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June 6: Story Challenge in 99-words

Once, I lost a book my Grandpa Sonny showed me in Montana. He and Grandma Donna drove all the way from San Benito County, California to Helena, Montana when I was a junior in college. Sonny was a writer and often took deep dives into the historical stories that activated his imagination. He was influenced by authors he admired — Ivan Doig and James A Michener. Both wrote family sagas; Michener was famous for l-o-o-o-n-g family sagas. Sonny had a vision for such, beginning in Scotland with the defeat of the Jacobites when, according to mythology, seven McCanles brothers fled to seven different colonies.

The book he drove over a thousand miles to show me contained notes and research he did in North Carolina and eastern Washington with his niece. He enthralled me with his stories and idea for a saga. He was proud of the manly men in his tree. He was even proud that we had an ancestor shot by Wild Bill Hickock. I was intrigued. Before he left, we agreed to work together on his manuscript about an ’80s casino crime story. He died before we finished.

At his funeral, I discretely asked about the book he showed me of all his research. His secretary knew it but hadn’t seen it. She said he’d filled a box for me and maybe it was in there. It wasn’t. I asked my aunts. I asked my mom. No one knew what I was referring to. Sonny’s niece, my first cousin once removed, researched with him and had gone on numerous trips across the country, and could get me copies. But it wasn’t the book I lost. I wanted his notes.

Fast forward to Idaho and the early days of Carrot Ranch. I accidentally found the book when a small box of my children’s early schoolwork fell apart when I went to move it into a closet. It was one of those boxes you never really intend to open again like a living time capsule. I must have grabbed a stack of school papers off my desk in Montana when we moved and kept them all those years in Minnesota as a box of mementos. When the box tore, out spilled colored stories, math homework, and Sonny’s lost book. I was flabbergasted because it never occurred to me that he’d left it for me to find on my desk. Only, he’d put it in a pile I didn’t go through!

I’ve told this story before because it had a profound impact on my own dream to write a historical novel, if not the saga my grandfather had envisioned. Rock Creek was born of this lost book found. I began by exploring the characters in 99-word stories. I found that the story constraint is a great tool for digesting historical research and experimenting with character motives. The stories add up and I also cranked out a raw draft for NaNoWriMo in 2015. When Todd and I wandered, we stopped in Kansas and Nebraska to research primary documents. I brought Sonny’s book with me, not daring to leave it behind in storage.

And so, it has sat. This lost book. This found book.

On Sunday, the first time since Finlandia University closed, I did not have papers to grade or lesson plans to post by midnight. I pushed the Challenge post to Tuesdays to further free up Sundays. Research Sundays. I peeled open the book and the first handwritten note to fall out of the cover focused on relating our McCanles line to Cobb McCanles, shot and killed July 12, 186 at his Pony Express Station in Nebraska Territory. Shot by Wild Bill Hickock (or not). Sonny speaks to me through his notes, “I am his descendant as are you, through Julia.” I had not seen this note before, or maybe I glossed over it. It encourages me because my tough-as-nails, hard-gambling, hard-drinking, visionary grandfather acknowledges what I had already discovered — the real story of Rock Creek resides in the women.

Yes, I descend through Julia McCanles, my third-great-grandmother who likely knew the real reason the historians are wrong about who shot her brother, Cobb. For someone who is returning to writing women’s fiction, a lost book was a good place to find my purpose again.

June 6, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a lost book (or many). What is the book’s significance? Who lost it, or who found it? How does this element fit into a poem, memory, or a specific genre? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 12, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Two Can Keep a Secret Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

Who Keeps a Secret by Duane L Herrmann

He hugged the tree. Tree was silent, strong. The tree held him. He needed the tree, the security. The tree needed him, to breathe. Together, they were a pair. They could take on the world, the impossibilities around them, the dangers of every day. At night he slept under her branches. She never slept. He talked to her. She answered softly. As seasons changed, so did her voice – a little harsher in winter, when there were no leaves, softer as spring and new leaves came, and rustling in autumn as leaves dried. She did not tell his secrets.


Tales My Mother Told Me by Dianne Borowski

I was her secret. They already had three children and money was tight. He was always tired. They didn’t talk much. After work he would take his fishing pole down to the lake. He would stare at the lights so far away and dream of having a farm, raising sheep, planting corn. He hated the dirty, foul smelling factory.

When she could no longer keep her secret she followed him to the lake one evening. We’re having another child, she told him. He left. Many years later he returned. We walked to her grave together.

“I’m so sorry,” he said.


Do You Want to Know a Secret? by Norah Colvin

‘Wanna know something?’
‘A secret.’
‘Billie said I couldn’t tell anyone, but you’re not just anyone. I’ll tell you, but you mustn’t tell anyone. Okay?’
Josie bent close and cupped her hand around Daisy’s ear. ‘Swzh, swzh, swzh.’
Daisy giggled and automatically swiped her ear, accidentally hitting Josie on the nose.
‘What d’you do that for?’
‘It tickled. Tell me again, but don’t tickle this time.’
Billie loomed over them. ‘Hey. What’s going on?’
‘Um. Josie’s just telling me something.’
‘Um. It’s not your secret.’
‘It’s another Billie.’
Josie kicked Daisy, purposefully.
‘Why’d you do that?’


Sharing by D. Avery

“Everyone has a secret,” Dauna said. “What’s yours?”

The women, hitchhiker and driver, saw that they were close in age and close in appearance. They discovered they even had the same name. That was as much as Donna wanted to share. But Dauna was a talker who wanted her companion to talk too.

After hours in the car together, Donna was finally worn down.

“Okay, I’ll tell you my secret,” she said as they stretched. “But then I’ll have to kill you too.”

Dauna’s laugh was cut short.

Donna pulled out of the overlook alone. High overhead vultures circled.


I Know What You Are by Joanne Fisher

Bridget awoke and walked home stealthily. As she lived by the forest, she was able to slip into the house unseen. Megan, the woman she lived with, was waiting in the hallway with her arms folded.

“I didn’t think you’d be up so early.” Bridget remarked.

“I know it’s you.” Meg stated.

“I’m sorry?”

“All the people found mutilated when there’s a full moon. I know what you are.” Meg answered.

“If that’s true, you better watch what you say.” Bridget replied.

“Is that a threat?” Meg asked.

“Just saying, the moon will still be full tonight.” Bridget warned.


What You Can’t See by Hugh W. Roberts

Jake and Scott found solace within their secret haven in a world of stifling judgment.

Their hearts intertwined; they danced through life’s labyrinth, concealing their secret love from prying eyes.

Behind closed doors, their passion ignited like wildfire, unapologetic and genuine.

Their whispered affections became a sacred symphony known only to them.

Society’s chains threatened them, but they held firm, protecting their secret.

Side by side, they painted rainbows of resilience, unyielding in their love’s brilliance.

Together, they vowed to endure, guarding their secret with unbreakable devotion, knowing their love was a beacon in a world longing for acceptance.


Care Costs by Anne Goodwin

“You won’t tell anyone?” Beneath her surgical mask, Denise’s face was flushed.
“Why would I blab about it?” said Irene. “It was my idea.”
“But I’m in charge,” said Denise. “I could go to jail.”
“Now you’re being paranoid.”
Denise refreshed the website. The numbers grew before her eyes. “What choice have I got?” The care home couldn’t afford those prices. But they couldn’t scrimp on PPE. And Matty had money to spare.
“It’s an emergency,” said Irene. Creative accounting, not stealing: Covid revised the moral code. Who knew when knowing the boss’s secret might save her own skin?


Little Girls Love Secrets by Miss Judy

Sisters, Marcy and Melinda, love secrets. In a small suburban home with mother, father and 4 siblings they share a bedroom huddling under the covers to whisper secrets – young girl’s dreams, “I’m going to marry Tommy Fisher,” or schoolgirl gossip, “Ms. Davis said, Karley can’t make cheerleading.”

Sometimes it’s big and not to be repeated. Such was the case one summer evening. Passing the Wilson’s, Marcy heard, “Get out, get out now. I’ll shoot!” Shocked, she ran to her sister and related the story. Trembling, they Pinky Sealed their secret and spent the night huddled together in fear.


“It’s Okay” was Her Secret by Stephanie Mordi

Mum can’t keep a secret, it’s always been like that. Everyone knew what she knew. In one instance, she told Dolly about how I didn’t stop peeing myself till I was eleven. Dolly calls me leaky Mickey now. So do our three kids.

“I can’t tell mum”, I decide, idling away at the park. I think to tell Dolly, but she’d already taken on too many hours.

A month later, Mum dies. “Cancer”, the doctor reveals.

She left me a letter, “It’s okay…”.

And it was, I got a better job. Regrettably, Mum kept a secret better than me.


Power and Illusion by Reena Saxena

rockets of misinformation
planets jump out of orbits
perceive invaders
as messengers of God
spelling doom

rockets hit the Sun
unplanned self-immolation
but remnants of lies
scattered in the universe
fake orbits
to house planets
who misinterpreted

It destroys the source
yet lets the impact remain
-polluted mindsets
carrying imprints
of what ceased to exist
memories ago

Power and Illusion
shake hands
it’s their best kept secret
so far … but
not so good

-let people see
what suits power suits
-let people hear
voices of doom
and seek protection
from so-called well-wishers
and be doomed forever


Secrecy by C. E. Ayr

You said it was love at first sight, but I’m not sure even you believed that.
I think it was more about lust, about the secrecy and the excitement of stolen moments – forbidden afternoons in cheap hotel rooms, on a blanket on that secluded beach, or even in the back of your new car – that put two marriages at risk.
Well, neither marriage survived when your brakes ‘inexplicably’ failed as you swept into the always deserted car-park above the gorge.
I met his wife at the funerals, of course.
She seems nice, and in need of comfort…


A Secret Shared by sweeter than nothing

Eyes met for the first time in over a decade, yet the circumstances were incredulously similar. 

Another foggy, rainy morning, another small muted funeral, another parent dead. 

So similar but so different.

The siblings were no longer close, no longer in cahoots.

 A secret they had shared, a secret had wedged between them, a secret had destroyed them. 

A nod in passing and a sigh of relief; another loose end in the ground, now only each other knew.

“She deserved to be free.”

A painful, twisted trust held them together, the memories tore them apart.

“He deserved to die.”


Messages by The Sicilian Storyteller

She’s in the autumn of her life now. While all her friends are winding down, she’s still going strong. A couple of seemingly innocuous messages led to the start of a crazy, sexually charged and mutually intoxicating long-distance liaison. No attachments, no commitments, no worries. Something that could end as quickly as it began but would never be forgotten. Games with one roguish, audacious and charming devil who’s as insatiable as she. Is it love? She laughs at that silly thought. It’s the secrecy, the excitement, the extreme lust. For right now that’s exactly how she likes it.


Beelzebub by Bill Engleson

“Don’t slam that door, Davey D. Your Momma’s gonna be mighty perturbed.”
The little ragamuffin pulls up short, trying to squeak out a smile but something else is riding that boy’s tail.
“What’s the matter? You look like the devil’s been chasin’ you.”
He looks at me like I was the smartest old woman he has ever met. Then he starts shaking, sputtering gibberish.
I see the scratches on his arms and face and ask, “Did Beelzebub do that to you again?”
He don’t answer, but I hug him, say, “Don’t worry, I won’t tattle on that old puss.”


Secret by cyrus

I didn’t realize it, but the moment I met her was the day I started keeping the world’s biggest secret. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. I haven’t but I’m on the edge of doing so. Having her stay at my house every other night just to get away from her own hurts me. Seeing her layer herself in foundation hurts.

I don’t know if I can keep it a secret anymore. She lives next to me, and the quiet screams are unbearable.

I have to tell someone, but I don’t want to lose her. She’s my best friend.


Abusing Secrets by Geoff Le Pard

Through a network of Chinese whispers and Russian Mumbles distressed Secrets make their way to Connie Fidenshall’s Secret’s Shelter where the suppressed and misheard find a welcome. The address remains undisclosed; even the front door keeps itself to itself, eschewing regular Thursday selfie opportunities. Inside Secrets relax, opening up to those who’ve been kept in the margins of polite society. Illicit love poems meet whistleblowing memos for evenings spent reading out loud. Baby Secrets have showers whenever they want. Even Secrets with violence, cruelty and deception at their heart are included: it’s not the Secret’s choice to be captive.


Zach Kane and The Handmaiden by Nicole Horlings

Zach Kane, investigative journalist, was frustrated. He had exhausted all available leads for his current case, but still hadn’t solved it.

There was an unopened letter with ZK written in gothic calligraphy on his desk when he entered his office. Inside, someone offered to reveal a relevant secret to him, and signed off as ‘The Handmaiden’.

He followed her directions to meet her at a local department store. When a sales associate approached him, he used the coded phrase. That associate was confused, so he walked off, wandered around, then approached a different one, who did reply in code.


Frenemies by Chel Owens

“I left my wife for a younger woman.” How dare that fat, ugly, stupid, self-centered husband of Barb’s consider that cliché phrase; how dare a younger woman consider him??

Maybe it was sour grapes, like Barb’s mother hinted.

Maybe Barb was better off, as Barb’s best friend, Lillith, stated.

The most useful response, however, came from Barb’s greatest enemy since childhood, Phoebe. “You know,” Phoebe said, “If you knock him off before he files for anything, you get it all.”

So, much to Barb’s surprise, she found herself plotting with Phoebe. It was like first grade all over again.


Brothers to the End by Josh Hagen

We exchange a glance as the yelling continues. I wink. You wipe your eye.
I hear the usual complaints. The usual threats. They’re disappointed.
No phone for a week. I’m grounded. But that’s okay. I can take it. That’s what big brothers do.
They say I’ll have to pay for the damage. What was I thinking? How could I?
I’ve heard it all before. I don’t mind. I know you make mistakes. Accidents happen.
They storm out in a huff. You run to me and I hug you tight.
I smile and remind you that cars don’t fly.


Secret by Joelle LeGendre

The man standing just outside my front of my door said, “Mr. Jones…”

Hmmm… by the stance and frown… a military man. “I’m not interested in buying anything from Fuller Brush.”

“I’m not a salesman,” he chuckled. “We received a call from this residence reporting you were abducted by a UFO.”

“World War Two is over,” I said. “German’s are the only aliens I’ve seen.”

“Thanks for your time,” he said, tipping his hat.

I only told my wife. There’s more rope left in the shed, I know a lonely road and the perfect place to dig another grave.


Spring Secret by Kerry E.B. Black

She drapes herself in camouflage, dulls her shine and silences her song. Her work for this season involves subtlety. Secrecy. Safety.

Her man, meanwhile, puffs out his chest, proud in dress, vibrant of personality. He greets each new morning with whistles and a sparkle in his unfathomable eyes. Those who care to look – to really observe – would notice the depths he disguises with joviality. For he participates in her secret. Cleverly, he uses noticeability to distract would-be assassins. He misleads the eye like a master magician. He sings out his presence, a decoy designed to protect what will hatch.


Secrets Are Too Hard Keep by Sadje

With a loud noise the crystal vase shattered. Both the sisters playing in the room turned pale, mom would be so very angry. This was her prized possession.

Sandy hurried and got the brush and the dustpan. In minutes, all evidence had been gotten rid of. Now how to tell Mother?

It was a stroke of good luck that they had guests that day. And somehow Mom never noticed the missing vase.

On her deathbed, Mom smiled weakly at both her daughters, “you thought I never noticed that the vase was broken, missing? I kept your secret till today”


The Secret Marriage by Margaret G. Hanna

“How was your visit with Claire?”
“Fine, Mother. We had a good time.”
“Paignton’s a long way from Penzance, just to go for a few days. Is she married yet? Where did you stay?”
“No, she’s not, and I stayed with her at her boarding house.”
“What did you do? I hope you didn’t get into any trouble.”
“No, Mother, we didn’t. We did the usual, walked on the beach, shopped at Rossiters, had tea, talked, went to the Paignton Picture House.”
My sister smiled. She knew whom I had met in Paignton and why. And she wasn’t telling.


Our Secret by Joanne Fisher

“Brianna, I feel so bad about it. I should go to the police and confess.” Sylvia said.

“You didn’t mean to kill Dave, it was self-defence.” I replied.

“But people will notice he’s missing.”

“He was a drunk who beat you regularly. No one’s going to miss him. They should give you a medal.” I told her.

“Still, I think I should tell the police…”

“I helped you bury his body. I’ll be arrested as an accomplice.”

“I won’t tell them about you.”

“They’ll find out.” I insisted.

I watched her leave. This could be a problem, I thought.


Secrets Between Them by Jennifer Russo

A perfect marriage? Almost… Just a few idiosyncrasies that marred the otherwise harmonious existence between them. A little coolness at the other’s touch. A snappy retort at the other’s constructive criticism. If only they had disclosed the demons of their past. [Skeletons lurking beneath the surface. Their grins wide and mouths gaping with stories untold.]

Kindred spirits they were, yet the reticent couple never knew that their partner had endured an upbringing of comparable unfortunate circumstances. A deeper connection and great empathy would the couple have realized from a simple transaction of shared secrets. [Nothing is simple about secrets.]


An Excellent Secret by JulesPaige

The brides’ Mother was the ‘Momzilla’ planning her younger daughters’ wedding. The bride knew that the whole ‘affair’ wasn’t really for her or her groom, it was for her parents. The groom broke at least one tradition. If he couldn’t see the bride’s wedding gown before the wedding only he and the groomsman were going to know what their tuxes were going to be like. Mother wasn’t at all pleased, the bride had to hide her giggling. It was an excellent secret.

The wedding photos were very picturesque. Even with the slight snarl and teeth gnashing from the “Momzilla”.


Sitting on a Secret by Charli Mills

I’m an impatient loon on a nest. By rules I never set, I must sit. And sit, and sit, and sit. Sure, my partner does his fair share of sitting, giving me a break, and covering our secret. He spends his hours in solitude, avoiding the gossipers. We both thrill to the animated stories of Mink, but if Mink knew our secret, it would be his next tale. No way Eagle can know. None of us on the lake trust that bully and his friend. They’re so worried about extinction they forget their advantage over us. Over our secret.


Secretive Writing Blocks (Part I) by D. Avery

“Hey, Pepe.”
“Ello Keed. What ees up wid you?”
“Havin trouble with the prompt. Thought mebbe you’d have some ideas. Cause yer so secretory an all.”
“Gotta write a secret story. Yer kinda a expert on secretion.”
“Keed, Mees Shorty said ‘secret’. You seem to be theenking ‘secrete’.”
“Oh. Shift. Well what d’ya s’ppose her secret is?”
“Dat ees hard to say. She ees a very open person, no? Not secretive.”
“Don’t like secrets Pepe. Ain’t good at keepin em, either.”
“I am de same way Keed. No matter how hard I try I always speel de beans.”


Secretive Writing Blocks (Part II) by D. Avery

“Hey there Kid. Hello Pepe.”
“Hey, Frankie.”
“Mees Frankie, Keed ees haveeng trouble writing a secret story.”
“Maybe Kid did write a secret story but just didn’t tell you. ‘Cause it’s a secret.”
“No, I haven’t Frankie. Gotta write a story bout a secret.”
“Intriguing problem Kid.”
“Do you know any secrets?”
“Yep. Lots.”
“Tell me.”
“Wouldn’t be a secret then, Kid. My lips are sealed.”
“How’d ya come ta know these secrets, Frankie?”
“Envelopes aren’t always sealed as tight as my lips. Tell ya what, Kid. I’ll do yer writin fer ya this week. It’ll be our secret.”


Sticky Fingers: Secretive Writing Blocks (Part III) by D. Avery

“I cain’t let ya do my writin fer me Frankie, thanks anyway. I’m gonna head back inta the bunkhouse an try an git something down. Now, where’s that key? Pal got me some plastic pig poop ta hide the key in. Aw, there it is. Oof. Nope.”
“The door’s locked?!”
“Yeah, when I was out travelin the world I saw that a lot a folks lock their doors when they’re out.”
“Why? Ya hidin secrets in there?”
“No. It’s jist what folks do. Mebbe this’un. Ick. This un’s not plastic either.”
“Wanna know a secret Kid? Door ain’t locked.”


Secretive Writing Blocks (Part IV) by D. Avery

“Heehee. Keed. Dat ees funny how you keep putteeng your hands into de poop of your peeg.”
“Ain’t funny at all, Pepe. I’m swearin you an Frankie ta secrecy.”
“You said you deed not like secrets.”
“Yeah, Kid. Nuthin ta hide.”
“Come on, you two. This’s embarassin.”
“Which part, Kid, that ya put yer fingers in pig poop or that ya shut yer front door ta all yer friends here at the ranch. Don’t ya trust us?”
“Of course I do. It’s just that…”
“Kid, here’s a secret ta happy livin: keep an open door an a open heart.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

May 30: Story Challenge in 99-words

Ah, I have returned to the Keweenaw, fully refreshed from my two weeks in Vermont. Readjustment was bumpy but nothing rough. One of my suitcases — the one near max weight fully loaded with books and rocks — took an extra day to get home. Todd did well on his own and I was able to get re-dialed into his unique mind frequency, much to my relief. Mause survived and is happy to have me back. The farm has rebounded and the farmers have happily prepared for market already. The Warrior Sisters are ready to regroup and new work is unfolding.

All is well.

Now, I’m going to tinker with dates! I had aligned the Challenges and Collections to my university class schedule, but since there is no more university, I’m going to switch it up to something that makes more sense to my new arrangement. Challenges will now go out on Tuesdays with the corresponding Collection publishing the following week on Thursdays. Writers will have a full week to submit. If you need clarification, post in the comments below.

On my final day in Vermont, I wrote what I had intended to be the next Challenge post. When I arrived home, not only had I lost one suitcase, the internet disappeared, too! I tried again on Monday before I realized it was a bigger problem than resetting the modem. But I had spent most of the day at the farm and had to wait until Tuesday (today) to call it in. Happily, both internet and missing suitcase returned to Roberts Street. It also provided some reflection time as I mapped out my new calendar of days.

The latest challenge prompt is based on a short essay from Vermont — not a place where I was born, but certainly a place that gives me roots. I can’t thank Kid & Pal’s author enough for the shared space to refresh my roots and wet my paddle when needed. My heart is filled with gratitude for great days past and great days to come. Vermont is a place that calls writers home — some of my literary heroes have summered or lived here from Annie Proulx to Wallace Stegner; some of my favorite modern writers live on a shared knoll above a a lake beneath a wooded mountain.

A Two-Slap Morning

Coffee in bed is a treat but even better when the coffee arrives in a travel mug. It means we are going out on the lake below the knoll. A home-waters paddle. Dede loans me a pair of Muck Boots because I’ll be entering the lake before the kayak. It’s been cold in the mornings, dipping below freezing at night. My feet will stay warm and dry in the boots.

We glide into the water, the morning sky, woods, and mountain mirrored on the surface. The leaves are so newly unfurled they are near-neon green. We alert to a rustling along the shoreline and Dede spots a mink with a coat so dark brown as to be a slinking shadow. She slips into a burrow and we glide past. Curious critters, almost as curious as two writers keen to see what there is to see. Mink paces us and we paddle as she gambols along the shore.

We all pause at a point of land shaved of grass and shrubs — a lakehouse lawn. We sip coffee and watch Mink watch Robin. Robin peeps softly as if she feels the presence of a predator. We float and wait. Mink makes her move, blasting out of the brush. Robin flaps and lifts up, up, up, escaping a breakfast she was to be featured as the main course. Exposed, Mink bounds away in arcing leaps and leaves our company.

We continue on, alert to the next critter or winged being to share sips of coffee.

At the mouth of the cove where the loons guard their two eggs, we veer away. Loon parents take turns nesting unless they both feel the need to protect their area so we don’t want to disturb them. It’s been years since they’ve had a successful hatch. This year, they are one of the earliest pairs to nest. Other lakes and ponds have paired loons, but not yet on nests. Dede’s sharp eyes catch movement gliding across the still water. A beaver, leaving a tell-tale v-wake.

I set down my coffee and paddle hard. I want to see Beaver. All around, I see the work of this industrious mammal — the lodge is at the mouth of the cove, and on all our paddles we see dams, chewed stumps, food piles, and beaver sticks. If it is Beaver, it will be my first sighting. Out West and even in the Keweenaw, they remain elusive. As we gain on Beaver, she slaps us a warning. My first beaver slap!

Whenever beavers feel threatened or need to warn others in their lodge or community, they hit the water with a hearty smack. I’m so delighted. I pause and return to my coffee, scanning to see where Beaver might emerge. After her tail slap, she dives. Her head pops up again and the chase resumes. we only want to watch her, but she’s had enough and Beaver warns us to back off a second time.

The day has barely begun and twice already I’ve been beaver slapped. It’s going to be a great day of many.

May 30, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a beaver slap. It can be an actual tail slap warning on the water or an imitation. Is a beaver slap the name of something — a new type of burger, perfume, or a sci-fi gadget? Take ecological and poetic licenses. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 5, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

High Water Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

High Water by Joanne Fisher

It was called High Water: a deep blue liquid that gave a higher state of consciousness. Some users became aware of the web of life surrounding them, and having previously felt cut-off, became more connected to it. Others found themselves wandering around the cosmos among the stars…

The Authorities, of course, wouldn’t stand for this, and so stamped out its usage wherever they could find it. However, those who became reconnected to nature continued a deeper symbiosis with everything around them, while others gained a more profound understanding of the Universe’s workings. Not even the Authorities could stop that.


Beware the Nibiinaabe by Colleen M. Chesebro

Along the river where the ancient one’s sleep, the rise and fall of the high water follows the path of the white orb’s ascension into the night sky.

“The old mother is breathing,” say the elders.

“Watch out for the Nibiinaabe,” say our mothers.

On nights when the moon is full and the water high, water sprites rise from the river’s depths to sing ballads to coax the weary travelers to join them below.

The Nibiinaabe wear their hair long and below their waist’s sparkle silver scales.

If you see them, clap your hands! Loud noises frighten them away!


The Flood by C. E. Ayr

It’s been raining non-stop for almost six weeks now.
The valleys and fields are long flooded, but still we frolic on the hilltops.
We don’t care about getting wet, and we have to run free.
Even more than the great cats, the dancing gazelles, the mighty buffalo, we treasure our liberty.
Almost every other creature has succumbed to his promises, but we don’t believe him.
We see the messages left in the stones as they search everywhere.
But we’ll never be caged in a boat, no matter what Noah says.
We are different.
We are special.
We are unicorns.


Ocean Blue Sky by Sweeter Than Nothing

Maya smiled as she drifted along on a cloud in a sea of ocean blue sky, up above the world so high, without a care in sight she luxuriated in soft starlight.

A pink dolphin crashed through her cloud making her laugh as it span and span just for her before disappearing back into the depths of the sky below her.

Jellyfish bobbed and dipped and ebbed along with her as she wafted up and down.

In the distance, a pirate ship let loose a cannon in a flash of thunder and lightning.

Back on earth, her coma continued…


Dramatically Different by Reena Saxena

They are penalized for driving into forbidden territory. The sky does not like intruders. It’s already bent at the horizon with the weight of planetary motion, and satellites only serve to increase the load.

There was no concept of building capacity when the drama started with a bang, and has not stopped ever since.

It’s not about hell or high water, but the crowds thronging the gates to Heaven – without even knowing what’s inside.

Meanwhile, fire and ether struggle to reconstitute themselves. Species on planets have cloned themselves in different formats.

The drama of self-programmed extinction will follow soon.


Biding Time by Sadje

Lying on its side the small fishing boat is biding time. When the tide come in and it’s high water, the waves will lift her, right her, and make her ready to sail again.

Till then it quietly tolerates the jibes and taunts of bigger boats, the yachts, and the sailboats who strut through the sea waves and look disdainful at her.

When she is in the sea, rowed by the strong arms of her master, there is no one to touch her in dexterity or the amount of fish she brings in. She’s the ‘Sea Queen’ after all!


Dropping Away by Shari Marshall

I watch it rise, the bottom seemingly dropping away. It’s a semitransparent blue, deceiving in its deadliness. Its apparent transparency is a trick of nature to draw in unsuspecting prey because although you can see the immediate area before you the vastness of its reach is extraordinary. The immensity allows undetectable threats to surface or swarm. But it calls to you, a siren song promising cool refreshingness. And it can provide either fun or relaxation depending on your need. Your subconscious whispers, the tide is rising. Don’t go deeper! Heedless, you jump with both feet into the high water.


In Heaven And Hell by Hugh W. Roberts

Amid the chaos of the rising floodwaters, Anne and Fiona found themselves stranded on a rooftop.

They’d been strangers before, but now they clung to each other for survival.

As the water crept closer, they discussed their lives and dreams, finding unexpected commonalities. They shared stories of heartbreak and triumph. It wasn’t long before they silently fell in love with each other.

They spent the night on the rooftop, holding each other tightly as the water raged below.

When the rescue boats arrived, they stepped into a new world, hand in hand, ready to face whatever came their way.


And Then The Dutch by Geoff Le Pard

After selling Gouda futures led to their exile, a group of Dutch miscreants reached Little Tittweaking. Their descendant, the footwear entrepreneur, Kit Ten Heels was close to death, her soul worn out and her staff ancient: a load of old cobblers in fact. She approached her last, a present from her father for her 21st, and was assaulted by another attack of the sorrows. The only thing to do with sorrows was to drown them. She left her money to the High Water society to use its resources to end the scourge of recurrent sorrows. Content, she left for heel.


Astronomical Aquatic Assessment Blues by Bill Engleson

“It ain’t exactly Venice.
speakin’ of a high-water menace.”
Farmer Joe knew of what he spoke,
Rivers risin’, beaver dam broke.

I really wanted to play tennis
down in the holler where we once grew lettuce;
Leafy greens, full-bodied, two feet tall,
Tennis, maybe Pickleball.

Waters risin’, that’s a sure enough fact.
Hope it’s an ungodly act.
Paid the beavers in purloined beaver pelts
not thinkin’ of the high mountain melts.

I ain’t Sam Clemens or old Mark Twain-
only water I favor’s a shower of rain.
99 word’s all I am allowed;
Oops, here come another darn cloud.


How is the High Water? Duane L Herrmann

With a grandbaby a few months old, I went on a trip with the family. We stopped at Rock Bridge State Park, where my daughter (now mother) and her brother had enjoyed playing as children. There is a wooden walkway among tree tops and a deep, very cold hole at the mouth of a cave that circles back to the hole. The cave has a stream. My daughter and her sons went into the cave. I stayed outside with the baby. Young men came out from the other side with clothes drenched. How much water, I asked. “Nipple deep.”


Downed Crown Water Bound by JulesPaige

Gonna have some high water with ’bout six days straight of rain. And before that mighty winds knocked a tree all the way across the creek. So far no clogs, not sure if that deflated soccer ball, (not Wilson from the stranded island fame) has made it over the lower trunk part.

a maze of branches
in partial leafing, sag with
murky water weight

We’re gonna haveta ‘Science the heck’ out of fishing that tree outta the creek. Hooking up winches, come-a-longs, via battery and man power. Once the wood dries maybe we can burn it in the hearth.


Stuck by Simon

The Ship was coming
Closer to the land
Slowly her racing heart
Calms down like cold water
Tired eyes began to glow
Rising hope under moon light
Light of hope, a sign of her Life coming
On it’s way, her life, her hope, her everything
Oh wait! Where is her Flag of Hope?
There! The flag waving like it has life
White and bright like beautiful daisy
She began preparing medicines
To apply on the dried wounds
Her Son will remember the war
She will remember the days
Of hope, love, the only wish
To see her son alive.


Romancing the Bridge by Charli Mills

The small-town newspaper splashed Clay’s image across the front page. The headline reads, “Local Veteran Saves Bridge.” He stood in the freezing trickle of water. High water and pressure built up behind a wall of fragmented ice. An early Montana thaw caught beneath the bridge. In the photo, he holds a crowbar overhead, biceps bulging from beneath a worn Army t-shirt. Sunglasses hide his eyes. Clay’s not worried. He was trained for events like these. Later, his children would find the photo in a frame neighbors gave his wife with “Fabio” scrawled across the bottom of the newspaper clipping.


The Year the Bridge Went Out by Margaret G. Hanna

“Ice’s going!”

Like moths to a flame, everyone ran to watch Pinto Creek, now a raging torrent. The rushing water heaved the thick ice which cracked and began to move toward the little bridge. Giant slabs rushed under the bridge but the rising water kept pushing them higher.

BAM! A floe rammed the bridge. It shuddered.

“Hope the bridge holds.”

The bridge became a dam, ice piling up against it till it could no longer bear the weight. It shuddered, then with a piercing shriek, twisted loose of its moorings, and was gone.

“How do we get to town?”


Entrapment by E.A. Colquitt

The snow-white cliffs had been bound in magic; it made them perfectly, unnaturally sheer.

As a result, the usually indomitable ocean bowed to them, for a change. Its waves moved by the wall of rock like some mechanical contraption’s spirit-level gauges: filling and emptying and filling again.

High tide meant high water. Walking the clifftop path, you could hear the ocean breathing mere metres away – plus a few feet below.

Of course, this was only possible on calm days. Storms brought nothing except the water crashing and roaring, spray skimming the top: the ocean, longing to be set free.


The Determination of Youth by Chel Owens

Water. People who lived by water -the ocean, a lake, or a wide river- knew water. People who lived by water loved it. They were not terrified by it.

Not so, me.

Landlocked. I did not live by water; did not know water. I did not love it. I was terrified by it.

I thought this; as I inched, grasping, toward my parents. My feet; then toes; then tiptoes felt the pool floor drop, my face cresting the water’s surface. I saw their bobbing forms.

I think.

I think I saw them, just before water drowned them from view.


Here’s Lookin At You Kid by D. Avery

“Kid! Yer back!”

“Hey Pal. Frankie, good ta see ya.”

“Good ta see you, Kid. Been keepin an eye out fer ya.”

“I see that. Yer sportin a eyepatch. Where’s yer prosthetic eye?”

“At the bunkhouse soakin in a highball glass. Spring cleanin.”

“Ah, hell, Frankie, I drank yer eye water. Thought thet was a ice cube in there.”

“Ha! Thinkin ya need ta git yer eyes checked, Pal.”

“Mebbe, Kid. I’ll tell ya though, yer sure a sight fer sore eyes. Ya done seein the world?”

“Nope. But I’m gonna view it from right here at Carrot Ranch.”


99 in Time by D. Avery

“Whoa. Stop. Backup. Ya mean ta tell me the prompt is ‘high water’? Not ‘eye water’?”

“Thinkin ya might git yer ears checked too, Pal. Okay, let’s respond ta this prompt so’s I kin git cleaned up an git rested from my travelin. Me an Curly’s hog-tired. Hey, where is Curly?”

“Look there, Kid. She’s down with her beaver friends, a-swimmin an a-wallowin in the pond.”

“Dam, them beavers has been busy! They’ve expanded the pond.”

“Yep. There’s some high water there now. Hey!”

“Yep. Check. Soon’s the word counts finished I’m headin in ta the bunkhouse.”

“G’night Kid.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

May 9: Story Challenge in 99-words

A big horse fly buzzes from one window to the next. Each time the winged intruder hits a window, the glass makes a thunking pop. I duck as buzzing nears my desk. Why do flies bust down the doors to get inside only to frantically hunt for ways to escape?

Like a disoriented fly, I carry armloads of books downstairs from my Finlandia office. Profs arrive with boxes and I wonder why I thought I could do this task without containment. Books scatter in disarray in my truck.

Each passing in the hall illicits, “What next for you?”

“I don’t know,” is the common response. A few profs have already found new positions. One is heading to Montana. A part of me that will always feel home pull from out West wants to load my stuff in his truck and blow out of town.

The impulse is “flight.” Avoidance of the work it takes to begin again. Seriously, how many beginnings do I get?

When I pull up to my home on Roberts Street, I let the front garden soothe my jangly nerves. I’m aware of the day, of the lateness of my post, of all responsibilities, but I’m so off my schedule, I can’t remember what Tuesday means. So I examine my emerging flowers and let nature calm me, remind me that Tuesday doesn’t have to mean anything.

I’m in awe of life. Tarragon spears the soil with red stalks. Delphinium rounds into a bushy pile of fresh leaf salad. Scraggly lavender spreads. Tulips unfurl fancy wavy blades. One green stick announces the survival of Todd’s tea-cup rose. Phlox greens. Glories of the snow pop their purple heads from the Poet Tree’s leaf litter. Trout lily leaves blend as effortlessly as a trout hiding in a stream. And succulents appear like a plant mosaic among Gratiot beach flagstones, a work of nature’s art. Not only does life find a way, it signals the Beauty Way.

It’s in these moments I find what I need to. Reminders. Encouragement. Wonder.

Today, I interacted with my Finlandia staff more than usual. Everyone wanted to connect, use nostalgia to sooth our disorientation. We paused to comment on the dismantling of offices, some decades old. We didn’t share stories, we made thunking pops as we edged around desks and book cases in the stairwell. Good will toward humanity hung in the air like a living thing between us and you had to be in that hall at that moment to catch it. The campus was a desert. The parking lot empty but for our trucks. I lingered when I turned in my office key, knowing the door was not only closed but locked. We’d all depart in different directions.

At home, I had legal papers to contend with, although with no key and the assurance of my final check on Friday, I don’t think the papers matter. Yet, I set them aside in case I don’t get paid and have to file a claim. Another legal document I signed yesterday in hopes of extending a contract for freelance work. I feel untethered between incomes. But it’s good. Theoretically. On paper. Even the timing is set to work out.

Meanwhile, I’m finding a flow like my garden and visiting fly. Since October, I’ve been on a journey to explore mythic imagination with Sharon Blackie as a guide. It’s my Hagitude work. Today’s lesson makes sense to me: Death.

She looks back over her life, understanding cause and effect, and takes responsibility for
her past actions and beliefs – the double-edged sword of consequences – in order to ensure a
truer approach to the future (Justice). In order to carry on, the Fool must learn to let go, and
enter the Underworld (the Hanged Man). This can represent a period that is difficult to endure:
an existential crisis, a challenge, a loss, a breaking.

The Fool’s Journey by Sharon Blackie

Life and death are one. We live as if death is the end, but in truth, we all experience little deaths. Women in particular have a season of deaths. The child dies so the maiden lives; the maiden dies so the hag lives; the hag dies so her bones join the ancestors to feed the earth for the next generations. It’s like Jung’s theory of Wholeness — the light and shadow of our many selves must integrate into a Wholeness to actualize the Self. We live in the tension created between the duality of life and death.

Over the weekend, we paid a quick trip to Wisconsin to see our son and his wife before his sabbatical. They leave for Germany and Switzerland in two weeks. All three of our grown kids are facing major life changes and we want to be involved in their lives throughout the ups and downs. I feel like I’m sitting on a keg of secrets in the meantime. But they are not mine, so sit I must. Life is changing for many of us. The joke is that life is always changing and none of us get to escape consequences. We all get sequels.

My garden is different this year. And I want to re-home the rambling roses. All in due course. Sprouts emerge all over Carrot Ranch. Some of you have entered your writing and await news. Some of you are poised to publish more books. It’s hard to wait in the inbetween stages. I want to snap my fingers and be a hag. But the process is not done with me. I die my little deaths and wonder what nature will think of my next emergence.

It’s no secret that I have plans for Carrot Ranch and expanding my veteran work into my literary teaching goals. I’m excited to be working with Colleen on the first Around the Campfire literary journal we’ll publish under Gitty Up Press (be sure to check out the details for submission). I have a lot of details to point in the direction of my North Star this week, but then…

…it’s Vermont time! Loons, paddling, campfires. As much as D. Avery can put up with from me. I’ll be in full smiley mode by the time my plane lands, ready to let go the endings, and play until the new beginnings take shape. Then, I’ll return to Roberts Street to tend the gardens and possibilities. I’m grateful for all the beginnings I get.

This post is late, but so will it’s collection be. I’ve extended the prompt deadline to May 23 and will post the Collection on May 30. The next Challlenge posts May 29. That will give you time to also work on submissions to Around the Campfire (wink, wink). I’ll return refreshed, on the other side of closure, and in full frontal door opening mode. Then, I’ll let you in on a secret!

May 9, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about two who cankeep a secret. Is the secret between them or is one keeping a secret from the other. Who are they? What remains unknown? What is revealed? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. EXTENDED DEADLINE: Submit by May 23, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

The Color of Hope Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

Hope is a Color by Nancy Brady

Hope is a color.
Hope is violet–for the crocuses, the first to bloom,
Hope is indigo—for the clouds at twilight
Hope is blue—for the sky above,
Hope is green—for the grass in spring,
Hope is yellow—for the sun which shines,
Hope is orange—for pumpkins and its pies
Hope is red—for the maple’s leaves in the fall
Hope is white—pure and clean
And with summer rain showers, which are followed by the sun
It becomes a rainbow,
which is full of color, full of dreams, and full of imagination.
Hope is color.


The Color of Hope by Joanne Fisher

The starship came out of the jump. It was so heavily damaged it was doubtful it could do another.

“SARA, what do you see?” Jeva asked the ship’s computer.

“There is a red planet ahead of us. It’s not suitable for life, Captain.” Jeva’s heart sank.

“You don’t have to call me Captain.” Jeva reminded SARA.

“You are last sentient being still alive, so you are designated captain.” SARA informed her. “There is another planet.”

Jeva looked at the screen. In the distance a blue planet slowly came into view. For Jeva, blue meant hope.


A Clarified Mosaic by Gary A. Wilson

As a child I wanted to know things but both details and a bigger picture of life; good and evil, right and wrong, through my young eyes were cloudy and frustrating to contemplate.

School felt inefficient but certain people and certain books taught patience and calmly led me forward.
Rules of economics, science, sociology, logic, even theology grew to allow careful peeling away strips of confusion like layered strips of wax-paper, revealing portions of obscured truth.

Decades later, my hope is knowing that beneath these remaining metaphorical strips lies a multi-colored mosaic that explains everything I need to know.


The Color of Hope by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Angus Swanson loved Maribel McIntyre
From near and afar
Since the beginning of time and every moment since
He was a yearbook photographer
She student editor on The Plains Weekly News.
Angus was cool and quiet
Mary the center of every broil

He attended Instate University,
Still waters running deep
She flew away to Farcoast College
Climbed ivory towers, slew dragons overseas
Marriage crashed and burned.
No children.
Longing for rolling cornfields, big skies,
The comfort of tiny minnows
Circling cool brindled shallows.

Did he have reason to hope she’d recognize him?
Her answering rosy blush sparked hope.


Where There Is Hope by Hugh W. Roberts

As the Pride Parade approached, the city streets were awash with every rainbow colour. But for Tim, a young, closeted bisexual man, only one colour truly embodied the spirit of hope – Green. It was the colour of his first love’s eyes and the hope he carried for a world that accepted and celebrated all identities.

As he watched the march, he knew he was not alone. Many diversities watched the parade while waving rainbow flags. Together, they would fight for a future where every colour of love was accepted.

Hope always won over the hatred for being different.


Have Hope by Duane L Herrmann

“Have hope.” A simple statement. Impossible. Sometimes. When the clouds of life are roiling about, engulfing, obscuring all around – there is no hope. So it seems. Hope is not from outside. Hope is that spark inside you that something will change, that something will be different, that something will BE that is not now. That is hope.

Change happens. We know, but forget – until change happens. Then we value that change on how it reinforces self, or not. If it’s uncomfortable we decide: “bad.” Maybe “bad” becomes the impetus for something unknown now that becomes GREAT.


New England Colors of Hope by Sue Spitulnik

A yellow sun, blue sky day
Purple, orange, and white crocus bloom
Hope for a warm spring
Children laughing, playing on new-mown grass
Green, everything is green for a time
Hope for a good harvesting season
The yellow and green squash and beans
The pink and orange-centered melons
The cucumbers and golden onions
The gold, red, and yellow leaves of autumn
The red geranium continues to bloom
Hope for a good hunting season
Skies turn grey, and the sun hides
White snow falls
Hope for an exhilarating ski season
The snow is again melting
And purple crocus burst forth


Color of Hope by D. Avery

“Why so sad?” Gloria sat across from me in our booth.

I told Gloria how I’d ruined the rainbow picture I’d tried to make for her. The colors had smeared as I painted, and the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. Now her picture looked like mud.

“That’s the color of hope, Penelope.”

“That’s crazy.” I shouldn’t have said that, but Gloria laughed, then reminded me that my picture contained all the colors of the rainbow.

Then we painted plants growing from rich brown soil, flowers the color of the rainbow.

Gloria’s picture was beautiful.


Sliding Down by Diana Coombes

Hope was like a game of snakes and ladders. One day, sliding down a snake scared of what you might find at the bottom. Another, you can climb out, learning from mistakes. Today was a ladder sort of day. She found herself hoping to write a play.

The theme snakes and ladders.

Could she do it? She didn’t know, but it was worth having a go. She could learn her skills from her playwriting course. It was a great opportunity. She typed in the first sentence – Hope, she had been named by her brother, she couldn’t let him down.


Color of Hope by Sadje

She was gradually losing her sight. What was once sharp and clear was now blurry and out of focus. She had the means to get treated but the doctors she consulted, didn’t have the answer she wanted. They told her to make peace with this coming disability as there was no option to cure it.

She walked among the spring flowers to imprint their beautiful colors of hope onto her mind forever. She saw beautiful works of art to absorb their beauty in her heart.

When she finally lost her sight, she had beautiful memories forever in her heart.


Painting The Town What? by Geoff Le Pard

Hope Springs ran Little Tittweaking’s tanning salon. She was conscientious, well-liked, non-judgmental and colour blind. She trialled every new product herself on the assumption people would prefer to see all their options displayed before buying. Her tones were legendary and on only one occasion did anyone follow her lead. Neil Downe, the local decorator was hard-working, reasonably accurate and deaf. When the Mayor commissioned Neil to repaint the council chambers, he asked for the colour of hops, to celebrate the Town’s brewery patron. The melange of oranges, umbers, sunsets and carotene was blamed for the fiery meetings that followed.


Flag by Simon

The Ship was coming
Closer to the land
Slowly her racing heart
Calms down like cold water
Tired eyes began to glow
Rising hope under moon light
Light of hope, a sign of her Life coming
On it’s way, her life, her hope, her everything
Oh wait! Where is her Flag of Hope?
There! The flag waving like it has life
White and bright like beautiful daisy
She began preparing medicines
To apply on the dried wounds
Her Son will remember the war
She will remember the days
Of hope, love, the only wish
To see her son alive.


Bridging The Gap by Rowena Curtin

“One day, I’ll jump off The Gap,” Martin muttered throwing up half a bottle of vodka. Equally drunk and disillusioned, no one battered an eyelid.

Now, they’d all gone to uni, while Martin still drifted in between the lines and beyond a diagnosis.

“Take these,” his GP said.

“How many at once?” He’d been tempted but didn’t ask.

Today was it, but first his last supper… fish and chips from Doyle’s.

Sitting in the park… perfect blue skies, Sydney Harbour, rainbow lorikeets flying and chirping in the sun.

Nothing had changed. Yet it had.

Martin caught the bus home.


A True Tale of 1814 by Gordon Le Pard

“No it’s too dangerous. If my men are caught they would be taken prisoner, you would be murdered.”

The tall black man was insistent. “When we saw your colours, it gave us hope. You freed us, my family are no longer slaves. We know what you are planning and can help, we can guide you, we can let you know where the Americans are.”

Admiral Cochrane smiled and nodded.

“You are very brave, any of your men who wish to join us can – sergeant.”

The ex-slaves of the Colonial Marine guided the army to Washington – and burnt it!


Golden Hope by Nicole Horlings

His hacking cough echoed in the mine tunnel. He set down his pickaxe and waited for the dust to settle, instead using his empty hands to pull up his grimy shirt to cover his mouth, serving as a makeshift air filter. When the air seemed a bit less hazy in the light of his lantern, he grabbed his pickaxe again, once more releasing settled dust into the air as he chipped away at the rock.

The cycle repeated a few more times.

Finally, a stroke of his pickaxe revealed a glint of gold, and his grim face steadily brightened.


Gold by C. E. Ayr

Every morning I waken early to watch the sun’s golden rays creep over the headland and skip happily across the calm waters of the bay towards me.
Bathed in its glow, I resolve that today I’ll do it.
I’ll make the call.
But, as the day progresses, I lose confidence, unsure of how you’ll react.
Actually, the truth is that I’m afraid of your reaction.
Of more rejection, more pain.
So, as the sun drops behind the western hills, taking hope with it, I wrap myself in a blanket of loneliness and promise, again, that tomorrow will be different.


Hope by Sweeter Than Nothing

I never had much hope, life beat it out of me. Who was I to dream and wish? A worthless, nothing, scumbag begging for deaths relief.

Rejected, neglected, and alone.

Until I met you, that is.

Your work rough hands, put my fragile shards back together. Your patience and kindness refilled my empty soul. Your soft lips kissed every open wound without judgment, without shame.

After years of darkness, I saw dawn break in your eyes. Your eyes, the colour of hope- a sky so blue I can see myself flying in them, knowing you’ll catch me every time.


Infant Eyes by Kerry E.B. Black

Uncomplicated pregnancy didn’t guarantee an uneventful delivery. Nor did it ensure the health of mother or child.

Ken, the new father of a well-formed but unresponsive infant knelt, holding his dazed wife’s hand. His lips pushed prayers to Heaven.

Tears trembled on her lashes without falling, a threatened storm held at bay by some ineffable emotion. The couple held their breath as the delivery team labored to save their newborn. Layla, the mom, concentrated, straining different muscles than delivery. Heartbeats aligned. Mind noted every action. Frozen, until that precious first cry danced with the blue of finally-opened infant eyes.


Rainbow in a Cave by Reena Saxena

My pup refuses to jump from the bed, and enjoys the scenario perched on his high spot. His sibling is busy exploring dark corners to find a treasure (or so she thinks) she can flaunt to beat him at the game.

Golden ambitions make some people focus on preservation, more than exploration. The colour of hope is dark for others, if they aim at tearing darkness apart to reveal a multitude of colours. It’s all about having a choice for yourself, not denying something to others.

I believe my rainbow is hidden in a dark cave, where solitude reigns.


Hope is an Ash-hued Sky by Anne Goodwin

Every day refreshing the weather app. Every day a parade of yellow suns. Eight hours on the moors tomorrow without even a tree for shade. Tugging her shirt sleeves down to her fingertips. Sandwiches tasting of sunscreen. Her wide-brimmed hat blinkering her view.

“I suppose you’re not likely to be pregnant,” said the pharmacist. “But be careful. Skin cancer’s a serious risk.”

It’s late when she wakes, her inner clock confused by the sallow light. She takes her tablets, skips her blood pressure, runs to the shower. Locking her door, she looks skyward, smiles at the glorious ashen hue.


Kaleidoscope by Shari Marshall

‘It’s beyond my scope.’


‘The colour of hope.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘Not my bailiwick. I’m more into day-to-day practicalities. You know. What’s for dinner. Do we have clean sheets.’

‘You’re slightly off topic.’

‘I don’t think so. Clean sheets are important. Mine are white.’

‘There are sheets of color. You do know that, right?’

‘Well of course I do. And if I were permitted a choice, I would have cool blue sheets. Or possibly ocean sand orange. I can see myself sleeping by the sea on those ginger threads.’

‘But you have no choice?’

‘The price of love. Submission.’


Hope by Ladyleemanila

Hope is the force that keeps us trying
It is a soothing guide that gives colour
A hidden mission to prove our own valour
Gives us all the luck and love so undying

Hope is light as a feather and keeps us flying
Not just seven, but makes life multicolour
Hope is the force that keeps us trying
It is a soothing guide that gives colour

Hope is a label we like applying
Perhaps a miracle to cure our pallor
Like watching telly in technicolour
Between joy or grief we’re vying
Hope is the force that keeps us trying


What Color is Hope? by Miss Judy

Life is a colorful journey filled with signs of hope.
Yellow for birth – a new day, year, season – the golden glow of sunrise, the pedals on a spring daffodil, or the tiny finch at the feeder.

Grey for when all seems lost, without purpose – the misty shroud of a rainy day, baren countryside in winter, or a teaming sea against the rocky shore.

Blue for those times when all’s well – a serene country lake, a meandering mountain stream, or a sky dotted with cottonball clouds.

Green for strength that gives us the will to hope.


There’s Something, in the Ink of the Pink by Rockstar Girl

One by one they changed their written story
But never does the mind lose conscious on the thoughts we are thinking because any play on words can describe anything
And within the words we create for ourselves comes a voice inside of the story we are trying to fill and that all started with one true person and that was me and him in a love story but that could never erase each other’s namespace because without it there would be a blank of inkling of the color pink.


Come in White by Simon

We had a deal

What was that?

I asked her to come dressed in white, if she is in love with me

So she did come right?

That was complicated

Why? Is it a mixed color?



She came wearing white.

Well, that is positive, right?

She got upset.


I was possessive

What’s wrong with that?

I told her to come alone, but.. sigh…

But what? She came with someone you don’t like?

Yes, someone I hate!

Who was that?

Her Husband! I told her to come alone wearing white, but they both came in white. Damn!


Wise Black by JulesPaige

“…you wear black
perhaps a widow,
or for stealth…”

The Genving gently asked the Old woman; as if they were old friends. And perhaps they were. Momentarily each remembered in her own way when they were in their youth and the Genving was rescued by the old woman’s brother. The boy had been alerted of the other’s fall by his young sister.

The old woman said she wore black, hoped to show her power over man and beast. Then brought out the split bloodied rocks. “I’ve done ‘im in.”

“I owe you twice now, it seems,” said the Genving.


Rocky Road by D. Avery

“Hey Frankie. Got anuther postcard from Kid?”

“No, Pal.”

“Was hopin ta hear somethin. Hopin Kid was comin back soon.”

“Color them hopes a yers, Pal, so’s ya kin least cover the prompt this week. Go ahead. What color’s hope?”

“Hope is bay colored.”

“Bay colored? That’s a hoss color.”

“Yep. An there’s a bay hoss with a rider a-comin up the track.”

“What I spy with my one eye is a hog trottin through the grass.”

“Curly! Kid’s ridin in!”

“I’m hopin hope is granite colored Pal. ‘Cause I’m hopin ya don’t never take Kid fer granite agin.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

May 1: Story Challenge in 99-words

Come hell or high water, I was going to get two new pages up by May 1. And here it is, May 1, 2023. Before I share the pages, let me reflect on the state of our local fragipan.

Fragipan sounds like a fancy sweet you might buy at a bakery. In fact, I’m headed to Roy’s today to buy a box of sweets for my students. It’s time for pizza, sweets, lemonade, and a film. My final exam is a celebration of the joy teaching at Finlandia University brought me; a celebration of my time with students.

But fragipan is nothing sweet. It’s an impermeable layer in soil that can cause havoc for farmers beneath the topsoil. Due to the nature of the geology on the Keweenaw Peninsula and Michiga’s upper “mitten,” the fragipan is near the surface. At Ghost House Farm, it’s about 18 inches and causes problems in the spring.

High water first arrived when July came in April. The snow melted too fast and overflowed the fragipan, breaking up pavement, carving paths through sloped yards, and pooling on flat surfaces.

Ghost House Farm went from bathing goats to sharing pooping space with them. The kids (Allison and Drew, not the baby goats), set up a sawdust toilet in the goat barn when the water rendered their septic system unflushable. Then the greenhouse flooded. That event was more serious because Drew had finished planting the first of their tomato seedlings and baby tomatoes don’t like swimming in ice water. With some help, they dug out both sides of the greenhouse to create drain ditches. As if high water wasn’t problematic enough, their new heater won’t work when the temperatures dip to freezing.

But come … or … they are facing the farm dragons.

Saturday night, we all went to a Beltane Party and reenacted the running of the cattle through the fires of fertility using candles. It was the playful kind of fun we all needed to blow off steam. Drew, understandably, wasn’t ready to go home to milk the goats. Eager to hang out with my herd, I volunteered to go with Allison. It meant changing my clothes. No way a goat was going to lick my red dress or tractor heels (the kind of heels a person could wear to drive a tractor).

While I waited downstairs for Allison to change out of her party clothes, I watched a curious bubbler in the backyard. I asked my daughter about it and she said that was the sump pump from the basement. She checked the basement and realized the pump was leaking. It wasn’t high, yet. We took care of the goats and I even got to wrestle Chip (this is how unintended goat-licking happens). He headed for the oat bin and when I reached to press down the lid, he popped it off, shoving his beautiful beastly head into the grain. He stomped and pulled, I pushed and shoved and grabbed his head. Chip’s stinky, stinky head.

No matter how high the water gets, it won’t wash clean goat stench. That must be the hell part of high water. At least for me! Still, I love Chip and all his little chips off the old block. All six of his kids are adorable variations of him.

Later, after Allison dropped me off and picked up Drew, they checked the basement. It was wet but not alarming. By morning, though the pump stopped working, and high water could be measured in feet. A second sump pump worked. We don’t seem to have a break in the weather coming — cold or wet. Part of farming is taking unknown risks and adapting to changes. Maybe, we had less stress when humans lived closer to the land, understanding that problems bring possibilities. So far, the kids and goats and tomatoes are adapting.

Today, I can adapt, too. Rather than dwell on the loss of a job I was really enjoying, I’m turning to the future of possibilities.

Thus the pages. Gitty Up Press (New Page 1) is up and running, a tiny but mighty effort to offer publishing opportunities. Colleen Chesebro has announced the evolution of her Word Weaving Poetry Journal to make room for our Gitty Up Press collaboration — Around the Campfire Literary Journal (New Page 2). Submissions are now open! JulesPaige joins the team, helping with the submissions process. I’m excited about this new publication!

More will unfold as I continue to go through another transition. The curves aren’t so bad. And high water eventually recedes.

May 1, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about high water. Hell can be involved, or not. Is high water a new drink? A crisis in nature or the basement? Get in the flow. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 7, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Dark-Eyed Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

The Junco’s Enchanting Eyes by The Inkwell

The junco perched on a branch, its dark eyes glistening in the sunlight. It watched as the world below bustled with activity, a stark contrast to its peaceful haven in the trees. It wasn’t the junco’s small size or dull feathers that caught the attention of the passerby, but its eyes – a deep, rich shade of brown that seemed to glow with warmth and life. They were eyes that held stories, wisdom, and a quiet understanding of the world around them. And for a moment, the passerby stopped and admired the beauty of the junco’s simple yet stunning eyes.


The Black Eye Warning by Sue Spitulnik

Emma Blossom patted Rainbow on her head, then on the butt, a little too hard. The cat thumped her tail and gave the child a black stare. Emma ran to the kitchen, tugged on Tessa’s pants, “Gramma, Rainbow’s eyes turned black.”
Tessa looked at Emma. “Rainbow’s eyes turn black when she’s excited or angry. What were you doing?”

“Just pettin’ her.”

“Were you being rough?”


“Let’s go see.” Emma repeated her movements, too young to falsify.

Rainbow lifted her head, eyes turning black. She jumped off the couch and ran.

“Emma, Rainbow likes pets, not smacks.”

“OK, Gramma.”


First Day by Kerry E.B. Black

Jody dressed her dark-eyed beauty in her favorite princess dress. Ruby slippers sparkled at her feet. The little girl twirled, a ballerina superhero ready to rescue kittens-in-need.

Jody anticipated new friendships for her gal. “Have a great first day.”

At camp’s end, Jody waited in the pickup lane. Children rushed to their parents, but her girl slumped. The petals of her skirts drooped, and her lowered eyes pointed toward a telling pout. The child slammed her car door and buckled in.

“They said I was too ugly to be a princess.”

Jody gazed into the child’s teary eyes, uncomprehending.


Black-eyed Susan by Anne Goodwin

Helping her grandmother with the altar flowers, Susie saw a vision of her future. From that day onwards, she wore the colours of rudbeckia hirta: custard yellow and dark brown. Her mother envisaged her as a florist in the shopping mall. Her dad hoped she’d be a horticulturist in the glasshouse at Kew. Or perhaps she’d be an apiarist, the bees loved her scent.

In her teens, Susie turned weirder. Sleeping and eating in the garden, however foul the weather. Indoors, she kept her feet in a basin of water. Her destiny to morph into her namesake: a flower.


How I Like It by Gloria McBreen

Some call me a hermit. Others say I’m odd. They don’t want to know me and that’s how I like it.

I look at myself in the mirror. My grey bob hairstyle, almost invisible in comparison to the long dark locks it once was. My eyes like pools of coffee with no need for makeup around them.

Before I embraced this simple life, I lit up the big screens and adorned the pages of glamour magazines. I unwittingly paid for every friend I had. I was owned.

I’m not their dark-eyed beauty anymore and that’s how I like it.


Noir Eyes by Bill Engleson

I’d been hired to follow her.
Her picture didn’t do her justice.
Thing was, my client didn’t give a hoot about justice.
He wanted revenge.
“Don’t look her in eyes, Peeper,” he’d warned. “Follow her, see where she goes, who she sees, what’s she’s about. And for God’s sake, don’t stare into those cavernous eyes. You’ll be lost forever.”
I spent two days and nights on her tail.
She was a busy gal.
Hard-working Realtor by day; Vixen by night.
I had to get closer.
All the warnings in the world meant nothing.
I could feel the dark descend.


Purely Cosmetic by Geoff Le Pard

May Kover was Little Tittweaking’s go-to authority for the latest in fashion, influencing and youth culture. She dispensed her wisdom via her social media outlets and Godcasts (she was above a mere pod, which she thought made her sound fat or sea-based) and few ever saw her. Those that did worried about her appearance, those dark eyes. Was she the victim of abuse, did she have some mineral deficiency, was this the result of sleep deprivation, working too hard. The truth was, as with most things in Little Tittweaking more prosaic; she was just shit with the mascara brush.


Rabbit by D. Avery

I try not to tense up in my stillness. I wait, listening, controlling my breath so it doesn’t give me away.

Hunting’s about taking everything in, about knowing what to look for, and where. The winter hare, crouched perfectly still, disappears into the snow, invisible but for its shiny black eyes that watch the muzzle rise. At night, the racoon makes its escape into the tree branches, but its eyes, red in the searching light, provide a target.

I stay hidden, perfectly still. I listen to the hunter taking everything in, searching for me. My eyes are shut tight.


A Dark Eyed Situation, Where Only Shadows Kept My Secrets by Diana Coombes

I’m not sure why I had gone down this path. Some would say it was foolish. I did not agree because revenge was best served with a serving of sugar. The kitchen, busy, nobody noticed me step inside, grab the knife, and stand behind him. He thought his power was enough to keep him safe. Not today Stan.

Your dark heart won’t save you now.

Perhaps you have friends in high places, but I have surprise on my side.

‘David, this will be the last voice you will hear.’


Dark Eyes by Joanne Fisher

All I remember is dark eyes. There was a knock at my door. The next day I awoke on the lounge floor, weak and sensitive to the light. I crawled to my bed and collapsed, falling into a black dream. When I awoke again, it was dark outside. I sat up slowly. My neck hurt on my right side. Standing up, the room spun around, but I managed to get to the kitchen where I gulped down water. Then there was another knock at my door and I couldn’t stop myself from opening it. Again, there were dark eyes.


Dark-Eyed Junco by Charli Mills

Max stumbled along Cloverland Road. Drunk, most guessed. Pothole season, locals joked. Max hobbled on her best days; an unhealed combat injury kept her marching between the American Legion and a dead uncle’s cabin two miles out of town. But the locals also had a point – hard to walk a straight line on any Keweenaw road after spring break up. Max overlooked a missing divot of pavement and landed face down in a ditch brimming with last year’s dead weeds, snowmelt and road sand. That’s where she found the dark-eyed junco with a broken wing. A life to save.


Black Eyes On Him by Duane L Herrmann

The black eyes were staring at him. Wherever he looked, there were those eyes: unblinking, staring. He closed his own eyes, hoping they would go away. When he opened them, they were still there, still staring. Not a sound, just those eyes staring. Won’t they go away, he pleaded in his mind. The black eyes still stared. He wanted to be away, but the eyes held him, still staring, unblinking. How much longer could he take this? Would they ever go away? Then he noticed the words on the display of packages: “Wiggley Eyes.” He broke away, and left.


Fragility and Tenacity by Reena Saxena

Happy and Aria fight like cats and dogs. The bone of contention can well be a bone – wooden or a treat, or it can be a squeaky toy. Do I need to say they are both tiny furballs with cute tails and dark eyes?

Happy is down with a stomach infection, and Aria refuses to eat. She massages his stomach gently with her tongue. He appears to enjoy the love and care being showered on him.

The fragility and tenacity of sibling bonds leave me perplexed.

I hear puppy barking sounds … they are fighting again. Long Live Love!


His Dark Eyes by Sweeter Than Nothing

I jump, the butter knife I’m holding falls to the floor with a clatter, smearing bright red jam all over the beige tiles.

Knocking at the door sounded again, throwing my heart into my throat. Small knocks, sharp and frantic.

“Please, I just want my mummy” a pleading tone that tugs on my heartstrings despite my brain knowing better.

Looking through the peephole I see him there, dark-haired, pale-skinned, he must be freezing… Then he looks at me with those pitch-black eyes and evil grin.

It’s not him, it can’t be him, he’s dead.

That doesn’t stop the knocking.


Dear Jocelyn by ladyleemanilla

That was a shock when we saw that post. We know you are suffering from this dark-eyed situation, spiritually, we are with you. You are always in our thoughts and prayers. We didn’t see each other after High School but we were glad that after all those years, we’ve connected through social media. I, myself, was happy that I saw you and spoke to you. My mother was also glad that you’ve visited her.

Don’t forget, you’re being loved and of course, will be missed when you’re gone. We’re your friends and we’d be with you until the end.


Rides for the Dark Eyed by Kerry E.B. Black

I’ve heard of them, the dark-eyed children who haunt the lonely. Their legend sees them stalking the unwary, knocking in the wee hours for an admission certain to damn the host. They converge in abandoned parking lots, crowds of corpse-pale skin and lamenting voices, begging for rides to hellish destinations.

Urban legends. Residual superstition or bastardized mythology repurposed for the modern age. Certainly nothing for a rational person to fear.

Yet here I cower, slumped in my driver’s seat, doors locked, hairs goose-fleshed attention. The parking lot offers scanty illumination, but I see with unnatural clarity their beseeching, dark-eyed stares.


Fear by C. E. Ayr

The eyes, dark and deep-set, stare down at me through a vast forest of facial hair.
He is enormous, the biggest person I’ve ever seen, his clothes are filthy rags, and his stench unbearable.
I’m twelve years old, small, skinny, terrified.
And lost in these woods.
He grunts something I don’t understand, then scoops me up in one arm.
I scream, kick and claw at his face.
He averts his head and strides through the trees.
He stops abruptly, drops me on my feet.
I’m amazed to see my village lights, and turn to say thanks.
He’s already gone.


The Eyes, The Soul, The Darkness by Meredith Caine (aka Sabrena Clem)

I can’t cry anymore. I have already been sobbing for hours. The constant wiping of my tears laid way to dark circles under my eyes. Maybe this is from the lack of sleep. I have laid awake every night since we heard the news. I don’t understand why that child has to live without his mother. That’s what is keeping me up at night. An innocent little boy now fated to growing up with dark circles under his own eyes from crying, every time he needs his mom. His pure soul, too little to have been tainted by tragedy.


Enchanting Eyes by Sadje

The calf was wobbly on her feet, its dark eyes staring at me curiously. What a treat it was to meet a calf that was born just a few hours ago.

This was when we visited the village where my grandparents lived. In cities, you don’t see cows or any farm animals. When we heard that there was a new baby cow, we all ran towards the enclosure to meet her.

A new life, a source of wonder and joy for everyone. We called her “Lallie” meaning red in Urdu. She grew up to be a very impressive cow.


Mirror, Mirror by Hugh W. Roberts

As a child, I was always captivated by the abandoned house on the hill.

Driven by curiosity, I entered and found a room with a cracked mirror. It caught my reflection, but my eyes were pitch black, devoid of colour.

My heart pounded as I stumbled back and left.

Since then, I’ve been different. My mind has taken on dark themes, and nightmares plague me.

Desperate to find my old self, I returned to the house. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I saw my old self screaming to get out.

I’d never left that house.


Wise Eyes by JulesPaige

lids heavy
dark eyes observant
old servant

The Genving did not want to appear threatening, so she took off some of her finery and wore a more simple frock. It was most probable her bearing and speech might still frighten the old servant sitting at the table. Tea and cakes were ordered to be set upon the table before she arrived. As the Matriarch walked into the kitchen, her eyes locked onto the old woman’s eyes and there was a hint of recognition, but she could not recall from where. Perhaps in the market, had she sold cut lilies?


Undecided by Kerry E.B. Black

The bride’s bouquet perfumed the room, intoxication in pearly-white petals. Her gown glistened frothing waves, an ocean of bridal exuberance. A blue garter ringed her leg. A lucky penny slid in her slipper. An antique diamond glistened on her finger. Every detail of the wedding, from the extensive guest list to the caviar and champagne before dinner, promised a spectacular event. Still, tears sparkled like comets in her midnight eyes, ready to streak across her flushed cheeks. She gulped air, her heart an irregular percussion of her anxiety. She rested against her mother. “I’m doing the right thing, right?”


Dark Eye On Pal (Part I) by D. Avery



“Yer still mad I called ya a lady, Frankie? Jeez.”

“That. An how ya fin’ly chased Kid off with yer snarlin ornery ways.”

“Thet ain’t how it happened, Frankie. Kid jist wanted ta see the world, show some independence. Cain’t stan in the way a someone’s got their mind made up. If’n I did, Kid’d always blame me fer everthin, would always wunder what’s out there. Kid’ll come back after a bit.”

“I’m thinkin yer not so sure as ya say. Yer eyes is darker’n a racoon’s. You ain’t slept, have ya?”

“It’s dark days without Kid.”


Dark Eye On Pal (Part II) by D. Avery

“Dang Pal, ya look like Alice Cooper imitatin Clint Eastwood. Why’nt ya go try an rest.”

“Cain’t Frankie. I cain’t sleep an asides, come ta find out, Kid actchally did chores around here an now I’m havin ta do ‘em. An havin ta admit I cain’t sling shit like thet Kid.”

“Yep, it’s a good thing the prompt didn’t go the d’rection perdicted, Kid’d be down in the dumps fer missin it. But Pal, take heart. Yer right, Kid’ll be back.”

“How kin ya be so sure, Frankie?”

“Cuz I read yer postcard. Kid’s restin up.”


“Blossom Hill.”


Dark Eye On Pal (Part III) by D. Avery

“Blossom Hill? Sure ya didn’t dream thet up, Frankie?”

“Someone did, an Kid does say somethin bout Dreamtime.”

“Gimme thet dang postcard already.

“Kid’s with the Poet Lariat! An some old pothead? They’re in Pen’s woods, jist fer a spell.”

“This whole postcard reads like fiction, Pal.”

“Fan fiction even. But Kid an Curly’s safe an headed home. I’ll rest easier now.”

“Me too, Pal. Did ya read where Kid got two black eyes? Was lyin unner a apple tree.”

“Well, thet meets the prompt. Frankie, how much kin this postcard hold, anyhow?”

“99 words, Pal. More or less.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

April 24: Story Challenge in 99-words

As the snow recedes (again), a hillside in Hancock is covered in purple crocus. I didn’t know what to expect when our false spring arrived hot enough to force blooms and buds only to dip back below freezing with back-to-back blizzards. Would the buried blooms rise again?

The color of hope is purple. Or is it?

Todd has shoveled the last of the ice and snow from our deck. He sits outside, arms crossed, smoking his pipe. It’s 31 degrees Fahrenheit outside, which is below zero Celsius. His beanie is pulled low over his ears. He calls for me to, “Come, see.”

In the Poet Tree two tiny birds dance upside down and around and around the trunk. The male’s feathers are bluer than the female’s gray ones. A pair of nuthatches. Todd tells me they are the tiniest woodpeckers in Michigan.

Hmmm. I don’t argue. Hope never has to be right. Nuthatch or tiny woodpecker, I’m still smiling over the light in his eyes earlier. He was animated over YouTube getting the algorithms dialed in to preview videos they predicted he’d like.

We share my YouTube so he doesn’t have to watch commercials. He likes to watch interviews with operators, past Vikings football games, Casual Geographic, Dave Stamey, and SNL skits. I research weird things, as fiction writers often do, watch courses on Jungian psychology, and listen to Yanni. YouTube is likely confused over predicting what our account might watch. But this morning, they delivered Todd previews of The Red Green Show.

It might seem a little thing, and hope usually is, but I enjoyed every minute of him standing in the doorway to my Unicorn Room, laughing, eyes lit up, pleased to have YouTube understand his sense of humor for once. He acted out this entire scene for “Delicate” and had me rolling on my yoga mat, laughing. At that moment, hope was all Red (Green).

The night before, we went out on a dinner date with three Vietnam veteran couples. I marveled at how we could laugh, swap stories, tease “the guys,” and share a meal despite the numerous medical trips to the VA we are all facing. One couple is headed to Milwaukee, another to Wausau, and the rest of us making “day” trips to Marquette or Iron Mountain. We gather because we don’t give up hope.

Maybe we circle back to hope to be the color purple. I wonder why injured soldiers are awarded Purple Hearts. Because purple is hopeful? Injured but alive? None of our group has a Purple Heart. Such injuries sustained have to be in combat by enemy fire. There’s no medal for breaking down beneath the weight of having served. We are fine with that. We only want healthcare. What we face plays out in Season Two of Seal Teams in an episode called “Medicate and Isolate.”

The fact that Todd can watch a series reflect what it’s like to seek help for TBIs after service helps him feel heard. That’s a superpower writers have — to portray “what ifs” and “what it’s like” to people who feel invisible. It’s the reason I chose women’s fiction as my genre because I wanted to write the stories I knew about women but never saw portrayed in books or films. Hope could be a different color; a specific color; the rainbow.

I need hope this week. It’s been increasingly difficult for me to go to class at Finlandia. Only one or two students show up. Half my class has left though some are turning in assignments online. My idea to buoy hope with journal writing led to depressing responses. This is my last week. I will hold a pizza party for my final exam next Monday. I’ll grade papers, issue grades, clean out my office, and close a chapter I thought would be longer.

Yet, on a hillside in Hancock, purple crocus bloom. No matter the color of hope, we only need a smidge.

April 24, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the color of hope. Who is in need of hope and why? How can you use color to shape the story? Pick a color, any color. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 30, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Old Lady & the Beast Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

The Old Woman and the Beast by Norah Colvin

Beyond the village, where trees grow thick and tall, lives an old woman in a tiny cottage. Self-sufficient with her gardens, chickens, and one milking goat, she rarely ventures far.

By day, she whistles as she works. When darkness falls, she locks the doors, bolts the windows and draws the curtains.

Then the beast arrives, landing heavy-footed on the roof. Soon the monstrous grunting, growling, screeching and hissing begin. She covers her ears and rocks, humming calming songs without effect. Eventually, the beast retreats. The night grows quiet and still, and she sleeps, awakening at daybreak, another night survived.


The House That Nobody Visits by Hugh W. Roberts

Nobody ever went near the old ladies’ and beasts’ house.

Tears of sadness fell every day. Not even rays of warm sun coming through the windows helped.

When the front doorbell chimed one Saturday afternoon, panic set in.

“Who could it be?”

“I don’t know. Nobody ever comes here because of me.”

“Should we answer?”

“Why not?”

The face of a young female met their faces.

“I’m not afraid,” she said, pushing past them. ‘It’s time I proved the village folk wrong.”

As the old lady fed on the young flesh, the beast knew why nobody had visited him.


The Beast by Joanne Fisher

The old woman caught a glimpse of a hideous evil beast in her mirror. Panicked, she pressed the alarm. As she was a prominent citizen, the police took no time at all to respond. They searched her large mansion, but found nothing.

“We’ve looked everywhere ma’am, but can’t find any trace of this beast you saw.” The police chief informed her. “However we’ll leave a few officers here, just in case it returns.” The old woman nodded gratefully.

Once she was alone, she looked in the mirror again. The beast looked directly back at her.


Beast by Diana Coombes

The old lady and the beast; she often wondered why she stayed with him. Every year, they celebrated their anniversary in the same place, at the same time. He would tip the waiter, just enough for him to move away. He picked the menu, told her what she would like to eat, or drink. Her choice? There was none in her marriage.

Until now.

She stepped back, taking hold of the house phone (she wasn’t allowed a mobile). Dialling 999. ‘Police please, it’s my husband I think I have killed him.’ Only then did she fall to the floor.


Old Lady and the Beast by Simon

On a pleasant sunny day, an old day picked fruits in the garden. 5 theives decoded to steal her pricy necklace and fruit.
Two of them ran faster to snatch the jewels and fruit, she catched them by neck and tightened, at her age she was stronger than they imagined and struggled to get away from her grip.

Other three ran faster, unexpected to reveal a beast exploded from her skin, the 5 theives had their bones crushed by the beast, screamed in pain.

The beast jumped back into her skin, she walked away with fruits like nothing happened.


Wise Enough? by JulesPaige

hooded against rain
yellow slicker holds my wealth
two halves; broken rock

What untold fortune for this old lady? Proof that I slayed the beast attacking the sheep. I would not ask for much, just enough lillies to adorn the plot that my old bones might be buried in. And perhaps a few meals before that time? The trick will be to get them to believe me. I threw the rock, it broke in two when it hit the beasts’ skull. I buried the beast so no one else would lay claim. The blood on the rock, my proof.


Culture Wars by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking and Dollop on the Nadge’s annual culture war comprised the battle for yoghurt supremacy to win the The Lady Ferne Mented’s Buttermilk Cup. Each town believed its culture produced the finest, most bacteriological dynamic yoghurt. Subterfuge was, of course employed. Little Tittweaking used the famed Old Label that gave its yoghurts a distinct buzz (testing later showed that, when heated, the label realised a psychotropic sap making the final product addictive and erectily perky). Dollop, by contrast incorporated the Yeast from the East, a Siberian fermentation enhancer that left the consumer both frisky and completely unblocked.


Mastering Her Beast by Gary A. Wilson Stories

“Hello Mitchell. I heard about Emma – so sorry to hear that her – um, struggles never seem to improve. I’m praying for her.”

“Thanks Gail. she’s had a hard week but, she’s better today. Thanks for those prayers.”

“And how are you holding up? It can’t be easy – working and taking care of the house for such a frail wife.”

“She’s far from frail. Don’t think for a moment that she’s just an old woman struggling with age. Think of her as trusting your friendship by allowing you to see how she masters her beast of chronic depression.”


The Old Lady and the Beast by SweeterThanNothing

The old lady had been haunted by the beast her entire life. Ever since she took her first wobbling steps into adulthood and had fallen on her knees. That’s when the beast had first pounced. The black dog of depression had nearly broken her.

But she shook him off.

She spent her life evading him, staying one step ahead. Creating, achieving, delighting in the world around her. But time had caught up to her. Her hands were too arthritic to create, her bones too old to achieve. She was too lonely to delight in the world. 

The beast pounced.


The Beast That Does Not Discriminate by Meredith Caine

She had lived a full life, now, she could barely remember her own name. He never even had a life. He could not process the world around him because the voices were too loud. Both fighting a losing battle. Age was their distinction, the beast that haunted them, made them kindred spirits. He was running from demons; she had wandered away. A synchronicity of friendship unfolded on the corner of conscious clarity. No words were spoken, there was not a need. Their beast did not discriminate by age. Yet somehow, they both found lucidity in that moment of knowing.


Beast by Reena Saxena

“Peel onions the right way. There should be no wastage.”

“Boil eggs correctly. They should not be overdone or underdone.”

“Is this the time to read? Aren’t you responsible for housework first?”

“A woman has to place her family on priority. Career is just your indulgence.”

The old woman is fed up of mouthing these words, which nobody pays heed to. She falls into a disappointed and disturbed silence.

She knows it is all irrelevant, but the beast of interference she has endured in her youth refuses to leave her. The words still echo in her now empty nest.


Beauty and the Beast by D. Avery

Katie came to our booth with three slices of apple pie.

“I liked your princess turned artist story,” she said as she slid in beside me.

“Umm, once-upon-a-time… seems so long ago and far away now,” Gloria replied. “Stories change though. Continually.”

“How?” I asked. “What happened to the princess?”

“Sometimes she danced in beautiful light. Other times she stumbled through dark labyrinths, hounded by a beast.”

“A beast?”

“Self-doubt, Penelope. A terrible beast.”

“What happened?”

“She became an old lady. And old ladies and young girls can always defeat the beast of self-doubt.”

Grinning, I stabbed my pie.


Woman’s Best Friend by C. E. Ayr

When he hears the bells, he knows she’ll come dancing out the door.

She looks so young at these times, wearing a pretty bright dress and a hat.
She always takes time to speak to him, promising him his heart’s desire on her return.
Then she skips off towards the high steeple which makes the noise.

The door opens.
He struggles to his feet, tail wagging.
But she doesn’t come dancing out.
The men re-emerge, and carry a long narrow box to the black car waiting at the roadside.

His heart breaks, suddenly understanding that she’ll never dance again.


Night Beast by Michael Fishman

Sarah woke at 2:00 a.m.

Heart racing, she stared at the ceiling and begged God for sleep, but this night would be no different than any other.

“Samuel,” she said to the dark room.

Two years he’s gone and still I can’t let him go.

She didn’t need the picture on the bedside table to see his face, or the home movies Ruthie put onto the video to feel his beautiful smile.

Two years, he needs his rest already.

Empty and guilty, Sarah closed her eyes. She let the tears fall as she waited for the sun to rise.


My Beast Friend-Revised by Bill Engleson

I first knew Gulag as a child. I didn’t know his name then. Whether he was a he or she. It never mattered. All that mattered was that he/she lived under my bed. And he/she scared the bejesus out of me.
For the first few years.
There were no growls, no sudden hoverings over me.
Gulag wasn’t that sort of nightmarish beast.
Gulag, the name I finally chose, grew with me.
Any fear I had, I worked it out with him.
He came with me to my marriage bed.
Supported me as a widow.
Joined me in the grave.


Her Beautiful Life by D. Avery

“He is not a beast,” she countered. “He can be very curmudgeonly, anti-social even, he certainly has questionable fashion sense, but hasn’t actually done anything beastly. I checked.”

“You could do better.”

“Could I? I am an S.O.L., a single old lady, and we tend to outlive and outnumber the old men. Besides he has some very redeeming merits.”

“Like what, Grandmother?”

“That “beast” is an animal. If you know what I mean.”


“If you ask a question, be prepared for the answer. He’s good in bed.”


“I’m not just an old lady. I’m still a woman.”


Not the Ideal Time to Celebrate a Big Birthday by Anne Goodwin

Matty’s centenary gala was set to outrank even the Queen’s official birthday extravaganza, until the beast intervened. Locked in to lock out the virus, how could she grace the stage? Born before the invention of television, she knew nothing of the tablet that could bring the world to her room. But Bluebell knew. The teenage care assistant found the old woman an audience that spread from Alaska to Timbuktu. The beast was tamed, or so it seemed. Aren’t all ogres teddy bears in disguise? Alas another was looming. Could the savage beast of racial injustice crush even Matty’s charm?


An Old Woman and a Beast by Miss Judy

Today like every other Marge stepped out her backdoor for her early morning walk. The sun peaked over the horizon casting a shimmer on the pond. Birds floated above through fresh, clean air from an overnight shower. Squirrels chittered to say “Good Morning.” Marge loved this time of day when the world seemed at peace.

In the distance, she barely heard the guttural growl. “Where and what is it?” She walked on listening. Again, closer, louder. It jumped and pinned her under its huge paws, its fur thick and silky, her eyes opened, “You beast, get off the bed!”


Mister Beast by Gloria McBreen

Heather held the silk scarf to her neck. It felt smooth against her skin. She didn’t need another scarf. She willed herself to put it back but the thing inside her was too strong. Edwin called it Mister Beast.

For over fifty years, Edwin chaperoned his wife everywhere. When he couldn’t be with her, he locked her up. To protect her. From it.

Since Edwin’s death, Mister Beast was in control again. Heather could go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted—unfortunately.

She zipped open the flap of her shopping trolley, just enough to slip the scarf discreetly inside.


No Peace With Beasts by Charli Mills


Mable refused to open her eyes. It was April. Who rose at the crack of dawn for spring snow?


She rolled over, wrapping her comforter cocoon closer.


“I’m going to kill that beast!” Mable’s bones creaked with each step into her satin slippers. She tossed a thick flannel over her nightshift, one that had belonged to Roy. Not her dead husband, but a dead lover, nonetheless.


Over a cup of coffee, she decided the beastmaster had to go. If Fred couldn’t fix his snowblower’s engine, she’d fix Fred. Just like Roy who wouldn’t stop power-washing.


The Beast of Poverty by Sadje

Extreme poverty is a deadly foe for anyone but when it strikes people in their old age it becomes a beast looking to devour them.

Old amma * belonged to a poor family, working all through her life till the age of 80. Since she had two sons, it was expected that at least at this age they would give her shelter and sustenance. But fate had a different plan. One son died of Covid while the other was a drug addict.

Now she sweeps the streets, in exchange for food and shelter, trying to evade the beast of poverty.


A Cadbury Calm by Kerry E.B. Black

Her family couldn’t reach her, so lost in her timeless pursuits, unmoored from their understanding. Guilt burdened, they found a safe place with trained staff and medical care. Homey. Nice.

She didn’t improve. Confusion swirled like combat around her, a blinding cloud of confrontation. They feared visiting, yet they longed for their loved one. They endured stares and unrecognition, hoping for a flare of the former her.

On Easter, they brought a bunny named Cadbury. Although they worried she’d fly into anger, her troubled mind calmed. She stroked soft fur and cooed the way she used to comfort them.


Off the Grid (Part 2) by Sue Spitulnik

The policemen, still in the car, looked at the growling dog. “You mind leashing that.”
“Beast. Heal.” The dog ran to the man and sat, quiet. “Stay.”
The police got out of the car, one said, “Are you a veteran?”
“Yup. One tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.”
“How about the dog?”
“Yup. Now he’s a stud to my ex-old-lady’s bitch. I take the pups I think are trainable and she sells the rest.”
“You have any visitors we might be interested in meeting?”
“At first.” He whistled one note. Three more dogs charged out of the RV.


Off the Grid (Part 3) by Sue Spitulnik

The policemen flinched.
The veteran held his hand to his side, palm facing Beast. The three other dogs stopped short and sat behind Beast. “Folks don’t like my pack.”
“I can see why. Do you have permission to be here?”
“Yup. It’s my ex-in-laws property.”
“Can we look inside?”
“Nothin’ to hide. ” He added, “Beast. Down.” His dog and the three trainees hunched down.
One policeman went into the RV and soon came back out. “Looks good.”
The veteran smiled. “I could donate one of the pups to ya.”
“You would?”
“We’re on the same side, guys.”


Reality Check by Frank James

Great Grandma was from the old country, and she loved farming. She named beasts after days and plants after months, to remember key dates. Every feeding time, creatures flocked to her calls. She loved watching all of the crops grow, until harvest. Although, she adored one immense beast. A boar with gnarly tusks and coarse hair, and one day it charged at her. I ran to her, but she just filled its trough.

“There you go, Friday” she giggled holding an ax behind her back. That Fall, I learned naming livestock made it easier to treat or eat them.


In the Belly of the Beast by Colleen Chesebro

The old woman crouched in the corner of the room. She felt the hot breath of the beast on the back of her neck.

His pursuit of her never wavered. She’d been running for so long. Nights were the worst. That’s when she understood there was no mercy from the decisions she’d made when she was young. Now, she was tired and desired peace.

“Beast, leave me!”

Silence. She stayed in the safety of the corner.

When the alarm sounded, she relaxed. The heavy barred prison doors rolled open.

“Line up for chow,” yelled the guard.

Another day began.


Shorty Ponders Spring Growth by Charli Mills

Shorty closes the calico curtains to the cabin. Spring sounds penetrate like an old lady fussing but not the light. Sometimes, a person just needs a beastly sit in the dark with a good pipe, good thoughts. Writing hands come and go at the Ranch. This is life. A natural rhythm. A writer’s call. Like robins who leave. And return. Shorty puffs the bowl. Yep, everyone needs to learn they can always step away. It’s okay. Writers grow. Writers need to search for more words or stories or poems. Shorty rejoices at Kid’s leaving. Kid’s path is all Kid.


Pal Says: by D. Avery

Once ‘pon a time, in a magical place known as Carrot Ranch, a prompt prompted a mem’ry a Shorty’s. Or mebbe the mem’ry prompted thet prompt. Cain’t remember. But thet was the time thet Frankie stepped outta the past an onta the page, long with her hoss, Burt. Since thet time they become the mail carriers a Carrot Ranch, the beloved old lady with one good eye an one glass eye, an a eye fer rye whiskey who relies on her beast a burden, Burt. Mebbe ya’ve seen em bellied up ta the bar at the Saddle Up Saloon.


Frankie Gives a Damn by D. Avery

“Pal! Where’n heck are ya, you beastly no good cuss?”
“Ello, Mees Frankie. What ees da matter?”
“Oh, hey Pepe. I’m steamed. Look’t whut Pal said bout me. That’s hurtful.”
“Oh, deed you not want Pal mentioneeng your eye?”
“No, that’s fine, is what it is.”
“Deed he offend you by mentioneeng de dreenkeeng?”
“No, that’s fine, is what it is. I admit ta enjoyin an occasional libation.”
“Ees eet where he says dat you are old?”
“I am old, Pepe, an don’t mind it. Beats all the alternatives. But, prompt be damned, I ain’t never been no lady.”


Hair T’day, Gone T’morrow by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, whut’s up?”
“Jist checkin in, Ernie, seein how yer doin.”
“I’m doin real good Pal.”
“How’s yer old lady?”
“Wanda? We’re purty much done, Pal, don’t think she’ll wander cross these pages much anymore. Anyways, I’m stil bein pursued by thet Sassysquatch.”
“Heard thet pursuit runs both ways, Ernie.”
“Ha! Yep. Sassy says I’m a beast. But thet I’m handsome an handy. An, Pal, she’s got such inner beauty, such a big hairy heart. She’s made me a better man, whereas Wanda jist made me a bitter man.”
“Glad yer happy, Ernie.”
“It’s a beautiful thing, Pal.”


No Keedeeng by D. Avery

“Pal, eet ees a good teeng you were not here earlier. Mees Frankie ees very angry weet you. She deed not like to be referred to as a lady.”
“It’s jist an expression.”
“Words are eemportant, no? She does not identeefy as a lady.”
“Hmmf. Did she mention whut she does ‘dentify as?”
“She said she ees embracing her cronehood.”
“Fine, I crown her queen crone. Dang it, LeGume, I got more ta worry bout than rufflin thet old hen’s feathers.”
“What ees goeeng on, Pal?”
“Kid’s picked up an moved on. With Curly.”
“You’re keeding!”
“Wish I were.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!