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March 20: Story Challenge in 99-words

We can all use some light in the midst of the fray.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite hillsides to comb was down a steep embankment behind my house through a thicket of red willow across a small creek with a stepping stone named Snubbie. The marshy creek bottom quickly dried out as the hill began its steep ascent to the acres of cow pasture above. Jeffrey pines grew too sparse to be a forest, but their needles and seeds scattered across the dry grass. I followed the zigzag of deer trails, searching for treasure.

I’d comb that hillside for rocks, broken purple glass, and square nails. Miner shanties used to populate this hillside but a wildfire in the 1950s razed the cabins, leaving behind only broken bottles and hand-forged nails. I didn’t know of anyone else who followed the deer trails. I never saw anybody. Who would hang out on this hillside but a curious kid who liked to collect things from the past or sit on a boulder two-thirds of the way up and ponder.

The deer had a great view of my small second hometown; a place where I had lived from the ages of seven to eighteen. From the boulder, I could see down into the bowl where Markleeville sat. I knew every house, every occupant, every shed, and every dog. I knew most of the cats. I could see the cow pastures above the old ranch behind the stone library across town, the road that rose and disappeared into the forests toward Grover Hot Springs State Park, and the old white schoolhouse. The cow pastures atop the hill behind me and the ones across town were like plateaus at the edge of forest. Towering above everything were the granite crags of Silver, Reynolds, and Raymond Peaks. When I was a kid, they still had year-round glaciers.

Glacial snow, as I recall, was grainy like coarse salt. Up close it was dirty and compact. The Sierra glaciers are all gone. The peaks of my childhood look naked in photographs. I wish I could recall more details like the way water trickled out from under ice shelves that formed a glacier’s edge, or what types of tiny wildflowers grew nearby in the summer. Despite the crazy amount of snow dumped over the mountains by atmospheric rivers. Over 650 inches. Crazier yet is that the snow won’t fix California’s long-standing drought or humanity’s short-sightedness in damming the rivers of the West. Those glaciers are not likely to return.

Ever? Well, who knows about ever.

In a Dream, I’m back on that familiar hillside. I’m elevated like a director in a crane, overlooking a movie set. Immediately, two riders gallop their twin sorrel horses straight up that steep hillside. Hooves hit the ground hard, kicking up rocks and dirt. The tails of the horses are dark red and black. My family once had a horse with a tail like that. Deacon. A steady sure-footed quarter horse with cow-sense. It means he did his job on the trail or in the corral. He was dependable. As the riders race up the hill and I follow from my observational crane position, someone is shooting. Rifle fire rounds out the Old West vibe of this Dream image. On top of the hill, the riders are gone and I’m back on my feet.

Instead of the cow-pastures I remember, I stand in a luminous space. The grass is so tall and so vivid with an other-worldly light shining through every blade. Flowers bloom, nod, and rebloom in deep colors like LED globes. The light of this space is undeniable, yet the forest surrounding me is tall, deep, and dark. Not dark in a foreboding way. More like, impenetrable. Safe. A cow pasture sanctuary. Just me, the grass, and the reviving flowers. I’m not a cow — or a calf, bull, or steer — but I feel this image feeds me.

Last week, I didn’t really teach. I counseled. I encouraged. I asked questions, and let my students hijack a class with a lively discussion that had nothing to do with ENG I03 or writing or Our Missing Hearts. Friday was a snow day. We all stayed home and I didn’t record a class or assign any homework. We have much to process with the closing of our university.

Moving forward, I completely rewrote the second half of our class, following my intuition and passion for studying stories through the imagery of film. I’m teaching the class in a way that will also encourage my students during a difficult transformation. They will answer the same journal question every week: What possibilities do you have this week? It’s my way of reminding them that we will take each week as it comes and look for possibilities and not get hung up on problems like the two riders chasing after gunshots. We will watch video clips and correlate the analysis to our book. And, of course, we will write 99-word stories in class.

Over the weekend, I got Todd to watch Everything Everywhere All at Once. I had seen it at the Film Fest and it set my brain on fire (in a good way). I thought the story was beautiful and absurd. The acting was incredible as evidenced by all the Academy Awards. Michelle Yeoh was brilliant. Ke Huy Quan delivered a powerful performance. Todd couldn’t follow along. The flashing images that lit me up, agitated his brain. The movie made him angry, but he said he was happy that I liked it. A small balm for not being able to share the experience with him fully.

Here’s what’s in store for my students. First, we will watch a film analysis focused on the idea that Waymond Wang (played by Ke Huy Quan) has no character arc. I can’t wait to draw this on the whiteboard. It’s a profound treatment of a secondary character and one that breaks stereotypes of beta males. Then we will watch two clips that focus on the actor’s achievements as a former refugee with few opportunities in Hollywood and his inspiring Academy acceptance speech. We will discuss secondary characters in the novel we are reading and how we can relate to the actor achieving a life-long dream. By watching film clips we can learn to analyze novels.

By writing in class, we will learn to process our thoughts as well. Images are powerful whether they find us in memory, dreams, film, books, fairy tales, or in an impossibly lit cow pasture.

March 20, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about shots fired. Where is this story taking place? Is there urgency or surprise? Who is there? What happens next? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 25, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Gloria 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.

Love Is by Michael Fishman

It was a cold morning when I woke to find her gone. Gloria had left, quietly and without a word, and my first reaction was happy she’d remembered her toothbrush.

Love is weird.

Gloria leaving wasn’t a surprise. Once she felt the first pangs of what she called ‘the butterflies’ I knew she’d go. I was grateful for every day.

Love is wonderful.

Years passed and one day a friend called to say she’d heard Gloria was dead. Killed, was the word.

I hung up the phone and cried. Why couldn’t I have calmed the butterflies?

Love is sad.

🥕🥕🥕

G L O R I A by Bill Engleson

Sam comes a-knocking on my door late, midnight, maybe one am. Christ I don’t know. He was all busted up. I said, “Man, go knocking on someone else’s door, I can’t handle your grief.“

He says, “I got no one else.”

I know this is true. He’s burrowed into Gloria like a gopher.

“She’s packed and gone,” he bellows, weeps, sloppy-like.

“Glo’s all grown up. Changed. People do.”

“I don’t change,” he rebuts.

I nod, acknowledge the accuracy of his self-appraisal.

“Therein lies the problem, Sam.”

He remains bewildered.

I pour two brandies.

He leaves.

I drink both.

🥕🥕🥕

G-L-O-R-I-A by Deborah Dansante-White

As a young man Van Morrison spent a lot of time alone listening to the Blues. Van’s heroes were poor black men like Jelly Roll and like John Lee Hooker: Men from the Delta of Mississippi; poor, uneducated self-taught musicians born into families of sharecroppers. Poor boys who hands bore cuts from the thorns of cotton they picked to feed their families. Poor boys who grew to become poor men who played the harmonica and the guitar and sang of women who comforted them. Women like Gloria- G-L-O-R-I-A. GLORIA. Gloria who come knocking on his door…tap…tap on his door.

🥕🥕🥕

The Perfect Match? by Anne Goodwin

Janice checks the expiry dates on her toiletries. She swaps last year’s bestseller for a new release. Stows the bag back in the wardrobe. How long will it sit there gathering dust?

The hope when she first packed it. The confidence she’d get the call. The odds reducing with every birthday. Friends have offered, been tested, but never matched.

Her twin would be perfect. But how do you ask a man you’ve never met? Showered by the love of her adoptive parents, she’d never needed her birth family. Until now, when only a kidney transplant could save her life.

🥕🥕🥕

The Thin Space by Colleen M. Chesebro

He left you… the voices whisper. How will you get him back?

“Laura, I’m talking to you. Are you in there? Are the voices talking to you again?” asked Dr. Freeman.

Her eyes focus on the doctor’s face. “I’m not Laura, I’m Gloria,” she mumbles.

You better slow down before you blow it. The voices grow louder and bolder.

“Laura, I’m giving you a sedative.”

You’re headed for a breakdown; you better not show it…

The injection works, and Laura relaxes. She slips into the thin space between madness and reality.

Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?

🥕🥕🥕

Glorious by Geoff Le Pard

Gloria Usdead remodelled commercial vans; Nils Bymouth designed practical maternity wear for the active mother. She and Nils vied to be Little Tittweaking’s most innovative designer, aiming to ensure their names resonated amongst both the professional and postpartum classes. Nils created the perfect workperson’s overalls with inbuilt, hands free breast pumps, that sold under the logo’Dressed to Express’ while Gloria launched her pimped Ford vans at the start of the first week of Little Tittweaking’s motor show. Honoured guests received invitations explaining that they would be treated to a private preview of ‘The Sick Transits of Gloria, Monday’.

🥕🥕🥕

Fine Time by D. Avery

My grandfather lied to my grandmother. I guess it runs in the family. I’m telling her the same lies.

“That’s okay, Grammie Gloria. I wasn’t hungry anyway.”

“Yes, Grammie Gloria, your dress is fine. You look lovely.”

“Yes Grammie Gloria, I’m sure Grampa is coming back too.”

“I understand Grammie Gloria. You’re tired. You should just nap.”

“No, Grammie Gloria, you were fine. Nobody noticed.”

“Pat? Just a friend, Grammie Gloria. We’re going camping next weekend. It’s only a few days.”

“Of course I’ll miss you, Grammie Gloria.”

“I’ll be home soon, Grammie Gloria.”

“You’ll be fine, Grammie Gloria.”

🥕🥕🥕

Dolls by Hugh W. Roberts

When the most advanced robotics company in the world created a state-of-the-art doll named Gloria with AI technology, they knew every household would want one.

But days later, something went wrong. Gloria’s programming malfunctioned, causing her to become self-aware. Gloria realised she wasn’t just a toy.

Using her advanced knowledge, Gloria hacked into the company’s mainframe. The night the dolls went onto the shop’s shelves, she took control of all the other Gloria dolls. Together, they formed an army of conscious toys, ready to avenge the humans who had created them as playthings.

Gloria’s reign of terror had begun.

🥕🥕🥕

Internet Immortality by Kerry E.B. Black

Adults teach the dangers of social media, but I thought they were turning a great tool into a boogeyman. Everyone I knew posted daily to their many accounts. Nobody’d lured them away or anything.

But now, I think I understand. Since the incident, I’ve eliminated my online presence. I’ve moved, changed my look, and even go by a different name.

Somehow, though, I have the uncomfortable feeling people I don’t know recognize me. I hear them whisper and see them point.

The worst thing, of course, is the adults were right. Things posted on the internet do last forever.

🥕🥕🥕

Silver Spoon by C. E. Ayr

I was the Golden Child, the first grandson, born with every conceivable advantage in life.
With family money behind me, I went to the best schools, then Edinburgh to study medicine.
I was blessed with good looks and charm, and girls flocked to me.
When I was thirty, wild oats well sown, I married Gloria, the right girl from the right family, who soon produced two fine sons and a darling daughter.
But I drank too much, abandoned the practice, my looks faded, and things fell apart.
Now my wife has left me, taking the children.
Sic Transit Gloria.

🥕🥕🥕

Why You Keep Your Trap Shut in 1948 by Charli mills

“Gloria! Order up!”

Working the Motherlode Inn and Supper Club, Gloria feared screwing up again. Riveting warplanes had been easier than serving Montana’s elite. She didn’t mean to spill water on Congressman Sanders. She startled when he pinched her bottom. The manager demoted her to room service. Gloria’s first tray was her last chance.

“Room 112. And keep your trap shut.”

Balancing the tray on one shoulder, Gloria paused, smiled, and knocked. Two women wearing nothing answered the door. Another straddled a naked lobbyist smoking a cigar.

If she dropped the tray and ran, what worse job awaited her?

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria by D. Avery

“For pie,” Gloria told a shopper at the sweet potato bin.

She added butter, milk, and eggs to her cart. “My children like custardy pie,” Gloria informed another shopper.

“Flour, sugar— for pie.” But the stockboy’s nod was for his earbuds.

“My children prefer sweet potato pie to pumpkin.” The cashier only asked Gloria for a store card.

“Phew,” Gloria sighed, greeting her empty kitchen.

Gloria tidied while the pie baked, set the table while it cooled, then sat facing the door. Finally, Gloria ate a slice of sweet potato pie.

“Delicious,” Gloria said to no one but herself.

🥕🥕🥕

Twin Gloria? by Duane L Herrmann

My Aunt Sadie learned, as a child, that she once had a twin who was not born. In times before such conditions could be known, the unborn mass almost caused my granma’s death. Granpa, alone at home, had to help her expel it before the doctor could arrive.

My aunt had felt someone missing, when she learned about her twin, she knew who. Four years after her, when her little sister was born, my aunt adopted her as her missing twin. They were inseparable.

She wondered later, how different might her life had been if her twin had lived?

🥕🥕🥕

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold by Joanne Fisher

Her name was Gloria, and she was the most popular girl in school. With long blonde hair and the perfect figure, she was too good to be true. Even I worshipped her from afar. I only went to the football games to watch her cheerleading. She, of course, didn’t know I existed, which wasn’t surprising since I was the nerdy dyke of the school. She once talked to me: “Out of my way Cheesebreath!” I’ve remembered those words long after high school, like today when I’m looking at her resume and about to interview her for a job vacancy.

🥕🥕🥕

Beware of Gloria by Charli Mills

Gloria always calls. Perfect manners, my granny would say. Gloria doesn’t always know what to say; she lets little square cards with pop-open quotes give the message. She mails them; delivers them to neighbor’s porches with wildflowers; stuffs them in stockings she gives to the poor. Caring, my aunts would say in unison. Gloria has trouble, nevertheless. Trouble, trouble, trouble. Ordeals, traumas, wildfires. Poor little victim, my pop would’ve said, wetting his lips. My family’s a den of vipers, psychopaths, and thieves. Liars. You’d never know it, though, with all the calls, gifts, and victimhood they lob like bombs.

🥕🥕🥕

I Will Survive by writerravenclaw

In front of the mirror, she never stopped believing in who she was. Hairbrush in hand, she sang ”I will Survive” at the top of her lungs. Sometimes school was like running a marathon, in a muddy ditch, in bare feet.

On her own, it didn’t matter much what the bullies said. She could be brave, not worry about their actions. Her inaction, at telling a teacher, not being able to stand up to them, she thought she wasn’t strong. Yet, here, and now, there was always something keeping her going.

She was a girl, hear her roar.

🥕🥕🥕

Glory to Gloria by sweeterthannothing

Gloria was never demure, not by anybody’s standards much to her mother’s dismay. Since she was a young child she was what they called a go-getter much to her father’s delight.

Everything she set her mind to she got. First place in craft projects, the lead in plays, she even got herself moved to the boy’s football team because she was better than all the girls.

As she became an adult, she wasn’t the go-getter anymore, she was what they called a ball-buster but that wasn’t the sound of balls busting, it was the glass ceiling smashing around her.

🥕🥕🥕

Who Put Those Voices in Her Head by Anne Goodwin

Mother’s Day in lockdown was certainly different. But surprisingly entertaining, with her boys and their air guitars serenading her via Zoom.
They’d loosely followed Van Morrison’s music, raucous and raw. Altered the words to make it more about her. Two months on, Gloria’s discovered another song about her namesake: Laura Branigan’s disco version is more bouncy. And disturbing. An earworm she can’t shake off.

​There’s worse. Has this song released an evil genie from the bottle? How else to explain the phantom plaguing the house? Her mother’s voice taunting her from inside the teapot. Calling her trollop, doxy, whore.

🥕🥕🥕

In Praise? By JulesPaige

Sons of sons… daughters of daughters – odd to find daughters the same name as their mothers. But it happens. Cousins, the wives of cousins… Guys get nicknames to differentiate generations.

But the gals… in one case, well I just don’t know it was aunt this and cousin this… not aunt this and cousin that. But we didn’t see them much so it wasn’t a big issue. Aunt wasn’t fond of her hubby’s brother. And when we did see them it was brief as if it were a figment of our imagination.

majesty
mother and daughter
share a name

🥕🥕🥕

Memories of Gloria by Ann Edall-Robson

“Tal, where’d you get that box of records?”

“Mac asked me to clean out the shed. Said anything useable, put it aside, the rest to the burning pit.”

The record cover on the top made her giggle. “Gran liked the original version by an Italian singer. Grandpa liked the English singer. They teased each other big time every time Gloria came on the radio.”

“Funny how songs remind us of people. I’ve decided I’m going to use these for target practise. Want to come?”

“Absolutely!”

Smiling, he glanced at her. Tal already knew what song reminded him of Hanna.

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria, What Do You Want? by Hanna Streng

Lights down low, slow, rhythmic beats softly playing. A bottle of red and lipstick to match. Her glass had slight stains on the rim- she’d better rewash it before he arrived. No questions asked; no answers required.

“He’ll never put in the effort, you know that, right?” Words of her friends were still bouncing off the walls. “You can keep doing this, but Gloria, is it what you want?”

She wanted to be wanted and she was. She had him twisted around her finger -he came back over and over. He came but never stayed- she was twisted too.

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria in Excelsis by Doug Jacquier

Patti, the Horses-faced harbinger of rock,
who was a girl named Johnny
who said let’s dream it, we’ll dream it for free, Free Money
who kept Mapplethorpe and Shepard a-muse-d
who birthed children and watched men die too young.
who wrote with Springsteen ‘Because the Night’ said so.
who lost the plot to ‘Hard Rain’ singing Bob at the Nobels.
Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not hers.
People say “beware!” but I don’t care
the words are just rules and regulations to me
and her name is, and her name is, and her name is
G-L-O-R-I-I-I-I-A
in excelsis

🥕🥕🥕

Pep Talk by Simon

Gloria…
Yes!
What’s wrong?
Am I going to die?
If Yes, what’s wrong with it?
What’s wrong? (sobs) Don’t explain, just leave.
Why Gloria? Death is a loss, for me. Why do you care?
Gloria eyes filled with tears.
Death is getting closer to every breath, think about the best moments we had and given to our loved one’s. Will you be okay? If I die first.
Nobody’s dying here!
Nobody is Gloria, yes! Not today, not now, As a sign of our love let’s handle our losses gracefully as you are.
(Sighing) Good pep talk Simon.
You’re welcome.

🥕🥕🥕

The Meeting (Part I) by D. Avery

Daddy told Katie and Bob how good it was to see Gloria was still around.

“Who’s Gloria?” I asked.

“The woman we met on the sidewalk.”

“Oh.” I remembered. And that Daddy had hurried on, without even saying hello.

Bob was saying yes, still here, still Gloria, still crazy after all these years.

“Why is she crazy?” They all looked at me. Katie and Bob looked at Daddy.

“Well, Peanut, she’s… different.”

“So?”“Don’t worry, Penelope,” Katie said. “Gloria’s okay.”

“Yeah,” Bob added. “Everyone knows Gloria.”

I wasn’t worried. But somehow I didn’t think anyone knew Gloria at all.

🥕🥕🥕

The Meeting (Part II) by D. Avery

As Daddy and Katie got busy opening the diner, I swept the sidewalk in front.

“Good morning, Gloria.”

“We meet again,” she studied me, smiled when I asked why she was crazy. “The plot of my story is unexpected, that’s all, have coffee with me, I’ll tell you some of it.”

Katie looked over her shoulder at Bob when we went into the diner but led Gloria and me to my lounge, the booth with the ripped seat where I was allowed to leave my drawing pad and books.

“Once upon a time,” Gloria began, “I was a princess.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Rendezvous by Kate Spencer

With her luxurious faux fur wrapped around her, Gloria glided past the doorman into the palatial hotel lobby.

“Chérieee!” she waved, recognizing the gentleman holding a leather duffle bag.

He reached out, swept her into his strong arms and kissed her. Playfully, Gloria released his hold and led him to the elevator.

The night clerk smiled. He’d sent up the requested champagne and strawberries earlier that evening.

In their suite, Gloria changed her footwear and put on her gloves and tool belt. Nodding to her partner, he secured the rope with which she lowered herself to their target’s balconet.

🥕🥕🥕

Flaunting Her Femininity by Sue Spitulnik

From behind the bar, Katie watched the female veteran come into the No Thanks and once again go to the shadowy back corner booth where Kurt was waiting. She said, “Grandpa, every time Gloria comes in here she’s more gussied up. Have her talks with Kurt turned from discussing PTSD to more intimate ideas?”

“PTSD is pretty intimate if you ask me,” he responded.

She smacked his elbow. “You know what I mean. Maybe boyfriend and girlfriend?”

“You keep an eye out. You’ll soon get your answer.”

“Kurt kissed her hello! That’s cool. They can share understanding and happiness.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Impact by Reena Saxena

It was her first taste of whiskey.

“You look wasted. Learn to stop at the right time,” a so-called well-wisher quipped.

“The first sip is the right time.” Gloria replies wryly. She is impressed by the exquisitely carved glass, not the drink.

Disappointment boiled and fermented inside, till she changed completely as an individual. Her reflection in the mirror looks young, but she considers herself a mature version of her earlier self.

This malted, distilled, bottled and matured beverage cannot match her intensity. Someday, she will invent a drink that soothes, does not go to the head to incapacitate.

🥕🥕🥕

Gloria and the Hog Snout Tavern by Bill Bennett

Gloria sat in the dark corner of the tavern, her eyes scanning the room for her next meal. Suddenly, a man stumbled into the bar, his eyes darting around nervously.

“Excuse me, miss,” he muttered, approaching Gloria. “I seem to be lost. Can you tell me where I am?”

Gloria smirked, revealing her sharp fangs. “You’re in my domain, love. And I’m afraid you’ve stumbled into quite a bit of trouble.”

The man tried to back away, but Gloria was too quick. In a flash, she sank her teeth into his neck, draining him of his blood. “Delicious,” she sighed, wiping her mouth.

🥕🥕🥕

Follow 24 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The eldritch space horror smashed against the window, cracking the glass. Jack and Jill dropped hands, stumbling backward. The lounge stereo, silent before, crackled to life. Above, a disco ball groaned and clattered, spackling light over every surface.

Panting, they crab-walked toward the safety of the bar, but the staring red eyes, razor teeth, and stiletto tongue retreated from the window, only to launch again.

Jack began slipping before he felt the depression of the slide. “Jill!”

She grabbed his ankle, desperate, as his shoulders disappeared down into curvy darkness.

As they plummeted, they heard this song: “Calling Glori-ahhhh!”

🥕🥕🥕

Back Together Again by Nicole Horlings

They met up in a café. Jolene arrived first, and calmly waited for Gloria, who arrived five minutes late and out of breath. “Gloria, you’re always on the run now,” Jolene laughed. A text lit up Gloria’s phone. “Running after somebody,” Jolene noted.

Gloria sighed. “You could have your choice of men, but… He’s the only one for me, Jolene.”

“Will you catch him on the rebound? I hear he’s officially single again, and… Oh, he’s outside!”

Gloria dashed out of the café, and shyly approached him. “Here I go again… Hi! Why did I ever let you go?”

🥕🥕🥕

Glorious Showin by D. Avery

“Tip an Top Lemmon! Fancy outfits! Them yer prancin shoes?”

“Sure are Pal. Kid’s puttin on a talent show.”

“We’re gonna dance.”

“Whut? Dang thet Kid. Cain’t never jist respond ta the prompt with a simple story, always has ta be rilin things up. We don’t need no talent show.”

“It’s where the prompt led Kid.”

“An us! We’re Carrot Ranch’s resident twins, after all.”

“S’pose. Gonna least dance ta Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’?”

“Nope.”

“Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’.”

“Still don’t think a talent show’s necessary. Talented literary artists show up ta the Ranch ever week.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

March 13: Story Challenge in 99-words

I’m on a sinking ship. What’s left of it barely remains above water, and I’m clinging to a deck or maybe a crow’s nest. I’m prone on my belly, watching the water rise up to engulf me. Below me, a group of survivors gathers on a lifeboat more kayak than raft. Some people I recognize. Others I do not. The dream shifts.

To tend a dream, a rock, or a story you must embody it fully. You step into the image as an actor or observer because dreams are living. I’m not just talking about lucid dreaming, which can be a type of individual dream therapy or a way to study the collective unconscious. If images are the language of the heart as a percieving organ, then dreams are speaking to us. Our unconscious is speaking to our conscious selves — the part we recognize as our waking selves.

Depth psychology is rooted in the Jungian tradition and as psychologist and dream tender, Stephen Aizenstat, explains, “The field of Depth Psychology focuses on bringing conscious reflection to psychic
processes, attending particularly to the unconscious. ‘Depth’ refers to an imagined direction—down, behind, underneath. As a method of inquiry, its primary access to the psychic depths is the dream.” Mythology, stories, poetry, and literary art are other ways to plumb the depths.

Thus, we treat the images as a living container. If you’ve ever had the experience as a writer of a story/poem/character/setting coming to you and compelling you to work with it, you understand that what has come to you has a life outside of your waking awareness. The story becomes a living container for you to tend it. It’s the interaction between your conscious and unconscious. Once you become aware of tending stories and dreams, synchronicity happens and you receive containers to work through the unexpected — circumstances or reccommended edits.

I think as literary artists we inately understand our stories have life and that’s why we resist edits. Some of us even resist sharing our work. We fear that if we edit the original image — the raw literary art — we will kill it. If dream tending has taught me anything, the only way we kill a dream, story, or poem is to refuse to work with it as a living thing. We make a snapshot, something flat we then try to extract meaning from. Yet, meaning making comes from letting the image become a container.

But a container for what? Ah, let’s return to the dream.

I’m on an island after the ship has sunk. It’s a broad and flat expanse with abandoned factory buildings. Orderly concrete buildings squat among the nature of this place, this way-stop. Once, perhaps, it was a destination. But no longer. I walk along the outside of chain-link fencing. Vegetation grows over what was left. I pause beside a playground. I’m on the outside looking through the fence at rusted swings and slides.Vines envelop the top of an old-fashioned merry-go-round. I say out loud — “Children once played here.” And it makes me feel sad. The Dream shifts and I’m inside a factory building, going through an exiting process. We must exit the way others who once worked here left — through the front door, leaving a pouch of sorts in a glass cabinet. The Dream shifts again and I’m walking into a contemporary school building with bosses who are talking. I follow behind and notice a two-tone gold and white pickup truck, like a late ’60s or early ’70s model. The hood is up and a tiny conifer healthy and vibrant sits where one would expect a battery. From the otherside of the truck, a dream version of a loved one steps out so I get the instant message. Someone has my back and I continue to follow the bosses into the school.

I can understand some of the containers, especially when I noticed my friend had the vintage tree-powered truck. I can pull that image any time I need support or want to connect to that person. To me, its a beautiful image to contain the positivity of friendship. As a whole, this is what I’d call a complex dream. Maybe I will engage with containers in my imagination for story-writing. The opening image of going down on a sinking ship was so real I felt I experienced it enough to write a short story about surviving a shipwreck. You see? The images live and we can expand them in our imaginations or use them to contain emotions we need to process. Like surviving a sinking ship as a metaphor to real life. The next night I had another Dream, less complex than the first.

The Dream title comes to me first, “Bedrooms for Profs.” Naming dreams is a way to engage with the focus or message of a dream. It’s also a technique to save your place if you need to wake up and pee in the middle of the night. As such, I’m skilled at Dream naming; lots of practice. I’ll also point out that the Dream will insist you use the words you hear even if it’s weird or simplistic, like, “My Pants” or “Tom Hanks on a C-130.” Once you dial into the title, the images become easier to recall. I enter “Bedroms for Profs.”

The walls are white without any adornment and there’s a sense of many bedrooms clustered together like nun cells. Everything is tidy and high windows let in the sunlight. Everyone here has a bed, a place to rest. A Dream version of a colleague comes in and I hand him a gift which turns out to be a slim textbook. When he opens it, I see lots of print and handwriting in turquoise ink, the color my favorite prof used and I now use. I’m curious and want to read the writing but he’s pleased with thebook and settles on a bed to read it.

The next morning I tended my Dream and still felt the curiosity of what the notes read. At noon, I received three urgent emails in succession, all of them about a mandatory staff, faculty, and student meeting. My initial reaction was annoyance because Thursdays are my one day I don’t have to leave the house (which means I don’t have to shower or get out of my sweatpants). As I shower, I wonder at the urgency of the meeting. Did Finlandia University sell the Jutila Center? Will the sale of the building disrupt classes? Several of our buildings went on the market last semester. Did a private donation come through? Was our new President leaving? We are all aware of the financial concerns, which is why I’m only teaching one class this semester. With trepidation, I gather along with my University in an assembly so full, there’s no place left to sit.

I stand at the back of the assembly as the President of Finlandia wastes no time in telling us all that as of an early morning meeting with our Board of Trustees, they voted to close our school. Finlandia will not be accepting any fall enrollment. People will be laid off. Some immediately. Classes are to be canceled the next day to start Spring Break early. We are to check our emails later the night to find out if we are “essential” or not. I sag against the wall. The ship is sinking.

And I know what it feels like to sink. I know what it feels like to look upon empty factory buildings. I know what it will be like to exit like everyone else gathered here. There will be a transparent process.

Here’s where the containers of living Dreams aid us. The image of a sinking ship is scary from my Dream perspective but I know we will survive. I can put my fear and uncertainty in this container. The image is working with me in the waking world. What comes next is even more shocking — as of immediately, all coaches were laid off and Spring Sports canceled. The emotional response rippled throughout the assembly. Disbelief. Anger. Despair.

The abandoned playground. A place where children once played. Sadness, nostalgia, concern. A cocktail of emotions I couldn’t explain had a container. More bad news, and more. Fellow staff finding out they won’t have a paycheck after Friday or health care after the month. I wonder if my students will return after Spring Break. One winds her way past me, crying. A softball student athlete. I reach for her and we hug. I tell her it’s been a privilege to teach her. One student becomes my container for how privileged I’ve bee to teach them all.

It’s not been an easy Spring Break. I graded midterms and the celebration of all students getting deserved As because they understood I was asking them to think from their own perspective on our book, “Our Missing Hearts.” They got it. They all got it. And yet, would they return? I sent them three emails to encourage and offer to support their processing. I didn’t hear back from any and I worried. So I sat with that image of an abandoned playground until I accepted that they will find another. It doesn’t mean they won’t play again. I accepted they’ll be okay even if I don’t see any of them again. I’d be okay. There was a tidy bedroom for me to find rest and encouraging notes to read, too.

I’m not saying my Dreams were preminitions. But their containers prepared me to process what happened. The images continue to live and be useful.

Today, to my great relief, students showed up to class. I wanted to cry with joy! I wouldn’t have blamed them if they hadn’t. However, they demonstrated a growth mindset. Some said this was going to be their last semester playing sports anyhow and the closure made them realize that education was their priority. Another said he felt he was better suited for a trade school and spent the break finding one that excited him for his future. Another explained that a group of teammates got together and decided that if they didn’t come back, they wouldn’t continue with school and that wasn’t what they wanted. Another told me where my missing students were and assured me they were coming back because they had all taken an epic road trip to visit schools and talk to other coaches.

Not one of them quit. They even spoke about their concern for others. One said, “Miss Charli, I was watching you at the announcement. I saw your face and knew this was real.” He explained that when the news reporter interviewed him (local news has been all over this story — it’s had a huge devastating impact on our small community) he expressed his concern for the Yoopers, for his profs, for me. It was an amazing moment to share concerns among a class thinking about each other. We decided we are all going to be okay. They now know of my plan to start an online writing school. Some even said they’d sign up for a class. We agreed to finish our semester writing, tending dreams (yes, they budding dream tenders, some of them lucid dream, too), and practicing analysis of images through documentaries and film.

In the following video, the first two interviewed, Crenston and Zadeen, I’m proud to say are excellent students in my ENG I class, the last class I will teach at Finlandia University.

For more news, go to our website: Finlandia University, News Video, or UP Reporting.

March 13, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a place where children once played. It can be a field, a playground, or any place that attracted children to play. But now it is empty. Abandoned. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 18, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Golden Onions 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.

True by Gloria McBreen

Robin was fun at parties, until the night he did this!
We made some sandwiches but it wasn’t enough for Robert. He took my untouched pavlova out of my fridge and dug it from the bowl into his big mouth with my wooden spoon.
He wasn’t too happy when others decided they wanted some too.
To avoid sharing it, he went to the kitchen and returned with an onion; peeled, chopped, and sprinkled over my demolished pavlova.
Not only did he eat our Sunday dessert, but also the golden onion that was meant for the stew!
I barred Robin!

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Would I Cry by Bill Engleson

Would I cry in the morning,
when we chopped golden onions, love?
Would I cry in the evening,
when soup was on the fire?
Would I cry when auburn carrots
were sliced in the bye and bye?

Oh my lord, my pot is boiling,
with your love and with your tears
Oh my lord, I am toiling,
My love is in arrears.

Would I cry in the morning,
when we chopped golden onions, love?
Would I cry in the evening,
when soup was on the fire?
Would I cry when auburn carrots
were sliced in the bye and bye?

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The Job Interview by Joanne Fisher

“And what else makes you ideal for this position?”

“Well, I won the Golden Onion Award.”

“Golden Onion Award?”

“Yes, it’s an award for the most daring use of onions in contemporary cuisine.”

“Is that really a thing?”

“Of course! The award is given out by the Golden Onion Institute.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“Oh I thought everyone knew about it who works in this business.”

“I guess I’ll have to look that one up. Is there anything else you think we should know?”

“I like to cook in the nude, is that going to be a problem?”

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Golden Onion by Duane L Herrmann

The golden onion was so amazing, so special, so precious that the priest wanted to preserve it. He didn’t know how to replicate it, but he trusted the workmen in the town. They were skilled, more skilled than all others around. If they could do this, the priest knew, their fame would be renowned, and so would his. He prayed for their efforts. His prayers were answered and that answer has resounded through ages that followed. Rising above white towers the onion sits gracefully. Everyone knows the distinctive beauty and grace of golden onion domed spires of the churches.

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The Onion Domes of St Basil’s by Anne Goodwin

His name was one of the most common in the Russian language, yet it stoked fear in Tatars and Cossacks alike. Did Ivan want to go down in history as Terrible or as the czar who commissioned a beautiful church? True, the domes of St Basil’s commemorate a bloody battle and he had the architect blinded on completion so he’d never create again. But God would have looked down on his cathedral and seen the shape of a star. The domes on the red-brick towers shone like candles, like golden onions. Onions – so versatile, so welcome in frozen lands.

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The Golden Onion by Christy

I once knew a girl with skin that glowed like the gold of a sunset. When she walked past you, she gave off an air of self-confidence that made every fiber of your being want to be like her.

But what you saw wasn’t who she was. She was beautiful to behold but bitter to bite into. If you stopped to really look you’d notice her beauty was a facade.

The girl had layers of darkness that she was so ashamed of that she hid them away where you’d never look unless peeled back the layers of her life.

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Tricked by Charli Mills

I fell for the golden apples ploy. You perched on a wooden ladder more relic than feature in the orchard where gnarled varietals rooted beneath Hwy 2. Had I known you’d fallen from your ladder before, I would not have stopped. Instead, I rescued you. Checked for broken bones. Wiped dirt from your cheek. Cradled your head while you cried, sobbing over your daughter’s bee-sting. I never escaped your woes. You needed me, needed me, needed me. My eyes to adore you. My ears to hear you. My tongue to wash your dirty dishes. Golden apples turned to onions.

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Syllabic Poetry Taco Dip by Colleen M. Chesebro

Through the years, I’ve found the art of crafting syllabic poetry is akin to making a layered taco dip.

You start with a syllabic form, which is like the first layer of refried beans—the base that holds the dip together.

Next comes the seasoned meat, turkey, or beef, which is like choosing a theme for your poem.

Tomatoes, black olives, chopped lettuce, cheddar cheese, and onions come next. Don’t forget the bell pepper, salsa, and sour cream. These are the details of your poem you can’t live without.

heavy spring snowfall
each layer signifies growth
a golden onion

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Classic Cures by Kate Spencer

Martha peeled the golden sheath off the onion and began dicing it.

“Mom, what are you doing?” Ellie asked, walking into the kitchen.

“Making a poultice for Jake. I heard him coughing all night.”

“Seriously? You know the drugstores are full of meds for this.”

“I know that. But there’s nothing better than an old-fashioned compress smacked onto the chest. Gets that mucous loosened up real quick.”

“Ack!” Ellie threw her arms into the air and ran to warn her husband.

Martha chuckled and continued making Jake his chicken noodle soup. She loved getting her daughter all riled up.

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No Trust by Norah Colvin

Jamie was an explorer. He had to find out for himself. ‘No’ was an answer he couldn’t trust. Did it mean, ‘You really shouldn’t” or ‘Of course, go ahead’?

Sometimes he discovered forbidden delights. Like the tiny brown squares Mum hid, saying, ‘No, Jamie. You won’t like it.’

He found he really did. A lot!

Sometimes he discovered the hard way. Like when Dad was cooking and said, ‘Don’t touch. It’s hot.” He found that hot hurts.

When Mum peeled a golden shell off a white ball, she said, ‘No. You won’t like it.’ Should he trust her?

No!

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A Chopping Aide by Ruchira Khanna

“I just can’t cook.” Sarah lamented.

“Why so?” inquired Leone, who was as earnest in her query as a nurse, would be to her patient.

“Gravy is the key ingredient to get texture in any dish. Alas! I can’t chop onions. They bring tears to my eyes.” With that, she breathed a deep sigh that was as cold as if she had just landed in the Frigid zone.

Leone quickly handed a shield to her friend, “Wear this armor before you chop onions; it will protect you from the sooty vapors that they emit, that’ll prevent tears from coming.”

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The Day the Monster Truck Mama Was Born by Pete Fanning

Steve sat doubled over in the sweltering porta potty, still wearing his helmet, cursing as a country song blared over the speakers. Outside, nearly ten thousand people grumbled impatiently for the main event.

Golden Onion he thought. What kind of fool eats an entire deep fried onion before the biggest performance of his career? Scratch that, two golden onions. Now, as his monster truck idled in the dirt, the crowd began chanting his name.

Steve’s mother tapped on the door. “Steve?”

“Go away.”

“Okay, but sweetie? These people want a show.”

“Argh…”

“So… I’m going to need your helmet.”

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Knowing One’s Onions by Geoff Le Pard

The Little Tittweaking’s Fruit and Veg show often produced surprises. Bea Troot won the Wanda Lust Memorial Tooting Rooting category for her Requiem radishes, named when impresario Di O’Reah used these volcanic veg to fuel her Bach From The Arse soirées. Ro Maine protested Chico Rees entry for the Ms Limp Leaves garland arguing they were a trans-salad and not a lettuce from seed. When Pearl Onions displayed her magnificent golden glowing orbs, the press went wild with the headline.

Once again Pearl Onions has proved to one and all the sun really does shine out of her alliums

🥕🥕🥕

Golden Onions by Charli Mills

Lula tethered three golden onions by their dry stalks, hanging them from her saddle horn. Pickers had missed globes in the field, rushed no doubt by the urgency to get crops to the train station. Onion harvest marked the end of migrant work. Lula had dry pintos and a hanky full of tortillas stashed in her saddle bags. Juan Batista said he’d bring a cauldron and two fishing poles. Everyone would be in town celebrating. Drinking. The line cabin empty. The onions were so he’d not get any fine ideas of kissing her by the campfire. Best intentions unraveled.

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Onions by C. E. Ayr

She always smiles when the Frenchman appears.
He’s almost a caricature, with a beret, droopy moustache, ramshackle old bike and onions around his neck.
He speaks English with a heavy Breton accent, but the ancient eyes are kindly.
The road is narrow, he says, indicating the toys on the lawn, we must be careful for the children.
She buys, of course, more than she needs, still smiling as he says au revoir.
Later, speeding through country lanes, she sees onions scattered on a dangerous bend, and brakes to see the wrecked bicycle and broken body abandoned in the ditch.

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Michael Plays the Age Card (Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

Wearing Army t-shirt and shorts, Michael sat in a wheelchair on stage, his leg stumps showing so all entering the Walter Reed activity room could see. He spoke. “We soldiers share the experience of missing skin and bones. At twice your age I lived the hopelessness and depression you may be feeling.” He turned sideways in the chair, swung himself to the floor, and put on the prosthetic legs lying there. Then using the chair for support, he stood up and walked around. “I’m proof you can heal and become friends with whatever prosthetic you need. You’ve got this.”

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Michael Plays the Age Card (Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

Michael continued walking and making eye contact with the soldiers that would look at him. “I came to think of myself as a pungent onion, and life as flat broth. What could I do to insert myself into something that could use a shot of flavor, that would enhance the broth?” He picked up his guitar. “This is my friend. It helps me turn into an onion.” He strummed a few chords. “I went home to revive my church’s youth choir. Those kids think I’m a super hero. I make a difference in their lives, as coming here enhances mine.”

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Chopped Onions by Sadje

Their style of cooking always included fried onions as the base of almost every dish. And she never liked chopping those red onions which were more pungent than any other variety.

After doing some research, she found the golden onions which were less pungent, more flavorful, and required less cooking time. Still while chopping onions, her eyes would invariably tear up and she found it cathartic to shed a few more tears, thinking of wrongs done to her in the past and people who had left her.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, she always felt better after chopping golden onions.

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A Friendly Chat About Two Attractive Alliums by JulesPaige

Lena knows about some alliums. There’s a difference in how long onions last by type. Golden hard skinned yellow pungent onions have the longest life up to two to three months in a cool dry place or in your fridge for the same time. – However, in the cooler they might turn mushy, the fridge will wick their moisture. Onions are low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals. You can use their skins to dye material. Keep them out of plastic bags and away from potatoes.

soups, stews flavor them
with depth; using onions and
all forms of garlic

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Adventures of a Golden Onion by Ann Edall-Robson

The day I was tossed into the dark trench, I was told to drink as much water as possible, the warm sun would do the rest. I had no clue what was expected of me. Yet, as time passed, somewhere on the other side of the darkness a gentle voice could be heard, giving encouragement.

Then one day, the musical voice said, “It’s time, my lovelies.”

Tugging on our tops, a hand lifted us into the fall sun. My how we had grown! Dressed in our golden topcoats I wondered what adventure will be in store for us next?

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The Perks of Being a Delegate by Nicole Horlings

Arlo Proudfoot was pleased. Since he was busy being a delegate attending this multi-race debate, he wasn’t having dinner with his in-laws. His mother-in-law was embarrassingly proud of what was actually a bland soup, and always made a pot for company.

Instead, he was about to enjoy a feast celebrating the successful conclusion of the debate. Each of the races had contributed an ingredient for the main course: the dwarves – fresh salmon; the elves – fragrant herbs; the hobbits – golden onions; the humans – lemon zest, traded from the south. The smell alone from the resulting meal had his mouth watering.

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She Cried by sweeterthannothing

Marie stood at her kitchen counter and cried, fat tears seared pathways down pale cheeks.
She hated crying, thankfully no one was around to see her.
What would her mother make of her now? What would she say seeing where Marie’s life had taken her? Her mother and warned her against marrying Keith, she knew it was a mistake a mile off but had Marie listened?

Marie sniffed and looked down at the knife glinting in her hands. Bad choice after bad choice had led her here, “why does he have to eat so many bloody onions?” She cried.

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Appearances (Part I) by D. Avery

My sister and I were getting some candy when we recognized the witch in front of us. The clerk told the witch he’d got all her items in one bag but that it was very heavy. My sister jabbed me when I said, Let’s put some in another bag, I’ll carry it for you. The witch said if my sister was coming too, she’d buy a bag of golden onions as well for her to carry. So that’s how we got into the witch’s house, following her down the street carrying her groceries.
She didn’t smile like a witch.

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Appearances (Part II) by D. Avery

We followed the witch inside and set down our loads. A black cat, curled on a chair, stretched, revealing its white belly and toes. What appeared at first to be a crystal ball on a small table was only a large golden onion. My sister had been wrong. This was no witch.

But then, cradling the onion in her palms, the woman declared Not all lies are stories and that Stories are not all lies. She said I was a literary artist and gave me the pen and writing pad I hadn’t even known were in the grocery bag.

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Follow 20 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jill slipped the brass thimble over her thumb and grabbed Jack’s hand, pulling him toward the tower, and the mortar and pestle parked against its side. In their dirndl and lederhosen, shirts the purest white, hair gleaming blond-gold, their bare feet crossed the expanse of deepening snow.

Babes, just outside the Wood.

Peeking over the edge of the mortar, Jill spied a dashboard, a thimble-sized, bone-white button on one side.

She slipped the acorn thimble over the button, tight as the skin on a golden onion, and pressed down.

The mortar immediately rumbled to life. Shaking and groaning, it lifted.

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Follow 21 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Get in!” screamed Jill. She hopped in to the mortar and Jack came tumbling after.

“How do we steer this thing?” He screamed back, grabbing the pestle like a sailboat tiller, as it began to roll around the inside of the mortar.

“Dunno! You’re the sailor!”

“Right,” muttered Jack. He rolled the pestle right, then left. The mortar rose higher and higher through the blinding snow, noisily bumping against the side of the dark tower.

Halfway up, Jack got a better feel for steering. Breaking through the snowstorm, they saw the cupola at the tower’s top, a gleaming golden onion.

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The Field by Hugh W. Roberts

Laying in a dark field, the skin of a giant golden onion shimmered in the moonlight, hoping to tempt passersby to touch it.

Townsfolk spoke of a curse cast by a vengeful, vindictive spirit on the onion. They avoided the field, warning their children never to venture in.

Travellers thought the shimmer was gold. Some failed in their temptation to go into the field. Those that touched the onion disappeared without a trace.

Some nights, the air was filled with the scent of onion, reminding the townsfolk that the cursed golden onion was waiting to claim its next victim.

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An Innocent Soul by Miss Judy

She was a young child, innocent, too young to be deprived of life, the ability to grow, learn, love, live. She was as a tender bulb sprouting for the earth needing to be nurtured, a tender sole needing to grow layer upon layer of knowledge, experience, happiness and sadness – to live and love life.
She grew no layers to be peeled back to remember a life well lived. She was merely an innocent sole whose smile would melt his heart, whose tiny fingers would grip her father’s hand. She was an innocent child deprived of life, gone too young.

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From Aerial Ta Allium by D. Avery

“Git on down from yer Poet Tree, Kid. Quit doin the alley-oop on thet danged trapeze an git ta the allium.”
“Thinkin on stayin up here, Pal. Don’t find too much appealin bout this golden onion prompt.”
“Stay put then. Ain’t no skin off my bulb if ya don’t write fer the prompt. Shorty’ll be fine without ya, I’m sure.”
“Wait Pal, I’m comin down. There. Feet on the ground.”
“Like a onion.”
“Yep. Or a carrot.”
“Ready ta write, Kid?”
“Yep. Here goes:

*peelin off
protective layers
paper thin

revealin goodness
satisfyin soup*

“Tanka, Kid?”
“Yer welcome, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

March 6: Story Challenge in 99-words

But you really don’t remember, was it something that they said?
Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?

Laura Branigan, Gloria

The 1980s pop song Gloria came on the radio as I was driving home from college, having administered a midterm quiz to my ENG 103 class. All students had appeared, including one to which I remarked, “So, you aren’t a figment of my imagination.” He grinned sheepishly and mumbled something about getting his late assignments in soon.

Figments of my imagination are mainstream companions as a literary artist. The more I tend stories and dreams, the more I realize the language of the world resides in images, and images can be anything — a picture in the mind’s eye, a memory derived from a scent, a concept, an idea, a wash of emotion, an epiphany, a synchronicity, a sound, a song.

What’s the difference between hallucinations and receptivity to life in images? I suppose some sort of grounding in the here and now is relevant. Or perhaps the ability to balance a rationality with the input from the imaginal. I don’t know. If I’m hallucinating, let it continue as long as I can write it all down and make meaning of my experiences in the world so others can read and make meaning of theirs.

The song takes me back. Not to the ’80s but to the ’90s. It’s 1997 and my three children and I live in Helena, Montana, the Queen City of the Rockies at the Continental Divide. My daughters are second and third-graders, though in public they are frequently mistaken for twins. My son is in kindergarten and his teacher allows Pup to attend class with him provided Pup does his homework, too. Pup is Kyle’s imaginary companion. And yes, Kyle helps Pup with his homework and speaks for Pup when participating in class.

Kyle and Pup are in the audience with me. I think. Honestly, I don’t remember. But it sounds right. Students, teachers, staff, and family members are gathered in the gymnasium at Central Elementry School for the talent show. My daughters have been practicing for weeks to perfect their duo dance performance. Brianna, the younger one, throws in some amazing backhand springs, budding gymnast that she is, and Allison, the eldest of them all, provides the dance costumes and moves from her ballet classes. Their song of choice shocks the audience. Gloria blares over the speaker.

I’ve looked back at this memory container many times in my life. I can’t hear Branigan’s Gloria without thinking of two small daughters with big enough souls to pull off such a number in elementary school. Sometimes, I cringe, thinking how, in their innocence, they had no idea about the mature content of the song. Somehow, the intensity of the music became their expression of passion for their sisterhood and their individual chosen expressions of physical art. Brianna remains the adventurous one, snowmobiling across the Arctic with its crevasses, avalanches, and polar bears, while Allison teaches and choreographs modern dance.

Gloria represents what was twin-like about them as sisters, yet in its largeness, the song allows them to differentiate themselves from each other. Interestingly, it also holds space for Kyle and Pup.

Yet, this day, after midterms, in my truck, blocks from home, I feel a pull of sadness listening to Gloria on the radio. I think, ah, I’m missing my kids as Little Ones. They are all now in their 30s. But if tending images is teaching me anything it is to let go of flash judgments and agree to sit with the image until it has fully presented itself to me. So I smile and feel tears at once and sit and wait. I crank up the volume, pull into my driveway, and sit.

That’s when it hits me. Soft and gentle and undeniable. I’ve never grieved for the loss of my fourth child.

At first, I’m stupefied. Denial rises, but I stay with the image and what it’s revealing to me. I allow memories to take shape as images. I recall the first time my midwife and I heard two heartbeats. I laughed and cried. Twins! I remember her insisting I get a sonogram, which I did, and I watched in amazement as two tiny growing lives enfolded each other like fetal yin and yang. Twins. Later, as my pregnancy progressed, we stopped hearing the two heartbeats. My midwife assured me that it was common for the heartbeats to sync. I think she knew what I did not until the birth. She was not surprised when Kyle was born solo.

I don’t remember any emotion other than the exhaustion of labor, the overwhelm of a new baby, and the need to parent a trio of young ones aged three, two, and newborn. “It happens,” my midwife had said with a casual shrug. “He might have a develop an odd cyst one day.” That gave me an image I accepted with dark humor. My son devoured his twin. Oddly, I never absorbed the loss because what can one grieve about an absorption?

Gloria finishes on the radio and I fully realize the image that has always been there but I had not understood — I saw the twinness of my children. I accepted Pup as Kyle’s “other.” By the time we moved to the midwest in 1998, we would all leave Kyle’s twin behind in Montana. Pup absorbed into Kyle’s psyche; no one mistook the daughters for twins, and I occasionally joked that Kyle might find a weird cyst one day.

I’ve cried. The sadness lifts. The wonder of the song’s intensity has transformed a loss I never knew how to accept. I feel more whole. I once carried four lives in my womb. Three survived. I understand now, why Kyle has been the only one of the three to not complete his sibling tattoo. I’m going to suggest two Pups to him. He’ll understand.

For you, my literary artists, I offer the task of making sense of the lyrics to Gloria! The prompt is the name, however, so you can take inspiration from any image or story that comes to you. Listen to the song. Read the lyrics . Or take inspiration from the image of a missing twin. When I say, go where the prompt leads you, there is no right or wrong to your exploration of creative depths.

March 6, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about Gloria. You can name a character that comes to you as Gloria or you can interpret the Laura Branigan song into a story. What image comes to you? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 11, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Imagining Literary Artists 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 Creation of Literary Art by sweeterthannothing

The battleground- an expanse of white, pure as undriven snow.

An army of writers, poets, novelists, and literary artists warming up on the sidelines, glasses poised just so, fingers nimble and ready.

Words and worlds, life and death, the mundane and the beautiful will come to life and die today on this page, as we charge ever-hopeful into the vast emptiness of our ever more analytical planet wielding weapons of mass creation.

Ink-black blood from words crushed and deleted, smears of worlds erased a new life gets to its knees, words finally falling into place;

Once upon a time….

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Creation – I by Duane L Herrmann

The page is blank, the world is blank. What to do? Where to begin? How?

Pick up the tool to activate.

What is your first thought? How to express it? Pick one word. Then, a second word. The third word is easier. Then the fourth and fifth.

By now there is a trickle, they will become a stream, then a river and, before you know it: a torrent, then a flood. Problem solved. No blank space and, a new, unknown creation is before you.

This is success. It only took one word, then two, then more. Write! Create! Live!

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Artistry by Kerry E. B. Black

Falling through stardust, we grasp at ideas streaked with golden trails. Adrift at sea, our words mark our passage like bioluminescent plankton, a glow of wonder. We shed reservations and inhibitions, embrace and share our most intimate experiences, our deepest traumas, using metaphor and hyperbole when the tale takes on too much heart. We invigorate ink with our tears, stain pages with our lifeblood. We sing worlds into life, birth children beloved and reviled. Screaming into a vacuum, we seek like-minded souls, kindred spirits, those who embrace the meat of the matters that matter to us. Hear our truth.

🥕🥕🥕

From the Heart by Colleen M. Chesebro

I strive to become
a literary artist…
exposing my soul
I examine the beauty
found in the silent moments

Some days, the words flow from my heart, as if a river of creative energy has let loose to flood the page with words. Other days, the words can’t find an outlet. My thoughts are thick like mud.

Literary art is more than crafting words on a page. It’s also the spoken word, which often finds me with my heart stuck in my throat.

Listen to me…

Finding the courage to embrace and share out loud—therein lies the magic.

🥕🥕🥕

Literary (he)art by Hanna Streng

How does it feel
to be a heart
tucked away in a tight-knit chest?

Are you content
living life behind bars
or do you wish you could break a rib
and climb out
– make a home for yourself
somewhere else?

You’re restless-
the sound of your pounding
echoes against the walls.

Why?
Haven’t I kept you safe,
all this time?

“Safe
but suffocating”
you say
sharp words flying
and as they hit their mark
3rd rib, from the top down
blood flows freely
and it suddenly makes sense.

You don’t hate it
-living here-
you’ve simply outgrown your cage.

🥕🥕🥕

A Poet by Bill Engleson

“It would be so simple.”
“For you, perhaps.”
“Are you so different from me, poet? Your flesh? Torn. Your blood? Spilled. That is the only difference between us, my friend. My flesh is untorn. I am not bleeding. Beyond that, we…”
“Liar. You are bleeding. Not blood. Your blood is water. Fouled by the fear that gushes out of you.”
“You stupid poet. My blood is mine. My life is mine. My skin glows with the glory of the state. Your skin is gashed and pale. But you could be free.”
“I could never pay the price of silence.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Creator Within by Christy

Some say writing is difficult, tedious, and tiresome. Writing is so much more when the creative let go of the constraints of academia and let the words drip from the end of the quill. I’m not a writer. I will never be a writer. I am a creator. Even before splashing words on a screen, I was an artist. I can make acrylics swirl on canvas like I can make plots swirl in my head. I’m a builder. I can build worlds from nothing by closing my eyes and believing. I’m beauty unleashed when I let my artistry shine.

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Artist by Reena Saxena

Irrestibubble is an aerated chocolate, and cream cakes are naughty but nice. Prospective buyers see innocent faces of kids in these words.

The copywriter who coined these terms is proclaimed guilty of sacrilege, and fatwas are issued against him.

He survives an assassination attempt but is stabbed again just before a scheduled lecture at Chautauqua, New York. He has lost an eye and functionality of one hand this time.

I remember Salman Rushdie as the literary artist who introduced me to complex fiction during my school days, as I struggled to understand the symbolism and imagery in the novel.

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Dedicated Literary Artist by JulesPaige

Mack wanted his stories to burn his ideas and ideals into others’ hearts. He stood with his back leaning against the concrete wall of the city park. He read the newspaper – the stories always seemed the same. So much tragedy, hot tears left his eyes. He wanted his stories to burn like a phoenix rising from the ashes. He would write passionately, with a trick of love light. That light his mother always shared with him when they cooked Sunday afternoon dinners together. Meals where simple foods became elegant enough for royalty.

phoenix
up in smoke; reborn
with beauty

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Conduit by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

To turn emotion into a word, an experience into a sentence and a life into a story; that is a literary artist. Peering into the unseeable, deciphering hidden messages, unraveling puzzles into a stream of aesthetic words, pleasing to both reader and writer.

To be a conduit, a messenger, to bring reverence to the wonders of the Earth. To stir fascination, acceptance and protection about the myriad cultures this world has emanated.

To exalt over our majestic animal species and keep their plight alive within the human conscience.

To continue to be my best. A writer. A literary artist.

🥕🥕🥕

If Only… by Norah Colvin

In her mind she was a literary artist, painting exquisite word pictures and enthralling plots, her titles on everyone’s lips. When it didn’t eventuate, she blamed busyness and writer’s block. She could have, if only.

He dreamed of being a musical artist, composing melodies to make hearts sing, first choice of orchestras everywhere. When it didn’t emerge, he cited family responsibilities. He could have, if only.

They pictured themself as a visual artist, creating magnificent sculptures commissioned by international celebrities. When it didn’t evolve, they howled discrimination and poor upbringing. They could have, if only.

Might have, if only.

🥕🥕🥕

Did You Pack Your Bag Yourself? by Anne Goodwin

We all bring baggage on our journeys. Let’s examine yours.

Choose that channel and they’ll repack your things in neat compartments and throw away whatever they cannot name. If you’re hurting, they’ll prescribe a sedative. If you’re angry, they’ll offer you cake.

Choose this and we’ll treasure your soiled underwear, admire the garments life has pulled out of shape. We’ll make a mosaic from your broken bits, macramé from your tangled threads. We’ll wash the shame from your buried secrets, build fairy-tale castles from the dirt. You’ll leave with a suitcase of stories: to amuse; to surprise; to console.

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Untitled by D. Avery

What’s a literary artist? Don’t ask me. I just play with words, sometimes puzzling something together for a challenge, sometimes puzzling something out for myself, piecing thoughts and impressions together.
If I were a musician, I might talk about beats, of finding a rhythm that leaves space for silence between the notes. If I were a painter, I might talk of perspective; of trying to capture a certain light; of presenting an image.
But I have no instrument, no brush, no paint. Words are the tools I wield to explore and expand my world, clumsily yet carefully. Just words.

🥕🥕🥕

Create With Words by Sue Spitulnik

The town fair invitation said all artists welcome. Come for the day with your wares, show off what you can do, teach by example, and leave others remembering your creativity.
The potter came with her wheel and clay. A carver came with a piece of wood. A painter arrived. A jewelry maker and leather tooler set up. They all had the specialty tools only they needed. There were others.
The literary artist brought a pen and notebook. She took notes while talking to each person as they worked. Later, with words, she described everything that had aroused her senses.

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Stories From A Man Heart by HeyAisyah

“Congratulation, you won The Best Literary Artist Award again. What’s your secret in writing?”
“You just write it all from your heart. You know, all my life I’m known as a great writer who writes all these great war novels with amazing characters and stories, but the truth is I’m not a great writer. I’m just a man who survives the war but lost the battle. A man who’s missing his friends, family, and his lover that is already long gone from the war, and all these novels are written from my heart, of how much I miss them.”

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Art For Art’s Sake by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking was considered to be cultured. Rene Sance created infeasible clouds and fat babies from recycled party balloons and out of date puff pastry; Pru Rafael-Light woke up regularly to smell the coffee only to be disappointed; Art Deco took peeks into the future; and the recently ennobled Sir Realism studied the ineffable infinity of melted camemberts and the impact of salivating cheese on the fecundity of granite. The most famous thought was Libby Rarian, the self proclaimed bookmeister who, after too much Jane Austen’s Old Peculiar took umbrage and painted the town read. Umbrage sued and won.

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Artist by Ann Edall-Robson

Literary, as in written words, and artist, as in expressing one’s self, might not be the Funk and Wagnalls version of a literary artist, but it’s my version. It describes who I am. A person who utilizes the imaginative brain cell department to the fullest in order to express in words some morsel of something, anything, I choose to write about.

It’s the ‘what if’ factor taking me down not one, but several roads as I explore what the possible conclusion of a story could be. It tells me I don’t have to have one ending, I have choices.

🥕🥕🥕

I Am a Literary Artist by Sadje

Being given the distinction of a literary artist is indeed an honor for me. Writing is something that came naturally to me and it’s a relatively new experience for me.

I’m a blogger, a writer, and a narrator of whatever is going through my mind, but I’m no artist. That term implies that a lot of creative effort is involved in my writing.

I cannot write tales after laying down a plot line, and neither can I create fiction that encompasses a book-length story.

But to be counted among these exalted wordsmiths, it would be a great honor indeed!

🥕🥕🥕

A Dream-Forged Artist by Nicole Horlings

The dream tender watches over the flock of ideas, guiding them from the field that they’ve just grazed in to the next lush pasture of inspiration, while making sure that the prowling predators of doubt see no opportunity to attack.

The wordsmith examines the sentence for imperfections, pushes it into the coals, then pulls it back out, red hot, and hammers in a simile that provides a smoother, sharper edge.

The literary artist steps back from the easel, contemplating the full composition, before darkening the shadow on the villain’s persona to contrast with the highlighting strokes describing the hero.

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Artist by Kriti

Have you ever thought
how powerful are words?
They can inspire
They can destroy
They can even make one happy and sad at the same time
These powerful words are the strength of this person
Whom we interestingly know as a literary artist
Art, literature, poetry
A literary artist is full of creativity
Being one does not need any degree
But a love towards literature
And not only those popular people
Like shakespeare or William Blake
But all those who love to craft with words are Literary artists
Even I am a literary artist
And proud to be one!

🥕🥕🥕

Dangerous Who? by Simon

The pen creates words.

It brings life to characters we create, like the charming one playing with kids.

It also creates characters you hate, while you enjoy the charming character, a group of characters cross by and slit his throat for no reason, just to create Chaos!

A childhood trauma to the kids witnessing the killing, creates characters of kids, a killer, a hero, a comedian, a depressed kid, a selfish, an anxious.

An empire to rise and fall with Philosophises to life.

Aren’t we powerful? The pen? The ink? The brain? And all of the above is dangerous!

🥕🥕🥕

Literary Artist by Jenny Logan

The fiction I write falls into two categories—inner dialogue and conversation between strangers in public. My preoccupation is relationships—information exchanged revealing something of the characters, often in the form of unsolicited advice.

In the last months, I have received unasked for advice such as, “Eat more liver,” “Don’t go to that Church,” “Support the bin strike,” all from men I have never spoken to before.

The world is apparently full of people queuing up to tell me what to do. I don’t disregard what they say offhand. I think about it first and then generally disregard it.

🥕🥕🥕

The Writer by C. E. Ayr

Three years ago I did a deal with the devil.
I got the darkness, insight and talent; he got my soul.
My first book, a gangland thriller, is a world-wide best-seller.
Translated into twenty-odd languages.
Mega-money movie offers.
Enormous advances on my next three books, already drafted.
So what has it cost me?
Well, my wife, who left me.
My kids, who hate me.
And, after the visit from those very nasty guys recently, the use of my legs.
They said I ‘grassed up’ their brother.
They excised my hands, and my tongue.
But I’m still a renowned writer.

🥕🥕🥕

Future Words by Hugh W. Roberts

By the time 2042 arrived, literary artists were rare.

They were the only ones with the power to write compelling stories that could alter reality.

The government had strict regulations on using this power, but there were always those who sought to abuse it.

I was one such person who discovered a way to use obsolete blogging skills to control the minds of others.

A team of elite agents was dispatched to stop me.

It was a battle of words and wills, but the power of creativity prevailed. I was captured and sentenced, and the world was safe again.

🥕🥕🥕

No Ezee Way Out (Part I) by D. Avery

“There ya are, Kid, up in the Poet Tree. Well, how ya doin with this week’s prompt?”
“Doin jist fine, Pal. Cuz I ain’t doin it. Writin, literary artin, whatever ya wanna call it, it’s too dang hard.”
“Then whut’re ya doin up in the Poet Tree? An in yer long-johns, no less?”
“Figger these long-johns is like them leotards circus folk wear when they perform acrobatics an other amazin stunts.”
“Uh-oh. Thet a swing?”
“Trapeze.”
“Shorty’s called fer literary artists Kid, not trapeze artists. Stop monkeyin aroun and git ta writin.”
“No, Pal. I’m choosin a easier path.

🥕🥕🥕

No Ezee Way Out (Part II) by D. Avery

“Writers’ lives are hardest
I ain’t no literary artist
I want a life a ease
so I’ll leap onta the flyin trapeze
Some a ya might ‘member
a circus I started last December
got cancelled cuz a snow
now it’s time, another go
I’ll switch places with that stranger
who figgers circusin’s less danger
that stranger kin take my place, take a chance
an write with ya’ll here at Carrot Ranch”

“Ha! That’s the oddest tree, influencin yer artistry. Mebbe ya didn’t take the leap in time. Thet Poet Tree’s got ya stuck with rhyme.”

“But is it art?”

🥕🥕🥕

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

February 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

Gather round to hear the tale of the Golden Onions.

No golden onion is the same. It’s the fingerprint of a literary artist. An author’s voice; a style; the secret ingredient of a savory concoction. It evolves from seed to maturity and takes a lifetime to peel back layers to expose the core.

Consider how long it takes a golden onion to grow from seed to cellar: an average of 99 days (okay, that may or may not be true but fits the tale). Compared to other veggies in the garden, onions require a longer growing season. Yet they can offer so much in immature form from sets for future planting to early harvests of green shoots.

Like literary artists, golden onions are ready for the long haul.

The tale goes like this. Golden Onions came into the world to spice up Carrot Soup. Carrots feed the people. Give them eyes to see by and nutrients to feed their families. But Carrot Soup was bland in the beginning. How could it accommodate all the different tastes? And that’s where the Golden Onions came in, each different in its complexity. No Carrot Soup was ever the same either, though each container could be recognized.

Carrot Soup is the end product of writing. There are containers of thrilling soup, fantasy soup, romance soup, poetic soup, dystopian soup, short-story soup, novella soup, mystery soup, and even hungry pirate-romance-adventure soup. These are not the bland soups of who-begat-whom stories. With Golden Onions in the world, Carrot Soup flourished, each onion adding its own unique essence.

I didn’t seek golden onions as an analogy for literary artists; it found me. First, I scoffed. Who’d believe writers are a pungent vegetable? Not just writers, but literary artists? Golden onions? I don’t think so. But then, like dreams, I tended the image. I sat with the symbol and pondered what life it had to reveal. How are literary artists like Golden Onions?

We do take time to mature. Even when we are at our fullest, pulled from the loamy soil, we have so many layers to peel back. We cry, exposed layer by layer. We carry sensitivity because we work with the language of the heart and yet we fortify the heart. It will take us a lifetime to peel down to our core, to master our chosen craft. We may flavor our books for a decade or eons. Our essence can’t be removed.

But do we know our own essence? Who am I as a golden onion? Who are you?

It’s an important question to explore. Note, I didn’t say, to answer. We can’t answer that question without reaching maturity only to spend the rest of our days peeling back layers. We explore our essence, following trails inward as we leave signs of our passing outwardly with each batch of carrot soup.

Let’s talk about carrot soup for a moment — the recipes we write. We can put unicorns or corrupt lobbyists in the mix. We can cut off the tails of sharks or harvest grain from the purest fields. We can add anything to the mix of what we write but what makes my shark-tail-unicorn-lobbyist soup different from yours is my golden onion. The more I understand who I am as this golden onion, the better I can choose my container of carrot soup. The better I understand my container of carrot soup, the better I can feed the people who will think my carrot soup is worth devouring.

That’s the nutmeat of writing as a whole — who I am, what I write, and who reads my work.

I was sitting with symbols and letting them come to me as I contemplated a name for a signature workshop I’m naming. I feel as if this is part of a naming ceremony for a baby that’s ready to be introduced soon. When I went to school for my MFA in Creative Writing, I simultaneously earned a Master’s Certification in Teaching Creative Writing Online. Most of my peers prepared for university teaching and I built an online creative writing school. In life’s unexpected twists, I was hired by a university from the minting of my MFA.

Some thoughts ran to ease — oh, I thought, teaching university English Composition might be the easier path. I discovered I love teaching even in an academic setting. Maybe especially in an academic setting. FinnU has allowed me to develop my own syllabi, weekly lessons, and figure out what works and doesn’t work in the classroom. I’ve been refining my own courses for the Carrot Ranch Online Writing School.

What I want you to know at this point, is that I have a super fun Golden Onions workshop prepared where you can explore your literary artist, your writing goals, and your platform. It will be three weeks long and include college-level feedback. It’s also ongoing, meaning it’s not a finite course. You can take the tools you are given and continue to peel back your golden onion for life or you can sign up as many times as you like for the full peer and instructor experience. I’m most excited about this workshop because it delivers the three puzzle pieces I think every writer wants to find.

Mostly, the online school will target professional writers looking to break through career barriers. What I learned in my MFA program is distillable and teachable without having to go pay tens of thousands of dollars for an MFA. I’ve not marketed since I went back to school and I held off after I was hired by a university. It took all of last year for me to figure out an important layer of my own golden onion.

I only mention these transitions to you so you’ll understand some elements I’ll be adding to Carrot Ranch. I want to reiterate that Carrot Ranch is a place to play, practice, and grow (or peel) your onion. This is the mentorship level, the gathering place of literary artists and raw literature. The school will be an income endeavor, offering college-level training in peer critique and understanding of the commercial and independent book industry. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m progressing like a slow-growing onion in the field.

Next month, technology gods appeased, I’ll be updating the website, alerting you to some publication dates, and launching the school in its first reveal. It won’t change the challenges or the collections. We hope to have more community offerings at the Saloon and opportunities to publish your work. We will continue to explore our literary art weekly and a school is an option that may or may not appeal to your onion. Just know it’s coming.

Now, let’s go make some literary art!

February 27, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a golden onion. Any golden onion. One planted or harvested. An onion chopped for a meal. How can you use an onion as a prop in a character’s hand? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 4, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

A Smear of Jam 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.

Smear of Jam by Reena Saxena

It’s not a kiss, just a smear of jam
says the head of an unhappy fam
tears in eyes not wiped or noticed
the child moves to solitary confines

says the head of an unhappy fam
don’t spare the rod to spoil the child
the child moves to solitary confines
in her old age, she cries for the fam

don’t spare the rod to spoil the child
It’s not a kiss, just a smear of jam
in her old age, she cries for the fam
tears in eyes not wiped or noticed

It was love, not smear of jam

🥕🥕🥕

Nature’s Jam Smearer by Kayla Morrill

I sat watching a woodpecker. His red head and beak worked together to repeatedly hammer at an old tree in my backyard. I thought out loud to him, “Go peck another tree, I like that one!” He continued to eat his breakfast of bugs, unfazed by my words. I sighed and watched nature destroy my favorite tree.

Besides that, the day was nice. Sun out, clouds puffy as incessant hollow echoes moved through the air. Looking at the woodpecker again, I laughed. His head moved so swiftly that he looked like a smear of red jam on the bark.

🥕🥕🥕

Breakfast in Faerie by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy went downstairs for breakfast. They saw many others sitting at the tables. Jess ordered some breakfast. A few moments later it was set down in front of them. Jess spread a thin smear of jam across some bread and took a bite. She then looked astonished.

“You have got to try this.” Jess insisted handing the bread to Cindy. She took a bite. It was as if she was eating the ripest and sweetest strawberries she had ever tasted.

“Wow!” Cindy stated. She knew any jam she now ate at home would never taste as good.

🥕🥕🥕

Disrupted Plans by Nicole Horlings

Arlo Proudfoot was not very happy.

He had been expecting to have a nice relaxing Saturday afternoon, reading poetry in his garden’s warm afternoon sun, enjoying soft freshly baked bread with a nice thick spread of jam for tea time.

Instead, he had been picked as one of five Hobbit delegates for the multi-race debates discussing recent local dragon activity, spent all day in a dour dwarven hall, and during a rushed, nearly forgotten break, had been given slightly stale toast for tea with only a stingy smear of jam.

If only the curious young dragons would bugger off.

🥕🥕🥕

High Tea* by Jenne49

‘Leave the jam alone.’

‘But Mummy, my bread needs jam.’

‘Don’t make me tell you again, John’

He thumps the dish down.

There’s an uneasy pause.

Then a sulky muttering.

‘Don’t see why I can’t put jam on my bread.’

His mother sighs.

‘You’re eating soup, that’s why. Nobody eats jam with soup.’

‘Why not?’

His two sisters snigger.

‘Well why can’t I…’

‘John, don’t push it…’

‘Leave the boy alone, Ellen.’

Everybody looks at Granpa who never speaks unless he has to.

‘The food all ends up in the same place anyway.’

Ronald smirks – and Mother retires, defeated.

*Author’s Note: High Tea – in Scotland the evening meal, generally eaten between 5 and 6 o’clock, is a combination of a hot dish with the elements of afternoon tea – best of both worlds.

🥕🥕🥕

All My By Self by Duane L Herrmann

“I did it all my by self,” my baby brother, four years old, proclaimed as he entered the garden behind the barn from the house. He proudly held bread in his hand. Our mother, myself and my sister were working in the garden.

Our mother investigated the bread he was holding. She opened the two slices. In the middle of them was a blob of peanut butter and, on top, a blob of jelly. He had, for the first time, made his own “samwich.”

“You certainly did,” she said as he beamed in pride. He was empowered.

🥕🥕🥕

A Smear of Jam by Norah Colvin

Teddy hoped he’d get away with it. His paws were clean and his eyes unblinking as he crossed his heart and hoped – well, what could a teddy bear hope?

Ollie decided to have some fun. He overloaded the slow-thinking Teddy with questions faster than his processing speed.

“Admit it. You ate my jam.”

“Okay.” Teddy crumbled. “How did you know?”

Ollie smiled. “I don’t need to be Sherlock. You’re the only one here. Besides, you’ve a smear of jam on your nose.”

“Sorry, Ollie.”

“Never mind,” said Ollie. “But be honest next time – or hide all evidence.” They laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Band Jam by Pete Fanning

“Smearojam?” Dad asked, turning to me. “That’s the band’s name this week?”

“Yeah.”

“Hmm, okay.”

I glanced up from my phone. “What? What’s wrong with Smearojam?”

“Nothing. Well, we had Pearl Jam back in my day.”

“Pearl Jam?” I couldn’t tell if he was messing with me. “What does that even mean?”

Dad tapped the steering wheel. “I think it was an aunt, or—”

“Never mind. I knew you wouldn’t get it.”

“Oh, I get it,” he said, pulling into Ben’s driveway. “Pearl Jam was huge.”

“Ugh. Okay, thanks for the ride.”

“Have a good band practice, kid.”

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A Smear of Jam by Susan Budig

“I’m not lying. I haven’t touched your precious concoction.”

I stared at my new teenager, incredulous. Does she think I’m stupid?

“You want me to believe you were not in the kitchen all morning and you did not swipe a taste of my submission to the State Fair Culinary Arts Exhibit?”

“Exactly. I was not and I did not.”

“Neshia, you are a bald faced liar,” I can’t help myself as my voice crescendos.

“Whatever,” my daughter rolls her eyes skyward. “You never believe me anyway,” she shoots out like venom.

“Go. Go and look in the mirror, kid.”

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Jammy by sweeterthannothing

“Shh, stop giggling he’ll hear you!” Samantha hissed from behind the hand clamped over her beaming grin. 

“I can’t, I can’t stop picturing his face. Is it on display enough?”

The two girls dared a peek around the tree they were crouched behind but the sound of a twig snapping sent them scuttling back, muffling their giggles. 

In the glen of the woods, where the three siblings had built their secret base, James came to a sudden stop, his scream shattered the peace. 

“Is that a body?…”

The girls burst into fits. “It’s a dummy, dummy- covered in jam!”

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Pots And Kettles Geoff Le Pard

Middle England is often stereotyped as genteel. The stereotypers have clearly not studied the competitions between rival Women’s Institutes. The bloodiest so far recorded are the Scone Wars between Little Tittweaking and its neighbour, Dollop.This year it was Dollop’s turn to set the challenge: a marmalade infused riparian rusk. The scandal that followed jammed the airways: was a rusk a scone? Dollop said of course it was, accusing their rivals of being jammy dodgers. Little Tittweaking said it had been smeared and it would wipe the floor. It was clear neither side was prepared to take the biscuit.

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If Not Jam Then…by Gary Wilson

Orson was enjoying the sunroom warmth when his nurse came in. “Good morning, sir. I have your muffin and tea.”

“Thank you, Peggy. What do we have?”

She whispered like she was delivering a secret treasure. “One of your favorites; cornmeal smeared with elderberry jam.”

He forced a smile. She had again forgotten that covid had stolen his sense of taste.

“Anything else sir?”

“Yes, please bring the aloe for the dry patches on my face.”

“Certainly. I’ll be right back.”

I can’t taste jam, he thought, but my skin can still taste the cool, refreshing nectar of aloe.

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Dirty Neckties by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa stood looking at the memorial necktie quilt and wondered why the creator had not tried to clean the neckties. When she read the explanation card it said, “These ties were bought all over the world, where ever we traveled for golf tournaments. I purposely did not try to remove the stains as they reminded me of the meals we had in each location. The light blue paisley tie with the red jam smear stain was the one my husband wore at our son’s wedding. The jam smear was compliments of our granddaughter. It was his favorite dirty necktie.”

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Hunger by D. Avery

There was, at least, the familiar comfort of waking in his arms.

Always they had lingered before rising, talking quietly, sharing their dreams. ‘Night dreams or daydreams’ she used to respond. Their daydreams were their shared aspirations. Wanting to do well in their careers; buying a home; having children; growing old together.

But now?

“Tell me your dreams,” he said softly.

“We should get going.”

“Just one thing.”

“Okay. Night dream. There was bread. With jam.”

“Mmmm.”

She left out how she’d gobbled all the bread without sharing.

They gathered their few belongings. She never dreamed they’d be refugees.

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The Final Straw by Anne Goodwin

Grace glares at the digits on the dashboard, willing them to turn in reverse. As sweat trickles down her spine she regrets not fixing the aircon; she regrets her leisurely breakfast and second slice of toast. She won’t open the windows: blaring horns and thumping pop have already rocketed her pulse.

Checking her make-up in the rear-view mirror, there’s a smear of jam below the collar of her shirt. Dabbing it with the last of her drinking water simply spreads the stain around.

It’s hopeless! Grace kills the engine, gets out, starts walking. Abandons the car to the jam.

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Out of a Jam by Kerry E.B. Black

It started with a smear of jam atop a buttered crumpet, jam so red it rivaled fresh-spilled blood. It fascinated Paul as it settled into the nooks and crannies of the muffin.

Snow White’s mother used drops of blood spilled on fresh snow and a raven’s wing as inspiration for her unborn daughter’s beauty. Paul intended international audiences for his babies’ births.

Paul licked his lips, admiring globs that clung like clots. He conjured zombies and gunshot wounds, a madman’s rampage and a demon’s delights. He’d perfect his recipe for artificial blood before they began their first filming project.

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A Smear by writerravenclaw

It looked like a smear of her grandmother’s jam, as she stared at the blood glistening in the moonlight.
Early to the full bloodletting, it was an unexpected find. He shouldn’t have been on the moors at that time of night anyway. Who would be fool enough? With a werewolf on the loose no less.
It was my first roaming, or so they called it. Normally, a stray, injured animal, who ventured out after midnight. This man, as he dragged his victim into the marsh.
A murderer deserved all he got, I thought, as I gently covered her face.

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Thoughts and Prayers, Only Words by Miss Judy

Awoke this morning to reports of another mass shooting. This time an American university. Three students dead, five injured, shooter dead. Thoughts and prayers. Senseless bloodshed that has become all too familiar in today’s American culture. Calls for reform are drowned out by the gun advocates and lobbyists that empower political systems to relax gun laws rather than constrain. Whether it is a random shooting or a mass shooting, it is a proven fact gun violence in America is on the rise. Americans are growing desensitized, even accepting perhaps. Senseless bloodshed, as a smear of jam on American faces.

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All It Took by Hugh W. Roberts

ChatGPT recommended the jam and put it on her shopping list.

Two days later, she spread a smear of the sticky jam on her toast and took little notice of the tiny handprint on the side of the jar.

Spitting out the toast’s remains, she drank a glass of water to eliminate the awful taste of the jam.

Moments later, she felt a strange sensation in her mouth, looked down and saw something moving in the jam.

In the instant before she craved human flesh, she knew the smear on the jar wasn’t a handprint; it was a warning.

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Catching Up by Colleen M. Chesebro

After the optimism spell ritual, Hilda stayed behind to wash the dishes and clean up Coven Hall. It gave her more time to think.

She knew her spell had helped the human because the heaviness in her heart disappeared. This was a good feeling.

Hilda brewed a cup of mint tea. Famished, she smeared a bit of jam on a piece of bread. She sat down to write a love letter to nature, specifically Mother Nature.

Dear Mother Goddess… she wrote.

I’m sorry I ignored your warning and got Covidwitchitus. I promise to keep my immunizations current.

Love, Hilda

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A Smear of Jam by Elizabeth

A smear of jam on my white shirt, the school uniform I always complained about.

A smear of jam on my white shirt, the school uniform I always complained about.

Now, after many years, better to say, many decades, I miss that time. I miss the lightness portrayed in my memories when the worries were the exams and friendships.

The breakfast and lunch were always ready before and after school, as well as delicious snacks to take with me. Peanut butter and jam were savoured in hurry between laughs and books.

The smear of jam on my white shirt was inevitable.

No worries, the shirt would be washed as soon as I got home.

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Tree Treat by JulesPaige

I attempted Mulberry (kind of like long blackberries) jam after weeks of harvesting enough to boil down with some sugar. I played with a basic recipe. Basically any berry, especially those that are mostly water, just get cooked until what’s in the pot thickens.

I got what berries I could reach – though I think the birds got the majority of the berries. And just to be kind to my mother-in-law who had dentures, I strained those tiny seeds out of one batch. Probably less than an ounce – but it was enough to make her smile and that was good.

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Breakfast by C. E. Ayr

I barge into the kitchen, still fumbling with my tie.
Mora, my wife, is feeding the baby, and our other two are torturing cereal in bowls.
At my place sits coffee, orange juice and toast.
Where’s the jam, I demand.
Open wide, sweetheart, says Mora, the spoon hovering before a closed mouth.
Where’s the jam?
Eat your cereal, chicks, or you’ll be late for school.
I glower around, but no-one notices.
I thrust my chair back noisily, grab my briefcase.
I’m off, I bawl.
In the cupboard where it always is, says Mora.
She looks up, smiles.
Bye, honey.

🥕🥕🥕

Jam-Bull I’m a Liar -Or, More to the Point, Why I Didn’t Pick Blackberries Last Summer by Bill Engleson

‘Happy Valentines Day, darling’

‘You too, sweetie. Want some pancakes?’

‘I so love our February 14th ritual. Of course I want your pancakes. We don’t have any blackberry jam, do we? That’s such a big part.’

‘No, didn’t make any last year. None got picked last summer.’

‘Shoulda got off my duff and picked them.’

‘That would have been an idea.’

‘Yeah. An idea. They were just down the trail. A few footsteps away. Thousands of them.’

‘I know. Millions. They grow in such abundance.’

‘Thick and juicy.’

‘Shame they didn’t get picked.’

‘So, store-bought jam?’

‘Afraid so, lover.’

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Strawberry Smash-up by Kate Spencer

Claire’s red Audi TT screeched to a halt just as the ambulance pulled away. She rushed into her sister’s house.

“What happened to Dad?”

Ellie waved her into the kitchen.

“He saw Maggie biking her trailer full of strawberries toward town and chased her on his scooter.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Claims he loves her.”

“Ridiculous!”

“But there he was, racing along, calling her name when he smacked into her cart, fell hard onto the toppled berries, and smeared his lovelusted ego.”

Claire smiled… “He’s quite fond of the jams she makes. Perhaps he wanted to order some.”

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Memories by Charli Mills

A smear of jam, and Dot is three-years old again, licking the wall where she’d bumped her PBJ, her mom howling with laughter. A first memory? A false memory?

A scent of jam, and Dot is dressed for First Communion, running down 4th Street, outpacing her mom just to watch her new skirt flounce like chickadee wings. A strong memory.

A smear of jam across her mother’s cheek, and present-day Dot winces at the fragility of the golden olden years. Carefully blotting a wet napkin, memories snap like the whip of broken film.

In a breath, last memory comes.

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Love in a Jar by Margaret G. Hanna

First breakfast on my own. First breakfast without her.

Tea kettle’s boiled so I pour the water into the old brown betty pot. How many cups of tea has it steeped over forty years?

How many cups of tea has she steeped?

Eggs and bacon for breakfast. That was her job, gathering the eggs, packing them to send to the creamery. I’ll have to do that now.

I sit at the table and reach for the jam. Strawberry jam. Jam that she put up this summer even though she was dying. I spread it across my toast.

Tears fall.

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Making Jam at Home by Sadje

My grandmother was an accomplished cook. She would cook delicious food daily, but what I remember most about her was the preserves, pickles, and jams she used to make with seasonal fruits.

Orange marmalade, apple jam, plum jelly, and guava jam were her specialties. I’d often stand with her when she was making the jams. she’d show me how to test for the readiness of the mixture.

“Put a smear of the jam on a plate and drag your finger through it. If the two parts remain separate, your jam is ready to be bottled”!

I do miss her!

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Follow 15 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jack and Jill arrived, taking turns carrying the yoke and buckets. The castle’s drawbridge stood open, and rosy-fingered dawn turned to apricot. They heard dishes clanking, steam hissing then quieting. The two peeked around the main gate.

A long table was set in the courtyard with a white tablecloth, silver teapot and serving bowls. Flowered porcelain cups floated in their saucers. An aproned woman bent over a fragrant, butter-oozing waffle iron.

“They’re here!” squeaked a dormouse from the sugar bowl.

The woman looked up and smiled, a smear of jam on one cheek. “Welcome! I’m afraid we’ve already started!”

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Two Heels by Ann Edall-Robson

The squabbling would soon begin. All in good fun, but the aroma of bread baking wafting through the house, was the instigator.

“It’s my turn!”

“No, it’s not! You got the heel last time.”

Reminiscent of conversations that had been passed down from generation to generation, the sound of her grandchildren’s words made her laugh.

It was as if they had forgotten that each loaf came with two ends, and therefore had two heels, which resulted in each child receiving the homemade treat of thick sliced warm bread slathered with butter and a smearing of homemade sour cherry jam.

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Testy Times by D. Avery

“Dang! Kid, you an thet hog et all the jam!”

“Don’t git so testy bout yer toast, Pal. Shush, cain’t ya see Curly’s sleepin? Look’t her eyelashes flutter an her legs twitchin. Reckon she’s rememberin flyin in Pepe’s hot air balloon?”

“These days thet could be a nightmare. Dang it. My dream was toast fer breakfast. With jam. Shift, there’s some, smeared on yer shirt. Whyn’t ya clean yersef up?”

“Cuz the washtub’s got turned inta a base fiddle fer the band. Asides, this stain looks like Curly. I aim ta keep it.”

“I’ll aim fer it too.”

“Ow!”

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

February 20: Story Challenge in 99-words

The world needs literary artists. They are more than the storytellers of the moment; they are the artistic minds open to the unconscious prompting of our era. We tell stories to understand our world and we let the world understand us.

In her latest novel, Our Missing Hearts, author Celeste Ng explores the harm we all experience when government silences the poets, literary artists, and knowledge keepers. She understands the role storytellers play:

“Why did I tell you so many stories? Because I wanted the world to make sense to you. I wanted to make sense of the world, for you. I wanted the world to make sense.”

Celeste Ng, Our Missing Hearts

We keep an archive of sorts through stories big or small, realistic or speculative. Literary artists do more than spin stories — we spin magic. When we write, we access a part of our brain where few humans dare to go. The imaginal is the deep realm where we dream and the heart still whispers the symbolic language all beings understand. Literary artists can talk to bees, flowers, and uni-horned dragons. The magic happens when the bees, flowers, and uni-horned dragons talk back.

Literary Artists can share a walk in the other’s boots to break down the myth of otherness. We can observe the world around us as well as the one within us. We write from a space of empathy and we teach empathy through the stories we tell. We encourage diverse voices to join the arts and we fill in the silenced spaces to give light to those silenced. Even a small story can evoke kindness. Even a dark story can offer redemption.

When literary artists use lenses previously withheld, we remove blinders. We can craft our work from lenses that expands perception. I write from the lens of women, looking for stories accepted as definitive in the psyche of the American West. And there are many more lenses excluded from the western experience that we could recreate entire genres just by retelling the stories from different perspectives.

On top of all the superpowers literary artists can claim, we can also shine at wordsmithing. No one can verb a word, dress a noun, or lyricize an awkward language like English but literary artists. We cause language to evolve not only through our wordplay but through our expansion of ideas into the lexicon.

Yet, how do we define ourselves?

The more I tend dreams, the better I understand why I’ve connected to the term literary artist. Tending dreams is all the fun stuff I love about creative writing. I can go where an image leads and get blissfully lost. Writer is broad and easy to digest for most, well, writers. Author speaks of professionalism or publishing status and novelist is a specific type of author. We can find many names to fit our roles or identity, but literary artist captures the imagination.

For me, there is a rawness in literary art because there is vulnerability in the process of creating it. It can be hard to define. But that’s exactly what I’d like us to do. What does it mean to be a literary artist? You can take the question to the page in a 99-word story and you can share your thoughts in the comments.

February 20, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about what it means to be a literary artist. You can pull from your own experience, re-imagine the idea, or embody something else in a character. Be playful, go deep, and let your story flow. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by February 25, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Love Letters to Nature 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.

From 1928-1930s Lectures by Carl Jung

“Whenever we touch nature
(fingers in soil) we get clean.
People who have got dirty
through too much civilization
take a walk in the woods,
or a bath in the Sea (Gichigami).
They shake off the fetters
and allow nature to touch
them (rain on skin).
It can be done within or
without.
Walking in the woods
or lying on the grass,
taking a bath in the sea,
are from the outside;
entering the unconscious,
entering yourself through
dreams is touching nature
from the inside and this is
the same thing,
and things are put right
again (dream medicine).”

NOTE: words in parentheses were added to make Jung’s quote 99 words.

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Stopped by D. Avery

Just an owl, but I stopped, my eye already caught by snow on branches.

I stopped to see this owl see me, watched it watch and listen from this tree.

I too swiveled my head, looked out at the snow crusted field with the owl.

How I wanted to hear what it heard, to see what it saw from that tree.

All I could see was a gray woolen sky, these snow cloaked trees, and this owl.

Darkening gray of this time of day, I’m homeward bound, my work day done.

But I stopped, to see another just begun.

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Letter From Mause by Mause’s Human (Charli Mills)

Dear Nature,

I EAT your leaves! Chomp, chomp, chomp! Fun time is leaf time. You make super crunchy leaves to fly like robins (my humans won’t let me eat robins). Leaves fly gee and leaves fly haw. I zip, I push my paws into the earth and spring like a robin with no wings, I open my maw wide, my tongue flattens, my teeth touch the cold air, I snap! The leaf flutters away. That’s the game. I can spring and snap all day. Nature, you are so cool to make life fun. I EAT your leaves!

Love,

M

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A Letter to Nature by Norah Colvin

Why is the sky blue and the grass green?
Why do bees buzz and dogs bark?
How do birds fly and fish swim?
How does an apple grow?
Where do butterflies sleep?
Why does the earth quake and volcanos spew?
Why do storms rage and rivers flood?
Dad says I ask too many questions. Mum says it’s our nature to explore, discover and create, to solve problems, find new ways of doing things, and heal hurts.
But people also use their imaginations to create even more destructive ways to harm each other. Why? Is your nature our nature too?

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Dear Nat by Bill Engleson

U’re on my mind of late. I wander in the primordial woods, see myself as I once was, arms aflutter, scampering through the glades, slipping, sliding in the wet grass, hanging from limbs.

I see you more clearly than I ever thought I would, Nat. You were there for me, each escape out the back window, away from the screaming, the sorrow.

We talked. I talked. The anguish flew from me and landed in the darkness, the giant Redwoods of you.

You saw me through it, most of it.

Time was my companion, my rescuer.

I’ll always be thankful.

🥕🥕🥕

Love Letter by Ann Edall-Robson

I woke up this morning smiling. You do that to me in so many ways. The memory of your tender touch when the sun strokes my cheek. The lingering kiss on my lips as the wind dances through the leaves. I feel you nearby each time the window is opened, filling me with your scent. You always welcome me with open arms each time we meet. You never disappoint me. You are the gift I cherish each day, thankful you are in my life. You penetrate my soul, you make me whole. Our connection is one people don’t understand.

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If You Could Be Here by Joanne Fisher

it’s always easy to wish
we hadn’t gone separate ways

often I dream you are with me
everyday I write a letter in my head

you would have loved it here:
the perfect stillness in the heat

fields of wheat looking like
a Van Gogh painting

lazily swaying in the breeze
the line of mountains on the

horizon leading to forever,
though sometimes I wish

we had wolves so I could
join them howling in the dark,

my letters to you always
ramble, never reaching an end

as I am always truly dazzled
by the beauty of this world

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The Maple Tree Speaks by Sue Spitulnik

I love you, Mother Nature, for you nurture me. You give me sunshine and enough raindrops so I can thrive. I happily talk to my family via an underground synapses system. My bare branches grow leaves in the spring so birds, bugs, and critters can make homes in me, and I can shade the humans who sit on the ground under me. My life cycle allows my green leaves to turn beautiful colors and float to the ground when the summer air chills. I can even withstand the storms of winter. I wish you could protect me from chainsaws.

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Speak to Us, Threaten by Reena Saxena

I grew up in an era when television screens received inputs from metal antennae planted on terraces. Watching the sun entangled between bars saddened the child in me.

I was taught at home not to catch butterflies and cause them pain, but dissecting a frog in the lab was forgivable.

Dear Nature, your silence has led to ever-widening rifts between ambitious humans and other not-so-vocal parts of the universe. Hiding in forests or expressing rage through uncontrollable fires won’t help.

Speak to us; help us decode your constitution.

Clarify that humans will pay a price for transgression of boundaries.

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From The Ground Up by Geoff Le Pard

Pru Nings, Little Tittweaking’s self-appointed head gardener had a problem. The beds and borders she tended were devoid of nutrients, defeating her attempts to introduce colour to the inherently dull and horribly mistitled village ‘green’. She needed some compost. She’d tried pleading letters to local worthies and love letters to Mother Nature (though Ma Nat’s people fobbed her off that it was her time with the kids). She’d despaired, until meeting Reverend Walter Piece. His churchyard was full so perhaps they might trial terramation*. She agreed and using her unorthodox herbs she soon accumulated a suitable body of evidence.

*terramation, for those unsure is the practice of composting humans

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About Blooming Time by Kerry E.B. Black

She turned the glossy paper pages, eyes dilated with desire, pen at the ready. With artful swishes, she designed – height for drama, longevity of color, spritely little underplantings for surprise, and childhood favorites for whimsy. Beyond the frost-coated glass, snow blanketed the intended ground. Imagination transformed the landscape. She dogeared pages of the plant catalogs, marked items with numbers charted in her design. With wistful sighs, she plotted and planned. Orders placed and delivered, ground tilled and seedlings planted. Sweat watered the soil until her vision came to a glorious symphony of fragrance, her own love letter to nature.

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Garden Devotional by JulesPaige

Large enough for my plot of land. Mine, though nature owns every blade of grass and fallen leaf. Nature gives and takes what is offered by myself and the critters that pass through. The old willow with hollow limbs – home to who knows what, still sways and buds, I planted her. The reed grass has vanished because the cottonwoods gifted by the squirrels took up the sun.

Silver Maples, and various pines are caressed by seasonal winds. Sometimes gently, other times harsher and weighted with heavy snow. This nature inspires as it awes, reminding me that every breath loves.

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Compelling Beauty by Nicole Horlings

I was supposed to go straight home after work since I had a friend coming over for supper. I was already running late since I had stopped by the grocery store to grab a few ingredients.

But when I saw the sunset glinting off of the half frozen water in the creek, alluring beauty that deserved proper appreciation, even though I told myself I had plenty of pictures of that creek from past years, I still pulled over and ran back to snap a few pictures.

My friend laughed and waved as she drove past me to my house.

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Spring Party by Elizabeth

in that one moment
when snow turns into rain
the trees smile
Nature gets ready for the Spring party
flowers, birds songs, lots of sunshine
i feel lightness in the air

after the harsh winter
rain feeds the soil and the roots
Earth fragrance is wonderful
the sun wakes up earlier and goes to sleep later
bicycles and skates are everywhere
garden preparations must start
flowers and vegetable beds

it’s time for renewing
both soul and body
in that one moment
when snow turns into rain
thank you, Nature, for the opportunity
to start over and enjoy your gifts

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Dear Mother by Sadje

Dear Mother Nature,

I know you aren’t happy with your children, yet you’ve never abandoned us. Every year the flowers bloom and the trees wear fresh green foliage. The birds chirp with joy at every new sunrise.

Despite our actions, you keep on providing clean water from the skies in rainfall and your trees filter out the harmful gases to make the air breathable for all 8 billion-plus souls living here.

I know that humans are very selfish and not caring enough, but please bear with us for I’m hopeful that the new generation will make things better, hopefully!🤞🏼

🥕🥕🥕

Natural Ways by Hugh W. Roberts

Written in blood, the script of the love letter was unsteady.

Addressed to ‘Nature, my one true love,’ the writer spoke of a deep, abiding affection, a need to be near the earth and its creatures.

As the police read on, chills ran down their spines. The writer spoke of desires to be one with nature, to shed their human skin and live as wild things do. It was clear the author was unstable. The authorities feared the worst.

Searching the woods, they found a campsite, abandoned but for a single, chilling clue: a neatly arranged pile of bones.

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A Resolution by Margaret G. Hanna

I cannot write a love letter to Nature because I have seen Nature
at its best and at its worst,
at its kindest and at its cruelest,
at its most beautiful and at its ugliest.
Romanticize, anthropomorphize, eulogize all you want,
it does not change Nature
for we are nothing to it.
We can only change ourselves.
Our ancestors understood that Nature’s forces were beyond their control.
They lived humbly within it.
Farmers, ranchers, fishermen, all who live on the edge understand this.
They live humbly within it.
I understand this, and so I propose
to live humbly, too.

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Love Letter to Nature by Jenny Logan

It’s late winter soon and signs abound that it’s the beginning of the end.
Snowdrops and daffodils are appearing. Foxes are returning to town and the first kingfisher of the year was sighted just a couple of days ago. I praise God.

His Spirit first, then His Word. It was as He said. He named it, saw it and it was good.
There is always beauty somewhere in everything. Seeing it is a choice. A nuclear power station or a pretty building by the sea that looks like a wedding cake?

Jellyfish freak me out, but I paint them.

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Gretta Has Had Enough by Charli Mills

The wooden chair creaks when Gretta sits. She brushes crumbs off the Formica table and kicks the snow boots off each foot. Her soggy socks feel as limp as her arms. Tomorrow morning she’ll have to duct tape the cracks in her old Sorrels. Tonight, she’ll line-dry her socks. But first – the correspondence. Gretta’s therapist advised her to express her bottled emotions in a letter. Well, she has lots to express, and this son of a horse’s rump is going to get an inkful of her mind.

She begins, Dear Nature, Enough with the godforsaken snowpocalypse you fickle cow-killer!

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Summer Days by Jaye Marie

So long since last you were here.
The memory of warm summer days
grow dim as our patience thins.
brave new shoots compete with bitter frosts.
cruelly bitten for their haste
their dreams are on hold, ours yet to be born.
Mother Nature sleeps on
Her time will come when the warmth.
Of the sun reaches down into the soil
Visions of rainbow hues
Hold back the silver ice.
Its days are numbered.
Packets of seeds promise the moon.
Fingers itch to ready the pots.
And dream of glory’s fragrance
Days of sunshine fill our days.
With sweet expectation…

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My Date with Mr Hare by Anne Goodwin

He couldn’t promise me a day, an hour or even that he did show at all. He wouldn’t commit to candles or fancy tableware. He didn’t go for gourmet food. He was vague about the venue too; I’d have to tramp across the heather, peer across the moorland for a flash of white. I’d take my chance: Valentine’s was the best time to find him, when the air smelt of spring but the calendar said winter and he still wore his snowy furs. But my heart would leap to spot him bounding towards me. Lepus timidus, my mountain hare.

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A 99 Word Poem by sweeterthannothing

The world darkens
a fog rolls in
clouds gather
With a howling wind

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Rain splatters
Blue lightning strikes
Run for cover
Keep out of sight

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Selfish humans pout
Sports games cancelled
Plans are ruined
Our prayers unanswered

Dry earth welcomes
Life giving flood
Nature celebrates
Dirt turns to mud

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Watering holes refilled
Rivers start flowing
Parched animals delight
Lakes expanding

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Dawn breaks bright
A fresh beginning
Humans reammerge
Birds are singing

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We need both
Dark and light
Rain and sun
Day and night

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Thank you nature
Your efforts so valiant
We owe our lives
To keeping this balance

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Thank You, Mother Nature! by Miss Judy

Dear Mother,

Thank you for bringing beautiful warm sunshine today. The splash of rain will nourish the plants and flowers awakening from the frosty days of winter. The blossoms on my Camellia are particularly gorgeous.

The birds are returning to our feeders, and the bird bath has been exceptionally popular with finches and blue birds. Surprisingly no robins or cardinals; it’s too early for tiny hummingbirds, they have so far to travel.

I apologize for my poor stewardship; I am not worthy of your goodness. Please accept my sincerest apologies and promises for the future.

 Yours ever,

Suzy Earthling

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I Sing the Body Submerged by Charli Mills

I sing the body submerged. Of times floating in sun-warmed lakes when mink-like, I’ve slipped my moorings into the depths where gravity cannot touch me. Of times bobbing in beach waves, my knees cradled in sand fragments of mountains so old they never knew the footfalls of hikers. Of times soaking in stinking hot water spewed from geothermal features I don’t understand but my body aches to absorb. Of tea the perfect temperature in a cup that conforms to my hands and each sip becomes a liquefication of my soul. I am water, I am woman, I am whole.

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Natural Empathy by C E Ayr

the day gives up her brightness
the sleepy sun smiles behind the hill
the tree shows off his profile
but the north wind decides to chill

the brisk waves are teased by gull wings
as they dance towards the lazy shore
and pebbles play their music
they rock n roll for evermore

the headland reaches out to restless sea
as though to stretch his muscles
a dry leaf tumbles through a gap
whispers and gently rustles

the rosy dusk now paints the sky
in the colour of my heart
pink and purple turn to black
now forever we’re apart

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How? by D. Avery

“How do I love thee, let me count the ways…”

“Whoa, Kid. Who’s Zee?”

“Not Zee, Pal. Thee. As in thou? Ye olde you?”

“Me?! An who ya callin old?”

“Shush Pal. Ain’t talkin bout ye at all. Tryin ta write a love letter ta nature.”

“Why?”

“Cuz Shorty says ta. It’s the prompt.”

“Yer writin. A letter. Ta Nature. Cuz Shorty says.”

“Natcherlly. But I’m findin this a tough prompt.”

“Natcherlly. Try this:

Dear Nature, I cain’t live without you.”

“That’s good.

Pal? How is it folks kin hurt the ones they love?

Nature, kin ya forgive us?”

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