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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.

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?”

“Sure.”

“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!”
“Pardon?”
“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!

January 30: Story Challenge in 99-words

I was asked to mark this day on the calendar — Todd did the dishes. It’s his little joke and we are rolling in the jokes big, small, and best not repeated. When you are a brain-challenged former Army Ranger with PTSD, debilitating body pain, and comorbidities, you can have a questionable sense of humor. As the spouse who decided to stay on this sinking battleship, I’m allowed to laugh inappropriately, too.

Sometimes Todd does the dishes. Remarkably, he gathers all the garbage every week as the self-appointed trash czar. I’m not sure why he remembers the garbage every week but can’t remember the shipwreck YouTube video we watched last night. But there is something to be said for rhythm and patterns. If he has garbage collection imprinted on a solid spot in his brain, he can go for it.

I was serious when I told him that my one and only concern is to be happy.

When his mood slips or his triggered brain needs a reset, I remind him of the happiness threshold. It’s enough to get through to him. The simplicity works. I just want to be happy, I say. No longer do I track episodes or worriedly watch for signs of escalation. I grab the happiness sheers and nip the negativity in a way he understands and (gratefully) agrees to. I note if he’s hurting, tired, hungry, or Mause-frazzled.

My caregiver skills have grown since I was accepted into the VA program at the end of 2021. And, I’ve added new tools to my mental health toolkit that align with my ambition to be happy — positive psychology (not to be confused with Pollyanna or toxic positivity because neither are authentic cultivations of a positive mindset). It aligns with the appreciative inquiry I’ve cultivated in my career. Let me explain both because the latter is vital to understanding the mission at Carrot Ranch, and the former has become a tool to nourish my writer’s life.

In the 1990s, I discovered appreciative inquiry, and it changed how I approached my college education and resulting career as a marketing communicator and successful freelance writer. Until my mid-20s, I sucked as a student. I didn’t know how to study. I didn’t understand why my writing was considered “good” and I hid inside books, dreaming of discoveries I felt I couldn’t make because schooling was a barrier to me. Back then, I was committed to cognitive behavioral therapy, how to heal as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and break generational cycles. I knew I had c-PTSD. I also had three incredible children and a hero for a husband. They were my incentive to be well. Appreciative inquiry became my ladder out of what I called pit-thinking.

The pit might be filled with all my hardships, weaknesses, and human flaws but the ladder was built from my strengths. Each rung taught me to appreciate who I am. As the saying goes, “Energy flows where the focus goes.” When I learned to appreciate my strengths, a foundation emerged. I built a solid education, career, and writing life from that base. In the workplace, I used appreciative inquiry to build strengths-based teams and projects. From the start, I saw the possibility of play and collaboration at Carrot Ranch. Each week, the Collections prove to me the magic of collaborative creativity (even when the collecting goes awry).

Positive psychology popped up on my radar when I sought support to continue with the veteran spouse group after the regional Vet Center abandoned our remote outpost in the Keweenaw. Our fearless combat leader moved on to a justice job within the VA hospital south of here and we were promised by her superiors that her position would be filled. They lied, which is immensely harmful to a veteran population suffering from moral injury. We have a high number of Vietnam veterans and their families living in our area who helped start the Vet Centers across America because they distrusted the US government so deeply. Thus, it damaged many when their legacy organization left them and lied about replacement.

“It’s happened so many times before in the past 24 years, I lost count,” says one Vietnam veteran spouse. I only meant to stand in the gap until we could get another group going. But the Vet Center remains closed down, their flags, posters, and brochures about their promise to vets abandoned in a mostly empty shopping mall. Over winter break, I created a syllabus of sorts for my Warrior Sisters. We are back to meeting weekly every Friday. One every other week we lunch and write letters to our shut-ins. On alternate weeks we Zoom to allow greater access for those who can’t go out. The VA Caregiver Support Program is great but far away. We need closer interaction.

That’s when I found and purchased an online positive psychology workbook to incorporate videos, worksheets, and practical tools to cultivate a positive mindset. The definitions help us recognize and honor our resiliency, too. If you are interested in this path for yourself, you can start with this in-depth article and a list of references (mostly books). It helps me stay centered in my quest to be happy in this grand adventure I call my writing life (where lots of unintentional non-writing things happen).

I needed deep breathing and a positivity exercise after last week’s collecting, that’s for sure. The stories stirred, surprised, and inspired me but the snafus with collecting chomped me like a coyote on a ski slope. The situation is what it is for now, and I’m doing my best, staying close to the happy side of life. What was lost was restored. The new website is out for at least another month, so be patient with me, and don’t hesitate to speak up if your story is missing.

A new path slowly emerges. I see familiar faces and places, but the flow has changed. Do you feel it, too? I wonder what future historians will call this period in time? I wonder what will shift in our writing? Refind the path if you’ve awoken in the weeds. Roll over and remember the joy of finding shapes in clouds or peering into the blue eye of the sky. A writer’s life is made up of cyclical seasons anyhow. If the writing calls to you, then write. If not, read, dream, and readjust the vision. It’ll come back.

And, mark this day in your calendar. Todd did the dishes.

January 30, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the dishes. It can be the every-single-day activity, a precious collection, or any other interpretation of dishes as objects or activities. Who is stuck with the dishes and why? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by February 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.

Lady Shadows 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 Shadow Lady by D. Avery

I didn’t see her.
Only saw a raven,
black wings whispering over fog filled valleys
through winter gray sky,
lustrous shadow in flight.

Only the raven
roosting high in the pine
before dropping gracefully down to the snow
to dig for her cache—
she has been here before.

Creation’s shadow,
death and resurrection;
guide and messenger, she is light’s reflection.
Or, just a raven,
scratching familiar ground.

🥕🥕🥕

The Moral Injury of War by Sue Spitulnik

The Band of Brothers was finishing a practice session at the No Thanks when two young women arrived. They purchased beers and went to the back corner, darkest booth like they were regulars. Soon, Kurt joined them.

They sat in the shadows long enough to have a second round that Mac delivered. At the bar, Katie asked who they were.

Mac explained, “We met them on Thanksgiving eve. Their MOS was the same as Kurt’s, but a generation later. They are discussing how to deal with things I hope you never experience nor volunteer for.”

“I won’t volunteer, Grandpa.”

Author’s Note: MOS stands for Military Occupation Speciality Code. In past episodes, it was revealed Kurt was an army sniper. Currently, there are less than 100 women in the Army that could be assigned the same job, but women are gradually becoming part of the front lines. It’s also a fact that only 10% of the troops deployed to the front experience combat. Others are mechanics, cooks, vehicle drivers, medics, etc.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadow Talk by Hugh W. Roberts

I followed the lady’s shadow on her journey. She took me around the house and waited for me when I fell behind.

If rooms were dark, I’d flick on the light to see her. She talked to me on our journey and reassured me that everything would be okay.

When I heard the key in the front door, she had to leave, but another shadow took her place.

As I quickly took off my mother’s dress, pearl necklace and high-heeled shoes, my father’s voice called out.

“Are you ready, William? Time for you to hit the under-elevens football pitch.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Shadow Woman by Elizabeth

You are not alone
Within you
There is a woman
The true version of yourself
The one that lurks in the dark
The one that steps side by side with you
The one that sees what you don’t see
But remains quiet
The one that talks to you through dreams and nightmares
The one that holds you when you need it most
You are not alone
Listen to her and evolve
The wise words of someone that sees the truth
The shadow woman
Carrying the experience of generations
The ones that were here before you
You are not alone

🥕🥕🥕

Into Light by Chel Owens

The townsfolk knew she lived there; maybe. Sometimes Mrs. Beardy, nine miles North, said she’d seen someone hanging wash. Old Frank, the property South, couldn’t say the same -he didn’t pass Monty McCrae’s place for no reason, he’d said.

Or would’ve said. Maybe.

Old Frank wasn’t into talking, especially about others’ business. Everyone felt that way: leave someone alone if he wanted.

That’s why no one, not even Angelique (formerly Mrs. Monty) McCrae, recognized the lady in red who finally left a life of shadows, walked down the dirt path to a hired car, and rode away to freedom.

🥕🥕🥕

No Shadow by C. E. Ayr

when you came
you brought no shadow
you just brightened
the wintry skies
and your light bathed
the cloistered corners
making darkness flee
from your approach

green springtime
became glorious summer
with blue skies
and rainbows
that held no hint of rain
you gave warmth
to the land
and to my life

then in the mirror
I glimpse a shadow
as soft and dark as midnight air
my eyes are slow to see the outline
of the space
where once you were

ah yes
when you came
you brought no shadow
but
now you’ve gone
that’s all
that remains

🥕🥕🥕

Outside the Training Centre by Anne Goodwin

Clem passes the training centre five times before she dares to enter. How she detests this timid version of herself. What happened to the woman who single-handedly brought up four children? What happened to the woman who, when they were grown, moved to a town where she knew no one simply for the adventure of living by the sea?

She’s still there, she tells herself, as she pushes through the door. Crushed by injustice but continuing to breathe. A new skill is like medicine, strengthening her muscles, armouring her skin. It will launch her from the shadows, triumphant again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rock Star’s Daughter by Nicole Horlings

She lived her entire life in the shadow of her father. Always referenced, yet never personally spoken about. Her talent always eclipsed by whichever show he was performing next. Never famous enough to feel influential, but too famous to move elsewhere and reinvent herself. Courted by aspiring actors desperate for any claim to fame, or a spot in the tabloids.

After her father’s death, she was merely the silhouette the media used to keep his name in the magazines. They pitied her when she also released an album, seeing it as a pale imitation of what he had done.

🥕🥕🥕

The Shadow by Ann Edall-Robson

For ten years she had lived within the small town’s shadow. She was known as the lady who spent hours in her garden and signed out books every other week, or so the librarian had once said. One month after she’d typed ‘The End’, she anonymously sent the manuscript to the news station. The team kept it under wraps while they investigated the damning, dangerous words only an insider might know. Stonewalled by vague obituaries and news clippings identifying a bystander killed in an attempt on the business owner named in several chapters, the author’s identity was still unknown.

🥕🥕🥕

Living In The Shadow by Geoff Le Pard

Priscilla Ou-Ette, Cill to her friends was Little Tittweaking’s shadow puppet expert. She found fame as an Influenza when she launched, in a sneeze of publicity, a set of personalised middle-finger shadows for the discerning teen. Going mainstream, she wooed the monarchy with her royal profiling that removed any spare hairs from coins and stamps. Ennobled as the Lady Shadow for her work creating an award-winning diorama of every shadowy character serving in the Cabinet (all of them as it turned out) she died when she launched her life-sized fox logo just as the Tittweaking nocturnal hunt passed.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadows by Miss Judy Writes

We met on the rocky, seaside cliffs. He was walking north, I was walking south. Our eyes met and instantly fell in love.

An ethereal shadow came to us on our marriage bed, a woman. She rustled the night air sending a chill that burned my sex glistened skin. He moaned, I knew it was not for me.

He lives with her now, somewhere a shadow. Mother and son, a bond never to be broken.

Me? You will find me walking along those rocky cliffs, sometimes north, sometimes south, searching for my husband’s shadow on the rocky shore below.

🥕🥕🥕

Lady Shadow by Simon

Centuries ago, there was a demon believed to be lived amongst us. People scared to come out in the moon light as she lurks in the shadow of darkness. Rumours said it was lady shadow escaped from hell ate shadows to live amongst normal people, and people died had no shadows. Recent times after witnessing people die at moon light and has no shadows, is this possible? Is this the sign the lady from hell is back. If she living amongst us, who is going to save us?

The lady shadow posted her blogpost and smiled, a cruel smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Revenge: The Shadow Woman by Greg Glazebrook

Lilith fretted. She was comfortable skirting the periphery. Biding her time and studying the beast. Plotting how to best secure its loyalty. She needed it to support her primary mission.

Years had faded since she last saw him but not her memories. His captivating charm, the lost hours and waking up disoriented. His voice mocking as she stumbled dazed and half-naked into the corridor.

He was the real predator, worse than this unholy beast. Still, she clung to her script, leaving the dark recesses unprepared could prove severely disastrous.

“Show yourself,” the beast snarled. Slowly the shadow woman emerged.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadow Lady by Jaye Marie

I think I am invisible, and I must be, for no one smiles when I pass them by. No one answers when I bid them a good morning.
There is no shadow attached to my feet, and I never get wet when it rains.
I have no memory of what I am, or who I am supposed to be.
I walk the streets, hiding in dark corners, wanting someone to find me and tell me where I belong.
But the streets are empty now and I am cold, lost and alone, what did I do to deserve this fate?

🥕🥕🥕

Lady Shadows by Joanne Fisher

Call me Lady Shadow, for that is my name now. I was queen of a great elven kingdom, but my heart was rotten and the Shadow Lord ensnared me. I began working with him to undermine my kingdom and neighbouring lands. Once my schemes were found out my throne was taken, and so now I help rule the Shadow World instead.

We work to shroud the entire world in shadow. I will not rest until I have reclaimed my throne and spread darkness through the land and in the hearts of my subjects. That’s how the Shadow World wins.

🥕🥕🥕

Lady of Shadows by Kerry E.B. Black

Birdie stomped to her bedroom, threw herself across the mattress, and sobbed into her pillow. Nobody understood her misery. Classmates bullied her. Teachers picked on her. Worst of all, her own family treated her like she didn’t matter.

Somebody watched, not from the doorway, but from the shadows. Somebody Birdie couldn’t see but felt.

Birdie held her breath and blinked away tears. Although she strained, she saw nobody.

Still, gooseflesh raised along her arms and chills raced along her vertebrae. Her voice wobbled. “Who’s there?”

No answering voice. Nobody appeared.

But perfume drifted on an odd breeze, bringing comfort.

🥕🥕🥕

Cold Darkness by heyaisya

I try to force myself to sleep. But then, I saw her. “Why you’re here?”, I asked her in desperation. “I’m the one who should ask you why you take us here. We could live happily right now with your son but you proceed to kill the woman when you found your husband was blackmailed by her”.

The lady in the shadow is a reflection of a wife charged with a murder sentence for killing her husband’s mistress. Until today, there are a lot of women stuck in prison with murder charges because of their husband’s own mistakes.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadows by Reena Saxena

I hear sobs and curses amidst deafening applause.

Yes, the story of women in the British army being raped, and then misdiagnosed as suffering from emotional disorders weighs heavy on my thoughts.

It happens in other fields too, not necessarily in the army, as the sadistic diagnosis facilitates their elimination from active social and professional life.

The question I want interviewers to ask men is about the women behind them – women who were abused, discarded and silenced on their ascent to the pinnacle of success, or descent to the gallows.

Let’s face dark shadows before we applaud or condemn.

🥕🥕🥕

She’s Invisible by Sadje

A perfectly running home, a family whose needs are all taken care of, food cooked and served on time, clothes washed and ironed and floors mopped and everything dusted.

The lady of the house, a woman who has given up a lot of her life to raise the children, maintain the household, and make sure that everyone’s life runs smoothly, is herself like a shadow. You see her yet she is invisible. She doesn’t demands anything for herself.

We need to see the woman casting this shadow, look after her needs, fulfill her desires as she has right too.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadow Woman (Part III) by Colleen M. Chesebro

The witches tried every spell they knew. But rabbits appeared when Hilda coughed.

Finally, Glinda the healer said, “I know what’s wrong. Hilda’s shadow woman needs to be realigned. The Covidwitchitus affected her sense of self.”

Faeryn asked, “Shouldn’t we treat her cough, to stop the rabbits?”

“No, the shadow self is the parts of yourself you don’t want to accept. If we cast a spell for Hilda to accept that she injured the man, she should be cured,” answered Glinda.

The witches formed a circle and chanted, “Hilda’s mistakes don’t define her; how she puts them right does.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Shadow by sweeterthannothing

“Come,” she beckoned me, cooking a finger in my direction.

“Who are you?” I questioned, mouth dry and heart racing.

The ethereal voice didn’t answer my questions, “come”, the obsidian silhouette of a woman crooned from my bedroom floor.

“No,” I tried to shout the word, but all that came out was a whisper of a breath, against my will my feet starting shuffling forward. “Please,” I begged, as I crept ever closer to that black figure.

As my feet touched hers I was plunged into an icy darkness, and I found myself laying on the floor looking up.

🥕🥕🥕

Shadow Child by Margaret G. Hanna

I wonder what she would have been like, my little girl that never was.

A mother’s worst fear, a miscarriage, a child born too soon.

People said, “But you already have three children,” or “You can always have another.” How could people be so cruel? No one can be the same as this child.

I sometimes dream of her, what she might have been. Sometimes when I’m in my garden, or sitting quietly embroidering a pillowcase, I hear her voice, her laughter, and I look up, but no one is there. Only a ghost of what might have been.

🥕🥕🥕

Reunion by Jenny Logan

She stepped out of the shadows.

“I’ll be taking her now.”

“What?” the other woman said. “Who are you? You can’t take my baby. What do you want?”

“Only what you stole from me.”

“I didn’t steal her. I’ve got adoption papers. She’s mine now. I love her.”

“She belongs with me,” she said, gathering the small bundle in her arms. She inhaled her scent and kissed her head.

“I’ll call the police!”

“You do that. You must have known she’d been pilfered.” She put her down and clipped on her lead. “Come on, Peaches, home. I’ve missed you.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Terror of a Moment by MarlaPaige

Lost, scared and confused, he backed into a dark corner that smelled of urine.

They had been walking in this big new city, but he tried to pick something up off the ground. He let go… he let go. It was his fault he was lost.

Back against the bricks, he slid to the ground, knees tight to his chest; crying.

Hearing something, he looked up and saw the most beautiful shadow he had ever seen in his life. “Mommy,” he almost yelled with joy, leaping up and running full-speed into the waiting arms of the shadow’s grateful owner.

🥕🥕🥕

First Date by Kate Spencer

Trees, trees everywhere! Anna was fuming. She was exhausted and starving and regretted ever coming on this miserable hike.

“Ralph, admit it. We’re lost.”

“Shush. I’m listening for Queenie… Hold on… Yes, I found her!” Ralph yelled, rushing into the woods.

“Hey, wait for me!” Anna hurried after him until they reached a hidden mountain stream.

“We made it.”

“Made where?” Anna asked.

“To Queenie,” he said pointing to the stream. “She’s the lady who runs in the shadows and never failed to guide a lost hiker home.”

“Hah! So, I was right. We were lost.”

“Oh, shut up.”

🥕🥕🥕

Angora Advance by JulesPaige

Shadow mask
Cautious to evolve
Safe high up
In the tree
Until a furry creature
Becomes a cute lure

Emme wasn’t ready to come out of the shadows. At least she thought she wasn’t. Safe up the lone tree in the middle of this open field she could see far and hear nature. She must have dozed, when she woke, beneath the tree was a furry animal munching on something. Carefully she climbed down. The tame rabbit watched as the little girl, who after reaching the ground, sat down. Jane watched them both from the blanket she sat on.

🥕🥕🥕

Chasing Shadows by Norah Colvin

Unable to catch their own shadows that stretched across the sand, they jumped on each other’s then dashed for safety in the tumbling waves. As they dived and splashed, the playful wind captured their laughter and carried it far.

Dragging their shadows up compacted wet sand, they compared footprints that waves would soon erase. Where it met dry, another’s shadow immobilised them as might a barbed-wire fence. They cast their eyes along the lady shadow’s length, then squinted upward at the face, obscure and unreadable, haloed by the setting sun.

“It’s time to go,” said mum.

“Coming,” they chorused.

🥕🥕🥕

A Lady in the Shadow by ladyleemanila

a lady in the shadow
silhouette by the sea
on such a calm evening
some people having tea
sunset they are watching

a lady in the shadow
shadow covered the sun
on her way to see him
waited for her all day
her response to his hymn

a lady in the shadow
she’s as pretty as rose
others look as she walks
she says hi as she goes
invite her in their talks

a lady in the shadow
such a charming person
wish she could be my friend
will go dancing at night
have fun at the weekend

🥕🥕🥕

Comin Ta Light (Part I) by D. Avery

“Stop gawkin inta the shadows Kid. Jist tend the fire, keep conversatin. This un needs time.”

“Is it a unwrit character, Pal??”

“No, ain’t no unwrit character.”

“Is it a character got writ an killed off fer the sake of a story?”

“Ain’t a character from no story, Kid. Thet person lurkin in the shadows is a story keeper.”

“Kin she speak?”

“When she’s ready. Ain’t sure a her voice jist yet. It’ll come. Put another log in.”

“What’ll we say when she does set down ta the campfire?”

“Same as you was told.

‘Howdy. Welcome ta Carrot Ranch’.”

🥕🥕🥕

Comin Ta Light (Part II) by D. Avery

“Meantime, Kid, whut’s yer story this week?”

*Once upon a time on a faraway ranch thet was near an dear an accessible ta all, a ranch hand went wanderin off a-lookin fer inspiration. Went beyond the upper pastures, on inta the forest. It was gittin dark an shadows amongst the towerin trees were thicker an figgy puddin.*

“Figgy puddin?”

“Had some leftover, good campin food. Anways,

*Someone or somethin was in them shadows. Who could it be? What could they want? That ranch hand offered figgy puddin an sure ‘nough. She come forward an took it!*

“Who?”

“Sassy-squatch!”

“Hmmf.”

🥕🥕🥕

Comin Ta Light (Part III) by D. Avery

“No ’fense, Kid, but that weren’t much of a story. An ‘thick as figgy puddin’? Ain’t thet a cliché?”

“If it ain’t, should be. There’s more ta the story, Pal.”

“Do tell.”

“See, Ol Sassy-squatch was hungerin fer more’n figgy puddin. Since she’d spied Carrot Ranch’s hairy-man, Sassy was in love.

“With Ernie?”

“Yep. Sassy squeezed hersef inta the dress that was lef behind an come outta the shadows feelin sweet as cherry pie.

“Oh my. Good thing Wanda’s on one a her sabbaticals.”

“Ernie’s got lots in common with Sassy.”

“Yep. Hairstyle, shoe size, an a reclusive lifestyle.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

January 23: Story Challenge in 99-words

Optimism needs care and feeding. It’s as fragile and mighty as a chickadee faced with enduring heaps of winter snow. They dart from one bare tree to another in search of the seeds they need to sustain them. Where they go on snowy days, I do not know. Optimism can slip away like that, too. A seed here, a seed there, and then hard times force me to shelter, forgetting the hunt for sustenance.

Is optimism necessary?

My answer is yes. Optimism gives me hope for the future despite the past. Optimism gives me roots in the here and now; a practice of mindfulness. When I think of possibilities, I can overcome problems. Like where to find seeds in sparse times. Optimism is why I believe in unicorns.

I created a Unicorn Room because I needed space for optimism. I craved a sanctuary where I could breathe, stretch, talk to the Ancestors, and map novels. If unicorns exist they exist in the form of possibilities worth seeking. First I painted the room pale pink, then I filled it with things to brighten the shine of optimism.

Magic unfolded in the way of synchronicity. Unicorns emerged. The first miracle of the room was completing my MFA. The second came when I overcame a spinal injury to cultivate yoga again. During dark times when optimism flitted dim like a hunkered chickadee, I learned to breathe through it and sit with my fears. When optimism rose, so did synchronicity. My room now houses treasure like a magic wand from my dad who is a mountain man (apparently he’s discovered Amazon from his remote high desert ranges). And a glass globe from Africa to ward off the evil eye. Not that I had been thinking about such things, but the gift is from an octogenarian whom I admire greatly. She once danced with Katherine Dunham and in a voodoo troupe with a python. My unicorns are highly protected.

When I think of the magic of unicorns, I consider the words of an American author an activist:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

Helen Keller

I want to explore and discover and never stop learning. My over-arching goal in life is to be happy. Optimism can be cultivated and shared. Though the Vet Center has abandoned our local veteran community, I made sure my Warrior Sisters stayed connected. This year, while no offers to help us have emerged, I’ve purchased materials to spend the year focusing our veteran spouses’ group on developing an optimistic mindset. It’s something these long-haulers of caregiving to Vietnam veterans know about naturally. They are resilient. But they also deserve to be lifelong learners, too.

It’s a long and rich article, but you too can join us in our journey to optimism by learning more about positive psychology. I’ve never been interested in the Pollyanna kind of fake optimism because the authentic mindset is real. It’s work to cultivate, but worth the effort. After all, there are unicorns of possibility at the end of the mindfully constructed rainbow.

Even the earth holds onto hope. If Greta Thurnberg demanded of me an answer to what I’m doing about climate change, I’d take her to meet my Anishinaabe friend, Kathy Smith (holding the Water Walkers’ Eagle STaff). To witness a tribe regain their teachings is like watching a buckaroo saddle up a horned horse. It seems like magic but it is really the hard work of optimism to follow the path of caring for earth like kin.

We need to find our way back to center as humanity, seed by seed. In a brilliant book that reminds us of the power of hope, Celeste Ng (pronounced “ing”) has released her latest novel, Our Missing Hearts. Recommended by my mentor, Sharon Blackie, I didn’t hesitate to select the novel for my current ENG 103 class at Finlandia University. Listening to Celeste’s beautiful writing on audiobook has become an optimism tonic for me weekly. I’m also blessed with some deep thinking and feeling students this semester.

I’m buoyant with possibility in the uncertainty of right now.

A note that might bring relief or joy to some who blog — I’m lifting the no-links ban on the Challenge posts. It fizzled as an experiment. Please keep in mind, not all writers at Carrot Ranch are bloggers and I do not consider this space to be a blog but rather a literary community. There are intersections between the Ranch, the Keweenaw, and the publishing industry at large that remain unseen but give us all possibilities for connecting through literary art.

If you are going to share your links, please add meaning through thoughtful discourse. This is not a blog hop. Do not get your pants in a bunch if others do not go to your blog (this is not a blog hop). We have a strong and loyal readership at the Ranch who genuinely enjoy the stories and many have indeed found their way to your blogs and books. You are well-served to promote outside this community to find new readers (especially your specific target readers) through your participation here. For example, if you are published in the collection, add that to your author credibility and use it to bring new readers to your blogs or websites.

Keep our community space accessible and optimistic for all literary enthusiasts. Our weekly challenges are meant to cultivate a weekly creative writing practice and our collections remain fascinating curations of endless creative expression. It is a simple but optimistic premise for writers. We make literary art accessible in 99 words. Go write, read, and shine!

January 23, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that is optimistic. Feel free to explore optimism in all its forms from a positive mindset to toxic positivity. Is it a heartfelt story or a devious one? So much wiggle room for the optimistic writer. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 28, 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.

Rabbits 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.

Snowy by C. E. Ayr

My name is Petal.
I have a little black bunny.
Her name is Snowy.
Mummy says that’s a funny name for a black bunny, but my last bunny was called Snowy, and I cried for years and years when she died.
So this one’s Snowy too.
I’m worried about Snowy today.
She’s not eating anything.
That’s a shame, because I tried so hard to make her happy.
I thought she looked a bit sad this morning, so I took her to Mummy’s little workroom.
We found some very pretty pink thread.
And I sewed her a lovely new smile.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Rabbit Hole by Norah Colvin

Edward completed every form, followed all protocols, even smiled sweetly at bully boss bunny; but his request for leave was denied.

“When numbers ease,” his supervisor promised.

“If ever,” muttered Edward. The monotony was as overwhelming as the numbers that increased exponentially. Who said rabbits multiplied quickly? If only they’d find another burrow to tumble into.

“Next!”

Edward recorded the unremarkably similar responses without enthusiasm.

“What brought you here? Where did you begin? Did you find what you wanted? What do you want now?”

“Out of this rabbit hole.”

“No more than I. Close all tabs. Start over. Next!”

🥕🥕🥕

Bunny Rage by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

It was the constant munching and twittering that did it. He had tolerated it for as long as he had been able to, he thought. He’d been driven past any human’s endurance and felt no remorse, now. Many times he had politely asked her to move her menagerie of bunnies, but she had ignored his requests

He lifted the heavy lid of the cast iron pot. Waves of savory scented steam rose from the bubbling brew, his stomach rumbled in anticipation. He added herbs, a few more spices, stirred and returned the lid, heat wafting from the big top.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hunt by sweeterthannothing

“You better run little bunny” he rasped in her ear before pushing her through the cabin door.

Amanda staggered, stumbled, crashed to her knees and rose again. She would not be broken.

“This rabbit is stronger than you think” she spat through gritted teeth before disappearing into the trees. If he wanted a hunt, she would give him one.

As soon as she was out of sight she paused, held her breath and listened, hearing him crash through the undergrowth some way away she took her chance, scaling a tree she perched in the canopy and bided her time.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits and Tea Parties by KL Caley

Alice enjoyed afternoon tea with her aunt. She was a tough woman, disliked by many, but she had a liking for tea, cards and croquet. Even the cat looked amused when Alice visited, although he often disappeared when she went looking for him.

Alice’s second cousin appeared one afternoon with a gift. Alice crept towards the cage. Peering out at her was a large White Rabbit. Her Aunt was not amused and began to shout. So as fast as she could Alice hurried home for the day. That night she began to dream the strangest of dreams.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy went through the portal. They walked among tall trees, always staying on the path. Once it got dark, they made a campsite while watching the sky above them.

“The stars are so bright!” Jess stated.

“And they’re different from home.” Cindy remarked.

“How big is Faerie? Does it go on forever?”

“No idea.” They fell asleep in each other’s arms. A family of rabbits came out of the bushes and regarded them.

“Humans? In Faerie? How strange.” Said one rabbit.

“They’re both females too.” Said another. They watched them a bit longer and then hopped away.

🥕🥕🥕

Real-life Snow White by Kerry E.B. Black

Like a Disney Princess, Mom befriended woodland creatures.

I told classmates of this wonder, but they disbelieved. “Sure,” one insisted. “And you have a pony who follows you, too.”

The injustice! A pony at the riding stable where I volunteered did follow me when I called her! Although I couldn’t take her to the stable to prove this, I could bring the scoffer home to marvel at Mom’s friendships.

We shushed as we approached, tiptoed, hunched together.

Mom sat on the front step, feeding a carrot to a darling rabbit who nibbled with thoughtful watchfulness.

“Told you,” I whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Aloysius’s Wish by Nancy Brady

One afternoon Aloysius, the white cat, discovered some rabbits in the garden eating lettuce and carrots. When they saw him, they ran. Actually, they hopped away quickly.

Aloysius was impressed. He could run, but could he hop like them? The rabbits’ back legs looked similar to his back legs. He tried and tried to hop, but he couldn’t. Aloysius’s muscles allowed him to jump, but he couldn’t hop like rabbits, which were nibbling on clover.

Aloysius knew the clover helped him once before, and he wished to hop. He found he could hop if he was standing in clover.

🥕🥕🥕

Page by D. Avery

“Are you a hunter?”

She’d noticed me looking at tracks in the red sand. She noticed my interest in the sparse plants.

“That one we made soap from.”

She’d led us through the slot canyon. Now we walked in a sandy gully, a wash, the path water would take, should it rain hard. The carved walls of the slot canyons hold ancient stories of fast water.

Another plant. “That one the rabbits like.”

The sixty year old lake that brings people like me to this place is drying up.

“I remember,” she said, “When all we ate was rabbits.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rabid…No, I mean Rapids….No, Damn it, What I’m Trying to Say is…RABBITS! by Bill Engleson*

“Lovely day for a drive. Good idea.”

“We’re both stressed and need a break. Check out this countryside.”

“So peaceful. And look Paul, over there…a family of rabbits.”

“More than a family, I’d say. A damn convention.”

“You’re right. There’s quite a few of them in that field. How far away would you say they are?”

“Hard to say…but they’re bouncing this way…”

“And quickly…goodness, Paul, maybe it’s my eyes but don’t they seem…”

“HUGE! Yes. My God, it’s like that Janet Leigh movie…”

“Psycho?”

“No…the one about the giant rabbits…”

“Psycho Rabbits?”

“Yeah. Maybe. Let’s get outta here.”

*A Flash Homage to the 1972 film, Night of the Lepus, based on the novel, Night of the Angry Rabbit, which I hope to read one day.

🥕🥕🥕

There’s a Rabbit Off Somewhere* by Anne Goodwin

They claim we don’t have funds for a nurses’ pay rise. They claim we can’t afford to prevent kids being too hungry to learn. Yet this isn’t a banana republic; it’s one of the richest countries in the world.

Perhaps they’re lying when they say we’re in this together. We all have to cut back. Shamming when they wring their hands at food banks, at shelters for those unable to heat their homes.

Or is it something worse?

I didn’t vote for this reverse Robin Hood government. Yet still they take my taxes to fatten and flatter their friends.

*A Geordie expression for something fishy going on.

🥕🥕🥕

At It by Geoff Le Pard

Warren MacGregor spent thirty years establishing his rabbit farm at Little Tittweaking. Each success led to a setback: a spate of foot amputations for the lucky charms’ market; the mass desertion seeking seeking parts in a live adaptation of Watership Down; Bunny Builder’s campaign to instal a human proof fence to keep Warren out; and the myxomatosis outbreak leaving only one pair unculled. To most, Warren’s dreams must be over. He remained sanguine. After all, he said, ‘Rabbits breed like, erm rabbits and, anyway, with any rabbit farm there’s always the risk it will be, Hare today, gone tomorrow.’

🥕🥕🥕

Hullo, Rabbit! by Chel Owens

Skyford sniffed and stood, his haunches holding his readied weight. It was a powerful thing, to be a rabbit: one could spring away, avoid detection, or squeeze beneath a barbed fence.

He barely twitched when Neumann padded to his side. A whisker moved as Suphia straightened near his foot. Skyford cocked his enviable ears, hearing rabbit after rabbit join their ranks amidst the cabbage patch.

So many men had teased with the expression, “Breed like rabbits.” Skyford’s face hardened into a leer. Today, man would change his aphorisms. Today, man would realize what purpose rabbits had been breeding for.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rabbit by Ann Edall-Robson

Her eyes focussed on the storm coming towards her. She had to check the cows before it hit.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Heart pounding, she glanced around. Her peripheral vision caught sight of a rabbit near the fence.

“It’s going to be a bad storm.”

Her mind raced. Was it her imagination, the wind, or the rabbit talking to her?

“Tell me something I don’t already know!”

Pain ripped through her body when the cow hit her.

“Got any wise words now, rabbit?” She screamed as consciousness slipped away.

“Help’s coming,” were the last words she heard from…

🥕🥕🥕

Went to the Zoo Today by Miss Judy

Visited the zoo today.
So many animals. Big, small, tall, short, standing, sitting, lying, flying.
Momma Elephant, two babes teetered beside.
A giraffe craned his neck to grab a leaf.
Lions, tigers, bears, elk, deer.
We giggled at penguins playing in their pool.
Spied the illusive snow leopard sleeping on a rocky shelf.
Creepy crawly slithering reptiles, Oh My!
Brightly colored birds sang their songs.
On the farm: goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, on a horse we got a ride.
My most favorite of all, the sweetest, fluffiest Rabbits, Angora they were called.
Such fun, a visit to the zoo!

🥕🥕🥕

A Rabbit With a Pocket Watch by Sadje

Alice in wonderland was perhaps one of the first classic books that I read. I think I was in grade 6. This book belonged to my late mother. John Tenniel wood-engraved 42 illustrations for the book.

The rabbit with his pocket watch and waistcoat was one of the first sketches that captured my imagination.

This Victorian-era book made me fall in love with classic literature and my love of reading deepened. We always had lots of books in our library and many classics resided there. I’m glad that my passion for reading was passed on to my daughters, and grandchildren.

🥕🥕🥕

Inspirational Bonding? by JulesPaige

Without voice
Those cold stone faces
Marble busts
Spoke volumes
Provocative reaction
For the new recruits

Gertie screened all the new volunteers in the same way. Men and women alike. She had to know if they would be compatible and empathic. First they had to help with the angora rabbits. That was one of the ways Gertie raised her funds.

Gertie also placed new folks in different museum positions. They needed to be trusted to carry and pass information in her network.

Jane wanted to help Emme. Gertie brought home a rabbit to help them bond over its care.

🥕🥕🥕

The Year of the Rabbit by Mr. Ohh!

My daughter needed a pet to calm her anxiety. She chose of all things a rabbit. Much to my chagrin we picked out a slow-moving large female, thinking she would be easy to bond with. We did not know how much bonding she had already done.

Rabbits aren’t supposed to get fat we were told, so we took the lady to the vet. It seems when we got her. she was with liter, but the heartbeats were undetectable. My daughter was ecstatic.

In two more weeks. I was the less-than-proud owner of six bunnies. Now I have the anxiety

🥕🥕🥕

Foolish Decision by Elizabeth

Two little sisters were in need of a pet.

Papa, may we have a puppy? Too much barking! Papa, may we have a kitten? Too many claws.
The girls were sad, and papa was worried. Which pet would be convenient for all? Bunnies! Two of them, the girls are happy and PomPom and Fluffy are growing each day, one black and the other white.
The girls are all smiles as the months go by. Suddenly one day: Papa, the TV isn’t working. Papa, the phone isn’t working. Papa, the refrigerator is warm… Girls, what are the rabbits chewing on?

🥕🥕🥕

Bad Dog by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa was babysitting Emma and when Lexi arrived to pick her up, she found the toddle sitting on the porch pouting. Emma said, “Wanna go home. Jester’s mean.”
Lexi went inside and asked what the dog had done.
“We were watching a rabbit in the yard, then Jester saw it too and asked to go out. Without thinking I opened the door and he chased the rabbit into the field.”
“That’s all? She’s acting like it was more than that.”
“I explained he didn’t hurt it, but that didn’t help.”
“If it were a squirrel she would have laughed.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bunny Love by jenne49

Susie is my bunny. She lives in a hutch. I play with her and we tell each other stories. She knows about Cinderella and Prince Charming and she says a handsome boy bunny is going to come and set her free. They’re going to live in a burrow on the meadow. My mum says this is all my imagination.

Today mum looks very sad. She says somebody left the hutch open and Susie has run away. But I’m not sad. I can’t wait to get to the meadow and see the burrow. I told mum it wasn’t my imagination!

🥕🥕🥕

Fairy-tales of Cottontails by Nicole Horlings

Hidden within a copse of evergreens, nestled between the cornfield and the quiet front yard sheltered by a tall lilac hedge, the rabbits had entrenched themselves in the local folklore. Kindred spirits with the fairies, they snacked on dandelions and mushrooms. Alike to cryptids, they would allow themselves to be seen, but disappear the moment a camera appeared. Stories circulated about their presence, yet visitors left in vain without a sighting. Upon nights when fresh snow dusted the ground, they danced beneath the moon, their tracks a fleeting tribute to the tales of wonder told about their mysterious lives.

🥕🥕🥕

Year of the Rabbit by Hugh W. Roberts

As she carefully avoided stepping into any blood on the blood-splattered, white-tiled floor, she thought she’d ask the question again.

“So nobody was here at the time of the murder?”

“Not according to the CCTV footage from outside the room. The murder occurred six to eight hours ago, and nobody came in or out until Professor Doebuck discovered the body.

“Inspector. Hop to it! Bring the forensics out here now, please,” yelled her boss.

Nobody noticed the unlocked door to the cage containing a new rabbit breed as they left the animal-testing laboratory.

The case, now closed, remains unsolved.

🥕🥕🥕

The Temptation of Rabbi T. by Doug Jacquier

Rabbi Tannenbaum trudged through the snow and knifing winds until he saw the diner. Inside, he was greeted by an older blonde woman.

‘Cold enough for ya?’ she said, her face rigid, her eyes taking in the yarmulke.

‘Could I get something to eat, please?’

‘Ain’t had no supplies in 2 weeks. How ‘bout a toasted ham or bacon sandwich.’

‘Anything else?’

‘I just made a pie for my husband, Pastor Schicklgruber. We got lucky. Caught a big rabbit in one of the traps last night.’

‘Can I just have coffee?’

‘Kosher can’, she said, her eyes daring him.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Look,” whispered Luna.

“Hilda’s going to address the Coven,” answered Faeryn. “Shhh…”

All eyes turned toward Hilda.

“Witches, may I have your attention? I’m here to explain how one of my spells injured a human.”

“My familiar is a rabbit, the symbol of fertility. I can’t stop them from multiplying. Weeks ago, I cast a spell to stop the rabbits from copulating so often. Instead, the spell affected a human man. He will never be the same.”

Hilda coughed. “I have Covidwitchitus.”

Surprised gasps filled the room.

Each time Hilda coughed, another rabbit appeared.

It was a hare-raising experience!

🥕🥕🥕

Superstition by Jenny Logan

“Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits,” we’d always say on the first of the month. My father was raised in a fishing community and they are as superstitious a bunch as anybody. I suppose it’s a way to feel in control of one’s environment.

I no longer dread Friday 13th , a broken mirror, ladders or wonder if I did laundry on the wrong day when a sailor drowns at sea. It’s not all about me? It’s quite freeing to pass salt hand to hand and not feel responsible for the world’s ills.

I look for blessings and not curses these days.

🥕🥕🥕

Follow 2 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They stepped through the stained glass window, of course! He was awfully cute, and his weird ideas always led them to amazing adventures. What chance that this portal to another world might lead them into trouble this time?

He grabbed her hand and they stepped out onto a ledge, in the middle of a field of fragrant grasses. The ground rumbled, and both tumbled, and rolled down the hill, like famed Jack and Jill.

His lederhosen and her sweet dirndl had replaced their grubby jeans and T-shirts. The portal winked out. Behind them, the red-eyed rabbits began to gather.

🥕🥕🥕

Meanwhile, Back at the Saloon, Kid and Pal Split Hares by D. Avery

“Better git hoppin, Kid. Wer gonna miss the roundup.”
“Warren trouble with this prompt, Pal. Rabbits?”
“Least they ain’t gotta be up on a roof. Figgered this’d be an easy prompt fer ya Kid. What’s the problem this time?”
“Reckon Shorty really meant rabbits?”
“Thet’s what she said, Kid. Rabbits.”
“But mebbe what she saw was actchally hares.”
“Hares? Who cares? Whut’s the dif’rence?”
“Cain’t member the zact dif’rence. Let’s fire up the computer in the office.”
“Ya know I cain’t stand Goggle, Kid.”
“Shush, I’m re-searchin. Hare Krishna, harengon… huh, look’t that…”
“Kid! Git outta thet rabbit hole!”

🥕🥕🥕

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

January 16: Story Challenge in 99-words

Over the weekend I met a lady in the shadows. She was a small silhouette set upon murky material. She was simply known as, “The Lady;” a restorative work of textile art.

Artist and creative adventurer, Beth Jukuri, displayed her collection of story textile panels at the Gallery on 5th in Calumet, the historic center of the Keweenaw Peninsula (island) of Upper Michigan. I met a kindred spirit who creates and kayaks.

Beth’s collection is called Art Therapy. She explains in her artist purpose that she can’t share her pain in art but she can reveal her recovery. As a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it’s not often I get to meet another woman who refused to be silenced by her childhood experience. We connected immediately in a deep way.

Perhaps that’s true of any strangers who become close within minutes because both are equally willing to be authentic.

Meeting Beth boosted my inspiration and she reminded me why I started Carrot Ranch in the first place. To connect with other writers sharing the writing journey; to play and practice a creative craft that captivates us. She renewed my vigor to make the Ranch a place where anyone can access literary art and forge a weekly practice of creative writing. Beth reminded me how much I appreciate the weekly Collection for its endless expression of creativity.

In Beth’s collection, The Lady emerges brighter, bigger, and more dynamic as the panels progress. In one story panel, The Lady is joined by another and both have empty heads. Beth explains how that initially bothered her as if nothing was in their minds until she realized nothing was influencing their thoughts. These ladies were open-minded.

You can learn more about Beth Jukuri at her blog and read about the adventures of her local group of women who hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, and kayak. Don’t be surprised if I show up among them!

I was thinking of ladies in the shadows and what more we could draw from the idea in the way of stories. Also in the art gallery was a portrait of Big Annie who led the miners’ strikes of 1913. The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russel tells the story of Calumet’s Joan of Arc. The portrait also shows how she bore the burden of immigrants and the men who descended into the dark shafts. I was further delighted to find out that one of my new favorite artists was the mastermind behind Annie’s portrait.

Art inspires art inspires art.

I’m glad I got to go on an artist’s date before returning to school at Finlandia University. While I anticipate a tamer schedule and less stress this semester, I also dove into my syllabus and restructured the flow of my course. I felt creative in how I will teach college students to write. I’m also working on courses for an online writing school in the works. Encouraging others to find their place in the writing life and grow as writers is as vital to my soul’s purpose as is my writing.

Tonight is morning already and while I can’t afford to revert to my night owl ways, I’m full up on the richness of inspiration and impending possibilities. My syllabus is uploaded, my week’s lessons are in place, and my creative work unfolds. Week One of the semester begins.

Go chase Lady Shadows and bring back your stories!

January 16, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a lady shadow. Who is this person and why do they lurk in the shadows. What is the tone and setting for your story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 21, 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.

Sabbatical 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.

Lost in a Nightmare by Judy Marshall

“Jason, please come in here.” He hesitated when finding Terri sitting on the sofa. She motioned, “Please, sit.”

Whisper-quiet, Terri spoke, “Jason, you seem distracted, worried. We are concerned. Is everything ok?”

Not wanting this conversation, Jason mumbled, “It’s all good.”

“I’ve spoken with the partners, you are a valuable collegue, but we need you 110%. Take some time off, 6 months, a year, get yourself together. After, if you want to come back, your job will be here.”

Stunned and speechless, Jason left. Six months? A year? Jason wondered, can you fix what you don’t know is broken?

🥕🥕🥕

How To Take A Long Break by Hugh W. Roberts

Some think my job is one of the toughest, so I deserve a sabbatical.

Rain, shine, blizzards or gales, I have to do my job. I pledged that I’d never let anyone down. Some think I have too many days off, but people need to learn what goes on behind closed doors.

What’s the best thing about my job? Tearing the date ‘December 24th’ off the calendar and starting my sabbatical for another 364 days.

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Nirvana by Reena Saxena

“You failed to fulfil your duties as a wife and mother”…. screamed accusing fingers.

But who says a wife and mother is not an individual, and has her own needs and desires.

The fingers folded into fists which broke through the windows on her private existence. It was an identity crisis for them. How could she claim to have an existence beyond their reach?

“No, you can’t…”

“Yes, I can….”

The battle ensues.

She decides to quit everything other than her independent will – the marriage, house and comfort zone.

She wanted a sabbatical. She attained Nirvana in the process.

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Break by Jenny Logan

She buried her husband and waited six months before joining the agency. She hushed her guilty conscience and reminded herself that some people remarried in less time.

Her sabbatical had gone on long enough. She’d left the workplace to be a SAHM, but no children came.

She checked the website daily, then weekly. Nothing.

Turns out nobody wants a Mrs Doubtfire or Nanny McPhee in real life. The jobs went to younger applicants—students who’d sign up for babysitting duties, too.

Before long, her profile was on a different agency.

Stay at home wife wasn’t so bad, after all.

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A Required Reset by Nicole Horlings

Lisa found herself at breaking point at the semester’s end. Beyond marking an astounding amount of essays and exams, her Cuba trip during winter break was ruined because her Visa application was denied. The weight of stress was crushing her, with no let-up in sight.

In a fit of anxiety she broke off her TA contracts for the spring semester. When the department head confirmed her release, she realized she had cut off all of her income for the next few months. However, she also felt an excitement for the future that she hadn’t known for a long time.

🥕🥕🥕

Yup! Another Year by Bill Engleson

“Yup.”

“Yup what?”

“ ’Nother year in the hopper.”

“Went fast, didn’t it.”

“Don’t remember. I suppose.”

“You don’t remember? The War? The storms? The heatwave? Trump’s taxes?”

“Coulda been almost any year ’cept for that.”

“Not exactly a revelation. You know what they say…the poor always pay more.”

“I need a break from all this.”

“All this what?”

“This…this sameness.”

“You mean life!”

“I guess.”

“For heavens sake, you’re retired. Stop thinking so much. Relax.”

“Easy to say. Maybe I need to take a…whaddayacallit…a scabbatical.”

“You mean…sabbatical.”

“Scab…sab…salve…a change at any rate.”

“Before you leave, pass the bottle.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stay Indoors by Liza Mimski

Bomb cyclone. Atmospheric river. Rain pelting. Sandbags. Trees down. Highways, streets closed due to flooding. One hundred mile per hour winds in the North Bay. Thirty-foot waves in the South Bay. Breaks in electricity. Stores closed.
I’d been so tired lately, running here and there, always busy, trying to get caught up, never relaxing. Take this in. Buy that. The dog needs another walk. Now, I sit on the couch watching the Breaking News, reporters planted in front of huge maps of Northern California. It’s advised that residents stay safe by staying indoors, they emphasize, music for my ears.

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Death of an Artist by Raelyn Pracht

“Sabbatical? Are you serious?” She dropped her half-smoked cigarette into her styrofoam cup—the bitter black coffee inside extinguishing its power.

“Get away from work. Go somewhere. Stay home. It doesn’t matter.” Dr. Shelley leaned forward. “Just put the paintbrushes and easels away.”

Jayne puffed angry air out her nostrils. 

“I won’t see you again until you do.”  

Jayne knew Dr. Shelley was serious. She didn’t mince words. That’s why Jayne liked her, plus, she too was an artist. 

She lived.

She understood.

The mental death of an artist was slow and excruciating. 

And Jayne’s gravestone was already being written.

🥕🥕🥕

Remotely Working by D. Avery

“I’m going.”

Finally, he lifted his head up from his phone, saw the suitcase.

“We’re going on vacation?”

“No. I am going on sabbatical.”

“That job gives sabbaticals?”

“No. I’ll continue to work remotely.”

“Then how is it a sabbatical?”

“I’m taking a break from you. From our marriage. It’s way too much work for me lately.”

“You? What about me, I do plenty around here. And why didn’t you tell me you were going somewhere?”

She held in a sigh. “I have told you, many times.”

“Must not have heard you,” and he went back to his phone.

🥕🥕🥕

Finally by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She smiled, waiting for the bell to ring, backside leaning against the desk, hands folded in her lap. She said nothing, no longer irritated by the heads bent over ill-concealed cellphones. They waited for release, too.

No need to fill the silence, walk around and urge, by activity, a little class participation. Year-long sabbatical granted, she’d head north tomorrow. No final exams or papers, so no grading. She gazed out the window, at clouds scudding across the sky.

“So, Professor Simpson, will you be offering the next level up in Resilience Studies?”

At that moment, the final bell sounded.

🥕🥕🥕

Sad Article by Geoff Le Pard

Briefly Little Tittweaking became famous for its Death Sabbatical Society. Its pitch was ‘Are you dying for [insert preference]? Let us temporarily euthanise you.’ For a fee, DSS would take your life (minimum period: a week) and leave you to rot while you indulged your desires. Life was restored via electric shocks and a chilli poultice to the genitals.

Business remained brisk, even surviving a scandal when the cadavers were squatted by homeless spirits claiming on their life assurance. The business folded, as do so many, when the Inland Revenue decided temporary death was in reality a tax dodge.

🥕🥕🥕

Finding A New Balance by Gary A. Wilson

“Hey Lance. Welcome back. All’s well I hope?”

“Ah! Thanks Sharon. Yea, I think all is well; different but okay.”

“And Tracy; everything settle out okay?”

“Yea – she left; moved to a different hemisphere; didn’t want the kids or the dog. She just left.”

“Wow! I didn’t see that coming. You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m just tired mostly; burned one week fighting, a second signing legal papers and helping her pack, then two months with the kids; finding our new balance. They suffered with their mom’s breakdown.

“I don’t know if I need a sabbatical or just survived one.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hopeful Harmony by JulesPaige

Jane felt like she had been ‘gifted’ a sabbatical. With time to think and turn old boots into planters. Aunt Gertie had given her a new life. Now there was talk on the island about Emme, a little girl who had been rescued, but would not talk. Was it time to go back to the main house and see if she could coax some words out of the little girl. Jane felt free to once again offer herself to a child.

Rethinking
Reconnecting yin
With the yang
Balancing
The scales of karma; to teach
And of course to learn

🥕🥕🥕

Taking a Break by Sadje

Can I take a break from parenting? A sabbatical from being a mom?

Ah….I know the answer so don’t bother replying. Once a mom, always a mom, even when we don’t need to be. All my kids have crossed their thirtieth birthday, and officially I am not required to mother them. But….

My mother hen instincts override the reality of reason and need many a time and I carry on as if their welfare depends on my actions, till they, irritated tell me to step out of the way so that they can carry on with their parenting duties.

🥕🥕🥕

Michael Needs a Break by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa noticed that Michael’s morning routine was taking longer than usual. “Honey, do you feel all right?”
Michael gave her a funny look from where he sat on the bed. “Why do you ask?”
“You act tired and are moving slower.”
“I didn’t think it showed,” he said. “Maybe a type of sabbatical is what I need. Keep up with DC and the band only. That would leave more time for us and guarantee I would be home when Lexi has her baby.”
Tessa sat beside him and took his hand, “That’s a fantastic idea. I’d love it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sabbatical From Me by Elizabeth

One year not being me. Who would I be? A person carrying the weight of the past, or new thoughts would populate my mind. No attachment to society, no deadlines, of course, no blogging or Instagram. Total freedom of being. A cabin on a small island; a beach or a mountain; a fireplace and white lace curtains dancing with the soft breeze. No watch, no time, just flowing as the sun and the moon. Lots of journals and books. A garden with fresh vegetables and fruits. A cat as a companion, a golden one, to brighten up the cabin.

🥕🥕🥕

On Sabbatical by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Have you seen Hilda lately?” asked Luna.

“No. After the witch’s conference, they instructed her to leave for a three-month sabbatical,” answered Faeryn. “Don’t repeat this, but I heard one of her spells went awry. She injured a human.”

Luna’s eyes widened in shock. “That’s a supreme violation. How will she come back from that mistake?”

“Well, a sabbatical means she can return to her previous position after her break.”

“You’re kidding. She’s in charge of the Witch’s Committee on Rules. How can this be allowed?” asked Luna.

“That’s the problem with the concentration of power in the Coven.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Hundredth Year by Tabare Alvarez

My people sent me here 99 years ago. To observe from Luna and determine, quote, the best approach. Do we send down a single ambassador? Hundreds of merchants? I suspect that regardless of the initial approach–given how we are (self-righteous but greedy), and given how they are (stubborn)–eventually we will be dropping objects of large mass on them. If I quit, I’ll be replaced. So. I do believe I will fold myself back into the ship. I will write the kind of report that encourages dithering. I will stall. And I will teach the Earth how to prepare.

🥕🥕🥕

The First Sabbatical by Anne Goodwin

He’d toiled bloody hard, there was no denying it. Beginning with light so he could see the results when he created the sky, the soil, the sea. Some think he should’ve spent less time on the galaxies, but he never suspected they’d waste their precious resources on rocketing to the stars.

After two days on the animals – land, air and water – he was knackered. Yet he regrets devoting the seventh day to relaxation when there was so much left to do. Those hours swinging in a hammock should’ve gone to improving the humans, ensuring they wouldn’t ruin his work.

🥕🥕🥕

Sabbatical? Could They Help? by Nancy Brady

In academia, professors are allowed to take a sabbatical, time off to study, do research, write, rather than teach. While at college, many different professors took sabbaticals during my schooling.

Using my profession as an example, I know pharmacists never have the opportunity to take sabbaticals. Yet all are required to update our medication knowledge through lifelong continuing education, which is completed on personal time, not pharmacy hours. Pharmacists’ vacation time is limited with those hours picked up by other pharmacists.

Maybe If all high pressure professionals could take a sabbatical from their profession, there might be less burnout.

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Summer Sabbatical by Ann Edall-Robson

The tranquil, rocking pace soothed her. Relaxing the rein, her horse dropped his head to forge on. Behind them, the pack mule loaded with a month’s supplies followed. The trail through the trees took the trio to a meadow alive with wildflowers, where they stopped at the creek before heading into the rolling hills, to the lake and the cabin camouflaged by trees, hidden, except to those who knew of its existence. A deep sigh escaped her. The meadow view from the veranda and the tranquil pace of her rocking chair had become the summer sabbaticals she longed for.

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Takin a Breather by D. Avery

“Pepe? I was expecting Kid and Pal.”

“Ello Shorty. Doze two are steel arguing wedder or not being snowed in at da saloon all dat time counts as sabbatical. Pal says eet was, because dey weren’t doin deir regular chores and eet also was not a vacation. Keed says eet cannot be a sabbatical as dey haven’t even worked here for seven years.”

“No? Seems longer.”

“Dat ees what Pal said. Keed also said dat a sabbatical ees meant to be a producteeve time. All we deed was tell stories.”

“A breath of fresh air, Pepe! Tell Kid— sabbatical.”

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

January 9: Story Challenge in 99-words

The wind swings overhead electric cables, casting shadows across the white snow. The movement catches my attention until I finally see the first rabbit appear. Like shadows, four more bunnies hop down Roberts Street. Mause and I are buried beneath the Blanket of Joy on the couch and she sleeps through the emerging rabbits.

To my embarrassment, I genuinely forgot yesterday was Sunday, the day reserved for writing a challenge post. Monday dawned with an important client meeting to prepare for, a veteran snafu, an unexpected call from a fellow prof regarding classes that start next week, and a movie out with a Warrior Sister.

Now, Mause is sleeping alone on the couch and I’m feeling like one of my students cramming to finish an essay.

The veteran snafu involved license plates. As a caregiver, I had to first understand the upheaval a notice in the mail created. Once we were understanding the issue, I armed Todd with the proper paperwork and sent him to the local state office. One mission accomplished.

The movie could have been one I shared with you with an eye for film writing. Alas, my friend and I both forgot the movie theater was closed on Mondays. We went to Applebees instead (nothing to write home about there). Coming home late, I crossed paths with the rabbits.

I wonder where they sleep and what feels like a Blanket of Joy to them? I know they nibble raspberry canes. A burrow must be nearby and I suspect my neighbor’s old carriage house. In the morning, I will likely see their distinct prints in the fresh dusting of snow.

Snow. Don’t get me started. It’s been an icy winter and the snow is greasy. During the blizzard a few weeks back, the snow blew so hard that our garage collected drifts. Mause was the only one in our household who found the mid-blizzard snow-shoveling fun. She barked with excitement, the sound carried by the wind. My friend told me tonight they got 50 inches of snow in that storm. It’s fizzled since then; the snow.

We are left to ponder the lives of rabbits.

January 9, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes rabbits. Is it a family? A strange planet? Some crazy bunny person’s pets? Who are they and what are they doing? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 14, 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.

January 2: Story Challenge in 99-words

I’m old enough to have a son who will be taking a sabbatical later this (new) year. How is it he gets one before I do? Oh, that’s right. He was impressionable when I went back to college for my undergrad degree and followed the academic trail on his own to a job that recognizes the need to rest after several intense years of travel and work. I’m happy for him.

In a way, I took my own sabbatical in 2022. It was less formalized and appeared in the guise of “letting go.” Surrendering and resting may not sound like top-shelf New Year’s resolutions, but life often calls us to do the unexpected. Last year was one of the most lost years I’ve lived.

I wondered and wandered. I had no North Star because I had too many clouds blocking my view. I made several choices I never thought I’d make.

First, I stopped writing. After ten years of dogged transformation to go from a marketing communicator to a literary artist, I didn’t set a single goal. I wasn’t concerned about my choice because I’ve been writing at a professional level for over 25 years and know what it takes to write when I don’t feel like it. I won that battle years ago (thank you deadlines). To me, writing is not what comes and goes; it’s the writer. The writer can find inroads. I don’t believe writing inspiration dries up beyond restoration. I quit writing because I had too much unsettled in my life.

So I quit my marriage. The hardest day was in March when I let go. Just let it go like a bird I’d held captive in my hands. I didn’t think I could help my husband any more than I had and I really wanted both of us to be happy. He had turned his veteran journey into a battlefield and I had no fight left. Despite my acceptance into the VA Caregiver Support Program, it had come too late. They prepared me for separation from my duties and I did my best to prepare Todd.

He didn’t leave, as he’d been wanting to do ever since we arrived at the Keweenaw. I found a place to live and secured as much work at the local university as I could, adding professional tutoring to my adjunct professor position. All I needed was my half of the sale of our house. I had carefully tried not to call it a home and I even let go of ever having one. I’d have an apartment and that would have to do.

Covid has changed much of the social landscape as we knew it. Covid also changed my marriage. I half-heartedly laughed when I left the house to shelter elsewhere after Todd got Covid and his last words to me were about life insurance. Maybe it jogged something in his unreliable brain. Maybe my leaving when he was sick made him question his independence. There were many other factors at play but what changed was that he decided not to leave. I didn’t agree to stay (my apartment is still not ready). But I didn’t leave, either.

Letting go didn’t mean giving up or withholding love. Like with writing, it was a break; a time to ponder what will this be like?

What struck me, though, when I realized I didn’t have to leave, I allowed myself to feel how deep my feelings ran for my husband, family, and home. I’m a writer and even at my best, I don’t think I can aptly explain the complexity of those emotions. I have a profound appreciation for my bedroom and Unicorn Room as sanctuaries. I enjoyed Mause more, knowing I could continue to be with her. And I let go of training her or trying to correct/fix/help Todd.

Caregiver Support quickly kicked in and I’m profoundly grateful to have access. My therapist helped me understand a lot of Todd’s brain trauma doesn’t mean he is not there anymore. He’s still Todd and I keep an eye out for glimpses of him daily even if I’m laughing at really awful jokes like him “scenting” my sanctuaries. It’s become a morning ritual. I’m deep into yoga or meditation and he walks in making airplane sounds for a round of “crop-dusting.” Unfortunately for me, the joke renews almost daily.

On my side though, is a strange peace I’ve found where I thought there’d only be chaos.

Chaos came to school. The one area I applied myself last year was Finlandia. It was going to be my second career. The University’s enrollment tanked and I got two new bosses with whom I’m not a good fit. Can you ever remember being yelled at while at work? Well, it happened twice and with the same person. As someone who used to manage people, I was surprised. I can’t recall being ill-treated like that and I will no longer be tutoring. With the low enrollments, it’s questionable as to whether or not I’ll have enough students for a single class. For now, I have the minimum of four.

Carrot Ranch was not on the letting go block, but I did pare down to the bare bones. I had to figure out how to let go of a life and rebuild it. You likely noticed I was barely on social media and did not promote or visit blogs. I let go of any marketing. If ever there was a good year, I picked it! So much has changed in the social media sphere and I’m reminded of why we assess marketing annually. Without writing, I had no meaning, no target audience, and no visual on my North Star.

It’s coming back. I let go of so much I now know what is important, what isn’t, and what I can handle. This year, my focus is two-fold: peace and follow-thru. When you let go, you find peace at the bottom of the rope. When you let go, you don’t follow thru; there’s no need because you’re at the bottom of your pit after having let go. Now comes what next.

This winter break, I socialized more. I stayed in more with Todd and played more with him and Mause at the dog park. I watched a lot of films and documentaries. I read. I listened. I planned. My vision plan is nearly finished and my business plan is restarted. My SBA rep gave my proposal a green light saying I had nothing to lose. He’s right. And he doesn’t know I spent the last year on a sabbatical of letting go.

So greetings, best wishes, and aanii to you all. I appreciate your patience with me. As I return from my sabbatical, I’ll be putting my life back together with care. I realize that my heavy-achieving days belong to my younger years. I’m not old by any means but as a woman, I’m in the second half of life and I mean to live it on my terms not the expectations of others. I don’t need to achieve. I want to connect, inspire, be inspired, practice peace, and find a path where I can follow thru on the doing part of being.

A simple note of housekeeping — technological issues are now known (as Hugh and Colleen thought, it was an outmoded theme in WP. Happiness Engineers found several other theme options, but I’m still contemplating a move to a WP site hosted by Site Ground. I’ll decide later this month. I appreciate all the suggestions, too. For now, I’ll use the clunky workaround because it’s the best solution for what I want to do. My intention for following thru is to visit and be more social. Carrot Ranch remains at its foundation a place to practice the art of creative writing. It’s accessible. Anyone can take the weekly challenge to create a commitment to their writing process. You are free to set any goals for yourself, using the challenges.

This is it. I’m back in the saddle. I might be a bit like a greenhorn, but I’ll catch the rhythm soon enough! A hearty thanks to those of you who kept the campfire going. I’m grateful for your presence at the Ranch! Let’s ride and write!

January 2, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a sabbatical. Who needs one or has had one? What kind of tension could a rest create? Where can a break take your story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 7, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection will be published 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.