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Dress Up

To dress up is to put on a new persona, look, or role. Writers considered the myriad of ways we dress up at any age.

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.

Caught by Joanne Fisher

Thinking he was alone, Kyle dressed up in his sister’s clothes. Looking in the mirror, he wondered if he was really a girl. Just then Hannah unexpectedly walked through the doorway.

“What are you doing in my room freak?” she asked. In a panic he ran to his own bedroom. A short time later Hannah knocked on his door. “Can I have my dress back? That one doesn’t fit you anyway. Here are some of my older ones that would be more your size. Just don’t go in my room again.”

She left Kyle a box full of clothes.

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Glamour Girl by Anne Goodwin

“Trust me,” said Geraldine, as we un-noosed our school ties in the station toilets, “Trust me,” as we tottered to the train in miniskirts and high heels. When I blinked, mascara clogged my eyelashes. My waxy lips left prints on the bottle, as I swigged lemonade.

We’d dressed up as kids, for watered-down Shakespeare. I’d scoured my sister’s wardrobe behind a locked bedroom door. But this was serious. Public. If my dad got wind of it, I was dead.

For one weekend, I’d play glamour girl. Later, when my mother found the tell-tale Polaroids, I faced the consequences alone.

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Mirror of Hope by Hugh W. Roberts

Despite the bruises, Andrew admired himself in the mirror. A princess looked back at him.

“Don’t forget your shoes.”

The red high heeled shoes, although too big, complemented his mother’s burgundy dress he had on.

“You’re pretty,” remarked the princess.

The faint noise of his father’s car’s unexpected arrival caused panic in Andrew and the princess.

“Hide behind me,” yelled the princess, “before he beats you again.”

Crouching behind the mirror, he tried making himself invisible.

As the smell of alcohol and the unbuckling of his father’s belt reached him, tears made their escape down the young boy’s face.

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When I Grow Up by Goldie

It was the night before Halloween when Stephanie realized Tommy needed a costume for school the next day.

“We need to create a costume. What do you want to be?” she asked, frantically rummaging through her arts and crafts bin.

“I want to be like Daddy!” Tommy buzzed excitedly.

Steve grinned with pride. Being a police officer had been a family tradition for generations.

Tommy disappeared from the kitchen to return wearing a black ski mask.

Stephanie and Steve froze, mortified.

“I saw you last night wearing this, telling Mom how much fun you had. I like having fun!”

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Here Comes Gingie by Bill Engleson

This kid, Gingie Rawlins, is a friggin’ showboat.

Don’t know how he does it.

I go outta the house with mismatched socks the old lady hauls me back in, waves her fat finger up my nose, points the way to my sock drawer.

Gingie’s folks seem normal. His old man’s usually suited up.

Even in the house, eh!

His mom wears puffy dresses, June Cleaver like.

Gingie however usually shows up at the paper shack in some god-awful mismatch…like, tights and shorts.

Tights!

Even wore ginch over his pants last week.

This goofball’s from Mars if you ask me.

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Makeover by Heather Gonzalez

Dorothy gave her sister a cup of hot tea that afternoon. Rose sipped the tea and complained about the weather. Suddenly, Rose got very silent. Dorothy knew it was the perfect time to give her sister a much needed makeover.

Being very gentle, she adjusted the dress she had picked out for her. She even remembered the matching hat and shoes. Applying makeup was a little harder since Dorothy’s hands had gotten shaky with age. After one last coat of lipstick was applied, Dorothy stepped back to marvel at her work. Too bad, Rose wasn’t alive to see it.

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Defending the Frontier by R. V. Mitchell

Captain Ezekiel Talbert mustered his men outside the bastion of Fort Frederick. A war party of French aligned Shawnees had been spied near the Potomac and he and his detachment of the Maryland Forces were going to intercept them before they could get up to any mischief.

His trusty band of volunteers were going to more than enough to deal with the Shawnee threat, after all they were well equipped with the latest Brown Bess muskets from Japan, and most understood the rudiments of Bland’s Manual. Now all he needed was for his sergeant to finish his phone call.

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Dressing Up by Joanne Fisher

As the sun set, they rose out of their coffins in the crypt.

“Shall we hope someone walks through the graveyard tonight? Or shall we get dressed up and go into town?” asked Samantha.

“Yes let’s go into town!” Katherine replied.

They dressed up in their finest gowns and coats, then headed off. When they got to town they were surprised by the sheer number of people there.

“Are you going to choose one?” Samantha asked after a while.

“There’s just too many of them! I can’t decide!” Katherine replied. Samantha rolled her eyes. Why did this always happen?

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Phasing by Rebecca Glaessner

Phasing began.

Tahvket donned the cloth to be worn to Center. House-family fitting it while praying for energies to take and seeds yet unformed.

Elders braided Tahv’s endless white hair.

Hair to be shaved if one’s seed fails. If one doesn’t Phase at all.

Shaved to free the energies within.

As few seeds take form and even fewer are granted life. Energies are never spared.

Would Tahv’s fail? At nearly twenty-two cycles, hope of Phasing had waned.

Yet here Tahv stood, before Center, heart pounding, hands rippling over smooth, now-fitted cloth, the outfit offering all the strength Tahv needs.

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World Book Drag by Ritu Bhathal

“But I don’t wanna!”
Little feed stomp, but I’ll be damned if my hard work won’t be worn today.
World Book Day.
The bane of every parent’s life.
I’ve been planning this costume since last year, after seeing the spectacular costume Jenny Harris-Smythe’s mother made for her daughter last year.
She was dining off her win for months!
So, I’m sorry, but today you WILL be wearing this, because I say so.
I don’t care if you think you look silly, and no, you can’t be Captain America! Ready-made costumes. Pah!
The prize will be mine!
Sorry, yes, yours…

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Dress Up by Anita Dawes

I never had the opportunity to dress up as a child
It never entered my head
I was far too busy, swimming, skating
Riding any bike I could borrow
I had a cut-out book
Where I dressed a paper doll with different clothes
This, however, wore off too quick
I wonder now if it might have been
The lack of imagination, or up bringing
Parents need to understand a child
As my granddaughter does with
my little great grand daughter
I love to watch her run around
In nothing but her hat and wellies
Or her father’s big boots…

🥕🥕🥕

A Relentless Quest by Donna Matthews

I’m surprised to find my daughter lying spread eagle on the floor.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yes…no…maybe, in a minute.”

Hesitating a hair of a moment, I lay down next to her.

She doesn’t move away.

Lying on my side, I study her profile and realize she’s pierced her nose. Should I say something? Let it go? Her willingness to try on different personalities is something I admire in her. Her relentless quest to find which fits her best.

“Love?”

“Yeah?”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m thinking about who I want to be. I just can’t see it yet.”

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Setting the Wedding Date by Sue Spitulnik

On a hot summer day at Tessa’s parents when the combined family Thanksgiving was mentioned, Michael and Tessa gave each other a knowing look as if they were blushing but weren’t. Michael cleared his throat to garner attention. “Would there be any objections if we invited friends also and asked everyone to get dressed up?”
He got a lot of ‘what do you mean’ stares.
“Tessa and I were thinking the occasion would be ideal for our wedding.”
The answer came in a cacophony of positive sounds and exclamations. Satisfied, they left to recreate the scene at Michael’s parents.

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I Do by Annette Rochelle Aben

Weddings are generally fancy-dress occasions. Even the venues are decorated beautifully with that which symbolizes the excitement of the happy couple.
Her mother’s home was no exception as there were flowers in every room. From the massive spray of gladiolas on the piano to the dozens of carnations in the family room. So pretty!
The bride sat crossed-legged on the kitchen counter in jeans, a tee-shirt and bare feet. Caught up in the beauty around her, she bolted when the Minister inquired if she had a pretty dress to wear since the ceremony was to begin in five minutes.

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Wedding Trappings by Kerry E.B. Black

This wouldn’t be the wedding of her dreams. Finances had seen to that.

However, it wasn’t about the trappings, or so she kept telling herself.

She smoothed the front of the gown. It registered more as the ivory of aged teeth rather than the dazzling white of a Hollywood smile, but it was an antique. Something old. A relic from Gram’s wedding. She spritzed the high collar with perfume to overpower the lingering mustiness the cleaners couldn’t remove. No fairy-godmother’s transformation for her.

When she saw her groom’s appreciative smile, however, she knew. Their wedding wasn’t about the trappings.

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As”mo”mi Returns by Kavita Deo Miracle Moments

Asmi, a new mom, stood in front of the mirror and took a good look at herself. The pregnancy glow was replaced by stress of being a new mom. She sighed, “I need to look and feel like my old self”. She opened her wardrobe and then took out a kaftan. A glamorous yellow kaftan in chiffon with beautiful grey motifs printed on it. She put it on, wore her favourite bead necklace and dabbed make up . Then she sprayed her favourite Chanel perfume. She wore heels, took a selfie in mirror, posted on Instagram As”mo”mi returns.

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Warm Welcome by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Olivia was new to this climate, and new to the area. Naturally shy, she was unsure how to dress herself properly, so she’d gotten up the gumption to visit Lena’s Outdoor Outlet for help.

Lena was a peach, listened carefully, looked her over good, and smiled. This girl obviously needed a friend; Lena could use any and all sales. The sense of mutual balance pleased both.

At the Pumpkin Moon Fest, Olivia blushed and shivered, despite her layers. How could others be fine in thin flannel and cargos?

Lena waved her over and whispered, “Don’t worry. Just be comfortable!”

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Gifts from the Heart by Saifun Hassam

Down by the pines, the bird feeding station was busy with cardinals, bluejays, and sparrows. Straight after breakfast, Farah’s mom helped her to dress: boots, jacket.

Her birthday scarf embroidered with bluebirds.

The young artist’s drawing notebook was already filled with doodles of birds and flowers. Her imagination was fired up from Grandma’s surprise birthday gift: a CD all about drawing and painting birds and flowers.

Drawing a real cardinal was pretty tough. Suddenly from a nearby birch tree, a bird called out. Grandma was right. An entire world was out there waiting to be explored. Artist and explorer.

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Mother of Assumptions by Ruchira Khanna

We, individuals, love to dress up our minds with assumptions.

An assumption is a state of mind where an individual can draw a very colorful or an ugly picture.

Isn’t it amazing how an individual builds his castle over his assumption?

A classic example is how an individual presents himself, his dressing mannerisms, or his public behavior. They are all human-made assumptions.

This boils down to being aware of what we think, which eventually becomes our assumptions.

If the assumption is the mother of all disasters, bring in the father who has a clear vision and channel the thoughts.

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Lights, Camera Etc. by kathy70

Saturday night and the theater lobby lights sparkle on the sequins as we walk around. We are in our suburban neighborhood and no paparazzi are stalking us for photos. It is opening night. Who’s idea was it to make this a fancy dress event? It seems pretty silly all these years later. Yet, the photo of us from that evening is one of my most treasured items. Who would imagine that adults would play dress up for all the world to see on such a “normal” day. Imagine we really were that young and playful only three + decades ago.

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It’s a Compliment by Simon

Are you doing chores with an apron? Like a house wife? (Auntie chuckled)

I dote to Sprint like Dutee Chand

Fight like Greta Thunberg

Play like P.V.Sindhu

Fly like Gunjan Saxena

Ambulate like Anjali Lama

Drive like Veeralakshmi

Indite like Malini Agarwal

Do chores like my wife

Manage house like my Mom

Cook like my grandma

Doing anything like them is not a revilement, it’s a compliment.

You are withal a woman. Now tell me, are you complimenting me or vilifying me?

(Sa…Sa…SA..) Sam, I was complimenting you dear.

I deciphered it when you sa…sa…said… Auntie, Thank you (Attitude)

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He Wished He Had … by Reena Saxena

He saw a huge crowd carrying similar placards, snaking its way through streets.

Is that Emily? Yes, she is leading the procession. But why?

Later in the evening ….

“You don’t qualify to be called domestic help.”

“Really? Who has been managing the house for 10 months now?”

The sarcasm froze him.

“But why should you be leading the pack? You don’t work for others.”

“I want house help to come back. I wish you’d helped with the chores….”

He seriously wished he had. It would’ve saved him embarrassment.

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Doing Chores by Ann Edall-Robson

Calving, snowstorms,
temperature dropping,
water holes to keep open.
Sleigh horses harnessed,
hay stacked high
frozen skis crunch snow.
Mercury slithers, creeping
down, frosted breath,
feeding rituals double.
These months called winter
everything’s expected,
without warning too often.
The temptation to stay
by the wood fire, warm,
nothing but a fleeting dream.
​Every day a silent wish
tromps through the thoughts
yearning for winter to end.
A want for longer days
Chinook winds blow,
snowdrifts dissolve.
Spring and green grass
replaces manure laced mud
frozen days, gone.
To the ranchers feeding
cows and country
thank you for doing chores.

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Riding the Zipline Down Under by Norah Colvin

Many hid behind Norah’s fear of heights, speed and enclosed spaces. “I’ll do anything Norah does,” they’d boast, feigning bravery. D. said she’d ride the zipline from its start, high up in the US, all the way Down Under, if Norah did.
Dressed for warmth and to prevent chafing, they adjusted their harnesses. “You first,” said D., still not believing Norah would do it.
“Whee! I’m flying; flying without wings,” sang Norah, zooming across the landscape.
“I’m dying,” screamed D., squeezing her eyes shut.
“We’re here,” said Norah. “Welcome to Australia.”
“That was amazing,” said D. “I did it!”

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Double-hog Dare by D. Avery

“Kid? What’re ya doin’?”
“Dressin’ up.”
“I kin see thet. But fer what?”
“Fer Aussie.”
“Fer Aussie? Aussie favors the Michelin Man? An’ dang it, Kid, are those my pillows ya got duct-taped ta yersef?”
“Yers, mine, any I could git a hold of. Need paddin’.”
“Why’s thet Kid?”
“Wanna be prepared fer a crash landin’.”
“Crash landin’?! From what?”
“Zip-linin’.”
“But ya cain’t stand heights Kid.”
“But Aussie double-dog-dared me.”
“Hmmf.”
“Pal?”
“Yeh?”
“Take good care a Curly fer me.”
“Oh, Curly an’ me, we’re comin’ ta watch.”
“She might git scared.”
“Does, she’ll squeal like a Kid.”

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Dressed ta Swill by D. Avery

“Jeez. Kid, ya let thet critter snuggle in bed with ya, ya won’t git her ta stop.”
“So?”
“So? She already weighs two stone.”
“Stone? Yer a week late Pal.”
“It’s a unit a measure. Ya seen my flannel nightshirt?”
“Heehee. Curly, yer eyelashes tickle. Flutterin’ butterfly lashes.”
“Butterflies? Thet’s so last week.”
“Last week… ‘member visitin’ Ernie… then comin’ back an’ piggin’ out afore a long nap.”
“T’weren’t pretty. Hey! Thet pig’s wearin’ my nightshirt!”
“Ya soun’ angry, Pal. Is’t ‘cause Curly looks better in it then you do?”
“Give it!”
“Here ya go. Want some lipstick too?”

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Stilettos

Stilettos attract attention, no doubt. This week writers took to the heels (an occasional points) like balanced pros to deliver a variety of stories that sparkle like glitter.

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.

New Age by Rebecca Glaessner

Several eons passed since they last visited Earth, they discovered humans viewed other-world strangers warily now, without the awe of old.

Their job – gathering insights into human minds – meant molding their DNA to conform while on-planet. They looked human, though in this new age, reed undergarments, intricate piercings and feathered crowns weren’t widely desired.

Human views on appearances had changed.

The aliens adapted, yet one didn’t account for their stilettos’ height.

Travelling the city, the aliens-as-humans towered over passers-by, attracting attention.

Glorious feathered crowns were no longer worshiped, but height had them feeling once more like gods amongst men.

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Wing-Woman by Ritu Bhathal

“I have to wear those?”

Melissa nodded.

“No, really. Me? Wearing those death traps?”

Eliza gingerly picked up one of the sparkly high heeled stilettos and dangled it in front of her eyes. A pointed toe that was sure to pinch at her feet. And the heel. Dear God, the heel. Six inches of danger.

She cleared her throat. “Mel, do you want to walk into the club with style, or be shoved into Dan’s arms unceremoniously, as your hapless wing-woman ends up tripping, and taking you with her?”

“Well, at least he’ll notice me, that way,” Melissa smirked.

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First Dance by Marsha Ingrao

“West Coast Swing?” Roger asked, sweat popping from every pore.

“Learning.”

He glanced at her gold stilettos. “Brush your soles.”

“Why?”

Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”

He announced each step as they danced in their tight corner. “You’re doing well.” He spun her onto the main floor.

With each back step and pull on her arm, Tanni felt laughter bubbling inside. Her ankle turned. Roger never missed a step as he flung her off the floor around him. When she landed, glistening as brightly as her stilettos, she picked up the beat with a back step.

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Learning to Walk by Joanne Fisher

Briana selected the pair of red stilettos and began putting them on in store.

“Excuse me, um, miss, are you sure want to try those on?” the store assistant asked frowning at her.

“Yes I have to learn how to walk in heels at some point.” Briana replied.

She stood up and tried to take a step. She swayed, and eventually began to topple over, the store assistant managing to break her fall.

“Again, are you really sure you wouldn’t prefer some flats?”

“A girl’s gotta try.” Briana responded as she stood up again and took one more step.

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Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.

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Sizing Up by D. Avery

Poised proud on the dashboard, they shone through the windshield.

“Shouldn’t you return those shoes to whoever left them in your truck?” Liza was chastising but also hopeful to get the sparkly gold stilettos as a consolation prize. Tom’s dad, still oblivious, also chastised the young man.

“It’s a might unseemly, keeping trophies out in plain view like that.”

“Yessir,” and he gathered the stilettos in one hand, pulled his scruffy duffle bag from the front seat with the other. “But they’re no trophy. They’re mine.”

Tom studied his own dusty work boots, as if for the first time.

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A Mile in Her Shoes by D.L. Armistead

Mitch crammed his feet into the improbably spiky heels, six inches high with marabou pompoms, and hobbled to the starting line with all the other guys. His work buddies had laughed. But it was his idea to join and honor all the people, male and female and – what was that new word? Non-binary? – who had been subjects of sexualized violence. From the snide remarks at Susan’s office to the death of that poor kid Troy, beaten senseless for daring to say he was really a girl. Mitch’s sign read, “Good Man Crossing.” He picked it up and started walking.

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(64) Damned Family (Doe Eyed Maeve) by JulesPaiges

doe eyed, full
of innocence, grandiose plans to
save the world

Mae remembered when she had embraced the full character of herself as Maeve, as she read the text from the Faithful Stag, and reminisced about the first time they had met. It was at a New Year’s Party in Washington, DC. My, those were the days. Women wore sparkling stilettos to gain some height, along with gold or silver sequined cocktail dresses or dramatic gowns with slits up to their armpits.

Now Mae thought, if only she could ‘save’ those closest to her. Like her nephew Norman.

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The Writer Knows Her Limits by Anne Goodwin

“I can’t. Just like I can’t put a cigarette in someone’s hand.”

My muse rolls her eyes.

“It’s a step away from Chinese foot binding.”

“Doorstep or dance step? You don’t trip over those.”

“It’s a moral issue.”

“Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa? Nobody cares.”

“I care.”

“Some writer, only mentioning things you approve of!”

“Anyway, it’s impractical. She’s a murderer. She needs to run.”

“You nailed the weapon yet?”

“Nails can’t kill without a hammer. She won’t find either at a masked ball.”

“She could wear it.”

“The hammer?”

“The stiletto, idiot! On her feet.”

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Stilettos by Reena Saxena

Spending a fortune on a pair of high heels did not help much. The discomfort remained as with the lesser pairs, and I had it to pad it with cushions and toe covers, and practise walking on preciousness.

I did think renting would have been a better option. But what if Prince Charming came looking for me with one shoe? He would land on Rent-O-Mojo.

Little did I think a fall would take me to the police. Diamonds concealed in the shoe spilt out, and now I don’t know whether to call it a bane or boon.

🥕🥕🥕

Miranda by R. V. Mitchell

Miranda’s profile on the escort site was constructed in every detail to get the attention of Big Hank McCloud the head of the local syndicate. Weeks of research, and a knowledge of his “tastes” assured that the call would come.

Miranda arrived at the hotel attired in a revealing black dress and some stilettos that were to die for. When she was frisked by the bodyguard, she let out a little moan just to play up the persona.

Once alone in the room with the boss, the assassin struck. Did I mention that the stilettos were to die for?

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No Shoes by Kate Spencer

“So what’ya gonna give me for them?” Marco asked, leaning into the counter.

George knew better than to ask Marco how he got a hold of the goods he brought into the pawnshop. 

“These are shoes. You know we don’t take shoes,” George said.

“They’re red stilettos George. You gotta lady don’t you? Imagine her wearing them Christmas morning.”

George examined the long dagger-like heels one more time. His fiery Roxy sure would be sexy in them.  But those heels. They can kill.

Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.  

“Like I said, we don’t take shoes.” 

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A Matter of Self Defence or, Miss Fluart’s ‘Admirer’ by Gordon Le Pard

“So Miss, do you know who I am?”

Miss Fluart looked down at his twisted fingers.

“I think you are the man who liked assaulting women.”

“Harmless, until you took a hand. Now for some fun. No one will hear you scream.”

She looked round the empty Park, stepped back and took a grip on her parasol. He laughed and moved closer to her.

There was a click as she twisted the handle, and withdrew a twelve-inch blade.

He looked into her unblinking eyes, as she held the stiletto to his throat.

“Will anybody hear you scream?” She replied.

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Turning the Tables by Saifun Hassam

Alice clambered down the rabbit hole. Her teenage sister’s stilettos swung from her sash around her waist. She’d worn those stilettos surreptitiously when sis was away at her job.

Alice stood eight inches taller in the stilettos. None of that awful “drink me” or “eat me” stuff.

The Red Queen coveted those shoes as soon as she saw Alice.

“Give me those shoes! Or off with your head!”

“Give me your crown!” Alice posed, tall, one leg forward, hand on her waist.

The Red Queen glared. She spat: “Here!”

Queen Alice smirked. Stilettos and crown. “Off with her head!”

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Don’t Call Me Buffy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Shit!” Her ankle wobbled as she made her way across Old Towne Cobblestone Bridge. The rain had been brief, but drenching. Temperatures were dropping precipitously.

She’d made sure he was following.

Her stilettos clicked, thin against the moonless night. She crossed to rough pavement, surer in her steps as she led him into the graveyard, to the family crypt. She felt, rather than heard his respirations quicken.

She turned, mouth red and ready, as he caught up to her on the steps. He bent to her, his mouth cold.

Stiletto in hand, she plunged it deep into his heart.

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In the Still of the Et Toe by Bill Engleson

A contortionist of some renown,
he dreamt of times departed.
The twists, the turns, the ups and downs,
His life, how it was charted.

He‘d not fully stayed the course,
his mind and body wandered.
Pleasure’d been his driving force:
his other duties squandered.

Late in life, an epiphany,
a desire to mend his ways,
and so, he travelled to Sicily
to pass his remaining days.

Then one dark Italian night,
in a mutilating blow,
he swung a blade with guillotine might
and severed every toe…

But one, and with much practiced torsion,
he chewed off the remaining portion.

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Red-headed Jenny by kathy70

Jenny was tall for a woman, 5’6″, when we were friends she was always the tallest one around yet she loved the highest stilettos she could find. Days she worked as a clerk in a small shop and she danced her nights away at a club with live music.

How did she manage to head this billion dollar company. From the time she was 15, shortly after her mother died, she had one kind of business or another. Each business taught her some valuable lessons and one was to appear to be head and shoulders above everyone. Shoes gave her strength.

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Winter Sun by Ian McNaughton

A child was kicking the back of my seat.
His mother loudly whispered for him to stop.
The plane was filling with winter sun-seekers.
A large woman got on carrying two screaming babies
My heart popped up into my mouth to have a look.
I whiplashed my head around. No empty seats
Squeezing in beside me, she smiled. I smiled back; I was dying inside.
After we took off, she asked me what time we would arrive in Minnesota. I laughed and told her It’s a flight to Orlando.
She showed me her ticket.
I kicked and screamed.

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Snake Killers by Ann Edall-Robson

Sitting on the bed, she watched the four-year-old tapping the heel of the stiletto on the palm of his hand. Did the upturn of his lips mean happy or sadistic? Tap. Tap. His piercing eyes bore into her groggy mind. Why had she agreed to go to the party wearing those shoes?

“You know what these are good for?”

“Not dancing,” she muttered.

Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.

“Killing snakes!” He giggled.

She laughed as she slid her foot into her favourite heels.

This morning her feet thanked her for bringing her cowboy boots.

🥕🥕🥕

Faded Steps by AJ Prince

In the far back of the closet shelf, I pulled out that faded shoe box. Lifting one heel out, it felt heavy in my hand. The shininess long faded into a dull black as the years passed. A few stitching’s had come undone, but the leather was still buttery soft. I slipped the other out of the box and held them side by side, inhaling deeply as if to remember the clicking sounds of my steps. I removed my fuzzy slippers and squealed as my toes slid into those old stilettos, as if I had never taken them off.

🥕🥕🥕

Cupid by Gloria McBreen

My sister Ann insisted a night out would stop me lamenting over my recent break-up with my boyfriend Joe.

‘Wear your red suede stilettos.’
‘Are they not a bit fancy?’
‘Not for where we’re going,’ she smiled.

I followed Ann to our table in the restaurant—that was already occupied by someone else.

‘What are you doing here?’ I blurted.
‘Meeting my sister,’ he replied.
‘Eh…no you’re not,’ said Ann.
She scarpered. I sat opposite him.
‘You’re wearing my favourite shirt.’
‘And you’re wearing those shoes.’
He grinned and I blushed.
‘I’m sorry Joe.’
‘So am I.’

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Anita Dawes

The office Christmas party
Something I didn’t look forward to
Mark would be there
In dreams, he does not see the scar on my cheek
Walking home,
a beautiful pair of stilettos caught my eye
I bought them, hoping he would
see only the sparkles on my feet
At school I could never hide
from the harsh words of others
These days I can wear my hair long,
it helps, like closing a curtain
I walked around the house
wearing these shoes
Feeling like a fairy princess
the office party would be fine
Because in dreams he loves me…

🥕🥕🥕

The Young Cook by Ruchira Khanna

“Daddy, your lunch is ready,” ten-year-old Mel shouted from the kitchen while trying to balance herself and the plate in her hand.

Dad was quick to rush into the kitchen, “Impressive, Mel.” he said with arched eyebrows as he was quick to get the plate from her hands and then help her stay still.

“Yummy! PB&J Sandwich, my favorite!”

“I can understand the apron, but what’s up with the stilettos, doll?”

“Mom used to wear her heels everywhere. I’m just trying to mimic her, so we don’t feel her absence,” she said while trying to wear a brave smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Mom’s Shoes by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Lizzie, are you ready for school? You better not be in my closet again, young lady. Besides, the bulb burned out, you can’t see anything.”

The eleven-year-old sighed. How did her mother always know what she was up to? All she wanted was to borrow her mom’s shoes to match her dress for picture day.

Lizzie stumbled in the darkness and stuffed the shoes in her book bag.

“See you tonight, Mom.”

At school, all eyes were on Lizzie wearing her mom’s black stilettos as she wobbled across the floor to take her place for the sixth-grade class picture.

🥕🥕🥕

The Princess Wore Stilettos by Norah Colvin

The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.

“Do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No!”

“Now!”

“Not now!”

Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”

They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.

As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.

When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by FloridaBorne

“Mrs. Jones, you’ve worn stilettos for… 56 years?” Dr. Harris asked the 59 year old woman.

“Yes.”

“You report pain in your knees and hip. The amount of force the front of your foot has endured over the years created metatarsal problems and made your bunions worse. Abnormal growth of nerve tissues in the toes, shortened calf muscles…”

“I can’t lower my heel to the ground, or walk in normal shoes” she said.

“I can help you, if you’ll agree to follow our physical therapist’s guidance for a year.”

Tears falling, Mrs. Jones replied, “I don’t have a choice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Military Pranksters by Sue Spitulnik

Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”

“And?”

“Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”

“Why?”

“The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”

“Why?”

“It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”

Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s Christmas Present by D. Avery

“Yer up late Kid.”

“Writin’.”

“A flash ‘bout stilettos?”

“Hmmph. How kin ya write ‘bout somethin’ ya cain’t walk in? I’m writin’ a letter. Ta Santy Claus.”

“Ya know he ain’t fer real.”

“Course.”

“Then why?”

“Miss him.”

“How kin ya miss Santy if ya know he ain’t real?”

“Reckon I miss believin, an’ all the other things I use ta know. Miss when Christmas weren’t so much ‘bout missin’ folks an’ what’s past an’ fears fer what’s future.”

“So what’re ya askin’ fer?”

“Nothin’ Pal! Jist listin’ ever’thin’ an’ ever’body I’m grateful fer. Right now.”

“Write on Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Party Like It’s Only 99 by D. Avery

“Kid! Thought you said thet piglet was potty trained.”

“She is. She’s right here with me Pal.”

“Then what’s thet smell?”

“’Elloooo!”

“LeGume.”

“Oui, it ees me.”

“Thet’s right, fergot yer bunkin’ with us. Seems someone cain’t keep all her stories straight.”

“Hey, Pepe! Look’t you. What’s all this! Bells? Bows?”

“Oui, Keed, an’ geefts for you and Pal and thees leetle evergreen tree. Eets got roots, we can plant it later.”

“Shut the front door! Why it’s Tip and Top Lemmon.”

“Dey want to perform for us.”

“The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”

“No. Dey weel prance! In stilettos!”

🥕🥕🥕

December 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

As much as I love the landscape and people of the American West, I’m content with my decision to leave the cradle of my family for seven generations. They came from the Pyrenees, Azores, Brazil, Denmark, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Most came directly to California and the rest from North Carolina. A few yet reside in Colorado and eastern Washington. Still, California and Nevada hold my family’s experience of America.

And then I met a veteran from Nevada and lived in almost every western state, thereafter. Sometimes I think it’s odd that we ended up in the Upper Midwest, of all places. But after struggling with the economic hardships of the rural west, we educated up and headed out. My husband grew up milking jerseys, and I worked ranches and logging camps.

Our grown children hardly know the difference between a heifer and a gelding. None of them ride horses. Yet, they matured among diversity, spent teen years swing dancing, going out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and prancing at the Gay 90s. Some of the stories, like a mishap with a bubble machine at a drag show, I’m only now learning. They’ve supported transgender friends through transformations, traveled to other countries where they had to learn the language and customs, and embrace a changing world with mindfulness.

I miss my kids. It’s a parent-thing. Maybe, it’s simply human nature to be nostalgic for what we create and give back to the world, not ours to keep. Every Message from Svalbard, phone call from Wisconsin, or text from nine miles up the Keweenaw, and I light up like Venus on a cloudless night. Every tear, worry, and pain, I feel. Any close relationship can relate. I’ve felt this close to a horse, and I know people who feel this close to their faith. We feel what we feel, and sometimes, deeply.

This time of year tends to expose tender nerves, whether emotions, unresolved situations, or memories. The veil between the past and present and future thins, and we expect to wake up like Scrooge to frosty ghosts and rattling chains. Sometimes we sit down at the kitchen table and wonder why we are here. We feel losses keenest when it seems like everyone else has what we do not. It’s an illusion, not true. We all suffer losses. Some deal with it differently.

No wonder bells, bows, gifts, and trees delight us. We want the lights, the sweets, the full celebration. Anything and everything to chase away the chill and dark thought. We make merry to make it through.

A good friend texted me tonight saying, “There’s so much pain at the hem of the world. So much.” She should know; she’s our region’s grief counselor who sits at that hem. She’s the person who witnesses the loss others feel despite her father having terminal cancer and her 22-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive lymphoma. She left her daughter’s side to attend the grief group she leads.

I have another friend, who is my personal witness. She gets me even when I’m not sure I understand myself. She lets me be silly and serious in varying degrees. She sits at my six (military-speak for “got your back”). We should all be so blessed to have such friends and to be one in return. Sometimes, I think she sits at my six, so I can sit at my grieving friend’s six, so she can sit at her group’s hem so the world can watch out for one another.

But I also understand that some feel no one in the world is watching their back. Isolation is deadly. I mean the mental kind where we don’t feel connected. Drop extended COVID protocols, disagreements, and polarizing politics into the world, and physical isolation turns mental. Bitterness is the inability to remember love. Love begins within. Take care to guard your hearts.

Be merry. Be bright. Someone needs you. Maybe you need you. Maybe your neighbor needs a light in your window to connect. Maybe a friend needs a goofy text. Maybe you need to forgive someone — not for their sake, but for your peace.

Write. Seriously, write. Scream into the page. Wet the ink with tears. Write a love story, a horror story. Play with words and remember what it was like to play as a child. Let that child breathe. Write like grammarians aren’t watching. Write nonsense. Write a manifesto for your creativity. Write an artist’s statement. Write a poem that doesn’t rhyme. Write a syllabic dialog. Talk to yourself. Talk to someone you miss. Talk to God, the Goddess, the Divine. Write the unexpected. Write what is typical of you.

Your authentic voice is needed; wanted; deserves breath. Tell stories. Any story. Your story.

You all gather here, weekly, intermittently, bashfully, or boldly stating opinions. What a grand space you make this! What a community! I know we can’t all possibly agree and yet for nearly six years, we’ve focused on how creativity flourishes among differences. You’ve forgiven me for rants when my injustice quota fills up and pours out onto the post. You’ve looked the other way, or rolled your eyes, when someone else writes — literally — the opposite perspective from yours. I feel like this literary anthropologist every week, weaving stories that are not alike.

We are not alike. And yet we are all so very human. So up and down. So vulnerable. So resilient. Contradictions and contrast, trying to connect.

Regardless of where you are from or where you are at, I’m happy you are here.

My daughter assured me that this video will bring a smile to any Grinch. She is a dancer and her troupe is delighting in this Christmas number, texting each other 🔔🎀🎁🎄. They are choreographing their own version on Zoom. I admire that the dancers with Todrick pull it off in stilettos, thus the prompt this week. I hope “Bells, Bows, Gifts, and Trees” brightens your day!

December 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 22, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.

🥕🥕🥕

I Never Dreamed

Hearts and minds hold dreams, and yet life can deliver the unexpected. Sometimes, what unfolds, we never dreamed. Writers imagined those possibilities as they wrote this week from differing viewpoints.

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.

An Artist’s Dream by Saifun Hassam

Jamila lost her right hand when she was 5. She learned to use her left hand. Her sketches and watercolors showed incredible talent and imagination. She loved to draw starscapes and unknown planets in faraway galaxies.

She never dreamed the prosthetics of science fiction would one day be a reality for her. She never knew of the extensive prosthetics research until Hussein returned from the Iraqi war. His left leg was an experimental prosthetic from Altamont VA hospital.

She volunteered for an experimental wrist. She never imagined her extraordinary cyborg art would blossom into science fiction and anime stories.

🥕🥕🥕

Final Score by Hugh W. Roberts

Living his life in the closet, Alan never wanted his father finding out he was gay.

He loathed going to watch football every Saturday afternoon with his father. But he never showed how disappointed he was with the season ticket his father gifted him every Christmas.

But on the Saturday after his father’s death, Alan carried on with the tradition.

“Hello. I’m Tim,” came a voice from behind. “Where’s your father today?”

Alan never dreamt that a season ticket would be the key to meeting the love of his life and no longer living his life as a lie.

🥕🥕🥕

Some Dreams Fulfilled by Sue Spitulnik

Becca, Michael’s sister, knocked and let herself in. She saw him sitting on the floor by Emma’s toys but there was no baby and his wheelchair wasn’t in sight. “I have baptism pictures.”

“Thankfully it’s you!”

“Why, have you been monkey scooting around the house again?”

“Yeah, it makes Emma laugh. Whoever dreamed my long arms would be used for such a thing. “

“Maybe the same dreamer that pictured you holding a grandchild in Tessa’s family pictures. Can you believe her ex didn’t show up?”

His eyes twinkled. “Two out of three parts of that dream ain’t bad.”

🥕🥕🥕

Her Place by Joanne Fisher

Gina unlocked the door and walked in to her place. After a lifetime of renting, she never believed she would finally have her own house. Already her furniture was here, along with all her other belongings lying in boxes everywhere.

No longer would she have to worry about landlord’s demands, or being suddenly evicted for accidentally missing rent or some other reason. This was her house. She looked out the window and saw the garden and imagined herself pottering away in it to her heart’s content. She deeply breathed in the air of her home. This would be awesome.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ancestors by Bill Engleson

There he would stand on the bridge of time,
peering over the railing into the vast…
into the vast canyon of dreams,
and catch a glimpse of ancestors,
still nameless, lost in the vacuum of memory,
of so many passing’s, stories left in the grave,
the movements of people, migrations,
both big and small, the shifting of lives,
the young, the old, new loves, sweet, sour,
journeys by endless sea, across dark landscapes,
images of all who had ventured forth,
there on the bridge of time, he would stand
in abject awe peering over the railing into the vast…

🥕🥕🥕

My Riches by Gloria McBreen

I have wished upon the great big stars
Many times if truth be told
I only wished for simple things
Not riches and treasures
Not diamonds or gold

The stars they’ve been kind
My life has been fulfilling
My wishes all granted
My dreams I’ve been living

My kids they are my riches
My husband he is my gold
My friends they are my diamonds
My treasures each day they unfold

When my days aren’t going so well
And my smiles are very few
I thank the stars that fill the sky
And feel grateful my dreams came true

🥕🥕🥕

Atheist by Simon

Can we go to church?

I don’t believe in God

Show me your face? Is this real?

I never dreamt that I would say something like this, until I questioned the existence of everything.

Don’t mess with God. You’ll be punished

O.K, answer this question, who created God?

Nobody created.

Wrong answer, WE created god.

Are you drunk?

No I’m not, but You all are drunk, drunk gallons of lies created by yourself.

God will never forgive your sins.

(Laughing), thanks, God don’t have to.

What’s wrong with you?

I talk reality, I wish you think what I think.

🥕🥕🥕

The Victor by R. V. Mitchell

Donny had never really taken life to seriously. He had been the class clown in high school and coasted through college with an art degree which he admitted was based on work that was derivative at best, or just throwing colour randomly on canvas. He got himself a job at a gallery by connections with a girl he had dated in college and lost it about as fast as he lost her. So how could he now be standing in front of a cheering crowd as their mayor? He had only registered as a candidate as a drunken dare.

🥕🥕🥕

Old by kathy70

It’s tough to be invisible, some days I wonder do I really exist. Was I 55 or 65 when it happened, is it only with young people or have I achieved an unknown life goal. Next year I’ll be 75 and things will reverse, maybe. This is not a goal I dreamed of as a child or adult but I worked for it. I still have goals and dreams and learn and teach new things. Will the end be Covid or Cancer or Crazy. Never forget old people can dream, hope, create and accomplish the presidency even. It’s time to go home?

🥕🥕🥕

Brain Fog by Reena Saxena

They found me in a village 14 kms away from the hospital.

My covid-affected legs are not strong enough to walk the distance. I don’t know how I reached there.

A white rabbit which kept jumping in and out in an unusual manner attracted the attention of the search team. What if the rabbit had not been so sympathetic? Nights out are chilling for a 80 year old like me.

A brain fog for sure, but how did I summon the strength to walk the distance, I’ve never walked in my senses.

It is something nobody had imagined.

🥕🥕🥕

Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe by Kate Spencer

“Time 10:52pm.” Abby flipped the switch, turning off the continuous beep from the patient monitoring system.

“When will this end?” mumbled the nurse pulling up the sheet.

“Not today.”

Wearily Abby turned to check on her next Covid patient, longing for the days when she’d be treating simple cases like broken bones again. She was jotting down instructions for yet another patient when her pager buzzed. It was Emergency.

Now what, she wondered, rushing to triage.

There was her irate son, sitting in a wheelchair, yelling at the orderly. He wanted to see his mom. He’d broken his leg.

🥕🥕🥕

Dreams Fulfilled by Norah Colvin

She dreamed she could control the weather, but never believed she could.

Until she did.

She wished it would rain.

‘It always rains in spring,’ they scoffed.

‘From a blue sky?’

‘Sometimes,’ they said.

She wished the rain would stop.

‘Showers never last long,’ they said.

‘I love rain,’ another said.

‘Can you make it rain forever?’

She wished.

Rain fell, first gently, then in torrents.

It rained for months, overfilling rivers and washing villages away.

They begged her to make it stop.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I must have dreamed three wishes. I never dreamed this would happen.’

🥕🥕🥕

Welcome to the North Pole by Donna Matthews

“I’m so nervous!” Ella exclaimed, pacing outside the little round building on the corner of North and Pole.

“Relax,” Easton, her husband, soothed. “You’ve got this!”

Suddenly, the heavy wood doors creaked open, and Ella heard her name called. Here we go, she thought.

Sitting in front of the diminutive manager, the questions began…

“What experience do you have with polar bears?”

“I once taught a six-week dance class!”

“Elves?” she asked.

“None so far, but I’m excited to learn!”

“You love Christmas?”

“Very much!”

Jumping up, he yelled, “You’re hired!”

“What? Really?”

🥕🥕🥕

Never Dreamed by FloridaBorne

“This planet sucks,” I told the 4-eyed being who’d rescued me 10 years before.

Being in love with a creature that bites off the end of its tail, swallows it (eggs and all) and becomes food for its own young can be challenging.

“You’re a fine pet,” It replied.

Yes. It reads minds. When its snake-like body wraps around me, I feel so much love.

“Why am I on Earth…again?”

“Him.”

“I’m happy with you.”

My mind smiled with its joy. It gathered sperm from the “him,” so that when its children were born they would have pets, too.

🥕🥕🥕

A Writer Never Dreamed by Duane Herrmann

Repeatedly the young, hopeful writer had applied for a writing fellowship. This year the call for submissions was not made. He was busy building the house his family was living in, room by room, and couldn’t devote much time to wondering. One morning he was upstairs in the master bedroom working while admiring the wheatfield outside. Wind made waves rustling softly in the sea of green.

The phone rang.

“Your submission last year was so good, we decided to give you the award this year.”

Stunned, the young man collapsed on the bed.

“Duane? Duane? Are you still there?”

🥕🥕🥕

(56) Damned Family (Norman: Dream, Dream, Dream…) by JulesPaige

Norman had never dreamed that he would fall in love. He was introduced to her by a contact that perhaps had perhaps conflicting motives. One was to get Norman a normal life or was it to get another ‘agent’ in the ‘network’? And then Ned had convinced Norman to let her go…

Now Norman could only dream that Jesse actually had his journal and could somehow find her way to him. This morning he’d found out that Jesse had left the protection detail in the dust. No one knew where she was. He hoped she was dreaming about him.

🥕🥕🥕

She Never Dreamed by Hanna Steng

He was it.

Ever since she was a little girl, she’d heard it proclaimed from every podium she’d ever been around: “this is what to look for in a man, and here’s the list of things to avoid”. Every pharaphrase eventually came to the same conclusion- “make sure he’s God-fearin’, and if he isn’t, stay as far away as you can”.

She’d been so sure she knew what she wanted, she could have never dreamed that just a smile from this scuffed up, kind- eyed, “worldly” man would have her questioning everything and leave her with only one answer- he was it.

🥕🥕🥕

I Never Dreamed by Pete Fanning

The dogs are tangled and frisky in the chill of the evening. I’m focused on work, bills, Covid-19, when I stop in the road.

My Christmas lights glow warmly on the house. Framed in the window, my wife holds our baby girl. My son is upside down on the couch, kicking his feet in the air, no doubt firing off questions. A well of curiosity that never runs dry.

The span of the window holds my good fortune. A life I never dreamed would happen. With a smile I walk in the house.

And then the baby starts crying.

🥕🥕🥕

The Art of Cooking by Ruchira Khanna

“Yummy! did you cook this?” inquired my teen as he licked the last crumbs off his plate.

“Obviously! In this shutdown, I’ve been cooking every day.” I said in an exasperated tone, which was easily caught upon.

“Chill, Mom. I was complimenting your cooking.”

That praise made me quickly come and hug him since getting appreciated for my cooking was the last thing I had ever dreamed would happen.

I had become better at planning my meals with limited ingredients, but to make a delicious one was like a cherry on the cake.

I guess: Practice makes one perfect.

🥕🥕🥕

Harold’s Dream by Doug Jacquier

Harold never dreamed he would one day build his own classic science fiction saucer, containing everything he needed. Kitchen, sitting room with a panoramic view through reinforced glass, bedroom with a skylight to the stars, composting toilet. (Although he did have to settle for sponge baths because of the weight of water.) Powered by an anti-gravity perpetual motion generator of his own invention and steered by a GPS-guided rudder, Harold could travel the world, and did, chuckling at the UFO sightings reported on the interweb. It’s just as well Harold didn’t actually dream of this because it never happened.

🥕🥕🥕

At Heaven’s Gate by Colleen Chesebro

December 14th began like any other Monday. However, in the early hours before dawn, he watched the green flashes of Geminids meteors whiz by in the early dawn sky.

A few hours later, he watched the blackness creep across the land as a total eclipse of the sun descended, leaving South America under a cloak of darkness.

Surely these auspicious astronomical events foreshadowed a significant event.

The angel named Beau glanced out over the cosmos. He smiled. A total eclipse of the Sun had officially confirmed Joe Biden as the President of the United States—a dream come true.

🥕🥕🥕

What if I Had Only Dreamt? by Miss Judy

I never dreamt of seeking fame or fortune. I never dreamt of my success or failure. When two roads diverged, then, and only then, did I decide which path to follow. I look back sometimes and wonder, “what if I had chosen the other?”

The road has been rocky and steep at times, but I am happy and thankful for what I have become, the people I have met and for family. There will be more paths to choose and bridges to cross in this life. And, as I look back, I wonder, “What if I had only dreamt?”

🥕🥕🥕

Twins Reunited by Anne Goodwin

As kids they shared a bedroom, a secret language, clothes. Finished each other’s sentences; dressed dolls and made daisy chains; raced cars and fought with sticks. The elder by forty minutes, Faith didn’t mind ensuring Ryan adhered to playground etiquette, doing their homework, answering questions from grown-ups.

She never dreamt he’d wander where she couldn’t follow, where no-one sane would go. She never dreamt he’d shrug off her protection, make his own mistakes. Never dreamt he’d turn up to mock her mortgage, her daughter’s music lessons, her middle-class friends. Spoil her soirée. Make her wish he’d leave for good.

🥕🥕🥕

Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills

Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.

🥕🥕🥕

The Banshee of Ruby Valley by Charli Mills

The banshee rode a ghost-horse named Pogonip. Her steed snorted a chilling frost that withered primrose blossoms and diminished frail spring calves. She bedeviled the broad basin between the Ruby Mountains and the Smokeys, preying on the people who built ranches and tended cattle among sagebrush and trickling waterways of the Nevada desert. The banshee and Pogonip extinguished the young rancher’s bride, delighting in how he halted construction of his house, never lifting his brown eyes from sorrow. The cold-hearted banshee never dreamed that harassing the flighty gelding the new teacher rode would renew joy in the haunted valley.

🥕🥕🥕

Not So Prodigal Kid by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, how’ya doin’?”

“Livin’ the dream Kid.”

“Yep. Never dreamed I’d git dreamed up ta live out my days as a ranch hand.”

“Whoa. Kid, ain’tcha never movin’ on?”

“Where would I go? Sure this is a virtual ranch, but we got it real good here.”

“Dang. Never dreamed I might be ferever stuck with a greenhorn. Kid, shouldn’t ya follow yer own dreams, seek fame an’ fortune an’ sech?”

“This here’s fiction, Pal, but that there’s illusion. Done made my way ta where I am. Here I be.”

“Be-lieve yer livin’ yer dream Kid.” “Write on, Pal.”

🥕🐶🥕

Pawsitively by D. Avery

“I’m purty excited Pal. Never dreamed Shorty’d git us a puppy.”

“Shorty ain’t gittin’ us a puppy.” “But… I thought…”

“Get real, Kid. Thet’s Charli Mills is gittin’ a puppy.”

“Well cain’t we git a puppy too? A ranch needs a good dog.”

“Now yer an expert on what a ranch needs?”

“Well…” “Did a ranch need elefints?”

“Was jist an idea, Pal.”

“Does a ranch really need goats? Where are them goats now? You couldn’t even keep a cat unner yer hat, Kid.”

“We’re gittin’ a puppy, Pal.”

“Ain’t neither.”

“We are, ‘cause I never dreamed we wouldn’t.”

🥕🐶🥕

Doggone (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, where’n heck ya been?”

“Saw a advertisement fer young dogs, fer sale at the Slim Chance Ranch. Slim seemed real tickled, me wantin’ a dog. Hopin’ you’ll be happy fer me too Pal.”

“Hmmf. Uh, Kid yer pup’s got kinda a flattened face.”

“It’s its breedin’, Pal. This here’s a puglet.”

“Uh-huh. Kid yer puglet ain’t got much fur. It’s kinda pink.”

“She ain’t fully growed. Like baby rabbits or mice.”

“Uh-huh. Kid, why’s yer puppy wearin’ booties?”

“Slim did that ta pertect her paws, said they ain’t fully developed yet. Never dreamed I’d have my own puppy!”

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Doggone (Part II) by D. Avery

“Kid, it behooves me ta tell ya somethin’ ‘bout yer puppy.”

“What kin ya say ‘cept how dang cute she is? Look’t her waggin’ her tail. Might call her Curly. What d’ya think a that?”

“Oh, it’s a fine name fer yer puglet, Kid, but—”

“Look’t how she likes ta be scratched behind her ears.”

“’Bout them ears, Kid…”

“Hey, it’s Shorty.”

“Hey Kid, hey Pal. Oh, Kid! Yer gonna raise yer own? Musta gone down ta Slim’s.”

“Yep, got a puglet of my own. Gonna train it ta hunt.”

“Really? Never dreamed there’s truffles on the Ranch.”

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Doggone (Part III) by D. Avery

“Truffles?”

“Truffle huntin’ might work out, Kid, but I figgered you’d be raisin’ this piglet up fer bacon. Not surprised ya went ta Slim’s when he advertised young hogs fer sale.”

“Hogs?”

“I’m more of a hoss person, but I’d say ya got yerself a real fine piglet, Kid.”

“Piglet?”

“Jist keep her outta the carrot patch. I ain’t fergittin’ yer trouble with goats, Kid, but reckon we kin accommodate yer bacon project.”

“Bacon?”

“Takes a lot Kid, ta raise yer own, ta look yer food in the eye.” “

Never dreamt I’d give up bacon. Come Curly. Good girl.”

🥕🐷🥕

December 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

Somewhere in Nevada between an active gold mine and a desert reservoir the size of a pond where wild horses drink sits a dilapidated ranch house. The summer sun mummifies the boards and magpies nest in the rafters. From a distance, the brown boards blend into the tawny landscape like camouflage. In 2010, my dad drove me in his old Willy’s Jeep to this site. He stopped and said, “This was someone’s dream.”

It wasn’t the first time I heard him utter that phrase. He logged in in the back-country where prospectors and pioneers searched for promises of a better life. They all carried apple seed. At the Nevada ranch house, the husks of mountain cabins, and countless remnants of cellars apple trees grow wild. The ones who planted have disappeared, leaving spring blossoms and fall fruit to bear witness.

I’ve always been curious about these dreamers. I think about my dad’s regard for their lost dreams, or the stories I heard as a child from the old-timers. I think about the evidence of people who lived and dream long before the homesteaders came.

Yet, history doesn’t record the trickery that led people west to attempt to make a dream work. It benefited the government and then the railroads and then the company mines to lure people west to settle or work. Ads circulated in city and rural papers back east and overseas, attracting immigrants with promises of land and livelihood. Railroad companies often provided land, jobs, and one-way tickets.

My favorite buckaroo sings the story in the first-person point of view account that blows a hard wind into the listener’s soul. I shiver when I hear the refrain, “I never knew, I never dreamed.” Dave Stamey sings Montana Homestead 1915.

Ten years earlier, the railroad brought Italians to Elmira Idaho where I lived for four years next to the schoolhouse built in 1910. It was the dream of those immigrants to educate their children. It is the setting of my novel in progress. Whatever the Italians dreamed, they abandoned in Elmira and moved on after the railroad ended their work. My character Ramona Gordon is the descendant of one of these immigrant families.

The house my dad showed me in Nevada is one I gave to Danni as a ranch where her father worked. I picture Danni riding out along the small creek lined with cottonwoods, of her dad showing her the Paiute sheep camp that had existed for centuries before the Bureau of Land Management moved them out in the 1950s. Danni’s dad and my dad witnessed the loss of such dreams as boys who grew up in the hard migrant work-life of buckaroo ranches.

Despite this melancholy, I still believe in dreams. I know that my own have fed rivers of hope and resiliency. If you know me, you are not going to be surprised that I get excited this time of year to renew my dreams in a visioning activity. Not to be confused with resolutions, vision planting guides those apple seeds to fruition. It take dreams and puts them into action.

One of my dreams has been to teach creative writing. While working on my MFA, I’ve simultaneously worked on earning a master’s level certification to teach creative writing online. And thanks to COVID-19 and my online courses, I’ve learned new tools and techniques to bring in-person workshops to the virtual world. I have a break between Christmas and New Year, thus I decided to bring one of my favorite courses online — Writers Vision Planting. It’s one of the four parts of To Cultivate a Book series that has been COVID-disrupted.

If you have a dream, consider signing up either live or for the digital download. It will be a fun and creative way to plan your 2021 year as a writer.

But for our prompt, we are going to go back to what it’s like to experience something we didn’t dream. I never dreamed that a year after my last GSP died, I’d be chasing a puppy. I never dreamed that a pandemic would keep my daughter in the arctic so long. I never dreamed I’d own such a beautiful old home with a hand-carved staircase. I never dreamed that I’d get to live on a peninsula in Lake Superior. I never dreamed the northern lights would be so breathtaking (and evidently fertile, so be careful). I never dreamed I’d be 54 and expecting…a puppy, people, a puppy!

December 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something a character never dreamed would happen. The situation can be fortuitous, funny, or disappointing. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 15, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills

Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.

🥕🥕🥕

Family Traditions

December brings various holidays and family traditions. If ever there was a year to yearn for nostalgia or break away, 2020 would be it.

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.

From Biriyani to Paella by Saifun Hassam

Twins Nadia and Nilufar were toddlers when their parents emigrated in the 1980s from Kenya to the US, first to Pennsylvania and eventually to California. They were Muslims, their ethnic background Indian, with family roots in India.

Family tradition called for the sumptuous rice dish of biriyani and samosa pastries to celebrate everything from birthdays to Eid. As teenagers, Nadia and Nilufar included hamburgers, tacos, and ice cream sundaes.

Now they had families of their own. Nadia’s husband Juan introduced them to delectable seafood paella. Family members came from Canada to celebrate: Nadia and Nilufar’s restaurant: “Adventures in Food.”

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Family Tradition by Kerry E.B. Black

Bob reached deep through the prickly branches to hang the shaped green glass ornament near the fragrant trunk of the pine tree propped in his living room. “Gotta make ‘em look for it, y’know.”

Pam smiled, charmed by the hospitality her new beau and his family had extended. Holidays could be lonely for a recently divorced ex-pat. “So, whoever finds the pickle first on Christmas morning wins an extra present?”

“Yep.” Bob tilted his head to test the ornament’s placement. “Dylan usually gets it. Like she has an affinity.”

“Maybe it’s because her nickname’s ‘Dill Pickles.’”

He chuckled. “Maybe.”

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Christmas Conga Line by Donna Matthews

T’was the night before Christmas when all through my house, the kids are scattered, quiet as a mouse. Into that room and the next, their faces glued to phone screens…even my spouse. Not one cared about St. Nick.

That is until the ancient record player comes alive and starts blaring, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and I begin to dance! Bouncing from one room to the next, grabbing hands and hips, forming a conga line throughout the house. As the song winds down, we sigh and laugh, and before they scatter again, I declare, “Now, a hot chocolate before bed!”

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Family Traditions by Eliza Mimski

I come from a wacky family. Every Christmas the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings are assigned a name to buy a silly present for. From near and far, we come together for a Christmas dinner of turkey and dressing, casseroles, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and apple pie. After dinner, the presents are heaped together near the Christmas tree. We search for our own and either keep it or exchange it with somebody else’s. There are pet rocks, wooden back scratchers with acrylic nails, a T-shirt that says I Strip for Chocolate Macaroons.

Best presents ever.

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Virtual Turkey Trot by Ruchira Khanna

“Are you ready for tomorrow? What time should I wake you up?” inquired A.
“Do we have to?” asked P with a lone sigh.

“Of course! We ought to keep the tradition alive. So what if we can’t run the Turkey Trot with people. Let’s do it by ourselves.”

“And just like all the times, I’ll keep the pie, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and lasagna ready.” I chipped in with a broad smile to encourage my son.

“Yum! So everything’s the same as old times.” He beamed with joy over it, “How does 7 am sound for our 10K?”

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Out with the Old, In with the New by Norah Colvin

Lizzie pressed her lips together and shook her head.

“Come on,” said Mum. “Just a little bit.”

“No!”

“Try it. You’ll like it.”

“I won’t.”

“You can’t have dessert, until you eat your veg.”

“Dessert first. Then veg.”

“We don’t do it that way, Lizzie. Veg first, then dessert.”

“No! Dessert first!”

“If you have dessert first, you won’t eat your veg.”

“Will so.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Lizzie ate her dessert. Then she ate her veg. A promise is a promise.

Now, when Lizzie’s children’s friends ask why they always eat dessert first, they shrug. “Dunno. Always have,” they say.

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Topsy’s Turvy Christmas Eve by Sascha Darlington

“Your family’s three families,” Mrs. Crawford always told Topsy.

Topsy didn’t understand. Not until she turned nine and her older brothers spent Christmas elsewhere did she comprehend.

Slightly.

“Why aren’t they here for carols?” Topsy asked.

Mother who bit her lip—or her tongue—constantly these days said, “They’re starting their own families and traditions.”

“But carols are sacred,” Topsy whispered.

And even Joseph, her big brother-protector, remained in his room, unwilling to sing carols, which left Topsy, Mom, Dad, and Sandy.

As they sang Silent Night, a tear slid down Topsy’s cheek. This night was far too silent.

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The Christmas Visitor by Anne Goodwin

She hung her stocking for Santa above the fireplace. She helped Gran lay the Jesus figurine in the cardboard-box crib. She joined us singing “Good King Wenceslas” at the piano. She gobbled up Dad’s stewed sprouts. So why did she refuse to play Cluedo, preferring to sit with a book? She wasn’t averse to whodunnits. She’d plucked Evelyn Hardcastle from the guest-room shelf.

But she taught me the meaning of Christmas. Whether Christian or secular, it’s not about believing in myths. It’s a time to renounce our own ego. When we merge with the group, reunite with our tribe.

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(47) Damned Family (Jesse No Solid Bases, Yet) by JulesPaige

traditions hold limited
value when lacking
emotional attachments

Jesse thought about some of her family traditions. Like the one she had totally blown off this year. The mini-family reunion down by the shore. Which this year was cut short by finding the dead body of a man who she thought was her ex-husband in her rental unit. Usually she wasn’t big on any holiday traditions. With her family, someone was always out of town or working. She had hoped to start something new with Norman, but the divorce had ended that. Would this year be any different for her?

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Christmas Family Tradition by Doug Jacquier

Dad would start drinking with the invited neighbours from around 11 a.m. Around 1pm we’d do the presents. His would never be satisfactory and his petty envy of the presents of others would not be disguised. When time for lunch came, as a matter of what little pride he had left, he would ceremoniously carve the roast. My brother and I would write our bets on when the explosion would happen on slips of paper we passed to each surreptitiously. And every year, like clockwork, some imagined slight would set off a stream of invective that would kill Christmas.

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Festive Traditions by Geoff Le Pard

‘What did you do for Christmas, Logan?’

‘?’

‘You must have some family traditions?’

‘What? Like waking up with Santa dribbling into the hall carpet because he fell asleep there when he came back from the pub, having to be quiet all morning, watching the Queen and wondering what she was talking about, waiting for my gran’s bowels to move so we could eat lunch at 4pm and then having to eat sprouts – Devil’s turds btw – and mum’s stuffing that I’m sure was shredded underlay… that sort of thing?’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Hell, I loved it.’

‘Explains a lot…’

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Childhood Christmas by Willow Willers

Nothing ever happened until Christmas Eve. Mum took us all shopping, on the bus. We’d buy all the food and tree, all six of us had a bag to carry. When we got home decorations were made and hung.

Then Mum started the baking and the boys would pinch it.

In the evening the Turkey and veg were prepared. At eleven pm they all went to Midnight Mass with Dad.
I was too young so mum and I stayed home and decorated the tree. I loved staying up late and when everyone got home the tree was magically ready.

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A Tradition Begins – and Ends by Gordon Le Pard

The old singer watched as the happy crowd left the cathedral. The Bishop came over to him and shook his hand.

“I didn’t think it would be like this, it was just an old tradition.”

“Yes, but a wonderful one, you would go round the town singing carols and using them to tell the Christmas story. I just brought it inside.”

“But it was wonderful, will you do it next year?”

“And the next, and others will do it as well, soon there will be carol services everywhere. It was once your family tradition, now it will be everybody’s.”

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Family Traditions by Colleen Chesebro

“Grandma, hurry up or we’ll miss the first song.” Kallie impatiently tugged at Grandma’s sleeve.

“I’m coming. Don’t rush me!” Grandma chided.

The church was packed. Typical for the Christmas Eve service.

“Kallie, I saved you seats,” whispered a voice. A few titters of laughter rumbled through the back row of pews.

“Thank you, James,” Grandma murmured as she heaved her body into the seat. Kallie blushed crimson.

James grinned. He only had eyes for Kallie. “Of course. Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without you both.”

The trio joined the congregation as they sang, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

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New Family Traditions by Sue Spitulnik

The Monday after Thanksgiving Michael and Tessa received a beautiful Christmas arrangement from Tessa’s mother. They each raised their eyebrows, skeptical of Jenny’s intentions.
Inside the thank you card she had written, “I had no idea cooking for two days for other people could be gratifying. I hated eating leftovers on Thanksgiving, but gathering our family together with Michael’s on Saturday was the best celebration of thanks I have ever attended. Let this be our new tradition. Love, Mom.”
A tear ran down Tessa’s cheek. “She’s coming around isn’t she?”
Michael’s eyes watered. “Wait till I show my parents.”

Note: “cooking for two days for other people” refers to last week’s flash that mentioned the band members families preparing the dinner served at the No Thanks.

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Our Ramadan by Douryeh (Hajar)

It may be four thirty and we all rise

I had made soup yesterday and warm it slowly

Husband and then children, get food on the table

Fruit, bread, yoghurt are usually part of our breakfast

Always someone cracks a joke or has yesterday’s story

Breakfast must end punctually, even when there’s no adhan

Prayers, sleep a while, then daily routine is done

The season decides at what time we’ll have dinner

Whatever is served, there’s always some milk and dates

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Henry’s Traditional Christmas by Anne Goodwin

Some years he’d treat Christmas as an ordinary day, turn off the television and eat beans on toast for lunch. Some years he’d put up a tree, wrap presents and roast a chicken, set an extra place at the table for Tilly, and another for his dad. Yet however he began the day, tradition claimed the final hour: leaving him seated by the fire, with enough whisky to engender a headache but not enough to assuage his grief. Or his shame in spending the day in frenzied anticipation of the greatest gift imaginable: his sister’s knock upon the door.

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Apple Strudel by Frank Hubeny

I gave my brother peeled apple slices. He placed them one-by-one on the strudel dough that we older ones helped stretch across a cloth on our dinner table. He put some in his mouth. Then came the raisins to scatter on the dough. When it was finished I held him so he could watch our mother lift the cloth underneath the strudel, roll it into a long, thick pastry that fit on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven.

We made many strudels for Christmas and everyone helped.

I’ve never had a dessert that tasted so good.

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Hunting Spot by D. Avery

Nothing, not women, jobs, not even a move, had ever interfered with their tradition. No matter what, he and his brother took the first week of deer season and spent it at camp, just the two of them. He was determined to see the whole week through this year too.

Now he paused instinctively. The large buck he’d been tracking stepped into view. He raised his rifle, took aim. Then he lowered the rifle, leaned it against a tree.

“It wasn’t really about the hunting was it?” he said aloud. The buck bounded away. He scattered his brother’s ashes.

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Christmas Angel by Myrna Migala

The children were excited; tomorrow was Christmas!
The tradition, to catch their Christmas angel.

Imagine now the little ones jumping up and down, rolling all around, trying to catch their angel.
The tiniest of all jumped so high while clasping his hand and shouted, “I caught mine!”

Holding his hands together with a big smile, being careful not to let the angel escape.

Minutes passed by, and as he watched the other children leaping with joy, his big brown eyes widened; looking at his hand, still holding tight, he turned to his grandmother, “please, do you have a cage?”

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Raksha Bandhan by Ritu Bhathal

Nalini scowled at Rakesh.
Stupid baby.
Her nine-year-old heart hadn’t quite come to terms with this mewling infant thrust upon her, when her mother’s expanding belly suddenly deflated.
He was taking up everyone’s time and attention.
Usually, the whole family doted upon her, but recently, it was all “The baby this, the baby that.”
“Come on Nalini, time to tie a rakhi on Rakesh. Lucky girl. You finally have a brother to bless.”
Sacred thread tied, she went to turn away, when her mother called her back. “Don’t forget your gift.”
A gift? He wasn’t so bad, after all.

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Family Traditions by Anita Dawes

Each of us grows
Changing throughout the year
Come Christmas,
that would seem to be a lie
if my family don’t get Jaye’s mince pies.
When I say I am cancelling Christmas?
They turn into peasants and revolt
If you could see the looks, I get
Enough to kill the Bah Humbug in me
Can’t we just have Jaye’s mince pies?
No, I say. Cancelled means cancelled
I managed one year
Then a great granddaughter came along
Children to me mean Christmas
So here we go again, it’s game time
Charades, old tabletop games
Screams of you cheated, mum!

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Fertile Northern Lights by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The stewpot was emptied of root vegetables, venison gratefully given, and thick brown gravy sweetened with brunost. Crumbs of spilled flatbread caught the flicker of resting embers, and a half-dozen children snored under heavy woolen blankets. The littlest, wrapped in rabbit’s fur, lay in his mother’s arms.

“Leave him. He’ll sleep well enough under the Northern Lights.”

She nodded, tucking him next to the oldest girl, and said a prayer for the children departed.

“The Lights shimmer tonight; propitious for calling another soul to our family,” he hefted their sleeping fur.

She followed her husband into the snowy night.

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Family Tradition by Margaret G. Hanna

“A fence! Are you serious?”

“You mean, you don’t put a fence around your Christmas tree? Our tree isn’t complete until the fence goes up.”

“But a fence?”

“This isn’t any old fence, it has history!”

“Do tell.”

“My uncle made it when I was a toddler. I was told that I could not touch anything that was behind the fence.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Seventy years. The ‘posts’ are askew and the silver garland rope has seen better days, but it’s as essential as the angel on the tree top.”

“I suppose it has history, too.”

“Yep.”

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Christmasque Treevia by Bill Engleson

One year, it appeared.
An artificial tree.
I can visualize my parents buying it, thinking, hell, the kids are gone, we don’t want to be traipsing out into the tulies to chop down some innocent sapling.
Gone: one of our few traditions.
Over the next fifteen, twenty years, I made it home pretty much every second Christmas.
Sometimes every third.
That fake tree took such a beating. On each visit, it had fewer plastic needles.
Somehow, its escalating emaciation didn’t matter.
For me, it encapsulated a simple withering truth about my family and how time had forever changed us.

🥕🥕🥕

Whose Traditions? by Reena Saxena

There is a distinct sense of unease around the oncoming festival. She knows that certain things can’t be done.

“But we aren’t having any visitors”, said her husband, \’just cook and eat and decorate the house as you like. Post some pictures with a wistful write-up on social media.”

“It’s all a joke for you”, she was cross.

“Do you remember how you defied my mother’s traditions?”

“These are mine, hence important.”

“So were hers..”

“Remember whom are you going to spend the rest of your life with.”

It was time for him to shut up and comply.

🥕🥕🥕

New Traditions by Charli Mills

That night, the sheepherder made room for two wayward cowboys. The snowstorm blinded their passage back to the Two Bar Ranch and their horses found refuge in the small enclave of Basque who herded sheep in the Sierras every summer. All herds hunkered down in the valley to survive winter. Jess and Roy knew they’d miss beans and card games for Christmas, but the smell of mutton stew raised hopes not all was lost. After tasting saffron bread for the first time, and learning new carols to a tabor pipe, the cowboys adapted their cattle family traditions to sheepherders.

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This Christmas by Joanne Fisher

“So what did you do at Christmas?” Stacey asked.

“Mum would make us scrambled eggs with lots of butter and toasted homemade bread. Then we would open presents. One of us would hand them all out, and then we’d open them one at a time going round the room. In the evening we’d have dinner with the rest of the family, and of course, open more presents.” Hannah replied.

“Nice.”

“But I’m missing it this year since I’ve been kicked out for being lesbian.” Stacey hugged Hannah.

“We’ll just have to start our own traditions then.” Stacey told her.

🥕🥕🥕

Roots Crop (Part I) by D. Avery

“Purty sure we’re gonna have a Yule log this year.”

“Why’s thet, Kid? Thet ain’t our terdition.”

“Gonna be a holiday season like no other Pal.”

“Why’s thet, Kid?”

“Gonna be masked up.”

“Why’s thet, Kid? We’re fictional; exempt from all thet.”

“An’ we gotta snuff yer candles Pal.”

“Why’s thet, Kid? That’s my fav’rite terdition fer this time a year.”

“Thought ‘stead a roast beast we’d have baked beans.”

“Baked beans??? LeGume!”

“Yep, Pepe’s gonna join us.”

“Thet Pepe LeGume’s a rootin’ tootin’ ranch hand.”

“Yep. So we wear masks. No open flames.”

“Hmmf.”

🥕🥕🥕

Roots Crop (Part II) by D. Avery

“LeGume hangin’ out with us stinks, Kid. I ain’t likin’ it.”

“Pepe needs a place ta go.”

“Thet was last week’s prompt. Ain’t LeGume got his own folks?”

“Pepe is estranged from his wife.”

“He’s a-strange alright. Answer’s ‘No’.”

“Hate ta burst yer bubble, Pal. I already invited him.”

“An’ I said oui, merci. Pal, Keed, I weel keep my deestance.”

“Mmm… Thet date nut bread yer bakin’?”

“Dere was not so much available, so I am improvising.”

“Never thought I’d say this to ya, but thet smells good.”

“Eet’s all good, Pal. Ees sweet bread from raw carrots.”

🥕🥕🥕

December 3: Flash Fiction Challenge

Beans may not be a part of everyone’s family tradition, but they were in mine. We greeted company with a pot of beans, a pan of enchiladas, and a bowl of green salad. At various times, my kids have requested the recipe for their own households. As far back as I know, our pinto bean recipes went back to the vaquero ranch cooks in my family at least five generations. Today, the memory lingers while the tradition has changed.

The Hub can’t eat beans well. His family has an old-time recipe for baked beans at Christmas. I never mastered baking beans, and he was okay with that. We tried to replicate the taffy pulls he and his cousins did as kids, but I never mastered that either. Eventually, we created our own family traditions around food and activities.

Between now and the New Year, we will watch A Christmas Story. Writers might relate to this scene from the movie when Ralph daydreams about the accolades he anticipates receiving for a paper he wrote:

On or after Christmas Day, we will play The Lord of the Rings board game and have a marathon going with all three movies in the trilogy. We even load up Christmas stocking with favorite snacks (like smoked oysters and summer sausage with sweet hot mustard) in anticipation of a day filled with playing games and Tolkein battles replacing Christmas music.

Ah. Christmas music. Trans Siberian Orchestra is a family favorite.

Imagine the intensity with which the Mills family decked their halls to TSO. I have every album they’ve made and one year, the Hub and I went to one of their electrified concerts in St. Paul. Another tradition from when the kids were still kids and all under one roof, we would eat Christmas Eve dinner by candle light and the lights of the tree. We’d clean up, put on our pajamas, fill baggies with homemade fudge and cookies, and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights. It was fun to be in our PJs. We would sing carols and listen to our favorite comedian, Bill Engvall.

Those were the days that make me smile. I’d like to sat family traditions remain static, but they change as we do. This year, I think a lot of families are facing the realities of COVID-19 interfering with the holidays.

But it’s not all that bad. It’s a chance to refresh, to try something new, to set aside the beans. I’ve downloaded some new music.

I’ve talked to extended family about playing Bingo on Zoom Christmas week. I have friends who are hosting dance parties and cacao ceremonies. Zoom, Facetime, and Skype are digital ways to extend the fun of playing games. YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Netflix let you set up watch parties for holiday movies or even The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Think of the disruption to family traditions as a chance to make new ones. Some people might be grateful to shake lose of the old ways and reconnect differently, with more thought and meaning. Learn about the traditions of your friends and neighbors. Deepen your own faith. Take time for solitude and quiet if that is what you need.

We are going to kick off December with a nod to family traditions. Feel free to share or break them.

December 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes family traditions. It can be related to any holiday or situation. How does the tradition impact the story or change the character? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 8, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

New Traditions by Charli Mills

That night, the sheepherder made room for two wayward cowboys. The snowstorm blinded their passage back to the Two Bar Ranch and their horses found refuge in the small enclave of Basque who herded sheep in the Sierras every summer. All herds hunkered down in the valley to survive winter. Jess and Roy knew they’d miss beans and card games for Christmas, but the smell of mutton stew raised hopes not all was lost. After tasting saffron bread for the first time, and learning new carols to a tabor pipe, the cowboys adapted their cattle family traditions to sheepherders.

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For the Love of Toilets

World Toilet Day happens every November 19th to remind us of the vital role toilets play in our health and happiness. In this collection, we celebrate the toilet in its many forms and influences.

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.

Toi Let or not to Toi Let by Bill Engleson

Sometimes the prompt is rather iffy,
I rarely dwell on it;
I jot down thoughts…in a jiffy,
A flash, a song, a sonnet.

Yes, I have raw writer’s remorse,
A dose of white porcelain regret,
You write your bit, stay the course,
complete your work, your sweet vignette.

And then one day, a newer tone,
A wondrous prompt, a flash quite spiffy.
An account of the basement zone,
The tailback john, the backup biffy.

We had but one in my long ago,
It opened to the kitchenette,
We would watch the traffic flow,
From table et to loud toilet.

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Ode de (bleep) by Dog Jacquier

In the fifties in the USA
on TV this was a word you couldn’t say.
‘Powder your nose’ if you were a ma’am
or ‘see a man about a dog’ if you were Sam.

‘Bathrooms’ were allowed but never an inkle
that this was where you went for a tinkle.
I suppose it was for our moral improvement;
that ‘To Let’ was born from creative vowel movement.

Here in Australia we were proud of our dunny*
where we deposited our stools, either firm or runny.
Amongst the redbacks* and the daily news,
be it Number Ones or Number Twos.

Dunny – Australian slang for (bleep)
Redback – Venomous Australian spider, inspiration for the song ‘Red Back On The (bleep) Seat

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Oasis Stasis by D. Avery

It was not a mirage, it was marriage, marriage all-inclusive, with children, pets, dishes, laundry, and working from home. It was enough to blur her vision and make her misty at times but there was an oasis, a peaceful place to recover, to take respite from the whirlwinds that swept through the house.

Gathering up clothes and other debris, flotsam wake of the twins, she paused and smiled at the picture book, Everybody Poops. It had been a hit with her older children too.

She shuddered with a sudden realization. Potty-trained twins would mean increased competition for her oasis!

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The End by Norah Colvin (with apologies to Alan Alexander Milne)

When I was one and had just begun
Nappies were where my business was done.
When I was two, not nearly so new
A training potty was home for my poo.
When I was three, I was learning to pee
In a toilet that flushed away to the sea.
When I was four or not much more
I learned to be private behind a closed door.
When I was five, school days had arrived
And toilets were places to play and hide.
When I get old, or so I am told,
A clean handy toilet is precious as gold.

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Time Out by Joanne Fisher

Tess sat on the toilet. She usually avoided loud parties, but had been dragged to this one by a close friend. It didn’t take long for her to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the house, and so she ran off to the bathroom where she could be alone. She could leave, but that would involve trying to find her friend again. Tess sat there listening to the music thudding through the walls. All she wanted was to have just a few minutes of peace and quiet to gather her thoughts. Someone knocked on the door.

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Last Room Standing by D. Avery

“Really? I’m going to the bathroom!”

(A euphemism. She’d already gone to the bathroom, was now in the bathroom and sitting on the toilet using it for its intended purpose.)

Though originally she’d gone just to be away from him. Victor was getting carried away again. (Another euphemism; he was out of control yelling and screaming.) Not at her. Something on TV. Still. And now he wanted her to unlock the door?

“No!”

Victor yelled a lot but had difficulties communicating clearly. He never stated why she should let him in…
The tornado carried him away. (Not a euphemism.)

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Hole In One by Ritu Bhathal

“But I need to go, right now!” Serena squirmed in the backseat of the car.

“Hold on. It’s not like England, here.” Her mother leaned forward. “Will we be able to stop soon?” She asked her husband, sitting in the passenger seat, as the driver weaved between the traffic.

“Not long.”

They pulled up at a small roadside restaurant, with a few tables set, haphazardly, outside.

“There.” The driver pointed to a tatty door.

Serena ran in, and straight out.

“That was quick!”

“I can’t go in there. It’s just a hole!”

“Welcome to India Memsahib!” The driver grinned.

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The Little House by R. V. Mitchell

Some called it “the little house on the prairie,” and others the latrine or head. But that little corrugated steel shack was the prime real estate in camp. Yes, the “head-shed” or battalion headquarters might’ve been more prestigious, and the CP tent that served as the chapel might have been more revered. Many would tell you that the chow hall was the most important structure in camp, or the dugouts and bunkers if there was a mortar attack going down. But, truth be told, when several days of backed up C-rations called, no place else was going to compare.

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Sanitary Arrangements at the World’s End by Anne Goodwin

How dare he? My hand trembles as I slide the bolt across the bathroom door. We are not savages. Yet!

A weekly wash in a bucket of water. Cooking on a fire built from antique furniture. Feasting on food I would formerly have thrown away. But nothing will induce me to shit outdoors.

Grime coats the basin. The stench goes beyond my unwashed clothes. But I have three packs of quilted toilet roll with aloe vera. I refuse to straddle a trench.

Unzipping my fly, I raise the lid. Recoil in horror as a rat leaps from the pan.

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Waiting by D. Avery

“Don’t make me laugh, Angela. I have to pee. Bad.”

“Me too. Let’s go.”

“I can’t go in there.”

“It’s the ladies’ room. Come on.”

Celia pulled back when Angela took her hand, leading her toward the entrance. “Angela, no!”

The old towel woman stood, picked up a broom. Head ducked, she watched the girls carefully. The other women paused in their gossiping to turn tight-lipped stares on the girls. Celia broke away and ran off to the further toilets.

One woman swept. The other women resumed their gossip. All paused again when Angela started running.
“Celia! Wait up!”

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Love and Porcelain by Kerry E.B. Black

“You’re my best friend. That’s why I’m hugging you. I hug what I love..” Starr leaned against her smaller – and less drunk – friend, Autumn.

Autumn shifted her weight to support her friend. “Love you, too. Keep walking, though. You said you didn’t feel well.”

Starr froze, concern broadcasting across her features.

Terror gripped Autumn. “Hold on, honey! Just a few more steps.”

They plod-hurried like ungainly sack-race contestants into the bar’s women’s room. Autumn held Starr’s hair. “Better out than in,” she reassured.

Emptied, Starr clasped the cool porcelain. “I love this toilet bowl!”

“Well, you are hugging it.”

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For the Love of a Toilet by Peniel Gifted

Jim! Mama shouted as the door flung open. Like a purging soul, Jim hurried to the toilet. “M….a…” he answered in a sickly voice. “Where are you, didn’t I ask you to take this clothe to my tailor?” His mother echoed furiously. “I’m running stool” he replied. “Oh sorry, I’ll take it there myself. Take good care of yourself.” Mama said and left for her tailor. Jim was so glad. He had pretended to be ill so he won’t go to the tailor and would have time, chatting with his girlfriend. Taking out his phone, he pressed and blushed.

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Like a Toilet by FloridaBorne

In 1950, Alexander whined, “But, Mom…”

“Not until we find a toilet!” she said, marching toward her target location.

“No!” he yelled, running to the toy section.

An 8 year old was so predictable.

She rushed to a stall, cursing the day she was forced to marry at 44, relieved when Alexander couldn’t be found, happy to lose the husband who had a heart attack over his son’s loss.

She hadn’t expected the couple who’d bought him to die in a car accident, or to be reunited with her son, now 20.

Like a toilet, he could be useful.

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(35) Damned Family (Jesse’s Uncomfortable on the Golden Throne) by JulesPaige

tormented visions she sees
all flushed
her cheeks reflected in mirrors

Jesse tried to use the fancy Presidential suites commode. There were just too many mirrors. Looking at her reflection – her thoughts were far from down to earth flopping between “She just gets it” or “She lies”.

Norman’s journal wasn’t really revealing much. Even the pages with invisible words that she brought to life with ultraviolet light. It’s just smoke and mirrors – what was Norman up to. She found a name though that didn’t fit. She’d known him as Norman North… she’d found an invisible acrostic with ‘Mae Norwich’.

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The Throne by Ruchira Khanna

“Sure, I can babysit my seven-year-old niece.”

“Thanks, Sis.” Pedro grinned, “I’ll pick her up by 9 p.m.”

The evening was going well until Sarah needed to use the potty.

I took her to the bathroom. She stood there with a dazed look. I beckoned her to sit on the potty; she squealed and placed her fingers on her parted lips, then moved back n forth.

Perplexed, I left her alone and stood outside. Time ticked away.

I peeped in to find that she was seated on the floor and playing peek-a-boo with her reflection on the gold-plated toilet.

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Two Worlds by Saifun Hassam

The cottage toilet was ordinary enough, with a faux wood seat, and cover. For Caitlin, it was her own private place. The cottage, with its fragrant shrubs, was a refuge from her caregiving duties. When her stomach roiled from overwhelming worries and arguments, the toilet eased the tension.

Caitlin was a caregiver for her Aunt Shelby, whose three daughters had neither the willingness nor the patience to care for her. How could the family drift away from each other?

Caitlin was an orphan and a student at the community college. The cottage with its own toilet was sheer luxury.

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Hideaway by Eliza Mimski

It was her safe place, her special place where she went to hide, the bathroom lock punched in, her husband given no other choice but to pick up the screaming baby because here she was on the toilet, the glorious toilet, her hideaway where she could make her escape and no one, not one person could expect anything from her – nothing! -for the next two minutes or even thirty seconds, giving her time to lay her head down on her lap and almost relax for a blessed amount of time that came in second only to her broken sleep.

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Toilet Training Gone Awry by Marsha Ingrao

When her kids started toddling, Sarah Clay guarded minutes of alone time like a jeweled crown. With few places to hide, Sarah treasured the toilet time. She clicked the lock.

Pounding started.

“One sec!”

The two year old twins wailed.

“Lance hit.”

“Quiet, morons.”

“Lance!” she said, pulling him inside. The twins tumbled in waving books.

No more locks.

As her ducklings aged, they invited friends in too.

“Sorry,” George said.

George wasn’t sorry.

“We can’t reach the milk,” Lance followed George in.

Sarah peered over the paper on her lap.

“OUT!”

How did toilet training go so wrong?

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The Toilet to Hell by Joanne Fisher

“Ashley honey, you okay?’ Steffi asked as she knocked on the door. Ashley had been in the toilet for quite some time now. Cautiously Steffi opened the door to find she was gone. “Son of a bitch!” Steffi shouted as she closed the toilet lid.

Everyone had wondered how Steffi could afford her luxury apartment that was in an ideal location. She told everyone it was because the toilet was demonically possessed, but nobody believed her. Regardless of that, she loved her new apartment even if her toilet did occasionally eat people. She was going to miss Ashley though.

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Alone with the Throne by Cara Stefano

Ever since she could remember, Mary, often considered an odd duck, had loved to clean – especially bathrooms. It gave her such pleasure to see the sparkling mirrors, the fresh waters of a newly cleaned toilet bowl, to know she was seeing a job well done. When she bought a little miner’s house in upper Michigan she was disappointed to realize it only had one bathroom! Her first day home she descended into the gloomy basement, only to stop, amazed – in a halo of light, standing alone in the corner, another toilet!

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The Privy by Jaye Marie

I am old enough to remember sitting on an outdoor toilet, or privy as some people call them.

How dark it was in Winter, with spiders lurking, patiently waiting to drop on your head while you spent a penny.

If you go back far enough in time, hardly anyone had indoor plumbing. The age of an outdoor water pump and a tin bath in front of the fire. Just one bath full of warm water for everyone on the family to use.

I often used to wonder if the last person came out dirtier than when they went in!

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Feeding the Soul by Sue Spitulnik

The night before Thanksgiving the No Thanks Needed welcomed military members only. The Band of Brothers served turkey and fixin’s, prepared by their families, to any service person who came through the door. After the meal, Mac announced, “Being thankful for family and friends goes without saying, but if you ever fought in a warzone, hot running water, and a flushable toilet are right up there on the list.” The crowd cheered with understanding and others shouted; food, clean clothes, life, the brotherhood. Service-related stories were shared openly until the wee hours of the morning in the comfortable safe-haven.

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Aged Timbers by Ann Edall-Robson

His hat tipped back on his head, a visitor of years rests on a creaky wooden seat smoking his pipe. Wispy tendrils of smoke drift through the doorless entry. From behind relaxed eyelids, the memories sidle across the meadow.

He appreciates the slightly askew structure. The only building still standing in these parts. A welcome respite after hours in the saddle. More comfortable than the log his bare behind would have sat on had he trailed the heifers across the creek.

He wondered how long the aged timbers would stand. He’d miss this old friend and their quiet conversations.

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Revenge Awaits by Donna Matthews

“Let me tell you something,” I whisper gently.

His body, interested, shifts toward me.

My lips brushing against his ear, and with as much volume as I can muster, I scream,

“YOU LEFT THE TOILET SEAT UP AGAIN LAST NIGHT, AND MY ASS FELL IN THE WATER! NOT ONLY DID I GET WET, I JERKED UP AND SLIPPED ON THE SPLASHED WATER!!! I SLIPPED AND HIT MY HEAD ON THE CORNER ON THE TRASH CAN!”

Startled, he rears back, trying not to laugh, apologizing all the while untangling himself from the bedsheets, wholly unaware of the revenge awaiting him.

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Tanks Anyway by D Avery

“Pal, where ya headed? We need ta confer on the Saloon schedule.”

“Stand jist outside the door if’n it cain’t wait, Kid.”

“Ah, shift, yer headed ta the outhouse!”

“Nope. Shorty’s brought plumbin’ ta the bunkhouse, got us a flush toil-it. Now shut the door or it’ll be a blush toil-it.”

“Well don’t toil too long in there. What was wrong with the outhouse anyway?”

“Don’t be anti-septic Kid. My home’s my castle, I reckon I’ll set on the throne once in a while.”

“Jist hurry.”

“Won’t be rushed. An’ no job is finished till the paperwork is done.”

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How an’ Zen by D. Avery

“Sorry, Kid, didn’t see ya in there.”

“Well I am. Kin shut the door anytime Pal.”

“Yep. Ya remin’ me a thet statue, The Thinker.”

“Settin’ an’ thinkin’, Pal.”

“Yep. ‘Cept might be more acc’rate ta call ya The Stinker.”

“Funny. The door?”

“What’re ya thinkin’ ‘bout?”

“Was readin’ here ‘bout a Zen master asked a monk, ‘Where will ya go after death?’ Monk says, ‘’Scuse me fer a minute, I gotta go to the toil-it.’”

“Deep shit, Kid.”

“Yep. After, might go set in the Poet-tree, write an ode ta the commode.”

“Cool.”

“Pal. The door’s still ajar…”

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November 19: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wolferick III has claimed a crack between the wall and wooden frame that encloses a porcelain Yooper Pooper in the basement. Yes, I have a random toilet downstairs and a wolf spider on guard duty about five squares of toilet paper away from the seat.

It’s hard to know where to go next with this story. Do I tell you about the spider or the toilet? Today is World Toilet Day so porcelain wins top billing in this tale. At one time, my toilet stood alone in the open expanse of space where homeowners stored their coal for winter heat. A large antique sink, something I’d call a laundry tray, is mounted next to the toilet.

In 1859, the Quincy Mining Company founded the city of Hancock whose modern population is 4,549 people, give or take several hundred Finlandia College students. Quincy Mine with its massive hoist house sits on the hill above my house on Roberts Street. This was a working-class neighborhood where miners worked the shaft called Old Reliable for 83 years.

In the blip of existence, 83 years is a grandma still driving on her own. But in US mining time, 83 years was stability for two or three generations before it joined the boom and bust cycles prevalent out west where I grew up. Someone constructed my home when work felt stable enough to commit rock foundations and pipes to a family dwelling, around 1905.

My neighbor has a ghost of a toilet past in her basement. She reminded me that in addition to toilet and sink, builders included a drain. It’s handy because I can hose the toilet the way I used to clean bathrooms as a teen when I worked for a state park campground with six public restrooms.

While it makes sense that the lone basement toilet provided a place for a dirty miner to clean up before entering the upstairs living areas, the drain feature hints at another use. My friend and historian, Robin Hammer Mueller, shared an article with me that explains old-time plumbing. The toilet downstairs acted as an overflow in case of a backup.

Or, as other friend said, it was Grandpa’s toilet, Dad’s toilet, something to claim with pride in the dark recesses of the house.

If you read Robin’s shared article, let me explain the difference between a Pittsburg potty and a Yooper pooper — location. Da Yooper is someone from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and you can glean many insights from these authentic locals, including a brief look at an outdoor toilet also known as a Yooper pooper:

My local friends have also informed me that a baby from the UP is also a Yooper pooper, so it’s an informative phrase.

As for the lone toilet, Minnesota has dem too, ya, sure, you betcha (I still remember how to speak Minnesotan).

Maybe we laugh because poop is an uncomfortable topic despite the fact that everyone does it. Listen to Morgan Friedman. He reads Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi (I once heard an Elvis impersonator read this book at a Montana vaudeville show and it is burned into my brain as hilarious). Morgan is more dignified.

But for many, toileting is no laughing matter. Another friend informed me that over 850k people a year die because of a lack of proper toilets. In previous years of following World Toilet Day, I found out that girls and women are susceptible to rape when trying to find a place to go. Imagine the stress and worry.

When I didn’t have a toilet to call my own, I developed a hyper-vigilant bladder and once faced a charging moose to get to a vault toilet because I had to poop. Yet, I also wonder, how did everyone poop thousands of years ago? I’d love to know how Indigenous ancestors lived as one with the land, not contaminating their environment.

Would humanity solve toileting issues if we mentioned it more in literature? How often does a novelist mention toilets in a book? Do you? Well, now is your chance to practice writing about toilets. We will get back to Wolferick III another time.

TWO WEEK DEADLINE: due to the holiday in the US, Carrot Ranch is taking an extended week break. Stories are due December 1.

November 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 1, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

The Prized Possession by Charli

Opal prized something more than her grandmother’s Corning teapot. Leonard had hollowed a dead tree in spring after thaw. He and three pals from the mine heaved their backs and pickaxes to carve a year-round drainage system for their new home below Quincy Mine. It made the attic space above her uncle’s bar more tolerable to know she’d soon have a home for her children. The hardwood floors and oak staircase were fine craftsmanship, but the porcelain seat downstairs captivated Opal’s awe. Who’d have thought such privacy existed? For the love of God, she’d have her own inside toilet.

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November 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

Wandering the pebble beach at McLain State Park, I lose track of time. I walk from the car through a forest rooted in eons of compacted sand dunes to emerge above the water. Lake Superior eats her shoreline like a sea-creature and the edge of the forest drops into her maw. For now, Lady Lake’s waves loll like the tongue of a placid pet. All it takes is for another gale to blow and she’ll bulldoze rocks to shore with bare teeth.

I follow the sandy trail to where it dips down a slope. It’s too fresh and granular to hold a path, and with each step, my feet sink and launch tiny avalanches of sand. A few months ago, the base of this transition zone formed a ten feet edge of sandy beach. Now, long ridges of rocks ranging in size from mangoes to huckleberries bury the beach.

Chaos is not without order. I notice the uniformity of different ridges and note the ones most likely to contain agates based on size. I’m searching for bars of rocks the size of purple grapes. I look for hints of copper in the bigger stones and readily find a water-worn piece of basalt with nodules of pyrite. The mineral forms cubes; the water prefers rounded edges.

With all the time in the world, water wins over rock.

It’s November. Winter arrives early to the Keweenaw. In fact, we had our first 2020 gale on September 3, two months ago. Littered leaves and people clad in knit hats slide into descending temperatures and accumulating snow. Already, our jut of land surrounded by Lake Superior has measured 11 inches of snow. So, you might be surprised to learn that I came to the lake today to swim. We have a rare break in the plummet to winter. It’s warm-ish and sunny.

On my head, I’m wearing a thick cable-knit hat. I’ve layered a swim top beneath a t-shirt, thermal long-sleeved shirt, and a down vest with a wool lining. But I wore my quick-dry kayak bottom that extend to my ankles and water shoes. Already, my exposed fingers are cold and I’m thinking this is a bad idea. Earlier in summer when I played in the waves with one of my local friends, she told me that some years you can swim in Lake Superior in November. I was captivated by the idea.

Today, with a stiff breeze clipping off the waves, fingers, and exposed ankles feeling the cold, I’m less captivated by a November dip in the lake. Undaunted, or stubborn, I must try. First, I circulate my blood by picking sun-warmed rocks. Each stone I touch holds heat. My hat itches and my head begins to feel hot. Time to dip my feet.

Cold can burn all the way to the marrow of bone.

I clench my teeth and reason the pain will soon pass. What a ridiculous thought, like sticking your hand in boiling water, expecting to adjust to the sensation. There is a reason our bodies react with alarm to extremes. I tolerate the pain for a full three minutes deciding I’m not here to prove any masochistic tenancies. Whatever romantic notion I held about swimming in Lake Superior in November vanish. I can say, I stood in Lake Superior in November and froze my ankles. I escape with all ten toes still attached.

Not one to waste time at the shoreline, I walk the water’s edge. I pluck a few wishing stones and pick up favosite — quartz-fossilized coral from ancient seas that existed long before glacier came and receded. Some of the fossils retain the shape of their honey-comb heads and other glitter with crystals. I collect enough to hold in each hand and sit in the sun-warmed rocks, close my eyes, and follow my breath in meditation.

When I stand up, I find time had been sitting next to me in the form of a 1982 rubber watch still as brown as the day it was lost. Objects make great props in the hands of fictional characters. They can initiate a story or provide a twist. I ponder this 38-year old cheap accessory, realizing that someone in the 1980s might have treasured it.

Lost time is the stuff that fuels the imagination.

November 5, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lost time. You can write a realistic scenario or something speculative. How does lost time impact the character of your story? Bonus points if you include a 1982 brown rubber watch Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 10, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Not Her World by Charli Mills

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

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