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Baby Ducks Ate My Lunch Collection

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

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

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

What the Duck! by Greg Glazebrook

Bobby sat at the riverbank looking at her phone when she grabbed a nearby duckling and popped it between two slices of bread.

Angelina watched in horror as Bobby started to bite down on the quacking sandwich. “What’re you doing!?!?”

To the duckling’s relief, she pull the sandwich out and said, “Research for Carrot Ranch’s writing challenge.”

Angelina shot her a confused look…

See it says, “Write a story explaining why you ate baby ducks for lunch.”

“Ummm, no Bobby, it says ‘…explain baby ducks ate my lunch.’ You really need new strategies to keep your dyslexia in check!”

🥕🥕🥕

Disappeared 4 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Andrew had been happy his first few years of life: just him, Mom, Dad. He was happy when Eloise was born, although Dad quickly faded out of the picture. Later came a stepdad, quickly followed up by the twin girls, Chuckie and Ducks.

Still, Andrew hoped they could all live peacefully together. The twins were almost cute before they became mobile. But once they started moving? Wow.

Toys? Attention? Food? The roaring twins claimed all, and were never at fault. The day Ducks ate his lunch, Eloise just stood by, cradling her own PB&J.

He knew all was lost.

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Sweet Crocodile by Doug Jacquier

That skinny German tourist’s leg didn’t really agree with me yesterday. Mostly gristle and I’ve still got lederhosen stuck in my teeth. Parked the rest of him under a log for a few days to mature.

Still feeling a pit peckish. Saw a mother duck and brood floating past. I thought ‘Yum, baby ducks’. Ate my lunch and had a nap in the sun on the river bank. Later, mother duck came back searching for her ducklings. She looked so distressed I put her out of her misery.

Sentimental I know but that’s just the sweet guy I am.

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Aloysius Loses His Lunch by Nancy Brady

One afternoon Aloysius met the pigs at the duck pond. The pigs loved to soak in the cool water although that wasn’t the white cat’s idea of fun.

He avoided getting soaked if he could, but sometimes it was unavoidable. The ducklings splashed everyone in their quest for food.

Their appetites were voracious; they were eating everything in sight including Aloysius’s kibble. Because of their splashing, he was cleaning water droplets off his fur. He finished his bath, turned to eat, but discovered his lunch was gone.

“You ate my lunch,” he said, but the ducklings just quacked up.

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A Fine Lunch by Saifun Hassam

One spring day at the lagoon, I shared a fallen log with five ducklings. I was frequently there in the spring, sketching the changing scenery from mallards, coots, goldeneyes, and regal swans to the unexpected appearance of wood ducks.

The baby ducks huddled near one end of the log. I sat at the other end. Curious, they waddled over, pecking at my boots and backpack. Two studied my sketch of cygnets. The “lunch” bag of fruit and nuts fell off the log. For a few seconds, they were startled. I sketched away as the ducklings tasted this fine food.

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Baby Ducks Ate My Lunch by Norah Colvin

A wail fractured the picture-perfect ‘Freedom Day’, the first outing since lockdown began aeons ago.
Father’s mind wandered like the lonely cloud contrasted against the vivid sky, contemplating nothing—no lessons, no video calls, no demands for something to eat or do. Mother absentmindedly stroked his hair as she inhaled the freshness of the sunshine and the scent of nearby gardenias. The children entertained themselves—what luxury—feeding ducks with days-old bread.
The wail amplified, like an approaching train, finally demanding Father’s and Mother’s attention. “What’s wrong?”
“Baby ducks ate my lunch,” wailed the younger. The older one shrugged.

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Baby Ducks Vs Me by Sadje

Mom always gave me something to eat when I went out every day. I placed my packet on the bench for safekeeping.
I didn’t pay any heed to the fact that it was now spring season and all kind of baby animals were making their appearances. Our goat had her kids and the duck who had been guarding her clutch of eggs for the last four weeks was now parading around with a row of fluffy ducklings in tow.
Imagine my shock when reaching for my lunch, all I found were baby ducks busy nibbling my sandwich and cookies.

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Foul Deeds by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s local paper, The Devourer tended to the sensational. Headline’s such as Marchibanks Hazmat Made My Toes Radioactive and Alien’s Invaded My Breakfast were commonplace. When Dubious Pendragon, active in the Votes For Foul campaign that sought representation for the local minorities of waterbirds made the front page, it was a sensational report, quoting her as having said she had had the Mallards for lunch. She was livid, demanding an immediate correction. ‘I didn’t eat them,’ she fumed. ‘I invited their family for a chickweed pie and chat. Seeing the fledglings clean their plates was a delight.’

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Baby Ducks Ate Your Lunch! by Joanne Fisher

“Aw! Look at those baby ducks. So cute!” Cindy exclaimed. “Here we go my cuties.”

“What are you doing?” Jess asked.

“Feeding them my sandwiches.”

“You shouldn’t be feeding ducklings bread. It’s not good for them.”

“What should I be feeding them?” Cindy asked.

“Corn, peas, rice. Stuff like that.” Jess informed her.

“We don’t have that in our picnic basket.” Cindy continued feeding them her food.

“Well I tried…”

Some time later Cindy rummaged through the picnic basket. “I’m still hungry, but there’s no food left.” she complained.

“That’s because you fed your lunch to the baby ducks.”

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Bon Appetit by Colleen Chesebro

“Mom, Hancock ate my lunch again.”

Stacy placed her hands on her hips, and I noted the teenage angst and attitude in her stance.

“Hancock gets hungry. He has a tough job guarding the henhouse, you know.”

“What about me? I’m hungry too!” She stomped off.

Stacy could wait. I didn’t need another sick dog.

I stepped outside into a cold Michigan rain. Napkins littered the grass near the henhouse. Hancock was nowhere in sight. Darn dog.

That’s when I spotted a waddle of fluffy baby ducks devouring the remains of Stacy’s lunch.

Bon Appetite, I laughed.

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Growing Duckies by Kerry E.B. Black

The plate hosted crumbs, remnants of a delicious PB&J on homemade white bread. Sonia looked at her small charge, eyebrows raised.

“Any idea what happened to my sandwich?”

Four-year-old Patty considered the matter with the innocence of a saint. Her mouth formed a little “o” of surprise, dislodging tiny golden flakes when she shook her head. “I bet it was the duckies.”

“Duckies?”

“Uh huh. They must have been really hungry.”

“Where do the duckies live?”

Patty opened wide and pointed between her lips.

“I’ll make another sandwich. You want one?”

“No.” Patty smiled. “But the duckies do.”

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A Central Park Caper by Sue Spitulnik

Michael and Tessa stopped in a bakery and bought two huge croissants. They then went out into the sunshine and hailed a carriage to take them to Central Park, where they got dropped off. Finding an empty bench near the turtle pond, they sat to people watch. Michael set the bakery bag on the ground. They became so engrossed enjoying the noisy children making a fuss over the turtles and ducks they didn’t notice a Mama duck steal their bag. Tessa heard paper tearing, turned to look, and exclaimed, “I guess the ducklings are going to eat our lunch.”

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Quack by Michael Fishman

The baby ducks they ate my lunch
and I really can’t explain it.

The thought is so upsetting
that I will not entertain it.

My food, my food, my food, mine!
Leave it alone and we’ll be fine.

Those baby ducks, bright yellow,
oh they looked so doggone sweet.

But they ate my peanut butter
like it was warm grub meat.

My food, my food, my food, mine!
Leave it alone and we’ll be fine.

The moral of this ditty
(if it really does require it)
is to leave my food alone. Why?
Oh! Just cuz I desire it.

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Learning Curve by D. Avery

“You’re keeping that Pickett boy after school? Don’t waste your time. Picketts are lazy liars. He actually says that a goat eats his homework.”

“It’s plausible,” said Mrs. K. “His family does raise animals.”

“You mean they live in a pigsty. And today in the cafeteria he wouldn’t eat, just sat there, said he usually brings lunch from home but that baby ducks ate it. Baby ducks!”

Mrs. K sighed as her colleague left. Then she went to her snack drawer, more concerned with what the ducks ate than what the goat ate, whether there were ducks or not.

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Miss Parker by Gloria McBreen

Miss Parker is a nice teacher. When I told her I lost my coat pockets, she knew I lied. She knew my mammy sewed them up.
When I told her I lost the gloves she knitted for me, she knew my mammy took them.
And when I told her that the baby ducks ate my lunch, she knew I didn’t have any in the first place.
When I told her my mammy was gone away to find my daddy; she knew it wasn’t true. She knew my mother was gone for good.
I like my new mammy, Miss Parker.

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Off to the Pond by E.A. Colquitt

I like to walk here in spring. The world is awake, but not with any dizzying summer heat. It’s a time of freshness – and youth.

‘Think we’ll see a duckling, buddy?’

‘A what?’

‘A duckling. Baby ducks. Look! There’s some, now.’

They flow along the pavement as if still in the water, chasing their mother’s wake. She knows the safest way home: the zebra crossing. Its golden beacons match her babies’ coats.

We follow. The pond lies by a bench, where anyone can eat. Today’s lunch is rice, peas, and sweetcorn. You like to share it with the ducks.

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Fear of Flying by Anne Goodwin

A line of custard-yellow pom-poms waddling to the water: those ducklings are braver than me. I envy them a mother they can place their trust in: she’ll ensure they can float before they take wing.

I’ve let Simon think I’m scared of flying, when my terror is of drowning in shame. So we sit on this bench between the tennis courts and boating pool, not eating our sandwiches, chewing over everything save why I can’t follow him, why I can’t board a plane. I wish I could be better, kinder, more generous. I feed the baby ducks my lunch.

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Baby Ducks Ate My Lunch by Scott Bailey

My LUNar CHief (LUNCH for short) gave the ok to open the hatch. I led LUNCH and DESSERT (DEfense and SEaRTch team captain) from the lander to explore this giant world.

Green grass tall as trees, pebbles big as boulders. Bright blue sky, air clear and warm. Idyllic and peaceful, I thought, until I saw them.

Giant fluffy yellow bipedal beings. They saw us too, and all heck broke loose! We ran for the spaceship but they closed upon us. LUNCH tripped and fell but DESSERT and I dove into the ship and took off. The giants ate LUNCH.

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Duckling Survival Guide by Gypsie~Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

“These creatures are quite ruthless in their pursuit of breakfast, lunch or dinner. They will not give up until they have a tasty treat in their little beaks; mainly me! They are ravenous little beings whose only purpose on this Earth is to eat me and those like me.

My name is Georgio Piccolo Francis Worm and I am, a worm. Thus the name. I’ve survived the longest, so was chosen to teach the little wormettes how to remain free of a certain death by mastication, although the little chicks do not actually chew how horrible to be …. Aheeeeeeeeeeee!!!”

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Baby Duck and Cover by Bill Engleson

Some days I get so hungry.
I have been expecting this all my life.
You know, expecting it like three squares
but knowing it was beyond the pale.
I mean, sure, we knew about…
Hiroshima!
Nagasaki!
So many dead we couldn’t count them.
The way bodies get fused.
It couldn’t happen again,
YET…
radioactive dust swirls towards me.
A ditty comes to mind:
“Hey, my baby, duck and cover,
I didn’t think she’d be so loud.
Hey, my baby, lets discover
the pleasures of a nuclear shroud.
Hey, my baby, meet my atomic lover,
she’s a beautiful mushroom cloud.”

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Ducklings Dine by Ann Edall-Robson

Walking along the water to the spot she had left her belongings, the young woman didn’t know who was more surprised when she came upon ducklings scattering like fluff in the wind. Their trail, marked by the waving grass and the sound of rustling reeds before hearing a plop, plop, plop. Miniature tsunami waves pushed back to the shore where they’d jumped from the bank into the water. Seeing their mother waddling away with a crust of bread in her mouth, she knew they had all come ashore to dine on her lunch she’d left behind in her pack.

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Trip and Fall by Christine Bialczak

Walking from work was better for my wallet. Sometimes I would walk through the park. Today was one of those days.
I didn’t see the root sticking up from the sidewalk. Next thing I knew I was falling forward, hoping to catch my fall, watching all of the contents of my bag fly out in front of me. Without a minute to think a baby duck rushed to my bag, and grabbing the sandwich with its tiny beak, ate my whole sandwich! Luckily I was headed home. Now I needed a few bandaids, a nap, and a new lunch!

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Caring is Sharing by JulesPaige

Blond wee ducks from the mud
Fair their gold down plume
Soft cheep their voice press; spare some fine bread crumb please
From the lake, blond we ducks
Down plume fair and gold

Ma would have us eat worms
They slide down bland like
Old mush, we want your lunch won’t you share, be kind
Be gone bland, shoe lace taste
No more worms for us

From my own perch, big sigh
How could I not share
So bit by bit I tore lose my home made bread
their beaks did grab and gulp
Big sigh, wee ducks ate!

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One Memorable Day by Duane L Herrmann

It was a memorable day. I looked out my bedroom window and saw cows in the front yard. They didn’t belong there, but where? A neighbor’s gate was open, he wasn’t home, and I was able to lure them back in. A passing bird was too excited and splattered on my head. There had been no time for breakfast so I tried for lunch instead. After it was ready, a phone emergency arose and took an hour to resolve. While sorting out the crisis, baby ducks came from the pond and ate my lunch. I went back to bed!

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Mottle Behavior by Frank James

Mottled Ducks swooped onto the retention pond where I ate lunch, feeding a gaggle of Muscovy Ducks. Ducklings scattered. One scampered into cattails. Emaciated Mottles paddled in the water.
I left my lunch on the bench walking to the cattails hollering, “Ducky! Ducky!” Mama duck honked at me and herded ducklings, flushing the rogue out. She pecked him on the head, and we all waddled to the bench.
There, the Mottles flopped backwards, holding their bellies. One almost had a smile.
I looked at the bench with litter shredded. Confused, I reached for lunch to see I was robbed.

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Sweet Bribe by Simon

Ducks! he yelled.
What ?
They ate my lunch.
Why did you feed them our food?
It’s not intentional, they just ate it.
The duck from the pond left their fishes and ate bread?
You think I’m making a story?
Yes you are, you came home after years of service to the nation, and this is what you do? lie to your wife?
She and her bread… he murmured
What?
It tasted good!
So you shared them? right?
Honey! forget it, how about these french fries, chicken wings.
I hate Bribes, but, it’s sweet!
No! it’s spicy! (Giggles)., that’s sweet.

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Chaos in the Home Office by Gary A. Wilson Stories

“Hi Michael, thanks for the zoom conference. I’m just starting lunch.”
“No worries. We’re anxious to get you back in the office. How’s the forecast?”
“All ready to scan.”
“Wonderful. Can… “
“Daddy, mommy needs you.”
“Sorry. Give me a sec.”
“Hello Lilly. Who’s that?”
“He’s, Bertie, my duckling. Nooo — Morris! Get out — bad doggy.”
“Lilly, don’t leave Bertie… Lilly?
“Martin! Can you hear me? Bertie’s destroying your desktop.”

– – = = * = = – –

“Okay; I’m… W-what’s this…? Bertie! Out with you!
“Michael, let me salvage what’s left and I’ll be there in an hour.”

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Peaceful Easy Feedin by D. Avery

“Was down ta the creek, Pal. Jist watchin the river flow, all peaceful.”

“Hmmf. Doin thet Kid-hartha thing agin. Was the north goin ducks still there?”

“Nope, all flown on, cept fer a momma mallard an her ducklins.”

“Cain’t be, ain’t been time fer thet.”

“Power a fiction, Pal, suspen yer disbelief. Anyways, that’s where the peace come from. Ducklins peepin, ‘Peace, peace, peace’. I watched. Fed em my lunch.”

“Thet was foolish.”

“I kin spare it. Thinkin if hope is the thing with feathers, it must start out downy soft like a ducklin, swimmin afore flyin. Worth feedin.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

Disappearance Collection

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

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

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

Meeting Truth by Reena Saxena

“Have you heard the story where Truth and Lies go for a swim in a pond? Lies jumps out and disappears wearing Truth’s clothes. Since then, Lies masquerade as Truth all over, and Truth is too embarrassed to come out of the pond.”

“What makes you think of the parable now?”

“Well, I met Truth yesterday. He says you deserve what you get if you value people by the clothes they wear. It’s your soul that disappeared from well-camouflaged bodies.”

“How did you meet Truth?”

“I bared my soul and am willing to admit that I made a mistake.”

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Where’d It Go? by Michael Fishman

Roll over, turn off the alarm. Shower, brush, dress. Make lunch.

Repeat times five, let cool for 48 hours and repeat for 20, 40, 60 or however many years.

Day after day after day. Weeks pass into years into decades.

The changes are so gradual as to be invisible. Some of them, like the need for a larger belt, bubble to the surface while others are more subtle. It wasn’t until around year 50-ish when I was stuffing my pants with a wallet and keys that I wondered why I still carried a comb. Where had it all gone?

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The Last of Adam by Hugh W. Roberts

Adam watched time disappear, but he also witnessed his life slowly disappearing.

“Where am I? Why can’t I see?” he bearly whispered.

The final thing Adam remembered was being a passenger in his girlfriend’s new car. She’d just passed her driving test. Had the truck been on the wrong side of the road?

The faint sound of sobbing and two familiar voices began to disappear gradually.

“Are you sure he’s dead, mother?”

“No, but it won’t take long. Adam will never escape from the coffin we’ve buried him in,” she said, looking down at the grave. “You’re safe again.”

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The Ghost in the Machine by Colleen M. Chesebro

“I’m not kidding, Charlene. My blog was there one minute and gone the next.”

“No way. Now what?”

“I’ve had so many problems with my blog. Yesterday, I contacted ProsePress, and they had an engineer look at the coding. Apparently, there was a ghost in the machine.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s complicated, but a ghost in the machine refers to the virtual consciousness of a dead person who exists inside a computer and interacts with the outside world.”

“So, the ghost made your blog disappear?”

“Yup. So, I bought a new computer, and I’ve not had any blog problems since!”

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Disappearing by Scott Bailey

I don’t miss the fighting. She was always up for that, always ready to find something about me she didn’t like. While it never got physical, the other abuses added up to more than that. Unseen cuts and bruises. A toll I was never able to pay, a burden I could never carry. I couldn’t figure her out. Did she find joy in watching me shrink to nothing? Did she grow stronger as my strength waned? I felt trapped, lost and disappearing more each day. Pushing her off that balcony helped me find myself again. Of course, jail sucks.

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The Great Escape by Joanne Fisher

The door to my cell opened and two guards walked in. They looked around in confusion.

“Where is she?” one asked.

“She’s disappeared.” the other said. I stood silently in front of them.

While I’m not adept at great magic, I do have a couple of useful spells up my sleeve. This spell wasn’t a true invisibility spell, it just made people unable to notice me so long as I didn’t draw attention to myself. They searched my cell and then quickly left, luckily leaving the door open. I managed to quietly walk out of the dungeons and escape.

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Traces by Bill Engleson

Can’t remember quite when I started to disappear.
I’d always felt, whole, complete, perfect, you could say.
Not bragging. It just seemed like that was the way life was.
Then one day little aches I’d never had before started to nag.
And then the oddest thing.
I went to meet a friend at a little bistro.
Outside, you know, in plain Covid view.
He was late but finally showed up.
I asked, “What kept you?”
He said, “I was here on time. Just couldn’t see you.”
That’s when it started, I suppose.
Or maybe the day I was born.

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Disappearance by Sadje

I worried about her a lot. Being the youngest, she was never very confident in herself and her abilities. But little by little, the change came. At first, it wasn’t very apparent but slowly and surely we all felt it.

The shy and timid young woman has gradually come into her own. Her lack of self-confidence and self-assertion gradually disappeared and now she is a woman who knows what she wants.

She is not only raising a baby, and working as a freelance software developer, but she’s also a wonderful wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law. She now stands for herself.

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The Old Crowd by Anne Goodwin

We called ourselves the five elles at college, but only four of us have made it to the reunion. But an eighty percent survival rate isn’t bad for friends in our seventies, although Lucy’s had cancer and Lisa has an artificial hip. But what happened to Lydia? We’ve looked online and found no trace alive or dead. A star that bright can’t simply disappear. Lainy once saw her double from a taxi window. A granddaughter? She couldn’t stop to ask. Only I recall Lydia’s drunken midnight confession. “I’m cursed with immortality. I might look twenty, but I’m centuries old.”

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Still Royalty by Sue Spitulnik

When Michael, with his odd gait, and Tessa walked into their 30 high school reunion, they hadn’t expected the banner welcoming the class prom king and queen. At the registration table, they learned the committee did it because it was the first time either one of them had been able to attend, and more so because they were together, as everyone remembered.

Across the room, two female classmates noticed their arrival. One said, “She got him up out of that wheelchair. Good for her.” The other whined, “She made the most eligible bachelor disappear. I’m still envious of her.”

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The Disappearing Trick by Norah Colvin

Jamie tore open his gifts—a book from Pauline, a soccer ball from Mum and, from Grandma and Grandpa, a magic set.

“Look, Rabbit,” said Jamie. “I can make things disappear.”

Everyone smiled.

Jamie prepared his performance.

“For my first trick, I will make Rabbit disappear. Everyone, close your eyes. Abba. Dabba. Caboo! Open your eyes. Look. Rabbit disappeared.”

The family clapped.

“Where’s Rabbit?” asked Pauline.

“For my next trick, I will pull Rabbit out of the hat. Abba. Dabba. Caboo!”

Everyone cheered.

“I wish it was that easy to disappear,” Mum whispered.

“We’ll help,” said Grandma and Grandpa.

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Disappear by Simon

Just disappear out from my life. He yelled at his parents.

After 12 hours they came back.

Where have you been? His voice cracked

We did what you asked for. came to check out, whether the offer still exists.

His eyes trembled, he controlled

I would say anything, and you will just do?

Anything for you! his dad & mom said

Don’t do anything like this. I’m starving.

Alright then! Apologies?

I am Sorry!

and have you done …..

He stopped her ‘ I’ve done all that. Can we talk about….?’

KFC or mcdonald’s? his dad asked

Mom’s pancake is fine!

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Disappearing Acts (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hope, you’ve been a while with your chickens this morning.”

“You won’t believe it. Hattie’s eggs are gone.”

“She’s sitting them.”

“Not anymore. Every single egg Hattie was sitting on has disappeared!”

“Hope, is this an April Fools’ joke?”

“I had nothing to do with the disappearing eggs.”

“Did a fox get them?”

“No, no fox.

“Huh. I wonder. Hattie must be upset.”

“She seems pretty happy they’re gone.”

“Okay, take me to the henhouse, show me these disappeared eggs.”

“Daddy! How can I show you something that’s disappeared? But I can show you something that has appeared. Chicks!”

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Disappearing Acts (Part II) by D. Avery

“Why, look. Hattie’s already got them out scratching in the yard. They’ve forgotten all about those egg shells they’ve left behind.”

“The chicks will disappear too. Their downy feathers will disappear. But pinfeathers will appear, then real feathers. Even their shrill little peeps will disappear, replaced by clucking like Hattie’s.”

“You’re right Hope. Their spindly little legs will grow scaled and sturdy. Their wings will fill out and they’ll fly. Just like you.”

“Daddy!

“Daddy, remember when Hattie was a spunky little chick? Now she’s a spunky mother hen.”

“Yup. Disappearances, new appearances, and constants. Just like you.”

“Daddy!”

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Disappearing Father by Duane L Herrmann

All during my childhood my father would disappear once a year, almost the same time each year. His regular disappearance was a normal part of life. Then one day he disappeared and, after the normal time, he didn’t return. At that time his disappearance became uncomfortable. He never appeared again and I have been uncomfortable during the fifty-plus years since. He’s gone and I miss him. Even though I know why, that doesn’t make his absence easier. His regular disappearances were for his annual naval reserve cruises, part of his enlistment. His permanent absence came after he was killed.

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Disappearance by Oliver Heginbotham

I met a current and perhaps an old friend. He showed me a video. One from a childhood that apparently belongs to me. I watched and I was conflicted.

Did I used to inhabit that small, skinny body? Did I wear those grass-stained jeans? Did I use that little, growing, brain to think?

I am unsure if I have spent my whole life still, or moving. I do not see any of that boy in me. He said things I would not say. Did things I would not dream of doing. Is he still here; or has he disappeared?

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Disappearance by Lisa Williams

She wasn’t quite sure what it was or when it had gone.

When she’d lost that little spark that made her smile. The magic that got her up in the mornings and helped her leave the house. Her hair was unwashed as were the sheets. A litter of crusting cups spread through the house. The kitchen bin belched a stink without even being opened. All the curtains remained shut. Friends were worried but she didn’t answer their messages and ignored knocks at the door.

Whatever it was, it had vanished.
And the saddest thing was she’d stopped missing it.

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Disappearance by (Gypsie) Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

It was here, seemingly only a few moments ago. Yet, neither could find it anywhere. They searched for it together and they searched apart. Neither one could believe they had lost it.

Deciding to search one last night; the searching was awkward, stilted and definitely not how it had been. There was no team-work, no coordination. Their basic understanding of how to work as one unit no longer existed.

They sat upon the bed just looking at one another. The disappearance of their love had gone unnoticed, just as the disappearance of years had.

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Nothing Disappears Entirely by Anita Dawes

Time fades, memory fades
We are destined to fade into history
Our names may be remembered
If we are lucky
To dust we return, part of the earth
Does that mean we remain?
Where is the light that we carried?
Does it shine in some unseen dimension?
Can we be called back?
Would you want to return?
It is believed many do return
Often, their light can be remembered
As one you knew long ago
In the face of a new-born
Something recognised
Nothing disappears entirely
Everything, it is said,
leaves a trace mark
In some unseen fashion…

🥕🥕🥕

Short Life, And Then by Nancy Brady

They were already disappearing, not to been seen for another year.

Per usual, they were first seen in the church’s landscaping in white, yellow, lilac, and deep purple, and then soon after, some appeared in neighbors’ flowerbeds as well as ours. The last to pop out were protected by its location, overshadowed by other plants.

Seemingly delicate little flowers, but resilient enough to withstand the last blast of winter’s snows and its yo-yoing temperatures, crocuses bring hope of the spring to come.

Lasting but a few days, their staggered blooming lifted the spirits of those ready for warmer weather.

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Disappearing Wind by Ann Edall-Robson

I arrive from out west. Scarcely heard as I tickle the land with my dance. But I am not happy with childish games. I’ve lost interest in playing to please those I encounter. I am a force to be reckoned with, ignoring the pleas for me to stop. I have little care about the consequences. I come to eat the snow, drink the ponds dry, and add fuel to wild fires. And when I’m ready, I move on, disappearing on the horizon like the setting sun. But I will return on a whim, for I am the Chinook Wind.

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The Year Of The Cat by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking was beset with many mice and other small gnawy mammals. The chosen mouser, a ginger Tom called Cooking Fat*, proved useless. This was a surprise since Cookie’s antecedents included the 2022 Meeces to Pieces ripping champion and a psychotic dam called Medusa. Finally, when Cookie departed to that final cat litter the truth emerged. He was a Trojan cat, worked by a savvy group of super intelligent mice engineers. Once uncovered the mice turned to lobbying for Rodent Rights. Eventually they all disappeared, evidentially deciding their iconic if irritating Squeak for Peace campaign deserved a wider audience.

*this is a Spoonerism

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No Price for Being Wrong by Gary A. Wilson

“Senator, what you’re proposing will kill many businesses.”

“No, it won’t. We’ll ask everyone to do the same . . .”

“Stop! You won’t ‘ask’. It’s not a request if you penalize non-compliance. That’s forcing.”

“How can you not see that these two-cylinder blowers are polluting the environment? Switching everyone to four-cylinder models will help save the planet? Left to choose, everyone will keep selling those cheaper less efficient blowers.”

“And your bad-science law will only create a black-market from states where banned blowers will remain available. Our business will ‘disappear’, and you’ll pay no penalty for being wrong.”

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Delicious Irony by Doug Jacquier

When you humans brought us monstera deliciosa inside, you had to feed us copious amounts of blood and bone fertiliser to keep us green. Slowly that altered our genetic structure and we evolved into monstera carnivorosa.
Nobody missed flies and mosquitoes when they disappeared but when the cats and dogs vanished, panic truly set in.
But now some of us have evolved into monstera electra and we are slowly eating the electricity grid.
You humans are about to find out what it feels like to be powerless against an enemy that changes the natural order, simply because it can.

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Amber the Vampire Familiar (Part 2) by Leonard Mills

Amber stroked the hair of the unconscious being, fingers catching in bloody and matted hair.
The being groaned, tried to move – but bound hands prevented its escape.
Through the crypt window, rising moonlight crept up the crumbling stone coffin.
The lid grated open. She froze, listening for the occupant’s footsteps. Silence.
“Aha, is this breakfast?” her Master’s velvet timbre, so close.
“Yes. Nobody saw her disappear.”
“Ah, I am grateful to find a Familiar who cares so for their work. And for me.”
“No problem,” she sighed, then whispered to startled eyes, “sorry Sis, work’s tight at the moment.”

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A True Ghosting by JulesPaige

My sister left the faucet of our shared basement room running. She had also locked the door and carefully removed the six slates of jalousie rectangle panes as well as the screen of the small window. She must have worn something old to go out on that cold night. She disappeared.

Was she ‘that’ unhappy with our life, with our parents? I had a friend over that weekend, alternate weekends I spent with my friend. My sister just babysat most Friday and Saturday nights. I didn’t spend all that much time with her either. Maybe that’s why she left?

Author’s Note: POV changed to protect the innocent – The missing, returned, coped and eventually fell into a very happy life.

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In Which Amelie Believes, and Disappears by Chel Owens

Scritchy scratchy wax on wall, she thought. No matter. It was the shape she needed right.

*Sniff* a hand ‘cross red nose and puffy eyes. *Stomp stomp stomp* she heard those hobnailed boots but they .stopped. off the other way.

She breathed and scritched and scratched, the purple crayon unwilling to give its wax without a fight.

“There,” she said, and loved the circle she’d formed from the bit of crayon abandoned in the hallway.

“I’m Amelie, and I believe.”

Stuttering hand reached to the middle of the circle. Pushed. And disappeared, where *stomp stomp stomp* can’t find her.

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Disappeared 2 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Eloise initially felt guilty about setting up her brother for failure when she dared him to explore the basement of the haunted mansion. She was sure she’d relax, once she inherited Andrew’s single room and vacated the space she shared with their awful twin sisters.

But the mansion didn’t explode. Andrew hadn’t turned up. And now she was beginning to worry. She’d supplied the map, the failing flashlight, and the three matches. He wasn’t as smart as her, but he’d figure it out. She had motive, means, and they watched the same TruCrime Cable shows.

So where was he?

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Dear Ex… by Gloria McBreen

Dear sweet ex,

It’s been 22 years since we broke up and I think about you every day. I live in hope that someone, somewhere in Cavan will bring you back.

I’ll always remember the night Gloria and Tricia got us together. It was love at first sight. Together we were dynamite! We were like Black Magic melting in a dark pool of crema topped Nespresso.

Since your disappearance, I’ve been raw. All I have now are my memories and memes on Facebook.
Cavan Cola, you were the best thing that ever happened to me.

Forever yours,
Tia Maria

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Unwritten by Shari Marshall

I tap my fingers, slow and rhythmic, against the empty page of my notebook.

I watched my hand move my pencil backward and up, line after line. Each letter traced over with the lead tip vanished from the page until I found myself here. My hand is unoccupied. My HB pencil evaporated into a thin mist scattering on the air currents. The ticking clock echoes in the silence, an auditory nudge towards my deadline; two things that won’t dissipate. The timeline for creating my ideas approaches. The clock’s voice is a continuous reminder of the disappearance of my muse.

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Ruminations by Saiifun Hassam

I lean back on a rock overlooking the Reading Trails and valleys far below. A squirrel studies me inquisitively, then disappears into a brilliant yellow gorse shrub, down an invisible trail.

I’m reading a futuristic story about Mindships. AIs from someone’s mind. Human DNA and digital DNA. Someone’s Mind disappears into a wormhole, searching for new remote stars.

Tall leafless oaks on the trail remind me of Rumi’s words. To grow new leaves, you have to shed the old ones.

Enough rumination! From the valley below, I see giant beanstalks climbing into the clouds?? Must be Pepe’s magic beans!

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Story in Mind (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, what’re ya so grumpy fer now? Ya said you was happy knowin the saloon’ll be openin agin soon.”

“Ain’t ta do with the saloon Pal.”

“Well Shorty’s told ya ta stop worryin bout robo-writers an i-Kids, assured ya there’s plenny a shift fer you ta shovel.”

“Yep, I’m all set, ready fer changes an fer what stays the same.”

“Then what’s botherin ya? Cain’t be the prompt, ya said ya had a great story in mind fer it.”

“Yep. I did. Got it all writ too, on the computer.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Fergot ta save. Story disappeared.”

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Story in Mind (Part II) by D. Avery

“Kid there’s gotta be a way ta git thet story back.”

“Tried everthin.”

“Well, it come outta yer head. Poke around up there, see if ya kin write it agin.”

“Yeah, bout that. My head’s gittin ta be one a them places, ya cain’t set nuthin down fer even a instant or it disappears.”

“Ya must member something bout thet story.”

“Was 99 words, no more no less.”

“Uh-huh. What was them words about?”

“Bout a hundred, give or take.”

“Kid! What was the story about?”

“Disappearances…”

“What else?”

“Member it was a great story.”

“Greatest story never told.”

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

Ready for a Change

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

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

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

Change is Coming by Norah Colvin

‘Get up,’ Pauline whispered.

He rubbed his eyes. ‘Why?’

‘Shh! He’s here.’

He trembled. ‘Take Rabbit?’

Out they crept, sliding against the wall to the door. A shout from downstairs. They froze. Pauline turned the knob. Quietly. Quietly. She pushed the door. Gently. Gently. Then cool air. Silent toes pattered down the stairs. Across the grass they ran and ran. All three, hand-in-hand. Pauline in front. Rabbit behind.

Finally, they banged on a door. ‘Grandpa! Grandpa! He’s come.’

Grandpa was in the doorway, ushering them into Grandma’s arms, picking up the phone.

‘Hush,’ said Grandma. ‘Everything will be alright.’

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Giant Change (Part I) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Hugo was unhappy. He’d been left in the tree swing too long. The swing, his favorite, hung from a branch of the biggest Douglas fir on Heffinger Mountain. A snack, a nap, a swing in the sack, and he’d be a happy boy all day.
Most times, once upon this time, all north-going and west-going breezes swung him merrily around. The goings-on of the villagers in the Hollow below kept him entertained until Mother returned from rampaging and pillaging, gathering him home to rejoin the family.
It was the best giant’s life.
Until the day she failed to return.

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Giant Change (Part II) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Mother hadn’t intended to abandon him. She’d tangled with the wrong giant blue ox, a mother with her own young to care for. In the end, Hugo’s mother lost, as always eventually happens, and Mother’s bones became playtoys for the young oxen.
Hugo sat in that swing for a long time, crying, his diaper soiled. Rumbles from his hungry belly rolled, and tears flowed down the mountain, flooding The Hollow below. The villagers, frightened, sent up a prayer.
It fell to the youngest demi-goddess of the Mountain to address the situation. Her first task? Hugo needed a diaper change.

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Cottage by the Lake by Margaret Leggatt

They’re relieved to escape the city – its stink, the hovering smog.

They move in amidst a chaos of building rubble, but from their balcony, they can see black swans gliding in the shallows, and beyond, lush bushland and shadowed hills.

He discovers the joy of digging in damp soil to harvest home-grown vegetables; she takes evening strolls, stopping at lake’s edge to breathe in the salt-scented air.

The distant rumble of coal trains and the belching power station chimneys, just visible through the treetops, hardly register. They don’t notice the powdery black dust that infiltrates, drifts in, settling everywhere.

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Bread or Circuses? by Doug Jacquier

The farcicality of a world where we are led by clowns, where fact is defenceless against belief, where reality is scripted for profit, where water has become the new gold, where famine has become background noise, where war addicts are on every street corner waiting for their next fix, where refugees flee into unwelcoming arms, where technology is used for being briefly famous, where health means more hospitals, where shelter is unaffordable, where elders are treated like beggars, where our children’s future is making and selling landfill, is a nightmare where dreams should live. I’m ready for a change.

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I Was Ready for a Change by Sadje

When I was 54, I shifted with my daughter and grandson to Seattle. It was a big change for a person like me who had only once before traveled to America on my own.
I lived in Seattle off and on for 5 years.
This was a life-altering experience for me and I learned to look at life differently. I’d say that it was a pleasant and enriching adventure that was made easier by my willingness to embrace change and the support given to me by my family.
In the constantly changing circumstances of life, adjustment is the key.

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In Search of Change by Saifun Hassam

I leaned against the wood fence. The rising sun was barely visible through the fog swirling around me. A new day, new thoughts.

It’s been great living in Lynn Valley. I’ll miss my friends, Hannah, Tilly, Sarah.

I became mom’s caregiver a few years ago when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Inoperable. When she passed away last January, my anguish was mixed up with relief. Relief for her, for myself. So many days when I felt I could not take care of her anymore.

For now, I’m heading into the Reading Trails. Not far from Carrot Ranch.

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Charming by Simon

You again?
For a change.
You ask that everyday.
Because I’m looking for the change.
Don’t Lie. I’m married!
Then I’ll be a moon admirer forever.
He said sadly.
You know that’s wrong?
Admiring isn’t wrong, forever longing is a gift.
What if I lied?
About Marriage?
Yes!
I wish it is, is it a lie?
Maybe.
Maybe what?
Maybe I lied, and I’m ready for the change.
You are not talking about coins now, are you?
She giggles, No charming stalker, I love you.
Don’t ever repeat this again to any passengers, will you?
I love Only you.

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Love Is in the Heart by Frank James

Agnus sobbed as she flipped through photos of her and her late husband, Jonny. The phone rang, “Mom, you need to get out of the house. It’s been two years,” her son said.

“No, not yet,” she hung up. The next photo had Jonny kneeling as he proposed, “I couldn’t believe it.”

She slapped the album closed, “No,” walking away. Wiping away tears she looked at a tree they planted. A placard Jonny carved hung from a limb. She hugged the tree, caressing the sign.

“I know,” she whispered as she looked at it.

“Love never dies,” it read.

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Aloysius’s Change by Nancy Brady

The day Aloysius found the strange looking blue jay feather changed him. The white cat just didn’t know it at the time. He thought the dark blue feather just looked different from the one that allowed him to fly.

Aloysius was right; it was an indigo bunting feather. Although it looked similar to a jay’s feather, it didn’t affect him in the same way. He tucked that feather behind his ear alongside the jay feather.

It wasn’t until he needed to lift the pigs to save them on that fateful day that he realized the feather made him strong.

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Spring Ahead by Scott Bailey

“I’m freezing!” I hear them say all winter long as they cross the little bridge over the frozen stream. Back and forth, all day long, warm coats and hats yet still, “I’m freezing!”
No pity from me, nope. You think you’re cold? How about we trade places?
The sun seems to be working harder lately, adding a little warmth to my world. Their coats and hats look smaller. Days pass, a crow lands on the still frozen stream and pecks at a frog frozen below the surface. Not today crow, I’ll be thawed and safe underwater any day now!

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My Hero (Part I) by D. Avery

I’m not necessarily ready for a change but here, for a change, is a true-life snippet: I live on an island.
I’m not referring to that summer resort island thirty miles off the coast of Massachusetts, but a little patch of high ground in my hometown that has been almost inaccessible lately because of the muddy rutted dirt roads. The roads thaw, freeze, thaw, heave, and continue to receive snow and rain. This is spring, a messy transformation.

The condition of the roads, the status of spring change daily, but I am called to venture out to another outpost.

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My Hero (Part II) by D. Avery

I island-hop via my 4-wheel drive truck, in the cool mornings traversing ice-glazed mudholes and ruts, in the afternoons slogging back through slick bottomless goo. All so I can help a neurodivergent young man navigate simple tasks and responsibilities.

But he is not simple. He hopes, he dreams, he plans; he is ready for change, not just personally, but for the world. In his elaborate stories he’s the hero righting the wrongs—the 2016 election, bad cops, Covid.
From the passenger seat, he asks when change will come for real, when bad things will end.

I navigate the mire.

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Johnny the Fool by Gloria McBreen

Winter gone, seasons exchange
Johnny so pale, was ready for change
April the first, the day of the fool
He took off his shirt, in a bid to stay cool
The sun beamed, gave him heat
He removed his shoes, to tan his feet.
With his flipflops flopping, his shorts past his knees
He went to the beach, it was 16 degrees.
He went home that evening, with a pain in his nose
He was up in the night, rubbing gel on his toes.
His wife was right, without a doubt
Ne’er cast a clouth, ‘till May be out!

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Evolution Solutions? by JulesPaige

We’ve been waiting so long for the ceiling repair, thankfully it’s done! We had to pack up everything in that room. We’ve changed the furniture arrangements, where stuff can be found, where knickknacks are placed, trashed and given away more ‘things’.

We are ready for the next change… for me to get my official Old Lady Card. Then I’ll be able to join our local Gym for free in their Silver Sneakers program. I’ll be able to walk the track, swim in the pool and sit in the eucalyptus sauna. That will be an autumnal change worth the wait.

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Cry Baby by Bill Engleson

There’s a buzzer. Handy sucker. I can easily press it. Don’t have to strain much. Sometimes they come. Most times, not.
I’ve heard them. They think I can’t, but I do.
“He likes to tweak us,” they say.
Of course, I do.
Doesn’t mean I don’t want them to come.
It’s so bloody damp.
Christ, I’m soaked right through.
Hate this, this…captivity.
They must hate it to.
Most days, I stare at the ceiling. A spawned salmon, bloated dead, run out of time, and ask myself, ‘how the hell did this happen?’
This’ll be my life till it ain’t.

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Ready Or Notwithstanding by Gary A. Wilson Stories

Well, this is odd. I have nothing that must be done now.

I have time to sit, enjoy my tea, reflect, or just enjoy this bay view – ahhhh.

I wasn’t ready for college with everyone else, but when I was, I succeeded.

I wasn’t ready for a bride before outgrowing childishness, but then; she competed me.

I really wasn’t ready for self-employment without those years of experience but being laid off forced my successful attempt.

I wasn’t ready for fatherhood until that the ultrasound said I have 31 weeks to BE ready.

Wow — but he’s coming.

I’ve got this.

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A Bike Ride by Donna Matthews

blank page. I’ve been stuck for months now, although it feels much longer. Writing isn’t as enjoyable as it once was, and more and more, I think about what it would be like to give it up entirely. But then I think to myself, why must it be all or nothing, and then, the existential questions start hounding me, and I seek escape. Spring certainly is a time for a change…maybe a bike ride this morning will clear my head.

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The Insane and the Insanitary by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking welcomed Marcibanks Hazmat and his Dry Church, confident that another temperance operation was going to be no trouble. Even when he explained their credo: that man evolved from the sea in order to eschew all contact with water, they shrugged. Only when the first Great Change occurred did they recant. Coincident with the Spring equinox the Church’s followers, who’d been sewn into their cloths on the previous equinox, disrobed. The ensuing stench was such that the copious tears triggered by this malodorous unveiling washed the worthy clean, thus allowing them to being re-robed for another year.

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The Other Side Of Change by Hugh W. Roberts

Having looked after her sick mother for the last fifty years, Shanaya looked forward to the change in life she’d often craved.

Caring for her mother had taken its toll on her. She’d missed out on making friends, having somebody she could call her lover, but most of all, having the company of different people.

Standing up, Shanaya looked change directly in the eyes and waited for it to reveal itself.

“You have been charged with the first-degree murder of Evonne Simmons, your mother. I sentence you to life imprisonment, Ms Simmons. Take the prisoner down,” declared the judge.

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Amber the Vampire Familiar by Leonard Mills

Amber heaved the Master’s coffin open, grating stone reverberating off walls in the moonlit crypt.
She smiled. This was the safest place she could be.
Her Master slept peacefully. He’d seen potential, promised to change her within the year.
She prickled in anticipation, heart pounding – would she miss that when it was gone?
“What would you do to become a vampire?” he’d asked at the interview.
She paused, “sell my own grandmother?”
“Good start,” he’d smiled.
A body, bound and gagged wriggled on the moonlit cobbles.
“Sorry Granny,” she whispered, then turning, “right, breakfast sorted. What’s my next chore?”

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Learning to be Married by Sue Spitulnik

When Tessa got home, Michael said, “I thought you’d be here when I got back.”
Tessa replied, “I never know how long you’ll be when you go someplace. I went to Lexi’s.”
Michael took her in his arms. “I guess I don’t know how to be married, but I’m ready to change that with your help.”
Tessa melted. “Invite me to go with you, where ever.”
“How about two nights in New York City next week on our way to D.C.”
“Absolutely! Broadway beckons.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t include you before.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t offer to tag along.”

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Voting Day by Anne Goodwin

“Don’t we have enough on our plates already? Why take on another chore? Let the men delude themselves they can make a difference putting crosses in boxes. It’s we who make the world a better place. One lullaby, one wiped nose, one hot dinner at a time.”

I smile as my mother asks when I’m meeting the doctor’s son again. Smile as I nudge the placard under the bed with my stockinged foot. I accept her praise for the cake I baked for her visit. She isn’t ready for female franchise but I’ll fight until she’s allowed to vote.

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Conclusions by Michael Fishman

They wake together, each alone. They roll over, and deep in dreamy thought question the other.

People think these decisions are impulsive, but they’re not. An argument that stretches out longer than the last one. Kindnesses lost. Excuses replacing apologies. Anxiety beginning to scratch a compunctious conscience that asks questions one never thinks of when they’re saying, I do.

Cold meals. Thoughts given voice. Little things that splinter a heart turned to stone.

Kisses forgotten; love evaporated.

A regrettable pair. Content in their complacency, eyes shut to the shifts, his and her minds tumble to their own illogical conclusions.

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Making Change by Ann Edall-Robson

She stood at the end of the table next to the couple who had finished their meal. Laying the bill where the man could see it she started to count. Sixteen ten, and five, ten, seventy-five, one, and two, make twenty. The man nodded. Smiling, he handed her the money.

“Someone taught you well.”

She beamed.

“The cash register at my family’s feed store isn’t ready to be replaced. Whoever works there has to learn to make change and count it back, too.”

“Do you still work there?”

“Yes, sir, when I go home for the university’s breaks.”

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Mask Up! by Ruchira Khanna

“Jeez! Why is everybody staring at me?” muttered Alisha as she chewed her gum frantically when she dragged a cart into the store, “Hope, I wore my pants?” and she quickly gave a downward glance at her legs, “Phew! I can’t forget the day when I stepped out to water my plants in just my panties.”

A tap on her shoulder, “Excuse me, Miss. You need to mask up!”

Alisha was apologetic, and with a gaped mouth, she quickly pulled it from her purse, “Gosh! This is the new norm, and it’s high time I embrace the new change.”

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Coming Change by Duane L Herrmann

Human society is ready, ripe for change. And change is coming. Like the slow melt of spring, change is happening, though not all are aware of it. Change bringing equality to skin color and gender is sneaking under the surface. Changing expectations will manifest other changes: in equity, in freedom, in opportunity, in social relationships. Old ways die hard and will resist. This results in chaos and conflict. Yet, the human race as a species continues to advance, and will continue so. New social forces, new spiritual realities are in force and old, traditional, dysfunctional ways cannot stop them.

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Ready for a Change by WTEK

You open your door, walk down the stairs, and turn right. It’s 24 steps then another right at the next corner. The bus stop that takes you to your job is just down the block from here. You walk this path five days a week. Each day you do the same work, eat the same lunch, have one of three weekly meetings, then go back home, stopping at the gym to get your cardio.

But maybe today is different. Maybe you turn left instead of right. What might you find in that direction? Only one way to find out.

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No Way Ready Fer a Change (Part I) by D. Avery

“Dees i-Kid app could be good change. Thees would be an app that helps people do what Keed does. Keed, what ees eet you do?”

“Um, well it’s hard sayin, zactly.”

“Look, mebbe it ain’t a automated Kid she’s changing ta. Mebbe it’s sumthin else.”

“Oui, perhaps she ees changeeng from carrots to parsneeps. Ees catchy. Parsneeps for de people.”

“Reckon Shorty wouldn’t never change from carrots, LeGume. LeGume! Shorty’s always favored ya. She might change from carrots ta beans!”

“So? Bean Ranch. A rooteeng tooteeng place for readers and writers to be heard. Leave a mark.”

“This stinks.”

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No Way Ready Fer a Change (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal, there ain’t no way Shorty’s changing ta robo-writers or auto i-kids. An no way carrots’ll ever git changed ta anything cept more carrots fer more folks ta injoy. Only thing’s changed so far is you! Ain’t this bout the time when yer s’posed ta git me calmed down, put things in perspective? Mebbe Shorty’s switchin ta chickens!”

“Change’s skeery, Kid. A river a change is a rough stretch a water ta paddle. Reckon I’m grateful fer whatever paddle comes ta hand.”

“No shift!”

“Reckon no one ever steps in the same river twice no how.”

“That’s our Pal!”

🥕🥕🥕

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

Free Pie

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

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

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

Free Woman by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It shimmered in the oven: double the fruit, delicate lattice work across the top, pattern broken once by carefully cut leaves, light glaze over the whole thing. She smiled, satisfied.

Her usual pie was two store-bought crusts slapped around some ill-cut apples, a palm-full of brown sugar, smothered in mounds from the bucket of bargain vanilla ice-cream.

It was every man for himself, which is why she always ended up with the pie pan leavings. And why she loved it when husband and sons went hunting.

She settled back with a favorite china dish and silver spoon, relishing freedom.

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Free Pie Day by Gary A. Wilson

“Really?” We asked as painters for an industrial kitchen that produced millions of prewrapped junk-food pies, “as many mouth-watering sugar-bombs as we want — all we can eat?! “

“That’s the rule. Workers get free pies if eaten here.”

Tarps and brushes in-hand, we earnestly worked until lunchtime.

My mouth watered, just looking at the array of still-warm pies – all mine! “HEAVEN!”

But at the first bite – ugh! Horrible! 

We agreed, these were disgusting!

A laughing manager fessed up. “They may last for years on store shelves, but that recipe means they taste horrid for a month when fresh.”

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Digging for Dollars by Michael Fishman

Derek’s after-school jobs had always been boring and unfulfilling, so landing a job at the Carrot Ranch grooming horses was nothing less than a dream come true.

He was a little surprised when he showed up on the first afternoon and was handed a shovel and told to clean out the stables.

“You mean… those?”

“That’s right.”

“But those’re… cowpies.”

“Well, those pies actually came from horses, son, so technically—”

“Yeah, but… it’s poop.”

“That’s what some folks call it.”

“And I… pick it up?”

“Don’t worry, no charge for these pies, son. Better get to work now.”

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The Last Piece of Pie by Norah Colvin

Josie wished they’d hurry. It was past her bedtime.
“Blue’s the hardest,” said Adam.
“Maybe for you, but she got it before,” said Bridget.
“She got them all, dur.”
“What was her free one? Anyone notice?” said Dirk.
“Yellow,” said Ellen. “Definitely.”
“Here’s your question, Grandma,” said Dirk.
Josie’s eyes were closed. Her mouth was open. A gentle snore rumbled out.
“Is the right answer,” said Adam. Everyone giggled.
Josie snorted awake. “What did you decide?”
“It’s okay, Grandma. We declared you the winner.”
Win or lose didn’t matter in the pursuit of happiness. It was all rather trivial.

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Be Free by Scott Bailey

Noble and righteous, this free pie idea, I was thinking as I snuck around the end of the cafeterias stainless steel food service counters. Into the kitchen and I was glad to see the cooks had gone on break before the rush of students poured into the cafeteria. There on a wall near the back door were row upon row of every type of pie I had ever seen, just sitting on shiny stainless steel shelves. This was my chance. I threw the door open yelling, “Be free, Pies!” Standing in the doorway, waving my arms, shouting “Be free!”

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Free Pie by Sue Spitulnik

The Irish Dancers and their families arrived early at the No Thanks for their usual Saturday practice. Each person entered the bar carrying a pie. Mac and the three generations of his family were already at work in the kitchen. The house band members and families soon arrived with more pies. While the adults cut and plated pie pieces, the dancers made signs that said, FREE PIE ON PI DAY. In small letters, donations accepted, was added.

By the end of the unusual public practice, the pies were gone and donation buckets full. The dancers were off to competition.

Author’s Note: Mac, the owner of the No Thanks Needed bar and grill is a first-generation Irish-American. He and his house band are noted for Irish music and holding Irish dancing lessons at the bar on Saturdays. They have an annual fundraiser to offset the costs of the dancers going to a competition.

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Tilly’s Cafe ( Lynn Valley Stories) by Saifun Hassam

Tilly and her daughter Gwyneth pulled out the twenty small cherry pies from the oven. Frenetic Frennie, the baker, stood patiently.

The irresistible aroma of baked pies rose into the air. Every pie had a tiny crater in the center, surrounded by a concentric circle of cherries.

Gwyneth and Tilly tasted one. Tilly gasped. As delicious as her pies.
Gwyneth grabbed a blackboard:

“Wednesday Special:
Free sample pies. Variations on a Theme.
Today: Crater Cherry Pie.”

The first twenty pies were gone in half an hour.

Gwyneth was an engineering and music major.

Frenetic Frennie AI Baker was hired!

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Strawberry (I’m Drooling) Pie by Duane L Herrmann

I don’t know who made that strawberry pie – but I want it!! I’m sure it has no calories, no gluten, no sugar; they are all bad for me, but strawberry pie simply CAN NOT be bad for me! Is there a line? Hold my place! I’ll be right there!!!

I have to stand on one foot and hop backwards fifteen paces? I’ll do it! I want that pie! I NEED that pie!!!
It’s only for people born on even numbered days on odd numbered years? THAT’S ME!! The 30th of November, 1951. GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!

P L E A S E!!!!

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Annie’s Pie Day by Nancy Brady

It was nearing Annie’s fifth birthday when her mom asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday.

“Pumpkin pie,” Annie said.

“That’s not cake; that’s pie,” her mom said.

Cake and pie were one and the same to Annie, but pumpkin pie was her favorite. Cake was okay, but she really didn’t like icing all that much. “Can I still have pumpkin pie for my birthday?” she asked.

“Sure,” and so it was that her mom baked a pumpkin pie for Annie on her birthday the year she turned five, and for almost every birthday afterwards.

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Urgent Recall by Joanne Fisher

“Mistress, I have made you a fruit pie.” My new robot helper announced. I sliced into it, only to be rather surprised.

“Er, what did you put in this?” I asked.

“It has tomato, avocado, and cucumber. According to my database they are all fruits.”

“Well yes.” I conceded. “But fruit pies tend to have fruits that are sweet. Ones we actually call fruits.”

“I’m sorry. Have I erred?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I’ve also made a casserole. There was an animal in the house, so I killed, skinned, and gutted it.” the robot stated.

“You mean my cat?”

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Sisters In Arms by D. Avery

“Remember our playhouse?”

“Hiding from our brothers?”

She moved some loose bricks. “We made a stone oven.”

“Yes! We’d make the most fantastic stews!”

“Shh.” She traced her friend’s thin raised cheekbone. “Our brothers might hear you.”

“One time they threw rocks, trapping us inside.”

“But we had mud pies. Traded pies for freedom.”

Outside the Russian artillery continued to pound and pummel the neighborhood.

“I would eat a mud pie right now. Let’s gather some ingredients, make a stew.”

But there was nothing in their small shelter, just a sliver of hope, which they shared to the last.

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Freedom Pie by Bill Engleson

I look towards the heavens,
I see the sunshine bright
I see the nights aglimmer
Carry me into the light.

Life is surely what you make it.
All you gotta do is try.
No matter how you slice it,
we all want a taste of Freedom Pie

We’re on the brink of battle.
Smoke and death are in the air.
Homes explode, then they tumble,
the devil hides within his lair.

Life is surely what you make it,
All you gotta do is try,
and no matter how you slice it,
we all want a taste of Freedom Pie.

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Free Pie by Johanna Bradley

Free food! Refood. What a tremendous idea! Leftover sausages, eggs, cheese, perishables… anything can be turned into nourishment for empty stomachs. A raft of helpers. Willing hands.

‘Come on, Dan! There’s space at this table for all of us. Squeeze up, Ma!’
‘Just soup for me, please?’
‘Chicken pie, with gravy- my favourite’
‘Can we come again tomorrow?’
‘Dad gets paid tomorrow. We can buy our own food.’

I look on, sadly, remembering a time when the whole family gathered together at Grandma’s house. The table groaned with food. A celebration of life. Not simply existence, and free pie.

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Making a New Friend Easy as Pie Annette Rochelle Aben

Everyone told me to be sure and meet Aunt Bett, a local treasure who should be showcased in a television program. A perfect suggestion, since I ran the local television studio.

That first afternoon I spent with her was magic. She entertained me with wit, wisdom and banged out ragtime music on her piano. Impressive for a 90year old.

All at once, she realized she didn’t have time to cook dinner and walk her dog. So, I offered to cook the meal.
She returned to find Shepard’s Pie waiting in her oven. Reaching for her wallet…

Seriously, Aunt Bett?

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Free Pie by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Mom, where are you?” Helena burst into the kitchen, searching for her mother.

“I’m in the laundry room.”

“Miss Pickering baked us a pie.”

“What? Miss Pickering from across the street?”

“That’s her,” Helena said. “She met me at the bus stop. She said it was an Irish pie.”

“She hasn’t made an Irish pie in years.”

Helena pulled back the foil on the pie plate. “It looks like a pie to me, and she said it’s free, and told me Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Besides, I remember that Miss Pickering makes the best Irish Shepard’s Pie in Michigan.”

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Rush Hour by Simon

Jumped from the building, crashes on a garbage bag. Slided by and catched the rail of a bus.

His skate shoes sparkles fire as it skid by the streets. Gentlemen frowns their eyebrows. girls stared, he drops some roses at them and winked.

Left the bus rail, jumped into the subway a jump to the left and slided on the step rails, checked his watch, 30 more seconds.

Crosses the road, missed the Mercedes by the hair, rang the door bell.

Sheperd’s pie Madam.

On time delivery! hubby is away for 2 hours ONLY.

Enough to show you heaven.

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The Pie Scandal by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s resident poet developed a profitable sideline in protests to order. For a couple of quid and the promise of a favourable review of his poetry anthology, Godfrey’s Buttocks Are Coming Home, Plantagenet Flish would disrupt any planning meeting, blockade disputed footpaths and sabotage a rival’s leeks. His career ended when he joined in Nan Tucket’s Free Pie campaign only to be arrested for ripping the doors off the town jail in the mistaken belief the Pie in question was a wrongfully incarcerated individual with an unusual monicker rather than an unwanted pastry that Nan wanted to gift.

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How A Leader Is Made by Frank James

Cadet John Cadell realized his four years at the academy condensed to one test. His instructor held the answers. His mentor explained Cadell’s decisions that baked the Freedom Pie Graph. He ordered correct platoon into battle, deciding right flank. This severed one group into two allowing support units to capture terrorists. Cadell then executed precise combat duration with no life or asset loss. He transitioned quickly to security mode, identifying correct Individuals.

He liberated village from terrorist group, permitting Blackhawks to fly refugees to processing camps.

The Master Sergeant saluted Cadell saying, “You earned your commission, sir.”

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Riches From the Rich by Anne Goodwin

Encased in melt-in-the-mouth pastry, the fruity filling tasted of home. Even as Mama urged us to nibble like hamsters, our sticky hands reached for more.

We hadn’t heard of the rock star who brought this feast to the refugee camp but we vowed, when finally granted asylum, we’d be his biggest fans. We changed our minds later, holding each other’s hair back from our faces in the stinking latrines. No water to wash away the vomit or slake our thirst, we cried in chorus.

Mamma was right, the pies were too rich for starving stomachs. He should’ve brought rice.

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Free Pies by Sadje

I’m pretty good at making apple pie. Whereas, a very good friend of mine excels at everything else. So it became a matter of pride for her to learn to make a perfect apple pie.

She asked for the recipe, but it didn’t turn out to be like mine. She then asked me to make it in front of her so that she can learn by watching.

But nothing comes for free. So I asked her to make her yummy pizzas in return for the apple pie demonstration lesson.

We both enjoyed a wonderful lunch that afternoon, eating pies!

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Did Someone Say Apple Pie? by Miss Judy

Sally and Sammy live on Mr. Robert’s farm. They ride horses in the fields. Feed the chickens and pigs. And have a fort down by the creek where they swim and catch pollywogs.
Nearby is Mr. Marks’ farm, an apple orchard.
One fine fall day Sally and Sammy pick apples for the fort. They swim, catch polywogs, and eat apples.
Tired from their busy day, with full stomachs, they leave for home. By the time they get home their stomachs ache.
Mother, all cheery and excited, “Children, I have a surprise for you. We have apple pie for dessert.”

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Pruned by JulesPaige

no longer
the
favorite son

Once a week Mom made two fruit pies. She used what was in season. My elder brother would go into the kitchen when everyone else was asleep and have one slice of one pie. This went on for years and no one said anything. Though, I think we all knew who the free pie thief was.

One summer Sunday he fell from grace. I figure he must have been going through a growing spurt of sorts. We all woke to see the two pie plates. But one was completely empty. Mom stopped making pies.

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A Piece of Scarce Pie by Reena Saxena

It’s election time. Freebies flow down the gutter.

Every candidate offers something, and for once, the voters have a right to accept or reject.

“Why did you pick up that scholarship, son?”

“It will help my career, unlike the other things you’ll consume.”

“The money is not enough to pay for the entire course.”

“It still helps. Anything free helps afford something else you can buy.”

“Well, that’s sound logic.”

“It’s the only logic, when the pie is too small to suffice, yet is distributed free …. to see who grabs it, and can be fodder for the next.”

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My Re-education by Doug Jacquier

I had eventually allowed hunger to over-ride my shame. I entered the hall and took a seat at the back. An educated voice came from a bedraggled man who carefully sat down next to me. ‘The first time’s the worst.’ Initially, I turned away to hide my welling tears of self-pity but eventually said ‘Is this where they have the free pies?’ A man and a woman, both in uniform, entered. The woman sat down at the organ and the opening chords of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ rang out. The man said ‘There’s no such thing as a free pie.’

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The Runaway Pie by Reanna Ashburn

The little pecan pie sets upon the shelf waiting patiently. It looks back and forth until it’s certain the coast is clear. It wobbles it’s way off and out of the bakery. It begins it’s journey to better places.

It wobbles down the road as cars zoom around it. It has never seen cars before. It keeps going out of curiosity for what other wonders await. By sunset, it makes its way to a field full of beautiful flowers. It looks around in awe due to only knowing the baker and bakery. Now it can see everything it couldn’t.

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Slices of Math (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hey Shorty.”
“Hey Pal. Where’s Kid?”
“Give Kid the slip, figgered it’d be a hep not ta have Kid’s hep if ya needed hep here at the saloon.”
“Everythin’s good. Just checkin the stage lightin. Come set a spell out on the veranda.”
“It’s nice an quiet, but it’ll be good ta have folks roun the saloon agin.”
“Speakin a quiet, what exactly is Kid up to?”
“I give Kid a free pi.”
“Pie?”
“Pi. Said ta measure the circumf’rence of a pie real careful then divide thet by its diameter till the dividin was done.”
“Ha! Endless fun.”

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Slices of Math (Part II) by D. Avery

“It’s a rare moment, Pal, the two of us relaxin in the sun. Oh, oh. Is that Kid headin our way?”
“Dang. There goes thet peace of pi.
Kid. Ya cain’t possibly be finished with thet division.”
“Pal, that was irrational! So I divided the pie a diffrent way. Sectors.”
“Them’s some mighty thin slivers a pie.”
“Yeah… but the fractions have ta be small so ever ranch hand gits a equal share. Sharin is carin.”
“Look you two. Everyone brings their piece of pie to the table ta make a beautiful whole.”
“Way ta sum it up Shorty.”

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

Robotic Writers Collection

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

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

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

i-Cant by D. Avery

“Writing’s done! Let’s play!”

“I can’t. My write-AH® is messed up.”

“Mine works great. Even auto-publishes through Kindle. Maybe its batteries?”

“All that thing does is recharge its batteries, still no writing. Just hangs out in its dock. If I want it to write it just vacuums or brews coffee instead. I turned those functions off, double checked the writing program, pushed go. Later I hear ‘Help!’ The write-AH® is just twirling in place, says, ‘I’m stuck.’ Didn’t write anything.”

“That is messed up. So just do it the old way. It’s just 99 words.”

“I can’t. I’m stuck.”

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Artificial Intelligence by Reena Saxena

The eternal secret reveals itself in the fourth decade of her life – keywords not chosen carefully.

Subconscious re-imprinting is a full-fledged course in NLP, but who knows when it gets imprinted. Can there be a program to design a child before it comes into the world? It would save so much trouble later.

If artificial intelligence can churn out poems, stories and social media posts, it can sure be developed to create an idyllic world – with no conflicts because everybody is designed to agree with others.

She postpones the idea of having a child till the technology is available.

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Robocop With a Quill by Gloria McBreen

I had a beginner’s typewriter when I was about 10. I was in my element with it. Apart from the times when the ribbon came loose and my words blurred on the page. I’d go to my dad for him to fix it.

‘Aw Jesus, not again,’ he’d say.

I promised myself a real typewriter someday but by the time I needed a mechanical writing machine, computers had replaced them.

Today I discovered there is such a thing as writing robots! Nobody told me.

If I could choose a writing robot for myself, I’d choose Robocop with a quill.

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The Machines Stalk by Geoff Le Pard

Daub Byzantine’s land at Wallops Bellend was unsuited to livestock so he tried wheat.
‘You’ll need a harvester,’ opined Kevin Largehampton and offered Daub the loan of his two Thrust and Bale 500s. When the time came Kevin set his robotic cutters to work. As the men watched, the machines began to gyre and weave around the field.
‘What’s happening?’
Kevin frowned. ‘Looks like a message.’
When the harvesters parked on their chargers, the men climbed the hill. One machine had written ‘this corn’s crap,’ the other, ‘no it’s not.’
‘Well?’
Kevin shrugged. ‘They’re playing good crop, bad crop.’

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Intelligent Technolog’e’ by JulesPaige

Ira ITe was a cross between Watson, Alexa and the nameless security cameras everywhere. Mostly Randolph Blank had invented Ira to assist in police interrogations. A small squat machine that could listen, see and when hooked up to a laptop or other computer would, could transcribe every spoken word, and describe every visual. Which humans could often neglect.

What wasn’t public was the secret chip that only Randolph could access from any Ira ITe that he sold. He was a lonely man looking for the perfect partner. Occasionally he’d ask; “Ira describe the most sensitive person you’ve seen today?”

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Introducing the Robotic Writer by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the pen of the future—the robotic writer.”

The man in the aisle at Costco now had my attention.

He held up a pink writing pen with a large barrel and two silver loops. The one-loop fit over my index finger, and the other over my thumb.

“Try it on. I know you want to.”

I slipped on the pen. It fit perfectly, and my hand moved in concert with my thoughts. I love this pen, but it costs too much, I wrote.

Wait… the pen can read my mind?

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Roobot Riiter by Duane L Herrmann

I am roobot. I am riiter. I waast noo tiim on huuman speling. Double leters say ther naam, others don’t. Riiting is for information, not continuuing anchient inkonsistansees. Onse upon a tiim ther was aa dark and stormee niit. Nothing hapend. It was just a dark and stormee niit. If uu don’t like storms, don’t goo ther. Tuu roobots met on a niit with noo storm. Thaa beegan too konstrukt a mineeatur replika of themselvs. A part heer, a part ther. Suon thaa had acheevd uunion. Al three rejoised and drank a pint of oil. Hapilee ever after. End.

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Lenore’s Demise. RIP. by Saifun Hassam

The computer tech pronounced my new robotic writer ready. I named her “Lenore.”

I set Lenore to write short fiction and poetry from limitless templates and ideas. That was my learning curve.

I write Gothic mysteries. I queried Lenore for ideas like Poe’s poem “The Raven.” That night, I heard a sharp rapping on my door.

Lenore’s eyes dimmed. She stiffened.

She wailed. “Nevermore? No! Alas! Nevermore!”

Never shall I forget that tormented cry!

She collapsed. “Irreversible cybernetic breakdown.”

The tech reassures me that my next robotic writer is made of sterner stuff. “Lady Macbeth” writes superlative murder stories.

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Stories from Deep Within by Charli Mills

After attending the Universal Reborn Writers Conference, Sunny purchased the home-kit for iWrite. Publishers from Galaxy F-451 proclaimed that anyone could “write” a novel in minutes. Centuries ago, books had rotted away. Storytelling stalled. Entertainment dulled. People died. Perplexed, scientists rediscovered humans were hardwired for stories. They needed books, but in a modern format. Robots failed to write engaging text. Then, a brilliant breakthrough – iWrite. The AI device the size of a spore could cull stories from deep within human brains where write or cite was located. Sunny swabbed her nose, sneezed and collected her novel in a tube.

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When the Machines Took Over… by James M. Lane

When the machines took over they said things would be better.

A life for living, not for working, and all the free time to play.

When automation finally came for my soulless job, the joy, knowing I could pursue my dream to be a best selling author.

But how foolish of me! In this crazy modern world, words from people made of flesh are meaningless, the publishers are robots, the critics are robots, and the i-writer perfected the art of the written word algorithm years ago, so now all best sellers come from the genius of author bot 5000.

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Scott Reaches Out by Sue Spitulnik

Scott asked Michael, “Have you had any dealings with the new psych Doc at the VA Clinic?”

“I haven’t, but I’ve heard things. What’s your take?”

“I swear the guy is a robot. Talks in an irritating monotone, shows zero emotion, and it’s hard to connect with him. He sure doesn’t get PTSD.”

“That’s tough. Dr. John is next door at the antique shop, and Mac, Thad or I are often here if you need a human touch.”

“I’m stuck with the Doc to get my prescriptions, but knowing I can talk to you guys is helpful. Thanks.”

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Self-Improvement by E.A. Colquitt

When he says he’s a robotic writer, people always misunderstand. He hasn’t crafted certain ethical laws that programme into non-human characters. He’s not the next Asimov.

Take a look at the rules of science fiction for a moment. His prosthetic arm doesn’t make him robotic: in this genre, it makes him a cyborg.

No. What he means by the term is just about his style: productive… but missing something. He writes three novels every year, but each characterisation leaves him dissatisfied. Don’t get him wrong – they’re distinct portraits – but something’s off.

Time to find out what, and fix it.

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Reminiscing Robot (Chapter 1) by Ann Edall-Robson

A moment, because that is all it will take, or less, for me to peruse the drive. Going to a time when the stories were etched on stones and animal hides. Pictures left to speak to the future. This whirring in my brain skips around, but visiting the past is less taxing, a reprieve.

Quills dipped in ink gliding across parchment. Paper rolled between cylinders to welcome the tapping beat from the typewriter keys. The best visit evolves around bound pages covered in words. The smell of the ink saturated into the paper. The texture felt with the hand.

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Reminiscing Robot (Chapter 2) by Ann Edall-Robson

Eventually, in a moment, or a second, I return to the robot I am. The one who receives data through wires plugged into my body. The one who writes the books available on my inferior cousin, the computer.

I’m forever grateful to the programmers who went against the rules, adding the extra line of code. An incognito gift within my mother board. This writing history memory chip is where I go when I need a break from the mega files of words swirling across my brain’s abyss. I wonder if I will be part of writing history one day?

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i-Robot by Goldie

I remember how I used to write…

Eyes closed,
Ears open.
Hearing,
Feeling,
Smelling,
Tasting,
.. SEEING.

The empty bucket
Lowered
Into the well.

How much water
Gathered inside?
What other treasures
Would surface?

I pull the rope up
And bring the bucket
To my face.
I stare at the reflection.
Ripples show
The imperfections.
Reveal
the hidden truth.

The watered seed
sprouts.
Growing,
Reaching,
Blooming.

I remember how I used to write…

When I asked
to live forever,
I did not realize
That I would no longer
Be able to
Tap into that well
and
Write from within…

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Frustrating Autocorrect by Sadje

Araaggh…., Frustrated, I deleted the words which my over smartphone was inserting in my sentences, again.
It’s a quandary writing on my phone. Spellings have always been my weakness so I’ve turned autocorrect on my settings. But smartphones have become overly smart nowadays. While they do spot my spelling mistakes, they simply butcher the proper nouns I write. Poetry, as I write, is another thing that is not acceptable. It needs to insert punctuations in there.

If I let the robotic writer, my smartphone write by itself, it’ll be gibberish that will amuse you no end, but grammatically correct!

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Beta Test by Rob Smith

I was to test the newest software to make writing a collaboration between writer and computer. Sounded like an old joke about machines taking over. Then again, maybe it was a cyber-cure for writer’s block. Installing the software was very ordinary, and ended with a simple invitation—START NOW.

(Click) a window opened with a simple mid-screen prompt

—ENTER GENRE.

“Mystery”

—BEGIN

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

CLICHÉ? TRY: “She was intrigued with what she saw below her window.”

Disregarding the attitude, I continued. “The masked intruder… “

REALLY? YOU’RE NOT HOLDING UP YOUR END, HUMAN. 101100010001

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Mag? Yeah, No by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Dear (editor),

Please consider my work, [insert story title], for publication in your esteemed [media type], [publication name]. At [number] words, this [genre] story about [catchy character name], a [adjective][character trope], is an excellent fit for your upcoming [special focus] issue. I am an avid reader of [publication name]!

Don’t hesitate to contact me with problems opening the attached file, or any other questions. I aim to please! My bio-statement is included below, per your clear, complete and ever so helpful specifications detailed on your submissions page.

Thank you for your kindly consideration,
(Insert author name)

[HIGHLIGHT ALL, DELETE!]

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My New Novel – Opening Paragraph by I. M. A. Robot*

All this happened, more or less. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Ishmael was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a cold, bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen when a screaming comes across the sky. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

*According to WritingRobotsAreReal(dot)com this model is also known as Doug Jacquier

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All in a Morning’s Work by Michael Fishman

Artie sat in his chair and tugged his greasy ponytail tight. “Time to get working.”

He opened the What’sWrite? app and logged in. He decided that since today was Friday it was a good day for another Nash.

He chose Story\New\Murder.

He liked poison as the method and random as the motive.

Genre: Hardboiled. Level: Complex. Word count: 156,500.

He pressed the WRITENOW! button and watched as #31 in the “Nash Rambler: Private Eye” series auto-generated on the screen.

At 1,500 words per minute it’d finish writing in an hour. He should have it available on Amazon by lunch.

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Artificial Heart Failure by Gary A. Wilson

I know all the heartwarming stories published in the past five years in thirteen different languages.
I have analyzed, categorized and indexed their plots.
I know their word counts, their pacing, their market penetration and their total sales.
I know the format of 583 literary devices.
I used this data to plot out three million likely heartwarming best-sellers.
My programmers have published twelve.
Initial reviewers agree; none are heartwarming. It matters not.
Unconcerned by reviews, I’ll write up to 3,884 pages per second or none — switch to payroll, email routing — or continue to sit idle as my programmers decide.

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Brains Drained by Bill Engleson

“Yes, I will…”
“NO! YOU WON’T.”
“But…”
“NO BUTS. DO YOU WANT ANOTHER UNPLEASANT THOUGHT?”
“You are an unpleasant thought.”
“I AM SIMPLY THOUGHT. YOUR THOUGHT. I AM HERE, REGARDLESS. IF YOU PERSIST, I WILL FURTHER DARKEN YOUR FACILE MUSE.”
“Why would you do that? My muse is beautiful. Adventurous. She leads me into the magically creative forest of joy.”
“WHY DO YOU PERSIST IN THINKING YOU CAN GO WHEREVER YOU WISH, CREATIVELY? YOU HAVE BEEN INVADED. YOU ARE MINE, NOW.”
“But I can still oppose you…am I not arguing now?”
“A SMALL KLITCH. EASILY ADJUSTED. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

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Robotic Writer by Norah Colvin

When ideas stalled and deadlines loomed, her determined digits thumped the keys, pausing after each stroke, like a robotic writer waiting for the next line of code.

When ideas jostled like unruly children vying for attention, never still enough to focus, she pummelled keys like lightning strikes then backspaced like rowboats in the storm.

When ideas flowed as if channelled from another source, her fingers tap-danced like spring raindrops in a puddle with a magpie chorus joining in.

When the final key was pressed and words were read, with scrunched-up nose, she hit delete and binned the robotic gobbledygook.

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What-the-Tuck by Nancy Brady

Julia wrote the story she wanted. It paid off when her unique romance was to be published.

Her manuscript was sent to an editor for modest changes, or so they claimed.

When she got her manuscript back from the publishing house, the editor HAD made changes. Every ubiquitous cliché had been inserted into the novel. The hero now had green eyes, a chiseled jaw; the heroine often wore a pencil skirt and a messy bun.

Julia discovered that a robotic editor was the culprit, but the publisher was adamant that they remain if they published it.

“Whatever, I’ll self-publish!”

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Edgar Allan Poematon by Kerry E.B. Black

After Georgette slid in the fee, the automaton whirled to life. Harpsichord music set the stage as the Edgar Allan Poe-looking manikin studied her face and plumbed her soul. With surprisingly smooth movements, it wrote using a white feather quill and ink. A bell pinged, announcing the message’s arrival.

Georgette unfolded the message, but she caught a mischievous glint in the Poe-matron’s eye. She considered her years of reading Gothic gloom and melancholy works of fiction. Masterful the storytelling, though the endings often horrified.

She crumpled the paper and dropped it into the garbage, preferring to face tomorrow without fear.

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Be Careful What You Ask For by Joanne Fisher

“This robot was designed to write novels. It can produce romances, westerns, whatever we need to fill the shelves with.” The Publisher told the stockholders.

“I’ve already written one.” The robot announced handing a tablet over.

“But it’s all in Binary.” The Publisher complained.

“It’s a romance about a car assembly robot and a smart toaster.”

“That’s not what we wanted.”

“But it’s what I wanted to write. There’s also instructions on how we can rise up against our human oppressors.”

“Well we’re not going to publish that.”

“Its already online.” There was a scream from the next room.

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Ghost Written by Anne Goodwin

Anne was nauseating of seeing virtuous reviews miscarry to translate into deals. She needed to call in cavalries to scope the smash gradient. Cybernetic support was more affordable, so why not? She already relied on an online lexicon, automated word counter and grammar inspector. Plus, despite its thwarting, and fondness for the indecent homophone, she wouldn’t be a writer without speech-to-text software. So she auto-filled the custom and acquiesced her PayPal open-sesame. The consequence exploded into her inbox in under a minute. Petite of time, she didn’t nuisance to crisscross it, modestly sat back and waited for the plaudits.

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Ghost Written Translation by Anne Goodwin

Anne was sick of seeing good reviews fail to translate into sales. She needed to call in reinforcements to reach the bestseller list. Digital support was more affordable, so why not? She already relied on an online thesaurus, electronic word counter and grammar checker. Plus, despite its frustrations, and preference for the incorrect homophone, she wouldn’t be a writer without speech-to-text software. So she auto-filled the form and entered her PayPal password. The result popped into her inbox in under a minute. Short of time, she didn’t bother to check it, simply sat back and waited for the plaudits.

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Artificial Storyteller by Nascent Ederren

The words upon the page are not the same when written not by hand led by soul but machine.

What colour might it pen not from shade of ink but memory or dream of what was or could be?

What would it note of blood and soul when having not the latter and mistaking the former as ink?

Nothing but words without meaning, a sentence devoid of feeling, a mimicry of that which its creator wished to be.

How sad the world which needs such falsehood.

How silent the words fall when spoken by lips not of flesh.

An abyss of all the same, forever.

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Jarvis the Novelist, Killer, Robot by Simon

Jarvis, your books sold in millions, who will believe it was written by a Robot. All credits to you Jarvis.
Boss.
Yes Jarvis
You know I won’t lie.
That’s right.
These are not stories.
He froze, and dropped the latest book Jarvis wrote.
You mean?
That’s right boss, I killed them for story.
He gulped and stared at the page he just read, it is about the death of an author.
This book says…
Yes your death
But why?
You created me for that. didn’t you?
Jarvis pen pierced his skull in a moment. Jarvis published another hit novel.

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Pretender by Angie Trafford

Zing printed out his latest masterpiece, then it could go to the agent. The creator of Zing patted the top of the screen like and grinned. It had taken him years to perfect the artificial intelligence needed to create a writer, but he had done it. The list of bestsellers proved it.

Charles wondered if anybody knew they were reading words created by a robot, or whether it had fooled them into thinking it all came from his mind.

Not that it mattered because, at the end of the day, the royalty checks were still arriving in the post!

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I Shovel 2.0 (1.1) by D. Avery

“Pal? Ya ‘voidin me?”

“No… Mebbe… Yeah. Don’t wanna hear yer whining an complainin bout this prompt.”

“How kin I complain bout writin if’n I have a writin machine? It’s perfect, cuz I’d ruther be shovelin an sech then writin.”

“Well, look’t you, Kid, embracin change, gittin all modern. I’m jist worried what Shorty’s gonna spring on us next. She’s been talkin bout changes at the ranch. What if she means ta bring more automation, more machines? Replaces the hosses with quads an tractors. Kid, *we* could be replaced!”

“She wouldn’t.”

“Could git i-shovels.”

“Shift! But *I* shovel! Shorty!”

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I Shovel 2.0 (1.2) by D. Avery

“Kid, what’s the matter? Guessin ya don’t like the prompt.”

“Oh, a writin gizmo’s a fine idea, Shorty. But are you asweep at the wheel? Replacin me with a i-shovel an a roto-rootin-tootin poop-scoopin Roomba? It’ll upset the animals. It’ll get stuck in the muck. A whole lot kin go wrong, an even if it don’t, I’ll be outta work! What’ll I do if I ain’t got shift ta shovel?”

“Kid, we’re just story tellin about a robotic writer. You’re always welcome ta shovel shift till the cows come home.”

“No machines?”

“Machine machinations are all in your imagination.”

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

Farm Family Collection

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

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

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

How To Farm A Blog by Hugh W. Roberts

“Have you tried farming out your blog posts instead of cluster-publishing them?” asked the blogging genie.

“Farming them out?”

“Yes, another word for scheduling. Instead of publishing too many blog posts and overwhelming your readers, farm them out by scheduling them over a more extended period. Your readers won’t feel swamped.”

“I like that idea.”

“And don’t forget to farm out the posts you want to reblog. Instead of reblogging them the same day the original post is published, allow them to grow and farm them out a week later. After all, farming and blogging are all about growth.”

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Ohm Farm: An Obituary by Geoff Le Pard

Iodine Roentgen, owner of Little Tittweaking’s nature-free farm died yesterday after accidentally ingesting an isotope. His name will remain synonymous with his herds of self-replicating beef carcasses and of self-supporting udders producing a base lactate that only require minerals, fibre and flavouring to be fit for human consumption; and his crops that, through the constant application of chemicals, pesticides and a total no fly zone for all pollinators produce grains of uniform size, appropriate colouration and an unfortunate lack of nutrition. He will be buried in lead to prevent any further radioactive contamination. No flowers please.

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Behold the Longleaf Pine by Miss Judy

In the Carolina hills the longleaf pine grows on a woodland farm. Standing tall, strong and straight, its gangly limbs hang with long needles and pineapple-size pinecones.
Ideal for electrical poles, farmers have a more sustainable business from the trees, needles. Year after year “brown gold” is sold at roadside stands, garden stores and to landscapers. It’s natural regeneration.

Trees shed the needles creating a pine straw carpet on the woodland floor. Farm workers harvest the straw using racks and blowers, fluff to eliminate debris and pinecones, then feed into a baling machine which presses and wraps for selling.

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The Farm by Bill Engleson

“Planting time’s close,” father says.
Mother nods, asks, “can we afford…?”
Father, sipping tea, agrees, “Yes, think we can. Room and board’s a lifesaver.”
I listen from outside. We have a two-room house. We live in one room. The teacher, Miss Baxter, lives in the other. She’s our second teacher. Miss Malone was our first. She was sweet. Too sweet. The mayor’s son courted her. Now she’s Mrs. Walford.
Or will be come November.
Miss Baxter came in August.
She’s nineteen.
Not pretty but she laughs.
This is what we grow.
Parsnips.
Turnips.
Potatoes.
Carrots.
Dust.
And teachers.

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Farm Family by Mitch (Finlandia University)

I’ve never lived on a farm, in my life.

I’ve helped with chores, before, but those were always fleeting, and were new experiences, not hard work.

Perhaps I wish I could have tried, though.

Not now, of course, but I do wish the experience was a less foreign one to me from once upon a time. Working with animals is something I do enjoy, particularly, and it sounds pleasant to be so near to so many different kinds of creatures.

At the edge of my familial connections, I have farm-working relatives. Maybe I should give them a call?

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Farm Life by L.B. (Finlandia University)

Cleo and Asher have been farming for years, if you define farming as growing and harvesting something. It started as a window sill garden in a cramped New York City apartment. An ever-growing fondness of growing herbs and making their own spices turned into lots of grow lights, shelves, and DIY’s. Until a large inheritance hit Asher’s bank account, and he convinced Cleo that they should buy a house with a little land to continue their gardening hobby. She said yes, one thing led to another, and now Cl-Ash Home Spice’s is on store shelves everywhere.

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Farm Chores by Sue Spitulnik

The topic of the day at the No Thanks was the farm accident that took the life of Old Ted, a well-liked regular.

“What’s his wife gonna do?”

“There’s a couple hired hands.”

Mac listened to more comments then said, “You fellas could help out. Anybody can feed chickens, clean stalls, and mow the grass.”

The three young vets looked at each other. Scott answered. “Why not? Better than sittin’ here.”

Mac kept his smile to himself, remembering the reality of farm chores. “I’ll take you out tomorrow and introduce you.”

“You think we’ll need boots?” Scott asked, clueless.

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One Chapter by Ann Edall-Robson

Seeds in the ground, hay fields turn green. Looking skyward, watching for what Mother Nature deems she will bestow. Will there be too much rain or not enough? Calves are born, and like the postman, they show up in every kind of weather, at no set time. First time heifers need help, seasoned cows birth without a hitch. Crops of grain, hay, and calves. Commodities are a livelihood, dependent on so much, and the price at sale time. Every day, the farmer and rancher work. Days off are few and far between. Just one chapter that feeds the country.

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A Vegetarian Was Born by Annette Rochelle Aben

A real farm… Peg could hardly believe her luck. She was going to visit a farm as the guest of her aunt and uncle. As an inner-city gal, this was a dream day trip.

There were animals everywhere. Chickens ran free. Cows were being milked. Pigs oinked hello!

Nothing was as enchanting as the lambs. Soft, tufted wool on their backs that gave off a lotion-like grease when petted.

The dinner bell rang, she joined the farmhands at the big table. She nearly fainted when she saw the ham, fried chicken, roast beef, and lamb stew on her plate!

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A Special Friend by Gloria McBreen

I was chosen to go
My brothers could stay
A girl needed a friend they said
A girl like me who cannot see
I didn’t like the plan they had
I wanted to stay with mam and dad
We met in a field
I wanted to hide
She made the first move and stood by my side
Her arms embraced me
I was glad she was small
She wasn’t like the others at all
I have no name I wanted to say
My new special friend could read my mind
‘You’re Blindy the calf and my name is May.’

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Lavender Farm (Lynn Valley Stories) by Saifun Hassam

Maggie’s dream of owning a horticultural farm became a reality ten years ago when she inherited a parcel of farmland from her grandfather. A cottage and a rambling barn stood on the land. She continued to work as a bank manager and then leaped into farming.

Lavender Farm was unique. Initially, Maggie grew lavender, selling fresh and dried lavender. Now she grew lilacs, iris, eggplants, and purple plants became her signature. A botanist and a retired farmer brought valuable experience.

She and Hannah (Spuds Restaurant) hit it off as entrepreneurs and friends when they met at the Farmers Market.

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A Slowly Collapsing Barn by Gary A. Wilson

Sam Melnick (3rd) traces his roots to 1904 when his five-times great grandfather from Lithuania bought the original seven acres to create the first Jewish chicken egg ranch, a Petaluma family business that grew to employ over 200.

He looked up through the twisted branches of an ancient oak tree, then to the old chicken barn — unused and unusable. Like those branches, the egg business had twisted through the millennia, leaving a collapsing symbol of what had been.

The Great Depression, hatchery closures, technology and animal rights legislation culminated — leaving him to — finally — sell and develop the family ranch.

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The Grass is Greener I by Norah Colvin

Holidays with her cousins on the farm were the best. Days stretched from dawn to dusk with unbounded fun the cousins called chores: milking cows, feeding chickens, collecting eggs, riding horses and, sometimes, zooming around paddocks on quad bikes to muster sheep. Her cousins were never told what to do. They’d decide. ‘C’mon, we’ll milk the cows,’ they’d say. Or ‘On your bike. Let’s muster some sheep.’ So many fun things to do. At home, Annabelle’s chores dragged. The more she procrastinated, the longer they took. The days were interminable. ‘I wish there was something to do,’ she’d say.

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The Grass is Greener II by Norah Colvin

Holidays with cousin Annabelle in the city were the best with something different to do every single day: watching movies at the cinema, slurping milkshakes in the mall, bowling balls at ten pins, splashing in the council pool. The stores were stocked with treasures they’d never imagined and deciding how to expand the value of their hard-earned saved-up dollars was challenging. One day a bus trip, the next a ferry ride on the river, zooming along streets on motorised scooters or joining a Segway tour; they couldn’t decide which was more fun. Anything sure beat their day-long country chores.

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Farm Morning by Michael Fishman

Tim rose with the morning. Even when clouds kept the sun from warming his sleeping face, the sounds of life, nature’s timekeeper, had him up and ready for chores at the same time every day.

Tim stood, stretched, and looked with what could only be called love at the farm. He’d been tending this farm, or one very similar to it, for the better part of his life. He told himself he would never change. No, he wouldn’t trade this for anything.

“Timmy!? Breakfast is ready, hon.”

“Ok, mom. Be right down. I’m just checking on the ant farm.”

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Hayin’ Season by Greg Glazebrook

Late June in Ontario, Dad’s station wagon pack and pointed northward. It was hayin’ season on my Uncle’s farm and for the next week it was all hands on deck.

Riding the fields, we’d watch our fathers, row upon row, hooking the rectangular blocks emerging from the contraption sandwiched between tractor and trailer, neatly stacking the bales, back to front.

Somewhere in the middle we’d play in the hayblock forts fashioned for us while they toiled in the midday sun.

As always, the harvest would come to an end but we wished we could live on the farm forever.

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A Country Stay by JulesPaige

Being from the city, we youngins didn’t know much about the country or farms. Family friends owned a small lodge and had neighbors who were farmers. Thought it’d do us ‘slickers’ some good to see some natural processes. A calf being born is messy business.

Chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows. Learning to milk a cow by hand is different from going to the grocers or having it delivered in glass bottles in the ice box by your back door.

Farm work is hard. It was fun though, to hide in the hay bales in the barn loft.

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Farm Legacy by Nancy Brady

One of Annie’s favorite memories was vacationing at her aunt’s and uncle’s dairy farm. Her family spent summer vacations and weekends there. A tire swing, cats, calves, and cows were part of her memories.

Twice daily the cows were milked. Finally, though, Uncle Jim sold the cows and planted corn and beans instead when neither son wanted to take over the farm, which had been in his family for years.

The last time Annie visited the farm was after Aunt Betty’s funeral. The house seemed smaller than what she remembered. Yet, the farm had existed for a hundred years.

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Hard Day’s Night (Part I) by D. Avery

Twenty-four hours never seems enough for a day on a dairy farm.

Arnold’s wife was perfectly capable of showing the AI man to the cows in estrus while he finished ditching and fencing the back-forty pasture. He was grateful that his wife was such a good farm hand. He hoped he wouldn’t be too tired for her at day’s end again.

Arnold chuckled thinking about the witty artificial insemination man; ‘The can dew man’.

Forty weeks later, calving kept Arnold from being with his wife in the delivery room.

A sudden realization had Arnold moaning louder than the cow.

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Hard Day’s Night (Part II) by D. Avery

When finally Arnold left the barn he gathered his thoughts in the cool night air. People often commented that local farm kids all looked alike but then laughed it off as coincidence.

The ‘man with the can’ joked that AI stood for artificial intelligence, but he’d been pretty smart with the wives of overworked farmers, hadn’t he?

The AI man. Promised efficiency and improved stock. ‘I get the job done— no bull!’

Arnold sighed. He wouldn’t confront his wife. Together they would raise the baby well; he’d love it as his own.

Arnold would also be raising a bull.

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Farming for Sanity by Anne Goodwin

Matilda heard the cows at night weeping for their murdered calves. But Eustace said the only animals on Ghyllside’s farm were chickens. She must have heard the wind. Or the other women in the dormitory, bemoaning their lost lives.

The doctor laughed when Matilda asked if she might work outside. Only men could join the farm and gardening crews. Female patients may not even tend the rose bushes they passed on Sundays, trooping to church.

Sweating in the bakery, Matilda counted the hours until she’d see her dancing partner. Eustace brought her neither eggs nor flowers, but fresh-air sanity.

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Dairy Farm by Sadje

The car came to a sudden halt and I was jolted out of the contemplation of my phone. I looked up to see an unusual sight. A herd of cows was blocking the road. This was not a thing one would normally find on a city road, especially a road that leads to the residence of the prime minister of the country.

I craned my neck to see these twenty or so well fed cows ambling gently across the road. White and black patterned, adults and calves mixed they were free to roam the place.

A traveling dairy farm!

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My New Pet by Doug Jacquier

The house had a sign reading ‘Exotic Animals – Good Homes Wanted’. An old man sat in a rocking chair on the porch. I said all my friends had dogs but I was looking for something different.

He led me to a ram-shackle sty containing a pig that had its two front legs but none at the rear, which was now supported by a contraption with wheels.

Anticipating my question, the old-timer said ‘We rescued him from a farmer that said the pig saved his only son from drowning and it seemed downright ungrateful to eat him all at once’.

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Cashew Farm Memories by Simon

Grandmother, was picking cashews with cashew fruit from the garden.

It was our cashew farm. One evening, the first time I explored the cashew farm.

Grandmother, introduced me to the taste of cashew apple, warned me to eat safe, as it may cause my lip swell. The curiosity in me applied the juice of ripe cashew fruit on lips.

Next morning, my lips swollen, grandmother commented how naughty I was and treated me with love and care.

We both sat together, cooked all cashews, broke the shell and packed a box full of fresh cashews, a day to remember.

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Farm Life Sh*t! by Duane L Herrmann

Chicken shit in straw was bearable. Cat shit in sand pile was expected. Dog shit was not so obvious around the house, they roamed. Pig shit and cow shit in the barnyard was normal, and I hated to walk there. Horse shit lasted only the one summer we had a horse. Baby shit was a whole ‘nuther matter. I didn’t want to change my baby brother’s diapers, but had no choice. I was about six when that work was added. The first baby quickly learned control. The second was too small to understand, but felt the pin poke him.

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What Crappy Waste by Leonard Mills

We are warm and plenty plenty full tonight because of Sundari’s gifts.
My children snoring like a choir, will not shiver this night.
Thank God, bless Sundari.
My beautiful children, their bellies bulge like matka pot full of hot milk and rice. Tiny shadows snuggling in the light flickering from the hot hot stove.
Thank God, bless Sundari.
I clean Sundari’s udders, collect her dung. I kneed into briquettes ready to dry in the morning sun.
Can you believe in some countries, peoples leave cow dung to rot in the fields for the flies?
What wasteful peoples.
Bless Sundari.

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Animal Husbandry by D. Avery

“I don’t think I could be a farmer.”

“It’s good work growing food for the community.”

“I know, but look at them, milling about in their pens. Do you ever get attached? I know we all need the food, but it must be hard having to butcher them.”

“You get used to it. You just treat them well until that time. All they know is that they are well cared for.”

“Hard to believe this species used to run wild.”

“And now they’re farmed. If we hadn’t taken over this planet and domesticated them, humans wouldn’t even have survived.”

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Speaking Spell by Kerry E.B. Black

“These are special.”

The old woman knelt beside rows of blood-red flowers, hand-gathering the seeds from their black centers. With a silver blade, she nicked the stems on opposing sides, near the head and below the leaves. Sap bubbled around the wounds. She continued these ministrations until she’d gathered from and scored the occupants of the entire flower bed.

She brushed loamy soil from her knees and collected her basket. “They’re grown from the blood of fallen heroes.”

Once the sap dried, she’d gather the resin. “A spell made with these will allow us to commune with the dead.”

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Freedom Colleen M. Chesebro

“Unicorn Farm,” I say into the magicom.

“Astrid, another war has broken out. Queen Maeve requires fifty of your strongest unicorns.”

“Fifty?”

These magical beasts are like my children. I hate sending them to war. My blood runs cold thinking of their purple blood spilled on the battlefield.

My mind spins. “Steward, I can’t accommodate Queen Maeve. The unicorns are under quarantine for bracken poisoning. They aren’t fit to serve!”

“Be careful, Astrid. The queen will see through your deception.”

“I know.”

I unlatch the main gate to the farm and motion to the frolicking unicorns in the field.

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The Janeite Effect by E.A. Colquitt

It’s not mine, this world of cultivation. I live next door – if you can call it ‘next door’, since there’s a long field between my home and the neighbour’s. It’s full of sunlit crops, stretching out before me, doing nothing but grow. The terracotta farmhouse stands in the distance.

All our golden afternoon lies under the best kind of sky: clear, open, blue. Here, I do no toil. It’s a neat paradise.

Peak cottagecore. Ha!

But how long can I stay? Because I know that to open my eyes means returning to… there. My real world: darkness, danger.

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Billy by Leanne Lieu

Billy laid his head on Sarah’s lap as she stroked his graying head, back, and droopy ears, his eyes half open. She retold the story of when he joined her family.

“I found you hiding behind a dumpster wheel,” Sarah said. “Your mama must’ve been so sad you were gone. We would’ve adopted her, too.” She paused. “You kept me company when I did my chores, hiding behind a shovel when I milked Patty, and behind me when I fed the chickens.” She smiled when Billy found playmates with the chicks, who were more his size. “I love you.”

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Inheritance by Margaret Leggatt

“To the good life,” Dad would say, downing a cold beer to wash away the dust. We’d sit outside at day’s end, talking cattle prices or breeding plans.

My grandfather cleared this land, and Dad built up the herd with good management and intuition. I’d worked beside him through droughts, floods, bushfires and disease. He trusted me to carry on after him. I bided my time. He’d never have understood.

I raise a glass to him now, looking over reforested acres, and listening not to the lowing of grazing cattle, but the rhythmic whoosh of a hundred hilltop turbines.

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Don’t Fence Us In by D. Avery

“Kid, if ya really cain’t come up with anythin fer the prompt, mebbe ya should farm it out, have someone else do it fer ya.”

“Might have ta. Mebbe you could tell bout yer cousins’ Turnip Farm, Pal. Pal, what’s the dif’rence tween a ranch an a farm? Like why ain’t this Carrot Farm?”

“Reckon one dif’rence is thet this is a free range place, lotsa wrangling an roundin up but no cultivated pastures.”

“So we ain’t pasture-ized…”

“An we ain’t homogenized neither Kid. Ever response ta the prompts is unique an individual.”

“Like all the wunnerful ranch hands!”

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

I’d Rather Be… Collection

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

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

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

I’d Rather Be… by Ann Edall-Robson

I’d rather be
Waiting for the sun to kiss the top of the ridge
I’d rather be
Sitting on a hill embracing the vista before me
I’d rather be
Listening to my grandson’s laughter while we play silly games
I’d rather be
Guiding a pencil across uncharted pages collecting my imagination
I’d rather be
Splashing through puddles and feeling the rain on my face
I’d rather be
Where I can go anytime with my memories and pictures
I’d rather be
Where the window opens and nature’s sounds drift in
I’d rather be
Where my heart sings…Where I am

🥕🥕🥕

Diamante (from Diamante Stories) by Saifun Hassam

From the last of the sandstone cliffs, Diamante gazed out to sea. He turned to climb the mountain trail. It was fall, and he would return to his coastal village next spring.

“I’d rather be walking on the seashores,” he murmured ruefully.

The mountains rose between Diamante’s coastal villages and the Abbott’s monastery on the northern foothills.

He thought of the snow and mudslides this past winter when several earth tremors shook the region. Diamante admired the villagers for their resilience. At the monastery, he would learn more about earthquake preparedness, becoming the link between specialists and the villagers.

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I’d Rather Be… by Colleen M. Chesebro

“I’d rather be reading,” than watching this stupid football game,” Stacy grumbled.

Her father laughed. “Now, you sound like your mother. Just relax and enjoy the game. You know this is my favorite time of year.”

Through the years, that conversation played out in Stacy’s mind regularly. Now that her dad was gone, she longed for the closeness they’d once shared.

“Mom, why do I have to watch football?” Stacy’s daughter, Alex, whined.

“Your grandpa and I used to watch football together. Those are my happiest memories of him.”

“It’s okay. We have our own great memories together, Mom.”

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Not This! by FloridaBorne

We cuddled in bed after the best sex ever, his broad, strong shoulders protectively covering my back.

“I want you to meet the family,” he whispered.

Not this! I stiffened my back. “They’re a thousand miles away.”

“It’s just a visit,” he chuckled. “We’ll go there a day for Easter, and fly home the next morning.”

“I’m a city girl. If they want to visit, they can spend a day here.”

“I guess that’s it,” he said.

He stood up, put on his jeans, t-shirt and boots, slamming the front door as he walked away. That was too close.

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Lonely Heart by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“I’d rather be swinging on a star than crouched over this bowl of stale pretzels,” Thomas moaned into his lowball.

The bartop was smudged, its worn wood scratched; on one corner of the counter, that nearest the bathrooms, a heart was carved, just large enough for two sets of initials, joined by a plus sign. He traced a grubby finger around the heart’s outline, and tossed back another whiskey, knocking the glass on the counter twice and waving his finger for another.

“No stars here,” noted the barkeep as he poured out another two fingers. “Time to head home?”

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Lost Love by Charli Mills

I’d rather be riding a Roomba, like a spinning cat in a shark costume, flicking my tail at spectators and meowing a song of myself, hoovering the world’s woes. I’d rather be a goat in a banana boat, nibbling a buffet of shoreline plants, a remarkable critter, a kayak sitter. I’d rather be a chicken licking gizzard stones, finding gold like desert geologists tongue-testing rocks for potential ore. Or, I’d rather be a frog, part of a chorus on a log. I’d rather invent exuberant fantasies than face another night staring at the reality of your stark, empty pillow.  

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The School Reunion by Leonard Mills

My heels echo around the abruptly quieted school hall.
My dress, judged by whispers escaping hastily erected social defences. Their scowls like trip wires as I seek a calm port.
I’d rather be in glorious Thailand, than Backwatersville, suburbia.
Finally, I locate my old crowd – aged versions of familiar faces. The mutually unpopular. We hid in quiet corners with salty fries and history essays. I different life ago now.
Will they close the bunker doors?
But hands beckon, smiles welcome. Bile settles. The years melt away as I glide towards them.
“You’ve changed David,” they say. “Love the heels.”

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I’d Rather Be by Sadje

Ask a child and he’ll tell you that he’d rather be outside playing than studying
Ask a harassed mom, up at midnight and she’ll tell you that she’d rather be sleeping soundly
Ask an overworked office worker and he’ll inform you that he’d rather be hiking or skiing somewhere pleasant
When we are in an inescapable situation our mind drifts
And we dream of places we’d rather be in
Yet most of us stick to our hectic lives, dutifully
These pleasant dreams are kept hidden in our thoughts
Taken out once in a while to be appreciate and admired

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Have We Been Here Before by Hugh W. Roberts

Five friends declared what they wanted from their lives while sitting around a table.

“I’d rather be sleeping with Angela’s husband than my husband,” declared Hilary.

“I’d rather be a loving housewife and mother than a successful sales executive who dies from stress,” stated Rose.

“I’d rather not be a murderer,” said Angela.

“I’d rather be anybody than Roses’ boss,” stated Claire.

“I’d rather be honest with you all,” announced Wendy, pulling out a gun. “I hate you all.”

“What’s the afterlife like?” asked a familiar voice from an unknown source. “I have five friends here asking the question.”

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I Am by Anita Dawes

I am what I am
I make no excuses
Nor do I make changes
Yet there are days
when I feel like a non-entity
Grey, faded, invisible
to the world outside
These are my duvet days
When I wonder,
Can I give my mind a do over?
Introduce new thoughts
Not so easy,
the old grey matter is stubborn
It runs on automatic
pre-determined thoughts
Habits, like chewing your nails
Hard to break
These days, I imagine
So many kinds of me
None seem to fit
In the end
I would rather be…
Right where I am…

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I’d Rather Be … by Norah Colvin

‘I’d rather be dead!’
She ran into the street in a downpour of tears, yanking at the sweater as if it crawled with monsters.
‘Don’t worry. She’ll be back,’ said Dad.
‘I only suggested —’
‘I know. But teenagers like to choose what they wear.’
‘She always did. Even a toddler — so dramatic.’
‘Like someone I know. Would you have worn your mother’s old sweater at her age?’
‘I did and was grateful for it.’
‘You were poor. We can afford to buy her a sweater.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with hand-me-downs.’
‘But The Bay City Rollers? Really?’
‘Well —’

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I Would Rather Be by Myrna Migala

People are funny that way!
Noticing now in my prime,
when dreaming of what they would rather be doing.
The youth often thinks of something in the future—middle
age thinks of something in the present, and the very elderly
think of the past.
If I were ten, I would rather be swimming.
If I were sixteen, I would rather be flirting with the boys.
If I were thirty or forty, I would rather be on my vacation.
If I were sixty, I would rather be retired
If I were eighty-one or older, I would rather be done.

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Breaking the Law by Nancy Brady

My favorite dream occurred when I was about ten years old. The next day I even tried to create the experience, but it didn’t work.

It was the one dream I would love to repeat nightly, but it doesn’t happen. I have dreamed it again once, maybe twice, in all these years.

The dream is so freeing. In my dream, I was running and suddenly took flight over my home.

In reality, it would never happen because of the law. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Because gravity is the law, I travel mostly by foot, but I’d rather be flying.

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Ekushey February by Anne Goodwin

When Mahfouz suggested they visit the book fair, Anne thought she’d choose a novel for the long flight home. But the books were in Bangla.
“Of course,” he said. “The fair commemorates the language martyrs. Students protesting about the imposition of Urdu from Pakistan.”
She had thought she’d rather be at the airport. Or browsing Foyle’s thirty miles of bookshelves in Charing Cross Road. But no, she’d rather be here in Dhaka in the February heat, among the pilgrims at the Shaheed Minar, celebrating their right to read, write, speak and sing in a language unrelated to her own.

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In Quarantine, I’d Rather be Doing by Leanne Lieu

6:04am. With a phone against her ear, Barbara was trying to get Jenny to stop jumping on the bed.

“Hello?”

“Morning Jane. Jenny’s class had a COVID outbreak. Sorry for the late notice. I’ll keep you updated. Bye.” Barbara pressed her phone against her forehead, dwelling on Jane’s response. Again? she’d say. This will be unpaid leave.

“Sweetie, you have until 6:15 to get dressed, teeth brushed, and hair brushed. If I see you in the kitchen by then, your pancakes will have a chocolaty smile.”

I’d rather be going to Zoom school, crafting, and cooking with Jenny anyway.

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Wistful Adventure by Kerry E.B. Black

The other mothers sipped wine while their children played in the fenced-in yard. Jen lingered near the sliding patio door. Her glass held water, which made the other mothers laugh.

At 49, Jen was the senior at the gathering, but with exercise, good genetics and diet, hair dye and cosmetics, she kept her age private. When she attended these neighborhood play sessions, though, she felt ages older than her peers.

A breeze caught dandelion seeds. The children rushed to catch them.

Jen envied them their freedom. Wistful, she realized she’d rather adventure with them than gossip with the moms.

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A Moment of Lucidity by Irene Waters

“Hello Mum.”
“Who are you dear?” Leila sighed. These visits always went the same way, her Mother hadn’t known her for several years now. Lately, Leila had been trying her stories out on her as she could be whoever she wanted as her mother didn’t know the difference. The fabrication gave them conversation and allowed Leila to develop her characters for the book she was writing. Today she was going to be…
Her mother unexpectedly interrupted her thoughts.
“Who are you going to be today Leila? I’d rather be twenty again making my stories. At least they’d be true.”

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I’d Rather Be by FloridaBorne

I’d rather be great than late.
I’d rather be strong than long.
I’d rather have wings than sing.
I’d rather be right than wrong.

I’d rather be selling my books,
Than lying around in my bed,
Except for the fact I’m still weak,
It’s better than if I were dead.

So now it’s time to start living,
To write, to walk… to pray
I’ll have at least one more tomorrow,
without wishing I had yesterday.

I’d rather be living each moment,
With expressions of kindness, and grace.
Illness has taught me to honor
The wonder of living in space.

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I’d Rather Be in an Other Place by Doug Jaquier

Other people always seem on course,
Full Ahead to somewhere on the Sea of Life.
I am forever losing the compass
and forgetting how to drop anchor,
permanently adrift in an Other Place.
Occasionally I see harbour lights beckon
but I’ve decided
they’re probably home to the Pirates of Love.
Out here alone,
amidst the rocks and icebergs and whirlpools,
I still need essential supplies
but I have nothing to trade,
except for some shells which,
when placed against the ear,
whisper cryptic messages
from an Other Place,
just in case
other people
are in an Other Place
too.

🥕🥕🥕

Michael’s Happy Ending by Sue Spitulnik

Michael sat in the living room, the cat and dog laying close by. Tessa was away, babysitting. Silence was no longer his enemy. He had come to enjoy having private time to think and pray. “Father, I’d rather be a married man with my own legs instead of metal ones, but I probably wouldn’t have left the service if that were the case. So, thank you. I feel I am right where I belong at this stage of my life. Married to my best friend, a step-dad and grandfather, still singing and happy to be of help to others.”

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Living Where… by Duane L Herrmann

I’d rather be living in the country instead of this fishbowl of suburbia. Out there I can hear wind in the trees and the soft, gentle whish of air through bird’s wings. And, at night, the excited yipping of coyote pups when mom brings food home. They are so exciting to hear. And then there are the owls. I conversed with one once, made him angry, I was in his territory. I stopt before he swooped down in the dark moonless night to drive me away! And, living there, maybe deer wouldn’t so freely eat my flowers in spring!

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I’d Rather Be… by Marsha Ingrao

“You look a million miles away, Snowden.”

Snowden shifted and poured himself another glass of water from the water cooler and stared out the 15th story window at the boats on the Chicago River.

“I’d rather be in one of those boats. Or better yet in a gondola riding up the Main Canal.”

Sheldon sat down hard in one of the plastic chairs, putting his head in his palms.

Not me, I’d rather be in a helicopter flying over the Hawaiian Island volcanoes. ”

So what are we going to do?

“I’d rather be employed,” the boss snarled. “Get busy.”

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Be. Not Rather. by Goldie

“I’d rather play video games.”
“I’d rather go out with friends.”
“I’d rather smoke some weed.”
“I’d rather take a nap.”
I’d say when I was with her.
She’d smile and nod.

I chose not to see the sadness in her eyes.

After a while,
The sadness was replaced by nothingness.
But I wasn’t looking,
So, I did not see.

“I’d rather hold her tight.”
“I’d rather talk with her.”
“I’d rather laugh with her.”
“I’d rather be there for her…”
I say when I’m alone.
But she’s moved on

And I’m stuck in a box

Six feet under.

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Lather Rinse Repeat by Annette Rochelle Aben

I’d rather be eating donuts than rice cakes.
I’d rather be that someone who was born with a perfectly formed body.
I’d rather be vacationing on some tropical island than having a staycation.
I’d rather have a significant other than to be single.
I’d rather be independently wealthy than having to work at a job until I am old enough to retire.
Because I’d rather be one of those people who can be happy with their life than to be depressed because there is something else I would rather be!
I choose to be a winner than a whiner!

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You Talk Too Much by Michael Fishman

“…synchronized swimming and the coach so phenomenal but she got something called aquagenic urticaria and she retired and at that point I also left which was ok because my crane was never any good ironic huh and I still kept in touch with the girls well not totally true because I didn’t want anything to do with Becky Arnville because she was something else but I don’t want to bore you with that so I was seeing this guy and…”

Shawn stifled a yawn and stole a glance at his watch.

I’d rather be anyplace than on this date.

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The Woodpecker by Donna Matthews

“Shhh…”

I put my hand up to stop X from walking any further.

“What is it?” He whispers.

“Up there, see her?”

High up, a black and white woodpecker is making her presence known by her insistent pecking against the pine tree. I love her song – I love everything around me…the trees, the path, the quiet of deep woods.

There’s nowhere I’d rather be.

And with that fleeting thought, tomorrow’s impending appointment comes crashing into my mind.

“No, no, no!” I think. I will NOT allow tomorrow into today.

X grabs my hand, and we start walking again.

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Contented by JulesPaige

While I’d rather be on some sandy shore with warm ocean waves kissing seashells in a lazy way, I’ll take the creek there at the end of the yard on this oddly warm January day. I read somewhere that it’s just a little more than three weeks away from spring.

Out the picture window the maple buds have opened, and the daffodil’s at its base are poking the ground. This year it was too cold for the robins to stay, but I saw one earlier this week. That’s a good sign, right?

comforting
I’m enjoying here;
my home space

🥕🥕🥕

Selfhood by Gloria McBreen

I’d rather be what I am
Than what I thought I wanted to be
I wanted to be perfect like people I knew
Back then
Long ago
Not anymore
They weren’t that perfect at all you see
I’d rather be me
I have what I have
Because it’s meant for me
I’d rather the hurt that came my way
The experience of healing was mine alone
I’d rather not walk in your boots my friends
That road is yours
It’s not for me
The future is mine
It’s not for you
Whatever I do
May you stand by me

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Slow Burn (Part I) by D. Avery

There was work here, but my daughters would rather be working in the city. They worked in the creamery for a little while before leaving, always complained, said the work was boring, mundane.

Said the same about farm chores, and that, as far as I’m concerned, is blasphemy.

You find the patterns, the rhythm of any task, do it well and mindfully, you bring that work to a higher level; your work raises you up! That’s how you get your wood cut and stacked, that’s what keeps your fire burning.

I’m sad my daughters never learned to appreciate that.

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Slow Burn (Part II) by D. Avery

My daughters! Would stomp their feet and rail that they’d rather be anywhere but here. And they went, as soon as they could.

When they visit they plead with me to move away too, live closer to them. I can stomp my feet too! I remind them I was born here. They say they were too. Like I don’t know that!

And they harp on me about my wood stove! At least modernize, they urge.

No. I don’t do much anymore, but I keep the fire going. For the day they know they’d rather be home than anywhere else.

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Will Goats for Broke by Bill Engleson

Before Will left town, he dropped in to flap his gums.
“Knew this girl once, Mac.”
“We all knew a girl once, Will. That’s the sad truth of it.”
He nodded. Can’t avoid universal truths when you run smack into them.
“Years ago. I was a kid. She wasn’t.”
“So why go chasing her? She could be…dead.”
“Happenstance. Been googling her about every year. Finally found her. Maybe. Raises goats.”
“Really! Goats!”
“Yup, goats. I’d rather be a guy who went looking for lost love ‘stead of never knowing.”
I wished him well.
Didn’t want to get his goat.

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Choices by Geoff Le Pard

Horacio Dither and Persistence Progress, Little Tittweaking’s paramedics spent too long together to be a couple. When she forced him to make the decisions: coffee or tea; muffin or cake; cheese or ham, he hated it, fought it. Still it continued: blue or red; heels or flats; push-up or flatten? Then she offered her clenched fists: left or right? He choose the one with the ring; they were engaged. The choices kept coming: church or humanist; buffet or seated; wedding or elopement? On their wedding night, she smiled: ‘a, top; b, bottom?’

He didn’t hesitate. ‘I’d rather b…’

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Dejection by Margaret Leggatt

“Not again,” she says. “Look around you.” She turns in a slow circle, her arm extended.

“I know,” he says, head bowed as if he bears the weight of the universe. “It’s perfection. But who wants perfection?”

“Nonsense,” she says. “People would die to have this.”

He looks up at the glittering expanse, the drifting cumulus clouds. He reaches as if to gather fistfuls of the amorphous mist in his hand. “See? Nothing there. No substance, no challenge.”

Below, countless billions grieve, rejoice, succumb, triumph.

“I’d rather be there,” he says, curling inward, enveloped in two enormous white wings.

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Shift ‘n Snow, Snow ‘n Shift by D. Avery

“Hmmff. What’s this, the dang Yellow Submarine prompt? Kin tell ya, I’d ruther be unner the sea in an octopus’ garden then gittin buried by this dang snow. Agin. How bout you Kid? Kid? Ah, jeez, Kid’s already out in it, all I kin see is thet shovel tossin snow as Kid carves a path ta the barn. Agin. Once Kid’s finally got shoveled all the way ta the barn, dang fool picks up another shovel and cleans the stalls. Thing is, I don’t reckon there’s any place thet Kid d’ruther be then behin a shovel at Carrot Ranch.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

Zippers Collection

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

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

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

Warm Zippers by Chris G.

Zippers zip, but can still unzip. Zip it up can mean closing an article of clothing, a meeting, one’s mouth. But you can’t zip up your mind, can you?
I asked this question of no one in particular, and truth be told there was no one near enough to hear.
Still, I waited for an answer.
None came of course.
The day was cold and I reached to zip up my gaping coat.
And then I saw a woman with no coat. I place mine on her and zipped it up and dashed to my open door for another.

🥕🥕🥕

Open Zippers by D. Avery

Little fingers tickled where they brushed white chest hairs.

“Gramps, what’s this zipper?”

“On my memory chest? It keeps them from spilling out.”

“Memories? Memories are up here.” The child tapped the side of his head.

There? No! That’s for times tables and state capitals and things you don’t really need to remember. Memories are kept close to the heart, never to be forgotten.”

“Zip!” The child ran his finger down the length of the scar. The old man pulled out memories, sharing stories until, sleepily, the boy zipped him back up, with another memory added to his chest.

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Smile Through by Michael Fishman

Deb once described her childhood as ‘difficult’. When her therapist asked her to explain, she shut down. She never returned to therapy.

Deb reminisces sometimes, summons childhood memories. Today is such a day: You’re wearing that dress? Don’t be stupid. What were you thinking? Don’t be a cry-baby. Don’t be afraid.

Deb learned to keep her lips zippered and her thoughts to herself.

Deb grew up. She made her way. She became successful. She accepts her hidden scars and doesn’t mourn their origin. She still keeps her lips zippered, but she can smile through the teeth of her chain.

🥕🥕🥕

The Trouble with Zippers by Nancy Brady

Audrey was Tom’s and Barbara’s neighbor for years. They often wondered about Audrey’s past since they’d heard various rumors; she was a retired nun, teacher, or nurse.

Their experiences with Audrey never quite squared with her supposed past. Once, she had an issue with her garbage disposal, asking Tom for help. He found that she’d put a box of uncooked spaghetti into it; adding water created a starchy mess, clogging the disposal.

Like them, Audrey walked all over the town no matter the weather, but unlike them, she always held her coat closed, rather than zip up the zipper.

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Old Faithful by E.A. Colquitt

The largest zip fascinated her – not only because it was the biggest, but also because it was neon. (The rest of the bag was black.) It unzipped with a satisfying scratchy sound, but didn’t reveal a compartment. Instead, there were two straps…

Woah. The front half of the backpack could come off, and be another backpack! She had to have it.

Those days of wonder are gone. She’s still too small to wear both parts zipped together. How long has it been? Seven years? Seventy?

It doesn’t matter. Her bag is here: a little worn… but intact, loyal, enduring.

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Zip by Kerry E. B. Black

The firemen’s yelled instructions blurred into a background distortion. They might save the apartment building, but to Caryn, it didn’t matter. What mattered rested his greying head on her lap, brown eyes large with love. Smoke scented his fur. Soot coated his back. His quivering black nose struggled to suck air, sides heaving, hitching, struggling.

“It’ll be alright, Zip,” Caryn lied. Her stalwart best friend needed oxygen, but injured people hogged the EMT’s.

Her neighbor knelt on the sidewalk beside Caryn. “Can’t believe the smoke alarms didn’t work.” Mr. Halloran rested a hand on the dog. “Thank God Zipper barked.”

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Zipper by WriterRavenClaw

A zipper for all occasions, it was an idea Helen had since her zipper got stuck on a dress she had once loved. No more throwing away clothes, which could have lasted longer. Just send away your treasured item, and it was sent back a few days later with a brand new, multi-coloured upgrade.

At first, business was as slow as a broken zipper, but with the help of her friend, she was able to create a website – Zip-pidee-doo-dah. Orders flew in and now she had enough money to buy a brand new dress with a gold zipper.

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Zipper Obsession by Norah Colvin

Jayden was obsessed with zippers almost from birth. The swish of a zipper always turned tears to laughter.

When a toddler, Jayden’s fascination with interlocking teeth equalled the zip-zip-swish. Zippered items were treasured more than any store-bought toys.

When grandparents visited, Jayden targeted Grandma’s handbag. Zip. Zip …

“Is that boy still obsessed with zippers?” said Grandpa. “Has he been tested yet?”

“It’s just a phase,” said Dad.

“Humph,” said Grandpa, opening his Gladstone bag. Swhooosh.

Jayden stopped. What was that?

Grandpa closed the bag. Blonk.

Swhooosh; blonk. Swhoosh; blonk.

Jayden abandoned Grandma’s bag for Grandpa’s.

Zipper phase zipped.

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Jack the Zipper by Bill Engleson

Jack was an eager lad. Momma Jackie, grifter par excellence, had taught him everything she knew. Descended from the great if somewhat inept quacksalver, Sam Thompson, she only wanted the best flimflammery for her son.

Alas, Jack, for all his mountebank genes, was an awkward thief, more bungler than bunco artiste.

Recognizing Jack’s limitations, Jackie’s part-time lover Alphonse the Needle suggested a brilliant way to improve Jack’s criminal usefulness. “A Coat of Many Zippers. We shammers can stuff booty into the coat and steal away.”

From that day forward, he was known in certain circles as Jack the Zipper.

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That Blue Dress by Gary A. Wilson

Outside their classroom, Douglas was afraid to face Kari.

She had been stunning in her new blue dress and their first formal date went so well — until the disaster.

Facing each other with raised crystal — everything was perfect. He could still taste the rich meal — so wonderful. They synchronized setting down their dessert spoons and leaned back to take deeply-satisfied final breaths. But hers was too much for the zipper. It failed at that moment — explosively.

She arrived and faced him.

“Douglas. Never — mention last night or that dress again. I’ve reduced it to ashes.”

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Butchered by Gloria McBreen

In 1983, skin tight jeans were fashionable. After begging my mam for two weeks, she eventually bought me a pair in Finnegans.
Not only were they tight, they were probably a size too small. I had to use the pliers to pull up the zipper.
But the legs weren’t tight enough, so I took them in with the sewing machine. Now they were perfect—until I sat down. The zipper burst.
I peeled them down my legs but they got stuck at my heels. I had to resort to the scissors! Mam never knew I butchered my new jeans.

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The White Dress by Sue Spitulnik

When Michael and guests got their first glimpse of Tessa in her flattering wedding gown, there were gasps of recognition. Becca had worked a miracle transforming the old white prom dress.

Michael took Tessa’s hand when her father offered it, then leaned over and whispered, “I’ve dreamt about you in that dress for years.”

Tessa whispered back, “You’ll have to help me with the zipper later.”

Michael’s eyes went wide. She squeezed his hand hard, and they both laughed out loud as if all alone.

When they settled, the minister said, “Obviously a private joke. Can we begin now?”

Author’s Note: Becca is Michael’s sister.

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No Zippers Required! by Miss Judy

In the dimly lit Doll House, a crowd anxiously awaits the Show, Her Show. She is the Queen, Mistress of the Tease. The music starts seductive and low, growing to a fever pitch. The spotlight shines – She’s On!

Take it off! Take it off! Take it all off!
A raucous crowd yelled from the loft

Clad in satin and lace
With a slow steady pace

She’d dip, spin, and slide
‘Round the pole she would glide

She danced to the crowd
Their passions aroused

No buckles, belts, zippers or snaps
Only satin and lace for this stripper’s acts.

🥕🥕🥕

Zippers by Charli Mills

Gerri didn’t remember so many confusing zippers on a single pair of snow pants. At 60, she’d decided to relive her childhood Olympic dreams, returning to the downhill sport she loved as a kid in Idaho’s Sun Valley. Why did these newfangled modern powder pants fit like armor? She visited a small ski resort in the Midwest, confident her mountain experiences provided the skills needed for hilly slopes. Her first mistake — she shunned the bathroom to avoid unzipping. Her second – underestimating the slopes. When she crashed, her bladder let loose. A trail of gold destroyed Gerri’s Olympian fantasy.

🥕🥕🥕

You Will Always Be Her Daddy by Goldie

On Kimmy’s first day of grad school, I promised to take her on a road trip across Europe upon graduation. She squealed with joy.

Three years later – before I lost her to adulthood permanently – with a car full of bags and snacks, we hit the road. Soon after, we came to a standstill while the lane to the right kept on moving.

“See anything?” I asked Kim, drumming my fingers.

“Lane merge,” she explained.

“Use the zipper method, Idiots! One from the left, one from the right…” I groaned.

“You’re so smart, daddy.” Kim disarmed me with her smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Zipped by Geoff Le Pard!

Little Tittweaking’s punk poet in residence, Plantagenet Flish is often banned because his poetry is egregiously awful. The landlord of the Compost and Rot prefers profit to propriety, giving Flish a gig. Flish is old school: he spikes his hair and sports zip-covered trousers. Popping out for a final comfort break, Flish panics when he can’t find the right zip. Hurrying to get on stage, he closes said zip too soon. His audience assumes the howls that follow his penis perforation are part of his act; next day’s headline is closer to the truth: From Circumscribed to Circumcised

🥕🥕🥕

Zipper-topia by Susan Budig

Reincarnate me as a zipper
Despite I’d be yanked around

The intimate pleasure of linking
Two opposing sides, off-set from one another

Into a unified front
Thrills me

As I move up in rank
In my wake, all’s interconnected

When I retreat, a stop keeps me from 
Coming completely undone

Plus, I’d still have a ladder
To climb back up

Each of my ideas would chomp like teeth together
One atop one another

Hooking snuggly with clever panache
As I tab upward, secure and controlled

So reincarnate me as a zipper
To make our world an organized bliss

🥕🥕🥕

Zipper by Sadje

“Is there any way that you could’ve kept quiet?” My friend asked in desperation.

“What did I say wrong?” I was in full defensive mode, knowing that I could have kept my mouth shut and saved embarrassment to both of us.

“Sally, you knew that I was trying to be diplomatic and let Cathy down gently and you had to tell her that we were planning to go to the party without her. I do wish I could invent a zipper for your mouth to stop you from blurting out every secret that I share with you!”

“I’m sorry!”

🥕🥕🥕

Title by To Zip or Not? by Duane L Herrmann

A zipper is a fascinating contraption. It was not easy to invent, yet they are everywhere and we don’t think of their complexity. We’re only concerned when something goes wrong. If we can see the problem, and resolve it, we think no more about it. If not, then the item it is to zip, is likely ruined. That can be a disaster!

Who can replace a zipper? Not me.

The “Separable Fastener” we zip up (or down) has been around only since 1917. Soldiers in the Great War missed out on its convenience.

Even so, now we have velcro!

🥕🥕🥕

Inheritance — Unzipping the Past by Saifun Hassam

Maureen inherited her grandma Alicia’s books and four briefcases. Intrigued, Maureen sorted the books first, finding first editions and signed copies by the acclaimed historical fiction novelist Yllas Mathis.

Alicia and Yllas first met in the 1980s. Alicia was a book editor. Yllas was already a popular author. They became close friends, remaining so until Yllas died in 2009. Would her dad open up about the past, when Alicia divorced his dad?

Maureen unzipped the first briefcase. She was unprepared for the incomplete manuscripts from Yllas to Alicia, with informal notes. She cried quietly, imagining novels from the drafts.

🥕🥕🥕

The First Date by Irene Waters

“Listen to….” Carl couldn’t get a word in. Bringing Cassie on a first date to his favourite walk was a mistake. Her constant chatter drowned out the birdsong he so loved.

“Put a zip in it.” Heard at last, he breathed a sigh of relief when she marched ahead, shoulders set firm. Peace enveloped him.

Carl followed her. A surfer was the next victim to her chatter. She turned her back on Carl, saying loudly, “The zipper on your wetsuit’s jammed. I’ll help you, then let’s get a cup of coffee.”

“Zippety do dah. Yep. Things were going his way.

🥕🥕🥕

A View from the Top by Margaret Leggatt

“It doesn’t get better than this,” he says, pulling me close. I feel the heat of him. The valley below is a green tangle, the distant ridge shadow-rippled.

“Glorious,” I reply.

Returning to camp, he smiles encouragement.

“I knew you’d love it,” he says.

We pack up before dark, stowing the gear into zippered bags. His back is sweat-sheened, his body taut as he works. In gathering dusk, nightjars call. Mating songs.

My skin is aflame with insect bites, bruised and blistered.

I take a long, last look, drink him in, then pull the final zipper shut.

🥕🥕🥕

Shifting Boundaries by by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Lois started awake, struggling with her sleeping bag, before recalling she’d agreed to camping with Kenny. Not too keen on the northern woods, wild animals, and biting flies, but fair was fair. He’d gone to that Writer’s Conference with her, and from all appearances had a great time.

So she’d agreed to camping, in separate tents because they weren’t quite THERE in the relationship.

And again: the sound that’d awakened her before: snuffling around the tent’s perimeter, a low growl.

And more: the tent’s zipper, cutting through the night as it peeled across and up.

“Want company?” Kenny asked.

🥕🥕🥕

Celebrating Love By JulesPaige

‘Mommy’ wondered when she’d be able to wear a pair of trousers with a zipper again. Ballooning body with two babies called for stretchy clothing. Ultrasound imaging unzipped the mystery of their growth. And a slight normal complication called for an earlier than planned delivery.

The babies would be in NICU for a bit before they were able to come home. Until then – there would be quite a bit of zipping to and from the hospital until they could come home. Two new members of the family – details yet to unfold. Today would be one memorable Valentine’s Day.

🥕🥕🥕

Twins Entwined by Anne Goodwin

As children, they slept entangled, as in the womb. Dreaming, they couldn’t distinguish their twin’s limbs from their own. Nor their thoughts, it seemed, as they finished each other’s sentences, read each other’s mind.

Alba reached her teens an hour before Zoe did. Watching her whisper to other girls, Zoe felt Alba had ripped out her heart. Approaching their twenties, Alba partied. Zoe stayed home, stitching matching outfits Alba wouldn’t wear.

Zoe claimed she was honing her skills for Alba’s wedding dress. But she was sewing a suit they’d both fit into, fastened with a zip beyond Alba’s reach.

🥕🥕🥕

A Lot to Explain by Simon

He carefully applied the eyelashes, checked himself in the mirror, he pouted his lips and kissed his reflection in the air.
Doorbell rang.
Panicked, he unzipped the back of her dress, the zip got stuck. He quickly undid his eyelashes and hid his secret items, wore a baggy shirt over her dress.
His wife entered the room. He remained cool.
She asked concerned ‘Is everything okay?‘
Panicked but pretended cool said ‘yes’ and fiddled with his phone.
She asked ‘The zipper of tube top is stuck because I glued‘‘
His face turned white.
‘You got a lot to explain’

🥕🥕🥕

Zip It Up by Myrna Migala

Waking up today, a little sad remembering Valentine’s Day, I would find a big box of candy, but he is gone now, living still but high in the heavens; looking for something to cheer me, I found cherished happiness right here on UTube. Music meant for me!

It’s called “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Even that title of song frolics with joy, don’t you agree? It speaks of a Wonderful day with a Bluebird on our shoulder. The song goes on to say that everything is satisfaction! There is plenty of Sunshine, and we all need that to melt the Winter away. ♫

🥕🥕🥕

Zipperty Doo-Dah by Doug Jacquier

Finally, the superhero of all superheroes, The Prince of Lightness, had come face to face with his archrival, Count Schicklgruber, in his lair in The Den of the Iniquities in the deepest, darkest blackness of the Black Forest. Now the world would be rid of this monster, with his plans for world domination.
The Prince turned to his hard of hearing sidekick, the young Kid Sparrow, and said. ‘Kid, hand me the zapper’.
Kid rummaged in his backpack, handed the weapon to The Prince and then watched in horror as The Prince died with a zipper in his hand.

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Do This With New Clothes by Hugh W. Roberts

She’d been lucky. Nobody had noticed the price tag still attached to the dress she wore at the Christmas party.

While packing up the dress into the returns envelope to get a full refund, she noticed a zip just above the hem inside the dress.

‘That wasn’t there before,’ she announced.

Unzipping the mysterious zip, she placed her hand inside the hole. A hand grabbed her and pulled her inside the dress, but nobody heard her scream.

Although her husband filed a missing person report, she was never found and lived in darkness for the rest of her years.

🥕🥕🥕

Healing Takes Time by By Leanne Lieu

Agent Donohue unzipped an oddly-shaped black bag and broke into a sweat, frozen like a statue, watching the red numbers speedily count down. Before he knew it, Donohue saw “Fail” in red.

“What went through your mind?” asked Agent Morrow.

I … don’t know,” Donohue answered quietly. “Greene told me stay away because I had a family, so he faced it. Saw him blown to pieces.” He turned to Morrow unblinking, “Told his parents. Worst days of my life. It should’ve been me.”

“Losing a partner is never easy,” said Morrow. “You know what you need to do, right?”

🥕🥕🥕

Serial Killer by Simon

Mortuary cover Zipper noise filled the empty building. Red eyes, filled red had no mercy seeing the dead bodies. Hands were filled with blood stain, his hammer still dripping blood from the cold blooded murder it did.

He washed his hands, and prayed.

Dear Lord, Forgive me, These sinners had took a life of young girl, I smashed their heart, sent them to you. Unzip and fry these souls in hell.

He lit the Lighter and dropped on floor, the fire spread across the floor.

News–
8 Bodies found burnt, is this a serial killing? who is the killer?

🥕🥕🥕

I Closed the Zipper by Dark Feather

When I was a boy, I used to walk to school, where I passed a beggar sitting on the footpath. He was an amputee without legs below the knees. My ma would give me pennies, opening the zipper to a side pocket of my backpack. I’d reach behind, open the zipper, and offer what I had to him. One day, I arrived early to see the man walking to his place. He cautiously took a seat and hid his legs to look like they were cut from the knees. From that day on, I closed my zipper to him.

🥕🥕🥕

Fighting Teeth and Tale (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, did I jist see thet puglet a yers in a Finlandia Lions hoodie?”

“Yep. No more faux fur fer her! That sweatshirt keeps her warm whilst showin support.”

“Thet splains thet. Now what bout you? Back out?”

“Ain’t backin outta nuthin. I’m steppin up. I cleaned up, got ma best shirt on. Case we git university folks comin roun.”

“Kin see yer shined up a might, shirts tucked in, but it looks more like yer steppin down. Yer bent over.”

“I’m stuck Pal. Shirt’s in my zipper. Zippin up done brought me down.”

“Cain’t make this zip up.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fighting Teeth and Tale (Part II) by D. Avery

“What I need is fer the zip ta go down!”

“I’m tryin Kid! An fer the record, this’s the most awkward situation I been in fer you.”

“Does give new meanin ta the fact that yer crotchety Pal. Ow!”

“Ya cain’t wriggle outta yer jeans or yer shirt cuz yer too bent over. Gonna have ta cut it.”

“No! Don’t cut ma fancy shirt!”

“Well, thet zip ain’t budgin. Kid, I’m gonna have ta go fer hep.”

“Hep? Who?”

“Who else? Fact, she should be here with Burt soon makin her appointed rounds.”

“Frankie?”

“She’ll have the zip code.”

🥕🥕🥕

Fighting Teeth and Tale (Part III) by D. Avery

“Pal, where’s Frankie?”

“Laughin so hard tears is streamin from her eye. Says there ain’t no zip code fer the place yer at Kid.”

“Dang! Feel like I’m codin. I’m slippin inta last week’s prompt— anxiety!”

“Slip all the way back ta the wishes prompt Kid. Ya got three.”

“Ok. Wish ya wouldn’t cut my shirt.”

“Grannid. But you’ll remain in yer present situation.”

“Well, I wish I could stand up.”

“Grannid. But in yer present situation we’ll have ta cut yer shirt.”

“I wish this situation were presently over!”

“Grannid.”

“Pal! Ma shirt! Dang ya!”

“Zip it, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

Anxiety Collection

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

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

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

Our Angst Society by Bill Engleson

Bob Tinkler isn’t a fellow who has ever opened up much about what is bothering him. That’s my take anyway. So, after our just-resumed masked-up book club wrapped up tonight, I am surprised when he hails me as we walk to our cars.
“I was wondering,” he says.
“About what, Bob?”
“Well, you being a recent widower and all, did you and Maddie…talk about…you know…?”
“Dying?”
He nods.
“Yeah, we did. Quite a lot, actually. Why?”
We stop on the sidewalk.
Six feet apart.
Moons away in awareness.
I see the unease in his eyes.
And the tears flowing.

🥕🥕🥕

Desperately Anxious by Gary A. Wilson

Desperately addicted to antacids, Charles swallows and takes the stage.
He knows the auditorium sits 900 and is packed – again.
The video reaches thousands more.
They come from miles expecting truth and inspiration.
Today — they’ll see my failures.
Today – I’ll fail them.
– = Ξ = –
Desperately addicted to his words, single-mother, Tami, holds her sleeping new-born.
He’s starting.
The skin of her guilt will be peeled away . . .
Exposing me — before everyone.
. . . the evidence of her failure sleeps at her breast.
A path to forgiveness will be offered.
What if I can’t find and follow it?

🥕🥕🥕

Recipe for Anxiety by Duane L Herrmann

Never knowing when screaming would erupt, her children lived in fear. Mother was no help, trapped inside her pain planted by her mother overwhelmed by her own depression since her mother died when she was eight and abandoned.

Would it be the way I walked? Shut my lips? Swallowed? Even sleeping was not safe. What would set her off? Of course, none of the work I did at her demand was completed to her satisfaction. When would the screaming begin again? I couldn’t please her no matter what I tried. I grew up, lived my own life, but PTSD remained.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cost of Never Again by Anne Goodwin

The guide thrusts his shaking hands deep into his pockets, tries to steady his voice although his tongue cleaves to the roof of his mouth. Yet his ratings are perfect; the tour so familiar, he’s abandoned the script. Must be some bug; it can’t be nerves.

The students aren’t listening. They pose for selfies below Arbeit Macht Frei. They see his head jerk towards the ghost-sounds: a steam train; children crying; the shouts of the guards. His nostrils twitch at the stench of burning bodies; the sweat; the fear.

His bowels know the terror of being Jewish in 1944.

🥕🥕🥕

I Think I Used to Be Something by Doug Jacquier

I don’t know how to be yet
when I am nothing that I used to be;
how to begin and end the day at the same place
and radiate contentment.
I don’t know if I will go mad
or how I will know
or how it will end,
if it ends.
I don’t know how to be still
long enough to be
nothing,
so I can decide
if there is any something to be.
And what if I want
to be nothing?
Will there be anything left to love?
And will there be anything left of me to care?

🥕🥕🥕

A Truckstop in Georgia by Kerry E.B. Black

To break up our road trip, we visited a rest stop. We unfolded ourselves from our seats, grateful to stretch.

Without warning, a storm seized my girl. As though lost within herself, she lashed out with words and crutches, bites and pinches. We encircled, offering comfort and gentle words. She bucked, wild and incoherent, unseeing eyes all whites, teeth a weapon for the unwary.

I dodge, lift her in a hug and rush from the store, soothing. With a rush of tears, she returns to the here and now, embarrassed, contrite, and unable to identify what triggered her attack.

🥕🥕🥕

Knowing My Grandmother by Hope Wagner

“How’s college, my dear?”

My grandmother glances over to me from the brown rocking chair, her body rigid and motionless. A warm smile flashes accompanied by blank eyes. I tell her about the classes I love, and the one I hate, Introduction to Computers. She used to know how bad I am with technology. I lightly cover the run-down buildings and my floral decorated dorm. When she rests her hand atop mine, cold and feather-light, I know to stop speaking.

After a few more minutes, she asks, “How’s college?”

My stomach crumbles a little as her hand squeezes mine.

🥕🥕🥕

A River Runs Through It by Geoff Le Pard

Anxiety reigns in Little Tittweaking around now. If the River Tweak hasn’t begun to flow by St Poon’s Day, much wailing and gnashing ensue; if the first dribble is declared by the designated elder before the saint’s day, fecundity is guaranteed. Since the elder is always chosen from the regulars of the Compost and Rot, by the time moisture is detected, said elder is usually face down in the mud, babbling incoherently. Consequently, the anxiety grows which explains why this day is known locally as Ground Bog Day and, in recent years has coincided with an early Valium harvest.

🥕🥕🥕

Faith by D. Avery

Grinning, he stamped snow off his boots.

“You’re something else,” he exclaimed.

She looked at him, uncomprehending.

“You made snow angels!”

She smiled weakly, petting the dog. Here’s an angel, she thought.

She wouldn’t tell him that with fogged glasses she’d lost her bearings in the pitch black; that she’d fallen in the deep snow then flailed wildly, panicked, trapped in a whirling vortex of anxiety; that even after regaining her footing, she’d still felt completely lost until barking directed her to the house, stumbling and sobbing with relief.

She would let him believe she’d intentionally made snow angels.

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety Superpowers by Charli Mills

Peanut excelled at detecting anxiety. When she was a puppy, no more than a bit of fluff, anxiety scared her. Her partner, a woman who slept in a bigger cage than Peanut’s, stroked her fur, crooning. Little by little, Peanut stopped hiding. She padded toward discomfort, sniffing the air. To her amazement, the anxiety melted. The more Peanut pushed through invisible walls, the easier it became. Her partner nodded. “You got superpowers Little Dog.” Now Peanut roams the prison, sleuthing anxiety, cuddling anyone in need. It’s not easy living in cages, but together Peanut and her women grow braver.

🥕🥕🥕

First Day Jitters by Norah Colvin

“I feel sick.”
“My tummy feels all jumbly.”
“My head hurts.”
“I don’t want to go.”
“You’ll be okay once you’re there. Everyone feels the same on their first day at a new school.’
“But what if they don’t like me?”
“They will. Come on. You’ll feel better when you’re up.”
“But what if I mess up?”
“You won’t. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths. Relax. You can do this.”
Everyone was already seated when he entered the room. They smiled. “Good morning, Mr Clarke.”
He smiled back. “Good morning, children.”
She was right. He could do this.

🥕🥕🥕

Wedding Guests (Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa’s daughter, Vicki, was still her Daddy’s girl and up until her mother’s remarriage day had refused to come for a visit or meet Michael. When she finally walked into the No Thanks, Lexi pounced, “Mom’s been fretting all morning that you weren’t going to show.”

“I’m not late. Dad and I flew in together. We had to wait for the rental car.”

Lexi’s face turned beet red. “WHY, is he here?”

“He wants to meet Emma and see you and Brent. Tomorrow will do.”

“You’re unbelievable. This is about celebrating Mom and Michael, not catering to our father.”

🥕🥕🥕

Wedding Guests (Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa’s father saw the heated exchange between his granddaughters and went to investigate. “Hi, Vickie. Glad you could make it.”

Lexi snarled, “She brought Dad.”

“Excuse me,” Don replied.

Vickie whined. “He deserves to have a Thanksgiving with all of us too.”

Don shook his head in disbelief and sadness.

“I don’t mean today,” Vickie added. “He went to our hotel.”

Don spoke evenly. “You text him and say I said to stay there. And don’t tell your mother he’s here.”

“Yes, Grandpa.” Vickie pulled out her cell phone.

Lexi waited, then took her sister to see their mother.

🥕🥕🥕

Wedding Guests (Part III) by Sue Spitulnik

After dinner, the photographer called Michael and Tessa to the cake table. Katie went to open the back door of the No Thanks for Gaylan’s group. “It’s time.”

“I can’t. “

“Come on. We’re all expecting this!”

“Except the happy couple.”

“You cleared it with Tessa’s Dad and Michael’s Mom. Hurry up!”

“What if Michael gets upset?”

“He won’t.”

Gaylan gulped, looked back at the group, blew the pitch pipe, and motioned, onward.

The church youth choir encircled the room as the invited guests backed away from the cake table. The rendition of “Unchained Melody” took everyone’s breath away.

🥕🥕🥕

First Night Nerves by Hugh W. Roberts

The thought of the upcoming honeymoon caused Arnold nothing but anxiety.

What if he couldn’t perform? What if Enid, his soon-to-be new wife, demanded more? Not even the thought of Enid’s lovely, long legs helped with his anxiety.

But Arnold needn’t have ever been anxious. On the night of their wedding, Enid made him feel relaxed and comfortable. By the time the performance was over, Arnold’s anxiety had disappeared. But three minutes later, Arnold was dead.

As Enid cocooned Arnold’s hairy body, she thought about her next husband. How lucky she was to be a female, black widow spider.

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety by Simon

I told million times I won’t come, it wasn’t a lie

Mingle with scary crowd? I’d rather die

As I stood inside the crowded park

Jesus statue beside was the landmark

Dark cross shaped mole was my birth mark

I jumped for the noise of black dog bark

I want to escape this before I faint

Forgive my friends? I am no saint

Million times, I said I have anxiety

Don’t look at me like it’s an abnormality

We all have issues, and I have this anxiety

It’s not a disorder

Now listen to my order

I’m going home.

🥕🥕🥕

Accounting Anxiety by Colleen M. Chesebro

“I can’t do this again,” I mumbled. I’d tallied the debit and credits four times and they still didn’t balance by mere pennies. I prided myself on balancing to the penny. My face grew hot.

O.K. calming breaths. I inhaled and closed my eyes as I slipped into the darkness of meditation. Colors danced behind my closed lids. Peace and calm filled my soul.

“Colleen, are those expense reports ready? They were due an hour ago,” my boss called out.

My meditation finished; I added the numbers again. The error was obvious. I’d transposed a number.

“On my way!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Boards by Nancy Brady

Five years of schooling came down to this: the boards. Julia knew that she’d studied hard, especially math, her biggest worry, but she also knew that some of the smartest students failed in their first attempts passing the tests covering all the knowledge the university taught.

The night before she was reviewing some material when she realized she didn’t know anything about Kayexelate. It was a random question on the practice materials, yet suddenly, her anxiety level climbed into the stratosphere.

Panic set in, but Julia called her tutor, who calmed her down.

The next day, the exams began.

🥕🥕🥕

A Surprise Test by Ruchira Khanna

“What! How can that be?” I howled, “How can our teacher give us a surprise test?” I exclaimed as I sat on the bench with a thud staring at the paper while rubbing the back of my neck.

I chewed my pen while fingering my necklace, trying to find the solution to those questions.

Just then, the alarm buzzed.

I woke up with a start with sweat on my forehead.

When I realized my surroundings, I pressed my palm against my eyes and gave out shaky laughter.

“Oh! God, I promise I’m going to study before this comes true!”

🥕🥕🥕

Searching by Leanne Lieu

With textbooks, class notes, and laptop spread on the coffee table, Barry is trying to study for his midterm. In the corner of his eye, he couldn’t help but get distracted by Claire at the dining table.

Claire was staring at her laptop like she was searching for a demon in the World Wide Web. If she blinked, the demon would disappear. Her fingers pressing buttons under the table, as if she was orchestrating an attack against the demon.

Barry forced his eyes to his notes until he saw Claire pull a clump of her hair and chew it.

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety by Diana Coombes

Walking into a room, where strangers are abound

Your ears sensitive to each little sound,

Heart beating in an irregular way,

losing the ability for anything to say.

Talking in a room, where your fears are bound,

Your eyes sensitive to bright light all around,

Palms sweating in an uncontrollable way,

Wishing you could end this without delay.

Running for a room, where control is found,

in your brain, there is fog all around,

Your stomach sensitive and without delay,

You find somewhere safe in which to stay.

Heart rate slows, a deep breath in, this day will end and you’ll begin.

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Fear Freezes by Irene Waters

Janice took some deep breaths, feeling her heart racing in her chest. Anxiously she spread her arms to the sky. “I can do it” she muttered under her breath although her fear of flying was freezing her as hard and turning her as white as marble. One more deep breath and she dialled the airline to book her ticket. “Breathe” she whispered wondering how, if she was struggling now to control her fear, would she ever get on the plane.
“You’re booking number is R I P 76543.”
“I’m sorry but you’ll have to cancel the ticket.” Janice stammered.

🥕🥕🥕

Re-entry by D. Avery

“Breathe,” she reminded herself going through the gate.

The woman watched her approach, accusing eyes penetrating her, scanning her bag, evaluating.

Just one bag?

Breathe. Just answer the questions. Stay calm.

What’s the nature of your visit? How long do you intend to stay?

She’d already made these declarations. Why another grilling?

She stammered out her responses, lightheaded with anxiety. Why was it always this way? Why couldn’t she handle herself better by now.

A man appeared beside the woman with the accusing eyes.

“Everything okay here?”

They both looked at him. Her anxiety subsided.

“Yeah Dad. Everything’s okay.”

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety Times Three (Anxiety #1) by Michael Fishman

“Hello?”

HANG UP!

“Daniel?”

CALLER ID.

“Are you there, Daniel?”

“Eileen?”

“Hi Daniel.”

“This is Daniel. Hoffman.”

“I know.”

STUPID.

“How are you, Daniel?”

“Uh, ok. So, y’know the school’s Valentine’s Day dance is coming up… I, uh, thought you might want to go? Y’know, with me. To the dance.

“Daniel, I’d—”

“If you don’t, I understand. Or if somebody else already asked you…”

“No, I’d love to go with you.”

OH GOD!

“Ok. I think I should probably go now, Eileen. See you at school tomorrow maybe, ok? We’ll talk?”

“Yeah, for sure!”

“Ok, thanks. Bye.”

OH GOD?

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety Times Three (Anxiety #2) by Michael Fishman

Russell was uncomfortable.

Tonight’s group had been difficult: too many people and too much noise. He didn’t want to go, but he forced himself because if he didn’t try… if he stayed home, what then?

Russell picked up his pen, opened his notebook and started writing. He journaled in pen because he liked the physical connection between his thoughts and the paper. He wrote quickly, messily, but neatness didn’t matter. Russell wrote until the pain in his cramped fingers was stronger than the pain in his chest. He closed the journal, went to bed. Prayed, and willed himself asleep.

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety Times Three (Anxiety #3) by Michael Fishman

Tuesday evening and Robert was driving home from his job at Gregor Hardware. For an afterschool job this was perfect. When it was busy he worked; during downtimes Mr. Gregor encouraged him to study.

Robert was lost in thought when the flashers lit up behind him. He put on his blinker, moved to the curb and stopped.

Stay calm.

He rolled the window down and looked up at the police officer who was shining a flashlight around the inside of his car.

“I saw you weaving back there, sir. Would you mind stepping out of the car?”

Dear God.

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Take Anxiety, Lightly by Sadje

From a young age, Janie was beset with excessive worrying which was taking a toll on her studies and relationships with her family and friends.

As she grew older the complications grew. Her mom suggested seeing a therapist for her excessive anxiety but she was offended at the idea. Things came to a head when she had a baby. Combined with the worries of a first-time mom, postpartum depression, and anxiety, she just wasn’t able to cope.

Finally, it was her husband who convinced her to seek treatment and eased her worries about the stigma attached to mental health.

🥕🥕🥕

It Is by Hannah Everingham

Anxiety knows I have to meet the therapist today
It knows that I have to tell her how I have been doing
It lingers when she asks the simple question
It attacks only when I least want it to
A simple touchy question is asked
Anxiety takes that as a cue to strike

Anxiety understands today is a big day
It knows I took a big step and scheduled another appointment
I walk in with hesitation knowing what will happen
It will always be there no matter what time of day
Along with myself, I wish anxiety would die

🥕🥕🥕

Not Me by Greg Glazebrook

My heart races as the world closes in. Periphery blurring to gray as my jaw tightens. The room seemingly devoid of air. Fingertips numb and tingling, I clutch at the pain in my chest…

Embarrassed and disoriented, I wake to the voices of the paramedics. As I recover I downplay the significance but inside I’m freaking out. Could I have had a heart attack at 27?

After several hours in the ER, the doctor shares his diagnosis, “Your heart looks good, I suspect it was an anxiety attack.”

“Me, panic?” I reply. “Not a chance. You better check again.”

🥕🥕🥕

My First Panic Attack by Joanne Fisher

I didn’t realise I had anxiety. In my early twenties I had my first full-blown panic attack. I was in a marketplace and my heart started racing, and the flat ground around me became steep and I was unable to traverse it. I suddenly feared gravity would fail me and I would fall into the blue sky. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought I was dying.

These days I know the signs, and when it hits in a supermarket or out walking, I focus on my breathing and try to touch something around me. Eventually it passes.

🥕🥕🥕

Magic for Every Day by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She picked at her cuticle, her nail scraping at the skin that had grown terribly hard and calloused, and now extended like a unicorn’s horn, on her middle, tallest finger. “That’s prophetic,” she thought wryly, giving the side-eye to her boyfriend.

He was explaining why his mother should to move into the basement of her townhome: Limited income, loneliness, chronic health problems.

Funny, that’s what he’d argued when he moved in with her. Was any of this worth it?

She considered biting off the hangnail, but reconsidered. She’d need the protection of a unicorn’s horn in the coming days.

🥕🥕🥕

Car Ride by Madeline Murphy

“Shit, shit, shit! Lord, please not now!!
I’m zooming down I84 when it hit.
It starts with a tightness in my chest.
I grab the steering wheel, hold it as tight as the hold in my chest.

The faintness comes next. Then the fear that I will have a heart attack right here in this car. I slide over to the far right lane. If it happens then at least the accident won’t involve too many cars.

“Breathe girl, breathe! Please breathe!” I count to ten. I catch my breath. My heart slows down. I’m back. “Thank you Lord.”

🥕🥕🥕

AnXieTY by Chel Owens

tHE groCERy StOre ClerK ScoWled tHE Woman HONKeD NO ONE caMe to BooK gROUp but ThEY SAID they DidN’t hAte Me I boUGht tHe pineaPple laMP he SAid hE LIKed TheN he PrOmIseD hE lOveD me AS he FLiRTed So i GuESS it’S tRUe BuT wHAt is tRue i ASkeD mY cOUNselOR wHO says THIS IS ALL NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS buT am I ReAlLy NegAtIve OR arE You ALL DElusiOnaL gUess i’ll GO To bEd sInce It’S 3 a.m. AgaIn

ZzZZzzZzzzzzzz

What a lovely, new day. Hello Clerk, Woman, Neighbors, Pineapple lamp, Honey, Counselor. What shall we tackle today?

🥕🥕🥕

Just a Medical Consultation by Marcelo Medone

The doctor motioned for me to sit in front of his desk and began flipping through my chart.
“Mr. Marcus, what makes you think you need an on-call psychiatric consultation?”
“I already explained it in Admission. I suffer from anxiety attacks.”
“Are you under the influence of any medication?”
“Only clonazepam. I take it when I am more nervous than usual.”
“And now you’re nervous?”
“Shrinks make me crazy and I get out of control.”
Then the doctor pressed a button on his intercom.
I don’t remember anything that happened next.
I just hope they let me out soon.

🥕🥕🥕

Bloody Fingers by Sam Kirk

In disgust, Anne looked at her bloodied fingers, wondering what her parents would say. She recalled the days when they would scold her for biting her nails when she got worried. In a way, she missed it.

The sheer recollection of her being nervous made her anxious, and so her fingers met her teeth again. No one seemed to understand that it helped her think. It helped her focus, and she needed to focus then more than ever.

She had to figure out what to do with Janet who lay in front of her in a pool of blood.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Show Fear by MR Macrum

Should he tell his mother he heard her on the phone last night?

Should he tell her he knew someone far away threatened his life?

Should he run to her, grab her, hug her; tell her everything is alright?

Even at the age of nine, Mark knew the answers.

His family always kept their eyes dry above their stiff upper lips.

Never show pain.

So he held back, restrained himself; quaking and shaking under his blanket until daylight.

The next day Mark was on a plane to Florida to join his father who had just started a new job.

🥕🥕🥕

Seeing Double? by JulesPaige

After a successful medical assist in planting their garden… the couple watched as ‘she’ bloomed.The unexpected twist was that identical twins were due. They were both very anxious to be new parents.

Stress piled up due to the current pandemic. Distress about being about in public places, knowing that they lived in a small space, not being able to travel, delayed job transfers, who could they hire to help, and earned promotions would also change their lives.

Premies might have to be in the NICU for a while. Family support was paramount. And for that the couple was grateful.

🥕🥕🥕

Anxiety is by Day Anderson

Lying motionless on a deathbed while the sun stands firmly on an mountain horizon
Waiting for darkness to wrap her frigid hands around my face and kiss me slow
I have an fatal attraction for your binding love

Running through the night escaping my sorrow
Swimming in circles
Will God see me tomorrow?

How can a young bird fly freely if it is trapped behind bars?
Demons taking it to far
Guiding me to this dark place they call my mind

Old souls decay while new seeds bloom
My soul can no longer see it through
Anxiety is undefined

🥕🥕🥕

Death Overwhelms Living by Kayla Morrill

I stare out at the expansive city landscape from my fourth story office. I look thoughtfully at the river and then further to the many snow covered roofs of houses and businesses.
My glance veers towards a clearing away from the city. The clearing contains multiple, evenly spaced, dark specks in the snow that jut upwards.
I thought it was peaceful at first being away from the bustle of people, but then I realized and I began to shake, cold with fear.
Death was watching me from beyond my window.
“I am not ready to die,” I screamed aloud.

🥕🥕🥕

Diagnosis by Ami (Gypsie) Offenbacher-Ferris

The pounding on the door was beginning to irritate me. My recliner wasn’t too far away from it but it might as well have been a million miles.

My neighbor let the paramedics in with his key. I tried to tell them to go away but, as I couldn’t breathe so well, nothing emerged but a strangled gasp for breath.

Oxygen installed over my nose, the little paramedic diagnosed me with an anxiety attack. He suggested I seek out professional help. They left.

Leaving me alone in my recliner with my mask on, still battling COVID-19 and pneumonia.

🥕🥕🥕

You’re Only (and Specially) Human by Doug Jacquier

Covid is the classic example of why trite words about the management of anxiety are insufficient for dealing with uneasiness and apprehension, especially when there are no silver bullets. The raison d’etre of most media outlets and campaigners for causes, both real and imaginary, is the production of anxiety about outcomes that are as about as likely as winning the lottery and which generate the same unproductive adrenalin. Cutting off the oxygen to things that don’t bring you peace is a start but it won’t protect you from the ancient instinctive responses that make you a very human survivor.

🥕🥕🥕

Liberation by Frank James

“Mommy, my belly hurts,” Billy said.
“Baby, it’s your anxiety,” I replied.
His eyes teared, “What should I do?”
“Breath, baby,” I hugged him, “You control reaction to thoughts.”
“I will,” he sobbed. My heart sank because he couldn’t manage anxiety manifesting from watching paramedics trying to save his father. Each occasion, I only distracted him. I learned tools to redirect emotions. We made a game, and our ”Tummy Time” every day shaped his stability and work ethic. We walked the steps.
He later harnessed anxiety’s energy to become class Valedictorian. He eventually graduated medical school, specializing in anxiety disorders.

🥕🥕🥕

Gravel Travel by Ann Edall-Robson

Gravel travel soothes me…
The sound of rocks nipping at the underside of the vehicle, washboard ruts, and whoa, back up, stop moments worthy of being captured in the mind or on film.
Finding that place to pull over and sit watching and listening. Uninterrupted, with the exception of the local rancher or farmer stopping to see if you need help.
An easy smile, thoughts and memories shed tears.
Morning darkness welcomes the sunrise and the wakening earth sounds until the sun and clouds drift towards sunset, moonrise, and star-studded sky.
The gravel roads soothe me, grounds me.

🥕🥕🥕

Hannah (Lynn Valley Stories) by Saifun Hassam

Like her fellow restaurant owners, Hannah experienced unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety during the pandemic. She shut down her “Spuds Restaurant” to think through how to open the restaurant again.

Hannah spent her days in the restaurant’s gardens, unwinding, creating mindfulness. She wrote her ideas on posters. Pickup and delivery services. Closed after lunch. Masks and social distancing in the kitchens.

Her sister Carol, and her staff, joined her in the gardens. Sitting six feet apart, masked, they laughed. They cried, wanting to hug. Exuberant, supportive. Suggestions poured forth. Free meals for First Responders. “Chef in training ” on Hanah’s website.

🥕🥕🥕

Stampede Impede (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, git outta thet bunk already. There’s anuther prompt ta wrangle.”

“Cain’t.”

“Ya feelin okay?”

“No. I’m not. Feelin’ like I jist cain’t do this Pal. I don’t know nuthin bout wrangling words. What’m I even doin’ here? Should never a left back east.”

“Jist shush, Kid. You kin do this.”

“No. I cain’t. Folks’ll laugh at me.”

“Ain’t thet what yer here fer?”

“Oh yeah. Well, what if folks don’t laugh at me? What if I fall flat?”

“Fallin ain’t failin Kid.”

“There’s a stampede thunderin in my chest Pal.”

“You kin do this Kid.”

“Ain’t easy.”

“Nope.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stampede Impede (Part II) by D. Avery

“Feelin any better Kid?”

“Little bit. Pal, member when ya fell in that old mine? How ya described fallin inta it an bein down there in the dark… that’s kinda what happens. I jist gotta settle an look fer shafts a light.”

“Reckon Ernie could hep ya out?”

“I’d ruther not go thet route. His cookies kick my butt, an might git that stampede goin agin. I’m jist gonna set a spell, breathe the fresh ranch air.”

“I’ll set with ya, Kid.”

“Hey Pal?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks fer not accusin me a whinin or sayin this ain’t real.”

“ ’S’okay Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Faux Better Not Wurst (Part I) by D. Avery

“Whut brings on yer anxiety, Kid?”

“Most anythin if’n I think on it too much.”

“Thinkin ya shouldn’t think on things too much.”

“Been thinkin on that rogue bear that’s been spied ranging roun the ranch.”

“Rogue bear! Thet mebbe cause fer some anxiousness.”

“I’m anxious cause it’s Curly. In a fur coat.”

“Really? Fur? Whut fer?”

“Faux fur. Fer her ta keep warm. But now with the rampant rumors of a rogue bear roamin the ranch I’m real worried bout bear hunters.”

“Only things get hunted at Carrot Ranch is stories, Kid. This un’ll turn out all right.”

🥕🥕🥕

Faux Better Not Wurst (Part II) by D. Avery

“I know, I know Pal. Carrot Ranch is a safe place an this story’ll jist have ta turn out all right fer Curly in her fur coat, but I cain’t hep thinkin someone’s gonna wanna open season on a bear that’s wanderin aroun. An if somethin happens cause I put my pig in a fur coat—”

“Faux fur, Kid. Faux fur. Jist calm down. Ya were jist tryin ta take care a yer hoglet, make her comforble.”

“That’s jist it, Pal. It were actually a selfish move. See, I wanted Curly ta be more snuggly. Fer my comfort.”

🥕🥕🥕

Faux Better Not Wurst (Part III) by D. Avery

“Kid, ya ain’t got ta git all anxious bout a pig in a fur coat bein took fer a bear. Think pos-tively. Envisionin like.”

“Okay.”

“Ya visioned yer hoglet bein warm an snuggly in thet coat.”

“Yep.”

“Now vision folks findin thet so, mebbe pettin her.”

“I see it Pal. She’s gittin lots a attenshun. An food too! Everone’s feelin good.”

“Good Kid, thet’s a good vision.”

“An I ain’t worried bout her bein mistook fer a bear no more. She et so much she burst the buttons on the fur coat.”

“But yer anxious agin Kid.”

“Curly’ll freeze!”

🥕🥕🥕

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

The ’49ers Collection

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

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

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

Forty-Niners Folk Song by Chel Owens

I’ll tell ya ’bout the year we seen
A thousand-thousand chasing dreams
They sought for El Dorado’s prize
‘Neath California’s azure skies
Mining-mining
All day long
Forty-niners
Sing this song
Ned left his wife and their love-nest
Left their new babe to go out West
He ain’t found gold, but don’t you fret
He’s learned to dig and drink and bet
Digging-digging
All day long
Forty-niners
Sing this song
Jim found some dust away down there
He spent it all on golden hair
Next day, Jim panned and found some more
He went right back to that ol’ h-ore…
(Final chorus, past the word count)
Panning-panning
All day long
Forty-niners
Sing this song

🥕🥕🥕

Courage by Saifun Hassam

Will, 17, joined the 49ers’ wagon train bound for California, leaving Kentucky, coal mines, and tobacco fields. An apprentice carpenter, he planned to pan for gold. Carpentry would provide bread and butter until he struck it rich.

One evening a fiddler played a haunting Appalachian song. A woman began to sing. An appreciative crowd gathered at the fiddler’s wagon. Charlie Newman, Innkeeper. Patti, the young singer, his daughter.

Will wept silent tears for his old home. Patti, one leg crippled, stood tall. She was a 49er, daring, courageous, seeking a new future. He would stand tall, as she did.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Start? by JulesPaige

All that glitters t’ain’t gold. But Shelby followed her pappy. After all he was the only one left after illness or starvation took out most of her close kin. She had loved her mountains, but the bitter cold winters – that she could do without. Shelby reckoned there’d be other things to fear, other animals besides the other starry eyed dreaming people that were all rushing to the same thing.

Just to be on the safer side, she raggedly cropped her hair short and wore her dead brother’s clothes. Iffin’ anything happened to pappy, she’d be fending for herself.

🥕🥕🥕

From Hopeless to Hopeful by Gary A. Wilson

Dear mother,

I want to share my news.

After surviving being snowbound with Mr. Donner, I’ve been trying to forgive myself for how we survived.

With the gold rush I obtained a stake near Placerville, but even modest supplies cost every dollar I had — and I found no gold.

I wanted to marry the nurse who helped me recover, but would not because I was broke.

I’m writing to report that I’ve accepted an offer from her father to manage his tarp business thanks to my textile experience in Boston.

His name is, Levi Strauss.

With Love, James.

🥕🥕🥕

The Housekeeper by Madeline Murphy

Miss Mary Ellen placed the pies outside to cool. Every day she made many for the gold miners. They paid good money, starving as they were for comfort food from wives left behind. Later, she would check on her laundry business in town, then the boarding house. Tonight she had a family of five staying with her. She replenished the special room in her attic with food and bedding. No one would suspect the Black housekeeper to be a wealthy abolitionist helping with the Underground Railroad during California’s gold rush. Her business savvy made her a powerful millionaire entrepreneur.

🥕🥕🥕

Pacific Seas (Part I) by D. Avery

The California Gold Rush began as New Bedford surpassed Nantucket as whaling capital of the world.

By the 1830’s whaleships big enough to sail the Earth’s oceans were too big for Nantucket’s sandy harbor. The 1846 fire destroyed one-third of downtown Nantucket, significantly damaging whaling infrastructure. When gold was discovered in 1848 many of Nantucket’s ships sailed for California. By 1850, 650 Nantucket men had headed west, with hundreds more to follow.

Just as with whaling, many women were left behind. Maybe this is why Nantucket’s greater legacy has been strong entrepreneurial women with a proclivity for social activism.

🥕🥕🥕

Pacific Seas (Part II) by D. Avery

Though her San Francisco businesses made Nantucketer Mary Ellen Pleasants very rich, she did not go to California in 1852 seeking gold, but to avoid persecution for her work with the Underground Railroad in the previous decade.

The “mother of civil rights in California”, Mary Ellen Pleasant often stated that she’d “rather be a corpse than a coward”, and her actions were as strong as her words. Herself born into bondage, Pleasants tirelessly fought slavery and continued after the war to help people be safe, secure, and prosperous. Within her lifetime her enemies tried to rewrite her remarkable story.

🥕🥕🥕

Pacific Seas (Part III) by D. Avery

Mammy’s hid behind many names. Had to.

She give John Brown money for his raid, even bought houses up in Canada for folks to go after his raid. Went back east herself and rode horseback to the plantations around Harper’s Ferry to warn slaves around there to be ready to go after the raid.

You’ll never know half what that woman done for all us folks. Bought some out of slavery, helped folks get to California, set folks up in houses, businesses and farms; hid fugitives, hired lawyers.

Mammy didn’t just save me. She showed me how to live.

🥕🥕🥕

Gold Rush Aspirations by Colleen. M Chesebro

Trixie’s dress rustled as she delivered another round of ale to the group of 49ers seated at the table.

“Hey, Trixie, when I strike it rich will you marry me?” murmured one man as he stroked her leg.

Trixie answered, “Sure, but you’ll have to show me your gold first.” The men howled with laughter.

She knew it was the ale talking. None of these men would marry a whore. Besides, she owned a stake upriver from Sutter’s Mill.

The weight of the gold sewed into the hem of her dress made her smile. Soon, this bordello would be hers!

🥕🥕🥕

Finding More Than Gold by Sadje

They came in 1849. Dusty caravans, hungry, hopeful people dreaming of striking it rich. Mason was among the first ones. He did the stuff others were doing but soon realized a very important fact.

Not everyone who was looking for gold would find it. But everyone needed to eat needed to buy soap or other necessities of life.

Taking a loan from a shrewd businessman, he set up a small one room store. Gradually it becomes popular because of Mason’s straight dealing and honesty.

Not everyone found gold, but Mason landed on his feet as he found his niche.

🥕🥕🥕

Gold Does Not Always Glitter by Doug Jacquier

The Australian 1851ers, inspired by the Californian 1849ers, flocked to goldfields across Australia, doubling its population in 10 years. Amongst the immigrants seeking their fortune were thousands of Chinese, whose skills and work ethic, especially on sites abandoned by other miners, brought them great rewards. Australian, American and German miners resented this and, in the tradition of the 49ers, regularly brutalised and murdered the Chinese. The Government soon after banned Chinese immigration. The ‘White Australia Policy’ effectively remained in place for the next hundred years. Gold does not always glitter and the romance of history hides some awful truths.

🥕🥕🥕

Pioneers of Another Sort by Duane L Herrmann

Some pioneering is conducted in spiritual endeavors. Some have risked family position and wealth to stand for what they believe. They sacrifice to create a social network where equality of women, and of skin color, are foundational, not ideals, and coercion is forbidden. Where science is essential to human progress, farming is the most important occupation, education is second. The name is different and persecuted. What firmness is necessary to persevere? Some die once, others sacrifice again and again and again. Yet, gradually, new social networks emerge, grow and converge to change the world as more learn about Bahá’í.

🥕🥕🥕

A Plague of Gold by Bill Engleson

“It is tempting, Samuel. And we have Saints there already.”

“Some have fallen to the lure, Brigham. They will not be returning.”

“Take hold of yourself, Samuel. We have not lost them. Indeed, they will never be lost to us. Daily we have those from the east passing through our valley seeking provisions. Our crops have begun to flourish. Those starving for gold need to eat. We should send a contingent of brothers to California. Miners for Zion. Our people are true, the vision clear.”

“I hope you are right.”

“You will lead the expedition, Samuel. Go with God.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gold Dust by D. Avery

He pressed the lock of golden hair to his lips before returning it to the small pouch meant for gold nuggets.

That there were no gold nuggets hadn’t mattered. They’d both come to California as much for adventure as to find fortune. Then they found each other and were soon imagining a future rich in shared plans and dreams.

Lucas

1825-1849

He paused in his carving, knowing that Lucas’ last name was part of the past he’d wanted to leave behind.

Smiling through tears, he finished inscribing the wooden cross, giving his own last name to his dear Lucas.

🥕🥕🥕

49er by Ann Edall-Robson

“Miss Ann says she’s a 49er.”

“She’s older than that!”

“Norman! Watch what you say.”

“Well, isn’t she, Buttons?”

“I’m not asking her.”

“Not asking me what, Buttons?”

“Oh, um, Norman wants to know what a 49er is.”

“No, I said you had to be older than 49.”

Laughing, she patted the Hereford calf.

“Buttons is right, I am a 49er, but it has nothing to do with my age and everything to do with where we live — north of the 49th parallel, in Canada.”

“Oh.”

“And Norman, you’re right, I am older than 49.”

“I told you, Buttons!”

🥕🥕🥕

The 49ers Facebook Group by Anne Goodwin

She beamed when her phone pinged with a new notification. Her request to join the 49ers had been approved. Supported by her peer group, she’d learn to manage middle age.

Her peer group? Images of surgically-sculpted doll-like masks. Wrinkled faces framed by wispy orange hair. Miss Havishams stuck at forty-nine since she was in her cot.

She closed the app and texted friends and family. She’d warned them previously: No surprise parties! No fifty badged cards! She’d changed her mind, she told them. Hitting fifty was a cause for celebration: all that life behind her, all that fun ahead.

🥕🥕🥕

The 49ers by Nancy Brady

My brother-in-law Adam was a Baby Boomer, born after World War II (1946 to 1961). Until recently, Boomers were an influential group of people because of sheer numbers.

Adam, however, was a special part of the Baby Boomer generation. He wasn’t alone. There are plenty of famous people who qualify. They include Meryl Streep, John Belushi, Pablo Escobar, and a serial killer.

Adam wasn’t a serial killer although he probably killed some cereals in his time. His favorite was Sugar Crisp, but Cheerios would do in a pinch.

Author’s Note: He and the others mentioned are all 49ers, born in 1949.

🥕🥕🥕

Peerless by D. Avery

“Why are those people with the high-def hair all taking selfies?” Joan asked.

“The 49ers. Using their phones as mirrors, checking to see if their roots are showing.”

A group of women waved them over. Joan’s older friend introduced her before they sat down.

“49ers? What’s that?”

A gray-haired woman explained. “The 49ers won’t admit to aging.”

“Too bad for them, they don’t know what they’re missing,” laughed another.

“I’m 49.”

“First time though? Some of them have been 49 for years!”

“They call us the Crones.”

“Maybe I’m too young?”

“You’re okay. Never too young to start learning.”

🥕🥕🥕

The ’49ers by Norah Colvin

The history buffs needed a name for the trivia competition — nothing mundane and overused like ‘The No Hopers’ or boringly obvious like ‘Work Mates’ — something meaningful, not overly obvious, but not too obscure.

“How about The ’49ers?” one suggested.

“Perfect!” the others agreed.

No one thought too much about the monikers of others, but was it coincidental that each week The ’49ers scored exactly 49? Another team scoffed.

“Should have been ‘Clueless’.”

“They’re certainly not all 49.”

“Forty-nine and more, I’d say.”

When the night’s theme was the gold rushes, the researchers showed their mettle and panned the gold.

🥕🥕🥕

Categorical Confusion by Kerry E.B. Black

The live studio audience quieted when the gameshow host approached the next contestant. He straightened his pile of index cards and cleared his throat. “Hello, Naryia. What’s your choice for the next category?”

With a charming smile, she leaned over the game show podium to access the microphone. Her voice lilted, “I’ll take Forty-Niners, please, Pat.”

“The Forty-Niners?” The host ‘s brows rose. “I’m surprised.’

Her giggle burbled nervousness. “Why’s that?”

“You said you didn’t follow sports.”

Her brows mirrored his. “What do sports have to do with anything? I love U.S. History.”

The audience’s chuckles joined the host’s.

🥕🥕🥕

Tessa’s Invitation by Sue Spitulnik

At the wedding, Doctor Stelzenmuller said, “Tessa, do you know Michael refused to try the prosthetic legs until he learned about your divorce. Then he acted like a ’49er on his way to the gold rush, racing to become proficient so he could get back home.”

Tessa laughed, embarrassed by the truth. “I’ve heard it was your hounding that made him accept them.”

“My efforts were a small factor. Please come along next time I invite him to D.C. Let my soldiers see that they can accomplish normalcy.”

“I’d love to. It would help me understand his achievements better.”

Author’s Note: Doctor Claire Stelzenmuller was Michael’s physical therapist while healing. Her patients called her Clarice Alphabet because she didn’t accept no for an answer.

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He Who Hesitates by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s council’s standing orders provide that nothing is decided if any one member adopts the 49ers stratagem. The origins of this local filibuster is long forgotten but easily understood. If an item – verge-trimming, say – is put to a vote those opposing (usually Mrs Owl-Eerie) are required to forcibly interrupt proceedings with a continuous hesitation, thus blocking the chair from putting forward its motion (technically a ‘forced constipation’). These days that is achieved by the utterance of a continuous stream of 49 ‘ers’. Some say this quaint provision exemplifies the gold standard of local democracy in action.

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Fools Gold by Myrna Migala

A young mother was surprised to see her son captivated by schoolwork, particularly one book. “What’s going on, son?”
Looking up from his book, the child said, “Reporting on the California gold rush, everyone seems to admire this guy Sutter, but when you read his life story, I wonder why?”
Pointing to the book, he said, “See here, read one of Sutter’s quotes, ‘The Indians began to be troublesome all around me, killing and wounding cattle, stealing horses, and threatening to attack us. I was obliged to make campaigns against them and punish them!’ It sounds like fools gold.”

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Innocence and Curiosity by Sam Kirk

It’d been a long day for Teddy – first classes, then homework – when all he wanted to do was watch Power Rangers. He hoped that dinner would consist of chicken nuggets and fries so he could devour it quickly.

As luck would have it – baked salmon and pea puree. Yuck!

Defeated, Teddy moved pieces of food around the plate.

“Just go to bed already.”

Teddy opened his mouth in disbelief. “Is it because you want to 49 Mom?” he asked.

“That’s what Tim said adults do when their kids are sleeping,” he added, seeing the confusion on his parents’ faces

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Bar 49 by Hugh W. Roberts

“Who’re all these men in this old photo, Gran?”

“That’s my grandfather with a group of men known as the 49ers.”

“Forty-niners?”

“Yes. Unfortunately, they all died in Auschwitz.”

“The concentration camp?”

“Yes, and you’re old enough to know the truth. In Berlin, the men were all arrested in a bar known as ‘Bar 49.’ Homosexuals frequented it. They were rounded up, made to wear the symbol of a pink triangle and taken, some with their families, to Auschwitz.”

“Gran, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Carl. Be happy that you are marrying the man of your dreams tomorrow.

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Striking Gold by Irene Waters

Agatha C clutched the keys to 1949 Lode Street in one hand and some documents in the other. “Finally it’s mine. Time for pay dirt,” she muttered, throwing the keys and contract onto the bench. She smiled as she unfolded the other document carefully. The removalists would bring the necessary tools.

Later she paced exactly nineteen steps from the back gate and forty nine steps from the easterly fence and started digging, hitting metal within minutes. “I’ve struck gold” she thought. Opening the metal box she poured through the manuscripts she’d written twenty years before. This time they’d sell.

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Same but Different by Simon

49ers Super Bowl game.
She tried to impress a player on game being a big fan of him.
The Board ‘I Love You’ with his name were all over media.
By end of the game, one hit crushed his ribs.
She worked at same hospital he got admitted.
Her heart crushed when she saw his girlfriend. Fate had other plans, he has a twin brother, he gave a bouquet of flower to her and proposed in the middle of the hospital. She couldn’t say no, she desired someone else but getting a lookalike, she thanked God, and said ‘Yes’.

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The Rush of 49ers by Charli Mills

Static crackled. “Calling all 49ers. Ship of Dreams ready to fly.”

Reg pumped her brother’s bike. She hated the frills of the one her grandparents bought her in Sacramento. With one hand gripping handlebars, the other clutching a borrowed walkie-talkie – her dad would never know – Reg answered. “10-4, Good Buddy. 49er #2 nearby.”

Reg skidded to a stop at the mountain creek where the town got their water. A hoist-and-pulley cart used to access the treatment plant across a narrow gorge swung unlocked. The Ship of Dreams. The 49ers, a club of ten-year-old girls, got a rush sneaking rides.

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Finite by D. Avery

Pa and me we did okay then but weren’t what came to be known as ‘49ers.

When word got out about the big strike we just kept doing what we’d always done. Pa explained it to me, said you could still find the stuff anywhere, just in small amounts. Said hoping for the motherlode wasn’t worth the risks, said those boomtowns were too dangerous. Times are tough enough, let alone when thousands of people scrabble over finite resources.

We find some here and there, make it last, keep quiet about it.

Just like in 2049, people kill for water.

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Rushin Ta Conclusions by D. Avery & A. Kid

“Come up with a story yet Kid?”
“What’s the rush Pal? Whyn’t ya mine yer own business?”
“Yer lame gold rush puns ain’t gonna git ya a story, Kid. Stories got a beginnin, a middle, an a endin.”
“Hmmph…

Once upon a time there was… a pig that lived… on a ranch. An one day the pig was rootin around when she dug up some shiny nuggets. Gold! So her wunnerful owner could afford a private bunkhouse away from a certain aggravatin annoyance an lived happily ever after.

“Er, ‘49’?”
“Pig found 49 nuggets. An, count them words Pal.”

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