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Dress Up

To dress up is to put on a new persona, look, or role. Writers considered the myriad of ways we dress up at any age.

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

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

Caught by Joanne Fisher

Thinking he was alone, Kyle dressed up in his sister’s clothes. Looking in the mirror, he wondered if he was really a girl. Just then Hannah unexpectedly walked through the doorway.

“What are you doing in my room freak?” she asked. In a panic he ran to his own bedroom. A short time later Hannah knocked on his door. “Can I have my dress back? That one doesn’t fit you anyway. Here are some of my older ones that would be more your size. Just don’t go in my room again.”

She left Kyle a box full of clothes.

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Glamour Girl by Anne Goodwin

“Trust me,” said Geraldine, as we un-noosed our school ties in the station toilets, “Trust me,” as we tottered to the train in miniskirts and high heels. When I blinked, mascara clogged my eyelashes. My waxy lips left prints on the bottle, as I swigged lemonade.

We’d dressed up as kids, for watered-down Shakespeare. I’d scoured my sister’s wardrobe behind a locked bedroom door. But this was serious. Public. If my dad got wind of it, I was dead.

For one weekend, I’d play glamour girl. Later, when my mother found the tell-tale Polaroids, I faced the consequences alone.

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Mirror of Hope by Hugh W. Roberts

Despite the bruises, Andrew admired himself in the mirror. A princess looked back at him.

“Don’t forget your shoes.”

The red high heeled shoes, although too big, complemented his mother’s burgundy dress he had on.

“You’re pretty,” remarked the princess.

The faint noise of his father’s car’s unexpected arrival caused panic in Andrew and the princess.

“Hide behind me,” yelled the princess, “before he beats you again.”

Crouching behind the mirror, he tried making himself invisible.

As the smell of alcohol and the unbuckling of his father’s belt reached him, tears made their escape down the young boy’s face.

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When I Grow Up by Goldie

It was the night before Halloween when Stephanie realized Tommy needed a costume for school the next day.

“We need to create a costume. What do you want to be?” she asked, frantically rummaging through her arts and crafts bin.

“I want to be like Daddy!” Tommy buzzed excitedly.

Steve grinned with pride. Being a police officer had been a family tradition for generations.

Tommy disappeared from the kitchen to return wearing a black ski mask.

Stephanie and Steve froze, mortified.

“I saw you last night wearing this, telling Mom how much fun you had. I like having fun!”

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Here Comes Gingie by Bill Engleson

This kid, Gingie Rawlins, is a friggin’ showboat.

Don’t know how he does it.

I go outta the house with mismatched socks the old lady hauls me back in, waves her fat finger up my nose, points the way to my sock drawer.

Gingie’s folks seem normal. His old man’s usually suited up.

Even in the house, eh!

His mom wears puffy dresses, June Cleaver like.

Gingie however usually shows up at the paper shack in some god-awful mismatch…like, tights and shorts.

Tights!

Even wore ginch over his pants last week.

This goofball’s from Mars if you ask me.

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Makeover by Heather Gonzalez

Dorothy gave her sister a cup of hot tea that afternoon. Rose sipped the tea and complained about the weather. Suddenly, Rose got very silent. Dorothy knew it was the perfect time to give her sister a much needed makeover.

Being very gentle, she adjusted the dress she had picked out for her. She even remembered the matching hat and shoes. Applying makeup was a little harder since Dorothy’s hands had gotten shaky with age. After one last coat of lipstick was applied, Dorothy stepped back to marvel at her work. Too bad, Rose wasn’t alive to see it.

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Defending the Frontier by R. V. Mitchell

Captain Ezekiel Talbert mustered his men outside the bastion of Fort Frederick. A war party of French aligned Shawnees had been spied near the Potomac and he and his detachment of the Maryland Forces were going to intercept them before they could get up to any mischief.

His trusty band of volunteers were going to more than enough to deal with the Shawnee threat, after all they were well equipped with the latest Brown Bess muskets from Japan, and most understood the rudiments of Bland’s Manual. Now all he needed was for his sergeant to finish his phone call.

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Dressing Up by Joanne Fisher

As the sun set, they rose out of their coffins in the crypt.

“Shall we hope someone walks through the graveyard tonight? Or shall we get dressed up and go into town?” asked Samantha.

“Yes let’s go into town!” Katherine replied.

They dressed up in their finest gowns and coats, then headed off. When they got to town they were surprised by the sheer number of people there.

“Are you going to choose one?” Samantha asked after a while.

“There’s just too many of them! I can’t decide!” Katherine replied. Samantha rolled her eyes. Why did this always happen?

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Phasing by Rebecca Glaessner

Phasing began.

Tahvket donned the cloth to be worn to Center. House-family fitting it while praying for energies to take and seeds yet unformed.

Elders braided Tahv’s endless white hair.

Hair to be shaved if one’s seed fails. If one doesn’t Phase at all.

Shaved to free the energies within.

As few seeds take form and even fewer are granted life. Energies are never spared.

Would Tahv’s fail? At nearly twenty-two cycles, hope of Phasing had waned.

Yet here Tahv stood, before Center, heart pounding, hands rippling over smooth, now-fitted cloth, the outfit offering all the strength Tahv needs.

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World Book Drag by Ritu Bhathal

“But I don’t wanna!”
Little feed stomp, but I’ll be damned if my hard work won’t be worn today.
World Book Day.
The bane of every parent’s life.
I’ve been planning this costume since last year, after seeing the spectacular costume Jenny Harris-Smythe’s mother made for her daughter last year.
She was dining off her win for months!
So, I’m sorry, but today you WILL be wearing this, because I say so.
I don’t care if you think you look silly, and no, you can’t be Captain America! Ready-made costumes. Pah!
The prize will be mine!
Sorry, yes, yours…

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Dress Up by Anita Dawes

I never had the opportunity to dress up as a child
It never entered my head
I was far too busy, swimming, skating
Riding any bike I could borrow
I had a cut-out book
Where I dressed a paper doll with different clothes
This, however, wore off too quick
I wonder now if it might have been
The lack of imagination, or up bringing
Parents need to understand a child
As my granddaughter does with
my little great grand daughter
I love to watch her run around
In nothing but her hat and wellies
Or her father’s big boots…

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A Relentless Quest by Donna Matthews

I’m surprised to find my daughter lying spread eagle on the floor.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yes…no…maybe, in a minute.”

Hesitating a hair of a moment, I lay down next to her.

She doesn’t move away.

Lying on my side, I study her profile and realize she’s pierced her nose. Should I say something? Let it go? Her willingness to try on different personalities is something I admire in her. Her relentless quest to find which fits her best.

“Love?”

“Yeah?”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m thinking about who I want to be. I just can’t see it yet.”

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Setting the Wedding Date by Sue Spitulnik

On a hot summer day at Tessa’s parents when the combined family Thanksgiving was mentioned, Michael and Tessa gave each other a knowing look as if they were blushing but weren’t. Michael cleared his throat to garner attention. “Would there be any objections if we invited friends also and asked everyone to get dressed up?”
He got a lot of ‘what do you mean’ stares.
“Tessa and I were thinking the occasion would be ideal for our wedding.”
The answer came in a cacophony of positive sounds and exclamations. Satisfied, they left to recreate the scene at Michael’s parents.

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I Do by Annette Rochelle Aben

Weddings are generally fancy-dress occasions. Even the venues are decorated beautifully with that which symbolizes the excitement of the happy couple.
Her mother’s home was no exception as there were flowers in every room. From the massive spray of gladiolas on the piano to the dozens of carnations in the family room. So pretty!
The bride sat crossed-legged on the kitchen counter in jeans, a tee-shirt and bare feet. Caught up in the beauty around her, she bolted when the Minister inquired if she had a pretty dress to wear since the ceremony was to begin in five minutes.

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Wedding Trappings by Kerry E.B. Black

This wouldn’t be the wedding of her dreams. Finances had seen to that.

However, it wasn’t about the trappings, or so she kept telling herself.

She smoothed the front of the gown. It registered more as the ivory of aged teeth rather than the dazzling white of a Hollywood smile, but it was an antique. Something old. A relic from Gram’s wedding. She spritzed the high collar with perfume to overpower the lingering mustiness the cleaners couldn’t remove. No fairy-godmother’s transformation for her.

When she saw her groom’s appreciative smile, however, she knew. Their wedding wasn’t about the trappings.

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As”mo”mi Returns by Kavita Deo Miracle Moments

Asmi, a new mom, stood in front of the mirror and took a good look at herself. The pregnancy glow was replaced by stress of being a new mom. She sighed, “I need to look and feel like my old self”. She opened her wardrobe and then took out a kaftan. A glamorous yellow kaftan in chiffon with beautiful grey motifs printed on it. She put it on, wore her favourite bead necklace and dabbed make up . Then she sprayed her favourite Chanel perfume. She wore heels, took a selfie in mirror, posted on Instagram As”mo”mi returns.

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Warm Welcome by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Olivia was new to this climate, and new to the area. Naturally shy, she was unsure how to dress herself properly, so she’d gotten up the gumption to visit Lena’s Outdoor Outlet for help.

Lena was a peach, listened carefully, looked her over good, and smiled. This girl obviously needed a friend; Lena could use any and all sales. The sense of mutual balance pleased both.

At the Pumpkin Moon Fest, Olivia blushed and shivered, despite her layers. How could others be fine in thin flannel and cargos?

Lena waved her over and whispered, “Don’t worry. Just be comfortable!”

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Gifts from the Heart by Saifun Hassam

Down by the pines, the bird feeding station was busy with cardinals, bluejays, and sparrows. Straight after breakfast, Farah’s mom helped her to dress: boots, jacket.

Her birthday scarf embroidered with bluebirds.

The young artist’s drawing notebook was already filled with doodles of birds and flowers. Her imagination was fired up from Grandma’s surprise birthday gift: a CD all about drawing and painting birds and flowers.

Drawing a real cardinal was pretty tough. Suddenly from a nearby birch tree, a bird called out. Grandma was right. An entire world was out there waiting to be explored. Artist and explorer.

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Mother of Assumptions by Ruchira Khanna

We, individuals, love to dress up our minds with assumptions.

An assumption is a state of mind where an individual can draw a very colorful or an ugly picture.

Isn’t it amazing how an individual builds his castle over his assumption?

A classic example is how an individual presents himself, his dressing mannerisms, or his public behavior. They are all human-made assumptions.

This boils down to being aware of what we think, which eventually becomes our assumptions.

If the assumption is the mother of all disasters, bring in the father who has a clear vision and channel the thoughts.

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Lights, Camera Etc. by kathy70

Saturday night and the theater lobby lights sparkle on the sequins as we walk around. We are in our suburban neighborhood and no paparazzi are stalking us for photos. It is opening night. Who’s idea was it to make this a fancy dress event? It seems pretty silly all these years later. Yet, the photo of us from that evening is one of my most treasured items. Who would imagine that adults would play dress up for all the world to see on such a “normal” day. Imagine we really were that young and playful only three + decades ago.

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It’s a Compliment by Simon

Are you doing chores with an apron? Like a house wife? (Auntie chuckled)

I dote to Sprint like Dutee Chand

Fight like Greta Thunberg

Play like P.V.Sindhu

Fly like Gunjan Saxena

Ambulate like Anjali Lama

Drive like Veeralakshmi

Indite like Malini Agarwal

Do chores like my wife

Manage house like my Mom

Cook like my grandma

Doing anything like them is not a revilement, it’s a compliment.

You are withal a woman. Now tell me, are you complimenting me or vilifying me?

(Sa…Sa…SA..) Sam, I was complimenting you dear.

I deciphered it when you sa…sa…said… Auntie, Thank you (Attitude)

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He Wished He Had … by Reena Saxena

He saw a huge crowd carrying similar placards, snaking its way through streets.

Is that Emily? Yes, she is leading the procession. But why?

Later in the evening ….

“You don’t qualify to be called domestic help.”

“Really? Who has been managing the house for 10 months now?”

The sarcasm froze him.

“But why should you be leading the pack? You don’t work for others.”

“I want house help to come back. I wish you’d helped with the chores….”

He seriously wished he had. It would’ve saved him embarrassment.

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Doing Chores by Ann Edall-Robson

Calving, snowstorms,
temperature dropping,
water holes to keep open.
Sleigh horses harnessed,
hay stacked high
frozen skis crunch snow.
Mercury slithers, creeping
down, frosted breath,
feeding rituals double.
These months called winter
everything’s expected,
without warning too often.
The temptation to stay
by the wood fire, warm,
nothing but a fleeting dream.
​Every day a silent wish
tromps through the thoughts
yearning for winter to end.
A want for longer days
Chinook winds blow,
snowdrifts dissolve.
Spring and green grass
replaces manure laced mud
frozen days, gone.
To the ranchers feeding
cows and country
thank you for doing chores.

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Riding the Zipline Down Under by Norah Colvin

Many hid behind Norah’s fear of heights, speed and enclosed spaces. “I’ll do anything Norah does,” they’d boast, feigning bravery. D. said she’d ride the zipline from its start, high up in the US, all the way Down Under, if Norah did.
Dressed for warmth and to prevent chafing, they adjusted their harnesses. “You first,” said D., still not believing Norah would do it.
“Whee! I’m flying; flying without wings,” sang Norah, zooming across the landscape.
“I’m dying,” screamed D., squeezing her eyes shut.
“We’re here,” said Norah. “Welcome to Australia.”
“That was amazing,” said D. “I did it!”

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Double-hog Dare by D. Avery

“Kid? What’re ya doin’?”
“Dressin’ up.”
“I kin see thet. But fer what?”
“Fer Aussie.”
“Fer Aussie? Aussie favors the Michelin Man? An’ dang it, Kid, are those my pillows ya got duct-taped ta yersef?”
“Yers, mine, any I could git a hold of. Need paddin’.”
“Why’s thet Kid?”
“Wanna be prepared fer a crash landin’.”
“Crash landin’?! From what?”
“Zip-linin’.”
“But ya cain’t stand heights Kid.”
“But Aussie double-dog-dared me.”
“Hmmf.”
“Pal?”
“Yeh?”
“Take good care a Curly fer me.”
“Oh, Curly an’ me, we’re comin’ ta watch.”
“She might git scared.”
“Does, she’ll squeal like a Kid.”

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Dressed ta Swill by D. Avery

“Jeez. Kid, ya let thet critter snuggle in bed with ya, ya won’t git her ta stop.”
“So?”
“So? She already weighs two stone.”
“Stone? Yer a week late Pal.”
“It’s a unit a measure. Ya seen my flannel nightshirt?”
“Heehee. Curly, yer eyelashes tickle. Flutterin’ butterfly lashes.”
“Butterflies? Thet’s so last week.”
“Last week… ‘member visitin’ Ernie… then comin’ back an’ piggin’ out afore a long nap.”
“T’weren’t pretty. Hey! Thet pig’s wearin’ my nightshirt!”
“Ya soun’ angry, Pal. Is’t ‘cause Curly looks better in it then you do?”
“Give it!”
“Here ya go. Want some lipstick too?”

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Butterfly and Stones

Between the contrast of whisper-thin wings and bedrock, 99-word stories take flight.

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

I See the Sky by Bill Engleson

I see the sky,
a band of blue,
your sweet-sought dreams,
a life anew.

Wing away friend,
soar to the heights,
butterfly dreams,
a life in lights.

I am the earth,
the solid ground,
what I can grasp,
certainty bound.

The eastern sun
will always rise,
set in the west,
each day a prize.

And though I wait,
weighted by stone,
it ‘tis my way
and not your own.

Each way is best,
and yes, best yet,
to live a life
without regret.

And so, you write,
you shape, you mould,
each thought a word
a tale well told

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Home School — More Than Academics by Ritu Bhathal

“More school, at home, again?” Megan wailed. “I hate it when you teach me, mum!”

Pushing the computer aside, I turned to her.

“Tell you what, today, we’ll do some learning, my way.”

 I found some flat stones we’d collected at the beach a couple of years ago and got the paint out.

“Today, we learn about random acts of kindness.”

We painted all sorts on the stones; hearts, butterflies, flowers; and then in the afternoon, we took a walk and placed the colourful stones in random places.

“There, we can still put a smile on someone’s face, sweetheart.”

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Butterfly Rock Garden by Sue Spitulnik

In the springtime, the Homefront Warrior’s group worked quickly under the threat of rain to arrange rocks and then plant seedlings and bulbs for a memorial garden.
Now it was a sunny, blue-sky August day and they gathered for a picnic near their handiwork. One woman who had little knowledge of plants stood admiring the various colored blossoms with a puzzled look on her face.
Tessa noticed. “What has you perplexed?”
“Why did we plant weeds in with the flowers?”
“If you mean the milkweed, it’s the only thing a monarch butterfly will eat. Look, here comes one now.”

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The Fairy Garden by Kate Spencer

“What’ya doing?” Tommy asked, dropping his toy cars beside the sandbox.

“I’m building a fairy garden,” Lily said, placing small stones alongside her castle.

“It’s my turn to play.”

“’Tis not.”

“’Tis so!” Tommy shouted, kicking the sand.

“Mommy!”

“Stop it!” their mother’s voice echoed from the house.

Frustrated, Tommy sat down on the rim of the sandbox. Finally, he announced, “I’ll build a fairy car garage over here.”

“Well, okay,” Lily said and gasped, “Look, a fairy!”

Tommy looked up. “It’s a butterfly, you ninny.”

“You’re silly,” Lily giggled. “Don’t you know? Fairies are beautiful butterflies in disguise.”

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That’s No Butterfly by Joanne Fisher

In the garden Katy saw the most beautiful butterfly fluttering by the roses. Out of nowhere a stone went flying past, only narrowly missing it. Katy turned to see her brother Scott was there about to throw another stone.

“Why are you throwing stones at the butterfly?” Katy demanded.

“That’s no butterfly!” Scott replied. Looking closer, Katy saw it was actually a fairy.

“It’s beautiful!” she said putting her hand out. The fairy landed, then unsheathed a sword and plunged it deep into her palm. “Ow! That fairy stabbed me!”

“Why do you think I’m throwing stones at it?”

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A Butterfly Promise by Norah Colvin

Jack scrambled over the rocks to their favourite place for discussing the wonders of the universe and the meaning of life. And death. He took Grandma’s special stone from his pocket, turned it this way and that in the sunlight, and admired its iridescence. ‘Like butterfly wings. Like life.’ Grandma said she’d come back as a butterfly, if she could.

‘You shouldn’t have left me, Grandma!’ Jack didn’t try to stop his tears. He blinked when a beautiful butterfly alighted on the stone, tickled his nose and circled his head before fluttering away. ‘Grandma!’ called Jack. ‘You came back!’

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Learning by D. Avery

In “Teaching A Stone To Talk” Annie Dillard states that we’ve desecrated the groves and sacred places, “have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism”, and so “Nature’s silence is its one remark”; “The silence is all there is” and this silence is our own doing.

I wonder; who are we then, to presume to teach a stone to talk? We need to learn to listen!

It isn’t easy work; it requires great attention and practice. But the stone has much to say about patience, endurance, and transformation.

Look. A butterfly lands whisper-winged on a lichen-cloaked stone. Watch and learn. Listen.

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The Butterfly Stone by Donna Matthews

I pull up at the state park known for its dinosaur fossils. Dinosaurs in Texas, I chuckle to myself. But, of course, creatures roamed before Texas a thing. My vision, my perspective so little today, a gossamer mist clouding my thoughts.

This is why I need these wild places. They connect me back to grace. They remind me.

I find the tracks, and I sit, the trees rustle overhead. My fingers trace dinosaur feet, ancient leaves, ocean shells; I imagine a butterfly settling down after her last flight, resting, dying. I outline her imagined wings; I whisper thank you.

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Wish With Care by R. V. Mitchell

At the streamside among the stones the butterflies ascended to take a drink. The occasional droplets splashed onto the bank provided enough to meet their meagre needs. As they waited for the current to provide them with the next sip, a dragonfly circled and then then skimmed the waters surface to take a deep drink.

“Oh, I wish I could drink whenever I wanted,” Addie the smallest of the butterflies said.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Bia responded.

Just then a trout leapt from the water and devoured the hapless dragonfly.

“I see what you mean,” Addie gasped.

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(93) Damned Family (Jesse Finds Inner Strength) by JulesPaige

I am woman, hear me roar! Yet the butterflies in my stomach twitter uncontrollably. I’ve got to get me some stones, find my own cojones. I stared at the phone. I had to call Mae Norwich. And honesty was the best policy.

Jesse dialed the phone hoping at first to just leave a message, maybe set up a time to meet at a public place. But at three O’clock Mae was having some quiet time in her office when the phone rang. So she picked it up and calmly responded; “This is Mae Norwich, how can I help you?”

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Opposites by Paula Light

Everyone on the street called him Stone. He was tough, ruthless, and got the job done. He didn’t seek out violence, but when it became necessary he acted quickly and efficiently. When she came along, broken and beautiful, they named her Butterfly. Stone protected her, for he remembered how it was to be fragile. Wherever she flitted, he stopped to admire her gold-dusted delicacy. But the jealous ones plotted to drive her away with lies. After she left, Stone crumbled to pieces and scattered himself in the places she’d been, his grief mingling with the ethereal traces of love.

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A Way to a Man’s Heart by Goldie

Pete was Lucy’s summertime neighbor. Both of their families loved visiting Vallecito Lake to “unplug.” The kids rolled their eyes whenever they heard that term. There was no cable or Internet, so the only thing to do was to go outdoors.

Not wanting to act “like a girl,” Lucy ran through mud, hid behind bushes, and fought with sticks as swords.

After a couple of summers, she developed a crush on Pete.

***

“What pretty butterfly,” she mused just before smashing it with a rock.

She read somewhere that butterfly dust was a key ingredient in a love potion.

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Beyond by Rebecca Glaessner

The stones of worship returned, settling into position around the throng of hopeful.

Would they feel the great Beyond this day?

Their paths carried scholars and explorers between countless neighbouring worlds, but never Beyond.

The crowd buzzed with nervous energy beneath the spread of stars, wrapping themselves up in each-other as one.

One being. One mind.

Their minds opened, connected, energy growing, reaching out and up, past clouds, skies, satellites, their sun. Other suns. Stars. Felt the warmth. Pushed further.

It came as if a whisper of an Earthen butterfly’s wings.

As one, they felt the Beyond reach back.

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Safe, New World by Hugh W. Roberts

“Look at all these small, round stones, Alan. Is that some writing on them? It looks like some foreign language. And aren’t the rainbow colours on all of them stunning? It’s like they’ve been hand-painted.”

“Hand-painted by who or what?” asked Alan as he picked up a stone.

They both gasped with astonishment as a rainbow-coloured butterfly fluttered up from under the stone.

“Are there more of them under the other stones?”

“Only one way to find out.”

Within minutes of the last overturned stone releasing its prey, all human life ceased to exist on the safe, new world.

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Beatrice, the Alchemist by Saifun Hassam

When Beatrice’s father died, the inner garden of poisonous flowers and herbals shriveled up overnight. A circular stone wall separated that garden from extensive outer gardens. Only certain bees and butterflies ventured into that inner garden.

Over the years, Beatrice became an alchemist in her own right, learning about botanicals and medicinals. Her own blood was forever tainted with poisonous vapors from her father’s garden. She rejoiced at the sight of the dying garden.

Beatrice’s new garden flowered with plants from everywhere, even faraway India and China. Cerulean blue butterflies and emerald green hummingbirds lit up the blossoming garden.

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Stone Butterfly by FloridaBorne

“I remember the day may father gave this to me,“ Reyna said, lifting her necklace toward the camera. “I was 17 and so embarrassed.”

“You’re 20, and famous,” The talk show hostess said, “Why wear that thing?”

“I’d yelled at him, ‘this is ugly! I hate it’,” Reyna said. “I thought he’d divorced my mom, then lost his job. He’d saved the money for it by sleeping without heat in his efficiency apartment.”

“Why does that matter?”

“He had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Mom told him she wasn’t his nurse and threw him out. Last night, he died in my arms.”

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Kindness Rock by Kerry E.B. Black

Frustration etched furrows in the young mother’s face. She bounced a painted rock in her palm. “You obviously missed the point of the kindness rock project.”

“I got it.” Her daughter caught the rock and pointed. “See the purple butterfly? I put pink hearts on its wings. And on this side,” she turned it over and pushed it toward her mother, “I made a bright yellow sun. What could be nicer?”

“The images are lovely, but you ruined the ‘kindness’ message when you pitched the thing through Mrs. Hanstead’s window.”

The girl shrugged. “Wanted to be sure she got it.”

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Petrified by Anne Goodwin

At three she was a butterfly. At thirty, a stone. Prancing, dancing, in a stolen tutu, no-one warned her butterflies soon die.
At thirteen, she learnt of other insects, with other-coloured wings. At fifteen, she became one, but found the winds so fierce, she never learnt to fly.
By forty-three, she was settled, merged with solid rock. She recognised her former dreams for what they were: fairy tales, ephemera, lies.
Then came a lepidopterist, brandishing a chisel. When he chipped away her armour, it hurt. She feared it would kill her. Or could a butterfly emerge from a stone?

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Butterfly Stone by kathy70

We went to an abandoned quarry entrance to see the best view of the city and mountain that lay ahead of us. It was some type of marble quartz that was being pulled we were told. Walking up to the top of the hill I looked at the well-worn path. I spotted a pretty shaped stone and reached down to put it in my pocket.

My friend collects heart shaped stones on her travels and this looked like a beauty. Once in my hand the pinkish stone appeared to be more of a butterfly than a heart. New goals.

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Butterfly Kisses by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He lay, entombed in mud and ice and darkness. He’d lain there so long that fine, tough filaments had grown over his limbs, the bridge of his nose, twining around the desiccated, corded column of his neck. He’d pull the blanket higher, cover the chilled vee of his pajama top…but no…too much of an effort. He’d gone too far away.

Then he heard it, the sweet lilt: the child’s voice. A faraway light broke overhead; he felt her smooth cheek against his own, unshaven and unwashed. Her lashes brushed his cheekbone, once and again.

Wake up, Grampa.

🥕🥕🥕

Butterfly Lips by Ann Edall-Robson

Where the water once gushed
Over stones and green shoots
Wings steady delicate bodies
Their minuscule feet dancing
Barely rising from the remains
Of the escarpments drying life
Cruel summer heat evaporates
Yet the Admiral and Swallowtail
Bewitched with the droplets
Unseen by the naked eye
They stay to kiss the mud
Wetting parched butterfly lips
Breezes lift their feathery wings
Sharing fissures with others
Until they are satiated
Before the ground
Becomes baked clay
And they lift skyward
Yet, return they will
To where the water once flowed
Over the rocks and grass
To this place of life

🥕🥕🥕

Flapping Heck by Geoff Le Pard

‘Oh no, bloody buskers.’
‘We’re going home. Stop being a misery.’
‘I wouldn’t mind if they were any good. Less the Stones, more the Gravel. The
aural equivalent of grit in the ears.’
‘Didn’t you ever aspire to be something creative? Play an instrument, write a book?’
‘I painted a butterfly once.’
‘There you go, Logan. Yours could be a new school.’
‘Oh sure. My art teacher, Fosdyke, told me if it flapped its wings, the only wind it would whip up would be of the flatulent sort.’
‘You just needed encouragement.’
‘Or talent.’
‘That’s our flight being called…’

🥕🥕🥕

Hair a the Hog by D. Avery

“Pal? There anythin’ ta eat?”
“Where ya been Kid?”
“Walkin’ the hog.”
“Uh-huh. Where’d ya go?”
“Ernie’s.”
“How’s he doin’? Still not drinkin’?”
“Not drinkin’. Thinkin’. Sets there on a big rock. Jist sets. Yer there ya gotta set real quiet too. Ernie says they’re conversin’. Him an’ that stone.”
“Huh. He ain’t drinkin’?”
“Not even growin’ corn. But he’s got a garden. Thought Pepe was there. Was them plants. We got anything ta eat? Don’t know why I’m so hungry. I et plenny a Ernie’s cookies. Hey, lookit the butterfly.”
“Thet’s yer piglet.”
“That’s what the stone said!”

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos

Stilettos attract attention, no doubt. This week writers took to the heels (an occasional points) like balanced pros to deliver a variety of stories that sparkle like glitter.

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

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

New Age by Rebecca Glaessner

Several eons passed since they last visited Earth, they discovered humans viewed other-world strangers warily now, without the awe of old.

Their job – gathering insights into human minds – meant molding their DNA to conform while on-planet. They looked human, though in this new age, reed undergarments, intricate piercings and feathered crowns weren’t widely desired.

Human views on appearances had changed.

The aliens adapted, yet one didn’t account for their stilettos’ height.

Travelling the city, the aliens-as-humans towered over passers-by, attracting attention.

Glorious feathered crowns were no longer worshiped, but height had them feeling once more like gods amongst men.

🥕🥕🥕

Wing-Woman by Ritu Bhathal

“I have to wear those?”

Melissa nodded.

“No, really. Me? Wearing those death traps?”

Eliza gingerly picked up one of the sparkly high heeled stilettos and dangled it in front of her eyes. A pointed toe that was sure to pinch at her feet. And the heel. Dear God, the heel. Six inches of danger.

She cleared her throat. “Mel, do you want to walk into the club with style, or be shoved into Dan’s arms unceremoniously, as your hapless wing-woman ends up tripping, and taking you with her?”

“Well, at least he’ll notice me, that way,” Melissa smirked.

🥕🥕🥕

First Dance by Marsha Ingrao

“West Coast Swing?” Roger asked, sweat popping from every pore.

“Learning.”

He glanced at her gold stilettos. “Brush your soles.”

“Why?”

Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”

He announced each step as they danced in their tight corner. “You’re doing well.” He spun her onto the main floor.

With each back step and pull on her arm, Tanni felt laughter bubbling inside. Her ankle turned. Roger never missed a step as he flung her off the floor around him. When she landed, glistening as brightly as her stilettos, she picked up the beat with a back step.

🥕🥕🥕

Learning to Walk by Joanne Fisher

Briana selected the pair of red stilettos and began putting them on in store.

“Excuse me, um, miss, are you sure want to try those on?” the store assistant asked frowning at her.

“Yes I have to learn how to walk in heels at some point.” Briana replied.

She stood up and tried to take a step. She swayed, and eventually began to topple over, the store assistant managing to break her fall.

“Again, are you really sure you wouldn’t prefer some flats?”

“A girl’s gotta try.” Briana responded as she stood up again and took one more step.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Sizing Up by D. Avery

Poised proud on the dashboard, they shone through the windshield.

“Shouldn’t you return those shoes to whoever left them in your truck?” Liza was chastising but also hopeful to get the sparkly gold stilettos as a consolation prize. Tom’s dad, still oblivious, also chastised the young man.

“It’s a might unseemly, keeping trophies out in plain view like that.”

“Yessir,” and he gathered the stilettos in one hand, pulled his scruffy duffle bag from the front seat with the other. “But they’re no trophy. They’re mine.”

Tom studied his own dusty work boots, as if for the first time.

🥕🥕🥕

A Mile in Her Shoes by D.L. Armistead

Mitch crammed his feet into the improbably spiky heels, six inches high with marabou pompoms, and hobbled to the starting line with all the other guys. His work buddies had laughed. But it was his idea to join and honor all the people, male and female and – what was that new word? Non-binary? – who had been subjects of sexualized violence. From the snide remarks at Susan’s office to the death of that poor kid Troy, beaten senseless for daring to say he was really a girl. Mitch’s sign read, “Good Man Crossing.” He picked it up and started walking.

🥕🥕🥕

(64) Damned Family (Doe Eyed Maeve) by JulesPaiges

doe eyed, full
of innocence, grandiose plans to
save the world

Mae remembered when she had embraced the full character of herself as Maeve, as she read the text from the Faithful Stag, and reminisced about the first time they had met. It was at a New Year’s Party in Washington, DC. My, those were the days. Women wore sparkling stilettos to gain some height, along with gold or silver sequined cocktail dresses or dramatic gowns with slits up to their armpits.

Now Mae thought, if only she could ‘save’ those closest to her. Like her nephew Norman.

🥕🥕🥕

The Writer Knows Her Limits by Anne Goodwin

“I can’t. Just like I can’t put a cigarette in someone’s hand.”

My muse rolls her eyes.

“It’s a step away from Chinese foot binding.”

“Doorstep or dance step? You don’t trip over those.”

“It’s a moral issue.”

“Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa? Nobody cares.”

“I care.”

“Some writer, only mentioning things you approve of!”

“Anyway, it’s impractical. She’s a murderer. She needs to run.”

“You nailed the weapon yet?”

“Nails can’t kill without a hammer. She won’t find either at a masked ball.”

“She could wear it.”

“The hammer?”

“The stiletto, idiot! On her feet.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Reena Saxena

Spending a fortune on a pair of high heels did not help much. The discomfort remained as with the lesser pairs, and I had it to pad it with cushions and toe covers, and practise walking on preciousness.

I did think renting would have been a better option. But what if Prince Charming came looking for me with one shoe? He would land on Rent-O-Mojo.

Little did I think a fall would take me to the police. Diamonds concealed in the shoe spilt out, and now I don’t know whether to call it a bane or boon.

🥕🥕🥕

Miranda by R. V. Mitchell

Miranda’s profile on the escort site was constructed in every detail to get the attention of Big Hank McCloud the head of the local syndicate. Weeks of research, and a knowledge of his “tastes” assured that the call would come.

Miranda arrived at the hotel attired in a revealing black dress and some stilettos that were to die for. When she was frisked by the bodyguard, she let out a little moan just to play up the persona.

Once alone in the room with the boss, the assassin struck. Did I mention that the stilettos were to die for?

🥕🥕🥕

No Shoes by Kate Spencer

“So what’ya gonna give me for them?” Marco asked, leaning into the counter.

George knew better than to ask Marco how he got a hold of the goods he brought into the pawnshop. 

“These are shoes. You know we don’t take shoes,” George said.

“They’re red stilettos George. You gotta lady don’t you? Imagine her wearing them Christmas morning.”

George examined the long dagger-like heels one more time. His fiery Roxy sure would be sexy in them.  But those heels. They can kill.

Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.  

“Like I said, we don’t take shoes.” 

🥕🥕🥕

A Matter of Self Defence or, Miss Fluart’s ‘Admirer’ by Gordon Le Pard

“So Miss, do you know who I am?”

Miss Fluart looked down at his twisted fingers.

“I think you are the man who liked assaulting women.”

“Harmless, until you took a hand. Now for some fun. No one will hear you scream.”

She looked round the empty Park, stepped back and took a grip on her parasol. He laughed and moved closer to her.

There was a click as she twisted the handle, and withdrew a twelve-inch blade.

He looked into her unblinking eyes, as she held the stiletto to his throat.

“Will anybody hear you scream?” She replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Turning the Tables by Saifun Hassam

Alice clambered down the rabbit hole. Her teenage sister’s stilettos swung from her sash around her waist. She’d worn those stilettos surreptitiously when sis was away at her job.

Alice stood eight inches taller in the stilettos. None of that awful “drink me” or “eat me” stuff.

The Red Queen coveted those shoes as soon as she saw Alice.

“Give me those shoes! Or off with your head!”

“Give me your crown!” Alice posed, tall, one leg forward, hand on her waist.

The Red Queen glared. She spat: “Here!”

Queen Alice smirked. Stilettos and crown. “Off with her head!”

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Call Me Buffy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Shit!” Her ankle wobbled as she made her way across Old Towne Cobblestone Bridge. The rain had been brief, but drenching. Temperatures were dropping precipitously.

She’d made sure he was following.

Her stilettos clicked, thin against the moonless night. She crossed to rough pavement, surer in her steps as she led him into the graveyard, to the family crypt. She felt, rather than heard his respirations quicken.

She turned, mouth red and ready, as he caught up to her on the steps. He bent to her, his mouth cold.

Stiletto in hand, she plunged it deep into his heart.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Still of the Et Toe by Bill Engleson

A contortionist of some renown,
he dreamt of times departed.
The twists, the turns, the ups and downs,
His life, how it was charted.

He‘d not fully stayed the course,
his mind and body wandered.
Pleasure’d been his driving force:
his other duties squandered.

Late in life, an epiphany,
a desire to mend his ways,
and so, he travelled to Sicily
to pass his remaining days.

Then one dark Italian night,
in a mutilating blow,
he swung a blade with guillotine might
and severed every toe…

But one, and with much practiced torsion,
he chewed off the remaining portion.

🥕🥕🥕

Red-headed Jenny by kathy70

Jenny was tall for a woman, 5’6″, when we were friends she was always the tallest one around yet she loved the highest stilettos she could find. Days she worked as a clerk in a small shop and she danced her nights away at a club with live music.

How did she manage to head this billion dollar company. From the time she was 15, shortly after her mother died, she had one kind of business or another. Each business taught her some valuable lessons and one was to appear to be head and shoulders above everyone. Shoes gave her strength.

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Sun by Ian McNaughton

A child was kicking the back of my seat.
His mother loudly whispered for him to stop.
The plane was filling with winter sun-seekers.
A large woman got on carrying two screaming babies
My heart popped up into my mouth to have a look.
I whiplashed my head around. No empty seats
Squeezing in beside me, she smiled. I smiled back; I was dying inside.
After we took off, she asked me what time we would arrive in Minnesota. I laughed and told her It’s a flight to Orlando.
She showed me her ticket.
I kicked and screamed.

🥕🥕🥕

Snake Killers by Ann Edall-Robson

Sitting on the bed, she watched the four-year-old tapping the heel of the stiletto on the palm of his hand. Did the upturn of his lips mean happy or sadistic? Tap. Tap. His piercing eyes bore into her groggy mind. Why had she agreed to go to the party wearing those shoes?

“You know what these are good for?”

“Not dancing,” she muttered.

Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.

“Killing snakes!” He giggled.

She laughed as she slid her foot into her favourite heels.

This morning her feet thanked her for bringing her cowboy boots.

🥕🥕🥕

Faded Steps by AJ Prince

In the far back of the closet shelf, I pulled out that faded shoe box. Lifting one heel out, it felt heavy in my hand. The shininess long faded into a dull black as the years passed. A few stitching’s had come undone, but the leather was still buttery soft. I slipped the other out of the box and held them side by side, inhaling deeply as if to remember the clicking sounds of my steps. I removed my fuzzy slippers and squealed as my toes slid into those old stilettos, as if I had never taken them off.

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Cupid by Gloria McBreen

My sister Ann insisted a night out would stop me lamenting over my recent break-up with my boyfriend Joe.

‘Wear your red suede stilettos.’
‘Are they not a bit fancy?’
‘Not for where we’re going,’ she smiled.

I followed Ann to our table in the restaurant—that was already occupied by someone else.

‘What are you doing here?’ I blurted.
‘Meeting my sister,’ he replied.
‘Eh…no you’re not,’ said Ann.
She scarpered. I sat opposite him.
‘You’re wearing my favourite shirt.’
‘And you’re wearing those shoes.’
He grinned and I blushed.
‘I’m sorry Joe.’
‘So am I.’

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Anita Dawes

The office Christmas party
Something I didn’t look forward to
Mark would be there
In dreams, he does not see the scar on my cheek
Walking home,
a beautiful pair of stilettos caught my eye
I bought them, hoping he would
see only the sparkles on my feet
At school I could never hide
from the harsh words of others
These days I can wear my hair long,
it helps, like closing a curtain
I walked around the house
wearing these shoes
Feeling like a fairy princess
the office party would be fine
Because in dreams he loves me…

🥕🥕🥕

The Young Cook by Ruchira Khanna

“Daddy, your lunch is ready,” ten-year-old Mel shouted from the kitchen while trying to balance herself and the plate in her hand.

Dad was quick to rush into the kitchen, “Impressive, Mel.” he said with arched eyebrows as he was quick to get the plate from her hands and then help her stay still.

“Yummy! PB&J Sandwich, my favorite!”

“I can understand the apron, but what’s up with the stilettos, doll?”

“Mom used to wear her heels everywhere. I’m just trying to mimic her, so we don’t feel her absence,” she said while trying to wear a brave smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Mom’s Shoes by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Lizzie, are you ready for school? You better not be in my closet again, young lady. Besides, the bulb burned out, you can’t see anything.”

The eleven-year-old sighed. How did her mother always know what she was up to? All she wanted was to borrow her mom’s shoes to match her dress for picture day.

Lizzie stumbled in the darkness and stuffed the shoes in her book bag.

“See you tonight, Mom.”

At school, all eyes were on Lizzie wearing her mom’s black stilettos as she wobbled across the floor to take her place for the sixth-grade class picture.

🥕🥕🥕

The Princess Wore Stilettos by Norah Colvin

The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.

“Do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No!”

“Now!”

“Not now!”

Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”

They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.

As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.

When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by FloridaBorne

“Mrs. Jones, you’ve worn stilettos for… 56 years?” Dr. Harris asked the 59 year old woman.

“Yes.”

“You report pain in your knees and hip. The amount of force the front of your foot has endured over the years created metatarsal problems and made your bunions worse. Abnormal growth of nerve tissues in the toes, shortened calf muscles…”

“I can’t lower my heel to the ground, or walk in normal shoes” she said.

“I can help you, if you’ll agree to follow our physical therapist’s guidance for a year.”

Tears falling, Mrs. Jones replied, “I don’t have a choice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Military Pranksters by Sue Spitulnik

Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”

“And?”

“Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”

“Why?”

“The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”

“Why?”

“It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”

Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s Christmas Present by D. Avery

“Yer up late Kid.”

“Writin’.”

“A flash ‘bout stilettos?”

“Hmmph. How kin ya write ‘bout somethin’ ya cain’t walk in? I’m writin’ a letter. Ta Santy Claus.”

“Ya know he ain’t fer real.”

“Course.”

“Then why?”

“Miss him.”

“How kin ya miss Santy if ya know he ain’t real?”

“Reckon I miss believin, an’ all the other things I use ta know. Miss when Christmas weren’t so much ‘bout missin’ folks an’ what’s past an’ fears fer what’s future.”

“So what’re ya askin’ fer?”

“Nothin’ Pal! Jist listin’ ever’thin’ an’ ever’body I’m grateful fer. Right now.”

“Write on Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Party Like It’s Only 99 by D. Avery

“Kid! Thought you said thet piglet was potty trained.”

“She is. She’s right here with me Pal.”

“Then what’s thet smell?”

“’Elloooo!”

“LeGume.”

“Oui, it ees me.”

“Thet’s right, fergot yer bunkin’ with us. Seems someone cain’t keep all her stories straight.”

“Hey, Pepe! Look’t you. What’s all this! Bells? Bows?”

“Oui, Keed, an’ geefts for you and Pal and thees leetle evergreen tree. Eets got roots, we can plant it later.”

“Shut the front door! Why it’s Tip and Top Lemmon.”

“Dey want to perform for us.”

“The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”

“No. Dey weel prance! In stilettos!”

🥕🥕🥕

I Never Dreamed

Hearts and minds hold dreams, and yet life can deliver the unexpected. Sometimes, what unfolds, we never dreamed. Writers imagined those possibilities as they wrote this week from differing viewpoints.

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

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

An Artist’s Dream by Saifun Hassam

Jamila lost her right hand when she was 5. She learned to use her left hand. Her sketches and watercolors showed incredible talent and imagination. She loved to draw starscapes and unknown planets in faraway galaxies.

She never dreamed the prosthetics of science fiction would one day be a reality for her. She never knew of the extensive prosthetics research until Hussein returned from the Iraqi war. His left leg was an experimental prosthetic from Altamont VA hospital.

She volunteered for an experimental wrist. She never imagined her extraordinary cyborg art would blossom into science fiction and anime stories.

🥕🥕🥕

Final Score by Hugh W. Roberts

Living his life in the closet, Alan never wanted his father finding out he was gay.

He loathed going to watch football every Saturday afternoon with his father. But he never showed how disappointed he was with the season ticket his father gifted him every Christmas.

But on the Saturday after his father’s death, Alan carried on with the tradition.

“Hello. I’m Tim,” came a voice from behind. “Where’s your father today?”

Alan never dreamt that a season ticket would be the key to meeting the love of his life and no longer living his life as a lie.

🥕🥕🥕

Some Dreams Fulfilled by Sue Spitulnik

Becca, Michael’s sister, knocked and let herself in. She saw him sitting on the floor by Emma’s toys but there was no baby and his wheelchair wasn’t in sight. “I have baptism pictures.”

“Thankfully it’s you!”

“Why, have you been monkey scooting around the house again?”

“Yeah, it makes Emma laugh. Whoever dreamed my long arms would be used for such a thing. “

“Maybe the same dreamer that pictured you holding a grandchild in Tessa’s family pictures. Can you believe her ex didn’t show up?”

His eyes twinkled. “Two out of three parts of that dream ain’t bad.”

🥕🥕🥕

Her Place by Joanne Fisher

Gina unlocked the door and walked in to her place. After a lifetime of renting, she never believed she would finally have her own house. Already her furniture was here, along with all her other belongings lying in boxes everywhere.

No longer would she have to worry about landlord’s demands, or being suddenly evicted for accidentally missing rent or some other reason. This was her house. She looked out the window and saw the garden and imagined herself pottering away in it to her heart’s content. She deeply breathed in the air of her home. This would be awesome.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ancestors by Bill Engleson

There he would stand on the bridge of time,
peering over the railing into the vast…
into the vast canyon of dreams,
and catch a glimpse of ancestors,
still nameless, lost in the vacuum of memory,
of so many passing’s, stories left in the grave,
the movements of people, migrations,
both big and small, the shifting of lives,
the young, the old, new loves, sweet, sour,
journeys by endless sea, across dark landscapes,
images of all who had ventured forth,
there on the bridge of time, he would stand
in abject awe peering over the railing into the vast…

🥕🥕🥕

My Riches by Gloria McBreen

I have wished upon the great big stars
Many times if truth be told
I only wished for simple things
Not riches and treasures
Not diamonds or gold

The stars they’ve been kind
My life has been fulfilling
My wishes all granted
My dreams I’ve been living

My kids they are my riches
My husband he is my gold
My friends they are my diamonds
My treasures each day they unfold

When my days aren’t going so well
And my smiles are very few
I thank the stars that fill the sky
And feel grateful my dreams came true

🥕🥕🥕

Atheist by Simon

Can we go to church?

I don’t believe in God

Show me your face? Is this real?

I never dreamt that I would say something like this, until I questioned the existence of everything.

Don’t mess with God. You’ll be punished

O.K, answer this question, who created God?

Nobody created.

Wrong answer, WE created god.

Are you drunk?

No I’m not, but You all are drunk, drunk gallons of lies created by yourself.

God will never forgive your sins.

(Laughing), thanks, God don’t have to.

What’s wrong with you?

I talk reality, I wish you think what I think.

🥕🥕🥕

The Victor by R. V. Mitchell

Donny had never really taken life to seriously. He had been the class clown in high school and coasted through college with an art degree which he admitted was based on work that was derivative at best, or just throwing colour randomly on canvas. He got himself a job at a gallery by connections with a girl he had dated in college and lost it about as fast as he lost her. So how could he now be standing in front of a cheering crowd as their mayor? He had only registered as a candidate as a drunken dare.

🥕🥕🥕

Old by kathy70

It’s tough to be invisible, some days I wonder do I really exist. Was I 55 or 65 when it happened, is it only with young people or have I achieved an unknown life goal. Next year I’ll be 75 and things will reverse, maybe. This is not a goal I dreamed of as a child or adult but I worked for it. I still have goals and dreams and learn and teach new things. Will the end be Covid or Cancer or Crazy. Never forget old people can dream, hope, create and accomplish the presidency even. It’s time to go home?

🥕🥕🥕

Brain Fog by Reena Saxena

They found me in a village 14 kms away from the hospital.

My covid-affected legs are not strong enough to walk the distance. I don’t know how I reached there.

A white rabbit which kept jumping in and out in an unusual manner attracted the attention of the search team. What if the rabbit had not been so sympathetic? Nights out are chilling for a 80 year old like me.

A brain fog for sure, but how did I summon the strength to walk the distance, I’ve never walked in my senses.

It is something nobody had imagined.

🥕🥕🥕

Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe by Kate Spencer

“Time 10:52pm.” Abby flipped the switch, turning off the continuous beep from the patient monitoring system.

“When will this end?” mumbled the nurse pulling up the sheet.

“Not today.”

Wearily Abby turned to check on her next Covid patient, longing for the days when she’d be treating simple cases like broken bones again. She was jotting down instructions for yet another patient when her pager buzzed. It was Emergency.

Now what, she wondered, rushing to triage.

There was her irate son, sitting in a wheelchair, yelling at the orderly. He wanted to see his mom. He’d broken his leg.

🥕🥕🥕

Dreams Fulfilled by Norah Colvin

She dreamed she could control the weather, but never believed she could.

Until she did.

She wished it would rain.

‘It always rains in spring,’ they scoffed.

‘From a blue sky?’

‘Sometimes,’ they said.

She wished the rain would stop.

‘Showers never last long,’ they said.

‘I love rain,’ another said.

‘Can you make it rain forever?’

She wished.

Rain fell, first gently, then in torrents.

It rained for months, overfilling rivers and washing villages away.

They begged her to make it stop.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I must have dreamed three wishes. I never dreamed this would happen.’

🥕🥕🥕

Welcome to the North Pole by Donna Matthews

“I’m so nervous!” Ella exclaimed, pacing outside the little round building on the corner of North and Pole.

“Relax,” Easton, her husband, soothed. “You’ve got this!”

Suddenly, the heavy wood doors creaked open, and Ella heard her name called. Here we go, she thought.

Sitting in front of the diminutive manager, the questions began…

“What experience do you have with polar bears?”

“I once taught a six-week dance class!”

“Elves?” she asked.

“None so far, but I’m excited to learn!”

“You love Christmas?”

“Very much!”

Jumping up, he yelled, “You’re hired!”

“What? Really?”

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Never Dreamed by FloridaBorne

“This planet sucks,” I told the 4-eyed being who’d rescued me 10 years before.

Being in love with a creature that bites off the end of its tail, swallows it (eggs and all) and becomes food for its own young can be challenging.

“You’re a fine pet,” It replied.

Yes. It reads minds. When its snake-like body wraps around me, I feel so much love.

“Why am I on Earth…again?”

“Him.”

“I’m happy with you.”

My mind smiled with its joy. It gathered sperm from the “him,” so that when its children were born they would have pets, too.

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A Writer Never Dreamed by Duane Herrmann

Repeatedly the young, hopeful writer had applied for a writing fellowship. This year the call for submissions was not made. He was busy building the house his family was living in, room by room, and couldn’t devote much time to wondering. One morning he was upstairs in the master bedroom working while admiring the wheatfield outside. Wind made waves rustling softly in the sea of green.

The phone rang.

“Your submission last year was so good, we decided to give you the award this year.”

Stunned, the young man collapsed on the bed.

“Duane? Duane? Are you still there?”

🥕🥕🥕

(56) Damned Family (Norman: Dream, Dream, Dream…) by JulesPaige

Norman had never dreamed that he would fall in love. He was introduced to her by a contact that perhaps had perhaps conflicting motives. One was to get Norman a normal life or was it to get another ‘agent’ in the ‘network’? And then Ned had convinced Norman to let her go…

Now Norman could only dream that Jesse actually had his journal and could somehow find her way to him. This morning he’d found out that Jesse had left the protection detail in the dust. No one knew where she was. He hoped she was dreaming about him.

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She Never Dreamed by Hanna Steng

He was it.

Ever since she was a little girl, she’d heard it proclaimed from every podium she’d ever been around: “this is what to look for in a man, and here’s the list of things to avoid”. Every pharaphrase eventually came to the same conclusion- “make sure he’s God-fearin’, and if he isn’t, stay as far away as you can”.

She’d been so sure she knew what she wanted, she could have never dreamed that just a smile from this scuffed up, kind- eyed, “worldly” man would have her questioning everything and leave her with only one answer- he was it.

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I Never Dreamed by Pete Fanning

The dogs are tangled and frisky in the chill of the evening. I’m focused on work, bills, Covid-19, when I stop in the road.

My Christmas lights glow warmly on the house. Framed in the window, my wife holds our baby girl. My son is upside down on the couch, kicking his feet in the air, no doubt firing off questions. A well of curiosity that never runs dry.

The span of the window holds my good fortune. A life I never dreamed would happen. With a smile I walk in the house.

And then the baby starts crying.

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The Art of Cooking by Ruchira Khanna

“Yummy! did you cook this?” inquired my teen as he licked the last crumbs off his plate.

“Obviously! In this shutdown, I’ve been cooking every day.” I said in an exasperated tone, which was easily caught upon.

“Chill, Mom. I was complimenting your cooking.”

That praise made me quickly come and hug him since getting appreciated for my cooking was the last thing I had ever dreamed would happen.

I had become better at planning my meals with limited ingredients, but to make a delicious one was like a cherry on the cake.

I guess: Practice makes one perfect.

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Harold’s Dream by Doug Jacquier

Harold never dreamed he would one day build his own classic science fiction saucer, containing everything he needed. Kitchen, sitting room with a panoramic view through reinforced glass, bedroom with a skylight to the stars, composting toilet. (Although he did have to settle for sponge baths because of the weight of water.) Powered by an anti-gravity perpetual motion generator of his own invention and steered by a GPS-guided rudder, Harold could travel the world, and did, chuckling at the UFO sightings reported on the interweb. It’s just as well Harold didn’t actually dream of this because it never happened.

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At Heaven’s Gate by Colleen Chesebro

December 14th began like any other Monday. However, in the early hours before dawn, he watched the green flashes of Geminids meteors whiz by in the early dawn sky.

A few hours later, he watched the blackness creep across the land as a total eclipse of the sun descended, leaving South America under a cloak of darkness.

Surely these auspicious astronomical events foreshadowed a significant event.

The angel named Beau glanced out over the cosmos. He smiled. A total eclipse of the Sun had officially confirmed Joe Biden as the President of the United States—a dream come true.

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What if I Had Only Dreamt? by Miss Judy

I never dreamt of seeking fame or fortune. I never dreamt of my success or failure. When two roads diverged, then, and only then, did I decide which path to follow. I look back sometimes and wonder, “what if I had chosen the other?”

The road has been rocky and steep at times, but I am happy and thankful for what I have become, the people I have met and for family. There will be more paths to choose and bridges to cross in this life. And, as I look back, I wonder, “What if I had only dreamt?”

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Twins Reunited by Anne Goodwin

As kids they shared a bedroom, a secret language, clothes. Finished each other’s sentences; dressed dolls and made daisy chains; raced cars and fought with sticks. The elder by forty minutes, Faith didn’t mind ensuring Ryan adhered to playground etiquette, doing their homework, answering questions from grown-ups.

She never dreamt he’d wander where she couldn’t follow, where no-one sane would go. She never dreamt he’d shrug off her protection, make his own mistakes. Never dreamt he’d turn up to mock her mortgage, her daughter’s music lessons, her middle-class friends. Spoil her soirée. Make her wish he’d leave for good.

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Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills

Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.

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The Banshee of Ruby Valley by Charli Mills

The banshee rode a ghost-horse named Pogonip. Her steed snorted a chilling frost that withered primrose blossoms and diminished frail spring calves. She bedeviled the broad basin between the Ruby Mountains and the Smokeys, preying on the people who built ranches and tended cattle among sagebrush and trickling waterways of the Nevada desert. The banshee and Pogonip extinguished the young rancher’s bride, delighting in how he halted construction of his house, never lifting his brown eyes from sorrow. The cold-hearted banshee never dreamed that harassing the flighty gelding the new teacher rode would renew joy in the haunted valley.

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Not So Prodigal Kid by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, how’ya doin’?”

“Livin’ the dream Kid.”

“Yep. Never dreamed I’d git dreamed up ta live out my days as a ranch hand.”

“Whoa. Kid, ain’tcha never movin’ on?”

“Where would I go? Sure this is a virtual ranch, but we got it real good here.”

“Dang. Never dreamed I might be ferever stuck with a greenhorn. Kid, shouldn’t ya follow yer own dreams, seek fame an’ fortune an’ sech?”

“This here’s fiction, Pal, but that there’s illusion. Done made my way ta where I am. Here I be.”

“Be-lieve yer livin’ yer dream Kid.” “Write on, Pal.”

🥕🐶🥕

Pawsitively by D. Avery

“I’m purty excited Pal. Never dreamed Shorty’d git us a puppy.”

“Shorty ain’t gittin’ us a puppy.” “But… I thought…”

“Get real, Kid. Thet’s Charli Mills is gittin’ a puppy.”

“Well cain’t we git a puppy too? A ranch needs a good dog.”

“Now yer an expert on what a ranch needs?”

“Well…” “Did a ranch need elefints?”

“Was jist an idea, Pal.”

“Does a ranch really need goats? Where are them goats now? You couldn’t even keep a cat unner yer hat, Kid.”

“We’re gittin’ a puppy, Pal.”

“Ain’t neither.”

“We are, ‘cause I never dreamed we wouldn’t.”

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Doggone (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, where’n heck ya been?”

“Saw a advertisement fer young dogs, fer sale at the Slim Chance Ranch. Slim seemed real tickled, me wantin’ a dog. Hopin’ you’ll be happy fer me too Pal.”

“Hmmf. Uh, Kid yer pup’s got kinda a flattened face.”

“It’s its breedin’, Pal. This here’s a puglet.”

“Uh-huh. Kid yer puglet ain’t got much fur. It’s kinda pink.”

“She ain’t fully growed. Like baby rabbits or mice.”

“Uh-huh. Kid, why’s yer puppy wearin’ booties?”

“Slim did that ta pertect her paws, said they ain’t fully developed yet. Never dreamed I’d have my own puppy!”

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Doggone (Part II) by D. Avery

“Kid, it behooves me ta tell ya somethin’ ‘bout yer puppy.”

“What kin ya say ‘cept how dang cute she is? Look’t her waggin’ her tail. Might call her Curly. What d’ya think a that?”

“Oh, it’s a fine name fer yer puglet, Kid, but—”

“Look’t how she likes ta be scratched behind her ears.”

“’Bout them ears, Kid…”

“Hey, it’s Shorty.”

“Hey Kid, hey Pal. Oh, Kid! Yer gonna raise yer own? Musta gone down ta Slim’s.”

“Yep, got a puglet of my own. Gonna train it ta hunt.”

“Really? Never dreamed there’s truffles on the Ranch.”

🥕🐶🥕

Doggone (Part III) by D. Avery

“Truffles?”

“Truffle huntin’ might work out, Kid, but I figgered you’d be raisin’ this piglet up fer bacon. Not surprised ya went ta Slim’s when he advertised young hogs fer sale.”

“Hogs?”

“I’m more of a hoss person, but I’d say ya got yerself a real fine piglet, Kid.”

“Piglet?”

“Jist keep her outta the carrot patch. I ain’t fergittin’ yer trouble with goats, Kid, but reckon we kin accommodate yer bacon project.”

“Bacon?”

“Takes a lot Kid, ta raise yer own, ta look yer food in the eye.” “

Never dreamt I’d give up bacon. Come Curly. Good girl.”

🥕🐷🥕

For the Love of Toilets

World Toilet Day happens every November 19th to remind us of the vital role toilets play in our health and happiness. In this collection, we celebrate the toilet in its many forms and influences.

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

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

Toi Let or not to Toi Let by Bill Engleson

Sometimes the prompt is rather iffy,
I rarely dwell on it;
I jot down thoughts…in a jiffy,
A flash, a song, a sonnet.

Yes, I have raw writer’s remorse,
A dose of white porcelain regret,
You write your bit, stay the course,
complete your work, your sweet vignette.

And then one day, a newer tone,
A wondrous prompt, a flash quite spiffy.
An account of the basement zone,
The tailback john, the backup biffy.

We had but one in my long ago,
It opened to the kitchenette,
We would watch the traffic flow,
From table et to loud toilet.

🥕🥕🥕

Ode de (bleep) by Dog Jacquier

In the fifties in the USA
on TV this was a word you couldn’t say.
‘Powder your nose’ if you were a ma’am
or ‘see a man about a dog’ if you were Sam.

‘Bathrooms’ were allowed but never an inkle
that this was where you went for a tinkle.
I suppose it was for our moral improvement;
that ‘To Let’ was born from creative vowel movement.

Here in Australia we were proud of our dunny*
where we deposited our stools, either firm or runny.
Amongst the redbacks* and the daily news,
be it Number Ones or Number Twos.

Dunny – Australian slang for (bleep)
Redback – Venomous Australian spider, inspiration for the song ‘Red Back On The (bleep) Seat

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Oasis Stasis by D. Avery

It was not a mirage, it was marriage, marriage all-inclusive, with children, pets, dishes, laundry, and working from home. It was enough to blur her vision and make her misty at times but there was an oasis, a peaceful place to recover, to take respite from the whirlwinds that swept through the house.

Gathering up clothes and other debris, flotsam wake of the twins, she paused and smiled at the picture book, Everybody Poops. It had been a hit with her older children too.

She shuddered with a sudden realization. Potty-trained twins would mean increased competition for her oasis!

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The End by Norah Colvin (with apologies to Alan Alexander Milne)

When I was one and had just begun
Nappies were where my business was done.
When I was two, not nearly so new
A training potty was home for my poo.
When I was three, I was learning to pee
In a toilet that flushed away to the sea.
When I was four or not much more
I learned to be private behind a closed door.
When I was five, school days had arrived
And toilets were places to play and hide.
When I get old, or so I am told,
A clean handy toilet is precious as gold.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Out by Joanne Fisher

Tess sat on the toilet. She usually avoided loud parties, but had been dragged to this one by a close friend. It didn’t take long for her to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the house, and so she ran off to the bathroom where she could be alone. She could leave, but that would involve trying to find her friend again. Tess sat there listening to the music thudding through the walls. All she wanted was to have just a few minutes of peace and quiet to gather her thoughts. Someone knocked on the door.

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Last Room Standing by D. Avery

“Really? I’m going to the bathroom!”

(A euphemism. She’d already gone to the bathroom, was now in the bathroom and sitting on the toilet using it for its intended purpose.)

Though originally she’d gone just to be away from him. Victor was getting carried away again. (Another euphemism; he was out of control yelling and screaming.) Not at her. Something on TV. Still. And now he wanted her to unlock the door?

“No!”

Victor yelled a lot but had difficulties communicating clearly. He never stated why she should let him in…
The tornado carried him away. (Not a euphemism.)

🥕🥕🥕

Hole In One by Ritu Bhathal

“But I need to go, right now!” Serena squirmed in the backseat of the car.

“Hold on. It’s not like England, here.” Her mother leaned forward. “Will we be able to stop soon?” She asked her husband, sitting in the passenger seat, as the driver weaved between the traffic.

“Not long.”

They pulled up at a small roadside restaurant, with a few tables set, haphazardly, outside.

“There.” The driver pointed to a tatty door.

Serena ran in, and straight out.

“That was quick!”

“I can’t go in there. It’s just a hole!”

“Welcome to India Memsahib!” The driver grinned.

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The Little House by R. V. Mitchell

Some called it “the little house on the prairie,” and others the latrine or head. But that little corrugated steel shack was the prime real estate in camp. Yes, the “head-shed” or battalion headquarters might’ve been more prestigious, and the CP tent that served as the chapel might have been more revered. Many would tell you that the chow hall was the most important structure in camp, or the dugouts and bunkers if there was a mortar attack going down. But, truth be told, when several days of backed up C-rations called, no place else was going to compare.

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Sanitary Arrangements at the World’s End by Anne Goodwin

How dare he? My hand trembles as I slide the bolt across the bathroom door. We are not savages. Yet!

A weekly wash in a bucket of water. Cooking on a fire built from antique furniture. Feasting on food I would formerly have thrown away. But nothing will induce me to shit outdoors.

Grime coats the basin. The stench goes beyond my unwashed clothes. But I have three packs of quilted toilet roll with aloe vera. I refuse to straddle a trench.

Unzipping my fly, I raise the lid. Recoil in horror as a rat leaps from the pan.

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Waiting by D. Avery

“Don’t make me laugh, Angela. I have to pee. Bad.”

“Me too. Let’s go.”

“I can’t go in there.”

“It’s the ladies’ room. Come on.”

Celia pulled back when Angela took her hand, leading her toward the entrance. “Angela, no!”

The old towel woman stood, picked up a broom. Head ducked, she watched the girls carefully. The other women paused in their gossiping to turn tight-lipped stares on the girls. Celia broke away and ran off to the further toilets.

One woman swept. The other women resumed their gossip. All paused again when Angela started running.
“Celia! Wait up!”

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Love and Porcelain by Kerry E.B. Black

“You’re my best friend. That’s why I’m hugging you. I hug what I love..” Starr leaned against her smaller – and less drunk – friend, Autumn.

Autumn shifted her weight to support her friend. “Love you, too. Keep walking, though. You said you didn’t feel well.”

Starr froze, concern broadcasting across her features.

Terror gripped Autumn. “Hold on, honey! Just a few more steps.”

They plod-hurried like ungainly sack-race contestants into the bar’s women’s room. Autumn held Starr’s hair. “Better out than in,” she reassured.

Emptied, Starr clasped the cool porcelain. “I love this toilet bowl!”

“Well, you are hugging it.”

🥕🥕🥕

For the Love of a Toilet by Peniel Gifted

Jim! Mama shouted as the door flung open. Like a purging soul, Jim hurried to the toilet. “M….a…” he answered in a sickly voice. “Where are you, didn’t I ask you to take this clothe to my tailor?” His mother echoed furiously. “I’m running stool” he replied. “Oh sorry, I’ll take it there myself. Take good care of yourself.” Mama said and left for her tailor. Jim was so glad. He had pretended to be ill so he won’t go to the tailor and would have time, chatting with his girlfriend. Taking out his phone, he pressed and blushed.

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Like a Toilet by FloridaBorne

In 1950, Alexander whined, “But, Mom…”

“Not until we find a toilet!” she said, marching toward her target location.

“No!” he yelled, running to the toy section.

An 8 year old was so predictable.

She rushed to a stall, cursing the day she was forced to marry at 44, relieved when Alexander couldn’t be found, happy to lose the husband who had a heart attack over his son’s loss.

She hadn’t expected the couple who’d bought him to die in a car accident, or to be reunited with her son, now 20.

Like a toilet, he could be useful.

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(35) Damned Family (Jesse’s Uncomfortable on the Golden Throne) by JulesPaige

tormented visions she sees
all flushed
her cheeks reflected in mirrors

Jesse tried to use the fancy Presidential suites commode. There were just too many mirrors. Looking at her reflection – her thoughts were far from down to earth flopping between “She just gets it” or “She lies”.

Norman’s journal wasn’t really revealing much. Even the pages with invisible words that she brought to life with ultraviolet light. It’s just smoke and mirrors – what was Norman up to. She found a name though that didn’t fit. She’d known him as Norman North… she’d found an invisible acrostic with ‘Mae Norwich’.

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The Throne by Ruchira Khanna

“Sure, I can babysit my seven-year-old niece.”

“Thanks, Sis.” Pedro grinned, “I’ll pick her up by 9 p.m.”

The evening was going well until Sarah needed to use the potty.

I took her to the bathroom. She stood there with a dazed look. I beckoned her to sit on the potty; she squealed and placed her fingers on her parted lips, then moved back n forth.

Perplexed, I left her alone and stood outside. Time ticked away.

I peeped in to find that she was seated on the floor and playing peek-a-boo with her reflection on the gold-plated toilet.

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Two Worlds by Saifun Hassam

The cottage toilet was ordinary enough, with a faux wood seat, and cover. For Caitlin, it was her own private place. The cottage, with its fragrant shrubs, was a refuge from her caregiving duties. When her stomach roiled from overwhelming worries and arguments, the toilet eased the tension.

Caitlin was a caregiver for her Aunt Shelby, whose three daughters had neither the willingness nor the patience to care for her. How could the family drift away from each other?

Caitlin was an orphan and a student at the community college. The cottage with its own toilet was sheer luxury.

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Hideaway by Eliza Mimski

It was her safe place, her special place where she went to hide, the bathroom lock punched in, her husband given no other choice but to pick up the screaming baby because here she was on the toilet, the glorious toilet, her hideaway where she could make her escape and no one, not one person could expect anything from her – nothing! -for the next two minutes or even thirty seconds, giving her time to lay her head down on her lap and almost relax for a blessed amount of time that came in second only to her broken sleep.

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Toilet Training Gone Awry by Marsha Ingrao

When her kids started toddling, Sarah Clay guarded minutes of alone time like a jeweled crown. With few places to hide, Sarah treasured the toilet time. She clicked the lock.

Pounding started.

“One sec!”

The two year old twins wailed.

“Lance hit.”

“Quiet, morons.”

“Lance!” she said, pulling him inside. The twins tumbled in waving books.

No more locks.

As her ducklings aged, they invited friends in too.

“Sorry,” George said.

George wasn’t sorry.

“We can’t reach the milk,” Lance followed George in.

Sarah peered over the paper on her lap.

“OUT!”

How did toilet training go so wrong?

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The Toilet to Hell by Joanne Fisher

“Ashley honey, you okay?’ Steffi asked as she knocked on the door. Ashley had been in the toilet for quite some time now. Cautiously Steffi opened the door to find she was gone. “Son of a bitch!” Steffi shouted as she closed the toilet lid.

Everyone had wondered how Steffi could afford her luxury apartment that was in an ideal location. She told everyone it was because the toilet was demonically possessed, but nobody believed her. Regardless of that, she loved her new apartment even if her toilet did occasionally eat people. She was going to miss Ashley though.

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Alone with the Throne by Cara Stefano

Ever since she could remember, Mary, often considered an odd duck, had loved to clean – especially bathrooms. It gave her such pleasure to see the sparkling mirrors, the fresh waters of a newly cleaned toilet bowl, to know she was seeing a job well done. When she bought a little miner’s house in upper Michigan she was disappointed to realize it only had one bathroom! Her first day home she descended into the gloomy basement, only to stop, amazed – in a halo of light, standing alone in the corner, another toilet!

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The Privy by Jaye Marie

I am old enough to remember sitting on an outdoor toilet, or privy as some people call them.

How dark it was in Winter, with spiders lurking, patiently waiting to drop on your head while you spent a penny.

If you go back far enough in time, hardly anyone had indoor plumbing. The age of an outdoor water pump and a tin bath in front of the fire. Just one bath full of warm water for everyone on the family to use.

I often used to wonder if the last person came out dirtier than when they went in!

🥕🥕🥕

Feeding the Soul by Sue Spitulnik

The night before Thanksgiving the No Thanks Needed welcomed military members only. The Band of Brothers served turkey and fixin’s, prepared by their families, to any service person who came through the door. After the meal, Mac announced, “Being thankful for family and friends goes without saying, but if you ever fought in a warzone, hot running water, and a flushable toilet are right up there on the list.” The crowd cheered with understanding and others shouted; food, clean clothes, life, the brotherhood. Service-related stories were shared openly until the wee hours of the morning in the comfortable safe-haven.

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Aged Timbers by Ann Edall-Robson

His hat tipped back on his head, a visitor of years rests on a creaky wooden seat smoking his pipe. Wispy tendrils of smoke drift through the doorless entry. From behind relaxed eyelids, the memories sidle across the meadow.

He appreciates the slightly askew structure. The only building still standing in these parts. A welcome respite after hours in the saddle. More comfortable than the log his bare behind would have sat on had he trailed the heifers across the creek.

He wondered how long the aged timbers would stand. He’d miss this old friend and their quiet conversations.

🥕🥕🥕

Revenge Awaits by Donna Matthews

“Let me tell you something,” I whisper gently.

His body, interested, shifts toward me.

My lips brushing against his ear, and with as much volume as I can muster, I scream,

“YOU LEFT THE TOILET SEAT UP AGAIN LAST NIGHT, AND MY ASS FELL IN THE WATER! NOT ONLY DID I GET WET, I JERKED UP AND SLIPPED ON THE SPLASHED WATER!!! I SLIPPED AND HIT MY HEAD ON THE CORNER ON THE TRASH CAN!”

Startled, he rears back, trying not to laugh, apologizing all the while untangling himself from the bedsheets, wholly unaware of the revenge awaiting him.

🥕🥕🥕

Tanks Anyway by D Avery

“Pal, where ya headed? We need ta confer on the Saloon schedule.”

“Stand jist outside the door if’n it cain’t wait, Kid.”

“Ah, shift, yer headed ta the outhouse!”

“Nope. Shorty’s brought plumbin’ ta the bunkhouse, got us a flush toil-it. Now shut the door or it’ll be a blush toil-it.”

“Well don’t toil too long in there. What was wrong with the outhouse anyway?”

“Don’t be anti-septic Kid. My home’s my castle, I reckon I’ll set on the throne once in a while.”

“Jist hurry.”

“Won’t be rushed. An’ no job is finished till the paperwork is done.”

🥕🥕🥕

How an’ Zen by D. Avery

“Sorry, Kid, didn’t see ya in there.”

“Well I am. Kin shut the door anytime Pal.”

“Yep. Ya remin’ me a thet statue, The Thinker.”

“Settin’ an’ thinkin’, Pal.”

“Yep. ‘Cept might be more acc’rate ta call ya The Stinker.”

“Funny. The door?”

“What’re ya thinkin’ ‘bout?”

“Was readin’ here ‘bout a Zen master asked a monk, ‘Where will ya go after death?’ Monk says, ‘’Scuse me fer a minute, I gotta go to the toil-it.’”

“Deep shit, Kid.”

“Yep. After, might go set in the Poet-tree, write an ode ta the commode.”

“Cool.”

“Pal. The door’s still ajar…”

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tales

It’s time to ponder things that slink in the night or thud in broad daylight, raising goosebumps.

Gather ’round the campfire for spooky tales in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

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

Time to Leave by Gloria McBreen

Kate liked when her family gathered together like this.
Her dad stared into the fire. Was he thinking about Mother? He broke when she went without warning ten years ago.

Kate’s husband sat at the window. He’s younger and stronger; he won’t break.

Then she heard her mother’s soft voice. She came. It was time. Kate wanted to stay longer, she had things to say to everyone, but they couldn’t hear her. They could only see her pale empty body lying in the satin lined box.

Kate held her mother’s hand as they drifted into the pink hazy tunnel.

🥕🥕🥕

Witching Wood by Kerry E.B. Black

Don’t leave the campfire’s glow this evening. This is a Witching Wood,

I’m warning you, don’t follow breadcrumbs. You won’t like where they lead. In woods just like these, Wolves charm, Bears make porridge of invaders, and witches’ candied houses grow legs and scratch out secrets. With haunting melodies, PIed Pipers and Washer Women lead the unwary on eternal dances beneath earthen mounds. Even the stars themselves conspire to pixie-lead astray.

See, the full moon hides behind grey veils.

Best shiver in the shadow of ancient, bent boughs beside the campfire until sunlight chases the boogies from our paths.

🥕🥕🥕

Coming Full by D. Avery

“No! He didn’t go on the mountain!”
“Don’t think I didn’t try to stop him.” The old man squinted through the plume of pipe smoke enshrouding his face. Fog engulfed the mountaintop.
“The moon is coming full.”
He pulled hard on his pipe. “I warned him.” Coals glowed round and red in the bowl. “Just laughed… wanted to prove us wrong.”
“At least tell me he’s not planning on hunting it. Not today.”
“He wouldn’t listen.”
They heard one shot, then more in quick succession, far up the mountain, muffled by shrieking wind.
His pipe sputtered and went out.

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by Jaye Marie

It was my turn to tell a Halloween story
as we sat around the campfire
The stories before mine had been tame
And most were ready to call it a night
I picked up my knitting and smiled
Thinking of my story and how boredom
Would be the least of their worries
With each row of knitting, the tension grew
Made unbearable by the mysterious sounds
Of rustling coming from the trees behind us
When the screaming began, my story lost listeners
I cut the yarn, leaving the old branch it was tied to
To rot in the woods…

🥕🥕🥕

Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus by Anne Goodwin

A branch cracks, spitting fireflies into the air above the logs.

“How’s this a prom? No dancing, nor even walking. Just staring into flames.”

“Tradition. Hailsham’s hot on tradition.”

“Wish my back was. It’s freezing, while my front roasts.”

“Stop moaning, she’s here!”

“Who cares? I won’t get a graduation prize.”

The students shiver as Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus looms the fire’s glow. Armless, legless, minus half a face.

“Tell me it’s a trick!”

“Prepare to meet your destiny!” says Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus. “Tonight you’ll learn the point of your education. Tonight you’ll learn why you were cloned.”

🥕🥕🥕

Doppelganger by Joanne Fisher

The group of friends built a bonfire. Jenny and Cass spent the evening in each other’s arms. Then Cass stood up.

“I’m going home.” Cass declared.

“Can’t you stay? We can sleep under the stars.” Jenny offered.

“I’ve got work.”

Only an hour later, Cass unexpectedly returned.

“You’ve come back?”

“Changed my mind.” Cass replied. She led Jenny away. Then Jenny’s phone rang. Tori answered.

“It’s Cass here, tell Jenny I’ve got safely home.” said the voice.

“But you came back!” Tori replied.

“No, I’m home.”

The group ran off looking for Jenny, but she was never seen again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Lady of Silver Mountain Mine by Charli Mills

“Once, an Englishman bought Silver Mountain Mine.” Jeb’s bushy brows scowled at each buckaroo around the campfire.

Slim smirked. “I’m quivering in my boots.”

Jeb spoke quietly. “Laugh it up, but this is the story of the vaquero woman who butchered his bones.”

Jan shrugged. “She was probably justified.”

“She’s. Still. Here.”

A ghostly figure emerged from the pines carrying a knife. Buckaroos scattered, hollering.

Myrtle, the camp-cook, wondered what got into her crew. First, the flour sack dumped over her head, then she found a rusty butcher-knife on the trail, now everyone vanished.

“That’s mine,” a voice hissed.

🥕🥕🥕

Out of Time by Norah Colvin

Darkness fell as Martin hastened home. He hated passing the cemetery, especially at Halloween. Sometimes he crossed the road, but this night he was out of time. Hairs on his arms prickled and shudders crept up his spine as he passed the open gate. A light flickered inside. He tried to not look, to not be drawn by the group gathered around a campfire, beckoning, ‘Join us.’ Martin hunched further into his jacket. ‘Next year then?’ Their ghoulish laughter chased him down the street into the path of a speeding car.
‘Back so soon. Couldn’t wait? Mwahaha!’ they chorused.

🥕🥕🥕

Kurdaitcha Man by Doug Jacquier

This was the first cattle drive for the Arrente boy the whitefellas called Jimmy. The whitefellas couldn’t care less for blackfella names. They paid themselves with money but paid the blackfellas with tea, flour and tobacco and their campfires were separate. Jimmy sat silently with the older boys and men. A rogue willy-willy suddenly blew out and then re-lit their fire. Old Tarpot said ‘Kurdaitcha man point that bone. Bin come for him tonight.’ All eyes turned to Jackie, who had been sick for days. Jimmy watched Jackie’s eyes glass over and then returned his own to the fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by Christine Bialczak

We sat close to the flames. With each pop a cinder would be released; we would hold our breath to see where it landed. My grandpa had told me that when a cinder pops and lands on the skin, it is landing on the skin of a vampire. No one believed me. With each pop we jumped a little, hoping the cinder didn’t land on our own leg.
Pop!
The bright, burning cinder popped up into the air, made an arc and started coming straight back down, ready to land on….
All I could do was hold my breath…

🥕🥕🥕

The ‘eadless Ratt’ler’s Back by Chel Owens

Fire black and smoke all red, the sun shone ‘gainst the West.
Glint in eye an’ tale in head, Old Jack sized up his guests.
There warn’t much to impress ‘im ’bout the two who stared ‘im back:
City-boys, all barn and raised, with city-boy rucksacks.

“Ah’m tellin’ yuh, an’ ah don’ lie,” Jack told ’em, face a-stern,
“You’d best watch out when sunset’s red, when sand feels like to burn.
“The ‘eadless ratt’ler’s comin’ out -Look! Thar! Behind yuh now!”
An’ shore enough, those tenderfoots, yelped like they’d jus’ learned how.

An’ Jack, jus’ laughed.
“Ah gotcha now!”

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by Ruchira Khanna

“And then what happens?” inquired my three-year-old with wide eyes and a mouth wide open.

I quickly put a spoonful of rice in his mouth while thinking of what would happen next if a bear would come.

Just then, we heard a loud thud. An eerie silence followed that as even the crickets had gone silent. Only the bonfire was crackling and popping.

I held my son in my firm grip while the other hand had the Pepper spray; I let my instincts work as soon as something came near me. “Aaaaah!”

The yell sounded familiar, “‘Twas, my husband.”

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by FloridaBorne

“I am with you always,” a voice whispered, smooth as silk, soft as velvet.
Mary stopped knitting to look at her companion of 13 years.

As usual, Roger, the grey cat she’d found at her doorstep the day her husband had died, slept soundly on the chair that had once belonged to the bastard.

“I could swear you were talking to me, little one,” Mary said.

She returned to her knitting until papers in the corner rustled. With a murderous screech, Roger leapt at the invisible intruder.

He’d served his purpose once again. Her husband always did hate cats.

🥕🥕🥕

Mirror Mirror On the Wall! by Simon

He watched the mirror all day.
Looked at every reflection and saw his face.
Old man by the park showed him a mirror. He didn’t hesitate and watched his face and adjusted his hair.
Old man commented that he was possessed by a mirror, so stop looking until he see a full moon. He ignored the old man and continued watching it. Next day when he woke up at midnight to drink water he looked in the mirror and he kept watching it. When he realised he should get back to bed, he was stuck, inside the mirror, Forever!

🥕🥕🥕

True Story: Honest! Well, Maybe by Bill Engleson

“I was much younger, then.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Had my teeth.”

“I’m sure you did, sir.”

“Well I did.”

“Yes Sir.”

“It was an evil place.”

“Pardon, sir?”

“Devils Lake. Evil.”

“Where was it?”

“Where was what.”

“The lake?”

“What lake?”

“The one you mentioned. Devil’s Lake.”

“Oh, don’t go there. A Terrible place.”

“Terrible how?”

“We’d pitched out tent by the shore.”

“We?”

“My three friends. Every year we went camping.”

“Always at Devil’s Lake?”

“First time. And last. A fierce storm came up. The lake became a demon. Swallowed my friends.”

“They drowned?”

“No! The lake ate them.”

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Swamp by Frank Hubeny

This woods is gorgeous, but it has a peculiar swamp.

Those who’ve found it became wealthy from unethical dealings. Envious of their wealth others found it. They became wealthy, too, but at similar costs. If the swamp knew you might pay, it would appear to you.

Decades later their bodies putrefied. Neighbors heard the screams. They prayed for a miracle that the curse of putrefaction be removed.

A traveling preacher advised them, “Accept Jesus, repent and turn from your immorality.” They hissed back, “We’ll repent to any stupid God you like, but that money, our money, belongs to us.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lawson’s Tales by Saifun Hassam

Rita was a popular wilderness guide. Her grandfather Lawson had been a mountaineer, and his tales sparked her own journey.

Lawson was camped near Elk Pass, planning to climb Elk Spirit Peak in LeGrand Range. He woke up at dawn to find himself at rifle point. The outlaws took his rifle and jacket and tied him up.

Someone on the trail. Whistling. The outlaws shot at the rider. The cowboy kept whistling. The outlaws fled.

Untying Lawson, the cowboy vanished!

Rita paused. A horse. Spurs jangling. A shadowy silhouette sang a haunting cowboy lament into the clear starlit night.

🥕🥕🥕

Stalking by Ann Edall-Robson

The soft sound of breathing and muffled footsteps on moss penetrated through the canvas.
Beyond the tent flap, remnants of moisture wisps hung nearby in the darkness. It would be hours before daybreak showed itself.

The feeling of tingling needles started to transcend down his body. It wasn’t the first time his sleep had been interrupted on this backcountry trip. Thoughts of what might be stalking him careened around the canyons of his brain cavity.

Tossing pitch knots onto last night’s dying embers, he watched them hiss themselves to life. He was convinced keeping a fire going meant survival.

🥕🥕🥕

Tales Untold, and Best Forgotten? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Come on Alice, tell the tale.”

“We won’t be shocked, dearest.”

“There’s nothing to tell. He was a shy man, bit of a stutterer, and very good at storytelling and maths.”

Effie, the eldest, drew her shawl tighter, poking the bonfire with a glowing stick.

Sophia, years younger, as yet unmarried, leaned forward, eyes gleaming. “Yes, do tell, before the husbands come!”

“I don’t want to. Leave off, Sophia, please.”

The fire popped, a gunshot.

“I’ll tell you this, though!” Alice leapt to her feet, laughing.

“’Twas brilliag, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe*…’”

*Lewis Carroll (you know the poem, you know the book, 1871)

🥕🥕🥕

Damned Family? by JulesPaige

One campfire group at the shore was setting off fireworks. Jesse watched halfheartedly from the balcony of the condo she was sharing with a cousin Jen and her young family.

Jesse made her own reservations. However, Jesse found a dead body in the bathtub of her room. This wasn’t the family reunion that she signed up for!

Jen offered Jesse the pullout couch of her place. Jesse swore to herself, she was leaving in the morning – unless she listened to her intuition and left after dinner, frayed nerves be damned. Jesse really wasn’t a fan of little monsters either…

🥕🥕🥕

You Asked by Donna Matthews

Alice, turning off the television and in a hushed voice asked her Pops, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“I do,” he replied in a whisper.

“You do?” Alice couldn’t believe it. Her Pops seemed so…what was the word? Practical? Pragmatic? Adult!

“I do. I talk to your Gran every day.”

“Yeah, but isn’t that kind of like praying. I mean…do you ever see her? Is her ghost like here…with us?”

“You see that mirror there? That’s where we meet every morning and share a cup of coffee.”

“Stop it, Pops!” Alice exclaims.

“You asked,” Pops replied with a wink.

🥕🥕🥕

Nellis’ Vengeance by R. V. Mitchell

Did you know that in these very woods is the remains of a cemetery from the French and Indian War? There was a fort here, and a strange disease swept through the garrison, killing over a third of them. Only Captain Nellis was given a headstone, all the others had simple wooden markers. The exact location has been lost to memory, but occasionally some hunter or hiker will come upon the stone. But it’s never there when they return. But not only does move, but whoever discovers it seems to get a fever and an odd rash shortly afterwards.

🥕🥕🥕

Emma Won’t Tell by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa and Lexi were sitting on the far side of the bonfire so could see Michael cuddling Emma Blossom through the bay window. He laid his forehead against hers and his lips were moving. Had they been able to hear him…”My sweet baby girl who wants to hear a spooky story, I live one. I can feel feet I don’t have. My driver’s ghost keeps me company way too often and the tea kettle whistling or light flashes can cause me to drench my clothes with sweat in seconds. Your Grandma knows, and I don’t think you’ll tell anyone.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Ruined Refuge by Michelle Vongkaysone

Few discuss that world.
Fewer have left its grasp.
Its truth transformed them.
But they’re forced to speak.

They wish to warn others.
Their truth can protect them.
Their admissions are chilling.
They decry that tainted world.

People were lured into it.
They enjoyed the solitude.
That world was possibility.
They lived by its resources.

It offered endless scenarios.
They drank that world’s poison.
Such freedom would mock them.
It locked them within that world.

They gave themselves to it.
Corpses remained afterwards.
Their lives sustained that world.
Those who escaped were ruined.

The truth only punished their betrayal.

🥕🥕🥕

Swingin’ Along, Singin’ a Song (to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky) by D. Avery

I’ve hid the kids in a car that I found parked
They’re with Logan an’ Morgan, but this Kid’s lonesome in the dark
Thinkin’ I done got lost, tryin’ ta git back ta the Ranch all on my own
Pal an’ me’re on vacation- Pal’s left me all alone

Dang ya Pal, where ever ya are
Dang them goat riders- in that rental car

The trail I found but ev’ry sound strikes my ear as eerie
Dang that spooky prompt, fer the first time Carrot Ranch is skeery

Wish I was with them goats—
Ridin’ in that rental car.

🥕🥕🥕

Unimaginably Eerie (Part I) by D. Avery

With many dark miles yet between Turnip Farm and Carrot Ranch, Pal set up camp. A chill gust of wind made the flames of the campfire spark and leap. Suddenly there was a cowboy sitting just in the shadows across from Pal.
“Ya must be cold, pal, yer shiverin’.”
Pal couldn’t be sure if the stranger was laughing or if it was the wind in the cottonwoods. Pal squinted, for the smoke from the fire made it hard to make out the cowboy’s features.
“What’d ya say yer name was?” Pal quivered.
The cowboy’s eyes gleamed. “I didn’t say.”

🥕🥕🥕

Unimaginably Eerie (Part II) by D. Avery

The cowboy was wispy as smoke. Pal’s voice wavered. “This is phantasmic! Are ya… a ghost? A apparition thet haunts Carrot Ranch?”
“Nope, ain’t a ghost, but I do haunt the Ranch.”
“Did ya die some unimaginably horrible grisly death, mebbe in a flash, an’ thet’s why ya come back ta haunt the Ranch, a revenant thet spooks the Ranchers?”
“Not ‘xactly. A revenant returns from the dead. I ain’t never lived.”
“Ya mean— ?”
“Yep. I’m a character thet ain’t never been brought ta life. Jist flit beyond the veil a someone’s imagination, but keep goin’ unwrit.”
“Skeery!”

🥕🥕🥕

Chores

Every ranch has chores from simmering beans to growing carrots to soaping saddles. Chores are universal.

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

Tales Out of School by D. Avery

She loved the pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children, of engaging all learners. When she taught she learned, delving deeply into the topic when developing units of study. She led her students by following their lead. She relished helping her students make connections and demonstrate their learning creatively.

Then came the canned curriculum, the boxed units.

“This will be easier for all teachers.”

Easier isn’t better. Let me do it my way, she said.

“Curriculum delivery should all be the same. You can do your thing as long as you follow the program.”

Teaching became a chore.

🥕🥕🥕

Tales Out of School by R. V. Mitchell

“Okay Marines, liberty is scheduled to commence at 1100. Unless this field day is finished, not a single one of you wastes of space is setting foot out of this barracks,” the sergeant snapped, before turning on his heel and heading back to his office.

“You heard him,” Corporal Chin said to his squad. “Meissner and Reece empty those shit cans. White and Cortez get this deck swabbed. Doc, you and Smitty get the head swabbed.”

The head was a daunting proposition, but Hospitalman Davis used Navy ingenuity, finishing on time by overflowing the toilets to speed the mopping.

🥕🥕🥕

The Power of Dusting by Eliza Mimski

Since the quarantine, Darla had assigned herself one chore per day to keep from losing her mind. Normally, when working, she never had time to do anything but make her bed and maybe do the dishes. Now, months into the Covid, she’d become a dust aficionado. She hunted down dust on the tops of doors, in the corners of rooms, behind the couch, and other secretive places where it tried, unsuccessfully, to hide. Try as it might, it couldn’t escape her suction vacuum cleaner, her dustag and Pledge, her paper towels and water. “I’m coming for you,” she screamed.

🥕🥕🥕

Slipping by Deborah Dansante-White

Before Anita’s perceived organic emancipation from reality, she had, as a child, been required to balance a book on her head; to diligently RSVP, no matter how much she disliked the inviter and to make her bed each morning. Anita remembers this as she places the shiny box behind the bin row, carefully unfastening then squaring each corner precisely upon her once inconceivable pillow. Anita is pleased with her find and decides easily that cobblestones are almost buttery when laminated. Anita’s housekeeping chores completed for the day, she slips into restless sleep and into dreams of discarded shopping carts.

🥕🥕🥕

Blueberries by Charli Mills

Blueberries spilled to the ground. “Like this, Kev.” Fran righted the bucket, setting it between the toddler’s bare feet. She knelt behind him, gently covering his hands with hers to pull fat, round berries from bushy strands. It was a bit like milking a cow, she mused. Kev pulled berries on his own, squishing a few into crimson juice. She smiled at her nephew and knelt to pick enough blueberries to make a pie. She didn’t mind babysitting his parents could vacation. Maybe country life would stall the creep of urban shadows. Her sister never did like the farm.

🥕🥕🥕

Another Planet Maybe by Donna Matthews

“I don’t want to set the table,” Nicole wailed.

“Why not love?” I asked while trying to grab her up in a hug.

“It’s boring!”

“Well…if we don’t set the table, how will we eat the food?”

Nicole scoffs and stomps off.

But I get it. The table setting IS tedious, AND the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and all the other chores on the list. I wonder what it would be like living a chore-less existence? But please – a ridiculous proposal. Maybe on another planet or in another lifetime, but this one right here, dinner isn’t gonna cook itself.

🥕🥕🥕

The Bored Teen by Ruchira Khanna

“Pick up your plates, Nate. That’s the least you can do around the house,” I shouted at my teen in a high decibel.

“Mom! I get tired doing the same chore three times a day.” he retorted.

I stopped stirring the pot and gave him a confused look as if he had just declared that he has graduated from college; without going to one.

He saw that look and muttered, “A teen’s life is all about being with friends, and in these times, I’ve been eating home-cooked food. That is such a chore,” and he let out a sigh!

🥕🥕🥕

Listening by Doug Jacquier

Listening to our adult kids when they whine about how the world never gives them a break is a chore. Listening to politicians whose tin ears and stone hearts belong to the funders who put them there is a chore. Listening to teenagers who sheet home all the world’s ills to our generation and opt for despair is a chore. But listening to the magpies caroling to each other as they feed their new screeching chicks and listening to the whispering of the veg patch growing and listening to the desultory traffic of our village is not a chore.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by kathy70

Never called chores in my house as a child, just the price you paid for the joy of living here. We were a house full of people, 10 plus the birds. Saturday chores/baths/laundry day. Descriptions on a paper slip went into the chore jar.  Oldest picked first. We all watched and secretly cheered when our least-liked was gone. Today I have the dining room, dust 1st, then sweep next wash the floor. Now my favorite, polish the wood, I still like the smell of the polish on wood. Funny how a smell brings a happy memory to a tough time.

🥕🥕🥕

Toxic Love by Anne Goodwin

Domesticity drove her crazy. Or was it merely my muck made her mad? A ten-pound food-processing system: in went puréed parsnip, out came puke and shit. Now she’s the one in nappies, I flutter around her in kid gloves.

I left her once; guilt made me boomerang back. Or perhaps the hope she’d finally love me, now she had time to spare.

People say I’m saintly. I say I’ve no choice. They don’t see how easy it is, behind the cooking and cleaning and laundry. How easy to mess with the mind of someone you’ve known your entire life.

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Simon

Why aren’t you taking her?

She was a care taker, we can’t trust these people?

These people? frowned, She tied an apron herself, pay me then!

You shouldn’t do any chores, undo this apron!

She raised her voice, She had the world’s toughest job, taking care of old people. She lost beautiful soul’s front of her eyes, Knowing they will leave, she loved them, served them from heart. she is jobless now, I want to help her & I will.

Sigh, whatever, undo your apron, and stop hurting yourself, she is appointed!

She hugged her mom, said “Thank you!”

🥕🥕🥕

Made To Tend by Michelle Vongkaysone

I tend to my home.
Only I occupy it now.
My family has left me.
They seek better things.

I’m left with their housework.
I clean, wash clothes and cook.
It dulls the pain within my heart.

Even living is another chore.
I can’t thrive without my kin.
I’m not enough for myself.

I want to live for them.
Without them, I toil vainly.
My life is a series of chores.

However, I adhere to them.
One day, they’ll return home.
Then, we can live like before.
I tend to my fleeting hopes.

Only they share my home now.

🥕🥕🥕

Tea and Biscuits with the Carer by M J Mallon

“That’s the blueberries washed!” she said with a smile.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Put the kettle on,” she said.

“Don’t you want to leave anything for the carer to do?”

She didn’t answer, instead she said, ““Get the pavlova and cream. Mini ones in the cupboard over there.”

I opened the biscuit tin and arranged them on a plate.

“What time’s she coming?”

“Now! Better wipe the table,” she said.

The carer bustled in.

🥕🥕🥕

Ten Again by Gloria McBreen

Norah’s room gleamed. Mamma will be pleased with her. She’s quicker at doing her chores now. Not like last year, when her mother cancelled her birthday party because she didn’t get them all done in time. Silly girl Norah. That won’t happen today. Her friends will soon be here and it’ll be the best party ever.

‘How’s Norah today?’ Nurse Annie asked her assistant.

‘She’s happy. She’s ten today…again!’

‘Bless her,’ Annie smiled.

‘I’ll nip out for a cream sponge.’

Norah blew out all ten candles on her cake as her companions in the nursing home sang happy birthday.

🥕🥕🥕

Vacuuming by Hugh W. Roberts

Having murdered his chore-loving wife, Herbert did the unthinkable and scattered her ashes throughout the house.

“That’ll teach you,’ Herbert chuckled. “Lived-in. Not a showhouse.”

On getting home from work the following day, the house was spotless. Unbeknown to Herbert, his wife had employed a domestic help to come in once a week.

That night, the sound of hoovering woke Herbert. Yet downstairs, the hoover was unplugged and stored under the stairs.

Questions: Had Herbert’s wife come back to haunt him? Was it time to buy a new vacuum cleaner? Or should he empty the cylinder of his wife?

🥕🥕🥕

Occupational Hazards? by JulesPaige

daydreams are cut short
my cat visitors seek out
attention from me

I pet, they sometimes purr but
mostly demand attention

one more week before
they make a return trip to
their adoptive folks

At the top of my chore list this past week and for next is to take care of my interlopers, two cats about a year old. They belong here, briefly. I am their chef cook and bottle washer, litter box cleaner, comforter and entertainer. Occasionally I get rewarded with a delicate cat purr. I’m behind on other chores, inanimate things can wait. Living things first!

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Chores by Joanne Fisher

It had been a busy day for farm chores, Cindy thought. Aside from doing the housework, she had been planting new rows of carrots, checking how the corn was doing, getting rid of weeds, and clearing land for a new project.

Now it was mid-afternoon and she decided to sit in the sun for a few minutes. Just as soon as she had, Jess appeared.

“It’s alright for some!” Jess said with a disapproving look. “If you’re not doing anything, you can always help with the fencing.” Cindy rolled her eyes, but slowly got up and followed her wife.

🥕🥕🥕

Getting Things Done by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa looked disgusted. “Would you please help me with the laundry and dishes. I have a meeting tonight.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Michael responded, “I’ve got my own chore of getting fast enough at the fingering on my new tin whistle to be able to keep up with the band.”

She swatted his arm. “How about I take the whistle with me and when I get home you’ll have the other things done.”

“Dear woman, please, don’t start sounding like your mother making threats.”

Tessa laughed, “That’s on unfair analogy. We’ll share the chores.”

“Yes’m,” he grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Preptober Chore by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She stared at the first run, several scenes of a promising short story. She sighs at the hand-written rollercoaster of initiating events, triggers, resolutions, a final dramatic crisis, and a resolution that leaves the reader both satisfied, and wanting more. There’s also the novel…

This story is for Nano. Her usual mode of running after the muse, pants afire, has been foresworn. The project begs more consideration. She scribbles more notes, crumples paper, and digs through a messy drawer for colored pens. Prep and planning is a chore.

The cat strolls by, looking for dinner.

Hungry herself, she bails.

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley by Saifun Hassam

Shirley was dog-tired from her job as sous-chef at Hannah’s restaurant. She returned home to find her sister Carole fast asleep on the living room couch. Terry, 12, and Pauline, 13, were curled up in sleeping bags.

Shirley soaked dirty dishes in the sink and wiped the counter clean. Kitchen greens went into a bag for the mulch patch. She hugged and fed her tabby Cricket.

Carole and her daughter Terry moved in with Shirley and Pauline after Carole lost her librarian job in the pandemic chaos.

When all was said and done, it was good to be together.

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Chores by Anita Dawes

Picking blueberries would not have been a chore
Ironing my stepfather’s underwear definitely was
As a ten-year-old, I thought it ridiculous
But mother insisted
Another, was polishing his shoes plus my brothers
At least they were smaller
Sitting beside my baby brother’s cot
Stroking his head, trying to get him to sleep
With the sun shining
through my mother’s bedroom window
Reminding me I should be playing outside
That day, something broke in my heart
I felt a strange kind of dislike towards my mother
That grew over the years
Today I decided to bury that memory…

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The Sweeper by Allison Maruska

I open the closet and lug out the vacuum for the third time today. Creeping around my heels, Rylie grabs the dustpan and 3-year-old sized broom. “I seep!”

“Yes, you sweep and I’ll vacuum.”

She toddles to the kitchen, where spilled Cheerios wait for us. Humming to herself, she pushes them around, yelling in victory when a piece makes it into the dustpan.

I plug in the vacuum.

Rylie claps at getting three Cheerios into the pan at once.

Laughing, I abandon the vacuum and sit at the table.

Best to let my daughter enjoy chores while she can.

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Lost in Translation by D. Avery

“I learned a new word at school today.”

Hope’s dad continued scooping beans with his bread. “In the classroom or on the playground?”

“Playground.”

He held his bread and looked up. “What word?”

“It started with a /c/ I think. Melinda made it seem like a bad word.” Hope continued while her parents exchanged glances. “It has to do with doing things you don’t want to do, and not getting to do fun things. Chores! That’s the word.”

“But Hope, you tend the chickens, and the garden; help us both out around the farm.”

“That’s fun! Mommy, what’s allowance?”

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Autumn Afternoons Are for Fun by Kerry E.B. Black

Sunlight filtered through golden leaves as Byron’s footsteps crunched to Oma’s. Momma sent baked goods for Old Oma and told him to do Oma’s chores, but who could work on a day like this?

Once there, though, Byron’s heart sunk. The old lady held a rake in her crippled fingers. Begrudgingly, he handed her the cake and took the rake. Grumbling internally, he scraped the leaves into a pile nearly his width and height.

Oma smiled as she sliced the cake and poured tea into autumn rose decorated cups. “Now hurry and jump in. This cake’s cooling!”

Oma understood!

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A Lick and A Promise by Norah Colvin

Lisa dropped her bag, discarded her shoes, and darted down the hall.

“Where are you off to, miss?” called her mother.

“Read.”

“You’ve got chores first.”

“Did them this morning.”

“Did them? Ha! Was no more than a lick and a promise.”

“But, Mum. I’m up to the last chapter.”

“No buts. You’ll do your chores before anything else.”

Lisa muttered as she stomped to the broom closet.

“And don’t give me any more of that lip or you’ll be reading on the other side of your face for a week.”

When I’m an adult … Lisa promised herself.

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A New Day by Chel Owens

Back and forth. In and out. Sun to down. Winter to winter, for thirty years.

The children changed. The house aged. The horses and cows and chickens and that mean old goat -all ended up at slaughter; to be replaced by horses, cows, chickens -but no more goats. For thirty years.

She stood while the priest spoke about the dark shadow she’d known for so very long. This and that. Bless his soul. Rest in peace.

Veiled and black. Grey and old. No more back or forth in or out sun to down. Clouds clearing, she smelled the spring.

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Chores by Frank Hubeny

While raking leaves Bill thought back to the farm his parents had with asparagus, pickles, pumpkins, corn, hay and soybeans. The chores back then were not so bad. He hoed corn from the beans and stacked baled hay. There was the busy time of harvesting, but harvesting had to be done.

The worst were those chickens. He’d reach his hand under a sitting hen to gather eggs only to have it pecked. Sometimes he’d shoo them off the nest. Sometimes they wouldn’t go.

He wouldn’t want some hen doing that to him, but he had to get those eggs.

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Chore Bores by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan, can you pick up your clothes? This place is a sty.’
‘Yes, mom, I’ll get right onto my chores.’
‘I know we’re in the States and I said we should embrace their culture, but in what world does ‘culture’ encompass their bastardised version of English?’
‘Hey, who yanked your tail?’
‘Everyone wishing me a good day and not meaning it.’
‘Like you always say you’re sorry and you don’t mean it.’
‘That’s different. Anyway we don’t do ‘chores’, any more than we do yard work.’
‘You liked it when that blonde said you had a cute accent…’
‘Nonsense.’

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Thick As Thieves of Time by D. Avery

The call to chores went unheard and unheeded by Pal, for Pal was on vacation, an unprecedented October Rest. But visiting Cuzzins Ash and Dusty Trales at Turnip Farm was not restful for Pal. Ash and Dust’s idea of catching up meant using Pal’s help to harvest their crop, working from sunup to sundown. Speeding along in the overloaded turnip truck, Pal felt lucky to have not fallen off.
“I’m headin’ back to Carrot Ranch, cuzzins.”
“Stay. Blood’s thicker ‘an water Pal.”
“Yep. An’ water is life.”
And Pal rode back to where the wells ran deep and fresh.

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En Garde, Le Pard by D. Avery

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Kid worried about the kids. The billy goats had sampled Shorty’s manuscript and even ate write out of the story collection bin. Kid knew they didn’t have a chance against a champion goat wrestler like Shorty, who also had a thing for kid gloves.
Worried and desperate, Kid almost didn’t notice the rental car parked along the trail. Almost. Before Logan and Morgan returned from vista viewing or whatever chore had taken them away from their vehicle, Kid had those kids stowed in the back seat, knowing these two would care for the goats.

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Kid Gloves

A situation that calls for kid gloves requires careful handling. Those who wear fine leather crafted from the skin of kids (goats, not children) protect soft hands and perhaps perform unexpected tasks.

Writers had the option to explore all the possibilities and their creative insight expanded the phrase. Parents, wolves, and more feature in this week’s collection.

The following are based on the October 8, 2020, flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves.

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

Home On the Range by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Cal coiled up his riata. He had no goals to improve on his already impressive rope skills, but granddaughter Flora required kid glove treatment these days.

Grandson Jeremy had passed him up, carrying on the vaquero tradition through competition and education. Kids today wanted an excuse to put down their cell phones, to raise their faces to the sun. It was an unexpected but welcome blessing from the quarantine.

Flora had kicked him out of the house early, even before his morning coffee. She wanted him out from underfoot while she attempted to wrangle the internet and home schooling.

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Kid Gloves by Pete Fanning

He never takes the gloves off. Ever. And if I try to make him a wrestling match ensues. “Germs are everywhere, Zia,” he warns. My brother, the six year-old scientist. He should have been outside, playing in the dirt. Instead this Covid thing has really messed him up. I mean, it messed everyone up, but for him I fear it’s irreversible. When he’s asleep, Mom peels them off, washes them with our masks. When they’re dry, she carefully works them back onto his stubby little fingers. Says they make him feel safe. Hmm. Maybe I should get a pair.

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Kid Gloves by FloridaBorne

“Handle it with kid gloves,” Mom said.

“What does that mean?” I asked while washing a crystal plate.

“Don’t break my favorite serving dish.”

Unsatisfied with the answer, I consulted the public library’s encyclopedia. Gloves made with baby lambs or goats? Outraged, I ran a half mile home to yell at my mother.

“They kill babies to make kid gloves!!!!” I shouted. “Don’t ever tell me to handle anything with kid gloves again!”

“It’s only a saying, dear. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater is only a saying, too.”

I never ate another bite of meat again.

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Kid Gloves by Joanne Fisher

When my daughter Jill announced she was taking up boxing, I was skeptical. She had already been through horse riding and karate.

Nevertheless we went to the sporting goods store. I tried to imagine her in the boxing ring, but this was still a girl who has soft-toys in every available space in her bedroom…

“Excuse me madam?” the store assistant broke me out of my reverie.

“I’m looking for gloves.”

“Gloves?”

“Kid gloves.”

“Kid gloves?”

“For my daughter.” I replied. “Boxing.”

“Follow me.”

Of course Jill was already there selecting them. I wondered how long this would last.

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The Jokester by Bill Engleson

I remember when it began.

First grade.

They abandoned me to a mocking mob.

“Play nice. Make friends.”

I tried, but what did they know.

The rabble seemed as one.

Bigger.

Stronger.

Maybe even smarter.

One day, faced with aggression, I pulled off a sweet backflip. Landed it. Came up smiling.

“Funny guy,” the bully said.

My life’s river changed course.

Tricks!

Grins!

Bigger tricks!

Fatter grins!

Decades of idiotic hijinks.

Three marriages!

Three divorces!

“Too much,” each said. “Always over the top! Puns! Interminable, heavy-handed humour! Release me.”

Now I get it.

Life.

Love.

Both need kidding gloves.

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Coffee by R. V. Mitchell

Coffee was one tough hombre. Some said he’d more likely shoot you than look at you. Three things set him apart from other gunslingers though. The first was his refined English accent. This feller could really talk pretty, and used the sort of three dollar words most folks weren’t too akin to. The second was that he made one mighty fine cup of coffee, thus his moniker. But oddest trait of all was them there white kid gloves he always sported. Who would have thought that the deadliest fast draw in the Dakota Territory used to be a butler?I remember when it began.

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Kid Gloves by Anita Dawes

A glorious spring morning
I decided to take Morning Glory
For her early run
Racing across the fields as if on wings
I took the low hedge too late
I landed on my backside beside a young man
Leaning there against my hedge
A stranger with a soft smile on his lips
Morning Glory stood waiting for me to remount
Her breath escaping in soft white clouds
He moved with great speed to assist me to my feet
The second thing I noticed, his hands against my skin
As soft as my mothers
When wearing her best kid gloves…

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1863 Revisited Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Henry scoffed, an ugly, guttural dismissal. “Sure, you saw a ghost.”

Clara swiped tears from blazing cheeks and stormed to her car.

“Come back,” he called to the thinning taillights, “maybe Casper would like tea.”

Chill breeze brought wafts of rotting peaches, and he pulled his jacket tight.

“Did you offer tea, Sir?” A translucent woman dressed in antebellum finery, from her lace-edged cap and upswept hair, to the hem of her hoop-defined skirts, tapped a tasseled fan in her kid-gloved hands. “But my name’s Amanda, not Casper.”

Henry beat a hastier retreat than General Lee’s exit from Gettysburg.

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Unused Kid Gloves by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa called Michael’s sister. “I got my divorce papers today and when I put them away in the hutch drawer I noticed a pair of exquisite men’s goat skin gloves I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t want to ask Michael about them just in case…”

Becca’s laugh stopped Tessa’s comment. “I gave those to him thinking he would wear them while learning to wheel his chair. He informed me he didn’t want prissy hands with no calluses and I never saw them again. I am flattered he kept them. If they’re in that drawer, I wouldn’t mention finding them.”

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The Seven Essential Types of Glove by Anne Goodwin

A chair, a couch, the tools of her trade, plus a motley choice of gloves. One pair, snipped at the knuckles, to touch hurt with her fingertips; soft kid gloves to soothe pain. Archaeologist gloves for delving through history; hospital-grade latex to shield her skin and prevent her cuts contaminating theirs. Mismatched heirlooms from her mentors, she traces the left to Rogers, the right to Freud. She reserves the harlequins for those who’ve never learnt laughter, the boxing gloves for those who avoid through jokes. Seven pairs packed, she’s ready to follow her client on a journey into truth.

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Unquenched by D. Avery

More than thirst might make his voice crack. He left them in the dugout without speaking. Carrying the shovel, work gloves feathering out of his back pocket, he hoped he appeared confident to his family.
He arrived at the spring, the once muddy surface now flaked, dried and split like old leather. He methodically pulled his gloves on, grasped the shovel and bent to his work, one scoop at a time. Each thrust of the blade was a prayer, each going unanswered until finally he stopped.
Under a blistering blue sky he held his head in his gloved hands.

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Kid Gloves for Sale by Norah Colvin

Wolf covered his sinister smile with a pleasant facade as he organised a stall between Little Red Hen’s Home-Made Bread and Pig Brothers’ Home Improvements. Dinner could wait. He was hoping for a killing of another kind — monetary — selling his home-made kid gloves.

When an unlikely pair of cowpokes enquired about the origins of his leather, he was evasive. When asked his whereabout the previous week, he attempted to flee; but the recently deputised Pal and Kid were too fast and snapped on the hand cuffs. “We arrest you for the disappearance and suspected murder of seven little kids.”

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Hot News by Simon

She stared at the pic of Kid and Pal duo.

It’s been 18 years since she lost the kids. She shed a drop of a tear and walked out her bedroom. She startled when she saw a man wearing kids costume with a kid’s glove. She remembered the Kid and Pal duo.

Before she reacted there was a tap on her left shoulder, she turns to feel the pain of a long knife shoved in her ribs and the axe from behind chops her head off.

News headlines ‘Murder stories continues in town, people are warned to stay alert!”

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A Dark and Stormy Man by Chel Owens

Mabel knew she’d found a winner when she met Shane -tall, dark, handsome. He came into her life on a dark and stormy night. Unfortunately, she’d mistaken his kid glove-approach as a gentleness that didn’t exist.

No, Mabel sighed as she looked out into the storm, there was no more Shane. Her tears matched those streaming down the windowpane.

“‘Scuse me, ma’am,” a deep voice said. Mabel glanced up through wet eyelashes to see a burly man in a plaid shirt. “I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t too happy.”

The man sat. “Could I buy you a coffee?”

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Inside Out by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan! Where are you?’
‘Hang on, I’m… what’s got into you?’
‘Nothing.’
‘So why do you sound like you’re being mugged and why are you standing on a table?’
‘It’s… there… oh god! It’s coming…’
‘A spider? You’re an agoraphobe?’
‘Arachnophobe. Can you…?’
‘Squish it? Sure. I…’
‘Nooo. Just get it outside.’
‘What is an agoraphobe?’
‘Can we do this later? Please take it outside but don’t hurt it.’
‘You want me to use kid gloves?’
‘You can use lead-lined gauntlets if you’ll just take it outside.’
‘First tell me. Agoraphobe? Or I’m not going outside.’
‘Exactly.’
‘?’

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Eagle Point by Saifun Hassam

Last night another tremor shook the ranchlands. The snowcapped serrated peaks of Stoney Mountain Range glinted in the sunlight.

Carly and Carmen climbed up Pine Ridge Trail to Eagle Point. They dismounted several times to push sharp and jagged small rocks from the trail. Both women were experienced rangers and ranchers. Their kid gloves were as essential as their horses for the trek.

A new jagged crack ran from west to east on Eagle Point’s plateau. This summer, wildfires turned the forests into ashes.

Kid gloves or not, the two women would do everything to protect this rugged wilderness.

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Kid Gloves by Frank Hubeny

“You see how those trees hug the shore. They didn’t wear kid gloves to do that. They grabbed on with everything they had. You’re going to have to deal with Bernard the same way.”

“How many times do I have to tell him to stop drinking? He’s like a misshapen piece of fired pottery that can no longer change.”

“Those trees look unchangeably misshapen to me as well. The problem is not every tree that grabbed the shore was able to hold on long enough for strong roots to develop.

“If Bernard doesn’t change he’ll fall off the shore.”

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No Kidding? by JulesPaige

The old woman kept her kid gloves on the table under the arc that divided the entryway of her apartment to the living space. It was not her intent to illude anyone. Unable to elude her own aging waiting for her own imagined ark to sail her permanently away into the heavens. She wore the kid gloves when she had company she wanted to allude to the perfect hands she once had, her fingers now knobby and bent from arthritis.

When the young Cub Scout came to interview her, she smiled. He politely did not ask about her gloves.

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Mushroom Man by Anonymole – Apocryphal Abecedarian

With a tarp held over my head, I made my way to the Mushroom Man. Noon and the sun would cook my skin without it. The city’s ruins, baked white, provided pockets of shade. I scrambled from shadow to shadow.

Down the subway stairs, rubble clacking away, the smell of loam filled my senses. Darkness gave me pause, my eyes adjusted slowly. The ancient forest smell consumed me.

“They’re not ready,” said the man who grew the mycelium leather.

I picked my way deeper into the gloom. “My kid needs those gloves.”

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Misfits (Part I) by D. Avery

While others tended to rodeo events or cracked their WIPs, Pal took a vacation, time away from Kid. Just for a while. Pal even left Carrot Ranch.

Just for a while, for it had been such a long while since Pal had seen Cousins Ash and Dusty Trales.

Dismounting at their Turnip Farm Pal was greeted warmly. “Hey there, Cuz. It’s been a while.”

“Yep.”

“We gotta git these turnips harvested.”

“I’ll hep.”

“You’ll want gloves.”

“Yep. Dang! These are Kid’s gloves! Ugh! I musta in’vert’ly took Kid’s saddlebag.”

Even on vacation, Pal would be burdened with Kid’s baggage.

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Misfits (Part II) by D. Avery

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kid was skedaddling to the Saloon, for as you may recall Kid has some goats out back of the saloon. Bursting through the swinging doors, Kid saw— “Shorty!”

“Kid. Shouldn’t you be vacationin’?”

“Worried ‘bout my kids, what with that prompt an’ all.”

“The kids are alright, Kid, the Ranch and the saloon are safe places for all.”

“Okay.” Kid then took in the quiet saloon. Shorty was so busy writing she hadn’t noticed the goat feeding from a stack of papers. Despite assurances, Kid did not feel safe and vacated, goat in hand.

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Dusty Trail

Dusty trails lead in and out of the arid lands of the American West. Iconic to cattle drives, pioneers, and the Pony Express, there’s more to the west than frontier, dry land, rugged mountains, and big sky. It was a wild place — still is — but it was known long before settlers and ranchers, loggers and miners hit the trails. Where did they come from? What dusty trails lead people to wander and settle? Are we ever really settled, or is our large human family restless to kick up dust?

Writers had a challenge before them, and like the argonauts before them, they set out with just 99 words in their knapsacks to catch a story on the trail. Read where the prompt led them.

The following is based on the October 1, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that happens on the dusty trail.

My Life’s Dusty Roads by Sue Spitulnik

Growing up dusty dirt roads connected friends farms. We drove them to hunt and parked on them to explore life.

In my thirties I drove dusty roads alone into the mountains, looking for me.

Now in retirement, Charli Mills introduced me to Stegnar and Abbey, lovers of open and natural places.

Then Sean Prentiss took me along to Find Abbey and I rode on some of the same roads while driving Rt66.

Now I’m riding the same roads again with the Ghost Rider, who is sharing his knowledge of ghosts, wishing life didn’t have them.

Coincidence. I think not.

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Dusty Trail by kathy70

Sally walked along the trail covered with dust, no rain in almost two months along her beloved ridge of mountain.  This was where she came to clear her head from all the noise of her family of 11 siblings, all talking at the same time.  She knew that she could only have a few minutes before someone was looking for her.  What would she find here today? Would he still be here, was he feeling well enough to leave?

As she searched the trees and bushes there was no sign of him.  The eagle free from his trap was gone.

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Star Dust by D. Avery

“It’s my magical palace, Mommy!”

Taking her mother’s hand Hope twirled and danced in the hayloft until they both fell back into a pile of loose hay, laughing. Dusty trails of chaff sparkled in the shafts of sunlight.

“Stars!” her mother exclaimed.

“Make a wish, Mommy.”

“Does wishing work with this kind of star?”

“Yup. Mine came true.”

“What did you wish for?”

But Hope only grew quiet and snuggled closer to her mother, who stared up into the glittering dust. “I’m so sorry, kid,” she whispered. “But I’m here now, I promise.” Then she wished upon a star.

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Grand Canyon Cowboys by Deborah Dasante

Confusion. That’s their game. Starched jeans. Stetsons. So you to think that’s who they are. It’s a disguise. I paid good money to ride a mule in a line with a group of others too lazy or too afraid to hike the South Rim. Paid a store-bought cowboy to ‘Howdy’ and to not look like a fool going in circles unable to move forward. Not a dimes worth of difference between a forty dollar mule and a store-bought cowboy. Cost money to find that out. I should of known better when I read the flyer –

“Grand Canyon, My Ass”.

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The Mares of Mars by Anonymole: Apocryphal Abecedarian

Haus spurred his robotic steed. By ‘spurred’ we mean he spoke code into his suit’s helmet that translated to ‘giddy-up’. Within seconds his six legged rover, a cross between a horse, a spider and a stainless-steel nightmare from a 20th Century film, began a sinuous saunter, one that allowed Haus to barely feel the trail.

The pair arrived at a crevasse, one that plunged deep into the dusty crust of Mars.

“The span exceeds safe leaping distance,” said Bray-burry, the mount’s name.

“Bah! This oughta be easy. Back up a bit.” The robot complied. “Now git!”

And over they…

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Gold Dust by Hugh W. Roberts

Heading up the dusty trail of the desert city, nine-gallon, cowboy hat adorned and wobbling around on the spurred boots that were one size too big, Barry remembered the words of his now-deceased, bachelor uncle.

“The trail leads to gold.”

But where was the gold? There was no gold here, just dust, some of which was dirtying his new boots and making him sneeze.

Opening the doors of the venue at the end of the trail, Dusty’s, his heart leapt while butterflies flew around his stomach. A brightly-lit room full of cowboys, all line dancing together.

He’d struck gold.

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A Barf Story by Simon

He entered the bar, covered with brown sand as he came from a dusty trail. Young boy stared at a guy in whites. He bravely went close to him and asked if you are not eating this, can I take this? he was hungry.

The man nodded. He quickly grabbed the spoon and ate it fast as soon he reached the bottom of the Cup he found a dead rat, he barfs up back in the bowl and stared at the man

The man replied calmly, Gross, I did the same when I reached that bottom.
He barfs again.

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Slave by FloridaBorne

Martha Smythe refused her father’s choice, eloping with the man she loved instead.

She remembered little about the siege; her new husband dying from a pirate’s bullet… their ship sinking… being thrown into a hold with other women, faces blank from shock… sails blowing as strong winds propelled them toward the Barbary Coast… huddling in a Morocco slave market.

Her hands bound, she walked a dusty trail to the home of a man with dark face. Instead of a new life in Connecticut, a stranger beat her, used her body, and threw her into a room with barred windows.

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Looking for the Comfort of Autumn… (a dream scene?)
(two verses of a Vers Beaucoup) by JulesPaige

There’s a strain on the prairie plane – no hill or dale, putting a strain
On this traveler’s brain – dry ground, no trained hound
On a lead bound to find any water for this daughter
Who oughter have stayed close to home, but did roam

Running from the season, with no rhyme or reason, spirit to be pleasin’
Yet the nose is just sneezin’ – no thirst quenched, arid dry air first
In spiral clouds burst from the not so shy, dust filled sky
The trail far from the shade of the leaves of willow for my pillow…

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Scorcher by R. V. Mitchell

It was a scorcher for sure, easily ninety degrees in the shade. Too bad there weren’t no shade. George Mason, took off his hat and wiped his forehead with a sleeve. The dust clogged his throat despite the scarf he wrapped around his face.

He had been doing scouting ahead of the train for about two hours or so, and the water holes were still an hour or so ahead of him. The terrain looked tolerable enough, but he was concerned that the dust raised by the wagons behind him might call some unwanted attention to Captain Little’s train.

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The Darnedest Cowboy by M J Mallon

The darnedest cowboy walked towards me. His cowboy boots churned up the dusty road. My heartbeat so loudly I swore it was going to giddy up, catch a ride on a wild horse and land on his Western shirt. His eyes twinkled as he dawdled a few feet away. He kicked a stone, spat some cheeky grits into the ground and walked right past, lassoing my heart with his.

I stayed still until I heard the deafening gunshot. Damn. Wild West gals sure don’t remember no dead cowboy long.

Love ain’t for dead buckaroos!

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Histories Hidden Below Layers of Dust by Anne Goodwin

They trod lightly on the earth, but their footprints were visible for those who cared to see. The White Man did not care: fearing their prowess, he stripped them of their language, their culture, their land. Made them a commodity. Robbed them of their worth.

Centuries later, their descendants plough through the dusty trail to dig up the bones of their accomplishments: the hidden histories of science, literature, music and architecture. Scour museums for stolen artefacts, ornaments appropriated when the White Man rewrote their stories, swapped heroes for victim or villain. Let’s be brave now and face the truth.

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Carrot Ranch by Anita Dawes

We cannot see the wind
Only the lifting of leaves
The swaying or grass
As it passes
We cannot hear the wind
Only the echo
It leaves behind
The dark curtain of dust
It sweeps from the ground
All but swallows
The four horsemen
Riding from the Starbuck Ranch
Out to recover a few stray cattle
Before the savannah winds
Cover the small town of Starbuck
With a dark blanket from hell
Ask my mother
When she tries clearing it up
The air around her turns dusty blue
The four riders return
Spitting blue dust…
Cattle safe and sound.

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Divergin’ Trails (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

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Divergin’ Trails (Part 2) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Asides it’s cold there. Think I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time.

Crimson foliage
Crackling conflagrant hues
Ignite morning frost

Burning campfire memories
Smoke’s dusty trails dream west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

Outlaws on the Dusty Trail by Charli Mills

Frankie wiped her glass eye with the scarf she used to cover her face.

“Gotta mask up, Bert,” she told her horse (who wasn’t listening). “Dang dust.”

The dry storm blew like a devil whirling across the flats. Ahead, Frankie made out the outline of riders that looked to her one eye like two outlaws. They were wearin’ masks, too! She tightened the rains and thought about lunging old Bert to keep the mail safe (Bert had no run left in him).

“Hey, it’s Frankie.”

Blowing dust and relief, she realized it were jist her friends, Kid and Pal.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Far From Home by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d worn new Oboz hikers and thin wool socks, afraid of snakes on the trail since there’d been none on the plane. She’d strapped on a hip belt with double water holsters, and a chin-strapped billed cap with cape to for sun protection.

She gleamed like a beached whale, from all the sunscreen applied, and wore layers, like multiple skins, to transform from wallowing walrus to near naked nymphette, as the weather deemed. She’d traveled far, with no plans to stay out after dark.

But then she lost the trail, and found two Carrot cowpokes singing by a fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Jess and Cindy Stumble Across the Ranch by Joanne Fisher

“If only our car hadn’t broken down. I hope this trail will lead somewhere.” Jess said. Cindy coughed.

“It’s rather dusty!”

The two women came to a ridge. Below them they saw a ranch.

“We’ve been here before! This is Carrot Ranch where Kid and Pal work. I wonder if they’re around.” Jess wondered. They walked to the fence.

“Look at all those carrots they have to wrangle.”

“Maybe we should take some so we can compare them to our ones.” Jess suggested.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Cindy responded. “It may be regarded as carrot rustling.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail Down Under by Norah Colvin
The hooves thundered along the trail kicking up a storm of dust. Mary watched the cloud clear the trees and turn towards her across the home paddock.

How often had the boys been told to not push their horses so hard?

“Might as well talk to a dead cow,” her dad always said.

Before they’d reined in their mounts, Mary was outside, ready to give them a serve.

“Mum! Mum! It’s Kid and Pal. They’re here,” they shouted.

Mary sighed. Hadn’t they outgrown imaginary friends?

Her jaw dropped when, out of the dust, two figures materialised. “G’day,” they said.

🥕🥕🥕

Saguaro ‘N Seek by Chel Owens

Pal spat into the wind, instantly regretting he’d done so. “Ware be Kid?” he growled as he wiped his face.

“Ware be you?” the wind answered.

Pal whipped around. He slid off the rocky outcropping he’d carefully climbed and scooted across just a few minutes before. His gun flew after him, landing stock first into a Saguaro and shooting its contents sky-high.

“Hey!” yelped the cactus, falling over.

Pal squinted. “Kid?”

“Nah, yer gramma.”

Pal laughed. “Welp,” he said, standing and walking over to his dusty, cactus-clad friend. “I guess you won this here round o’ hide ‘n seek.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail: Crater Lakes by Saifun Hassam

Lorena trekked along a dusty trail to Coyote Ridge in the Crater Lakes Habitat. Green Lake shimmered blue in the fall sunshine. To the south were the mudflats of Lizard Lake.

Lorena was a writer and artist. Crater Lakes, with its rich American West history and extraordinary natural beauty, captivated her.

Lorena hiked past cottonwoods, aspens, and majestic lodgepole pines. On the trail, Ranger Carmen greeted her warmly. Lorena grinned at the other two familiar faces.

“Hey, Kid! Hi Pal! You’re a long dusty ways from home!”

Pal was exploring rancher history.

Kid? He was in Poet Tree heaven!

🥕🥕🥕

The Morning After by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where did you get to, Morgan?’

‘Those two reprobates, Kid and Pal…’

‘You went drinking with them? Give me you wallet.’

‘I didn’t spend much.’

‘It’s not the money; I’m tearing up your donor card. You can’t expect anyone to want your organs now.’

‘I think I must have dropped my brain and bruised it. Did I disturb you?’

‘How kind of you to worry. As it happens, no, though you did leave a sad trail of shed clothes, keys, burger wrappers…’

‘Sorry, I was feeling a little dusty…’

‘Yeah, I get it. They’re hard to refuse, aren’t they?’

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Control by Sue Spitulnik

Katie’s eyes went wide when she saw Kid and Pal standing at the No Thanks bar. “Howdy guys. What brings you here, and, how’d you get so dusty?”

“We’re on hiatus from our Saloon and gettin’ pulled every which way. One writer’s got us drinkin’, one ridin’ the range and another sittin’ at a campfire, so we rode over for a busman’s holiday. Sorry ’bout the dust.”

“Don’t care ’bout the dirt. Couldn’t be better timing! If you’ll tend bar, I’ll go see my students dance at the Irish Festival.”

“We’d love to.”

“Can’t thank you enough.”

“Have fun.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time. I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Asides it’s cold there.

Crimson foliage
Conflagrant hues crackling
Ignites morning frost

Campfire memories burning
Dusty trails of smoke drift west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking

Grab the popcorn or carrot sticks, and cozy up a collection of stories you can munch to. Snacking can happen on horseback, in the car, or hunkered in the old bomb bunker. What is deemed a snack is as important as when to snack. And you know there is going to be wide variances.

Writers took to snacks with snack (perhaps). Some went dark and some aimed for humor. Many snacked on the seemingly unsnackable. No matter the snacking, it became a story.

The following are based on September 24, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about snacking.

Road Snacks Are Special by kathy70

Snacks are serious. No idea when they developed this attitude but they wear the crown well. Road trip snacks are in special categories while still having the requirement of being bad junk food. Healthy snacks don’t live in this world. Trip snacks require a salty brand of chips, chocolate that does not melt, caffeine drink and something with peanut butter.

In my vehicle this is a well proven larder that can sustain me for days.  In the past, my excuse was mid-west winters that could be brutal.  Now this is just one of those grandfathered laws of my car.

🥕🥕🥕

Cheese and Crackers by Allison Maruska

Taking my plate to my desk, I grab the last bit of cheese and pop it into my mouth, lamenting the end of my snack but ready to get busy. My plot points and character maps have been purposeless long enough. Time to start the first paragraph.

I open the document and place my fingers over the keys.

I stare at the blinking cursor, the only disruption on the blank page.

I tap my nails on the letters. The cursor blinks three more times.

Standing, I pick up the plate. That cheese really needed crackers to go with it.

🥕🥕🥕

Mushroom Monday by Tyler M Deal

Archibald Portobello, acting CEO of DeCOM Enterprises, popped another cashew into his mouth as the turtle taxi lumbered slowly beneath him. He reached into his coat pocket to retrieve a buzzing cell and shouted to the cabbie before answering it.

“Can you pick up the pace! I have a board meeting at the Log in twenty minutes.”

He flipped open the phone.

“Talk. What? No! Sell! Now!” He slapped the phone shut. “Pfft, analysts.” Then to the turtle, “Can’t this thing go any faster?”

Archibald Portobello, acting CEO of DeCOM Enterprises, sighed and popped another cashew into his mouth.

🥕🥕🥕

The Jabberwocky Revisited by Doug Jacquier

’Twas rump-numbing, and the metal seats
Did gyre and gimble in the McClains:
All mimsy were ranch-style kettle chips,
And curds and pears from out the plains.

Beware-ing the unwash-ed ones!
The jaws that blight, the masks dispatched!
She forsook the jujube bird, and shunned
The frumious butterscotch!”

And, as in meringue-ish thought she stood,
The Bar-of-choc, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the nougat wood,
And coated as it came!

But she did slay that Bar-of-Choc
And shouldered arms, her foe now so brittle.
O frabjous day! Get off my block!
She said and scoffed her Skittles.

🥕🥕🥕

Crunch Time by Norah Colvin

“I really need this today,” she said.

“Bad day?” asked the waiter, placing the coffee on the table.

“Yeah,” she sighed.

“Coffee’ll fix it,” he said. “I made it myself.”

She smiled, thinking of all the I-made-it-myself gifts received over the years.

With eyes closed, she scooped the delicious chocolatey froth into her mouth.

Then her eyes popped. There shouldn’t be anything crunchy in a cappuccino. She pushed the crunchy bit out on her tongue.

A fly! She spurted the remaining contents of her mouth over the table as a student and parent passed.

“Are you okay?” they asked.

🥕🥕🥕

Haunt by Dan Julian

Back at the abandoned lighthouse, using the grudging, jerky, taxing telekinesis which had taken him so many years to learn, the specter of Miles Phillips banged open the heavy, creaky door to let himself in, and with a final herculean effort, whooshed up the decrepit spiral of stairs to the top platform where the beacon used to be. The real and actual sheet and bulging bag he’d been concentrating so hard on ‘holding’ dropped to the dusty plank floor, myriad cheerfully-colored candies and snacks spilling out. Time to feast! Oh, how the specter of Miles Phillips did love Halloween.

🥕🥕🥕

Digesting the Situation by JulesPaige

I needed to divorce myself from my fears. The dark dismal city street appeared to be a place where zombies might jump out of doorways to snack on the likes of me. I had to convince myself that all I had to do was use Fifth Avenue as an entrance and Sixth as an exit. Just because I was no longer married and didn’t have a man to hang onto didn’t mean that I couldn’t do this on my own. I’d done it hundreds of times during the daylight hours.

working late, again
paying for independence
fears dominate sense

🥕🥕🥕

Cheat-ohs by D. Avery

“One after the other, I couldn’t help myself, even when I knew they weren’t good for me.”

“I know what you mean, Ilene,” Kristof said.

“In the end none satisfied. Too sweet. Too salty. Too full of air!”

“But we’ve made healthy choices now, both of us.”

“Hi girls.” Though late in joining Ilene and Kristof, Marge jumped right into the conversation. “What’s wrong with some greasy finger-licking cheese that goes crunch? With enough beer it’s all good.”

Ilene’s brows went up, but she agreed with Marge. “Yes, beer helps. But Marge, we were talking about men, not snacks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snack Food by Eliza Mimski

From the time she entered middle school, Patty Lay, the heiress of Lay’s potato chips, was teased about her name – classmates, boys of course – saying she was a good lay. Jeannie M&Ms, the heiress of the M&M fortune, had received the same kind of treatment. How many times did she have to hear that she would melt in your mouth, and not in your hands? The same had rung true for Bobby Cheetos. Did he really have to hear one more time that he would be a player, a cheat? And Donna Krispy Kreme. Don’t even ask.

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking by Reena Saxena

“#MeToo movement is not over yet, and here comes the drug-peddling scandal…”

“Why does it bother you?”

“Some of us are being victimised…..”

“Are you sure you’ve never done it to others?”

The big time film director looked flustered. He is not used to this kind of a response.

“Well, it affects the manner in which I earn my bread and butter.” He softened his belligerent stance.

“It is high time you think about it. Stop snacking on drugs and girls, and plan a wholesome meal plan, where you need to work for the final taste and output.”

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking Curbside by Yvette Prior

“Um, you didn’t tell me club members would be here.”

SORRY BABE

“There’s so many of them. And look! Look who is at our table.”

They paused as they reached their assigned table.

“Honey, I can’t sit with them for two hours – especially when I’m famished.”

“I just can’t….”

silence

HEY, I HAVE AN IDEA – COME WITH ME.

Jim grabbed snacks from his truck and sat with Maria, talking on the curb, which provided succor.

The ground was hard beneath them

The sky had soft clouds above

Conversation nourished

READY TO GO IN?

“Yes, Yes I am.”

both smiled

🥕🥕🥕

Nuclear Snacking by Bill Engleson

Jimbo was my neighbour back in the city. Had a bomb shelter. Didn’t build it. It was there when he bought the house. Early 50’s vintage.

“Only one in the neighbourhood,” he’d whispered to me.

“That you know of,” I said. “Read where the first rule of good Bomb Shelter management is…Mum’s the word.”

“I trust you, Buddy. Let me show ya.”

It was cozy.

Outfitted well.

“Besides water, bandages, stuff like that” he noted, “We’ve got a year’s supply of chocolate bars and potato chips. And Pru’s dried apricots, of course. Trick, Marty, is to rotate. Takes commitment.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Culinary Faux Pas by M J Mallon

Vanessa cut the homemade apple pie into dainty, perfect slices.

Rich smiled as he popped one in his mouth. “Did you make the pastry yourself?”

“Yes.”

“It’s crumbly. And different. What’s in it?”

“Cinnamon and lemon rind.”

“Oh, from unwaxed lemons?”

Vanessa swallowed. “I… Oh dear!”

Rich picked up the melted candle on the table. “So, we’re eating cordon bleu Apple Pie snacks flavoured with cinnamon and hot wax?”

“It seems so… Aren’t they delicious!”

🥕🥕🥕

Autumnal Trip by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They’d packed coffee and sandwiches, heading out, bike trails edging around lakes green with duckweed, geese and duck leaving their own paths as they nibbled, non-stop snacking to prepare them for the winter. The two biked on, through leaf-changing suburbs, under sharp-echoing freeways, until they finally arrived at Jack’s place.

The orchard spread before them, multiple rows of red and green globes of goodness, a cool welcome after their long ride.

“Took you long enough to get here!” called out Uncle Jack from the picnic table. “I was just about to grab a snack from one of these trees!”

🥕🥕🥕

Apples by E.A. Colquitt

When he saw them, he knew he had to take them home. One, two, three, four, five: they were small and round, skin gleaming with golden polka dots. The largest even had a leaf pinned, flag-like, to the stalk, just like in fairy tales. He’d never seen that in real life before.

Part of him didn’t want to eat them. It was the smell that won him over in the end: fresh, healthy, reviving. He cut up all five fruits into a bowl.

Afterwards, he fell asleep there, on the sofa, and didn’t wake up for a hundred days.

🥕🥕🥕

Food Thrown in by Anne Goodwin

“You’re working for peanuts!”

“They don’t farm peanuts. Besides, peanuts aren’t nuts.”

“But you are, breaking your back for the price of a few rounds of drinks.”

“How much would you pay for an all-you-can-eat buffet?”

“You’re changing the subject.”

“How much? Cos that’s what you’d save, snacking all day in the fields.”

“Do they grow pizza? Do they grow chicken vindaloo?”

“They don’t. But there’s always a premium for the healthy option. Think what it costs to starve at a spa.”

“Are there strawberries?”

“Whopping great strawberries. Blueberries. Apples. Tomatoes. Cucumber. Peas, beans, big juicy pears.”

“I’m in!”

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley 2020 by Saifun Hassam

Jenny and Marie ended their online discussion of upcoming news stories about Lynn Valley and the pandemic. Jenny was a photojournalist. Marie’s knowledge of farming and rural communities was extensive. Their online stories for Lynn Valley News gave people a strong sense of connection.

Their coverage of Hannah’s website “Spuds Restaurant” and her podcast of the Farmers Four musicians struck a deep chord. The Farmers Market was closed but Lynn Valley was a vibrant community and would rebuild.

Jenny relaxed. She dug into her favorite snack: spicy black beans, fresh farm tomatoes, blue corn tortilla chips. Cinnamon rolls. Coffee.

🥕🥕🥕

Snacking by Anita Dawes

When I caught my mother snacking
She told me in her sweet mum voice
The one she uses
when she wants to be believed
“It’s rude not to eat the beautiful snacks
When so many people have gone
To so much trouble to get them made.
They must earn their living
It’s our duty to try them out
I love the Homestead Ranch chips best
They’re always fresh
They have the best crunch
With every bite.”
How could I argue with that?
I didn’t want to be the one
Putting folk out of work
So I joined mum snacking…

🥕🥕🥕

Busted at Midnight by Charli mills

The crumple of a candy-bar wrapper woke the house. The cat stretched and hopped over to the couch. The dog laid her head on the armrest, silently begging. Martha heard Steve plod down the hall. She quickly shoved the wrapper with the rest down the side of the couch cushions, picking up her geology textbook and hot pink highlighter.

“Still up?” he asked, stifling a yawn.

“Mmm,” she replied, reading tectonics.

The twins and their older sister ran past Steve. Clara, hands on her hips, asked, “Mama, did you get into our Halloween buckets again?”

Martha sighed and swallowed.