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June 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

Growing up on the arid side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a swarm of flies, gnats, or mosquitos meant a dozen. To me, twelve flying insects spelled s-t-a-m-p-e-d-e. My horse would have bolted at the bites of such a stinging throng. I was a good buckaroo, thoughtful and patient, and before I set out on summer rides I’d slather bacon grease on Captain’s belly, hindquarters, and around his big brown eyes. It kept the bugs away and the bears curious.

How naive I was back then in the days of my Old West.

Nevada and Montana introduced me to bigger mosquitoes. By the time I swapped out baby buckaroos for horses, flies didn’t cross my mind much. Then we moved to the midwest. Gone were the quaint days of tiny swarms of summer insects. Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin expanded my buggy experiences.

Then, I settled in Michigan on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Although we arrived late in June, Black Fly Season had ended. With my newbie’s ears, I heard, “black fly season.” Truly, it is BLACK FLY SEASON. I found out the following summer when blood slipped down my face from the tiniest dot on my forehead.

“What was that all about?” I asked my daughter.

She grimaced (having lived on the Keweenaw for several years) and said, “Black fly.”

This time I heard, “Black Fly.” The blood had alarmed me but after I read about buffalo gnats (what we call BLACK FLIES in Michigan) I understood that something in the blood of a female causes blood to flow freely. The initial bite does not hurt.

I felt ill. My heart raced, I felt feverish, and my joints hurt. The bite on my forehead swelled to an acorn and hurt-itched. I wanted to rub and scratch at the same time. I knew from mosquito bites not to. I wanted to howl. It took three weeks to fully heal and vowed never to get bit again.

The next summer I got three bites and felt the same sickness come over me. Some locals suggested I was allergic. Some recounted how they reacted initially but after five years, the bites got easier to take. This is year four and two Black Flies in Hancock took me off guard. I reacted the same as in the past, but this year I had CBD oil. It reduced my anxiety.

Thinking my ordeal over, after all, BLACK FLY SEASON came and went, I visited my Very Grand Goats. Big Chip still stinks enough to make me gag, but he’s funny and charming. Pegasus demands her back massages, and the kids nibble at me until I feed them grass or bush trimmings. Molly is healing from a leg fracture and I noticed a swarm of flies harassing her.

To me, BLACK FLIES are stealth bombers. I never see them coming, biting, or going. For Molly’s fly trouble, I figured they were of the barnyard sort. I harvested a small branch of cedar to fan her while the human kids (my daughter and SIL) milked her. Then she ate the cedar.

As we walked away to visit the piglets and watch corn grow, I brushed my neck and swiped away what looked like a gnat. A few moments later I felt a crust of blood on the top of my head. I panicked but remembered that BLACK FLY SEASON had passed. Apparently, Ghost House Farm has a bumper crop of BLACK FLIES and they found my head almost a month after their predecessors nailed me.

By far, this incident is the worst encounter I’ve had. Immediately, I poured enough plantain oil on my head to self-anoint. My hair was greasy and I had to wash my pillow, but I felt it was worth it. I remembered the CBD oil and avoided most of the sickness. That felt like a win.

But the knot in my neck was growing and causing muscle spasms. Day two, and I was asking FaceBook for remedies. Several friends called and advised getting a steroid shot. I decided that would be a last resort. I had so many responses to try!

Let’s review what works when BLACK FLIES swarm:

  • Benadryl (liquid works faster; take according to directions but keep it consistently in your system for 2-3 days).
  • Wash your scalp and neck with straight tea tree oil; it feels amazing until the burn wears off but it also keeps the bites clean.
  • When the painful knot forms, use lidocaine or steroid cream (like cortisone) or get a steroid shot.
  • Take Advil for the pain, fever, and joint swelling.
  • Take CBD for the anxiety from the adrenaline the venom dumps into your system.
  • Treat the bites with plantain (chewed or cooked into an oil), a paste of baking soda, lavender oil, meat tenderizer, or any over-the-counter product for bug bites.
  • Do not use both oral and topical Benadryl as it dumps too much antihistamine into your body.
  • It’s okay to cry and curse flies.

It’s been a miserable week but at last, the massive bite on my neck reduced in swelling enough to identify a cluster of four bites and an angry lymph node. In all, I have nine BLACK FLY BITES on my head and neck. The cluster swelled into my scalp and down toward my throat. There’s apparently not enough scalp space for skull swelling. When my head started to spasm, I thought I would lose my marbles.

Benadryl was the ticket. Now I know to take it IMMEDIATELY. I will carry it around with me in a flask all summer, and start taking shots at the sign of the first swarm.

June 27, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about swarms. What could swarm? How does the swarm impact the people or place in your story? Is there something unusual about the swarm? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 2, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Danger Zone Collection

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

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

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

A Near Miss by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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An Eyeful by Geoff Le Pard

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

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Eating at the Danger Zone by Nancy Brady

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

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Revelation by Michael Fishman

His next step would define the rest of this life.

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

He leaned back, closed his eyes.

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

What do I want? he thought.

He opened his eyes and smiled.

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Taking Risks by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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

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

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Jumping by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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Facing Fear Saves the Day by Frank James

A window-washer screamed, “Help!”

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

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

“Stupidity masked as bravery,” Judd said.

The man smirked, “I’m glad it did.”

Firefighters pulled them up.

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Don’t Turn Back Flight Attendant by Padmini Krishnan

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

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Danger Zone by D. Avery

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

“I’m interviewing you.”

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

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

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

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

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Danger Home Duane L Herrmann

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

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Pariah Pupils by Kerry E.B. Black

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

“Too good to talk to us, Katey?”

“How rude.”

“Bitchy much?”

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

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

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

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The Hidden Gamble by JulesPaige

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

too much dust
for brains to make sense;
bad hoodlums

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Quicksand by Norah Colvin

Stop!

Why?

That’s quicksand.

I can’t see it.

That’s why it’s so dangerous.

It doesn’t look like quick sand.

It never does. Until you start sinking in it.

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

Suit yourself.

Help! Help! Save me!

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

But I’m sinking.

It’s just your imagination.

You said it was quicksand.

I know, but I was joking.

Then why am I sinking?

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

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

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

“I’d bet Gary could push it loose.”

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

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

The howl of crashing shale filled the valley.

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

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

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

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Disappeared 24 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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Jack the Ripper by Scott Bailey

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

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Dangerous Intruder by Sadje

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

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Danger Zone by MR Macrum

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

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

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

“How can I help you old friend?”

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Killer Doc by Simon

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

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Danger Zones by Reena Saxena

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

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

The message on the back cover:

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

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

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

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Just Don’t Look Down by Doug Jacquier

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

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Dead at the Canyon by Miss Judy

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

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

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

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

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

Years later, the chilling scene still haunts her dreams.

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Grown, Apart by Scott Bailey

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

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Sometimes Little Brothers Win by Frank James

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

His brother screamed, “Ow!”

Billy yelped, “I’m sorry.”

His brother replied, “I had it coming.”

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Dilemma by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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Rodents R Us by Bill Engleson

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

“Better your bowser than me,” I confessed.

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

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

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

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

“Hey Shorty.”

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

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

“Should I head over?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yikes! I’m in a danger zone. Ow!”

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

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

“Already? Ow!”

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

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

“Less, Shorty. Jist read it.”

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

“Yep. Kept it simple, Shorty.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

June 20: Story Challenge in 99-words

Driving back from the Keweenaw Storytelling Center where the Red Jacket Jamboree recorded episodes 51 and 52 before a live audience, a white-tailed deer dashed across the road. It’s June, and the sky after 10 pm still holds the glow of twilight. I saw her golden form glide athletically as if racing for a medal. Without slamming the brakes, I hit them hard enough to slow, my tires squealing, my hood inches from disaster for us both. She ran unscathed into the woods on the other side.

It’s been an adrenaline-inducing Sunday.

First, the hail pounded Roberts Street. It wasn’t bigger than popcorn kernels but after the Father’s Day Floods of 2018, a deluge four years causes concern. The clouds lifted almost as quickly as they had dropped. Then we drove up the peninsula for barbeque at a popular place overlooking Lake Superior and ran into another deluge. We couldn’t see and veterans with PTSD don’t pull over. Although I’m in the process of separating from my veteran, he remains someone I love. It’s a complex mess but in the end, it will be better. I tell myself this every day.

We had received news earlier in the day that his beloved Cousin Dick had died. Dick was the black sheep of the Mills family and a mentor to my husband. Another complex relationship. The last time we saw him was when we were homeless, cutting across Utah, and we stepped in Ogden. He took us out to lunch. Last year, Ogden Police called because Dick was having some sort of episode and my husband’s number was the only one they could find. March 2 of this year, my husband spoke to Cousin Dick who had moved back out to Nevada. The two men shared much in common. He was going to have surgery the next day. He died due to surgical complications and no one thought to tell my husband.

Separation is like trying to untangle yourself after playing a game of Twister in the mud. You really want to free yourself but have to solve the puzzle of disengagement. A friend recently said. “It’s like splitting skin with another person.” I keep my distance from his family (with a few exceptions — his sister is my sister, her children mine). I knew he was already hurting because he doesn’t understand why I’m leaving (oh, look, there go the police past our house) or why his children don’t call on Father’s Day. Behaviors have consequences but what do you do when someone denies their behavior? It’s everyone else’s fault. In the end, I just want peace and space to heal.

I allowed the sadness of Cousin Dick’s passing wash over us both. Will we always find moments to bond even when splitting skin? Will we ever be free of one another? It’s not possible. Human solutions can never be simple. But I believe healing is a form of freedom.

We arrived at the bbq place late for our reservations. Earlier, when we finally pulled over in the pouring rain (I can be insistent, years of training as a veteran spouse), I texted to confirm our arrival, using their reservation app. I already knew that they do not answer their phone. We were ten minutes late, but Mause decided we needed more excitement. She jumped out of the car behind him. Such action can cause a meltdown, so right away, I took over the recovery process. That dog is smart. Too smart. She neared, then veered, over and over. He wasn’t about to leave the scene with her unsecured, so we were both outside for ten more minutes until I finally coaxed her back into the car.

We walked in at 4:23. They had given away our table at 4:20. I asked for my reservation money back and the hostess refused unless we wanted to eat at the tiny bar. We did. I fumed. I barely made eye contact with the bartender. But he soon engaged in an interesting discussion with my spouse. Turns out that the man swilling drinks has a father who also went through combat dive school in the Army. You can tell when both parties are honest about service (I’ve met lots of self-proclaimed Rangers who never pass the bull-puckey test). The conversation was a gift. Few can reach my husband at this level.

I boxed my dinner because I was too nervous to eat and it was so good I wanted to tuck into it later when I could enjoy the food. I was asked back to the Red Jacket Jamboree to host the audience for two live radio performances. It’s hard for the veteran to sit through anything, but he took up my offer as a way to celebrate Father’s Day.

Even that word has lost clarity. How do we celebrate difficult parental relationships?

But there we were, at the KeweenawStorytelling Center in Calumet, preparing for a show. It was not exciting for him, so he leashed and walked Mause. I cleaned the toilet, reminded the Copper Cats jazz ensemble every five minutes to get on stage, and tracked down costumes. This is not close to what eases my mind before I have to go before an audience. Except for cleaning the toilet. Cleaning is an automatic response to calm my nerves. But wrangling jazz musicians? Never. Yet, I can be insistent. They were on stage and I lined up the co-hosts exactly at 7 pm.

Didn’t trip over my tongue. Check. Remembered to make the audience laugh. Check. Forgot how to lower the dagnabbit microphone (thank you, Jerry, as always). Check. Eased players back on stage after intermission. Check. Wrangled audience members back into their seats, including one veteran who wandered off. Check. Relaxed, ’cause my work was done and I got laughs. Check. Went back on stage for a contest…Wait. What?

No one told me they volunteered me to play a game to guess which passages Ernest Hemingway or Aldo Leopold wrote. Two influential authors. Heminway inspires brevity and Leopold inspires nature writing. Yet, they were selected as the focus of episode 52 because they both have Michigan connections. It’s possible they met in the UP in 1919. After the contest, I’m convinced they met and wrote to each other. I struggled to differentiate the passages and I have read everything both authors published. My opponent was the evening’s singing sensation, John Davey. I wondered if he read. I wondered if he noticed I had called him “Dave” to the audience.

My heart pounded. But at least John’s a nice guy (and yes, he’s literate). And he’s a storyteller in song.

In the end, we tied. And I got to scoot off stage.

The veteran wandered again. I got called to get a photo with the cast and musicians. I distributed several copies of Vol. 1, dreaming about reading stories from Vol. 2 at the Storytelling Center. I noted our empty 99-word story vending machine. Soon, I’ll have more freedom to that peace where I can think and create and produce again. The 19th was good in the end. And I didn’t hit a deer (thank you, Deer Nation for safe passage).

June 19th has long been a celebration of emancipation, especially in parts of Texas. Like many Americans, I only recently became aware of the significance of the date. This year, Juneteenth fell on Father’s Day in the US. Both holidays embrace families and barbeque. Because Juneteenth is now a Federal holiday, all Americans get a three-day weekend. The holiday celebrates 157 years since the last emancipation of African slavery in America. It honors resiliency and freedom from slavery.

I admit I don’t have much to add to Juneteenth, but I’m committed to learning more.

When seeking to understand our human family, we can find the shared common ground. What struck me when reading about juneteenth, is how emancipation allowed for broken families to regroup. Slavery sold children, divided parents, and scattered families for generations. Image the impact of family reunions on a group who dreamed of such precious reunions. Now you start to understand the tradition of African American families gathering for summer barbeques to celebrate freedom.

How do any of us know freedom? What is freedom? We each get to define freedom individually but collectively personal freedom ends where the freedom of another begins. To understand the significance of Juneteenth, the complexity of human relationships and history, we can explore themes familiar to everyone.

June 20, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about what freedom feels like. Whose point of view do you use? Does the idea of freedom cause tension or bring hope? Let the reader feel the freedom. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 25, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Stacking Stone Collection

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

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

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

Stacking Stones by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

“Is he okay, I mean, you know —”

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

“How high has he got?”

“Twelve.”

“How far does he want to get?”

“Ninety-nine.”

🥕🥕🥕

Her Favorite Memory by Scott Bailey

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Local Mystery by Nancy Brady

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Trail Home by Gary A. Wilson

“Oh – thank God!

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

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

“Here – let me dry those tears.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Fairy Stone by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

“How did it get a hole in it?”

“Moving water erodes a hole in the stone.”

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

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

“Yes, grandmother.”

The tree dryads rustled their verdant leaves in approval.

🥕🥕🥕

New Direction? (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Open Sezme by Scott Bailey

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

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

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

“Come on Lassie, our treasure awaits us!”

🥕🥕🥕

Secret of the Stones by Hugh W. Roberts

“These stacked stones are where I buried Fluffy.

When I cried, Fluffy comforted me.

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

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

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

Fluffy got angry, so I had to kill him.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Who’s Afraid? by Michael Fishman

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

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

History Stacked Against Us by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

“No, that’s done.”

“Then why the piles of stones?”

“You’ve heard of World War I?”

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

“I’m getting ready for World War IV.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Tower of Babble by Doug Jacquier

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

🥕🥕🥕

Held Together With Hope by Kerry E.B. Black

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

Building materials selected and cleaned, they closed their eyes.

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

“Accept our sacrifice.” George examined the structures.

“What keeps them from falling?”

Connie smiled. “Hope.”

🥕🥕🥕

Teaching by Example by Sue Spitulnik

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Game of Sitolia by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

Jay raised his hands and shouted, “Done!”

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

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

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Un-glued by Reena Saxeena

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

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

“But I can feel a windstorm brewing.”

“Even then…”

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

“Have you used glue?”

“No.”

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

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

I’m still trying to unglue it.

The paint acted as glue.

Glass or stone … the difference lies in the glue.

🥕🥕🥕

Granma’s Rocks Duane L Herrmann

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

🥕🥕🥕

Lost Homestead by Ann Edall-Robson

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

🥕🥕🥕

Working Together Tears Down Walls by Frank James

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

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

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

Joshua began stone-stacking.

“Ludacris,” Barak snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

Barak prayed, too.

🥕🥕🥕

Seven Stones (Pitho) by Sadje

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

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

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

Beautiful, fun-filled youthful days!

🥕🥕🥕

The Wrong Turn by Bill Engleson

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

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

Nothing did really, except we were lost.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Unturned (Part I) by D. Avery

“What’s it Look like I’m doin Pal?”

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

“Buildin a wall, Pal.”

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

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

“Ah! To a piggery, go!”

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

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

“It is satisfyin, workin with stone.”

“Surrouned by peace?”

“Yep.”

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

“Nope.”

“Or you.”

“Shift!”

🥕🥕🥕

Unturned (Part II) by D. Avery

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

when ya build yer walls

stones stacked from the inside out

leave an openin

stones unturned keep Kid penned in

no key fer a gate ain’t there

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Unturned (Part III) by D. Avery

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

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

“Feel trapped Kid?”

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

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

“Shush Pal.”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

June 13: Story Challenge in 99-words

A rabbit hobbles around a neighbor’s hedge, nibbling dandelions. A much smaller rabbit follows and when I coo out loud, thinking it’s a baby, an actual baby bunny zips from the hedge. The size differences have tricked my mind, and for a moment, I don’t know what I’m seeing. When the largest rabbit hops into the danger zone of the street, I see white paws and rusty coloring — this is a massive snowshoe hare in a summer coat. The other two bunnies are darker, smaller cottontails, one a mama, the other recently emerged from the den.

Another snapshot forms in my mind.

The Ocean Navigator docks across the road from the Copper Depot where I have lunch with my Warrior Sisters, a group of veteran spouses. There are only two of us and we are marveling over the crowd of locals gathered. We are curious and unembarrassed to be so. We talk with families gathered outside in the parking lot and a six-year-old boy hones in on the same feature that has caught my eyes — the fully enclosed lifeboats that look like mini orange submarines. Our minds meld, imagining the dangers. One is never too old or too young to make up wild stories.

As the image fades, I jump from snapshots to film.

My Warrior Sister and I head to the Houghton movie theater. This is the second time in one week, the second time in two years, I’ve been to a movie and it’s the same one: Top Gun Maverick. The original came out in 1986, the year I met my husband. Maverick is an appropriate bookend to our 35-year marriage. The story portrays the adrenaline, emotion, and complex relationships within the small percentage of people who serve their nation in the military. My friend, the widow of a Vietnam veteran, clutched her seat the whole time. We cried together, recognizing familiar pain.

This film gets all the beats of good screenwriting spot on. It makes me want to drive my car fast along the lakeshore listening to Kenny Logins (even though they clipped his song in Maverick).

If you know from experience or secondary exposure as a partner to someone who knows from experience, the movie is full of real-life tensions. The enlisted often mistrust superior officers. Cockiness can kill you or keep you alive. Friends are loyal to the death and even your nemesis becomes someone you’d risk your life for. Training for combat is grueling and combat depends on every single person, not just the elite. Cooks go to war, too. None of this is an exaggeration. Every point I’ve made (which the movie deftly portrays) fits countless stories of men like my spouse.

I know who he hates to this day. I know the deaths that keep him up at night. I know what wraps him around the axel. I know he can’t stand boredom and staying in one place. Shooting a half-inch group at 400 yards and punching the car to 100 miles per hour is necessary for him to feel alive. He’s told me enough times about seeing the bloodied arm of his close friend flop out of a medical helicopter as it flew over him while he was engaged in a firefight on Grenada that I have formed my own false memory of that scene.

So why watch such a film at such a time?

Because it is art that recreates a familiar experience. It is cathartic. It validates the snapshots, the real ones, and the ones our minds make to fill a void. The music takes me back to the high mountain desert of Nevada where I drove my Camino on straight flat highways, blasting my Top Gun cassette tape. The desert images and the sound of jets remind me of Fallon, where I met my husband. Fallon Naval Air Station is where the real “top gun” school resides. The tension, the action, the relationships. Movies, novels, videos, songs, and art — they form snapshots of validation of what we have experienced.

Writers, follow your gut. Write into those spaces that make your hands tremble. Sharpen your dialog until you feel you need to apologize for it but in no fucking way ever apologize. Tell the stories that you are afraid to tell. And while you are at it, write as beautifully as a film, layered, connected, and composed to a soundtrack inside your head. Make a promise to your reader in the beginning and deliver it by the end.

Write into the danger zone.

June 13, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a danger zone. It can be an exciting plot-driven story (think “story spine”) or a situation a character must confront. Play with different genres, and use craft elements like tension, tone, and pacing. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 18, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Saddle Up Saloon: A Whole New World

As writers, we come up with worlds in our heads and commit them to paper. Even fiction that ostensibly takes place in our own world must contain fictional characters and elements that make it differ from our own.

Today at the Saloon, we’re going to sip our brews and chat about how people (and characters) make the world just as much as the world shapes us.

The Importance of Diversity in Characters and Worldbuilding

The world is rich and alive with many different people and many different backgrounds. If everyone were the same, we’d have no fun at all. There would be no discovery of others, no real friendships. To make characters in books come alive, they must be distinct, have different goals and needs, and sometimes they must be in opposition to one another.

When we think of diversity of characters, we often think first of racial and gender diversity. These are very important (and discussed in more detail in the next section), but they are not the only ways to incorporate diversity into your work. Here’s just a brief list of important diversity elements that can make your characters more distinct and real.

  • Race
  • Gender (and attraction)
  • Age (think about how much popular media includes real characters of multiple generations – I’m only coming up with Orange Is the New Black right now, and it was chock full of interesting characters!)
  • Class
  • Ability and disability
  • Religious affiliation or lack thereof
  • Country of origin (distinct from race, even if it’s hard to separate in American culture)
Look – even this Pexels picture meant to represent “Diversity” has no obvious Age, Class, or Ability diversity. Just because it’s not obvious doesn’t mean it’s not diversity!

Remember, if it takes place in any world with humans, you can include elements of diversity. Even in places, you think diversity would be impossible to include, you can; just look at Othello, if you want proof!

Diversity in Today’s Book Climate

If you take half a look at writing Twitter, Instagram, or a plethora of other online writing circles, diversity is a big push right now. It ranges from encouragement to read authors from underrepresented backgrounds to insistences that books must contain “X” amount of diversity.

You’ve read it. I’ve read it. We’ve felt the gamut of feelings from “That’s a great idea!” to “That made me feel attacked.” While none of us will ever be perfect, the climate as it stands can be very daunting.

A rule of thumb is to be more careful when you get closer to a subject. Do more research, and have more sensitivity readers. If, like me, you are white, and you want to write a book with a non-white main character set in the modern world, you definitely want to have sensitivity readers and do a lot of research. At the same time, if I wrote that book, it would be a disservice if I pretended like I was an expert on the subject when I didn’t have that life experience.

While most of us probably will stick with mains similar enough to ourselves that we won’t have that issue, I encourage you to try and push yourself with one character in your next work. Use the opportunity to learn new things, then write a piece that will expand your boundaries.

A Whole OLD World

Whenever you’re writing a fictional world, no matter how dissimilar to our own, your book will still be read by an audience steeped in our own world. No matter how dissimilar the histories of our worlds, anything written for humans to read will be read within the context of our own world.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

If you write a world in which women are in power and men are not, it still is read in the context of a world in which men have long had most of the power. The switch of political power will still remind any reader of this fact. A book written in such a world could be very thematically interesting, or it could feel very ignorant of the element it switched. How you speak of the issue is just as important in a very different world as it is in our own.


About the Author

H.R.R. Gorman often doesn’t feel diverse, even if other people say he is. He loves writing, history, and science, often in erratically changing orders. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/ or read the old “Into the Past” columns here on the Carrot Ranch!

Memorials Collection

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

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

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

Who Is To Blame? by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

But is it writing or reading that is the crime?

🥕🥕🥕

In Memory of by Michael Fishman

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

A MONUMENT

We see them…

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

We see them…

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

We see them…

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

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Remembering by D. Avery

“Shut that fucking TV off!”

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

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

“Better?”

“Eh.”

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

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

“Stupid kids,” she said.

“What?”

“The news. Building a memorial.”

“Why not?”

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

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

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Behind A Memorial by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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In Memory of Marcella by Nancy Brady

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

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In Memory Of by Sadje

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

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Memorial of Inhumanity by Reena Saxena

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

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

“Aren’t we a part of humanity?”

They step back on hearing this voice from nowhere.

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

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

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Memorial by Norah Colvin

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

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Honoring Shannon by Gary A. Wilson

Dear Kent family.

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

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

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

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

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

Humbly,

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Memorial to What? by Duane L Herrmann

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

No victors here.

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

If so, maybe there would be less war.

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Flames of the Shoah by Tzvi Fievel

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

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

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

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Memorials by Geoff Le Pard

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

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Private Enclave (Spot On?) by JulesPaige

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

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

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

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Disappeared 20 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

The haunted mansion cast a chill shadow from above.

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

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

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Out On the Old Highway by Bill Engleson

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

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

This week was the earliest I was free to return.

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

“Flowers! Pictures! The usual roadside memorial.”

“Just walking?”

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

“Nah! I can manage.”

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Aftermath by Padmini Krishnan

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

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

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

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

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

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Rapturicus Rodenticus by Scott Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

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Owls by Scott Bailey

“Going to the taxidermy shop today?”

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

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

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

“Each others nuts, probably!”

“HA, good one!”

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

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Immortally Memorialized, Presently by D. Avery

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

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

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

“Virtually, yep.”

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

“So imagine one inta existence Kid.”

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

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

Yep, each one monumental.”

“Write on.”

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

June 6: Story Challenge in 99-words

Along the shoreline of the Keweenaw Peninsula, people stack stones. With the prevalence of gray basalt and reddish rhyolite, Lake Superior makes an endless supply of rounded material for zen-like cairns. Recently, a friend took my picture while I was communing with rocks along a beach strewn with stacked stones. In the photo, I’m at a distance and look like a cairn on two legs. I love that shot. I walk among my rock people.

Across the US West, cowboys think any work associated with fences is the worst task on a ranch. Often, it’s a punishment. Nevada is a rocky place, but ranches string barbed wire instead of stone fences. In the open draws of a canyon, they use tall juniper poles to erect horse traps. So, if you were to find a stone fence (say, you were out riding a modern fenceline or scouting for mustangs) you can bet it’s ancient. The Indigenous to the Great Basin stacked stones.

When I was a kid, between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I rode fence and pushed strays back to their high mountain summer meadows. This public grazing land was in California, but all the ranchers who used it were down in the valleys below in Nevada. I found so many stone structures, some fences, others hunting blinds, and possibly round houses. I had a sharp eye for human-altered stones because I was into rocks and could easily see the unnatural among the geology.

At my daughter’s farm, part of their land was once the Franklin Junior Mine. Where they farm, was part of the original small food plots for the village of Boston Location. In between, brambles, woods, and old orchards have overgrown the land. When I walk the trails they maintain, I can easily spot the old hand-made structures. Stacked stone beneath moss and branches.

This weekend, I received an unexpected respite and I’m currently in a cabin further north among stones both natural and altered. Unlike McLain’s this cabin has lights, a tiny bathroom (and inside), wifi, and cell service. It’s almost unheard of that a single spot up the rocky spine of the Keweenaw has either cell service or wifi, and this magical place has both. It’s been a long time since I’ve found such a peace. It’s an easy peace, not a practiced peace, or hiding peace. Peace. Calm. Water. Rocks.

Within walking distance of my cabin, I can marvel at some buildings made of local stone. They seem solid and part of the landscape. It makes me wonder when humankind began their relationship with stones. First, they took to caves, the earthly equivalent of wombs. What came next? Dugouts? Dwellings on rock faces? Was it a bold act to remove rocks in chunks and construct designs not dictated by mama earth?

I’d like to think that when we build with stones, we feel more connected to our natural environment. Despite cowboys not liking fences, they loved their horses. Riders of the range were connected when they ranched on horseback. Many collected rocks. When I see the cairns that people build, I feel they are connecting, too. Humans can find healing among the stones.

June 6, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stone-stacking. How does the activity fit into a story? Who is involved? What is the tone? Do the stones have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 11, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Well’s Gone Dry Collection

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

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

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

The Well Has Gone Dry by Rob Smith

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

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Now It’s Your Turn by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

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

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

The well remained the only thing dry.

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A Marriage Tale by Duane L Herrmann

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

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Desperation by Michael Fishman

I said, “Let’s give it another try?”

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

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

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

I hung my head and I started to cry.

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

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

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

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

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Homage to Dr. Clair Stelzenmuller by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

James asked. “Who’s Clarice?”

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

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

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Disappeared 18 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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Where Has the Water Gone? by Sadje

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

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Endurance by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

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

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Warning Note by Simon

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

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The Source by Tzvi Fievel Schnee

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by Anita Dawes

I had planned this pilgrimage for a year

A sacred well, 140 mile walk

Could take a week

My father told me about it

To drink from it, brings good luck I need some

The trek hard, my feet blistered

My back broken

The scenery beautiful

So many birds I had never seen

Camping at night, early morning pilgrims

Walking down, their faces grim

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

Then a couple told me the well’s gone dry

I continued, disappointed, however

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

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Wishes by KL Caley

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

“There’s no splash!”

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

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

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

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

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by Ann Edall-Robson

“Is this a sign the well’s gone dry?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alone by Reena Saxena

Alone

is all-in-one

when I come together

gather different pieces

to make a whole

to make sense of it

I dissect dreams

to see

what one part of my psyche

says to another

and it’s so engrossing…

Alone

is what all others

don’t like

it leaves them out

excludes them from

control rooms

Separates their ego

From my the glory

of my individuality

those who respect me

respect my alone-ness

Lonely is only

when I pine for company

other than my own

It’s a well gone dry

looking for irrigation

Alone is all-in-one

Alone is complete

Alone is bliss

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Fill in the Blank by JulesPaige

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

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

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

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At What Expense by Frank James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Well’s Gone Dry by D. Avery

in wind-stormed time of drought

nothing shines but rust

silt and sand swirled colors of the silent muse

faded promise wrung out

sunbaked bone and dust

in hard times, hard to trust

to shake fear and doubt

to beseech again and again be refused

one must do as one must

seeding one’s own clouds

with faith of rooting sprouts

breaking through the crust

dream of green catching glistening drops of dew

if muse gasps, one must shout

wake up dreams long hushed

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The Coming of Petrichor by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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

***

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

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Welling Up by Geoff Le Pard

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

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Well’s Gone by Scott Bailey

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

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You’re Done by Gary A. Wilson

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

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An Ordinary Day by Nancy Brady

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

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My Well’s Gone Dry by Bill Engleson

My well’s gone dry

And my heart is empty,

I don’t know why I ain’t got plenty

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

I ain’t as spry as when I was twenty.

I swore I could fly like my darling Jenny.

Swore I could fly like my darling Jenny.

Fly into the sky… fly in the sky.

You know I’ll try

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

steal or lie to find as many.

Whatever it takes to fill my well,

heaven or hell to fill my well.

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Diggin Inta Pre-Herstory by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

“Lookin fer water?”

“Nope. A well a creativity.”

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

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

“Ya said it weren’t the ranch yet.”

“Shush Kid.

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

“What fer?”

“Cuz he knew thet well was gonna gush!

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

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“What happened ta Ernie’s unicorn?”

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

“A watermark?”

“Shush Kid.

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

“A rainbow an a north star!”

“Yep. Shinin on ferever.”

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All’s Well That Ends Well by A. Kid

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

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

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

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

“Heehee, yep. Jist primin the pump.”

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

May 30: Story Challenge in 99-words

White pine, birch, and birdsong encircle me like a secret garden. I stand on what was once a sandy dune when Lake Superior surpassed its modern shoreline about a mile away. Modest white gravestones line a small meadow patched with magenta phlox. The garden perennial grows wild among the dead Finns of Waasa Cemetery between abandoned copper mines and farms.

It is the memorials that catch my eye.

In the US, every person who served in the American Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard can receive a headstone, grave marker, or medallion to honor their service. The bronze markers and medallions stand out and it’s clear the Finnish migrant families served heavily.

Carefully, I step over blooming phlox and approach the markers with my camera. WWII stands out as the majority of service, followed by Vietnam. I only count a single WWI headstone. I wonder if the Finns who left their homeland after generations of conflict with Sweden and Russia preferred to work the mines during the Great War. The next generation, however, signed up for duty.

Most of the dates indicate that those who served also survived. It’s comforting to know that soldiers returned from war to be buried next to their families. But the sacrifice of fighting in a war for one’s nation extends beyond death. War aftereffects also destroy families and lives. Even training for combat alters people. It feels surreal to be standing in a quiet cemetery so far from Ukraine, knowing that many of the 397 souls interred with military honors also experienced the acrid smells of battle and deafening blast of battles.

Does every generation feel we should have evolved beyond war aggression by now? Does every generation feel there is yet something worth fighting for? The human family feels locked in this paradox.

In the natural setting that is Waasa Cemetery, I feel at peace at this moment. I have not had much peace in the past five years and while I can say it’s service-related, I never served in the military. I’m one of the veterans of the war after the war. Lately, I’ve felt so invisible I have lost sight of myself. I’ve come here to reconnect to my passion for catching stories. I didn’t expect to find so many veterans. But I follow my instinct and allow curiosity to sing like a yellow-bellied warbler.

Who was Arthur E Kela?

Born to Edward Kela and Kate Jankala in 1920, Arthur was a multi-generational Finn. His father immigrated to America in 1907 and his mother was born to immigrants in Calumet. His parents would have known Big Annie and the property where my eldest daughter lives. Arthur was born in Boston (Michigan, that is). His father worked deep in the Quincy Mine until one day he was struck by a streetcar and killed before he was the age of 30.

According to the 1930 census, Arthur’s mother Kate owned her home. This is curious because one of the contentions of the 1914 Miners Strike was that the companies owned the homes and families were displaced when a miner died. Kate’s only sons were two and newborn when her husband died. She also had twins (girls) and two daughters, all older than the boys. I wonder how she made a living? In 1930, a border (a copper miner) is listed in the household.

By 1940 Arthur was 20 and his brother Randolph 18. They were single and living at home with their mother, both working as laborers, while each of their sisters had married and left the Boston Location home. They both enlisted in the Army for WWII in the summer of 1942. They both survived. One of their sisters, Hilda, died young from complications of bronchiectasis while her brothers served.

Arthur married Arlene Linja in 1948. He was 28 and she was 16. By 1950, they were living with Kate, Arthur’s mother. She had married in 1946 but was listed as separated, and her estranged spouse was boarding elsewhere. He died in 1956, and although nothing indicates that they ever reconciled, Kate is buried in Waasa Cemetery under the surname Oikarinen (he’s buried in Houghton). By the way, such name changes make women difficult to track in historical and public records.

Also, in 1950, Arthur’s nephew by his deceased sister, Ronald Ojala, was living with him. Ronald grew up and moved to the copper mines in Butte, Montana.

Meanwhile, Arthur’s brother Randolph who also served in WWII, married and had one son and one daughter. Gary Randolph Kela served in Vietnam. When he came back home to Calumet, Michigan, he lost control of his truck and struck a building at one of my favorite local parks where I pick prehnite. He died of his injuries in 1968 and his military marker is next to his father’s in Lake View Cemetery where Arthur’s father is buried. I find it curious that Kate’s final resting place is not there.

Cemeteries might yield stories anchored by headstones, but it’s the living in between the deaths within a family that gets me wondering. Wondering leads to wandering in my imagination. Kate interests me the most — a young widow who raised six children in the shadow of the mines, the mother of two young men who left to fight overseas. A grandmother who raised her motherless grandson.

Curiously, I could not locate the grave of Arthur’s wife. There is a bit of living news, however — she is alive and a neighbor to my daughter, living where her husband was born in Boston Location. I want to meet this woman and share a cup of tea and listen to family stories from living memories.

This Memorial Day, I’d like to once again mention two friends of my husband who were killed in action in Grenada. Philip Grenier and Mark Yumane. May we remember your names.

May 30, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story behind a memorial. Is it a structure, plaque, or something else? What does it seek to remind those who view it? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 4, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.