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Solstice

The earth tilts and one hemisphere lengthens in the sun while the other shortens in shadow. The solstice stands in the balance.

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.

Happy Winter Solstice by Joanne Fisher

Jodie lost count with all the “Happy Summer Solstice!” posts that appeared on her newsfeed. She sighed and looked out the window at the snow falling. The trouble with people in the northern hemisphere is that they assumed everyone else was in the northern hemisphere as well, she reflected.

Earlier today she had been involved in some stupid online argument with an American who refused to believe that the hemispheres had different seasons. “Who else knows this?” he demanded.

Jodie resolved to reply to all the posts she saw with “Happy Winter Solstice.” Hopefully that might make them think…

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The Edge of Summer by Hugh W Roberts

On the longest day of the year, his most prolonged problem was about to end.

Looking over the edge of the cliff, Adrian wondered if he could fly. After all, he was a little underweight, and although daylight had broken, nobody but his best friend would witness him flying.

At 04:31, his problem died when he took the final jump and placed his lips on the mouth of Richard.

As both young men enjoyed the moment, the butterflies in their stomachs did the flying.

The summer solstice of 2021 was the day they both came out to the world.

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To Dance by Charli Mills

Maia met the girls at the Biting Fly for vodka shots. They toasted her ancestors, the ones who came from Finland with nothing but their knowledge of the old ways and hope for a new Finlandia in this place called America. They worked as mules in the copper mines and stayed after the boom busted. Maia, at 80-something, remembered her grandmother sharing childhood memories of the kokko, the massive community bonfire at Juhannus. Her girlfriends weren’t Finnish but they relished the hippie vibe of a solstice celebration on the beach. They swayed with men, and Maia danced with ghosts.

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Time by Sascha Darlington

A British playwright wrote: “Youth is wasted on the young.” I think about that now as I navigate a landscape in which I am no longer young.

We made a pact that we would meet on the solstice of our 50th year. Regardless of everything. Not to mention that we’ve not kept in touch.

My sister said I was foolish. “He may not even be alive.”

The Devon beach is empty. I swirl like a young woman, the one you used to know, until I see you.

“You’re like a dream.”

“Until I open my mouth.”

Time is nothing.

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Going North, Going South by Doug Jacquier

They met during the Transit of Venus in 2004 and married during the second Transit in 2012. What they’d forgotten was that eight Earth years are an unlucky thirteen Venus years and what they thought was their beginning was, in fact, the beginning of their end. Their lives became a series of eclipses, their different suns blotting out each other’s sky. When the divorce came through, she went North and he went South. Now, come the solstice, across the Hemispheres, their world atilt, her day’s long and filled with light and his short, darkness descending in the late afternoon.

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Love’s Solstice by Michael Fishman

The body knows when we’re in love. Hands, like magnets, pull and accidentally touch. Shoulders brush when preparing a meal or sitting on the couch. Bodies pass closer when walking through a narrow hallway.

A smile that last longer than necessary because the mouth and lips, they feel and know.

Love guides not just our hearts and souls, but our bodies.

I’m not sure when our smiles started to fade or when our hands decided to go back to holding things instead of each other.

Or when we stopped talking.

It happened while neither one of us were watching.

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Solstice by Anita Dawes

To call them stones
As if you could skip one across the pond
Is to belittle their majesty
I stand in front of them
Waiting for the sunrise
Wishing I could walk back
Through a living moment of history
To see the stars, fly by
To see the sunset and rise over it again
Until I reach the moment when
Salisbury Plain was just that, plain
To watch the first hole being dug
The upright slip into place
On around the circle like a child’s game
Of ring a ring-o’roses
I feel my heart beat with the rising sun…

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Solstice by Robert Kirkendall

As the wheel of the year once again reached its midpoint of light’s apex and increasing darkness, humanity stood at a precipice. Going forward on its current path meant certain destruction. Turning in either direction was safer but still treacherously close to the same steep edge. Reversing away from the precipice was the safest option, but counter to the prevailing forward inertia.

At the earthly turning point the instinct for group preservation fought against the forces of self enrichment. And those attempting to save humanity tried to get across that when at the precipice, progress is a step backward.

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Time Travel by Rebecca Glaessner

Neuro-tech students gathered on a rooftop, beneath the City-dome, drinks in hand, and watched the decade’s worst electrical storm.

“Shortest night… solstice?”

“Yeah.”

“I went in today.”

“You didn’t-“

“There was no fear, y’know? Back then. They just lived. Under the sun for hours at a time.”

“Really?”

“Barbecues, beers, no sunscreen. It was-“

“Exhilarating?”

“Exactly.”

“100 years?”

“205.”

“Wow- what’s he saying?”

“Have at it! Literally. Offered his memories for the taking. To anyone.”

Lightning cracked purple and blue above, beyond the dome. The sun’s heat always lingering.

“Can I-?”

“Now? Absolutely! Best way to escape the summer.”

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Summer Dream by Sue Spitulnik

Michael told Dr. John about a recurring nightmare. “The important ladies in my life are dancing around a fire like you’d see on the summer solstice, but my wheelchair’s in the fire.”

“Are they celebrating its destruction? Perhaps suggesting you give it up?”

“I hate the prosthetic legs.”

“Why?”

“When I’m in the chair, people look me in the eye and notice my upper body physic. When I wear the prosthetics, that’s all they see. I’m more than a pair of metal legs; besides, the chair has become my band’s trademark.”

“Seems the chair’s more for recognition than comfort.”

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One Bloody Solstice on June 21 1919 by Bill Engleson

“Many of the strikers were demobilized soldiers?”

“Yeah. There they were, returned from that awful war, Spanish Flu sucking the breath out of the world. Put that together with the allure of the Bolshevik Revolution, the magnificent people’s charge against a dynasty, soldiers, who’d been prepared to die for their country, hungry for payback, their due as fighting men…and when they returned, it was the same old poverty, the same old crap wages, same old profiteering rich bosses.”

“And that Saturday, the solstice, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, the longest day of the year and it and bullets killed the strike.”

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The Crossing by Anne Goodwin

She couldn’t prove they were her triathlon medals, but he gave her the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes the shortest, the skinniest, proved the toughest, enduring scorching days and freezing nights. They marched, jogged, uncomplaining; they melted into the shadows at his command. Crossing in summer was madness with dark’s protection paper thin. Tonight, the solstice: riskiest of all. Yet she pleaded, everyone did, handing him wads of cash. Desert’s dangers the final stepping-stone on freedom’s trail. Now, minutes from departure, she arrives with a baby on her hip. Slim chance they’ll reach America. Certain death unless she tries.

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Perfect Timing by Rebecca Glaessner

The crew struggled, working endlessly to keep their great hulking mass of a ship sailing across the fabric of space without tearing apart.

Their destination orbited a minuscule point of light. Almost too far now with damaged engines.

Almost.

Directly ahead hung a glittering planet of ice. They met it among the limits of its orbit, the distance protecting the ship from its swollen red star.

Its solstice their saviour.

They sunk close to the icy surface before their velocity pulled them back out, the planet’s gravity well adding speed to their motion as they resumed course.

They’d survive.

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Memories of Grandma by Nancy Brady

My grandma’s birthday was the same date as the summer solstice. I’d often stay with her for a week during summer vacation; we’d spend time at the park after window shopping at Woolworth’s. We’d rarely buy anything except for a sweet or two.
She painted a picture of me when I was young and had a ponytail. It hung on a wall of her tiny house for years, but after she died, the painting was nowhere to be found, only her original sketch. Even now, I wonder what happened to the painting.

summer solstice
visits include
one sugar cookie

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Summer Night Fire by Duane L Herrmann

Summer Solstice, or Sommersonnenwende, still going strong in Franken in 2019. I and daughter were there. Unlike far past times, just one fire per community and that created, and extinguished, by the local fire department. A time for bier and brats, family and friends. We were included. Being in my great grandfather’s village, with family who still live there, meant we were not strangers, though there are no strangers around a fire. We ate, we drank, we tried to talk, but with little English on their side and little German on ours, we mostly smiled, glad to be together.

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Solstice BBQ by Kate Spencer

Sitting on the back porch, Jim bit into his sandwich. “Ran into Bill this morning,” he said between chews. “He and Millie are hosting a Solstice Barbecue at their farm on Saturday.”

“Millie called about it,” Gladys said, shooing away a persistent wasp.

“She said everyone there will be fully vaccined. Apparently, their granddaughter prepared invitations for the event, calling it Granny’s Loop-de-Loop party in honor of the never setting sun.”

Jim chuckled. “Were these mailed?”

“Goodness no. That’s why Millie’s phoning everyone.”

“And?”

“You bet we’re going. ‘Bout time oldies like us get out and had some fun.”

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Plans Change by Mr. Ohh!

I look to the solstice more than any other day. I will spend it outside I will absorb every drop of sunlight that the day has to offer. This is my fantasy I have seen the winter and conquered its dismal days. The solstice is mine, paid for by months of depression and hope. I shall seize this day.

I set an early alarm so I can make the coffee and proceed to the porch and watch most glorious Sol in his rising. When it rings, I am faced with dark clouds and lightning. It’s still a great day

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Summer Solstice by Missy Lynne

The dark winter lays behind and the sun has been steadily taking back the sky. And I, too, have been making the same trek. Beating back the darkness of winter. Basking in the light of the sun. Burning out the old to bring forth the new. The summer is ahead. Days full of sunshine. Lazy, simple days. Without burdens or schedules. The sun lights my spirit. It takes me from days trapped indoors to freedom. From covered and cold to bronzed and beautiful. A renewal. A transformation of self. The darkness has been cleared in my mind and spirit.

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Automatic by FloridaBorne

“You never do anything right,” he yells.

As usual, I ignore his remark and close the door to my home office. He storms up the stairs to his area of the house as if he owns it all.

I settle into the eye of my stormy life. My parents laid the concrete block walls for the first floor when they were in their sixties. This room was born from their love and commitment to each other.

My coon cat stretches out next to the phone. Automatic as breathing, my hand is petting him long before I know it’s happening.

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Solstice by Reena Saxena

Inequality pervades the system, so that equality remains a cherished goal. Solstices are celebrated because the seemingly opposing forces of day and night are equal only twice in a year….

The pages of the diary flutter as he drops it off. It never struck him that she was feeling neglected and the inferior being in the relationship.

He was busy balancing the check-book, making income and expenses meet. It was the only equality he chased.

Her contribution to the bank account was like that extra stretch of daylight – he did not notice while working late. She saved money.

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Days of Future Present by Geoff Le Pard

‘It’s the summer solstice on Tuesday, Logan.’ ‘

Yes? So?’

‘We should celebrate.’

‘Why? It’s just another day.’

‘No, it’s not. It’s the turning point. The longest day, the start of summer.’

‘It’s the beginning of the end of the year. Everything gets darker and colder from here.’

‘There you have the difference between us.’

‘You’re all airy-fairy and I’m rational.’

‘I live in the moment; you don’t.’

‘You ignore what’s in front of your face.’

‘And you miss the joy in embracing the now.’

‘Have you been at the mindfulness muesli again?’

‘I think I’ll become a Druid…’

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Silver for Sale (Part 3.5) by Nicole Horlings

For the beginning of the story, click to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Vellenio paced in his office. The solstice was quickly approaching, and it was becoming increasingly clear that he had hired a nincompoop to do his dirty work for him, which was increasingly frustrating after all of his carefully played chicanery to drive away the Travellyn family. How difficult was it to search an empty mansion before the royal historian accidentally stumbled upon the silver chalice that he needed, and put it in a museum or someplace stupid like that? After the chilling runaround he’d already had to give Tyla, he wanted to deal with her at little as possible.

This story is continued here.

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At Dusk’s Door by D. Avery

We are all familiar with the tale of Red Riding Hood. Now consider it as a solstice tale.

Grandma’s weakened and wan, but her granddaughter lingers and picks flowers… This is a summer solstice tale, with Lil’ Red representing day and Grandma representing season, the patient and confident wolf personifying night.

I wonder if in even earlier versions the wolf was less maligned, less punished for his necessary and natural role in consuming day.

Grandma, you know too

reflected light in dark eyes

Cloaks grown heavy shed

hung without shame at dusk’s door

borne again at dawn; he yawns

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Solstice Story by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She clambers atop the cardinal’s shoulders

Gently hooks soft knees over scarlet wings

Grasps the longest feathers of his crest

Her cape of midday flutters a hopeful breeze

Knapsack packed with morning dew, wild strawberries

Golden bee pollen

Time is the essence.

A sweet request, whispered in a red bird’s ear

He lifts his wings, ruffles his crest

Together they soar toward a land

Far beyond East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Finally, they reach day’s end

With all her strength, she pulls its edge

Time to turn the page.

Dark-eyed Winter nods, beckons her home.

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Till the Next Solstice by Saifun Hassam

The Great Mages Portal in the Forest of the Spirits opened at dusk only on Solstice Day. Beyond the portal were caverns, treasures of wisdom, of magic incantations of Ancient Mages. So it was said. Under cloudless cerulean skies, the day turned into a warm and sultry late evening. Just beyond the Forest, Estrella the Sorceress rested on the shores of Swan Lake. Dusk turned into night. Estrella awoke to the fragrance of jasmine and moonflowers, the hooting of an owl. Cygnet the Swan glittered in the night skies. Dawn was breaking. As wilted as moonlight flowers, Estrella cried.

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In Good Company by D. Avery

“Wholly shift, Kid! Reckon Shorty’s been puttin’ in some long days.”
“The longest. It’s summer solstice.”
“Shorty’s stretchin’ hersef an’ growin’ the CRLC.”
“CRLC?”
“Carrot Ranch Literary Community. An’ now she’s got hersef a LLC.”
“What the /L/ Pal? CRLLC? That extra /L/ stands fer… lite; no Shorty’d never have lit lite. Lift! Carrot Ranch Literary Liftin’ Community.”
“A LLC is separate from this here literary community, Kid. Has ta do with business.”
“Leveragin’ Loads a Cash?”
“Limited Liability Company. But thet’s none a yer business.”
“Oh. Well this company’s liable ta write with limits.”
“Yep. Jist 99 words.

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New Way to Office

Ready for the workplace? What awaits in the new way to office?

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.

My New Office by Duane L Herrmann

My office is on my lap, with papers all around, a sea of papers, with waves – stacks of papers, and books. But my office is on my lap, when I am working anyway. When I’m not actually working, it is beside my chair on a plant stand that, never while I’ve owned it, has held a plant. I have other plant stands too, with never a plant. One holds a lamp, beside/behind my chair, to illuminate my lap, especially at night. This is my new home office. My lap has a top, with a screen – my laptop.

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Charli Loses the (Garden) Plot by Doug Jacquier

‘How do you like my new aurafice?’

‘Orifice! You mean you have a new hole?’

‘No, it’s a hybrid between an office and an aura. It fills holes. Including black ones.’

‘How does it work?’

‘It projects an aura into a hole and voila! Hole filled. I call it an Appleication to create new office Windows.’

‘So what’s that spinning toy for?’

‘It’s a desk top.’

‘And that cabinet with the STOP sign?’

‘That’s my stationary cupboard.’

‘And the dog next sitting next to your computer?’

‘That’s my Mause’.

‘Time for a cuppa, or something much stronger, I think.’

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New Way to Office by FloridaBorne

He looks out the window, contentment wrapped in fur, as I work on a report. The moment I’m intent on the wording of a particular sentence, he’s up.

I now have a cat covering half of a 32 inch monitor. I lift my hand to pet him and he swats it away with a soft paw.

The message is clear: No claws, “I want a treat,” claws out, “I don’t want to be petted.”

The treat is given several feet away from my computer screen, and I stroke his softness.

I look at the sentence with a fresh perspective.

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Mojo by Reena Saxena

Simon is the best pet-trainer in town…

I scroll down to read the story further, as Mojo nibbles at my toes.

Simon lost a lucrative corporate job during the pandemic. He started moonlighting as a pet trainer.

His USP:

He knows the requirements of a virtual office at home. Pets are trained to remain silent when a Zoom meeting is on, and not to pounce on a parent’s hands working on a laptop in a quest for attention.

They are trained to develop tolerance for the ‘humans’ lounging around home all week.

“Mojo, you have a new teacher…”

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Writer in Residence by Norah Colvin

The large old oak writer’s desk with multiple drawers, pigeon holes, an ink well and leather writing mat faced the room.

Upon it, a multitude of cups stocked with pencils, pens and other writing and drawing tools sat ready. The pigeon holes held a magnificence of paper and cardboard, and the drawers essentials like scissors, glue, rulers, lettering guides, clips and stapler. It was a writer’s paradise — perfect for the daily Writer in Residence.

The children loved it. Especially when they were Writer for the day with freedom to organise, reorganise and create to their heart’s content — growing writers.

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Emptied by D. Avery

She emptied every drawer before removing them, cleared the desk surface, removing the stacks of paper, the pens, paperclips and knickknacks and the desktop pendulum. Now she could manage to push the desk to the door. Flipped onto its back she shoved it through the door and down the steps. A couple more flips placed it in the yard. Three trips for each drawer, another for the chair; while retrieving the pendulum she noticed the book of matches amongst the desk detritus. Seated again at her desk, the pendulum balls pulsed a steely beat amidst the shrieking fire alarms.

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Office with a View by Carole Warren

Past are the decades of commuting through the desert sandbox feeling stuck with a linear view of office work.
Transformation from corner office, to home office, to mobile office now provides a 360-degree perspective changing weekly.

Our work desk for two, morphs for dining, for games, even a small bed for visiting grandkids.

The window perpendicular to our desk mimics a digital photo frame, revealing variegated greens of old growth forests, colorful flora, or other unique vistas of each coastal campsite.

Recorded relaxation sounds have been replaced with live sounds of ocean breezes and crashing waves.

Dream made real.

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Push The Button by Hugh W. Roberts

Stella’s new office wasn’t all it was supposed to be – until she pushed the button.

***
Sitting on a cloud surrounded by harp-playing cherubs wasn’t quite the ‘new way to office’ Stella was expecting.

“Don’t push any of those extra buttons on your desk until I get back,” said her unique boss. “I’m off to get my beard trimmed.”

All but one button was marked. ‘Coronavirus, Heatwave, Flash-flooding.’ But what would the unmarked button do if pushed?

Not resisting temptation, Stella started slowly descending after pushing the unnamed button.

“Welcome back to your old office,” cackled a horned figure beset by fire. “The “Master said you wouldn’t last long working in those new office surroundings.”

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Office Downgrade Promotion: Politics by Deborah Bennett

Really felt my colleagues’ eyes were ALL-OVER-ME when sitting at my desk yesterday. Ya’know those open plan desk arrangements – no cubical walls to hide eh?

Everyone was staring, ‘cos of that “ding” sound with emails saying your promoted, or you hit some target. ‘Guess I’ll be scrolling through lovely opinionated comments from the public..woohoo.

At uni, I didn’t do three “all-nighters” for assignment deadlines – didn’t blinking slave over National Party Policy files for five flipping years, sell my pride and joy – Honda Sport XP1 for a wardrobe of suits and comfy heels to become – Social Media ASSISTANT Minister!

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Just 12 Tables by Michael Fishman

The restaurant couldn’t survive the COVID lockdown. I worked in the back of the house as a prep cook. One year out of school with a culinary arts degree and dreams of working hard and one day opening a small place of my own.

Just 12 tables, that’s my dream.

I start my day now by hitting the library to use one of the public computers. I check my LinkedIn. Then I walk over to the House of Charity where I volunteer cooking meals.

With thanks that I’m one of the lucky ones, I say a prayer for tomorrow.

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Home Office Attire by Nicole Horlings

Mira caressed the blue lace that formed the straps of the skater dress, and smiled at the way that it complimented the shimmery polish that she had on her fingernails. The dress had been stowed in the back of her closet, hanging limply, since she never could have worn it to the office. The hollow pit in her stomach from recent events that had transpired was assuaged by that fact that she, while working from home, got to make her own rules. With a flourish she donned the beautiful dress and meandered over to the mirror to admire herself.

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Back to the Office by Jenne Gray

The office hasn’t really changed.
My chair sits in front of the desk and the computer, waiting for me.
Has it really been eighteen months?
I switch on, sit down.
But…
Somehow the chair’s too small, the desk too low.
My fingers are too big for the keyboard.
I look at the screen – and it winks at me!
No, seriously, it does!
The chair swivels me round to look out at the world outside.
And then back to the computer.
I see giant letters appear one by one:
G-O-O-D-B-Y-E…
Followed by an exclamation mark!

Who am I to argue?

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Spelling Independence by JulesPaige

T’was without any dalliance, after he was undressed (dressed down) by the staff for his ‘filthy’ endurance. He knew they were just fishing. They had jealous dry green stone hearts. He could give them no advice, they wouldn’t listen. He knew he had to work for his pay. He couldn’t just sit around looking ‘hip’. He was like a windup toy, ready to release his spring – as he left the office, knowing he wasn’t returning to ‘that’ job. A better office awaited the energy he could and would give.

be nimble
Jack jumped ‘cross the road
to safety

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Growing Pains by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Mom, Bobbi and I split up. I’m coming home to get my head together,” Toni’s voice crackled over the phone. “She kicked me out. Good thing I never signed the lease.”

Joy rubbed her forehead. She’d be more open to her daughter’s return if it weren’t the third time in as many years. “Your room is now my office. Your bed’s gone, hon’.”

“Where else am I supposed to go? Please, Mom!”

“Doesn’t your dad have a spare room?”

“He’d make me pay rent. You never do!”

“I am now, Toni. I can’t keep both you and my job.”

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The Respected Counselor by Sue Spitulnik

Michael rolled into the No Thanks, went straight to Mac, and said, “I heard Dr. John is going to open an antique shop next door. That true?”

“Tis.”

“I didn’t know he was an antique guy.”

“When he asked to rent the building he said he wasn’t, but his wife is. He’s retiring from the VA but wants to stay available. They plan to turn the big back room into a kitchen so folks can drop in for a cup of coffee and a chat. A new way to office, he called it.”

Michael nodded approval. “Sounds like him.”

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Office Romance by C. E. Ayr

Please, sweetheart, I say, I really need to finish this.

Susie doesn’t respond, she just stares sullenly.

If I don’t get this done, we don’t eat, I say, bashing keys.

I wave a vague arm. How do you think we can afford all this, I ask.

She doesn’t reply.

I really hate it when you give me the silent treatment, I say.

Nothing.

If I don’t do it now I’ll have to work the weekend, I say, and that kills our quality time together.

Her eyes speak volumes.

Oh, okay, I say, getting up, let’s go.

Her tail wags.

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New Beginnings by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Hello, Judith? Gather the others and meet me out back in half an hour.”

Macy hung up her phone. Productivity at fairy headquarters had slowed during the human pandemic. When the humans quit believing in magic, the fabric of fairy reality faded. The fey hid in the otherworld, waiting. Today, Macy aimed to fix the problem.

The fey folk assembled in the meadow, their new home office. They joined hands and danced. Macy said the magic words:

fairy dance rhythms drift
sacred smoke linger—cleansing
belief in magic
fiery memory’s return
summer solstice fires burn

Slowly the veil lifted…

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Her Own Office by Charli Mills

Moonflower Johnson’s preferred people call her “June.” Applications forced her to disclose her full name and job interviewers raised an eyebrow or coughed to cover surprise. She watched them squirm with a need to ask. She never offered an answer. June preferred to office outside where she had homeschooled her five children and tended to the miking goats. After 30 years beyond her career, she longed to office remotely, back home, outside. But motherhood was not considered experience for the office. Her degree had gone dormant. She decided to create her own office. Outside. And used her degree differently.

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Domestic Setting by JulesPaige

Pandemonium working from home? A prelude to what it will be like while he’s here all the time without any specific investment. First he was in the lower half. Until winter moved him up to a warmer climate and to a square folding table which he heaped with his office debris in the living room. When he could no longer dodge that ‘mess’ he took over half of my territory on the dining room table. When he does retire will I have to relocate my office space for privacy?

good thing I
like his face, imp grin
husband; mine

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Zooming by Eliza Mimski

She’d preferred teaching on Zoom. Her kitchen table office. Washing dirty dishes during her break. Taking out the garbage and recycling bins. Customer service calls from her couch during her half-hour lunch. Now, back at school, loud children’s voices and no mute button, no way to turn the camera off if she needed to disappear. The noisy classroom, walking the kids up and down the stairs for morning recess, lunch, afternoon recess, the line after school. Once home, she dragged the garbage and recycling curbside. Exhausted, she entered her home to find the dishes right where she’d left them.

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Being ‘Normal’ by Padmini Krishnan

My body shivers as I get off the train to look at the strange spectacle of human faces from the corner of my eyes. Unmasked and fearful of making eye contact, some people seem to rush down the streets while others keep close to the walls, their heads down. Assailed by sunlight, I walk in circles, wondering if I should cross the street to my office. I breathe with relief as I notice the essentials of life outside my office. Masked and relaxed, my eyes crinkle into a smile at my teammate as I walk confidently to my seat.

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A Complainer Talk by Simon Prathap D

Hey neighbour, office?
Back to office!
How is the new normal?
What new normal? we work the same way as we always do, and these corporates least bothered about us.
The company is doing their best, don’t be always negative.
Best? like asking employees to go out on field during lockdown?
That’s not fair, but they should be more careful at the office premises.
Like how? Sit together, conduct group meetings?
They still check temperature and pulses?
To figure out corona? when its already spread?
Change the company!
Now that’s a good idea, are you recruiting?
I’m leaving now!

🥕🥕🥕

Off-Ice; On-Ice by Bill Engleson

When you start to parse “office”, you enter a series of damaged doors, ideological ideas about where many people spend their days.
Or did.
Office is not exactly a comfortable word. Slightly off, you might say.
Off and Ice.
A cold place.
A place of ‘business’.
A slightly off-place of cold business.
Derived from ‘officium’.
A hard-working Greek, he was.
Officious, I mean.
Coined the term, ‘officium’.
Or so I once heard at a water cooler.
Likely a go-getting business tax collector.
Absolutely no mention of Onice.
O’ nice.
Not On Ice.
Like, suspended.
Oh, nice!
See?
Welcoming!
Nice!

🥕🥕🥕

High Rise by D. Avery

The little kitchen table was still flanked by three mismatched chairs. ‘For Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear’ he used to say. He imagined his daughter, all grown up now, sitting in a fancy leather swivel chair in a high-rise office building overlooking the city. Or he imagined she might even be in a director’s chair in one of the studios— more likely, creative as she was. He made trips to the city. He couldn’t imagine her hunkered on a sidewalk. But he looked. And worried that after all these years he wouldn’t even recognize his Baby Bear.

🥕🥕🥕

Mad to Work Here? by Anne Goodwin

When she first saw the poster, Janice cringed. Sure, it wasn’t as corny as the one in the secretary’s office: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE MAD TO WORK HERE, BUT IT HELPS! But shouldn’t social workers be above laughing at Alice and the grinning Cheshire cat?

As the institution tentacled around her, the poster – with coffee, kettle and cups shelved below it – became a shrine. Humour an island of calm amid the chaos that infected staff and patients alike. Carroll’s cat wiser than any psychiatric textbook, decrying Us and Them divisions. I’M MAD. YOU’RE MAD. WE’RE ALL MAD HERE.

🥕🥕🥕

The New Arrangement by Joanne Fisher

“I know there’s whining about the new office arrangement, but you’ll get used to it.” said Brian looking at his computer screen.

“You didn’t think this was too extreme?”

“No. During the last pandemic you all got used to working at home, but I was never sure how much work you were actually doing. We couldn’t go back to before, so I thought this solution practical.”

“You mean having our consciousnesses uploaded to the office hub?”

“Now I have complete control over all of you while you work seven days a week non-stop. We should have done this earlier.”

🥕🥕🥕

The New Classroom by Donna Matthews

“Grandma,” whispers my youngest grandson sitting on my lap as we watch the sun settle for the night.

“Yeah?”

“Tell me again the story of the pandemic.”

“Oh honey, really? Again?”

“P-l-e-a-s-e”

How can I say no? It’s his history. “Well, I was your age – 2nd grade.”

“Oh yeah, school! Y’all went to a building with other kids?”

“Yes”

“And learned letters and numbers?”

“Mm-hmm”

“Not the things we learned today? Which plants and berries are okay to eat?”

“That’s right – learning changed once your great-grandma moved us up here. Now shush and listen to the story…”

🥕🥕🥕

Galactic Wheeler by Saifun Hassam

Lt. Lizzie Andromeda stepped into her new office. A cabin aboard the immense Jupiter spaceship “Galactic Wheeler.” What a dramatic change from the Venusian and Lunar space transporters, and the even older space yachts with their skylights and captain’s deck windows!

This would be an entirely new experience for Lizzie, an astronomer, expertise in archeology and derelict spacecraft.

The cabin was on the Wheeler’s Western Spoke. An observation post.

Lizzie programmed the AI to create holograms of the Solar System. Wall panels glittered with constellations of the Milky Way. Earth rising, where she had never been. Her ancestral home.

🥕🥕🥕

Just One by Rebecca Glaessner

Career day, they’d say.

Detaching from the cerebral collective, I scour the repository, wanting to remember on my own.

It’s been many a century, but I’ll make change there. They’ve all held strong to their core designs, I’m sure.

“Ah! Found it,” I cease searching.

“This is your ultimate decision?” Great Mind asks.

“My only consideration.”

“Understood.”

The air ripples and distorts before me.

“Your pathway is stabilised.”

I step forward, losing myself while Great Mind transports me to form anew on the other side.

I breathe deep the Earthen air.

It’s good to be back.

Time for work.

🥕🥕🥕

Remotely Workin’ (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hey there Shorty.”
“Hey Pal. Where’s Kid?”
“They’s a bunch a office work ta git done at the Saloon.”
“So Kid’s at the Saloon?”
“No way!”
“Then where is Kid?”
“Past the back forty, in the high meadow. Sent Kid off ta work remotely, ‘cause lately what Kid’s been up to don’t even remotely look like work.”
“But Kid cain’t do office work way off up there. How’s that gonna help?”
“Listen Shorty.”
“I’m listenin’ Pal.”
“No, listen. Ya hear thet?”
“I don’t hear anythin’.”
“Zactly. No yammerin’, no whinin’…”
“Where ya goin’?”
“Saloon office. Now I kin work.”

🥕🥕🥕

Remotely Workin’ (Part II) by D. Avery

“Hey there Shorty.”
“Good day at the office. Sure kin git lot’s done without Kid pesterin’ me an gittin’ in the way. Thet paperwork’s all organized an’ stacked there on the desk.
“Pal! Here ya are!”
“Kid, whut’re ya doin’ back so soon?”
“’Member them kid goats I sent off in Logan an’ Morgan’s rental car? Well they musta let ‘em go. I jist rounded ‘em up an’ brought ‘em back.”
“Kid, d’ya ‘member why ya them goats was on the run?”
“Fergot ‘zactly.”
“They was ettin’ manuscripts an’ submissions.”
“Oh. Yeah. Uh, Pal, was that pile a papers there a manuscript?”

🥕🥕🥕

Leashed

Leashed or not, these stories run wild.

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 Chase by Susan Joy Clark

It only took a blink for Toby to pour himself like liquid through the crack in the front door, run across the street and crash the neighbor’s backyard barbecue. I ran after him barefoot, imitating the hot coal dance as I crossed the asphalt and lolloped past my neighbors, grinning stupidly, as they enjoyed their burgers and brats. After two rotations around the house, I saw my chase was futile. Remembering some dog owner advice, I dropped prostrate into the grass. Neighbors lurched out of chairs, hovering over me. “Call 911!” Toby stopped, turned running, and I nabbed him.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Doug Jacquier

Most mornings, a yellow monster would consume the small humans and lumber away. As Agent K9 of the Protective Services Division, I was distressingly unable to intervene due to the leash attached to my collar. Later in the day, the monster would return and disgorge the small humans, seemingly unharmed, but clearly tired and hungry. Unleashed, I would leap upon them and implore them to not go near the monster again. One morning, in a supercanine effort, I escaped and pursued this nemesis but it simply winked at me with its red eyes and farted smoke in my face.

🥕🥕🥕

Being a Good Dog by Joanne Fisher

“Now sit!” Sara told her. Trixie sat. “Good girl!” Trixie wanted to please her owner. Sara began to put a leash on her. Trixie stood up in protest. “You know I don’t like having a leash put on me.” Trixie complained. “Bad girl!’ Sara commanded. “Back on all fours like the good dog you are!” Trixie sighed and got back on all fours again, as she was told. This time she sat quietly as Sara put a leash on her. “Remember you’re my bitch.” It was a mystery, even to Trixie herself, why she liked being treated this way…

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Woof! by Hugh W. Roberts

Rusty always wanted to please his owner. Today was no different!

***
Panting, Rusty admired the world around him. Doing this got him excited. A hard pull on his leash forced him to stop fantasising.

“Good boy, Rusty. You deserve a treat for being so good today,” said his owner.

‘A treat,’ thought Rusty. ‘I hope that means doing this again today.’

Twenty minutes later, an exhausted Rusty stood up and asked his owner if they could try out what they’d been doing with the leash down at the new leather bar.

As his boyfriend’s eyes lit up, Rusty knew the thought of other leashed men on parade was a winner.

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Unleashed by Anita Dawes

Unchained by the skin I wear The way I think always gets me in so much trouble with other people I don’t feel the way they do about things I am the odd one out There are days I feel so bad about being leashed to myself It is lonely, even with family They do not agree with half the things I say They agree with each other well enough Most of the time I must pretend Hide my true self from them The others, as I have come to call them For now, the leash holds me tight…

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Life on a Leash by Ruchira Khanna

“Where are you going?”

“Umm, I was planning on going to the mall,” said Neena in a meek voice.

“Why? In an hour, it’ll be time for my tea.” said the master authoritatively, “And won’t the endless walking in the mall make you tired?” 

There was silence.

“Go and rest till your next chore rather than galavanting.” said the 65-year-old lady in a commanding tone. 

Neena gave out a long sigh as she dragged her feet into the 4*4 room, ” I wish I had not taken an advance from my master. I’m on a leash until six months.” 

🥕🥕🥕

Stay by MRMacrum

His power over me has its limits. He thinks I can be manipulated by one word from him. I will show him who has the last word.  He is not here.  I will do as I wish until he comes back. Yeah, I will show him.

But what do I want to do?  So many possibilities, I cannot pick. Every choice looks like trouble. Better just follow his orders; it’s the safe thing to do.

“Alright Maggie, you stayed. Who’s the good dog? ………. Here’s a treat.”

I remember now why I listen to him. He is my whole world.

🥕🥕🥕

Obedience Training by Anne Goodwin

He had her walk to heel initially, on a two-metre leash. As she earned his trust, he gave her leeway, to trot ahead to chase some shiny bauble or pause to sniff a flower. But he never took her out without a taser and packet of chocolate-drop rewards. He thought he’d tamed her until, unfettered in woodland, she ran. It took two days, three men and four bullets to rein her in. Now his wife hobbles happily around home and hearth, except when shrapnel pains her. Then he blames himself for pushing her beyond the boundaries of her sex.

🥕🥕🥕

Tsunami by Reena Saxena

Nature’s fury unleashed

scream headlines after the tsunami.

Who or what had held its fury on leash, seething, boiling in the underbelly of aquatic worlds – close to the heart of earth, but not quite there?

Does it lash out at pre-selected targets, or is it a random act of revenge?

Did it step out to meet the world on their own terrain, but was unaware of its own force?

What makes it retreat, when a vulnerable, cowered down world can be swallowed easily?

Anger management is a mammoth task. I’ve to touch the bottom of the dark seas.

🥕🥕🥕

Restraint by Charli Mills

Restraining six leashed sled dogs required brute strength. Max wasn’t the only woman to run the Copper Dog, but she was the only one to hold six dogs and six leads while muscling a single fan-hitch. It’s how the Arctic peoples ran dogs. Not that Max gave a shit. Her natural skepticism heightened by eight years in the Marine Corp didn’t trust her crazy tree-wizard deadbeat dad who claimed Sami blood in their Finnish veins. Why she had come back to the Keweenaw, she couldn’t say. Sometimes you have to poke the bear, her former staff sergeant would say.

🥕🥕🥕

Leashed by Simon Prathap D

Leashed for a reason Simon I gazed upon the sky, I tried to fly, something pulled me down. One question hit my head like a stone. It was painful, do questions pain? Yes! It uncovered the leash, I was tied, by myself. This is my body, my soul, my earth. I set myself free, if I want to. But, the thought of this life without the leash. No, something not felt right, I like this way. Without this leash, this life never gets better. I need all recipe the Sweet, Spice, Bitterness and unexpected Good bye. Is this life? No, But this is interesting.

🥕🥕🥕

History Challenge: 21st Century Discovery by Duane L. Herrmann

Stunned. Before me was a discovery not even my father knew and he farmed here when I was young. On this steep hillside, climbing which was strenuous, was a kind of shelf along the side. Below this shelf, the hillside dropped off even steeper than above. Overgrown and eroded, it was obviously a farm track he never used. This land, in eastern Kansas, was first owned by the widow of a soldier of the war of 1812. Bankrupt government gave land instead of pensions. Was this track made by the first one who tried to farm here? Who else?

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No Third Wheel Required by Nicole Horlings

Stella opened the letter with great trepidation, scanned it with hopeful eyes, then sighed deeply. It was another rejection, which was somewhat expected, but what made her blood boil was the suggestion to include a love triangle to give her story more conflict and “excitement”. Ugh.

She didn’t need the presence of an overused trope to create unnecessary drama in a story that wasn’t even primarily a romance, but rather an action-adventure.

She also didn’t need to twist her story into what this particular silly publishing company considered more widely marketable. Not when the option of self-publishing was available.

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Leash the Beast by Liz Husebye Hartmann

April hoisted the printout of her first novel off the counter of the Office Supply Store.

“Maybe you’d like a box for that?” suggested employee Office Max. “Don’t think I have a bag strong enough!”

April smiled. “Good idea. Thanks!”

He handed back her credit card, and fetched an empty printer paper box. She sighed. It might be time to invest in her own printer. All this productivity was breaking her budget. She needed a new strategy.

“So what’s next?” Max held the box steady as she loaded her tome.

“Massive edits,” April groaned. “Time to leash the beast.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Real World by Michael Fishman

Six-thirty Monday morning.
Post-(Current?)pandemic rush hour still not bad. Mark it down: a positive. Rare, but important.

Set the cruise, listen to the radio, don’t think about the nine hours ahead.
Turn up the radio.

Gene Harris. This Masquerade. Another positive.
Sunrise peeking over downtown (and another).

Exit on Hawthorne. Rights and lefts. Eleven blocks, eleven lights.
Lock.
Doublecheck.
Walk.

Welcome to the Anchor. May we hold your leash?
Help yourself. Just leave me room to breath?
Right.

Hello. Mornin’. Hi.
Nice, and yours? Not a lot, you?
Blah.
Blah.
Blah.

Inhale. This is not the real world. Exhale.

🥕🥕🥕

Park Life by Joanne Fisher

“You should put that dog of yours on a leash!” the man complained. Jess retrieved Lucky who had been investigating the park and rejoined the picnic. She looked over at Cindy who was munching on some grapes.

“Did we bring enough food? You seem especially ravenous today.”

“Well I am eating for two. It’s legit you know.” Cindy replied.

“So you’re not using your pregnancy as an excuse to pig out then?”

“Of course not.” Cindy replied innocently as she tucked into another sandwich.

“Aha.” Lucky suddenly ran off again.

“My turn!” Cindy shouted as she ran after him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hallmark Moment by Donna Matthews

We sit together on the cliff edge, feet hanging off, the ocean slamming into the rocks below. The sky to the east is turning pink, and we see just a touch of orange peeking over the horizon. It’s gonna be a hot one.

“You know I have to go. It’s like I’m a dog tied to a tree, running in circles and circles until I’m pinned against the trunk. I’m miserable here.”

“I know. But I’m sad.”

“This leaving is me, not you!”

Ruffling his hair, grabbing him up in a hug, “Oh, stop with the Hallmark moment. Go!”

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Granma Desiree by Saifun Hassam

Granma Desiree left her Cottonwoods Canyon cottage at sunrise. And never returned.

When Granpa Jake was killed by a mountain lion, Desiree was forty. She ran the Cottonwood Ranch for thirty years and then turned over the ropes to Maryanne, my mother.

I imagine her riding those canyon trails, unleashing herself for a while from life’s unexpected turns. Forget for a while her Jake, calling on the mountain spirits to make her courageous.

She left with her horse, guns, and rifle. She knew to fish and hunt. To be a part of that wilderness that she had always loved.

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Not an Ordinary Day by Sue Spitulnik

Katie got bad vibes, but she carded and served the group. One female pointed to the picture of Mac’s friend wearing his Medal of Honor and said, “Look, the highest grade dog collar a person can earn in this stupid country.”

Katie stammered. “Wha…t?”

“I see military folks as dogs on leashes, totally controlled.”

Mac appeared from nowhere. “I see you as ignorant, immature, and lacking common sense considering all the dogs in here, except me, served by choice and are off-leash. I suggest you drink up and get out!”

Experiencing palpable raised hackles, they gulped drinks and skedaddled.

🥕🥕🥕

Unleashed by Norah Colvin

It began harmlessly with a mini-slinky party favour in a birthday bag. The sparkles mesmerised Jamie as it tumbled end over end down the driveway or stairs. Soon it became an obsession. Swapping favours at birthday parties, pleading for them in supermarkets, Jamie hoarded them in a can carried everywhere. The obsession progressed from sparkles to numbers as the can filled. Eventually, no more slinkies would fit. As Jamie pressed and squeezed, the recalcitrant can tipped. Slinkies erupted, springing to life. As they danced away, sparkling in the sunlight, Jamie was captivated. Even slinkies need freedom to be themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

A Tighter Leash by FloridaBorne

When I moved to my present home, dogs roamed free. They traveled to the small pond two dirt roads away, about 500 feet as the crow flies. Hours later, they’d arrived home happy, wet, and ready for dinner.

As more people moved in, and more laws about dogs were passed, we built a five foot fence around our two acres, a place to roam without collars or leashes. My dogs whined at the fence, wanting to explore their forests.

As additional laws are passed restricting both dogs and humans, I wonder; which species is wearing the tightest choker chain?

🥕🥕🥕

Subdue by Rebecca Glaessner

Drones overhead revealed the enemy territory via LiDAR readings.

The enemy’s shield-tech was far advanced, blips of movement only appearing sporadically on each soldier’s heads-up-display. They couldn’t get a complete picture.

But it was enough.

Orders remained. Subdue at all costs.

A military unit moved out in small groups, silently diverging through the forest toward the enemy.

The unit advanced on the clearing, emerging through the brush at once.

The scene that greeted them froze them still.

The enemy, frail creatures, frantic, broken, scurrying around the remains of a crashed star-ship, were vulnerable.

The unit commander demanded a fall-back.

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Parable by Matthew Wester

The wise man teaches that if you place a leash on a baby elephant and tie that leash to a post, that elephant will think himself inescapably anchored even after he grows up and gains the strength to break the tether. Ultimately it is not the leash that keeps the elephant bound. Your takeaway from that story indicates what kind of student you are. Do you like your leash? Fellow traveler, along the path do you pound posts or drop keys? You may not know who uses the key but you give that person the power to free themselves.

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Samurai Sensei by JulesPaige

So you think you can leash the power of an ocean?
Truly do not meditate with your back to the waves.
While seeking enlightenment you might end up face forward in the sands of time.

While you seek to unleash yourself from the worlds heavy burdens
do so in a safe place, a quiet place one were the birds will not
attack and untie the ribbon binding your top knot.

Be open to opinions.
Do not be leashed to one particular political dogma.
Be a comfort rather than a hindering burden.

seizing time
be careful whilst you
be carefree

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking the Leash by Bill Engleson

“Another one?”
“Came in last night.”
“WHAT’S going on? Must be the fourth one this week…”
“Sixth.”
“Mother of…what are the presenting symptoms…”
“He’s…guess you could call it…singing them. Have a listen…”

“Please Releash me, I won’t go….”
“Not quite as written. Humperdinck, right? Engelberry?”
“Englebert…old song, goes back to the 1940’s…”
“Hmmm…what else?”
“Pretty obscure…he’s slightly reworked the lyrics to a Ginger Rogers film…he sang “I got a new leash on life, now, lead me by the nose…”
“Poor devils. Why’re they punishing themselves so?”
“It’s these damnable flash stories. Everything’s crammed in. Nuts.”
“At the very leash!”

🥕🥕🥕

When Pigs Slide by D. Avery

“Tellin’ ya Pal, I’m glad ta’ve got a hog ‘stead of a dog. Curly’s been easy ta train. Look’t her perched up here on my hoss with me. Got her on her leash jist in case, leash’s tied ‘roun my waist.”
“Thing ‘bout Carrot Ranch, Kid, there ain’t never been no lashes nor leashes. Jist free range cre-a-tiv-i-ty. Yep, unleashed characters an’ unfettered writers. Only constraint’s the word count, 99, no more no less.”
“Aaaagghh!!!!”
“Dang, Kid, ya shoulda give Curly a longer leash. Pig’s danglin’ like a ham an’ yer lookin’ like the num’ral eight.”
“Unleash the hog!”

🥕🥕🥕

Tiny Flying Insects

We got the buzz on tiny flying insects.

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.

An Unnatural Glade by Chel Owens

Var paused. This opening felt different.

The echo of his soot-crusted boots ceased. His kerchiefed breathing slowed. As charred branches, brittle pine boughs, and scorched roots recovered from his recent passing; he realized he was not alone.

Furthermore, Var could not be the only living thing in this unliving world.

There! Ash-strewn sunlight touched a new, green bud. And, there! A lonely peppered moth took flight. Oh, there! Buzzing annoyance nipped a sunburned ear.

But, there! -Most of all, there! In this unnatural glade amidst a smoldering hell of war’s aftermath, he heard an ancient sound: sweet, whistling birdsong.

🥕🥕🥕

Little Things by Rebecca Glaessner

Almost unshielded, Earth is hotter now than my last visit.

Yet, its natural chaos is still wondrous.

These humans don’t plan well, their cities struggled with the changing, despite how gradual.

Chaos is hard to protect, to regulate. Impossible, they said.

But humans inspire me. Their fragility breeds courage, authenticity.

I had to return.

Despite humans, across all those years, nature survived.

Thrived.

I made sure I recorded memories of the little things – ants in the lawn, onslaughts of flies – and used those memories to design this form.

What a glorious Earthen day. The insects don’t even see me.

🥕🥕🥕

Defending Scotland by Geoff Le Pard

‘Have you thought about this year’s holiday, Logan?’
‘I’m staying here.’
‘Oh you can’t. We’ve been locked in and…’
‘We chased our tails around the States, if you remember….’
‘That wasn’t a holiday.’
‘You’re telling me…’
‘I meant it was business…’
‘Those goats weren’t a pleasure, that’s true.’
‘So a holiday…’
‘Abroad is out.’
‘We could do a staycation.’
‘Not England.’
‘Why?’
‘Too many English.’
‘What about Wales?’
‘Too wet…’
‘Scotland…’
‘We’ll never survive the attacks.’
‘They’re not unfriendly…’
‘We’re not talking of the people. Remember?’
‘Ah…’
‘Exactly. Midges. Genetically designed to eat the English. William Wallaces with wings…’

🥕🥕🥕

Warfare by Reena Saxena

The Prize is being given for a discovery, not an invention. The scientist calls it an ‘act of God’ and not his creation.

A new breed of insects discovered feed on viruses (not the man-made computer ones). They are fed the deadliest ones and its mutants, and the tiny insects appear to thrive on those.

Windows are shut as those insects throng the sky.

“OMG!” Someone in the lab exclaims, “Have you tested the impact of these insects on humans? Or have you released a new monster in the world?”

The deed is done. It is biological warfare.

🥕🥕🥕

Hosts by Joanne Fisher

A team was sent to investigate the planet’s surface. They found an inordinate amount of tiny flying insects everywhere they went. After taking off their protective visors they were swarmed by them. They signaled for immediate retrieval.

“What’s with the red eyes?” the commanding officer asked when the team returned onboard. They didn’t say a word, but opened up their sample boxes and suddenly the entire ship was engulfed with tiny insects.

Once the spaceship was under the insects control, via their human hosts, the insects now planned to explore the rest of the galaxy, and take it over.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Purple People Eaters by Doug Jacquier

Apart from their milk-white skins and their shoes, you could always tell the new kids in the tropics. They had gentian violet daubs on their arms and legs because they’d scratched their midge bites. Thus newbies were referred to as purple midgets. Midges bite more on a full moon, adding rampant lunacy to the constant irritation, which led to the legend that victims briefly turned into werewolves with wings, spawning that hit tune of the 50’s, The Flying Purple People-Eater. Eventually, immunity would set in and you became a local, primed to mock the next influx of purple midgets.

🥕🥕🥕

BBQ the Fly by Norah Colvin

Named for their favourite thing, BBQ’s parents farewelled their son on his first independent foray.
“You can! Avoid the can!” they called. BBQ had trained relentlessly, perfecting every manoeuvre — walking on ceilings, buzzing people and, especially, dodging the dreaded spray.
BBQ’s antennae zeroed in on a backyard barbecue where he chose a juicy sausage for his ritual dance. He had just extended his proboscis when a swarm muscled in. Through the crowd, one of his compound eyes caught the glint of something metallic —a can!
He retracted his proboscis and escaped just as the spray downed the unfortunate swarm.

🥕🥕🥕

Probe by Laura Finn

I’m just a tiny thing – that sends giants running. My weapon isn’t meant to kill, or cause mass destruction. I just hunger, for flesh – the pulsating flow of blood. I can’t resist. Your heat draws me to you, and I probe, deep into your meat. I feed.

You, giant, don’t like that though.

I imagine the sow, who covers herself in mud to abate my advances, doesn’t either, but I do not woo her as you do. You, hungry for her flesh, stick your probe into her, taking from her body, for yours. We, too, are alike.

🥕🥕🥕

Tiny Biting Insects by J.B. Scarce

“GO AWAY!” yelled the Bi-Leg as he swatted at a Dragonfly.
“You are Dolittle’s descendant. You understand us. We- we need you!” The young fly cried.
“What can I do?” the man asked sadly. “I’m just some old man who’s losing his hair and his mind. What good am I?”
“You love all of God’s animals, including spiders. Even I’m not fond of them, and they’re my cousins. But you care.”
The Bi-Leg looked at the Dragonfly. Then a smile crept onto his face.
“All right, you talked me into it.” the Bi-Leg agreed, and beamed at the Dragonfly.

🥕🥕🥕

A Summer Afternoon by Michael Fishman

Tad sat with his father on the edge of an old oak stump. They sat, father and son, watching the water.

Tad didn’t have the heart to tell his father he’d rather be in the water than sitting and watching the water.

“Don’t fret, son. It takes practice; you’ve got it in you.”

“Yeah, I know, but—”

“Hold it, Tad, look,” his dad said as he poked his son in the side.

“Where?”

“There, to your left. Now watch.”

Dad threw his tongue out, grabbed the unsuspecting mosquito and pulled it back into his mouth.

“Wow dad, cool!”

“Ribbit.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bugged by Bill Engleson

“Hey, you…”
“Huh?”
“Wake up…”
“Leave me alone. I’m sleeping.”
“Really!”
“Yeah, really. What’s it to ya?”
“I’m a little concerned about you.”
“What’s to be concerned about? I’m fine.”
“Fine for now. Depends how long NOW is.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Well, life expectancy, for one.”
“What’s that?”
“It means…how long you’ve got…to live.”
“You mean, at some point, I’ll die?”
“Yeah. Like, if you were a male mosquito, you might have five or six days. The ladies live much longer. Unless they get swatted.”
“Whew…thank goodness I am no mosquito.”
“Really, you’re sure about that?”
“You mean…?”
“Yup!”

🥕🥕🥕

Small Song Reigning by JulesPaige

Mist clears before mine eyes
Overnight precipitation, – in morn, sunrise
Clears the deluge of a haunting nightmare
Those torrential images caused me to, stare

Thankfully no monsoon, just a cooling
No freezing sleet, to kill young roots spooling
Nor hail to rip the garden’s gentle heart beating
Cloudburst came, though not so fleeting

Flooded with relief, yet there’s disappointment
Showers brought an onslaught of lament
Drizzling in swarms; biters – midge and mosquito
Pour I must salves upon myself from head to toe

Even with that sprinkle of bugs, I love rain
And will stream words welcoming refrain

🥕🥕🥕

Surprise Discovery by Duane L Herrmann

I began waking down the hill to my truck. I hadn’t gotten very far when I began to hear it. At first I was puzzled: what was that odd buzzing sound? It was a different kind of buzzing than I was familiar with. As I descended, the sound became louder and louder, yet not real loud. I reached the clearing above the creek and saw a mist that was not a mist. Then, I understood. There was no wind down here, the creek and pools of water were here – and so were mosquitoes. Millions of them!

🥕🥕🥕

Travel Plans by Ruchira Khanna

In November, my family and I decided to trek the redwoods. 

The fog, chirp of birds, and redwoods combined to create a calm, moist environment, like the cloud forests. 

 Just then, a buzzing noise caught our attention, and it started getting louder with each second. 

“What’s that noise?” asked my son.    

We looked yonder and saw a grey cloud coming our way.

“Duck” was my instant command.

We gave way to them. The swarm of insects passed by us within seconds as if they were on a mission. 

They didn’t bother us since we didn’t disturb their travel plans. 

🥕🥕🥕

Time’s a Changin’ by Cara Stefano

Frank had been a cross country trucker for some time. Burn-out was coming on strong, though; keeping his eyes open for a pertinent sign kept his wheels turning. Sometimes during lonely overnighters on the empty highways he felt a kinship with the tiny insects that rocketed towards his windshield on their kamikaze trajectories -they didn’t know the end was near until it hit them in the face. And he hated when anything with a stinger tried hitching into the cab with him. But what’s this: a dragon fly? Bingo! Time for a change!

🥕🥕🥕

Mother Knows Best Even When Dead by Ellen Best

A knocking of the front door made Mavis stop. “Mavis, coooeee, it’s me, alright if I come in?” Mavis poked her red face from under the stairs. “Stop catterwalling Jo, and close that door.”
“I knew I’d find it Mothers book, look Jo just what we need, one part white vinegar, a squirt of dish soap and warm water. Perfect, all I do is mix and spray liberally and Bobs yer uncle. “That upstart at the nurseries can keep his bug spray at £4 a can. Mother had a trick for everything.” My roses will be safe in Mothers hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Murder In Picnic Wood by Hugh W. Roberts

Sometimes, even the tiniest of things can turn a person to commit murder.

***
Swatting away the tiny flying insects from around her, Mary turned to her husband and demanded they headed home.

“It’s too hot, too humid, and these insects are bugging me.”

Laughing at what he thought was a joke, Micheal picked up a can of insect repellant while the persistent nagging carried on.

“Use it! Use it!” demanded Mary.

Two hours later, Michael opened a can of cold beer in the garden of his now nag-free life. I must buy more insect repellant, he told himself.

Twenty-three miles away, the tiny flying insects feasted on what remained in Picnic Wood.

🥕🥕🥕

River Camp by Saifun Hassam

At sunset, the River Camp was surrounded by tropical darkness.

A rogue spy buzzed intel to the Camp: Invasion at nightfall.

Lamps lit up the Camp, traps for the invaders.

No invader should get into the Camp unscathed.

Rubber tire traps were checked and rechecked for leaks. No invader must escape.

Citronella sprayers were checked for blocked nozzles.

Nightjars and bats flew overhead.

News spread fast of an approaching swarm.

First Aid Station was on high alert.

Swarm after swarm of mosquitoes darkened the skies.

Morning dawned.

Shimmering dragonflies swept into the Camp.

🥕🥕🥕

Beasties by C. E. Ayr

My daughter’s scream has me scrambling out of bed.
She is sitting up, hands covering her face, still shrieking.
I flick on her bedside lamp and shudder.
There are wee flying beasties everywhere, swarming around and crawling over her.
It’s okay, baby, I gather her in my arms, swatting the horrid beetle-like thingys away.
Then I panic.
There are more on her feet and legs.
I slap at them, brush them from my own face.
Then I see wings emerge from her nose.
I roar in anger and fear until I no longer can.
Because my mouth is full.

🥕🥕🥕

A Day For Remembering by Sue Spitulnik

The annual Memorial Day pig roast at the No Thanks was an event Michael looked forward to and dreaded. It was no live band day, so he couldn’t hide behind his instrument, singing words not his own. Often, family members remained outside, and the veterans retreated to the purposely darkened indoors to reminisce about those they had fought with and lost.
Thankfully he knew the secret to defuse a too-heavy conversation; swat his arm and say, “Damn mosquitoes.” The discussion would quickly become animated about the size of flying insects in specific war zones before returning to painful memories.

🥕🥕🥕

MacArthur Wasted Men Like Flies by Charli Mills

Mud and biting flies greeted Sgt. McDermott on the Pacific Island of “lady.” Leyte sprawled, a slattern who rolled soldiers in the mud. Swatting possessed insects proved futile. At night, it rained. Supplies failed to reach American soldiers. McDermott’s unit fought jungle diseases and gunfire unsupported. They lived on coconut and sugarcane, sweetening sweat and blood for the insects. Ormac Valley loomed for the taking. “You’ll get a medal, Sarge,” his men said for his efforts to conquer the last outpost. Before the official battle, McDermott dropped from a sniper’s bullet. His men dropped like flies the next day.

🥕🥕🥕

Horror of Flies by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I’ve tried to picture in my mind what 480,000 bodies would look like, but all I can visualize are hundreds of fat, black corpse flies feasting on them and, even worse, laying their eggs on them. I see the clusters of flies in the corners of their eyes and in their mouths, noses and ears, and the speckles of fly dust that mark their clothes. The buzzing of the flies fills my mind and I think of those poor dead men turning into a mass of maggots. My gorge rises and it’s all I can do not to vomit.

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part I) by D. Avery

“The Lemmon Brothers! Hey there Tim, Tom. Tim, yer wearin’ pants?”
“I’m Tom Pal.”
“Oops, sorry. Tom, where’s yer dress?”
“Wearin’ pants ta thwart them dang black flies was comin’ up unner my dress.”
“Oh. Tim why’re ya wearin’ a dress then?”
“Waited too long. Got so many welts unner this here dress cain’t git ma pants on. Where’s Kid at Pal?”
“Kid’s off wallowin’ with Curly the pig, tryin’ ta git away from these black flies. Kid’s bit up all over, an’ I mean all over, after last week’s nekked gard’nin’. An’ now this.”
“Yep, this prompt bites.”

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part II) by D. Avery

“I figgered we could use our powers a fiction ta keep mis’rable critters sech as black flies an’ skeeters away from the Ranch. Now Shorty wants us ta use ‘em ta power our fiction. Hmmf.”
“Speakin’ a miserable critters, ain’t that—”
“Slim Chance! What’re ya doin’ here?”
“Heard y’all’s bein’ bugged at Carrot Ranch.”
“Only thing buggin’ me is you, Slim. You must have black flies too, I kin see the dark cloud over yer spread from here.”
“Got ‘em Pal, an’ I got a concoction ta keep ‘em off ya. I’m willin’ ta share. Fer a price.”

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part III) by D. Avery

“Why should I buy yer concoction, Slim Chance?”
“What a question! Black flies is eatin’ ya alive! Makin’ yer skin raw and itchy, all lumps an’ bumps an’ scabs an’ sores. This stuff keeps ‘em off ya.”
“I don’t gen’rally cotton ta concoctions. Anyways, ya sure it works? Yer lookin’ mighty puffy likes as if ya got all bug bit Slim.”
“It works real good. Jist kinda makes yer skin itchy an’ sore is all. Mebbe break out inta lumps an’ bumps an’ sores. Small price ta pay ta keep the bugs off a ya Pal.”
“Bug off, Slim.”

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part IV) by D. Avery

“Ah jeez. Was hopin’ this yarn, like black fly season, would end soon. But here comes Kid an’ Curly right on the heels a Pepe LeGume.
Kid, I sure hope thet’s mud yer wearin’ like a snuggy. An’ why are ya followin’ Legume aroun’ like thet?”
“Hey Pal. Yep, been earthin’ in the mud, makes ma bug bites feel better. Then Pepe happened by an’ I noticed he’s the only one aroun’ here ain’t bothered by them flyin’ insects been set upon us. So I been clingin’ ta Pepe like stink on sh—”
“Shush Kid. An’ move over.”

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening

Gardening in the buff has led to unexpected 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 Other Edward Carpenter by Anne Goodwin

In another life, he’d freed his feet from the tyranny of shoe leather. Liberated his limbs from linen’s law. He’d felt a lightning flash of revelation, commanding him to shed convention’s carapace with his clothes.

In that life, Edward was a naturist, a socialist, a feminist, an environmentalist and vegetarian. Rambler, recycler, smallholder, author, philosopher and openly gay man. Alas, his current life shrinks him to a single label, distorts his passions with its disapproving prism. His psychiatrist, arriving unannounced to find him gardening naked, observes a symptom of his schizophrenia diagnosis and feels compelled to up his meds.

🥕🥕🥕

Pages by Reena Saxena

I’m so sure she has written about me in her book – all those secrets I wouldn’t want the world to know. I’ll find a way to sue her. My lawyer has been sounded off…

I retreat to the farm house to read it – almost afraid the secrets will spill out of pages in the public eye.

I look hard for myself in the pages, with a magnifying glass. All I find is bits and parts of her I’d never seen before.

I wonder how a shy person like her can expose her soul. I’d never seen it, and now.

🥕🥕🥕

Pieces by Rebecca Glaessner

Motes danced in the morning’s first sweltering rays. Hektor savoured two plain, poached eggs, resolving to take some home one day.

His mind’s eye showed his home’s rituals, worlds away, mrul-filled bowls steaming. He smelled its comforting decadence.

Soon.

Outside, planting seedlings, Hektor trained his mind toward his Earthen students, out too, exploring, growing.

He smiled. Like sprouts, humans also need their sunlight.

Then, his mind darkened.

Something distant, unseen, entered the atmosphere.

His pot crashed on pavement.

Blind, disconnected.

Utterly naked.

Stranded among a world of human sprouts, Hektor gathered the broken pot and got to work.

🥕🥕🥕

Without a Hat by Norah Colvin

The farmer was out standing in the field when, one day, a wind whipped up and snatched his hat, tossing it into the air. It swooped over the garden beds as if playfully daring, ‘Come catch me.’ But the farmer couldn’t catch the hat which had been a fixture on his head for countless years. Everyone said he looked naked without it, but no other hat would do. Without it, he wilted in sun’s heat and sagged in rain. As the parading seasons took their toll, he disintegrated and decomposed, continuing to nourish the garden in a new way.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It was Mabel’s favorite roadside stand, with unbeatable seasonal produce. Lettuce, firm and delicate, and tomatoes glowing with morning dew and midday sun were so flavorful, a scanty splash of vinegar and virgin olive oil defined perfection. The berries were bright with cool moonlight and damp lake winds dancing over pine and shrub.

Then Elsie, the source garden’s matriarch, had died of COVID from an unmasked customer. Some said the heirs started using chemicals to boost yield.

Mabel checked the rumors with her extra-sensitive skin. Under a moonless sky, she stripped down and lay amongst the lettuces.

And smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Sherlock by C E Ayr

I am tending my marrows, feeling more confident than ever of capturing the Vegetable of the Year Trophy at the Helton-on-Clyde Garden Festival.
My wife always laughed at me when I said I’d do anything to win.
But this new fertiliser, a secret to all except myself, has made such a difference.
A quiet cough makes me turn my head.
Sherlock Holmes, accompanied by Dr Watson, is studying me.
The Great Detective’s first question strips me naked, and tells me that I’m heading for the gallows.
Do you think that your produce is quite suitable for vegetarians, he asks.

🥕🥕🥕

Defended the Defenseless by JulesPaige

Lone
Fallen
Lettuce seed
Nestled in the
Driveways’ edge, last year, caught a break and grew

Naked little leaves unfolded in spring
After a rain,
Glistened, called
“See me!”
There

Cute!
Of course
Saving this
Plant became a
Priority – in the garden it went

Just today with the grandchildren helping
We added some
New lettuce
Little
Seeds

Looking at my raised garden, folks might actually think I knew what I was doing. I’m winging it. I’ve got some Bok Choy, rainbow and yellow peppers, some herbs, and of course the lettuce. Watching these plants grow makes my heart sing.

🥕🥕🥕

A Brush with Passion by Doug Jacquier

She was so provocative that she put new meaning into garden hoe. Draped across the trellis, she flaunted her nascent fecundity, exposing her femininity to his blushing gaze. Her rampant, unfettered, unproductive growth bore witness to his failure to fulfil his most earnest desire, which was to sup on the nectar of the gods.
He knew what he must do but his hand trembled at the very thought of such intimacy. Nonetheless. he steeled himself to the task and dipped his paintbrush into her stamen and coated her beckoning pistil and imagined the future ecstasy of his passion fruit.

🥕🥕🥕

New Neighbor by Anita Dawes

I admit I don’t like gardening, but
I like walking through other people’s gardens,
Admiring all their hard work.
I believe gardeners are a breed apart
Like the sudden sight of a rainbow,
Their joy is palpable.
Today, I am sitting on my porch
Overlooking my neighbours garden
He is new to the neighbourhood
In his mid-twenties, built like a Greek God.
The day was hot, I sat there praying
For a coco-cola advert to appear before my eyes.
He stripped down to his shorts
I reached out for a glass of cold water
Which made my eyes steam…

🥕🥕🥕

Morning View by Joanne Fisher

In the morning Cindy quickly got out of bed and went outside to check her new herb garden. Yesterday she had planted some basil, mint, sage, and parsley by the homestead, and that was only the beginning of her plans for it.

“Whatcha doing my love?” Jess asked as she came outside onto the porch drinking some coffee. Cindy looked up at her.

“I’m just checking to see how the herbs I planted yesterday are doing.” Cindy told her.

“It’s not that I don’t admire the view, but don’t you think you should have put some clothes on first?”

🥕🥕🥕

Barely Cultivated by Bill Engleson

“He really knows his stuff, Harry. Has a feel for soil, for showing newbies the ropes.”

“But, Walt, he’s also been showing his STUFF. Some of the guys don’t mind, not that they’d say anything, but we’ve got some fairly prim and proper…ladies…can I say ladies?”

“Of course, you can say ladies. I don’t mind.”

“Fine! Ladies. Women. And even some of the guys. People bring their kids. Their Grandkids. It’s not right.”

“Okay, it’s just, you know, Sunshine in The Buff Acres, the local Nudist Club…it got sold. After forty-five years. Our Community Garden was his only option.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gardening Naked by Susan Joy Clark

Kendra handed her neighbor, Irene, a pair of gardening shears, handles first, over the garden fence, then screamed.

“What are you screaming about?”

“You … you’re naked! I can not unsee that.” Kendra covered her eyes.

“It’s World Naked Gardening Day, and I’m in my own private yard. It’s liberating. You should try it.”

There’s a day on the calendar for everything! “Uh … no, no thanks. I’m good over here. Carry on.”

Before long, Kendra hears a kerfuffle, then a scream.

“Why are you screaming?”

“Bees! Bees! The whole hive is after me!”

🥕🥕🥕

Slip Up by Charli Mills

An early summer scorcher in the Great Basin robbed the buckaroos of their appetite. Bev wasn’t about to see her gang shrivel in the sun unfed. She sliced cold cuts and tomatoes and packed almonds and dried apricots for the trail. Wilfred, the ranch foreman raised a wooly eyebrow but kept silent. He advised everyone to tank up on water and required they carried canteens. After Bev cleaned the cookshack she headed for the garden, feeling sluggish. Later she’d claim she slipped in a pile of fresh horse apples when the crew returned early to find her gardening naked.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening by FloridaBorne

Such a silly concept; naked gardening. Not a fan of squatting that close to soil without something between my derriere and the dirt.

Yes, I know vegetables aren’t grown in grocery stores, and meat doesn’t show up in the butcher shop already sliced, wrapped and priced. Someone has to tend the farms. But(t)… naked?

What’s next… people attending church naked? I don’t want to sit on any public seating where someone else’s squishy bodily fluids await.

With good fortune, nudity, corsets, and stiletto’s will be thrown on the garbage dump of ridiculous fashion ideas — while comfortable clothing prevails.

🥕🥕🥕

Lunch and Munch Garden Club by Saifun Hassam

Hi fellow gardeners!

Time for our weekly weedin’ and diggin’ and pickin’!

And for planting tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

We’ll be meeting in the Veggie Patch as per our normal Saturday time, from 10 am to 2 pm.

Lunch will consist of salami and cheese sandwiches, veggie pizza.

Our very fresh garden salad.

Also Stella’s special “Barely Barley Soup.”

Choice of cherry torte, chocolate cake, coffee, tea, orange juice & bottled water.

Bring spades and veggie peelers.

For our very fresh salad, we’ll be digging up carrots and radishes,
picking zucchini and peapods.

Lettuce looks ready.

No dressing required.

🥕🥕🥕

Selective Forgetfulness by Sue Spitulnik

When Tessa and her mother arrived at Lexi’s country home, they found her and Emma outside, sitting in the baby’s wading pool, sans clothing.
Lexi said, “Hi. I got some garden planted, but then Emma woke up. When I brought her out here, she kept crawling toward the pool. I was sweaty, so we both got in.”
Tessa smiled. “I can see that.”
Jenny was shocked. “I heard them talking about Gardening Naked Day on the radio this morning, but I didn’t think anyone would do it.”
Tessa responded. “Mom, should I bring up Woodstock stories.”
“That was different!”

🥕🥕🥕

Hank’s Tomatoes by Michael Fishman

Every year folks waited for some of Hank’s Brandywines. Don’t know how he does it, some said. Best tomato ever, said others.

When August rolled around and no one had seen Hank or his tomatoes folks worried. It’s the virus, some said. He’ll be around soon, said others.

Then Mrs. Murphy looked out her window one moon-filled evening and saw Hank weeding her flowerbed in the nude and that was that.

After Hank’s mind twisted the town fell quiet. Everyone offered sad, tight-lipped smiles.

Life happens, they all said while saying a prayer for Hank.

And one for themselves.

🥕🥕🥕

Drinking While Pruning by Pete Fanning

You hear about Lewis?

No. What now?

Awful.

Yeah?

He was trying to prune back the cherry tree. The one by his house?

Doesn’t seem odd.

Gladys said he’d been drinking. He was hot, so he stripped down.

Like, naked?

Naked as he came.

Wow.

He’s going on about the limbs, said they were messing with his satellite reception.

I don’t think it was the tree.

He’s got the shears, but then, no ladder. So he drags out the neighbor’s trampoline—

Wait, what?

–and he’s jumping, trying to, you know…

Don’t tell me.

Pruned his own cherries.

Ouch.

🥕🥕🥕

Garden Club Party by Kerry E.B. Black

Fiona covered her eyes. “What are you doing?”

Her brother, Ian, lifted weights. “Getting ready for the party.”

“What party?”

“You know the hot chick across the street?”

Fiona crossed her arms. “The woman who just moved in?”

“Yeah, her. She’s started a garden club.”

“You don’t garden.”

Ian leapt to the chin-up bar. “Thought…” pulled himself up, “I’d try…” chin-up, “Something new.”

“But where’re your clothes?”

“Read the invitation. Printed right there, ‘Come to the Buff Garden Club Party.’ Now, I’ve got to shower.”

Fiona wondered when he’d notice the name on the mailbox. It read, “The Buffs.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bare by Matt Wester

We are not your typical gardening group. When the last applicant joked that he was layered like an onion, we told him to get out. We don’t do layers here. We know you have nothing unless you get to the heart of the artichoke. Hear me? Raw vegetables only. We only want you if you know that everything but the root is decoration. We bare it all to bear it all and that’s why we call it naked gardening. So if you’re not willing to get dirty and tell the truth then get gloved and find some other group.

🥕🥕🥕

Under the Full Moon by Colleen M. Chesebro

The moon’s glow washed over my garden, lighting up the angelica, feverfew, and mugwort shimmering with healing energy. I gathered my tools and prepared for my early summer gardening ritual. I stripped naked and danced under the full moon.

My garden produced an amazing number of herbs from this tradition. I sold these herbs for sacred baths, teas, and tinctures, and even sewed them into spell bags.

Naked gardening imbued my herbs with strong magick. For years, I’d kept this secret under wraps—literally! Until today when a camera flash exploded in front of me! My secret was out!

🥕🥕🥕

Exposed by D. Avery

“I’m too fat!”

She didn’t think so, though it was hard to tell through Amanda’s bulky clothes.

“Amanda, it’s your choice, but remember, part of World Naked Gardening Day for us has always been about being comfortable with our own bodies, of celebrating the naturalness of them.”

Maybe Amanda also craved the normalcy that the unusual family tradition offered because she eventually did join them.

How had she not noticed?

Keeping a brave face through the planting, trying not to stare at the sharp collarbone and raised ribs, she determined to call their physician regarding anorexia that very day.

🥕🥕🥕

Naked and Afraid by Donna

once, long, long ago
a man and a woman
ate fruit from the tree of knowledge
and what was this knowing they ate?
nakedness, vulnerability
sharp thorns cutting their feet
sun burning their eyes
shame at their sexual differences

soon, they left this garden
into the world, they went
naked and afraid

and a battle ensued
they covered themselves
animal skin over human skin
eyes averting the nakedness
words deflecting kinship
the man and woman
barriers between them

until, at last
some began to see
with new eyes, new understanding
it is only by our exposure
we can connect

🥕🥕🥕

Kid and Pal Hangin’ Out by D. Avery

“Aaahhhggg! Ain’t never wanted ta see this side a ya Kid.”
“Hey Pal.”
“Not thet side neither! Kid, why’re ya gardenin’ in yer birthday suit?”
“Almanac says plant by a full moon. Mmm, feel that loam ‘twixt yer bare toes.”
“I’ll jist take ma boots off.”
“Sunbeams sure feel good on yer belly.”
“Mebbe ma shirt.”
“Ahh, breeze in my hair.”
“Yer hair? Yer wearin’ yer hat. Oh. I see. Jeez Kid. Feels good though?”
“Yep.”
“Mebbe this is whut them writers mean ‘bout pantsin’. Ok, they’re off. Mmmm. I feel powerfully vulnerable.”
“Own it, Pal. Cultivate yer power.”

🥕🥕🥕

Party Hens

Grab a party hat and flap your feathers!

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.

Hen Do by Heather Gonzalez

Roberta already had one too many by this point, but that’s what happens at a bachelorette party. All of her friends were dressed in silly outfits and throwing back shots in the bar.

“You know, in England, they call a bachelorette party a Hen Do.”, the young bartender commented, filling up their drinks to the brim.

“Cock-a-doodle-do, ladies!” Roberta yelled and downed the new shot of vodka.

All of the drunk women cheered and followed along with the bride to be.

“Roosters are the ones that crow by the way.”, the bartender mumbled, filling up their shot glasses again.

🥕🥕🥕

The D-Day by Ruchira Khanna

“So, Monica, when is the D-day?”

“Soon,” she said with a chirp.

I asked anxiously, “Is it that soon that we don’t have time to throw you a bachelorette party?”

“Nah! we always have time for a girl’s party,” she said with a high five.

****

Within that week, I arranged a flower theme party and invited all her girlfriends.

That particular evening flowers of all shapes and sizes filled the room.

We all were clucking around like hens and trodding in floral dresses.

The to-be bride had a beautiful floral crown, and the bees were having a feast.

🥕🥕🥕

Party Chicks by kathy70

We used to be called the “Party Chicks” if there was any event we showed up. Saturday evening for no reason whatsoever we showed up at cousin John’s and would find a party.

I remember parties with no planning other than someone was bored and called a few friends. Aunt Jenny always made a big pot of chili or sloppy Joe’s and always a cake.

We have become the Party Hens now and they are usually on a Wednesday mornings and we play Scrabble. No more dancing to the latest tunes.

We still eat and laugh together all day.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cock of the Walk by Ellen Best

He swaggered a bit as he walked, it could be a horse; or his boat he is missing, I am not sure which. Despite the frost on his brows and steaming nostrils, he was coatless. A crisp white shirt shone it gave him an ethereal air against the dark night. Several giggly girlies sighed and batted lashes his way, but his soft blue eyes held mine fast. Not being so easily impressed by the swagger I went into the hall alone. The cock of the walk he maybe, but he wore his ego too brightly for this party chick.

🥕🥕🥕

Good Cluck by Michael Fishman

“What a beautiful cock!”
“Just yummy!”
“I know, right?”
“And such a dancer! I don’t know about you Jane, but when he lowered that right wing, I almost—”
“Girls, please!” Helen clucked.
“Oh, come on, Helen. Don’t tell me that you didn’t feel your comb quiver when he lowered that right wing.”
“Sophie, please” Helen whispered and glanced quickly to her left. “My chicks.”
“It’s been 16 weeks, dear. You need to start letting them go.”
“Cluuuucckkk,” Helen muttered.
“Relax dear. Here, have a little drinkee.”
“Oh, I don’t know, what if—”
“Helen!”
“Oh, alright, but just the one.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Party Hen Dance by Bill Engleson

As for which came first,
the chicken or the egg
what would be worse:
a game of mumblety-peg?

Not a chicken’s game,
I’d down a whole keg
but my belly would burst:
I’m not pulling your leg.

We might want to know
Why the chicken crossed the road.
Perhaps traffic was slow
And we were in writer mode?

But we’re drifting away
from our debateable dregs,
that query of the day,
what came first, chickens or eggs?

You know, I really have to think
it’s not a matter of when,
that the missing link
Is the Masterful party hen.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying the Coop by D. Avery

“Where you going now?” he squawked. “Let me guess, another one of your ridiculous groups. Book talk? Stitch’n’bitch?”

She scratched in her purse for her keys. “If you must know, a life changing decision’s been made. A bunch of us are gathering to celebrate.”

“Hmmf. Well fine, go to your hen party, I’m sure I’ll find something to eat. Don’t worry about me.”

“I won’t,” she clucked, and shut the door behind her.

“Don’t be out with those biddies too late!” he crowed after her.

“The cocky good-for-nothing,” she cackled. “Can’t imagine it’s me we’re celebrating. That he’s cock-a-doodle-done!”

🥕🥕🥕

How Not to Ride a Horse By Sidney Lauro

I’ve never ridden a horse. Properly, at least. When I was an adolescent, my parents took me to the dusty hills of Bryce Canyon, in Utah.

When I arrived, I received the fittingly named Dusty. At first, my ride started off well. But by the end, my butt was cramping, my pits were sweating, and my mouth was dry and parched. While in motion, I shifted my butt around to get comfortable. Coincidentally, the horse decided it would be the perfect time to speed up. In the process, I fell down. Hard. The instructors laughed. I was not amused.

🥕🥕🥕

Quackless Ducks and Party Chickens by Kerry E.B. Black

“Your daughter was belligerent in class today. Refused to answer animal sounds.”

“But she knows animal sounds.”

Teacher crossed her arms. “What’s a duck say?”

My girl opened her mouth, huffed, and wiggled her bottom.

“See?”

I laughed. “We have quackless Muscovy Ducks.” I tousel my miscreant’s hair. “That’s how they communicate.”

My girl nodded.

“What sound does a mallard make?”

She quacked.

Teacher laughed.

I asked, “What’s tomorrow’s lesson?”

“More animal sounds.”

I eyed my trouble-maker. “Answer Teacher the way she wants. No chortling piglets or partying chickens.”

From my girl’s expression, I suspect another chat with Teacher.

🥕🥕🥕

Hens in Business by Reena Saxena

The Feminist Hen is asked to lay off.

“Rebels here lose their life and wings in an hour’s time. Don’t push them to the chopping board.”

It is time for the Deadly Rooster to declare dawn, but the sun is nowhere to be found. He limps out in the dark to meet a stony silence.

The hens are partying somewhere else. There’s a market for unfertilised eggs, believed to be vegetarian, and they are in business.

It takes a single ray to unveil the inner light, till the Sun follows you.

Back in the farm, darkness rules. No business…

🥕🥕🥕

The Hens’ Party by Norah Colvin

The hens cackled with anticipation of their leader’s address, then quietened as the activist took the stage.
“Ladies and ladies,” she began. “We don’t have to take this anymore — all day cooped up, laying on demand, while His Lordship struts about crowing, taking credit for the sun shining. Now it’s our time to shine!”
The assembly fluffed their feathers and stamped their feet. “We won’t take it anymore!”
“Ladies, what do we want?”
“Hen’s rights!”
“When do we want them?”
“Now!”
“First, we slip him a sleeping pill, then tomorrow — we make the sun come up!”
“Hens rule forever!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Gentleman’s Gentlehens by E.A. Colquitt

When asked how he wants to celebrate his special day, the young eccentric says he doesn’t know. Usually, he employs others to organise his life. Apparently.

The office laughs. He’s too young for that luxury! Besides, he owns no mansion, barely enough money to rent his narrow boat. He keeps three chickens there. He never eats them.

‘But how are you all fed?’ we ask, stopping him on the stairs.

He simply smiles. ‘You’d be surprised.’

That evening, he returns to find the table set. His chickens perch on it, covered in flour, around a decorated cake: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

🥕🥕🥕

Cock-eyed Rooster? By JulesPaige

The ladies met. I knew I should have left the house…but I was curious. My wife was always complaining about my rowdy friends and our off color language. So I stayed home not so much to eavesdrop on their conversations, but I wanted to get a comparable reference.

Any one interested in what would make a grown man blush… put him in earshot of ladies that think they are free to speak. Maybe there was some wine involved. Red, white, rose – no beer or hard liquor. Certainly whining was involved.

party hens
ruffle their
own feathers
few are mute

🥕🥕🥕

The Masked Terror by Geoff Le Pard

‘Logan, you look dreadful. What’s happened?’
‘I thought it was time I went out. I caught a train.’
‘Was it packed?’
‘Not really. About ten others.’
‘Oh. Did they get too close?’
‘Not really.’
‘Didn’t they have masks?’
‘That was part of the problem. The masks.’
‘Didn’t they cover their faces?’
‘No, they hide everything.’
‘How can ten mask-wearing people on an otherwise empty train cause such distress?’
‘Morgan, it was a hen party. They wore Megan Markle masks. They said they wanted to read me their new children’s story. I couldn’t get away.’
‘You’d better lie down.’

🥕🥕🥕

Feather Groom and Gossip by M J Mallon

“Annie, you of heard of Ida?”

“Of course!” replied Annie, clucking. “A hen with attitude! Pecking mischief and mayhem everywhere! Remember her hen party?…”

“It was a bloodbath. Her ex and new beau fought fierce, feathers flying.”

“Ouch!”

“Her disapproving beak pierced the clouds’n’air. She skipped off with the drunken hens for a good ole night of feather groom and gossip. After which she eloped with a former beauty Queen. No more eggs, or demanding Cockerels just lots a gal time now!”

🥕🥕🥕

Bye Bye Boris by C. E. Ayr

Mr Johnson, this is a summary of the Scottish Parliamentary Elections held in May 2021.
On the First-Past-The-Post system the SNP won 62 seats, the Tories 5, and the Red Tories 2.
On the List System the SNP received 1,094,374 votes, the Tories 637,131.
Previously, at the Brexit referendum, Scotland voted 62-38% to remain European.
I put it to you, Mr Johnson, that you have no mandate here.
Scotland has overwhelmingly rejected your party; henceforth we suggest you stay in Westminster.
It seems that lies, corruption, and disregard for human life are acceptable practices there.
But not here.
Goodbye.

🥕🥕🥕

Hen Night by Joanne Fisher

As Rowan was getting married, her friends organised a hen night which finished as a pub crawl through the town.

“It’s hard to believe.” Elizabeta told Rowan.

“I know! Who would have thought?” Rowan replied.

“Still, he’s from a good line. Can I get you a drink?”

“Actually I’m feeling really ravenous.” Elizabeta smiled.

“Follow me.” she said. They went outside and Elizabeta lured a passerby into the shadows. Then they both bit into him and gorged on his blood.

“Do you think we should leave some for the others?” Rowan asked.

“They can get their own!” Elizabeta declared.

🥕🥕🥕

Leaving the Harem by Anne Goodwin

His uncles called it the henhouse. He never questioned why. Nor did he question why it was here he’d find the plumpest pillows, the most sumptuous fabrics, the liveliest music, the sweetest cakes. There was always an aunt willing to dance with him, tell him stories, throw a ball. He never questioned why the women hid their faces when a husband entered or why they breathed a sigh when the visitor left. He never queried his right to play there, until he arrived, expecting a party, and the door was closed in his face. Banished, exiled, launched into manhood.

🥕🥕🥕

Hannah’s Hens (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

The six farm hens were nervous and worried as they rode in Hannah’s pickup truck. Farmer Joey was retiring. As he waved goodbye, they felt very sad.

The hens were alert as they left the farms behind, past shops and crowded streets, and turned into a large garden.

For a few moments, the six close friends huddled together.

Clarina clucked in absolute delight! The heady scents, the vibrant colors! A hen feeding station! Irresistible! She almost flew to the coops near the pines. Her friends followed, red, white, and barred plumages aglow in the bright sunlight. Celebrate! Party time!

🥕🥕🥕

A Family Gathering by Sue Spitulnik

The men sat in front of the TV at Michael’s parents watching a baseball game they weren’t interested in, but at least it was a sports event. They were having trouble staying awake.
The women were in the kitchen. Two were doing dishes. Someone was holding a sleeping cat, another was making a list of foods to bring to the next gathering, and they were all talking. Nonstop! There was rarely a quiet moment.
During a commercial, one man got the others’ attention. “What do they find to talk about? Sounds like a bunch of hens.” They all shrugged.

🥕🥕🥕

Learning by Rebecca Glaessner

Girl peers at alien, watches its smooth movements, long white hair shimmering in the sunset.

Hens in the coop cluck wild like their party’s gone wrong. Alien shows Girl how to lock the gate.

There’s a hen out though, and another.

“Chickens,” Girl points.

“Ch-ck,” Alien tries to form the word, it’s been learning.

“No, look,” Girl gestures.

Alien pauses, turns, but is too late. The hens found a hole, they’re all out now, rushing past the strange pair.

Girl and Alien scramble away, something akin to laughter tinkling between them.

“N-no, st-op,” Alien says.

They make chase, together.

🥕🥕🥕

Hit the Road Jack

Inspired by the song Percy Mayfield wrote and Ray Charles sang, among other notables as Becca Krueger.

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.

I Once Knew Jack by Bill Engleson

I still count on my fingers,
my pleasures and my pains.
and though each of them lingers,
the fine points of memory wanes.

In the dark of evening’s decline,
sun dimming its luminous light,
shadows offer a sombre shrine,
as all I am slips into the night.

And there, entranced by the dark,
as silent as shadows can be,
I reflect on my lifelines arc,
the way time has had with me.

Poems come quite easily to me,
though I am a bit of a hack.
Still, I offer this assigned poesy,
that expires with, “Hit the road, Jack”.

🥕🥕🥕

Hit the Road, Jack by Hajar/Douryeh

I’d love to say these words again, despite lockdown

Luckily enough, I could, thanks to my traveling job

Very soon, it’s this road, we’ll go traveling down

A town southward, bus & train have a stop

There’s family in town, we just need to knock

So much love & footsteps are here, soon memories

Many photos testify of this love, kept in stock

But the future is a forward force that frees

Cherish your past, but the future is your lifehack

So you can sincerely say: Hit the road, Jack 🚘❤

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t You Come Back No More by Nicole Horlings

It was mid-afternoon when Jaclyn loaded the final box, and closed the back of the van. She went through the house one last time, checking for anything forgotten, turning off lights, and closing doors.

She swung up into the cab of the moving van, which was noticeably higher off the ground than her car. She’d be used it by the time she was half-way across the province though. She texted her husband, typed her destination into Google Maps, and turned on the van. “Hit the road, Jack,” played on the radio.

She laughed, and sang, “Don’t you come back.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Bully by C. E. Ayr

Jack is an aggressive moron.
We’re standing on a motorway bridge, watching commuters hurtling homewards.
Remember I always took your lunch money, he mocks, and how I made you do my homework! Best days of our lives, eh?
I’m glad I found you, he continues, you’re going to do me a favour.
He was a bully, and he hasn’t changed.
But I have.
I point down at a lane marking far below us.
Look, I say.
Then I bend, grab him round the knees, and launch him over the barrier.
That’s where you’re going to hit the road, Jack!

🥕🥕🥕

Remember by Sydney Dell

I cackle as I storm through the house, upturning chairs and tables, squeezing the family into their tiny corner.
They hadn’t known.
My eyes terrify the children, but I feel no remorse.
They hadn’t known.
I remember the screams, the horrifying murder of my childhood innocence.
They hadn’t known.
All of them whirled on us in a flurry of blades. The blood covered the walls. I’m there, hiding behind a small bookcase. I remember.
I want to laugh as I say, “Hit the road, Jack.”
They hadn’t known.
They hadn’t known it was my family they’d slaughtered that night.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rocky Road Back to Humanity by Anne Goodwin

When they dragged him from the boot of the car, he swayed, staggered, crash-landed on the dirt track. But the shock of pain receded when they ripped off his gag and blindfold, and vroomed away. For some moments his mind remained shackled, fearing the freedom, the vast purple sky.
In the distance, streetlights beckoned. His hunger and thirst responded but his beard and sweaty shit stench held him back. After being caged like an animal, how could he join humankind?
Limping, stumbling, Jack hit the road. By dawn, he’d reach the village. How many moons till he recovered himself?

🥕🥕🥕

Leavin’ It Behind by Michael Fishman

At 18 I’d heard “Hit the road, Jack” more than I cared to remember. It was as funny as being asked about my beanstalk. Or if my last name was O’Lantern.

It’s interesting what we do to rid ourselves of sad thoughts.

Like thoughts of love.

Years later, with the liquid chords of Chuck Berry’s steel guitar echoing through my head I walked east on US212. My backpack comfortable on my denim covered shoulders; the morning sun pushing me west.

Left arm out, thumb up.

A deep feeling, yes, indeed.

Sometimes, friend, it’s good to leave it all behind.

🥕🥕🥕

The Movie by Joanne Fisher

“Let’s hit the road, Jack!” Screamed Amy excitedly.

“I prefer Jacqui you know.”

“Okay, but let’s go!”

“We’re going!” Jacqui replied. They went to the car. Jacqui’s mother, Sandra, appeared.

“Where are you girls going?” She asked.

“Off to see a movie.” Jacqui replied.

“What’s it called?”

“Star Wars. It’s science fiction. Our friends are saying to check it out.” Jacqui told her.

“And we’re running late! Let’s go!” Amy shouted.

“Sounds important.” Sandra said. Jacqui rolled her eyes.

“It’s not like it’s going to change our lives or anything.”

“Well have a good time!” Sandra called after them.

🥕🥕🥕

Jack Kerouac by Doug Jacquier

‘Hear your book On The Road is out, Jack.’
‘Yeah, Ray.’
‘When’s it coming out in braille?’
‘Soon I hope. Why?’
‘I think there’s a song in there that I could make a hit.’
‘That’d be cool.’
‘Hear Truman Capote’s not impressed. Said this ain’t writin’, it’s typin’.’
‘I’ll remember that when I have breakfast with him at Tiffany’s. I’ll shoot him down in cold blood.’
‘Hear the book is full of beets.’
‘No, Ray, beats. Poetry, drugs and all that jazz.’
‘Hey, Jack, you talkin’ ‘bout my generation?’
‘No, Ray, not unless your name is Ginsberg or Burroughs.’

🥕🥕🥕

Got Eyewash (#2)? by JulesPaige

There wasn’t anyway to augur how a visit to the community pool would go. I had to auger into my parents that they had to stop bringing hidden cocktails. All their retired groovy generation wanted to do was to lay around the pool in a few strategically placed lei. Which I guess would have been better if they actually belonged to a nudist community. They didn’t.

“Too Much Information” could make elder matrons or curmudgeons ask management to politely tell them to ‘Hit the road Jack’. Then they’d move the party to someone’s backyard. Would that be any better?

🥕🥕🥕

A Fun Kind of Crazy by Donna Matthews

“What’cha doin’?”

“Writing a haiku.”

“Why?”

“April is National Poetry Writing Month.”

“Ohhhhh…read it to me…”

puddles form
raindrops cause ripples
thunder booms

“Nice. What will you be doing in May?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…if April is poetry writing month, what is May?”

“Oh, good question. But, I don’t know…maybe paint watercolor or draw or dance?”

“What?!”

“Or 31 days of karaoke?? Come on; it’s my favorite song to sing out loud…”

Hit the road, Jack
And don’t you come back
No more, no more, no more, no more

“You’re crazy.”

“Yeah. But a fun kind of crazy!”

🥕🥕🥕

Hit The Road Jack by Ellen Best

He kissed me tenderly but clung on for a second too long. His eyes looked with suspicion, as a frown formed between his brows. I had to be firm in my resolve, and not back down. Blinking hard I reached out cold fingers and let them graze his cheek, my lips formed a believable smile as fleetingly his bottom lip quivered. With a straight back and a composed air I waved goodbye and watch him enter the beautiful modern building. Jack’s first day at nursery was the hardest. He beamed like a lighthouse when I arrived to collect him.

🥕🥕🥕

Nursery Rhyme Nursery School by Norah Colvin

“What’s upsetting you, Jack?”
“Mary won’t let me play.”
“Why are you contrary, Mary? Didn’t Jack build this house?”
“He broke it too!”
“Don’t blame me,” said Jack. “The alligator smashed it.”
“What alligator?”
“The doctor’s. He trampled everything.”
“Don’t blame me,” said the doctor. “Polly said come quick.”
“Because … ?”
“My dolly got burnt from the kettle.”
“Who put the kettle on?”
“I did. But don’t blame me. Jack bumped me.”
“You were hogging pies.”
“You were sticking your fingers in them.”
“Look, everyone! Humpty’s cracked!”
“Who pushed him?”
“Jack?”
Jack was gone. He’d fled the scene.

🥕🥕🥕

Playground Pirates by Kerry E.B. Black

Tanya scrambled into the boat with the rest of the kids. Jack, years older and tall as a masthead, captained the elementary-aged crew. He instructed them – lean right, then left.

They gave no thought to the danger of bouncing a boat set upon saw-horses. Instead, Jack sang an old song, one Tanya’s uncle enjoyed. “Rock the Boat, but don’t tip it over…”

Behind him, streetlights blinked, shining reminders of curfew.

Tanya called, “Gotta go. The streetlights woke up.”

“Nah, you can’t leave yet!”

“Sorry.” Tanya remembered another song her uncle liked and sang, “Got to ‘Hit the road, Jack’…”

🥕🥕🥕

A Sterling Send-off by Gena Daman

Jacqueline knew this goodbye was different. She’d been gifted her Mama’s 25th Wedding Anniversary silver necklace. It was a statement piece. Now it was a statement.

Mama was ill. Their embrace goodbye was
prolonged. She ran her fingers up Mama’s
spine, along her ribs, feeling the valleys
expanding in between.

Mama grew tight, shrank into her concave self. Neither would allow herself to cry.

“Why won’t you say goodbye?”

Mama kissed her cheek, “There is no goodbye.”

Smiling, Mama repeated what she always said when they parted, “Hit the road, Jack. Don’t run on empty, but be fancy free.”

🥕🥕🥕

Flash Jacks by Hugh W. Roberts

It was love at first sight. Or was it?

***

I boarded the bus to London with my whole life in a black bin bag and met the driver’s piercing blue eyes and incredible smile.

“Ticket, please,” said the owner.

It was love at first sight. The badge on his shirt told me we had the same name – ‘Jack.’

‘Hit the road, Jack. Take us to our ‘together’ future,’ I said without speaking.

For the next incredible seven months, we were lovers.

On the day of my death, ‘Hit the road, Jack’ were the last words he screamed at me before possessiveness forced him to mow me down.

🥕🥕🥕

Times Up by Anita Dawes

Hit the road, Jack. Your times up
Life in the slow lane isn’t working for me
I need more. With you, it’s all or nothing.
It’s nothing. I’m fed up with holes in my shoes
Sleeping in bus shelters
Going hungry for days on end
I’m tired of your promises
It’s time for me to go my own way
found out this was not as easy as it sounds
When you have nothing, it’s hard to find anything
I found a friend who took me in, gave me a chance
Warm food in my belly. I will not mess up…

🥕🥕🥕

Hard Knocks by Matt Wester

I’m out the door before you wake, son. There is no choice in it; I keep the roof over your head. One day the sledgehammer will be your responsibility. You’ll hit the road, Jack. You’ll break up the cement and by the end of the day have built new walls, heavy and impenetrable. There are days you will not want to do this but if you don’t, the house crumbles. You too, son, would crumble. As a man you’ll know why we don’t talk; those who talk aren’t working. But calloused, then, you’ll understand how much I love you.

🥕🥕🥕

Jack’s Escape By Charli Mills

He waited for her the mouth of the mine. She visited late at night with stubs of carrots. She’d light a pipe and he’d sniff puffs of smoke while she spoke her troubles, wetting his neck with tears. Life in a mining camp caged a white mule and a soiled dove forced into service. One night, she arrived with a rope, blanket, and satchel. He had no regrets stepping outside his pen, letting her rig a makeshift bosal. She said, “Let’s hit the road, Jack,” and they left behind what they had known, never to speak of it again.

🥕🥕🥕

Fair Game by D. Avery

Live chess, with human pieces; Roman had expected blunders but this, the pawns refusing to move, was beyond the pale.

“We serve no king!”

Except for the short-lived knights, everything was in gridlock, and though the opposition moved cautiously, it was over for the king’s court quite quickly.

Roman clambered down from the platform and stalked onto the chessboard to confront his pawns, only for them to tell him what he had already witnessed— they would not advance, even in their own defense.

Roman watched his white pawns turn and applaud the black queen’s demand.

“Hit the road Jack!”

🥕🥕🥕

Hit the Road by Heather Gonzalez

“Hit the road, Jack! And, don’t you come back no more…”

The radio was tuned to the oldies and the windows were down. There was a feel of autumn in the wind. Amber didn’t mind the goosebumps that began to form on her skin. She was happy to be free from the drama she was driving away from. Finally, she could live life on her own terms and make her own rules.

At that moment, Amber felt like she was on the right path. In the next moment, she saw her future change as a body hit her windshield.

🥕🥕🥕

She Said No More by Simon Prathap D

Hit the road Jack, She said no more

Hit the road Jack, She is no more

I stumbled down the stairs

I tried to grip all fours

Fell on a fluffy flower

She is beautiful and Clever

Felt that moment will last forever

Love, date, honey was sweet

Something felt that is not right

I thought I was the only Bee

Doubt and Fear screwed me

Found the hidden stash

She is married to Nash

She said no more, It’s a lie!

Hit the road Jack, She said no more

She is no more, NOW! Hide than gun Jack.

🥕🥕🥕

Irreplaceable by Rebecca Glaessner

“Hanniah likes lego for fractions,” he said, packing a bag to leave.

“Of course,” she said.

Of all the teachers, he could trust her. She’d take care of the kids.

He knew this.

“And Kione needs to ask lots of questions. Answer them all, please,” he scanned the room for remaining valuables.

“Always.”

Sirens blared in the distance.

“I have to go. Please make sure-“

“Everyone knows it wasn’t you,” she touched his shoulder, “time to hit the road, Jack.”

“Humans,” he smiled, shaking his head.

But their laughter felt hollow.

He left, watching home shrink in his rear-view.

🥕🥕🥕

Same Words, Different Thoughts by Sue Spitulnik

It’s interesting how song lyrics can elicit different thoughts in different people.
Thad played the melody to “Hit the Road Jack” on the piano and sang the words as if trying to perfect the phrasing.
Mac remembered being ushered out of his pregnant Vietnamese girlfriend’s house by her unrelenting angry father and said, “Son, the band will NOT be singing that song.”
Michael added, “I don’t care to sing that either. It brings up painful memories.”
Tessa kept her good memory to herself. She had enjoyed a look of shock from her ex when she said it to him.

🥕🥕🥕

Hapless Jack by D. Avery

Like a hapless fairy tale Jack he was always certain his luck would change, that things would work out for the better.

But the perfect job always fell through, usually after a heated argument with his boss. Or he’d quit to pursue some entrepreneurial scheme. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,” he’d say. But the scheme would fail.

“Next time,” he’d say. And he’d smile that smile and tell Jill no matter what, she was his princess. Once more they’d pack up. “Time to hit the road, Jill.”

Again.

Jill sighed. How much longer would she go stumbling after?

🥕🥕🥕

Years Later by FloridaBorne

The only heir to the home of her late father, Jack Smith, Becky opened a dust-covered box filled with legal papers protected in plastic bags so old they were crumbling from age.

He’d inherited this house from his father?

What? Pictures of her mother holding her?

“Mom died in childbirth,” Becky muttered. “I was an only child.”

Divorce papers, a year after her birth? A quickly scribbled note said, “I’m hitting the road Jack.”

An unopened letter from Mom twenty years later, with a return address, contained pictures of three children.

Becky planned a road trip of her own.

🥕🥕🥕

“Mars for Martians” (prologue?) by Saifun Hassam

“Hit the road, Jack,” Alice yelled as she jumped into a Martian rover
waiting near the Red Queen’s space shuttle.
Jack raced off down into the Schiaparelli Valley and into the dark shadows of Ares canyon.
“Were you able to activate the Queen’s shuttle?”
“Yeah! It’ll take off into space now, into the Asteroid Belt.”
Alice was the best hacker in the Sol System.
Jack grinned. A small victory. Important. He was born a Martian, second generation. Time for Earth to end its grip on Mars.
At the Weir Potato Farm, a Saturn transition shuttle was ready for Alice.

🥕🥕🥕

Runner Beans and Sky Dreams by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jack’s a nimble lad, head in the clouds, quick with a story of why This went unfinished, and That was never started. He’s a good boy, though, quick to cheer the cheerless, and help the weak haul water.

‘Twas just him and his mum, since Da disappeared. Some say Da danced himself into the Tanglewood, chasing gold, hanging onto the coattails of the Green Man himself.

Mum was a practical woman, gave all to raise and feed her boy. She didn’t believe in magic.

When Jack traded Bessie for beans, she broke down, crying.

And then he left, too.

🥕🥕🥕

Six-pac Tall Tale #1 by D. Avery

“S’matter Kid? Yer lookin’ lost.”
“Dunno, Pal, got a crossroads kinda feelin’, don’t know which way ta head.”
“Thet’s cuz there ain’t no sech thing as the end a the road, Kid. But sometimes ya gotta look fer signs, git a sense a direction. So slow down, take time fer a story.”
“Alright, Pal. Do tell.”
“Hmmmf.
Was a strong woman, name a Jacquelyn, folks jist called her Jac.”
“An’ she hit the road!”
“Shush Kid. Asides, though Jac was stronger ‘an any a the lumberjacks in camp, she chose non-violence. Gen’le as a butterfly, she never hit nuthin’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Six-pac Tall Tale #2 by D. Avery

“Ok, Pal, so Jac lived in a lumber camp?”
“Yep.
Jac was the camp cook, but thet’s only cuz she liked ta cook an’ liked ta keep busy. See, she’d already felled trees, milled the logs an’ crafted fine furniture by the time the other jacks had even begun ta lumber off inta the woods.”
“What kinda furniture’d she make?”
“She always ended up makin’ writin’ desks.”
“Was she a writer?”
“Jist let me tell the tale, Kid.”
“Is this a tall tale, Pal?”
“Well, it’s certainly gonna be longer ‘an most, ‘specially with yer inneruptions an’ questions. Jeez.”

🥕🥕🥕

Six-pac Tall Tale #3 by D. Avery

“Jac made beautiful writin’ desks an’ hankered ta set hersef down ta one. The woods was full a poetry an’ the camp was full a characters, but more an’ more she felt them jacks was too much lookin’ over her shoulder. More an’ more she was feelin’ like her stories was down anuther path. So one day she loaded the writin’ desks onta her truck an’—”
“Hit the road!”
“Set off.”
“Bet she sells the desks ta make her fortune. Or trades ‘em fer magic beans.”
“She give ‘em all away, ta other folks with stories ta write.”

🥕🥕🥕

Six-pac Tall Tale #4 by D. Avery

“Jac set off beyond skidder trails an’ loggin’ roads, headed down the biggest widest road she ever seen.”
“Jac hit the road!”
“No, Kid, told ya, she wouldn’t do thet. But oh, how Jac marveled at thet road…
Thet road was like a trail a ink, ableedin’ from her past an’ aleadin’ ta her future. She didn’t hit the road, but she did pick it up an twirl it like a lasso. She caught stars an’ stories with thet lasso. Thet road had loops an’ swoops thet made it hard ta see ‘roun the bend, but she kept on.”

🥕🥕🥕

Six-pac Tall Tale #5 by D. Avery

“That sounds skeery Pal, not bein’ able ta see ‘roun the bend.”
“Kid, would ya really wanna be seein’ straight ahead all the time?
Jac kep’ on. At ev’ry turn she met good folks. Late nights, unner the stars, she’d set at one a the desks she’d made. Her adventures an’ ‘magination come t’gether inta constellations on the page. She was stronger ‘an ever. Each story she wrote gave her power an’ strength, more ‘an she ever thought possible.”
“What was Jac’s greatest strength, Pal?”
“Reckon thet no matter what, Jac kep’ on keepin’ on.”
“Down that road.”
“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Six-pac Tall Tale #6 by D. Avery

“Pal, ya said roads ain’t got no end. Does this story have an end?”
“Nope.
Jac coulda stayed on in the camp where she started, or even circled back ta it. On the road she saw plenny a folks in houses, some fine an’ some not so fine, places where them folks’d decided ta stay put. She saw plenny a folks with no house an’ plenny who would never stay put, no matter.
Jac knew thet road could lead back’ard or for’ard; could be knotted, looped, or pulled straight; but she kep’ it as a lasso fer her star.”

🥕🥕🥕

Earthing

Stories of earthing, grounding to the earth, barefoot or hands in the soil.

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.

A Pause in the Rush to Keep Up by Dave Williams

News said it was popular and she thought Why not? so she went to a creek trail and normally she would’ve felt happy inside the weekend crowd but not now so she went Monday (work was slow) and the walk was quieter, a pause from pre-Covid trend-flitting: coffee shops wine bars brunch cafes fusion restaurants new movies.

Seeing someone else do it inspired her to sit on a stone amid the creek, eyes closed. Listen. Water birds wind.

Her own idea: remove shoes and socks, barefoot in the creek. Feel. Chilly water smooth pebbles. Life underneath trends.

🥕🥕🥕

Would I Not Do Some Great Thing? by Chel Owens

New-spring mud gripped his ankles, bringing Naaman’s mind to thoughts of bondage rather than freedom. What sort of healing could he find here, at the lowest bank of the river? What sort of fool did that holy man think him to be?

A gesture distracted his thoughts. His wife’s maid dropped her gaze at his stare. Remaining bowed, she once again lifted a hand toward his feet. Her head tilted.

“Would I not do some great thing?” he hissed to himself. Drawing deep within the soul he’d long forgotten resided in his sickly shell, Naaman willed himself to believe.

🥕🥕🥕

A Spring Remembrance by Mr. Ohh!

Ah Spring and for the first I can remove these heavy shoes and woolen socks.

As I walk through the grass I come across a small patch of mud. Oh, how good it feels between my toes. It is as if a sacred bond is forming between the Earth and my soul. I must have more. I roll up my pants and kneel in the muck thrusting my hands and fingers into the wet slimy earth. The joys of childhood com bounding back. I am young again.

Later police remove my filthy, naked body. I went too far again.

🥕🥕🥕

Earth’ling by Rebecca Glaessner

Readings returned slightly less than optimal levels, but their shuttle-mind assured them of safety.

The first creature stumbled out, overwhelmed by colours. The browns and blues and golden yellows were not where they should be.

And it hadn’t ever seen so much green.

Their journey from the dying world began generations ago, long before their own time – what was left of them.

This world was here, now. All around. Spreading, reaching further into the distance than the ship-born ever thought possible.

The creature crouched, removing protection from an appendage, and touched the Earth.

All at once… it felt home.

🥕🥕🥕

Coming Home by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d sailed by the stars, rounding islands of moons to arrive home. Joanna leaned into the helm, her final tack bringing her ship into bayside.

Virtually all Earth’s inhabitants left to settle on these moons. First they went to escape overpopulation, then they stayed for the controlled climates. Joanna’d been an interplanetary bus driver since her raven-haired days. Now she was craggy and white as the mountainous docking station.

She ached with the blessing of witnessing of the Mother’s recovery. Her ears rang with the silence found only in pure nature.

Next time, she’d stage a crash and stay.

🥕🥕🥕

Simple Pleasures by Ellen Best

It’s time, to stop and stare as yellow paints the fields. Nature’s beauty shines. Drink in the hypnotic sway let it warm your soul. Remember that elegance has a sharp edge, for all its grace and beauty it is not to be walked among.

Rape is full of allergens, it will ulcerate skin, if you forget the country code … and walk through the farmers crops. like a fisherman’s lure, a fly dangled before you dancing on ripples. You can be grounded by its colour, mezmerized by the sway, let the earth paint your soul. Breathe and enjoy, the simple pleasures.

🥕🥕🥕

Earth To Great-Uncle Parfitt by Geoff Le Pard

‘You look chipper, Morgan.’
‘I’ve got my allotment at last.’
‘I thought you’d been banned.’
‘That was a misunderstanding. His cardigan was a known fire risk.’
‘I’ve never understood the attraction.’
‘Oh it’ll be grand. Hands in the soil, reconnecting with nature…’
‘That’s exactly it. The soil. Goodness knows where it’s been.’
‘It’s great for mental and physical well-being. It’s called Earthing.’
‘We can agree that earthing is essential.’
‘We can?’
‘Anyone who witnessed Great-Uncle Parfitt flying across the kitchen when he tried to fix his electric egg cosy would attest to the benefits of sound earthing.’

🥕🥕🥕

Earthing Not by Joelle LeGendre

No thanks, Earth, I’m not going to celebrate the corporeal world. You twirl around the sun, showing off your white chiffon clouds and blue skies, while inside our giant terrarium you laugh at our inability to understand one truth: Creatures must eat to live.

The last time I ran barefoot through the grass, stinging nettle attacked my feet. I’ve been attacked by ringworm, ticks, fire ants, and yellow flies. One time, walking along a moon-lit beach, I was eaten alive by sand fleas.

My “Earthing” is seven blankets on a concrete floor. Still, your vibrations lull me into sleep.

🥕🥕🥕

Paranoia by Reena Saxena

A non-believer in the metaphysical realm, he is compelled by his daughter to take the meditation course.

She finds him derisive at day-end,

“The teacher asked me to imagine myself digging deep in the soil, plug underground and get charged. Will she make me fly to compensate in the next session?”

“Dad, just keep doing what she says. You’ll sleep better today.”

His expression turned grim.

“Dreams tend to unearth imagination, and put me back in uncomfortable spots.”

There is seemingly no cure for paranoia of hypochondriacs, and the family does not have too many options either.

🥕🥕🥕

The Green Feet Club by Colleen M. Chesebro

Elsa reached the end of a miserable day. There had been so much death lately. She didn’t know how she would go on.

She stepped down the path toward the park, a new addition at the hospital. Verdant grass beckoned; she could smell it. At the first bench, she removed her shoes and socks. With her feet planted in the grass, she felt the Earth’s energy soothe her jangled nerves.

“I see you like earthing,” said Jake from the E.R.

“I do. It’s the only way I can recover.”

Jake smiled. “Me, too. Welcome to the green feet club.”

🥕🥕🥕

Francine (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam

On a glorious spring morning, Francine and the children planted mint and jasmine around the ancient temple.

Then off they ran down to the seashore. The tide was out.

Kicking off their sandals, forming a circle, they danced and sang on the wet sand.

Francine’s beautiful alto voice rang out, in prayer and praise for the sea’s gifts.

The children sang, spinning madly around each other, and again in a circle.

As her feet stamped the sands, Francine felt joy and gratitude fill her entire being.

Picnic baskets opened up. Savory rice cakes. Golden baked raisin and sesame bars.

🥕🥕🥕

Roots by Sue Spitulnik

The hot day had Tessa itching to return to the park of her youth. She drove the streets admiring the colorful flowers in bloom, realizing the town had grown while she was away. She parked in the same space she used years ago, wondering if the forest trail that beckoned was still in use. Finding it even wider than she remembered, she took off her shoes in order to feel the warm packed earth underfoot. While walking, she imagined the day her granddaughter would be big enough to step over the same roots and share the experience with her.

🥕🥕🥕

New Life by Joanne Fisher

Cindy went outside in the morning. She walked onto the newly sown fields to feel her bare feet in the warming earth. Last winter had been harsh and she was glad spring had come, the deep snow had given way to green fields. Living on a farm meant you seemed more close to the seasons.

Yesterday Cindy had found the IVF treatment had been successful. She was pregnant, but had yet to tell her wife Jess. Tonight she was going to surprise her with the good news. Cindy looked over their new rows of corn. New life was growing.

🥕🥕🥕

Earthing on a Working Ranch by Charli Mills

Jerilyn’s house smelled like a barn. The danger of spring calving is weather that plummets into freezing blizzards after the bulbs rise. The night seven cows dropped calves she provided shelter in her newly remodeled kitchen. So much for pristine linoleum. Today, calves and mamas would reunite. Sam saddled their horses while Jeri mopped and dried breakfast dishes. Glancing at her Zen calendar, she realized it was Earth Day. A quote encouraged her to seek earthing, connect with the ground. She wondered if a mouthful of fresh clods counted? She didn’t relish getting thrown from that flighty mare again.

🥕🥕🥕

Reconnected to Serenity by Nicole Horlings

The bus wasn’t running that day, so she took the forest path home from work instead.

Upon hearing the sound of water cascading over rocks, she decided to take the time to visit her favourite spot. Eyeing the shallow pool of water at the base of the waterfall, she pulled off her socks and shoes, and padded barefoot down the dirt slope. The sensation of the cool earth was a welcome wake up from the dreariness of ordinary life, and the cool water felt like effervescent sparkles.

She sighed and smiled. This was exactly where she needed to be.

🥕🥕🥕

Nestled by Lisa Shea

Caroline wasn’t much of a gardener, but this year would be different. Mark had built her a raised bed, a full ten feet square, filled with rich, dark loam.

She stood over it in the warm near-summer sunshine, breathing in its aroma. Who knew soil could smell so wonderful?

On impulse, she slipped off her sandals and stepped barefoot into the soft dirt, scrunching her toes. A gentle breeze tickled her.

She knelt down, astonished at the dirt’s cushioning support. She took up thick handfuls.

She smiled.

She splayed out in blissful abandon, completely content.

🥕🥕🥕

The Young Gardener by Ruchira Khanna

“Aargh, my hands are dirty,” cried a five-year-old Pedro as he raises them in the air and flaps them irritatingly.

“That’s alright,” came the mom to his rescue as she dusted them off and kissed those fingertips, “Look at the plant you just put in the soil.”

Little Pedro saw the marigold and went his way.

A week went by; the tiny plant had two new buds.

Pedro was noticing it all this while.

Then one fine day, mom saw him bend over and kiss the flower.

“The flower is so happy,” he said as he clapped his hands.

🥕🥕🥕

By Idiot by Simon Prathap D

Stop shoving your hands inside mud, it’s not hygienic.

He jumped inside mud and rolled over, This is an earth that feeds me, you and our species, when I die, earth eats me. That is how this life cycle works, we came from nothing, disappear into nothing.

All these hygiene, beauty came in the middle by greedy business minded idiots. We are part of nature, the day we started to move away from nature we became more vulnerable to deadly disease.

He scowled ‘Idiots’

There will be a day, nature will be against you, mark my words, by Idiot.

🥕🥕🥕

A Letter from Mother Nature by Willow Willers

My Children,

I tried to warn you, painted warnings on walls and billboards with letters 20ft tall screamed, shouted and made a fuss.No one listens at all. The blooms are out in winter and summer flowers peek in spring. Snow falls in summer and sometimes in spring. You’re heading for another drought your reservoirs almost dry yet you let precious water waste. It’s starting with the smaller things but soon you will suffer too. This green planet that you call home is dying. I’m so tired and you just ignore my warning.

From a dying Mother nature.

🥕🥕🥕

How To Save The Earth by Hugh W. Roberts

They thought they had gotten away with first-degree murder, but the victims had other ideas.

***

It’s an attack I’ll never forget.

Why us? Why did they have to come here and try and destroy the safe community we live in? We weren’t hurting anyone. All we wanted was to help them. Don’t they know what they’re doing when attacking the innocent? It’s first-degree murder.

“Earthing,” announced Father Brier. “Earthing is the answer. The next time they come back, we must send them back from where they once came.”

Now the soil is full of human remains. Instead of attacking us, they feed us and help us plant life survive. Earthing is saving the Earth.

🥕🥕🥕

Small Steps to Earthing by Anita Dawes

I do not like gardening
Putting my hands in dirt horrifies me
I watch Jaye potting her bonsai
Sometimes with dirt up to her wrist
I wonder why the fascination when she is gardening
I am aware of the creepy crawlies
Which if they run across my hands
Would have me running to the nearest tap to wash.
I keep trying. I walk barefoot across the lawn
Aware there are ants and other things hiding
My daughter has ground bees.
Yesterday I managed to plant some sunflower seeds.
Now I need to graduate to the garden and real dirt…

🥕🥕🥕

For Earth Day by Norah Colvin

“They’re very quiet,” said Dad.
“For a change,” said Mum.
“Suspiciously quiet,” said Dad. Mum didn’t stir — no way she’d abandon her match-3 game mid-level to investigate.
“Hmpf,” said Dad, marking his page. He slid into his slippers and shuffled to the door.
“What’re you doin’?” he yelled.
Two small mud-spattered bodies frolicking under the sprinkler in his freshly-prepared garden bed froze.
“Nuthin’,” said one.
The other gaped.
“Sure don’t look like nuthin’,” said Dad. “Git yerselfs outta there.”
He killed the sprinkler and fun in one.
“We thought you made it for us—”
“—for Earth Day.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dirty Hands by Heather Gonzalez

Charlie washed the dirt off of his hands in the kitchen sink. It felt good to be one with the Earth for a moment. He didn’t think that he would have enjoyed what he did so much. It all happened quickly, but once he had his hands in the dirt, it all felt right.

After his hands were clean, he began to chop up the vegetables from his garden for a salad. There was nothing better than home grown food with natural fertilizer. Too bad his wife Madeline was now under the garden and couldn’t enjoy it with him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Good Earth by Anne Goodwin

Heather would’ve welcomed more support from her colleagues for her latest occupational therapy project. Instead, they queried the purpose of creating a herb garden in a hospital about to close. All she could say was that gardening had been a lifeline to her when depression struck.

When the manager arrived, Matty had her fingers in the soil beneath the lavender bush. “What are you up to?” he asked.

“I’m looking for my mother.”

Clive rolled his eyes. Her grave was in the cemetery, miles from here. “Do you think you’ll find her?”

“I already have,” said Matty. “Mother Earth!”

🥕🥕🥕

Earthing Earthling by JulesPaige

In the dawn she spotted the mourning doves ‘coo pon’ capons?
T’was a white gown (a nightie really) but down to her bare toes
She danced, running to scare then no straight seams planned; go, shoo

These fine avians were her friends she’d fed them stale bread crumbs
If Grampa caught them there would be squab for lunch, that could not happen
A zig, a zag there until she fell and rolled in morn’ dew

off they few across
the creek, fields and into the
various spring trees

safe for perhaps one more day
dinner would be nut-spread and jam!

🥕🥕🥕

Price Paid in Full by Frank James

Tyrone toiled away in the prison field, giving him a sense of freedom. Harvesting food empowered him. He reminisced about childhood where he farmed with family. He helped feed the town, but not anymore. By circumstance, he now felt incomplete.

“Work hard men. This is a good price to pay,” a guard yelled.

“Pay who?” Tyrone mumbled, gathering corn.

Finishing the harvest, a bus pulled up. The door opened, and a stream of volunteers collected the crates full of food. One smiled and said to Tyrone, “You are feeding so many people during this pandemic. Thank you.”

His chest ballooned.

🥕🥕🥕

A Golden Day by Kate Spencer

Let us put away our cares, just for a day. For a golden moment we’ll forget our tasks and our worries. We’ll visit the meadow by the stream and pick honeyed blossoms for our hair. O’er the hills we’ll stroll, wildwood whispers drawing us close. A speckled fawn, a rose-white apple tree, both nestled among the firs. We linger until the evening mist guides us back home, wholesome and happy, having spent the day with earth’s energy.

Margot re-read the words she’d written and stared longingly out the window, listening to the rain drops conversing with her window pane.

🥕🥕🥕

The Gardener by D. Avery

In the moonlight she breathed deeply of the sweet loamy air. She knelt. The rich earth never failed to soothe her. Her garden was her oasis.

She straightened the ceramic sign, ‘Bloom where you’re planted’.

“Have to grow to bloom,” she thought. “Takes the right soil and light.”

Her garden was her oasis and her marriage a desert, with extremes of heat and cold, and violent unpredictable storms.

She squeezed a handful of soil. For him, a note on the counter. For her garden, a whispered goodbye in the moonlight.

She rose up, brushed herself off, and moved on.

🥕🥕🥕

Earthing by Robert Kirkendall

Rory tore down the hillside on his mountain bike, then hit a rut and pitched forward over the handlebars. He flew forward and headed into the ground.

His hands and face scraped against the dry top dirt, then he flipped, hit the ground, bounced forward, and barrel rolled over the abrasive terrain.

He finally came to a stop on a patch of soft, moist ground underneath the shade of an oak tree. He dug his hands into the cool, crumbling dirt and felt the replenishing and healing energy of the earth.

This really feels good, Rory thought to himself.

🥕🥕🥕

A Conversation Between Mervyn Martian and Edgar Earthling by Doug Jacquier

Mervyn: Edgar, what are you doing?
Edgar: I’m writing a novel.
M: What is a novel?
E: It’s a long story that contains characters the writer has invented.
M: So these ‘characters’ are not real?
E: Correct.
M: What will this ‘long story’ be about?
E: About a man who loves digging the earth in his garden and planting vegetables and flowers to feed and please his friends and family.
M: Just like you.
E: And he also has conversations with a Martian.
M: But these are not lies, they are facts.
E: Only if I say so, Mervyn.

🥕🥕🥕

Gittin’ Down Ta Earth Part I by D. Avery

“Kid, whut’re ya doin’?!”
“Boss’ orders, Pal. Anyways, last week you was all about me takin’ a bath.”
“Thet ain’t a bath! Yer wallowin’ in the mud! With yer puglet!”
“A mud bath. I learn from the best. Curly’s a natural at it. Earthin’. Try it, Pal, it’s good fer ya. Might even make ya less ornery.”
“I’ll show ya ornery ya grimy greenhorn! Oh! No! Whoaaaa!”
“An’ here ya are, Pal. Don’t that mud feel good?”
“No! I cain’t stand it. Cain’t stand up neither.”
“Grab holda Curly’s tail. She’ll pull ya through.”
“Shorty’ll pull through too.”
“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gittin’ Down Ta Earth Part II by D. Avery

“Pal! Did ya see that? Whut’s Shorty up to?”
“What’sa matter, Kid? Ya know Shorty likes ta git out in the garden, play in the dirt.”
“Play in the dirt, sure. But look’t ‘er! She’s layin’ in it! Mebbe we best check on ‘er, make sure she’s all right.”
“Oh, Shorty’s all right, all right. She’s earthin’, Kid. Reckon thet’s how she stays grounded.”
“Pal, how come yer okay with Shorty’s earthin’ but ya got all mad at me an’ Curly when we was earthin’.
“What you was doin’ was wallowin’, Kid. An’ asides, thet weren’t mud.
“Aw, shift!”

🥕🥕🥕

Seeds of Generosity

Spreading the seeds of generosity from one story to the next.

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.

Love Grows by Liz Husebye Hartmann

A spring wind puffed and released tiny skydivers of cherry blossom every time she walked by. She couldn’t have helped it, even if she’d wanted to, which she really didn’t want to be able to do. Those sweet blossoms spread joy and peace to all who walked under its showers or over its flowers.

Better yet, the effervescent blessing of that spring shower passed automatically on to anyone within five miles of those so affected. She was grateful the season was short; it was exhausting, being the origin of so much good.

At least she got her Steps in!

🥕🥕🥕

The Queen’s Gift by Nicole Horlings

The girls from the human village eagerly peered into the forest, some bouncing up and down in anticipation. When a bright light appeared from within the darkened space, they all respectfully stepped back and cleared the path. The Fairy Queen gracefully flew out, smiling at them. The girls held out cupped hands, and the Queen gave each of them a small handful of enchanted wildflower seeds. They curtsied and ran off to scatter their seeds around the edges of their family’s farms, where the Queen’s magic would bring luck and a rich harvest in the fall through the flowers.

🥕🥕🥕

Obituary by Reena Saxena

Very few people know that the much-eulogised greenery and ambient temperatures of this small town are a gift from my father.

I take pride in being born to this humble auto-rickshaw driver who carried seeds with him, and planted some on the roadside, whenever he did not have a passenger to ferry.

When I lost my job, he said the house and a retirement fund he’d built over the years was all mine. I’d a decent fund of my own, but we stayed together after that.

I know his soul will always be there, caring for me.

🥕🥕🥕

The Racing Car by Norah Colvin

Jamie was spending his birthday money—a rose for Mum, gum for Dad, balloons for Baby and a racing car for himself.

Mr Green counted Jamie’s coins. “You’ve only enough for three.”

Jamie pushed the car aside. “These three, please.”

As Jamie left, Mr Green called, “Wait!” He held out the racing car. Jamie beamed.

Nearly home, Jamie saw a little boy crouched beside a drain. A car, just like Jamie’s, lay far below.

“Foolish boy,” said the mother. “I warned you.” She dragged the howling boy away.

“Wait,” called Jamie, holding out his racing car. The boy beamed.

🥕🥕🥕

Equity by D. Avery

People even ranked on the new kid’s lunch.

Surprisingly, Chet actually offered him his sub. The kid refused it.

“What? Ever… Loser.”

I went and sat with the new kid. “Trade?”

Honestly, mom’s sandwiches are as good or better than Chet’s deli subs. But don’t go thinking I’m generous or anything; honestly, I just wanted to show up Chet.

The second day— that was generosity. Again I choked down his bland bologna sandwich while he enjoyed mom’s egg salad.

But these days? It’s just lunch with my new friend. We split our lunches, share what we have between us.

🥕🥕🥕

Contentment by Padmini Krishnan

Marie felt intense hunger as she marked the papers. She took out her snickers. She just had a little time before she got ready for second grade.

“Excuse me, teacher.” She turned at a low voice. It was Mina, one of the shiest girls in first grade.

“Yes, Mina?”

“I didn’t get the fractions you taught today.”

After ten minutes of explanation, Marie was satisfied that Mina had understood.

“Here, take this.” Marie smiled as the girl’s face brightened at the snickers.

Though a little late, her heart was filled with contentment as Marie walked to the second grade.

🥕🥕🥕

Lessons Learned by Kerry E.B. Black

Toddlerdom is difficult. Janice pulled a doll from her younger cousin’s grasp – not to cuddle it, but to keep it from her cousin’s cuddles. Her mother speaks in soothing admonishments until the doll finds its cousin cuddles restored.

Preschool is difficult. Janice hoards crayons and markers, exacting yowls of classmates’ outrage as payment. Her teacher instructs with patient practice until order again rules.

Janice weathered childhood and young adulthood, wearing the lessons on her heart. As an adult, she runs a homeless shelter with fairness and honor, pouring upon all her volunteers and residents equal portions of no-nonsense love.

🥕🥕🥕

Plumb Bob? by JulesPaige

lessons are good seeds
they can be invisible
multiplied when plumb

The seeds were planted by example. Do as I do, and they did. Some made professional careers out of helping the public, while still continuing to volunteer in multiple locations. While growing up the seeds blossomed by helping one on one with differently abled students, training for firefighting, leadership, counting replies, rescuing strays. Being involved with extra school programs to entertain the public to raise funds.

Watching what their parents did, the children grew into adults worth bragging about. Though their parents were careful not to embarrass them…

🥕🥕🥕

A Tolerance on the Loss of an Infant Unborn by Bill Engleson

I stood there in the shadow
of my spiralling desire,
watched the fleeting rainbow
shine on the communal choir.

I know my own shortcomings,
as clear as spring-scrubbed glass,
as loud as heartfelt drumming’s
that suggest this too will pass.

Beyond my own meandering,
I gaze into their mounting grief,
side-step any sorrowed pandering,
that bent to be a teary thief.

I’ll offer discreet compassion
should we meet in a public space,
wordless, and, after a fashion,
my own nod of silent grace.

For this I know,
that such a loss,
‘tis a massive blow,
time longs to cross.

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Threads by Saifun Hassam

Jamila’s son Lateef was born with spina bifida. A year later, she was divorced.

Lateef underwent major surgeries. He was six now and, ready in his wheelchair, would race you to the kitchen for lunch!

At their local mosque, people donated time, exercise equipment, computers, anything to help Lateef. His gratitude showed in his beautiful smile and shining hazel eyes.

Lateef longed to learn at school. Brian, a special education instructor, stepped into his life. Lateef’s dream turned into reality, step by step.

For Lateef, it was the most beautiful day in his life when Jamila and Brian married.

🥕🥕🥕

Little Steps Back by Dave Williams

Charles apologized, muttered “I thought I was ready,” took his coffee cup, left the table. Startling Scott. Yet he snagged sense, followed Charles from the cafe, joined him strolling the sidewalk. Scott said, “We clicked online, let’s not leave it like this.” Charles said, “I warned you.” Charles’s message on the dating website: long relationship ended, time passed, he was taking little steps back. Scott, pointing to the park a block away, said, “Let’s sit. You need a friend more than a boyfriend. I’ll listen when you’re ready to talk.” Charles gave a little smile as they kept walking.

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Rich Heart by Simon Prathap D

“Mam…” beggar cried.

Cathy ignored him.

Julie took some money from her bag, Cathy stopped her and reminded ‘Look at him, he is all good, he can work and earn’

‘Mam… it’s been two days I’m hungry, no food’ beggar cried to someone.

Cathy walked back, asked him to show his plate and gave her entire lunch on his plate. Beggar thanked her.

Julie stared at her in shock.

Cathy replied ‘You don’t have to be rich to be generous, your good heart is enough. Your money will make him lazy, my food will give him power to earn’

🥕🥕🥕

Help Is Always Free by Frank James

Phillip, an attorney, buzzed by a downtrodden man.

Phillip muttered, “I’m glad I’m not him.”

His tire became flat. He stopped, locating his jack and spare. He removed the tire from the Maserati. He placed the tire on the axle, but it didn’t fit. He struggled for an hour to wedge it in place.

The vagrant appeared, taking the wheel from Phillip. He slid it on, dropping the car. He tightened the lugs.

Phillip stood in awe offering cash, “What’s your name?”

The vagrant replied, “Joe. Helping people is always free.”

“I should be more like Joe,” Phillip mumbled.

🥕🥕🥕

Generosity by Floridaborne

The prophet spoke to his followers:

Look not at what generosity is, but what it isn’t.

Give money to a drug addict, or an alcoholic, you’re helping him step into a grave.

Give money to a narcissist and you’ve just robbed yourself.

Give money to a child as you apologize for missing her soccer practice, you’re teaching her that money is more important than love.

Unless money is given without the need for repayment, it is nothing more than spiritual extortion.  Give generously of your love.  Kind words used generously will heal.

Then he passed around the collection plate.

🥕🥕🥕

Warm Welcome by Rebecca Glaessner

“Pathway closed. Rift secure,” announced a warm voice, filling the air around two bewildered humans. Adult and child; woman and girl.

A different being approached. Human, only in appearance.

“Welcome,” it said, robes fluttering, “we trust your journey was painless?”

“Please help,” the woman held the girl close, “she’s-“

“Yes, we’ll take care of the child,” the being smiled.

Others came to collect her.

“No need for thanks,” the being motioned, “there’s much time.”

A chill ran through the woman before the warm voice gently eased it away.

“She’ll be healed soon,” the voice uttered, lulling her into inaction.

🥕🥕🥕

Aalen Meets Vilja by Joanne Fisher

Aalen was walking home. Tired, hungry, and cold, she looked forward to a warm fire and hot stew, but that was still far off. She came across a lone wolf cub.

“Where’s your mother?” she asked. She saw blood on it’s fur and knew there’d been some tragedy. She rummaged through her bag and fed the cub strips of dried meat and whatever else she could find. After it had eaten the last of her food, she picked the cub up to keep it warm and continued to her village. Aalen hoped her Elder would let her keep it.

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Pilgrims by Hugh W. Roberts

Making footprints in the dusty soil of the piece of land The Mayflower had brought her to, Margery’s ears picked up the sounds of the waves crashing against her ship.

She signalled to her crew to begin unloading the cargo and help bring this land alive.

As the pilgrims left the ship two by two, they each, in turn, thanked Margery for the kindness she’d shown them by setting them free again.

As The Mayflower took off into the sky, the pilgrims named the new world New Plymouth and set about thanking their god, Generosity, for bringing them here.

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In the Footsteps of Anonymous by Anne Goodwin

Under the studio lights, the author doesn’t see the face behind the question, but the microphone amplifies his words. “Who are your literary influences?”

The author reels through her gratitude list. “But I’m most indebted to Anonymous.”

The interviewer laughs nervously. “People too humble to take the credit?”

“Didn’t get the chance,” says the author. “Anonymous published in obscurity. She was female, poor, black.”

From the corner of her eye, the author sees the producer slice a finger across his neck.

She hurries on: “Who would have thought an unnamed courtesan’s plague diary would spark a bestselling 21st-century novel?”

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Seeding Generosity by Doug Jacquier

On the critique site, ‘Jane Air’ nitpicked her way through my post, trailing pedantry and ignorance behind her as she dripped 500 words of bile on my 250 words of flash fiction. Finding one of her literary gems, I offered a generous assessment. ‘In a parallel universe, unicorns may well have had carnal relations with Vikings and faeries and created a dystopian apocalypse. You have seeded in me a blinding insight into the follies of representing the so-called real world in literature. Thank you for alerting me to the error of my ways. PS Keep on taking the tablets.’

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Surly by Lisa Shea

Her creased face wore a scowl like a faded wedding ring, almost forgotten in its presence until noticed by a stranger. They say owners grow to look like their pets. In this case it was her house which was unadorned and stark. No flowers. Pulled blinds.

Her edged sharpness radiated shards as she strode out to check her battered mailbox on a beautiful spring morning.

Empty.

I was still settling in, but I sat down and wrote a friendly letter. Stamped it. Put it in my mailbox.

Two days later …

Her smile warmed my heart.

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria by Jennie Fitzkee

Gloria. That was the name children gave her. She was old, shy, and people had always called her a witch. When she came into a classroom of children, she couldn’t even speak. They were startled and curious; Gloria was, well, different. She lived in a picnic basket in the classroom. Whenever she visited the children, they were excited. When Halloween came around, children rallied to help Gloria pick a costume. The years rolled on, Gloria became a member of the class. Suddenly the tables were turned. She was the one who was ‘there’ to help children. Tears and hugs.

🥕🥕🥕

Money or Time by Sue Spitulnik

Three Sundays in a row Lexi found a gift bag for Emma on the front porch. In exasperation, she called her mother. “I appreciate Grandma’s generosity but she’s buying Emma newborn stuff that she’s too big for. And I don’t get the surprise factor bit.”

Tessa sighed. “I guess mother is trying to make up for not spoiling you as a baby. She means well.”

“I figured, but it’s a waste. I’ll invite her to lunch. I can tell her we would rather have her visit.”

“An invitation to babysit would send her over the moon.”

“Right. Got it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sliding Into Home by D. Avery

“What do you want?”

“Nothing.”

“Everybody wants something. I’m not giving.”

“You looked like you could use some company.”

“Hmmf. No thank you. Go home.”

Before the old man could finish skimming the sports section of his paper the little boy summarized the previous night’s baseball game, complete with statistics and his own predictions. The old man put the paper aside.

“A genuine fan, ey?”

“We are not a charity,” the boy’s mother said stiffly.

“I know. Thing is, I could use some company.”

Seeing his mother softening, the little boy grinned.

His neighbor wanted his company. At Fenway.

🥕🥕🥕

Generosity by Ritu Bhathal

“No, no, Mum, just scroll down. Tap the one you want.” Nisha rolled her eyes.

She’d been on the phone with her mother for an hour now, trying to help her set up her new phone, so she could enjoy the family video calls, along with everyone else.

But this hour was worth it.

Finally, Mum would be able to see her family, regularly. Nisha hadn’t seen her for over six months.

Just then her phone beeped.

“Good to see you, Mum! Now, if you could just hold the phone higher. I don’t want to see up your nose…”

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Shared Between Neighbors by Charli Mills

Mara’s untamed yard tumbled toward Randal’s. He kept his edges squared, lawn clipped, and garden fenced. Dandelion seeds drifted and yellow globes emerged next door in spring. Mara offered to uproot the plants when Randal returned with herbicide. He scoffed. She persisted. He wavered. She mentioned cancer. Mara dug on hands and knees for three days, preserving roots and flowers. Order reigned over Randal’s lawn once again. She bottled the root tincture to control her menopause. In the fall, she gifted her neighbor a jug of sweet dandelion wine with a vintage label that read, From Seeds of Generosity.

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Splish Splash by D. Avery

“Generous? Heck, Pal, I’d give ya the shirt off my back.”

“Please, don’t. I mean I know we’re fictional an’ all, mebbe even more caricatures then characters, but jeez Kid. Thinkin’ yer a might over-generous with water conservation. How ‘bout ya give ta the clean air fund by doin’ laundry an’ takin’ a bath? A’tween you an’ yer friend LeGume an’ thet pet pig, the bunkhouse is a funkhouse.”

“Yer air quality assessment stinks Pal.”

“Z’actly.”

“Fine, Mr. CleanJeans. Ya happy?”

“Ya still got thet shirt on yer back.”

“Launderin’ an’ bathin’ simultaneously Pal. Water don’t grow on trees.”

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Rethinking the Hero

There’s a different way to look at heroes.

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.

Jester the Hero by Sue Spitulnik

Humans! Geesh! Last week that cute baby tried to twist my ear off. It hurt. A quiet growl escaped. The big people went ballistic, and the baby cried. I heard the words: chain, pound, and vet.

This week I growled and barked in that active kid’s face. She screamed and cried in anger. Her grandmother grabbed her and calmed her. Others praised and petted me, called me a hero dog, and even gave me a raw hamburger patty for supper. I guess it had to do with the fact I kept the little one from climbing up the stairs.

🥕🥕🥕

Survival Hero by Norah Colvin

“Consider this,” said the teacher. “You’re stranded alone in the desert. Your vehicle has broken down about 15 kilometres from your destination. Your visit’s a surprise so you’re not expected. There’s no internet service and your phone is dead. You’ve packed water and a little food in a backpack. What else should you take to be the hero of your own journey?”

The students huddled, discussing options.

“Compass,” suggested one.

“Pocket knife,” said another.

“Flashlight.”

“Mirror.”

“A pencil.”

“Why?”

“I’d just add an ‘s’ — change that desert to dessert and she’s sweet.”

“You’re our hero,” the others agreed, laughing.

🥕🥕🥕

Pint-Sized Heroes by Ritu Bhathal

Four-year-old Nina watched her classmate’s plight curiously.

Joey had been struggling with that same jigsaw for the last ten minutes, and no guidance from his teachers was accepted.

Slowly, Nina sidled along until she was next to him. A pint-sized compadre, not as much of a threat as the adults who towered above.

She tentatively picked up the correct piece, turned it the right way, and handed it to Joey.

He popped it in, the tongue of determination that had been sticking out slipped back in, turning into a smile.

I think Joey just found his new jigsaw hero.

🥕🥕🥕

My Hero! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He stuck his head in the refrigerator, resting his arm along the damp, dusty edge of the door. Plucking at the ruffles of insulation, he surveyed the interior. It certainly felt cooler in there than it did in his apartment.

Behind the jar of mayo and the near-empty carton of skim gasped the remains of an iceberg, a full jar of Claussen’s dill, a vacuum pack of Swiss slices, a lucky Ziplock packed with smoked ham, and chips.

Pile all that on the sub bun he’d pulled from the freezer, and THAT was a feast for a sweltering night.

🥕🥕🥕

The Inner Hero By Geoff LePard

‘That was intense.’
‘Another course, Morgan?’
‘Yeah. “Live your own hero.”’
‘Are you?’
‘Me? Not even in my own lunchtime.’
‘You’ve time.’
‘Thanks. You ever been a hero, Logan.’
‘Not knowingly. Though there was Mr Patel.’
‘Mr Patel?’
‘Ran the corner shop. Called me: “my little hero”.’
‘Why?’
‘I saved his shop from being robbed.’
‘Wow.’
‘Not really. This bloke told him to give him the till. I distracted him and Mr Patel hit him with the takings.’
‘How old were you?’
‘Seven.’
‘What did you do?’
‘Fart.’
‘That would do it. You found the hero inside yourself…’
‘Thanks.’

🥕🥕🥕

Personalities by Reena Saxena

He’s charming. He showers praise on every little effort I make to keep the office machine running smoothly.

Yet, I’ve a certain sense which reads between lines. Things can’t always be hunky-dory, so it made sense to accept that job offer which paid more.

He doesn’t want to let me go, and is using every trick in HR policy for retention …. the same guy who said I’m whatever I am, because of what he made me, and I should be grateful for having him as a boss.

I’ve read enough about narcissists to give him the cold shoulder.

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Hero by Heather Gonzalez

Halfway into his hike, Kyle heard a woman screaming for help. He ran as fast as his legs could go towards the screams.

“My daughter is hanging off the side!”

Without a word, he bent over and reached for the young girl bringing her back to safety.

“My hero!” the woman cried, giving him a big hug.

He was on such a high from the whole experience that he walked with a huge smile on his face. He was a hero after all. Even if he hadn’t noticed the woman’s hand pulling his wallet out of his back pocket.

🥕🥕🥕

A Defining Moment by Kate Spencer

Ed unlocked the front door and put on his cap.

“I’m not going!” Mattie said. “I’m staying in London.”

“Lovey, you agreed to this. When France falls, you’d leave. It’s not safe here.”

“I know,” and Mattie placed her hands protectively over her belly.

Ed picked up her suitcase.

“But dear heart, what if I lose you?” she cried, trembling.

Ed pulled her close and whispered, “My duty’s here, Luv. Yours is to look after our baby… Promise me?”

Mattie studied her husband’s eyes, her fear reflected in his. Eyes brimmed with tears, she nodded and opened the door.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Died by Simon Prathap D

He kissed the sword with pride, he became like his Father as he won his first battle.

He remembered the day he was protected by his father’s cloak, the swords clanged, enemies screamed and fallen dead, there was a Lion’s roar.

After a silence he came out of the cloak to find his dad standing strong with his sword, his eyes were glowing with pride, he won the battle, but he cried as there was a sword impaled his father’s chest.

He took his last breath, eyes looked at him, his lifeless body stood still, his father never died.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hermit by H.R.R. Gorman

“You’re so boring, pops. You only sit there and meditate.” The young man pounded his fist on a simple table, rattling a knife, bread, and cup of butter.

The elder took the knife and buttered a piece. “There are many ways to glory.”

He growled, pulled on his cloak, and left.

***

The young man returned to the chapel, this time much grayer. His hands were manicured, his wallet full, his clothes fine. He brushed his hand against the rough-hewn table.

He crushed the land’s deed in his hands. He’d sacrificed a quiet glory, but what for he couldn’t tell.

🥕🥕🥕

A Different Way to Serve by Charli Mills

Her bootlace caught the gunrack no soldier ever used. The force of the blast lifted her body as easily as a child’s balloon rises. Weightlessness defined the pause between rise and fall. When her body crashed, her bootlace held. It ripped every tendon, wringing her ankle. Two years later the VA removed the foot Hunter wanted gone. It flopped and failed, unlike the metal shank they pounded into her bone. Strong. Time to return. She wore no cape, no uniform, but stood to defend an Inuit village. She became the climatologist who sounded the alarm. The ice was melting.

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At That Decisive Moment by Bill Engleson

It was expected
that in a pinch,
he’d hold the bridge,
not give an inch.

It was ingrained
in His DNA,
to guard his post,
in every way.

His inner voice,
had something to say,
“It’s a losing cause,
time to give way.”

In moments of doubt,
he thought to pray,
But realized
T’was not his way.

Still, he wondered
how to allay
this dune of fear
that so held sway.

“I’m no hero,”
he thus proclaimed.
I will care not
If I am blamed.

Life is a gift.
I’ll leave this war,
And make my peace
For evermore.

🥕🥕🥕

Earth by Saifun Hassam

At five, Annie wanted to be an astronaut, in a rocket orbiting Earth. She wanted to be a biologist, to protect Earth. Her imagination was fired up when her parents talked about pesticides affecting birds and other animals. A silent spring, not to hear birds singing, was unbearable.

Annie’s first telescope was in the backyard. She peered at the major constellations. Enough to start on a long journey.

The bird feeder attracted birds year-round. She was so excited one winter to find chickadees sheltering in the pines.

From the space shuttle, she saw Earth’s place in space, Earth’s fragility.

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Celastrina Ladon by JulesPaige

Imprisoned by winter
Set free by sun kissed
warmth of seasonal changes

Our heroes attend
and prepare us
Perhaps they take breaks
In their duties to feed
Our honeydew to their own

How we enjoy to mend
The spirits of those
Who remained bound

Could we be heroic
In our small flight
As we cross their paths
Perhaps alight
On their garden flowers?

One of the earliest
Of our kind to flitter
Into this April

on my walk
I encountered a true hero
of the new season
one lone Spring Azure
as if the a bit of sky fell

🥕🥕🥕

Deadly Garden by Dave Williams

Discovery of treasure! Purples, blues, yellows! Like reaching a monochromatic street’s end to find Times Square.

The backyard garden rewarded Zuberstan’s long flight from the hive. Inebriated with joy, Zuberstan didn’t sense the golden retriever running — until the dog nearly reached the bee.

The beast’s jaws opened. The cave’s drooling maw ended with the darkness of death. Hot breath enveloped Zuberstan. He zipped backward. The jaws shut. Then flight from the dog’s reach.

Zuberstan gasped, headed back toward the hive. A group would return. Some bees would distract the dog, buzz its head, while other bees feasted on nectar.

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The Elixir of Pyjamas and Citrus Juice by Anne Goodwin

HJ called to Writer. Writer rejected the call. “I’m a free spirit,” she claimed, plonking her characters in a featureless landscape without a map. Seeing them floundering, Ally asked questions. Listened. Reframed. Writer refused to control her characters, the novel more unwieldy with every draft.

Frustrated, she abandoned fiction for caving. When falling rocks blocked the exit, Buddy prescribed guided imagery to combat panic. “You’re home, safe in bed. What are you wearing? What are you drinking?” Writer envisioned pyjamas and citrus: PJ and OJ proved her elixir. She’ll plot the Protagonist’s cum Ordinary Person’s Journey if she survives.

🥕🥕🥕

The Chosen One by Joanne Fisher

There was a loud knock on the door. Clarice answered it to find a tall man with a long beard standing on her porch.

“Clarice Evans, would you like to join me on an adventure?” the Wizard asked.

“Ooh that sounds lovely dear! I’ll just go and get my coat.” Clarice replied. The Wizard waited patiently.

Clarice Evans may have been seventy four with a gammy leg, hard of hearing, and owned a preponderance of cats, but little did she know it was her destiny to defeat evil and usher in a new golden age of peace and enlightenment.

🥕🥕🥕

Heroes by Anita Dawes

My favourite heroes, da Vinci, Plato, Galileo
To name but a few
Not forgetting the classics, like Achilles, Hercules
As a child, Tarzan was my favourite,
Taking care of the animals, righting wrongs
Then I switched to Superman, fantasy maybe.
Turning to more modern heroes
Maya Angelou would be up there.
My father for leaving, before he knew I existed
What a hero!
I digress, sorry. It’s one of those days
when I feel like pouring out all sorts of nonsense
What would happen if you put them in a cave?
Would their mighty egos break down the walls?

🥕🥕🥕

Supply Run by Rebecca Glaessner

Slinking along the dark and barren hillside, pack of acquired supplies secured tight, I see movement.

Have I been caught?

I drop low, confident in my darkened out-wear, and watch the quiet, sprawling city. A flash by the edge reveals an individual stumbling past the barrier, long, unshaven white hair gleaming in the night.

I need to leave before next watch begins, but they fall.

I weigh the risks, and reluctantly return.

“Can you walk?” I ask.

They nod, startled.

“Put this on,” a shawl for their hair.

With sounds of next watch beginning, we disappear into the hillside.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Pete Fanning

I sit at the bar, sliding my glass over the rings from pitcher’s past. A muted ball game is on TV. Jim reminds me how he was an all-district pitcher back in high school.

High school. A wash of beer slides down my throat. I check the latest string of messages from my son’s mother. Damn.

I forgot about T-ball.

Jim beckons another round. On TV, the pitcher fans another batter. The kid is four, I’ll make it up to him.

Tomorrow.

A fresh cold pitcher slides onto the bar, leaving new rings for the next hero to find.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero in a Different Light by Hanna Streng

You must think I’m despicable”, he whispered and hid his face in his hands.

He had told her everything. That he had a 7 year old daughter he hadn’t seen in 6, that he only 4 years ago had been so depressed that he hadn’t been able to get out of bed for weeks and that he as a result had seen his job go down the drain.

Now she’d finally see him for what he was- a mess.

She did see, but differently.
“You’ve been through hell, and you’re still here.
“I  don’t think you’re despicable”, she said, “you’re my hero.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Unnamed Negotiator by Padmini Krishnan

The police inspector stood amongst the rioters, negotiating.
“They started it first,” screamed a youth leader.

The inspector told him what would happen to his future was he arrested. Anger reduced, they jeered at him. He was not the aggressive cop they were hoping for.

“Did you open teargas?” thundered the commissioner.

“No signal, sir.” The inspector cut the call and stood between the rioters, talking in soft tones, reminding them not to fall prey to their passions. Their mockery turned to exhaustion and they dispersed in the midnight, as a lonely figure walked back to his police car.

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Brave and Strong by Brenda

Be true to yourself. You are a every day hero, brave and strong.

Hero, brave and strong.

Put down, locked up, and shut up.

A life of pain, hurt, and disadvantage.

Turn it around and fine true strength

When you get back up after being knocked down.

Take the dark events in life and find the light.

Sharing stories of pain. Showing others how to fight.

Scared and living in fright.

Gaining strength through the suffering endured.

Learned there is much more

Than what people can see.

Learn to look for the light,

Even in the darkness of night.

In everything and everyone, look for God’s light.

Love all you see.

🥕🥕🥕

The Late Knight by Nicole Horlings

Princess Elissa leaned against the wall of the tower, bored and frustrated. When on earth would Sir Garth arrive? She glanced out the window, and spied the red dragon, circling lazily above the tower. There was no sign of the knight in the distance. Surely, he would have gotten her message about the rescue? Hadn’t her servant survived the journey?

It had been too long. She descended the stairs, summoned the rest of her army, and instructed the dragon to lead them in their march to rescue Prince Arnold. She’d backtrack to search for Sir Garth, just in case.

🥕🥕🥕

Heroine Chic by Doug Jacquier

A ballsy Amazon, with a prodigious cleavage and legs that go all the way up to her backside, storms into a cave and kicks the crap out of The Devil Personified and, supposedly, women everywhere cheer. The fact that her methodology replicates that of her foe is, supposedly, irrelevant to the sweetness of her revenge.

Meanwhile, a woman, with breasts streaked from breastfeeding and whose legs end at her knees, stands in her cavernous kitchen, surrounded by children abandoned by their father, and turns ground beef into gourmet burgers cheaper than McDonalds. She doesn’t have time to imagine heroism.

🥕🥕🥕

No More Heroes by Hugh W. Roberts

What fate awaited an innocent woman?

•••

As she ascended the scaffold, an image of her husband stood before her. His cloak, scruffy beard and stocky build still made him the hero she deeply loved.

Kneeling before him, she looked up.

Praising him, she told those around her that he was a gentle and sovereign lord.

Bowing her head, she waited for his forgiveness.

As the executioner struck Anne Boleyn’s head off with a single swing of his sword, Henry made his way to the woman he would marry a few days later. She’d become his hero, but not until she delivered him a male heir.

🥕🥕🥕

Choices by Lisa Shea

Anguish ravaged my soul as I cradled my boyfriend’s limp body. My hands were wet with his warm blood, the air rich with the metallic scent. The arrow lodged deep in his chest. I desperately recited the ingredients. Absinthe. Zedoary. Newt’s bile. I could do it – bring him back – but should I?

His glassy eyes, once aglow with adoration, stared blankly at the cerulean sky.

Revive him or let him go?

It took all my strength to stand. To turn away.

My husband smirked. “Nice shot!”

I drew my bow and aimed for his heart.

🥕🥕🥕

A Hero’s Journey of Staggering Proportions by D. Avery

“Pepe LeGume. Seen Kid? Thet lil’ greenhorn was unusually ‘thusiastic ‘bout the prompt. Scampered off, ain’t been seen since.”

“Teenk  Pal. Keed has always wanted to be beeg hero, so prob’ly went into dee cave.”

“Whut cave?”

“Remember? Dere was a beer cave installed at da saloon. Stores and deesplays 99 cases a beer at perfect beer temperature, no more no less.”

“Let’s go, LeGume. Thinkin’ this hero’s journey ain’t gonna end well.”

 “Jeez Kid! Ya smell worse  ’an Legume!”

“Drunker ’an a skunk too.”

“Come outta there Kid.”

“Okay Pal. Jist lemme grab one more bottle a ‘lixir.”

🥕🥕🥕