then why these drama? No words! Tears could be true, dramas are not.

Douglas, 9 years old, male canaries birds don’t usually live longer, I know he will disappear one day. Birds don’t usually die in front of us, they don’t wish to. But with a little hope, I leave Douglas will come back one day, I’m keeping his feather.

Douglas, birds don’t die, they fly high.

🥕🥕🥕

Hindsight by Michael Fishman

I bought a parakeet with green and yellow feathers.
They put it in a box.
At home I put it into a birdcage I got at a garage sale.

The parakeet looked around.
Shortly, it became anxious.
For two days it did nothing but climb up and down the sides of the cage and scream.

Pretty bird. Scared bird.

I became anxious.
Neither of us slept.
I put it into the box and returned it.

“Sorry,” I said.

Maybe another parakeet died in the cage and my parakeet knew?
Maybe I should have cleaned the cage.
Hindsight, they say.

🥕🥕🥕

Angus — A Short Romance by Doug Jacquier

Angus had torn his shorts rough-housing in the playground. Back in class, Miss Anderson (his secret love) noticed.

‘Angus, what have you done to your shorts?’

‘Nothing, Miss.’

‘Nonsense, young man. Come here.’

Angus, light-headed and leaden-footed, presented himself at Miss Anderson’s desk. She produced a sewing kit and proceeded to sew up the tear.

As her fingers brushed against the skin of his thigh, his uncontrollable puberty announced itself suddenly and unmistakably.

Clearly flustered, Miss Anderson snipped the thread and ordered Angus to return to his seat. Scarlet-faced, but glowing with undying devotion, Angus obeyed, floating on feathers.

🥕🥕🥕

Fletcher by R. V. Mitchell

Hugh Fletcher examined the pile of goose feathers on the bench and shook his head. Lefts, he mused. He always gives me bleeding lefts. Hugh knew that there was only one left-handed archer in the village and yet the reeve continually provided him with left wing feathers, and far too many of them cocks and not nearly enough hens. He knew it was his own fault of course. He should never have courted and married Lizzie Browne, when he knew that Robert Reeve had fancied her. Now he would look incompetent yet again as his bowmen lost the tournament.

🥕🥕🥕

Ruffled Feathers by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa stomped into the house and slammed the door behind her. “Mom makes me so mad.”

“I guess she ruffled your feathers again. About what now?” Michael asked.

“I explained to her that the base and medical benefits I lost when I got divorced, I would get back when we get married. Instead of looking at it as a positive, she reminded me I wouldn’t be able to take her to the Officer’s Club for dinner.”

“Her and her status hang up. I’ll tell her that the NCO Club food is better because there are more NCOs than Officers.”

🥕🥕🥕

Love Tokens by Anne Goodwin

She didn’t need to go elsewhere to meet him. He was threaded through the fabric of their home. His hatred of spaghetti in the kitchen. His favourite artist down the hall.

She found mementos everywhere. Gifts bestowed to cheer her day. Chocolate in the cutlery drawer. Photos in the airing cupboard. A curled feather where she laid her head to sleep.

Every Valentine’s, a peacock plume. Sufficient now to clothe a taxidermy bird.

She stores these new ones, small and grey, with her jewellery.  She doesn’t grasp her pillow’s leaking stuffing. She needs his greetings from beyond the grave.

🥕🥕🥕

Oh, Nora! by Donna Matthews

Nora screamed a blood-curdling scream again and again. I couldn’t untangle myself from the sleeping bag fast enough. Crawling on all fours, I finally reach her…grabbing her up and searching for injuries. Not seeing any blood or bites, relief floods me.

“Nora, baby! What? What?”

“The baby bunny!

Confusion. “The what?”

Her tear-streaked face looking up to the tall pines at the edge of our campsite.

“The baby bunny! I was feeding him and a big scary bird took him away!”

Sure enough, a combination of feathers and rabbit fur drift down from the towering trees overhead. Oh, Nora.

🥕🥕🥕

Aloysius’s Discovery by Nancy Brady

Aloysius, AKA Rainbow, serendipitously discovered that his multi-colored fur had magical powers. Blue seemed connected with sky. This began the day he found a blue jay’s feather on the ground. When he touched it with his front paw, he felt himself lifting from the ground. All four feet fanned out, and with his tail as a rudder, he flew.
Okay, Aloysius was a bit clumsy with flying at first, but with his trusty feather stuck behind his left ear, he soon soared over treetops and roofs. No one seemed to notice a flying cat, and he found it empowering.

🥕🥕🥕

Lunch with Stewart by Bill Engleson

“I wouldn’t worry about him, Karl. He’s no heavyweight.”

Stewart usually gave good advice. This time I wasn’t so sure. I could feel Harry the Hamster breathing down my neck. Small town financial planning was competitive. Almost a blood sport. And maybe I was slowing down. Not as hungry as I once was.

“Maybe,” I agreed, “but he ain’t no featherweight either.”

“Even featherweights got a kick, Karl. But I agree, he’s no Kid Chocolate.”

“Who?”

“Cuban boxer. Way before our time. The Cuban Bon Bon. Ferocious fighter.

Stewart always took my mind off my worries.

“Tell me more.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers by Anita Dawes

What is it about feathers
That has us looking for angels?
I can see one falling in front of me
In my garden nearly every day
So where do the white feathers come from
Are they hidden beneath their wings?
I cannot say I have ever noticed
Maybe angels do fly over head
I remember mother saying
That the only feather that matters
Is the one you catch in your hand
This brings great luck
Have you ever tried catching one
Dancing on the wind?
Turn around and back again
Still, it lands on the ground at your feet…

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers by Willow Willers

Tom reached out and caught the feather. He smiled, angel feather he thought.

The angel above him was weeping, their feathers were falling soon so would the angel.

Tom held the feather, “jump” he said looking up, “I will catch you.” The angel knew they could trusted him, Tom had faith enough for both of them.

Another feather fell into his hand, the angel’s tears dried and they smiled. Taking the leap of faith the angel fell into Tom’s arms. Falling the angel became whole. Love shone from Tom’s eyes. The angel naked but safe knew he was home.

🥕🥕🥕

Avian Mystery by JulesPaige

fallen nest
from the porch roof eave
twigs, feathers

Small
Black and
White
Ones

How long had the mother bird coddled her nestlings? Who’d she raise? The nest was there before we left for just a few days. It was down on our return. A treasure of woven things and a variety of feathers of all colors, shapes and sizes. The closest thing I found in my searching was that the black and white feathers may have belonged to a Downy Woodpecker. I’ll never know who took down the nest. I hope the birds will build again next spring.

🥕🥕🥕

Still Smiling by Annette Rochelle Aben

My best friend, Trina, used to say that every time she found a feather, it was a message from someone she loved, who was on the other side. She happened to mention this at her father’s celebration of life gathering when we found a feather inside her mother’s refrigerator. We smiled.

The day of viewing for Trina’s body found me surrounded by our friends and her family. Her sister handed me a container filled with cookies, that Trina had marked for me to have only minutes before she died. Left behind, on the table, was a feather. We smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Will Hatching by D. Avery

“Okay, I’m here. Mother trucking services. What’s up?”
“It’s epic, Marge.”
Brightly colored clothing spilled and tumbled out of boxes and bags that lined Ilene’s walkway.
“What’s epic, Lloyd?”
“Ilene’s molting!”
“Yes! I’m divesting myself of my plumage! It’s simple earth tone tunics and leggings for me from here on out.”
“Don’t you mean legging? Really, Ilene? No more Toucan Sam outfits? Bet Fruit Loops here put you up to this. You going to cut your big hair too?”
“No! That’s my crowning glory!”
“At least keep this pink feather boa, Ilene. And what’s this?”
“My unicorn headband.”
“Epic.”

🥕🥕🥕

Follow The Feathers by Hugh W. Roberts

What is the source of the strange coloured feathers on the stairs?

***
Slowly opening the front door, thirteen-year-old Adrian listened for signs of life.

Confident that nobody was home, he stepped inside.

Should he go to the kitchen for snacks or upstairs to turn on his new Playstation?

The strange coloured feathers had the answer. Adrian picked them up as he ascended the stairs.

Walking past his parents’ bedroom, he suddenly stopped. She was wearing her favourite dress and feathered boa, applying makeup and doing her hair in the dressing table mirror, a figure he knew.

“Mum?”

“Adrian!” came the deep voice of his father, turning round to face his son.

🥕🥕🥕

Willie the Chick Magnet by Lawrence Trasciatti

‘Nobody wants to admit that Willie’s a bit off,’ Fred told Alice.

”He keeps a pet ostrich in his small apartment.’

‘ I’ve noticed,’ she replied. ‘Whenever he has company he always sets a place at the table for his ostrich.

There are feathers all over the place but he keeps them so neatly organized

Women he’s courted find his pet so cute.

Each lady, if he thinks she’s special, gets a feather.’

‘I wanted to fix him up with Agnes,’ Fred said, ‘but she has asthma.’

‘One day,’ Alice said, ‘with that ostrich he’ll find someone perfect for him.’

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Training in Tucson by Carole Warren

All-Star pitcher, ready on the mound, squints for catcher’s signal. He shakes off three fingers, then nods for one. A fastball. The Big Unit has earned fame for his killer pitches.

Left foot on rubber, #51 towers 6’10” above the mound.
Set position. Stretch. Right knee up. Release. WHOOSH!
Strike! But not a traditional “in the zone” call.

The ball collided with perfect precision into a mourning dove.
An explosion of feathers floated in the air between Diamondback pitcher and catcher. Carcass falls.

The fans in Electric Park released a collective “huuuaaAHH!”
A historical pitch known as Fowl Ball.

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers on a Cap by Ruchira Khanna

“Congratulations!” cheered Soniya’s friends as she walked towards them with stretched hands.

“I did it!” she shouted with glassy eyes and clenched fists.

Once all the congratulatory messages were through. Her mom slid a handful of feathers under the tassel of her graduation cap.

“What’s this for?” Soniya inquired with wide eyes, “Shouldn’t I get only one feather since I just graduated.”

“A feather indicates accomplishments, and this is one of them.”

“Huh?”

“My girl, you are Compassionate, Courageous, Hardworking, Creative, and now you’re a graduate proves you’ve accomplished your goal.”

“Aah! Thank you, Mom, for being my inspiration.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feather by Ann Edall-Robson

left behind
from above
no direction in mind
drifting aimlessly
with the clouds
to landscape
far below
nestled on
the open range
settled
for how long
dancing lazily
to and fro
listening to the
wind’s song
twisting branches
bouncing
breezy gusts
tossed into the air
to travel across
the grassland’s
shimmering bust
whirling pirouettes
sashay up and down
jostled to a standstill
thrown to the ground
grassy thorns penetrate
a blustery
simmering storm
end over end
to a full stop
choreographed freeform
lifted upward
void of wind
full circle resonates
beginning or end
homeward bound
​to line a nest

🥕🥕🥕

Red Feathers of 1932 by Charli Mills

She plucked the chicken, swiping a feather from her forehead. Now what, thought Nella. Dumplings tonight wouldn’t stop the hunger pains to come. No more eggs. No more breakfasts for loggers. Loggers turned to the rails. Hoboes for hire. She brushed off her mother’s borrowed apron. When she left the northern peninsula to teach in Detroit, she never imagined she’d return broke. But the economy crashed, no one could pay taxes and schools closed. Capitalism. She growled the word. It had robbed all workers down to the last chicken. Tonight, she’d join Frank at the meeting with the communists.

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by Jenne Gray

She sits on a rock, gazing out across the bay, a halo of sadness around her.
Impregnable it seems.
A lone feather floats on the breeze, hesitates, hovers beside her.
It drifts down and gently grazes her cheek, drawing her from her dark reverie.
She half-smiles, reaches for it.
But it flutters away, teasing…
Surprised, she follows it, tentatively at first, then joining its joyous game…
Until – at last – she sees again the beauty of the bay, the sun sparkling on the water, reflecting the blues too many to describe.
She breathes deeply, smiles.

The feather is gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Keepin’ Up by D. Avery

“Not agin!” “Sure hope you ain’t startin’ inta whinin’ ‘bout the prompt Kid.” “Hope is the thing with feathers Pal. She wants us ta round up unicorns agin.” “Horse feathers Kid! Thet ain’t what she’s after.” “Well what does she want then? I cain’t keep up, she moves too fast. Shorty’s all over the place.” “Seems pretty grounded ta me, ‘cept fer all her flights a fancy. Look Kid, jist go at yer own pace. You’ll dream up an idea.” “Reckon.” “What’re ya doin’?” “Gonna take a nap with ma head on this here feather pillow. Perchance ta dream.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph

There it is. The old photograph. The one that makes you pause.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

R&R on Lockhart Street by TN Kerr

He finished his drink and beckoned to Meihui.
“You want another, Danny?” she smiled.
“No, baby, I’m gonna go home. I’ll see you later.”
She rose up on her toes, and leaned over the bar
to give him a quick kiss on the lips.
He dropped
a handful of coloured bills on the bar.
She pushed them back and quickly moved away.
Outside, standing on the pavement in the light rain
Dan snapped a quick shot of a fire engine
Lights flashing.
Now, fifty years later,
it was the closest thing to a photo of her that he had.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Enough by Michael Fishman

My grandmother was a beautiful woman.

She left young, I never knew her, but I was introduced to her by those who did.

She played saxophone in an all-girl’s band. She knitted and told jokes that made people blush. She was a sister to two, a mother to one and a friend to many. She was a wife to a husband who didn’t have enough years to love her.

I have questions and no one to ask so I look at the old photograph I carry.

She’s holding me.
She’s smiling.
It’s enough.
My grandmother is a beautiful woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Symbols by Hugh W. Roberts

“Have there been any other gay people in your family, Richard?” asked Adrian as he put the old photograph down.

“Have a look at the photo again. I think it’ll answer your question. Tea?”

Nodding his head, Adrian studied the photo again. “The older man is hot. Who is he?”

“My great-grandfather. Mum said my grandmother took the photo in Poland in 1939.”

“Why does he have a star and what looks like a triangle on his shirt?”

If that photo were in colour, you’d see a pink triangle. But the family have never wanted to talk about it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Living Forever by Padmini Krishnan

Cherie looked at the old photo of college students, decorating her wall. He was the one on the corner. He had refused what she had asked and was now a flower vase in her showcase. Each vase symbolized the mood, color and character of the person, thus keeping them alive forever. Her collection had kept growing and she intended to add more.

“Cherie, did you dust the mantelpiece?” her madam called out.

“I will do it right away, madam,” replied Cherie, rushing over to the living room.

Madam had her collection of bouquets too. The ones that never withered.

🥕🥕🥕

Photographs and Stories by Norah Colvin

Nothing would dampen Megan’s curiosity. The slightest hand or foothold was irresistible. If none existed, she made one.

Mary gasped. Megan was atop bucket, on stool, on chair, on table, stretching for a box on the top shelf. Mary didn’t breathe as, in slow motion, Megan swiped the box and tumbled in a mess of wood and plastic. Mary, in fast-forward, grabbed arms and legs before she hit; but the box bounced, spewing its contents across the floor.
Megan plucked out an old photograph.

“Who’s dat, Mum?”

Mary trembled. Could it be her? The one in his poem? Who?

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph by Anita Dawes

Photos, snap shots of time
You hold the past in your hand
Old memories flood in
The thing with old photos is
They slip between the floor boards
Multiplying, boxes under beds
On top of wardrobes,
To be forgotten
Until the day, your granddaughter
shouts out, Gran, who is this?
That’s your grandfather.
Now you are worried
Is he in the box or the wardrobe?
Your fist love, the one you never forget
The one that would upset the apple cart
Wrong name on the birth certificate
Would bring up too many questions.
How to tell the truth now?

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Photograph (Part I) by Nancy Brady

In this family photograph, Dad was probably nine or ten. When I said him I liked the knickers, he told me he hated wearing them. According to him, his mother didn’t want him to grow up. Long pants were a sign of being a young man and keeping him in knickers kept him a little boy.

Personally, I think she was more pragmatic than that; she could cut down her older son’s pants when he outgrew them, converting them, saving money. I couldn’t argue with him since I wasn’t there. Besides, he was my father and I loved him.

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Photograph (Part II) by Nancy Brady

In this family photograph, Dad was probably nine or ten. When I said him I liked the knickers, he told me he hated wearing them. According to him, his mother didn’t want him to grow up. Long pants were a sign of being a young man and keeping him in knickers kept him a little boy.

 Personally, I think she was more pragmatic than that; she could cut down her older son’s pants when he outgrew them, converting them, saving money. I couldn’t argue with him since I wasn’t there. Besides, he was my father and I loved him

🥕🥕🥕

The Goldfish Bowl by Doug Jacquier

Courtesy of the pandemic and brain plaque, I can’t touch him anymore, not that he would know who I was anyway. All I can do is wave to him through the nursing home window and watch him wave back, like he does to everybody. His manners remain intact.

On his lap is an album of old photographs that he leafs through constantly. Whether the staff put it there in the hope of a spark or whether he clings to its importance without knowing why is anybody’s guess. To me, through the glass, he seems like a goldfish with Alzheimers.

🥕🥕🥕

Arrested Development by D. Avery

There was he and his brother, practically twins, astride their motorcycles, grinning widely. Ten years ago. Same old pictures; did any of them smile anymore?

“Will you ever update these photos?”

She ignored the edge in his voice.

“Your brother misses you.”

“Right.” But he went to his room.

“Hey, Bro. How about a picture of the two of us?”

The selfie showed his own face fuller but much the same, his hair thinning at the temples. His brother’s skin was tight and shiny, his open eyes vacant and unseeing. The breathing tube showed, the feeding tube did not.

🥕🥕🥕

Snap Judgements by Bill Engleson

Missed spring cleaning by a few months this year.
Other things on my mind, I guess.
Viruses!
Ageing!
Wine!
Stuff like that.
During the heat dome, my fried brain couldn’t handle much but I started pawing through a few boxes of dusty memorabilia.
Under duress.
“Just do it, “she’d admonished. “Your office is a pigsty.”
No argument from me.
Two boxes in, I found my old wallet.
1972 vintage.
Thought I’d thrown it out.
No money in it.
An unpaid speeding ticket.
Mick’s car.
Oops! Forgot to mention it, buddy.
And a snap of…what the hell was her name?

🥕🥕🥕

The Camera Never Lies by Anne Goodwin

Mary’s bedroom floor is awash with paper. She tucks a lock of russet hair behind her ear and plunges in.

Her therapist said her childhood memories didn’t sound happy. Mary wades through school reports and twentieth-century diaries for the evidence to prove her wrong.

A photograph of two girls in polka-dot dresses, seated with their mother on a tartan rug. Decades on, Mary hears the stream gurgling behind them, smells the meadowsweet, tastes the fairy cakes, feels the sun warm her face.

The woman cuddles the raven-haired daughter. Mary weeps for the redhead, beyond the reach of mother love.

🥕🥕🥕

The Scars by Deborah A. Bowman

I found the stained underside of the snapshot today. It was tucked in one of my Classic books…fitting. I don’t usually touch the Classics, but that volume called to me. I guess it’s time. I must be ready. Deep inhale. I turned it over.

My breath stopped. My heart ceased to beat. I crumbled to the floor, strangling tears, vomit. I’m not ready at all!

Vietnam, 49 years ago. There I stood. Woman Journalist in camouflage. My hands fell to trace the scars.

I rose, proudly clipping the crutches to my forearms. Yes, it had been worth it.

🥕🥕🥕

American Revolutionary War Cemetery by Carole Warren

My father and his brother volunteered. Proudly posing for the 1951 newspaper article, they dismantled the dilapidated cemetery wall. The ancient wall, built in 1887, needed to protect graves from being uprooted by local hogs. The new wall planned to safeguard a vintage burial ground with remains of Dutch pioneers along with heroes from early American wars. My grandfather trudged through blue-grey dust. Past the long-neglected graveyard for his daily shift at the local aluminum casting factory. Years later, I climbed. With cousins, I balanced atop the rebuilt wall and explored the colonial cemetery unaware of our historical connection.

🥕🥕🥕

How Important Is It? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The attic is hot, dust motes knife-sharp and glittering in dim light through a window that wouldn’t budge in the humidity. She had to find that old photo, and prove her point. This rewriting of history to benefit Joseph had gone on far too long.

Sweating and breathless, she finds the box, the yearbook, and the incriminating photo. Lifting it to the window she stares hard at the image, the caption written beside it. Suddenly dizzy, she sinks to the floor.

Of course she was right. But she was also wrong. Dementia is an argument neither one could win

🥕🥕🥕

Mateo by Simon Prathap D

An old photograph, who is this?
Your great grand father.
What? impossible, I’ve just seen him yesterday, he told ummmm “Bola de miel Rosa”
Grandma smiled …..
What does that mean?
He is a “Mateo” , time traveller.
Mateo? time travelling?
Thank him when he comes to my funeral tomorrow.
(scoffs) arghhh, I’m not continuing this weird conversation.

next day…

Bola de miel Rosa he said
Are you my great grandpa?
Yes, SHE is your grandma.
I can’t believe! you both came alive?
You will too… Time travel is our gift.

Really?
Stay Calm, time will come, and you will know.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Traveler by Reena Saxena

The black and white picture set a furore amongst believers in time travel.

One of the people in the crowd is holding a mobile phone in the last century. Was she a visitor from the future?

How come she was not identified as an alien, and continued to talk on the phone in the crowd?

Forensic experts get on the job. It turns out to be a doctored image.

Someone in the lab smiles, and pats a rectangular piece of fibre glass she carries in her bag. They don’t know yet…. Everything can be manipulated, including their forensic systems.

🥕🥕🥕

Nana’s Photos by Joanne Fisher

Sifting through archeological
layers of photographs –
at first encountering younger versions
of myself and siblings, going backwards
until I find a picture of Nana and Grandad
looking like Bonnie and Clyde

I never knew that side of her, I never
knew Grandad.
all I remember is him
sitting by the dining room table,
but was it real?
I learned of his death through
osmosis – one day I knew
he was gone, though I was never told

But here they are together still
in their twenties, looking at the camera
with a future ahead of them
as we all do.

🥕🥕🥕

My Great Grandfather’s Sister by Duane L Herrmann

She is looking up, staring: trying to see Amerika where her brother fled, never to see him again. She never knows the family he started, he never knows hers. She and he are old now, it’s been half a century.

Half a century more and the family will be again united with visits back and forth and new friendships. I cried with relief to be on that first return trip and have made many more, taking family with me. I hope our children can continue this union, but at least we know each other.

🥕🥕🥕

To Me by Annette Rochelle Aben

Chubby, sturdy little legs held her up the table where her parents had placed the birthday items. Such a display of love and affection. Of course, as she was new to all of this celebration, there was nothing in her mind to understand all the joy and excitement.

Flash forward more than sixty years. Tears now fill the eyes of the senior citizen looking at the old photograph. Knowing now, that her parents had little or no money, but they still managed to make that birthday special. Knowing now, what beautiful gifts birthdays have been. She makes a wish.

🥕🥕🥕

Imagining the Colors by JulesPaige

mulberries
now out of my reach
let birds feast

Maybe
Too the
Squirrel
Families

A friend tells me of her youth and shares photos in black and white of purple fingers and faces. The Mulberry tree in her yard wasn’t supposed to bear fruit, which is why her father planted it. Free sweets in the summer shade what more could a child want. All those happy siblings that shared hand me downs without complaining because that’s just the way it was. The love and support that poured continually made them all reach for the stars. That’s her parents’ success.

🥕🥕🥕

This Old Faded Photo by Donna Matthews

Surely, all families have their scandalous moments. My brother died in February under suspicious circumstances. Aside from the grief that generally remains just at the edge of consciousness, I feel this new rawness of soul I am unaccustomed to. I’m drawn to his image, especially this one I hold now. Four kids in the backyard. Why was this photo taken? There’s no one to give me the answer, the four of us too young. Oh, wait. Three of us now, but really just two, one is in prison and unavailable. Yes, my grief like this old faded photo. Melancholic.

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph by Charli Mills

She found him in the 1979 yearbook. The bottom row. The old photo wasn’t vintage. Some would argue it was modern. He played football. Four years. He sat shirtless, his blonde hair long, wavy. The football team had fathers who’d served in Korea, grandfathers in WWII. A few had older brothers, younger uncles, or cousins who’d served in ‘Nam. The ones no one spoke of, or to. The dispersed ones. She thought the photograph ancient because he looked so young. So guiltless. So pre-Grenada. Head hits, concussive blasts, and one knee-shattering jump. He never wore his hair long again.

🥕🥕🥕

Old Photo by FloridaBorne

Back straight, a model’s figure, a stand-out next to her best friend, a cousin, her youngest brother, mother and maternal grandmother; my mother posed for a multi-generational photo somewhere between the Great Depression and World War II.

Her brother, who marched with Patton’s third army to Germany, never told anyone about the grueling experience.  Her best friend married a domineering Englishman who’d used her to enter the USA. My mother, at 29, married a wounded soul.

So much hope for reality to crush.  It seems that only the delusion of a brighter future pushes us forward into old age.

🥕🥕🥕

Elise by Saifun Hassam

Gwen was fascinated by her great-great-aunt Elise’s days as an Airforce service pilot in WWII. Elise died in 1993.

Elise was a test pilot, an instructor, flying planes from the factory to the Airforce base. Gwen treasured one photo, 1943: four young women, in Airforce pilot uniforms, standing in front of an Airforce bomber.

Elise was grief-stricken when her son Lester, a pilot, was killed in Vietnam. Great-niece Samira, a pilot, died in Iraq.

Gwen, a “bush” pilot, now teaches aeronautical engineering. Her pilot experience became a critical link for emergencies during the pandemic. Gwen treasures that old photo.

🥕🥕🥕

Dream Photography by Rebecca Glaessner

“You ready?”
“System calibrated?”
“Got it all, now sleep and let the magic happen-“
“What about colour tracking, covered all wavelengths? D’you double check?”
“Me and four others-“
“And the pixels. Did they max out? Fifteen-hundred?”
“Last ten runs, crystal clear.”
“Shadows? Freckles? Strands of hair?”
“Like Da Vinci. We got this. Relax.”
“Okay… Make sure you wake me once it’s rendered. As soon as!”
“Promise. Now keep him in mind and let yourself sleep.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Is… it done? Uhnf- lemme see. He- looks…”
“Just like you.”
“Get this through to facial recog, now-“
“Already done. We’ll find your brother.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Debt Of History by Geoff Le Pard

‘You a moment, Logan?’
‘No.’
‘You don’t know what I want.’
‘Let’s keep it that way.’
‘Yeah. Anyway, who’s that?’
‘Is that our leaving photo?’
‘Yep. I can’t remember who that boy is. Next to Snitch Peters.’
‘Gullible Poon.’
‘Not Gully. The other side.’
‘Kentish Gishpaster?’
‘No, that’s Kentish.’
‘Is it? I thought Kentish had one leg shorter that the other.’
‘He did, didn’t he? Always going in circles. No, the one with the squint. He set fire to Simple Sims pubes during double chemistry.’
‘Happy days. Why do you want to know?’
‘He still owes me a pound.’

🥕🥕🥕

Ev’ry Story Tells a Picture by D. Avery

“Pal, how kin ya be Carrot Ranch’s historian? Ya ain’t even got any old photos.”
“It’s livin’ history. Things is jist how they is at ever moment.”
“Folks wanna see how things was.”
“Folks kin read the archives.”
“A picture’s worth a thousand words.”
“Thet’d be 901 words too many.”
“Yer prob’ly ‘barasssed ta show yer mug.”
“We’re fictional characters Kid. Folks see us as they see us.”
“Fiction, ey?
Hey look here’s a old photo a you! An’ there in the background… Bigfoot!”
“Kid, ya cain’t be makin’ stuff up.”
“Sure I kin, 99 words at a time.”

🥕🥕🥕