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January 7 Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is deep vision work.

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

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Periwinkles on the Pack River by Charli Mills

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

Avocado Toast

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

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

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

PART I (10-minute read)

Avocado, The Conundrum by Geoff Le Pard

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

Avocado on Toast by Anita Dawes

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

The Grinch by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lystra Rejects Breakfast by Jeff Gard

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

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

“It’s fine,” I lie.

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

“I want to go home.”

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

“Me, too.”

Second Breakfast by Chel Owens

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

“What’s this?”

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

“It’s green.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

“It’s green mush.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

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

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

Yes, He’ll Do…by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

She nodded.

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

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

Wow.

He must really love her.

Breakfasting Alone by Sue Spitulnik

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

Avocado Lover by Jessica E. Larsen

“Who wants avocado?” I asked one day.

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

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

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

We exchanged smiles. Yep. Another avocado lover.

One Writer’s Journeys by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

No Guac!? Donna Matthews

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

“What??” asked Barbara.

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

“Why do you care now?” countered Barbara.

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

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

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

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

Dress It Up by Ann Edall-Robson

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

“Got any onions, garlic, hot sauce?”

“Stay out of my fridge!”

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

Sobs choked her words.

“That’s all there is.”

Nando and the Avocado by R. V. Mitchell

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

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

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

Smashed Avocados by Doug Jacquier

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

Avocado Toast by FloridaBorne

“What is that?” Mother asked.

“Avocado toast.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avocado Toast by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

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

Avocado Toast by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

Tea and Sympathy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely Nothing by Jeff Gard

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

“Are you sure?” I ask.

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

“All the tests say the same thing.”

“There’s nothing we can do?”

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

“Absolutely nothing.”

Sophie Can Dream by Eliza Mimski

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

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

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

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

Haunted by Her Carbon Footprint by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

A Separation Tale by Charli Mills

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

Avocado Toast by Joanne Fisher

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

“Sorry I had avocado toast for lunch.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(25) Damned Family by JulesPaige

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

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

Toast by D. Avery

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

Avocado on Toast by Hugh W. Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

George is My Friend by Gloria McBreen

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

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

‘Actually…yes please,’ I blurted.

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

‘A birthday toast to you George.’

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

Lydia Avocado Parker by Simon

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

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

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

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

Avocado Toast by kathy70

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

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

Avocado on Rye by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahead a Ther Time by D. Avery

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

Lost Time

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

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

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

A Brown Rubber Watch by Ruchira Khanna

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

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

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

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

Time Lost by D. Avery

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

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

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

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

When Did You Last Have It? by Anne Goodwin

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

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

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

Out of Time by Norah Colvin

“Time’s up!”

“Not yet! I’m not finished.”

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

“Please, just a little more time?”

“You’ve already had more than most.”

“I can do it. Promise.”

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

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

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

Finding Mr Bunny by Joanne Fisher

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

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

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

“The whole day?”

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

Chronos-4000 by Saiffun Hassam

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

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

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

Stanton Near Forsyth Street by Donna Matthews

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

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

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

“Yeah, okay, I guess.”

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

Long minutes pass.

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

“What do you see?” she whispers.

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

Lost Time by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

“You’ve been in a coma for 10 years…”

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

Time Lost, and Found by Chel Owens

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

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

Overcoming Obstacles by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

“How long in hospital?”

“Six months.”

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

“Nobody told me that.”

“I just did.”

“Show me how. Please.”

Friendship of Time by Ann Edall-Robson

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

Too Tak by Anita Dawes

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

Lost Time by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

Regret by Gloria McBreen

Rose opened the shabby old shoebox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Time by kathy70

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

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

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

Time Lost by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

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

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

The Brown Rubber Watch by Doug Jacquier

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

Time Bandits by Geoff Le Pard

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

Not Her World by Charli Mills

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

The Present by D. Avery

“Welcome to the What-You Seek Boutique.”

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

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

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

“It’s still ticking. Look.”

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

“Home… but— what next?”

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

Lost Time and Lust by Kerry E.B. Black

The Doctor hunched over Gretchen’s cauldron and sniffed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He swallowed without noticing the undertaste.

Lost Time, Never Found by Simon

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

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

Lost Time by M J Mallon

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

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

Time Bus by Bill Engleson

“Been waiting long?”

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

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

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

“How come? Not curious?”

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

“Makes sense. Think I’ll take a boo.”

“Be my guest.”

“Hmm!”

“Hmm what?”

“That’s odd.”

“What?”

“Took a look…”

“At the schedule?”

“Precisely.”

“So?”

“Well, it’s kinda confusing.”

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

“Not that kind of confusing.”

“What kind, then?”

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

“Crazy!”

“What time you got?”

(17) Damned Family (Lost Time) by JulesPaige

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

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

My Own Re (Treat) by Michelle Vongkaysone

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

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

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

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

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

Time of Hands by D. Avery

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

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

“Ya spend any time at the Rodeo?”

“Was gonna but time flew. You?”

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

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

“She’s put her time in, fer sure.”

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

Life Savers

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

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

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

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

Seamen’s Sacrifice by Chel Owens

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

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

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

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

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

Surfaces by Bill Engleson

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

The head, if it is a head, bobs.

“See?” she says. “There!”

“Kelp bulb,” I state. “That’s all.”

“Let’s get closer.”

I hesitate.

The sea is enraged.

The wind is rising up.

Rocks!

Slippery!

Deadly!

Ones balance, hard to maintain.

“Are you coming?”

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

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

She moves out of my reach.

Towards the waters edge.

I am transfixed.

She strips to the essentials.

“NO!” I scream.

She dives in.

Life Saver by Doug Jacques

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

Slippery Rocks by Simon

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

The Blessings of Ziva by Colleen M. Chesebro

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace Darling to the Rescue by Anne Goodwin

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

Coastal Tales: Diamante by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

Life Saver by Anita Dawes

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

Muddy Water Memories ( Part I) by Sue Spitulnik

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

Muddy Water Memories ( Part II) by Sue Spitulnik

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

Life Saver by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damned Family #5 by JulesPaige

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

coasting on cold waves
an anchor of memories
a hidden journal

Mr Dunk Saves The Day by Geoff Le Pard

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

Into the Storm (Part I) by D. Avery

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

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

“Remember when she made Tommy walk the plank?”

“Do you miss Tommy, Liz?”

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

“Lifesavers.”

“The candy? Or health care workers?”

“Life savers— nascent Coast Guard.”

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

Into the Storm (Part II) by D. Avery

“Who will rescue us, Bill?”

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

“Not us. Us. /U/ /S/. Of A?”

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

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

“Me too.”

“Oh! Marlie! You’ve returned.”

“Mom? Dad?”

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

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

Outstretched Arm by Goldie

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

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

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

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

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

Water and Rescue by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

Lifesavers by Hugh W. Roberts

Is it only humans that save lives?


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

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

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

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

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

Only her yellow wellington boots and rainhat resurfaced.

Oreos and Milk Save the Day! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

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

“I can’t hold our course, Captain!”

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

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

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

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

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

Rescue 116 by Gloria McBreen

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

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

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

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

Ciarán Smith
Father of three
Paul Ormsby
Lived for family

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

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

In Remembrance by Charli Mills

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

Whiskey in a Storm by D. Avery

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

Bacon in a Storm by D. Avery

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

October 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

In Remembrance by Charli Mills

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

Kid Gloves

A situation that calls for kid gloves requires careful handling. Those who wear fine leather crafted from the skin of kids (goats, not children) protect soft hands and perhaps perform unexpected tasks.

Writers had the option to explore all the possibilities and their creative insight expanded the phrase. Parents, wolves, and more feature in this week’s collection.

The following are based on the October 8, 2020, flash fiction challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves.

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

Home On the Range by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Cal coiled up his riata. He had no goals to improve on his already impressive rope skills, but granddaughter Flora required kid glove treatment these days.

Grandson Jeremy had passed him up, carrying on the vaquero tradition through competition and education. Kids today wanted an excuse to put down their cell phones, to raise their faces to the sun. It was an unexpected but welcome blessing from the quarantine.

Flora had kicked him out of the house early, even before his morning coffee. She wanted him out from underfoot while she attempted to wrangle the internet and home schooling.

Kid Gloves by Pete Fanning

He never takes the gloves off. Ever. And if I try to make him a wrestling match ensues. “Germs are everywhere, Zia,” he warns. My brother, the six year-old scientist. He should have been outside, playing in the dirt. Instead this Covid thing has really messed him up. I mean, it messed everyone up, but for him I fear it’s irreversible. When he’s asleep, Mom peels them off, washes them with our masks. When they’re dry, she carefully works them back onto his stubby little fingers. Says they make him feel safe. Hmm. Maybe I should get a pair.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by FloridaBorne

“Handle it with kid gloves,” Mom said.

“What does that mean?” I asked while washing a crystal plate.

“Don’t break my favorite serving dish.”

Unsatisfied with the answer, I consulted the public library’s encyclopedia. Gloves made with baby lambs or goats? Outraged, I ran a half mile home to yell at my mother.

“They kill babies to make kid gloves!!!!” I shouted. “Don’t ever tell me to handle anything with kid gloves again!”

“It’s only a saying, dear. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater is only a saying, too.”

I never ate another bite of meat again.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Joanne Fisher

When my daughter Jill announced she was taking up boxing, I was skeptical. She had already been through horse riding and karate.

Nevertheless we went to the sporting goods store. I tried to imagine her in the boxing ring, but this was still a girl who has soft-toys in every available space in her bedroom…

“Excuse me madam?” the store assistant broke me out of my reverie.

“I’m looking for gloves.”

“Gloves?”

“Kid gloves.”

“Kid gloves?”

“For my daughter.” I replied. “Boxing.”

“Follow me.”

Of course Jill was already there selecting them. I wondered how long this would last.

🥕🥕🥕

The Jokester by Bill Engleson

I remember when it began.

First grade.

They abandoned me to a mocking mob.

“Play nice. Make friends.”

I tried, but what did they know.

The rabble seemed as one.

Bigger.

Stronger.

Maybe even smarter.

One day, faced with aggression, I pulled off a sweet backflip. Landed it. Came up smiling.

“Funny guy,” the bully said.

My life’s river changed course.

Tricks!

Grins!

Bigger tricks!

Fatter grins!

Decades of idiotic hijinks.

Three marriages!

Three divorces!

“Too much,” each said. “Always over the top! Puns! Interminable, heavy-handed humour! Release me.”

Now I get it.

Life.

Love.

Both need kidding gloves.

🥕🥕🥕

Coffee by R. V. Mitchell

Coffee was one tough hombre. Some said he’d more likely shoot you than look at you. Three things set him apart from other gunslingers though. The first was his refined English accent. This feller could really talk pretty, and used the sort of three dollar words most folks weren’t too akin to. The second was that he made one mighty fine cup of coffee, thus his moniker. But oddest trait of all was them there white kid gloves he always sported. Who would have thought that the deadliest fast draw in the Dakota Territory used to be a butler?I remember when it began.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Anita Dawes

A glorious spring morning
I decided to take Morning Glory
For her early run
Racing across the fields as if on wings
I took the low hedge too late
I landed on my backside beside a young man
Leaning there against my hedge
A stranger with a soft smile on his lips
Morning Glory stood waiting for me to remount
Her breath escaping in soft white clouds
He moved with great speed to assist me to my feet
The second thing I noticed, his hands against my skin
As soft as my mothers
When wearing her best kid gloves…

🥕🥕🥕

1863 Revisited Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Henry scoffed, an ugly, guttural dismissal. “Sure, you saw a ghost.”

Clara swiped tears from blazing cheeks and stormed to her car.

“Come back,” he called to the thinning taillights, “maybe Casper would like tea.”

Chill breeze brought wafts of rotting peaches, and he pulled his jacket tight.

“Did you offer tea, Sir?” A translucent woman dressed in antebellum finery, from her lace-edged cap and upswept hair, to the hem of her hoop-defined skirts, tapped a tasseled fan in her kid-gloved hands. “But my name’s Amanda, not Casper.”

Henry beat a hastier retreat than General Lee’s exit from Gettysburg.

🥕🥕🥕

Unused Kid Gloves by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa called Michael’s sister. “I got my divorce papers today and when I put them away in the hutch drawer I noticed a pair of exquisite men’s goat skin gloves I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t want to ask Michael about them just in case…”

Becca’s laugh stopped Tessa’s comment. “I gave those to him thinking he would wear them while learning to wheel his chair. He informed me he didn’t want prissy hands with no calluses and I never saw them again. I am flattered he kept them. If they’re in that drawer, I wouldn’t mention finding them.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Seven Essential Types of Glove by Anne Goodwin

A chair, a couch, the tools of her trade, plus a motley choice of gloves. One pair, snipped at the knuckles, to touch hurt with her fingertips; soft kid gloves to soothe pain. Archaeologist gloves for delving through history; hospital-grade latex to shield her skin and prevent her cuts contaminating theirs. Mismatched heirlooms from her mentors, she traces the left to Rogers, the right to Freud. She reserves the harlequins for those who’ve never learnt laughter, the boxing gloves for those who avoid through jokes. Seven pairs packed, she’s ready to follow her client on a journey into truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Unquenched by D. Avery

More than thirst might make his voice crack. He left them in the dugout without speaking. Carrying the shovel, work gloves feathering out of his back pocket, he hoped he appeared confident to his family.
He arrived at the spring, the once muddy surface now flaked, dried and split like old leather. He methodically pulled his gloves on, grasped the shovel and bent to his work, one scoop at a time. Each thrust of the blade was a prayer, each going unanswered until finally he stopped.
Under a blistering blue sky he held his head in his gloved hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves for Sale by Norah Colvin

Wolf covered his sinister smile with a pleasant facade as he organised a stall between Little Red Hen’s Home-Made Bread and Pig Brothers’ Home Improvements. Dinner could wait. He was hoping for a killing of another kind — monetary — selling his home-made kid gloves.

When an unlikely pair of cowpokes enquired about the origins of his leather, he was evasive. When asked his whereabout the previous week, he attempted to flee; but the recently deputised Pal and Kid were too fast and snapped on the hand cuffs. “We arrest you for the disappearance and suspected murder of seven little kids.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hot News by Simon

She stared at the pic of Kid and Pal duo.

It’s been 18 years since she lost the kids. She shed a drop of a tear and walked out her bedroom. She startled when she saw a man wearing kids costume with a kid’s glove. She remembered the Kid and Pal duo.

Before she reacted there was a tap on her left shoulder, she turns to feel the pain of a long knife shoved in her ribs and the axe from behind chops her head off.

News headlines ‘Murder stories continues in town, people are warned to stay alert!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Dark and Stormy Man by Chel Owens

Mabel knew she’d found a winner when she met Shane -tall, dark, handsome. He came into her life on a dark and stormy night. Unfortunately, she’d mistaken his kid glove-approach as a gentleness that didn’t exist.

No, Mabel sighed as she looked out into the storm, there was no more Shane. Her tears matched those streaming down the windowpane.

“‘Scuse me, ma’am,” a deep voice said. Mabel glanced up through wet eyelashes to see a burly man in a plaid shirt. “I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t too happy.”

The man sat. “Could I buy you a coffee?”

🥕🥕🥕

Inside Out by Geoff Le Pard

‘Morgan! Where are you?’
‘Hang on, I’m… what’s got into you?’
‘Nothing.’
‘So why do you sound like you’re being mugged and why are you standing on a table?’
‘It’s… there… oh god! It’s coming…’
‘A spider? You’re an agoraphobe?’
‘Arachnophobe. Can you…?’
‘Squish it? Sure. I…’
‘Nooo. Just get it outside.’
‘What is an agoraphobe?’
‘Can we do this later? Please take it outside but don’t hurt it.’
‘You want me to use kid gloves?’
‘You can use lead-lined gauntlets if you’ll just take it outside.’
‘First tell me. Agoraphobe? Or I’m not going outside.’
‘Exactly.’
‘?’

🥕🥕🥕

Eagle Point by Saifun Hassam

Last night another tremor shook the ranchlands. The snowcapped serrated peaks of Stoney Mountain Range glinted in the sunlight.

Carly and Carmen climbed up Pine Ridge Trail to Eagle Point. They dismounted several times to push sharp and jagged small rocks from the trail. Both women were experienced rangers and ranchers. Their kid gloves were as essential as their horses for the trek.

A new jagged crack ran from west to east on Eagle Point’s plateau. This summer, wildfires turned the forests into ashes.

Kid gloves or not, the two women would do everything to protect this rugged wilderness.

🥕🥕🥕

Kid Gloves by Frank Hubeny

“You see how those trees hug the shore. They didn’t wear kid gloves to do that. They grabbed on with everything they had. You’re going to have to deal with Bernard the same way.”

“How many times do I have to tell him to stop drinking? He’s like a misshapen piece of fired pottery that can no longer change.”

“Those trees look unchangeably misshapen to me as well. The problem is not every tree that grabbed the shore was able to hold on long enough for strong roots to develop.

“If Bernard doesn’t change he’ll fall off the shore.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Kidding? by JulesPaige

The old woman kept her kid gloves on the table under the arc that divided the entryway of her apartment to the living space. It was not her intent to illude anyone. Unable to elude her own aging waiting for her own imagined ark to sail her permanently away into the heavens. She wore the kid gloves when she had company she wanted to allude to the perfect hands she once had, her fingers now knobby and bent from arthritis.

When the young Cub Scout came to interview her, she smiled. He politely did not ask about her gloves.

🥕🥕🥕

Mushroom Man by Anonymole – Apocryphal Abecedarian

With a tarp held over my head, I made my way to the Mushroom Man. Noon and the sun would cook my skin without it. The city’s ruins, baked white, provided pockets of shade. I scrambled from shadow to shadow.

Down the subway stairs, rubble clacking away, the smell of loam filled my senses. Darkness gave me pause, my eyes adjusted slowly. The ancient forest smell consumed me.

“They’re not ready,” said the man who grew the mycelium leather.

I picked my way deeper into the gloom. “My kid needs those gloves.”

🥕🥕🥕

Misfits (Part I) by D. Avery

While others tended to rodeo events or cracked their WIPs, Pal took a vacation, time away from Kid. Just for a while. Pal even left Carrot Ranch.

Just for a while, for it had been such a long while since Pal had seen Cousins Ash and Dusty Trales.

Dismounting at their Turnip Farm Pal was greeted warmly. “Hey there, Cuz. It’s been a while.”

“Yep.”

“We gotta git these turnips harvested.”

“I’ll hep.”

“You’ll want gloves.”

“Yep. Dang! These are Kid’s gloves! Ugh! I musta in’vert’ly took Kid’s saddlebag.”

Even on vacation, Pal would be burdened with Kid’s baggage.

🥕🥕🥕

Misfits (Part II) by D. Avery

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kid was skedaddling to the Saloon, for as you may recall Kid has some goats out back of the saloon. Bursting through the swinging doors, Kid saw— “Shorty!”

“Kid. Shouldn’t you be vacationin’?”

“Worried ‘bout my kids, what with that prompt an’ all.”

“The kids are alright, Kid, the Ranch and the saloon are safe places for all.”

“Okay.” Kid then took in the quiet saloon. Shorty was so busy writing she hadn’t noticed the goat feeding from a stack of papers. Despite assurances, Kid did not feel safe and vacated, goat in hand.

🥕🥕🥕

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Two

Welcome back TUFF, rodeo writers!

By now, you’ve figured out you have an entire month to work on your flash fiction entry to TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction). That might lull you into complacency. It might tempt you to disregard the contest until the very end (October 26 when the submission form goes live with the final part). Let me convince you otherwise.

Mastering TUFF in its flash fiction form teaches you the skills every fiction writer needs. We all have to draft and we all have to revise. TUFF can be a tool to work on your story with progressive word constraints.

Last week, in TUFF Part One, you drafted a 99-word story. Do. Not. Touch. It. A raw draft is a raw draft. Let it be. What comes next are the tools of your writing craft. Use the next two constraints to revise your final 99-word story. You can write that final 99-word revision 99 times if you’d like. But you can only turn in one, of course. This is where we start exploring and experimenting — with 59-words.

THE PART TWO TWIST

For this week’s addition to the TUFF contest, you will write TWO 59-word stories, reducing your original draft. In one 59-word story, reduce it using the original point of view. In the other 59-word story change the point of view.

It’s the same story, just smaller. You are tasked with picking and choosing the strongest elements from your 99-word draft. This makes you consider what is working, where your story’s focus is, and how to tell it.

Here is an example:

Saving Grace by Charl Mills (99-word draft)

Grace looped her right leg into the padded hook of her sidesaddle. Her long skirts without hoops nearly touched the ground. With war coming to New Mexico, camp guards eyed her skirts critically. If Grace felt threatened, she straightened her back and spoke her family name. But it wasn’t to her grandfather’s quarters she rode. A man in riding boots met her behind the row of soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon. Her lips parted. He approached her skirts, reached beneath to touch her left ankle. She nearly swooned. Though her skirts were big enough to hide ammunition, she smuggled love-letters.

59-word Same POV

Grace rode sidesaddle into camp. Without hoops, her skirts hung low, catching the critical eye of guards. She straightened. “You dare touch the General’s granddaughter?” They let her pass. Before tea with Grandpa, she rode past the soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon reached where guards dared not. He touched her ankle and her lips parted. Her skirts smuggled love letters.

59-word Different POV

I had to elude the guards with my contraband. Everyone knew who I was, but with war coming to New Mexico, suspicions grew. They couldn’t know I was meeting a Confederate soldier. Dressed in Union colors, Rory emerged from the tents near the woods. His touch beneath my skirts electrified me. I headed to Grandfather. My love letter delivered.

Notice how I used or omitted different details in each. That’s how you can use the POV tool. Often writers instinctually write in a POV that feels familiar. Maybe it’s what you read, or common to your genre. When you switch POV, the closeness to the character changes. First-person is more intimate but also limited. What I found interesting is that when I switch POVs, I had different ideas about the story pop into my head. You can use the 59-word constraint to explore different ideas, different POVs, or even different craft elements (notice that I added dialog to one of the reductions).

You can play with this story all month! Don’t touch the original draft, change up the final revision. And if you are just getting started, that’s fine — everyone has until November 1 (11:59 p.m. EST) to enter. There is no entry form yet. This is your time to process and be working on your final revision, using the reduction tools. Use the 59-word reduction as often or as differently as you want, but be prepared to only turn in TWO different 59-word POV reductions of your original draft.

Have fun! Check back next week for TUFF Part Three.

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Colleen Chesebro’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  6. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  7. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

October 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

An early memory is getting a pair of little white kid gloves to wear at San Benito County Rodeo. Maybe they were cotton. But in my memory, they linger as fine kid leather. Not from the hide of Kid or a young person, but from the hide of a young goat. Why were goats involved in buckaroo culture? I have no idea. I tackled them, hog-tied them, licked them (unintentionally, I swear), and apparently, I wore their hide on my hands. Well, we could pick that apart as perhaps an unusual childhood. But authentically buckaroo.

California is a region of assimilation. I can only imagine what a place it must have been under the stewardship of the many and varied tribes that lived there for thousands of years before the rest of the world finding out about gold in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Did you know that Indigenous people practiced fire management in California? I like to think of buckaroo traditions stemming from the rancho culture that arrived with the missionaries and their Spanish horses and cattle. People whose ancestors managed mountains and forests and coasts took to horses with a special kind of wisdom.

They say buckaroos evolved out of the vaquero culture, but they fail to say how much earlier influence came from the original Native Californians. With the Gold Rush, people from around the world flooded into California. Among them, two sets of Basque 3rd-great grandparents. They ranched a small place near Paicines and later ran the hotel in Tres Pinos. Through marriages and descendants, I can claim Basque, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Brazilian, Flemish, and Dane. Talk about the Californian melting pot. Each one of those heritages came under the direct influence of the vaqueros.

And I had the kid gloves to prove it. Well, maybe not the gloves, but the early gear we used spoke of our heritage. My grandfather was a rawhider, and I learned the basics. I know how to make rawhide, string it, and braid it. We carried riatas (braided ropes) and rode with bosals to keep a horse from tossing its head. We had hefty horns on our beautifully tooled saddles because we roped cattle in a certain style. My grandfather was a figure-eight roping champion at this same rodeo grounds where I once won my own championship (okay, it was just a goat, but I won a trophy). This video gives you a glimpse of the style of roping and the land where I was born as a fifth-generation Californian

If you want to read an insightful essay about the buckaroo culture I come from, the Library of Congress recorded a bit of it here.

Our own Flash Fiction Rodeo is unfolding with a new event every Tuesday. Kerry E.B. Black is currently hosting Fables and Tall Tales. Colleen Chesebro is up next, and her contest is the equivalent of the figure-eight loop to syllabic poets. Kid and Pal hit the Dusty Trail last week, and I took over the Saddle Up Saloon to host TUFF, a progressive flash fiction contest. Part Two posts early Monday morning and offers the first twist to the sequence of word count reductions.

I’m going to do my best to keep up with all of you taking the weekly challenges, but I may be eyebrows deep in my thesis. The complete first draft is due by the end of the month, and then I’ll be using NaNoWriMo to revise it. That might sound like crazy-talk, but I do have a strategy in mind! My first draft is a mess. I want to use November to make it more cohesive and streamlined so that when I go into thesis revisions with my professor and peers, I have a better working manuscript. On a side note — Danni is the daughter of a Basque buckaroo from Nevada. Her life was much different from my own, but I wanted to use a culture I’m familiar with, and when writing about the West, I reached into my own back pocket. With kid gloves, of course.

October 8, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes kid gloves. A prop in the hands of a character should further the story. Why the gloves? Who is that in the photo, and did he steal Kids’ gloves (of the Kid and Pal duo)? Consider different uses of the phrase, too. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 6, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

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

Dressed and Ready by Charli Mills

Annabelle’s mother braided her hair so tight her eyes tugged at the corners. “Ma,” she wailed, “I won’t be able to see.”

“Get hair in your eyes, young lady, and you won’t see to throw your loop.” Ma was all business about rodeo events.

Already Annabelle had on her boots, jeans, frilled shirt, turquoise vest, and a hot-pink scarf with a concho slide. Ma zipped up the back leg on each side of her navy blue shotgun chaps and tightened the belt. Her brand-new kid gloves would protect her hands.

All this for a chance to rope a calf.

Dusty Trail

Dusty trails lead in and out of the arid lands of the American West. Iconic to cattle drives, pioneers, and the Pony Express, there’s more to the west than frontier, dry land, rugged mountains, and big sky. It was a wild place — still is — but it was known long before settlers and ranchers, loggers and miners hit the trails. Where did they come from? What dusty trails lead people to wander and settle? Are we ever really settled, or is our large human family restless to kick up dust?

Writers had a challenge before them, and like the argonauts before them, they set out with just 99 words in their knapsacks to catch a story on the trail. Read where the prompt led them.

The following is based on the October 1, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that happens on the dusty trail.

My Life’s Dusty Roads by Sue Spitulnik

Growing up dusty dirt roads connected friends farms. We drove them to hunt and parked on them to explore life.

In my thirties I drove dusty roads alone into the mountains, looking for me.

Now in retirement, Charli Mills introduced me to Stegnar and Abbey, lovers of open and natural places.

Then Sean Prentiss took me along to Find Abbey and I rode on some of the same roads while driving Rt66.

Now I’m riding the same roads again with the Ghost Rider, who is sharing his knowledge of ghosts, wishing life didn’t have them.

Coincidence. I think not.

🥕🥕🥕

Dusty Trail by kathy70

Sally walked along the trail covered with dust, no rain in almost two months along her beloved ridge of mountain.  This was where she came to clear her head from all the noise of her family of 11 siblings, all talking at the same time.  She knew that she could only have a few minutes before someone was looking for her.  What would she find here today? Would he still be here, was he feeling well enough to leave?

As she searched the trees and bushes there was no sign of him.  The eagle free from his trap was gone.

🥕🥕🥕

Star Dust by D. Avery

“It’s my magical palace, Mommy!”

Taking her mother’s hand Hope twirled and danced in the hayloft until they both fell back into a pile of loose hay, laughing. Dusty trails of chaff sparkled in the shafts of sunlight.

“Stars!” her mother exclaimed.

“Make a wish, Mommy.”

“Does wishing work with this kind of star?”

“Yup. Mine came true.”

“What did you wish for?”

But Hope only grew quiet and snuggled closer to her mother, who stared up into the glittering dust. “I’m so sorry, kid,” she whispered. “But I’m here now, I promise.” Then she wished upon a star.

🥕🥕🥕

Grand Canyon Cowboys by Deborah Dasante

Confusion. That’s their game. Starched jeans. Stetsons. So you to think that’s who they are. It’s a disguise. I paid good money to ride a mule in a line with a group of others too lazy or too afraid to hike the South Rim. Paid a store-bought cowboy to ‘Howdy’ and to not look like a fool going in circles unable to move forward. Not a dimes worth of difference between a forty dollar mule and a store-bought cowboy. Cost money to find that out. I should of known better when I read the flyer –

“Grand Canyon, My Ass”.

🥕🥕🥕

The Mares of Mars by Anonymole: Apocryphal Abecedarian

Haus spurred his robotic steed. By ‘spurred’ we mean he spoke code into his suit’s helmet that translated to ‘giddy-up’. Within seconds his six legged rover, a cross between a horse, a spider and a stainless-steel nightmare from a 20th Century film, began a sinuous saunter, one that allowed Haus to barely feel the trail.

The pair arrived at a crevasse, one that plunged deep into the dusty crust of Mars.

“The span exceeds safe leaping distance,” said Bray-burry, the mount’s name.

“Bah! This oughta be easy. Back up a bit.” The robot complied. “Now git!”

And over they…

🥕🥕🥕

Gold Dust by Hugh W. Roberts

Heading up the dusty trail of the desert city, nine-gallon, cowboy hat adorned and wobbling around on the spurred boots that were one size too big, Barry remembered the words of his now-deceased, bachelor uncle.

“The trail leads to gold.”

But where was the gold? There was no gold here, just dust, some of which was dirtying his new boots and making him sneeze.

Opening the doors of the venue at the end of the trail, Dusty’s, his heart leapt while butterflies flew around his stomach. A brightly-lit room full of cowboys, all line dancing together.

He’d struck gold.

🥕🥕🥕

A Barf Story by Simon

He entered the bar, covered with brown sand as he came from a dusty trail. Young boy stared at a guy in whites. He bravely went close to him and asked if you are not eating this, can I take this? he was hungry.

The man nodded. He quickly grabbed the spoon and ate it fast as soon he reached the bottom of the Cup he found a dead rat, he barfs up back in the bowl and stared at the man

The man replied calmly, Gross, I did the same when I reached that bottom.
He barfs again.

🥕🥕🥕

Slave by FloridaBorne

Martha Smythe refused her father’s choice, eloping with the man she loved instead.

She remembered little about the siege; her new husband dying from a pirate’s bullet… their ship sinking… being thrown into a hold with other women, faces blank from shock… sails blowing as strong winds propelled them toward the Barbary Coast… huddling in a Morocco slave market.

Her hands bound, she walked a dusty trail to the home of a man with dark face. Instead of a new life in Connecticut, a stranger beat her, used her body, and threw her into a room with barred windows.

🥕🥕🥕

Looking for the Comfort of Autumn… (a dream scene?)
(two verses of a Vers Beaucoup) by JulesPaige

There’s a strain on the prairie plane – no hill or dale, putting a strain
On this traveler’s brain – dry ground, no trained hound
On a lead bound to find any water for this daughter
Who oughter have stayed close to home, but did roam

Running from the season, with no rhyme or reason, spirit to be pleasin’
Yet the nose is just sneezin’ – no thirst quenched, arid dry air first
In spiral clouds burst from the not so shy, dust filled sky
The trail far from the shade of the leaves of willow for my pillow…

🥕🥕🥕

Scorcher by R. V. Mitchell

It was a scorcher for sure, easily ninety degrees in the shade. Too bad there weren’t no shade. George Mason, took off his hat and wiped his forehead with a sleeve. The dust clogged his throat despite the scarf he wrapped around his face.

He had been doing scouting ahead of the train for about two hours or so, and the water holes were still an hour or so ahead of him. The terrain looked tolerable enough, but he was concerned that the dust raised by the wagons behind him might call some unwanted attention to Captain Little’s train.

🥕🥕🥕

The Darnedest Cowboy by M J Mallon

The darnedest cowboy walked towards me. His cowboy boots churned up the dusty road. My heartbeat so loudly I swore it was going to giddy up, catch a ride on a wild horse and land on his Western shirt. His eyes twinkled as he dawdled a few feet away. He kicked a stone, spat some cheeky grits into the ground and walked right past, lassoing my heart with his.

I stayed still until I heard the deafening gunshot. Damn. Wild West gals sure don’t remember no dead cowboy long.

Love ain’t for dead buckaroos!

🥕🥕🥕

Histories Hidden Below Layers of Dust by Anne Goodwin

They trod lightly on the earth, but their footprints were visible for those who cared to see. The White Man did not care: fearing their prowess, he stripped them of their language, their culture, their land. Made them a commodity. Robbed them of their worth.

Centuries later, their descendants plough through the dusty trail to dig up the bones of their accomplishments: the hidden histories of science, literature, music and architecture. Scour museums for stolen artefacts, ornaments appropriated when the White Man rewrote their stories, swapped heroes for victim or villain. Let’s be brave now and face the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrot Ranch by Anita Dawes

We cannot see the wind
Only the lifting of leaves
The swaying or grass
As it passes
We cannot hear the wind
Only the echo
It leaves behind
The dark curtain of dust
It sweeps from the ground
All but swallows
The four horsemen
Riding from the Starbuck Ranch
Out to recover a few stray cattle
Before the savannah winds
Cover the small town of Starbuck
With a dark blanket from hell
Ask my mother
When she tries clearing it up
The air around her turns dusty blue
The four riders return
Spitting blue dust…
Cattle safe and sound.

🥕🥕🥕

Divergin’ Trails (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Divergin’ Trails (Part 2) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Asides it’s cold there. Think I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time.

Crimson foliage
Crackling conflagrant hues
Ignite morning frost

Burning campfire memories
Smoke’s dusty trails dream west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

Outlaws on the Dusty Trail by Charli Mills

Frankie wiped her glass eye with the scarf she used to cover her face.

“Gotta mask up, Bert,” she told her horse (who wasn’t listening). “Dang dust.”

The dry storm blew like a devil whirling across the flats. Ahead, Frankie made out the outline of riders that looked to her one eye like two outlaws. They were wearin’ masks, too! She tightened the rains and thought about lunging old Bert to keep the mail safe (Bert had no run left in him).

“Hey, it’s Frankie.”

Blowing dust and relief, she realized it were jist her friends, Kid and Pal.

🥕🥕🥕

Too Far From Home by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d worn new Oboz hikers and thin wool socks, afraid of snakes on the trail since there’d been none on the plane. She’d strapped on a hip belt with double water holsters, and a chin-strapped billed cap with cape to for sun protection.

She gleamed like a beached whale, from all the sunscreen applied, and wore layers, like multiple skins, to transform from wallowing walrus to near naked nymphette, as the weather deemed. She’d traveled far, with no plans to stay out after dark.

But then she lost the trail, and found two Carrot cowpokes singing by a fire.

🥕🥕🥕

Jess and Cindy Stumble Across the Ranch by Joanne Fisher

“If only our car hadn’t broken down. I hope this trail will lead somewhere.” Jess said. Cindy coughed.

“It’s rather dusty!”

The two women came to a ridge. Below them they saw a ranch.

“We’ve been here before! This is Carrot Ranch where Kid and Pal work. I wonder if they’re around.” Jess wondered. They walked to the fence.

“Look at all those carrots they have to wrangle.”

“Maybe we should take some so we can compare them to our ones.” Jess suggested.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Cindy responded. “It may be regarded as carrot rustling.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail Down Under by Norah Colvin
The hooves thundered along the trail kicking up a storm of dust. Mary watched the cloud clear the trees and turn towards her across the home paddock.

How often had the boys been told to not push their horses so hard?

“Might as well talk to a dead cow,” her dad always said.

Before they’d reined in their mounts, Mary was outside, ready to give them a serve.

“Mum! Mum! It’s Kid and Pal. They’re here,” they shouted.

Mary sighed. Hadn’t they outgrown imaginary friends?

Her jaw dropped when, out of the dust, two figures materialised. “G’day,” they said.

🥕🥕🥕

Saguaro ‘N Seek by Chel Owens

Pal spat into the wind, instantly regretting he’d done so. “Ware be Kid?” he growled as he wiped his face.

“Ware be you?” the wind answered.

Pal whipped around. He slid off the rocky outcropping he’d carefully climbed and scooted across just a few minutes before. His gun flew after him, landing stock first into a Saguaro and shooting its contents sky-high.

“Hey!” yelped the cactus, falling over.

Pal squinted. “Kid?”

“Nah, yer gramma.”

Pal laughed. “Welp,” he said, standing and walking over to his dusty, cactus-clad friend. “I guess you won this here round o’ hide ‘n seek.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Trail: Crater Lakes by Saifun Hassam

Lorena trekked along a dusty trail to Coyote Ridge in the Crater Lakes Habitat. Green Lake shimmered blue in the fall sunshine. To the south were the mudflats of Lizard Lake.

Lorena was a writer and artist. Crater Lakes, with its rich American West history and extraordinary natural beauty, captivated her.

Lorena hiked past cottonwoods, aspens, and majestic lodgepole pines. On the trail, Ranger Carmen greeted her warmly. Lorena grinned at the other two familiar faces.

“Hey, Kid! Hi Pal! You’re a long dusty ways from home!”

Pal was exploring rancher history.

Kid? He was in Poet Tree heaven!

🥕🥕🥕

The Morning After by Geoff Le Pard

‘Where did you get to, Morgan?’

‘Those two reprobates, Kid and Pal…’

‘You went drinking with them? Give me you wallet.’

‘I didn’t spend much.’

‘It’s not the money; I’m tearing up your donor card. You can’t expect anyone to want your organs now.’

‘I think I must have dropped my brain and bruised it. Did I disturb you?’

‘How kind of you to worry. As it happens, no, though you did leave a sad trail of shed clothes, keys, burger wrappers…’

‘Sorry, I was feeling a little dusty…’

‘Yeah, I get it. They’re hard to refuse, aren’t they?’

🥕🥕🥕

Taking Control by Sue Spitulnik

Katie’s eyes went wide when she saw Kid and Pal standing at the No Thanks bar. “Howdy guys. What brings you here, and, how’d you get so dusty?”

“We’re on hiatus from our Saloon and gettin’ pulled every which way. One writer’s got us drinkin’, one ridin’ the range and another sittin’ at a campfire, so we rode over for a busman’s holiday. Sorry ’bout the dust.”

“Don’t care ’bout the dirt. Couldn’t be better timing! If you’ll tend bar, I’ll go see my students dance at the Irish Festival.”

“We’d love to.”

“Can’t thank you enough.”

“Have fun.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal, I’m ready fer a vacation. Where we gonna go, anyway?”

“We? This is vacation, Kid. My vacation is gonna be time away from you.”

“What? Yer leavin’ me?”

“Fer a bit Kid. I’m jist gonna have some quiet time. Mebbe do some fishin’. Catch up with ma cuzzins. Ash and Dusty. Trales.”

“Ya never told me ya had cuzzins.”

“Ya never asked. They run a little farm jist west a the ranch. Raise turnip. At one time they figgered ta give Shorty a run fer her money.”

“Did they?”

“Nah. Turnips is too bitter.”

“Kin relate, Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Which One Doesn’t Fly East, The Other Goes A Little Farther West (Part 1) by D. Avery

“Don’t be bitter, Kid. Whyn’t ya use this time ta go back east? Check out thet fall foliage they talk about.”

“Too far.”

“How kin thet be? Ya got here from there didn’tcha?”

“Mean I’ve come too far. I ain’t goin’ back ta where you know who lives. Reckon I’ll jist spen’ my time up in the Poet Tree. Have ma own quiet time. I’d git homesick if I lef’ the Ranch. Asides it’s cold there.

Crimson foliage
Conflagrant hues crackling
Ignites morning frost

Campfire memories burning
Dusty trails of smoke drift west

Yep, I’ll stay here, tanka anyways.”

🥕🥕🥕

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part One

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon, Writers!

Yep. You’ve landed in the right spot if you are looking for the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo. Kid and Pal hit the trail, taking some well-deserved time off from running the Saloon. They hope to return next month, every Monday, with fun literary events and character interviews. If you have the daring to let your characters be interviewed by characters that refuse to believe they fall from the ink in D. Avery’s pen, then this month is a good time to get into the line-up. Contact Kid and Pal at D. Avery’s address averydede.1@gmail.com.

Let’s get down to the tuffest contest in the Rodeo. If you are not familiar with TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction), let me take a sip of this good hard cider Pal left for us and explain. TUFF is a progressive formula that requires a  writer to draft and revise. It begins with a 99-word quick draft. Next, you reduce the draft to 59 words. Then 9 words. Finally, you revise the original draft according to insights gained through reductions to complete a polished 99-word story. As a formula, it looks like this: 99-59-9-99. It’s a challenging format that asks writers to be vulnerable. Why? Because your first draft must read like a raw draft.

We want to see a transformation. We want to experience how you, as a writer, took a single draft and transformed it over a month. Yes, you get a month to complete the process. However, there will be unexpected twists along the way. Each Monday, I will announce a new twist for the next step to test your craft skills and versatility. Be prepared to stretch as a writer.

Let me explain why I like the TUFF process. The reductions force you to think differently about your word choices. It might change the outcomes of your stories. TUFF gets you out of the mindset that there is only one path for a story. As an MFA student, I’ve had to draft fast and hard, yet learn to make meaningful choices for revision. If I get stuck on a scene, I write that scene in 99-words and take it through the TUFF process. It helps me focus on what is essential and to take courage to cut what isn’t needed.

As a short story writer, TUFF can be your money-maker. Every month you can be entering cash-prize contests. TUFF can help you generate material. It can be hard to stare at the blank screen and develop five stories for five contests. But what if you have a great premise? Draft it in 99 words, and take it through the revision process but differently each time according to meeting the criteria of five different contests. You can start with one idea and develop five unique stories to learn to write with versatility.

You can use TUFF to develop a vision and mission as a literary artist or develop your pitch in varying lengths. As you write your novel, you should also be continually revising your pitch and synopsis. Drafting and defining are two different applications of storytelling. They can go hand in hand throughout the greater writing and revision process. TUFF can be a quick spark to these important activities. For an example of TUFF in action, watch my YouTube video, Yellow Roses.

But for now, it’s a contest!

Final entries won’t be collected until after the last part issued on Monday, October 26. Those of you who get started immediately are going to squirm all month, wanting to alter your draft. Don’t. Step away from the raw draft. It is meant to be raw. If you revise and polish it, the judges won’t be able to witness the transformation. And transformation is key. However, if you wait until the last week to do all four parts, your final piece will lack the depth of insight we want to see in the transformation. My best advice to contestants is to pace yourself each week. You can only enter one entry, but you can certainly get TUFF with as many stories as you like. Or, as I suggested earlier, you can play around with the 59-word and 9-word possibilities to take your draft in different directions.

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Kerry E.B. Black’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  5. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).