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The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

by H.R.R. Gorman

Here at the Carrot Ranch, we take the business of 99-word literary art seriously. Those who participate in the Ranch prompts or yearly Rodeo saddle up to TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) it out and train new Rough Riders as we go. Now, the Ranch is hosting a new event to sharpen minds, welcome new hands, and celebrate one of our own the best way we know how: our first ever Rodeo Classic.

In this Rodeo Classic, we’re here to celebrate a stalwart center of many blogging corners, Sue Vincent. Sue has variously contributed to the community here at the Carrot Ranch, through communication with many other bloggers, and run her own famous #writephoto weekly blog prompt. You can (and should!) follow her on her blogs, The Daily Echo and the shared blog France & Vincent. She has inspired us to become better writers and shown us the power of mystery and myth. We also suggest taking a perusal at her book corral and Amazon pages!

The Rodeo and Prizes

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic serves as a special challenge. Riders will have to condense the following photo into a story of 99 words (or, if you prefer, a poem of 99 syllables). Writing 99 words has never seemed TUFFer!

Each story needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Poems must have distinctive theme, movement, and rhythm; no rhyme scheme is necessary, but neither will rhyme be punished. Go where the prompt leads you – any genre is acceptable, but keep it family friendly and related to the photo. If you haven’t wrangled here at the Carrot Ranch before, you can find some prize-winning 99-word flash from the 2020 Rodeo or the 2019 Rodeo at these links. Don’t cheat with 98 or 100 words or syllables! We’ll only accept 99 word stories or 99 syllable poems written in English! (We’ll be using https://wordcounter.net/ to count words and https://syllablecounter.net/ to count syllables so everyone has the same standard). Only write 99 word stories. Do not write 99 word poems – we want 99 syllable poems.

For this rodeo, we’re offering a $100 grand prize. Five runners up will each receive one paperback from Sue Vincent’s collection of published books (those who live in a region where the paperback is unavailable may receive an e-book instead). No fee necessary to enter but this is a fundraiser so we kindly ask for a suggested donation of $5 per entry (no more than two entries allowed per writer). The contest will close at midnight on Friday, February 19th, 2021. Winning entries will be announced and read at CarrotRanch.com/blog on March 22, 2021. Top entries published at Carrot Ranch. We will not accept entries previously published (even if published on your own blog), so keep them tucked away for now.

Judges: Geoff Le Pard, Anne Goodwin, and Charli Mills. First-Pass readers: H.R.R. Gorman, Sue Spitulnik, D. Avery, and Sherri Matthews. List of judges and readers will update as needs may change depending on the volume of entries and continued judge availability. Entries will be anonymized prior to judging.

$5 suggested donation to enter. You may enter no more than twice. You are welcome to donate more than the suggested entry fee. All proceeds go directly to Sue Vincent and Family. Use this link to donate:


SUGGESTED DONATION $5 PER ENTRY (Limit two entries)

You can donate as much as you are willing and able to. 100% of the proceeds go directly to Sue Vincent and Family.

***DONATE***


THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED AND WE’VE REMOVED THE ENTRY FORM – FEEL FREE TO DONATE UNTIL WINNERS ARE ANNOUNCED!

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic Parade

All Rodeos need a parade, just as the Carrot Ranch yearly rodeo has done. The Rodeo Classic parade will be a parade like no other – and we don’t need to wait until the end of the contest or announcement of winners to do so. It’s time to celebrate with gusto and march down the main street of Carrot Ranch central.

Sue Vincent

As mentioned above, Sue Vincent is a poet who has acted as glue for the community for over a decade now. She has honed her poetry and prose to a beautiful finish, and her adventures through ruins and the English countryside have inspired many of us throughout our blogging journeys. Recently, Sue has run into a spot of trouble with a bit of small cell lung cancer. With Covid complicating all medical procedures and the ability to speak with others (especially for those with respiratory illnesses), some of the best comfort can come from online interactions. You can read more about Sue’s situation on the series of posts beginning here.

The Parade, however, will march on through many different avenues. Sue’s literary art will be on full display throughout the month of February. Here’s some ways you can help participate in the parade and make the Rodeo Classic even better!

  • Advertise the Rodeo. Advertise this rodeo on your own blog, tweet it, forward on Instagram, post on Facebook, wherever you can! The graphic at the top of this page can be used freely as part of the campaign. The more participants, the merrier. We’d like to advertise the contest to people who may not already be familiar with our or Sue’s literary community, so put up the posters far and wide!
  • Reblog a post from Sue’s blogs. Go to The Daily Echo and/or France & Vincent and take a gander at some of the things there. Choose a post, or two, or seven, and reblog it with a comment on why you did so. Feel free to advertise the contest when you do.
  • Purchase one of her books. You can find a link to Sue’s books here and choose the Amazon page appropriate for your region.
  • Review that purchased book! Read the book and post a review. There’s many places to put it, but we suggest Amazon, Goodreads, and your blog as a start.
  • Comment or like her posts. Comments brighten anyone’s day, and Sue’s blog is filled with posts ripe for commenting. The Rodeo Organization Team will be reblogging some of her posts, so keep an eye out for those if you want some suggestions!

We look forward to seeing you in the stands, on the back of a bull, or maybe even clowning about.

Sincerely,

The Rodeo Organization Team

Stilettos

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

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

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

New Age by Rebecca Glaessner

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

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

Human views on appearances had changed.

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Wing-Woman by Ritu Bhathal

“I have to wear those?”

Melissa nodded.

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

First Dance by Marsha Ingrao

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

“Learning.”

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

“Why?”

Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Learning to Walk by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

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

🥕🥕🥕

Sizing Up by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Mile in Her Shoes by D.L. Armistead

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Writer Knows Her Limits by Anne Goodwin

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

My muse rolls her eyes.

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

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

“It’s a moral issue.”

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

“I care.”

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

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

“You nailed the weapon yet?”

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

“She could wear it.”

“The hammer?”

“The stiletto, idiot! On her feet.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Miranda by R. V. Mitchell

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

No Shoes by Kate Spencer

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

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

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

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

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

Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.  

“Like I said, we don’t take shoes.” 

🥕🥕🥕

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

“So Miss, do you know who I am?”

Miss Fluart looked down at his twisted fingers.

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

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

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

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

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

“Will anybody hear you scream?” She replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Turning the Tables by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Call Me Buffy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

She’d made sure he was following.

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

In the Still of the Et Toe by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Red-headed Jenny by kathy70

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Sun by Ian McNaughton

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

🥕🥕🥕

Snake Killers by Ann Edall-Robson

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

“You know what these are good for?”

“Not dancing,” she muttered.

Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.

“Killing snakes!” He giggled.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Faded Steps by AJ Prince

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

🥕🥕🥕

Cupid by Gloria McBreen

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Anita Dawes

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Young Cook by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

“Yummy! PB&J Sandwich, my favorite!”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Mom’s Shoes by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

“See you tonight, Mom.”

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Princess Wore Stilettos by Norah Colvin

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

“Do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No!”

“Now!”

“Not now!”

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by FloridaBorne

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Military Pranksters by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

“And?”

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

“Why?”

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

“Why?”

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

Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s Christmas Present by D. Avery

“Yer up late Kid.”

“Writin’.”

“A flash ‘bout stilettos?”

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

“Ya know he ain’t fer real.”

“Course.”

“Then why?”

“Miss him.”

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

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

“So what’re ya askin’ fer?”

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

“Write on Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Party Like It’s Only 99 by D. Avery

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

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

“Then what’s thet smell?”

“’Elloooo!”

“LeGume.”

“Oui, it ees me.”

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

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

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

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

“Dey want to perform for us.”

“The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”

“No. Dey weel prance! In stilettos!”

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tales

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

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

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

Time to Leave by Gloria McBreen

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Witching Wood by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

See, the full moon hides behind grey veils.

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

🥕🥕🥕

Coming Full by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by Jaye Marie

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

🥕🥕🥕

Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus by Anne Goodwin

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

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

“Tradition. Hailsham’s hot on tradition.”

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

“Stop moaning, she’s here!”

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

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

“Tell me it’s a trick!”

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

🥕🥕🥕

Doppelganger by Joanne Fisher

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

“I’m going home.” Cass declared.

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

“I’ve got work.”

Only an hour later, Cass unexpectedly returned.

“You’ve come back?”

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

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

“But you came back!” Tori replied.

“No, I’m home.”

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Lady of Silver Mountain Mine by Charli Mills

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

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

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

Jan shrugged. “She was probably justified.”

“She’s. Still. Here.”

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

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

“That’s mine,” a voice hissed.

🥕🥕🥕

Out of Time by Norah Colvin

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

🥕🥕🥕

Kurdaitcha Man by Doug Jacquier

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

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by Christine Bialczak

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Tale by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Mirror Mirror On the Wall! by Simon

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

🥕🥕🥕

True Story: Honest! Well, Maybe by Bill Engleson

“I was much younger, then.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Had my teeth.”

“I’m sure you did, sir.”

“Well I did.”

“Yes Sir.”

“It was an evil place.”

“Pardon, sir?”

“Devils Lake. Evil.”

“Where was it?”

“Where was what.”

“The lake?”

“What lake?”

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

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

“Terrible how?”

“We’d pitched out tent by the shore.”

“We?”

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

“Always at Devil’s Lake?”

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

“They drowned?”

“No! The lake ate them.”

🥕🥕🥕

Spooky Swamp by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Lawson’s Tales by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

Untying Lawson, the cowboy vanished!

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

🥕🥕🥕

Stalking by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Tales Untold, and Best Forgotten? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Come on Alice, tell the tale.”

“We won’t be shocked, dearest.”

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

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

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

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

The fire popped, a gunshot.

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Damned Family? by JulesPaige

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

You Asked by Donna Matthews

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

“I do,” he replied in a whisper.

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

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

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

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

“Stop it, Pops!” Alice exclaims.

“You asked,” Pops replied with a wink.

🥕🥕🥕

Nellis’ Vengeance by R. V. Mitchell

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

🥕🥕🥕

Emma Won’t Tell by Sue Spitulnik

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Ruined Refuge by Michelle Vongkaysone

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

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

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

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

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

The truth only punished their betrayal.

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Unimaginably Eerie (Part I) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Unimaginably Eerie (Part II) by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chores

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

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

Tales Out of School by D. Avery

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

Then came the canned curriculum, the boxed units.

“This will be easier for all teachers.”

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

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

Teaching became a chore.

🥕🥕🥕

Tales Out of School by R. V. Mitchell

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Power of Dusting by Eliza Mimski

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

🥕🥕🥕

Slipping by Deborah Dansante-White

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

🥕🥕🥕

Blueberries by Charli Mills

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

🥕🥕🥕

Another Planet Maybe by Donna Matthews

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

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

“It’s boring!”

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

Nicole scoffs and stomps off.

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Bored Teen by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Listening by Doug Jacquier

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by kathy70

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

🥕🥕🥕

Toxic Love by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Simon

Why aren’t you taking her?

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

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

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

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

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

She hugged her mom, said “Thank you!”

🥕🥕🥕

Made To Tend by Michelle Vongkaysone

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

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

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

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

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

Only they share my home now.

🥕🥕🥕

Tea and Biscuits with the Carer by M J Mallon

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

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Put the kettle on,” she said.

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

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

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

“What time’s she coming?”

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

The carer bustled in.

🥕🥕🥕

Ten Again by Gloria McBreen

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

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

‘She’s happy. She’s ten today…again!’

‘Bless her,’ Annie smiled.

‘I’ll nip out for a cream sponge.’

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

🥕🥕🥕

Vacuuming by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Occupational Hazards? by JulesPaige

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

I pet, they sometimes purr but
mostly demand attention

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Chores by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Getting Things Done by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes’m,” he grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

Preptober Chore by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

The cat strolls by, looking for dinner.

Hungry herself, she bails.

🥕🥕🥕

Lynn Valley by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Anita Dawes

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Sweeper by Allison Maruska

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

“Yes, you sweep and I’ll vacuum.”

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

I plug in the vacuum.

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

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

Best to let my daughter enjoy chores while she can.

🥕🥕🥕

Lost in Translation by D. Avery

“I learned a new word at school today.”

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

“Playground.”

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

Oma understood!

🥕🥕🥕

A Lick and A Promise by Norah Colvin

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

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

“Read.”

“You’ve got chores first.”

“Did them this morning.”

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

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

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

Lisa muttered as she stomped to the broom closet.

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

When I’m an adult … Lisa promised herself.

🥕🥕🥕

A New Day by Chel Owens

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chores by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chore Bores by Geoff Le Pard

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

🥕🥕🥕

Thick As Thieves of Time by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

En Garde, Le Pard by D. Avery

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

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Carriers

In the Keweenaw, we experience deep snows, and occasionally get snow days that allow people to stay home from school or work. But not mail carriers. US Postal Service operates by the creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Writers were asked to imagine the kind of extreme conditions mail carriers could face. Some stories are based on real people, others fictionalized.

The following are based on the January 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a postal carrier in an extreme situation.

PART I (10-minute read)

Island Postal Service by Anne Goodwin

The islanders turned their backs initially; they’d never had a woman ferry across the mail. But braving squalls and breakers earned their trust, and gratitude. Eventually, they greeted me with smiles.

The day my boat capsized, they rowed out to help me right it. Swapped my uniform for blankets, warmed me by the fire. When I lamented letters lost, they stopped my mouth with whisky, coffee, cake.

They shared their family stories. I kept quiet about my wife. Our friendship wasn’t strong enough to divert their chapel’s warnings. I’d tossed the island’s equal marriage ballot papers to the waves.

🥕🥕🥕

Postman by Anita Dawes

I have the best postman
No matter the weather
Rain or snow
Pushing his post trolley
Getting more snow
Around the wheels
As he goes
He’s not so young these days
Five foot tall
I think he’s a super man
He has a shiny red nose
Like Rudolph
I decided to have a hot cup of tea
Waiting for him
Warm his back on my hall radiator
Thaw out for five minutes
We have a lot in common
Not least, my favourite place
Cornwall
It’s the one place he likes to take time off
No matter what the weather…

🥕🥕🥕

Broken Monotony by Allison Maruska

I sling the bag over my shoulder, adjusting the weight. With a sigh, I trudge to the first box. Open it, put in the mail, close it. Then to the next box, then the next. Open, fill, close, over and over down the street.

I thought delivering mail would be interesting. I’d meet people, pet dogs, enjoy the sunshine. But nothing ever happens.

Open, fill, close. Open, fill, close. Open–

“Shit!”

A squirrel leaps out and bounces off my chest.

Breathless, I watch my furry attacker dart across the road.

I hope there aren’t more surprises waiting for me.

🥕🥕🥕

The Attack on the Exeter Mail by Curious Archaeologist

Night had fallen as the mail coach pulled up in front of the Inn, the ostlers ran out to change the horses, postbags were exchanged, and mugs of ale were passed to the driver and guard.

Then

The lead horse screamed, in the gloom the driver saw that something had leapt onto the horses neck. He could see blood flowing, but what was it? The terrified ostler swung his lantern round, and they could see. Now it was for the men to scream, it was impossible!

In Wiltshire, in 1816, the Exeter Mail had been attacked by a Lion!

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Postman Pat by Ritu Bhathal

Postman Pat steeled himself as he walked towards the door of The Bite, 13 Ruff Lane. If there was one thing he was good at, it was delivering post, and no one had ever created a situation that he couldn’t get through, to make sure his letters reached the correct hands.

Until today.

Since the new owners had moved it, ten different postal workers had been taken off this route, through stress.

A large, ferocious pet, apparently.

Phooey! No dog had ever hindered his job, no matter the size.

Then he heard the growl – Was that even a dog?

🥕🥕🥕

Confrontation by clfalcone *

New route plus fresh spring morning equaled walking.

Going old-school, he parked the jeep and hoofed between boxes at cottages, ranches, bungalows, whistling Bach.

The adobe hut was a hand-delivery though, so he slipped in, gate clicking behind him. Then he heard that low, mean growl.
Guarding the door was Satan. How he disliked chihuahuas.

More growls echoed as chihuahuas flooded around the corner, a mass of beady eyes, sharp teeth, pointy ears challenging him.

He flinched. They charged. He bolted out the gate, down the road, mail streaming from his bag, some fifty chihuahuas nipping at his heels.

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Route 6 by Sascha Darlington

The blue car in the driveway’s different. Usually just Mrs. Drake’s old minivan leaking oil. Must be her husband’s. He’s got his finger in a lot of pies. None hers.

Never seen him in the six years I’ve carried this route. She’s nice, though. Warm smile, kind words. Cold water in summer. Hot coffee in winter.

Inside glass shatters. I imagine big hands around Mrs. Drake’s throat. The door handle gives under my hand. A blue-suited man stumbles out. Mrs. Drake threatens him with her Louisville slugger.

“Stinking cheater. It’s over. Don’t come back.”

And there’s always a surprise.

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Inspiration from Dr. Suess’s Peter the Postman from Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! by Cara Stefano

Early morning; a faint blush shows on the horizon. Peter sits on the ice rimed bench beside the door, stamping his feet into heavy ski boots. Buckled up, Peter clicks into his skis; grips his poles. The villagers are counting on him for news from the outside world. Calming breaths, he thinks; don’t freeze, stay alert; gotta go! Peter begins a slow glide down the slope towards the village across the lake. A nod of his head, a wave as he passes the fishermen in their lonely shanties; Peter fervently hoped he would not encounter an angry seal again.

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Special Delivery by JulesPaige

Stan was the rooster of his route. He even made friends with the nasty fowl goose that Mrs. Lucy Chang had as a pet. He worked in fair and foul weather. The hardest, most extreme day was when he had to tell his customers he was retiring. They had all become his second family. Being a mail carrier had brought him a comfortable life for him and his wife.

Stan’s coworkers had raised monies to pay the fare to see the Grand Canyon up close and personal. That’d put his daily strides to good use on the happy trails.

🥕🥕🥕

Restraint by T. Marie Bertineau

The Jeep listed to the right. So many packages. Too many. They overwhelmed the old jalopy. Overwhelmed him. He shook his head, pinched his lips. She had really done it this time, the hoarder on Pinkston.

Enough was enough.
He turned left at the corner, toward the thick, droopy elm, eased curbside at the peeling, yellow bungalow, the same way he’d done the past thirty years.

Today was the day—this had to stop.

Armed for bear, he grabbed his first load, headed to the door.

She waited there, tattered robe, kerchief. “How kind,” she said.

And he nodded.

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Plans Change by Susan Zutautas

Excited for the night ahead, Joe had a romantic wedding anniversary dinner planned for the Mrs but first, he had to deliver his last piece of mail to Martha Perkins.

As Joe placed Martha’s mail in her mailbox, he noticed that the mail was starting to build up. This worried him and he rang the bell but there was no answer. Mabel, her neighbor saw Joe and came out to tell him that Martha was in the hospital.

Martha was 98 and had no family. Dinner would have to wait. Joe was going to visit Martha in the hospital.

🥕🥕🥕

Sometimes the Old Ways Are the Best by FloridaBorne

My father owned a moving company until he could no longer strap a piano on his back and walk up a flight of stairs.

He was hired to sort mail in 1964, when your 100% accuracy rate meant more than having only a 5th grade education.

Then, the unions took over and he had to pass a test to keep his job.

Test anxiety meant failure.

Demoted to janitorial! The people hired to fill his job laughed at him while his former boss said he was a better employee than all three combined.

Sometimes, the old ways are best.

🥕🥕🥕

Rita’s First Day by Joanne Fisher

It was Rita’s first day working for the Fairyland Postal Service. She flew off feeling incredibly excited with a full mail bag.

“Hello Mr Grysluk!” she beamed a smile at the gnome while handing him a letter.

“They’re now allowing pixies to deliver the mail? What are we coming to?” he rudely replied as he stomped back to his home.

Slightly crestfallen, Rita flew on only to encounter similar comments through the rest of her route. Nobody liked pixies.

Regardless of how she was treated, she resolved she would carry on with this job until they all accepted her.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrying Mail by D. Avery

When he first started, his route rolled through the seasons, each the same in turn. Christmas catalogues, seed catalogues and boxes of yellow chicks, postcards from traveling friends and relatives, fall catalogues; often letters, always bills. He knew his families by what he left at the end of their driveways.

Driving the same route, he now felt disconnected. He rarely saw a postcard anymore, seldom a letter, even had fewer bills to deliver.

Thank goodness for Helen. She and her son exchange letters every week. She says he’s doing well, was himself working in the mailroom at the penitentiary.

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An Overworked Poem About the Post by Chelsea Owens

The post

Sky ghosts,

is never late.

‘gainst earthbound weight.

In backward cars

Self-lifted, ours

down country roads

with cloud-held loads

The smart-dressed man

The barefoot clan

(Or, smart wò-man)

(And –true– bare-hand)

Come round each day

Cavort and play

to drop a note

Whilst ‘letters’ float

turn down a flag

From heav’nly bags

for

For

Neither snow

When winds blow

nor rain

‘gainst wingèd pain

nor heat

Lofty feet

nor gloom of night

Always in flight

stays these couriers

Windflung ferriers

from the swift completion

Our mail tote: depletion

of their appointed rounds.

Soaring o’er the rabbl’ing ground.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Turning Point by Hugh W. Roberts

Putting his right hand into the trouser pocket of his postal carrier uniform, Mike felt the outline of the handle of the revolver. He knew his jealousy was forcing an extreme situation to develop.

***

Two floors above, Sophie wished she could wish herself back to the postal depot where she and Mike worked, so she could escape the extreme situation Doug was putting her in.

***

Just before deciding now was the right time to smother Sophie’s face with the pillow; he was holding, Doug’s vision became a little blurry. Why had Sophie put them both in this extreme situation?

🥕🥕🥕

Lucy’s Letter by Padmini Krishnan

Lucy woke up, optimistic, knowing that something was about to change. She ran down the street when she heard the postman’s bike a couple of streets away. A letter from her wayward son! The postman looked at the 90-year old Lucy jumping up and down and realized that his efforts had been worth it. He had braved the storm, the governmental warnings, and a pickpocket to reach his destination. He smiled at Lucy. At this, Lucy became self-conscious and looked angrily at the postman. The grinning dumbo! After all, how would this man know how important her letter was!

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Dead-Letter Drop by Bill Engleson

He was a spy fan, old Clarence was. Mailman by day, James Bond in his head by night.

Life held few mysteries for Clarence. No adventures. Just methodically serving his regular route in our hamlet, getting to know the people, forming friendships, sharing part of their lives.

When a customer died, word would spread, correspondence would stop, time would move on.

For a few, the lonelier ones, the occasional letter still showed up.

Before he’d return to sender, he’d steam open the envelope, visit the grave, read the epistle in the sinking twilight, reseal, send it on its way.

🥕🥕🥕

That Knock by Geoff Le Pard

Jem hated his left foot. Clubbed, they called it. ‘It’s okay, son,’ they said. ‘You’re useful. Post has got to be delivered.’
He’d got at white feather, too, from the woman he’d given the telegram to. ‘We’re sorry to inform you…’

Couldn’t blame her being bitter. Might have been him if they’d let him go.

And now there were two telegrams for Mrs Cutts. The ‘sorry’ one and one saying Petey’d got the Military Medal. Petey Cutts used to tease him about his foot. She took both, hands shaking like she’d the palsy. Petey didn’t seem so cruel now.

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Changing Vocations by Susan Sleggs

In the PTSD group, a young war vet hung his head. “I quit nursing school because I had a panic attack every time I got near patients.”

Michael nodded with understanding, “Nothing to be ashamed of. What drew you to nursing?”

“I wanted to feel useful and help other people plus I’m good with details.”

“Admiral strengths. Well suited to a mailman. Delivering in all sorts of weather would be like serving.”

Six months later. “I dig my mail route and I met a gal that asked where and when I served, not what I did in the Army.”

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Turning Points by Saifun Hassam

After college, Arlene returned to Nolan City, to hiking the SeaSquall Mountains. Freelancing in computer graphics, she also worked as a postal worker. Her favorite mail deliveries were to the rural residents along the winding mountain roads.

Today, a frigid January day, her last stop was for Mr. Travis, a retired forest ranger. He was unconscious, sprawled on the deep snow in the backyard.

Her mountain experience kicked in. She called ER. She piled warm clothes on Travis. When the ER Team arrived, the battered barbecue grill was ablaze with firewood.

A grateful Travis recovered. Arlene became a paramedic.

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Carrier by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Mr. Prichard, are you home?”

Jeanine nudged the door further ajar. Why was Mr. Prichard’s door open, she wondered? Her instincts kicked in. The hairs on her arm stood on end.

Regulations required postal workers to be alert for older patrons. If they didn’t pick up their mail regularly, a call to the police was mandatory.

But Mr. Prichard was her friend, and she couldn’t leave without making sure he was safe. She stepped inside the kitchen. The old man lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Without thinking, she dialed her phone.

“911 what’s your emergency?”

🥕🥕🥕

Mail Theft by tracey

Rhonda stood in the windy monsoon rain and stared at the back of the mailbox in dismay. Twenty-three years on the job and she was still shocked every time she encountered mail theft. Her own sense of integrity was so innate that she could never quite believe people would steal mail.

She tried to remember what she had delivered the day before knowing the thief was most likely looking for drugs.
With a sigh she called her supervisor and then carefully stowed the current mail back in the truck before removing all the remaining mail from the damaged box.

🥕🥕🥕

On the Horns of a Dilemma by Margaret G. Hanna

“It’s easy. Everyone here does it.”

“It’s theft. And not everyone does it.” I glanced around. The mail room was bustling. Would anyone notice?.

Joe slit the parcel open. “Jackpot! A digital camera!” He took it out and retaped the box, then handed me the knife. “Your turn. Pick a parcel.”

I was new, bottom of the ladder. Would I be shunned, or worse, if I told the supervisor? Could I live with myself if I didn’t?

I pushed the knife away. “No thanks.” I wouldn’t steal but I wouldn’t blab. I needed the money for my wife’s medical expenses.

🥕🥕🥕

Working Conditions (BOTS) by Nancy Brady

Recently, a postman climbed out of his truck, grabbing a package to deliver. Although his vehicle was pulled to the side of the road, he was sideswiped by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. The driver didn’t stop; he hit the man and kept going.

Sustaining injuries that included two broken legs and a crushed pelvis, Carl was off work recovering for more than a year.

Now, all the post office trucks around here sport a red flag. The flag is a recent addition, but became necessary to protect the men and women who deliver the mail, particularly packages.

🥕🥕🥕

Vestiges of Forgotten Purpose by Jo Hawk The Writer

Tristao shifted the heavy pack, gnarled fingers burrowed under the frayed strap as he eased the pressure on his stooped shoulder.

Once, he bounded through town, nimbly negotiating steep steps, winding ascents, and narrow passageways like the goats that climbed the mountain protecting his birth city. The residents greeted him, eager for the letters he carried. He was their noble messenger, their link to far-flung family and friends. They shared the latest gossip and a welcome snack.

Now he met only faceless receptacles. He fed blank gaping mouths, with empty messages no one wanted. Tomorrow, Gaspar collected the garbage.

🥕🥕🥕

Dead Letters by Annette Rochelle Aben

Ted nonchalantly punched in the access code and waited patiently for the arm to rise. The maze of storage units could be confusing but not to Ted, as he had been coming here nearly once a day for several months.
Without a care in the world, he began tossing the white plastic bins in left and right. Laughing, Ted thought about how much he hated everything about being a postal worker. The weather, the barking dogs and he especially hated the mail! He hated it so much that he hadn’t delivered any in months, except to this storage unit.

🥕🥕🥕

The Tenacious Mailman by Ruchira Khanna

Jimmy squinted his eyes and took laborious steps towards the last drop out.

Sweat dripping from his grey sideburns and his tongue hanging due to thirst under his sun hat.

He dropped off the post in the mailbox of the mansion-like house and admired the manicured lawn while wiping sweat off his forehead.

Walked back to his postal van and sat gingerly on the seat. After gulping a copious amount of water, he let out a deep sigh with a smile as if he did a touchdown!

“Ten more days until I retire, and all this will be history.”

🥕🥕🥕

Express Mail by D. Avery

“Frankie! Dang! Cain’t believe ya ventured through this blizzard.”
“Had to. There’s letters for Carrot Ranch.”
“Can we git ya anythin’ Frankie?”
“Yes, Kid, get me a glass so I can keep an eye out. I’m eyein’ that glass a whiskey too, Pal. Ah, thanks. Now. How ‘bout you read them letters I delivered?”
“This un’s from thet reliable Ranch hand Susan Sleggs. It’s ta ever’one at the Ranch:

Dearest Ranch Hands,
I look forward to your stories. Lots of times you make me
laugh and there is always some excitement added, or
thought to ponder. You’ve also shown me how to
accomplish meeting the prompt’s expectations, especially
during the Rodeo. You’ve helped me improve as a fellow
“hand.”
Thanks for letting me ride with you.
Susan Sleggs

Thank you for showin’ others how Ranch writin’ works.

Whoa. That’s purty heartfelt. Kid, you read this ‘un. Looks ta be a poem by the Poet Lariat.”

“Roses are red
Violets are blue
Adore all the Hands at the Ranch
That one ‘hudret’ percent true
(Though mine own self I like alot –
Some days the prompts
Put me in a spot…)
We’re all seekin the right combination
To keep our friends attentions
Sharpen’ our pencils
Making sure our pens have ink
‘Specially when we choose
To challenge ourselves
Every week to the edge, the brink
Of what we think are limitations
Of our imaginations…
Keeping our learning sharp
Accepting all for their worth
Because characters matter
As we pursue and fine tune
The Literary Arts!”
-The Poet Lariat
(©JP/dh )

“Don’t thet jist sum it up?”
“Frankie ain’t the only one kin deliver.”

A Boy and His Dog

A Boy & His DogAs one writer wrote, what exists between a boy and his dog is a bond of love and trust. This week writers explored rescue dogs, service dogs and dogs in general in relationship with their human companions.

There’s a reason for this week’s challenge prompt: to honor a real-life boy and his real-life service dog. “Four Paws for Noah” is a fundraiser for Noah Ainslie, a nine-year-old boy with Autism who is in the process of receiving a service dog.

These stories are a show of support for Noah and his dog partner, Appa. They are also stories to remind us that animals do hold a special bond with us. The following are based on the January 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a boy and his dog, showing the value or benefit of such a relationship.

***

A Special Bond of Love and Trust by Kate Spencer

Jimmy plopped himself beside the dog cage where the little golden mutt sat with her head hanging down.

“Daddy says you won’t come out to play ‘cause you hurt inside,” he said quietly. “I hurt too.”

He took a deep breath. “Y’see… I lost my Mommy. Did you lose your Mommy?” he asked, as tears streamed down his chubby cheeks.

Daddy stood spellbound at the doorway, listening to his son pour out his heart to his new found friend. He gasped when the bundle of fur crawled out of the crate. She nuzzled beside Jimmy and licked his face.

###

His Buddy by Ann Edall-Robson

His folks were away for the day.

He was allowed to use the old truck. His reward for good grades. He and his buddy were going fishing. Leave the truck at the campground and hike into the lake.

Stars twinkled without a moon. Night noises surrounded them.

Unable to walk, the leg pain reminded him of how stupid he had been trying to climb the wet rocks.

It was going to be a long, cold night.

They were found at morning light. The two of them asleep; the teenage boy with his dog across his chest keeping him warm.

###

Sometimes a Dog’s the Best Listener by Geoff Le Pard

‘How old was grandpa’s dog when he died.’

‘Milton? 77 in dog years.’

‘Same as Grandpa.’

‘Yes…’

‘And Peter’s my age in dog years.’

Mary looked at her daughter’s worried face. ‘And you’re both young and healthy.’

‘That’s a coincidence isn’t it?’

‘Nothing more.’

‘I don’t want him to die.’

Mary watched Penny draw another circle. She wondered what had brought this on. Finally Penny stood and sat in the dog’s basket.

‘Listen Pete. If you die then I’ll be sad but we have to try and be happy.’ She looked at her mother. ‘That’s right, mum, isn’t it?’

###

Oliver and Trip by Luccia Gray

An Undertaker’s Cellar. London, 1837.

The undertaker’s wife pushed me down the stairs into the coal-cellar, where I almost tripped over a shaggy dog.

‘Oliver, you can ‘ave what Trip’s left on his plate. Probably found himself a big fat rat last night, so ‘e ain’t hungry this morning.’

She kicked the animal viciously. ‘Don’t be greedy and let the little beggar eat some o’ them bits o’ meat!’

Trip backed away and growled, but I was so hungry I decided to risk it and put my fingers on his food.

‘We’ll get out of here together,’ I whispered as he licked my hand.

###

Partners by Carol Campbell

He kept trying to inhale. It was like his lungs were going to burst. Lionel had asthma. Although used to this, it never got easier. “Mom, where is Franklin?”, he whispered laboriously. The Dalmation came bounding into his bedroom but upon seeing the boy, he stopped. He gently approached his suffering friend and laid his head on that well-known lap. The youngster gazed into those canine brown eyes. The dog had been there for every asthma attack and knew that calm loving was what was needed. Franklin was the perfect dog to give him that medicine. Dog spelled backwards.

###

Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Collecting them from the waiting room, it’s clear his biggest problem is his mother. Anxious, overindulgent; but here, I make the rules.

Once he sees the needle, he screams. Red-faced, the mother does her best. I try the talking puppet, the Donald Duck voice. His wailing ricochets off the walls. The whole department’s quaking now.

Okay, I say. Bring her in! The mutt trails muddy pawprints across the floor. I hate to think where those feet have been.

The kid goes quiet, even smiles. Not a murmur as I draw the blood. Maybe I’ll get an assistance dog myself.

###

The Firmament #4 by Sach Black

Twenty huskies laid down. Paws out, jaws resting on their legs. A final salute to their comrade.

I swallowed hard. Hot tears already painted on my cheeks.

Luke’s sobs filled the ice shaft. Each one tearing through my ribcage like a surgeons knife.

I reached out and gripped his shoulder, “There’s no greater honour, Luke. He saved your life.”

He shook beneath my hand. I knew. I knew because if it was Axle lying dead instead of Grey, I couldn’t have carried on.

I dug my hands into Axle’s fur. He nudged my thigh and whined.

“I know, boy.”

###

Flash Fiction by Norah Colvin

The two young males sat on the step. They couldn’t see over the hedge to the park across the road but, from squeals and barks, they knew the neighbourhood children and their pets were at play. Each, with visions of their own participation, smiled as if the reality had come to be. Another life perhaps, but not this one, not now anyway. To an outsider both appeared damaged, confined more by mobility than garden walls. On the inside their hearts were filled with love, acceptance and compassion, happy with who they were, and with each other. Boy, dog; friends.

###

She Was the Stuff of Legend by Anthony Amore

Dennis said, “The boy needs a dog.”

I was almost two. My parents had their hands full and were not so convinced. Being ex-Navy, strong willed and forceful my uncle insisted, “A boy needs a dog.”

She was a Shepard-Collie mix and I named her Tinker. We were inseparable.

Our yard was fenced and I was not to leave. One day I jimmied the gate and escaped. Inside my mom heard frantic barking. Outside at driveway’s edge, several feet from the road, she found me pinned beneath Tinker, apprehended. Dennis was right — seems I needed that dog after all.

###

A Boy and His Dog by Deborah Lee

Jane watches Troubles run around the dog park. A soft voice speaks. She hadn’t felt anyone sit down on her bench.

“I like your dog. I had a dog but he ran away.”

She glances at the boy beside her. “I like him too.”

“Where’d you get him?”

She doesn’t want to say she found him, abandoned along with the house she broke into and squats in. She inspects the boy surreptitiously: healthy, expensive clothes, could afford to feed Troubles better than she can. Sadness limns his face.

This boy needs this dog as much as she does. Almost.

###

Conscent by Pete Fanning

Manny crouched low to the kitchen floor, a growl in his throat, his mismatched eyes pinging from Jack to his mother.

“Jack, what happened?”

“It was just a nibble, Mom. The guy’s a tool.”

“Leo is not a….tool,” Mom said. Then to the dog. “Not acceptable, Manny!”

They peeked out, finding Leo with his back to the living room mirror,
wrenched around feeling for holes in his skinny jeans.

“Stupid mutt,” he muttered, turning to fine tune his hair.

Jack looked up with a whisper.

“Seriously Mom.”

Manny slid up beside them. Jack’s mother scratched his head.

“Good boy, Manny.”

###

The Boy by Ula Humienik

Until I met him, my life was filled with humiliation and loneliness. Imagine: Begging for scraps on the streets. Capture. Imprisonment. Oh, the noise, the chaos, the whimpering at night. A sad lonely affair.

Of course, things hadn’t always been so dire. At the beginning, life looked promising: the freedom and rollicking of childhood, the warmth of mother and snuggling up with my siblings.

How was I to know things would turn so badly?

The day I will remember as the best day of my life will always be the day the boy took me home from the pound.

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Those Left Behind by Charli Mills

Sarah coaxed the terrier out of his hiding place beneath the barn. Sarah felt numb, disbelieving Cobb was gone. Ever the backbone of the McCanles family, Cobb’s loss was crippling.

The terrier poked his head out, recognized Sarah and snuggled into her arms, darting his tongue at her face. Despite her despair, she smiled. She lifted the dog and walked toward where Mary sat erect in the wagon, stone-faced. Her children were disheveled, an unusual oversight. Monroe ignored Sarah as she approached.

“Monroe, he’s yours now. Take care of him.” And silently, she meant the last for the dog.

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Sheltered Companion by Jules Paige

The boys were ready for a new pet. And the shelter was a good place to find one. The Collie-Shepherd mix was much bigger than the teacup poodle that died. Dad had to travel for business and Mom thought it was good to have a some help with the boys. They were all lucky to have her love and trust around for about nine years. Favorite photos of the pooch where when the boys dressed her up. Both docile and protective, better than any electric alarm. She was both a member of the family and a lesson in responsibility.

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Marvin by Larry LaForge

Ed sat on the front porch sipping the decaffeinated ice tea Edna made for him.

“Here comes Marvin!” he called out. Edna hurried to Ed’s side to watch the daily afternoon ritual.

The lovable Boxer rambled up the street, tail wagging with anticipation. “How does he know what time it is?” Ed asked. Edna shook her head in wonderment.

Marvin rose on his strong hind legs, sensing arrival of the large yellow vehicle. He barked with excitement when young Jeremy Watkins exited the school bus.

Ed smiled at the sheer joy on Jeremy’s face as the youngster spotted Marvin.

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Desperate Love by Christina Rose

Eight years old and perpetually suspended, physical altercations a daily occurrence. The loss of his mother manifesting into something darker, threatening to overtake his young life.

He came home to the small black and white bundle curled up on his bed, dark brown eyes pleading for the love they both yearned for. Charlie took the puppy in his arms, his rage melting with every desperate lick.

“Love each other,” his father said sadly from the doorway.

And they did.

The small box of dust sat on his bedside table. Sixteen years of childhood memories forever close to his heart.

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Inspired by these stories? Write one for our fundraiser! We are helping Noah and Appa with their costly yet vital service training. The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest is between 100-500 words (not including title), open to everyone and has a $250 first place prize and new second and third place prizes. Top three entries will be published in the RoundUp. $15 fee goes to support Noah and Appa. You can enter as many stories as you are inspired to write!

CR extended deadline