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April 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

Just when I was feeling despondent over how far my front potager garden has to grow to live up to its name, someone planted bunnies along its border. It’s spring-ish in the Keweenaw of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, give or take a few more spits of white rain. The snow smartens the landscape of leftover street grit, dead plant stalks, and mats of maple leaves that resemble road-flattened toads. As much as I want to have a garden that emerges from winter like the ones I see on Monty Don’s “Gardening World,” the truth is I don’t live in the UK.

The bunnies brought me cheer and a mystery.

Who planted the family of wooden bunnies, each painted gray or brown and detailed with artistic designs? Each bunny is a different size and mounted on a dowel to press it into the ground. I simply walked outside one day, and there they were. I posted the discovery on Facebook, certain the artist would claim their handiwork, but so far, no one has.

Some people sow seeds of generosity without an audience. I like the idea that it could be anyone on Roberts Street or beyond. Some artist is chuckling over their drive-by bunnying. It seems that would narrow the list of suspects but almost everyone I know on the Keweenaw Peninsula is artistic. As I clean up my potager, I look forward to creating bunnyscapes. As hard as it is to resist, I’m late with a rake in the spring. I want my bunnies in a pristine setting, but the garden wildlife need warmer weather to emerge from the leaves and winter stalks. Patience is my act of generosity.

Not that I have time to dig the dirt. Two and a half more weeks and I’m done with school. I’ve had classmates tell me that I’m in one of the most dreaded classes of the course. At least I know I’m not the only one struggling to understand it. The other course is a content and copy class and we are studying SEO. Shoot me in the foot. I get what Search Engine Optimization is. I don’t buy into its value or all they hype that it’s something worth mastering. Not to say it isn’t a worthwhile strategy for marketing content. I adhere to other strategies. SEO will never be WOM (Word of Mouth). The latter includes people, the human factor in marketing.

Regardless, one of my favorite professors leads the course. I wish it were a prof I didn’t like and I could feel more justified in my moaning and groaning. I also can tell a difference in my classmates. Many from the earlier part of the program have taken a break or left. It seems COVID has exacted a toll. People are tired, unhappy. More disconnected. One peer has been a shining light, though, and I’ve gravitated toward her generous feedback that has helped me get through these last two classes.

I’m learning to be generous with myself, too. I had wanted to forge ahead with plans after graduation. I tried my best to keep up with business development, coursework, and thesis writing. In the end, my focus narrowed to a laser beam on my novel. After all, it was the primary purpose of my MFA journey. I’ve received a generous amount of feedback from my advisor and began yet another round of revisions last week. To me, it’s exciting. I know to dig into the comments, read the resources she recommends, and roll up my sleeves and do the work. Like my garden emerging ugly, I’ve decided to find the beauty in the mud.

And to wait. I don’t have a deadline on what I plan to do. True, I have a tiny bit of savings, enough to see me through six months after graduation plus a small investment in my business. I want to shout it to the world because I am excited for my vision. But I’m practicing mindfulness and recognizing that my neighbors can’t possibly see the potager as it will be in years to come. All I have is shaping clay and I need to trust the process to make it into the artistic vision I see. I need to be generous and offer myself the gift of time.

According to a newsletter I subscribe to:

“One way to practice generosity is to give energy where it is needed, whether that is in the form of time, money or love.”

Daily Om, Planting the Seeds of Generosity

The gift of time spoke to me. Giving without thought of return is an act of generosity. Someone gave me bunnies, a work of their artistic hands, and my neighborhood is enriched. Every week, writers give me stories, and like a community table, I prepare a spread we can all taste and enjoy. How remarkable generosity is.

There is yet another way to consider generosity. Brené Brown counts it as part of the Braving Inventory from her book and process, Dare to Lead. I post a copy next to my desk, alongside my vision for my writer’s life. You can print off one of your own, scroll down this Workbook page to Downloads where you will find Generosity listed in the Braving Inventory.

“What is the hypothesis of generosity? What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said?”

Brené Brown

Do you feel what she is saying? That we can be generous in our thinking towards others. Instead of generalizing the worst about someone, we can extend them the best intentions. The grace we can give one another to co-exist with diversity of views, expressions, and lived experiences. The love and compassion we can all feel when the table is set generously for everyone, especially those who have experienced oppression and marginalization. The empathy we can extend recognizing individual traumas, healing, and scars. To sit and listen, to hold space for others, to witness — these are acts of generosity.

And they are as uplifting as shared art. In fact, the art you share, the stories you tell, they do make a difference in the world.

April 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that seeds generosity. Who is generous and why? Think of generosity as planting a future outcome. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 20, 2021. 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.

Shared Between Neighbors by Charli Mills

Mara’s untamed yard tumbled toward Randal’s. He kept his edges squared, lawn clipped, and garden fenced. Dandelion seeds drifted and yellow globes emerged next door in spring. Mara offered to uproot the plants when Randal returned with herbicide. He scoffed. She persisted. He wavered. She mentioned cancer. Mara dug on hands and knees for three days, preserving roots and flowers. Order reigned over Randal’s lawn once again. She bottled the root tincture to control her menopause. In the fall, she gifted her neighbor a jug of sweet dandelion wine with a vintage label that read, From Seeds of Generosity.

🥕🥕🥕

Rethinking the Hero

There’s a different way to look at heroes.

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

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

Jester the Hero by Sue Spitulnik

Humans! Geesh! Last week that cute baby tried to twist my ear off. It hurt. A quiet growl escaped. The big people went ballistic, and the baby cried. I heard the words: chain, pound, and vet.

This week I growled and barked in that active kid’s face. She screamed and cried in anger. Her grandmother grabbed her and calmed her. Others praised and petted me, called me a hero dog, and even gave me a raw hamburger patty for supper. I guess it had to do with the fact I kept the little one from climbing up the stairs.

🥕🥕🥕

Survival Hero by Norah Colvin

“Consider this,” said the teacher. “You’re stranded alone in the desert. Your vehicle has broken down about 15 kilometres from your destination. Your visit’s a surprise so you’re not expected. There’s no internet service and your phone is dead. You’ve packed water and a little food in a backpack. What else should you take to be the hero of your own journey?”

The students huddled, discussing options.

“Compass,” suggested one.

“Pocket knife,” said another.

“Flashlight.”

“Mirror.”

“A pencil.”

“Why?”

“I’d just add an ‘s’ — change that desert to dessert and she’s sweet.”

“You’re our hero,” the others agreed, laughing.

🥕🥕🥕

Pint-Sized Heroes by Ritu Bhathal

Four-year-old Nina watched her classmate’s plight curiously.

Joey had been struggling with that same jigsaw for the last ten minutes, and no guidance from his teachers was accepted.

Slowly, Nina sidled along until she was next to him. A pint-sized compadre, not as much of a threat as the adults who towered above.

She tentatively picked up the correct piece, turned it the right way, and handed it to Joey.

He popped it in, the tongue of determination that had been sticking out slipped back in, turning into a smile.

I think Joey just found his new jigsaw hero.

🥕🥕🥕

My Hero! by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He stuck his head in the refrigerator, resting his arm along the damp, dusty edge of the door. Plucking at the ruffles of insulation, he surveyed the interior. It certainly felt cooler in there than it did in his apartment.

Behind the jar of mayo and the near-empty carton of skim gasped the remains of an iceberg, a full jar of Claussen’s dill, a vacuum pack of Swiss slices, a lucky Ziplock packed with smoked ham, and chips.

Pile all that on the sub bun he’d pulled from the freezer, and THAT was a feast for a sweltering night.

🥕🥕🥕

The Inner Hero By Geoff LePard

‘That was intense.’
‘Another course, Morgan?’
‘Yeah. “Live your own hero.”’
‘Are you?’
‘Me? Not even in my own lunchtime.’
‘You’ve time.’
‘Thanks. You ever been a hero, Logan.’
‘Not knowingly. Though there was Mr Patel.’
‘Mr Patel?’
‘Ran the corner shop. Called me: “my little hero”.’
‘Why?’
‘I saved his shop from being robbed.’
‘Wow.’
‘Not really. This bloke told him to give him the till. I distracted him and Mr Patel hit him with the takings.’
‘How old were you?’
‘Seven.’
‘What did you do?’
‘Fart.’
‘That would do it. You found the hero inside yourself…’
‘Thanks.’

🥕🥕🥕

Personalities by Reena Saxena

He’s charming. He showers praise on every little effort I make to keep the office machine running smoothly.

Yet, I’ve a certain sense which reads between lines. Things can’t always be hunky-dory, so it made sense to accept that job offer which paid more.

He doesn’t want to let me go, and is using every trick in HR policy for retention …. the same guy who said I’m whatever I am, because of what he made me, and I should be grateful for having him as a boss.

I’ve read enough about narcissists to give him the cold shoulder.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Heather Gonzalez

Halfway into his hike, Kyle heard a woman screaming for help. He ran as fast as his legs could go towards the screams.

“My daughter is hanging off the side!”

Without a word, he bent over and reached for the young girl bringing her back to safety.

“My hero!” the woman cried, giving him a big hug.

He was on such a high from the whole experience that he walked with a huge smile on his face. He was a hero after all. Even if he hadn’t noticed the woman’s hand pulling his wallet out of his back pocket.

🥕🥕🥕

A Defining Moment by Kate Spencer

Ed unlocked the front door and put on his cap.

“I’m not going!” Mattie said. “I’m staying in London.”

“Lovey, you agreed to this. When France falls, you’d leave. It’s not safe here.”

“I know,” and Mattie placed her hands protectively over her belly.

Ed picked up her suitcase.

“But dear heart, what if I lose you?” she cried, trembling.

Ed pulled her close and whispered, “My duty’s here, Luv. Yours is to look after our baby… Promise me?”

Mattie studied her husband’s eyes, her fear reflected in his. Eyes brimmed with tears, she nodded and opened the door.

🥕🥕🥕

Never Died by Simon Prathap D

He kissed the sword with pride, he became like his Father as he won his first battle.

He remembered the day he was protected by his father’s cloak, the swords clanged, enemies screamed and fallen dead, there was a Lion’s roar.

After a silence he came out of the cloak to find his dad standing strong with his sword, his eyes were glowing with pride, he won the battle, but he cried as there was a sword impaled his father’s chest.

He took his last breath, eyes looked at him, his lifeless body stood still, his father never died.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hermit by H.R.R. Gorman

“You’re so boring, pops. You only sit there and meditate.” The young man pounded his fist on a simple table, rattling a knife, bread, and cup of butter.

The elder took the knife and buttered a piece. “There are many ways to glory.”

He growled, pulled on his cloak, and left.

***

The young man returned to the chapel, this time much grayer. His hands were manicured, his wallet full, his clothes fine. He brushed his hand against the rough-hewn table.

He crushed the land’s deed in his hands. He’d sacrificed a quiet glory, but what for he couldn’t tell.

🥕🥕🥕

A Different Way to Serve by Charli Mills

Her bootlace caught the gunrack no soldier ever used. The force of the blast lifted her body as easily as a child’s balloon rises. Weightlessness defined the pause between rise and fall. When her body crashed, her bootlace held. It ripped every tendon, wringing her ankle. Two years later the VA removed the foot Hunter wanted gone. It flopped and failed, unlike the metal shank they pounded into her bone. Strong. Time to return. She wore no cape, no uniform, but stood to defend an Inuit village. She became the climatologist who sounded the alarm. The ice was melting.

🥕🥕🥕

At That Decisive Moment by Bill Engleson

It was expected
that in a pinch,
he’d hold the bridge,
not give an inch.

It was ingrained
in His DNA,
to guard his post,
in every way.

His inner voice,
had something to say,
“It’s a losing cause,
time to give way.”

In moments of doubt,
he thought to pray,
But realized
T’was not his way.

Still, he wondered
how to allay
this dune of fear
that so held sway.

“I’m no hero,”
he thus proclaimed.
I will care not
If I am blamed.

Life is a gift.
I’ll leave this war,
And make my peace
For evermore.

🥕🥕🥕

Earth by Saifun Hassam

At five, Annie wanted to be an astronaut, in a rocket orbiting Earth. She wanted to be a biologist, to protect Earth. Her imagination was fired up when her parents talked about pesticides affecting birds and other animals. A silent spring, not to hear birds singing, was unbearable.

Annie’s first telescope was in the backyard. She peered at the major constellations. Enough to start on a long journey.

The bird feeder attracted birds year-round. She was so excited one winter to find chickadees sheltering in the pines.

From the space shuttle, she saw Earth’s place in space, Earth’s fragility.

🥕🥕🥕

Celastrina Ladon by JulesPaige

Imprisoned by winter
Set free by sun kissed
warmth of seasonal changes

Our heroes attend
and prepare us
Perhaps they take breaks
In their duties to feed
Our honeydew to their own

How we enjoy to mend
The spirits of those
Who remained bound

Could we be heroic
In our small flight
As we cross their paths
Perhaps alight
On their garden flowers?

One of the earliest
Of our kind to flitter
Into this April

on my walk
I encountered a true hero
of the new season
one lone Spring Azure
as if the a bit of sky fell

🥕🥕🥕

Deadly Garden by Dave Williams

Discovery of treasure! Purples, blues, yellows! Like reaching a monochromatic street’s end to find Times Square.

The backyard garden rewarded Zuberstan’s long flight from the hive. Inebriated with joy, Zuberstan didn’t sense the golden retriever running — until the dog nearly reached the bee.

The beast’s jaws opened. The cave’s drooling maw ended with the darkness of death. Hot breath enveloped Zuberstan. He zipped backward. The jaws shut. Then flight from the dog’s reach.

Zuberstan gasped, headed back toward the hive. A group would return. Some bees would distract the dog, buzz its head, while other bees feasted on nectar.

🥕🥕🥕

The Elixir of Pyjamas and Citrus Juice by Anne Goodwin

HJ called to Writer. Writer rejected the call. “I’m a free spirit,” she claimed, plonking her characters in a featureless landscape without a map. Seeing them floundering, Ally asked questions. Listened. Reframed. Writer refused to control her characters, the novel more unwieldy with every draft.

Frustrated, she abandoned fiction for caving. When falling rocks blocked the exit, Buddy prescribed guided imagery to combat panic. “You’re home, safe in bed. What are you wearing? What are you drinking?” Writer envisioned pyjamas and citrus: PJ and OJ proved her elixir. She’ll plot the Protagonist’s cum Ordinary Person’s Journey if she survives.

🥕🥕🥕

The Chosen One by Joanne Fisher

There was a loud knock on the door. Clarice answered it to find a tall man with a long beard standing on her porch.

“Clarice Evans, would you like to join me on an adventure?” the Wizard asked.

“Ooh that sounds lovely dear! I’ll just go and get my coat.” Clarice replied. The Wizard waited patiently.

Clarice Evans may have been seventy four with a gammy leg, hard of hearing, and owned a preponderance of cats, but little did she know it was her destiny to defeat evil and usher in a new golden age of peace and enlightenment.

🥕🥕🥕

Heroes by Anita Dawes

My favourite heroes, da Vinci, Plato, Galileo
To name but a few
Not forgetting the classics, like Achilles, Hercules
As a child, Tarzan was my favourite,
Taking care of the animals, righting wrongs
Then I switched to Superman, fantasy maybe.
Turning to more modern heroes
Maya Angelou would be up there.
My father for leaving, before he knew I existed
What a hero!
I digress, sorry. It’s one of those days
when I feel like pouring out all sorts of nonsense
What would happen if you put them in a cave?
Would their mighty egos break down the walls?

🥕🥕🥕

Supply Run by Rebecca Glaessner

Slinking along the dark and barren hillside, pack of acquired supplies secured tight, I see movement.

Have I been caught?

I drop low, confident in my darkened out-wear, and watch the quiet, sprawling city. A flash by the edge reveals an individual stumbling past the barrier, long, unshaven white hair gleaming in the night.

I need to leave before next watch begins, but they fall.

I weigh the risks, and reluctantly return.

“Can you walk?” I ask.

They nod, startled.

“Put this on,” a shawl for their hair.

With sounds of next watch beginning, we disappear into the hillside.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Pete Fanning

I sit at the bar, sliding my glass over the rings from pitcher’s past. A muted ball game is on TV. Jim reminds me how he was an all-district pitcher back in high school.

High school. A wash of beer slides down my throat. I check the latest string of messages from my son’s mother. Damn.

I forgot about T-ball.

Jim beckons another round. On TV, the pitcher fans another batter. The kid is four, I’ll make it up to him.

Tomorrow.

A fresh cold pitcher slides onto the bar, leaving new rings for the next hero to find.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero in a Different Light by Hanna Streng

You must think I’m despicable”, he whispered and hid his face in his hands.

He had told her everything. That he had a 7 year old daughter he hadn’t seen in 6, that he only 4 years ago had been so depressed that he hadn’t been able to get out of bed for weeks and that he as a result had seen his job go down the drain.

Now she’d finally see him for what he was- a mess.

She did see, but differently.
“You’ve been through hell, and you’re still here.
“I  don’t think you’re despicable”, she said, “you’re my hero.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Unnamed Negotiator by Padmini Krishnan

The police inspector stood amongst the rioters, negotiating.
“They started it first,” screamed a youth leader.

The inspector told him what would happen to his future was he arrested. Anger reduced, they jeered at him. He was not the aggressive cop they were hoping for.

“Did you open teargas?” thundered the commissioner.

“No signal, sir.” The inspector cut the call and stood between the rioters, talking in soft tones, reminding them not to fall prey to their passions. Their mockery turned to exhaustion and they dispersed in the midnight, as a lonely figure walked back to his police car.

🥕🥕🥕

Brave and Strong by Brenda

Be true to yourself. You are a every day hero, brave and strong.

Hero, brave and strong.

Put down, locked up, and shut up.

A life of pain, hurt, and disadvantage.

Turn it around and fine true strength

When you get back up after being knocked down.

Take the dark events in life and find the light.

Sharing stories of pain. Showing others how to fight.

Scared and living in fright.

Gaining strength through the suffering endured.

Learned there is much more

Than what people can see.

Learn to look for the light,

Even in the darkness of night.

In everything and everyone, look for God’s light.

Love all you see.

🥕🥕🥕

The Late Knight by Nicole Horlings

Princess Elissa leaned against the wall of the tower, bored and frustrated. When on earth would Sir Garth arrive? She glanced out the window, and spied the red dragon, circling lazily above the tower. There was no sign of the knight in the distance. Surely, he would have gotten her message about the rescue? Hadn’t her servant survived the journey?

It had been too long. She descended the stairs, summoned the rest of her army, and instructed the dragon to lead them in their march to rescue Prince Arnold. She’d backtrack to search for Sir Garth, just in case.

🥕🥕🥕

Heroine Chic by Doug Jacquier

A ballsy Amazon, with a prodigious cleavage and legs that go all the way up to her backside, storms into a cave and kicks the crap out of The Devil Personified and, supposedly, women everywhere cheer. The fact that her methodology replicates that of her foe is, supposedly, irrelevant to the sweetness of her revenge.

Meanwhile, a woman, with breasts streaked from breastfeeding and whose legs end at her knees, stands in her cavernous kitchen, surrounded by children abandoned by their father, and turns ground beef into gourmet burgers cheaper than McDonalds. She doesn’t have time to imagine heroism.

🥕🥕🥕

No More Heroes by Hugh W. Roberts

What fate awaited an innocent woman?

•••

As she ascended the scaffold, an image of her husband stood before her. His cloak, scruffy beard and stocky build still made him the hero she deeply loved.

Kneeling before him, she looked up.

Praising him, she told those around her that he was a gentle and sovereign lord.

Bowing her head, she waited for his forgiveness.

As the executioner struck Anne Boleyn’s head off with a single swing of his sword, Henry made his way to the woman he would marry a few days later. She’d become his hero, but not until she delivered him a male heir.

🥕🥕🥕

Choices by Lisa Shea

Anguish ravaged my soul as I cradled my boyfriend’s limp body. My hands were wet with his warm blood, the air rich with the metallic scent. The arrow lodged deep in his chest. I desperately recited the ingredients. Absinthe. Zedoary. Newt’s bile. I could do it – bring him back – but should I?

His glassy eyes, once aglow with adoration, stared blankly at the cerulean sky.

Revive him or let him go?

It took all my strength to stand. To turn away.

My husband smirked. “Nice shot!”

I drew my bow and aimed for his heart.

🥕🥕🥕

A Hero’s Journey of Staggering Proportions by D. Avery

“Pepe LeGume. Seen Kid? Thet lil’ greenhorn was unusually ‘thusiastic ‘bout the prompt. Scampered off, ain’t been seen since.”

“Teenk  Pal. Keed has always wanted to be beeg hero, so prob’ly went into dee cave.”

“Whut cave?”

“Remember? Dere was a beer cave installed at da saloon. Stores and deesplays 99 cases a beer at perfect beer temperature, no more no less.”

“Let’s go, LeGume. Thinkin’ this hero’s journey ain’t gonna end well.”

 “Jeez Kid! Ya smell worse  ’an Legume!”

“Drunker ’an a skunk too.”

“Come outta there Kid.”

“Okay Pal. Jist lemme grab one more bottle a ‘lixir.”

🥕🥕🥕

April 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

Undaunted by 131 inches of snow — a light winter — some of the Roberts Street royal family has survived. One towering seven foot stalk of Lemon Queen sunflowers bob their dry crowns in the wind. All winter the nuthatches and chickadees have feed at their multiple heads. Winds and snow drifts snapped all but this remaining royal.

Mause joined me today as we worked on a new command, “Off the garden.” We examined the rise of tulips, hyacinth, iris and glories of the snow. Grit and matted maple leaves cover the ground now that most of the snow has gone. Crocus of purple, yellow, white and lavender began to bloom a week ago. They color a dun landscape. Nothing is yet green

Winter bleached the Lemon Queens the color of pale straw. Yet still they give.

A friendly male chickadee sang what birders call the fee-bee song and I responded, “Here, kitty.” Some say the call sounds like “Hey, sweetie.” I like my version because I find it humorous that a bird would call a cat. Mause stood at attention. After all, she is a bird dog. I was gathering dropped Lemon Queen stalks to check for remaining seed. The chickadee tried to land on my outstretched hand and I felt like a Disney Princess. Mause vibrated in excitement and the bird flew off to Mrs. Hitch’s tree.

What seemed a lovely overcast day on the peninsula was not so on Lake Superior. She fussed enough to froth waves that sent the recently returned lake freighters to seek safe harbor. Cedar Bay, one of my favorite swaths of pebble beach that I can access through friends who own lakefront property, churned sand, and broken ice. Someone filmed the action. You can view a nice spring day on the Keweenaw and imagine the Lemon Queens, chickadees, and a young pup ten miles away.

Further North and across the North Pole from me, my youngest daughter is welcoming spring on Svalbard. March and September are the only two months out of the year that the sun both sets and rises. Otherwise it does one or the other. They are now in the days of sunshine. It’s cold on the island, never rising much above freezing. It doesn’t snow much but the ice and permafrost are thick. Caves of blue ice form tunnels through glaciers. My daughter and a group of friends are snow machining and camping, avoiding avalanches and polar bears. It’s stunning country.

Caves remind me of the hero’s journey. An important stop along the way is the symbolic cave — call it a bad day or the point of no hope. It’s necessary for the hero to fall before the rise with an elixir in hand. As an epic moment, the cave represents a near-death experience. And it is a confrontation of death. Consider the class Star Wars story when Luke Skywalker’s training calls for him to enter the cave and confront the dark side of the force.

He enters the cave and battles his arch enemy, Darth Vader only to discover the his own face within the mask. This scene is not the actual cave moment in the story, though, but a premonition of what will follow. In order to confront his enemy he must confront the darkness within himself. Ultimately, this leads Luke to believe that if there is darkness within him, there must be goodness within Darth Vader. The actual full hero’s journey in the Star Wars sagas belong to Anakin Skywalker. His hero’s wound is that Anakin never had a father. He dies when he turns against the dark side to save Luke — to be the father he never had.

What makes Star Wars so crazy-good to study for the hero’s journey is the fact that as a writer, George Lucas befriended Joseph Campbell who defined the epic structure based on worldwide studies of mythology. Lucas and all the writers and filmmakers he has influenced since the 1970s have followed this pattern. Like the 99-word story format, the hero’s journey is a pattern. At the Star Wars epic level, heroes look like the Skywalker men. At its most simplistic form, the hero’s journey is about transformation and not gender specific.

Many people have dismissed the hero’s journey as a white male construct. While that might be so to a certain point, what excites me about the hero’s journey is how its pattern feels like the struggle to overcome and self-actualize. In fact, people relate to this pattern and flock to stories in the Star Wars universe because it stirs up emotion and inspiration. They want to experience the journey. Many fans have, becoming part of the technology, art, and storytelling of LucasFilms.

The latest is a Disney series called The Mandalorian. Many people involved in the project were kids, just like me, when Star Wars rocked our world in 1977. I was ten and started to write stories. My writer-self has evolved with Star Wars. I still get chills hearing the opening music of what has been renamed A New Hope. Now, I have a new theme that fires my synapses, perfectly pitched between light and darkness with a western influence. The Mandalorian is based on western tropes.

The Hub has watched The Mandalorian with me. It’s hard to find shows that hold his attention. Mostly he watches YouTube interviews of soldiers, which I find interesting to listen to as I write but don’t care to watch for entertainment. He began researching George Lucas and the development of Stars Wars and I followed him down every rabbit hole that had to do with storytelling. To bring it back full circle to my ultimate writing mentor, Wallace Stegner, he said:

“An emotional response in the reader, corresponding to an emotional charge in the writer –some passion or vision of belief–is essential, and it is very difficult to achieve. It is also the thing that, once achieved, unmistakably distinguishes the artist in words from the everyday user of words.”

Wallace Stegner. On Teaching and Writing Fiction. Penguin Books. 2002.

That’s why I love the hero’s journey. As a pattern, it provides a foundation to build upon such an achievement in writing.

Yet, many dismiss or dislike the hero’s journey. First, the word “hero” is problematic. Anne Goodwin and I have had numerous debates over the years which has helped evolve my thinking about the hero’s journey. We both decided we like the term protagonist’s journey better. Anne also brought up that not all protagonists complete the journey. I think it’s still a journey, but one that refused to answer the call, and then became an anti-hero’s journey, resisting the cave. Some dark stories enter the cave and never leave it. I see these as variations. You have to know the structure to build it differently.

Today, we have an opportunity to broaden who we define as a hero. Women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and different ages, sizes, neurodiversity and abilities can be the person on the journey. Anyone can be the hero. I believe in the pattern of the transformative journey, not who the face of the hero is. Yes! Magazine published an article that challenges us to reframe who the heroes are: “The Kind of Heroes We Need to Actually Save the Planet.” As writers we are heroes of another sort. Rena Priest, the author of the article, reminds us that:

“The word “author” is from the Latin word auctus, which translates literally to “one who causes to grow.” As storytellers, we plant beliefs that blossom into the structure of the world.”

Rena Priest, The Kind of Heroes We Need to Actually Save the Planet. Yes Magazine. 5 November, 2020.

April 8, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that “rethinks the hero.” Define the hero, comparing or contrasting to the classic definition. Break the mold. What happens to the hero in the cave? Is it epic or everyday? Is there resistance or acceptance? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 13, 2021. 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.

A Different Way to Serve by Charli Mills

Her bootlace caught the gunrack no soldier ever used. The force of the blast lifted her body as easily as a child’s balloon rises. Weightlessness defined the pause between rise and fall. When her body crashed, her bootlace held. It ripped every tendon, wringing her ankle. Two years later the VA removed the foot Hunter wanted gone. It flopped and failed, unlike the metal shank they pounded into her bone. Strong. Time to return. She wore no cape, no uniform, but stood to defend an Inuit village. She became the climatologist who sounded the alarm. The ice was melting.

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage

Inspired by Swift Passage by our beloved Sue Vincent who has gone into spirit.

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

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

Lifted by D. Avery

you begin to descend
the way is steep
you continue down the path
you had forgotten it was there…
yet it has always been there

the stream is an ancient cup
wise child, drink in the moment
stand, simply
you are
part of the earth

the earth takes you into itself
unconstricted you
move easily
sure-footed even in the shadows
you are here, now, in this time and in this place

you are at home here
in the heart of the earth.
You see many offerings,
the first morning of the world!
It is all you need to know.

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Colleen M. Chesebro

Sunlight, a pink aurora in the shining sky
from the brushwood, the crows take wing
shadows dance and small birds sing
swift passage comes for ancestral souls on high.

Faery queens gather to welcome their otherworldly kin
she who walked among those bound to the earth
now takes passage within the Bardo of her rebirth,
spring rain washes away the pain of our loss and chagrin.

Raise your arms to the circle of the sun
close your eyes and breathe, inhale the celestial breath
thank you for the golden words of wisdom you’ve spun
your earthly quest is won.

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Anita Dawes

The red flame of life, love, spirituality,
the journey taken with friends
Has too swiftly been blown out.
The echoes remain, words, wisdom, and kindness.
They stay, like a pic and mix
Sending that strange thought to mind
Words written, that meant so much more,
Because of the space between
Reading the white space between her words
Feels like the sudden scent of a bowl of potpourri
Letting you know she doesn’t forget
The time spent with family, friends.
The journey forward may be swift
Her zest for life, too strong to prevent her
Returning for one more go…

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Willow Willers

The candle flickered her spirit left. Free from earth’s tethers and life’s pain she breathed again. Across the night sky lit by stars she flashed around the planet spreading love as she went.

Alighting on her Moors, her spirit’s home. The stones welcomed her with love, they knew her worth. Cold winds could not chill her just carry her wisdom.

Behind she left us grieving, family and friends alike. Her legacy will last forever as will the hole she left in our hearts. My last email to her said “sleep well.” Sue’s passage after death was swift to bliss.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cleanse by T. Marie Bertineau

She appeared there, gray of heart, bruised of thought, both undesirables for ceremony. Her conscience bid her, turn back, but spirit in need, she pressed on. Do not dance with your discontent, her mother had cautioned. Do not bring that into the ring. Yet closer she inched, drawn by prayer’s scent, the haze of smoldering herb, dewe’igan beckoning. She trailed the line, trembling, indecisive, until at last she stood veiled by choice. Her arms reached out, embraced the translucence. She smoothed it upon her crown, her face, her heart. And as swiftly as she had gone astray, felt renewed.

🥕🥕🥕

The Morning After by Anne Goodwin

Rain lashed the windscreen as Janice scoured dismal streets for a pharmacy open a bank holiday. Were she so inclined, she’d have lashed herself. She hoped her pounding head would be the worst legacy of last night’s foolishness. She couldn’t even claim he’d spiked her drink.

Her sober profession was no protection. Nor was her degree. In twenty minutes she’d regressed twenty-odd years to the age of ignorance. Of apathy. Of female disempowerment. As a green neon cross loomed from the murk, she scolded herself for scorning her birth mother. The only difference between them was the morning-after pill.

🥕🥕🥕

Tinted Windows by Tyler Appleby

Her dark eyes intrigued me, so I paid for three shots of mint-green absinthe. We danced, and in time, I caressed her cheek. Her calloused fingers gripped me. “Let’s get away,” she whispered, tugging my arm to the door. We swayed back to her apartment. “My mother died,” she cried, her tears spotting the wine-stained couch cushion. I cried too; she laughed. “Baby, I’m over it. Be right back.” She waltzed around the couch, out of sight. I waited. My eye traced her mother’s body hanging from a meat-hook too late to prevent the switchblade from slitting my throat.

🥕🥕🥕

Gone by Ritu Bhathal

Gone.
Just like that.
One minute, he was there, the next minute, not.
I’d sat by his side for days and nights, stroking his hand, answering to his quiet murmurs, sponging him down, dripping refreshing liquid onto his parched lips.
I knew it was coming, and I wanted to squeeze memories into every second of life that he had left, with him.
And yet, he still managed to go, without allowing me to say goodbye.
He squeezed my hand, so I turned for the glass, and I returned to a face, smiling, at peace, finally.
Just like that.
Gone.

🥕🥕🥕

The Death of Fred My Basset-Dachshund by Brenda Marie Fluharty

You tried so hard to wait for daddy to come home,

You waited by the door, but your time had come.

You managed to make it into the living room.

I helped you on the couch. Trying to give me one last kiss.

I gave you one last taste of your favorite lemon pie

And kissed you goodbye.

We laid together heart to heart,

I felt the cyst over your heart burst.

You were gone just like that.

You died just like your mom

Laying on me, head on my shoulder

With a smile on your face. Goodbye Fred.

🥕🥕🥕

Stardust by Lisa Shea

My atoms birthed from stardust and stromatolites, dinosaurs and mammoths, and now they are mitochondria and neurons. Toddling steps carried me across coral beaches. Pressurized zooplankton fueled teen escapades. Billions of stars against a sky of ebony led to a husband and child. The husband faded into the distance, while the child remains in close orbit.

It’s the blink of an eye and the remaining sands are slipping through the hourglass. A seeming hop into a new square, a skip over a spinning rope. Another breath, another pirouette, a final bow.

The readiness is all.

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Rebecca Glaessner

The alien planet hung like a pool of blue. Their only stop on a one-way journey.

Their vessel’s final dregs of energy concealed them in orbit while their shuttle fell into the alien atmosphere.

The violent entry rattled the shuttle, pilot and crew breathed deep lungfuls, fighting to clear their minds, to imagine a paradise so near.

Generations spent drifting through the void had corroded all memories of their world from before.

This or death.

The pilot’s expert hands flew across controls – navigating, maintaining, adjusting – to grant the first of their last a swift passage into their new world.

🥕🥕🥕

Rapid Transit by Bill Engleson

“Excuse me,” I ask the woman standing at the bus stop.

She has a bright pink face, the sort you might get from laughing all the time.

She looks me up and down like I am a slab of meat gone slightly off.

“What?”

“When’s the next bus?” I squeak out. “I don’t usually…”

“Take the bus? Oh, my! You poor man.”

I take both of my feet out of my mouth, decide to bear my soul.

“Lost my license.”

“Tough. For drinking and driving?”

“Uh-uh. Driving too slow.”

“Well, you should be right at home on this bus.”

🥕🥕🥕

Regardless by Norah Colvin

“How long does it take to get old, Grandma?”

“Not long enough, Mickey. Never long enough.”

She’d once thought anyone over fifty was old, that it’d take infinity to get there. Now she well exceeded that number. She didn’t feel older, just creaked louder.

“My birthday takes too long. I want it now.”

“It’ll come soon enough, Mickey. Then another, and another. Soon you’ll be counting as many years as me.”

“That’s too long, Grandma.”

“When you get to my age, Mickey, you’ll see how short life is. Time doesn’t only fly when you’re having fun, it flies regardless.”

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She’d stayed longer than she should have, and now it was too late. She was going to be in big trouble. Once again, she’d had another of those fabulous steaming popovers, downed one too many G&Ts, chatted up the familiar Happy Hour crowd and met a few new faces.

Avoided going home.

Did this mean something? No time to dive deep; her train would depart in four minutes! Stuck at the top of the stairs, the tight-packed sea of commuters blocked her way.

Panicking, she did the only thing possible. Straddling the banister, she slid all the way down.

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Reena Saxena

She absorbs colours of the world to succeed and makes them her own.

The world remains busy admiring her colourful robes, hair, eyes and everything she cares to don. She’s the Queen of Hearts.

One evening, she is found dead in the bath tub of a hotel room. Nobody really knew what was happening in her life, and why was she addicted to alcohol and drugs.

The journey of a soul was not captured by the omnipresent media, and she passed away in a swift passage of rites.

The certificate says “Death by Drowning.” In a shallow bath tub?

🥕🥕🥕

Dedicated to Trabs by Sue Spitulnik

I was your friend
I felt close to you
I knew you hurt inside
But didn’t know how deep
I wish I’d understood

We , your co-workers
And your peers
Tried to help by talking
You pushed us away
Saying you were okay

You gained more weight
When already large
You drank more
Already having a problem
We watched, very aware

It troubled us to see you
Stuck in your own way
Unable to break free
From the fears
That controlled you

Now you are gone
Such a swift passage
We believe you’re free
from the pain you suffered

🥕🥕🥕

Evelyn 4/6/89  by Annette Rochelle Aben

From the time they told us she had cancer, five of them all in advanced stages, until she died was one week. Of course, we had no idea it would happen that quick. I remember walking in and quitting my job because I knew I would move her in with my husband and me so I could care for her until the end of her days. Who knew I would be back to work in less than a fortnight.

But you know, she said that wanted it that way. No drawn-out drama. Absolutely no heroics. Death on her terms.

🥕🥕🥕

You Were on My Mind Again by Charli Mills

From Ireland to your deathbed was a span of 150 years. Your culture, after five generations in America, remained Catholic. You didn’t call it your religion or heritage. You spoke of your faith as elemental as DNA, your smile brightening a room with the luminaries of sainthood.

You married him anyway. He was Scots to your Irish, a wounded Vietnam vet. A smile that lit yours. Two daughters later, he left to comfort his National Guard Unit as a lay minister on the battlefield. You lost him. But you never lost heart. Swift passage, my dear friend. Home again.

🥕🥕🥕

I Hear You by Gloria McBreen

I must walk my path without you here to shine your light and guide the way.
Or so I believed when you embarked on your swift passage. But I’m not without you, because when the sun shines upon me, I remember how warm you made me feel.
When the gentle wind blows in my face, I feel your soft embrace.
I hear your laughter when the rain pitter-patters on my window.
When the birds sing I hear you whistling a tune.
I’m not afraid to walk my path because I know when I reach the end, you’ll be there.

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Joelle

We are wings, soaring in the afternoon sun. Wind becomes our ally as we escape from land and tree.

The world bends to our perspective. We mistake the strength in our wings for freedom, holding onto this delusion until we struggle to stay afloat.

Then, as we rest on a branch, we remember: Wings are only one part of our whole. We build a nest egg and call it, “Home.”

We teach our offspring to escape the nest, and we relish the strength in their wings.

With our passage from Earth, we finally know the true meaning of freedom.

🥕🥕🥕

A Night To Remember Hugh W. Roberts

It was a night nobody would ever forget.

***

Like they’d been told when booking their tickets, this would be a swift journey. But for some, the swiftness would become a little longer.

The bright light came from nowhere. It was only the reflection of moonlight that brought it to the attention of some of the passengers.

Its swift passage from its home would only bring death and destruction.

Like a giant sculpture in the middle of the ocean, the iceberg towered above everything. Thirty-nine-year-old Mr Hugh Roscoe Rood joined just over fifteen hundred others on their swift passage from the Titanic to the next world.

Bon voyage.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Quite on ‘Cruise’ Control by JulesPaige

One the swift passage out to see
The bottom of the deep blue sea…
Before settling to glance below at the
Glass base of the tourist boat
I had erred to fully digest breakfast
The base thumping of the waves
Against the sides added to the harsh ride

shaken rough
by
waves right and left

Too soon the Caribbean fish became
Heir what may have been
an unexpected treasure of a free meal…
The Captain made sure to let
The passengers know that the ocean
Was a better recipient of such ‘gifts’
Rather than the interior of his vessel!

🥕🥕🥕

Prey by Joanne Fisher

Anne looked through the spyglass. Owing to their swift passage they had caught up with the lone Spanish galleon, their intended quarry. The galleon was loaded with gold, silver, tobacco, and spices from the New World and had somehow been separated from the rest of the fleet. They would plunder it, and then make for Port Royal.

“Ready for attack!” Anne called out as they sped towards their prey.

“Captain, there are two more ships approaching flying Spanish colours.” the man in the crows nest called out. They would have to break off their pursuit and try another day…

🥕🥕🥕

The Fall by Doug Jacquier

St. Peter said ‘Yes, can I help you?’ Donald, all smiling charm, said, ‘I certainly believe you can. I’m Donald ..’

St. Peter cut him off with ‘Yes, I know who you are. Why are you here?’

‘Well, to negotiate my way into Heaven and eternal life, of course. I’m a great negotiator. Huge.’

‘No negotiations here, Donald. You’re either on the list or you’re not. And you’re not.’

‘Even if I could Make the Almighty Great Again?’

‘He never wasn’t.’

‘So where do I go now?

‘You know where. And, believe me, it will be a swift passage.’

🥕🥕🥕

Moving On by Geoff Le Pard

‘I don’t think I was meant to drink water, Logan.’

‘Is this another of your woke mindfulness bollockoids, Morgan? You only drink kale and compassion smoothies for a peaceful inner being.’

‘You can scoff…’

‘My scoffing is a thing of beauty…’

‘Indeed. My point is that every time the water changes, my stomach rebels.’

‘TMI, old chap.’

‘This time it’s constipation…’

‘You really do over-share, don’t you? But, as a friend, I will make you my great aunt’s cure-all. Try this.’

‘Will it loosen me?’

‘It can’t promise you a comfortable passage, but it will be swift…’

🥕🥕🥕

Mustard by Simon

Over! Over! I am stuck safely beside a Canine. No I haven’t entered the deep dark Swift passage. I am lucky to have me here, wait a minute! trouble!! I have been constantly watched by a pink giant, it is out of control with it’s sticky Saliva. It comes in a random shift, I am not sure how long I can survive here. If I am lucky I can see the sunshine, post that giant sticks will take over shifts, oops! here comes the pink giant with saliva , oh I am slipping, Bye…

RIP, Mustard from the Canine Corner.

🥕🥕🥕

His Journey by Missy Lynne

A beautiful, bright eyed, baby bouncing on her lap. His laughter invoking her endless smile. A tiny hand reaching out for his mother’s hand. A quiet understanding of trust and adoration. Faithfully following his mother’s lead. Growing up more each day. Alas, his hand no longer reaches for hers. He walks beside. Confident in his own self. Still checking she is there. So proud she is of him, although secretly misses his little hand. And they walk together for a short while longer until he glimpses a life of his own awaiting him on the horizon and walks ahead.

🥕🥕🥕

A Sailor’s Promise by Nicole Horlings

They stood on the shore, arms around each other’s waists, the sunset reflecting off the water, their toes spread in the warm sand and cool waves lapping at their feet. A perfect moment.

But one that couldn’t last.

“This shouldn’t be long trip. Just to Port Gorem and back,” he murmured.

She squeezed him tighter. “You’re still going to be gone.”

He kissed her forehead. “Soon I’ll have earned enough money to buy us a farm, and I won’t have to leave for so long again.”

“And if the sea monsters attack your ship?”

“Then I’ll fight them off.”

🥕🥕🥕

Swift Passage by Saifun Hassam

I pushed my kayak off the sandy shore
And into the fast-flowing Canyon River.
Suddenly I was pulled irresistibly into a hidden current,
River within river, swifter, its blue deeper, its whitecaps rising higher.
Paddled to keep up. Flying. I was upon the rapids,
Sailing in one swift second over them.
Closed my eyes. Sensed churning waters.
Heard the roar and felt the power of that swift passage,
Moose crossing the river near the rocks downstream.
The kayak had taken on a life of itself.
Going with that inner river.
Flashed past the moose.
Could have touched its antlers.

🥕🥕🥕

Fit Ta Print by D. Avery

“What’cha readin’ Pal?”

“Quow-Poke Quarterly. Fella name a Finn Lee Winnin jist earned hissef a nice rodeo buckle. He’s on top.”

“Hmmph. That was a swift passage.”

“What d’ya mean Kid?”

“Well, where’d he come from? I ain’t never heard a ‘im.”

“Reckon this weren’t his first rodeo Kid. An I reckon his first rodeo weren’t his first time on a bull.”

“What else they got ta say ‘bout this Whinin fella?”

“Winnin, not Whinin, Kid. ‘Member thet. He’s quoted: ‘It’s nice havin’ extra buckles, but I still gotta thread my belt through the loops.’ Thet’s no bull, Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

To the Swift by D. Avery

“Kid, what’s thet noise? There a critter in the chimney?”

“It’s a fam’ly a chimney swifts Pal!”

“This far west?”

“Yep. Reckon they been keepin’ us skeeter free, least we kin do is let ‘em nest in the chimney. We kin sweep it after, a’fore we fire up the stove. Their nests are crescents stuck ta the inside a the chimney, like a hoss shoe. These birds are always in the air ‘cept fer nestin’. Cain’t even perch, jist cling ta the sides a their nestin’ site. When the young’uns are ready they climb out.”

“A swift passage?”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

To the Shift by D. Avery

“Wake up Kid, yer makin’ too much noise sleepin’.”

“Huh? Pal. What a dream. There was a swift passage a time. The Poet Tree was ancient, all gnarled an’ hollow.”

“What about me?”

“You was no more gnarled an’ hollow then usual.”

“Hmmff. Was the Poet Tree still alive?”

“Yep! An’ there were swifts nestin’ in its hollow parts!

swift passage of time

eternal circular path

still the old tree hums

ancient songs of life

hope chirps within the hollows

budding into flight”.

“Hmmf.

Kid’s buckaroo-ku

how deep is thet pud muddle?

cain’t say not knowin’.

Shift passes swiftly.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Shift Two by D. Avery

“Pal? Ranch ta Pal. Now it’s looks like you that’s dreamin’.”

“Kinda was, Kid. Was thinkin’ back ta when I was stuck in thet mine shaft.”

“An’ Curley come got Shorty an’ the Poet lariat lassoed ya an’ we pulled ya out?”

“Yeah, thet… It was darker ‘an a hero’s cave down there Kid. Cain’t say how much time passed… ‘nough I reckon…”

“Pal, sorry ta innerupt yer musin’ but the young swifts are makin’ their way out the chimney. Let’s go watch ‘em.”

climb outta thet dark

when ya kin see yer way clear

take wing inta light

🥕🥕🥕

Escape

Escape is not all it’s cracked up to be.

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

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

Helen’s Prospects by Kerry E.B. Black

For her sister Helen’s graduation, Augie bought a huge bundle of helium-filled balloons, each proclaiming pride in the attainment of higher education. Springtime gusts worried them like windchimes, braiding their strings, as she crossed to her car, a storm-blue Prius. Pushing them into the back hatch proved tricky, each poking out like ‘whack-a-mole.’ Driving with the encroaching bunch also presented challenges, as they obscured her rear view. Upon arrival at the celebration, Augie threw open her hatch, but another energetic wind whipped the hard-won strings from her fingers. They soared high, as unstoppable in their escape as Helen’s prospects.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rehearsal by Kate

Tim tosses his sister her playtime nurse’s outfit.

“But I want the stethoscope,” Sally says.

“Can’t, ‘cause I’m the doctor.”

“Says who?”

“Me. Now hurry!”

Sally throws on the costume, grabs her doll off the bed, and plods along behind her brother. They tiptoe down the stairs and are sneaking past the coat closet when they hear a shout behind them.

“Doc. Over here!”

“Run!” Tim yells, racing out the front door, Sally right behind him.

In the kitchen, John asks his wife, “What’s that all about?”

“Sally’s upcoming tonsillectomy. The kids are rehearsing her escape from the hospital.”

🥕🥕🥕

Moon Race by Jeff Gard

Aiden peddles uphill toward the Milky Way and a silver coin moon. The image etched in its luminous surface might be his mother’s, but no matter how much he stands on the pedals and leans into the handlebars, he can’t reach her.

Back at the mobile home, Dad fades into his armchair and exercises his thumb with the remote control, vigorously discarding moving images from the screen.

When the sidewalk ends, Aiden skids across dirt, scattering pebbles. He sighs from his bike and walks it downhill. Tomorrow night, when he catches the moon, he’ll ask her where she went.

🥕🥕🥕

An Escape by Rebecca Glaessner

The nightmares are haunting, full of strangeness. They call me through them. Who or what, I don’t know, but they’re out there. Waiting.

And I need to go.

She’s nice and all, but she’s not them. There’s something more waiting elsewhere. Maybe it’s where I belong.

I climb out the window in the cold, dark of night, when the sun won’t burn me, and I find the car waiting. I pay with her card and direct the car to the countryside, out west, toward the calls.

There’s something inside my head, something different, something they know.

Maybe that’s home.

🥕🥕🥕

The Escape by Willow Willers

The escape was silent, no one heard. All asleep upstairs. Gently at first it grew fierce it fled the kitchen and headed for the stairs. Where they all slept on in their beds

It was cold outside so the doors and windows were shut tight. Unseen it swirled around the house. It filled every room, hallway and cupboard. Silent and invisibly it filled the house and their lungs. They slept on.

Tim awoke at about three AM. His head hurt. He went down to the kitchen to make a drink. He clicked the ignition on the hob. Flash Boom!

🥕🥕🥕

Escape to the Beach by Kim Smyth

I wish I could jump into the Diamond Art Paintings that I do in my spare time. Especially when it’s a beach scene, as that is my favorite place to be on vacation. I want to live on the beach though, I’m tired of only going on vacation there. Life is short and, at my age, only getting shorter.
When I’m doing Diamond Art, the world melts away. This is my current mode of escape, other than drinking. When I’m “painting”, I’m not stressing, worrying, or feeling guilty. Making a picture come to life is so fun and satisfying.

🥕🥕🥕

Freedom by Donna Matthews

“Come on in. Can I get you a glass of wine?”

“No thanks.”

“Really?”

“Yeah…actually…I don’t drink.”

“Like ever?”

“Yeah,” chuckling.

“How? Why?” As we sit on her porch with our now glasses of water.

“Well—when I drink, life gets way out of control. I use it as an escape, but instead, it becomes a trap.”

“How then do you relax?”

“Oh, lots of ways…some better than others. Like taking a walk instead of shopping on Amazon.”

We giggle.

“I can’t imagine giving up alcohol.”

“I know. I still think about it some days. But there’s nothing like freedom.”

🥕🥕🥕

Escape by Anita Dawes

Over the past few months
I have felt like a caged bird
I will be 75 come the beginning of April
I cannot wait to get outside
To pop into my charity shops
See my wonderful ladies smiling
Pick up the odd piece or two
For me, this is my big escape
I have to make the most of every minute
Never knowing how many I have left
My son will take me from the confines
of my four walls to the coast
A bag of hot salty chips in my hand
As proof I made it outside, free…

🥕🥕🥕

Escape by D. Avery

With no argument left, Silas embraced his wife and mourned with her, allowing his own tears to fall for Robert’s pain, witnessed only by her and the granite markers of their other lost children.

Walking together back to the farmhouse they met Robert carrying a bundled rag.

“What is it Robert?”

“Mice. From the kitchen.”

“Oh, just kill them!” Anna instantly regretted her command, but Robert smiled forgiveness.

“A mother and pink babies. Surely you could allow them to live in the stonewall.”

“Anna, maybe our boy isn’t the man we’d expected. He’s different. But he’s a good man.”

🥕🥕🥕

Words for Tommy by Simon Prathap D

What you looking at?
Don’t look at me like that!
You got nothing to do, except wake up in middle of the night and jump around to leave the door open so that you can poo at your peace.
(Sigh) Look at us, run like a horse every single day. Don’t turn your head you dog, you ARE a dog, I can’t change that if you bark.
I hate this life, but, I learn this from you. You teach me every single day to live “NOW” Love you Tommy🥰… is that my shoe? you are dead Tommy… stop running!

🥕🥕🥕

The Great Escape by Ritu Bhathal

I gingerly opened the cage to add the birdseed into the pot. Heer sat there, staring at me with her beady eyes.
She had a tendency to peck, so the faster I could get my hand in and out the better.
Having deposited what I needed to, into the pot, I slammed the door shut, and breathed a sigh of relief and turned to see the cat watching me, or rather watching something behind me.
Somehow the cage door had bounced open again, and Heer had hopped out of the cage!
That great escape was going to end badly!

🥕🥕🥕

In a Flap by pensitivity101

It was all a matter of timing, patience too. They both knew that.
One looked smugly out from within, the other longed from without.
They were never friends, one forever teasing the other but the tables could so easily be turned, and that time was fast approaching.
Now, totally alone, the cage was nudged, generating a gentle sway, and the die was cast. A furious flurry on the inside ensued an erratic momentum thus becoming more dangerous for the trapped, who didn’t want to escape or be freed.
The question was who would dine and who would be dinner?

🥕🥕🥕

Hanging Around by JulesPaige

Soon it will be full fledged time
To escape the laundry room
The clothes have been drying
On inside lines and racks
When e’re twere possible

Still in the washer they will tumble
But on the outside lines
Sheets, towels and bedding
As well as other unmentionables
Will flutter in the warm spring breezes

Unlike the fierce March wind now blowing
That is knocking dead wood out of trees
A strong westerly pushes reverse ripples
Upon the muddy creek waters
That are now livened by ducks and geese

allow our homes’ foundation
to grip
ground secure – we’re still staying put!

🥕🥕🥕

Can He Escape the Need for Rescue? by Anne Goodwin

Some set out on faraway adventures. Others keep watch for the wanderer’s return. Henry didn’t choose to be the one who waited, but families need an anchor in order not to sink.

Time ticked on. Henry fostered hope his sister would release him from the waiting game. His patience and loyalty would eventually reap rewards.

He lacked the mental flexibility to imagine an alternative ending. One where he possessed the power of escape. His emotions froze at six years old when she left him. Too small to reach the handle; too bruised to open the door and walk free.

🥕🥕🥕

Escapade by Bill Engleson

“You want to report a what…?”

“Don’t know what you’d call is…a reaction, I suppose?”

“To your Covid-19 vaccine shot?”

“Yeah…”

“What was this reaction?”

“Okay. But you’re not gonna believe me. Don’t know why I’m even bothering…”

“Just tell me…”

“Fine! I got the shot and went home. I was a little tired, rested a bit and then started binge-watching Cagney and Lacey.”

“Who’re they?”

“Old TV Cop series, two women…great show.”

“And?”

“Suddenly, I’m there. Actually with them in the TV. Having coffee in Precinct 14.”

“That’s nuts.”

“I’m thinking it’s the AstralZeneca vaccine.”

“It’s AstraZeneca.”

“Oh!”

🥕🥕🥕

Wish To Escape by Douryeh/Hajar

As people, we can escape from our current place
When it no longer serves our purpose of security
But, often we escape to a safe, soothing sanctuary
It’s only a five minutes walk to the place
It’s not on any map; yet, its my design
It’s shades and blue and green hues are benign
Sun and Moon light foliage, water and friendly beasts
Bugs, criminals or meat hunters can’t have their feast
This place is always safe, soothing, kind, and inspiring
When I’ve been there, I can start daily working
@}}-

🥕🥕🥕

Music For All Occasions by Sue Spitulnik

When Katie arrived at the No Thanks to stock before opening, she was surprised to see all the band member’s cars except Mac’s. When she stepped onto the macadam she could feel the thump of a bass and hear muffled sounds of a heavy metal band. Strange! She went inside, and recognized Tyrell’s cousins playing the extra guitars. Michael was pounding on the piano like it was an enemy. When the song ended she looked their way. “What gives?”
Her father grinned. “Just an escape. Playing out our anger at how the VA can screw things up so easily.”

🥕🥕🥕

The End of Days by Geoff Le Pard

‘One more day, Logan.’
‘Yes, thank heavens.’
‘It’s been a blast, hasn’t it?’
‘What has?’
‘Don’t be obtuse. America, hunting the ranch, fostering two goats…’
‘That bloody Kid. If I ever see him again…’
‘He was a character.’
‘Oh sure. You couldn’t make him up.’
‘?’
‘And you think ten days of quarantine has been fun?’
‘We’ve had a chance to do all sorts.’
‘I didn’t think it possible to binge watch every episode of the Simpsons without losing your mind.’
‘Hidden depths.’
‘More like exposed shallows. There’s one thing I’ll miss.’
‘Yes?’
‘You.’
‘Really?’
‘No, of course not.’

🥕🥕🥕

Free Birds by Doug Jacquier

You could resign, storm out in high dudgeon and let the cards fall where they may. You could fantasise about finding another job where your skills are finally appreciated and imagine submitting your resignation with an air of smugness. You could become unmanageable and take the fired escape. (Except there’s the money, your unemployable middle age, the mortgage and the kids and your partner’s anger and the looming wasteland of your irrelevance to your former colleagues.) Or you could accept that you built this escape-proof prison and raise birds to release through the bars, before they become like you.

🥕🥕🥕

Welcome To the Great Society by Larry Trasciatti

‘It’s so out of control,’ Deasy told Monahan.

‘The totalitarians are mad. Don’t eat this food. One group is offended. Don’t say that word. Another group is offended. Then it was masks because of some trumped up pandemic. Now we’re all on our way to permanent solitary confinement.’

‘I know,’ Monahan replied. ‘All our language and history have been rewritten~roads and vehicles restructured too, so there’s no Escape.’

Just then, promptly at noon, the sun went down for the night.

Clancy snuck an old book into their cubicle, and they looked at it, observing where the exits once were.

🥕🥕🥕

Escape by FloridaBorne

Her friend, Ana, warned her. “Elena, I answered an ad for a modeling agency, too.  The scars on my wrist were from the bindings.  I was sent to my uncle’s home and told never to speak of my shame.”

Elena had checked out the agency.  She’d called their number for the address.  They were professional, the office looked so clean, but she awoke, her wrists bound, too drugged to resist, handed off to men on the American side of an unfinished wall.

During a different administration, border patrol intercepted Ana’s captors.  Now, there’d be no one to save Elena.

🥕🥕🥕

For Tradition and Appearances by Nicole Horlings

The glass patio doors had been opened wide, but the room was stuffy. Eliza was held prisoner by tradition for appearances and her parents’ reputation. They were very much aware that she strongly disliked their current company, and that she had made previous plans with a friend. Yet, here she sat, amongst conversation that excluded her in its topics and jargon.

“What a wonderful meal!” their guest declared.

“Just wait until we pull out the dessert,” her mother winked.

“I’ll go get it,” Eliza offered, standing up. In the kitchen, she was finally free to drop her fake smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Breaking Away by Joanne Fisher

Laura hated living in her small town. It was difficult to be yourself when everyone thought they knew you. She knew if she ever dared to tell her rather conservative Christian parents that she was really a lesbian they would probably throw her out of the house or send her to one of those camps that attempt to turn you straight, and everyone would know.

She decided to grit her teeth and wait the year out. Once school ended, she decided she would escape to the city where she could be herself and love who she wanted to love.

🥕🥕🥕

Wish to Escape by Charli Mills

Soothing and stirring, a rush of water tumbles over Hungarian Falls, carrying Beryl’s life. Not her body or soul, which remained firmly planted in her boots at the water’s edge. She didn’t scream, gasp or lunge for her cell phone when it slipped from her fingers. My life, she thought. The roar covered the sound of cracking. She imagined the screen with her fingerprints smashed to bits on rocks. Who was she without a phone? The water churned. Her thoughts lifted. Her soul escaped the hold of technology. Had she really tossed it to make a wish? She had.

🥕🥕🥕

Cut and Run by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Scrubbing her hands over her face, she replayed the voicemail. Listening for clues that said otherwise, she accepted that nothing had changed. She was to comply, absolutely.

Her chair creaked protest as she thumped one heel, then the other, on the heavy wood desk. Lamplight illuminated a circle on the ceiling, flooded the desk with sickly yellow light. Her hands lay in surrender on her lap.

She’d hoped for compromise. Release meant she could cut her losses, move on. They demanded their pound — and more — of flesh.

Clenching her fists, she turned to the window.

The fire escape beckoned.

🥕🥕🥕

Escape by Faith A. Colburn

She sat, shredding tissue in her lap, waiting for a counselor. Once he’d passed out, she’d tied her husband, spread-eagled, to their four-poster bed using two pairs of thigh-hi nylons. Then she beat him with his own belt—the buckle end. Bruises and abrasions on her own body still throbbed. The old ones made her skin a rainbow. He was a lawyer. Every time she’d tried to leave, he’d found a way to block her. If she could make them believe she was a danger to him, maybe they would check her in and save her life—and his.

🥕🥕🥕

Take Flight by Norah Colvin

One day followed another — everyone in uniform, head down, following unwritten rules known by heart. Only Olive questioned, “Why?” She longed for adventure. Blue skies whispered promises on gentle breezes that rustled leaves and tantalised with sweet exotic perfumes. Her tastebuds rebelled. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, take another bite. She crawled into a shell and hoped to sleep for ever. Kaleidoscopic dreams flitted in a mash of memories and futuristic movie scenes. What was real and what imagined? She awoke renewed, seeing the world as if from other eyes. She unfurled her wings and flew to kiss the welcoming skies.

🥕🥕🥕

Tales from “Dragon” by Saifun Hassam

For Sorceress Freya of Dragon Cavern Villages, everyday life was filled with helping the farming communities. She visited farms and village markets, helping villagers with everyday life problems, reciting incantations at wells, rivers, and lakes.

She was famous for her herbal gardens. Mages, sorcerers, and sorceresses often visited her.

To escape the humdrum village life, she turned into a magnificent eagle, flying over hills and mountains, to Jujub Lake. Here she camped for a few days. In the secluded forests, she found new herbal plants, communing with forest spirits, learning their magic. She hiked back to the villages, content.

🥕🥕🥕

Ageless Prison by Mr. Ohh!

Journal Entry Date Unknown
I have to get out of here. Sure, the walls are cloth but they might as well be iron bars. The giants have trapped me here and until I find a way out, I must suffer the indignity of my prison.
I have asked Mr. Dinkle but he seems to have gone dumb, and hasn’t uttered a word since the giants used that odd language of theirs. I know they speak English; they use it amongst themselves. But to me It’s always Goo Goo and Gah Gah
Oh, how I wish the teddy was smarter

🥕🥕🥕

Redirected Scents of Escape by D. Avery

“Pal! Yer back! Ya jist missed Pepe.”
“Don’t never. Ya sure seem in a better mood Kid.”
“Yeah, that Pepe. He’s a breath a fresh air.”
“Wouldn’t describe him like thet. But yeah, LeGume’s a gas all right. Did he hep ya with the prompt? He knows ‘bout escapin’. He’s always lettin’ somethin’ loose.”
“Pepe said ta me, ‘Kid, sometimes ya write, an’ sometimes ya don’t.’ Told me not ta worry ‘bout it. Then he give me a wheel a cheese, said, ‘Here Kid, have some cheese ta go with yer whine.’”
“Cheese? Yum. Where?”
“There. Pepe cut it.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later

A year later, we pause to reflect. Any year. A particular year. The power of time passing.

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

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

A Year Later by Nicole Horlings

A piece of junk mail with his name had shown up today. Despite the annoying and ineffective attempt to sell a credit card, an envelope that she would have immediately discarded if it had her name on it, she held it tenderly. She would have never imagined longing for the mundane like this.

There would be no more nights home late from work with grateful smiles at the sight of dinner, or quick kisses before rushing off in the morning.

There would only be future junk mail.

Time passes slowly
except when tragedy strikes
it all went too quick

🥕🥕🥕

The Great American Past-Time by Jack Keaton

After the ride to the station, the hum of the train, the anticipation at the ticket gate, buying a new cap for a new season, a new beginning, Clay anxiously took his seat along the third baseline.

A year had passed since he had attended one of these. Now, he’d swear he could smell the Kentucky bluegrass.

The mask he wore reminded him that not that long had passed since he could only watch them on television.

But he was here now. All he needed was to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd.

🥕🥕🥕

I’ll Always Love You, New York by Ariel Soon

I moved out of New York six months before the pandemic, but made one last trip in mid-February. I wanted to visit friends and get my stuff out of storage so I wouldn’t have to pay the $110 a month anymore.

Even though I was away for six months, it felt like I had never left. I was using the subway like I usually did. Only a few were wearing masks, but overall, the city felt completely normal that bright sunny day.
Two weeks later the first case of COVID hit. The city hasn’t been the same since.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year on from June 2019 by Anne Goodwin

Sky-grey stallions clip-clopped a Cinderella coach past ranks of men in pillar-box red jackets and beehive furry hats. Militiamen drilled like clockwork soldiers, clacking their weapons in unison from shoulder to shoulder and down to the ground. Waves of Union Jacks as people cheered the Queen. Last year.

This year should’ve been Matty’s turn for pomp and spectacle. For fireworks and champagne. A grande dame‘s centenary is no trifling affair. Matty hates depriving her devotees. Yet here she is, confined to bed, without even the stomach for trifle. Without the breath to blow out the candles on her cake.

🥕🥕🥕

Arduous Acrimony by JulesPaige

Lost faith is easy for some to carry while
Discarding the struggle with hereafter treasures
With parched throat, a year later still
Slowly crawling up the dunes of regulations
With little to quench or take away the nagging fears

We falter with our goals, bearing lonely burdens
Wondering how we can alter our wishes
So we can possibly admire the work we have done
We venture out into another spring – puffing ourselves
Attempting to conceal our bluff, that there still is no prize

life continues as
if one huge cliffhanger that
hasn’t ended yet

…and yet we attempt prayer

🥕🥕🥕

There, but for… by Bill Engleson

“There…”
“Where?”
“There.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah.”
“When?”
“Then.”
“Then?”
“Then.”
“Hmmm”
“Why?”
“Why not.”
“Tell me.”
“Of course.”
“Now please.”
“Take a breath.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I fully understand.”
“Give me a moment.”
“More if you like.”
“It’s just, you know…”
“It’s been a while.”
“It seems like years.”
“It’s been eons.”
“I just couldn’t…”
“What? Say goodbye?”
“That’s it exactly.”
“But the smell?”
“That was worrisome.”
‘Would have thought…”
“I stopped thinking.”
“A human response.”
“I loved her.”
“I can tell.”
“It’s hard…”
“Saying goodbye?”
“Yes, that.”
“It’s time.”
“Can I?”
“Hug?”
“Kiss.”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Okay.”
“Thanks.”
“No problemo.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by FloridaBorne

Dogs cuddle with me as I sleep, my coon cat purrs. This is life!

For an entire year, I walked outside and never once bumped into another person. No one tried to shake my hand or force a touch. And now…

“There is no mask mandate, and all restrictions are rescinded,” the newsmaker said. “Hug at will!”

One step outside, and a neighbor rushed toward me, arms outstretched.

“Don’t hug me!” I yelled.

“Then you need it all the more!”

Slamming the door in her face, I swore, “Never again will I suffer through other people’s idea of normal.”

🥕🥕🥕

29 February 2020 by Douryeh/Hajar

We were told to stay indoors — if we can
I belonged to those who are allowed to work
How little has changed, actually, in a year’s time
Also now we say, ‘Only a few more months’
But now, a Mediterranean Sun vacation is less likely
The State has paid business owners’ rent, also now
Today, people say, covid is to stay coming years
Most of us aren’t used to what now adheres
People elected the same State back, despite its ills
In the end, they trust its anti covid19 policy.

🥕🥕🥕

Homecoming by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They’d passed through the portal just after moonrise. Their ship navigated left, then right, and left again, pulling up to the dock with a scrape and a sigh.

“Nice landing,” Jo snickered, looping lines over neat, steely cleats. Until they knew who’d won the city, stealth was best.

“Next time, you can bring her in.”

“Not if I can help it. I’m leaving by land, never returning.”

“Not counting my chickens…”

“Suit yourself, Rae. I’m done with the pirate’s life.”

They hauled on their packs and grabbed a laser, oblivious to the silent line of torches descending the hill.

🥕🥕🥕

The Victory by Joanne Fisher

Meredith suddenly realised a year had passed since the zombie apocalypse. It had been close, but they had prevailed in the end and now things had finally settled down.

So many were missing, she thought as she went into the town centre. She had a busy day today of wandering mindlessly through town with all the others. She might be a zombie now, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t put in a full day of shambling. She mused it was such a shame they couldn’t get fresh human meat anymore, they all had to make do with livestock now.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by Anita Dawes

My last memory of Joe
Doesn’t match the person I see now.
The weight loss taken, more than his clothes size.
He has lost his humour
Maybe it’s true; it was only there
To deflect from his size
His eyes have lost the spark I remember
Now I see the sadness hidden all these years.
Over lunch, we spoke of his childhood
Rough, painful, I never gave a thought to
He spoke of hunger,
never enough food, enough love
now he’s happy, getting married,
looking forward to becoming a father next year
I believe he’ll be a good father…

🥕🥕🥕

Steven Seagal in New Orleans (or Was He?) by Doug Jacquier

New Orleans, a year after Hurricane Katrina, at a restaurant. Suddenly a small crowd has gathered close to the entrance. My companion says ‘It’s Steven Seagal! Take my picture with him.’ We return to our table. ‘Show me’ he says.

The photo could be of almost any two people but he shows everyone. Most say ‘I can’t really see him.’ He turns to me and asks me to confirm the story and I say, ‘yes, he was there’ but, as soon his back is turned, I tap the side of my head and mouth ‘never happened’ to his audience.

🥕🥕🥕

Bird School by Norah Colvin

Dear Mr Emu,
As Eddie performed below expectations on some tests, he must repeat next year.
Dear Mrs Grimbald,
Which tests did Eddie fail? I’ll bring him up to speed over the holidays.
Dear Mr Emu,
Eddie’s ground speed is unmatched. He failed lift-off.
Mrs Grimbald,
Inability to lift-off is inherited. No one in Eddie’s family ever lifted-off. Advance him.
Dear Mr Emu,
Parents shouldn’t discuss limitations lest they become self-fulfilling.
Grimbald,
Inability to lift-off does not limit Eddie any more than your inability to run limits you. Adjust your curriculum. Progress our Eddie.
Principal Grimbald huffed. How impertinent.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later and… by Missy Lynne

A year later and
I am back home.
A year later and
I’ve lost 20 pounds.
A year later and
No calls from my dad.
A year later and
I am healing.
A year later and
I have a renewed heart.
A year later and
I still have dreams.
A year later and
I am writing.
A year later and
I am looking forward.
A year later and
I want to take on an adventure.
A year later and
I want to LIVE my life.
A year later and
The chains are breaking.
A year later and
I will overcome.

🥕🥕🥕

One Year Later by Ritu Bhathal

I crack my eyes open and reach over to switch off the alarm.
Sitting up, I rub the sleep from my eyes, and instinctively pick up my phone to check my messages.
The first thing I notice is the date.
A year. It’s been a whole year, since you went.
A whole year since you last told me off for grabbing my phone, first thing every morning.
A year I’ve cried myself to sleep.
I smooth my hand over your side of the bed, an indent no longer obvious.
But the indent in my heart.
That will never fill.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later… by Goldie

A year later, I’m still angry.

Angry with you for leaving without a word. Even though you knew you would be departing last time we spoke, you made no mention of it.

An ‘I love you’ would have sufficed.

Did you really hate me that much?

I couldn’t help with your pain, but was that a good enough reason to inflict this suffering onto me?

That’s not how a parent acts.

A year later, I’m angry with you for leaving, but I smile, realizing you’ve been preparing me for this my whole life. I am a survivor. Thank you.

🥕🥕🥕

Putting By by D. Avery

Almost a year!

Knowing the time for him to go missing was before he was missed, she had left the keys in his truck then walked home by a different route, masked of course, hood pulled up against a chill spring wind. Should the truck ever be found the search would begin there, but disinterested authorities had already concluded with the assumption he had simply fled, fed up.

She wondered what she might prepare for dinner. Almost a year, but the chest freezer still contained plenty of stockpiled food, packets of meat, vegetables and casseroles concealing his frozen body.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing in Action by Donna Matthews

Suzy switches off the radio, turns back to me, asking, “Are you scared? When was the last time you heard from Dan?”

“It’s been a couple months now. But I also haven’t heard from anyone, so that’s hopeful, yes? Emily had the MP just show up at her door last week. I guess as long as no one comes, he’s okay?”

Suzie sits down, puts her arm around me as we both study his military photo. Taken last year, he was so proud to be a soldier.

I put my face in my hands; God, I hope he’s okay.

🥕🥕🥕

Last Year by Chel Owens

Daniel could reach the top of the doorway now. He’d always wanted to -ever since watching Dad swing one big, strong, long arm up and smack it in passing. Daniel watched that arm throughout his life, wondering at his dad’s strength and size.

Up until last year, that is. Up until the cancer.

“I did it today, Dad,” he whispered.

“What, Danny?” His mom raised her eyes from Dad’s headstone and fixed Daniel with a sad, confused gaze.

“Nothin,'” Daniel muttered, looking down. He wondered how long it’d be before he could smack the doorway without cheating. Without jumping.

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by Padmini Krishnan

Sam completed his homework as his sister waited patiently with her Math problems. After helping her, Sam organized the table for the primary school students he tutored. He could hear his mom typing away in the next room. She was also training to be a Montessori teacher. Sam thought about their lives a year ago. His mother spent all her time on TV soaps while Sam and his sister fought over petty video games. His father, the sole breadwinner, labored until he fell sick with Covid. Now Sam wished his father had been around to see his ‘responsible’ family.

🥕🥕🥕

Celestial Time by Saifun Hassam

When the pandemic hit in March,
I chanced a grocery visit.
Aha! my choice of apples by the bag,
limit of two bags but oh joy!
Gala Fuji Honeycrisp Green.
Two looms bananas, one green, one yellow.
Swing past the empty paper products and household aisles.
No coffee pods. Never mind. Generic instant coffee would do.
Frozen foods gone
except turkey meatballs, frozen peas, and green beans.
Plenty of jalapeno salsa verde and corn tortillas.
I celebrated the vernal equinox in grand style on my patio.
Marked my calendar to celebrate summer solstice, autumnal equinox, winter solstice.
Spring again!

🥕🥕🥕

A Year Later by Charli Mills

Hazelnut creamer, your favorite, expired months ago but I couldn’t throw it out. We bought groceries like it was end times. Panicked when the shelves remained bare of pasta and dried beans. Flour disappeared and pictures of “first time” bread-bakers emerged online. We bought sliced rye. At first, I enjoyed the solitude. You loathed it, seeking excuses to venture out. Creamer. Always short on hazelnut creamer, willing to search for it. That’s how you found the last ten-pound bag of Montana Flour. I wept. Not as hard as the day you died. Did Covid take the extroverts like you?

🥕🥕🥕

A Year of Changes by Sue Spitulnik

The warm breeze fluttered Tessa’s short brown curly hair. Her blue-green eyes shown love as she gazed down at her sleepy granddaughter. While rocking her, she talked in a soothing tone. “I wasn’t sure moving back to my roots was a good plan. I never thought your Mama would choose to come live here too, and not a single person could have convinced me your real grandpa would ignore you. Now here we are, living with Grandpa Michael. He loves us both even if we are pudgy. What a year full of changes it has been. We’re lucky ladies.”

🥕🥕🥕

Mom’s Birthday by Kate

Balloons and cake,
Guests all confirmed,
The out-of-towners;
Their flights all reserved.

The virus arrived
And people died.
Our party was scrapped
As the country locked down.

One year later.

Mom’s birthday again,
And the virus still rages.
Vaccines jabbed in stages
Based on our ages.

We gather as family
All masked and distanced.
We sing our good wishes
And blow her air kisses.

Mom’s still in lockdown
With nowhere to go.
Her hair is now long,
Her body still strong.

She smiles and waves
From inside the building.
Our visit means a lot,
Even more than we thought.

🥕🥕🥕

A Poem for the Current Status by pensitivity101

Where did the last year go?
So many changes, yet everything the same,
Isolation, solitude, shielding,
People alone, by another name.
Have we learned anything?
Appreciate family and friends,
A welcome smile or contact,
A means to an end.
We have all pulled together,
Each looking out for our neighbour,
Clapped on the roadside,
Socially distant behaviour.
We shopped and we walked often,
Waved from across the street,
If we saw strangers,
We reversed rather than meet.
Now one year on,
Little sadly has changed
But we’ve had our first jabs now,
Though the second has to be arranged.

🥕🥕🥕

Cuttin’ Bait by D. Avery

“Cuttin’ it purty close, ain’tcha, Kid? Got 99 words?”
“Couldn’t catch a story Pal. Nary a nibble.”
“Jeez, Kid! Where’n heck ya been?”
“Fishin’. Easier ta put fish in the pan than flash in the pan.”
“Shorty ain’t lookin’ fer fish, Kid.”
“I’m fried. Got nuthin’.”
“Ya best git writin’.”
“I’m all done with that. Specially with that prompt.”
“Really?! Cain’t think a nuthin’ whut’s been aroun’ fer a year?”
“Nope. Keep comin’ up dry.”
“Kid, let’s head over ta the Saloon. Mebbe if ya wet yer whistle you’ll think on somethin’ good’s come outta this year jist past.”

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March 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

A year later, and I have enough toilet paper. I remember my last night of normal, edgy about an encroaching virus and yet disbelieving a global pandemic would reach the outer rims of civilization. We have the opposite of population density. That didn’t prevent our stores from going dry with the dry goods, namely toilet paper. Who knew around the world we’d sail into the unknown, clinging to hoards of TP?

A year later and my social skills are rusty. The social refrain I don’t want to adult today has morphed into I don’t know how to people anymore. It unsettles me to think that I’ve not had anyone in my house besides my daughter and son-in-law. Except for the two weeks I broke protocol and took in two veterans who would have been homeless. Stranger yet is how quickly they disappeared from my life after they found a place to live.

In 2020, I made two trips both to Wisconsin. My son’s wedding and to pick up a puppy.

There’s something about a one-year mile-marker. You can’t help but stop, turn around, and consider the journey from then until now. A year ago I needed toilet paper. It was a legit item on my grocery list. I’m not one for stocking or buying goods in bulk and often I wait until the last roll until I feel compelled to buy more. We had two partial rolls of TP and laughed at the news reporting a shortage. Not in the UP. We don’t have population density. Yet, here we were in the rural sticks with shelves as empty as an urban center. Eventually, I bought a case of toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap.

That last night of Normal, we celebrated a friend’s birthday. We watched the waves crest over the ice heaves, assured spring would follow the melt. We drank beer in the kitchen past midnight. To be in the house of another! We ate dinner out in a full restaurant. Last night I dreamt I was in a city and I walked from restaurant to restaurant trying to define that sound. What was that sound? Glasses clinked. Forks tapped plates. Chairs scooted across floors. Heels of shoes clacked. Waitstaff asked for orders. Doors opened and shut. That sound murmured beneath it all from place to place.

The sound of voices in crowded places.

Did you ever think you wouldn’t hear that? I’m someone who appreciates the song of a bird, the buzz of a bee. I’m not a crowd-loving person but there it was in my dream — a longing for murmurs.

Spring murmurs differently. Starlings return to the neighborhood. Woodpeckers hit the trees. Snow turns to grit. Dead Lemon Queens crisp from winter hold seeds the nuthatches left. Mause discovers the stalks as the snow piles recede. She prances atop three feet of snow with a foot-long stalk and dried head. She doesn’t miss a stray stick on our evening walks and the snow banks shrink, more sticks emerge. I’m waiting for the crocus and glories of the snow. Some things have not changed.

Will we remember how to people in person? Maybe we will care less about the superficial and more about hugs and deep conversations. Will we get to smile or remained masked? I don’t know the new rules moving forward. I hope we get to keep curbside service. I also long for the time we can crowd a place and share a show or meal.

And so it passes. A year. We did not lose the things we feared. TP remains accessible. But I fear we have lost less tangible things. We have gained, too. We’ve connected more broadly, reached out in unexpected ways. Humanity and toilet paper have survived.

March 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that takes place a year later. It can be any year. Explore the past year or another significant passing of time to a character. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 23, 2021. 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.

A Year Later by Charli Mills

Hazelnut creamer, your favorite, expired months ago but I couldn’t throw it out. We bought groceries like it was end times. Panicked when the shelves remained bare of pasta and dried beans. Flour disappeared and pictures of “first time” bread-bakers emerged online. We bought sliced rye. At first, I enjoyed the solitude. You loathed it, seeking excuses to venture out. Creamer. Always short on hazelnut creamer, willing to search for it. That’s how you found the last ten-pound bag of Montana Flour. I wept. Not as hard as the day you died. Did Covid take the extroverts like you?

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Deep Wishes

It’s dark at the bottom of the well where deep wishes reside.

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

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

Deep Wishes by Goldie

A few years ago, I tried a deep-dish pizza for the first time. Going into that experience, I kept an open mind. Yes, I like my pizza crust thin, but I also love tons of cheese and other toppings. The pie, which we picked up on our way back from visiting our mother at the hospital, was comforting and filled us up pretty quickly.

“What does that have to do with deep wishes?” Charli asked, pointing to the prompt.

“What? I thought it said ‘deep dishes.'” Goldie replied.

“I deeply wish for your eyesight to get better,” Charli chuckled.

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Colors of Fortune by D. Avery

lazurite pulse from deep within

night sky, star spilt light seeping through

deep wishes are this shade of blue

in sleek watery hues they swim;

yellow sunlight stirs blue, spins

absorbed by earth, emerges green

deep wishes are what color spring;

shoots poke through snow-melt packed-leaf ground

deep wishes star this soft hewed brown

deep wishes are seeds sown unseen;

who’s the sower? we cannot know

but through the wisdom of a child

who knows deep wishes just grow wild

roots in earth, airy seeds that blow;

free to harvest with good reason

deep wishes bloom in all seasons.

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Deep Wishes by Jaye Marie

Sitting in the middle of the field, mysterious in the moonlight,
was a wishing well. It wasn’t there yesterday; of that I am sure.
I mean, why would anyone build a well so far from a house?
Far from looking quaint and old worldly, it looked much too menacing for my liking.
I found myself drawn to it, but was my life really so bad, I needed to make a wish?
There were a few things I could wish for,
a proper home, a better husband, a baby…
If I only had to choose one, which would it be?

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Before the Call by Padmini Krishnin

Maria savored the hazelnut chocolate, eyes closed, as each bite melted in her mouth and warmed her heart. She wore her favorite pink lace dress, which now hung loosely around her thin body. However, she no longer cared about her weight.

She touched the pink pearls her husband had given her long ago. They were as fake as he was. But, she had kept both.

Maria walked around her beloved garden, feeling the twilight breeze on her face.

She leaned back and took a deep breath. Then she dialed the clinic to ask for the result of her diagnosis.

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Buried Dreams by Anne Goodwin

One was easy: Please water! Please food! It slumbered in his larynx, ready to erupt on reaching dry land. He’d crushed the second in his chest when he learned the consequences of questioning the crew. Desire for coat or canopy to combat gale and hail migrated from his stomach to his bowels. His dreams of home, school, a football pitch dropped deeper with every battering of the boat until they reached his toes. But he’d abandoned hope of seeing his father again so long ago, he’d almost forgotten. That wish, like a surplus body, sinking to the ocean floor.

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Deep Wishes by Simon

The night was getting cold, he wished the night could hear his plea. The night was getting darker and colder, his skin shivered as he laid there on the street shirtless. He tried to warm himself, he wished he will get help, he tried to stop the cars that had passed. To his bad luck, no one had turned up or stopped the car. He wished someone will throw an old sweater, he wished someone will give him a shelter, he wished and laid there stared at the sky, and wished he could die, and his wish came true.

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The Bargain by Joanne Fisher

“And do you have a wish?”

“I deeply wish the killer comes to know what he took away from me. The love I shared with her. I want him to know the wonderful person she was and the light she brought into other people’s lives. I want him to know that; to finally understand what he took away from us all as he rots away in the darkness of a cell. That’s what I want.”

“I understand. Consider it done, though you have paid a great price.” the voice said. I stared at the pale reflection in the mirror.

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Deep Wishes by Nicole Grant

A viral rampage chokes the breath from countless lives that matter to us. We who survive violent firestorms of inadequately masked rage know raw fear. For a full year out of time we yearn for justice and a cure as we shelter in place. We plant ‘victory’ gardens wishing deep in our battered hearts that hope might sprout with healing herbs and flowers in the coming spring. With stubborn shovels we pierce the sodden clay, defying the flood of terror raining from above. Life matters. Breath matters. Seven generations of new lives matter now. Love will surely win again.

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Yearning… by JulesPaige

Deep wish?

to know a loved one
who left too early; no one
told any stories…

Visionary wish.

to relive perhaps
that one, only memory;
their calm loving touch

Improbable wish.

to hear their soft voice
of reassurance; that they
thought was limitless…

One cannot rewrite history without changing the direction of several other futures.
Reality outweighs wishes. That is just the way of it.
So for the things that cannot be changed presently…Imagination will have to suffice.
Whatever that great beyond may hold, one must just have patience.
Faith? Divergent thinking? One night where there are no nightmares.

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Lost But Now Found by Annette Rochelle Aben

She felt her knees giving away as she walked up the crumbling concrete stairs. What on earth was she thinking anyway? Rejection might be only a few moments away which was not why she was there.

It took a minute for her to figure out that the door was a push and not a pull. Once inside the building, there were more stairs. She could run. Now would be the time.

The older woman in the wheelchair watched the younger woman come down the hall. As their eyes met for the first time, she whispered, “Candace, I’m your mother.”

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Tessa’s Lament by Sue Spitulnik

My ex didn’t need me
He made that perfectly clear
Home I came to help the folks
But in reality, they help me
My children are grown
The oldest chose to move here
Closeness she desires
And a grandmother for Emma
But they would be fine without me
I thought Michael needed a helpmate
But he’s so damn self-sufficient
He helps others in need
The Homefront Warriors welcomed me
But I’m just another voice
And set of understanding ears
PTSD? for a military wife
Nah. Someone please help me
Rejoice in being wanted
Compared to being needed

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Hidden Guilt by Sue Spitulnik

The battered senior prom picture Michael sequesters in his wallet comes to light when he suffers alone. Staring at it, he remembers; standing tall on legs, twirling Tessa in her sparkly white dress, donning the crown of the elected high school king in love with the queen. He burrows it back into its cave and looks to the sky; his faith is his strength. He prays to be free from the guilt for the wheelchair he uses, the job he can no longer do, and not being thankful enough. He is driven to hide the pain while helping others.

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Bottomless Biddings by Bill Engleson

The country had put much stock in the ability of Bottomless Biddings to right the course, to write the Nations next chapter.

“But he is so ancient,” some said. “On occasion, he seems lost in the past. How can we expect him to anticipate the future?”

But others, those who appreciated the wisdom that age imparted, could impart if the stars had aligned, if life and its many trials had allowed the correct mix of struggle and solemnity, of joy and jest, said, “he will take us to where we need to be. Give it time.”

And they did.

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Deep Wishes by Ritu Bhathal

I’m tired.
Tired of pleasing everyone else, all the time, and never doing anything for myself.
She noticed my mood.
She notices everything.
Approaching me with a cup of my favourite tea, she settled me on a chair, told me to calm down, before handing me the cup.
“Breathe, Nina. Let it out. You know you’re doing a fantastic job, but you can’t forget your dreams. I remember what you were like when you started here, filled with ambition and amazing ideas. Come on, dig deep. What were your wishes, then? It’s time for you to think about yourself.”

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Cream Puffs by Faith A. Colburn

Frigid wind blowing off Lake Erie.
Door blows open; tinkles shut.
Warm smells of baking—golden loaves, croissants
Sweet scent of cookies, cakes, cream puffs.
Crisp crust flakes; filling fills senses
Warm vanilla pudding envelopes the tongue
Eyes widen; an ecstatic surprise.
Me, only three, shy in my Shirley
Temple curls, little fur hat and muff.
We left daddy in the winter, ran to Chicago.
I remember almost nothing, except
This bakery with a tinkling bell and cream puffs.
Later, we returned to Dad and stayed together,
But I long to buy Mom one more cream puff

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Where the Deep Wishes Go by Colleen M. Chesebro

Sally gazed into the watery darkness of the well. As if reciting a prayer, she whispered with reverence, “This is where the deep wishes go.”

Her smaller sister Elizabeth asked, “Do we say it now?”

“Not yet. When we see the moon slip inside the well, then we say it.”

At dusk, the white sphere ascended into the sky. A hazy shape reflected in the inky depths of the well. Beyond the shadows from the trees, musket fire sparkled against the sky.

Sally and Elizabeth joined hands. “Please grant our wish and bring our father home safe to us.”

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Deep Wishes by Rebecca Glaessner

I feel invisible blows as fear and pain chemicals flood my place within my host’s brain. Her carer is destroying her, setting fire to her mind with every heartache, every forgotten promise, every silence, every lie.

I wish to protect her, to save her.

To survive.

Her carer’s mind was lost in the depths of its own flood long ago.

My host is an Earthen youngling, at her carer’s mercy, but I am neither.

As she sleeps, I break a vital rule and guide her body through the dwelling, to her carer’s room.

Here, I end my host’s nightmare.

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The Get Together by Prapti Gupta

Today my mom and me are very excited. Today we are going to meet with our father after a long time. I am very excited for it. But the meeting period is very short, just 10 minutes.
Mr. Morgan was waiting for us. He was the medium through which we are going to talk with him. We are going to do planchette.
My mom and I haven’t talked with him since the day we two died in a road accident a year ago but my father survived!!!!
It’s really a special day for both of us.

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That Damn Phone by Donna Matthews

“Hey, I thought we could go to dinner with the Smith’s tonight. We haven’t seen them in weeks.”

“Uh-huh,” my husband murmurs without looking up.

Irritated, I study him a moment and propose, “And then, let’s go to the plant store and buy some fresh plants for the new bed I’ll be making this weekend.”

“Uh-huh”

“Aaaannnnndddd then later, I thought we could lay in the backyard and howl at the moon.”

“Hmmm.”

“Are you kidding me right now – are you even listening?”

He looks up, but his eyes not entirely focused.

That damn phone is killing us.

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Wishing to Be Heard by FloridaBorne

The rains came and three rivers flowed, water rising ever so slowly.

Without speech, or expression through letters, Hope tried to warn others by drawing her tormented dreams. The future apocalypse filled reams, depicting millions floating face down.

Tranquilized worlds seek easy answers, never to venture outside the comforting prison of their disbelief.

Colors screamed louder their message: Danger!

Those she loved sought treatment for her pain.

Medicated eyes stared, devoid of emotion, thirty stories above a city jutting from brown waters.

Biblical flooding heralded an earthquake.

As Hope floated among the dead, her drawings sank beneath the water.

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Calming Whisper by Ann Edall-Robson

For a moment the corral silhouettes the full moon trailing over the black morning sky. There’s yet to be daylight’s fire on the Eastern horizon to waken the day. It will come in time, but for now, it’s anticipation. A cool breeze shuffles through the trees, in one truck window, out the other, lifting the notes of the wolf’s song. Eerie calls echoing against the canyon walls and penetrating the predawn mist. A shiver slides down my back, into my soul, speaking to me. There‘s a stillness, a calming whisper trying to answer the deep wish simmering within.

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Waiting to Rise by Charli Mills

Lake Superior doesn’t freeze flat like a pond. She’s a non-conformist to the ways of domesticated bodies of water. Into the night, she goes screaming, waves punching with each yell. She thrashes, her hips undulating with deep wishes unfulfilled. When they force her into cold compliance, she fights back. The shock of winter marriage doesn’t smooth her wild edges. Ice grabs hold, insistent, freezing her shoreline, paralyzing her economy. She plunges deep and draws her strength, cracking the façade they give her. Ice fractures over and over. Wishes caught and released, shared among women waiting their turn to rise.

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Knee-deep by Doug Jacquier

‘Knee-deep, Mr. Easybean Green.’
‘And knee-deep to you, Mr. Phileas Frog.’
‘Why do we keep saying ‘knee-deep’? What’s wrong with ‘fathoms-deep’ or ‘space deep’ or ‘meaning deep’?’
‘Phileas, have you been at the crème de menthe again?’
‘No, Easybean. I’ve been studying etymology.’
‘Well, Phileas, studying entomology is very important for us amphibians. That’s what I call real brain food. Geddit. Brain food.’
‘Yes, I get it, Easybean, unfortunately. I’m talking about the origins of words.’
‘Well, I guess we’ve got knees and we’re deep thinkers. Seems logical to me.’
‘About as logical as anything else, Mr. Easybean Green.’

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Something Else by Norah Colvin

His eyes were as round as the cookie. He shuffled on his seat. His fingers twitched. They slow-walked to the plate and he quickly drew them back. His head bent low over the cookie. He inhaled. Deep. Long. No rule against that. He checked for dislodged crumbs. None. He sighed. The door handle rattled. He sat upright, shoved his hands beneath his buttocks and looked at the ceiling.
“You resisted,” said the examiner.
He nodded.
“Not even a crumb?’
He shook his head.
“Then you may have two cookies.”
“Can I have something else, please? I don’t like chocolate.”

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A Simple Wish by Ruchira Khanna

“Mommy, I love you to the moon and back.”

“Aww! baby! my words are coming back to me.” Sheila chuckled as she adjusted her head and wiped the sweat off her forehead.

“Mommy, when can you play with me?”

“As soon as I feel better, doll.”

Hearing that, Liz closed her eyes and waved her magic-wand in her direction.

“What did you wish?” Mom inquired when Liz opened her eyes.

Liz placed her tiny hands over her bald head, “My deepest wish is that you get well so we can play together and go out for pizza and burgers.”

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The Wishing Well by Nicole Horlings

Clara ran through the garden gate
Rushing around the grand estate
Looking for a good game to play,
Something new to do that day,
When down and down she fell
Deep down into the wishing well.
She thought she’d fall into the water
And become a stranded daughter,
But she floated in a cloud of wishes
Where a variety of delightful riches
Swirled everywhere around her
That promised fun and pleasure.
With a quick flick of her hand
They nicely followed her command.
She sent them all back up the well
Not realizing the limits of the magic spell.

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Tales from “Dragon” by Saifun Hassam

The ancient Dragon Cavern well was covered with golden trumpet vines. People with deeply troubled hearts climbed the hills, threw coins into the well. It had infinite patience as it listened to wishes, never revealing its deeply held secrets.

A sorceress went into the well, to seek out its magic. Perhaps she really wanted those silver coins. She disappeared.

Centuries passed. Earth tremors and rains transformed the caverns into a deep long lake. Fragrant lotus and water lilies grew along the shore. People never forgot the mythic ancient well. Whispers of dreams and wishes floated on the lake breeze.

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Wishing Well by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The woods were deep, the path mostly overgrown since the last time she’d padded, barefoot and shining, to find the well. Lost and despairing, Myrna lifted her eyes to the liquid warble and slash of fiery red high above.

It looked down at her with piercing black eyes, raising its crest impatiently, having crossed several lifetimes to lead her home. They had been close partners, once upon a time. Did she even remember? The cardinal shrilled, dove, and shot ahead.

Myrna hesitated, eyes following the cardinal, and took off in hot pursuit. Perhaps wishes could come true, after all.

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Diggin’ Deep (Part I) by D. Avery

“What’s up, Kid?”
“Wishin’ I had a story, Shorty. Comin’ up dry fer this prompt.”
“Here’s a story. D’ya know why that old mine is boarded up?”
“Reckon ta keep folks away from yer gold.”
“Ha! Kid, by now ya must know the real gold is right here fer all the ranchers an’ readers ta share. It shines in the comments an’ glitters in the roundup.”
“Yep.”
“But was a time a shallow feller’s most fervent wish was fer mineral wealth. Was him that dug that mine. Deeper an’ deeper he dug, fer what he found wasn’t never enough.”

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Diggin’ Deep (Part II) by D. Avery

“Ever wish ya had more’n 99 words, Shorty?”
“Ya wanna hear the story, you’ll shush Kid…
That feller kept burrowin’ further inta the mountainside, till one day he stumbled an’ fell inta a deep chasm. Lights out.”
“He died?!”
“No, jist his lantern. He come ta rest at rock bottom, engulfed in complete and utter dark.”
“Bet he sure wished ta git outa there.”
“Yep. Gittin’ out become his deepest wish, ta see the light a day, never mind ‘bout gold. Was then they appeared.”
“Who?!”
“Chapfaeries. Led him through a side tunnel, come out at our carrot patch.”

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In It Deep by D. Avery

“Kid, why’s it me tellin’ stories?”
“Jeez, Shorty. Says up there, ‘member? I got nuthin’.”
“No, I mean, where’s Pal at?”
“Dunno. Went off somewheres mutterin’ ‘bout deep wishes. But look, here comes my puglet. What’s that Curly? Pal’s fell inta the well? No? Squeal agin? Pal’s fell inta the ol’ mine shaft? We’re comin’ Curly, take us ta Pal!”
“Look! The Poet Lariat!”

Hey Pal, grab this rope
ya slipped down a real steep slope
out here huntin’ fer a deep wish
gotta haul ya up like a slimy ol’ fish.

“Wish y’all’d jist pull me up already.”

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Sweet Potatoes

With marshmallows, savory seasoning, or confusion, get the scoop on sweet potatoes.

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

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

“I Yam, What I Yam” by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Excuse me, young man, you work in this department. Where’s the yams?”

“Do you mean sweet potatoes? You know, the orange ones?”

“Yeah, yams. I need ‘em to make my grandson’s favorite dish, Candied Yams.”

“Well now, ma’am. Yams are the brown ones and sweet potatoes are the orange ones. We have Beauregard, Jewel, and Garnet. Myself, I like the purple ones from Okinawa.”

The old woman stared at me and blinked her eyes. “Yams aren’t purple.”

I chuckled under my breath. “No ma’am. Yams are brown and look like roots.”

She smiled. “Yeah, you got any orange yams?”

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Yam Jungle by Ann Edall-Robson

“What’s that?”

“Yam jungle?”

“Did you say, damn jungle?”

“No! I said yam jungle.”

“Those are sweet potatoes!”

“No, they’re not.”

“Well, that’s what we call them.”

“Well, you are wrong, they are yams.”

“No need to get your knickers in a knot.”

“Well, then, call them what they are.”

“What’s the difference miss know it all?”

“Sweet potatoes have white flesh and are starchy, like potatoes. Yams have an orangey flesh and a sweet flavour.”

“You’ve said they’re sweet potatoes.”

“No I didn’t! Geesh, why do you continually insist on arguing with me when you know I’m right?”

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Sweet Potatoes by Reena Saxena

My friend who is diagnosed with breast cancer tells me, sweet potatoes are anti-carcinogen. She has them baked, every day.

I don’t relish it much, so try a sweet potato pudding with thickened milk and sugar. It turns out well, but sugar releases free radicals, which can induce body cells to go berserk and become cancerous.

OMG! Health freaks always drive me crazy, and no two opinions are the same.

Bad news hits. My friend with cancer has passed away.

I spend a day mourning, and decide to dispense with sweet potatoes. Of what use are those anyway?

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Tater Talk by JulesPaige

Two boys from Idaho, Spud Murphy and his friend Red Norland were visiting their North Carolina friend Neg Nugget. Ned’s sister Jewel had her friend Hannah Garnet over. Spud had his eye on Hannah!

Beauregard Covington was Hannah’s Uncle and guardian, he was at the Nuggets too! He wasn’t fond of Northerners especially from the west. Beau was gonna root out any trouble quicker than one could mash potatoes! No one was gonna be sweet on his niece that was from outta town.

Hannah saw her Uncle getting steamed. “I’ll move to Okinawa if you don’t settle,” she hissed!

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Dinner Debate by Willow Willers

Are there sweet potatoes in this stew?

Yes I put two large ones in.

Well where are they?

They must of boiled away to mush, because you can see the colour and feel their texture.

But I like to see them physically cut them and chew them.

Okay I can fix that I can cook a couple more and pop them in before I dish up. Anything else need adding.

No there’s plenty of spuds, parsnips, swede, leeks and carrots.

How was dinner?.

There was a lot of sweet potato in it.

What? really! You’ve got to be joking!

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Vegetable Cookery by Nancy Brady

The sophomore home economics’ curriculum included yeast bread, which was the main reason Julie chose this elective; however, it also included vegetable cookery. Julie wasn’t thrilled about this unit because she didn’t like vegetables; the rule was that students had to taste each one. Swiss chard, rutabagas, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, and more vegetables that she had never heard of, but found that she liked. A new favorite was sweet potatoes, especially with brown sugar and marshmallows. One vegetable she managed to not eat was okra, and how Julie managed to do that without getting caught, well, that’s another story.

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Kumara? by Joanne Fisher

“You’re making a roast tonight?”

“Yes there’ll be roast beef with roast potato, onion, parsnip, and kumara.”

“Kumara? What’s kumara?”

“It’s a sweet potato the Maori brought with them when they settled here. It’s nice baked, roasted, and I also make pumpkin and kumara balls with satay sauce.”

“Sounds great. There’s much about this country I still don’t know, like when the Maori settled here.”

“In the early 14th Century is the most accepted date, and the Europeans first arrived around four hundred years later. The Penguin Book of New Zealand History by Michael King is worth checking out.”

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Sweet Potatoes by Anita Dawes

I have never eaten sweet potatoes
The thought of it, I have no words for it
Potatoes are not meant to be sweet
However, my father called me
his sweet potato from the age of five
Apparently, at that age I was quite sweet
He might not think so these days
I lost my father when I turned eighteen
I never told him about the teasing
The name calling when they heard him call me
by my nickname at school. I was called spud
Wondering now, would I try one in my father’s honour?
I will think about it…

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Culinary Appropriation by Geoff Le Pard

‘What’s that?’
‘Sweet potato fries?’
‘What’s wrong with chips?’
‘Nothing, Logan. Just different.’
‘When did sweet potatoes become a thing? When I was a kid there were just potatoes. Then someone adds sugar and you have these things. ‘
‘They weren’t invented, Logan. They originated in South America…’
‘So you say. But I bet you never had a sweet potato anything as a child.’
‘No, but…’
‘Just the common or garden spud.’
‘Yes, but…’
‘It’s the Americanisation of vegetables. Culinary appropriation…’
‘The potato came from America. We all learnt that, didn’t we?’
‘You’re a contrarian…’
‘Takes one to know one.’

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Sweet Potatoes #3 by Grace Davis

Emmy was pretty sure that sweet potatoes were a new invention. Not like, new new but definitely from the last fifteen years. The reason for Emmy’s hypothesis was simple: growing up she had not seen one single sweet potato. Normal potatoes (Emmy wondered if one might call them ‘savoury potatoes’ now): yes. Normal potatoes were everywhere. But sweet? Never. Somewhere in the back of Emmy’s mind was a faint awareness that the entire world could not be defined by her sheltered upbringing, but, she reflected, she really wasn’t ready to deal with that. She had to face plantains first…

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Dragon by Saifun Hassam

From the crest of the hill, Dragon surveyed the farmlands.

There! In the fields to the west!

An abundance of melons, pumpkins, and acorn squash ripened in the summer sunlight.

Vines of sweet potatoes turned the fields into a sea of emerald green.

Ah! Be time soon to gather in the late summer harvest, thought Farmer.

Ah! Be time soon to come down late at night, under the brilliant stars, to harvest sweet potatoes, thought Dragon.

Come morning, Farmer would find huge dragon footprints across the fields of sweet potatoes.

Harvest going back five Dragon centuries, Sorcerer told Farmer.

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Delicacies for the Most High by Rebecca Glaessner

Roasted rare Earthen tuber, orange like the setting sun, melted sweet and warm on her tongue. She studied her creation on the plains below. Her Youngling workforce departed, dragging their feet, hair blowing heavy in the evening breeze.

She turned and left.

“Here she is!”

A crowd cheered as she emerged, awaiting her grand reveal.

“This-“

Her award, a sculpture in her likeness.

“-for your work in advancements of Younglings. Look what you’ve created through them!”

A wall slid away, revealing her creation; the first city.

Gasps turned to cheers.

She beamed with pride, what would she craft next?

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Bona Sub Terra Theory by D. Avery

“That one likes to snuggle,” she said.
He cradled the hen on his lap as he lifted his jar of dandelion wine.
“Try these— Jerusalem artichokes, best thing to come out of God’s good earth.”
The moon was now just rising. He didn’t see her slight smile as he went on about the gastronomic miracles in his garden, sweet potatoes with flesh the color of a summer sunset, but he heard her accept his invitation to dinner even as he wondered how he might prepare them for her.
‘So much good,’ she’d said, ‘so much goodness under the surface.’

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Sweet Potatoes #1 by Grace Davis

Gertie hefted the sack of sweet potatoes over her shoulder with the fluid movements of one extremely practised in the art. I had always admired that about her: the ability to take the most mundane action and make it poetry in motion. As she walked out to the waiting tractor, I spied a lone potato on the floor. ‘Gertie, wait, you lost one!’ I sank down on one knee to pick it up, holding it out as she turned. I looked up at her smiling face and realised this wasn’t the last time she’d have me in that position.

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Myrtle’s Basket by Charli Mills

Myrtle dug the tubers. Her spade cut the loam, missing the sweet potatoes with garnet skins. She shook them free of California soil, cut their vines, and placed each in a basket her mother wove of old clothes. Myrtle fingered a faded blue cloth, remembering the dress her sister used to wear when she gardened. Before the Spanish Flu robbed them of Althea and Papa. Dirt was harder back then. The graves difficult to hack into the drought-toughen soil. That was the only year they didn’t grow sweet potatoes. Myrtle carried fresh tubers and old memories to her kitchen.

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Sweet Potatoes by FloridaBorne

I remember the first thirty years. John was a kind man… until I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration.
.
Yesterday, I started wrapping sweet potatoes in foil to bake. He yelled, “You know better than that! You have to cut out the bad spots first!”
.
“You have no right to tell me how to cook,” I yelled back.
.
“Just for that, I won’t drive you to the senior center tomorrow.”
.
I waited until he slammed the door, and drove off toward the bar, to wrap the remaining sweet potatoes for baking. I’d rather go to yoga class with Myrtle, anyway.

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The Potato Thief by Hugh W. Roberts

Not everything in the garden is doing as well as the sweet potatoes.

***

He should never have stolen my home-grown, sweet potatoes.

He may have been an enthusiastic, good-looking man, but just because I gave him some, he had no right coming back in the dead of night to help himself to me and more potatoes.

Furious, I ended up hitting him over the head with the shovel and burying his body under the sweet potato patch. Boy, did it make them taste even sweeter; until the day forensics arrived and dug up the patch.

Still, at least I get to make sweet potato mash for all the boys here in prison.

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Pearls and Wisdom by Kerry E.B. Black

Dr. Jackson peers over reading glasses tethered by a pearl chain, an older woman’s style, but age brings wisdom.

I hope so.

“Suri freaked out. Total melt-down. Hit her sister with her crutch. When I hugged her, she bit me. Everyone in the restaurant stared. So, I carried her to the car. Told the others to stay, eat.” I sniff. “I don’t even know what triggered her.”

“It can be anything. A smell. Someone who looked like her attacker.” The counselor shrugs. “A sweet potato casserole that reminded her of him.”

I wish for reading glasses strung with pearls and wisdom.

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Child’s Play by D. Avery

He arranged the sweet potatoes into orderly rows on the grass.
“No. They’re dry. Mommy says to put them in the crates.”
Ruth knew she was in charge. She also knew that play helped with any work. Her potatoes sang and danced their way into a crate.
His marched, then dove into the crate. “Ayaaaa!”
“Gently. Don’t hurt them.”
He blinked at her, then feverishly started removing potatoes, tossing them to safety behind the tangled vines. “I won’t leave you! Come on!”
She went to him, hugged his tear-stained face like Mommy does, said, “It’s okay Daddy, it’s okay.”

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A Filipino Treat by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa looked at the shopping list with skepticism. She asked Michael, “What are you going to make?”
“A dessert that I was introduced to while in the Philippines. It’s a thin tapioca pudding made with coconut milk. Then rice balls, sliced plantains, boiled sweet potato nuggets, and chopped figs are added.”
“Sounds labor-intensive.”
“It is. You have to prepare all the add-ins first.”
“You’ll sure dirty a lot of pans.”
“Correct. That’s why I’m making it when Lexi and Adam will be here to help with eating and clean up. I promise everyone will love it, especially Emma Blossom.”

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Sweet Taties by Annette Rochelle Aben

Many years ago, the group known as Weight Watchers had a recipe for what they called One Potato, Two Potato Salad. What made this different from the standard potato salad was the addition of sweet potatoes! While I don’t remember all the ingredients, I do recall it tasting terrific.

Flash forward thirty years and I meet a vegan chef who makes a potato salad using only sweet potatoes (she doesn’t eat white potatoes). This is also a tasty way to enjoy a picnic favorite. Hers uses tofu in place of eggs and a vegan mayo spread.

Both good ideas!

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Diet Spuds by Ritu Bhathal

Sue discovered sweet potatoes on her diet. Her slimming group leader insisted they were better for her than her usual baked spuds.
She gingerly took a knife and sliced open the elongated root vegetable to reveal the flesh’s brilliant orange hue.
Well, this would, at least, bring a little colour to her dull meals.
A sweetness lingered in the air.
She ground a little pepper and added a pinch of salt.
The usual knob of butter called to her from the butter dish, but she ignored it, added a little low-calorie cheese, and took a tentative bite.
Not bad.

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“What you don’t know…” by Goldie

When my aunt announced that she would be making mashed sweet potato for Thanksgiving, my uncle’s face grew red.

“You must have lost your damn mind! Giving in to this ‘new age’ crap is not going to make you any younger, you know?” Bruce pulled out a beer from the fridge and took it with him to the living room, away from his clearly deranged wife.

“Mmmm… That’s quite tasty. What is it? Pumpkin?” my uncle asked, scooping a bit more of the dessert covered with marshmallows onto his plate.

“It’s sweet potato.”

Blood drained from my uncle’s face.

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Sweet Potato Disaster by Nicole Horlings

He heard a cry of frustration as he opened the door, and soft sobbing as he took off his shoes and coat. “Oh honey, what’s wrong?” he called out as he gathered up his briefcase and travel mug.

“I can’t do anything right.” She pointed at the charred mashed sweet potato and marshmallow dish. Just at that moment, the smoke from the oven reached the fire alarm. She scrambled to get up off the kitchen floor, but he beat her to it.

She stood despondently in the hallway. He pulled her into a hug, whispering, “We can get takeout.”

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Sweet Potatoes #2 by Grace Davis

Sweet potatoes. Iris stared at the orange interlopers. Why were they there? Who had asked for sweet potatoes? It couldn’t be Bob, he barely tolerated the average potato… maybe Maggie? But why? Iris picked one up and sniffed it. A woman entered the room and smiled, ‘Got your sweet potatoes, just like you wanted!’ Iris frowned, ‘They aren’t mine, dear, but no matter. My daughter, Maggie, she asked me to make a sweet potato pie once… I think I remember the recipe.’ The woman nodded tightly before turning away. Under her breath, she muttered ‘Oh Mum… maybe this week.’

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Mom’s Trickery by Lisa Coleman

“I don’t like sweet potatoes”, John stated as he stuck out his tongue.
“They’re good for you and will make you strong”, his mom told him.
“Popeye says spinach makes you strong”, John stated enthusiastically.
“Popeye also says, “I yam what I yam”, mom burst out laughing.
With a devious smile on her face, Mom turned towards the table, looking into John’s eyes and said, “I think he would want you to eat your sweet potatoes, get strong and build muscles like him, so in honor of Popeye, tomorrow night we’ll have spinach”.
John frowned at the thought. “YUCK”!

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Usain Bolt by Ruchira Khanna

“You know, in no time, I’ll be the fastest runner on this planet. I’ll beat Usain Bolt too,” I said to my friend over the telephone as I chewed upon the boiled sweet potatoes that had black salt sprinkled.

I saw my Mom grin.

When I put down the receiver, I inquired.

“All eat, and no sweat will not make you the fastest runner, sunny boy!”

“Bolt eats Yam, while I choose to eat Sweet Potatoes that are way more nutritious than the latter. So, for starters, that has notched up my slot.” I said with a wide smile.

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Sweet Potato Pie by Marsha Ingrao

Ms. Cairns’ kindergarten class clapped to the ditty, “Sweet potato pie, sweet potato pie. If I don’t get some, I think I’m gonna die. Take away my roller skates. Take away the sky…”

“Wait,” Jessica shouted, waving her arms. “That’s not right. In my other school it was ‘Alligator Pie.”

“Yucky, Jessica. No one eats alligator pie,” Zack said.

“Not roller skates neither,” Jessica stood up tears streaming down her face.

Ms. Cairns walked over to Jessica’s side hugging her.

“Let’s hear it your way, Jessica.”

“Alligator pie, that’s funny,” Zack said.

Everyone chanted, “Again, again, again!”

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In the Pie of the Beholder by R. V. Mitchell

“Mom, this pumpkin pie tastes funny,” Dean said making a face.

“That’s because it isn’t pumpkin. It’s sweet potato pie.”

“Potato?” Dean queried.

“Sweet potato. It is really nice, and you should thank your Aunt Lottie for making it for us.”

“Um, thank you Aunt Lottie,” he said with a forced smile before taking another bite.

“That’s okay Sweetie. Southern food might take some getting used to for you New Jersey boys.”

Well I hope I will never have to eat enough of it to get use to it, Dean thought. “Well, I look forward to trying it again.”

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Special Occasion by Gloria McBreen

I waited to take his order.
‘What do you recommend?’ he asked.
‘The Sweet Potato Frittata,’ I replied.

And so began the rest of our lives together.
For every special occasion we shared over the years, we’d celebrate with sweet potato. It was our little joke.

Today we met for lunch at our favourite spot in the woods. He brought the coffees and I brought loaded sweet potatoes. ‘What are we celebrating?’ he asked.
‘Look in the bag.’
He lifted the paper bag off the table and took out a white stick.
After all these years—two pink lines!

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Playing Her Sweet Potato by Anne Goodwin

Sounds stretched and shrunk, colours dissembled. Violet trees and turquoise cows drained her energy. The hospital promised to replenish it.

She requested seclusion, but they insisted new admissions sleep in the dorm. Sleep? With that symphony of snorts, sigh and squeals quarrelling with her inner voices. Hardly therapeutic!

The food was cordon bleu. Her taste buds functioned fine, but butternut squash repulsed them. She ate the lamb, pushed the vegetable aside. “Ain’t you eating your roast potato?” They claimed she’d ordered those nightmare orange lumps.

Now she sits in solitary, coaxing a tune from her sweet potato (AKA ocarina).

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The Coronavirus Sweet Potato Pie Blues by Bill Engleson

I caught the Covid love bug.
It surely took my breath way.
Can’t give my baby a hug,
In a snuggly way.
Chorus:
And my sweet, my sweet potato pie
You were the apple, the apple of my eye,
My sweet, my sweet potato pie.
I went off my diet and that’s no bloomin’ lie.

I got the Covid love bug,
Played a fancy man’s game.
Ended up a lonely mug
Only got myself to blame.

Caught the Covid love bug,
the Coronavirus blues.
I’m a two-timin’ lug.
So, what else is news.

…and my sweet…my sweet potato pie….

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Sweet Patootie by Doug Jacquier

SQ: Of what value is a bet based on a sweet patootie, in the sense of the expression ‘you bet your sweet patootie’, referring to someone’s assurance of sincerity. Modern times have transformed this former endearment into a somewhat uncouth reference to a person’s derriere (aka a person’s rhymes-with-pass), giving rise to a conundrum. If the person being spoken to is a Boney Moroney with a patootie to match, does this mean the bet is of little value? Conversely, if applied to a person of steatopygian dimensions in the booty department, is it a bet of immense value? Discuss.

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Hope. Springs. Eternal. by Liz Husebye Hartmann

We’ve gotten a respite from chilblain-blistering cold, with temps tomorrow in the mid-sixties. Nearly a week of melting’s left my home’s southern exposure (nearly) stripped of snow, grass matted like a week in bed with stomach flu. Rain, possibly thunder, predicted for the day after tomorrow; may it inspire some green.

This is Minnesota. Just a couple more blizzards to come, yet.

Shriveled sweet-potato vines languish in a lonely patch beside bandy-bodied hedges. Neglected potatoes, more vine than fruit when planted last August; I hope that 2021 offers another chance.

I baptize its bed with more nutrient-rich coffee grounds.

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Curly Lies by D. Avery

“Quit yer yammerin’, Kid.”
“Dig the taters outta yer ears an’ listen, Pal. Tellin’ ya, we got anuther mystery goin’ on here at Carrot Ranch.”
“How kin a sweet p’tater patch wander off, Kid? Ya musta fergot where ya planted ‘em.”
“No. Way.”
“We’ll look agin. See any vines creepin’ ‘long the ground?”
“Nope. Mebbe I should git Curly ta hep sniff ‘em out. Curly? She seems mighty tired. I’ll let the sleepin’ hog lie.”
“Kid! Look it thet turned over soil! Yer pig et the sweet p’taters, vines an’ all!”
“No yams fer us.”
“Mebbe ham?”
“No way!”

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March 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

Sweet potatoes arrived in the mail this morning. Two packages of dehydrated fries for Mause, my three-month-old German Short-haired Pointer. It takes her ten minutes to eat one and she gets two a day. This buys me twenty minutes of time. Such is life with an energetic puppy.

The Hub fancies he’ll train her for quail hunting and who am I — an artist of stories who fancies she’ll publish novels — to say how unlikely that is. It’s not because we have no quail in Upper Michigan. He can travel to his family’s ranches in Nevada. He struggles to train her at all. His brain trauma has robbed him of patience and reasoning. Not that a former Airborne Ranger was ever the patient sort, but it’s become comical how I have to clicker train him to clicker train his dog. Of the three of us, the GSP remains the most competent.

We are all allowed our dreams. I’ll kick anyone in the shins who dampens the dreams of another, especially the dreams of the vulnerable. I’m not a violent person but I feel locked in a strange battle where I have to fight the VA system to get the healthcare my warrior needs and I have to fight my warrior to get the healthcare he needs and I have to fight myself to carry on because none of this is normal. But maybe the concept of normal is derived from the same fluff of dreams and cotton candy. Sweet on the tongue but ephemeral. Not real.

I write fiction. I craft stories that are not real. It’s called verisimilitude — the appearance of being real or true.

My life feels not real at times. Like when he badgers me to go outside in the snow at 11 pm because Mars is visible in the sky. He’s obsessed with Mars and can point out all the planetary alignments. That part feels authentic. But when I try to capture a real moment, try to connect, try to remember who he used to be, a car turns down Roberts Street and I remind him to step out of the road with the puppy and he rages at the car for driving fast and reckless. They are not. But I can’t say so.

He continues like nothing abnormal happened and points to Taurus’s eye — “That’s your sign,” he tells me. It is not. A knee-jerk reflex and I protest, forgetting my place of accepting what is not real. “I’m a Gemini,” I say. “No you’re not,” and he continues telling me about the night sky. Sometimes I laugh. But sometimes I cry. He’s my husband and does not know me.

I’ve become the villain in his mind, the person who has trapped him in this God-awful snowy prison. He slips on the ice, walking the dog and it’s as if I’ve deliberately swung a sledgehammer to bash both knees. It takes a week before his counselor can convince him to go see his primary care physician, and it’ll take me days to help him remember he agreed to do it. I’m not too concerned. He’s not limping. Just grumbling. He needs a bad story to chew on and anything that makes me the bad guy is his favorite fairytale.

Remember, it not real, it’s the verisimilitude of an altered mind.

So, here I am, writing fiction about a veteran spouse. She is not me. I couldn’t bear to give her my burden. Instead, I wanted to explore how long-haul veteran spouses come to carry the weight of wounded warriors. I wanted to give a definition of the invisibility of veteran spouses. We are real and so are our loyalty and our brokenness. We get crushed beneath the packs of what they bring home from combat training and war zones.

Forget eggshells. Some of us walk on broken glass.

I wanted to write a beautiful novel. An uplifting story. One that faces death, dismemberment, and dementia. One that shows the struggle to understand what PTSD is and how many soldiers overcome it.

My husband did. He used his combat dive training to manage night terrors. He remained, and remains, fearless. He knew something was wrong with his thinking years ago and back then, he trusted me to find out why. We were still a team. I have much admiration and respect for him in confronting the debilitation of multiple conditions. At what point do I say enough? He doesn’t get to. Why should I?

And so I stand before you a Taurus prison guard (aka a Gemini veteran spouse) and I think of sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes fries (not the dehydrated ones for puppies to gnaw). Twice-baked sweet potatoes. Roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potato pie. From savory to sweet, these tubers can become many things. Sort of like veteran spouses.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Myrtle’s Basket by Charli Mills

Myrtle dug the tubers. Her spade cut the loam, missing the sweet potatoes with garnet skins. She shook them free of California soil, cut their vines, and placed each in a basket her mother wove of old clothes. Myrtle fingered a faded blue cloth, remembering the dress her sister used to wear when she gardened. Before the Spanish Flu robbed them of Althea and Papa. Dirt was harder back then. The graves difficult to hack into the drought-toughen soil. That was the only year they didn’t grow sweet potatoes. Myrtle carried fresh tubers and old memories to her kitchen.

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