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October 24: Story Challenge in 99-words

Last week, Kid (from the imagination and pen of Ranch Yarnist, D. Avery), mentioned the Ranch didn’t need to be overrun with cryptozoologists. Kid actually has a fun idea.

Cryptids are fantastical.

It was an early Carrot Ranch collection of 99-word stories that featured The Fantastical in June 2014. For several months, I marveled every time writers showed up to play with the 99-word art form with me. I began noticing the Collections held magic.

“Magic is seeing wonder in nature’s every little thing, seeing how wonderful the fireflies are and how magical are the dragonflies.”

Ama H.Vanniarachchy

Art, in all its forms, expresses that wonder. With each individual perspective, idea, and image, the Collections became literary magic. To this day, it remains my favorite attribute of art-ing together weekly. When I arrange the individual stories, I see the wonder of creativity expanding collectively. Each story has merit; but as a collection, a living image rises up out of the whole, engaging readers more deeply than a a solo story. Writers and readers collaborate and inspire more wonder.

Expected the unexpected as you evolve as a writer.

Once I noticed the magic in the 99-word stories, I also noticed that we were collectively writing into a dark abyss. Reflecting back, I think we were perhaps finding a measure of trust among a group of online people from across the world. We were brave enough to walk into the dark of creativity together. To lighten the tone and share the magic I was feeling, I dared the first unicorns of the Ranch. Darker still, we wrote and yet we created one of the most profound collections.

Cryptids, though thought to be eerie, can be funny and cute, too. They make for an interesting prompt. But Kid’s question put me into a state of wonder — what are cryptozoologists like? Who are the people who study the unstudiable? How does mythology connect? How does the science of the unseen function? Why do some people want to bamboozle others? What would the Ranch look like if it were crawling with cryptozoologists? (Sorry, Kid, but you did compel the image.)

Whether you light a bonfire or don a costume to celebrate any variation of Halloween, a Peaceful Samhain Full Moon Day of the Dead & Sugar Skulls to all.

October 24, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a cryptozoologist. Who is this character? What cryptids do they research and why? Are they serious about their work, skeptical, or scheming to fool others? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 31, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Confidence Collection

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

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

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

Capitalizing Characteristics by D. Avery

“Hello. I’m Confident.”

“Yes, I see.”

“No, that’s my name, Confident. Confident Lee. My parents, Frank and Constance, wanted me to always be confident.”

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Always confident?”

“I haven’t yet changed my name.”

“Haven’t yet… so you’ve considered changing your name.”


“You’re wavering!”

“It’s such an unusual name! My brothers, Willen and Abel, have it much easier!”

“Confident, you’re shaking.”

“Well, how’d you like being Confident all the time?”

“I wouldn’t mind more confidence, but no, I wouldn’t want to be Confident. Look, I’ll see you next week Lee.”

Then Confident Lee he left.


Confidence by Ann Edall-Robson

A memory of herself standing behind the podium looking out into a blackened room. A few whispered words escaped through her lips. Would she ever get past those first words?

​Clearing her throat, she looked up from the notes lying on the wood. The audience didn’t see her suck in a few deep breaths. The confidence butterflies flittering around in her stomach found a place to land. The words came easily, projecting her strong voice that had found itself somewhere along the way. When had that happened? Where was that other person?

“Thank you all for coming.” Applause erupted


You Can Walk Again by Sue Spitulnik

Michael, wearing shorts so his leg stumps showed, was speaking to new amputees. He looked forlorn, sitting on the platform between his wheelchair and prostheses. After being introduced, he started talking in an unsure voice. He demonstrated how to get in his chair and then how to attach his legs. Continuing to share his story with a stronger voice, he stood and took one step at a time across the platform. He finished with, “If I had walked in with the confidence it took me two, yes, two years to gain, I would have intimidated you rather than helped.”


Fall Swing by Mario Milizia

Luke is the shortest person on his Little League team. His fielding skills aren’t up to everyone else’s. To ensure that he made the team his best friend was on, he made his father take him to the batting cages twice a week.

Now, in the playoffs against another team from across town for boys thirteen to fourteen years old, his teammates are counting on him for solid hits.

After fouling off five straight pitches and seeing the frustration on the pitcher’s face, he’s sure he knows what pitch is coming next. The pitch is released and he swings.


That’s Confidence by Norah Colvin

When Bec was little I ran play/educational sessions for children and their parents at home. I worked hard preparing the room, dedicated for that purpose, for our sessions. Finally, everything was arranged, with various art and craft materials organised in boxes and tubs.

Bec, 2½ years old, was excited. ‘Of course,’ I said when she asked if she could make something.

I’d only moved away for a moment when her excitement drew me back: ‘Look what I made!’ Her face beamed.
She’d upended nearly everything (exaggeration, only slight) and glued one cotton ball onto a piece of paper. Wow!


Just Another Day by Frank James

A man sat at the bus stop watching construction of a skyscraper. A bus stopped and Abe walked off greeting the man,

“Hello, Sam.”

Abe put on his hard hat, walking on the job. He hopped in the cage elevator, soaring one hundred stories high. Sam cringed as Abe confidently swaggered across an I-beam.

“Ooo,” Sam cringed as Abe dodged flapping birds. Abe stopped at the tip, wobbling as he leaned over the edge, grabbing his welder. He squatted over a joint, welding it.

The whistle blew, “Just another day,” Abe told Sam as he stepped on the bus.


Be Brave and Beautiful by Sweeter Than Nothing

“Come out Lexi, strut your stuff.”

Lexi looked at their outfit in the small changing room mirror and grimaced, “Are you sure? Isn’t this skirt a little… short?”

“That’s the point, I’d kill for your legs!”

Lexi took a deep breath in and nervously stepped from behind the curtain to her sister cheering loudly. “You seriously look so good, get the skirt, it’s on me.”

“Do you think mum would be disappointed in me?” Lexi asked.

“Not at all,” Amanda said to her once sibling, now sister and best friend, “She’d think you were brave and beautiful, no matter what.”


The Kick of Confidence by Sadje

The kick of confidence

I was very shy when in school. My father and teachers recognized my weakness and set about to correct it by encouraging public speaking.

My father would help me write my speech and I would learn it by heart and recite it to him. He would correct my expression and pronunciation.

The first few seconds of my speech were pure torture, as my legs, hands, and voice all shook with nervousness. But afterward, I’d gain confidence and deliver the rest of the speech with aplomb.

With their support, I became the class orator, and acted in school plays too.


A History of Bottling by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s vibrant bottling industry began when Marj Oram-Poultice transitioned from cans to bottles for her herbal treatments for gout, viral conniptions and political irascibility. Recently, though cheap imitations from China and the western edge of Sodor have led the Oram-Poultice dynasty to diversify. Never lacking ambition Marj commissioned a wide-ranging survey that identified five main elements people most wanted bottled: hope, will-power, resilience, confidence and smooth bowel movements. Her first attempt was full of confidence but the smell was too strong so it was withdrawn. Despite this the press labelled her failure a classic case of bottling it.


Lost and Found by D. Avery

“I lost my confidence.”

“I’ll help you look for it. What color is it?”

“It’s sky colored.”

“But the sky is many different colors.”


“Wait, what’s all this stuff?”

“Hmm. Courage, optimism… should be here somewhere.”

“Determination, perseverance… resolve… all good stuff, but I don’t see confidence. Retrace your steps. Where’s the last place you remember having it?”

“Oh, I don’t know… a long time ago it seemed it was just always around.”

“Like the sky?”


“Maybe it’s just clouded over. Hey, what’s that?”

“That? Next to trust and surrender? That’s faith.”

“You sure?”

“I’m confident. Hey!”


I Don’t Fit by Nova Martin

Head up, they say. Walk with confidence, they say. People will love you, they say. They are wrong, so wrong. To them I am just another person in a place I do not belong. Everyone says they will get used to me and it won’t be long before everyone knows who I am. How can they get used to this? Compared to everyone else I stick out like a sore thumb. Everybody knows of me and they know my name but nobody my story. Nobody has asked because no one cares. How can my ancestors be so wrong?


Frightfully Optimistic? by JulesPaige

stalwart quality
in rose hips

Drink that soothing autumnal tea stirred with a cinnamon stick, with the confidence of a raised pinky – not haughtily, but graciously polite. Especially while in a costume, dressed and masked for a Halloween Ball. While others with long white gloves or blood red painted nails inches long – seek out all the desserts before you even get the chance to find that hauntingly good chocolate cake frosted with brown and blue icing to look like a vine grabbing at tree roots that’ll handily look to grab your fork before you can take a slice!


Noble Concept by Duane L Herrmann

“Noble have I created thee,” Bezur remembered how the phrase began. “Yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.” *

He was created noble! What an idea, Bezur thought, as he walked along, slightly bouncing in the light gravity. His confidence contributing to the bounce. He was NOT a sinful, wretched creature as so many people back home had been taught. What if everyone on this new planet knew they had been created noble? How would that change things? They didn’t want to replicate Earth’s problems. Not here! No! We can do better!

*Bahá’í scripture


The Grief Chart by Bill Engleson

Some truths you just don’t want to think about. I don’t anyways. I can live without knowing some things, who loves me, who doesn’t, who’s planning my demise, who doesn’t care a whit.

I just don’t think about those things. Each day is a complete set. I work out how the morning goes, what I can do to make it through, what might trip me up.

I keep a grief chart. It measures the pain the world experiences daily. I’m very visual. Always have been. As each day passes, I see my reason to weep. There are always reasons.


The Audition by Anne Goodwin

Little Miss Flawless went first. The piece was tough and, like her teacher watching from the wings, her face was all frown. She stared at the score which shook in her hands. But her effort paid off: her performance was error-free.

Little Miss Playful came next. In hand-me-down clothes, she’d come to the theatre alone. The crotchet and quavers were hieroglyphics to Little Miss Playful and she mis-read most of the words. But she fixed her ears on the pianist, her eyes on the director and beamed as she blasted out the song.

Little Miss Playful got the part.


No Contest by D. Avery

Velma Valentine, stopped at the four-way in her vintage Buick, was met by Daryl McGreely.

Driver door to driver door, he grinned through rolled down windows and revved his engine.

“I’ll lift my hood if you lift yours.”

Velma neither grinned nor revved.

“A lady doesn’t lift her hood.”

“Race? My Olds against your Buick, winner take all.”

“I don’t want your old-mobile.”

Daryl retorted by again revving his engine, which backfired.

“Daryl McGreely! Your old-mobile farted. Right in downtown.”

Daryl watched as Velma pulled smoothly and slowly away from the four-way.

“I probably would have won,” Velma mused.


The Moor by Nicole Horlings

The grey gloom cast by cold clouds had settled heavily upon the empty land.

The carriage ride across it to her uncle’s estate had been long and boring. As she looked out the window, she became more confident that she would be thoroughly miserable in this place.

But without a pandering servant keeping her entertained here, she had learned to explore life on her own, turned her attention towards that which had been deliberately overlooked, discovered joy, and shed her contrary attitude.

The warm afternoon sun highlighted the beauty of the various grasses and flowers that filled the moor.


Wishes and Witches by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“You sure about this, Jimmy?” Thora pulled the white forelock rising from her scalp, wishing.

“I am,” he whispered, playfully tugging the errant lock. That white spume rising up from her auburn waves had assured him from the day when first they’d met.

“Because I’ve told only you, in confidence. No one else knows,” Thora fretted. “If this doesn’t work, I’ll never be accepted.

They’ll blame me, and drive me away.”

“Have a little faith,” he soothed, feeling the magic of her wish spread and heal the community.

All that was needed was her strong love and fondest wishes.


Ghostly Advice by Joanne Fisher

“This is the first time you’ve haunted anywhere?”

“Yes I’m new to this. A family has moved into my house and I’ve made creaking noises, but they haven’t noticed.”

“You’re right to start small. You need to build up your confidence. Can I suggest you start moving things around randomly? Like keys or remotes? Items hard to find once moved.”

“I see.”

“And if they have a cat keep it entertained so it watches you for long periods. That will freak them out.”

“What about doing an apparition?”

“That’s really advanced. Just focus on the small things at present.


Who’s Talking? by D. Avery

“Maybe you wouldn’t text her, but I would, and will.”

“Texts are too flippant, a woman like that deserves better.”

“She’s seen me around, she’ll be delighted to get a text from me.”

“You’re certainly confident, but don’t you think, if you’re serious about getting to know her, you should, you know, actually talk to her?”

“Funny advice coming from someone who can hardly speak to women because of his lack of confidence.”

“I’m confident she’ll turn you down, but if you insist on texting her, here’s her number— she gave it to me after she asked me out.”


Procrastinationland by Kerry E.B. Black

Fake it ‘til you make it, right?

Even when you’re staring down a deadline, having painted yourself into a corner without the necessary tools. You can’t cry foul. The fault lies squarely on your imposter-syndrome-clad shoulders. Doubt bogs down the process. You self-sabotage, misplacing important parts of the project and stumbling over tiny obstacles. You work on other things instead.
That is until you land here. Smack dab in the furthest corner of Procrastinationland.

You can’t give up, though. You promised yourself even when others don’t believe in you, you’ll champion yourself. You have God-granted talent. Don’t waste it.


The Boss by Dianne Borowski

The kid was a new hire. Something about him was off. He had a big fist and an even bigger mouth.

I told him, “watch yourself. They don’t want no trouble here.”

“Back off, old man.” he said and give me a hard shove!”

Kid was mean. Started messing with Jonah. Jonah’s big but slow.

I told the boss, Lou, about the kid.

Lou said, “I heard. Stay away from him.”

Kid went too far. Jonah was bleeding bad. Lou come up behind him and shoved a pistol in his back.

Lou said, “Get out!”

She’s one tough lady!


Off She Went by ladyleemanila

She always said she’d be brave. She was sure that it would build her confidence and might be able to help her forget about him. He, the one who hurt her.

Today was the start of the new her. She signed up for some adventure training and today they were going to bungee jump from the top of the cliff. The tall crane was set up, They were given some instructions. As she stood there, she was determined to make it. So she counted quietly in her head, said a little prayer, controlled her breathing and off she went!


Airin Concerns by D. Avery

“Holy shift! Kid, why’s LeGume runnin so fast? Oh. Went inta the privy.
“Hey, LeGume, hear bout the fam’ly’s all got diarrhea? Runs in their jeans.”
“Dat ees not funny, Pal. Dees ees nerves.”
“What’re ya nervis bout?”
“Ello? Soon Logatha weel have our leetle bambeano.”
“I’m confident yer gonna be a fine papa, Pepe.”
“Tank you Keed. But eet ees confidence een our writer I lack. She knows notteeng about writeeng babies.”
“No pressure, Pepe. Yer a tertiary character, sure ta be upstaged by Shorty’s sprout.”
“I jist hope the expandin LeGume fam’ly’ll be staged downwind.”
“Shush, Pal.”


Rank in File by D. Avery

“Tertiary, third level. Pepe doesn’t need ta feel the pressure a folks readin all bout his parentin, cause prob’ly won’t much git written. We’ll jist assume this fictional family’s doin great.”
“Now jist hold on, Kid. First of all, LeGume here’s least secondary.”
“Number two?”
“Zactly. An, LeGume is yer friend, Kid, a friend who has come ta live here at Carrot Ranch. We ain’t jist assumin nuthin. We’re gonna pitch in an hep his fam’ly out cause he’s part a the Ranch fam’ly.”
“Yer right Pal. Think our writer can keep up?”
“Ain’t so confident bout thet.”


Their Writer Speaks by D. Avery

D. Avery, Ranch Yarnist here, with a rebuttal:

“Ha, rebuttal.”
“Shush, Kid, I wanna hear this.”

I understand Pepe’s nervousness and agree that my lack of experience with what he and his family are now committed to— because of something I carelessly penned months ago—

“Shoulda capped thet pen.”
“Shush Pal.”

— I’m confident that this imperfect storyline will work out because I have confidence in these characters. Pepe and Logatha will be good parents. Kid and Pal and all the others will step up. The littlest LeGume will find her role among this extended family.

“Kickin an screamin.”


Ravel Rouser by D. Avery

“Shift on a short stick, Kid’s goin an gittin all po-litical agin.
“Kid! What’re ya rallyin bout now?”
“Been thinkin Pal. It’s all well an good that our writer has confidence in us, but that don’t undo our vote a no confidence in her. Pepe ain’t gotta worry bout how she writes his family— she won’t be writin bout the birth or child at all.”
“Why not?”
“Child labor laws, that’s why not. Cain’t be exploitin the LeGume’s bambeano fer the sake of a 99-word yarn.”
“No one’s gittin sploited, Kid. I vote ta let the yarns ravel on.”


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

October 17: Story Challenge in 99-words

My bed has a shaggy coat. Colder temperatures call for afternoon hot apple cider, flannel sheets, and “blankets of joy.” The one who finds the most joy in winter blankets is Mause. The little GSP will be three in November and she shows no signs of slowing down, although she’s getting comfort dialed in.

I needed something warmer for my bed and when I saw the shaggy duvet cover on Amazon, I giggled at the image of Mause discovering shag. It was also the least expensive cover made of natural fibers, which sealed the deal. I bought a similar blanket from the same eco-friendly company out of Minnesota for Mause on the couch.

Shag is questionable to the dog. When Mause leaped onto the couch, the shag caught her by surprise. It was sleek, satiny, and fur-like. Good surprise or bad? It was hard to read her features. She kept her ears perked in curiosity but had a gleam in her eyes that foreshadowed naughtiness. Meanwhile, the grand shag duvet cover spent the day in the basement at the spa for bedding.

I’m not the biggest fan of duvets after spending half my life wanting one. The struggle to find the right corners, tie the loops, and get the cover situated places the chore low on my enjoyment list. Tussling with a shaggy duvet cover was like wrestling a creature from deep in the winter woods. Once successful, I felt like I had conquered Grendel and his hide covered my bed. I’ve never had a shaggy bed before. We’ll see what the princess upper thinks when she gets home from her run-around-town with her veteran.

When fall came to the small mountain town where I grew up, our herd of horses grew thick, long coats. They did not winter in the Sierras — they left for Nevada. I remember Captain’s coat long and more coarse before he left. I longed for his return in spring with the rest when I’d brush out his coat until it shined. There’s a lovely familiarity with changing seasons. Pre-winter shag feels right.

The Keweenaw holds its breath — will we get 300 inches of snow or will climate change cause different conditions? How much say does Lady Lake Superior have? We have no gales to report, no early white flakes, and no hard frost, yet. It’s due any day. Which has me thinking, so is my grandbaby! The last month of a trimester is the longest. While the maples outside slowly drop their leaves, I wait for news.

The Collections are caught up. Such different ideas, yet visible strands of connectivity. Your stories (and verse) continue to be a joy to work with and I can’t wait to start learning more about the connection between our literary art and the collective unconscious. On November 3, I will begin a journey into Dream Tending and Deep Imagination. I hope to unlock access to our collective “inner genius” for the continued work of collaboration at Carrot Ranch. Tending dreams is akin to how we create from a deep urge.

Another important aspect of dream tending is its potential for group work among veterans and their families. I don’t think veterans need more treatment for mental health; I believe they need more empowerment to work with their PTSD and brain trauma. What better way to bring troubled veteran couples together but through tending dreams. The very tools of dreamers include creating safe space within and working with intolerable images. Already, Todd has been happily sharing his dreams with me.

Another aspect of dream tending is the cultivation of a connection to something bigger than oneself. Do you ever feel that as a writer? The vastness of the space within, the many ways we connect with humanity around the world through literary communities like Carrot Ranch, readers, and our physical communities, take us somewhere. We return with stories. Soldiers believe in something bigger than themselves even when they know they are a cog inside the wheel or a war machine. Stories like “Band of Brothers” show this bond in action.

I feel hopeful that Dream Tending will expand what thrills me about creative writing. For gales, baby news, and shaggy warmth, stay tuned!

October 17, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something shaggy. It can be carpet, a hair-do, or some sort of critter. How can something shaggy steer the story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 23, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

A Blade of Grass Collection

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

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

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

The Leaving by Joanne Fisher

Niamh held a blade of grass in her hand. Letting the wind take it, she watched it float away. She wished to leave upon the wind too.

“Standing in the grass watching the horizon again?” A voice behind her asked. Niamh turned to see Cara standing there.

“I’m leaving.” Niamh declared.

“But you’re a princess. You can’t leave.”

“I want to see the world, even where the humans are, not be trapped behind palace walls.”

“Can I go with you?” Cara asked.

“Yes, of course.” They set off into the woods. Cara wondered how far they’d get this time.


Parable of the Lawn by Kerry E.B. Black

Straight-spined, the blade of grass saluted the blazing sun. Of a height with its fellows, the grass together created a perfect lawn, lush, uninfested by weeds, American iconic, the envy of the neighborhood. The blades supported pedestrians with ease, the burden shared.

Change came when the gardener was replaced by a lawn service, manning an army of mowers, edgers, trimmers and aerators whose philosophy of ‘quick service’ differed from the old gardener’s ways.

Though the lawn retained its beauty, its roots suffered. Blades pulled away from one another, still lush, but not truly united. When trodden upon, blades crumpled.


Roots by Hugh W. Roberts

Technology overtook nature, and a blade of grass became a symbol of rebellion.

It sprouted in a crack between neon-lit sidewalks, a living relic of a long-forgotten past. Scientists marvelled at its resilience while authorities saw it threatening their synthetic world.

They dispatched the drones to eradicate the abnormality, but the blade fought back. Extending its roots into the digital grid, it sparked chaos.

Within days, cities crumbled, and nature reclaimed its dominion on Earth.

That lone blade of grass is me. I stand tall, a testament to the lasting power of life, rekindling hope in a dystopian age.


Amazing Grass by Duane L Herrmann

Slender, elegant, tough, resiliant, humble, common, essential; the blade of grass has grown far longer than humans have roamed. It is essential for life on Earth. Not flashy or ostentatious, but fresh each spring it delights the eye, in summer it sustains others, and in autumn after frost is streaked with colors that amaze. Lowly grass is magnificent in meadows waving under wind – a living sea of greens! In addition to sustaining life, grass harbors life – a multitude of forms flourish within its embrace. And, grass will claim waste space so there will be no barren land.


Is There Life on a Manicured Lawn? by Anne Goodwin

He stretched and grew and stretched some more, waving his tip at the sky. But when he’d almost reached his proudest, brightest, sharpest height, a rumbling monster sliced his top off.

“Get over it,” said the others. “You’ll grow back stronger. It’s not like you’ve been zapped with pesticides or yanked up by the roots.”

But, with every cut he felt weaker, paler. Now he dreaded growing tall. He dreamt of fields where each grass was named – meadow foxtail, fescue, Yorkshire fog – and interweaved with buttercup and clover. A wilderness where nature ruled and he could spill his seed.


I Weep by Bill Engleson

It was a mountain meadow
whence I last loved her,
dew-drop morning
long ago.
One blade of wild grass
was growing,
a lonely teardrop soon to pass,
I know.
Came to rest
alongside an old Arbutus,
arms falling to the ground.
Eyes weeping,
crickets creeping,
in the verdant dawn.
Our lips were praising
the soothing soil
as we followed the steep path down.
treacherous incline
O, love of mine
as she slipped into the sea to drown.
It was a mountain meadow
whence I last loved her.
dew-drop morning
come to pass.

And one lonely wild blade of grass.


Anomaly by Reena Saxena

It’s not unusual for Sara to feel this way – as lonely as a blade of grass in a well-manicured lawn.

She longed to be different, even if she was not worshipped, for belonging to an illustrious family. She envisions the arched eyebrows in her mind – the disapproving glance and pursed lips which will declare her to be a weed.

What happens to a weed after it is plucked and thrown out for being in the wrong place? Do they wither away or multiply?

It’s about finding the soil to suit your propensity. Anomalies prove the norm yet reveal alternatives.


A Beautiful Afternoon by Michael Fishman

It was a beautiful afternoon.

I woke to the sun’s gentle warmth. Rolling over I smoothed the blanket and propped up on my elbow. She was lying next to me, eyes closed, her brown hair fanned out in an auburn halo. The slow rise and fall of her chest comforted me. I reached over and plucked a blade of bluegrass and slowly traced her eyebrows, first right, then left. I drew a slow path down her nose to her lips. She drew a deep breath, stirred, and opened her eyes.

She looked at me. Into me.

She smiled.



Diamond Girl by D. Avery

“I don’t care if it’s still wet,” Hope cried. “The sun is out! There’s diamonds in the grass!”

“Wait up then,” her mother said, “I’m coming too.”

Pulling on her own rubber boots Hope’s mother followed her outside.

What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now forever taken from my sight!”*

“What, Mommy?”

“Hope! You’re kicking at the grass, scattering diamonds everywhere!”

“It’s just the leftover rain. It’s going to dry up anyway.”

But Hope slowed, finally stopped entirely and hunched down, focused on the sparkling spears. “They’re beautiful,Mommy, each and every blade of grass.”

* from Wordsworth’s “Splendour in the Grass”


Sharps, Flats, and Naturals by D. Avery

It was past noon when he spotted them, down by the beaver pond. He joined them, dropping to the grass and rolling about dramatically.

“I’ve fallen on my sward!” he cried.

“Your sword?” Hope asked.

“Sward. All these spears and blades of grass make swards. How’d you two come to swash up on this grassy shore?”

“Daddy, look, I wove a mat from cattail leaves. Mommy says cattails are the most amazing grass.”

“Huh.” He placed a blade of grass between his thumbs and blew, whistling loud and shrill.

Hope’s mom played a soft riposte from a cattail reed.


Blade of Grass by E.A. Colquitt

Flax was proud. After saving the holcus from grasping human hands, he was to be knighted at last.

The ceremony: he was given his own sword, not shoulder-tapped with another’s, by Mab. Then, all danced a roundel, and sang amidst the magic morel circle.

When alone, he drew his prize. Its blade flashed green in the firefly glow, revealing its origins: spellbindingly scythed from the plains of Oberon himself. These swords were known for the flexibility of their blades, their light weight…

He whispered to the weapon: ‘Grasses are hollow, so what have you found?’

‘Honour,’ his sword replied.


Stream of Conscience by Sue Spitulnik

A single blade of grass grows.
Have you ever watched a guinea pig eat a single blade of grass?
Their little mouth can move faster than you might imagine,
Then, they look for another single blade of grass.
My Dad loved guinea pigs.
He had one after another, all named Whistles.
When they heard the fridge door open, they’d whistle for food and expect it.
Whistles didn’t like that wide, heavy grass with its sharp edges.
We children used that to put between our two thumbs
and blow across to make it whistle.
It only took a single blade.


A Squawking Goose by Ann Edall-Robson

“Between your thumbs.”

“Like this?”

“Almost,” he said, “here, let me help you.”

“No! I can do it myself.”

He laughed at the spunk. Sitting on a rock in front of her, he picked another blade of grass, showing her how to position it between her five-year-old’s thumbs.

“Squeeze it, but not too tight and lock your fingers together.” He instructed, moving her thumbs against her lips. “Now blow hard.”

The noise sounded like a goose with a sore throat.

She danced with excitement before throwing her arms around her brother’s neck.

“I made the grass talk.”


Food for Thought by JulesPaige

blades of green yard lawn
kin to aquatic grasses
cooked rice in my bowl
has this wild grain been blessed
by the Inari Ōkami

Food travels from different parts of the world to be tasted and consumed by those with desires for something different, old or new. Recently I picked up a package of Thai Brown Rice (thin noodles, the package says; product of Thailand). Perhaps Mae Khwan Khao has blessed the rice in my bowl. Could this ‘giving’ goddess be a friend of (the Japanese god, ‘kami’) Inari Ōkami. Curiosity about a grass blade, brought me new knowledge.


Grass Tickles Your Toes by Dianne Borowski

Sammy lived with his Mother and brother in an apartment. There was a playground but the swings and slides were broken. There was no grass anywhere. Every day Sammy looked out his window and wondered if there was a place for him where grass grew. He wondered what grass felt like.
This summer Sammy was chosen to go to camp. The church paid his tuition. Pastor John drove him to the campgrounds. When they pulled into the drive Sammy’s eyes grew wide. There was grass everywhere. Sammy kicked his shoes off and began to run. The grass tickled his toes!


A Classmate’s Dare by Mario Milizia

They had a signal. Once Mark joined him, a short walk in the dark to the cemetery, then a quick picture would answer their classmate’s dare.

Jason put the blade of grass between his thumbs and blew his homemade whistle. A rustle of weeds, a quick hi, and off they went.

The shadows, cast by their flashlight, made the cemetery look creepy. Jason set the camera for a time delay.

As they posed, something jumped out from behind the tombstones. When Mark and Jason started running, they recognized two classmates’ voices laughing and heard them rolling on the ground.


Adventure Awaits by Melissa Lemay

Walking through the grass, I see wispy silk of conical spider webs painted with dew. I think about how monumental one blade of grass must look to the minuscule spiders that made them. It reminds me of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, when the Szalinski kids and their neighbors accidentally miniaturize themselves with their father’s experimental shrink ray in the attic. After being swept into a dustpan, dumped in the trash, and taken to the curb, four children travel through unexpected peril in an entirely new world—their overgrown lawn. A simple blade of grass can be an adventure.


Fairy Hang-out by Margaret G. Hanna

I searched everywhere and finally found her lying on the ground under the lilac tree. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Shhh, Mom. I’m watching,” she whispered.

“What? I don’t see anything.”

“Get down beside me. You’ll see.”

I lay down beside her. “I still see nothing.”

“There.” She pointed with her chin.

“That blade of grass?” Was she really staring at a blade of grass?

“Yes. Sometimes it moves and sometimes it doesn’t.”

“That’s just the breeze.”

“No, Mom. It moves whenever a fairy lands on it. Just watch. You’ll see.”

Housework could wait. Fairies were more important.


A Faery Warning by Colleen Chesebro

“Faeryn, stop! Don’t move,” whispered Luna.

The young witch stopped. “What’s wrong? What do you see, Luna.”

“It’s hungry grass planted by the faeries. Hilda taught us about this grass during our plant lessons. It’s a patch of cursed grass. Anyone who walks on hungry grass is doomed. They’ll experience everlasting and voracious hunger.”

“What should I do?”

“Walk backwards. Don’t step on a single blade of grass, or we’re both doomed.”

“Luna? I think I stepped in a mushroom ring.”

Faeryn turned. She watched Luna disappear inside a whirlwind vortex.

In the end, the fairies got their way.


One Blade of Grass Turns Yellow by Sadje

The ants were working in a frenzy, for just today the blade of grass near their hill had turned yellow. It meant that winter was near and time for gathering supplies for the long winter months was running out.

They weren’t the only ones worried about the scarcity of food. The chipmunks, the squirrels, and even the small birds were looking for food to tide them over the winter months but were coming up empty!

How were they to know that humans in their arrogance and ignorance had destroyed many food sources in their bid to build concrete jungles.


First Flight by Miriam Elen

Harry had been sitting at the top of the hill for most of the day. Studying the clear blue skies and the birds passing by, collecting sticks from here, taking them back there.

He’d even been engrossed by the critters moving inconspicuously around his hands. Paying attention to their surroundings; the softness of the ground, the whisper of the wind making the blade of grass nearest to him dance. Actually, that blade’s bright green colour reminded him of Jax’s eyes and caused a surprising pang in his heart. Jax, his brave little dragon. Off on his first independent flight.


Mice and Fairytales by Nicole Horlings

Sometimes a mouse just wants to pretend that imaginary worlds are real. Why ever shouldn’t she enjoy the wonder of a good fairytale, or seek to recreate one? Perhaps she’ll collect some hair trimmings from the salon to make a wavy wig to enact the roll of the princess or turn a sturdy blade of grass into a sword and become the knight. She may ask the turtles to pull a carriage for her, or request to put a saddle on a snail. With wishful thinking and practical intension her fantasy can become, at least in part, a reality.


In Heaven You Can Run Again by Gena Daman

The grass feels soft, slightly dewy, against your bare feet. You spread your toes wide and marvel at the individual blades poking through. Each blade is a bright chartreuse, tapering to a delicate point, gently suggesting a direction.

Granny takes off her gardening gloves, hugs you, humming softly. Gently she pushes your hair out of your face and kisses your cheek. Poppy is at her side looking proud.

They step back to admire how lovely you are. You smile your beautiful smile. Then Poppy takes your hand, boyishly grinning.

“Let’s run. It’s a marvelous feeling.” And off you go.


Growing Dirt by Charli Mills

Not a single blade of grass grew in the yard, but Mable bought the house. It was all she could afford after Nate’s mine accident. Winter was rough. She’d canned enough of her garden harvest to survive. How could she live off the gray grit from smelters? Come spring, Mabel began to dig out the stamp sands from her lifeless yard. She bartered for topsoil and cleaned chicken coops for a few dollars and all the poop she could haul. If she were to grow her precious seeds, first, she had to grow dirt. Her garden outlasted the mines.


The Inherent Dangers In Open Poeming by Geoff Le Pard

Dweeb the Insufferable is the principle reason the Little Tittweaking Poetry Slam is on a hiatus. In its last iteration, the committee challenged everyone to reimagine the poetry form. Stan Tzar couldn’t move beyond a single verse, Pen Tamiter returned to her alter ego – I Am Bic – to little acclaim, but the competition collapsed with Dweeb’s performance, during which he imagined visiting every field in Little Tittweaking, seeking the perfect blade of grass while utilising every poetry form. Everyone tried silencing Dweeb but finally accepted that while this Paean ‘In the Grass’ continued there could be no more Slams.


Blade of Grass by Inga Mary

There is a young handsome man coming from a rich and well-to-do family. He is friendly with a man of same age, who processed all the bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, etc….which the rich man is ignorant of. As the days passed, the rich young fellow started to get into some bad habits. He is unaware, that he is spoiling himself little by little. One day his parents and relatives realised that he is not of himself due to the bad relationship of a friend, which is like a blade of grass. Little poison is enough to spoil.


Rabbit Food by Norah Colvin

Everything was just so. She’d never felt worthy. This was a chance to prove herself. The fresh flower centrepiece belied her butterflies.
“Mum, Dad, welcome!” She smiled. They pushed into the room.
“I don’t eat rabbit food,” said her father, as Jacinda passed him the salad of mixed leaves she’d grown on her balcony.
“I grew it myself.”
“You should know by now your father never eats greens.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? Are you trying to poison me?”
“Why would I?”
“At least I could whistle with a blade of grass.”
Jacinda was cut as from a blade of grass.


Just a Blade of Grass by Sweeter Than Nothing

She would have been lost forever, had it not been for a single blade of grass. 

Kate was a spectacular gardener, from the day she first toddled into the garden aged 2, her thumbs had been thoroughly green. 

By 7, she had cultivated her very own jungle, plants and trees from all over the world exploded from the earth. 

At 9, she was sowing and singing, happy as can be when a shadow loomed behind her. 

She would have been lost forever, had it not been for a particular species of grass spotted on the bottom of a boot.


Mower by Simon

What you doing?
Afraid? These blade of grass can cut you?
What makes you think that?
Look at you, soft feet, soft hands (Chuckling at his soft physique)
No. By the way (Walking to him) you should be afraid.
For these grass?
No, you see the marks at the bottom?
Yep. (Took out Cigarette)
You read news?
Yep (lit it, ashes fall on to his lawn)
Found? Who got murdered in our street?
Nope, it’s flash news, Gore death!
I still hear her screaming, it wasn’t easy crushing with a Mower.
(trembling) Why did you kill?
She smoked.


Toes of Summer by Meredith Caine

My memories from childhood stay inside me. Carefree days of a lazy summer every year. Waking up late to the purring of the mower just outside my window. The smell of fresh cut grass wafting in the air would make my soul feel impish. It would push me outdoors barefoot walking through it. My feet loved to feel the cold wet lushness. And no matter what, it happened, without fail there would always be, a time when I would have to bend over to pull out that one single blade of green grass from right in between my toes.


The Single Blade by Liz Husebye Hartmann

…Bows and trembles still,

But wind punishes, more likely to cut

Than caress and quicken the hopeful green of early months.

Pulsing chlorophyll sparking, breathing deep

The sinewy length of sultry Midsommer.

Samhain-sharp sun leaches its brittle length to liminal pale.

It crosses over, anon.

Soon silent white death shall cover all,

But waken it screaming in mid-winter thaw,

To die again and again, die deeper and harder.

Or simply spread a counterpane, softening nightmares,

To sweeten collective memories of family, dancing in a summer breeze?

As trees above shower color below, the single blade lies down and dreams.


Contemplatin by D. Avery

“Hey, Pal. I see yer contemplatin a blade a grass.”

“It ain’t somethin folks tend ta do, Kid. We tend ta see grass plurally. Like sand.”

“Somethin like trees an forests? A whole made up a multitudinous individual parts?”

“Somethin like. Reckon turf’s a interweavin a grass like the weekly collections is wove t’gether from individual stories. It’s powerful stuff, Kid.”

“Reckon so, Pal. An strong resilient turf comes from a variety of grasses growin t’gether.”

“Yep, growin t’gether. But ever now an agin it’s good ta focus on jist one blade.”


“Cuz each one’s a miraculous creation.”


Contemplatin Too by D. Avery

“Pal, we got a union? Shouldn’t fictional characters be strikin with the writers and actors out in Hollywood?”

“Thinkin we should strike up the band fer ‘em, Kid. They’re takin a stand ‘gainst creativity bein exploited by so-called Artificial Intelligence. It’s beyond AI replacin human creatives— it’s also bout AI manipulatin folks’ art an images, even likenesses. Ferever!

“Artificial turf ’s green; blankets the ground; might even feel good unnerfoot. But it don’t feed the cattle. It don’t photosynthesize. It don’t decompose an feed the soil.”

“It ain’t a miraculous creation.”

“Thet’s right Kid, not one blade of it.”


Tuft Negotiatin by D. Avery

“Aw, shift, Shorty. Kid’s doin it agin. Takin a idea an runnin amuck with it, as Kid is wont to do.”

“Must be why Kid’s marchin an shoutin bout wants.”

“What do we want?! Carrots! When do we want ‘em?!”

“Excuse me, Kid? Anyone can get any amount of carrots here at any time.”

“Really? Oh… Well, what should I negotiate for? I know! One more word!

“One hundred words! 99’s absurd!”

“Do you really want another word, Kid? Like carrots, 99 words are for all, no more, no less. It is fair.”

“Kin go where the prompt leads?”


Tipping Points by D. Avery


“But did ya see that, Shorty? Coulda ended this bit up there with yer ‘Yes’ if we were allowed jist one more word.”

“Or coulda used a contraction.”

“Contraction? Hey! It’s jist now occurrin ta me— I been workin without a contract!”

“Cuts both ways, Kid. Ya also didn’t refer ta a blade a grass in that bit.”

“Well, that bit followed the bits afore it. Aw, shucks, Shorty, I am thinkin bout the prompt. Got me feelin I’m jist one little blade confrontin big ol mowin machines.”

“Look aroun, Kid. All these blades standin with ya.”



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

Blankets Collection

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

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

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

Get Your Furnace Checked by Liz Husebye Hartmann

(A VERY serious acrostic!)

Bundled in yards of heavy cloth and batting, the only signs of life are a red nose and beady eye.
Lamplight softens the tragic scene, but the furnace is out.
Add to that, a window broke, and rain and bitter night pulse inward.
Now flat, now horizontal, rain turns sleet to snow, and feeble attempts to block the window with cardboard failed miserably.
Kettle calls a shrill alarm, and quilt unrolls to free its occupants, cat first, then human.
Even so, a thermos of tea won’t see us through to daylight.
This is surely our final moment alive: Farewell!


Missing Her Laugh by Mario Milizia

I brought an old checked-comforter downstairs to drop off at a donation center. I went to move it later and it was gone.

I started looking around when I heard the girls laughing in the family room.

I watched as Emma and her friend Sarah, who was sleeping over, snuggled under the blanket, heads propped against pillows, watching television.

I remember when my younger sister and I did the same. Or when we tried to hide from Mom and Dad, under the blanket, but giggled too loud.

We haven’t talked for years. I miss that.

Is it too late?


Chronic Condition by Anne Goodwin

It lurks like an angry cloud, muting all colours, frosting the air. Life dragging on beneath it, she fails to notice that it blocks the sun.

Some days it’s a comfort blanket, a pardon, like a parental note excusing her from games. She cuddles up to its duvet softness and opens her book.

Sometimes she shrinks it to a single thread, blocks it from her mind. Forgets her pills, appointments, diet, not caring if she’ll crash.

Blanket or blank it? Neither works. Somewhere, there’s a garden lush with flowers and weeds. She’ll find it eventually. In her own way.


In Passing by Charli Mills

A homeless man camps in the woods along my commute. He has no tent. Piles of stuffed garbage bags form an unsightly plasticized nest. What does he keep bagged? Where he found two wagons – the sort gardeners use – I can only wonder. Throughout summer, he’s moved his wagon train of bags weekly, keeping proximity to the tourist toilets. The leaves and temperature begin to drop. Soon, state workers will close the wayside. I’m so relieved knowing winter will remove his open camp from my view that I don’t stop to ask if he has the comfort of a blanket.


The Legacy by Dianne Borowski

Her hands ached from arthritis but she continued to weave the multicolored blanket. She wanted to capture the land she so lovingly cared for over the last forty years.

The child would be called Beatrice. She would live here amid the beauty and solitude of this wondrous place during her formative years. She knew she would not live to speak with her only grandchild about the land and all its creatures so she decided to create a blanket which would speak for her when she no longer could speak. This would be her gift, her legacy for generations to come.


Security Blanket by Kerry E. B. Black

Libby cocooned in her Blankie, snuggled beside her mother as they watched the Charlie Brown Halloween Special. She especially enjoyed Linus who loved his blanket as much as Libby loved her own. She wondered if Linus’s blue blanket had wrapped him when he was a baby, like her blanket had done. She imagined he’d lost a family member, too, and found comfort within the fabric folds. When so ensconced, the blanket’s hug comforted and protected almost as well as Mom, but unlike Mom, Blankie never left her alone, never needed to work to earn money since its Daddy left.


Metamorphoses (Part I) by D. Avery

Hope sat on the porch cloaked in her blanket, watching the cosmos bend as the rain hammered down. Sighing, she went inside. After eating her breakfast in the tent she’d pitched, she removed her draped blanket from the chair backs and wrapped it close around her.

“You going to stay in that blanket all day, Hope?”

“I’m a caterpillar.” Hope wriggled around the kitchen. Finally, she curled up, still. “I’m a chrysalis.”

Her daddy put his farm magazine down, her mother turned away from her cooking, and together they watched as the butterfly emerged, the blanket cocoon now beautiful wings.


Metamorphoses (Part II) by D. Avery

The butterfly flexed its wings carefully before flitting around searching for nectar.

After feeding on switchel the butterfly metamorphosed once again, into a little girl. Hope sat on her folded blanket with her crayons and tablet, drawing flowers beaming under sunny skies.

“It’s been raining forever,” she said.

“Seems so, Hope. Keep making your pictures, remind us what the sun looked like.”

As she searched for a lavender crayon it happened.

They stepped out onto the porch. The western sky was the color of cosmos.

Hope lay on her petalled blanket, a sleepy bee buzzing with plans for tomorrow.


A Cloud of Butterflies by Norah Colvin

“I’m gunna dig all the way through the world and come out in China,” said Nathan.
“I’m going to the moon,” said Mandy.
“You can’t get to the moon this way.”
“Can too!”
“The moon’s in space, silly.”
Nathan sighed. “Let’s just dig.”
“It’s really deep,” said Mandy in a little while. “We can stand in it now.”
“Yeah!” said Nathan. He continued digging. “I hope it doesn’t rain. Tell that cloud to go away.”
Mandy shook her fist. “Go away cloud!” Then she said, “It’s not a cloud. It’s butterflies!”
“Wow!” said Nathan. “A cloud of butterflies!”


The Cat Blanket by Judy Dykstra-Brown

The kitties were all girlcatting it around outside when I lay down on the sofa, but when I woke up after a 3-hour unplanned nap, they were covering about all of me. I had been listening to a book on my Kindle when I fell asleep, but I suddenly realized it had a camera on it, so then and there, I learned how to use my Kindle to take these photos and how to send them to my computer, all while lying under a cozy cat blanket! I love it that I’m just the bottom cat in the pile.


In Hiding by Joanne Fisher

“You’ve got to get out of bed eventually. You can’t hide under those blankets for ever.” Sylvia told her flatmate.

“I’m never leaving this bed ever again.” Tori replied defiantly.

“Everyone gets dumped. I know you really loved her, but you’ll get over it, I promise.” Sylvia stated.

“The world is a hurtful place. It’s better to hide from it.”

Yes the world can be hurtful.” Sylvia agreed. “But we all have to face it eventually.” Sylvia knew Tori would eventually resurface when she needed to talk. Until then, Sylvia thought it would be best to leave her be.


Forlorn by Michael Fishman

I’m lying in the closet now. It’s dark. I’m not uncomfortable so don’t feel sad. I’m ok. I guess.

I miss Bobby, he was my friend. He’d take me everywhere, hold me and tell me everything. Then one night Mommy came to check on us and found me atop the dresser and Bobby alone. She said, “Are you ok, sweetie?”


“Don’t you want your cuddle blanket, baby?”

“Mommy! I’m not a baby anymore.”

It was that fast.

Bobby has new friends now. I hear them play sometimes and I’m happy for him. But I really do miss him.


Quilts of Valor Presented (Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

Quilts of Valor Presented by Sue Spitulnik

During the Irish dance practice, held each Saturday at the No Thanks, that Tessa had asked the band members to stay half an hour later; two ladies came in the back door with five full shopping bags. Family members of the band also arrived, along with the local newspaper photographer.
When the dancers were finished, the two ladies from the Quilts of Valor organization presented a red, white, and blue quilt to each band member in honor of their service. Many individual, family, and group photos were taken after escaping tears were swiped from the men’s eyes, including Mac’s.


Quilts of Valor Presented (Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa had helped make the quilts in the local Quilts of Valor sewing group. She was proud of her work and the people who gave their time to make them. During the presentation, she heard a friend call the quilt a blanket. She moved toward the person and said, “Actually, it’s a quilt.”
“What’s the difference?”
“It has three layers, a top, a filler, and a backing, which are then covered with patterned stitching to hold the three layers together. A blanket only has one layer. But they accomplish the same thing, keeping one warm and cozy when used.”


The Cat Blanket by Judy Dykstra-Brown

The kitties were all girlcatting it around outside when I lay down on the sofa, but when I woke up after a 3-hour unplanned nap, they were covering about all of me. I had been listening to a book on my Kindle when I fell asleep, but I suddenly realized it had a camera on it, so then and there, I learned how to use my Kindle to take these photos and how to send them to my computer, all while lying under a cozy cat blanket! I love it that I’m just the bottom cat in the pile.


My Grandmother’s Quilt by Hugh W. Roberts

A chilling breeze whispered through the creaking timbers as night descended upon the cabin I found myself in.

Shivering, I reached for my grandmother’s old quilt draped across the armchair. As the tattered blanket settled around me, it seemed to come alive. Shadows danced on its faded patchwork, taking sinister forms.

Goosebumps prickled my skin as I watched in horror. Then, a spectral hand emerged, beckoning me into its ghostly embrace.

My screams echoed through the cabin, but the blanket absorbed them.

From that night, the cabin was empty, except for the eerie blanket, waiting for its next victim.


The Missing Piece by D. Avery

She and her bankie— inseparable. Even as an adult (hard to think of one’s child as an adult!) she slept with her bankie. As a child she took it everywhere. In first grade, she acquiesced and let us cut a square from bankie that she could carry more discreetly. In high school mini-bankie was in her backpack, was kneaded during exams.
Now I carry a square from her bankie. It doesn’t bring me comfort, only memories. Her mini-bankie lingers in a plastic evidence bag. The remains of her big bankie are tucked in with her in that awful coffin.


Blankets Cold and Warm by Sweeter Than Nothing

Shuddering breath plumed in the chilly air from a crouched figure in a snow blanketed forest. Adrenaline kept her warm, even as the cold bit at her fingers. Sarah held her breath as she heard a crunch in the snow.


She eased from her hiding place- SPLAT! A snowball hit her hard.

“Ugh, you’re so dead, I never wanted to play anyway.” Sarah snapped at her sniggering boyfriend.

“I’m sorry, come snuggle with me, I’ll warm you back up again.” he said suggestively, gesturing to the firelit cabin behind them, pulling a warm plaid blanket from the porch.


The Beginning Blanket by Melissa

Before being married I dug deep into my creativity bank to craft a favorite blanket that has remained a constant source of comfort throughout the years. I pieced it together using a variety of scrap fabrics that I loved. This project was a labor of love, and one that I am particularly fond of. It has accompanied me through life’s highs and lows, reminding me of the importance of simplicity and the value of handmade items. Even after all these years, I still treasure this blanket, knowing that it represents both my youth and the beginning of my marriage.


Picnic Blanket by Di aka Pensitivity101

Family picnics were always popular, be it a get together for someone’s birthday or just an excuse to get out into the fresh air to pick wild fruit for Dad’s wine and have a picnic.

It wasn’t just the family that had fun though, especially playing scrabble with wrapped sweets thrown for the kids to catch.

At the end, the blanket was a game.

The kids loved being tossed in it.

But then, so did the dog.

He would happily climb aboard when everyone was finished and wait patiently for two people to grab the corners and toss him.


Where’s My Blankie by Sadje

My youngest daughter loved her blanket. She would carry it with her everywhere! This little girl is very much like her. She would be sucking her thumb and holding her blankie, ready to go to sleepy land.

When she turned two, she would take the blanket with her everywhere, even when we went out. The favorite blanket was getting frayed at the edges and in summer, it was torture even seeing her hold the blanket.

One day, the blanket disappeared. There were tears and sleepless nights. But finally, she got used to being without it! Phew!


Blanket Delight by Duane L Herrmann

I loved that blanket. It was bright yellow with a strip of pink around the edge. It was soft and fuzzy but thin and light as air. There was a clothes line above my bed in the attic room. Standing on my bed I managed to push the blanket over the closeline and make a tent over my bed. The tent kept the wasps from walking on my face at nights. I could sleep easier. I also used the blanket to make a pretend wall to play house with my little sister. My mother gave that delightful blanket away.


Miss You by Simon

The nights are still cold.
You are not here to keep me warm.
Missing talking with you at bed.
Your irreplaceable evening snacks.
Days I pretended to study; you knew it.
The days you cried and sick; I regret I was not there for you.
Your advice every evening to not to wear your dress.
The scar I gave you all running away.
I should not come back as a girl.
I was expecting acceptance, not hatred.
But thanks for the blanket, at least I have this.
The memories it triggers me,
Is all that I left. Miss you!


Norah’s Stars by Chel Owens

“See these stars, Norah? They are our friends of long ago, watching over us and giving us light.” Grandmother stroked her only grandchild’s soft hair as they lay, together. The night was still, with only crickets to hear their talk.

Norah rocked them with her small foot. The antique chair creaked.

“No, Gamma.”

Grandmother laughed. “No? Why not?” She could almost see Norah’s face scrunch up with the effort to explain.

“No, not fends. Ganket.”


The soft head shifted in a nod. “Yes. Ganket.”

They continued to rock in silence, watching the blanket of friends shimmer above them.


Love Coverlets by JulesPaige

Years ago I was given a gift certificate for a goat yarn store, for cat sitting. I used it to buy the wool odds and ends of blues, greens and some the color of ginger sky. When I found out that my niece was pregnant with twins – I knew what I was going to use the yarn for. I crocheted two toddler blankets. After all, babies outgrow baby stuff too quickly. I made the blankets similar yet slightly different. One is edged in the ‘reds’ and the other in the ‘blues’. Eventually they will be used and perhaps loved?


Security Blanket by writerravenclaw

Alessandra loved her mum’s blanket. Patches of a past she couldn’t forget. Each colourful addition was like a happy memory in time. There was a red and white check, which resided on her own mama’s tablecloth. An old dress, she wore when she performed at school, all their baby blankets, and her dad’s red parachute beret were only part of its elaborate history.

It gave her comfort when she couldn’t sleep at night; chemotherapy taking its toll in the silent recesses of her thoughts. It was here she was loved and kept safe from the dangers lurking in nightmares.


Narcissist by Reena Saxena

She appears to be in love with her words as she utters them. Maybe, it’s the glorious images those words conjure in her mind – her pristine superiority, pictures of herself and her loved ones ruling the world with an opinionated hand.

It’s no joke, but a narcissist mind at work. I’m a criminal because I see through the hollowness of her embellished language. It’s not the way the world sees her, but why should she care?

She thinks I envy her, and rightly so – for being cocooned in a blanket of imagination, never looking at life in the eye.


Safe And Sound by Geoff Le Pard

When Bea Ten-Up, the Dutch sleep guru was found strangled by her own sheets in Little Tittweaking, there was only one conclusion: it confirmed another outbreak of valence violence. Residents flocked to Bea Careful’s Safe Bedding emporia, clearing the shelves of: spring-loaded security blankets that expelled all potential attackers; quick-release sheets for claustrophobic sleepers that never self-tucked; and genetically modified pillows that self-perforated if ever inclined to suffocate their owner. The only disappointment was the duck down duvet, with surveys revealing users’ disappointment that, while warm and comforting, when in defender mode, its main safety feature required continual squatting.


Clandestine by ladyleemanilla

It was a clandestine affair and they agreed to meet on one of the private reserves for wildlife habitat. There was an unused shed which they could spend an afternoon of passion. They entered the shed but there was an unnerving atmosphere to it. It was dark and humid. She was frightened and hesitated to enter. Then, they stepped on something. She shouted. It was a body wrapped in a blanket. Someone must have left it there. They called the police and told them about the body. Since this meeting was to be furtive, they made their separate ways.


Faces of A Blanket by Meredith Caine

If you give a homeless man a blanket, he will cherish it forever. A baby blanket gift for the soul that is coming, a handmade treasure just for swaddling. A soft touch of color, folded neatly over the chair, a family heirloom that tells its own story. A blanket can bring comfort to all who will accept it, don’t hog it in bed or the spouse might not like you. A blanket is meant for all those big and those small, it shares of its warmth selflessly with all. Cut apart it can make more for generations to adore.


The Deer Man by Bill Engleson

I don’t recognize the truck as it heads down my driveway.
I follow.
There’s plenty of room for both of us to park.
The other driver emerges.
I recognize him immediately.
The Deer Man.
And then I see it.
A small deer.
Carrion flies swirling.
We, my partner, and I watch as he flattens out a plastic blanket in the back of his truck.
He scrutinizes the corpse, announces, “Maybe a year old.”
He picks it up in his bare octogenarian hands, lowers the carcass gently onto the blanket.
“Food for eagles,” he says, nods goodbye, and drives away.


Cold Comfort (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid! Where’s my beddin? Hey! Is thet a pig in a blanket?”

“Fall’s in the air, Pal. Curly’s chilly. Was gonna jist borrow a blanket, then figgered, if ya’d give a blanket, ya’d give a sheet.”

“I didn’t give nuthin! Jeez, Kid!”

“Chillax, Pal, it’s temporary. Got a down comforter on order fer Curly. An a wool coat.”

“Hope it don’t cause ya any anxiety like thet faux fur coat ya had.”

“No, I feel good about wool. The original fleece!”

“Well ya ain’t fleecin me outta my beddin, Kid. We’re switchin bunks.”

“That’s cold, Pal.”

“Snuggle yer hoglet.”


Cold Comfort (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal? Ever’thin okay here in the bunkhouse? Might a heard some hollerin.”

“Jist had a little trouble settlin in fer the night, Shorty. All set now.”

“What’s that bundle, Pal? Looks like sausage links.”

“Thet’d be Kid an Curly. Seem ta be havin some troubles sharin thet beddin. Started out side by side, then one’d roll one way, one the other, each grippin the blankets. I’d say Curly’s winnin. Kid’s got turned aroun, s’gittin squeezed out the other end like toothpaste.”

“Oooh, hey, Shorty. Oof. Ya know, I’m prompted ta ask ya somethin.”

“What’s that?”

“Got a extra blanket?”


Cold Comfort (Part III) by D. Avery

“How’d ya sleep, Kid?”

“Fine, once Shorty brought extra blankets. Dang Curly’s a bed hog. Pal, why’s ever’one linin up outside?”

“Reckon they’re here fer pig-in-a-blanket, Kid. They’re hungry.”

“What? They’re gonna eat Curly?”

“Naw, we’ll set em straight. It’s jist thet pig-in-a-blanket is a tasty treat fer folks.”

“What is it, zactly?”

“D’pens where yer from, Kid. Kin be anythin from bacon wrapped oysters or sausage ta lil hotdogs wrapped in pastry.”

“Frankly, Pal, Curly an me’re ‘gainst sech foods.”

“Well, folks’s hungry Kid. Better fix em somethin.”

“Pancakes, wrapped aroun maple roasted carrots. Real comfort food!”



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

October 10: Story Challenge in 99-words

My son is having a “hot girl summer,” according to his wife who is nearly full-term in her pregnancy with our family’s first baby. Their first child. Our first grandchild. My two daughters’ first blood-related niece/nephew. We don’t know Boo’s gender, yet. It doesn’t matter. We have a child to welcome and raise. We are part of a village.

And Boo’s daddy is on top of his running game.

According to musician, Megan Three Stallion, who wrote a song called Hot Girl Summer, the phrase means embracing one’s confidence and joy. In a 2019 interview with Root, she said, “It’s just basically about women – and men – just being unapologetically them …”

My son is an unapologetic cross-country runner. He loves to run. Although he danced classical ballet, modern, and swing throughout his childhood and teen years, he found a community among runners. It wasn’t a community I fully understood, not being a runner myself. I wasn’t a dancer, either, but I could participate backstage or in the audience. Running families run. His wife grew up in one of those families and they hope for their child to, as well. I better understand, having conversations with her about childhood memories of meets like the S’More Fun Trail Run.

Held at Mirror Lake State Park in Wisconsin, the run features hills, sandstone bluffs, and more hills. My son was excited for the race, as I was to get to watch him. Though he had an incredible college career in cross country, I got to see little of it after relocating to North Idaho. He met his wife and her family during his freshman year of college. She moved for two years after graduation for her undergrad degree but returned to go to grad school with my son. The relationship grew from there to this moment, three weeks before their first child is due. And I saw what was so alluring to my son about this activity — the level of family involvement.

It’s not unlike ranching or farming. When Todd and I moved away from the landscape of our Western heritage, we also left a family community. For me, it was necessary because I broke cycles. For Todd, it was part of his journey. He used to tell me he was a lone wolf or the family black sheep. But he always had his family ready to reconnect. I was always looking forward, expecting to meet up with a new order of family. And I have. My grown children have all connected me to strong roots, values, and traditions.

With wonder, I saw the toddlers differently. Would I return to this fun run four years from now? Would I have a Mini Marshmallow to cheer? On this day, I cheer my son on the last race of his hot girl summer. He’s confident. Yet he told me earlier right before his race lined up that even if he confused the trail markers and had a bad race, he’d finish happy. He’s getting to do what he loves, surrounded by family he loves, running on a perfect autumn day, and expecting a baby in weeks. To witness someone in full gratitude and appreciation for where they are at this moment reminds me that we can pick a day and whisper, “Today’s a great day.”

But it definitely was my son’s hot girl summer. He smoked the race, crossing the finish line nearly three minutes before second place. The beautiful wife, two mothers, and almost a baby greeted him. We ate s’mores by a campfire. And he looked handsome and fit as he took to the podium to accept a trophy comprised of a wood round mounted with a resin flaming marshmallow. We all felt the squishy movement of imagining our future Mini Marshmallow. Later that day, my son said he imagined the moment his child beat his record.

For my part, I cooked to fill the freezer while I stayed in Wisconsin. My DIL washed newborn clothes and together we sat in the nursery and folded. The chore rewarded me; I got to touch each little onesie, bunting, and sock my grandbaby will wear. My son drilled and hammered to make the nursery safe. He secured the dresser and changing station to the wall. I got a first-hand look at their systems. These soon-to-be-parents are organized and yet allow life to flow, too. Like running.

Wheels carried me home to the Keweenaw; five and a half hours for pondering, singing to the playlists, listening to podcasts, and writing stories in my imagination. For my hag training, I’ve been blessing the bones of road kill as I travel. It’s a soothing ritual for acknowledging our kin and their trauma. I make elaborate hand gestures not because of any belief but for how good the crackling and stretching of joints feels, after all, becoming a hag means finding joy where possible. May your bones find their way back to Mother Earth. Your trauma is over. Your breath is free. I imagine a Hodag riding shotgun with me. As a fiction writer, at least I’m never alone.

Note: as of October 10, the Art Walk videos are loading to YouTube but a policy only allows me to post fewer than I have. I was hoping to announce they were up but alas, I have to wait until later tomorrow to finish.

October 10, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about confidence. Is a character confident or struggling? Why? Is confidence cultural, compelling, or conflicting? What is the value of confidence? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 16, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

September 26: Story Challenge in 99-words

A blade of grass grows from one of two hanging baskets in my front yard. In years past, I’ve grown petunias or moss roses in those baskets. This year, well, I hung the baskets.

Another transition is upon us as the earth spins and the weather shifts. In my small bubble of the world, I can enjoy a pristine blade of grass that grew to shine as the featured plant in a flower basket.

For centuries, likely for thousands of years, humans have pondered blades of grass and recreated their image in our depths. From Wadsworth to Whitman, the human soul becomes the one thing growing in my flower basket.

How amazing is that? How amazing, a blade of grass.

Said a Blade of Grass

Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again—and she was a blade of grass. And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, “O these autumn leaves! They make such noise!

Kahlil Gibran

Another poet goes deeper and portrays the interconnectedness between nature and art. Brian Patten compares a poem to a blade of grass (you can read the poem in the Blue Ridge Journal).

How long have humans been living and we still can write something meaningful through nature images? And we continue to feel so compelled; we long to create as much as we need to communicate. In the reverse, it also improves our sense of well-being when we go outside or view art.

This coming Saturday, September 30 the Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk is set to invite yoopers outside to walk a path through an art show that features 20 local paintings (by TOJ) paired with 20 stories by writer from Carrot Ranch. The full experience includes art activities to encourage people to paint and craft with words. This is the fun we can have when we collaborate with artists and audiences. A sense of play can grow our craft, too.

Consider Gibran’s “Said a Blade of Grass.” What can you learn about your own writing by imitating his? In my first college-level creative writing class, Dr. Stottlemeyer had us students write an imitation of a passage by Hemingway. The lesson stuck with me for three reasons. First, I learned how Hemmingway’s strategy to “write tight” made his stories feel punchy. I appreciated how the author spread the flesh thin on the solid bones of story. Second, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing tight. I liked the feel of it; a kidskin glove to my dominant writing hand.

The third reason the imitation activity made a lasting impression on me distills to one word — play. The assignment reminded me of Mad Libs, the game you play with a group of people replacing sentence components for hilarious results when read with the new words. Word games that instill a sense of play can be our best teachers.

If technology and time cooperate this weekend, I plan to launch a Virtual Art Walk on September 30. It’s meant to invoke play and the encouragement to get outside and connect our art to nature. To feel the inspiration of breeze in our hair, the whispers of a story from moving water, and the impulse to capture something beautiful, tragic, or both in a sunset. While I can’t supply you with paints and brushes or colored pens, I will include DIY art activities with suggestions for alternatives. Look for the post on September 30 or October 1.

Meanwhile, go play with a blade of grass!

September 26, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a blade of grass. What can you compare it to? Or in contrast? Is it a character prop or a story linchpin? Go poetic, go any genre or tone. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 7, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Insect Nation Collection

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

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

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

Transformative Creatures by D. Avery

I need to find some inspiration
for this prompt of Insect Nation
I admire what some older writers did
using insects in stories for kids
But I lack their imagination.

Now I’m running out of time
guess I’ll fall back on simple rhyme
I’m no Collodi, Selden, or Dahl*
and my unfeathered hat is off to them all
with their crickets and grasshoppers so sublime.

Bold little creatures so humble and wise
from small shoulders they watch and advise
Personifications, perhaps, these storied side-kick teachers
But these insect people, tenacious achievers
they creep and they crawl and eventually fly

*authors of Pinocchio, Cricket In Times Square, James and the Giant Peach


A Nation or Symphony by Melissa Lemay

Cicadas lithely circle branches, their clicking sounds tiny metronomes, while crickets’ whistling chirrups fill the air and cryptic katydids, rasping, sing, one symphonic nation. Turning leaves rustle, influenced by secret winds, and stars speckle the sky, the inverse of freckled porcelain skin, frequented by mosquitos’ starving needle mouths. The striped bumbles and honeybees have gone away for the night to sleep, since there isn’t any light for them to collect their pollen and nectar. Brown marmorated stink bugs blend with tree bark, and grasshoppers’ crackling wings begin settling in, as red and black spotted lanternflies gather around silhouettes.


Bob the Bee by Margaret G. Hanna

She put down her crayons, grabbed the paper and ran into the kitchen.

“Mommy, a picture for you.”

Mommy sat down, hoisted her 5-year-old daughter onto her lap, and placed the paper on the table.

“Such a pretty picture of my flower garden. Look at that big bumble bee. I thought you were afraid of bees.”

“That’s Bob. He’s nice. He doesn’t bite like other bees.”

“Who is this?”

“That’s Susie. She’s a spider. See, that’s her web. She’s Bob’s bestest friend. That’s why he’s smiling.”

“You know what I’m going to do? Frame your drawing. It’s that good.”


🕷️ Insect Nation 🕷️ by Colleen Chesebro

“Welcome to 🕷️Insect Nation🕷️ a weekly show about all the creepy crawlies used in witchcraft. I’m your host, Morticia Widow-Maker. This week’s program is all about spider magic.”

“In folk magic, a spider eaten every morning will bestow great strength and power… if you can choke them down!”

“Did you know that spider legs make your potions stronger? Spider web silk rubbed on your skin will make your wrinkles disappear.”

“So, there you have it! Spiders are good for the craft. Just watch out for wolf spiders. They will make you sneeze!”

Morticia Widow-maker signing off. Until next time.


Survival of the Fittest by Dianne Borowski

The colony was under attack! Messages bounced from one antenna to another..

The enemy was fast approaching the colony of tiny creatures whose only purpose was to
ensure the survival of the species. It would eventually be a fight to the death for many of
the workers.

The phorid flies are on the move. Worker’s, especially foragers, are alerted and begin to
move toward the safety of the nest. When cornered the worker’s best option is to use the C position,
curling into a ball to protect its head from the fly’s deadly sting. The insect world, a microcosm of our
world. Amazing!


Mealtime Chit-Chat by Norah Colvin

“What have we got?” Finally, the stranger, now identified as Paul, asked a question.

“The usual for one of these shindigs,” said Josie. “Aunt Agnes’s lasagne, Clara’s meatballs, Priscilla’s chicken fricassee and Joe’s sliced meats.”

“And for dessert, there’s Marie’s apple pie and Josh’s lumpy custard. Looks like Great-Aunt Rose has added berries to her strawberry jelly,” said Josie, taking a scoop.

“Blaaah!” Josie spat the jelly. “That’s not a berry!”

“It’s just a fly.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Flies don’t hurt. Extra protein.”

“Then you have it,” said Josie, shoving the plate into him and storming off.


Insects: Busy Bodies by Sadje

Insects come in different sizes and colors! They are our co-inhibitors on this planet. Their number far exceeds that of all the animal species combined. And so is their importance!

Where would we be without our pollinators, the bees, the flies, the butterflies, the dragonflies, and even the mosquitoes? All working without us even helping them to make sure plants and crops grow, there are flowers for us to admire and vegetables to eat.

The ants, spiders, and other insects, all doing what nature has intended for them. None of them are out of balance or whack- except us!


If You Go Down to the Woods by Hugh W. Roberts

In the ancient woods, a spectral chill whispered through the leaves, carrying the wail of the Insect Nation’s forgotten souls.

Beetles, once known as sacred guardians, marched in supernatural processions. Fireflies, long extinguished, flickered like ghostly lanterns in the moonless night. Spiders wove threads of sorrow in their tattered webs, trapping echoes of their past.

But the creepy swarm of bluebottle flies sent shivers down the spine of all who trespassed. Their eerie hum was the insect kingdom’s tragic requiem, a reminder of their timeless dominion, unseen yet ever-present.

In the haunted woods, the Insect Nation’s phantoms reigned supreme.


Whining and Dining by D. Avery

“Thanks for always walking in front. Saving me from spider webs.”

“You know, spider webs are useful. Coagulant. Fiber. It’s time you got over your spider phobia. We’ve bigger problems.”

“Uh. I can’t stand any insects or creepy-crawlies. Why are there so many on the planet anyway?”

“Food chain.”

“Food chain! Mosquitoes are eating me alive!”

“We all feed the creepy-crawlies eventually. Now here, eat up. If we walk strong, we might reach a road today.”

“Food? How?”

“Gifts of nature, for the picking.”

“Yum. Crunchy and nutty… What is it?”

“Let’s just say I rustled up some grubs.”


The Spider in the Basement by Joanne Fisher

“You’re really into spiders aren’t you?” Valerie asked. There were pictures, models, and live spiders around the lounge.

“Yes.” Beatrice answered. “How about you?”

“I don’t care for insects.”

“Spiders aren’t insects, they are arachnids which also include mites, and scorpions.”

“Thanks for the info.”

“Want to see my wolf spider in the basement?” Beatrice asked.

“Uh, okay.”

In the basement Valerie saw a shadow in the corner. It suddenly moved. Valerie quickly ran back upstairs, but found the door was now locked. She watched the spider, that was far larger than her, approach. No one heard her screams.


Life Cycle by Ann Edall-Robson

“They know we’re here. We don’t have much time before they come from the sky to get us. Some of us will make it, some won’t. The ones that do, need to procreate to make sure our breed lives. We can’t all stick together. I suggest some start moving now to the next planned target.”

The flock of crows lifted off the branches of the trees surrounding the field. Circling, hovering, licking their lips at the prospects of the meal. Their assault on the insects is too late. Competition drones toward them. Crop-dusters swoop in for the kill.


Invasive by Raven Boerger

She is an unsuspecting ash tree with the strongest of roots, and he is a metallic, green beetle who burrows and bores, leaving marks of a swirled trail resembling a children’s maze. She is a bright, juicy lemon hanging firmly in place, and he is a nymph removing nectar from her shoots and replacing it with fresh, salivary toxins. She is a woman who spends an ample amount of time outside, tending to her garden, where she plans to make a freshly chopped salsa with her harvests, and he is a mosquito with the ferocious bite of a tiger.


Crickets in the House by Sue Spitlnik

When Tessa came home from shopping, Jester raised his head and thumped his tail once. Rainbow opened one eye, and

Michael waved from the couch.

Tessa asked, “No energetic greetings. What’s been happening?”

Michael mumbled, “Crickets.”


Michael sat up. “Two crickets chirping in here. Jester was running around trying to find them, and then Rainbow got in the mix. I swear, those insects did it on purpose, moving from place to place. I saw them hopping, but I couldn’t catch them either. We’re exhausted from the chase.”

Tessa laughed, and a cricket chirped. “It’ll be a noisy night.”

Note: Jester is the family mutt, and Rainbow is an older cat.


The Philosophizing Fruit Fly by Michael Fishman

I’ve got about a month here and all I do is worry. Almost 487 siblings and they don’t seem to think about this stuff, so what’s up with me?

I’m called an annoyance and that hurts. It’s not me – not my choice – I was hatched this way. So why does it bother me so much?

I have no appetite. The sibs, those that didn’t get tricked into the vinegar traps, are swarming that mushy melon rind that should have gone into the trash bin a day ago. They’re having the time of their life and I just sit.



Morning Has Come by Duane L Herrmann

“Get up! Get up!” Tatiyana poked her sleeping friend in a soft spot. He rolled over, softly moaned. He didn’t want to be awake, and tried to curl up, but found there was no room. All he could do was strecth, then wiggled out, hoping that no one would get him. “Watch for birds!” She called a warning.

“Now, I have a bit more space,” Tatiyana said as she woke up a light above her. Two were needed. She had tried to train them so they wouldn’t blink at the same time, but the fireflies had their own competition.


Regal Experience by JulesPaige

There was, that summer long ago, when I, the fearless Den Leader of Cub Scouts, ventured with my ‘boys’ and Tagalong baby brother across the bridge of the creek. I can only guess we were aiming for some nature badge. It was Tagalong that found the Monarch Cat (caterpillar).

I have a great tolerance for insects when they are outside of the house. However this time we took in the caterpillar. Made it a comfy home with twigs and milkweed. And then we waited. Our reward, the chrysalis with golden dots and then, the emerging Monarch butterfly we freed.


After the Fall by Anne Goodwin

We built new homes among the debris of their vanity. Our elders were suspicious, fearing stray survivors lurked behind those crumbling walls. They were a cruel species who’d swat us dead if we trespassed on the land they’d colonised. Of course, we celebrated their demise.

Our youth gorged on their rotting flesh and putrid entrails. Then they mated and their offspring feasted too. With food for future generations, and freedom from attack, our nation would prosper. But we’d stay humble. When vegetation submerged all traces of humanity, we’d repeat their story to our children as a warning. Hubris kills.


Making One’s Web and Lying In It by Bill Engleson

Nathan first noticed them in the early days of Covid. In his favourite bathroom ― he had two ― small flossy webs were being spun.
The daddy long-legs spinner located itself in a high corner.
Through the long months, the isolation, he conversed with Stanley.
Meaningful observations about life.
In time, at least two, maybe three other daddy long-legs moved in.
Livingston and Ralph, and possibly Donald, joined Stanley in creating a symphony of spidery webs.
Nathan studied them.
He wondered why he thought them male.
And decided it didn’t matter.
They brought him comfort.
It was almost love.


Migration of the Wasps by Mario Milizia

Every November, at my home, it gets colder, deer start nibbling at the birdfeeders, and wasps invade my home.

Wasps make their way down the chimney, past the closed vent and glass doors of the fireplace, over to the cool family room windows to hibernate.

Discovering their hiding place behind the drapes, I quickly trap them with a clear plastic cup, slide a thin cardboard ad under the cup’s edge, and throw them back into the cold outdoors.

I remember the pain of the bite as a kid. I would kill them all if my wife would let me!


Army-In-Waiting by Reena Saxena

“I feel like someone gnawing at my insides. I constantly live in fear of losing balance.”

“Your medical reports look fine. Maybe confidence-building measures will help. See a counsellor.”

The medical staff looks agitated as patients with brain fever are admitted to wards. The symptoms are different, making treatment all the more difficult.

“It looks like a new strain of virus, which cannot be detected with a microscope.” The doctor looks shaky, as the President and Army Chief are admitted to special wards.

Deep in the interiors, an army waits to take charge.

Humans will not rule any more.


Pollen Count 2, 3, 4 by Mr. Ohh!

Everybody gather round.

Amanda’s at the hive entrance, and I can smell the pollen on her legs. My antennae haven’t vibrated like this since the almond rush last spring.

Lillian, Watch the dance! Take note of the direction and distance. It looks like a large patch of flowers, and we sure can use one after so much rain and so little food.

All right here’s Amanda. It looks like flowers to the southwest at five-thousand yards. wait, she’s turning. More like southeast and three-thousand. No, she’s shifting!

Oh Drones! You have to hate a worker bee who likes disco.


In the Land of Insects by ladyleemaila

In a land of the very small insects
I came to visit and see their world
Ants build their nests, their treasures are buried
Termites are much older than the human race
Their soldiers and workers are usually blind
A grasshopper and a beetle fighting each one
How about spiders, where would they be?
Brazilian wandering spiders, their bites deathly
A tarantula can be a pet for its relatively harmless bite
Butterfly, bumble bee, I love their flights
Blue-fronted dancer, it bounces along its way
Insects are busy going about their daily activities
Don’t squeeze them, enjoy their beauties


It’s Unlikely a Chainsaw by Marsha Ingrao

Sure, I make lots of noise, but usually nobody but the girls ever find us. About a thousand of us were singing in the grass at Courthouse Square when this huge black thing with two holes poked me right in the face. I quit rubbing my legs, hoping it would go away. Then, this huge, hairy stick scratched me out of the grass. I saw its eyes. A giant pink thing slurped me up and carried me away miles from my friends.

“Arff, drop that huge bug right now! Cicadas are not toys!”

I fell hard. Everything went black.


Spiders by Jaye Marie

Spiders are a big problem in my family. Luckily, they seem to know this and rarely put in an appearance.

At least my family think so. I see them and know all their hideouts. Their webs give them away.

On those rare occasions when one does dare to put in an appearance and either runs across the floor, or turns up in the bath, I am the one my family scream for.

They tell me that September is the time when male spiders go hunting for a mate.

All I can say to them is, go pick another house!


S’warmin Ta the Idea by D. Avery

“This prompt’s really buggin me Kid.”

“Why Pal? Ain’t like ya have ta write fer it.”

“Thought this was a insect free place. No skeeters, black flies an sech. Now the Ranch’s crawlin with creepy responses.”

“Good thing too. Think bout settin by the fire Pal. Listen. Crickets! Kin ya ‘magine life without that sound? Now, ‘member earlier in the summer, all them flickerin flashin lightnin bugs?”

“Fireflies! Yep. ‘Member when we saw thet humminbird moth at Shorty’s flowers?”

“Yep! An all the butterflies an bees busy pollinatin em.”

“Birds, Kid! Swoopin an feedin on bugs.”

“Bugs is beautiful!”


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

September 19: Story Challenge in 99-words

Bumblebees curl up in blooms of pink cosmos. The Keweenaw is cooling as the world balances and the equinox cools the Northern hemisphere and warms the Southern. The honey-makers are slow on the day of the Farm Tour, a local co-op event connecting eaters to their food growers.

Lily Venable, photographer, local food promoter, and friend of Ghost House Farm, walks the paths and fields with her camera. (All the photos in this post are her creations, including the challenge pic.) She notices the bear in a pine burl, the contrast of colors between green clover and orange pumpkins, and the delight of kids encountering goats.

Siblings, the children of parents who are also friends of the farm, spend the afternoon hanging out. One settles into the tractor seat to read and the other kicks a soccer ball as high as the weeping willow. Then, they find a feline. Or does the cat find them? Their mom joins the chase and before long they’ve tamed a yearling.

The cat must live most her days outdoors, she’s so wild. It could be her youthful exuberance but she displays skills beyond that of a domestic cat. The family helps with local cat rescues so they have the patience and understanding to call her. They plop in the grass and thump the ground; the kitten answers the thud of their drumming. The youngest swoops her up and before long, we are all snuggling a purr-fectly soft and amenable near-cat. Lily snaps photos.

People park along Boston Location Road and walk onto the farm. “Welcome to Ghost House Farm,” one of us, or all of us greet. What do they tour and learn?

You see the fenced area full of colored lettuce and flowers? That’s the original market garden — the origin spot of the farm. Go ahead, you can walk among bumble and blooms. The bees are slow today. The people in light jackets, sweatshirts, or flannels. I’m wearing my turquoise Stowe (Vermont) sweatshirt in solidarity with the farmers in that state whose fields did not yield harvests because of the extreme summer flooding. We understand the term “thousand year flood,” as do many in our world.

Yet we grow. Stay the course. Adjust. Help where we can, seed another year.

Next, you can go into the greenhouse we built last spring when the snow was still four feet deep. “We” means my SIL and his father who does not believe we are ever without snow along the lee shore of Lake Superior. This glorious day proves that we do go snowless and yet the chill reminds us that winter is not far off. See the dirt pile to the left? That’s topsoil. We’ve ripped out all the beautiful tomato and cucumber vines, not because of the cooler weather but because of the shorter days of sunlight. The tomatoes stopped growing. We are putting in drain tile to help mitigate flooding of the farm’s shallow fragipan, and will build up the beds with more topsoil. Then, we (Drew) will plant lettuce.

Here’s the cool thing about lettuce — it will grow over winter even below freezing as long as it is covered by the hoop house. The plants will stop germinating but we can have (we hope) year-round triple-washed salad mix for the Keweenaw. Like people all around the world. We are experimenting with ways to extend seasons and work with changing climates and extreme weather episodes. And, yes, the washing machine in the pack tent is brand new from Kirkish Furniture and we (Drew) have altered it to be a giant salad spinner (thank you Vermonters for innovating).

Don’t miss the goats(es). They live in the Ghost House. That ghostly sound you hear is Chip, the buck in rut. If you hear him woo-woo-woo-ing, and see his tongue sticking out, step back. Don’t let him pee on you (Yes, Chip peed on a farm guest). The ladies are less stinky and do not projectile urinate in anyone’s general direction, but if you bend down to grab kale or cabbage leaves to feed the goats(es), Molly might chew on your hair. She grabbed me good and I’m her Gigi. Impatient, is all. She loves greens. Pegasus is the pregnant one (good job jumping the fence, Chip) and the smallest is Vandalia. She’s shy.

From the Ghost House, you can walk down the path to the main fields where pumpkins, delicatas, costata romanesco, Brussels sprouts, celery, rose potatoes, and green clover grow. The clover is a cover crop and there’s a balance between the crop it grows with and we missed the sweet spot with winter squash. Our fall harvest will not be as planned. Such is farming. We grow, we learn.

All the glass? Well, humans haven’t changed all that much. Wherever we live, we leave trash piles. The glass is like today’s plastics. It’s what the miners and earlier inhabitants left behind between 1850 and 1970. Earlier inhabitants used natural materials, but even early humans left midden piles behind. We are a trashy species. But innovative, too. We make use of the glass — we study our past and save the material for artists and industrial archaeologists.

Back to the bumbles. As evening falls, they stay in the cosmos, using petals as blankets. A three-year-old grabs my hand to show me. A new farm feline plays with the older kids. And the adults eat grilled zucchini and local burgers with artisan bread. How sweet the day.

September 19, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a blanket. Any interpretation works! What happens to a story when you give a character the prop of a blanket? Is the blanket the story? Is it a memory container, a source of comfort, or smothering? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 25, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Southwest Pumpkins Collection

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

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

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

“Southwest Pumpkins” oil painting by TOJ. The following stories interpret visual art into literary art.

Paths to Pumpkins by Chel Owens

Elu knew his path. “Shimasaní told me the way my family walked before, and The Great Creator lights my way tomorrow.”

He stood near the tree under which his father had come into the world. The world might change around Elu and his tribe; the roots remained.

Elu thought of all this as he showed his first child how to direct the gathered rainwater to their fledgling gourds. Both watched the desert soil darken around each green bud.

“Will we have pumpkins for Halloween, Shizhé’é?”

Elu smiled at his son. “Yes.” He smiled wider. “But don’t tell your great-grandmother.”


Beware, The Witch by Mario Milizia

This once small, quiet, dusty town no longer exists. Survivors say it started when townspeople, led by the mayor, decided to burn the witch, nicknamed “Old Tumbleweed” out of her home. A cat saw the approaching mob, freaked out, and alerted the witch.

The top of this picture, the last transmitted by a reporter before his death, shows black, horizontal human remains littered across the desert; body counts etched onto the cauldron. The mayor’s sad eyes are permanently embedded into the ceramic vase as a warning to others.

New Mexico police have cordoned off the area.

Everyone. Stay Away!


Mabon Approaches by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Attention! The Sisterhood of the Raven is called to order. It’s time to plan for the second harvest festival of the year. What should we do for Mabon this year?” asked Morticia.

“I’ll bake the pumpkin pies,” said Luna.

“What are we going to wear?” asked Faeryn. Laughter erupted around the room.

Hilda listened. For her, Mabon was the time to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for the season’s blessings. It was the beginning of winter. It made her sad to say goodbye to summer.

“You okay, Hilda? Faeryn grinned.

“Hilda nodded. Yes. I’ll bring the sacred cauldron.”


A Visitor by D. Avery

He arrived at the edge of the patio as quietly as the stars appearing in the sky. Though my adobe home was remote, he did not surprise or frighten me.

Said his name was Jesús, but he was Diné.

I poured him water. Shared pepitas and pumpkin empanadas with him. How he enjoyed that! He talked about his grandmother’s pumpkin soup. Told me he was of the Pumpkin clan. He reached into his pockets, handed me some bean and corn seeds, bright as polished gemstones.

By sunrise he’d gone, towards the orange mesas, carrying the pumpkin I’d given him.


Autumn’s Tune by Anne Goodwin

I drape myself in robes of pumpkin colours. Friends scowl and ask if I’ve turned Buddhist. “An Autumnist,” I say.

As my hair grows back, they praise my resilience. I let them think I’ve won. I’ve squandered spring and summer accommodating other people. Autumn is for me.

When the evenings chill, I gather my friends around the bonfire. Serve them bowls of steaming soup. Listen to their talk of future projects. When I don’t contribute, I let them think I’m extra cautious. Don’t mention winter’s spite will put a freeze on this. Till then, I’ll dance to autumn’s tune.


Summer of the Red Sun by Dianne Borowski

The sun was red,
The earth parched.
Little grew that summer. Hunger was everywhere.
Many died.
We buried them with food, blankets,
Stones placed over the graves
Kept our dead safe from harm.
Grandmother cried and cried.
So many losses, so little food.
It was impossible for her
To leave our home anymore.
Each day she took her bowls
From the shelf.
She ran her fingers gently
Over her creations,
The works of her hands…
Ah, the pumpkin ,
Perfectly formed.
The summer of the red sun,
Grandmother died.
Her spirit became
One with the rain.
Forever watching over us.


Southern Pumpkins by Melissa Lemay

Aromas of nutmeg and clove mingled as the oven preheated. Every year she planted pumpkins. Right before summer’s turning, she gathered her harvest and spent weekends making pies, butters, jams, biscuits, pretty much anything pumpkin you could dream. She read her recipe as the late summer rain breezed through the window. The counter was lined with brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, butter, eggs, all makings of delectable fare.
“Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt…” she checked that everything was right and began whisking the ingredients together in the large mixing bowl


Path To Prosperity By Gena Daman

Pumpkins in abundance signify it is time to harvest areas of one’s life.

Because pumpkins grow in different directions while staying connected, their presence encourages a mindset of trying a new path, knowing it does not have to be the final path.

This year she would make the fall passage.

Final preparations were under way for the send off. New glaze had been applied to the ceremonial pottery, marking her passage and binding it to prior ones.

She was now a layer, to be glazed over next year for someone else’s time. But for now, she was on top.


Harvest Joy by Duane L Herrmann

Nights were getting colder, time to bring the pumpkins in. Little Arrow was happy to help.

“We won’t be hungry this winter, will we Momma?” He asked hopefully.

“We will have food this winter,” she agreed.

“I like this one the best,” he said as he tried to pick up the largest one.

“Let me help you, it is as big as you are.”

He accepted the “help,” not realizing that his participation complicated the effort.

“Let’s put it here!” He said excitedly, pointing to space beside the green jar. “The colors are pretty together.”

And so, it sat.


A Dark Fall by Charli Mills

The darker the night, the heavier the stars sag until nearly touching the terra firma of Earth. The life of a star is stark and cold. They longed to bake in the playa of the southwest, to roast impaled like diamond marshmallows on sandstone spires, or to slumber in a desert hot springs. Sometimes, a star falls from the sky the way a child might roll from bed. When a star is lost; when a star is a trapped alien; when stars hide among us – they become pumpkins destined to infiltrate technology. A star falls to Earth. Destruction follows.


Autumn Offering by Kerry E.B. Black

I left an offering in a deep, red bowl, filled to the brim with good intentions. Alongside sat bottles of the best wines imported from lands where grass and glass were green, so unlike this foreign landscape with sand, not soil. I spilled a cup of cream, too, the way my Nan always did, from a blue crockery to attract good attention.

Why? To transform this adobe into whitewash and thatch, where jack o’lanterns guide souls.

But no helpful sprites came to call. The desert devoured all.

And I fear it won’t be long before I, too, become desiccated.


Ready for Harvest by ladyleemanila

ready for harvest, apples, pumpkins
children all excited to start the new term
let them enjoy the term, we say in prayers
let them learn all the lessons in the long-term
when autumn leaves seem to drown down the stream
light breaks over the horizon, that’s confirmed
magnificent season, top of the cream
autumn at its best and life is such a dream
carving pumpkins into jack o lanterns
apple bobbing and divination games
sceneries for plays and masks costumes
tapered served as thermal chimneys lanterns
fish and chips with salt and vinegar
played through the night some games


Autumnal Pumpkin’s Fate by Sadje

The crop was very good that year. Beautiful pumpkins, ready just near Halloween.

Billy picked up a nice pumpkin, by himself. It was just right for carving and making a Jack-o-lantern!

Since he was almost ten this year, his parents allowed him to do most of the carving. His mum, just pointing out where he should cut out the eyes and the mouth. He did need help with the teeth as the little knife he was given wasn’t very sharp.

He was very proud of the end result, especially when the candle lit inside threw out perfectly horror-able shadows!


Nature’s Paintbrush by JulesPaige

The wedding took place in New Mexico, outside of the museum. The reception was inside. October, while still warm, had the wind blowing the bride’s veil almost horizontal to the stunning southwestern landscape.

The groom’s parents still had a home not far from the event and that is where the family gathered the next day to continue celebrating the joining of the two families.

The russet colors of autumn were evident in the flowers that still bloomed. Would the groom call his bride ‘Pumpkin’?

mango, tangerine,
salmon, papaya, coral
apricot background

…such was nature’s paintbrush for the auspicious start.


A Still Life by Sue Spitulnik

The battered blue bowl sits empty by the well-loved green bottle of oil. The burning orange canister holding the flour has no dusty fingerprints on it this year. The items form a still life on the marred wooden work table. There is no reason to make the dough, for the young ones have left and are not there to enjoy the festival bread. The wine bottle remains capped, and the pumpkin sits unused. The elderly, too old to walk hundreds of miles, have no interest in celebrating, and they too, sit still, back in the dark shadows of loneliness.


The Art Institute by Michael Fishman

If she’d been standing anywhere else, I wouldn’t have seen her, but there, with the spotlight reflecting off her hair, she was striking.

The docent was talking about southwestern art in words I didn’t hear. She was absorbed, taking notes as the docent spoke. We were in front of “Southwest Pumpkins”, a glorious still life with vibrant autumn colors. Any other day, any other time, I would have focused on the painting, the brushstrokes and technique, but today I was absorbed by her.

She stopped writing, turned her head toward me. She smiled. I exhaled and walked toward her.


Savouring the Southwest by Ann Edall-Robson

The horizon’s distant desert sky and craggy rocks meld the scene. Remote hues contrast the soft, comforting sandstone colours where the still-life clay objects pose. Their designs depict life from long ago, reminiscent of their uses. Tall, thin-necked vessels made to hold precious water. Thick-rimmed bowls, a sturdy addition needed to prepare food. The drying pot, sculpted with vertical cat eye openings, dried the treasured pumpkin. The important food staple artistically included, expressing the significance of a fruit whose parts are all edible. Silent strokes across a canvas recite a story of history in the Southwest.


The Next Leg by Norah Colvin

The distant mountains did a thumbs up as if measuring how far the moon had still to travel before they’d reach their destination. While this taverna was welcoming, not all were so obliging, and the desert could never be thought of as a friend. They thanked their host and gathered their belongings, including replenished canteens and knapsacks. Grasping their hands firmly, the host wished them a safe journey. He advised on signs to seek and others to avoid. They bade farewell, but then, before they left, they finger framed the scene, a memory to guide them on their way.


Pumpkin Dream by Bill Engleson

I’d like to sip from my pumpkin jug,
I’d like to drink from a mountain stream,
the place of my childhood starting to tug,
toying with my memory and what I’ve seen.

Walked in the mountains, the hills of my youth.
Camped in the forest, deep in the wood.
Prayed for enlightenment, a rivulet of truth,
a sense I was doing the best that I could.

I’d still like to sip from my pumpkin gourd,
taste the sweet water from a mountain stream.
slip into the valley, hear a comforting word,
Know that I’m living in a pumpkin dream.


Cinderella by Reena Saxena

Cinderella casts a benign glance at her envious step-sisters,

“You can have all that you want – the Prince and the glass slippers. My authenticity demands that I walk barefoot.”

“But walk where?” The sisters are stuttering at her new-found confidence.

“The power to convert pumpkins into pathways was dormant within me. I will walk towards my dream destinations, without a vehicle, if needed. And I don’t need a prince to grant me respectability by kneeling to propose, or marrying me.

Someone who shares my vision will extend a hand someday, maybe or maybe not … it doesn’t matter really.”


IT by Margaret G. Hanna

Sid tripped, staggered, regained balance and continued running, occasionally glancing behind. Yes, IT was still thumping along, gaining ground.

“Why’s IT chasing me? Just because I said IT’s face was hideous? That IT would scare kids?”

“Hide! I gotta hide. Where? There. Up those stairs. IT can’t climb stairs.”

Sid clambered up the stairs. They went on forever. He glanced behind. “No! No way! IT is right behind me!”


Sid sat bolt upright in bed, gasping, sweating. “Thank heavens, it was only a dream.”


IT sat in his doorway, leering.

No one could ever explain Sid’s disappearance.


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