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Butterfly and Stones

Between the contrast of whisper-thin wings and bedrock, 99-word stories take flight.

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

I See the Sky by Bill Engleson

I see the sky,
a band of blue,
your sweet-sought dreams,
a life anew.

Wing away friend,
soar to the heights,
butterfly dreams,
a life in lights.

I am the earth,
the solid ground,
what I can grasp,
certainty bound.

The eastern sun
will always rise,
set in the west,
each day a prize.

And though I wait,
weighted by stone,
it ‘tis my way
and not your own.

Each way is best,
and yes, best yet,
to live a life
without regret.

And so, you write,
you shape, you mould,
each thought a word
a tale well told

Home School — More Than Academics by Ritu Bhathal

“More school, at home, again?” Megan wailed. “I hate it when you teach me, mum!”

Pushing the computer aside, I turned to her.

“Tell you what, today, we’ll do some learning, my way.”

 I found some flat stones we’d collected at the beach a couple of years ago and got the paint out.

“Today, we learn about random acts of kindness.”

We painted all sorts on the stones; hearts, butterflies, flowers; and then in the afternoon, we took a walk and placed the colourful stones in random places.

“There, we can still put a smile on someone’s face, sweetheart.”

Butterfly Rock Garden by Sue Spitulnik

In the springtime, the Homefront Warrior’s group worked quickly under the threat of rain to arrange rocks and then plant seedlings and bulbs for a memorial garden.
Now it was a sunny, blue-sky August day and they gathered for a picnic near their handiwork. One woman who had little knowledge of plants stood admiring the various colored blossoms with a puzzled look on her face.
Tessa noticed. “What has you perplexed?”
“Why did we plant weeds in with the flowers?”
“If you mean the milkweed, it’s the only thing a monarch butterfly will eat. Look, here comes one now.”

The Fairy Garden by Kate Spencer

“What’ya doing?” Tommy asked, dropping his toy cars beside the sandbox.

“I’m building a fairy garden,” Lily said, placing small stones alongside her castle.

“It’s my turn to play.”

“’Tis not.”

“’Tis so!” Tommy shouted, kicking the sand.

“Mommy!”

“Stop it!” their mother’s voice echoed from the house.

Frustrated, Tommy sat down on the rim of the sandbox. Finally, he announced, “I’ll build a fairy car garage over here.”

“Well, okay,” Lily said and gasped, “Look, a fairy!”

Tommy looked up. “It’s a butterfly, you ninny.”

“You’re silly,” Lily giggled. “Don’t you know? Fairies are beautiful butterflies in disguise.”

That’s No Butterfly by Joanne Fisher

In the garden Katy saw the most beautiful butterfly fluttering by the roses. Out of nowhere a stone went flying past, only narrowly missing it. Katy turned to see her brother Scott was there about to throw another stone.

“Why are you throwing stones at the butterfly?” Katy demanded.

“That’s no butterfly!” Scott replied. Looking closer, Katy saw it was actually a fairy.

“It’s beautiful!” she said putting her hand out. The fairy landed, then unsheathed a sword and plunged it deep into her palm. “Ow! That fairy stabbed me!”

“Why do you think I’m throwing stones at it?”

A Butterfly Promise by Norah Colvin

Jack scrambled over the rocks to their favourite place for discussing the wonders of the universe and the meaning of life. And death. He took Grandma’s special stone from his pocket, turned it this way and that in the sunlight, and admired its iridescence. ‘Like butterfly wings. Like life.’ Grandma said she’d come back as a butterfly, if she could.

‘You shouldn’t have left me, Grandma!’ Jack didn’t try to stop his tears. He blinked when a beautiful butterfly alighted on the stone, tickled his nose and circled his head before fluttering away. ‘Grandma!’ called Jack. ‘You came back!’

Learning by D. Avery

In “Teaching A Stone To Talk” Annie Dillard states that we’ve desecrated the groves and sacred places, “have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism”, and so “Nature’s silence is its one remark”; “The silence is all there is” and this silence is our own doing.

I wonder; who are we then, to presume to teach a stone to talk? We need to learn to listen!

It isn’t easy work; it requires great attention and practice. But the stone has much to say about patience, endurance, and transformation.

Look. A butterfly lands whisper-winged on a lichen-cloaked stone. Watch and learn. Listen.

The Butterfly Stone by Donna Matthews

I pull up at the state park known for its dinosaur fossils. Dinosaurs in Texas, I chuckle to myself. But, of course, creatures roamed before Texas a thing. My vision, my perspective so little today, a gossamer mist clouding my thoughts.

This is why I need these wild places. They connect me back to grace. They remind me.

I find the tracks, and I sit, the trees rustle overhead. My fingers trace dinosaur feet, ancient leaves, ocean shells; I imagine a butterfly settling down after her last flight, resting, dying. I outline her imagined wings; I whisper thank you.

Wish With Care by R. V. Mitchell

At the streamside among the stones the butterflies ascended to take a drink. The occasional droplets splashed onto the bank provided enough to meet their meagre needs. As they waited for the current to provide them with the next sip, a dragonfly circled and then then skimmed the waters surface to take a deep drink.

“Oh, I wish I could drink whenever I wanted,” Addie the smallest of the butterflies said.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Bia responded.

Just then a trout leapt from the water and devoured the hapless dragonfly.

“I see what you mean,” Addie gasped.

(93) Damned Family (Jesse Finds Inner Strength) by JulesPaige

I am woman, hear me roar! Yet the butterflies in my stomach twitter uncontrollably. I’ve got to get me some stones, find my own cojones. I stared at the phone. I had to call Mae Norwich. And honesty was the best policy.

Jesse dialed the phone hoping at first to just leave a message, maybe set up a time to meet at a public place. But at three O’clock Mae was having some quiet time in her office when the phone rang. So she picked it up and calmly responded; “This is Mae Norwich, how can I help you?”

Opposites by Paula Light

Everyone on the street called him Stone. He was tough, ruthless, and got the job done. He didn’t seek out violence, but when it became necessary he acted quickly and efficiently. When she came along, broken and beautiful, they named her Butterfly. Stone protected her, for he remembered how it was to be fragile. Wherever she flitted, he stopped to admire her gold-dusted delicacy. But the jealous ones plotted to drive her away with lies. After she left, Stone crumbled to pieces and scattered himself in the places she’d been, his grief mingling with the ethereal traces of love.

A Way to a Man’s Heart by Goldie

Pete was Lucy’s summertime neighbor. Both of their families loved visiting Vallecito Lake to “unplug.” The kids rolled their eyes whenever they heard that term. There was no cable or Internet, so the only thing to do was to go outdoors.

Not wanting to act “like a girl,” Lucy ran through mud, hid behind bushes, and fought with sticks as swords.

After a couple of summers, she developed a crush on Pete.

***

“What pretty butterfly,” she mused just before smashing it with a rock.

She read somewhere that butterfly dust was a key ingredient in a love potion.

Beyond by Rebecca Glaessner

The stones of worship returned, settling into position around the throng of hopeful.

Would they feel the great Beyond this day?

Their paths carried scholars and explorers between countless neighbouring worlds, but never Beyond.

The crowd buzzed with nervous energy beneath the spread of stars, wrapping themselves up in each-other as one.

One being. One mind.

Their minds opened, connected, energy growing, reaching out and up, past clouds, skies, satellites, their sun. Other suns. Stars. Felt the warmth. Pushed further.

It came as if a whisper of an Earthen butterfly’s wings.

As one, they felt the Beyond reach back.

Safe, New World by Hugh W. Roberts

“Look at all these small, round stones, Alan. Is that some writing on them? It looks like some foreign language. And aren’t the rainbow colours on all of them stunning? It’s like they’ve been hand-painted.”

“Hand-painted by who or what?” asked Alan as he picked up a stone.

They both gasped with astonishment as a rainbow-coloured butterfly fluttered up from under the stone.

“Are there more of them under the other stones?”

“Only one way to find out.”

Within minutes of the last overturned stone releasing its prey, all human life ceased to exist on the safe, new world.

Beatrice, the Alchemist by Saifun Hassam

When Beatrice’s father died, the inner garden of poisonous flowers and herbals shriveled up overnight. A circular stone wall separated that garden from extensive outer gardens. Only certain bees and butterflies ventured into that inner garden.

Over the years, Beatrice became an alchemist in her own right, learning about botanicals and medicinals. Her own blood was forever tainted with poisonous vapors from her father’s garden. She rejoiced at the sight of the dying garden.

Beatrice’s new garden flowered with plants from everywhere, even faraway India and China. Cerulean blue butterflies and emerald green hummingbirds lit up the blossoming garden.

Stone Butterfly by FloridaBorne

“I remember the day may father gave this to me,“ Reyna said, lifting her necklace toward the camera. “I was 17 and so embarrassed.”

“You’re 20, and famous,” The talk show hostess said, “Why wear that thing?”

“I’d yelled at him, ‘this is ugly! I hate it’,” Reyna said. “I thought he’d divorced my mom, then lost his job. He’d saved the money for it by sleeping without heat in his efficiency apartment.”

“Why does that matter?”

“He had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Mom told him she wasn’t his nurse and threw him out. Last night, he died in my arms.”

Kindness Rock by Kerry E.B. Black

Frustration etched furrows in the young mother’s face. She bounced a painted rock in her palm. “You obviously missed the point of the kindness rock project.”

“I got it.” Her daughter caught the rock and pointed. “See the purple butterfly? I put pink hearts on its wings. And on this side,” she turned it over and pushed it toward her mother, “I made a bright yellow sun. What could be nicer?”

“The images are lovely, but you ruined the ‘kindness’ message when you pitched the thing through Mrs. Hanstead’s window.”

The girl shrugged. “Wanted to be sure she got it.”

Petrified by Anne Goodwin

At three she was a butterfly. At thirty, a stone. Prancing, dancing, in a stolen tutu, no-one warned her butterflies soon die.
At thirteen, she learnt of other insects, with other-coloured wings. At fifteen, she became one, but found the winds so fierce, she never learnt to fly.
By forty-three, she was settled, merged with solid rock. She recognised her former dreams for what they were: fairy tales, ephemera, lies.
Then came a lepidopterist, brandishing a chisel. When he chipped away her armour, it hurt. She feared it would kill her. Or could a butterfly emerge from a stone?

Butterfly Stone by kathy70

We went to an abandoned quarry entrance to see the best view of the city and mountain that lay ahead of us. It was some type of marble quartz that was being pulled we were told. Walking up to the top of the hill I looked at the well-worn path. I spotted a pretty shaped stone and reached down to put it in my pocket.

My friend collects heart shaped stones on her travels and this looked like a beauty. Once in my hand the pinkish stone appeared to be more of a butterfly than a heart. New goals.

Butterfly Kisses by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He lay, entombed in mud and ice and darkness. He’d lain there so long that fine, tough filaments had grown over his limbs, the bridge of his nose, twining around the desiccated, corded column of his neck. He’d pull the blanket higher, cover the chilled vee of his pajama top…but no…too much of an effort. He’d gone too far away.

Then he heard it, the sweet lilt: the child’s voice. A faraway light broke overhead; he felt her smooth cheek against his own, unshaven and unwashed. Her lashes brushed his cheekbone, once and again.

Wake up, Grampa.

Butterfly Lips by Ann Edall-Robson

Where the water once gushed
Over stones and green shoots
Wings steady delicate bodies
Their minuscule feet dancing
Barely rising from the remains
Of the escarpments drying life
Cruel summer heat evaporates
Yet the Admiral and Swallowtail
Bewitched with the droplets
Unseen by the naked eye
They stay to kiss the mud
Wetting parched butterfly lips
Breezes lift their feathery wings
Sharing fissures with others
Until they are satiated
Before the ground
Becomes baked clay
And they lift skyward
Yet, return they will
To where the water once flowed
Over the rocks and grass
To this place of life

Flapping Heck by Geoff Le Pard

‘Oh no, bloody buskers.’
‘We’re going home. Stop being a misery.’
‘I wouldn’t mind if they were any good. Less the Stones, more the Gravel. The
aural equivalent of grit in the ears.’
‘Didn’t you ever aspire to be something creative? Play an instrument, write a book?’
‘I painted a butterfly once.’
‘There you go, Logan. Yours could be a new school.’
‘Oh sure. My art teacher, Fosdyke, told me if it flapped its wings, the only wind it would whip up would be of the flatulent sort.’
‘You just needed encouragement.’
‘Or talent.’
‘That’s our flight being called…’

Hair a the Hog by D. Avery

“Pal? There anythin’ ta eat?”
“Where ya been Kid?”
“Walkin’ the hog.”
“Uh-huh. Where’d ya go?”
“Ernie’s.”
“How’s he doin’? Still not drinkin’?”
“Not drinkin’. Thinkin’. Sets there on a big rock. Jist sets. Yer there ya gotta set real quiet too. Ernie says they’re conversin’. Him an’ that stone.”
“Huh. He ain’t drinkin’?”
“Not even growin’ corn. But he’s got a garden. Thought Pepe was there. Was them plants. We got anything ta eat? Don’t know why I’m so hungry. I et plenny a Ernie’s cookies. Hey, lookit the butterfly.”
“Thet’s yer piglet.”
“That’s what the stone said!”

January 7 Flash Fiction Challenge

A week into the new year, and I’m ready to “do” again. For the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring what it means to be a human being. The reflection was inward, and the parameters were mine. I was “being” like no one was watching. You know, like the saying — “dance like no one is watching.” What fulfills each of us is a design as unique as our thumbprints. I spent time to be with my self-design.

What I did was deep vision work. I didn’t just bounce from cloud-dream to cloud-dream. I distilled those vapors and thought about what elements give me purpose.

Vision work never ends. When we talk about evolving as a person, we are acknowledging how our vision shapes our understanding of who we are in the world. The more insights we often gain, the greater change it brings. The more we understand our vision, the better we get at defining our purpose. Visions don’t change; we get better clarity.

Think of it like this. Your vision is the landscape of the dream that drives your life. We can feel it in our gut and heart. We can see it in our mind’s eye. At first, it looks fuzzy. We have to define outlines of wispy clouds and name what we feel. When we first start playing with our visions, we imagine what our life looks like in five, ten, twenty years if we grow into who we want to be and what we do.

Then, as we continue to accomplish vision work each year, we get better at definition. These are the insights that come to us. A picture emerges from the clouds of dreams. We begin to recognize vision feelings in our every day lives. So, we push into that clarity and begin to see our vision’s thumbprint.

For example, many writers have a clear vision of a moment that defines success — they can imagine what they wear and say and how they feel when they sit on Oprah’s couch to discuss their book. Some writers include that moment in their vision. And why not? Vision work dreams big. Martin Luther King had a vision that drove his purpose, which was so strong it continues to inspire others today.

When we reflect on our vision, we realize that Oprah and her couch are symbolic. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But a vision is about purpose, about who we are as human beings as much as it is about what we do or accomplish. Go back to Oprah’s couch. Why are you there? What are you discussing? How are others around you feeling? How do you feel?

This is deep vision work.

I’ve had a dream of winning an Oscar from the time I was nine years old. I really don’t know what spawned the dream other than two things happened that year, and maybe that was enough. First, I got to go to the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada, where I had my photo taken with a lion in a building that spared no detail on Hollywood glamor. Second, I had a bit role in the school play and discovered I love being a different person than the scared, awkward, and bullied kid I was.

That year, I watched the Oscars and noticed how the show looked like it was filmed at the MGM Grand Hotel, and the slick actors from films seemed as awkward in person as I felt despite their glamor.

I never told anyone about my fantasy or what I pretended any time I got to revisit the hotel in Reno and walk down the red-carpeted stairs. I discovered writing several years later and realized I could also become characters on the page. However, it popped up during vision work. And do you know what I did with that dream cloud? I blew it away because I thought it had nothing to do with my writing vision.

I was wrong.

Three years ago, I decided to not ignore the Oscar dream. I wrote it down in my ten-year vision. If I encouraged others to dream big, why not do it myself? Then I began to reflect on what it means to me. How it feels. How I feel in everyday life when I get that “Oscar” feeling. How winning an Oscar has anything to do with what I write.

A picture began to emerge. I live a rich inner life, and it is the source of my creativity. It’s not that I want to hide (on the stage or page); actually, I want to use bigger than life personas to express who I am on the inside. Surprisingly, my desire for Oscar recognition has to do with being seen for who I authentically am. It aligns with my top personal value of authenticity, which drives me to live the life I feel best expresses my purpose. That’s me, that’s my Oscar.

Also, I recognized a more practical application. My writing vision has to do with the kind of fiction I want to put out in the world — stories that express love in all its manifestations, characters who overcome adversity, books that uplift readers. I find myself looking for these stories in film to get quick fixes.

My writing Oscar is to write a story that would make a binge-worthy Netflix series.

Do I plan to set a goal to win an Oscar? No. That’s not the point. A vision might use accomplishments to express a person’s driving dreams, but a vision is all about living the fullest life available to you. Goals, the things we do, should take us to our vision. Every year, I will take this time to dive deeper into being. My vision balances who I am with what I do.

It’s not the arrival that satisfies me but the journey. I am a writer with an Oscar in her heart. I don’t need to get a statue; I need to express who I am on the page. Who is that? I’m still learning, but loving the transformative ride.

It’s good to be back to the Ranch and among writers. Look for Kid and Pal’s exclusive next Monday on the new baby critters headed tho the fictional ranch and the real ranch headquarters. Welcome to 2021!

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Periwinkles on the Pack River by Charli Mills

Stones pulsed with a periwinkle heartbeat. Danni walked along the Pack River where the snow melt had retreated to expose banks of smooth stones. Her steps disturbed clouds of tiny blue butterflies that flew ahead to land, folding up wings to expose the buff color of granite underneath. As quickly as they fluttered, they disappeared into the camouflage of their coloring. G-Dog and Detlor burst past her, running to the creek with happy, floppy freedom ears. Blue periwinkles and brown dogs. The day would be perfect if Ike were here. She tossed a stone in his favorite fishing hole.

December 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

As much as I love the landscape and people of the American West, I’m content with my decision to leave the cradle of my family for seven generations. They came from the Pyrenees, Azores, Brazil, Denmark, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Most came directly to California and the rest from North Carolina. A few yet reside in Colorado and eastern Washington. Still, California and Nevada hold my family’s experience of America.

And then I met a veteran from Nevada and lived in almost every western state, thereafter. Sometimes I think it’s odd that we ended up in the Upper Midwest, of all places. But after struggling with the economic hardships of the rural west, we educated up and headed out. My husband grew up milking jerseys, and I worked ranches and logging camps.

Our grown children hardly know the difference between a heifer and a gelding. None of them ride horses. Yet, they matured among diversity, spent teen years swing dancing, going out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and prancing at the Gay 90s. Some of the stories, like a mishap with a bubble machine at a drag show, I’m only now learning. They’ve supported transgender friends through transformations, traveled to other countries where they had to learn the language and customs, and embrace a changing world with mindfulness.

I miss my kids. It’s a parent-thing. Maybe, it’s simply human nature to be nostalgic for what we create and give back to the world, not ours to keep. Every Message from Svalbard, phone call from Wisconsin, or text from nine miles up the Keweenaw, and I light up like Venus on a cloudless night. Every tear, worry, and pain, I feel. Any close relationship can relate. I’ve felt this close to a horse, and I know people who feel this close to their faith. We feel what we feel, and sometimes, deeply.

This time of year tends to expose tender nerves, whether emotions, unresolved situations, or memories. The veil between the past and present and future thins, and we expect to wake up like Scrooge to frosty ghosts and rattling chains. Sometimes we sit down at the kitchen table and wonder why we are here. We feel losses keenest when it seems like everyone else has what we do not. It’s an illusion, not true. We all suffer losses. Some deal with it differently.

No wonder bells, bows, gifts, and trees delight us. We want the lights, the sweets, the full celebration. Anything and everything to chase away the chill and dark thought. We make merry to make it through.

A good friend texted me tonight saying, “There’s so much pain at the hem of the world. So much.” She should know; she’s our region’s grief counselor who sits at that hem. She’s the person who witnesses the loss others feel despite her father having terminal cancer and her 22-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive lymphoma. She left her daughter’s side to attend the grief group she leads.

I have another friend, who is my personal witness. She gets me even when I’m not sure I understand myself. She lets me be silly and serious in varying degrees. She sits at my six (military-speak for “got your back”). We should all be so blessed to have such friends and to be one in return. Sometimes, I think she sits at my six, so I can sit at my grieving friend’s six, so she can sit at her group’s hem so the world can watch out for one another.

But I also understand that some feel no one in the world is watching their back. Isolation is deadly. I mean the mental kind where we don’t feel connected. Drop extended COVID protocols, disagreements, and polarizing politics into the world, and physical isolation turns mental. Bitterness is the inability to remember love. Love begins within. Take care to guard your hearts.

Be merry. Be bright. Someone needs you. Maybe you need you. Maybe your neighbor needs a light in your window to connect. Maybe a friend needs a goofy text. Maybe you need to forgive someone — not for their sake, but for your peace.

Write. Seriously, write. Scream into the page. Wet the ink with tears. Write a love story, a horror story. Play with words and remember what it was like to play as a child. Let that child breathe. Write like grammarians aren’t watching. Write nonsense. Write a manifesto for your creativity. Write an artist’s statement. Write a poem that doesn’t rhyme. Write a syllabic dialog. Talk to yourself. Talk to someone you miss. Talk to God, the Goddess, the Divine. Write the unexpected. Write what is typical of you.

Your authentic voice is needed; wanted; deserves breath. Tell stories. Any story. Your story.

You all gather here, weekly, intermittently, bashfully, or boldly stating opinions. What a grand space you make this! What a community! I know we can’t all possibly agree and yet for nearly six years, we’ve focused on how creativity flourishes among differences. You’ve forgiven me for rants when my injustice quota fills up and pours out onto the post. You’ve looked the other way, or rolled your eyes, when someone else writes — literally — the opposite perspective from yours. I feel like this literary anthropologist every week, weaving stories that are not alike.

We are not alike. And yet we are all so very human. So up and down. So vulnerable. So resilient. Contradictions and contrast, trying to connect.

Regardless of where you are from or where you are at, I’m happy you are here.

My daughter assured me that this video will bring a smile to any Grinch. She is a dancer and her troupe is delighting in this Christmas number, texting each other 🔔🎀🎁🎄. They are choreographing their own version on Zoom. I admire that the dancers with Todrick pull it off in stilettos, thus the prompt this week. I hope “Bells, Bows, Gifts, and Trees” brightens your day!

December 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 22, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

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

December 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

Somewhere in Nevada between an active gold mine and a desert reservoir the size of a pond where wild horses drink sits a dilapidated ranch house. The summer sun mummifies the boards and magpies nest in the rafters. From a distance, the brown boards blend into the tawny landscape like camouflage. In 2010, my dad drove me in his old Willy’s Jeep to this site. He stopped and said, “This was someone’s dream.”

It wasn’t the first time I heard him utter that phrase. He logged in in the back-country where prospectors and pioneers searched for promises of a better life. They all carried apple seed. At the Nevada ranch house, the husks of mountain cabins, and countless remnants of cellars apple trees grow wild. The ones who planted have disappeared, leaving spring blossoms and fall fruit to bear witness.

I’ve always been curious about these dreamers. I think about my dad’s regard for their lost dreams, or the stories I heard as a child from the old-timers. I think about the evidence of people who lived and dream long before the homesteaders came.

Yet, history doesn’t record the trickery that led people west to attempt to make a dream work. It benefited the government and then the railroads and then the company mines to lure people west to settle or work. Ads circulated in city and rural papers back east and overseas, attracting immigrants with promises of land and livelihood. Railroad companies often provided land, jobs, and one-way tickets.

My favorite buckaroo sings the story in the first-person point of view account that blows a hard wind into the listener’s soul. I shiver when I hear the refrain, “I never knew, I never dreamed.” Dave Stamey sings Montana Homestead 1915.

Ten years earlier, the railroad brought Italians to Elmira Idaho where I lived for four years next to the schoolhouse built in 1910. It was the dream of those immigrants to educate their children. It is the setting of my novel in progress. Whatever the Italians dreamed, they abandoned in Elmira and moved on after the railroad ended their work. My character Ramona Gordon is the descendant of one of these immigrant families.

The house my dad showed me in Nevada is one I gave to Danni as a ranch where her father worked. I picture Danni riding out along the small creek lined with cottonwoods, of her dad showing her the Paiute sheep camp that had existed for centuries before the Bureau of Land Management moved them out in the 1950s. Danni’s dad and my dad witnessed the loss of such dreams as boys who grew up in the hard migrant work-life of buckaroo ranches.

Despite this melancholy, I still believe in dreams. I know that my own have fed rivers of hope and resiliency. If you know me, you are not going to be surprised that I get excited this time of year to renew my dreams in a visioning activity. Not to be confused with resolutions, vision planting guides those apple seeds to fruition. It take dreams and puts them into action.

One of my dreams has been to teach creative writing. While working on my MFA, I’ve simultaneously worked on earning a master’s level certification to teach creative writing online. And thanks to COVID-19 and my online courses, I’ve learned new tools and techniques to bring in-person workshops to the virtual world. I have a break between Christmas and New Year, thus I decided to bring one of my favorite courses online — Writers Vision Planting. It’s one of the four parts of To Cultivate a Book series that has been COVID-disrupted.

If you have a dream, consider signing up either live or for the digital download. It will be a fun and creative way to plan your 2021 year as a writer.

But for our prompt, we are going to go back to what it’s like to experience something we didn’t dream. I never dreamed that a year after my last GSP died, I’d be chasing a puppy. I never dreamed that a pandemic would keep my daughter in the arctic so long. I never dreamed I’d own such a beautiful old home with a hand-carved staircase. I never dreamed that I’d get to live on a peninsula in Lake Superior. I never dreamed the northern lights would be so breathtaking (and evidently fertile, so be careful). I never dreamed I’d be 54 and expecting…a puppy, people, a puppy!

December 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something a character never dreamed would happen. The situation can be fortuitous, funny, or disappointing. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 15, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills

Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.

November 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wolferick III has claimed a crack between the wall and wooden frame that encloses a porcelain Yooper Pooper in the basement. Yes, I have a random toilet downstairs and a wolf spider on guard duty about five squares of toilet paper away from the seat.

It’s hard to know where to go next with this story. Do I tell you about the spider or the toilet? Today is World Toilet Day so porcelain wins top billing in this tale. At one time, my toilet stood alone in the open expanse of space where homeowners stored their coal for winter heat. A large antique sink, something I’d call a laundry tray, is mounted next to the toilet.

In 1859, the Quincy Mining Company founded the city of Hancock whose modern population is 4,549 people, give or take several hundred Finlandia College students. Quincy Mine with its massive hoist house sits on the hill above my house on Roberts Street. This was a working-class neighborhood where miners worked the shaft called Old Reliable for 83 years.

In the blip of existence, 83 years is a grandma still driving on her own. But in US mining time, 83 years was stability for two or three generations before it joined the boom and bust cycles prevalent out west where I grew up. Someone constructed my home when work felt stable enough to commit rock foundations and pipes to a family dwelling, around 1905.

My neighbor has a ghost of a toilet past in her basement. She reminded me that in addition to toilet and sink, builders included a drain. It’s handy because I can hose the toilet the way I used to clean bathrooms as a teen when I worked for a state park campground with six public restrooms.

While it makes sense that the lone basement toilet provided a place for a dirty miner to clean up before entering the upstairs living areas, the drain feature hints at another use. My friend and historian, Robin Hammer Mueller, shared an article with me that explains old-time plumbing. The toilet downstairs acted as an overflow in case of a backup.

Or, as other friend said, it was Grandpa’s toilet, Dad’s toilet, something to claim with pride in the dark recesses of the house.

If you read Robin’s shared article, let me explain the difference between a Pittsburg potty and a Yooper pooper — location. Da Yooper is someone from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and you can glean many insights from these authentic locals, including a brief look at an outdoor toilet also known as a Yooper pooper:

My local friends have also informed me that a baby from the UP is also a Yooper pooper, so it’s an informative phrase.

As for the lone toilet, Minnesota has dem too, ya, sure, you betcha (I still remember how to speak Minnesotan).

Maybe we laugh because poop is an uncomfortable topic despite the fact that everyone does it. Listen to Morgan Friedman. He reads Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi (I once heard an Elvis impersonator read this book at a Montana vaudeville show and it is burned into my brain as hilarious). Morgan is more dignified.

But for many, toileting is no laughing matter. Another friend informed me that over 850k people a year die because of a lack of proper toilets. In previous years of following World Toilet Day, I found out that girls and women are susceptible to rape when trying to find a place to go. Imagine the stress and worry.

When I didn’t have a toilet to call my own, I developed a hyper-vigilant bladder and once faced a charging moose to get to a vault toilet because I had to poop. Yet, I also wonder, how did everyone poop thousands of years ago? I’d love to know how Indigenous ancestors lived as one with the land, not contaminating their environment.

Would humanity solve toileting issues if we mentioned it more in literature? How often does a novelist mention toilets in a book? Do you? Well, now is your chance to practice writing about toilets. We will get back to Wolferick III another time.

TWO WEEK DEADLINE: due to the holiday in the US, Carrot Ranch is taking an extended week break. Stories are due December 1.

November 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 1, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

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The Prized Possession by Charli

Opal prized something more than her grandmother’s Corning teapot. Leonard had hollowed a dead tree in spring after thaw. He and three pals from the mine heaved their backs and pickaxes to carve a year-round drainage system for their new home below Quincy Mine. It made the attic space above her uncle’s bar more tolerable to know she’d soon have a home for her children. The hardwood floors and oak staircase were fine craftsmanship, but the porcelain seat downstairs captivated Opal’s awe. Who’d have thought such privacy existed? For the love of God, she’d have her own inside toilet.

Avocado Toast

From farm staple to foodie extravagance, avocado toast is both simple and gourmet.

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

Avocado, The Conundrum by Geoff Le Pard

‘What is that?’
‘Breakfast.’
‘You’re going to eat it?’
‘It’s a superfood.’
‘Is that like saying something is super good when normal people say very…?’
‘And when you say ‘normal’ people you mean people like you?’
‘Your point?’
‘You hate change.’
‘I do not. I use hand cream. I’ve even trimmed my ear hairs. My old dad would never have done either.’
‘He like avocado.’
‘No he didn’t. Is that what that is?’
‘On organic sourdough toast with tahini shrooms and…’
‘My dad never ate avocado.’
‘Yes he did. With his fish supper…’
‘Morgan, they were mushy peas…’
‘Ah!’

Avocado on Toast by Anita Dawes

Who decided we could eat such a thing?
I cannot think of anything worse to put in my mouth
Now that is a lie. I could probably write a long list
Of things that should never go near anyone’s mouth
Avocado, in my mind, must have been planted by aliens
As some kind of April Fool’s joke
Like lambs to the slaughter, humans went for it
Chefs charge a fortune, look at me I have five stars
This is what you get, soap on toast
A nightmare on a rope
My tip, don’t eat the stuff…

The Grinch by Ruchira Khanna

“What is that green thingie on my toast?” I inquired with flared nostrils.

“Oh! Sweetie, that’s avocado. It’s supposed to be very healthy for you.” Mom said in a gentle voice as she got busy with the cleanup.

“I just want my PB&J sandwich.” I moaned.

“Besides, I will end up becoming a grinch if I eat these toasts.”

“Who said?” Mom inquired with hands on her hips and a crossed brow.

“Marsha said her brother has turned green ever since he ate avocados.”

Then with a brief pause, “I don’t want to hate Christmas by becoming a grinch.”

Lystra Rejects Breakfast by Jeff Gard

“Mom, it tastes funny.” Lystra’s face collapses around her puckered nose.

I take a bite of her avocado toast. The bread crunches correctly, but the spread tastes metallic like fruit from a can.

“It’s fine,” I lie.

The tip of her tongue touches the green paste. She immediately licks her sleeve and frowns.

“I want to go home.”

Out the window, Earth shrinks to a green and blue marble, glowing in an oil spill sky. I invite Lystra into my lap and stroke her hair. She melts into my chest like a warm handprint on frosted glass.

“Me, too.”

Second Breakfast by Chel Owens

Janie did not like green food. When her mother placed Janie’s toast in front of her, then, she stared at the green slices in consternation.

“What’s this?”

“Breakfast, Honey.” Mother smiled and ate a bite of her own.

“It’s green.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

“It’s green mush.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

Mom wasn’t going to helpful. Janie pushed her fork against the offensive topping. It smooshed and slimed against the tines, leaving green behind it on the bread. “Ew!” she cried. “I’m having normal toast!”

“Suit yourself,” Mom said. While Janie was at the toaster, Mom reached across and ate her daughter’s serving.

Yes, He’ll Do…by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They lay before him, twin treats on crunchy multigrain. Both promised exotic pleasure, both things he’d never imagined trying on his own. She’d wanted to woo him with her cooking skills. Otherwise intelligent, funny as hell, and gorgeous in nothing but his dress shirt, she was worth the risk.

“This one is avocado toast, with homemade pineapple salsa, a dash of cayenne, and a splash of lime for brightness?”

She nodded.

“And that brown one is gjetost, with a swipe of unsalted butter?”

He tried one, then the other, and was pleasantly surprised.

Wow.

He must really love her.

Breakfasting Alone by Sue Spitulnik

As soon as Michael told Tessa he had to go to Walter Reed she made a grocery list. There were some things he refused to eat so she had them as guilty pleasures when he was away. She had never mastered picking the perfect purplish-green orbs, so would buy three. They were a pain to peel without getting the slimy meat on her hands, and the pit often flew across the room when she removed it, but the avocado mashed on a hot buttery piece of toast was worth the trouble. How soon did he say he was leaving?

Avocado Lover by Jessica E. Larsen

“Who wants avocado?” I asked one day.

My husband smiled. I already expected it when he joked, “Ah that tasteless fruit?”

I used to have friendly banter with him about it. Avocado is one of my favorite fruits. I won’t let anyone make fun of it. However, today I only made a face. I spread the beautiful green fruit on top of a toasted bread and serve it with sun-dried tomatoes. “One avocado toast.” His smile widens as he whispered to me, “You’re the best.”

My four-year-old peered at me. “Where’s mine?”

We exchanged smiles. Yep. Another avocado lover.

One Writer’s Journeys by Saifun Hassam

Madeleine stopped for brunch at a road-side cafe, “The Scrambled Spread.” Her eyes lit up when she saw avocado toast on the menu.

She remembered her early days as a writer, enjoying Sunday brunch at a neighborhood cafe. “Sunny Side Cafe.” Scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, avocado toast, dark roast coffee. Scribbling thoughts into a notepad.

She savored her chicken-avocado sandwich, with avocado toast to go.

The scenic coastal highway curved northwards. She was on her way to Fort Ross, researching California’s 19th-century Russian settlements. She was writing historical fiction of the Spanish, Mexican and Russian history along the Pacific.

No Guac!? Donna Matthews

Tina and Barbara stood in the burrito line, looking over the menu, when Tina sighed.

“What??” asked Barbara.

“I can’t wait until I can order guac, and when they say ‘That’ll be extra.’ I won’t care.”

“Why do you care now?” countered Barbara.

Tina stammered…”Well, it’s extra, and I can’t really afford extra things right now.”

“How do you not afford guac? Avocado is a staple! Avocado toast, guacamole, avocado BLTs!”

“It’s all about priorities,” continued Barbara. “You’ve gotta pick and chose what’s important, necessary, AND delicious!”

Tina brightened and faced the burrito server, “I’ll take guac on that!”

Dress It Up by Ann Edall-Robson

A loud snort was heard as the last of the cowboys came into the kitchen. Plates of food sat untouched on the table, ranch hands staring at their breakfast. Rummaging around in the cook’s fridge was forbidden but he’d take one for the team if he had to.

“Got any onions, garlic, hot sauce?”

“Stay out of my fridge!”

“No offence, ma’am, but if you expect us to eat this sh..stuff, maybe dress it up. How ‘bout with tortilla, beans, bacon, and eggs. Never heard of just avocado on toast.”

Sobs choked her words.

“That’s all there is.”

Nando and the Avocado by R. V. Mitchell

Ferdinando was put simply a party animal. He was renowned for his decadence. For Nando late nights followed by champagne breakfasts, and sirloin lunches were the norm. But when his lifestyle started to catch up with him in his late forties, he decided to bite the bullet and see the doctor.

The medical advice was clear, he would have to get more sleep and eat a more nutritious and balanced diet.

Well after consulting his dietary plan he decided that “avocado toast” sounded a good breakfast option. How bad could a slice of avocado be in a martini anyway?

Smashed Avocados by Doug Jacquier

Why are you still renting, son?’
‘Because I can’t save enough to buy.’
‘But you’ve just been overseas.’
‘It’s called a rite of passage, Dad.’
‘Is that a new phone you’ve got?’
‘Yes. This one’s 5G and has an amazing camera.’
‘How’s the car running?’
‘Don’t start that again. All cars will be electric soon.’
‘So do you ever plan to buy a house?’
‘Of course … well, maybe …maybe never. Depends on whether Zoe and I get serious.’
‘Holidays, latest phone, latest car, different girl every month and every morning for breakfast, smashed avocado. That plan is toast.’

Avocado Toast by FloridaBorne

“What is that?” Mother asked.

“Avocado toast.”

“It looks like guacamole on overcooked bread,” Mother said.

“You’re free to find something else in my fridge to eat,” I replied.

“Where’s the mayo…and meat?” she asked, searching through my fridge.
“I’m vegan.”

She took her flip phone out of her purse, found a well-used phone number and asked, “Eddie’s Pizza? Yeah. I’d like to order the Medium all meat pizza with extra cheese.”

Twenty minutes later, she flipped open the box and asked, “Wanna slice?”

I couldn’t help myself. I swear my fingers and mouth have minds of their own!

Avocado Toast by Bill Engleson

I don’t mean to boast,
Don’t mean to crow,
But I love my toast
Smothered wide and deep
with avocado.

Avocado dreams, they sure fill my cup,
Breakfast love or my evening sup,
A midnight snack when sleep won’t flow,
A slice of toasted bread
smeared with avocado.

I‘m a pretty good host
Like to put on a show,
Cook up a veggie roast
And a very slow baked
sweet potato.

Avocado dreams, they sure fill my cup,
Breakfast love or my evening sup,
A midnight snack when sleep won’t flow,
A slice of toasted bread
smeared with avocado.

Avocado Toast by Frank Hubeny

For years Bill enjoyed beer, pizza and ice-cream. When diagnosed with an autoimmune disease he changed his diet.

Someone told him to stop drinking beer. He stopped. Someone suggested avocado toast. What’s that? He was told it’s obvious what that is. So he tried it. Someone said to stop eating pizza. Is that because of the wheat? Yes. There goes the toast.

Bill’s weight sank to normal and he felt better. He noticed he was spending less on food than before. Thankfully no one told him to stop eating avocados, but then he no longer asked them for advice.

Tea and Sympathy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“What’s the plan for today?” he asked.

Georgia watched out the window as squirrels chased each other through new-fallen snow, then up and around the trunk of the red oak they’d planted at Jessi’s birth. Snow chunks dropped like overcooked spuds.

“Temps must be rising. Might be good for a hike later.”

She pulled on her coffee, felt the burn, the reactive tears. Good.

He pushed the untouched plate of avocado toast her way. “It’s not your fault. We’ll video chat with Jessi later.”

“I was asymptomatic and didn’t wear a mask. And now our daughter’s in the hospital.”

Absolutely Nothing by Jeff Gard

Avocados dangle like testicles from a tree in our backyard. Some fruit has fallen where squirrels and rodents can tear into its black, warty flesh.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

Doris scrapes burnt toast over the sink. Charcoal dust coats the stainless steel.

“All the tests say the same thing.”

“There’s nothing we can do?”

Doris starts spreading thick green paste onto the toast, then stops. She slumps into a chair at the table opposite me, leaving our breakfast just out of reach. She stares at the swollen trees while gutted avocado shells rot on our counter.

“Absolutely nothing.”

Sophie Can Dream by Eliza Mimski

The avocado is the vagina of foods. A slick-rich treat of green heaven. A green world waiting for the tongue. It also waits for the toast.

The toast. That square gluten bed of arousal. Day mattress where the knife spreads the green.

Sophie had been single for so long that yes, she now ascribed sexual meaning to her food. Her olive salad as a bed of eyes waiting for her to undress. Her carrots were tall orange strangers that made her faint.

Tonight, yes tonight, she would have rib-eye steak. Near the bone, the fat sopped up the juices.

Haunted by Her Carbon Footprint by Anne Goodwin

Selena thought they resembled hand grenades, but beneath the toady carapace the flesh was melt-in-the-mouth divine. Yes, the price had doubled recently, but avocado on toast would set her up for a successful day.

Three packets in her trolley, she moved on to the bakery counter. Turning her head, a trail of sooty footprints marked her path from the greengrocery section. Yet the soles of her shoes were pristine.

With a sigh, she retraced her steps. She knew the drill. She could scrub the floor she’d sullied. Or return the airfreighted produce that depleted the rainforests to the shelf.

A Separation Tale by Charli Mills

Maria padded across the road to gather dropped avocados where the foreman lived in a huge ivory house. It didn’t smell of beans and tortillas like her tiny home. It felt cold; its size scared her. When vehicles slid to a stop in front of the bunks, Maria hid behind a hedge of pink roses. Her throat pinched shut at the sight of her Abuela in silver bracelets that imprisoned her hands. The men in black uniforms loaded all the neighbors in two vans and left. When her Papa did not return at noon, she ate avocado toast alone.

Avocado Toast by Joanne Fisher

“Hey honey, have you seen the avocados I bought?” I asked Jen who was looking at her phone.

“Sorry I had avocado toast for lunch.”

“But I was planning to make a guacamole dip for tonight.” I told her. She just shrugged her shoulders and resumed scrolling through her phone. I stared at her evilly.

Later the guests arrived and marveled at all the food I prepared.

“Oh wow you made some salsa!” One guest said. “It tastes a bit weird though.”

“Yeah sorry about that, it was made with whatever I found in the kitchen at the time.”

(24) Damned Family (Jesse Begins Seriously Reading Norman’s Journal) by JulesPaige

Jesse believed she now had the job of finding out more about Norman and this mysterious journal that he kept. She believed she saw his dead body in her hotel room when she had gone to her family reunion. Her own job was flexible, working for herself, which she did even though her own family inheritance had left her more than comfortable. But she had never really had a handle on what Norman did. Something for the government.

Jesse sat down and flipped the journal pages. She discovered Norman wrote poetry. An outlet for both his frustrations and creativity.

(25) Damned Family by JulesPaige

To be heard
How absurd
Spreading avocado on toast
Just to boast
That I exist
I know you’ve woke –
I don’t have to poke
you awake
I’ll stake
My reputation
If I ever had one
Just to have some fun
To breathe, to live
To love, to give
Let you gift me a new toaster
When the this one I’ve used
Possibly abused
Happens to break down
So please don’t frown
In the morning’s light

It had been Norman’s job in his brief marriage to make breakfast. He had to keep up appearances of having a normal job.

Toast by D. Avery

In the beginning we both adored avocado toast for breakfast. Together we peeled and pitted. We ate avocado toast out of each other’s hands.
In the end of the beginning I suggested other breakfast foods, reminisced about eggs. Oatmeal even, with raisins. Surely an avocado aficionado would also appreciate raisins and oats. But you insisted on only, always, avocado on toast.
In the beginning of the end I slumped at the counter slurping oatmeal while you crunched overdone toast smeared with over-ripe avocado.
In the end I let you rush to that meeting with avocado stuck in your mustache.

Avocado on Toast by Hugh W. Roberts

What signal will you give when you’re ready to go?

I always met Carl at this restaurant. But this foggy Thursday evening was much different.

The waiter looked at me peculiarly when I ordered two portions of avocado on toast.

A sudden burst of cold air crossed the table as he placed two plates of green coloured toast in front of me.

I couldn’t thank him. I couldn’t move, yet my ears picked up the sound of Carl’s voice cutting through the foggy night.

“Good. You’re ready. I’ve been waiting for your signal. I told you I’d come to get you when you ordered avocado on toast for us.

George is My Friend by Gloria McBreen

I often passed him by; the man sitting at the lake in a black shabby coat, and tattered old cap. Today I stopped.

‘I’m George. I’m 79 today,’ he smiled. He told me about himself. He offered to share his special birthday picnic with me. I declined, as I watched his dirty hands lifting the lid of his lunchbox.

‘Actually…yes please,’ I blurted.

He cut his avocado in half. He handed me my share, and a tiny wooden spoon.

‘A birthday toast to you George.’

When we bumped our avocado halves together, I knew I’d made a new friend.

Lydia Avocado Parker by Simon

I met her several times in that restaurant, I was never brave to talk with her.

One day she served me. I had ordered Asian pear crostini. But she gave me Avocado toast on my plate.

I hated that food, I asked her to replace, her face was nervous she looked at her manager, I lied her, pretended I liked it and tasted a delicious food in my life.

I proposed to her, as a sign of acceptance she gave two Avocado toast, and that’s how it all began with “Lydia Avocado” she giggled and said it’s Lydia Parker.

Avocado Toast by kathy70

My year started out very different for me, I became a “professional” house sitter in a very urban setting and completely embracing city life.  Changes in my attitude and outlook impacted everything. Yes, I grew up in the city at a very different time.  Now, this was a choice.

Breakfast would be a walk to the coffee house for some avocado toast and coffee. Afternoons spent in a small museum or specialty shop, a true feeling of discovering myself and making conscious choices. Always thought retirement would mean a slow down not a speed up. Guess I was wrong.

Avocado on Rye by Kerry E.B. Black

Georganne drummed her fingernails, lips stretched thin. She swallowed back her temper and whispered, “You idiot.”

Tony ruffled a hand through neglected locks and smiled. “Come on, G. It’ll be great.”

She shook her head. “It takes hours to cook a Thanksgiving feast, and I work until 3.”

“Can’t you take off?” He dodged the death daggers her expression launched. “With quarantine, they have nowhere to go.” When her expression didn’t soften, he worried his lower lip. “Wait! I’ll cook.”

She snorted. “You can’t even make toast without burning it!”

He nodded. “Yeah, but I cut a mean avocado.”

Ahead a Ther Time by D. Avery

“Figgered ya’d be whinin’ ‘bout this prompt, Kid.”
“Ha! We’re all set. Avocado toast’s been on the Saddle Up Saloon menu since the get go.”
“It has?”
“Jeez, Pal. Pay attenchen. Thinkin’ we’ll add pasties to the menu too.”
“Oh, now thet’s a good idea. Kin we do thet afore November 16 when T. Marie Bertineau takes the stage?”
“Sure kin, Pal. An’ folks kin be thinkin’ now on recipes an’ reminisces fer November 23’s Recipe Rustlin’ at the Saloon. Heck, contact us at shiftnshake@dslayton.com , mebbe ya kin take the stage, tellin’ ‘bout favorite fam’ly an’ their foods.”

Lost Time

It’s easy to lose time when we walk away from our screens or misplace a watch. Other forces might be at work, too.

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

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

A Brown Rubber Watch by Ruchira Khanna

My owner was one careless soul. One day she came to Lake Superior for a picnic. She was careful to remove me before a dip but forgot to pick me up after that.

Time ticked away, and I saw many sunrises and sunsets.

One evening, I felt a wet grip and realized a canine had fancied my ticking sound. He dropped me in the water when he went to fetch the ball. The waves welcomed me. I found a new home until they swept me over.

“Hello beautiful lady, what year is it? How much time did I lose?”

Time Lost by D. Avery

Give my watch back to me
Lost since ‘83
Relic of time— brown rubber band, hands that wind,
Never thought I would see
its face again; Sea

scratched, sand-blasted; etched, lined
not so unlike mine
Time-keeper losing faith; time come back to me
Covering sands march blind
measuring marked time

Not for the watch these tears
Thirty-seven years!
It’s the time that went (foolishly spent) I want
In a flash, disappeared!
Suddenly I’m Here.

Another flash, lost time
No reason, some rhyme
Give me my watch, give me back the time it’s seen
Worn trails, tracked storied lines
—99!

When Did You Last Have It? by Anne Goodwin

It was there when I sat at my desk to write this story. It was gone before I typed THE END. Would I find it buried in my Twitter feed? In the dregs of my coffee? Behind the TV?

It was there when I rose from bed this morning. Gone when I crawled back tonight. Did I lose it in an endless to-do list? Distracted by the chatter in my head?

It was there in abundance in my twenties. Each decade chipped more away. Did I waste it mourning what was missing? Or was it never mine to use?

Out of Time by Norah Colvin

“Time’s up!”

“Not yet! I’m not finished.”

Mallory stared at the page, blank except for some scribbles and a few false starts. Others smiled as they handed in their papers, earning accolades and rewards for tasks successfully completed.

“Please, just a little more time?”

“You’ve already had more than most.”

“I can do it. Promise.”

The timekeeper tapped the watch. “Five more. That’s all.”
Mallory worked frantically until the timekeeper declared, “You’re out of time.”

Mallory smiled, “It’s never too late to begin.”

The timekeeper agreed. “But you could have achieved much more had you not wasted time earlier.”

Finding Mr Bunny by Joanne Fisher

Their rabbit had escaped to Faerie, and Cindy followed him. When she finally managed to grab him and take him back to the farm, Cindy found the sky was darkening though it had only been an hour. She put Mr Bunny back in his hutch and went home. Jess was waiting for her.

“Where have you been?” Jess asked. “I couldn’t find you!”

“Mr Bunny escaped and I was looking for him.” Cindy replied.

“The whole day?”

The trouble with Faerie was that going there meant you always lost time in this world, but Cindy didn’t tell her that.

Chronos-4000 by Saiffun Hassam

Spacecraft Hermes-25 zipped through wormholes in the Andromeda galaxy. The spacecraft’s superintelligent AI Pegasus-5 swore when unexpectedly Wormhole-EXP12, the newfangled gates, were NOT functioning! He lost light years of time.

Wormhole-EXP9 was too far back. He sped forward to Star Gate-Hydra, an obsolete gateway, but functional. Pegasus had an important birthday gift to deliver.

It was the 4000th birthday of Old Yusef on Planet Yggdrasil. His ancestors were Terran and once owned a watch manufacturing company. A time capsule containing a 1982 brown rubber watch, Chronos-4000, dropped down on the planet. Just 5000 parsecs late. Better late than never.

Stanton Near Forsyth Street by Donna Matthews

“Hey, your school called, and classes are canceled.”

Charlie, staring out the window, asks, “Why?”

“Dunno, but I thought we’d hit up the modern art museum.”

“Yeah, okay, I guess.”

Walking through the heavy front doors, a hush falls over their footsteps. They wander the halls until they find an empty gallery and sit in front of the Stanton near Forsyth Street.

Long minutes pass.

She chances a sideway glance and sees a single tear fall.

“What do you see?” she whispers.

“Huh?” His eyes coming back into focus, he whispers back, “Remembering dad, last time we saw him.”

Lost Time by FloridaBorne

My right arm feels like it’s moving, my hand is in front of my face, but I blink at the white ceiling.

A nurse in white, a doctor in white… their words echo with an unbearable reverberation. The room becomes black.

Awake again, I move my head. The dark room has turned white walls into grey. People rush inside, lights blink on a monitor. When the doctor speaks, his words no longer sound hollow.

“You’ve been in a coma for 10 years…”

My family dead, my arms and legs amputated from the accident, my eyes close one final time.

Time Lost, and Found by Chel Owens

His gnarled, brusque, tannin hands caressed the watch band. He’d found it and its watch face along Lake Superior; brushed it from forgotten memories and dormant agate stones. Now, warmed in his fingers, the band changed. He saw it new, cut, fresh, oiled; attached to his grandfather’s timepiece for his son’s eighth birthday.

A long time later for one as rough as he, the old leatherworker released a breath. Rising, he set the wind-worn watch on his curio shelf near a faded photograph and a curling crayon picture. Tears in eyes, he shuffled out to put the kettle on.

Overcoming Obstacles by Sue Spitulnik

Michael sat on the floor of the rehab room facing a young woman, wheelchairs beside both of them. Her leg stumps matched his. He said,

“How did you pass the boot camp obstacle course? You appear too short to defeat the rock wall.”

“You mean I was too short!” She stopped. He waited. “Another recruit showed me the trick.”

“How long in hospital?”

“Six months.”

“That’s lost time, but if you’ll master getting into your chair from the floor they’ll let you learn to use legs back home.”

“Nobody told me that.”

“I just did.”

“Show me how. Please.”

Friendship of Time by Ann Edall-Robson

Whirr, bong, bong, bong. The old clock echoed through the dark house. He counted hollow sounds off in his mind. His trusted friend spoke to him hourly. And so his days and nights went. The mantle clock kept him in sync with the goings-on in the house. When the neighbour would drop by for his lessons in braille and sign language. When his family would come home from their day to lavish him with news and gossip of the world outside his personal cave. The accident had cost him, but he had not lost the friendship of time.

Too Tak by Anita Dawes

Humans would call me a bad fairy
They don’t know much about my world
I am known as a Too Tak
I need to steal time
In order to feed the hunger inside
Without this, my kind don’t live long
Let’s face it, humans get plenty of time
To lose a little won’t hurt
Half an hour here and hour there
What harm can it do?
They think the clocks are wrong
Running slow or fast
They blame the time loss on bad memory
When my time is done
They get the borrowed time back
As a lost memory…

Lost Time by Frank Hubeny

Thinking back Bill wished he did things differently years ago. Not that he would have had any basis to change given what he knew then, but he wished he knew then what he knew now.

His son Clifford was screaming obscenities at him. He saw himself through his father’s eyes and cringed. He realized he deserved the scorn, but for reasons Clifford wouldn’t acknowledge.

Bill regretted all this lost time. How could he make things right now? He considered praying and cringed again. Was it a miracle, he wondered, when embarrassed he bent his knees, cringed and finally understood?

Regret by Gloria McBreen

Rose opened the shabby old shoebox.

‘All my favourite things,’ she said softly with her hand on her heart. ‘You kept them.’

She rummaged through the box and lifted out a brown rubber watch.

Laughing she said, ‘Matt gave me this when we were eight.’

Nancy dabbed her eyes with her hanky. ‘I’m so sorry Rose…and ashamed. I’ve missed so much.’

‘We all have Mam. I’m sorry too, for staying away.’

The doorbell rang. ‘Are you ready?’ Rose asked.

Nancy nodded. Yes, she was at last ready to welcome her son-in-law Matt, and to finally meet her twenty-eight-year-old grandson.

Lost Time by kathy70

In this lost year, we’ve missed parades, holidays,  graduations, travel, hugs and so much more. We also have learned how to see family on our phones and have work meetings without leaving home.

We learned to ration TP and hand sanitizer as well as wearing masks. I guess it’s silly to talk about things, it’s the lives lost that is devastating. We have lost the time that would have been spent with all our friends/family.

It may be easier to count our learned stuff and not the lost. Still miss hugs the most. Where do we go from here.

Time Lost by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Elbows on bent knees,
Hands dangle between, wings on a gentle-breezed bird.
Butt planted, chilly on Autumnal Earth.
Grass spent, golden and crackling
Under a sky sharp as blue porcelain.
Leaves flicker down from balding trees,
The memories still, cut deep.

Nothing reaches me here on this hilltop.
High above the world, separate, waiting.
Stop time in order to save time.

So much lost, so much to be repaired
Pray what’s gone before yields wisdom.
Waiting for a miracle, knowing it won’t roll out on its own
I rise and stumble, back into the wicked world I helped create.

The Brown Rubber Watch by Doug Jacquier

The Great Crisis of the History of the Universe included the collapse of the Daylight Savings Bank. Claims were made (but never verified), that people were seen leaping from the clock face of Big Ben, in despair at the plummeting value of their Time shares. The only asset holding its value was the Futures market, dominated by Brown Brothers, which had a history of bouncing back like a rubber ball, no matter the catastrophe. Elections and the virus disappeared from screens as the world settled into nervously searching for signs of recovery, later known as the Brown Rubber Watch.

Time Bandits by Geoff Le Pard

‘Here we are.’
‘Are you sure this is a new motel. It feels the same.’
‘There’s no ashtray.’
‘Small mercies. I’m losing track of time.’
‘You’ve never cared about time.’
‘Very Einstein, Morgan. What’s that even mean?’
‘You’re never on time.’
‘I’ve never missed a plane.’
‘What about that old brown watch? It was always fast.’
‘It meant I knew I had more time than I thought I did. What about you? Your watch never even went.’
‘At least it was right twice a day.’
‘Which is more than could be said for its owner.’
‘It was dad’s.’
‘Ah…’

Not Her World by Charli Mills

Ivie stashed her digital watch in a pile of discarded clothes, ready to dive into Superior. She waved at her dad and brother bobbing in the lake. When she emerged, her family had vanished, the beach became a sterile room. Medical equipment pulsed and wheezed. Nurses initiated a flurry of activity until the room swelled with old people claiming to be her relatives. Ivie requested her watch to check the date and time for herself. A bearded geezer claimed it was lost the day of her accident. That’s when she knew. Ivie dove through time to a strange world.

The Present by D. Avery

“Welcome to the What-You Seek Boutique.”

She said she was just browsing, not really seeking anything.

“No?” The shopkeeper proffered a brown rubber banded watch.

“I had a watch like that once, but haven’t missed it. I don’t need it.”

“It’s still ticking. Look.”

She looked. The path around the watch face showed all she’d ever done, places she had been. The watch’s one hand pointed to Home, not a written word but a feeling of what Home meant to her and her alone.

“Home… but— what next?”

The shopkeeper smiled. “There’s time. Take it. A present for you.”

Lost Time and Lust by Kerry E.B. Black

The Doctor hunched over Gretchen’s cauldron and sniffed.

“So.” He jumped at her voice. “You’d like potion, would you?”

He straightened, imperious, and nodded. “If it works.”

A half-smile stole across her face. “Just like my Granny’s. We’ve bottled lost time.”

“How many years will this give me?” The sack he tossed clanked with wealth.

She ran her fingertips over the coins. “This’ll give you thirty years.” She ladled brew into a cup.

He licked papery lips with enthusiasm, nostrils flaring. “No tricks, witch.”

She handed him the cup. “Of course not, Faustus.”

He swallowed without noticing the undertaste.

Lost Time, Never Found by Simon

He stared at his mom’s 1982 Brown rubber watch. It triggered his memories.

His phone rang, She usually calls him at that time. But he was busy that day and ignored it. But she continuously ringed him, his skin felt a sudden goose bumps. He quickly stopped his work and called back, no one answered. He reached his home to find his mom on floor unconcious. He broke in tears, he immediately called up medic team, in moments they came and declared she’s dead, he regretted the moment he couldn’t answer her phone, but, lost time never found again.

Lost Time by M J Mallon

Stan picked up an imaginary sand timer, turned it over and watched as the grains of sand ran. He didn’t say a word. His grandchildren were playing on the beach building sandcastles, oblivious to his moment of sadness. On his wrist, he wore a 1982 brown rubber watch. It was now 2020. The watch had long since given up ticking, but he’d never throw it out. It would be terrible to do so. The watch belonged to his beautiful wife and brought back happy memories.

June died in 1983, was never fancy but always special.

Time Bus by Bill Engleson

“Been waiting long?”

“I don’t know. Hour, maybe? Two months?”

“What’s time’s it supposed to be here?”

“Schedule’s on that pole. Didn’t look.”

“How come? Not curious?”

“Just didn’t, that’s all. Look, don’t look, it’ll come when it does.”

“Makes sense. Think I’ll take a boo.”

“Be my guest.”

“Hmm!”

“Hmm what?”

“That’s odd.”

“What?”

“Took a look…”

“At the schedule?”

“Precisely.”

“So?”

“Well, it’s kinda confusing.”

“It’s a schedule. They’re all confusing. That’s why I don’t bother.”

“Not that kind of confusing.”

“What kind, then?”

“It says…Time Bus Leaving When It’s Your Time.”

“Crazy!”

“What time you got?”

(17) Damned Family (Lost Time) by JulesPaige

Jesse paced the Presidential Suite, an escape gifted by Uncle Stan. The dishes in the kitchen sink was proof that she had made something to eat. But what it was she couldn’t recall. Or how long ago she had actually eaten – she didn’t remember.

The curtains were closed, only minimal light illuminated the path that Jesse had created from the Master suite, around the dining table and the sitting area. She unplugged all the clocks, and landline phones. As well as turning off her flip phone. Sleep meant she might dream. Jesse wanted to lose time and some memories.

My Own Re (Treat) by Michelle Vongkaysone

I retreat into myself on occasion.
Sometimes these treks last for ages.
I know better uses for my time exist.

However, I can’t deny my urges.
My journeys give me perspective.
During them, I am completely alone.

There are no demands to obey.
My time is something to devour.
I can spend it just how I want to.

What matters is my pleasure.
I want to binge on time itself.
I wile away my days in silence.

I lose myself as time passes by.
I retreat into myself for that bliss.
It’s the best treat I can give myself.

Time of Hands by D. Avery

“Tellin’ ya Pal, I’m glad vacation’s done. It’s easier knowin’ how ta spend time when ya ain’t got so much free time.”

“Thet’s true Kid. I thought it’d be a good time visitin’ my cuzzins, but ended up more like doin’ hard time.”

“Ya spend any time at the Rodeo?”

“Was gonna but time flew. You?”

“Dang goats took too much a my time. I was ferever roundin’ ‘em up.”

“Once upon a time thet’s how Shorty got started rodeoin’— ropin’ goats.”

“She’s put her time in, fer sure.”

“Yep. Her time’s comin’. Now move, Kid. Time ta work.”

Life Savers

Barb Koski researched and wrote over 300 biographies of maritime life savers of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Writers responded with fictional tales of life savers, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

We dedicate this collection to Barb’s memory and to the real stories she saved from oblivion.

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

Seamen’s Sacrifice by Chel Owens

Ship askew ‘gainst pounding waves
We crew all stand, aghast
Our hearts aren’t nearly in their place
A-beating in our boots.

What foul-steamed beast have we released
By testing ice-tipped lake
What curse by hist-ry’s seamen have we
Raised by braving boats?

A-tempted by the calmer shores
We think to stay a-moored
When cry comes over radio:
A hapless vessel sinks.

“Remember Barb!” reminds the crew
A-bolstered, we set out
Our matron of the sea now scares
Away our shallow fears.

“Remember her!” beat hearts, returned
Whilst sea spray hisses by;
Remember seamen’s sacrifice
To rescue all in need.

Surfaces by Bill Engleson

The eyes, if they’re eyes, stare along the cresting water.

The head, if it is a head, bobs.

“See?” she says. “There!”

“Kelp bulb,” I state. “That’s all.”

“Let’s get closer.”

I hesitate.

The sea is enraged.

The wind is rising up.

Rocks!

Slippery!

Deadly!

Ones balance, hard to maintain.

“Are you coming?”

“Don’t be foolhardy,” I howl, whilst the furious wind works overtime to drown me out.

“Fine! Stay put. But I’m going closer.”

She moves out of my reach.

Towards the waters edge.

I am transfixed.

She strips to the essentials.

“NO!” I scream.

She dives in.

Life Saver by Doug Jacques

Around midnight, he would walk down to the bridge and wait, with one foot resting on the bottom rail, staring into the tidal shift below. He would wait for a stranger to appear at the other end of the bridge, mirroring his stance. ‘Time to go’ he would announce and hoist himself onto the second rail. The stranger would come running, yelling ’What are you doing?’ ‘Ending the pain’ he would say. And the stranger would pull him down and take him to the all-night coffee stand just off the bridge. He’d lost count of the lives he’d saved.

Slippery Rocks by Simon

As he laid down on the beach, he stared at the beauty of cloudy day. Stared at the sun that hides behind the clouds he witnessed the beauty of birds flying in group towards the north, he started walking, little did he noticed he was about to fall in a hole beside a rock, and the next moment he was drowning, he tried his best to keep the head out but the waves pushed him down, he witnessed a push and in seconds he was up beside the rock, an old man shivering said slippery rocks son, be careful!

The Blessings of Ziva by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Hurry or we’ll be late, Bisera. We have to be there before sunrise,” called Emika.

Bisera balanced the jug on her hip without spilling a drop. “I’m right behind you, Emika. Did you remember to bring the apple?”

“I found the last red apple in the bin. The apple and the water are our offerings to Ziva, the ancient goddess of water.”

Bisera reached the river and tumbled toward the icy depths. “Help me.”

Emika grabbed the girl’s scarf and saved her from harm.

“Thank you, Emika. The goddess put you in the right place at the right time.”

Grace Darling to the Rescue by Anne Goodwin

Father lowered the telescope. “Ship’s hit the rock a’reet. No survivors but.”
Grace pulled the shawl around her shoulders. “There’s movement!”
“We can’t risk it. Storm’ll make matchsticks of the boat.”
“We can’t let them die.”
Grace bailed while her father rowed. Gusts slapped hair across their faces and buffeted the boat. A symphony of huffing, splashing and a wailing, carried on the wind. Biceps straining, Grace took the oars as her father leapt onto the rock.
He chose the weakest and the strongest, returning later for the rest. He chose the mother, left the bodies of her bairns.

Coastal Tales: Diamante by Saifun Hassam

Stormy seas abated. Diamante knew storms could turn deadly for those at sea. Three fishermen were missing.

Diamante watched from atop cliffs near the ancient temple. This morning he saw a fishing boat desperately turn past the promontory. He struck the temple bell thrice. The villagers raced to the boathouses. Diamante and the rescuers rowed rapidly, fighting the restless seas.

A rogue wave lifted the fishing boat, smashing it on rocks close to the cove barely ten miles from their village! The rescuers did not hesitate.

Three figures struggled in the churning waters. Dominic and Yusef survived. Carlos disappeared.

Life Saver by Anita Dawes

Jack and I decided to hire a small speedboat
Try to find the mysterious island
Said to appear at odd hours
Best time would be before dawn
Begging Jack to keep his speed down
Too late, he hit a wave
Throwing us over the side
The cold water caught my breath
Struggling to reach the surface
I couldn’t see Jack, I was drowning
No boat above me, no sign of help
There came a great moment
A feeling of peace
I felt a hand drag me above the water
Breaking the surface
I was alone close to the shore…

Muddy Water Memories ( Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

The band was packing their instruments when a young man approached Mac. He stuck an old photo of two men, one supporting the other, in a muddy rice paddy apparently in Vietnam in front of him. “I’m wondering if that’s you on the left?”
Mac stared at the photo…”Billy Metott.”
“My grandfather. He says you saved his life that day. I wanted to tell you he’s doin’ well and say thank you.”
“How did you find me?”
“I’m attending college near here. He saw the bar’s name when he passed by and thought it must be you.”
“I’ll be.”

Muddy Water Memories ( Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

Mac handed the picture back, wiped the tears from his eyes, and finally looked at the young man. “The truth about that day is nobody lived without the help of a buddy. Why didn’t Billy stop in?”
“Fear he was wrong. Memories.”
“That I understand. Your name?”
“Colm, after my father.”
When the band members heard the name, their curiosity peaked. They heard Mac say, “Sorry about the name. I’d like to get together with your grandfather. Maybe we can save each other from some future bad dreams.”
“He’ll agree to that. I’ll let him know.”
“Thank you, Colm.”

Life Saver by FloridaBorne

I don’t regret making the choice that fateful day.

Lester sat next to me on the dock when that horrid politician yelled out, “He doesn’t belong here!”

Yes, the same politician who raised our taxes so that she could afford a fancy yacht.

When she ran toward me, Lester lunged at her. Both fell into the water. Who know a politician that fat couldn’t swim?

I jumped into the water and helped Lester onto the dock, ignoring the woman’s screams for help. Thank God she’s dead. Police found evidence she was taking bribes.

I petted Lester and asked, “Would the best doggie in the world like a treat?”

Damned Family #5 by JulesPaige

I decided to stay an extra day at the motel. I hadn’t gotten much sleep, and in my quest to do something, anything I unpacked and repacked my luggage. Odd that I never used the outside pockets – but there was a journal in one of my suitcases. Ships at Sea! The writing was in my ex husband’s hand. My eyes blurred, filled with tears. How was I going to read this – especially now? After I claimed I didn’t know who the dead body was that I found yesterday.

coasting on cold waves
an anchor of memories
a hidden journal

Mr Dunk Saves The Day by Geoff Le Pard

‘Logan, there’s a pool. Let’s go swim.’
‘No thanks. I’ll catch forty winks.’
‘Come on!’
‘I’ll go for a walk later.’
‘This is America. No one walks.’
‘I’m not swimming.’
‘I’ve a spare cozzie.’
‘I’m not wearing your clothes.’
‘Come on. It….’
‘No!’
‘What’s got into you?’
‘I can’t swim.’
‘You can’t?’
‘I’m phobic.’
‘What? The superheroic Logan is scared of water?’
‘I nearly drowned. Mr Dunk saved me.’
‘Great name.’
‘I’d given up. I was going down for the third time.’
‘Mate, I didn’t know. Anyway, time you got back on the horse.’
‘I’m not doing that either…’

Into the Storm (Part I) by D. Avery

Through rain pelted windows Marlie’s tree fort hove into view. Marlie read, curled up with Daisy on the couch.

“Remember when she used to sail in weather like this, captaining a mighty ship?”

“Remember when she made Tommy walk the plank?”

“Do you miss Tommy, Liz?”

“For better or worse, I do. I miss our opportunity to give Tommy a respite from his family. The great unmasked… What’s Marlie researching now, Bill?”

“Lifesavers.”

“The candy? Or health care workers?”

“Life savers— nascent Coast Guard.”

Putting her book aside Marlie donned her foul weather gear. She had to go out.

Into the Storm (Part II) by D. Avery

“Who will rescue us, Bill?”

“What? Are we a wreck?” He crowded into the window seat. Beyond the steamy window, Marlie braved the high seas to pluck Destiny from the surf.

“Not us. Us. /U/ /S/. Of A?”

“Oh. Ship of fools. Headed for the rocks.”

“We’ve been commandeered by pirates, with a fool spinning the helm. I’m scared Bill.”

“Me too.”

“Oh! Marlie! You’ve returned.”

“Mom? Dad?”

“We’re huddled in our lifeboat, Marlie. Get in.”

Marli climbed in with her parents and assessed their circumstances. “It’s going to be rough. But we’ll make it. All storms peter out.”

Outstretched Arm by Goldie

Veronica’s been struggling with the large waves for too long. They have smacked her around mercilessly, making her crash against rocks a few times.

She tried to grab onto some of them, but the waves pulled her right back into the ocean. The cuts on her hands burned in the salty waters.

So close to solid ground, yet so far. Veronica had to fight. If not for herself, then definitely for her toddler.

But she couldn’t. Not anymore… She was too spent. Closing her eyes, she gave up the fight.

“Veronica!” the monster pulled her out of the tub.

Water and Rescue by Frank Hubeny

When Lydia was playing in a shallow pool about four inches deep she stumbled and fell face down into the water. The problem is she did not stand up. She kept her face submerged in the water. She was very young.

Her father was watching her and saw what happened. He got up out of his chair, stepped into the water and lifted her. He and his wife wiped off the water. Lydia smiled. That was enough water play for today.

It wasn’t a dangerous rescue. Some rescues are routine, but imagine the consequences if they had not happened.

Lifesavers by Hugh W. Roberts

Is it only humans that save lives?


Cindy-Rose already knew that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and save lives at sea.

“I’ve just saved Teddy and Giraffe from going underwater, Daddy.”

“I know, I saw you save them from falling into that big, strange puddle left by last night’s, weird storm,” responded her father.

“Thank you for saving our lives,” whispered Teddy into the ear of its owner. “Giraffe and I will always save you.”

Smiling, Cindy hugged her toys and counted down from her age of four before jumping into the puddle.

Only her yellow wellington boots and rainhat resurfaced.

Oreos and Milk Save the Day! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The boat tosses and turns, water crashing over its bow, threatening to tip the tiny crew into the roiling waters.

“I can’t hold our course, Captain!”

“Look alive, Fishlegs! The deadly virus cure’s gotta get to Littleton before sunrise.”

“Aye, but the Great Kraken of the deep haunts these waters. I have a bad feeling about this!”

“Courage, Fishlegs. We’ll save the day, or my name isn’t Cap Moira Janesway!”

Suddenly the deep rumbles: heels hammering from beneath. The boat capsizes as two brown knees break the froth.

“Bath time’s over, Moira. Time for jammies, snack and something calmer.”

Rescue 116 by Gloria McBreen

Irish Coast Guard helicopter
Called into the night
Black ocean swells
Rocky terrain in sight

Find Blacksod Bay
Refuel at the lighthouse
Where the keeper awaits
No mayday distress

Black box tells
Of that early misty morn
Winchman yelled ‘come right’
Duffy said ‘we’re gone’

Didn’t make it to the lighthouse
Hit Blackrock instead
Two were lost at sea
Two were found…now dead

Ciarán Smith
Father of three
Paul Ormsby
Lived for family

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Mother sister friend
Captain Mark Duffy
All heroes till the end

The nation mourned
We’ll never forget
Rescue 116
Saviours we never met

In Remembrance by Charli Mills

Beatrice Hayes served Coast Guard Station Portage for three years, respecting the deadly furies of Lake Superior. Cruising the canal on a clear day, she could spot old shipwrecks below the water’s surface. To the west, she assisted in setting up the buoy system. When she heard kayakers were gathering to honor a local historian who researched her historical predecessors, Beatrice mustered the fleet from cruisers to icebreaker to Kodiaks and posted an honor guard. Women in kayaks tossed daisies, reciting the names of life savers who had served these waters, ending with the woman who wrote their biographies.

Whiskey in a Storm by D. Avery

“Ah, Ernie, you’re a lifesaver!”
“It’s jist whiskey, Pal.”
“Yer a port in the storm, Ernie, a safe haven as I go a-sailin’ back ta the Ranch.”
“Thinkin’ ya might already be three sheets, there, Pal. An’, ya look like ya seen a ghost.”
“I did, last week. It was spooky. Afore thet I worked my fingers ta the bone doin’ chores at my cuzzins’ turnip farm, an thet dispite wearin’ kid gloves.”
“Speakin’ a which, where’s Kid at?”
“Dunno. Took separate trails fer our vacation. Mighta saved Kid’s life, thet break.”
“Missin’ Kid, ain’tcha?”
“Been a long month.”

Bacon in a Storm by D. Avery

Though spooked, Kid made it back to Carrot Ranch. Kid had never been so long and far away from the barns and bunkhouse without Pal; the whole month had seemed like one long dark and stormy night. Now the sun rising over Shorty’s cookhouse was like a lightbulb overhead. Idea!
By the time Shorty came on the scene, Kid had stacked large rocks in a circle.
“Buildin’ a fire ring?”
“Foundation fer a lighthouse. Thinkin’ we need a beacon.”
“The Ranch is a beacon, an’ a safe harbor. Come on, Kid, I’ll fix ya some bacon.”
Kid lightened up.

October 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

In the US, the Coast Guard are the ones who go out on tumultuous seas when all other watercraft head for shelter. They are the maritime security, search and rescue, and law enforcement service of the US Armed Forces. They are veterans, too.

Where I live, along the southern curve of Lake Superior on a jut of land known as the Keweenaw Peninsula, maritime life saving once fell to the lifesavers. Before we had diesel-powered Coast Guard ships, we had rowboats.

Okay, maybe not rowboats like you’d take a date on a placid pond. They were wooden, though, and powered by humans. Can you imagine a furious storm on Lake Superior with gales forceful enough to sink an iron ore steamer? Then imagine the rescuers seeking to pull sailors from the waves in wooden boats powered manually with oars.

You can see some of their equipment in this video of our local Life Saving Museum in Eagle Harbor, thirty miles north of headquarters of Carrot Ranch.

Even today, it must take great courage to face a storm. The Coast Guard still has several life saving stations, both on our Portage Canal that accommodated freighters to haul copper. Their 47-foot dual engine boats are designed for dangerous water rescues.

Life savers were often forgotten to history. My friend Barb, married a Vietnam veteran, back in 1980. His family lived and worked on the Keweenaw for many generations. One was a surfman, or an early Coast Guard life saver. When Barb did some genealogy and found out about this man and his deeds, saving lives, she realized that no one had ever collected all the names of the life savers that served our peninsula.

What started out as a family project led to the recognition of over 300 life savers. Barb even found descendants, which led to interest in forming the local museum where her research resides.

Barb was one of the first people I met when I arrived to the Keweenaw three and a half years ago. She had just battled cancer and returned to the Warrior Sisters group where I had found my welcome. Of course, we hit it off quickly, both sharing a love of history and recovering forgotten voices.

Two years ago during the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, I highlighted Barb’s work. She had recently been honored for her research and given a week’s stay at the light-keeper’s house in Eagle Harbor.

Waves surged relentlessly against the craggy rocks of Eagle Harbor where I went to write for a few days as a guest of Keweenaw historian, Barb Koski. It was mid-October, and the gales of November had come even earlier than when the Edmond’s Fitzgerald went down. Barb’s expertise in maritime history focuses on the heroics of the surfmen — those who went out into the wind-driven swells in small boats to rescue the crews of large ships.

Like Barb, many who live, work or attend secondary education on the Keweenaw Peninsula fall in love with the area’s natural beauty and endless outdoor activities. Barb showed me many natural wonders and historic structures during our getaway. If you spend any time outdoors on the Keweenaw, you can’t escape the area’s bold history of industrial copper mining.

On October 18, 2020, my friend, fellow historian, and Warrior Sister, Barb Koski died peacefully at home. Earlier that week, led by our fearless widow, the Warrior Sisters sat with her, laid on hands, prayed, and said goodbyes. Sitting at her feet was the teddy bear we bought her, the one Barb named Precious. She took Precious everywhere.

At her visitation on Monday, Precious sat near her once again. Barb’s daughter said they thought about cremating Precious with Barb, but her husband wanted to keep the bear. Now Precious goes with him. The next day we all gathered once again, the Warrior Sisters and my Hub in a single pew.

Barb was a life saver. She cared deeply for others and could sit with them in their pain. She rescued those who risked their lives from obscurity. In thinking what kind of stories Barb would like, I’m pointing us all toward the fury of the sea, inland or elsewhere, to write about life savers who dare face the waves and the storms.

October 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a formal Coast Guard, historical or contemporary. It could be an individual who unexpectedly takes on the role. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 3, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

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In Remembrance by Charli Mills

Beatrice Hayes served Coast Guard Station Portage for three years, respecting the deadly furies of Lake Superior. Cruising the canal on a clear day, she could spot old shipwrecks below the water’s surface. To the west, she assisted in setting up the buoy system. When she heard kayakers were gathering to honor a local historian who researched her historical predecessors, Beatrice mustered the fleet from cruisers to icebreaker to Kodiaks and posted an honor guard. Women in kayaks tossed daisies, reciting the names of life savers who had served these waters, ending with the woman who wrote their biographies.

Spooky Tales

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

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

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

Time to Leave by Gloria McBreen

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

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

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

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

Witching Wood by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

See, the full moon hides behind grey veils.

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

Coming Full by D. Avery

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

Spooky Tale by Jaye Marie

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

Hailsham’s Most Illustrious Alumnus by Anne Goodwin

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

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

“Tradition. Hailsham’s hot on tradition.”

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

“Stop moaning, she’s here!”

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

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

“Tell me it’s a trick!”

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

Doppelganger by Joanne Fisher

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

“I’m going home.” Cass declared.

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

“I’ve got work.”

Only an hour later, Cass unexpectedly returned.

“You’ve come back?”

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

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

“But you came back!” Tori replied.

“No, I’m home.”

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

The Lady of Silver Mountain Mine by Charli Mills

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

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

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

Jan shrugged. “She was probably justified.”

“She’s. Still. Here.”

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

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

“That’s mine,” a voice hissed.

Out of Time by Norah Colvin

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

Kurdaitcha Man by Doug Jacquier

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

Spooky Tale by Christine Bialczak

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

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

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

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

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

Spooky Tale by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

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

Spooky Tale by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

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

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

Mirror Mirror On the Wall! by Simon

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

True Story: Honest! Well, Maybe by Bill Engleson

“I was much younger, then.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Had my teeth.”

“I’m sure you did, sir.”

“Well I did.”

“Yes Sir.”

“It was an evil place.”

“Pardon, sir?”

“Devils Lake. Evil.”

“Where was it?”

“Where was what.”

“The lake?”

“What lake?”

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

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

“Terrible how?”

“We’d pitched out tent by the shore.”

“We?”

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

“Always at Devil’s Lake?”

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

“They drowned?”

“No! The lake ate them.”

Spooky Swamp by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

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

Lawson’s Tales by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

Untying Lawson, the cowboy vanished!

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

Stalking by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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

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

Tales Untold, and Best Forgotten? by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Come on Alice, tell the tale.”

“We won’t be shocked, dearest.”

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

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

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

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

The fire popped, a gunshot.

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

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

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

Damned Family? by JulesPaige

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

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

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

You Asked by Donna Matthews

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

“I do,” he replied in a whisper.

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

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

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

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

“Stop it, Pops!” Alice exclaims.

“You asked,” Pops replied with a wink.

Nellis’ Vengeance by R. V. Mitchell

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

Emma Won’t Tell by Sue Spitulnik

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

The Ruined Refuge by Michelle Vongkaysone

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

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

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

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

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

The truth only punished their betrayal.

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

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

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

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

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

Unimaginably Eerie (Part I) by D. Avery

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

Unimaginably Eerie (Part II) by D. Avery

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