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September 26: Story Challenge in 99-words

The gray-sky season has returned to the Keweenaw. Lady Lake Superior broods with atmospheric moodiness while air and water temperatures collide. Cloudy tension hangs over our rocky spine. Those who know what will come next already want to hunker into snuggly flannel and mugs of hot tea.

I miss my white porcelain tea pot. Once, I had a cheerful yellow teapot from the UK; a graduation gift back in the ’90s. It was so precious to me, that when we moved from a temporary apartment to our house in Minnesota, I decided to carry it rather than pack it.

What was I thinking? My children treasured the teapot, too, remembering their Aunt Kate back in Montana who had gifted me the item. We used to have tea with her and for my eldest’s ninth birthday, she helped me organize a high tea party. Tea leaves, water, and memories lived in that yellow pot. It shattered on the driveway of our new Minnesota house.

Later, I bought another teapot but it was smaller and the spout dribbled. I found another pot with less dribble and more capacity but it was devoid of any commitment to color. It was white. It served the family well enough that I miss its absence. It exists, somewhere in Idaho with shoes I’ve not worn in over five years.

Yet, I hardly ever drink tea anymore. It must be the moodiness of the changing weather tricking me into thinking cozy tea thoughts. I was surprised to find a British porcelain teapot on clearance at the Hancock food co-op. After all, I had never seen teapots for sale there. Its periwinkle-blue side flaunted a garishly orange discount sticker. I couldn’t resist. Now I’m properly potted, and yes, I’m drinking more tea.

Have you even tackled a project because you were infused with tea? That’s how I came to organize the historical research that I’ve lugged around since leaving Idaho, which led to the discovery of a weird note. Evidently, I scribbled the disjointed ideas on a recycled piece of paper. It could have been from 2004 or 2012. I have no recollection of jotting the thoughts I didn’t want to “forget.”

Drafting is the part of writing that is a massive info dump. If you are a pantser, then you know the joy of dumping to the page like lake-effect snow (not here, yet). The act is glorious but rarely is the mess. The other part of writing, revision, seeks to clean up the mess. If you are a plotter, you relish planning every last detail. Regardless of where your writing joy resides, you must find beauty and balance in “plantsing,” which calls us to draft, plan, and revise.

Trying to make sense of my dump note is like trying to understand my brain. Here’s what I wrote on a quarter-page of recycled paper:

Would you fake a broken arm for me? (based on a robin protecting another from potential danger at the cat farm) -- birdsers vs. cat lovers -- robin humping for worms or insects
<line>
The Isolation of a Lone Gunman
<line>
Find Your Happy Place as a Beauty Regime -- thrift store top -- earrings

I’m intrigued by my question. But what was the cat farm? Back in the ’00s, I was freelancing and writing columns and stories about food cooperatives and the local food scene. I probably interviewed hundreds of farmers, chefs, food artisans, and co-op members during that time and visited six to eight farms a year for 16 years. I can’t recall a cat farm; many farms had feral cats, though.

Birdsers is a funny typo. I’m pretty sure I meant birders and I can see that I was contemplating an article about the impact of farm cats on wildlife. I hope I never used “robin humping for worms” in anything I wrote back then. The other two items, well, I can’t say. Was I inserting plot points? I know I longed to write fictional stories while I was working. I can’t imagine lone gunmen relevant to the natural food movement. The Happy Place note is vaguely familiar. I may have used the idea for a “recycled self-care” article.

That note is a snapshot of my mind dumping long ago. The lead question still intrigues me: would you fake a broken arm for me? I thought it might be difficult as a prompt, though, so I simplified it to a broken arm. But if you are up to answering the question in a story, I’ll sit back and enjoy a pot of tea beneath moody skies and read your intriguing responses.

September 26, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a broken arm. What happened? Is there a cause and effect because of the broken arm? Was the injury faked? Why? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 1, 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.
  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 #99Word Stories when sharing the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Balloons on a Bumper 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.

No Ordinary Delivery by Anne Goodwin

The run-up to publication was always hectic, whether or not she had a publisher to hold her hand. With so many plates spinning, it felt as if she’d be crossing the finishing line in her pyjamas.

She breathed more freely once her box of books arrived. They made it real. Yet the driver plonked them on the doorstep like an ordinary delivery: the week’s groceries not the sentences she’d sweated over for years. But someone must’ve dropped a hint that this latest book was special. The bumper of the truck that stopped outside her window was festooned with balloons.

🥕🥕🥕

A Homecoming Parade by Nancy Brady

The homecoming parade was scheduled for Saturday before the big game with a cross-county rival.

First, however, the parade floats were built; the marching band practiced their music, and the homecoming court was selected. All was readied for the parade.

Leading off the parade were the local police and fire department vehicles, followed by the cheerleaders, the homecoming court on a float, the local high school band, the football team’s float, and candidates riding in classic convertibles. Last, but not least, was the vintage fire engine. The bumpers and sides were covered in ninety-nine balloons (no more, no less).

🥕🥕🥕

Balloons on the Bumper by Norah Colvin

“Where to today?” asked Amy.
“A party,” said Lucy, tying balloons to the bumper of their little red convertible.
“Whose party?”
“Teddy’s. He’s getting married.”
“I didn’t know he had a girlfriend.”
“He doesn’t. He has a unicorn-friend. Mother said I can marry anyone I want. So, Teddy can too.”
“Right. Which way?”
“Over the mountains, across the river, and through the far-away forest.”
“Be home for dinner,” said Mother.
“We will!”

The balloons sailed above the little red car. At the party, the children fluttered with fairies and pranced with unicorns as Teddy and Ollie shared their vows.

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Three, Two, One: Bumper Balloons by Chel Owens

Flip – flap – flutter
went the bits of man-made rubber
as he took away the rudder
and he waved goodbye to mother.

‘I’m an engine of the sky,’
sang he, loud, while he sped by,
while his mama dabbed her eye,
while his wobbly wings a-try

To lift, or maybe thrust,
by ignoring drag, or just

By the will of boyish hope,
as his canter speeds to lope;

And seven small balloons
circle ’round, like rainbow moons;
dip and swirl ‘gainst the noon;
flutter, drag to boyish tune

Of hasty dreams, of racing knees
Of birthday dreams on summer breeze.

🥕🥕🥕

Katie Puts Her Foot Down by Sue Spitulnik

The Irish Dance Troupe sponsored by the No Thanks was always featured in the Fireman’s Carnival parade, some dancing and some riding in convertibles. This year the oldest group felt they had earned the right to ride, but were arguing over which car they wanted to carry them. Katie listened long enough, then went to make a private phone call.

Later, when it was time to leave, Katie had each dancer pick a crayon out of a bag. She said, “The convertibles have balloons tied to their bumpers. You’ll ride in the car whose balloon matches your crayon color.”

Author’s Note: Katie is Mac’s adult granddaughter and teaches the Irish Sword Dance.

🥕🥕🥕

Balloons and Binder Twine by Ann Edall-Robson

Watching from the kitchen window, she wondered what her girls were imagining today. They wrapped binder twine around stones, making odd-shaped balls. Then they disappeared into the trees near the pasture, returning with sticks, attaching twine to each piece of wood. The balls and sticks were tied to their bike fenders. Curiosity got the better of her, sliding the window open in time to hear them laughing as they put crowns of wild flowers on their heads before peddling down the road yelling, “Just Married”. Sticks bounced behind and the twine covered rocks became balloons tied to fenders.

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Down the Road by D. Avery

“Should we warn them?”

The giggling newlyweds disappeared into a motel cabin.

“They wouldn’t believe us.” Wheeling his oxygen tank, she followed him into their own cabin before unloading the remaining luggage and supplies from the convertible.

Preparing dinner in the small kitchenette while he dozed, she wondered at all that smiling bride hadn’t been told.

That night she dreamed she was popping the balloons that were tied to the honeymooners’ bumper, one by one. She awoke to rain drops bursting on the cabin’s tin roof. She sighed, remembered she hadn’t put the top up on the red convertible.

🥕🥕🥕

Future Things by Hugh W. Roberts

“Why pink balloons?”

“I feel that in 50 or so years, pink will be the colour for people like us,” replied Giles.

“I hope they don’t damage the bumper of my new Ford Model C Ten,” responded Roger.

“Damaging the bumper of your new car is the least of our worries. What happens when we get there matters more.”

“Yes, you’re quite right. We may not be married in law, but the reaction of our parents when we tell them we married each other is something I dread. I wonder if same-sex marriage is a thing of the future?”

🥕🥕🥕

Balloons on a Bumper by Shari Marshall

I have to stop their fatal mistake. “Check your colours,” I yell as I run, waving my arms frantically. They’re trying to use only cloud white balloons. “STOP.” I holler. “You need more colours.”

I blow out the breath I was holding and turn toward the balloon stand, grabbing two blue and two yellow to help with weightlessness, heat, and part of the rainbow. We need grey for storms and one red, orange, green, indigo, and violet. I hurry to the car and pass the balloons to Sam. “Tie these balloons to the bumper and let’s fly.”

They stop.

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Balloons on a Bumper by Jenny Logan

My brother and his wife’s friends were ‘extra’. They tied so much stuff on the wedding car it hit a tourist. My Dad, a bit merry and oblivious, told the gentleman it was customary to pin money onto the dresses of bridesmaids. The man was not amused and said, “Is it also customary to knock over tourists with a trash can?”

None of us had seen the incident, so it’s possible he was exaggerating. My Dad suggested he sue the Oxford University College in question as they “have plenty of money”. I expect the visitor was even less amused.

🥕🥕🥕

Balloon by Scott Bailey

Mistake number one: following that hot air balloon.
Mistake number two: racing across the open fields to be there when it lands.
Mistake number three: letting Phynias T. Schmebbs tie off his ballon to the back bumper of my pick up.
Mistake number four: helping him untie all the ballast sand bags.
Mistake number five: watching the balloon ascend, lifting the rear of my truck.
Mistake number six: believing him when he said all I had to do was get in and drive and the balloon would settle down.
At least the view is nice from way up here.

🥕🥕🥕

The Buffoon in the Balloon by Doug Jacquier

Rufus Dufus had decided that Branson had the wrong idea going ballooning in a basket. He figured the only vehicle worth taking to the skies in was his red convertible and he’d provide live commentary. Despite having the lung capacity of a politician, he realised his own hot air wasn’t going to do the trick and helium balloons attached to his bumpers was the way to go. That way, when he wanted to land he’d just slowly let out the helium through each balloon’s narrow neck. Bystanders swore that just before he crashed, Rufus was doing Donald Duck impersonations.

🥕🥕🥕

A Good Death by Geoff Le Pard

Harold Cottonbud, Little Tittweaking’ infamous aviator, always wanted to fly. As a small child he made wings from two wire coathangers and Sibelius, the pet chicken’s feathers. Sibelius’ complaints on being defeathered, if not melodious were certainly symphonic. As for flying, Harold’s ensuing faceplant offered the denuded bird the chance of some avian schadenfreude. Finally, Harold devised a foolproof plan, attaching helium balloons to his toy car’s bumpers. As Harold disappeared skywards, Sibelius’ clucks became chuckles, while locals used ‘what goes up, stays up’ to connote stupidity. In time Harold became renowned in Little Tittweaking as a ‘stupid plucker’.

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Guards on Duty by Nicole Horlings

The balloons swayed from the bumper, seemingly cheerful, to the muffled loud music. However, their eyes were slightly narrowed, scanning the parking lot for danger.

“Attention, squad,” the commander said, his face grim, “We have a drunkard stumbling out of the east entrance.” The fellow zigzagged across the parking lot, seemingly towards the Honda Civic, until he veered off towards the taxi whose driver called out to him, and the balloons all let out a sigh of relief.

Some of the younger balloons relaxed and started bouncing. “Stay alert!” their commander reprimanded them, “until the bride and groom arrive.”

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Set Free by Reena Saxena

Volatility makes one feel insecure. Flying with no strings attached is a nightmare.

My daughter wants to go abroad for a doctorate, and I’ve spent three sleepless nights in a row. Umbilical cords remain. Relationships become tumultuous if one side holds tighter.

Quivering balloons on the bumper of the car driving ahead tell me she needs a vehicle of her own – to drive to her destination. I can’t continue giving her rides.

At the next red light, I get down and cut the balloon strings. I’ll compensate the owners for their loss. But someone needs to be set free…

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A Bumper Crop by Bill Engleson

Never thought they’d do it.
I was twenty-one.
Sucked the heart out of me.
We were an INTENTIONAL FAMILY.
Our own communal construct.
It was the swinging sixties.
Marriage was so bourgeois.
Pointless!
A free-love ball and chain.
Maybe we actually weren’t all that advanced, all that liberated from predictable orthodoxy.
Those two literally gushed announcing their connubial treachery.
“It isn’t me,” Arbutus whispered. “Underneath, Hyacinthe’s a conventional girl. Needs a bloody ring.”
They rented a limo.
An actual limousine
Tied a rainbow festoon of balloons to its brash bumper.
Like it was still the fifties.
Maybe it was.

🥕🥕🥕

Missing Jed by Charli Mills

At breakfast, Joan flipped flapjacks with such vigor each resembled a squashed bug. No one complained. Ross left for town in a wake of dust. Joan yelled, “Good riddance!”

The crew lowered their brims and she stomped into the cookshack to scrub every inch. When Ross returned, the crew gathered outside. Their laughter fortified Joan’s misery. Jed would’ve been 62.

She decided to tear into the crew but stopped in the doorway. Colorful balloons floated above the bumper of the ranch truck, and candles flamed on a store-bought cake. They left a big piece and balloons at Jed’s grave.

🥕🥕🥕

Celebrating Life by Sadje

Mourning the death of a loved one is natural, but most people who have lived a full life prefer that their life be celebrated rather than mourned.

When I die, I’d like there to be balloons tied to the hearse, people singing and dancing and telling each other of happy occasions they spent with me. I’d love to leave behind a happy legacy in the hearts of people. I do hope that they would recall only the good things that I did or said and not the petty stuff that we all are guilty of from time to time.

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Balloon and Beer for Bumper by Gary A. Wilson

Kirby looked at his peer frat members and lifted the mic. Most were drunk already.

“Alright, it’s countdown time. Please welcome – the Bumper 8 V2 rocket – the first launched at Cape Canaveral on July 24, 1950.”

The crowd cheered, glasses clinked, and beer spilled as a three-dimensional, opaque video appeared before them.

A projected countdown expired, and the simulation played to rowdy cheers.

“Next; commemorating Bumper’s 100th anniversary, the folks at Huntsville’s Rocket Republic Brewing have a six-pack for whoever can pin a balloon on Bumper’s photo within the circle representing the null-gravity field of our 2050 quantum engine.”

Author’s Note: See link for history references and photo.

🥕🥕🥕

Inflated Ego? By JulesPaige

As a young woman enjoying the freedoms of the 1960’s, she was bedazzled by riding a motorcycle driven by a handsome man who doted on her and respected her independence and strength. A huge red balloon was tied to the rim of the back seat when he picked her up for their date.

Out of the back of her helmet her long silky black hair flowed as they maneuvered the community streets of Greenwich village. They rode south around Washington Square Park to Chinatown. Back then Hong Fats on Mott’s Street was the place to go and be seen.

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Tailgating by Kerry E.B. Black

Tailgating grew in popularity as the Steelers won football games. Stout-hearted fans arrived hours prior to kickoff with increasingly elaborate spreads served from the back of their vehicles. With parking at a premium, finding tailgate parties proved difficult at times. To become easier for invited guests to find, the Toggart family hung black and gold helium balloons from their bumper. However, many fellow tailgaters noticed the increased visibility the balloons provided, and they began employing the same technique. Soon, all of the bumpers outside of Three Rivers Stadium boasted sparking, helium-filled mylar balloons, a sea of black and gold.

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Safety Net by Ruchira Khanna

“Hi, Girls!” said Amy with a wide grin and gleaming eyes as if twilight, “I drove to school today,” she said while bouncing from foot to foot.

“Huh! But, the last time you drove, you crashed the bumper of your dad’s Ford Escort into the wall. How did your dad allow it?” asked Gloria with a gulp and curious eyes.

“Balloons! are my safety net.”

Seeing the puzzled look in their eyes, Amy walked them to her car, which had balloons on the front and back of her bumper.

“They’ll pop, and I’ll know when to screech the brakes.”

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Pickup Lines (PART I) by D. Avery

“Pal! Throw me a line!”

“Um, okay… Say, what’s a nice Kid like you doin a-settin in a creek like this?”

“Toss a rope Pal! I’m a-settin on the roof of the ranch pickup.”

“I’ll fetch ya ta shore so’s ya kin ‘splain how ya put the truck in the creek.

“Well?”

“Was tryin out a idea is all. Usually we jist ford the creek, but sometimes, like now, it’s too deep. Tied a bunch a balloons ta the bumpers, tried floatin it across. Mebbe I shoulda used more balloons.”

“Shoulda tried this last week, Kid. Woulda gone swimminly.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pickup Lines (PART II) by D. Avery

“Ya cain’t leave thet truck in the creek, Kid. Thet’s litterin in a big way.”

“This’s a big time litter-ary community.”

“Speakin a littered air, here’s LeGume.”

“Ello Keed. Pal. I sense trouble, no? ‘ave no fear, Pepe ees here.”

“Reckon ya might hep. Still got thet hot air balloon?”

“Oui, Pal.”

“Plenny a gas? ‘Nough ta pick up thet pickup?”

“Mais bien sûr.”

“Git yer rig ready, LeGume. Kid, call Curly an her beaver friens. They kin dive unner an tie ropes from the hot air balloon ta the bumpers. Then up an away. What could go wrong?”

🥕🥕🥕

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

September 19: Story Challenge in 99-words

Thirty-five years ago today, a younger version of me put on a wedding dress and rode a horse-drawn buggy to marry a younger version of Todd on the summer meadows of the Jubilee Ranch. We had no idea how our lives, relationship, and future family would unfold. Last year, I didn’t think we’d make it to 35.

But, here we are.

The last ten years have been formative. For what? I don’t know and it’s okay. Younger Me would have wanted to KNOW; would have had a PLAN; would have wanted it all to MEAN something.

Between our wedding day and 35th anniversary, we’ve put a lot of mud on the tires. I guess this seems similar to balloons on a bumper. It differs, though. Mud is real. Balloons are temporary hopes and dreams susceptible to popping. Mud can stain. Mud can wash away. Mud says, “You’ve been places, Kiddo.”

Just this past weekend, we got mud on the tires, traveling over 800 miles and crossing the Might Mac twice. As D. Avery can attest, there are a whole lot of trees between the Keweenaw Peninsula and the bridge to downstate Michigan. A whole lot of interesting water bodies, too, thus me saying throughout the fifteen-plus hours in the truck, “I’d paddle that.” We were not kayaking. Instead, we loaded up the Mause, a shotgun, and two boxes of shells (someone was hopeful).

We went pheasant hunting at Tails-a-Waggin’ Acres outside Marion, Michigan.

When I learned about the Veteran Pheasant Hunt that Chuck and Joan Connell offer, I wanted to enlist Todd but it was too big of a crowd for him. Chuck graciously offered a hunt the weekend before the big event. He let us bring our green hunting dog, Mauser Mannlicher (Mause). It seemed like it might be too big an undertaking, too far, and too much to ask of a young German Short-haired Pointer. But we were all willing to try. We left Friday after classes and returned Sunday in time for me to prep for classes.

Thirty-six years ago, Todd and I were dating. A typical date? You got it — pheasant hunting. Followed by pheasant plucking, pheasant marinating, and roasted pheasant meals. We ate so much pheasant during that time, I’ve not had it since! It took three decades for me to salivate at the thought of hunting game birds once again.

I had no idea what to expect. My job was to monitor Todd for pain, cognition resets and needed breaks. He can hike for miles but if he falls, he can’t get up on his own. I made sure we didn’t travel as fast and hard as he wanted. I told him I longed to enjoy a couple of nice hotel rooms. Pet-friendly, of course. Mause is not a fan of sleeping elsewhere. She shares that in common with Todd. They endured restlessly and I will have to catch up on missed sleep. The trip was worth the effort.

Todd and Mause were in sync in their happy place. I was the attending chronicler.

Although Chuck released three pheasants, Mause and Todd did not flush or shoot any. They hunted diligently and did not shy away from the brambles, alders, and deep grass. Todd had thorns in his socks and Mause found plenty of signs. Cool fact: German Short-haired Pointers do not get stickers in their coats and they have self-cleaning oils in their fur.

At one point, she carried a pheasant feather in her mouth. She learned what birdie she was searching for and her little tail buzzed. She ran circles and discovered the joys of a dog watering trough.

After we returned, Todd and Mause went out again. It took a lot out of him to hunt like that but it gave him back something he has missed, too. That night, as we watched the sun set over Lake Huron from our balcony room near the Mackinac Bridge, I asked Todd what brought him joy from the day. He said, “Watching Mause hunt.” I agreed but added that I enjoyed watching him, too. If ever we needed a healing excursion, this was The One.

Mause can show you her joy at the end of the hunt.

Thirty-five years and a lot of mud later, I’m not living the life I expected. Yet, it is my life and I rise with each new day I get to greet and search for stories. When we pay attention to the mud, we realize it has meaning, after all. I once read an article that claimed happiness was found in living a meaningful life. I can’t make sense of all that has happened to us, nor can I give back to Todd all he’s lost because of his service. I know he’d say he’d do it again even if he knew the consequences. I didn’t serve but I can dignify his service. I can find meaningful moments in the mud.

Dare I say, I’m happy? (Wipes mud from brow. Grins. Taps out a story.)

September 19, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about mud on the tires. The tires can be from any conveyance or serve as an analogy. How did they get muddy and why? What impact does mud on the tires have on the story (plot) or characters (motivation)? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 24, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  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 #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Swimmingly 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.

A Short History of Swimming in Little Tittweaking by Geoff Le Pard

No one swims in Little Tittweaking now. During the Wars of the Ripe Plums from 1791 to 1803, the Jam Makers Of Desultory on Scum were rounded up and forced to exfoliate in the River Titt using granite chips and overripe Victorias. Disgraced MP Callous Hardpustule was paraded through the town in spiked budgie smugglers before being dipped in Lake Peachtingle until severely wrinkled and scrotally perforated. Any reference to anything swimming related is to court disaster. Thus when Harold Understaine, at his 127th birthday said things were going swimmingly, everyone knew his days of twerking threesomes were over.

🥕🥕🥕

Life’s Mixture by Ann Edall-Robson

One foot in front of the other
Step, step, stumble, step, step
Sunrises, lofty clouds, sunsets
Picnics, bugs, wading in the creek
Hurt, love, joy, loss
Horses, rodeo, win, bucked off
No more, no less, 99 words
Blizzards, -40, skating snowballs
Marriage, divorce, first love
Print, cursive, computer
Seedlings, water, sun, harvest
Cozy mystery, novel
Children, grandchildren, nana
Thunderstorm, drizzling rain
Stick men, paint, watercolour
Write, edit, shelf, write
Flash fiction, 5-word sentence,
Stories, poetry, haiku
Baking, canning, recipe books
Animals, stories, children’s books
Trails, gravel roads, grounding
Cut up, sew together, quilting
My life’s mixture works
Swimmingly!

🥕🥕🥕

My Writing Process by Nancy Brady

When the writing prompt is posted, I start thinking about what to write. Ideas are considered and rejected. Once an idea comes, I write until what I wanted to convey is expressed. Then I edit, removing irrelevant words to reduce the number.

Sometimes the prompt doesn’t resonate at all. This is one of those prompts. Still, it kept nudging me, making me hyper-aware. I’d read something and the prompt would appear in it. Some television programs used the word. I heard people say it, and eventually, I decided to allow it to dictate this post, and it did, swimmingly.

🥕🥕🥕

Sink Swimmingly by Kerry E.B. Black

After a bracing breath, she marched into the bookstore, smiled at a harried man ten years her junior, and withdrew her book from her shoulder bag. “I think you’ll want my novel on your shelves.”

The shopkeep paged through the volume while she filled the near silence with her elevator pitch and nervous banter.

He closed the book and slid it across the counter. “I don’t think it’ll sell. Sorry.”

Her heart leaden, she thanked him for his time. In the anonymity of her driver’s seat, she steeled herself for the next bookstore, picturing the interaction finally going swimmingly.

🥕🥕🥕

Pixels and Petals by Reena Saxena

“Say what you may, but those forsaken futures at the end of the road live only in your mind. They have found their place somewhere else in the lives of people who walked that road.

Could it have been a swimmingly smooth ride, instead of the sanity-stretching sojourn to glamorous, glossy goals your life has been?

Whatever happened was concrete, cavernous – calamitous and cacophonous for some, canonical for others.”

I don’t know the stories she carried with her. I keep those pixelated pages and perishable petals on her coffin. It’s all I can do to convey posthumous acceptance.

🥕🥕🥕

Peter’s Story by Frank James

Peter, medic, swam into triage. He clamped a leg wound gushing blood. Off to surgery. He splinted a fractured arm, notifying Orthopedics. Peter took on a head wound, started an I.V sedating the combative soldier. He rolled him to surgery.

“I need a surgeon!” Peter hollered.

A masked man charged in, “Hi ho, let’s go!”

Back in triage, a leg amputation demanded Peter’s skills. He wrapped the patient in a blanket: anesthetizing and elevating the stump. He sat, “I’m here. You will survive. You are strong.”

A British soldier said, “You swimmingly treated them.”

Peter smirked, “A day’s work.”

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The Hustle by Joanne Fisher

So we found two marks. They were a couple of successful businessmen. We pretended to be investment brokers who had discovered a way to get speedy returns. They were suspicious of us at first, but we convinced them to invest a small amount of money which we gave back to them shortly afterwards with some of our own. Satisfied, they then gave us a couple of million in briefcases to invest, which we then ran off with. It was all going swimmingly until we were suddenly surrounded by cops. It turned out our marks were undercover policeman all along.

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Fabulously and Swimmingly by Kerry E.B. Black

She’d bobbed her hair, an affectation to blend with peers. With shortened skirts and a smear of lipstick, she might pass for a modern woman. If she lifted her chin and looked life fully in its terrifying face, that is.

The key, she decided, was to emulate fabulous flappers. Zelda Fitzgerald’s devil-may-care attitude or Dorothy Parker’s scathing wit. She straightened her back, hummed the Charleston tune, and approached the front desk for her interview. She thrust out her hand to shake.

He smiled around his old-fashioned mustache. “I like a good, firm handshake.”

She laughed. “I believe we’ll get along swimmingly.”

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Deep Water Romance Woes by Bill Engleson

I like the shore.

Sure do.

Don’t talk about it much. Usually, when you’re on the shore, you’re headed into the water.

She’s out there. Where the horizon meets the rim of the sea. “Come,” she beckons. “I’m waiting.”

But I like the shore. The firmness of the stones and sand.

I smile back at her.

“You’re teasing me,” she says, her voice a smooth stone winging its way across the water, circular, a pleasing motion.

“I’m not a good swimmer,” I say.

She smiles back. “I’ll hold you.”

I dip my toes.

This first date is going swimmingly.

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Reclaiming Summer, 1964 by Anne Goodwin

It was all going swimmingly until Doris went for her Woodbines. True, the coffee was bitter but their sense of themselves as they drank it was sweet. Matty blames herself. She should’ve known that the chap who flourished his lighter wasn’t a gentleman from his lanky hair.

But oh, how delicious it felt to skip away from the asylum unaccompanied except for her friend. To ride on the bus among regular people, to browse the menu in the burger bar. To be treated as customers, ladies who lunch. Whatever the consequences, no-one could take the taste of freedom away.

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Swipe Right by Chel Owens

Stanley Klülez stared across the candlelit table at Cindy Titepaunts. She looked just like her profile picture -a rarity. Stanley had started making a game out of how much his dates would differ from their appearance, as girl after girl after ‘girl’ proved …surprising.

“So.” He cleared his throat. “Do you like the color pink?”

Cindy, dressed head to toe in varying shades of coral, salmon, and rose, blinked at him. “Obviously. Do you like bargain-shopping?”

Stanley puffed out his chest in his cuffed, oil-stained coveralls. “Of course!”

He smiled happily as she snorted. This date was going swimmingly.

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A Wedding by Sadje

“Well, that went swimmingly”. Ali, the father remarked as the last of the guests departed. It was a small affair. The small intimate wedding function with just the families from both sides present.

There were no relatives of the relatives, no second or third cousins removed, no colleagues or even friends. The bride and the groom wanted to keep it simple and so it was.

Every detail was arranged by them both and the parents had little to do but to pay off the caterers.

“I wish every wedding was that simply done and was so hassle-free,” Ali said.

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Kate’s Date by Hugh W. Roberts

Kate couldn’t believe how swimmingly her date with Vera had gone.

They may have both been in their eighties, but sixty years ago, when they first started dating people of the same sex, life was more difficult. You could hold hands without drawing much attention, but a passionate kiss on the lips was a no-go area. Murdering someone was easier.

Looking at Vera’s lifeless body, Kate carefully removed the poisonous lipstick from her lips and took a swig of the antidote to be on the safe side.

Murdering someone was still as swimmingly as it was sixty years ago.

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Death by Jenny Logan

You’ve killed it. I am so relieved. It was like one of those ‘Herman’ cakes, constantly requiring attention. Feeding and baking. Feeding and baking. No end to its need. But too much attachment and guilt on my part to just chuck it out, however sick of yeasty cake I’d become.

Anyway, you did the decent thing and murdered my affection for you with one snap of your putrid jaw. It was misplaced anyway. Now I am entirely detached as though having an out of body experience. No doubt life will go swimmingly without your energy tugging at my own.

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A Modern Conversation by Sue Spitulnik

Text from Lexi. “Mom, do you know what human chorionic gonadotropin is?”

Answer from Tessa. “No. Google it.”

Answer from Lexi. “LOL. I know what it is. It’s a hormone in a lady’s pee. You better sit down.”

“I am.”

“Good news. Adam’s little swimmers did their thing and I can put away all the red stuff.”

“Are you telling me you’re pregnant?”

“Yes! Isn’t that great?”

“Wonderful! Michael’ll want to know immediately. Can I tell Grandma?”

“Not for a couple months. We just found out.”

“Okay. I’m happy the red sheets helped everyone have a swimmingly good time.”

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Swim Team Tryouts by Nicole Horlings

A plate of dinner was waiting on the counter for Alex when he came home, which he put in the microwave while waving bye to Jordan and his mom through the kitchen window.

“How did the team tryouts go?” asked Alex’s mom, putting down her Sudoku puzzle and walking over for a conversation.

“I bet it went swimmingly,” said Dad, guffawing to himself, and eyeing both of them, hoping for at least a light chuckle.

“It went well,” Alex said. “Coach said I have a strong backstroke, and I have a lot of potential.”

“That’s wonderful,” said Mom, smiling.

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Word List by Duane L Herrmann

Swim
Swimmer
Swimming
Swimmingly
Swimmeret
Swimsuit

“What are you doing?” Rafiq asked Stan.

“Making a list of words.”

“That’s not a word,” Rafiq pointed to ‘swimmeret.’

“Yes, it is. It’s another word for a pleopod.”

“You’re weird!”

“A pleopod is a forked swimming limb of a crustacean, five pairs of which are typically attached to the abdomen,” Stan explained, but Rafiq had walked away.

Stan didn’t understand why none of the other kids wanted to be friends.

“Don’t be mediocre!” His father would say. Stan liked words, the more unusual, the better.

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Disappeared 49 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The spell had been well-cast – he felt it to his core — but Bethany and family had seemingly disappeared. The Scottish Mage was alone in a dark, silent space. He barely felt support under his feet.

“Well, THAT went swimmingly.” He grimaced, bushy eyebrows raised as he fingered the cleft in his chin.

There was nothing else for it. He waited for enlightenment, presumably from the Fates; he could sense their delightful femininity at the edge of whatever reality this was.

He’d not say “Uncle.” Let them make the next move, as if it could be any other way.

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Dad Is Going Swimmingly by Doug Jacquier

Courtesy of the pandemic and brain plaque, I can’t touch him anymore, not that he would know who I was anyway. All I can do is wave to him through the nursing home window and watch him wave back, like he does to everybody. His manners remain intact.

On his lap is an album of old photographs that he leafs through constantly. Whether the staff put it there in the hope of a spark or whether he clings to its importance without knowing why is anybody’s guess. To me, through the glass, he seems like a goldfish with Alzheimer’s.

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Road Trip by D. Avery

“How did we get here?”

“In this shiny new red convertible.”

“I mean Here. This.” He indicated his oxygen tank, his medical bag, swept his hand through his thin gray hair.

“Oh. The aging thing. I’ve no idea. I remember signing a contract with a young handsome man… something about in sickness and in health. It’s gone swimmingly.”

“Yes. Gone. Swimmingly… up Shit’s Creek. Next stop, Death.”

“That’s grim.”

“What do you expect?”

“I expect you to paddle!”

Eyes on the road, blinking back tears, she clutched the wheel of the red convertible, her emotions tangling in the wind.

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Gallium Goes Hollywood by Gary A. Wilson

“Mom – you were right. I love chemistry.”

“Well, that took all of two classes. What got you so excited?”

“Liquid metal – just like the Terminator.”

“Sweetie, that’s Hollywood.”

“No – it’s real. It’s a silver-colored metal named Gallium, that melts just above room temperature. It can be used to make robots.”

“I’ve never heard of it. We can make robots from it?”

“Yes, microscopic ones that move, swimmingly, through fluid. They could be injected into people to precisely deliver medicines.”

“Oh – I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”

“Mom – don’t think ‘Hollywood’, think how they could have cured grandpa’s cancer.”

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Don’t Mess with the Ranch Cook by Charli Mills

Freda stirred and poured. The cookshack steamed with pickling and canning. Putting up meant no one was put out when larders grew lean in winter. Ranch-hands fared according to the contents of Ball jars. She’d pickled beets, jalapenos, cucumbers, and dilly beans. She canned peaches with whole cloves and chunky applesauce with cinnamon. Fancy, them ignorant hands would coo, living high until snowmelt drove them back to the line-shacks.

When Freda caught Lefty and Juan snitching a jar of peaches, she said, “Thems’ flies swimming in the syrup, fellas.” Wide-eyed and untrained to spices, they let go their prize.

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The Party by Colleen M. Chesebro

The conversation had not been going swimmingly, and I’ll take part in the blame for the chilly turn. I could not fathom why Marcy stayed with her boring husband. I rolled my eyes as Rob blathered on about nothing.

“Sorry, I’ve got to go.” I deposited my untouched glass of champagne on the table and walked out of the room.

In the hall, Marcy met me at the door. “Leaving so soon?” She slurred.

“Yes, I’ve got an early meeting.”

Marcy was plastered. It was a shame to leave, especially when it was obvious the party had just started.

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Routing the Tarnished Signet by JulesPaige

gilded words
ran afoul, became
soft as eggs

Oozing, dripping, uncooked, contrived, or hard boiled. Jade saw through them straight to the green patina covering bronze. She would not go swimmingly into their false pretenses. She had worked up from the scullery, learned from the cook, would not become the next parlor maid. Silver shillings saved would buy her passage across the pea green sea. Dressed as a deckhand in brown stable boy’s clothes, as Jay, would escape those had been fed with silver spoons – The Master had lost his last bet and there’d be no fixing the castle.

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Starting Over by Miss Judy

The day had come to a close, Howard left to turn-out the lights. He had maintained the hotel swimmingly for over 50 years, she was his baby. They were being retired. As he closed the door, a tear caressed his cheek.

Howard arrived home to find Martha busy preparing a king’s dinner – her king she said. He swung her in his arms, both giggling like school children.

As the flames died to embers, Howard and Martha knew they had unfurled a passion forgotten, a love taken for granted, understood but unspoken. The future was theirs; they were ready.

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Fun in the Pool by Norah Colvin

A perfect summer’s day: azure sky with not a hint of cloud, a whispering breeze to kiss away humidity, children’s laughter sparkling like glitter; it was all going swimmingly, until … Kevin kicked furiously, and … the tube crashed.

Tina tipped heels over head, chipping Chelsea’s chin, as she smacked into the water.

Chelsea fell against Liam, who yelled, “Get off me!” as they splashed down.

The three resurfaced together, and grabbed the tube, catapulting Kevin overhead, arms and legs flailing, into the water.

“Wow!” “That’s fun!” “Do it to me!” “I’m first!”

It was all going swimmingly …

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Swimmingly by Scott Bailey

Watching my Grandson, Puggsly, splash around the shallow end of the kiddy pool kind of reminds me of a nature documentary about a baby hippo spastically reveling in its first dip in the watering hole.

Puggsly’s twice the size of the other kids his age, no matter which direction you measure, but that’s okay, he gets along just fine.

One of the other kids, same age as Puggsly, is just the opposite. A small thin kid by the name of Lee, this kid is like a fish. The kids used to call him Swimming Lee. Go Swimming Lee, go!

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Swimmingly by H.R.Allen

She stared at the blank screen, and observed the little line of doom blinking almost mockingly. She watched as white refilled the space where a few clumsy sentences once stood.

She scoured her brain, inspecting every nook and cranny for any flicker of an idea. When she came up empty, she decided to shift her focus to the space around her. Surely there would be an idea here, right?

Soon, she turned back to her screen, readied her hands for the next best short story of her generation and found…nothing.

“How’s the challenge going?” Her teacher asked.

“Just swimmingly.”

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Rockin the Deep End (Part I) by D. Avery

“Phew! Nuther challenge met an corralled, Kid.”

“Yep.”

“Still wond’rin why thet sidewinder Slim Chance was sidlin up ta the Saddle Up.”

“Say agin?”

“Was like he was spyin.”

“Spyin an tryin previous prompts. But Slim don’t git it, don’t git that the challenge is whatever anyone wants ta make of it, it ain’t no competition or nuthin.”

“Thet’s write. Practice amongst a frien’ly ‘preciative literary community.”

“But Slim says there ain’t no two ways bout it, ya either sink or swim.”

“Thet is two ways. But they’s a third way— float!”

“Yep. Floatin works swimminly fer me, Pal.”

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Rockin the Deep End (Part II) by D. Avery

“Pal, d’ya think mebbe I float too much?”

“What’re ya gittin at Kid?”

“Meanin I’m mebbe more adrift than afloat. Shore feel washed up.”

“So start paddlin, Kid.”

“Feel like I’m jist thrashin aroun. That ain’t the same as makin a splash.”

“Ya ain’t here ta make a splash Kid. But ya done got yer toes in the water. Swim!”

“Cain’t Pal.”

“Whut’s thet Kid?”

“Said I cain’t swim! Never learned.”

“We’ll s’port ya Kid. Oof! Yer heavier then I figgered.”

“Found some shiny rocks. Mebbe I should empty my pockets?”

“Reckon lessons’ll go more swiminly if’n ya do.”

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

September 12: Story Challenge in 99-words

After I exit from McLain State Park, I follow the familiar curves of pavement home to Hancock four miles away. The road hugs the shore of the canal that makes our Keweenaw Peninsula an island. Mause is wet and snugged as close to me as she can get. We played with a lot of rocks while the waves battered the shore.

In the rearview mirror, I notice a truck advancing with great speed. Five other vehicles follow it closely and before I know it, I’m lead car. The truck behind me has white balloons bobbing from its front bumper. I feel like I’m sucked into a parade of sorts.

Unwilling to lead the party parade, I pull over to the narrow shoulder. The truck blasts past me and Mause. The tailgate reads, “Just Married.” Wherever those newlyweds are heading, I’m no longer slowing down their progress to party. The vehicles following the married couple pass, honking their horns. I honk back with good cheer.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, but I’m finding my groove. I’ve had three full weekends and two full weeks of teaching. I have sixty-one students, three classes, and seven learning labs. I’m beginning to grade the first round of essays and I’ve already assigned the second 99-word story. I love how the students come to life in their writing. In ENG 103 we begin with personal narratives and in 104 we jump into writing with “rock essays.”

What I love about the rock essays is that I get to go full-on rock nerd. I collect rocks for each class, thinking about rock lessons, such as comparing granite to gneiss. Both contain a similar mineral makeup of quartz, plagioclase, k-spar, and mica but the minerals in gneiss form bands. Amygdaloidal basalt (or rhyolite) allows for me to explain vesicles (gas bubbles) and secondary metamorphosis where minerals like epidote, calcite, jasper, analcime, and chalcedony fill the holes. I like to pick plain basalt and tell students it’s 1.087 billion years old!

Of course, I also look for my favorites — prehnite, copper, and agates. It’s fun to watch the students pick a rock and then ponder it. The assignment asks that they observe the rock dry and then wet, noting any differences. Then, they have to solicit opinions from their peers about their rocks. Finally, I go around the room and inform each student of their rock so they can research it. This assignment establishes where my students are at with writing and how difficult it is to write about a topic they have no experience or interest in. It sets up the next two weeks of exploring topics for their 15-page research paper.

I remind my students that writing is thinking. But it is also feeling. We write best with material (subjects, genres, BOTs, stories) we can relate to. However, one of my students who has clearly had a classical education, explained how he developed a thesis to engage with his rock observations, opinions, and research. He’s way ahead of where I’m leading the class, but through brainstorming, mind-mapping, and plumbing the depths of modern media we will catch up on how to develop research questions.

It always cheers me when a student declares an appreciation for their rock. Better, is when they decide they might actually appreciate writing.

We know, as writers, that stories are thrilling to collect. The moment I saw balloons on a bumper of a big pickup truck in my rearview mirror, I began to see stories rise. I wonder…what if…the treasured inspiration we think about and feel our way into as imagination greets us to play.

September 12, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about balloons on a bumper. Is it a spectacle, an occasion, an eccentricity? Why are the balloons there? Who is involved? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 17, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  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 #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Red Convertible 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.

Playtime by Kayla Morrill

Top open wide, a red convertible slows down and comes to a stop at the incredulous bumper to bumper line forming behind the pay station. It’s thirty cars deep and the sign estimates a thirty-minute wait before the red dirt covered, currently tan, convertible gets a wash. The cars begin to move quickly as the pay station lady allows more cars to cram into the car wash.

“Lacy, dinners ready!”… “Coming mom!”

Hands quickly drive the convertible into a bucket of browning water along with the rest of the Matchbox cars. Lacy content with her work goes to eat.

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The Little Red Convertible by Norah Colvin

“Where to today?” asked Amy.

“Over the mountains, across the river, and through the far-away forest,” said Lucy.

“Be home in time for dinner,” said Mother.

“We will!”

The little red convertible chugged to the peak of the highest mountain where the children danced in clouds. It rolled through misty valleys and onto the plain where the children played hide-and-seek in patchwork fields. It trundled across the wooden bridge over the river that led to the forest where they fluttered with fairies and pranced with unicorns.
Rumbling bellies told them to head for home.

“Just in time,” said Mother.

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The Red Convertible by Duane L Herrmann

We were in eighth grade and drew names for the Christmas gift exchange. I got the name of a neighbor girl who I’d been friends with since long before we started school. With her name she had written that she wanted a red Corvette convertible. I was stumped but managed to get her the car. She was overwhelmed. After decades of going our separate ways, we met again.

“The red convertible you gave me was the only one I ever had,” she remarked.

“Really?” I was amazed.

“Yes, that toy model I had to put together.”

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The Toy Car by Hugh W. Roberts

I’d spent all my pocket money. Mum wouldn’t buy me the toy red convertible car, so I stole it after hearing somebody say the seller was blind.

That night, I woke to the roar of a car engine and was shocked to see the toy car I’d stolen now full-sized.

Behind the steering wheel was a figure I recognised with dark glasses, who was shaking a white cane.

My screams got drowned out by the constant sound of the car horn while full-beamed lights blinded my eyes. Now I’m deaf and blind.

I wish I hadn’t stolen the car.

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Read, Converted by Anne Goodwin

It wasn’t her kind of holiday, but a beach resort with familiar food made sense for the kids. She tried speaking Spanish to the servers, but they returned the volley in scripted English and poured more wine. On an evening stroll they stumbled upon a bookstall and she couldn’t resist a classic Garcia Marquez, although he said they had come to relax. By the pool the next day, she wished she’d heeded his warning: she understood one word in ten. It wasn’t much clearer with Google translate. But she persisted and finished the novel as they arrived at Heathrow.

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Two Ford Convertibles by Nancy Brady

Over my lifetime, I have owned all makes of cars: a Comet, Hondas, a Mitsubishi, and Toyotas, but none were convertibles, red or otherwise.

I have ridden in convertibles, the latest being John’s red Ford Mustang. John drove me home. My hair whipping around, the sun’s warmth, it was a brief, exciting ride.

At the other end of the spectrum, my first ride in an open-air vehicle was a Ford Model A, riding in the rumble seat, going out for ice cream. My next-door neighbor spent years restoring the car, and this was a gift one warm summer night.

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Roadtrippin’ with The Beach Boys by Miss Judy

Hittin’ the road, the top down on my 60’s red Roadster “I get around…town to town.” No real place to go, no real time to get there.

Just me, Brian and the Boys, drivin’ fast as I can, radio blastin’ all our favorite songs, “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations.”

Got the wind in my hair, sun on my face, not a care in the world and “warmth of the sun within me tonight.”

Maybe we’ll head on down “Off the Florida Keys there’s a place called Kokomo.”

“We’ll have “Fun, Fun, Fun…” livin’ for today, no worries ‘bout tomorrow.

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Red Rider by Bill Engleson

Thumb’s out, heavy as a stump, it seems, after a few minutes.
Super busy highway.
Damn muggy day.
I’m not looking my best. Been a while since that heyday.
Smile, buddy!
Show them pearlies.
You’d have to be nuts to stop on this highway horror show and pick me up.
Lots of crazy folks though.
My salvation, the loose screws of the world.
They love fellow travelers.
I’m gonna start fantasizing, I can feel it.
Hitchhikers’ hallucinations.
Had them countless times.
A sweet little blonde in a red MG.
Almost happened once.
Swear it did.
Even if it didn’t.

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Oops, Sorry! by ladyleemanila

She knew she’d hit something. But what? She saw the shadow suddenly running in front of her red convertible. Her heart was racing, maybe it was just her imagination. Or the fog and the darkness setting in. Then her heart froze – a deer! Poor deer, she didn’t mean to hit it. Michael would be furious when he sees the damage to the car, again! Last time, Sheena nearly went to the lake when it skidded through the rain. They’ve also just replaced the tyres because she kept on driving it home even though the “tyres alarm” was blinking.

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Karma  by Colleen M. Chesebro

Shadows patterned the tree-lined road into the boneyard. I stood at the entrance, confused at how I’d arrived there.

The last thing I remembered was holding a gun. I shook my head. My memories had vanished like smoke in the wind. A cold lump twisted in my gut.

I paused when I heard a car approach. A red convertible turned into the driveway entrance and stopped. From the radio, Polka music blared, hurting my ears.

Breaking news abruptly interrupted the song. “The Ridgeway killer is dead.”

The door swung open. “Get in,” Satan purred. “I’m your ride to damnation.”

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Red Convertible by Ann Edall-Robson

The baseball cap was locked in place over her auburn ponytail. Cheeky aviator sunglasses settled snugly on her nose, and a flashy wild rag knotted at her neck, flying and snapping behind her in the wind.

Sunset’s lofty clouds added to the evening cruise to visit her biggest supporters, her grandparents. Encouraging her to build the business from her years of dreaming and planning, they helped her to buy this version of a red convertible. She lovingly patted the dash of her red bi-plane crop duster before dipping to the left, moving into position to buzz their ranch.

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Reunited by Charli Mills

Sylvia blew past the parked vehicle on a lonely stretch of Hwy 50. Flashing lights spun in her rearview mirror. She hadn’t meant to drive so far outside Las Vegas but with an open highway and a fast car, what else was a bored starlet to do? She lived life in the fast-lane. Movie locations, premiers, body-sculpting, interviews, empty dates, and false friends. She slowed the convertible and time stood still. She knew him. The Sheriff. They graduated Eureka High together, sharing the stage and dreams. She left. He stayed. Neither removed their sunglasses. He smiled. “Can I drive?”

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Top Down Management by Doug Jacquier

She wore the dress she knew he liked, the one with the cleavage that promised the Grand Canyon but only exposed a small but perfectly formed ravine. She slipped on the high heels that had cost her a month’s wages and required the poise of a ballerina to cross a room without breaking an ankle. (She knew every woman there would watch like a hawk.) Then she tightly pinned her flowing auburn waves to the back of her head, slipped on the cap and finally the platinum blonde wig. She knew how much he’d always wanted a red convertible.

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Dating Scene by Jenny Logan

“Hey, Janey, how d’your date go?”

“So so.”

“Deets?”

“We had a lovely ride in his red convertible.”

“Nice.”

“Just not my thing, though. He told me all about his flying lessons.”

“Ooooh!”

“Again—heroic hobbies? Nah. Plus, he’s got two kids. I’m too young for all that.”

“You sound fairly definite.”

“I am. He’s a cosmetic surgeon. He said, ‘So, if you ever want anything doing’. The cheek of him! I don’t need tweaking. I’m alright as I am.”

“Good for you. So, you’re throwing this one back?”

“Yeah. He’s not for me.”

“Can I get his number?”

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Transformative Insight by JulesPaige

I thought I’d get to ride in his red convertible, see touristy places on my vacation. My host picked me up from the airport in a rental, the spiffy vehicle was in the shop. He’d chosen not to take any time off work that week either. No sightseeing!

While he went to work Monday I took a walk. Almost to the Santa Monica State Beach pier, hours on the sand there (then back), filling my lonely day. He’d the nerve not to believe me! I saw plenty of red, silently fuming. Converted my rage to action, and left him.

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Feet of Clay, Buttocks of Delight by Geoff Le Pard

When the church’s highly regarded musical director, Don Quaydraws was caught in flagrante and on camera, Little Tittweaking’s previously enraptured citizens were devastated. The local paper reported the shock of watching Don display his mastery of the portable organ while using his delicate fingering to bring the second violin to a syncopated climax inside his red convertible. ‘There is no doubt,’ intoned the leader, ‘that watching those highly-strung buttocks appear and disappear out of the roof like two beige bellows during All Things Bright and Beautiful has been what many consider to be the director’s first bum note.’

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The Red Convertible by Joanne Fisher

Once the divorce happened I let her keep virtually everything. She could have the house and all the things in it as far as I was concerned. It was mostly hers anyway. My lawyer thought I was crazy letting her get way too much. They said I was going to regret it, but the truth was I was happy, as I got the red convertible. The only thing I actually wanted.

When all was settled, I got in my convertible and drove off leaving everything behind me. I drove on until I found some place new to begin again.

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Dreams by Reena Saxena

A question marked Urgent perplexes me. A millennial wants advice if he should opt for a car loan and invest his money in mutual funds to earn higher returns. It takes tough questions and hard calculations to make him see sense. I question his assumptions of the future.

The session leaves me with more questions than answers. Owning that red convertible is an obsession with him. All other goals for the future are blurred.

I visualize him driving into the metaverse in his dream car. It’s a world out there I can’t fathom, with my feet on slippery sands.

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Don’t You Touch My Car! by Sadje

When Alfred realized his dream of owning a red convertible, he became very stingy and possessive about anyone touching or using his precious car.

He even demanded that anyone admiring it should wear cotton gloves before laying a hand on its glossy surface.

Cynthia, his girlfriend got so fed up with his concern for his car, more than her, that she refused to set foot in it. He was shunned by his friends for the same reason.

The result of this over-obsessive attitude was that he became a loner who spent most of his time alone with his car.

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Convertible (Part I) by D. Avery

“This is not how I thought it would be.” He looked at the bloodstained towel, pressed it back to his nose. “Used to think I’d get myself a red convertible for old age. Maybe die in that.”

“I always thought I’d kill you well before we got to old age.” She exchanged his crimson towel for a clean one. “You’ve got to pinch it more and talk less if you want the bleeding to stop.”

“It’s slowing down. Finally.” He smiled. “Not dead yet.”

She kissed the top of his head then fixed his oxygen tube. “No. Not yet.”

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Convertible (Part II) by D. Avery

While he napped, she cleaned up after the latest nose bleed. She put laundry going, filled the portable oxygen tanks, and organized his medications. As she started to prepare dinner, she heard him clicking rapidly through the TV channels and begin his complaints of boredom. She tossed the dishrag into the sink.

“So let’s buy that red convertible,” she said, facing him. “Go touring.”

“What? Now?”

“Can you think of a better time?”

“You’ll have to drive.”

“Yes.”

***

He smiled in the passenger’s seat. “Not dead yet.”

She preferred yellow, but was willing to compromise while their journey continued.

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That Car by Jenny Williams

The car was parked across the road from the cafe. It called out to my soul. The liquid red paint job screamed fast, the open top, freedom. I knew I had to have it.
Over an hour, I lingered at my sidewalk table checking the street, looking for the owner and formulating a plan. 2 minutes is all I need to hot wire the car and drive away.

Tools in hand and totally focused, I crossed the road.

Stupid bus blindsided me. Intense pain as my pelvis shattered. Dreams of that car vanished as the crowd gathered around me.

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Red is Definitely My Color by Tina Stewart Brakebill

I was never a “convertible person.” Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter. Buggy. Windy. Nope. Not for me.

But … I had to admit, I looked good. Red was definitely my color.

A horn blasted and I shifted my gaze to the truck also reflected in the store window. Resisting the urge to flip them off, I meekly waved. They roared past me, blasting exhaust.

As that rumble faded, the sound from the trunk grew louder. Time to get back to the task at hand.

I indulged in one last look. Yes. Red definitely was my color.

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Throttled by Nicole Horlings

It was the thrill of the wind blowing through her hair, the sun caressing her face, and the power controlled by her hands and feet that drove her to taking the red convertible out for a spin a second time. A route formed of twisting bends and sloping hills only added to the joy ride.

The bright red paint, and her exposed face when the top was down… She should have realized the risk she was taking. It didn’t take long for the police to find her.

If only she had waited until her employer was again on vacation.

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The Magic of Red by Sue Spitulnik

Each time Tessa visited her daughter she saw more red: glass art pieces, cookware, vases, flowers, candles, pillows, and even candy. “Lexi, what’s up with the red?”

“Remember that vacation when Adam and I rented a red convertible? We believe Emma was made in that car. Under the stars. You Know.”

“I get it.”

“We’ve been trying so our kids aren’t too far apart but no luck, so Adam thought maybe some red would make the magic happen.”

“Are you practicing magic in the family area?”

“No, our sheets and towels are red too.”

Tessa rolled her eyes. “Oh.”

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Into My Sunset by Gary A. Wilson

Only 3:58am. Why am I awake? It’s still two hours before the alarm won’t go off, but I’ll get out of bed anyway.

Gloria will ask what I’m doing today and all I’ve got are quick yard chores, a clock battery to replace and six bills to pay. I could review the ads in my email but there won’t be anything of substance.

Damn but I miss thinking!

I thought our empty nest was a shock, but retirement leaving me with nothing significant will take me out before any virus.

Perhaps it is finally time for that red convertible.

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Hats Off by D. Avery

“Phew! Was so busy back in the comments a this challenge post, a-heppin Shorty git back ta HQ, almost fergot bout the act’chal challenge. D’ya got anythin fer ‘Red Convertible’ Kid?”

“Shorty traded me that sorrel hoss fer that oversized felt hat, so that’ll have ta do.”

“Speakin a red convertibles, I see Mikhail Gorbachev has passed.”

“May he rest.”

“Thet seems so long ago, when he was leader a the Soviet Union. Bringin walls down. Glasnost.”

“Ain’t no dis-putin his impact. But fer ev’ry action there’s a re-action.”

“Ain’t no dis-putin thet, Kid. Best hang onta yer hat.”

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

September 5: Story Challenge in 99-words

And Mause swam into the sunset.

I had stood waist-deep in the cold water of Lake Superior at my favorite pebble beach at McLains State Park, coaxing the 21-month-old German Shorthaired pup. She had followed me out as far as she could stand, barking at me to throw her a rock.

Our game goes like this: I find a rock beneath the clear water, one that glows like a translucent agate or prehnite. I scoop the rock of interest and a bonus rock — any rock — the size of a chicken’s egg. I throw the egg-rock beyond the pile of beach-worn pebbles to the sand further upslope. Mause chases the thrown rock and digs it into the sand. She pushes it with her paws back to shore or picks it up in her mouth. I look at the rock I wanted to see and keep or toss it.

I had walked backward, continuing to convince Mause to follow. We have spent the summer trying to teach her to swim. She will go into the deeper water and panic-paddle, thrashing. On this particular day, the waves were big and intimidating. They pushed at me, threatening my balance. I waded deeper where they swell with less thrust.

Mause decided to change games. Instead of following me, she chased the big rollers as they crashed at an angel to shore. White breakwater splashed as she followed the crest down the beach, turning around to chase another. Then she braved the swells and paddle-splashed toward me. Todd said to lift her belly when she neared.

Okay. Grabbing a half-panicked dog in cold rising waves is no easy feat. But at last, I timed it right, side-stepped and slipped both forearms beneath her. Todd was right. The lift corrected her thrashing paws. Mause paddled beneath the water, and swam back to shore. She returned and made a beautiful half arc. Todd and I cheered. Our pup finally learned how to swim.

The third time out, her front paws pulling beneath the water with her back legs tucked up like a baby hippo, Mause swam past me. Todd was out even further. She swam past Todd. And that was the moment she swam into the sunset. We called her back. Slowly, she swam in a large arc and glided past us to shore. Relieved, we followed.

Sometimes, life goes so swimmingly well we don’t want to stop.

After a rough start to my third semester instructing college English composition, the week went smoothly. Mostly. I temporarily lost a class. We found each other. A returning student walked into another class, gave me a big hug, and announced to his classmates that I was the best prof on campus. I felt giddy, listening to students interview one another for a writing assignment as they shared stories about their names and why they chose their majors. So much potential and promise. Fresh starts.

Of course, there are the labs to run, data to maintain, lesson plans to create, and the reality of grading papers for sixty students. I walked into my office to discover I forgot I borrowed a plant from another faculty last year. I forgot I was an adopted plant mom over the summer. My officemate forgot, too. But she decorated my W-board with colorful markers and I remembered why I liked officing with her. We are both forgetful plant tenders but we nourish each other’s creativity.

I felt fully supported by my college, my dean, my Learning Center director, and my students when I missed the first day of class. I caused ripples by asking for a different classroom because I have the largest incoming freshman classes in the smallest humanities classrooms. I had to admit to my dean and registrar that I had already moved my class, maverick that I can be. No one was using the larger room, so I made a decision. I didn’t know it takes an act of the registrar gods to reassign a classroom, let alone three times. But my dean stood up for me. And I stood up for my students.

I’m still nervous-excited when I think of each day in the classroom. Honestly, I hope that never goes away. It means that I care enough to want to do my best for sixty young minds. I want to teach what can be the hardest thing to teach — writing. “Writing is thinking,” I tell my students. I can’t teach them to think or find their voices. But I trust the process of writing to be my co-instructor. I trust the 99-word template to give them a pattern, a prompt to spark creativity, a safe space to grow, and weekly writing to practice craft.

We write a lot in ENG I, starting with personal narratives and ending with literary criticism. Our book is Firekeeper’s Daughter and our style guide is good ol’ Strunk & White. In ENG II we slow down the full writing process from brainstorming to organizing thoughts to researching to drafting to revising to editing a single 15-page research paper. We are also listening to The Four Pivots on audiobook in class.

One week down, 15 more to go, including finals week and Thanksgiving break. I hope it all continues to go swimmingly. Like Mause, I’m facing the beauty of the setting sun, trusting newfound buoyancy.

September 5, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word, “swimmingly.” which means “smoothly or satisfactorily.” What is the situation? Who is involved? Let the word take you into a story. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 10, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  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 #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Shame 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.

Shameful — Conversation Overheard by Norah Colvin

“Look at that,” one mother tut-tutted.

“So shameful.”

“What is?”

“That. I’d be totally ashamed to send my child to school looking like that.”

“That’s a shame.”

“Unfortunately, our children have to mix with the likes of that. Have people no shame?”

“I’m not sure what you mean by the likes of that. Our world is enriched by diversity. The more the better, I say. It’s true some people have no shame. Nor should they. They should be proud of who they are. Except for the likes of you. You’re shameless. Shame on you.”

“Well, I —”

“Never. Obviously.”

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Wrong by Gloria McBreen

His tiny bones were found buried deep in the earth; unworthy of a holy grave. He did no wrong! He was born from the innocent womb of a young woman. Her voice too small to be heard. Powerless against a society filled with sanctimonious humans. She did no wrong! An insignificant woman, robbed of her deserving place in society—impure, blemished, broken. But she did no wrong! Those who hid under black and white habits, the ones behind the twitching curtains, and the men who robbed and walked away, weren’t the ones who carried shame. But they did wrong!

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Shamed: A Young Jess and Cindy Story by Joanne Fisher

“Cindy got caught kissing another girl in school!” Stephen suddenly blurted out at the breakfast table. “It was Jess she was kissing.”

Cindy’s father shot an angry look at her.

“Is this true?” Cindy’s mother asked. Cindy’s face had gone a bright red.

“Of course not!” Cindy lied. Her no good brother had tried to shame her.

“Homosexuals burn in Hell.” Her father stated. “No child of mine is going to choose to be gay.”

Cindy ran from the table and hid in her bedroom. She knew her parents would never understand. 

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A Mother’s Shame by Nancy Brady

Julia wasn’t a natural mother, hated babysitting, but she loved her children. Julia wasn’t perfect, but she aspired to being a good-enough mother to them. When they were crying infants, Julia would sing made-up songs of “It’s okay,” and rocking them until they calmed. But over the years, there were times when she realized that she probably was less present than she should have been. Sometimes, late at night, when Julia can’t sleep because thoughts like these fill her mind, she wonders if she failed them in some way. It’s then that her face flames, feeling guilt and shame.

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Shame by Reena Saxena

It’s that moment when you are made to feel less human – for not following a code of conduct devised by other humans. You don’t understand why the majority matters more than your originality, your right to be. You’re unable to achieve your goals because you are excluded from the club. And then you make it your business to tell others what they should do – anything to prevent shame being brought on the family or organization. You tell them affiliation is important, and secretly hope no one finds out you were guilty of defiance – once when you were more human.

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That Harry, He’s a Hell of a Guy by Doug Jacquier

Preamble: I spent many years as a social worker and a probation and parole officer. What follows is an example of what most of us know as ‘shame’ doesn’t begin to cover what human beings are capable of and that certain lines once crossed can never be uncrossed. And, apart from psychopaths, those people know that redemption is a pipe dream.

What Harry had done was beyond shameful, so egregiously evil that his family and his friends recoiled from him in disgust. They wondered how the man that they thought they knew could do such a thing. Confession made his victim re-live the secret kept in order to survive. Harry’s punishment, even his execution, would not bring the myth of closure for them. The only way he would pay was to stop him taking the coward’s way out and make him live with what he had done until the day he died, just to be sure there was a Hell.

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An Unoriginal Life by Scott Bailey

Why did I steal it? The one I already had was probably good enough. Now it defines me, but it is not me. I only kept it because it worked so well. The longer I had it, the better I got at using it. From the onset I learned how to leverage it for everything I wanted. I still use it like that, even at this age. Yet here I lay, withered and dying, regretting every day that passed. Me, but not really me. No one knows what a phony I am or of the shame that I carry.

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The Building Blocks of Shame by Anne Goodwin

I thought I was hungry, but Mummy laughed because only greedy-guts ask for second helpings. I thought I was tired, but Daddy laughed because only weaklings want to rest. I thought I liked algebra, but my classmates laughed because algebra’s not cool. I’d have liked to buy the purple dress but my sister said I couldn’t carry it off. I’d have liked to date the shy guy but my friends called him a creep. I wore the clothes and married the man that met their approval. Every morning I paint a smile on my face and camouflage the bruises.

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The Blame Game by Hugh W. Roberts

“What are these cuts and bruises? I got them when I fell over. How did I get my black eye? I walked into a door. Am I sure this is how I got these injuries? Yes. But I’m sorry for the tears. If I told you the truth, I’d bring shame on myself. The truth is that I’m a victim of domestic violence. Why does that bring shame to me? Because I’m male, and men don’t admit to being victims of domestic violence when being beaten by their wives, do they? Can you imagine the shame if people knew?”

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Making Guilt Worse by Gary A. Wilson Stories

“You made a mistake Jodi and a family died because you threw a burlap sack over that stop sign. It was a terrible idea. A healthy person would not have done it.

“You’re guilty of making a horrific decision.

“We didn’t know your mind was such a mess until we had you checked when you told us.  You’ve been on these new medications for only a week and look how clearer your mind is.

“But sweetie, not confessing might cause authorities to penalize an innocent person. That would increase the damage you’ve done and turn your guilt into shame.”

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Caught by Jenny Williams

My wife walked into the bedroom and I was wearing her black lace dress. The blood drained from my face, making my red rouge and lipstick glow.

“What are you doing?” She screamed, after the unexpected image of my alter ego slowly registered and then totally confused her. I was caught and in a panic stumbled out of sight into the bathroom. I struggled to undo the jammed zipper. My shameful secret was exposed. She had discovered I am a cross dresser, something I have lived with since I was four. My life and future has suddenly changed forever.

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The Song of Shame by Nicole Horlings

If shame was a song, it would be played on an out of tune piano in a large empty room, the notes painfully, obviously, off key. The melody drifts left, lower, and deeper, and does not return to the right. The simple beat of the chords is a slow thud in the echoing silence. Close the window, lest someone below on the street accidentally overhear what is being played. Cancel plans, let no one enter this room, and bar the door if necessary. This song was meant for only one recipient: the one who needs to hear the apology.

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Shame by Kippy

I stared at the ring he’d casually handed me and back at him; slouched on the wrought iron sofa in my livingroom. It’d been barely a year of whirlwind courtship; we were still learning each other. But the kit we’d bought stated we were well on our way to parenthood. My heart broke into a million pieces for I’d never know if he’d planned this all along, see, I lacked the courage to ask. Also, I’d always know that my “yes” resonated more with fear and shame of premarital pregnancy.

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A Letter to Mac by Sue Spitulnik

My Beloved Mac,

I’m sorry I didn’t have enough courage to visit the United States. I have so much guilt for bowing to my family’s wishes years ago. I’m also filled with shame, for I have never told my other children about their brother, and now I am afraid to. Life is such a funny thing. My happiest memories are of us laughing and feeling alive during a horrific time. I must accept that they are only memories, not the reality of today, but they do help me carry on. I’m happy for you in your life.

Love, Truyet

Author’s Note: Truyet is Mac’s son Thad’s biological mother in Vietnam. Her father forced her to send Thad to be raised by his American father 50 years ago.

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Mr. Shame by Ruchira

“Mr. Shame,” announced the nurse with a broad smile that displayed her braces. Her thick spectacles and wonky walk made her look like an alien. The young man raised his hand and was about to take steps toward her when a blonde sitting next to him got his attention.

“Is that your name?” she said with a snort.

“It’s Shaine. But, Teresa tends to lisp.”

“And, you have no issues with it?”

“This noun is nothing if I have not performed any shameful action. It’s all about your consciousness,” said Shane with a broad smile leaving the blonde speechless.

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Arjeet Egoistic Villain by Simon

Arjeet Egoistic Villain by Simon Arjeet an Indian gang leader planned to make million dollar deal with an ancient map. On that day, he presented the ancient map in front of hundreds of big shots, to his shock it was written “Map” in place of map. He was humiliated, he must find the map to save his reputation, before that he must find Sherloq. Sherloq grinned as he shoved the map in his coat pocket and walked away disguised as one of them. Arjeet will soon find Sherloq and his treasure hunting journey. Sherloq teased an evil ego, he will face wrath of Arjeet.

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Reimagined by D. Avery

This woman seems kind, look how she is with the children. Look at that garden! Go to them. It’ll be alright.

She clung to her imaginary friend. “No.”

I’ll go with you.

“I’m ashamed.”

Of me?

“No! Of me. Of my family. You know…”

I do know. I know that is your sorrow, but it is not your shame.

She sobbed then in the strong comforting arms of her imaginary friend. And when she opened her eyes, she was in the embrace of the woman, who told her she was safe now, everything was alright, she would be alright.

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Friends Reunited by Jenny Logan

We caught up over tea after over thirty years. We had one hour and managed to cover the basics; the “edited highlights” of a lifetime.

“She’s a proper grownup,” I would tell my husband later.

I reflected on all the things not said. I didn’t mention the divorces, the abuse, the years wasted. Nor did I mention time served in a religious cult. Am I ashamed of my life? Perhaps. A bit. Had my long-ago friend done the same thing? Put a positive spin on her history? If so, had we only succeeded in making each other feel inadequate?

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(Spot On?) Contemptible Chagrin by JulesPaige

Home rules – from the nest of your parents. The ones you are taught for polite occasions; like to mind your ‘P’s and Q’s’, don’t talk with your mouth full. Especially when you are a child to only speak when you are spoken to. Gertie learned all the right lessons. But she felt shame for those, especially the people from high political families or those with huge inheritances that they believed they could ignore some of the very basics. Some didn’t even have to have consumed great amounts of alcohol – to talk with their mouths full of food.

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Weapon of Shame by Sadje

Don’t wield the weapon of guilt, don’t make me wear rags of regret and the ashes of shame. Your views and mine are vastly different and making me ashamed of my choices, will make us part ways forever. You don’t own me. We all have the right to live our lives as we think right. Making me feel that my choices are to be condemned is your failure. Look in the mirror and you’ll look at a hypocrite, who needs to wear that cloak of shame more than me, for usurping my right to choose. Live and let live!

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Shame by Gia

What was happening, why were my eyes following him? Our eyes crossed again. Every time he looked at me, he saw me. He saw my imperfect emotional and perfect physical contours. I felt that look, like someone gently running a finger down my back. It was like some drug rushing through my blood and giving me a high that I had not felt in years. I was being touched, kissed, and pleasured, but I was not desired. Not this way. Damn! What was happening? Why am I thinking this? I had a ring on my finger. Shame on me!

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A Letter to Mac by Sue Spitulnik

My Beloved Mac,

I’m sorry I didn’t have enough courage to visit the United States. I have so much guilt for bowing to my family’s wishes years ago. I’m also filled with shame, for I have never told my other children about their brother, and now I am afraid to. Life is such a funny thing. My happiest memories are of us laughing and feeling alive during a horrific time. I must accept that they are only memories, not the reality of today, but they do help me carry on. I’m happy for you in your life.

Love, Truyet

Note: Truyet is Mac’s son Thad’s biological mother in Vietnam. Her father forced her to send Thad to be raised by his American father 50 years ago.

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Shame by Reena Saxena

She says she did not get the kind of daughter she wanted. I’ve just poured myself a drink which she considers sacrilege. One fine day, uncharacteristically she heaps praise on me. I’ve carried the garbage out twice because the house help did not turn up. Someone else who moves about with a duster in hand all day is efficient and lovable. But me – banging the keyboard or speaking in sessions – am not feminine enough. Rejection has been the predominant theme from childhood. I don’t know where to place the shame. She is not the kind of mother I wanted.

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She Hung Her Head in Shame by Marsha Ingrao

Victoria had secrets in her younger years. Longing for a life fulfilled to have a man to share her bed and arms to hold her tight at night. She fell prey to the compliments of a married man who made her feel alive. She hid him in her closet, and let him out at parties, pretending to be friends. Her face was glass, through which she thought everyone could see. Though she tried to pull the curtains, and let down the blinds, what she had done at midnight was like the noonday sun. She hung her head in shame.

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The Shameless Princess (a true tale) by The Curious Archaeologist

“Shameless!” The shocked women looked at the statue of Venus. A beautiful reclining semi-nude woman.

“But it’s her! A princess and the favourite sister of the most powerful man in the world. How could she do it?”

Princess Pauline Borghese entered the room, the ladies curtsied. She watched as the statue was rotated in front of her, the likeness was unmistakable. “What do you think?” she asked one of her ladies in waiting.

“Very fine,” the woman hesitated, then asked nervously. “Didn’t you feel nervous when you posed?”

“Oh no!” The Princess laughed, “The studio was very well heated.”

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A Cryin’ _____! by Bill Engleson

Gibson listens to my sorry-assed tale. After I wrap it up, he rubs his ear the way he usually does before unloading one of his set pieces.

“That’s a cryin’…”

“Don’t say it,” I cut in.

“It’s beneath you…”

“You’re right. Shame on me…”

He gets up, strolls to the bar, orders another jug, and returns. “Help yourself, Vinnie.”

I pour the liquid solace into two glasses. He downs half of his brew, all the while shaking his head. “You’re a fool to cheat on her,” he declares.

I chugalug all of mine. Truth really makes me thirsty.

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Making The Best by Geoff LePard

Anthony ‘Tone’ Deaffe lived with his shame. He barely left home, so embarrassed was he. When Annabelle Ringer, seeking new members for the Little Tittweaking gleeclub, called round, Tone nearly didn’t answer. However, before he opened the door, she knew his secret. ‘Oh!’ squealed Belle, ‘what balls.’ Belle knew – she’d suffered her own despair, having a whistling vagina since puberty. She studied musical genitalia at Cambridge and consoled Tone that his tinkling testicles weren’t unique. Freed of shame, they formed a duet, playing ballsy versions of film scores, being especially popular at bar mitzvahs and S&M recovery parties.

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Shame on the Airlines by Charli Mills

The airline scam begins:

“Welcome to Chicago! Your flight to Hancock departs from Gate E5 at 6:47.”

Passengers think they have a plane to go to their destination. They’ve paid their fare. But the switches start:

“Hancock flight now departs from Gate F6 at 6:47.”

These are more gate changes. The airline is switching planes. Crews do not come with the plane. Bait and switch continue. Passengers are stranded, sleeping in clusters on seats, luggage, the floor. They rise at 3 am cold, cranky and deprived of coffee. At 6 am, the scam resumes. After a dozen changes, a single flight departs to Hancock 24 hours later.

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Hangin Out Without Shame by D. Avery

“Pal, I’m worried I won’t come up with a response fer this un.”

“Thet’d be a shame, Kid, but nuthin ta be ashamed of.”

“What if I try somethin an it falls flat?”

“Might be a might awkward, Kid, thet’s all. Reckon this is a tough prompt. Cause there ain’t no shamin at Carrot Ranch.”

“Yer sayin this’s a shameless place?”

“S’pose. Ain’t ta say mistakes ain’t been made.”

“Guilty.”

“Uh-huh. But we’ve all learnt from em. Nuthin ta be ashamed of.”

“So it’s okay that I’m wearin ma chaps but not ma jeans?”

“Em-bare-assed ain’t a-shamed.”

“Cool beans.”

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 “Seriously, Pal, this’s a tough prompt.”

“Ain’t’cha got sumthin yer shamed of ta write ‘bout, Kid?”

“If’n I did, d’ya think I would?”

“What’re ya most shamed of Kid?” “

Reckon it’d be if’n I ever shamed anuther. Sometimes we kin say somethin hurtful an not even know we’re doin it. But then that person ain’t gonna say anythin. Cuz their shamed.”

“Be more shameful if ya knew ya were shamin.”

“Some folks do mighty shameful things.”

“Yep. An some folks forgive em anyways. An that’s acknowledgin their mistakes an letting em learn an grow from em. Givin em room.”

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

August 28: Story Challenge in 99-words

I’m stuck in O’Hare International Airport, and so many flights are delayed there’s no seating for everyone gathered. Rain pelts the windows facing the F-concourse where my husband worked for the airlines back in the1990s. The golden era of flight back when I wore a pin on my jacket proudly proclaiming, “I Love to fly!”

It’s been a downhill slide after 9/11.

I could bemoan the industry with stories from this single day. Travelers are cranky, and employees (if you see any) are crankier. Digital systems drive everything. You can’t fly without a smartphone. The “contactless” systems startled me since I haven’t flown in a while but my flight to New York was smooth. Not so much on the way back. However, my trip was a good one, and that’s the story I will tell while I sit in O’Hare with other delayed passengers who are sharing their travel tales like we are waiting pilgrims.

New York state is beautiful. I landed in Buffalo on Wednesday and Sue Spitulnik picked me up in a forest green Lexus SUV. We rode in style to Niagra Falls and I watched in awe as the water that begins with Lake Superior and makes its way over rapids and falls between New York and Canada. I never knew that visitors could stand right next to the top of the falls. The rising mist felt good on my skin.

The next day, Sue lowered the roof on her red Mini Cooper convertible, and — surprise, surprise — we visited cemeteries. First, she took me to Mount Hope Cemetery where Susan B Anthony is buried. It’s the largest cemetery I’ve explored to date. We even found abandoned plots on a hillside at the back where I was delighted to see a boulder on a grave. A boulder! And not just any boulder but what we call a pudding stone in Michigan.

From Rochester, we drove to explore murals in small towns and other smaller cemeteries with family ties to Sue. It’s a personal way to learn stories of families rooted in a region. One cemetery sat on top of a rural hill above an old battle site. It felt peaceful. The murals we visited each were different and reminded me of how the stories in our collections each week differ, expanding the capacity of art. It was the best (first) convertible adventure I’ve had.

That night we got down to business and I presented to Sue’s veteran writing group. She is an organized leader of her local groups and had members attend in person and on Zoom. We had a good discussion and I ended with one of my 99-word stories I thought the group would like. It’s a personal challenge to pick stories for people and I hit the mark. The Lt. Col. in the group asked for a copy and I said, “Sure, I’ll give you this story and a penny if you give me a dollar.”

Friday was a day of viewing the vistas of the New York Finger Lakes with Sue and her husband, Bob. After a Greek breakfast at Steve’s, we were back to the Lexus and I felt like I was on a luxury tour. Bob held open both our doors, played blues music on the radio, and talked about the views of each lake. Sue introduced me to quilt fabric stores! Her art — and her quilts are indeed art — amazed me with how she can calculate designs. We ended the day with a white-hot (a New York hot dog).

Saturday, Sue put on an all-day seminar with two sessions and lunch. I was the guest presenter. Session One was Revision, and Session Two was Marketing. We began with a call to 9-1-1. Our emergency? The Town Hall was not open where we were to set up the seminar. Sue took charge and got it resolved and we only started 15 minutes late. It was a good crowd, about 30 people. That night, she and Bob took me out to a Rochester creation called a Chicken French — lemony, garlicky, and served over angel hair pasta.

The food, fun, and friendship keep me smiling despite this long delay in Chicago. Hopefully, I’ll get to Hancock with some time to sleep before my first day back at FinnU. I’ve had conversations — and overheard others — to fill up my afternoon and evening. Our challenge this week will put you in a red convertible for your own adventure.

Maybe someone will pick me up and take me north to the Keweenaw!

August 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a red convertible. Who is driving or riding? Where is the car going? Maybe it isn’t even a car. Have fun and go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by September 3, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  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 #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Floppy as Puppy Ears 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.

Imagining by D. Avery

I love it here she whispered.

Her imaginary friend smiled in reply. She knew that even though they were away from the house they should still be quiet. But she agreed it was a cozy safe spot.

The moss and needles are so soft and warm in the sun.

Like a puppy’s ears. But then she got sad remembering the puppy. I want to stay here forever, she said.

Let’s.

And why not? The spruce boughs would keep them hidden. But eventually shadows overtook the sun. Her tummy growled. I’ll be back she said.

But she wasn’t so sure.

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The Rag Doll of Friendship by Anne Goodwin

At day’s end, the girls huddled over their needlework, growing calluses on their fingertips, eyes strained in the dim light. Some knitted scarves for winter, others sewed toys from scraps that they stuffed with straw.

Lily called her doll Bridget after her former friend. The other girls urged her to use more stuffing: the doll was as floppy as puppy ears. Lily replied that she stitched in imperfections lest her handiwork be taken away. But that wasn’t the real reason. The doll represented Bridget as she last saw her: hanging from the rafters with Lily’s scarf around her neck.

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The Duster by Jenny Logan

“It feels like puppies’ ears,” said a colleague of it. I loved that coat.

“You’re sweeping the stairs with it,” said another. It was always a bit grubby after walking down the car park steps.

I had seen it on someone at church, fallen in love with it, bought my own. That love lasted longer than many others. Olive green, it was. Not very warm. Perfect for a cool, spring day.

I wonder where it is now? What did I do with it? Did I donate it somewhere? Why would I have done that when I loved it so?

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First Meeting by Charli Mills

Her battered suitcase had no wheels. Her eyes widened when I reached for the leather bag. Was I breaking protocol? Uncertainty flooded me. Would she want a coffee? I needed a slug of gin. A white hanky covered her hair and I glanced sideways for signs of familiarity. We were strangers.

“This way.” What an ass, I thought. Why didn’t I hello first?

We walked in silence out the airport doors and into the bustle of my city. The flap on her suitcase flopped like a puppy’s ear. I swore from behind me I heard her whisper, “My son.”

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Floppy Problems by Hugh W. Roberts

Ben’s whole day had been as floppy as puppy ears.

His job was floppy; his life was floppy, but at least he wasn’t dying or had any significant problems to solve.

A notification on his phone gave Ben the chance to stop all the floppiness.

‘You have a match – Janet wants to meet you.’

Later that evening, nothing was floppy while he and Janet talked on Skype. They had the time of their lives.

It wasn’t until a few days later that Ben had wished everything had remained floppy.

‘Pay now, or I’ll publish the video,’ demanded Janet.

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Floppy As by Joanne Fisher

“What do you think?”

“It does seem rather floppy.”

“Yes.”

“The question is how floppy is it? To me it seems to be as floppy as puppy ears.”

“Puppy ears?”

“Yes puppy ears is my standard for measuring floppiness. Is something as floppy as puppy ears or even floppier? That is, if such a thing is possible. That’s my Puppy Ears Floppiness Index. For there is no other way to measure the state of floppiness.”

“You must like puppies.”

“Well I love puppy ears and how floppy they are.”

“So what about this floppiness problem?”

“I think it’s perfect.”

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Ear Raid by Nancy Brady

Although I’m a cat person, the one thing that I love most about dogs is their soft, floppy ears.

Susie, our neighbor’s dog, had the softest ears, which I always stroked. Tucker, as a puppy, had one ear that flopped over while the other one always stood upright. The floppy ear was cuter.

The floppiest ears, though, belonged to our beagle, Callie. Long, soft, and floppy, Callie used her ears in place of barking. Getting our attention was easy; she would stand nearby, shake her head intentionally, setting those ears to flapping. Those ears were a true alarm clock.

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Emma’s Jester Imitation by Sue Spitulnik

Adam watched his daughter flap the skirt of her sundress while she ran from the kitchen into the family room, around the footstool, and then down the hallway toward the bedrooms. Shortly she ran back, the best a two-year-old can run. Fearful she might get hurt, Adam said, “Emma. Walk!”

Emma stopped and looked at him, still holding her skirt. “I’m being Jester.” She giggled.

Adam looked confused. “Being Jester?”

Tessa appeared in the kitchen doorway. “She’s flapping her skirt to imitate Jester’s ears flopping when he sticks his head out the van window.”

“I see. Be careful, Sweetie.”

Author’s Note: Jester belongs to Emma’s grandfather Michael.

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Don’t Eat the Bunny by Sadje

Oscar’s floppy ears were drooping. He couldn’t just get it. He was the beloved pet of his humans, especially Cindy who was always so kind and loving towards him.

On Easter morning he got the fright of his life when he saw a few of his kind in a box with ribbons on it; golden-colored bunnies with red bows. He thought that he was getting some friends to play with, but when Cindy took one bunny out of the box, took off the golden wrapping, and bit the bunny’s head off, he almost fainted with fright!

It was brutal!

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Disappeared 42 by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Bethany and her three daughters stumble through the limestone tunnel, Twins leading. The Twins shrieked as one, as if they’d seen a ghost. Which they had; the Speakeasy, though decimated, still gathers in death the same people it had in life.

The tunnel rumbles, shifting.

“Hurry now,” the Mage calls. “Andrew needs you!”

Breathless, The Twins grab their sister and mom and pull them past.

Meanwhile, shifting mud opens a fissure over Andrew. Muddy water caps him, curly hair flopping onto his shoulders, mud running over his face. Blinded, Andrew flails, nudging the plaque toward the murky sewer’s tumult.

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Floppy Is as Floppy Does…by Duane L Herrmann

Looking like a floppy brimmed hat, it’s not. It’s a building, or will be when finished. There is the ground level, with entrances on each of the nine corners, topped by a floppy brimmed hat. The peak of the hat is a nine-sided cone. Around the brim are nine eye-shaped spaces, and at the peak, on each side, are half-circle opening. These could be part of the ventilation system, pulling air in below, letting it out above; in the tropics, cooling air movement is essential. The brim provides shade. This will be the Bahá’í House of Worship in Kinshasa, DRC.

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As Floppy as Puppy Ears by Norah Colvin

As floppy as puppy ears

As cute as a button

As happy as Larry

As cranky as a hippopotamus

As ripe as a banana

As silly as a sausage on a stick

As weird as a walrus (but don’t tell it I said so)

As tall as a giraffe

As small as a flea

As funny as a giggle

As rude as a fart

As crazy as a top hat on a donkey

As scary as the dark unknown

As awesome as a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis

As amazing as children’s imaginations

And, as wonderful …

As you!

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Wild West Showdown by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Barmaid, bring me a drink,” shouted Jim Hammond. He threw his cards down on the table. Another loss was hard to take. “Where’s that girl? I want a drink, now!”

Miss Kitty glared at the poker table. She had served these gritty cowboys for years. She knew just how to handle the rowdy ones. She smoothed her dress in place, paying special attention to her bustle, which in later years had become as floppy as puppy ears. She sauntered over with a bottle of booze in her hand. “Here ya go, Jim.” With one fell-swoop, she knocked Jim out!

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Doctors Visit by Kayla Morrill

Dear Dairy, Today mum tok me to the docktors ofice bekaus my arm hurt. A big harry monstar came in an tuched it an made me cry. He put a hevy blankit over my body an I was skared. He told my mummy my radeus was frakchured, that my rist was as flopy as pupy ears bekaus of it. I was mad an sed my rist is not a pupy ear! The monstar lafted and that made me even more mader. He sed I shud stop climing trees. My rist is now casted so its not like pupy ears.

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Floppy As Puppy Ears by kathy70

Ears are not exciting, puppies tripping over their own ears are funny. Me falling on a just mopped spot is funny, if only I don’t break a leg. Who draws that line between funny and not? Does the universe draw it for us or do we each have a different line? I miss some of those people in my life who loved to laugh. The ones we just had to look at each other and we knew if something was funny. I don’t want a puppy and it would be great to have more to laugh at in life.

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The Most Egregious Of Crimes by Geoff Le Pard

Pat Bottoms, Little Tittweaking’s entrepreneur had many money making ideas. None succeeded until the ultimate stress reliever: a material which when fondled released something akin to dopamine, instantly reducing anxiety. Called Puppy’s Gift, it was an instant winner. When Pat was interviewed on his invention and asked, ‘How do you make them feel so much like puppy’s ears?’ Pat looked confused. ‘I use puppies’ ears,’ he answered. How they laughed at what had to be a joke. ‘No, seriously…’ When Pat brought out two smooth headed Labradors the interviewer fainted, Pat was arrested and irony died a sick death.

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Sherloq Part 2 – Dalia’s Revenge by Simon

She looked at her empty ear lobe remembering how her Ex husband use to play with her soft ears, an erotic whisper “soft puppy ears”. She turned to see no one, tears swelled up her dark circled eyes, drop of tear fell on the gun. She wiped her wet eyes, clenched her teeth and unlocked her Glock 42 handgun. Sherloq killed her Dad to retrieve the missing clues to his treasure, he tried to kill Dalia too, somehow she survived. Dalia, was on her way to assassinate Sherloq. A revenge story began in the middle of a treasure hunting.

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Floppy As Puppy Ears 2 by: Kathy70

Floppy ears on a puppy are cute but being a flip-flopper has developed a bad connotation in lots of areas. A TV game show calls out one, an acquaintance may accuse you of being one, a politician may lose because of it. If I at one time enjoyed watching soap operas and no longer do am I a flip-flopper or have I just matured or regressed? I hope as adults we will again be able to change our minds and have others simply accept it. Maybe it’s best to refer to this as puppy ears not as floppy attributes.

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Action Jaxxon by Doug Jacquier

Albie ‘listened’ to his grandson, Jaxxon, passionately explain the issue, again. He felt a little guilty that he wasn’t that passionate about anything anymore himself but he remembered when he was. Besides, he knew that under the unwritten rules of grandparenting, it was important to provide Jaxxon with an audience. When he finished, the boy said ‘Now do you get it?’ Albie said ‘I’ve never heard it explained more clearly.’ Jaxxon sighed, ‘You didn’t, did you?’ Albie replied ‘The important thing is that you do and that what you believe in doesn’t become as flip-floppy as your grandpappy’s ears.’

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The Return by Kerry E.B. Black

The librarian lowered her glasses and fixed the patron with her no-nonsense stare. The patron fidgeted beneath her scrutiny as he slid the books across the returns desk. “They’re on time.” He offered a wavering smile.

She sniffed, never breaking eye contact. “You know, Mr. Monroe, I distinctly remember including bookmarks when you checked these out.”

“Um, yeah. Did you need me to return them, too?”

“No, I need you to use them.” She flipped the cover of the top book and ran a finger along the pages’ upper corners. “Dog ears are darling on puppies – not library books.”

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Tears Mixed With Relief by JulesPaige

Will she meet up with those

Who are now breathless

All those she once loved, pets too, those with floppy

Puppy dog ears, and the

Siamese purr cats

Will she dance in fields of

Butterflies, will it

Be a stretch to think she will visit as a

Cardinal to my yard…

But not in winter

Will she now rest in peace void of all those ills

And be able to remember whatever

She wants when she wants to

We can only hope…

She liked red colors, but she did not like the cold.

Now she’s free as a bird

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Rubber Legs by Bill Engleson

“He said that?”

“Yes. Bold as a brass spittoon…he said, I’m no Crazy Legs Hirsch.”

“What do you think he meant?”

“He was reporting a dream. Lying in bed, and sensing that his bones were dissolving, turning to rubber, melting like plastic.”

“So, he was hot?”

“Yes. Unbearably so. In fact he said it felt like he was being cremated…”

“Nasty.”

“You would think. Yet he said he imagined he could get up…the footballer reference…but that his legs were as…and this was odd…as floppy as puppy ears.”

“Strange thing to say!”

“Well, it’s therapy. Strange is on the menu.”

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Stormy Winds by Reena Saxena

Winds blow in a different direction, making me struggle to retain balance. The world on the other side is unfriendly. So what if I’ve been there a couple of times…..I don’t like it. It seems perfectly natural to some … fluttering of a butterfly’s wings or a movement like floppy puppy ears. I know that it will cause a cyclone and my carefully constructed world will fall apart – on alien ground. Will the next eclipse or planetary transit change the direction of winds? I throw down the chart readings for the umpteenth time. I’ll sink or rise again.

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Hat Is Wear the Home Is by D. Avery

“Hey Kid. Was thet Frankie?”

“Yep, makin her appoin’ned rouns. Hat I ordered’s here. Check it out, Pal. Nice wide brim’ll keep ma delicate features outta the sun.”

“Hmmf. What material’s thet made of?”

“Some sort a felt. Feel it, Pal, it’s soft an floppy as puppy ears. But looky, it’s flexible but tough, kin turn the brim this way an that way. Kin roll the hat up an it’ll keep its shape.”

“Ya mail ordered it ya say?”

“Yep.”

“How’s it fit?”

“Here goes.”

“Yep, plenny a shade.”

“Shift!”

“Mebbe we kin turn it inta a hoop skirt.”

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“Kid goin tentin?”

“Hey Shorty. Thet big top outfit ya see is Kid’s new hat.”

“It’s disarmin. Only knew it was Kid cause I recognized the boots stickin out unnerneath.”

“Think ya jabberjawkeys could hep me outta here?!”

“Shorty, if’n thet’s felt, think it could shrink up?”

“Sure, Pal. That’d be a way ta git this hat ta fit Kid’s head.”

“Hello?! Ahh!! I done flopped over! Pull Pal.”

“There! Yer out from unnerneath thet hat. Hey, where ya goin Kid?”

“Campin.”

“Looks like rain.”

“I’ll be cozy in this oversized hat-bedroll. What could go wrong?”

“Sleep tight Kid.”

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