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Sweet as Cherries Collection

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

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

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

Sweet As Cherries by Marsha Ingrao

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

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

Jolene reached out her hand as she reached him.

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

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Had I a Cherry by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

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

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

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

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

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

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Cherry Wine by Kerry E.B. Black

I sip cherry wine from a crystal goblet.

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

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Honeyed Memory by JulesPaige

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

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

newlyweds
bowl of cherries life
That old tree

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Cupboard Love by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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Sweet Cheeks by Charli Mills

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

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

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

“Blind, too.”

“Apparently.”

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

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

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Break for the Border by Jenny Logan

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I’ll stick with the first one.

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Fresh Meat by Sylvia Cognac

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

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Sweet Cherry Pie by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

Then he crumpled in a heap to the ground.

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

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Disappeared 36 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

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

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

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Cough Syrup Memories by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

Tessa belly laughed at him.

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Life is a Bowl of Cherries by Charli Mills

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

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

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

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

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A Nostalgic Salvation by Gary A. Wilson

I had no experience with depression.

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

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

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

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

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

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Bing Cherry Memories by Nancy Brady

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

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A Bowl of Cherries by Sadje

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

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

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

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Glee by Simon

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

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The Sugar Wars by Geoff Le Pard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cravings by Hugh W. Roberts

Life was a bowl of cherries for Vinnie.

Despite what was happening, he still had ample food.

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

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

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

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Un’altra Notte Rossa by Tina Stewart Brakebill

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

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

Seeing the cherries shakes me from my stupor.

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

The Red Night.

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

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

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Extraordinary Plot by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Cherries by Norah Colvin

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

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

“You alright, ma’am? Need a hand?”

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

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

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

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Sweet by Duane L Herrmann

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

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A Sour Taste by Bill Engleson

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

Cowering.

But there was a yearning.

Inexplicable, I know.

A taste for youth.

The honeyed flesh of youth.

Our lost youth.

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

But the yearning would not be assuaged.

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

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What Hodags Are Made Of by Charli Mills

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

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Pit Stops (Part I) by D. Avery

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

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

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

“Tough call.”

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

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

“Kid, thet’s it. Yer fired.”

“Sure am. It was a long trip.”

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Pit Stops (Part II) by D. Avery

“Fired! Yer fired Kid.”

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

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

“Canned Kid? Convenient! Like canned cherries.”

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

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

“Sweet! Ow!”

“Mind the pit. Ow!”

“Back at ya, Kid.”

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

Floating Collection

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

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

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

Suspending Your Ship by Bill Engleson

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

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

This was his usual modus operandi.

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

Occasionally he might revise it.

Not often but sometimes the title demanded titular revision.

Like now.

What the heck did Suspending Your Ship actually mean?

Was he waiting for a shipstorm?

Hmmm!

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Music on the Water by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shapeshifters by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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Questions at a Parade by Scott Bailey

“Dad?”
“Yes, Son?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, does our elevator float?”
“No.”

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

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

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Dreaming by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

Reality bites!

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The Creek (Part I) by Miss Judy

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

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The Creek (Part II) by Miss Judy

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

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Floating by gjef2871

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

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

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

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

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Ship to Shore by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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Nellie Bly on Blackwell’s Island by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

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Circle of Love by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

But Vikki couldn’t make up her mind.

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

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

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Just 3 Breaths to Peace by Gary A. Wilson

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

“Hm, your BP’s high.”

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

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

“Ready?”

“I am.”

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

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

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

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

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

She sighed, wearily.

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Al salvataggio (Italian for To the Rescue) by JulesPaige

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

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

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Elixir by Shari Marshall

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

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

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

“Elixir? It’s mythical!”

Exasperated Tallie raises her eyebrows. “Is it?”

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The Skies Are Friendly Frank James

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

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

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

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Drifting by Valentina Okorie

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

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Floating by Duane L Herrmann

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

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Disappeared 34 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

That was fast. 

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

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

Bethany absently placed a comforting hand on her belly.

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Magical Tooth by Simon

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Floating by Norah Colvin

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

🥕🥕🥕

Sink Or Swim? by Geoff Le Pard

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

🥕🥕🥕

Cooler Than a Pool by Annette Rochelle Aben

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Processing Time by KL Caley

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Wings on the Wall by Echoes of the Soul

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Floating by Sadje

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

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

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

Hmmm…..

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

“Let’s try again!”

It worked!

🥕🥕🥕

Should Not Float by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone nodded.

“So on Mars, we’d weigh least.”

Another chorus of silent nodding.

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

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

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Hot Air Currents by D. Avery

“Hey Pal. Where’s Kid?”

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

“You didn’t wanna go?”

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

“Yer right. Green. Ew! Duck!”

“They’s a duck up there too?”

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

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

“Shake it off, Pal.”

“Hmmff. I blame LeGume.”

“Rise above it Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

For a Day Collection

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

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

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

Donna is Found (Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

“Donna?”

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

🥕🥕🥕

Donna is Found (Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

“Mine!”

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

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Picnic 1917 by Anne Goodwin

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Missing Parts by Frank James

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

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We Can Be Heroes and Be the Voice by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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For a Day by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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Christmas with the Grandparents… Whenever by James M. Lane

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

🥕🥕🥕

For a Day by Bill Engleson

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

🥕🥕🥕

Death by RoundAbout by Geoff LePard

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

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

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The Mysteries of a Foster Grandpa by Gary A. Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Gravity, the Jokester by Scott Bailey

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

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

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The Exchange by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

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Disappeared 32 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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The Blue Bunny by Norah Colvin

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

🥕🥕🥕

If Only… by Nancy Brady

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was so glad the pill bottle had been empty.

🥕🥕🥕

At Day’s End by D. Avery

“Did you see this?”

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

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

“What?”

“Who, really. You.”

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

“I’d cherish a day with the old you.”

“Don’t you mean the young me?”

“Sure, you when you were younger.”

“So you want a younger woman?”

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

She bent her head to the tear blurred page.

🥕🥕🥕

The Iconic Mr. Patel by Scott Bailey

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

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

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

-upstairs-

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

For a Day by Duane L Herrmann

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Just for a Day by Sadje

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

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

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

Instead, I choose to remember them fondly!

🥕🥕🥕

Worry Free (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

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

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

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Gifted Kid by D. Avery

“Pal, was you ever young?”

“Sayin I’m old Kid?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Was kinda hopin it’d be you.”

“I ain’t from yer past.”

“Nope, but that’d be a nice present.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

Swarms Collection

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

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

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

Bad Day at Black Fly Rock by Doug Jacquier

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

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

D replied slowly ‘Yeah, s’warm.’

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

🥕🥕🥕

Swarm by D. Avery

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

It’s only one thing

Then another endlessly

Insidious horde frenzied

hungry as worry

unseen answers out of reach

🥕🥕🥕

Meadows for Butterflies by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adding Insect Insult to Injury by Gary A. Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll not soon forget July 1931.”

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Swarming by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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Seeking Safety by JulesPaige

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

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A Swarm of Family by Duane L Herrmann

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

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Encounter with the Yellow Butterfly by Sadje

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Mayflies by Nancy Brady

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

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Disappeared 28 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Swarm by Norah Colvin

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

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Wayne Kerr Drops a Log by Scott Bailey

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

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

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

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

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Seeing In Summer by Geoff Le Pard

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

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A Blind Payout by Frank James

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

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

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

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Out of the Sky by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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Swarm for Bees by kathy70

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

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S’Warm, Isn’t It! by Bill Engleson

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

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Swarms’ Warm Arms Receive My Soul by Scott Bailey

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

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Twinkling Swarm by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny agreed.

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Got No Buzzin’ by D. Avery

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

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

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

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Swarm by D. Avery

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

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

“Why’s thet?”

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

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

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

“Nope!”

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

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

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

“Thet bites. Yer usually buzzin with ideas.”

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

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

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

“Swimmin with yer swine?”

“Yep. You comin too?”

“Might’s well.”

“Swell.”

 “It’s so warm.”

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

What Freedom Feels Like Collection

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

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

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

A Taste of Freedom by Sadje

Freedom is a gift that only the people who don’t have it, value. Those who have experienced the usurping of their rights appreciate freedom fully.

If you ask a woman how free she is?

She’ll tell you that her choices are limited by the men of the society.

Ask a person of color about freedom and they’ll tell you their limitations.

For the poor people, the concept of freedom is totally wrapped.

Some people are born free with the freedom to choose what and who they want to be in life. They don’t realize how precious this gift is.

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In Sight by D. Avery

Freedom is first brave steps

finding one’s bearings

following a star blazed path— sight in darkness.

Freedom is the light

you’ll never lose your way.

*

Freedom is essential

feeding your spirit

it satisfies your needs and you do not want

Freedom is bold faith

you’ll always have enough.

*

Freedom is rock solid

sure-footed comfort

of knowing you are loved without conditions.

Freedom is the love

you receive and you give.

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Scribbles by Simon

I am feeling bored to boredom

Do humans have freedom?

Neighbour Nick serves to a Dom

He said- it’s his fetish! I was like, Damn!

Always found him wearing pink bottom

Asked why? he said he is bottom.

I don’t get it, he is so irksome.

I am going back to kingdom

Clash of clans, where is Golem?

Lately I am feeling very lonesome

Am I being nettlesome?

Can you believe the price of petroleum?

Momma said to study a program,

Now she began to sound like Saddam

Can I write anything? Seldom

Yes, but, Human has no freedom!

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Freedom and the Parable of the Ass by Doug Jacquier

Gluteus Maximus considered himself a benevolent dictator, one who had only the interests of the people at heart. At least the people that mattered to him, namely the ones who considered him a benevolent dictator, one needed in such difficult times, and the ones who averted their gaze when anything contrary to that view occurred and said nothing. Those who did not avert their gaze or said inconvenient things had their tongues stilled and their sight taken, little by little, until one day they woke up voiceless in the land of the blind, where the one-eyed man was king.

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Freedom from the Body by Ruchira Khanna

Mohan was lying with tears trickling down his cheeks. His body was screeching in pain; the malignant growth had penetrated his bones, thus making it unbearable. He wanted to go places and reach new avenues, but destiny had other plans. “It’s just a matter of time,” the docs said. The family was stroking his legs with the hope of giving him some relief. After coming to terms with the present, he tipped the hospital attendants and spoke words of wisdom to his children. He finally breathed his last with a smile as he got freedom from the diseased body.

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Freedom by Reena Saxena

“She’ll never admit she’s wrong. I wonder if it’s an ego problem or a genetic one….”

The sounds pass through her ears, but do not pierce consciousness. The judges and the judged are both in their mind. She is unaffected by opinions.

She is not exactly floating in air, but feels light. 

The moment of acceptance that they’ll never have a good opinion about her, sets her free. She’ll not try to impress.

Freedom is knowing that each person is at a different stage of evolution, and it’s not her job to pull them up or push them down.

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Free by Bill Engleson

I wonder what it must be like to be restrained. Caught! Trapped! By chains! Chains of convention! Of sorrow! I resist taking account of my own restraints. For a moment. Would I recognize them? Do I? One immediately comes to mind. The convention of wearing clothes. In public. It is one to which I heartily subscribe. Whether it is my own hard-earned modesty inculcated by how I was raised, how the world was for me, or fear, I do not know. I step out on my porch. ‘Tis a sunny morn. “Hello, neighbor,” I say. He averts his eyes.

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It’s Just a Bigger Cage by Anne Goodwin

It was over a month since she’d sat behind the wheel. Would her limbs remember what to do? She’d never associated driving with freedom, except as the means to find more beautiful places to walk.

Yet it felt good to join the procession of traffic, of people fit enough to go to work. In the car, she could move as fast as they could, although she might not be travelling as far.

On her previous journey down this road, her ailment was a mystery. Now she mourns the health she’s lost as she collects a new pack of pills.

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Disappeared 26 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

That final set of runes he’d carved over the plaque was a long shot, at best. He’d pleased the three weird sisters — their pause their tell – but his freedom would not go unpunished. But what was he now?

He walked through walls and deep waters, making his way to the Speakeasy, feeling small sorrow for those drowned in his escape.

He continued, finding himself atop the cliffs and outside the robber-baron’s manor. A party was in full swing. He thought to join, to charm the lissome women in the lamplight.

They looked through the Scotsman, mere shadow now.

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Finding Relief By JulesPaige

Full of teen angst, we seek freedom. We want to put distance from those causing us stress. Yet what most sticks in my mind are the words in a song by Janice Joplin; “…Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”

Returning to the place of discomfort because of not being prepared is a horrific sense of failure. But sometimes when there is no place left, that’s where we can end up. We end up fighting with ourselves. Looking for that elusive freedom that brings peace. When we finally do find true peace, there is welcome relief.

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After Twenty Years by Padmini Krishnan

Savio savoured the dessert, his mouth watering for more. He hesitated. A uniformed man walked around; his head held high. At any point, Savio feared his food would be snatched away and he would be ordered back to his cell. Hurriedly, he devoured the second cup of ice-cream, an unexpected treat. It was his favourite, though he did not remember the name of the flavour.

Somebody cleared their voice, ‘’Sir, would you like anything else?’’

Savio looked at the smiling face and shook his head. He leaned back, relaxed. He need not fear uniformed men anymore; he was free.

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Planting Ideas by D. Avery

Hope planted the little flags where her dad directed, starting with his grandfather who’d served in WWI and ending with his ancestors who had fought in the Revolution.

“And now a parade!”

“That’s right Hope, the Bicentennial Parade. Celebrating two hundred years of freedom.”

“Did your ancestors fight for freedom Mommy?”

“Always, Hope.” She paused to look down the tree-shaded slope to where a small marker stood just outside the cemetery fence. “But we lost.”

“Everyone’s free in America, Mommy.”

A feather drifted silently down from a towering maple. Picking it up, she wondered at the power of myths.

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The Two Faces of Freedom by Hugh W. Roberts

Freedom had been escaping her prison cell.

Freedom was feeling the cool rain on her face having been shut away for nearly 25 years.

Freedom was feeling the grass on her bare feet.

Freedom led her to the safety of the light ahead in the darkness that closed in on her.

“HELP ME!”

***

She had enjoyed freedom for the last 25 years. She was free to do whatever she wanted, see whoever she wanted, and go wherever she wanted.

But for nearly an hour, freedom was no longer hers until she shot dead the running figure coming towards her.

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Free to Go by Michael Fishman

I said I’d help him move.

“Meet me at 2:00?” he asked. “Helen’ll be at work.”

He had little: A few boxes. Some pictures, clothes, records. An old Magnavox all-in-one stereo with a cracked dustcover. No furniture, television, kitchen stuff.

I wasn’t sure why he needed me.

We dropped everything off at his new apartment.

“You wanna celebrate freedom with a beer?”

“Nah.”

I started to reply, but he cut me off. Told me he just wanted to be alone. Said he was free to do that.

I went home, showered, changed, and met Helen for dinner at 7:00.

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A Difficult Dead End by Gary A. Wilson

It’s hard, getting this far and hitting a dead end.

We invested a lot you and I and we reached some summits.

We both gave more than we ever expected but looking back, so much of it made no difference.

We don’t know how to forgive or fix but only how to finish.

I’m ashamed that our home is not big enough to hide from each other.

The papers are on the table. Sign and give them to Monica. She agreed to be our go-between.

The only freedom I can see for us now – is life without the other.

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What is Freedom? Duane L Herrmann

Freedom does not mean irresponsibility. Irresponsibility generates chaos and chaos is not helpful or healthy for anyone. Too often “freedom” is taken to mean license to be irresponsible to or for others. If someone had not been responsible for you as a child, you would not exist to be free to be responsible. Freedom needs responsibility. Responsibility, likewise, does not mean repression. No adult should have control over any other adult unless the other is obviously unable to care for themselves, even then there should be more responsibility than control. Respect for others is a foundational responsibility of freedom.

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Where My Heart Sings by Ann Edall-Robson

Gray asphalt determined to keep me on track, wandering aimlessly towards upward spiralling concrete that obliterates lofty clouds and blue sky, suffocating life. Yet, hope glimpses an escape route, and what is to come when chains of repetition are unshackled, giving permission to ignore the freeways and skyscrapers. Carefree moments lying on the grass watching the night sky dance in the moon’s glow. Awakening each day, to drive the rutted, gravel road to the intersection of I Don’t Give A Damn and This Is Freedom. Where roads wander aimlessly, taking me nowhere and everywhere, to where my heart sings. 

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We’re Free! by Norah Colvin

Help! Save us!

What’s wrong?

Can’t you see? We’re sinking. It’s quicksand! Help!

I’ll save you! I’ll pull you out!

Quick!

Okay. Stay right there! I’ll get a rope.

Jane, Jane. Quick, Give me your rope. The boys are sinking in quicksand. We have to get them out — before it’s too late.

I’ll come too.

Where are you going?

We have to save the boys! They’re sinking! It’s quicksand!

Quicksand? I’ll help too.

Quick! Grab the rope! Now, everyone, on the count of three, one, two, three, pu-ull! Pu-ull! Pu-ull!

Made it! You saved us! We’re free! Thank you.

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Free as a Bunny by Kerry E.B. Black

Rayne huddled under the swingset with a bunny. Its rapid heartbeat outstripped her own. She buried her nose in the fluffy fur and wished to stay safely curled up with it, secure in some snug warren, far from her troubles. As though her thoughts summoned them, her troubles – or persecutors – found her. They ran to inflict their latest torments. Fearing for the delicate bunny, she pushed it into the tall grasses beyond the play area. As their words wrapped like a noose and their hands clamped tight as a jailor’s, Rayne was glad the rabbit at least was free.

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Wishing Yourself Free by Geoff Le Pard

Save a Sprite, get a wish; it was Little Tittweaking lore. For many it meant freedom; for Norman Nocoff, not so much. Norman played a set at the Compost and Rot. He allowed the foot high piano-player to join him. A visiting pig castrater, sipping dubonnet gawped. ‘Who’s he?’ He couldn’t explain, not again. Norman was broken; why had the sprite been partly deaf? Norman was young, only thinking of girls. Slipping his wish away, he returned to the horrible moment his wish had been granted, and he had opened his hand to find a twelve inch pianist.

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When the Walls Come Down (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hey Kid. Looks like ya got yersef free a thet too-tall pigpen ya made by stackin stones.”

“Jist asked fer a ladder, Pal. Though it were a stretch fer her, Shorty hepped. Which is more’n I kin say fer you.”

“I was injoyin bein free a you while you was stuck there in yer pen. Anyway, yer free now, jist in time fer the freedom prompt. How’s thet feel?”

“Ain’t never felt nuthin but free here at the Ranch, Pal; free ta jist go where the prompt leads… free ta x’periment with writin… heck even the carrots are free!”

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When the Walls Come Down (Part II) by D. Avery

“Won’t be no carrots if’n ya don’t do something bout that free-rangin free-loadin carrot-eatin hog a yers, Kid. Git thet animal penned up!”

“Won’t neither, Pal. Curly’s gonna keep roamin free roun Carrot Ranch. But look what I done. I lowered the walls ta that pen, but they’s still high ‘nough ta keep Curly out. Planted the carrots inside there where they’ll be safe. An I used the extra rocks from the extra-tall walls ta make a labyrinth.”

“Why?”

“So folks kin do a walkin meditation.”

“Won’t they git lost?”

“Nope. They’ll git centered an free their minds.”

“Amazing!”

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

Danger Zone Collection

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

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

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

A Near Miss by Anne Goodwin

When the light flashes on my dashboard, I consult man in greasy overalls, who tuts and tinkers and charges me for my ignorance, but my car is safe to drive.

Beneath my skin my body is as much a mystery as that engine, but I can sense when some organ misfires. The scientific version of a fortune teller reading tea leaves, men and women in laundered scrubs can diagnose the problem through my blood. That’s if they are willing to wield a syringe and test tubes. The chap I saw refused to act until I’d reached the danger zone.

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An Eyeful by Geoff Le Pard

The last corner before you enter Little Tittweaking is a notorious blackspot. There have been a few car-tree interfaces, but mostly the damage is psychological: the driver is found whimpering, with his or her eyes tight shut. This danger zone results from the unfortunate juxtaposition of Mrs Pendulous’ Bauble Emporia on one side and Auriola Snatch’s All-weather Nude Yoga classes on the other. Many’s the driver who mounts the verge when confronted by Colonel Guy Rope’s downward dog, as reflected against that day’s bauble, certain they will be crushed by a ginormous pair of rapidly approaching testes.

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Eating at the Danger Zone by Nancy Brady

Going to an upscale restaurant causes anxiety for me; however, it wasn’t always that way. The first time it happened at a nice restaurant. One bite caused a reaction. A dose of epinephrine stopped it. Once diagnosed, it was easy to avoid by asking if there were any pine nuts because of a life-threatening allergy. Much later, it’s another restaurant, another bite, and then, anaphylaxis, a trip to the ER, and an overnight stay. Eventually, even cross-contamination of utensils causes minor reactions. Would another accidental bite be the one that caused death? Despite Epi-pens, it’s the Danger Zone.

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Revelation by Michael Fishman

His next step would define the rest of this life.

He sat, legs overhanging the rock ledge, watching the waterfall in front of him. He listened to the water crash over the crest, he breathed in the mist that rose to the sky.

He leaned back, closed his eyes.

Analytical to a fault he ran the scenario through his head repeatedly. He would leave someone behind, would they care? But he might make someone very happy? Both paths uncertain. Both carrying varying degrees of risk and danger.

What do I want? he thought.

He opened his eyes and smiled.

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Taking Risks by Ann Edall-Robson

Instinct told her the fence, and its guise of safety, was only a few steps away. Body and camera ready, positioned for the action shots, she waited for the bull and rider to explode into the arena. Taking the chance over and over until someone yelled at her, “Get to hell out of the arena.”

“Outside!” Came the call from inside the chute. 

​Breathing in the adrenaline, she held her breath. Waiting for the gateman to make his move to pull the chute gate open. The photographs were worth the risks. She was now truly in the danger zone.

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Jumping by Sue Spitulnik

The conversation at the No Thanks was about parachute jumping. One veteran said he couldn’t wait to get the chance because he loved bungee jumping and wasn’t disappointed by the adrenaline rush of stepping into thin air. Another admitted it wasn’t his favorite thing to do but had learned to accept it as part of his job. Mac was quiet until asked directly. He collected his thoughts before speaking. “Parachuting into a safe landing zone is beautiful and reverent. But, floating through a hail of bullets or hopping off a hovering helicopter in a hot zone was absolute hell.”

Author’s Note: Mac is a Vietnam veteran that owns the No Thanks Needed bar and grill.

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Facing Fear Saves the Day by Frank James

A window-washer screamed, “Help!”

Judd dashed to the edge of the building’s roof. The washer dangled from his Bosoun’s Chair. Judd’s thoughts vanished as he tied off a rope, stepping over the edge. Basic Training flipped through his mind, reciting repelling steps. His heart pounded stepping down. He stammered. ‘I will help,” He paused releasing his hand. Thud, halting at the platform. He scrambled to the man, pulling him on the chair.

“Thank you! How did you get here?” The washer said.

“Stupidity masked as bravery,” Judd said.

The man smirked, “I’m glad it did.”

Firefighters pulled them up.

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Don’t Turn Back Flight Attendant by Padmini Krishnan

Siam Mendes steadied his hands on the control. It had been 6 hours since they lost contact with the Air Traffic Control. Their pilot was dead and the co-pilot was being restrained by a group of stewards. Amidst screams and swears from the co-pilot, Siam tried to concentrate, recalling the basic training he had as a recreational pilot. A slick aircraft flew to his right side. An angry face from the cockpit peeked out and a hand brandished something. Soon another lightweight flew to his left. Then the radio beeped soothingly, ‘’Mr. Mendes, can you hear me?’’

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Danger Zone by D. Avery

The reporter put aside the binder of articles and commendations, all citing the husband’s legendary calm and commonsense, unflappable even under fire.

“I’m interviewing you.”

“Me?” She pulled nervously at the long sleeves she wore even on this warm day. “There’s nothing to tell.”

She wouldn’t tell how she holds him when he shakes and cries after a harrowing shift. She wouldn’t tell how she endures his punches when he’s in a drunken rage.

“Every time he leaves for work, I fear for his life,” she offered.

She wouldn’t tell how she fears for her own at his return.

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Danger Home Duane L Herrmann

Screaming came first, then forced submission to do her will even though I objected and had physical limits, physically hit and screaming forced to swallow vomit, a concussion, and continual humiliation. It was constant hell plus torment by a younger one. Suicidal first at two, then nine years later I learned how. Not allowed independence, then criticized for not taking initiative. No decision was good enough and labor often fell short. There were no kind words, no affection, just labor demanded in very precise, exacting ways. I didn’t have to go far, my Danger Zone was my childhood home.

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Pariah Pupils by Kerry E.B. Black

Katey clutched books to her chest, head down, as she scurried through the crowded hallway. Accustomed to loneliness, and preoccupied with personal matters, she ignored classmates’ daily interactions. They, however, refused her benign neglect. In particular, a cliche of antagonists noted her and positioned themselves to intercept. Unknowingly, Katey blundered into their midst.

“Too good to talk to us, Katey?”

“How rude.”

“Bitchy much?”

Katey stammered, “Oh, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

The queen bee of the group scoffed. “Really, why’s she talking to us?”

Katey’s mind whirled, unsure how she’d stumbled into middle school pariahdom.

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The Hidden Gamble by JulesPaige

The Bone Boys were addicted to greed. Joe watched carefully through a hole in the wall. Joe stayed out of sight mentally projecting to the piano player to tinkle the ivories with a tune he could at least, in his head, sing. Couldn’t give away his position in the false wall behind the bar. Staying overnight in lock up was better for the whole town. Joe’s Pop made sure to keep them boys’ whistles’ wet. If the ‘Boys’ started cheating, Joe was to fetch the sheriff right quick!

too much dust
for brains to make sense;
bad hoodlums

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Quicksand by Norah Colvin

Stop!

Why?

That’s quicksand.

I can’t see it.

That’s why it’s so dangerous.

It doesn’t look like quick sand.

It never does. Until you start sinking in it.

I don’t believe you. You’re just trying to scare me. I’m going in anyway.

Suit yourself.

Help! Help! Save me!

You don’t look like you need saving to me.

But I’m sinking.

It’s just your imagination.

You said it was quicksand.

I know, but I was joking.

Then why am I sinking?

You’re not sinking. You’re just  — disappearing into the ground? Yikes! It really is quicksand. Help! We’re sinking! Save us!

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The Best Rock Ever Pushed Down A Cliff by Gary A Wilson

It was just below the edge, a mammoth monolith-shaped boulder, visible to the whole Petaluma Valley, clinging to the cliff above the rock quarry.

“I’d bet Gary could push it loose.”

An un-resistible challenge. I thought. Couldn’t work – but slid down to try.

Unbelievably, the truck-size rock moved – then broke free.

The howl of crashing shale filled the valley.

Realizing it also kept me from falling, I scrambled up to the edge.

In slow-motion, it gained speed, gouging a trench, screaming destruction throughout the valley before exploding at the bottom.

“That was cool guys, but we should leave – NOW!

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Disappeared 24 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Prohibition had ended in early 1933. The speakeasy had already expanded its offerings to other delights not quite legal. Whisky, with her solid head and an iron heart for business, still used the Scotsman’s interdimensional tunnel to transport and store these goods and services. The mage, fine man that he had been and surely a boon in his time, was no longer useful and had become a hindrance. He had to go. To his credit, he was aware. His dark, unruly hair had grayed, his dimples and belly softened. The Fates smiled with regret. Atropos picked up her shears.

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Jack the Ripper by Scott Bailey

Fog cloaks the chilly night, gaslights glisten feebly on damp cobblestones, the city sleeps. I prowl London’s side streets and alleys. The putrid stench of guilt exposing my prey. I hate what I’ve become but can these miscreants go unpunished? I follow a prostitute, dirty long skirt, ungainly stride, drunk. I know her type, laughing, ridiculing, belittling impotent Johns. She’ll pay. They all will. I grab her. She spins to me. A beard and a grimace surprise me as this imposter grabs my throat with powerful hands. Crushing my windpipe, he glares maniacally as life ebbs from my eyes.

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Dangerous Intruder by Sadje

The doorbell rang stridently in the quiet of the afternoon. Misha looked up from her computer and peeked through the glass panel of the front door. She couldn’t see anyone. Resigned, she got up to open the door a crack and looked through it. Still, no one was visible. But a frisson of unease ran up her spine. “Is someone there?” Silence….. She pushed the door to close and bolt but it wouldn’t budge. As if something invisible was hindering it. Suddenly someone gripped her hand and pulled her backward. She wanted to scream, but couldn’t make a sound.

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Danger Zone by MR Macrum

“We’d made a promise when we were kids that we would never see each other again. Yet, here you are on my doorstep and once again asking for help I cannot imagine giving you.”

“When I helped you bury that other friend of yours, I told you that was the last time. I won’t even loan you a shovel. Now take your sorry ass and ………….”

“Wait now. Let’s not get excited. No need to brandish such a large knife. You know what? Screw that promise we made when we were kids.”

“How can I help you old friend?”

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Killer Doc by Simon

Jessica, at her backyard, underground she witnessed a horrible murder, knife inside the eyes of the victim, the body shook deadly on its last moment. She felt to puke, held her mouth shut and ran fast to her house, she felt the shadow followed her all the way home, she checked one last time, the killer was staring at her at the end of street. Jessica, woke up with her parents aside comforted about the accident. What? accident? something strange she felt, her fingers, her tongue, missed with bandages. She screamed, unable to explain the killer was the doctor.

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Danger Zones by Reena Saxena

The title of his latest book is “Where there is no fear”.

The book cover shows his fingers tapping a keyboard and the image of a brain on the screen, with illuminated zones.

The message on the back cover:

“Danger zones are nothing but unfamiliar places, where we find ourselves powerless to respond in the right way. My characters have traveled all possible danger zones and conquered those.

This is where I’m today – in a zone where my imagination ends. Hence, this is my last book.”

The book is a bestseller. Everybody wants to see life at the edge.

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Just Don’t Look Down by Doug Jacquier

The boss always skimped on safety to save money. Kenny tried not to look down at the 60 foot drop to the concrete below as he moved along the 50 year old timber bearers that had begun to rot and split. The new corrugated iron would hold everything together for another 20 years; they just had to get it screwed down before the really serious winds came tonight. As the light began to fade and Kenny carried the last sheet into place, a gust carried them both off before Kenny could let go and they sailed into the sunset.

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Dead at the Canyon by Miss Judy

She feels her foot slip, feels the cool air, she’s falling. Trembling she awakes, skin clammy and cold.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona, its natural beauty – vast, wild, stark.

We left the arid desert, traveled past cactus dotted hillsides, snowcapped mountains glistened in the distance.

“Stay On The Trail!” A young man fearlessly climbed over the rail, onto a rock ledge; his friends watched, laughing.

He turned, catching the rock’s edge, and plummeted into the Canyon. An eerie silence then a bloodcurdling scream roused the visitors to the devastating reality. 

Years later, the chilling scene still haunts her dreams.

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Grown, Apart by Scott Bailey

Callouses have grown on my emotions where happy memories should have taken root. I never liked pain yet have grown too used to it. So for that, it’s goodbye. The danger zone is the unknown and my future is not known. Will I recognize pure joy if I see it? Will the confidence of my youth return or is my steely resolve merely a fools errand? Will I crash and burn because you’re not here? So for that, it’s goodbye. I’m older but wiser and braver than before and I want to embrace my future. So for that, it’s goodbye.

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Sometimes Little Brothers Win by Frank James

Billy stared at the cracked open closet-door as an owl hooted. Hastened breathing compelled him from bed. The night terrorized Billy, since his brother scared him with ghost stories. The door moved, and he jumped. His father popped in his mind, “You react to fear, so you control the outcome.” His eyes never separated from the closet. A tree branch scratched the window, and Billy froze. The owl hooted again, and Billy grabbed a bat. The closet door flopped open, and Billy smashed it!

His brother screamed, “Ow!”

Billy yelped, “I’m sorry.”

His brother replied, “I had it coming.”

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Dilemma by Hugh W. Roberts

Red lights flashed before his eyes, yet he felt the need to enter the building. He had an idea of what he would find once inside, but the danger would still be lurking. He had to be careful and ensure nothing or nobody threatened his life.

The fact that he was over 25 miles away from home helped release some of his anxiety. As he pushed open the door, adrenalin pumped through his body before danger stared back at him.

“Dad! What? I can explain. Did you follow me? Or did you know this place is a gay bar?”

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Rodents R Us by Bill Engleson

“We’re so glad you called us,” she said, the tough-looking babe accompanied by her terrier. “If its rats, my Petunia is a pretty good hunter.”

“Better your bowser than me,” I confessed.

That got a giggle out of her. Bowser on the other hand started to pooch-whimper, a squeamish yowl that halted the giggler in her tracks.

“Petunia, “ she smartly asked, “What’s got into you?” She then turned to me and said, “This should be right up her alley. Heavens, she is a Rat Terrier.”

“It was twice her size,” I embellished slightly. “Maybe Petunia’s met her match.”

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Write Over Their Heads (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hey Shorty.”

“Hey, Pal! Where’s Kid? Headed to the Danger Zone?”

“Kid’s still stuck in a self-made stone zone. Went an built a pigpen outta stone from the inside out, kep stackin stones up an up an overhead til it was over Kid’s head. Now Kid’s stuck there in thet pen.”

“Should I head over?”

“Kin if ya want. Last I saw, Doc Ranger was tryin ta talk Kid outta there. Kid sent me ta git a pen fer ta write a way outta thet pen. But I ain’t in no danger a Kid findin me here injoyin breakfast.”

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Write Over Their Heads (Part II) by D. Avery

“Kid! It’s me, Shorty! Why ever did you build the pig pen walls so high?”

“Jist kep goin I s’pose. It’s where the stacking stones prompt led. Now I cain’t climb out. Where’s Pal with that writin pen?”

“I’ve got it. I’ve tied a pen and paper to a rock. I’m tossing it over the wall for ya.”

“Yikes! I’m in a danger zone. Ow!”

“Sorry. Kid, I think it’s great you want to write your way out of this predicament.”

“Got to. Doc Ranger’s questions was drivin me crazy. Pal jist laughed. Here. I’m done writin.”

“Already? Ow!”

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Write Over Their Heads (Part III) by D. Avery

“That was some quick writing Kid. Can’t wait to read the conclusion to this unbelievable fictional conundrum. Maybe you’ll use this week’s danger zone prompt to blast your way through a wall with dynamite. Or maybe Pepe and Ernie will come up with some whacky scheme to get you out, maybe with the hot air balloon, or Aussie’s zipline. Maybe Curly will go Lassie again and tunnel you out. Kid, did you write the resolution in 99 words, no more, no less?”

“Less, Shorty. Jist read it.”

“‘Fetch a ladder.’ Huh. That’d do it.”

“Yep. Kept it simple, Shorty.”

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

Stacking Stone Collection

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

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

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

Stacking Stones by Norah Colvin

Active children were everywhere — throwing, skipping, climbing, swinging, laughing, playing. But over in the garden, on the gravel path, one child was stacking stones.

“What’s he doing?” a visiting teacher asked.

“Jack? Counting stones. He’s been doing it for days now. At the end of playtime, he tells me how many he stacked.”

“Why?”

His teacher shrugged. “He likes counting, I guess.”

“Is he okay, I mean, you know —”

“Oh, yes. He’s completely fine. He just wants to see how high he can count.”

“How high has he got?”

“Twelve.”

“How far does he want to get?”

“Ninety-nine.”

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Her Favorite Memory by Scott Bailey

One summer, Mom and me spent a week at the “Tip of the Thumb,” Port Austin, Michigan. At a state park on the pebbly shore of Lake Huron, Mom spread a blanket while I played in the cool water and stacked stones on the shore line. To warm up a little, I sat next to her and she put her arm around me. We laughed when she said my toes looked like little pink raisins. It was always sunny and warm on that blanket. Eighty years later, and not a day goes by I don’t think about that day.

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A Local Mystery by Nancy Brady

It’s not private, but this public beach was tucked away, a hidden treasure. Teens, especially, enjoyed the beach; on summer nights, they’d head there, start a bonfire, and chill with friends. One teen had always been fascinated with building things. As a toddler, Marco played with blocks. As a boy, he loved building things with Lego. So naturally, whenever Marco went to the beach, he’d gather stones together and build a tower. After learning about them, Marco built his first Inukshuk. When the rock tower was destroyed, he returned, resurrecting his Inukshuk. Marco secretly built them day after day.

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The Trail Home by Gary A. Wilson

“Oh – thank God!

“Ruthie, sit with Grandpa while I catch my breath.

“It’s my fault we got lost, Sweetheart. I used to know these trails, but I’m not young anymore.  Now – they all look alike.

“Here – let me dry those tears.

“Look – your mother has saved us.  See that stack of stones? I showed her how to do that and send a message.  We’ve seen other stacks, but that one is hers and her message is clear.

“It’s that one colored stone in the middle, unlike the others. She’s telling us to take this trail to find home.”

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Disappeared 22×2 (1-2) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Slow down, girls!” called Bethany. The Twins raced past the sign memorializing the 1937 disaster, scrambled up the limestone incline, and disappeared onto a deep shelf in the cliff.

Eloise dug her tennies into whatever foothold she could find, pulling herself past Bethany and onto the ledge. “Hold it right there, you two. We’re not leaving Mom behind.”

Bethany cursed her sandals, though they were casual Friday wear, pulling herself up beside her three daughters. “How do you know where to go?” she panted.

“Shadowman said look for the stone cairn, two right turns past the Speakeasy escape vent!”

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Disappeared 22×2 (2-2) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“We gotta hurry. Andrew just got burned and he’s half-spelled!” Chuckie pulled Bethany to her feet.

“If he says those words, we can’t bring him back!” Ducks yanked on Eloise.

“Who the hell is Shadowman?!” snapped Eloise. “Is he another pervert from your dad’s…”

The twins froze, horrified. “Language…” They looked sidewise at Bethany.

“Oh screw that,” Bethany brushed the sand off her feet and drew a calming breath. “If Andrew’s in trouble, we’ve got to help him.”

Bethany’s heart pounded as she squeezed through the cold cave entrance. “Flashlight, Eloise. Now where is this cairn? You girls lead.”

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The Fairy Stone by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Grandmother, what’s the stone with the hole in it?”

“That’s a fairy stone, Granddaughter. If you peer through the hole in the stone, you’ll see into the Kingdom of the Fae.”

“How did it get a hole in it?”

“Moving water erodes a hole in the stone.”

“Okay, so why are we stacking these stones in a pile?”

“Granddaughter, we leave this cairn of stones to warn others of this magical place. Take the fairy stone with you and use it as a talisman against the evil eye.”

“Yes, grandmother.”

The tree dryads rustled their verdant leaves in approval.

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New Direction? (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

Morning fog
Reigns like bleached silence
Gray heron
Standing still
Balanced there like that stone cairn
Beyond the gates’ view

Since Gertie had gifted the secret garden to Jane, she had gone there at various times of the day. Always building another stack of stones in memory of what she had lost. One morning a heron came to the spring that always seemed to remain in the shadows.

The heron slowly walked towards the back green ivy covered gates, nodded, then flew off. Jane hadn’t noticed the hidden words. After gently pulling some ivy away she read; THE WAY.

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Open Sezme by Scott Bailey

“If I stack these stones in just the right order using just the right stones, the individual frequencies of each stone will combine to form a specific ‘word’ or ‘key’ and the boulder sealing the entrance to the cave will hear that and move away.”

“You get that, right? Everything has at least some measure of natural frequency and by blending them just right, a language of sorts is created.”

“There, the last stone is on top, I think I feel something happening. The stones are vibrating! The boulder is moving away!”

“Come on Lassie, our treasure awaits us!”

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Secret of the Stones by Hugh W. Roberts

“These stacked stones are where I buried Fluffy.

When I cried, Fluffy comforted me.

When I had nobody to talk to, Fluffy would always listen.

He was a big part of my life, but he shouldn’t have told me to keep our secret.

Things got a bit out of hand when I told my teacher, Mrs Price, the secret.

Fluffy got angry, so I had to kill him.

Now I come to the stacked stones and talk to him every day.

It’s a good job. Fluffy is only an imaginary friend; otherwise, we’d both be in lots of trouble.”

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Granite Grumbles and Other Rocky Moments After WW2 by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s survival depended on Herb Garden’s emetic gorse-flower cordial and Rocky Outcrop’s bespoke cairns. Returning soldiers had a Hobson’s choice: be perforated picking gorse-flowers or suffer from a condition known as Outcrop Flat finger from building untoppable stone pyramids. Neither business survived. Herb left to become a peripatetic priest, while Outcrop shut his factory after a strike – known locally as the Cairn Mutiny. Questioned what he intended doing with all the left over stone and how he’d make money in future, he told the interviewer not to worry as he planned on making mullions.

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Who’s Afraid? by Michael Fishman

An armchair historian, I sit with others like myself at Porkey’s eating Danish, sipping coffee, and remembering the invasion of Boarsville. The invader, a shaggy beast, filled his mammoth lungs and blew Boarsvillian houses made of sticks and straw to dust and ate the inhabitants. Three survivors huddled in the last house in Boarsville. A sturdy house of brick and stones that was impervious to the invader’s powerful breath. Exhausted and breathless, the invader took one last breath, wheezed, and dropped to the ground. The survivors poked him with a stick, then summarily skinned, seasoned, cooked and ate him.

Author’s Note: With thanks to James Halliwell-Phillips

History Stacked Against Us by D. Avery

“I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with these larger stones.”

“I have no idea what you’re going to do with any of these rocks Gramps.”

“Getting ready. These here? Perfect for chucking by hand. These ones? They’ll fit in a slingshot.”

“Oh. Then how about a catapult for the larger ones? Gramps, are you feuding with Mr. Nelson again?”

“No, that’s done.”

“Then why the piles of stones?”

“You’ve heard of World War I?”

“Yes, and I’ve heard of World War II. What’s that got to do with you stacking rocks?”

“I’m getting ready for World War IV.”

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When the Truth Is Revealed, Who Will Be Watching? by Miss Judy

On January 6, 2021 the US Capitol was attacked. Was it an angry mob incited by a Rally or a detailed, organized, planned attack? Who was responsible? A Committee has found the answers. Seven Hearings will reveal their findings and document for history the events leading up to and during that attack. American’s lives have changed. They are tired. The time for truth is now. Hearing 1 presented a Synopsis and previewed testimony. The next six hearings will give details; the case will be built, stone by precarious stone. Truth will be revealed. The World is watching. Are Americans?

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The Tower of Babble by Doug Jacquier

The cornerstone of the Tower of Babble that is social media is carved from the rock of truth, with all the inconvenient, pointy and lacerating shards of fact dulled and polished beyond recognition. The walls are the stacked rocks quarried from the heads of tall-tale tellers, with the resulting emptiness used as imaginary mortar. Unsuccessful climbers exit quickly, via the slippery slopes created by throwers of gaslit marbles. The rooftop can only be reached by staircases designed by Escher and there successful climbers will find luxurious couches fashioned from otherwise useless recycled bedrock, from which they gaze upon Hell.

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Held Together With Hope by Kerry E.B. Black

Three children gathered at the banks of Russet River. Connie, the eldest at twelve, drew smooth rocks from the mud, wiping them with an antique, embroidered handkerchief. “Pick stones with flat sides,” she instructed her friends Mary and George. “They’ll stack better.”

Building materials selected and cleaned, they closed their eyes.

“We place this first stone to represent faith.” They balanced a second atop, “for friendship,” and a third, “for good health.” From their pockets they drew small, treasured items and rested them atop.

“Accept our sacrifice.” George examined the structures.

“What keeps them from falling?”

Connie smiled. “Hope.”

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Teaching by Example by Sue Spitulnik

Michael sat at a strategically placed table, stacking and restacking seven stones until they all stood one on top of another. Then he turned to the female soldier in a wheelchair by the parallel bars watching his every move. “Walking with prosthetics is all about balance.” Ignoring his comment, she pointed at the stones. “That looks like a useless monument.” “It is, to our legs.” “And dancing. And being whole,” she whined. “Your mind’s whole. Embrace being different and flaunt it.” “How long did that take you?” Michael’s eyes twinkled. “Everyone’s different. Success depends on practice. Shall I demonstrate?”

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The Game of Sitolia by Ruchira Khanna

“Hurry up, and stack it,” Pran shouted at his pal, trying to pile the stones in order.

Pran’s eyes were wide, and his mouth was slurry as he called, “He is aiming the ball at us. Run if you can’t stack them.”

Jay raised his hands and shouted, “Done!”

“Darn it!” shouted Parv at Vishnu, “Couldn’t you have been two seconds faster? They won since they could stack the stones on time. They get to hit the pile one more time while we’ll have to chase the ball.” he lamented.

“Come on, Parv. It’s just a game; lighten up!”

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Un-glued by Reena Saxeena

“Stand away. Those stones can fracture your toe.”

“Don’t worry, Ma’m… the stones will not fall.”

“But I can feel a windstorm brewing.”

“Even then…”

I’m in the desert state of Rajasthan, and stone-stacking to build a fence around homes or farms is common practice.

“Have you used glue?”

“No.”

Back home, I make a candle stand with stacked glass blocks, and use transparent glue. It works.

Years later, I placed a painted glass on a glass-top table.

I’m still trying to unglue it.

The paint acted as glue.

Glass or stone … the difference lies in the glue.

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Granma’s Rocks Duane L Herrmann

Granma collected rocks. When she went on a trip, which was only after her children were grown, she would often bring a rock home. Along her flower garden, she had a line of rocks and each rock was different, yet they were all of similar size. The range of colors was amazing. More amazing, she could remember where each rock came from! Some could be stacked, yet we knew not to take them away. They were Granma’s rocks and special. No one else knew where they were from, or which rock was from which trip. Are they still there?

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Lost Homestead by Ann Edall-Robson

A trail led her to the base of a hill that turned out to be stacked rocks covered in moss and foliage. Was this the original perimeter of the land the group had been given permission to explore in search of a story? The stone fence ended abruptly, opening an additional chapter of the history surrounding her. In small clearings, stone huts had been built. Their roofs of hand hewn timbers covered with sod had slid into the cavity of the buildings. Their former existence left to the imagination of the observer. The lost homestead hiding in plain sight.

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Working Together Tears Down Walls by Frank James

“Why drag me out here?” Barak hollered at Joshua.

“I need your help,” he replied. They stood at piles of stones.

“Too much violence happens outside village walls,” Barak said.

Joshua began stone-stacking.

“Ludacris,” Barak snorted.

“It’ll do more than you know. Stones, please?” Joshua asked.

“Only a fool builds just one wall,” Barak snickered.

Joshua believed, and the pair worked through sweltering heat. Barak looked at Joshua, “Well?”

“It’s the perfect height,” Joshua kneeled.

Joshua peered up, “We built this wall hoping to tear others down.”

Barak prayed, too.

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Seven Stones (Pitho) by Sadje

Pitho was a very popular game when I was growing up. Two teams of minimally two players each could play this outdoor game. All you needed was a tennis ball and seven flat stackable stones.

This game involved hitting and scattering the pile of stones with the ball and then trying to put it together again without getting out. It was a wonderful way to run, use excess energy and have lots of fun.

Seeing this photo took me back many decades. We kids were able to entertain ourselves without any gadgets or devices.

Beautiful, fun-filled youthful days!

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The Wrong Turn by Bill Engleson

We’d gotten turned around. Trails crisscrossing, the sun teasing us with bright splashes, greens, greys, yellows, crazy fiery colors zipping in and out of the tall trees, a kaleidoscope of shooting stars blazing into our eyes, hurting our eyes.

“A day hike,” Langston had said. “What could go wrong!”

Nothing did really, except we were lost.

Langston stared at the Forest Service map he’d downloaded. “It may be dated,” he finally conceded.

And then we saw the stacked stones. Moss layered. A scrawled note in cellophane. Lost! Starving! FAREWELL! These woods are hell- John and Julia, May 4, 1968.

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Unturned (Part I) by D. Avery

“What’s it Look like I’m doin Pal?”

“Looks like ya’ve got a heap a stones an now yer stackin em jist so, Kid.”

“Buildin a wall, Pal.”

“On Carrot Ranch?! Someone there is thet don’t love a wall.”

“Buildin four walls. Gotta pen up Curly, she’s gittin inta everthin lately.”

“Ah! To a piggery, go!”

“Climb outta the Poet Tree an hep me Pal.”

“Nah. Injoyin this vantage point. Ya seem centered Kid.”

“It is satisfyin, workin with stone.”

“Surrouned by peace?”

“Yep.”

“Them wall’s gittin real high Kid. Ain’t no way Curly’ll git out.”

“Nope.”

“Or you.”

“Shift!”

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Unturned (Part II) by D. Avery

“Hey Kid! Whilst ya been buildin thet pig pen, I penned a buckaroo-ku up here in the ol Poet Tree:

when ya build yer walls

stones stacked from the inside out

leave an openin

stones unturned keep Kid penned in

no key fer a gate ain’t there

“Heehee! Kid ya built thet pen aroun yersef with no openin!”

“Tanka very much fer watchin me do it Pal. Now git me out.”

“I’ll think on it. Here’s Doc Ranger. Mebbe she kin hep ya outta yer enclosure.”

“I can try, but Kid you have to really want to get out.”

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Unturned (Part III) by D. Avery

“Why a course I wanna git outta this stone stacked inclosure Doc Ranger. Why wouldn’t I?”

‘That, Kid, in the final analysis, is the key question. How do you feel in there?”

“Feel trapped Kid?”

“Didn’t feel trapped til ya brought it ta my ‘tention Pal. No, I was injoyin stackin stones. Was admirin the patterns of the walls. Feels comfterble in here.”

“Kid yer stonewallin. Yer trapped in yer new pig pen. A stuck Kid.”

“Shush Pal.”

“Kid, what are you escaping by penning yourself away?”

“Jist gimme a pen, Doc, so’s I kin write myself outta here.”

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

Memorials Collection

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

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

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

Who Is To Blame? by Hugh W. Roberts

‘What are the crowd looking at?’ Ingrid asked herself as she came out of her final writing class.

It was too crowded to find out, so she returned later.

As Ingrid’s eyes peered hard at the poorly-made brass plaque in the moonlight, her life changed instantly.

In memory of the brave authors who fought and gave their lives to stop the outlawing of hardcover and paperback books.

It wasn’t the lack of trees but the use of fossil fuels to charge up electrical devices that almost destroyed our planet.

But is it writing or reading that is the crime?

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In Memory of by Michael Fishman

Every year they visit the cemetery. They walk over lumpy grass. Past poplars, oaks, and elms until they stand in front of the faded granite headstone. They read the name. They read the words. They close their eyes and savor a memory. They say a prayer. They put a small rock on top of the headstone: to say hello, to say they were there. To say goodbye. They walk away again, and they cry. It’s said things get easier. The memories blur and the pain dims, but not hurting as badly still hurts. Who’d want it any other way?

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A Monument to the Dead, A Monument for the Living by Miss Judy

A MONUMENT

We see them…

A Cross, flowers, pictures, mementos to mark the spot  
A school, grocery store, shopping center or by a roadside
A tragic accident, a senseless killing, a terrorist act
A life lost too soon.

We see them…

A reminder and feel a loved one’s pain
A family, a friend stops to grieve, missing a smiling face, a laugh
A thought, a prayer, a promise given, a hope to share
A life lost too soon.

We see them…

A reminder of a life lost too soon.
A Monument to the dead.
A Monument for the living.

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Remembering by D. Avery

“Shut that fucking TV off!”

“Swear like that again I’ll shut you off.”

But the bartender pointed the remote and the news was replaced by a baseball game.

“Better?”

“Eh.”

Baseball wasn’t much better than the news. She signaled for another drink.

Her son liked baseball. Made the high school team. Dreamed of the majors.

“Stupid kids,” she said.

“What?”

“The news. Building a memorial.”

“Why not?”

“Doesn’t change a damn thing. Over two decades and nothing’s changed.”

Nothing, she thought, except dozens more parents were suffering like her from relentless grief, of dreams shot down with their children.

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Behind A Memorial by Ann Edall-Robson

We all stayed behind to see what the hubbub was about. Jaunty bagpipe music indicated a celebration. Much better than the usual solemn processions when a new resident is welcomed. A young lady stopped beside our group. She quietly said, “I can feel you near.” Not many connect with us, but those are the ones we treat with the respect they give us. When they leave, they take one last glance, whispering goodbye and promising to be back soon. They are the living we cherish. The ones that recognize us as the true reason and meaning behind a memorial.

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In Memory of Marcella by Nancy Brady

The memorial stone Julia passed on her walk around town was no longer a mystery. Julia had moved to the city; she wondered about this marker especially after a pine was removed, leaving the stone exposed. Julia eventually learned the whole story of the woman behind the memorial because she met and became friends with Shirley, Marcella’s daughter. After the pine was thoughtlessly cut down, Shirley started placing silk flowers at the stone throughout the year. Once Shirley became housebound, Julia took up the mantle. Julia still changes the flowers despite Shirley’s dementia because someone needs to remember them.

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In Memory Of by Sadje

A faded sepia print in an old-fashioned silver frame is all that I have of my paternal grandmother. Her eyes, much like those of my father and mine are serious in a face devoid of any makeup. The frame sits on a table in the family room where I often look at it. I remember her, if not with affection, but with admiration. She looked after us siblings, three young children aged 4 – 8 when my mom passed away. I’m sure we must’ve taxed her patience to the limit but she was always fair. May she rest in peace.

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Memorial of Inhumanity by Reena Saxena

How could they allow this structure to be built here, with scenes of gruesome violence? It offends humane sensibilities. 

And why do feminists choose only to portray violence against women, when there are so many atrocities happening to damage humanity?

“Aren’t we a part of humanity?”

They step back on hearing this voice from nowhere.

“This structure is a memorial to document inhumanity in the annals of history. It is a message that the era is now dead and over. If any of these scenes are ever repeated…”

They feel a strong force pushing them back, but see nothing.

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Memorial by Norah Colvin

As a child, he lived at Yuleba, a tiny town in south-western Queensland. His father was a boundary rider on the fence bordering New South Wales, keeping rabbits out of Queensland. A peaceful if difficult life. Aged 20, he enlisted. His overseas service included the battle at Milne Bay, a turning point of the war. Upon their return, servicemen were told to forget. Memories and nightmares disagreed, but it was years before he could talk, let alone write, about his experiences. After his death, his words were engraved on a memorial in his home town, never to be forgotten.

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Honoring Shannon by Gary A. Wilson

Dear Kent family.

You don’t know me. I was thinking about your daughter, wife and mother, Shannon.

I read about her gift for languages, how she fought and won a battle against cancer, and how she chose to use her skills in our Navy.

I also read how one person, an apparent non-combatant, walking past the restaurant where Shannon was eating — detonated a suicide vest, snatching her away from you.

The date: January 16, 2019.
The city: Manbij, Syria.
Shannon was only 35.

Her memorial is . . . insufficient . . . and, she left us with an impossible-to-repay debt of gratitude.

Humbly,

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Memorial to What? by Duane L Herrmann

In the village of Reckendorf, Bayern, as in most German towns, memorials result from the wars: one for the Great War, and the greater war later. My family name is on the stones; family I never knew, before my time, but we are still connected. These memorials, my cousin said (and maybe others), do not so much honor the fallen as admonish the living: “You caused this war. You caused these deaths.”

No victors here.

Maybe all living survivors should have such admonishement: You caused this war. You caused these deaths.

If so, maybe there would be less war.

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Flames of the Shoah by Tzvi Fievel

The kever (tombstone) of my maternal great-grandfather, Aryeh, denotes the name of his father, Dovid Shlomo, who was born in Kurland, Russia, and perished in Auschwitz. His last place of residence is listed as Szollos, Vynohradiv, Ukraine. This was to the southeast of where Kurland was located. Kurland became part of Latvia, northwest of Szollos on the Baltic Sea. The Jews of Kurland were expelled at the beginning of WW1, so he may have relocated to Szollos, Ukraine, where he was eventually swept up in the widespread net of the Reich, the same as my paternal ancestors in Bolekhiv.

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Memorial in the Marble Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Brom chose the marble for its fine lines and smooth surface, so like her admired skin, cool and pale with fine, blue veins. He ran a hand along its surface and recalled her reaction to his touch. Her shiver of anticipation. His surge of longing when she whispered his name. His eyes misted. He swiped away emotion with calloused hands, determined. Fellow artists advised against this project. Don’t mix personal with professional. Michelangelo saw the angel in the stone. Brom sought the memorial in the marble. With meticulous care, he marked and carved her beloved name onto the tombstone.

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Memorials by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking has no war memorial. It sided with the Zogs of Albania in the Great War and declared itself a Dublin suburb in WW2. Their only war hero was Colonel Hugh N’cry. Captured during the siege of La Plume de ma Tante, he sacrificed a body part to feed his starving men. Now known as the Battle of N’cry’s Buttock, it is remembered for the creation of the side-saddle, which was originally designed to support the lopsided seat of Colonel N’cry. A bronze cast of N’cry’s remaining buttock features in a memorial garden as a novelty birdbath.

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Private Enclave (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

Quiet sun
Island paradise?
Protected
Sacred space
A sanctuary for those
In recovery

As Jane grew comfortable with her new freedom, she found that she needed less time alone.
But she still needed time to reconcile the past, even though she could not control any of it. That she was able to save herself, with the kindness of Gertie Simple, and her people…that had to be enough for now.

Gertie had gifted Jane a secret garden with high walls. She could grieve there, let her makeup run… make cairns to those she had lost, and perhaps would never find.

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Disappeared 20 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Pull in here!” the twins shrieked as the jeep rounded a sharp curve. Bethany cranked the wheel hard onto a tight dirt road that ran between a wide bank of Honeysuckle and sandstone cliff.

“What the hell!” yelled Eloise. Her seatbelt tightened to a stranglehold.

The haunted mansion cast a chill shadow from above.

“The shortcut through the bootlegger’s tunnel’s here. So’s Andrew.” The twins tumbled out of the back seat, grabbing the first-aid kit and flashlight. “And Shadowman!”

On their heels, Eloise and Bethany slipped past the rune-scratched sign memorializing the 1937 cave collapse of Whiskey Nicolaysen’s Speakeasy.

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Out On the Old Highway by Bill Engleson

“Can’t miss it,” Bucky said as we downed reacquainting brewskis at the Curly Cue Lounge, a favorite watering hole before I grew up and left town. I was back to wind up my parent’s estate. They’d passed away together six months earlier.

After the funeral, I’d been hauled back to work.

This week was the earliest I was free to return.

Bucky’d just told me that Callie, an old girlfriend, had been fatally clipped by a Semi two months earlier.

“Flowers! Pictures! The usual roadside memorial.”

“Just walking?”

“Yeah! Her…her mutt. Want me to come?”

“Nah! I can manage.”

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Aftermath by Padmini Krishnan

His soul wakes every Memorial Day and wanders across various tombstones, confused with the crowds and flowers. Perhaps he is trying to find the girl in the green dress he never proposed to, his mother who had prayed for 10 years to have him or the enemy who had asked for water. Or does he look for a meaning to his short life or wonder about people who live beyond 22? Whatever it is, don’t go there. Let his soul rest. Light a candle for him in your heart and revere the freedom he and his likes gave you.

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Service Feelings (Part I) by E.A. Colquitt

When he saw her death announced in the paper, Thom thought he’d better go to the memorial. He hadn’t seen her in years – not to speak to – yet still he felt the pull to attend. It was his last duty – but would that really be to her, or to himself? The night before, Thom lay in bed, wondering – worrying, even, about the selfishness of it all. He didn’t think he’d fallen asleep, but her face fluttered above his head, behind his eyelids. She told him that she understood, now. She understood everything. She radiated peace and joy and love.

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Service Feelings (Part II) by E.A. Colquitt

He’d never known anything like it… unless it was Aunt Tessie, the family spiritualist, telling everyone about her son from a previous life. Then, he’d been a talented actor. Now, he reaches out from beyond the veil, to guide her in much the same way as this. Or something. Thom usually zoned out whenever Tessie brought it up. Wasn’t it all, he always thought, just a dream? By morning, he was less certain. The priest talked of Heaven’s perfect love blooming out of its perfect understanding. The dead long to share that state on Earth. Thom had felt that.

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Rapturicus Rodenticus by Scott Bailey

Pondering the Rapture, “Do we know when it comes?” I asked Elder Squirrel as we sat on a rock, reverently looking over a vast valley, fluffy tails twitching nervously.

“We never do, that’s why we look at every tree and rock as a memorial. Honor the Unaware.” He said.

“Maybe if we’re more aware we’d live longer,” I said, snidely.

“Maybe you’re right!” he yelled while diving off the rock into a thick bramble.

With a bolt from above, I became acutely aware my time had come, as the owls talons sank in deep, Rapturing me up to Heaven.

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Owls by Scott Bailey

“Going to the taxidermy shop today?”

“Yeah, pay my respects to my stuffed uncle, just sitting on a branch inside the window. Some Memorial, huh?”

“They have no respect for us Owls. I have to pick up dinner and get home or I’d go with you.”

“Yeah, that’s ok. Hey, look at those two squirrels on that rock. Ever wonder what they’re thinking about?”

“Each others nuts, probably!”

“HA, good one!”

“Yeah, that never gets old! Alright, say hi to your Uncle for me, I think I’ll swoop down and grab the smaller squirrel for dinner, see you tomorrow.”

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Immortally Memorialized, Presently by D. Avery

“Pal, how come they’s no memorials on the ranch?”

“Well, Kid, mebbe cuz Carrot Ranch jist IS. Everlastin here an now.”

“Really? We’re in a perpetual present?”

“Virtually, yep.”

“I’m disagreein, Pal. Carrot Ranch has a history, but more important, Carrot Ranch’s got a future. I want a memorial. Right here, right now.”

“So imagine one inta existence Kid.”

“Ok… Hmmm… It should honor ever’one who dares ta write fer the ranch… readers too… I know! How ‘bout gatherin stories t’gether in one place?!”

“Good idea Kid. Thinkin Shorty calls thet the Collection.” “

Yep, each one monumental.”

“Write on.”

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

Well’s Gone Dry Collection

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

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

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

The Well Has Gone Dry by Rob Smith

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

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Now It’s Your Turn by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

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

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

The well remained the only thing dry.

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A Marriage Tale by Duane L Herrmann

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

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Desperation by Michael Fishman

I said, “Let’s give it another try?”

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

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

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

I hung my head and I started to cry.

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

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

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

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

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Homage to Dr. Clair Stelzenmuller by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

James asked. “Who’s Clarice?”

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

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

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Disappeared 18 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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Where Has the Water Gone? by Sadje

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

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Endurance by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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Warning Note by Simon

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

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The Source by Tzvi Fievel Schnee

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by Anita Dawes

I had planned this pilgrimage for a year

A sacred well, 140 mile walk

Could take a week

My father told me about it

To drink from it, brings good luck I need some

The trek hard, my feet blistered

My back broken

The scenery beautiful

So many birds I had never seen

Camping at night, early morning pilgrims

Walking down, their faces grim

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

Then a couple told me the well’s gone dry

I continued, disappointed, however

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

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Wishes by KL Caley

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

“There’s no splash!”

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

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

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

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

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by Ann Edall-Robson

“Is this a sign the well’s gone dry?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alone by Reena Saxena

Alone

is all-in-one

when I come together

gather different pieces

to make a whole

to make sense of it

I dissect dreams

to see

what one part of my psyche

says to another

and it’s so engrossing…

Alone

is what all others

don’t like

it leaves them out

excludes them from

control rooms

Separates their ego

From my the glory

of my individuality

those who respect me

respect my alone-ness

Lonely is only

when I pine for company

other than my own

It’s a well gone dry

looking for irrigation

Alone is all-in-one

Alone is complete

Alone is bliss

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Fill in the Blank by JulesPaige

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

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

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

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At What Expense by Frank James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by D. Avery

in wind-stormed time of drought

nothing shines but rust

silt and sand swirled colors of the silent muse

faded promise wrung out

sunbaked bone and dust

in hard times, hard to trust

to shake fear and doubt

to beseech again and again be refused

one must do as one must

seeding one’s own clouds

with faith of rooting sprouts

breaking through the crust

dream of green catching glistening drops of dew

if muse gasps, one must shout

wake up dreams long hushed

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The Coming of Petrichor by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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

***

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

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Welling Up by Geoff Le Pard

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

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Well’s Gone by Scott Bailey

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

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You’re Done by Gary A. Wilson

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

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An Ordinary Day by Nancy Brady

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

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My Well’s Gone Dry by Bill Engleson

My well’s gone dry

And my heart is empty,

I don’t know why I ain’t got plenty

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

I ain’t as spry as when I was twenty.

I swore I could fly like my darling Jenny.

Swore I could fly like my darling Jenny.

Fly into the sky… fly in the sky.

You know I’ll try

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

steal or lie to find as many.

Whatever it takes to fill my well,

heaven or hell to fill my well.

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Diggin Inta Pre-Herstory by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

“Lookin fer water?”

“Nope. A well a creativity.”

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

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

“Ya said it weren’t the ranch yet.”

“Shush Kid.

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

“What fer?”

“Cuz he knew thet well was gonna gush!

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

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“What happened ta Ernie’s unicorn?”

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

“A watermark?”

“Shush Kid.

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

“A rainbow an a north star!”

“Yep. Shinin on ferever.”

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All’s Well That Ends Well by A. Kid

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

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

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

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

“Heehee, yep. Jist primin the pump.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

Soldier, Prisoner, & Buttercup

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

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

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

Soldier, Prisoner & Buttercup by Christine Bialczak

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

“Can I help you?”

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

“Darn dog! Stay!”

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

“How do you know my dog?”

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

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An Exciting Invitation by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

“I’m going too.”

“Excellent idea!”

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Pups for People by Annette Rochelle Aben 

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

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

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

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Dog Days v2 by Scott Bailey 

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

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When Blindness Isn’t a Disability Frank James

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

Jones smirked, “Never thought you had eyeballs.”

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

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

“Humility,” James said.

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

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

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

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Buttercup by Hugh W. Roberts

“Good to see you back, James.”

“Have I missed much?”

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

“I thought I recognised her.”

“Why did you name it Buttercup?”

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

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

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Pay It Forward by Marsh Ingrao

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

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Yes, Man to a Nomen by JulesPaige

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

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Flutter of Hope by Michael Fishman

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

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Sunny by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

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More Than a Number by Duane L Herrmann 

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

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Playing Ball by Geoff LePard

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

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Saying Bye to Buttercup by KL Caley

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

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Rescue Dog by Anne Goodwin 

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

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Far From Prison by Gary A. Wilson

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

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Dog Days by Scott Bailey

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

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Joint Custody Bill Engleson

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

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Peeling the Labels by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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

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

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

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As Far as a Prisoner Can Go by Nancy Brady

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

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Released by D. Avery 

“Know whut I’m thinkin Pal?”

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

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

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

“Mebbe we was imprisoned, Pal.”

“Don’t think so Kid.”

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

“Vetternarians?”

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

“Servin up bacon?”

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

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

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

“Phew! I’m free!”

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