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March 6: Story Challenge in 99-words

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

Laura Branigan, Gloria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagining Literary Artists Collection

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

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

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

The Creation of Literary Art by sweeterthannothing

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

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

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

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

Once upon a time….


Literary Creation – I by Duane L Herrmann

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

Pick up the tool to activate.

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

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

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


Literary Artistry by Kerry E. B. Black

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


From the Heart by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

Listen to me…

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


Literary (he)art by Hanna Streng

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Poet by Bill Engleson

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


The Creator Within by Christy

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


Literary Artist by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

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


Dedicated Literary Artist by JulesPaige

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

up in smoke; reborn
with beauty


Literary Conduit by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

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

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

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

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


If Only… by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

Might have, if only.


Did You Pack Your Bag Yourself? by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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


Untitled by D. Avery

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


Create With Words by Sue Spitulnik

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


Stories From A Man Heart by HeyAisyah

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


Art For Art’s Sake by Geoff Le Pard

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


Literary Artist by Ann Edall-Robson

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

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


I Am a Literary Artist by Sadje

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

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

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

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


A Dream-Forged Artist by Nicole Horlings

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

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

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


Literary Artist by Kriti

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


Dangerous Who? by Simon

The pen creates words.

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

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

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

An empire to rise and fall with Philosophises to life.

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


Literary Artist by Jenny Logan

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

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

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


The Writer by C. E. Ayr

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


Future Words by Hugh W. Roberts

By the time 2042 arrived, literary artists were rare.

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

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

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

A team of elite agents was dispatched to stop me.

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


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

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


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

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

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

“But is it art?”


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

February 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

Gather round to hear the tale of the Golden Onions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s go make some literary art!

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

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

A Smear of Jam Collection

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

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

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

Smear of Jam by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

It was love, not smear of jam


Nature’s Jam Smearer by Kayla Morrill

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

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


Breakfast in Faerie by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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


Disrupted Plans by Nicole Horlings

Arlo Proudfoot was not very happy.

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

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

If only the curious young dragons would bugger off.


High Tea* by Jenne49

‘Leave the jam alone.’

‘But Mummy, my bread needs jam.’

‘Don’t make me tell you again, John’

He thumps the dish down.

There’s an uneasy pause.

Then a sulky muttering.

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

His mother sighs.

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

‘Why not?’

His two sisters snigger.

‘Well why can’t I…’

‘John, don’t push it…’

‘Leave the boy alone, Ellen.’

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

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

Ronald smirks – and Mother retires, defeated.

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


All My By Self by Duane L Herrmann

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

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

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


A Smear of Jam by Norah Colvin

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

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

“Admit it. You ate my jam.”

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

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

“Sorry, Ollie.”

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


Band Jam by Pete Fanning

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


“Hmm, okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ugh. Okay, thanks for the ride.”

“Have a good band practice, kid.”


A Smear of Jam by Susan Budig

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

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

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

“Exactly. I was not and I did not.”

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

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

“Go. Go and look in the mirror, kid.”


Jammy by sweeterthannothing

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

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

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

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

“Is that a body?…”

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


Pots And Kettles Geoff Le Pard

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


If Not Jam Then…by Gary Wilson

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

“Thank you, Peggy. What do we have?”

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

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

“Anything else sir?”

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

“Certainly. I’ll be right back.”

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


Dirty Neckties by Sue Spitulnik

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


Hunger by D. Avery

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

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

But now?

“Tell me your dreams,” he said softly.

“We should get going.”

“Just one thing.”

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


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

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


The Final Straw by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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


Out of a Jam by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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


A Smear by writerravenclaw

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


Thoughts and Prayers, Only Words by Miss Judy

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


All It Took by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

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


Catching Up by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

Dear Mother Goddess… she wrote.

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

Love, Hilda


A Smear of Jam by Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

The smear of jam on my white shirt was inevitable.

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


Tree Treat by JulesPaige

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

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


Breakfast by C. E. Ayr

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


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

‘Happy Valentines Day, darling’

‘You too, sweetie. Want some pancakes?’

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

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

‘Shoulda got off my duff and picked them.’

‘That would have been an idea.’

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

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

‘Thick and juicy.’

‘Shame they didn’t get picked.’

‘So, store-bought jam?’

‘Afraid so, lover.’


Strawberry Smash-up by Kate Spencer

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

“What happened to Dad?”

Ellie waved her into the kitchen.

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

“Why would he do that?”

“Claims he loves her.”


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

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


Memories by Charli Mills

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

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

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

In a breath, last memory comes.


Love in a Jar by Margaret G. Hanna

First breakfast on my own. First breakfast without her.

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

How many cups of tea has she steeped?

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

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

Tears fall.


Making Jam at Home by Sadje

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

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

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

I do miss her!


Follow 15 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

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


Two Heels by Ann Edall-Robson

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

“It’s my turn!”

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

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

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


Testy Times by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

“I’ll aim fer it too.”



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

February 20: Story Challenge in 99-words

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

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

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

Celeste Ng, Our Missing Hearts

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

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

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

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

Yet, how do we define ourselves?

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

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

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

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

Love Letters to Nature Collection

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

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

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

From 1928-1930s Lectures by Carl Jung

“Whenever we touch nature
(fingers in soil) we get clean.
People who have got dirty
through too much civilization
take a walk in the woods,
or a bath in the Sea (Gichigami).
They shake off the fetters
and allow nature to touch
them (rain on skin).
It can be done within or
Walking in the woods
or lying on the grass,
taking a bath in the sea,
are from the outside;
entering the unconscious,
entering yourself through
dreams is touching nature
from the inside and this is
the same thing,
and things are put right
again (dream medicine).”

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


Stopped by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I stopped, to see another just begun.


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

Dear Nature,

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




A Letter to Nature by Norah Colvin

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


Dear Nat by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

You saw me through it, most of it.

Time was my companion, my rescuer.

I’ll always be thankful.


Love Letter by Ann Edall-Robson

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


If You Could Be Here by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

fields of wheat looking like
a Van Gogh painting

lazily swaying in the breeze
the line of mountains on the

horizon leading to forever,
though sometimes I wish

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

my letters to you always
ramble, never reaching an end

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


The Maple Tree Speaks by Sue Spitulnik

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


Speak to Us, Threaten by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

Speak to us; help us decode your constitution.

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


From The Ground Up by Geoff Le Pard

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

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


About Blooming Time by Kerry E.B. Black

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


Garden Devotional by JulesPaige

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

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


Compelling Beauty by Nicole Horlings

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

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

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


Spring Party by Elizabeth

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

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

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


Dear Mother by Sadje

Dear Mother Nature,

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

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

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


Natural Ways by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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


A Resolution by Margaret G. Hanna

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


Love Letter to Nature by Jenny Logan

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

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

Jellyfish freak me out, but I paint them.


Gretta Has Had Enough by Charli Mills

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

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


Summer Days by Jaye Marie

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


My Date with Mr Hare by Anne Goodwin

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


A 99 Word Poem by sweeterthannothing

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


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


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

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


Watering holes refilled
Rivers start flowing
Parched animals delight
Lakes expanding


Dawn breaks bright
A fresh beginning
Humans reammerge
Birds are singing


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


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


Thank You, Mother Nature! by Miss Judy

Dear Mother,

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

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

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

 Yours ever,

Suzy Earthling


I Sing the Body Submerged by Charli Mills

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


Natural Empathy by C E Ayr

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

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

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

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


How? by D. Avery

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

“Whoa, Kid. Who’s Zee?”

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

“Me?! An who ya callin old?”

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


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

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

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

“Natcherlly. Try this:

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

“That’s good.

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

Nature, kin ya forgive us?”


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

February 13: Story Challenge in 99-words

Despite winter, my sun porch is warm.

So warm, Mause and I are crashed in a pile of concentrated sunbeams. She sprawls across the floor as if the intensity has disentigrated her bones; a puppy puddle. I slump in a lawn chair packed into what is usually winter cold-storage. It’s early February and instead of cabin fever from endless gray skies and constant lake-effect snow, I’m mainlining vitamin D from a blazing sun warming a bank of south-facing windows.

Sipping coffee, I sigh. My afternoon snack — a bagel with cream cheese and a smear of lingonberry jam — tastes indulgent. I only buy lingonberries during the winter solstice season in anticipation of making a big batch of Swedish meatballs. They were so good, I made two batches, one for a Yule party and another for a decadent meal with Todd. The remaining lingonberry jam has become part of afternoon coffee or midnight tea, depending upon my day.

The snow and the jam are receding, and I feel sad. Sad because I know I won’t buy more lingonberry jam until next winter solstice and I’ll miss the unique tart flavor. I’ll have to find another treat. Sad, also, because the snow has not been right this year. It echos the changing weather patterns of the Great Lakes Region, as expressed in the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines report:

Duluth is perched mid-continent at the western tip of Lake Superior, and many residents are stoically proud of the harsh winters that define the place. “It keeps the riff-raff out,” they assure each other. But in recent years the weather has become almost unrecognizable. According to Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, winters tend to be warmer, snowfall is getting heavier, and summer thunderstorms bring more rain. The disruption begets uneasiness; people who have developed coping mechanisms for extreme cold and plenty of snow now don’t know what to expect.

~ Stephanie Hemphill, April 29, 2020

As much as I’m enjoying my bones soaked in unseasonable sunshine and a break from daily scooping, I wonder what this all means. But then I remember that I’m asking the wrong question. I shift and think what is happening. It’s a recent practice I’m cultivating as a Hag (a woman in the second half of life and my choice of symbol based on my studies with Sharon Blackie in her Hagitude program). Dream tending has led me into familiar depths and my mentors remind me not to ask for meaning but to ask for understanding. I’m yet a student, an apprentice, a learner. I’ve yet to a-ha the difference, but nonetheless, I’m practicing the question, what is happening.

My journey thus far has led me to depth psychology (not to be confused with my recent commitment to positive psychology for the sake of addressing mental health in my veteran community). I’m having fun and enlightening and confounding conversations with my son. When I called to talk to him about the positive psychology workbook I bought to use with my Warrior Sisters, he was delighted. He uses his Masters in IO Psychology in his work for Epic. He says his specific role as a BFF to accounts is like that of a coach, using positive psychology.

However, he wondered if depth psychology was outdated Jungian theory. He encouraged me to explore and understand its roots and current place in the field of psychology. It turns out, IO psychologists like my son are in a different world of psychology. His work does not include psychoanalysis. Depth psychology is modern, current, and relevant; it’s a completely different field and yes, it is based on Jung’s work in symbols as a foundation. The reason I’m so drawn to depth psychology is its familiarity.

Depth psychology, according to Susan Rowland, is writing.

For years, I’ve tried to understand and articulate what we are doing here at Carrot Ranch in a collective way. Yes, the weekly challenge is about making literary art accessible, but what is literary art? According to Pacifica Graduate Institute (where Susan Rowland teaches), “Depth Psychology is an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing on literature, philosophy, mythology, the arts, and critical studies.” Literary art is the process of going deep. Depth psychology defines the deep as psyche. According to Jung, the mind has two distinct depths: the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. Further, the Hagitude program I’m absorbing explains the unconscious as the Sacred. The Sacred is Nature. We can experience the Sacred by snowshoeing or kayaking or walking outside or we can experience the Sacred through the realm of dreams — the imaginal.

All these terms swirl about in my head like a friendly flock of chickadees. What I know from experience is that when I write, I go deep. This is what I began to understand as raw literature; the result of writing from the deep places of one’s mind. What if inspiration is the call of the psyche for each of us to remember who we are? According to depth psychologists, this is the purpose of dreams — to remember who we are and to access the Sacred. It makes me wonder if all along, my desire to serve others in a literary community has been to reconnect to Nature. When I learned about the existence of a Masters Program in Psychology and Creativity, I was struck by how it aligned with the forces that drive me: “…deep purpose, enlivened creativity, and devoted service.”

Holy smokes. That’s exactly what I want Carrot Ranch to foster in others. The mission is to make literary art accessible in 99 words. I better understand what I’ve meant by accessibility. I want writers to engage with creative writing in such a way that it gives us purpose, engages our creativity, and leads us to serve humanity through what we write. I want this for all writers not just experienced writers, or educated writers, or whatever limiting label we can apply. Writing is a tool of exploration and I’ve known that tool to be healing. I’ve never wanted Carrot Ranch to be “the best of the west” or “serious writers only.” Writing our individual stories weekly is an exercise in accessing our personal unconscious; submitting our personal stories to form a collection is a creation of our collective unconscious.

Literary art is also read and here is where we serve humanity with deep reflections. The collections have always been inclusive. Because raw literature does not require mastery of writing craft. We practice going into the deep and bringing something back. Every story does that no matter how well one articulates a sentence or punctuates dialog. Every story reflects some aspect of the prompt. And going where the prompt leads is daring to go into the psyche. When people read the collections, its not the “best” stories that make the impact; it’s the impact of the whole because it speaks from and to the collective unconscious.

We are modern-day mythmakers seeking to understand our world one prompt at a time.

A world in peril. Through depth psychology I have also come to understand that Science without the Sacred is out of balance. Science deals in signals, hard facts and empirical evidence. The Sacred deals in symbols. Nature is the Sacred. Humans exist because nature exists, not the other way around. The more advanced we become through industry and technology, the more energy we consume. Energy consumption is marvelous — it gives us lights to see by, warmth for our homes, healing for our hospitals. But energy consumption has a shadow. Climate change. The greater our reliance on energy consumption, the greater the shadow grows. We need more than science. We need the sacred. We need nature.

Reconnecting to the Sacred, transforming the Self — this is the work of tending dreams and writing fiction.

My deep dive is done for now. My smear of lingonberry jam is gone. Until next time. Sweet dreams and deep writing!

February 13, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a smear of jam. Is it across a slice of toast, a white shirt, or something unexpected? The jam could be the focus or detail that ads a twist. Who are the characters with the jam and where are they situated in space and time? Go where the prompt leads!

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

The Dishes 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 Dishes by Sadje

We all have different approaches when it comes to doing the dishes. I like to wash them as they are dirtied, a piled up kitchen sink is not acceptable.

My eldest daughter uses the dishwasher, rinsing them when she has enough for a load and then running it. She says it conserves water and time.

My youngest loves washing dishes by hand. She says it relaxes her and she’d insist on doing them whenever she gets the chance!

The rest of the family, like my husband or grandson, are still under the tutelage on how to wash the dishes!


Grease Trap by Sarah Whiley

The grease was thick and clung like blooms of algae atop the water. The plates and utensils blurred watercolours; my hands blindly hunting for them below the surface.

The roast had been delicious but I wished Barney hadn’t thrown the pans in with the dishes.

I drummed my fingers on the bench top as I thought. I walked to the pantry to grab some paper towel, hoping to spread the slimy load. But as I turned around I saw he was already pulling the plug!

“Barns, no!” I wailed.

Peacefully, the water flooded as the grease clogged the pipes.


Seeing Straight by D. Avery

Me and Aunt Helen picked up takeout while Daddy walked to the package store, then we set the little table in our new apartment with those fancy dishes. We shared lo mein out of a dish Helen called a tureen and we all drank out of tea cups with saucers.

Katie called and Daddy told us that Katie said dirtying dishes missed the point of takeout. Helen laughed and said that was the point. She laughed even more when Daddy said Katie said he was blurring his words.

“Splained it’s a family celebration of clean slates and dirty dishes.”


This Boot Is Made For Walking by Ilene Higginbottom

Once upon a time that pesky little Cupid kept buzzing around like a deerfly until finally it bit the reluctant one-legged cowgirl princess.

Every day her cowboy cooed and wooed, brought her roses and stuff like that until they finally shacked up together.

Because of that he got complacent. There was no wooing and less cooing and he didn’t help with the dishes. She noticed the last rose forgotten in the vase, all thorny stem, its bloom blackened and brittle. She noticed that Cupid’s sting was beginning to fester and itch.

Finally, she pulled on her boot and walked.


Breaking Tradition by D. Avery

“House warming gift,” Aunt Helen said. Daddy lifted paper from the box.

“You said you could use some dishes.”

“Momma’s China set! We were never allowed to touch these. I don’t think they ever got used.”

“Not even at Christmas.”

“What am I supposed to do with these?”

“Use them!”

“What if they break?”

“What if?” And Aunt Helen raised a plate over her head and smashed it down on the floor! “I’m not going to be stuck with these dishes.” She let me break one too.

“Every day,” she said, looking right at me, “Is to be celebrated.”


Memories by Margaret G. Hanna

“What ya’ doing?

“Packing up Grandma’s stuff. Like this everyday china.”

“You givin’ it to the thrift store?”

“I don’t know what else to do with it. Do you want it?”

“Why would I want those plates?”

“They were Grandma’s, that’s why!”

“But they’re crazed and stained. The cups are chipped.”

“Remember her fried chicken? It was s-o-o good.”

“Yah, and her meat pies. The best.”

“She gave me my first milky tea in one of those cups.”

“Yah, and that’s why it’s chipped.

A pause.

“Okay, I’ll take one plate, but just to remember Grandma.”

“Yah, me, too.”


A History Lesson in Dishes by Miss Judy

“Mom, why do you display those dishes? It’s embarrassing.”

“Those dishes are our family history. When your Irish ancestors immigrated to America in 1890, they left all behind for a better life. Fleeing famine, taxes and religious persecution, they and hundreds of others spent weeks huddled on the ship’s floors sharing food and water.”

“Your ancestors brought these dishes wrapped within their clothes. The chips and crakes happened during that journey. They are a reminder of the hardships endured for freedom.”

“You shouldn’t be embarrassed, but proud and thankful for all you have because of their determination and perseverance.”


Michael Treats the Dishwashers by Sue Spitulnik

In the special occasion restaurant, one server said to the other, “Any idea who the party is on table ten? Every time I take something to the table, one of the older ladies comments how many dishes she had to wash to enjoy it; and everybody laughs.”

The dishwasher, being a veteran, overheard and went to look. The next time he saw the servers, he said, “The younger man on ten is the band leader at the No Thanks. He treats his bandmates’ parents to Valentine’s dinner for doing the dishes during the bar’s annual veterans-only Thanksgiving eve meal.”


Calamity by Kate Spencer

The emergency room door slid open and in ran Doris, her arms flailing about.

“Aaaaah! Come quickly. A terrible thing. Ralph fell down.”

Grabbing a gurney, the triage nurse and orderly rushed out the door, followed by Doris.

There they found the old codger sitting on a bench with an ice packed ankle.

“What happened?” the nurse asked.

“I tell you, it was an awful thing,” began Doris. “He fell off the roof.”

“What was he doing up there?”

“Giving the old satellite dish a kick.”

The nurse stared at Ralph.

“The picture died and the Yankees were losing.”


The Garden Party by Norah Colvin

Ellie observed that the table looked delightful. Ollie said he’d never used such fine chinaware before. Teddy commented that the fairy cakes were scrumptious and iced tea was perfect for a warm day. Everyone agreed. Amy and Lucy beamed.

Afterwards, the guests offered to help with the dishes.

“No way,” said Amy. “You’re our guests.”

“We insist,” said Ellie. Swiping swiftly with her trunk, she launched the plates likes frisbees. Ollie deftly caught them and stacked them by the sink. Teddy frothed the soap suds and washed while Lucy dried.

“Many hands,” said Amy, putting cups and plates away.


Follow 10 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jill, pristine tights now soggy, shivered, wriggling them off while sitting, afraid to stand and tip the shoe-boat. Jack cleared his throat and looked away.

“What?” she growled. “You’ve seen me in shorts before, at Track Regional Finals. And I am wearing undies, so just chill.”

“TMI, Jill,” Jack muttered, cheeks blazing hot.

It was her turn to blush.

The stream slowed, widening. They watched the water in silence. Ants floated on sturdy leaves. Helmeted kittens sailed a tiny Viking ship. An Owl and Pussy Cat rocked blissfully. And along the riverbank, a dish ran away with a spoon.


Fish in the Dish by Marge Small

One time a highly successful and skillful fisherwoman found herself in Florida, of all places. Every day she wanted to go fishing but what passed for creeks looked like ditches and were lined with alligators and snakes, not to mention snarly, snaggly brambles. Fishing was challenging until she switched her rod and reel for a small bow and arrow. Because of that alligators stopped chasing her bait and it was easier to maneuver. Her tall boots protected her from snakes and thorns. Finally, she’d found a way to put fish in the dish, but couldn’t wait to go home.


Fully Baked by Nicole Horlings

She kept her opinion inside the oven of her mouth, allowing it to finish cooking while the debate on either side of her continued to heat up. Both of their arguments followed old traditional recipes, the strong flavours clashing and unable to meld. She picked out the ingredients that she felt could be mixed together with the correct emulsifier of context, then mentally prepared a garnish of nuance to sprinkle on top. Once her opinion was properly set, she set the dish on the table, then let it rest, allowing the juices to redistribute as both sides reconsidered things.


Retirement by Reena Saxena

“I ordered baklava today, but it does not live up to my mom’s cooking”, coos her daughter on the phone while ordering dinner online.

Her husband senses her disappointment.

“Let them live their own lives. You did your best.”

She used to gloat in compliments after guests enjoyed her lavish dinners, and erroneously built her identity around it. She is still appreciated, but not needed.

The importance of the right dish in presenting a culinary masterpiece cannot be overemphasized.

As they dine alone in mellow candlelight, she wonders if she has turned into a dish from a sumptuous meal.


All the Little Moments by Heather Gonzalez

Martha inhaled her last breath. Within the seconds it took to exhale, she saw her life before her eyes. She saw her mother’s smile as she sipped from a coffee cup, her father hugging her while she washed the dishes after supper, her husband throwing a plate at their wedding, her daughter dropping her cup of juice on the floor, and the day she was diagnosed with cancer and threw her coffee mug against the wall. When her body had finally given up the battle, Martha felt warm water on her hands and her father’s embrace. She was home.


Apron Strings by Bill Engleson

I could never resist pulling them. Her apron strings. She would stand at the sink, innocently doing dishes, the ones I was supposed to do until she saw how unhappy chores made me. Instead of insisting that I learn some basic kitchen skills, she’d smile, say something like, “I’ll do them, sonny boy,” and that would be that.

Except I never left it at that.

From my earliest years, the strings of her apron dangled invitingly, and I would always come up behind her and pull them.

A thousand times at least.

Each time, a pure act of love.


Broken by Elizabeth

a broken dish
mended with gold
the scar is precious
it tells time and has a story
shouldn’t be erased, discarded
travelling to countries, continents
rough oceans, calm skies
it reveals a path taken, chosen
to reach the eventful moment
a split second of sorrow
when the past can’t be redone
however, the future is a choice
the trash bin or the shining on the shelf
a decision must be made
the fragility in the hands of the doer
a smile, a memory of celebration
a lump in my throat, a memory of an empty dish
mended with gold


On This Day by Gloria McBreen

Lily pulled on her warmest woolly jumper and stepped into her oversized wellingtons. She always liked her wellies a size bigger, so that she could wear two pairs of her dad’s socks to keep her toes nice and warm.
She trudged through the marshy field to where the thickest rushes grew. With her small scissors she snipped sixteen long rushes. She sat on a tuft of grass and weaved them together to make a St Bridget’s cross.
Her belly rumbled. Her mam always made one of Lily’s favourite dishes on St Brigid’s Day; colcannon. Lily made her way home.


Shadow Woman by Kelly S.

The sound of scrubbing dishes. After that, a broom across an old tile floor. An entire day of work and not a single word of thanks. Washed clothes, folded nicely, and placed gently on the bed. As a child, she had a brother. He was taught to grow out. She was taught to shrink in. As his light was nurtured until it burned as bright as Hollywood, her was dimmed until it became nothing more than a shadow. She met a man who would treat her the same as her father. She would raise a daughter. Another shadow woman.


Smithereens by C. E. Ayr

Guess who?
The soapy plate slips from my fingers.
She looks older, exhausted.
She is wearing a man’s coat and work-boots.
I need clothes and money, she says, heading for our bedroom.
The coat falls, and she’s naked.
She’s small, skinny now, brutally bruised.
They let you go?
She scowls scornfully.
Did you hurt anyone?
Only when deserved…
She dresses quickly, in dark, practical clothes.
Quaking with fear, I give her all the money I have.
She punches me in the mouth, hard.
Payback, she says, or an alibi.
I-I didn’t …
But she’s gone.
Back to the Resistance.


Do Vampires Really Need Dishes? by Joanne Fisher

“Why do we have so many dishes? We’re vampires. It’s not like we cook meals or throw dinner parties.” Katherine asked as she looked around their kitchen where there were cupboards full of cups, bowls, and plates.

“We could eat food if we wanted to.” Sylvia replied.

“Sure, but we would receive no nourishment from it.” Katherine argued. Sylvia picked up a plate with swirling patterns on it.

“Anyway, I think they’re pretty.”

“Sure, but they serve no functional use here.” Katherine stated. Sylvia pouted and put the plate back in the cupboard.

“Do they have to?” She asked.


Dish of the Day by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking has thrice been invaded by aliens: once, in 693 by thirteen Soporifs who slept the whole time; and twice by the dish people from the porcelain star cluster. The first, in 1324 ended with them attacked by ravenous pottery-eating fungi, after which their spokesperson described events as being ‘spore form’; and the second, in 1954 when the visitors, in retaliation abducted Sue Plate, Little Miss TT 1953 after Little Tittweaking’s Examiner’s described her thusly: ‘Sue Plate is a real dish’. Tensions eased after both sides shared a mushroom-themed supper, with a view to moulding a new relationship.


The Bread Plate by Hugh W. Roberts

While daydreaming, admiring the dishes on the table, Madeline watched the dapper servers rush by holding trays of plates covered with metal domes. Nobody would miss a small bread plate if she secretly hid one in her purse, would they?

She’d add a dinner service like this, without the name, to her upcoming wedding gift list.

An unexpected rattling of the dishes, cutlery and glasses made as they shuddered broke her daydream.

“What’s causing everything to clatter, Madeline?” asked her mother.

“I don’t know, ma-ma,” Madeline replied, wondering if the word ‘Titanic’ would easily rub off her bread plate.


Dishes by Jeff Heal

Dishes everywhere here there, under foot on end table.

I only have two kids but wow, two kids equal many friends and all seem to be hungry all the time.

Had the talk, dishes now out in kitchen on counter not washed just piled, but hey they made it to the kitchen, nothing anywhere else.

Ok happier, another talk, dirty dishes in the dishwasher counters cleaned but dishwasher not turned on, but nothing laying around incredibly happy.

Dishes always dishes. Turn dishwasher on now we always have clean dishes.

Ok now to get washer emptied.


Togetherness by Larry Trasciatti

Arthur had always dreaded washing dishes.

‘Are we Luddites or something?’ he asked Martha.

‘We can’t get a machine?’

‘It’s a shared activity,’ Martha said

‘This way we get to spend time together.’

‘It’s such a sticky annoying chore,’ he said.

‘Can’t we spend time together sorting dry things?’

Soon she won as wives always do.

He put an honest effort into it, and even got a kick out of the weird designs on several plates and cups.

He even found out her mother’s middle name is Bertha.

Washing dishes makes a big difference. Soon they were all finished.


Helping Hands by JulesPaige

Last night I attempted to follow a recipe. I use them as guidelines. I did that fancy fish prep with salmon. I poached it in a parchment envelope. I didn’t have lemon slices, so I sliced a tomato to top the fish. I put the fish over some scallions and added some salt, pepper, ground ginger and lemon zest mix. I honestly don’t remember the other veggie I had. I made a fancy presentation, just because I could.

Hubby, without asking, cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher. A nice change up from me doing everything for our evening meal.


The Kitchen Sink by Jenny Logan

“Is this all there is?” she’d asked. “Saturday night and I’m elbow-deep in washing up. I used to be somebody, had a social life and a job.”

Over the years her feelings changed.

“I get to wash dishes and take care of the only man who’s ever wanted me around on a permanent basis—just ask any of my ex-husbands.”

She smiled as she prepared meals to his preferences rather than hers, except on rare occasions—perhaps her birthday.

“We’ve done pretty good over the years, haven’t we, hon?” she asked him one morning.

“You won’t hear me complaining.”


Good Dishes by Kerry E.B. Black

The teen ran a finger around the gold edge of the china. “I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, we’re just gonna put food on them.”

“They were Gram’s. She only used them for special meals, like this one.” His mother polished gold-plated cutlery. “Makes posh place settings.” She placed two forks to the left of a plate.

“Then they need to be hand washed.”

“Too delicate for the dishwasher.” She ruffled his hair. “But you’re the best dishwasher ever.” She hummed while folding linen napkins.

He pressed his lips tight. “I’d rather use paper plates.”


The Day I Won’t Forget Doing Dishes by Duane L Herrmann

I had been ordered to was the dishes – again! I was so tired of washing dishes, cooking, doing the laundry and cleaning house. At least my brothers had outgrown their diapers, but I still had to give them baths and shine their shoes every Sunday morning. And, there were the chickens, and sometimes hogs, I had to care for. I was so tired of the work. I wanted to die. This day I made and remade island bubbles around the dishes in the sink. My reward was a concussion from my mother. I was about ten years old.


Teacup by Kelly S.

My mom went to an antique store around 40 years ago and bought a teacup with a matching saucer. The outside of the cup is plain white. Inside is an intricate mandala of blue and gold. The saucer is identical to the cup. When my sister or I got sick, she’d make us tea, and serve it inside the cup and put little cookies on the plate. For the rest of the time, it has a golden stand to rest on as a decoration. Ever since she passed, her picture rests next to the set in a golden frame.


Heirloom China by TJ Smith

The Wedgewood china with beautiful pastel pink roses say on display in an oak cabinet in the formal dining room. Mama often bragged to southern relatives about how she got the cabinet while we were visiting Italy and the china while visiting Nantucket.

Mama also had melmac dishes in a putrid shade of celery green popular back in the ’60s, scratched, chipped, and hidden away in the kitchen cabinet.

When she was angry, she threw the melmac at the wall.

When she was furious, she threw the china at me.

I hate roses.


Marriage and Flying Saucers by Doug Jacquier

My wife believes in flying saucers. And cups. And dinner plates. Even the occasional saucepan sails through space.

The problem is my wife’s frustration with what she sees as an irredeemable flaw in my character, namely that her pearls of wisdom, not to mention her specific instructions, don’t seem to arrive intact at my semi-deaf ears as often as she would like.

When I demurred, half the dinner service was sacrificed on that field of battle.

So now we stand close enough to ensure clear communication, although this has led to dancing and who knows where that might end?


Do the Dishes by sweeterthannothing

“Do the dishes, you say, do the hoovering, do the washing, go shopping, take out the recycling, cook dinner..”

Betty ran her hands through her hair in stress and paced the kitchen.

“I’m so sick of it, sick of being told what to do, you’re always commanding, demanding. Do this, do that, wear this, don’t say that…”

She kicked the unconscious man at her feet.

“Well no more, you won’t tell me to do a single damn thing ever again.”

She brought the iron down in an arc, striking his already damaged skull.

“No, I won’t do your dishes”


Grime Sticks on the Dishes by Satish Warrier

The grime stuck stubbornly on the plate. Blood red, dried and flaky, remnant of the meal, they never finished. It started amicably but then turned toxic, like how it had always been. It was a relief if some of the dishes actually reached the sink. Rest unfortunate ones shattered on her face and stained walls. For his aggression she felt responsible. Always feeling apologetic. This meal was different. She had made a choice. The raised plate was resolutely grasped and snatched away. His expression changed from anger to fear. The plate struck on his throat. Tearing through his skin.


Best Served Cold by Anne Goodwin

Angie cringed when she saw the cereal bowl centred on the kitchen table. Her shoulder screamed as she scraped at crusted oats with a lacquered nail. If he could dislocate a joint for ‘smiling inappropriately’, he could murder her for being a sloppy housewife.

Yet, despite the pain, she smiles as she stirs the batter in the baking bowl. She’s doubled the sugar to disguise the taste of strychnine, doubled the chocolate to inspire him to take a second slice. She did hesitate between hot pudding and tray-bake brownies. But everyone knows revenge is a dish best served cold.


The Dishes by Caroline Williams

Newly divorced and liberated, new plates are needed. These fit the bill and she unwraps them reverently, proudly. Yes, these will do nicely. Evenings with new beaus are anticipated: Ottolenghi-inspired delicacies will be arrayed and consumed. She will be just like Nigella. She will be carefree, casual, quirky. Witty, bohemian friends will throng; their intelligent bon mots the sparkling soundtrack to her middle-aged renaissance. The John Lewis matching dinner service for six and Delia’s Complete Cookery Course have been dispatched to the charity shop. Good riddance to all that. New plates, new pants, new haircut, new start.


Hog Wash by D. Avery

“That dang Pal. Cain’t be bothered ta cook dinner or clean up afterwards, don’t never pitch in anymore. Claims ta always have some place ta be, seems ta git back jist after I’ve finished cleanin up. Well, Curly, we’ll show that yahoo. Yep, here comes Pal now, must think I’m done with the dishes. But I’m jist gittin started. Come here Curly. Good girl.

“Oh, hey, Pal.”

“Kid! Why’s thet hog lickin the dishes?!”

“Jeez Pal, how d’ya think I git the dishes cleaned? Curly’s always willin ta hep.

“Git, I’ll wash the dang dishes.”

“Have it yer way.”


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

February 6: Story Challenge in 99-words

Three dark-eyed juncos flutter in a small maple tree stripped to bare branches. A veil of softly falling snow obscures the sharp details of their feathers from my view. The birds seek food as I wash dishes after breakfast. I feel a hopeful sensation beat time with bird wings.

Maybe I’m hopeful of spring and the return of birds; a cycle so ingrained in me that I know with every cell it’s coming. Later than sooner. In the Keweenaw, February and March are full of false springs.

What is this connection I feel to nature all around me? Birds never cease to stir wonder no matter how common they might be. Chickadees speak to me no matter the season. Crows strike up conversations from the oak across Roberts Street. Pigeons ignore me.

What they say (or don’t, as with the pigeons) feels fleeting. Like almost understanding another language or remembering a dream in the morning. If I could understand what a bird has to say to me, how would I respond?

It’s not far-fetched to think that birds speak to me. After all, birds speak in mythology as messengers of the divine. The poet, Poe, quothed a raven. Scientists even agree, pointing out collaborative efforts to communicate between birds and humans; birds and wolves.

The calls of birds are symbolic. The screech of an eagle becomes a cry for freedom while the song of the robin signals spring. I think about the juncos outside and resiliency comes to mind. Their presence symbolizes the ability to face hard times — bare trees, banks of snow, and fierce winds. The juncos are thriving and so can we. We are interconnected. I recognize the truth that humans exist because nature exists. It’s never been the other way around.

As a founding member of People of the Heart Water Walkers, I’ve learned to offer petitions to the water and acknowledge all our kin. Anishinaabe teachings hold that all life is soveirgn. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, writes, “The land knows you, even when you are lost.” Dr. Suzanne Simmard’s work to understand how trees grow, discovered that trees are sentient beings. Pat McCabe, Weyakpa Najin Win, is a Dine activists, speaker, and cultural laison. She calls us to connect with nature to thrive:

Since “learning to kiss the hag” with the reknown psychologist and mythologist, Sharon Blackie, I’ve begun to reflect more deeply on the psyche through mythology and dreams. Nature plays an ever present role. When I joined the Water Walkers, I longed for a way to retrieve my own lost lineage. The Anishinaabe talk about blood memory (collective memories of one’s ancestors) and I’ve wondered if I could tap into my own through deep inward explorations.

As if to answer my thoughts, Sharon Blackie recently posted this:

Both mentors are going to present at This Animate Earth to “Remember a world that is alive and ensouled, an animate earth where everything has place, purpose and meaning and all life is sacred.”

With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, my thoughts turn from birds to love. What would it be to write a love letter to nature? And if you are in the romantic frame of mind, be sure to catch up with the Cowsino story slots and spine now playing at the Saddle Up Saloon. Lots of characters are already over there playing with ranch mythology and more.

February 6, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story as a love letter to nature. You could reach back to more pastoral times of writing or enter into the future. Who is writing the letter — an ant or an aunt? Is it a lifetime of love or eons? Go where the prompt leads!

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

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

Optimism 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.

Antique Aquarian by Kerry E.B. Black

In a lecture hall filled with youthful angst and energy, Rose sat erect and attentive, her wider bottom spilling over the fold-out seat. Instead of using a laptop like her fellow students, Rose jotted in a spiral-bound notebook balanced on her knees.

She knew others gossiped about her, saying things like “why’s that grandma in the ecology lecture?” Rose didn’t mind. In fact, she enjoyed attention.

Maybe they’d realize some “Boomers,” especially silver-haired free spirits from the Age of Aquarius, not only cared about the future of the earth. Some intended to continue to “do something” to improve it.


The Pursuit by D. Avery

“My glass is always half full.”

“That’s because you’re a slow drinker, Ilene. Mine’s half empty but I’ve already got another round coming. Power of positive drinking.”

“You asked about my exes, Marge. This one’s glass was always half empty.”

“I’m listening. A half-glass sad-ass.”

“That’s about right. I finally realized that happiness is a personal responsibility. And unhappiness is contagious. I’ll tell you from experience— men age about as well as fish on the counter.”

“And yet you always seem to have one.”

“My indomitable optimism, Marge. And, it’s catch and release— gives the fish another chance too.”


Plant a Dream by Dawn Benedict

For ten years George and Irma had been covering their land with apple trees. Thank goodness these were the last, they weren’t as spry as they used to be.

“When are Jacob and Lisa coming?” George asked.

“Next week.” Irma replied. “You doing okay?”

“We knew when we started planting we’d never see the full harvest. At least we have this summer to teach them the secrets of the orchard, and they can help us pack up the house. I hadn’t planned on this cancer spreading so fast, but at least we were able to give them their dream.”


Building Blocks by Norah Colvin

Clare’s tower was almost the tallest she’d ever made. One more block would do it.

Harry accidentally backed into it and sent blocks flying.

“Sorry,” said Harry.

“It’s okay. I can build it again. Wanna help?”


“We need a bigger base. That one was getting wobbly anyway.”

“Let’s go as high as the roof,” said Harry.

They carefully placed the blocks and soon had to stretch on tiptoes.

Clare stood on a chair. Harry passed the blocks.

“We’re outa blocks,” said Harry. “It won’t reach the roof.”

“Let’s build on the table,” said Clare. “It’ll reach the sky!”


Optimistic Thinking by Ann Edall-Robson

“You sent those kids to do what!” Mac’s voice boomed.

“It needed to be done, and they are not kids,” replied Liz.

“They’ve never been to that part of the ranch. You know the road at the crossing is tricky.”

Liz looked out the window and started laughing.

“From the amount of mud on them and the truck, I’d say they figured out the crossing.”

“How’d you know they’d be okay?”

“A little bit of optimistic thinking,” she replied to the man leaving the kitchen.

Mac needed to hear about the first supply delivery to the summer cow camp.


Pause, for Lucky by JulesPaige

Open book
New words and new worlds
Rabbits and
Mirrors that
Take us to new spaces shared
Fueled by hopes’ joy

Jane watched as Emme allowed the rabbit to sniff first her hands then her face. It was as if a magic portal had opened up.

Emme actually giggled. The weight of the water of tears, unshed rushed out of the little girl’s laughing eyes. “Miss Jane, does this bunny have a name?”

“Only the one that you give her,” Jane replied.

“I think; Lucky, because she has all her paws. Do you have any carrots in your basket?”


Follow 6 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“A most satisfying repast,” intoned Roland. He rolled on his back in the clover, examining his rabbit feet, belly full of carrots.

“Good choice, Jill.” Betsy stretched on her side in agreement, cottontail twitching happily. “You’ve fed the colony with the magic tablecloth. Take it, and whatever the buckets hold, to speed your journey.”

“Do we leave the buckets here with you?”

“Nay! Fill them from yon stream. It’s a long hike to the castle and Queen Buttermilk.” Roland rolled to his feet.

“I’ve got this, Jill.” Jack picked up the buckets and slung the yoke over his shoulders.


Follow 7 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Jack and Jill wandered through the swaying grass until they reached the stream. Shading their eyes, they followed its flow to the far castle.

“That’s a good sign,” whispered Betsy to Roland. “Her choice to feed us, and his offer to help.

“What else was in those buckets besides the tablecloth?” Roland picked up a small bunch of carrot greens and nibbled it from stem to leafy end.

“The acorn thimble. The corkscrew. Not sure about that strange glove.”

“The buckets do the choosing, but they have to guess how to use them,”

“I’m sure they’ll come out fine.”


Being Happy by Mr. Ohh!

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning
But then remembered that I woke up
My breakfast and coffee were ice cold
But then I remembered that I could still taste and get out of the house
I now have a new positive attitude, and it carries me through the days like I’m flying on a cloud. Then I remembered clouds are made up of condensed water vapor and I felt cold and wet and like I was falling from said cloud and got sick.
I went back to bed and felt warm and happy


Optimism by Reena Saxena

“Optimism is a lens” she said, “it helps you tide over life. Isn’t it a wonder that we cannot see things beyond a certain point, and cannot hear anything with a volume less than 20 decibels?”

“Again, you need a lens when there is no option. It’s called optimism.”

“There are days when there is darkness all around, and even breathing feels optimistic.”


Optimism by sweeterthannothing

Optimism is just not for me, life taught me, crushed me, nothing good happens, nothing is easy

Optimism doesn’t come freely, not when you’re me, it was stamped on, smothered, beaten out of me

Optimism took me, years of hard work, trying and failing and trying again, therapy finally helping me

Optimism brought him to me, he’s happy, care free, light, he loves me, grounds me, frees me

Optimism brought me back to life, back to love, a home, a family and a future finally

Optimism is still hard, I have to try, I have to work on me


The Optimist by C. E. Ayr

I suppose I’ve always been an optimist.

When I was young and my father beat me and slapped Mum, I kept believing things would get better.

When he had that horrible accident and they took her away, even though she’d done nothing wrong, I still hoped things would improve.

The children’s home was horrendous.

I was small and scrawny, so I got bullied until Big Basher had that terrible accident.

I went into foster care but they were nasty people.

Then they had that ghastly accident.

I’m in prison now, but still quite optimistic.

Even here, accidents can happen.


Too Good by Geoff Le Pard

Beatrice Hapi started Little Tittweaking’s Optimists Anonymous after the pessimism pandemic drove optimists underground. Bea found each session hard work, trying to re-instil a cheery positivity alongside inexhaustible supplies of sugary treats. Realising undiluted glee wasn’t working she sought support to add a smidgen of cold reality while offering guidance against pre-diabetes. She found her perfect companion in Eva Afta who came to national attention with her Anti-Gloom potents and unguents that acted on facial muscles, creating a sunny disposition on even the most hardwired miserablist. They married though neither changed her name:
Bea Hapi – Eva Afta
just worked.


I’m Going Up the Portal by ladyleemanila

I’m going up the portal
To be full of fun
To the sea to snorkel

Get on with the hurdle
For sure it shines the sun
I’m going up the portal

May die tomorrow we’re mortal
What we have done is done
To the sea to snorkel

I like to giggle and chortle
Negative vibes away I shun
I’m going up the portal

I think all soil’s fertile
Complaints I have none
To the sea to snorkel

I love yellow and purple
In the summer I like to run
I’m going up the portal
To the sea to snorkel


Street Café Philosophy-At Half the Price by Bill Engleson

“Buck up!”
“Sorry. Saw you sitting there like you weren’t enjoying your coffee…looking like a glum chum.”
“It’s hot chocolate.”
“Not a coffee drinker?”
“Was. Doctors’ orders. Cut back on caffeine.”
“Gotta do what the doctor says, I suppose…even if you become a gloomy Gus.”
“So, you don’t do what your Doctor recommends?”
“Mostly. But the way I see it, tomorrow’s another day and I want to enjoy every minute on the way to it.”
“So, cutting back on stuff that’s harmful…?”
“It’s not the getting there, it’s the journey. “
“Personally, I’d like to get there intact.”


I Can See Clearly Now by Joanne Fisher

“I can see clearly now the rain has gone…” Sofia sang along to the car radio. Phillipa, who was driving, joined in.

Sofia’s father had beaten her when he found out she was gay and had a girlfriend. He forbade her to see Phillipa again. Social workers intervened once the bruises became obvious and she ended up in foster care.

Now that school was over, Sofia and Phillipa packed all their things and headed to the city where they would live together. It would take time for Sofia’s scars to heal, but she was in a better place now.


Basic Features by Jenny Logan

“Was there anything worse at school than Latin?” she asked as she zipped up her toiletries bag.

“Amo, amas, amat? Where would we be without it, my love?”

“Now language learning represents something else. Something more hopeful.”

“Indeed. Ready?”

She picked up her backpack and followed him out.

“‘Saklamak’?” he asked.

“Oh! I know this one. To save for the future. How about ‘beklemek’?”

“To wait for, to expect. Like this overdue holiday.”

She ignored the empty space where her womb had once been and they trudged through the snow to the airport bus, conjugating verbs all the way.


Snow Queen by Kelly S.

A paper white bunny with a ruby red ribbon tied around her neck. Her name was Snow Queen, after the color. That and the movie where the kids disappear inside a closet and have an adventure. She was given a cage lined with the softest bedding money could buy for around fifteen dollars. The girl who got her as a gift gave her something very special. She bought a music box with the song Clair de lune. There was no particular reason. She just figured that if a rabbit was going to like any song, why not that one?


Futures by Hugh W. Roberts

Jackie was optimistic that she’d see at least one more Christmas. She wasn’t going to allow a dodgy heart to beat her.

When her mother’s last days arrived, they celebrated Christmas in February. Her mother’s wish was to celebrate Christmas optimistically before she departed this world.

Everyone was shocked when Jackie’s heart finally gave up in April when Jackie joined her mother on the next adventure.

In December, Jackie’s husband celebrated Christmas with his new wife. While her optimism for never getting caught for what would be a triple murder gathered momentum, she knew she had the best sanguinity.


Optimism by Colleen M. Chesebro

The witches’ chanting affected Hilda. Her tears flowed. Her coughing stopped, and the rabbits quit multiplying. The shadows that had clouded her features lifted.

Hilda’s voice wavered. “I can’t fix what happened to the human when my spell backfired. I can’t make him whole again. But I can make his life easier.”

She whispered,

“May your outlook brighten,
optimism fills your heart—
this spell is your new start
true love is yours.”

In the darkness of Coven Hall, tiny twinkling stars lit up the room. The witches smiled, and with clasped hands, they circled Hilda.

“Welcome back!” they shouted.


Ever the Optimist by Margaret G. Hanna

Canada, here I come.

No bending the knee to some high and mighty landowner, like Dad. No working someone else’s farmland, like Dad. Nope, I’m going to have my own farm.

To do that, I’m leaving not-so-merry old England. Leaving my friends, too, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

I don’t quite believe the picture the agent painted of Canadian farms. I’ve worked with Dad long enough to know farming is hard work. You don’t just throw the seed in the ground and watch it harvest itself.

Tomorrow, I leave on Mr. Cunard’s Ultonia. My farm awaits.


The Optimistic Boss by Nicole Horlings

By all rights, she should’ve been seething mad. Her assistant’s blunder caused serious issues regarding scheduling, which would significantly reduce revenue.

Yet, she wasn’t mad. In fact, she cheerfully dealt with all the complications, confusing the anxious assistant. “But isn’t this a bad thing?” the young fellow asked.

“It could be. Or, we can take this extra time as an opportunity to make our product even better, and become even more successful. I’ll tell you a secret: I made a similar blunder when I entered this industry, but effectively under-promised and over-delivered. Now I can afford to hire you.”


Choir Practice is Uplifting by Sue Spitulnik

Wednesday lunchtime, Michael said to Tessa, “I made a mistake when we talked about my sabbatical?”

“You did? I’m enjoying you being home more. You aren’t going cross country for a speaking engagement, are you?”

He chuckled. “No. But somehow, the church youth choir got left out of the conversation.”

Tessa looked at him in mock horror, then laughed. “You silly man, guiding those kids renews our optimistic outlook each week, especially when one of them has a personal breakthrough to come tell you about. I never thought of that changing.”

“I should have known that’s what you’d say.”


Hope — A Story by Sadje

Mom was always optimistic, perhaps too much positive at times. Her kids learned to ignore her most of the time, but there were instances when she got on their nerves.

When her eldest went through a bad divorce, mom tried to buck her up with positive things in the whole situation, it backfired.

Whenever the younger got into a power struggle with her in-laws’ mom tried to point out the positives about them; the daughter stopped discussing her issues.

When mom got seriously ill, they wanted to cheer her up, give her hope. But it wasn’t needed, she knew!


Fred Likes Jane by Larry Trasciatti

Fred was sitting in his sparsely furnished bedroom, alternately looking at the papers and books on his desk, and the crucifix on his wall.

He was trying to devise a ploy to win Jane’s hand.

Although the weather outside was bitter, damp, and rainy, he knew she was the woman for him so what could go wrong?

After having asked a few friends for advice he made his move.

All he did was greet her in a chipper tone of voice.

‘That spoonful of sugar in my coffee this morning,’ he thought to himself, ‘was such a wonderful idea.’


Fresh Start by Doug Jacquier

We didn’t care that the rain came in sideways, driven by the same scouring winds that had delivered the dust from farms hundreds of miles away for many summers now and sent our own on a similar journey. As long as there was enough to drown our despair at fly-blown carcasses in paddocks, 100-year-old trees falling like matchsticks, creek-bed roads and harvesters rusting in sagging sheds, because these days real seeds only produced phantom crops. We hoped the rain triggered flash flooding, washed out the roads and cut the power; that was a fresh start we could gladly endure.


Optimistic Opal by Sam Kirk

Unlike other days, Opal jumped out of bed the moment her alarm went off. New day, new year, new ME!

Having created a gap between her blind slats with her thumb and index fingers, she peered outside. Rain clouds. Got to reschedule beach plans. Opal sighed at the thought but quickly recovered. I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful day anyway!

With a conscious pep in her step, Opal exit her room. In the hallways, she tripped over an uneven rug.

I think I broke something…

New new year resolution – stop listening to others and remain a realist.


Proud to Be British? by Anne Goodwin

We were small, but we were mighty. We planted flags of industry across the world. We stole their artefacts, smashed their cultures, raised fine buildings from the sweat of slaves. When times changed, we adapted, but in our history books we stood tall.

We crushed the pessimists back home with promises. When our neighbours wouldn’t recognise our stature, we cut our ties.

Who cares if we’re the laughing stock of Europe? We scorned their health and safety human rights to take back control. Our red tape is stronger and shinier than their red tape. Our tape makes tighter knots.


Ray of Hope by Duane L Herrmann

The situation was die. Incompetence held all the power. The people suffered. Unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, a Message came. It spread from one heart to another. At first, those in power did not notice, but gradually they became aware as crowds, and money, began to diminish. They sent spies to discover the reason. They learned about the Message and began to stamp it out. Despite their efforts, the Message continued to spread. This Message said real power is held by every person and each person has the right to their own power. This is happening now.


Love by Elizabeth

listen to me
in a world without gods
cherish love
because it transcends matter, time and space
it keeps us going, it fills us with optimism
it’s the ultimate resource for survival
in a forgotten world
as a breeze carrying seed to a distant land
love spreads infinite hope
when the spell is broken
look up at the stars
memories of scattered love
will spring from the universe
and fill up your soul
you will keep that moment
forever ever
and find the goddess inside your pure being
waiting to be pleased
a constellation of joy will guide you


Shiftin Topic by D. Avery

“Ello Keed. Where are you goeeng?”

“Hey, Pepe. I’m tryin ta git a lead on this prompt. ‘Parently optic ain’t the topic, but thought I’d visit with Frankie anyways. She’s got a positively unique way a seein the world.”

“Dat is true. An, eef I do say so myself, Logatha and I are optimists. We feel like everytheeng works out in da end.”

“Where is Logatha?”

“She ees visiteeng her seester, Cheri Le Shart. Cheri’s too positive. Suffers from optimal illusions.”

“She does have a bubbly disposition.”

“Dat one has de personality of a Skeetle®. Not Logatha. She’s solid.”


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