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More than ice can freeze the bones.
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Photo courtesy of 47 North Belly Dance by 2nd Sandbar.
Frozen by Joanne Fisher
“Come in! You must be frozen!” Sonia said as she opened the door wide for her friend. Maddy walked in shivering with her arms hugging her body. She had been caught in a sudden cold snap and felt cold to the bone. “Let’s get you warm.” Sonia wrapped her arms around Maddy slowly warming her with her own body heat. The two of them stood there in silence.
“Thanks.” Maddy said appreciatively. This is what she lived for: being in the arms of Sonia, the girl she deeply loved. If only Sonia loved her the same way in return.
Gut Feeling by Ann Edall-Robson
Inside the log cabin, a sharp crack silenced the voices of the couple sitting at the table.
“What the heck was that?”
He leaned across the table, blowing out the lantern, putting the room into darkness.
“Get on the floor.”
Grabbing his down jacket he headed out the door.
The snapping and groaning from the moon-bathed frozen lake hadn’t convinced him the noise they’d heard had come from here. Turning towards the silhouetted cabin, the sound of gunfire erupted at the same time that his face was sprayed with tree splinters.
Why hadn’t he just trusted his gut?
Frozen by Ritu Bhathal
All I could hear were titters, whispering, and the odd lewd comment, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Well, of course I was telling them to ignore the unignorable, and continue to listen to me, as I explained the importance of probability.
My words fell on deaf ears. I could imagine the screen shots, and subsequent memes flooding WhatsApp.
My face, frozen on screen, with my mouth wide open, eyes closed, as if I was in the midst of something much more pleasurable than teaching maths.
Dang remote learning, unstable internet connections, and bloody live lessons!
Frozen Emotions by Sue Spitulnik
When Mac recognized the handwriting on the package, he froze. His body motionless, his mind raced back almost 50 years to visualize the young Vietnamese woman who had given him a son. “Colm McCarthy and descendants;” why was it addressed such?
Later, with the family assembled, Mac’s wife, Nan, opened the package. She handed envelopes to the three generations, Mac, Thad, and Katie, then read a note aloud. “My husband has died. I would like permission to visit.”
No one reacted.
Finally, Nancy said, “Thad, her situation was forced. I think it’s a good idea.”
Thad wasn’t so sure.
Note:To update new readers, Michael is the lead singer for this band. Thad is a 50/50, half American-half Vietnamese raised by his father, Mac, and stepmother, Nancy. He has no memory of his biological mother. Katie is Thad’s daughter.
Frozen Tears by Diana Nagai
“Nothing’s more sad than the death of an illusion – Arthur Kesler.” I froze at the sight of the plaque, reminded of our past. Your presence overwhelmed me, elevating me onto a pedestal. I ignored my discomfort because you made me laugh. I convinced myself you needed me more than I needed you. Then you were gone. My attempts to reach you were either ignored or returned with blame, leaving me to wonder if we ever truly friends. It’s been years, and death has taken you permanently. Yet, I shed no tears. I mourned the loss of you years ago.
Return to Alaska by Luccia Gray
“Hi, my name’s Suzie. I’ll be looking after you this morning.” I smiled at the pretty hostess.
She showed me some images on her screen. “Where would you like to go today, Maggie?”
I needed to return to the cabin where I had left my unfinished manuscript.
“A beach, the mountains, a lake, or…”
“I want to go back to Alaska.”
Suzie pushed my wheelchair into the viewing room. “Why are you always so keen on Alaska’s frozen landscape?”
“I have to finish my novel.”
Suzie squeezed my limp hand and slid on the 3D glasses. “Alaska it is.”
Catatonia by Anne Goodwin
It isn’t entertainment. It isn’t defiance. Yet they prod me, pinch me, pose me in increasingly awkward positions. I challenge their apothecary, so they challenge me.
They think I can’t feel, yet the ache in my muscles, the cramp, proclaims I’m alive. At night, when my head hits the pillow, I sleep like the dead.
In another life, I’d paint myself silver and wink at the children pitching coins in my hat. Or I’d serve as a sentry outside some palace. But I’m in the madhouse, frozen in sorrow, starved of volition. If an icicle bends, it will snap.
Frozen by D. Avery
Every visit I am grateful for the window, though it’s always shut tight against any air. Today tapered icicles hang down from the eves, their steady drip in the late winter sun inaudible through the panes, replaced by my mother’s hollow chirping.
I sense my mother is afraid to come here alone. She tells me her granny enjoys seeing me but the old lady never even looks up. Says nothing. Just sits there.
Feels like 80 degrees in this room. As always, Granny’s bundled in thick socks, a lap robe, and a shawl.
Still she just sits there, frozen.
The Old Orangutan by Donna Matthews
The kiddos burst inside the house, running up to me and yelling, grandma, grandma, let’s go to the zoo!
“Oh no, I don’t think so.”
Come on, grandma! The lions, the monkeys, the elephants!
Oh, why not? It certainly is a beautiful day.
Wandering beautiful park paths, kiddos running ahead, I take in the sounds of the tropical birds, the lush greens, and delighted laughter. Suddenly, monkeys flying through the air greet us. After the flyers, we come around to orangutans; an old male and I lock eyes, and we both freeze. His sad eyes look away first.
Our New Cat by Nancy Brady
Lisa called us about a stray cat that Marcia, a co-worker, had recently rescued. To be more accurate, the cat had found Marcia’s stoop on a wintry December night, begging to come inside. When she first saw the frozen, frightened black cat, he was backed into a corner by a snarling, hissing cat. Marcia opened the back door and the cat raced inside. Unfortunately, her husband’s allergies flared up, and the cat they had taken to the vet and named Graham had to go. The couple wanted a good family for Graham, and we fit the bill, adopting Regulus.
Frozen in a Field of Pradas by Jack Keaton
“Maximus has something in his mouth!” Janet frantically whispered to Brandon, waking him up. “He’s under the bed!”
When Brandon shined his Maglite under the bed, he saw a three-inch field mouse–scampering into their closet.
“What is it?”
“It’s a mouse, presumably drowning in your Pradas.”
Brandon found the rodent poking his head out of a black pump, frozen in Brandon’s light.
“Where in the hell is that cat?” Brandon complained to no one while fetching a bag and a broom.
But Maximus was coiled on the bed, content that He did his part for his pride.
A Frozen Forager by Michelle Vongkaysone
I’m fine with frozen carrots, I admit that. It’s better than digging in the cellar for them.
They’re ready to use in the freezer. At any other time, I would appreciate frozen carrots.
However, this isn’t any ordinary time. That storm came suddenly, forcing me inside for safety.
I wasn’t properly prepared. At least it was quick, if not ferocious. My house was covered in snow.
Afterwards, I went out to check everything. The pipes weren’t frozen, but my carrot patch was!
By salvaging it, I learned a valuable lesson: I’ve had enough of any frozen carrots for now.
Frozen by Colleen Chesebro
My first walk in the new neighborhood turned up some surprises. Across the street, a fast-running stream bordered the edge of the forest along the walking path.
So, this is where the deer came from, I thought. We’d spotted deer tracks in the snow as they came right up to our front porch. A real Michigan welcoming committee!
Around the corner, I spotted a pond, frozen beneath the afternoon sun. I day-dreamed about the frogs and crickets serenading us in the stillness of a long summer night.
frost-bound pond glistens
cattails rattle in the wind
mourning dove calls spring
New Home by Hugh W. Roberts
Having travelled millions of miles, had it found its new home?
The frozen wastes of space were no place anymore for the light pink sphere.
It had travelled for thousands of years, but the icy blue planet ahead looked the only hope it had of survival.
The glowing rays of a young star rising in the east sent the alien into a potential thaw and deep sleep on this new world.
Millions of years later, it awoke to find new owners’ of the planet had built a city on top of where it had rested.
“Welcome to Wuhan’, it recorded, as it began the fightback to reclaim its new home.
Frozen (not the movie) by Doug Jacquier
He mused upon his woes then
He went out in the snow then
In his ribbons and his bows then
To find his status quo then
and face his demon foes then
No goal, just to’s and fro’s then
Not following the crows then
He felt the icy winter blows then
Right through his winter hose then
He couldn’t feel his nose then
It spread down to his toes then
He thought he’d have a doze then
As everybody knows then
That’s the way he goes then
And there he sits all frozen
Sadder but no wiser; so zen
The Frozen Lake by Emma G. Slayton
Kara was ice-skating on Greenwood Lake. She was in the middle of the frozen lake when a snow machine went by. She was scared and she fell and hurt her leg.
The snow machine guy named Tom looked behind him and saw that she was on the ice and she was hurt. He went back to get her and bring her to the doctor. After that she had a leg brace. They became friends and then they went to college. After college Tom went to be a professional snow machine guy and Kara became a professional ice skating girl.
A Frozen Lesson by Willow Willers
Jasmina was the founder member! Over the years they’d risen to fame internationally.
Geeta was the youngest and most recent member to the group.
The argument all started when Geeta announced they been asked to do an Indian version of Let it Go! Jasmina wanted to dismiss it out of hand, after all she dealt with the bookings.
Well, she was outvoted, to save face she agreed the others could do the video she would direct.
So she picked the costumes and the venue. Dressed warmly she watched from her heated cabin and smiled. They all looked truly Frozen.
Frozen by Anita Dawes
Frozen with horror by the razor-sharp edge,
the blade at my throat, the overlapping fear of warm blood
Free flowing from my body, zoning out into darkness
Falling into a world of blank memory, near to death
I see the dark cloaked figure of an angel gently waking my sleeping body
Not realising, my spirit had decided to jump around the room with joy
Without letting me know where the happiness comes from
I lie there wondering why I had been sent an angel wearing L plates
Would she pull the two halves of my body together in time?
A Necessary Part of the Proceedings by Nicole Horlings
“Sir Gilbert, on trial for treachery and desertion,” one of his guards announced as they marched him into the bright throne room. He squinted up at the Queen, who stared haughtily back at him, clearly annoyed at the distraction from her leisure activities.
“Off with his head,” she said emotionlessly, stifling a yawn.
Gilbert’s jaw dropped. “I have an explanation for my actions. Don’t I have the right to defend myself?”
“This that really a necessary part of the proceedings?” the Queen asked her advisor.
“It is,” he agreed.
“Fine,” she sighed, rolling her eyes. “Then explain yourself, traitor.”
Pine Point 1969 by Bill Engleson
It was a shock to the system,
of this Frontier College guy,
dropped into a snow-swept,
tundra under bright northern sky.
A teacher of the English language,
and the warm-blooded tool crib guy.
Fifty below with wind chill
And death when the arctic winds fly.
A backdrop of constant blizzard
Soil that nothing grows in,
Skin sliced and scissored,
facial baby hair frozen.
This was life in a barracks,
Wild mining camp lore,
an open-pit of errors,
an environmental war
Though now a disassembled ghost town,
Not among the chosen,
A wilderness of darkness
And memories, stark and frozen.
Terra by Saifun Hassam
Khyrie’s ancestors were spacefarers from Earth’s Alaskan Arctic Zone. From digital archives she learned of Earth’s forbidding and daunting frozen wastelands before global warming melted the icescapes, creating catastrophic conditions for life on Earth.
Terra23’s poles were extensive icescapes of glaciers and mountains. Aquatic life teemed in summer under the melting ice.
When jagged chasms ripped apart ice fields, geologists discovered intriguing clues of past open seas. Khyrie, a biologist, was captivated by the diversity of polar life. She left Terra’s green valleys to live at Northern Glacier Habitat.
Gaining Ground a Second Time Around? by JulesPaige
Once long ago was a great rumble
Dino’s lost ground took a right tumble
T’wasn’t till a good hard rap
On their ground did man tap
Bones found frozen in time’s ice bubble
With time them dug bones from the ground, rose
Folks drew up the look of dino’s nose
Handled scraps with respect
Deft, no piece to reject
Some guesses accurate I suppose
Hard to fix features a truthful way
Of something that in the ground did stay
Thousands of years frozen
Some looks were just chosen
So we could see ‘em somehow today
…because RUOK looked prehistoric!
Holy Fishin’ Hole by D. Avery
“Now what ya been up to out in thet cold, Kid?”
“Decided since things is froze up I’d try fishing through the ice on the pond.”
“No Pal, but I had what ya might call a mystical ‘sperience. Heard a voice from on high.”
“Been at Ernie’s cookies agin?”
“No, Pal. Ever time I’d drill a hole in the ice a boomin’ echo-y voice would speak ta me.”
“Sayin’, ‘Don’t drill there. There’s no fish there.’”
“Wait. Pond? Kid, where’s this pond at?”
“Uh, that flat area below the cookhouse.”
“Kid, thet’s a skatin’ rink!”
Chop Bustin’ by D. Avery
“Kid, yer a mess. An’ why’s thet puglet a yers wearin’ glass slippers?”
“Jist let poor Curly in next ta the fire, Pal. Temper’tures dropped considerable. Ever’thin’s frozen. Almost.”
“Me an’ Curly was skatin’ aroun’ a bit on the pond.”
“A pig on ice?”
“Her little hooves was goin’ ever which way. Fin’lly she got ‘em all under her. Then, whomp, all four legs sank through.”
“A stuck pig?”
“I yanked an’ tugged.”
“Fin’lly got her out but the ice clung ta her legs. Gotta git ‘em thawed out.”
“Careful. Smells like smoked ham hocks.”
“Snow” is a transcultural fusion dance drawing on movement from Raqs Sharqi, Datura, DanceCraft, modern, and ballet. It is inspired by the beauty of Lake Superior’s winter shoreline and is dedicated to the Ojibwa Water Walkers, People of the Heart, a group of women who speak up for and protect nibi (water). 47 North is a performance group named for the far-north latitude that skims through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. As a transnational fusion dance troupe, we combine various belly dance styles with modern, jazz, hip hop, and other art forms.
Choreographers – Sylvia Schourek and Allison Mills; Videographers – Amanda Makela, Daena Makela, and Kris Niva; Video Editing – Amanda Makela and Daena Makela; Music – “Luminsade” by Joe Michaelson.
Sometimes you just seem to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s something to celebrate!
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Curiosity by Saifun Hassam
She remembered that glorious day so well.
Running headlong with the wind along Great Bay’s sandy shores. Stopping abruptly where an abandoned kite lay, the incoming tide tugging at its string.
“Come, come into the ocean” the waves beckoned.
She picked up the kite and ran with it. The wind caught at it! Curious. Would it lift her into the sky too?
She kicked up sand. How many grains of sand on the shores? in her hand? A gazillion.
At night: how many stars? A gazillion.
A dream to explore the stars lightyears away in a sail spaceship.
Waking Adventure by Ann Edall-Robson
Welcoming the early
morning glow of colour
will this day bring
in morning coffee
Feet tucked under
A charcuterie platter
Perhaps a wander
Snippets of this and that
to directions unknown
Or a calming glide
on the water
Dip, paddle, silence
Nature’s fingers caress
Is it the gravel roads
enticing the soul
The glory of life
erupting at each
Yet the land with
minuscule life welcomes
The scent of sunshine
through the trees
The wonders of life
giving and forgiving
Morsels of celebration
for each waking
Birthday Celebrations by Ruchira Khanna
“Did you hear me, Joe?” Patty inquired.
“Yes! I got it. I have to be home on time,” said Joe irritably as he walked out the door.
“I bet he’ll be late, and there goes all my preparation for his birthday party,” Patty whispered to herself as she pulled out the many bowls she had hidden in the oven, away from Joe’s sight. “Oh! I know, how about I move the party to his workplace. That way, I won’t have to fret over him coming on time,” she said with a wide grin and was quick to text all.
Right Place, Right Time by M J Mallon
The right place at the right time, at ninety-one, that’s a feat. My dad’s ninety-two today. At his birthday celebration last year he astonished us all by serenading the pretty waitress in Russian! Dad’s a Scotsman with one known fear: the snow! He’s always preferred sunny climates. It’s no wonder that he escaped to Malaysia and married my mum, who’s from Kuching, a place that stole his heart too. He always has a tale to tell, or a song to sing and still dreads the snow! Bless him.
Something To Celebrate by Anita Dawes
Turning 75, something to celebrate, you think?
The morning went slow,
dragging my mind further into darkness
Deciding on a fresh cup of coffee to pull myself together,
walk around the Friday market.
I notice a face, my best friend, a sister I should have had.
We lost touch twenty years ago.
Thoughts rush my mind.
Why had we lost touch?
Would she want to speak to me?
Would we have anything to say after so long?
I need not have worried.
My 75th party went like a sixties disco,
With my best friend by my side…
The Fall Guy by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“I don’t understand what you want from me.” Trevor was mystified. Heather was leaving him. Again.
“That’s it!” she huffed, jaw clenched. “I just can’t trust you’ll be there when I need you.”
“It wasn’t my fault that you drank too much at the party!”
“You should’ve been there to stop me.” A tear slid down as she walked away.
Trevor flipped his hand, palm up, in a bent elbow gesture. “Why did you keep accepting Kevin’s drinks?”
“Because HE was there!”
Just then, a baby bird dropped into his palm and peered up at him, annoyed but grateful.
The Harsh Truth by Sue Spitulnik
Over coffee, Lexi said, “Mom, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad you left Dad. You’re happy now. Would you mind sharing what gave you the guts to make the move?”
Tessa looked away, remembering, then smiled at her oldest daughter. “I overheard a conversation between the wives of your father’s higher-ups. One wondered to the other if I knew your father’s continual unaccompanied tours were by request. I was shocked at first then soon decided I had been at the right place at the right time to learn the truth.”
“It was, but beneficial.”
A Serendipitous Discovery by Nicole Horlings
“Where ends the street, there shall we meet,” the slip of paper stated.
Jack chuckled, paused his exploration of the old mansion, and followed the road out of town, strolling along until it finally ended at the edge of the forest. A fairy flew down from a tree. “You found my note.”
“You can predict where I’ll go to explore next too well,” he grinned.
“Is that a problem?” she flirted, fluttering her lashes.
“No,” he laughed, then kissed her. “Your little game is fine. I’m glad I met you while exploring the forest,” he sighed, hugging her close.
Lockdown Literary Launch by Anne Goodwin
The kids needed the laptop for their schoolwork. I needed it to practice addressing the camera instead of the screen. I’d neglected them, constantly checking the joining link and time zones. Learning my lines. But they were good kids, they’d forgive me. They’d have my attention once the book was launched. “Good evening, and welcome!” On Zoom, no-one would see me wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. Gaze fixed on the camera, I didn’t immediately notice the kids had taken revenge. Rubbish at tech, I couldn’t cancel the filter. I read out my poignant passages as a cat.
Pu-Chai by Colleen Chesebro
“How much is the black puppy?” I pointed to the fuzzy Pomeranian in the cage.
“That one? I’ll have to check. He’s been here for months.”
Dark, soulful eyes stared at me as if the pup understood the conversation.
“Pure black Pomeranians are rare. Is he papered?”
“Yup. Two champions in his line. Nobody wants him because he’s all black. You know, bad-luck.”
He nosed my hand through the cage.
“I’ll take him.”
“Looks like you are in the right place at the right time. He’s on sale, only $99.00.”
In my arms, Pu-Chai found his new home.
We All Have A Purpose by Ritu Bhathal
Walking home, shoulders slumped, I wondered what my purpose was. No one really needed me. What use was I? Might as well just keep walking, until I walked off a cliff. No one would miss me.
A sound caught my ear. A whimper. I looked around. No one.
Another little yelp brought me closer to a box. The flap was open, and inside I found him. The runt of the litter, left, abandoned.
He looked up at me with those eyes, and it was in that moment I realised that I did have someone to live for, after all.
Not Cause for Celebration by Rebecca Glaessner
A metal ship crossed the perfect sector. Great Mind opened a path beside the ship as a youngling’s human host floated out. Great Mind pulled the host through and sealed the path. The ship drifted onward, oblivious.
“Ugh-” the host, a human female, stumbled beneath unexpected gravity. “We’re saved!” came a voice in her head. She stared at the alien structures, the creatures beyond.
“You are home,” began Great Mind, “we aren’t yet part of your second world. It’s not safe.”
“When we supplant an Elder, you’ll be returned. For now, you are home.”
“This is not home.”
Right Place, Right Time by FloridaBorne
Atop the Ferris wheel, with no other riders, Marjorie felt free for a few minutes each day, compliments of her father, who owned this stately wonder. Father understood that each generation possessed a different gift. His charm attracted riders. In winter, when the park closed, Marjorie’s victims provided anything he asked. Her mother felt contentment inside their home, refusing to leave a vessel filled with her love. Today, Marjorie had walked among the crowd, implanting ideas and imparting suggestions into unsuspecting minds. Sherlock Holmes had appeared and she’d saved her family! Neither he nor his client remembered their investigation.
Just in Time! by Joanne Fisher
Jeremy’s car had broken down, so he walked to the creepy castle in the middle of a thunder storm for assistance. When he knocked on the door, it was answered by a creepy-looking old man who led him straight to his Master. While Jeremy explained to the Master about his car, everything suddenly went black and he collapsed onto the floor.
“That was fortunate. Talk about right place, right time!” the Master said as he looked down on his creation, now with Jeremy’s stretched face added. “Now Igor, let’s hook this up to the grid, and see what happens!”
No Mention by Simon
He wore it for the first time and looked in the mirror, he saw himself as his own mother wearing it. And something inevitable happened, his dad entered and saw his son standing in front of the mirror wearing his wife’s skirt. The rage in his eyes burned his son alive.
At the right time, his step mother entered and saved him, stating he was practising for the drama and helped him tie the skirt properly and placed a kiss on his cheek and said he looked pretty, Just like his mum.
He thanked her.
She said no mention.
A Million Dollar Question by Goldie
They stopped at the local bar on their evening walk around town.
“Wanna get a drink?” Scott asked.
“Sure,” Emily shrugged.
Inside, a live band played and patrons swayed to the beat. The music was loud, but the vocals decent and the songs classic.
“I said: ‘Hey! What’s going on?’” Scott belted out.
“Hmmm… but he only sings funny, made up lyrics,” Emily frowned.
When Linda Perry sat down next to the couple, everything changed. Scott now has a recording deal and Emily a new lover.
Which one of them was at the right place at the right time?
Cautiously Staged by JulesPaige
Convinced by prompting he
Chose kabuki to
Celebrate life – then he could hide in plain sight
Only a few close friends
Shared his deep secret
He loved to paint his face
And pretend to be
Heroines in plays to arouse audiences
He really had to
Act without costumes
Such was his lot not to
Incite the wrath that
Could befall any who were deemed different
At least in this year, this
Time of harsh judgements
Overboard by Donna Matthews
“Gonna be a nasty storm!” The captain declares.
Prophetically, it turns out. But he couldn’t know then. Could he?
Looking toward the horizon, I see the dark clouds gathering. The winds soon howl, and rain thrashes our fishing charter. Shaking below, I fear this will be the last of adventures. But hour by hour, the fearsome storm wears itself out and finally settles into a harmless drizzle. Coming up to deckside, I see the entire boat is taking on water! I grab a bucket and start scooping!
“Where is the captain??” my children shout behind me. “Overboard, my guess!”
A Fish Story by D. Avery
“Luckiest fishing day ever!”
“Hope! You and Cousin Bobby caught enough for a meal?”
He groaned when the children showed him their sleds loaded with pails of fresh perch along with the ice-fishing gear. “That’s a lot of perch to dress.”
“We found a hotspot, Daddy!”
Laughing, Hope’s mother headed back inside.
“Hey! Help skin.”
“After some phone calls.”
Throughout the afternoon people started dropping by, some chatting while peeling perch out of their scaly skins, some cooking fish over an outside fire. Fish stories old and new were told.
“This is the best perch dinner ever!”
Right Place, Right Time by Di @ pensitivity101
Right place, right time, right nurse, and a casual mention that I qualified for three months free membership with a slimming group.
I signed up, and within a few months had lost almost 3 stones in weight.
Something had been lurking under the flab, and if I hadn’t lost weight, we wouldn’t have found the lump.
Discovered early, it was analyzed and found to be treatable and curable.
Radiotherapy followed, and all was good until 2019.
Not quite so lucky this time, and a mastectomy was needed.
But, again, it was discovered, analyzed, dealt with.
And I’m still here.
Stargardts by Willow Willers
Norma knew her sight was failing ever since she was ten. But what really worried her was, had she passed this fate on to her daughter?
The day had arrived when they would get the test results. They’d been at the hospital two hours waiting. Finally they were called in. The doctor smiled at them both and without any preamble told them the Stargardts had been passed on.
Outside Jenny hugged Nora. “Mum you can help me through this. I have seen you cope, you have taught me so much already.”
They basked in the warmth of the sun.
Dominic to the Rescue by Annette Rochelle Aben
Annette loved her job at the Ambassador Bridge. Hers was a glorified secretarial position processing Import and Export paperwork for U.S. Customs. And the friendships formed with people from all walks of life were the best part.
As she did several times a day, Annette walked along the bridge plaza to the Customs dock office. Suddenly, she felt the ground give way under her feet. She screamed for help, and a nearby truck driver grabbed her and pulled her to safety.
It seems she had stepped on a loose manhole cover and that quick-thinking driver actually saved her life!
European Summer Bill Engleson
In 1963, along with 300 young Canadians, I was in Paris just before Bastille Day.
By July 14th, we had convoyed by Bus to Switzerland.
However, though only sixteen at the time, I immersed myself in the sounds and smells of Paris, acquainted my then lanky and totally unsophisticated self with baguettes, wine, strong coffee, and, to my shame, behaviour so Trump-like that I was tossed out of the Paris Opera.
Our chaperons, including my Art Teacher who ran the trip as a side business, threatened me with repatriation to Canada.
“Kid? Yer lookin’ a might discombobulated.”
“Kinda am Pal. Shorty’s cloistered away at Headquarters, schedule’s been shifty, guest hosts at the saloon, an’ a outta season Rodeo? How kin I know I’m in the right place, right time?”
“Thinkin’ we all jist end up where we’re at, when we need ta be there. Doin’ whut we do.”
“Reckon… uh, what is it we do?”
“Well, Colleen’s got the Saloon ever’ third Monday, hear tell Chel’s gonna guest host ever’ first Monday, an’ the Sue Vincent Rodeo’s wrappin’ up, winners’ll be ‘nounced March 22.”
“Yep. Agin, we do…?”
Stories in this collection honor fellow writer, Sue Vincent who has impacted the lives of many around the world through her stories and prompts. Life is a river of consciousness where writers dip their quills. Sue has provided us access.
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi
Dust of Life by FloridaBorne
We gather the dust of life, floating inside a watery womb.
We burst into a world too cold, light too bright, sounds too harsh, searching for sustenance.
Held in soft arms, comforted by a lullaby, we forget that once we floated in God’s arms, listening to celestial music.
Our universe becomes a nuclear family, adults become gods that fall from favor once we discover their flaws. We become gods to a new generation and fear the loss of our borrowed time.
We cast away the dust of life to float in a universe of joy… knowing we’re finally home.
Adrift by Rebecca Glaessner
A youngling cast eyes skyward upon birth. Energies entered its being, strengthened its mind, its heart.
That youngling grew, phased, loved, laughed. Built together a house-family, welcomed partners and friends, life happy and full.
Years on, now-grown, they lay ready. Every village eagerly awaiting the next youngling’s birth on the morrow.
Eyes closed now, their mind drifted.
No longer amongst their house-family’s hearts, but rather above, looking down upon sprawling villages-turned-cities.
How they’d all grown.
Life flowed onward.
A new youngling cast eyes skyward upon birth, its mind and heart strengthened by an ancient energy.
Unseen, yet deeply felt.
The Everyday Physics of Dreams by Jeff Gard
Like matter, dreams cannot be destroyed. Unlike matter, they are created by scattered dandelion seeds, extinguished birthday candles, teeth hidden under pillows, and wishes cast upon twinkling stars. They are first kisses, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and promotions. Desires are our bones and blood. One day we will exhale our aspirations. They will rise on thermals, waver within a red and green Aurora Borealis. They will race into space, outpacing radio waves and light. They will dance in the Milky Way and body surf Saturn’s rings. In spiraling clouds of gas and dust, our dreams will condense into newborn stars.
My Thoughts Move Like Water by Brandon Ellrich
Sometimes quickly over rocks with ripples and waves,
Moving so swiftly I get lost and afraid.
At times it slows, spreading deep and wide,
Touching places unknown, feeling peace inside.
As the river bends and winds I go to and fro,
Joined by streams and rains, as I learn and grow.
I give of myself to those who thirst,
And I am changed for better or worse.
I draw near the ocean and my journey’s end,
And reunited with lost family and friends.
Part of the whole, the greatness, the sea,
My body is loosed, my soul is free!
Every Ripple by Willow Willers
“What are you looking at?” the young man asked the older woman.
Smiling she turned to answered him. “I am looking at life.”
Perplexed the young man wondered what she meant. “Every ripple, every shimmer of light upon the water is a life, a story. You see we all flow from the source encountering highs and lows as we meander along. Traveling though the seasons we learn. Small streams join as we travel they do not diminish us but help to us grow as we journey on to reach our sea of enlightenment.
The young man saw the truth.
Believe by Sherri Matthews
She waited by the brook where the fairies played. Where water bubbled gently over smooth, wet stones – she had seen them. Sparkle sunlight drops had danced and promised it would be all right. But years had passed and she wasn’t all right. Where had their promises gone? Like the river beyond she had yet to find, did they exist? How could she trust when she’d known only lies? A twig snapped, she gasped. He had come! She ran to his embrace, he kissed her tears away and said, ‘I never left you.’ And the girl now a woman believed.
Forward Facing by JulesPaige
An odd vista up in the Arizona mountains, riding on a paddlewheel riverboat on a manmade lake. After taking twisting winding roads, some one lane only to reach our destination. The cacti forests were over hundreds of years old, their multiple arms each at one point a stub at fifty years young, amid the scenery. What more could we wish for? A new beginning perhaps for the loved one we had lost. Buried in a box in the same plot as their spouse. Thankful to still have each other to lean on. We silently contemplated where we were going.
Lynn Valley: Tom by Saifun Hassam
When Janice died shortly after her second brain tumor surgery, Tom was desolate. He felt marooned on a sandy bar, his capsized boat swept swiftly downstream on a mountain river. He felt he was in that river cascading over boulders and rocks, perhaps to disappear into a desert even.
Tom went kayaking again on Seasquall River. It was painful at first. The glint of sunshine on the whitecaps. The distant snowcapped Seasquall Mountains. In Lynn Valley, he spent time with Aunt Bev and his cousin Hannah. Their love turned his silence into conversations and his moroseness into laughter. Janice.
Trust by Bill Engleson
I stand on the bank of the river.
It winds through my starving soul,
the water, cool, clear, dream-like,
as I float on its sea-bound roll.
I stand on the shore of the river,
pebbles, pools, and sandstone knoll,
as a broken limb of arbutus
drifts by in the currents control.
I wade knee-deep in the river,
stand in a soothing shoal,
bend, as one will in a river,
take hold of my new walking pole.
I drift in the flow of the river,
no destination, no particular goal.
Full fealty to the river,
Allegiance to my inevitable toll.
Flow by Myrna Migala
A child is born, parents have high hopes, small as a sprinkle, and grows as the world pulls the child into it.
Growing and flowing began a small stream. Gravity pulls it down, moving toward an ocean of eternity. Banking, down to the river’s future. The twists and turns, the bends. The land around is life! Changing from an uphill climb to a comfortable flow in a low valley. Life as a river flowing from height, beginning down through the world. Ups, downs, twists, bends. Life, a gift — a river that someday will end. Ends — or begins again?
The Ripples of Life by Norah Colvin
The stone made a mini fountain where it plunged into the water. The boy and the man watched the ripples spread. The boy’s eyes filled with wonder, the man’s with life’s wisdom.
“Where do the ripples go?” asked the boy.
“Everywhere,” said the man. “Even when we no longer see them, their effects go on. Like that stone, we make a splash in our family when we arrive. Our circles grow as we grow. Our lives touch more and more. We may never know the effects, but they are there, rippling through the world, flowing forever in the river of life.”
Life Explored by Jo Elizabeth Pinto
They sat on the riverbank, the waning sun on their shoulders, poles in their hands with limp lines in the still water, their laughter light on the air.
“A tug, a tug,” she said. He took her pole, his hands over hers.
“Gentle … gentle …”
They lifted the trout, shining, dripping–he held it below the gills while she felt its curves, its muscles rippling. Then he quickly slipped it off the hook and let it drop with a splash; it disappeared into the stream of life.
He touched her cheek tenderly; his wet hands smelled of fish.
Off Balance by JulesPaige
Too many adults weren’t talking. Too many changes were taking place at one time. Her river of consciousness had divided to conquer the fragile sanity that only a child who is kept in the dark after a parent’s death can muster. Willing herself to be in a place of comfort, she sat comfortably in her grammar school art class until the teacher asked why she wasn’t in her reading class. The magic bubble burst, hope dissolved like candy floss on the tongue. Reality slammed her back where her body sat like a mannequin. Reality was cold, bitter and harsh.
Through the Rough by Gloria McBreen
As a young girl, under the watchful eyes of my father, I paddled with the minnow in the shallow part of Dundragon River. The safe part, where the water flowed gently across a million pebbles. As years passed, I ventured further up the river. Deeper, muddier waters, where I learned to trust my own judgement in the absence of my protector. Tread carefully or be swallowed. Keep my head above the water and prepare for the inevitable ripples. When the dam breaks, keep swimming, knowing that those watchful eyes will guide me across the rough, to gentle waters again.
Choices by Ruchira
Today, as I stand on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and observe the waves come crashing, I contemplate upon my life. The goals I had in mind, but the choices I made, paved an unknown path. It made me wonder why I chose to tread on it? Why didn’t I give up and decide to pursue my goals instead? Just then, drops of water fall on my face, and a smile crosses my lips. Aah! It gave me happiness and peace of mind. It’s impressive how life can flow in a flashback anywhere as a river of consciousness.
Clearing Your Mind by Ellen Best
Sit unmoving, unrestricted by the flimflam of everyday drudgery. Listen, hear the burble of the brook giving life to fish, frog and newt. Hear the flop flap as webbed feet slap to keep her afloat, the duck rounding up her ducklings. Inhale, fill your lungs and hold until your head swims, like that day, you took your first sip of golden nectar; back when you were too young to try it. Give thanks for the now. When you hear the beating wing of the hummingbird moth you are there. in the right space to know the measure of self.
Do What You Love by M J Mallon
What makes us human extends beyond the care we give our young. Perhaps it is our creativity which marks us as distinctive from other species. Life is akin to a river of consciousness, we may drift along, or choose who we truly desire to be. Whatever we decide, we must live life to the full, expressing ourselves in music, words, performance, or art. Troubling obstacles will come and go, pebbles of uncertainty, meandering moments, thunderstorms and floods of tears, unsure and uncertain times. To accomplish our hearts’ desires we must stay focused, determined and resolute on life’s turbulent river.
Common Waters by Kerry E.B. Black
Everyone knows brooks babble, but not everyone listens.
Legends explain waters spring from the same source – Then take on their own lives. Sometimes they secret underground, but other times, they flow, vast and muddied with so much information, even the most astute has trouble understanding.
Clever streams of consciousness skip from rock to pond, clear, youthful, only to pool resources and tumble as mighty waterfalls. Be they sluggish and algae-thick or coursing with rapid purpose, people dip into waterways in dreams Jung interpreted as universal understanding.
We test waters to share commonalities, if only while we wade and listen.
Clouded by JulesPaige
within the acceptable range
all the courses, the trails
worked up and down, predator and prey
in the air or on the ground…
the black bear went over the mountain
crossing the valley…
test results were blurry facts
that just flowed on the page like that snow melt
from the peaks into the common valley below
who wanted to read the writing
that determined any finality?
who wanted to read the last sentence?
Life’s Flow by theindieshe
She lived in an ivory castle with pink lined walls beneath the canopy of the bright blue sky and spun happy dreams. But Sisters of Fate deluged her paradise and she drifted into stormy waters. Meandering down the cobbled bed, she was tossed and turned to be chiseled fine. Savouring each rough tumble, she bravely flowed on to learn new lessons at each turn. The tiny bubbling rivulets infused a surge of hope in the weary, battered soul. She drifted along to new shores to make a fresh beginning. She was reborn to be as bold as an unleashed tempest.
A River’s String of Consciousness by Kate
I am a river born from the rattling-cold mountain streams, a peaceful current sliding around rocks and meandering amongst the trees, on my way to the sea. Silver-coloured fish hide beneath my surface while armored turtles plod covertly along my bed. Iridescent and blue, playful dragonflies swoop over my waters catching their prey and howling coyotes come out at night and frighten the gentle deer away. People rarely visit me, but when they do, they usually come alone or in twos. They always sit and listen to the gurgling of my waves, while I give comfort to their souls.
Epic Places: Crater Lakes: Jeff by Saifun Hassam
That spring, when the snow melted, the earth tremor’s impact on the Crater Lakes’ bio-habitat became more evident. The historic Ranger Station west of Lizard Lake tilted at an alarming sharp angle. Lizard Lake, an ancient volcanic crater, overflowed with snowmelt from a new underground river. Green Lake, a meteorite crater lake, had sunk deeper into its bedrock. Its marshes were alive with songbirds. Jeff discovered a new sinkhole near the Greenford River bearing snowmelt from the Granite Mountains. Broken pine trees and rock debris filled the dry sinkhole. In time Greenford River would flow into a new lake.
Forms by D. Wallace Peach
“Men are like the wind,” she said as they strolled beside the river. “Untamable, borderless, playing life like a flute.”
He grinned. “And women?”
“Rivers.” Her gaze roamed to the water. “We possess boundaries through which we channel our power, connecting the past spring to the future sea, always present as the river is present, though each day it is entirely new.”
“Am I truly the wind?”
“I think you are clay,” she decided with a laugh. “You’re still forming. Pushing and poking. But do not worry. I am the river. I’ll keep you from drying before you’re done.”
No Vessel by Anita Dawes
Shout it from the roof tops
Climb the highest mountain
Let out that long held yell
The universe should know better
Than pluck a beautiful flower too soon
How dare that unseen hand
take that which we long to keep
Rage against the injustice across the planet
Rub out as much of it as you can.
Beautiful people, music, words of a song
They leave their mark on your heart,
Live for ever, in memory
they remain forever young.
Love flows like a river from heaven.
So much, it cannot be contained.
No vessel will hold it all…
River Drops by Barb Taub
My beachball, almost as big as my 4-year-old self, shivered in the current carrying it away. I laughed.
My fluorescent pink float dropped into the River Liffey, tracing the path in Ulysses we’d read together. He laughed.
My children dropped sticks from the bridge into the stream below. We laughed.
I dropped his ashes into the waves above the beach we’d loved. I remembered laughing.
I stand at the water’s edge. A bobbing flotilla approaches, beachball stripes proudly at front. All the bright tear-filled laughter calls, my flotsam raft. I step aboard, head out to sea. All the laughs…
Finitely Endless by Goldie
I was born high up in the mountains. In the beginning, full of energy and with my head up in the clouds, I navigated twists and turns with little care. Splashing outside my confines, I caressed rocks, inviting them to join the party. Some gave in and rolled with me, while others remained stagnant. Somewhere along the way, the terrain had changed, and the excitement vanished. Open plains contained me. There will come a time when I take my last breath and become one with the sea, but, until then, I must keep on running. Running like a river.
The Life River by Ritu Bhathal
Life is a river
Each of us a drop
To become one
When we clash
Banging and crashing
Against the banks
When we live
Dapple the surface
Together we flow
Side by side
Whether we like it
Life is a river
Ebbs and flows
But, in the end
Continues to flow
Ups and downs
Ebbs and flows
Life goes on
From Where I Came by Donna Matthews
It’s summer; you’d think it’d be hot, but not so in northern California. Instead, downright chilly, I think, as the freezing river water makes its way inside my shoes. We have two miles to hike along this riverbed to reach the Tall Tree Grove. As typical on the trail, my thoughts soon join my feet in wandering. I love the cold air on my cheeks. Yes, the feeling of being wide awake at this moment — exactly where I need to be. Finding myself at the exit into the woods, I stop and look back from where I came.
On Beeley Moor by Anne Goodwin
Legend coats this landscape: stone circles, the bronze-age burial mound, Hob Hurst’s House. Layers of later industry: guide stoops for the packhorse trails, millstones left unfinished when grit-grey bread went stale. My thoughts flow through histories of those I’ve met here, steered here, recollected on these moors. Consciousness a stream of memories adrift from date or time. Ideas I’ve birthed amid the heather, drowned in peat-bog, revived on bilberry bushes as green hairstreaks feed. Until the final stile prompts my wondering: What happened to the ice cream lady? How many rambles since her van’s been spotted on the bend?
River Life by Di @ pensitivity101
Silence and solitude,
Magnificence of Nature,
What secrets does the river hold?
A haven for wildlife,
A studio for birdsong,
Each has a story to be told.
The river bends, hiding
Its twists and turns of mystery,
Reflected images awaken,
Dawns and sunsets,
Feathers and foliage shaken.
Ripples are gentle,
Tickling the surface so sweetly,
Poetry in motion,
Majestic and regal,
At one with each other completely.
Man is a visitor,
This world is for learning,
Take heed and a privileged pride,
Watch, see and wonder,
Relax in its splendour,
Its beauty cannot be denied.
From One Question To The Next, Ad Infinitum by Geoff Le Pard
Earliest memories are impossible to confirm, as time coalesces when young. Mine, if it be such involves me, in my pushchair watching a thrush smash a snail on a flagstone. My reaction was to ask my mother why. First memory and first question.
Life runs on questions, expanding from the toddler’s incessant whys, through the hows and whens and wheres to the teenager’s whatevers and beyond.
We paddle forwards on those questions, sometimes battling intractable ignorance and at others flowing easily as answers accumulate in our wake.
Eventually Mother Nature answers my final why with a terse ‘why not’.
The Hunter by D. Avery
The pale winter light was already waning when he began following the buck.
Only the frost sparkled moon witnessed his pursuit farther and farther into the snowy woods.
The buck loped across the snow covered river, looked back from the tree line. He followed. Midway he heard water chuckling under soft ice. Breaking through, he chuckled too, suddenly realizing the joke.
Letting go his rifle, he slogged through deep icy slush, pulled himself up to where the deer had disappeared. Soaked and freezing, he nestled into the snow, saw the river of stars overhead.
He chuckled again. Another river.
The River of Life: Double Ennead by Colleen M. Chesebro
dawn reflections shimmer
a blood-red birthing
the new journey meanders in small ripples
searching for a known truth
testing the waters
a small stream traverses
the land, growth is key
consciousness actuates a forward passage
as water rushes fast,
over stones ahead
From the sun’s dying light
the darkness succumbs
to the passage of time, the river still flows
in the celebration
of a life well lived
Even with the lead Buckaroo away the writers played. In a quest for added glory, many substituted characters and situations in familiar fairy tales.
Writers responded to the prompt, and normally what would follow would be a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology. Instead it is a flash-salad made of the finest ingredients, amateurishly assembled by a stand-in.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Four and Twenty by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The Hunter’s moon rose high as Henry knelt, pulling the pie out of the oven. Dear Liza’d been sent, holey bucket in hand, to gather autumn leaves for decoration. For their 154th anniversary, he’d sworn to make the pie on his own, though Liza was the undisputed expert in finding solutions and substitutions not available in their Ancient Forest home.
Liza returned, bucket in hand, hole fixed, full to the brim with bounty.
The pie steamed and whistled as they sat down to feast.
“Couldn’t find blackbirds, so I substituted bats,” Henry cut the first slice.
“You’re brilliant, Love!”
Once Upon a Time to Be in the Sward by Bill Engleson
I will not be me tomorrow.
I have shed my skin.
All that was me.
Though I will no longer be me, I will still be where I am seen.
Others will see me.
Fewer in this time of isolation, I allow.
We have all become less than we once were.
Before the virus, we were the sum total of our world.
We were whom others saw.
And we chose to be seen.
Now, the sward has grown into the sky.
With no skin, I gloriously glide through the sheltered greensward.
I am free to be no longer me.
Evolutionaries by FloridaBorne
It was said that his ancestors evolved from creatures with thicker legs, smaller beaks, and wings. Their species system of determining height was the ancient wing span, oddly similar to a newly discovered planet. They used yards and meters, but were primitive in comparison. Their males were larger than females, and they were attempting space travel. A planet of savages! On his planet, females were twice the height of a male and they were the rulers. Perhaps Earth’s aberrance and savagery was the reason that he, and the other expendables, were in route to seek and destroy the humans?
The Stranger by Saifun Hassam
The Cowboy Roy and Maury settled into their sleeping bags around the campfire. It was a moonless night on Twin Horse Plateau. Spurs jangled. Guns in hand, Roy and Maury were instantly alert. Horses whinnied, desperate to cut loose. Roy shot. His bullet flew back pinging his gun! The stranger knocked the terrified Maury’s gun out of his hand. Tall and wiry, the stranger started up the campfire with a flint. His silver metal parts glinted. His voice was cold as a winter’s night. A cowboy at Circle AI, he was a lookout for horse thieves. “Tell me a tall tale.”
Bear Grease by Ann Edall-Robson
How many batches? She shrugged her shoulders and looked at the failures in the garbage. Once upon a time, she had watched her aunt make these cookies without a recipe. Each pinch and handful of ingredients melded together, resulting in a delicious treat. Why couldn’t she make them from memory? Giving in, she opened the cookbook to the inside back cover. She could feel her face redden as she read her aunt’s instructions. The substitution efforts would have made her aunt laugh. Replacing bear grease with bacon grease and then butter was the culprit? Back to the drawing board!
Finding Your Prince Charming by Ritu Bhathal
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Princess, awaiting her Prince Charming. After reading the Find Your Prince self-help book, she tried the Sleeping Beauty, the Snow White, and even the Cinderella. Nothing. Eventually, she decided to use her long hair as she attempted the Rapunzel.
Sitting in her tower, with her golden plait fluttering out of the window, she felt a tug. “Yes! Finally, my Prince is coming!”
More pulling followed by the grunt of her beloved-to-be as he hoisted himself up. Alas, no Prince, just the toothless Palace window cleaner!
Waking Up by Joanne Fisher
They cut through the hedge of thorns and found a castle full of sleeping figures. They walked up the stairs. There the Princess lay on her bed sleeping soundly. The figure closed in, kissing her on the lips. The spell broken, the Princess abruptly woke up and saw them standing over her.
“I thought a prince was meant to wake me.” She said wide-eyed.
“My brother is away, so I thought I would take care of this.”
“I’ve never been kissed by another girl before.” The Princess stated.
“Is it okay?” The Princess pulled her closer. They kissed again.
The Tale of the Frog Prince by Goldie
“Five minutes to curtain time,” the director announced. “Dylan won’t be able to make it. You’re up,” he added in passing, as if those words weren’t the most important of my life.
Being Dylan’s understudy never have I thought I would actually get to step in. My palms began to sweat. “A frog transformed by a kiss…” I gulped.
Veronica peeked through the curtain. “I’m nervous,” I thought she said. Her shoulder-length locks were made of gold. Her lips the color of raspberries. A real-life Barbie doll.
“Dylan!” Veronica squealed, lunging towards my nemesis who just walked through the door.
Prologue: Sunken Submarines: “Atlantis” by Saifun Hassam
The unique mini submersible “SeaSquid” maneuvered into the deep valleys of the Mariana Trench. It was designed to explore regions inaccessible to humans. “SeaSquid” contained an AI brain of digital code and human brain scans. Captain Louisa Verne and cyborg navigation officer Melville were stunned by the digital video camera feed. Supergiant stingray, octopus, and squid swam past “SeaSquid.” Another sign that Earth’s ecosystems were recovering from the intense global warming and freezing of past centuries. In a narrow defile in the Trench, “Seasquid” discovered a spherical titanium object! The sunken submarine “Atlantis” lost more than two centuries ago.
The Substitute by Marsha Ingrao
Room 12’s door banged behind Natalie.
“We can’t read cursive,” pronounced the linebacker sitting next to her chair.
“Raise your hand, dork.”
“She ain’t Grimes.”
“Raise your hands if you like magic.” Natalie pretended her arm was a wand. Hands lifted. “Can you print?” Natalie asked. Hands swayed like palm trees in a hurricane. “I’m going to turn cursive into printing and back again. Watch. Natalie winked, added connecting strokes, and raised her arms. “Done.”
“It says Miss Conifer, don’t it Teach?” said the giant. “I could do THAT magic.”
That day Ms. Grimes’ special education class learned cursive.
The Art of Supply Teaching by Jack Leonard
There were three of us that day, waiting in the reception area for the flustered head of department to hand over some hastily cobbled worksheets. The usual crew. A Stephen King lookalike (there the level of interest ended), me and a guy that looked like he had just unicycled his way out of the circus.
Maths. Five classes. Five different visions of the apocalypse. Stephen King went home at lunchtime, unable to cope with the horror. Leaving, I asked unicycle guy, ‘What did you have?’
‘Spent the day making origami pets with them all,’ he laughed, ‘They loved it.’
American Boarding School by D. Avery
My black hair flutters to the hard plank floor, dead crows windrowed around the stiff boots that bind my feet.
They point at me, repeat a sound.
I tell them my name. Pointing at myself I repeat my name. They beat me.
They point at me, call me that sound, make me say it. The sound is sand in my mouth.
I point at myself. I speak my name. They beat me again.
I say that other name. They smile.
I learn to keep my real name close. I will run with it, will leave their chafing boots behind.
Shady Characters by JulesPaige
Alice looked up into the tree and saw a golden shiny outline of an insect.
“I was expecting a smile to evolve into the Cheshire Cat, who are you,” she asked?
“I am the shade of a cricket, I once assisted a wooden boy a long time ago, but once he became real he no longer needed me,” the bug sang in a singsong voice.
Alice did not think before she stomped her foot and cried; “But I am a real girl!”
Jiminy sighed. How’d he end up in Wonderland. Maybe Peter’s Neverland would be better? So he vanished.
Shady Characters (Two) by JulesPaige
Jiminy must have taken a wrong turn at the stars that lead to Neverland. Somehow though the place reminded him of something familiar. Hopefully it wasn’t the Neverland Ranch – That particular Michael never did grow up did he?
Piglet felt a little breeze that made him sneeze. and saw a shimmy shine outline of an insect. And he knew just what to do about faded fairies. You had to clap to give them life! The shade of the cricket solidified. Piglet smiled welcomingly.
“What’s your name?” Piglet asked in his quiet way. “Welcome to Hundred Acre Woods little cricket!”
The Key by Clinton Siegle
In the trunk there was a journal in Spanish with an English translation attached to it in paper. The travels of Jorge Luis Borges. The book went into absurd detail about how to get into and out of a mirror of reality and the universe itself. There were charms and spells and of course a keyhole for a key in the journal. The exact location of where the journal would take someone was easy to understand. The realization I could use the key found elsewhere to go was intriguing. To be offered the adventure of a lifetime interesting. No?
Replaced by Anita Dawes
I woke late this morning, feeling less than my usual self.
As if a part of me had run off during the night.
I showered, dressed, tried to hurry.
Walking through the office saying Good Morning with no replies
Had they all become blind?
Patting myself down, the way some people pinch themselves.
Did I do something to be sent to Coventry?
I couldn’t think.
Reaching my desk I could see God knows what.
A shadow that had taken my place, holding my cup of coffee
My colleagues chatting, nothing seemed wrong.
I had been replaced by dust particles…
The Best Day of Your Life by Goldie
When Rashid told me for the first time that he already drove me that day, I just shrugged it off, but when the same happened a couple of weeks later, I asked him to drive me to where he thought he drove me earlier. That is how I met Aisha – a woman who is not related to me but looks eerily just like me. We thought it would be a fun prank for me to stand-in for her best friend’s wedding. Would they know the difference? I had a blast until one of the groomsmen decided to rape me.
It Would Be Her by Donna Matthews
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the stupidest of them all?” Carrie thought as she dressed for the day. Yesterday, an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions; she just didn’t know how she would manage the situation today.
Taking a deep breath and straightening her sweater, she rebuked herself for the harsh words earlier. Carrie knew she would figure it out. There was a time, not too long ago, she believed in and desired rescue. The ol’ knights in shining armor kind of fantasy. But no more. If anyone could get out of this jam today, it would be her.
Special Substitution by Norah Colvin
“Where’s my Burger Special? You promised!”
“Burger Specials have chips, not carrot sticks!” The carrot sticks plummeted to the floor.
“I substituted them, hon. Carrot sticks are healthier. We want to be healthy, don’t we?”
A mouthful of half-chewed bun adorned the table. “That’s disgusting!”
“Multi-grain’s healthier. Try some more. You will like it.”
“I don’t want substitutes.” The poorly-disguised plant-based patty frisbeed across the room. The parent hauled the protester from the restaurant.
“You promised Burger Special!”
“You’ll get something special, as soon as we get home.”
“There’s no substitute for proper parenting,” tut-tutted a diner.
Out of the Mouths of Babes by Sue Spitulnik
At a church dinner, a precocious girl about three appeared at Michael’s side. She looked over the wheelchair then patted his longest leg stump. With total innocence, she asked, “Why don’t you grow new legs like Pinocchio grew a new nose?”
Michael laughed, “Pinocchio didn’t lose his nose like I lost my legs. The nose he had grew longer. A man can’t grow new legs.”
“Why don’t you wear those fake ones I’ve seen you walk on?”
“Because they aren’t good substitutions for my real ones. They make sores on my stumps.”
“Oh. Will you give me a ride.”
A Deadly Substitution by Sarah Brentyn
“Your Majesty, I beseech you…”
“It is not your place,” the king continued rewrapping tampered-with food parcels. “I’m surprised it’s you who objects.”
“I live for the court,” the jester looked at his pointy shoes mumbling, “and this may bring the end of it.”
“What was that?”
Taking a deep breath, the jester lifted his head, bells on his hat jingling. “The commoners…they will revolt.”
“Nonsense!” The king’s face reddened, softened, and then he laughed. “Ah, another of your jokes.”
The jester cringed. “No joke, Your Majesty. Substituting carob for chocolate… It may be the end of the kingdom.”
Sometimes a dog is just a dog by Anne Goodwin
A friend’s new puppy steals the show at our Zoom session.
A substitute child.
Mutts a-leaping fracture my thoughts and scare my muse from my morning walk.
A substitute for purpose – a dog’s a god – in aimless times.
Government wags the daily vaccine stats. Opposition barks the death toll.
Their substitute for crisis management: Getting Brexit Done!
Yet Sigmund, whose habit killed him, declared: Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
Even he succumbed to canine charms eventually and leant on man’s best friend to soothe his aching jaw. The world’s awash with substitutions. So should I get a…?
“’Ello dere Pal. Ees Keed here?”
“Pepe LeGume. Long time no smell. Kid’s walkin’ the hog. Did ya happen ta catch this week’s prompt? Kid’s already whinin’ ‘bout the switchin’ an’ substitutin ‘roun here lately.”
“Stub-shit-toot-eeng? I do not know dees word, Pal.”
“Means steppin’ in, temper-arily.”
“Oh, I have stepped in eet before. An’ de air, eet was rank.”
“No, LeGume, fillin’ in.”
“I am a feeller upper Pal. Go beeg or go home, ey?”
“No, fillin’ in fer someone cain’t be there ta do the job themsefs.”
“Pal. Some teengs cannot be stubshittooted. I keed you not.”
Writers find new ways to break an old cliche. The following stories retell the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Wish Upon a Star by Luccia Gray
We were trapped.
Heavy snow covered the city, jamming doors and roads.
Soon it would reach our windows and block our view of the static sea.
“Mum, why did the moon disappear?”
Thirty, twelve-hour days had passed since the moon exploded and vanished.
“I want to go home.”
Asteroids were crashing all over the planet, causing tidal waves and earthquakes.
Archie pointed to the gigantic stars lighting up the sky. “I wish one of them would come and be our moon!”
“Who needs a moon when hundreds of stars are shining brighter than ever?” I said, hugging my son.
Clean Fingernails Make Me Jittery by Alexander (Zander) De
Clean fingernails make me jittery
digging weeds with my bare hands
covering over them…
well, that part, covering over them,
that makes me sorta jittery, too
sometimes I pull back the soil
just to be sure they are
and still okay
the air is there
but I need dirt under my fingernails
because when they are clean
after the collapse
when there was no air
well, not much, anyway
the way I clawed my way
to that beam above
me, just a little
no green sprouts
Stuck Again 🙄 by Simon
I was flying, I was that close to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Hey! wait a minute, where am I? why is everyone crying?
Is she crying too? Yes! my wife is crying too, All these years I tried to escape from you? I’m sorry!
Oh I can’t see her crying, oh my heart is breaking!
Needles?? No!!! don’t inject on my chest NOOOOO!!!
I woke up.
I was flying I said to her.
She said ‘I’ll kill you if you scare me next time’
That look on my eyes, feeling stuck with her, again.
Seeing the Light by FloridaBorne
“Hope clings to you like cat hair,” Rhoda said.
“When all you got is a light dancin’ in the highway, it might be what saves ya,” Gina Mae replied.
“Damned rednecks,” Rhoda mumbled.
After stopping next to Rhoda’s car, a man jumped from the back of a pickup truck. “Hey, sis!”
“You was late,” he said, tipping his hat to the ladies. “I got worried.”
“Some asshole stole my car.”
Rhoda watched as Toby changed her tire, and then he bent over the engine to fix another problem. Tall, magnificent, so gentle with women…
Her eyes danced.
My Light Was Peggy by kathy70
Walking down a big city street at night seems like a scary prospect. Peggy was a night person and thought this was the best time to test yourself and/or your friends. We just didn’t know it was a test.
One night at a local bar she was cajoled into a drinking match of shots with the guys. Next thing I’m being dragged onto the dance floor. She whispered, “dancing to sober up.” Becoming an accomplice to her not losing the bet was a test and certainly shed a light on our friendship for many more years. She never lost.
Going Home by Joanne Fisher
Kaylee was beginning to see the world clearly again, not just in the dull grey colours that had clouded her vision. She didn’t know how long she had been here, but it had been some time since she had been found in the warm bath with her wrists cut open. They had stitched her up and sent her here.
Today the doctor said he was pleased with the progress she’d made. She hoped she would eventually get out of here and return home. She knew now this would happen, that she would be whole again, that she would survive.
Life Reel by Goldie
“Your whole life flashes before your eyes,” people say when describing near-death experiences.
It didn’t when that Ford rammed into my Nissan.
Instead, my brain focused on the auditory stimuli around me.
The sound of music on the radio disappeared, replaced by a bang from nowhere, and the crunching of metal.
“Fuck!” I just had my car fixed up.
“Are you bleeding?” one of the five people outside my window asked.
“Where did they come from?”
“No,” I answered without checking.
Today, I took my first step. It’s a long way to go, but I’m on the right path.
Light by Anita Dawes
How about total darkness where the light is meant to be?
You see, I recently died.
My son drove me to the hospital barely breathing
I died in the nurse’s arms, getting me out of the car
I can tell you, for me, there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
no wise grandmother telling me it wasn’t my time, go back.
I almost felt disappointed
As if I had been cheated out of something
The thought of my grandmother telling me
I had a purpose, is missing.
I have this empty feeling, wondering why I returned…
A New Day by Donna Matthews
The hot tears have finally let up. She’s still feeling the sting of his rejection, but a resignation has fallen over her. This is her life now…alone, discarded, worthless.
Earlier in the evening, he texted. Of course, he texted…little on talk, big on sex. Always about the sex.
She’d thrown her phone against the wall and stormed out into the woods behind her house. It’s been hours now, sitting under her favorite tree, but then a birdsong, and then another. She turns her tear-streaked face toward the east and sees the first of a sunrise. Okay, maybe not worthless.
Sunrise over the Pyramids by Anne Goodwin
The sun god poked his head between the pyramids: an egg yolk; an amber traffic light; courage. At fifteen, I’d seen too many dawns abandon me to darkness. Cairo promised a signal change.
Sunrise on the pyramids is a tourist cliché. For those free to holiday abroad. For thirty years I was indifferent. I knew the glare could blind me. The heat could sear my defences clean away.
Simon’s invitation shimmers like a heat haze. If I accept, will his lustre dim? Or will it highlight every blemish? Dare I chance it? At fifteen, I watched the sunrise alone.
Blight at the Bend of the Funnel by Bill Engleson
“And so, my friends, I pray that we will soon see the light at…”
“Careening cliches, Blurt Man, he’s doing it again… gotta cover my ears…”
“Charlie, you’re too tough on him. The People understand what it means. It’s what they’re expecting.”
“Fifty times a day? A hundred? Kinda loses it’s punch.”
“You think you can do any better?”
“Mebbe. Let’s see. Glow worm at the end of the hook?”
“Nah. Don’t think so.”
“Okay. How about streetlight on a foggy London night?”
“Nose to the grindstone, then.”
“You have got your work cut out for you.”
The Promised Light by Charli Mills
Copper reminded Jess of Christmas caramels, all smooshed and clinging to the bedrock. After Pa died, the mine captain told Ma, “Send a son or get out of the company’s house.” Jess was built stronger than her brother with weak lungs. When she chopped her hair and changed clothes, no one said a word. Not even Ma.
Mostly, Jess fetched for the men or hauled buckets of copper caramels to the ore carts. Not much longer. Ma was cooking a plan to remarry another miner. Climbing nineteen stories of ladders, Jess thought the sun was the Star of Bethlehem.
Where Am I? by Joanne Fisher
Helena was lost. It was only a small forest, and yet she had no idea where she was. At the top of a hill she looked around. All she could see was endless forest in every direction. She felt confused.
When darkness fell, she saw a single light and made for that. To her surprise she came to an inn. When she walked in, there were strange creatures looking at her inquisitively.
“You lost miss?” asked the innkeeper.
“Somehow you crossed a gate into Faerie. In the morning I’ll send someone with you to help get you home.”
A Breakthrough by Sue Spitulnik
Clare, Michael’s physical therapist, nicknamed Clarice, was relentless. “Sergeant, there is absolutely no reason you can’t learn to walk on prosthetic legs other than your own stubbornness! Put them on and get out of that wheelchair.”
To her surprise, he said, “Yes, ma’am. Hand them here.”
She stared at him a few seconds. “You’ve been making excuses for weeks. What’s changed?”
Michael grinned. “My prayers have been answered. Heard from home that my high school sweetheart’s leaving her husband. Now I have a reason to want to walk out of here, the sooner the better.”
“That’s a new one.”
Push by Ritu Bhathal
“That’s it, babe, we’re nearly there!”
Becky took one look at her boyfriend, Jake, standing there at the other end, camera poised.
Dear God, if only she was able to get up, she’d have grabbed the camera, flung it in the bin and clouted him, one, before getting on with the job in hand.
Another wave of pain.
“Yes, babe! Nearly at the finish line. Come on, one more push and-”
She pushed, she delivered, she smiled, as her prize was handed to her.
Another grin as she saw Jake sprawled on the floor.
Silly git fainted, didn’t he.
Finding Light From The Darkness by Judy Marshall (Miss Judy)
My dearest Emily,
Meet me Friday, 12 February, the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, 6 pm.
I love you.
A year since he said those words, since he walked out with no explanation, now he comes back? Does he think he can walk out and then just walk back in.
As the train raced along, Emily sat with her thoughts, dreams, memories, questioning herself. Now happy with a good job and enjoying her independence, it hadn’t been easy. Does she want him back in her life? Could they find light from the darkness? Could she now find the answers?
Tunnel Vision? by JulesPaige
who can fathom what cataract eyes see
familiarity with one’s surroundings
makes up for some of the details
ghost memories who walked where
the spouse no longer in the house
with the years of age piling high
who can guess what dreams
the old sailor envisions on the screens
on the backs of those ancient baggy eyelids
that won’t open before two in the afternoon
how short is that road that will
reunite husband with wife –
the old sailor refuses to leave his ship –
refuses to recognize the rising bilge water
that is slowly draining his own life away
Life In the Old Cliche by Geoff Le Pard
‘I think there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.’
‘British Airways are now digging a tunnel under the Atlantic?’
‘Ha ha, Logan. They’ve found a replacement plane and are preparing it. The engineers are prepping it and we should be good to go. Soon.’
‘Today? This week? Sometime before this diet of airport food fills me so full of chemicals I grow a third buttock?’
‘They hope today.’
‘You know, that wasn’t the light at the end of the tunnel.’
‘No, that was a British Airways numpty with a torch looking for somewhere to hide.’
North Star by Kerry E.B. Black
They hunkered beneath evergreen foliage, the terrified mother and her two young children, grateful for the man who’d led off the hunting dogs. They could still remember ferocious howls, but with water between them and the good hiding spot, maybe they could hope.
Freedom. The mere word brought tears to their hearts, a concept for which they’d risked their very lives. With little more than their clothes, they fled their enslavers, following Grandma Moses’ instructions. Soon, in the night sky, they’d see it – the drinking gourd with its constant star. It would guide them north, away from slavery’s reach.
ShoeShining Optimism by Jack Keaton
Looking through the Pennysaver, Jack found the shop where he used to have his shoes repaired before COVID-19 turned his city into a ghost town had reopened.
Besides shoe repairs, Ben, the owner, was back to shining shoes! Wouldn’t it be nice to step up on the shoeshine stand and have Ben shine his oxfords?
Jack usually shined his shoes. These days, working from home, slippers were the office footwear, but today, he would dress for work and visit Ben. The shop’s reopening was a sign of brighter times ahead, and Jack wasn’t going to ignore this auspicious moment.
Light at the End of the Tunnel by Kate
Abby flipped the switch to off and began removing the prongs from her patient’s nose.
“Good news, Mr. Scarlatti, no more oxygen tubes today,” she said and handed him a cup of water.
“Does that mean I can go home tomorrow?”
“Let’s see how you do today and then we’ll talk.”
“But I am strong,” he said, hacking out a boisterous cough.
“Knowing you, we’ll have you walking out of the hospitalꟷ”
“And into your arms?”
“Then into the caressing and loving arms of my beautiful Maria. How about the day after tomorrow?”
Abby laughed. “Let’s hope so.”
The Self-importance of Being Ernest by Doug Jacquier
Ernest had heard that, in their dying moments, people see an incandescent light. He took that with a grain of salt, believing that, according to Murphy’s Law, when the lights are out there’s nobody home and to suggest otherwise was grasping at straws. He longed to rattle the cages of these speculators and suggest they’d fallen asleep at the wheel while putting lipstick on a pig. He didn’t want to act like a bull in a china shop but, to make a long story short, he thought this theory was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
Coming In (Part I) by D. Avery
Skipper. Always a corncob pipe stuck in his mouth, puffin’ away like that’s what powered the boat. Remember one time we got caught out in a bad nor’easter. That corncob grew cold but he kept it clenched in his teeth as he steered through the troughs and waves, me shivering scared in the cuddy cabin. I didn’t believe we’d weather that one. Then somehow Skipper had a free hand to relight his pipe under the brim of his oilskin hat. The storm was still pounding wild, but that round glow chipping at the dark told me we’d come through.
Coming In (Part II) by D. Avery
His hands at his chest clutching the blanket edge reminds me of him at the helm that night, our lives depending on his firm and determined grip. Now the electronic machines cast steady waves of green light, marking ebb and flow. If it were a depth finder I could read it. His breath wheezes like the gurgling stem of that corncob pipe. That tube in his throat, does he think that’s his pipe? Aren’t his lips moving, champing at the familiar bit? I want to believe he’ll weather this one. I watch his hands. Light your damn pipe, Skipper.
En Garde! by Saifun Hassam
Aboard her fast clipper Azores, Captain Zenobia kept watch. Ominous towering clouds revealed no starlight, winds moaning and shifting. Two sailors disappeared silently from their night watch. She closed her mind to the gagging stench of shark bait.
She tensed. Ghostly blue St Elmo’s fire lit tall masts and vanished. She saw the sea vampire. Knew the vampire saw her.
The shapeshifting creature lunged towards her, circling, menacing, lightsabre in its claws!
Zenobia’s saber blazed with St. Elmo’s fire. The creature howled.
Zenobia plunged her saber into the shapeshifter. It sank into the eternal Stygian darkness of the sea.
Lost by Rebecca Glaessner
The man took his eyes off his son for a moment, vision filled with the semi-transparent, augmented display of his son’s latest medical assessment.
They still didn’t know what was in his son’s head. What had changed him.
Then his son was taken.
The man looked away for only one, single moment.
Years passed. Labelled as grief-stricken, helpless, the man never stopped searching.
Not for one day. Not ever.
Then a woman came to see him, with her own daughter, and an air of hope surrounded them.
“My daughter’s been changed too,” the woman said, “she’s heard your son.”
Leave the Lights On by Heather Gonzalez
We used to think there was nothing to be afraid of in the dark, but not since they appeared. So many killed before we knew what was actually happening. Now we keep the lights on at night.
Ollie and I always left the lights on of course, but we also had a battery powered lantern that hung above our bed. When the electricity went out that night, we could hear screams echoing through the neighborhood.
As the battery started to fade with a flicker of the light, I noticed the sun was beginning to rise. We would survive tonight.
Light At the End of the Tunnel by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Dipping her paddle expertly, Sara struggled against the increasingly muscular pull of the current. The sun rose, set, and rose again; unnoticed under the moss-choked cypress trees that canopied the dark creek.
Pa’d gotten home from just one night of gambling away the dole; she’d hoped for a week, time enough to get herself free and clear. He must have been unlucky with the cards. No matter. He’d almost killed her last time; she had to go.
Now, having joined the river, Sarah knew that if she kept paddling upstream, she’d find clear waters and an anonymous city.
Justice in a Cave by Charley Lyman
Justice Ranes was lost. Spelunking! he thought. He considered his predicament. “Lost in a fucking cave is what I call it.” His words bounced off rock walls pressing in. He picked a direction. His torch would hold an hour at best. The way seemed familiar.
A turn unremembered. Back track? Determination overcame reason. He pressed on.
Ahead shadows. Switching off his light he detected a faint glow. Stepping forward the light increased. At the mouth he stopped. The sought for entrance was instead a cavern. He was doomed.
Justice was undone by a fallacious bioluminescence lurking beyond the passage.
With a Little Help from My Friends by Norah Colvin
“Can I help?”
The two girls dug side by side. Then D. broke the silence, “What’re we digging?”
“Charli wants to come down too. We can’t use the zipline anymore. Anyways, going through a tunnel’s quicker’n going round.”
“Looks jes like a hole to me.”
“Tunnels always start as holes.”
They continued digging. The pile of dirt grew higher as the hole got deeper.
“Look. We can stand in it now,” said Norah.
“How will we know when we get there?”
“Easy. Charli’s waiting, holding a light to show us the way.”
Where It Led by D. Avery
“Pal, did’cha read this week’s post? This phrasin’ always strikes me: ‘out east’. Shorty’s got it bass ackwards. Where I come from it’s ‘out west’ an’ ‘back east’.”
“Where’d ya come from?”
“‘That ‘splains yer per-petchull greenhorn status, but it don’t ‘splain yer overdone dialect whut drives spellchuck crazy.”
“Must be yer constint jabberin’ at me’s effected my speech. But ain’t ever’one out west from back east ‘rigin’ly?”
“No! Fer one, indigenous people, first folks; fer two, buckaroos. What brought ya here from out east?”
“Was where the prompt led. Followed it west ta carrot-colored campfire light.”
To dress up is to put on a new persona, look, or role. Writers considered the myriad of ways we dress up at any age.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Caught by Joanne Fisher
Thinking he was alone, Kyle dressed up in his sister’s clothes. Looking in the mirror, he wondered if he was really a girl. Just then Hannah unexpectedly walked through the doorway.
“What are you doing in my room freak?” she asked. In a panic he ran to his own bedroom. A short time later Hannah knocked on his door. “Can I have my dress back? That one doesn’t fit you anyway. Here are some of my older ones that would be more your size. Just don’t go in my room again.”
She left Kyle a box full of clothes.
Glamour Girl by Anne Goodwin
“Trust me,” said Geraldine, as we un-noosed our school ties in the station toilets, “Trust me,” as we tottered to the train in miniskirts and high heels. When I blinked, mascara clogged my eyelashes. My waxy lips left prints on the bottle, as I swigged lemonade.
We’d dressed up as kids, for watered-down Shakespeare. I’d scoured my sister’s wardrobe behind a locked bedroom door. But this was serious. Public. If my dad got wind of it, I was dead.
For one weekend, I’d play glamour girl. Later, when my mother found the tell-tale Polaroids, I faced the consequences alone.
Mirror of Hope by Hugh W. Roberts
Despite the bruises, Andrew admired himself in the mirror. A princess looked back at him.
“Don’t forget your shoes.”
The red high heeled shoes, although too big, complemented his mother’s burgundy dress he had on.
“You’re pretty,” remarked the princess.
The faint noise of his father’s car’s unexpected arrival caused panic in Andrew and the princess.
“Hide behind me,” yelled the princess, “before he beats you again.”
Crouching behind the mirror, he tried making himself invisible.
As the smell of alcohol and the unbuckling of his father’s belt reached him, tears made their escape down the young boy’s face.
When I Grow Up by Goldie
It was the night before Halloween when Stephanie realized Tommy needed a costume for school the next day.
“We need to create a costume. What do you want to be?” she asked, frantically rummaging through her arts and crafts bin.
“I want to be like Daddy!” Tommy buzzed excitedly.
Steve grinned with pride. Being a police officer had been a family tradition for generations.
Tommy disappeared from the kitchen to return wearing a black ski mask.
Stephanie and Steve froze, mortified.
“I saw you last night wearing this, telling Mom how much fun you had. I like having fun!”
Here Comes Gingie by Bill Engleson
This kid, Gingie Rawlins, is a friggin’ showboat.
Don’t know how he does it.
I go outta the house with mismatched socks the old lady hauls me back in, waves her fat finger up my nose, points the way to my sock drawer.
Gingie’s folks seem normal. His old man’s usually suited up.
Even in the house, eh!
His mom wears puffy dresses, June Cleaver like.
Gingie however usually shows up at the paper shack in some god-awful mismatch…like, tights and shorts.
Even wore ginch over his pants last week.
This goofball’s from Mars if you ask me.
Makeover by Heather Gonzalez
Dorothy gave her sister a cup of hot tea that afternoon. Rose sipped the tea and complained about the weather. Suddenly, Rose got very silent. Dorothy knew it was the perfect time to give her sister a much needed makeover.
Being very gentle, she adjusted the dress she had picked out for her. She even remembered the matching hat and shoes. Applying makeup was a little harder since Dorothy’s hands had gotten shaky with age. After one last coat of lipstick was applied, Dorothy stepped back to marvel at her work. Too bad, Rose wasn’t alive to see it.
Defending the Frontier by R. V. Mitchell
Captain Ezekiel Talbert mustered his men outside the bastion of Fort Frederick. A war party of French aligned Shawnees had been spied near the Potomac and he and his detachment of the Maryland Forces were going to intercept them before they could get up to any mischief.
His trusty band of volunteers were going to more than enough to deal with the Shawnee threat, after all they were well equipped with the latest Brown Bess muskets from Japan, and most understood the rudiments of Bland’s Manual. Now all he needed was for his sergeant to finish his phone call.
Dressing Up by Joanne Fisher
As the sun set, they rose out of their coffins in the crypt.
“Shall we hope someone walks through the graveyard tonight? Or shall we get dressed up and go into town?” asked Samantha.
“Yes let’s go into town!” Katherine replied.
They dressed up in their finest gowns and coats, then headed off. When they got to town they were surprised by the sheer number of people there.
“Are you going to choose one?” Samantha asked after a while.
“There’s just too many of them! I can’t decide!” Katherine replied. Samantha rolled her eyes. Why did this always happen?
Phasing by Rebecca Glaessner
Tahvket donned the cloth to be worn to Center. House-family fitting it while praying for energies to take and seeds yet unformed.
Elders braided Tahv’s endless white hair.
Hair to be shaved if one’s seed fails. If one doesn’t Phase at all.
Shaved to free the energies within.
As few seeds take form and even fewer are granted life. Energies are never spared.
Would Tahv’s fail? At nearly twenty-two cycles, hope of Phasing had waned.
Yet here Tahv stood, before Center, heart pounding, hands rippling over smooth, now-fitted cloth, the outfit offering all the strength Tahv needs.
World Book Drag by Ritu Bhathal
“But I don’t wanna!”
Little feed stomp, but I’ll be damned if my hard work won’t be worn today.
World Book Day.
The bane of every parent’s life.
I’ve been planning this costume since last year, after seeing the spectacular costume Jenny Harris-Smythe’s mother made for her daughter last year.
She was dining off her win for months!
So, I’m sorry, but today you WILL be wearing this, because I say so.
I don’t care if you think you look silly, and no, you can’t be Captain America! Ready-made costumes. Pah!
The prize will be mine!
Sorry, yes, yours…
Dress Up by Anita Dawes
I never had the opportunity to dress up as a child
It never entered my head
I was far too busy, swimming, skating
Riding any bike I could borrow
I had a cut-out book
Where I dressed a paper doll with different clothes
This, however, wore off too quick
I wonder now if it might have been
The lack of imagination, or up bringing
Parents need to understand a child
As my granddaughter does with
my little great grand daughter
I love to watch her run around
In nothing but her hat and wellies
Or her father’s big boots…
A Relentless Quest by Donna Matthews
I’m surprised to find my daughter lying spread eagle on the floor.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Yes…no…maybe, in a minute.”
Hesitating a hair of a moment, I lay down next to her.
She doesn’t move away.
Lying on my side, I study her profile and realize she’s pierced her nose. Should I say something? Let it go? Her willingness to try on different personalities is something I admire in her. Her relentless quest to find which fits her best.
“Yeah. I’m thinking about who I want to be. I just can’t see it yet.”
Setting the Wedding Date by Sue Spitulnik
On a hot summer day at Tessa’s parents when the combined family Thanksgiving was mentioned, Michael and Tessa gave each other a knowing look as if they were blushing but weren’t. Michael cleared his throat to garner attention. “Would there be any objections if we invited friends also and asked everyone to get dressed up?”
He got a lot of ‘what do you mean’ stares.
“Tessa and I were thinking the occasion would be ideal for our wedding.”
The answer came in a cacophony of positive sounds and exclamations. Satisfied, they left to recreate the scene at Michael’s parents.
I Do by Annette Rochelle Aben
Weddings are generally fancy-dress occasions. Even the venues are decorated beautifully with that which symbolizes the excitement of the happy couple.
Her mother’s home was no exception as there were flowers in every room. From the massive spray of gladiolas on the piano to the dozens of carnations in the family room. So pretty!
The bride sat crossed-legged on the kitchen counter in jeans, a tee-shirt and bare feet. Caught up in the beauty around her, she bolted when the Minister inquired if she had a pretty dress to wear since the ceremony was to begin in five minutes.
Wedding Trappings by Kerry E.B. Black
This wouldn’t be the wedding of her dreams. Finances had seen to that.
However, it wasn’t about the trappings, or so she kept telling herself.
She smoothed the front of the gown. It registered more as the ivory of aged teeth rather than the dazzling white of a Hollywood smile, but it was an antique. Something old. A relic from Gram’s wedding. She spritzed the high collar with perfume to overpower the lingering mustiness the cleaners couldn’t remove. No fairy-godmother’s transformation for her.
When she saw her groom’s appreciative smile, however, she knew. Their wedding wasn’t about the trappings.
As”mo”mi Returns by Kavita Deo Miracle Moments
Asmi, a new mom, stood in front of the mirror and took a good look at herself. The pregnancy glow was replaced by stress of being a new mom. She sighed, “I need to look and feel like my old self”. She opened her wardrobe and then took out a kaftan. A glamorous yellow kaftan in chiffon with beautiful grey motifs printed on it. She put it on, wore her favourite bead necklace and dabbed make up . Then she sprayed her favourite Chanel perfume. She wore heels, took a selfie in mirror, posted on Instagram As”mo”mi returns.
Warm Welcome by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Olivia was new to this climate, and new to the area. Naturally shy, she was unsure how to dress herself properly, so she’d gotten up the gumption to visit Lena’s Outdoor Outlet for help.
Lena was a peach, listened carefully, looked her over good, and smiled. This girl obviously needed a friend; Lena could use any and all sales. The sense of mutual balance pleased both.
At the Pumpkin Moon Fest, Olivia blushed and shivered, despite her layers. How could others be fine in thin flannel and cargos?
Lena waved her over and whispered, “Don’t worry. Just be comfortable!”
Gifts from the Heart by Saifun Hassam
Down by the pines, the bird feeding station was busy with cardinals, bluejays, and sparrows. Straight after breakfast, Farah’s mom helped her to dress: boots, jacket.
Her birthday scarf embroidered with bluebirds.
The young artist’s drawing notebook was already filled with doodles of birds and flowers. Her imagination was fired up from Grandma’s surprise birthday gift: a CD all about drawing and painting birds and flowers.
Drawing a real cardinal was pretty tough. Suddenly from a nearby birch tree, a bird called out. Grandma was right. An entire world was out there waiting to be explored. Artist and explorer.
Mother of Assumptions by Ruchira Khanna
We, individuals, love to dress up our minds with assumptions.
An assumption is a state of mind where an individual can draw a very colorful or an ugly picture.
Isn’t it amazing how an individual builds his castle over his assumption?
A classic example is how an individual presents himself, his dressing mannerisms, or his public behavior. They are all human-made assumptions.
This boils down to being aware of what we think, which eventually becomes our assumptions.
If the assumption is the mother of all disasters, bring in the father who has a clear vision and channel the thoughts.
Lights, Camera Etc. by kathy70
Saturday night and the theater lobby lights sparkle on the sequins as we walk around. We are in our suburban neighborhood and no paparazzi are stalking us for photos. It is opening night. Who’s idea was it to make this a fancy dress event? It seems pretty silly all these years later. Yet, the photo of us from that evening is one of my most treasured items. Who would imagine that adults would play dress up for all the world to see on such a “normal” day. Imagine we really were that young and playful only three + decades ago.
It’s a Compliment by Simon
Are you doing chores with an apron? Like a house wife? (Auntie chuckled)
I dote to Sprint like Dutee Chand
Fight like Greta Thunberg
Play like P.V.Sindhu
Fly like Gunjan Saxena
Ambulate like Anjali Lama
Drive like Veeralakshmi
Indite like Malini Agarwal
Do chores like my wife
Manage house like my Mom
Cook like my grandma
Doing anything like them is not a revilement, it’s a compliment.
You are withal a woman. Now tell me, are you complimenting me or vilifying me?
(Sa…Sa…SA..) Sam, I was complimenting you dear.
I deciphered it when you sa…sa…said… Auntie, Thank you (Attitude)
He Wished He Had … by Reena Saxena
He saw a huge crowd carrying similar placards, snaking its way through streets.
Is that Emily? Yes, she is leading the procession. But why?
Later in the evening ….
“You don’t qualify to be called domestic help.”
“Really? Who has been managing the house for 10 months now?”
The sarcasm froze him.
“But why should you be leading the pack? You don’t work for others.”
“I want house help to come back. I wish you’d helped with the chores….”
He seriously wished he had. It would’ve saved him embarrassment.
Doing Chores by Ann Edall-Robson
water holes to keep open.
Sleigh horses harnessed,
hay stacked high
frozen skis crunch snow.
Mercury slithers, creeping
down, frosted breath,
feeding rituals double.
These months called winter
without warning too often.
The temptation to stay
by the wood fire, warm,
nothing but a fleeting dream.
Every day a silent wish
tromps through the thoughts
yearning for winter to end.
A want for longer days
Chinook winds blow,
Spring and green grass
replaces manure laced mud
frozen days, gone.
To the ranchers feeding
cows and country
thank you for doing chores.
Riding the Zipline Down Under by Norah Colvin
Many hid behind Norah’s fear of heights, speed and enclosed spaces. “I’ll do anything Norah does,” they’d boast, feigning bravery. D. said she’d ride the zipline from its start, high up in the US, all the way Down Under, if Norah did.
Dressed for warmth and to prevent chafing, they adjusted their harnesses. “You first,” said D., still not believing Norah would do it.
“Whee! I’m flying; flying without wings,” sang Norah, zooming across the landscape.
“I’m dying,” screamed D., squeezing her eyes shut.
“We’re here,” said Norah. “Welcome to Australia.”
“That was amazing,” said D. “I did it!”
Double-hog Dare by D. Avery
“Kid? What’re ya doin’?”
“I kin see thet. But fer what?”
“Fer Aussie? Aussie favors the Michelin Man? An’ dang it, Kid, are those my pillows ya got duct-taped ta yersef?”
“Yers, mine, any I could git a hold of. Need paddin’.”
“Why’s thet Kid?”
“Wanna be prepared fer a crash landin’.”
“Crash landin’?! From what?”
“But ya cain’t stand heights Kid.”
“But Aussie double-dog-dared me.”
“Take good care a Curly fer me.”
“Oh, Curly an’ me, we’re comin’ ta watch.”
“She might git scared.”
“Does, she’ll squeal like a Kid.”
Dressed ta Swill by D. Avery
“Jeez. Kid, ya let thet critter snuggle in bed with ya, ya won’t git her ta stop.”
“So? She already weighs two stone.”
“Stone? Yer a week late Pal.”
“It’s a unit a measure. Ya seen my flannel nightshirt?”
“Heehee. Curly, yer eyelashes tickle. Flutterin’ butterfly lashes.”
“Butterflies? Thet’s so last week.”
“Last week… ‘member visitin’ Ernie… then comin’ back an’ piggin’ out afore a long nap.”
“T’weren’t pretty. Hey! Thet pig’s wearin’ my nightshirt!”
“Ya soun’ angry, Pal. Is’t ‘cause Curly looks better in it then you do?”
“Here ya go. Want some lipstick too?”
Stilettos attract attention, no doubt. This week writers took to the heels (an occasional points) like balanced pros to deliver a variety of stories that sparkle like glitter.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
New Age by Rebecca Glaessner
Several eons passed since they last visited Earth, they discovered humans viewed other-world strangers warily now, without the awe of old.
Their job – gathering insights into human minds – meant molding their DNA to conform while on-planet. They looked human, though in this new age, reed undergarments, intricate piercings and feathered crowns weren’t widely desired.
Human views on appearances had changed.
The aliens adapted, yet one didn’t account for their stilettos’ height.
Travelling the city, the aliens-as-humans towered over passers-by, attracting attention.
Glorious feathered crowns were no longer worshiped, but height had them feeling once more like gods amongst men.
Wing-Woman by Ritu Bhathal
“I have to wear those?”
“No, really. Me? Wearing those death traps?”
Eliza gingerly picked up one of the sparkly high heeled stilettos and dangled it in front of her eyes. A pointed toe that was sure to pinch at her feet. And the heel. Dear God, the heel. Six inches of danger.
She cleared her throat. “Mel, do you want to walk into the club with style, or be shoved into Dan’s arms unceremoniously, as your hapless wing-woman ends up tripping, and taking you with her?”
“Well, at least he’ll notice me, that way,” Melissa smirked.
First Dance by Marsha Ingrao
“West Coast Swing?” Roger asked, sweat popping from every pore.
He glanced at her gold stilettos. “Brush your soles.”
Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”
He announced each step as they danced in their tight corner. “You’re doing well.” He spun her onto the main floor.
With each back step and pull on her arm, Tanni felt laughter bubbling inside. Her ankle turned. Roger never missed a step as he flung her off the floor around him. When she landed, glistening as brightly as her stilettos, she picked up the beat with a back step.
Learning to Walk by Joanne Fisher
Briana selected the pair of red stilettos and began putting them on in store.
“Excuse me, um, miss, are you sure want to try those on?” the store assistant asked frowning at her.
“Yes I have to learn how to walk in heels at some point.” Briana replied.
She stood up and tried to take a step. She swayed, and eventually began to topple over, the store assistant managing to break her fall.
“Again, are you really sure you wouldn’t prefer some flats?”
“A girl’s gotta try.” Briana responded as she stood up again and took one more step.
Gender Glitter by Charli Mills
Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.
Sizing Up by D. Avery
Poised proud on the dashboard, they shone through the windshield.
“Shouldn’t you return those shoes to whoever left them in your truck?” Liza was chastising but also hopeful to get the sparkly gold stilettos as a consolation prize. Tom’s dad, still oblivious, also chastised the young man.
“It’s a might unseemly, keeping trophies out in plain view like that.”
“Yessir,” and he gathered the stilettos in one hand, pulled his scruffy duffle bag from the front seat with the other. “But they’re no trophy. They’re mine.”
Tom studied his own dusty work boots, as if for the first time.
A Mile in Her Shoes by D.L. Armistead
Mitch crammed his feet into the improbably spiky heels, six inches high with marabou pompoms, and hobbled to the starting line with all the other guys. His work buddies had laughed. But it was his idea to join and honor all the people, male and female and – what was that new word? Non-binary? – who had been subjects of sexualized violence. From the snide remarks at Susan’s office to the death of that poor kid Troy, beaten senseless for daring to say he was really a girl. Mitch’s sign read, “Good Man Crossing.” He picked it up and started walking.
(64) Damned Family (Doe Eyed Maeve) by JulesPaiges
doe eyed, full
of innocence, grandiose plans to
save the world
Mae remembered when she had embraced the full character of herself as Maeve, as she read the text from the Faithful Stag, and reminisced about the first time they had met. It was at a New Year’s Party in Washington, DC. My, those were the days. Women wore sparkling stilettos to gain some height, along with gold or silver sequined cocktail dresses or dramatic gowns with slits up to their armpits.
Now Mae thought, if only she could ‘save’ those closest to her. Like her nephew Norman.
The Writer Knows Her Limits by Anne Goodwin
“I can’t. Just like I can’t put a cigarette in someone’s hand.”
My muse rolls her eyes.
“It’s a step away from Chinese foot binding.”
“Doorstep or dance step? You don’t trip over those.”
“It’s a moral issue.”
“Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa? Nobody cares.”
“Some writer, only mentioning things you approve of!”
“Anyway, it’s impractical. She’s a murderer. She needs to run.”
“You nailed the weapon yet?”
“Nails can’t kill without a hammer. She won’t find either at a masked ball.”
“She could wear it.”
“The stiletto, idiot! On her feet.”
Stilettos by Reena Saxena
Spending a fortune on a pair of high heels did not help much. The discomfort remained as with the lesser pairs, and I had it to pad it with cushions and toe covers, and practise walking on preciousness.
I did think renting would have been a better option. But what if Prince Charming came looking for me with one shoe? He would land on Rent-O-Mojo.
Little did I think a fall would take me to the police. Diamonds concealed in the shoe spilt out, and now I don’t know whether to call it a bane or boon.
Miranda by R. V. Mitchell
Miranda’s profile on the escort site was constructed in every detail to get the attention of Big Hank McCloud the head of the local syndicate. Weeks of research, and a knowledge of his “tastes” assured that the call would come.
Miranda arrived at the hotel attired in a revealing black dress and some stilettos that were to die for. When she was frisked by the bodyguard, she let out a little moan just to play up the persona.
Once alone in the room with the boss, the assassin struck. Did I mention that the stilettos were to die for?
No Shoes by Kate Spencer
“So what’ya gonna give me for them?” Marco asked, leaning into the counter.
George knew better than to ask Marco how he got a hold of the goods he brought into the pawnshop.
“These are shoes. You know we don’t take shoes,” George said.
“They’re red stilettos George. You gotta lady don’t you? Imagine her wearing them Christmas morning.”
George examined the long dagger-like heels one more time. His fiery Roxy sure would be sexy in them. But those heels. They can kill.
Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.
“Like I said, we don’t take shoes.”
A Matter of Self Defence or, Miss Fluart’s ‘Admirer’ by Gordon Le Pard
“So Miss, do you know who I am?”
Miss Fluart looked down at his twisted fingers.
“I think you are the man who liked assaulting women.”
“Harmless, until you took a hand. Now for some fun. No one will hear you scream.”
She looked round the empty Park, stepped back and took a grip on her parasol. He laughed and moved closer to her.
There was a click as she twisted the handle, and withdrew a twelve-inch blade.
He looked into her unblinking eyes, as she held the stiletto to his throat.
“Will anybody hear you scream?” She replied.
Turning the Tables by Saifun Hassam
Alice clambered down the rabbit hole. Her teenage sister’s stilettos swung from her sash around her waist. She’d worn those stilettos surreptitiously when sis was away at her job.
Alice stood eight inches taller in the stilettos. None of that awful “drink me” or “eat me” stuff.
The Red Queen coveted those shoes as soon as she saw Alice.
“Give me those shoes! Or off with your head!”
“Give me your crown!” Alice posed, tall, one leg forward, hand on her waist.
The Red Queen glared. She spat: “Here!”
Queen Alice smirked. Stilettos and crown. “Off with her head!”
Don’t Call Me Buffy by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“Shit!” Her ankle wobbled as she made her way across Old Towne Cobblestone Bridge. The rain had been brief, but drenching. Temperatures were dropping precipitously.
She’d made sure he was following.
Her stilettos clicked, thin against the moonless night. She crossed to rough pavement, surer in her steps as she led him into the graveyard, to the family crypt. She felt, rather than heard his respirations quicken.
She turned, mouth red and ready, as he caught up to her on the steps. He bent to her, his mouth cold.
Stiletto in hand, she plunged it deep into his heart.
In the Still of the Et Toe by Bill Engleson
A contortionist of some renown,
he dreamt of times departed.
The twists, the turns, the ups and downs,
His life, how it was charted.
He‘d not fully stayed the course,
his mind and body wandered.
Pleasure’d been his driving force:
his other duties squandered.
Late in life, an epiphany,
a desire to mend his ways,
and so, he travelled to Sicily
to pass his remaining days.
Then one dark Italian night,
in a mutilating blow,
he swung a blade with guillotine might
and severed every toe…
But one, and with much practiced torsion,
he chewed off the remaining portion.
Red-headed Jenny by kathy70
Jenny was tall for a woman, 5’6″, when we were friends she was always the tallest one around yet she loved the highest stilettos she could find. Days she worked as a clerk in a small shop and she danced her nights away at a club with live music.
How did she manage to head this billion dollar company. From the time she was 15, shortly after her mother died, she had one kind of business or another. Each business taught her some valuable lessons and one was to appear to be head and shoulders above everyone. Shoes gave her strength.
Winter Sun by Ian McNaughton
A child was kicking the back of my seat.
His mother loudly whispered for him to stop.
The plane was filling with winter sun-seekers.
A large woman got on carrying two screaming babies
My heart popped up into my mouth to have a look.
I whiplashed my head around. No empty seats
Squeezing in beside me, she smiled. I smiled back; I was dying inside.
After we took off, she asked me what time we would arrive in Minnesota. I laughed and told her It’s a flight to Orlando.
She showed me her ticket.
I kicked and screamed.
Snake Killers by Ann Edall-Robson
Sitting on the bed, she watched the four-year-old tapping the heel of the stiletto on the palm of his hand. Did the upturn of his lips mean happy or sadistic? Tap. Tap. His piercing eyes bore into her groggy mind. Why had she agreed to go to the party wearing those shoes?
“You know what these are good for?”
“Not dancing,” she muttered.
Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.
“Killing snakes!” He giggled.
She laughed as she slid her foot into her favourite heels.
This morning her feet thanked her for bringing her cowboy boots.
Faded Steps by AJ Prince
In the far back of the closet shelf, I pulled out that faded shoe box. Lifting one heel out, it felt heavy in my hand. The shininess long faded into a dull black as the years passed. A few stitching’s had come undone, but the leather was still buttery soft. I slipped the other out of the box and held them side by side, inhaling deeply as if to remember the clicking sounds of my steps. I removed my fuzzy slippers and squealed as my toes slid into those old stilettos, as if I had never taken them off.
Cupid by Gloria McBreen
My sister Ann insisted a night out would stop me lamenting over my recent break-up with my boyfriend Joe.
‘Wear your red suede stilettos.’
‘Are they not a bit fancy?’
‘Not for where we’re going,’ she smiled.
I followed Ann to our table in the restaurant—that was already occupied by someone else.
‘What are you doing here?’ I blurted.
‘Meeting my sister,’ he replied.
‘Eh…no you’re not,’ said Ann.
She scarpered. I sat opposite him.
‘You’re wearing my favourite shirt.’
‘And you’re wearing those shoes.’
He grinned and I blushed.
‘I’m sorry Joe.’
‘So am I.’
Stilettos by Anita Dawes
The office Christmas party
Something I didn’t look forward to
Mark would be there
In dreams, he does not see the scar on my cheek
a beautiful pair of stilettos caught my eye
I bought them, hoping he would
see only the sparkles on my feet
At school I could never hide
from the harsh words of others
These days I can wear my hair long,
it helps, like closing a curtain
I walked around the house
wearing these shoes
Feeling like a fairy princess
the office party would be fine
Because in dreams he loves me…
The Young Cook by Ruchira Khanna
“Daddy, your lunch is ready,” ten-year-old Mel shouted from the kitchen while trying to balance herself and the plate in her hand.
Dad was quick to rush into the kitchen, “Impressive, Mel.” he said with arched eyebrows as he was quick to get the plate from her hands and then help her stay still.
“Yummy! PB&J Sandwich, my favorite!”
“I can understand the apron, but what’s up with the stilettos, doll?”
“Mom used to wear her heels everywhere. I’m just trying to mimic her, so we don’t feel her absence,” she said while trying to wear a brave smile.
Mom’s Shoes by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Lizzie, are you ready for school? You better not be in my closet again, young lady. Besides, the bulb burned out, you can’t see anything.”
The eleven-year-old sighed. How did her mother always know what she was up to? All she wanted was to borrow her mom’s shoes to match her dress for picture day.
Lizzie stumbled in the darkness and stuffed the shoes in her book bag.
“See you tonight, Mom.”
At school, all eyes were on Lizzie wearing her mom’s black stilettos as she wobbled across the floor to take her place for the sixth-grade class picture.
The Princess Wore Stilettos by Norah Colvin
The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.
“Don’t do that.”
Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”
They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.
As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.
When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.
Stilettos by FloridaBorne
“Mrs. Jones, you’ve worn stilettos for… 56 years?” Dr. Harris asked the 59 year old woman.
“You report pain in your knees and hip. The amount of force the front of your foot has endured over the years created metatarsal problems and made your bunions worse. Abnormal growth of nerve tissues in the toes, shortened calf muscles…”
“I can’t lower my heel to the ground, or walk in normal shoes” she said.
“I can help you, if you’ll agree to follow our physical therapist’s guidance for a year.”
Tears falling, Mrs. Jones replied, “I don’t have a choice.”
Military Pranksters by Sue Spitulnik
Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”
“Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”
“Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”
“The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”
“It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”
Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”
Kid’s Christmas Present by D. Avery
“Yer up late Kid.”
“A flash ‘bout stilettos?”
“Hmmph. How kin ya write ‘bout somethin’ ya cain’t walk in? I’m writin’ a letter. Ta Santy Claus.”
“Ya know he ain’t fer real.”
“How kin ya miss Santy if ya know he ain’t real?”
“Reckon I miss believin, an’ all the other things I use ta know. Miss when Christmas weren’t so much ‘bout missin’ folks an’ what’s past an’ fears fer what’s future.”
“So what’re ya askin’ fer?”
“Nothin’ Pal! Jist listin’ ever’thin’ an’ ever’body I’m grateful fer. Right now.”
“Write on Kid.”
Party Like It’s Only 99 by D. Avery
“Kid! Thought you said thet piglet was potty trained.”
“She is. She’s right here with me Pal.”
“Then what’s thet smell?”
“Oui, it ees me.”
“Thet’s right, fergot yer bunkin’ with us. Seems someone cain’t keep all her stories straight.”
“Hey, Pepe! Look’t you. What’s all this! Bells? Bows?”
“Oui, Keed, an’ geefts for you and Pal and thees leetle evergreen tree. Eets got roots, we can plant it later.”
“Shut the front door! Why it’s Tip and Top Lemmon.”
“Dey want to perform for us.”
“The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”
“No. Dey weel prance! In stilettos!”
Somewhere in Nevada between an active gold mine and a desert reservoir the size of a pond where wild horses drink sits a dilapidated ranch house. The summer sun mummifies the boards and magpies nest in the rafters. From a distance, the brown boards blend into the tawny landscape like camouflage. In 2010, my dad drove me in his old Willy’s Jeep to this site. He stopped and said, “This was someone’s dream.”
It wasn’t the first time I heard him utter that phrase. He logged in in the back-country where prospectors and pioneers searched for promises of a better life. They all carried apple seed. At the Nevada ranch house, the husks of mountain cabins, and countless remnants of cellars apple trees grow wild. The ones who planted have disappeared, leaving spring blossoms and fall fruit to bear witness.
I’ve always been curious about these dreamers. I think about my dad’s regard for their lost dreams, or the stories I heard as a child from the old-timers. I think about the evidence of people who lived and dream long before the homesteaders came.
Yet, history doesn’t record the trickery that led people west to attempt to make a dream work. It benefited the government and then the railroads and then the company mines to lure people west to settle or work. Ads circulated in city and rural papers back east and overseas, attracting immigrants with promises of land and livelihood. Railroad companies often provided land, jobs, and one-way tickets.
My favorite buckaroo sings the story in the first-person point of view account that blows a hard wind into the listener’s soul. I shiver when I hear the refrain, “I never knew, I never dreamed.” Dave Stamey sings Montana Homestead 1915.
Ten years earlier, the railroad brought Italians to Elmira Idaho where I lived for four years next to the schoolhouse built in 1910. It was the dream of those immigrants to educate their children. It is the setting of my novel in progress. Whatever the Italians dreamed, they abandoned in Elmira and moved on after the railroad ended their work. My character Ramona Gordon is the descendant of one of these immigrant families.
The house my dad showed me in Nevada is one I gave to Danni as a ranch where her father worked. I picture Danni riding out along the small creek lined with cottonwoods, of her dad showing her the Paiute sheep camp that had existed for centuries before the Bureau of Land Management moved them out in the 1950s. Danni’s dad and my dad witnessed the loss of such dreams as boys who grew up in the hard migrant work-life of buckaroo ranches.
Despite this melancholy, I still believe in dreams. I know that my own have fed rivers of hope and resiliency. If you know me, you are not going to be surprised that I get excited this time of year to renew my dreams in a visioning activity. Not to be confused with resolutions, vision planting guides those apple seeds to fruition. It take dreams and puts them into action.
One of my dreams has been to teach creative writing. While working on my MFA, I’ve simultaneously worked on earning a master’s level certification to teach creative writing online. And thanks to COVID-19 and my online courses, I’ve learned new tools and techniques to bring in-person workshops to the virtual world. I have a break between Christmas and New Year, thus I decided to bring one of my favorite courses online — Writers Vision Planting. It’s one of the four parts of To Cultivate a Book series that has been COVID-disrupted.
If you have a dream, consider signing up either live or for the digital download. It will be a fun and creative way to plan your 2021 year as a writer.
But for our prompt, we are going to go back to what it’s like to experience something we didn’t dream. I never dreamed that a year after my last GSP died, I’d be chasing a puppy. I never dreamed that a pandemic would keep my daughter in the arctic so long. I never dreamed I’d own such a beautiful old home with a hand-carved staircase. I never dreamed that I’d get to live on a peninsula in Lake Superior. I never dreamed the northern lights would be so breathtaking (and evidently fertile, so be careful). I never dreamed I’d be 54 and expecting…a puppy, people, a puppy!
December 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something a character never dreamed would happen. The situation can be fortuitous, funny, or disappointing. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by December 15, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.
Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills
Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.
December brings various holidays and family traditions. If ever there was a year to yearn for nostalgia or break away, 2020 would be it.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
From Biriyani to Paella by Saifun Hassam
Twins Nadia and Nilufar were toddlers when their parents emigrated in the 1980s from Kenya to the US, first to Pennsylvania and eventually to California. They were Muslims, their ethnic background Indian, with family roots in India.
Family tradition called for the sumptuous rice dish of biriyani and samosa pastries to celebrate everything from birthdays to Eid. As teenagers, Nadia and Nilufar included hamburgers, tacos, and ice cream sundaes.
Now they had families of their own. Nadia’s husband Juan introduced them to delectable seafood paella. Family members came from Canada to celebrate: Nadia and Nilufar’s restaurant: “Adventures in Food.”
Family Tradition by Kerry E.B. Black
Bob reached deep through the prickly branches to hang the shaped green glass ornament near the fragrant trunk of the pine tree propped in his living room. “Gotta make ‘em look for it, y’know.”
Pam smiled, charmed by the hospitality her new beau and his family had extended. Holidays could be lonely for a recently divorced ex-pat. “So, whoever finds the pickle first on Christmas morning wins an extra present?”
“Yep.” Bob tilted his head to test the ornament’s placement. “Dylan usually gets it. Like she has an affinity.”
“Maybe it’s because her nickname’s ‘Dill Pickles.’”
He chuckled. “Maybe.”
Christmas Conga Line by Donna Matthews
T’was the night before Christmas when all through my house, the kids are scattered, quiet as a mouse. Into that room and the next, their faces glued to phone screens…even my spouse. Not one cared about St. Nick.
That is until the ancient record player comes alive and starts blaring, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and I begin to dance! Bouncing from one room to the next, grabbing hands and hips, forming a conga line throughout the house. As the song winds down, we sigh and laugh, and before they scatter again, I declare, “Now, a hot chocolate before bed!”
Family Traditions by Eliza Mimski
I come from a wacky family. Every Christmas the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings are assigned a name to buy a silly present for. From near and far, we come together for a Christmas dinner of turkey and dressing, casseroles, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and apple pie. After dinner, the presents are heaped together near the Christmas tree. We search for our own and either keep it or exchange it with somebody else’s. There are pet rocks, wooden back scratchers with acrylic nails, a T-shirt that says I Strip for Chocolate Macaroons.
Best presents ever.
Virtual Turkey Trot by Ruchira Khanna
“Are you ready for tomorrow? What time should I wake you up?” inquired A.
“Do we have to?” asked P with a lone sigh.
“Of course! We ought to keep the tradition alive. So what if we can’t run the Turkey Trot with people. Let’s do it by ourselves.”
“And just like all the times, I’ll keep the pie, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and lasagna ready.” I chipped in with a broad smile to encourage my son.
“Yum! So everything’s the same as old times.” He beamed with joy over it, “How does 7 am sound for our 10K?”
Out with the Old, In with the New by Norah Colvin
Lizzie pressed her lips together and shook her head.
“Come on,” said Mum. “Just a little bit.”
“Try it. You’ll like it.”
“You can’t have dessert, until you eat your veg.”
“Dessert first. Then veg.”
“We don’t do it that way, Lizzie. Veg first, then dessert.”
“No! Dessert first!”
“If you have dessert first, you won’t eat your veg.”
Lizzie ate her dessert. Then she ate her veg. A promise is a promise.
Now, when Lizzie’s children’s friends ask why they always eat dessert first, they shrug. “Dunno. Always have,” they say.
Topsy’s Turvy Christmas Eve by Sascha Darlington
“Your family’s three families,” Mrs. Crawford always told Topsy.
Topsy didn’t understand. Not until she turned nine and her older brothers spent Christmas elsewhere did she comprehend.
“Why aren’t they here for carols?” Topsy asked.
Mother who bit her lip—or her tongue—constantly these days said, “They’re starting their own families and traditions.”
“But carols are sacred,” Topsy whispered.
And even Joseph, her big brother-protector, remained in his room, unwilling to sing carols, which left Topsy, Mom, Dad, and Sandy.
As they sang Silent Night, a tear slid down Topsy’s cheek. This night was far too silent.
The Christmas Visitor by Anne Goodwin
She hung her stocking for Santa above the fireplace. She helped Gran lay the Jesus figurine in the cardboard-box crib. She joined us singing “Good King Wenceslas” at the piano. She gobbled up Dad’s stewed sprouts. So why did she refuse to play Cluedo, preferring to sit with a book? She wasn’t averse to whodunnits. She’d plucked Evelyn Hardcastle from the guest-room shelf.
But she taught me the meaning of Christmas. Whether Christian or secular, it’s not about believing in myths. It’s a time to renounce our own ego. When we merge with the group, reunite with our tribe.
(47) Damned Family (Jesse No Solid Bases, Yet) by JulesPaige
traditions hold limited
value when lacking
Jesse thought about some of her family traditions. Like the one she had totally blown off this year. The mini-family reunion down by the shore. Which this year was cut short by finding the dead body of a man who she thought was her ex-husband in her rental unit. Usually she wasn’t big on any holiday traditions. With her family, someone was always out of town or working. She had hoped to start something new with Norman, but the divorce had ended that. Would this year be any different for her?
Christmas Family Tradition by Doug Jacquier
Dad would start drinking with the invited neighbours from around 11 a.m. Around 1pm we’d do the presents. His would never be satisfactory and his petty envy of the presents of others would not be disguised. When time for lunch came, as a matter of what little pride he had left, he would ceremoniously carve the roast. My brother and I would write our bets on when the explosion would happen on slips of paper we passed to each surreptitiously. And every year, like clockwork, some imagined slight would set off a stream of invective that would kill Christmas.
Festive Traditions by Geoff Le Pard
‘What did you do for Christmas, Logan?’
‘You must have some family traditions?’
‘What? Like waking up with Santa dribbling into the hall carpet because he fell asleep there when he came back from the pub, having to be quiet all morning, watching the Queen and wondering what she was talking about, waiting for my gran’s bowels to move so we could eat lunch at 4pm and then having to eat sprouts – Devil’s turds btw – and mum’s stuffing that I’m sure was shredded underlay… that sort of thing?’
‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Hell, I loved it.’
‘Explains a lot…’
Childhood Christmas by Willow Willers
Nothing ever happened until Christmas Eve. Mum took us all shopping, on the bus. We’d buy all the food and tree, all six of us had a bag to carry. When we got home decorations were made and hung.
Then Mum started the baking and the boys would pinch it.
In the evening the Turkey and veg were prepared. At eleven pm they all went to Midnight Mass with Dad.
I was too young so mum and I stayed home and decorated the tree. I loved staying up late and when everyone got home the tree was magically ready.
A Tradition Begins – and Ends by Gordon Le Pard
The old singer watched as the happy crowd left the cathedral. The Bishop came over to him and shook his hand.
“I didn’t think it would be like this, it was just an old tradition.”
“Yes, but a wonderful one, you would go round the town singing carols and using them to tell the Christmas story. I just brought it inside.”
“But it was wonderful, will you do it next year?”
“And the next, and others will do it as well, soon there will be carol services everywhere. It was once your family tradition, now it will be everybody’s.”
Family Traditions by Colleen Chesebro
“Grandma, hurry up or we’ll miss the first song.” Kallie impatiently tugged at Grandma’s sleeve.
“I’m coming. Don’t rush me!” Grandma chided.
The church was packed. Typical for the Christmas Eve service.
“Kallie, I saved you seats,” whispered a voice. A few titters of laughter rumbled through the back row of pews.
“Thank you, James,” Grandma murmured as she heaved her body into the seat. Kallie blushed crimson.
James grinned. He only had eyes for Kallie. “Of course. Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without you both.”
The trio joined the congregation as they sang, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
New Family Traditions by Sue Spitulnik
The Monday after Thanksgiving Michael and Tessa received a beautiful Christmas arrangement from Tessa’s mother. They each raised their eyebrows, skeptical of Jenny’s intentions.
Inside the thank you card she had written, “I had no idea cooking for two days for other people could be gratifying. I hated eating leftovers on Thanksgiving, but gathering our family together with Michael’s on Saturday was the best celebration of thanks I have ever attended. Let this be our new tradition. Love, Mom.”
A tear ran down Tessa’s cheek. “She’s coming around isn’t she?”
Michael’s eyes watered. “Wait till I show my parents.”
Note: “cooking for two days for other people” refers to last week’s flash that mentioned the band members families preparing the dinner served at the No Thanks.
Our Ramadan by Douryeh (Hajar)
It may be four thirty and we all rise
I had made soup yesterday and warm it slowly
Husband and then children, get food on the table
Fruit, bread, yoghurt are usually part of our breakfast
Always someone cracks a joke or has yesterday’s story
Breakfast must end punctually, even when there’s no adhan
Prayers, sleep a while, then daily routine is done
The season decides at what time we’ll have dinner
Whatever is served, there’s always some milk and dates
Henry’s Traditional Christmas by Anne Goodwin
Some years he’d treat Christmas as an ordinary day, turn off the television and eat beans on toast for lunch. Some years he’d put up a tree, wrap presents and roast a chicken, set an extra place at the table for Tilly, and another for his dad. Yet however he began the day, tradition claimed the final hour: leaving him seated by the fire, with enough whisky to engender a headache but not enough to assuage his grief. Or his shame in spending the day in frenzied anticipation of the greatest gift imaginable: his sister’s knock upon the door.
Apple Strudel by Frank Hubeny
I gave my brother peeled apple slices. He placed them one-by-one on the strudel dough that we older ones helped stretch across a cloth on our dinner table. He put some in his mouth. Then came the raisins to scatter on the dough. When it was finished I held him so he could watch our mother lift the cloth underneath the strudel, roll it into a long, thick pastry that fit on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven.
We made many strudels for Christmas and everyone helped.
I’ve never had a dessert that tasted so good.
Hunting Spot by D. Avery
Nothing, not women, jobs, not even a move, had ever interfered with their tradition. No matter what, he and his brother took the first week of deer season and spent it at camp, just the two of them. He was determined to see the whole week through this year too.
Now he paused instinctively. The large buck he’d been tracking stepped into view. He raised his rifle, took aim. Then he lowered the rifle, leaned it against a tree.
“It wasn’t really about the hunting was it?” he said aloud. The buck bounded away. He scattered his brother’s ashes.
Christmas Angel by Myrna Migala
The children were excited; tomorrow was Christmas!
The tradition, to catch their Christmas angel.
Imagine now the little ones jumping up and down, rolling all around, trying to catch their angel.
The tiniest of all jumped so high while clasping his hand and shouted, “I caught mine!”
Holding his hands together with a big smile, being careful not to let the angel escape.
Minutes passed by, and as he watched the other children leaping with joy, his big brown eyes widened; looking at his hand, still holding tight, he turned to his grandmother, “please, do you have a cage?”
Raksha Bandhan by Ritu Bhathal
Nalini scowled at Rakesh.
Her nine-year-old heart hadn’t quite come to terms with this mewling infant thrust upon her, when her mother’s expanding belly suddenly deflated.
He was taking up everyone’s time and attention.
Usually, the whole family doted upon her, but recently, it was all “The baby this, the baby that.”
“Come on Nalini, time to tie a rakhi on Rakesh. Lucky girl. You finally have a brother to bless.”
Sacred thread tied, she went to turn away, when her mother called her back. “Don’t forget your gift.”
A gift? He wasn’t so bad, after all.
Family Traditions by Anita Dawes
Each of us grows
Changing throughout the year
that would seem to be a lie
if my family don’t get Jaye’s mince pies.
When I say I am cancelling Christmas?
They turn into peasants and revolt
If you could see the looks, I get
Enough to kill the Bah Humbug in me
Can’t we just have Jaye’s mince pies?
No, I say. Cancelled means cancelled
I managed one year
Then a great granddaughter came along
Children to me mean Christmas
So here we go again, it’s game time
Charades, old tabletop games
Screams of you cheated, mum!
Fertile Northern Lights by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The stewpot was emptied of root vegetables, venison gratefully given, and thick brown gravy sweetened with brunost. Crumbs of spilled flatbread caught the flicker of resting embers, and a half-dozen children snored under heavy woolen blankets. The littlest, wrapped in rabbit’s fur, lay in his mother’s arms.
“Leave him. He’ll sleep well enough under the Northern Lights.”
She nodded, tucking him next to the oldest girl, and said a prayer for the children departed.
“The Lights shimmer tonight; propitious for calling another soul to our family,” he hefted their sleeping fur.
She followed her husband into the snowy night.
Family Tradition by Margaret G. Hanna
“A fence! Are you serious?”
“You mean, you don’t put a fence around your Christmas tree? Our tree isn’t complete until the fence goes up.”
“But a fence?”
“This isn’t any old fence, it has history!”
“My uncle made it when I was a toddler. I was told that I could not touch anything that was behind the fence.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Seventy years. The ‘posts’ are askew and the silver garland rope has seen better days, but it’s as essential as the angel on the tree top.”
“I suppose it has history, too.”
Christmasque Treevia by Bill Engleson
One year, it appeared.
An artificial tree.
I can visualize my parents buying it, thinking, hell, the kids are gone, we don’t want to be traipsing out into the tulies to chop down some innocent sapling.
Gone: one of our few traditions.
Over the next fifteen, twenty years, I made it home pretty much every second Christmas.
Sometimes every third.
That fake tree took such a beating. On each visit, it had fewer plastic needles.
Somehow, its escalating emaciation didn’t matter.
For me, it encapsulated a simple withering truth about my family and how time had forever changed us.
Whose Traditions? by Reena Saxena
There is a distinct sense of unease around the oncoming festival. She knows that certain things can’t be done.
“But we aren’t having any visitors”, said her husband, \’just cook and eat and decorate the house as you like. Post some pictures with a wistful write-up on social media.”
“It’s all a joke for you”, she was cross.
“Do you remember how you defied my mother’s traditions?”
“These are mine, hence important.”
“So were hers..”
“Remember whom are you going to spend the rest of your life with.”
It was time for him to shut up and comply.
New Traditions by Charli Mills
That night, the sheepherder made room for two wayward cowboys. The snowstorm blinded their passage back to the Two Bar Ranch and their horses found refuge in the small enclave of Basque who herded sheep in the Sierras every summer. All herds hunkered down in the valley to survive winter. Jess and Roy knew they’d miss beans and card games for Christmas, but the smell of mutton stew raised hopes not all was lost. After tasting saffron bread for the first time, and learning new carols to a tabor pipe, the cowboys adapted their cattle family traditions to sheepherders.
This Christmas by Joanne Fisher
“So what did you do at Christmas?” Stacey asked.
“Mum would make us scrambled eggs with lots of butter and toasted homemade bread. Then we would open presents. One of us would hand them all out, and then we’d open them one at a time going round the room. In the evening we’d have dinner with the rest of the family, and of course, open more presents.” Hannah replied.
“But I’m missing it this year since I’ve been kicked out for being lesbian.” Stacey hugged Hannah.
“We’ll just have to start our own traditions then.” Stacey told her.
Roots Crop (Part I) by D. Avery
“Purty sure we’re gonna have a Yule log this year.”
“Why’s thet, Kid? Thet ain’t our terdition.”
“Gonna be a holiday season like no other Pal.”
“Why’s thet, Kid?”
“Gonna be masked up.”
“Why’s thet, Kid? We’re fictional; exempt from all thet.”
“An’ we gotta snuff yer candles Pal.”
“Why’s thet, Kid? That’s my fav’rite terdition fer this time a year.”
“Thought ‘stead a roast beast we’d have baked beans.”
“Baked beans??? LeGume!”
“Yep, Pepe’s gonna join us.”
“Thet Pepe LeGume’s a rootin’ tootin’ ranch hand.”
“Yep. So we wear masks. No open flames.”
Roots Crop (Part II) by D. Avery
“LeGume hangin’ out with us stinks, Kid. I ain’t likin’ it.”
“Pepe needs a place ta go.”
“Thet was last week’s prompt. Ain’t LeGume got his own folks?”
“Pepe is estranged from his wife.”
“He’s a-strange alright. Answer’s ‘No’.”
“Hate ta burst yer bubble, Pal. I already invited him.”
“An’ I said oui, merci. Pal, Keed, I weel keep my deestance.”
“Mmm… Thet date nut bread yer bakin’?”
“Dere was not so much available, so I am improvising.”
“Never thought I’d say this to ya, but thet smells good.”
“Eet’s all good, Pal. Ees sweet bread from raw carrots.”
Beans may not be a part of everyone’s family tradition, but they were in mine. We greeted company with a pot of beans, a pan of enchiladas, and a bowl of green salad. At various times, my kids have requested the recipe for their own households. As far back as I know, our pinto bean recipes went back to the vaquero ranch cooks in my family at least five generations. Today, the memory lingers while the tradition has changed.
The Hub can’t eat beans well. His family has an old-time recipe for baked beans at Christmas. I never mastered baking beans, and he was okay with that. We tried to replicate the taffy pulls he and his cousins did as kids, but I never mastered that either. Eventually, we created our own family traditions around food and activities.
Between now and the New Year, we will watch A Christmas Story. Writers might relate to this scene from the movie when Ralph daydreams about the accolades he anticipates receiving for a paper he wrote:
On or after Christmas Day, we will play The Lord of the Rings board game and have a marathon going with all three movies in the trilogy. We even load up Christmas stocking with favorite snacks (like smoked oysters and summer sausage with sweet hot mustard) in anticipation of a day filled with playing games and Tolkein battles replacing Christmas music.
Ah. Christmas music. Trans Siberian Orchestra is a family favorite.
Imagine the intensity with which the Mills family decked their halls to TSO. I have every album they’ve made and one year, the Hub and I went to one of their electrified concerts in St. Paul. Another tradition from when the kids were still kids and all under one roof, we would eat Christmas Eve dinner by candle light and the lights of the tree. We’d clean up, put on our pajamas, fill baggies with homemade fudge and cookies, and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights. It was fun to be in our PJs. We would sing carols and listen to our favorite comedian, Bill Engvall.
Those were the days that make me smile. I’d like to sat family traditions remain static, but they change as we do. This year, I think a lot of families are facing the realities of COVID-19 interfering with the holidays.
But it’s not all that bad. It’s a chance to refresh, to try something new, to set aside the beans. I’ve downloaded some new music.
I’ve talked to extended family about playing Bingo on Zoom Christmas week. I have friends who are hosting dance parties and cacao ceremonies. Zoom, Facetime, and Skype are digital ways to extend the fun of playing games. YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Netflix let you set up watch parties for holiday movies or even The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Think of the disruption to family traditions as a chance to make new ones. Some people might be grateful to shake lose of the old ways and reconnect differently, with more thought and meaning. Learn about the traditions of your friends and neighbors. Deepen your own faith. Take time for solitude and quiet if that is what you need.
We are going to kick off December with a nod to family traditions. Feel free to share or break them.
December 3, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes family traditions. It can be related to any holiday or situation. How does the tradition impact the story or change the character? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by December 8, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
New Traditions by Charli Mills
That night, the sheepherder made room for two wayward cowboys. The snowstorm blinded their passage back to the Two Bar Ranch and their horses found refuge in the small enclave of Basque who herded sheep in the Sierras every summer. All herds hunkered down in the valley to survive winter. Jess and Roy knew they’d miss beans and card games for Christmas, but the smell of mutton stew raised hopes not all was lost. After tasting saffron bread for the first time, and learning new carols to a tabor pipe, the cowboys adapted their cattle family traditions to sheepherders.