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Dog in a Desert 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.

Desert Pain by sweeterthannothing

This place smells funny, the air hurts my nose, the ground burns my paws as I shift and slide, trying to make it up hill. There’s no lovely grass here, no trees, no friends to make or critters to chase…

I whine sadly, why am I here? Where is my furless friend? He always took care of me, always… Until he got old then I had to care for him, fetch things for him and keep him warm at night.

Then he was gone.

The young one asked me to go for walkies, then he left me here… Why?


A Comfort by Kerry E.B. Black

He rested his head against hers, a comfort, he hoped, as they waited, two abandoned pups in the blazing desert sun. She whimpered, frightened. He twined around her, a whole body hug, as he fought his own despair.

A car blasted music, its tires devouring asphalt.

Her ears pricked, momentary hope alight in her betrayed eyes. He leapt to the road’s berm, barking.

The car braked. An aged rocker scooped them up, placed them on a concert t-shirt on the back seat where they curled around each other, the loud music and air conditioning a comfort, he hoped.


Desert Dog by Norah Colvin

wild dog of this vast land
of forest, scrub and plain
no stranger to the desert
with golden fur and quiet white feet
a bushy tail and pointed ears
and long sharp teeth
Australia’s largest mammal carnivore
apex predator
been here 4,000 years or more
nocturnal hunter
with howls that rip the night asunder
call the pack in
or warn intruders away
marking territories with body scents
curious but shy
beautiful but dangerous
lean and mean
opportunistic hunter
hungry scavenger
do not coax it in
be ever wary
treat with caution
lest you become the dingo treat.


Lone Wolf by JulesPaige

Cool desert
Lone sad dog walks slow
Spring clouds make
Odd shade from
Arizona cacti giants
In the early light

The night was cool and got colder when the old man
and his dog exited their cave dwelling.
Barkingman remained silent.
He had tried to get his companion
to stay with his son.
But the dog would not leave his master.
When at last Barkingman found the rock to which
he could lean his back and look out with calm resolve,
the chill crept into his bones.
When he closed his eyes for the last time, the dog howled.


A Black Dog Where Nothing Grows by Anne Goodwin

At fifteen, life was a garden on the cusp of spring. Until you touched it with your frosty fingers and killed the nascent buds.

At thirty, life is a barren landscape, a desert. The black dog of depression smothers all new growth. I get up, go to work, go to bed, chained to the canine’s shadow. Rinse and repeat, each day no different to the last.

​The breeze stirs the sand and there, in the dust, a chewed bone. Curious, the dog spins circles around it. Is this a relic of more dead dreams or a nudge to play?


Why Indeed? by D. Avery

Why indeed would there be a dog in the desert?

The desert can be a fatally dangerous environment; if a dog is in the desert there’s likely a human involved.

Maybe the human is from Customs & Border Patrol, the dog searching for drugs, weapons, or people. But CBP notes that deserts are inhospitable and people dangerous, so they’ve developed robotic dogs, further dehumanizing these operations.

Maybe there’s a real dog in the desert with its human, volunteering to search for the remains of the thousands of migrants who die in the desert.

Because these people had family too.


Dog in the Desert by Duane L Herrmann

Alone. Where is my pack? Where are my mates? Why am I here? It is so hot! Where is food? Where is water? Where is shelter? I am lonely. No one hears me. Why am I here? What do I do? I try and try, with little success. I write and write, but few read. Do I have to die before anyone pays attention? Will my work survive after I die? I guess that doesn’t matter. I must write. If I don’t write, no one will know what only I know. So, I write and write – and wait.


Off the Grid by Sue Spitulnik

The policeman watching a monitor said, “Look at this.” The others gathered around.

A drone was crisscrossing a square mile of desert, and a large RV was visible in the southeast quadrant. They zoomed in on it. “Could it be the meth lab we’ve been searching for?”

“Don’t think so. There’s a word on the RV roof. Looks like VETERAN.”

“Who wants t’go for a ride?”


The police approached slowly. A dog ferociously announced their arrival. A man appeared with his hands outstretched.

“Just me and my dog, existing. Don’t like people, guns, or drugs. Welcome to look around.”


Musa by Simon

One day soldiers found a dog in the middle of the dessert. A wise old soldier immediately updated their troops to be on high alert.

As doubted, the dog was not alone, it was only a diversion, the most brutal and cruel gang from the middle of Sahara have come to wipe out their kingdom.

Before sunset, the desert was filled with blood river and heads floated, not one life left, except Musa.

Enemies one small mistake of sparing this 1 year old, turns out a reason behind extinction of world’s most dangerous humans ever existed in the desert.


Dog Days by C. E. Ayr

The desert stretches for about a thousand miles in every direction.
It seems we’ve been walking forever.
McLeish dropped a few days ago, Strachan only yesterday.
I didn’t even think about burying them, the wind will, very soon.
So there’s just Dog and me left now.
He’s a German Shepherd/Husky cross, been with me seven years, saved my life twice.
He’s my only friend in the world, and we share everything fifty-fifty.
We have two days water left.
I think about that.
It could so easily be four.
Here, boy, I say.
And pull my knife from its sheath.


Trust in Dogs by D. Avery

I don’t have the energy, or time, to explain how I got lost in the desert.

The dog appeared like a miracle.

A feral dog, but a dog nonetheless. It watched me with calm curiosity, then looked expectantly over its shoulder at me. I followed. The dog walked and waited, as I stumbled after it to this small canyon, where there is water.

But the dog bares its teeth and won’t let me drink. Exhausted, I wait on the sunbaked ground, amongst the scattered bones of other believers. Tumbling from their den, yipping pups squirm, impatient for their meal.


Dreaming of Dogs by Reena Saxena

I wake up in cold sweat as I dream about the abandoned dog in the desert. It suspiciously looks like the one who left me for her heavenly abode.

Did I fail her in some way?

I bring up kittens and puppies, looking for a reunion with the same soul.

Aria looks like her and is temperamentally similar. I ask for forgiveness as I rock her in my tired arms.

“You’re quite a handful, but I won’t fail you.”

I dream again of the same dog. She is in an oasis saying “Mama, relax. I’m fine – in your arms.”


Hoofing and Woofing Across the Country by Bill Engleson


Well, that didn’t work. Maybe a couple of woofs.

Here goes nothing.


It’s one mother of a hot day. Two legs is a big disappointment.

“Let’s go dog,” he says, “Sign says desert ahead.”

We’ve been walking for hours. Can’t hitch a ride for love nor money.

Suddenly he sees this sign, says, “I love desert. Mississippi Mud pie. My favourite”

Good for him, I’m thinking. Dogs don’t eat chocolate. You should know that, Buster.

But he don’t know that.

And what he don’t know could fill a dog training manual.

At least I can spell.


Dog Gone by Margaret G. Hanna

It was the rabbit’s fault. It twitched those long ears, then took off. How could I not give chase?

Zigzag around saguaros, through chollas (Ouch! Yipe!), under rabbit bush, then poof! Gone!

How can something with ears that long disappear?

I stand, panting. Where’d it go?

Wait, where’s Dave, my human?

I weave back and forth, snuffling for my scent. Achoo! Damn that dust.

A horn? I’m saved!

I bound across the desert. Dave can take those annoying cholla burrs off my butt. It’ll serve him right for leaving the truck door open when he got out to whiz.


I Found My Best Friend On A Roadtrip by Miss Judy

Six years since me and JimBo, aka Jimmy Bogart Humphrey, traveled ‘cross country. Through Ohio, Kansas, down to

Texas. Through the Mojave Desert, Nevada, where roadkill dotted the sand and dogs roamed wild.

“Hey, Mick, there’s a wild one ahead. Slow down, I’ll git a picture.”

“He don’t look wild,” I slowed.

“Got my picture, let’s go.”

I kept seeing that mutt.

“Hey, JimBo, I’m goin’ back.”

“Are you crazy, man? Them desert dogs is mean!”

“Nay, didn’t look mean.”

Still there, the dog eagerly jumped in.

Me and Dog settled in Nevada. Jimbo? He’s back east, got married.


Coronations Past and Present by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking celebrates coronations with lunch, to which the whole town contributes. Last time, to celebrate Little Tittweaking’s twinning with Deleterious, MA in the US, the chosen dessert was a traditional American favourite: key lime pie. Sadly, the cook, Rhett Treever misheard this as a canine pie and crafted a special Dog’s dinner. When the mistake was discovered, the mayor grovellingly apologised, despite the fact that everyone who tasted it said it was unique and extraordinary, though no one had seconds. Generally, it was agreed that, for once, some good had come from putting a dog in the dessert.


In the Dark by writerravenclaw

Training together, I never felt nervous about Merlin.

My guide dog, in tune, not just with my movements, but with me. She never led me into danger. The harness would go tight, when I was near a road. Sitting, when I needed to stop at the road. My life, before the crash, could be replicated.

There were times, at home, where she would bark. Like she had seen someone. It always coincided with Graham’s aroma – mints, with a hint of hair gel.

We were in sync to the same song. Merlin, with him I could be Sarah again


Dog’s Surprise by Brenda Fluharty

A dog walking on desert sand. He walks with a smile on his face. The dog walks with beauty and grace. He knows this place well. It is where all the old soul dwells. Everything is known here. The desert is beyond time and space.

The desert is a place where the dog can watch over his human. It is impossible to measure his love for her. It will stay with him forever. He can hear her every time she prays. He can help guide her through her human journey. You see, dogs are God’s angels in disguise.


The Desert Dog by Joanne Fisher

They guarded the water in this patch of desert. One morning a dog ran up. It made for the water, but they threw stones at it.

“Get away you mongrel!” One shouted. The dog slunk away. Shortly afterwards, a woman appeared.

“May I have some water please?” She asked.

“Certainly miss.” She drank a few cupfuls. They watched her walk away. She then transformed into the dog and ran off.

“What do you reckon? Is that a person who turns into a dog, or a dog who turns into a person?” One asked.

“Maybe it’s both.” Suggested the other.


Heartache by Timothy Peterson

Heartache wasn’t in the pamphlet. How could love be so dark.

Agony resulting thru my unguarded heart ripping apart.

Ignoring every warning, they didnt ring of truth.

Who knew such pain would result from loving an angel like you.

Despite this pain, love still burns strong.

Cupid hovers over shoulder, love notes hidden in every song.

So I push on, void threatening mutual destruction.

I’m still grateful for your love because before you there was nothing.

If we’re truly done, if I’ve held you for the last time.

Know you made me better, you own this heart of mine.


Last Dog by Charli Mills

Inyo’s tether snapped when the ice cracked like gunshot beneath the sled. She hadn’t been pulling and at the last stop, she had chewed her rawhide straps in boredom. The howls and barks of the team behind her made Inyo leap and dash across failing surface. Booming pops chased her like hunters. Inyo felt a change beneath her thick pads. Snow, and beneath it – land. She spun around to find her team. Panting, she sat back on her haunches. Where once the vast desert of sea ice sprawled, nothing but bobbing slabs. No life stirred. Inyo alone had survived.


Space Barks by Hugh W. Roberts

Lassie roamed the barren wastelands of a far-off desert planet. She was no ordinary dog. The genetically engineered work to withstand the planet’s harsh conditions and assist in the search for a rare mineral was crucial to the survival of all humanity.

With her advanced sensors and augmented strength, she scoured the dunes, her nose forever twitching as she detected the faintest traces of the mineral.

Triumphantly barking again, she dug up a cache of the precious substance.

Now, the humans could survive, knowing their trusty dog companion had saved the day and helped them beat the virus again.


Desertin (Part I) by D. Avery

“Yer still whistling a merry tune Kid. Seen the prompt?”
“Yep! Shorty’s lobbed an easy one this week.”
“Yep. Reckon it’ll be a bots, ya know, based on a true story.”
“Yep. Jist gotta figger which time, focus on that. Cuz she’s done it more’n once.”
“She who?”
“Bless ya, Pal. Hope you ain’t catchin a cold. Yep, jist yesterday Curly got inta my carrot cake. An ‘member the ‘Free Pie’ prompt? Whooee, did Curly have hersef a time then!”
“Kid, ya do realize it says ‘dog in a desert’.”
“Not hog in a dessert?”


Desertin (Part II) by D. Avery

“Well, this’s a tough prompt after all. Ain’t got a dog, ain’t familiar with deserts. Ever been ta the desert Pal?”
“Back in ’18, in the 67th yarn. Was on a hoss with no name.”
“I member that one, was kinda weird. D’ya recall seein a dog whilst in the desert? Mebbe one someone set free out there?”
“Nope. An like Shorty says, thet ain’t freedom. Thet’s dumpin.”
“Kid, I reckon we’re a might like thet dog an thet Tatum fella. Cain’t see us functionin anywhere’s else but this here ranch. It’s the only thing I ever done.”


Desertin (Part III) by D. Avery

“Careful Pal, that’s almost admittin ta needin me aroun. Cuz most times I git the feelin ya’d love ta be free a me. Asides, I ain’t anywhere near as far gone as you. I could make it somewheres else. Fact, think I will.”
“Ya desertin me Kid? I’ll be doggoned.”
“Well, that takes care a the prompt, so yeah. Reckon I’ve served my time with you Pal, now I’m gonna make my way in the world.”
“Away from Carrot Ranch?”
“Yep. Reckon they’s plenny a jobs I could do.”
“Alright, Kid, I won’t stan in yer way. Good luck.”


Desertin (Part IV) by D. Avery

Ya cain’t keep someone down thet wants to set out on their own, so I tried heppin Kid with a resume.

“I’m good at is muckin out the barns.”
“Organizational skills… What else ya done aroun here, Kid?”
“Painted that time.”
“Hmmf. Ended up in a corner a the bunkhouse till the floor dried.”
“I’m also a mason.”
“Yer not a Mason!”
“Member I built that stonewall roun the carrot patch?”
“After ya built it around yersef an was stuck inside.”
“I got management skills. The saloon?”
“Ya let kid goats in an they et up all the paperwork!”


Desertin (Part V) by D. Avery

“Yer not bein so hepful, Pal.”
“Sorry Kid, it’s jist, this is a lot. Fact is I’m worried bout ya bein out on yer own. It’ll all be so dif’rent. What bout transpertashun? Cain’t go ridin off on one of the hosses. Mebbe ya should take the ranch truck.”
“Um, member? It’s belly up in the creek after I dropped it from Pepe’s balloon. I’ll hitch-hike. I’ll jist pack a few things an git Curly’s leash.”
“I ain’t sure yer gonna blend in.”
“So I’ll stand out.”
“It’s a jungle out there Kid.”
“Let’s say ‘desert’ Pal. Bye.”


Desertin (Part VI) by D. AveryTitle by Author

Shorty was some s’prised ta find out Kid, along with the hoglet Curly, had left Carrot Ranch fer greener pastures.

“But Shorty. I had ta let Kid go free. Cuz, ya know, Kid was free ta go.”
“You’re right, Pal. It just seems irresponsible because Kid is so… so…”
“Yeah. That. Let’s hope Kid finds a good place and a good job. Meanwhile, here at the ranch… are you going to be alright without a sidekick?”
“Sidekicks kin be a pain in the ass. I’ll be fine goin it alone, thanks.”
“Pal, is that a tear?”


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

April 10: Story Challenge in 99-words

April 9

Over-wintered baby spinach tastes like veggie candy. Sweet, tender. Standing in the greenhouse at Ghost House Farm, I’m enveloped in the warmth of the space where the smell of earth is strong. The structure survived winter, received a commercial heater, and already houses the first round of seedlings.

While we pluck leaves from the early greens filling the rows, my daughter filled me in on the latest farm happenings. My SIL has innovated several solutions and structures, including a washing machine he’s transforming into a giant salad spinner. Allison filled me in on the goat situation.

Chip has mites. If the days warm up, Drew will bathe Chip. I offered to help; I can’t think of anything worse smells than a wet goat. But I love Chip and I know how miserable a goat with mites can be.

Molly kicked Allison while milking last week. She had several bruises. Last year, when the farm kids went to Costa Rica for a week, I was Molly’s leg holder. She’s a two-person milking team kind of goat and Allison tried to go solo.

Belle is adjusting. She required a new home, never having settled down after all the babies were born. She and Molly had twins; Peggy had triplets. So, Belle got a farm of her own. But there’s more…Allison had that serious but sympathetic look she gets when she tells me which rooster or pig they butchered. Instead, she tells me about an old lady.

I’m relieved to hear Belle didn’t go the way of the roosters or pigs and I’m curious about the woman.

Once upon a time, an old lady was a young girl. She had a goat she milked every day. The young girl would rise with the sun and run with floppy red rubbers to the barn. She down her milk pail to get the oats. Sunny, her goat, leaned against the fence to get a few nibbles. She coaxed Sunny to the small stanchion and poured the oats into a small feeding bin. Sunny chomped, and the girl milked. She was never happier.

Turns out, a Keweenaw family had a dilemma. Their matriarch, Grandma, has advanced dementia and she’s become obsessed with the goat of her youth. When Allison and Drew were looking to rehome Belle, the family found a solution. They took Belle home to become the object of Grandma’s obsession.

The young girl fed the second goat, Sunny’s kid. She returned to her goats after delivering the milk to ma to filter into a jar. She put on their halters to walk the goats to the apple orchard and back. Mornings were the best part of day. Even in winter, she bundled up and went with pa to the barn. One day, she’d grow up and have a goat farm.

With the help of her grandchildren, Grandma milks Belle every morning. She can’t remember what happened five minutes ago but remembers how to milk a goat. Then, another dilemma. Grandma remembers the second goat. She settled into milking but grew fretful over the missing kid.

The family asked if they could have one of Belle’s kids. In the end, after much discussion, they decided the role was best suited for Beast. This was the reason Allison approached me gently. Beast. Her “baby” Beast. Belle’s eldest kid and the first goat born on the farm. They kept him to be a companion for the buck, Chip but saw this as an opportunity for Beast to live his best life.

The grandkids are halter-training both goats now. Grandma has a tangible outlet for her dementia obsession. Peace is felt across the farm. It is good to know that spring is on it’s though snow still covers the landscape. Somewhere a family is soothed by the reunion of an old lady and her beast. We are reminded that stories leave powerful images. The story of a young girl and her two goats might seem a little thing but it is all the happiness in the world of someone cut off from ours.

April 10, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “the old lady and the beast.” What does age have to say about the story? Who is the beast and why? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 15, 2023. 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.

Impossibly Blue 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 Translator’s Headache by Anne Goodwin

Ada sits at her desk, the weight of responsibility pressing on her shoulders. There’s no doubt Fenxilg Muwvrik is a masterpiece and, written in a language with only three thousand speakers, and fewer readers, she’s long dreamt of translating it into English. But it’s tough. Even for Ypcíd, renowned for the complexity of its grammar and metaphors, the author’s word choice seems bizarre.

Puzzling over another challenging paragraph, she goes to the window as if to find inspiration in the view. Beneath a sunny sky, nature’s colours are reassuringly conventional. Yet in Fenxilg Muwvrik, the grass grows impossibly blue.


A Happy Blue by Geoff Le Pard

Kat Gutte and Doug Biskets ran Little Tittweaking’s art suppliers. Kat ran the retail side; she could saw a multiverse of colours – 247 shades of beige and a pink that caused granite worktops to bleed. To Doug everything was a version of blue; he did the accounts, ordering copious amounts of Blutack. He thought Kat stunning with her fiery blue hair, luscious blue lips and a ruby blue complexion. Kat tried to persuade Doug to drop the “everything denim” shtick. When they wed, Kat stunned the guests with her impossibly blue ensemble. Doug thought she looked a little pink.


Carrot Ranch by C. E. Ayr

Sometimes, even when you’re old and cynical, life can still surprise you.
Or so I recently discovered.
I’m in Scotland, visiting a friend who lives in the undulating hills of Ayrshire, the country of Robert Burns.
He’s a market gardener, and he has, among his acres of quality produce, a carrot ranch.
Funny name, right?
Anyway, as he’s showing me around, he asks if I want to see his latest creation, his pride and joy, which no one else has yet seen.
We go into a walled area where he shows me a carrot.
It is, incredibly, blue.


Soul of Blue by a-zend-life

She sits in her window as the blue in the sky starts to fade away with the sun. She was mesmerized by the vivid blanket of blue all afternoon. She didn’t want it to go away. Somehow, because it matched her soul for that day, she took pause from her hum-drum afternoon chores to just sit comfortably in her favorite over stuffed chair and ponder the vastness of the sky. Enmeshed with the many different shades of blue, she knew it wouldn’t be this way forever. Finally, the blue disappeared. She ushered it out with grateful remorse.


Getting It Right (Part I) by D. Avery

Come to find out Gloria isn’t crazy. She’s an artist.

She said I am too, and I guess she’s right. I do make a lot of pictures but I don’t always like them.

“What do you mean?” Gloria asked me. “I love this landscape with the lake in the foreground.”

“It’s not right,” I insisted. “That’s an impossible blue for a lake and a sky. But it’s the only colors I have.”

Gloria taught me to make any color I wanted from just red, yellow, blue and white!

“I want blue like… Bob’s eyes.”

We smiled at Bob’s laughter.


Getting It Right (Part II) by D. Avery

“Tell me again about the princess,” I told Gloria. “Why she refused to marry the prince.”

“The princess, as her wedding day approached, felt improbably blue. She realized the prince really wasn’t so charming, and being with him would not bring her happiness. She didn’t want to fall under a lifelong spell of pretense and pretending; so, she committed to herself and her art and has been living happily ever since. Of course, the villagers thought she was soft-headed for leaving family fortunes behind.”

The crown on the princess I’d drawn looked more like a halo. It looked right.


An Honest Review by Nicole Horlings

“Hi there, and welcome to my makeup vlog! Today I will be reviewing the Colours of the Sky eyeshadow pallet from…”


Laura looked away from her camera to her five year old daughter, who walked proudly into the room holding a pallet and an eyeshadow brush. “I did my makeup today!”

She had indeed put on makeup; her eyelids were entirely covered in one single shade of bright blue eyeshadow.

“Great job, honey!”

“Can I review this pallet for your vlog?”

Laura lifted her up into her lap. “Sure.”

“This eyeshadow is impossibly blue, and I love it!”


Zoo Wonders by Norah Colvin

The children studied the map while Granny sipped the compulsory cup of tea.

“Okay,” she said. Finally.

Granny squinted in the sunlight. “Wait.” She rummaged in her bag. “Drat. I’ve forgotten my sunnies. I’ll just pop back to the shop.”

The children groaned.

“To the lions,” they said, when Grandma reappeared.

Two steps later, Grandma cried, “Stop! Children stop! Look at the sky!”


“It’s soooo blue.”

“It’s always blue.”

“But this blue, it’s – impossible!”

“It’s just your glasses, Grandma.” They read the label: With Impossible Sunglasses, every day’s a blue sky day.

“Now can we see the lions.”


Fairy Lights by Margaret G. Hanna

Grandmother Ferris told us stories of fairies, sacred hills and wells, and giants roaming the Cornish moors.

“The lights that flicker at night, they be wanderin’ spirits searchin’ for rest ‘cause o’ some ‘arm they did, and like as not to take tha’ with ‘em in their wanderin’.”

We sat wide-eyed, open-mouthed, not daring to breathe lest one of those spirits snatch us away.

“I see ‘em many a time. Oft times, a blue light, most unworldly. Tha’ take good care around St. Feock’s church, the saint guards it close.”

Thereafter, we took great care going through the graveyard.


Blue Sky Dreaming by writerravenclaw

Blue sky, dreaming of a day, spent on the beach, watching the waves waltz over each other. A beautiful memory, of building sandcastles with her father. They used to make several trips to the sea, with a bucket to fill their moat. Now it was her turn, not only with her children, but with her grandchildren. Learning to be a child, without any cares or worries to pull them down to earth.

‘Can we build a real castle Grannie?’ She said.

‘Of course, then afterwards we will have a Horlicks and a cheese sandwich.’

‘Yay, with lots of ketchup.’


Impossibly Blue by Duane L Herrmann

I go out to a rise in the prairie, away from the trees which are often below, down lining the creeks, especially the morning after night rain, when dust has been washed from the air, and lay down in the grass and look up – straight up – I am stunned. The blue straight up, with no clouds in the sky, is impossible. There is NOTHING to compare. The word “blue” is woefully insufficient. There is no intensity like that blue. That BLUE is a power in itself. If God has material existence – it will be THAT blue!


The Sky That Loves Me by Hugh W. Roberts

The sky above was a deep, impossibly blue. The kind of blue that makes you feel like you could reach up and touch it. The type of blue that makes you want to sing.

And then I started to sing. I sang about the impossibly blue sky. I sang about the hope that it gave me. I sang about the love that I felt for the world around me.

And as I sang, the sky seemed to get even bluer. The world seemed to get even brighter. It was then that I decided today was not my suicide day.


Blue by ladyleemanilla

The blue sky and the blue sea
Freedom whispering in my ears
Sweet as the summer breeze, I’m free

Symbols of depth that is so clear
Value of how we live our lives
Freedom whispering in my ears

Impact of what we have in our archives
Initiating our wit and reason
Value of how we live our lives

Occupy ourselves in any season
Bubble of life and jest of living
Initiating our wit and reason

Parallel between giving and receiving
Rhetoric of wanting love and peace
Bubble of life and jest of living
Life in Berlin, Istanbul or Caprice


The Natural Music of Spring by JulesPaige

Impossible blue Hyacinth bells are ringing in my imagination like clear vowels, rising up by my street rural mailbox. “Aye!” “Eee” “Eye” “Ooh” “You”
Look see me, spring has sprung.
Let my heady scent fill your home in that Milkwhite vase.
Pair us with the brilliant yellow of forsythia who will soon fall to a late March lion-like wind that will strip them bare until their greens leaves open.

blue hyacinth bells
yellow forsythia peal
seasonal music

join triumphant daffodils
announce springs’ late arrival

shed your own thick layers
expose your skin to the sun
hear the weather change


The Arrival by Joanne Fisher

The computer systems aboard our starship awoke us from our long hibernation. We all slowly awoke with long hair and raging hunger. According to our computer, we had finally arrived at our destination after silently voyaging for millennia through the depths of black void. I looked at the viewscreen: before us was a planet with wide oceans and continents. The planet was so impossibly blue it stood out in sharp relief against the blackness of space around us. This was to be our new home where we could begin again, and hopefully not destroy the biosphere a second time…


Planet by Simon

In space for 7 years, scientists were amazed at the discovery of a blue planet. They named Impossibly, the planet was hiding behind a big gassy planet like Jupiter.
The name was derived because of its strong ozone layer and what amazed the most was the planet, 100% perfectly habitual for human colonization.
The entire crew landed in hope of successful colonization. They did not expect the danger that awaited.
One creature maintained the whole planet Like a God. No matter how well they began to colonize, the creature’s latest Favorite food is now Humans, Planet i.Blue.


Anime Blue by Kerry E.B. Black

He heard all babies’ eyes were blue when they were first born, but he’d never seen a truer, more entrancing hue on any other person. Even the child’s mother’s eyes, though incomparable, quite literally paled in comparison.

The tiny fingers fisted his pinkie, and the babe’s rosebud mouth pinched with concentration while the crystalline eyes studied him.

He swallowed a lump of pride and incredulity. “Hello there. I’m your Daddy.”

Non-existent eyebrows raised at the sound of his voice, enlarging already anime proportions.

He wiped an errant tear from his cheek and gazed into the universe’s most perfect eyes.


Hallucination Blues by Bill Engleson

I don’t know what I’m seeing.
I don’t what’s in the sky.
Sky’s so blue
It’s an omen.
It’s so blue
makes me cry.
I don’t know what I’m seeing.
Flying saucers in the sky,
Cannot be, I’m thinking,
Cannot be in my sky,
It’s so blue,
the blue sky.
I am very slowly drifting.
Drifting high above the sky,
Full of dreams so uplifting,
Never been quite this high,
So very close,
to the sky.

I don’t know what I’m seeing,
No matter how hard I try,
All I see are the heavens
And the everlasting blue sky.


A Blue Picture by gordon759

“It’s an insult.” Fumed the President of the Royal Academy, looking at the crowd gathered around the painting of a boy in a blue suit.
“Whatever do you mean?” said his companion. “It follows historical ideas, those of Van Dyke.”
“In my last lecture I said that you shouldn’t use grey, green or blue as the main colour in the centre of a painting, and Thomas Gainsborough produces this.”
“But look at the crowd, everyone thinks it’s a masterpiece.”
“Yes, it certainly is, and that just makes it worse.” Sir Joshua Reynolds snorted, and walked out of the gallery.


The Worm Hole by B.C. Graham

I started working here six months ago and I’m already testing their most coveted and controversial technology. Today’s theme: blue, the rarest natural color. On a nearby shelf rests a VR headset, labeled “Past Life.” I put it on.

Vivid explicit memories of ancient Egyptian lapis lazuli mines suddenly dance between my hippocampus and amygdala. Half-built pyramids float in the distance. I’m seated atop a golden throne, gazing out over the quarry.

Am I a pharaoh? I reach up and remove my headdress. Etched along its impossibly blue bejeweled edge, in blazing hieroglyphs, are two perplexing symbols: Future Life.


Identity by Gloria McBreen

Sandra looked closely at each photo on the table. She immediately eliminated the first one; his eyebrows met in the middle. She studied the pale blue eyes of the man in the second photo. Not him.

In photo three, a pair of soft grey eyes conveyed kindness and warmth. No. The fourth photo showed beady eyes that were more green than blue. Definitely no.

Photo five. Impossibly blue eyes, round like perfectly cut sapphires, cold and vacant. She would never forget those eyes. She handed the photo to the sergeant.

‘This is the man who attacked me,’ she said.


Scareless by Reena Saxena

The image that stares back at me is not me. This does not match my always optimistic mind.

The skin is blue, however improbable it seems. The lake of unshed tears is frozen, and refuses to provide a glance into its dark interiors. Callousness, continued distrust and malicious remarks draw a blank. There’s no disappointment with any one any more, just a deep apathy.

How can you expect positivity in return for all this? The darkness is equal on both sides – improbable blue with shades of burgundy, like dried blood stains on the soul.

The soul will return – scarless.


Impossibly Blue by sweeterthannothing

I try not to vomit as my world rocks on its axis, up and down I bob and spin in this ocean of grief. 

Impossibly blue. 

I’m drowning, desperately trying to claw breath into my body. I sink beneath the waves. 

My feelings; impossibly blue.

I weep, I sob, I wail at the world and its cruelness, that it could take so much and leave behind shadows. 

My tears burn; impossibly blue. 

The image of you, the last I’ll ever see, as you lay in that cold morgue. Those soft lips I used to kiss, now frozen. 

Impossibly blue.


Blue Screen of Death by Sadje

Impatiently, she stared at the screen as her laptop installed the latest update. She had a lot of pending work but her device had to be updated before she could work on it.

The final restart indicated that it was now ready to be used, but all of a sudden it just turned blue! Impossible! she screamed, how can this be happening to me?

Mom! she yelled loudly, my computer has updated but not working, how will I get my assignments done?

“Oh no!, you’ll have to uninstall the update!” her mom said as she walked into her room.


Music From Another Room by Joanne Fisher

I loved her, more than I would ever admit. She didn’t love me though. I was quite certain of that. One morning I found her knocking on my front door. She had a basket in her left hand.

“I’m surprised to see you.” I told her as I opened the door. She smiled.

“Hi Jo, I did some baking this morning, and thought of you.” She stated. In the basket were cookies with love hearts cut into them.

“Thanks.” I said taking them.

“Look into my eyes.” She requested. I looked and was immediately lost. They were impossibly blue.


Impossible Blue by Ann Edall-Robson

Butterflies stormed her stomach, making her feel queasy. Like the day, as a kid, when her besties lured her to the rock outcrop above the lake. “Jump! Do it!” they encouraged, laughing and nudging her closer. Experiencing an adrenalin rush when her feet pierced the water. Their adult relationship was much the same, only this time they encouraged her to take the chance, live on the edge, go for it. Today, their words filled her with trepidation. He walked toward her, holding her attention, his impossible blue eyes never left her face. Tingling with an adrenalin rush, she blushed.


Scotty’s Got the Blues by Sue Spitulnik

“She has impossibly blue eyes, not the color of a sunny sky but of thick, cracked ice. That impossibly blue dress flounced around my legs all night on the dance floor, then she left me standing on the stoop feeling impossibly blue when she didn’t invite me in. Oh, I’m blue, blue, blue.” Scotty played and sang.

Mac said, “Don’t believe I’ve ever heard those words or anyone howl the word blue.”

“The way I feel it seemed to fit.”

“Our Katie’s eyes are green; maybe you’re focusing on the wrong gal.”

“You giving your permission?”

“Don’t need mine.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Scotty is a new bartender at the No Thanks. He has hesitated asking Katie out for fear her father and grandfather (Mac) wouldn’t approve.


Incorrigible by Kate Spencer

Jena sidesteps past the painter’s ladder into her kitchen. Pouring herself tea, she hears Rocky let loose a howl outside. This is followed by a cat’s growl and a rumble up the back stairs.

The doggie door flings open. Rocky storms in, slides across the kitchen, knocks over the hallway ladder and capsizes the paint tray onto his back. The cerulean cannonball yelps. Then bolts out of the house, Jena in pursuit.

She eventually spots Rocky and laughs.

Something borrowed, something blue?

Because there he is, her incorrigible tongue-lolling, tail-wagging blue dog, trailing a bridal party into the church.


Treasure Hunting by Charli Mills

“Found somthin’!” Druzie squinted in the semi dark.

“Did ya find Prince Albert? Let him out, Cuz.” Citrine peeped over the rim of the mine shaft.

Druzie snickered at the implied Prince Albert in a tobacco can joke. Old Nevada miners favored the cans for staking a claims.

“Nope. Glass.” Druzie wriggled her fingers across jar after jar. In the scant shaft light, she scanned the remains of a miner’s pantry. Impossibly intact. Her cousin sent down the retrieval basket.

When Druzie climbed out she glanced to the jar Citrine held up to the noon-day sun. Pickles. Blue pickles.


The Giver, Still Giving by Chel Owens

“[T]he apple had changed. Just for an instant. It had changed in mid-air, he remembered. Then it was in his hand, and he looked at it carefully, but it was the same apple. Unchanged.”
Dale’s hand froze, hovering, wondering that its body could freeze. Up till then, it’d thought all words were only for others -like this place of words was for others.

Here, though, was what it felt. -Words for when dead trees stood against impossibly blue sky. -For when a lonely, vibrant leaf floated in grime.

Dale looked at wreckage of what Had Been, and knew hope.


Blue of Throat Chakra (Double Ennead, 99 Syllable Poetry) by Colleen M Chesebro

light blue of sky heavens
your throat chakra spins
free communications, expressions of truth
if blocked, we struggle to
speak our truth frankly

Vishuddha energy
let harmony flow
respect and authenticity will follow
trust your inner voice and
cleanse your throat chakra

peaceful blue energy
positive speech flows
as your throat chakra comes into alignment
creativity grows…
now, follow your truth


Indebted (Part I) by D. Avery

“Thet sure is a upbeat tune yer whistlin, Kid.”
“It’s a blues song I’m workin on fer The Berries.”
“Oh yeah, Pepe’s band, from the “jam” prompt. But Kid, the blues ain’t s’posed ta be cheery soundin.”
“How kin it not be? This song’s bout the skies over Carrot Ranch.”
“They are not cloudy all day, thet’s fer sure. But, the blues… oh, never mind. Seen our writer anywheres?”
“Nope. An we’re holdin our own.”
“But is she? These yarns is got more loose ends then Ernie’s shag carpet. An speakin a loose ends, Logatha’s gonna have a bambeano?”


Indebted (Part II) by D. Avery

“No worries, Pal, got almost nine months ta work that one out. An ya fired that circus fella, so that’s one less character ta keep track of. Ernie’s off with Sassy-squatch. Tip and Top are back in their cowboy duds ridin the range. Curly’s swimmin with her beaver friens. An here come Frankie an Burt ta deliver the mail. Frankie!
“See Pal, all unner control, all us characters jist doin what we do.”
“But the details, Kid.”
“What details?”
“Zactly. Fer instance, no lookin— what color are Frankie’s eyes?”
“That’s easy, Pal. One’s grayish blue an one’s impossibly blue.”


Embedded by D. Avery

“Dang it, Kid, you jist git away with this cuz a the prompt.”

“Ain’t that the point a the prompt, Pal? An what d’ya mean, ‘git away with this’? Git away with whut?”

“Jist flappin yer gums, thet’s whut. We’re inta a third 99 an ya still won’t admit ta not havin a story.”

“So tell a story already, Pal.”


“Once upon a time was a blue hoss.”



“Was a wild stallion, couldn’t be caught. It would stan on the top of a hill on a blue-sky day an disappear from sight. Would stan by the creek an not be seen. Even out in the grass it appeared ta be a shimmerin mirage. Even if ya could git near ta it, it would run like the wind an whinnied like the wind too. Nobody ever got a good look at this wild blue stallion.”

“Again, I say, Impossible! If no one seen it, how’d folks know it existed?”

“They was a ranch nearby thet raised Palominos.”

“Them yella hosses?”


“Bunch a the mares had green foals.”

“The end.”

“Now who’s gittin away with what?”


“Word count?”

“Count em, Kid. Thet’s a 99-word story.”


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

April 3: Story Challenge in 99-words

Well, it was bound to happen. I got sick. Not urgently sick, or chronic. A flu, a bug, a virus. Not THE virus, whatever iteration of it we are experiencing. Other than the first Monday of lockdowns three years ago (can you believe what happened to all of us three years ago?), I’ve not had COVID. I might not have had COVID three years ago either, but there was no testing back then in the Keweenaw.

I’ve avoided all the waves of sickness that have rolled in and out of college classes. Until late last week.

Over the weekend I rested, which means I vegged out on the couch under Mause’s blanket of joy watching trailers. As a literary artist, my language is that of dreams and stories — images that stir the heart. I like to feel what a trailer has to offer, distilling a film, series, or animation into a few minutes worth of images. For me, it’s like the flash fiction version of a movie.

Weekend trailer-watching padded the possible watchlist for me and Todd. It’s difficult to find watchable material that’s engaging but not agitating; interesting but not incorrect; correct but not boring. Todd’s definition of correct is a study in suspended reality — if a filmmaker portrays a Boeing MH-6M Little Bird on screen it better not sound like a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. That’s something for us writers to remember when we add realistic details to our stories; a single error can take down an entire book if you have a critical audience. Todd is hyper-critical. He can watch documentaries like Ranger, but can’t take the drama of Yellowstone. He thinks The Hangover is hilarious but he can’t fathom the absurdity of Everything, Everywhere All at Once. Sometimes, he prefers to hop from one YouTube clip to another, stopping the minute he encounters something wrong(!). Like the sound of mismatched rotor blades.

Dog, staring Channing Tatum (whose name messes with my dyslexia every time) seemed like an option; the trailer made me laugh and cry. But it was risky because Tatum (is that his last or first name; I’m intending it’s his last) plays a former Ranger. Most authors and filmmakers get it wrong. However, I caught a detail from the trailer that I thought was promising — in a scene, Tatum claims to be part of Ranger Battalion. Battalion is crucial. You see, many soldiers make Airborne. Only Airborne-qualified paratroopers can volunteer for Ranger School. Few are selected. Most wash out after Phase One. Todd did. But you can re-apply like he did and complete Phase Two. Being Ranger-qualified does not guarantee a soldier gets placed in a Battalion. Todd earned that distinction. Battalion carries a lot of weight.

And asshole-ness. Yep, I said it. And Todd loves it that I still call him by that “term of endearment.” They are assholes. And the movie Dog gets its right. Even the Ranger Battalion dog, Lulu, is an asshole.

There’s a powerful reason Rangers are assholes. They are trained that way. What the Army flips on in soldiers and war dogs, the Army is incapable or uninterested to turn off. Let loose in the civilian world, they don’t fit. Often, Tatum’s character doesn’t mention he was in the military, let alone in an elite unit part of the Joint Special Operations Command. It might seem odd to viewers, especially when speaking up might be the thing that resolves a situation. But it’s not just a literary device; Rangers don’t boast about being Rangers. Unless they want to piss off an MP or buy a Marine birthday cake.

Not only does Dog get the culture right, but it’s one of the best representations of how disposable our elite soldiers are. In the movie, Tatum says, “Rangers find a way to die.” It’s a reference to the on-switch they themselves can’t figure out until they check out. As an extension of how lost post-service Rangers can be, Lulu shares many of Tatum’s attributes of poor adjustment to civilian life. And this is where the movie gripped my heart. In one scene, Tatum makes a stop to see her littermate, also a former war dog. She hugs the handler and Tatum is surprised to find a squishy center still in Lulu.

The handler says of her brother, “I’ve been working every day for six months. When he stopped struggling, that’s when I realized I could stop struggling, too.” The pivotal moment for Tatum and Lulu comes later.

Dog honors the dignity of combat veterans despite their struggles. It shows that even the biggest assholes still have squishy soft hearts. Something I knew early on about Todd. Until his more recent battles with the long-term effects of TBI and PTSD, his kids recount how their dates and coaches were terrified of “Daddy” but the kids knew him as their squishy Growly Bear. It was not lost on me that Lulu was destined to be put down because she had become too difficult to handle.

Yeah, let that sink in a moment.

I swear, if the VA could, they’d do the same to these vets suffering from the complications of their training, injuries, and aging. The dog takes on the metaphor of disposability. Tatum knows it but remains dutiful to his mission to deliver Lulu to her last photo opp and final fate. By this time in the film, their camaraderie and shared service and struggles have melded. You can’t separate the man from the dog.

In one of the most powerful images I’ve seen recently, they come to their last night in the desert. Tatum, drunk, tries to drive off Lulu into the vast wasteland. The desert. Empty promises of freedom. It hit me hard in the chest. It reminded me of the catchphrase, “Freedom is not free.” What do we know of freedom, anyhow? Those who fight for a nation’s freedom are like the dog standing at the edge of a desert. Where do they go? What do they do? How is living alone and empty free? I sobbed. I looked over at Todd and he was crying, too.

It was cathartic, facing a hard truth. The shadow of military service is a dog left in the desert, free to live or die.

But the movie has an elixir. Tatum and the dog need to take care of each other because no one else is coming to save them from what they face. Lulu refuses to “be free.” She stays by his side. And in the end, he stays by hers. (SPOILER: happy ending.)

Dog is also a movie veteran families can understand. While it is not our direct struggle represented in the images, it is a rallying cry — yes, these assholes matter. They are our assholes who did what we could not, deserving of what they cannot have, of what we cannot have with them as functional families. Regardless, we face the desert and choose to stick together. As one daughter of a Vietnam veteran who is dying of brain cancer said, if my dad can carry the bodies of his buddies out of the jungle swamps so they could be properly buried, I can carry my dad’s burden so he can die with dignity at home. These are the real veteran family experiences I know.

Dog understands courage, commitment, and honor.

I didn’t intend to go so dark, but I needed to animate those images in my mind to prepare myself for the next round of edits on my novel about the veteran spouse experience of “long-haulers” — the ones who don’t give up when common sense says, tap out. The ones who can soothe the muzzled soldiers and give voice to their after-war life. I have a new editor, too. It’s taken two years, but Todd has finally agreed to edit Miracle of Ducks. Lord help me if I named the helicopters incorrectly!

Now, I leave you to contemplate the dog in the desert image. Maybe you have a joyful interpretation, humor, grace, or playfulness. We literary artists play with shadows and light. We don’t hide from the depths. Which direction will you go?

April 3, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a dog in the desert. Why is the dog there? Who else is involved? Is there a deeper metaphor you can make of the desert? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 8, 2023. 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.

Shots Fired 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.

Reflections by B.C. Graham

I enlisted last year, and I still feel anxious. Fear and excitement argue over who’s more relevant, stirring my blood like a crafty cocktail. I’m buzzed, and completely sober.

Their motto: “The Deeper The Cut, The Deeper The Healing.” They call it “Shots Fired.” Open mic meets experimental psychotherapy. It’s also what the crowd yells when they hear a good insult. Childish ones are most affective; they’re the oldest.

I step onstage and look over at my opponent, “If Mr. Rogers was your neighbor, he’d move!” Echoing from somewhere in time the crowd yells out. My mirrored foe vanishes.


Shots Fired into White Skin by Anne Goodwin

Clem prepares the needle. The man removes his jacket and thrusts a Union Jack tattoo in her face. Bile sours her throat like love betrayed. Yet, silently, she chuckles. “You realise it’s upside down?”


“People assume it’s symmetrical.” She points a blue-gloved finger along the left-to-right diagonal stripe. “The white should be thicker at the top.”

The syringe approaches his frescoed skin. “Sharp scratch.” Quick in and out, the instructor taught her. Dithering hurts more. She jiggles the needle slowly into the muscle and slaps a flesh-coloured plaster over the puncture wound. A dark-brown dot enhancing the flag.


Cold Blood by Joanne Fisher

I heard shots fired from the abandoned building. The man I had been tailing had only just walked in there. I found his body on the floor with two gunshot wounds. He had been murdered in cold blood. I heard footsteps behind me, and turned around to see Maria with a gun in her hands.

“Why hire me to follow this man if you were going to kill him all along? I asked. She smiled.

“You were my target all along.” She replied. The man on the floor unexpectedly stood up. Maria pointed the gun at me and fired.


The Shot by C. E. Ayr

I hear a gunshot.
Through the gloom I see a figure slumped against my car.
I run towards it, my eyes sweeping the area.
As sirens approach, I recognise the pale, huddled form.
And struggle to breathe.
It is Val, the woman I loved and left all those years ago.
Her face is pale, blood seeps through her coat.
Her eyes flicker recognition, her lips twitch almost into a smile.
Take this, she whispers, pushing something into my hand.
I look down at the still warm gun.
She clasps her gloved hands around mine.
Got you, she says.


Shots Fired by Will

“Shots fired,” reports the police scanner from above the dashboard as I climb into my truck. I lay my still-warm pistol and its magazine on the armrest beside me. Passing headlights briefly illuminate the open van doors and the bodies 50 feet in front of me. She might have been pretty; I couldn’t tell. When I arrived, she was already bloody. The two men had not been kind, and neither had I. Was it justice? The blue lights approach. I’m still not sure why I fired three times–now I have to decide if I should fire once more.


Who Shot Him? by Norah Colvin

The cadets were in formation as they marched around the oval, looking every bit the soldier with guns and uniforms, and not the pimply partly-whiskered teenage boys they’d return to after graduation. Proud relatives had travelled far to view this passing out parade. Spectators and graduates sweltered under the unforgiving summer sun. Some women armed with fans and umbrellas were the envy of those less prepared. One small cousin pushed through the crowd for a better view. At that instant, a front row cadet fainted. The distressed spectator scampered back to safety. “Who shot him, Mum? Who shot him?”


Love and Hate by Hugh W. Roberts

I met Hans on the battlefield. Our eyes locked across the chaos of war as shots rang out. At that moment, nothing else existed.

Drawn to each other like moths to a flame, we became united by the realisation that life was too short to waste on hate.

But we parted on different sides as my commander shouted to fall back.

Many years later, when the world was at peace, I never thought we would reunite and our love would be as strong as that day in 1915.

For Hans and I, shots fired had led to love found.


Where There is Darkness by Jeff Gard

We all saw the body cam footage, the suspect fleeing across the highway on foot, a shadow against flashing reds and blues. Six highway lanes shut down to watch the drama in artificial high-mast lighting, poles bent over as if praying the words of St. Francis.

He was a meth dealer, allegedly. He had stolen a case of beer, allegedly. He resisted arrest, allegedly. He was a father. He was a son. He was nobody. He would become a rallying cry.

One-hundred and thirteen shots fired. We all saw the same footage, but we didn’t see the same crime.


Bang, Bang in the Night Bill Engleson

It shouldn’t happen here.

That’s city stuff.


We don’t have gangs here. We’ve got farmers. Retirees. A few hobbled dispossessed. Maybe they’ve got guns. There is talk of shooting nomadic dogs. Leashless mutts. Poorly cared for, or, burdened with masters who revere freedom for all and damn the consequences; deer run to ruin.

We do get crews of hunters, off-season as well as legit. Pit-lampers! That sort. Out for their own pleasures.

No matter what it is, we cower in our beds when guns go off in the dark.

It shouldn’t happen here.

It shouldn’t, but it does.


Longing for Our ‘Normal’ By JulesPaige

In St. Louis, not far from the grand Arch… water pulsating the Mississippi, that waterway, that lifeline that still was used as a north south corridor for shipping goods… We were in a neighborhood that was trying to be gentrified. We were visiting, staying secure in an alarmed home. However, shots rang out in the street below the window. Sirens followed, sunrise couldn’t come fast enough.

Cities can be like that – cutting the population down with nocturnal business activities gone wrong. We knew that, we’d grown up in them. Now we just wanted our colorful sky of the plains.


Something’s Missing by Charli Mills

Margery Clementine Phillips, Mrs. M.C. to generations of former students, sprawled across the linoleum floor of her former classroom. She remembered the invitation: Would you be our next reading guest? She didn’t remember falling. Did she slip on a pencil? It happened once. Not to her, but the story was legendary for its breakroom retelling like a bad banana peel joke. Did she pass out? She felt dizzy. Her ears rang. She couldn’t move. When a rifle muzzle aimed at her face, she remembered shots fired. She remembered the silly third-grader from 15 years earlier. Where did your humanity go?


The Shot I Did Not Hear by Duane L Herrmann

I did not hear the gunshot that killed my grandson last spring. He was sitting on the floor of his bathroom. He was twenty-three. I’m sure he was crying. The military lied on his discharge papers. The local court had convicted him on the color of his skin. He owed more money than he had ever imagined and two personnel departments had turned against him based on their assumptions. He was sure his mom and granpa couldn’t fix any of that. He father simply caused problems. We don’t know where he got the gun to blow his brains out.


The First Salvo by Sadje

The first salvo was fired under the guise of friendly advice, the pointy spindle hidden in the syrupy sweet advice, given presumably to ‘improve’ her habits and social graces.

Their evil was obscure, hiding in a whine and teary face.

She was no sleeping beauty, being exposed to these backstabbers since she was old enough to understand their hidden agenda. She’d rather they clobbered her on her head with their true intent, rather than poison her mind with sweet venom.

Indeed, foes in disguise of family were worse than an honest enemy.

T’was time to expose their lies!


Eyeballs by Simon

Cynthia pulled the trigger, the man dropped dead. At the attic a murder took place.
Few days later the person is on the news as “Missing”.
Cynthia’s mother stared at her a moment knowing the person isn’t missing but died. Guilty haunted her nights. She forced Cynthia to go somewhere else.
Cynthia didn’t hesitate to pull another trigger, this time her mom gone missing.
Cynthia opened her hobby box from the freezer and filled the 20th bottle with her Mom’s eye. Cynthia said “Mom, I knew one day I’ll keep your eyes too, not so soon, R.I.P my Mother”


The Rendezvous Part II by Kate Spencer

Gloria slips through the French doors into the dimly lit suite. Approaching the bedroom, she sees someone inside, closing the safe.

“We’ve got company,” she whispers into her two-way earpiece, backing away.

Pulling out her Glock 19, she waits for the intruder in the living room.

Who was this guy?

And then he’s there, his Beretta pointed at her.

“Out of my way,” he seethes.

“Can’t do that.”


“Allô mon Chérie!”

His eyes shift to glance at her partner landing on the balconet.

Gloria roundhouse kicks the gun out of his hand just as he pulls the trigger.


Some Injuries by Gary A. Wilson

“Jerry, when did you last see Monica?”
“Maybe thirty-two years; graduation day.  Why?”
“She’s approaching behind you.”
“Wha . . .”
“Oh, ick!  Hello Benjamin, and — you.  I would’ve died happy never seeing you again.”
“Um, hello Monica. What a surprise. How are -”
“Only seconds ago, I was fine.”
“Look, I’m sorry, for back  -”
“When you treated me like poison meat.”
“Yea — I apologize for being stupid.”
“And hateful. I’ll consider your apology but until decided — you can just rot.”
“Whoa, shots fired! Monica — he apologized.”
“True. But some injuries too deep for simple apologies to reach.”


The Flaming Sambucas, etc. by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking is home to various cocktail bars. The Hot Toddies, the Shots Fired, and the Flaming Sambucas to name three. What makes them unique is the way each turns the drinkers’ brain molten, enabling pain receptors to leave quietly to join other like minded cells. Thereafter they form anarchic analgesic cooperatives, randomly numbing the pained poor, bagpipe testers and anyone with a compulsion to listen to Leonard Cohen. Recently a petition has been raised to curtail these activities after voters were found to have been numbed to politicians’ speeches, to such an extent they began believing the promises.


Venison for Dinner by Sue Spitulnik

Dear hunting season always affected the veterans at the No Thanks. Some thought of fresh and canned venison and others dreaded they might hear the shooting.
Tyrell told about the first time his sister had harvested a young buck. “Rhodessa tended to aim with the wrong eye and shook with excitement. Result was, she broke the poor thing’s back legs with one shot, then killed it with the second. She was high up on the hill above our parked trucks, so shoved it right down to ’em. That dear had the most tender meat. Still haven’t had any better.”


Shots Fired by writerravenclaw

There were reports of shots fired.
First on the scene, she wasn’t sure what she would find. So many poachers, killing bears for nothing more than the skin on the animals backs or their babies. To drag them into a life, behind bars, with the pain of loss inside them.
This time she wasn’t going to be late to their party. Standing above him, there was no choice. ”For the bears,” she said.
She saw him, about to fire, and happily pulled the trigger against him.
There were reports of shots fired, but nobody cared, the bears were safe.


Shots Fired by Ann Edall-Robson

The morning mist floated through the trees. Sounds of shots being fired in sporadic volleys filtered through the branches. The two silhouettes stopped to listen for any voices. Hearing none, they moved on, small puffs of moisture escaping their mouths as they entered the alcove, their steps cushioned by the ground’s needle bed. With a nod, they moved into position, each ready for the inevitable that would soon commence. Easy, fluent motions start to finish. A soft relaxed word, “Pull”. Making eye contact with the inbound target. One shot fired and chunks of clay pigeon dropped to the ground.


Fired Up, Over, and Out (Part I) by D. Avery

“Yawww! Dang it Kid! Don’t do thet.”
“Aw, come on Pal, I’m jist funnin ya. Ya too gun-shy fer this week’s prompt?”
“Mebbe I am. Shots fired don’t seem right fer the Ranch. Now what? Duck!”
“That was jist the LeGumes, Pal, out on the veranda shootin the breeze.”
“Reckon thet’s a good place for em.”
“They wanna see us, Pal. Hey Pepe. Logatha.”
“Ello, Keed, ello Pal. We have news.”
“Phew, LeGume, thinkin yer firin some shots. O, shift. Lemme step upwind.”
“What’s yer news, Pepe?”
“I fired a shot alright. Logatha’s goeeng to ‘ave a bambeano!”


Fired Up, Over, and Out (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal, what burr’s unner yer saddle now? Hope yer not cranky cuz a the LeGumes’ impendin bambeano.”
“Ain’t thet, Kid. Happy fer em, havin a little stinker. Nah, it’s thet fella thet run away from the circus.”
“From the ‘Literary Artist’ challenge? Whut’d he do?”
“It’s whut I did. Mighta been too quick ta pull the trigger hirin ‘im ta hep out.”
“Reckon a fella like that knows his way roun animals.”
“Too well. Dang cattle’ve all got dance routines now. The hosses all got fancy tricks.”
“Aw, that’s okay, Pal. Seen Curly?”
“Yep. Over in thet cannon.”


Fired Up, Over, and Out (Part III) by D. Avery

“No!! Don’t fire my hoglet outta that cannon!”
“Why not, Kid? She wants to go across the beaver pond. This is a sure-fire way to get her there quickly.”
“Curly kin walk! Thought ya wanted ta be away from circus life, anyway. Why ya teachin the ranch animals tricks an routines?”
“This Ranch needs a little razzle-dazzle.”
“There’s stellar stories here ever week, thet’s razzle-dazzle enough. We got Rough Writers takin risks in the safe space a Carrot Ranch. Why ain’tcha writin ‘stead a training the livestock?”
“Chickened out.”
“Mebbe ya better cross the road, Hot Shot. Yer fired.”


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

March 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

It’s a Friday and the sky is impossibly blue over the whole of the Keweenaw Peninsula! I know, I know, it’s impossible for the color blue to be impossible. After all, the bag of snowmelt is the exact color of sky-blue. The difference is that the actual blue-sky vibrates with an aliveness that the same color cannot match. All I want to be is alive beneath this sky on this day.

Sure, I’ll likely feel the same way tomorrow, But this is the moment. This is now. This is the impossibly blue sky that drove me out of the classroom earlier.

Occasionally, we get snow days. With Finlandia on its downhill slide to closing, we’ve had more snow days than usual. This morning, as I drove across the Houghton Lift Bridge, I wondered if we could call a sun day. I was on my way to a Warrior Sisters group. Ever since the Vet Center shuttered its doors, I’ve stood in the gap until they restored mental health services to our community.

Mary Gauthier asks in her song, The War After the War, “Whose gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war?” Well, the real answer is each other. We take care of each other. The Vietnam vets started the Vet Centers of America when it was obvious that the VA was not taking care of the PTSD crisis after the Vietnam War. They pushed to get services. Their wives and families pushed. But they are aging. And the next crisis looms on the horizon — brain injury is the signature wound of Post 9/11 veterans. Todd squeezes invisible between the two eras and is the harbinger of what’s to come. It’s easy for the VA to ignore CTE; it’s a problem of the NFL, not the military. They can ignore Todd, but what will they do as Iraq and Afghanistan vets begin to age? CTE is not going away.

I bring this topic up because even on a blue-sky day, shadows lurk. I’ve bobbed up and down all week. My students show evidence of struggle and I’m reaching after each one of them. My colleagues are leaving and despite my plans for an online writing school, the timing of Finlandia’s closing leaves me searching for employment, too. It feels depressing and we are going to be in an uncertain mudhole until we each figure out what next. In the midst of all this, I’m not willing to watch my Warrior Sisters and their vets fall into yet another crack in society.

So, we take care of each other.

Something incredible happened this morning on this sunny Friday. We got the guys to group. If you think it’s easy to herd Vietnam vets, you have not experienced their level of stubborn self-isolation. To me, the heroes are the wives, sons, and daughters who look after these men America would rather forget. I look after them so they can look after their vets. This morning we all managed to get most of the old Vietnam veterans group reunited. It took tremendous trust on their part to gather because they have not had an in-person group since COVID, and they felt the sting of the Vet Center abandoning them last summer. They’ve never trusted the VA. But that should not be a deterrent to getting together with those who share your experiences.

I could have wept with joy, watching the men across the backroom at the Copper Depot where we meet every other Friday for a social outing (the alternate Fridays we meet on Zoom to follow the guidance of a positive psychology workbook I bought). Even Todd joined us and he was having a good brain day. We heard lots of talk about firearms and ballistics; helicopter stories; parachuting accidents; Las Vegas. I think Todd precipitated the Vegas conversation when he spoke of his desire to move to northern Nevada. They all agreed that snow sucks. They all ordered breakfasts and swilled coffee. They needed these conversations.

We spoke of medical concerns and tricks we employ to get our spouses to take their pills. My job is easy — Todd refuses all medication. One of the Warrior Sisters is also a nurse and she said she knows plenty like him. Another Warrior Sister told us she finally got her husband to consider cannabis last week and he’s been smoking ever since. Someone asked why smoke it when you can pop a gummy, and she said he believes the smoke will help his lung cancer. He’s dying so it’s not going to hurt. I told them about my first Caregiver for Living with Suspected CTE group meeting this week and how hard and yet hopeful it is to learn more about this disease. We laugh, too. A lot.

We couldn’t stop looking across the room and smiling, either.

Now that we finally got these cats herded into one place, we plan to keep it going. I’m currently taking a course in Mindfulness from and when I’m finished, I’ll have a certificate and course materials to lead classes. I plan to create a Mindfulness for Writers class to generate income and then set up local Mindfulness for Veterans that are free. It scares me, though. Responsibility is measured in lives. You see, a big reason these vets avoid gathering in groups is that it triggers their PTSD intrusive memories/thoughts/feelings and I’m not a therapist. I’m a literary artist. But I am a Warrior Sister to the Long-Haulers and they will help me. They will soothe, listen, and protect. I will have the Veteran Crisis Hotline (Dial 988, then press 1) on speed dial. I’ll also make sure I’m maintaining my mental health.

As I head to class, I marvel at the sky. When I park on campus, two crows zip past like fighter jets and I watch their maneuvers. My classroom is empty. I open the window. Even in blizzards, I open the window because Finlandia’s boilers are set to “hellfire.” Finally, one student shows up and I think, it’s enough. We talked about the skies last night when the Northern Lights danced like a 3D green and pink phoenix over Hancock last night. My student is from Florida and had never before seen them. He’s itching to explore and I pull up a map of waterfalls for him. Two more students show up. We all decide it’s too beautiful of a day to be inside.

I declare a Blue Sky Day. The grandest container we can have as humans for hope.

March 27 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something impossibly blue. You can go with sky or any other object. What impact does the color have on the setting or characters? Does it lead to action or create a pause? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 1 ( no foolin’), 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.

Where Children Once Played 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 Custodian by D. Avery

Brody reread the etched and markered initials, sayings, and symbols like favorite passages from a familiar book. He’d disagreed with the principals who’d called it vandalism, as long as the messages weren’t hurtful. Those he had the child remove, under his constructive supervision. The custodian had always understood the children’s need to leave a mark and never washed off or painted over their messages and art.

“I was here.” Where are all you children now? he wondered.

Hopefully gone straight to heaven, reunited with family.

The children shouldn’t haunt this place. Brody’s spirit would watch over their silent playground.


Abandoned? by Joanne Fisher

“We will be buying that piece of land there from the Council.” Jenkins said pointing at the map. “We’ve been given a green light to develop the site into luxury apartments. I have assurances that there will be no problems or delays.”

“I see. So what is that land being used for at the moment?” Bartlett asked.

“I believe it’s an abandoned playground.” Jenkins stated.

“I’m sure I’ve seen children still use that one.”

“Well, only the children from poor families still use it, and who is going to listen to their complaints?” Jenkins pointed out.

“True.” Bartlett conceded.


Playground Echo by Ann Edall-Robson

The sign announced a new housing development on the old school site. A tear slid down her cheek. They’d never take away the sound of the children laughing, calling to each other as the clanging school bell echoed across the field announcing the end of recess. Would newcomers know about the forts that had been built in the nearby trees, the baseball games, and the ultimate risk of pumping hard, taking the swing to its highest peak before launching from the wooden seat to fly through the air? How could they tell these stories if they hadn’t lived it?


Echoes, Shadows, Whispers, and Dreams by Chel Owens

Echoes are all that resound down these halls;
Echoes of voices still young, still young.
They’re laughing or talking or screaming –
Or still.
But only sometime, long ago.

Shadows are all that still walk ‘cross these floors;
Shadows of children come late, come late.
They’re flashing to catch up their friends, else
Catch up.
But only sometime, long ago.

Whispers are all that still push dangling swings;
Whispers of glee-songs in play, in play.
They’re jumping and pumping and flying
But only sometime, long ago.

Where are the echoes, the shadows, and whispers?
Only in dreams, long ago.


The Tree by Margaret G. Hanna

Now it’s dying, but once it was:

Jungle Gym: Leap up high, grab the bar, swing your legs up and over, sit tall. The crowd leaps to its feet and roars its approval. A perfect 10!

Pirate ship: Arrrr, me maties, thar be the Spanish galleon heavy with booty, and she’s ours for the taking. Ready the cannons!

Sherwood Forest: Shh, Merry Men, nock your arrows, someone’s coming, perhaps a duke with a fat purse . . .

“Margaret, time to come in, dinner’s ready.”

“Okay, Mom.”

Unnock your arrows, Merry Men, Maid Marion’s inviting us to a feast.


The Tree by C. E. Ayr

The children don’t play here so much nowadays.
I remember when they swung from ropes tied to branches.
When they hung sheets and blankets for tents, playing Cowboys and Indians.
When they climbed up, pretending to be pirates sailing the seven seas.
It was wonderful.
Then Benny, no, Bernie, decided to build a tree-house.
Carried that wood all the way up the hill, brought his dad’s best hammer and those long, sharp nails.
I wasn’t quite so keen on that, thought an accident could happen.
Well, they thought it was an accident when my branch bent under his foot.


Spying by Reena Saxena

“Look for hidden clues or evidence left behind but shift active investigation to Singapore. Criminals no longer active here.”

The email raises many more questions. How did they manage to skip airport security and leave the country? Are the systems adequate to detect fake passports?
More important than that is how did the chief arrive at this conclusion.

The Chief re-reads the note,

“This used to be a playground once, but children no longer play here.” The image shows an empty playground with a small script on the left – India. A plane flying above is that of Singapore Airlines.


Detective at Work by Kate Spencer

Wearing his trench coat, Liam searched the house for possible crimes. Finding nothing, he went outside.

“Oh boy, I got her now!” he shouted. Drawing his water pistol, he stormed back into the house and straight into his sister’s bedroom.

“Lauren, you’re under arrest!”

“What for?”


“Of what?”

“The sandbox.”

“Go away,” she said, brushing her hair.

“No. You gotta see how gross it looks ‘cause you don’t play in it anymore.”

“Then arrest Dad, Squirt. It’s supposed to be a trampoline by now.”

“You’re no fun,” Liam muttered.

He liked his sister better when she was younger.


I Used To Play Here by sweeterthannothing

A decade has passed since small chubby hands gripped these chains I think, Idally pushing myself forwards and backwards on the ancient, creaky, swing, being careful not to lose my balance and fall into the crater behind me.

I can see my house from here, or rather the space where my house once was, now nothing more than mound of twisted concrete and forgotten things.
Why have I come back here, to the place I used to play? My childhood died here, was murdered here.

Just another victim of war I suppose.

At least I lived to mourn it.


Once Bill Engleson

In this place where we once gathered,
opened hearts, fashioned dreams,
now, alas, we shall be scattered,
rent asunder at the seams.

Life is transient, learning, so,
wisdom rallied in charted streams,
yet the river yearns to know
how we’ll adjust to shuttered schemes.

In this place where we once gathered,
opened hearts, fashioned dreams,
now, alas, we shall be scattered,
rent asunder at the seams.

Early in, the laceration smarts,
pathways vague, the future daunting.
Life is science and the arts,
each day a separate launching
from this place where we once gathered,
friendships were all that mattered.


Gramma’s House by Colleen M. Chesebro

The abandoned house looked old. The peeling paint and faded shutters reminded me of gramma’s face, always lined with worry, droopy with age. This house in Dorrance, Kansas, had been my refuge all those summers ago when I was a teen.

I gazed at the sandy street, still unpaved. I’d ridden my first horse down this street, with grandpa watching from his chair on the porch. The horse had bucked me off, and I’d skidded down the street, leaving most of my skin behind. After I healed, I couldn’t wait to ride again.

Now, only good memories reside here.


Not Everything Changes by Hugh W. Roberts

The sun shone brightly on the grassy field where children once played, hunting for colourful Easter eggs.

Years later, the area was overgrown, and the old baskets and eggs were long gone.

But something magical was happening. From the earth, tiny sprouts emerged, turning into flowers of every colour, filling the air with sweet fragrances.

The grown children returned to the field and marvelled at the wondrous sight. They remembered the joy of those long-ago Easter egg hunts and the laughter of their childhood friends.

The field may have changed, but the memories and the spirit of Easter remained.


The North Cohocton-Atlanta School House (BOTS) by Sue Spitulnik

The two-story combined-class schoolhouse
Stood from 1874 to 1969
The halls were boisterous until 1960
Then it was empty until torn down

My sisters attended there
But alas I was too young
I never had the teachers they adored
I only got to know the playground

That survived a few more years
The merry-go-round was twirled
The swings could be pumped high
The teeter-totter squeaked on

The ball diamonds were used
The tennis courts too
The teens gathered
Out of our mothers’ view

Finally, the implements removed
The playground became a field of grass
Where my memories are ghosts


Utopian Upgrade? by JulesPaige

Near the brick and rain-beaten foundation stones of the old home, is a modern elementary school playground. Once Amish or Mennonite children played freely across acres of land that now hold neighborhoods of new homes. These peaceful people lived; “ Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy or boast. It’s not proud, rude, or self-seeking. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of past mistakes. It does not delight in evil. It rejoices in the truth.”

When abandoned by the schools’ students, do the ghosts of lost children play on the new fangled equipment?


Lingering Behind by Nicole Horlings

The playground in Bright Rock was devoid of children, as was the dwarven town itself. When the gold mine dried up, all of the miners had logically left for the newly opened diamond mine in Glitterdale.

Elga nostalgically wandered around the playground. She had raised her children here in Bright Rock. Her son had loved the pebble pit and the wobbly balancing rocks. When he’d grown up, his daughter’s favourite things were the boulder tunnels and the polished rock slide.

Walk finished, she returned home, grabbed her bags, and finally began the journey to follow her family to Glitterdale.


Once Upon A Time School by Duane L Herrmann

I was driving across the Kansas prairie with my children of grade school age. Rounding a bend in the dirt road, we came to an abandoned, one-room school house. We stopt. The door was open, there was no door. The floor had been taken out too. Windows were broken and birds nested in the rafters. Outside were the remains of play equipment: slipper slide, a frame for swings, and one other – all in ruins. The outhouse, we ignored. This had been a center of community, bonding, and progress; no longer needed, all had moved on. We left too.


Locked and Abandoned by Norah Colvin

Grow up.
Stop those childish games.
Remember your manners.
Cease with the stories.
Fairies aren’t real.
Santa’s for fools with more money than sense.
She was a dutiful daughter and diligent student. She submerged herself in lessons, wiped her mind of childhood nonsense and got on with the serious business of being grownup, though she was not yet nine years old.
She went on to be dux at school and won the university medal but had no friends to celebrate with.
Sometimes, in night’s solitude, she’d hear a jangle of keys and a tiny voice crying, ‘Let me out!’


They Just Want to Have Fun by Sadje

March/April 2020.

We were on strict lockdown, the schools and universities were closed. All stores except grocery stores were closed. The kids were not allowed to play outside. Their playgrounds looked deserted, abandoned.

At some places, a tape was circling the entire complex so that kids don’t try to take slides or ride the merry-go-round.

Everyday, while walking I’d see the tape broken and sometimes even small children with their mom on the swings. They’d disregard the notices of warning and would sneak in for a bit of fun.

It was a tough time, especially for the young kids!


Going Home by J. McDonough

Some of the bricks on the Southside of the guest cottage had ragged chunks torn out by the teeth of careless time. Evita sighed, how long had it been?
The creek still chuckled, but the swings complained as their remains slapped the metal poles. In the main house, the machine hummed lullabies.
Was the fort still sturdy after all this time? The second step turned to sawdust and she hit the ground. On the platform her treasures still there, rusted shut in a tin can.
Charlie was laughing inside as the computer built world’s where little boys played nice.


Abandoned by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The spliff flared and hissed at midnight, lighting up Joel’s sharp features. He passed the butt to another hand hard as his own, exhaled, and pushed the swing back. The chains were icy in his fingers, but the pain felt good.

Worn black Converse kicked the October ground, speed to his flight.

The swing next to him groaned to life, and for awhile, the night’s only song was the screech of metal against metal. They rose higher and higher, until they jumped and landed hard. The swings clapped against each other. Spent roach sailed and snuffed.

School’s out forever.


Serious Rumour by Simon

‘It is painful to see this playground abandoned.’ Simon sai

You say? Alex asked

‘Did I do that? It’s what the people of this town believed, because of Steve.’

‘What I said? I made up a ghost story, if kids began to disappear What would I do?’

‘They say before a kid disappear they get a mole on right hand’ Alex said

Simon said ‘I have two mole since birth, why I didn’t disappear?’

Alex said ‘Maybe you are the kidnapper’.

‘He can’t even kidnap cockroach’ Steve giggled

With an evil smile ‘Wish the kids are safe’ Simon said.


London, September 1940 by Kate Spencer

Rose sat hugging her daughter in her Anderson bomb shelter. She was exhausted. Air raid sirens and explosions had kept her awake all night. And then it had gone quiet. Very quiet.

Emerging from the shelter she was shocked. All the windows of her home had been blown out. Her neighbour’s house was gone. There was soot and an acrid smell everywhere.

She walked the streets aimlessly, her daughter clutching her hand. They found what was left of the playground. A smoldering crater. Where were the children going to play? Would they even want to?

Rose began to cry.


Playground by writerravenclaw

Rust, covering each steel frame, and the park ceased to be in 2042.

Everyone, unable to leave their bubbles, sought solace in the technology keeping them safe. Why couldn’t they do the same to the ozone layer, replace the air? Give their lives a new vigour. Children born, didn’t know the joys of playing outside. Glued to their devices, they didn’t realise what they were missing out on.

Molly looked outside, beyond her home, wishing she could show her daughter the joys of making a snowman. Now, it rarely did anything, but rain, or flood or burn.


The Wonder of Archaeology – A True Story by Gordon Le Pard

The young, pregnant, woman cooled her painful feet in the soft mud as she watched the children play. At sun set they washed in the incoming tide before heading back to the village. A giant bull had been caught the day before and there was a feast that night.

4000 years later.
The archaeologists mapped the footprints, revealed as layers of ancient mud were exposed. They traced the ancient hunters, in pursuit of the Aurochs, the giant ancestor of all cattle. Found the muddy hollow full of children’s footprints, and felt sympathy for the pregnant teenager who had bunions!


Missed Opportunity by Charli Mills

“Miss Charli, you coming to our football game on Friday?” Hopeful faces look at me. If only they had such enthusiasm for college English.

“Maybe,” I answer. I want to see my student-athletes play but it’s complicated. I’m not a big sports fan. It’s cold. My husband doesn’t do well at night. By the time early darkness rolls around, I stay home. Next time, I think.

My university is closing. 126 years of education ends when my last spring class of 2023 of ENG 103 concludes. I never did catch a game where my students once played. A regret.


Closing Cheerful Children’s Learning Center by Kerry E.B. Black

Ellie rested against the door’s yellow-painted wood. Twenty years. She’d worked her way up to lead program designer of the Cheerful Children’s Learning Center, only for the management to close up operations months after her promotion.

She supposed in retrospect her ideas might have been too revolutionary. Ellie’s Montessori-inspired free play clashed with the prevailing “structured activities” model. Through guided, interest based encounters, Ellie hoped to stimulate and deepen each child’s interests.

She never imagined the direction quiet, little Veronica from her older explorer class, would take.

With a shudder, Ellie dropped the keys into the realty envelope and left.


Used to Be Our Playground by ladyleemanilla

Hustle and bustle of life
Used to be here as routine
In the daylight even with strife

After naps were here so keen
We fought, played, our tradition
Used to be here as routine

Sunlight part of prescription
Rewarded ourselves for being here
We fought, played, our tradition

Now we’re busy with our career
Abandoned this place, we’re guilty
Rewarded ourselves for being here

Sad and deserted, such a pity
Childhood memories, nostalgic
Abandoned this place, we’re guilty

Used to be our place of magic
Hustle and bustle of life
Childhood memories, nostalgic
In the daylight even with strife


Underneath Geoff Le Pard

From time immemorial, or twenty years last Thursday, which is about the same in Little Tittweaking, the local sprogs and spawn have gambolled and gambled in the scrubby shrubs of the local Rec. Here children gain life skills, that no school teaches, such as an instinct for tyranny and risk-free cheating in its muddy swards. Recently the real derivation of the Rec’s name became clear when a hole, exposing a long buried Viking long boat, complete with a compliment of pillaging ghosts. While adults sought experts in exorcism, the children embraced their guests, adding shoplifting to their skill set.


The Playground of Old by Miss Judy

The great outdoors was our playground, as high as the sky and distant as the horizon. It was:

  • a pond for winter ice skating or summer swimming
  • the woods where we built forts and hideaways, smoked the stub of dad’s cigar and talked about boys
  • where we raced across open fields or rounded up cattle on horseback
  • lying in the cool evening grass searching for animals in a sea of billowy clouds

Our playground was free, limited only by our imagination. I wonder, “How will the today’s youth remember their playground when they are old?”


Pal Tries Kiddin (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pal? You okay?”

“Yep. Jist meditatin on thet prompt.”

“You? You don’t usually bother with the prompts. Usually bother me. An make sure all the chores git done, the animals tended.”

“Yep. Thet’s what I usually do, Kid. Whut I’ve always done. Reckon it’s all I know how ta do.”

“Yer real good at what ya do Pal. A hard worker.”

“Thing is Kid, thet rusty playgroun exists inside me. Unused.”

“What d’ya mean?”

“I ain’t never played. Weren’t never a kid, Kid.”

“We kin tend ta that, Pal. But it’ll be work.”

“I kin do thet.”

“No kidding!”


Pal Tries Kiddin (Part I) by D. Avery

“First off, Pal, stop broodin. If ya got an image of a rusty playground, shine it up! ‘Magine paintin the ‘quipment any color ya like.”

“Done. Now what?”

“Git in there an play!”

“Ok, I’m in the playgroun.”

“Stay with it Pal. What d’ya see?”

“There’s a sandbox. I’m playin in the sandbox, Kid!”

“That’s real good Pal.”

“There’s a toy tractor an toy hosses. I built a ranch!”

“Keep playin…”

“There’s lots of free range. I’m making a carrot patch. And barns.”

“Your playin souns familiar.”

“Kid! Take this toy shovel an git busy!”

“Ah, shift, Pal. Really?”


Played Out by D. Avery

“Didn’t ‘spect ta find ya down by the beaver pond, Pal.”

“Yep. Relaxin.”

“Ain’t gonna write fer the prompt?”

“Nope. Playin with words is fer other folks. An playin on playgrouns is fer younger folk. But ya taught me I kin play in thet imaginal sandbox anytime I feel like. Thanks Kid.

“Kid, look’t them beavers. Folks say beavers is always workin. They sure seem ta be enjoyin themselves.”

“Reckon they like what they do, Pal.”

“Me too, Kid. I love what I do an I do what I love.”

“Reckon Carrot Ranch is a mighty fine sandbox.”



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

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.

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?”


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
in excelsis


Pep Talk by Simon

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’?”


“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.
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