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Meltdown

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

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

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

In an Afternoon by Michael Fishman

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

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

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

You see them kiss.

Your wife. Your job. Your boss.

A life lost in an afternoon.

The meltdown happens in the car.

🥕🥕🥕

Straightened Up by Reena Saxena

I invite a meltdown.

I challenge meltdowns to sort themselves out into new patterns.

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

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

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

Yes, I made a mistake.

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

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Meltdown by Joanne Fisher

“So what’s the matter now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whatever.”

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No Regrets by Simon Prathap D

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

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

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

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

She walked out, yelling!

I want to die without regrets, I yelled back.

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

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Meltdown by Sarah Whiley

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

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

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

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

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Cousins by Carole Warren

Two cousins sharing an amazing weekend on the island.

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

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

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

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

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A Family Meltdown by Susan Spitulnik

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

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

“How can Grandma be so positive?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Years After the Meltdown by Charli Mills

His meltdown 25 years ago had terrified her.

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

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

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Grilled Cheese Wizardry by Bill Engleson

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

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The Meltdown by Colleen Chesebro

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

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

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

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

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

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The Great Chili Meltdown by JulesPaige

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

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

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The Meltdown by Pete Fanning

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

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

“Let’s go live to Paradise Lake.”

And that was my last broadcast.

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Ice Cream Meltdown by Norah Colvin

“Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”

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

“The ice cream’s melted.”

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

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

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

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What Meltdown by kathy70

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

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

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Year Thirty by Larry Trasciatti

It was thirty years after the pandemic.

The Great Society’s Meltdown was underway.

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

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

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

They stood on line among others with identical poker faces.

Invisible cameras stared down toward them constantly.

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Contempt by C. E. Ayr

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

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

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Moving Meltdown by FloridaBorne

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

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

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Sunflower Meltdown by Nancy Brady

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

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

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

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Icarus in Starlight by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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Visitor by Rebecca Glaessner

The grounds shuddered. The air hummed along with urgency.

Something was happening.

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

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

The visitor remained.

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

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A Puddle of Broken Promises by Donna Matthews

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

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

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

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

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Meltdown by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

“So was thet ride. But I got up.”

“Write on, Pal.”

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Feathers

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

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

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

The Gryphons by Nicole Horlings

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

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

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

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

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

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The Haggis by C. E. Ayr

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

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AHH-CHOO! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

A feather floated, settling on her sweaty upper lip.

It tickled.

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Whispers of Faeries by Deborah A. Bowman

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

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

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

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

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The Feather by Norah Colvin

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

‘Which feather?’

‘The one from the beach that day.’

‘Which day?’

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

‘That’s just silly childish stuff.’

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

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Flying by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

“Oh, are you a pilot?”

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

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Black Feather by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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Memories by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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The Feather by FloridaBorne

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

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

But the Cherokee were matriarchal.

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

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Worth Waiting For by Rebecca Glaessner

They chose Earth. Chose a human child.

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

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

I even stepped her back off a cliff once.

That was a fight.

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

I refused.

That was then.

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

She’s waiting at that cliff edge.

We’ll soar this time.

Together.

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Douglas by Simon Prathap D

Douglas, his Blue feather fell on my car.

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

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

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

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Hindsight by Michael Fishman

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

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

Pretty bird. Scared bird.

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

“Sorry,” I said.

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

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Angus — A Short Romance by Doug Jacquier

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

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

‘Nothing, Miss.’

‘Nonsense, young man. Come here.’

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

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

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

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Fletcher by R. V. Mitchell

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

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Ruffled Feathers by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

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

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Love Tokens by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

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

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Oh, Nora! by Donna Matthews

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

“Nora, baby! What? What?”

“The baby bunny!

Confusion. “The what?”

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

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

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

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Aloysius’s Discovery by Nancy Brady

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

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Lunch with Stewart by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

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

“Who?”

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

Stewart always took my mind off my worries.

“Tell me more.”

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Feathers by Anita Dawes

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

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Feathers by Willow Willers

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

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

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

Another feather fell into his hand, the angel’s tears dried and they smiled. Taking the leap of faith the angel fell into Tom’s arms. Falling the angel became whole. Love shone from Tom’s eyes. The angel naked but safe knew he was home.

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Avian Mystery by JulesPaige

fallen nest
from the porch roof eave
twigs, feathers

Small
Black and
White
Ones

How long had the mother bird coddled her nestlings? Who’d she raise? The nest was there before we left for just a few days. It was down on our return. A treasure of woven things and a variety of feathers of all colors, shapes and sizes. The closest thing I found in my searching was that the black and white feathers may have belonged to a Downy Woodpecker. I’ll never know who took down the nest. I hope the birds will build again next spring.

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Still Smiling by Annette Rochelle Aben

My best friend, Trina, used to say that every time she found a feather, it was a message from someone she loved, who was on the other side. She happened to mention this at her father’s celebration of life gathering when we found a feather inside her mother’s refrigerator. We smiled.

The day of viewing for Trina’s body found me surrounded by our friends and her family. Her sister handed me a container filled with cookies, that Trina had marked for me to have only minutes before she died. Left behind, on the table, was a feather. We smiled.

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Good Will Hatching by D. Avery

“Okay, I’m here. Mother trucking services. What’s up?”
“It’s epic, Marge.”
Brightly colored clothing spilled and tumbled out of boxes and bags that lined Ilene’s walkway.
“What’s epic, Lloyd?”
“Ilene’s molting!”
“Yes! I’m divesting myself of my plumage! It’s simple earth tone tunics and leggings for me from here on out.”
“Don’t you mean legging? Really, Ilene? No more Toucan Sam outfits? Bet Fruit Loops here put you up to this. You going to cut your big hair too?”
“No! That’s my crowning glory!”
“At least keep this pink feather boa, Ilene. And what’s this?”
“My unicorn headband.”
“Epic.”

🥕🥕🥕

Follow The Feathers by Hugh W. Roberts

What is the source of the strange coloured feathers on the stairs?

***
Slowly opening the front door, thirteen-year-old Adrian listened for signs of life.

Confident that nobody was home, he stepped inside.

Should he go to the kitchen for snacks or upstairs to turn on his new Playstation?

The strange coloured feathers had the answer. Adrian picked them up as he ascended the stairs.

Walking past his parents’ bedroom, he suddenly stopped. She was wearing her favourite dress and feathered boa, applying makeup and doing her hair in the dressing table mirror, a figure he knew.

“Mum?”

“Adrian!” came the deep voice of his father, turning round to face his son.

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Willie the Chick Magnet by Lawrence Trasciatti

‘Nobody wants to admit that Willie’s a bit off,’ Fred told Alice.

”He keeps a pet ostrich in his small apartment.’

‘ I’ve noticed,’ she replied. ‘Whenever he has company he always sets a place at the table for his ostrich.

There are feathers all over the place but he keeps them so neatly organized

Women he’s courted find his pet so cute.

Each lady, if he thinks she’s special, gets a feather.’

‘I wanted to fix him up with Agnes,’ Fred said, ‘but she has asthma.’

‘One day,’ Alice said, ‘with that ostrich he’ll find someone perfect for him.’

🥕🥕🥕

Spring Training in Tucson by Carole Warren

All-Star pitcher, ready on the mound, squints for catcher’s signal. He shakes off three fingers, then nods for one. A fastball. The Big Unit has earned fame for his killer pitches.

Left foot on rubber, #51 towers 6’10” above the mound.
Set position. Stretch. Right knee up. Release. WHOOSH!
Strike! But not a traditional “in the zone” call.

The ball collided with perfect precision into a mourning dove.
An explosion of feathers floated in the air between Diamondback pitcher and catcher. Carcass falls.

The fans in Electric Park released a collective “huuuaaAHH!”
A historical pitch known as Fowl Ball.

🥕🥕🥕

Feathers on a Cap by Ruchira Khanna

“Congratulations!” cheered Soniya’s friends as she walked towards them with stretched hands.

“I did it!” she shouted with glassy eyes and clenched fists.

Once all the congratulatory messages were through. Her mom slid a handful of feathers under the tassel of her graduation cap.

“What’s this for?” Soniya inquired with wide eyes, “Shouldn’t I get only one feather since I just graduated.”

“A feather indicates accomplishments, and this is one of them.”

“Huh?”

“My girl, you are Compassionate, Courageous, Hardworking, Creative, and now you’re a graduate proves you’ve accomplished your goal.”

“Aah! Thank you, Mom, for being my inspiration.”

🥕🥕🥕

Feather by Ann Edall-Robson

left behind
from above
no direction in mind
drifting aimlessly
with the clouds
to landscape
far below
nestled on
the open range
settled
for how long
dancing lazily
to and fro
listening to the
wind’s song
twisting branches
bouncing
breezy gusts
tossed into the air
to travel across
the grassland’s
shimmering bust
whirling pirouettes
sashay up and down
jostled to a standstill
thrown to the ground
grassy thorns penetrate
a blustery
simmering storm
end over end
to a full stop
choreographed freeform
lifted upward
void of wind
full circle resonates
beginning or end
homeward bound
​to line a nest

🥕🥕🥕

Red Feathers of 1932 by Charli Mills

She plucked the chicken, swiping a feather from her forehead. Now what, thought Nella. Dumplings tonight wouldn’t stop the hunger pains to come. No more eggs. No more breakfasts for loggers. Loggers turned to the rails. Hoboes for hire. She brushed off her mother’s borrowed apron. When she left the northern peninsula to teach in Detroit, she never imagined she’d return broke. But the economy crashed, no one could pay taxes and schools closed. Capitalism. She growled the word. It had robbed all workers down to the last chicken. Tonight, she’d join Frank at the meeting with the communists.

🥕🥕🥕

The Feather by Jenne Gray

She sits on a rock, gazing out across the bay, a halo of sadness around her.
Impregnable it seems.
A lone feather floats on the breeze, hesitates, hovers beside her.
It drifts down and gently grazes her cheek, drawing her from her dark reverie.
She half-smiles, reaches for it.
But it flutters away, teasing…
Surprised, she follows it, tentatively at first, then joining its joyous game…
Until – at last – she sees again the beauty of the bay, the sun sparkling on the water, reflecting the blues too many to describe.
She breathes deeply, smiles.

The feather is gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Keepin’ Up by D. Avery

“Not agin!” “Sure hope you ain’t startin’ inta whinin’ ‘bout the prompt Kid.” “Hope is the thing with feathers Pal. She wants us ta round up unicorns agin.” “Horse feathers Kid! Thet ain’t what she’s after.” “Well what does she want then? I cain’t keep up, she moves too fast. Shorty’s all over the place.” “Seems pretty grounded ta me, ‘cept fer all her flights a fancy. Look Kid, jist go at yer own pace. You’ll dream up an idea.” “Reckon.” “What’re ya doin’?” “Gonna take a nap with ma head on this here feather pillow. Perchance ta dream.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph

There it is. The old photograph. The one that makes you pause.

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

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

R&R on Lockhart Street by TN Kerr

He finished his drink and beckoned to Meihui.
“You want another, Danny?” she smiled.
“No, baby, I’m gonna go home. I’ll see you later.”
She rose up on her toes, and leaned over the bar
to give him a quick kiss on the lips.
He dropped
a handful of coloured bills on the bar.
She pushed them back and quickly moved away.
Outside, standing on the pavement in the light rain
Dan snapped a quick shot of a fire engine
Lights flashing.
Now, fifty years later,
it was the closest thing to a photo of her that he had.

🥕🥕🥕

It’s Enough by Michael Fishman

My grandmother was a beautiful woman.

She left young, I never knew her, but I was introduced to her by those who did.

She played saxophone in an all-girl’s band. She knitted and told jokes that made people blush. She was a sister to two, a mother to one and a friend to many. She was a wife to a husband who didn’t have enough years to love her.

I have questions and no one to ask so I look at the old photograph I carry.

She’s holding me.
She’s smiling.
It’s enough.
My grandmother is a beautiful woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Symbols by Hugh W. Roberts

“Have there been any other gay people in your family, Richard?” asked Adrian as he put the old photograph down.

“Have a look at the photo again. I think it’ll answer your question. Tea?”

Nodding his head, Adrian studied the photo again. “The older man is hot. Who is he?”

“My great-grandfather. Mum said my grandmother took the photo in Poland in 1939.”

“Why does he have a star and what looks like a triangle on his shirt?”

If that photo were in colour, you’d see a pink triangle. But the family have never wanted to talk about it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Living Forever by Padmini Krishnan

Cherie looked at the old photo of college students, decorating her wall. He was the one on the corner. He had refused what she had asked and was now a flower vase in her showcase. Each vase symbolized the mood, color and character of the person, thus keeping them alive forever. Her collection had kept growing and she intended to add more.

“Cherie, did you dust the mantelpiece?” her madam called out.

“I will do it right away, madam,” replied Cherie, rushing over to the living room.

Madam had her collection of bouquets too. The ones that never withered.

🥕🥕🥕

Photographs and Stories by Norah Colvin

Nothing would dampen Megan’s curiosity. The slightest hand or foothold was irresistible. If none existed, she made one.

Mary gasped. Megan was atop bucket, on stool, on chair, on table, stretching for a box on the top shelf. Mary didn’t breathe as, in slow motion, Megan swiped the box and tumbled in a mess of wood and plastic. Mary, in fast-forward, grabbed arms and legs before she hit; but the box bounced, spewing its contents across the floor.
Megan plucked out an old photograph.

“Who’s dat, Mum?”

Mary trembled. Could it be her? The one in his poem? Who?

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph by Anita Dawes

Photos, snap shots of time
You hold the past in your hand
Old memories flood in
The thing with old photos is
They slip between the floor boards
Multiplying, boxes under beds
On top of wardrobes,
To be forgotten
Until the day, your granddaughter
shouts out, Gran, who is this?
That’s your grandfather.
Now you are worried
Is he in the box or the wardrobe?
Your fist love, the one you never forget
The one that would upset the apple cart
Wrong name on the birth certificate
Would bring up too many questions.
How to tell the truth now?

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Photograph (Part I) by Nancy Brady

In this family photograph, Dad was probably nine or ten. When I said him I liked the knickers, he told me he hated wearing them. According to him, his mother didn’t want him to grow up. Long pants were a sign of being a young man and keeping him in knickers kept him a little boy.

Personally, I think she was more pragmatic than that; she could cut down her older son’s pants when he outgrew them, converting them, saving money. I couldn’t argue with him since I wasn’t there. Besides, he was my father and I loved him.

🥕🥕🥕

An Old Photograph (Part II) by Nancy Brady

In this family photograph, Dad was probably nine or ten. When I said him I liked the knickers, he told me he hated wearing them. According to him, his mother didn’t want him to grow up. Long pants were a sign of being a young man and keeping him in knickers kept him a little boy.

 Personally, I think she was more pragmatic than that; she could cut down her older son’s pants when he outgrew them, converting them, saving money. I couldn’t argue with him since I wasn’t there. Besides, he was my father and I loved him

🥕🥕🥕

The Goldfish Bowl by Doug Jacquier

Courtesy of the pandemic and brain plaque, I can’t touch him anymore, not that he would know who I was anyway. All I can do is wave to him through the nursing home window and watch him wave back, like he does to everybody. His manners remain intact.

On his lap is an album of old photographs that he leafs through constantly. Whether the staff put it there in the hope of a spark or whether he clings to its importance without knowing why is anybody’s guess. To me, through the glass, he seems like a goldfish with Alzheimers.

🥕🥕🥕

Arrested Development by D. Avery

There was he and his brother, practically twins, astride their motorcycles, grinning widely. Ten years ago. Same old pictures; did any of them smile anymore?

“Will you ever update these photos?”

She ignored the edge in his voice.

“Your brother misses you.”

“Right.” But he went to his room.

“Hey, Bro. How about a picture of the two of us?”

The selfie showed his own face fuller but much the same, his hair thinning at the temples. His brother’s skin was tight and shiny, his open eyes vacant and unseeing. The breathing tube showed, the feeding tube did not.

🥕🥕🥕

Snap Judgements by Bill Engleson

Missed spring cleaning by a few months this year.
Other things on my mind, I guess.
Viruses!
Ageing!
Wine!
Stuff like that.
During the heat dome, my fried brain couldn’t handle much but I started pawing through a few boxes of dusty memorabilia.
Under duress.
“Just do it, “she’d admonished. “Your office is a pigsty.”
No argument from me.
Two boxes in, I found my old wallet.
1972 vintage.
Thought I’d thrown it out.
No money in it.
An unpaid speeding ticket.
Mick’s car.
Oops! Forgot to mention it, buddy.
And a snap of…what the hell was her name?

🥕🥕🥕

The Camera Never Lies by Anne Goodwin

Mary’s bedroom floor is awash with paper. She tucks a lock of russet hair behind her ear and plunges in.

Her therapist said her childhood memories didn’t sound happy. Mary wades through school reports and twentieth-century diaries for the evidence to prove her wrong.

A photograph of two girls in polka-dot dresses, seated with their mother on a tartan rug. Decades on, Mary hears the stream gurgling behind them, smells the meadowsweet, tastes the fairy cakes, feels the sun warm her face.

The woman cuddles the raven-haired daughter. Mary weeps for the redhead, beyond the reach of mother love.

🥕🥕🥕

The Scars by Deborah A. Bowman

I found the stained underside of the snapshot today. It was tucked in one of my Classic books…fitting. I don’t usually touch the Classics, but that volume called to me. I guess it’s time. I must be ready. Deep inhale. I turned it over.

My breath stopped. My heart ceased to beat. I crumbled to the floor, strangling tears, vomit. I’m not ready at all!

Vietnam, 49 years ago. There I stood. Woman Journalist in camouflage. My hands fell to trace the scars.

I rose, proudly clipping the crutches to my forearms. Yes, it had been worth it.

🥕🥕🥕

American Revolutionary War Cemetery by Carole Warren

My father and his brother volunteered. Proudly posing for the 1951 newspaper article, they dismantled the dilapidated cemetery wall. The ancient wall, built in 1887, needed to protect graves from being uprooted by local hogs. The new wall planned to safeguard a vintage burial ground with remains of Dutch pioneers along with heroes from early American wars. My grandfather trudged through blue-grey dust. Past the long-neglected graveyard for his daily shift at the local aluminum casting factory. Years later, I climbed. With cousins, I balanced atop the rebuilt wall and explored the colonial cemetery unaware of our historical connection.

🥕🥕🥕

How Important Is It? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The attic is hot, dust motes knife-sharp and glittering in dim light through a window that wouldn’t budge in the humidity. She had to find that old photo, and prove her point. This rewriting of history to benefit Joseph had gone on far too long.

Sweating and breathless, she finds the box, the yearbook, and the incriminating photo. Lifting it to the window she stares hard at the image, the caption written beside it. Suddenly dizzy, she sinks to the floor.

Of course she was right. But she was also wrong. Dementia is an argument neither one could win

🥕🥕🥕

Mateo by Simon Prathap D

An old photograph, who is this?
Your great grand father.
What? impossible, I’ve just seen him yesterday, he told ummmm “Bola de miel Rosa”
Grandma smiled …..
What does that mean?
He is a “Mateo” , time traveller.
Mateo? time travelling?
Thank him when he comes to my funeral tomorrow.
(scoffs) arghhh, I’m not continuing this weird conversation.

next day…

Bola de miel Rosa he said
Are you my great grandpa?
Yes, SHE is your grandma.
I can’t believe! you both came alive?
You will too… Time travel is our gift.

Really?
Stay Calm, time will come, and you will know.

🥕🥕🥕

Time Traveler by Reena Saxena

The black and white picture set a furore amongst believers in time travel.

One of the people in the crowd is holding a mobile phone in the last century. Was she a visitor from the future?

How come she was not identified as an alien, and continued to talk on the phone in the crowd?

Forensic experts get on the job. It turns out to be a doctored image.

Someone in the lab smiles, and pats a rectangular piece of fibre glass she carries in her bag. They don’t know yet…. Everything can be manipulated, including their forensic systems.

🥕🥕🥕

Nana’s Photos by Joanne Fisher

Sifting through archeological
layers of photographs –
at first encountering younger versions
of myself and siblings, going backwards
until I find a picture of Nana and Grandad
looking like Bonnie and Clyde

I never knew that side of her, I never
knew Grandad.
all I remember is him
sitting by the dining room table,
but was it real?
I learned of his death through
osmosis – one day I knew
he was gone, though I was never told

But here they are together still
in their twenties, looking at the camera
with a future ahead of them
as we all do.

🥕🥕🥕

My Great Grandfather’s Sister by Duane L Herrmann

She is looking up, staring: trying to see Amerika where her brother fled, never to see him again. She never knows the family he started, he never knows hers. She and he are old now, it’s been half a century.

Half a century more and the family will be again united with visits back and forth and new friendships. I cried with relief to be on that first return trip and have made many more, taking family with me. I hope our children can continue this union, but at least we know each other.

🥕🥕🥕

To Me by Annette Rochelle Aben

Chubby, sturdy little legs held her up the table where her parents had placed the birthday items. Such a display of love and affection. Of course, as she was new to all of this celebration, there was nothing in her mind to understand all the joy and excitement.

Flash forward more than sixty years. Tears now fill the eyes of the senior citizen looking at the old photograph. Knowing now, that her parents had little or no money, but they still managed to make that birthday special. Knowing now, what beautiful gifts birthdays have been. She makes a wish.

🥕🥕🥕

Imagining the Colors by JulesPaige

mulberries
now out of my reach
let birds feast

Maybe
Too the
Squirrel
Families

A friend tells me of her youth and shares photos in black and white of purple fingers and faces. The Mulberry tree in her yard wasn’t supposed to bear fruit, which is why her father planted it. Free sweets in the summer shade what more could a child want. All those happy siblings that shared hand me downs without complaining because that’s just the way it was. The love and support that poured continually made them all reach for the stars. That’s her parents’ success.

🥕🥕🥕

This Old Faded Photo by Donna Matthews

Surely, all families have their scandalous moments. My brother died in February under suspicious circumstances. Aside from the grief that generally remains just at the edge of consciousness, I feel this new rawness of soul I am unaccustomed to. I’m drawn to his image, especially this one I hold now. Four kids in the backyard. Why was this photo taken? There’s no one to give me the answer, the four of us too young. Oh, wait. Three of us now, but really just two, one is in prison and unavailable. Yes, my grief like this old faded photo. Melancholic.

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Photograph by Charli Mills

She found him in the 1979 yearbook. The bottom row. The old photo wasn’t vintage. Some would argue it was modern. He played football. Four years. He sat shirtless, his blonde hair long, wavy. The football team had fathers who’d served in Korea, grandfathers in WWII. A few had older brothers, younger uncles, or cousins who’d served in ‘Nam. The ones no one spoke of, or to. The dispersed ones. She thought the photograph ancient because he looked so young. So guiltless. So pre-Grenada. Head hits, concussive blasts, and one knee-shattering jump. He never wore his hair long again.

🥕🥕🥕

Old Photo by FloridaBorne

Back straight, a model’s figure, a stand-out next to her best friend, a cousin, her youngest brother, mother and maternal grandmother; my mother posed for a multi-generational photo somewhere between the Great Depression and World War II.

Her brother, who marched with Patton’s third army to Germany, never told anyone about the grueling experience.  Her best friend married a domineering Englishman who’d used her to enter the USA. My mother, at 29, married a wounded soul.

So much hope for reality to crush.  It seems that only the delusion of a brighter future pushes us forward into old age.

🥕🥕🥕

Elise by Saifun Hassam

Gwen was fascinated by her great-great-aunt Elise’s days as an Airforce service pilot in WWII. Elise died in 1993.

Elise was a test pilot, an instructor, flying planes from the factory to the Airforce base. Gwen treasured one photo, 1943: four young women, in Airforce pilot uniforms, standing in front of an Airforce bomber.

Elise was grief-stricken when her son Lester, a pilot, was killed in Vietnam. Great-niece Samira, a pilot, died in Iraq.

Gwen, a “bush” pilot, now teaches aeronautical engineering. Her pilot experience became a critical link for emergencies during the pandemic. Gwen treasures that old photo.

🥕🥕🥕

Dream Photography by Rebecca Glaessner

“You ready?”
“System calibrated?”
“Got it all, now sleep and let the magic happen-“
“What about colour tracking, covered all wavelengths? D’you double check?”
“Me and four others-“
“And the pixels. Did they max out? Fifteen-hundred?”
“Last ten runs, crystal clear.”
“Shadows? Freckles? Strands of hair?”
“Like Da Vinci. We got this. Relax.”
“Okay… Make sure you wake me once it’s rendered. As soon as!”
“Promise. Now keep him in mind and let yourself sleep.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Is… it done? Uhnf- lemme see. He- looks…”
“Just like you.”
“Get this through to facial recog, now-“
“Already done. We’ll find your brother.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Debt Of History by Geoff Le Pard

‘You a moment, Logan?’
‘No.’
‘You don’t know what I want.’
‘Let’s keep it that way.’
‘Yeah. Anyway, who’s that?’
‘Is that our leaving photo?’
‘Yep. I can’t remember who that boy is. Next to Snitch Peters.’
‘Gullible Poon.’
‘Not Gully. The other side.’
‘Kentish Gishpaster?’
‘No, that’s Kentish.’
‘Is it? I thought Kentish had one leg shorter that the other.’
‘He did, didn’t he? Always going in circles. No, the one with the squint. He set fire to Simple Sims pubes during double chemistry.’
‘Happy days. Why do you want to know?’
‘He still owes me a pound.’

🥕🥕🥕

Ev’ry Story Tells a Picture by D. Avery

“Pal, how kin ya be Carrot Ranch’s historian? Ya ain’t even got any old photos.”
“It’s livin’ history. Things is jist how they is at ever moment.”
“Folks wanna see how things was.”
“Folks kin read the archives.”
“A picture’s worth a thousand words.”
“Thet’d be 901 words too many.”
“Yer prob’ly ‘barasssed ta show yer mug.”
“We’re fictional characters Kid. Folks see us as they see us.”
“Fiction, ey?
Hey look here’s a old photo a you! An’ there in the background… Bigfoot!”
“Kid, ya cain’t be makin’ stuff up.”
“Sure I kin, 99 words at a time.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow’s Outdoor Adventure

Rainbow escapes again! The cat with the colorful name can be found all over the world.

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

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

A Beginning at the End by Annette Rochelle Aben

Joni drew her knees up under her chin and closed her eyes. If only she had a friend with whom she could share moments like this. There was a gentle rain falling but she was protected by the thick foliage of her favorite tree.
Outside was where Joni went to think and dream. Lately, she’d been dreaming of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. So, she always tried to be under the tree during gentle rain.

She opened her eyes to see the sun shining, and walking out of the rainbow was a golden-haired cat.

🥕🥕🥕

Rhetorical Question by JulesPaige

On the outside looking in the pane of glass at the deli, Rainbow (the feline) spied the horse of a chef. The man could be sighing neighs while working at building the Dagwood on the marble counter. How many nays would be uttered when that masterpiece was sliced up to feed the homeless shelter? Not many, those who had suffered the pain of hunger would gladly take a portion. The chef was a wizard with cold cuts, cheeses, dressings and accoutrements. Luckily there was always something the chef saved for Rainbow the cat!

colorful food
artfully arranged
feeding souls

🥕🥕🥕

History Mystery by Carole Warren

Silently, I creep outdoors before humans awake, heading east along the tidal river path. Curiosity about the mysterious relics pull me deeper down the wooded trail. When did trains last roll across these abandoned tracks? What did these moss covered pilings support back then? What commerce sustained this rusted railway?

Growl! I must trek through the abandoned shipyard another day. Returning through the door labeled, “Rainbow,” I search for kibbles. Belly now full, I perch at the window to watch the confused flow of the Hoquiam River. High tide, low tide? Whirlpooling leaves and debris lull me to sleep.

🥕🥕🥕

A Rainbow in Faerie by Joanne Fisher

“You must be Cindy’s cat. Having a look are ya?” asked a gnome sitting nearby. “

I wanted to explore.” Rainbow answered. She had walked through the portal and found everything here was more alive and verdant.

“Fair enough.” the gnome said. “Cats are curious creatures. What’s your name?”

“My feeders call me Rainbow. My other name is secret.”

“Rainbow’s a good name for a cat. I’m Babradon.”

Rainbow was about to explore the place when suddenly she was picked up. “There you are! It’s time we went home.” said Cindy.

Rainbow looked mournfully at the lush landscape. Another time.

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow Cat’s Outdoor Adventure by Norah Colvin

Right on cue, the tabby sprang into the yard as the children tumbled out, scattering to various activities. Some stopped for cuddles before choosing. One picked it up, determined it would be his for the day. Preferring to be master of its own decisions, with a wriggle and a scratch, the cat leapt from arms into pots of liquid colour. The fingerpainters squealed as they became the canvas for the unintentional artist. Rainbow hands grabbed the cat scratch-scrambling on masterpieces spread to dry. The cat hissed and bounced away to safety as the children chanted, “Rainbow cat! Rainbow cat!”.

🥕🥕🥕

Aloysius: A Fairy Tale by Nancy Brady

Once upon a time there was a cat called Rainbow. He never understood why his humans picked that name because he had white fur. Snowball, maybe, although his name was Aloysius, which seemed like a sensible name to him. Aloysius was a stray wandering the countryside until one day when, after a downpour, a young girl found him shivering by the side of the road. Aloysius was soaked and the drops glistened on his fur. The sun began to shine and the refraction of the light broke into seven distinct colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

🥕🥕🥕

Spells by D. Avery

Inside it’s all boil, bubble, toil and trouble. “Get out of the way, cat!” When the mother one holds the door for her, the cat darts out. Blinking in the morning sunshine, she is joined by the little one. She arches her head under the small palm then leads the way. They have their own matters to attend to.

The meadow is a galaxy starred with clover, each a universe of wonder. Dew dampened leaves spin green into sparkling gold; a rainbow appears in the form of a hummingbird.

Cat and child purr, enchanted by the magic of morning.

🥕🥕🥕

Fishing Day by Saifun Hassam

Finally! Fishing day at the BlueWing River. Rainbow ran along the embankment trail. She knew Joey’s fishing schedule pretty well by now.

Near the creek that ran into the river, Rainbow sniffed the early morning air. She plunged into dense, tall cattails and sedges. Bobcat tracks and scat. Maybe a few hours ago. Best to keep away from the woodlands today.

Hidden in a natural “blind” Rainbow eyed the songbirds. She jumped! Birds escaped into the skies, ducks into the river. Geese, undaunted, charged Rainbow. She turned tail, loving every moment of the run. She loved those fishing days!

🥕🥕🥕

Painting the Rainbow Michael Fishman

Ben Dykstra spends his summer painting Grover Lake at different times of the day. Ben and Elaine rent the cabin next to ours at Woodview Acres.

The cabins don’t overlook the woods and I agree, why Woodview and not Lakeview?

Out walking and Puff saw Ben. Before I could react, Puff pulled the leash from me and sped straight toward Ben.

Startled by the appearance of an overweight brown tabby, Ben jumped back and dropped his paint palette onto the head of an equally startled – and presently annoyed – cat.

“Hello,” he laughed. “How are you, rainbow cat!

🥕🥕🥕

Rainbow Hunter Duane L Herrmann

Rainbow on her ledge at the window staring intently, eyes darting now and then. What movement, what animal has her attention, hunter that she is? The door opens and, in an instant, she is out! Her target is still there. Human hopes it’s not a bird, but the bell on Rainbow will give it warning. Outside, Rainbow stalks, skilled hunter here. So stealthly, she’s learned how to move to keep the bell silent – mostly. The bird’s hearing is acute. One faint jingle is all he needs to flee. Up, suddenly, the bird keeps its life and future for today.

🥕🥕🥕

Chirpy Mornings by Reena Saxena

My morning starts with chirping of birds on the ledge.

They keep communicating, while gorging on biscuit crumbs. At times, they fly away suddenly as my cat, Rainbow barges into the room.

One of the lovebirds is quite bold. She continues to demand fearlessly, about six inches away from my hand. Then, I notice the nest with her babies, and understand the urgency. She needs food to feed them.

Rainbow shot out today, as the door was opened to keep the garbage out. I’m so happy we live in a high rise, and the birds are beyond his reach.

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Rainbow’s Liberation of a Sort by Bill Engleson

Thirteen. Lucky thirteen. It’s been an easy life. Apartment living. Got no complaints. Well, maybe a couple. But who’s listening?
When I was a puss, her ‘little furball’ is what she called me, they’d whisk off to what they called ‘the cabin’, leave me with sitters, sweet ladies who’d come in, feed me, remove the…you know…
That was okay.
Kinda dull, though.
Did some serious sleeping then…
Couple of years ago, they finally took me with them.
To the ‘CABIN’.
What a revelation!
Suddenly…I’m outside.
On a deck.
On the ground.
Birds.
A billion birds.
And tons of “NO”!

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Rainbow Gets a New Home by Sue Spitulnik

Michael wheeled through the library talking to a fellow meeting attendee. The resident cat, Rainbow, on hearing Michael’s voice appeared from behind the counter and jumped into his lap.

The woman working chuckled. “I guess he’s going to your meeting too.”

Michael grinned. “We’ve made friends since I’ve been coming in regularly. In fact, I haven’t seen him with any children lately. ”

“No. He’s getting older and not as tolerant. Want to adopt him?”

“Really? Tessa would be thrilled, but the dog might not be.”

“They’ll adjust.”

Michael cuddled him. “Rainbow, you want to go home with me?”

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From Where She Came by Donna Matthews

I sit at the front window again. My coffee growing cold again, and again, I don’t care.

But, too much silence.

“Where’s Lily?”

“Lily?”

I jump up and run into the living room, down the hall, into her room, screaming her name – she’s nowhere!

I run outside and see her sitting by the road.

“Lily!”

“Mommy! Look what I found!” In her lap, a tiny kitten, I sit to join her.

“Look, mommy,” as she points to the sky where a rainbow frames our house, “I want to name her rainbow, from where she came.”

I start crying…again.

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Somewhere Over by Rebecca Glaessner

Human structures buzzed. Cat flicked ears. Crept beneath un-alive bushes with strange smells. Made the journey to Secret Place.

Too many humans at Dark now. Can’t handle Day anymore.

Cat ruffled fur, warm air reaching skin.

“Right there!” A child.

“Shut up. Get inside.” Child’s Human.

Child’s eyes met Cat’s as Human shoved Child through door-portal.

Cat couldn’t stand human structures. Stifling and shut-in and stinking of apes.

In silence Cat and Child met. Window-sheets fluttering.

“Your fur’s so beautiful,” Child marveled, “can I call you Rainbow?”

Cat purred.

Rainbow and Child spent all Darks together from then on.

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Rainbow Leaves the Library / রামধনু লাইব্রেরি ছেড়ে যায় / Rāmadhanu lā’ibrēri chēṛē yāẏa by Anne Goodwin

Stirred from sleep by the siren, Rāmadhanu refused to open an eye. She’d retired from sex and mousing; it took more than a randy tom to tempt her from between the library stacks.

But the sound insisted. Nature obeyed. Rāmadhanu pawed the scorching pavements, dust tickling her nose.

Humans! She’d abandoned her nest for this? Yet instinct prevailed once again. As they meowed by drawing bows on tautened strings, Rāmadhanu joined in, her voice soaring heavenward.

Until muzzled by a memory, a tale of students martyred here for their mother tongue. Rāmadhanu tuned into the haunting melody. Music, bittersweet.

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Three Houses by Hugh W. Roberts

Three Houses. Which one would you choose? Rainbow has the answer.

Having come from wherever it had departed, the cat’s eyes peered at the three houses. The first was too dark, dull and lifeless. Nobody lived there. The second was charming, full of life; every window opened with a mixture of human voices and music emerging — no chance of any peace there. A rainbow flag fluttered from the third and, although familiar, seeped grief. A tragic-looking middle-aged man named Adrian answered Rainbow’s scratching at the front door. “Richard? Is that you? You always told me you’d come back as a cat.” Tears of comfort allowed grief to leave empty-handed.

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Rainbow Emerges by Charli Mills

The ribbon of road opened to a clearing where several cabins squatted. Max could separate house, privy, sauna, from woodshed. The house was nominal. No matter. Max had no intention to stay with Jurmo. She wasn’t boarding with a self-proclaimed “tree wizard” or a church zealot. Max rented a distant campsite. She honked, a backwoods courtesy. A door opened and a massive Norwegian Forest Cat emerged with a crown of dried flowers. Her dad followed. “Rainbow, our princess has returned.”

Max fingered the boot blouse she wore on her wrist. Remember, you are a grown researcher and a Marine.

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Rainbow on the Horizon by Carole Warren

Rainbow jumps out of her hefty pickup pulling a beast of a rig. “Darn!” she panics. “My RV is too big for this space.” Her newness to the travel world swarms around her like the coastal fog.

With cat-like reflexes, she hops around the trailer ,checking this and that, while conferring a smartphone checklist.

Determined for success, Rainbow heeds advice from her experienced campsite neighbor, jumps back into the truck, and follows her cohort’s parking directions.

Success.

Once there were two adventurous cats. Rainbow, now a widow for years, has set out to live an adventurous life, once again.

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Tiny Terror by FloridaBorne

The Tiny Terror stares at me with golden yellow eyes and thinks; ‘Who in their right mind names a cat Rainbow???’ I wonder about that too, seconds before questioning my sanity. ‘Once, I named a cat Sugar.’ The Tiny Terror’s eyes light up. ‘The one that peed in your shoe when she was angry?’ “Yes,” I replied. The Tiny Terror curls into a cat ball and whispers with the flick of a tail, ‘bored now.’ Never will I name a cat Rainbow. With my luck it will pee on everything I own. Although… the Tiny Terror was well named.

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Rainbow Cat and Cheeser the Mouse by H. H. R. Gorman

Cheeser the Mouse followed his nose. He peeked around a tree. A cat’s claws tapped on a pot filled with cheddar.

“Hello there, little mouse.” His voice cooed, attractive. “Come, ingratiate me. Do a dance and call me Rainbow. Perhaps I’ll give you this cheese.”

The smell of the cheddar was irresistible for a field mouse. Cheeser stepped out and danced a jig. “Is that good enough, Rainbow?”

Rainbow, while sitting on the pot of cheese, snatched up Cheeser and ate him. “Good show indeed, Cheeser – and at the other end of this Rainbow, you’ll get your cheddar gold.”

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Blowin’ His Horn by Doug Jacquier

Guy strolls into the club like he’s so cool he’s trailin’ dry ice. Wearin’ a technicolour coat that looks like he borrowed it from Joseph, know what I’m sayin’? Middle of the day but he’s wearin’ shades. Must need ‘em for when he looks at himself in the mirror, know what I’m sayin’? Asks if it’s OK if he sits in for our next jam, kinda like an audition. I shrug and nod. Unpacks his horn and gives it a polish with the edge of his coat. Cat calls himself Rainbow. A few bars in, we call him Painblow.

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Cool for Cats by Geoff Le Pard

‘Logan, did you ever do drugs?’

‘What’s this, Morgan? You joined the moral majority?’

‘No. My uncle Thaddeus popped in…’

‘Taddy the Tab.’

‘That’s him. He said everyone born after 1955 did something. I told him you didn’t.’

‘Me?’

‘You’re the most anal uptight person I know…’

‘Squeeze had me in mind when they wrote Cool for Cats.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Oh yes. I saw everything in multi-technicolour rainbows, life’s an Elysian Field….’

‘I never knew…’

‘If that’s all, I need to get to the library and change my books…’

‘Not much has changed then?’

‘Still too cool for school…’

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Rainbow’s the Cool Cat at Carrot Ranch

When Pigs Fly by D. Avery

“Been mighty quiet, Kid. Cat got yer tongue?”

“So ta speak. Got nuthin’ fer this prompt. Asides, last time ya made me return the rainbow cat ta the library. I ain’t doin’ this un. It’s the end a the rainbow far as I’m concerned.”

“Well I’m concerned; yer up ta somethin’. Where ya takin’ thet pig?”

“Gonna teach Curly ta point an’ flush pheasant, keep ‘em outta the corn. Look’t her go! Must be onta one. She’s practic’ly flyin’ ta the cornfield!”

“There ain’t no bird, Kid.”

“Shift! She’s eatin’ up the corn.”

“Curly’s found her pot a gold.”

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Solstice

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

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

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

Happy Winter Solstice by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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The Edge of Summer by Hugh W Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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To Dance by Charli Mills

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

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Time by Sascha Darlington

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

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

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

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

“You’re like a dream.”

“Until I open my mouth.”

Time is nothing.

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Going North, Going South by Doug Jacquier

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

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Love’s Solstice by Michael Fishman

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

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

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

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

Or when we stopped talking.

It happened while neither one of us were watching.

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Solstice by Anita Dawes

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

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Solstice by Robert Kirkendall

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

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

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Time Travel by Rebecca Glaessner

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

“Shortest night… solstice?”

“Yeah.”

“I went in today.”

“You didn’t-“

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

“Really?”

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

“Exhilarating?”

“Exactly.”

“100 years?”

“205.”

“Wow- what’s he saying?”

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

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

“Can I-?”

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

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Summer Dream by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

“I hate the prosthetic legs.”

“Why?”

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

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

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One Bloody Solstice on June 21 1919 by Bill Engleson

“Many of the strikers were demobilized soldiers?”

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

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

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

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The Crossing by Anne Goodwin

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

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Perfect Timing by Rebecca Glaessner

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

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

Almost.

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

Its solstice their saviour.

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

They’d survive.

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Memories of Grandma by Nancy Brady

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

summer solstice
visits include
one sugar cookie

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Summer Night Fire by Duane L Herrmann

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

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Solstice BBQ by Kate Spencer

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

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

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

Jim chuckled. “Were these mailed?”

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

“And?”

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

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Plans Change by Mr. Ohh!

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

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

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Summer Solstice by Missy Lynne

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

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Automatic by FloridaBorne

“You never do anything right,” he yells.

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

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

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

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Solstice by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

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

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Days of Future Present by Geoff Le Pard

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

Yes? So?’

‘We should celebrate.’

‘Why? It’s just another day.’

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

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

‘There you have the difference between us.’

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

‘I live in the moment; you don’t.’

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

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

‘Have you been at the mindfulness muesli again?’

‘I think I’ll become a Druid…’

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Silver for Sale (Part 3.5) by Nicole Horlings

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

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

This story is continued here.

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At Dusk’s Door by D. Avery

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

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

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

Grandma, you know too

reflected light in dark eyes

Cloaks grown heavy shed

hung without shame at dusk’s door

borne again at dawn; he yawns

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Solstice Story by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She clambers atop the cardinal’s shoulders

Gently hooks soft knees over scarlet wings

Grasps the longest feathers of his crest

Her cape of midday flutters a hopeful breeze

Knapsack packed with morning dew, wild strawberries

Golden bee pollen

Time is the essence.

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

He lifts his wings, ruffles his crest

Together they soar toward a land

Far beyond East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Finally, they reach day’s end

With all her strength, she pulls its edge

Time to turn the page.

Dark-eyed Winter nods, beckons her home.

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Till the Next Solstice by Saifun Hassam

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

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In Good Company by D. Avery

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

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New Way to Office

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

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

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

My New Office by Duane L Herrmann

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

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Charli Loses the (Garden) Plot by Doug Jacquier

‘How do you like my new aurafice?’

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

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

‘How does it work?’

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

‘So what’s that spinning toy for?’

‘It’s a desk top.’

‘And that cabinet with the STOP sign?’

‘That’s my stationary cupboard.’

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

‘That’s my Mause’.

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

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New Way to Office by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

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

I look at the sentence with a fresh perspective.

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Mojo by Reena Saxena

Simon is the best pet-trainer in town…

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

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

His USP:

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

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

“Mojo, you have a new teacher…”

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Writer in Residence by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Emptied by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Office with a View by Carole Warren

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

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

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

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

Dream made real.

🥕🥕🥕

Push The Button by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Office Downgrade Promotion: Politics by Deborah Bennett

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Just 12 Tables by Michael Fishman

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

Just 12 tables, that’s my dream.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Home Office Attire by Nicole Horlings

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

🥕🥕🥕

Back to the Office by Jenne Gray

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

Who am I to argue?

🥕🥕🥕

Spelling Independence by JulesPaige

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

be nimble
Jack jumped ‘cross the road
to safety

🥕🥕🥕

Growing Pains by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

“Doesn’t your dad have a spare room?”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Respected Counselor by Sue Spitulnik

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

“Tis.”

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

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

Michael nodded approval. “Sounds like him.”

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Office Romance by C. E. Ayr

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

Susie doesn’t respond, she just stares sullenly.

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

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

She doesn’t reply.

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

Nothing.

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

Her eyes speak volumes.

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

Her tail wags.

🥕🥕🥕

New Beginnings by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

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

Slowly the veil lifted…

🥕🥕🥕

Her Own Office by Charli Mills

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

🥕🥕🥕

Domestic Setting by JulesPaige

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Zooming by Eliza Mimski

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

🥕🥕🥕

Being ‘Normal’ by Padmini Krishnan

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

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A Complainer Talk by Simon Prathap D

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

🥕🥕🥕

Off-Ice; On-Ice by Bill Engleson

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

🥕🥕🥕

High Rise by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Mad to Work Here? by Anne Goodwin

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The New Arrangement by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The New Classroom by Donna Matthews

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

“Yeah?”

“Tell me again the story of the pandemic.”

“Oh honey, really? Again?”

“P-l-e-a-s-e”

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

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

“Yes”

“And learned letters and numbers?”

“Mm-hmm”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Galactic Wheeler by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Just One by Rebecca Glaessner

Career day, they’d say.

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

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

“Ah! Found it,” I cease searching.

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

“My only consideration.”

“Understood.”

The air ripples and distorts before me.

“Your pathway is stabilised.”

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

I breathe deep the Earthen air.

It’s good to be back.

Time for work.

🥕🥕🥕

Remotely Workin’ (Part I) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Remotely Workin’ (Part II) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Leashed

Leashed or not, these stories run wild.

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

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

The Chase by Susan Joy Clark

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

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Doug Jacquier

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

🥕🥕🥕

Being a Good Dog by Joanne Fisher

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

🥕🥕🥕

Woof! by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Unleashed by Anita Dawes

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

🥕🥕🥕

Life on a Leash by Ruchira Khanna

“Where are you going?”

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

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

There was silence.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Stay by MRMacrum

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Obedience Training by Anne Goodwin

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

🥕🥕🥕

Tsunami by Reena Saxena

Nature’s fury unleashed

scream headlines after the tsunami.

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Restraint by Charli Mills

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

🥕🥕🥕

Leashed by Simon Prathap D

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

No Third Wheel Required by Nicole Horlings

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Time to Leash the Beast by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

April smiled. “Good idea. Thanks!”

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Real World by Michael Fishman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inhale. This is not the real world. Exhale.

🥕🥕🥕

Park Life by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

“Aha.” Lucky suddenly ran off again.

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Hallmark Moment by Donna Matthews

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

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

“I know. But I’m sad.”

“This leaving is me, not you!”

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

🥕🥕🥕

Granma Desiree by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Not an Ordinary Day by Sue Spitulnik

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

Katie stammered. “Wha…t?”

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

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

Experiencing palpable raised hackles, they gulped drinks and skedaddled.

🥕🥕🥕

Unleashed by Norah Colvin

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Tighter Leash by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Subdue by Rebecca Glaessner

Drones overhead revealed the enemy territory via LiDAR readings.

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

But it was enough.

Orders remained. Subdue at all costs.

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

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

The scene that greeted them froze them still.

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

The unit commander demanded a fall-back.

🥕🥕🥕

Parable by Matthew Wester

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

🥕🥕🥕

Samurai Sensei by JulesPaige

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

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

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

seizing time
be careful whilst you
be carefree

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking the Leash by Bill Engleson

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

When Pigs Slide by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Tiny Flying Insects

We got the buzz on tiny flying insects.

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

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

An Unnatural Glade by Chel Owens

Var paused. This opening felt different.

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Little Things by Rebecca Glaessner

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

Yet, its natural chaos is still wondrous.

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

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

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

I had to return.

Despite humans, across all those years, nature survived.

Thrived.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Defending Scotland by Geoff Le Pard

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

🥕🥕🥕

Warfare by Reena Saxena

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

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

Windows are shut as those insects throng the sky.

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

The deed is done. It is biological warfare.

🥕🥕🥕

Hosts by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Flying Purple People Eaters by Doug Jacquier

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

🥕🥕🥕

BBQ the Fly by Norah Colvin

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

🥕🥕🥕

Probe by Laura Finn

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

You, giant, don’t like that though.

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

🥕🥕🥕

Tiny Biting Insects by J.B. Scarce

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Summer Afternoon by Michael Fishman

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

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

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

“Yeah, I know, but—”

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

“Where?”

“There, to your left. Now watch.”

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

“Wow dad, cool!”

“Ribbit.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bugged by Bill Engleson

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

🥕🥕🥕

Small Song Reigning by JulesPaige

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Surprise Discovery by Duane L Herrmann

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

🥕🥕🥕

Travel Plans by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

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

“Duck” was my instant command.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Time’s a Changin’ by Cara Stefano

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

🥕🥕🥕

Mother Knows Best Even When Dead by Ellen Best

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

🥕🥕🥕

Murder In Picnic Wood by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

“Use it! Use it!” demanded Mary.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

River Camp by Saifun Hassam

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

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

Lamps lit up the Camp, traps for the invaders.

No invader should get into the Camp unscathed.

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

Citronella sprayers were checked for blocked nozzles.

Nightjars and bats flew overhead.

News spread fast of an approaching swarm.

First Aid Station was on high alert.

Swarm after swarm of mosquitoes darkened the skies.

Morning dawned.

Shimmering dragonflies swept into the Camp.

🥕🥕🥕

Beasties by C. E. Ayr

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Day For Remembering by Sue Spitulnik

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

🥕🥕🥕

MacArthur Wasted Men Like Flies by Charli Mills

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

🥕🥕🥕

Horror of Flies by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

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

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part I) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part II) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part III) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Biting Yarns (Part IV) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening

Gardening in the buff has led to unexpected stories.

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

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

The Other Edward Carpenter by Anne Goodwin

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Pages by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Pieces by Rebecca Glaessner

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

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

Soon.

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

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

Then, his mind darkened.

Something distant, unseen, entered the atmosphere.

His pot crashed on pavement.

Blind, disconnected.

Utterly naked.

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

🥕🥕🥕

Without a Hat by Norah Colvin

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

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

And smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Sherlock by C E Ayr

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

🥕🥕🥕

Defended the Defenseless by JulesPaige

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Brush with Passion by Doug Jacquier

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

🥕🥕🥕

New Neighbor by Anita Dawes

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

🥕🥕🥕

Morning View by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Barely Cultivated by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Gardening Naked by Susan Joy Clark

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

“What are you screaming about?”

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

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

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

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

“Why are you screaming?”

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

🥕🥕🥕

Slip Up by Charli Mills

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

🥕🥕🥕

Naked Gardening by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Lunch and Munch Garden Club by Saifun Hassam

Hi fellow gardeners!

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

And for planting tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

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

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

Our very fresh garden salad.

Also Stella’s special “Barely Barley Soup.”

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

Bring spades and veggie peelers.

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

Lettuce looks ready.

No dressing required.

🥕🥕🥕

Selective Forgetfulness by Sue Spitulnik

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

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Hank’s Tomatoes by Michael Fishman

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

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

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

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

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

And one for themselves.

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Drinking While Pruning by Pete Fanning

You hear about Lewis?

No. What now?

Awful.

Yeah?

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

Doesn’t seem odd.

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

Like, naked?

Naked as he came.

Wow.

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

I don’t think it was the tree.

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

Wait, what?

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

Don’t tell me.

Pruned his own cherries.

Ouch.

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Garden Club Party by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

“What party?”

“You know the hot chick across the street?”

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

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

“You don’t garden.”

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

“But where’re your clothes?”

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

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

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Bare by Matt Wester

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

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Under the Full Moon by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

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Exposed by D. Avery

“I’m too fat!”

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

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

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

How had she not noticed?

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

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Naked and Afraid by Donna

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

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

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

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

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Kid and Pal Hangin’ Out by D. Avery

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

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Party Hens

Grab a party hat and flap your feathers!

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

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

Hen Do by Heather Gonzalez

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

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

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

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

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

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The D-Day by Ruchira Khanna

“So, Monica, when is the D-day?”

“Soon,” she said with a chirp.

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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Party Chicks by kathy70

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

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

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

We still eat and laugh together all day.

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The Cock of the Walk by Ellen Best

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

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Good Cluck by Michael Fishman

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

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The Party Hen Dance by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

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

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

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Flying the Coop by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How Not to Ride a Horse By Sidney Lauro

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

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

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

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

“But she knows animal sounds.”

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

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

“See?”

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

My girl nodded.

“What sound does a mallard make?”

She quacked.

Teacher laughed.

I asked, “What’s tomorrow’s lesson?”

“More animal sounds.”

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

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

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Hens in Business by Reena Saxena

The Feminist Hen is asked to lay off.

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

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

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

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

Back in the farm, darkness rules. No business…

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The Hens’ Party by Norah Colvin

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

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The Gentleman’s Gentlehens by E.A. Colquitt

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

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

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

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

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

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Cock-eyed Rooster? By JulesPaige

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

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

party hens
ruffle their
own feathers
few are mute

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The Masked Terror by Geoff Le Pard

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

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Feather Groom and Gossip by M J Mallon

“Annie, you of heard of Ida?”

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

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

“Ouch!”

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

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Bye Bye Boris by C. E. Ayr

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

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Hen Night by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They can get their own!” Elizabeta declared.

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Leaving the Harem by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Family Gathering by Sue Spitulnik

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

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Learning by Rebecca Glaessner

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

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

There’s a hen out though, and another.

“Chickens,” Girl points.

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

“No, look,” Girl gestures.

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

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

“N-no, st-op,” Alien says.

They make chase, together.

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