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Protests

A protest can be small as the silence of a single person or big as a clamoring crowd. Social injustice, human rights, better conditions for workers can add to suppressed voices. Yet, objections can come from even the protested.

Writers gave much thought to the prompt and explored who and why what was the object of protests.

The following is based on the January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story.

PART I (10-minute read)

Remember the Revolution by Doug Jacquier

Remember causes
and affectations of effect on war
in cities now gone five-star?

Remember social action
sitting in smoke-filled rooms with Nescafe activists
and battered women with no teeth and less hope?

Remember death
when it belonged to rock stars
and people your mother your mother knew?

Remember money
and how it wasn’t going to concern you
until you learnt the golden rule and its defensible limits?

And do you remember when the penny dropped
that the personal was the political
and you found out you had to change?

And you decided to forget the revolution?

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Standing by D. Avery

“Staff members shouldn’t join student anti’s, Ms. Higginbottom.”

“Anti’s. My dad, a member of the NRA, called protesters that, Mr. Mathy.”

Mr. Massey the math teacher looked at Ilene, unsure of her lisp and her tone.

“But this is not my father’s NRA. Not by a long shot.”

“You give up one constitutional right, the rest are vulnerable.”

Incredulous, Ilene finally spoke. “Look at the reciprocals; not what they’re against but what they are for; that’s what pro-test means, testifying for a cause.”

“And what are these children standing for Ms. Higginbottom?”

“Life, Mr. Massey. They want to live.”

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My Way or Protest by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

Riley stared at the plate in front of her in disbelief. It wasn’t what she ordered.

She watched the waitress slowly approach the table.

“I wanted mac ’n’ cheese” – Riley spat out.

“This IS mac ‘n’ cheese” – the waitress calmly replied.

Riley folded her arms, pouted, and frowned at the broccoli. She was not going to eat anything until she got exactly what she ordered. Or chocolate, which was the one thing that would always magically fixed things.

“You will eat whatever I give you, young lady” – Riley’s mother said, sitting down next to her at the kitchen table.

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A Child’s Protest by Ritu Bhathal

“No more slop! No more slop!”

The sound of the butts of knives and forks being bashed against the tabletops echoed through the dining room.

“Children, please!” Mrs Garrett, flapped her arms up and down, trying to calm the situation, to no avail.

“We ain’t eating that rubbish anymore, Miss! It’s rank!” Tommy, the protest ringleader, piped up.

A chorus of voices echoed his sentiments.

Mrs Garrett looked at the greying mass of potato, with an unidentifiable beige stew, and cabbage that had long since lost any goodness, and sympathised.

I think it’s time to talk to the cooks…

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Protested Internally, Murtle’s Story by Tammy L. Toj Gajewski

She pointed at her leg making a stabbing motion. I shook my head and said, “What?” even though she couldn’t hear. Murrow took my hand and made me touch her pudgy belly, then took my finger to stab her upper thigh repeatedly. Oh oh… I see . “You don’t like the insulin shots?” I sign into her palm. That was it she went crazy signing and jibbering so fast I couldn’t keep up so I just hugged her and said yes I know over and over. She raised her shoulders finally in triumph that I knew her pain and internal protest.

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A Small Protest by Chelsea Owens

“Won’t!” The small face scrunches.

Father sighs. “I’d let you go like this, Arnie, but-”

“No no no!”

“Arrrnie,” Father begins, his tone less calm, “Daddy‘s wearing-”

“Daddy’s fart face!” A small tongue protrudes from the small mouth.

Father straightens. He takes a small arm in a big hand and marches small legs up big stairs. “That’s enough, young man! We do not stick our tongues out or call names.”

“Fart. face. Fart. face,” Arnie gasps at each stair.

“Now,” Father concludes, setting him at the top. “You’ll sit in Timeout, then you WILL put your pants on!”

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A Little Classroom Protest by Ellen Best

“Quiet!” shouted Miss Brooks, “Okay Girls, hands up if you think you’re the weaker sex.” Shouts, and stomping shoes echo. Her voice raised, her palm hit the desk. A puddle formed in her eye, she grabbed her hands rubbing vigorously, as a drip plopped against her lip. Her tongue, snatched it away unseen, while she counted raised hands.

“Please miss,” eyes swivel, and I colour. “I think it depends if they smack the desk harder than you.” The noise level climbed. “It isn’t gender or braun that predicts strength, but Emotional intelligence Miss, females win that every time.”

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Protest Proposal by Caroline Scott

He was going to do it.

She could see it in his eyes. There was a strange, liquid gleam in them, and a kind of manic terror.

She should speak. She needed to stop this before he did something either of them regretted. A protest rose on her lips but he was already on his knees.

She’d never seen a man so afraid.

“Will you marry me?”

It was his question, but she said it. If the point was at all worth arguing, he didn’t say so. When her arms went around his neck, all he said was,

“Yes.”

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A Parent’s Nightmare by Jacquie Biggar

“There’s no easy way to say this—” Matt met the growing horror in Mrs. Carter’s eyes, his heart hurting, “your daughter was murdered last night on the Galloping Goose Trail. We believe she was on her way home at the time.”

The poised woman who’d met them at the door disappeared in a swelling tide of despair. She vigorously shook her head. “No, you’ve made a mistake. Emily was home last night. I brought her home from school myself. It’s not possible.”

“How do you know it’s our child?” Carter asked, his voice gruff. “It could be anyone.”

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Methinks We Doth Protest Too Much by Cara Stefano

I have often wondered what I should protest: world hunger, needless war, homeless children right here in my home town? There are so many reasons to be angry, to wish for a soap box to stand upon, exhorting the masses to action; there are so many reasons to “get all up in arms” about this or that pressing issue. We are so often preaching to the choir – our tiny group of friends and family, acquaintances whom we know agree. Perhaps I simply want to protest the very idea of protesting. Let’s all just try to get along, shall we?

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The Gift of Music by Susan Sleggs

The wheelchair-bound veterans weren’t surprised when asked to join Gil Brandt near his bus. The musician learned names then turned to Michael, “I’ve heard of your talent and that you live near multiple VA medical centers so I’m giving you this to share.”

A vehicle whose sides were painted with music murals and the words “Veterans’ Music Van” pulled up. Doors were opened to reveal many instruments and other band equipment.

“I can’t accept such a gift,” Michael said.

“No protesting. I hope you’ll develop or add to a music program at each center because music has healing power.”

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Rebel Released by Ann Edall-Robson

“What’s going here?” Hanna pointed at the picture.

“The whisper went through the halls of the school.

‘We’re walking out as soon as first period starts after lunch.’

Rumours had been swirling for weeks. Finally, the day arrived to protest having to wear skirts and dresses at school, especially in -40F weather. All we wanted was to be able to wear slacks.

There I was, a junior, scared to death I’d be expelled, making my way down the halls, out onto the lawn with the others.”

Liz closed the Yearbook with a laugh.

“My inner rebel had been released.”

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Student Protest by Nancy Brady

Julia wanted to be inducted into her school’s National Honor Society.

Each year she saw outstanding upperclassmen selected for the honor. As a junior, she watched her classmates and the seniors get chosen one by one.

The school administration and teachers were shocked when one senior refused in protest over a blatant prejudice against another student. Apparently, the seniors knew that the student was treated unfairly, making a pact to reject the honor; however, only Jerry had the strength of character to protest this injustice.

How they found out was never revealed, but it forever changed the school’s policy.

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Protest by Joanne Fisher

An angry crowd had gathered outside protesting the sweeping new laws passed by the Government.

“How can I create art if there’s no more human misery and suffering?” shouted the artist.

“Now I can afford to feed, clothe, and house all my kids without having to work three jobs. HOW DARE YOU!” screamed a woman.

“But I wanted all my money to be sucked up by the global billionaires!” another man complained.

“Now I can have decent healthcare. What made you think I wanted that?”

“The environment cleaned up? Who said we wanted a utopia?” a woman cried out.

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Not Mad, but Angry by Anne Goodwin

Although medication dulls my senses, that headline hurts. An assault on language. An assault on me.

When I first acquired the label, I feared it would swallow me whole. Would I still be a person? Or turn into an axe-wielding lunatic overnight?

I upload a screenshot to Facebook. An emoticon scowl. SCHIZOPHRENIC ATTACKS DIABETIC would be more balanced. UNEMPLOYED ACCOUNTANT ATTACKS SHOP ASSISTANT more polite.

The LIKES accumulate. The expressions of rage. We’re more than our diagnoses. More often the target than the perpetrator of abuse.

While social media can be mentally toxic, it’s a place of protest too.

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Silent Protest by Lisa Listwa

Harold felt someone touch him.

Or did he?

It was hard to tell from behind the curtain of darkness shrouding his eyes. Every inch of his leaden body resisted all appeals for movement. His mind was too clouded for inquiry.

He could probably rally himself, but the only thing he wanted was to let go, to sink deeper into the noiseless black pawing at his consciousness.

Something – or someone – moved nearby. Harold sensed a change in the area immediately surrounding him.

Falling.

No. He was rising.

“C’mon, cat,” said his human. “Time to get up. Get off the bed.”

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#81 Discharge? by JulesPaige

my mind protests, sighs
you’re not what I expected;
mirrored reflection

Hoping that I’m not still blushing when Sam arrives; I am still in wonderment about how my body protests… But I smell Ife’s rose scent – I calm down. Just what can I tell him? That some myths are prophecy, like history is doomed to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it? Quite a bit of the Underground Railroad, just like the Pony Express has been amplified, romanticized. Yet there were kernels of truth.

Maybe I’ll open with; “Have you ever used a psychic to help solve cases?” …

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I Must Protest by H.R.R. Gorman

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

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Protest to God by Pedro Padilla

He felt broken. Heart striving. Body moving in nuanced physical patterns. Depending on what action the work requires. Sweat, clenched fists, spider like hand movements. All include use of the back.

Outside the mine his 4 children, motherless, wait. When he comes out to check on them he spies a snake near by. Family says that’s when he broke. Hair went white at 30. His protest to God. No man, or woman, as proxy. Straight to the source.

“We work. I work hard. She died. I’m broken. How? What to do? You are too hard. Too unfair. Please help us.”

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Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

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PART II (10-minute read)

Be The Change by Nobbinmaug

“Here’s another depressing news story. We should do something.”

“Like what?”

“Protest.”

“Protest what?”

“I don’t know. Pollution. Corporate tax cuts. Guns. Puppy mills.”

“Car washes.”

“What? You’re mocking me.”

“I am. What about actors who play roles inconsistent with their ethnicity? Innocuous lyrics to Christmas songs from the ’40s?”

“I’m serious. We live in a world where a xenophobic, rapist, megalomaniac, demagogue was elected president over a qualified woman amid cries of ‘Lock her up’ because she sent emails from the wrong account.”

“That’s why I’m protesting elections. You’re not gonna change anything.”

“Maybe we should protest apathy.”

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Protest by Floridaborne

My name is Ambivalence. I know not of the ways those around me live. I am a ghost condemned to this globe called Earth, searching for my daughter, Kindness.

My world died in the fires of protest, a civilization created by Peace and Prosperity. My crime? I believed our golden era could never end and failed to see Greed stop at nothing to prevail. Greed created disease, and then Greed survived the death of our world, giving birth to Psychopath and Victim.

Five thousand years later, I watch the birth of twins; Obliteration and Apocalypse.

When can I rest?

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Wait to Speak by Jules Dixon

A ghostly hand silenced my heart. Wait to speak it whispered, to hold my truth until I heard their decree of masked respect. But I wouldn’t be told when to scream from the mountains and when to cry from the valleys. My spirit straightened and I bellowed into the night that their ruse of order wasn’t going to work. My triumphant heart sang the words I’d longed to release. Their reaction an unwanted ghost to be banished forever. Now I stand on the podium, my voice strong, my heart wild, my emotion true. My time is now, and ever.

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A Pregnant Protest by Colleen M. Chesebro

Susan squeezed her husband’s hand, turning his knuckles white.

“I’ll never let you into my bed again,” she protested.

Tim nodded his head. “I’m so sorry love,” he whispered.

The contractions began again as Susan shrieked out a primal wail. She panted through the waves of torment.

“You’re almost there,” the doctor murmured, intent on his ministrations. “One more push, Susan, and that should do it.”

Susan closed her eyes in concentration. With one long scream she pushed out the reason for her pain.

The infant resembled his father. A long-tail protruded from the base of his spine.

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Protest by Simon

Fight between two monkeys inside a forest. Both were fighting rigorously and accidentally discovered a chest under the grass. Both monkeys stared at the chest in unison. One of them opened it. Two hands from inside holds both monkeys hand and they both scream and saw vision of a great hero past, died in a protest, fighting the secret enemies disguised as protestors cornered this Hero and pushed to death. But before he died, none of the enemies left protest alive. His rage was incredibly strong, even after he dies his soul now turned dark demon “Coming for you!”

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The Protest by Teresa Grabs

Shouting roared outside as Davey and I huddled in the bathtub. Breaking glass sent shivers up my spine. My fingers ached from gripping the baseball bat as hard as I was, but I promised Mom I would keep him safe. I had to. Sure, he was my little brother and I loved him, but he was so much more than that.

Mom screamed and Dad started shouting vulgarities as a door somewhere in the house burst open. I don’t understand why the humans are protesting. Davey wouldn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t.

Unless I tell him to.

“Go ahead, Davey.”

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Confusion’s Blunt Knife by M J Mallon

‘I didn’t do it,’ he howled.

‘Stop your protesting, we saw you!’

‘It wasn’t me, it was them.’

‘Excuses, excuses. Them don’t do that, only this does.’

Confusion handed the boy the knife. It was blunt.

‘Why you always blunt?’ he asked.

‘To see if you will sharpen your mind, you idiot!’

The boy looked lost. He pulled his jacket tight around him searching for the right words.

‘My mind is tired, too wired to remember this: who, did what to whom.’

‘Who, or what are you, boy?’

‘I’m tight wound like this jacket.’

‘Strait, that’s what you are.’

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Protest by Dave Madden

Hundreds stood before the venue’s mouth, pumping signs in the air, screaming for an end to MMA—human cockfighting.

The manner in which these social justice warriors rallied online and postured at anyone trying to cross their fence of fiery flesh, it was unclear whether they were attempting to cancel California’s biggest MMA promotion or start up a new fight league of their own.

A long weekend defending territory, skipping meals in hopes of tipping the scales in their favor, and celebrating victory after effecting attendance.

Too bad the band of misguided protestors never noticed their similarities with MMA.

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Attention/Protest by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Snowmageddon! Stay home if you don’t have to go out! Feels like double-digit negative temps! Treacherous conditions! Freezing drizzle! Mega-storm sweeping the continent, laying waste to everything in its path!

She switched off the t.v., powered down her computer, snapped off background radio reports. She believed the footage:crashes; spinouts; canceled flights; people braving the cold for ice hockey; solo skiing (her, today); folks bundled like pineapples, walking their dogs.

What about those living rough? Surely these people, and the relief efforts, are newsworthy? She grabbed her keys, groceries and blankets loaded into the SUV, and hit the streets.

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The Gorge’s Protest by Nicole Osmond

The Gorge is breathtaking – a natural wonder carved in a mountain. A chiselled masterpiece a million years in the making.

When the rains come the Gorge shouts its fury in protest.

I am forced to look away.

Its rage terrifies me.

When the clouds are vacant and the sun does it wonderous job with full commitment, the Gorge speaks in whispers.

The rage now replaced with a soothing lullaby at times accompanied with a choir of mist that joins in harmony and sings its melody in vibrant colors.

Each soothing note of color stretching to arch its maker.

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In Protest of the Planet by DGKaye

What remains of the trees, struggle to stand tall, casting thin shadows across the water with reflection in their retaliation. Birds make swift exit when the weather turns ominous. Where do humans flee when there’s no longer a safe place to exist?

What remains is nature’s leftovers from man’s thoughtless lashings. Angels band together, looking down from above in God’s sanctuary as God’s planet drowns and burns in salty tears. When will the natives wake? Action is needed now. Let us stand up in defense of the planet against the wrongs of man and start to repair with change.

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At Home in the Land of the Privileged by Bill Engleson

We were stoned that night. I’ll admit that much. Me, anyways. Sitting behind them I was, slumped on our ratty old davenport.
Listening.

Gangster-like they were, huddled at the-steal-at-five-bucks, pink arborite table Rose scored at the Sally Ann. She was the key insurgent in our ménage à pick-a-number. She’d transferred up from Berkeley, following the crimson flame of revolution into Canada.

Tommy was a prairie kid, swooning over Rose, brain-fried by hormones.

Larson. He was something else again.

Angry as a twister.

Larson’s the one who proposed, “one well-placed bullet, comrades. If we’re serious, we need to draw blood.”

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The Protest by Lisa R. Howeler

Fern watched her father gathering his winter clothes together.

“Dad, you’re not going to that protest are you?”

“It’s not a protest, it’s a rally,” he said with a sigh, pulling his woolen har down on his head over his ears.

“But it’s 21 degrees out and you’re — ”

“I know, I’m 76 but age shouldn’t stop me from standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

Fern sighed, shaking her head. “Okay, Dad, but I better not get a call from the police that you and Nancy have chained yourselves to the courthouse steps again.”

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Protest by Anita Dawes

Wave your hands in the air

Like you just don’t care!

They do care very much

About the conditions they work in

Too often the loos don’t flush

Water is turned off

Waiting repair

Which takes too long

Poor management in winter

Means working in the cold

This in turn, slows down production

Which means working late

No extra pay

Too many break times cancelled

People become sick

Our floor manager asked

For hot drinks to be made

Every four hours

This went down with management

like a lead balloon

it’s no wonder we’re shouting

and waving our arms…

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World Peace and Beetles by Donna Matthews

My daughter is past curfew. I’m pacing the room, obsessively checking her location on my phone. This new boyfriend of hers is an earth science major. Loves to talk about the planet, climate change, and world peace. He reminds me a little of her father, but I’d never tell her that.

Finally, “I’m home!” she yells from the entryway. My mouth drops open. She’s in bell-bottoms and tie-dye. Her long hair straightened and reeking of patchouli.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Mom! Stay trippy, little hippie!”

On her arm, a little beetle tattoo.

OMG, wrong kind of Beatles.

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Stewardship by Saifun Hassam

Elena was an environmentalist. In her journal she wrote of her exploration of the Ancient Sea. She was fascinated by its history of thriving ports, an abundant sea, ice-capped mountains.

A time came, imperceptible but certain when sea life was less abundant. The ice caps melted. The immense glaciers along the farthest northern shores turned into giant icebergs.

Elena was killed in a protest of the drilling of the ancient seabed for minerals. Her journal was incomplete. Her granddaughter Jessamine found in it the seeds of her own journey as an environmentalist on a planet beyond the Solar System.

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Prompted Protest by D. Avery

“Jeez, Pal. Tellin’ ya, Shorty’s all over the map with her prompts. Now a protest story? I cain’t write a protest story.”

“Thinkin’ ya protest too much, Kid. Ever dang week yer protestin’, or is thet jist whinin’? This here could be serious ya know. Stop yer whinin’ an’ complainin’ an consider the plight a them’s thet really git the short end a the rope.”

“Reckin I kin try, Pal, but I ain’t got Shorty’s machinations.”

“Do ya mean ‘magination? It’s a difference ‘tween seemin’ and schemin’.”

“Guess as long as she does the write thing it’s all good.”

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Snowshoe Princess by D. Avery

*Once upon a time Princess Buckaroo lived on a enchanted snow-globe peninsula.*

“Writin’ after all Kid?”

“Yep.”

*One day all the Yooper Scoopers quit shov’lin an’ plowin’. They marched on snowshoes, holdin’ their their shovels up like signs, protestin’ ‘gainst low wages an’ high accumulations a snow.

Princess Buckaroo retreated ta another story.*

“Lit out fer another tale?”

“No, she went upstairs when the first story got snowed over.”

*Snow kep fallin’. The Buckaroo Princess got out on snowshoes as ever’thin’ got buried over.*

“What happened?!”

*The Buckaroo Princess was at new heights; snowshoed right ta her north star.*

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January 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

A black raven lands on my neighbor’s sloped roof to dig in the snow. Always one for a good bird show, I pause in rinsing dishes to watch. With a long thick beak, the raven scoops snow like those of us below with steel shovels and scoops. Finally, he retrieves something frozen the size of a cracker and lifts his wings, chomping his hoard. The raven must have stashed food on the roof, and I witnessed his mid-day snack.

It’s the days of messy middles. With winter half over in the northern hemisphere, we impatiently endure more snow and wait for the sun to return. Half a world away, Australia suffers a hot mess, waiting for the sun to subside, the heat to relent, the fires to burn out. Writer and educator, Norah Colvin, is safe where she lives in Australia but witnesses the daily impact of her nation burning. Last week, she left a link in the comments to an article that lists genuine organizations to help.

Several years ago, Norah created a S.M.A.G. Badge to spread goodness in the world across our literary, writing, educator, and blogging networks. She called the recognition the Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude. It calls to mind what 99-year-old Sirkka said about the anecdote to hate in the world. In her documentary, she calls for us to come together for humanity. S.M.A.G. is such a call. If you look to the right-hand column, you’ll see a graphic and a link to Bushfire Recovery Relief.

Please consider copying the graphic and posting it on your own site, blog, or social media. After all, we are communicators with reader traffic, and together, we can share links to legitimate organizations that have boots on the ground in the areas devastated. Norah also shared an op-ed by Jackie French, who writes, “Focus on what you can do. Don’t cry for what you can’t.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the face of tragedy, in life’s unexpected twists, in the persistence required to write novels.  So, we focus on what we can do.

Sirkka’s mother protested. It was dangerous to stand up for injustice or call out for rights denied. History is filled with tales of violence against those who protest. When Sirkka’s mother protested, she took her daughter with her. The miners were demanding safer work conditions and fair wages. Their wives and daughters took to the picket lines to deliver these messages and make the world aware of the situations. In return, thugs were hired to beat the women and told to aim for the kidneys. Sirkka recalls standing up to a thug ready to strike her mother but shamed by looking into the eyes of a determined little girl.

On Christmas Eve, 107 years ago in Calumet just north of Carrot Ranch World Headquarters 19 miles, a large group of women and children were celebrating the festivities at the Italian Hall. For six long months, copper miners struck, led by a woman, some call the Joan of Arc of the Copper Country. (You can read about her and others in the new novel, Women of the Copper Country.) It was a time of great tension, and the holiday should have provided a respite. Instead, the greatest mining-related disaster on record in this region occurred that night, and 73 women and children died.

Witnesses claimed that someone yelled, “Fire!” from below. The reception hall was upstairs, and some argue that anti-union thugs held the doors. It remains, to this day, a wound upon the Copper Country community. No one yet agrees to the specific events or intentions, and no one was ever charged for a crime. But when families tried to flee, many slipped down the steep stairs, and inexplicably, the doors failed to open, suffocating those on the stairs.

When Sirkka faced down the thug ready to beat her mother, it was 1925, twelve years after the Italian Hall tragedy. I think about how Sirkka stood up all her life for the “foreign-born” like her parents. Cultures came together to speak up for the reason they came to America in the first place — a better life. From my posts, you know that Finns populate the Keweenaw. So do the Italians. My neighbor’s house that holds the raven stash is Italian-American. In fact, my Roberts Street neighborhood is said to have been an Italian one with many markets. Today, the Keweenaw Co-op remains as our corner grocery store.

Maybe I had all these jumbled ideas in mind — influenced by Sirkka’s documentary and resonating words, by recent research to discover the roots of my Italian neighbor, by concern for climate change and how it is burning and flooding communities. It’s no wonder we feel called to protest, to take up from the long line of others who have confronted injustice. But I’m also a writer, and I let these ideas stew and simmer into something I can serve up in a story. The night after the raven’s visit, I was downtown and looked out the window across the street and saw three women in mourning attire. When I focused, I realized it was an optical illusion of night shows and reflected lights.

But I was curious about what my mind had momentarily witnessed.

If you have ever stared at cloud shapes or optical illusions and seen what is not there, that is the power of imagination. Often we feel the need to correct what we thought we saw. Or sometimes we innocently play like a child and describe great ships or rearing lions that float by in the sky on a summer’s day. I often like to indulge the illusion. If it is real, what do I see? If I look closely at the reflection in a closed business across the street, I see a yarn shop with round skeins for sale, tags bobbing. I can’t explain it. No such thing exists across the street, and I don’t know why my brain thought yarn. Fuzzy, right?

But I go with it. Go ahead, brain, play. I pretend what I’m seeing is real. Across the street is a yarn shop. What else? And there they are — three dark-haired women in long black dresses with corseted waists standing together in a tight huddle. Mourners come to mind. Sisters.

When the Hub comes over and asks if I want another beer (full disclosure: I only had half, and it had nothing to do with the optical illusion). I point out the window, asking if he sees anything in the window across the street. He explains what I’m seeing is a reflection of a reflection of KBC, the local brew-pub. Except he sees it differently. Different perspective. I explain what I see, and he grunts and says he’ll leave me alone to write. Not everyone appreciates imagination. So I write my illusion in a sentence:

Three sisters in black opened a yarn shop in Houghton, Michigan, 19 miles away from where their children died in a stairwell.

I’m surprised by what I write because I was not thinking about the Italian Hall tragedy, but it slipped in there – soft yarn, three dark-haired women in black, dead children. Such is my mind. Normally, this is where I would get excited about discovery and let loose. This time, I’m inviting a playmate over for imagination. As an MFA student, I’m studying the writing process. Imagination and discovery is part of that. How we shape it into a story is another part.

I’m figuring out – learning – what I don’t know about writing fiction. I know I’m a pantser who has easy access to imagination and a keen interest in people, history, and stories. But I’m also learning that my pantsing can lead to half-baked stories. Great ideas, emotive, sharply imagined characters, sometimes I even have a point. Sometimes I lack form, the structure of plotters. Intellectually, I know story arcs and plot points. But imagination doesn’t remember to play with intellect. Writing 99-words helps to bridge left-brain, right-brain. But I’m also learning to incorporate other tools. So, Story Spine gets invited to play.

It looks like this (by Kenn Adams, author and Artistic Director of Synergy Theater):

  1. Once upon a time…
  2. Every day…
  3. But one day…
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that…
  6. Because of that…
  7. Until finally…
  8. And, ever since then…

Like 99-words, Story Spine becomes a problem-solving tool. So, I used my intriguing first sentence to describe the optical illusion as “once upon a time.” Then I followed the rest of the script.

STORY SPINE DRAFT

Three sisters in black opened a yarn shop in Houghton, Michigan, 14 miles away from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner like three dark muses, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Heads held high to defy pity from the wives of wealthy mine captains, they sold colorful yarn soft as baby’s hair. Pity or fear, they induced a brisk business.

One day, another Italian family from Calumet crossed the Portage canal and planned a confectionary business. They would armor their building with steel ceilings to curb caramel fires that could start in the expansive kitchen filled with heat and sugar.

Because of the false fire at the Italian Hall on that fateful Christmas Eve, 57 children died in the greatest minie-related disaster of the Copper Country.

Because families lost children, safety and survival melded like chocolate and wove a community with skeins of cashmere.

Because grief poured into business, the next generations of Italian Americans prospered greater than the mine captains, owners and enforcers whose fortunes fizzled with the depth of copper and shallowness of the economy.

Therefore the Copper Country was built on the entrepreneurial spirit of widows, mourning mothers, and a desire for comfort and safety.

I’ll plan to use this draft to put it in place as my 99-word response. It’s interesting to follow the script because I didn’t feel as hemmed in creatively as I had expected. It’s also a good exercise to recognize the Story Spine of books or fairy tales you’ve read. This helps you develop as a writer with another tool to aid your curiosity and imagination.

This weekend, I have a choice — to retreat or protest. The Women’s March happens this Saturday with a protest scheduled for the Houghton Lift Bridge. That same day, my friend Cynthia is hosting a retreat for vision work. I’m thinking back to Jackie French’s words about doing what you can. And Sirkka’s about doing things together. Therefore, my form of protest will be to go on retreat and focus on what Carrot Ranch can do together with writers and poets and bloggers and teachers and readers and storytellers of the world.

Together, let’s make literary art our stand.

Submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

January 16, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story. It can be about a protest, or you can investigate the word and expand the idea. Who is protesting, where, and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by January 21, 2019. 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.

 

Legacy Survived by Charli Mills

Three sisters opened a yarn shop in Houghton 19 miles from where their children died in a stairwell. They stood stiff as marble in the back corner, the waists of their dresses pinched as tight as the grief in their eyes. Round skeins of yarn soft as a baby’s head inspired sales to knitters whose wealth they had once protested. Next door, another displaced Italian family opened a confectionary with fireproof ceiling tiles. In business, they dispensed softness and sweets, set codes for stairs, and prospered. Their surviving children’s grandchildren expanded family enterprises long after the copper mines closed.

Carried Wives

Over the threshold, a mud puddle, or in a wife-carrying race, it’s a wonder to consider that wives are carried. But on a deeper dive, consider that partners carry each other in other ways, too — emotionally, in times of troubling circumstances, or with playfulness. What will the writers make of such ideas?

This week, writers explored the various reasons and situations wives could be carried.

The following is based on the January 9, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife.

PART I (10-minute read)

A Dream Home by Sally Cronin

As a girl she didn’t dream of fairy tale weddings or fancy white dresses. She was an orphan, in and out of foster homes, and all she wanted was a house of her own. They met at the local community centre; a carpenter, his hands worn and callused. He asked her what her dream was and she shared her vision. He said nothing, just smiled and nodded. Today, in her simple blue dress, carrying a posy of wild flowers, he swept her into his arms and through the door of the home he had built to show his love.

🥕🥕🥕

True Love by Dave Madden

Emily smiled from ear to ear as Brady carried her across the threshold.

Brady’s conditioning was nearing its peak at the time of the wedding, so he could have cradled his beautiful, blushing bride all the way to Aspen, Colorado, the destination of their brief honeymoon.

Sacrifice was nothing new for the young couple to cope with—Emily bringing home the bacon, and Brady jumping into any cage he could find, fighting for peanuts.

Emily would continue carrying the financial burden of Brady’s dream chasing, for his upcoming bout and every round moving forward—true love could conquer all.

🥕🥕🥕

Carried Wife by Sascha Darlington

There was a fight.

Something stupid. Aren’t all newlywed fights stupid?

Sara tossed down the dishcloth and ran. Moments later the clouds unleashed a torrent of rain, enough to fill the empty gulches, which Sara wouldn’t know. City-born, Sara didn’t understand that the dry riverbeds could fill instantly and sweep everything away.

He could lose her in the breadth of a moment.

Heart clenching, he jostled into his Mac. Scout ran ahead, tracking, despite the rain.

They heard her before they saw her. Her anguished cry rising above the rushing water.

Gratefully, he cradled her before carrying her home.

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Keeper of the Stories by Ann Edall-Robson

Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he grinned thinking about all of the stories the old steps could tell.

Each time he passed the majestic staircase, he remembered the look of surprise etched on her face.

It had started with an innocent discussion about chores, and then it just happened. Gathering her into his arms he’d carried her upstairs. He knew right then and there, she was the one, and so did she.

That wouldn’t be the last time the love of his life would go up the stairs in his arms.

Whistling, he walked towards the kitchen.

🥕🥕🥕

Skiing Mishap by Jacquie Biggar

Jeff juggled to keep his balance on the ice without dropping his wife.

“I told you to stick to the bunny hill,” he chastised.

She giggled and held her arms out like a bird in flight. “But it was so much fun- until I fell.”

“Well, let’s see if you still think it’s fun when you’re wearing a cast for the next six weeks.”

“Aw, Jeff, don’t spoil my high. Did you see me? I hit those moguls like a pro.”

“Yes, honey you did,” he said, tenderness running strong in his veins for his brave, incredible, beautiful wife.

🥕🥕🥕

Carried by Lisa A. Listwa

She always felt like the one who needed to be carried. He was the calm to her bluster, the reason to her emotion. When she fretted and worried, he said, “just keep going” and “I believe.”

She found his lack of excitability infuriating.

Through all the changes, the struggles, the fears, he worked and simply kept on. He said he felt stronger with her by his side, better able to do it all because they did it together.

It was in one of those rare moments of expression she realized that in the everyday moments, she also carried him.

🥕🥕🥕

The Carried Wife–Working Hogs by Faith A. Colburn

Moving hogs across a small open space. She feinted right. I followed. She ran left around me. My husband, already distraught, started screaming at me. For once. I stood my ground, stared at him. He took the few steps that divided us, picked me up, and started carrying me somewhere. I had no idea what he intended. Startled and scared, I bit his ear. He put me down, as I’d hoped, took a couple of steps back, wound up, and punched me in the face, a glancing blow since I was turning away. We never worked hogs together again.

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Carrying On by D. Avery

Those first springs the bony fish were welcome food and they ate them gratefully. At first they used them to feed the hills of corn as I showed them to do. They saw how it was, and early on these ones that came to Patuxet did not allow blocking the river as some English would do. Back then we all went to the river in the spring, carried full baskets of alewives to our families, our fields.

More ships came, with seeds and pigs and cattle. It did not take them long to forget how the alewives carried them.

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The Carried Wife by Padre

The river wasn’t incredibly deep, but it was wide and the current brisk. Inga and Charles stood staring at the detritus which seemed to permeate the flow.

“Charles, we can’t wait here all day, the pageant is right after lunch, and the town is still over a mile away.”

Inga had spent most of the last week sorting the ribbons, and finishing the embroidery of her native dress. It was the one hundredth anniversary of their nation’s independence from the Empire, and Inga was supposed to lead the dance.

Without a word, Charles lifted her end entered the water.

🥕🥕🥕

Visions of the Past by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Charles? Where are you?”

“Right here, dear. I’m reminiscing over some of our past adventures.”

Helen chuckled. “We did have some great times. Do you remember our trip to Europe after graduation?”

Charles sighed. “I most certainly do. Do you remember that starry night in the field near the standing rocks?”

Helen blushed. “That was our first night together. How could I forget? We promised our love for all eternity.”

“Yes, that’s right. I picked you up and spun you around the field. I called you my carried wife.”

Helen’s electric wheelchair turned. “And, you’ve carried me ever since.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Wolf in My Body by Deborah A. Bowman

I struggle to rise today,
Each day a little more difficult.
Not long ago I skipped upon my way!
And yet, it’s no one’s fault.

The Wolf has invaded my soul,
His markings across my face.
Lupus, they call him; truth be told.
French word, but found every place.

It taints women, makes our hearts go faint.
But even though the widow can no longer be carried,
The loving husband gone, she feels blessed.
“Yes, last night I could rest!”

My crutches carry me away!
Help my Lupus sisters who die today.
No cure; please help them all… www.lupus.org

🥕🥕🥕

Venus Falls by Kerry E.B. Black

Her legs gave way, and she crumbled.

He scrambled to catch her before she landed. Mud hampered his progress, greedy for attention when all he desired – His love, his best friend, his wife – suspended in what seemed like a slow motion descent.

Mud squelched around her head, befouling her midnight curls. The rigid motion of her seizure etched canals around her, a filthy adulteration of snow angels. He scooped her up and pressed her to him. She convulsed.

One minute. Two. Time grew as greedy as the mud.

The seizure passed.

He waited for her to return to awareness.

🥕🥕🥕

Pushing by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Her challenges were not visible. She had no wheelchair, guide dog, prosthesis or hearing aid. It would have been easier if they were visible.

She carried herself with aplomb. Engaging well with her colleagues and clients. Sometimes she was aggressive, but it wasn’t noticeable to people who did not know her well.

It was inside her brilliant mind that the cracks lurked. Gaps in her mental processes that stopped some of the usual though connections from happening.

Her husband plastered over the cracks and built bridges to breech the gaps. He carried her; pushing her in a mental wheelchair.

🥕🥕🥕

Misconceptions of What Is a Good Wife by Ellen Best

We worked hard, determined I was, not to be ‘A Carried Wife.’ More worried about other’s perceptions, I got it wrong. Because he was a lawyer, earning big, didn’t mean people would expect me to slack. Engrossed in that thought, I took my eye off of the ‘us.’

Not seeing his palor, hearing that cough. I failed as his wife. Each night I fell into bed shattered, not fit for the part. Worked, unaware of his appointments. I didn’t hold his hand, wipe his head. Here I am now, clutching a cold yellowed hand, wishing … it wasn’t his deathbed.

🥕🥕🥕

That Morning by Michael Fishman

Roger watched Ellen, feeling the same love he’d felt for 53 years.

What did she ever see in me?

He never rushed these feelings and this morning was no different. He watched her feeling love.

Roger became Ellen’s caregiver when Alzheimer’s left her unable to care for herself. “Please promise me,” she begged shortly after the diagnosis. “No nursing homes.”

He promised.

Roger would forever question Ellen’s reason for being out of bed alone. He lifted his wife and carried her to the bed. Setting her lifeless body down he kissed her forehead and lay down next to her.

🥕🥕🥕

Homecoming by Dana Wand

Swept up, she wrapped her arms around his neck while he reached down clumsily to open the door. They entered as one.

“Our first home,” he proudly proclaimed.

The years of a loving life soared. Here he is, carrying her frail body from the bedroom to the couch, tenderly wrapped in the warm comforter, hoping today will bring good news from the docs.

“It’s been a long day, Sweetheart, but now we are home.” He gently kisses her photo as he carries the urn to the nightstand next to their antique bed of fifty-four years.

🥕🥕🥕

You Carried Me by H.R.R. Gorman

You carried me.
I didn’t ask,
But then again,
I couldn’t speak.

You settled me
On soft, silken,
Pinkest pillow,
Kissed me tender.

My eyes were shut,
But I still saw
You adored me.
I cherished you.

I wanted to
Clean the sad pile
Of tissues at
Your well shod feet.

Could my action
Disrespect your
Sadness and grief?
I allowed tears.

Upon your exit
Through sanctum’s door,
Someone shut my
Coffin’s wood lid.

When you returned,
You carried me
In my casket
To earthen home.

But my spirit
Carries you now
Until you come
To rest by me.

🥕🥕🥕

The Carried Wife by Deborah Lee

Becca reads the “Lifestyles” article about wife-carrying contests in Minnesota, then clicks out with a snort. That’s exactly the kind of thing Richard would have liked, manly and competitive and funny.

She’s walking past the plate glass window when the vastness outside it, the view itself, seems to knock her sideways. Not now, agoraphobia, she thinks, I have to go to work, but it’s too late. The room dips and spins and she drops to her knees.

The laughing wife in the article photo flashes. Yes, she could use a wife-carrier right about now. But Richard’s not coming back.

🥕🥕🥕

Carry Me by Debs

Karen’s bridesmaid, Louise conjured the perfect wedding game. Karen had to guess from five men, who her husband-to-be’s hand was, while blindfolded. Whoever she decided would have to carry her.

Five men stood, side to side. All held out their right hands. Karen, blindfolded, sidestepped in front of each, slowly, holding each hand briefly. She reached the fifth man. Paused. Louise and young lady guests stifled a giggle. He was Karen’s ex. The hall went quiet.

Karen’s hand quivered as she took his hand. He let go and motioned with his head to the fourth man, the groom. Applause!

🥕🥕🥕

A Carried Jezebel by M J Mallon

Annie glanced at her scrawny husband. A glance was all it took. He couldn’t lift her, no carried wife could she ever be. No threshold over which she could be taken. Adam was different. His different scared her. She couldn’t help but imagine Adam lifting her onto his shoulders and running to the ocean, his bare skin wet with the salty water, his hard, taut muscles flexing. What would happen thereafter? Would he leave her to the fishes, or scoop her up with dreamy kisses? She knew what she would become: a carried Jezebel; perhaps she’d like that more.

🥕🥕🥕

Why Tessa is Divorced by Susan Sleggs

Tessa loaded the last of her personal items into the car then went back inside the house they had shared at Ft. Riley, Kansas, for the last six years. She did a walk-through remembering the good times with her children and how lonely she had been with her husband gone so much. When she locked the front door for the last time she could hear his words, “I’m done carrying you.” She felt she had carried the family without his help and knew she couldn’t stay after finding out his last three deployments had been at his own request.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Big Boned by Anne Goodwin

Her mother called her big-boned. Her father called her fat. In fact, she was muscled, a world-champion weightlifter, or would be when certain legalities were fixed.

When the Religious Right were elected, she’d been too busy training to vote. Now she cursed the Compulsory Marriage Act: only a Mrs could represent Britain abroad.

A secretary arranged for the groom, along with cake, dress and flowers. An affable chap, if rather weedy, but no-one had read the small print. She had to be carried indoors for it to pass muster. They ordered an ambulance in case her new husband collapsed.

🥕🥕🥕

Chicken Fights by clfalcone *

Competition was brutal this year: badass wives piggybacking muscled hubbies, trying to knock opponents into the water. He trusted his wife…she was the baddest ass of all.

They had been coming to the Annual 12-Step retreat for four years, winning the Chicken Fights three times. Five years earlier he was holed up in a trap house, smoking meth, drinking whiskey, losing his wife, destroying his life.

Four years sober meant his brain, job, wife, life, all somewhat returned to order.

Then Melissa from the Rooms got his wife off-balance. They both tumbled into the pool, laughing, enjoying the loss.

🥕🥕🥕

Return to the Farm by Joanne Fisher

After their wedding, Jess and Cindy returned to the farm. They stood at the doorway.

“Since you’re my wife now, I guess I should carry you over the threshold.” Jess suggested. Cindy put her hands on her hips.

“Excuse me? You’re my wife too. Maybe I should be the one who carries you?” Cindy objected. Jess laughed.

“With those slender arms? You’d be lucky to pick me up.” Jess countered.

“We’ll see about that!” Cindy replied defiantly. To Jess’s surprise Cindy strongly picked her up and carried her over threshold.

“I love it when you act butch.” Jess laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Over The Threshold by Ritu Bhathal

Nina giggled as Rakesh swept her up into his arms.

“Come on, Wifey, let’s get you inside.”

“Stop it!” She jumped down as soon as they stepped over the threshold and turned towards him. “Why did you carry me over? We’re not English, you know!”

“Oh, I thought that’s what people do when they get married.”

“Have you never been to an Indian wedding before? Come on. I know you were born in the US, but surely you know some of the traditions,” she took his hand. “I know. If your parents were alive, it would have been different…”

🥕🥕🥕

Blizzard Warriors by Caroline Scott

It was a cold, hard wind blowing in from the north but Casey kept her horse steady. She could barely see, keeping her hat low over her forehead and her scarf over her mouth.

Four hours ago, Sam had gone out to bring in their cattle. He should have been back by now, but the corral was empty.

Clucking her tongue, Casey urged her horse forward. The chestnut was sure-footed, carrying her over the familiar ground easily even in the rough weather. The horse had an instinct and Casey was certain that together, they would bring her husband home.

🥕🥕🥕

Together by Donna Matthews

Linda looked up from her feet – she’d been struggling all morning, stumbling over sharp rocks and ruts in the path. Her eyes traveled from the base of the mountain to the top. The steep switchbacks took her breath away.

“There’s no way in hell I’ll get to the top,” she laments.

“Honey?” she yells to her husband up in front.

“What’s up, beautiful?”

“I need your help,” she whines, “I’ll never make it up there. My feet are tired, and my back hurts!!”

Winking, he grabs her up on his back, and up the mountain together they go.

🥕🥕🥕

The Time Lily Put Her Foot Down and Stated Clearly, “I Am Not A Sack of Spuds.” by Bill Engleson

He’d declared himself with passion. His passions were modest befitting our customs. “It is our way, Lily. From your father’s home to our new home. I will carry you the distance.”

I looked at my betrothed. Yes, he was a stocky, corn fed youth. Strong as a rock, as serious as the soil he tended. Still, our home would be six miles away. A healthy distance to walk even without a burden.”

“Why would you weary yourself out, Emil? Of what use will you be to me on our wedding night?”

The seed was planted.

My point was made.

🥕🥕🥕

The Devil’s Elbow by Doug Jacquier

Mick picked his way carefully along the narrow track. As he reached Devil’s Elbow Cave, he planned to lay his heavy load down and take a rest. But before he could do that a man and a woman emerged from the cave. The man said “We’ll just relieve you of that burden, Mick.” He heard the click of the switchblade and saw the knife in the woman’s hand.

Seemingly acquiescent, Mick rolled the pack off his back, tore the top flap open and out stepped a woman holding a shotgun.

“You call that a wife? This is a wife.”

🥕🥕🥕

All Are Welcome Here by Liz Husebye Hartmann

It’d never occurred to them that their participation might not be welcome. Celebrating the fortitude and stamina required to go the distance in marriage–what better way to do this than with a test of physical endurance?

There was some confusion at the starting line as to which was the wife, but the buffalo-plaid-flanneled officiant had held up his gun, told all couples to get ready, set…

Pat hopped on Toni’s back, and they giggled their way through the course’s hedges and water traps. Everyone applauded when they were awarded first prize. This was, after all, the 21st century!

🥕🥕🥕

Wife Carrying by Pete Fanning

Every spring my parents entered our town’s Wife Carrying event. They usually nabbed first or second place, even as Mom wasn’t crazy about it. But she was a good sport, especially when Dad showed up in a dress. And won.

Then he got sick. Real sick. He lost fifty pounds of muscle. Winter came and the doctors were talking months, not years.

One night I heard some banging downstairs. I found my mother struggling, my father folded over her shoulders.

“What…” A lump in my throat. “Are you doing?”

Mom turned so I could see my dad beaming. “Training.”

🥕🥕🥕

Collapse by Nobbinmaug

It hit in the wee hours while Ricardo and Selema were asleep. The rumble thrust them into consciousness. The ceiling sent Selema reeling into unconsciousness.

Living in the Bay Area, Ricardo knew the dangers of aftershocks. The fallen beam would lead to further collapse.

Ricardo cleared the debris off Selema. He hoisted her, thankful for her time at the gym, wishing he made time for the gym. He struggled with the locks as the first aftershock shook. He heard a crash in the bedroom. The earth steadied, and Ricardo opened the door.

From outside, the sagging roof was visible.

🥕🥕🥕

He Carries Me by Cara Stefano

No one tells you what “in sickness and in health” means at the wedding, do they? Dutifully we repeat it anyway. He carried me over the threshold after our wedding.

I never realized how much I wanted motherhood until I was told I couldn’t be one. He carried me by not telling me that that day was also one of the worst days of his life.

Going back into surgery after your miracle has finally arrived. Alone, holding our newborn in his arms, I don’t know who carried him that day.

He has always carried me.

🥕🥕🥕

Caretaker by Nancy Brady

The woman was elderly, but he took great care of her. He stayed by her side throughout the day, only to return the following day.

Between her dementia and the cancer that was eating at her body, she was wasting away. Her mind wandered, with thoughts of long ago, memories of her childhood and that of a young wife and mother of a boy. She was barely lucid especially when he gave her the morphine to ease her pain.

Once, she carried him in her body, but now he was the one who carried her through her last days.

🥕🥕🥕

Ile de Fuego by Saifun Hassam

Carlos was inconsolable. Francine’s sailboat was found near Ile de Fuego. Francine, his beloved wife, his partner in marine exploration in the Black Bart Archipelago.

Her body was tangled in seaweeds among the lava tidal pools. She had been killed. Fang marks on her arms and legs, like those on a fisherman killed last winter. Island lore spoke of shadowy creatures haunting the undersea volcanoes.

Carlos gently lifted Francine’s shrouded body from the casket. With a silent prayer, he bid her farewell. He would not leave the Archipelago. It was their home. He was determined to find her killer.

🥕🥕🥕

I Will Always Carry You by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

David stood in front of his closet, trying to figure out what to wear. He never thought this day would come. He put on black dress pants, a white shirt, and a black tie. An image of him carrying Sally over the threshold of a hotel room on their wedding day popped into his head, and a tear rolled down his cheek. Now, he was never going to be able to do it.

After the service, when it was time, he lifted the casket onto his shoulder and carried her to the cemetery where she was laid to rest.

🥕🥕🥕

Hold by JulesPaige

los pobrecitos
bottle of emotion then,
an awkward present

the man carried his sick wife;
children follow in darkness

safe haven; farmhouse
mixed languages; but all the
faces smiled kindly

Another scribe in a different hand from the hidden hutch records; “The tall thin man carried his wife with such tenderness. It was unfortunate that there was little we could do but make them as comfortable as we could. In the end she passed. And he reluctantly took his two children with him to the next stop.” Smelling her roses again… I thought ‘my’ gentle spirit Ife right away…

🥕🥕🥕

One of Many by Floridaborne

Bartholomew held a secret he’d kept for 40 years. On her deathbed, his mother swore she had served as a chamber maid to George II in Hanover until May 1714, succumbing to the king’s unwanted advances while changing linens in Caroline’s bedchamber.

A month later, she married the first man willing to carry her away from servitude. Born Christmas day, 1714, his three sisters were birthed a year apart before their father passed in 1717, and none looked like him.

People snickered when they remarked on his resemblance to the king, but it seemed he was one of many bastards.

🥕🥕🥕

Carrying His Wife Out by Lisa R. Howeler

They had to carry her out when they found him lying there on the floor by the hutch covered in blood.

How could he have done it? Why would he have done it? He had all a man could want, all she could give him. Hadn’t the money been enough all these years?

They called it a miracle that she’d walked in when she had; startling him and causing him to drop the gun and shoot himself in the foot instead of the head liked he had intended. She’d collapsed when the gun went off, falling against the hutch.

🥕🥕🥕

Unnamed by Reena Saxena

He turned back for the last time to look at the pretty, but forlorn face.

This is the girl he had gagged and carried inside the threshold of this dingy room. She stayed behind, because she identified with his cause. She looked after him, and protected him from the police as long as she could.

It is not the police who have come for him today, but remnants from his past – his wife and two lovely kids.

It is time to say good-bye, and it breaks his heart to think that he was the kidnapper, and she the kidnapped.

🥕🥕🥕

The Matter of Loggatha LeGume by D. Avery

“*My Beanie lies over the mountain, my Beanie lies over the plains…*”

“Pepe Legume. Why ya singin’ sech a sad song?”

“‘Ello Pal, ‘Ello Keed. I am apart from my wife.”

“You have a wife?”

“Oui. Mon cher, mon petite Beanie. But her given name is Loggatha.”

“Well, where is Loggatha, why ain’t ya tagether?”

“Dere ees many times, many places when she cannot go where I can. Often she ees detained. Sigh. She ees warm and soft, dat one, but a solid partner, my better half. She carries me! But you know, dere’s a leetle Loggatha in everyone.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seeing the Finish Line by D. Avery

“Kid, you bin kinda scarce.”

“What diff’rence it make Pal? Ain’t much we kin do with this prompt. We won’t be carryin’ on with this challenge.”

“Why not? I kin carry ya. Or you kin carry me. Jist so’s we git the job done.”

“This roundup is purty specific— wife carryin’. Ain’t neither one of us no kinda a spouse ta no one.”

“Kid, ain’tcha never heard a “work spouses”? Thet one person ya kin rely on an’ confide in at yer job?”

“The one who’s got yer back an’ you got theirs?”

“Yep.”

“We kin take turns Pal.”

🥕🥕🥕

Found in a Hutch

A hutch can be a simple outdoor container for chickens on a ranch, or a simple chest to store saddles. Hutches can also be crafted into fine furniture that holds a person’s treasured dishes. Like a wardrobe, a hutch has many possibilities in storytelling.

Writers were asked to look inside. As you would expect, a wide variety of items were found.

The following is based on the January 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something found in a hutch.

PART I (10-minute read)

Heirlooms by D. Avery

She used to keep the better china in it. Then pretty knickknacks and collectibles. Things she thought one of her children, or grandchildren, even great-grandchildren might want to have. One day.

Now framed photographs lined the shelves of the hutch, all in order— children, grandchildren, great grandchildren; first-born to last-born.

She sighed. There were more great-grandchildren than living grandchildren. These young children, some addicts at birth, now lived with their grandparents— her own aging children.
The hutch predated the Civil War. Would her family survive these present day battles? Who will keep the hutch? Who will curate its treasures?

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Inside the Hutch: Mary Hansen Saga VI by Artie & Stu

Mary Hansen’s grandmother Margaret lived in the first settlers’ home on Lake Winataka. Her great-grandfather built it out of local oak. While it still stands and the old log houses are all rotting remains, he wouldn’t recognize much other than the kitchen hutch. Over the years, the home was remodeled and upgraded seemingly around that hutch. Mary spent many happy hours playing with the pots and pans stored below and then staring with curiosity at the mason jars and spices bottles inside the hutch. When her friends visited and asked what was in that cabinet, Mary always said, “love”.

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Unpacking by Susan Sleggs

Michael took another oblong bundle of paper out of a box labeled Hutch and unrolled the mound until the prize inside laid in his hand. He held a wood box with a hinged lid that had been tied securely with string. He handed it to Tessa.
With a look of wonderment, she undid the string, opened it and lifted out an Altoid box labeled with her son’s name. She shook it to hear the familiar rattle before opening it to show Michael the contents. “Brent’s baby teeth.”

“Parents save those?”

“Of course. I’ll bet your Mom has yours.”

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Memories Within the Old Hutch by Chelsea Owens

“What’s this, Grammy?” Pearla’s granddaughter, Ella, squatted on the old hutch, something wooden in her hand.

“Ah. That’s the lovespoon Grampy brought back from Wales.”

Ella retrieved another piece. “An’ this one?”

“A model plane your Daddy-”

“An’ this one?”

“Aunt Michelle’s locket from-”

“An’ this one?”

Pearla laughed and kissed the curly-haired forehead. “Slow down, Ella, dear.”

“Sorry, Grammy.” Ella pulled something from the shadows. “An’ this one?”

“That’s-” Pearla choked; whispered, “Those were your Aunt Ella’s.” Taking and returning the tiny baby shoes, Pearla took the living Ella’s hands, instead. “What do you think about making cookies?”

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Great-grandma Carpenter’s Sherbet Dishes by Faith A. Colburn

Grandma Hazel and her younger sister, Edna, used to have knock-down drag-out fights. One night it centered on who would wash the dishes. After a bunch of yelling and snarling, it degenerated into hair pulling. To keep from falling, Grandma grabbed her mother’s hutch where Great-grandma Frank displayed her fancy sherbet dishes. The hutch went down, breaking all but two of the dishes.

“That’s the only time I ever saw my mother cry,” Hazel said.

Grandma Frank made the girls dig a hole in the back yard and bury the broken glassware.

Sis and I have the two survivors.

🥕🥕🥕

Maybe Next Year by Anne Goodwin

Every Christmas, he gifted her a pretty notebook and a pen fit for an arthritic hand. Every year, he took the grandkids to the pantomime, left her at the kitchen table, to fill the first page. Every autumn, he looked for it amongst the litter of the rabbit hutch, a crumpled sheet of unmet targets and dashed hopes.

He never mentioned it. Simply smoothed out the wrinkles and filed her disappointment among his gardening magazines. His resolution spanned a decade but he swore he’d get there. One day he’d bring them out and show her how far she’d come.

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When the Wealth Didn’t Matter by Lisa R. Howeler

He kept the gun in the hutch behind the Tiffany Sybil Claret Wine glasses that had belonged to his grandmother.

There were 20 of those ridiculous glasses, worth $100 each. Wealth, wealth and more wealth.

It was all around him but none of it mattered.

His fingertips grazed the cool metal of the gun, a Remington RM380, traced the shape of it, and slipped down to the handle where his fingers firmly grasped it.

He tipped his head back and laughed loudly.

So rich yet so poor.

They had their money to keep them warm.

They wouldn’t miss him.

🥕🥕🥕

Lagomorphs by clfalcone *

“Why’d you quit the agency, Laurel?” His stern look matched his suit: rough, angry, out of place in this Alaskan wilderness.

Unblinking, she reached into the hutch, gently removing a rabbit.

“You know what this is?” Hugging the bunny.

He just stared, cold wind flapping his trenchcoat.

“This is a snowshoe hare …. lepus americanus…” She closed the hutch. “I like studying their migratory patterns, not those of Islamic military targets in Iran for Big Oil.”

“But there’s a war on…we need you, Laurel.” he huffed.

“Your war…. not mine.” She turned and walked away, waving. “Good day, Mr. Mills.”

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The Year I Spent as a Bunny-Almost a Memory but a True Story. Well, One Part. I Just Don’t Know Which Part. by Bill Engleson

Mother: “He’s not a curious child.”

Father: “A little slow, maybe?”

Mother: “He needs schooling, Sterling.”

Father: “Needs a kick in the…”

Mother: “No he doesn’t. He needs a private school. He’d be five and in grade one.”

Father: “Pay for his learning?”

Mother: “For a year. It’d be hard, but we could do it.”

Father: “What’s this place called?”

Mother: “The Bunny Hutch.”

Father: “Seriously?”

Mother: “And you’d have to drive him.”

Father: “I work shifts at the mill.”

Mother: “We’d have to drive him.”

Father: “You don’t drive.”

Mother: “I’ll have to learn.”

Father: “Guess you will.”

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The Culprit by Caroline Scott

“Pa, can I keep it? Please?”

Sam scratched his head at the furry culprit in his son’s arms. How that little brown pup had gotten into the rabbit hutch he had no idea, but he wasn’t happy about it, no sir, not at all.

“Those were good rabbits,” he said.

“But Pa! We’ll get more! This little feller’s a hunting dog, I can tell.”

The hope in his boy’s eyes was pleading. Sam’s eyes went to the little wriggling mongrel who caused so much trouble, and his gaze softened.

“Alright. But you’re cleaning up after him and that’s final.”

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The Hutch by Ritu Bhathal

Milly peaked inside the room again, hoping the scene had changed since she checked a few minutes ago.

Nope. Nothing.

She sighed.

So, everyone really had forgotten.

She looked again a few moments later to find her family stood there.

“What’s happening?” Confused, Milly’s eyes darted from person to person.

“Get your coat, Midge,” her brother ruffled her hair and smiled, and beckoned her to follow them into the garden.

A hutch stood in the corner.

“Go on, Milly. Look inside!”

Her eyes lit up as she saw a tiny rabbit.

“Happy birthday, Milly. Did you think we forgot?”

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Rabbit Hutch by Nobbinmaug

Jen’s dad made the rabbit hutch for her when she was 8. She cherished it. He wasn’t around much when she was a kid.

When she was 12, he left on a business trip and never came home. He left no word, and the police found no clues.

When she got her own house, she decided to set up the hutch in her yard. Maybe someday her kids would breed and show rabbits.

When she and her friends were disassembling the hutch, she found a secret compartment. She forced open the rusty hinges revealing a large bag of diamonds.

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A Shared Project by Stevie Turner.

His son smiled at him as he bent over the little hutch and banged in the last nail. Now the boy was eight, he’d found working with the lad in their shared project rather more satisfying than hours spent frequenting the pub. Okay, a few of the screws had gone in somewhat crooked, but what the hell. He smiled in return. By making the shelter for Sheldon he had managed to please not only the tortoise, but just in time had also achieved the thing that had been so elusive to him in past years; that all-important father-son bond.

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The Rabbit Hutch by Sally Cronin

Her kids wanted new things for their children and Milly decided to have a garage sale for toys she had hoarded. Neighbors came and went, but one little boy stood in front of the rabbit hutch all morning. She had put 20 dollars on the ticket as they were expensive to buy new. He clasped a dollar bill in his hand. “My dad says I can have a rabbit when I can buy the hutch”. A tear rolled down his cheek. He raced down the street waving the sold ticket in his hand and she smiled at his joy.

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The Hutch by Margaret G. Hanna

The hutch stands in the far corner of the shed. The glass is broken out of the upper doors, allowing a sparrow to build a nest. The lower doors hang askew, revealing paint cans and oil filters. A crudely carved heart stands out amongst the gouges and scars on the counter. Within it, I read the initials: DL + BR.

Were they high school sweethearts who married? Or was it only a summer fling? I trace my finger around the heart, hoping to feel the passion that inspired them to leave an everlasting declaration of love on this old hutch.

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Regal by DG Kaye

They stood tall and proud. None wished to be snatched away, or worse, – broken!

For decades these worthy icons remained admired and sought after, not only for beauty, but, their ever-increasing monetary value. The older, the more valuable. A grand mix of ethnic backgrounds co-existing in silence.

Such greats as: Lalique, Capodimonte, Royal Doulton, and Russian nesting eggs sat perched on a shelf protected behind the beautifully scallop-edged fine glass doors housing the regal cabinet where they all lived in harmony in all their diversity.

Time’s treasures of hidden wealth and ancient lore communing in one dining room hutch.

🥕🥕🥕

Those Eyes! by Ruchira Khanna

“Whatever happens, don’t open this?” Mom commanded as if the colonel of the army, and

marched out of the room.

I obeyed with a soft nod but confused eyes.

I stared at it and saw a pair of eyes on the brass knobs of the brown polished wood.

Peeked outside the room.

“Should I open it?” I grinned like a witch, “But maybe it had something forbidden for me, just

like Adam’s apple?” I contemplated.

Stared back at the hutch, but darn those eyes reflected at me!

Is it my consciousness or just the reflection of my own eyes?

🥕🥕🥕

Eye of Luxor by clfalcone *

“You said you’d give it back if I brought you the letter.” He handed her a tattered, soiled paper.

She looked it over with scrutiny, examining the writing, squinting. Finally, folding it, she placed it in a box on the hutch. She took the pendant hanging from the finial.

“The Eye of Luxor.” She winked. “There’s a lot of power in that jewel, you know. Be careful.”

“Much as you should be careful with scrolls of Moloch.” He said, snatching the gem with a return wink, walking to the door

“Give the prince my regards, sister.” And he left.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

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The Hutch by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

When Mosiko arrives for work shortly, she will ask him to help her carry the cages from the barn, and assist her in setting them up, one at a time, in front of the chicken coop door. A bit of food sprinkled on the ground would be enough to attract the stupid birds out of their chicken coop and into the cage when she released them from captivity by opening the door. Once safely inside, Mosiko would then help her carry the occupied cages back to the barn, ready to be hung under the wagon before the family trekked.

🥕🥕🥕

Memories of the Past by Colleen M. Chesebro

Julia packed the last of the doilies into the bottom drawer of the hutch. She lovingly stroked the top of the sturdy pine chest. This heirloom had been in her family for more generations than she could count. She hated saying goodbye.

She opened a cupboard door and touched great grandmother’s bone china wrapped in cloth for protection. A great feeling of sadness overwhelmed her, and she gulped back her tears.

With one last look at the remains of a life she had to leave behind, Julia stepped from the covered wagon into the heat of a prairie dawn.

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That One Day (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Sun beat down on the oxidized hood of the Willies Jeep. It was Danni’s ninth birthday and her dad said they’d explore the old wagon road of the 40-Mile Desert. So far, all Danni had seen were oxen bones and rusty horseshoes. Her dad stopped to check out a dried-out pile of wood.

“An old hutch once,” he said.

Danni climbed out and saw a glint of something in what had been a cupboard door. A marble. Not just any marble but a large globe with an elephant inside. That was the day Danni decided to become an archeologist.

🥕🥕🥕

Yield? by JulesPaige

secrets too long kept
India Ink script fading
on brittle parchment

I took one of Marisol’s boxes and placed it on the built in hutch. A bit too hard, trying to avoid Lucky weaving underfoot, “You kitty are early for lunch! You and Dawg are always on the run – why don’t you take a nap I like the way you sleep!”

A loose backboard popped open. There was a thick oil cloth bound by butcher’s twine. Marisol’s box got moved to the back burner.

I cut the twine and carefully unwrapped the cloth. The first page was dated 1835…

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Cheese Keeper by Ann Edall-Robson

It was a rare occasion when Hanna had time to look through the box her grandmother had left her. Today was her day off, yet she had offered to help Liz in the kitchen and had been shooed away. Now, with the pictures spread across her bed, she looked at each one. Reading the fading words on the back for the hundredth time. Her favourite was one of her grandmother at someone’s birthday. Surrounded by people Hanna was yet to identify. On the table was a cheese keeper.

“That looks like the one Liz has in her china hutch.”

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One Afternoon by Michael Fishman

She laid two bony hands on the table, leaned forward, and with a moan of effort, stood up. She grabbed her cane and shuffled away.

“Where you going, grandma?” I said, hoping I hid the hope in my voice.

She didn’t answer, but she didn’t have to because when I saw her walk to the hutch I knew exactly where she was going. Third drawer, left side. That’s where she kept them.

“It’s been a while, love, so today we’re going to play a game.”

Third drawer, left side, that’s where my grandmother kept her deck of magic cards.

🥕🥕🥕

Blackie (BOTS) by Nancy Brady

My son found an abandoned Easter bunny near the woods behind our home. We found a cage to house the little rabbit. Because of our cats, though, a disaster could strike, and Blackie would be gone.

Frankly, my husband didn’t want it; he convinced an employee, who raised rabbits, to take the bunny. They even had a rabbit hutch in their backyard. Now, to convince my son as he was attached to Blackie, he promised, “We’ll visit him.” With that, the rabbit had a new home. Devastated, tears trickled down Michael’s cheeks, and he never saw the rabbit again.

🥕🥕🥕

What’s Hidden in Your Hutch by Susan Sleggs

After exercising on stationary rings and showering, Michael sat staring at the hutch his sister had insisted he needed. The upper shelves displayed happy memories: pictures of him with Army buddies at reunions, his parents, and his sister’s family. The lower cupboards held a good stock of liquor. The center big drawer was like a safe deposit box, hiding tangible PTSD triggers: two purple hearts, medical records, dog tags, pictures of lost buddies and of himself with legs. He thought of baby teeth and hoped Tessa would have a grandchild to help him understand why such things were keepsakes.

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The Inhuman Hutch by tracey

The four foot square box made of metal had a thick wavy pane of glass on one side. The POWs called it the hutch. The Major broiled inside for twenty-seven days and shivered through twenty-seven nights.

The enemy was sure a man of his rank knew plenty about troop movements or upcoming military operations. But he didn’t know anything, though he often wished he did so he could misdirect the enemy.

He was just a payroll officer caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. A mere mortal given the opportunity to demonstrate his inordinate strength of mind.

🥕🥕🥕

The Silla by clfalcone *

She was at the rabbit cages when Nanuq came to the gate.

He cleared his throat. Chills crept her spine like the icy winds off Marmot Bay.

“Sis…they can’t find the boat…. the eight went down…I’m so sorry, Jissika.”

She had feared the worse when Maritime lost track of the Silla off Sitkinak Island nineteen hours ago.

Now it was so.

She let the bunny drop back into the hutch, rubbed her distended belly, welling up. The fishermen would have to wait for their boots and hats this season.

She had to raise the baby without her Ujar now.

🥕🥕🥕

Freedom! by Joanne Fisher

I squeezed through the small gap in the wire, and then I was free. I had finally escaped my prison. I ran down the path towards the forest and freedom. After a short time I could hear the footsteps of my captors behind me. They knew I had escaped, and were giving chase. I vowed I would get away this time. It was to no avail however: a large hand suddenly scooped me up.

“Aw! The little fella tried to escape the hutch again. We’ll just have to make sure there are no more gaps in the wire netting.”

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Plans for Supper by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The four children huddled in the corner of the rabbit hutch. Cock-sure that the trolls would be sleeping off their hangover, they’d broken into the cellar for a bit of potato…maybe some ham! They’d not counted on LilleMjol catching them.

LilleMjol’d expected a reward of rabbit stew in brown gravy for dinner. What he’d gotten was a cuff on the ear.

“Stupid boy! These are humans, not rabbits. Our Peace Accord says we can’t eat them!” his mother glared down her long nose at him.

LilleMjol was furious, vowing to kill them anyway.

But the four had other plans.

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Hutch by Dave Madden

Ben and Diego entered Death Kiss MMA as soft high school seniors out of curiosity; two years later, each had hardened into highly touted amateur prospects within the local circuit.

The road along the way was paved with several hardships—losses, injuries, problems with coaches or other teammates, and personal issues outside of training—but they always had each other’s back, like MMA’s hard-hitting rendition of Starsky and Hutch.

Much like the two detectives would chase “their guy,” the two continued their journey into the professional ranks, pursuing glory in cages across every continent.

🥕🥕🥕

For Luck by Anita Dawes

My mother’s welsh dresser needed filling
I remembered the six crates in the attic
Not sure about most of the china
So old fashioned
I managed to find a few bits
I was about to carry the pieces down bit by bit
When I noticed a small crate
Over by the window
Taking a quick look, I found
A blue and gold Aladdin’s lamp
It felt warm to the touch
Unlike the other pieces
I felt instantly fascinated with it
Carrying it down like a precious new-born
Placing it on the dresser
Most days, someone rubs it for luck…

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Hutch of Treasures by Kerry E.B. Black

Grandma asked my cousins and me, “What inside this hutch is my dearest possession?” She creaked as she settled into an armchair to watch our debate.

My eldest cousin took the lead. “The goblets. They’re gold, aren’t they?”

Grandma inclined her head. “Indeed, but they aren’t my treasure.”

Each chose something. Crystal, silver, china, linens. I noticed a stack of ribbon-bound letters in the top right drawer. When my turn came, I pointed to them. “Are these from Grandpa?”

“Yes, when he fought in the war.”

“Then these are your treasured possession.”

Tears dribbled from her white lashes. “Yes.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Hutch by Floridaborne

What is a hutch?

A dust magnet.

Unless you hire a cleaning crew each week, it’s nothing but a time waster. I have better things to do than clean the knick knacks, shelves, and plates.

Binge-watching a series has more meaning. Cleaning is drudgery that never ends — a series does, and you were entertained along the way.

Yes, a hutch once owned me, a darkly wooded monstrosity with toe-catching legs that sent me to urgent care more than once.

Hutches, like mansions, are for the rich. I’ll take light wood cabinets and a wall full of counter space instead.

🥕🥕🥕

The Traveler by Saifun Hassam

Grandma’s favorite room was her den. The center piece was a beautiful chestnut hutch she found in a yard sale.

She enjoyed her days gardening and reading. And ah yes, helping with the upkeep of the gnome and hobbit homes in her hometown of Charlevoix. A motley collection of miniature stone hobbits and gnomes had found its way onto the top shelf.

The hutch was home to novels like Treasure Island, Moby Dick, Kon Tiki, Don Quixote, Lord of the Rings, and Lord Jim. On the lowest shelf an exquisite carving of a sailing boat rode the high waves.

🥕🥕🥕

TempOWary by D. Avery

“Pal, ya ever git skeered we could git replaced?”

“Us? Heck no, Kid, we’re iconic. Stock character Ranch hands, dang good at what we do.”

“Yeah, but, seems like there ain’t a position these days ain’t dispensible. I know Pepe’s worried ‘bout automation at Buckaroo Nation.”

“Whut?”

“You know he slips inta Headquarters now and agin. He found out Shorty’s frien’s got a fartin’ machine. Kin ya believe it?”

“Cain’t believe it could keep up with Pepe.”

“One time they was talkin’ spreadsheets, ‘member?”

“An’ you kept shovelin’ an’ spreadin’ an’ scatterin’ shift like farfennugens. Kid, jist hutch up.”

🥕🥕🥕

By Design

Setting an intention is at the heart of welcoming in the New Year. By design, we set goals, plan and reach for our vision. This goes beyond resolutions and wishes. By design, we commit to doing the work of our dreams.

Writers, as always, followed where the prompt led. You’ll be surprised by the design flaws and successes contained here.

The following are based on the December 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the phrase by design.

By Design by Donna Matthews

“What are you doing?”

“Digging.”

“Why?”

“Under all these layers of granite, rock, and dirt, there’s an underground river I’m trying to reach.”

“But why? “

“This river is what connects all human beings together.”

“What in the world are you talking about? Doesn’t make a lick of sense!”

“I know. It’s super hard to explain, and most people aren’t ready to understand, but the human experience is connected by design. Most people remain content here on the surface level, but I hunger for more. I believe this river that connects us all is the answer.”

“You’re weird!”

“Maybe.”

🥕🥕🥕

Designature Move by Bill Engleson

He’d wake up in the morning and not know where he was.

Nor care.

All that mattered was that he had coffee.

Sometimes he didn’t.

Fortunately for him, a cup of java was always just around the corner.

Which corner didn’t matter.

Any corner would do.

One Christmas Eve, he showed up at his sisters.

“Surprise, surprise,” he said, smiling as she opened her festively decorated door.

“Well, brother,” she exclaimed, “where’s the cat?”

“Got me, Sis. What cat?”

“The one that dragged you in.”

“Arrives tomorrow.”

“Then he’ll be welcome too, you sketchy transient.”

“Love you too, Sis.”

🥕🥕🥕

Private Toast by Kerry E.B. Black

Karen decided New Year’s resolutions needn’t fail. 2020 could offer “vision,” and she’d craft herself into an ideal. As confetti drifted into her champagne and couples kissed through “Auld Lang Syne,” she visualized a successful self.

Next year, she’d work harder toward her goals. New job. New home. New pant size. New romance.

Before she tipped alcohol from her fluted glass as an anticipatory congratulation, she studied the pattern floating atop. Bits of colored tissue created images, and much like a tea leaf reader of old, she knew them by design.

With a smile, Karen swallowed her private toast.

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Lifting Off Part 1 by D. Avery

“Why do you still use those toilet-paper roll binoculars to watch Marlie?”

Liz continued to focus on Marlie playing in the tree fort. “They help me remain objective. Keep my distance.”

“And why do you need to do that?”

Now she let the paper binoculars hang by their yarn strap around her neck as she answered her husband. “Because that unplanned offspring of ours couldn’t be more perfect by design. I don’t ever want to get in her way.”

“She’s going places alright. Mars. She’s in her spaceship.”

Marlie beckoned them. “Come to the launch! It’s time for take-off!”

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Lifting Off Part 2 by D. Avery

“Space travel! That explains the snow suit and hockey helmet.”

The crowd quieted as the astronaut communicated with Mission Control. The countdown began. The tree fort shuddered and roared. At liftoff Liz looked for reassurance in her husband’s embrace. When she turned back to see the capsule hurtling beyond the atmosphere her binoculars were crushed. She shielded her eyes with her hand and watched her daughter soaring over them, searching new adventures in far-flung worlds of her own imagination.

“Don’t worry,” her husband said. “Lunch is waiting. She’ll come back to refuel. Come on, I’ll make you new binoculars.”

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Anita Dawes

At my age, I don’t think about changing my life
It’s more like how to hang on to what’s left of it
If I did give thought to it
I would like to choose my own parents
After thoroughly vetting them first
Their childhood, their parents
As they will become my grandparents
Very important
Do they love each other
As much as they show the world.
Not really knowing if this idea
Is better than pot luck
Two people getting together
Then Fate takes over
Thing is, it is not always kind
Mostly, I believe we cannot change anything…

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Time Saver by Joanne Fisher

By design the Ougalflougalerator was meant to make everyone’s life easier. It was a personal organiser, labour saving device, and most importantly, a time re-arranger, quite literally. When programmed correctly, periods of free time in your past and future could now be moved to when you really needed it in the present.

The Ougalflougalerator was designed by the mysterious Deep Thought corporation. An incredibly wealthy organisation that suddenly came into existence overnight, it seemed. Though the Ougalflougalerator was meant to make people’s lives easier, everyone who owned one found themselves more rushed and pressed for time than ever before.

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Five Pinnacles Canyons (from “Diamante Mountains”) by Saifun Hassam

Rocky canyons overlooked the valley floor. Animal treks meandered up into the alpine meadows. Pierre was on his first exploration trip of the Five Pinnacles Canyons, near the Diamante Mountains.

No one knew the origin of the name. More intriguing was an ancient stone wall. The passage of time had not erased its intrinsic patterns. By design it was an intricate lattice of uneven geometric shapes. With an unknown purpose and by design, stone steps also of distinctive geometry, ran alongside the stone wall. An older lattice of floral patterns was just discernible in the ruins of broken walls.

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By Design by Lisa R. Howeler

She thought it had all been an accident. He’d run into her on his way into of the supermarket while she was walking out.

“Oh, excuse me,” he’d said, bright blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight, dirty blond hair falling across his forehead and his hand warm against her arm as they collided. “I didn’t see you there.”

She’d dropped one of her bags and oranges were rolling across the parking lot.

Little did she know their encounter had been by design all along, and by his design, not by divine design. It wasn’t divine, was it? She wondered.

🥕🥕🥕

By Design by Floridaborne

“No one has to know,” he whispered.

“No one but God,” I said.

“You’re one of… them?” He scoffed at me.

He looked so much like my favorite actor. Without the message from a classmate who watched me say yes to a date, I would’ve gladly melted into those well-toned arms.

“I am a woman and, by design, I have to be diligent. I don’t want to be the third high school student that has to go to night school because of you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Take me home,” I said, relieved I wasn’t going to become number four.

🥕🥕🥕

The Team by Ann Edall-Robson

Tal watched Hanna finish harnessing the team. She was good at what she did, and she loved working with the horses. This year It was her job to get them ready for the upcoming parade in town.

“You’re doing a good job with them, Hanna. You’ve got the touch.”

“How long do you think they’ve been together?”

“The team?”

“No! Mac and Liz?”

Tal looked at Hanna with an odd expression.

“Why are you asking?”

“Curious.”

“None of our business.”

“You know, don’t you! Was it fate, or by design?

“Hanna, just drop it!” He said, turning to go.

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It’s By Design by Chelsea Owens

“But, men are better-suited to a job. Women are nurturers, better-suited to home life and childcare.”

She looked his way, watching her nonverbal incredulity fly over his head.

“You think work’s some sort of vacation, but it’s difficult. It’s boring, too.”

She could see the piles of laundry behind him, an out-of-focus background to his immaculately-suited person. Disorder framed order: a juxtaposition between her expected daily high point and his.

“It’s true. I read a study that women are happier at home.”

She sighed, wondering which pile hid happiness.

“Trust me.” He kissed her pale cheek. “It’s by design.”

🥕🥕🥕

A Weekend To Remember… by JulesPaige

t’was not by design
that the hospice declared her
a Christmas angel

after some ninety plus years
Baruch the Jew passed that night

Was by design though, she did not flaunt her faith. Perhaps she thought ‘I don’t need an excuse to be different – being a minority can cut deeply. I have lived a long life full of humor and truth. My children have married good partners, that’s what matters.’

Organized religion has benefits, distractions and derailments. Yearly celebrations should be time rededicated to family. For acceptance of differences was a primary lesson she taught throughout her life.

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Roses Come With Vicious Thorns by Anne Goodwin

Yr was a place of peace and beauty, and Deborah was its queen. Its stone walls blocked all sound and sight of bullies; its blue skies neutralised all pain. Each time she left – to see her family, do her schoolwork – her heart clenched.

By design, Yr was a rose garden, but roses come with vicious thorns. They tore her skin and, when she struggled, they scourged her flesh to bone. Yr’s people cackled, they screamed and shouted, refused to let her go. When she wept, they laughed. Her retreat became a place of persecution; its queen became its slave.

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Essential Element by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“The best-laid plans.”

“The egg unhatched.”

“The circle, its ends unmet.”

“A triad missing its third…”

“Thus only a dyad.”

The nave is cold, cheerless,
No sun to set stained glass windows afire with stories.
The benches unyielding, polished planes thick with dust,
Sound swallowed and darkly vaulted above.
The altar, richly hung with heavy cloths, tarnished chalice its crown.
Cobwebs occlude, where once a holy remnant hung.
Architecture, impeccable by design, might inspire devotion.
But what’s a place of worship without prayers?

“This is the church.”

“This, the steeple.”

“Open the doors…”

“And go serve all the people.”

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By Design by Charli Mills

By design, my garden impressed. Every steppingstone measured, every bulb, seed, and root planted for maximum impact. In life, I did as I was expected. Good grades, college, spouse, suburban split-level, and two sons. On Sundays, I went to church.

Then my husband left me. My sons chose to live with him and his new wife, one without dirt under her nails. I moved into an apartment alone. Devastated. This wasn’t part of the plan. Where was God in this? Then I remembered the mustard seed. By design, I started over with a single planter and found my joy.

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Life by Design by Reena Saxena

She turned down invitations to kitty parties, and the ladies often quipped,

“What do you do all day?”

She had quit her job, but was always busy – writing, painting, building an enviable online profile. She volunteered, enrolled for many courses, and managed to complete ten of those.

They never understood what she did. Some of them labelled her a snob, but she was used to it. She was paying a social price for being different, being a lifelong learner.

She had charted out a whole new career path, when she launched a start-up. It was a life by design.

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By Design by Faith A. Colburn

I am isolated by design. I wanted to write my own stories. I’d been wanting to write them for years. So seven years ago, I earned my MA in creative writing and I published my first book—a family memoir I researched in collaboration with Grandma Hazel.

I closed myself in my house with a computer and printer. I wrote and revised, worked with beta readers, and edited. I marketed, too, until my grandson was born. I became his primary caregiver and an infant became nearly my only companion.

A few weeks ago, I realized I’d overdone the solitude.

🥕🥕🥕

New Year Intentions by Colleen M. Chesebro

In preparation for the new year, I anointed the white candle with the ritual oil. By design, this spell would work to cleanse away the old energy from the past year. For this candle represented my intention—all the hopes, dreams, and successes I envisioned for myself in the new decade to come.

I closed my eyes and centered my thoughts. I pictured myself writing in sunlight and in darkness. I didn’t give up or walk away. I kept reading and writing. I continued to learn.

My goal loomed large. I lit the candle and let the energy flow.

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Painting a Picture by tracey robinson

The landscape was encased in ice, trees frozen in mid-motion. Snow gleamed pure white, too cold even for the stars to twinkle. The cold poked and prodded, looking for a way into the snug cottage. All was still.

Inside the fire crackled and popped from the newly added pine log before settling down to give a steady heat. The flames danced to a happy song only they could hear.

I breathed in slow and deep, holding for a beat at the top. By design peace flowed through me. By Mother Nature’s design sleep settled over the great wintry outdoors.

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Failure by Joanne Fisher

“Engage the thrusters.” I ordered.

“Yes Captain.” the pilot replied.

Our spaceship sprang into life. By design, the ship was meant to withstand high speeds, but this was the first time they were being properly tested.

As our speed increased, the entire spaceship began to shake rather violently. I looked out the window to see bits of the ship starting to fly off.

“Our ship is breaking apart. Kill the thrusters!” I ordered. The pilot flicked the switch, but nothing happened.

“It’s no use! The controls won’t respond!”

I sighed. We were going to pay dearly for this failure.

🥕🥕🥕

Many Reasons by Susan Sleggs

At breakfast, Tessa said to Michael, “Last night’s Home-front Warriors discussion was about how few “lifers” return to their home towns. What brought you back?”

“That was by design. I knew my mother had chronicled my injuries and recuperation on Facebook so hometown friends wouldn’t need to ask me for the details. I wanted to feel useful and our church music program beckoned. Being involved with it helps keep the self-pity at bay.” He paused. “And if I were to get news about you, it would be here.”

Her eyes and smile proved his answer was a pleasant surprise.

Author’s Note: Definition – lifers – those who make a career of serving in the military, at least 20 years. It’s true they often don’t return home perhaps because their life experiences and viewpoints have changed them enough they don’t feel they fit in among old friends anymore.

🥕🥕🥕

The Spiritual Mystic by Design by Brenda Marie Fluharty

The Spiritual Mystic website, by design, was intended to share Love and light with the word. To help others to become more self-aware. Through the knowledge and wisdom of Brenda Marie people learn to walk their own path and share the journeys with the world. She shares her stories of spiritual awakenings, past lives, dreams, and her new gained knowledge of all things Spiritual. In her way she helps make the world a better place by doing what she loves, raising the vibrations of the Earth through her lightwork with the help of the angels and God above.

🥕🥕🥕

D’sign er Doors by D. Avery

“Kid, ya doin’ vision questin’ like Shorty talks about?”

“That’s a good questin’ Pal, but I ain’t never been much of a planner. Fer me ma visionin’ is ta look out fer jars.”

“Kid, this don’t seem the time or place fer ya ta be talkin’ ‘bout yer love a drink.”

“Not them jars. I’m talkin’ ‘bout keepin’ ma eyes peeled fer doors ‘cause they’re most often ajar, an opportunity fer me ta slip through onta the next thing.”

“Thet doesn’t seem ta be livin’ by design.”

“Sure it is. I’m open to de signs leadin’ ta them doors.”

🥕🥕🥕

December 26: Flash Fiction

The day after Christmas and some might be elated, some might be feeling battle-weary, and some might not recognize the day as any different. Across Roberts Street, the Christmas tree in my neighbor’s window went dark. No more dazzling LED  lights to keep me company into the long dark nights I write at my desk next to the window that gave me an unobstructed view of his. Some neighbors up the street still illuminate their old mining homes and likely will into the New Year.

On social media, I’ve witnessed Christmas joy, angst, and meh.

Joy goes to many who had sorrows last year. One close veteran friend battled agent orange-derived cancer, which shadowed the past two years, holidays included. This year, with surgeries and chemo complete, he showered his wife with thoughtful gifts, the kind that will be remembered — years ago she shattered an heirloom casserole from Poland. He finally found a replacement and surprised her with it. It’s understandable that this couple has savored every celebration in December this year from making cookies with the grandkids to the quiet after Christmas Day. Joy returned to them.

Another family I know from those long-ago days in Montana celebrated Christmas with purpose too — that family matters. They sprinkled gothic Halloween humor into traditional Christmas themes because one daughter created that infusion. Families often invent their own traditions, renewing those passed down. I remember this daughter as a girl who was best buddies with my eldest daughter. She and her sister were children, I loved dearly, and when I think about them, I think back to when my kids were little. It’s hard for me to fathom that she took her own life this year.

Grief comes at Christmastime.

Festive lights and remembered carols remind us of loss — death, divorce, and other unexpected changes. We humans like to pretend that change doesn’t happen. Maybe it’s a protective mechanism, a way to avoid contemplating our own mortality. Looks, circumstances, and vitality inevitably change. When I consider those dark Christmas tree lights across the street, I wonder how my neighbor is doing. He lost his wife this summer. Did he honor her memory by putting up the tree? Was he trying to maintain connectivity with their grown kids? Was it a relief to pull the plug on the lights? Let go?

So many of us try to hold onto what we think was the perfect Christmas memories. Others try to break free of the Christmas past. It’s easy to envy those who look like they have it all with gifts piled under a perfectly decorated tree, family in attendance, and intact traditions. The Mormon missionaries who visit talk about the Christmases back home where family was the focal point and Jesus the celebration.

This year, I tried Yule. It didn’t go as planned with my daughter’s friends feeling shy to celebrate a pagan holiday with others. In no way am I looking to replace one religion with another, I just want to cook and hold an open house. My ideal would be to have my children at home, playing games, eating mama’s cooking, and watching Lord of the Rings. But they have work, homes, and lives away from me. It’s unfair to tug them to my wishes.

It’s hard for married couples to navigate the traditions of their blended families. One mom wants this tradition honored, a step-mom wants to be with her kids alone, another mom just wants daughter time. Often, Christmas is the only time of year that families get extended work holidays. How do you decide where to spend that precious time? And it’s right smack in the middle of cold and flu season. It’s enough to make young couples implode.

My daughter and SIL have declared stay-at-home healing time. My son went with his fiance to spend the holiday with her small but close-knit family. And my other daughter encountered a polar bear that got into town on Svalbard Christmas Day. She was indoors, he was outside. How I long for our own close-knit days but honor the fledging of my children.

This is the most wonderful (complex) time of the year. Just scan your social media feed, and you’ll witness the full spectrum of joy, grief, and frustration. You’ll see faith renewed and lost. You’ll see cookies, jokes, and lashing out. What we all need, no matter our circumstances, state of mind, or expectations, is loving-kindness. Stand firm in your own truth, but don’t rob another of theirs. Find common ground, and don’t be afraid of change.

So why all the human commotion this time of year?

How can we not be impacted by the rhythms of our world? In the north, we celebrate the return of light. In the south, we look forward to relief from the peak of the sun. These transitions have occurred without fail for all our history. I think it is no coincidence that the world’s greatest concentration of annual celebrations lands this time of year.

For our modern calendar, no matter where we are in the world, this is year-end. And it carries an energy of closure and renewal. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do believe in the power of planning. Every great plan starts with a clear vision, and this is a good time to renew or articulate yours.

On January 8, 2020, at 9 pm EST, you can join me on Twitter at #BookMarketingChat for a full discussion of how to use vision questing as a book author. Even if you have not yet published a book, it’s never too early to build an author platform. Use the search feature to find the chat and follow along, selecting the Latest tab. If you respond or ask a question, be sure to use the hashtag #BookMarketingChat.

2020 will mark my second year of a workshop series I teach called, To Cultivate a Book. This year, I will be experimenting with online classroom components. But first, I’m taking time to create a plan and to renew my vision. Last year, I focused all my efforts and energies on gaining stability. Now that the Hub, Carrot Ranch, and I all have a home, this will be a building up year, laying down the next level on the stable foundation. The prior two years were sheer survival. However, through it all, I never lost sight of my North Star. That’s the power of having a vision.

Life by design.

Whether it is recreating holiday traditions to align with changes, self-care, and compassion or embracing the joy of the traditions you have and share, be the creator of your life’s story. I don’t mean go write a memoir or imagine a better life. Know what you want to do or how you want to be, and create that life one step at a time. Acknowledge where you are and what your circumstances are but then look for ways to invite what you want to be part of your life.

December 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the phrase by design. It can be used in any manner — a label, a mantra, a story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 31, 2019. 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.

 

By Design by Charli Mills

By design, my garden impressed. Every steppingstone measured, every bulb, seed, and root planted for maximum impact. In life, I did as I was expected. Good grades, college, spouse, suburban split-level, and two sons. On Sundays, I went to church.

Then my husband left me. My sons chose to live with him and his new wife, one without dirt under her nails. I moved into an apartment alone. Devastated. This wasn’t part of the plan. Where was God in this? Then I remembered the mustard seed. By design, I started over with a single planter and found my joy.

Open Mic Night

Don’t be bashful, step up to the mic. Yes, you, Writer, this is your invitation to read. The page is like a warm security blanket, but sometimes we shed that covering and take to the spotlight. Not for fame and fortune, but to connect. Person to person. Think of it as reading stories to your kids, or at school for a class. There’s a special connection writers can have with an audience. Add to the dimension of writing.

This week, whether writers seriously considered the mic for themselves, they took to the prompt and applied their thoughts to the open mic in 99-word stories.

The following are based on the December 19, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features an open mic night.

Open Mic Night by Charli Mills

Mark tripped, spilling loose-leaf pages from a tattered folder.

Bobby laid a hand on the thin man’s shoulder. “It’s okay, dude. First time here?”

“Yeah.” Mark clutched the folder to his chest.

“A poet, eh?” Bobby tapped the folder.

Mark nodded.

“Been a while since we had rhythmical composition.” Bobby called the gathering to order, issuing encouragement. Some had instruments made of discarded objects. Some had stories memorized in their heads. One man whistled. Only Mark had paper. A luxury at open mic night on the corner of 5th and Elm where the homeless gathered for culture and comradery.

🥕🥕🥕

Getting Scammed by D. Avery

Second thoughts teetered on the verge of fear as the road wound along mountains, past ponds, and farther and farther through stonewall traced woods. How well did she really know the driver? Why had she agreed to go to such an improbable place? Finally lights from houses appeared, 19th century houses, but a peopled hamlet. Relieved, she followed into the old general store, which housed a small yet lively bar at the back. Her relief was short lived however, for now she must face and overcome a truly crippling fear. They’d come to read. It was Open Mic Night.

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Bold at the Whammy by C. Mills

The Whammy Bar sits at an unpaved crossroads. A local watering-hole for musicians. Some destined for Nashville.

Thursdays are open mic night.

Two flash fictionists drive out of the backwoods in a 4WD truck. They stuff contraband into backpacks, careful not to bend the merchandise. They’re packing a load of books.

Then…

Two writers walk into a bar (I’m not kidding you).

Locals have gathered with fiddles, guitars, ukuleles. They clear throats, waiting for their five minutes at the mic. The writers infiltrate, bum-rush the stage.

99-words shatter the air.

Then..

“Wanna buy a book,” they ask.

The nerve.

🥕🥕🥕

Open Mic Winner by Kerry E.B. Black

Christmas Eve, we host the annual Open Mic Contest. Acclaimed poets drip seasonally-affected despair. Freshmen giggle and blush through limericks or roundelays. Some folks sing.

But then he hopped onto stage. He tilted his seasoned face to see me, standing no taller than my knee. I couldn’t adjust the mic low enough, so I brought up a chair. He leapt up with the grace of a falling feather. Jingly bells upon his costume tinkled like children’s laughter.

I don’t remember his whole recitation, only the end:

“Man in red, or green, white, or brown
Giving heart beating cheer
If only mankind listened.”

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Spotlight by Bill Engleson

It’s the Back Hall, eh.

That’s what it’s called.

That’s where it is.

Where it happens.

Our Open Stage.

Our Open Mic.

On a given night, the third Wednesday of the month to be precise, except when it isn’t, a dozen or more local artists, musicians for the most part, ply their inspired wares.

I’ve read the occasional poem.

Even sang a few times.

One night, I sang the theme from High Noon for I too was once forsaken by a darlin’.

There, on that little stage, you are as safe as you would be in your own bed.

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Epiphany by clfalcone *

Why was he even at the Open Mic…. he really wasn’t that good. Friends, family, associates, strangers all disagreed, saying he should do this thing, own it.

He stumbled on-stage, papers falling, mike feedback, introduction warbled.

He knew he was going to fail.

The minimalist poetry yielded gasps, cricket silence, followed by applause, cheers, calls for more. The fiery prose got him more accolades. His closing sordid limericks produced laughter, howls, long applause, calls for drinks.

Off-stage, the manager approached him. “Champ… come back next week and I’ll give you twenty minutes.”

He smiled – he really was “that good.”

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Backstage Lady by TN Kerr

The backstage lady said I’d go on right after Marvin Joplin. She told me to wait on the stairs, and when I heard them intro Marvin; be ready to go on.

When they announced him, I moved into the wings. He performed a Johnny Cash number I’d heard on the radio hundreds of times. I found the backstage lady and complained.

“You said we were to perform an original song.”

“That’s right.”

“I heard Johnny Cash play this song.”

“Yeah,” she smiled.

I asked her if I could go on later, not right now, not right after Marvin Joplin.

🥕🥕🥕

Open Mic by Floridaborne

“Christina, we’re going out for your birthday,” her mother said.

She sang to the tune of Silent Night, “Mama, no. I won’t go. Don’t like crowds, and you know it. Please don’t say it’s all right, I won’t do open mic.”

“Why do you stutter when you talk, but sing better than Barbara Streis…”

To the ABC song she sang, “Next month I’ll be twenty two. I won’t have to live with you.

“Not as long as I’m your guardian,” her mother said with a scowl.

She’d be in supported living next month. Custody of a minor wasn’t guardianship.

🥕🥕🥕

Stepping Up by D. Avery

There were the butterfly garden, sod house, annotated maps, essays, and mock journals. Marlie and Sofie decided to share their migration research with an audience. That’s when Marlie became a stage manager as well as a key performer, for many of the invited family friends wanted to share a song or poem inspired by the topic. That’s when Marlie wrapped her Destiny doll in tinfoil until just the spiky hair on the top of her shorn head showed.

“You can do it,” she encouraged the nervous adults who climbed up to the treefort stage. “Just speak into the microphone.”

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Shopping on the Parallel Universe by Doug Jacquier

In the supermarket the other night, I grabbed the store open mic and announced:

“Attention all staff. Red team, please re-arrange the aisles at random to ensure customers have to search the entire supermarket to find what they want. Green team, yes, we know the chicken’s changing colour but mark it down and move it.

And check-out skeleton crew, when you robo-ask a customer what they have planned for today and the customer says “I’m going home to disembowel my dog and then barbecue him for dinner”, don’t forget to say “Oh, that’s nice, are the family coming around?”

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Cowboy Poet by Ann Edall-Robson

Cowboy poetry reading at the benefit dance had been Hanna’s idea, but no one expected to see who walked onto the stage.

On the horizon some 800 yards out
An unusual sight needed some learnin’ about
Come close glasses makin’ the scan
Not one, but two shapes—sure wasn’t a man
Across the creek, up the hill at last
Had to be coyotes movin’ that fast
At the top of the ridge those vermin swung round
Laughter erupted at what had been found
Those coyotes leavin’ the waterin’ hole
Turned out to be bovines on top of that knoll

🥕🥕🥕

Gerry (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

Saturday was open mic at Cindy’s Barn. The restaurant was humming with diners. Local musicians, poets, actors, loved the camaraderie of open mic nights.

A math instructor at Lynn Valley College, Gerry played the guitar for fun. He often joined his friends in jam sessions at Cindy’s Barn. Tonight, however he was playing solo. A first.

As he stepped up to the mic, the Farmers Four waved to him. His very first music mentors. Masters at country music, they also loved to improvise, drawing from jazz and classical music. He grinned and waved. He knew he’d do just fine.

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Jake by Pete Fanning

I plunked along, off-key and frazzled, missing chords and verses because my hands shook from nerves and detox. My voice was hoarse, the song terrible. It was all Jake’s fault.

My best friend had willed me his guitar—with more than six finely tuned strings attached.

A clumsy finish to polite applause. Misty gratitude on an otherwise perfect spring day. I started for the casket but couldn’t. I stumbled out to my car where I broke down, one of two promises fulfilled. Then I turned the key and drove to Cedar Baptist Church.

I had a meeting to attend.

🥕🥕🥕

He’ll Sing Anytime by Susan Sleggs

Tessa’s father handed Michael a beer. “The Vets and family members December open mic is tomorrow night. How about joining us?”

“With a bunch of poets and storytellers. No thanks.”

“There’s no formal way to share. Tessa just talks. The younger women look up to her.”

“We don’t need to show off we’re together. People know.”

“Well then, would you please bring your guitar and lead some carols after the speakers finish?”

“That I’d be glad to do if there’s no discussion about me using my chair.”

“That’s your habit to change, but remember, some don’t have the option.”

🥕🥕🥕

Open Mic by Anita Dawes

I managed to get a job
At the last minute with the crew
a runner, fetch coffee at the snap of a finger
I hoped it would be worth it
Chinese whispers bounced around the walls for weeks
The most beautiful man in the world
Would appear for one night
My hero, my first love
Tall, black hair, blue eyes
One kiss from those lips would kill me
I dreamed of being this close to my idol for too long
As I worked, I prayed for the whispers to be true
Then I heard someone say, Elvis is in the building…

🥕🥕🥕

Leg Breaker by clfalcone *

He paced outside Mike’s Open Mic Night, afraid to bomb. Make it here and the Big Time awaits… otherwise, you suck!
Was the audience ready for his weirdly intellectual transgressive song and dance (picture Benny Hill, Bill Nye and Jason Voorhees buying some crack…)?

His routine was solid, but the delivery, wasn’t it over the top? Was he trying too hard at humor, only to flop like a salmon dying on deck?

Exit stage left: MC lighting a smoke, thumbing the door.

“You’re on in five minutes, chief….break a leg…!”

The comedian just chuckled, speeding off to awaiting fame.

🥕🥕🥕

Flu Wins by Pamela Raleigh

“I’m not sick,” Cara murmurs offstage, shrugging off the sudden heat that envelops her and the ensuing shivers.

It’s just a head cold.

An audition for a television reality show competition comes only once to Hooterville. Illness will not deter her from stardom.

“Number Forty!”

Cara summons her dreams and approaches the microphone, years of hard work her shadow.

Her award-winning voice squeaks. The pipes that carried her dreams through every barn chore wheeze.

She cannot resist the light-headedness or tunnel vision. Her body drops, and with it her hopes for escape, as she succumbs to the winter flu.

🥕🥕🥕

The Old Ones Are the Best by Roger Shipp

“Have you heard the one about…?”

“Sit down. You schlep.” It came from a monstrous brute seated at the bar.

“OK. How about … An oyster, and a lobster, and a goldfish go into a bar …”

The comedian quickly ducks as a napkin filled with goodness knows what approaches his face.

“Not that one either. I’m not from around these parts. The first time I was driving through …” This one was drowned by raucous boos and horrid hisses.

“No biographical jokes either.” The comedian boldly stepped closer to the microphone. “Knock, knock…”

The audience was instantly quiet.

🥕🥕🥕

Reading Aloud by Joanne Fisher

“I always enjoy hearing you read, it’s always something good.” She said. I thanked her, but if anything, it made me feel more nervous.

Though I have been reading my own work for a while, I still get really nervous as I wait, but I always need that adrenaline boost since it makes me read better, otherwise it would be quite flat.

It was open mic night, I listened to the other poets read. Some of it wasn’t that great, but there was always a gem to be found among the detritus, and that could make it all worthwhile.

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The Authors of Anne’s Books of the Year Take the Stage by Anne Goodwin

Furrowed foreheads. Downturned mouths. And not a murmur from the audience as my chosen authors read.

Individually, they were magnificent. Why hadn’t I considered the cumulative effect? People came to enjoy themselves. They didn’t want politics, torture and weapons of mass destruction on a night out.

Hoping to numb the guilt and embarrassment, I sipped my beer. They’d never allow me and my friends onto the open mike stage again.

The final “Thank you!” and the gathering rose to its feet. Thundering applause. Calls for more.

The promoter came over, beaming. “Perfectly pitched! The Resistance movement starts right here!”

🥕🥕🥕

Turning Tables by Di @ pensitivity101

The mic beckoned.
Alone on stage, it stood in its stand, waiting for the nervous, afraid, timid, confident or gutsy individual to grab it by the throat and pull it from its anchorage.
From comedy to singing, poetry to story telling, everyone had a chance to stumble, fail or knock proverbial socks off with their performance.
The spotlight came on.
No-one was there. The room hushed.
A cough, whispers, then silence.
A crackle came over the speakers:
‘I am The Mic, and now it’s my turn to entertain you’.
In the wings, the contestant smiled. He had their attention.

🥕🥕🥕

Done With Drama? by JulesPaige

1.
drama unfolding
rearranging the line up
becoming upstaged

I tried an open mic night once… I had a dramatic piece and was told I’d go last. But the organizer upstaged me. She went last. I can tell you I disliked the waiting to read. And trying to interpret the other readers in the small setting where there wasn’t room for questions or discussion (at a time when smoking was permitted), left me with a sour taste for such a venue.

Small rooms can get crowded and loud. Two things I’m not a fan of. Self promotion is another one.

🥕🥕🥕

Done With Drama? by JulesPaige

2.
drama unfolding
spirit of transformation;
I’ll try most things once

Perhaps an open mic night would be different if I had known anyone else there. I hadn’t known a single soul. I was trying to spread my wings. Which are now spread as far as they are going to go. I’m not quite on the proverbial down slope sinking into the mire of my fears. But I know what I like and what I will tolerate and how I can avoid being uncomfortable.

I’ve starred on stage, I’ve appeared in the local paper (no photo) – that’s enough for now.

🥕🥕🥕

Done With Drama? by JulesPaige

3.
drama unfolding
new year soon to be tolling;
time begins again

Change is one of those things that is most constant. Something that we can’t predict. Can’t add to or totally erase. Every experience makes us grow, shrink, fidget or gain confidence. I can live with that.

I can take each day and watch it transform. I can pretend my written words might in the future be read at some kind of open mic setting. But maybe just not by me. And I’m OK with that. My life’s stage has enough spot lights without thinking about open mic stress.

🥕🥕🥕

On Bullhorns and Bull Shift by D. Avery

To grab the bull by the horns might be the best course of action if the bull is bearing down on you anyway. Microphones are one-horned beasts, uni-horns, and open mics, being open, would not seem to present the horns of a dilemma; the only consequence of not stepping up to speak are your words unspoken. While not as dangerous or as foolhardy as running with the bulls, public readings will most certainly get your heart rate up. And you will, in the jelly-kneed afterwards, have that silly grin sense of accomplishment.

See that uni-horn? Grab it. Give voice!

🥕🥕🥕

Playlist by clfalcone*

‘Jeez, Open Mic Night is like, the worst.thing.ever!’ Head shaking. ‘They aren’t even funny…. just rehashed laugh radio jokes.’
Open Jam Night was worse, though: sucky musicians vying for 15 minutes of non-fame. She was funnier fully drunk, stumbling, high on coke.

Now if she could only find some coke….

As a host comedienne, she was bored with babysitting wannabes on Wednesdays in exchange for quality time on Fridays.

Then the Caveman appeared, long shagy hair, club-carrying, hide-wearing, painting modern social issues with a demented neolithic brush.

Like Fred Flintstone on crack….

She checked the list, muttering, “Holy shit….competition!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Repairman by H. R. R. Gorman

The microphone still sat, open and in pieces, on my workbench. I dreaded having to stay awake all night to get this antique fixed, but the owner needed it repaired by tomorrow.

That was easier said than done. The diaphragm on the capacitor was shot, but I didn’t have a replacement part handy.

“Oh!” I mumbled. “What I wouldn’t give to have that part!”

A man in a pinstripe suit and thin mustache appeared at my side. He held a new diaphragm with his fingertips. “Your soul sound a fair price?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“Then let’s make a deal…”

🥕🥕🥕

D’ Spies by D. Avery

“What’s up Pal?”

“Plenty, Kid, an’ I don’t like it. Slim Chance is aroun’, wants ta talk ta Shorty ‘bout a merger, wants ta franchise the Ranch.”

“Ranch french fries? Mmmm.”

“No, Kid, fran-chise, and I’d bet that little French friend a yers has somethin’ ta do with this.”

“Pepe LeGume? Why d’ya think that?”

“’Cause somethin’ ‘bout this stinks.”

“Pepe an’ I’s way ahead a ya Pal. We’re suspicious a Slim Chance too, so Pepe’s with him, ‘cept Pepe’s bolo tie is really a mic.”

“Spies! But ok, let’s listen… what? Thet thunder?”

“Uh-oh. Think Pepe’s mic dropped.”

🥕🥕🥕

No Phony by D. Avery

“Kid, Pal. You wanna spill the beans as to what’s going on? Ain’t never seen you two wearing headphones afore.”

“Pepe’s wired, Shorty.”

“Yeah, he’s a hyper little fella alright.”

“No, he’s wearing a mic. We’re collecting intelligence.”

“Ha! Fat chance a that!”

“No, Slim Chance. We’re worried ‘bout his plans fer the Ranch.”

“Ah, you two, d‘ya really think I’m shortsighted? This’s my ranch. An’ while I’m happy to share with the ranch hands, I wouldn’t ever sell out. Got my own plans.”

“Shoulda realized thet. Sorry Shorty.”

“Yep, sorry Boss. Hey look’t the evenin’ sky. Emergin’ stars!”

🥕🥕🥕

If you’d like to get into the ranch mood this fine Christmas day, take a gander at this classic collection of Cowboy Poetry (and thanks, Ann Edall-Robson, for striking the mood). Merry Christmas to one and all!

 

Gnome Tales

Gardens, homes, and saunas need gnomes. In Finnish, they are joulutonttu — Christmas elves that bring happiness and protection to a home. Whether mischievous or diligent, they are kind creatures who bring out the playfulness in writers. Unlike unicorns that have a dark side, gnomes cause writers to get punny.

Never before has Carrot Ranch seen the likes of gnome sweet gnome with such widespread lightheartedness. Gnomes also brought out serious stories from a small character. This will indeed go down as a special collection in history.

The following fun is based on the December 12, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a gnome.

PART I (10-minute read)

Oh, There’s No Place Like … by Roger Shipp

“Oh, there’s no place like …” carolers were approaching my door.

I’d gotten a call from my elderly neighbor just seconds ago. “They’re all over.” She whispered. “All over the street.” She was frantic. Should she call 911… she thought she should… but she was sure the police wouldn’t believe her.

Before I could decide how I could be of assistance, there was a knocking on my door.

Parting the curtains, I peeped.

Gnomes… and gnomes… and gnomes. As far as the eye could see.

“… For the holidays you can’t beat gnome sweet gnome!”

And then they left.

🥕🥕🥕

Dear Santa by tracey

Dear Santa,
My name is Terrence and I am a gnome working as a guard in a diamond mine. While I know this work is important it is not my true passion. What I really love to do is make toys and ornaments. I love glitter!

I have heard there are gnomes who make sleigh bells and I would be happy to do that if there was an opening available.

I believe I can be an asset to your North Pole operation and will be ready for pickup on Christmas Eve if you will have me.

Sincerely,
Terrence Sparkle

🥕🥕🥕

The New Farm Hand by Joanne Fisher

Cindy went to the south field wanting to get the land ready for sowing crops. To her surprise, she found the land had been tilled. She looked for Jess and found her fixing the tractor.

“I thought you were going to leave the south field to me?” Cindy complained. Jess looked at her in surprise.

“What are you talking about? I haven’t been there.” Jess replied wiping the grease of her hands.

Cindy went back and looked around. She saw a gnome standing by the fence smoking his pipe.

“Thanks.” Cindy said to the gnome. He smiled at her.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fairy Garden by Nicole Horlings

Velvet GlimmerDust peeked out of the hole in the tree stump to make sure that the humans were not around. She wanted to go gather dandelion petals for her garden salad.

She tread lightly between the flowers, and noticed something new nestled between the petunias. It was a bench, and Midnight Riversplash was already snoozing on it. She shook her head at him, and waved to Ivy WillowBrook, who was knitting in the gazebo. Ooh, there was a new patio table set by the hydrangeas, perfect for a tea party.

She went out for something… Oh right, dandelion petals.

🥕🥕🥕

Gnomes, Inc. by clfalcone *

“At Gnomes, Incorporated, we’re serious about gnome-ness.”

The worker shuttered.

The director slammed photos on the desk, pointing at Leprechaun pissing a toppled gnome’s face.

“You got drunk, fell asleep, let Leprechaun steal your gold…he even pissed on you…!”

“Yes sir….”

“Disgraceful!” He stood up, pointing to the exit. “You’re fired… banished from Gnomes, Incorporated forever!”

“What’ll I do now?”

“Go downtown to unemployment… become a pole dancer…I don’t know… just leave!”

Off scurried the worker.

Weeks later, the director got a postcard of a pole dancing gnome, with the caption: ‘Fuck you….making more money here than at Gnomes!’

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome in a Bucket by Ann Edall-Robson

The old chicken coop had become the catch all for everything that ‘might be needed’. Why Mac had picked Hanna to clean it out was something the dust covered young woman didn’t understand.

His one request, “Keep an eye out for anything Liz can use for flowerpots.”

Setting aside some dented, handleless buckets, Hanna spotted a garden gnome in one of them. It wasn’t a normal garden store variety, this one had a look about it that was oddly familiar. She hadn’t seen the little statue before, or had she? Hanna shivered.

“Maybe Liz will know something about this.”

🥕🥕🥕

Guilty as Chewed by Di @pensitivity101

‘Who did it?’

The tail slunk between the back legs, the head hung low almost touching the floor.

The chewed plastic gnome glared down from the pelmet where it had been placed out of reach.

The original owner had come charging across the road to complain that our family pet had destroyed her favourite gnome, insisting on a replacement.

The swinging Big Ears now held court by the ornamental pond in her front garden but the dog knew that he was in the dog house if the gnome was drawn to his attention, and would retreat to his bed.

🥕🥕🥕

The Neighbor Boy Noticed by Susan Sleggs

Mrs. Borden looked at the clock. Nine-thirty. She used to get out to her garden at seven-thirty. She opened the back door and held the jam and knob to steady her way down the two steps then tottered to her small garden that she couldn’t convince herself to give up just yet. A very large ceramic gnome with a mischievous grin waited. The sign hanging around his neck said, “Weeding done.” Her mouth fell open and one tear slid down her cheek. Who would do such a thing?

The local scout troop made a game of not getting caught.

🥕🥕🥕

Polio and Politics by Faith A. Colburn

I had a friend—a gnome-like fellow who said he’d thought, when he was a child, that every six-year-old spent a year in an iron lung. He was a canny bulldog in local politics, supporting rights for people with disabilities. There’s the time he argued for wheelchair ramps at the courthouse.

“We’ll help them up the stairs,” said the councilmen.

“Look,” said Roger, “someday you may have an accident. Maybe you’ll need a wheelchair. Then, how would you like to sit at the bottom of those stairs out there waiting for someone to notice you?”

The courthouse has ramps.

🥕🥕🥕

Gone Fishin’ by Anne Goodwin

He was hard on the outside, hollow within. Lacquered against the elements, he squatted, with his fishing rod, beside the pond.

People threw in coins, made a wish: for a lottery win, a baby, a cruise. Fixed smile above his beard, his belted tunic, above his boots, he looked the part they needed him to play.

They’d got him wrong. He could’ve told them how to cure the climate crisis, to hold back the tides of fascism, to create a more equal world.

Their hearts were hard, their skulls were hollow. Why would they listen to a garden gnome?

🥕🥕🥕

House Protector by Charli Mills

The Russian soldier came on baking day. The Finnish women kept their kerchiefed heads bowed. He dismounted, kicked the oafish-looking gnome statue, and grabbed the youngest girl by the waist.

“You smell pretty today.” He smiled coldly.

Macy tried to withdraw and relaxed when she saw Joulutonttu upright himself. “It’s the bread,” she said, distracting him.

She led the soldier to the communal kitchen where the massive beehive hearth burned. She showed him loaves, opened the large oven door —

They later told their men that Joulutonttu protected them. But it was Macy who shoved the Russian in the oven.

🥕🥕🥕

Nonbinary Gnome by clfalcone *

He was next…he had to tell the group. His short legs couldn’t dangle so he wiggled his boots instead, removed his red conical hat, saying: “I’m Manus McGnomus and I’m not a gnome…. inside, I’m a fairy….flying on dragonfly wings, spreading fairy dust goidnees to all… not hoarding gold or guarding paths…I don’t even like gardens, and the only gold I like is fairy dust….” He fluttered on.

Utter silence, then uproarious laughter, taunts of, ‘Gnomes can’t fly!’

He clammed up, looked about, jumped off the seat, muttered: “…. can’t tell you jive turkeys shit!…”, pattering quickly down the hallway.

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome by Anita Dawes

My son brought home this grey gnome
Telling me he hoped it would bring me good luck
Of course, it never did
So he brought home a larger one
Maybe this on could do it
Again, nothing.
Got to give it to him, he tries!
So they ended up in the garden
Personally, I believe the gnomes
keep their magic for the Gods
as legend has it,
they forged golden rings for them
when they come together
any objective is achieved
would that I could get my hands on just one
that would be like sucking on Devils candy…

gNoMeZ by clfalcone *

The Pixies and Brownies cowered, the Fairies bolted, but the Sprytes lingered, watching. Conical shadows grew larger than life, collecting at the intersection: gNoMeZ were in da house…two feet tall, twenty gnomes wide.

Fifteen black bowlers converged at the opposite end, L3pr3ch4nZ leader squeaking, “Give us McSeamus, or else!”

“Or else what? Give us back the gold…. or not else!” Retorted the gNoMeZ. Hammers threatened sheleighlies, cudgels menaced axes.

Suddenly, a fairy-dusting gnome floated overhead, singing, “…who says gnomes can’t fly… this is what I think of your silly war…!” And he farted more dust on the dueling hoodlums.

🥕🥕🥕

Hero by Nancy Brady

Instead of a horse, the little bearded man named Harry rode a wildebeest he had recently purchased. He had been granted an audience with the ruling monarch, who raised a sword to each of his shoulders. It was unusual to have an American granted such an honor, but his bravery warranted it. He was armed with only a utensil that sliced through the toughest meat.

The newspaper article said it the best:

Harry, a hairy gnome from Nome riding his new gnu, kneeled, and then was knighted by the king. It was said his weapon was a steak knife.

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome Alone by Pete Fanning

I’d spent ten and a half years with my head in the mulch when Annie found me. Mrs. Dulvey had set me in her garden in the late seventies—right near the gardenia that somehow survived all those snows.

Over the years we were like soilmates. Mrs. Dulvey had a lot to say, not that her family cared to hear it. After she died, some neighborhood kids kicked my head clean off its spring. Years later Annie came along and gave me a new perspective on life.

Annie has much to say, not that her parents care to listen.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Go Big or Go Gnome by Donna Matthews

Mama Gnome is wiped out. It’s been a busy shopping for presents, decorating trees, and planning meals kind of day. And she’s had enough.

“Siri, call Sister Gnome.”

“Hey, Sister!”

“Hey, Yourself! What’s the word?”

“Make me laugh…whatcha got?”

“I’ll be gnome for the holidays!”

“Puns! Yes!”

“Country roads take me gnome…”

Both giggling. Mama Gnome catches her breath and says, “I love you, sister…gnome matter what!”

A final bout of laughter as they say their good-byes. Still chuckling, Mama Gnome pulls into her driveway, considering dinner, imagining a big ol’ pot of chili…go big or go gnome!

🥕🥕🥕

GnomeChat by clfalcone *

On the Gnome Dating Site…

Wyd?

You know….gnome things… hoarding gold….guarding precious stones… clearing garden pathways…

Listen: I’ll give you some extra-gnome loving if you help me out, lover…

Sure… what do you need?

Oh, just you wait, honey… it’ll be great! First, a valid credit card…

Sweetie, I’m a gnome …I hoard gold…. I don’t have a credit card….

Oh my…

Wait…. you’re not one of those Nigerian pixie scammers tryna get my gold, are you? Coz some Russian leprechauns already tried this …. I reported them….

Oh dear…

(… three weeks later, no response….)

[Damn! I Really liked her….]

🥕🥕🥕

Late Again by Nobbinmaug

Eldysa watched the clock as the seconds turned to minutes. The minutes stayed minutes, but there were a lot of them. Dinner was on the table cooling with each passing second.

The door slowly creaked open. Salrick entered, whistling.

“You’re late again. That’s three times this week.”

“I was talking with Sheila.”

“The human?”

“My boss, yes.”

“About what?”

“Work stuff.”

“You’re a lawn gnome. How much work talk could you have?”

“The weather for one. Rain’s coming.”

“Is something going on between you two?”

“Seriously? Human women are not attractive. They don’t even have beards.”

“They don’t? Yuck.”

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome More by Annette Rochelle Aben

The top shelf of the bookcase was where Claudius took his naps. Lorraine always left it clear, so he could stretch out whenever the mode struck.

This Christmas, however, was different. She was decorating the bookcase. Now, there was garland hanging everywhere and wee figurines scattered on the shelves.

With a swipe of a mighty clawed paw, the garland was merely tinsel. One by one, each of the wee figurines were sent crashing to the floor. Sorry, not sorry.

As Claudius looked down from his perch he thought, be it ever so humble, this is no place for gnomes!

🥕🥕🥕

Merton by Saifun Hassam

Merton’s stone cottage stood among lupines and delphiniums at the forest’s edge. He was a garden gnome, helping in the village gardens.

Children gathered around Merton near the lily pond entranced by stories of forest gnomes, and his journeys over hill and dale. In the evenings he sat on the low stone wall that ran along the forest’s edge. His lamp glowed brighter under the glittering evening stars.

It was dawn on a summer morning. A waning moon hung above the giant spruce and fir. Merton bid the children farewell. They were heartbroken. Merton was going home to Charlevoix.

🥕🥕🥕

The Last Gnome – A True Tale by Gordon Le Pard

“I hate gnomes.”

She raised her gun, aimed at a small figure, and shot. The gnome fell back.

“I agree,” said her sister, dispatching two more in quick succession.

They walked round the mound that had been, in their words, ‘infested with the little beasts’.

“I think that’s all.”

“It is now, as a shot took off a hiding gnomes head.”

Cowering in the undergrowth Lampy tried not to show himself, the sisters walked off, happy at what they had achieved.

Years later, Lampy was finally rediscovered and celebrated, the last of his kind, the Oldest Gnome in England.

Author’s Note: Google ‘oldest gnome’ to learn the truth.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing by Sally Cronin

Eunice loved her garden gnomes and each birthday her husband would buy her another for the collection. Then one July, her favourite, a right Jack the lad, with a red jacket and green trousers was stolen. She was heartbroken and even put up missing posters to no avail. Then the postcards started arriving from all over Europe. ‘Having great time, see you soon. Love Jack.’ Sure enough one morning in October, Eunice looked out the window to see him back in his usual place. Her husband smirked. ‘I see the students are back after their summer holidays my love!’

🥕🥕🥕

The Domovoi by Colleen Chesebro

Danica felt the presence of the domovoi in the kitchen. Flour covered the floor and the table.

“Did you make this mess?”

“Da,” a small voice answered.

“Don’t you want to celebrate the winter solstice?

Dusa was her home’s guardian, and he often helped her with household chores.

“I was afraid you forgot me.”

“I never forget you. Come, have some honey cakes. That will sweeten your mood.”

Dusa gobbled up the treats. With a snap of his fingers, the mess disappeared.

Always remember to take care of your house fairy and not neglect them. Especially during the holidays.

🥕🥕🥕

Take a Chance, Change Your Life by Liz Husebye Hartmann

We’d answered the ad thumb-tacked to the corkboard at the neighborhood bar.
“Caretakers wanted, unoccupied mansion, rent dirt-cheap, duties minimal. Help us keep the riff-raff out! RSVP P.O. 9999NO 55101”

We were desperate, floundering through graduate school, and flat broke.

“Heaven sent,” noted Evan, so we took a chance.

We weren’t the sole tenants. Enter Lillehans, Gerta, and Nikko, who safeguard the grounds for a bowl of piping-hot Rømmegrøt with cream, a spoonful of lingonberries, and the occasional craft beer. Nisse make good partners, as long as you keep your promises.

It was the best job we’ve ever had.

🥕🥕🥕

A Gnome of My Own by Doug Jacquier

“Smithers, l’ve just had a call from the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, himself.”

“Cor blimey, sir.”

“He’s ordered 100,000 miniature gnomes, with Union Jack waistcoats, to be placed in the backpacks of every British soldier fighting in Europe. Imagine every Tommy going into battle with the quintessential symbol of everything that’s British nestled in his kit. God, King and garden at their backs, our brave fighting men will be invincible. They will stop at nothing to prevent the icon of this sceptered isle falling into enemy hands.”

“You can rely on me, sir, to keep the gnome fires burning!”

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome by JulesPaige

uff dah or okay!
this was not a mistake; me
finding this treasure

A sunflower original watercolor painting by Marisol – I’d have to get that hanging on the wall soon. Luck it seems is all just a matter of which way the wind blows. I’d always believed that thirteen was a lucky number. Dawg had found me on such a Friday.

*Crash*

Byrd and Lucky looked at Dawg as if to say; “The dog did it” – The open box had been knocked over. Bubble wrap surrounded an odd shape. There was a fabric gnome holding a sunflower! Uff dah! …

🥕🥕🥕

Hide and Seek by Kelley Farrell

“I thought you got rid of it.” Jana hissed into Kaylie’s ear.

“I did.”

“Obviously not. It’s right there.”

Kaylie peered through the cracked open closet door.

The little man in a scarlet tunic and green hood faced away from them. He paced a few steps then began to glow.

“Maybe it’s over.”

“Come out, come out …” His wispy voice shook the walls. Boxes rained from the shelves forcing the girls through the door in a pile of discarded things. “There you are.”

The little man with unblinking eyes stood over them.

“Ready or not, here I come.”

🥕🥕🥕

No One Gnome by Bill Engleson

Tripped.

What a footfall flouncer, I am.

Mouth full of mud and December grass.

Splayed!

Besotted!

Is this my yard?

Or Walkers?

Whadda ya know!

Chumpski!

Keerist!

Damn Gnome.

Gawd, were we looped last Labor Day.

Walker hyperventilating.

“He knows.”

“Knows what?”

“What I’m thinking, man.”

“Who?” I asked.

“The Gnome,” he pointed. “Chumpski.”

“You’re nuts. He’s made of clay.”

“Clay! Crud! Whatever. He’s got my number.”

Crapola, eh. And now I’m belly flopped, gazing up into Chumpski’s terracotta eyes.

Something nasty is in the works.

“Bugger off, creep,” I yell.

Chumpski keeps staring away like a crazy anarchist.

🥕🥕🥕

Just Right by Norah Colvin

Longing for height, Gnomie joined Santa’s queue in the mall. Unfortunately, the queue hardly moved, and people grumbled when the air became hot and still. Elves demanded everyone disperse. Gnomie didn’t want to disperse. He wanted to be tall. Elves spotted him approaching Santa. “Hey! You there!” He froze. Santa glared, then said, “He looks about right.” The elves quickly explained — in the heat, Santa’s ring had slipped off and into the air conditioner, jamming the controls. No one could reach it. “I can!” said Gnomie, and he did. Elves cheered; Santa smiled, and Gnomie contemplated a new request.

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome Help by Joanne Fisher

I knew I wouldn’t be getting out of bed today since I still had a temperature. The gnome appeared holding onto a tray with a bowl of thick vegetable soup. I sat up.

“I brought you some soup, since you’ve eaten little today.” The gnome put the tray on my lap, and also placed a hot cup of tea by my bed.

“Thanks you’re a great help.” I replied.

“No problem. You need to rest and get that fever down!”

The gnome sat down beside me and began reading aloud. Life was so much better with my gnome helper.

🥕🥕🥕

Gnome On the Range by D. Avery

“Gee, Pal, why’s Shorty havin’ folks write about biology, you know, genetics an’ such? Or is genes the genre this time aroun’?”

“What?! Kid, ya might wanna check yer own pool. What crazy notions ya on about now?”

“Genes Pal. Genetics? Shorty wants us ta write about genomes this week.”

“Kid, it’s gnomes. Those little folk that live underground and guard the Earth’s treasures.”

“Oh. Huh. Pal, is Shorty a gnome? ‘Cause carrots are underground treasures. An’ while World Headquarters ain’t unnerground, it’s gonna be unnerneath all thet snow.”

“Shorty ain’t a gnome.”

“Mebbe Shorty’s her gnom de plume.”

🥕🥕🥕

 

Key Lime Pie

It’s a taste sensation and a vibrant color — key lime pie. Composed of a graham cracker crust and creamy filling, key lime pie brightens any meal. Small citrus from groves in Florida, key limes are a regional fruit grown in the Florida Keys. Citrus lovers (and those who make key lime pies) claim they are the sweetest of the limes. While it’s not familiar internationally, it is a color you can almost taste it.

Writers took to the prompt brightly going where pies lead.

The following stories are based on the December 5, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a key lime pie.

PART I (10-minute read)

Key Lime Pie.0 by christopher lee falcone

In the Beginning, the Earth was without crust or filling.

Then God said: “Let there be Pie.”

And there was Pie.

And the Lord said: “Let there be a division of Pies, between Cream Pies and Pies of Fruit; between Meat Pies, and Pies of Cheese.”

And there became many Pies. And He saw that the Pies were good.

Then, the Devil approached the Throne of Heaven, saying: “Lord, why do you trouble over Pies? For what good is it?”

To where the Lord pitched a key lime pie into the Devil’s eye, saying: “That!”

And the Heavens laughed.

🥕🥕🥕

Tropical Revolution by Faith A. Colburn

Key lime pie tastes of freedom in tropical paradise.

The lime, a citrus hybrid, grows in places like the Florid Keys and the islands of the Caribbean, reminding me of Ernest Hemingway, tucked away in the Keys, writing of the Spanish Civil War, Fidel and Raul Castro, and Che Guevara overthrowing the Batista regime in Cuba. Farther back in time—probably before agronomists developed key limes—the blacks in Haiti rose up in a slave rebellion that freed Haiti from French colonial rule and abolished slavery there.

Do you suppose any of those revolutionaries celebrated with key lime pie?

🥕🥕🥕

Evergreen by Anita Dawes

Beautiful Florida Keys, a string of pearls on warm blue water
So named from the Spanish Cayo, meaning little island
Small sweet key limes said to be the best
Now grown in back gardens, never leaving the islands
As for myself, I know nothing of this famous pie
I have never tasted it, maybe I should give myself a treat
Thing is, I am not known for my cooking
But I know someone who is
I will ask Jaye to cook the family a Key Lime Pie
And having done so, I have to report
Let life be evergreen!

🥕🥕🥕

Just Breathe by Paula Grace

She sat quietly at the window. The heaviness of the news consumed her. All at once, she was both replaying the past and worrying about the future.

“Remember to breathe, Maude.” she heard a voice say from the other room.

Remember to breathe. Just breathe. Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

She turned her head to see her friend walking towards her. Key lime pie.

“Here,” she said, “eat something.”

Inhale.

Exhale.

She took the pie and held the delicate china carefully on her lap. It did look good. “Maybe I am hungry?” she thought. She looked at her friend.

“Tea?”

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.4 by christopher lee falcone

The professor turned from the board and addressed the class.

“Like so many things in our language, certain sounds can have different meanings, to even encapsulate whole concepts, to the point it defines how you think.” He wrote pi on the board and pointed to the first student, “What’s this mean to you?”

“3.1416.”

“Ah….a mathematician…” Then to the next.

“22/7.”

“An engineer.”

“Funds distributions.”

“An accountant…”

“A sweet delicacy with tea… like key lime pie.”

“Exactly.” Reaching back, he produced a cream pie that he slammed into the student’s face.

“You’ve been served!” He chuckled, wiping his hands.

🥕🥕🥕

Pie R Square by Nancy Brady

Laura was a math teacher; math consumed her life. She always calculated each ingredient in her recipe down to the lowest common denominator.

Her husband’s birthday was tomorrow, March fourteenth, and instead of cake, Daniel wanted pie. Whether blackberry, pumpkin, or lemon meringue, it didn’t matter. He just loved pie.

Laura went to the store to get the fixings. Returning home, she made the crust before assembling the pie filling. She couldn’t calculate the volume of the key limes which frustrated her because they weren’t strictly cylinders, but with the help of her favorite pi, his pie was delicious.

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie by Sally Cronin

My mother-in-law is coming to dinner tonight with the rest of the family. I am staring at a piece of paper she gave me on her last visit, which provides a step-by-step guide to making the perfect key lime pie. Apparently hers are legendary, and have become a tradition on my husband’s birthday since he was five. Even though we have only been married a few months; I know that his mother will be looking for flaws. Which is why I have made a sherry trifle, a dessert I know my husband loves; a new tradition of our own.

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.5 by christopher lee falcone

TV Screen: The bubbly cooking show host raised a pie to chin level, licking her lips. “Oogolie, boogolie….. that’s how we make a key lime pie.” She smiled plastically. He cringed at ‘oogolie boogolie,’ reaching under the pie for support.

‘What if….’ he thought. ‘Naw….’

But his hands didn’t listen: he ground it into her shocked mug, storming off. She wiped herself into a green ghost, flinging pie guts onto the floor.

In the Bar: “… thus ended my Network News career…. now I drive for the pie comp….”

He couldn’t finish: he got hit with a flying cream pie.

🥕🥕🥕

Who Baked? by Ann Edall-Robson

There was nothing modern about the Apple Pie recipes that had been in Liz’s family for generations.

Hanna had said, “No problem.”

Standing in the kitchen shaking her head, Liz could see going to town with Mac had been a big mistake.

No apple pies, no Hanna, only Tal covered in flour, cleaning up, and three large cake dishes filled with…what?

“Where’s Hanna?”

“Barn. Farrier came. ”

“What are these?”

“Key lime pie squares.”

“Where did they come from?”

“I made them.”

Mac started to laugh.

“Looks like you picked the wrong hand for the job this time, Liz.”

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie by Joanne Fisher

“Whatcha doing?”

“Making a Key Lime Pie.”

“Why?”

“I thought I’d try to make something different.”

“That certainly is different. You never make dessert.”

“Well I do now.”

“I hope it tastes good.”

“Same here. I don’t think they sell key limes here, so I got regular ones.”

“What is a key lime anyway?”

“I really have no idea. I hope these limes will be okay.”

“Well limes are limes.”

“Never was a truer word spoken.”

“There can’t be much difference between a key lime and a regular lime surely?”

“That’s what I’m hoping. And don’t call me Shirley!”

🥕🥕🥕

Sour Puss by Annette Rochelle Aben

“Key limes, schmee limes! I didn’t know there was a difference and now I have to go back to the store!”

Allison was not happy. Her mother asked for 30 key limes for the pie and she bought 30 limes, but they were not key limes. Now she had to not only go back to the store to buy MORE limes, but she also had to take back the ones she lugged home.

Whatever!

Plopping the bag of limes into the basket on her bike, Allison grumbled, “Key limes, schmee limes! Why not just make Grandma a chocolate cake?”

🥕🥕🥕

Sweet and Savory Dessert by Ruchira Khanna

“Could I please have a big slice of key lime pie without whipped cream?”

I skewed my nose, “It would be so tangy without it. How about some vanilla ice-cream on the side, instead?”

“No!” Natalie was loud and clear.

I could still not digest the fact, and snickered at her, “I hope you’re aware that it’s a dessert, not an entree.”

“Mom, why can’t we consider a dessert to be sweet and savory, just like how Life offers us. Happy and not so happy moments in our lives.” my 18-year-old inquired in a severe tone, leaving me speechless.

🥕🥕🥕

Just One Yes by Tracey

“Can I go to Johnney’s house?” “No, I don’t have time to take you.”

“Can I have computer time?” “No, you have math homework.”

“Can I have a snack?” “No, dinner is in less than an hour.”

“Can we have key lime pie on Christmas Eve?” “What? No, we always have pecan pie. It’s tradition.”

All the nos of the day echoed in my head.

“Wait! Yes. Yes we can have key lime pie on Christmas Eve. I love that idea.”

I looked at my son’s beaming smile and just like that my heart didn’t feel quite so tight.

🥕🥕🥕

Makes a Pleasant Change from Christmas Pudding by Anne Goodwin

Every year she gamely tackled Christmas pudding: weeks before in the kitchen; at the table, stomach stuffed, on the day.

She’d do it differently this year.

“It’s green!” whined Grandson.

“There’s no flaming brandy!” groaned his dad.

Spoons clinking on plates, they hardly heard Daughter-in-law cough. Eyes bulging, hands crossed at her throat, her chair fell to the floor as she staggered to her feet. Fortunately, Maiden Aunt was a first aider. She soon Heimliched out a tiny key.

“What the …?”

Such fun hunting for the plum pudding silver sixpence. She’d updated the tradition with key lime pie.

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.1 by christopher lee falcone

Me : My next Carrot Ranch story is about key lime pie….I was thinking clowns….

Sis: No clowns ….fangul i clown

Me: Ok… how about this…1890s…Boardroom of Borden Foods, interviewing, “Aunt Sally”, creator of the latest dessert fad…a delicious lime pie with whipped cream…. from the Curry Mansion of Key West, Florida….
Guess where this goes….

Sis: No fucking clowns…

Me: “We’ll call it Key Lime Pie, because no one outside of India is going to want Curry Pie”

A pie flies and hits the chairman, who yells: “Curry, not cherry pie, you buffoon! ”

Sis: i knew it! Fucking clowns…

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.6 by christopher lee falcone

The pies were almost gone. Every clown was laughing, covered with whipped cream, filling, pie crusts sticking out of wigs.

The Italian troup manager stormed in, yelling, “Hey! Whatsa matta you? Thosa piesza fora da show! Now theys alla gona!”

“Not this one…” honked Bibo, face crushing the manager with a key lime pie, pan falling to reveal a slimy green ectomonster.

“Whatta you do? You ruina my besta suita!”

Silence, then howling laughter as pies from every direction pelted the flustered showman.

“Now they’re all gone…” piped in Bozo as the manager stormed off, swearing: “…stronzi pagliacci cazzo!”

🥕🥕🥕

Do We Take Her for Granted by Susan Sleggs

“Doesn’t your sister-in-law usually bring you a key-lime pie on your birthday?”

“Yes. She must’ve forgotten.”

“After doing it for more than ten years, probably not. Should we call and ask if everything is all right?”

“Don’t interfere.”

“She’s always doing something for us and your family. I hate to admit, I don’t even remember her kids’ names. That’s awful.”

“Then you call her.”

***

“She did forget because her kids have been having medical problems. She was so happy I inquired and said she was sorry. Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong for not paying more attention.”

🥕🥕🥕

Keepsake by D. Avery

“Ilene, here’s a recipe card pinned inside the cupboard. Is this something special? Keep or toss?”
lene examined the yellowed index card. “It’s just my mother’s key lime pie recipe.”

“Key lime pie?”

“My mother said key lime pie made every occasion special. The funny thing is, none of us really liked it. But she seemed to love making it for us, so we always just ate it and smiled. Bleck. I hope to never eat key lime pie again.”

“Here, I’ll toss it in the trash.”

“No Marge, this is a good recipe. I want to keep this.”

🥕🥕🥕

Memories by Colleen M. Chesebro

“I hate lemon pie.”

Susie pouted; her arms folded across her chest.

“You love Key Lime pie,” her mother reasoned. “It was gran’s favorite. Remember, we decided to celebrate the Winter Solstice as if she was still with us?”

“Not me. If I eat that pie it means gran is really gone.” Tears leaked down the child’s face mimicking the raindrops sliding down the window.

Her mother pulled Susie into her arms in a tight hug.

“Eating Gran’s favorite dessert is our way of honoring her memory.”

Susie sniffed. “I miss her.”

“Me, too. She’s always in our heart.”

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

New Baby Born Dessert by Kirti Sehgal

“Hi, egg!’’

“Hi Mr. Milk”

“I’m so bored, because Larissa used me only in cakes.”

“Oh! I can suggest you to be used in other dish.”

“Please change into your condensed form.”

“Abra ka Dabra shoooo! See I have changed myself.”

“Now, call the key ingredient from the refrigerator”

Milk misunderstood and calls an ingredient named with ‘Key’

“Come Mr. Milk and Miss Key ingredient. Jump into this bowl.”

The egg also jumps into it. Then a spoon puts all the stuff on a crust.

“Hide, Larissa is coming” All Said

Larissa- Oh! what’s that, a KEY LIME PIE

🥕🥕🥕

The Pie Contest by Norah Colvin
The instructions demanding no sampling until after judging challenged Jack as he proceeded along the tables. With hands clasped behind his back, he read the labels: key lime, desert cherry, lemon myrtle … He paused at his favourite — Christmas pie. A splinter of crust on the cloth spoiled the sumptuous display, he reasoned. Though using the utmost discretion, he was caught and banished to the corner. The harshest possible punishment already dispensed, he grabbed the pie and shoved it into his mouth. Once seated, he thumbed his nose at the other judges who succumbed and followed him into temptation.

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.3 by christopher lee falcone

Pies were flying everywhere: cream, fruit, pumpkin, even meat and fish pies. Chuckles got hit square in nose with a banana creme, Zippy on the head with an apple. They got Giggles with a double earshot of cherry and coconut cream, Jangles with a butt shot of chocolate pudding. Lemon merengue was the fate of Schnicklefritz, while Kookoo met his match with meat pies to the mug. Pennywise stopped before he threw….

“Mmm…Key lime pie… my favorite! ”

Then, Buffo the Dwarf snuck underneath and walloped the Dancing Clown with a chin shot, bright green ooze dripping down like blood.

🥕🥕🥕

Sampling by Kerry E.B. Black

Kiesha’s mouth dropped. “Were you hungry, honey?”

Barney shrugged. “It benefited a good cause, and the pies’re from my favorite shop.”

“Yes, but what’re we going to do with all these?”

Barney swallowed a piece of peach and shrugged. “Eat them.”

Kiesha glared, dwarfed by a stack of boxes. “They’ll grow stale before we can eat them all.” She squinted at the boxes. “Why don’t we take some to the shelter?”

Barney plated a piece of lime pie. He spoke around a bite. “Sure.”

“Barney, how’re we taking these to the shelter now? You’ve taken a piece from each!”

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie by Donna Matthews

“You got cherry pie?” the customer next to me asks the waitress.

“Afraid not hon,” she replies.

“What about apple pie?”

“Sorry hon, how about some key lime pie instead?”

“Key lime pie!? I don’t like key limes! I don’t even know what a key lime is.”

Leaning forward, she whispers, “Have you tried this key lime pie?”

No, and I get so mad when people ask if I’ve tried something. Just cause I don’t know something doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion about it.”

Eyebrows raised, she tries, “Pecan pie?”

“No, I don’t like those pe-cans either.”

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.7 by christopher lee falcone

The foragers weren’t doing well: two got bit, had to be offed. One went crazy, jumped off a roof, then had to be re-offed after turning.

Two remained, fighting hard to raid the bakery.

They found only a single key lime pie.

“What the hell is this, Amos? I hate key lime pie!” Handing it to his partner. “All that fighting over nothing.”

“Wanna see closer, Jake?” He then pie-slammed Jake’s face, deep zombie bites seething on his forearm.

Amos turned zombie, eating face before Jake could off him. Amos wanted Jake’s yummy pink brains, not green pie filling.

🥕🥕🥕

Sisters (from “Lynn Valley”) by Saifun Hassam

It was Saturday morning at the Lynn Valley Farmers Market. The tantalizing aroma of key lime filled Hannah’s restaurant kitchen. Aunt Sarah was baking pies for the Children’s Library fund drive for books.

Sarah remembered wistfully the heady fragrance of lime, lemon, and orange groves in the early mornings in Keyside Quays. She had left Lynn Valley many years ago, to teach at the Keyside Junior College. She met Don, and Keyside became her home.

When Don passed away, Sarah returned to Lynn Valley, to be closer to her sister Bev, and her two favorite nieces, Hannah and Carol.

🥕🥕🥕

The King by H.R.R. Gorman

Aunt Shoo put the final dollop of meringue atop the key lime pie. She placed it back in the oven to bake the meringue top.

I watched through the glass window – small back in those days – at the caramelizing sugar. “Aunt Shoo,” I asked, “What’s a key lime?”

“Well,” Aunt Shoo replied, bending closer to my tender height, “It’s the kind of lime Elvis liked, and it makes the kind of pie Elvis liked, so it has to be the best.”

“Who’s this ‘Elvis’?”

Her face blanched. “Come with me,” she said before leading me upstairs to her shrine.

🥕🥕🥕

Curious Shoes by Charli Mills

Jena Warbeck found new shoes in the cupboard under the sink with her cleaning supplies – organic sage scents and purple dust-cloths. The shoes sat in a wreath of woven willow, soft brown leather and handstitched. She stood up and saw the beings with smeared features watching her from underneath the leaf-barren maple. They wavered like a wet mirage. Jena felt no fear. Only peace like when she relaxed with a cup of peppermint tea. Had they left the curious gift in exchange for nabbing her key lime pie? When they evaporated, a raven flew off with the pie tin.

🥕🥕🥕

Pie Noir by Kelley Farrell

It was a dark and stormy night. He was disheveled and slammed my door, something I hated.

I couldn’t stay mad. He was cool, real cool.

“I need your help. My pie’s been stolen. I’m told you’re the one for the job.”

I nodded and scribbled over my notepad like I was taking notes. “Pie. Got it.”

“It was key lime.”

My mouth watered at the mention of key lime pie. I’d found one earlier that afternoon abandoned on a table outside my favorite coffee shop.

“Will you help me?”

“Of course. But first, do you want some pie?”

🥕🥕🥕

#55 Key Rate Duration by Ruchira Khanna

There was a calm to the evening. Until I remembered I needed to call my Mom back…

“Hi Mom, …No I didn’t have to go to the emergency room. Clara came by. …Yes the traveling vet. …Do you know how hard it is going to be to walk Dawg on a leash for a week or longer? …From his perspective it may seem like I’m punishing him for all the wonderful things he’s helping me to find. ….The latest – a set of old skeleton keys. …What you’re indulging in Key Lime pie? Please describe each trace morsel you’re eating…”

🥕🥕🥕

That Dessert Will Be the Death of Me by Geoff Le Pard

‘What we got, Rog?’

‘Suspicious death. Victim was suffocated. No sign of the perp.’

‘Strangled? Gas? Drowning.’

‘Looks like the last one only…’

‘Only…?’

‘Not the usual sort, you know in water?’

‘Go on.’

‘The forensics guys say his airways were blocked…’

‘Rog, what are you saying…’

‘Biscuits.’

‘You can’t drown in biscuits. That’s complete…’

‘Biscuit crumbs, you know like a cheese cake base.’

‘Not another New York…?’

‘Different topping. They’ve having it tested, but the smell… oh heck, it has to be the Pie Killer.’

‘Vanilla? Chocolate?’

‘Citrus.’

‘Ah ha. So the lime is the key this time?’

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.9  by christopher lee falcone

The Outworlders were getting frustrated.

“Take us to the makers of this energy source….” electro-droned the translator. They handed the farmer a key lime pie, admonishing, “Please! Our people suffer.”

“What? Y’all don’t like Auntie May’s famous Key Lime Pie?” He scowled at the skinny aliens. “It’s tart… but it might could put some meat on y’all’s bones.” He chuckled, taking the pie.

“This energy source is composed of our spawn.” Squawked the box. “Cease or we destroy your planet!”

“Cease this, green man!” He jammed the pie square into the alien’s face.

And that’s how Pie Wars started…

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie.2 by christopher lee falcone

The control room was tense: zero hour was now….

Technicians coordinated, tacticians triangulated, coordinators communicated, while the scowling general paced impatiently.

The Code Word: Key Largo Port.

The general barked, “Get me the commander…”, to a chorus of ‘roger’.

“On my mark, … three… two… one… commence Operation Key Lime Pie!”

“What? “, crackled the comm.

‘What?’, shrugged the staff.

“Are you deaf? I said, commence Operation Key Lime Pie, dammit!”

“Roger.” Sang the personnel.

An arm reached out and shoved a pie into the general’s face, uniform splattered bright green.

“Damn you, colonel Pennywise! That was for the Officers Banquet!”

🥕🥕🥕

Key Lime Pie by FloridaBorne

“You can’t live in Florida without making key lime pie, Sheila!”

“What’s that?”

“Scrape off one teaspoon of the rind, then squeeze out half a cup of key lime juice, throw it into the blender with 2 eggs and a can of sweetened condensed milk, pour that into a Dollar General graham cracker crust, put it into a toaster oven for 15 minutes, and then refrigerate.”

“I prefer hot apple pie,” Sheila said. “Up north, mom heated our house
making pies and roasted chestnuts on the coldest days.”

“Bet you tried to plant a chestnut tree, too,” I mumbled.

🥕🥕🥕

The Key Lime Pie Blues by Bill Engleson

Went to old Key West
Many years ago.
Lovin’ was the best
That I’d ever know.

No matter what I do,
How hard I try,
I can’t shake her
Or her key lime pie.

She took me in
And she fed me well.
Took me to her bed
For quite a spell.

She glowed in the sun,
Sparkled in the sea.
When she was done
There was less of me.

No matter what I do
Or how hard I try,
I can’t shake her
Or her key lime pie.
No, I can’t shake her
Or her key lime pie.

🥕🥕🥕

Outlawed Pies by D. Avery’s Kid

“Kid, we’re not gittin’ writ this time aroun’. D.Avery’s done painted hersef inta a corner procrastinatin’ work deadlines.”

“She’s busy workin’ jist now?”

“Yep.”

“Huh. I’ll have ta step up, though I prefer shovelin’ cow pies ta key lime.

Once upon a time it was a dark and stormy night. The evil king had outlawed pies, except for apple pie made with Northern Spy apples and white flour.

Meanwhile, deep in the forest and far from the swamp, the Key Lime Princess practiced civil disobedience, producing her green pies as peaceful as you please. And carrot cake. The end.

🥕🥕🥕

Winning

Carrot Ranch announces the 2019 Rodeo Winners and invites writers to craft 99-word stories about winning. One of our community writers went where the prompt led him, past a story and into an exploration of winning. Michael Fishman wrote an excellent introduction to this week’s collection:

“As I steamroll way past 99 words what it all boils down to for me is courage. Just trying takes courage and you don’t win or lose when you try. Putting on your shoes: courage. Taking a step outside: courage. Taking a deep breath and saying “hello” to someone: courage. Trying to do something that makes your head spin with uncomfortable thoughts: courage. Trying something difficult even though it hurts inside: courage.

Courage = winning.”

The following stories are based on the November 28, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about winners.

PART I (10-minute read)

Keep Trying Until You Win by Charli Mills

Martha posed her best winning grin to the reporter, spitting dirt as she smiled. The bulb flashed so brightly it turned everything to white blotches. Blinking, and wiping at the mouthful of arena dirt she received after the goat clocked her a second time, she looked for Auntie Bess. The old woman was leaning against the railing beyond the chatter of family and fans. Ducking the swipe of a hankie, Martha joined her Aunt.

“Why’d ya win kiddo?”

“Cause no one else would go after that stinkin’ goat three times. Figured, I keep trying ‘til I got him tied!”

🥕🥕🥕

Every Child Wins A Prize by Norah Colvin

Melissa goggled at the toy-laden shelves.

“Only $2 a ticket,” the vendor encouraged.

Melissa indicated a music box on the top shelf.

“You won’t win that. It’s just a ploy to get your money,” grumbled Mum.

“You won’t know if you don’t try,” he winked.

Melissa turned to Mum. “It’s my money.”

Mum humphed as Melissa parted with her coin.

The man fanned the envelopes, favouring one. “Take it,” he whispered.

Melissa ripped the envelope open and passed him the card.

“What did I win?”

The man handed the music box to Melissa.

“Prizes are for triers,” he smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Winners by clfalcone*

“We won! We fucking won!” Shouted the guitarist, fist pumping the air. The reticent bassist just stared blankly – he was thinking about notes and riffs….

The drummer rhythmically pounded the bar to a screamo chorus of ‘Rät Pöyzýn!’

The keyboardist read it out loud again: ‘After grueling auditions comprising 102 bands, Rät Pöyzýn is awarded the opening slot at Black Metal Fest next month.’ All mayhem broke loose after the announcement.

The bassist just sighed, saying in his best British, “The day will come when they have Rät Pöyzýn on their lips….”, then stared off into note land again.

🥕🥕🥕

Must Have Imagined It? by Anne Goodwin

As the compere brandishes the envelope, I rehearse my routine. Feigned surprise, a single tear, a never-expected-this speech. Out comes the card, my name announced, a hug and I’m on my feet. Squeezing past knees, deafening applause, fake smiles. Too busy balancing on five-inch heels to glance up at this stage.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry!” A sweaty hand on my bare arm, why has the clapping stopped?

Another starlet rises, is rushed along the rows. Some tuxedo guy explaining they must have mixed up the cards.

Of course, no problem, it happens. My aching chest. My frozen smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Winning by Anita Dawes

I couldn’t win a raffle,
if I bought every ticket, they have for sale
The prize is a 4-inch gold cup and
It would have been nice to win
Alas, I tried to cheer myself up
with a stroll around the charity shops
with ten to search through
I stopped for lunch in Poppins
Opposite is the Heart Foundation charity shop
In the window I could see a small cup
Nipping out to take a closer look
Hidden in the corner, I found it
Green glass, dark rim, orange base
At last, I could declare myself a winner!

🥕🥕🥕

Recipe for Success by Annette Rochelle Aben

Her brother had just gotten a big break, starting work for a local soup and sandwich shop. The hope was that this job would provide him the opportunity to shine with his creative culinary skills.

She received notice of a chili cookoff with prizes for home cooks as well as professionals. Why not enter! If she won, she could give the recipe to her brother, and he could make it at the shop. This just might kick start his career.

She was able to perfect the white, chicken chili recipe. And it won second place. Alas, the shop closed.

🥕🥕🥕

Victory by Reena Saxena

High political drama unfolds over a month. Broken promises, split in alliances, unexpected parties joining the fray, and finally, a grand swearing-in ceremony for the Chief Minister at a prime location in town.

Supporters go berserk in celebrations of victory. They claim to have been on high moral ground, while others manipulated things. There is a small news leak. Funds received from the Japan for a Bullet Train project have been diverted from State control during that month, by the caretaker CM.

The new CM takes charge with aplomb, but knows he has paid a price for the victory.

🥕🥕🥕

To The Victor by Iain Kelly

To the victor goes the spoils, that’s what they say.

There is cheering, waving flags, smiling faces. But it doesn’t feel like winning.

Surrounding them is destruction and death. Buildings and homes reduced to rubble.

They said the last one would be the war to end all wars. Maybe this one will be.

They are glad to be the victors, proud and patriotic.

Yet beneath the smiles and relief there is so much grief.

They have lost so much: friends, lovers, comrades, innocence.

History will immortalise them as heroes.

But can anyone really be called a winner in war?

🥕🥕🥕

Winners by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

He shuddered at the sight that beheld his desolate eyes. Stiff bodies ending in bloody stumps where their heads had been blown to pieces. Others, in which the pulse of life still beat, despite their shattered limbs lying in parts all over the field, spurted blood in bright sprays. There was also the noise; the screams and shrieks of pain from those who could muster the energy to expel such sounds from their desperate throats. These combined with the underlying low pitched moans and relentless whining of the dying, to form a symphony of despair. War had no winners.

🥕🥕🥕

Flight Training by Colleen M. Chesebro

Tina balled up the award notice and threw it on the floor. She stomped out of the room.

A chorus of voices questioned, “Miss Henshaw, didn’t she win?”

“Yes,” she answered. “Remember, this challenge wasn’t about winning. It was about determination and whether you gave up or kept trying.”

“Yet, she still won,” whispered Mary.

“Ah, but you gave up, Mary,” Miss Henshaw quipped. “Look outside.”

A crowd gathered at the window. Outside, Tina attempted to mount her broom. Her magic fizzled, and she landed face first in the mud. Yet she kept trying. At long last, she flew.

🥕🥕🥕

Winners by Bill Engleson

‘They’ve a glow about them, don’t you think?’

‘Who?’

‘Winners.’

‘Ah yes, whiners. They do sparkle away. Hog the light. Prance about, yelling, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!’

‘Not whiners, you nit. Winners.’

‘Whiners! Winners! What’s the difference? They all think they’re special.’

‘Maybe. But there are differences. Whiners are sometimes grumpy, right?’

‘Agreed!’

‘And winners, well, they’re gleeful. They’ve won.’

‘Won what?’

‘It doesn’t matter. Anything. A contest. An election.’

Yet, when they don’t win, whadda they do? They whine.’

‘So, you’re saying?’

‘One day they win, one day they lose. Win! Whine! Peas in a pod.’

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Harvest (from “Trissente Sea”) by Saifun Hassam

A late summer hailstorm left the ancient Temple’s veggie garden in a mess. The village children had planted peppers, eggplants, and all kinds of squash.

After the storm, the children gathered veggies that could be used for the day’s cooking. Perhaps the mint would grow back again. The squash leaves were shredded. The vines seemed intact buried under the wet mud.

When the garden dried out, much of the squash had survived. Excited, the children harvested all they could. With Diamante’s help, they hauled the produce to the village market, for the Pumpkin Festival. They were winners after all.

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#47 Acceptance by Jules Paige

1
“While you are making tea, how about a Hot Toddy and make it a double for me?” Sam asked as he continued, “I’m off duty and being a police officer in this town can be stressful! The reality and the gossip can really be a challenge to decipher and that’s just within the department.”

While I’d really love to be adrift in a calm sea where everything was moving in slow motion – that wasn’t how this day was ending up. There was Dawg curled up in a ball of delight at Sam’s feet. Lucky was a winner his lap.

2
Meanwhile Byrd, I think was feigning sleep… I did think I saw a few curious winks from that crow’s curiously swiveling head. I was a winner to have three pet friends.

Sam was just a bonus. The cherry on the sundae. When he told me that my home might have been part of the route for the Underground Railroad – I could only imagine all those people who were shuffled off into freedom to become winners in their own right. I looked up a center and museum honoring William C. Goodridge; a slave became a free man to aid others.

3
I had also wondered about the family who may have owned the Dutch Snickersnee I was now using as a bread knife. It was also possible that trades had been made for food or safety. Each person thinking they were winners in that bartered transaction? Could it be one of Jack Seedsmen’s treasures or was it here long before he had lived and worked this place?

Amid the losses of life, I had to remain positive. I would work at finding the whole truth.

each breath that we take
we win the right to carry
forth our earned knowledge

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Champions by Kerry E.B. Black

The percussion of applause deafened, an unyielding wave of enthusiasm and appreciation. The team leapt, joyful. They embraced, all previous competitive jealousy forgotten, for the moment. En masse, they lifted their coach upon their shoulders, an idol of inspiration. Confetti and iced Gatoraide rained like blessings upon them all.

Their opponents drooped. Many dragged their helmets through the grass, defeated in this pivotal game, second place, championship without the accolades. Their coach glowered at the winners while ushering his team into the showers. They’d congratulated the others before their display grew too extreme. “Next year, guys, that’ll be you.”

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Who Won? by Faith A. Colburn

I’d been graduated for twenty-five years when an old classmate climbed up the bleachers to my family’s perch near the top.

“Do you remember me?” he demanded.

Of course, I remembered. My graduating class was only thirty-one.

“I’m the guy you embarrassed in advanced algebra class.”

I shook my head. I hadn’t been competing. I just enjoyed advanced math. I loved solving puzzles and math was an especially complex series of puzzles.

Since then, I’ve been asking myself who’s the winner. If he was the only one competing, then was he the winner? He didn’t seem to feel victorious.

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What It Takes by Nancy Brady

From the time her classmates started playing football in the seventh grade, they never lost a game. Their winning streak continued through their senior year including winning the state championship.

Many went to college and tasted defeat for the first time. Some didn’t make the teams and for those that did, their team lost games.

The biggest defeat they often faced was the reality of college classes, which required hours of hard work.

Ironically, those boys who diligently studied throughout high school often persevered more easily than those who hadn’t. For the others, it required a change of attitude.

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Winter Growth by tracey

Winter was descending, short cold days followed by long cold nights. Distraction was needed. No, not distraction… learning. Yes! This was valuable time that needed to be used thoughtfully. Much growth could happen in the cold with a little encouragement.

So many topics beckon, but let’s be real, nothing that involves leaving the warmth of home will happen. And yes, there it was, an on-line art class. Collage: cutting and gluing bright bits of paper. Abstract flowers and cats. Back to kindergarten and my simplest self. Growing from the roots. My heart lit with joy, I had a winner.

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Winners and Losers by Joanne Fisher

She led a quiet simple life mostly tending her garden at the back of the house. Most people didn’t give her a second look, and probably thought she was some poor lonely soul, but the truth was she was happy. She had friends, more than enough food, shelter, and clothing. What more did she need? She enjoyed her life’s simplicity. She saw many people living wretched lives rushing around and working every hour of the day so they could buy things they didn’t really need. If it was all about winners and losers, who was the real winner here?

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Winner by Ann Edall-Robson

It was dark when Tal stopped the truck and horse trailer next to the barn. He had been in the saddle at sunup looking for cows, watching for game, and doing the job he loved—being a cowboy.

Mac’s voice rumbled through the darkness near the barn door. “How’d it go?”

Tal smiled into the night, before turning to answer his boss.

“Found twelve head, caught a fish for my lunch, and I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight. I’d say the day was a winner.”

His stomach grumbled. Dinner would have to wait. Always, the animals came first.

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No Contest by D. Avery

“Ya ever won anythin’ Pal?”

“Nope.”

“Me neither. But this outfit here says I might be a winner. Fer a small fee they’ll let me know fer sure.”

“What outfit is thet, Kid?”

“The Slim Chance Ranch. Says here they’d be willin’ ta let me ride with ‘em. Fer a small fee.”

“Kid, why would ya even consider it?”

“Says here it’s a good deal, might even increase ma chances of winnin’.”

“What the deuces d’ya win?”

“Says here I could win the chance ta ride with Slim.”

“Slim Chance.”

“Yeah, yer right, Pal. I never win nuthin’ no-how.”

****

“Shorty’s sure busy, huh Kid?”

“Yep.”

“So you jist shush up ‘bout yer foolish notions. Shorty’s got enough ta do without worryin’ ‘bout you takin’ off fer Slim Chance Ranch.”

“Kin go if I want, Pal. Might win, ya know.”

“If’n yer so het up on winnin’ why didn’tcha enner the rodeo contest here at Carrot Ranch?”

“B’cause.”

“B’cause why, Kid?”

“B’cause I never win nuthin’.”

“Cain’t never neither without ennerin’.”

“Asides, Pal, them writers that won? They’re great.”

“You grate on my nerves Kid. Ever one thet ennered is great.”

“Yer right. Carrot Ranch is a great place.”

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