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January 23: Story Challenge in 99-words

Optimism needs care and feeding. It’s as fragile and mighty as a chickadee faced with enduring heaps of winter snow. They dart from one bare tree to another in search of the seeds they need to sustain them. Where they go on snowy days, I do not know. Optimism can slip away like that, too. A seed here, a seed there, and then hard times force me to shelter, forgetting the hunt for sustenance.

Is optimism necessary?

My answer is yes. Optimism gives me hope for the future despite the past. Optimism gives me roots in the here and now; a practice of mindfulness. When I think of possibilities, I can overcome problems. Like where to find seeds in sparse times. Optimism is why I believe in unicorns.

I created a Unicorn Room because I needed space for optimism. I craved a sanctuary where I could breathe, stretch, talk to the Ancestors, and map novels. If unicorns exist they exist in the form of possibilities worth seeking. First I painted the room pale pink, then I filled it with things to brighten the shine of optimism.

Magic unfolded in the way of synchronicity. Unicorns emerged. The first miracle of the room was completing my MFA. The second came when I overcame a spinal injury to cultivate yoga again. During dark times when optimism flitted dim like a hunkered chickadee, I learned to breathe through it and sit with my fears. When optimism rose, so did synchronicity. My room now houses treasure like a magic wand from my dad who is a mountain man (apparently he’s discovered Amazon from his remote high desert ranges). And a glass globe from Africa to ward off the evil eye. Not that I had been thinking about such things, but the gift is from an octogenarian whom I admire greatly. She once danced with Katherine Dunham and in a voodoo troupe with a python. My unicorns are highly protected.

When I think of the magic of unicorns, I consider the words of an American author an activist:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

Helen Keller

I want to explore and discover and never stop learning. My over-arching goal in life is to be happy. Optimism can be cultivated and shared. Though the Vet Center has abandoned our local veteran community, I made sure my Warrior Sisters stayed connected. This year, while no offers to help us have emerged, I’ve purchased materials to spend the year focusing our veteran spouses’ group on developing an optimistic mindset. It’s something these long-haulers of caregiving to Vietnam veterans know about naturally. They are resilient. But they also deserve to be lifelong learners, too.

It’s a long and rich article, but you too can join us in our journey to optimism by learning more about positive psychology. I’ve never been interested in the Pollyanna kind of fake optimism because the authentic mindset is real. It’s work to cultivate, but worth the effort. After all, there are unicorns of possibility at the end of the mindfully constructed rainbow.

Even the earth holds onto hope. If Greta Thurnberg demanded of me an answer to what I’m doing about climate change, I’d take her to meet my Anishinaabe friend, Kathy Smith (holding the Water Walkers’ Eagle STaff). To witness a tribe regain their teachings is like watching a buckaroo saddle up a horned horse. It seems like magic but it is really the hard work of optimism to follow the path of caring for earth like kin.

We need to find our way back to center as humanity, seed by seed. In a brilliant book that reminds us of the power of hope, Celeste Ng (pronounced “ing”) has released her latest novel, Our Missing Hearts. Recommended by my mentor, Sharon Blackie, I didn’t hesitate to select the novel for my current ENG 103 class at Finlandia University. Listening to Celeste’s beautiful writing on audiobook has become an optimism tonic for me weekly. I’m also blessed with some deep thinking and feeling students this semester.

I’m buoyant with possibility in the uncertainty of right now.

A note that might bring relief or joy to some who blog — I’m lifting the no-links ban on the Challenge posts. It fizzled as an experiment. Please keep in mind, not all writers at Carrot Ranch are bloggers and I do not consider this space to be a blog but rather a literary community. There are intersections between the Ranch, the Keweenaw, and the publishing industry at large that remain unseen but give us all possibilities for connecting through literary art.

If you are going to share your links, please add meaning through thoughtful discourse. This is not a blog hop. Do not get your pants in a bunch if others do not go to your blog (this is not a blog hop). We have a strong and loyal readership at the Ranch who genuinely enjoy the stories and many have indeed found their way to your blogs and books. You are well-served to promote outside this community to find new readers (especially your specific target readers) through your participation here. For example, if you are published in the collection, add that to your author credibility and use it to bring new readers to your blogs or websites.

Keep our community space accessible and optimistic for all literary enthusiasts. Our weekly challenges are meant to cultivate a weekly creative writing practice and our collections remain fascinating curations of endless creative expression. It is a simple but optimistic premise for writers. We make literary art accessible in 99 words. Go write, read, and shine!

January 23, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that is optimistic. Feel free to explore optimism in all its forms from a positive mindset to toxic positivity. Is it a heartfelt story or a devious one? So much wiggle room for the optimistic writer. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 28, 2022. 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.

Rabbits 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.

Snowy by C. E. Ayr

My name is Petal.
I have a little black bunny.
Her name is Snowy.
Mummy says that’s a funny name for a black bunny, but my last bunny was called Snowy, and I cried for years and years when she died.
So this one’s Snowy too.
I’m worried about Snowy today.
She’s not eating anything.
That’s a shame, because I tried so hard to make her happy.
I thought she looked a bit sad this morning, so I took her to Mummy’s little workroom.
We found some very pretty pink thread.
And I sewed her a lovely new smile.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Rabbit Hole by Norah Colvin

Edward completed every form, followed all protocols, even smiled sweetly at bully boss bunny; but his request for leave was denied.

“When numbers ease,” his supervisor promised.

“If ever,” muttered Edward. The monotony was as overwhelming as the numbers that increased exponentially. Who said rabbits multiplied quickly? If only they’d find another burrow to tumble into.

“Next!”

Edward recorded the unremarkably similar responses without enthusiasm.

“What brought you here? Where did you begin? Did you find what you wanted? What do you want now?”

“Out of this rabbit hole.”

“No more than I. Close all tabs. Start over. Next!”

🥕🥕🥕

Bunny Rage by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

It was the constant munching and twittering that did it. He had tolerated it for as long as he had been able to, he thought. He’d been driven past any human’s endurance and felt no remorse, now. Many times he had politely asked her to move her menagerie of bunnies, but she had ignored his requests

He lifted the heavy lid of the cast iron pot. Waves of savory scented steam rose from the bubbling brew, his stomach rumbled in anticipation. He added herbs, a few more spices, stirred and returned the lid, heat wafting from the big top.

🥕🥕🥕

The Hunt by sweeterthannothing

“You better run little bunny” he rasped in her ear before pushing her through the cabin door.

Amanda staggered, stumbled, crashed to her knees and rose again. She would not be broken.

“This rabbit is stronger than you think” she spat through gritted teeth before disappearing into the trees. If he wanted a hunt, she would give him one.

As soon as she was out of sight she paused, held her breath and listened, hearing him crash through the undergrowth some way away she took her chance, scaling a tree she perched in the canopy and bided her time.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits and Tea Parties by KL Caley

Alice enjoyed afternoon tea with her aunt. She was a tough woman, disliked by many, but she had a liking for tea, cards and croquet. Even the cat looked amused when Alice visited, although he often disappeared when she went looking for him.

Alice’s second cousin appeared one afternoon with a gift. Alice crept towards the cage. Peering out at her was a large White Rabbit. Her Aunt was not amused and began to shout. So as fast as she could Alice hurried home for the day. That night she began to dream the strangest of dreams.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits by Joanne Fisher

Jess and Cindy went through the portal. They walked among tall trees, always staying on the path. Once it got dark, they made a campsite while watching the sky above them.

“The stars are so bright!” Jess stated.

“And they’re different from home.” Cindy remarked.

“How big is Faerie? Does it go on forever?”

“No idea.” They fell asleep in each other’s arms. A family of rabbits came out of the bushes and regarded them.

“Humans? In Faerie? How strange.” Said one rabbit.

“They’re both females too.” Said another. They watched them a bit longer and then hopped away.

🥕🥕🥕

Real-life Snow White by Kerry E.B. Black

Like a Disney Princess, Mom befriended woodland creatures.

I told classmates of this wonder, but they disbelieved. “Sure,” one insisted. “And you have a pony who follows you, too.”

The injustice! A pony at the riding stable where I volunteered did follow me when I called her! Although I couldn’t take her to the stable to prove this, I could bring the scoffer home to marvel at Mom’s friendships.

We shushed as we approached, tiptoed, hunched together.

Mom sat on the front step, feeding a carrot to a darling rabbit who nibbled with thoughtful watchfulness.

“Told you,” I whispered.

🥕🥕🥕

Aloysius’s Wish by Nancy Brady

One afternoon Aloysius, the white cat, discovered some rabbits in the garden eating lettuce and carrots. When they saw him, they ran. Actually, they hopped away quickly.

Aloysius was impressed. He could run, but could he hop like them? The rabbits’ back legs looked similar to his back legs. He tried and tried to hop, but he couldn’t. Aloysius’s muscles allowed him to jump, but he couldn’t hop like rabbits, which were nibbling on clover.

Aloysius knew the clover helped him once before, and he wished to hop. He found he could hop if he was standing in clover.

🥕🥕🥕

Page by D. Avery

“Are you a hunter?”

She’d noticed me looking at tracks in the red sand. She noticed my interest in the sparse plants.

“That one we made soap from.”

She’d led us through the slot canyon. Now we walked in a sandy gully, a wash, the path water would take, should it rain hard. The carved walls of the slot canyons hold ancient stories of fast water.

Another plant. “That one the rabbits like.”

The sixty year old lake that brings people like me to this place is drying up.

“I remember,” she said, “When all we ate was rabbits.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rabid…No, I mean Rapids….No, Damn it, What I’m Trying to Say is…RABBITS! by Bill Engleson*

“Lovely day for a drive. Good idea.”

“We’re both stressed and need a break. Check out this countryside.”

“So peaceful. And look Paul, over there…a family of rabbits.”

“More than a family, I’d say. A damn convention.”

“You’re right. There’s quite a few of them in that field. How far away would you say they are?”

“Hard to say…but they’re bouncing this way…”

“And quickly…goodness, Paul, maybe it’s my eyes but don’t they seem…”

“HUGE! Yes. My God, it’s like that Janet Leigh movie…”

“Psycho?”

“No…the one about the giant rabbits…”

“Psycho Rabbits?”

“Yeah. Maybe. Let’s get outta here.”

*A Flash Homage to the 1972 film, Night of the Lepus, based on the novel, Night of the Angry Rabbit, which I hope to read one day.

🥕🥕🥕

There’s a Rabbit Off Somewhere* by Anne Goodwin

They claim we don’t have funds for a nurses’ pay rise. They claim we can’t afford to prevent kids being too hungry to learn. Yet this isn’t a banana republic; it’s one of the richest countries in the world.

Perhaps they’re lying when they say we’re in this together. We all have to cut back. Shamming when they wring their hands at food banks, at shelters for those unable to heat their homes.

Or is it something worse?

I didn’t vote for this reverse Robin Hood government. Yet still they take my taxes to fatten and flatter their friends.

*A Geordie expression for something fishy going on.

🥕🥕🥕

At It by Geoff Le Pard

Warren MacGregor spent thirty years establishing his rabbit farm at Little Tittweaking. Each success led to a setback: a spate of foot amputations for the lucky charms’ market; the mass desertion seeking seeking parts in a live adaptation of Watership Down; Bunny Builder’s campaign to instal a human proof fence to keep Warren out; and the myxomatosis outbreak leaving only one pair unculled. To most, Warren’s dreams must be over. He remained sanguine. After all, he said, ‘Rabbits breed like, erm rabbits and, anyway, with any rabbit farm there’s always the risk it will be, Hare today, gone tomorrow.’

🥕🥕🥕

Hullo, Rabbit! by Chel Owens

Skyford sniffed and stood, his haunches holding his readied weight. It was a powerful thing, to be a rabbit: one could spring away, avoid detection, or squeeze beneath a barbed fence.

He barely twitched when Neumann padded to his side. A whisker moved as Suphia straightened near his foot. Skyford cocked his enviable ears, hearing rabbit after rabbit join their ranks amidst the cabbage patch.

So many men had teased with the expression, “Breed like rabbits.” Skyford’s face hardened into a leer. Today, man would change his aphorisms. Today, man would realize what purpose rabbits had been breeding for.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rabbit by Ann Edall-Robson

Her eyes focussed on the storm coming towards her. She had to check the cows before it hit.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Heart pounding, she glanced around. Her peripheral vision caught sight of a rabbit near the fence.

“It’s going to be a bad storm.”

Her mind raced. Was it her imagination, the wind, or the rabbit talking to her?

“Tell me something I don’t already know!”

Pain ripped through her body when the cow hit her.

“Got any wise words now, rabbit?” She screamed as consciousness slipped away.

“Help’s coming,” were the last words she heard from…

🥕🥕🥕

Went to the Zoo Today by Miss Judy

Visited the zoo today.
So many animals. Big, small, tall, short, standing, sitting, lying, flying.
Momma Elephant, two babes teetered beside.
A giraffe craned his neck to grab a leaf.
Lions, tigers, bears, elk, deer.
We giggled at penguins playing in their pool.
Spied the illusive snow leopard sleeping on a rocky shelf.
Creepy crawly slithering reptiles, Oh My!
Brightly colored birds sang their songs.
On the farm: goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, on a horse we got a ride.
My most favorite of all, the sweetest, fluffiest Rabbits, Angora they were called.
Such fun, a visit to the zoo!

🥕🥕🥕

A Rabbit With a Pocket Watch by Sadje

Alice in wonderland was perhaps one of the first classic books that I read. I think I was in grade 6. This book belonged to my late mother. John Tenniel wood-engraved 42 illustrations for the book.

The rabbit with his pocket watch and waistcoat was one of the first sketches that captured my imagination.

This Victorian-era book made me fall in love with classic literature and my love of reading deepened. We always had lots of books in our library and many classics resided there. I’m glad that my passion for reading was passed on to my daughters, and grandchildren.

🥕🥕🥕

Inspirational Bonding? by JulesPaige

Without voice
Those cold stone faces
Marble busts
Spoke volumes
Provocative reaction
For the new recruits

Gertie screened all the new volunteers in the same way. Men and women alike. She had to know if they would be compatible and empathic. First they had to help with the angora rabbits. That was one of the ways Gertie raised her funds.

Gertie also placed new folks in different museum positions. They needed to be trusted to carry and pass information in her network.

Jane wanted to help Emme. Gertie brought home a rabbit to help them bond over its care.

🥕🥕🥕

The Year of the Rabbit by Mr. Ohh!

My daughter needed a pet to calm her anxiety. She chose of all things a rabbit. Much to my chagrin we picked out a slow-moving large female, thinking she would be easy to bond with. We did not know how much bonding she had already done.

Rabbits aren’t supposed to get fat we were told, so we took the lady to the vet. It seems when we got her. she was with liter, but the heartbeats were undetectable. My daughter was ecstatic.

In two more weeks. I was the less-than-proud owner of six bunnies. Now I have the anxiety

🥕🥕🥕

Foolish Decision by Elizabeth

Two little sisters were in need of a pet.

Papa, may we have a puppy? Too much barking! Papa, may we have a kitten? Too many claws.
The girls were sad, and papa was worried. Which pet would be convenient for all? Bunnies! Two of them, the girls are happy and PomPom and Fluffy are growing each day, one black and the other white.
The girls are all smiles as the months go by. Suddenly one day: Papa, the TV isn’t working. Papa, the phone isn’t working. Papa, the refrigerator is warm… Girls, what are the rabbits chewing on?

🥕🥕🥕

Bad Dog by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa was babysitting Emma and when Lexi arrived to pick her up, she found the toddle sitting on the porch pouting. Emma said, “Wanna go home. Jester’s mean.”
Lexi went inside and asked what the dog had done.
“We were watching a rabbit in the yard, then Jester saw it too and asked to go out. Without thinking I opened the door and he chased the rabbit into the field.”
“That’s all? She’s acting like it was more than that.”
“I explained he didn’t hurt it, but that didn’t help.”
“If it were a squirrel she would have laughed.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bunny Love by jenne49

Susie is my bunny. She lives in a hutch. I play with her and we tell each other stories. She knows about Cinderella and Prince Charming and she says a handsome boy bunny is going to come and set her free. They’re going to live in a burrow on the meadow. My mum says this is all my imagination.

Today mum looks very sad. She says somebody left the hutch open and Susie has run away. But I’m not sad. I can’t wait to get to the meadow and see the burrow. I told mum it wasn’t my imagination!

🥕🥕🥕

Fairy-tales of Cottontails by Nicole Horlings

Hidden within a copse of evergreens, nestled between the cornfield and the quiet front yard sheltered by a tall lilac hedge, the rabbits had entrenched themselves in the local folklore. Kindred spirits with the fairies, they snacked on dandelions and mushrooms. Alike to cryptids, they would allow themselves to be seen, but disappear the moment a camera appeared. Stories circulated about their presence, yet visitors left in vain without a sighting. Upon nights when fresh snow dusted the ground, they danced beneath the moon, their tracks a fleeting tribute to the tales of wonder told about their mysterious lives.

🥕🥕🥕

Year of the Rabbit by Hugh W. Roberts

As she carefully avoided stepping into any blood on the blood-splattered, white-tiled floor, she thought she’d ask the question again.

“So nobody was here at the time of the murder?”

“Not according to the CCTV footage from outside the room. The murder occurred six to eight hours ago, and nobody came in or out until Professor Doebuck discovered the body.

“Inspector. Hop to it! Bring the forensics out here now, please,” yelled her boss.

Nobody noticed the unlocked door to the cage containing a new rabbit breed as they left the animal-testing laboratory.

The case, now closed, remains unsolved.

🥕🥕🥕

The Temptation of Rabbi T. by Doug Jacquier

Rabbi Tannenbaum trudged through the snow and knifing winds until he saw the diner. Inside, he was greeted by an older blonde woman.

‘Cold enough for ya?’ she said, her face rigid, her eyes taking in the yarmulke.

‘Could I get something to eat, please?’

‘Ain’t had no supplies in 2 weeks. How ‘bout a toasted ham or bacon sandwich.’

‘Anything else?’

‘I just made a pie for my husband, Pastor Schicklgruber. We got lucky. Caught a big rabbit in one of the traps last night.’

‘Can I just have coffee?’

‘Kosher can’, she said, her eyes daring him.

🥕🥕🥕

Rabbits by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Look,” whispered Luna.

“Hilda’s going to address the Coven,” answered Faeryn. “Shhh…”

All eyes turned toward Hilda.

“Witches, may I have your attention? I’m here to explain how one of my spells injured a human.”

“My familiar is a rabbit, the symbol of fertility. I can’t stop them from multiplying. Weeks ago, I cast a spell to stop the rabbits from copulating so often. Instead, the spell affected a human man. He will never be the same.”

Hilda coughed. “I have Covidwitchitus.”

Surprised gasps filled the room.

Each time Hilda coughed, another rabbit appeared.

It was a hare-raising experience!

🥕🥕🥕

Superstition by Jenny Logan

“Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits,” we’d always say on the first of the month. My father was raised in a fishing community and they are as superstitious a bunch as anybody. I suppose it’s a way to feel in control of one’s environment.

I no longer dread Friday 13th , a broken mirror, ladders or wonder if I did laundry on the wrong day when a sailor drowns at sea. It’s not all about me? It’s quite freeing to pass salt hand to hand and not feel responsible for the world’s ills.

I look for blessings and not curses these days.

🥕🥕🥕

Follow 2 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They stepped through the stained glass window, of course! He was awfully cute, and his weird ideas always led them to amazing adventures. What chance that this portal to another world might lead them into trouble this time?

He grabbed her hand and they stepped out onto a ledge, in the middle of a field of fragrant grasses. The ground rumbled, and both tumbled, and rolled down the hill, like famed Jack and Jill.

His lederhosen and her sweet dirndl had replaced their grubby jeans and T-shirts. The portal winked out. Behind them, the red-eyed rabbits began to gather.

🥕🥕🥕

Meanwhile, Back at the Saloon, Kid and Pal Split Hares by D. Avery

“Better git hoppin, Kid. Wer gonna miss the roundup.”
“Warren trouble with this prompt, Pal. Rabbits?”
“Least they ain’t gotta be up on a roof. Figgered this’d be an easy prompt fer ya Kid. What’s the problem this time?”
“Reckon Shorty really meant rabbits?”
“Thet’s what she said, Kid. Rabbits.”
“But mebbe what she saw was actchally hares.”
“Hares? Who cares? Whut’s the dif’rence?”
“Cain’t member the zact dif’rence. Let’s fire up the computer in the office.”
“Ya know I cain’t stand Goggle, Kid.”
“Shush, I’m re-searchin. Hare Krishna, harengon… huh, look’t that…”
“Kid! Git outta thet rabbit hole!”

🥕🥕🥕

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

January 16: Story Challenge in 99-words

Over the weekend I met a lady in the shadows. She was a small silhouette set upon murky material. She was simply known as, “The Lady;” a restorative work of textile art.

Artist and creative adventurer, Beth Jukuri, displayed her collection of story textile panels at the Gallery on 5th in Calumet, the historic center of the Keweenaw Peninsula (island) of Upper Michigan. I met a kindred spirit who creates and kayaks.

Beth’s collection is called Art Therapy. She explains in her artist purpose that she can’t share her pain in art but she can reveal her recovery. As a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it’s not often I get to meet another woman who refused to be silenced by her childhood experience. We connected immediately in a deep way.

Perhaps that’s true of any strangers who become close within minutes because both are equally willing to be authentic.

Meeting Beth boosted my inspiration and she reminded me why I started Carrot Ranch in the first place. To connect with other writers sharing the writing journey; to play and practice a creative craft that captivates us. She renewed my vigor to make the Ranch a place where anyone can access literary art and forge a weekly practice of creative writing. Beth reminded me how much I appreciate the weekly Collection for its endless expression of creativity.

In Beth’s collection, The Lady emerges brighter, bigger, and more dynamic as the panels progress. In one story panel, The Lady is joined by another and both have empty heads. Beth explains how that initially bothered her as if nothing was in their minds until she realized nothing was influencing their thoughts. These ladies were open-minded.

You can learn more about Beth Jukuri at her blog and read about the adventures of her local group of women who hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, and kayak. Don’t be surprised if I show up among them!

I was thinking of ladies in the shadows and what more we could draw from the idea in the way of stories. Also in the art gallery was a portrait of Big Annie who led the miners’ strikes of 1913. The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russel tells the story of Calumet’s Joan of Arc. The portrait also shows how she bore the burden of immigrants and the men who descended into the dark shafts. I was further delighted to find out that one of my new favorite artists was the mastermind behind Annie’s portrait.

Art inspires art inspires art.

I’m glad I got to go on an artist’s date before returning to school at Finlandia University. While I anticipate a tamer schedule and less stress this semester, I also dove into my syllabus and restructured the flow of my course. I felt creative in how I will teach college students to write. I’m also working on courses for an online writing school in the works. Encouraging others to find their place in the writing life and grow as writers is as vital to my soul’s purpose as is my writing.

Tonight is morning already and while I can’t afford to revert to my night owl ways, I’m full up on the richness of inspiration and impending possibilities. My syllabus is uploaded, my week’s lessons are in place, and my creative work unfolds. Week One of the semester begins.

Go chase Lady Shadows and bring back your stories!

January 16, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a lady shadow. Who is this person and why do they lurk in the shadows. What is the tone and setting for your story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 21, 2022. 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.

Sabbatical 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.

Lost in a Nightmare by Judy Marshall

“Jason, please come in here.” He hesitated when finding Terri sitting on the sofa. She motioned, “Please, sit.”

Whisper-quiet, Terri spoke, “Jason, you seem distracted, worried. We are concerned. Is everything ok?”

Not wanting this conversation, Jason mumbled, “It’s all good.”

“I’ve spoken with the partners, you are a valuable collegue, but we need you 110%. Take some time off, 6 months, a year, get yourself together. After, if you want to come back, your job will be here.”

Stunned and speechless, Jason left. Six months? A year? Jason wondered, can you fix what you don’t know is broken?

🥕🥕🥕

How To Take A Long Break by Hugh W. Roberts

Some think my job is one of the toughest, so I deserve a sabbatical.

Rain, shine, blizzards or gales, I have to do my job. I pledged that I’d never let anyone down. Some think I have too many days off, but people need to learn what goes on behind closed doors.

What’s the best thing about my job? Tearing the date ‘December 24th’ off the calendar and starting my sabbatical for another 364 days.

🥕🥕🥕

Nirvana by Reena Saxena

“You failed to fulfil your duties as a wife and mother”…. screamed accusing fingers.

But who says a wife and mother is not an individual, and has her own needs and desires.

The fingers folded into fists which broke through the windows on her private existence. It was an identity crisis for them. How could she claim to have an existence beyond their reach?

“No, you can’t…”

“Yes, I can….”

The battle ensues.

She decides to quit everything other than her independent will – the marriage, house and comfort zone.

She wanted a sabbatical. She attained Nirvana in the process.

🥕🥕🥕

Break by Jenny Logan

She buried her husband and waited six months before joining the agency. She hushed her guilty conscience and reminded herself that some people remarried in less time.

Her sabbatical had gone on long enough. She’d left the workplace to be a SAHM, but no children came.

She checked the website daily, then weekly. Nothing.

Turns out nobody wants a Mrs Doubtfire or Nanny McPhee in real life. The jobs went to younger applicants—students who’d sign up for babysitting duties, too.

Before long, her profile was on a different agency.

Stay at home wife wasn’t so bad, after all.

🥕🥕🥕

A Required Reset by Nicole Horlings

Lisa found herself at breaking point at the semester’s end. Beyond marking an astounding amount of essays and exams, her Cuba trip during winter break was ruined because her Visa application was denied. The weight of stress was crushing her, with no let-up in sight.

In a fit of anxiety she broke off her TA contracts for the spring semester. When the department head confirmed her release, she realized she had cut off all of her income for the next few months. However, she also felt an excitement for the future that she hadn’t known for a long time.

🥕🥕🥕

Yup! Another Year by Bill Engleson

“Yup.”

“Yup what?”

“ ’Nother year in the hopper.”

“Went fast, didn’t it.”

“Don’t remember. I suppose.”

“You don’t remember? The War? The storms? The heatwave? Trump’s taxes?”

“Coulda been almost any year ’cept for that.”

“Not exactly a revelation. You know what they say…the poor always pay more.”

“I need a break from all this.”

“All this what?”

“This…this sameness.”

“You mean life!”

“I guess.”

“For heavens sake, you’re retired. Stop thinking so much. Relax.”

“Easy to say. Maybe I need to take a…whaddayacallit…a scabbatical.”

“You mean…sabbatical.”

“Scab…sab…salve…a change at any rate.”

“Before you leave, pass the bottle.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stay Indoors by Liza Mimski

Bomb cyclone. Atmospheric river. Rain pelting. Sandbags. Trees down. Highways, streets closed due to flooding. One hundred mile per hour winds in the North Bay. Thirty-foot waves in the South Bay. Breaks in electricity. Stores closed.
I’d been so tired lately, running here and there, always busy, trying to get caught up, never relaxing. Take this in. Buy that. The dog needs another walk. Now, I sit on the couch watching the Breaking News, reporters planted in front of huge maps of Northern California. It’s advised that residents stay safe by staying indoors, they emphasize, music for my ears.

🥕🥕🥕

Death of an Artist by Raelyn Pracht

“Sabbatical? Are you serious?” She dropped her half-smoked cigarette into her styrofoam cup—the bitter black coffee inside extinguishing its power.

“Get away from work. Go somewhere. Stay home. It doesn’t matter.” Dr. Shelley leaned forward. “Just put the paintbrushes and easels away.”

Jayne puffed angry air out her nostrils. 

“I won’t see you again until you do.”  

Jayne knew Dr. Shelley was serious. She didn’t mince words. That’s why Jayne liked her, plus, she too was an artist. 

She lived.

She understood.

The mental death of an artist was slow and excruciating. 

And Jayne’s gravestone was already being written.

🥕🥕🥕

Remotely Working by D. Avery

“I’m going.”

Finally, he lifted his head up from his phone, saw the suitcase.

“We’re going on vacation?”

“No. I am going on sabbatical.”

“That job gives sabbaticals?”

“No. I’ll continue to work remotely.”

“Then how is it a sabbatical?”

“I’m taking a break from you. From our marriage. It’s way too much work for me lately.”

“You? What about me, I do plenty around here. And why didn’t you tell me you were going somewhere?”

She held in a sigh. “I have told you, many times.”

“Must not have heard you,” and he went back to his phone.

🥕🥕🥕

Finally by Liz Husebye Hartmann

She smiled, waiting for the bell to ring, backside leaning against the desk, hands folded in her lap. She said nothing, no longer irritated by the heads bent over ill-concealed cellphones. They waited for release, too.

No need to fill the silence, walk around and urge, by activity, a little class participation. Year-long sabbatical granted, she’d head north tomorrow. No final exams or papers, so no grading. She gazed out the window, at clouds scudding across the sky.

“So, Professor Simpson, will you be offering the next level up in Resilience Studies?”

At that moment, the final bell sounded.

🥕🥕🥕

Sad Article by Geoff Le Pard

Briefly Little Tittweaking became famous for its Death Sabbatical Society. Its pitch was ‘Are you dying for [insert preference]? Let us temporarily euthanise you.’ For a fee, DSS would take your life (minimum period: a week) and leave you to rot while you indulged your desires. Life was restored via electric shocks and a chilli poultice to the genitals.

Business remained brisk, even surviving a scandal when the cadavers were squatted by homeless spirits claiming on their life assurance. The business folded, as do so many, when the Inland Revenue decided temporary death was in reality a tax dodge.

🥕🥕🥕

Finding A New Balance by Gary A. Wilson

“Hey Lance. Welcome back. All’s well I hope?”

“Ah! Thanks Sharon. Yea, I think all is well; different but okay.”

“And Tracy; everything settle out okay?”

“Yea – she left; moved to a different hemisphere; didn’t want the kids or the dog. She just left.”

“Wow! I didn’t see that coming. You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m just tired mostly; burned one week fighting, a second signing legal papers and helping her pack, then two months with the kids; finding our new balance. They suffered with their mom’s breakdown.

“I don’t know if I need a sabbatical or just survived one.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hopeful Harmony by JulesPaige

Jane felt like she had been ‘gifted’ a sabbatical. With time to think and turn old boots into planters. Aunt Gertie had given her a new life. Now there was talk on the island about Emme, a little girl who had been rescued, but would not talk. Was it time to go back to the main house and see if she could coax some words out of the little girl. Jane felt free to once again offer herself to a child.

Rethinking
Reconnecting yin
With the yang
Balancing
The scales of karma; to teach
And of course to learn

🥕🥕🥕

Taking a Break by Sadje

Can I take a break from parenting? A sabbatical from being a mom?

Ah….I know the answer so don’t bother replying. Once a mom, always a mom, even when we don’t need to be. All my kids have crossed their thirtieth birthday, and officially I am not required to mother them. But….

My mother hen instincts override the reality of reason and need many a time and I carry on as if their welfare depends on my actions, till they, irritated tell me to step out of the way so that they can carry on with their parenting duties.

🥕🥕🥕

Michael Needs a Break by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa noticed that Michael’s morning routine was taking longer than usual. “Honey, do you feel all right?”
Michael gave her a funny look from where he sat on the bed. “Why do you ask?”
“You act tired and are moving slower.”
“I didn’t think it showed,” he said. “Maybe a type of sabbatical is what I need. Keep up with DC and the band only. That would leave more time for us and guarantee I would be home when Lexi has her baby.”
Tessa sat beside him and took his hand, “That’s a fantastic idea. I’d love it.”

🥕🥕🥕

Sabbatical From Me by Elizabeth

One year not being me. Who would I be? A person carrying the weight of the past, or new thoughts would populate my mind. No attachment to society, no deadlines, of course, no blogging or Instagram. Total freedom of being. A cabin on a small island; a beach or a mountain; a fireplace and white lace curtains dancing with the soft breeze. No watch, no time, just flowing as the sun and the moon. Lots of journals and books. A garden with fresh vegetables and fruits. A cat as a companion, a golden one, to brighten up the cabin.

🥕🥕🥕

On Sabbatical by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Have you seen Hilda lately?” asked Luna.

“No. After the witch’s conference, they instructed her to leave for a three-month sabbatical,” answered Faeryn. “Don’t repeat this, but I heard one of her spells went awry. She injured a human.”

Luna’s eyes widened in shock. “That’s a supreme violation. How will she come back from that mistake?”

“Well, a sabbatical means she can return to her previous position after her break.”

“You’re kidding. She’s in charge of the Witch’s Committee on Rules. How can this be allowed?” asked Luna.

“That’s the problem with the concentration of power in the Coven.”

🥕🥕🥕

On the Hundredth Year by Tabare Alvarez

My people sent me here 99 years ago. To observe from Luna and determine, quote, the best approach. Do we send down a single ambassador? Hundreds of merchants? I suspect that regardless of the initial approach–given how we are (self-righteous but greedy), and given how they are (stubborn)–eventually we will be dropping objects of large mass on them. If I quit, I’ll be replaced. So. I do believe I will fold myself back into the ship. I will write the kind of report that encourages dithering. I will stall. And I will teach the Earth how to prepare.

🥕🥕🥕

The First Sabbatical by Anne Goodwin

He’d toiled bloody hard, there was no denying it. Beginning with light so he could see the results when he created the sky, the soil, the sea. Some think he should’ve spent less time on the galaxies, but he never suspected they’d waste their precious resources on rocketing to the stars.

After two days on the animals – land, air and water – he was knackered. Yet he regrets devoting the seventh day to relaxation when there was so much left to do. Those hours swinging in a hammock should’ve gone to improving the humans, ensuring they wouldn’t ruin his work.

🥕🥕🥕

Sabbatical? Could They Help? by Nancy Brady

In academia, professors are allowed to take a sabbatical, time off to study, do research, write, rather than teach. While at college, many different professors took sabbaticals during my schooling.

Using my profession as an example, I know pharmacists never have the opportunity to take sabbaticals. Yet all are required to update our medication knowledge through lifelong continuing education, which is completed on personal time, not pharmacy hours. Pharmacists’ vacation time is limited with those hours picked up by other pharmacists.

Maybe If all high pressure professionals could take a sabbatical from their profession, there might be less burnout.

🥕🥕🥕

Summer Sabbatical by Ann Edall-Robson

The tranquil, rocking pace soothed her. Relaxing the rein, her horse dropped his head to forge on. Behind them, the pack mule loaded with a month’s supplies followed. The trail through the trees took the trio to a meadow alive with wildflowers, where they stopped at the creek before heading into the rolling hills, to the lake and the cabin camouflaged by trees, hidden, except to those who knew of its existence. A deep sigh escaped her. The meadow view from the veranda and the tranquil pace of her rocking chair had become the summer sabbaticals she longed for.

🥕🥕🥕

Takin a Breather by D. Avery

“Pepe? I was expecting Kid and Pal.”

“Ello Shorty. Doze two are steel arguing wedder or not being snowed in at da saloon all dat time counts as sabbatical. Pal says eet was, because dey weren’t doin deir regular chores and eet also was not a vacation. Keed says eet cannot be a sabbatical as dey haven’t even worked here for seven years.”

“No? Seems longer.”

“Dat ees what Pal said. Keed also said dat a sabbatical ees meant to be a producteeve time. All we deed was tell stories.”

“A breath of fresh air, Pepe! Tell Kid— sabbatical.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

January 9: Story Challenge in 99-words

The wind swings overhead electric cables, casting shadows across the white snow. The movement catches my attention until I finally see the first rabbit appear. Like shadows, four more bunnies hop down Roberts Street. Mause and I are buried beneath the Blanket of Joy on the couch and she sleeps through the emerging rabbits.

To my embarrassment, I genuinely forgot yesterday was Sunday, the day reserved for writing a challenge post. Monday dawned with an important client meeting to prepare for, a veteran snafu, an unexpected call from a fellow prof regarding classes that start next week, and a movie out with a Warrior Sister.

Now, Mause is sleeping alone on the couch and I’m feeling like one of my students cramming to finish an essay.

The veteran snafu involved license plates. As a caregiver, I had to first understand the upheaval a notice in the mail created. Once we were understanding the issue, I armed Todd with the proper paperwork and sent him to the local state office. One mission accomplished.

The movie could have been one I shared with you with an eye for film writing. Alas, my friend and I both forgot the movie theater was closed on Mondays. We went to Applebees instead (nothing to write home about there). Coming home late, I crossed paths with the rabbits.

I wonder where they sleep and what feels like a Blanket of Joy to them? I know they nibble raspberry canes. A burrow must be nearby and I suspect my neighbor’s old carriage house. In the morning, I will likely see their distinct prints in the fresh dusting of snow.

Snow. Don’t get me started. It’s been an icy winter and the snow is greasy. During the blizzard a few weeks back, the snow blew so hard that our garage collected drifts. Mause was the only one in our household who found the mid-blizzard snow-shoveling fun. She barked with excitement, the sound carried by the wind. My friend told me tonight they got 50 inches of snow in that storm. It’s fizzled since then; the snow.

We are left to ponder the lives of rabbits.

January 9, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes rabbits. Is it a family? A strange planet? Some crazy bunny person’s pets? Who are they and what are they doing? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 14, 2022. 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.

January 2: Story Challenge in 99-words

I’m old enough to have a son who will be taking a sabbatical later this (new) year. How is it he gets one before I do? Oh, that’s right. He was impressionable when I went back to college for my undergrad degree and followed the academic trail on his own to a job that recognizes the need to rest after several intense years of travel and work. I’m happy for him.

In a way, I took my own sabbatical in 2022. It was less formalized and appeared in the guise of “letting go.” Surrendering and resting may not sound like top-shelf New Year’s resolutions, but life often calls us to do the unexpected. Last year was one of the most lost years I’ve lived.

I wondered and wandered. I had no North Star because I had too many clouds blocking my view. I made several choices I never thought I’d make.

First, I stopped writing. After ten years of dogged transformation to go from a marketing communicator to a literary artist, I didn’t set a single goal. I wasn’t concerned about my choice because I’ve been writing at a professional level for over 25 years and know what it takes to write when I don’t feel like it. I won that battle years ago (thank you deadlines). To me, writing is not what comes and goes; it’s the writer. The writer can find inroads. I don’t believe writing inspiration dries up beyond restoration. I quit writing because I had too much unsettled in my life.

So I quit my marriage. The hardest day was in March when I let go. Just let it go like a bird I’d held captive in my hands. I didn’t think I could help my husband any more than I had and I really wanted both of us to be happy. He had turned his veteran journey into a battlefield and I had no fight left. Despite my acceptance into the VA Caregiver Support Program, it had come too late. They prepared me for separation from my duties and I did my best to prepare Todd.

He didn’t leave, as he’d been wanting to do ever since we arrived at the Keweenaw. I found a place to live and secured as much work at the local university as I could, adding professional tutoring to my adjunct professor position. All I needed was my half of the sale of our house. I had carefully tried not to call it a home and I even let go of ever having one. I’d have an apartment and that would have to do.

Covid has changed much of the social landscape as we knew it. Covid also changed my marriage. I half-heartedly laughed when I left the house to shelter elsewhere after Todd got Covid and his last words to me were about life insurance. Maybe it jogged something in his unreliable brain. Maybe my leaving when he was sick made him question his independence. There were many other factors at play but what changed was that he decided not to leave. I didn’t agree to stay (my apartment is still not ready). But I didn’t leave, either.

Letting go didn’t mean giving up or withholding love. Like with writing, it was a break; a time to ponder what will this be like?

What struck me, though, when I realized I didn’t have to leave, I allowed myself to feel how deep my feelings ran for my husband, family, and home. I’m a writer and even at my best, I don’t think I can aptly explain the complexity of those emotions. I have a profound appreciation for my bedroom and Unicorn Room as sanctuaries. I enjoyed Mause more, knowing I could continue to be with her. And I let go of training her or trying to correct/fix/help Todd.

Caregiver Support quickly kicked in and I’m profoundly grateful to have access. My therapist helped me understand a lot of Todd’s brain trauma doesn’t mean he is not there anymore. He’s still Todd and I keep an eye out for glimpses of him daily even if I’m laughing at really awful jokes like him “scenting” my sanctuaries. It’s become a morning ritual. I’m deep into yoga or meditation and he walks in making airplane sounds for a round of “crop-dusting.” Unfortunately for me, the joke renews almost daily.

On my side though, is a strange peace I’ve found where I thought there’d only be chaos.

Chaos came to school. The one area I applied myself last year was Finlandia. It was going to be my second career. The University’s enrollment tanked and I got two new bosses with whom I’m not a good fit. Can you ever remember being yelled at while at work? Well, it happened twice and with the same person. As someone who used to manage people, I was surprised. I can’t recall being ill-treated like that and I will no longer be tutoring. With the low enrollments, it’s questionable as to whether or not I’ll have enough students for a single class. For now, I have the minimum of four.

Carrot Ranch was not on the letting go block, but I did pare down to the bare bones. I had to figure out how to let go of a life and rebuild it. You likely noticed I was barely on social media and did not promote or visit blogs. I let go of any marketing. If ever there was a good year, I picked it! So much has changed in the social media sphere and I’m reminded of why we assess marketing annually. Without writing, I had no meaning, no target audience, and no visual on my North Star.

It’s coming back. I let go of so much I now know what is important, what isn’t, and what I can handle. This year, my focus is two-fold: peace and follow-thru. When you let go, you find peace at the bottom of the rope. When you let go, you don’t follow thru; there’s no need because you’re at the bottom of your pit after having let go. Now comes what next.

This winter break, I socialized more. I stayed in more with Todd and played more with him and Mause at the dog park. I watched a lot of films and documentaries. I read. I listened. I planned. My vision plan is nearly finished and my business plan is restarted. My SBA rep gave my proposal a green light saying I had nothing to lose. He’s right. And he doesn’t know I spent the last year on a sabbatical of letting go.

So greetings, best wishes, and aanii to you all. I appreciate your patience with me. As I return from my sabbatical, I’ll be putting my life back together with care. I realize that my heavy-achieving days belong to my younger years. I’m not old by any means but as a woman, I’m in the second half of life and I mean to live it on my terms not the expectations of others. I don’t need to achieve. I want to connect, inspire, be inspired, practice peace, and find a path where I can follow thru on the doing part of being.

A simple note of housekeeping — technological issues are now known (as Hugh and Colleen thought, it was an outmoded theme in WP. Happiness Engineers found several other theme options, but I’m still contemplating a move to a WP site hosted by Site Ground. I’ll decide later this month. I appreciate all the suggestions, too. For now, I’ll use the clunky workaround because it’s the best solution for what I want to do. My intention for following thru is to visit and be more social. Carrot Ranch remains at its foundation a place to practice the art of creative writing. It’s accessible. Anyone can take the weekly challenge to create a commitment to their writing process. You are free to set any goals for yourself, using the challenges.

This is it. I’m back in the saddle. I might be a bit like a greenhorn, but I’ll catch the rhythm soon enough! A hearty thanks to those of you who kept the campfire going. I’m grateful for your presence at the Ranch! Let’s ride and write!

January 2, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a sabbatical. Who needs one or has had one? What kind of tension could a rest create? Where can a break take your story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 7, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection will be published 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.

November 28: Story Challenge in 99-words

We gnawed the turkey bones clean after we soaked the twenty-pound bird in a Riesling and herbs brine, slid sage and butter beneath its skin, and roasted it for five hours. Turkey sandwiches with a slather of mayo and cranberry sauce consoled me after my children flew away. Once again, the nest is empty.

The visit was divine.

Bug and her partner, Josh, arrived from Montana the Sunday before Thanksgiving. They had flown to the states earlier to attend a good friend’s traditional Indian wedding in Washington, DC. Then, they returned to their properties and stuff in storage in Montana. It’s complicated living overseas on an arctic achipelago but they do well. It’s been five long years since I had seen my favorite middle daughter.

My favorite eldest daughter and I waited up until 1 am before their plane finally landed on the Keweenaw Peninsula. We were giddy! We hugged, hugged, and hugged some more. The couple stayed at the Ghost House Farm and I was there every day. Todd got to visit, too and by the grace of the brain gods, he handled the week well.

On Wednesday, my favorite son, Kyle, and his wife, Leah, drove over from Wisconsin. The siblings were like a reunited pack of pups. Mause was beside herself. She barked at first. She recognizes Allison, but the other two smelled of faraway places, one of polar bears, the other of cheese. Mause adjusted. We had everything from a 100-year-old recipe of enchiladas to cast-iron Brussels with bacon and Parmesan. Thanksgiving fit as the final meal unless you count pie and leftovers at breakfast the next day.

We puzzled. The kids brought me a gift on Wednesday as I was cooking all day — a puzzle with pieces that feel like velvet. The colors are matte so there is no glare. It’s a game-changer. Speaking of games, I lost every one I played but I could not be happier. It’s been so long since we all chased sheep as Settlers of Catan. We played Scrabble, and they all marveled over my kayaking/camping Scrabble board. And, of course, the Ghost House favorite — Wingspan.

The house is quiet and decorated for Solstice (when flights and cars depart, I turn to decorating and Trans Siberian Orchestra for solace). Mause whines. I tell her they will not be away for so long again. I tell her we can go visit the dog park or her farm cousins. I’m so blissed out and blessed to have had the time to be fully present to my grown children.

Alas, the transition back to teaching and tutoring at Finlandia has returned quickly. I have no idea why, but the silly phrase, “not my monkeys, not my circus” created an earworm. Not a song, but it gives me a funny visual as I attempt to re-enter the post-visit world.

November 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the saying, “not my monkeys, not my circus”. What is the situation that would spawn that aphorism? Have fun with setting and characters! Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by December 3, 2022. Please use the form if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines. Stories must be 99-words.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Lies 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.

Lies by Michael Fishman

Jerry’s mind was everywhere but where it was supposed to be. His quick eyes darted away from the person in front of him to look out at the crowd.

He spied an attractive brunette and wondered what she looked like from the back. Then what she’d look like lying down. He looked forward to answering those questions later.

Then he saw Robin and smiled at the warm memory.

Jerry turned his attention back to the man to his right and tried his best to focus.

“…and do you, Jerry, take Elizabeth to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

“I do.”

🥕🥕🥕

Living a Lie Via Zoom by Gary A. Wilson

Bryce watched his screen as peers discussed an expense management slide.

Progress is so tedious, he thought.

Suddenly his kids ran into the room screaming joyfully with his wife scrambling to silence them. He quickly muted the microphone and roared.

Furious, he was on his feet cursing and threatening his family when his phone rang – it was his boss.

“Hello Marcel.”

“Bryce, you’re in my office in an hour. We thought we knew you but, your outburst; unacceptable and completely out of character.”

He’d turned the sound down, not his mic off.

“Your options are intervention or termination.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lies Can Be Expensive by Frank James

“Have you been drinking?” The Trooper asked Molly. She shook her head: no.

“License and registration, he replied. Her hands trembled, offering them.

“Are you sure?” He repeated.

“I never drink and drive, and it would be stupid to lie to a Trooper,” she snorted.

He smiled, “Uh huh, you don’t want to lose your truck.”

He asked for a simple test. Feeling spry, her eyes followed his pen. They wobbled a bit.

“Okay,” he reluctantly said writing a warning ticket.

She grinned, pulling away. She didn’t see a beer can tumbling from the bed. He radioed a wrecker.

🥕🥕🥕

Incompletely Lost or Completely at a Loss? by JulesPaige

Blanks in the data bank memories of mother…
Disillusioned tweenager, angst filled teenager
Angry adult (at established rules and thieves)

There will always be holes, those holes filled with lies
Like ‘The check is in the mail,’ or where to place blame
With either ‘Ida Know’ or ‘Not Me’

Lies completely fabricated, Lies completely created for comfort
Lies by omission -The little white lies we pretend are OK
As to not upset the person who couldn’t cope with truth

That magician’s gun that was supposed
To have blanks but the murderer switched bullets…
And now there’s a big blank.

🥕🥕🥕

Tell The Truth by Sweeter Than Nothing

Deb had never been one for the truth, ever since she was little. Who wants horrible, pointy realty when a nice soft blanket of lies can cushion and comfort you?

She used that motto for good and bad.

For example;

“Of course you don’t look fat in that dress”

And

“No, I would never cheat on you, I love you.”

Debbie hid behind her lies right up to the very last moment of her life.

“Who knew she was sick? She always said she was fine.” Said all, shocked.

Now here lies Deb, finally, telling the truth at last.

🥕🥕🥕

De-merger by Reena Saxena

It’s an interesting family tree.

Each carries a different name by choice, with scant regard for belonging or social identification.

Anna tells me it was reinvented after her grandfather left the field open for choice of names.

“I’m sure there’s a lot behind that story. I’ve heard about his multiple marriages and large number of foster children”. I can’t resist digging graves for a good story.

“It’s actually much more than that. Multiple marriages meant multiple failed relationships, and this was the lesson he gave us.

The greatest lie ever spoken in love is about the merging of identities.”

🥕🥕🥕

Galactic Encyclopedia Entry by Duane L Herrmann

Nouvelle France had developed its trading empire deep into the interior of Amérique du Nord, reaching into the heart of the Grandes Montagnes which formed the massive spine of the continent. The initial small trading posts where the Natives and French had met to trade furs had become towns and cities in their own right. Many, many of the French traders had taken Native wives and now fifth and sixth generations of descendants were the major population. Wars among the natives had ceased long, long ago: it was bad for business. Brits had been expelled long ago for rebellion.

🥕🥕🥕

The Letter by Margaret G. Hanna

“Dear Father,”
The start of the lie. Part of the conspiracy. Would he fall for it?

“Emigrating to Canada was a grievous error.”
It was not. Another part of the lie.

“I want to return home, to England.”
No! Her sister Bessie wants to come to Canada.

“Alas, I can not afford the fare.”
Father could. He had promised to send it. If he did, she’d send it back to Bessie.

“Please send the money. I will be forever in your debt. Your loving daughter, Mary.”
He bought the lie. He sent the money.

Bessie arrived four months later.

🥕🥕🥕

Black Poppies by Anne Goodwin

Their mother would miss them, but the Motherland called. They stowed away on a ship taking rum and molasses to Liverpool and docked the day the country declared war. Eustace lied about his age to join up with his brother. When hostilities ended, he buried his brother in France.

He grieved, but was proud to have served the Empire. Until he learnt the flag that united the colonies was a colossal lie. When riots raged in Liverpool’s docklands, he feared for his life. He learnt that Black men could die for Britain, but they couldn’t live there in peace.

🥕🥕🥕

An Economics Lesson at the Food Bank by Anne Goodwin

“I don’t get it,” says the volunteer, as she distributes bashed soup tins between supermarket plastic bags. “Run it past me again.”

The politician sighs, but her colleague interrupts him. “Remember Robin Hood?”

“Steals from the rich to give to the poor? Of course.”

“Well, this is Robin in reverse.”

The woman sets aside a tube of charcoal toothpaste. The politician flashes a smile. “We scrap the wealth tax. People spend more. The benefits trickle down.”

The woman surveys the empty shelves. “Can’t see that working.”

“Be patient,” says the politician. “We’ve only tried this method for ninety years.”

🥕🥕🥕

Am I Fine? by Ruchira Khanna

“Can you please get my meds from the counter?” requested Pam as she settled with her cup of tea.

“When you have no physical aches, why are you still consuming these pills?” asked a concerned Dave.

“It’s the mental ache, and these pills keep me high,” she said with a forced smile.

Dave frowned and was about to give his opinion.

Just then, the phone rang.

“Hi, Lisa!” said Pam while keeping eye contact with her beau.

“Life is super! I’m rocking it, my friend,” said Pam with shrugged shoulders and a downward glance while fidgeting with the blanket.

🥕🥕🥕

The Big Lie! by Tessa Dean

Lawrence hung down at the bar with a bunch of young men about his age. He claimed he was 21 and old enough to drink. They played darts and flirted with the women. Lawrence wore loose clothes that just hung on him. The other guys were dressed similarly.

One night, while Lawrence was drinking, Anson mentioned that he looked like he was gaining weight. Lawrence just shrugged it off. Suddenly he let out a scream and grabbed his belly. Rushed to the hospital, it was discovered that he was a she and that she was pregnant and in labor.

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A Little White Lie by Sadje

“What does it matters, it’s just a little white lie”

“That’s how it starts my dear and then one becomes two and two becomes too many. Lying becomes a habit that is hard to get rid of”

“But nan, I meant no harm. I just didn’t want to hurt Mel’s feelings by telling her I won’t come to her party, I’d already promised Cindy that I’ll hang out with her”

Then my sweet, you should tell her the truth, gently. If we start to hide behind lies, we will lose our true selves!”

“Okay nan. I promise, never again!”

🥕🥕🥕

A Catastrophe by Nancy Brady

It started innocently enough. My younger sister and I were playing Monopoly. Because I was sniffing a pine-scented cat sachet at the same time, out of the blue, I said the most outrageous thing, “I bit our cat’s ear,” never expecting her to believe me.

“You didn’t, did you?” she asked.

“Yep,” I said, filling in details that made the lie real.

My sister was gullible; she believed me. What prompted this preposterous fabrication, I still don’t know, but finally I told her the truth. That I had never done anything like that to our cat, nor would I.

🥕🥕🥕

Lies Are Allowed for Surprises by Sue Spitulnik

Tessa called her mother and invited her parents to dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant in the next town.

“Tessa, can’t you change the meal time to 7:00 PM, you know your father doesn’t like to eat early with the blue hair crowd.”

“Mom, the restaurant was already booked for prime time hours when I called, it’s the college’s Homecoming Weekend. You can eat a big late breakfast and an early dinner.”

“I suppose.”

***

Tessa called her sister,” I lied to Mom to get her to agree to the time. I’m sure she isn’t suspecting an anniversary party.”

🥕🥕🥕

They Lied by Gypsie-Ami Offenbacher-Ferris

As a child, I began to write. I constantly had pencil and paper, diaries and journals, just like Ernest Hemingway. I learned early on, to stop showing my father my poetry and prose. He told lies. His remarks snuffed out my confidence. 



“You’ll never be a writer. Not possible!” He’d say, tossing my papers up in the air.

I’m now sixty-four years old and guess what? I’m not a Mark Twain or a Hemingway but I am, an author and a poet. Be careful telling someone what they can not be!

🥕🥕🥕

Poison by Simon

He always said
when I lied
He knew, he said.
This time, I said
He never knew When I lied
When I constantly lied
Because the doctor said
He cannot be cured

I lied to his face
Hiding the truth behind
I lied to his face
Smiling with tears behind
I lied to his face
When I killed me
I lied to his face
When I killed him

It was the kindest poison
I made with love and passion
A lie, I named it as a Lie
Kills slowly but definitely we die

Before he died
I died happily

🥕🥕🥕

Laying Down About Lying About the Lie of the Land by Doug Jacquier

His drive had landed in the rough and he groaned when he saw the thicket of trees between him and the green of the par four 17th. Quickly scanning for witnesses, he picked up the ball and dribbled it out of his trouser leg on to the edge of the fairway. His second shot landed just short of the green, making for an easy chip and putt. When his partner asked for his score, he said ‘Four’ and strode to the next tee. His partner grunted and wrote ‘4’ in the box, sighing to himself ‘Whatever you say, Donald.’

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The Big Announcement by Miss Judy

The night had arrived. The audience was gathered. Time for the big reveal. Everyone knew what was coming. Tonight it would be official.

People expected fanfare, fist pumps, and high energy from the wannabe king. It was his castle; he was coming back.

He rambles in – more a wounded goose than a strutting swan. His head hangs, no fist pumps, no energy. He’s alone; he speaks.

The same tired montage of lies, unfounded theories, derogatory remarks of his enemies.  Finally, he proclaims MAGAGA*. A tired crowd cheers and walks away, mostly glad that it’s over. Time to move on.

*Make America Great and Glorious Again

🥕🥕🥕

Talents by Devine Success

“Hello.”

“Good morning sir.”

“Is Muna there?”

Anita’s eyes popped. Why couldn’t Muna take permission before going to her cousin’s wedding? Now what should she say?

“Sir… she’s not feeling well, she went to get drugs from the pharmacy.”

“Oh… it’s alright.”

Barely 5 minutes after the call their boss arrived. Anita’s heart thumped. “Muna isn’t back from the pharmacist yet?”

“No sir she didn’t come at all, she went to her cousin’s wedding,” answered innocent loquacious Priscilla, another colleague, before Anita could reply.

“Really? Anita?”

Another lie brewed instantly. ”Sir she changed her mind, she’s not feeling well.”

🥕🥕🥕

Lies, Damned Lies and Surprises by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s Reptilarium (owner: Jack Natter, something of a toad) comprising: Lounge, a swarthy narcoleptic lizard; Sid, a hissing salamander; and Griselda, a Peruvian gecko with attachment issues was struggling. Sid’s susurrating serenades slumped and when the preternaturally adhesive Griselda stuck herself to some passing Jedi missionaries, things looked bleak. Trying to prove Lounge was a natural levitator by feeding him an exclusive diet of mosquitos was a desperate bid to stave off bankruptcy. His film of Lounge, describing a high-pitched, helium-induced parabola fooled no-one and his humiliation complete when the paper ran with: Fake Newts Shame Little Tittweaking.

🥕🥕🥕

The Betrayal by Joanne Fisher

The Grond had invaded to subjugate our lands and people. We knew we couldn’t defeat them alone, but if we allied with the Olomik people, then together we would be strong enough to send the Grond back across the wide sea.

I traveled through the narrow ravine to meet the Olomik leader. We toasted our alliance with fermented yaks milk and agreed to meet on the field of battle. But when that day came, we faced the Grond alone. Though we Talchek would be defeated this day, we would carry the Olomik and their lie in our hearts forever.

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Family Tree-Sons by Bill Engleson

“Tis so true.”
“T’aint.”
“Tis.”
“No, tain’t”
“We’re goin’ ‘round in circles.”
“If we are, you’re the dizzy one.”
“All I said…”
“I know what you said…”
“All I said was I look like Ma. You, mebbe not so much…”
“She ain’t here to ask, is she? And mebbe I don’t care ‘cause I take after Pa.”
“That’s a crock. Neither of us takes after Pa. I mean, he was gone before I even popped.”
“True enough. And I was in diapers. Got that one picture though.”
“There’s that. Pa sure looked like that actor fella, Gary Cooper.”
“Yup.”

🥕🥕🥕

White Lies (Chapter 1) by Ann Edall-Robson

“I can’t live with these lies anymore.”

The words made him look up from the book he was reading. His heart lurched seeing the anguish on her face, tears pooling in her eyes. Did he dare ask, or let her say her piece and see where the conversation went? He thought better of reaching out for her when she walked past to sit in her favourite chair. Legs curled underneath her, shoulders shaking with sobs.

“Should we talk about this?” He ventured, not knowing what else to say.

She nodded. “There has to be a way to resolve this.”

🥕🥕🥕

White Lies (Chapter 2) by Ann Edall-Robson

Sniffing, she searched for the hankie she always kept in her pocket. Looking at him, she started to laugh.

“You think this is about us?”

“I’m not sure. I didn’t think we had any lies between us.”

“We don’t!” She hiccuped.

Relief settled across his face and he reached across the end table to take her hand in his. She clung to his fingers, letting the words fly out of her mouth unchecked. They sounded silly when she spoke then.

“Every product in our laundry room is a lie! I am so tired of white lies. No pun intended.”

🥕🥕🥕

White Lies (Chapter 3) by Ann Edall-Robson

They were both laughing. “Nothing’s white. Everything’s dingy. I want our linen and clothes to look and smell like my Gran’s used to.”

He stood, pulling her up into his arms.

“I think we can do that,” he said quietly.

“How? I’ve tried all of the products.”

Remembering the stories his own Gran and Mother swore were true, a plan started to formulate in his mind. It would take some doing, but where there is a will, there is a way. He couldn’t wait to get started on the upscale, outdoor laundry space showcasing none other than a clothesline.

🥕🥕🥕

Younger Cousin by D. Avery

The first lie was mine. ‘It’ll be fun.’

We lied about her age to get in. The crowd swallowed us up and we were separated. I was worried sick about her and when I finally found her, I was sick. She said she was okay, said she’d be alright.

She started living life as if it didn’t matter. Said she was in control. Said I could mind my own business, she was a good mom. When she started using, she said she could handle it.

‘Stop,’ I begged her.

“Why?’

‘Because I love you.’

‘You’re a liar,’ she said.

🥕🥕🥕

Geneva Steele by Chel Owens

Geneva Steele was often asked about her name. After all, she shared it with the local mill (closed). The mill gained its moniker from the nearby resort (gone), which its founder named after his daughter (dead).

But Geneva couldn’t answer with any of that.

“I’m Swiss,” she said.

Or, “I’m from New York.”

Locations and events became more elaborate, until Geneva’s great-granddaughter dragged Geneva to school for show-and-tell. Looking at all those faces, the truth exploded:

“I was conceived at the steel mill, out near the railroad tracks.”

Truth might be satisfied, but Geneva isn’t allowed at school again.

🥕🥕🥕

Jobs by Hugh W. Roberts

“How was work today?” asked my wife.

“Good,” I replied as I stuffed notes into a pair of old boxer pants at the bottom of my sock drawer. She’ll never look there.

“Are the people nice?”

“Yes.”

“Will I meet them someday? Perhaps we’ll bump into them when out?”

“Maybe.”

But they’ll never know who she is. And she can never know who they are.

I told her my new job paid well and would take me worldwide. It does both.

I may have lied about what I do, but becoming a male escort is my best job ever.

🥕🥕🥕

A Skeleton in the Cupboard by Norah Colvin

Lucy was opening and closing every cupboard in the house.
“What’re you doing?” Amy asked.
“Mum lied,” said Lucy.
“About what?”
“The skeleton.”
“What skeleton?”
“The skeleton. Mum said Dad has a skeleton in the cupboard. I can’t find it.”
“You won’t find it.”
“Why not?”
“Cause it’s not a real skeleton.”
“Skeletons are so real. I’ve got one and you’ve got one. Everybody’s got one.”
“Not those sorts of skeletons.”
“Then what?”
“Secrets.”
“Secrets?”
“Things they don’t want nobody else to know.”
“So, Mum did lie.”
Amy sighed. “Mum didn’t lie, but there’s no skeleton in the cupboard.”

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Deep in The Wood by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Natalie was born in Enoch Bunch’s trailer bed, a-way pas’ midnight, under a rare third moon in chill October. Or maybe she was left there.

He was early-widowed, growing older, she a promise finally kept. No sign of a mother, so he raised her hisself, taught her all he knew of the woods and river. The rest she figgered out for herself.

Under Natalie’s wisewoman care, he lived longer’n anyone woulda guessed. She buried him next to his wife, then took the truck, built a home deep, and deeper in the woods.

Some swear that house sprouted chicken legs.

🥕🥕🥕

Chickens or Eggs by Miss Judy

My parents are fairly intelligent people. They grew up on farms. Raised cows, pigs, chickens. They would solve a dilemma plaguing my young mind.

I asked Mom, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?”

“Well son, of course it was the chicken. Without the chicken there would be no egg.”

This makes sense, but I must ask Dad. “Dad, which came first the chicken or the egg?”

“Son, it was the egg. Without the egg there would be no chicken.

”DRAT! Why are they messing with my mind? One of them must be fibbing. I am so confused.

🥕🥕🥕

Lyin Like a Rug by D. Avery

“Kid! Git up outta thet bunk. Ya ain’t made a move on the latest challenge.”

“Au contraire, Pal. This is ma move. I’m havin a lie in.”

“Ain’t thet kinda lyin. Shorty’s talkin bout fibs.”

“Cain’t tell a lie. Won’t. Carrot Ranch ain’t the place fer it.”

“How kin a virtual gatherin place fer fiction not be a place fer tales bout a lie?”

“This is a place where fiction tells truths. Where fictional characters are as real as kin be imagined. Truth be told Pal, gonna set this one out by lyin here.”

“Wolf! Curly’s gittin drug off!”

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Tip Top Truths by D. Avery

“Tip. Hey.”

“Yer lookin glum, Kid. Pal weren’t jist cryin wolf bout Curly?”  

“Huh? Oh, Curly’s fine. Thing is I’m worried bout her anyways. Feel like Curly’s a pathological liar. First that confusion whether she were a dog or a hog. Then she had that time amongst the beavers. An now this. See, she was the wolf.”

“A pig in wolf’s clothing?”

“Yep.”

“Kid, we Lemmon brothers sometimes are in drag.”

“So?”

“So that ain’t lyin bout ourselves or to ourselves.”

“Reckon.”

“Curly’s true ta herself.”

“S’pose.”

“Kid? Kinda lied ta ya bout one thing.”

“Yeah Tip?”

“I’m Top.”

🥕🥕🥕

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

November 21: Story Challenge in 99-words

The petunias and I were not ready for the return of Lake Superior’s great snow machine. The flowers had remained colorful longer than any other autumn I’ve experienced on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Then…suddenly…white stuff. Ah, that’s the way of it. Winter has arrived.

Soon, so does my Svalbard daughter. I’m beside myself with excitement. I cleaned all day, realizing I don’t do much house cleaning. Oh, my. Lots of grit made its way down the drain or out the door. I cleaned the refrigerator, oven, and all my rocks. Well, most of my rocks. I have a lot of rocks.

It’s been five years since all three of my grown kids — all in their thirties — have been home. Home has been a moving target. I decided home is where we gather. Maybe home is truly nothing more than a shared campfire, a gathering of warmth and stories. And turkey.

The turkeys from Minnesota have arrived in Michigan. I know the turkey farmers and their farm used to be a frequent stop back when I wrote about local food, farmers, and artisans. It’s the turkey I always prepared when the kids were teens and young adults and home was defined by house and place. We can still share a beautiful meal. And beautiful it will be.

My eldest is now buried in snow on her farm. She sends us this fun romp with her two farm dogs, Oberon and Uther. You can clearly see we are all adjusting to the snow and the annoying way it clings to furry rumps.

I’ll keep it short and sweet. The midnight flight is nearing and I’m going to go to the farm and wait with Allison. I’m wishing everyone a beautiful week whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. Know that I’m grateful for each and every one of you at Carrot Ranch. Aanii!

November 21, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “Oh, my.” It can be used in storytelling or dialog. What is the cause for such a response? Have fun with this one! Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 26, 2022. Please use the form if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines. Stories must be 99-words.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Squeaky 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.

Squeaky Wheels by Sadje

The squeaky wheel alerted the neighborhood that Frank was there with his wares.

He would load anything he thought he could sell on his pull-cart and do a round of the area twice a day. He had rescued stuff from the dumpsters, things that were found discarded along the road, old toys, and sometimes a chair too.

He would just stand on the walkway, hoping to sell some things, and make enough money to buy food for himself. I’d usually go outside to check his wares.

Today, I found a stuffed Teddy and he got money for his dinner.

🥕🥕🥕

Silent Squeals of Joy for Falling Stars and Fairies by JulesPaige

Her head came up to their hips
They were leaving somewhere – it was evening
The adults babbled, words were way above her head

They missed the comet
But she remembered that falling stars
Needed wishes to keep them alive

OK maybe that was clapping for Tinker Bell
During that stage play with Mary Martin…
As Peter Pan…

There is a very dark, perhaps ancient side
To the boy who left the nursery
And headed into the garden…

But she didn’t know that until much later
And now she doesn’t remember the ‘wish’
But she remembers the squeakless comet…

🥕🥕🥕

Something Lost by Joanne Fisher

Amy was quickly sorting through a box of papers when she thought she heard something squeak. She pressed down, and sure enough, there was definitely something squeaky in there. She dug through the layers and pulled out the hand puppet that belonged to her daughter Stacey.

Stacey went everywhere with the hand puppet seemingly attached to her hand, squeaking all the time. Amy took it to her daughter’s room. At the doorway, she breathed deeply before opening the door. Her daughter’s room was pristine, with everything neatly arranged on shelves and surfaces. Amy hadn’t been in here since the funeral.

🥕🥕🥕

Long Silences by D. Avery

The red convertible sat quiet in the driveway, the top still up.

On the return trip home, he’d told stories from their shared past; sometimes ones she’d forgotten, some appended with an insight she hadn’t considered before. Talking wore him out so his narratives would be followed by long silences, though silence had its own percussions; his raspy inhalations punctuated by the squeaky pulse of the portable oxygen tank.

She hadn’t told any stories, didn’t talk over his whistling breathing, even though the sound grated on her.

Now she was surprised at how haunted she felt by its absence.

🥕🥕🥕

The Rule of New Food by Gary A. Wilson

“Eww – mom, what is -?”

“Austin; you’re nine now. Remember the rule about meals while visiting Aunt Clara?”

Sigh – “No complaints before an honest taste.”

“It’s all familiar stuff served differently. What do you see?”

“Um, mash potatoes, egg, onions, something leafy. “

“That’s cabbage.”

“I see carrot chunks and um, bacon pieces, some kind of oil.”

“Butter; it was fried in butter. Does any of that sound bad?”

“Do I like cabbage?”

“Since you were five, yes.”

“Aunt Clara, what’s it called?”

“Bubble and Squeak dear boy.”

“Eww. Food shouldn’t squeak.”

“Just taste it will you please.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Squeaky Husband by Hugh W. Roberts

“Can you hear that squeaking sound?” Gemma asked her husband.

Peeking over his newspaper at his wife, Malcolm shook his head.

“You must be able to hear it! It’s coming from your direction.”

“I don’t hear anything, darling,” came the reply.

It wasn’t until Malcolm’s death that the squeaking stopped. But as his body began its journey into the ground, Gemma was convinced the squeaking was back.

“Where’s that squeaking noise coming from?” she asked the other mourners.

But nobody could help Gemma because only she could hear the squeaking because only Gemma knew where she was burying Malcolm.

🥕🥕🥕

Alarm System by Ann Edall-Robson

Leaving the barn, she stopped in its shadow, listening to the sounds of the coming night, but tonight there was more. Moving toward the house, her steps muffled by the grass beside the gravel path, she hoped the loudness of her beating heart wouldn’t give her away. Across the yard, the gate she always kept closed at the front of the house, was hanging open. She had meant to oil the hinges until she realized the squeaking noise they made had become her alarm system. The moving silhouette rounding the corner of the house confirmed she was not alone.

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Busted by Greg Glazebrook

Doris lay in the dark. Something had jolted her from slumber. Its source, elusive in that waking haze. The pungent smell of booze was strong enough to induce drunkenness. There again, the squeaky hinge she’d asked Artie to oil.

A bolt of electricity radiated outwards to the tip of each tiny hair standing on end. Carter was asleep down there! She prodded Artie but the oaf might as well be dead. She bounded downstairs grabbing the kitchen broom en route.

Pushing through the door she was greeted by Carter half outside, her ass up, legs dangling from the ceiling-level window.

🥕🥕🥕

The Windmill (haibun) by Colleen M. Chesebro

as autumn flows into winter,
the squeak of the old metal windmill
vibrates in the wind—

The fierce winds howl across the Montana prairie. The brown grasses undulate like waves on a tumultuous sea. There’s a bite in the air. I shiver.

Today, I’m captivated by the wide expanse of winter-blue sky. Clouds hem the gathering storm to the north, a sure sign of the snow to come.

The wailing squeak of the old metal windmill reminds me of the wailing of the banshee back home in Ireland. I swallow my homesickness and make my way to the mines.

🥕🥕🥕

The Master’s Voice by Anne Goodwin

Although I had all his novels as audiobooks, I preferred to feel his words on the page. Literally, as my fingertips danced across the dots. So when he came to talk at the library, Rover and I went along.

From my front-row seat, I heard the clink of his water glass. Heard him inhale, ready to read. But the squeaky voice so startled me, Rover growled. Flustered, I asked the person next to me if this was really Hilary Mantel. I hadn’t realised my favourite author was a woman. I assumed only a man could produce such powerful prose.

🥕🥕🥕

Squeaky Little Alien Tale by Simon

Abandoned Squeaky Alien toy found by a Hippie, he closes his eyes and it communicated to him.

Lonely nights at dark

Dogs bite me and bark

Fell in basket for a smile

Lost in 2 days for a while

I tried, but lost, no tears to cry

just feelings inside a toy

Thought Larry is my bestie

Last seen Larry on west Field

Before he lost control

and hit the bank of petrol

You should take me before I tell you what he did to lose the control.

Ahhh!!! I see, You has tales to say. I got company….

🥕🥕🥕

Voting Intentions by Geoff Le Pard

This year Little Tittweaking’s election to the Parish Council was mired in scandal. Local bylaws required the decision to be through the ancient ritual of pork barrel politicking, which involved the returning officer standing on an ale cask and calling ‘Pigs For’ or ‘Porks Against’. Supporters and detractors made appropriate porcine sounds, the volumes were measured and the winner anointed with the first pint. Harmony ended when Italian fashionista, Cosmo Politan brought his pigs to add decibels to his candidature. Protestors demanded the returning officer hold a re-squeak, a campaign dubbed in the local press as ‘Stop the Squeal’.

🥕🥕🥕

Housesitting by Kerry E.B. Black

Nothing terrifies like an unexpected sound on a creepy night. Alone on a couch, housesitting one autumn evening, a bowl of buttered popcorn resting upon a lap wrapped in a sherpa-soft blanket, a classic horror film flickering on a television so ancient it requires an antenna.

Ears prick. A squeak of an overhead floorboard in an otherwise abandoned house. A groan emitted by the long-disused hinge of a door leading to a decaying basement Poe would admire. The sigh of the wind sneaking into a home believed secure, one betraying its sole inhabitant by seemingly allowing admittance to specters.

🥕🥕🥕

Squeak! by Nancy Brady

With temperatures getting colder, creatures of all sorts look for a warm place to live during the winter, and that includes field mice. Last winter, one appeared in our home. It must have entered the cellar through the fieldstone foundation of our old house.

One evening I heard our cat Regulus racing around the kitchen, his claws scrabbling on the kitchen floor. Wondering what he was up to, I checked on him; I heard some small squeaks, but I couldn’t figure out the cause until Regulus turned towards me. Hanging out of his mouth was the mouse’s wiggling tail.

🥕🥕🥕

Emma’s Got the Beat by Sue Spitlnik

After the Veterans’ Day luncheon at the No Thanks, the Band of Brothers found their favorite places, behind their instruments. They played different genres of patriotic songs while the crowd sang along. Little Emma was dancing by herself until she noticed a register near the end of the bar. She soon figured out she could make it squeak by stepping on a specific corner. Just about the time Lexi was going to make her stop Michael grinned and pointed to the toddler then changed the words in the song. “Listen, my granddaughter is squeaking in time to the music.”

🥕🥕🥕

In Remembrance by Margaret G. Hanna

The bedsprings squeaked as John tossed and turned. Tomorrow he was flying his first sortie. Tomorrow he was flying into danger.

He had always wanted to fly, that was why he had chosen the Air Force rather than the Army like his brother. He had trained for this day, and now it was here. Was he ready for the responsibility? Of bringing his Wellington back? Of bringing his crew back? Of the carnage he would leave behind?

Other bedsprings squeaked. John wasn’t the only one fretting about tomorrow. But tonight . . .

He closed his eyes and dreamt of prairie skies.

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Squeaky Squawk Talk by Bill Engleson

“Caught ya!” and she flips the switch as I pull back my cookie-grabbing mitt.

“You’re pathetic,” she adds. “You know that door squeaks, which,” she pauses, then hammers home, “you should try and fix sometime before the end of the world.”

I want to say, “curses, foiled again”, but it would go over her head.

She never was into cartoons.

So I plant a diversionary seed. “It was watching that Manson movie. I got to wondering what crazy Squeaky Fromme was up to these days. Couldn’t sleep. Got the munchies.”

She shakes her head.

She’s not gonna bite.

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Hollowness Personified by Reena Saxena

Hollowness became tangible in her person.

She sought entry into every household she was acquainted with at some level, and emerged excited, squeaking secrets to every person she met on the street. She felt gratified by inclusion, and boasted about it as ‘closeness’.

She was greeted by a wry smile or snarling glance, when she mouthed so-called ‘nuggets of wisdom’ on topics she knew nothing about.

I imagine her dissolving into nothingness, in solitary confinement. She will not find fuel for sustenance, without borrowing or stealing from others’ lives.

Her existence is a miracle, her physical form an illusion.

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Squeaky Pip by Duane L Herrmann

“I squeak, you squeak, we all squeak for Pip Squeak!” Sajili sang and danced around the room.

“I’m not squeaking!” Objected Pip in her high, shrill voice.

“Oh, but you are,” assured her father gravely. “We always know when you’re happy.”

“Your voice gets higher and higher,” her mother calmly added.

“Oh.” Pip said as her voice dropt.

“Come here,” her father reached out his big hairy arms to hug her.

Pip gratefully lunged into his welcome embrace, sniffling.

“It’s alright,” his deep voice rumbled around her.

Daddy’s arms felt SO good.

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Bedtime Antics by Kayla Morrill

“Have you ever realized how annoying a squeaky door can be?”

“Well yeah, hasn’t everyone come to that conclusion?”

“What about a squeaky chair?”

“Yes, even more annoying.”

“What about a squeaky floorboard when trying to walk along the floor at night?”

“The worst.”

“Worse than a squeaky person?”

“People don’t squeak.”

“Eee ooh eee ooh eee ooh eee….”

“Alright stop,” I interjected, “I suppose the worst thing is your squeaky questions.”

“Questions are squeaky?”

I rolled my eyes, realizing she wasn’t going to stop. Little sisters never do.

“Goodnight, squeak tight,” I replied.

She giggled, eyes closing.

Success.

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Squeaking Hello! by Tessa Dean

Rex, the hamster, ran on the wheel in his cage, happily squeaking away to whoever would listen to him. He was not the only thing squeaking as I needed to find some oil to try and oil the hamster wheel before it drove the whole family and me crazy.

After finding the oil, I gave Rex some treats so he would get off his exercise wheel, then I oiled it well, so it no longer squeaked. Rex finished his treats and then jumped back on the exercise wheel and began happily running and squeaking to anyone willing to listen.

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Last Word (Part I) by D. Avery

“Pal, did ya hear that?”

“Hear whut?”

“A creakin soun.”

“A creak or a screech?”

“More of a cheep.”

“But not a squeal?”

“No, like I said it was more of a cheep.”

“Oh, or maybe a peep.”

“So ya heard it?”

“No, Kid, I didn’t hear nuthin.”

“Thought I did. A cheep, or mebbe a peep.”

“Probly jist where them branches rub on the Poet Tree.”

“Look, Pal, now there’s a glowin light out there.”

“Now yer squealin, Kid. But yep, I see it. Hear whut souns like chatterin squirrels too. Why, it’s—”

“Helga an Hess!”

“Huh.”

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Last Word (Part II) by D. Avery

“Helga. Hess. Hullo. Welcome back ta Carrot Ranch.”

“Heehee. Thanks Pal. Hey, Kid.”

“What brings ya back this way?”

“Heehee. We’re here ta tend ta high-pitched whines.”

“Ya mean Kid?”

“Heehee. No, not Kid. We’re tinkers, here ta grease any wheels or movin metal bits that screech, scrape or squeal.”

“Heehee. We’ll put the spin back in yer spurs.”

“The gates will swing great. Heehee.”

“Heehee. No twinges in the hinges.”

“We’ll even put a shine on yer shovel, Kid.”

“Shift, thanks, Helga. Hess. Would ya ruther stay in the bunkhouse?”

“No thanks. We’re squeaking in anuther camping adventure.”

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